Hello? Possum! Blogjune 24/24

blogjune

ONE PIC FROM TODAY

A possum runs vertically down a tree trunk. A park lamp is visible in the background

In the park. After dark. Riding home from work, so very well rugged up. She tore along the ground, matching my speed. I stopped. She stopped. She looked about, did cute possum-y things. A dogwalker sent her scurrying up a tree, sitting in the lowest fork. She waited for danger to pass (which, it seems, was not me), then ran down again and into the night.

It’s late. I was going to muse on the recent graduations I have had, sparked by Con’s post on the weekend, and Snail’s crossroads (or decision to stay back from them) today and Andrew’s post from last month about career twists and turns.

Still time before the end of Blogjune. I *even* could post afterward. I guess.

Living in community. Blogjune. 23/24

blogjune

ONE PIC FROM TODAY

A small cane basket with onions, apples, garlic and a cucumber in it rests on a concrete slab in a garden bed

The pic above is the basket I left in the garden near the benches at the bottom of the staircase of an apartment building in the urban eco-village. The circular courtyard between building and garden is known as the “breast circle” because it has a large sculptural urn in the centre with thyme winding out the top. Viewed from the vege garden on top of the apartments it looks like… well..

My box of organic fruit and veg this week had too many apples, onions and garlic, so I loaded up my basket, popped on a note asking people to help themselves and went off for the arvo. The same spot has baskets often filled with produce from the main big vegie patch at ground level – strawberries, Italian parsley, broad beans… or produce from the fruit trees – enourmous quinces, mandarines, mulberries, feijoas…

The other main produce, honey from the hives on the roof, is divvied up after harvest between residents in the shared kitchen – bring a jar and spoon your share from the big pot on kitchen table. The same shared kitchen is site of a monthly potluck dinner, which is sometimes themed (like bring your holiday snaps and tell everyone about your recent travels). Keeping the shared laundry clean, and the drain pipes clear, and stairwells swept and pruning and the bike shed repaired and… many more maintenance tasks, all take place on the Saturday morning busy bee the fortnight before the community meal.

I was elbow deep in cleaning the loo this morning when a friend, who lives in the eco-village apartment I used to rent, rang me to say she had baked a cake and invited her current, and my former, neighbours for a cuppa. Did I want to join them? I grabbed my cane basket of extra veg in one hand, and my compost bucket in the other, and walked the two minutes to the community. I still drop my compost into the community bins, something that works well for me and the garden. We sat, happily knitting and chatting for a couple of hours.

Returning home, I just had time to make a late lunch when I set out again with requisite cushion, rug, water bottle and yoga mat to meet yet another resident of the eco-village at the front gates. We walked the five minutes to the local community centre to spend two and a half hours at a mindfulness mini-retreat. Lots of breath work and snuggling under rugs and rest.

Limits. Accepting. Blogjune 22/24

blogjune

ONE PIC FROM TODAY

Neighbourhood gathering in the Square. Nature Play with cubby making. Welcome to Country. Live acoustic music. Basketball. Firepit. Marshmallows. Free hot chocolate. Chatting with friends and neighbours.

Two craft tables covered in hessian. Children are building cubbies with tarpaulins, hessian and wooden poles on the grass in the background

ONE THING I DID TODAY

Accepted my limits. Back to doing Foundational Yoga via my regular livestream, having not even tried the 108 Sun Salutations last night.

I had a major spill on my new e-bike on Good Friday. I was riding into the sunset on my way to the beach, going at top speed, around 25 km/h. My front wheel slipped on some roots on the bike way, sending me sliding down the road and into the bushes on my left side. My knee, elbow and arm were badly scraped, and I hit my head on the pavement. I was helped up by a good samaritan family and prepared to ride off again, when I realised that my knee bleeding through my ripped trousers could not bend.

Yoga equipment on a wooden floor in the sunshine. A small grey cat is wrapped in a blanket on top of it.

Luckily I was mainly scraped up, rather than anything broken. It took me weeks to recover, waiting for the skin to heal over on my knee before I could bend it again. Getting anywhere, sitting and even finding a comfy way to sleep was challenging. My left arm could not really extend or hold anything well. Even with the skin healed over I have been padding my knee with a cushion whenever I do yoga.

It’s frustrating when you have worked to get good at something, and have been very mobile, to start again from a much lower level. Especially when your major transport is walking and cycling. I have a small feline cheerleader who climbs over me if I stay too still in a pose during a yoga session, and lurks about waiting for me to go into shavasana at the very end, so she can snuggle into the blanket on top of me. I’ll soon be back to where I was…

The cat sat on my hat on the mat. Blogjune. 20/24

blogjune

ONE PIC FROM TODAY

A small grey hairless x]cat sits on a brown-striped knitted beanie on a blue sheepskin.

There’s proof. Not staged.

Note the lower teeth. The only two she has left.

The vet left them when the other teeth were removed due to disease in December, hoping the top lip would settle over them and Ada would develop small calluses where the teeth rubbed a bit. Instead they have scarified her top lip, and are due to be removed next week.

The older cats get, the more their teeth fuse to the jaw, so even though they are healthy, it is best to remove them now.

Expect dispatches from a sofa, under a healing cat, next week.

Homeward bound. Blogjune. 19/24

blogjune

ONE PIC FROM TODAY

University of Melbourne from 10th floor of Law School Building, Pelham Street.

A green city square with very yellow-leaves trees at the centre.

Today was a success too.

This has been the most incident-free event I have been associated in this job so far. The Skills Summit last month had one speaker fall off a ladder and another withdraw on the day before – and the event photographer had an awful leg injury the same day. Transmission was sometimes patchy when people were beamed in via Zoom. We learned much.

So much so, that when one of the research infrastructure partners announced that Creative Australia (formerly the Australia Council) had offered for one of their Canberra staff to remotely talk about their contribution in the last session of the day, instead of being thrown into a tailspin I could say – “yes, we can absolutely do that”.

Now, finally on a plane about to return home.

Virtual and in-person. Blogjune. 18/24

blogjune

ONE PIC FROM TODAY

A table with a run sheet, microphone, two coffee cups, a drinking glass, iPhone, mouse glasses and MacBook.


Today was the first day of a two-day public symposium I am organising to show people the research infrastructure we are building. The first day of the symposium explains how we got here and outlines projects completed. Tomorrow looks to the future and explains where we are going. You can watch it remotely by clicking the first link.

With catering, stationery, run sheets, assigning jobs, contacting speakers all out the way last week; today was all about time keeping, chasing up slides presenters had not yet provided, running about with a mic, pushing out links on Zoom, briefing MC, meeting traditional custodian who was doing welcome to country and answering all those micro-questions with micro-decisions.

Today we have around 70 people on Zoom and 60 people in person. Nobody is remotely presenting. We are not recording remote presenters, although we are recording the whole thing. That’s a doddle.

But… about three weeks ago, at the same venue in Melbourne I was part of a team organising a Skills Summit, with far more moving parts. On the third day, a Carpentries Connect event, we had in-person satellite events in Perth and New Zealand. People presented from Melbourne, Perth and Wellington to all other locations via Zoom, at the same time as this was beamed into the physical locations. All needing careful coordination, which we did with a local AV company. People contributed via Zoom chat and we had simultaneous workshops on the same topics happening at all venues. Plus recordings. Which needed downloading and editing afterward.

If you want to see an account of the Skills Summit, check out Powering Research Through Skills: Highlights from the ARDC Digital Research Skills Summit 2024. You can even see a pic of me presenting and being called Kit.

You can see the recording of the session I co-presented about What we learned about skills needs in our co-design process (in the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons). In it I describe what researchers said about how they like skills delivered, who should do it and what conditions should support this. This was from a couple of thousand data points shared in 10 different workshops with around 600 registrants. Not all of it was about skills, but there were gems there.

[End of a worky worky work post].

My accommodation – it has a bath! Home does not. I nipped out at lunchtime and bought bath salts. Evening sorted.

Problems and success. Blogjune 17/24

blogjune

ONE PIC FROM TODAY

(Someone in the lobby of the law school building at the University of Melbourne is playing beautiful piano music while I have an hour’s down time and un-peopling before going out to dinner with 40 or so people)

The lobby of a building. There is a woman under the stairs playing a piano and a 2 metre high map of Australia on one wall

ONE THING I DID TODAY

An icebreaker.

For 40 researchers. All at the start of a new round of research infrastructure projects, some continuing projects and some brand new.

At a day where these project leads all meet and get to know about each others’ projects, learn what works and what doesn’t from each other. They think about their communications plan, Indigenous Data Governance and how they will demonstrate successful usage and uptake of what they build.

This was the first 25 minutes of the day and I wanted participants to talk to people outside of their projects. I wanted them to start thinking about how they would describe their projects in preparation for the comms workshop, think about what success looks like and possibly cross-fertilise to make new research projects.

  1. A Problem of 10 words

I started by expressing the problem I hope to solve in my work, in 10 words:

Focus areas need support so researchers learn to use infrastructure

Part of the first five minutes involved participants coming up with the problem their research infrastructure will solve. In 10 words. Written on the back of a paper napkin – signalling that this is very much first draft and speculative.

2. Title of a research article

Next, I instructed participants to imagine that three years have passed, and their research infrastructure project is a success. They were asked to write on a post it note the title of a research article someone could write using that infrastructure. That was the other part of their five minutes.

Then I divided participants into four groups (first – people born in June or before on one side of the room, those after to the other. Then- each of those two groups divided by people born before the 16th or after the 16th). I told them to find two people from other projects in their quartile.

In these groups of three, participants shared their 10 word problems. Then they were asked to come up with the title of one or more research articles using at least two pieces of successful infrastructure.

The rest of the day they worked surrounded by their potential successes on the walls.

People of the book and people of the screen. Blogjune 16/24

blogjune

TWO PICS FROM YESTERDAY

(My blog. My rules. I can fiddle faddle with them if I want)

An answer to Pharaohs or tree lights or shopping or bed. Blogjune 15/64

A queen sized bed under a painting of quirky birds. The bedding is white Broderie Anglaise. A large iPad and a couple of crossword books lie on it.

Dramatically lit trees in blues and greens

/

In 2008, I described on this blog my reflections after attending a talk from neuropharmacologist Baroness Susan Greenfield where she described the ways she thought what was being offered on the internet was changing young people’s brains. She contrasted (older) people of the book to (younger) people of the screens, who she suggested are more likely to:

have shorter attention spans, are likely to be less risk adverse, emotionally shallower, less likely to be influenced by dogma and spend a lot of time responding to visual stimuli.

At the time I was, like everyone else, 16 years younger. What she was saying seemed hyperbolic. She definitely got the dogma bit wrong. The rest, I am slower to reject now. I was pretty annoyed at what I saw as a very narrow understanding of what was happening online, with far less credit being given for the deep and productive socially interactive and creative work happening in online gameplay and what we called “immersive worlds” then. I provided an example of a Sydney teacher using Second Life as a way for students to collaboratively create and explore costuming, space and meaning in Shakespeare.

I vividly remember her face as she repeated throughout that younger people are being stimulated in broad-brush ways, living in the “yuk” and “wow”. Yuk and wow. Yuk and wow. So, superficially and glibly engaging with experiences so impressive that any quest for nuance, subtlety or depth is overridden and appreciation of this is simply not developed.

So, last night at  Royal Botanic Gardens Lightscape I understood the spectacle of event, saw people with their kids pointing and saying “oooo”, and a lot of people taking photos of themselves at spots obviously designed for a great pic. I was left feeling like the natural world – which itself is wonderful, amazing, impressive, subtle, delicately interconnected – was being overwritten by Wow! so it could be consumed into a feedback loop of bright flashing and flashy stimulus.

Too much felt like a generic international arena rock performance had moved into town and set up across a landscape it was not really engaging with. Laser shows and dry ice, but performers neglected. One patch was a collection of fake plastic life-sized flowering plums, with lights where the flowers should be. That lead into a spot where ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” blared out. I do not know why. It seemed unconnected to anything else.

I loved a similar event at the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide in the last couple of years. By contrast, there it seemed the artists had analysed the landscape, layout and environment to create an experience far more in harmony with the gardens. A long corridor of Moreton bay figs became a walk into sunrise. A bamboo grove was lit with lights that ran up and down each stalk to co-ordinated Angklung music, undulating as the bamboo swayed in the wind. Real thought had been put into the placement of lights in a still pond so a large tree, and its reflection that went down forever, became the stars not backdrop to the piece.

Silhouettes of people walking toward a large semicircle of light

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A grove of bamboo lit with Criss cross pattern

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Large lit up trees over a pond at night

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Pharaohs or tree lights or shopping or bed? Blogjune 15/24

blogjune

ONE PIC FROM TODAY

The corner table in a cafe next to a window sea with blue cushions. The brick wall is exposed, the table wooden and the servingware mismatched. There is a potplant in one corner and a handbag, gloves and a newspaper on the seat.


ONE THING TO DO TODAY

I booked accommodation for the weekend, aiming to fly over Friday afternoon. I realised two weeks later that the Cabaret Festival show I had earlier booked for last night did not get automatically entered into my calendar. Only one of the three shows I bought in the same transaction had – trap for new players… Which is why I was on the last flight out for the night, and finally got to bed around 1am.

I have been flat out planning for next week’s event. Normal job-gets-extra-busy-sometimes-for-good reason busy. Not academia’s this-is-just-how-it-always-is-other-people-are-coping-and-students-will-suffer-or-be-crotchety-if-you-do-not-work-tonight-and-this-weekend-again busy. I am fine with the first, but it means I haven’t really looked up enough to work out what to do with my weekend away.

I learned a bit about myself and my priorities this morning. Should I:

  • Visit the Pharaoh exhibition on the entire lower floor of the National Gallery of Victoria, which opened yesterday?
  • Book tickets to the Royal Botanic Gardens Lightscape sound and light installation at night?
  • Explore the shops and laneways, maybe find some Fluevogs
  • Spend the day in bed, doing crosswords, journalling and dozing before a big week ahead

In other words – check out empirical looting, watch excessive energy consumption, take part in mindless consumerism, or rest?

I chose two options on the list.