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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