Wednesday, December 28, 2005


One of the odd things about the sunny weather is that Julie's cat loves sitting in her car in the afternoon. I think she enjoys the warmth that radiates from the vinyl seats after they've been sitting in the sunshine.


Christmas went off all right for a change. The first two Decembers after my mother died we simply didn't do anything for the festive season. We didn't deliberately ignore the season, we just put it in the "too hard" basket.

On Christmas Day we attended church then went on to my niece's home. Her partner was cooking the turkey on his elaborate barbecue - something I hadn't heard of before but which turned out to be quite successful.

What was startling was my great-nephew Nathan, who has grown two feet since I last saw him and now looks to be 14-going-on-22. A bittersweet reminder of how fast the years are flying by.

On Boxing Day we drove up to Ridgeway in the mountains for an afternoon at Jan's house. Many of Julie's old school friends were present. The conversation took some odd twists and turns -- one participant, who reads this blog, threatened me with bodily harm if I repeated her comments about shoes and sports bras. So I won't.


The standard of Yuletide television programmes seems to get worse every year. On the other hand, there was a lot of ABC radio programming that was worth listening to.

Christmas Eve on the ABC there was a Christmas episode of The Idlers, a Christmas special with Rod Quinn and a Christmas episode of Saturday Night Country. The following evening there was a Christmas episode of The Coodabeen Champions. Lots of good stuff.

It is a little baffling that they're now podcasting The Idlers but not The Coodabeen Champions. The only reason I can see is the amount of music in the latter show.

Boxing Day also begins the annual Summer Festival in Hobart. Julie went off to the Taste of Tasmania on its first day on Wednesday.

I am growing fatigued after the last few weeks. I always seem to be tired, never getting enough sleep and always facing a long "To Do" list that I never seem to reach the end of.

Of course it could be something to do with the fact that I haven't had a holiday for about 18 years.

As we approach the New Year I muse on making some resolutions -- take more exercise, lose weight, read a short story every day, all the usual stuff. We shall see.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

One of our ministers wrote the following for the church bulletin this week:
"Every year something makes us mad about what is happening to Christmas. We fight some things, but like it or not, we live in a fallen world. Here's a story about one Christmas 'hijack'.

A church in Sydney decided to get out in the community in the weeks leading up to Christmas and ran a stall at the local markets each Saturday morning (good idea!). They gave away free coffee, bibles and literature that explained Christmas. Some of the other stall-holders - especially the ones selling coffee and running book stalls - complained to the chamber of commerce, who ran the markets.

The following week the church got a letter from the chamber of commerce saying that they had withdrawn permission to run a stall at the markets. And, wait for it, in their view: 'Christmas was a most inappropriate time to be giving things away.'

Now there's a twist on Christmas that you may not have heard of!

Our response? We could get mad and write to the paper, get even and attack the 'enemy', or get real. Get real about the blindness that Satan has inflicted on the eyes of the unbelievers, who are like sheep without a shepherd. Society is much like a child who doesn't know any better.

Jesus' response? He did attack the self-righteous religious hierarchy; but for the lost souls of the masses, he had compassion upon them (Matt 9:36). The same sort of compassion that led his Father to send his Son into a world that desperately needed a Saviour. A salvation that was free - a free gift for us, though so costly for him.

Have a merry and a giving Christmas."

May all the peace and joy of Christmas be with you, now and always.

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The Last Quarter Moon is Saturday December 24. Venus dominates the western twilight sky. Venus is spectacularly large for a planet, larger even than Jupiter at its closest, and should be readily visible as a crescent in good binoculars (but look in the early twilight before Venus is too bright).

Venus is close to the horizon at twilight. Mars is in the northern evening sky in the company of the beautiful Hyades and Pleiades clusters. Saturn is now visible near midnight in the northeastern sky, near the Beehive cluster. Jupiter can be seen in the dawn sky, above the eastern horizon.

On December 27 Saturn is just below the crescent Moon. Mercury is just below Jupiter, but you will need a level horizon to see it, so that rules out most of Tasmania.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

radio activity

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Over the summer you will hear a few unfamiliar voices on 936 when local
radio goes national and programs are broadcast from different parts of

From 28 December to January 6, Nick Rheinberger will present the National
Summer Mornings program from Hobart on ABC Local Radio. Nick will showcase
the best that Hobart has to offer. He will feature local talent, soak up
the buzz of Summer Festival and the excitement of the Sydney to Hobart
Yacht Race.

As an accomplished ukulele player, Nick is looking forward to
meeting the Ukes of Hazard (three ukulele playing females) who will
headline at the Gaiety Grande during the Summer Festival. Nick is planning
to bring both his ukulele and his charango (a Bolivian string instrument a
cross between a ukulele and a mandolin, usually heard in the jungles of
South America). Nick will also preview the Cygnet Folk Festival, with a
live performance by the Spondooli Brothers.

The Mornings program will move out of the studio for two days on December
29 Nick will broadcast from the steps of the Marine Board building and on
January 3 he will be at Parliament House Lawns from 9am-12md. The program
will be webstreamed via

The irreverent and witty Coodabeen Champions are also heading this way and
will broadcast nationally from the Hobart studio on Saturday, 31st

On Sunday 1st, they will venture out of the studio and head
down to the waterfront, out the front of the Marine Board building, whey
they will broadcast their program from 6.309pm. The guys want to savour
all the atmosphere around the docks and invite everyone to come down and
say hello.

The Regular Team:

Ric is heading off for a well-deserved break after a gruelling schedule
with on air commitments and the ABC Giving Tree. But he will be back next
year to wake you up in the morning. Ric passes on his heartfelt thanks to
everyone who was involved with or donated to the Giving Tree making it our
most successful year ever. He thinks he is very lucky spending Christmas
with his wife, children and grandchildren and wishes everyone a very Merry
Christmas and all the best for 2006.

Coxy is taking a two-week break, resurfacing on 936 Breakfast for a couple
of weeks (09-20 January), and returning to Mornings on 23 January.
We'll be he reckons drawing close to the Premier announcing an election
by then, so let's hope he has his wits about him from the off.
In the meantime, from all at Mornings, have a great Christmas and a
wonderful 2006. And let's leave the alarm off for a couple of weeks, hey?

Sarah Gillman has been filling in since Trevor Jackson departed for sunny
Queensland, so we will wait expectantly to find out who will be sitting in
the chair for 2006.

This has been a busy year for Louise on Drive, especially with most of the
first half of it being spent on the Morning Program, but she is looking
forward to being back on the radio at 10 past Four on Monday, January 23rd.
They've got a few surprises for you next year with the show too. Louise and
Lynn hope everyone has a Merry Xmas and a Happy 2006.

Night owls Annie and Carol are about to abandon their nocturnal habits for
a long stretch and become morning people once again. What with nationally
networked summer programming and the Australian Open Tennis, your
'nighties' will be soaking up the sunshine right till the end of
January. Annie and Carol wish you all a very jolly Xmas, and a New Year
that brings all your hearts' desire. They hope you enjoy the tennis 'n the
cricket 'n all that wholesome outdoorsy stuff, and look forward to luring
back to the night lounge come next February.

dig on the radio
If you haven't caught up with it yet, dig on the radio has returned to the
Local Radio airwaves in a regular Saturday night program, starting at 6:30pm.
Hosted by Brian Wise and Michael Mackenzie, the show covers a wide-range of
musical styles and is an entertaining look at familiar as well as newly
released music. There's interviews, album reviews and a live performance in
the studio every week. Already the boys have had Mia Dyson, Stephen
Cummings, Mick Harvey and Sarah Blasko play live on the show.
For more information on dig on the radio check out the website at:

Visit the 936 ABC Hobart website
Or Email if you have any queries or feedback.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


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Spent some of yesterday afternoon helping my sister do some repairs at her house. What happened, you may ask.

Her neighbour from across the street was reversing and found herself going backwards down Julie's (quite steep) driveway. She burst open the closed gates, sent a small chicken shed flying and came to rest at the end of the driveway. The car had to be towed out of there.

But all things considered it was a fairly mild result. The gate suffered only a displaced hinge (though we still haven't found the lock!) and the only hen in the chicken shed escaped without injury. The 130-year-old sandstone steps at the back of the house are slightly out of place.

I just thank God that this didn't happen when Julie was out in the yard feeding her livestock. That hardly bears thinking about.

Received in the mail this week, the latest edition of the Rupert the Bear annual published by London's Daily Express. I agree with the Rupert website that said "What is true of all Rupert Annuals is that they are miniature masterpieces of childrens' literature - full of magic, mystery, fun, memorable characters and truly beautiful illustrations...All Rupert Annuals are beautiful books, with a consistency of look, quality and style that is astonishing."

Rupert has been an institution in Britain since 1920 but it's only in the last few years I've seen the annuals turning up on Australian bookstalls. The strip runs in the local reprint of the Daily Express but in very small black-and-white form -- nothing like the beautiful artworks in the annuals.

I remember the days of my childhood when even if you'd lost your calendar you knew Christmas was approaching if you walked past your local bookshop and saw the piles of children's annuals stacked high. There was something for every interest, from little girls to teenage boys. A world completely vanished nowadays (except for a Doctor Who annual that came out this year though it wasn't called a Doctor Who annual on the cover!)

We don't have national radio stars as such in Australia. The "shock jock" phenomenon is a ghetto with only a couple of practitioners. We certainly don't have anybody like Howard Stern.

Thousands of people rallied on Friday, said the news, to applaud Howard Stern, who after years of raging against government regulations on obscenity, broadcast his last show on public airwaves before heading to unregulated Sirius satellite radio station.

"We broke every rule known to radio and mankind and I'm proud of that," Stern bellowed to supporters from an outdoor stage erected in a closed-off midtown Manhattan street.

Syracuse University Professor of Television and Popular Culture Robert Thompson said Stern's enormous popularity could be what takes satellite radio into the mainstream.

"Every medium has needed one great show to kind of push it over the edge. Milton Berle was called 'Mr. Television' because he got people to go out and spend money and move the radio out of the place of honor in the living room," Thompson said.

"There is a pretty big audience who would not only follow him to satellite, they'd following him to Neptune. I think that's what Sirius is counting on," he said.

Interesting, though academic since we don't have satellite radio in Australia either.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


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Beach no-go zones were announced in Sydney as celebrities rallied for peace at Coogee beach.

Actors Cate Blanchett, Claudia Karvan and Bryan Brown joined singer Jimmy Barnes to call for tolerance.

"It is actually very clear and simple," Blanchett said. "Violence and racism are bad. Whenever they occur they are to to be condemned and we should not turn a blind eye."

"It's about respect for others, respect for the rights of others and respect of the rights of everyone to go about their lives in a peaceful way."

Amen! People guilty of violence should be prosecuted, whether it happens on the beach or anywhere else, regardless of their race or religion. That's not hard to understand, is it?

Let's hope that next year those disturbances in Sydney, a blemish on the face of Australia, will be just an unpleasant memory.

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I read in the local paper that 2005 was one of the warmest years on record in Tasmania. We could believe that quite easily.

Thursday night it was so warm and stuffy that I didn't find it easy to sleep. The house still seemed hot and uncomfortable on Friday morning.

We went over to Julie's house and she released two of the chickens she'd been hand-rearing into the newly constructed addition to the hen house. At least it's shaded and protected for them out on the other side of the barnyard.

After watching the chickens for a while, I decided they were all right and went back to the house to walk the dogs. The sun was high and I warmed up quickly. Even the dogs felt the heat and lapped up some water as soon as we got back inside.

It was still sunny when I returned home, but there was enough shadow over by the banksia rose in the driveway, and we took some chairs out and sat in the shade with a glass of wine.

We finished off the 2003 Gordo semi-dry made by Akrasi Wines in Victoria. It's a light fruity wine with a touch of musket, very pleasant.

After about half an hour out there, eating sandwiches and reading magazines, we actually cooled off a bit. Julie moved her chair over into the sun - "I'm getting gooseflesh over there, and reading that theological journal is putting me to sleep". "I recommend another cup of coffee," I said, "and switching to The Lady for a while."

Finally about 7 o'clock it clouded over and two or three hours later it rained for a while.

I served up some salmon for dinner, on a bed of rocket and spinach with a dressing of balsamic vinegar and capsicum. Julie added extra mayonnaise to hers. Washed it down with some green tea and finished off with a slice of pannecota.

Meanwhile, the cage left vacant by the two chickens outside the back door didn't stay empty for long. Julie moved in two of the other chickens from the box outside her bedroom door. This only leaves two chicks inside (one of those is the one with the bad leg - I don't know what we're going to do with him).

At least we're going in the right direction: less poultry rather than more.

Tony Delroy for some reason started his annual holidays on Friday 16th December, so the Friday night radio show went to air across Australia with Anne Fitzgerald, who hails from Launceston in northern Tasmania.

It's always interesting to see how the summer replacements handle the late show. Tony makes it all sound so easy and conversational that you only realise how good he is when somebody else tries to do the same thing and fails.

The midnight quiz segment "The Challenge" is often a litmus test. The regular callers are affronted if the compere doesn't take it seriously and they're always quick to point out if the rules aren't being followed.

I can think of one fill-in emcee who was so obviously out of her depth that we had to grit our teeth and wait out the month for the return of the regular presenter. Her first couple of nights hosting the quiz were trying listening.

The Idlers on Saturday night was pushed back to 9:05 p.m. by the cricket broadcast, which was supposed to finish at 8:30. Will we ever get a radio executive with the gumption to cut off a sports broadcast if it over-runs? I suspect not.

We await the summer with a mixture of trepdiation and anticipation. Sometimes you can get something really good. Sometimes you don't.

I suspect in a few weeks we'll be tired of the word "Narnia" as the movie advertising bandwagon hits high gear.

Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis' step-son [who once lived in Tasmania], says that he tried to interest Hollywood in a Narnia movie for years but it wasn't until the success of The Lord of the Rings that there was a nibble.

If it gets people interested in the original novels that can only be a good thing. My local supermarket already has a special rack displaying paperbacks of the whole series.

I wonder if some television station in a couple of years will make a double-feature out of Shadowlands and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

Pamela Anderson's new sitcom Stacked is now running on the late show on Friday night. It's mildly amusing – certainly better than a lot of the half-hour comedies that American television churn out by the yard.

I saw an interview where Pammy was asked about the title. She replied drily "I think it's a double-entendre." (The show is about a bookstore.)

Let's hope that it runs longer than her last venture V.I.P. did on local television. That would have to be the most misunderstood programme on the air – nobody seemed to understand that it was a spoof. It wasn't supposed to be a serious crime drama.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

race riot?

The sermon this Sunday morning began with what I thought was a striking illustration.

Imagine, we were asked, a small boy who'd never been to the circus. Hearing that the circus was coming to town, he became very excited and talked of little else.

Finally the big day came and the performers and the animals marched down the main street. Elephants, clowns, acrobats, you name it.

After the parade, the little boy ran up to the ringmaster and said "Thank you for bringing the circus to town."

Then he went home.

That's the way the world behaves with Christmas. They love the superficial trappings and the noise and colour. But that idea of Christmas is as wrong-headed as mistaking a parade for the actual performance.

The real meaning of Christmas is confronting -- telling people about it makes them uncomfortable. But is there anything that's more important in our lives?

An idiosyncratic construction of wire, wood and plastic is rising out of the muddy ground at my sister's house. It lacks a water supply so far, but otherwise is close to completion.

Julie has been making a concerted effort to finish some extensions to the chicken shed on her property. This may be something to do with Cedric the rooster's recent habit of crowing at 6 o'clock every morning outside my backdoor.

I suspect the neighbours might be pleased as well.

Meanwhile the geese at Julie's house have finally hatched some of their eggs after a long long nesting time. I was over there on Sunday and I counted ten geese and six goslings. There may even be more by this time.

The disturbances in the Sydney beachside areas are regrettable, but the media attention makes it sound worse than it might be.

One can imagine a conversation along those lines:

"Hello, Australian consulate."

"Hi, this is Hank Harn from G-WHIZ news. Could you give me some information about the race riots in Sydney?"

"If I can."

"Great. So, how many people have been killed?"

"I don't think anybody's been killed. A few people have been injured."

"OK. Got that. Has the National Guard been called out?"

"We don't have one in Australia, but I understand what you mean. No, there are no troops but I believe some extra police are on the streets."

"Tear gas? Rubber bullets? Water cannon?"

"I don't think so."

"Much property damage? How many city blocks burnt down?"

"I understand a lot of windows were broken and some cars damaged."

"This was a race riot? Or what passes for one in your country..."

"Would you like me to phone you if I get any more information?"

"Look, let me be frank. Don't call me, I'll call you."

I thought I was onto something to solve my Internet radio problems when I saw a reference on the BBC message boards to a programme called Streambox which allowed you to download the Real Player files instead of recording them as they played.

After spending all Monday morning experimenting, I found that (surprise!) it wasn't as simple as I had hoped. After looking up the software, downloading and installing it, I tried downloading a half-hour show from the BBC.

This wasn't quite as good as I'd expected. For a start, with my dial-up connection it took longer than half an hour to download the file. I was surprised to discover when I played it back that it still had the pauses in it that have been such an irritant recently.

I guess there are few short cuts, on the internet or in life.

Which reminds me of the latest drama with the office computer: I mentioned that we'd had to go over to Outlook Express after the Outlook e-mail system failed.

Well, guess what? This week Outlook Express failed for no apparent reason. I've had to resort to accessing our mail on the ISP's website, which is a very slow process.

Maybe we should just uninstall everything and reinstall it from scratch.

The amount of information that you can pack into a small space in the digital age never fails to amaze me.

I stopped in at one of the Chickenfeed discount stores this week and they had a display of DVD sets – 50 movies for $29.95 which would have seemed unbelievable once.

Sure, most of the movies on each set were ones that I didn't particularly want to see, but I bought a set of the western movies because it included several Roy Rogers and Gene Autry flicks.

You certainly can't beat the price.

The end of the year draws on. The radio announcers are beginning to go off for their annual holidays, and the television programmes wind up for the year. In their place we get shows that they aren't game to screen during the ratings period, or "Summer Editions" of local shows.

A good time of year to catch up on your reading and listen to some good music.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

life as choc?

Browsing in the local pharmacy while waiting for a prescription, I picked up a chocolate bar that demonstrated the modern tendency to want to have it both ways.

It was a "Tangerine" bar made by the Sweet William brand. It boasted "real chocolate" on the front, but also promised to be dairy free, cholesterol free, gluten free, lactose free, halal and suitable for vegetarians.

With all this, you'd imagine that it was not just harmless but positively good for you! Alas, turning it over and looking at the ingredients list, I found that the main ingredients were cane sugar and cocoa butter.

In food as in life, you always have to read the small print.

The start of December saw an unfortunate confluence – I was still tired from the NaNoWriMo novel-writing month, and I had to step in to cover some extra hours while someone was away at the office. Between this and Julie's night-owl habits it made for a taxing couple of days. I have to start getting to bed earlier.

The NaNoWriMo website, by the way, had a record number of participants this year (59,000), and an impressive number of winners (9,700 including yours truly).

The new series of Garrison Keillor's radio show started on BBC7 finally in November. The show has been on every week, but they've been repeats for quite a while. The GKRS incarnation is an edited version of the weekly Praire Home Companion that airs on National Public Radio in the United States. The BBC version drops a few of the songs and (of course) all the advertising except the spoof commercials for bodies like the Ketchup Advisory Board and the American Duct Tape Council.

Meanwhile in Australia ABC Radio National celebrates a remarkable milestone: in 1966, classical music enthusiast John Cargher entered the ABC studios to present the very first Singers of Renown, a programme which has now reached its 2000th edition. This week John reveals the experiences that turned a hobby into a full-time profession, and plays performances from Domingo, Pavarotti and many others.

Radio National has confirmed its revamped programme schedule for 2006, which begins on Monday 23 January. (You can download the program schedule as a pdf file from their website.)

There will be a greater focus on books and the arts. From Monday to Friday at 10am The Book Show, presented by RN stalwart Ramona Koval, is the major addition to the weekday morning line-up: a 40-minute program that explores all forms of publishing.

The weekday Deep End programme airs at 3pm with a new brief to cover the arts in even greater depth, and the new Sunday Deep End is broadcast at 10am with Julie Copeland’s Exhibit A following at 11am.

ABC Radio National has responded to listeners' requests and reintroduces the daytime edition of the music programme The Daily Planet. Lucky Oceans presents Monday to Friday at 2.20pm, while Doug Spencer delves further into the world of music each weekend night from 10pm with a brand new Weekend Planet.

Music Deli, presented by Paul Petran, merges with Live on Stage. Broadcast at 8pm Friday and me4pm Sunday, the emphasis is on live concerts from the kinds of artists featured in both these programmes.

ABC Radio National also introduces a new music feature program, Into The Music. Presented by Robyn Johnston, the program looks behind the events and trends in music; it airs at 5pm each Saturday.

After Saturday AM at 7am, Geraldine Doogue hosts Saturday Extra at 7.30am with analysis of current events. Then a new design and lifestyle program, By Design, airs at 9am with Alan Saunders. In the afternoon, All in the Mind comes forward to 1pm, and Alan Saunders returns at 1.30pm with The Philosopher’s Zone, which becomes a half-hour show.

"The 2006 schedule," says the ABC "owes much to an extensive review of the station’s programming, undertaken this year, and close attention to audience feedback. ABC Radio National goes into 2006 newly committed to specialist broadcasting, within reach of all Australians."

I can believe that – the return of Alan Saunders with his own design programme is a clear reaction to the almost vitriolic comments posted by ABC listeners after The Comfort Zone was absorbed into the new Saturday Breakfast show. The Geraldine Doogue fan club were swamped by irate Comfort Zone supporters annoyed by the changes.

It doesn't pay to tinker with people's favourite radio shows, something that the various ABC networks don't always take on board.

The problems with listening to Internet radio that I mentioned previously haven't gone away but I've learned to live with them. Real Alternative plays Real Player content, but no matter how much I tweak the settings there's still a second of silence about every minute. This means that if I'm recording a half-hour show I have to go through and delete 20 or 30 pauses before I save it to an MP3 using Audacity software.

This is tolerable, but the thought of having to do this to a 90-minute play or a two-hour concert makes me cringe. Roll on the Podcasting revolution when we'll be able to routinely download all these programmes.

RECOGNISING A STROKE – a public service announcement.

A neurologist is reported as saying that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognised and diagnosed within 3 hours.

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognise the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
1. *Ask the individual to SMILE.
2. *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.
3. *Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (i.e...It is sunny out today)

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call paramedics immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

After discovering that a group of non-medical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions. They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.

I don't usually pass on things that are sent around on the Internet, but I guess it can't do any harm to mention the above advice. After all, a lot of young people only know how to administer CPR because they've seen it performed on television dramas.


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Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I did one of those quizzes you see frequently that promise to diagnose your personality type just by asking a few questions.

I know I'm a bit of an introvert but I wasn't expecting this result:

You Have a Melancholic Temperament

Introspective and reflective, you think about everything and anything.
You are a soft-hearted daydreamer. You long for your ideal life.
You love silence and solitude. Everyday life is usually too chaotic for you.

Given enough time alone, it's easy for you to find inner peace.
You tend to be spiritual, having found your own meaning of life.
Wise and patient, you can help people through difficult times.

At your worst, you brood and sulk. Your negative thoughts can trap you.
You are reserved and withdrawn. This makes it hard to connect to others.
You tend to over think small things, making decisions difficult.

I guess stolid, unhurried, quiet, but "melancholic"? I wouldn't have thought so, but then I'm looking out from the inside, so what do I know.