Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A.J. Langguth (1933 - 2014)

My first visit to the USA was in 1969 as a tourist on the way back to Australia from a business trip to Germany. This was followed by sporadic business trips, mainly to Pittsburgh PA, up until the early 1990s.
About 17 years ago I started visiting the USA on a regular basis for extended periods for personal reasons.
Seeing I was now mixing with the general population and getting immersed in day to day living there, I thought I'd better get to know the country a bit better than what we were taught at school ie. the basic Columbus, Pilgrims, War of Independence, Civil War stuff.
I went looking for some history books.
Among the many I came across one called Patriots, The Men Who Started the American Revolution by A.J.Langguth
Here was a book written about the American Revolution through the eyes of the people who were part of it: George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry.
I liked the author's style and sought more by him.
Arthur John Langguth was an author, journalist and educator, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 
A graduate of  Harvard College, he was South East Asian correspondent and Saigon bureau chief for The New York Times during the Vietnam war.

He joined the journalism faculty at USC in 1976 eventually achieving the post of Professor Emeritus of the Annenberg School for Communications School of Journalism at that institution. 
He retired from active teaching at USC in 2003. 
He was the author of satirical novels as well as more importantly, for me, American history.
We corresponded by email occasionally about his work and what was in his writing pipeline. He had an affection for Australians due to his time in Vietnam and had visited Sydney on one occasion.
He had dedicated one of his books, Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975, to Neil Davis who was an Australian combat cameraman recognized for his work as a photojournalist during the Vietnam War and other conflicts in the region. He was killed in Bangkok in 1985, while filming a minor Thai coup attempt.
I was Googling the other day to find out if there was another book of his published and was  saddened to read of AJL's death a few years ago.
Below is my Langguth reading list. It is recommended for those with an interest in American history who like a novelist style approach to a subject while concentrating on the personalities of the time rather than just dry facts and figures.

  • After Lincoln: How the North Won the Civil War and Lost the Peace Simon & Schuster, 2014
  • Driven West: Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War Simon & Schuster, 2010
  • Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence Simon & Schuster, 2006
  • Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975 (Simon & Schuster, 2000), Touchstone Press (paper), 2002
  • Patriots, The Men Who Started the American Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 1988); Touchstone Press (paper), 1989, 2002

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Batemans Bay / A Birthday Date Day

Batemans Bay is about a 25 minute drive to the south of us. It sits at the mouth of the Clyde River which flows down from the Budawang Mountains in Great Dividing Range into the Tasman Sea.
It is famous for its delicious Sydney rock oysters.
The town is a larger centre than ours and is developing quickly as retiring baby boomers head for a sea change from Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
An institution there is the Innes Boatshed. It sits over the water and serves, in our opinion, the best fish and chips in the country. No table service, paper plates, plastic cutlery and you clean up after yourself. You line up to order and wait for it to be cooked before taking it to your table. They have only recently succumbed to the pressure of the 21st century and accepted card payment.
It used to be cash only.

The Innesses are an old fishing family in the Bay and still have a boat that brings in a local catch.
There was a time when the Boatshed was under threat from developers and the building was to be torn down and replaced by a modern aluminium and glass monstrosity. The town had numerous petitions going to save it but the council at the time was unmoved.
Luckily the GFC sent the developer broke and the old boatshed building remains and is more popular than ever.
We had flake, chips (fries) and potato scallops. The latter we found out at the Minnesota State Fair are called Australian battered potatoes in the USA. Flake is a euphemism for shark. Shark was always a staple for fish and chip shops when I was a kid. It was traditionally gummy shark but as tastes change other types of fish have become more popular for the fish and chip combo.
And there was always the question of the mercury build up in shark to a point where an allowable maximum size for consumption was legislated. I always hang out for flake as you don't see it too often any more.
This flake however was mako shark which the Innes boat had caught that morning. It was very meaty and distinctively different from gummy shark but still pretty good.

The Bay is also home to a 'lift span bridge' that allows Highway 1, the Princes Highway in our part of the world, across the river. When we moved to Brisbane from Melbourne by car in 1956, this river crossing was still by punt. The bridge opened a few months after we had passed through.
But now the old bridge is always causing problems getting stuck in the 'up' position after letting boats through or other failures that can hold up traffic for some time. A concept for a new one has just been announced in the last few days.
How long that will take to build is any one's guess.
The current and the newly proposed bridges

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

WoNS (Weeds of National Significance)

A weed is any plant that requires some form of action to reduce its effect on the economy, the environment as well as human health and amenity.
There are thirty two WoNS on the Australian government's list. Their inclusion is based on their invasiveness, potential for spread and environmental as well as social and economic impacts.
Many plants introduced into Australia in the last 230 years ie since European settlement, are now weeds.
But a native species that colonizes and persists in an ecosystem in which it did not previously exist can also fall into this category. Snakevine (Hibbertia scandens) is a prime example on our property. It grows prolifically here and can cover large areas very quickly taking over productive pasture.

It is sold in local nurseries as a garden plant which I find a little bemusing.
Another is native tussock which I have written about a few times.
Obviously not all of the thirty two WoNS affect all regions of Australia but here are the ones (and their origin) that are listed for our part of the continent.
*Asparagus Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus) - South Africa
Bitou Bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp. rotundata) - South Africa
English Broom (Cytisus scoparius) -
Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) -
South America
*Lantana (Lantana camara) - Central and South America
Gorse (Ulex europaeus) - Western Europe and UK
*Fireweed (Senecio madagascariensis) -
Madagascar and southern Africa
*Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) -
Prickly Pear (Opuntia spp) - North and South America
*Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma) - South America
Chilean Needle Grass (Nassella neesiana) - South America
African Boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum) - South Africa
The ones that we are most concerned with here are noted with a * with three being a particular problem.

              Blackberry                 Fireweed                  Giant Parramatta Grass

States and local councils also have weed lists which contain many more than thirty two. Our state list has over 300.
We got a visit from the local council 'weed lady' the other day who inspected our property for any 'nasties'.
She was looking for those on our *list plus Giant Parramatta Grass (Sporobolus fertilis)
We are continually battling Blackberry and have had one small out break of Fireweed many years ago which we got under control eventually completely eliminating it.
Our neighbours have had Giant Parramatta Grass on their properties and it also grows on many public road verges in the vicinity. I have never seen any here.
However nothing reportable was found during the inspection which is good. I really try to keep things under control weed wise.
She however did notice some wild tobacco (Solanum mauritianum) seedlings which are poisonous to cattle.

This is a long-lived (ie. perennial) shrub or small branching tree usually growing 1.5-4 m tall, but capable of reaching up to 10 m in height. I have been aware of this problem and spray them off when doing other weed remedial work.
So I will be on the lookout for this one when recommencing my battle with the tussock and bracken next autumn.