Conference City - Brisbane by night - from a photograph by Mr David Ball

Issue number one hundred and sixty-nine (February 2015) from the WorldU3A Service, sent on the first of every month to U3A members anywhere in the world.

Feel free to copy any or all of this information in your newsletters.
Please send items of possible interest to the editor, Tom Holloway.

History and Book Groups: this wonderful site - LUMINARIUM - the brain child of Aniina Jokinen, is a rich compendium of more than 5,000 pages of English Literature. She says....

"The site started in early 1996. I remember looking for essays to spark an idea for a survey class I was taking at the time. I started the site as a public service, because I myself had to waste so much time as a student, trying to find anything useful or interesting. There were only a handful of sites back then (read: Internet Dark Ages) and I could spend hours on search engines, looking for just a few things. I realized I must not be the only one in the predicament and started a simple one-page site of links to Middle English Literature. That page was soon followed by a Renaissance site.

I wanted the site to be a multimedia experience in the periods. I find it easier to visualize what I am reading when there is a small illustration or a tidbit about the background of the author or his work. The music and art of the period serve to complement one's rational experience of the site with the emotional".

Computer Groups: The photograph above is from Prague, where Senior Citizens have completed a course on editing and contributing articles in Wikipedia. U3A groups in the UK interested in doing something similar can contact the London office of Wikimedia. They would be delighted to advise and might even be able to contribute to something similar to the Prague initiative. (Thank you, Dr Vyasamoorthy of Society for Serving Seniors, Secunderabad).
Computer Groups: Techtalk - Stop installing CRAPware.
Windows software downloads are a mess. Many programs try to drag adware and other malicious junk onto your computer. Even safe programs sometimes turn to the dark side and start bundling junk later.

More experienced geeks may not fall for this stuff as often, but we (in Techtalk) have all kinds of readers. We prefer to avoid putting them into situations where they could be infected because they downloaded something we recommended.

SEE ALSO: "Has the Antivirus Industry gone mad?" on the EMSISOFT Blog here >>> and revelations on how much governments spend on FinFisher malware to spy on their citizens can be seen here >>>

Embroidery/weaving Groups: The silk weavers of Walahjapet in Andhra Pradesh have been famous for their craft for almost a century, but this skill is fast disappearing under the pressure of modern methods. You will find an interesting slideshow with commentary about it here >>>

A YOUTUBE video showing a french silk weaver producing fabric in 28 colours for Versailles can be seen here >>>

Space/Astronomy Groups: This video shows the Canadarm on the International Space Station grabbing and docking the new unpiloted Space-X Dragon capsule, which is being used to deliver supplies to ISS. The Dragon capsule, now secured to an earth-facing port, will remain in place for 28 days before returning to earth with rubbish and the results of science tests.

The US Space Programme will no doubt be relieved that all this works as advertised. They will no longer need to use the (expensive) Russian SOYUZ vehicles for deliveries of astronauts and supplies to ISS.

Current events and Economics Groups: Richard Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York. Wolff has also taught economics at Yale University, City University of New York, University of Utah, University of Paris I (Sorbonne), and The Brecht Forum in New York City.

In this interview Professor Wolff describes the cause of Greece's Current difficulties and makes plain his solution.

Travel Groups: Members will be interested to learn that the current President of AIUTA (Association Internationale des Universités du Troisième Age) is a noted international expert on travel and tourism, and the above announces a talk on the subject on 4th February.

U3A Senior Citizens Delhi announce the January issue of their monthly newsletter. This picture-packed publication clearly illustrates the diversity of the U3A movement. The subject of 'health in old age' is very important in India due to local circumstances.

For example, it is common for Indian U3A groups to run events which give blankets and food to poor communities and also to run 'medical camps' at which poor families can get health checks, eye-checks and spectacles, free diagnosis and medicines. Rural elderly in particular do not have access to quality health care, so Indian groups tend to lay greater emphasis on this issue. Also, U3A Bangalore regularly run events at which they give out books and prizes to children of poor families. SIGNPOST would be interested to hear of any similar initiatives by european or australian U3A groups.

Current Events Groups: Money and Society MOOC -- this free online course at Masters-level will enable you to understand the past, present and future role of money in society.

Concerned with the banking system? Bemused or fascinated by bitcoin? Starting a local currency? Whereas most courses on money are intended for people with an economics background or banking future, this course is for people who are interested in understanding money from a social innovation perspective – it prepares the ground for answering how to create a better future by reshaping money and currency.

The course is therefore highly interdisciplinary, drawing upon anthropology, sociology, history and heterodox economics. The MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) starts online on February 16th 2015 and runs for one month, with four lessons. Learn more here >>

Online learning: When it was launched in 2008 'learnist' described itself as "... a crowd-sourced collection of the world's knowledge". Since then it has built a large library of user-generated multimedia lessons called "learnboards" and claims to have changed to become rather like U3A, a grass-roots community-led movement to encourage users to contribute their knowledge and skills to help and teach others. It's full of interesting bite-size articles, but it is beginning to look like just another way to 'sell stuff' and the 'gee-whiz' style and adverts definitely give it a 'soft-sell' look. Recommended, but treat with scepticism.

Environment/Renewable Energy Study Groups: This hard-headed and definitive essay from Richard Heinberg is well worth investing the thirty minutes it takes to read it or download and discuss it.

"Folks who pay attention to energy and climate issues are regularly treated to two competing depictions of society’s energy options.* On one hand, the fossil fuel industry claims that its products deliver unique economic benefits. On the other hand, at least some renewable energy proponents tell us there is plenty of wind and sun, the fuel is free.

Which message is right? Will our energy future be fueled by fossils (with or without carbon capture technology), or powered by abundant, renewable wind and sunlight? Does the truth lie somewhere between these extremes; or is our energy destiny located in a Terra Incognita that neither fossil fuel promoters nor renewable energy advocates talk much about?"

U3A Online: A complete GEMs Archive - Rick Swindell's newsletter - pdf printouts of all prior editions can be found at

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