Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Had to go into the city to go to the bank, so Julie and I had a snack at the Ephah café in the Bank Arcade. The coffee is always good there, which is more than you can say about a lot of the eating places around town.

Then browsed through the Spice World shop across the arcade. They had some organic mandarins which were so brightly coloured they looked like they'd been dipped in orange dye. They were dearer than the ones in the supermarket but so sweet and juicy.

We strolled around the shop, which is an Aladdin's Cave of foodstuffs. Not to mention the extra items, like the shelf of Indian DVD movies. I've always been mildly interested in Bollywood but not to the point of actually buying a movie.

David and Nicky Williams have a nice little operation there at the junction of Bank Arcade and Wellington Court – her coffee shop and his Spice World store.

For dinner a plate of lamb and cheese croquettes on a bed of baby spinach with a sauce of mushrooms, chickpeas and grapes, accompanied by soy-and-linseed bread and washed down with green tea. A simple meal but enough to keep body and soul together.


A card in the mailbox from the power company. They're working on the powerlines in our street on Saturday morning and warn us that the electricity may be cut off. This is going to make breakfast difficult – a cold drink isn't my favourite way to start the day in winter.

Last night the temperature went down to 1° [34°in the old scale]. I hope that Saturday morning isn't a repeat of that or it could be awfully chilly in an all-electric house.


I really miss the Blackmask web site. It's been one of my most-visited web sites for years – the sheer range of free books they offer is breath-taking. Unfortunately they got into a legal battle with Conde Naste, who own the copyright on The Shadow and Doc Savage, and they've been off the air all this month.

Every so often my finger strays to their entry on my browser's favorites list, but there's never any response. *Sigh*

Old Time Radio revisited:

Gunsmoke [1955] "Chester's Hanging"

Brisk if brutal western drama – even Matt Dillon has to deal with paperwork and go through the wanted posters if he wants to nab fugitives. His sidekick Chester almost comes to a bad end here.

Jack Benny [1946] "Fred Allen"

Celebrated comedian Allen makes a guest appearance. "Now that we've finished ad-libbing can we get back to the script?"

Life with Luigi [1948] "The Little Immigrant"

Probably not politically correct, but an engaging sitcom about an amiable little Italian in Chicago (J. Carroll Naish). A highlight is Luigi's attempt to explain the American banking system.

Whitehall 1212 [1952] "Weed Eradicator"

Measured police procedural about poisoning in a small town in Wales. Script ed by the legendary Wyllis Cooper, better known for his Quiet Please series.

Rocky Jordan [1948] "The Bartered Bridegroom"

A clone of Casablanca – adventures of the owner of a Cairo nightclub. Full of the usual ambience of Hollywood's mystic East with all its danger, intrigue and sinister characters. Not to be confused with Frank Sinatra's Rocky Fortune series.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

chickens run

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Just after I'd left home on Tuesday morning I got a SMS message from my sister Julie. The neighbour's new dog had wandered down our driveway and discovered we were keeping chickens there...

In the resulting commotion, two of the chickens got out of their coop. One was recaptured easily enough, but the other sought refuge in the backyard and had to be scooped up with the butterfly net we keep handy for just such an emergency.

The dog fortunately wasn't able to follow the hen into the backyard. Had he come face to face with our goose Zelda the ensuing kerfuffle would have had the whole neighbourhood in an uproar.

We got everybody settled down and moved the cages to safer spots, just in case – though I notice the neighbours had their dog on the chain by then.

I got back in the car and set off for the office again.

I've finally succumbed and bought myself a fairly rudimentary portable MP3 player. After some initial fumbling, I have worked out how to play back stuff. Last thing at night I sit propped up in bed, the cat oblivious to my button-pushing, and listen to a half-hour radio programme - sometimes one I've recorded myself this week or perhaps one from a past decade that I've downloaded from the Internet.

New gadgets are always difficult for me to get the hang of. I thought it was just me, but a recent news report suggests that it may be more widespread a problem than I realised.

It seems more and more people own gadgets that sit idle because they have to relearn how it works each time they want to use it.

A recent study by a Dutch university notes that half the products returned to stores are in working order - the customer just can't figure out how they work. On average, consumers will spend just 20 minutes trying to get it to run before giving up.

"Products that are technologically advanced should also be simple to use," said a spokesman for Philips but critics mutter that so-called "feature bloat" is becoming common as engineers realise they can now add more functions at virtually no extra cost.

Whether the consumer can understand how to use all these extra features is another matter.

The Nine Network has a new TV show called What's Good for You, hosted by Sigrid Thornton.

Each week the team of reporters will examine a common myth or misconception and conduct their own experiments to expose the truth of the matter. (In the first episode one poor soul was stung five times by a bluebottle to test varying cures - ouch!)

Sounds a bit like Mythbusters without the explosions, doesn't it?

So guess where they scheduled it. Yes, that's right, directly opposite Mythbusters on Monday nights.

Those programming directors are so predictable, aren't they?

Old Time Radio noted:

Escape "Ancient Sorceries" [1948]
Paul Frees stars as the lead in this adaptation of an Algernon Blackwood short story about a small town with a secret in Wales. Blackwood's stories are eminently suitable for radio, and before he died Blackwood became something of a media star in the early days of television. The same story was adapted for CBS Radio Mystery Theatre in 1975 as "The Velvet Claws" but I prefer this half-hour version.

X Minus One "Mr Costello, Hero" [1956]
The title is ironic, since Mr Costello is anything but a hero in this Theodore Sturgeon story. In fact from this viewpoint the plot about a manipulative social engineer looks like an oblique attack on the hysteria of the McCarthy era. The interplanetary angle is incidental, but as Gene Rodenberry once observed you can get away with a lot of things if it's done in a science-fiction setting.

X Minus One "Saucer of Loneliness" [1957]
Here's another story by Sturgeon. It's about 30 years since I read it, but I don't notice any major changes to the plot. A young woman is hounded because she encounters a flying saucer but refuses to reveal the message it conveyed to her. As often happens in Sturgeon's fiction the ending is unexpected and bittersweet.

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Phil Harris "Cadilac in the swimming pool" [1949]
Here's one from the popular 1940s comedy series in which Phil Harris and his wife Alice Faye played themselves. In this one, Phil's pal Remley manages to destroy not one but two of their employer's cars. "Remley, I meant release the hand-brake after you got in the car!"

Suspense "The Lunch Kit" [1949]
John Lund stars as the nervous narrator in this story that has become unfortunately very relevant again today. A man sets out to smuggle a bomb into a factory hidden in his lunchbox. The obstacles in his path make for an entertaining half hour.

Speaking of radio, Alan Braid the radio-collecting farmer who was featured on the TV show Collectors this month was featured in the Sunday Examiner this week. He owns 400 fully-functional radio sets, not counting the ones he has in the barn for the cows.

The newspaper went on to report that a study at the University of Leicester (UK) had tested the old theory that sweet music produces more milk from dairy cows.

Music of different tempos was played to herds of friesian cattle. Milk yield went up to the strains of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" or (appropriately) Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. But rock music from Jamiroquai or Mud had the opposite effect.

I'm not surprised. I remember a similar experiment just a couple of years ago that had similar results - classical music was good, heavy metal was bad and speech or the music of Britney Spears had no effect either way.

Quote of the week:
All the troubles of man come from his not knowing how to sit still -- Pascal

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ducks Don't Roost

What do you do with a duck while you're on holiday? Jan roped in my sister Julie to look after some of her poultry while she is interstate. We drove up into the hills under Mount Wellington on Sunday afternoon where she fed us scones and we played with my brand-new mobile phone – which I used to take the photographs on this page.

Sunday afternoons I'm usually so tired that I nap for a while, but after two cups of percolated coffee at Jan's table I felt wide awake. Still, I was content to stand back and let Julie, Jan and her little boy chase the ducks and chickens around the coop.

The ducks took a bit of chasing down, since they don't roost at dusk like the chickens usually do.

We put the chickens into a black bag in the back of the car, while I held on to a sack containing three ducks. They weren't too bad on the drive down to Julie's place – I eased the top of the sack open a little so they could get some air but I kept my hand over the opening since the idea of three ducks suddenly loose in a moving vehicle doesn't bear thinking about.

Everything went off all right and it wasn't as difficult as I had feared it might be.

If anybody has a difficult job, it was our preacher at the morning service today. In the space of a 20-minute sermon "In The Beginning" he had to summarise the creation of the universe, explaining who, what, why and how with reference to Genesis chapter 1 and John chapter 1. Whew! I didn't envy him the job.

sinister  Tasmanian

Old Time Radio slot:

X Minus One "The Cave of Night" [1956] this is so topical it's rather eerie: an American astronaut is trapped in space after a rocket launch goes wrong and the whole world is agog; there's a sort of war-of-the-worlds feel in that the story is seen from the viewpoint of the journalists reporting the drama. Comparisons with the Australian mine rescue this month seem unavoidable.

Weird Circle "Fall of the House of Usher" [1943] first in a little-remembered series of thrillers that drew heavily on classic literature. For their premiere, they hark back to Poe and give the story of Roderick Usher the radio-drama treatment, opening the story out, exploring motivations and bringing in new supporting characters. Now usually that sort of thing is anathema to me, but this actually works better than some attempts to do a faithful dramatisation I've heard.

Hancock's Half Hour "First Night Party" [1954] ties in with the sort of self-referencing that used to be a staple of radio comedians. This is the first episode of Hancock's own radio show, and it concerns his attempt to wine and dine the critics to drum up publicity for its broadcast. Needless to say things go spectacularly wrong. All the familiar ingredients are there, though they haven't been fine-tuned yet as they would be in later years - Moira Lister is the female lead, for example, and quite different to Hattie Jacques. Bill Kerr and Sid James are their unchangable selves though.

Strange Doctor Weird "The House Where Death Lived" [1944] Another first episode. In this one the eponymous narrator (gilding the lily a bit to make him both strange and weird surely?) tells us the story of two ruthless killers who are victims on a father's search for vengeance. Fifteen minutes of fairly unsubtle stuff - par for the course for radio horror of the time.

Sherlock Holmes "The Greek Interpreter" - couldn't miss out the Great Detective since it was Conan Doyle's birthday this week.

According to Britain's librarians, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird is the book that everyone should read.

The Pulitzer prize-winning classic has topped a World Book Day poll conducted by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), in which librarians around Britain were asked the question, "Which book should every adult read before they die?"

According to Diana Ashcroft, one of the librarians who voted for the book, it "has all the factors of a great read. It is touching and funny but has a serious message about prejudice, fighting for justice and coming of age."

Harper Lee is also likely to receive a renewed flush of publicity with the opening this week of the Hollywood film Capote, in which she is a key character.

To Kill a Mocking Bird heads an odd triumvirate at the top of the librarians' list: it is followed by the Bible and, in third place, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Further down the rankings, a mixture of classics and popular contemporary titles feature.

Mark Wood, chairman of the MLA, commented, "This goes to show that if you are stuck for something to read, you should ask a librarian."

The list in full:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
All Quite on the Western Front by E M Remarque
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Tess of the D'urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

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Monday, May 22, 2006

go east

Monday saw us set off on a "mystery bus trip" with a group from our church. I was up before sunrise so we could feed my sister's animals before meeting up with the bus group.

We set off for the east coast of Tasmania and a few words in the driver's ear meant we made a special stop at the Woodsdale cemetery. This is where our great-grandmother is buried and after a minute or two we located the grave marker.

We have been here before, but not for about 25 years.

Julie would like to organise a special trip down to Woodsdale, which does have some tourist attractions in spite of it being so small there isn't even a sign to let you know you've arrived.

Lunch at the Blue Waters Hotel in Orford was a pleasant affair, then we took a stroll along the foreshore to admire the seascape.

Old Time Radio spot:

Listened to a 1944 episode of Suspense titled "One Way Ride to Nowhere". Alan Ladd stars as a man who takes a roller coaster ride and finds that at the other end there's an extra passenger - a dead psychiatrist. Intrigue and deceit on the midway unfold in typical film noir style.

Dark Fantasy was a minor 1940s series originating in Oklahoma City, but the episode "Pennsylvania Turnpike" does a nice job of slowly building the atmosphere in this tale of a hitch-hiker who doesn't seem sure what century he's living in. The climax, as often is the case, doesn't match the Twilight-Zone-style build-up but overall it's not bad.

Less subtle is the 1945 Sealed Book episode "Hands of Death", which is the radio equivalent of one of those old black-and-white B-movie thrillers. A mad strangler, his manipulative brother, the greedy butler... all that's lacking is Boris Karloff. (Notable is the amount of padding, including rambling introductions and excessively long musical interludes.)

And to finish off, listened to a 1940 newscast with Edward R. Murrow in London. We tour the darkened city during an air raid, ending up in Whitehall where the novelist J.B. Priestley muses on the future that lies ahead. Stirring stuff from CBS.


Friday, May 19, 2006


I'm perfectly in control of my day right up till the time I finish breakfast. After that, I feel increasingly powerless and anxious.

The fact that I recently started in on the second half of my fifth decade just makes things worse; before I know where I am, I'll be 60 and after that I'll pick up speed the further along the path of life I get.

Friday things just seemed to get more gloomy the further the day progressed. I felt as though there was a black cloud hanging over my head as the afternoon dragged on. I tried to stay impassive, in keeping with the tradition of the stoic Australian male, but I felt bloody awful.

Julie's friend Jan asked me if I was coming to the fireworks display tomorrow night.

"No." "Why not?" "I think I'm having an anxiety attack."

I was happy to keep it to myself, but faced with a direct question I lacked the patience to make up a polite excuse.

Some caregivers think their stress will drop once an elderly relative is placed in a long term facility, but they actually suffer more emotional trauma. A University of Pittsburgh study is the first to provide a comprehensive analysis of the emotional turmoil caregivers experience in placing a loved one with dementia in a long-term care facility.

"Caregivers have to face new challenges such as frequent trips to the long-term care facility, reduced control over the care pro- vided to their relative, and taking on responsibilities such as coordinating and monitoring care," says study leader Richard Schulz. "This study shows that we need to help care- givers who place their relatives." The findings appear in Journal of the American Medical Association.

I can believe that. Being a carer is a stressful job and the emotional connection doesn't end just because the person in question is physically out of the house. It never did for me. Cutting down on the angst factor is difficult.

And by the way, thanks to Wikipedia for their informative article that told me Angst is used in English to describe an intense feeling of emotional strife – a different but related meaning is attributed to Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard .

Kierkegaard used the word angst (Danish, meaning "dread") to describe a profound and deep-seated spiritual condition of insecurity and despair in the free human being. Where the animal is a slave to its God-given instincts but always confident in its own actions, Kierkegaard believed that the freedom given to mankind leaves the human in a constant fear of failing its responsibilities to God.

In modern use, angst is broadened to include general frustration associated with the conflict between actual responsibilities to self, one's principles, and others (possibly including God).

That's more the sense that I would use it in.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

240 pounds of trouble

Today's visit to my doctor has been preying on my mind for some time. To say I'd been dreading it would be too strong, but I was certainly uncomfortable.

Ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes, it's been instilled into me that I need to lose weight – watch your diet and take thirty minutes of exercise each day. It's that simple.

"I'd like you to lose about three kilogrammes by the next time I see you," my doctor said. That's about 6½ pounds.

Had I done it?

Of course not. After all, what was at stake except my life and my health?

I could have made a case to explain it away. Told him how I'd thrown my back out and taken a month to get over it. Explained that my sister keeps me up so late I'm more likely to take a 30-minute nap than a 30-minute walk. Even played the sympathy card and said that since my mother died I have trouble motivating myself to do anything at all.

But the truth, which is (mostly) what I went for, is that like many things in my life it was just a matter of procrastination.

I had managed to lose one kilo and my sugar was down a fraction, so it wasn't a total debacle. In fact I wasn't doing so badly considering that I was running out of my tablets and had had to take a reduced dose to make it through to this appointment.

What about all this publicity about flu shots and diabetics, I asked. "I recommend diabetics get a flu shot," he replied. "They're more susceptible to bacterial infections that accompany influenza." I got the impression that I was more likely to develop pneumonia if I got the flu.

I should call my GP and ask for that flu shot.

And an adaptation of which famous novel was recently blurbed by the BBC7 website as "The world's most famous detective takes on the world's most famous dog"?
Yes, it was the Hound of the Baskevilles!

Troy Holaday (a professor from Indiana) has been gratifying C.S. Forester fans by posting Horatio Hornblower adaptations on his website.

But these are big files. Today I downloaded a zip-file of 255MB containing a 52-episode Hornblower radio serial. This took me 2½ hours to download on my 25kb/sec ADSL broadband. I'd certainly never have tried this on my dial-up connection.

But while I may appreciate the ability to do this, not everyone is so happy about the broadband situation in Australia. The Financial Review newspaper even published a scathing article that dubbed it "Fraudband."

Some very unflattering comparisons were made with Canadian users of broadband, who are able to access the internet much faster and more cheaply. Although some of the cases were clearly chosen for effect (anybody who chooses some of the Bigpond deals they gave as typical examples of Australian broadband needs his head examined), it certainly puts Australian telcos and ISPs in a poor light.

Friday, May 12, 2006

goose out

While on a coffee break at the office, listened to a 1944 episode of the radio show Suspense - "Fugue in C Minor" by Lucille Fletcher (who also wrote "Sorry Wrong Number"). Ida Lupino is engaged to Vincent Price, a man who has built his house around his giant pipe organ. Price seems nice enough, but his two children are convinced the organ is haunted by the ghost of their mother.

If only that was all that it was...

Nice spooky stuff. I've been downloading a host of these Suspense shows from one of the radio fan websites; the trouble is that I'm scared to listen to them after dark, so I'm a bit behind with actually hearing them.

Those miners have successfully been rescued from the bottom of the Tasmanian gold mine after 11 days. A happy ending for the men and their families.

Speaking of radio, I was musing how much of a radio event it was for my family. Others may have gleaned all the latest details from the television or the newspapers, but to me it was wireless all the way.

The first intimation that two of the miners were still alive came on Sunday night last week. The Coodabeen Champions comedy/chat show was on ABC radio and just before the 8 o'clock news they crossed to the Tasmanian newsroom for an update. It was a stirring moment.

Then for the rest of the week Tim Cox did his weekday morning show not from the Hobart studio but from the first aid room at the mine. This can't have been easy, but he did a great job. In the evenings, Tony Delroy's Nightlife show included a live cross to the mine every night around 1 a.m.

And when I woke up this morning, the first thing I heard was the good news coming over the clock radio.

God bless all who worked so hard to make this day happen.

Waterfowl belong outside. I don't want to wake up and find a goose sitting on the end of my bed.

That's the sort of thing that was going through my head when the backdoor jammed in the open position last week. Not only was it going to be cold during the winter but it was going to be difficult keeping the poultry out of the house.

Fortunately my sister Julie is more mechanically minded than I am – she got out the hammer and the drill and soon had it back in order again. Thank goodness for that.

Julie was off to a lunch the other day. I dropped her at Salamanca Place then went into the central city block to pay some bills, fill some prescriptions and pick up the magazines.

I had lunch at Euro in the mall, reading the Melbourne paper and doing some people-watching. It was interesting to see the sort of folk who drifted in and out after the lunch-time crowd had gone.

There were two or three students at the side table, exchanging comments about life and art on a fairly high level. By the front there was a couple, apparently tourists, who looked a little vexed about something and hurried off after their meal.

One guy came in and started giving (at length) his opinions about the sign on the front window. He discussed it in exquisite detail and just went on and on. If I'd been behind the counter, I would have told him to put a sock in it or clear off, but the staff must have been used to him.

He finally left but my relief was short-lived. Within five minutes he was back. He'd decided he'd have a coffee, but first he wanted to discuss in detail exactly what each sort of coffee consisted of....

It's a long time since I was in the retail business. Obviously I've lost the carefully-cultivated shield of patience that lets you put up with people like him.

7% of people in Australia have it. Type 2 Diabetes is a virtual epidemic among people with poor life style and obesity.

"It's easy to do things. It's not easy to think what to do." Jamie in Mythbusters


Sunday, May 07, 2006

That Third Man

The possums got all the quinces this year, so it was a pleasant surprise to walk into the church hall on Sunday and see someone with an over-abundance had left a please-take-one crate of quinces. We brought home a handful and might stew them with some apples. Yum.

The possums have been around at Julie's house most weeks lately, and this week she was feeding the chickens and looked up to see a wallaby on the other side of the fence just a few feet away. They often go browsing through the gardens across the street, but they don't usually venture across the road.

Speaking of church, spare a thought for our associate minister [R2] who was preaching this morning on a really complex subject (predestination). He was just past the halfway mark when one of the members of the congregation took ill.

Imagine if you can trying to hold an audience's attention with this difficult topic and all the time their eyes keep straying across to the people administering CPR next to the pulpit. This would have to be up there in the worst-possible-scenario list for any preacher.

P.S: the woman in question was all right.

Saturday was Orson Welles' birthday, I noticed in the newspaper, so before going to bed I listened to an episode of his radio series Harry Lime [a 1951 spin-off from the movie The Third Man] .

You can get the Harry Lime radio show from OTRCAT.COM.

On Sunday afternoon, I returned home for lunch to find the arts show on ABC-TV were showing a documentary about the making of The Third Man.

Not a coincidence, I suggest.

An intense cold front is generating very strong winds, heavy rain and a cold showery change in the southeast of Australia, says the Weather Bureau. Northerly winds ahead of the front are directing warm norhterly winds over eastern NSW. A high pressure system in the west is keeping WA mostly dry.

The southern jetstream is helping maintain an intense front over the southeast and generate strong winds and rain. The northern jetstream is directing some high cloud over northwest WA but is otherwise not affecting the nation's weather.

In the early evening, ruddy Mars is in Gemini, and can be seen changing position every night. Saturn is easily spotted in the northern sky of Australia as a pale gold object, within binocular range of the Beehive cluster.

Jupiter is at its biggest and brightest on Friday May 5; it rises in the late evening and is the brightest object above the eastern horizon. In the dawn sky bright Venus is readily seen. On the early morning of Saturday May 6, the Eta Aquariids meteor shower should provide a meteor every two minutes or so.

Young adults in the United States fail to understand the world and their place in it, according to a survey-based report on geographic literacy released this week:

Take Iraq, for example. Despite nearly constant news coverage since the war there began in 2003, 63 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate the country on a map of the Middle East.

Seventy percent could not find Iran or Israel.

Nine in ten couldn't find Afghanistan on a map of Asia.

And 54 percent were unaware that Sudan is a country in Africa.

Remember the December 2004 tsunami and the widespread images of devastation in Indonesia? Three-quarters of respondents failed to find that country on a map. And three-quarters were unaware that a majority of Indonesia's population is Muslim, making it the largest Muslim country in the world.

"Young Americans just don't seem to have much interest in the world outside of the U.S.," said David Rutherford, a specialist in geography education at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C

Perhaps even more worrisome is the finding that few U.S. young adults seem to care. Fewer than three in ten think it's absolutely necessary to know where countries in the news are located. Only 14 percent believe speaking another language fluently is a necessary skill.

Fewer than one in five young Americans own a world map.

This geographic ineptitude was further emphasized when young Americans were asked questions on how the United States fits into the wider world.

Three in ten respondents put the U.S. population between one and two billion (it's just under 300 million, according the U.S. Census Bureau). Seventy-four percent said English is the most commonly spoken native language in the world (it's Mandarin Chinese).

Personally I don't find the results that surprising. It took me some years to understand that other people couldn't visualise a map of the world in their head at will.

My problem is trying to remember the new names of countries!


Friday, May 05, 2006

this chicken is deceased

If I seemed despondent about the weather yesterday, it was because it was the wettest day I'd seen for months. You should have seen me rummaging through the wardrobe looking for a raincoat.

Did this one still fit? Was that the one with the tear on the shoulder? What about this one with all the cobwebs on it?

Last year the winter was so mild that I hadn't needed my wet-weather gear, and you know how things tend to get lost if you don't use them for a couple of years. I eventually found a light raincoat, some gloves and a cap, deciding I was ready to venture outdoors at last.

At least I wasn't squelching about in the mud at my sister's place. While she was out feeding the horse and the poultry, I was content to take the dogs out in the backyard and throw a few pieces of apple for them to chase. The ground was damp enough underfoot out there, but it was great compared to the duck pen.

Not that the poultry were a great source of comfort to Julie. She had three of her chickens die on her in the space of four days.

And when that happens, there's always one that you miss more than the others. In this case, it was the littlest one, the hen we nicknamed "The Roadrunner" because of her long neck and determined expression.

Julie used to joke that she was like an anorexic supermodel in build, but sadly that seemed to be what did her in - she stopped eating and simply faded away.

It's surprising how much personality you can get in even a chicken.

I have been listening to quite a few Old Time Radio programmes lately and there are some gems among them.

Of course they aren't all winners. For example last week I listened to a 1953 episode of Hall of Fantasy "Out of the Sky" which was quite competently made but for a modern listener lacked a single spark of originality. It was rather like watching one of those old black-and-white B-movies on the late show:
Strange deaths arouse suspicion.
The government investigates.
An alien invader is discovered.
The Bomb is dropped.
In the last scene the hero stresses the need for continued vigilance.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with it but there's nothing much right with it.

We shouldn't fall into the all-too-human trap of making sweeping generalizations like "All OTR shows are neglected classics" or "All modern music is rubbish."

After all, that's the dictionary meaning of prejudice -- pre-judging things.

The Australian magazine PC User is celebrating its 200th issue and there have been some amusing flashbacks to issues of previous decades.

I especially liked the reprint from a 1995 issue that solemnly advised us that a multi-media capable PC needed at least a 400MB hard disk!


Things have certainly changed.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

malevolent May

Gosh it's been a shocking day. Tuesday was all right until the next morning, but when I woke up it was an awful day. It poured rain and started to snow on the mountains. At least one party of hikers have already set off their EPIRB mayday signal.

And doesn't this weather find all the leaks in the roof? Over at my sister's house she was running around grabbing up plastic bowls to put under all the drips. At my place the front porch was inundated because I haven't yet done anything about the blocked guttering caused by intrusive vines.

But it could be worse. The little town of Beaconsfield in northern Tasmania is in the spotlight this week because of two miners trapped at the bottom of a gold mine.

The media is all over the place, waiting for triumph or tragedy. So far they've managed to get a pipe through to them so they can communicate and send them fresh water.

And (a sign of the times) an iPod for each of them!

Most of my spare time this week has been spent trying to work why Julie's laptop won't run Internet Explorer any more. Searching and chatting all over the place with no result yet.

The strange part is that she and I have identical machines, so why am I still on-line and she isn't?

It all seemed to start after that last Windows Update but uninstalling it didn't help things.

And why has she lost Virtual Machine from her system?