Friday, 5 February 2016

No, Women's Swimsuits Are NOT Too Brief.

     "Well, Frances," I asked, "how was your camp last weekend?"
     This was 1980, I should add, and Frances was my square dancing partner. She was a strong Roman Catholic, rather prim and proper in some ways, and she was studying to join the Roman Catholic school system as a teacher. The previous week she had informed me that her class was going to a camp, or rather, one of those youth centres with dormitories, kitchen, and hall, the following weekend - hence my query.
     "Oh, it was all right," she replied, "but it was rather primitive. We had to get water from outside taps. Also, I'd forgotten my swimsuit, so I had to go in with nothing on, and I was embarrassed until I got into the water."
     That set off a light in my brain. "It was an all female group, I take it?" I asked.
     "Oh no," she replied. "It was a mixed group."
     "Wait a minute!" I demanded. "How come you bathed naked in front of men?"
     "Oh," she said, almost off-handedly, "they were just friends - nobody I was romantically attached to."

Thursday, 14 January 2016

When History Is Just a Matter of Chance

     The First World War, as every schoolboy knows, was sparked by the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo by the Serbian terrorist, Gavrilo Princip. The royal party took a wrong turn, and the assassin took a wrong turn, and by chance they came face to face. The gun went off. A million others followed. Later, when Princip was asked in prison what he thought would have happened if he had failed, he said, in effect, that the Germans would have found another pretext to go to war. He might have been right. Europe at the time was powder keg waiting for a fuse to be lit. But he might have been wrong. Perhaps the right conjunction of events would never have occurred.
     Nevertheless, there are many instances where the course of history has turned on chance. Let us examine a few.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Your Christmas Crib is Wrong!

     Some years ago my wife's aunt sent her $100 as a Christmas present, so we went out and purchased a Christmas crib, which now goes on display every year during the Christmas season. It contains the usual features: the baby Jesus in the manger, Mary, Joseph, a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulder, the three Magi, an angel, and, of course, the ox and ass. It is all very nice, and we like it. But it is inaccurate. No, I am not going to "debunk" the Biblical story. You can believe it or reject it as you feel fit. What I am saying is that the traditional story as we know it is not actually consistent with the Bible.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Tragedy of an English Jihadist

     Thomas Evans, alias Adbul Hakim, alias "The White Beast" is dead, a white corpse among the black on a battlefield in Kenya. He has committed his last atrocity. A typical white British boy, he converted to Islam at the age of 19. Two years later, in 2011, he flew to Egypt and, a year after that, slipped into Somalia to enlist with Al-Shabaab. He took part in the terrorist raid on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya in 2013, but his number finally came up in a failed raid on Kenya on 14 June 2015.
     His descent into the abyss has been adequately documented, both by the press, and in a television documentary. In both, his mother and his brother asked, "How could this happen?" Well, as soon as I saw his history, two factors leaped out at me.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Wedding Presents Are So Passé

     Recently, the daughter of a family friend got married and, per instructions, the ninety guests gave no physical presents, only money. Well, that should cover the cost of the wedding and reception, and they wouldn't have needed anything else. I read that some engaged couples provide lists of presents such as vouchers for sky-diving, and other totally impractical items. Perhaps it is about time we accepted that, to a large extent, the rationale of wedding presents has disappeared.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

No, the Germans Did NOT Know About the Gas Chambers

     ". . . like those Germans who claimed they knew nothing about the gas chambers."
     You  don't hear that comment very much these days, but it used to be cited as an example of people who were deliberately blind, who refused to look at, or accept, some evil which they must have known about, or even that those who were pronouncing their ignorance were telling lies. Well, I have news for them: during World War II the average German, particularly the average German civilian, really did know nothing about the gas chambers.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Understanding Those Strange Scientific Names

     Once, when I was studying for my M.Sc., Lone Pine Sanctuary was suddenly invaded by a host of girls from some private school, obviously as part of a science project, for they each carried a list of questions to be researched. To the question, "What is the scientific name of the spiny anteater", half of them had nothing, and the other half had written "echidna", which I suspect is what the nuns expected. In any case, I always religiously crossed it out when they showed it to me, and wrote, Tachyglossus aculeatus, tried to teach them how to pronounce it, and informed them that I was a zoologist, and knew what I was talking about.
     All this raises a subject which is probably arcane to most of you. What is the purpose of these strange scientific names? Who coins them? What is wrong with "echidna", or even "spiny anteater"? Indeed, how do you pronounce the silly things anyway?

Monday, 31 August 2015

Same-Sex "Marriage"?

     I see Warren Entsch's ill-advised cross-party bill on same-sex "marriage" has died a natural death - at least for the moment. Common sense should have told him that the Coalition had no choice but to refuse a "conscience vote" on the issue. For a start, you can't have a free vote on a moral issue, because it implies that it is legitimate to vote for an immoral law. (The same thing, of course, goes for a plebiscite.) Apart from that, the only reason "conscience votes" are called is to allow the government to get their way without splitting the party, and to deflect from the party itself the popular odium the law may bring. This is undemocratic enough when done by a government; it is ridiculous when it is contrary to government policy. What the minority of Coalition extremists wanted was the right to join with the Labor Party in the hope of overturning majority policy. Why would the majority agree to that?
     And the irony is, there has no renewed support for same-sex "marriage". All that has happened is that its proponents have been shouting more loudly in the wake of the Irish referendum and the decision of five of the nine people who really make the law in the US. But although a lot of people may be prepared to accept it, the only groups who really want it are (a) about half the homosexual community, equating to about 1% of the community, and (b) the extreme left, who will never vote Coalition anyway. However, the Coalition would lose a lot of their natural supporters if they supported this unnatural policy. So what on earth were the rogue Coalition MPs thinking? And why don't the rank and file come out in force argue against it? Well, since they don't appear to want to do so, here are the reasons. And - guess what? - they have nothing to do with religion.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

What Does a Woman Want With a Career, Anyway?

     Shortly after my parents were married, and certainly long before I was conceived, my mother gave up her day job. "In my experience," she explained when I was grown up, "when a wife is employed, both husband and wife end up working harder." It should sound like common sense to anyone who has watched overworked mothers (and fathers). However, we are constantly being told that women are getting the rough end of the stick when it comes to careers, but what does a woman want with a career, anyway? No, this is not a facetious, provocative, male chauvinist quip. All right, perhaps it is, but it is not just a facetious, provocative, male chauvinist quip. It is a serious question demanding a serious answer.

Monday, 13 July 2015

What We Can Learn From Hobos

     What can we learn from the lives of hobos? Quite a bit, actually, if we are discerning. Back in 1907 W. H. Davies described his life as a tramp in the U.S. in a book entitled, The Autobiography of a Super Tramp. From his friends in the "business" he learned the fine art of identifying the best neighbourhoods and the best people to provide their free meals and pocket money, while they whiled away the rest of the day loafing. Being always interested in sharing quirky stories, I had written on another blog how they used to game the system to obtain free accommodation and meals at taxpayers' expense. The lamentable fact was that it was a deliberately chosen lifestyle, not forced upon them by economic necessity. The real victims of fate presumably spent their time looking for work as well as charity. So what can we learn from this?