Friday, December 29, 2006

I'm dreaming...

My favourite talk-show on ABC radio, Tony Delroy's Nightlife has moved on to the summer program and the show will be presented by Bernadette Young for the next few weeks. (Bernie Hobbs will take over then, and Tony will return early next year.)

The summer month is always known as "the silly season" in the media, and sometimes it's not hard to see why. At least Nightlife is still listenable to, though many of the usual features are absent.

One of the problems with a stand-in host for this show is handling the midnight quiz segment "The Challenge". This is an institution for ABC listeners and it doesn't take much to rile them if you get it wrong.

Bernadette seems to be doing fairly well, even though one night I think she equalled Rod Quinn's record for the longest time to get through the quiz. They started after the midnight news and ran till 1:30. I think that why Tony manages to keep to schedule is that he knows the rules but he knows when to break them; it's no good sticking to the no-clues-after-halfway rule if you're going through 20 or 30 contestants with the same question.

Of course she has some additional difficulties. The show this month is coming from the studios at ABC Perth and apparently the studio is not generally in use at that time of night -- so the air-conditioning automatically switches itself off. Bernadette and her producer have had to resort to switching off some of the lights in the studio to keep the summer heat at bay. Hence her rather informal attire in the picture above.

Christmas Day was pleasant enough in itself, but the lead-up was a tiring time. December 25th I was up early to get to the 9 o'clock service -- the church was packed and I was glad that I hadn't cut back the number I printed for the bulletin as I have sometimes at Christmas time.

At lunch time I went out with my sisters Julie and Pauline for a meal at Rydge's, a stylish hotel in North Hobart. The food was fine, though I think the jokes in the Christmas crackers could stand improvement.

The weather took a right-turn over the last couple of days. A week earlier we had heat waves and bush fires, then this week the temperature plunged and we actually had snow up on Mount Wellington (though we couldn't see it through the snowclouds from ground level).

I think they've got Bing Crosby working at the weather bureau.

Boxing Day I felt completely washed-out. I had a nap after breakfast and another one after lunch. If I could have figured out how to fit one in, I probably would have taken one after dinner as well.

I can't remember a time when I've been so tired for so long. It just seems that all the energy has been drained out of me. If I don't start getting more rest, I won't be able to think of any New Year resolutions, let alone try to keep them.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

merry christmas to all

The Sunday School children, so the story goes, were invited to take part in the Christmas Eve service.

The minister introduced them to the congregation and said "And the next song we shall sing is a new hymn entitled 'Christmas Love'."

That was the cue for the children each to raise a card with a letter printed on it, spelling out the name of the song.

But one little girl had her card upside down, and when the children raised the cards, this is what the congregation read:


Saturday, December 23, 2006

red sun at noon

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"Remember to water the lawn before midnight," I thought to myself. Total Fire Ban Day meant that the sprinkler became illegal once we got past Wednesday night; any spare water was reserved for fire-fighting activities.

Even though the bushfires this week were nowhere near the city, it didn't stop the sky from turning that creepy colour. The sun was orange,almost red, and the smoke haze spreading across the state meant we could hardly see Mount Wellington (which normally dominates Hobart from any angle you may be looking from).

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It was all distinctly unsettling. The mercury hit 31 degrees midweek (that's about 88 in the old Fahrenheit scale) and it's always a shock when that first hot weather of the summer hits you, no matter how aware you are intellectually that it's going to get hot.

It was really late when I got to bed last night but it was still 15 degrees outside with 68% humidity. Not very pleasant.

One of the announcers on the local ABC radio station said the next day that when he left the air-conditioned studio it felt like the end of the world outside in the street.

But by Saturday morning the following news was posted on the ABC website:

Most of the firefighters working on Tasmania's east coast will be able spend Christmas with their families after both of the state's large bushfires have been controlled.

The cool, wet weather has hampered backburning operations, but the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) says the Kellevie fire is contained, and the St Marys fire has control lines around most of it.

Incident controller Gavin Freeman says the control lines on the western edge of the St Marys fire still need strengthening, but that work will have to wait until after Christmas.

"The fire has halted and we've got to a point where the tracks are chopped up because of the rain and fuels, lighter fuels, have got wet enough that they won't burn," he said.

On a happier note, my sister Julie is pleased by the Christmas gift she received from the Tasmanian police.

Well, sort of. Let me explain.

Last week she was unhappy to receive an $80 speeding ticket in the mail. It said that she'd been clocked at 52 kph in a 40kph zone in Giblin Street between Augusta Road and Pedder Street. Once she finished fuming, we re-read the letter and frowned.

Where is there a 40kph zone before Pedder Street? There's a school zone after Pedder Street, but that's a different block. We decided to query it when we got a chance.

Before we got round to this, she received a second letter. It said that due to a "procedural error" they would not be proceeding with the matter and to disregard the first letter.

I presume that "procedural error" is a euphemism for mistake. They have probably had a string of indignant letters and phone calls from people who received the same letter.

So that's her present from the police force this year.

Those of us with a warped sense of humour may enjoy the following list:

Modern Christmas Carols for...
* The Schizophrenic: Do You Hear What I Hear, the Voices, the Voices?
* Amnesiac: I Don't Remember If I'll be Home for Christmas
* Narcissistic: Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me
* Manic: Deck The Halls and walls and house and lawn and streets and stores and office and...
* Multiple Personality Disorder: We Three Kings Disoriented Are
* Paranoid: Santa Claus Is Coming To Get Us
* Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, (Did I Jingle Bells??), Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells (Or Santa Won't Come!!)
* Agoraphobia: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day But Wouldn't Leave My House
* Conduct Disorder: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus So I Burned Down the House
* Social Anxiety Disorder: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas While I Sit Here and Hyperventilate
* Attention Deficit Disorder: We Wish You...Hey Look!! It's Snowing...Is That a Reindeer?>

Yule be sorry

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I'd like to buy you all an Irish Cross as a Christmas gift, but since I can't here's a picture of one instead.

The Christmas season is coming on fast, but I don't recall ever being as disorganised as I am this year. I always seem to be tired nowadays. I thought it was tiring back in the last years of my mother's illness, but I don't feel much better this year.

I feel as though I'm living next to a giant building that's blocking out the sun, keeping me in the eternal shadow of its shade. Maybe I'm having an anxiety attack or something.

At least Thursday afternoon at the church office wasn't quite as bad as I had thought it might be. Our minister Robert had done two of the three orders of service and brought them in as PDF files, so that was a big help.

With Christmas falling on a Monday and the special Carol service on Sunday night, we had to do three lots of printing -- one lot for Sunday morning, one for Sunday night and a third lot for Monday morning. The photocopier was behaving itself, thanks heavens, unlike some recent weeks.

I had feared we might be there till 6 o'clock or after, but in fact we finished at 5:20 pm. Surprisingly early, I thought.

Part of the appeal of the radio in the early days was that it was a participatory adventure. It was sound without sight. The listener had to supply the setting for the drama and the locale for the news report. This partnership now is gone as the TV provides everything needed. Everything but imagination. -- Bruce D. Callander

DISCLAIMER: Certain statements on this page may constitute "forward-looking" statements that involve a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any results, performances or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical facts including, without limitation, statements regarding our future financial position, strategy, budgets, projected costs and plans and objectives are forward-looking statements. In addition, forward-looking statements generally can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as "may," "will," "expect," "intend," "estimate," "anticipate," "believe," or "continue" or the negative thereof or variations thereon or similar terminology.

I hope that's quite clear.

Monday, December 18, 2006

don't forget to breathe

Sunday morning began with a really strong cup of coffee. I was short on sleep, and there's nothing more embarrassing than nodding off during the sermon in church.

Especially since I was reading today's Bible text this morning. The second chapter of Matthew isn't too difficult for reading -- no awkward names like the Old Testament or long involved sentences to trip up the unwary.

What some people don't think of the first time they have to do this is that you have to read the passage aloud a couple of times. It's not the same reading it over to yourself. You need to be aware of how the words feel as they emerge from your mouth.

For example, in today's text, Matthew 2:1-12 I needed to pick a spot to breathe in the ninth verse, otherwise I would end up having to hurry through the last few words. And it's a good idea to practice getting the right speed; while reading too slowly can sound tedious, if you get rattled you'll probably speed up and gallop through the text with indecent haste.

Something that I often have trouble with is what to say when I finish reading the Bible in front of the congregation. Some people have a little formula that they recite after the reading, but I didn't feel comfortable with it.

After some thought I settled on a simple declaration "So it is written." I used it this morning; I'll see how I feel about it next time my name comes up on the roster.

I was so tired that I slept for an hour on Sunday afternoon until it was time to tune in for the Coodabeens radio show.

My sister however didn't nap. She was busy working on her Christmas cards for this year.

You see, I'm quite happy to buy a card, sign it and post or give it to the person in question. Julie however spends hours creating a personalised Christmas card that expresses her personality and the ambience of her home and animals.

This takes a lot of work. Sometimes days at the computer and the printer. In one extreme case she didn't finish working on the cards until Christmas Eve afternoon and spent the evening driving around hand-delivering them to all her friends' mail-boxes.

There can be times, I think, when too much determination can be as bad as too little.

Old Time Radio shows that I've been listening to this week:

Barry Craig, Phil Harris, Wild Bill Hickok, Hopalong Cassidy, Fibber McGee & Molly, Family Theatre, Hancock's Half Hour, Hollywood Barn Dance, Weird Circle.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

mousing along

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That mouse with the sweet tooth continues to make a nuisance of himself. I had thought that we'd gathered up all the chocolates and other confectionery in the kitchen, but apparently not. Following some chewing sounds, we came across a plastic bag containing half a dozen sachets of sugarless drinking chocolate.

Apparently it was the cocoa that had attracted the rodent's attention, since he had gnawed open one of the sachets, sugar-free or not.

I have a humane mouse-trap somewhere. I must get it out and try catching him. It won't be hard to decide on what to use for bait - a chocolate truffle or similar will do the job.

Meanwhile other pests are making their presence felt. There were so many flies in the house last month that we bought a new screen for the back door. Our remaining cat Paco is a bit puzzled by it; so far he has worked out how to get out, but not to get back in again. I'm sure that with time he'll get the hang of it.

Wednesday I had a whole list of things to pick up and to do. I had it all written out on a scrap of paper, crossing them off as I went like that guy on television.

If you'd been watching my progress on a map, I would have zigzagged back and forth and made big wide circles around the city, from Chesterman Street in the north to Weld Street in the south.

Traffic was getting heavier with the Christmas rush, but I was more worried by the slow but steady build-up of that smoky haze in the air. All the hills and mountains on the horizons were becoming harder and harder to see, and there was just a faint tang about the air.

Reports about the fires on the east coast dominated local radio broadcasts, and the local newspapers must have ordered up big on red ink to print all those colour photographs of raging bushfires. The one that struck me the most was a picture of a couple standing at their back gate watching fire-fighters try to quell a blaze that was literally a stone's throw from their boundary. None of us want to imagine ourselves in their place.

Hurrying through the mall on my way to the bank, I stopped for a moment to take a second look at a display in the window of one department store. It was a giant snow dome and inside it, a cheerful looking penguin and a teddy bear were standing under a signpost reading "North Pole." I wondered if I was the only passer-by who was disturbed by this sight.

My sister meanwhile was over at her house feeding the livestock. Two of the goslings survived from the last batch of eggs, and two of the older geese have died during the year, so she finishes 2006 with the same number (11) in the gaggle.

Meantime at my house Zelda the Suburban Goose continues to "rule the roost" in the back garden. I have only to cough when I walk out into the kitchen first thing in the morning for her to give a honk that she's ready for breakfast. For an animal with no visible ears, her hearing is very acute.

I hadn't realised that Rod, our Associate Minister, hadn't been there when I've mentioned National Novel Writing Month in the past. When I happened to mention it in conversation, I had to explain the concept - writing 50,000 words during the month of November.

He stared at me. "That's about 1500 words a day," he said. "It must just pour out of you like a tap."

"Would that it were so!" I thought to myself.

And since it is December the television stations are well into the "silly season". Looking at some of the programmes on offer it's easy to see why it's called that.

Some of their decisions don't really seem to make a lot of sense. For example, who decided to screen the final season of Star Trek Enterprise at 2 a.m. on Monday morning? That's a time slot almost designed to make sure that the target audience isn't watching.

And can we please have fewer programmes about autopsies screened in the early evening? I'm usually late getting dinner on the table and this doesn't do much to encourage my appetite.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

the Grand Hotel

2006 Dec 06 grand

No, not the Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, not even the one with Greta Garbo. We were at the Grand Hotel in Huonville, on the banks of the Huon River and we were wearing funny hats and eating plum pudding.

Yes, it was that time of year again and we were all enjoying an early Christmas Dinner with a group from our church.

I even ran into a fellow blogger, John Dekker, who said "Glad to see you finished your novel."

After eating, my sister and I took a stroll into downtown Huonville (not a long trip). I wanted to get a newspaper and as we turned we were facing a plant nursery with a notice telling us to follow the signs to the bookshop.

Julie looked at me. "Want to take a look?" I sighed. If we hadn't seen the notice, I wouldn't have had to decide whether or not to go in.

I used to spend a lot of time in second-hand book shops but not in recent years. Three reasons. It doesn't cost a lot, but it costs something. It takes time, which I never seem to have enough of. And most importantly it fills up space, which is a big factor after forty years of buying books.

But we went on in. Julie was delighted to find the proprietors owned a small black kitten, which obligingly sat there washing itself while she took pictures.

We wandered around the shop, which had the look of having once been in a bigger store. The bookshelves were large and imposing, but they were crowded together as though they had once been in a larger establishment.

The subjects were arranged thematically, so I found the whodunits just below the True Crime stuff. I'm always on the look out for traditional mystery novels since Julie reads a lot of them and I need to keep one step ahead of her. I sorted out half a dozen for her, and picked up a few old issues of Argosy and The Countryman for myself.

Nowadays I'm not up to reading many novels. The concentration required and the strain on my eyes is a problem for me. It took me a long time to come to terms with this -- for years I kept buying books that I knew I'd never get around to reading.

So we wandered out of the store, through the refreshingly moist atmosphere of the newly watered plants in the nursery, and out into the street again. We finally made it to the newsagents, then up the street for a Devonshire Tea at a little cafe in the main block.

It was one of those long summer afternoons, so it was still light when we came out. We strolled back to the hotel to pick up the car, enjoying the sensation that our forefathers would have wandered along this same street on their trips to town in the 19th century. The town might have changed a little, but the hills of the Huon Valley would still look the same if my grandfather were to return for a visit.

Just across the main road from the Grand was a quiet little park on the riverbank. Spaced along the river were a series of wooden statues, carved from trees planted to celebrate the relief of Ladysmith in the Boer War. We ambled about, admiring the workmanship in the statues and the tranquillity of the river. Not a Jet Ski or a speedboat to be seen.

2006 Dec statues

The only subtle sign that all was not right with the world was that almost undetectable hint of smoke in the air. It was a long way to the fires on the east coast of the island, but the prevailing winds had blown some in.

Within five days of our idyllic afternoon in Huonville, the north-east part of the state was in flames. Gale force winds stirred up a virtual firestorm near St Helen's and the news was full of stories of disaster.

Casualties have been very light, but it was unsettling. Anybody who was in Tasmania during the terrible 1967 bushfires will never forget it. The sky filled with that terrible ruddiness, as though we were perched on the edge of an active volcano. The heated air that caught in your throat as you watched specks of ash drifting down from above.

Not happy memories.

Penelope Trunk, author and blogger, recently wrote a column on the subject of "burnout" and very thought-provoking it was.

Burnout doesn’t come from overwork but from an inability to get what you need from the work, according to Christina Maslach, professor at University of California, Berkeley. She created the widely used Maslach Burnout Inventory to test one’s level of burnout. The six areas of burnout to watch for:

1. Working too much
2. Working in an unjust environment
3. Working with little social support
4. Working with little agency or control
5. Working in the service of values we loathe
6. Working for insufficient reward, whether the currency is money, prestige, or positive feedback

People who are suffering from burnout tend to describe the sensation in metaphor of emptiness — they’re a dry teapot over a high flame, a drained battery that can no longer hold its charge.

Like most research about happiness, it comes down to your connections with other people. Maslach found that married people burnout less often than unmarried because a spouse provides another means for fulfilment.

So make sure you are reaching your goals and maintaining close friendships, and you probably won’t burn out.

That was certainly interesting, because I've experienced some similar emotional reactions, though I wouldn't say that I suffered any of the shortcomings listed above. My way of phrasing it was to compare myself with a motor vehicle -- one that was constantly used for short trips, day after day, and never had a chance to charge up its battery.

Eventually there comes a day when that car is not going to start, no matter how normal it may seem to look at.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

homage to a cat alone

Jezebel at keyboard

It's never good when you lose a pet. In this case it was particularly upsetting for my sister because her cat Jezebel seemed to be on the mend after some extensive (and expensive) medical care.

She had regained her appetite, looked a lot brighter and had even caught a mouse for the first time in years.

Unfortunately she went into a sudden decline one Monday. At midday she was perfectly normal, then she had some sort of bad turn and by 7 p.m. the Vets had said there was nothing more they could do for her. A sad day indeed.

Most of my spare time in November was taken up with the international novel-writing project NaNoWriMo. The idea is that everyone starts writing on November 1st and completes 50,000 word stories by the last day of November.

I managed to get through with a couple of days to spare last year, but this time I didn't make it to the winning post. Partly it's because I haven't the stamina I had last year, partly it's because I hit a problem with the plot in the first week and never got back on schedule.

I did finish the 50,000 words but it was two hours past the deadline, so I didn't get the coveted "winner" designation on the NaNoWriMo website. *Sigh*

My novel (or novelette if you prefer) this year was a psychological thriller set in the Australian television industry. I was so disorganised that I haven't even thought of a title for it this year.

I still had 6,000 words to write on the final day. I thought that if I really put my head down I might just do it, but it was a Thursday so I spent all afternoon working in the church office. If it hadn't been for that, I reckon I might have made it.

Still, there's always next year.

The Full Moon is on Tuesday December 5. The evening sky is now devoid of bright planets, but Saturn can be seen in the early morning sky near Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. By the end of the week, keen-eyed observers can see Mercury, Mars and Jupiter just above the horizon half an hour before sunrise, a foretaste of the rare triple massing next week. (Personally I hope not to be awake at that hour!)


If you actually believe in the value of individual freedom and responsibility (which not many people do, though many claim to), you pretty much have to agree that people have the right to decide for themselves what to do with their own bodies—if they also accept responsibility for the consequences. And that is something that our current culture has aggressively discouraged, to the point of making it practically impossible.

-- Stanley Schmidt, editor of ANALOG

Sunday, November 19, 2006

goose steps in

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I'll wake up one morning and find a goose on my bed if I'm not careful. Zelda the goose who lives in my back yard has started showing a wish to get into the house. Twice in one morning I discovered her standing in the back door, apparently considering her options.

Memo to self: reinforce the barrier keeping her away from the door.

Maybe she doesn't like the weather outside, which is more than a little unpredictable. Last week it was snowing on the mountain one evening, then the following day it hailed on me when I was driving home. It cleared up for Saturday - lucky for the bride at the wedding Julie attended in Richmond - but by Saturday night mist had settled over the city and it was nice and muddy when we were feeding the animals that night.

Not all the neighbours complain about Julie's animals. There's one woman who's moved in up the hill who not only enjoys seeing the horse and the poultry over the fence but has actually bought a sack of lucerne so she can feed the horse whenever he comes over to her side of the paddock!

A few more neighbours like that and Julie could save a lot of money on horse food.

I seldom go out two nights running, but this week was an exception. Friday night I was invited to a quiz night at the local RSL club; it was fun, although I think I exceeded my weekly allowance of fat, sugar and salt in one evening.

Saturday night was a special concert by the Tasmanian Song Company; under the title "Showstoppers" they presented songs from musicals ranging from HMS Pinafore to Les Miserables. A little too much Sondheim for my taste, but that's par for the course.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

limping into summer

Went out to the State Cinema to see the long-awaited movie of A Prairie Home Companion. I've been a fan of the radio show for many years and I was curious to see the film version.

Watching Garrison Keillor was strange at first. I'd experienced him only on radio or on the printed page, so actually seeing him was unsettling for a while. It almost seemed like somebody was miming to Keillor's soundtrack, even though it was obviously him on screen.

But this wore off after a few minutes and I was soon immersed in the film. It was classic Altman fare, with the rich ensemble cast making for a delightful experience. Kevin Kline was great. And seeing Meryl Streep sing a duet with Keillor was almost worth the price of admission.

Lindsay Lohan was fun as the daughter (this was the first thing I've seen her in - I don't think I'm in her target demographic).

I went to see my endocrinologist last week. After having the flu last month my exercise regimen had gone by the board. I promised to lose weight before I saw him next time, but I certainly won't be exercising this week.

When I was at Julie's house a couple of days later, I was calling her dogs in when I put my foot on a piece of pipe. My other foot was already moving me forward, so I had no hope of stopping myself from going down with a thud. I lay there for a moment, wondering how I was going to get up, since I was lying on my left arm and there was nothing I could grab with my right arm to get up with.

Fortunately my mobile phone had survived the fall and I was able to flip it open and dial my sister, who was on the other side of the property. She came to my aid and I got to my feet.

It wasn't as bad as it might have been. I was muddy and had some cuts and bruises on one knee with some gravel rash on my forearm, but overall I came through all right. After two or three days I could almost walk without a limp.

Meanwhile the flow of vet bills for Julie's animals has slowed. She had a lot of trouble giving her cat the diuretic injections for her heart problem, so the vet suggested trying drops instead.

Not a good idea! The cat really, really hated the drops. In the end, the vet came up with a compromise: inject the medication into the meat we gave the cat to eat. It worked like a charm. Both we and the cat are much happier with this arrangement.

National Novel Writing Month this year has been a bit more of a trial than I expected. After completing it last year, I thought I was half-way prepared, but the first week didn't go well. Halfway through the month I've only written 16,000 words and I'm supposed to hit the 50,000 mark by the last day of the month.

Part of it is that I'm not as fit as I was last year. I can't concentrate as well and I'm tired all the time. Let's see how I go in the next two weeks.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

o bleakness!

Some days you're afraid of the sky falling; other days you're afraid it won't.

Monday I felt really dreadful. I woke up early, exhausted from not enough sleep and just lay there worrying for some time.

I was concerned about my health, my finances, my home.... and to cap it all off, my first few days in National Novel Writing Month felt like a complete disaster.

That really disturbed me; if I was doing so much worse this year than last year, it was obviously a sign that I was so run-down I couldn't even concentrate on doing something that I loved. I must be running on empty.

I sat at the keyboard and all my ideas felt so flat and useless.

But during the afternoon, while walking Julie's dogs, I fell to musing and came up with a completely different approach. Maybe that was what I should be doing -- perhaps things weren't competely hopeless after all.

Then in the evening we went out to the Irish Association's monthly quiz night at the New Sydney Hotel and our team managed to scrape into first place by one point. A narrow margin, but we did win.

Maybe life isn't so bad after all....

Thursday, November 02, 2006

into November

Outside Edge

This month's show at The Playhouse was OUTSIDE EDGE by Richard Harris. This play was first staged in London in 1979 and went on to spawn a television spin-off that won a Writers Guild award in 1994.

It's basically a drawing room comedy, except that the drawing room is the clubrooms of a small cricket team in the home counties of England in 1980. There are five couples involved in the story, ranging from the sport-obsessed captain and his long-suffering wife to the local businessman who plays cricket to get away from his wife.

Under the capable direction of Peter McIntosh, the first-rate local cast makes great entertainment out of the witty dialogue. By the curtain, the relationships of four out of the five couples have changed forever in the course of a single afternoon.

Another good night out from Hobart Repertory Theatre Society.

Last month was the annual Royal Hobart Show and it's traditional that there's always at least one day of really dreadful weather. So guess which day we were out at the showground?

Thursday (a.k.a. People's Day) was notably fine and sunny -- ideal weather for a public holiday. As usual we waited till Friday, which used to be Family Day but is now known as Festival Friday; it rained, then it started to snow in the mountains and that night it even tried to hail.

I wasn't surprised.

We wandered about some of the attractions and ate at the lunch-room that has been operated by the same church group since 1902. Julie spent quite a while in the Fine Food Pavilion quizzing the food and wine stalls about their latest products, then we dropped in on the annual art show.

This is always full of remarkable pieces by local artists. It's never dull because there's an almost infinite number of combinations of subjects, styles and medium.

One of the organizers of the art show asked me which piece was my favorite (they were running a contest). I honestly couldn't answer -- there were just too many good pieces to choose from. It's like when people say "What's your favorite book?" or "What's your favorite movie?" What are you supposed to say...

I got an early start on the NaNoWriMo novel-writing contest. You need to do 1700 words a day minimum, 2000 is better. I managed 2050 the first day, but I had some spare time. I'll have to make sure I don't get behind -- if you have two busy days and don't write anything, that can be the end of the project.

I've been using a different word processor this time. Last year I used RoughDraft, which is quite good though it lacks a couple of useful features. AbiWord is a free word processing program more similar to Microsoft® Word and seems to work quite well.

And like RoughDraft, you can set it to save the file at regular intervals, meaning that your deathless prose won't disappear into cyberspace.

You can get it at their website
click here

Friday, October 27, 2006

more tranquil times

My old school is now the headquarters of the polar council CCAMLR, but when the council is in session with all the flags flying it looks more like Camelot. CCAMLR is the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources which was formed in 1982, as part of the Antarctic Treaty System.


A shortage of catastrophe and crisis made this Thursday a bit better to take. The photocopier at the office seems to have settled down, so I only had the normal human vagaries to put up with.

The last couple of weeks had been vexing. I've found that I can take the uncertainties of my colleagues (take this out, put that in, move this there) a lot easier than the cold unrelenting non-co-operation of the machine world.

Today was a public holiday (Royal Hobart Show day) and the roads were refreshingly clear of traffic when we drove into the city. The afternoon progressed to a satisfactory conclusion and when I looked at my watch it was only 5:07, one of our earlier finishes.

We got home in time to sit out in the yard and have a glass of wine while we watched the poultry and the cats wandering about. The sky was clear and the sun was mild. It was such a pleasant evening that we took a leisurely stroll down the street, pausing every few yards to sample the fragrance of the various flowers in the front yards.

After a while we gradually worked our way back to my house. Passing the house next door, we paused for a chat with the neighbours. They had been out to the Show and the little girl had bought some baby chicks. My sister was fascinated and the girl brought two of them out to show her. Nothing like a shared interest to bring people closer together.

Speaking of shared interests, Julie and I were picked up a DVD of the recent movie version of The Fantastic Four. Watching it certainly brought back a few memories. We started reading the comic book around 1962 during its first year and followed it all through the 1960s and into the '70s.

Sure it was a Hollywood version of the original plot, but enough came through of it to please us. But Jessica Alba as the Invisible Girl? I think all male viewers will agree with me – "What a waste!"

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Starbuck debut


Starbucks opened their first branch in Hobart this month. It's in the old bank building on the corner of Collins Street and the Elizabeth Street Mall, where the MBF office used to be.

Passing by, I dragged my sister in for a coffee out of curiosity. I'd never even seen a Starbucks, let alone been inside one, but you can't not know about the chain unless you live under a rock.

It was comfortable enough inside, but they need a little tweaking. For example, there was a rack of CDs that had no prices visible, the cappuccino had no chocolate on top(this may be a cultural thing) and Julie's Flat White was much too milky in spite of a special request for not-too-much-milk.

It wasn't an unpleasant experience, but I don't see any need to repeat it. I'd rather patronise shops like Ephah in the Bank Arcade.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I was surprised (but pleasantly) to discover that you can now get free copies on-line of nearly all the stories of H. Beam Piper, one of my favourite authors of the 1960s. (One of his stories was on the cover of the first issue of Astounding Science Fiction that I ever bought.)

There's a whole shipload of great science fiction at sites like Many Books.

Meanwhile if you want to write your own novel, it's almost November. That means that it's time for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.

How many novels have been written through NaNoWriMo?
1999: 21 participants and six winners
2000: 140 participants and 29 winners
2001: 5,000 particpants and more than 700 winners
2002: 13,500 participants and around 2,100 winners
2003: 25,500 participants and about 3,500 winners
2004: 42,000 participants and just shy of 6,000 winners
2005: 59,000 participants and 9,769 winners.

A "winner" is anybody who successfully writes a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I thought about it in 2004 but chickened out. In 2005 I took a deep breath and started typing on November 1st. By the end of November I'd completed my 50,000 word novel with a couple of days to spare.

It was a strain but I got it finished. I was glad I took it on; it seemed that I'd accomplished something even if nobody but me ever read the story (a science fiction story titled "Scorched by Darkness" – it took me about six months to notice that I'd borrowed a lot from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" for the basic plot).

Will I go in it again this year?

Why not!

Last week I knew that Kay was very concerned about her power bill and the threatening letters she'd received from the power company. I tried to make some enquiries on her behalf, but I couldn't get her on the telephone to discuss the matter.

Finally I went round there and rang the doorbell. I've been trying to ring you, I said. "I haven't had any phone calls for a couple of days," she said in puzzlement.

I walked over to her phone and picked it up. "There's someone talking on it," she exclaimed.

Yes, I said, it's the television set in your bedroom – you didn't hang up the extension.

She looked surprised. I suggested that it might be a good idea to check the phone for messages every day, perhaps at breakfast or before she went to bed.

"I don't eat breakfast," she said.

Yes, but you could....

"I never eat breakfast."

In any event you might want ...

"I haven't eaten breakfast for 46 years."

I'M NOT SAYING YOU SHOULD EAT BREAKFAST, I bellowed. I'm just saying you should check for messages regularly!

"Oh. Right."

ABC Roadshow comes to Tasmania
Saturday 21 October: York Park gates, Launceston
Monday 23 October: Campbell Town main street
Wednesday 25-Saturday 28 October: Royal Hobart Show
Monday 30 October: Huonville

"The ABC's Roadshow Trailer is coming to Tasmania, and will be travelling to communities across the state. Come along and visit the trailer: experience the magic of making TV and Radio for yourself, meet ABC faces and voices, all free of charge. The Country Hour will broadcast their program from the trailer from Monday 23 October; meet ABC Northern Tasmania's Shane Foley (Breakfast) and Roisin McCann (Drive) for a free BBQ during the Country Hour at Campbelltown; bring your children to meet the teddies Amy, Lou Lou and Morgan at the Royal Hobart Show."

I might go out and see them at the Show. Geoff Richardson from the weekend radio show The Coodabeen Champions will be broadcasting from the trailer.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

flaming days


"What an unusual day it's been," said my sister on Thursday night. Flames and disappointment. Stress and chaos. This week was not quite what we’d hoped for.

Wednesday I had hoped to get a major printing job over and done with, even if it meant a special trip in to the office for the afternoon. That didn’t happen - the photocopier was breaking down at least once a day, sometimes twice.

But those annoyances faded to nothing Julie and I drove down to Kingston for dinner with some friends. When we made the appointment a couple of weeks ago, we couldn’t have foreseen that it would be a day of high fire danger.

My sister was driving, since I can usually cope only with city and suburban conditions. As we left the city and headed south, we were wary of fires reported near Mount Nelson and it seemed that was right. The further south we went, the more smoke and haze there was in the air.

Traffic slowed to a crawl as we passed emergency vehicles stopped by the roadside. The smoke grew thicker and we saw a policeman trying to clear the smoke out of his eyes as we drove past.

I tried to snap a few pictures with my camera phone through the windscreen, but trying to capture such a big canvas was next to impossible. Then I looked sideways and gasped in disbelief as we passed a burning tree - the flames were less than ten feet from the car.

During the 1967 bushfires I didn’t leave the safety of the city heart, but I began to get some inkling of what it must have been like for the rural population on that day.

The dinner was pleasant enough, but we turned for home afterwards with some trepidation. At first everything seemed normal, but as we passed the crest of the highway we could see off to one side a series of vertical orange lines in the darkness. Countless trees still burning after the fire had gone through earlier that day. An unsettling sight.

That night it was too hot to get much sleep. I tossed and turned a lot.

Thursday we stayed tuned to the radio for any updates. There were still remnants of yesterday’s fires and the Fire Service warned that conditions were the worst they’d been in years - strong winds, high temperatures and very low humidity.

We went out early to drop off Julie’s mastiff at the vet to have some stitches repaired. At least he’d be comfortable in the air-conditioned vet hospital. Then in to the church to spend the afternoon working in the office. The 19th century sandstone walls kept out the 33° heat [91° in the old fahrenheit scale], but most of the people there grew increasingly concerned about what was happening at home.

Rod left early in the afternoon when a major fire began menacing his suburb on the eastern side of the river. Robert left a while later; his wife had phoned to say that she could see smoke but no flames although the power was off in the entire area.

That left Julie and I with the photocopier repairman, who was grappling with the intricacies of the machine’s innards. (Our last repairman told me once that copying machines were more likely to go wrong than anything else because they were an unholy combination of the electrical, the mechanical and the chemical; it seems he was right.) After another hour he gave up and said he’d need to return the next day with more equipment.

The traffic out front was slow, with commuters heading down the southern outlet hampered by smoke. Fire Service trucks and volunteer fire fighters were heading across the river, taking up one lane on the bridge just for the emergency services.

You feel pretty helpless at a time like this. You’re perfectly safe, but there’s nothing much you can do for others. Certainly you don’t like to make too many phone calls of the “Are you all right? Are things OK over there?” type - people have got things to do.

We stayed in town and had a meal of wallaby at the hotel down the street, then picked up the dog from the vet. Fires were the least of his worries; he was still feeling the effects of the anaesthetic and slept most of the way home.

But turning into my street at dusk was a sobering experience. The end of the street faces across the river and we were looking right at the fires. There were bright specks all over the western face of the hills, and across the summit of one there was a row of fires, like a torchlight parade of giants marching over the hill and down the other side.

It was again another restless night, even though by midnight the smoke seemed to have cleared and the night breezes were soft and cooling. But that crown of flames could still be seen on the hilltop.

And this is October. I can’t remember ever hearing of such dangerous fires this early in the season.

The punchline about the weather is that by Monday morning the news bulletins were interviewing farmers complaining about frost damage caused by a cold snap on Sunday night!

On my radio dial this week…

SUSPENSE “Heaven’s To Betsy” with Truda Marson, CBS 10/11/55

I haven’t heard Suspense venture into the science fiction field very often, but this low-key entry is not without interest. A run-of-the-mill suburban family find themselves in the spotlight when a glowing UFO crashes on their back lawn. “A man’s home is his castle,” says the husband. “This is my house, this is my backyard, and that is my flying saucer!”

The story ends on a sober note when the alien object’s glow begins to fade. The wife maintains that the UFO is in fact a living being, not just a vehicle, and that it is dying before their eyes.

Compared to much of the science fiction of the mass media in 1955, this is very sensible and restrained stuff indeed.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY 47-10-07 football story

Fibber plans a surprise for their anniversary. A highlight - running into an indecisive acquaintance who turns out to be the local weatherman.

RED RYDER 42-03-14 Frying Pan valley

Tolerable juvenile western which was also a long-running comic book. First one I've heard of these; maybe it improves on further listening, but I think I prefer Hopalong Cassidy and Wild Bill Hickok to the exploits of "America's famous fighting cowboy."

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE 48-05-26 Gildy drives a Mercedes

This one is fun - Gildy allows himself to be persuaded into driving a luxury car for the day ("It makes you look like a millionaire playboy") and misunderstandings snowball.

PHIL HARRIS 49-11-27 lady wrestler

Irked by Alice's investments, Phil decides to invest in something - and after taking Remley's advice he ends up with a wrestler called The Masked Mangler... a female wrestler in fact. (Did you know female wrestlers were illegal in California in 1949?)

A lot of people know what to do, but not everyone will do what they know.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Salmon Ponds

salmon ponds 01

The Salmon Ponds, established circa 1860, is the oldest trout hatchery in the Southern Hemisphere. It's about 45 minutes drive up the Derwent Valley from Hobart, on the western side of the river. Drive in through the spectacular drystone walls on either side of the entrance and it's like entering a Secret Garden.

salmon ponds 03 Julie

It's been a popular spot for family picnics since the late 19th century. The grounds are laid out like a classic English country garden. You can visit the wonderfully rough-hewn old building that housed the Trout Hatchery, the centre of the original operation.

salmon ponds 04 riverwalk

The Hawthorn Arch was the original entrance in the 19th century. The old Keeper's cottage, built in 1865, now doubles as the Museum of Trout Fishing and as the Tasmanian Angling Hall of Fame. Even if you aren't a fisherman, there's a lot of interesting stuff about the problems of transporting trout and salmon eggs out from Britain 150 years ago (i.e. before refrigeration).

salmon ponds 05 feed trout

They actually encourage you to feed the fish, who are always happy to see visitors. If you want to feed yourself, there's a barbecue area or you can visit the restaurant (tweely titled Pancakes By The Ponds).

There's a lot of bird life around, including the Superb Blue Wren (first time I've seen one in real life – they are superb!) and the occasional sinister-looking raven.

On the way home we called at St Matthew's Church in New Norfolk, built in 1824. I've never seen a church this size with so many stained glass windows.

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Friday, October 06, 2006


One of the things about sharing a house with Julie is the unending stream of animals brought through the doors. This week she brought over a tiny duckling which looked like it wasn't going to survive. She nursed it along for a week but it didn't make it. If there's one thing my experiences with my sister's poultry have taught me, it's how frail and fragile life is.

This of course is the reason that I can't use any of the reading lamps in my house: they've all been pressed into service in makeshift incubators for ailing chickens and ducks. It would be interesting to check my electricity bill for before and after they arrived....

Slowly I get better and better each day. The only sign of my flu now is the intermittent barking cough that sounds worse than it feels.

My sister, however, is being much slower to shake it off and retains many of the symptoms that plagued her all last month. This is regrettable because this weekend is her 40th anniversary school reunion and she'd rather not be coughing all over her old friends.

When I say I'm almost well again that might be a slight exaggeration. I do find that I no longer have the stamina or the concentration that I normally expect. Yesterday the photocopier went wrong yet again at the office and I all but threw up my hands and surrendered utterly. (Fortunately the repairman made a rush visit and got us going again – thanks to Dane and all at Prosys Office Equipment.) I wouldn't have folded up so quickly under normal circumstances; it seems I still have a little way to go.

For example, I was knocked for six by an unfortunate coincidence last weekend. Saturday was Grand Final Day, which unsettles me not because I'm a football fan but because that was the day my mother died. On Sunday I tuned in to watch Songs of Praise as usual and found that they were doing a special programme on bereavement. Out of 52 weekends in the year they had to choose this one. The first man they interviewed described his loss in terms that were so similar to my own that I almost burst into tears. My emotional reserves seem to be at an all-time low.

Likewise my memory is not good, though it's a lot better than Julie's is (I've lost count of the times she's mislaid her mobile phone this month). Last night I took the video cassette out of the VCR after watching the latest episode of Mythbusters. Tonight I went to use the same tape to record something after that show. Do you think I could find it? I trailed around the house for half an hour like a lamb that had lost sight of its mother. Never did find it.

Slowly getting used to Daylight Saving. It always takes a week or so to get used to it. I do have some difficulty working out when to listen to the streaming-audio programmes on Internet radio – I know that My Word on KIPO is an hour later, but I seem to have trouble keeping track of when to tune in to WRVO's evening of Old Time Radio.

Remember the haiku I sent in to the local radio station contest? Well, I didn't win, but they phoned up the other day to say they were sending me a consolation prize. I duly received a colourful 2007 calendar from Delicious magazine (value $16-95) which should look good on my wall next year. Not a bad result for a poem that took me five minutes to write.

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

I see daylight

I think I'll live. The last couple of days not only have my flu symptoms abated, but for the first time in a couple of months my Blood Glucose Level has started to come down.

My BGL readings for the last five days have been 9.9, 9.6, 9.2, 8.3 and now 7.9 today. A good sign.

My sister, who got the flu first, has been slower than me to throw it off. I seem to be more resistant to it than her. Maybe it's genetic – my father had the most amazing ability to heal up wounds at twice the normal speed. If I could bottle that, I could make a fortune.

Julie's animals have been a surprise. We thought at first that her dog was mortally ill and the cat would get well soon. But things seem to have been the reverse. Saj, the mastiff, has survived an operation (in the worst possible spot, guys) and made such a quick recovery the Vets asked if we could pick him up a couple of hours earlier than planned. I guess a 56kg dog [120 pounds] can be a bit of a handful if he decides he's ready to go home.

The Rex cat Jezebel's heart condition has been slower to respond to treatment. She stopped eating for almost a week and has been very quiet. We hope that she'll come right in time.

Animals seem to be drawn to Julie. This morning she was woken by a bird flying down the chimney of her bedroom and then fluttering around the window trying to get out. I fetched the butterfly net that I use for catching wildlife that strays into the house, but it wasn't needed. Julie managed to reach up between the window and the Venetian blinds, grab him and just walk out into the driveway to release him. Simple as that.

I've been listening to a few of the old radio shows this week – in fact if it was up to me I'd leave the television turned off most of the time. Programmes I listened to included Suspense, Abbott & Costello, Inner Sanctum, The Men from the Ministry, Dragnet, The Mysterious Traveller, Fibber McGee & Molly and a couple of less famous ones.

I did watch a couple of good science fiction shows on the tube though. Stargate SG-1 "Ripple Effect" was a fascinating plot in which our heroes end up playing host to their other selves from a score of alternate universes. Doctor Who "Army of Ghosts" is the next-to-last of the current series and really screws up the tension to the Nth degree (Cybermen and the Daleks!).

Tonight is the start of Daylight Saving in Tasmania. For years we've been starting a month earlier than the other states, but next year they promise that everyone will start and finish at the same time. That will prevent the disruption to television schedules that tends to annoy people like my friend Kay.

Of course it doesn't take much to get her upset. Last time I saw her she flew into a rage because the International Astronomical Union had voted to strip Pluto of its status as a planet. I said it didn't bother me either way (after all, until Pluto was discovered in 1930 we only had eight planets), but she was furious.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

from my sickbed

Equinoctial gales lashed the city. Snow fell on the mountain. Inside the home, uncertainties of a different nature prevailed.

I lay in bed on Sunday afternoon listening to myself breathe and thinking what a strange week it had been.

My sister's flu had gotten worse over the last few days. I had begun to develop the same symptoms myself, to the point where it was difficult to get to sleep for the noise my lungs were making - a bit like an asthmatic baby elephant trying to tip-toe across a corrugated iron roof.

Julie spent most of the day in bed. Twice a day she would get up and I would drive her over to her place to feed the animals. Then while she slept I would go to work or do the shopping, stopping occasionally to cough or catch my breath.

After a few days I was almost as sick as she was. I had the feeling of being disconnected from the world around me - my internal clock had stopped working and it was always slightly surprising whenever I looked at my watch and found it was earlier or later than I had thought.

I became clumsy, as though I were trying to write my name whilst wearing mittens, and my concentration suffered.

Gradually the worst of it began to pass for me, though my sister's constitution was slower to throw off the virus.

She had worries of a different sort on her mind. A trip to the Vet Hospital for some tests on two of her animals had unwelcome results. Not only did her favorite dog have cancer, but her favorite cat was diagnosed with a heart problem.

To add insult to injury, veterinary science is now so high-tech that each visit to the Vet incurred a bill of hundreds of dollars.

Not a cheerful prospect.

I had to go into the city on Monday, no matter how I felt. Even in this age of internet banking at the touch of a button, having a cheque in your pocket is no good unless you can get to a bank. When my bank account hit $1.52 it was obviously essential to go to town.

Having a few dollars in my pocket, I loaded up on the essentials - boxes of Kleenex, cough syrup, anti-histamines and Cold & Flu tablets. The latter have changed a little since I last bought them: instead of pseudoephedrine they now contain Phenylephrine Hydrochloride and Chlorpheniramine Maleate.

I haven't used those before (or even heard of them, come to that!) but they worked fine. Unlike my sister I rarely use pain-killers of any description, so they have more of an effect on me. These gave me the first good night's sleep I'd had in almost two weeks.

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Monday, September 18, 2006


Performing at the Moonah Arts Centre this month were the Celtic music ensemble Ethereal. It was standing room only in the candle-lit hall for an hour of dreamy music divided between traditional favorites and original pieces.

The five ladies are certainly versatile. The run-down read as follows:
  • Helen Morrison - cello and drums
  • Fran Docking - vocals, folk harp and guitar
  • Julianne Green - folk harp and tambourine
  • Lynne Mitchell - flute whistles, harmonium and castanets
  • Mieka Tabart -vocals, violin and cymbal

I think this is the first time I've seen a harmonium played. You couldn't see any of the controls from where I was sitting, just a big box that was apparently played by moving one side back and forth. (Curiously it bore a metal plate reading "Calcutta Music Depot.")

A close inspection after the concert suggests it has a lot in common with bagpipes or the piano accordion in principle. My dictionary defines it as "a free-reed instrument in which air is forced through the reeds by bellows".

There'll be a CD launch on the waterfront at 7:30pm on Friday December 15th at The Venue in Salamanca Place. Going on this night, there'll be quite a crowd there.

Saturday night we were out to a dinner party in South Hobart. My sister groaned "I can't believe I'm so sick this week. I've been looking forward to tonight for weeks and I have a cough like a seal barking." This possibly contributed to her locking the keys in the car when we arrived for dinner.

They say you can't drown your problems, but she had a good try at making them swim for it. The retsina and the sambuca were flowing freely, but since I was driving home I confined myself to a couple of flutes of champagne.

The meal was Greek-themed, probably because our host was leaving next week for the Greek Islands. In fact judging by the conversation most of the guests seemed to be just about to leave the country and I felt like the odd one out in never having held a passport.

Julie wasn't too bad the next day, though I notice she did wear dark glasses to church in the morning! By that time I was started to develop the same symptoms as her, and we scrubbed a possible trip to the Playhouse to see Hobart Rep's production of Peter Pan in favor of resting at home. From the barking coming from my house, you would have thought a pair of over-zealous watch-dogs were in residence.

The congregation at church was a bit thin this morning. Nothing to do with the quality of preaching, merely that this was the first weekend of the school holidays and the exodus of families going on vacation always makes a difference. At least it meant that the kids next door weren't playing basketball while I was taking a nap in the afternoon.

This may be a sign of the times - I notice in the local shop's stationery shelf that there is a choice of two or three brands of DVD-R discs, but they no longer stock CD-R discs. From this we may infer two things: the increasing prevalence of DVD burners, and the larger size of files that people want to save to disc. The days of 1.4MB on a floppy disc being any use are gone forever I suspect.

Listening to the ABC Drive show on radio this afternoon, they were asking for poems about Spring. This is the haiku I wrote while listening to the segment:

At the equinox
somewhere in the underbrush,
a sneezing cat prowls.

If you knew Julie's cats, you'd understand it.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

from winter to warmth

El Nino is on his way back - it's official.

The National Climate Centre in Melbourne warns that the El Nino effect, warming of equatorial seas that usually means droughts for eastern Australia, is on its way. The effects this time could be even worse than usual, because water stocks are already low after a dry winter.

Warm blustery winds blow across the city, the sun is blindingly bright when I look out from the back of my house - certainly a big change to the icy conditions that prevailed only a month ago.

I haven't updated this page for a few days. There always seems to be something to distract me. I'm frequently tired, since my resolution to put a stop to all those late nights has come to nothing.

When I do finally get to bed, I'm too tired to read, so I usually listen to half an hour of old radio shows on the MP3 player. I used to do most of my reading in bed, but between fatigue and my eyesight that doesn't happen very often nowadays.

Both of my days at work this week were fairly busy. Tuesday I ploughed through a backlog of some routine work, then on Thursday it was non-stop putting out weekly bulletins, special announcements and a big special edition for Prayer Week.

In fact the latter was taken out of my hands by my boss, who categorically pronounced that I'd done enough and he'd finish it off when he was in the next day. I was willing to stay until it was finished, but faced with a direct order I took him at his word.

By the way, he now wishes to be referred to not as Rob but as Robert. Since Rod joined our team, the misunderstandings have been rife and Rob has announced he is re-inventing himself as "Robert" to avoid any further confusion. But not Bob or Bobby please!

Julie and I never have any problems - we simply dubbed them R1 and R2, even though it makes them sound like the supporting cast of a Star Wars movie.

Not that Julie has been up to many witty remarks lately; she's been unwell for the last week, with some sort of yucky virus that makes me glad I had that flu shot. "Everything hurts," she groaned, "even my skin aches."

And of course she's been worried about her animals. Her aged mastiff Saj developed a suspicious lump and we won't know what the verdict is till they examine the biopsy.

While she was there, she had her Rex cat Jezebel checked because of a cough and they gave her some antibiotics. We can give the mastiff his tablets with no trouble at all, but you should see two adults hanging onto a tiny black cat fighting to get the pill down her very reluctant throat!

A pity she's not more interested in traditional feline pursuits, like chasing away that mouse that's hanging around my place. You may recall I was complaining about its expensive tastes - I've had to lock up all the chocolate in the house because it has a taste for it. The other day I came home to discover I'd missed one: there was the wrapper of a Cadbury's chocolate bar in the middle of the dining room floor, completely empty. You wouldn't think there were two cats living in the house, would you?

Fuel prices are on a roller-coaster in Hobart this month. Some outlets are now changing their prices several times a day, with prices ranging from A$1.16 a litre to almost A$1.30. United Petrol has taken over the Mobil outlets in Hobart, leading to increased competition. I guess in theory it's a good thing, but it makes drivers very unsettled because they simply don't know whether prices are on their way up or down at any given moment.

This week on ABC Radio National's By Design programme, something different to their usual talks about art and design. Christopher Alexander is one of the most innovative architects alive. He's also a severe critic of contemporary architecture. He tries to express fundamental truths in books with such titles as A Timeless Way of Building and The Nature of Order. In this extended feature, courtesy of CBC's Ideas program, Jill Eisen explored his ideas about what gives life beauty, and how it can be expressed in our buildings and our towns. His opinions of the architecture of the last thirty years can be imagined.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Sorry to see the Euro Café in the mall has closed. It will be re-opening after renovation as a health-food restaurant. No more chicken breasts in creamy pesto sauce – alas!

It will be interesting to see how the new owners go in reaching a whole new customer demographic. I remember the health-food hamburger shop that used to be in Murray Street; it lasted about six months.

My family had been patronising Euro for many years under the previous oswners Martin & Winnie. He was head chef at Wrest Point when my sister was a gaming inspector there and his Austrian background gave him an engaging Arnold Schwarzennegger accent (in fact I think he might have known Arnie in the old country.

But, as they say, the only constant in life is change.

We're now into September and the geese are nesting at Julie's house. Over at my house, Zelda has repeated last Spring's routine and has built herself a nice little nest from scraps of this and that right at the far end of the house.

I remember last year we hardly saw her for a couple of weeks. Twice a day I would take her out some food and water. She would have a little bit then lose interest, driven by the overwhelming forces of instinct to care for those eggs.

One of our neighbors has returned home after a long trip away. Ted and his son went back to Poland to trace his roots. He told me that in his life he's spent more of his life in Britain and Australia than he ever had in his own country.

It seems unbelievable to us, but I guess it's not that unusual. For people born in a certain part of the twentieth century, being driven from your homes was a normal part of life.

He would have enjoyed his trip back home more if he hadn't slipped on the tiled floor of the hotel when he first arrived and hurt his hip.

When we saw him, he told my sister he brought her back some souvenirs – wooden silhouettes of barnyard animals and a carved wooden bird. Oh yeah, he's got her number all right!

The Fibber McGee & Molly Unofficial Home Page had an announcement to make recently:

Fans will be very excited to hear about a tremendous discovery: over 425 broadcasts from "The Fibber McGee and Molly Show," the fifteen-minute version of the program which aired on NBC between 1953 and 1956, most of which have been unheard since their original broadcast over fifty years ago!

Originally aired between January 1954 and February 1956, these programs are from the series' later five-a-week daily version. Most of these shows had been thought irretrievably lost, discarded along with thousands of other recordings when NBC's landmark Hollywood and Vine headquarters was demolished in 1964.

This is a tremendous "find" for fans of the McGees and also for radio historians. Original network disks are always a treasure, but to find this many of a single show - and one that has been considered lost for so long - is a real thrill.

The discs were found by the First Generation Radio Archives, an organization which, over the past few years, has become known as the source for some of the best-sounding radio programs ever made available. Working with original transcription disks and master recordings, their straight-from-the-source audio restorations have become the standard for just how wonderful OTR can sound when treated with care, respect, and state-of-the-art digital audio equipment and techniques.

The Archives has just released the first programs in this newly-discovered run: forty full-length shows dating from between January and April 1954, all fully restored for sparkling audio quality. (I've ordered mine!)

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

winter shuffles off

I thought I was improving - I noticed on Monday morning that I could no longer hear the crackling noise in my lungs when I took a deep breath, and my Blood Glucose Level got down around its normal level for the first time in weeks.

Alas, when I returned home from work on Tuesday I sneezed a couple of times and my sister looked at me askance. "Ugh, your left eye is all bloodshoot. When you looked up it's all red."

That happens sometimes when I sneeze, but it's a long time since the last time it happened. Let's hope it's the end of these problems.

We are all looking for something of extraordinary importance whose nature we have forgotten.
EUGENE IONESCO, Present Past / Past Present

Well, it's official – we've just finished one of the driest winters in Tasmanian history, and Thursday was the warmest winter day ever recorded. The official maximum was 23º but when I walked past the newspaper office their sign indicated 27º, which equates to 80º in the old scale. Hard to believe there was snow on the mountain just a few weeks ago.

The lawn in the backyard is still green, which is just as well since the goose spends most of her day wandering over it grazing and lolling about. There are around ten eggs in her nest now, but she's content to be a part-time home-maker since there's no chance of them hatching.

Over at Julie's place one of her geese met a violent end while trespassing on the property next door, presumably the work of the neighbor's dog. It was a couple of days before I get down the slope to where it was and remove the body; not a pleasant job but you get used to these little chores with the large poultry population at my sister's house.

The end of August also marks the start of a new quarter in the television industry, so we've seen a lot of new shows and the return of some old ones.

What is mildly disturbing is how many of them feature autopsies and serial killers. I've avoided most of them, though I have watched the new series Bones, mostly because it stars David Boreanaz from the Buffy/Angel programmes. Even so, some of the scenes are a bit too gruesome for me, leavened with humor or not.

La kato estas dormanta sur mia rondiro

Old-time radio programmes on my MP3 player this week include PHIL HARRIS, SUSPENSE, DANGEROUS ASSIGNMENT,LET GEORGE DO IT, DOCTOR SIXGUN, DUFFY'S TAVERN and DIMENSION X. And a big "Happy Birthday!" to the OTR website Zootradio which has just celebrated its first year on-line.

Meanwhile in Britain the BBC certainly know how to commemorate the great poets. This week marked the centenary of the birth of poet John Betjeman, and on Monday there was a string of Radio 4 programmes marking the occasion all through the day...

Woman's Hour Drama Betjeman's Women, five plays by Paul Dodgson, explore the characters in his poetry

The Archive Hour
Miles Kington traces Betjeman's progress from his early BBC radio programmes to his mastery of the television poetic documentary.

You and Yours The Bard Of Britain: The Shell Guides. The programme revisits some of the towns Betjeman wrote about.

Afternoon Play: Summoned by Bells A radio version of the best-selling verse autobiography, voiced by Betjeman from a recording made in the 1960s.

Yours Til Death A selection of newly discovered correspondence between Betjeman and those he worked with at the BBC. Written and presented by Stephen Games, with David Collins as Betjeman.

Doubts and Demons writer A.N. Wilson goes in search of the man behind the image and explores the lesser known side of the man everyone considered the most wonderful company.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

one eyed in church

Video cameras in church can be a bit distracting – not that I was being filmed, but I was sitting behind someone with a camera on Sunday morning. During a baptism, I could see the goings-on at the font out of my left eye, while my right eye kept straying to the viewfinder of the video camera as the owner panned and zoomed. It was a little hard to concentrate.

But it's nice to sit and watch people bringing their babies in to be baptised. It shows that the next generation of Christians is always being re-stocked.

Which isn't a bad thing at the moment. We had three families leave my church this year... as far as I can make out, two of them left because we were getting too modern and the other one left because we weren't modern enough!

I think it was Lincoln who said you can't please all the people all the time. For once there are some things the same in politics and religion.

I haven't updated for a while, have I? The last week or so I haven't been feeling 100%. The flu shot may have kept the influenza at bay, but for the last few days I have been under the weather. I kept waking up in the morning with my mouth full of gunk, then coughing and sneezing my way through the day.

I am, I think, a little better this week.

However every second person I talk to seems to be suffering from some sort of virus or is caring for someone who is. It may be the end of winter, but I don't think this is Spring Fever.

The slightly warmer weather must be responsible for the abundance of flies that I find in the kitchen every morning. This isn't that unusual, but all these seem to be operating at half-speed and can barely be bothered flying off when you try and shoo them away. My sister summed it up neatly: "These are not blow-flies, they're slow flies!" Well put.

Speaking of vermin, I cleared out the rest of the pantry to see what that mouse has been at. He has expensive tastes, as I mentioned before. He ignored the whole box of two-minute noodles, but gnawed through the sachets of beef stew and consumed the contents. I just wish the cats would get their act together and run him out of town.

My hours at work have reverted to the two-afternoons-a-week regimen. It may not be quite as convenient for those who used to drop in to the office to get things done early in the day, but there really isn't enough to keep two people busy. I did offer to come in a bit earlier, but for the moment it's back to the old schedule.

At least I made a few bucks extra out of last fortnight. But looking at my bank statement I shouldn't let this go to my head. For a start I refuse to buy any more new CDs or DVDs -- well, unless I really need them...

Old radio shows I've been listening to:

MARTIN & LEWIS SHOW (2-15-52) William Holden
BROADWAY IS MY BEAT_49-11-19 Eugene Bullock
CANDY MATSON 49-10-10(Ep015)_DeepFreeze
SUSPENSE 58-10-26 "Headshrinker"
PAUL TEMPLE "The Sullivan mystery" parts 1,2, & 3

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