2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 28,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Forget about the Kardashians, let’s hear about the Denisovans

The Denisovans – have you ever heard of them?

Are they Caucasian-American entertainers threatening to take over the Kardashian empire? Are they the latest brand of affordable Russian all-terrain vehicle?

The answer is neither of the above. The Denisovans, or more precisely Denisova hominin are Paleolithic-era species of early humans, a subspecies of Homo sapiens, and precursor to us – Homo sapiens sapiens. Remember Neanderthals? Well, Denisovans are another branch of the human tree which for a time co-existed, and some cases – copulated(!) – with modern humans as did Neanderthals, leaving some of us with a trace of Denisovan DNA, sometimes in addition to Neanderthal ancestry, sometimes exclusively, and sometimes without Denisovan or Neanderthal ancestry at all as in the case of sub-Saharan Africans.

Denisovan Cave, where the Denisovan female’s bones were discovered along with the discovery of a new branch to our human line

The fascinating thing about the discovery of Denisovans is that they were discovered and pronounced as a seperate sub-species of homo sapiens in March 2010, being named after Denisova Cave in the Altai mountains, Siberia, where a female Denisovan was discovered, dated back to roughly 40,000 years ago – well within the time that modern humans – homo sapiens sapiens existed. Thanks to the advances of modern science involving DNA, geneticists have been able to determine whether Denisovans interbred with humans, which they did, and where are the highest concentrations of Denisovan DNA.

The results were surprising. Despite the Denisovan female being discovered in Siberia, individuals of that part of the world carry little or no Denisovan DNA, whereas the highest concentrations of Denisovan DNA are found in Papua New Guinea, along with indigenous Australians and other Melanesian people who carry up to 6% of DNA derived from Denisovans.

The spread of Denisovan DNA across groups of people in Asia-Pacific

Australian ABC TV’s Science program Catalyst aired a fascinating, in-depth story on Denisovans last year which I thoroughly recommend viewing.

I find genetics fascinating and enlightening as it reinforces just how similar we all are – no matter what ‘race’, creed or colour – as are all humans and quite likely our ancestors mixed with each other anyways! I’m so interested in the field, I recently gave my DNA to Science in order to get a clearer picture of my Genetic ancestry as it’s something I’ve always been intrigued by. Several years ago I bought my Mum the kit from the first incarnation of National Geographic’s Genographic Project which analysed her DNA and determined her direct patrilineal and matrilineal ancestry. But, the more recent Genographic Project 2.0 Beta is all the more inclusive, analysing not only your direct patrilineal and matrilineal lines but all in between, plus analysing what percentage remnant Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA you possess, if you happen to do so. I’ve sent off my swabs two weeks back and within the next couple of months, should start receiving results which I’ll be sure to pass on.

Why I’m concerned about the events unfolding in Syria

A comment to the Financial Times from K N Al-Sabah of London succinctly catches the situation in Syria when he writes:

“Sir, Iran is backing Assad. Gulf states are against Assad!

Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi.

But Gulf states are pro Sisi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood!

Iran is pro Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood!

Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the US!

Gulf states are pro US. But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi. And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states!

Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.”

As this points outs , everything’s a right royal mess with the potential to escalate to levels unthinkable. This is why I am concerning about the unfolding events surrounding Syria to anyone who’ll listen as when respected, independent scholars, activists, journalists and politicians start casting their concerns of the situation I listen.

I like to look at history as an indicator of potential events as any psychologist will state the best determiner of future behaviour is past behaviour.

As much as we like to flatter ourselves, as a collective humans haven’t changed immeasurably over the years – we’re still often motivated (particularly those who rise to the top of the power structure) by greed, status, resources & wealth which often results in humans doing atrocious things to one another.

Map displaying areas of control in Syria. – courtesy of German magazine, Der Spiegel

I’m so worried by Syria as in many ways I see it as the perfect storm which has the potential to spiral out of control once the ignition is lit.

In many ways I see a resemblance with the situation in Europe in 1914. A riven, fractured region – a crossroads – of competing powers, factions, vested interests, empires & religions propped up artificially by manufactured nations, client states and hungry empires. Only difference whereas what it took in Europe to ignite the war was a lone radical, this time it will inevitably be the strike from the superpower with the potential for everything to unravel.

Military build-up surrounding Syria – somehow I don’t think they’re there to take in the late summer sun. – Courtesy Ria Novostri

If you protest one thing this year, protest war in Syria.

50,000

50,000

  • And, now just under the number of hits, This Blog has received.

Just six weeks ago This Blog celebrated 400 posts, and at that time the blog was sitting on 44,261 views. But, in the space of a month and a half the blog has been exploding in hits thanks in no small part to the unexpected success of the blog entry on “Buddha” Boy – Ram Badahur Bomjon which has gone gangbusters. So, unexpectedly this milestone has jumped up upon this humble blog.

I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to read, view, scan, skim, comment, discuss, dismiss or reject any and every item written on This Blog.

Cheers

My term as leader

With the Australian Federal election coming up Saturday week, and with my apathy towards the two major parties, I thought it might be interesting to discuss just what you would do if you were given one full term to shape the direction of Australia’s (or your own country’s) future?

Being an exercise in fantasy, imagine the past, present and potential issues affecting your nation and the world as a whole remain as is but you however, are blessed with almost unlimited capital to address crippling debt, inflation, unemployment, crime, social issues, crumbling infrastructure, or whatever other maladies blight your homeland.

As for me, if I were declared Prime Minister of Australia following the election to be held on Saturday, 7th September, 2013 – and assuming my party (let’s call them The Australian Evolutionary Party, as for me it’s time Australia matured and evolved in its status, representation, policies and conduct on domestic and foreign issues) wins a clear, unimpeded majority, safe for one full-term after which I’ll bow out of politics. I would set about:

  • Continuing the National Broadband Network, as increasingly nations will prosper or falter in future in no small part to their digital infrastructure
  • Sign a treaty with indigenous Australians acknowledging the crimes and injustices of the past, addressing the issues remaining and working together towards a better future
  • Build a second Sydney airport, it bloody needs one! Personally, I wouldn’t mind the site at Wilton, being just 80km south of Sydney, 30km from Wollongong and Campbelltown, and 150km from Canberra being located right by the Hume Highway and Picton Road, both of which would be further upgraded. It could be linked to the Very Fast Train corridor with a station, and the establishment of a largely self-sufficient ‘new town‘ within the sphere of a larger metropolis a la Milton Keynes or Cyberjaya based on logistics, information technology and light industry; reducing the burden of the housing shortage and crippling infrastructure in metropolitan Sydney and having a local population base for the substantial aviation, high-tech, industrial and logistics industries in the region.
  • Secure the corridor and set about building a Very Fast Train service between Melbourne and Brisbane; servicing Shepparton, Albury-Wodonga, Wagga Wagga, Canberra, Wilton, Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle, Taree, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Casino and the Gold Coast in between.

The current proposal looks a winner to me, though I’ll probably add on a spur line to Wollongong and set about its eventual extension to Rockhampton through the Sunshine Coast, Gympie, Harvey Bay/Maryborough and Bundaberg.

  • Build the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane and build a bloody rail line to Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne. Increase public transport infrastructure, facilities and services in all major urban centres, reducing the reliance and necessity of car ownership. At the very minimum, follow through with each of the proposals in the NSW Transport Masterplan.
  • Seek alternative transport options to constructing (partially) public-funded, privately-operated toll roads including light rail, rapid transit, metro, busways, monorails and maglevs.
  • In line with increased public transportation, better pathways and cycle paths, promote pedestrain friendly, ecologically sustainable cities, investigating the establishment of toll tax, initiatives to reduce central city road transport to essential, logistical or emergency services and vehicles.
  • Actively promote and encourage self-sustainability and ecologically friendly practices – water tanks, solar panels, veggie patch, chook pens, etc.
  • Actively promote and encourage small and medium businesses whilst addressing the every increasingly scope, collosion and corruption inherit in oligapolies and multinational corporations.
  • Increase the facilities and infrastructure of cycle paths, playing fields, playgrounds and natural bushland;  actively promoting the benefits of healthy life choices and lifelong exercise
  • Increase the development and impetus towards real, sustainable and logical decentralisation. True, our nation is on the driest inhabited continent and most people are clustered around the coast but excluding the two-thirds of the nation that is arid, there’s still plenty of spots that could and should accommodate more people to reduce the housing costs; crippling infrastructure; and social and economic strains that come with having 75%+ of the population living in the five largest cities. This is a topic I’ve broached before and still believe wholeheartedly in its merits – provided and this is a strong point – that infrastructure, industry and employment are moved, attracted or gown in these centres to attract growth, and that the regions are equipped with adequate water, road, rail and utility infrastructure to accommodate the growth. If that means a dam or two is built in the process so be it. The regional centres outlined as stations for the Very Fast Train are all excellent candidates for further growth plus I’d throw in Bathurst, Orange, Lismore, Dubbo, Griffith, Ballarat, Bendigo, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Toowoomba, Mackay, Darwin, Cairns, Geraldton, Launceston, Kununurra and Katherine – among others – as cities and regions that can and should be larger in terms of population, educational facilites, infrastructure and significance.
  • Legalise same-sex marriages, monitor media ownership lest too much is owned by too few. Provide better services and initiatives aimed at getting unemployed into work with the individual’s skills, abilities and aptitude at mind first and foremost,; providing incentives for companies to provide further in R&D; ensuring separation of church and State; removing funding to private schools – institutions must survive or thrive on their own foot not governmental handouts. Reduce middle class welfare handouts aimed solely at buying cheap votes.
  • Provide adequate resources and facilities in country to accommodate boat arrivals. If that means build new facilities, build them – but not in the desert. Stop outsourcing our issue elsewhere.
  • More money on health and education, less on foreign wars. Greater investment, involvement and participation in Asia-Pacific region. Greater assistance with the aim of procuring self-reliance, sustainability and prosperity in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
  • Analysis into the benefits of a single Pacific union incorporating Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands and Papua New Guinea in line with the EU sending feelers out to eventual ASEAN-Pacific economic bloc.
  • Australia could and, bloody well, should be a renewable energy superpower. We have the climate, natural resources, land, innovation and skills to make this happen but not the impetus. No carbon tax? I say yes, the rich hogs securing unimaginable wealth off our resources and throwing crumbs to placate us whilst living on banquets. They can and should be taxed further. The world won’t collapse, in fact it may well save the Earth by a few more years, moving away from dinosaur fuels which make barons and their corrupt sidekicks in politics rich to detriment of the environment and society.
  • Sorry Queen, but it’s time for a Republic and a new flag. We ain’t nobody’s bitch no more, and that includes the United States, let’s stop pandering to this neo-colonial superpower’s every whim, even when they’re to our own detriment. Time for a new flag. I like mine. ;)

  • Less needless representation, less expenditure on unnecessary Governance, less waste. Yes, that’s right, let’s get rid of the States – those lingering, defiant vestiges of our colonial days. No more Queensland, no more New South Wales, no more Victoria. State of Origin, yes. Remember Middlesex technically doesn’t exist anymore, doesn’t mean there isn’t a cricket club baring its name in the English County Championship. My proposal is for 24 ‘Regions- which would roughly average one million people per region. Education, Health, Infrastructure of a national importance, and Policing, to a degree, fall under Federal management; Waste disposal, Local and Regional Public Works and Community Infrastructure fall under ‘Regional’ management. Make it happen. Failing that, I’d settle for the realignment and establishment of new entities to produce nine States as follows:

    - Victoria, capital Melbourne, will lose the north of its current State but gain Mount Gambier and southeastern South Australia. Pop. approx: 4,500,000. 

    - Riverina, capital Albury-Wodonga, will be a new State composed of the Riverina, MIA, NSW Far South Coast, Broken Hill and far west NSW, Canberra and surrounds, and Riverland regions of Victoria and South Australia. Canberra, within its boundary, will remain the Federal capital but be a part of the State but not the State’s capital, which is Albury-Wodonga. Pop. approx: 1,500,000.

    Eora, capital Sydney, named after the County of Cumberland, will contain Sydney and surrounds, the Central Coast, Hunter, Illawarra and mid NSW South Coast as well as the Central West of NSW. Pop. approx.: 5,000,000.

    - Moreton, capital Brisbane, named after Moreton Bay, will contain the northern third of NSW and southern third of Queensland. Pop. approx.: 3,500,000.

    Capricornia, capital Rockhampton, will contain the middle third of Queensland. Pop. approx: 500,000.  

    - North Australia, capital Darwin, will contain the northern third of Queensland plus the top half of the Northern Territory, Pop. approx: 500,000.

    - South Australia, capital Adelaide, loses the Riverlands district to Riverina and the southeast of its state to Victoria but gains Alice Springs and the southern half of NT. Pop. approx.: 1,300,000.

    - Western Australia and Tasmania remain unchanged from their current form.

That’d probably do me for my first and only term, I’d then pass the baton onto someone else to continue the legacy. ;)

What would be your plans, initiatives, policies, direction for your nation?