Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Radio silence

I’ve apologised for radio silence on this blog before. But this time, I’ve had a different reason than the previous computer game distraction.

I’ve been distracted with planning our big adventure. In 2011, the family Penguin will be embarking on a round the world trip. I’m taking leave from my work, we’re taking the boys out of school, and we’re going to travel around the world. We’re having a brief stop in Asia, spending the best part of six to eight months in Europe (and Africa and the middle east) before going across the Atlantic to the US, Canada, and possibly a bit of South America.

Although I’ve been totally public with this news for over a week now, I’ve hesitated before blogging it, as I know we are extraordinarily lucky to be able to afford to do this.  Being in Australia, to start with, has insulated us from the global recession hitting the rest of the world.  And as a well paid professional, it is much easier for us to be able to save up enough to do it than your average family.

A few people have commented on how expensive this all is. And it isn’t cheap. But I’ve read a few round the world travelling family blogs now, and by far the biggest expense is the foregone income. We’ll be spending more in the year away than we would at home, but not that much more. By travelling for a year, we’ll be able to do it slowly enough that we can catch public transport, instead of taxis… stay in places for a week or more that wouldn’t be available by the night etc. But not having income for a year… that’s something to save up for!

Now that we’re public with all of this, I’m hoping to resume blogging, both on our new travel blog, Around the world, and here with my usual random topics, although the blogosphere has become such a different place, that rejoining it may well be like starting blogging all over again.

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Low blogging

Enough of my friends have commented on my lack of blogging lately, that I’ve been trying to work out what’s going on. So here’s a self-indulgent post about my blogging habit and what’s happened to it.

I originally planned to take up blogging for professional reasons. I was a consultant, and it is always good for a consultant to have some intellectual property out there to show their prospective clients how much they are worth hiring. But my employer at the time hated that idea – not enough control – too much risk to the brand, so I did it anonymously, thinking I would still use it to develop my professional thinking. But when I actually started writing, it became much more personal – a way of thinking through my thoughts about lots of divergent issues – and forcing myself to come up with an opinion. It also had the unexpected side-effect of improving my writing.

And now I realise that blogging gradually became my conversation in the evenings, as Mr Penguin was spending 3-4 nights a week as a councillor on our local council. So after I’d put the boys to bed, I’d take the chance to start or join in the conversation about the world that was going on in the blogosphere. Mr Penguin decided a year ago not to stand for re-election, so he’s here in the evenings, again. We’ve had more time to chat. And I had someone in person to have a rant to about the latest world issue, because we had more time to fully develop the conversation. So I didn’t feel the need to rehash whatever it was on my blog – although I suspect I would have a better formed opinion if I had.

I also joined a choir this year, which I’ve always wanted to do – I love listening to voices in harmony, and wanted to try being a part of that, even though I’ve never done any singing.

So my blogging gradually slowed down. But I do miss that blogging conversation – it’s a different one, than the less structured one we have in person. So I’m going to keep at it, even though I suspect that my posting rate will stay pretty low.

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This month, I’m hosting the Down Under Feminist Carnival! A wonderful inititive started by those indefatigable Hoydens, tigtog and Lauredhel, at Hoyden about Town. I’m particularly keen to have posts with a workplace focus, so all workplace submisions gratefully received.

But all feminists posts are welcome, and if you don’t have your own blog, don’t be shy, feel free to send me a post that I can put on my blog for you.

The submission form is here, but it’s down right now, so feel free to email me on penguinunearthed at gmail dot com instead. Submissions due by 31 October.

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I’ve got a few half formed post ideas buzzing around my head, but the weekend’s gone by without a post, so here’s a meme (thanks for the tag third cat):

You’ve all done it by now, but here’s my answers:

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Hard to believe that 1998 really is 10 years ago. I was commuting every week or two to Wellington, NZ for work. Thinking about whether I wanted to move to Japan without Mr Penguin for 6-12 months (since I hardly saw him anyway!). Getting used to being in my 30s and the doubling in frequency of the question, “so when are you going to have children?”. Perfecting my answers (my favourite one is still, “my garden died – why do you want me to have children?”)

Five snacks I enjoy in a perfect, non weight-gaining world:

Chocolate, cherries, plain chips (crisps to you), sashimi, juicy nectarines

Actually my perfect world has less to do with weight gaining than the free availability of stone fruit and sashimi at any time of the day or night. 

Five snacks I enjoy in the real world:

Chocolate, biscuits that happen to be lying around, apples, cheese and sultanas.

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Give up my job. Try and decide whether its a feminist or a green charity that deserves my time and money most. Spend a year or two travelling the world while I decide. Give a good chunk of money to family and friends.

Five jobs that I have had:

Amusement park ride operator, envelope stuffer in the beginnings of Macquarie bank (before it was the Millionaire’s factory), gymnastics coach (only paid in gymnastics lessons), editor and actuary.

Three of my habits:

Blogging, skipping, snacking (see above)

Five places I have lived:

Manhattan (Kansas), Philadelphia, London, Sydney, Wantage (UK)

Five things on my to do list (for this weekend):

Tae Kwon do, blog post, change sheets, get gmail address book up to date, sort out bookshelves (those last two have been there months – unlikely to move soon)

I’m not going to tag anyone. I really don’t believe there is anyone left in the blogosphere who hasn’t done this one.

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A book meme!

Via pretty much everyone in my feedreader (well so far Pavlov’s Cat, Ampersand Duck and the Hoydens), here is a book meme.

What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish. Confusingly, everyone seems to create their own code at this point, but I’m going to stick with this one (from the Hoydens).

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The [A] Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984 [I did my HSC in 1984. Say no more – and I copied this comment from Ampersand Duck!]
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – finished it for school (but a struggle – would never have finished it voluntarily)
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince – although it’s on my bookshelf ready…
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

I’m fascinated how much Jane Austen is on the list – I find it hard to imagine not finishing one of those you started. And I’m struggling to remember what I did read for school now. Not much, it feels like, going through this list.

*Edited – my formatting must have gone awry last night – I was claiming to have read 90% of these books! It’s now at a much more reasonable level.

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It’s been school holidays recently, and I took a week off, just to hang out with the boys. They did a drama course in the mornings, but the rest of the time we lazed around the house not doing very much. Perfect blogging time, you would think, but actually not. I became utterly addicted to a computer game we’ve been playing together – Rise of Nations. You get a nation of your own, and guide it through doing research and trading from the stone (ish) age to the information age (i.e. now). You win either by conquering all the other nations, or building wonders.

We have networked it, in our house, so that we each have a computer, and a nation of our own, and play cooperatively. Lots of fun, and addictive enough so that I’ve been playing against the computer in the evenings. My google reader feed is out of control, and I haven’t written a blog post for three weeks! I’m sure I’ll be back, once the excitement has worn off, but in the meantime – posting might be lighter than it has been.

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Google Reader meme

I’m labelling this a meme – Unrelaxeddad did it first. What are the first ten blogs you clicked on in your google feedreader?

Another experience – Third cat gives us another snippet of life in Adelaide – headlice. Her writing always leaves me wanting to know more.

Launching Holla back Australia! Lauredhel from Hoyden about Town (who finds feminist stories in the most amazing places) is launching a site for women who want to expose their harassers and attackers.

Reading Landismom is reading about September 11 – both in fiction and polemic. She and I seem to like a lot of the same books, so its always a treat when she writes about them.

Tim Harford visits Melbourne – Joshua Gans writes about Tim Harford (author of the Undercover Economist)’s lecture at Melbourne Business School. I went to see Harford’s lecture in Sydney this week, and thoroughly enjoyed it – he’s an excellent speaker – 45 minutes walking the stage chatting without any notes whatsoever.

Cruelty beyond belief  – Colin, Christian‘s husband, writes a calm post about the desirability of people being allowed to choose to die humanely at a time of their own choosing, in the face of anguish I can’t imagine, watching Christian’s distress at gradually losing her congitive functions.

Diane Farsetta on Iraqi deaths – Deltoid has another small piece in the continuing saga of the controversy of how many Iraqi deaths there have been in Iraq since the US invasion. Tim Lambert tries his best to keep those (mostly right wing) commentators who would prefer science to be ideological on the straight and narrow, by pointing out where the balance of fact (rather than opinion) tends to be. The mainstream media has a lazy habit of giving equal time to both sides of any controversy (global warming is a classic example) without bothering to find out which side is more credible. Tim Lambert tries to give them better source material to review credibility.

Another blogger gets naked – Jo(e) persuades yet another person to pose naked for her blog. I’m in two minds about whether I’d like to go to a conference with her – she can clearly charm blood from a stone, but the consequences could be international!

Don’t Fuck it Up part 1 – Helen at the Cast Iron Balcony has noticed the very unrepresentative nature of the 2020 talk fest steering committee – one woman (and a glamorous one at that) and lots of old, white, anglo types.

Something to do with Swords – Miss Cee writes about finding, and then losing, and then finding again, a great science fiction bookshop in Melbourne. I’ve been pondering my next holiday – Melbourne’s sounding better all the time (despite the wild weather that forced her into it).

Locavore – Jennifer (ponderosa) in Bend, Oregon, writes about the aftermath of living with snowy streets all winter – cinders all over the house. I love reading of her life in a natural environment so different to mine – the weather, the trees, the animals, are all completely foreign to me.

That was harder work than I expected, but a fun lucky dip!

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Happy New Year

There’s an easy meme going around, which is the first sentence of your first post of each month, to see what was occupying your mind during the year. On reading mine, I think I need to work on my opening sentences!

  1. There have been a couple of articles (probably because it is the silly season) recently about the unaffordability of pre-schools in NSW, compared with other Australian states.
  2. Longevity risk is the risk that you live too long.
  3. Today’s book review is The Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson.
  4. Since Wednesday, Chatterboy has been in Royal North Shore Hospital being treated for pneumonia.
  5. I was sitting in a meeting today, when we were talking about the need for an impressive barrister to help us with a tricky regulatory issue.
  6. The other morning, Hungry Boy was sick.
  7. Last night, Sydney’s public transport was in chaos, so I caught the ferry home.
  8. Once a month, I spend the best part of two days in a series of Board meetings.
  9. With APEC visiting this week, my team took the opportunity to dress in casual clothes.
  10. We’ve just come back from a three week holiday in Italy.
  11. I’ve always been one of the 4% of voters (Antony Green) who voted “below the line” in the Senate.
  12. The Institute of Actuaries of Australia does a quick (36 seconds is the promise) survey of its members once a month, reported in its imaginatively titled magazine Actuary Australia.

Happy New Year everyone.

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Best posts of 2007

Club Troppo has called for nominations for the Best blog posts of 2007 (Australian). I don’t think I belong in that illustrious company, but I thought it would be a good exercise to work out my top five for the year. My blog posts are quite varied. The ones that I work on my writing tend to be pretty short (I can’t sustain it for long) – I think this one is my best this year, whereas I have others where I try to do original statistical research, and others where I respond to a political issue (usually feminism, but not always). And then there’s the book reviews

Based on what was chosen last year in the same exercise, Club Troppo is going for posts that are reasonable length stand alone essays about an issue or a personal experience. The kind of thing you’d read on an op-ed page. Not necessarily funny. I think blogging can be much more than that, with some posts being as much about the thoughtful comments and conversation as the post, and others being pungent one paragraphs.  

And here are five posts from other Australian bloggers that deserve a mention:

Elsewhere‘s tribute to her brother and meditation on grief

Tim Lambert‘s comprehensive demolition of Miranda Devine

Suzoz‘s mediations on ageing

Daily Flute tracks down the real villain on interest rates

Helen points out the ironies in those Humorless feminists right wingers who just can’t take a joke

There is so much great writing in the blogosphere, it is a wonderful effort of the Club Troppo team to pull it together like this.

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Music bleg

This is a plea for musical advice from my blogging readers. But first, a bit of background.

I play the classical piano quite respectably. I learned it all the way through school, and got to the point where I could play some impressive sounding classical pieces.

But now, I have no party pieces. The closest I come to it is that I can play Mozart’s Theme and Variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but that is quite transparent showing off. Although I can play a tune by ear, I can’t play harmony by ear. I need music. And I’ve always looked enviously at those people who can sit down with a guitar (less often the piano) and become the life and soul of the party by adding music to it. So I’d like to work out (say) five pieces of music that I can sit down and play, and people will actually enjoy, perhaps even sing along to (possibly only if alcohol has been consumed first).

What would you learn?

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