Saturday unplugged

I enjoyed a perfect Saturday on my day off. It began early on a cold winter’s morning as the sun came up. Donning cycling gear, then extra layers for warmth, we set out into the chilly morning. A group of us cycled our regular route past paddocks blanketed with fog. We shared a BBQ breakfast to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday.  By this time the sun was up but providing no warmth as we shivered and chatted grasping our warm drinks.

Later my husband bought some fishing gear at a local shop. We climbed aboard some big cruising motor boats in the display room dreaming of escape. Then we went for a coffee and a stroll along Mornington pier. People were enjoying the cold sunny day, fishing, learning scuba diving, walking their dogs, and looking at some dolphins swim by through the flat silvery waters of the bay.

fishing_for_salmonAfter lunch we went to a surf beach further down the Peninsula. While my husband fished for salmon, I took photos, wrote, read, and still tried in vain to soak some warmth from the cold sun. Only a few other people braved the beach and the sea was too calm for surfers. The quiet was intermittently punctuated by the roar of the waves as they broke directly onto the sand.

I walked to the rocky headland following some tiny plovers as they trotted along the wet sand looking for food morsels as the waves retreated. I thought about being unconnected from the internet. I thought about the freedom and liberty I take for granted as my birthright. My awareness of world events brought to my consciousness by the electronic media. It is depressing to hear about recent events in Iran and the sudden death of Michael Jackson, melting ice caps, the financial recession, swine flu, and more world events. Twitter effectively plugs us into the conversation, but how much can we bear?

from_the_headlandMy Saturday was peaceful, glorious, in the world, active, and so much more. Who needs drugs to get high when life is so good? And I wonder why anyone would voluntarily enslave themselves to ridiculous doctrines decreed by others. I guess that’s what the people of Iran are fighting for. I pondered these things as the fog crept slowly towards the land from the sea.

As the sun sank towards the west I noticed some sprays of water in the distance. I thought it was probably birds diving for fish. But as I continued to watch I realised it was a group of whales spouting water as they surfaced. They swam in our direction and passed by about one kilometre from the beach. Their huge dark bodies cresting out of the water and occasionally a large fin or a tale could be seen momentarily. If I had been at home with my eyes glued to a screen I would have missed this rare and awesome sight.

Later at home we cooked a curry for dinner – no fish. We watched Before the Game and then a game of AFL football on TV. This was an enjoyable and perfect way to spend a Saturday in winter away from work, computers, traffic, and worry.sun_setting

Blogging in 2009

Many people still don’t understand the power of blogging. And many others who think they do, try to run before they can walk, in my opinion. So to begin with often you first need to explain what a blog is, and often “online journal” does not come close to describing what a blog can do for you. Even when you feel you have adequately explained it, you may still get glazed-over eyes staring blankly back at you. Because, really, who wants to read the ideas of some random stranger rambling on and on, and worse still promoting themselves shamelessly?

So first take baby steps before trying to run. I think you really need to read and listen to others first before launching yourself straight away into preaching to the masses. By reading varied blogs from many different sources it educates you and you learn many important steps in the process – some technical, some social, some literary, and much food for thought. This all helps you to develop as a blogger before you set yourself up and start adding your voice to the noise.

Having a list of favourite blog sites in your delicious account or favourites list on your pc is a clumsy way to manage this regular reading task. The backbone of blogging is the RSS delivery method, so the easy way to do this is to set up a blog (RSS) reader. Google Reader handles this beautifully. I can’t understand why so many people don’t get this part of the process because in my experience this has been the major means for my online learning and professional development.

In 2004 when I first set up a blog reader and started subscribing to blogs to read I had 28 feeds from different bloggers. I surveyed the Australian libraries at that time to see who was supplying news via RSS feeds and I found only two. Now you would be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t use this means as part of their marketing and advertising program. I presented a how-to session to a group of local librarians so they could set up blog readers for themselves and hopefully launch themselves into an efficient and effective learning experience, like I had done.

Setting up the blog reader is The Tool for becoming a Master Surfer of the Web.

It allows you to tailor your information needs to suit yourself and effectively ignore the things you have no interest in. It allows you to listen first, then learn, then grow, then develop, so that finally you might be worthy of publishing your own ideas online and finding an audience for those ideas.

Now in 2009, this week I have sorted my RSS feeds. I had 116 feeds. Of those 15 had not updated in the last 12 months or more and I deleted these. Another 12 had not updated in the last 6 months so I am watching those and may delete them too. I now have 94 feeds and these are organised into the categories of: Art, Books, Creativity, Design, Education, Football, French blogs, Friends, Humour, Jobs, Library, Marketing, News, Real Estate, Travel, Web Technology, and Zen.

After reading blogs first, then learning, in 2006 I felt I was ready to write online.  I wrote a blog titled Blog of a Footballer’s Mother chronicling my son’s experience as he worked towards AFL selection. This blog had a single focus and a necessary end point.

I began my personal blog Sues Bent in March of 2008 and it offers ideas that come to me in my work as a Librarian. I simultaneously write about my interest in French lifestyle and culture at French Accent. I am humble and hesitant about offering my contributions to the growing noise and garble online. I continually question the validity of the process and try not to publish if I have nothing worthwhile to say. I always use my own original ideas, text, and images and never steal from others online or otherwise. It is obvious when people do this and it immediately robs them of credibility and integrity. It is heaps more fun to be original anyway, so start creating your own images to illustrate your blog desk









See my presentation on this topic here.

Life lessons

Strange how life seems to take us two steps forwards then one step backwards. Why is this? I try to be philosophical and positive. Is it just life? Is it life lessons, challenges, and tests we must face in order to grow, understand, and become wise and enlightened?

I have made positive decisions and steps forward with my career choices. I was happy with my progress. I had bravely stepped out of my comfort zone, stepped into new environments, joined new teams, stepped-up in terms of delivery of information services, and learnt many new systems and work flows.

All was great. My service to all customers was outstanding I believe. So what happened? I was recommended. Now I find myself back where I was before. I am back in a school library, minding the desk, supervising teenagers, and trying not to get bored and fill my day somehow. I am not a teacher so my usefulness in this situation is limited. I long for the satisfaction of meeting the numerous questions posed by a demanding public in a busy community library. I want to get back to helping committed adult students in a diverse tertiary organisation. I was there and now I’m not again!

This step “backwards” or “sideward” is temporary and I hope I don’t lose the ground I had covered and was enjoying. Yawn….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Huh?! Was that a bell?

In my quest to understand life’s little lessons, I read self-help books and go online to research. I read blogs from people who write about inspiration, creativity, freedom, and self-actualization. Zen Habits, Marianne Williamson’s JournalUnshelved, Someday Syndrome, Creative Liberty, The Happiness Project, and many blogs by people who love France.