Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Steve Biddulph as observer

An article by Steve Biddulph appeared in yesterday's Hobart Mercury, saying hard things about endemic corruption and croneyism in the island state. Sane voices get little hearing in high places there. Is this a model of what might happen nation-wide? Does it already happen?

Steve Biddulph is a noted psychologist and author ("The Secret of Happy Children", and other titles), and while it's many years since I spent an intensive weekend course in Adelaide with him as tutor, my admiration for the man has never diminished. At the very least I rate him as an intelligent observer, and a person of high principle. I'd say he is worth reading and hearing. As for corruption in government(s), should we worry... ?

Oh my, what a silly thought.

Here's the link:  Steve Biddulph, Hobart Mercury article

Monday, 28 March 2011

My Part in Formula One Grand Prix Racing

I watched Sunday's Australian Formula One Grand Prix race from Melbourne, first of the year in the F1 tour. My personal contribution was to murmur little brrm...brrm noises while nodding off for an afternoon nap. But I woke in time to see the last few laps. New use of language always interests me: three drivers "podium-ed", and so they got to do that absurd thing with the squirting of bubbly from oversized bottles.

German 23-year old Sebastian Vettel looks unstoppable, and was last year's champion. U.K.'s Lewis Hamilton was next, and - a first-ever podium-finisher from Russia - Vitaly Petrov was third. Podium will be my word-of-the week.

I am supposed to know what car teams they drive for, because that is what's important in motor sport, but I must have been having my snooze when it was mentioned. Oh, I think the winning vehicle was Red Bull Racing Renault... their other car came fifth, driven by Australia's disconsolate Mark Webber.

An amazing thing to behold is the wheel-changing during some pit-stops... set of four different tyres swapped over in.... 7 or 8 seconds! Takes me that long to remember which side of my middle-aged Verada I'm meant to get in, which supposes I knew where I left the keys. That's worth a podium finish.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

More cricket, Romania, and Sir Terry Pratchett

A philosophical footnote to yesterday's end to the Oz cricketers' campaign in India: the sum total of human happiness was enhanced (one presumes) more by the sheer number of happy Indian cricket-lovers, against a similar proportion of the 20+ million Australians. Even if half of each country's population is indifferent to the game, my guess is that the people-ratio is ...let's see, roughly half of a billion to half of twenty million. Yep. Fifty to one. Ah, that explains it! Ricky "Punter" Ponting in a fit of kindness to the planet LET the other side win. I knew there was a good reason.

And the New Zealanders progressed to the semis by beating the South Africans. One journalist who should know better said that the NZ win was extra cause for Australian misery. Do some Australians really think like that? For me, if the home side is out of the running, then our trans-Tasman neighbours automatically become the next in line to barrack for, when pitted against the rest of the world. Go Kiwis!

Last night I missed seeing ABC's "New Tricks" because (a) I forgot I could record it, and (b) an editing job came to me from Romania, which took until 10.15pm and was pernickety, but worth it this morning when the client gave it a rave review and his thanks (with exclamation mark!), saying that the material had already been posted as a website complete with my edits in among all the HTML. Actually I don't edit HTML code (love those initials: Hyper Text Markup Language) but rather have to edit AROUND it without messing with it. A bit like working in the garden without stepping on the snails.

Lastly, big thanks to Dee who just sent me info about the Terry Pratchett talk on 17 April in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. Tempting, but I won't be going. Fans of his 38 books are delighted that his health is holding up well enough to make this trip from England. Sir Terry has early-onset Alzheimers.The theme of his talk, and the event, is intriguing: "Imagination, not Intelligence, Made us Human" - you have to like that.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Cricket and casters

Too bad. The Australian cricketers lost their World Cup quarter final match to a too strong India, who will meet their arch rivals Pakistan next Wednesday. It is the end of an era, no doubt. Every cricket lover applauded captain Ricky Ponting's century, which wasn't enough to hold off the Indian brilliance, especially openers Tendulkar and Sehwag. Nothing can take away the extraordinary record of Australia's run of 3-in-a-row wins of this World Cup tournament... but it ended last night; 3.30am my time. Guess who is a walking zombie today!

I never knew it would be a tough call to arrange a piano move. After drawing several blanks, I wait to be contacted by a Barossa Valley firm who say they can do the job but not until they have another bigger move scheduled on the Yorke Peninsula. . Thank you to the helpful friends who point out it would be simple enough to tow the piano behind the car: after all, the  instrument has little wheels, and the distance is only 30km.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Crash landings and bad-hair nights

Well, one television commentator won today's Will Award for silliest use of the language when he referred to the  downed F15 aircraft near Benghazi as having made a "crash-landing", AFTER the two crew ejected. Um, no, guys. That's a CRASH. Buy me a beer and I'll explain the difference.

Near home, I heard that Edithburgh had three inches of rain in the old money last Sunday. Nearly 8cm. Just as well I took the umbrella. The autumn weather has gone all overcast and gloomy.

Musically, thank you Elsie for the kind remarks about yesterday's efforts at WUC hall. (Scope there for a new name.) Any suggestions?

My "boss" in Copenhagen who sends some freelance editing work my way just sent an email on a couple of small points - one of them justified, soon corrected, abject grovel...etc  Wondered why he was so grumpy, 'til I realised it was 1.30am with him. Workaholic, insomniac?? Or just having a bad-hair day in the middle of the night. Know the feeling!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Big Question (guess what it is)

It is a very wet Sunday although the rain waited until I hung out some washing. That's OK: just shows that the universe is working normally. Then I went to Edithburgh and walked for a while, armed with an umbrella.

Can anyone tell me a nice easy way to get audible email alerts? I am checking out Yahoo, which, I believe, has a downloadable application for just that. More later.

The local paper's front page headline says there's a new mouse plague. I was too mean to buy the paper, but I have had a plague of two mice this week, both of them now ex-mice. Sorry, guys. It's not personal. I heard of one acquaintance - from another - who caught five on the same day.

Actually, when I heard a trap go off, two nights ago in the small hours, I got out of bed to discover (apart from the mouse in the next room) a very large beetle on the bedroom curtains, big enough, or so I imagined in my groggy state, to have carried me off to its lair. Instead I removed it to the patio, where another of the same species was waiting for it, and - last I saw - the two of them went off together towards the geranium. Beetles are true insects and I read somewhere that they are the most numerous group (that is, in the number of beetle species) within the insect world. But I can't remember if it was four thousand, or forty thousand. Heaps anyway. They seem to be more benign to humans than many other flying or creepy crawly insects: one thinks naturally of the wretched mosquitoes. Lots of other wee beasties are not insects at all, like spiders or cockroaches or millipedes or earwigs or silverfish.... I wonder what they think of us.

Friday was an interesting first, when four of us went to Stansbury to admire Lois's new piano. Well, we did, but Lois was magnanimous in many ways. In addition to allowing us to admire the piano, she coached us in voice exercises for improved singing (some hope, ever optimistic!); she provided an elegant arvo tea; and gobsmacked me by generously giving me... her "other piano" - shades of Winifred Atwell - an American-made Waldorf of a certain age. My front room has already been re-configured for when I manage to organize transport and movers. Then the Big Question will be if the piano will negotiate the front hall and the right-angled turn through the doorway of the room. The same puzzle defeated a settee, but the piano is not nearly as long. See? Nobody can claim that life is not full of excitement. And I have made no other mention, in this blog post, of tsunamis, nuclear disasters, or war in north Africa, all current international concerns.
PS I finally got around to fixing the time-zone settings. No longer will you read a Sunday blog post, when the time is alleged to be still a Saturday.

Friday, 18 March 2011

... or the tango

No, on second thoughts. Not Irish dancing. We could try the tango with one or more of our beautiful belles. Check out this blast from the past: I Love Lucy. I know, you're too young to have heard of it.

Don't be caught flatley footed

Hi, this is for you, Denis and Don. In much of the world it is STILL Saint Patrick's Day, so I thought we three could practise this dance number for our next concert. Ha Ha.

When Chicago-boy Michael Flatley broke from Riverdance, he formed his own company, Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance. Pretty cheeky title. I hope you agree they're rubbish. We can do better.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Forest of pot plants; belly dancer; dog; fake crocodile

Our song group performed (four times) during yesterday's concert in the Yorketown Town Hall at the annual event involving all the Senior Citizens' Clubs of the southern towns on the Peninsula. WE thought we did well, not always a good sign. The piano stayed hidden behind a plant display by the local nursery. And one of the other performers was a belly dancer, sandwiched program-wise between the bush singers and poets.

Fortunately there were no animal acts. We have enough trouble with Sam the dog in our regular monthly gigs. Sam doesn't necessarily come on stage but there's the ever-present hazard of tripping over him, or being licked unexpectedly.

In the evening I watched Roger Moore being James Bond in Octopussy (1963). I thought I'd seen the multiple Bond films, but this rang no bells. Either I never saw it before, or the memory's going. I mean, going more than before. Here's a piece of trivia to test if YOU know it. How did James B. get to the mysterious island of the lady known as Octopussy? Answer: inside a fake crocodile.  Extraordinary to think that it's 48 years since the movie's first release.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Japan's tragedy

The whole world must be reeling at the continuing reports from Japan on last Friday's devastation by tsunami.
If anyone is unsympathetic to others' plight (and often we're not too good at it. I know I'm not) then we only need think that we ourselves can be hit by natural awfulness with no warning. Our own country has experienced, just in recent  months, flooding, fires, cyclones.

The scale of the Japanese event is far beyond the "average" disaster, seeming even greater because of the immediacy of news and imagery. But a macabre dimension is added: one reason that early reports had little to say about numbers of casualties was that entire towns of ten thousand, eighteen thousand, inhabitants were... wiped out. There was nobody to report, in effect, "no survivors" in those places.

The situation with the several stricken nuclear power stations is by no means under control, and what plays out in coming days and weeks is of concern far beyond the shores (altered as they are!) of the Japanese islands.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Zenga Zenga

This is fun-blooming-tastic. You were getting fed up hearing about Gaddafi the Libyan bossman who might, or might not, still be in power next week. He now features in a mocking YouTube remix rap song which uses words from one of his recent rants, especially the phrase Zenga Zenga (you can read more about if you want).
Two extraordinary things: one, the video has gone viral, heading for 3 million hits mostly in the ARAB world. And second thing: it was put together by an ISRAELI  - journalist Noy Alooshe. This is how disputes should be settled in future!

Tsunamis, grammar, mayhem, mowers, migration

Yes, another week went by between blogposts.

I think I would prefer to have been less predictive of increased seismic activity, after the New Zealand earthquake only weeks ago. The latest 'quake/tsunami and its very major devastation to Japan is beyond anything we have seen since that Christmas Eve tsunami in 2004 which caused over 200,000 deaths. "Seen" is the operative word, because, through the mixed blessing of live aerial TV coverage, we the vicarious witnesses were watching (if we were watching) unbelievable sights of inundation sweeping inland carrying a jumble of buildings, vehicles, ships and ... everything. The forces of nature make our stupid human wars look even more ... stupid.

It's not possible to wallow in misery, for too long at least, because of  mayhem elsewhere, when our immediate patch is (touch wood) spared. Well, I can't manage it: sorry. I suppose we can make gestures; and I salute those who do more, like my former colleague Jim M., a medical doctor, who used to travel to trouble spots to be a volunteer medico with the International Red Cross for the disaster duration.

I was pre-occupied for four days this week with a long editing job helping one overseas author prepare his magnum opus for publication. English isn't that writer's first language (which is true for maybe 50% of my jobs). My software's automatic counter says there were close to five thousand editorial emendations or comments but that's a wild exaggeration (take too long to explain why). Lots, anyway. A friendly rapport developed, sufficient for me to play the grumpy schoolteacher and get away with it. I emailed the author: "You and English prepositions have a love-hate relationship." He pretended to laugh, showing he is polite and has a sense of humour - something he earlier accused me of having. But I only dared to be cheeky because the work was already paid for.

Brenton fixed my elderly Victa mower which I have owned since it was a baby. This morning, out of sheer bravado, I started it up. Fired first go! Hadn't meant to, but I got carried away and went on to cut the bit of couch grass between the plum tree and the older of the two pear trees.Been so long since it was last done that I had pretty much forgotten how it goes, and the grass got the shock of its rather long (30cm) life. Happily, the area is not large. I now envisage importing a tiny herd of wildebeeste to deal with it in future. I suppose they could adjust to a migration pattern taking them around the Yorke Peninsula over the course of each year, although I dunno what the barley farmers will say... but the wildebeeste will enjoy not having rivers with crocodiles to negotiate, like on those Nat Geo docos.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

La Stupenda

Believe it or not our August concert program dares to go where no intergalactic spaceship has gone before, and will include the Vilja song from Franz Lehar's operetta The Merry Widow (a 1979 performance shown). This was niggling at me because we argued over the spelling (I was the note-taker) and tonight I feel more relaxed, upon finding at least eight spellings in use. Vilja is the correct Hungarian written version (of what is, I think, an invented name for the "witch of the wood"). Velia, Velja, Vilia are other contenders, and you can permutate at will. All will be relieved to hear that I will not be the singer. Our group does have good soprano voices.

If the late great Dame Joan Sutherland had known of our existence, I am hopeful that she would have rushed here to volunteer her services, maybe in return for a cup of tea and a sticky bun. Like the rest of us.

Lack of local tsunamis; concerted effort; Kazakh stuff; fruit and wildlife.

We are certainly fortunate in this little part of the world with our run of perfect weather - not too hot, not too cold, not too dry, not too wet, and for the moment no tsunamis, earthquakes, wars or internal revolutions. The adherents of different political parties call each other names, which is all very right and proper. The farmers even say it was a good harvest on our barley-growing peninsula. What have we done right?

Today some of us stirred our stumps (where did that expression come from?) and drew up a provisional program for our singing group's August concert. Well, I took notes, so I suppose that counts as helping.

Online I have done some editing work since the last blog-post, either helping or hindering - I may never know! - Danish authors writing books on business  management, and ministerial decision-makers in Kazakhstan, still a mysterious region for most westerners. In fact, that country is a geographically huge one about which we will hear much more in the future.

I picked the last of my quince tree's little crop. Last year - exactly 12 fruit; this year 24, a one hundred percent increase. Way to go! Two quinces make a nice stewed dessert. The tree is less than head high, and it sits sheltered by an almond tree, whose almonds always get eaten by a flock of galahs. The possums have slightly chewed three of the quinces. Other wildlife: (apart from the ex-mouse mentioned in recent blogs) - a neat little skink (lizard) was resting on my bed  two days ago, but I put it out on the patio. I could see it was irritated by this. So far, no marine iguanas, giraffes, or rough-legged buzzards.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

More Muammar and Mouse

I had to get to bed eventually, needing beauty sleep more than most, so I left Gaddafi at around the two hour mark but he went on for a total of three hours with his rambling effort at apologia for his long regime of internal thuggery and exported acts of murder. (I visited Lockerbie in Scotland not long after the destruction caused by the fall of the passenger plane which was bombed out of the sky by his agents. I am aware that other national governments behave in this way. It is very sad.) As Gaddafi was speaking, his jet aircraft were bombing the rebel-held oil town of Brega near Benghazi, and, according to him, the thousands fleeing the country were either a) not doing it, or b) part of a stunt orchestrated by foreign media.

It has to be reported to that the mouse succumbed overnight to one of the three traps I set, so who am I to complain about acts of terror? It is a bit like the whole Israeli-Palestinian situation: either the mice live here, or I do. Which will it be? Will the rest of the world care? And who will speak for the mouse?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Ranting Gaddafi

I have watched for the past hour live by satellite on the AlJazeera English news channel the extraordinary rambling speech by Libya's Muammar Gaddafi; his third since the major uprising in that country, speaking from Tripoli. A surreal experience. A man in denial, ranting, repetitious, not so much desperate as detached from reality.

Two things added to the oddity ... oh, he has just resumed the rant, full of contradiction and weirdness and absurdity ... the first thing is that through the magic of media we saw a split screen and simultaneous live cover of demonstrators in Benghazi as Gaddafi asserts that they don't exist.

The second thing is closer to home. IN my home! A suspiciously chubby mouse came through from the kitchen, briefly explored the bedroom, then sat in the doorway and watched the Gaddafi speech with me for a while; but got bored and went on into the front hallway. Sensible mouse. Hasn't come back yet.

'Nother Concert and Misspelling

The singers rehearsed morning and afternoon Tuesday - our excuse for lunch and story-swapping - then today another prac in the morning at Parson's Beach (on the coast a little south of Port Victoria) followed by the monthly concert we give to staff and residents at Melaleuca Court Nursing Home in Minlaton.

I was amused in a resigned kind of way to see, on the large map at the Tourist information Centre, that the local Progress Association had managed to spell the name incorrectly as Melalueca, which I mischievously pronounce mella-you-acre. It's a different word (I guess) from the real name, pronounced mella-looka. The melaleuca family of tree species is common here. But its spelling remains a grey area to 90% of the population. Serves us right for making up names from ancient Greek.

As for the concert, there were just enough mistakes and glitches to make us feel at home. Everyone enjoyed it. Our colleagues of the six-piece brass band made plenty of noise, or maybe, when the program said it was their turn, I was just sitting closer than usual. There was even a leprechaun and it's not St Patrick's Day until the 17th. What is going on?