It’s all a bit hard right now

It has been over two years since I last blogged. There is one very cute and very time consuming reason for that. He’s just turned two, is learning new words every day and pretty much annihilates any spare time that my partner and I have.

At the moment I’m working pIMG_3764art time. This is very important for my mental health and happiness. I do miss having more time for my creative outlets though. I’ve managed to eke out enough time to learn to weave which I’m really enjoying. I usually work on it after spud has gone to sleep (when I have enough energy).

Spud has been unwell again over the weekend so I’ve had three nights of minimal sleep. I feel kinda floaty, even with two double coffees in me. I’m hoping tonight is better. This also explains why this post may not be as coherent as I’d like.

I’ve been catching snatches of #blogjune, mostly from the blogs of friends I am subscribed to. I mentioned on Twitter that I was thinking of blogging about the intersection between parenting and professional development.

Unfortunately, professional development has taken a real back seat since having spud. It is a very frustrating and isolating part of being a new parent (and a new mother in particular).

Most local PD events are in the evenings. This makes it virtually impossible to get along to them. When I do get a rare evening off, I’m more inclined to have a break and catch up with friends. Online things are a bit easier. I’ve been trying to follow #23RDThings but I don’t have the concentration space at home, and when working two days per week it’s harder to justify spending time on this sort of thing. Even when it’s directly relevant to my work. It gives me new insight into why friends on Twitter went very quiet suddenly after having a baby. It also makes me sad that workplaces aren’t better at recognising and assisting with this transition. It’s very easy to be overlooked when you work part time.

I would so love to be more involved in blogjune and try to blog daily but it’s just not possible right now. I’m going to try for a few more posts. Hopefully I’ll find something a bit more upbeat to post about.


ALIA Board Nominees in the Spotlight

I know I haven’t blogged here in ages. I’ve been posting to my pregnancy blog and generally busy with being pregnant and working full time.

But my attention was caught by this great blog post from @aliangac where they ask nominees for the ALIA board a series of questions and post the answers. I thought a reflective post on in would be a worthwhile thing to do.

If you don’t work in a library, you may wish to stop here. The rest of this post is likely not to be of interest to you.

I really liked the questions. They’re not hugely hard hitting, but they benefitted a lot from thought and reflection (which some candidates did notably better at than others). They also gave enough room to help distinguish the candidates. I especially appreciated the questions from Kyla. Practical questions are great for this purpose.

The first thing that caught my attention was that only four of the nine nominees answered the questions put to them by the New Grads group. I’m genuinely curious as to why this is? It’s a great opportunity to put your thoughts out there and let voters see why they should vote for you. Not just for new grads but for all of the other ALIA members who are following on Twitter or via the blog. I have no idea why the others didn’t respond but I’m certainly a lot more likely to vote for those that did.

I really appreciated hearing what the candidates had to say. It was possible to get some idea of what their specific interests were and where their talents lie. For me, this helps select people to vote for who are more likely to take ALIA in directions that match my preferences.

I found it interesting that quite a few of the candidates appeared to take an ‘Ask not what ALIA can do for you…’ approach. I’ve noticed this before from people in the profession and don’t necessarily disagree with it. However in this setting with new grads as an audience, this can be as much about selling ALIA as selling themselves as representatives to ALIA. Questions 2 and 4 address this directly and it would have been nice to see some more original responses to these.

It’s of particular interest to me because I did need to be sold ALIA. As a poor student I was unconvinced and even when looking for reasons to join, didn’t find much that spoke to me. The argument that eventually tipped me over was that ALIA accredits library schools and that this is an important and not simple process (thanks to my lecturer Paul Genoni for this and other reasons). Even more convincing would have been strong evidence of ALIA embracing and pushing new technology and helping members get their heads around it. I still think this is an area that other library organisations do better at and ALIA should address more seriously.  I don’t believe that the current PD scheme does this effectively and I have some pretty serious reservations about a mandatory PD scheme overseen by ALIA.

The next thing that stood out was that quite a few answers seemed to take the straight ALIA line with little to no personal additions or interpretation. This would be ok if I wanted to maintain the status quo, but it’s not exactly a compelling argument for adding someone to the board. At least, not to me. I’m more interested to know what you’d do differently, not that you’d keep doing the same things that are currently being done.

So those are my thoughts on the responses so far by nominees. I’m hanging out to read @HughRundle‘s blog post with his questions to nominees and their answers (due March 11). If it’s anything like last time, Hugh will be asking some extremely relevant, up to date and hard hitting questions and it’s always very enlightening to see how nominees handle them. I’m sure it will further help me refine my vote. I’ll blog my resposes to it if I have the time and energy with my advancing pregnancy.

RailsGirls and the Trove API

Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to attend #RailsGirlsPerth. This was an opportunity for girls to learn about Ruby on Rails, a web programming framework. It was a free event organised by the wonderful Darcy and Marcus, held at Spacecubed.

It kicked off on Friday night with an installfest. I had already installed Rails on Craig’s laptop (which I borrowed for the event) but I went along to meet people and take in the vibe. There were a few people I knew there, but many more that I hadn’t met yet. It was great to see so many women keen to learn how to program in Ruby and so many guys there to help get them started. Railsgirls events were also happening in Brisbane and Sydney. We caught up with them on Skype and I spied a @web_goddess at the Sydney event.

Me and Jo (@history_punk) coding all the things (via @history_punk)

The coding started in earnest on Saturday. Before I knew it, I was up over my head in the niceties of Ruby with the very capable help of Myles and the assistance of some excellent coffee that Darcy had organised. I had decided that I wanted to use the Trove API after being inspired by the wonderful things created by @wragge.

I’ve been hearing about APIs for a few years now but had never used one and I wanted to change that. I also wanted to do something with Twitter. I came up with the idea of extracting vintage knitting patterns from Trove using the API and visualising them in such a way that they can be tweeted.

Initially I was really confused. It had been 12 years since I’d done any really serious programming (in my undergraduate degree) or even used the Windows terminal. I was grouped with three girls who had experience programming in .NET which was a bit intimidating. By lunchtime I was feeling like a rather dim bulb and doubting that I’d have any finished code to show by the end of the day.

Things started coming together as I began to map Rails terms to concepts I’d learned when programming previously (e.g. gems == libraries). It also helped that the Rails framework does a lot of stuff for you (a bit confusing at first if you’re not used to it) and the Ruby syntax is very clean and easy to read. This made it possible to get working stuff together in a day.

I was also grappling with the Trove API and trying to make it output what I wanted. Getting an API key for Trove was super simple and took a few minutes. Coming to terms with the syntax of the API was harder. What I really wanted was an output of the contents of this list. After quite a bit of fiddling, I ended up compromising with a list of the newspaper articles tagged with ‘knitting’. Then it was a matter of harmonising my variables with the metadata I wanted to capture in my database and adding the ability to tweet items. As Myles promised and I had trouble believing, the Twitter part was very easy (about 2 lines of code). It produced tweets like this:

So now I had a working chunk of code that could grab specific content from Trove, display the metadata I was interested in and give the ability to tweet it. However it was only running locally on my laptop. The next challenge was porting it to Heroku, a cloud based service for hosting web apps, so that other people could see it and interact with it. Fortunately, the documentation for setting up Rails on Heroku was top notch and I was mostly able to follow it without hitch. It involved using my first Postgres database which was cool as Postgres helps pay my mortgage (via Craig who is a Postgres developer/consultant).

After some work and a bit of fiddling, I had a working Rails web app hosted on Heroku, pulling in information from Trove and allowing people to tweet items from it. You can see it here. Not bad when I’d just started learning Ruby on Rails that day! Much kudos must go to Myles who talked me through quite a lot of it (and had great patience with me). I don’t fully understand the code I wrote, but I can revisit it and hopefully get my head around it better. I’d like to clean it up a bit, make it more visual and iterate through the Trove output so I can capture and display all 700+ records (rather than just the first page). Still, it’s a great start and far more than I thought I’d be able to get done in one (admittedly 10 hour) day.

I really can’t thank the organisers and sponsors of RailsGirlsPerth enough. It was an amazing and inspirational event. I met a number of really interesting people who I’m hoping to stay in touch with and learned an enormous amount. It’s given me a whole lot more confidence about playing with APIs and coding in general and it provided a very welcome distraction in what was a really hard week.

If you’re interested in trying something like this, keep an eye on the RailsGirls website and Twitter feed to find out when more events are happening (they are worldwide). You can also get a taste of Ruby at the TryRuby website. I’d highly recommend giving Ruby on Rails a try if you’re interested in playing with APIs or increasing your tech knowledge in general.

The Rails Girls Perth crew and participants (via @GentlemanTech)

Relay Wrapup

Well it’s been an insanely busy week between preparing for the trip and finishing things off at work. I wanted to put up a quick post about the relay on the weekend however. I really REALLY appreciate the support I received and want to sincerely thank everyone who sponsored me and/or sent supportive messages.

The relay went really well. The promised rain mostly stayed away and the weather was warm enough during the day to be pleasant to walk in but cool enough to not be unpleasant. It got cooler in the evening and the onesies started coming out. I almost wished I’d brought mine along.

There was a great turn out for my team, Knitters for a Cure. We had a fabulous tent site on the far corner of the oak lawn from the main stage. This was good as the music blasting out from there was loud. Walking past it was quite unpleasant at times, but it was muted at that distance. For the third year running, we won best decorated tent site. This was largely due to the efforts of Nanna Ruth who always puts in a great effort.


As you can see, our theme this year was ‘We knit so we don’t kill people’. There were a few times I wanted to use my needles to deadly effect when people who were running the course dodged past without giving warning. One even ran into me. On the whole though, the walking was great. I got to walk with a number of my teammates including the wonderful Julie who I’d wanted to chat to last year and didn’t have a chance.

The relay started at midday on Saturday and went for 24 hours. Craig and I couldn’t stay for the full time because we had a lot of packing and trip prep to do, but we were there until 9pm Saturday. In that time I smashed my previous fitbit stepcount bests, getting my 20,000, 25,000 and 30,000 step badges all in the one afternoon. 😀 I walked over 20km (in bursts of 40 mins or so) knitting the whole time. We ordered pizza for dinner and it disappeared in a hurry after all of that walking!

The best news of all  is that Knitters for a Cure raised over $7,000 for cancer research. We were the second highest fund raising team at the UWA event and exceeded our team goal. Thanks to you guys, I raised nearly $400. 😀

I look forward to doing it again next year. The epic blood blister on my right foot should have healed by then. 😉

Knitting for a cure

Internet, hear my plea!

Again this year I am walking in the Relay for Life to help raise money for cancer research. My team is called Knitters for a Cure and we take this relay very seriously. I’ve done the relay with this team a number of times before and it’s something I really believe in.

Cancer touches everyone sooner or later. My grandma Rose died of cancer. I’m walking for her this year. It’s also something that has affected my aunt and my good friend Charly (who I have walked for previously).

Team KFAC 2012 © warpgirl

I will be going around and around a little track for many hours tomorrow, knitting in hand. It’s likely I’ll be walking in some less than pleasant weather and I know I’ll be sore before I’m done. We are walking at the UWA relay site. I may get to dance to Gangnam style again as I did last year. 😀

If you could help by donating some money to this cause, it would mean a lot to me. I feel bad that I haven’t done more fundraising this year, but it has been a very busy time for me. My team is doing well with fundraising and I’d like to help them be in the top few teams at UWA.

You can find my page and make a donation here.

Thanks for reading.

Trip planning

I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately. It’s not because I don’t have anything to say (perish the thought!) Rather, it’s because so much of my spare time has been taken up making arrangements for my forthcoming holiday.

In less than two weeks (eep!) Craig and I will be jetting off to Europe for a much needed break. I’ve been pretty slow in organising things mostly because life (and work) keep getting in the way but I’ve finally finished booking all of the hotels and roughing out a travel itinerary.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Daniel Daranas

We will be flying into Paris and staying there for a few days. I’ll be able to catch up with one of my best friends, Tanya, who I haven’t seen in years. I’m very excited about that! Then we head to central France where Craig’s dad has a place. We will stay with him and his wife for a few days before heading to southern France and then Lyon. On my birthday we will cross into Switzerland spending a few days in various places and thence into Germany. We’re only going to have time to get to Southern Germany sadly but I am very pleased I’ll have a chance to visit my favourite yarn shop!

We will also be in Munich for the start of Oktoberfest. I will not be partaking and I expect it’s going to be quite mental. We’re then passing through the Alps down to Italy where we will go on a week long guided tour all over the country. We’ll fly out of Milan and into Brisbane to head to my sister’s upcoming wedding.

So it’s going to be a very full on month! I’ve been to Paris before and Craig’s been to Lyon but otherwise it will all be new to us. We’re hoping to be able to pick things we like to visit again in the future. We’ll be largely travelling by train which I’m looking forward to as it will give me lots of knitting and reading time (not to mention the views).

While we have the hotels pretty well sorted, I’d still love suggestions for things to look out for and do along the way. If you have some to share, please leave a comment.  We’re also going to be travelling with backpacks and I traditionally fail at travelling light so I’d very much appreciate suggestions there too. 😀

I’m hoping to blog and tweet along the way but it will depend on internet, tiredness etc so I won’t make any promises.

My foray into family history

I’m fortunate enough to sit near the family history specialists at work. Fortunate because Tricia and Leonie are both lovely and very interesting people. It is family history month this month and last week they co-ordinated a wonderful series of talks at work. Many months ago, Leonie started twisting my arm about giving a talk. I told her quite truthfully that I’m not particularly knowledgeable about family history. She didn’t let this stop her and decided that I should give a talk on apps and suchlike for genealogy.

So that’s how Geneappogy came about. I spent a while researching various apps for family history and it quickly became apparent that it would be at least as useful to talk about apps that can be generically helpful for research and information storage. I also covered why devices are so convenient as a research tool and what other tools they can replace.

In the Jungle  © Molly Tebo

I felt  like a bit of a fraud since I hadn’t tried all of the apps I was talking about. One I did try however was BillionGraves. This is a pretty cool idea which is all about crowdsourcing the recording of grave yards. Last weekend I went for a walk to a nearby pioneer cemetery and tried it out. I used the app on my smartphone to photograph the graves, this took about half an hour (and it automatically geotagged the images). When I got home, I transcribed the information from the gravestones via the website which took a few hours more. I was impressed that it was so easy and relatively fast to do. Now the information on those grave stones is searchable by genealogists all over the world which is nifty. 😀

Back to the talk. It was held in the State Library theatre which is quite a formal venue. I was glad that I had a decent crowd (over 50) as it made the theatre look not too empty. I’m not going to go much into what I talked about, but if you are interested in finding out more (I’m looking at you @MsSMuffett), my e-handout is available here and the prezi I used is here.

Despite the large amount of information, I got through it fairly quickly. The audience were polite but did contribute when I asked them to. They asked some good (and a few curly) questions. At the end I invited them down the front to ask further questions and to try out some of the apps on tablets and smartphones I had brought along. A number of people said complimentary things about the talk and they were most interested in seeing Google drive and Evernote demonstrated rather than the dedicated FH apps.

Finally, I was asked by the president of the WA Genealogical Society to do another talk along the same lines for their members. Quite flattering really! I’m glad it went so well and I could help out my work buddies. 😀