Winding euonym back up

Wow isn’t my timing great! Just as I decide to wind down my European blogging, the Conservatives go and get a majority and an In/Out referendum is on the table for 2017. Under those circumstances, I think even the Australians will be a bit more interested in EU issues, so I’ll write a bit more about them than I have been doing!

So what are my thoughts on this the day after? I’m not a big fan of referenda in general – we have a representative democracy and in the absence of clear instructions, as in the Irish constitution, on which issues should go to a referendum, it seems to me to be either a cop out or a buck pass. As in UK politics in general, matters get reduced to a simple black/white, when we know that they are almost always more nuanced than that.

Having said that, if there is one, then bring it on. I’m not worried about having a chance to have the debate, and within a referendum campaign, I am hoping that those who see our membership of the EU as a necessity, or something of importance, but have had no real reason to articulate that publicly, may now be prepared to stand up and be counted. Hopefully there will be more room in public debate for both, or rather all, sides of the argument. Hopefully we will move on from a situation where three-quarters of the stories in the BBC’s UK and the EU section are about Nigel Farage.

Screenshot from BBC iPad app on 9 May 2015
Screenshot from BBC iPad app on 9 May 2015


The interesting dimension is Scotland, and also Wales and Northern Ireland. If English votes take the UK out of the EU, how will that play in those home nations that have tended to have a more realistic if not necessarily positive relationship with the EU?

These are certainly going to be “interesting times” for a Eurogeek, whichever side of the world I will be on in 2017.

Winding down euonym

You’ll have noticed that I’ve been posting much less recently. It’s not just because life has been so blinking exciting since I got to Australia. It’s partly that there has been so little to say that’s related to EU issues and digital media. I will keep this blog going, not least for the Multilingual Day of Blogging (which I enjoy so much), but if you’re looking for my pearls of wisdom (ahem), then you can look at, or follow my Australian-focused Twitter account @antoniam.

One year on

During the last week, I marked the one year anniversary of my arrival in Australia. I spent it down in Gippsland (about 4 hours east of Melbourne) where I had some of the best cheese and wine I’ve had since I got to Australia. Then at the weekend I helped my partner out with a work event, a rally for owners of Moody, Hanse and Dehler yachts in the bay. You can see from the attached photos what a hardship that was…

An anniversary is often a good moment for reflection and so it seemed the right time to look back over the last year and see what I have learnt about myself.

Retaking the controls of my own life

When I was telling people that I had decided to leave work and go to university in Australia, I generally got two comments: “You’re so brave” and “I’m so envious”. Looking back I don’t feel I was brave: I had just reached a point where something had to change and I couldn’t go on the way things were. It didn’t feel brave at all; it was almost inevitable. So I suppose the first lesson is, if you feel trapped or unhappy, the only real agent of change is yourself. However scary it is, the benefit of feeling you have control over your own destiny far outweighs the scary factor.

Learning is a great joy

Another big lesson of the last year has been that education is wasted on you when you’re young. I have got so much more out of this experience for having been away from education for a while, so much more than if I had done this straight out of university, or even 5 years later. I was so hungry for it when I arrived, and I have approached it as a privilege. I’ve taken many opportunities to learn in the broadest sense of the word, doing new things from sailing to start-up weekends.

Let it go

One of my favourite lessons has been the realisation that I don’t have to get things right first time. Any idea I have can be improved by working with other people, who will come at it from different angles and bring different perspectives that I could never have achieved. It’s not a sign of incompetence to let your work be improved by others. In fact, it’s a sign of strong emotional intelligence, and good sense.

Actually, I don’t always have to *have* an idea. Sitting back and letting things grow can also work well. I’ve taken that approach with setting up the Bayside Women’s Business Network – I had a view of what it should do, but I made an effort to let the group have its say and put forward its own ideas. In the end, the two are broadly similar, but I think it makes a difference both to me and them that it is a collaborative effort.

Happiness has a real value

Obviously I’m living on much less than I had when I was working full time, but I really don’t feel any difference in terms of material things. I still do the things I love, though I’m just a bit more careful about it. I have a comfortable home, I go out. But I am much much richer in personal terms and that makes a real difference to my life. I do work I enjoy, I set my own terms, I have a strong, supportive partner. It’s so easy to undervalue the importance of being happy. I’m so grateful that I had a chance to realise that while I still (touch wood!) have time to act on it. I’d be even happier if my dear friends and family were here with me, and maybe I should have valued them more when I was unhappy. That’s part of the perspective too, I suppose.

I don’t know what the future holds

Since I left school I’ve been on a path. One I chose, and was happy with for the most part. Year off, uni, European Fast Stream, Commission. But the path dwindled away and now I’m thrashing through the forest undergrowth trying to find a new one. That’s scary, but very exciting and it does seem that the new path is going to be in a different direction to the old one. Not radically different, I’m not going to run away and join a circus, but different enough. And its form is going to be different – I think for a while at least I’m going to try to develop the portfolio-type work I’ve been doing while I’ve been here. It suits my popcorn machine of a brain to have different projects going on! Doing things the way that works for me and keeps me fulfilled is much more important to me at the moment than having a ‘proper job’ with a title I can put on a business card. If I’m making it up as I go along, well, that’s fine by me.

The power of social networks

When I was 9 years old, my family moved to Finland and I went to the International School of Helsinki until the age of 11, when I went off to boarding school in the UK. My best friend, probably the first one I had, was an American girl called Katja Ollendorff. She lived in the next suburb to us, so we spent a lot of time at each other’s houses and we were both obsessed with the Police. I remember evenings spent dissecting all the inner meaning of the lyrics of every song on Zenyatta Mondatta, and probably ascribing much more meaning than the original authors ever intended.

In the way of diplomatic kids, though, our respective families moved on. We kept in touch by letter for a while, but eventually lost touch.

Fast forward to 2014. I use a mail application called Mailbox, which encourages you to aim for #inboxzero. When you get there, you get an image, curated from somewhere on the web. Today it was a very striking pattern, and I was intrigued, so I clicked on it.

It took me through to an Instagram page and you can probably imagine my astonishment when the account was owned by a graphic designer called Katja Ollendorff! Like Antonia Mochan, this is hardly a run-of-the-mill name! I left a message on the page, to see if it was indeed the same one, and it is.

We all know that the 6 degrees of separation seem to have been reduced to half that through social networks, or maybe they are just more visible. But this connection seems utterly random. The connection between me and Mailbox, and Mailbox and Katja is so tenuous as to have made this connection hugely unlikely. What if I hadn’t got to #inboxzero today? I might never have come across her again. Even when I do reach it, I rarely click on the picture – this one was just particularly eye-catching. The whole thing is completely weird and wonderful at the same time.

As you know, I am a passionate advocate for the power of social networks to bring people together. It was joyous to have this example of how that happens given to me today.


Bienvenue à la Journée du Blogging Plurilingue! Cette année, la journée sera plus longue que dans les années précédentes, étant donné que je suis en Australie.

ça n’a pas commencé bien: quand j’ai essayé d’acceder au blogue ce matin, j’ai reçu un écran blanc, et le message “Error establishing a database connection”. Panique totale! Heureusement et grace aux bons gens chez EZPZ Hosting, le problème est maintenant resolu, et je peux continuer…

J’ai créé une liste de tous les blogues participants, pour le rendre plus facile à suivre  et je mettrai les liens à tous les papiers ici ici en bas au fur et à mesure.  Pas oublier à utiliser le hashtag #babel14!

Bon blogging!

Digital tools for study – updated

Not long after I arrived I write a post about the digital tools I was thinking about using for my studies. I thought it would be interesting to look back 8 months on and see which I found useful, which were replaced by something else, which didn’t deliver and which new ones I picked up along the way.

First I’ll look at the ones I mentioned in the original post.

1. Evernote

I’m still using it, but not as much as I thought. But it’s really useful to have a note-taking service, and I do use the widget on my desktop to clip links, or take little notes while I”m working on my laptop.

2. Flipboard

Dear me, I love this tool. Not only does it make reading social content so much more pleasurable than most interfaces, but it is a fantastic content curation tool. I’ve been using it to curate content for the company where I am working, as well as putting together magazines on several issues of  interest to me.

3. Mendeley/Zotero

I mentioned Mendeley as a reference management tool, but in the end I went with Zotero. It has a Firefox add-on so that when you download the pdf of an article, you download it directly into the service. Then you can search all articles by title, content and author, read the articles and generate references. It’s difficult to over-estimate the importance of generating references, in terms of what a time-saver it is for essays, and I have found that Google Scholar’s references just aren’t reliable.

4. Wunderlist/Trello

I do love Wunderlist, but I haven’t used it as much as I have been using Trello, and actually good old pen and paper. But as an online tool, Trello has helped me in all sorts of ways. It’s great for keeping a note of what you need to do and with the upgrade you get for inviting new people and tweeting about the serivce, you can add calendar reminders and various other useful enhancements. Trello really comes into its own for project work: we used it for our (winning!) team at start-up weekend and in our final project management class it was a great way for us to keep in touch as a team when the group was physically broken up. I’ve had a go at other management tools like Asana and Knotable, but Trello seems to have got a great balance of simple and effective.

5. Dropbox

Dropbox has remained a staple for me. It integrates into my Finder window so it’s a seamless part of my set up, and it also makes it easy to share content with others. Definitely a gold star service.

6. Scrivener

I haven’t really had call to use this yet, though it may come into its own with my research project next semester.

So those were the ones I thought I would use a lot. I was right about some, not about others. So which were the ones I hadn’t thought of that I use?

7. Google

Another set of services that in spite of myself I really couldn’t have got here without. Google Docs, Sheets and Slides have all been invaluable for the various group projects we have had to do across a number of subjects, plus presentations in Google Slides seem to avoid incompatability problems. They are not full versions of their equivalents in Office or the Mac Suite, but for collaborative working, there really isn’t anything like them.

8. GoodReader

One more to add to the ‘indispensable’ list. Goodreader is a document reader which I have on my iPad, allowing me to make notes, either free-hand or typed, highlight sections and generally read the many many articles that are part and parcel of a social science Masters. It links to Dropbox, so I can access whatever I save in there.

9. Meetup

Not really a digital tool, but something that has been pretty central to my life in Melbourne, Meetup has been a wonderful way to connect with a range of interesting events and people, from startups to music fans to my favourites, the monthly French-speaking meetup. Chouette!

Has Emma Watson just revived feminism?

I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute. (Rebecca West)

I’ve been thinking about writing about feminism for a while.  Since I arrived in Australia, there have been a few moments, such as the whole #frightbat incident, or the Women Against Feminism tumblr, that have made me realise that  women generally seem to get more radical about feminism as they get older, and I can really understand why. As a young woman I was aware of the importance of equality and the fact that women couldn’t take that equality for granted. As I have got older, and experienced things in my career and my life, that has become clearer and clearer. I am not a man-hater. I don’t think women are better than men. Such a view would, it seems to me, to be incompatible with feminism, which is all about rejecting the idea that people should be defined by their gender. I just don’t want my map-reading skills or love of sport to be called into question because I am of the “wrong gender” for those things.

I think I entered my early womanhood aware that there had been and continued to be issues but hoping that I wouldn’t see them, because I was lucky enough to be born in the post-war, post-bra burning era and in the Western world. And yet, I experienced so many of the things that the #YesAllWoman hashtag talked about – being expected to take the note or pour the tea at the meeting, even if you are a senior participant; being kerb-crawled, even when dressed in jeans and DMs; being accused by a colleague of only getting promoted because I was a woman; watching my incredibly beautiful and accomplished colleague being talked about behind her back, suggesting she was only getting ahead because she was sleeping with the right people, rather than because she was bloody excellent at her job. There’s only so long you can watch this happen again and again and not think there is something bigger going on.

In May this year, a friend and I went to listen to Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism project talking about what propelled her to start that work, and it was pretty hard to listen to.  I have to admit I felt quite despairing leaving the Wheeler Centre that day. I’m the age now my mother was when I left university and I would never have imagined that we would still be having these discussions all these years later, that young women entering the world of work now would still have to be prepared to face those struggles. Or that ads like this would air, for example.

And then, when it all seemed quite bleak, along came Emma Watson. A young woman articulating beautifully why feminism matters, not just for women, but for the men that want to spend time with their children, or not be defined by their work or reach out for help without being called soft.

“Why has the word [feminism] become such an uncomfortable one? I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.”

I really hope that young people of both genders will listen to the Emmas and Malalas and many others like them. I really hope that a young woman leaving university this year will be able to get on with being the best she can, on her own terms and in her own way, and be judged on nothing more than that.

Musings of an EMA student