Sunday, February 27, 2005


Stopped in at the Bank Arcade the other day and had lunch at the Ephah cafe. Their coffee is always good – which isn't always the case at some establishments. I remember one restaurant in the northern suburbs where the food was all right, but the coffee was undrinkable; eventually we stopped going there at all.

Have you heard this one?

George W. Bush dies and ends up standing in a long line at the Pearly Gates. While he's waiting, he notices a very important looking man strolling past.

He waves and says "Hi, my name is George W. Bush...." but before he can strike up a conversation, the man turns on his heel and hurries away.

"What was that about?" says a puzzled Bush, scratching his head.

The man next to him says "Don't take it personally. That was Moses and the last time he spoke to a bush he spent forty years in the wilderness."

The last Sunday in February, our minister R2 continued his series of sermons from Samuel with one titled "Miracle at Mizpah – a nation repents" [1 Sam. 7:2-17].

  • Last week we saw the Ark returned, but it didn't solve all of Israel's problems. The Israelites had to really want to change. After 20 years Samuel's time had come. He told the jews they had to rid themselves of the foreign gods they'd drifted into worshipping.
  • Samuel put down a stone not as an idol, but as a reminder to the people of Israel that they needed to follow God in good times as well as bad.
  • It's not by law but by grace we can hope to escape retribution.
  • We should consider how this would relate to ourselves: are we aiming to please God or our neighbours? Are we content with our church if it merely confirms our prejudices rather than challenging us to change?
  • There's a big difference between feeling bad about your sins and doing something about it. Unless you're in tune with the conductor you won't be able to play in the orchestra.

click here for more Tasmanian bloggers

Saturday, February 26, 2005

birds etc

February is nearly over. How can we be so far through the year? Easter is just round the corner.

The weather has been unpleasantly warm and humid this week. Tonight and last night the sky was hazy and pink – no moon, no stars.

Very different to the weather last week when we went down the river on that bird-watching cruise.

One of the things I like about living in Tasmania is that we're able to see creatures like White-Breasted Sea Eagles only minutes from the city limits.

OK, so they're not true eagles (they don't have feathered legs) but giant kites. But they're one hell of an impressive bird. They can live up to 30 years and there are about 200 pairs in Tasmania.

Overall the species is secure, due mainly to its diverse breeding and feeding habits and the fact that about 20% of pairs live in reserves. In addition, the species (like all birds of prey in Tasmania) is protected by law.

It was also great to be able to see the Iron Pot lighthouse up close. I've only seen it at a distance before. Imagine living out there in the 19th century. No electricity, no communications. It wouldn't be fun to be isolated out there during a storm.

Speaking of birds, my sister's parrot gave me a fright the other night. He somehow managed to fall off his perch and I reached in to help him up. He seemed unharmed but he acted so oddly I was afraid I'd killed him (maybe I squeezed too hard....).

Julie said maybe it was just shock – he's almost 25 years old and hasn't been handled much in recent years. We kept a close eye on him and he seemed to come right over the following day or so, but it made me apprehensive for a while.

Finished off our latest selection of wines that Julie ordered from the Wine by Choice club.
  • Mount Eyre Neptune Sparkling Semillon.
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Sparkling Shiraz.
  • Marribrook 2001 Marsanne.
  • Barking Owl Semillion Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Warraroong 2002 Chenin Blanc.
  • Garbin Estate 2004 Chenin Blanc Verdelho.
  • Garbin Estate 2004 CVS.
  • Lamont's 2002 Cabernet Merlot.
  • Echuca 2002 Sangiovese Petit Verdot Merlot.
  • Kangaroo Ridge 2004 White Shiraz.

A letter for Julie from the Hobart City Council about the vegetation from her property overhanging the footpath. Some of it is difficult to understand.

It quotes the Local Government (Highways) Act to the effect that she is required to remove "vegetation that overhangs a local highway and is less than
(a) 2.5 metres above a part of the highway that is intended mainly for the use of pedestrians; or (b) 4.5 metres above any other part of the highway that is not intended for use as a carriage-way; or (c 6 metres above a part of the highway that is intended for use as a carriage-way."

I understood the first and third stipulations, but what exactly is the part of the highway that's for use by neither pedestrians nor as a carriage-way?

I've got to stop browsing through the department store catalogues. Browsing through the Target catalogue cost me $99 last week.

Noticing they had a DVD boxed set of the first season of The Saint starring Roger Moore for $69, I called in one day and had a look around.

By the time I left I had purchased not only the boxed set but DVDs of Roy Rogers and Dragnet @ $15 each. The DVD section of a large store is a dangerous place for those of a certain age and a nostalgic bent.

Watched episode #1 of The Saint "The Talented Husband". A beautiful clear print. Roger Moore looks so young, but then weren't we all in 1963?

I remember watching this series while I was at school, and reading the Leslie Charteris paperbacks around the same time. Which came first, I can't quite recall.

I saw a few issues of the comic book spin-off and the monthly Saint Mystery Magazine, but it's only in recent years that I've seen any of the 1940s Hollywood movies or heard any of the radio shows.

The recent modernized feature film starring Val Kilmer was mediocre at best. I suspect it would never have been made if Leslie Charteris had still been alive; he was notoriously protective of his famous creation.

Even now, forty years later I find Charteris' thrillers eminently readable and the television adaptation is reasonably faithful given the censorship restrictions of the Sixties.

A little thrill still goes through me at the words "So you're the famous Simon Templar!"

A fictional hero as old as the Saint but even more flamboyant is the pulp magazine hero Doc Savage. I read a lot of these when they were reprinted by Bantam Books in the 1970s, but today you can buy them on a CD-Rom or download them for free from

The only annoying thing about the Bantam reprints was that they were not printed in sequence. So I've started my reading with the very first story "The Man Of Bronze" [1933], which deals with the lost valley that finances Clark Savage's war against evil. The plot is very derivative of Edgar Rice Burroughs but quite entertaining.

I look forward to reading some more of the stories, though it's probably better to pace yourself rather than overdosing on them.

I do have a copy of the final Doc Savage novel "Up From Earth's Center" – I'm unsure whether I should read this now in case I never get through the hundreds of stories that lie between it and the first yarn in the series.

Quote of the day:

"The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired."

-- Stephen Hawking

click here for more Tasmanian bloggers

Monday, February 21, 2005

down the river

This time of year we suddenly have lots of stuff happening. For example on Friday night the Tasmanian Museum organised a bird-watching cruise on the Derwent River.

We all gathered down at the pier about 5:30 and waited for our ship to come in (you know what I mean!). I had a vague idea that the Excella would be one of those old-time ferries, sort of like the Cartella (which was launched the same year as the Titanic but is in much better shape). I was wrong and we set off on a very modern vessel, all sleekness, white superstructure and purring engines.

Leaving harbour we passed the "James Craig", the 130-year-old sailing ship that has been the centrepiece of the Wooden Boat Festival this month. She wasn't under sail, but it was a stirring moment to see her cutting through the water as she headed up the river. A wonderful job of restoration.

We motored down the western side of the river and were soon in that part of the river where there are some fairly formidable cliffs. A couple of cormorants dived in and out of the water and some black-winged Kelp Gulls glared at us.

The crew passed out binoculars to those who hadn't brought their own, and this came in very handy a few minutes later. We came to a stop facing a rocky piece of land and the expert on the PA system told us there was a Sea Eagle sitting on one of the trees.

I peered at the cliffs and suddenly there it was. That flash of white was the chest of an eagle sitting in one of the trees looking at us quite unconcerned.

A moment later somebody exclaimed that there was a second eagle. I swung the binoculars around and suddenly spotted another one sitting a bit higher up, looking out over the river.

"Wow!" I thought. Just that ten minutes made the whole trip worthwhile.

From there we went further south, all the way down river to The Iron Pot – the oldest lighthouse in Australia and famous for being the first thing sighted by the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race as they near the finish line.

We motored around the small but very formidable looking island while the captain regaled us with horror stories about the storms that had lashed the island while it was a manned lighthouse. After one terrific storm, seaweed had been found on the railing at the top of the lighthouse!

Birds of all descriptions had taken over the isle, with terns, oystercatchers, gulls and cormorants all staking a claim.

After staring past the island at the edge of the Southern Ocean ("Next stop is Antarctica," drawled the captain) we turned back and started up the eastern side of the river.

There was no shortage of "finger food" on board and the crew seemed to be feeding us every ten minutes. I found it all very tasty, but my stomach wasn't quite so happy later in the day. (Just goes to show how successful I've been in training myself to a bland low-fat low-salt diet!)

This month at The Playhouse:

I hadn't heard of it before, but apparently I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts is the longest-running musical on Off-Broadway, having chalked up over 3,000 performances.

When it ran in Sydney it was promoted as "Seinfeld set to music" and the producers of the Hobart production decided not to try and soft-peddle the New York ambience (which means they don't have to re-write one of the songs set in Macy's department store!).

It's a long time since I've seen anything in the "revue" genre – a blend of short comedy and music pieces – but this works really well.

Local comedian John X has a surprisingly good singing voice and Di Richards almost stopped the show with her rendition of "Always a Bridesmaid" after the interval.

I also really liked Mandy Cashion's "I Will Be Loved Tonight."

The audience were also very appreciative, applauding madly at the end.

click here for more Tasmanian bloggers

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Wooden Boat Festival

Monday was the public holiday for Regatta Day, but we were more interested in the final day of the Wooden Boat Festival. About 30,000 people had visited the waterfront to see the assembled boats and ships, so we figured it wouldn't be that crowded by the last day.

The waterfront was a virtual forest of masts. Yachts of all sizes, restored sailing ships and pleasure craft of all descriptions.

The star attraction of course was the "James Craig", built around 1874 and one of the few of its era still to be sailing the seas. Even by modern standards it's quite a big ship, and towered over the rest of the harbour's visitors.

Julie was taking photographs wholesale. Here she is sizing up the "Windward Bound" as a possible subject.

click here for more Tasmanian bloggers

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

James Craig

The Wooden Boat Festival begins with a “sail past”, a parade of dozens of the boats of the 400 taking part.

My sister Julie and I drove down to the riverbank to watch the barques, ketches, yawls, etc.

It was a fine day for it, and an armada of spectactor craft, helicopters and light aircraft went up and down the river as they sailed up the Derwent.

Julie got some great photographs, like the one above of the historic “James Craig” returning to Hobart after 25 years.


Sunday morning I got up on time and I thought I was doing pretty well until my sister Julie said "You look very tired" just as we sat down in church. Those dark circles under your eyes will give you away every time.

It was good to see Rob (or minister R1 as we now call him) getting out of his car as we arrived. He is looking a little fragile still after his hip operation and gets about on two sticks. I know he is wanting to get back to work as soon as possible, but that time hasn't quite arrived.

In the meantime R2 was preaching at the morning service. His sermon was titled "This is God Calling" which led to an amusing bit in the children's talk when he was asking the boys and girls how God might speak to them. At that moment (obviously planned in advance) his mobile phone rang – "For a moment, I thought it might be... never mind."

The sermon looked at 1 Samuel 3, the famous story that tells how Samuel is woken repeatedly by a voice calling him during the night. Finally he realises that it is God speaking to him, and he replies "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."

That's something that we aren't that good at: we speak up when we want something, but how good are we at listening to what God is trying to tell us? Too often his voice is drowned out by the background noise around us, the hubbub of modern life.

But we do have an advantage over Samuel . We know we have a go-between who can put us in touch with God – "He who has seen me has seen the Father," said Jesus.

A word that's very much in vogue in the present day is "commitment". Everybody talks about it, in and out of churches. A generation or two back, it would more likely have been "surrender" people were using. Being committed to God is one thing, but surrendering yourself to Him has a different emphasis for your life.

Then there's the question of serving God. Samuel had to tell Eli bad news about the status of his family, who were certainly not true representatives of their faith. From then on, Samuel would go on to preach the word of God, impressing his contemporaries with his genuine loyalty to the Lord. This was no vague mystical experience: Samuel came as God's spokesman.

We may not be called to be a king-maker like Samuel was, but we are all called to serve God is our everyday surroundings.

Don't just hear the Word of God, listen to it. It could be a call to a deeper relationship with him, a new level of surrender. There may be a new area of service opening up.

It's a call to life, but it's also a call to be linked to Jesus Christ and his suffering. Following Jesus is not necessarily the way to an easier life – don't believe anybody who tells you that it is.

He knows us. How well do we know him?

Watching Songs of Praise on Sunday television is often a bit of a surprise. We're never sure from one week to another exactly what sort of show it will be – a lavish concert from some major metropolis or a tour of some quaint byway.

Well, this one took me by surprise. We faded in on Su Pollard standing under a signpost marking the distance to all sorts of exotic destinations before she exclaimed "Welcome to Cleethorpes!"

Cleethorpes? One of those English destinations that are most often heard about as punchlines in old jokes – "First prize is a week in Cleethorpes. Second prize is two weeks in Cleethorpes" – and the locals know it.

However it looks quite a nice little spot, and the beach isn't as awful as some British beaches. If I was in the area, I could imagine paying a visit to it (once anyway).

The music struck an odd note at times – it's not uncommon to hear hymns that are unfamiliar or that have been re-arranged, but I have never thought of "Walking on sunshine" as an inspirational song.

We certainly weren't expecting a scene in which Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart was re-united with an old school mate. It was interesting to see that in the old photographs Stewart was the only one wearing a hat – was he already balding then?

Passing a stall outside the supermarket, I noticed they had a special deal on caps with your name lettered across the front. So I thought why not get one with the name of my favourite website on it?

I wrote down the name and they said come back in ten minutes.

I did and they presented me with a black cap with large gold letters spelling out DAIRY-X.COM

"Er, yes, very nice," I said. "There's just one problem.....That's Diary not Dairy..."

Screensound Australia's radio programme Theatre of the Mind has been running some old episodes of the Australian version of Superman starring Leonard Teale. I found it a bit odd listening to these because I originally heard them when I was a 10-year-old schoolboy.

The sense of deja vu is eerie. I remember listening with intense concentration, meaning I remember some of the shows reasonably well even after all these years. They don't stand up too badly.

Indeed they stand up better than some of the television programmes I watched around the same time. Seeing some of those again, the reaction is usually "Egads, how could I have sat through this?"

Blogwise - blog directory

Saturday, February 05, 2005

wet wet wet...

Have you ever looked out at your lawn turning brown and muttered "Gee, we need some rain"?

Be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday was really hot and sunny. Wednesday we had a few showers. By Thursday morning it was raining steadily.

By the time I went out on Thursday it was pouring; I stopped at a traffic light and the rain was coming across the car's bonnet horizontally.

The first five minutes of the radio news was devoted to roads that were closed, yachts that had sunk and areas that had been blacked out by trees falling on power lines.

Last Thursday I had arrived at the office wearing the lightest summer shirt that I owned. This week I was rather damp despite being bundled up in my old raincoat and a fisherman's cap.

By the late afternoon it had begun to ease. When I drove home from the office I could actually see a tiny piece of blue sky off in the distance.

The fact it had stopped raining almost made up for discovering a leak in the ceiling of the dining room that had ruined a couple of magazines that had been in just the wrong place.

It could have been worse though – compared to Launceston and Melbourne we got off lightly. I think Melbourne had its wettest day for 150 years!

The folk at the Met Office explained that it was the result of an unusually intense low-pressure system. As it crossed the continent, summer gave way to gales, rain, hail, snow and even huge dust storms across four states.

A busy 48 hours for the emergency services.

But Friday morning the sun was actually shining. I looked out the kitchen window and shook my head in disbelief. "Weather!" I grunted, and turned to making breakfast.

The other morning we had a visitor turn up at the back door out of the blue.

"Hello, my name is Paul. I did some work for your sister at her place last year."

Yes, I remember you.

"I lost my drivers licence for a few months so I wasn't able to do any more jobs for a while. But I think I still owe your sister a bit of work."

Well, that's good of you, I said.

"But I'd rather not go back to her house. You see, I've had some trouble with mental illness and there's something about that place that upsets me."

Oh. OK....

"I'd be willing to do some work here for you though to make it up. How about if I come round Saturday and cut back those blackberries in your driveway?"

Yeah, that sounds all right.

"Right, I'll see you then."

As he went off down the street, I couldn't help thinking to myself: I just hope he leaves the chainsaw in the truck.....

A worried phone call last night from a friend of Julie's. She'd arrived home from an overseas trip yesterday and had received an abusive anonymous phone call from someone almost as soon as she stepped in the door.

Apparently one of the national television programmes had run out of news items and had aired a segment about a legal problem she was having with the people next door about a property dispute.

Naturally, in the style of so-called "current affairs" television, they had painted everything in black and white, with Julie's friend coming out of it as though she was Joan Collins' character in Dynasty and the neighbours being represented as poor defenceless innocents.

Oh please!

It really annoys me when such programmes go for the such a trite and superficial treatment of the issues. If they can't give a balanced treatment of a simple neighbourhood dispute, what hope is there for them to treat important matters with any judgement?

Not to mention the privacy question. The television show identified her by name, mentioned what suburb she lived in and where she worked. No wonder she's getting crank calls from drones with nothing better to do than watch tabloid television.

Also on the tube this week, we've had a raft of new programmes in the comedy, drama and infotainment sectors. Julie had no trouble watching My Restaurant Rules, but the following drama, the premiere of Lost was another matter.

My sister has always been very sensitive to atmosphere and suspense in drama, so this menacing melodrama set on a desert island haunted by who-knows-what practically had her hair standing on end.

When it finished, I asked if she wanted to watch anything else. "Yes," she said through trembling lips, "show me something light and fluffy."

After a moment's thought, I dug out my Northern Exposure DVD and we watched episode #1 in which Doc arrives in town and meets all the quirky locals. After an hour of that she felt a lot calmer.

I call it DVD therapy. Maybe the medical profession should look into it instead of prescribing all those tranquillizers and anti-depressants.