Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Gourmets and games

I ordered an ostrich burger, wondering how they found a bun big enough to fit around an ostrich.

Yes, regular readers will guess that I was at the Taste Of Tasmania, the post-Christmas food fair that kicks off the Hobart Summer Festival.

There were 70 food and wine stalls – including 12 new ones – set up in the cavernous building on Princes Wharf that the locals call (with vast understatement) "the shed". I can't say that my sister and I got around all 70, but we sampled a good selection of them.

I don't remember in detail which ones we visited but we got to at least
  • Tas Game & Gourmet
  • Pogo Ice Cream
  • Rosti Chalet
  • Wine & Oyster Bar
  • Sweet Sensations
  • Tasmanian Wines

We tried the wallaby cabana, the ostrich burger, the venison burger, bacon gruyere rosti, mushroom goat-cheese rosti, and olie bolen pastries. Julie sampled the wooded Chardonnay and the oyster shooters while I stayed with the coffee and mineral water.

There was more live entertainment than you could shake a stick at. We caught the end of the lively performance by musical group Shemozzle on the Festival Café stage, and Tony Voglino was doing some spirited Elvis songs on the Shed One Stage.

I haven't seen Shemozzle since they appeared at the Moonah Arts Centre and there was quite a difference between hearing them in that intimate venue and listening to them try to make an impression on a barn full of people eating and talking. It's a tribute to them that at times they could still get the toes tapping and the head bobbing in time to the music (well, at my table anyway)

Outside, a big crowd gathered in the buskers' area to watch Mr Fish, who rode around on a ten-foot unicycle while juggling knives and kicking a plastic fish into the goldfish bowl he was wearing on his head. Obviously the result of years of practice.

We called in at the Salamanca greengrocer then drove home and made a cup of tea. While we were resting and sipping our drinks the phone rang.

"Hello, Michael, aren't you supposed to be somewhere?"

Hell, it's Tuesday! We were supposed to be around at Ivan & Edith's for dinner twenty minutes ago!

That's the trouble with public holidays, they completely disorient your weekly routine. I knew what the date was and what the time was, but I'd lost all sensation of what day of the week it was.

We flew round there and sat down to a big dinner that looked suspiciously like one way of getting rid of all those Christmas leftovers, then they brought out a very unusual board game.

Sjoelen (pronounced something like a slurred "schooling") is a Dutch game played on a long wooden board. You have 28 wooden discs and you try to slide them through four openings at the other end of the board.

As usual, a brief description makes the game sound simple and uncomplicated. Actually playing it you discover things you should and shouldn't do if you want to get a good score. We divided into two teams of three – Ivan & Edith, Julie & I and the other two guests George & Judy.

Not surprisingly, Ivan & Edith came in with the highest score at the end. It was getting a bit late for another full game, but Julie played a few practice shots before Edith showed her this logic game that they'd been playing at Strahan recently.

Julie whizzed through game #1 easily, then Edith showed her game #36 which she said was the hardest one in the book. It was sort of like Rubik's cube in two dimensions. Characteristically she sat down and glowered at the board until she worked out the solution. "I'm very impressed," said Ivan from his armchair; "that's a very difficult one."

I was impressed too -- because it meant we could go home at last. Well, after we fed Julie's animals that is.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Goose in the garden

The goose we're raising at my house – we still haven't given her a name – looks almost fully grown to me. I have difficulty knowing quite how to treat her. She's actually livestock, but having her in the house with us makes her feel more like a pet.

The other day we were out on the back lawn and she was sitting next to me; when I stretched out in the sun, she moved up and sat right in front of me, looking me right in the face.

I kind of have trouble imagining us turning her out into the farmyard to run with the other geese and take her chances in the great outdoors.

"You know what this makes us?" I said to my sister. "She's Elsa the lioness, I'm Bill Travers and you're Virginia McKenna!"

BBC radio are running a Peter Pan celebration. Apparently it was Christmas 1904, exactly one hundred years ago, that J.M. Barrie's play had its first performance.

Did you know that Daphne du Maurier's father was the first person to play Captain Hook?

Leaving Julie's house last night, we thought we saw a cat or a dog moving in the darkness. Then it turned and bounded away down the streeet. "A wallaby!" I exclaimed. The bouncing gait was unmistakable even in the darkness.

"One of my neighbours said that he's had them in his backyard," said Julie, "I've just never seen one on my side of the street before."

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Hallelujahs & horses

click here for the Queens' Speech

We got through Christmas all right, though I was remarkably disorganised and very tired.

I have always tried to stay out of the city the day before Christmas, but there I was at lunch-time on Christmas Eve in line at the bank. [Sigh!]

By the time we'd been to the Christmas Day service on Saturday morning, then the regular Sunday morning service, I felt so exhausted I went back to bed for two hours.

The Christmas Day service was packed. We had a seven-piece musical group leading the hymns (eight if you count the grandp piano I guess) and R2 preached. The collection raised a goodly sum for the work of the Australian Indigenous Mission which works with Australian aborigines.

Sunday was much more low-key, with only a fraction of the number attending. But you'd expect that on a Christmas long-weekend.

Christmas dinner we had at Jan's place – she's an old friend of Julie's and her mother amused us with stories about the two of them when they were at school. Also at the meal were Annette & Gunter who are from Darwin I think.

It was a very pleasant meal, and later we wandered out to the barn and inspected Jan's wildlife – three ducks, two chickens, three quail and a rabbit.

Jan is living up near Ridgeway, under Mount Wellington, where the air is so cool and crisp when you step out of the car that's still filled with air from the suburbs. There are green hills in every direction. It's a lovely spot.

The only disquieting moment came when the conversation turned to Jan's computer and she casually mentioned she had no anti-virus software at all. Julie and I exchanged a worried glance then said "Is your computer free at the moment?"

We downloaded the new AVG 7 and ran it for her – one Worm and three Trojans. When we told Jan, she just said "Really? How exciting."

As for why I was so tired....

Coming up to Christmas you expect things to be a bit hectic, but Wednesday night was more fraught than we could ever have imagined.

As usual I drove my sister Julie over to her house late that night so she could feed her livestock. She pottered about with the poultry and the dogs while I listened to the midnight quiz on the radio and fed the cats.

And then...

Julie rang me on her mobile phone to say that her horse Shadow had blood on his foot. Could I look up the number of the Vet for her.

That began a long unproductive series of phone calls. Don't believe it when you see the words "24-hour Emergency Service" in the yellow pages ads. Some of the Vets slept through their pagers, others never called back.

It was nearly 1:30 by the time we got through to a sleepy but helpful DVM.

She advised us how to administer first aid to the horse, since it would have cost hundreds of dollars for a house call in the middle of the night. We drove back to my house to gather up some tape and bandages; Julie said she could do it herself, but I suggested she might need somebody to hold the light for her (I also had visions of her grappling with a distressed horse alone in the middle of the night...)

Drove back to her place again – very little traffic on the roads at that time of the morning – and made our way to the paddock. The horse seemed reasonably calm and was interested in the bucket of feed that Julie proffered.

By flashlight, I could dimly see something dark coating his leg just above the hoof. He seemed on his best behaviour so I got down on one knee and took a really close look. Sticky red blood made it difficult to see, but there seemed to be quite a deep cut. The blood might have been oozing a bit; it was hard to tell in that light.

Julie slipped on the headstall and I held the horse still while training the torch on the leg in question. He looked askance at first when Julie began wrapping the bandage around his leg, but some soothing words and a caressing hand kept him calm.

The thick bandage went on first, then several times around with the insulating tape. "Does that look enough?" Another couple of rounds of tape. It seemed secure, but then I knew nothing about horses. Did they pick at their bandages like dogs do?

"He didn't play up as much as I thought he might," I said as we walked back to the house in the darkness. "No. You were quite good with him," replied Julie.

Over the next couple of days he seems to have coped well. The vet checked him out and is coming back in a few days to remove the bandage and check the wound.

Bad news just before Christmas with the passing of Anna, a member of our church since 1963. She was admired by all who knew her. Over the years she'd had an eventful life, including living in the Dutch East Indies when the Japanese invaded during World War II.

She had been placed in an internment camp while her husband Peter was sent to Japan as slave labour in the coal mines. Miraculously both survived.

We shall miss her.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

not such a wonderful life?

Wednesday morning at least we knew where all our cats were.

The other main thing was to get Julie's car out of the paddock.

It was just as we had left it the night before. Not even a hoof-mark from the horse.

In daylight it was easier to manoeuvre the car back a few yards and get up enough speed to get over that steep bit before the roadway. A squeal of tires and she was back on track. In a few seconds the car was back in the street.

Problem solved.

To celebrate, after we'd called in at the supermarket, we sat out in the garden with a glass of cider, a new magazine each [Delicious and Netguide] and our faithful poultry gathered around our feet. The two chickens pecked around on the lawn while the goose sat next to my foot so I could pat her feathers at regular intervals.

It was a pleasant evening in late summer. The distant noise of neighbourhood children playing drifted in over the fence. High in the sky, faint wispy clouds indicated strong winds up there, but at sea level there was just a light breeze.

By Saturday the climate changed suddenly. The temperature climbed steadily till it reached a scorching 31.5° outside [about 90° in the old scale]. I hoped this isn't a sign of what the summer months are going to be like – but of course that's hard to say since Monday was remarkably different (cool and cloudy to the extent that we actually switched the heater on for the cat for an hour!)

An early Christmas present from Julie was a set of braces. Yes, braces.

Like a lot of men these days I used to rely on a belt to keep my pants up, but since I've lost a few pounds while trying to placate my endocrinologist that's become more problematical. If I reach up to change a light-bulb, there's a good chance my trousers will fall down.

I used to be pear-shaped, but since I've become more egg-shaped tightening my belt no longer has the same effect it used to.

At first it felt a little strange, but I'm slowly getting used to them.

I looked in the mirror the first day I was wearing them, and sighed "I look like a small-town newspaper editor in an old movie."

Julie didn't try and deny it. She just said soothingly "Well, that's not such a bad look."

After we'd fed Julie's animals yesterday (and bought a bale of hay for the horse), we called in at Café 73 in Moonah for a coffee. There was a chess set on the next table and on impulse we set up the board for a game.

It is literally decades since I played a game of chess. Julie has played occasionally with friends, but it took me a while to get the hang of it again. After a while I managed to take one of her pawns.

Whether by good luck or skill, I got a bit of a run on and after a few minutes Julie was reduced to the King and two pawns. "I can't believe it, you haven't played for 40 years and you won!" muttered Julie as she conceded.

Mostly luck I suspect. It's like playing the piano or driving at high speeds – I know how it's done, but I can do it myself only with concentrating all my will-power to the extent I break out in a cold sweat. I don't think I have that little kink in the brain that makes you a great chess player or even an enthusiast.

Less pleasing was the first few moments at the office this work. Even when it's delivered with a kindly smile, being asked to sign a letter acknowledging receipt of a formal reprimand will brighten the day of very few people.

The experience plunged me into an hour of gloom, contemplating my whole life and wondering whether in fact I had ever achieved anything or whether I was just amusing myself while waiting to die.

Not exactly appropriate sentiments for the Christmas season – unless of course you're James Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life which I have always found to be more scary than sentimental. To me, the feelings of despair of Stewart's character cut a bit too close to home for comfort.

At least I got payment for the extra work I did this month; I suppose that's something. I can certainly do with it this week.

Listened to the first of three Saint thrillers that were broadcast over the BBC website last week. They seem to be faithful adaptations of the novels by Leslie Charteris, set in the 1930s period in which they were written. Certainly a damn sight better than the woeful feature film starring Val Kilmer.

The first of them was Saint Overboard which unfortunately is probably my least favourite title in the whole series. I always thought there was simply far too much about deep-sea diving in the book, something which is reduced to a manageable amount in the 60-minute radio play.

The other two in the series are The Saint Closes The Case and The Saint Plays With Fire. I wonder if they'll do any others from the novels?

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter/summer solstice holiday …

(practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all)

…..and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2005, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Australia great
(not to imply that Australia is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "Australia" in the western hemisphere),
and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms.

This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal.

It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting.

It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Just returned from my church’s Carol Service, which ran as follows:

Congregational Carols 9.45-10.00 a.m.
Choir “The First Nowell”
Welcome Isaiah 9:2, 6
Hymn 163 “Joy to the World Prayers”
Scripture reading Luke 2:1-7
Combined Choir “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”
Announcements & Offering

Sunday School: “Noel, Noel”
“Mary Had a Baby”
Role play “Where’s Jesus?”
Sudanese Choir
Youth Choir “While Shepherds Watched”

Scripture reading Luke 2:8-20
Hymn 182 “Silent Night, Holy Night”
Closing prayer
Hymn 187 “As with Gladness Men of Old”
Dutch Carol “Glory to God”


One Christmas Pastor Clifford Stewart sent his parents a microwave oven. Here’s how he recalls the experience: ‘They were excited that now they too could be part of the instant generation. When Dad unpacked the microwave and plugged it in, literally within seconds, the microwave transformed two smiles into frowns! Even after reading the directions they couldn’t make it work.

Two days later my mother was playing bridge with a friend and confessed her inability to get the microwave oven even to boil water. “To get this darn thing to work,” she exclaimed, “I really didn’t need better directions. I just needed my son to come along with the gift!” ‘

When God gave the gift of salvation, he didn’t send a booklet of complicated instructions for us to figure out: he sent his Son.


“If our greatest need had been education
God would have sent an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology
God would have sent a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money
God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure
God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness
So God sent us a Saviour.”


And regrettably I should warn you there is a virus titled “Merry Christmas” going around – if you receive a message from a friend with a similarly titled attachment don’t open it!

I checked the church’s e-mail inbox after 2 ½ days and we had six actual messages, seven viruses and 183 pieces of junk mail. Aaaagh.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

geese, cats & motoring

Tuesday was one of those days about which you almost wish you could wake up the next morning and say "Oh thank goodness it was just a bad dream...."

The morning was all right. I was working a full day at the office for once, so I got into town early and relied on an extra cup of coffee to counteract the five hours sleep I'd had the night before.

Quite a bit of work came across my desk, but nothing I couldn't handle. I stopped for a late lunch about 2:30 and chatted with R2 about the nature of blogs and their popularity ("No, I don't know any of the other bloggers – most of them don't even live in this hemisphere").

Then into town to pick up Kay. She was not getting about too well, having tripped over the metal framework of a rack of clothes that had been left next to the steps in a department store. After an hour in the Emergency Room with an icepack on her leg, she'd become impatient and hobbled back into town.

She could walk about six feet, then she had to stop to rest her leg, teetering precariously on her two walking sticks. I got her some painkillers from the nearest pharmacist and managed to get her into the car and drove her home.

When I arrived back at my place, my sister Julie recounted her adventures with the animals during the afternoon. She had been fixing something on her car when there was a sudden shriek from indoors – one of the mesh panels over the goose's box had fallen down and frightened the life out of her.

She leapt out of the box, screaming and honking as Julie rushed in from outside.

Julie scooped up the goose and put her in the backyard, while her cat Jezebel made herself scarce. Everything seemed to settle down.

After a while, we started to muse "I suppose the cat is inside somewhere?" We began looking about.

We looked in all her usual spots and favourite refuges. She wasn't under Julie's bed. We tried calling her in the yard and on the front lawn in case she'd slipped out during the commotion.

Even as it became dark and cool, there was no sign of her, which is most unusual for a Rex cat.

Things looked grim. Eventually we gave up the search, amidst much mutterings like "She must be somewhere!"

The next thing on the agenda was to drive over to Julie's house with a bale of hay she bought for the horse. After we'd left my place, she announced she intended to drive right over to the horse shed to unload the hay.

I demurred at first. The new roadway to the shed was unmade and we'd never driven on it before, much less in the middle of the night after some light rain. However, since we were in Julie's car it was her wishes that prevailed.

When we arrived, I got out and opened the gate for her, then shut it behind us to make sure the horse didn't stray.

By the time I closed the gate and secured it, Julie had driven to the end of the short roadway and was immovably bogged.

We tried for a few minutes to shift the car, the wheels spinning futilely.

In the end we decided to wait for daylight.

It took us 35 minutes to walk back to my house, but at least it was a nice clear night.

And the cat? She turned up on Julie's bed at 4:30 a.m. as though nothing had happened!

On the BBC website, the Saturday Play is the home of thrillers, mysteries, love stories and detective fiction, as well as an occasional special series. "A real treat for lovers of a good story well told." What more could you ask for?

Listened to a very entertaining radio play Death at the Desert Inn by Marcy Kahan .

The Desert Inn, scene of one of his greatest cabaret triumphs, is the setting for "a highly probable Noël Coward Murder Mystery" complete with Judy Garland, a showgirl, a Broadway agent, an unlikely croupier, and a Kennedyesque US congressman.

With Malcolm Sinclair, Eleanor Bron, Tam Williams, Belinda Lang, Jake Broder, Meredith MacNeil, Peter Swander, Nathan Osgood, and William Hootkins. Director Ned Chaillet.

This week's play is The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman.

Less whimsical offerings this month on the BBC website include adaptations of Dicken's Pickwick Papers and J.B. Priestley's The Good Companions


Sunday, December 12, 2004



"I am succumbing to the season this week – the sermon today I trust will help us as we prepare for Christmas. You may be feeling the stress and strain already – work, school, neighbourhood, church functions to celebrate the end of another year. They can almost be the end of us!

This is the Incarnation – God coming into the world as the answer for the chaos, confusion, weariness and lost-ness that pervades mankind. Of course Christmas is just the beginning for believers, not the answer itself that so many see it as being. It is a beginning that has its ending when we yield to Christ as our Saviour and Lord.

It is at that point that we discover “the true meaning of Christmas.” So it was disappointing to watch a Christian aid agency ad that speaks glowingly of the true meaning, yet focuses solely on child support (we are child sponsors) and never gives Jesus even a token nod.

It can be an elusive virtue, but the Scriptures give us the answer:
Luke 7:16 says “God has come to help his people.” That’s the truth behind Immanuel “God is with us” [Matt 1:23]. He is with us, to help us deal with what we can’t ourselves: sin. As Matt.1:21 also tells us “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

He has come to help his people; to deliver them from their sin. Does that include you? Jesus said 'Ask and you will receive.' "

The people who in darkness walked
have seen a glorious light,
that light shines out on those who lived
in shadows of the night.

To greet You, Sun of Righteousness,
the gathering nations come;
rejoicing as when reapers bring
their harvest treasures home.

For now to us a child is born,
to us a Son is given;
and on His shoulder ever rests
all power in earth and heaven.

His name shall be the Prince of Peace,
eternally adored;
most wonderful of counsellors,
the great and mighty Lord.

His peace and righteous government
shall over all extend;
on judgment and on justice based,
His reign shall never end.

The sermon this morning was titled “A Light in the Darkness” and began by acknowledging that there seems to be so much darkness in the world: violence, racism and poverty seem beyond our control… maybe even beyond God’s control.

But the world and its history are still under the direction of the Lord – his arm can reach to the most distant spot in the furthest part of the Outback. God has his purposes even in our grief and sorrows. (The problem is often that God’s plan is not the same as the ones we make.)

We also need to repent of the darkness that comes from within. Inside us all there is a stubborn streak of rebellion, a self-centred tendency that would prefer to follow our way and not Christ’s.

Turning on the light will dispel the darkness. Remember God’s mercy is a gift that we can receive any day of the year – we don’t need to wait until Christmas Day.

There is a God, leading atheist concludes

NEW YORK - A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God — more or less — based on scientific evidence, and he says so on a video released Thursday, reported Associated Press

At age 81, after decades of insisting that belief is a mistake, the professor, Antony Flew, has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew said he was best labeled a deist, like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people’s lives.

Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article “Theology and Falsification,” based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by the writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.

Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.

There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

Yet biologists’ investigation of DNA “has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce [life], that intelligence must have been involved,” Flew says in the new video, “Has Science Discovered God?”

The video draws from a discussion last May in New York organized by author Roy Abraham Varghese’s Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland, Texas. Participants were Flew; Varghese; Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew; and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

The first hint of Flew’s turn was a letter in the August-September issue of Britain’s Philosophy Now magazine. “It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism,” he wrote.

The letter commended arguments in Schroeder’s “The Hidden Face of God” and “The Wonder of the World” by Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.

This week, Flew finished writing the first formal account of his new outlook for the introduction to a new edition of his “God and Philosophy,” scheduled for release next year by Prometheus Books.

Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well, “that’s too bad,” Flew said. “My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.”

Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Flew on the atheistic Web page Carrier reassured atheists that Flew accepted only a “minimal God” and believed in no afterlife.

Flew’s “name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up,” Carrier said. Still, when it comes to Flew’s reversal, “apart from curiosity, I don’t think it’s like a big deal.”

Flew told The Associated Press that his current ideas had some similarity with those of U.S. “intelligent design” theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts that it can explain the ultimate origins of life.

Flew, the son of a Methodist minister, became an atheist at 15.

Early in his career, he argued that no conceivable events could constitute proof against God for believers, so skeptics were right to wonder whether the concept of God meant anything at all.

Another landmark was his 1984 article “The Presumption of Atheism,” playing off the presumption of innocence in criminal law. Flew said the debate over God must begin by presuming atheism, putting the burden of proof on those arguing that God existed.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

on the up

Wednesday turned out to be a much more upbeat day than I had expected. I had a doctor's appointment and needed to contact my bank about some money I should have received last month. On top of that, I had to get into town in the middle of the Christmas shopping rush.


The first good omen was discovering a parking spot right in the city in a quiet leafy side-street. Not only was there a parking meter – with half an hour still on it – but it was actually in a spot where I could get into it. If you know my driving style, you'd know how unusual such a thing is.

Doctor B was his usual pleasant self. He told me my Blood Glucose Levels were within acceptable bounds and that I'd lost three kilogrammes. (More through good luck than good planning!) The key to controlling my diabetes, he said, was to try and lose weight.

The answer, as if often the case, lies in controlling our own natures.

That wasn't so bad, I thought. I wandered over to the nearest ATM machine to check the balance on my bank account; I'd been doing that a lot this month with dismal results every time. So I stood there gaping when I discovered my balance had increased by $1500 since yesterday.

My phone call yesterday to the company to ask why I hadn't received last month's cheque had obviously borne fruit. This was a great relief since I had been scraping to make ends meet for the last fortnight. I even cleaned out the jar in which I throw all my loose change at the end of the day (it yielded $200 which isn't to be sneezed at in times like this).

I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, so I decided to treat myself to lunch in the café at the Harris Scarfe department store. I'll have the roast pork, and don't be stingy with the apple sauce....

Made my way home feeling much encouraged. Money in the bank and a stomach full of meat and vegetables.

Television programming, I've often said, is an arcane art to the layman. But some cases are more mystifying than others.

The Nine Network premiered its new import Joan of Arcadia last Wednesday at 7:30, with episode #2 the following night.

The following week it wasn't on the Wednesday night because of cricket, but episode #3 aired on the Thursday.

Next week the fourth episode will screen on the Wednesday but the fifth one won't be aired until the following Wednesday because of commitments to the Australia-Pakistan test match.

After that, they assure us it should appear every Wednesday and Thursday.


Rosellas reign

It was cheering to look out the kitchen window during breakfast and see that the Rosellas had dropped in to eat with us. My sister was especially pleased, since while she was in Melbourne she'd bought two large sunflower seed rings and had carried them home as part of her hand luggage.

She was glad to see it had been worth it. The birds munched away leisurely, often picking up a single seed in one claw to pop it into their mouths. Julie snapped a couple of pictures of them sitting on top of the clothesline after their meal.

Good to see them about again after a short absence.

The thing about them is that no colour photograph ever does justice to their marvellous hues. They are so bright they almost glow; I could watch them for hours in the bright sunshine just the other side of the window.

Monday morning I found myself gripped in one of those angst-ridden moments of panic that I thought I'd grown out of. Waking early, I pondered whether to have another hour's sleep or to get up and make an early start on the various things I had to do that day.

As it turned out I did neither. Instead I lay there for half an hour paralysed by uncertainty, trying vainly to think of all the tasks I had and to put them in order. By the time I finished I'd worked myself into a state that persisted half the day. And the worst part of it was that I couldn't explain why I was so anxious about everything. I just was.

Partly I suppose I was concerned because of some trouble at the office that had been caused by my forgetfulness. And you know how these things work: the more I worried about forgetting things in the past, the more likely I felt I was going to forget something again and the more worried I grew. One afternoon last week I thought I was losing my mind.

Fortunately towards the middle of the afternoon we had to visit an office supply shop to pick up some things for the office tomorrow. Half an hour wandering among labels, ink, pens and paper had a calming effect on me and I felt a lot more at peace.

It used to be that when I was stressed I would stop in at a second-hand bookshop and buy half a dozen paperbacks out of the 20¢ box. Apparently stationery has a similar soothing effect on my mental metabolism.

The BBC radio website continues to be a never-ending box of delights. It amazes me how much programming is devoted to the middle-of-the-road audience that loves the old songs and bands, especially on Sundays; here in Australia there is practically none of this sort of stuff outside the community radio stations that are the province of the enthusiastic non-professional.

In one programme The Music Goes Round, Desmond Carrington looked at songs about insects. There were more of them than you'd think! The problem of course was that for a couple of hours afterwards I had the Mills Brothers' "Glow little glow-worm" going round and round in my head all the time...

Not only are there links to all the new programmes of the week, but there is a special channel BBC 7 which specialises in running repeats of old favourites, especially comedy and drama of all types. Recently I've been able to listen to wonderful old shows like Just A Minute, Navy Lark, Many A Slip, and Round the Horne.

This week we're promised a special treat, radio adaptations of three of the pre-war novels of Leslie Charteris Saint Overboard, The Saint Plays With Fire and The Saint Closes The Case. My oh my – I remember reading all these when I was about 16 and Roger Moore's Simon Templar was the epitome of everything suave on television. I'll definitely be tuning in.

'Blog' Tops Dictionary's Words of the Year

BOSTON (Reuters) - A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media during this year's presidential campaign tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's list of the 10 words of the year.
Merriam-Webster Inc. said on Tuesday that blog, defined as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks," was one of the most looked-up words on its Internet sites this year.
Eight entries on the publisher's top-10 list related to major news events, from the presidential election -- represented by words such as incumbent and partisan -- to natural phenomena such as hurricane and cicada.
Springfield, Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster compiles the list each year by taking the most researched words on its Web sites and then excluding perennials such as affect/effect and profanity.
And, of course, our number one Word of the Year, 'blog,'" Merriam-Webster President and Publisher John Morse said in a statement.
Americans called up blogs in droves for information and laughs ahead of the Nov. 2 presidential election.
Freed from the constraints that govern traditional print and broadcast news organizations, blogs spread gossip while also serving as an outlet for people increasingly disenchanted with mainstream media.
A Merriam-Webster spokesman said it was not possible to say how many times blog had been looked up on its Web sites but that from July onward, the word received tens of thousands of hits per month.
Blog will be a new entry in the 2005 version of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. The complete list of words of the year is available at

Sunday, December 05, 2004


This morning in church, R2W preached on Psalm 139 and titled his sermon "In His Hands."

Verses 1-6 of this psalm remind us that God knows us. Really knows us! We are an open book to him. He knows all our faults and shortcomings and loves us still.

Unsettling thought isn't it?

God can carry on a personal conversation with each and every one of us simultaneously. You need a big god to be able to do that.

Verses 7-12 remind us that God sees us even if we're not seeing him.

Do we suffer from the Bethlehem Syndrome? Is there "no room at the Inn" for God in our lives? Why do we hide from God?

Well, in the case of David (who wrote these psalms) it was because of guilt and shame -- and it's probably not much different for the rest of us.

Verses 13-18 remind us that God made us and we are precious to him. God is the giver of life.

Every human being is precious; from conception to death we are known to him.

And in verses 19-24 David's meditations on God humble him. He knows he can do nothing but serve the God who has always known and loved him and always will.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes;
most holy, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, Your great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting nor wasting, You rule us in might;
Your justice like mountains high soaring above,
Your clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all life You give, Lord, to both great and small,
in all life You live, Lord, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish, uncertain and frail,
we wither and perish, but You never fail.

We worship before You, great Father of light,
while angels adore You, all veiling their sight;
our praises we render, O Father, to You
whom only the splendour of light hides from view.


David and Doreen are missionaries in southwestern Queensland. They write:

Naturally we have very mixed feelings as we realize that our outback patrol is now over. The past 4½ years stand out as the most satisfying and spiritually enriching of our almost 43 years marriage. We are so grateful that God in His wonderful Providence called us to this very special work of taking the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the people of the outback.

How we wish we were better prepared but we have earnestly endeavoured to sow the seed of The Word, faltering and weak as it was, and are assured God will give the increase. We have often said to each other, “If only we were 10 years younger and could have stayed longer”, but God does not make mistakes and it is obviously time for us to move on.

A minister friend in Tasmania e-mailed us recently saying there is no such thing as retirement in the service of God and reminded us that the Lord will have a task for us to do at every stage of life.

As for the future, if the Lord wills, we plan to go to New Zealand for a few months to spend time with our third son and daughter-in-law who are expecting their first baby in March. We also want to spend time with David’s family in NZ. David’s older sister’s husband died earlier this year and his younger sister’s husband was recently admitted to a nursing home as he suffers from Parkinsons Disease and other complications. We also hope to tour much of that beautiful country.

Settling back in suburbia will certainly be a little different after so many nights in our ‘million star hotel’. Psalm 19:1-4 “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world.” We so often hear the first part of these verses quoted but we also need to understand that the latter part of these verses tell us that regardless of our language (ie where we live) God has so revealed Himself in creation that everyone is without excuse. Paul in Romans 1:20 says the same thing, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Sadly, even the outback people, surrounded as they are by God’s creative handiwork, are blinded by the god/s of this world. As mentioned above, we pray that the Word of God sown will be watered by the Spirit of God.

We learned so much from station owners and managers as they shared with us their experiences and knowledge of life on outback stations. If only we could have recorded the dozens of such interesting conversations, it would have provided many hours of fascinating listening for anyone so interested. Every one of them has a special story to tell. They are such practical down to earth people and their remoteness forces them to depend on their own resources but they also depend on and socialize with each other, be it the neighbour next door …… only 50 or 100km down the road!

In conclusion we share with you two totally opposite visits made during our final month. Just as in the cities, the outback also has tragedies.

1. Without any prior knowledge and over what we thought was a just another station cuppa, the lady shared with us her grief at the tragic loss of their two sons (ages 15 and 21) within three years. She told us that she no longer believes there is a God but did admit that she wished she had the faith in God some people seemed to have to see them through such trials.
2. The final call of our patrol was on a station where the 22yo son was killed by lightning and our predecessor, Owen Oakes conducted the funeral. This time we found a lady who, with no apparent regular church/Christian background, now reads her Bible using the Daily Bread notes; often reads from the ‘Answers in Genesis’ web site; and responded positively to our suggestion of systematically studying a Bible book at a time using the daily ‘Tabletalk’ notes.

While the first call was so discouraging how gracious of God that our final PIM patrol call concluded on such a positive note.

We want to say a special ‘Thank you’ to all who so faithfully supported us in your prayers and for the regular e-mails of encouragement. We will really miss those e-mails! But who knows, in the good Providence of God, maybe our paths will cross again sometime in the future. May God continue to bless you all.

With Christian Greetings
David & Doreen


176 messages in the church inbox this morning. 3 viruses, 6 real messages and all the rest spam.

Including one "official warning" that a tsunami was coming and we had four hours to evacuate. I like to think that in such an emergency the authorities might find a faster way to alert us than e-mailing us individually!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Royal Hobart Show

This year the Royal Hobart Show didn't have its usual bad luck with the weather. Instead the showgrounds were bathed in bright sunshine all day. My sister Julie and I drove out to take a look around the exhibits, tour sideshow alley and dine at the tea rooms.

I was persuaded to take my first trip on a ferris wheel. At age 54 there aren't many new experiences left in life, but this was something new for me. The actual round-and-round motion was easy to get used to, but the first couple of minutes gave me a qualm. While other people were boarding, our seat was hoisted up to the top and sat there for a couple of minutes, swaying back and forth in a most alarming manner.

Julie took a photograph of me at that moment; only the two of us would be aware that what seems like a look of polite interest on my face is actually a grimace of fear as the knuckles turn white on the hand clutching the metal bars around us:

Many things have changed at the Show, but a lot are still the same. The animals are still one of the main attractions – it's often a shock to city children to see just how big cows and pigs can grow! – and there's always a crowd in the grandstand to watch the traditional events like the Grand Parade and the Rodeo. At one point, we blundered into an unmarked pavilion and found ourselves surrounded by prize-winning flowers, preserves and handicrafts; a sight that has changed little since the Show began in the 19th century.

We ate at the tea rooms that have been operated by the ladies of the parish for generations. Very old fashioned, as you'd expect, with the feel of a 1950s diner. A pleasant little diversion.

Wandered into the Tasmanian Government pavilion where all manner of things were on display. One team from the Weights & Measures Department [or whatever they're called nowadays] pounced on passers-by who weren't quick enough and said "How do you know your bathroom scales are accurate? Step on these government-inspected scales and we'll write down your correct weight so you can compare it with the scales at home."

I couldn't remember the last time I bothered to weigh myself, but they were very persuasive. Reluctantly I stepped on the scales, then looked at the slip they gave me. Hmm, in the old measurements that would be -- "Good Grief!" I stared.

The people at the next stand had a gadget that let you see how clean your hands really were. You washed with soap and water till you thought your hands were clean, then they scanned them to show you the true picture.

They invited me to have a try, but I considered that one shock to the system was all I could take in one afternoon.

Another thing I hadn't done before was stay at the Showgrounds until after dark. It was quite interesting to observe the gradual shift in emphasis. The exhibits and demonstrations gradually closed up, while the crowds became younger and more likely to make for the food vans and the amusements.

The music seemed louder around the rides, with the multi-coloured lights lending an air of enchantment to the whole area. We strolled around before leaving, through crowds of youngsters munching on fairy floss and ;painting themselves in the latest fads.

Quite fun, although there was one major difference to visiting the place as an adult – we didn't buy a single showbag all the time we were there.

On a more sedate note, I also visited the State Cinema to see the fourth of the four Jacques Tati movies they are showing this month.

It seemed a bit contrary at first glance that the last film was actually the oldest of the four, but that was reasonable; Jour de Fete was the first film that Tati directed and this is the closest thing he made to a conventional farce. The story is about a travelling carnival visiting a country town in provincial France, and things don't really take off until the focus changes to Tati's character Francois the local postman.

The catalyst is a newsreel shown at the carnival depicting the high-tech (for the day) methods used by the American Postal Service. His pride piqued by a string of joking comments from the townsfolk ("Where's your helicopter, Francois? Heh-heh-heh!"), the postman decides to prove how quickly he can deliver the mail with nothing more than an old bicycle.

Hugely enjoyable chaos ensues in typical Tati style, with many of the visual gags foreshadowing similar sequences in his later movies.

One thing that will grab the attention of film buffs is that this picture is in colour. Jour de Fete was actually shot in an experimental colour process as well as in black-and-white in 1948 but apparently there were misgivings about the colour photography and until the 1990s only the black-and-white version had been seen publicly.

It's not a terribly impressive restoration job. The colour is a sort of faded wash in most scenes, looking like either a very old film that has faded over the years or a monochrome feature that has been "colorized" in a laboratory.

Nonetheless, it's interesting to finally see it – my only previous viewing of the film was on SBS-TV where for some reason it was in black-and-white except for the final two minutes.

Julie's birthday on Saturday, but a very low-key affair since the temperature soared up to 31°C and we were mostly concerned with following Noel Coward's advice to stay out of the midday sun.

The night before we had better luck with a birthday dinner down at the river. A table-full of friends had joined us for a seafood dinner on the wharf and it was perfect. As it got dark, the biggest fullest moon I've seen for ages appeared on the horizon and slowly rose, bathing us in bright moonlight.

Beautiful hardly describes it.

Last night I was re-reading Stanely Weinbaum's short story "A Martian Odyssey" – 70 years old and still a great read.

It appeared in the July 1934 legendary sci-fi pulp, Wonder Stories, and just eighteen months later, in December 1935, he was dead of throat cancer. Surely this is the shortest career of any major writer in the field. Yet, for all its shortness, it was a career that would cast a long shadow on the world of science fiction.

As novelist Theodore Sturgeon notes, "His reaching imagination, his inventiveness, his humor and pathos injected something brand new and vital into sf." Or as genre historian and critic Sam Moskowitz puts it, "The true beginning of modern science fiction, with its emphasis on polished writing, otherworldly psychology, philosophy and stronger characterization began with Stanley G. Weinbaum."

Other writers have changed the face of their genres before: J. R. R. Tolkien in high fantasy, Robert E. Howard in sword-and-sorcery, John Dickson Carr in mystery, and Max Brand in westerns – all come to mind. But these writers developed their skills during the writing of many stories. What makes Weinbaum's contribution to science fiction so extraordinary is that all the literary virtues cited above are already embodied in his very first story.

You may have trouble finding a copy nowadays. Try your local library or you can get it on the Net as an e-book from Renaissance books.

Actor Ed Kemmer has died, aged 84.

"Who?" I hear you ask.

Back in 1950 he starred in a television series titled Space Patrol which went on to become very popular all across America. It was also a radio serial, a comic strip and (in later years) a video and an MP3 disk.

Speaking of his character, Commander Buzz Cory, Kemmer once said "I played it as straight as I could. You don't play down to children. A lot of shows make that mistake. Kids see through that right away."

Later he spent two decades on daytime soap operas, no doubt prompting a lot of baby-boomers to wonder why he looked so familiar.

I've heard a couple of episodes of Space Patrol and they're not bad for the period, but for my money you can't beat the introduction "The BBC presents Jet Morgan in Journey Into Space...."

This is the science fiction radio serial, which had all Britain agog in the 1950s with its thrilling but scientifically accurate adventures in interplanetary space.

Charles Chilton's scripts still make for engrossing listening even today.

Listening to it on an MP3 disc, the temptation to listen to two or three 30-minute episodes at a sitting is hard to resist. Imagine tuning in live fifty years ago and having to wait seven days between each installment. The suspense would have been almost too much to bear.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

equable equine

Maybe I haven't been feeding the poultry enough. The last couple of days before my sister returned home, the chickens and a few of the geese have been following me when I go to feed the horse.

It's not unusual for them to hang around picking up anything that the horse drops, but this lot have been eating before the horse gets his head in the trough! He's quite tolerant really – if I was as big as he was I don't think I'd let these cheeky little intruders eat my food right in front of me.

There were some less amusing moments while I was baby-sitting the animals of course. Three chickens died at Julie's place, and two ducklings at my house.

But this isn't unusual. Ducklings, chicks and goslings are so fragile that it's a constant wonder to me that any of them survive to adulthood in the wild. That's why Julie grabbed one of the goslings and has been hand-raising her this year.

And she has certainly thrived. In the 2 ½ weeks that Julie was away, the goose has almost doubled in size. A couple of days ago, she got so excited when I went over to feed her that she started jumping up and down in her box. Geese have a rather odd centre of gravity, so during one jump she over-balanced and fell out of the box altogether.

Well, what to do?

I know from past experience that if I ran at her and tried to grab her, she'd probably panic. The result would be a noisy scuffle in the front hall. The complications if she tried to hide in one of the bedrooms didn't bear thinking about. But I couldn't leave her at large in the house.

So I did the reverse of what seemed like the obvious. I dropped to my knees and knelt there, completely still and silent. After a few seconds the goose waddled over and calmly sat down next to me.

I spoke soothingly to her, patted her along the wings a couple of times, then picked her up and put her back in the box with her lunch. "And stay there!"

Sometimes the best action is not to take action.

When Julie heard about this she nodded and said "Many a horse has been caught out in the paddock in just the same way."

Another worrying moment at the office. A letter I thought I'd posted early in the month never arrived, and now that I think about it, I can remember saying to myself "Did I post that letter? I don't remember posting it, but if I didn't then it would still be here."

Not necessarily.

Yet again I seem to have mislaid something between forming the intention and actually doing it. I don't know why I'm doing that so often nowadays.

I never used to be quite this bad, but I'm beginning to distrust my abilities to complete tasks – it's like being absent-minded but more like having gaps into which things just seem to vanish.

Likewise my latest bank statement has me sighing. It supports my late mother's contention that I would not be able to make ends meet after she was gone.

That seemed a bit sweeping to me, but after twelve months I'm beginning to agree with her. It's my own fault of course: the last few months I've bought things out of hand without thinking twice about the matter. Shirts, DVD movies, computer software – one week I bought a new television set which then sat in its box for a month.

The problem of course is twofold: firstly, I don't have the unconscious mental check to spending that I once had, and secondly I don't have any more money coming in despite the fact that the bills are the same or (in some cases) larger due to the lack of the concessions for carers and the infirm that used to apply in some cases.

Obviously it's time to put on the brakes and return to the old-fashioned virtues of thrift, restraint and prudence. Discretion may be the better part of valour, but it also helps keep us out of the bankruptcy courts.

I haven't yet seen the two episodes of Firefly that I have on tape. I mentioned this to a friend, and he raised one eyebrow: "A suggestion. Watch them in reverse order!" Oh, I said, you mean they've... "Exactly. The second episode is spent introducing us to characters that all seemed to know each other last week."

Annoying when that happens. The most extreme example I can remember was back in the 1960s with the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon show. For some reason our local television station ran the series backwards, which wouldn't have mattered except that the middle cartoon in the show was a serial – so it began with the adventurers returning home and ended with them leaving on their voyage!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Arts end

The arts season is starting to wind down as we get to the end of the year. Hobart Rep's final production for the year was Table Manners - unless you count their Christmas pantomine.

The second-last show at the Moonah Arts Centre this week was billed as "A Colourful Interlude with the Spondooli Brothers" and features acoustic guitar duo Luke Yates and Brad Dumpleton. Their guitar playing is so good that the tongue-in-cheek patter about their mythical Balkan homeland soon becomes an interruption to the show that is to be endured rather than enjoyed.

The programme claims that their music will "sweep you on a journey of moods," blending Gypsy, Spanish, Brazilian, jazz, classical, folk and middle-eastern music into their own unique style. And they're right actually.

Also of note is the third of the Jacques Tati season at the State Cinema, the 1953 comedy Mr Hulot's Holiday. This is the third time I've seen this film, and only the television screening failed to delight. Tati's elaborately choreographed long-shots mean little on the small screen, but in the cinema they had the audience rocking with amusement.

I especially like the first few minutes where Hulot is not visible, but the camera is following the misadventures of a little two-seater car that could belong to nobody but Hulot.

I think it was Terry Jones who said that Tati's films aren't actually silent, but they possess many of the virtues of silent movies. Amen to that.

No luck with seeing any more of the aurora. Cloud and drizzle the next day meant any stargazing was out of the question. Still, it's not as though I've never seen it before. (I met a woman once who had seen ball-lightning – "I 'm really envious!" I told her.)

Saturday I felt a little strange at the end of the day. Finally I realised that I had gone two days without speaking to anybody except strangers. I have been so accustomed in recent years to having to fit everything into my busy schedule that it took a while to realise that was what was different.

For once I had not had contact (unless you count an SMS message from my sister) with family, friends or acquaintances. This must be what it is like to be "a solitary man" as the old song puts it.

McKay's Bookstop, the old-established bookshop in New Town, is closing its doors. The business will (probably) open up again somewhere else, but the proprietor is having a big clearance sale next weekend and the following weekend.

But he has a lot of books to shift. I didn't often go in there because it used to make me dizzy. Every wall of the shop was lined with bookshelves from floor to ceiling and you could just stand there and pivot round and round, looking up and down until motion-sickness set in.

So what does he do with the ones he thinks won't sell? Well, I drove past there today and there were a few people hanging around the front of the shop, with piles and piles of books on the sidewalk in front of them. I stopped the next time I drove past, and there was a sign above them "Free to a good home"!


Monday, November 15, 2004

Spring action

Maybe it's because it's Spring, but the animals at Julie's place seem to be very active this week. In the morning a couple of days ago, I opened the hen house to let the chickens out, and they tried to rush me. It was like a prison break in an old movie. I managed to hold them back without losing any, but a whip and a chair wouldn't have gone amiss for a minute there.

Then that night I let the dogs out in the yard to run around before I finished. I was standing under a tree in the yard wearing that little headlamp I use at nights there, just looking around in the quiet and the darkness. Then Emma, the hyper-active Border Collie, comes barrelling across the yard at full speed and runs into my shins at full speed. "OW!" I bellowed. "What more could I do to make myself visible? Let off flares? Ring a bell?" Days later, there's still a mark on mhy left leg.

I know that Firefly, the new science-fiction programme from the creator of Buffy, only ran for one season in the U.S., but it seems to show a certain lack of faith by the Australian networks to premiere it in the 12:30 time slot after any potential audience for it is probably in bed asleep.

But since they do the same thing with all the Star Trek shows, I guess we aren't that surprised.

Friday morning was the first morning I woke up feeling refreshed for a couple of weeks. Every other night I've variously been late getting to sleep, woken up early, or had a disturbed night (or all three if I'm unlucky).

On Thursday I had a busy day planned so I was hoping to get enough rest the night before; alas, the rooster in the hall decided to start crowing almost two hours before the time I had set my clock radio for.

No jokes about alarm cocks please.

At least my BGL readings haven't been too bad this month. The numbers on my little diabetes monitor are still above 7.0 sometimes but now and again they drop down to 6.8 or 6.7 in the morning, which is quite encouraging.

I have to see my endocrinologist in four weeks, so I had better have some good numbers or he won't be pleased.

Isn't it always the way?

I've been trying to track down one of the Paul Temple radio serials that I'm missing from my collection, "Paul Temple and the Margo Mystery". I did a Google search and discovered I could get an MP3 disc from America that included it with another story that I already have.

It seemed worth getting, even though the other story wasn't needed. Especially since the shop's website laid great stress on how they tried to make their discs the best possible quality, unlike their rivals.

So I sent for it and this week it arrived.

And it won't run in any computer or player that I own.

Murphy's Law seems to apply to MP3s just as to anything else.


Tati and poultry

"I'm going to kill you!"

I was on the other side of the creek, but that was what I made of the sudden cacophony coming from over near the house. I started back across the creek, slightly handicapped by the fact I'd put my galoshes on my wrong feet, but Saj the mastiff had taken off as soon as he heard the uproar.

By the time I got there, he was circling the combatants, trying to break up the fight, but they were paying little attention to him. I ran at them, waving the empty bucket I was carrying, and they reluctantly broke off.

One of them, obviously the aggressor, had an angry look in his eye and a beak full of feathers. The other goose took off down the hill while I kept between them and Saj looked on.

Spring in the barnyard is never a time of peace and quiet but some days are worse than others.

Tuesday night I arranged my schedule around the next attraction in the Jacques Tati film festival. The 1967 comedy Playtime starts off like a reality show about tourists spending a single day in Paris – Art Buchwald wrote the dialogue for these scenes – but gradually Tati's unique sense of humour takes charge. Surely no film-maker has ever got so many laughs from the sound of footsteps!

Tati plays with us at first, keeping his hero Mr Hulot out of view but showing us instead some other men with raincoats and pipes. Hulot [Tati] is one of those characters who somehow manages to simultaneously be the calm eye in the middle of the storm and also be a catalyst for chaos.

The early part of the movie is full of satiric jabs at the glass-and-steel skyscraper world of the day, expressed by the wistful longings of the American tourist Barbara to see more of the real Paris and less of the ultra-modern metropolis.

Towards the end of the film, we get into an elaborate set-piece involving the opening night of a new restaurant. there's an enormous cast who are constantly in motion before our bemused eyes. The sequence seems to go on forever but you don't want it to end. It's simply enthralling.

Finally the movie was over and I was back in the street. Dusk had fallen and the little shops of North Hobart seemed somehow touched by the magic of the streets of Paris. I walked back to the car, music from the film still running through my head

Next week, Mr Hulot's Holiday, once dubbed by David Stratton "the funniest film ever made."

Leaving Julie's house after the evening feed last night, I stared up at the night sky. Was that just an unusual cloud, or was it an elongated streak of light? I leaned against the car for a moment, looking up over the hills.

The news media gave me the answer the next day. Cities as far north as Coonabarabran had been marvelling at the Aurora Australis. And possibly more to come. This is a bit unusual, since auroras are more common during the peak of the 11-year solar cycle but far rarer now, near the bottom of the cycle.

Look south (or north – towards the pole anyway) when you go outside tonight. You never know your luck.

It's been only six days since I cleaned up the ducklings, but they were all muddy again today and looking very dispirited. Cleared out their box but I then had to bathe them before I put them back into clean surroundings.

They panicked and struggled, although at least one of them decided when he was in the basin of warm water that Hey, this isn't so bad after all!

It's quite noticeable that while the chickens don't produce so much mud and muck, the ducklings and the goose turn their surroundings into a virtual swamp. I didn't think this was why they called them "waterfowl" but I could be wrong.

One of the news broadcasts yesterday mentioned it was the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Fifteen years! Struth! You realise that means there are people contributing to this website who don't even remember East Germany, let alone the Cold War.

And a fond farewell to Amanda Keller and her television programme Mondo Thingo, which ended its run tonight on ABC-TV.

I'll miss her cheeky comments on popular culture every week.

The final episode was made up of segments from previous weeks, voted on by visitors to the show's website.

"Everything begins and ends at exactly the right place and time", read the small print at the end of the credits. A quote from Picnic at Hanging Rock

Dirty ducks and galloping geese

My favourite radio programme.

Absolutely filthy. That was the only description I could come up with for the ducklings that I was minding for Julie while she was away. They looked glum and no wonder. Not only were they spattered with water, mud and muck but so was everything within six inches of their crate.

I wasn't sure what to do with them while I cleaned out their box, so I ended up secreting them in the wheely-bin (fortunately I hadn't yet filled it with rubbish for this week's collection). But, since it was no use putting dirty ducklings into a clean crate, I had to wash them one-by-one in a basin of warm water.

Needless to say, they were a bit startled by this, but I took a look at them an hour later and things seemed fine. They looked clean and dry and were curled up together on the thick layer of kitty-litter I'd used to line their box.

Meanwhile the gosling is growing up rapidly. She now looks like a young goose rather than a baby. I was amused the first couple of times I took her out into the driveway by the manner in which she followed along at my heels. I could walk down to the front gate and know where she was without looking by the frantic slap-slap-slap sound of webbed feet on the concrete.

But the last time I took her out she was more interested in grazing than following me, and when I went to scoop her up she looked as though she was going to try and waddle off in the other direction. I'm not sure that I'm ready to let her out if she's inclined to go off on her own like that.

I've been on a literal "wild goose chase" in my time but that's a story for another time. Suffice to say I'd rather not repeat the experience.

Rain for the last few days. This is the sort of weather we usually get around the time of the Royal Hobart Show!

Feeding the animals at Julie's house is a muddy experience at the moment. The horse knows what to do – he was waiting in the shed when I took him his lunch today, a nice dry spot to eat.
Hence the expression "horse sense" I guess.

Can you believe that after a long period of cinematic abstinence I've been to two movies in a week? I won a double pass to the new big-budget film biography of Cole Porter De-Lovely starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. It's not exactly a musical (the main focus is on Porter's private life and its difficulties) but many of his songs appear on the soundtrack, sung by contemporary singers like Diana Kraal and Alanis Morisette.

I was initially taken-aback when I collected the tickets and found the screening was at the Eastlands Cinema in Rosny. I hadn't been there before and noticed a few differences to the picture palaces I was used to in times gone by. The seats had more support, almost like on an airliner, and the screen was bigger than I'm used to. Much bigger! After years of watching films on television and DVD, it was startling to be able to see every line and blemish in the close-ups of the actors' faces.

Tim Cox from ABC Radio introduced the screening. A couple of days later I woke up to hear him on the radio reading my e-mail about the movie and agreeing with my suggestion that it would be interesting to hear from somebody who'd never heard of Cole Porter before they saw the film.

In fact he's asked one of the reporters from the rural news show to do it. I hope we don't get a critique of the agriculture in Porter's garden and the blood-lines of his horses!

It would have been nice to see the high-profile guitar quartet Saffire, who were appearing at the Federation Concert Hall tonight. But seeing that was an expensive show on the other side of town, I was content to go round the corner to the free show at the Moonah Arts Centre.

This week we got to hear Musique A Trois, a group made up of pianist Philippa Moyes, bassoonist Alan Greenlees and soprano Charlotte McKercher. They performed an eclectic mixture of French music, mostly centered on birds, animals and the countryside. All the usual names were on the play-list – Saint-Saens, Ravel, Debussy, Satie and Faure (along with a couple I'd never heard of, like Michael Starokadomsky!).

It was all a lot of fun. McKercher was interviewed by the local press before the show, and described the music as ranging "from reflective and lyrical through to very witty and frivolous. It's a very light, not very serious program that should appeal to a lot of people. Most of the music was written for salon performances for small, intimate venues and the setting at the Moonah Arts Centre is perfect for this type of music."

The "young adult" demographic is doing well for Australian-produced science-fiction serials this month on television. Not only do we have the space drama Silversun (inexplicably running on both the ABC and Southern Cross) but today the WIN network premiered the new serial Foreign Exchange in the 4 p.m. time slot.

This is an amusing Twilight-Zone-like concept about a disgruntled teenager in Western Australia who stumbles over a space-warp that lets him step from Australia to Ireland in a split-second. It is, needless to say, a co-production between Australia's Southern Star studio and Ireland's RTE. Has potential, though it lacks the raw dramatic power of Parallax or Thunderstone