Saturday 30 May 2009


“Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated.” – Alphonse de Lamartine

Breaking up is hard to do, and goodbyes take much longer than hellos, don’t they?
Here is an apt song by Miley Cyrus…

Thursday 28 May 2009


“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth.” - Robert Southey

Well it’s official, Yahoo 360 is closing down… I guess we could all see it coming for a long while, but now that it is official, it is easier to accept it and move on. I left the following comment on the Yahoo 360 Australia site:

“I am rather disappointed to see 360 go, although its steady decline over the past couple of years, frequent bugs, lack of technical support, rumour-mongering amongst its users, and their progressive exodus have foreshadowed this announcement.

I first started blogging here on 23/3/06 and since then have produced a daily blog. I have met many fine people on 360, have exercised my mind, have been moved, have laughed, and have been creative. It will be hard to say goodbye, but such is the way of the world. Nothing is permanent, all is in a state of flux, all changes (as Heraclitus has said...).

I for one will not move to Profiles, it is a sad and poor relative of 360 (just like Mash was). I shall be changing my home page from Yahoo to something else (Google?). Whether I continue to blog or not once 360 goes, I have not decided yet.

It is appropriate to thank Yahoo at this stage for having created one of the best blogging sites on the net. In its heyday it was elegant, simple, well-supported, popular, ground-breaking. In its decline it has retained the quiet and melancholy dignity of a beautiful corpse.

Vale, Yahoo 360!”

Wednesday 27 May 2009


“It is a wise man’s part, rather to avoid sickness, than to wish for medicines.” - Thomas More

As the numbers of the dreaded “Swine Flu” increase in Australia, it is perhaps appropriate to give some facts about the disease, as well as some advice. The whole world now is aware that a new influenza A (H1N1) virus of porcine origin (henceforth called “New Flu”) was first detected in April, 2009 in Mexico. The virus is infectious for humans and is spreading from person-to-person, causing a growing outbreak of illness around the world. With more than 128 suspected cases of the swine flu in Australia already (as of 27/5/09), the government has now introduced many new strict measures for travellers who are coming into the country. All flights that come in from North and South America have already been screened for several days now. The cabin crew on these planes are told to report any kind of flu like symptoms before the aircraft lands. However, these precautions have now been spread to cover all international flights.

It is thought that New Flu spreads in the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread, i.e. mainly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. Because this is a new virus, most people will not have immunity to it, and illness may be more severe and widespread as a result. Presently, there is no vaccine to protect against New Flu. It is anticipated that there will be more cases, more hospitalisations and possibly more deaths associated with New Flu in the future.

The symptoms of New Flu in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include: Fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with New Flu also have reported diarrhoea and vomiting. The high risk groups for New Flu are not known at this time but it is possible that they may be the same as for seasonal influenza (i.e. people age 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, and people who are immunosuppressed, e.g., taking immunosuppressive medications, infected with HIV.

What to do if you are sick
If you become sick, you may be ill for a week or longer. You should stay home and avoid contact with other persons, except when seeking medical care. If you leave the house to seek medical care, wear a mask or cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. In general you should avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness.

People may be contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to seven days after they get sick. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

It is expected that most people (especially those with a good constitution and otherwise well) will recover without needing medical care. However, if you have severe illness or you are at high risk for flu complications, you should be contacting your health care provider or seek medical care as soon as you experience flu-like symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether flu testing or treatment is needed.

Antiviral prescription drugs can be given to treat those who become severely ill with influenza. There are two influenza antiviral medications that are recommended for use against New Flu: Oseltamivir (trade name Tamiflu ®) and zanamivir (Relenza ®). The drugs will be given first to those people who have been hospitalised or are at high risk of complications. The drugs work best if given within 2 days of becoming ill, but may be given later if illness is severe or for those at a high risk for complications. Aspirin or aspirin-containing products should not be administered to any confirmed or suspected ill case of New Flu aged 18 years old and younger due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. For relief of fever, aches and pains, other analgesic and anti-pyretic medications are recommended, such as paracetamol (e.g. Panadol ®).

Emergency Signs
If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care:
In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish or gray skin colour
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Not waking up or not interacting
• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Confusion
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

Sensible advice
• Stay informed. Health officials will provide additional information as it becomes available.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and wash your hands.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. Keep away from other household members as much as possible. This is to keep you from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
• Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and other social distancing measures.

Natural Medicine health measures
Please visit the following websites for some advice regarding how natural medicine can help in coping with the New Flu:

Free Natural Cures site*

*Note Disclaimer from above site: The authors of this site are neither licensed physicians nor scientists. The information within this site is designed for educational purposes only. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. We will not be liable for any complications, or other medical accidents arising from the use of any information on this web site.

Natural Home remedies site#

#Note Disclaimer from above site: All information available here is for educational purposes only. We do not claim to cure, prevent or treat any disease. If you have, or suspect to have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Hpathy site§

§Note Disclaimer from above site: All information provided on this site, particularly any information relating to specific medical conditions, health care, preventive care, homeopathy, homeopathic medicine, and healthy lifestyles, is presented for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered complete or exhaustive and does not cover all disorders or conditions or their treatment, nor all health-related issues. The information provided on is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or health care provider, and may not necessarily take your individual health situation into account. You should not use the information on as a means of diagnosing a health problem or disease, or as a means of determining treatment. You should also not use the information on as a substitute for professional medical advice when deciding on any health-related regimen, including diet or exercise. You should always consult a your own licensed health care provider for these purposes, or for any specific, individual medical advice.

Further information (sites from which the information on this page was compiled)

Australian Government – Department of Health and Ageing site:

USA: Center for Disease Control

World Health Organisation (WHO)


“Take away love and our earth is a tomb.” - Robert Browning

Our life is brief, our years in short supply like a small stack of parchment, which we have heedlessly scribbled on. To our horror, our incunabula have laid waste the precious resource and needing a clean surface in which to write our maturer thoughts, we have none. Our thrifty ancestors, master recyclers, made the old into new by rubbing down the used parchments and on the palimpsests, wrote again, their more gravid thoughts.

Would you take the opportunity to do the same with your life, were it possible? Try to efface all traces of years wasted and begin anew? Has this happened to you already? Out with old, in with the new? Forgive, forget, move on, write new chapters on parchments scraped clean? The trouble is, as with all palimpsests, one can still read the original, and ostensibly effaced, writing underneath the new…


Time passes and obliterates scars of old wounds,
Like the ink that blots the copybook.

My emotions fade, wafting aimlessly as my perception dulls,
Like the fog that obscures the landscape.

Years rush by, eroding the sharp pungency of my past life,
Like the sea that washes over the footsteps in the sand.

My memory begins to fail me and I forget you willingly,
Like the drawn veil that hides the beauty of the face.

All of the echoes of words I spoke, all of my fading words on old letters,
Like the writing on a blackboard, wiped by a sponge.

Our years together, as time passes, disappear
Like the black dye that seeps in and hides the pattern on the cloth.

As time passes, the densely written book of my existence,
Is unwritten; my life’s traces on the sand erased,
The printed words on paper lost, faded, effaced;
My parchment scraped almost clean,
The palimpsest ready for a new story.

Tuesday 26 May 2009


“To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.” - Cicero

The history of civilisation walks hand in hand with the history of writing. It is no accident that as soon as writing evolved, the storage and safe-keeping of written records became a concern for the budding civilised states. A hoard of about 30,000 clay tablets found in ancient Mesopotamia date back more than 5,000 years. Papyrus scrolls from 1300-1200 BCE have been discovered in the ancient Egyptian cities of Amarna and Thebes, and thousands of clay tablets in the palace of King Sennacherib (Assyrian ruler from 704-681 BCE), were discovered by archaologists at Nineveh, his capital city.

“Library” is the name for these repositories of written records. Libraries have developed concurrently with the development of permanent storage media on which information has been stored. Whether it is clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, tablets of wood, sheets of parchment or paper; and whether the collections of these records have been private or public, libraries have been founded, built, destroyed and rebuilt. The library as an institution has survived for thousands of years, well into our digital age where the printed medium of the book is presently under attack. The survival of the library is a testament to the value humans place on knowledge and its transmission within populations, horizontally amongst individuals, but also vertically, through time.

The earliest libraries may have been in the Near East, but the ancient Greeks propelled the idea of the library as a cultural and civilising institution through their heightened interest in literacy and intellectual life. Public and private libraries flourished through a well-established process: Authors wrote on a variety of subjects, while scriptoria or copy shops produced the copies of the books, and book dealers sold them. Though the public library first appeared by the fourth century BCE, the private library was more prevalent, and older.

The greatest and most well-known library of all time was the Great Library of Alexandria, a public library founded about 300 BCE and open to all with the proper scholarly and literary qualifications. When Egypt’s King Ptolemy I (305-282 BCE) asked, “How many scrolls do we have?” the librarian, Aristotle’s disciple Demetrius of Phalerum was on hand to answer with the latest count. After all, it was Demetrius who suggested setting up a universal library to hold copies of all the books in the world translated into Greek.

The Alexandrian library's lofty goal was to collect half-million scrolls and the Ptolemies took serious steps to accomplish it. Ptolemy I, for example, composed a letter to all the sovereigns and governors he knew, imploring them “not to hesitate to send him works by authors of every kind”. At its height, the library held nearly 750,000 scrolls. Much of what is now considered to be literary scholarship began in the Alexandrian Library. Funds from the royal treasury paid the chief librarian and his scholarly staff. Physically, books were not what we think of today, but rather scrolls, mostly made of papyrus, but sometimes of leather. They were kept in pigeonholes with titles written on wooden tags hung from their outer ends.

Fires and depredations during the Roman period gradually destroyed the Library. When Julius Caesar occupied Alexandria in 48 BCE, Cleopatra urged him to help himself to the books. Obliging, he shipped tens of thousands to Rome. Mark Antony was rumored to have given Cleopatra the 200,000-scroll collection of rival library Pergamum to replace Alexandria's losses. Thanks to the Great Library, Alexandria assumed its position as the intellectual capital of the world and provided a model for other libraries to follow. Christian and Arab invasions eventually destroyed this jewel of ancient civilisation with the scrolls from the library being burned in the public baths to heat water, there being enough books for fuelling the boilers for six months.

Rome’s Vatican Library is one of the richest manuscript repositories in the world, with more than 65,000 manuscripts and more than 900,000 printed volumes. Most works are in either Latin or Greek. By the middle of the second century BCE, Rome also boasted rich library resources. Initially they comprised some scattered private collections, but holdings eventually expanded through the spoils of war. Even Aristotle’s famed collection was among the bounty.

To serve as director of a library was a great honour. The role became a stepping stone for the ambitious government servant. Staff consisted of slaves and freedmen, who were assigned to either the Greek or the Latin section. Educated slaves fetched rolls from the systematically arranged and tagged bookcases and returned them to their place when the user had finished with them. They usually transported the rolls in leather or wood buckets. Scribes made copies to be added to the collection and recopied damaged rolls, while keeping the catalog up to date. Libraries were typically open during standard business hours - sunrise to midday. However, they remained the domain of the learned: Teachers, scientists, scholars.

As the Roman Empire crumbled, the libraries began to close. In 378 CE, the historian Ammianus Marcellinus commented, “The libraries are closing forever, like tombs.” As the Roman Empire fell, libraries seemed doomed to extinction. However, sparked by the spread of Christianity, the eastern half of the empire did much to foster the use of libraries. The capital city of Constantinople had three major libraries: The university library, the library for the royal family and civil service, and a theological collection. The Christian tradition and the monasteries revived the library in the West. The Benedictines created libraries, and the scriptorium became a sacred place. It soon became customary for monasteries to lend to other monasteries, giving birth to the inter-library loan. Charlemagne, who owned a robust library in Aachen in the eighth century, ordered every school to have a scriptorium. The road was well paved to invite the Renaissance and a new age for libraries.

The invention of printing through Johannes Gutenberg's movable type innovation in the 1400s revolutionised bookmaking. Printed books replaced handwritten manuscripts and the new books were placed on open shelves. Throughout the 1600s and 1700s, libraries surged in popularity. They grew as universities developed and as national, state-supported collections began to appear. Many of these became national libraries. As the industrial revolution swept through the world and increased urbanisation led to the rise of the middle class, the public library came into being and the university libraries expanded their collections and scope of services to accommodate the burgeoning of new knowledge.

Libraries may have changed over the years (no longer do we store scrolls in pigeon holes), but the need for a repository of knowledge remains. The digital revolution may be changing our ideas of what a “book” is and how we read may be need to be rethought in the near future. However, the library has withstood attacks of barbarians and religious fundamentalists, has had to reinvent itself several times through several technological advances and changing incarnations of “books”, and has survived. As an institution the library continues to educate, inspire and civilise. I am hopeful that this will only continue and improve with the passage f time.

Monday 25 May 2009


“The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.” - Isak Dinesen

I was in Brisbane for work today and the day was full of meetings and a busy schedule. Although it all went well, there was no time at all for anything else and the plane was reduced to a commuting means of public transport. The only problem is that the trip takes two hours and of course there is the time one needs to get to the airport and back. Consequently, after a 4:00 am start, it will be an early night tonight.

At least the weather in Brisbane was mild and overcast and the heavy rains that they have had causing the widespread flooding in Southern Queensland a Northern New South Wales had abated. The big surprise was coming back to Melbourne this evening and seeing the rain pelting down. I think just about the whole plane cheered, but of course this rain was just a downpour lasting for a short time and we need a few tens days like that so we can replenish our water reservoirs, which are down to about 26% capacity at the moment.

Seeing it’s Movie Monday today, I shall conform with the theme by mentioning that in the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, there is Movie World, a theme park/studio. Warner Bros Movie World is the only movie-related theme park in Australia. With one of the best roller coasters on the coast and a good handful of movie related rides (think Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo, Harry Potter, Batman and more), families are promised a fun-filled adventure with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. OK, it’s tacky, it’s a cheap thrills entertainment machine pandering to the masses, it’s crass and commercial, a Disneyland formula theme park, but popular it is. Maybe one of these trips I’ll even make a special effort to visit there, or maybe not …

Enjoy your week!

Sunday 24 May 2009


“Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.” – Pierre Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was a famous French impressionist painter, associated with the Impressionism movement along with his friends Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille. Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, on February 25, 1841 as a child of a working class family. Renoir’s first encounter with painting dates from his childhood. Later, he worked in a porcelain factory where his drawing talent led to him painting designs on china.

From the beginning in early 1860s when Renoir started studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris, when he didn't have enough money to buy paint, to his last day when rheumatoid arthritis severely hampered his movement and he was forced to paint by strapping a brush to his arm, and created sculptures by directing an assistant who worked the clay, Renoir's painting was always beautiful and optimistic. So was his view of life and his painful condition: “The pain passes, but the beauty remains” were Renoir's words.

Renoir's paintings are probably the most popular, well-known, and frequently reproduced images in the history of art. Almost everybody has heard of the Bathers, The Umbrellas, Luncheon of the Boating Party and one of the most expensive paintings ever, Le Moulin de la Galette along with many other. They present a vision of a forgotten world, full of sparkling colour and light.

The “Moulin de la Galette” (“Flour Mill”, shown above) of 1876 was one of 21 works shown by Renoir at the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877. Every Sunday afternoon young people from the north of Paris contributed in the dance-hall and in the courtyard behind it in fine weather. Most of the figures in Renoir's work, rather than being habitués of the Moulin were in fact portraits of his friends, with the occasional professional model posing for thin. The scene which Renoir has painted in this work is not an authentic representation of the clientele of the Moulin, but rather a scrupulously organised series of portraits.

The writer Georges Rivière, who knew Renoir well at this time, and is himself included in the painting as one of the three foreground gallant drinking at the table, in his review of the work in the journal “L' Impressionniste “which accompanied exhibition referred to it as a page of history, a precious and strictly accurate portrayal of Parisian life. That he should have stressed its realism is odd knowing the very painstaking working method Renoir had adopted.