Lapsing and mending. Blogjune 30/24


One pic from today

Close up of pink cotton darning a run in pink merino fabric. A threaded needle sticks into a felt darning ball below the  fabric.

Today is the last day of Blogjune. This is the first one in a long time where I lasted to the end, and managed to post every day. Like the last years, it’s the post where I muse that this was actually quite fun and, while I would not want to keep up banally posting whatever is in my head each day, it might be nice to post more often. Where I regret not commenting more, or responding in more depth to comments here. Where I wish that all the people who posted for Blogjune would keep it up because I really like being inside their heads.

Let’s see what happens.

A big difference this year is that I was not all-consumed by extra hours (and hours and hours) at a job where I felt like I could never do it well, no matter how hard I tried. One where I saw others doing excellent, extra-effort work non-stop, but also feeling the same way. I get to rest, to regroup and look up now.


Today I had a mending day with a friend – cups of tea, chatter and piles of mending. I have a number of merino camisoles that are about 15 years old, all with similar moth holes and ladders. It took me most of the morning to darn just half a run, so I have a nice project for winter nights in front of the TV. Tonight I take a tray of spicy apple bake to the eco-village for a soup and movie night.


Today is also the last day to renew my ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) membership for next year, before it lapses after 35 years of membership.

I always admired those people who qualified and worked as librarians then stayed involved and interested through ALIA after they moved out of the profession or retired. I like their mix of wisdom and willingness to learn. The way they enrich conversations with their experience and ability to say “this new thing is a bit like this other challenge we had in the past, here’s what we did then”. Or, recognising when their knowledge reached a limit, but encouraging and mentoring younger professionals to explore and learn, reminding them of values and ethics that surround us.

That’s not me.

I value mentoring, but this is a role I took professionally as an educator for the last 13 years or so. I think the kids are alright. I am happy that I have contributed a bit to that.

ALIA does have an essential policy role to play, working with governments and the non-government sector on creating a fairer and more supportive society, where citizens can access information freely without censorship or barrier. I think it has done that very well in recent years, and current moves to codify professional ethics in Australia are commendable. It’s a conversation I trust other voices to carry well. Although my membership could sponsor this activity even if I am not actively involved, I am moving on.

In some ways, it’s just happening naturally.

Lapsing and mending

I love the VALA Conference and in past years loved the new knowledge and connections I made with people. If you enjoy libraries and technology, then you should be there in a couple of weeks. Me? Spending the week catching up with my son as he visits from interstate for the week.

For 13 years I had to follow anything to do with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) like it was my religion. Any standard, any policy statement, any report I needed to read and keep up with, so I could add it to the huge framework of knowledge about libraries that I had to balance in my head and in my Zotero library, crowding out room for many other ideas. In previous years, I would have done all I could to fully participate in the upcoming IFLA Information Futures Summit. An IFLA event finally happening in Australia in September! I found out about it a couple of months ago, felt a tiny bit of FOMO, until I realised that week I have booked a week-long yoga retreat. Priorities are making themselves clear without any effort or great thought from me.

I don’t quite consider myself a lapsed librarian. I’ve become someone who makes things like this happen, and that is fine for now….even if I cannot really explain what it is at parties.

Why cryptics are better. Blogjune. 29/24



An almost completed cryptic crossword. There is a lot of writing around the page where clues were worked out.

You get a clue like a regular crossword. THEN you get a big other clue that narrows the answer right down.

Here’s some examples from today’s Saturday Paper:

1. Portmanteu words

11 ACROSS: Attractive person in metal neckware (5)

Let’s go from the very end – Neckware = TIE, Metal = CU (Copper). Put them together and you get a five letter word for an attractive person, a CUTIE. This defined word was “in” the second part of the clue.

The hardest bit is working out which is the definition and which is the extra honking big hint. For most clues, it is either the first or last word. Here it could have been “attractive” or “attractive person” or “neckware”.

Like regular crosswords, the number of letters, plus any other letters filled in by other clues on the grid, narrows it down further.

2. Anagrams

After a while you get used to trigger words, like “metal” probably means a couple of letters from the periodic table. A hidden anagram is often signaled by words indicating the next part of the clue is scrambled, like “In disarray” or “ruined” or “distressed” or “about” or “perhaps”.

Try another, librarian themed:

6 DOWN: Source of information in cat brain, perhaps (10)

Here “perhaps” tells us to look for an anagram, so we start counting letters in phrases to find some that together match the length of the target word. “In cat brain” has 10 letters. The meaning, then, will likely be either “Source” or “Source of Information”. So, we put the letters in alphabetical order, aabciinnrt and stare hopelessly at it. Go on to another clue, until letters of the clues crossing it are filled in:


Giving us, after too long of staring,: BRITTANICA

3. Homonyms

Portmanteaus and anagrams make up about 75% of clues. Sometimes the clue will just list a homonym. In these, there seems to be no trigger words to point to which part is the hint (like “distressed” for an anagram or “contained in” for portmanteau words). It looks like just two possible meanings. So, with this one:

18 DOWN: Three months of flavour (6)

Three months could be a “quarter”, but that has nothing to do with flavour. What about SEASON ?

4. Hidden words

If the hint is not an anagram or a portmanteu, it is often letters of a word spelled out somewhere directly in the clue text:

2 DOWN: Nasty experience surrounding opthamologist’s diagnosis (4)

Well, obviously “opthamologist’s diagnosis” is such an odd phrase that is where we could try to find a hidden word, but nothing jumps out. Look again at the first part. The word “surrounding” could be read as “the letters in the bit before are around the target word”.

NaSTY Experience = STYE

5. Bits of words, or words stuffed into others, common abbreviations and…

There are many, many other types of clues that occasionally appear.

Cockney” often tells you to drop an “H” at the start of a word. Unless is it rhyming slang (like “apples” for “apples and pears” = STAIRS).

Spooner Says” tells you to look for a Spoonerism (where the first sound at the start of one word is swapped with the sound at the start of another. So “Oil my Bicycle” becomes “Boil my Icicle”)

Common abbreviations signal two or three letter sequences which will be combined with something else. So, if “example” features in a hint, the definition word will probably have “EG” or “EX” in it. We saw that at the start with “CU” (abbreviation for copper) for “metal“.

Let’s go for one that combines lots of techniques:

5 DOWN: Tweeting to Guevara with example about grenade part

The definition part here is “Tweeting to“, with “Guevara with example about grenade part” forming the hint. There is no easy way to tell which is definition and which is hint, you just try both.

Guevara = CHE

With = add CHE to the next bit

Example = EG

About = “put the letters “E” and “G” around the next word. (This is a bit tricksy because sometimes “about” means “the letters before will go about, so the letters in the words before make up an anagram”)

Grenade Part = PIN

So we have CHE , then the letter E (first bit of “EG“, that goes about the next word), then PIN, then G (The last bit of EG around the word PIN)

Giving us …. CHEEPING

6. My ulterior motive

I have been training you up in this because I want you to help me.

I am stuck on one last clue.

Usually I have one or two undone on Saturday, then come back to them during the week and manage to nut them out before the next weekend.

12 ACROSS: Detect music number and cheer (7)

The other words across it fill in some letters:


Definition word: It could be detect as in find out, or something to do with what investigators do. Or maybe “detect music”? But I cannot think of a word for that. So, maybe the definition word is Cheer … which could be an excited utterance, or happiness, or even a code word for alcohol?

Possible directions

  • The T_N could be the number TEN
  • Maybe it is a music number? Before I had the extra letters, I tried “HIT” or “ACT”. ACT still fits
  • I’ve tried saying the word out loud, trying every letter of the alphabet after “G” to see if I could sound out a plausible word that I could then reverse engineer.

7. Best places to learn

The clues to the Saturday Paper crossword are hoovered up by a yukky site that will tell you the answer on the day the crossword is published. Just Googling the clue above will give you the answer. I’m not going to do that… so if you do, please don’t tell me. If you work it out for yourself, let me know and I will marvel at your genius.

Have a look at the clues I have completed in the image above and see if you can work out how they were obtained. Feel free to ask me if you are still scratching your head.

I could only do five or six clues each week, painstakingly and taking ages… until I read David Astle’s excellent “Rewording the Brain: how cryptic crosswords can improve your memory and boost the power and agility of your brain. Lots of clue types broken down, easy worked examples, and witty, witty enjoyable word play.

The Guardian has run a number of columns of over several years in its Cryptic Crosswords for Beginners series.

Many daily newspapers have crosswords that have two sets of clues. One is the standard, the other set is cryptic. This is also a great way to learn.

Networks diffused. Blogjune. 28/24



A woman wearing glasses. The glasses are clipped inside a plastic frame twice their surface area with markers every so often.

I spent too long choosing glasses that are too expensive. Apparently they don’t just do the old cross in texta on the lenses any more. I wore this frame with reference points around my new glasses while the technicians took a photo face on, and then from the side. Just like a mug shot.

I replaced both my reading + computer glasses and my multifocal glasses. The latter let me see distance while I am cycling, read the signs in the shops AND read the small print on tinned foodstuff, but for long term close up work I prefer lenses with less variability.

I wanted to post on something else, riffing a bit on snail’s where have all the people gone? Read that one first.

His comment, reflecting on the demise of Twitter as a central meeting hub, gave me pause:

I don’t know if it matters that there is no longer a single community, perhaps it was time to take a break and try other directions.

It matters to me because it affected how well I did my job and the value I could bring to any organisation. As a teaching academic, I had a window into the daily routine, challenges and solutions of people in the profession I was preparing students to join. The theory I could bring, and skill I had at helping people reach their own aha moments, were not the complete package I could offer. I often said to my students “There is a lot of experience here in this class. If we just rely on my knowledge, experience and ideas; and only hear about that, then everyone is shortchanged and we miss the richness”. Being connected to a group of engaged and sharing professionals let me bring all that into the classroom. Once Twitter was not there – or rather I did not welcome the evil overlords and bailed – I felt myself getting out of touch with the profession. I had far less confidence and spidey-sense that what I was sharing or pointing students toward exploring, was best for that moment.

What scares me is that this applies also to my own sense of knowing about what is happening in the world.

I remember reading that when the Brexit campaign happened, and in the US elections in 2016, people trying to sway the result did not try to make voters agree with their position. They went for lower-hanging, easier to harvest fruit. Convincing people that their vote had no impact. There was no point voting. To stay away, not care.

In Australia, with compulsory voting, we saw this tactic with the “If you don’t know, vote no” slogans around the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum last year. Not trying to convince people to think or engage. In fact, encouraging people to believe they are incapable of knowing what is going on, and should just be apathetic. Normalising not knowing and not finding out…. then turning that into a vote for a particular position.

Today in the course I am doing about community management/engagement for communities of researchers, we were discussing scaffolding we can create to help participants get what they need from a community. Someone shared their challenge the week before where their community decided they wanted to keep in touch, but this person hated Discord, and that person couldn’t use Slack at work, and the other person had not heard of any of the alternatives… and we all nodded our heads empathetically. In the end? Too hard, no regular communication channel set up.

Snail wonders whether blogging will be a way around that disconnect. I remember the blogger’s meetup I was part of in 2007 going from people talking knowledgeably and passionately about blogging one month, to the next month everyone raving and excited about the immediacy and connection they were feeling from Twitter. Yes, we were physically in the same space (the balcony of a pub), meeting in real life.

Perversely, I think that people feel, after the endless Zoom meetings of the last three years, that meeting in person is a luxury with little to gain compared to the inconvenience of physically getting to and from a location. We are in a spot where online networks are diffuse and spread across so many platforms that the centre does not hold – but also people are avoiding in-person contact because they somehow believe they can achieve the same online.

Solutions? I wish I had some. To me the world feels smaller and more unknowable, and I miss my friends in the computer.

On the good party drugs. Blogjune 26/24



A grey hairless cat on a sofa.

This happened last time. In December Ada had most of her teeth out, returning home high as a kite. Right now she has not a care in the world and is wriggling and pouncing like a kitten, nosing into nooks she has ignored for years.

You can see the spike marks where her (now removed) lower teeth pierced her top lip.

Ten days of breaking cooked chicken carefully into thumbnail pieces so she can hoover it up. Too small and mushy and it gets caught in the gums, causing pain. Too large and, without ability to chew it, she will be in trouble. Five days of 6pm drugs…

Academic workload. Bah Bye! Blogjune 25/24



I went out to dinner on a Tuesday. Extraordinary!

Two guests were academics. They both work most weekends. And into the late night many nights a month. They have little actual time to prepare material for teaching, and even less time allocated for this task by their workplace. They are tired. Rail against meaningless hoops and procedures they jump through, and even more against fake deadlines that turn out not to be deadlines at all, but nevertheless cut into their limited time to do other tasks.

This lifestyle was a major reason I wanted out of academia. Another topic of conversation tonight, the pressures at every turn to try to anticipate the impact of your actions on student mental health, is another compelling reason I walked.

If this is you, or someone you love, you may want to consider contributing to the ANU research project lead by Inger Mewburn (aka The Thesis Whisperer) into what “being productive” means in academic work. You can find out more here: Our new survey is live – your help please?

Hello? Possum! Blogjune 24/24



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



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



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


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…