one after the other

So many things seem to be in series, sometimes things that should only be one are often more. It seems like everything in SF and fantasy is coming out in multi-book epics these days. Then I stop and think, this is not a new development.

I remember reading early Asimov stories and he had his robots series and his Foundation series, not to mention his attempts to unite them all, and of course Tolkien and Middle Earth.

shelf 1

Even one of my favourite books as a child, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ended up being a series. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett seemed to be a standalone, then he wrote some more and some more and suddenly it wasn’t for which I remain ever grateful – speaking of which, I don’t think I’ve read any since I first read them. One day, I must embark on a full Pratchett re-read; re-reading the entirety of Pratchett seems somewhat Odyssean.

Comrades in Arms

Speaking of childhoods, I read so many series: The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, Trixie Belden, Biggles, and many, many Enid Blyton books. In fact, speaking of Biggles, I have finally acquired Comrades in Arms by Capt W.E. Johns which includes stories from each of his main character sets: Biggles, Gimlet, and Worrals.

A couple of years ago I read a then newish SF writer, Becky Chambers and her first novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which in turn has had a sequel, of sorts. At what point do sequels become series? Speaking of which I must get round to reading more from her.

Oz author, Daniel O’Malley wrote The Rook – which was turned into a TV miniseries -and then a sequel, Stilleto. I am eagerly awaiting the 3rd book and have been for a long time. Though Book 1 came out in 2012, book 2 in 2016 so I have some hope that book 3 may appear in 2020. Some. 

a little order

When lockdown commenced, my workload increased and for a few weeks there was a lot more email too. Things did settle down to a normal of sorts eventually. I am fortunate that my entire job can be done online and that I have worked from home before. My last couple of years at Gale was spent exclusively working from home though interspersed with visits to the Melbourne office and libraries around Australia and New Zealand. This time round, there are no visits anywhere…other than to the takeaway up the road and brekky on the weekend.

My days have been much the same minus the commute, in fact the commute has transitioned to an extra hour sleeping in. Curiously I am starting work more refreshed both from the increase in sleep and the lack of travelling. This will be hard to give up though I have experimented in the past with going to bed earlier. One thing I found was that regardless of what time I started, I still tended to finish around the same time at the end of the day.

Finally moving on from milk crates. Cables are somewhat sorted and accessible.

This does mean I haven’t done much beyond what I normally do. I’ve not commenced writing the great Australian novel, nor learnt a new language; I’ve not taken up further study nor undertaken any large projects. Thanks to Ms19 I have taken up roller skating again and I have been walking occasionally.

One project I did take on was organising all my cables and this was a task I’ve been putting off for some years. They’ve primarily been kept in an overflowing milk crate, maybe even some in a second crate. Several years ago I did go through and spool each cable tying them off either with a wire tie or rubber bands. Sadly the rubber bands have not stood the test of time and in many cases were a nasty, sticky mess to clean up. An initial task was to replace all the rubber bands with new ties and clean them. I did get rid of a few cables though I suspect the household had hoped, somewhat optimistically, that I would get rid of a lot more :-)

I ordered a deck of coloured drawers from Officeworks and separated my cables into 5 loose categories: ethernet, power, audio, USB (various types), hardware (including my old Eees). There were a few other odds and ends that ended up in the top couple of drawers eg a couple of HDMI cables have ended up in the top drawer with the ethernet cables as that’s tidier than the drawer with the different types and sizes of audio cables which includes speaker cables, various playstation cables, and sound systems I don’t remember. There’s even several metres of telephone cable which I originally used to run a dial up connection in a terrace house in Newtown with the cable running from the phone port in the loungeroom, up the stairs and through a door into a study space. I suspect I could possibly get rid of that cable at least though remain reluctant…just in case.

picture books

Absolute Sandman Vol 1 by Neil Gaiman

When I was in Bowral last Christmas, I started re-reading Volume 1 of the Absolute Sandman as I was conscious that I never got round to reading the entire series. It was published as 4 volumes initially and later there was a 5th volume and a volume devoted to Death. I figured it was a good time to read them all through and made good ground initially. I took a break and read other things, recently finishing Volume 1 and anticipating continuing with Volume 2 in the near future. Dark stories well told; at times ethereal as they soak into my imagination.

A few weeks ago, or was it months, I managed to find a good edition, “as new” of the Omnibus edition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I recall seeing the movie version many years ago and while not blown away, it retained a certain charm and I wished there had been a sequel with a little more depth. The movie felt more like an introduction, of sorts, rather a complete tale. The omnibus is occasionally available through secondhand retailers but tends to be a little pricy due to weight and consequently higher delivery costs. I recently found a nice edition, reasonably priced and bit the bullet. It too, I am enjoying, having finished part I and soon to embark on part II. I believe I should also but the Black Dossier for further tales.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Omnibus

Other enjoyable graphic novels in recent years include:

And The Umbrella Academy Vol 1 (deluxe edition) by Gerard Way. I’d been waiting a while for the deluxe edition to be published. I first came across this when the series appeared on netflix last year. The timing was sorta right and my partner and I binged it all. I loved it both for the creative story telling and outlandishness of sorts. One of the better things I’d seen in a long while. Needless to say I went hunting for the original graphic novels and while I did find them, they were a little pricy on the secondhand market so I thought I’d wait and see if some special editions appeared and sure enough they have. There’s 3 volumes with each releasing every few months so I pre-ordered them all with the first arriving just prior to lockdown.

no moving, no travel

I commented in February on my joy in reading the travel section of the weekend papers, finding new places to visit, a chance to travel in my mind, without moving. I joked later that the Italian lockdown would be a fab time to visit Venice as there would be but locals, no tourists, piazzas empty. Naive I was, oblivious, lacking awareness of what was to come. I watched in shock as Italy increased their shutdowns and quarantine and the spread of COVID-19 rose while the death toll climbed horribly.

Now is not the time to travel.

I am in lockdown too. This is week 11 of working from home. I am thankful that I am a public servant with a fulltime job and no mortgage. We moved house a few months ago, downsizing from a 2-story 4-bedder to a 1-story 3-bedder. I’m enjoying the new house but with four adults stuck at home all the time, I miss the space of the old place a little.

Brekky in car.

On the weekends, I continue to maintain my ritual of going to my usual cafe for brekky with newspaper. For the last two and a half months that has meant takeaway food and piccolos, consumed in my car nearby, with people walking by. Initially I tried eggs on toast but the knife/fork thang felt awkward so I’ve gone with a bacon and egg roll since.

The weekend travel section is no longer published in print.

While I have been able to continue with my ritual, it is missing a key part, travel. The SMH continues to publish some travel material online but it’s not the same. The idea of travel and being able to travel has become problematic. I renewed my passport and had plans for a big trip this year, saving my leave, preparing for a 6-8 week trip in Europe across August. No more. Those plans are cancelled, my partner’s Churchill project postponed. Maybe next year.

I want a holiday and I want to go away. Not yet. I remain hopeful that New Zealand may open as destination later in the year. I have been many times and would love to go many times more. Perhaps there is a little hope.

#blogjune #11

Here we go again. Why oh why, do I do this to myself. Blogging every day of June, or attempting to. As a thing, it peaked in the early years, around 2010-12, and has dropped off substantially in the years since, maintained by a few hardy souls.

My iso workspace.

I s’pose it will at least provide an opportunity to work out how wordpress’s block approach works. The last time I created a post and added a video, it took a few attempts to get an error free version published. Looking at it now, it looks ok and you can play the video from within the post. Successfully added a picture to this one with only a little fuss. Once in, it was actually easy to move the image “block” up and down.

I’m happy enough working from home, missing people occasionally though more missing the casual freedom of wondering over to someone and chatting. From home, chats with workmates need to be booked, lined up, scheduled.

The view out the window is good, trees in the street, browning as autumn slides toward winter. I have given up on winter though today is technically the start; Sydney has not had a proper winter in a long time. On the other hand, it remains ever pleasant.

things abound

I think I’m entering week 7 of lockdown, or thereabouts. I figured when the library shut it’d be months before we returned though the odd bod I suspect was hoping for a few weeks. I’m somewhat unusual compared to my colleagues, working from home is old news; I spent years working from home in a previous job. This time round, it’s still the case that my job is mostly online and the bits that weren’t, very quickly were.

Weirdly, or perhaps not, my workload increased initially and for a few weeks after. It seems to have settled down though the gov has said we’re only supposed to work 7 hours with no flex. I have struggled to keep down to 7. Then again, I am glad that I have work and sad that so many do not. I am a renter without a mortgage to worry about.

I am overjoyed that we are lucky enough to have the nbn though adsl would suffice as it has in the past. It drops out on rainy days which suggests we’ll need to get the wiring looked at. We moved house prior to Christmas, downsizing, but the bigger house would’ve been good now with 2 adults and 2 adult children co-sharing a 3 bedder rather than our previous 4. All of us with different online needs. As I’m working fulltime, my life has not changed a great deal. My commute is now 10 seconds rather than an hour, which means an hour extra sleep in the morning – that will be hard to give up.

I have revisited my LibraryThing account; there’s an app now with barcode scanning. I am tempted to try and scan all my books, at least those that have barcodes. Many alas, do not. In the move, I reluctantly weeded a few boxes of books. Some I miss already…I think I got rid of my Wizard of Id collection of which I had many volumes. I have kept my Biggles, Enid Blyton, and of course Trixie Belden. Got rid of chunk of history things that I had grabbed from Dad’s books when he passed. I have been buying nicer editions of some novels, and tossing the ageing, smelly paperbacks.

Ms19 has bought a pair of roller skates which in turn has encouraged me to retrieve my old, old skates from the garage. I was unsteady initially but glad to report I still remember how, the confidence returns. We have been out twice to skate at a nearby basketball court which is sufficiently smooth and large for us to gain confidence and in my case, pick up speed as I skate the perimeter. However my upper body particularly is feeling the strain; feeling sore for a few days following each session.

As time goes on at home, I struggle to imagine what holidays look like. I had planned a 6-8 week trip in Europe to coincide with my partner’s Churchill Trust study trip. That will not happen this year and the Trust have postponed such trips to next year…I suspect at the earliest. I was saving my leave for a couple of years for this trip and now the idea of going on holidays saddens me. I am overdue a holiday and there is nowhere to go. I am keeping my fingers crossed that NZ will be a possibility later in the year.

And I am lucky, lucky that I have a job, lucky that I can still think of holidays.

a little weed

Books. I have some. Perhaps a lot. Not too many; I managed to weed a few boxes recently. Mostly I’m good with that, though there has been a couple of moments of wondering where a book was and realising sadly that it was gone. There was also a joyful discovery when I found one and realised I hadn’t found it as I thought it was by a different author.

Books weeded included a mix of fiction and non fiction, some I’d grabbed from my dad’s collection and some my own. For example dad had had many books by the historian Peter Gay, and I had one or two. A nice run but I’m not in that space now and it seemed a prudent spot to prune. Reduce. I kept a few Foucault but not all. I retain some Kant and Hobbes, Marx, Trixie Belden and Biggles, Capt America…all the Capt America.

Now that my books are sorted and shelved, I should do a count. Find the real number that I have. Because. It will not be a fixed number. I continue to acquire interesting things. Newly arrived is the Subterranean Press edition of Use of Weapons, by Ian M Banks in his Culture series. I think I read it long ago, and the books preceding; meant to continue but never got round to it. I am looking forward to reading it again.

travelling without moving

Every weekend, usually Sunday, I like to read the travel section in the weekend SMH, usually in a cafe over a lazy breakfast. It’s become such a routine that it at times feels almost meditative.

I stop, I read, I imagine, I dream.

Every so often an article will whisk my mind away into other places and I contemplate what sort of trip I need to get there. Sometimes they remind of trips friends have made, Portugal and Japan have both been popping up of late. Last weekend another reminder of Iceland…and come to think of it, I think there was a national geographic photo display for Iceland in my facebook feed recently.

Portugal has a couple of interesting things: tarts and port, especially aged port. I read an article years ago, probably in the SMH, about drinking 50 year old ports in Portugal and this not being an unusual thing.

I noted in my last bucket post that I had managed to make it to all capitals in Oz. Since then, I have been to Tassie twice more and can now state that I have been to all capitals twice. I really need to see more of Tassie beyond Hobart and south of Hobart. I’d like to visit Fremantle again, and Margaret River, perhaps north of Perth for a change too.

i am not a number

Many years ago, prior even to my own existence, there was a British TV show starring Patrick McGoohan titled The Prisoner. Actually, McGoohan not only starred in it, he also created, wrote, produced, and directed it; clearly a passion project which contrasted individual needs with those of the group. It was rather surreal and ideas driven, with a certain eccentricity and a key logo being a penny farthing.

I had initially thought it was all filmed on a specially created set, but discovered later that the village where it was set was real. Portmeirion is a town in North Wales, on the River Dwyryd that was built during the mid 20th century. There is an extensive quote from Lewis Mumford in the wikipedia article noting:

an artful and playful little modern village, designed as a whole and all of a piece … a fantastic collection of architectural relics and impish modern fantasies

In the series and in the descriptions it looks deliciously quirky and eccentric. I don’t often visit places from TV or cinema but this one particularly appeals both as a reference to The Prisoner and interesting destination of its own.

Pathway beside canal in Oxford, OK.It looks like I may get to travel to Europe in 2020 as my partner will be undertaking a study trip supported by The Churchill Trust. Consequently I am putting together my own self-funded trip that will occasionally intersect with her’s as she’ll be working. The challenge is find places to visit that I’m happy to visit by myself, and the village of The Prisoner might just fit.

Location-wise, it’s not far from Dublin, possibly a few hours by bus and ferry, which is significant as it is the host city for IFLA in 2020 and I’m hoping to make the first few days of it. The last time I went to an IFLA conference was in Milan in 2009 and I think that was just after the IFLA Australia conference had been cancelled. I have good memories of the Milan conference, aside from the heat, and good friends and connections and would love to go again, hopefully Dublin will be a little cooler.

The challenge of visiting a town in Wales is to avoid another Welsh town, namely Hay-On-Wye, rumoured to have more bookshops per capita than anywhere else. I was last there in 2008, visiting many bookshops and bought more than a few books. Afterall, it’s the one place where buying books is its own form of souveniring :-)

june is gone

Another #blogjune has passed. This time round I managed 11 posts in 30 days, or 1 in 3 on average. Not bad, not great but I’m ok with that though it does make a list of top posts and bottom posts a little more challenging. I pottered about, got some things done, changed themes and images around, and finally restored my movie ratings from the backup.

Looks like I managed to have someone look at my blog every day of June and my three best read posts were:

Thinking back on an early post about the challenges of writing and developing content, I had a thought. I still have a few of my exercise books from school and I am tempted to check the English ones for stories I may wrote and blog them. Then see if I can use those to generate more creative stuff. If nothing else, it’ll give current me a chance to revisit younger me.

Hmmmm…1st of July and I’m already out of puff :-)