five in a while

It’s a been a long, long while since I last blogged five things:

another 5

The downside of leaving it too long is that I end up with too many to cull to get it down to 5. No particular pattern to my selection, other than vague interest and curiosity.

5 bits

Having started with 5 articles a week or so back, I thought it might be worth aiming for 5 articles each time. Was tempted to go with 7 but whittled it down to 5. This is a bunch of articles I’ve read and tweeted in the last week.

That’ll do.

all the lolz

So like, I’ve discovered recently that people actually say “lolz” and not spell out the acronym…and they’ve been doing it for years. I joked about this on twitter and immediately thought of a counter example as I’ve always worded BOFH (as in “bof” with a silent “h”) myself. Other acronyms are difficult to word eg HTH or RTFM. At the same time, I continue to be amused that acronym speak is still a thing.

Acronym speak was really common back in the earlier days of the internetz (pre webz – all the zzzz) and usenet. I have little doubt that was because the early net was largely IT type folk who loved using, and abusing, acronyms. You could craft entire sentences with acronyms. Then SMS happened, then twitter happened and there continues to be a need for character economy ie reducing everything to as few characters as possible, while remaining vaguely readable.

Even ASCII art has staged a minor comeback!


what’s in a name?

I’ve become very fond of my moniker over the years. “snail” has been my self chosen nickname for over 20 years. Initially, it was online only in those days, these days I tend to wear it as my name everywhere and more folk know me face to face as snail than by my real name. I have occasionally considered changing my name officially however that would get a little expensive as I would need to get a bunch of legal documents changed including my mortgage contract. Perhaps I can revisit if I ever pay off my mortgage. The other issue with name changes, is that I would have to retain my surname as too many online forms require both a first name and a second. I think having a single name would simply create too many headaches for too many people.

One of the reasons I chose the moniker initially was to distinguish myself in online forums, such as usenet, by having a name that was unique and that others were unlikely to use. This was fine for many years, though these days it’s a different story. I’m generally finding it hard to get “snail” as a username on many systems. Sometimes, it’s because others have beaten me to it, occasionally there’s a 6 character minimum. I am reluctant however, to sign up to every system that comes along simply to preserve access to my preferred name. I have a few backups including vvsnail (some email) and snailx (twitter, wordpress). I have a personal domain,, and even then I had to go through several domains before finding one with “snail” available.

With much thanks to a good friend, I do at least have a unique avatar which has proven useful for some folk who find me in other forums. Though it must be said that I have a lot less hair these days, nor do I dress entirely in black anymore. The glasses and coffee cup remain constant.

As to why I chose “snail” – when I first got online via electronic bulletin boards in 1984, I’d just read Lord of The Rings and chose the nickname, Gandalf the Grey. Needless to say, as many folk online in those days were ITish and into SF, it was a rather common nickname. A few years later, when I got to uni and discovered usenet, I decided to start again with a new name. I have a vague recollection from school days of doodling snails in the margins of my school exercise books. I doodled snails because they were easy and my drawing skills were, and remain, poor.

another day

This is a tricky time of year for me with sad anniversaries on Dec 31 (4 years) and Jan 8 (6 years – can’t believe it’s been 6 years) and I suspect that I hate Christmas too…which is doubly sad as I am a christian. I find no joy in the day. The last few weeks have been busier than usual, though for good reasons, but it has meant I didn’t quite get the downtime I needed. Consequently, I’ve needed to shut out the world a little longer than usual. Thanks to those that expressed concern; I take the time I need.

I need to rethink things somewhat to avoid going down a dead-end. For example, I’ve spent 6 years blocking out the Sydney Festival as dad died near the start of it. It’s always hard to look January in the face. I avoid all things festival-y though I used to go to lots of stuff…I remember enjoying the ACO at the $10 Proms (with dad and his partner if I recall correctly), not to mention the Taikoz drummers and other acts. Indeed, I got the news of dad’s passing just as I was about to bolt out, hoping to get a ticket at the door for some concert or other.

I need to work through this, as the festival is a bloody good thing; full of interesting pieces. Due to my reticience for the period, I’ve only discovered in recent days that one of my favourite composers will be in town, Philip Glass. The downside is that his big show has sold out. Oh well, hope remains for a better show, that being Dracula, the 1931 movie, with music performed live by Glass and the Kronos Quartet. Oh my, be still my beating heart. The only choice, though it’s not really a choice, is whether to see the 7.30pm session or the session at midnight. Will book my seat shortly.

While locking yourself away from the world is a good thing to do, it remains important to keep up with the world and somehow seek a way to find happy moments around sad times.

a day in the country

As I’m travelling a fair bit the next few weeks, I extended my weekend slightly and had Monday off. A mate and I went for a drive down the Hume to the township of Berrima. I’ve only been there once and that was a couple of years ago. For most of my life, I would hear tales of the delights of the Berrima Book Barn – a barn full of secondhand books, many treasures to be found. As a young bookworm, it sounded like Aladdin’s cave. Many years back, the folk that ran the barn, expanded into Sydney and now have a few shops under the name of Berkelouw, for indeed, it turns out that the barn in question was the wonderfully alliterative Berkelouw’s Berrima Book Barn.

Berrima - a view of the town
Berrima - a view of the town

We spent a lovely day meandering about, having got there for brekky around 10. I wandered through shops and even bought  a jar of Rhubarb & Ginger Jam from Mrs Oldbuck’s Pantry; they did a nice limoncello based jam too, with a nice kick in the aftertaste. Oh geez, I sound like an old fart. Anyways, in the afternoon, we finally made it to the barn. Much to my surprise, and no doubt to that of most folk who know me, I emerged with only 4 books, and kept it under $70 too. A valiant effort. Though there was a rather nice leatherbound edition of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet in the cabinet. It was a bit yum, though I think substantially overpriced at $300. There are much nicer books to be had for that sort of money. By nice, I’m referring to the container, as the content is good regardless. Then there was the lovely, leather bound set of Manning Clark’s “A History of Australia” – they were in really good nick, though an asking price of $1,850 put them firmly out of reach.

As to my purchases, they were an interesting bunch. I have, for some years, been collecting the Penguin wine guides. I like their style, the language used and the down to earth sense of engagement. I’m particularly fond of Huon Hooke’s contributions, not to mention Mark Shield; these days, the annual tome is authored by Nick Stock who seems well suited to continuing the tradition. On my first visit to the Barn, the first book I found was one of the few remaining omissions from my set. So too, this time and I now have the 1995-96 volume. I think this means I need only find one or two volumes to complete the set.The numbering has been rather erratic over the years, which does not help, but I now have these years:


It wasn’t published in 2008. The 1991 edition makes reference to a 1990 edition which I don’t have and there is a 1993-94 edition. The 2005|2006 edition was published in 2005 and the 2007 edition was published in 2006 so there’s no gap there.

My second find was also interesting and fits another area of my interests, and that is the history of language and dictionaries. Side by side on the shelf, were copies of the 1945 and 1966 editions of “The Australian Language” by Sidney J Baker. I was somewhat fortunate a year or two back, to pick up a reprint of “A Dictionary of Austral English” by Morris and as Baker builds on his work, this was a nice continuation. Moreso however, due to a minor controversy, or rather that a work was referred to as being minor, the 1945 edition had additional interest. Acoording to clipped newspaper articles, that someone had placed inside the front cover, a paragraph was to be censored as it referred to the Weekly Bulletin as a “minor weekly” – this upset a few folk though I think the context was clear. So it was decided, according to the clipping, that the reference would be deleted from all unsold copies of the book. This copy was one of the uncensored versions, and the 1966 edition had a differently worded version of the same paragraph. So I grabbed the 1945 edition and left behind the 1966 edition; though I wouldn’t mind tracking down a censored version of the 1945 edition so I could have them sit side by side.

update: As I was adding my new acquisitions to my bookcase, I discovered that I have a paperback reprint of the 1966 edition of The Australian Language. In other words, it was just as well I didn’t buy it today. Yet another reminder that I need to get all my books catalogued into a portable list, if only to avoid potential duplication further down the track.

The remaining two books covered yet another of my interests, that being the history of libraries. The first is entitled “Early Public Libraries: A History of Public Libraries in Great Britain Before 1850” by Thomas Kelly. This looks intriguing and traces the history of public libraries in the UK and the blurb notes that the first public library in Great Britain was established in 1425. The reason this book covers the period prior to 1850, is that was the year that saw the passing of the first Public Libraries Act. The second book is “Australian Libraries” by John Balnaves. This book, published in 1966 purports to be a brief history (90 pages) of libraries in Australia and the author himself acknowledges such.