Friday, July 28, 2006


Many a true word said in jest.

When my sister and I upgraded to Broadband, the salesman looked slightly surprised when we opted for the 20GB level (10GB peak-time and 10GB off-peak) - we told him it was better to have too high than too low a limit.

Since then it's been a running gag at our place: "Only four more days to go to use up that last 5GB. I don't know if we'll make it."

Well, guess what happened this month?

On the last day of our billing cycle, I thought the Internet seemed a bit sluggish. Julie asked if I'd checked our usage. That seemed a bit unlikely but I took a look.

Oh my, how did that happen?

Then I remembered. There was that website for the Lum & Abner radio comedy that had a link to download an entire year of the show at one hit. I tried it and it was one of those odd downloads that doesn't tell you what the size is.

So I let it run.

And run.

Every so often I'd look at it. 100 MB. 200 MB. 300 MB.

Hours went by.

Finally it was time to go to bed. The download had been running for twelve hours and hadn't finished yet.

"You could leave it running overnight," said Julie but I elected to shut it down before it completed. It was up to about 900 MB already and still going.

That, it struck me, was the crate of straw that broke the camel's back. That would have used up almost 10% of our allocation for the month.

No wonder we'd hit the wall.

OK, I won't do that again.

(There's a follow-up to that story – for a couple of days afterwards my internet connection was still slow. I finally contacted the ISP and they explained that sometimes the modem "remembers" the new speed and I should unplug the modem from the powerpoint for 60 seconds. It worked; I probably should have thought of trying it myself.)

CD listening today:

You Light Up My Life: 22 country gospel greats
Platinum Collection CD #257

The compiler of this album gets a bonus point for putting together the album without doubling up on either artists or songs. Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Slim Whitman, Charley Pride, Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jim Reeves, Frankie Laine... it's all good.
Pleasant listening for $4-95.

I've found a place on the Internet where I can listen to the 1970s drama series CBS Radio Mystery Theater. There's a lot of interesting stuff here, but the drawback is that the first year episodes are horribly muffled.

Given the age of the shows, I assume that somebody recorded them by just putting the microphone of their tape recorder in front of the radio and taping them that way. That's the way I used to do it at the time anyway.

It's an unsophisticated low-tech method and unfortunately the results show it. But sometimes that's the only copy that's in circulation.

The bedroom boombox (the TEAC CD/MP3 player) seems to have given up altogether. It's been increasingly reluctant to play MP3s and last week it didn't want to play CDs either. The good news is the FM radio still works.

I should think about getting a new one sometime, but at the moment I'd rather not spend the cash. If I want to hear anything before I go to bed, I can transfer it onto the little pocket MP3 player - even though I'm not mad about those silly little earphones.

Julie brought over another hen from her place. This one has gone broody so she thought it might look after the chicks she brought over last week. That makes 15 here. have announced their new line-up for free old-time radio programmes. There may be extras, but the basic line-up is as follows:

Monday: Abbott and Costello; Dragnet; Gunsmoke.
Tuesday: Jack Benny ; Mysterious Traveler; Whitehall 1212.
Wednesday: Boston Blackie; The Man Called X; The Saint .
Thursday: The Cisco Kid ; Philip Marlowe; The Whistler.
Friday: Arch Oboler's Plays; Fred Allen; Weird Circle.
Saturday: Lux Radio Theater ; X Minus One; Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.
Sunday: Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator; The Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show; Suspense.

This is a great website and their selection of radio shows is really outstanding for a free site. I recommend it. Click here to visit it.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

trucking down

Driving over to Julie's place, I peered at something at the front of the house. "What's that?" she said.

I stared vainly. "Yes, what is that?" I echoed.

As we drew up, it turned out to be a medium-sized truck on its side just off the road. The driver, a policeman and some onlookers were gathered around.

It seems, Julie's odd-job man told her, that the truck's brakes had failed as it came down the hill and he turned uphill to slow his speed. It almost worked, but the truck had overturned before it slowed sufficiently.

"I heard the air-brakes scream while I was working in the yard," he said. "I thought maybe I'd better start running if he was going to come right onto the property."

And indeed it was a close thing. The truck had come to rest just inches from the fence-line. Another couple of feet and it would have gone through the fence, probably running into one of the pine trees. In that case, I doubt the driver would have been able to scramble out unharmed with the aid of the odd-job man as he did.

We made a phone call that we would be delayed – n overturned truck in your back yard certainly counts as "circumstances beyond one's control" – and watched the rest of the affair.

A stout little tow-truck attached two sets of chains and slowly winched it out of the smashed greenery until ever-so-slowly it toppled back onto its wheels again. We left while the crew swarmed over it like mahouts examining an ailing elephant.

I calculated we had time in the afternoon either to go out and get a load of duck food or to stop at Café 73 in Moonah. In the end the Caesar Salad won out.

That evening we attended the Moonah Arts Centre for this month's concert. It was titled Fascinating Rhythm and was billed as featuring cabaret songs and jazz classics, but this was slightly misleading. If anything, the tone was closer to the Metropolitan Opera than it was to Broadway.

Soprano Charlotte McKercher and percussionist Robert Rule gave us an eclectic mixture of music ranging from Kurt Weill to Benjamin Britten – I've never heard Bach played on the marimba before! – culminating in the premiere of a new work by local composer Ian Cresswell based on ancient Japanese love poems.

Not quite what we were expecting but an interesting evening.

Fibber McGee and Molly

ABC Television have been running some interesting British programmes at the weekend this month. The new series of Doctor Who is as intriguing as last year (this week we saw Queen Victoria menaced by an extra-terrestrial werewolf), Catherine the Great is an interesting docu-drama about a historical figure I knew little about, while every episode of Bleak House makes me think this would have made a great Hammer movie.

Julie has brought home some more patients for her chicken hospital. Five young chicks who looked at death's door were rushed over to my house and placed under a reading lamp. One chick, which I thought already dead, was resuscitated with heat and massage.

This makes a total of 14 poultry she has in residence at my house. The total at her place is beyond my figuring out.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

walking wounded

What an unpleasant world it can be for the helpless. Tuesday I gave Kay a lift into the city as usual. That afternoon I was at the office when the phone rang. She had had a fall in an office downtown and they thought she should see a doctor.

So I closed up and went down to pick her up. She was shaken and had a nasty-looking graze on the top of her head. They transported her out to my car in a wheelchair and I drove round to the emergency room at the hospital.

There was a long wait to see a doctor - "I can't wait that long. My back won't take sitting for hours in one of those plastic chairs in the waiting room."

OK, so what were the options. There was a private medical clinic just around the corner... who charged $60 for a 15-minute consultation. So that was out.

What about her GP? The hospital gave us a phone and we called the practice. The receptionist listened to my story, then checked her schedule. "No, we don't have any appointments. Tell her we can't see her today." I hung up, vaguely stunned; I know I don't follow the medical news closely but I wasn't aware they'd repealed the Hippocratic oath.

We walked out of the ER. Kay was pale and a little unsteady and said "I'm starting to shiver, but it's not that cold today."

"You're in shock," I said. "And that at least is something I can help you with." I took her back to the office and did all the things that they taught me in the St John's Ambulance first aid course at school in 1964. I calmed her, kept her warm and gave her hot sweet tea.

So far so good.

After that, I did what anybody would do next. I googled "head injuries".

This gave me a few questions to ask. "Any blurred vision? Any feelings of nausea? How bad is the headache? Do you have any - good heavens! - clear fluid running out of your nose or ears?" The answers seemed satisfactory, but I stressed that just because she felt better she shouldn't assume she didn't need a doctor.

I hurried through my work, then drove her home, gave her some over-the-counter pain-killers and recommended she see a doctor tomorrow.

Heading home I mused on the strange priorities that some people have. As we'd left the hospital, the driver of the car parked next to mine said "Can you get to your car? Or should I move mine?" I told him that we should be all right. But as I helped Kay into the car I heard another man loitering nearby lean over and say to him "He didn't scratch your car when he opened the door did he?"

Strike me! Here we are outside a hospital with people involved clearly suffering, and all he can do is stick his oar in. Some people!

This week's old time radio listening:

SUSPENSE "Alibi Me" 51-01-04

Stream-of-consciousness thriller with Mickey Rooney as the man who has impulsively killed his life-long enemy and now has only 90 minutes to arrange a watertight alibi before the body is discovered. Maybe overly frantic for some, but still quite entertaining.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO 45-06-07 "Costello gets a tattoo"
Lou consults a dream analyst to find why he keeps dreaming about beautiful girls. No standout comedy bits but some pleasant songs from chanteuse Connie Haines. Nice voice. [Her fan website states she landed the A&C job in 1942 and stayed with the program for four years as well as performing with their touring show during the summer months.]

THE LONE RANGER 47-01-15 "From Outer Space"

No, not a western science fiction episode; in this story the masked man is asked to protect a chest of unique mineral specimens from a meteorite on its way to Washington DC. The Lone Ranger has embarked on his most thrilling and unusual adventure, the announcer assures us at the end of [aaagh] part 1 - I hadn't realised this was a 4-part story when I started listening to it.

MY FRIEND IRMA 47-04-11 episode #1

Some old time comedies are amusing partly because of their period feel or the nostalgia factor, but this is genuinely funny. It's the story of a blonde (very blonde) stenographer named Irma Peterson, played by Marie Wilson, and her screwy friends. One of Irma's best friends was her logical and very dependable roommate, the narrator of the show, Jane Stacy, played by Cathy Lewis. Their misadventures are very funny even today.

Wednesday I had a couple of hours free so I went into the city. Ellison Hawker's comic shop had phoned at the weekend to say that I had rather a lot of Disney comics and could I pick them up.

They were over-reacting - it was only this month's and last month's order, a total of eight comic books altogether. Hardly enough to panic about, I would have thought.

But while I was in town with time to spare, I had a rare opportunity to browse through the Red Cross second-hand bookshop. In years gone by, I was in there all the time, but nowadays I hardly ever get in there.

So I wandered around, picking up a few whodunit novels for my sister and one or two books by vintage authors for myself. Finally I circled round to the front of the shop and glanced at a couple of boxes on display by the door.

"Is that the English quarterly The Countryman?" I asked.

"Yes, somebody must have been having a clear-out and brought in a whole box of them. We've sold quite a few already."

"Hmmm, how much are they?"

"Oh they're only thirty cents each."

"How much for the whole lot?"

So I left with fifty copies of The Countryman - I must have known something when I took the extra large bag with me.

I notice someone on eBay is offering issues for $4-95 but I don't know if they get many buyers at that price.

I've read the magazine quite often over the years. It's a useful little volume to have next to the bed; sometimes you just want to read a few pages to let your brain unwind before you put the light out. This is perfect for that.

Of course whether I get through all fifty copies is another matter!

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Treasures and Choices

Someone somewhere had a great idea. Why not take all the priceless relics held by libraries around Australia and put them all into a travelling exhibition?

National Treasures from Australia’s Great Libraries is a landmark exhibition that tells a rich and remarkable story about our history, our nation, our treasures … and our libraries.

It brings together, for the first time, more than 170 extraordinary items that have shaped our nation. Drawn from the magnificent collections of Australia’s National, State and Territory libraries, the exhibition contains manuscripts, maps, drawings, paintings and objects —from the everyday to the exotic — all linked to Australia.

National Treasures from Australia’s Great Libraries includes familiar icons such as James Cook’s Endeavour journal, Ned Kelly’s helmet and Donald Bradman’s favourite bat. Others may be less well known, such as the heartbreaking story of Mary Watson, who perished with her baby off a deserted Queensland island, or the diary of Shane Gould, written as a teenager during her record-breaking swims at the tragic Munich Olympics.

Spanning the earliest European depiction of the Southern Cross drawn in the 16th century, through our convict and colonial era, two world wars, recent innovations and our constant obsessions with sport, food and wine, this exhibition gives a fresh insight into the diversity and breadth of our history and what it means to be Australian today.

I found the exhibition awe-inspiring. It's divided up into broad categories -- The Southern Cross, Hope and Hardship, Heroes and villains, War and Loss, Innovation and Industry, Culture and National Obsessions.

Not only were there relics that everyone knows (Ned Kelly's helmet, the Eureka flag, etc), there were items I never expected to see (Captain Bligh's log, Lasseter's diary, Kingsford-Smith's 1928 aviation map) and some that I didn't know existed (like the scrapbook kept by pre-war undercover policeman Sgt Frank Fahy who was nicknamed "The Shadow").

Quite fascinating stuff. There's even a podcast describing the exhibition
available here

Meanwhile those industrious people at Hobart Rep have been busy. In between fullblown productions, they organised a special event for Sunday night – a play reading of the classic comedy Hobson's Choice by Harold Brighouse.

I didn't know much about the play, though I was vaguely aware it had been filmed in 1954 starring Charles Laughton. But for $5 I was willing to take a chance on it.

The Playhouse was half full when we arrived, and there was a perceptible buzz of excitement as we waited for the curtain to go up. I noted that the performance was billed as "a moved play reading". I had expected that this would consist of a rehearsed reading on a bare stage (sort of like watching a radio play) but in fact it was more elaborate than that.

The cast were in 19th century costume, and there were a few basic props on the stage. Most of the cast had the script in one hand throughout the evening, but in all other respects it was just like a "real" play.

A boot-making business in Lancashire is the catalyst for a a power struggle inside the Hobson family. Peter Middleton was wonderfully bumptious as Mr Hobson, with Ann Lennon-George as the "old maid" daughter who knows what she wants and how to get it. Stuart MacDonald was engaging as the mild-mannered cobbler who finds himself the third point in the triangle.

A very enjoyable evening.

I do spend a bit of time listening to OTR [Old Time Radio] programmes as above but mostly during the week I finish the day listening to my favorite late-night chat show Tony Delroy's Nightlife. You can listen to the show in streaming audio from the ABC website - and many from around the world do - but now for the first time highlights from the show are available as podcasts. (No, unfortunately this doesn't include the midnight quiz segment The Challenge.)

Tune in and hear what people are talking about on radio Down Under.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

poultry and prejudice

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

If I had the right camera equipment I could have taken a classic photograph of Mount Wellington on Tuesday night.

The temperature peaked about breakfast time, then the rest of the day was dark and drizzly with the mercury stuck on 5º. But around midnight the strong winds blew the rain away and the full moon was shining down unhindered.

Up on the mountain, the moonlight reflected off the snow and the remaining snowclouds hovering around it. It made for an unforgettable sight against the darkness of the clear night sky.

Tuesday afternoon was a quiet day at work. Julie had spent the afternoon over at the home of a fellow poultry-fancier and arrived home with two new hens and a rooster. The new rooster looks like a lively little customer and has a very distinctive crow (so I hope he's not with us for too long).

We just had time for a quick meal before racing off to the Playhouse to see their new production, Helen Jerome's play based on the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice.

Solid performances from all, with John Andrews the calm masculine lynchpin of the Bennet household, Noreen Le Motte as his scatterbrained wife and Jane Russell as their strongwilled daughter Elizabeth.

James Casey is the straitlaced Mr Darcy. If you haven't seen him in other shows you might mistake his starchy manner for poor acting, but I've seen him play a wide range of characters on stage.

Jane Russell [unfortunate name for an actress!] is a recent graduate of the National Theatre Drama School. She's a real find and lights up the place whenever she's on stage.

My mobile phone stopped sending outgoing phone calls or text messages at the end of last week. I think it was the telephone company's not-so-subtle way of reminding me that I hadn't paid this month's bill.

I took care of it and was soon back on the air. It reminded me how easily we get used to things ­– ­­yesterday's luxuries become tomorrow's essentials. Originally I regarded a phone in my pocket as a rather indulgent item, but a couple of days without it was more irritating than I expected.

My sister bought me a little pedometer last month, presumably to encourage me to keep up my much-needed exercise regimen. It clips neatly onto the belt and clicks off the number of steps I take.

The problem is that the reset button is placed on the front of the pedometer. It might not be a problem for athletes jogging around the track, but to wear it in the real world presents some difficulties.

Whenever I wear it for the day, inevitably somewhere along the way I brush against something or bend over the car and *pop!* the numbers reset to zero.

Consequently I still don't know how many steps I take in the course of an ordinary day.

Tony Delroy's Nightlife, my favorite radio programme, is now available as a podcast. Go to the ABC page and see what's available

click here

Meanwhile Tasmanian dignitaries and amateur radio enthusiasts have spent the afternoon toasting one of Tasmania's greatest technological contributions. Tasmanian Governor William Cox transmitted messages to his Victorian counterpart across Bass Strait, to re-enact a ceremony that took place 100 years ago today.

The event in 1906 was the first known Marconi wireless transmission across water in the Southern Hemisphere.

The president of the Devonport Maritime Museum, Bob Vellacott, says the gathering marked the city's special contribution to radio technology. "The event 100 years ago proved indeed that the wireless transmission could go across a large stretch of water" he said.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

these crowing times

Other people's jobs are really boring to read about most of the time. But it strikes me that I've never written about what I do at the church office.

We don't actually sit around reading the Bible and praying - well, not all the time anyway.

Two days a week I make my way into the city and take up residence in a 19th century stone building which paradoxically holds quite a lot of modern office equipment.

Most of my time is spent at the main desk surrounded by computers, printers, modems, faxes and scanners. Information flows in by phone, fax and e-mail to be digested and distributed.

This Tuesday, for example, I did a first draft of the Sunday bulletin which we'll print later in the week. I corrected a set of rosters, typed a couple of letters, answered the e-mails, sold a book on baptism to someone who rang up looking for it, and checked the smoke alarms.

During my coffee break I listened to a new adaptation of Rider Haggard's novel She which is the current Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4's website. I remember reading this about forty years ago when I was at school. I don't recall the plot in detail but I can picture the cover picture and the old children's library in Macquarie Street. I find that memory sometimes works that way: like a collection of snapshots in an album.

This morning I was awake early and the roosters outside the back door started crowing. I went out and tried to keep them quiet. I was having mixed success, then the rooster inside started answering them.

I gave up at that point. Even if I could shush noisy fowls, I couldn't be in two places at once.

I'll be really happy when Julie finishes the extensions to her hen house and has room to take these two lads home with her.

Similarly, walking the dogs at Julie's house is full of unexpected adventures. Especially involving her border collie Emma, who is the most unpredictable dog I've ever met.

I can't stress enough that a border collie is not the ideal dog for those living in the city and inner suburbs. These dogs were bred for work in the outdoors and have the stamina to run all afternoon. They're also intelligent enough to get bored quickly in the backyard, meaning they tend to go over the fence at any opportunity.

This afternoon I took my eyes off her for 30 seconds to answer my mobile phone and when I looked up she was gone. After some searching I eventually found her around the corner and up the hill playing with a stray dog.

That's not the first time she's done something similar. She's such an escape artist we should have named her Houdini.

After a couple of weeks of frugality, I received a cheque that put my account back in the black for a while.

It probably won't stay there for long, because having money means you're more likely to spend it.

For example we were in the supermarket this afternoon and stopped at a display of groceries marked down. It would have been better to have passed by on the other side; in the end we loaded up with examples of three types of biscuits and no less than seven different varieties of tea.

American author Gilbert Stack has always had a passionate interest in history; he has a PhD in history and his academic focus has been the middle ages.

However his short story in the July issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine "Pandora's Luck" is a tale of the Old West, where prizefighter Corey Callaghan and his trainer, Patrick, travel the boxing circuit; in Denver, they meet the beautiful gambler Pandora Parson who seems to have her own strange sort of luck. "Look for more of Corey and Patrick's adventures in these pages in the future" promise the editors.

I've been working my way through one of my MP3 disks of old radio programmes I've collected. Usually I keep one of these in my room so I can listen to one or two before bed each night.

THE BLUE BEETLE 400517 Sabotage
Based on an old comic strip; this one was probably more fun to read than to listen to.

COUNTERSPY 490816 statue of death
U-235 smuggling in Mexico - the body count is dismayingly high in all the episodes I've heard of this show.

GREAT GILDERSLEEVE Birdie the heiress
Typical of the show's warm and fuzzy feel - everyone is dismayed at the prospect of their favorite housekeeper leaving the country.

GUNSMOKE 540712 Texas Cowboys
Matt Dillon faces a band of quick-tempered Texans when it looks like he will have to arrest one of them for murder. But he begins to believe that the man isn't the killer. Another episode of the quintessential western series.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

winter wears on

The hens stop laying. The lawns are white with frost. For a couple of hours the sun shines then darkness descends.

It must be the winter solstice.

June and July in Tasmania are the depth of winter. "As the days lengthen, the cold does strengthen," says the old proverb.

A few ginkgo biloba tablets help keep the chilblains at bay, but I feel like my car – a few dents, slow to start in the mornings and not much charge left in the battery.

The end of the month was a tiring couple of days. For the second Thursday in a row, the photocopier broke down at the vital moment. Very aggravating indeed.

My sister complained that I'm not assertive enough when making complaints. It's just not in my nature to say "Get your **** down here and fix this **** machine before I **** !"

The next morning was icy cold - only 1º in the Celsius scale, which is about 34º in the old scale. I waited by the phone until they rang and made an appointment to fix the machine. A little while after that, just as my sister was starting breakfast, another phone call. "Julie, it's Coralie. Are you still coming round for lunch?" "Aaaaagh!" she said and ran out of the room.

So she went flying off while I donned my galoshes and traipsed around her place feeding the animals. I didn't have much time to spare but I got through everything (except nursing the cats - "there's a time and place for everything" I told them).

Arrived at the office two minutes before the service van. They spent almost 2½ hours pulling the machine to pieces, testing it then pulling it to pieces again.

Finally they announced there seemed to be some gears that weren't meshing. That sounded reasonable. The next time they put the machine back together it actually worked.

And it only took them ten days.

So I did the weekend photocopying and (when my back stopped aching) drove home and made myself a sandwich and a mug of hot chocolate. That last item may have been a mistake, since I felt so tired and sleepy I almost dozed off in my chair.

That night was the monthly concert at the Moonah Arts Centre but the last thing I felt like was dragging myself out on a winter's evening. Where's the listing to see what's on... Hmmm, 15th century choral music. I can live without that.

Saturday morning I was so tired it took me a long time to drag myself out of bed. I had to urge Julie into action - she had another lunch appointment. We fed her animals and raced back so she wouldn't be late. This just gave me time to snatch a cup of coffee and be ready for a visit from Kay and Chris who drop around every second Saturday.

I'm always tired lately. Every day of every week. I seem to be constantly struggling through the quagmire that is everyday living.

Of course it doesn't help that I haven't had a holiday since 1989.

There are all sorts of things available for free on the internet, including music. I've got to say that Accuradio has a truly amazing range of music available for free listening.

There are 24 main channels, and each one has between three and thirty sub-channels. There's even a sub-channel devoted just to all the different versions of "White Christmas" !

If you can't find something to interest you here, you're very hard to please.

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