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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