Writing in the long form
December 3rd, 2013 by John


Snuggles are good, for the giver and the receiver. An affirmation of love, a solid sea wall against waves of loneliness, a reminder of another soul next to your own, the warmth of feeling wanted, feeling needed, feeling alive.

Library of Secrets

November 25th, 2013 by John

An earthquake beneath paper houses

This strange and elusive and slippery and impossible to grasp, and wonderful but tearful but wonderful again, thing, whatever it is, chemical imbalance, neural circuitry, heightening of the senses, called love. Sharp thoughts and keen feelings, emotions and frustrations, this yearning, this burning, as I fall asleep; the thoughts turns back, collapse and fold into themselves; an earthquake beneath paper houses; a tall wave rushing towards boats; a midday sun burning naked skin; a voice holding the heart of another; a pen nib etching words of love into clean, white paper.

Library of Secrets

With special thanks to the Detroit Moxie, who makes things possible.

August 24th, 2013 by John

The Long Autumn

The summer fruits, the Victoria plums and Cambridge strawberries, are the sweetest and juiciest, filled with the rains of spring. But it’s the autumn fruits, those slow-growing crops such as Marjorie’s Seedling, Russet and Cox’s Orange Pippin, where the flavors are strongest and the colors deepest.

It’s strange. There’s a party going on downstairs, but I feel flat today, unsociable. Not grumpy, just tired, withdrawn, wanting to move on in several ways. So while the party goes on, and I hear the distant shrieking of people (nice people at that) who, for the most part I won’t see again, I’m blogging.

Summer feels nearly over, the last week here. The actual season of summer, and a more metaphorical one. The literal one, with long days and warm nights; cricket and hopes of winning trophies, contesting the Ashes; sitting in a garden and being thankful that winter is still some way in the distance.


And it’s been, unexpectedly, my best summer in England. I’ve enjoyed culture; albums from Amiina, Boards of Canada. Various books, finally read. Classic and favorite films, rewatched. The rediscovery of radio. Parental ashes finally being scattered. The satisfaction of playing the first really good, worthwhile, fulfilling digital game in years, in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Getting gradually, annoyingly slowly but still gradually, ‘better’. Figuring out unfigurable things. Finding an online clip of an overhead museum-based movie I watched in April 2007. Resolving, one by one, bad issues from years past. The rediscovery of the positive attributes of living somewhere quiet (even though oddly less than two miles from the centre of a major city), with clouds and sky and rain oddly reminding of a previous ‘life’ in the Outer Hebrides. My favourite cat recognising me after several months of non-contact. Seeing the new Library of Birmingham being completed and turning out to be pretty damned good. The delight of a Brummie turning out to be a brilliant Daily Show host, and the riposte to Daft Punk by Stephen Colbert (arguably the satirist of our generation).

And (finally) figuring out what I want to do and can do in the long term, though with the significant caveat of being less sure of who I want to work for and with. My growing disillusionment with academia – the mechanics of contemporary universities in particular – and seeing it, with experience and good reason, as an increasingly insecure, uncertain and unethical source of income. As do the many colleagues who lost their jobs, in organisations such as UKOLN and CETIS, this summer. Shifting focus and taking the silver coin of the commercial sector, while still adding to the sum of human knowledge, is increasingly the long-term sustainable way, probably the only way, a fact confirmed for me today. The bitter and unsatisfied lives of most academics, either as employed or self-employed by universities which increasingly resemble dysfunctional fly-by-night traders, is not for me. It probably never was.


But the nights are drawing in rapidly. I couldn’t light miniature candles in the hidden oasis because of the weather this evening, for the first time in weeks, if not months; the late evenings of sitting outside are, like the late evenings of natural light, drawing to an end. The (cricket) Ashes have been retained, and the Pears have beaten the Bears. Still-unresolved situations need fixing before they become more toxic. Cooler weather and cooler heads abound as the summer turns. What feels like a long autumn, that favorite season of brilliant colors, harvesting the fruits of seeds long planted, working against the clock to bring in what one can, and delivering on the potential and hopes of seasons previous, is almost here.

It’s time.

June 14th, 2013 by John

Happy Flag Day, United States of America

Stars and stripes

June 10th, 2013 by John

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal Crossing is trending on Twitter, as the new release in the franchise is out in the USA (a few more days in the UK). I’m probably going to get this. I need a new and compelling game to get into as, perhaps oddly, I don’t play many video games nowadays as I’m kinda picky.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I’ve loved the previous Animal Crossing games for being, in many way, anti-games. There is no end-point or finish-goal. You just … are, at one, within the environment. It’s in real time, so you experience things as they appear on the calendar. You socialize, and you collect things (that which is at the heart of many Nintendo games) when you want to.

You explore, find things, chat to other people, encounter unexpected events, having unexpected conversations. That’s about it. Some people hate it because you don’t run around killing things against some timer clock but, hey, that’s probably a large part of why I like it. And, then there’s the nostalgia trip, of where and when before I’ve been playing animal crossing games.

This could do as my one game of the year.

June 8th, 2013 by John

The Lighthouse Project

The Lighthouse Project

May 29th, 2013 by John

Renaming CILIP: suggestion and rationale

CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, are undergoing an exercise to rebrand and rename their organisation. Personally I think on balance this is a good thing; possibly overdue, but the past is done and dusted.

A proposal is that CILIP is renamed LISA (Library and Information Science Association). The rationale for this follows; this has been sent off to various people in CILIP.


The problem

CILIP is undergoing a process to rebrand aspects of the organisation. This includes changing the official name (and associated acronym). This is a desirable action, as:

  • the acronym “unpacks” into a long name
  • does not “sound” (to some) like that of a professional body
  • requires concentration to understand, thus distracting the listener or reader from the actual message the organisation is trying to convey

This problem is compounded by CILIP being a “broad tent”, representing (but not limited to):

  • librarians
  • information professionals
  • knowledge managers
  • online information service providers
  • business and governmental information service providers
  • other people who work with information services and content

It is very difficult to come up with an option that is inclusive to all or even many of those people, and to the many others who may view themselves with having some affiliation or association with the organisation. This is seen in e.g. the recent reactions from librarians through social media to the lack of suggested replacement names containing the words “library” or “librarian”.


Proposed new name

A proposal is that the current acronym and name CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) is replaced with LISA (the Library and Information Science Association).


  • Library (the first component) explicitly makes it clear that the organisation concerns [n.b but is not limited to] libraries and librarians. Making this the first / leading component also stresses the importance of libraries. This may negate some of the ongoing criticism over any perceived recent ambivalence by the organisation towards libraries and (professional) librarians.
  • Information Science (the second and third components) illustrates that the organisation is a “broad tent”, not just to librarians but to the many other information and knowledge professions, organisations and practices who would arguably be included within a description of “Information Science”.
  • Association (the fourth component) illustrates that this is a gathering or group of people, brought together for a common purpose.
  • “Association” also gives a legitimacy and gravitas to the image of the organisation. In addition, the president of CILIP wrote that:

Institute/Institution, Association, Profession(s) or Chartered. Personally I think we need one of them in there, but I’m not sure that we need two.

  • LISA acknowledges both the long-term history of the organisation (the “Library Association”) and the more recent merger of the Library Association and the Institute of Information Scientists which resulted in CILIP.
  • Importantly, “Science”, the third component, emphasises that there is “Science” and therefore research, evidence, evidence-based practice and professionalism underpinning the activities of people and entities which the body supports and represents. 

Librarianship, information management, knowledge management and related topics are not “things” which can competently occur or happen without the accompanying science. Including the word “Science” strongly implies this.
  • “LISA” is easy to say, has only four letters, and “unpacks” into a relatively simple full name. For people outside of the sector, LISA is easier to remember than CILIP, and some of the suggested replacement. Stating the full name should not distract or detract from the points that need to be made when in conversation with e.g. journalists.
  • A name or an acronym can, of course, refer to several different things e.g. Apple computers and Apple records. There are many other organisation whose name compresses to “LISA”. Even within the library sector, there are groups, products and services called LISA. CILIP itself promotes one of these: Library and Information Science Abstracts. This is a good attribute, as people are comfortable with professional “things” called “LISA”. There is little justification for expending considerable resource on finding a name and acronym which are unique (and, to some, will therefore be alien and unusual).


    1. There is a positive “pop culture” association. The Simpsons, a cornerstone of popular culture for the last two decades, contains many characters. The member of the Simpsons family who is pro-knowledge, pro-libraries and pro-books (libraries and books make appearances in several episodes), helpful and socially aware, is Lisa Simpson.
    2. This acronym and name has also been used in (geo-specifically) Iceland in an interesting manner. Iran also has a similarly named organisation.

    + + + + +

    Update: This post by Ian Clark, which also discusses the constituent elements of the name of the organisation, makes many good points and is well worth a read.

    April 21st, 2013 by John

    The Boston Red Sox

    The first time in Boston was December 1995, for the fourth World Wide Web conference. The last time was two years ago almost to the day, on a night stop-over on the way to (finally) meet – in ‘real life’ – the person who would be my fiancee.

    The events of the last week – not just in Boston, but elsewhere in America, and much more personally closer – have been strange, turbulent, upsetting, downright scary, annoying as hell, thought-provoking and personally defining. Sometimes, in life, you never know your exact feelings about something until a situation or crisis occurs. That’s happened a few times this week.

    Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts - HDR

    One of the (by far) lesser things, personally, was finally deciding which baseball team to support. I know a lot about cricket but, despite going to several matches over the years, hardly anything about baseball. Apart from the basics (e.g. loading the bases, top and bottom of the innings, of which there are nine). The statistics aspects, the tactics, the culture surrounding it look enjoyable and reminiscent in some ways of cricket, and no other sport. And above all, it’s fun to go and watch; a truly social spectator sport that fits the “pursuit of happiness” ethos of America well.

    But, which team to support. It was easy with cricket; Worcestershire County Cricket Club, my home county side, based at one of the most scenic sports grounds around, a few miles from where I went to school.

    Not so easy with baseball. I’ve been to many matches now, in cities including Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit and Seattle, and seen teams play in major and minor league baseball. I have no geographical affinity to any side – there is no major baseball team within a good 6 hour drive of the place I consider ‘home’ in the USA. I have no baseball heros or players I follow closely, past or present. And people advise me to pick a major league side, and a minor league one close by so I’d not have to take a plane to always support my side.

    Who to pick? Not an urgent question, but one dithered with for several years. A team is for life, not just for a season. Choose wisely, young padawan. You may be explaining this choice for several decades yet.

    Fenway Park

    But this week it clicked. Boston. The Red Sox. Of course. The first baseball match I went to in America (or anywhere), over fifteen years ago. The events of this week, with a city (and a country, and a people) I recognise, and like, and like a lot, in the news, across all news and disposable social media. The city where I got my online web work mojo together. The home city (near enough) of JFK, after whom I was named, and various presidents, patriots, and signers of the Declaration of Independence.

    And the city where I first thought “Hey, maybe I’ll move to this country one day”.

    Those reasons are more than good enough for me. So the Boston Red Sox it is. Here’s a video taken by someone three years ago during a Patriots Day match between the Red Sox and the Yankees at Fenway Park in Boston:

    April 2nd, 2013 by John

    Life as a back road in Iowa

    Life as a back road in Iowa

    January 24th, 2013 by John

    Train tracks at sunset on the Ohio/Indiana border

    Railtrack at sunset