more stuff I read

A year ago, I decided to take stock of everything I’d read the previous year and added a space to keep track of books as I’ve always been bad at tracking stuff. So far so good. In 2021, I managed around 51 books included a few novellas a a short story. In 2022, that has dropped to 22 24 titles including novellas and maybe a short story.

I tend to find reading challenging in years in which major life changes occur; things like deaths, change of job, moving house and so forth. Just prior to Christmas 2021, we exchanged contracts on a house in the Highlands and moved in at the end of February 2022. I settled in quicker than usual, surprisingly so. I was at least familiar with the area having visited many times. Plus it was so nice not to be Sydney anymore, away from the city. Lush trees and gardens as far as the eye can see and a lovely sense of space.

But still, I struggled to read and find momentum. I have finally joined a book club for the first time in my life. This is in part to find encouragement to read more and beyond the stuff I usually read. Another part is to get to know folk locally ie engage with the place I now live. That has been fun and invigorating and looking forward to hanging out more in 2022.

I continued to buy of course though I don’t think I bought as much, at least in part because a key publisher moved their release time to 4am my time and books sold out by the time I woke up. That’s been an interesting effect of covid times: limited releases are selling out quickly. It used to be the case that I had days or weeks to make a decision. For many titles now, they seem to sell in under 30 minutes, or even 10. The price of titles on the secondary market have increased too with some of those titles doubling or tripling in cost within months of release. I decided I wasn’t going to pay those prices and so if I miss on first release then I miss altogether and that’s ok though there is the occasional sad tinge.

Regardless I have ended with some gorgeous editions and more books than I can ever read. And they all look good on the shelves – I must get round to blogging about my new bookcases and posting photos. I achieved a life dream of hiring carpenters to build built-in bookcases, with movable shelves, and they look fab.

I managed to squeeze in 22 24 titles in 2022, finishing the last one on the afternoon of the 31st, a beautiful edition of The Neverending Story from Folio Society. I then started the next book, Blitz by Daniel O’Malley, which is his third book in the Checquy series (starting with The Rook). That will likely be the first book finished on 2023.

  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
  • Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
  • Sleepside Story by Greg Bear
  • Indomitable by Terry Brooks
  • This is Not the End of the Book by Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière
  • The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks
  • A Lifetime on Clouds by Gerard Murnane
  • The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford
  • Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen
  • The Properties of Rooftop Air by Tim Powers
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
  • The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey by Shawn Speakman
  • The Undone Life of Jak Dreadth by Shawn Speakman
  • Revelation Space by Alistair Reynolds
  • Cobalt Blue by Matthew Reilly
  • Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Scholars of Night by John M. Ford
  • A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel
  • A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond Feist
  • Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

five months…

books by greg bear

…since I last blogged. In that time much has happened: had bookcases made, unpacked books, got a new car, even trimmed some hedges. Posts for another day but figured today I try yet another take on five things as I came across an old post of stuff:

a break in broadcasting

I went to VALA and stopped blogging. VALA was good. Also exhausting. Even getting there was exhausting. A downside of moving to the Highlands is suddenly airports are no longer easy to get to…especially on a public holiday. VALA was moved from February to mid June which meant I spent the public holiday Monday travelling to Melbourne.

I left home at 10.30 Monday morning and 8 hours later, made it to my hotel in Melbourne. That’s a long commute. Part of it is the 2 hour train ride to get to the airport on a line where trains run every hour or so and because it was a public holiday, they were two hours apart at the crucial time. Qantas was encouraging folk to get to the airport 2 hours prior for domestic flights. Due to vagaries of train timetabling, I arrived around 2 hours 40 prior and was airside with 10 minutes. All their queueing problems of a couple days earlier had been resolved. Then the plane was half an hour late as they had to change a tyre…at least it wasn’t cancelled which seems to be an increasingly common occurrence.

I normally fly home from VALA on the Thursday night but that would have meant touching down at Sydney airport around 9-9.30pm and a 2 hour+ commute home. Work instead recommended I stay Thursday night in Melbourne and fly back in the morning. That worked well and I went from the airport to the office.

Next time I do this I might look at other airports. I did explore other options but stuck with Mascot this time round but did note for a 4 day trip:

  • Shellharbour Airport: 1 hour 15 min drive – free parking
  • Mascot Airport: 1 hour 20 min drive or 2 hours on train – $100-250 parking
  • Canberra Airport: 1 hour 50 drive – $108 parking

There’s a few variations on this eg I could drive to Stanmore in Sydney’s Inner West and park near a friend’s place then get a train to Mascot, reducing the reliance on the vagaries of the Highlands train line. The Shellharbour option is interesting as there’s a smaller company that does flights twice a day to/from Essendon. The flight home was too early for a VALA departure but would have worked for a Friday morning flight. I’m a little surprised that Canberra is a viable option. The only question is how comfortable I am leaving a car at the airport for a few days.

in transit

Being overprepared and early does wonders for keeping me relaxed. A moment of panic initially when the 10.18 train from Mittagong was running 15 minutes late…and increasing. I was planning on catching the 10.47. Curiously, there were two trains half an hour apart…then a 2 hour gap to the next one. My partner gave me a lift to the station and I had a couple of backup plans including driving to Sydney and getting a train from Stanmore where I used to park for work long ago. Had the time if that option was required.

All was well. The 10.18 was ultimately cancelled and the 10.47 was a mere 5 minutes late. A change at Macarthur, then put my backpack on on approach to Domestic and hooned through the corridors to checkin just like old times. No queues anywhere whatsoever. No queue to get baggage tag (had checked in yesterday via app), no queue to drop luggage, not even a queue at the security gate. I figured that might be the case but wanted to be cautious. Here I am flight side, having brekky and a coffee with 2.5 hours to spare.

Getting the foundations right for this trip gives me time to breathe. I need to work out ways to rebuild my resilience and this trip is a good start. I need to handle challenges better as I’m a wee bit rusty.

packing for vala

Well that was fun. I’m fairly sure I ain’t “match fit” for travelling and flying. Have packed my bags, carry-on and checked pack. First time I’ve packed for a flight since VALA in February 2020. It’s going to be raining in Melbourne so I’m taking an umbrella but it won’t fit in the pack so I’ll have to carry it in cabin. Quick google to confirm that that was ok. My umbrella is purple and pretty and I do not want to lose it. On the good side, it’ll be warmer in Melbourne than where I live.

I decided taking two laptops was a bit excessive…not to mention additional weight. As it’s close to end of financial year, I need my work laptop to keep on top of things. But it is heavy and has poor battery life which doesn’t make it fab for conferencing. My personal laptop is light and quick with a reasonable battery life.

I’ve been slowly migrating over to my personal laptop as a possible “bring your own device” scenario. I recently had to install the work’s office suite so I could do some database stuff and today I took the final step and added access to my work’s onedrive. All done, and seems to be working and accessing the stuff I need.

Feeling a little anxious and out of practice. Looking forward to flying again. Not sure how I feel entering conference space and meeting with folk, numbers are down so it shouldn’t be too scary. I’ve got a bunch of meetings lined up with vendors, often at the same time as papers – conferencing is always that balance of making sure I get to the key papers and keynotes I want, while ensuring I’m meeting with as many relevant suppliers as I can.

it’s late and this is a test

Oddly, I don’t seem to use my desktop computer on the weekend. This has been happening for a while and I don’t think I’ve really adjusted to that idea mentally.

It’s late, I’m in bed, and in a mood to blog. Possibly nonsense.

A fun day. Starting with brekky in the local cafe…a cafe that I’d been keen to be a regular at for years…and now I am. Coffee is good.

A drive north to the big smoke and the spectacle of wandering around a massive shopping centre. Bought DVDs + pants. Then drove home for dinner and movies.

Basic. Relaxing.

a little tv

What does “TV” even mean now. In my younger days, everyone had access to the same stuff at the same time and later, delayed time. Boxes of VHS recordings represented a time travel of sorts.

Saving stuff from now to watch later. Buying DVDs to watch later. Later.

I eventually threw out boxes of VHS tapes, recycling the boxes at least. Stuff I never got round to watching.

Now we’re in the age of streaming. Things appear on one channel for a while, then another. You subscribe to some. A chase for content that perhaps suggests it’s still better to own the tapes. A little eccy up front but perhaps a mix of cheaper and available later on. On disc, always available.

Yet I like a little streaming. Stranger Things was interesting, appealing to my Gen X origins. Loved first season and that was sufficient. Enjoyed second and didn’t finish third. Of course, season 4 has recently premiered and suddenly Kate Bush is popular again…always a good thing. Now I feel caught in the need to finish season 3 so I can watch season 4 and enjoy how the Kate Bush track was used.

I can at least continue to watch Stranger Things on the streaming platform it started on. I started watching Star Trek Discovery on netflix a year or two back and it looked sort of interesting. I recall shorts for season 3 that looked good and took the show in an interesting direction. However it is no longer on netflix and I am not willing to subscribe to yet another streaming service to get access, though others have their own workarounds.

Then there was Dark. German. Some similar tropes to Stranger Things. More depth, less referencing. Germans seem to do this sort of thing well. A strong story with interesting ideas at play. So many interesting ideas. Time travel and loops. Higgs and other such. Not to shock but to tell a different sort of story.

I like Dark. I loved Dark. If I want to watch it again, it’s still available via the original platform (netflix). However I think I should buy it as it is a fabulous show that I should keep in my permanent collection. A collection of physical discs. Permanent at least until the discs die. Media migration is a whole other challenging space…perhaps I need to stick with streaming afterall :-)

a question of title

A week ago, Con sent me a bunch of questions to answer as there was talk at the time of interviewing folk and posting answers with each person interviewing another person. That seems to have segued into Kathryn’s list of questions which folk can nominate dates and questions and so on. I answered all of Con’s questions in an email back to her, noting that one or two may need essays :) Anyways, the plan is now to post them on my blog and I think Con and Kathryn for the inspiration. A curious starting point for other conversations.

I commented yesterday that I had had 3 job titles in 10 years and they are:

  • Online & Licensing Librarian
  • Online Resources Specialist Librarian
  • Senior Librarian, Online Resources

Two words remain throughout: “Online” and “Librarian” which works for me rather well. All titles are reasonably accurate and all I deal with is online content: selection, access, and collecting. “Licensing” is a tricky one as I need to read, assess and recommend licensing agreements from suppliers for the content that we have. I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV. The only thing I play on TV is computer games. Yet I read and comment on license agreements. NSLA provides guidelines and it is valuable to read older decisions and ensure that licenses enable and support access to things like:

  • document delivery
  • walk-in users
  • remote access

Licenses set out the needs and obligations to ensure all parties are respected.

My most recent job title change is a minor one, the reintroduction of “Senior” and the removal of “Specialist” – the latter is being repurposed for librarians a grade below.

the long pandemic

More than two years later and I’m still tired. I never seem to quite escape some sense of continuing exhaustion. 2020 was hard, increased workload and no big holiday to break it up. 2021 no big holiday. 2022 no big holiday. I read Con’s blog from yesterday and her comment about “skirting around the edges of burnout” rang a little true.

I was thinking last year, I needed to find a new way of having a mental reset – that used to be big holidays for me, roaming about in other countries. I still haven’t found a new way yet but I do at least have some sort of balance to carry me on. I’m trying to move myself out of a mental limbo. I’m not even sure how well I’d cope with a big trip currently. My first trip out of the state in a couple of years is next week…will see how that goes. Hoping for a few days away in August too…really should make it to Queensland and see my cousin’s kids, don’t think I’ve met the second child.

I recall that some of my more intense changes have been associated with traumatic times. The year that dad died, I threw myself outward, wrote a conference paper, joined a conference committee, found new directions. Looking back at the last couple of years I have actually been moderately successful at pushing out. In 2020, mid lockdown, I went for a job at the NLA. Missed out, I suspect my lack of people management experience coming to the fore. It felt good however to sell myself in a new context, revisit why I do what I do.

Weirdly, I’ve been at the State Library around 11 years now, 10 in my current job. I’ve had 3 job title changes in those 10 years :-) Oddly I am still happy and there continue to be new challenges. We sold property and bought property, moved house…I seem to be working through some sort of checklist of things not to do during lockdowns and pandemics.

Online meetings have been fine, and hybrid meetings have improved greatly. Kudos to our tech folk for the leaps forward. In the first year, that mix of physical and digital was ok but folk onsite would chitchat while folk online watched, not hearing stuff well, feeling remote in multiple ways. These days, there are better screens in the meeting rooms, there are multiple microphones on the desk, better tech and software integration, better audio, better sound. I don’t feel remote anymore, I feel part of the flow of the meeting and can chip in with related or unrelated comments in a way that feels natural.

I go into the office 1-2 days a week and I am finding I am being proactive in ensuring I talk with people physically, I make sure I visit branches and other parts of the library, being more welcoming and open to impromptu conversations. Finding my own sort of balance across multiple spaces and making sure I feel engaged. Pre pandemic, I wasn’t as fussed and could sit at my desk for days without any sort of physical communication. I think that may be an interesting outcome of pandemic times, pushing to ensure time together is not wasted.

we’re not in kansas anymore

snail rain gauge in garden

My big news of recent months is that I’ve escaped to the country! I’ve spent my entire life living in various parts of Sydney and have tried to leave many times. This time, I’ve succeeded and moved to the Mittagong area of the Southern Highlands. There’s a family connection nearby and it’s not too far from Sydney.

Having spent a couple of years working from home and dealing with Sydney traffic which has worsened over the years, I was even keener to leave. I put my flat on the market last year and following some negotiation was able to sell it to my tenant. I had moved out several years earlier to live with my partner and their kids. We’d been keeping an eye on the market down south and were able to buy a place within our budget when the right one popped up.

train arriving at Mittagong train station

It’s a bigger place than we’re used to but with a decent garden and a bunch of hedges…well kept and shaped hedges are rather common and there’s something of a Scottish/English feel to the area. We have multiple fruit trees as well. The first time we entered the property we felt calm and at ease…and that remains the case a few months later.

Distance-wise it’s about an hour and 20 minutes drive from Sydney by car, or around 2 hours 20 minutes on the train to work. I can shorten that travel time by around 20-30 minutes if I drive to Macarthur and get a train from there – that also means I’m not dependent on the infrequency of the Southern Highlands trains which run about once an hour. I’m sorta hoping that covid-related working from home continues so I don’t have to commute too often. I am currently going into the office 1-2 days per week. The worst case is that I return to the office fulltime which will hurt a little but is manageable. I love my job too much to give it up.