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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Introducing Tweets of Yore!

One of the best things about Twitter is the ability to quickly share info from your life with a wide network of friends. Rather than just letting everyone know what you had for lunch - or were deciding to have for lunch, in extreme cases - you can share stuff you've learned, tell jokes and much more. I'm a fan of useless but funny bits of trivia myself:

But Twitter has only been around for a few years, and many of us have been around a lot longer than that. How great would it have been to have had access to Twittering during our most formative years?

Tweets of Yore is a partial response to that. To make use of this fun new tool all you need do is write up a suitable tweet covering something that's happened in the past and add the hashtag #yore at the end. Hashtags allow for related tweets to be grouped together when searching the vast Twittersphere.

To get started Historical Tweets has some great ideas. I especially liked William Shakespeare complaining about having to read Chaucer at a young age.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Onward and Upward with the Arts: Digitization and its discontents

I have a personal dream, that is, to digitize my life. Words, images and audio video of everything surrounding myself and my family. At first glance it seems doable, I have copies of almost every letter I've written and received. Copies of over 28 years of writing, fanzines, articles, books, pithy little letters of comment to other publications are all filed away in semi-archival states. Photos and videos I've taken and those of my parents are faithfully stored away and are close to being digitally scanned. I think I crossed the 50% mark recently. I also have kept cassette and video tapes of nearly every appearance I have made on the radio or on TV. Lots of embarrassing moments preserved for all posterity. Finding film and video remnants of the rest of my family is proving more difficult. Apparently I'm the only person (so far) interested in preserving this stuff.

A few years back I started cataloguing and sorting all my father's and late mother's possessions prior to him moving into a retirement home. This provided a clear insight into where I had acquired my habits from. My mother and father had kept over 50 years worth of family correspondence, including their letters of courtship and my father's professional letters of reference from the mid-nineteen 30's. Combined with my deceased grandparents saved letters from our family I had both sides of a 25 year conversation after my parents immigrated from London in the mid 60's to distant New Zealand.

This veritable treasure trove of detail into the smallest details of my family's life is invaluable in supplementing my patchy (and growing patchier) memory. And there's the rub of this digital desire, is it better to recollect the past through direct memories? Or to replace and layer on top the actual as-it-happened detail from these easily accessed digital records? As the onset of my late father's Alzheimer's made painfully clear, a memory backup is always useful.

In an exhaustive review of the history of libraries and the rise of aids to quickly locating items stored within them, the New Yorker tackles the issue of the joys of handling (and smelling) original books versus - some would say, the sterile environment of an always reachable digital library containing everything ever published.

Putting aside the obvious benefits of bringing literacy and knowledge to the poorest parts of the world without access to libraries, there's some merit to the argument of maybe rethinking some parts of say Google's desire to scan and digitize the world's knowledge. However on balance I say scan, scan, scan and sort out the aesthetics of interacting with digital materials later. There's always scratch and sniff technology still to be embedded into printed-on-demand 500 year old books right?

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The School That Taught Me About Life (and Marbles) Celebrates its 50th Jubilee

A similar tractor to what I rememberTo my fellow school mates, ex teachers and everyone who has spent time at Murrays Bay School. I have fond memories of my six years at what was then known as Murray's Bay Primary (1969 through 1975). From "riding" the immobilized old red farm tractor, to the open-air assemblies in front of the original library, the opening of the first "tuck-shop" next to Room 4 and the dreaded visits to the school dental nurse - especially one excruciatingly long lesson in proper dental technique (I think pliers were involved.)

When I have visited the school since those times I'm glad to see that not everything has changed, although some of the old temporary (baby boom kids kid's) classrooms were replaced. I still dream about my solitary mile long walk from Rothesay Bay (many of my friends went to the closer Browns Bay School instead.) It boggles the mind now, that from about the age of six I walked to school by myself. Up hill, down dale, up hill again, and then the long walk up the Aotearoa Terrace path to the school itself. How I schemed to install an express lift/escalator from the shop at the bottom of Lyons Ave to the shops at the top! It doesn't seem such a long walk now, but to my little legs back then every step up that steep, steep hill lasted forever. There are only so many stones one can kick, or sticks to be thrown to break the monotony.

In 1970 or so, during construction of a new house on Aotearoa Terrace, a rich seam of Kauri gum was uncovered under the old clay-packed driveway. These days it's hard to imagine the joy this discovery brought for a few short days as we all blissfully dig up the gold before the new concrete drive was laid down. Those were good times and I hope there are still treasures aplenty left for today's generation to discover before, after and yes, even during school time.

If any of my old friends still remember me I would very much like to hear from you. Maybe during one of my next visits *home* we can share some memories and a few drinks.

Happy Jubilee and I hope everyone has a fun evening!

Nigel Rowe (class of 1975)
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