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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Kürtőskalács on Lamma

Lamma Island’s many restaurants, food stalls and stores offer a variety of cuisines, from Chinese to Fish & Chips to Continental. The stores that cater to this small population of 6,000 (twice that on weekends) stock mostly everything from Austrian jams (Darbo naturrein!), to Marmite. One of the few things that have been missing till now were Hungarian Chimney Cakes (Kürtőskalács in Hungarian).


Fortunately, this sad state of affairs has been remedied by Roland who bakes them fresh every morning at the Prime Bar, next to where Tony dispenses his excellent offerings of soul-saving South American coffee as people rush to catch the morning ferries to work. The crisp rolls are mildly sweet and come with a choice of toppings including cinammon and chopped walnut. Both coffee and rolls are highly recommended.

Yung Shue Wan Main street, from 7 to 11 am.

The World is a Book: St. Augustine

Saint Augustine of Hippo (present-day Algeria) lived from 354 to 430 CE and is the source of one of the most well-known quotes about travel. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” The grand-daddy of all famous travel quotes is Lao Tzu’s eminently quotable “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Of course, at the times these quotes were made, travel was expensive and perilous. Today hordes of innocents travel far afield armed with little more than a credit card and, perhaps most hazardous, an overdraft on their bank accounts at home. Paradoxically, the hazards of travel are global and impersonal. A single intercontinental jet flight can cause as much CO2 emissions (1 ton) as a year of driving (around 12,000 km) an average car.

However, in today’s interconnected world, it simply won’t do to live life on a single page. Recently, when contemplating an intercontinental journey from Europe to Asia, I explored the possibility of taking ‘a slow boat to China,’ and discovered that travel on an assortment of cargo ships was possible, only the journey would take three months and cost around US $10,000 instead of 15 hours and $1000 by plane. So what is a globally responsible citizen to do? The incipient wanderlust of early childhood was stimulated decades ago by my grandfather’s collection of bound volumes of National Geographic Magazine filled with travel descriptions and black and white photos from the 1920s and 1930s; from that glorious age when there were still many unknown parts of the world and when the bulk of humanity still lived a single-page existence. Today, billions of people live confused and deracinated lives because the bulk of their multi-page wisdom and experience comes from, or is filtered by, television.

Around the turn of the millenium (that was only 15 years ago), National Geographic offered a 110-year archive of  issues on CD that was bought by aspiring world (armchair) travellers. The software was clunky and time-consuming to use, and the operating systems quickly became outdated (anyone with a Windows NT operating system is welcome to my 1999 NatGeo CD collection).  The email offer from National Geographic received today for online access to 125 years of the magazine holds the promise of longer accessibility than the CD-ROM version. As the quote on the desk of a professional archivist I know says: Electronic archives are good for eternity or five years, whichever comes first.

Here is the link. The archive is free for a limited time.



Daniel Ellsberg Defending Edward Snowden

US Secretary of State John Kerry called Edward Snowden a coward and a traitor and praised Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, for having stayed in the country after the leaks about the Vietnam War.

Daniel Ellsberg, writing in the Guardian, says that Edward Snowden is not a coward, but has no chance of a fair hearing and trial because of the Espionage Act.

On the Today show and CBS, Kerry complimented me (Daniel Ellsberg) again – and said Snowden “should man up and come back to the United States” to face charges. But John Kerry is wrong, because that’s not the measure of patriotism when it comes to whistleblowing, for me or Snowden, who is facing the same criminal charges I did for exposing the Pentagon Papers.

…Snowden’s chance of being allowed out on bail (is) zero. (Ellsberg: I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment). More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US supreme court – which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public – should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense. The Espionage Act, as applied to whistleblowers, violates the First Amendment, is what they’re saying.

Without reform to the Espionage Act that lets a court hear a public interest defense – or a challenge to the appropriateness of government secrecy in each particular case – Snowden and future Snowdens can and will only be able to “make their case” from outside the United States.

See the link below for the full article from the Guardian of 30 May 2014.


The Wisdom of 7 year-olds

Why is six afraid of seven?

Because seven ate nine.

Macau Highrise overlooks Venetian cityscape.

Macau Highrise overlooks Venetian cityscape.

Heirs to Camillo Agrippa, fencing master, Italy, 1590-1650. Author of "Trattato di Scienza d'Arme."

Heirs to Camillo Agrippa, fencing master, Italy, 1590-1650. Author of “Trattato di Scienza d’Arme.”

2 Recent Books: Burning Question, and Burning Answer

The burning question was asked in May 2013 by Mike Berners-Lee, Duncan Clark and Mill McKibben. The Burning Answer was published a year later, in May 2014 by Keith Barnham, a physicist with practical experience in industry. The topics raised in these two books, the questions posed, and the answers to them will change the world in the coming decades.

The Burning Question: We can’t burn half the world’s oil, coal and gas. So how do we quit?
by Mike Berners-Lee, Duncan Clark and Bill McKibben
May 2013

The Burning Question reveals climate change to be the most fascinating scientific, political and social puzzle in history. It shows that carbon emissions are still accelerating upwards, following an exponential curve that goes back centuries. One reason is that saving energy is like squeezing a balloon: reductions in one place lead to increases elsewhere. Another reason is that clean energy sources don’t in themselves slow the rate of fossil fuel extraction.Tackling global warming will mean persuading the world to abandon oil, coal and gas reserves worth many trillions of dollars — at least until we have the means to put carbon back in the ground. The burning question is whether that can be done. What mix of politics, psychology, economics and technology might be required? Are the energy companies massively overvalued, and how will carbon-cuts affect the global economy? Will we wake up to the threat in time? And who can do what to make it all happen?

The Burning Answer: A user’s guide to the solar revolution
by Keith Barnham
May 2014

Our civilisation faces a choice. We could be enjoying a sustainable lifestyle but we have chosen not to. In three generations we have consumed half the oil produced by photosynthesis over eight million generations. In two generations we have used half our uranium resources. With threats from global warming, oil depletion and nuclear disaster, we are running out of options. Solar power, as Keith Barnham explains, is the solution. In THE BURNING ANSWER he uncovers the connections between physics and politics that have resulted in our dependence on a high-carbon lifestyle, which only a solar revolution can now overcome. Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 led to the atomic bomb and the widespread use of nuclear energy; it has delayed a solar revolution in many countries. In a fascinating tour of recent scientific history, Keith Barnham reveals Einstein’s other, less famous equation, the equation the world could have relied on.

Einstein’s other equation has given us the laptop and mobile phone, and it also provides the basis for solar technology. Some countries have harnessed this for their energy needs, and it is not too late for us to do the same.

In this provocative, inspiring, passionately argued book, Keith Barnham outlines actions that any one and all of us can take to make an impact now and on future generations. THE BURNING ANSWER is a solar manifesto for the new climate-aware generation, and a must-read for climate-change sceptics.

Peter Forbes, writing in the Guardian, has published thoughtful reviews of both these important books.