Friday, September 05, 2008

Goat Friday

Thursday, September 04, 2008

sweetheart like you 2

This year’s photo of ‘John’, our going-on-10 wee laddie in Yunnan province, China.

(Inset: John about a year ago.)

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The magic of Alex just keeps on giving

Former Australian foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer, seems to have really got things moving in his new role as the UN special envoy to Cyprus.

Rival Cypriot leaders launched intensive talks on Wednesday on reunifying the Mediterranean island which the United Nations described as a “historic” move after three decades of failed diplomacy. ...

“Today is an historic day for Cyprus,” said UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy, former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, who was at the meeting in the UN-patrolled buffer zone in the divided capital Nicosia.

Yes, it’s a proud day for Australia to see our Alex single-handedly engineer, orchestrate and officiate over such an historic meeting.

Oh, hang on... this was apparently “the fifth [meeting] this year between the two leaders” who are “both seen as pro-settlement moderates.”

Hmm, so maybe they would have got together anyway to advance the cause of reunification, with or without the magic of Alex . . . ?

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008


click to enlarge  —  imarge by jarcob

It seems global climate change and sea-level rise are imminently upon us.

The threat of rising sea levels has persuaded a tribunal to refuse a housing development in South Gippsland.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal said it was “reasonably foreseeable” that climate change would affect the allotments, which could be flooded and storm-damaged.

It is believed to be one of the first cases in Australia where climate change has been given as a reason to refuse a coastal development.

The VCAT decision apparently makes no assertions on whether climate change is anthropogenic, or human-induced, but it does lean heavily on the authority of “the preliminary view of CSIRO scientists that the Grip Rd area of coastline near Toora would experience storm surges and potential flooding.” (My emphasis)

This blog knows of at least one family who’ve bought a small acreage in the ‘affected’ area with a view to building a home there. The VCAT decision renders their existing planning permit null and void, leaving them with a marginal agricultural-zoned allotment which may be good for ... agisting horses?

One would think that building a residential dwelling, on land that may theoretically be subject to flooding at some future date, is a matter solely undertaken at the owners’ risk.

Of course, there are wider issues and downstream consequences of allowing exceptions in this case. But what are such people now to do with land acquired expressly for a given purpose, which has now been scotched by administrative fiat?

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Angle-of-the-dangle competition

There appears to be a competition between the Italian city of Pisa and the Dutch town of Bedum to claim the shonkiest construction work of the 12th Century.

The Tower of Pisa is being challenged by a lesser-known 12th-century building in the northern Dutch town of Bedum as Europe’s most steeply leaning tower.

Retired geometrician Jacob van Dijk said measurements this week on Bedum’s 36-metre church tower of Walfridus revealed it is now leaning more than its Italian rival, which lost part of its tilt following restoration works.

At a height of 55.86 meters, Pisa’s tower leans about 4 meters, while Bedum’s tower leans 2.61 meters on its height of 35.7 meters. If both towers were the same height, Bedum would have a greater tilt of 6 cm, Van Dijk argues.

“In Italy they’re happy with the result, but here in Bedum we are much more happy, because the tower of Pisa is now leaning less than the tower of Bedum,” said Van Dijk.

Using this online tool, and all things being equal, we can see that the Walfridus Church tower in Bedum leans at about 4.2°, compared with the Tower of Pisa at about 4.1° (although Wikipedia currently has it at 3.97°).

So, congratulations to Bedum! One can only suggest they’ll have to gussy up their dour-looking church tower if they want to be in serious contention for the international tourist dollar.

click to enlarge — image source

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Iraq War Cost

* This is not all costs, but only the costs based on the budget authority. Data is from Congressional Research Service.