Study in gouache # 1

Tonight we learnt how to use gouache paint. Gorgeous and creamy but a little scary. Continuing on with botanical motif theme, we were to choose a flower – preferably a real one from from the fake supply, and use one colour to paint and fill in its shape. Then, use the tiniest bit of black to add darker tones and white to add highlights (tinting). The result was a monochromatic gouache tonal rendering of average quality!
Study in gouache # 1

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Some thoughts on the Cert IV in Textile Design at RMIT

I’ve enrolled in the Cert IV Textile Design course at RMIT. My sister completed the course over seven years and I was always admiring of the designs that she created and the fun that she had.

But what was I thinking? Am I mad? I have a full-time job, two teenagers and, to top it off, an auto-immune disease. Of course I have time to attend two x three-hour classes a week plus a Saturday once a month. Lucky I have a partner who keeps the clothes washed, the floor vacuumed and the four of us fed.

It’s week 3 and already the homework is piling up. It seems that we no sooner arrive at class, set up to discuss our topic and prepare for the activity that we must start cleaning up. What we don’t finish in class we must finish at home, on top of the homework.

I told Jodie last week that I think I was over-thinking the course. It’s a TAFE course, not a post-graduate at university. It’s geared towards kids with little education and older people with a lot more. It’s assessment is flexible and I should really just calm down. But the reality is that the course is very stimulating and I want to be totally immersed in it. Bugger this working for a living caper. So much of my day is wasted by having to go into the office!!

The four Ps of pain

So here I am again. Back on the blog writing a post at 11.30 at night. But not, this time, because it is a course requirement, but because I am procrastinating. Prevaricating. Prolonging the pain and protracting out the inevitable: that I must write my final assignment for this course. It is due next Tuesday and I am only a quarter of the way in!

Lectures I have attended (not including the one from my mother)

I’ve attended two extracurricular lectures in the last couple of weeks (just because I have nothing else to do.)

The first lecture ‘Digital publishing in 2010 – a Lonely Planet case study’ was presented by Lonely Planet’s Vivek Wagle (Head, Editorial) and Jane Nethercote (Senior Digitial Editor) and was organised by the School of Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne.

The second lecture was by writer and educator Mark Pesce about ‘the changing trend of internet use, possible futures and the risks and benefits of what lies ahead.’ The lunchtime lecture was part of a Corporate Communications Unit seminar series organised by the Department of Health, which is where I work and seem to spend most of my life.

Actually, I lie. I didn’t go to Mark Pesce’s lecture. I wanted to, but due to ridiculous work commitments, I couldn’t manage to find the one hour needed. So I watched his talk on YouTube at home instead, which is a joke really, because a one hour lecture morphed into a four hour episode as I was continually interrupted – either by the kids or by my inability to concentrate on the one thing for more than ten minutes. (Maybe Nicholas Carr is right – the internet is making me stupid!).

Anyway, I’m really glad I made it to the Lonely Planet lecture. Vivek and Jane are dynamic and engaging speakers. They spoke about the sort of stuff I want to know about, like

  • what is an editor (“ … a type of DJ, someone who understands the vibe and can put together content from a variety of sources for the moment …”)
  • what e-publishing is and the differences between e-publishing and print publishing (in print publishing, errors are failures [who can forget Penguin’s ‘salt and freshly ground black people‘?], but in e-publishing, lack of responsiveness is failure. And getting it out there is more important than getting it right!)
  • what Lonely Planet is doing in this sphere (“keeping on strategy, on tone and on voice”), and
  • what challenges editors will face in the next few years (a lot, as the users replace the rules in editorial thinking).

I came out with heaps of notes, but interestingly, what has remained with me is that Vivek prefers the term ‘digital publishing’ to e-publishing, because the term doesn’t look made up and has a bigger word count! Also, this great quote that sums up one of the basic philosophies of Lonely Planet:

“We alone cannot provide everything. But we can show you where everything is. Lonely Planet is about an approach to the world rather than a prescribed set of content creators. We are about people more than places.”

See fellow students Esma’s and Ashleigh’s posts for a detailed synopis of this lecture.

Mark Pesce’s lecture left me with a couple of interesting thoughts too. He suggests that we can’t predict the future of the internet because it is constantly evolving, and that

“… the seeds of the future are always with us in the present, but of course it is up to us to water them … to tend … to sit back and watch them grow.”

Or not.

He gave the example of a current seed – the development of the GPS tracker, working successfully on Melbourne trams but rejected by the Sydney bus drivers’ union – as a potentially insidious tool open to misuse in our ‘database nation’. Currently it works well for public transport, but who knows which way it will go in the future?  It could track information by ‘absence’ as well as by ‘presence’ (i.e. where we are not as opposed to where we are). Mark wants to remind us that

“… it is possible to resist, to push back … to say ‘no’ to the forces that seek to measure us and to monitor us and ask us to comply.”

Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone actually say that we don’t need to embrace every new thing the internet and the world wide web throws at us. Happy with that.

Pause, take a breath. Over and out.

(Way) too much information (Part 2)

Let’s get one thing straight. I am not an ‘early adopter’. I read about new technologies and see people freely using them, but I am not the slightest bit interested in learning of their potential application in my life. If it weren’t for the kids, I would probably only now be considering digital TV (heck, Melbourne has until 2013 to switch over!)

Sure, I’m the one in the house that will hook up the TV to the DVD or VCR (which it still is, even though VCRs went out with the dinosaurs.) But I haven’t yet bothered to hook up the Playstation 3 to the internet. I forwent the option of a T-Box when I took out the Telstra bundle, because I knew that meant more fiddling around the back where the dust lives.

I struggle with the massive amount of ways to gain, sort and keep new information. In the old days we had librarians. Of necessity, now they are called ‘information management specialists’.

The amount of information available also increases with each generation. Is it a good thing? My mother was very sympathetic to my fears when I was pregnant about all the things that could go wrong with the pregnancy and birth. She said that we had too much information and this information wasn’t making it easier for us. In her day, she said, EVERYONE smoked and drank when they were pregnant or breastfeeding. And besides, all her kids turned out alright!

We not only need  to know more stuff, but we feel we have a right to know this stuff. As we collect more stuff, we need new ways to store and retrieve it. It’s all supposed to make our lives easier and give us more time; time for the things that we don’t have time for any more because we have too much information.

When did this information overload begin? Did it begin when we stepped out of the Dark Ages? Is the industrial revolution and the beginnings of knowledge transfer to blame? As successive generations have experienced the incremental increases in information available, so have we had to find new ways to store and retrieve it.

And that is my downfall.

Look at my desktop at work – icons everywhere and I can’t find anything! Why haven’t I made folders to sort them in to?

Look at my bookmarks! That’s just one page of many. Why haven’t I sorted them into folders yet?

Look at the photographs sitting in folders sitting on my desktop at home. Why haven’t I printed them out? What use are they to me sitting in folders on my desktop at home?

Does anyone else have the same information (mis)management issues?

Also see: (Way) too much information (Part 1)

John* in the digital age

* Not his real name.

John is a 55 year old chef who has worked in the hospitality industry for over 35 years. His tools of trade are the knives and aprons and books he takes with him from job to job and are a constant in a transient industry. Chefs come and go, waiters finish their university degrees and move on and cafe ownership changes hands. The books, richly illustrated and sumptuously bound, end up dogeared and saffron-splattered, but are testament to the publishing preferences of this digital immigrant.

All very interesting you say, but what has any of it got to do with writing and editing for digital media?

Well, despite the pervasiveness of new technologies and its infiltration into our daily work and life, I thought a case study of someone I know quite intimately would illustrate perfectly that for some people, there are huge gaps in their opportunities to integrate multiple media forms into their daily life.

John’s day starts with ‘prep’ (preparation) time. This is the mad slicing and dicing and mixing and mashing that a busy café must do to ready itself for the daily onslaught of customers. He checks the two menus – the set  and the specials. Is there enough of everything and does he need to invent more? Prep time is interrupted by the start of service, and from thereon it is cooking to order. Finally, the café shuts, staff clean up and John can go home. Not once has he used an electronic or multimedia device. He has a mobile telephone, but believe me, even answering a call is a nuisance to him.

At home and after a few minutes sit down, the grind of maintaining the family begins. He washes breakfast dishes, prepares after-school snacks, vacuums dog hair from the carpet, hangs out washing and starts the evening meal. (It’s handy having an alchemist on tap!) In the background is the radio (usually and annoyingly, SportsSENtral.) Later, much later, when the kids have finished their homework and I have logged on and logged off, John finally gets the chance (if the motivation still exists) to look at The Drum, missed programs on iView, read the headlines on The Age Online or catch a movie review.

So, aside from the limited material resources at John’s disposal (that is, one computer at home and none required at work), it would seem that the lack of ‘temporal resources’ available to John would be the biggest factor in his limited involvement in new technologies.

No matter. The food is great at my place!

Vote 1, citizen journalist of Altona

There’s a blogging war going on in my LGA. You have got to love us Westies. Even as the sun sets over the refineries and the trucks shake the foundations of our lounge room floors, the passion for our suburbs never fades.

Apparently, Kyle Sandilands (that radio-cum-TV host of fame for no apparent reason), when interviewing the Prime Minister back in August this year, called her hometown of Altona a ‘rat hole’. Now that is not nice, and new Altona resident Anthony Ang (and near neighbour of Julia Gillard) didn’t think so either. He immediately created a blog, called Beautiful Altona, and I have to say it almost brings a tear to my eye. It should be nominated for a ‘most loyal and humble citizen’ award, if there is such a thing, or at the very least, a ‘service to the community’ award.

The blog is incredibly well set-out, with lots of great photographs, links, widgets, embedded multi-media such as videos and databases and even sections that he has plotted but is yet to write. There is a 10-minute video showcasing picturesque areas of the West, an interactive quiz, attractions for visitors, posts on the facilities and services in Altona as well as Mr Ang’s wish list and vision for the suburb.

In one post, Mr Ang says that as a result of creating his blog, he feels he is performing a civic service:

I had received interesting email requests such as a guy asking where he could sell his car and a girl asking how she could find housemates to share her rented house. This is an outcome that I did not expect to have arisen from creating the Altona Blog. If people feel that they can seek useful information from the Blog, the Blog would have a successful start and is on its way to playing an important and larger role in the Altona community.

You have got to admire his obvious passion and dedication, as well as enjoy his quirky posts. He gets my vote!

ericka eckles

handsewn bespoke and heirloom quality textiles