I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Research and Collaboration and Tom

On various fronts this week I've been thinking about research collaboration. It's one of my roles for my School this year, to think about how to strengthen and develop research groups, networks and partnerships, so I am starting to map the various forms of collaboration we are involved with, in our School, the Faculty, the University and elsewhere in Australia and internationally.

Our research centre for the history of emotions is all about collaboration (you can download our annual report for last year online here). No longer does the typical humanities scholar work in splendid isolation, though this perhaps still persists as a dream. "If only I could just stay at home and write", we sometimes say.

Today we had a meeting with half our centre and an interlocutor helping us think about possibilities for disseminating our work more broadly, and making connections beyond the usual humanities circles, and it was frankly inspiring to hear about everyone's work. Being part of this Centre keeps me very busy — it's not about having quiet writing time at all — but having this other context to work in and speak to produces a different kind of inspiration, or incentive to work.

And then yesterday I sat with Helen and we nutted out various possibilities for the paper I'm writing for Manchester. Having funded research assistance makes all the difference to my work for the Centre. It makes it possible to work across as many projects as I do. There is a white board in the room where Helen and Anne work with all my deadlines written up there: we regularly meet and update and cross things out as they're done and write up more things to do, and they go off and follow various leads for me. It is superb. But they are also collaborators, in that they are brilliant interlocutors for trying out ideas and following trails down rabbit holes, and reading drafts and telling me when things aren't holding together. Yesterday I sat with Helen  and we spent an hour or so following down some threads that took us from Chaucer to Boethius and Machaut to Petrarch, scrambling across Middle English, Old French, Latin and Old English; and together we made a little map of a tiny nugget of an idea that I will develop over the Easter weekend as I write my talk. So all praise for different forms of collaboration. Helen and Anne are also both doing huge amounts of background work for this bluestone project, which will make it possible to start writing this book in second semester, even though I will be teaching two subjects.

One of my other lovely collaborators is my friend Tom. We had some lovely dinners and outings in the course of our previous collaboration, and we are cooking up another project (and heard some good news about it today). But in the meantime, he boldly took up my invitation to investigate the Bluestone Cafe chain when he was last in New York.  He reports:
So we went to one of the outposts (not the flagship location in the Village—it’s way down at the end of Manhattan and we were in Midtown). There were no pics of Bluestone Lanes, but when I asked why it was called Bluestone Lane, the young woman at the register said she didn’t know (but then asked if I knew—I must have had a knowing smile. To be fair, it was her first day). But the Aussie barista said it was to celebrate all the great coffee that was available on the Bluestone Lanes in Melbourne. Flat White—verdict? Really quite good. There were some promo material. I’ll send it via post.
If you click on the second photo, you can see what an Australian-style cafĂ© menu looks like in New York. The only thing you wouldn't get here in Melbourne is "hot brew"...  And do we use the word "smashed" for avocadoes if we're not talking about Australian breakfasts taking over the world?

 And here is Tom, suffering in the name of my research...

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