Category Archives: stoking the creative fire

fresh new day

There’s been a flurry of working going on over at our new initiative, Fresh New Day. Marica and I have begun creating a document of our everyday world – using photography and writing to learn more, notice more, to explore the local and immediate in greater depth.

I’m very interested in the cosmic in the commonplace. I’m looking forward to making numerous photographs through the year, hopefully elevating the familiar with insight and inspiration. I can’t wait.

So far it’s been fun (and funny) as Marica and I are generally not discussing the images and the words before we publish them, and so reading and viewing each other’s day brings surprise and laughter as we see what’s caught our eye. It’s been interesting to see colour and design commonalities as well – but from very, very different perspectives.

You can get an update on our photos by clicking on the ‘fresh new day’ tab (above), or get the hot off the press images and writing at Fresh New Day HQ.

It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…

Well, long and cold, and while I have known lonely winters, this hasn’t been one of them. I haven’t written here for what seems like forever, but I have been writing like a mad thing over at the two new sites we’ve put together…

Business Savvy – For years I’ve taught people how to set up their own businesses. I have a special interest in micro business, patchwork economics, and rural community economic development. I decided that I would a) declutter the basement office, and b) make the material I’ve gathered over 20 years available online so that perhaps other people might be able to go on and change their lives and those of their family’s for a positive future.

A good reason why it hasn’t been a lonely winter… I’m a loaner. I changed jobs earlier this year – instead of a farewell gift of something fabbo like a plate with a picture of kitten to hang on the wall I asked for contributions to my investment fund for Kiva, and for my colleagues to pick out an investment for me. They did, and together we invested in an entrepreneur in Togo. Loaves and fishes. Having invested in fish, the next step has been to invest in loaves…

Cecilia Nyameke (from Tarkwa, Ghana) is a divorced mother with six children. Currently four of her children are in school. She has been baking for six years and her business serves as the main source of income for the family.

Image from Kiva.org - loans that change lives

She wants to use her loan to buy bags of flour, sugar, and baking powder to expand her operation and also to avoid price hikes. Cecilia is a member of the group called Abandenden Jesus (meaning “Jesus, our Strong Tower”). Members agree to guarantee for each other to repay the loan.

I look at this photo and I just want to buy and try some the bread, still warm from the oven, with lashings of butter and clover honey. I can’t recommend the stories highly enough.

Another reason why the winter hasn’t been lonely – Get Going Online. After teaching html and web at night school for a couple of years, and to celebrate 10 years of writing web pages and developing web sites, I decided to offer people a great way of getting going online. There are huge numbers of small businesses with ugly and out-of-date web sites. Why? If you’re not geeky and/or if you’re busy running your business, how do you update your web site? The options are you either don’t – and that’s a bit of a disaster – or you pay someone else to do it for you – and that is a potential disaster too. I decided to offer businesses a happy compromise with a content management system and some limited customisation – at small business scaled prices. It’s a good deal, especially as seeing the end result is anything but under-powered. Get Going Online is offering well over 400 designs (more arriving every day), and the preview isn’t just a screen snap or two, the preview IS the full site – this is what your site will look like. I’m very, very pleased with the way it’s shaping up and the positive responses.

And another reason why it hasn’t been a lonely winter…

and life was never the same again…


Things just got better and better and better. Hoo-rah! Twenty years later (and 20 minutes into the future) I’m still lusting after Theora Jones 🙂

celebrating the autumn equinox

This evening we decided to celebrate the autumn equinox (I know – a little late – was March 20) but better late than never. We took ourselves off to the stadium, and after a delicious supper of ham, salads, and bread rolls, washed down with a delicate lager and lime, we were entertained by a refreshing range of musical numbers performed by a Finnish chamber music quintet.

The Celts referred to the autumnal equinox as ‘Lughnasad’ – a time of harvest – and, rather than signaling a starting or stopping point, from their perspective, an equinox marked the mid point of a continuum – in our case, from midsummer through to midwinter. I’m interested in engaging with our (my) own seasonal markers – the northern hemisphere models just don’t work for me as well – there’s simply no point in looking at midsummer in June/July. And of course, we southerners can make a midwinter festival like (Matariki – 5 June in 2008) our very own.

Our autumnal equinox festival was very, very good. I loved Lordi, and was pretty much satisfied after their storytelling. Alice Cooper had lost none of his theatric charms either. Kiss – weirdly, felt a bit contrived, a bit jaded to me – I mean, they were hard out, albeit with Gene Simmons looking a bit on the corpulent side; but other than the extraordinarily bright lighting and pyrotechnics there wasn’t a lot going on in a story telling kind of way. That is, until the encore, when they unleashed ‘I was born for loving you baby…’ and then joy of joys, from where we were sitting we could see image from http://www.wotzon.com/Drusilla, monster of rock, getting down and getting funky. Yep, Dru is clearly an early KISS fan as you could see her ears shaking as her head moved from side to side. Perhaps it has her handler’s dancing, but I think not. Surely a creature able to breath smoke and have lasers beaming out from her eyes doesn’t need handlers to be a boogie thing.

Congratulations to Phil Sprey and the organising team – it takes real balls to put on a event on this scale, and while I suspect the event would’ve benefited from an extra 10,000 or so people on each night, it was a truly awe inspiring effort, and everyone can feel hammered, but proud of their efforts – and they’ll have great stories to tell friends and family forever.

more on drawing

My mate Trevor Romain has got himself in the papers again.

He began writing for children, only to be met with hundreds of rejections. Rejection, however, was something that he had grown accustomed to throughout his life. As a child he was singled out because he preferred writing and art over sports. He struggled with dyslexia and would sketch to help himself remember things. At age 12, he tried to go to art school but was told that he wasn’t talented enough; he received the same reception when he tried again as a teenager. The disappointment led him to stop drawing until he was an adult. Twenty years after that first round of rejections, Romain has 1 million copies of his books in print in 17 languages.

I got the amazing (and very welcome) opportunity to spend time with Trevor and his wife, Amiel, late last year. Trevor and I got to talking about the creative process, and the pain of rejection. He laughed and said, ‘Oh you should see all my rejection letters.’
Trevor grabbed a bulging folder, replete with paper. Rejection letters, snotty tones – (and this for books that went on to be printed in the millions). Hilarity ensued. Fear of rejection gone.

from exploratory nibbles to big bites…

Image from http://spirithousesafari.blogspot.comI did manage to swim to shore long enough to be convinced that the local bug vendor had some pretty tasty goods and imbibed on some pretty dang yummy fried silkworms!
Ben Livingston

We just got back from a cultural exchange in Austin, Texas. A rich panoply of delights were explored, including the company of neon artist, Ben Livingston, and his delightful wife, Patti. We tripped over them in a tour of the mean streets of the Austin arts quarter, and well, one thing lead to another, and we somehow managed to convince Ben that writing about his experiences and adventures as he travels through Asia in pursuit of photographs and stories of spirit houses would be a good thing. And good thing it is – thanks, Ben, for sharing your experiences – and for not sharing the bugs.

updates done

Right, that’s that done then – I’ve finally got the AkoNet web site sorted. It hasn’t been a huge upgrade, more of the annual tidy up that should’ve (ahem) happened back in January/February (when, instead, we were packing ready to move off to our new home).

I’m most pleased with my first online tiddlywiki – I’ve created a presentation of classic haiku and while this is not an interactive wiki (a la wikipedia) it does make use of some of the rather more succulent delights of tiddlywiki. For people who’re wanting to explore their own web site (but don’t have html skills), a tiddlywiki is a great place to start.

stuck in the boondocks?

Ok. So you’re stuck in the boondocks and yet, weirdly, you have a call, if not a burn to learn stuff. Oh, how I know the feeling. And you and I both know that Tim Berners-Lee and Noam Chomsky are not going to do a double act down the pub on Friday night. So what do you do? You’ve burned the local library out (both books), bought a beer for the one bright light in boondockville, and now… and now?

Well, good news. Now you can check out lectures by and interviews with some of the world’s leading lights, not at the local pub, to be sure, but right here at videolectures.net. Oh yeah, Chomsky’s going to be there, as will Tim (that’d be Sir Timothy) Berners-Lee.

When you find a spark of the burn to learn, even in the boondocks, the best thing anyone can do is pour on petrol and back up apiece.

using tiddlywiki for study

Back when I was putting my Masters away I lusted after a small hand-held scanner so I could grab research material quickly and review it later. There were some cool scanners around, however me and the money and the scanner never even got close to each other. In real terms, however, I wonder about the real value, because I would still have had to OCR it and redo it and blah blah blah.

I’m always learning new stuff (should I ever get serious about undertaking my PhD?) I’ve started by firing up a tiddlywiki repository. It’s incredibly easy to set up, and almost frightening in its potency. Here’s how to do it:
1. Fire up Firefox. You don’t use Firefox? Well, there you go then. Fell at the first hurdle…
2. Cruise over to TiddlyWiki and download the latest version. Save it somewhere meaningful. Hint for students – this could mean your memory stick.
3. That done, point Firefox back to TiddlySnip and install the Firefox extension. Follow the simple (but thorough) online installation instructions and in five minutes or less you’ll have a tiddlywiki enabled, web-based, browser powered scrapbooking device with tags. Did I mention free?

You could also use the TiddlySpot online wiki (again, did I mention free?). You’d be building a resource there that’s visible to all, so perhaps if you were a generous soul and you wanted to build something to share with your peers – or perhaps a group project. Hmmm, I’m tempted to consider returning to teaching.

TiddlySnip grabs a highlighted selection of text, wraps your tags around it, and writes it into the TiddlyWiki, complete with a clickable url back to the original page. Effortless, fast, and fantastic for doing basic literature reviews, gathering notes, and building a knowledge base. Team that up with some speed reading and high speed net access it’d be awesome how quickly you’d build a potent resource. The only thing the TiddlySnip people haven’t done for you is format the citation into APA, but I expect you can do that through Noodlebib or something similar. For luddites like me, I just did it by hand.

thank you

I haven’t been writing here much lately, I’ve been working backstage on books and some other projects, plus there’s a fine range of other writing scenes. I’ve owned a computer since the mid 80s and I still can’t program, although I’m no slouch at html. I realised over the weekend how much of my life now swings around people giving a great deal of thought and work to the various web 2.0 applications I use – wordpress, blogger, flickr, moodle, and others; and my new delight, TiddlyWiki. I’ve finally managed to build something using TiddlyWiki that I’ve wanted for a very long time – an interactive journal that’s private, portable, and simply does all the things a book journal would do, plus with the added bonus of being searchable and customisable. I’m very grateful to Jeremy Ruston (and the merry band of followers, including Morris Gray’s TWHelp) for putting together TiddlyWiki, and then making it available for free. Thank you, each and everyone of you coders, designers, you mad midnight workers – I know the feeling, and I am very grateful for your efforts.