Thursday, August 19, 2004
My 17-year old son Joe just got his certificate last night for completing his advanced placement course in Mathematics. He got a mark of 6 where the highest score is 7. But the University of Queensland is too PC to use the term "advanced placement" for university courses that selected High School students are allowed to enroll in. They call it an "Enhanced Studies Program". "Advanced" would offend against everybody being equal so you are only allowed to be "enhanced", you see.
Anyway, Joe has just been named dux of his school in Information Technology too so there is no doubt how advanced he is. And he's no isolated nerd, either. After last nights ceremonies, lots of other students came over to talk to him and he soon became the social centre of the evening. Matthew 25:29.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Well, I did the drive yesterday -- from Cairns to Port Douglas. About 35 miles. For about half of the time the road runs right alongside the ocean, with beaches large and small scattered all the way along. It is one of the world's most scenic drives and the wonder is that you can stop at almost any of the many unspoiled beaches and find yourself alone there. If people like to go on vacation amidst crowds, good luck to them, but if you fancy the deserted tropical island experience with none of the inconvenience of a deserted tropical island, you should be booking a flight to Cairns International Airport. It's a longer plane journey than most but droves of the notoriously quality-conscious Japanese seem to think it is worthwhile.
I also spotted another pygmy yesterday. I was sitting on the pavement beside the main street of Port Douglas having a nice cup of tea when a very small dark person walked right by my table: Less than 5' tall with legs like broom-handles. There are obviously still plenty of negrito (pygmy) genes in the area that was until recently dense tropical jungle.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Either you "get" steam trains or you don't. I do. So I was mightily pleased yesterday to be sitting on a bench at Kuranda railway station (in the mountains above Cairns) when a great black old steam engine came panting in -- hauling a train of passenger carriages. It has been dragged out of retirement for the tourist trade so that makes me grateful for tourists. Stream engines don't handle inclines well, however, so the trip from Cairns to Kuranda takes twice as long as if the train were hauled by a modern diesel-electric. Anyway, it really choked me up as it slowly pulled out again amid much steam and panting. It was magnificent. Steam buffs would understand.
An historical interest of Kuranda that is now almost completely unknown to almost anybody -- and which is certainly not mentioned to the tourists -- is that the last survivors of Australia's pygmy race were found in the jungles around there. There are still quite a few striking photos of them from around a century ago, but intermarriage between them and other blacks since then has eliminated any obviously distinct modern population of them. Yet 99.9% of Australians would think that there has only ever been one indigenous race on the Australian mainland.
The existence of the pygmies used to be mentioned in the history textbooks but is now almost nowhere to be found. Why? Because the indigenous Australian blacks (Aborigines) that we know today appear to be mainly the descendants of a later wave (or waves) of immigration into Australia -- which means that they are not truly the first "owners" of the country. They are just as much invaders as the whites. And they did a pretty good genocide job on the pygmies -- so, as in Africa, the pygmies survived only in the deep jungle. And that TOTALLY undermines the Leftist guilt industry which says that whites as invaders owe the Aborigines something for being the original inhabitants here. More woes for Australia's Leftist historians. And, yes, it IS the wicked Windschuttle who has shown their deceptions up in this matter as in others.
So what did I see in Kuranda yesterday? I saw only about a dozen Aborigines there but two were remarkably short. Isn't that surprising?
Saturday, August 14, 2004
I may be wrong but I have the strong impression that the ideal image of a tropical beach that most people have in mind is an image of a deserted beach. "Getting away from it all" largely means freedom from having to deal with other people all the time. Yet, as far as I can see, that does not happen with most tourist destinations. The crowds follow you. Yet in Australia's far North you can find plenty of long, wide, white, tree-lined, sandy beaches with hardly a soul on them for most of the time. That was certainly true yesterday when I looked in at Cowley beach, Kurrimine and Mission beach. And the smaller beaches in between them are normally absolutely deserted. The dream CAN become reality. Australia certainly makes a laugh out of the Greenie idea that earth is "overcrowded".
My vacation reading has been pretty weird. I have just read (well, most of it) the Papal encyclical Centesimus Annus by John Paul II (1991). Have you ever heard of any other atheist who reads Papal encyclicals on his vacations? There was for me one surprising bit in Centesimus Annus. The Pope supports Sabbath observance: "In this regard, one may ask whether existing laws and the practice of industrialized societies effectively ensure in our own day the exercise of this basic right to Sunday rest". I wonder why we never hear of that?
Like the famous encyclical it commemorates (Rerum novarum), however, Centesimus Annus is a thoroughly conservative balancing act. It says Communism is no good but neither is unbridled capitalism. It says there is a right to private property but not an unrestriced right. It says the State should interfere to look after the poor but it should not interfere too much. As I point out elsewhere, conservatives have always undertaken that difficult balancing. Simplistic all-or-nothing theories and systems are only for the ideologues of the Left. Because Centesimus Annus is a balancing act, however, both Left and Right can find bits in it that they like. It does nothing to check the increasingly Leftist nature of the church hierarchy. The hierarchy can use it to defend any degree of Statism except outright Marxism as being for the good of anyone who is at a disadvantage in any way. So I would call Centesimus Annus an unsuccessful balancing act. It is too vague to be useful. At least Rerum novarum took on Marxism at a time when it was a growing threat. I cannot see that Centesimus Annus does anything similarly useful.
Friday, August 13, 2004
Well bugger me! I rarely use crude language but this is an occasion for it: Bill Clinton is here in Far North Queensland at the same time as I am. I guess his taste in vacation spots is better than his taste in wives. He has been here before so he knew where he was going when he decided to come here for a vacation. I gather he is here for a few days at least. I saw an all-black Learjet on the tarmac as I flew into Cairns International Airport but now I know whom it delivered here. I hope that is all I see of Mr Amorality.
Thanks to my trusty IBM Thinkpad, I am writing this whilst leaning up against a rock and sitting on the beach at tropical Etty Bay. Overhead is a tangle of jungle trees giving me shade. Ahead of me is an expanse of fine white sand with tree-covered hills in the background that come right down to the beach. Although it is midwinter here, the temperature is balmy and I am wearing only a shirt and shorts. There's only about eight other people in sight. It is the beach to which I used to come for outings when I was a child. I know of no other beach where the jungle comes right down to the sand -- though I guess there must be others. It is of course well off the tourist map and long may it remain so. There is a small caravan park here but not much else. It is rimmed in by hills so there is really no scope for any building here. Just a tiny patch of paradise. And everybody here speaks English! To me it the most beautiful place in all the world. The whole point of my coming North on this vacation was that I just had to sit on the beach at Etty Bay once again.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
I have taken a week away from my usual haunts to spend in my ancestral place. All four of my grandparewnts were born and bred in tropical North Queensland and I was too. I am at the moment blogging from Cairns -- the tourist hub of the Far North. I have been to a few tropical tourist destinations in my time -- Fiji, Hawaii, Singapore and Thailand -- and I think North Queensland is as good as or better than any of them. And I do definitely wonder why people go to third-world tropical destinations when they could enjoy every tropical experience in the safety and convenience of a modern Western country like Australia. Because I was born amid magnificent tropical scenery I am very hard to impress when it comes to scenery. I used to think that there was no scenic drive in the world better than the Cairns to Port Douglas road but these days I will concede that a drive through the Western Highlands of Scotland in the summer rivals it.
The Asians have discovered Cairns big time and the Japanese are everywhere. So that parts of Cairns remind me a lot of Asia -- with all the crowded vibrancy that that entails. So if you want to see Asia, come to Cairns! But outside the tourist bazaars, there is no crowding. So forget about tropical islands. Cairns has everything they do. Anyway, for me it is a trip home.