Friday, September 14, 2007

Dear Sister, what is it about Bugs Bunny you seek?

I have long been looking for a particular piece of information about the two dogs who hung out together - one was big, the other small and yappy. Those of you who are familiar with my other life may understand why...

It was only today that Brother John found what I had been seeking for many years - check it out here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dear Sister. Sounds like you need a new TV?

Well, according to my last post it seems that I do. Isn't the world complicated. In the early days of TV the only availability was the trusty old black & white tube. Today presents a maze of options and confusion. Plasma or LCD? HD or SD? Digital or not? Flat screen or big bottomed? How huge should it be? And what on earth is a digital set-top box?

So, plasma or LCD? According to this review plasma may be the way to go.

HD or SD? This post at the Panasonic site suggests HD is the way to go (Note: Sister does not endorse any products except those by His Holiness the Pope Inc).

Digital television? According to this post digital might be good for the Sister. Seems this way that she won't need one of those set-top box thingies.

What size? While Sister is partial to the occasional big one, something that fits what she's got should be considered. Measuring up and leaving some room around the screen, it seems a 66cm is the one for this sister.

Oh, and a flat screen goes without saying.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dear Sister, Kath & Kim or Australian Idol?

Ohh, that's a tough one. After many weeks of travelling, Sister was glad to be home to catch up with her favourite shows.

Australian Idol has long been fertile ground for recruiting choir boys, especially given the number of bright-eyed virgins that grace its' stage.

The unexplored crannies of the lovely Kath and Kim, those foxy ladies of Fountainlakes, remind Sister of much of her local congregation. Sister especially appreciates wointime, which is reminiscent of many a pleasant Sunday afternoon with Father O'Flaherty and several gallons of altar wine.

The result? Both are loved, so, unfortunately as both are on at the same time (Sunday nites) and as Sister does not have e remote control, going up and down on the couch with the good Father is a Sunday nite special (and a good way to work off all that Sunday bread).

So, I've got one word to say to you – new TV.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dear Sister, we miss you. Where are you?

Why, I'm shopping for shoes in Verona of course!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dear Sister, what is nirvana?

Well, I'm not sure but I think it smells like teen spirit and has something to do with the venerable Holy Ghost.

During the month of August Sister Concepta will be off seeking the mythical state of nirvana somewhere in Europe, while Father O'Flaherty tours with Black Sabbath and Brother Paulus attends AA.

This means, dear readers, a paucity of posts over the next little while. Praise the Lord I hear you cry?!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dear Sister, did you have a menu dilemma?

Well, yes I did as a matter-of-fact. It's hard feeding hungry choir boys, but praise the Lord that Brother Bill was here to help. Check out his menu suggestions here.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Dear Sister, have you ever "blogged" a conference?

No I have not, although I have attended many a memorable conference (and many not so, or was it that I can't remember...).

However, a dear and holy colleague of mine pushed through the barriers of pain, soldiered on amidst adversity and managed a first ever blog of a certain conference she attended this year - read her grumbles here. A true stoic she is!

I have been privileged to receive the following information and tips on conference blogging from another colleague of mine which come via the Guardian's digital digest blog.

The art of conference blogging

A subject close to my heart: the art of conference blogging. Ethan Zuckerman explains that he learnt to score baseball games when he was small using some kind of sports shorthand, but carrying this "anti-social and obsessive" behaviour into his adult conference-going life has had its problems. Some people find his posts too detailed, whereas others revel in that.

Zuckerman says blogging makes sure he pays attention at blogs (rather than drinking tea with friends in the corridor - imagine that!). Posting in detail means he can use his posts as a record to refer to later, and the number of links he gets for conference coverage helps boost his Google rank.

His tips, in short:

- Preparation: Line up the names of speakers, links to their sites and the names of session in advance.

- Writing: Write your posts offline in a text editor - Zuckerman uses BBEdit and I use Ecto. Both have functions like easy hyperlinking (select the text, press Apple + U and enter the address, rather than having to fiddle with code) and give you a backup of your text, should you lose your web connection.

- Keeping up: Zuckerman always posts within 15 minutes after the end of a conference session. (No pressure!) He says it is better to post an incomplete set of notes that to miss another speaker. I'm different - I'll pick the best speakers, and type up their sessions in a more rounded way during the next dull session, rather than type what every speaker says verbatim. You need some time to interpret speakers, even if it's just a short break, and learning what and where to edit is part of the whole experience. My system messes up when every session is good though. Zuckerman recommends using those fluffy conference moments to finish posts, like when they show the comedy video clips.

- Hard talks: Really good speakers develop a narrative and follow it. If you are having trouble keeping up, note the key starting point of each theme and the anecdotes from that theme.

- Use your commenters: You'll be forgiven for making mistakes, but use and acknowledge their information.

- Collaborate: He cites the blogger Hash, who used the Swahili word Harambee to describe everyone pitching in to cover one of the TED conferences. One does photos, some did interviews and others wrote summaries. Zuckerman says the idea is not to be the sole, authoritative voice at conferences - it's more fun to collaborate.

- Digest: Record ideas at the conference, but digest them later when you have time.

- Have fun: It doesn't suit everyone - some people find it stressful or distracting. Especially if the blogger next to them is hammering away on a laptop... (My Heart's in Accra)

Also found this useful link
How to blog a conference.

Perhaps my stoic colleague may find some comfort after all ...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dear Sister, do you have a second life?

Well, if only I had a first life I'd be happy. But, yes, I have tried Second Life and lived to tell the tale, although huge problems with downloads and other technical irritants totally put me off. I did have a great name though which I miss terribly.

Some museums have also dabbled in Second Life. A comprehensive review is reported in this paper A Second Life for Your Museum by Urban, Marty and Twidale. For those interested in museums and Second Life (SL) it is a must-read.

Main points for me were:

  • Increase in mainstream activities are occurring in SL and the ideas around SL as a concept are not new
  • There is a lot of museum-like activity occurring in SL [suggesting to me that we could perhaps use SL as another way to investigate what people understand museums to currently be and how they'd like them to be??]
  • "The social nature of Second Life is a critical component of understanding what it is and how it can, and should, be used." (p.2) – issue for me here is that museums in real life (RL) have also always been about the social experience. One outcome from a (marvellous J) thesis I read recently was that the findings strongly supported views expressed in the literature about the significance of social learning in museums.
  • Early museum worlds were developed specifically by the museum, for the museum and carefully structured and controlled.
  • SL as a third place for "serious leisure", engaging adults in a collaboration rather than as a consumer. Again, museums in RL are about this too. The thesis mentioned before also looked at the relationship between entertainment, learning and education and found that they were linked in visitors' minds in positive ways. Further info can be found on this wiki - audience-research » Museum Learning

The authors detail characteristics of museums in SL:

  • Different scales, with new opportunities to display objects (e.g. vertically, in places where you can fly to them)
  • Some duplicate RL and some not
  • The evolution and change in museums in SL can be surprising for visitors in SL who expect to 'take up where they left off'
  • Rich multimedia opportunities are available – yet this will increase visitor expectations
  • Encourage repeat visitors and build on communities
  • Opportunities for social engagement [yet, that what happens in museums in RL, see above]
  • Can display objects that don't lend themselves to physical display
  • Hard to work out the audience, and any attempts to do audience research in SL may be limited [not sure I agree...]

These characteristics led me to wonder why are museums dabbling in SL, as they seem no different to museums in RL. Given my technical problems there is also a huge point about access here...

The paper ends with some examples of museum in SL and interviews with those who have been working in this medium.

Overall, the conclusions are that we need to understand the museums' role as collaborative partners with communities in SL – well, this really isn't new. This is what happens in museums in RL! Seems to me that museums are not really thinking outside the square and using SL as a totally experimental platform. Perhaps that's the next step??

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dear Sister, have you used Word 2007 to publish posts?

Well, yes I have now (I think).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dear Sister, who is the world's best songwriter?

Well, that's a tough one. That bloke who wrote the Psalms was pretty good as was someone called Isaac, and most things contained in St Basil's Hymnal (serving us since the 1800's!). Of course Sister Janet Mead is a personal hero of mine, and even Helen Reddy (think the first Airport movie...).

Lennon and McCartney, Frank Zappa are right up there, but for sheer honesty, Australian-ness, grit, suburbia, beaches, footy and the human condition, coupled with the great cities of Sydney and Melbourne you cannot go past Paul Kelly. To quote from his website: "From very early on in his career, Paul Kelly has been recognised as one of the most significant singer/songwriters in the country. Inspired initially by the likes of Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Lou Reed and Ray Davies, Kelly's narrative song writing is infused with wry observations, bittersweet emotions and enormous appeal." As well as his website, Paul has his own MySpace page.

Sister Concepta, with Brother Paulus, was most honoured to be treated to a kichen concert by the great man himself through a local radio station. In an inspired moment of madness, Sister Concepta composed some lyrics in the style of Paul Kelly that also contained the words "Pasha Bulker", the name of the stranded oil ship off Nobby's Beach in Newcastle, now successfully refloated. The Pasha Bulker was the subject of many beautiful images and movies such as this and more.

Here's Brother Paulus posing in front of the great man's dressing room.

Try and spot Sister Concepta at this landmark event.

If you're lucky, she may even post her lyrics...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dear Sister, how was the new Harry Potter movie?

Sister Concepta managed to scrape together two 12-year-old choir boys to see the new Harry Potter movie. What can I say? I've long been a fan of the books and the movies, which I think have got better and better. The movies in particular have become truly sumptious, visual feasts.

So, to the 5th instalment. In between Bible class I managed to re-read the book, which, in hindsight, was a big mistake... I realise that many things needed to be left out but I was a bit taken aback at the quite large changes they had made to the book. Unlike The Goblet of Fire where large chunks were left out without interfering with the narrative, the Order of the Phoenix actually changed many, many aspects of the story! Also, three critical scenes were left out. The first, when Harry first encounters Luna Lovegood, established the importance of her character to future events. This leads to the second - the story that Rita Skeeter was forced to write about Harry that appeared in the Quibbler - it was this, and not the Prophet, that was the catalyst for people believing Harry's story. The final part left out, to me, was the most poingent of any of the books - when they run into the Longbottoms at St Mungo's. That moment had an incredible emotional impact, and again, added depth to the other student characters.

However, the subtexts of Big Brother, arguments around the education system and the rather bleak scenes of London life were very clever overlays, and Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange was an inspired bit of casting. Imelda Staunton was also outstanding - girly and creepy at the same time.

But don't be guided just by what I say - from the words of one of the boys: It was good, pretty scary at the end, overall an eight out of ten and three and a half stars. I guess I'd give it a seven and I would definitely see it again.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Dear Sister, I'm buying a house. What do I do?

Yes, house buying can be a fraught process. It also depends on where you live. If say, you lived in New South Wales, Australia, there are many resources you could look at. The NSW Government has a list of resources for buying a property. The A-Z of home purchase pdf on the Steps to buying a home section is great.

Basically it tells me:
* Find out how much you can borrow - there many online calculators that let you do this
* Calculate what you can afford to spend - also taking into account any deposit you may already have
* Ensure in your budget you allow for legal fees, lender and mortgage costs and things like moving and furniture if applicable. Phone and cabling costs might also need to be included
* Think about your lifestyle - it will help determine what type of property to buy

The section on Buying a house from the Department of Fair Trading (NSW) also has simple checklists. The buying process page is worth printing off.

I shall now retire to the vestry to ponder further these matters ...

Dear Sister, what is user-tagging? I'm confused ...

I have heard about this thing called user-tagging in relation to museum objects. I too am confused about the terminology used - tagging, social bookmarking, keywords ... I'm also wondering how useful this is as a process of connecting people with objects?

Some things I've been reading shed some light. The Pew Research Centre have a post about Tagging Play:

"Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats for classifying information. ... Traditionally, search on the web (or within websites) has been done by using keywords. Tagging is a kind of next-stage search phenomenon -- a way to mark, store, and then retrieve web content that users have already found valuable and want to keep track of. It is, of course, more personalized ..."

Pew also report that taggers (at least in the US) are more likely to be early adopters of technology, under 40 years of age with higher income and education. Aside from age, these characteristics are also shared with museum visitors as explained on the AMARC website.

Also read an interesting piece about tagging (called in this post "social bookmarking") and marketing Social Bookmarking: pushing collaboration to the edge. This post helped explain social bookmarking to me:

"Social bookmarking leverages the popular social software phenomenon of tagging. Users can apply tags, or keywords, to the bookmarks they save. In social bookmarking, tagging creates a grass-roots taxonomy for the shared bookmarks. Users can search by tags to find bookmarks relevant to their interests. Taxonomies created through bookmarking are called "folksonomies."

What museums are doing interesting things with tagging? There is a paper from Museums and the Web 2007 by Seb Chan, Tagging and Searching – Serendipity and museum collection databases,as well as a research project reported here with useful links. The project, steve museum is an experiment in tagging art (and a very nice website too!). The Brooklyn Museum has many community projects, inlcuding a shared photo site, with a good set of guidelines and policy on uploading photos.

I will now retire to the vestry and ponder further these matters...