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 :-)

documenting snails

I’ve been using the nick of “snail” for a bloody long time now, at least 25 years or so and this year may even be the 30th. My memory of those times is rather hazy but 1987 was my first year of uni and the year I found usenet which became a home of sorts for many years to come. That means I have been calling myself “snail” for around three decades. Now that is scary.

My original life plan had been to go to uni and study computer science for 3 years, graduate, work for  a couple of years then spend a couple of years travelling the world. I did all those things but the timeline was much, much longer. I didn’t officially graduate in compsci though I did complete all 3 years and ended up with a BA with a double major in Philosophy and History & Philosophy of Science. Followed by a Master of Information Management (Librarianship) to celebrate my 10th year, or so, of uni :)

Somewhere along the way, I started collecting snails.

plush snail

I think it was in 1999 when I finally made it overseas for the first time. Not quite a 2 year trip as I originally planned but a decent 4 months at least and made it to the US and Europe. I spent quite a bit of time in London on that first trip and may have overused my sister’s generosity in letting me stay at her place as she’d been living in London for some years. I spent most days out exploring and I happened into a manchester shop as you do. I still vaguely recall that shop and the bin of stuffed toys downstairs. In that bin was this snail and I think it was only a few quid and I had to have it. So I bought it and it has been with me ever since. It normally resides on the bookcase beside my bed. That was my first snail.

For some years now, I’ve been wanting to document all my snails, as I think I have close to 40 now. I’ve taken photos of most of them with a few to go. I used to have an actual, rocking horse snail ie a real rocking snail for toddlers. However it felt a wee bit weird as I don’t have kids myself. Plus it was fairly large and I never did find the right spot for it. Ultimately, when my cousin had a baby, I gave it to them and they assure me their daughter loves it.

a lethargic 5

I’m happy to report that full connectivity was restored to the house a day or two before we were due to fly to NZ. Returning home on Sunday, I was happy to discover that we still had net :) I’ll talk more about the NZ trip and tramping the Kepler Track once I’ve sorted out the photos and loaded them to flickr. I have about 130 photos that I need to weed though that should be relatively quick compared to weeding my photos from the European holiday over Dec/Jan. For the Europe set, I’ve managed to get it down to under 300 from around 700 but it still needs a couple more goes. I should have the Kepler set up this week at least.

While I’m in post NZ recovery, here’s 5 random things I’ve tweeted in recent months:

more tramping

Alrighty…first we booked the huts, then we booked the flights. I am finally getting to tramp the Kepler Track this year. Flights were a wee bit ecky as we’re travelling in the school holidays. On the other hand, we’re doing the Kepler!

I was just re-reading my account of the Routeburn and realised that was 2010 and despite my best intentions, it’s taken 7 years to get round to tramping another of NZ’s Great Walks. Admittedly, I’ve had some pretty good times inbetween, not to mention 6 weeks in Europe over Christmas. This trip is actually for Mr21 who turned 21 last year and we offered him a hike as he loves the bush too. Turns out he’d rather hike with us so the three of us are doing the Kepler together.

I tramped the Routeburn using my ageing Kathmandu travel pack and while it held up ok, I decided that next time I tramped I would get a dedicated pack. For the Europe trip, I bought a new travel pack that had a backpacking harness and wheels. I’ve read a few “best of” lists online and pretty much decided that the Osprey Atmos fits the bill. It’s a good size with a decent harness. I’ve had an Osprey day pack with 3 litre aqualung for several years and that’s been really nice. Getting the Atmos means I can use the aqualung on it too. Just need to go into a store and try one on.

I bought a new pair of Scarpa walking boots a couple of years ago and retired my previous Scarpa so that part is sorted. I remain undecided on walking poles – the germans love them and I have a few friends who are keen. I sort of wonder if my general clumsiness might mean that they’d work well for me too…or at least stop me reaching out for trees that may or may not hold my weight :-)

post holiday thoughts

Flew back into Sydney a couple of weeks ago. 6 weeks in Europe ended up feeling about right and I was happy to return home. We experienced a mild, European winter and winter didn’t seem to set in proper til after we left. Temps were mostly single figure negative eventually making it to positive.

Prior to leaving, we’d booked accommodation for 8 nights out of 42, a return train trip from Paris to London and a couple of shows.  Everything else was discussed, explored and booked as we went. For the most part we were booking trains and accommodation a few days in advance. The broad bones of the trip were necessarily constant but the places inbetween changed, and changed a few times. Alas, no snow. We had a few flecks in Nuremberg and some hail somewhere else but no snow we could play with.

31883039312_f56cf3c2a4_nI recall travelling not dissimilarly a decade or so back, planning each place while in the previous place. Back then, I needed to book into an internet cafe and spend an hour or two working out how to get to the next place and where to stay. This time round, I had a laptop with me, a local sim card with plenty of data, and most places we stayed had wifi. The German train system is fab and and so easy to organise and book, France was a little more challenging and often didn’t recognise our credit card for train bookings so we did a few in person there. We’d discuss plans over dinner or breakfast and then I’d make the required bookings keeping in touch with airbnb hosts via the app or WhatsApp.

Airbnb was really fab. I was reluctant initially but have been converted. There were 3 of us travelling: myself, my partner and her 16 year old daughter, and we were able to book whole apartments so we had space to relax in. Many places we usually had at least one separate bedroom and a sofa bed in the living though occasionally we had 2 bedrooms. Dead simple to book, hosts were flexible in meeting times and friendly and welcoming. We stayed in some amazing places and places were cheaper as there were a lot less folk travelling in winter.

Queues were short or non existent eg a 20 minute queue at the Louvre. I think our worst queues were in Disneyland Paris and even then most ride queues were short. Disneyland Paris was one of those things we managed to add while travelling as we hadn’t planned to go initially however it was dead simple as a day trip from Paris.

Google maps was bloody awesome. I had full data connectivity on my phone though the Spanish SIM I was using never quite managed to make it to 4G and was a wee bit slow at times. But I could use my phone as I would at home for a cost of around 1-2 euros per day. I played plenty of Ingress in all countries and made good use of both google’s and microsoft’s translation software though I think I prefer microsoft’s. Google maps however made moving about dead easy: it worked out appropriate metro stops. bus stops, bits to walk etc. Sometimes it’s nice to get lost and find stuff but not when you’re carrying a pack trying to find your next airbnb.

All I need to do now is cull my photos down to a manageable amount and upload them to flickr. First run through got them down to 622 from 688, so clearly lots more culling required. Oh joy.

almost holidays

I may actually be getting vaguely excited about my impending trip. About bloody time as we fly out in 3 days. Though I usually say I don’t start to relax until I’m on the plane. We’re traveling for 6 weeks and have booked 10 nights of accommodation so far, or roughly a third. Sometimes I’m comfy with that, sometimes I’m not. I am comfortable with the flexibility.

We kept looking stuff up on wotif and being disappointed with the results. There’s 3 of us traveling: moi, my partner and Ms16. Wotif doesn’t show many places and keeps returning places with 1 bed + crib. A crib is no good. Airbnb however is showing lots of apartments, many of which are suitable ie 2 rooms with 2 beds. We’ve booked one place with wotif and 2 places with airbnb so far. We have booked accommodation over christmas thankfully as that’s likely to be a hard time to book.

Flexibility means that this week we were able to throw in a weekend in London in January and see a show or two. We have booked the shows and the Paris-London-Paris eurostar (around 2 hours 15 min each way). We will be seeing Matilda together and the other 2 will also be seeing Wicked. I saw Wicked in Sydney so I’m going to hang in London that day.

I’m a wee bit excited about going to London again which is a bit weird. I have spent more time in London than anywhere else outside Oz altogether, and house-sat occasionally. I immediately thought of a whole bunch of things I want to do and figured I needed a week minimum, however we’ll stick to the weekend. I will try to get Harrod’s as their food hall is the only place I’ve ever been able to buy Valrhona chocolate covered orange peels and they are my favourite. I’d also like to go to Kensington Gardens and see the Peter Pan statue in the snow. I usually like to pay my respects to Peter each time I visit London. I also want to go to my favourite museum, the John Soane Museum.

trip stuff

Heading off in a week or so for a 6 week holiday in Europe. I am alternately between sheer panic and totally chilled. Flights are booked, a couple of trains are booked, accommodation for first place and for christmas have been booked. I’m mostly ok with that, on the other hand I panic occasionally as there’s 3 of us travelling together and I’m not used to travelling with other people. This time it’s with my partner and Ms15.

Starting in Copenhagen and mostly spending time in Germany (for traditional christmas markets) and France, finishing off with a few days in Barcelona. Been a busy year and it’s been hard to plan or think things through. The last time I did a big trip was 3 weeks around Borneo in 2012 with Intrepid so everything was taken care of. My previous trips to Europe have usually been self guided and self propelled, on occasion finding accommodation on the fly. With that said, tech has improved a lot and I’ll probably get a local sim for my phone with data so I can carry on as usual. I doubt I’ll need rely as heavily on local internet cafes as I used to in the old days.

I had mostly decided not to take my laptop which surprised my partner. However I’ve been rethinking this week that it would be handy to have with me, particularly if we’re weighing up options throughout the trip. Phone and tablets can handle some things but they’re not great for having lots of tabs open.The other advantage of the laptop is that I can use it to back up our photos as we go. I’m toying with the idea of making my NAS remotely accessible and backing up the photos to it as well. That might be overkill and create more headaches.

18300426633_43fac8621e_n

My tablet is a 2013 edition of the 7″ nexus and while it’s still nice, it is getting a little long in the tooth and not recharging as well as it used to. I am considering picking up a new tablet duty-free, possibly the 8″ samsung galaxy S2. Unfortunately my phone isn’t dual sim so I’ll need to swap sims occasionally to check for messages from home though most friends use various messenging apps to contact me, family less so. And of course, I’ll have my ereader with me, one can’t have too many devices. The only remaining item in the photo is my old psion 5mx from 1999 – it shall remain at home :)