Monday, November 21, 2005
But I strongly oppose the death penalty, and especially "Mandatory Execution" where a government stipulates that someone found guilty of a crime MUST be executed, without reference to any mitigating circumstances.
This is the case in Singapore today.
Van Nguyen is a convicted drug trafficker who will be hanged on 2 December 2005 unless by some miracle, the Singapore government changes its mind.
So far they have been unmoved by legal appeals, or by appeals for Clemency on moral or ethical grounds. So I fully support the efforts of Rights Australia to urge companies and people that hold significant investments with the Singapore government to lobby them.
Do you have an Optus phone, or internet account? Optus is 63% owned by the Singapore government. Other large Singapore concerns include SP Ausnet (Victorian Power Company) and Singapore Airlines. Click here for information about how you can ask these companies to support the campaign for clemency for Van Nguyen.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
If you want to know what you're looking at, hold your mouse over the picture, or click on the picture to go to the webcam site and get a larger picture, or more information.
Dublin is on the same time-zone as London. the times are on the top right of each photo, but you'll need to click on the photo and get the larger version of the picture to see the time.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
A year ago I hid a disposable camera in screw-top container in a tree stump in a local park, and left instructions on the internet for people to find the camera, take a picture of themselves, and put the camera back.
Yesterday I retrieved the camera and had the pictures developed. You can see the result here.
What an enjoyable experiment! A montage of people (and dogs) - most of whom I have never met, all having fun.
If you've never tried it, I'd heartily recommend geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com) - probably the most fun you can have with a GPS receiver. There are thousands of hidden "caches" like this all over the world - probably just down the road from where you live.
I've put another disposable camera at the same location, so if you feel like getting outdoors and having some fun, try finding my geocache called "Only the Lawnleis". You'll need to discover a little bit about the local history of the area before you can track down the final location. It's all on the site here.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Farewell to Utopia... for now.
I've spent the last six months in a strange place called Utopia.
People will tell you it's an online game where almost 1,500 teams (kingdoms) of up to 25 members (provinces) pit their warring skills against each other.
But it's much, much more than that.
There are plenty of articles already available on the internet about Utopia ( http://games.swirve.com/utopia), so I won't duplicate that here.
I found Utopia very addicitive because I was commited to a group of people who were also commited to me. I spent hours researching, planning, watching, fighting, because I didn't want to let my team down. I know they probably did the same as well.
I created a character called "The Wise Lady Sohpie" - an attacking woman who rose through the ranks to become a first a Baroness, then a Viscountess in July this year. I came to love Sophie (whose name means "Wisdom") because she reminded me of my wife Liz. Smart, strong and commited to friends. It felt a bit weird playing the part of a woman when I was a man, but I figured that this was a fantasy world, and my team mates didn't really care what I looked like in real life. I told any of them who asked. Apart from that, I just let Sophie do her thing.
The luckiest thing was that Sophie ended up in a kingdom called "Haven't Decided Yet". Don't let the name fool you - these guys are tough. Led by Wise King Roger, we won three wars this age, and three wars last age. Legend has it that in ancient days King Roger led his kingdom through a golden age where they never lost a war, and had other kingdoms fleeing in terror.
Our kingdom was blessed with some strange but fearsome creatures. I can't mention all of them here, and I know they'll forgive me for mentioning just a few of them. These are real people who I interacted with on an almost daily basis.
Baroness Tekeelya is a magical elf who has specialized in a life of crime. If you annoy her she can call down a storm of meteors from the sky to wreak havoc on your lands. But she can also kidnap your peasants, or rob you blind. She often gazes into her crystal ball to see things that many of her friends can not. On our Island of Mortov, there is none more honorable than she is. Honor in utopia is something that is fought hard for, and prized more highly than power or expansive lands.
The Great General Belgarion is an awesome attacking Orc who can capture land from armies much bigger than his. Many the time I've seen him return from battle having captured hundreds of acres. I've never seen him fail in an attack. Ever.
Lord Icron is a Halfling who recently decided to be a rogue. Don't let his size fool you. Icron's thieves are terrible. Many times they have snuck into an enemies lands at night to wipe out thousands of troops. In times of war, he spreads propaganda throughout an opposing army, demoralizing them and bringing them to their knees. He told me of his life in a previous age as an attacking Avian, and how he missed his "birdies", but I think he made an excellent Halfling.
And Wise King Roger... Of all the people in our land, his libraries are the biggest. His armies were busy most of the age, pillaging, looting, taking land, even stealing books for his libraries. He doesn't say much, but he knows how and when to pick a fight. Sophie was a sage like Roger, and I learned a lot from watching how Roger did things.
As a rule, I never play computer games. I spend enough time online doing my job. So this has been quite an experience for me.
But it has taken up so much of my time that I need a break from it for now.
I can't just spend less time on it per day, because Sophie's province wouldn't be as strong as it deserves to be. So the Wise Noble Lady Sophie is taking a vaction for a few months.
To the wonderful people of "Haven't Died Yet", I love you all. Thank you for letting me be part of your kingdom. You've taught me a lot, and I hope that I can join you again in future.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Every time I taste its smoky peaty flavour, in my mind I take a short trip to that little distillery on the windswept, rain-soaked, mystical coast of Skye.
If you ever feel like visiting, but can't afford it, buy a bottle of Talisker, close your eyes, take a sip, and you're there already.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
For a mind-blowing spiritual experience without any of the religious add-ons, why not try a total eclipse of the sun?
In December 2002, I indulged a lifelong dream and took my daughter Laura to a remote place on the Stuart Highway west of Woomera to observe a Total Eclipse of the Sun.
I am eternally grateful to Liz, who was very supportive of her "planet head"dreamer of a husband, and encouraged me to fly off to South Australia and leave her at home to look after two small kids.
We were originally going to Ceduna, but the forecast of cloudy weather caused us to change our plans and drive north from Adelaide into the desert rather than west to the Great Australian Bight.
7 hours north of Adelaide, there's no such things as clouds, rain, trees or even hills. It's just flat stony desert with lots of salt-plains thrown in for good measure. I took a video camera with me to film it, but didn't really do the event justice as I'd never attempted solar photography before.
Nevertheless, I managed to salvage a few meaningful pictures from the tape, which I put on a web page at:http://NeilEnnis.com/eclipse2002
Please bear in mind that the images were extracted from a video camera, so they're not as "professional" looking as those you'd get from a still camera. You can probably find much better pictures on the net, but these pictures mean a lot to me because I was there!
It was a very emotional experience.
I've read all the books about total eclipses, and thought I knew what to expect... but when it happened, it was still a wonderful shock.
The next total eclipse is in Libya and Turkey in March 2006. It will last over 4 minutes. I would love to experience it.... but it's a long way away!
Sunday, March 06, 2005
"My Dad can fix it", he said. "My Dad can fix anything".
I'm a hopeless handyman. The first guinnea pig cage I ever build ended up as a pile of wood and wire. So did the second one. The only time in my life I ever gave my car a grease and oil change was when my 18 year-old step son helped me. (He did all of the work, and I watched on and gave encouraging words when I thought it was appropriate.)
This little challenge from Harrison was quite a big one for me, but inside I was overjoyed the confidence that my 5 year old son had placed in me.
So I agreed, and did what I could to fix up the wheelbarrow. I gave it a fresh coat of paint, some new washers, some oil, and had a great time while Harrison watched on.
"That looks awesome, Dad!"
Wow - what a vote of confidence! What a privilage to be a father, and for a few precious, short years to be a little boy's hero. All it took was a couple of hours on my Saturday morning, and a few dollars, but the memory for me will last a lifetime.
Soon he will think that he knows better than me, and I'll just be an "oldie". But for now, I can do awesome things with wheelbarrows, I get to be a hero for a day, and Harrison will tell all his friends that his Dad fixed the wheelbarrow up.
Thanks a million, son!
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
If you sailed it, you'd probably measure about 75km because of all the bends in the river.
Despite this meandering, it is quite deep and navigable for its entire length. Large ships regularly make the journey.
Built in 1968, it is unusual in that it is a hybrid bridge (the technical term is "asymmetric cable-stayed").
One side boasts one huge "A" shaped pylon that is secured deep into the bedrock on the western side of the river. Cables from it support the weight of most of the bridge.
The eastern side of the Tamar is not as rocky as the other side, so this end of the bridge rests on a series of trusses.
This particular part of the river is known as "Whirlpool Reach". It is much narrower, and the currents can be very strong.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
(I think that glass is a bit big, Ewen).
It's a dream come true for Ewen and Elissa.
As long as I've known them, Ewen and Elissa have had a passion for excellent wine. Eight years ago, they decided to follow their dreams and bought a farm near Ballandean in Queensland's "Granite Belt" area. Working with Ewen's parents Bob and Jill, they have transformed the farm into Symphony Hill - a premium quality vineyard that is taking the Australian wine world by storm.
In addition to the swag of Gold Medals and trophies they have won around the country, their most recent triumph was a Gold Medal at the prestigious Sydney Royal Show wine competition.
This success story is the result of courage and determination. It takes a special breed of people to leave their secure professional jobs in the city, and borrow bucketloads of money to build their dream. Add to that the sheer determination and back breaking work that is needed to prepare the soil, build kilometers of trellises, and plant hectares of new vines.
In 2002 that dream was threatened by some of the worst bushfires that the area had seen, with the blaze coming perilously close to the vineyards. Miraculously, the vines came through unscathed.
Today, Symphony Hill Wines is testimony to Ewen and Elissa's uncompromising commitment to quality.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Glen McGrath took 4 wickets for a miserly 16 runs in the one-dayer against New Zealand today. This man's bowling is artwork on legs. He doesn't have the fiery pace of Bret Lee, but his unerring accuracy, and his grasp of the situation has saved Australia's bacon on many occasions, including today.
With two overs to go, 13 runs still to get and 4 wickets in hand, it seemed as though Australia was going to be on the receiving end of a Kiwi victory. But then Lee knocked over McCullun and Vettori in his 10th over, and McGrath claimed the scalps of Marshall and Tuffey in the 50th over.
McGrath just gets better and smarter with age.
To watch a young tallented sportsperson excel in their sport is exciting, but to watch an experienced master of the craft is inspirational.
Here's what the ABC had to say:
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
(Lilly checks herself out in the mirror. Taken with my mobile phone).
Of all the strange things that happen in the universe, there's one that is stranger than anything else.
On our small planet alone live more than 6 billion people. Another 6 billion people have already lived and died here. Yet of all those people that live, or have lived and died, one of them thinks that they are "me".
Billions of people experience the world, but by some wierd contortion of cosmic reaility I get to "be" one of those people. I get to see things through "my" eyes; hear things through "my" ears; touch, taste, smell and feel things from "my" perspective.
How did the 10,298,453,312th human to be born become "me"? Why me and not someone else?
Science can explain how we arrived here as a species. That in itself is strange enough. But can anyone explain where self-awareness came from?
Awareness of self brings with it both triumph and tragedy. While we exalt in experiencing the universe, we become painfully aware of our own mortality: a hundred and fifty years ago there was no "me" to experience things; a hundred and fifty years from now there will be no "me" again. We are all born, live and die.
All we have is the wonderful "now"!
Thursday, February 10, 2005
(The wreck of the Dicky, Dicky Beach, Caloundra).
I took this photo at sunrise with my Sony Ericsson mobile phone one morning while we were holidaying at Caloundra last winter. It's a beautiful part of the world to be in during the winter with no crowds, and very reasonable accommodation prices.
The Dicky was a 96 foot Iron Steamship built in Germany in 1883.
Ten years into her working life, she was caught in a heavy north-easterly storm off Caloundra Head in February 1893, and ran aground at what we now know as Dicky Beach.
Thankfully, all passengers and crew were saved.
Legend has it that the skipper of the Dicky had trouble with visibility during the storm, and mistakenly assumed that he had rounded Caloundra Head, when in fact it was still a long way off.
The engine from the Dicky was salvaged from the wreck and used in the "Lady Norman" - a larger Iron ship, almost 130 feet long. Lady Norman had a much longer life, eventually being scuttled in 1969 on Curtin Artificial Reef in Moreton Bay.
The lesson for us amatuer sailors is that stormy weather is treacherous. If a 226 ton Iron steamer can run aground in a storm, how much easier a lighter lady such as my own Myuna II (10 tonnes, 36 feet)?
As the saying goes, there are plenty of bold saiors, plenty of old sailors, but not many old, bold sailors.
I think I'll be extra careful in the next storm!
Thursday, February 03, 2005
(The North Pine River at Sunrise. I took this with a cheap digital camera while going
for a walk at about 5am one morning)
Liz is the love of my life.
I wrote this double acrostic for her during a difficult time for us.
They're difficult to write because the words are written in a square, and the first and last column of letters makes up a word - in this case a name. So each line has to have exactly the same number of letters, with the only leeway being that full-stops may have either one or two spaces after them to help keep the acrostic square.
They're worth the challenge. But so is life :)
Enduring hope of a shareD
Life with you gives extrA
Impetus to us.  No shadoW
Zones of despair can ruiN
An iron-strong tie insidE
Both of us.  Our love caN
Endure the many trials iN
This life that we face. I
Have faith in our onenesS
Friday, January 28, 2005
This song by Merle Travis is a great inspiration to not spend too much time in the office!
A great thought for a Friday afternoon.
DARK AS THE DUNGEON (Merle Travis)
Come all you young fellers so young and so fine
And seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mine
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul
'Til the blood of your veins runs as black as the coal
Where it's dark as the dungeon and damp as the dew
Where the dangers are many and the pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It's dark as the dungeon way down in the mines
It's many a man I have seen in my day
Who lived just to labor his whole life away
Like a fiend with his dope or a drunkard his wine
A man must have lust for the lure of the mine
I hope when I'm gone and the ages do roll
My body will blacken and form into coal
Then I'll look down from the door of my Heavenly home
And pity the miner a-digging my bones
The midnight, the morning, the breaking of day
Are the same to the miner who labors away.
Where the demons of death often come by surprise,
One slip of the slate and you're buried alive.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
It's great to sit on the verandah and appreciate this place we live in. We're so lucky.
I was very impressed with Lleyton Hewitt's victory in the Australian Open quarter final. That man has a huge heart. His determination is inspirational.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Waking up and not having to work out whether or not it's a "work day" or a "week end" is really relaxing.
The only problem is that you forget what's on TV....
...But I suppose that's a good thing.