My Garden

This is five years worth of work and when the deciduous trees arc up it will look spectacular.  Note the lemon scented gum in the foreground.  This species is easily killed by frost when they are young, so I had it wrapped up for a couple of seasons.  It's about 20 feet high now, and looking good......

Some  of the trees you may recognise, apart from the minature hedge plants which suffered terribly in the dry years because of the heat generated by the stone wall, are the photinias, bottle brush and river she oaks (I love their noise in the wind and they drop their leaves forming a mat on the ground).  You may get a glimpse of rosemary grevilleas and a chinese pistachio that is still a pile of sticks off to the right in the background.
It's bin a while let me tell you.  Not so long ago we were driving along some of the old roads that are normally under water, but not today.

Unfortunately the road across the top of the dam is closed due to works on the dam, but I did manage to get some pics...

Three years after Russian divers thrust a rust-proof flag into the seabed below the North Pole, the country is again staking its claim on the Arctic region.

An international forum held in Moscow Wednesday aimed to "present the world community with a picture of the region's future as it is seen by the Russian experts," according to Sergei Shoigu, the President of the Russian Geographical Society (RGS) who is also the country's Emergencies Minister.

The Arctic contains a vast wealth of untapped oil and natural gas,
according to a report released in July 2010 by the U.S. Geological Survey.

It estimated that the amount of "undiscovered, technically recoverable" oil north of the Arctic Circle was more than double the amount that had been previously found in the Arctic. It added that the Arctic contained more than three times as much undiscovered gas as oil, most of which was in the Russian Arctic.

Russia has long sought to claim rights to the waters of the Arctic Ocean off Russia, including its much-publicized expedition to plant the Russian flag on the Arctic sea floor in August 2007.

On Wednesday, it announced plans to start work soon on a new atlas of the Arctic, a task Sergei Shoigu described as requiring "extensive, serious work."

He said it would include descriptions on potentially dangerous areas in the Arctic which may be of interest to companies working in the region.

Along with having the largest land mass in the Arctic, Russians account for half of the Arctic's population and the most populous towns above
the Arctic Circle lie in Russia, according to the Russian Geographical Society.

"Russia is distinct from other Arctic nations in that a large share of its population actually lives in the Arctic region," Russian Presidential
Advisor for Climate Alexander Bedritsky (left) told the Arctic Forum.

"Russia's Arctic sector, inhabited by 1.5 percent of the country's population, accounts for 11 percent of its GDP and 22 percent of its exports," Bedritsky said.

While Russia counts for the bulk of Arctic land, seven other states have land in Arctic territory: Canada, Denmark (Greenland), the United States (Alaska), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and

No single country owns the geographic North Pole or the Arctic Ocean, which covers around one third of the total area. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the eight states have jurisdiction over waters extending 12 nautical miles from their shore, and their exclusive economic zones stretch up to 200 nautical miles into the Arctic Ocean.

Russia is among a number of countries seeking to extend their jurisdiction by gathering scientific data to back their case for
consideration by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Russia and Canada clashed as recently as last week over which country controls the Lomonosov Ridge (left), a mountain chain running underneath the Arctic.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russian explorers had confirmed that the ridge was a continuation of Russia's continental shelf, despite Canada's claims otherwise.

"The decision should be based on scientific facts. The Commission will solve who is right," Lavrov (right) said, according to Russian news agency Itar-Tass News.

In August, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon (left) said establishing sovereignty in the Arctic
was the country's "top foreign-policy priority."

"That is why we are making new and targeted investments, be they patrol ships, a new polar-class icebreaker, reinforcements to our Canadian Rangers, better monitoring of our airspace and seas and the list goes on," he said.

The melting of ice in the Arctic through climate change has opened up a region that was once inaccessible.

In mid-September, the U.S. National Ice and Snow Data Center at the
University of Colorado reported that this summer the Arctic sea ice reached the third lowest level ever recorded.

"We are still looking at summers with an ice-free Arctic Ocean in perhaps 20 to 30 years," said Mark Serreze, University of Colorado geography professor and director of the NISDC.

Environmental group Greenpeace says Russia's decision to assemble
international experts at a Moscow forum was a further attempt to stake its claim on the region's resources.

"The more people talk about it the better it is but I think the reality is that the gunfight has already started," said Charlie Kronick, the group's senior climate advisor.

He said rather than "chasing the last drop of oil" governments would do better to spend their time and money making greater efforts to curb energy demand.

"What we would say is 'don't even think about digging this stuff up -- it is crazy at the moment and the first thing we need to do is to reduce demand,'" he said.

He added: "However big the notional oil and gas reserves are up in the Arctic, we have already got more oil and gas than we can afford to burn if we don't want to cook the climate."

CNN, "Russia presents vision for Arctic wealth", accessed September 24, 2010

Some background regarding the mess the diggers are in....

I looked up the person that is prosecuting the diggers.... 

Brigadier Lyn McDade.

In an interview on Stateline in 2006, she had this to say..


What qualifications do you bring to it?

Well Murray I've been a legal practitioner now for well on 25 years and most of that time has been associated with the Defence force and you'd appreciate that I currently practice as a Barrister at Law, previously been a relieving Magistrate, was Deputy Coroner for the Northern Territory for a considerable period of time and my association with defence stretches back to 1983 and that includes both regular and reserve service and I had regular contact with soldiers in particular, but also the tri-service nature of the defence these days, with soldiers, sorry sailors and airmen on a regular basis. So given even that professional experience, what I also bring is an experience of life and experience of defence forces and an ability to get on and see things improve and get better, because the defence force has the capacity to do what it wants at the end of the day and when it shows that will as it's shown now things get done and I'm convinced that I'm able to do that.


What sort of independence will you have?

I'll have significant independence as far as I'm aware of it. And I'll certainly be making sure that I preserve that. It's most essential anyone, who is involved in relation to determining who should, should not be prosecuted is fiercely independent and you appreciate DPP's around Australia guard their independence fiercely and I can see do difference in this position.

Does this mean that no-one of a higher rank will be able to tell you how to do your job?

I'd like to think not. But you'd appreciate there is lots of interaction that goes on between people. But at the end of the day, the office is independent, I'm independent and try as they might, things may not necessarily go the way that people might like to think, because that's the whole very reason we exist.

But given the importance of the chain of command...

I'm outside the chain of command.

Right, that puts you in a unique position.


Some more relevant info from here

Today, The Age reveals that a central element of the case surrounds the ”Concept of Operations” document, known as CONOPS. This is a highly scrutinised plan prepared before any major operation. It is a complex checklist that ensures that any plans abide by the tactics, strategy, regulations, and legal framework stipulated by the Australian Defence Force. Before a CONOPS is approved, it passes up the chain of command and often past the eyes of military lawyers.
The extent to which this CONOPS discussed raiding the second compound is likely to be crucial for Brigadier McDade, and any decision she makes on charges of negligence. It is not clear if the second raid was outlined in detail, or at all, in the CONOPS. This will be central to Brigadier McDade’s view of whether the evidence can sustain a charge of negligence. If so, any prosecution case would rest on who gave a command to move on the second compound, and how such a decision was made.

However, that formal investigation faced formidable hurdles.
Last year the investigators in this case could not get to the compound that was the scene of such violence months ago. To escort them there would have required armed troops and vehicles, diverting resources from important operations. After careful consideration, it was decided no escort would be possible.
The investigators, and the special forces soldiers needed to protect them, also understood that such excursions were not a simple act. Turning up with an armed group of soldiers to ask questions at an Afghan house is very different to an Australian homicide investigation. The Australian newspaper did get to the site of the raid recently and interviewed the father of one of the victims. He reportedly said he did not blame the Australian soldiers, who, he said, had been misled by a local spy. However, the military believes its investigations face difficulties with similar searches for the truth.

Devon's vineyards are toasting a vintage year, thanks to perfect weather conditions during 2010. (Left: click on image for larger picture)

The warm spring and early summer, combined with sunshine in September, means the harvest at the county's wine producers is set to be a bumper one.

There are now 24 vineyards in Devon, producing a range of whites, rosés and reds wines, many to international acclaim. Two of Devon's award-winning vineyards, Sharpham near Totnes and Pebblebed (right) at Topsham in east Devon, are reporting abundant yields.

Both begin harvesting over the last weekend in September.

Sharpham Vineyard, which has 10 acres of vines on south-facing slopes overlooking the River Dart, expects to harvest 100 tons of grapes - enough for 100,000 bottles of wine.

Pebblebed Vineyard, just outside Exeter, expects to harvest enough fruit for 25,000 bottles.

Both Pebblebed and Sharpham grow a range of grapes, including
Madeleine Angevine (right) and Pinot Noir, for a variety of wines.

And both have seen a change in the climate in recent years.

Geoff Bowen set up Pebblebed Vineyard 10 years ago and believes climate change is having an effect: "I believe global warming is happening," he said.

"But the very nature of the weather in England will always be variable. This year, it has been favorable - it's gone our way."

Duncan Schwab from Sharpham agrees that the climate is more favorable to wine producing in Devon than it was when the first grapes were planted at the vineyard in 1981: "There are certainly grape varieties we can grow now that we couldn't grow 20 years ago," he said. "We can now grow Pinot Noir because it ripens.

"There are definitely signs of a warming climate, which is helping us.

"You never know, we could grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, although that would be some years off because they need a warmer

Duncan says the bumper harvest this year is down to the pattern of the
weather: "It's certainly going to be a sizeable crop. We tend not to get two good harvests in a row but we've got back-to-back good harvests. The seasons in the south west aren't necessarily hotter, but they are longer. We had a nice spring, which was good for the flowering and we've just had a nice spell now, just in time for the harvest."

It is the same story in east Devon, according to Geoff Bowen: "We had a cold winter and that's always good for fruit producers because it kills off bugs. Then we had a good May and June - June is very important, just before flowering at the start of July. The weather was iffy in July and August but that doesn't affect us, and now we've had a nice spell in September which is also very important. The good weather has come at all the right times."

The three-week harvest at Sharpham begins on 24 September, when an additional 18 local people are taken on to help out. At Pebblebed, harvesting gets under way on 26 September, and families are invited to come along and take part.

The vineyards supply outlets in the south west - through retailers,
restaurants, bars and their own shops: "We are still very much based in a 20-mile radius," said Duncan. "There's no need for us to look any further."

The 2010 vintage from the vineyards will be available in 2011.

BBC, "Devon vineyards toast a vintage harvest in 2010", accessed September 24, 2010

An Old Fart in His Old Car

Life doesn't get any better than this.

This picture was taken between Gundagai and Tumut, just on sunset.  In case you are a silly Holden lover and don't recognise the car, it is a 1981 TF Cortina, the last of the series.
We've been at it for 5 years.

Seems such a waste of time, but the girls like us.
Florida's orange groves are still shrinking as the state battles the tree-killing citrus greening disease and farmers sell their land, the annual Department of Agriculture census showed on Thursday.

The number of commercial orange trees and total acreage devoted to orange groves have steadily shrunk over the last five years in Florida, which accounts for two-thirds of U.S. citrus fruit production.

The state has 63.78 million commercial orange trees, down about 1.9
percent from 2009, the USDA said.

About 93 percent of those are fruit-bearing trees, unchanged from recent years, while the rest are newer plantings. Orange trees typically start bearing fruit three or four years after being planted.

Florida has 483,418 acres planted with commercial orange trees, down more than 1.8 percent from a year ago, the USDA said.

The report gave no reason for the decline. But Florida's $9 billion citrus fruit industry is battling citrus greening, an insect-borne bacterial disease that kills trees and has spread widely since it first appeared in the state in 2005. (See graphic below right)

Despite the collapse of the real estate market, some farmers are still
selling off their land for a variety of reasons, said Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for the growers and processors group Florida Citrus Mutual.

Florida's orange production dropped 18
percent to 133.6 million 90-pound (41-kilogram) boxes in the 2009-10 season, from 162.5 million boxes a year earlier. It was the smallest crop since the 2006-07 season, when several hurricanes ripped through the central Florida groves.

The USDA's first estimate for the 2010-11 season is due on October 8.
The Florida Citrus Commission has forecast it at 147.3 million boxes, based on a spring poll of its members.

Reuters, "Florida orange groves still shrinking, USDA says", accessed September 24, 2010

Central America taps volcanoes for electricity

Dotted with active volcanoes, Central America is seeking to tap its unique geography to produce green energy and cut dependence on oil imports as demand for electricity outstrips supply.

Sitting above shifting tectonic plates in the Pacific basin known to cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the region has huge potential for geothermal power generated by heat stored deep in the earth.

Geothermal power plants, while expensive to build, can provide a long-term, reliable source of electricity and are considered more environmentally friendly than large hydroelectric dams that can alter a country's topography.

Guatemala, Central America's biggest country, aims to produces 60 percent of its energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power by 2022.

The government is offering tax breaks on equipment to set up geothermal plants and electricity regulators are requiring distributors buy greater proportions of clean energy.

Some 1,640 feet below the summit of Guatemala's active Pacaya volcano (left), which exploded in May, pipes carrying steam and water at 347 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) snake across the mountainside to one of two geothermal plants currently operating in the country.


Run by Israeli-owned Ormat Technologies Inc, the plant harnesses energy from water heated by chambers filled with molten rock deep beneath the ground.

The company has been operating two plants in Guatemala for three years and wants to expand but is weighing the risks of drilling more costly exploratory wells.

"There's a phase where you just have to drill and see," Ormat's representative in Guatemala, Yossi Shilon, told Reuters. "The problem is that you risk a very expensive investment and are not always satisfied with the results."

Ormat's project is only a 20 MW station but Guatemala says the country has the potential to produce up to 1000 MW of geothermal energy, a third of projected energy needs in 2022.

Other Central American countries are already forging ahead in this emerging technology.

More than a fifth of El Salvador's energy needs come from two geothermal plants with installed capacity of 160 MW and investigations are being carried out to build a third.

Costa Rica, which has 152 megawatts of capacity in four geothermal plants, is due to bring a fifth plant online in January 2011 and is looking into building two more.

Nicaragua generates 66 MW from geothermal energy and in the next five years plans an increase to 166 MW.

Guatemala only produces a tiny amount of its own oil and spends about $2 billion a year on imports. The aim is to save money on energy costs and join international efforts to cut green house gas emissions, issues that will be on the table at global climate change talks this November in Cancun, Mexico.


Central America, heavily dependent on agriculture, is feeling the effects of extreme weather. Tropical Storm Agatha killed nearly 200 people in the region earlier this year.

The largely poor countries are highly reliant on hydroelectricity, the number two source of energy after oil, but environmental activists and energy experts say harnessing geothermal energy has distinct advantages over dams. (Right: Itaipu dam)

Hydroelectricity depends on rainfall and is vulnerable to hurricanes that can wash mud and debris into rivers and clog dams. Such storms are expected to increase in the frequency and intensity as the planet warms.

"With climate change there's uncertainty over the future behavior of water resources," said Eduardo Noboa, a renewables expert at the Latin American Energy Organization, or OLADE. "We're going to see a vulnerability in hydroelectric systems."

Dams, which can flood vast areas of land during their construction, are unpopular in rural areas where families rely on farming and have trouble finding arable land.

In Guatemala, hydroelectric projects have a haunted past after
hundreds of Mayan villagers protesting the building of a dam on the Chixoy river were massacred by security forces in 1978 at the height of the country's civil war.

The dam and its reservoir, which now generates around 15 percent of Guatemala's electricity, displaced thousands of people in the country's central highlands.

Geothermal plants by contrast are compact and companies, learning from the mistakes of the past, say they are making an effort to provide nearby towns with easy power access.

Reuters,"Central America taps volcanoes for electricity", accessed September 23, 2010

Commandos charged with manslaughter

Officer in line for medal and court martial
Rafael Epstein, Dan Oakes and Sophie McNeill

The Herald understands two soldiers, from a group codenamed Force Element Charlie, were directly involved in throwing grenades during the raid and will face manslaughter and other charges.
Their commanding officer on the ground that night, who is believed to be in line to receive a leadership medal, will also face serious charges. The medal is not related to the incident in question. Charges of negligence and failure to get appropriate command approval will be brought against a supervising officer working from Kandahar, and other officers. Those officers were involved in the decision to attack a compound not originally targeted on the night.
Senior officers within Special Operations Command have been frustrated that they have been unable to publicly support the soldiers. The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, has also expressed private frustration with the decision to lay such charges, when many believe there is insufficient evidence for likely convictions.
The soldiers were targeting an insurgent leader who was not found at an initial compound. A crucial part of the prosecution argument will rest on the decision to move to a second compound, and whether the intelligence was sufficient for it to be approached with the same level of stealth and tactics.
The soldiers claim they exchanged fire for an extended period with an Afghan man who was killed. They maintain he had reloaded his weapon, a sign they were under sustained attack. Those close to the soldiers are adamant that grenades were necessary because they were under fire after the first grenade was thrown and the shots only ceased after a second was thrown.
So what's the issue here?
Well it's a little complicated because Reservists were involved and it raises questions about training, or the lack thereof, and whether deploying Reservists is a good idea.
But the central issue is "Directive Control".  This is what makes the Australian Army so formidable.  It allows the troops to use their initiative when things don't go quite to plan.  Before any task, the troops are given orders.  What the troops get from these orders, amongst other things, is the commander’s intent.
Lemme give you an example.  Let's say the boss gives orders to the troops to conduct a night ambush in the vicinity of grid 123456 in order to gain intelligence from the enemy.  On the way to the ambush site, the troops contact the enemy and capture a prisoner.  What should they do now?  Send the prisoner back with some troops while the rest go on to the ambush site because isn't that their mission?  
This is where the commander's intent comes in.  The troops have a prisoner who may be able to supply the intelligence which the commander said was the reason for the ambush.  So they return with the prisoner without going on to the ambush.
The question in this case seems to be based on the fact that the troops were tasked with capturing a known enemy at a certain compound.  He wasn't there, so they checked out the next compound where they were fired upon and well, you know the rest.
The facts seem to be these.  They were given a mission.  There was a failure of intelligence. The intelligence was wrong.  The troops used their initiative as per their training.  They have been charged with manslaughter.

My question is this..... If they acted inappropriately, why haven't they been charged with war crimes?
Well actually they are fighting over an old picture of me.

OK, I'm going to 'fess up.

I've lied about the stories on this blog that say how good lookin' I am and how the chicks never leave me alone.

I know you will find this hard to believe.

What you don't know is how many times a day I have had to suck my gut in when women are about.  It was wearing me down.  I can stop doing this now.

So what brought about this life changing change?

Paula got up early this morning and let Susie in.  She bounds down to the bedroom where I am in my usual comatose position, jumps up on the bed and starts rubbing her face in mine.  My initial thought was that it was about time Paula did something about her top lip.  Then I realised it was Susie trying to hop into bed with me.

That was event number one.

Event number two occured a few minutes ago.

Paula opened her wallet and out dropped my picture.  Susie pounced on it and started to chew and lick it. She musta known it was a picture of me!

I picked it up and looked at it.  That's when it hit me. The years have not been kind to me, I have changed a lot since the picture was taken many years ago.  Hmmmm.... Paula doesn't carry a recent photo of me in her wallet probably because I am now old fat and ugly.

But I wuz young skinny and good lookin' once, in 1969........

 I managed to wipe the dog saliva off it OK.
Argentina's glaciers, along with Chile's the most extensive of South America, manifest the damage caused by climate change, while they also face threats from mining and major transportation infrastructure projects.

A law to protect them has been postponed yet again. Glaciers are vast reserves of freshwater, vital for feeding rivers, lakes and underground water tables. But rising global temperatures are shrinking their ability to serve that function.

"Climate change is the main cause of glacier retraction, but also affecting them are the petroleum industry, large-scale mining, high-impact tourism and infrastructure projects," glaciologist Ricardo Villalba, director of the Argentine Institute of Snow and Glacier Research and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA), stated.

From 1984 to 2004, glacier decline in eight areas studied averaged
between 10 and 15 percent, he said. In some cases, the loss was greater, such as the Upsala glacier (right), in the southern province of Santa Cruz, which is shrinking rapidly. It is the second largest glacier in South America, with an area of approximately 870 square kilometers.

Other glaciers are more stable, and some are even growing, like Perito Moreno. Both feed Lake Argentino.

Experts from IANIGLA and environmental organisations are promoting a law to preserve these ice masses, which the Argentine Congress passed in 2008. But President Cristina Fernández vetoed it, saying the law was "excessive" in banning economic activities on or around the glaciers.

After that failure, the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, voted in August on a new text, which was to come up for debate in the Senate on Sep. 8, but the Senators decided to put it off until the end of the month.

The greatest resistance comes from lawmakers representing Argentina's western mining provinces, including San Juan and La Rioja.
The text of this new bill "is better" than the previous, in the opinion of activist Hernán Giardini, of Greenpeace Argentina, because it establishes "glaciers as a public good."

The proposed legislation "protects the resource, restricts activities that threaten the glaciers and requires an inventory with the information necessary for appropriate protection and monitoring" of the ice masses, Giardini said.

It also prohibits any activity that implies the "destruction or relocation" of glaciers, and particularly activities that involve the use of contaminating substances or which generate waste. And it establishes strict sanctions for violators.
The proposed legislation calls for the creation of a national glacier inventory, an essential tool that would be entrusted to the experts at IANIGLA. If the law is passed, the Institute would be given the authority to decide on every mining or infrastructure project.

Controversial projects like Pascua Lama -- an open-pit gold mine extending into both Chile and Argentina, run by the Canadian company Barrick Gold -- would be subject to audit by the Institute, and could be suspended if preservation of the glaciers is not guaranteed.

Pascua Lama (map at right) is located in the northern Chilean region of
Atacama and the western Argentine province of San Juan.

With an estimated investment of 2 to 3 billion dollars, the company says it would exploit the mine for about 21 years. The company's website says the mine has proven reserves of 17.8 million ounces of gold and 718 million ounces of silver.

Construction has already begun at the mining site, and production is
slated to begin in 2013. The approval process faced sharp resistance from farmers on the Chilean side.

On the Argentine side, environmentalists and farmers from the valley below are also opposed. They say the mine could accelerate the melting of the glaciers, and the cyanide used in processing the gold ore could contaminate the water that flows down to them.

Another initiative that has caused controversy is the proposed Agua
Negra tunnel, in the Andean mountain pass of the same name. The tunnel will replace the existing Agua Negra pass (right), which crosses the Andes at an average altitude of 4,780 meters above sea level and is impassable because of snow during winter months. The tunnel will shave 44 km off the existing route and has been widely supported by road-freight companies.

The tunnel project was endorsed earlier this year by President Bachelet and her Argentine counterpart, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner. It will be fifth longest road tunnel in the world and will take 10 years to build. The tunnel would complete an inter-ocean route between the Chilean port of Coquimbo, on the Pacific, and the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, near the Atlantic.

The tunnel would be located in the central-western region of Cuyo, where the glacier decline is more critical than in the Patagonian Andes. Freshwater is already a scarce resource, states the study, "Climate Change: Dark Future for Glaciers," published in August 2009 by Greenpeace Argentina.

Farming and hydroelectric energy plants in that area depend on the water supplied by the glaciers.

Over the past decades, global warming and, in some areas, less-than-normal precipitation have caused nearly all glaciers of the Patagonian Andes (left) to shrink, according to the report.

Villalba said the glaciers are also crucial for protecting the high altitude ecosystems, providing electricity, and serving as tourist attractions.

One example is Los Glaciares National Park, (right) declared a Natural
Heritage of Humanity site in 1981 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

The Patagonian Ice Field is located in the park, feeding 47 large glaciers, and
more than 200 smaller, independent glaciers.

The park is also home to the Upsala glacier and the majestic Perito Moreno, which in the first half of this year received more than 290,000 tourists. Visitors to the site provide 44 percent of all admission revenues to Argentina's national parks.

AlertNet,"ARGENTINA: Fighting to Save Glaciers as They Retreat", accessed September 21, 2010