Marginalia: Writings and Reflections

Time to Play

I didn’t believe I could wind down as fast as I have in the past couple of days. It’s Day 2 of the month off, and I’m energised, engaged, and having f-u-n. And what I’m playing at is reading and learning-new software and how to drive the new Nikon D40, a sweet camera if ever there was one.

The software is all about organising; I’m really stuck into the GTD stuff now. I’ve also discovered the “tagging” business via the de-licio-us site as a way of bookmarking stuff. Good for magpies on the net; you find something you like, you tag it with a meaningful word and it gets associated with a whole lot of other tags by people all round the net. Another face of social networking.

Just footling around the web typing in things like “Greek sailing holidays” and came upon a ripper of a site. The pictures, the prose! I knew this was the holiday I wanted. Wrote immediately about a two week cruise around the Cyclades, and heard back this morning with a suggestion that the one-week Dodecanese cruise might be a better go, since the Cyclades goes so far out from port. I think I might bring the dream forward to July 2007. OK, so now I can dream big. Greece in summer; I can almost smell the cypress trees and hear the cicadas.

Winding Up, or is that Down?

No definitely down I think. I am sleeping better, and enjoying the coffee more. The pressure is off at work and there’s time to read (oh how I love this) and sufficient trips to Brisbane without too much to do once I get there. Time on the road to finish Michael Connelly’s Echo Park on the iPod. Really have enjoyed this way of getting my fiction fix. I think it’s going to work very nicely on the long flights to Mexico and Hawaii in January.
And speaking of OS, the thoughts are turning now a lot more to plans on the retirement front. I was interviewed last week by a reporter for a magazine on the 25 most influential women or some such nonsense. Found myself spilling the beans on the projects I have planned for the “golden years” and the folder marked “sometime maybe” (thanks David Allen and GTD).
One of my work pals is getting the benefit of some of the travel catalogues which I take in and over which we pore. He wants to do some amazing train journeys, and there’s one from St Petersburg to Berlin by private train over which I think he genuinely drooled! For me it’s still the wandering round the eastern Med and then on to the UK for a bit. Bring it on! Meantime as far as the GTD front is concerned, today is the day I do my 6 monthly review and clear the desk. The inboxes are empty and happy!
The garden is looking nicely fresh after the heavy storm rains of the past 10 days or so, but will probably quickly dry up once summer comes in properly. Right now it’s unseasonally cool and Christmas could be both cool, damp as well as quiet.
Haven’t sent many cards this year. It all seems an odd thing to do now that many of the old ways seem to have gone. It’s e-cards or a phone call now. Have we lost something in all this? Maybe, maybe …
The creative writing has taken a bit of a back seat this week, but it will come!

Talk, Talk, and more Talk!

End of the academic year once again, and this week has seen us gather as a staff to discuss where we’re at and where we’re going collectively as a Department, and individually as workers within the group. Two and a half days of navel-gazing, planning and wishing on stars resulted in a surprisingly consensual assembly.

There is no doubt, after the costing exercise, that the practical courses are costing us. although the “loss” needs to be seen as an “investment” and panic ought not to drive us into cutting what we do best in order to meet the economic rationalists in the back rooms. Our call to action is a determination to continue to work in the most efficient and fiscally responsible way possible, though there must be an acceptance that in our sector of the creative arts locally, nationally, and internationally are not ever going to make money for their organisations.

During the staff retreat I found myself agreeing to direct a production of Carol Churchill’s fantastic Mad Forest in Semester 1. I’ve somewhat reluctantly agreed to this and traded off my second year classes and a production of Black Box Shakespeare later in the year. I should have driven a harder bargain and traded off some more, but perhaps that would have been a little less collegial than expected! Now I have to get into prep for another show, work on the sonnets, and bring Black Box: All’s Fair … back to life. Oh my, the life creative is a busy one.

On the personal creative front I’m enjoying learning more about digital photography and having fun with my new Nikon D-40. Took it along to the Faculty Christmas party on Thursday afternoon and grabbed a few happy snaps. So nice to have all those pixels to play with when editing; you can go w-a-a-y in, crop and still get the brilliant clarity that the lens provides. I’m going to have to spend the summer learning how to drive my newest toy, but given the locations I’m visiting, that should be neat!

Derek Story’s podcast on “The Second Shooter” was a nice thing; main shots filled in by the second shooter on the side doing reaction shots, views from the back etc. I think I’ll take this approach and work in tandem with Ed on the wedding shoot in Mexico. The combination of video and stills should work nicely on a DVD. Important though to prepare the shot list beforehand. Goody! My first assignment …

Oh yes, 10 days till Boxing Day and the shops are madness …

My Jurassic Christmas Tree

Wollemi Pine. Mount Tomah Botanic Garden. NSW
Image by amandabhslater via Flickr
Now for some time I have been feeling extremely guilty about the way my bush garden has been going to pot. And it’s all down to the ongoing drought here in Australia, my lack of time. I’ve been assuaging the guilt by telling myself that I would be away for some of the hottest weeks of the year, and so this year, there was no need to plant, and it’s true. The drought is wreaking havoc; everything seems dry and lethargic, and I’ve been in no mood to pour what rainwater I have harvested onto ground that is not going to do much with it–which is why I have taken to pot gardening in a big way. At least I can control the feeding and watering.
One of the native trees I’ve been hearing about for some time now is the Wollomi Pine, the fabled “dinosaur tree.” It was long thought to be extinct, but was actually growing away very happily and secretly in a national park outside Sydney. An abseiling botanist discovered the last stand of these beautiful trees from which seeds and cuttings have since been taken. The trees are now available for sale in Australia, but the original location remains a secret as it should. Feeling a bit flush with my Christmas leave loading, I decided that this year, I would get one for our Christmas tree. I went hunting this morning, and found a little stash at a local nursery. $99.95 later, with certificate of authentication, a very smart wrapping around a 1m high specimen in biodegrable pot, I now have a Jurassic Christmas tree of my own. It is a beautiful specimen, delicate and robust at one and the same time: the young growth is soft and lime green, the mature leaves blue-green and tougher, and apparently the bark gets “bubbles” as the tree matures. Wollomis do equally well in pots and as specimens in the ground, but for now, mine is going to be potted and live on the deck for a while.

You can read all about them at the official site of the Wollomi Pine.

Creative Stirrings

This was the first-ever entry of Spinning a Learning Web, my personal blog. In a sense it marked a change in my thinking about what a blog might be. It went on to change too as the months and years went by, but it’s nice to see what gave me the impetus back when.

This is a blog I have been promising myself for a while. A blog where I can simply chart the happenings of each day, the curiosities that emerge, the lovely things and the sad, the intriguing and the rolling pattern of the seasons of my life. The blogs I keep apart from this one are more like casebook entries in work projects. I needed somewhere else, as in a trusty old journal, where I could keep thoughts along with images and links. This is the first entry of what I hope I can keep for at least a year. We’ll seeFeeling very creative right now and wonder whether it’s just that I have time to notice how I feel. With the students now on summer vacation, there is time to take stock, think, plan, and generally give myself some time. What’s emerged has been a desire to write, to take pictures, to read, to learn more. It feels nice to be feeding the flame again, to be finding the energy to do, to want to do all of these things. The Create World 2006 Conference at Griffith U last week probably helped. Some of the work being done in the digital sphere and collaboratively is inspirational.

I lashed out yesterday on a digital SLR, my first, and the first SLR for many years. It’s a NIKON D40 which comes highly recommended. Nice, nice lens, and with all those pixels to play with, cropping for detail is going to be great fun. I’ve found myself a good digital photo site hosted by the genial Derek Story whom I’ve been listening to for some months now on the iLife Zone podcast. This site has a photo assignment each month and I am going to try to keep up even if I don’t post the outcomes of my “capture” (new term this one!).

As for the writing bug, I want to investigate the open-source Omnium Project when it is released next year. If it works as it should, then the writing and development of the one person show being developed throughout the year by my third level students could find a home in a collaborative environment. I’m intrigued by the aesthetics, administrative simplicity and the general principles behind the Omnium Project, a non-profit, community focused creative organisation hosted at UNSW College of Arts. The writing project which I want to extend from the pilot I tried this year, will I think, work better from the outset if each writer can see the others’ work, and if it is easy and pleasing to use. The first thing I need to do is however, to map out the course activities and this before I head off to Mexico for a family wedding and a drop-in back to Hawaii in January. It’s a busy time, but I’m loving being neck deep!