Sunday 16 June 2024

Upgrading and downsizing

When I properly moved to Canberra in 2017, I decided it was time to upsize my computer from my trusty MacBook Air that I'd toted around for many years, and so I invested in a brand new iMac.

Seven years on, it's not what it used to be. It takes a good 10-15 minutes to properly start up, and it's sluggish at best. Probably the best thing about it is the 1 TB hard-drive that I'd barely made a dent on. I've known for about a year that it was going to be time to move onto a new computer. But I wasn't quite ready to invest in another chunky desktop - nor was I inclined to move back to a MacBook. 

Not long ago, I also received a work laptop that I could use when working from home. Which is great, except that 7-8 hours a day hunched over a laptop isn't be best ergonomic option. So, I bought myself a nice sensibly sized 27-inch monitor. I also have my iPad set up on a tripod on the desk to attend Teams meetings, etc. As you can imagine my desk was getting a bit cluttered, with all this gear.

So, Friday's little episode was the impetus that I needed to make the final steps toward decommissioning my old iMac. The solution? A Mac mini. I already have all the Apple peripherals needed - a monitor, keyboard, trackpad *and* mouse. Plus it's the perfect computer for taking up minimal space on the computer. One trip to my local purveyor of electronic equipment, and I had a shiny new thing on my desk.

Transferring everything from my old iMac to my new Mac mini was as simple as pressing the on button, and making sure they were both connected to the same wireless network.

This part actually took a while. Afterwards, I realise that this was in no small part because I had never emptied my bin and therefore had 30GB of old files.

Four hours later, all my files had been transferred, and it was time to clean up my old computer. If it was a newer iMac, this would be quite a simple process, but unfortunately not in this case. There was a lot of manual 'deauthorising' and signing out of accounts, and then the final erasing of the hard drive. Another hour later, it's packed away and ready to be sent off to be pulled apart and recycled for parts.

On the plus side, my desk is now feeling SO spacious and my computer starts up in seconds.

Saturday 15 June 2024

Not-quite-spring cleaning

So, yesterday's little episode was a reminder to myself that I need to do this intermittent task commonly known as decluttering.

I have this little habit which is my own version of hoarding, also known as holding onto things 'just in case'. Clothes I haven't worn in ten years, 'just in case' I lose four inches off my waist. Books I haven't read 'just in case' I want to read them again. A box of electrical cords 'just in case' I need them to connect one thing to another. And so many USB drives, 'just in case' I need to use them to copy files and transfer them to another device the old fashioned way.

I also have various musical instruments, 'just in case' I find the time to learn to play them!

So, we're still two and a half months away from spring, but I thought I'd get started. I've already filled a box of books - in great condition, but not my favourites and will probably never read again - to donate to Lifeline for their book sale. Various clothes are now packed away in a bag, until I have enough to fill a box to send to Upparel for up cycling. And lots of recyclable paper / cardboard that has moved from my room to the recycling bin outside.

To be continued...

Friday 14 June 2024

Hot desking at home

I've always had my own study/office area, mostly full of my junk, but also where I try to do a lot of creative work. It's not incredibly tidy, but it's a work in progress.

My partner currently has a job where she has the option of working from home. She doesn't have her own set up, so I recently suggested that she could use my desk.

So, I've just come home, with a little time to spare to catch up on my blogging. Only to find all of my stuff moved off my desk, and things moved around to accommodate her stuff (laptop, power cords, keyboard, mouse, books, etc). Which is a completely normal and rational thing to do if somebody offers you their desk to work from home.

This is going to take a while to adjust to.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

How I became a 'comms guy'.

I often refer to myself as somebody who was a librarian doing comms work who became a comms person in libraries - and then ended up as a comms person in the cultural sector.

But what does that actually mean, being a 'comms guy'?

It's not really something I worry too much about. To me, 'comms' is a function, not a professional identity. But recently, Arts Hub published an interesting article (and I hope it's not paywalled) about the growing need for communications coordinators in the arts sector and what skills you need.

It's a pretty good summary for those who are considering moving into this field of work. A particularly interesting point that it makes straight up is that there are no strict rules. For formal education, they mention comms, marketing, advertising, public relations - but you know what? My education and work experience in library and information management provided a strong grounding in understanding audiences and their needs, communicating in different tones of voice, and both gathering and disseminating information through various physical and digital channels of communication.

One criticism - which is also a criticism of many organisations when they try to hire a comms person - is the suggestion that a comms professional should also be a skilled photographer, graphic designer, video editor, etc. It's going to be rare to find a person that has all these skills - at least not to the same level as somebody who has training and a focused career in one of these areas. Better to hire a dedicated professional in each of these fields.

That said, it doesn't hurt to cover the basics of Photoshop (or Canva!) for basic image manipulation, or know how to trim and edit audio or video files on a basic level. About 90% of all my photo-editing needs have involved cropping, pasting layers, resizing or adding text.

So, if you're in a job that involves drafting lots of written content and/or a fair share of basic image editing, then maybe a stint in comms could be what you need to expand your horizons.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Riding the fixed-term gig economy...

Today marks nine months into the one-year contract that I'm in. At this stage, it's an entirely fixed-term contract - though these things often including the phrase 'with the possibility of extension' to their job listings.

I used to only apply for ongoing positions - there are definitely perks to it. Banks are more inclined to give you a loan, secondment opportunities are often only available to those with ongoing roles, and of course there's a feeling of financial security (though it's important to note that 'ongoing' doesn't mean 'permanent' - just ask anybody who's been through a organisational restructure).

I'm currently in my fourth fixed-term contract - each in a different workplace. It's definitely been an interesting time - in all senses of the phrase. And yes, there are also perks to it. Often, these kinds of roles are created by people taking on temporary promotions, and so there's often somebody around to actually hand over the job and stick around to ask questions. Fixed term roles can also be created by special projects, and I quite enjoy project work - especially that feeling of progress toward a goal. It can be so much more satisfying than day-in, day-out operational work. They're also a great opportunity to take a risk and try something that I'm not 100% sure about; if it's not working for me, then I can stick it out for the short term and if a future employer asks me why I left then I can truthfully say that it was a fixed-term contract. And finally, it keeps me honest about my work - I need to keep building and maintaining skills in the knowledge that I'll have to apply for jobs in the near future.

That time has come for me. I generally allow 2-3 months to apply and secure a job (of course, assuming that I'm successful!). Many public service agencies have a requirement that recruitment decisions be made within four weeks of the closing date of applications. However, my experience has been that it takes 6-8 weeks from sending the application to receiving an offer. Then there's 2-4 weeks of notice and preparing a handover for the role.

So, that's 10-12 weeks that it takes to get a new job. With three months until unemployment, it's time to get cracking!

Monday 10 June 2024

Social cohesion... in life?

Making friends used to be easier.

In high school, there was a bunch of people the same age as me who I saw stuck with for eight hours a day. Some of them were bound to be on the same wave length as me. Some weren't, which could be challenging, but I still had a few friends I could count on.

University was even easier to make friends - people who had similar academic pursuits and cultural interests. Student clubs, theatre groups, choirs... my life was never more socially engaged as it was during those years. Friends, creative collaborators, lovers, housemates... to be honest, I didn't have to try that hard, I just had to be there, and be open to social connection.

And then, it all ends. I started working full-time hours. Uni friends start settling down, starting families, moving away interstate or overseas. We used to have a social group that met weekly at the pub... it continued impressively well, but eventually dwindled. Very occasionally, there's a big birthday party from that social group, but the last one I went to was in 2019. It was a lot of fun, and I caught up with lots of people I hadn't seen in years.

I found new ways to make friends. Back in Melbourne, I started swing dancing in my early 30s and that created new and interesting social connections. It was a thriving scene where I could attend classes a few nights a week, and go social dancing at least twice a week. It also became a great skill to take with me as a traveller, both interstate or overseas. I've been known to show up to a social dance in a random place, from Osaka to Transylvania, from Ireland to Iceland, and if you're a dancing from out of town, everybody will line up for a dance and a chat.

Being an expat, living in the Pacific, Asia and the Balkans, there were also no shortage of social opportunities. Life as an expat in a developing country can often be challenging, and so people in my social bubble definitely stuck together for regular catchups and social engagements. You could hit anybody up for dinner or a coffee or a drink on any given day and there'd be a taker for some company.

Now, I live in Canberra in my 40s. People talk about how Canberra is a hard city to make friends in. It took me a few years, but I found my niche in the local community theatre scene. But it's a double-edged sword - when you're in a show, it's rehearsal three times a week, and creating close creative connections with talented people. I did that almost continuously for two years. The hard thing they don't tell you about is that, due to the very nature of auditioned shows, not everybody can get in. And if you're not in, then there's a huge social gap in your life.

I thought I'd be sufficiently emotionally mature to handle not landing a particular role I had my eye on - after all, I'd never be so arrogant as to assume I deserve a role over anybody else. But the thing that stings is the social exclusion that comes from it.

But the thing is, I think it's a widespread social trend that many people, at a point in their life, just stop being open to hanging out. It would be easy to blame the cost of living crisis, but the reality is that it feels hard to just contact a friend and say, 'Hey, let's go get a coffee before work some time this week.' Especially if you've already fallen out of regular touch, and feel awkward about being a bad friend.

So, my personal commitment - next time I say, 'We should catch up some time' - I'll mean it and actually set up a time.

Sunday 9 June 2024

How do you measure a year in the life?

Like most elder millenials with an interest in musical theatre, I was raging RENThead through the better part of a decade in my younger years. Strangely enough, I didn't get into it the first time I listened to the cast recording on CD (back in the day) - I thought it sounded rough and disjointed compared to a lot of the other musicals that I'd come to know at the time.

But two songs changed all that: La vie Boheme and Seasons of Love. The first tapped straight into my life surrounded by share-house-living, anti-authoritarian, philosophically curious, creatively driven students, and the second was a simple chorus song that would become the anthem of my generation.

I never saw RENT when it first came to Australia as a professional production. By the time the film came out, I was already hooked, and then in February 2006 the non-professional Victorian premiere hit Melbourne. Pretty much everybody in the Melbourne musical theatre community auditioned. A few people I knew got in. It was an amazing experience seeing what was at the time my favourite musical, finally live on stage. That was almost 20 years ago.

Last November, tickets went on sale for a professional touring season of RENT coming to Canberra. It's unusual for me to snap up tickets at the earliest possibility, Swiftie-style, but in this case I was determined to get the best tickets possible (for me, at the Canberra Theatre, it's around Row E, no. 20). 

And then, on Thursday, I got a message through my musical theatre channels. The producers wanted to get a bunch of locals to come along to opening night, and in the beginning of Act 2, sing Seasons of Love with the cast. I jumped at the opportunity.

And that's how I came to see RENT at two consecutive shows. They were both unforgettable experiences - the first for the opportunity to participate as part of the audience, and the second to see it from some of the best seats, witnessing every move, every facial expression, down to the tears in performers' eyes during the most emotional scenes.

It also reconnected me with a part of myself that I've perhaps forgotten for a little while - that idealistic young man who had perhaps an endless drive for creativity and making the most of every day.

There's only us, there's only this.
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.
No other road, no other way,
No day but today.