Tuesday, January 11, 2005

no pics here

Beware of Spam and Spyware

The things you see when you don't have a camera...

Before going in to the office on Thursday, I was at my sister's house walking the dog while Julie fed the animals and grappled with the horse (who doesn't want to have his sore leg sprayed with ointment).

I paused at the top of the street and was about to cross over and walk downhill when before my astonished eyes there came bounding down the street a small kangaroo or a large wallaby.

While I stared, it came to a stop and looked over at me calmly. The dog didn't make a move, but the roo obviously decided that she was close enough. Turning, it hopped into a neighbour's garden and disappeared from view, making quite good speed uphill as it headed for the bushy slopes.

That was unexpected. I know the Americans often think we have kangaroos hopping down the main streets of our cities, but I've never seen one in the suburbs at midday before.

Some of Julie's neighbours report having their vegetable gardens raided overnight, but they don't usually come far enough down from the hills to venture onto Julie's property.

Quite a surprise.

Likewise, I regretted not having my camera with me when I called in to visit Keith, the book maven. Keith is a one-of-a-kind expert in the very specialised field of book collecting, and he does a lot of what you might call consulting work.

For example, he spends at least a couple of days a week at the local headquarters of the St Vincent de Paul Society, and that’s where I found him when I dropped in.

Catching his eye, I was ushered past the “Staff Only” sign and into a large but cluttered room at the end of the building. It was taken up with boxes, tables and shelves full of books, roughly arranged by topic.

Outside there were two pallets of printed matter. One was new stuff arriving to be sorted, the other contained items judged unsalable and condemned to the recycling bin.

Keith believes there is nothing worse than those Op Shops where the same books sit on the shelves year after year because nobody has the courage to throw them out.

Keith fluttered around like a moth in a room full of flames, pointing at this and that while nattering about their worth (or lack of it). His beard and the excitement that shines from his eyes have led more than one person to observe that he looks rather like Rasputin. This is exemplified by the steely look that comes into his eyes at the mention of an author he disapproves of. “I read his first book. It was rubbish!”

The first time I ever met him, it was at a science fiction convention. Surrounded by hundreds of people interested in books, Keith was absorbed not by bibliographic pursuits but in holding a tea tasting. He had a dozen varieties of tea, a kettle of hot water and a small group of acolytes who were sampling each in turn. It was somehow very typical of the man.

Our conversation concluded, he sends me off with a box of books (total cost $8); a satisfied smile plays around his lips for a moment, then he plunges back into his spartan quarters. Several dozen books remain to be sorted through, and tomorrow there will be more.

Before starting work at the church office, all of us joined in prayer for a fellow member of the congregation who was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer last month. We had just been told that he'd been admitted to hospital and was in isolation because his white cell count was so low.

It is disturbing when someone you know as a vital healthy person about your own age is suddenly struck down.

I find it troubling. I suppose it happens when you reach a certain age, but so many friends and acquaintances in the last couple of years have gone this route.

At least there's good news from our minister (R1); his hip operation seems to have been successful.

Mills &Boon, producers of romance novels for generations of housewives, are branching out into something a little more hard-edged. Aware that today's readers are probably closer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer than Jane Austen, they're launching a new imprint Bombshell this week.

"Role models are different from those of women 15 years ago," said publishing manager Lisa Myles from Harlequin Mills & Boon. "We're vying for a share of the audience that enjoys watching shows such as Alias and admires heroines such as Lara Croft."

Not the first time that M&B have tried to widen their market. A couple of decades ago they launched their "Intrigue" line where romance was mixed with crime and mystery. Now the Bombshell heroines ("smart and self-reliant career people who can handle dangerous situations") will be tackling drug lords, spies and who-knows-what.

A word from Garrison Keillor, on being asked what he thought about the Internet and whether e-mail was making the world a smaller place:

“It used to be a smaller world back when I was living in Lake Wobegon and I thought I had a good grasp of how things worked. A small world of helpful friendly people and if you ever needed anything you only had to ask, and if you did the work and played by the rules, you'd be okay. We grew up in a quiet little pond, protected from treachery, and that was a long time ago.

My view of the world was changed by Vietnam and by the realization that reputable and intelligent men were quite willing to permit the slaughter of innocents in distant lands rather than speak the truth and endanger their own careers. This happens again and again.

The knowledge of evil makes the world seem vast and incomprehensible, and so, ever since November, I've given up reading newspapers or surfing the Net, preferring to live for awhile in a small world circumscribed by St. Paul, the radio show, poetry, my own family and friends, my writing, and a little music now and then.

The country is momentarily in the hands of vandals and there isn't anything I can do about it.

E-mail does enormous good in combating loneliness and gloom, and so one is grateful for it, but at the moment, we're stuck in a period of drift and squalor and the Internet isn't going to change that. “

Picked up in the supermarket a DVD of the 1961 movie Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It’s a long time since I’ve seen this one, though I grew up watching the spin-off television series (as well as other Irwin Allen programmes like Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants etc, though I was never a fan of Lost in Space).

The special effects are good for the time, though the plot makes The Day After Tomorrow look quite plausible - the Van Allen belt catching fire gives a new meaning to global warming. There are (to put it kindly) some surprising twists.

Good cast: Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine and Peter Lorre for prestige, and Frankie Avalon and Barbara Eden for the younger set.
Not a classic of science-fiction, but an entertaining enough 100 minutes.

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