Saturday, November 03, 2012

Following Wordpress blogs

Ronnie just commented about following Wordpress blogs in Blogger and I'm hoping the following information will help - I've been following Dinahmow's blog "More Idle Thoughts" in Wordpress for a few years now, and all I did was add her to my reading list on Blogger.  The main reason I've moved off Blogger is that earlier this year Google decided not to support the version of IE that we use, which made posting to my Blogger blogs very hard indeed.  Although upgrading to Windows 8 has definitely improved the situation there are many things about the new Blogger interface that really annoy me and blogging on Blogger just isn't as much fun for me as it used to be. 

From what I can see, though, following a Wordpress blog from the new Blogger interface should be fairly easy: when I log into Blogger I see a "My Blogs" section first which lists the blogs on which I am an author.  Underneath is a section called "Reading List" which you can expand to show the blogs you follow.  If you click on "Add" (button just below "Reading List")  you are prompted to add the URL of the blog you wish to follow.

If you have problems, let me know and I'll do some more research!

The blog has moved!

Want to know about Brain Pickings?  Please change your link to this blog and follow me over to HERE...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Plus ca change

Plus c'est le meme chose, or something.  This is the last time I'll be posting on THIS blog because... I've moved house!  To see the continuing exploits of DoubleElephant please change your settings by following this link to my new address: doubleelephant.wordpress.com 

See you at the new place!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sleepy tired

We got back from a few days away "up North" yesterday, and today has been slow and easy as a result.  The trip was the first in a while, but we wanted to go and visit friends who've taken over a motel in Stanthorpe, in the "granite belt" wine making district in Queensland, as well as visiting my dear stepson and his partner who have just moved house in Brisbane.  Wine became a bit of a theme!  For some reason we hadn't really anticipated the fact that darling daughter would wish to spend most of her time at the motel in the company of her bestie Belinda, despite the fact that the trip was partly to give them both a chance to catch up with each other, but the net result was that dearest husband and I had a free day.  Naturally we chose to spend it driving around the local wineries and other food-y places, but I wish to emphasise that we did NOT GO MAD and stopped sipping after only three wineries, mainly because we don't have any money and it's torture visiting these places and not being able to buy a bottle of the lovely stuff you've just tasted!  Instead we interspersed the wine tasting with cheese tasting and a visit to a cider farm, and had a lovely drive through the local national park.  I've never visited that part of the country before and it was lovely: lots of huge granite outcrops (unsurprisingly) and fields full of vines or apple trees in bloom.

After the bucolic bliss of Stanthorpe we got a small hit of city life with two nights in Brisbane.  Stepson and partner have (inexplicably) moved out into the suburbs, but we're not them and they seem very happy in their newly-rented 3-bed house.  We'd booked dinner at Ortiga as a treat and spent a small fortune on a taxi ride back into the city so that none of us would have to drive.  Stepson is now a sommelier and we made a deal that he would buy the wine and we'd pay for the food - what I hadn't anticipated was that one bottle of wine would equal the cost of food for five people!  But then, wine isn't my business, nor can I claim a tax rebate on tastings for "professional development" reasons...

Next day I had the luxury of meeting Robyn Foster, Helen Malone and Jack Oudyn from BookArtObject at the State Library of Queensland, where we spent a delightful few hours with Helen Coles in the artists' book collection... We'd advised Helen about what we wanted to see, and she brought out two hefty trolleys full of books for us to look at.  Her colleague, Ann, took a photo of us for their blog and promised me a copy: once that arrives I'll blog about the visit in more detail on the BookArtObject blog, but in the meantime I can tell you that I had a lot of fun!  It was great to meet three people in the flesh whom I'd only encountered on-line, but the excursion was saddened by the fact that our mutual friend Amanda wasn't able to come out with us that afternoon as planned.  Oh well, I guess that requires me to go up and repeat the exercise again at some point!  What a hardship!

We drove back gently yesterday, with another picnic lunch en route.  Today I've managed to see friends, do some shopping, witness the tail end of the Buskers Festival in Coffs Harbour city centre at lunch time AND get out in the garden!  A gooseberry bush, a pom-pom tree (Dais Cotonifolia) and some horse radish were duly planted, but the highlight this evening was a swarm of fireflies, spotted by dearest husband out by the car port, winking their way through the darkening sky.  We stood there transfixed, watching them float around, feeling very privileged to have seen them and enjoying the silence and the standing still for a few minutes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

al Mutanabbi Street - it's hard to squash ideas

You'll have noticed I'm a bit grumpy at the moment.  Losing a job you enjoy does that to you, I find.  But today I was reminded by email that as ever, my troubles pale into insignificance compared to the misery many other people suffer.

I'm working on books for the Al-Mutanabi Street project, aiming to deliver a symbolic collection of ideas-as-artists'-books to the National Library of Iraq as some sort of consolation and message of hope in the face of senseless destruction, thanks to the ingenuity of American poet and book seller Beau Beausoleil.  He's just one man, who got angry at the attack on a city, a nation and a culture represented by the bombing of Al-Mutanabi's historic book sellers in 2007 and started a world-wide "civil" protest in all senses of that word.  Today he sent out an email about the Iraqi government's own acts of repression: sending in the bulldozers to Al-Mutanabi Street.

What do you do in the face of stupidity?  I just don't know, but I feel a bit weighed-down by the thought of it and I'm seeking distractions so I don't get depressed.  School has just broken up for the Spring holidays and I'm looking forward to taking a few days off and seeing friends and my stepson, and meeting some BookArtObject friends in Brisbane on Thursday.  I've taken my dahlia tubers out of their winter storage in the shed and I suppose the sight of tender pale pink shoots rising out of the sawdust is what has made me happiest so far today, although we're off to a wedding in a few hours which will also be happy and hopeful.  When I come back from Brisbane I will finish binding my friend Willis's books for the Al-Mutanabi Street project and then start on my own, and I am looking forward to making the acquaintance of a Syrian/Iraqi refugee family in Coffs Harbour who have offered to help me do some English to Arabic translations.  The wife is from Baghdad and knows the book market well.  I wonder if she's seen the news.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Vale, TAFE Visual Arts

I don't often get political on you, but honestly I'm in despair.  TAFE (Training and Further Education for those not in the know, i.e. education that fills the gap between the achievements of school and the ambitions of university) bore the brunt of some heavy New South Wales cost-cutting last week with the announcement of massive slashes in budgets and a withdrawal of governmental support for Visual Arts courses (which includes ceramics and sculpture) on the basis that such courses don't lead to employment.

On the one hand NSW TAFE Executive has been preparing TAFE institutions for the promise of such cuts for a while and we're all in the middle of strategic initiatives designed to ensure that we're all lean, mean machines delivering high quality education outcomes on minimal budgets - you know the sort of lingo - it removes the listener from the reality of a passionate and inspirational teacher making a real difference in a classroom.  On the other hand we weren't expecting the changes until 2014.  Ouch.

Visual Arts copped it hardest: Visual Arts courses will no longer attract State subsidies, putting them well beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest of students who might be able to pay "commercial rates".  But in a double-whammy, the State government also announced that under the new "entitlement funding model" where the money goes to the student who can now wave a 'voucher' that 'entitles' them to a subsidised course, students will have NO entitlement to a Visual Arts course.  Ouuchhhhh.

Working at TAFE this week has been, shall we say, difficult.  We're all in shock as the reality of the new situation sinks in.  We're all looking at each other, knowing that redundancies are on the way for the lucky few with a permanent (or temporary) employment contract, while the rest of us part-time casual teachers will simply fade out without any compensatory payments.  Meanwhile we're supposed to "remain as positive as possible" for the sake of our poor students, most of whom are now stumbling through their courses knowing that there is no possibility of attempting a higher level of learning next year.  Bang!  The door has shut, despite much trumpeting about the value of "Creative Industries"" in contributing $20 billion to Australia each year.  Bang!  Who cares?  TAFE will be reduced to providing courses in response to identified skills shortages only, with the possible optional extra of becoming a jobs brokerage.

I've written to my local State and Federal MPs, of course, together with party leaders, opposition education spokespeople and the like but I haven't received so much as an acknowledgement of receipt so far.  If you care about arts education in New South Wales you may be motivated to follow this link and print off a page to get a local petition going, since on-line petitions - whilst valuable - aren't what forces the government to raise the issue in Parliament.

I'm actually too tired to argue with you about the value of the arts, the role of TAFE, and just how wrong this all is.  I feel thoroughly demoralised, and I'm remembering - with a wry smile - how happy I was only a few weeks ago to think that next year we would be a two-income family again.  Anyway, I'll be 'trying to be positive' tomorrow as I teach printmaking to a Diploma group that has just found out it will have to fork out a LOT extra in order to complete their second year of study - if, that is, they feel it's worth it now - if they wish to leave TAFE with a piece of paper that says they're qualified to Diploma level in Visual Arts and Contemporary Craft.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Remember...

...Me? That's right, I used to blog here!  I've been away, not because I don't love you all, but because the combination of six jobs and Blogger taking a dislike to my operating system (yes, Google, that's you I'm talking about) made blogging a bit tricky.  Now I've dropped one job and upgraded my operating system, so not only does Google like me slightly more now, but I have the odd 5 minutes of free time.




What have I been doing?  I've taken advantage of the subtropical late winter and early spring to do lots of gardening in between jobs, and I've been working with Darling Daughter on cuttings, seeds, plants, hand-made cards and lino cuts for our stall at her school's Spring Fair.




I've also been hatching plans for websites and mail-outs, teaching at TAFE, teaching at Primrose Park in Sydney, plotting a course at Sturt Summer School in January 2013 - more information coming soon! - and trying very hard to stay afloat.

For the last 12 years I've made my own employment opportunities, having left the full-time workforce when pregnancy caused everything to go horribly wrong.  I love being an artist and all the things I do associated with being an artist, and I'm not going to give them up, but there's a chance that I may have a shot at more permanent employment that could dovetail nicely with other activities.  So perhaps professionally things are about to change?  Not immediately, perhaps, but over the next year.  It seems a good time - in the Spring, on the cusp of change - to take stock, so be warned!  I'm planning an assault on my on-line presence at some point, just as soon as I've finished in the garden....

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Jewels in Winter

Aseroe Rubra emerging from the palm mulch

The fruiting body "hatches"
I love the translucent jelly with the spiralling membranes!

Apparently the brown slime smells like rotten flesh...
Flies are attracted to it and spread the spores


I like the fact that it adds colour in the winter garden


I found these lurking in the palm mulch: just the occasional one at first, but in the cooler weather they're popping up all over the place. A quick search of Australian mycology websites revealed that they are a common stinkhorn called Aseroe Rubra. These, and the delicate nests of Cyathia Novae-Zealandaes, are decorating my garden in the cold!  Since I don't put my nose up next to them I haven't noticed the alleged stink, and they don't harm the surrounding plants.

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