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)

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:

STORIES LIVED 

Australia

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

Indonesia

Tarzan in tights

Jero’s story

Singapore

Going down?

Garam Masala

Greece

Austerity’s dawn

Resilience or resignation?

Malaysia

Can you help me?

Timor L’Este 

Beginning a journey

A new era

A journey from Ainaro to Jakarta Dois

Regional

Memories of fires past

The Bay of Debris

Beyond the geomorphic

STORIES IMAGINED  

Australia 

A morning by a river

Rachael’s descent

Turkey 

Peter’s reverie

Indonesia 

Forest tales: A meeting in the forest

Forest tales: Strangers in the forest

Another world 

In aqua

 

Posted by: maximos62 | April 20, 2020

A strange encounter

Parks, gardens and footpaths in Singapore are usually kept clean, sure there are a few careless people that litter, but the city has a global reputation for being clean and tidy. This also applies to dog owners, so it was with some surprise that I encountered this strange lump on the footpath at Fort Canning.

 

 

For a flash I thought it was the result of a lazy or careless dog owner. Then I realised I had jkust passed a particular tree, Enterolobium cyclocarpum. It’s a flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae probably better known as the Leguminosae family. Along with all other legumes it’s a nitrogen fixer. This species is native to the tropical Americas, from central Mexico to Venezuela and northern Brazil.

At Fort Canning was once a botancical garden and still has some fine tropical and equatorial trees.

Enterolobium cyclocarpum is also known as guanacaste or caro caro. So, I think you can see where I’m headed with this. It so happened that being a heritage tree the Enterolobium cyclocarpum I had just passed was displaying a tag with a picture on the tage that looked a little like the object I found. The tree is also known as the monkey-ear tree or elephant-ear tree. The label identified it as an Ear Pod Tree.

Without hesitation I picked up the object, obviously a seed pod, and turned it over. Sure enough, the inside looked just like the inside of a mammal’s ear, well sort of.

 

 

The serendipitous aspect of this was that I’d been thinking moments before, as I gazed at the label, how I’d like to see one of the pods. Now I have one.

Posted by: maximos62 | April 2, 2020

#COVID19 and writing about Jakarta Dois

 

Being forced to remain at home for long periods through this pandemic is an existential challenge for some, for me it’s ushered in a new dawn for my creative writing. There is no longer the excuse or distraction of browsing through Chinatown or Little India. People in my age group have been advised to avoid markets, so I can’t just take off walk into Tekka Market, and then settle into a Dosai across the road at Komala Vilas. Mind you, I think I will have to make a special trip to Komala Vilas soon if only because this restaurant offers the best South Indian food in Singapore. It’s cuisine is specifically from the Tanjore District, in Tamil Nadu.

Sure I still like to go walking in the relative isolation of a tourist free Fort Canning, or if time permits the beaches of Sentosa island. Recently I’ve made two short audio visual works set in these places. So now there are less distractions.

Stories with strong emotional content

When writing short stories that have a personal component, it’s can be hard to write about the deep emotions sometimes released. When writing my last book this was most evident. I found writing about the Bali Bombings of 2002 challenging, tearfully so, yet it was therapeutic. Recording the audio tracks of this writing was more challenging because I needed to voice the characters and this imposed a greater emotional challenge.

Writing about my mother’s death was the hardest and I left recording that story until last.

Jakarta Dois

I’ve written two stories about Timor L’Este, but I’ve been struggling with this last tale, ‘A visit to Jakarta Dois’. It’s been a struggle, mainly because I’ve opted for the distractions available rather than face the emotional challenge of writing about this.

After working in Ainaro, Timor L’Este, during 2017, my eyes were opened to the still glaring examples of atrocity inflicted on the East Timorese people during the 25 years of Indonesian occupation. I’ve already posted an account on this blog, but the story moves deeper into the atrocity.

Thanks to the COVID19 pandemic I’m at home and simply forced to confront this task. The enforced isolation is helping me develop perspective. With due care, and assuming we have the means or the opportunity to take care, the threat of COVID19 does not necessarily have to be existential. It remains a mental challenge.

Placing matters in perspective I’m now able to write about another time when people had little opportunity to avoid a threatening situation, and were cruelly murdered.

Here is the location of Jakarta Dois.  It’s easier to assess in satellite view.

 

The beginning of my story

 

Directly ahead wildfire leapt up steep gullies towards the towering prominence of Foho Madanaga. Strong winds from Australia’s dry heart drove raging flames now lost in billowing white smoke. Intense combustion, and mere days after the dry season’s onset. Foreshadowed in the blaze was an ominous warning for Australia’s coming bushfire season where the years of woodland clearing and tragic mismanagement of inland waterways, driven by relentless global warming, had deepened continental aridity. Such preoccupations dissolved in the immediate drama, as flames raced towards Madanaga’s summit here tilted bare rocky strata ensured certain extinction. They presented no threat to my journey only a sombre reflection on my own country.

Sombre was an apposite description for my mood as I set out for Jakarta Dois. Weeks earlier I visited this place with colleagues. We went to pay respects to the many people from Ainaro killed in this place during the Indonesian occupation.

Posted by: maximos62 | March 30, 2020

The #Covid19 pandemic does not mean distance from nature

Singapore’s Sentosa Island, without foreign tourists, was an excellent place to visit and still conform with the social distancing requirements during the COVID19 pandemic.

I offer this work as a glimpse of beauty in the hope that viewers might find the images and the music relaxing

Posted by: maximos62 | March 25, 2020

Remaining mentally healthy during the #COVID19 pandemic

Several days ago I posted the World Health Organisation’s reflections on social and mental health in the time of the COVID19 outbreak, Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak.

My contribution

I enjoy walking, and as someone in one of the groups at risk COVID19 complications, it both strengthens and relaxes me. Walking is a meditation for me. The only activity I prefer to walking is kayaking.

Posted by: maximos62 | March 24, 2020

Improving the messaging on #Covid19

For weeks now I’ve been waiting for my country to come up with a coherent message about the pandemic dangers of COVID19. Watching our Prime Minister Scott Morrison make his comment about attending the footie on the weekend, revealed an ignorant trivialisation of the COVID19 problem.

Fortunately Australia’s PM wasn’t quite as dismissive as Boris Johnson and his suggestion that the UK could let the virus run it’s course so the population developed herd immunity.

I’ve relied on both the WHO and the Singapore Government for clear focused commentary. This has been lacking in Australia although some state governments are beginning to convey the seriousness of this pandemic through their actions.

Australia still lacks a coherent and uncluttered commentary on the COVID19. So it was with some relief that I came across the article by Melissa Davey, ‘

Australia is crying out for clearer messaging on coronavirus, ‘rambling’ politicians told

With her byline – ‘Experts call for mass communication campaign – not ‘naff little drawings’ – and ministers urged to relearn art of answering questions’

Thanks Melissa

Follow the link to Melissa’s article.

COVID19

Posted by: maximos62 | March 24, 2020

WHO Launches #COVID19 Health Alerts via #WhatsApp

The WHO is now bringing facts to billions via WhatsApp, explaining that using WhatsApp has the potential to reach 2 billion people.

Click on the image for more information or send Hi to +41 22 501 75 96 on WhatsApp

Installing WhatsApp

If you don’t already have WhatsApp Visit whatsapp.com/dl on your mobile phone to install. You will need a phone number but it is also possible to install WhatsApp on a PC or Mac, just visit the download site.

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