Saturday, December 30, 2017

Stony Creek Trestle Bridge 1916

 On the way to nowhere (but really, it is on the way to a place called Nowa Nowa) it is easy to forget how much it was worth to be able to transport timber, wool and produce from East Gippsland, if it could be done more directly than had been possible from port to port by boat. This was 1916 and labour must've been hard to find, with tens of thousands of our young men  serving the Empire in European War. This rail bridge was built by Victorian Railways as part of a link from Bairnsdale to Orbost.

Damaged in the 1980's by wild fire, it then became unserviceable. Spanning 276 metres and  18.5 metres high, the members are from single height logs. I am as inspired by the manipulation of the materials as I am by the history, but when we stand under such an old, confident statement made in sweat and timber, it is wonderful to ponder a few hows and whys. This region was one in which resources outnumbered people, and still is. And that's just the way I like it.

we have to look down for relief

I love the crazy geometry when looking askew

photo credit- Nicholas Ditterich

Saturday, December 16, 2017

all the light we cannot see; a review of the novel

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book made a big splash and has been reviewed extensively. An analysis by me will add nothing of significance to all this, but there are a couple of things about my experience of reading it that I'd like to record.

Doerr has written invisibly to me in the sense that I wasn't aware of any writing at all, just pictures, situations, ideas, connections, people and story. It felt like a very big and generous story, lacking nothing, laced together in overlapping time periods and contrasting mind sets. The author had me hooked by the end of the first page and won't let go even as I try to get into another book.

Highly recommended

View all my reviews

the blurb on Goodreads:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book, National Book Award finalist, more than two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Sapiens by Yuval Harari, a review of the book

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of our arrival as a species , the turning points that tripped us into the type of animal capable of imagining a future, the singular moments in that story and the possible culminations of it; these are not things that can be elaborated easily in a single book without leaving gaps or making controversial claims.

Every thoughtful person will struggle with at least some of Harari's conclusions, but he is careful to present a direct and balanced picture of the scholarship on each issue before putting his own view forward. His intention is to provoke a thoughtful response about issues that concern all of us and his thoughts on the directions for our species which now seem inevitable to him are chilling, but arguable.

I admire big picture academics, even more now after reading one of his conclusions- that the central issue that we need to address is not 'what do we want' as a future, but 'what do we want to want?', because there is no consensus on the role, path or limits of progress in this technological revolution that we find ourselves in.

Progress into ethically challenging areas- areas that may require us to redefine 'humanity'- is virtually unsupervised and globally more potent than at any of the critical points which brought us to our present. We are entitled to wonder- 'who is at the helm?'

View all my reviews

The blurb on Goodreads;

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. 

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future.

Friday, December 8, 2017

three minute uke build

This little slideshow (below) runs through the making of a tenor ukulele from Australian Casuarina timber. A joy to make and lovely to play!

making a tenor uke .    robert ditterich from Robert Ditterich on Vimeo.