Posted by: maximos62 | September 5, 2020

Reflections on Borders: Empire, Cold War and Covid19

For a wide review of these themes lookout for my latest collection of short stories, Beyond Borders.

For some, the notion of borders is that of a hard border, one clearly defined and assertively maintained. Certainly, in the Covid19 era borders reflect this standard, yet borders are by no means constant, or definite, whatever the political maps might suggest.

Living now as I do in one of the world’s geographically smaller nation-states ranking 175th our of 194 countries and dependencies I’m not so much aware of its limited area as its proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia. Staying at a hotel on Sentosa Island recently as there is really nowhere else to go in the Covid19 closed border era, I was struck by how close the Riau islands are. I can see them between the high rise office buildings of Singapore’s CBD, from my sitting room, but only a sliver. From Sentosa, there is a clear view of Batam island.

With the help of Google Earth, I calculated that the distance from the place where I was staying to Batam, was a mere 16 kilometers. An easy kayak paddle for me. Of course, attempting to paddle that distance, as I might often have done around Sydney Harbour, would quickly see one arrested by one or the other coast guards, and the possibility of being placed in immigration detention. So I’ve never tried to paddle to Batam. In fact, I’ve left my kayak in Sydney.

People still travel across the Malacca Straits as both sides of this maritime divide were once part of the Sultanate of Johore. It was based at the southern tip of the West Malaysian peninsula with a palace in Singapore as well.

Ancient and undeniable porosity

Years ago I wrote about the ancient and undeniable porosity that is such a prominent feature of Australia’s northern margins.

I wrote. “When people say we’ll control who comes to these shores and the circumstances in which they come, I quoted Australia’s most divisive post-war Prime Minister, John Howard, and I reflected on the absurdity of such comments. 

Australia might be the land that’s girt by sea, at least since the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age, but we aren’t impervious, our northern margins are characterised by a most ancient and enduring porosity.”

In a subsequent post, Indonesia and Australia: perceptions of border security from the land that’s girt by sea, I wrote about the Living on the east coast of Australia and how easy it is to retain a sense that in the land that’s girt by sea borders are quite finite. Indeed, Australia is a modern nation-state with very clear rules about land borders, maritime borders and exclusive economic zones.

Physical and unseen borders have long been with us, but their relative porosity has varied over time as a result of natural events like Pleistocene sea-level changes, migration of people, ancient imperial expansion, or the more recent eras colonialism and imperialism. Generally, no matter how certain and impervious they might appear, or how non-negotiable nation-states might insist they are, borders have not remained permanent.

Changing borders

Throughout my early adulthood, there was a hard border between the southern and the northern parts of Vietnam. It sat within a demilitarised zone (DMZ).

The DMZ showing the Ben Hai River

The Hien Luong bridge spanned the Ben Hai River at the 17th parallel which was the border between the two part of Vietnam. 

Hien Luong Bridge, once the border between North and South Vietnam.

Fortunately, the border is long gone, but at the time it had what seemed permanent, strengthened by the monochromatic understandings of borders imposed through the Cold War. The yellow was in the southern portion and the red, now blue, in the northern portion.

Some borders uncontrolled

Ironically, in this region where for so long there was a violent and bitter dispute over a border some borders are now very loosely controlled.

Not far from the old Hien Luong bridge is a place called Hamburger Hill, in the outside world.  It was the scene of a futile military exercise during the Vietnam war, or American War, as the Vietnamese call it.

In 2014 I visited Hamburger Hill, the site of a rather futile military exercise during the war. My companions were keen to climb right to the top of the hill. I was recovering from a fall in Indonesia the year before and still developing strength in my right leg, so I stayed by a shrine of remembrance and enjoyed the surroundings.

There wasn’t a lot to see, mainly jungle

Not long after my friends left, I caught sight of two men. They entered the small clearing where I sat. Neither carried anything. We communicated as best we could. I had an iPad with me so I showed them pictures of Sydney and Singapore. They were intrigued.


Soon my friends returned. Our guide translated for us.  They explained they had been hunting.  Odd they’ve now spear, catapults, bow and arrow, firearms, knives or machetes. It seemed like an unlikely tale.

I knew we were close to the border with Laos. My best guess was that they were smugglers. Whatever they were smuggling they hid before approaching me.

Later I had a close look at the location with Google Earth. There was an obvious route between Laos and Hamburger Hill, and clearly no easy way of regulating passage between the two countries.



Posted by: maximos62 | August 11, 2020

Revisiting Lake George

This week a friend was driving south from Canberra and was surprised to see a dramatic increase in the level of Lake George.

This short video is constructed from a collection of single shots.

I last wrote about Lake George in 2012, when the shots comprising this video were taken. Since then it has been largely dry but with a succession of east coast low-pressure systems bringing rain and stormy condition to Eastern Australia, it has filled again, quite rapidly.

This short video from Tim the Yowie Man shows how Lake George was looking on 9 August.

East Coast Lows (ECL)

East Coast Low-pressure (ECL) systems cause major flooding in eastern Australia.

Satellite image showing an East Coast Low-Pressure system captured on 27 June 2007.

 This winter in Australia there have been several east coast low-pressure systems.

Synoptic chart showing mean sea-level pressure on 11 August 2020

The chart shows one east coast low-pressure that has now passed beyond the coast. The high now over the southeast coastline will see drier conditions but the low now approaching the Great Australia Bight is likely to bring more rain to eastern Australia.

For a complete description of ECLs visit the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) site.

La Niña

The La Niña phase of the southern oscillation (ENSO) increases rainfall over eastern Australia. A La Niña event increases the intensity of ECLs.  At the moment Australia is on the cusp of a La Niña, as the following chart shows.

The BOM site explains that “The A La Niña WATCH is not a guarantee that a La Niña will occur, rather it is an indication that some of the typical precursors of a La Niña event are in place. “

For more read the latest Climate Outlook report. 
With the likelihood of a La Niña, we can expect the water in Lake George to be there for a while.

La Niña in 2012

Our kayaking trip in 2012 followed a series of La Niña events from 2010, the last being eight months before our trip. So, there was till enough water for us to paddle.

Posted by: maximos62 | August 5, 2020

Beirut Explosion on the Eve of a Hiroshima Anniversary

These days any events like the Beruit explosion trigger memories for the Bali Bombings for me. There were two explosions at Legian on the night of October 12, 2002. I heard them from Ubud yet through all the noise emanating from 26 kilometers away, I could only discern one continuous rumbling.

Footage of the Beruit explosion

Difficulty in assessing the death toll

I don’t know what to make of this yet. What I do know, from past experience is that the current death toll over 70 and the current details on injuries, over 4000, will be quite inaccurate. Such a forceful explosion will have a much greater death toll as some of the injured unfortunately pass away. There is also the morbid problem of body counts. With such an explosion these are problematic. In my current collection of short stories, I address this issue in a story A Morning by the River in which two people with firsthand knowledge of the Bali Bombings compare notes. Of course, I haven’t written this piece to highlight my story but as a reminder that we face a grim anniversary tomorrow.

Hiroshima anniversary


I was 11 years old, in 1958, when my parents took me to see the exhibition of the Hiroshima Panels. The Panels reveal the impact of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on people. This experience has shaped my life both in my opposition to all forms of nuclear armaments but also as a guide to the impact of bombs on the human body.

Eight works on rice paper

The Hiroshima Panels No. 2 FIRE, 1950

The Hiroshima Panels, eight works on rice paper depicting the impact of the Hiroshima bomb on the lives of ordinary people, were a watershed in attitudes towards the Japanese people. Iri and Toshikio Maruki who both lost family members in the bombing created the panels as a first-hand record of the bomb’s impact. With shattered infrastructure, and while ministering to the needs of survivors, they worked in a small studio, with the simplest of materials creating works of profound significance. Four years and eight hundred sketches later their first 6ftx24ft panel was complete. Seven more panels followed before the Hiroshima Panels were ready for exhibition. In their small studio, it was impossible to assemble a complete panel they could only guess at the final effect.

Comments at the time

The Australian Women’s Weekly reviewer of the time observed that while their choice of materials – Indian ink, vermillion, and rice paper – was largely due to their poverty, there was no poverty in the conception of their work.

In the exhibition brochure, Vance Palmer wrote, “These eight Hiroshima panels have come out of a deep emotion that has been restrained and shaped by the discipline of art. And so they do not merely affect the nerves but awaken basic feelings – pity, love, compassion, and a sense of the oneness of human beings in the face of suffering. Finally, they compel those who see them to vow that such diabolic visitations shall not occur again.”

A sensation

The Panels were a sensation. In Adelaide 10 000 people viewed the Panels in less than four days, the biggest crowds ever attending an art show. Just five days after the exhibition opened at the NSW Art Gallery, police were called as 15 000 visitors crammed the gallery overflowing into a jostling crowd outside.

Reassessing the Hiroshima panels after the Bali Bombing

Working in the morgue at Sanglah Hospital after the Bali Bombings was a traumatic experience. Conditions in the morgue were appalling.  In one sense I was relieved that I had encountered death and images of death before, but nothing on this scale.  Standing amidst the stench of charred and uncovered bodies my mind ran back to 1958 the year my parents took me to see the Hiroshima Panels, the closest thing I had ever seen to this.  Searching for an abstraction, a distraction that might offer some relief from this hell, I wondered. Was one purpose of art, to map the edges of human experience, to provide an emotional or a spiritual map? I was grateful that the Maruki’s, confronting their own tragedy, dealing with their own trauma, had allowed me to come to the place before, to remotely sense it, to be forewarned.





Posted by: maximos62 | July 15, 2020

The story behind ‘Geografi Australia’

The Geografi Australia project began during Suharto’s New Order regime and the Keating era. Working on this project was both challenging and inspirational.

The story of the beginnings of the project is called A Day of departures. It is published as part of Seen and unseen: a century of stories from Asia and the Pacific, available from Glass House Books.

Listen to A Day of Departures for just $0.99 from Amazon.

A Day of Departures might seem like a strange title for a story about the development of a geography resource book, and it would be if a departure was all that happened on the day my first meeting with officials from the Indonesian Department of Education and Culture or DEPDIKBUD.  Indonesians have a proclivity for inventing acronyms.

It was 2 October 1994 and back in Australia my mother was gravely ill. She died while I was waiting for a flight from Denpasar to Jakarta. This was the first departure on the day.

My flight departed on time but was forced to return to Denpasar as the Indonesian airforce had temporarily closed Jakarta airport while they practiced for Indonesian Armed Forces Day scheduled for 5 October. 

Sukarno Hatta International Airport, Jakarta

The third departure saw us arrive in Jakarta still with plenty of time to meet the  Australian Cultural Counsellor and then attend a series of meeting with senior officials from DEPDIKBUD.

Geografi Australia: The background story

Foreign Policy during the Hawke-Keating years was a serious attempt to reflect and respond to the interdependence on nations within the Asia Pacific region. That Australia’s location, on the southern margin of one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world, afforded an opportunity to operate as an effective middle power, independent, non- hegemonic, and avoiding the taint of guardian of Western interests was clearly affirmed.  In the Pacific this became a constructive commitment, promoting stability through economic development and encouraging mutually similar understandings of security and strategic interests. In southeast Asia, it was comprehensive engagement.  This meant building links, supporting existing agreements, shared approaches to regional security, seeking to involve the states of Indo-China, and pursuing our national interests as a confident partner and a good neighbour.  In North Asia is meant recognition of the economic ascendancy of the region, its importance as a source of manufactures in post-industrial Australia, and as an ongoing market for Australian commodities particularly minerals and energy resources. 

Gareth Evans

Gareth Evans, the Labor Foreign Minister during the early 1990s observed of relations with our nearest Asian neighbour:

No two neighbours anywhere in the world are as comprehensively unalike as Australia and Indonesia.  We differ in language, culture, religion, history, ethnicity, population size, and in political, legal, and social systems. 

Far from intending to cultivate despair, his comments were made in the context of a policy of comprehensive engagement.  Not suggesting we were an isolated European country, removed from our cultural heritage, and highly vulnerable to external pressure trapped within a cultural prison, he was just noting that the cultural difference presented a challenge. 

Growing up in Australia in the immediate post World War II period underscored the diversity and complexity of our region.  The French and Dutch were unsuccessful in reasserting colonial dominance in Vietnam and Indonesia.  India ultimately forced the British to grant independence and the newly independent Indonesia attempted a balancing act between the forces of Nationalism, Communism and Islam that, within a generation of war’s end, saw the destruction of the largest Communist Party outside the socialist bloc and the consolidation of a Javo-centric nationalist state that remains the world’s largest ‘Islamic country’.  Such is the nature of our region.

In 1994 the Australia Indonesia Institute (AII) invited expressions of interest, for the production of a geography and history of Australia, to be written in Bahasa Indonesia, for Indonesia secondary students.  It was to emphasize bilateral links and the advantages of cooperation.

After submitting an outline my company[1] was invited to tender for the project.  The competition was tough, Oxford University Press and two Australian universities.  We won the tender and on 2 October 1994 held our first meeting in Jakarta with the Indonesian Department of Education and Culture (DEPDIKBUD).

By this stage, my co-director, Matina Pentes, and I had established a company office with residence in Ubud, Bali, and were ten years into operating a cross-cultural field study project.  The office and residence had been an obvious next step allowing us to begin growing the business in a far more efficient way with independent phone and fax communications.  Gone was the time of waiting days for faxes from Australia or queuing for hours at public telephone offices attempting to place calls back to Australia or to other parts of Indonesia. When Bali jumped into the era of telephones it jumped into the latest technology and, although our telephone line was forever being cut by coconut palm fronds, for the most part, we enjoyed reliable communications.

Just as we were preparing to leave for Jakarta, my sister Meg rang from Woy Woy to say that mum was gravely ill, that she was now in a coma and not expected to survive much longer. It was impossible to return at such short notice.  The meeting in Jakarta had taken months to arrange but my mother was dying.  It’s hard to describe my sense of powerlessness.  Matina prevailed on me to ring the hospital and ask to speak with mum.  I’m glad I did because she was able to rouse herself from the coma and we exchanged our final farewell.  She was comfortable with the notion that I could only be there in spirit holding her hand, she understood me entirely. Tears flowed; I knew this was the last time I’d ever speak with my mother.

The drive to the Domestic Terminal at Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai Airport was largely silent, traffic, temples and rice fields slipped by on the edge of vision and consciousness.  Sitting in the terminal I drifted through the layers of sound that inhabit such places, largely shapeless and random apart from flight announcements. Suddenly mum’s voice emerged from the soundscape, she called my name.  I knew what this meant.  While I cried for my loss I was grateful that she’d given me this last gift, a reassurance that beyond physical existence there was consciousness, still a capacity to communicate with the embodied, tangible world.

Flying to Jakarta was both sad and bizarre. Approaching Soekarno Hatta airport we were turned back to Denpasar.  Without regard for domestic air services the Indonesian Air Force had closed the airport, so they could rehearse for the upcoming Armed Forces Day.  Such actions were very much a part of Suharto’s New Order regime, once during the early 90s even extending to the sudden closure of the international shipping lane between Bali and Lombok.  In Denpasar, we waited in that purposeless state that was all too common when Indonesian domestic flights were cancelled or rescheduled.  After an uncertain time, we left for Jakarta again.  This time we made it.

Clearing the arrivals hall I was surprised to see Margaret Hulbert, my brother in-law’s cousin.  She was living in Jakarta at the time with her partner Bruce Hansel who was fronting GIO in a re-insurance initiative. Margaret broke the official news about Mum; it was a relief to know for sure.  The only problem was getting through the rest of the day. 

The first meeting with Lee Cheung, Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy was difficult.  Fortunately, Matina’s diplomatic skills smoothed over the dissonance that my brittle state contributed to our meeting.  Then it was off for a meeting with Endang Sunarya, Director of Infrastructure for the DEPDIKBUD.  Although we had no way of knowing at that moment, this proved to be the most strategic meeting that we were to conduct during the entire project.  Endang proved a strong supporter of the project and contributed his energy until its conclusion. The afternoon was reserved for a meeting with the Curriculum Research Centre.  With Matina unwell and Lee Cheung pulling out, I was left to conduct the meeting alone.   

The meeting started smoothly enough, but like many of their Australian equivalents, the curriculum experts proved an argumentative group.  Quite apart from a legitimate professional tendency to forensically examine the epistemological and pedagogical positioning of the book, they were also intent on knowing when production of a similar book about Indonesia was to begin.  Such a book had initially been part of a grander vision but budget restraints and. I suspect, a more rigorous application of the AII’s mission statement to the project, had nudged this aspect of the project off the present agenda.  Whether by design or accident, I was the one left with the task of conveying the message.  By the end of the meeting, they were intent on shooting the messenger, my protestations that I was merely a consultant engaged to produce ‘Geografi Australia’ merely contributed to their sense of frustration.  Needless to say, the book went ahead, but at the end of such a difficult day, I was exhausted.

[1] Asian Field Study Centres Pty Ltd was established in 1984.  Initially, its mission was to provide inter-disciplinary field study programs for Australian students visiting Indonesia.  Its role gradually broadened to include consultancy services.  The Directors at the time were Russell Darnley and Matina Pentes,

Posted by: maximos62 | July 15, 2020

Geografi Australia

In 1995 my old company Asian Field Study Centres Pty Ltd, tendered for a contract with the Australia Indonesia Institute to produce a resource about Australia. Effectively a Geography text, it was to have historical references as well, and was to be written in Bahasa Indonesia.

The book was attuned to the curriculum for the first year of middle school in Indonesia.

By this time I had already worked with the then NSW Department of Education’s, Learning Materials Centre taught geography for a number of years, and had been operating a field study centre in Indonesia for eleven years.

The tender process was competitive with Oxford University Press and the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne as competitors. We won the tender.

Aged as it might now be, here is the result.


The process

I will write about the process at some other time as I’ve only just begun trawling through my archives. What strikes me is that this book was launched 22 years ago.

The writing team

Carol Thornton, Dr. Lew Hird, Bruce Foott, Dr. Malcolm Prentis, Susan Bliss, Dr. Noel De Souza, Geoffery Clarke, Ian McKee, Peter Plant, Marshall Leaver, Renata Grudic, Russell Darnley, Dr. Lin Sutherland, Dr. Tim Flannery, Dr. Peter Bastian.

The Book outline

An introduction to Australia

Australia’s place geography

Australian government

Australia’s regional context

Mapping Australia

Chapter 1: The Australian continent

Australia’s physiographic features

Australia’s geological history

The main geological regions

Teacher’s notes

Chapter 2: Australia’s unique fauna and flora

The effects of 55 Million years of isolation:

The last 10 000 years

Teacher’s notes

Chapter 3: Australia’s climates

Australia’s main latitudinal zones

The seasonal pattern

Australia’s climates

Chapter 4: Aboriginal Australians

Australia’s Indigenous people

Traditional Aboriginal lifestyles:

Impact of Aboriginal settlement on the Australian environment:

Teacher’s notes

Chapter 5: Agriculture in Australia

the development of commercial agriculture:

some environmental consequences of modern farming

the establishment of tropical agriculture

agriculture and aridity

scientific innovation in Australian agriculture:

Teacher’s notes

Chapter 6: Mining in Australia

history of mining in Australia

major mineral deposits:

Teacher’s notes

Chapter 7: Manufacturing in Australia

history of manufacturing in Australia:

some important Australian Inventions

important manufacturing Industries today

managing the industrial environment

Teacher’s notes

Chapter 8: Population and settlement in Australia

The history and development of Australian towns and cities

characteristics of Australian metropolitan cities

dealing with urban environmental issues

Teacher’s notes

Chapter 9: Multicultural Australia

contemporary Aboriginal society:

A nation based on the process of migration:


Teacher’s notes

Chapter 10: Australia’s trade and tourism

Australia’s main trade links

Australia’s trade with the Asia Pacific region

Tourism in Australia:

Important Tourist Sites –

Teacher’s notes

Chapter 11: Australia’s links with Indonesia

Australia’s links with Indonesia

Australia’s trade with Indonesia

Teacher’s notes

Posted by: maximos62 | July 13, 2020

Peter’s Reverie

The central nave of Hagia Sophia. In this image some calligraphic roundels, the mosaic of the Theotokos holding Christ, and two of the Seraphim are visible. Jorge Láscar from Australia  cc-by-2.0


I’ve recently finished a story, Peter’s Reverie. This is a tale I began to write in a state of optimism, though this was quickly dispelled by events, by a rise of new fundamentalisms in the world. Now we have also seen the rise of the Erdogan regime in Turkey. So my optimism for interfaith understanding is shaken somewhat, but I’m confident that even within Islam there is a foundation for interfaith cooperation. Such a spirit is also expressed in the Quran.

Surely, those who believed in Allah, and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabians, -whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day, and does good deeds – all such people will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no reason for them to fear, nor shall they grieve. Surah 2:62

Still, I persist knowing that there is something far stronger than fundamentalism and nationalism


Peter had been to Ἁγία Σοφία (Ayia Sophia) before. Now he stood gazing at this structure once the greatest of all Byzantine churches, a triumph of Justinian’s Constantinople. An unexpected event interrupts his reverie.

This is from my new collection of short stories, ‘Beyond Borders’. Here is the opening to the story:

Sound of a tram prompted a memory of old rattlers passing his neighbourhood church in Coogee, an image scattered in the reality of place. He stood gazing at Ἁγία Σοφία (Ayia Sophia)[1], the greatest of all Byzantine churches, a triumph of Justinian’s Constantinople.

On a return visit, a pilgrimage in a sense, he was drawn to this place where the spiritual world seemed mystically expressed in tangible form. 

He drifted through the massive, central space, drawn upwards past eight calligraphic roundels, Islamic additions. Flowing into the eastern semi-dome apse, he embraced and venerated the mosaic of the Theotokos[2] holding the young Christ.

Up into the void beneath the dome, he passed four seraphim and recalled Isiah’s vision. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”[3]

Gliding through the void, he floated into the southern gallery. He rested before the Deesis mosaic where the Theotokos, and John the Forerunner, implored Christ Pantocrator to have mercy on the world.

A flat thunking, an unexpected impact shattered his reverie.  He watched as a football sailed from the bonnet of a passing car and across the tram tracks in Soguk Keseme Street. 


Deesis Mosaic, Saint Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey) Photo by Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0





















[1] Ναός της Αγίας του Θεού Σοφίας Σοφίας – Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God.

[2] Literally: The God-Bearer. In the Western Church, the Virgin Mary or the Mother of God.

[3] Isiah 6:3.

Posted by: maximos62 | June 15, 2020

More about my book ‘Beyond Borders’

Timor L’Este reveals tectonic forces operating between Australia and Asia

Beyond borders, is now well advanced in the editorial phase. I’ve started work on the eBook and as soon as my final text is set I will begin recording stories for the audiobook.

Links to draft audio versions of some stories can be found below.

A contemporary perspective

In this second decade of the twenty-first century borders have assumed a tighter and more impervious dimension, mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both physical and unseen borders have long been with us, their relative porosity varying over time. Whether as a result of natural events like Pleistocene sea-level changes, migration of people, ancient imperial expansion, or the more recent eras colonialism and imperialism, borders have not remained permanent.

Australia’s ancient borders

Moving around Australia, one crosses the borders of many ancient nations their boundaries mostly invisible to outsiders. In my first book of short stories Seen and unseen a century of stories from Asia and the Pacific I referenced this in First landfall.

The very act of leaving Australia by first travelling from Sydney to Perth involved crossing as many as twenty-six ancient borders within Australia.

Highway sign, Nullarbor, 2017 (02)

Scope of this work

Beyond borders, overlaps with my first book. Its first story Iniquity shall abound, was to be in that first book. Unfortunately, one of the characters referenced in the story asked me to drop any mention of them, so I rewrote the story. I have included it in this collection.

This collection comprises stories written between 2002 and 2020 though some reach back into the 1950s.

My perspective is influenced by having lived, for twenty-five of the last thirty-seven years, outside the borders of my country, Australia.

There are twenty-four stories and many of them explore regional connections. Some explore spaces beyond national borders. Only a few stories are set exclusively within Australia.

An aspect of my outlook, one that stimulated an interest in exploring connections and continuity between places, was my early study of systematic geography. 

Only those stories set in Greece and Turkey, are beyond the Australia-Asia-Pacific region.

Athens: the Acropolis viewed from the northeast
Hagia Sophia was a church 916 years. When borders changed it lost it's status as a church.
Hagia Sophia, Wisdom Church from 537 until 1453

The Chronology

This work begins with reflections on another’s childhood in 2002. The child is in immigration detention. I learned much from this child and was drawn to contrast their experience with that of my own childhood. From that point my stories continue with a focus on my own childhood in Coogee before moving through adolescence and into adulthood.

Arden St, Coogee – 1930s and 1960s apartments

Some stories begin in the present but explore past events as well. This might confuse the chronology for some, but I hope you bear with me.

Living in South East Asia

Robertson Quay, Singapore

Having Singapore as a base gives one easy access to the countries of Southeast Asia. Over the past seven years, this has presented an opportunity to view the world from a new vantage point, a globalised space, on the margin of the Asian continent.  From here there is an excellent view to the south, thriough Nusantara, Melanesia, and on to my own continent. Being here has also enabled easier access to the ‘Old World’.

From ‘Beyond borders’

Here are three audio versions of my stories. They are drafts. I’ve included a little of the text as well.

  1. Memories of fires past
  2. Iniquity shall abound
  3. Tarzan in lycra
Posted by: maximos62 | May 25, 2020

Reflections on water and COVID-19

I’ve never reblogged someone’s work before but Associate Professor Susan Petterson raises an important consideration here. We need sound analytical thinking as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, she brings her academic skills into focus here with two important posts that explore what we currently know about fecal transmission via our sewage management system.

Here in Singapore where I am living we drink recycled water.

Water demand in Singapore is currently about 430 million gallons a day (mgd) that is enough to fill 782 Olympic-sized swimming pools, with homes consuming 45% and the non-domestic sector taking up the rest. By 2060, Singapore’s total water demand could almost double, with the non-domestic sector accounting for about 70%. By then, NEWater and desalination will meet up to 85% of Singapore’s future water demand. Singapore Water Story


I don’t think much about the water I drink. It comes both the Kallang and Singapore Rivers flow into the artificial water storage area know as Marina Bay. Water from here along with new supplies from Malaysia is what we drink.


Figure 1: Marina Bay
Figure 2: Marina Bay

Here in Singapore the drinking water quality seems fine although I long for the days when I lived in Lithgow and the water we used was drawn from a dam on the edge of the Blue Mountains national park. Over the years I’ve become fairly astute about when and when I can drink water in the environment. It helps to have a background in fluvial morphology and geomorphology. When I was working in Ainaro, Timor L’Este in 2017 I had no hesitation in drinking tap water.  I knew where the dam was and could follow the pies that served the homestay where I was living.  Similarly, I’ve drunk water from various springs in Indonesia though I would never drink tap water there.

Last year an Indonesian friend visited me here in Singapore. He was thirsty and asked for a drink of water. I’ll never forget the shocked expression on his face when I simply filled his glass from the tap in my kitchen.

I place a lot of trust in the quality of the water available here.

There are plans to integrate the system even further. Singapore’s Water Agency explains:

Our holistic approach to water management can be distilled into three key strategies:

  • Collect every drop of water
  • Reuse water endlessly
  • Desalinate seawater

An important question is, can we continue to do this. Stuart Khan presents an important review of what we know of COVID-19 and the options for safe town water.

Susan Petterson’s Blog “OPINION: Faecal shedding of SARS-CoV-2, a snapshot of current data and implications for the water industry” follows

COVID-19 Waterblog

There has been quite some talk about SARS-CoV-2 shedding in faeces and what that might mean for the water industry. As I see it, there are two aspects to this conversation: the first is a concern that sewage may contain infectious SARS-CoV-2 viruses; and the second relates to the more theoretical potential of using SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentration in sewage as a public health surveillance tool.

1. Is sewage contaminated with infectious SARS-CoV-2 viruses?

While COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness, the possibility of faecal-oral transmission was raised quite early (Yeo et al. 2020). From the information we have to date, it appears as though many people infected will excrete SARS-CoV-2 RNA in their faeces. A snapshot of reported presence in stool samples includes:

  • Six studies reported from China: 9 out of 17 patients were positive (Pan et al. 2020) ; 39 out of 73 patients positive (Xiao et al. 2020)…

View original post 987 more words

Posted by: maximos62 | May 10, 2020

Coronavirus disease 2019 #COVID-19

Many have been trying to make sense of the #COVID19 pandemic & its implications. Since I’m not an epidemiologist I can only quote experts. I’ve put this provisional summary of research findings together in the hope of dispelling conspiracy theories & inspiring others to contribute.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)



Alan Baxter’s Tweet Threads

These are threads of Tweets from immunologist, Alan Baxter.

In my experience Alan has been most measured and scientific in his coverage of COVID-19.

Alan has been one source I’ve used to gather information about the virus and the COVID-19 pandemic

Apr 06th 2020, 19 tweets, 4 min read
Apr 20th 2020, 22 tweets, 5 min read

May 10th 2020, 17 tweets, 3 min read

World Health Organisation COVID-19 Timeline

Despite the current US presidency to discredit the World Health Organisation its COVID-19 timeline shows steady progress on understanding and recording the impact and tnhe spread of SARS-CoV-2

John Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University reports that it is hosting a course titled Understanding the COVID-19 Pandemic: Insights from Johns Hopkins University Experts. It’s a series of short modules exploring the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conspiracy theories

Cornell University Alliance for Science features a piece by distinguished science journalist COVID: Top 10 current conspiracy theories. Mark is also the author of the book Six Degrees.

He begins:

As the COVID-19 crisis worsens, the world also faces a global misinformation pandemic. Conspiracy theories that behave like viruses themselves are spreading just as rapidly online as SARS-CoV-2 does offline. Here are the top 10 conspiracy theories making the rounds.

Dr Michael Ryan

The Guardian recently covered this comment from Dr Michael Ryan, the director of the WHO health emergencies programme, has said

there is a way out of the Covid-19 pandemic for communities, adding that ‘a careful and measured return’ to workplaces and schools with the right precautions could work, but that concerts and other mass gatherings were much more difficult.

The beginnings of what became the COVID19 pandemic perhaps as early as October

Cornell University Alliance for Science also carried an article suggesting an earlier start to infections from the virus. They report on scientists analysing the genetic trees of 7,666 SARS-CoV-2 genomes who conclude that

the genetic trees of 7,666 SARS-CoV-2 genomes collected from around the world estimated a common ancestor to the circulating COVID virus strains as having most likely appeared in China at some point between Oct. 6 and Dec. 11, 2019.

They find no evidence for the conspiracy theories claiming COVID-19 virus was deliberately created or accidentally released from a lab, noting:

genetic analysis making clear that SARS-CoV-2 has natural origins, most likely having jumped into humans originally from bats.

SARS-CoV-2 shares 96 percent of its genome with a horseshoe bat virus called BatCoV RaTG13, which researchers say shows “no evidence of recombination events.” An intermediate animal host connecting this bat virus to human COVID has still not been definitively identified, but is thought to have been pangolins — an endangered animal illegally traded in Asian wildlife markets and also widely used in non-scientific Chinese medicine.

Science News: the coronavirus wasn’t made in a lab

In this report writes:

the SARS-CoV-2 virus has components that differ from those of previously known viruses, so they had to come from an unknown virus or viruses in nature.

So SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from anything but natural viruses.

Kirby Institute: The COVID-19 pandemic update

One of the best resources I’ve yet found on COVID19 is from the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW, and Professor Raina MacIntyre’s detailed analysis.

Posted by: maximos62 | April 24, 2020

Beyond Borders

Well I’ve finally assembled all of the stories for my next book of short stories into one document for editing.

The selection is divided into Stories Lived that retain elements of memoir and Stories Learned which, although based on real events, are fictional. In Aqua is entirely fictional and based on events beyond the tangible world.

Here is the list of stories:



Iniquity Shall Abound

A sergeant’s progress

Vietnam trilogy: A prelude to war

Vietnam trilogy: We don’t want war

Vietnam trilogy: Darkest before the dawn

Unravelling Crossie’s past

A land of ancient belonging places

Seventy years on


Tarzan in tights

Jero’s story


Going down?

Garam Masala


Austerity’s dawn

Resilience or resignation?


Can you help me?

Timor L’Este 

Beginning a journey

A new era

A journey from Ainaro to Jakarta Dois


Memories of fires past

The Bay of Debris

Beyond the geomorphic



A morning by a river

Rachael’s descent


Peter’s reverie


Forest tales: A meeting in the forest

Forest tales: Strangers in the forest

Another world 

In aqua


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