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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 73, August 2014

Harry Russell Edouard Devert. The saga is over. All that is left is the final farewell.

As much as Harry meant to me, if you only click one link in this newsletter make it Online and Alone. This is a message for everyone. My number two is probably The Box Trap. Finally, the first item in the Technology section just might save your life.

Note. The NY Times allows non-subscribers to look at ten free articles each month. I've got more links than that in this newsletter so I've marked them with a red asterisk (*) so that you can choose which are of most interest to you.

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In this issue

Harry Russell Edouard Devert

The remarkable young man who was my only nephew is no more. As we had long feared, he was murdered in Mexico. His remains were found and identified last month. I am now with my sister in New York as we prepare for a memorial service in his honour.

It's not just a proud uncle who called him 'remarkable'. There have been several stories about him — he even got a mention in the NT News — but by far the best, the one that really tells just who he was, was a blog written by Louise Stewart in the online version of Newsweek. That story was called The Untimely Death of World Traveler Harry Devert. While the ending is tragic, the story is well worth reading. There is a lesson there for us all.

The Help Find Harry and Harry Devert Facebook pages are both full of tributes and stories that give more of an insight into the kind of person he was. When I read Shoot for the Stars, I couldn't help but think of Harry.

While his adventuring went far beyond anything I ever did, my adventuring was one of he inspirations for his. I am proud of that and hope to keep going for as long as mind and body allow. I'll finish this with Harry's motto.

Love your life.

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Last Trips for 2014

We have only two trips with space available before Christmas.

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How Sweet It Is

Earlier this year, New Scientist ran an article called Sugar on trial: What you really need to know. It began, "It has been called toxic, addictive and deadly, the driving force behind obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Is sugar really so bad?"

There is no question that the average westerner eats far more sugar than is healthy but it turns out that artificial sweeteners maybe even worse.

"Intuitively, people choose non-caloric artificial sweeteners over sugar to lose or maintain weight. Sugar provides a large amount of rapidly absorbable carbohydrates, leading to excessive energy intake, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome. Sugar and other caloric sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup have been cast as the main culprits of the obesity epidemic. Whether due to a successful marketing effort on the part of the diet beverage industry or not, the weight conscious public often consider artificial sweeteners 'health food'. But do artificial sweeteners actually help reduce weight?

Surprisingly, epidemiologic data suggest the contrary. Several large scale prospective cohort studies found positive correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain."

The quote above is from a paper Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings which was published in the Yale Journal of Biology & Medicine

A less technical paper with the same conclusions, Artificial Sweeteners Cause Greater Weight Gain than Sugar, Yet Another Study Reveals suggests that artificial sweeteners can
— Stimulate your appetite
— Increase carbohydrate cravings
— Stimulate fat storage and weight gain

Want to lose weight?

Diet drinks won't help but there is a surprisingly simple diet that will. The idea seems to be, eat as much as you like of anything you want five days a week but don't eat much on the other two. (The two 'fast days' don't have to be consecutive.

Dr Michael Mosley who has featured in a number of TV documentaries in Australia has a website the 5:2 fast diet which explains this in lots of detail. There are apparently a number of other benefits which I believe you can get from fasting only one day if you don't need to lose weight.

If anyone who reads this newsletter has tried Mosley's 'fast diet', I'd be interested in hearing what they think of it.

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Killing with Kindness

"Killing" might be an exaggeration but considering rising obesity levels and the damage that causes to health, maybe it's not a big one. If we aren't killing our children, we are damaging them. Fortunately, some are beginning to fight back. Here are two good articles from The Age.

I grew up on the edge of a park in the New York City suburbs. I remember wonderful times, spending long hours spent in the woods near my home. Times change. On return visits over the years, I sadly watched as the trails of my youth became overgrown from lack of use. People either no longer had the time or were afraid to go into the woods. All life depends on Nature to survive. Can our society survive if we allow ourselves to become so disconnected from Nature that we destroy the very things that provide us with the food, water and air we need to survive?

I think kids need nature. That's why I offer special family trips. That's why I recently completely revamped my Walking with Children page to try and better show what it's like and why it's important. If you have children or grandchildren who might enjoy a walk, bring them along. Let them connect with nature in a way that they could never do in a city.

Final note. There is going to be more. I have new photos and videos of children on trips that should go onto the website later this year.

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El Niño is Coming

Back in May, New Scientist ran a story called World is unprepared for major El Niño later this year. El Niños tend to bring drought to Australia and places like California which is already in the grip of a severe drought. There are things which people could do to prepare, but, for the most part nothing is being done.

Drought in Australia often brings more severe bushfires. Every year the Victorian Government burns large areas of bush under the banner of protecting human lives and assets, but is this really what is happening? A video, Victoria prescribed burns suggests that not only is the prescribed burning ineffective, it is also incredibly destructive to our native wildlife.

Warning! The video contains disturbing images of animals which have been burned to death. It is not for the squeamish but it is the reality.

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Mobile Phones Can Kill

Parents may be afraid of strangers and the outdoors, but a mobile phone is much more likely to result in the death of their children.

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The Build Up and the Wet

The Build Up

Even in this, the hottest time of year, there are a few beautiful, cool, shady creeks and gorges where the bushwalker can relax and watch the birds as they come in for a drink or listen to the cicada chorus which announces the coming change. Knowledgeable locals head bush at every opportunity, leaving the ignorant to swelter in the city. Our routes have been chosen with relaxation, swimming and shade in mind. Walking will generally be restricted to early in the morning and late in the afternoon. The hot middle part of the day will devoted to taking it easy and soaking up the sights and sounds of the environment around us. Wherever possible, we will start walking early in the morning and have long lunch breaks where you can read, relax, swim and enjoy the bush around you.

Our Build Up page has lots of additional information to help you understand why I personally enjoy walking at this time of year. We have only one Build Up trip still available, Kakadu Highlights No. 12: 27 October - 8 November. I enjoy it. I don't have to pay myself a wage so I'll run it for as few as three people at no extra charge. Not only that, in addition to our normal advance purchase and other discounts, I'll take an extra $200 off the price ($100 for a single section) for anyone who quotes this newsletter when they book.
Note. If we do not have three bookings by 23 August, the trip will be cancelled.

The Wet

The true wet season normally runs from late December through to near the end of March. Many local bushwalkers believe that this is the best time to go bushwalking. I'm one of them. We have experienced it and we know. If you have even the slightest curiosity as to what The Wet is like, you owe it to yourself to have a good look at our wet season pages. You can't do them justice on a mobile phone, so don't try.

Easy, hard or in between. The climate allows us to offer a greater variety of trips during The Wet than at any other time.

Note. We will be making a few changes to the itinerary for both the Kimberley Coast Explorer and Kakadu Light.

Some of our costs have gone up fairly substantially. Booking any 2015 trip before we work out the new prices will save you money.

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Online and Alone

Online and Alone — the video everyone needs to see.
Children are growing up in a world where they don’t play outside or communicate with their friends. It seems today everything is done via text message or over the internet. It’s heartbreaking… We need to spread this message before it’s too late. Please do your part and SHARE it with everyone you know.

Staying Home, Connected to the World *
"One of the paradoxes of technology is that it connects us and isolates us at the same time. We get more, faster, but cannot help wondering if that is always better. We have more to read and more to watch, more to learn and more to transact, more friends and more followers — and yet we can somehow feel less satisfied."
This is a well balanced article looking at some of the pros and cons of the new technology that is taking over our lives.

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More Thoughts on Our Society

Below, in no particular order, are a few stories about our society, what's good and what's not so good. I don't know where the second one came from, but it's one of the best pieces in this newsletter.

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Cane Toads

New Scientist recently ran the best story about cane toads and their impact that I've seen, Aliens versus predators: The toxic toad invasion.

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Here are a few technology tales that I found interesting. The first might save your life. Some of the others might save you money.

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Missing — Much More Than One Airliner

The remains of Malaysian airlines MH370 which disappeared last March may or may not ever be found. It is far from the only aircraft to disappear.

We never needed to lose track of MH370. The Technology Is Out There, but Satellites Don't Track Jets *
"The airline industry has sophisticated tools to follow planes and stream data from their flight recorders. But given cost and the general safety of air travel, neither the airlines nor regulators have adopted them."

An airliner is big, but it's tiny compared to the Lyubov Orlova a 100 m ship that simply disappeared. Last October, New Scientist ran an article How did we lose a 1400-tonne ocean liner? which told the tale. The ship still hasn't been found. While it may now be on the ocean floor, it could still be afloat. "A Swedish steamer called the Baychimo. Abandoned in pack ice in 1931, it was seen drifting at various points along the Alaskan coast for more than 30 years. It was last sighted in 1969."

What will we lose next?

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Australia — Our Future

We live in the lucky country. Our economy is the envy of most of the western world. But "she'll be right mate" isn't going to keep us going forever.

Our economy is heavily dependent on mining and housing. Iron ore is one of our big exports and has been one of the drivers of our economy for years. Australian Economy: Saudi Arabia or Sierra Leone? suggests that these might be about to change.

Housing in Australia is among the most expensive in the world. Many outsiders see our house prices as a bubble which has yet to burst. Home buyer beware: the illusion of affordability says "Housing might seem affordable at first glance, but record low interest rates won't be here forever, and without them, the picture is decidedly more bleak."

Our government has approved a huge coal mining development which is likely to have a destructive impact on the Great Barrier Reef. Properly managed, tourism can generate jobs for decades. Are we to sacrifice that for coal exports when, Beijing's coal ban may herald the end of the fuel. Almost all politicians look to the short term, not the long term. That may work if you plan to be in office for a few years, but it's not so good if you plan to still be alive in 20 or 30 years time.

The Australian Economy Depends on China

The Australian economy is linked to China to a greater degree than almost any other western economy. China has problems. Two of the best analyses of these problems I've seen were in recent John Mauldin newsletters. Some of the content is fairly technical, but if you want a better idea of how changes in China may affect us, they are worth reading.


I may not have any answers, but I do have lots of questions. If more people don't start asking those questions, our future won't be anywhere near as good as it could and should be.

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Real Heroes

"There are people who do not try to improve the world, which is not only hopeless, but also vain and disastrous. Instead, real heroes do what they can to improve the world around them."

Sometimes you can find words of wisdom in surprising places. Sometimes a single person can make an incredible difference. The first two below are from the Daily Reckoning, not a place where I'd expect to find inspiration, but find it I did. The third says that, at least for now, the people of southern Chile have won a battle to protect their homes and land from a huge industrial project.

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Russell's Bucket List

My nephew had a 'bucket list' of places he wanted to visit and things he wanted to do. I am not exactly young any more so I thought I might take some inspiration from Harry's life and create a bucket list of my own while I'm still fit and healthy enough to think about doing them. In no particular order, here are a few of them.

There are more, but those are the first ones that come to mind. If any of those appeal to you, please send me an email and let me know.

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Amazing Places & Things

20 Places on Earth that Don't Look Real is an amazing collection of photos which need to be viewed on a large screen to do them justice. Number 11 is the first on my bucket list above.

The story behind the earthrise photo from 1968
One of the most famous photos of all time almost didn't happen.

6 of America's Most Dangerous Hiking Trails is a page from the Sierra Club in the US. Amazingly, one of those trails is only a two hour drive from where I'm typing this. Getting from one end to the other without a car shuffle is difficult but there are a number of shorter loops that I might be able to use to do part of the trail.

Breathtaking Driftwood Horse Sculptures by James Doran-Webb
These are truly amazing as well as incredibly beautiful. You owe it to yourself to have a look.

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News About This Newsletter


Before I finish one newsletter, I'm already working on the next. I often find that I've got too many interesting things for a single newsletter. I'm also always looking for other interesting items I can add. I'm particularly interested in environmental issues, especially those which might affect bushwalking and in the technology which is shaping our lives. As I said in the last newsletter, Suggestions welcome.

Sending the newsletter

While I now send most of the newsletters using MailChimp, I still send about 200 newsletters using a program which is hosted on the same server that hosts our website. In both cases, the newsletters are sent from walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au. This is the contact address on our website. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

For some reason, some servers block the newsletters no matter what you try and do. I send these in small groups from my normal email. It's not a simple problem. If anyone thinks they might have an idea how to overcome the problem, I'd love to hear from you.

Emails sent to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au are currently automatically forwarded to rrwillis at internode.on.net. If you want to send an email to that address, replace the word "at" with the symbol @. I am trying not to put that address any place where it can be harvested by spam bots.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

Note. Both MailChimp and the other program we use to send some of these newsletters have an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. One of the programs will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be removed from all further mailings, please send an email to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them. The more people who get it, the more likely it is that I'll be able to run the trips which might interest you.

Best wishes to all.
Russell Willis

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