Monday, June 30, 2014

One last Diana Wynne Jones

I found The Islands of Chaldea in the bookshop yesterday.


Diana Wynne Jones is one of my recently discovered but very much loved authors. She is no longer with us so I was surprised to see a new book and then noticed that it was 'completed by Ursula Jones'. Oh dear I thought. My experience with other authors collaborating or continuing the work of a well known author hasn't been very good. However I looked a little closer and discovered that Ursula is one of the younger sisters of the author and the family had agreed that she should attempt to complete this last novel. There is a very touching afterword where this is explained and my fears were calmed.

I bought the book and am looking forward to a little more from Diana Wynne Jones.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Growing your own

Last November I obtained a colour bond vegetable planter, compete with good composted soil.



The first crop was a mixed success with the tomatoes and capsicums eaten by grubs but the beetroot and pumpkin were a great success.

The winter crop is cabbage, broccoli and onion. The wet weather has been great and they are thriving!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Let there be light

I drive with my headlights on during the day. I believe this improves my safety on the road. Other cars can see me more clearly and not do anything stupid, or if I do something stupid (and we all do sometimes) then they may compensate for my stupidity if they can see me. However the downside of driving with my lights on all the time is that the globes blow more often.

As it turns out cars are not always designed for easy maintenance. And I am not the most mechanically minded person. I could get the lights changed when the car gets serviced but that is sometime away and driving with one headlight (or none) seems to go against my goal of improved safety.

The car parts place will change the globe for me for $10 but do I want someone barely old enough to drive themselves doing that job and costing me $10. No I don't.

In the front passenger side you have to remove the coolant bottle. On the driver's side you have to unclamp the battery and move it about two inches. Perhaps the designers never expected the car to outlast the light globes?

Long socket and the battery is unclamped and moved back a little.


Out comes the old globe taking careful note of how the spring clip works.

Oh and by the way don't touch the new globe with your bare fingers or it will not last very long after you put it in. Hence the gloves, the lamp and the socket. And the car manual.



Job done. Money saved. Sense of satisfaction. Priceless.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Harry Potter and the French Language

Ms 15 was told that she needed to start reading some French books to improve further in her study of the French Language. This makes a lot of sense to me. Reading is the basis of her large English vocabulary and her grasp of the finer points of the language.

She found the French edition of the fourth Harry Potter in the school library and after a long time (for her) she is near the end. Harry Potter is a good choice. She knows the books really well and they are amusing and interesting but not too difficult to read (they are kids books after all). Now she needs the rest and they are hard to find.

So off to the Amazon Kindle store, and then onto the Pottermore Store and finally we have the first three, in French, on the Kindle. Happy.




Thursday, June 26, 2014

Robert Frost and Chicken Soup

Something there is...that makes me want to find my Robert Frost.

'The Tuft of Flowers' was one of the poems I studied at school (as you can see from my annotations) that has always stayed with me. A sign of a great poem I think. You may like to read it online.


Chicken Soup (Julie Goodwin's excellent recipe) was what got me thinking. The makings had all been prepared by my better half who was out doing kids taxi service when I got home. I got busy making the soup which she enjoyed later. We made the soup together even though not together.

Robert Frost and Chicken Soup.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The personal touch

In my office at work I have a few personal touches, usually objects that have been given to me by the children (and hand made) or that I have acquired whilst travelling. They are there to remind me that there is life outside work!

Above my desk.

On my door.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014


On a large campus there is always building work taking place. In this case one of the larger buildings has been completely emptied of staff and students and the building has been gutted ahead of a major refit. It is always interesting to see a building without windows, doors, internal walls or ceilings. The bones of the building are now visible for a little while.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Walking in sunshine

After the wet and windy weekend weather it was a treat to walk around campus at lunchtime. The morning was clear and very cold. By the middle of the day it was pleasantly crisp and sunny. This is winter in Perth!



Sunday, June 22, 2014


I spent a very pleasant half an hour in the foyer of Supanova the pop culture expo waiting for Ms 15 aka the Cheshire Cat to emerge from the ruck so we could take her home.

So many people in so many costumes. Modesty was sacrificed in the name of effect and the costumes ranged from the endearingly homespun to the awesomely effective. The young mixed with the old enough to know better.

We are so going next year.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

On the radar

We live in the Information Age and that includes what is happening with the weather.

Rain is coming!

Even the wind can now be seen


Yet no one does anything about the weather :)



Friday, June 20, 2014


Today was the last day at work for a colleague who has been at my place of work, in one role or another, and at one site or another, for well over 20 years and who is retiring. I've worked closely with her for the last dozen years. I watched as she took her final leave, wandering from area to area, being fare-welled by staff who had celebrated with her at a morning tea yesterday and at a farewell dinner last night. She will be back in a couple of weeks for a function and we all expect to see her from time to time over the coming years, but she will no longer be a fixture, first to arrive and last to leave. I will look around a meeting to see what she has to say and she won't be there. I will think about coffee but she won't be there to invite. She is moving on and we are staying behind.

I think that moment of retirement makes us all reflect on the journey and take stock.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Amsterdam and Perth - connections

I have always been fascinated by the shipwreck 'Batavia' and it's unfortunate history, being wrecked off the coast of Western Australia. In the WA Museum's Shipwreck Museum in Fremantle you can see the bones of the lower hull and various items recovered from the wreck site. In their museum in Geraldton you can see the stone arch that acted as ballast in the ship and was destined for the Dutch settlement in Batavia.

It was strange for me visiting Amsterdam where the ship set forth. In the harbour there is a replica of a ship from the same company, itself wrecked in the English Channel. I didn't have time to visit the replica but having now been to Amsterdam I am looking forward to my next visit to the Batavia exhibit in Fremantle.

The 'Amsterdam' in Amsterdam.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Retrieving the book

One of the things I noticed on my recent tour of libraries was the dominance of closed collections. I was told that historically these old European libraries didn't have the space for open collections (closed stacks are much more economical of space) and thus have always had most of their collections requiring retrieval. As a result they have refined their mechanisms for doing so efficiently.

At Leiden University Library I saw this 'post office' type arrangement.


Clients would request their book(s) via the catalogue and minions would retrieve them from the stacks and send them upward using mechanical means. The inventory control system would allocate them to a pigeon hole according to number and size etc.

Clients would come along when ready and use their card and the screen to ask for their books and the right door pops open and at the same time the books are then lent to the client. If they are never collected then the books are returned to the shelves. Elegant solution to a particular way of working.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Stairway to heaven (Part 2)

...and here are the rest of my recent stairs.

The Royal Library in Copenhagen only permits access for clients via escalator to the upper floors. This give visibility and management of access.

By contrast, within the old inner sanctum of the collection you can see the classical helix of stairs!
The spiral staircase at Kaisa House, Helsinki University Library, is elegant and stylish. The balastrade loops about and creates quite a visual effect.




Monday, June 16, 2014

Stairway to heaven (part 1)

Whenever I travel I am entranced by stairs. For me these are as interesting as doorways. Perhaps because like doorways they are not an affectation, like a grotesque or a facade but a necessity for getting from one level of your home or library or palace to the next level. How you choose to make those stairs or staircases reveals something about you.

Here are some recent stairs that caught my eye.

These are the side stairs within the Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands, which I visited because it houses the Escher Exhibition. These are not the grand stairs in the centre of the house but the more practical side stairs. Still pretty neat.

And this is looking down the elegant central stairs which take the long way up!
By way of contrast these are the stairs for accessing the public shelves at UT Delft library. They let all of the light through and blend into the overall structure.
Whilst at Leiden University Library these stairs have more rugged and substantial feel to them and draw the eye.
Meanwhile at Chalmers University Library the stairs have a more stone and metal feel, though sufficiently broad and elegant to do the job.

To be continued...


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Never leave home without...


I've often said to myself and anyone who will listen 'never leave your hotel room without your camera and your map'.

The map may help you find your way home after you have inevitably gotten lost. Getting lost is an important part of exploring a new city. If you don't get lost then you aren't doing it right. And indeed the map in your pocket may not help you by itself especially if you have walked so far in the wrong direction that you are now off the map. I have done this recently. Or if the street names are so long, as recently mentioned by Con that they are hard to get your head around. However the map will help avert that sense of panic that comes from being completely lost, disoriented and jet lagged in a city that doesn't speak your language.

It is as important to never, never leave behind your camera. Even if you are just going out to buy some supplies or to have breakfast, even breakfast in the hotel, you never, never know what you will see and that demands to be captured. On my recent travels I took over 900 photos in 14 days. Treasures.

Here is an example. The Hockyroos were based in the same hotel in The Hague that I stayed. I thought it would be too intrusive to have taken their photo at breakfast but I did take a photo of their tables, set out for them each morning and with a nice touch of the Aussie flag. BTW, they were very nice, said hello when you passed them in the lobby and seemed so young, but tall!

Footnote: Yes, I know that the smart phone can be both camera and map, but I don't have one and any way the principle is the same!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Competence comes before confidence

I heard on the radio about an address by an Admiral McRaven who's advice was to start the day by making your bed. You can see it for yourself at Change the World and I believe it has gone viral so you may have already seen it.

His point was that making the bed started the day on the right foot and that doing one thing and doing it well led naturally to doing the next thing and so on. And if your day was lousy at least you came back to a made bed! The psychologist on the radio said something that resonated with me, 'competence comes before confidence'. Doing something well, even something small, build confidence. He liked the 'make your bed' analogy.

Now in my job I can go days or weeks or months before something is successfully completed. It's the nature of the work but you don't get the satisfaction of a competed task everyday. So I compensate by doing the dishes. I really enjoy washing dishes (at home). I can turn a mess into orderly cleanliness and that always gives me a sense of satisfaction.

Yuk. Gotta clean that up!

Here come the suds.
Ah. That's better. Ready for the next meal.
(Offers of psychoanalysis politely declined.)


Friday, June 13, 2014

A little closer to home

My raised garden bed at home, with super soil, is now into its second planting. The first planting was a mixed success, with the beetroot and butternut pumpkin successful but the tomato and capsicum devastated by a grub.

For the winter crop we have cabbage, broccoli and onion. They are going well as you can see after the first month or so. If you look closely on the left hand side of the photo you can see some leftover seedlings planted into the uncultivated ground. Alive but a pale shadow of the crop growing in the composted soil. Our little control group.


Lots of rain in the last month which has also helped.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The familiar yet not familiar

I visited a fabulous bookshop in Helsinki, the Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (Academic Bookshop). One of the things I noticed was that there were many books in English but also other languages and that they were not all that separated, especially in the fiction areas. They mingled quite happily on the shelf and I guess reflect the multi-lingual population of Finland.

I looked for one of my favourites series, Tintin, to see if they were there and found them, in all languages, including English.

And another favourite of the kids.
The excellent bookshop also had a cafe, yes it was a Starbucks, but it had lovely, well designed but functional furniture. The shapely table below was concrete thus very stable and heat resistant. The chair was easy to clean and move but styled and very comfortable. It seemed to me that the Finns seemed to pay attention to design! FTW.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A little more Tove Jansson

When I was visiting Gothenberg University (in Sweden) I was surprised to see an exhibition in their library of works by Tove Jansson. I asked about this, knowing she was Finish, and discovered that she was from Swedish speaking parents and in fact Swedish is still a substantial language in Finland. She was much admired in Sweden and I suspect many Northern European countries.

Here are some snaps from the book exhibition for your enjoyment.

Classic Moomintroll books.

And some more Moomin...

This little fellow looks familiar. A burglar by trade?

Doing the hard work for another author.

Alice I Underlandet!

Illustrations, but not a kids book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Being global

Attending an international conference means you meet colleagues from all sorts of countries, including those that don't have English as their first language (though their ability to speak English humbles me). Occasionally I follow them on twitter to maintain the connection and to get a different perspective in my twitter stream.

Obviously they will sometimes tweet in English but often, especially as they return to their own homes, they will tweet in their preferred language. This is a problem for monolingual me, especially if something intrigues me.

I use Tweetbot as my preferred twitter client and it has a handy translate option! 


Problem solved.

Here is an example.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Connections to Finland

I was at an international conference in Helsinki last week, my first ever visit to Finland and I will admit that prior to my visit I'd have been hard pressed to say where it was on the map except for a vague impression that it was in the North and rather close to Russia. 

What I hadn't realised was that I had connections to Finland, in my pocket, on my iOS and in my childhood.

The first is obvious. I have a Nokia mobile phone and Finland is the home of Nokia. 

The second wasn't obvious to me. Finland is the home of the creators of Angry Birds.

The last was tucked away in my memory and emerged when I was bombarded with Moomin trinkets and toys, fabrics and fridge magnets. Finland is the home of the creator of one of my favourite childhood book series, the Moomins. Her name was Tove Jansson (which I can now pronounce correctly thanks to my Finnish colleagues), it is a hundred years since her birth and she is an iconic figure in Finland. As luck would have it I got to visit the special exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum and was blown away by her work as a painter, illustrator, cartoonist and author. 

However I have also discovered that I am a little unusual, in my own country, in knowing of her children's books. I borrowed these from my public library as a child and have sadly neglected to expose my own children to them. I will be correcting this oversight in the near future.

You can discover more about the remarkable Tove Jansson at

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The library at TU Delft

One of the libraries I visited recently, at TU Delft in the Netherlands, has notable architecture and use of space.

The library is an earth covered wedge with a cone rising up through its centre.

The grassed sloping roof provides student seating and a great view, but a bit of a climb.

Inside the entry level provides a vast space with natural lighting from the glass walls and the skylight at the top of the cone. The books on open shelves are visible on the tall rear wall.

These books on mezzanine floors give a traditional feel to a modern library. This photo also illustrates the use of concerted, steel and glass and the sense of space.

The interior of the cone provides study areas for quiter work.

Looking down through the interior of the cone is breathtaking.

And I couldn't finish without a shot of the massive bike storage just outside the library.