Urban Adventure in Rotterdam

Urban Adventure in Rotterdam

Not that I’m bored today at work or anything, as you can see: not posting for a month, then here I am warbling on about urban exploration! But then I would really rather be out charting the course of a drain, or sketching the rust scars on a strange unknowable lump of concrete, then sitting here at my desk being a good little IBM sysadmin.

Which I’m not, by the way. I’m not a very good sysadmin: I get annoyed, and wish there were more scope in I.T. for letting things get old and ignored. But there isn’t. You can’t just leave a programme and expect it to develop some mysterious patina (which word, incidentally, means only that green of copper, and Age in general; strictly speaking, of course) that will evoke some imagined, fictional, past time. They just don’t change. They’re boring.

Reading the above website, and I wish now to have

  1. time;
  2. a camera;
  3. my website hosted on an old box under the stairs;
  4. a city with more scope for UE; and
  5. the appropriate bag.

Oddly enough.

I Don’t Go In Cars

I’m writing a more in-depth article on this topic at the moment, and I’ll post it soon, but for now I just want to mention a couple of things.

The team that I am part of at IBM looks after servers that are spread over two different data-centres, one just across the road from us, and one about ten kilometers away. Sometimes, we have to actually go into these places (to do what, I’m not sure, I’m still learning Korn shell scripting), and I know that one of these days they’re going to ask me to drive with them up to the far-away data-centre. I will, of course, refuse.

I do not go in cars. It’s pretty simple, really. But what a headache it can cause some people: they just don’t get it, ‘why would anyone be so stubborn about something like this?’ they ask. And I don’t really have a ready answer. I don’t really want to try and nut it out now…

Cars make cities horrible places to live. I look around — no, I don’t even have to look, the noise is there, at all times, invading everything — and see roads, and cars, and driveways, and hectare upon hectare of urban space that is designed with one thing in mind: the motorcar. But I believe in beauty. I will not take part in something so vast and utterly, destructively, completely ugly!

Sticking everyone in their own little transport box is wrong. It has lead, more than anything much else, to selfishness and greed, because it takes away an immediacy of inter-dependence between people. We still need each other, but we don’t know it, and we don’t know each other. What a total disaster! How has it come about that people walk down the street that they live in, and avoid eye contact with their neighbour?! It has come about because people drive cars.

There lots more that I could say on this subject, and I’m sure I will by and by, but I want to go for a walk. It’s a lovely sunny day here, the first day of Spring, and I’m going to get away from the silly computer.

How CGDNs might help build a sense of belonging.

My brain is feeling pretty groggy at the moment, so excuse any pointlessness in this post. Not that there’s ever any point to my posts, but that’s beside the point. I’m at work, almost thinking that the afternoon’s nearly half-gone and so, well, what’s the point of doing any more work…

There are, in Australia, these new things called Community Geographic Domain Names, or CGDNs. They are domain names like ‘lyneham.act.au’ — that is, they are domain names in which every component is geographically localising. This is fantastic! I think that having a place online for one’s locality, a place that is easily discernable for new people or new places, has got great potential to act as repository for local stories, knowledge, history, and whatever else people want to use it for. Imagine moving to a new town, and finding the town’s entire history (well, a bit of it anyway) available for browsing, and writen by the very people in it. Like a hiking hut’s register (the book that hikers leave messages in on tracks like the Bibbulmun) but for a whole suburb, town, or region.

I am vaguely thinking about seeing what sort of support there is in the food co-op community for us registering acton.act.au. But maybe I should wait until I feel a little more dedicated to a place — which is actually what I find so interesting about this idea: that it might help people feel more attached to where they live and the people around them. That’s got to be a good thing.

Homeward Bound

Every evening as I head home on the intertown, the view west from the bridge reminds me of all that I love most about Canberra. The sun setting behind Black Mountain, with the ANU tucked in amongst the trees and the lake there, all still and calm, and I wonder what more I could ask for. It’s a pretty unique place, this, and sometimes I forget it, and forget too to notice that lovely feeling of order and belonging that I used to get (quite often) in my first year here; it’s still there, sometimes.

What could be better than a quiet beer at University House, or a food co-op meeting with chapatti and dahl?

Sigh… and still I want to rub my feet in the sand at south beach…

Ignore the caterpillars, get back to work.

I have just returned from my customary post-lunch walk around the lake. It’s lovely, strolling through the hundred meters of bush that lies between the shore and the highway — I’m not being ironic, it really is lovely. I went across the bridge (the one over the weir) and turned south, along a vehicle track, and sat upon some mossy granite boulders up from the water. So lovely looking at the grass next to me tickling my cheek in the breeze; so horrid, when I raised my eyes to the skyline to see that dastardly rotten square box called Bunnings! I’m beginning to think that’s the way to find beauty these days: observe the minute, and cherish it, and ignore completely the massive, ugly, human constructions.

Sitting, reading (again).

I seem to always want to return to this state: a quite chair with a pleasant outlook, and a good book. Here I am, into my second week at IBM, and I have achieved it, albeit with some detractions. The most major: I’m reading IBM Red Books. Next: this is no quiet parlor with a comfy armchair and a neat fire burning. But we take what we can get, don’t we?

So: I’m in a fluro-lit second-floor office, sitting at a cheap white melamine desk with an IBM Thinkpad. I read about AIX, on and on and on, and then I try things, turning to the server that also sits on my desk, and in this way (I guess) I am learning…

My view is to the South, looking over Bonython or Isabella Plains or wherever it is, and nearer it’s the lake, which is a lovely place (hmm, that’s probably not the complete truth) to walk at lunch time. In fact, I think that’s what I might go and do now.

A Walk to the Shops

A journey to 35.25223° South, 149.124475° East.

Before I left the house it occured to me, as an act of recognition of Place (and how people conceptualise it), to find out the global latitude/longitude coordinates of my destination. I promptly forgot to do so, and strode on up the drive, but it was the sort of thing that might go with a mission to know a place. Not that I’m only — or even primarilly — interested in the ‘Facts’, but it also doesn’t matter very much where one starts with learning about a place: anywhere will do, and from there the place will lead us. So I start at the driveway.

I walked up the pitted bitumen, over worn grass and compacted damp clay, and within a dozen paces of the house, leant against an oak to write. MacKennal Street is lined with oak trees, planted all those years ago when (it would seem) Canberra’s planners were still aiming at some European ideal of a nations Capital: nice, neat, wide avenues, lovely for cars. I knealt down by the tree to lean my notebook on my knee, my face close to the green and white lichen covering the old bark. Also thrust to my attention was the long grass at my feet, it’s thick green fringe showing through the sparse covering of fallen leaves. Cars drove past every minute or so, their noise covering the echoing whistles and wobbly warbles of the birds. Their’s was a grey noise, growing slowly as they approached, the actual crunch of tires and roar of engines only being discernible in the instant they passed me. What they thought of me squatting there writing I do not know. I got up and walked on.

The footpath was old and cracked, most chunks being a hand’s span in size, and lots of blue-metal showed in the cement. Canberra footpaths, the older ones at any rate, have the odd feature of a date stamped in one corner of each poured section; this one had none. I stopped to take some notes of what I saw, but my hands were too numb to write more than three lines of messy scribble. I had travelled maybe one hundred meters in all, and was beginning to wonder whether the cold would put a stop to this little experiment in hyperlocal noticing; I blew hot air into my fingers and stomped onward.

I was approaching what some have said to be a thing recognisably Canberran: a round concrete bus stop. I’ve always quite liked these odd, orange, bunkers. There are no advertisements on them, for one thing (for now: damned fools want to change that however), and they feel nice and protective in bad weather. I would’ve sat inside, where I could have written a bit more comfortably, but then no doubt a bus would have stopped for me, so I hid behind the shelter amongst the long grass and acorns. A cat appeared, seeking company and a knee to headbutt, and swished my pen with its tail as I tried to write. Walking on, the cat followed me for ten meters, but I strode on towards the corner.

By the time I came to the worn dirt shortcut across the corner the cat had gone, and my thoughts were turning to the time I was taking for this walk; I was meeting someone at the shops, at some random non-organised time, and I didn’t have a clock. But one shouldn’t let these things get in the way of meaningless investigation!

Turning the corner everything changed: the light was different, the trees less leafy, the whole vibe calmer, neater, smaller. Sill an oak avenue, but the front gardens were less casual (although I hesitate to say ‘more formal’) and with more brick demarkation pillars. The grass covered the clay a bit better, and I felt closer to the shops just in the way people kept their houses.

The leaves had fallen in greater volume in this street, covering everything and blurring the boundary between garden and footpath. Even so, there was here some greater suburbanism (I was, for example, able to sit and write on a low brick wall; luxury indeed!). There was even something of an urbanism, radiating from the shops perhaps, and manifesting itself as stencil art on a concrete pylon — but it didn’t quite have any real grittiness to it.

The brick expanse of the Mormon church was opposite, carefully clipped lawns, satellite dish and vast car-park (for the ‘welcome visitors’ no doubt) all sending me elsewhere for inspiration or interest…

After which, I was all of a sudden There. Crossing the final road on my journey to the shops, waiting for the diesel tanker to pass, it still all seemed like a jolly good way to think about a place. The smallest, slowest journey, carefully made, can yield so much to the inquirer. What a way to build this place-connection! A connection that may, in fact, be something we have to work on. It may not be enough, after all, just to spend time in a place; even long, uninterrupted time mightn’t do it. We must get out, walk a place, read it, actively think about it and explore everything. So much can emerge if we listen: every place must talk to us, if we but listen, and the stories it tells are vital to our own stories.

My Sandstone University

Well, look here, I really can’t think very well at this time of night, so I don’t think you should expect much of this post.

I’m thinking of that cave just up from the Palm Tree Beach, the one who’s main enterance caved in a few years ago, leaving only the other more convoluted way in. It’s a nice cave, but the beach in front is more where I’m at. If that makes sense. The reeds and the sand, the memories of ignoring that bit and running past, along the path, to get to Never’s or Fragle. That’s what I’m getting at. The sun, and bleeding (but not caring) from climbing back up the cliff.

Of taking one of the school’s Spotmatics down there, and a tripod, and taking (crap) photos of bits of rock and thinking them oh-so-representitive of Blackwall Reach. Then the photography teacher thinking that they were, and thus being dis-illusioned at the photography teacher’s skill in judging photos…

So, this little beach, and photographs across the river to the old sugar refinery. It’s just about a Place, and a damned solid, viceral connection (at some point in time). So why on Earth is this coming up now? No reason, beyond being just a little squiffy, and that I’d like to be back there one day.

At least, as the winter closes in here in Canberra, I’d like to be back there.