Wednesday, 20 June 2018

COG knows what's on the Woodlands and Wetlands.

As I drove into this outing my car rang bells at me to warn that the temperature had dropped below 4oC.  A little further along the way the Brindabellas were visible and white!
In fact the day was pleasantly mild with little wind and (unfortunately) no rain

The venue for the outing was an area of woodlands and wetlands in the suburb of Watson.  It turns out the woodlands are actually called Justice Robert Hope Park and honour Justice Robert Marsden Hope, of whom I had never heard.  His wiki entry concludes
" In 2002, a park in the Northern Canberra suburb of Watson was named in his honour in recognition of his environmental work."   
I had trouble finding a reference in material about him to great environmental work, although his first role as a Royal Commissioner (before he got tangled up with spookdom) was looking at the National Estate  - which he apparently thought was his best work.  Also "in 1978, he was appointed as the foundation chair of the council of the New South Wales Heritage Commission, a position he held until 1993."  While a document by the Watson Wetlands Working Group quotes a Canberra Times article which identifies him as "the first Director of the Commonwealth's environment department."  I have been unable to find any other evidence to support this - it isn't mentioned in his wiki, nor His official obituary!

It is interesting when looking at the ACT Environment entry for this Park to find that it is an offset to
 "compensate for the impact to the white box-yellow box-Blakely’s red gum grassy woodland, derived native grassland ecological community (box gum grassy woodland) and the regent honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia) from residential development and the extension of Negus Crescent in North Watson. "  
As far as I can see this is some sort of daft arrangement where there are two patches of good country and the ACT Government has agreed with itself that if one bit is trashed they won't trash the other.  I am not sure I am up to the intellectual rigour of the word "offset" in that context.

While gathering, a good range of parrots and cockatoos were observed although the hoped-for Superb Parrots didn't appear.  The first of several pairs of Rainbow Lorikeets flew over indicating how this species is expanding its footprint in the ACT.

Here is a photo of the habitat in the Park:
There were several of these former trees around: unlike the similar looking stump dumps in Mullies and Goorooyaroo these do not have tags to indicate research sites, but the Watson Woodlands paper does refer to reptile research as being important here.
As we headed off we soon encountered a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike which was thought to be a little late (although reference to the Annual Bird Report indicates some birds do over-Winter).  Small birds were few in number with a group of Weebills and another of Yellow-rumped Thornbills being the exceptions.  While the Park has good tree cover there was very little shrub layer.

In total we recorded 22 species in this part of the walk (see list )



A small damp area was just inside the gate.  It could be very productive in a slightly damper year (or if crakes and rail discover it. 

We then wandered under the powerlines to the wetlands, keeping an eye open for the Apostlebird known to hang out in the area.  We didn't find it. However on getting to the wetlands (given 'Bob' Hope was our starting point, should that be the Bing Crosby Wetlands?) a Banded Rail was quickly spotted.

While I was getting a snap, the more eagle-eyed members of the group saw a second Buff-banded Rail on the street side of the pond.

A Little Pied Cormorant was reluctant to leave its perch at the base of the reeds.
 This is a view of the wetlands.
 A second Black-faced Cuckooshrike was encountered in Mary Kitson Playground (also known as Lindell's Park).
20 species were seen in this part of the outing giving a modest overall list of 29 species for the day.  

I can find nothing about Mary Kitson on Google (although allhomes and other sleazy sites have lotsa dwellings for sale there!).    This house wasn't for sale.
.The design did remind me of the t-shirt design "Call of the Wild"

 but on checking I didn't think they are likely to score a copyright action.

As I drove home I'd just got to the airport when Lindell rang: she'd found the Apostle bird at the corner of Negus St and the Park.  She subsequently said in an email:
That bird is so tame. When it saw me get out of the car it actually came running across the road to me - I could almost touch it. A couple of the residents came out too - they feed it seed from multigrain bread and sesame seeds from buns - it’ll even eat from their hand. I suggested that bread wasn’t good but they assured me it was only the seed!


Monday, 18 June 2018

What keeps Mallacoota going?

In electronic conversation with another frequent visitor to Mallacoota we discussed the importance of tourism, or at least visitation, to Mallacoota.  What would happen if the place ceased to attract tourists?

I'm not sure I am going to be able to answer that question in detail but a look at some Census data might help.  My starting point is a table of employment by industry for the State Suburb of Mallacoota (possibly Gypsy Point and Genoa could have been added but I decided to keep things simple).   

A few industries (eg Mining, Wholesale Trade) had no employment in Mallacoota.  Excluding them, the results are summarised below:
 I then estimated - OK, truth in advertising, guessed - the proportion of each industry employed by tourism.  For some (Agriculture etc, Education) this was zero.  For others it was a non-zero proportion varying from 10% (Health etc services ) to 90% (Accommodation and Food).  Construction was tricky, but including property maintenance, I decided it was half each for residential and holiday rental properties.  Applying the % to the totals gives the following split:
In total I concluded that 98 of 372 employees were employed by tourism.

My next step was to look at income reported in the Census.  This comes in income ranges and to make life simple - we're not talking precision stuff here - I took the bottom value of each range as an estimate of the average income for each range and multiplied it by the number of employed people in each range. Summing the result gave a total of $k14,128.  Please note that I only give the income estimate to the nearest $1,000 to match the numbers in my spreadsheet: a more reasonable statement would be "about $14 million" or "between $12 million and $15 million."

In addition there are 691 people for whom the industry question was not applicable.  Applying the same income estimation procedure gives an estimate of the income of the people for whom industry was not applicable of  $k11,049.  See note above.

The "industry not applicable" people  would comprise three broad groups:
  • People under the age of 15 years (130 people for whom the Income question was also not applicable);
  • People aged 15+yrs who are unemployed (33); and 
  • People aged 15+yrs who are not in the Labour Force (NILF  - by residual, 528).  In Mallacoota a high proportion of these will be retirees
Unfortunately Tablebuilder doesn't allow a cross-tabulation of age x Labour Force Status so it isn't possible to work out the split between retirees and other NILF people.  However there are 495 folk aged 60+ so most of the NILF are old buggers (like me).

By combining my guesses about proportion services provided to tourists and income by income range it is also possible to stretch the bounds of common sense and estimate the income  derived from tourism.  This comes to $k2,813. See note ... It is interesting that the income of suppliers of services to tourism is about 1/6th of the total workers income whereas they constitute 1/4th of the workers.  This reflects the tourism workers being concentrated in the lower income classes - possibly mainly part time jobs.

I thus have the following initial picture of the income of Mallacoota:
Taking this any further is probably stretching the ability of the analysis beyond breaking point.  However applying a little thought suggests a couple more ideas.
  • An economic base is built from the exploitation of natural resources;
  • This would include the activities of the exploitative industries (Agriculture Fishing and Forestry - 24 employees);
  • However in the case of an area like Mallacoota the beauty of the environment and the wildlife are exploited by tourists - and attract the retirees.
Thus we have an economic base comprising a small number of employees in primary industries; a fair number of employees servicing tourists; and a large number of retirees.  I'd suggest that if the attributes of the area (scenery and wildlife) which attract tourists and retirees get degraded then the economic base would very quickly become insufficient to support the service industries.

It has been pointed out that the Census doesn't explicitly recognise "tourism" as an industry.  That's because many providers of services to tourists also provide services to other people.  Possibly the Accommodation Industry is close to providing all its output to tourists (depending on your definition of tourist of course) but other industries often provide mixed services.  For example

  • The bus that takes tourists from Mallacoota to Genoa to meet the interstate line possibly contributes more value-added to the local community in the school bus services it offers;
  • Shops and the pub will provide lots of services to tourists in school holidays (say 10 weeks per year) but for the rest of the year service the locals (hence my guess that 30% of Retail services can be attributed to tourism).
This got discussed at the Second Conference of the World Tourism Organisation (WToO)  in Ottawa in 1992.  I was in Ottawa at the time and working within Statistics Canada on behalf of ABS.  A specialist within ABS had written a paper which WToO wanted to consider, but the author couldn't attend.  So I presented the paper on his behalf.  I'll get to the content (as I remember it 27 years later) shortly but when I agreed to do this I didn't realise the significance of the event.  There were about 600 delegates,  The speaking order in the first session was:
  1. Director of WToO;
  2. Canadian Minister for Tourism;
  3. Director-General of Tourism Canada;
  4. High priced International Consultant to WToO;
  5. Me
To add more fun to the event the 4th speaker (hereafter p4), although hired by WToO had come up with an approach the WToO didn't agree with.  My job was to politely say he'd got it wrong and here is a better approach.  As he talked, I looked down at the 600 punters and my throat dried up, my pulse hit 3 digits and (had I measured it) my blood pressure would have been close to 4 digits!  A bit of sub-vocal "Om mani padme Hum", got things back on track.

From memory the problem with p4's approach was that he went too far back down the supply line.  As well as the suppliers of accommodation services he added in the guy who made the bricks that the builder (also included in the estimate) used to erect the motel which provided the accommodation.  I think the approach suggested in the paper I presented was more along the lines I have talked about above.  Its a classic case of needing to do some analytical thinking and synthesise careful estimates, rather than trying to force a general; method to do more than it should.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Zero degrees of separation

My friend Carolyne has just posted on Facebook about reacquainting herself, by chance with a friend from many years ago.  That led me to think about some serendipitous meetings I have had.  Or in one case, nearly had.  Its a bit long for an FB post so I thought I'd dump it here.

  1. Frances and I did a tour of SE Asia in about 1975, flying out of Perth.  On the return leg I went to the newspaper shop in Perth Airport to buy something to read on the final leg back to Adelaide.  As I came out I bumped into Russell, a friend from Canberra who was doing a campervan trip around Australia!
  2. Go forward to about 1989.  We were visiting friends in New York and one afternoon we walked down 42nd St, from the Public Library.  We were on the side opposite Grand Central.  On return to Australia, a little later I was talking with a friend from Perth who mentioned a trip he'd taken to New York to organise a lacrosse World Championship in Perth.  We managed to work out that as I was walking on the downtown side of the street he was on the uptown side. We agreed that if we'd been on the same side of the street our reactions would probably have been "Gee that looks just like ..." and kept walking.
  3. We spent 1992 in Ottawa where I got involved in a World Tourism Organisation Conference.  The circumstances leading to that were an amazing set of coincidences in their own right.  However at a social side event I was chatting to the UK representative and his wife (who sort of looked familiar).  It emerged she had been 2 years ahead of me at High School.  We then spent some fair time discussing various "identities" around the Dengie Hundred known to both of us.
  4. In 2005 we were living in New York while I worked for the UN.  I was taking a mission to Kabul which required flying out of Kennedy to Dubai.  Standing in the check-in queue I was intrigued to see a white female in front of me in the line, accompanied by a black teenage kid - which seemed a little unusual, and for some reason she looked a bit familiar.  She checked in and vanished with the kid.  Just as I was about to go up a call went out for Ms Helen ... please return to check in."  Back came the woman and kid.  A light bulb clicked in my brain: she was a resident of Tanzania who had organised a few things in the ex-pat community while we were there.  The different context had blocked my recognition until I heard here name.  I can't remember why they had been in NYC but she was on her way back to Dar es Salaam.
It is not quite the same circumstance but there is a coincidence of timing between now and 2006, involving Carolyne and Bob.  They are currently living in Italy where my guess is that no-one talks about the World Cup.  (Think Basil Fawlty and The War.)  That would be because the cheating bastard Azzuri didn't make to the Finals this year.  In 2006 the Socceroos "Round of 16" game was at lunchtime in NYC so I ducked home from the office (in effect crossed 45th St) and watched the ensuing debacle.  The worst bit was that as I walked glumly back to work I encountered about 200 Italian fans celebrating their theft of the game.  And I was able to restrain my natural impulse to assault them.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Small dog update

There is rarely a dull moment when one owns a terrier.  Earlier this year - in the heat of Summer Tammy really seemed to be going downhill: not keen on walking and seemed to have completely lost her zip.

After a visit to the vet - who spotted she had a kneecap that was dislocating a bit more easily than might be expected - we gave her a course of anti-inflammatories and started giving her a sardine a day for the nutritional goodies.  It has also got a fair bit cooler. 

Putting all of those together she had reclaimed her zip and was dancing to got out in the mornings (and not just because she needed to park a coil).  This made our morning walks much more pleasant.

So on Sunday Frances noticed that she seemed to have had trouble getting down some steps and was limping a bit.  We were very careful with her through the day.  Of course that night as she went out for her final toilet stop a wombat was on her lawn.  The 5 steps down to the lawn were taken at 50kph and 150dB.

Exit, briskly, one wombat.

However as the stop was revised to its intended purpose I noticed that she was doing a fair impersonation of Dudley Moore in the Tarzan Audition sketch from Beyond the Fringe.  (For those that know the sketch - I saw the original, in about 1966 at the Mayfair Theatre - all the you-tubes miss out the punchline, which is when Jonathon Miller enters wearing a leopard skin leotard wanting to play Long John Silver!)

The next day (Monday) she was in a bad way and could barely walk.  The morning walk was terminated after 100m.  So she was lifted carefully and carried up and down all steps.  This seemed to work and she seemed a lot better in the evening.  However she took a jump down later in the day and by the next morning was gimping badly.

Tuesday was not good but she didn't get any worse and by afternoon  seemed a little better.  Yesterday (Wednesday) she was pretty much dancing around to go for a walk and strode off up the drive with her tail vertical.  We decided that she should be on a graduated return to duty so turned at the top of the drive (600m return) even though she was quite keen to keep going.  As I went out for a run she was trying to jump on the bed which was discouraged.

This morning (Thursday) she was off like a rocket and we decided to extend the walk if she was happy to keep going and not limping.  Despite her being hot to trot further we turned at Widgiewa (2.6km return) and she led the way home.  We decided to still keep her from going up and down steps.  This lasted until I left the door open into the garage and she bolted down 5 tiled steps to see if there was anything in there that needed killing (or if she could get taken for a ride somewhere).  Realising that neither of those two conditions applied she promptly bolted back up the stairs.

We will still try to moderate her activity as far as we can , but she really is a tough little bugger.




Sunday, 10 June 2018

Displays in Canberra

As it was a day of English weather and there were some good exhibitions on in the city we took ourselves off there on Saturday afternoon.  Our first port of call was the National Museum of Australia.

This image shows both the murky weather and a pretty close to full car park.
Why is it that Museum Directors always feel the need to be building new things?  I strongly suspect its because a few of the administrative staff realise they could be let go if they don't keep coming up with things to keep themselves looking busy.
I also think the phrase "an immersive sensory representation" should be a contender for post-modern chunder-phrase of the decade (or possibly century).

Our target exhibition was one devoted to an exhibition about the voyage of Nicholas Baudin.   It was very good.  One of my bugbears about many exhibitions (especially in our National Gallery) is the limited information on the cards.  In this case they had much useful stuff, including this proof that the Japanese reputation - at least in past - for copying extends to rationalisation of acquiring food for scientific purposes.
 In fairness, Baudin's crew were suffering from scurvy and dolphins contain some vitamin C.  Scurvy isn't a big killer in Tokyo!

This was one of my favourite drawing by Leseur.  The lizards come from all the voyage but are painted as though all seen on a single log!
 This next image is apparently a bit controversial as it is unclear whether an indigenous person drew it on the paper or if said indigenee did the traditional business on a rock and a member of Baudin's crew then copied it on to the paper..  Whatever, IMHO the indigenous one has the copyright!
 On the subject of indigenous folk I find it interesting that the modern manifestations thereof are using objects collected by Baudin to work out how to do "traditional" crafts.
 A Jellyfish (Cassiopeia dieuphila).
 There were several comments about the expedition finding 18 new species of Jellyfish - I'm surprised that this is seen as remarkable since (a) it was quite early in the period of exploration and (b) I wouldn't have thought there would have been a great deal of taxonomy of jellyfish in general!

As we emerged from the Baudin exhibition we noted that the adjoining show about Islam was also available for a good price (ie free).
The objects were from a museum at the Vatican and covered quite a few places I have been.  These rugs/hangings were from central Asia.
This is a detail of an embroidered hanging from Bukhara.  It reminded me of one I purchased in Bishkek (under circumstances I can't remember but it was made about 20 years before I got it  - the date is embroidered into my hanging.
I spent some time looking for the Zanzibari doors.  In Stone Town these are about 2m square and very noticeable (except where the owners have sold them to wealthy tourists).  So I was surprised I was having trouble finding them.  Then the staffer I had asked and/or Frances realised they were a miniature: would make a good door for the house of panya kidogo (ie a Zanzibari mouse)!
 Both exhibitions were pretty good.  Being nit-picky a couple of comments:

  • As is usually the case with anything involving paper, lighting levels are very low so it is almost impossible to see what is depicted on some exhibits.  I understand why this is so but it is annoying.
  • In a few places there are audio-visual information points.  Unfortunately, and this is a problem for the NMA generally, the volume is set so as to be audible to someone with 75% hearing loss on the far side of Lake Burley Griffin.  This can be very annoying if looking at one exhibit and suddenly get 200dB about another!.


We then moved to the National Library who had an exhibition about matters from 1968.
 They asked not to take photos so I didn't.  Quite an interesting exhibition although Australia missed out on a lot of the action in Europe and the US.  Probably a good thing.  I was particularly taken with Martin Sharp's album covers and, as Frances said, if they put out a CD of the music they were playing (Beatles, Hendrix etc) we'd have bought a copy!

The final stop was the sculpture garden of the NGA and nearby.  This wasn't to look at the art ...
 .. but to stroll though  and look for some Scaly-breated Lorikeets reported in the area.  Here is our route....
 .. and here is our target: an addition to my ACT list and my year list!


Saturday, 9 June 2018

The definition of cities and towns

This is more pr less just to record some musings, but might be of interest to some readers.

A weather group I follow recently became engaged in a debate about where to measure the elevation of a town.  This followed from an article in a newspaper, (? it was the Daily Mail) which described Lithgow as the coldest city in Australia. 

This led to a response by one of the expert members of the group:
Lithgow's old Birdwood Street station has the longest record (84 years) of Lithgow stations and is close to the city centre. Its whole-of-record mean annual temp is 12.3°while its 1971-2000 30-year mean is 12.55. Comparing apples with apples, Ballarat AP's 1971-2000 mean is 12.15 and Orange's is 11.75, though that is at the AP which is higher and slightly colder than the city itself. Orange Ag Stn, which is just in the city proper unfortunately began in 1976, but its 25 complete years in the 1971-2000 period gives an annual mean of 12.3. So by a whisker, both Ballarat and Orange are "colder" than Lithgow. 
A link was also included to a Wikipedia page about cities in Australia.  At least NSW used to have a definition! 

My memory was that South Australia used to have a rule that a city had a population of 10,000 or more which meant that in the 1970s the only cities were: the Adelaide conurbation, Whyalla and Mount Gambier.  Port Lincoln was close so any thoughts about ABS doing tests of population counts ended up there to see if they'd got across the line.

Noting the link between elevation and temperature it was noted that within an urban area there can be a range of elevations:
Going from a quick perusal of a contour map, the highest point in the Orange City LGA looks to be around 990m; for Armidale City LGA around 1140m. It seems that Armidale has quite a lot of country above 1000m while Orange has plenty above 800m.
Mt Macedon is a good example of varying elevation. There is only one road through town and the Mt Macedon town sign at the southern end is about 470m asl and the town sign at the northern approach is 880m asl :) Mt Macedon (village) is usually listed as around 620m.
Another contributor commented on the history of town/city elevations:
Locations with railway stations, past and present, were usually the first surveyed for elevation and the town took its elevation from that of the railway station, or to be more precise, the rail level at the mid-point of the station platform, which is the case for Millthorpe. Post Office elevations sometimes were used for the town/city if they were surveyed for them. 
I expressed my view that I preferred a definition based on service provision rather than population.  In the UK - 50 years or more ago - the following rules of thumb applied:

  • City - had a cathedral;
  • Town  - had a livestock market;
  • Village  - had a church
  • Hamlet - group of houses without a church (but quite possibly a pub)!

Of course, these days economics and the New World Order have probably wrecked several of those criteria.  Livestock markets will have been centralised, churches closed due to falling congregations and pubs closed as the licences are transferred to more profitable locations in the cities.

In the same way in Australia many rail lines have closed (and, with enlightened Councils been transformed into rail trails) and Post Offices transformed into houses.

This led me to recall some of the work leading to the ABS Index of Remoteness which had some basis on the distance of a Collection District from the nearest centre with various levels of medical service.  Perhaps we could have a definition based on medical and educational facilities?

  • City: has a full service hospital and a tertiary educational facility.  This would make Queanbeyan a city through the Tafe campus;
  • Town: has a high school and a base hospital.  Braidwood fits in here.;
  • Village: has a primary school and a medical practice.  Bungendore comes in here.  Even if it scores a High School the lack of a hospital keeps it as a village.
  • Locality: everywhere else, including Carwoola and Hoskinstown.
I'm not sure what to do with places within a conurbation, but am inclined to treat the whole contiguous mess as one entity.  So:
  • Paramatta, Cambelltown and Liverpool etc would all fall within the Sydney Metropolitan City; 
  • Woolongong and Shellharbour (and possibly Shoalhaven) would be the Illawarra City.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Preliminary weather June 2018

This holds (mainly) images of weather related things that arise during the month.  First up is the somewhat unexpected appearance of showers on the radar in the afternoon of 4 June.
Over the next several hours that lot gave us 4mm.  By late arvo on 5 June it looked as though some more was coming our way.
The next moisture was forecast for 8-9 June.  We scored 0.4mm on the 8th and by 6:30 on the 9th have 1.8mm.  There is more coming according to the Weatherzone radar.
On the 16th the Weatherzone radar was weird.  Why is the Victorian High Country missing out?
This seems to be because on front has moved through while the main pool of cold air is still sitting offshore.  By about 5pm Weatherzone is showing a second small front heading towards us
 while the BoM is little less damp.
The main pool is starting to move across inland Victoria by this time.

Here is the view from the Queanbeyan escarpment on 20 June.