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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