Travel, or how I broaden my mind

27 March 2008

There are many reasons why it would be easy for me to hate my journey to and fro work.

(‘Late…again’, from alistair_35’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)

For starters, as the crow flies I’m less than 30 minutes away from Swinburne, but it takes me almost an hour to get here. Arguably that’s my fault for not having a car or a licence to drive it (whichever order is appropriate), but cars are pollution factories and I have a conscience.

And why would anyone drive when the train stops right in the middle of the campus?

For good reason, as I’ve discovered. Whenever I hear people in other states whinge about their public transport systems, I’m tempted to lose my cool. Since Connex took over the Melbourne train system early this decade, we’ve developed new terms to describe inefficiency. My train was 25 minutes late last night and I missed the first third of the performance I was trying to attend. Of course, Connex apologised for any inconvenience caused, as they did when they cancelled my train again this morning and I stood on the platform for 22 minutes in the cold. Such a sincere, heartfelt recorded message always makes me feel better about being late for appointments.

Last week Connex gave out free sample boxes of cereal, as if to say: ‘sorry for making you late for work again — have breakfast on us’. Which is fine, but I’d rather they spent the money on improving the system (completely aside from the fact that I don’t like Special K). Food and trains don’t mix; I was entirely unreceptive this morning to a woman who thought I should enjoy having her children crawl all over me and rub their potato chip-coated fingers into my work clothes.

To make matters worse, I’m housesitting at the moment in an unfamiliar geographic location with a lovely dog, an affectionate cat and a pool. Melburnian readers of this blog will have noticed that we’ve rediscovered a forgotten concept called ‘rain’ this week. This morning, I woke up to find that the pool water was level with the surrounding tiles and there’s more rain forecast. By the time I get home, I think the dog will be teaching the cat to swim and the house will have floated away.

Such is life. Luckily, there’s one significant benefit to a long and painful train journey — it helps me catch up on my reading.


A grasshopper leaped from his leg, and other book memes

20 February 2008

While we’re on the topic of books, which I’m always more than happy to discuss, I’m going to stray a little from 23 Things with a book meme I found through Ruminations.

A meme, for those who don’t know, is defined as:

‘Any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.’ (Wiktionary definition)

This is a very fuzzy explanation, and could just as easily apply to pretty much any other word in the English language, but in a blogging context, we tend to think of ‘memes’ as concepts that are readily repeated, even echoed, across the blogging world. An example would be the day that library bloggers all over the world confessed to being the Annoyed Librarian.

(‘I am the Annoyed Librarian’, from heidigoseek’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)


Rules for this book meme:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people

I don’t know about tagging anyone (I haven’t done that since the playground), but here is my response:

‘Duke University and Georgia State University took their Google Scholar guides a step further by integrating the Scholar search box directly into their sites. Duke includes some caveats up front — the by-now familiar disclaimers that Scholar searches a subset of scholarly literature, that the materials are not always scholarly, and that some material is only indexed in library databases. But then the Duke guide proceeds with detailed information on how to search Scholar, how to read Scholar’s results, how to use Duke’s citation linker from the Scholar interface, and how to use Open WorldCat results through Scholar.’

(From Miller, W., & Pellen, R. M. (2006). Libraries and Google. Binghamton, NY, USA: Haworth Information Press).

Now, wouldn’t that exercise have been a whole lot more interesting if I’d reached into my drawer and pulled out the book I wish I were reading:

‘His dust still floated over the road. A grasshopper leaped from his leg.
“‘Mr Tinsley?”‘

(From Proulx, A. (1999). Close range : Wyoming stories. New York, NY: Scribner).