Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday Morning Musings - a variety

Photo: Gordon Smith, Exploration Society Marker, New England National Park.

The University of New England Exploration Society was formed in 1960 in the interests of undertaking scientific work in lesser known areas of Australia and adjacent countries. Its patrons were Lord Casey of Berwick and and Sir Edmund Hilary.

By the end of 1962 expeditions had been mounted to the Warrumbungle Range in New England; Mt Garnet in north eastern Queensland; Point Lookout (photo); the Barrington Tops and Central Australia.

I remember the Society well. I was awfully impressed when I arrived on campus, struck by its land rovers and its broad scope. I did not join - my involvement in archaeological work provided an alternative outlet for my liking of camping and running around in four wheel drives - but I remained impressed.

More Saturday morning musings.

This last week has been an especially funny mixed up week. When I took a break from posting at the start of the week I mentioned my tendency to introspection. As the week developed, it became a very introspective week indeed simply because of developments that forced me to reassess the next stage in my professional life.

I will not discuss these. They are, to use a currently fashionable phrase, "out of scope", a phrase that I have come to dislike intensely because of the way it stifles thought. However, I am sure that they will inform some of my future writing. Here I actually find blogging quite helpful.

All writers mine their personal experience for ideas. I am no different. I may not always refer to things directly, but I use the act of writing as a device to work issues through.

In winter came hail on the corrugated iron

Of our roof, making talk a pointless thing.

Our Dad lit a hurricane lamp against the gloom

Mum used the wood stove, the kitchen smelt good

And we camped out in that single warm room.

A nice thing during the week was an email from Jenny Kimberley (nee Kemp). Jenny was in front of me at the Armidale Demonstration School. Her brother was in my class at Dem and then at The Armidale School.

I referred to Peter in my post Armidale Demonstration School Year Five 1955. This Dem material was ultimately sent on to Jenny, hence her email to me.

Jenny left for the United States in 1963 to be with her then boyfriend whom she met at Sydney University and has, with one short break, lived there ever since.

I will do some posts on the New England, Australia blog flowing from Jenny's email. I mention it here because Jenny has established her own poetry blog, Poetry from Jen. The above verse comes from one of her poems, Long Ago Home.

Jen's poetry has a particular resonance for me because of links with people and place. I hope that you enjoy it too.

With the Federal election campaign entering its last weeks, the news has been full of politics. I must say that I have turned off to some degree.

At a technical level I am still interested in the process and the battle in individual seats. But at a policy level we are back to what I have called supermarket politics, competing shopping lists.

I have commented before, cannot remember the post, on the remarkable interest in economic matters among Australians. I cannot say that it is unique in global terms, although I suspect that it may be.

For the benefit of international readers, the Australian economy is still running strongly, leading the Reserve Bank to increase official interest rates by .25%, the first time that this has happened during an election campaign. The resulting discussion has run at two levels.

At political level, the issues are what the PM said at the last election about keeping interest rates low. The PM is trying to use the issue to argue that only the Government can be trusted to manage the economy. For their part, Mr Rudd and his team argue that the increase shows that the Government cannot be trusted to run the economy.

At a second level, and this is the one that I am most interested in, has been the economic discussion itself, not just among economists or commentators but the general public. A remarkable number of people understand the interest setting process, understand the linkage between economic activity, inflation and interest rates. This feeds back into the political process.

The University of New England, while young as an autonomous institution, is yet part of a tradition, a way of life, that transcends the apparently immediate needs of most of its students and the community from which they come. It is very right and proper that the Australian community should have some image of its own economic, social and cultural future and that it should expect the universities to assist in forming it. Yet the more important the pressures of society and the power and authority of the state, the greater becomes the traditional responsibility of universities to maintain themselves as centres of independent thought. J S Ryan, Orientation Handbook, University of New England 1963.

As always, blogs and blogging formed an important part of the week despite the pause on this blog.

I won't revisit the earlier discussion on student unions. As it happened, at the end of it I found the Orientation Handbook for 1963, the year I started at New England.

Obviously I found this interesting from a personal perspective. Dratted nostalgia! But it also provided a very interesting entry point, a time capsule, into that past world that was just about to be replaced by the mass, state funded, tertiary institution.

John Ryan's words quoted above expresses my own position rather well. I still believe that uiniversities do have a role as centres of independent thought, that university life is more than the simple ticket.

I have started using the material in the handbook as an entry point for a number of posts exploring different dimensions of university life and the interaction between that life and the broader community. Depending on how I go, I will do a consolidation post.

At this point in the month, overall blog traffic is running about 20% in front of the same period last month.

This blog has held its own, something that really pleases me after the previous big traffic spike. With one exception, all the blogs are up.

I suppose the increase that please me most is that on New England, Australia, up over 50%. I like this blog, but find it sometimes difficult to write because of the problem of balance: how much tourism, how much politics, how much history, how much personal, how much current events etc? I have a feeling, I may be wrong, that I am starting to get the balance right.

I have also decide to re-position Management Perspectives. This blog began as the Ndarala Group blog, essentially a device for publishing professional material from across the network. I then changed the name to Management Perspectives because this better reflected the content.

I found two real problems with the blog.

First, many of my colleagues are simply too busy in a professional sense to contribute material, meaning that it was another blog that I had to write. Secondly, a lot of the material was very time consuming to prepare because of the nature of the content.

Without moving away from the blog's original mission, I have decided to include more current commentary on business and management issues, simple things that are more likely to be of interest to readers. This is also stuff that I am interested in, but cannot really put on this blog without swamping other things that I also want to write about. So its a question of balance.

Whichever way it all goes, there is no shortage of things to write about. Each week I throw out a bundle of paper - clippings etc - that were potential stories but are not now to be included.

By the way, the first tomatoes are fruiting!

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