Tag: Melbourne

Yet another Saturday Smile

Sent to me by dear friend Bob Derham.

(Apologies if some of you have seen this before!)



A WOMAN was flying from Melbourne to Brisbane.

Unexpectedly, the plane was diverted to Sydney along the way. The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft the plane would re-board in 50 minutes.

Everybody got off the plane except one lady who was blind.

A man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her Guide Dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her throughout the entire flight.

He could also tell she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her, and calling her by name, said, “Kathy, we are in Sydney for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?”

The blind lady replied, “No thanks, but maybe Buddy would like to stretch his legs.”

The pilot duly obliged Kathy.


All the people in the gate area came to a complete standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a Guide dog!
The pilot was even wearing sunglasses.

People scattered …
They not only tried to change planes, but they were trying to change airlines!


It is a true story!

Have a great day and remember … THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR.


Saturday smile time!

Cute beyond words!

Published on Jul 13, 2017

5-month-old Angus the Golden Retriever loves his local beach on Port Phillip Bay in Seaford, Melbourne. After seeing crabs run through the shallows he chases straight for them, frantically trying to catch what he spotted. Awesome!

Have a great weekend!

Entropia, a review.

A review of the new book by Dr. Samuel Alexander.

Back last November, not long after Jean and I had moved up to Oregon, I saw this on the PRI website: The Sufficiency Economy – Envisioning a Prosperous Way Down. Very quickly I realised the importance of the essay and contacted the author requesting permission to republish on Learning from Dogs.  That author was Dr. Samuel Alexander and permission was quickly given, leading to two essays: The simpler life and Where less is so much more.

Now fast forward to nearly a month ago and in came this email:

Samuel Alexander here, from the Simplicity Institute. I’ve recently published a new book, Entropia: Life Beyond Industrial Civilisation. Was wondering whether you were interested in posting either a review or an excerpt on your website?

I was flattered to have been asked and delighted to review the book.

First, some background. samuelalexanderDr. Alexander is a part-time lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne, Australia. He teaches a course called ‘Consumerism and the Growth Paradigm: Interdisciplinary Perspectives’ in the Masters of Environment.

He is also co-director of the Simplicity Institute and co-founder of Transition Coburg. He writes regularly at the Simplicity Collective and posts most of his academic essays at www.TheSufficiencyEconomy.com.



After the review was completed, I forwarded it to Sam just to check that I hadn’t made any technical errors.  Within Sam’s reply to that email was his acknowledgement that his book fell into a genre that was not easily classified.  Ergo, the book being fiction yet not a novel.  Sam went on to muse that perhaps he should have been clearer about what the reader was going to get.  He wondered if my review should mention that aspect.  I said that I wouldn’t amend my review but would include an introduction to that effect, as now witnessed!

So to the review.  (Note: For some reason, I was unable to prevent the paragraph spacing from being deleted in the published version.  Hence the insertion of a single ‘-‘ after each paragraph.)



Entropia – Life Beyond Industrial Civilisation by Samuel Alexander

A review by Paul Handover

The title of the book didn’t offer this reader any clue about what might be coming. Nevertheless, very soon an experience of an ‘ah-ha’ moment arrived. Right on page one of the Acknowledgements when this sentence jumped off the page: “Henry Thoreau has been by far the greatest influence on my worldview, for it was he who awakened me to the insight that ‘superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only’.” [my emphasis] Wow, what an intriguing turn of phrase about wealth.

I plunged into the Prologue:

After the poets were banished from Plato’s Republic it is said that they set sail into unknown horizons in search of a new place to call home.

Shortly later reading:

But life proceeds in twists and turns, not straight lines. After losing consciousness in the midst of this perfect storm, the lost poets found themselves washed ashore on a small,fertile island, which was uninhabited and isolated entirely from the rest of civilisation. The boundless opportunities presented by this merciful twist of fate were immediately clear to all.

Some people believe this simple living community flourishes peacefully to this day, lost to the world in its own harmonious, aesthetic existence. But like Atlantis, the Isle of Furor Poeticus, as it has come to be known, has never been found.

* * *

The Isle of Furor Poeticus is a utopian romance of course – a myth. But we should remember that human existence has always been shaped and guided by myths and stories, so let us not dismiss the story of the lost poets too quickly or proudly. After all, we may not be so free from superstitions of our own. Modernity’s ‘myth of progress’ might itself just be a story we have been telling ourselves in recent centuries, one in fact that could soon be dismissed as a story no longer worth telling. Indeed, perhaps that book is closing before our very eyes – has already closed – leaving us to reflect on its themes from beyond as we step forth into unknown pages. And yet, it seems we have not found a new story by which to live. We are the generation in-between stories, desperately clinging to yesterday’s story but uncertain of tomorrow’s. Adrift in the cosmos, without a narrative in which to lay down new roots, humanity marches on – lost and directionless. But then again, perhaps the new words we need are already with us. Perhaps we just need to live them into existence.

Beautiful, magical writing right up to the closing sentences of the Prologue:

By choosing to do so we could again become the poets of our own lives and of a new generation, instead of merely reading out a pre-written script to an audience that is no longer listening. So open your mind, gentle reader, for the future is but clay in the hands of our imaginations.

We are being called to make things new. [again, my emphasis]

The novel, for it is a work of fiction, opens in substance with the account of Mortimer Flynn, a wealthy Texas oil magnate and son and only child of a Welsh coal industrialist, who having achieved “everything of which he had ever dreamed” comes to the realisation that he has no idea at all as to the purpose of his life. From this life-changing reassessment of his journey, his profound crisis of conscious, comes the purpose of the book. A story of a group of people who settle down in a remote South Pacific island, the island of Entropia. A “story about a community that became isolated on its small island in the wake of industrial civilisation’s collapse, during the third decade of the twenty-first century.”

Now, it’s fair to say that at this point I was truly hooked on the book. This was going to be the read of my life. Because it reflected my own belief that humanity was at the point, perhaps beyond the point, where the growing threats to our natural world threatened our moral obligations to the generations that follow.

However, somewhere during the second chapter, the style of writing started to intrude into my absorption of the story. At first the intrusion was more like a fly buzzing around; a minor irritation. Then it got to the stage where I had to stop reading and ponder on why I felt so uncomfortable with this reading experience. I was by now well into the third chapter.

Still couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was. Returned to the book but noticed that I was skim reading and had forcibly to focus on fully reading each page. After all, I was reading the book for review purposes!

Then it struck me. There were no characters coming to life off the page. Consequently, there was no dialogue. It didn’t read like a novel, much more like a report. That was the key to me re-establishing my relationship with the story; the book. Because despite the unusual style for a work of fiction, the value inherent in the pages was beyond measure. Here was a book that described in great detail the way a community discovered the reality of a sustainable way of life. How this group of a couple of thousand souls reinvented a society, a sustainable society, out of the ashes of a failed industrial civilisation.

I read on.

Later on the book described how the community looked at the way they governed themselves, how they set up representative systems and then, on page 119, came something that really punched me in the face, figuratively speaking. It was introduced, thus:

Eventually a short constitutional document was drafted by the Advisory Council and put to a referendum by the People’s Council, and this document received 94 per cent support. It is reproduced in its entirety below, as it serves as the best summary of our social, economic and political vision.

And proceeded:

Charter of the Deep Future



We affirm that providing ‘enough, for everyone, forever’ is

the defining objective of our economy, which we seek to

achieve by working together in free association.


We affirm that everyone is free to create as an aesthetic

project the meaning of their own lives, while acknowledging

that this freedom legitimately extends only so far as others

can have the same freedom. Freedom thus implies restraint.


We affirm that our inclusive democracy does not

discriminate on such grounds as race, ethnicity, gender,

age, sexuality, politics, or faith.


We affirm that generations into the deep future are entitled

to the same freedoms as present generations.


We affirm that respecting the deep future requires maintaining

a healthy environment.


We affirm that technology can help to protect our

environment only if it is governed by an ethics of sufficiency,

not an ethics of growth. Efficiency without sufficiency is lost.


We affirm that maintaining a healthy environment requires

creating a stationary state economy that operates within

environmental and energy limits.


We affirm that a stationary state means stabilising

consumption and population, transitioning to renewable

sources of energy, and adapting to reduced energy supply.


We affirm that strict limits on material accumulation are

required if a stationary state is to maintain a just distribution

of resources and avoid corrosive inequalities.


We affirm that property rights are justifiable only to the

extent they serve the common good, including the overriding

interests of humanitarian and ecological justice.


We affirm that a stationary state economy depends on a

culture that embraces lifestyles of material sufficiency and

rejects lifestyles of material affluence.


We affirm that material sufficiency in a free society provides

the conditions for an infinite variety of meaningful, happy,

and fulfilling lives.


Well that had such an impact on this reader. For this reason. The contrast between the reality of our present 21st Century life and the lives of those souls on Entropia was like night versus day. Enough, For everyone, Forever. If ever we needed a new cry from the heart, a new cry of hope and purpose, it was now and those are the words of that cry.

Entropia is a book you should read. It is a book that offers much hope, much guidance and much direction. As Samuel Alexander wrote on page 148, “Tranquillity and angst are both contagious, so it matters which of them we feed.

Time to feed that tranquillity.


Half empty, or half full?

Life has a habit of reflecting our own perceptions back to us.

Dear friend, Bob Derham, can always be counted on to forward something amusing or inspirational.  The Boxing Day smile was an example of the former.  Today is an example of the latter.


woman carrying water 2

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.

‘I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.’

The old woman smiled, ‘Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?’

”That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.’

For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.

Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’

Each of us has our own unique flaw.  But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

So, to all of my cracked pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!


Nothing more one can add to that.  Well, sorry, there is one thing I can add.  That is that dogs love us with all our flaws and quirkiness.

Hearing clearly?

Perhaps intuition is all we have to hear clearly.

John O’Donohue, in yesterday’s post, touched on the essence of today’s theme, “The greatest philosophers admit that to a large degree all knowledge comes through the senses. The senses are our bridge to the world.

Dogs, of course, demonstrate powerfully how their senses provide a ‘bridge to the world’.

This odd collection of writings (ramblings?)  that comprise Learning from Dogs is based around the ‘i’ word – Integrity.  The banner on the home page proclaims Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them. Ergo, dogs offer a powerful metaphor for the pressing need for integrity among those that ‘manage’ our societies.

Thus my senses are more tuned, than otherwise, to the conversations in the world out there that support the premise that unless we, as in modern man, radically amend our attitudes and behaviours, then the species homo sapiens is going to hell in a hand-basket!

End of preamble!

Professor Bill Mitchell is one person who recently touched my senses.  As his Blog outlines he is an interesting fellow,

(Photo taken in August 2011 in Melbourne, Australia)

Bill Mitchell is the Research Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW Australia.

He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band – Pressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band reformed in late 2010.

He also plays with a Newcastle swing blues band – The Blues Box. You can find music and other things on his Home Page.

Professor Mitchell’s Blog is not for the faint-hearted, it can be pretty technical at times.  Nevertheless, I have been a daily subscriber for a couple of months now.

On the 24th, Prof. Bill wrote a long article under the heading of ‘What if economists were personally liable for their advice‘.  I want to quote a little from that article.  Starting with,

Economists have a strange way of writing up briefing documents. There is an advanced capacity to dehumanise economic advice and ignore the most important economic and social problems (unemployment and poverty) in favour of promoting non-issues (like public debt ratios). It reminds me sometimes of how the Nazis who were brutal in the extreme in the execution of their ideology sat around getting portraits of themselves taken with their loving families etc. The training of economists creates an advanced state of separation from human issues and an absence of empathy.

In a sense, we all understand this, this use of language to separate us from our collective humanity.  A random Google search came up with this.  A statement by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to Parliament on the 24th regarding Europe, as in,

Mr Speaker, let me turn to yesterday’s European Council.

This European Council was about three things.

Sorting out the problems of the Eurozone.

Promoting growth in the EU.

And ensuring that as the Eurozone develops new arrangements for governance, the interests of those outside the Eurozone are protected.

This latter point touches directly on the debate in this House later today, and I will say a word on this later in my statement.

Resolving the problems in the Eurozone is the urgent and over-riding priority facing not only the Eurozone members, but the EU as a whole – and indeed the rest of the world economy.

Britain is playing a positive role proposing the three vital steps needed to deal with this crisis – the establishment of a financial firewall big enough to contain any contagion; the credible recapitalisation of European banks; and a decisive solution to the problems in Greece.

Read the last paragraph.  Wonderful words that seem to make sense to the casual listener but picking up on Prof. Bill, an utter ‘separation from human issues and an absence of empathy‘.  There is no humanity in those words from the British Prime Minister.  We all know there are hundreds of other examples from mouthpieces all across our global society.  Back to Bill Mitchell’s article,

Linkiesta say:

Greece has failed. To say this is not another report of investment banks or research centers, but directly Troika officials who have just completed their review on Hellenic public finance. Linkiesta is in possession of the entire report of the troika, composed of officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission.

I have a rule of thumb that I use when considering documents such as these. The rule is to assess how strong the concern for unemployment is. How often is unemployment mentioned? The answer is zero. The document never mentions the word or concept.

So obsessed are the Troika and their bean counters about public debt stabilisation that they have completely lost sight of one of the worst problems an economy can encounter – the failure to generate work for all.

Read those last words again, “completely lost sight of one of the worst problems an economy can encounter – the failure to generate work for all“.  One last extract from the article,

There is absolutely no historical evidence which shows that when all nations are contracting or stagnant and private spending is flat (or contracting) that cutting public spending will create growth.

So why did these economists think that a nation would grow when all components of spending were strongly indicated to fall or were being actually cut? The answer lies in acknowledging that they operate in an ideologically blinkered world and are never taken to account for their policy mistakes. They are unaccountable and do not suffer income losses when the nations they dispense advice to and impose policies on behave contrary to the “expectation” which results in millions being unemployed.

In my view, my profession should be liable for the advice it gives and economists should be held personally liable for damages if their advice causes harm to other individuals. If the economists in the IMF and elsewhere were held personally responsible then the advice would quickly change because they would be “playing” with their own fortunes and not the fortunes of an amorphous group of Greeks that they have never met.

Very powerful words that strike at the heart of the matter, that of integrity. (If you want to read it in full, then the article is here.)

Let me move on a little.  The 24th also saw a powerful essay on Yves Smith’s Blog Naked Capitalism, from Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer living in Dublin, Ireland.  Here’s a taste of what Mr. Pilkington wrote.

Every now and then a terrible thought enters my mind. It runs like this: what if the theatre of the Eurocrisis is really and truly a political power-game being cynically played by politicians from the core while the periphery burns?

Yes, of course, we can engage in polemic and say that such is the case. But in doing so we are trying to stoke emotion and generally allowing our rhetorical flourish to carry the argument. At least, that is what I thought. I had heard this rhetoric; I had engaged in it to some extent myself; but I had never really believed it. Only once or twice, in my nightmares, I had thought that, maybe, just maybe, it might have some truth.

Can you see the parallels between Prof. Mitchell and Philip Pilkington?  The latter wrote, “a political power-game being cynically played by politicians from the core while the periphery burns“, the former wrote, “If the economists in the IMF and elsewhere were held personally responsible then the advice would quickly change because they would be “playing” with their own fortunes and not the fortunes of an amorphous group of Greeks that they have never met.”

It’s clearly obvious to all those that have commented to both the Bill Mitchell and Philip Pilkington items.  That is, in my words, a complete lack of integrity, truth and a commitment to serve the people, from so many in places of influence and power.

We all sense this, hear it so clearly, a separation from human issues and an absence of empathy.

We have so much to learn, so much sense to learn, from dogs!


Footnote.  Had just completed the above when I came across a piece by Patrick Cockburn in last Sunday’s Independent newspaper, that starts thus,

World View: A sense of injustice is growing. Elite politicians and notorious wrongdoers appear immune as ordinary Greeks reel from wage and job cuts

Up close, the most striking feature of the reforms being forced on Greece by its international creditors is their destructiveness and futility. The pay cuts, tax rises, cuts and job losses agreed to by parliament in Athens last week will serve only to send the economy into a steeper tailspin, even if it extracted a much-needed €8bn in bailout money from the EU leaders. “Nothing but a lost war could be worse than this situation,” one left-wing ex-minister tells me. “What is worse, no party or political group in Greece is offering real solutions to our crisis.

Say no more!