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!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gleeful: Never My Love

Joel's vocal group doesn't have a proper name yet. They don't wear a uniform: "performance black and grey" is the dress code, which can mean anything from a white shirt, a black miniskirt, a grey cardigan, a pretty brown dress with a hint of white petticoat. They have only just learned to bow properly, together, and have almost stopped messing with their hair between songs. Some are tall; and some are short.

For all that, their sound is warm and close: perfect for a capella traditions and competitions.

Last week they competed in the Get Vocal competition for school groups as part of a six day festival of concerts, workshops and competitions. They won their small division on Wednesday and last night were invited to perform at one of the closing night conferences.

First up was the group (from a school in the Yarra Valley: a most beautiful place) that placed first in the larger contest, and second in the division that our lot won. A bigger group, possibly slightly older, and looking for all the world as if, with the lighting and sound production of Glee, they would be contenders for television. Their act was choreographed and dramatic, and featured a Glee style mash-up, arranged by one of the boys, of "Crazy" and "Rolling in the Deep." The boys wore black suits, the girls wore black cocktail dresses, high heels, make-up, and white ribbons in their pretty spiffy hairstyles. Gorgeous to see. They did that Glee-style walking around, singing to each other business. They closed in a triangle formation and one of them courteously thanked their teacher and families, the concert and festival organisers. They sang about five songs. Some of their solos were very good indeed, and they rightly received rapturous applause.

The MC also raved about them, and expressed some surprise that they were beaten in one of the divisions. In spite of his disbelief, he nevertheless introduced the Princes Hill group.

They walk on. They are smaller, less formally dressed, less polished behind their mikes. But they open their mouths, and when they get to their first long sustained harmonic chord, you can hear the warmth and closeness of their sound, something that wasn't as evident in the other group.

They sing only two songs. I spent several hours last night trying to move a 7 minute video from my iphone to my computer, on outdated software. I'm only posting the first song, as the second they are working up for another competition in Mt Gambier in a few weeks. But here they are, with apologies for sound quality, and with shaky camera action stilled by YouTube. It's just a phone. Click through to full screen to see all seven of them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Utterly incomprehensible interwebz joke

I *will* finish this chapter and this review this weekend. In the meantime, by way of a warm-up to fabulous writing, check out Still Life with Cat's utterly fabulous utterly incomprehensible interwebz joke:


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Stéphanie la deuxième

One of the great joys of the Centre of Excellence has been the appointment of nine fabulous post-doctoral fellows in various hubs of the Centre around the country. We have two at Melbourne: Sarah and Stephanie. Both are fabulous young women who are throwing themselves into the work of the Centre with such enthusiasm it is quite inspiring. They have their own projects to work on; they are establishing networks with other post-docs; they are going to conferences; they are helping us organise conferences; they will be doing a little graduate teaching; they are setting up reading groups; they are exchanging work for commentary and discussion; they are making our little suite of rooms feel like a very active and buzzing little hub.

Today was the first meeting of the Old French reading group Stephanie had organised, with the assistance of Véronique in the French department. There were a dozen people in the room, reading Marie de France's Laüstic, learning not to do eighteenth-century "r"s, counting octosyllabic lines, and looking at photocopies of the sole Harley ms., which also features the music and lyrics of "Sumer is i-cumen in."

Staff, post-docs, doctoral students, honours students, retired folk, all just concentrating together. A very happy hour, reminding me of the best things a university can be.

Monday, March 05, 2012

In which I go national

With thanks to the good people at the National Library, Humanities Researcher is now regularly being archived by Pandora. I'm quite chuffed at this. For a start, it means I don't have to worry quite so much about backing up or losing past entries in a blog meltdown. When I have a bit more time, I'm going to explore their site more thoroughly and see what other blogs they are archiving like this.

But in the meantime: what ho for national posterity!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Day Surge

A minor operation. A procedure I've had before, in the same hospital, with the same gynaecologist. The worst thing beforehand was fasting after an early breakfast, and missing my 11.00 coffee. I picked Paul up from the airport after two weeks away, we ran a few errands, and then he dropped me at the hospital at 1.30. The Women's hospital is a new building, and I'm in the private ward, Frances Perry House. Everything is clean and calm; and there are no televisions. The nurses introduce themselves by name. I put on my robe and climb into bed under my white cotton blanket. The pale teal curtains are drawn around me. After a while there's a bit of a bustle, a trolley is wheeled in, and it's clear there's a new baby. I don't catch its name but it's named after its maternal grandfather, I hear the father say. I don't hear the mother speaking, but the baby is learning to feed, just practising, the nurses say.

After a while it's quiet again — they have gone back to the ward, I suppose — and Olivia comes to tell me there's a bit of a delay. I'm re-reading Nice Work for a new PhD class starting this week, but after a while I put it aside and sleep. The lights are bright, but it's been easy to slip into the passive role of good patient. I can't email, or hold meetings; I can't write. So I curl up and sleep, for close to an hour, I think — there's no clock — and wake to a gentle touch on my arm. It's Deborah, wearing her scrubs and surgical cap, telling me we'll be going in soonish: there was an emergency caesarean ahead of us. She's the most recent in a long line of wonderful medical practitioners I've met in the last six years: dry and warm (speaking humorally, I see). She is kneeling at my bedside as she wakes me. What a simple thing to do: how little she loses in status by doing so; how much she gains my trust.

I love the feeling of being looked after by this team of competent calm professionals: male receptionist; female nurses; male orderly; female gynaecologist; male anaesthetist.

Graeme comes to take me into surgery, with a new white cotton blanket, which he has warmed up. I meet Andrew the anaesthetist and he and Deborah and I chat about the Melbourne model and the loss of the old Arts/Medicine degree. Another nurse deftly plants sensors on my chest, and before I know it, they have attached me to the drips. I have had almost no experience with hallucinogens in my modest life, and so am curious about the moments before unconsciousness. I keep my eyes open, looking at the white pipes across the ceiling, the lights above me, and hearing Andrew's voice. I think briefly about Michael Jackson. Then, I guess, my eyes roll back, and I'm gone.

I wake. Someone — is it Deborah? — is telling me everything went very well. I think I am back in the ward, but I hear someone telling me they are about to move me back into "day surge". I don't remember the journey, and it takes me a long time to wake up and sip some water. Later on, a cup of tea, some salty biscuits (bliss!) and a sandwich.

Another baby arrives, just with its father: the mother is still in surgery, I think. This baby is called Philip. The father is teacher at a boys' school and tried hard to find a name not shared by any of his students. The baby has a funny little cry, like a chicken... It's not at all disturbing to my calm, to hear the sounds of happy parents. The baby's big sister, five years old, has no idea, apparently, that a baby is arriving today.

I'm home by 7.30 and even manage to sit up for pizza night. Two days later, my legs still feel a bit wobbly, but it's much better than the last time I had a general anaesthetic, when I felt teary and miserable for nearly a week.

This was a diagnostic procedure, just to make 100% sure the observable and measurable after-effect of Tamoxifen on the endometrium isn't malignant. I'm expecting nothing but good news.