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!


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