The calendar game …

In 1998 I visited Townsville in Queensland, it was shortly before new year. I bumped into some local birdwatchers and went out with them on Townsville Common. Like most birdwatchers I meet, they were very generous  with their knowledge, you can’t beat local knowledge, and they put me onto some other birds to tick off before heading back to Victoria.

Amongst themselves topics of conversation included the start of the new year, the start of a new year list and preparation for a game that they played among themselves. You were in the game on January first. To stay in the game you had to have added at least one species to your year list for each day elapsed. They were plotting a big day out for that first day. A one hundred bird day would see them safe until the beginning of April. The last one to go out would be the winner or by reaching 365 (plus one in a leap year) there could be any number of winners. They were laughing about who had lasted how long in the year then coming to a close.

They restricted the game to birds seen in Queensland. It would be tough but not impossible to see 365 species in a single year in Victoria, my home state. McGee’s Victoria list stands at 386 but that includes birds that don’t turn up here every year. McGee’s Queensland list stands at 438 despite the fact that he only spends a small fraction of his time there.

Since then I have played the game privately, allowed myself the whole of Australia to play in, and it is one measure of how successful a year has been. If I allowed myself the whole world to play in it would be just too easy, this year’s world total was 632 (with 12 hours to go). However my birding within Australia has been confined to Victoria, no further east than Melbourne. I was out of the game by the end of June.

I won’t be posting for a couple of days …

2014, almost over …

Thank you for reading my words … it’s the only thing that makes it worth writing them. The blog was launched in April 2012. Posts passed the thousand mark late in the year. Visitors came from 59 countries this year which is only one more than last year but traffic has doubled. Most visitors came from Australia but the United States & France were not far behind.

I shall endeavour to avoid being too parochial this coming year and when I can’t resist I will try to explain the issue so that it can be understood widely, although explaining how cricket works is beyond my skill. I had better try not to use terms like cheese eating surrender monkeys (for Kazakhstan readers that’s a reference to French people).

I do wish you a happy and prosperous new year.



Have a good Christmas …

It’s Christmas Eve and I bid all my readers a happy one.

It is also the fortieth anniversary of the destruction of one of my favorite Australian cities. I had arrived in Oz in August and hadn’t got around to visiting Darwin. I have been several times since. There is a Thai restaurant upstairs in Mitchell Street, near the bus station, that I thoroughly recommend.  It’s called Thailicious. Sitting there you are about 100 metres from the corner of Searcy Street. Look out for Searcy Street at 2 minutes 45 into this newsreel …

Tracy killed 66 people, caused A$837 million in damage (1974 dollars), or approximately A$4.45 billion (2014 dollars). It destroyed more than 70 percent of Darwin’s buildings, including 80 percent of houses. Tracy left more than 41,000 out of the 47,000 inhabitants of the city homeless prior to landfall and required the evacuation of over 30,000 people. Most of Darwin’s population was evacuated to Adelaide, Whyalla, Alice Springs and Sydney, and many never returned to the city.

Joe Cocker …

1944 to 2014, you gotta wonder how he made it.

I first saw him in the Sheffield University students union in 1968. What a voice.

A year later With a Little Help from My Friends went to number one. I doubt there was a students union that could afford him after that.

There is a rich legacy. A personal favorite …

Get a life …

An old friend is back in the news today. The elaborately decorated Major-General Neville Donohue.

If your kids have ever told you to get a life it may have crossed your mind that a) you’ve already got one and b) where would you go to get another one. For any number of people the answer to b) is easy. You borrow one. And you don’t have to be an impoverished no-hoper to do it, take, for instance, Elizabeth Warren.

Liz borrowed a better life by ticking the Are you a native American box on the application form to various law schools. It worked wonders at Harvard, it needed to up its representation of native Americans. Apparently the former Obama Special Advisor to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and former Chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel later told the world that “I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group, something that might happen with people who are like I am”.

The evidence for her American native heritage was her high cheek bones and some discussion at a family gathering. Cool.

It led to some controversy. This is a darling of the left and presidential candidate in waiting, just one Hilary heartbeat away. Serious evidence was needed. Good news, some was found.

With the impertinent jackanapes of the press querying the bona fides of Harvard Lore School’s first Native American female professor, the Warren campaign got to work and eventually turned up a great-great-great-grandmother designated as Cherokee in the online transcription of a marriage application of 1894.

Alas, the actual original marriage license does not list Great-Great-Great-Gran’ma as Cherokee, but let’s cut Elizabeth Fauxcahontas Crockagawea Warren some slack here. She couldn’t be black. She would if she could, but she couldn’t. But she could be 1/32nd Cherokee, and maybe get invited to a luncheon with others of her kind – “people who are like I am,” 31/32nds white – and they can all sit around celebrating their diversity together.

Fauxcahontas is not making so much of her Fauxhecan ancestry these days.

It might be possible to find some Australian examples, but there’s a law against it.

There is however a clear connection between the pathology that leads to fake racial identification and that which leads to fake medals.

You may remember that our Neville failed to appear in court last February to face charges of falsely claiming to be a war veteran and to wearing medals to which he was not entitled. On that occasion a letter from someone at the Alfred Hospital was furnished establishing beyond a shadow of doubt that he had terminal cancer and would die within weeks.

Thanks to the expert care for which the Alfred is renowned he has survived long enough to fail to appear several more times. The most recent occasion, in October, was his seventh failure to appear and this time he told reporters that it was because he was on active military service on the day. The Alfred will no doubt be using his photo in their advertising.


His next opportunity to fail to appear is at the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court in March when he can avoid answering an additional 17 charges of impersonating a public official, financial deceptions and the odd driving offense. I’d book a seat if I thought he would be there.

Motive unclear …

Today’s nothing to do with something beginning with I is brought to you from France via Reuters

French police arrested a man on Sunday evening after he deliberately mowed down a dozen pedestrians in the eastern city of Dijon, badly injuring two of them and shouting “Allahu Akbar”

investigators had yet to determine what his motives were

Nothing to do with …

My good friend Walter and most of Australia were appalled at events in Martin Place, Sydney, when Man Haron Monis took patrons of a coffee shop hostage, demanded an Islamic State flag, demanded to speak to the prime minister and conducted a siege that ended in the death of two hostages and serious injuries to others.

Walter is a very decent guy and was quick to post the #I’ll ride with you meme on his Facebook page. He posted nothing about the victims or their families. Other Australians made the pilgrimage to the scene of the crime laid flowers, shed tears. The ABC were there with them and gave great prominence to the fact that among the mourners there were some muslims who were interviewed at length.

All sorts of experts and VIP’s were trotted out. Very quickly we were being fed the line that this was nothing to do with Islam and not an act of terrorism. Mr Monis was just a nutter with a criminal past. I don’t think that the experts or VIP’s or the ABC were levelling with us.

Terrorism has a definition in Australian law

an act or threat, intended to advance a political, ideological or religious cause by coercing or intimidating an Australian or foreign government or the public. This action must cause serious harm to people or property, create a serious risk to the health and safety to the public, or seriously disrupt trade, critical infrastructure or electronic systems.

The sort of acts that terrorists do have been against the law since time immemorial and yet the law and the definition have had a lot of fine tuning in recent years. The reason for this is that cleaning up the mess and prosecuting any surviving miscreants runs a distant second to arresting and imprisoning the miscreants for their intentions.

There is no basis in the definition to rule out terrorism because it was a criminal act and there is no mention of insanity. When searching through the ranks of those volunteering as suicide bombers, or to fly planes into buildings, or to execute school children, or to kill health workers trying to eradicate polio I suspect it would be difficult to find too many sane ones. One might also notice that one particular religion is somewhat over represented.

Mr Monis was born in Iran. He came to Australia in 1996, according to some he left in a hurry with the proceeds gained from fraud, theft and violent misbehaviour. He claimed he was in danger at home because of his liberal views on Islam and was granted asylum. Requests were made for his extradition, sadly they were refused.

He achieved a measure of notoriety during the war in Afghanistan by sending letters to the parents of dead Australian and British soldiers describing their sons as murderers and pigs.

At the time of the siege Mr Monis was on bail charged with being an accessory in the stabbing murder of his wife. He was also waiting trial on indecent assault charges arising out of his spiritual healing business.

In the days before the siege Mr Monis pronounced that he had converted from Shia to Sunni and used his website to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State.

On the day prior to the siege he posted this to his website …

Islam is the religion of peace, that’s why Muslims fight against the oppression and terrorism of USA and its allies including UK and Australia. If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society. The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are. Islam wants peace on the Earth, that’s why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies. When you speak out against crime you have taken one step towards peace.

According to the Age newspaper, Mr Monis’s Facebook account had 14,000 “likes” before it was taken down, on 15 December 2014.

During the siege hostages were made to hold up a Black Flag with the shahādah (Islamic statement of faith) written in white Arabic text.

Back in September 2014 even the ABC managed to report the allegation that Islamic State representatives in Australia were calling for random acts of terrorism …

The raids foiled a plot involving a man believed to be Australia’s most senior Islamic State member who called contacts in Australia and asked them to carry out a campaign of random public beheadings in Sydney and Brisbane, the ABC understands.

Mohammad Ali Baryalei, a former Kings Cross bouncer and part-time actor, is understood to have made the instruction to kidnap people in Brisbane and Sydney and have them executed on camera. That video was then to be sent back to IS’s media unit, where it would be publicly released.

The siege in Martin Place was an act of terrorism and it was carried out in the name of Islam, in the cause of Islam and at the request of the Islamic State. That Mr Monis was a nutter and not a card carrying member of IS changes nothing.

If the meek inherit the earth Walter will be there, he is very very nice. Mr Monis and I will be absent.

The experts are playing us for strategic purposes. Lone wolf terrorists are much harder to find in advance, if Facebook likes are any indicator, there will be many more of them. The job of the security forces is a tough one … please forgive us if the occasional nutbag impersonates a terrorist.

The ABC is the largest media outlet in Australia, it is using the taxpayers money to bring about a better social order. It is concerned that ugly Australians will behave in an uncivilised fashion to decent Muslims going about their regular business.

The people bringing flowers and their tears to Martin Place want to see an end to the senseless killing of coffee drinkers, plane travellers, health workers, school children, aid workers, journalists … and they are not about to start lynching muslim women for wearing the hijab.

Muslim leaders could do a lot for their flock if they spoke out against terrorism instead of whingeing on about discrimination against muslims. Having your head cut off strikes me as considerably worse than being insulted.