Saturday, April 30, 2005

a Thursday thought

The autumn weather can be quite varied if you live on an island between Australia and Antarctica.

The other day it was a warm and sultry afternoon, peaking at about 27 [about 80 F]. Then the wind changed and strong winds coming off the Southern Ocean began lashing the island.

By the time I got up the next morning and took the goose for a walk in the garden, there was snow on the mountain. {Brrrr!}

It might be a good thing Kay gave me a pair of warm gloves for my birthday.

Thursday wasn't a great day for me or for my sister.

Firstly, the afternoon at the office went all right until I had to re-start the computer. I somehow found myself with three versions of the document I'd been working on -- and picked the wrong one.

This resulted in my querying my boss for information he'd already given me the previous day. Not only did I feel like a fool for forgetting, I felt as though it scuttled all my efforts over the last months trying to consolidate my position.

Every day that I'd worked, I'd tried so hard not to look like an incompetent buffoon -- to obliterate the memory of that last time I messed up.

I felt depressed for hours afterwards.

It didn't help that I've been so tired this month. Whenever I can, I try to sleep for half an hour in the afternoon, just so I can get through the rest of the day without feeling physically drained. Otherwise I catch myself nodding off in front of the television after dinner.

Secondly, it looks like I may have been overly optimistic about Julie's rooster. I thought last week that he was starting to improve, especially with Julie's round-the-clock care.

But things didn't go so well the last couple of days, and he died on Thursday evening.

Julie was particularly upset because he's the last male of one of her favourite blood-lines. Her last chance of breeding with some of the other hens.

On a more upbeat note, it was nice to see no less than seven Spotted Turtle-Doves out on the back lawn one morning. We have had them here on and off for years but they haven't been around much lately.

And in a spectacular display a whole flock of White Cockatoos roosted for a while in a gum tree down the street. You couldn't miss them: the noise they made was terrific and at a distance the tree looked as though it was covered in snow.

Kay tells me she hasn't seen White Cockatoos in the city or suburbs since about 1948. I certainly haven't seen such a thing before.

I spend a lot of time listening to the BBC Radio website but lately they've developed an irritating problem.

Remember the way a scratched record would skip or repeat a word as the needle went around on the turntable? That's what the audio on the website is doing this month.

I can notice it on the music programmes, but it's more annoying on the drama and comedy shows. Words will either disappear from the middle of a sentence, or they'll pop up again in another sentence. It's very distracting.

I'm hoping that they can fix this sometime soon, but I think the audio-on-demand department would be well down on the list of priorities at the BBC.

The first concert for the year at the Moonah Arts Centre featured the a capella vocal group the Wellingtones. They've increased in size since I last saw them -- there must have been 30 people on stage when everyone was singing.

There was a full house who enjoyed the performance greatly. Most of the songs were classic show tunes often heard from Barbershop Quartets but there was one striking original composition.

"In A Field In France" was written by a Tasmanian songwriter after the discovery by a French farmer of the body of one of his forefathers, a soldier killed in World War I. It was a moving moment to hear it in the week Anzac Day was being celebrated.


Monday, April 25, 2005



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After years of waiting my ship had finally come in.

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I took passage on a replica of the 19th century Lady Nelson.

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We motored up the river for a couple of miles then cut the motor and sailed down as far as Sandy Bay. The quiet was startling -- no sound but the wind and the waves. We were travelling so smoothly we didn't even seem to be leaving a wake.

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Seagulls soared overhead and a flock of cormorants preened complacently underneath the bridge. A seal popped his head out of the water and looked askance at us before diving again.

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The size of the ship was startling. It's not much bigger than a modern fifty-foot yacht, yet in the 19th century it sailed from London to Tasmania. Imagine spending 200 days on a boat this size.

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Fortunately I met some friendly natives ashore and decided to stay on land after all.

The start of the football season means the usual disruption to the broadcast media. On Saturday night the Coodabeen Champions were reduced from two and a half hours to one hour.

Friday night football was all finished by 11:20 but the compere cheerfully announced that they'd be staying on the air for the next forty minutes to discuss the night's game. "Call us on the usual number with your comments."

No, guys, I don't think you'd want to put to air any comments I might make.

Isn't this just so 21st century?

A news report about the ceremony to officially inaugurate the new Pope said that his route was lined with "thousands of people waving, cheering and taking pictures with their cell phones"!

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Listeners tuning into a regular radio show which broadcasts religious services will have an unexpected surprise this weekend -- a programme made up largely of silence.

BBC Radio's "Sunday Worship" usually features Christian services, but will this week be broadcast from a meeting held by Quakers, also known as the Society of Friends, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Saturday.

Quaker meetings are centred around a long period of quiet contemplation by the gathered participants -- usually lasting around an hour -- with no hymns, sermons, spoken prayers or priests. The BBC has previously had little to do with broadcasting Quaker meetings lest listeners believe their radios have broken down, the report said.

The broadcaster's radio stations additionally have a technical back-up system which automatically transmits music in the event of a long silence, which it presumes is a technical fault. Sunday morning's 40-minute programme will come from a Quaker school in Reading, Berkshire, and will include a period of silence, although a shorter one than usual, the report added.

In church this morning, a bigger congregation than I had expected since this is the middle of a long weekend.

Rob continued his series of sermons from the gospel of John. He considered the way in which people found it hard to accept Jesus' message even when he was right in front of them, performing miracles and explaining his words.

The priests who made up the Sanhedrin must have heard more details about Jesus than just about anybody, but their reaction was to plot how to get rid of him.

Current ideas about modernising the church, moving with the times and making things more "accessible" to a young audience are doomed to failure. Watering down the message may bring in a few more people, but to what end?

The moral I guess is that we can't actually convert anybody. We can only present the message that's in the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit's grace bring people to Jesus.

As with most things, in the end it's all up to God.

The date of April 25th looms up. This will be my 55th birthday, which is a bit confronting. How can I be halfway through my 50s? It feels like only a few years since I turned 30.

I can still remember my 21st birthday. How can I be 55? That's... older.



Saturday, April 23, 2005

rooster ward

With all the everyday things happening in our own routine, it's easy to forget how drastic the changes can be that are taking place in the lives of our friends and acquaintances. For example, until this year Val was a pillar of the local church - publishing the quarterly magazine, snapping the members of the congregation with his digital camera and serving on various parish organisations.

Alas, this was all curtailed by a recent diagnosis of cancer and he is more familiar with the business end of a syringe of morphine than he could ever have imagined.

I think about it sometimes as I pace across the back lawn (attended by various members of the poultry family), musing on how much we take for granted our good fortune in life. A short walk is of no significance (until you can't walk). A casual glance at the mountain hardly registers on the mind (until you can't see).

How often we take things as "givens" - health, freedom, comfort. And how quickly do we sometimes find that we can lose them.

Thursday was a tiring day. I had to get Julie moving early so she could meet friends in town for lunch, then on my way to the office detoured to pick up a few things before spending the afternoon working on this week's church bulletin.

This was complicated by the fact that the church hierarchy were involved in meetings most of the day, making it hard for me to get approval for each step of the process. Next week we're going to try producing the bulletin earlier in the week.

In the evening we went out again to the Lizbon bar in North Hobart. I was very tired and underwhelmed at the idea of having to go out to hear the nephew of my sister's best friend play jazz.

It didn't help that we were sitting in the only place in the bar where you couldn't see anything, and my hearing isn't good enough to carry on a conversation in a crowded bar.

The next day I was really worn out. After lunch I thought I'd go back to bed for a couple of hours.

Fifteen minutes later the burglar alarm went off in the house across the street!

Oh well, maybe I'll get an early night tonight...

Julie is still anxiously tending the sick rooster. It's getting to the point where every time we pass his box we check to see if he's still alive.

He gets very feeble looking overnight so she's been putting him out in the sun every day while she feeds him fortified gruel. Honey, oats, olive extract and sulphur.

A friend suggested it could be ringworm, but that doesn't sound the sort of thing that would cause his problems.

Julie found a website about chickens that suggested he could benefit from some yeast -- so she's going to try dosing him with Vegemite next time.

Chicken and Vegemite? Sounds delicious.

I've been transferring onto CD some more of those old tapes I made of the radio programme Sentimental Journey. These date from 1994 and while they seem OK at the moment, I don't want to leave them for another decade.

This was on the Saturday night show on ABC radio for many years, presided over by the venerable John West. It was the ultimate Golden Oldies show -- I don't think they ever broadcast a show that didn't have at least one number by Bing Crosby.

Before the CD revolution, it was the only way to hear some of the old-time stars if you weren't a confirmed audiophile with a big collection of 78s.

Browsing through the catalogues from hardware stores, I was slightly perplexed by the number of Patio Heaters on one page.

In days gone by, if we were outside and it got cold, we either put on more clothes or we went inside. We didn't try and produce "shirt sleeve" conditions by setting up banks of heating equipment on the back lawn.

Ofcourse, back then we would have thought that "al fresco dining" was the name of a chain of Italian restaurants.

On the box, Southern Cross TV takes a leaf out of ABC-TV's book and programmed a British whodunit in prime time opposite Friday night football -- perhaps inspired by the ratings success that ABC had with Midsommer Murders.

This time it's The Inspector Lynley Mysteries "Payment in Blood" (2002).

When eminent playwright Joy Sinclair is found dead at the remote seaside home of impresario Sir Stuart Stinhurst, Lynley and Havers are sent to the west coast of Scotland to investigate. The suspects are glamorous stars of the film and theatre world, there to rehearse Sinclair's long-awaited, controversial new play before the big West End opening.

Sounds like it could be good fun.

Meanwhile the double episodes of Stargate SG-1 on the late show continue to be compelling viewing. This week we had "Full Alert" (in which aliens try to precipitate World War III) and "Joe Citizen" (a barber from Indiana has a series of visions about other worlds which he gradually realises are true). The show continues to impress because of its consistent scripting and wry humour -- Richard Dean Anderson's Jack O'Neill is one of the great comic turns of science fiction.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

chicken stuff

Help save the Tasmanian Devil

Thursday I thought that one of Julie's chickens in my front hall was on his last legs. He looked so feeble that we took him out into the garden for some fresh air, hoping against hope that being outside in the sunshine might perk him up.

And, surprise surprise, it did.

After a few minutes he was standing up instead of just lying there. Even tonight he seemed more interested in his food than he was this morning.

Wonderful what a bit of Vitamin D can do for you.

Heard on television tonight: "Disneyland is celebrating its 50th birthday. That would make me feel old if I could remember it." Gee thanks -- I remember when Disneyland was something that was still new and the first episodes of the Disney television show we saw were all about the building of the (then) unique theme park.

When I was a schoolboy there was another boy at our school who was a minor celebrity. Other students would point him out and say disbelievingly "He's been to Disneyland!" At that time, overseas travel was still a novelty for Australian families and to know somebody whose family had been to California was quite a remarkable thing

Always interesting to observe the feline mind in action. Our two cats (well, they live in my house anyway) Paco and Jezebel came face to face as Paco entered the sitting room and found Jezebel sitting in front of the heater.

For a second they stared at each other. Then Jezebel glanced away and Paco too looked off in the other direction. He walked behind the heater and passed on the other side while Jezebel leaned over as though suddenly interested in washing a spot on her leg.

Not completely different from the behaviour of some of us so-called higher animals.

These are supposedly questions and answers posted on a tourism website. I don't believe that, but it's a nice demonstration of the Australian sense of humour [chuckle]...

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the streets?A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q: Can you give me information about hippo racing in Australia?
A: Africa is the big triangle south of Europe. Australia is the big island in the Pacific... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Sydney.

Q: Which direction is north in Australia?
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you arrive and we'll give you the rest of the directions.

Q: Can doctors in Australia dispense rattlesnake venom?
A: Rattlesnakes live in America, which is where you come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless and make good pets, especially the Taipan.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule?
A: Austria is the little country bordering Germany... oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir perform every Tuesday in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Australia? Is milk available all year round?A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegetarians. Milk is illegal.

Most amusing show of the week on television that isn't a comedy? It would have to be Grumpy Old Men which presents a group of irascible baby-boomers who look at modern life and don't like what they see.

Computers, mobile phones, modern fashions, body piercing ... plenty of stuff that we can all agree on.

And isn't it a distressing thought that the last film actually released by the now-defunct MGM studio was the new version of The Amityville Horror?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Richmond ramble

This Monday was the day selected for a "Richmond ramble" but the weather was so bad I thought it wouldn't go ahead. But I was wrong.

Richmond is a picturesque old town about 25km from Hobart, full of historic relics like the oldest bridge and the oldest gaol in the country. Just the place for my local church group to have a day out.

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I consulted the local guidebook.

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We saw the bridge in the distance.

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The river was very pleasant, though we were nearly deafened by the crickets.

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Julie saw the park

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And the antique shops of course

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Not forgetting the art galleries.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

quiz nite

I've always enjoyed trivia and quizzes, but up till now I've never taken part in that popular activity the Pub Quiz. But one of the Thylacon committee invited me to come along to a quiz they were running as a fund-raiser at a city hotel.

Well, it had been a fairly busy weekend, but I pencilled it onto my calendar -- I like a couple of weeks notice so I can get used to any new idea -- and Monday night my sister and I rocked up to the New Sydney in Bathurst Street.

There was quite a good turn-up and there were half a dozen tables of people taking part in the quiz. I thought perhaps it was a bad sign that our table was designated by the name "The Amnesiacs" but we did fairly well.

The evening had a science fiction theme, but even if you were a trivia expert some of the categories were easier than others. The questions about classic novels and movies of the 1970s were easily disposed of, but the section about the geography of fictitious countries was quite a challenge.

Still, I would say that we did well in more categories than we messed up in, and we made ground rapidly as the finishing line approached. In the end we were only one point off being in second place.

To our amusement, when we listened to the midnight radio quiz The Challenge, two of the same questions showed up again!

Visited Joel to finalise our laptop repairs. He even installed XP Service Pack 2 on the machine for us, saving me the trouble of fossicking around for a magazine disc with that programme.

I don't know when he found time to do the repairs. He works at the boatyard, has his own IT business, helps at the Internet cafe and has a new baby in the house. He must be a very busy boy.

The only odd thing was that installing that knocked out my AVG anti-virus and I had to uninstall it and put a fresh copy on. Aside from that, everything seems to be working fine now.

Let's hope it stays that way. $200 for repairs we can manage - $2,000 for a new machine might have been a different story.

I saw Kay today and said to her "How are your cats behaving this week?"

Not too well, she said, I caught one of them up on the bookshelf about to curl up on a valuable first edition.

"Well, you should do two things. First, move it to a more secure location. Second, leave it to me in your will," I said with a twinkle in my eye.

Funny you should say that, she replied, that's just what I have done.

Oops! Many a true word spoken in jest.

Britain's streets are in chaos. Plastic mannequins erupt from shop windows to create havoc. One of London's famous landmarks is implicated in the plot. Harrods explodes. "It's bigger inside than outside."

Yes, Doctor Who is back on the air!

A friend provided me with a copy of the first episode a couple of weeks after it went to air on the BBC -- it won't be seen in Australia till next month -- and I was intrigued to see how it worked.

All in all, I was quite pleased. We've been watching a lot of the Doctor Who repeats that have been running on the ABC for months, so it wouldn't have been surprising if we'd found it difficult to warm to. But I found it a lot of fun.

Christopher Ecclestone brings the requisite dash to the role, and Billie Piper does well with bringing the "Dr Watson" part to life. The special effects are obviously modern, but they don't go hog-wild with CGI pyrotechnics just because they could.

And of course it was nice to see the return of the Autons, though the name isn't actually used in the show.

I look forward to seeing the rest of the series.

Julie tells me she saw a Japanese ocean liner when she was down at the waterfront today. Who knew there was such a thing?

She thinks it was even called the Nippon Maru, which should win some sort of prize for lack of imagination.

The pipeline crew may have moved on from Julie's front door, but their legacy remains. There's a lot of fine dust and grit all over the road where they dug it up, and one of the cats always rolls on the street.

This means that whenever I pat her, I find I've got all this fine dust all over my fingers. It must keep her busy licking it all off later on.

You think your kids watch a lot of television? According to The Hollywood Reporter the biggest viewers are in Japan:

The average level of television consumption increased on nearly every continent last year, but a new study has found that Japanese viewers watch more TV than anybody.

The newly released report from Eurodata TV Worldwide, the focus of a panel discussion at the MIPTV convention in Cannes, also found Americans' daily dose of TV climbed by three minutes last year to an average of four hours and 28 minutes -- nearly 90 minutes above the world average.

The Japanese watched the most television last year, clocking in a daily average of five hours.

Americans were second, followed by Argentinians and the Greeks, who consumed four hours and 25 minutes and four hours and four minutes, respectively. At 2 1/2 hours daily each, China and Sweden watched the least amount of television last year.

Even though dramas accounted for 46 percent of viewers' time overall, and made a comeback stateside, American fiction failed to dominate outside of the domestic marketplace as it has in years past.

However, shows such as "Friends," "CSI" and "ER" maintained popularity in many regions. American blockbusters continued their international appeal, with "Shrek" and "Titanic" sticking out, the report said.

The spike in various countries' consumption was due in large part to a blend of both news and sporting events, including the Iraq war, the U.S. presidential election, the Athens Olympics, the European Football Championships and the qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup.

The MIP conference heard that the Eurodata document reveals that 46 percent of viewing time was dedicated to drama, 36 percent to other entertainment categories (talk, comedy, and variety shows) and 18 percent to news.

A total of 2,300 new programs were launched in nine countries last year. In terms of new formats, NBC's "The Apprentice" appeared to have found the most purchase globally.

Today's quote:
"Manned space flight is an amazing achievment, but it has opened for mankind thus far only a tiny door for viewing the awesome reaches of space. An outlook through this peephole at the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator." -- Wernher von Braun

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Electric days

So I thought I'd got everything back to normal on my back-from-the-dead laptop. All the software that I'd needed had been replaced.

Then I started getting this series of error messages every time I started the machine. A serious error has occurred, it told me sternly, and asked if I wanted to report it to Microsoft. After a couple of these, the crash analysis report told me that something on my computer was in conflict with the S3 graphics driver.

A quick internet search revealed that this was a known problem with the OpenOffice word processor I'd just installed. I'd never had problems running OpenOffice 1.1.3 with Windows 98, but maybe OpenOffice 1.1.4 and Windows XP didn't get on.

So I un-installed OpenOffice (though I've always rather liked its clean look) and installed 602PC Suite, which was originally developed in the Czech republic as a free option to Microsoft Word.

We'll see if I do any better with that one.

I can always go back to Rough Draft - it's a very simple word-processor, but I've never had a moment of trouble with it.

Thursday afternoon spent a few hours at the office. It was the usual procession of minor problems and tasks. We spent a lot of time working on the minutiae of the weekly bulletin -- putting in a comma here, taking out an extra line there, re-writing one line six times. All the precise details. You probably know the sort of thing.

In spite of all that, we had the job completed at 4:59 which is unusual.

Drank too much coffee, as usual. I always say that modern offices run on two things: caffeine and electricity. And speaking of that, they're re-wiring the building this week, meaning that it looks a bit like a building site at times.

They installed new lights in the church library, which is a bit distracting. From my desk in the office I can look across the hall and see the library bathed in an almost supernaturally bright light. It's as though they've put in an enormous skylight and it's a really really sunny day.

Later this week they're going to put in new power outlets in my office, but it won't be easy. They discovered there's no crawlspace under the office floor, so they'll have to run the cables through the ceiling and down the chimney!

I was interested to hear that we will have two different types of power point. The red ones are for computers and electronics, the white ones are for ordinary things like fans, heaters, radios etc. After the trouble we had with our laptops at home this month, I'm all in favour of any possible precautions.

Julie not that pleased to find that the gas pipeline people are working on her part of the street again. She came out of her front door the other day to see a bulldozer and a pile of gravel as high as her shoulder.

"How much longer are they going to be working here?" she muttered. Every time she thinks they're going, they find something else to do.

She thought for a moment there might be a silver lining. One of the men working in the street asked her whether she'd like to sell some of her chickens. Certainly she would.

But then he had a look at them close up and had reservations. "I was really looking for single combs. Are all of yours double combs?"

As a layman, I had no idea people were so finicky. But apparently poultry buffs can be as fussy as any other hobbyist.

Remarkable weather this month. A few days ago we were sweltering in hot north-westerly winds. With hardly any time to get used to the change, last night plunged to a brisk 5°C [about 41°F].

My sister's Rex cat was particularly unimpressed. She usually gets up early and sits in the sun in the kitchen window. This morning she was back and forth all morning, keeping Julie awake as she burrowed under the covers every few minutes.

At least Paco is content to curl up on my bed and snooze until I get up. Like many cats, he sees no reason to go out into the kitchen until somebody is present to feed him.

I've had a look at ABC-TV's new 6:30pm line-up and there's not a whole lot that catches my interest. The most entertaining to my mind is Collectors and not just because it's filmed here in Hobart at the Tasmanian Museum.

It's full of stories about rabid collectors which make the average person think "Well, I'm quite normal compared to him."

Sample hint for attending garage sales: if it's already daylight, you're running late!

Brings back pleasant memories of the old series For Love Or Money.

Programmes of interest on the BBC radio website this week:
  • And June Whitfield
  • Hancock's Half Hour
  • Just A Minute
  • Navy Lark
  • Big Band Special
  • Brian Kay's Light Programme
  • The Music Goes Round.

Lots of music and comedy.

Speaking of British humour, I've been looking at some recent issues of the venerable D.C. Thomson weekly comic The Dandy. A few months ago they revamped this title, which is second in popularity only to the iconic Beano. Glossy paper, new style covers, new comic strips.

The problem with this sort of change is always the same -- can you attract new readers without alienating the old ones? Some of the old strips are still running. It will be interesting to see how the title progresses this year.

The Beano on the other hand seems not to have changed. I suspect that D.C. Thomson are watching the success of their first upgrade before they start making changes to their flagship title.

Called in at Cafe 73 in Moonah and was surprised to see a poster for Thylacon in their window. Full marks to the committee for getting some publicity in the suburbs instead of just whacking up a poster or two in the local bookstores.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tintin on the air?

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Now that I have the laptop back in action, I've been able to listen to some of the radio programmes on the BBC website. One of my friends had told me about a re-run of an old show I hadn't been aware of.

It was nothing less than a radio serial based on the famous Tintin comic-books. I was aware of the animated television series that runs on ABC here, but I was bemused at the news there was also a wireless spin-off.

It seems quite faithful to the old large-format comics – what you'd call a "graphic novel" these days I suppose – although the Destination Moon story in which Tintin is the first man on the lunar surface sounds a bit odd now.

The irascible old salt Captain Haddock is voiced by an actor we all recognised as soon as he spoke – none other than Leo (Rumpole) McKern!

Julie spent a long time last night working on getting all her stuff back on the laptop. She has a lot more software on hers than I do, mostly to do with her photographic pastimes. That was why she had to upgrade to a later model – she'd filled up the hard drive on the old one.

While we were in Hobart on Monday, we bought some extra surge protectors, so whichever power supply we're using will be safe for the computers. What was that old saying “a burnt child fears the fire".

I've been needing a new alarm clock for some time, so I looked around some of the shops. The first couple I went through had only clock radios or wall clocks. We ended up in Dick Smith's where I picked up a nice little gizmo for $15.

However, since you can only read the instructions after you've purchased the item, it has a couple of features I hadn't been aware of. It has an hourly chime (well, you hardly want that while you're trying to sleep) and a choice of alarms: a recorded voice that announces the time, the sound of a cuckoo, or a rooster crowing!

We tried the "rooster" function and I have to say I don't think you'd sleep through it. As far as I can tell it keeps alternating between the crowing rooster and the voice announcement until you switch it off. Ideal for sound sleepers.

Though possibly not suitable for those of a nervous disposition.

Describe your favourite film in 20 words or less, preferably in a single sentence.

Sounds like a party game, but it's a problem faced by newspapers and magazines every day in the modern world. Over the years I've seen a lot of different errors perpetrated by television guides. They come in various forms.

An easy-to-understand mistake is printing the details of the re-make for the original film, or vice-versa. Then there are the movies that have the same title – I think I've seen at least four titled Breakout over the years.

There are even simple mechanical errors, where someone has turned over two pages at once and printed (say) the plot of the war movie Hangmen Also Die under the name of Hangman's Knot, a western.

The really interesting mistakes seem to come about when somebody in a rush tries to abstract the essential details from a much longer review – here lies peril for the unwary.

Sometimes we get a description that's perfectly correct as far as it goes: I once saw a blurb for Captains Courageous which simply said "a spoiled little boy causes trouble on an ocean liner". This is correct – that is the plot of the first five minutes of the movie! And presumably it's the first line of a much longer write-up.

But now and again you get one that's simply the result of trying to summarize a plot that can't be boiled down. You can't get a quart of milk into a pint jug.

That probably explains the entry in Wednesday's newspaper for the screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey on SBS-TV: "A group of primitives humans find an alien artifact buried on the moon".

Oh dear.

We've somehow had the start of the movie grafted onto the middle. I suppose we should be thankful the synopsis doesn't imply that they are accompanied by a paranoid computer.

After being fine for the rest of this year, my morning BGL [Blood Glucose Level] readings suddenly went up for no apparent reason. I've been between 6.0 and 7.0, which is acceptable, then last week I suddenly had a string of readings over 7.0 – a bit surprising.

Possible explanations – stress from some late-nights while Julie was away, change in seasons, an undetected virus of some kind, or different medication. The latter is a bit suspicious; the day before I had filled a new prescription for Metformin and it was a different brand to the one I had last month. Hmmm.

I was able to get it down to 6.6 this morning with more rest and skipping my usual bedtime snack of a slice of bread and an apple. We shall see how I go.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Goose? Geese!

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Saturday afternoon I spoke to Robin on the phone about the Thylacon convention and a quiz night that’s on at one of the pubs this month. At one point I had to break off the conversation to call out the back door “Keep quiet!”. Sorry about that, I said, the goose is a bit noisy. “Oh, it’s a goose is it?” he said, “I thought your dog just had a very funny bark....”

Later that night I actually turned off the television to look out the back and see what the peculiar noise was. It turned out she’d found a piece of styrofoam and was pecking at it.

It’s not easy to get used to living with a fully grown goose just outside your back door.

How we ended up with the goose is a story with a twist. At my sister’s house she has had very bad luck with her poultry in recent years. The casualty rate for goslings, ducklings and chicks has been appallingly high.

After some years of seeing goslings hatch only to die off one by one, last year when they got down to two goslings she decided to act. One evaded her, but she captured one female and brought it over to my house to hand-raise.

It thrived and finally had to be moved into the backyard after it got too big for its box. We still have it because firstly she has a problem with one of her wings, and secondly because we fear she may be so socialised to people she would have trouble acclimatising to the barnyard.

But the twist is what happened the following season.

The flock of geese are aging but still produce a few eggs each year. This year they hatched out five engagingly clumsy little goslings. After a couple of weeks, one of them disappeared and we thought “Oh oh, now they’ll all go.” We groaned and waited to see their numbers decline one by one, as usually happens.

But, to our great surprise, the remaining four not only survived but shot up at a great rate until you could hardly tell them from the adults. Julie now has a flock of eleven -- the first successful hatching she’s had in several years.

And I still have a goose in my backyard....

What a strange couple of weeks it’s been weather-wise. On the morning of Good Friday there was snow on Mount Wellington, but eight days later it was still 23 degrees at 11:30pm -- that’s about 74 degrees in the old scale! -- and I was sweating when I fed the animals at Julie’s house while she was away for the weekend.

It was 32 [=90] at Campania, the highest April temperature recorded there.

I wasn’t surprised when I woke up on Sunday morning and found it was raining lightly outside. With all that warm air, even the weakest cold change would produce some showers.

At church on Sunday morning it was good to see our minister Rob able to walk into the pulpit for the first time in months. He was still using a light cane after the service, but he’s walking a lot better than he was even last month. It’s been a long recuperation after his hip operation.

He returned to his series on the book of John that he last preached on a couple of years ago. This week his sermon looked at the story of Lazarus, and considered the whole business of death.

It was confronting stuff, but a topic that none of us can avoid.

Julie was re-united with her laptop on her return from Launceston. I picked it up for her at the weekend, and she spent a lot of Sunday night working on re-installing software and locating data files that had been pushed into the background by replacing Windows 98 with Windows XP.

Her “favourites” list on Internet Explorer, for example, was blank but some sleuthing around on the hard drive discovered the original list and she was able to copy it over onto the current folder. Mission accomplished.

Do you ever see something in print and mutter to yourself “That’s what I’ve always thought. Why isn’t it obvious to everyone?”

I was in a hi-fi shop the other day pricing CD Recorder units (how much? don’t ask!) and picked up a brochure for the upmarket Model Two radio made by Henry Kloss - famously the best mantle radio on the market.

The piece on their stereo AM/FM radio points out that “stereophonic reproduction requires the separation of the left and right audio channels, so why place two speakers in a single cabinet?” They provide a companion speaker with a five metre cable so you can move it anywhere in the room.

Perfectly logical. Why do so many so-called Stereo sets have the speakers mounted only a few inches away from each other? It makes no sense whatsoever.

If I won the lottery, I’d cerainly buy one of Mr Kloss’ radios.

On the BBC radio 2 website, listened with great enjoyment to the weekly Friday Night is Music Night concert. Not only were the BBC Concert Orchestra in fine form, but during interval they played a selection of Byne's light music and the guest stars were the quirky band Pink Martini.

They've been described by one British critic as a cross between Manhattan Transfer and the Buena Vista Social Club -- a sort of blend of calypso, big band and smoky night club sounds. China Forbes' voice and Robert Taylor's trumpet form a beautiful synergy.

I must see if I can get their album Sympathique

And if it's the start of the month, it must be time for another mouth-watering newsletter from those industrious folk at First Generation Radio Archives. Their special offer this month is a set of CDs of the famous comedy series The Great Gildersleeve and a "Round Robin" (a set made up of various programmes) which includes material as diverse as Bob & Ray and Fu Manchu.

So much of radio's history has been lost but some survived by a fluke. The Gildersleeve shows mentioned above were preserved by chance when the 16" lacquer discs fell into the hands of an engineer who had worked at NBC radio when it was located at the famous intersection of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood.

In Australia, alas, most of our archives were simply dumped in the 1960s when Top 40 programming became almost universal. Hard-hearted bean-counters could see no reason to retain warehouses full of drama, comedy and variety shows.

What does still exist at least has a home at the National Sound & Film Archive in Canberra, which recently reverted to its original name after being known for a few years by the more trendy designation of Screensound Australia.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Fall furnace

Friday was a hectic day. We all wilted as the temperature shot up to a sultry 31 degrees; it seemed a bit strange to be mopping our brows while the autumn leaves were starting to change their hue. Then there was a lot of running about to do.

I had to go in to Hobart at short notice. I lost a prescription for Metformin and my endocrinologist's office mislaid my request for a replacement. So I phoned my GP this morning and asked if I could get one from him -- yes, said his receptionist, but you do know we close in half an hour?

So I jumped into the car and drove hurriedly into the city. Parking was a nightmare but I found a spot up in the end of Liverpool Street and got there in time.

Arriving home, my sister gave me a wary look. I wondered what had happened now.

I knew she was going up north to see her old friend Sippa, but she'd just had a phone call from the couple who were giving her a lift. We thought they were leaving about 6 p.m., but they'd changed it to 3 p.m.

Needless to say this change to our schedule sent us into another frenzy. Julie packed frantically. Then we drove to her house where she fed the animals and gave me a last-minute refresher on who ate what.

Stopped at a store to pick up some last-minute shopping for her trip, then when we got back to my place she said "I'm going to sit down for two minutes and relax." I made her a lukewarm cup of coffee (so she could drink it down quickly) then she drove off.

I watched her drive away, feeling hot and tired. Went back inside, made myself something to eat and went to sleep in my chair. Julie sent me a text message to say that it was a bit cooler in Campbell Town where they'd stopped for a meal. I drank the rest of my now cold coffee and emerged into the late afternoon, blinking slightly.

The sky had clouded over a little, and there was a breeze coming up. The goose followed me around, interested to see if I was going to feed her. Parrots fluttered around the fruit tree.
I still felt tired and sticky but the evening looked as though it might be a bit more tolerable.

Went over to Julie's house before I went to bed and checked on her animals. Poultry were quieter than I expected, and the horse was ready and waiting for his feed.

The cats gallopped around as usual, and I kept a close eye on the dogs to make sure they didn't get into a a scuffle after I fed them. In fact I forgot to feed Julie's mastiff before I took him out into the duck-pen; I'm surprised he didn't remind me.

At least I can listen to some plays from the BBC website now that my laptop is running again. This evening I listened to The Distant Echo by suspense novelist Val McDermid, dramatised by Bert Coules

Four students stumble upon the body of a dead girl. Twenty-five years later the Fyffe police mount a "cold case" review of the unsolved case, and the friends finally have an opportunity to clear their names once and for all. However, when one of them dies in a suspicious house fire, and another in a burglary gone bad, it seems someone is pursuing their own brand of justice. If the remaining two are to avoid becoming the next victims they need to find out what really happened all those years ago.

Not bad, but the Scottish accents require some concentration. Unlike television, you can't rely on the Closed Captions!

Afterwards, for light relief I listened to an episode of Just a Minute -- always one of my favourites.