1994 to 2001 in Pictures

This picture is probably from early 1995
This picture is probably from early 1995

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One of the twins with Natasha
One of the twins with Natasha
I think this is two year old Roxy
I think this is two year old Roxy
Ryan with Tashi,  Roxy, and Justine. Tristan in the foreground.
Ryan with Tashi, Roxy, and Justine. Tristan in the foreground.

I think this last picture was taken in September 1994 when we had just moved into our new home in Dapto. The hammock found room in our backyard. Ryan, one of the twins, would have been fifteen at the time.

In December 1999 Caroline turned twenty-one. We had lunch with the family and some of Caroline’s friends at a club. Later the family came to our place where the following picture was taken. Gaby is in her wheelchair. Her carer David can be seen in the left of the picture. Martin carries his daughter Lauren, who is only one and a half, Monika carries Krystal who is two. Roxy and Tashi are seven and eight.

Caroline, 21, stands in the back right next to Peter.
Caroline, 21, stands in the back right next to Peter.
Christmas 1999 : Bunte Teller, a Christmas treat which the children loved. In the picture 8 year old Tashi.
Christmas 1999 : Bunte Teller, a Christmas treat which the children loved. In the picture 8 year old Tashi.
This is near our holiday place at Sussex Inlet in early 1995. Tashi is 3 1/2.
This is near our holiday place at Sussex Inlet in early 1995. Tashi is 3 1/2.
There were always some friendly kangaroos around at Sussex Inlet.
There were always some friendly kangaroos around at Sussex Inlet.

In early 2001 Peter’s sister Ilse, who lives in Berlin, came to visit us for a few months. The following pictures were taken near that playground about 500 meters behind our house.

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A Reblog

Posted by

Friday 25 October 2013 16.01 ESTtheguardian.com

Wednesday night interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight, comedian and actor Russell Brand said what no politician or pundit would ever dare say: that without dramatic, fundamental change, the prevailing political and economic system is broken, and hell-bent on planetary-level destruction:

“The planet is being destroyed. We are creating an underclass and exploiting poor people all over the world. And the legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political powers.”

Yesterday, Brand published an extended essay in the New Statesmanfleshing out in detail his case for a “revolution” – not just a political and economic transformation, but one fundamentally rooted in a shift in consciousness toward a new way of thinking.

Brand’s interview and article elicited overwhelming support from the general public in social media, but widespread detraction from journalists and commentators. In the Telegraph, Tom Chivers insisted:

“But the political system – or, more precisely, the wider human system of society – is working… generally speaking, humans have it better than ever before. There is more food per head of population, despite the population growth. We live longer. We are less likely to die violently.”

The Independent described Brand as “Britain’s most trivial revolutionary”, slamming his Newsnight performance as the:

“… ultimate expression of Slackerism, a political theory with roots in teenage angst, mild rebelliousness, and a pie-in-the-sky leftism that wants to pull down the walls of the politics then sit around smoking pot in the ruins.”

Andy Dawson in the Mirror scoffed:

“What we do know is that we won’t have a ‘government’ under Brand’s vision of the future – instead we’ll have ‘admin bods.’ Sadly, he didn’t seem to have any idea how the admin bods would be chosen though… Brand’s overriding message was ‘be more apathetic.'”

But these and other critics simply missed the point, by focusing obsessively on one issue: that Brand has never voted in his life, and rejects democracy in its current form as a viable system. “Like most people, I am utterly disenchanted by politics,” Brand writes:

“Like most people, I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.”

Yet the response of many pundits – which has consisted largely of ad hominem attacks on Brand’s inauthenticity due to his stance on voting and his own personal wealth – illustrates precisely his point. It is not Brand that is trivial or apathetic. It is the prevailing political, economic and cultural system. And the very inability of so many media commentators to engage with the substance of this issue, the crux of Brand’s argument, is symptomatic of the complete state of delusion this system revels in as it accelerates its trajectory toward environmental annihilation.

It is a sad reflection of the dire state of politics and the media that it falls to a celebrity comedian such as Russell Brand to speak truth to power – and an even sadder reflection that mainstream cultural commentators find themselves incapable of even understanding his key message.

“Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve.”

To this, the critics simply insist ad nauseum that there is no viable alternative to our current bankrupt form of representative democracy – the solution, the Mirror claims for instance, is for “the disillusioned and disenfranchised to become re-engaged with the democratic process.” But what about the fact that the democratic process has become hopelessly compromised by corporate power?

Take the issue of environmental policy. As I’ve shown in my previous articles here, both the Tory and Labour parties’ approaches to the questions of fracking and energy prices are incoherent. Ed Miliband’s lofty declaration of intent to freeze gas and electricity bills, just like David Cameron’s promise to review green taxes, were simply hot air that overlooked the fundamental deeper systemic crisis: that we are transitioning to a new energy era in which fossil fuels are now increasingly dirtier, costlier, and more difficult to extract. And yesterday, I revealed the financial connections of Cameron acolyte, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, illustrating that his stance on deregulation and fracking was hardly objective.

The British political stalemate is not unique. In the US, President Obama has exerted his executive authority to push through climate change powers which are, however, fatally compromised by his government’s unyielding commitment to exploiting unconventional oil and gas – and which, in any case, are so timid in emissions reduction pledges that even if implemented, they would not avert catastrophe before close of century. And even this is under threat from a deeply irrational Republican Party stocked with oil industry-funded climate deniers.

The US and UK stalemate on climate change illustrates the impasse continually reached at international climate change negotiations, which have consistently failed. It is a stalemate that is fundamentally irrational. Cutting edge research looking at the complex interconnections between planetary ecosystems suggests we are on track to see as much as an 8C rise in global average temperatures by 2100 – but even half that would create a near uninhabitable planet facing collapse of the oceans, world crop yields dropping by almost half, and over 4.8 billion people experiencing water scarcity.

Confronted with these prospects, however, governments remain structurally beholden to the hegemony of giant energy corporations tied into the old, defunct, carbon-dependent system. And we would be truly foolish to think we can separate out looming climate catastrophe from the other crises Brand highlights.

Wealth inequalities globally and within nations have spiralled out of control even as exploitation of the planet’s resources has accelerated for the benefit of the corporate few under the prevailing paradigm of endless growth for its own sake. A comprehensive study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington DC gathered data on the period from 1980 to 2005, widely hailed as neoliberal globalisation’s ‘golden age’ of growth. The study found that in this period, under IMF and World Bank reforms, the vast majority of the world’s economies had been systematically retarded, facing declines in progress on growth and other key social indicators such as literacy, health, and so on.

Even worse, those of us in the west, particularly the centres of neoliberal capitalism such as the US and UK, are not necessarily lauding it up. Amongst our most wealthy are growing numbers who are deeply unhappyand suffering disproportionately from mental health challenges, even while our increasingly unequal societies correlate with all kinds of social problems including more violent crime, higher teenage births, more obesity, more people in prison, and so on.

So when Brand in the same breath says that the system is simultaneously destroying the planet and widening wealth inequalities while the political class prevaricates pointlessly, he is absolutely right.

We are currently at the helm of a dysfunctional political, economic and cultural system which is plundering the earth’s resources at unsustainable rates, accelerating environmental degradation, concentrating wealth in a tightening network of unaccountable corporate entities, spawning rampant unhappiness, amplifying the risk of economic crisis, and potentially culminating in planetary-level species extinction.

Should Brand be taken to task for rejecting the vote in this context? Yes and no. No, because his rejection clearly resonates with, and is reflective of, a growing sentiment in wider society where, in fact, actual majorities in our liberal democracies do not vote – not because they are apathetic, but because of the abject apathy of a broken political system in the face of the crisis of civilisation. Yes, because simply disengaging from the prevailing political system is another extreme reaction that is, in fact, part and parcel of the very system it purports to reject. Because the more the majority disengages, the more a decreasing minority is able to dominate the political class.

It is precisely the reactionary disengagement of the majority that permits powerful corporate lobbies to inordinately influence the democratic process, and even allows proto-fascist parties like the now defunct British National Party (BNP) and the meteorically rising UK Independence Party (UKIP) to enter the political scene and channel the direction of political discourse – apathy fueling apathy enabling insanity.

If anyone wants a glimpse of what happens when you simply reject the existing system without the slightest clue where else you’re going and why, look at Egypt and Syria.

Both countries are microcosms of the global crises we face as a species, encapsulating the challenges of peak oil, climate change, economic inequality and political repression. The convergence of those crises triggered food price hikes that, in turn, sparked uprisings which may well have overturned and undermined prevailing state structures, but which have been unable to offer viable alternatives.

That does not mean the solution lies within the prevailing political paradigm. Brand’s call for revolution, for a fundamental political, economic, cultural and cognitive shift, is on point. But rather than entailing disengagement resulting in anarchy, this requires the opposite: Engagement at all levels in order to elicit structural transformation on multiple scales through the overwhelming presence of people taking power back, here and now.

That could include civil disobedience and occupying public spaces. But it should also include occupying mainstream political spaces – not just as an act of protest, but as an act of constructive engagement that is difficult to ignore, through intensive, organised grassroots campaigning, lobbying and dialogue with political actors; occupying media narratives by mobilising organised critical engagement with journalists and editors; occupying economic spaces by experimenting with new equitable forms of production, consumption and exchange; occupying food and energy spaces by pooling community resources to grow our own food and produce our own energy in our communities; and so on.

And in doing so, we might begin to realise that it is precisely the lack of a single, top-down manifesto that is our greatest strength – because, unlike the old, dying, fossil fuel dependent paradigm of endless growth for its own sake for the corporate few, the new, emerging post-carbon paradigm will be co-created by people themselves from the ground up.

That is why Brand’s answer for the way forward is so compelling:

“We shouldn’t destroy the planet. We shouldn’t create massive economic disparity. We shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.”

If we want our children to inherit a habitable planet, rather than bashing Brand for not having a more coherent solution, we need to start being part of it.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It among other books. Watch his film, The Crisis of Civilization, for free. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Back to Cooler Temperatures

This week turned out to be much cooler after the very hot spell of weather we had during the previous week, The cooler weather gave the firefighters a chance to get on top of the fires that had been out of control in very strong, hot wind.  Sadly quite a few houses were lost. We are told we still have to be vigilant for conditions can change quickly.

Peter and I went for a little walk early this morning. Today I remembered to take the camera along. I took pictures of the reserve behind our house. The Junior Soccer Club has quite a few soccer fields on this reserve. There is also a playground close by. When we moved here to this area nineteen years ago, some of our grandchildren were still little. We would sometimes walk with them to this playground. I think it still looks pretty much the way it looked nineteen years ago.

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Holding onto this post I like to do a bit of stretching.
Holding onto this post I like to do a bit of stretching.
Peter loves to wear these shoes
Peter loves to wear these shoes

Bushfire Warnings for the Coming Days

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

2:15pm: Premier Barry O’Farrell has today been at the Rural Fire Service Headquarters in Lidcombe.

He has warned residents across the state to brace for the possibility of mass evacuations in coming days amid dire weather forecasts.

‘‘The state’s in for challenging days ahead,’’ he said

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-bushfires-live-updates-20131020-2vumk.html#ixzz2iEI9AfvF

I just discovered the above new item in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Some areas in NSW experienced the worst bushfires last Thursday when temperatures reached the high thirties (Celsius) with very strong erratic extremely hot winds. 208 houses have been destroyed so far. The entire Blue Mountains Area is still in danger.

So the Premier says ” to brace for the possibility of mass evacuations in coming days amid dire weather forecasts.”

This warning applies to residents across the state of NSW. I think a lot of people tend to think it is not going to effect them unless they live right next to the bush. However to be honest under these dire weather conditions a fire could turn up anywhere within a very short time. So I think the Premier is right to give people a warning like this.  For sure it is much better to be prepared than to be sorry later on.

 

Here now is a message from the Queen:

 

“2:58pm: Her Majesty The Queen has just sent a message on the bushfire situation here. She’s expressed great admiration for the work of fire fighters.

“I would like to convey my heartfelt sympathy to all those who have been affected by the devastating bushfires across New South Wales.

“My thoughts are with the many people who have lost their homes or livelihoods in the fires, and I have great admiration for the fire fighters, volunteers and emergency services officers who are working tirelessly to contain the situation.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-bushfires-live-updates-20131020-2vumk.html#ixzz2iEQUOraR

Caught in the Act (of Reading): Edwin Turner, Master Book Thief

I just read this interview and found parts of it very thought provoking. I reblog it so that other interested people might get a chance to read it and be inspired by it.

The WordPress.com Blog

Book lovers, lock your libraries: a voracious reader is among us. We recently chatted with Edwin Turner, the mastermind behind Biblioklept, a popular literary blog dedicated to books, art, and the ways in which the two shape our world. Join us for a conversation with Ed about blogging, literature, and finding a sense of community through the solitary act of writing.

Why did you start Biblioklept?

In September of 2006 two friends suggested I start a blog. I thought the idea of blogging was kind of silly, but I started Biblioklept as a WordPress.com blog after doing some basic research into the various platforms out there. Then I started writing. And then I became addicted.

How did you come up with the intriguing name?

I think it was just there, waiting for me. Like a lot of people who read, I keep lists of words — I mean…

View original post 1,395 more words

Before and after the War, a Reblog.

In 1942/1943 my friends in Berlin and I had often contemplated what life might be like, once we had peace again. Our dreams for the future were very basic. We all wanted to get married and have children. We all wanted our husbands to have occupations that would enable us to live in comfortable houses. My friend Siglinde and I were for ever drawing house-plans. There would be at least three bed-rooms: one for the parents, one for two boys and another one for two girls. Yes, to have two boys as well as two girls, that was our ideal.

Before we married, we would finish school and go to university and our husbands would of course be university educated. In peace-time we would be able to buy all the things we had been able to buy before the war started: Bananas, pineapples, oranges and lemons; all this would be available again! Somehow we knew, we were only dreaming about all this. We had no idea, what would really happen, once the war ended.

I turned eight in September of 1942. Most of my friends were around the same age. My friend Siglinde however was four years my senior, the same as my cousin Sigrid.

When I was about thirteen, Cousin Sigrid made a remark, that put a damper on my wishful thinking. Sigrid had noticed, that I got very good marks in high-school. So she said in a quite friendly way: ‘I see, you’ll probably end up becoming a Fräulein Doctor!’ This remark made me furious inside. It sounded to me, that once I embarked on becoming a ‘Fräulein Doctor’ I would have no hope in the world of acquiring a husband and children. ‘Who in their right mind would study to achieve a doctorate and miss out on having a husband and children?’ I thought to myself.

Mum, Tante Ilse and Uncle Peter loved to read romance and crime fiction. Most of the books they read were translations from English. Mum and Tante Ilse loved Courts-Mahler, Uncle Peter liked Scotland Yard stories best. They all had read ‘Gone with the Wind’. Even my father, who boasted, he never read any novels, read this one.

I read ‘Gone with the Wind’, when I was fourteen. My father’s sister Elisabeth, on hearing this, was shocked, that my mother let me read this novel. According to Tante Lisa, I was much too young to read something like this. However some of my girl-friends read this book too. They all loved Rhett Butler. About Scarlett the opinions were divided. Personally I did not care for the way she treated Melanie. I thought by constantly making passionate advances towards Ashley, she showed total disregard for Melanie’s feelings. Rhett adored Melanie. He showed her great respect as a person with a noble character. In contrast, he was well aware that Scarlet was anything but noble. Often he found Scarlett’s irrational behaviour highly amusing. Ashley treated Scarlett in a very gentleman like way. Not so Rhett. This impressed my friends. They all admired Rhett! I think, I admired Ashley more. –

Mum and Tante Ilse borrowed books from a lending library. A middle-sized novel cost one Deutsche Mark to borrow for one week, a real big novel cost two Marks. In secret I once read a translation of ‘Amber’. Fascinating stuff this was.

When I read ‘Amber’, I was probably thirteen. I read it only, when I was by myself in the apartment, which happened often enough. I was able to consume the whole big novel without anybody noticing it. I knew, Mum and Tante Ilse had read the book already, because they often talked about it, how good it was. But the book was still lying around at our place. There were a few more days before it had to be returned to the library. I found out, that Amber was a fifteen year old country-girl, who went to London. The time was the seventeen hundreds. Because of her beauty, Amber was able to make it in the world. She had lots of lovers. She always made sure, that her next lover was of a higher ranking than the previous one. That made it possible for her, to climb up the social ladder. – Well, this is about as much as I still remember from that novel.

During the first years after the war we lived like paupers. Still, I realized – maybe a bit to my regret – that there was a big difference between a desperately poor girl from the country and me, desperately poor city girl from a ‘good’ family. I knew then, whether I wanted it or not, I had to put up with an extremely low standard of living for some time yet. And I mean by ‘low standard’ not the low standard that everyone went through during the adjustments after the war, but a standard, where it was necessary for us to get social services payments!

Was I out to enhance my appearance in order to catch a prosperous male as an escort to take me out to fun-parties and adult entertainment? No way! Something like that was just not for me. I felt I was plain Uta who was never invited to go out anywhere with anyone.

Was I really that plain? I wonder. Up to age fourteen I may have had some chances with the opposite sex, given the opportunity. However by age fifteen I had put on so much weight, that I felt to be totally unattractive. I was right, because no attractive male ever made an attempt to woo for my attention, not until I was about seventeen and a half that is. But even then things didn’t change much for me. I honestly felt like some kind of a social freak during most of my teenage years.

Diary, October 2013

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These are some of the participating ships of the International Fleet Review as they arrive in Sydney Harbour, Friday, 4th October 2013.

The following is a news item from the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Prince Harry has arrived in Sydney to help celebrate 100 years since the Royal Australian Navy fleet first entered the waterway.
The International Fleet Review visit marks the prince’s first official trip to Australia representing the royal family.

This morning he and Governor-General Quentin Bryce will board the HMAS Leeuwin on Sydney Harbour, where people are already gathering at prime viewing points.

The International Fleet Review visit marks the prince’s first official trip to Australia representing the royal family.

This morning he and Governor-General Quentin Bryce will board the HMAS Leeuwin on Sydney Harbour, where people are already gathering at prime viewing points.”

The above news item was published in the Sydney Morning Herald just a bit over a week ago. The International Fleet Review has been a truly remarkable event. Sydney Harbour looked wonderful throughout all the days of celebrations. In the meantime the Sydney area has had several warnings about extreme fire danger because of heat and strong winds. In bush areas all over New South Wales several fires have been out of control for several days. Yesterday, Sunday, a grass fire at a parking area destroyed more than 40 cars! It’s amazing how quickly a fire can get out of control.