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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 93, December 2017 — Christmas Special

If you want to understand the number of terrorist incidents around the world and why our responses often make things worse, make sure you read Anatomy of Terror in Radicalisation below.

If you would like to see Willis's Walkabouts still operating in five years, see Reviewing Willis's Walkabouts below.

Feedback request. While I do get some wonderful feedback on these newsletters, it would be a great deal of help if I had more. See News About this Newsletter for how you can help. Thank you.

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In this issue

Last Chance!

The three remaining February trips will have to be cancelled unless we get more bookings by 14 December.

Both Kakadu trips offer an easy introduction to bushwalking in the Wet. I enjoy both so much that I will run whichever gets to three bookings first for as few as three people, no extra charge. The other will be cancelled unless we have good bookings on both by 13 December. If neither runs, I will put on part of it as a weekend walk for the Darwin Bushwalking Club. Visitors welcome. That shows how much I enjoy the trips.

Special Offer. Quote this newsletter and take an extra $500 off the price after deducting any applicable discounts. You can find all our list prices on our PDF trip list.

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How Long Can Willis's Walkabouts Continue?

Something Has To Change

If something has to change, it will. It might not change the way you want it to change, but it will change.

The Website

Updating the website is taking far longer than I'd hoped. It's far too big a job to give it all to someone else, but I'm looking at ways someone else can give part of it the first makeover, leaving it to me to fix the rest. Leaving aside the question of content, the updated site will have to be:
  • Mobile friendly.
  • On a platform that can be hosted anywhere.
  • Be easy to update.


The current website is far too busy. Too many words and too hard for people to find what they want. The home page has to be cut back to the absolute essentials. Defining those essentials is a work in progress.

Suggestions? What are those essentials? What needs to go on the home page? What needs to go in the top menu?

If you'd like to help, please have a look at the Earth Trails website. We are looking at a similar home page. Several changing panorama photos, two or three subheadings below, a simplified menu at the top. But as good as this site seems to be, it is not mobile friendly. I tested it with the Google mobile friendly site and it failed, not as badly as my site, but it failed. This is going to be a challenge.

Advance Bookings

We cannot run trips unless we get bookings well in advance. That's why we offer the big advance purchase discounts. Many of our guides live interstate. Some have other jobs. If we can't give them enough notice, they may not be available.

Any trip which doesn't have bookings two months prior to departure has to be cancelled. If it has bookings, but not enough, we still may need to cancel it. We hate to do that to people who have booked well in advance, but sometimes there isn't any choice.

The Dream. I did a repeat of Wellington Wine Walk as part of my recent trip to South Africa. Like us, most of their bookings come from recommendations of past clients. Unlike us, they are already 100% booked out for 2018. If we could come anywhere near that, our worries would be over.

The Nightmare. Many of the overseas trips require making bookings far in advance. Without those bookings, we can't run the trips.

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2018 Trips

Our Availability and Specials Page always has up to date info on which trips have bookings. As of the date this newsletter was sent out, the following had bookings. One is already getting close to full.

Russell's Wish List

Here are some trips, I'd dearly love to lead myself.

I asked the guides who had done the most trips in 2017 for their wish lists.

Cassie's Wish List

Cassie didn't have time to do a proper list before she started a big trip down south, but there are two trips that she'd definitely like to do.

Don's Wish List

Rod's Wish List

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The World As You'll Never See It On TV Or In A Newspaper

TV News is made up of short sound bites that never give you the full story on anything that really matters in the wider world.

The Australian Website The Conversation has a wealth of in-depth articles on many subjects. An interesting one from earlier this year was Global Pressure Points. Worth reading even well after it was first published.

Geopolitical Futures

Geopolitical Futures is an amazing site, full of information. A large part of the site requires paid access but they do a free weekly newsletter called GPF Weekly. The archives don't seem to stay up for very long but you can subscribe for free. I did that for a couple of years before I gave in and subscribed.

I'm not 100% sure but I think that the Reality Check articles are free as well.

Here are a few articles that I think are particularly good.

I could go on and on with link after link, but everyone has particular interests. Browse the site yourself and see what you think.

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Reviewing Willis's Walkabouts

Please Help!

While we have an amazing base of committed clients, we need to attract new people if the business is to survive. We can't do that without getting some good reviews. There are three main sources that people look to for reviews.

Are We Getting the Right People?

After years where we didn't get a single client who wasn't reasonably prepared, we've had several in the last two years. People not reading the essentials. One suggestion for the Bushwalking Guide is that we print a short version of the absolutely essential info and do an online version with more photos. I'd be interested to hear some opinions on that.

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Growing Old

The only alternative is die young. Here are three very different stories.

Growing Old Vs Aging

More and more research is suggesting that aging can be slowed or even reversed. If this succeeds, it will transform our society more that we can imagine.

A great source of info about the latest research is Patrick Cox's free weekly Tech Digest. Here's a quote from a recent one. "Tzahor's team has shown that activating a specific gene (ERBB2) following a heart attack can 'nearly completely heal a heart within several weeks.' In other words, stem cells with embryonic healing capabilities are activated to repair cardiac damage."

Fascinating stuff. Some of us may be bushwalking well past the age of 100.

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Tech Giants

Google Doesn't Want What's Best for Us *
"America has held a largely romantic view of the tech industry that is at odds with reality."

Graphic: Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend *
"We are beginning to understand that tech companies don't have our best interests at heart. Did they ever?"

From The Economist, Publishers are wary of Facebook and Google but must work with them **
"Facebook calls its 'News Feed' offering its most important product, but in recent years it has tweaked the feed in ways that de-emphasise actual news, instead prioritising updates from friends and family over those from publishers"

Many of our clients use Microsoft One Drive to share photos. The downside is that you need a One Drive account to see those photos. Some accounts are free, but 'free' always comes with a loss of privacy — and possibly increased advertising.

Can anyone help?

Did you know that Google won't search for special characters like % or (). I think the reason is that they aren't always the same characters. If I do a simple copy into my newsletter, I will sometimes get a '?' or some other symbol depending on what browser I use. instead of the character. I try and replace all the problem ones but I always miss some. If you look at the third dot point in "The end of the world as we know it" in my last newsletter you should see what I mean. On my own computer it looks normal, on the website it doesn't.

SymbolHound will search for those characters but I can't figure out how to use that to search in gmail or Outlook. Any suggestions?

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WW Overseas — We're Different

We began offering overseas tours in 1990. There was no one doing what we do then. To the best of my knowledge, there is still no one else offering this kind of tour.

On most trips, instead of a fixed itinerary, there is a general outline and a rough indication of how much time each section will take. If one area turns out to be especially good, we have the flexibility to spend extra time there. As an example, on my recent trip to South Africa, I wanted to include a number of things which had to be booked well in advance. I also wanted the freedom to explore new areas so I left the middle third completely open. It worked well as we got to go some great places I wouldn't have thought of before we started.

We have now done the trip notes for three 2018 trips.

In addition to the trips above, we hope to offer some or all of the following.
  • Vanuatu — first time in several years
  • Southern Africa — we may offer a second trip
  • Patagonia
  • Japan
  • Scandinavian winter

Facebook Posts

If you scroll down our Facebook page you'll see a number of photos from the recent Africa trip. Scroll down far enough and you'll see some from previous years.

Stories From Places We Go

Having just returned from The Western Cape in South Africa, I've seen the drought first hand. Dust storms raging across what should be Cape Town's largest dam. Amazingly, there are places less than 100 km away where there is no water shortage.

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Tech To Think About

Where possible, we should think about the possible ramifications of technological change before those changes happen. Here are some interesting stories that emphasise that point.

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If you want to understand extremism, read this.

New Scientist recently ran an article, Anatomy of terror: What makes normal people become extremists?
"It takes more than religious fanaticism or hatred to make someone take innocent lives, but recognise the true roots of ISIS-inspired terror and they can be addressed"

It's a long article but it's well worth reading. As the author said, "You can't fight violence with violence." Much of what western governments are doing is making the problem worse, not better.

The on line article had links to a number of others. Here are two of the best.
  • Talent for prejudice — Why humans dehumanise others
  • You canít fight violence with violence

A Hunt for Ways to Combat Online Radicalization *
"There are similarities between how Islamists and white nationalists operate online, researchers said. Those can be used to limit recruitment's reach."
Well worth reading. I suspect that governments aren't doing enough of what's recommended here.

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Cyber Attacks

Back in May there was a massive cyber attack which took out computers around the world. It made the news for a few days, then faded away. It might, however, be the precursor of something that will dramatically change our society or perhaps even destroy it. The best analysis I've seen is Piracy on the Cyber Seas
"The territorial state is under increasing stress as a viable unit. This is not, or ought not be, new news."
The full article runs just over 8 pages. It's well worth reading as it shows just how bad things are likely to get.

Now here are some of the better articles about cyber attacks that I've seen. Unlike most of the stories at the time, these are not out of date.

Protect Yourself

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Going Overseas?

Airport and travel hacks to make your trip better
Anyone planning an overseas trip should read this.

Travelling these holidays? Follow tips the Socceroos use to conquer jet lag
Excellent things to try.

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Is a La Niña coming? The November Browning Climate Bulletin may answer the question.

Alaska's Permafrost Is Thawing *
"The loss of frozen ground in Arctic regions is a striking result of climate change. And it is also a cause of more warming to come."

We call them 'cyclones'. The Americans call them 'Hurricanes". Click Hurricane Categories to see how they classify their storms.

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Christmas Maths

The 12 days of Pascal's triangular Christmas
It takes a 'strange' mind to enjoy something like this. I enjoyed it.

Don't Expect Math to Make Sense *
"Pi's combination of utility and enigma is the perfect metaphor for the subject."

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Photos, Videos & Just for Fun

I couldn't resist the cartoon. Dead and still on the phone. A true comment on our times. Click the pic to see a larger version.

Amazing Africa

If you leave near Bright in Victoria (4 hours from Melbourne) you might be interested in the 2017 BRIGHT MOUNTAIN FILM TOUR. The trailer is only 45 seconds but it gives you an idea what to expect.

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News About This Newsletter

Feedback Request


Restricted websites. 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. The Washington Post and The Economist both have limits but I'm not sure what the current limits is so I've marked Washington Post and Economist articles with a double red asterisk (**).

Next Newsletter — February? I'm about to head to Northern Chile, back on 16 January. Will do at least one brief trip in February so I'm not sure when I'll be able to do the next one.

As always, I've already got a few things ready. Hopefully, I can get a bit of feedback about some of the things in this newsletter to include in the next one. As I've often said, 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. (MailChimp Free only allows 2000. The commercial version costs too much for an extra 200 people.) 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.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, to you all!!
Russell Willis

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