Sydney siege


How terrifying it must be for the hostages in the Lindt café in Sydney, those who know them and those trying to help them.

After an update from NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn, this is what is known now about the Martin Place hostage crisis:

  • Burn says the situation is now a “negotiation” and the police intend to pursue it “peacefully.”
  • Burn will not say whether the five people to emerge from the cafe escaped or were released.
  • The crisis may continue into tomorrow. An exclusion zone is in place around the Lindt Cafe and Martin Place.
  • The police will not confirm what the gunman is asking for. Nor will they confirm how many people remain in the building. . . .

Five hostages have escaped from the café.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged people to go about their business as usual:

. . . “We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator, we don’t know whether this is politically motivated although obviously there are some indications that it could be,” Mr Abbott said.

“We have to appreciate that even in a society such as ours, there are people who would wish to do us harm. . .

Hostages were being forced to hold an Islamic flag against the window of the Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place after at least one gunman stormed the premises on Monday morning.

“This is a very disturbing incident. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australian people at a time like this, but our thoughts and prayers must above all go out to the individuals who are caught up in this,” Mr Abbott said.

“I can think of almost nothing more distressing, more terrifying than to be caught up in such a situation and our hearts go out to these people.”

Mr Abbott said NSW police responding to the unfolding siege were receiving strong support from Commonwealth agencies.

“The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open, and generous society,” Mr Abbott said.

“Nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.” . .

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the government is monitoring the Sydney siege:

“Our hearts go out to those involved and our thoughts are very much with them and their families,” says Mr Key.

Prime Minister John Key contacted Prime Minister Tony Abbott directly to offer a message of support, shortly after the siege got underway today.

Currently, agencies are unable to confirm the nationalities of those involved, including whether any New Zealanders have been caught up in this situation.

Authorities in New Zealand and Australia will continue to stay in close contact as events unfold and facts become clearer. . .

It is almost impossible to guard against fundamentalists motivated by misguided beliefs.

The challenge is to be vigilant and prepared without unduly restricting the freedom of the majority who are innocent and pose no danger.

Otago one of world’s beautiful universities


The Telegraph has photos of 16 of the world’s most beautiful universities.

There among the venerable institutions of Oxford, Havard, Cape Town, Moscow State, Bologna, Toronto, Cambridge, Salamanca, Mumbai, Sydney, University of London’s Royal Holloway, Princeton, Xiamen, Queens Belfast and Yale is Otago.

The photo is of the registry building and clock tower at the emotional, if not geographical, centre of the campus.

Otago, though much younger, is the closest we have to a university city like Oxford which we visited in June.

My cousin’s daughter, who is studying there, took us to Balliol College for lunch then gave us a tour of places which were familiar through literature and films but so much more impressive in reality.

The buildings are beautiful and having a guide with local knowledge gave us a real appreciation of the history and traditions of the university.

January 1 in history


On January 1:

45 BC  The Julian calendar took effect for the first time.

1001 – Grand Prince Stephen I of Hungary was named the first King of Hungary by Pope Silvester II.

1449 Lorenzo de’ Medici, Italian statesman, was born.

Portrait by Agnolo Bronzino.

1651  Charles II was crowned King of Scotland.

1735 Paul Revere,  American patriot, was born.

 Portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley,

1772 – The first traveller’s cheques, which could be used in 90 European cities, went on sale in London.

1779  William Clowes, English printer, was born.

1788  First edition of The Times of London, previously The Daily Universal Register, was published.

1800  The Dutch East India Company was dissolved.

1801 The legislative union of Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland was completed to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

1801 The dwarf planet Ceres was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi.

Ceres optimized.jpg

1803  Emperor Gia Long ordered all bronze wares of the Tây Sơn Dynasty to be collected and melted into nine cannons for the Royal Citadel in Huế, Vietnam.

1804 French rule ended in Haiti. Haiti becomes the first black republic and second independent country on the American Continent after the U.S.


1808  The importation of slaves into the United States wais banned.

1810  Major-General Lachlan Macquarie CB officially became Governor of New South Wales.

1833 The United Kingdom claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.


1833 Robert Lawson, New Zealand architect, was born.

1859 Pencarrow, New Zealand’s first lighthouse, was lit for the first time.

NZ's first lighthouse, Pencarrow, lit for the first time

1860 First Polish stamp was issued.

1861  Porfirio Díaz conquered Mexico City.

1876  The Reichsbank opened in Berlin.

1877  Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was proclaimed Empress of India.

1879 E. M. Forster, English novelist, was born.

1880 Ferdinand de Lesseps began French construction of the Panama Canal.

1890  Eritrea was consolidated into a colony by the Italian government.





1892  Ellis Island opened to begin processing immigrants into the United States.

1859 Pencarrow, New Zealand’s first lighthouse, was lit for the first time.

NZ's first lighthouse, Pencarrow, lit for the first time
  • 1894 – The Manchester Ship Canal,was officially opened to traffic.
  • 1895  J. Edgar Hoover, American FBI director, was born.

    1899Spanish rule ended in Cuba.

     Five horizontal stripes: three blue and two white. A red equilateral triangle at the left of the flag, partly covering the stripes, with a white five pointed star in the centre of the triangle.



     A shield in front of a fasces crowned by the Phrygian Cap, all supported by an oak branch and a laurel wreath

    1901 – The British colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia federated as the Commonwealth of Australia; Edmund Barton was appointed the first Prime Minister.





    1912 The Republic of China was established.

     A red flag, with a small blue rectangle in the top left hand corner on which sits a white sun composed of a circle surrounded by 12 rays.



     A blue circular emblem on which sits a white sun composed of a circle surrounded by 12 rays.

    1912  Kim Philby, British spy, was born.

    Kim philby.jpg

    1919 J. D. Salinger, American novelist, was born.

    1925  American astronomer Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of galaxies outside the Milky Way.

    1934  Alcatraz Island became a United States federal prison.

    1939  William Hewlett and David Packard founded Hewlett-Packard.

    Hewlett-Packard Company logo

    1948 The British railway network was nationalised to form British Railways.

    1956  The Republic of the Sudan gained independence.





    1958 The European Communitywas established.

    1959 Fulgencio Batista, president of Cuba ws overthrown by Fidel Castro‘s forces during the Cuban Revolution.

    Batista in 1938

    1960 The Republic of Cameroon achieved independence.




     Tricolor shield before two crossed fasces. Its center is an inverted red kite shape covered with a purple outline of Cameroon below a gold star, with the scales of justice superimposed. Its left is green and its right is gold. Banners with fine print are above and below.

    1962 Western Samoa achieves independence from New Zealand; its name is changed to the Independent State of Western Samoa.





    1962 – United States Navy SEALs established.

    US Navy SEALs insignia.png

    1982Peruvian Javier Pérez de Cuéllar became the first Latin American to hold the title of Secretary General of the United Nations.

    1983 – The ARPANET officially changes to using the Internet Protocol, creating the Internet.

    1984 – The Sultanate of Brunei became independent.





    1985 The Internet‘s Domain Name Systemwas created.

    1985 – The first British mobile phone callwais made by Ernie Wise to Vodafone.

    1990David Dinkins was sworn in as New York City’s first black mayor.

    1993 – A single market within the European Community is introduced.

    1994 – The North American Free Trade Agreement comes into effect.

    1995  The World Trade Organisation came  into effect.

    1995 – The Draupner wave in the North Sea in Norway was detected, confirming the existence of freak waves.

    1997 – Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan was appointed Secretary General of the United Nations.

    1998 – The European Central Bank was established.

    2006 – Sydney, sweltered through its hottest New Years Day on record. The thermometer peaked at 45 degrees celsius, sparking bushfires and power outages.

    Sourced from NZ History ONline & Wikipedia.

    Handwriting now a lost art


    I’d better start with a confession: I prefer a key board to pen and paper because my handwriting is appalling and I once spent several minutes trying to transcribe my shorthad before realising it was longhand.

    That is unfortunate for a journalist and it’s probably unusual for my generation for whom tidy hand writing – and good spelling – were among the basics required from us at school.

    But it’s probably the norm for the current generation of school children who are having to relearn the art of handwriting because they’ll need it when they sit exams.

    The disjunction between the acquired skill of keyboarding and the need to handwrite exams has led some schools to incorporate handwriting lessons in years 11 and 12 as students find they have to relearn the art of using a pen and paper quickly – lost after years of using computers, laptops and mobiles.

    The senior English teacher at Barker College, on Sydney’s North Shore, Sue Marks, says she has had top students forced to do remedial courses to get their handwriting legible enough for HSC examiners to read.

    Sydney Grammar will not accept typed essays in the later years of high school. The headmaster, John Vallance, says the school places a very strong emphasis on ensuring every student can write legibly.

    “Handwriting is an important expression of a student’s personality, which is certainly not demonstrable through keyboarding,” Dr Vallance said. “It’s a skill this generation should not lose.”

    I think he has a point about not losing the skill but If my handwriting expresses my personalilty I might be in serious need of therapy.

    While the cautious toe-dipping of NSW Board of Studies is mainly directed at issues such as equality and practicality, there are other concerns among senior educators about the onslaught of technology-driven methods on the very process of learning and thinking among young people.

    Barker’s Dr Marks said: “The process of writing – whether it be by hand, or on a computer keyboard – is closely connected with the process of thinking. Research points to the fact that thoughts are generated, not merely recorded, through the process of writing.

    “So my fear, in relation to the rise of abbreviated forms adopted by many when emailing, text messaging and instant messaging, is that the capacity for deep thinking, fostered through writing, will be eroded.”

    Dr Marks said it was not that writing using these technologies was inherently detrimental to deep thought. “In my view, as society becomes more and more dependent upon technology, it will become increasingly important for clear and cohesive writing to be taught in schools.

    “If this is not the case we run the risk of students’ writing – and thinking – reflecting their text-messaging practices and becoming little more than a series of truncated ideas. Many of today’s students are quite capable of sophisticated thought, but as grab-bites become the norm in modern communication technologies, it is vital that the skills involved in producing thoughtful, developed compositions, reflective of higher order thinking, are fostered in our schools.”

    It is a view shared by Roslyn Arnold, honorary professor of education and social work at the University of Sydney, whose original PhD was on school children’s writing development. Professor Arnold argues that it is the act of writing that actually creates, not simply reflects, thought.

    While keyboarding did not necessarily have a detrimental effect on writing, just focusing on the speed of communicating could rob a student of the opportunity of deep reflective composing, she says.

    A poster in the English Department at Otago says: I read therefore I think. If these people are right then it might also be true that we think because we write.

    If computers are interfering with our ability to think deeply and clearly we have a problem, and even if they don’t, we need to equip children to write with pen and paper so they can cope when the power goes off.

    Hat tip: goNZo Freakpower

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