Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Selecting the Right Person for the Job - Especially Teachers

We have all seen great staff, and we almost certainly have seen abysmal, horrible, could not care less staff. So why are staff selected in the first place? And what does it say about the employing organisation / business?

This issue is explored in some depth in a recent Malcolm Gladwell article available here:

In the examples he uses two or three very dissimilar areas but one - school teachers - is a critical one for most families. Personally I do not think I am teacher material - and do not desire to be one, but I most certainly have had a few good teachers. They are memorable, and effective.

We all have had both good and bad teachers. And most parents hope that their children have "good" teachers. But what is a good teacher?

The article attempts to explore this issue in some depth and to point out why good teachers are vital. But finding and selecting good teachers is not an easy or even a tangible process. Do you agree with the points made that having better teachers and paying them appropriately is more cost effective than almost any other option in the field of education, and that class size is a bit of a furphy? I spent time in vary large classes while at school and never felt disempowered......maybe the teachers were much better or just more dedicated. But read it and think!

Malcolm Gladwell has form as a distinguished writer - as author of The Tipping Point.

This article is an excellent read and particularly pertinent in Australia as we approach a new school year. It is also an interesting option to ponder as regards indigenous education in Australia, a topic being considered in a more serious manner across especially northern Australia. How can society ensure that "good" teachers are available in numbers for this important task? There are other difficulties in that field, but getting and retaining good teachers is essential - for that task as well as for all schools.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Local Fauna

Parrots are a significant part of the Australian bird fauna. And none probably as ubiquitous as the galah.

These grey and pink parrots are great talkers in captivity, and long lived. They seem to be everywhere across Australia, and can be the biggest problem to grain growers......they eat the seed when it is sown, and then eat the seed once the crop matures, expecially for sorghum and millets.

But today it is very wet [60mm of rain in about 2 hours] and they were seen scavenging by the roadside........eating some local grass seeds.

They can be a pest on the road, and I must confess to having hit a few in motorcars, and even the odd broken windscreen. They tend to suddenly fly off the roadside, invariably one or a few heading across the road into the path of the traffic.

They did that almost immediately after the photo!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Cyclones are Ugly

Cyclones are ugly creatures. A heart and soul of their own, and intent on causing as much havoc as possible in as short a time as possible.

Cyclone Billy seems to have by passed Australia. A Christmas present we could do without.

But looking at the composite radar image tonight, Christmas night, with the Cyclone now at category 4, I am very glad it did not visit for Christmas.

When the image shows a distinct dot at the centre you
can be assured it is an intense cyclone. Cyclone Billy has that and a very well organised peripheral structure also indicative of a well organised intense cyclone. This is even more notable on the recent infrared satellite photos of the region.

Lets all be content that it seems to be heading out to sea away from the Australian coast. It is a nasty beast!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Hecta's Thunderheads for Christmas

The wet season is awesome. Majestic displays of heavenly firepower, towering thunderheads late in the afternoons, deep grey skies layered in deepening shades with the dark grey of rain often at the bottom.

While the last few days have been relatively drier, with little rain, the thunderheads still build late each day. Hecta is alive and well!

Hecta - a derivative from hectapascal - is the name given, by the Met bureau, to the regular build up of heavy monsoonal storm clouds most days across to the north and west of Darwin on the Tiwi Islands.

Where would we be without rain? And at this time of the year, the rain brings cooler relief from the heat and stifling humidity of the day.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas 2008 v Christmas 1974

By Christmas morning in 1974 we were drinking Galliano out of the bottle and using a gas stove on the back of my work panel van underneath the mess that had been our home. Yes, the annual reminder of Cyclone Tracy, which literally blew Darwin away on Christmas Day 1974.

Lots of funny stories and lots of heartbreak. We were relatively lucky, as our house while a write-off was still partially intact, but many others including some friends had their entire house and everything in it blown away.......literally, and all that was left was floorboards and the toilet bowl! And there were many like that around town, especially in the area of the northern suburbs of Darwin.

The town was evacuated, and many who left, never returned. The city was declared a disaster zone, and effective control was passed to the military in effect, at least for a brief period. We did not evacuate, and as we then had a 13 month old baby, life was at times, very interesting. A time for people to come together to help each other, to cope with the trauma and drama of the event and, as many Australians seem to do, to also crack a few jokes about the event.

It was a turning point for Darwin in modern times. People who remained wanted the town to be rebuilt and to be something better. Those who left did not have that view. Simple things.......even the gardens around houses were better after the cyclone; a deeper and improved community spirit.

Many of those still around the city do have issues with the screech of tearing sheet metal. That was an awesome noise during Cyclone Tracy, as it was usually followed by a wall or a house blowing away after the roof tore off.

There are some intriguing pictorial displays around Darwin with the NT Museum display a very much visited area. Ask Google for more information.

But Christmas 2008 is much more sedate. Cyclone Billy is now a Category 4 system, but heading out to sea off WA so probably will not cause trouble. A friend in Broome was headed off for a cyclone party just after it blew by there on the 23rd......but at a Category 1 level, and offshore.

Merry Christmas to all. Remember those less fortunate than you. While our table was replete for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, with fine china and a snowy white tablecloth, not everyone is that lucky.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Golf Hazards

I am not a golfer, although I do spend a bit of time on golf courses looking at how the grass grows.

Asians in general terms love to play golf. I have not seen a lot of fun in chasing a little white is more fun to go surfing, snorkel, swim or even ride a bike.

And at times golfing can be a hazardous pursuit. Would one be believed if, after arriving home from playing golf, you were able to tell family that you lost more than a ball or two on the golf course?

The sign says it all...........and at a very prestigous golf course in Singapore. Definitely a need to be careful while playing golf.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Cyclone Billy Arrives

Not only do we have the monsoon front deep over the Northern Territory, now we have our first [ well second actually but first, Anika was near Christmas Island, a long way out to the west] cyclone of the season - Cyclone Billy.

Looks as if areas around the NT /WA border area will be the recipients, although it is Category 1, and winds are only at 100kms/hr, so far.

Darwin has a lot of squally, windy rain tonight, but nothing seriously problematical. Just a typical monsoonal night, with wind and rain!

There are a few people we know in the area where the cyclone is heading, but this is a fairly low key cyclone far. One thing you learn about cyclones, is that they are unpredictable.

Let us hope all is well for those much closer than us.

The image is copyright Bureau of Meteorology, and off their website, with the image from the Wyndham radar.

It updates regularly.....and will be doing that tonight. I am sure the forecasters will be also watching it closely.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Monsoon is HERE

If you have never lived in a monsoonal climate, it may not gel but if you have you will know what I mean. Weeks, and months of dry weather, lately a few storms and very hot and humid with quite trying still conditions.......and then........the wind starts blowing from the opposite direction.

We have had a light but insistent NW to W breeze over the past 2 days, and since Sunday, high cloud and overcast conditions with a little rain. From about lunchtime yesterday, the rain started. Around 70mm [ 3 inches] since then overnight.

And it is still raining gently, but VERY insistently. I was going to do some serious flying today in a light aircraft, but only got as far as a flight around the airport before the weather closed in, earlier today. And it was very wet below.

The monsoon is HERE.

Overcast, cool [25C] - compared to the past few weeks of 33 - 36C, and a welcome change. Rain brings life and didn't the green frogs have a great time last night and today as well, singing very loudly about how great the rain is.

Current weather map :

The dense cloud across northern Australia is the monsoonal front.

photo off the national radar image from at 1200 local time Darwin.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Monsoon is Coming

This is a fantastic photo /radar satellite image from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, just a few minutes ago.

Shows dense monsoonal cloud south of Timor and long cloud tail streaming to the SE across Australia, with heavy rain in Victoria. Just a fantastic photo image.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Big Moon Rising

Tonight is the biggest moon of the 2008 calendar year.

For a monsoonal climate, and we have had a few near monsoonal showers today, it is overcast and quite cloudy, but still the moon will rise in the east.

And it has come to pass that the clouds have eased, and the moon appeared among the palm leaves ........

Then emerged from behind the leaves........colours are unusual but real. NOT the typical large yellow globe you expect in the tropics, so vivid in the drier months.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Black Cockatoos - Paraparap is a palindrone, the call of the red tailed black cockatoo. Or that is how the local aborigines transliterate the sound.

Still reasonably common around Darwin, this flock were sitting happily in a large eucalypt near the airport.

They are large and very regal.

The sound is also the name given to one of Darwin's suburbs, but often shortenend to Parap.