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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 82, January 2016

"What you see and what you read becomes what you are." Maybe that's part of why I produce this newsletter. Speaking of which, see News About this Newsletter for an announcement about the next one.

Below you will find special offers and special trips and something very different, Morality — What Kind of Society Do We Want? Click the links and follow me on a journey beyond the normal scope of what gets into this newsletter.

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.

PS. There is a way around websites like the New York Times and Sydney Morning Herald which try to impose a limit on the number of free articles you read without subscribing. If you clear your browsing history it resets the count so you can start the count all over again.

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In this issue

Going, Going — Gone!

If you compared the trip list which was on my website when the last newsletter went out with the current one, you would see that many trips have disappeared and a few new ones have arrived. More are going to go.

I no longer have the guides I'd need to run them all. I'm going to be leading some long overseas trips myself and don't have any full time person to take my place in the office. Once I get a few bookings, I will cancel overlapping trips that I might not be able to cover if the trip which got the bookings goes ahead. So .... get in early if a particular trip interests you.

16 January 2016

This is the big day. In addition to closing bookings for the three wet season trips below, the following will be cancelled unless they have at least two bookings.

You can always see which trips have bookings by looking at our Availability and Specials page.

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Wet Season Super Special New Year Offers

Only three trips remain available. The first two are definite departures. The third needs only one more booking to run. Bookings close for all three trips on 16 January.

Limited space! When our currently booked charter transport is full, these offers end.

See below for discount prices. None of our normal discounts apply with these offers.

If you have ten or twenty minutes to spare and want a better idea of what walking in the Wet is really like, have a look at our Wet Season page. When you get to the bottom, click the link to the next page. When you get to the end of that, go to the third. The three pages should be enough to dispel some of the myths about what our wet season is really like.

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You Are What You Eat

The New Year is a time for resolutions, many of which are about diet. Here are some of the more interesting articles about diet that I've seen recently. Some of them might make you want to rethink some of your ideas. No particular order, but every one worth a read.

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Technology — What Are We Doing to Our Children ... and Ourselves?


Is the digital learning revolution a waste of money?
"Growing evidence suggests that computer technology in schools is of no educational benefit."

In our drive to measure everything, sometimes we miss the things that really matter. Skills in Flux * is about much more than education but it leads off with the example of a teacher whose results made her the best performing teacher in the Los Angeles. "The skills she possessed were invisible. Meanwhile, less important traits were measured on her evaluations." As a former teacher, I have a nasty suspicion that all of the paperwork that goes with teaching means that teachers who are good at filling out forms get rated higher than those who can inspire children to want to learn.

Social Media

'Quarter-life crises affecting those in 20s
"Young adults are crumbling under the pressure of everyday life. Facebook and cotton wool parenting could be responsible"
Social media 'creates a lonely existence'
"They are the most connected electronically and disconnected emotionally..."

Kids 'trying to fit in' with dangerous fire craze
"The need to be noticed is a human thing and so is the need to belong." Without digital selfies, this wouldn't have become such a craze.

Anyone can now search your Facebook posts
Lots of people post things, then forget about them. Now, if you've ever posted anything you might regret, someone can find it if they have any idea what to look for. This brings us ever closer to the world portrayed in The Circle which I mentioned in my last newsletter.

Digital Detox

Digital detox: five steps to help you disconnect
"We called in a psychologist to help explain how to take time out from technology." Personally, I think it's a bit sad when people are so addicted to being online that they need something like this.

Algorithms and Prejudices

When Algorithms Discriminate *
"The online world is shaped by forces beyond our control, determining the stories we read on Facebook, the people we meet on OkCupid and the search results we see on Google. Big data is used to make decisions about health care, employment, housing, education and policing." The algorithms that determine what we are shown can reinforce our prejudices. I think it's important to try and step out of our comfort zones every once in a while.

Using Algorithms to Determine Character *
"Computers aren't just doing hard math problems and showing us cat videos. Increasingly, they judge our character. Maybe we should be grateful."

Speaking of reinforcing prejudices...
Not Necessarily the News is an amazing list of things which have appeared on the internet as 'news'. It's scary, but there are people who believe every single one of them.

If you are ever in doubt about something you find on the internet, snopes.com is a good site to check whether or not it really is true.

Big Brother

Big Brother — I wonder how many of my younger readers remember where that came from and what it meant. Click the link if you're not sure.

Inside China's plan to give every citizen a character score
"WHERE you go, what you buy, who you know, how many points are on your driving license: these are just a few of the details that the Chinese government will track — to give scores to all its citizens."
People in the West are often tracked just as relentlessly — but by corporations seeking profits.

It's not just China. Something similar has begun in Australia. "It is now 100% legal for the Australian government to have access to your metadata. This is information your service provider must keep for at least two years. And it includes
• Any subscriber details for services including names, addresses, contact details and payment information
• The source and destination of communications
• The date, time and duration of a communication
• The type of communication or service used — SMS, voice, email, chat, ADSL, WiFi, VoIP, etc.
• The location of equipment used in connection with a communication

The above came from Could Your Metadata Get You Killed? It Has for Some

Personally, while I don't agree with everything in the article, I think that the government has gone a bit over the top with this legislation. Read it through to the end, then see what you think.

The author claims that the US orders drone strikes based on their metadata and that they miss their targets a lot of the time. I started to do some checking. I can't be 100% sure of the truth, but what I found is not something that would inspire confidence in a government.
• From the Huffington Post, Nearly 90 Percent Of People Killed In Recent Drone Strikes Were Not The Target
• From digitaltrends.com, Up to 90 pct of U.S. drone strikes hit the wrong target, major leak reveals
  Similar to the one in the Huffington Post but with some additional interesting detail.
• From The Guardian, 41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes — the facts on the ground

I'm not happy with what I read, but I'm glad that I live in a society where things like this can be exposed.

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The Green Centre

Recently, I had a chat to someone who had recently been canoeing on the Finke River in central Australia. Canoeing in the desert! Good rain at the end of last year mean that this will be a very good year to go for a walk in the centre.

It's more than the Larapinta! The person I was talking to is a member of the Central Australian Bushwalkers. She told me that it's getting harder and harder to find people who want to do some real adventuring off the beaten track. The Larapinta has become so popular that people forget that there are many other places, often more interesting places, that are well worth walking. We offer four different trips, only one of which includes a part of the Larapinta Trail (along with some even more spectacular bits which aren't on the trail). Have a look at what we offer and see if you might be interested in joining us.

All of these trips take you off the beaten track into some of the most spectacular parts of the Centre. But, if I had to pick the one which has the greatest variety, I'd have to choose Watarrka. if you've never heard of Watarrka, click the link and you'll see that you have almost certainly heard of one small part of the park.

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Morality — What Kind of Society Do We Want?

I've recently read a number of very thought-provoking articles. The more I've read, the more I've come to believe that if we don't ask and answer the question above, we may find that our society has changed in ways most people wouldn't have believed possible.

What is Moral?

Maybe we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. Can Moral Disputes Be Resolved? * poses some interesting questions.
"Chances are you believe honour killing is wrong. But you probably can't prove it."
If a society says that particular values are important, should that society welcome others into it who disagree to the point where they believe the society they have joined is immoral? I think that's a debate we have to have.

New Scientist had two articles and an editorial about morality in the 23 September 2015 issue. Science and morality? They all should give you something to seriously think about.

The Moral Banker

I thought about putting this in the Your Money section but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that it addressed issues which could be considered moral. Almost all mainstream economists now say that we need inflation, but
"Inflation seems to be putting money into our pockets when in fact it is robbing the saver, the pensioner, the retired workman, the aged — those least able to defend themselves. And when the inevitable aftermath of deflation sets in, businessman, banker, worker, all suffer."

Or how about, "The pleasure of having a choice to make is counterbalanced by not only the necessity for making a choice, but also the responsibility for accepting the consequences of that choice, whether good or bad. Naturally we like the consequences only when our choice proves right. That's one reason it is easier to make a mistake than to admit one."

The quotes are from a speech given by the then head of the US Federal Reserve in 1955. "It's a brilliant, thought-provoking speech, for Mr. Martin ultimately isn't talking about just the Federal Reserve, but the responsibility that the Fed, the government, and the business sector all have in producing a healthy, sound, growing economy. They must, in fact, all work together, he says. It's not a sentiment heard often enough today."

The Meaning of Life

I can't tell you what, if anything it is, but here are two stories which made me think about the meaning of my own life.

Oliver Sacks: My Periodic Table *
"As death nears, I am surrounding myself, as I did when I was a boy, with metals and minerals, little emblems of eternity."
That article made me think. If I knew that my own death was fast approaching, what would I cling to, what would I think of my own life. Those are questions we should all consider. Are we doing things that really matter to ourselves and those we love.

For more about Oliver Sacks, see his Wikipedia biography.

Another obituary. B. B. King, Defining Bluesman for Generations, Dies at 89 *
"Mr. King's world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues." He was still touring well into his 80s. He didn't need the money. He was doing something he loved. How many of us can say the same?

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America, Europe and the World

American Politics

This follows on from my section on American Politics in the last newsletter. Newt Gingrich explains how Donald Trump happened


This is a follow up to the section on Europe in my last newsletter.
Europe's Barbarians Inside the Gate. This is one of the more well-reasoned analyses of the problems Europe faces that I've seen. Don't assume you know who the 'barbarians' are without reading it.

The World

New Words for a New World. "The gap between the old world in our heads and the new world we now find ourselves in is so large that the very language of the past blocks us from coming to grips with an emerging future that will be radically different." Well worth a read.

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Our Other Australian Trips

Our 2016 Trip List Has Changed and Will Change some More

Our regularly updated PDF trip list lists every Australian trip we offer. The list has changed dramatically in the last few days.

The regularly updated Availability & Specials page list every trip which already has at least one booking. I will do my best to run every trip that makes it there, but any trip not on that list may be cancelled with no notice.

My 2015 experimental trips went well so I have included similar trips at a more realistic price in 2015. To do that, I combined parts of the original Kakadu Highlights Nos. 7 & 8 into a new Kakadu Highlights No. 7 and deleted the original Kakadu Highlights Nos. 8 & 9, renumbering the later ones. The new trips are

Don't forget, you can get discounts of up to 20% by booking and paying well in advance.

We still have issues with access in some areas. Trying to overcome these problems takes time. If no one is interested early on, I feel that I can use my time better on other things. In the meantime, here are a few trips which deserve special mention.

Finally, If there is any trip that particularly interests you, get your name down as soon as possible or it might disappear and you'll miss out. Not sure what's on offer? Check it out. The dates on the tour pages are correct but some of the detailed pages haven't yet been updated for 2016.

Note 1. The overseas trip list is still way out of date. Major revisions underway.

Note 2. You can always see which trips already have bookings on our Availability and Specials page.

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Our Overseas Trips

Your Money

Government Waste

Outrageous Waste by a Government Out of Control
This story is from America. I'm sure we can do nearly as 'well' or 'badly' depending on your point of view.

Bronwyn Bishop spent $50,000 on South America trip. She was far from alone. The article includes a wonderful graphic showing how much expenses every MP and senator claimed as from 1 January through 30 June 2015. "MPs and senators claimed a total of $47,655,093.32 (including undeclared expenses from previous years, along with expenses from some former parliamentarians)."
Barnaby Joyce led the way, claiming a bit over $670,000. At the other end of the scale, MP Alexander Somlyay claimed a total of $55.93. You might find it interesting to scroll through and see what your MP and senators claimed.


Good News and Bad

Two More to Make You think

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Bushwalking Websites

Depending on where you live, you might find one or more of these useful.

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Your Health

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Three very different stories about where we are and where we are going.

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Our Society

Political Correctness

The Danger of Politically Correct History
"It is increasingly difficult to find any topic especially a controversial one on which 71% of Americans agree, but that's the number who think that political correctness is a serious problem in our country, according to a recent Rasmussen poll."
"The danger of this trend is that it tries to force facts into a political agenda, whether they fit comfortably or not. It's an attempt to control not just what we can say, but also what we can learn about the world. In a free society, this is a very dangerous path."
Rewriting parts of history may make sense in some instances, but this is what was done in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and China. I don't know exactly what's happening in this regard in Australia, but I do know that it is becoming more and more unacceptable to express views which are not deemed 'politically correct'. That may take us somewhere we don't want to go.

The Melting Pot

The Dreaded Happy Hour: A New Years Tale for 2016. Read it through and think about Australia. Here's the author's comparison of the US and Europe.
"....the American Melting Pot versus the European Salad Bowl. The point being that, in the U.S., within a couple of generations immigrants by and large join the culture, watching football on Sundays and going to happy hour. In Europe, even several generations after immigrating, migrant families remain segregated from mainstream society, living in communities that cling to the ways of their ancestral homelands.
The difference in outcomes is obvious.
One infuses our society with new vigor, bringing new life and ideas to the table, rewarding participants with upward mobility. The other serves as a constant threat, chipping away at what already exists and holding back those who choose not to participate."

Think about Europe. Der Spiegel recently ran a story, Fear, Anger and Hatred: The Rise of Germany's New Right
"For years, a sense of disillusionment has been growing on the right. Now, the refugee crisis has magnified that frustration. Increasingly, people from the very center of society are identifying with the movement — even as political debate coarsens and violence increases."
Ask yourself if something similar could ever happen here.

Sweden used to make a big attempt to integrate newcomers but a 2010 law states "Ethnical, linguistic and religious minorities' possibilities to maintain and develop a separate culture and community must be enabled." Was that law a mistake? Check out the following and decide for yourself.
Immigration to Sweden
Violence Erupts in Sweden as Ethnic Groups Clash in Race Riots

When someone wishes to become a citizen, he or she needs to pass a test. Maybe we should all have to pass a test like that. It's begun to happen in America. States Move to Make Citizenship Exams a Classroom Aid *
"Arizona became the first state to require its high school students to pass the test that is given to immigrants who want to become United States citizens."

Lessons from the Past

D.I.Y. Education Before YouTube *
"Each summer, when school ends, education mostly stops short, too. But it hasn't always been that way. For the striving youths of 19th-century America, learning was often a self-driven, year-round process. Devouring books by candlelight and debating issues by bonfire, the young men and women of the so-called "go-ahead generation" worked to educate themselves into a better life.
Lessons for today?

A New Look at Apprenticeships as a Path to the Middle Class *
When I first came to Australia that most impressed me was the apprenticeship system. Over the years, I've watched that nearly disappear. It seems they are starting to come back in America. Maybe we should do a bit more.

Capitalism for the Masses

'Capitalism' has become a derogatory term. Maybe that's because we no longer (if we ever did) live in a capitalist society. Capitalism for the Masses * promotes a "daring conservative agenda that measures the health of the economy by how well it helps all people make an enterprise of their life." I think it makes more sense than either side of the current debates.


It may not quite fit here, but it's close. In my last newsletter, I had a link to an article, The Threat Is Already Inside And nine other truths about terrorism that nobody wants to hear. That link may have been broken but it should work now.

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Photos & Videos



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News About This Newsletter

Next Newsletter — When?

March? May? July? While I do enjoy producing these newsletters they do take time. I'm about to go to Chile for five weeks. I'm home for only three before heading to southern Africa for another five week trip. I'll then be home for no more than three weeks before heading off to the US. I honestly don't know when I'll have time to do the next one.


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 sure that you are 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 from a soon to be happy traveller.
Russell Willis

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