Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our busyness

Christmas seems to be such a busy time. The pace of life seems to slowly and gradually accelerate. I admit to feeling weary at this time of year and I am certain that I am not the only person who feels this way from time to time. Australian cartoonist, Michael Leunig, also senses this shared experience of tiredness.

Leunig's cartoons and poetry appear in the Melbourne newspaper, The Age, which on 17 December 2011, published Leunig's cartoon, Six Degrees of Weariness (Christmas).  In this work, he portrays six kinds of weariness, regressing in grades from "Ordinary end of year fatigue" to "Had a gutful and can't go on." I recognised myself in those portrayals straight away. I can also see people I know in those images - colleagues, associates, friends and family.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Bionic Eye in Australia

Swinburne University of Technology
PhD student Chiara Paviolo. Photo by Paul Jones
In 1978, hearing was partially restored to the first recipient of the Australian bionic ear. The cochlear implant that made this achievement possible culminated from a research program begun by Professor Graham Clark at the University of Melbourne.  A number of research institutes and universities are currently working towards the development of an Australian bionic eye.

Outside Australia, two promising versions of a bionic eye, an epiretinal prosthesis developed in the USA and a subretinal prosthesis designed in Germany, are already undergoing clinical trials. According to a review of those two prostheses, both are feasible alternatives, but neither design has achieved visual acuity in trials of greater than 20/1000.

The research programs underway in Australia include
  • a high acuity retinal prosthesis scheduled for clinical trials in 2013, 
  • a prosthesis designed to be implanted in the brain, bypassing the optic nerve, and 
  • a novel design that utilises laser light and gold nanoparticles.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Australian FA-18 Classic Hornet

With a maximum speed of Mach 1.8, the FA-18A Classic Hornet has little trouble breaking the sound barrier.
What a eye-catching machine - graceful, yet powerful - beautiful, yet deadly. The FA-18A Classic Hornet is the mainstay of air defence in the Royal Australian Air Force. Originally designed for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, the Hornet is a flexible, multi role fast-jet fighter and attack aircraft. The FA-18A is identified as the "Classic" version of the aircraft to distinguish it from the FA-18F Super Hornet, which recently replaced RAAF F-111 strike aircraft.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Australian bloggers

The room was filled with Australian bloggers and a few who had travelled from overseas. There was a mood of excitement and anticipation as the day commenced and proceeded through seven master classes The Nuffnang Blogopolis took place on Saturday 30th July in Zinc at Federation Square, Melbourne.

In his presentation, Darren Rowse from ProBlogger observed that blogging conferences were rare in the early days of his blogging career. Previously, he would have travelled to the USA to meet face-to-face and share insights with other bloggers. Now, conferences about blogging, for bloggers, are occurring with increasing regularity in Australia.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Anyone for a duel?

Major Sir Thomas Mitchell's duelling pistols used in 1851.*

I dare say the residents of Melbourne, Australia, have their fair share of disagreements today. In early Melbourne, according to William H. Newnham, even though serious crime was seldom seen, "duels, shootings and horse-whippings were not unusual". He tells the story of one particularly memorable incident:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Religion in government schools - what do you think about that?

Inside St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne  image by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos. 

What is your view about the availability of religious education and chaplains in government schools?

Long established practices of Christian Religious Education (CRE) and chaplaincy in Australian government schools are currently being challenged. Under current legislation, government primary schools in the state of Victoria must provide CRE to their students if accredited volunteers are available to provide it. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dementia and loss of brain function - the spiritual dimension

Alzheimer and other dementias world map - DALY - WHO2004 (Wikimedia Commons Lokal_Profil, CC-BY-SA-2.5)

Australia's population is ageing. According to a forecast by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost a quarter of Australia's population will be over the age of 65 years by the middle of this century. Whilst the proportion of over 65s in the population is currently half that figure, a quarter of a million suffer from dementia or dementia-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dementia has touched my extended family and I know what it is like to attempt to communicate with someone, not knowing if they can hear and understand what I am saying to them. I also know what it is like to speak to a brain-damaged person who had been involved in a traumatic road accident. So much of communication relies on feedback. That feedback may be absent when we attempt to communicate with people suffering from dementia or brain trauma.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The 2011 Australian International Airshow

RAAF Roullettes Aerobatic Team, Flying the Pilatus PC-9/A in formation.

What a great experience the Avalon Airshow was this year. The Australian International Airshow at Avalon Airport, Victoria takes place every two years. This year, it took place from 1st to 6th March and included trade days for those with business and military interests in aviation and aerospace, careers information sessions for students and their teachers, and a weekend of fabulous entertainment and education for the general public.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Australia's Floods

Water, water everywhere! After years of drought, Australians are becoming familiar once again with rain - lots of it. We have seen devastating floods with massive, widespread destruction of homes, businesses and farms and sad news of lives lost.

Life continues for the majority of people affected, but lives have also been changed dramatically.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Specialist schools for Victoria?

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon and Brian Caldwell, former Dean of Education at the University of Melbourne, (The Age, 24/1/2011) say that we need more diversity and specialisation amongst our schools.

Do I think we need more specialist schools in Victoria? Definitely; providing adequate funding is provided across the entire government school system.