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.

Free Counter
Free Counter

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.

Free Counter
Free Counter

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.

Free Counter
Free Counter

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.

Free Counter
Free Counter

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!)

Free Counter
Free Counter

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.

Free Counter
Free Counter