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I am currently visiting the sedate city of The Hague in The Netherlands, but the Kimberley region of western Australia seduced the wild side of me.

Down Under

My pickup for the eight-day Kimberley Wild loop trip was intended to be early, before eight, so I dropped my motel key in the box outside the office and ambled out to the main road to await the vehicle.  A call on my mobile phone came about half an hour later.  I was beginning to wonder if I had misunderstood the pickup time.

There would be a short delay.  It wasn’t short, as it turned out, but I wasn’t in any hurry. Our frazzled guide and driver pulled up about an hour late.  He had made his first (and only) mistake of the trip.  He had forgotten to close the back door 0f the monster bus and knocked it off its hinges.  After a few more pickups, we were on our way.

There were a baker’s dozen of us, including Anthony, our guide, driver, cook and mentor for the journey. …

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I suspect my population numbers are quite out-of-date since I wrote this back in 2009, but the rest of the piece is probably close enough to call it non-fiction.

Down Under

I have seen only a tiny portion of this immense continent–  a small part of Victoria, a stretch of Queensland from Cairns north to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree rainforest, a larger part of Tasmania.  During the last two weeks I have added an area of the northwest to my geographic portfolio– the Kimberley.

It is as large as Germany with a permanent population of about 45,000.  Paved highways are the exception rather than the rule, so when you travel on one you see virtually everyone moving along the same direction in the outback.  The region was featured in the film “Australia,” which took some hits for its script and direction but not for its scenery.  The Kimberley is spectacular.   At this time of year, it is also very hot.  The day before my departure from the region, I woke in the hottest place in Australia–  Fitzroy…

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Even though I penned these words seven years ago, I don’t think all that much has changed in any fundamental way. They are just beginning to deal with the issues here in Canada, so it is not surprising that Australia has shown a similar reluctance to deal with the first migrants to Australia– the Aboriginals.

Down Under

There are a number of myths which appear to have captured the collective imagination here in Australia. The idea behind the slogan in the title is that all newcomers get an equal opportunity to make something of themselves in this, the “lucky” land.  It is not dissimilar to the notion that drives the dreams of Americans.  Mark Watson, a historian from this country who spent a long time in America, found it deeply embedded in the psyche of just about every individual he met there. It amazed him that someone living inside a box on Broadway could still believe in the American dream, and tout the glorious opportunities at hand in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The mythology is a little more mundane here.  Perhaps the lack of a Hollywood dream factory, Silicon Valley phenomenon, or “Horatio Alger” myth (Australian readers will have to…

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It is seven years later and not much has changed in the financial world. The next financial crisis will be worse. Happy New Year!

Down Under

Wall street’s implosion has brought an economic thinker by the name of Nassim Nicholas Taleb back in the news.  A little over a year ago, his book, “The Black Swan:  The Impact of the Highly Improbable”  garnered a certain amount of attention in North America because of its startling implications on an American mental landscape dominated by ideology.  Taleb’s thesis was that we humans are highly susceptible to getting caught out by random events because we have such a strong tendency to discount their existence.

If you have spent your entire life in the northern hemisphere, you will conclude that swans are white.  And that will be true as long as you never go to Australia, where swans are black.  The difficulty is that we seem to be psychologically programmed to confuse improbability with impossibility.  Taleb suggests that this may be because evolution does not favor probabilistic thinking.  Not every…

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