Willis's Walkabouts Top-Level Menu


Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 84, Wondrous Weather, June 2016

The Red Centre is Green!! I'm sending this newsletter from overseas to give as many people as possible the chance to experience the exceptional conditions May rain has given us for June.

There is a huge amount here, hopefully enough to keep you coming back until my next newsletter, but I'd like to single out the link to Vote Compass near the top of The Australian Election section, Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected near the beginning of the American Society section,(if you want to make sense of our society and where we are going, every single link in that section is worth a read), Terrorism and Being Terrified and, finally, An American View of Oz. Put them together and you might come away with a slightly changed view of our society.

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.

Willis's Walkabouts logo

In this issue

The Greening of our June Trips

More rain, in the Top End and Macdonnells this month should make our June trips something special. Just compare the two photos of Jim Jim Falls at the bottom of the page in this Kakadu Tour Operators newsletter. The first was taken on 4 May and the second on the 11th. It's almost like it was the wet season again.

It was even more dramatic in the Macdonnells. Glen Helen, the closest weather station to our walk, had over 100 mm of rain in the four days 6-9 May, and a bit more on the 30th. It could be years before we have this much water again.

I'd like to give more people the chance to experience these places at their best so I've put special offers on the two remaining. Both are definite departures.

If I'd managed to get this out a week earlier, I'd have had a special offer on Kakadu Super Circle No. 2: 5-26 June. I did get a special offer, now cancelled, onto the Availability and Specials page — a good reason to have a visit every once in a while.

Note. None of our normal discounts apply with the special offers above.

Return to top

Facebook — Help!!!

Willis's Walkabouts has a Facebook page. It should be both a useful marketing tool and an easy way to get messages out. If doesn't work.

Many people have told me that Willis's Walkabouts needs an effective Facebook presence. Not having one may mean that I get very few young (under 50) people and that the business will die a death of attrition as the existing client base gets older and older. If you understand Facebook and how to use it, maybe you can help.

Click the link. The top post went out to over 5500 people. It got 220+ photo clicks but only four website clicks and only two shares. From what I've been told, if I can't do a lot better, there is no point in having it. Shares are particularly important.

I've been told that I should have short, catchy titles on my posts. I'm not even sure what I need to do to put a title onto a post.

If you can give me some suggestions and are willing to try and answer a few more detailed questions, please let me know. Your help may be what keeps Willis's Walkabouts going for another five years or more.

Return to top

The End of Democracy?

Today America, Tomorrow ....?

Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause.


Perhaps the terrorists have already won, changing our societies into something that we could scarcely have imagined 20 years ago.


The Western World

Is This the West's Weimar Moment? * talks about some interesting parallels between the world that saw the rise of Hitler and the one we live in today. Agree or not, it should make you think.


Sometimes, regulation slows growth in return for public benefits, such as environmental protection or transportation safety. One can argue whether it does so efficiently, but there is a purpose.

In Economic Growth author John Cochrane suggests that, "Most economic regulation is specifically designed to slow growth. The purpose of most economic regulation is to transfer money to a specific group of people, companies, or industry. It does so by slowing down new entrants, impeding competition, mandating uneconomic actions or cross-subsidies, slowing innovation, turning off price signals, distorting incentives, and encouraging waste. These are the tools of economic regulation, and they all impede economic growth."

"We are used to the right to see evidence against us, challenge witness testimony, and appeal decisions to an independent and higher court. These rights often do not apply to regulations, where the agency is prosecutor, police, judge, jury, and executioner all wrapped in one. The methods for determining an 'abusive' practice or 'discriminatory' outcome are not revealed ahead of time so that people could structure their actions in accordance with the rules."

The full article is worth a read. Given the ever increasing number of regulations with which I have to comply, I can't help but wonder whether a business like Willis's Walkabouts could start up today.

The New Mind Control

There is more on a similar theme later in this newsletter.

Return to top

Virtual Reality

This story is potentially so big that it deserves a section of its own. I've Seen The Future explains just how far it's come.

"Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming." — Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook post, March 25, 2014

One tech blogger went as far as to say, "People will spend the majority of Waking Time in virtual reality by 2020." While that may be a stretch, it's coming faster than nearly anyone would expect. Many years ago I read a science fiction story in which almost everyone lived their lives in small cubicles, hooked up to life support systems and to virtual reality machines. I think something like that is coming.

Stop and think! Computers are getting cheaper and cheaper. Now it's sight and sound. How long before your virtual reality can give you taste, smell and touch as well? Which would be more enjoyable for most people — the world in which they actually live or one in which they could fly through the skies and do anything imaginable, have whatever appearance they desired and live out their wildest dreams? When immersing someone in this kind of virtual reality becomes cheaper than paying them the dole, which do you think the government will choose?

If you haven't already clicked the link, I've Seen The Future, have a look and see what you think.

Return to top


Good News

Bad News

Good or Bad — You Be the Judge

What's driving Silicon Valley to become 'radicalized'
Fearing FBI, Silicon Valley races to lock itself out of data.

Internet Addiction

This dark side of the Internet is costing young people their jobs and social lives
"Those who say they suffer from Internet addiction share many symptoms with other types of addicts, in terms of which chemicals are released into the brain, experts say. The pleasure centers of the brain light up when introduced to the stimulus. Addicts lose interest in other hobbies or, sometimes, never develop any. When not allowed to go online, they experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, depression or even physical shaking. They retreat into corners of the Internet where they can find quick success — a dominant ranking in a game or a well-liked Facebook post — that they don't have in the real world, experts say."

Disappearing Jobs

'Confronting' technology to cost workers' jobs
"The CSIRO and the Australian Computer Society report looked at trends for Australia's future workforce and said jobs with tasks which are 'routine, repetitive, structured and rules-based' were 'likely' to become automated. They predicted about 44 per cent of Australian jobs were at risk of computerisation and automation in the next 20 years."

Unbelievably Amazing

Modeled After Ants, Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-Ton Car *
"Researchers are exploring the limits of friction in the design of tiny robots that can pull thousands of times their weight, wander like gecko lizards on vertical surfaces or mimic bats."

Return to top

The Australian Election

Do Something Different

Ignore the ads and vote for the party which actually comes closest to matching your own views.

I have no idea what the percentage is, but I suspect that a large number of people will wind up voting for a party which is further from their views than one of the others. Vote Compass is a tool which allows you to compare your views on a number of issues with the policies of the major parties. I did the survey and found it enlightening. Depending on the issue, my opinions were sometimes closer to the Greens, sometimes to Labor and sometimes to the Coalition. Pity they didn't have more about the tiny parties and independents. Try it yourself. You might get a surprise.

There is a similar site for the American election. If more people in the US did this, there might be a swing to a third party. If you have the time, you might be interested to see which of the American candidates actually come closer to your views.

The Senate

This will be the first election under the new system. Australian Senate Reforms Explained should help you understand the new system.
Click the link at the bottom for the ABC news view.

This will be the first double dissolution since 1987. Which senators will get a six-year term and which will only get three? can be determined in one of two ways. In spite of 'official' policies, the Senate gets to choose for itself. If your curious click the link and see what can happen.

Money in Politics

In America, money determines who gets elected far more than anything else. Australia seems to be moving more and more in that direction. Donations now an issue for all parties tells how, "An ABC Four Corners expose broadcast on Monday 23 May, six weeks from the July 2 federal election, has confronted all major political parties with examples of practices and policy development made questionable by slush fund donations from vested and sectional interests." Is that what we really want?

Preferential Voting

One of the things I love about Australia is preferential voting. If a minor party or independent candidate comes closer to reflecting my views, I can vote for them and still have my vote count when it comes down to the last two standing. One of the things I don't understand is why so few people use it. Personally, I don't believe that any of the major parties will really listen to the public until more people give their first preference to someone else.

With a preferential system and a full double dissolution, the chances are excellent that one or more of the minor parties will hold the balance of power. Some of those parties have well thought out positions on many issues. Some don't. It would be good if Vote Compass allowed people to see where the minor parties stand as easily as they see where the larger ones do. If Vote Compass won't do it, here's my small contribution.

The list above is far from comprehensive but it does show that you do have a lot more choices than just the main ones.

While I think it puts too little emphasis on the minor parties, the ABC Election Guide is the best overall source of information that I've found. I'm not yet sure who I'll vote for but I am sure that the order of my preferences will be determined by the actual policies of the different parties, not by the advertising of the big ones.

Finally, a recent column in the New Daily began, "Voters are worried about the cost of changes to health and education, but this election should be about much bigger nasties in the household budget." I think it makes a lot of sense. Read Pollies fiddle with numbers but ignore elephant in room and see what you think.

Return to top

More Australian Specials

Kakadu Highlights Nos. 7 & 8

Kakadu Highlights No. 7: 7-20 August and Kakadu Highlights No. 8: 18 September - 1 October both have bookings but neither has the bookings we need to guarantee departure. We want to confirm these departures so we'll give the next three who book either full trip an extra $200 discount after they have deducted any of our standard discounts (bottom of page 1). You can see the list prices here.

Kakadu Highlights No. 8 takes place at the beginning of Gunumeleng — The Build Up — The Most Dramatic Season of All. Why not combine one of our Gunumeleng walks with some fishing — the Million Dollar Fish competition will be back from 1 October.

Barramundi Family Special

The Barramundi Family Special: 31 July - 6 August is a special trip created at the request of a family coming from overseas. The parents walked with us in the 1990s and now want their children (ages 13, 11 & 9) to experience Kakadu.

As with all our family walks, this trip is designed to run at a slower pace than our other trips to allow families with children to enjoy the Kakadu bush. That makes it equally good for adults who like children and a relatively easy paced walk.

We'll give anyone who books this trip an extra $100 discount after they have deducted any of our standard discounts. Better still, we'll extend our 10% advance purchase discount until 7 June.

Our Easiest Trips

We ran three light pack trips at special prices last year. They all went well so we decided to see how they would go at a realistic price. I thought it was a good idea. I enjoyed all three trips last year. I'm sure there are people who would enjoy all of them, but with no interest in any of them to date, I may have to cancel them all. If that happens, they may or may not be offered again next year. Have a look at the notes describing them and see what you think.

Advance purchase discounts are still available on them all. For anyone who has more time, we offer an additional 10% off the price of a second trip for anyone booking two consecutive trips.

Finally, if anyone has some good ideas as to how I could make these three trips more attractive while keeping them economically viable, please let me know.

Return to top

American Society — A Lesson for Us All

If you didn't read it above, you ought to read Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected: Why political professionals are struggling to make sense of the world they created. That gives some background which helps understand some of the rest which follows here.

Life on the Edge looks at "the real-world economic pain that so many people experience in daily life. Some of this will be hard reading, but it's important. Reading it, you will better understand what is going wrong and how badly we need solutions. You may also come away with a better idea of the direction this country is headed if we don't see real change in the near future."

Life on the Edge,Continued is a follow up to the above with comments from a number of people. Scroll down to where it says "Life on the Edge, Continued" to get right into the part that's important. Two quotes really struck me.
"I am a psychologist and really appreciated the insight into shame. I do find that my clients find it far easier to talk about sexual problems than money problems. Definitely more shame there."
"The banking system in the US is really a drug cartel, no different than the ones in Mexico. Practically anyone breathing can borrow money, and people do so just like buying heroin."

One of the links in the article above was to The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans which refers to a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve (US central bank).
"The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?"

I doubt that the figure in Australia would be anywhere near that high but we tend to follow America's lead. I suspect that, unless something changes, more and more Australians will find themselves in a similar position.

As I write this, I am in America, visiting friends and family. It seems as if almost every time I return, the infrastructure on which the country depends is a bit worse. The deteriorating condition of the roads is the most obvious example but water, electricity and almost any other public service you can name gets worse with each passing year. I've just returned from Namibia, a moderate sized, relatively poor country with a population of about 2½ million. The major roads there were in better condition than the major roads near New York. Something is very wrong when this can happen. Do we want the same to happen in Australia?

If you have any interest in where our society is likely to be going in the next 10-20 years, I urge you to read every single link in this section.

Return to top

Your Health

Here, in no particular order are some articles I found interesting.

Return to top

Our Overseas Trips

We're now down to four overseas trips for the rest of 2016.

Something new. My recent trip to Chilean Patagonia included a number of day walks. IF a few people were interested, I could put together an interesting trip which was all day walks and no heavy pack carrying. If you think you might be interested in a trip like that, please let me know.

Note. None of the discounts which apply to our Australian trips apply to any of our overseas trips.

Return to top

Terrorism and Being Terrified

Terrorism and Being Terrified is a good article which tries to put it into perspective.
"Islamist terrorists welcome death. Many groups — not just IS and al-Qaida but also Hamas, Hezbollah, and others — have promoted the saying 'We love death more than you love life.'"

"The present emergency may not end, because we will never know — and have no way of knowing — whether people who love death more than life have moved into the house next door. We can ban anyone and everyone from the country, as we ban drugs or once banned alcohol. But banning people won't work. And even if it did, we would never be sure that the threat was really gone."

"And that is why terrorism is effective. A terrorist need not be present among us in order to cause terror. Our imaginations are already infested with him. He wins if we can't live with the terrors our imaginations conjure, inspired by acts already committed here and there around the world. But imagination is neither trivial nor a mere illusion. It is where we define our relations with the world. We win if we can control our collective imagination."

If you want to try and make sense of the world in which you live, please read the full article.

Return to top

Our Changing Society

The Happiest Countries

The U.S. doesn't crack the top 10 happiest countries in the world Australia comes in at 9. The World's Happiest Countries has some interesting surprises. A link near top goes to full details.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to show you just how much you really have. An American View of Oz shows us just how much we really have to be thankful for.


There are only three ways to meet anyone anymore talks about the changing patterns of where we meet our partners.

Three More Changes in How Our Society Operates

Return to top

The Environment — Four to Think About

The Unnatural Kingdom *
If technology helps us save the wilderness, will the wilderness still be wild?

Love in the time of climate change
Grizzlies and polar bears are now mating.

Air and water problems are worsening on a global scale, U.N. says
"Every region, regardless of how it might be perceived from the outside, is suffering from water scarcity,"
On my recent trip to southern Africa, the drought was a common topic of conversation. Crop yields are way down. Water levels in one major dam were so low I could scarcely recognise them. People have been 'mining' ground water more and more with each passing year. At some point, those supplies will start running out. What then?

Science censorship: Great Barrier Reef scrubbed from UN climate change report
The government has the right to disagree with the report but I don't believe that they should be censoring it.

Return to top

Your Money

If you are or soon to be retired, maybe you should start worrying.

Bond rate slide triggers concerns for retirees — Yet one more example of what some call "the war on savers".

Study Finds Public Pension Promises Exceed Ability to Pay *
A Citigroup report on 20 nations said pension obligations, much of them unfunded, amounted to nearly twice the countries' total national debt.
Click Citigroup report to see the full report. Australia is on page 96 It downloads fairly quickly.

Return to top

Photos & Videos

Some impressions of our planet
This 10 min video has some beautiful photography which includes a few wordless stories. Watch it sometime when you'd like to feel a bit better about the world.

The Most Beautiful Abandoned Places Around The World. This is one of several similar sites finding beauty in ruin.

Just for fun. Azulejos. This short video shows how to create something from nothing and turn it back into nothing. Unless I'm terribly mistaken, I know how it's done. Can you work it out?

Finally, the human mind is programmed to work in particular ways. Someone sent me these photos in an email. I was so impressed that I did a search and found it on the web. Have a look. See if you are more observant than most.

Return to top

News About This Newsletter

Next Newsletter — When?

July? August? Later? While I do enjoy producing these newsletters they do take time. I'm now in the US where I just went to my uni class 50th reunion. Now it's time for family and friends. I'm going to be flat out when I finally get home. 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 somewhat nostalgic, happy traveller.
Russell Willis

Return to top