1. Suggest a question for us to answer
Dec 292012

Con has just tweeted out a link to a post about “5 Motivation Hacks for Bloggers”. It’s timely. We’re reactivating our blogging here for 2013.

Harry. (2007). South-Beach-_05.jpg. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/phinworld/1104372772/

I’m not going to link to the article as it is on a content farm site. (Honestly, with a tagline “Generate Traffic, Convert Leads, Make Money!!!” I just cannot bring myself to go there… you should be able to find it from the post title and that information if you really want to). The tips are nice, however:

  1. Make it a habit
  2. Make it enjoyable
  3. Make it challenging
  4. Make it public knowledge
  5. Reward yourself

They are what FQ is all about. Con and I started this exercise as a space for an enjoyable challenge that would become a habit (…what the “fortnight” bit is all about).  We found, however, that posting just once a month each was not habit-forming enough. It was actually easier to blog daily when we were doing #blogjune than to get into the groove to post monthly.

One of my resolutions this year is to spend more of my time doing things I like to do, so we are trying a new schedule. One of us will post weekly, and rather than just one of us answer each question, both of us will. We will take it in turns to be the first to answer the question. The schedule gets so complicated that we are just slavishly following a Google doc and answering and asking a new question whenever it says to.

So, while the question I would like to ask Con after reading the blogging hacks is “Reward ourselves? What should we do to reward ourselves if we keep up with FQ regularly?” , my actual question to her (Question 21) that she needs to answer in the first week of January 2013 is “Do you have any New Years’ Resolutions?

Q20: What of the book?

 Posted by at 8:29 pm on 16 September 2012  Technology, Thinking  No Responses »
Sep 162012

Kathryn asks a question about the Future of the Book:

As book publishing evolves to encompass more non-linear, multimedia and interactive material, do we need to start calling them something else? Is book enough?

View of our old living room 2

Despite the growing popularity of ebooks, I suspect that for most of us, when we use the word book, we are still thinking of something very specific: a paper-bound object that can be held in the hand, and that we read. (We still have a need to distinguish ebooks from paper books. Some people call paper books real books. Even in electronic format, the word “ebook” still recognisably retains the book element.)

This paper object has a particular form – a front and back cover, and pages of paper, with words, pictures, diagrams, maps, printed on the pages. Books can come in all sizes, but we generally understand books to have standard sizes, so that we know roughly how big a “standard” paperback is, as opposed to a trade paperback, as opposed to a hardback, and books outside these sizes are either small or large.

Of necessity books have been linear – even with books that you can dip in and out of, there is a first and a last page – and pretty much the only thing you can do with them is look at their pages, with no interaction beyond reading the words or looking at any images. They are a technology of their time. There’s no reason they have to stay like this, now that we have different technologies. But as to how they will evolve, I really couldn’t say.

The physical aspect is just one aspect of the book. I don’t think I can do justice to another aspect of the book: the fact that books in their paper form have been a part of our culture(s) for so long that they are ingrained, and we love them and they are so much a part of our consciousness. Think: literature, poetry. Think: Shakespeare, the books of the world religions, Proust, Tolstoy, Dickens, all the books of your childhood and that you enjoy now… Their impact on language and culture is immeasurable.

In her Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson says:

Books, for me, are a home. Books don’t make a home – they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside. Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space. (97.3)*

What else can I say about books?

We read them for pleasure, and to learn.

Jeanette Winterson again:

Reading things that are relevant to the facts of your life is of limited value. The facts are, after all, only the facts, and the yearning passionate part of you will not be met there. That is why reading ourselves as a fiction as well as fact is so liberating. The wider we read the freer we become. Emily Dickinson barely left her homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, but when we read, ‘My life stood – a loaded gun’ we know we have met an imagination that will detonate life, not decorate it. (176.6)

Books have always been powerful, and will continue to be powerful. Surely the word book is enough.

Kathryn, do you care to give me your take on this question? As book publishing evolves to encompass more non-linear, multimedia and interactive material, do we need to start calling them something else? Is book enough?

* My odd page notation is due to the fact that I have been reading an electronic version of Jeanette Winterson’s superb memoir.


Q19: What do I read ?

 Posted by at 10:35 pm on 31 August 2012  Library, Play, The Past, Work  No Responses »
Aug 312012

It had to happen – Con has asked a question about reading

Who is your favourite author for relaxing/recreational reading?

What’s your favourite childhood book (or who was your favourite author from childhood)?

What do you read for professional reading?

Of course the answer is “It depends”… Any more answers like this and I think I will add “It Depends” to the list of question types.


If I am going on an aeroplane or staying away from home where I want my brain to disengage:

  • Ben Elton – novels with little character development, often published too quickly (when a final edit may have made it all tighter and more interesting) BUT the subject matter and speculation gets me thinking and enjoying the twists and turns of the plot
  • Jodi Picoult – legal-medico issues that are already not black and white, but with added shades of grey as personal circumstances and feelings meet with abstract ideas
  • Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries aka Sookie Stackhouse – very soft porn vampire trash with attitude. Few redeeming features. Should be more of it.

If I need to hide from the world and divert my mind – the works of P. G. Wodehouse.

If I want to reread something with wit, clever structure, deft characterisation and poetic use of language that I know will delight me, and that I will get something new from with each rereading – works by Vikram Seth or Zadie Smith.


No competition – Enid Blyton.

From the “Fairies” series as a seven year old through to the “Cherry Tree Farm” series and then on to the “Naughtiest Girl” series. The English countryside that seemed to be full of jonquils and daffodils and springy heather (it was always “springy”) was just as exotic to me as the school structure in the “Naughtiest Girl”. Both seemed as plausible and likely as each other. This is unfortunate because although Spring in England does bear some resemblance to the eternal nature ramble through the woods of Blyton’s child characters, I am yet to come across a school where everyone pools their pocket money and any food sent from home and where rules, punishments and rewards are decided by the children themselves at a weekly Meeting (with a capital “M”). I was quite old before I realised just how far from regular this model was … well, tuck boxes and lacrosse and French Mistresses called “Madame” turned out to be more or less true,   so why not the anarcho-commune of Whyteleafe school??



Must try harder.

I get a lot of my reading from Twitter, which often leads me to an interesting report or journal article where I will follow up the works cited if the matter interests me. I am more or less at a stage where I know the right places to research and the right terms to use if I want to get up to speed with topics about which I need to write, so rather than read “just in case”, I tend to read at the point of need. I also use Zotero to collect references that I may need later – again saving until point of need.

I have alerts from our university library resources for a couple of regular publications – ALA Library Technology Reports via Proquest and the Tables of Content for a few publications about public libraries. The last professional reading that I did for the sake of “keeping up” rather than at point of need was a month ago,  Karen Coyle’s  Library Technology Report Understanding the Semantic Web and RDA vocabularies  from 2010.

So, that’s me and my reading. Now Con while we are talking about reading, can you have a crack at this question from a couple of months ago from Kim –

 Future of the Book – As book publishing evolves to encompass more non-linear, multimedia and interactive material.   Do we need to start calling them something else? Is book enough? (Something that came up at a recent workshop I went to) http://slav.global2.vic.edu.au/2011/12/06/volumiques/


Q18: Zombies!

 Posted by at 9:33 pm on 15 August 2012  Play  4 Responses »
Aug 152012

“Zombies, werewolves or vampires?”
What sort of a question is THAT, Kathryn?

How can there be any question?

Zombies, of course!

It’s always been zombies for me.

I’m partial to a zombie movie. One of my favourite games of the last five years is Plants vs. Zombies. And I love the symbolism that’s possible, using zombies – zombies as a symbol of the decay of human society, as a metaphor for what can happen when social controls disappear. Are we all mindless, unthinking drones? Zombies

Vampires? Meh. They’ve been hijacked by Twilight. Since when did they become It as a literary device in books for teens? Have you noticed how much vampires have come to dominate the Young Adult section in bookshops?

Werewolves? Men (are they ever women) turned into mindless beasts? Hmm.

The illustration? My inane attempt at providing some colour to the post. All the great images of zombies I could find online are copyright. My scratchy drawing was done on the iPad using the app Bamboo Paper and a $2 stylus. Thanks to @thelibrarykim for the recommendation of Bamboo Paper (great app!) and the stylus. The tie the zombie is wearing is for @malbooth.

Next question is a three-parter:

A “what are you reading” question:

Who is your favourite author for relaxing/recreational reading?

What’s your favourite childhood book (or who was your favourite author from childhood)?

What do you read for professional reading?

Aug 012012

Con, having gone all Zen about work, has asked me do you still consider yourself to be a librarian?

For those who do not know me very well, I qualified as a librarian in 1989 but now teach technology and public librarianship in the Information Studies Department at a university. The other part of my job involves research (currently into creativity and public libraries) and service to the profession and the community.

I guess this question riffs on the conversation I had with one of my colleagues who told me that they do not consider themselves a librarian, but an academic. My friend, Kate, who is also a library school lecturer identifies herself in her twitter profile as an “(ex?) librarian”.

Greenhill, Kathryn. That’s Not My Mug …, December 11, 2007. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sirexkat/2110264087/.

I no longer select, acquire, organise, store, retrieve or circulate information for other people. Well, except for creating material for my students. And in the way that almost everyone who touches on social media professionally curates and shares information.

It all depends on how one defines “librarian”.

If a librarian is someone who works in a library, then clearly I am not a librarian.

If a librarian is someone with formal qualifications recognized by an accrediting body, then my Masters of Information Management makes me a librarian… and I will never, ever not be a librarian.

If a librarian is someone who formally qualified AND works in a library, then again – I am not a librarian. Seems obvious, but the blurring of positions, where formally-qualified librarians work as researchers, records managers or policy officers, suggests that maybe teaching people about libraries and how to work in them MAY make me just as librarian-ly as those who do not work in a library building but still consider themselves to be librarians.

If it is about a natural aptitude and love for organisation, a curiousity about knowledge, an inbuilt desire to share what I know, a love of technology, systems thinking to streamline operational processes and a sense of fairness for all people – then get me to sign the register, make me wear the t-shirt,  teach me the special handshake and call me “librarian”. I can go with that.

So, right back to you Con, my question for you to answer in your next post is “Zombies, werewolves or vampires?”.

Q:16: Work work

 Posted by at 6:00 am on 16 July 2012  Living, Thinking, Work  1 Response »
Jul 162012

Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?

I got all tied up in knots trying to think about what I’d consider to be work!

Is work just my day job?

When we say that something feels like work we often mean it’s somehow unpleasurable or unenjoyable, to be avoided if possible, or at least gotten over with as quickly as possible.

Do the dishes
What about all the household chores I have to do? Are they work? They certainly feel like work!

Just about anything can feel like work, if I let it!

Would it be a cop-out to say that it’s all in my attitude? If I let myself dwell on all possible, potential negative aspects of whatever the task is, it can all be too much, and all unenjoyable!


To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles!
If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert. With the fork in my hand, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the texture and the flavor of the dessert, together with the pleasure of eating it, will be lost. I will always be dragged into the future, never able to live in the present moment.
Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane. I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end—that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them.

Thich Nhat Hanh, from Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Note, this enlightened way of looking at all tasks is my ideal. The reality is, sadly, often somewhat removed.

Because I am an unskillful (in the Buddhist sense) human being, I complain if I am busy, and I complain if I have nothing to do. (Basically this is my way of saying that depending on what sort of day I’m having, I will either wish I had less to do, or find everything I have to do tedious and painful and wish I could do something else, and that something else would be so fulfilling, of course, that I wouldn’t mind if I was completely swamped with it…)

I didn’t mean for this post to go all Zen, but given that we’re on the topic of work, tell me, Kathryn: do you still consider yourself to be a librarian?

Q15: To the 15 year old me

 Posted by at 9:01 pm on 2 July 2012  Living, The Past, Thinking  1 Response »
Jul 022012

What would you like to tell your 15 year old self?

I haven’t thought about it very much, but the year I was 15 was a very momentous year.

It was the year my family immigrated to Australia from Malaysia and settled in Perth.

I don’t know, reader, if you can remember much about what you were like as a 15 year old, but I do remember that at the time, I really did feel like I had been exiled. Leaving my school and my friends behind, and everything that was familiar, was just the end of the world. We arrived in Perth in January, and it was hot and dry, and the air smelled funny (gum trees, I know now). I was sullen, sulky and generally bad tempered for a while, and it didn’t help that when I arrived at school the other kids were all in their cliques and uninterested in getting to know an ungainly tomboy, an Asian no less. When we arrived there was a lot of anti-Asian sentiment here and there were times it was downright unpleasant. Like the time I went to get the bus to school and found the bus stop covered in posters proclaiming: “Asians Out or Racial War!”

It took a while for me to find my feet. I took refuge in the school library, and in the public library too – my first exposure to libraries, in fact. I did not understand the obsession with sport and couldn’t (still can’t) swim, so I read lots. I became fascinated with indigenous culture and started to learn more about this country by reading.

Anyway… to cut a long story short, I would tell my 15 year old self this:

  • Immigrating to Australia is not the end of the world. In fact, you will have a million opportunities and experiences, and you’ll even come to love it here!
  • It’s a shame you didn’t let yourself open up to those of your high school teachers who cared, and who wanted to talk, help, and advise. Thank you though, Mrs B. and Ms. H., for trying!
  • And no, your belief that just about everyone else is better, more intelligent and more capable than you is WRONG. You are not too unintelligent to be a librarian. Really.

Q15: To me at 15

 Posted by at 10:42 am on 30 June 2012  blogjune, Living, The Past, Thinking  1 Response »
Jun 302012

Con’s question for this last #blogjune post is: What would you like to tell your 15 year old self?

OK. The first thing is to suggest that I tell my mother that the Kodak disc camera, that she has sent back to the manufacturer twice already, is going to be discontinued in 5 years time. If mum keeps trying to use it and it keeps failing then I will be left with no photos of myself at 15. Instead I will have to be satisfied with this one that was taken when I was a little younger.


Second thing is to let myself know that I do not cringe when I think about my behaviour and choices as a 15 year old, even though I was really concerned about what I would think when I was older. The only thing that really concerns me is that this fear of my own future disapproval stopped me from being maybe a little more free, a little more kid-like than I could have been.

Deciding on my own to apply for a scholarship to a private school, choosing friends who I actually liked rather than those who everyone else liked, asking for and then teaching myself the flute and continuing with dance classes were all smart decisions that I ‘d like to thank my 15 year old self for making. I’d even like to give her a stamp of approval for some exploratory holiday romances that were exceedingly joyful and painful – but I would suggest that the long and detailed account that I wrote about it in the back of my parents’ car was best not mailed to a friend who would then share it with others.

Third, I would want myself to understand that there was no way that I was responsible for my parents’ relationship and how uncomfortable the household felt. I would encourage myself to continue to try to stay at friend’s houses where possible to get a break from the atmosphere at home.

Fourth, I would suggest that next year, when I go to a school with a well-equipped Apple Mac lab that I do not resign as a computer monitor after the first three weeks because I will be the only girl and I will feel excluded and dumb. Learning simple programming would be a great idea.

I would suggest that I value my mother more, and the way that she is trying to encourage me in her own way. I would suggest that it would be easier on both of us if I did not try to prove my independence and maturity quite so often. If she wanted to see me as precious and to know what was going on in my life, maybe it would be better for both of us if I was more gracious about letting her mother me. Saying “thank you” to her every so often would cost me little and would go a long way.

Finally, I would let myself know that I will escape from the small country town and I will not have to live within its attitudes or limitations. That the world outside does have more tolerance, kindness and creativity and that it will be a far more pleasant place to live.

So, Con – we did it! A post every day for #blogjune. But, but, but … do you think that tomorrow you could possibly answer the question What would you like to tell your 15 year old self? – even though it is not technically #blogjune? I just am interested in your answer.

And then, we switch to our original idea for the format  and you have until mid-July to answer the question: “Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?”

Q14: Me, a middle-aged mum?

 Posted by at 10:44 pm on 29 June 2012  blogjune, Living, The Past, Thinking  3 Responses »
Jun 292012

The question”Do you consider yourself to be middle-aged and is this a problem? ”

I’m 44 .

Yup, that’s middle-aged.

… but, is it a problem?

I just put this image here because Con had a baby photo in her post.

Unlike Con, who sits at around 28 years old,  I’ve thought of myself as about 32 since I was 15 or so. In a small country town, I realised that I was making life choices – whether to do well at school, to drink, take drugs, have sex with just anyone  – with a much longer-term view than the other kids around me. I remember having one eye on my future self and being really worried about what she would think of me. I was worried about her being disgusted or disappointed or embarrassed by the choices that I was making as a teen. Possibly I still think of myself as around 32 years old.

What could be a problem for me as a middle-aged mum, with one of my own kids turning 15 this year, is that an abrupt life change means I am revisiting many of the situations that I last confronted as a teen. Being newly single, for the first time since I was 18 years old, has me thinking about issues that seem to go more with adolescence than middle-age. I am, however, pretty well-sorted on the drink, drugs and sex-with-just-anyone issues, thank goodness.

I wouldn’t characterise these new/old challenges as exactly problems, so much as situations that need a problem-solving toolkit that has been gathering dust in the back of the cupboard for 25 years and that needs to be now combined with the confidence and ability that does, as Con mentioned,  come with age.

I want to make new friends and increase my social circle now that I am no longer one half of a couple. How does one go about that? Is it possible for me to have a friendship with another single person without the “are you a potential sex partner?” question silently sitting in the background like it did as a teen (for me it did anyhow, YMMV).

My kids no longer live with me for 50% of the time, so I am trying to adjust to what on earth one does with nights at home without anyone else in the house or to care for. So far it has involved lots of baking, some friend-phoning/IM-ing and much dancing to the stereo turned up loud – often to songs from the mid-1980’s that I have not really listened to since then.

I am re-calibrating and will need to make choices about where I live and the dreams that I want to follow. With the requirement from work that I start a Phd very soon, I am looking at again being a long term student and immersing myself in learning in a way that I have not since youth (yeah – remember, I’m MIDDLE-AGED, so I can talk about “my youth”).

Also unlike Con, I am finding myself physically in better shape than when I was younger, and not so worried about the bits that sag and change. I think that once pregnancies – when I was YOUNG! – stretched bits out of whack then I became far less worried by other bits going South.  After 35 years or so, I finally got my asthma under control when my doctor convinced me to start a regular preventer, so I no longer spend 4 or so months every winter with respiratory infections. No more swivelling of heads and staring as I break into a hacking cough in crowded rooms. I am running or cycling most days and have much more stamina and generally feel more physically capable.

So, while I am definitely middle-aged, and this is not in itself a problem, I am facing some problem-solving that I did not exactly expect to be happening when I was a middle-aged mum.

Tomorrow the last post for #blogjune, Con’s question about What would you like to tell your 15 year old self?



Q14: At Middle Age

 Posted by at 10:09 pm on 28 June 2012  blogjune, Thinking  1 Response »
Jun 282012

To answer this question, Do you consider yourself to be middle-aged and is this a problem? I first had to look up a definition of the word “middle-aged”!
Just going by the first sentence in the entry “Middle age” in Wikipedia, I guess I must be middle aged: “Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age.” Apparently “The US Census lists middle age as including both the age categories 35 to 44 and 45 to 54, while prominent psychologist, Erik Erikson, sees it ending a little later and defines middle adulthood as between 40 and 65.” I’ll be 42 this year.

I’ve never been leery of telling people my age or anything. That said, in my mind, I think I’m still about 28. Age is a lot about how other people perceive you, too, isn’t it? I did get a slight jolt when the shop assistants in the Chinese restaurants started calling me 阿姐 “ah jie” (“older sister”) instead of  靓女 “leng lui” (“pretty girl” – reserved for young women; presumably you’re no longer pretty as you get older). I wonder when they’ll start calling me 阿姨 “ah yee” (“auntie”) or even 阿婆 “ah poh” (“granny”). To my nephews and nieces I’m sure I seem ancient! And some students at the uni where I work do look incredibly young…

I like the fact that I have more experience and am a lot more confident and much more comfortable in myself – and seem to be getting more so, the older I get.

What does bother me about getting older is the fact that physically everything is starting to get a bit worn. Things sag, get creased, change colour. And given that my Dad died recently and I’m watching people I know deteriorate due to age, that awareness that life has a finite period – that we’re all going to die some day – is a lot clearer to me these days. I certainly never thought about it in my twenties! Now, I think, “If I want to do ___ I’d better do it!”
Mini Me

Next question? What would you like to tell your 15 year old self?

*Title of the post is also the title of a novel by a Chinese author, Shen Rong