Mid-winter soup

Thai style wonton soup (Photo by asiansupper - https://www.flickr.com/photos/asiansupper)
Thai style wonton soup (Photo by asiansupper – https://www.flickr.com/photos/asiansupper)

This post isn’t about real soup. Let me get that out of the way. Won ton soup is one of my all-time favourites, though, so I thought I’d treat you to this delicious photo.

It’s a potentially messy round-up of recent things that have happened, seeing as I haven’t written anything since April.

Those of you who pay attention to everything I’m doing (yes, so many of you) will notice that everything old is new again. I’ve swapped back to the blog template that I was using a couple of years ago. It feels cosy, and I like it. It makes me think of chocolate.

This week’s been a good one for writing and profile satisfaction. When I’m blogging away after a day’s work, when the kids are asleep or on the weekend (such as now, on a Saturday night, at almost 11pm…), I often ask myself why. Not in the sense that I think it’s pointless, because I don’t, but whether I’m investing time in activities that are more obligatory than enjoyable.



Rusty in Buxton (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Rusty in Buxton (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Bit of a break in service on the blog here.

There’s a few half-started posts in the queue – I can’t even call them half-finished.

I want to blog quite a few reviews that are AWW2013-relevant. I was so proud of myself for being on-task with the challenge, but good intentions were waylaid by a bunch of things. I guess they all make up that thing called life.

My mother’s hip surgery and ensuing hospital stay. Sick family pet that we had to have put to sleep. All this with backdrop of general domestic frenzy, and higher load at work because of a particular development program.

Every time I sat down to work on blogposts, I’d end up skimming Twitter and Facebook. And write barely 50 words.

One of the posts that’s started is a report from an event that was held back in mid-July. It’s starting to get a bit stale. I’m wondering whether I should bother finishing it. Weirdly enough, I was there the entire time but it did feel odd to be there. Am ambivalent about my participation and I think that comes through with the difficulty I’ve had writing it up. So, it’s not just laziness + being distracted by shiny things. Not all the time.

Most recently, we started watching the Scando cop series, The Bridge. Recommended to us by my sis and @sommystar, it’s a series we’re very much enjoying but, of course, it’s in a blend of Danish and Swedish. This means I can’t be blogging away or editing things because I have to read the subtitles (the dialogue is great – even though I think we’re losing out big time on in-jokes and cultural nuance with the translation [not sure if there are different versions of the show’s subtitles, but the series we have been watching has slightly dodgy titles at times]).

Several things that these waves of distraction have taught me: the consistency of my online blogging time really does drive the quality of my posts here and on Research Whisperer; my mother does so much for us within our domestic routines; and I do have fluctuating thresholds for social media (and this threshold was reached several times when I was feeling preoccupied and stressed).

Solo eating

Burger time at Stax - not Burger #4 (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Burger time at Stax – not Burger #4 (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Apparently, eating solo is an underrated thing, just as open-plan offices are an overrated thing.

I don’t always take Sunday Life magazines to heart, but this juxtaposition spoke to me recently.

Maybe it is nothing more than the fact that, to me, open-plan and solo eating present two ends of the sociability spectrum.

The thing I actually want to talk about in this post is how I agree that eating solo is an underrated activity.

I ate solo the other day.

It was meant to be a group lunch, a buzzy affair of catch-ups and re-meetings. Instead, I sat alone, with no-one else in the cafe space at all.


Flirting with the “Stranger with My Face”

Stranger with My Face - strangerwithmyface.com
Stranger with My Face – strangerwithmyface.com

In mid-February, I signed up for the 10 by 10 short script challenge, which was part of the Stranger with My Face project.

First up, what’s Stranger with My Face about?

To quote the website:

“Deriving its name from the young adult novel by Lois Duncan, the festival is slanted towards the psychological side of horror. It explores the idea of the shadow self, tapping into archetypes like the evil twin and the mad woman in the attic. It’s focused on female filmmakers working in the genre, highlighting bold new work by independent filmmakers.”

The 10 by 10 challenge is to write 10 pages (or 10 mins) of a script that would suit an indie horror film production.

In the spirit of a challenge, I thought it’d be fun to take on something I’d never done before. Not even rarely done, or only done once, but NEVER done.

Before I even started writing it, I was anxious that it might all end in an embarrassing heap.

But I finished it, and I submitted it.


2013 – backwards + forwards

Down the garden path (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Down the garden path (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Most people do their retrospective posts at the end of the year, but the end of the year was such a frenzied mishmash of work, outings, functions, and at-home time that I was lucky to get that final 2012 post out at all.

Not that this post is about making excuses.

It’s actually a wrap-up of my blogging and other writing from last year, and some musing on what I hope to get up to – writing-wise – this year. My semi-resolution from January 2012 was “to write more and to do it for fun, not academia”. This I did, in spades.

I churned out a lot posts, most of it split between RW and here. I was also invited to write several guest-posts for other blogs, a couple of articles for The Conversation, and was approached for a sponsored post. When I look back on it now, I wrote more consistently and faster in 2012 than I’ve ever done before.


Write Night 5

In process (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

I almost didn’t write this post.

It’s not a good sign when you’re trying to duck accountability to anyone who might be following posts about your erratic writing practice…by writing erratically about it.

So, I put my first few chapters onto Scrivener, after downloading a trial copy (for PC). Buddy @thesiswhisperer has sworn by Scrivener for ages (for academic research work) and I’ve been meaning to try it.

The problem is that I’m always in a hurry to use new software. I don’t read manuals; I flick around the menus and buttons until it does what I want, drawing on my experience with other software.

I spent a fair amount of time putting things into the right folders and having chapter and character summaries. It’s the kind of categorisation and detail work that can keep me occupied for too long. And it did.


Mea culpa

Sandmuppet (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

The further I move away from academia career-wise, the more I realise how little I contributed to general commentary about issues relevant to my research interests.

I never had an op-ed published.

Actually, I never even tried to write one.

I only attended a handful of community engagement events. I actively avoided having to be the one quoted voice about particular Asian Australian issues.

My hang-up was that it’s all very complex and I didn’t want to have what I said ‘dumbed down’ to a sound-bite (I know, I know, just bear with me here…). This feeling of being misrepresented in the media was widespread around the areas I moved in academia, and it led to a general suspicion about talking to journalists or pursuing other outlets for research findings.

Now, as one half of Research Whisperer team and working as a research developer, I can see what a negligent and dense attitude that was. Given the sociocultural critique of existing values and hierarchies in Australian society that made up my academic career, what was the point of the research I was doing if it wasn’t communicated to a broader audience in an accessible way?

This complete change of attitude is fed very much by increased confidence in what I’m doing, and the advent of things such as blogging and Twitter (two very effective ways to represent yourself and your work with little mediation, or to ‘set the story straight’ if you needed to). The growing numbers of online news sources, too, is excellent for the flow of more and different kinds of stories and topic concentrations.

Now, when I’m not a full-time academic anymore, I’m thinking about writing for online publications and engaging more broadly all the time.


Write Night 4

In process (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Since I last notched up a Write Night post, two things to report: one major, and the other minor and good.

1. MAJOR: The Write Nights, as originally envisaged, are no more.

That’s not to say the writing is no more, just that the one-evening-a-week schedule for #shutupandwrite sessions with a local buddy are no more.

The problem, right from the start, was a basic mismatch in expectation and will. I was dead keen on the format and was ready to get into it each time we met. She had just finished a full day’s teaching and wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the writing that she’d bring along to do. Thusly, she was much more interested in chatting than writing.


Write Night 3

In process (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

I felt a bit of a fraud writing the last post about work on my fiction and, for this one, I feel even more so.

After the household illnesses came the catching up, then the realisation that I’d possibly over-committed myself on the writing front. I used to over-commit myself on the academic front all the time, saying yes to committee work, events organisation, joining associations and doing project things. It felt good to be collaborating with a broad network of people, doing different types of work. That’s how I thought of the amount of stuff I said ‘yes’ to, anyway.

While shedding academic commitments, I’ve filled the space with writing and blogging ones, including a bunch of promised guest blogposts and other short pieces and interviews.