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 :-)

bits of paper

The call for abstracts has gone out for the ALIA National Conference in 2020. Been a long time since I wrote a conference paper, a proper paper that is. I’ve presented occasionally, here and there, love the performance of presenting. Doing the work for the paper not so much. Papers tend to be like essays for uni: take forever, full of distraction, procrastination, anything but focus. Presenting also takes work; building a presentation for me is as much about developing the concept and the flow as it is about the appearance and the words.

Hmmm…a thought bubble: perhaps I should prepare the presentation, then write the paper, updating the presentation as the paper progresses. Things progress, new things are learnt, ideas change.

I have a bunch of things I do, and are in my head. Some of those are long overdue for broader exposure. I keep missing, or perhaps avoiding, conference deadlines. I missed the deadline for Information Online which was earlier this year, I have missed the deadline for VALA 2020 next Feb. ALIA 2020 is end of August and Information Online 2021 will put out their call mid 2020ish.

Today I made a list of things that could generate a bunch of papers. Rather than aiming for one conference, aim for several over the next couple of years. I need to push out and engage. Make myself visible again. Play with ideas again. Open up again.

 

techie librarian; meatier than a seahorse

 

Tag lines…whatever do you use for your tagline: the subheading of your identity, the punchline by which people establish a connection. Mostly I pay them lip service, smiling occasionally at a clever one. My own tend to refer to variations of: techie, librarian and eclectic, sometimes all 3 at once.

In a rather wayward conversation, spinning down a rabbit hole of curiousity, as things are wont to do when Matt Finch is involved, a recent conversation turned from roasting penguins to eating seahorses.

I participated in a workshop as part of NLS8 and the first activity was for everyone to sketch a scene, in 90 seconds, on a piece of A4 using at least one of three figures on a screen: 2 humans (or human-like) and a penguin. As is my wont, I immediately gave into the dark side and sketched the two humans roasting the penguin. The second half of the activity was for each table to construct a cohesive story using those scenes as panel. They were two quick activities that worked really well as an icebreaker and got you thinking at how easy it was to come up with ideas under pressure.

The seahorses came later…or rather many years earlier:

to which I responded with my “meatier than seahorse” remark and commented elsewhere that while I have never eaten penguin, I have actually eaten seahorse.

Many years ago, 2003 I think (really must upload those photos to flickr), I spent a few weeks on an Intrepid trip in China with friends. We started in Beijing and went to the Beijing night markets, a place where you can eat just about anything including silk worms and even scorpions on a stick. Scorpions were a wee a but scary but we figured had to be ok as noone was dropping dead. As far as we can figure, they’re bred without their stinger.

While trying to order something else, there was a language issue, and I ended up with seahorse on a stick. I think the scorpions were about 20 cents for five whereas the seahorse was a few Oz dollars for one. Our tour guide tried to talk our way out of it but the shopowner insisted. So I paid for it and ate it. There wasn’t much flavour as it was primarily shell with perhaps a tiny morsel of meat.

Matt suggested “meatier than a seahorse” as a bio and it immediately rang the right sort of bells, both physically and metaphorically. I am now using it for all my taglines :-)

why nls8?

In a few days time, I’ll pop into the car and drive down to Canberra for the 8th-ish New Librarians’ Symposium – I say “ish” as I recall there was at least a 1.5, and I don’t remember if there were other in-between events. I’d like to link to some of the earlier NLS websites but ALIA’s own conference page only links back to 2008, ignoring the earlier iterations of NLS, and even the ones listed are not available because ALIA are upgrading their conference website though I don’t really understand why “upgrade” means removing access altogether. Thankfully, I’ve found the NLS2006 site on the wayback machine, along with the 2004, and even the first in 2002.

It feels a bit odd going to NLS as I am very definitely not a new librarian by a long shot. I’m probably what is termed a mid-career professional which doesn’t sit well either as I’ve never been career or goal focused mostly just wanting to work with interesting people and occasionally do fun things. To be honest, mostly just wanting to work. I s’pose one could argue that I’m going to mentor newer members of the profession but that would be nonsense as I’ve never been much of a mentor-type. With that said, I remember one of the concerns in the early days was about ensuring there was a continuity of contact between different parts of the profession and avoid that sense of cliques developing. I want to make sure I don’t end up in a clique myself and want to get to know people outside my usual circles. I’m also going because it’s always been a bloody good conference, with a good sense of engagement, a welcoming attitude and lots of fun.

So yeah, all my reasons for going are totes selfish and all about me :-)

Menu for conference dinner, NLS2006My first NLS was in Adelaide in 2004 and I have found some of my thoughts on my previous blog iteration. I recall being blown away by it and made lots of new friends in the profession many of whom I’m still in touch with. Alan Smith, State Librarian of SA, spoke on the importance of thinking two jobs ahead and working out what you need to do in-between to get there. I’ve tried to apply that thinking but keep failing and still have no idea what I want to do next, nevermind after that. Post NLS3, I ended up on the committee for the next version,  NLS2006 (we chose to use the year rather than number), 2 years later; it seemed to go pretty well and was a total blast.

I made it to one or two NLS since and I missed a few as life stuff intruded. I think the last one I attended was in Perth…which I may have gatecrashed :) I’ve been on organising committees for a few library camps and unconferences too though I don’t think I’ve been on a full blown conference committee since NLS2006. Camps/unconferences are reasonably easy to organise, however something like NLS takes 2 years of commitment to make it happen. It is a rewarding experience and I have no regrets, likewise I applaud the efforts of the NLS8 committee in making it happen.

i wanna go camping

So, VALA is running a tech camp in July and I wanna go. In fact, I’m fairly sure I will go. I can teach myself coding things and did study computer science a decade or two ago. Actually now I think about it, it was nearly 3 decades ago. Eep! I’m almost 50 and still pottering along and trying to work out what I want to do with my life. Anyway I can teach myself but do tend to learn better with other people around.

A year or so back, I was playing with code on my vaio (running Win8 then, win10 now) and trying to get stuff working to explore and analyse web harvesting stuff. Got caught in a neverending circle of installing software dependencies and eventually ran out of puff without getting to the playing-with-code stage. I did have docker running, virtualbox running linux, and got most of the way with maven2.

30533574640_5de8d36502_nThis year I’m trying again on my mac mini. Installations ran smoothly, I’ve had few issues with software dependencies…I now have docker and maven3 and SPARQL apache spark installed and running. I have approached it differently this year, following a different guide. Also, the mac is easier as unix is fully integrated with the OS, whereas it’s a separate thang under windows.

I stalled a month ago as I couldn’t get the test example in SPARQL spark/scala to work. I realised a few days later that it was probably an issue with pathnames. Finally got round to trying again last night, and it was indeed a pathname issue and I resolved it in minutes and got the text example to work.

Yay me.

So my current dev environment is a mac mini, not the windows laptop. But I wanna take it to tech camp. So I looked at connecting the mini to laptop and it’s sorta doable but a little bit painful with reduced functionality.

4556812857_f81e7c3078_mI could hire a screen in Melbourne and travel with the mini and a keyboard.

I could get a handheld mini projector…and they really are handheld now.

Or I could apply what I’ve learnt from the mac install and revisit the windows install and get it all running there too. That’s the cheapest option and a happier one as I remain fond of my laptop and want to keep using it. I love the idea of a handheld projector but it is a wee bit excessive and possibly gratuitously so.

stuff I haven’t read

There is a fun meme going round, #iconfessineverread (Con, Rachel and others) and I had fully intended this post to be in similar vein but I seem to have rambled on instead :) Perhaps I will try and list some books I should have read but haven’t, in another post.

It’s fair to say that beyond what was required for school I have read little of the literary canon. I have on occasion dipped my toe into literary waters and at one stage I was at least trying to read Booker winners. That’s mostly a fail these days. Yet what I did read I enjoyed including Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam. McEwan I particularly liked as he managed to write interesting, intelligent books that were also short :) I haven’t read of his in years either including Atonement which everyone tells me I should read.

A lot of my reading has been more what is termed “genre reading”. Truckloads of science fiction, not to mention thrillers. Later I “diversified” into fantasy and other things. These days I read a mix of SF, fantasy, graphic novels and of course gaming. I’d argue that the games I like to play generally reflect a story telling approach and could be included in a list of “stuff I read”. I’ve recently finished Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and it was split into sections labelled chapters to chart the plot progression. This worked for me and it felt like I progressed through a story of the classic 3 act approach, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think it even had a prologue and an epilogue.

I’ve not been particularly keen on writers’ festivals or conventions either. I’ve been to the odd event at the Sydney Writers’ Festival but mostly skip it. On the other hand, the few times I’ve gone I’ve usually run into people I know in the crowd and had engaging catch ups. Despite my fondness of SF, I’ve never been fond of SF conventions either and usually skip them too. Looking back I think it would have been nice to have got involved in a book club at least. I’ve had friends who’ve been in clubs for years and enjoy the continuing engagement with a group of familiar faces.

This week in fact I have started a book I should have read years ago, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I have no excuse, I even bought the hardcover when it was first published. Disappointingly even though it’s the first edition, it’s the 8th printing. I have had a look around and it seems there was a very nice edition published some years ago by Hill House. Unfortunately it’s also a little expensive.

mucking about

Yet another “…been awhile…” sort of post.

Currently at the National Library of Australia for THATCamp, which I’m hoping is a a way for me to reconnect with my techier side. I was last here for THATCamp in 2011 when I was getting into digital assets management. Having moved into eresource management, I haven’t had much of a chance to play at what I call the “command line” level.

I installed xampp on my laptop several months ago but haven’t had much of a chance to do anything beyond some simple html. This morning I participated in a session on dealing with bulk downloads from Trove’s newspaper archives and I spent most of it learning my way round my web server and dealing ultimately, with stuff that was mostly just pathname issues: working out where to store files, and where to reference them. Happily I got most of the way along and got an OAI harvester up and running. Still got a few errors to nut out but feel like I’ve made progress and starting to make use of the tools I have available.