Sunday, December 14, 2008

Random Beauty - L. Casta

1: NGC654 supernova or some incredible space thing.
2: Bud, my climbing partner in Chamonix, French Alps 1999.
3,4,5 Sigh. Laeticia Casta (see below). middle one - with Yves Saint Laurent.

Once in a while, I'll post up some random photos of beautiful things. I'm quite visual, and enjoy art and photography.
Laeticia Casta - model, actress (the Blue Bicycle) and representative of all that is beautiful in French women. Plus she believes in chastity (a rarity these days). Incidentally, the true meaning of the word "chaste" is not abstinence, but sex only when Love is present. Quite a few marriages are not chaste by this defn.

Sunsets and Big Sky country

1: Sunset at rest area sth of Nerandera - the best things in life are free..
2,3: Rainbow sth of Ardlethan
4: Frodo's Hobbit van
5: Big Sky country sth of West Wyalong (sth west NSW)
6: Next to the laundromat at Cowra

Thur 11 – Mon 15 dec

Blue mnts – West to Bathurst – Cowra – South to Nerandera (Newell hway)

Friday 12 dec
Blue mnts.
It’s raining pretty constantly. I decide to walk anyway, from Govett’s leap carpark towards Pope’s Glen. I pass rock “Pagoda” formations, tree ferns, beautiful flowers, pools with tiny sand beaches along the creek.
I test out my nylon “softshell” with an umbrella. Works fairly well, you sweat a lot less than with Gore-Tex.
I’m at about 1000m altitude. Good for sports training… like Flagstaff in Arizona, Or Boulder, Colorado, or the Vercors In France. One of the towns up here is twin city with Flagstaff, Ariz.

Then decide I better get moving to avoid falling on my relatives and family friends in the middle of Christmas. Down a short steep road, onto the gently rolling hills West of the citadel of the Blue mnts.

City versus Country - thoughts

I arrive At Bathurst, Home of Holden V8 grand prix races on Mt Panorama.
Buy a new digital camera – Canon AS590 IS , for 140 $ (gd price). Pretty amazing features for such a price: manual exposure possible, 4x zoom, optical viewer (like old-stlye SLRs) . All in all, great to have a hi-qual camera with which I can capture and share the displays nature puts on for us (see sunsets above).

I get a pair of polyester long johns and some freeze dried food at the BCF store
The girl behind the counter has that sweet country look, like the mechanic-girl on the sci-fi movie “Serenity”. People in general are relaxed and down-to earth here – the country feel. Makes a nice change from the ghost-like Goths and other costumed city-fauna at Katoomba, which feels like a suburb of Sydney (I’m told there is a knifing per week on weekends in Katoomba – oh for Rudy Gulliani to apply zero-tolerance to Aus cities and reduce assault and homicide by more than 50% as in NY City ).

“Ragged” is the word that comes to mind when I think of people in Katoomba. Ragged youth who don’t take care of themselves, who have little to look up to except the local drug dealer in his flash car. Ragged mature people who’ve drunk too much or seen to much violence. Definitely not Scandinavian athletic types. Where are the bronzed Anzacs who work hard and play hard and are brave and enthusiastic? They’re out there, but not in inner cities.
I feel like getting a group of them and taking them on a wilderness walk, gradually increasing the difficulty. Or yachting. Get them to know the joy of using their bodies in the clean sunny air, the joy of work, the joy of swimming in ice-cold creeks, the free-ness and sacredness of nature’s beauty, including their own. Plus we could work on a farmer’s property, with horses etc.

The country life is definitely healthier, physically and mentally. There’s too much disconnection from reality, your body, nature, others and posing in most cities. City kids could spend 6 month in the country as part of their curriculum – so they can at least get at taste of reality, seeing where their meat comes from, giving birth to foals, working in the mud, getting old cars going… come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind working on a farm for a few months.

Sure, I can understand the attraction of the city lights. And I’m sure country kids need a bit of city from time to time. But the what with wireless internet, mobile phones, downloadable movies etc, the country is much less isolated than it used to be.
I’m reminded of Harrison Ford, who lives on a ranch near Jackson Hole, Idaho. Next to the amazing Grand Tetons mountains. I agree with him that LA life corrupts – especially kids, who fall right into the drugs and all the rest culture of LA.
Get to small rural town called Balney. Dogs in pickups, dusty streets, Big container rail terminal . I like it. Fuel’s going abnormally fast, some power surges. Van due for a service. Plus I’m out of fuel… and all the fuel places are closed at 6pm. So I stay the nite.

Sat 13 - Cowra, Ardlethan

Next day, get fuel, but no service possible. So go on to Cowra – bigger country town.
Nice historic towns before Cowra.
Not pos to get service there either. Shop at Coles, Move on towards town of Nerandera. Now in flat country – easy to drive, except for strong wind that buffets the van. After West Wyalong – it’s “Big Sky” country like Montana. (see photo above).
Golden Fields, almost Billard table flat. Stop at rest area after Ardlethan.
Go for a run up road, then dirt track. It’s good to feel my body after hours driving.
On return to the van, I am greeted by amazing double rainbow and the other end going into the ground (where the treasure is). (see photos above).

Sunday 14 - Nerandera

I arrive at Nerandera 140 km on a fill… half of what I ususually get. Decide to wait for Monday so I can get a service.
See a real Tiger Moth biplane at small museum . This area used to be the training are for pilots in WW2. 1000 pilots from here alone were killed in that conflict. One who survived was Australia’s only Aboriginal pilot, who flew a fighter. It seems to me Aboriginals had more opportunities back then than they do now… what with the victim industry constantly encouraging them to feel like perpetual victims. At least Aboriginal leaders like Noel Pearson don’t agree with this pandering.

In the library, I talk to the librarian about the WW2 training airbases. I mention my grandfather was in the RAAF in WW1, and killed in the R101 airship crash (1930), just north of Paris (in a strange coincidence, I ended up growing up just 200 km or so south of the crash site…) . She has just seen a doco on airships, including the R101.

WW2, Islamic terrorism, The will to win

Regarding WW2, I often wonder if the modern public would have the stomach for defeating Hitler, Mussolini, the Japanese empire if they were transported into the past. 400 000 American servicemen dead…. 50 000 dead in the German Ardennes counter- offensive alone… the 4000 or so dead in Irak recently seems like a mere blip.

The islamo-fascists count on western resolve crumbling, with time and wear. I hope for the sake of the future of kids today that they are wrong.
Personally, I would rather die fighting than endure the living-death of life in the shadow of a global Islamic dictatorship, Teheran-style.
“vivre libre ou mourir” – “live free or die” was the motto of a Captain of the resistance in a small high plateau near Chambery, France. He held out, until the end of the war when the Germans sent up forces on skis.

At one stage, he tried to recruit French people in towns around, but met with little enthusiasm. In fact, a documentary made in the 50s showed that most French were resigned to, even collaborating with Nazi occupation. This doco was banned for decades by De Gaulle, who wanted to perpetuate the resistance mythology… true there was resistance, but it was a small minority.
It seems that little has changed, and the French and other Europeans would rather submit and raise the white flag of surrender than fight Islamic terrorism in it’s bases abroad (Afghanistan); when it tries to take over a state or scuttle democracy (Irak). And verbally on their own soil, despite books like “Londistan”, denial and appeasement is still strong in the elites.
“The price of freedom is perpetual vigilance” (and blood) I forget who said that.
Out of Nerandera, I get bogged doing a U-turn. 2 farmers turn up with their machinery, and gladly pull me out with their ute. Country hospitality.

Monday 15

Sun at last ! but chilly wind.
I find a mechanic to do the service, go to the library to update my blog.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Climbing and Walking Blue mnts

0: Gil the Quebecois, Marie, Me (not a very good shot of me!)
1: Rowan on the slackline
2,3,4 : Views of bridal Falls and track

Monday 8 dec

Walk down to foot of Bridal Veil Falls, from Govett’s leap parking.
Awesome fall, lots of moss on the cliff walls, very nicely built track down the cliff.

I do a bit of scrambling on boulders at thee base of the falls. Then Run/walk back up.
Shop at Katoomba, meet up with S&R and do “slacklining” with them in a park (see photo above). Rowan has awesome balance. I can only hold on 2 seconds or so.

Camp at the top of Shipley’s cliffs, and see S&R’s campsite just along a track.

Tue 9 Dec

At 730am, do Yoga, stretching and pushups with S&R. These guys are only just out of high school and are truly dedicated climbers. I’m impressed. Later I watch them climb like insects on hard overhanging routes.
Rowan explains how he learnt about “supermarket dumpster diving” at Arapiles. Climbers from all over the world camp for 2$ per nite at Arapiles, and climb for up to a month, with expensive gear (where their money goes). This is the Australian equivalent of “Camp 5” at Yosemite, USA – where climbers in the 60s and 70s pioneered “big wall” climbs where one uses etriers and such on mirror –like cliffs.
Several of these climbers went on to manufacture climbing equipment, which is now used worldwide.

So Rowan and others in the Katoomba area go to the Coles supermarket dumpsters and pull out intact packages of spaghetti, bread etc, which are past thier due-by dates.
They can thus climb for weeks on very little money.
It’s funny to see his state-of the art tent and headtorch etc. Reminds me of what was said of the famous French sailor Eric Tabarly - that he used the same old piece of soap for months, that he would pick up a discarded pair of shorts at the marina and re-use it. This was a man who was one of the best sailors in the world, winning world cup races with his uranium-keeled yacht “Pen Duick IV” . He had the money to have the best yacht because he was so thrifty in other areas….

A lesson for us all – find out what you really want to do and focus on that. Don't waste energy keeping up with the Jones... The social pressure to keep up appearances is there, but is it really worth the effort in trying to please others ?

Is authenticity not a better option for all - authentic climbing hobos ; authentic white collar yuppies who value luxury above all; authentic businessmen who provide products, make money and create jobs (give me a break with "corporate responsibility" ahhhhg ), authentic tough cops (not nanny-state PC enforcers) etc.

I climb my first Blue mnts climbs with Gil. I lead an “18” , then Gil does a “19”, which I top-rope, with difficulty. The edges of the rock are sharp, and I’m out of practice at climbing at this level.

We stop at lunch. Evening: I run along the track overlooking the Grose Valley – sun setting on red cliff-faces.

Wed 10 Dec. 08

Climb with Ricky, whom I met thru Marie. At Bordsen’s lookout. Short climbs which get my forearms pumped. I take a fall towards the top of one – about 5m. the rope and belay device does it’s job and I come to a stop. Scary, but as Ricky says – it gets it out of your system. Fear of falling makes one climb less well, and in sports climbing, falls are usually anodyne (except when there is a ledge underneath).

On another I almost fall and get quite uncomfortable desperately hanging on in a difficult overhung posn. , trying to clip onto the anchor at the top of the climb. I finally manage to secure myself. A lot of mind games in sports climbing. Prefer mountaineering with it’s easier routes , resting places , great views and mixed ice/rock terrain. But sports rock climbing is fun in itself , not just training for “trad” routes or mountaineering. It’s just that you get scared when you are pushing the envelope of your skills (even though you are usually safe). Even Pros get scared when at the limit of their abilities.

Thru Northern Rivers, Tamworth, to Blue Mnts (Sydney)

1,2: re-enactemnt of British soldiers with real muskets, at Windsor west of Sydney
3: Sunset at Govett's leap, Blue Mnts NSW
4: The Van at Uki, Northern Rivers region, NSW

Friday 5 Dec. 08

350 km today
NSW border – Muwillnbah – Kyogle – Tenterfield – Glenn Innes

In the morning, the sharp ridges of the scenic rim to my left and right are mist shrouded, and I can see 2 eagles soaring.
I drive down towards Murwilembah thru very cute tiny country towns. Eg Crystal Creek with its Hippie cafes and shops.
Horse agistment centers, amazing mountain surrounds.
I am aware that I am approaching my old 2005 stamping grounds – déjà vu is to be expected. I go thru Mbah – poverty is apparent – rundown house, olds shops.. I’m not quite sure why this region is fairly poor. Mt Warning in the distance – an amazing volcanic shape, straight out of a Tolkien book.

I stop at Uki on the and walk around a bit, nice town. Then go on and take a small diversion to lake xxx – where I used to take dad , and he used to lie on a recliner . Amazing views of pines, lake and Mt Warning in the background.
I have lunch there.

Then I drive on, past the turnoff to Nimbin, on the long hilly road to Kyogle. Great vistas but hard driving. Finally reach plains area of Kyogle, and then easy driving to Casino, and Tenterfield (with a big mountain pass before the latter). At Tenterfield , I turn South onto the very easy to drive New England Highway. Very little traffic, huge vistas of slightly rolling plains – great farming country.
Just after turning of, I go thru some amazing hills strewn with large boulders. The more plains. I sing songs, feel joy at being on the road, a free spirit in a Vast Great Southern Land.

I stop for the night in a rest area just after Glen Innes , now in “Celtic lands” with scottish names – Glencoe etc.

Sat 6 dec

Go past Moonbi – just nth of Tamworth. Hills with nice boulders.
Walk around Tamworth – home of a major country music festival. Guys with big cowboy hats , swank main street with shade trees , a bit like the south of France.

Drive on , past Huge horse agistment centers - “Emirates” agistments. Thru town of Scone – australia’s premier thoroughbred breeding center.

Then past 2 huge power stations and a whole area of enormous open cut coal minefields. Then Singleton, fairly uninspired town. I take “Putty road” – through wollemi nat park – conical hills with pockmarked boulders like wild west. Very windy, narrow gorge. Then long stretches of straighter road. Camp jst Nth of town of Colo. I see I am next to Blue mountains area, and just 60km or so from western Sydney.

450 km today

Sun 7 Dec. 08

I know Gil the Quebecois is in the blue mountains, so I call, and it turns out he’s climbing near Katoomba. So I decide to make a small diversion to see him and his girlfriend Marie-Eve. I take route 40 (Bell rd) from Windsor. At Windsor, I stop briefly as there is some sort of celebration. It’s for the 198th anniversary of Founding of the the “5 towns” (Windsor, ..) by governor Macquarie.

Clydesdale horses, lots of families. A re-enactement of British soldiers with muskets. They know their stuff – I am shown how a 1800s musket is loaded. They fire them (no bullets) and also a small canon, which sends a shockwave over you like a wave…
Very pleasant.

Then drive past RAAF base with Hercules transport planes, along Bell rd – steep sections, then amazing views of the canyons of the blue mnts. I was here with my parents in 1989 or so, but I am spellbound by the huge cliff faces and wild valleys.

Arrive in Blackheath (near Katoomba) early afternoon, browse and see amazing view into Grose valley from Govett’s leap . then Meet Gil and Marie-Eve at a pub. Marie-Eve has just spent 1 month climbing (trad style) at Arapiles, nr Grampians. Now plans to climb and work with Gil in this area.
While we are there, Stefan and Rowan (S&R) turn up. Small climbing world – Marie met them climbing at Arapiles (vic). Stefan is from Germany and Rowan from NZ.

They are camped “ wild” in a tent just above a crag, in the bush down the road, live very cheaply, have the best outdoor gear and are excellent climbers, as I see Tuesday.

Mist and chill in the evening – strange to feel chilly after Queensland’s barminess.
Camp at Govett’s leap parking and look at photos on my laptop with G & M.

Kerouac Jules’ Road Diary

1: waterfall near Binna burra lodge
2: Lookout
3: secretly, Jules is a Melbourne Maoist, posing as a CIA-funded neo-con warmongrel.
4: one of the huge fig trees
5: On a 16km walk with river crossings
6: waterfall

Poet, Warrior, Lover, Magician/ Technician, Travel writer, Court Jester and general pain in the butt. Drink less Coffee and read more Jules. The Hippie Conservative Libertarian with a climbing harness and an M16.

The outdoor instructor season is finished for 2 months, so Jules has set of southward with his mobile office, gear loft, kitchen and dorm (van). Many adventures and meetings are to be expected.
Thurs 4 dec 08

I have just had 3 great days at Binna Burra, Lamington Nat Park – at 700m altitude.
Hosted by Caz, a fellow outdoor instructor whom I met on a camp. She also guides adults on walks from Binna Burra lodge, a great old-style lodge that has been there since the 1930s. The jungle valleys and steep sides are covered with a network of tracks short and long , and she knows most of them, as well as the Geology, History and Botany of the site. It’s great to have a knowledgeable guide.

It’s a garden of Eden, with Crimson Rosellas (red), large Skinks, Woompoo birds that echo in the jungle, and huge fig trees with buttressed roots and matrixes of roots, big waterfalls , creeks with pools… The area is often covered with mist or rain, and can be up to 10 degrees colder than the lowlands. Just inland from the Gold coast and all it’s skyscrapers and feral animals. The road is long and windy enough to dissuade those who are not committed to walk in the jungle.

It lies on the “Scenic Rim” – a rim of jungly mountains 1000 m or so high which divides Queensland and NSW. With a few passes where roads get over.

I drive down to Nerang in the lowlands and load up my eski with food for my trip down south. I go to a net café where I catch up with my emails and send replies. Also look at my bank account online.
Then I drive the scenic way south, past the “Natural Arch” up to a very obvious mountain pass where the view opens up to a huge vista of the Northern Rivers area of NSW – my old stamping grounds when I was taking care of Dad in 2005.

I talk to a local who has stopped with his bike – it turns out he has cycled around the world, in about 4 years, staying with tribes etc. his website:
philosophy bit follows:
We talk a lot about various issues- dictators and how to deal with them etc, and finish up with Evil – I reckon Evil is inherent in all of us and we can choose or not to tap into “demonic forces” , and there is a continual battle between Good and Evil – as all cultures from Buddhists to Hinduism to Christianity to Pagan ones have believed. As well as writers such as Tolkien and CS Lewis. He has this post-modern idea that if only we could get to the “root causes” – better parenting/education in young years etc, we would not have to deal with the likes of Saddam or Milosevic or serial killers, and go to war.
Mmm yeah, and how is that going to happen ?… even if we has everything provided as in the sci-fi movie “Logan’s Run”, there would still be evil, though less. The sci-fi movie “Serenity” also postulates that when you try to anaesthetize people to much, you end up with a portion of the population becoming crazed killers, as a reaction, or side effect.

The main problem with his idea is that it denies the reality of the imperfect present, and the need to deal with an imperfect world and protect our loved ones, and democratic western civilization, via warfare and law enforcement, which itself is imperfect.
It’s a bit like saying to a cancer patient that we won’t be treating this cancer because it’s too messy and has too many side effects, and better luck in the next life when we will have this wonderful Utopian Brave New World where everyone is nice nice and no-one gets cancer. And pigs will fly…

Had Belgrade infrastructure not been bombed (circa 1998) for 6 weeks by Clinton and Blair, Milosevic would be dictator of greater Serbia and probably hundreds more thousands would have died in Serb ethnic cleansing…..
Some people object that a school bus, a passenger train were hit (by mistake) during this bombing amongst other civilian casualties, so “War is not the Answer”. Bollocks – what’s your alternative – watching ethnic cleansing go on undisturbed ?
As Margaret Thatcher would have said “There is no alternative”.

As it was, due to the lateness of the Anglo-US intervention, 200 000 civilians died in that civil war… and the toothless UN forces watched on as Serb snipers around Sarajevo shot old ladies and 14 yr old girls going out to collect water... I’ve talked to Serbs whining about how they were set upon by the anglo-US forces… whine away guys, I have very little sympathy – next time you have a maniac like Milosevic, form an armed militia and get rid of him instead of sitting passively.

All the unspeakable civilian tortures and mass killings of unarmed civilians by Serb death squads (Arkan and company) and regular forces happened 2 hours flight away from Paris, where I was at the time. Also ,I had visited the country in 1989, and knew several of the areas where fighting was occurring. It made me mad and sickened me, and even gave me nightmares. Mad at that clown Chirac for being all talk and no action. It was a turning point for many Europeans in the realisation that Europe could not even stop ethnic cleansing in it’s own backyard… and basically stood for nothing but empty talk (Blair being an exception to this).

Bah.. back to my road diary … had to get that off my chest tho.

I jog then eat some canned food and salad. Then sleep.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The SAS in 1942 and now in Afghanistan

1. Aus SAS unit resting in Afghanistan , on self-reliant patrols up to 3 weeks long.
2. Aus. SAS Vehicle in Afghanistan .
3. British SAS Chevy in North Africa 1942 .
4. Restored 1942 Chevy , in Western Aus, and...
5. The 6 wheeler Australian SAS LandRover in Afghanistan now...

I’ve been reading an account based on an interesting memoir, of Chapman, a guy who was in the pioneering 1942 unit that went deep behind German lines in North Africa, 1942 onwards. They were in jeeps, mounted with big machine-guns, with enough fuel, food and water to last a month…
They destroyed German aircraft in airfields, and at one stage attempted to assassinate Rommel (aka the “Desert Fox”), the great and Noble German general who was responsible for so much if the German success. It was unsuccessful, and Rommel later was convicted as one of the plotters who attempted to kill Hitler with a suitcase bomb.

These small raiding units were the first “SAS” units, which are now so well know in anti-terrorism and “deep reconnaissance” missions. The Australian SAS was specifically mentioned by G.W. Bush after the initial stages of the 2001 Afghan campaign as being “the best special forces in the world” . They had a large area in which they patrolled and had significant successes for such a small number of men.

More recently, the Aus. SAS have killed or captured key Taliban leaders:

Back in 1942, The German command said that these small raiding jeeps had a major disruptive effect on the German battle plans.
The same can be said now, as regards the Taliban.
It’s funny how similar the jeeps are – then and now, and how similar the tactics are as well. The enemy, however, is quite different – in North Africa in 1942, both sides treated the wounded of the other side, took prisoners and had a good esteem of each other etc. But the Taliban shoot their prisoners (if they are lucky).

There are also some interesting philosophical thoughts in the book, and analysis of what gave the British the edge over the far better equipped and more battle-hardened Germans.

Some extracts from the book:

Killing Rommel
by Steven pressfield

a Historical novel, based on memoirs of an SAS patrol soldier
North africa, 1942
LRDG Long Range Desert Group

To stand on a razor-back ridge with a plume of sand blowing off it sideways, squinting into eternity at the ranks of endless, rolling combers, each coloured a different shade of pastel (…) must be like what George Leigh Mallory felt at the summit of Everest if he ever got there.

[Mallory’s almost successful attempt was in 1924 (!) ]

You understand why holy men seek out desert places. The great dunes seem to collect and concentrate some immense cosmic energy and focus it on to the boulevard down which you glide (with your vehicle) it mesmerises you.

‘Now take Mr Chapman here, content as a clam he is, out in the tall sand ain’t you sir, away from all the bumf back in the regular army – fatigues and drills, parades every time you turn around and always some lofty bugger jumping down your neck ‘cause you’ve got the wrong button or the seams of your drill shorts don’t match. I was with Second New Zealand Operation Battleaxe before I got away to here, thank heaven. The desert was like Piccadilly at rush hour – lorries and guns, tanks and carriers. Not out here ! This is the life ! ‘ Punch gestures to the endless dunes and sky. ‘No officers – or only decent ones who know the score.’

Stein’s theory on Man’s archetypes

One of the characters is Stein, a British homosexual Jew, who enrols in the army and ends up being a good leader of men.

Stein has a theory on inner evolution. A man matures, he believes, from archetype to archetype: From Son to Wanderer to Warrior to and from there, if he’s lucky, to Lover, Husband, Father; King, Sage and Mystic.

(Jules: I couldn't agree more- Archetype theory should be taught at school. I guess I’m at the wanderer/warrior stage, with some of the other stages thrown in.)

Talking to Chapman, who is in the armoured corps (and the author of the memoirs we are reading) , Stein says:

You’re “in armor” now aren't you ? And he laughs. What could come next but Ascetic, Anchorite, Renunciant ? Stein predicts I’ll be drawn to the inner desert, another metaphor. Now, I think, here I am.
Is there anything to this stuff ? is the soul really governed by such inner architecture, and if so, to what end ?

Re British culture v German Culture, and British Public Schools:

Comment of a German captured by a LRDG patrol:

We Germans could never pull of this trick as you do, wandering about on your own, miles from anywhere. We lack the individual initiative. We prefer to run in a pack.

What appeared as unendurable hardship to soldiers of other nationalities produced a species of exhilaration in our lads, raised on a diet of Kipling and institutional porridge

At Winchester when I was 13, (…) in winter, water froze in our drinking pitchers. (..) we read in Greek Xenophon's March of the Ten thousand, and in Latin Livy's History of Rome, not to mention all of Chaucer, Milton and Shakespeare, the main of Coleridge, Hardy, Tennyson, Dickens and Conrad, while participating in all weathers in football, rugby, cricket, rowing, riding and track and field, as well as attending religious services 5 times a week.
Many boys saw their parents at holidays only, some not even then. They raised each other like feral beasts with all the outrages and excesses that such an upbringing implies. For most, it worked.
(...) the system produced the kind of individual who frequently displayed boredom or feckless complacency in times of prosperity, but shone in times of trial.

Yikes ! when I think of how today's schoolchildren are wrapped in cotton wool, taught almost nothing of any practical use and then released into the workforce at an advanced age like lambs to the slaughter....

The reading list above is awesome - if only a fraction of that was taught to kids these days, we might have more a more confident and self-directed public , and less easily led by the media or politicians, the latest greenie fad, more capable of critical thought and historical comparison.

Kids are constantly underestimated, overprotected from hard physical work and under-educated, in my opinion. Gil, the Quebecois guy I climbed with, met "Zebulon", or "Zeb" in Thailand. A guy on whom I read an article in the 1980s - a photo essay which showed him at 12, climbing "the nose" - a hard slab climb of 900m in Yosemite National Park, with his father. his father had started him climbing at 8...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

6 hour climb to top of Tibrogargan

A few weeks ag o, Gil and I teamed up with Alex and his brother, and climbed the 8 lengths up to the top of tibrogargan (glasshouse mnts). It was quite slow going , and involved "trad" climbing - where there are no bolts to clip carabiners into, and instead you place metal wedges and expanding devices into cracks in the rock. There were also bolted sections. it's the first time I've done so much trad climbing, with the grade of the climb fairly high. Used some of Alex's rack (see above) of jamming devices.

we arrived at the top thirsty and then had to walk down the very steep track to the base.
satistfying. A bit scary at times...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My thoughts on Obama and Socialism

Obama's Neo-soviet poster lampooned...

my little satire on Socialism:
Our Father who is in the democrat party,
Protect us from the great Ecopalypse of the prophet Gore (he who hath a private jet and many mansions).
And stop the rising of the seas with your charm and presence,
Cleanse us of our sins of Wealth and Success
of Clean streets and Mc Donalds
of low infant mortality
and opportunity to improve ourselves and rise from the gutter
Pray, let us all be equal in mediocrity and low pay
in underachievement and simmering resentment of those who remain still richer,
continued in my political blog.

One explanation re US Financial crisis

From what I can understand, it's very much to do with subprime mortgages being a weak point for big banks, which has led to a snowballing of consequences.
It turns out banks were pressured into large amounts of sub-prime mortgages by the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), sponsored by Bill Clinton and pushed by groups such as ACORN (where Obama worked as a community activist) amongst others. This strong-armed banks into commiting a lot of funds into sub-prime loans, putting them at risk in case of mass defaults.

See article

I read elsewhere that despite poor credit history checks etc for sub-prime loans, most of these are in fact being paid off. Hence the US govmt is going to make the problem worse by acting as if they aren't viable loans.

Expeditions with Kids, Dolphins at Noosa

Just been on 2 weeks off, which I needed after several weeks of camps, with several expedition-style ones (15 hour days). It gets a bit wearing on expeditions sometimes, being with clueless and noisy kids (as regards camping etc) after a while. Oh to be with experienced scouts or similar...
Aussie kids are disturbingly urbanized for the most part, although there are always a few (girls and boys) who stand out as having some experience of camping and walking, or at least some initiative.
I remember in particular a 12 year old girl on my lake Tinarro 5 day exped (near Cairns), who had a real poise, fitness and was always helping out. It turned out she was a school athlete, and had been to NZ several times, doing 3-5 day treks with her parents. She was streets ahead of the others in self-confidence, maturity. Streets ahead of a lot of 15 year olds, actually.

On one expedition I did near Mt Barney area again (which I nicknamed Tour de Moogerah 08, as we were riding bikes half the time, around Lake Moogerah), the 14 yr old kids had to carry packs, in which many brought super-heavy big no-no stuff like nutella jars, custard pots, 80 wet ones (yes 80) and other items which had me jumping up and down, asking them to eat or offload stuff before we did our mega-uphill hike up to 1000 m altitude, on pain of several of them collapsing with exhaustion.

They did offload a lot of stuff, with me fishing interesting things out of the garbage bag - such as custard pots, nut and sultana packets etc, which I eat or kept for later.
Another coming the opposite way to us got lost and had to spend a night out on a ridge, without water... It turned out most of us had been given very sparse route instructions, and even incorrect ones on occasion...

The day before last we arrived early at our campsite at 350 m altitude and rapidly set up the tents as it was raining. After a bit of a break and a hot chocolate, I set about reconnoitering the route for the next day, as i did not want to get lost on the last day. I spent 3 hours running up and downhill on 4WD tracks, finally finding a very steep faint track up a ridge and almost getting up to the 1000m mark we were to get up to the next day. I only just found the track, and ran back in the rain and dark with my headtorch.
The next day the kids performed well, and the weaker ones held out well with no complaining. They cheered as we saw the parking where the bus was to pick us up.

Temporarily Lost in the bush:

On the latest 5 day expedition, on a huge property with ridges at 500m altitude near Mt Barney, we spent 8 hours walking on tracks and on steep untracked terrain. I went down an incorrect ridge and as I worked out where we likely to be from the steep terrain around me and the map, I decided we needed to traverse across to another, visible ridge. it was 4pm (it gets dark at 530) and the kids were dead tired. I did mention we might have to spend the night in the bush (with little water and no tents, but sleeping bags). However we did our traverse on rocky and steep terrain, arrived the correct ridge and finally arrived at the tents, water, food drop just as dark was falling.

Other groups had similar problems. It moments like that when you wish you had a small GPS, so as to get an exact fix on your current location. I was lucky to have a fit and understanding teacher - Gil the Canadian, who was also on that camp, was less fortunate.

The day after the end of this exped, Gil and I hiked 7 hours return up to the summit of Mt Barney (1300m). it was very pretty, with many wildflowers, mist. But also very steep, and we should have given ourselves a day off. I ended up with a sore throat for several days.

Dolphins at Noosa:

I had a real Noosa moment recently. Walked along the beautiful coastal track, past Pandanus, wildflowers, paperbark, Goanas, incredible beaches and national park. Got around the point, and was hit by a strong wind. Walked down a semi-cliffy area to watch the big swells coming in. Just as I stopped to look, I saw a pod of dolphins riding a swell. Once in a while one of them jumped out as the swell pushed them past me. In a few minutes they had disappeared. Wow ! I felt they had put on the show just for me.

I often go to the Nat Park (7 minutes by bike) to Run , or swim 1 km or more at sea. I come back invigorated by the exercise and beauty.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Glasshouse Climbing photos

1: Gil at a belay ledge
2: Myself at belay
3: Gil abseiling down
4: Myself at a "hanging" belay - where there is no or little ledge, and one must hang off the anchor points.

A short while ago, Gil and I redid the 5 pitch route. This time, we swapped pitches - I did the passages that he had done last time. And we abseiled the way we came up, avoiding the nasty problem of last time.

We were both more profficient and relaxed than the first time. Also I brought a small pack with water, snacks and a mobile phone.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Europe the Sinking Titanic V. Putin the Poisoner

After every Russian shove Europe backs down. Worse than that, it let itself to be bought off. The worst example is our friend former Chancellor Herr Gerhardt Schroeder, who got himself a top job with Russia's Gazprom energy company right after he passed a sell-out energy treaty through the German parliament. That'll teach Putin how to deal with Europe. ( I thought it was Bush who was after money - silly me).

more in my political blog

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Renowned French climber Video

Patrick Edlinger made films which popularised sports climbing in the 80s. This video shows him lead climbing in the Verdon Gorge. And then climbing..... ropeless...

His control is amazing. I don't climb anywhere near this level... but I have some idea of the satisfaction of a good lead climb.

also his classic film - "Opera Vertical":

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Camps And a Climbing Adventure

-2: Mt Barney (not my photo)
-1: ditto
1: A co-worker setting up abseils at Kangaroo Point
2: Brisbane by night from K point.
3: Glasshouse mountains from a viewpoint
4. French climber on Tibrogargan
5. Another viewpoint
6. The main climbing mountain - Tibrogargan
7. Gypsy Jules in his hobbit hole

Camps, Mt Barney discovery, a Climbing epic and thoughts on Man’s need for Adventure.

Been to quite a variety of camps in the last month or so…

In July – Near Mt Barney , which is a great scenic area on the Qld/NSW border, Just inland from the gold coast. Mt barney at 1300m is tall for Australia, and sticks out majestically. I went to a 3 day camp, had a 4 day break, the another 3 days at the same place. There Are stacks of outdoor centers in the area – most of them around the lakes , surrounded by mountains, and some challenging bushwalks.

I took the opportunity to discover Mt Barney National park .. which was a bushwalking mecca in the 60s and 70s. Went up a steep and strenuous ridge walk, involving some climbing up slabs on the way up. Got up to the saddle at 1000m. Great gorges full of jungle trees and whooping birds. The mountain was lit up with it’s red rocks glowing at 7am when I started the walk. Also discovered the town of Boonah - real country town with long-bearded farmers walking around, an old pub and so on. Lots of horse breeders in the area.
Also hard crack-climbing (Yosemite style but 20m high) in nearby Mt French.
At one nat park rest area, I ran 10km to a gorge and back, then enjoyed the afternoon sun.

Lived out of my van, in rest areas and a campsite … great to be a gypsy again ! that lifestyle really suits me. Discovering scenic areas, Watching the sun set as I eat dinner from my small gas cooker, reading books in the evening with my headtorch, in my sleeping bag. Then drifting off to sleep with my MP3 player. All I need is my laptop with a wireless broadband modem… then I can update my blog on the move, and use the net for email etc.

I was telling a friend about my parents, going to Europe etc, the fact that my mother and I both have vans and live in them occasionally… And I said we were “gypsies with degrees” well almost… we are educated working gypsies anyway..

A day of work at kangaroo point… a great climbing spot on the south bank of Brisbane city river (see photo above). Got 15 yr old girls abseiling. Then climbed a bit with some Mexican climbers I met. Spent the nite at mt Cootha (a viewpoint mountain right next to the city), and came back to boulder at K point the next day. I was impressed by the flotillas of road bikes, runners at 6am in Brisbane city…

Then drove up to the Glasshouse Mountains (1 hr north of Brisbane, 1hr south of Noosa)… A fabulous Tolkien-like set of volcanic plugs surrounded by forest, both natural and plantation.
And I discovered, to my delight, some great long bolted climbs on Mt Tibrogargan.
Came back with my climbing gear, and met a French couple (living in Brisbane) with whom I did some routes. Led 2 climbs – 45 m lengths – with some challenging moves. It felt really good to be doing some “real” climbing – ie in a great setting, with amazing views, on long routes.
A bit later, I got a call out of the blue from Gil, the french-canadian I shared a flat with in Malaysia. After climbing in Thailand, he was a deckhand on a yacht for 2 weeks in Thai, during which he learnt quite a bit about navigation and such. Then travelled in India and Nepal, and then Australia, where he travelled with his parents in a rental van.

He had just bought a neat campervan – toyota pop-top, with table, seats , cupboards, a good size fridge, etc.. (much more luxurious than my spartan carpet floor where I sit and eat, and sleep with my futon ). For 6000 $ and a years guarantee. A good buy.
Has a working visa and just got work in a poultry factory in the glasshouse area.

Jules and Gil have a small rock-climbing epic.

So we went climbing an afternoon, slept in our vans, and then did a serious climb the next day – 5 lengths up, and a tricky 100m abseil…
I led some hardish pitches on the way up, getting some of my proficiency back. I’ve hardly climbed seriously since I left France in 2005. Did a 5 day course on lead climbing back in 2000 in Orpierre (south of France) , which taught me to push myself, to commit once above the bolt. I once fell 10m.. but on bolted “sports” climbs, there is little risk apart from scratches.
At the end of the course I could lead 6c-grade climbs (french grade) I can now lead 5b/c, but that’s normal with the lack of practice. At any rate I still consider rock climbing as training for my true love – Mountaineering – which I also haven’t done since 2005.

We abseiled down a different way, using a fixed anchor that was in place. Going down my doubled 50m ropes, I realized the cliff was overhanging, and ended up about 3m horizontally from the next anchor point… 15 m above the end of the ropes suspended in mid air, a bit stressed. Fortunately, I had a prussik cord attached to the rope – which meant I could use both hands and the cord would squeeze the rope, so I didnt’s slide down it.
I considered my options – attaching a leg prussik and going back up the rope (tedious and tiring) , abseiling down a bit further and finding a single bolt on which I could anchor myself (not good practice), or somehow swinging into the cliff.

I decided to try the latter, and pulled up one of my ropes to use as a lasso. For the next rather stressing minutes, I tried to lasso a boulder at the the anchor ledge, so as to pull myself into the cliff. I had to wait for my body to spin around to face the cliff, and then lasso. After 4 or so goes, I finally caught the bolder, and pulled myself in gingerly, and with relief, grabbed the anchor and clipped myself onto it. I made sure I held onto the ropes, so that Gil would not be faced with the same problem when he abseiled down.
Our troubles were not over, however, Gil came down and clipped himself to the anchor. We then proceeded to pull on one of the ropes, so that the rope would slide thru the anchor above us and later fall down on top of us. Mountain Abseils are known to be fraught with problems– ropes get stuck, people drop the ropes and so on. To my horror, the rope would not come… We were only 40m above the ground, but with no warm clothes , no headtorch… it would have been unpleasant to wait there for a rescue. So near , but so far..
I remembered the v-like crack that I had noticed on the edge of the abseil, and we assumed the ropes were stuck in it, on top of each other, stopping a good sliding occurring. So Gil volunteered to prussik back up, to my relief. It looked long and tedious and involved hanging in mid air, which I find a bit stressful.
20 minutes or so later, he was up, tired, and moved the ropes out of the crack. He came back down carefully and we pulled the rope successfully, and breathed a sigh of relief. We had been going 5 hours or so without water, which didn’t help either.

We did the last abseil , and then walked the short distance back to the vans.

Rather tired but exhilarated, I then drove more than 3 hours north to get to a camp near Bundaberg, where I started work the next day, and for 3 days.

I was excited like I haven’t been for a while. It’s funny the way we benefit from adventure, from a bit of constructive suffering once in a while. There was the feeling of achievement, of having conquered my fear of falling on some pitches, and snarling with aggression, gone up to the next bolt. The beauty of the view across the plain, the physical pleasure of having used every cell in my body. I lay that night relaxing with my MP3 player, feeling every cell in my body vibrating with the day’s use.
Adventure like this awakens me – makes me more dynamic, more joyful. And I felt it made me a better person also – tougher and more noble. A bit like sword fighting I guess, except the Samurai of old risked their life while they focused on their art. A controlled dance with death is useful in getting the full savor from life.

I felt I needed more of this – more beating of the sword over the anvil by the blacksmith of adventure. I think everybody needs this; in our overcontrolled air-conditioned world between our cars and the shopping mall, where we watch others striving to survive on TV in natural disasters, wars and outdoor adventure; with all the really hard and dangerous tasks such as police work, fighting wars against our enemies, firefighting, rescue - outsourced to full-time third parties; so that we can continue to go to shopping malls and enjoy our opulence in safety, go to guitar lessons, sing, dance, have children and live in hope for the future.

This Saturday afternoon, I was back for more climbing with Gil… although not as demanding as that little epic of ours.
I would be in New Zealand right now, working as a cross-country skiing instructor, were it not for the fact that I was waiting for a major Australian job application to come through.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Global Warming as Mass Neurosis

The Arctic ice cap may be thinning, but the extent of Antarctic sea ice has been expanding for years. At least as of February, last winter was the Northern Hemisphere's coldest in decades. In May, German climate modelers reported in the journal Nature that global warming is due for a decade-long vacation. But be not not-afraid, added the modelers: The inexorable march to apocalypse resumes in 2020.

This last item is, of course, a forecast, not an empirical observation. But it raises a useful question: If even slight global cooling remains evidence of global warming, what isn't evidence of global warming? What we have here is a nonfalsifiable hypothesis, logically indistinguishable from claims for the existence of God. This doesn't mean God doesn't exist, or that global warming isn't happening. It does mean it isn't science.

source here

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chinese Quake teaching Compassion ?

If the Sichuan earthquake happened in Japan or USA, there would have been many more survivors," he said with agitation. "Our rescue rate of less than 1 in 10 was very low."In China some matters are strictly for the government. Politics is for the Communist party-state. Ordinary folk may pursue private goals. Beijing trusts the people with their money, but not with their minds. But the Sichuan earthquake, throwing everyone naked into the air, momentarily bridged the divide.

more here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

More Noosa photos

1. Noosa Main beach on a busy day.
2. sunlight noosa Nat. park
3. Noosa nat park sea edge