Friday, September 09, 2005

goose out

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Over the last few months, I've become used to the sound of the goose waddling around outside the back door. Whenever I went out to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee after dark, she used to make this insistent sort of grumbling noise and I would have to make shushing sounds at her through the window.

However Spring has sprung, and it makes changes in all of us. Following the powerful drives of instinct, she fossicked around for bits of stuff until she was able to make a nest at the end of the walkway past the laundry. There she spends all her time, laying eggs which we know are infertile so cannot possibly hatch.

But instinct can't be challenged by logic. She sits patiently out there nearly all day and night. Now and again I can coax her into coming out to have some food and to wash her face in the bucket of water. Other times she just looks at me and makes a disapproving noise in the back of her throat.

I guess my little girl has grown up.

Driving into town the other day I gave Kay a lift. While we were talking I asked how she was doing with the correspondence courses she was taking.

"I might have some trouble with my next Maths assignment," she mused. "They want me to find out how many dollar coins will fit into a box a meter square..."


"...and I don't know how I'm going to lay my hands on that many coins."

I was silent for a second, then I said carefully "I don't think they want you to get a real box and fill it with real coins. They'll expect you to calculate it mathematically and work out how many coins would be needed."

"Ohhhhh," she said, "yes, that should be a lot easier."

I noticed Officeworks had some of those new scratch-resistant CD-R discs in their sale, so I thought I'd stock up with a few. My sister Julie said she'd come with me; there was something she wanted to look at herself.

So she comes home with a 200GB external hard drive for $199. That's only about a dollar per gigabite of storage. Quite amazing.

The first computer I ever bought had a hard drive of only 4GB. The laptop I'm writing this on has 11GB, which is small by modern standards.

But I think Julie can not only back up her drive completely, she could back up the hard drives of everyone we know!

It will, of course, take her a while to transfer her data over to it. The speed of the link from her computer isn't that fast. She has a lot of photographs and video files on her machine, so this will be a weight off her mind knowing that soon they'll all be safely backed-up.

We took Julie's mastiff Saj in to the Vet for his check-up today. He looked him over carefully, particularly at the muscle wastage around his head. Words like "cranial nerves", "catabolic" and other technical terms were murmured but nothing conclusive.

We were told to come back on Monday for an X-ray. There are plenty of more high-tech tests and scans we could try, but that would be prohibitively expensive for Julie and the probability is that even if they did find something it wouldn't help us to actually improve his condition.

Time will tell.

Running on ABC television this month is Real Life Water Rats, an interesting look at the Tasmanian maritime police unit. The first episode was gripping, depicting the rescue of the crew of a yacht in the Sydney-to-Hobart race. Conditions in Bass Strait were horrific, but all the crew were brought aboard safely.

The sea was so rough that as soon as the police boat reached port the film crew were taken to hospital to recover from acute sea-sickness.

Monday night was quiz night at the New Sydney Hotel again. We managed to make up a team with me, Julie, Caroline, Jan and her little boy Jamie.

We started off well, though inevitably some of the questions took us by surprise. Alas, the last couple of categories "Sports" and "Current Affairs" brought us undone. We ended up way down the list at the conclusion.

A lot of the questions had us muttering, "Yes, that was in the papers. It was -- what was his name?" It set me thinking about the way we consume news.

When I was in my late teens, I used to read three daily newspapers as well as Time and Newsweek. I couldn't do that today. A lot of our news comes to us electronically and we mentally filter out things that don't interest us. Television, radio, internet... we skim over what doesn't concern us.

Information is endless, Aldous Huxley once wrote, and abbreviation is a necessary evil.

Received a thick envelope of CDs from those industrious people at the Radio Archives. The first disc we listened to was a quirky programme from 1947 The Man on the Farm

Sponsored by the Quaker Oats Company on behalf of its Ful-O-Pep line of animal feeds, it began as a syndicated weekly feature in about 1942 and ran for well over a decade -- eventually making its way to the full Mutual Network in the early 1950s.

Recorded at the Quaker Oats Experimental Farm near Libertyville, Illinois and hosted by a genial Oklahoman named Chuck Akery, the program offered a lighthearted Saturday afternoon combination of audience participation show. A small studio audience, consisting mostly of indomitable farm wives, were regularly asked to answer questions sent in by listeners as Akery moved through the crowd with a portable microphone -- perhaps winning a pound of feed or two for their trouble.

Reggie Cross on the harmonica and legendary Hammond Organist Porter Heaps would perform musical duets, while Ful-O-Pep advised listeners on new ways to increase egg production and issued a weekly blue ribbon award to an outstanding farm or dairy.

In this episode, show #288, audience discussions range from how cucumbers blossom to whether watermelons only turn red inside when they're exposed to fresh air. The program concludes with a contest in which seven women compete to see who can give the best imitation of a howling tom cat.

If you grew up in a small town, were raised on a farm, or ever belonged to a rural organization, you'll find "The Man on the Farm" a familiar and entertaining time capsule of rural life in the early postwar years.

It's also a reminder that radio, in its hey-day, was far more diverse than just the big-time network shows we remember today would lead us to believe. Is it corny? Maybe -- but it's lively, down-to-earth and a lot of fun.


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