Jun 172019

I spent all day Sunday at a stone carving workshop … carving stone. All a lot of fun until the head fell off! Due to a fault in the Hebel block, apparently, so I came home with a headless statue AND a brand new Hebel block to try again.

She doesn’t look TOO bad .. until I give you this link… I was aiming for the statue of Geertruyt van der Oosten who stands near a canal in Delft in the Netherlands. I snapped an image that I used as my screensaver for years. She is so lovely a rotund and smooth, and looks up with such optimism.

My little stone carving is not and does not.

She looks like the Nailed It! version.

I felt far better when my classmates turned out “Nailed It!” ducks and penguins and dogs too. We all laughed with each other as the stone took on a mind of its own. All of us had a great workout for the arms, and I think spent six or so hours in a “flow” state as we attempted something new.

While I was trying to copy the lines of the original from some photographs, I was reminded of the book of Degas Dancers I bought when I was learning pastel drawing. My teacher had us copy a lot of other drawings in our sessions – and for good reason. Trying to deconstruct how a drawing has been made, which colour was layered where and in which stage, how the lines fit together – teaches you to draw better than either step-by-step drawing-by-numbers or trying to just draw without a guide.

Today I was taught about stone carving by a Dutch stonemason called Arie Teeuwisse, who completed the original statue in 1358.

Unlike drawing, where you may create a couple of good guiding lines first and then use them to get your bearings for the rest of the sketch, it seems that with sculpting you need to pick out the dimensions that are the most extreme, ensure you have them right, then build from there. This is why the lovely tummy on the original Geertruyt (which to me looks maybe pregnant ?), on my version looks as though she was sliced down the front. I didn’t allow for this curve before I started on the rest.

I was chatting with a fellow-lecturer during the week, as we have been marking work. Every so often we receive work that looks kind of, sort of right, but with wobbly bits that indicate that the student probably is trying to mimic scholarly writing, rather than has spent enough time working out what constitutes scholarly writing. I really feel for them, because I suspect that when they read academic articles, they find them so impenetrable they think THIS is how one should write…one should aim to use vague sounding language, with huge run-on sentences that really seem to go nowhere near a point.

I always wonder “what did someone do to have them feel this kind of panic when they come to write?”, and “what are we still doing to scare them so much that they do not understand that scholarly writing is above all about communicating a clear message?”.

I have my postgraduate students share their writing on discussion boards, all about different topics, but giving the topic the same treatment. I think that seeing each other’s writing lets students learn from each other. They are asked to read each other’s pieces, and I hope that by doing so, they get a better idea of where they can improve, and what they are doing well.

I don’t, however, provide model answers. Unfortunately, I find that these encourage students who get by through mimicry to give me a piece of writing that is almost a blow-by-blow copy of what is in the example.

But, I am left wondering, given my experience today of learning a lot about sculpting through mimicry, how can I use the good parts of this to help my students learn ?

Jun 162019

The bay tree is a “Baby Bay” variety and also kept dwarf by the pot size – otherwise it would be a full-blown laurel tree and 7 metres tall. Bay leaves for soup and stews.

The parsley is all over the yard and I let it grow wherever it chooses. In summer I grow tomatoes in the pots too. We just soak cracked wheat (bourghal) and have our own tabouli garden.

The cornflower is still a seedling at the back, but in a few weeks it will (hopefully) be around 60cm or so high with bright blue flowers. It is edible, but used more for interesting contrast in salads, rather than something you would go out of your way to pick and eat.

The green pot is growing Eu De Cologne mint, which CAN be brewed into a tea, but I prefer the peppermint and spearmint that I have growing in similar pots next to it. In baths, however, or even just crushed and rubbed on the skin, nothing can beat the fabulous fragrance. If you were a child of 1970s Australia and remember 4711 Ice Cologne …. it captures that smell very nicely.

Jun 142019

This is WHY I changed to dwarf fruit trees. The mandarine and olive provide a lovely welcome home drive, but are kept to manageable dimensions by rather frequent pruning.

It is difficult to see in the background, but behind both trees are grape vines growing on the mesh fence. The scattered leaves at the base are from the chooks foraging for bugs yesterday.

Our suburb has a community garden and a lot of olive trees in backyards. Every year we can pick the olives from our trees, take them to a central point and then they are driven up to an olive farm to crush into oil for us. We weigh the amount of olives we contribute, provide a bottle, and then receive oil in the proportion of our contribution to the press.

Jun 132019

…quite a bit less than I will by the time 23 August comes around…

Today I found out that I have a paper accepted for the VALA: Libraries, Technology and the Future 2020 conference, being held 11-13 February 2020 in Melbourne. The theme is “Focus on the future”.

Small curio. (2018). Kindness [Photo]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/smallcurio/44693257391/

The full title of my paper is “Kindness and UX in GLAM online presence: Same, same but different?”.

I plan to add together some Michael Stephens, some Mitchell Whitelaw, the governments of Scotland and New Zealand, maybe some Neilsen, a bit of empathy in public policy making, some rather scholarly and unscholarly ideas about kindness, some Carnegie Foundation UK kinder communities work, my own take on what it all means ….. and come up with a 2000-4000 word paper by August.

I understand the key definitions and can write about the context until the cows come home, but what I want to play with and get my head around is a question I will be nutting out for the next couple of years anyhow…

…”If it is not possible to mandate/enforce kindness, due to the voluntary and discretionary nature of true kindness, then is it instead possible or desirable to create an environment that grows kindness?”

Jun 122019

My garden is actually very small, so about five years ago I gave up on regular species of trees and started with the dwarf varieties.

This dwarf lemon is around four years old, and treated very badly indeed. It is water-stressed over summer and has only just fruited for the first time.

My gardening philosophy is that if a is plant hardy enough to handle where it has been planted, it gets to stay. Harsh, but it means that I spend very little time cosseting my plants like they are sickly infants, and generally if something takes in the garden, it is very well suited to where it is.

(Of course, I do do a lot of handwatering and fertilizing at the very start to give it the best chance of taking… )

Jun 112019

I started using Feedly to read RSS feeds again during Blogjune around 2015 I think.

I still use it for feeds of the ABC Just In stories and the Conversation each night, but not a lot more.

Each Blogjune, some blogs in the the bundle of RSS feeds I saved the previous year become active, but fewer and fewer each year.

I took a screenshots of the list from 2016. I miss so many of the different voices. I would love to see even one entry from any of these this June …hint, hint 🙂

Jun 102019

I have four varieties of rose.

Sylvia was planted for my mother after she died, and blooms every year on the anniversary of her death.

“Best Friends”, pictured here, was a gift from a friend when I married, in the hope that this would sum up my married life.

“Cecile Brunner” is a teeny tiny, perfectly-formed miniature rose that clambers over an arch at the front of the garden. I used to walk past my next-door neighbour’s bush each morning on the way to school, and was captivated by the smallness and delicateness of it. The bush itself is hardy as an elephant’s foot.

A climbing white iceberg is on a second arch, next to Cecile Brunner. A good, solid type of rose bush for traditionalists.

Rose petals can be candied. You paint individual petals in a syrup of sugar and water, or even an eggwhite meringue mix. They can be very, very slowly dried in a very low oven, or left overnight.

Jun 092019

Penny has mentioned that she would like to keep up with professional reading as a way of keeping up her learning mojo.

Unless my professional reading is shoved under my nose as part of my workflow, I tend to neglect it.

David Blackwell. (2014). Read More [Photo]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilestreetlife/12134731775/

I have three major sources of leads for what to read next.

1. Twitter.

I strategically follow people who are good at flicking out links that I will want to read … or even links that I will not read, but know that they exist in case I want to go looking for them later.

Generally I use the “2 minute rule” for productivity and during time in my day set aside for Twitter I will read useful links then and there. Those too long to read in two minutes are either:

  • Nodded at politely, thanked for existing, then ferreted away in my brain under “may be useful if you could only recall it exists and where it is”
  • If I know it has use for my writing/research – saved to my citation manager in a specific collection for later academic use
  • Those with general interest (e.g. articles from the Conversation about academic mental health) – saved to Pocket for leisure reading
  • Those useful for teaching – emailed to myself, to be processed when I next do my email, generally transferred to my “Teaching to Read” folder.

I hit “peak curation” last month when I realised that I was co-curating with Jane Cowell in a very, very odd way.

When I specifically taught Twitter to my tech students, I set up a “paper.li” paper called The Infoventurer Weekly. Paper.li is a great little tool that collates the most popular/followed links that the people you follow push out, and sorts them into a magazine-format webpage. My Twitter account automatically tweets out a link to the paper.li paper every week.

Now, I don’t always see the most popular links from the people I follow on the day they send them out, and while I would like to say I generally read the paper.li each week, I simply wasn’t.

But – Jane was. She would then tweet out a very interesting link, hat-tip to my account by including @infoventurer in the tweet. I would see it, and discover a delightful, relevant interesting link that I would not have seen otherwise.

2. Email alerts

Email is another “in your face” way to make sure I will read. I want the link to come to my inbox, and then to be filtered into its own file called “To Read”, sitting on my sidebar with the number of entries obviously growing each day…nudging me to set aside time to read, or at least browse.

Each source has its own folder that it is automatically filtered into.

The sources that I use are:

  1. Those pesky emails I email to myself when I find articles but do not have time to read
  2. Automated alerts of new items added to the discovery layer for my university library, about my research interest
  3. Automated alerts from some of the large journal databases provided by my university library, about new items that meet my research interest
  4. The UK-based JournalTOCs (Tables of Contents) site. You can set up a profile and then select alerts of newly published items in journals that you specify. There are over 300 Library and Information Science titles listed.
  5. Roy Tennant’s monthly Current Cites items
  6. ALIA’s Professional Development Postings, ALIA Weekly , and the Australian Public Library Alliance News

3. Exploiting my poor students dreadfully

I set an assessment in my technology unit where postgraduate students are required to locate an authoritative journal article published in the last two years that is specifically relevant to whichever Topic we have studied that week, and provide an analytic summary.

(Not all students, the task is evenly divided over the weeks. Those who do not summarise an article have opportunity to answer questions posed by the students who summarise the articles)

This is a really good way to ensure they do actually understand what the topic was about, as they have to articulate how the article is relevant. It also makes sure they understand what the disciplinary literature looks and smells like, and the quirks of the “how we done it good” papers, and the not-so-authoritative journal articles that still manage to be not-so-helpfully indexed by sources like Proquest.

The summaries are shared, so it builds up for all students a far wider survey of current reading than I could ever provide in my Topic notes.

BUT – It also is a way I can check that I am on top of the latest literature in the area I teach. Sometimes I will incorporate a reading a student found the previous semester into the Topic readings. Even if I do not, by following the citations in the articles I am forced to get a pretty good handle on some of the current disciplinary thinking in the areas I teach.

Jun 082019

New Zealanders who visit get very excited over the feijoas – also known as pineapple guavas. Apparently they are part of many N. Z. childhoods?

I would like to say I feel the same way about the fruit… but.. more often than not the entire crop ends up bitten by fruit fly and on the ground. This tends to peak at Easter, so every Easter Sunday that end of the garden looks like a demented Easter bunny has dropped green and brown fruity Easter eggs.

By contrast, I DO get a bit excited by the flowers. The petals are like a thick, crisp suede, but have a lovely, fruity flavour. Even though I don’t eat the fruit, I can’t bring myself to eat many of the flowers because it feels like I am stopping the life-cycle… which really makes no sense if they are just going to end up on the ground.