My Paris

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Paris is one of my favourite cities. I just love the style and the architecture, the food, the language, but mostly the vibe. I love wandering the streets, soaking it all in. Sipping coffee and nibbling at a croissant, watching the world go by. Paris has a rhythm all of it’s own and I have been hypnotised by it. This pattern was called French Cancan and it immediate reminded me of the elegance and style of Paris.

My Paris 003A couple of things drew me to this pattern. First, the beautiful photos provided by the designer caught my eye on Pinterest, I was drawn in by that beautiful cable.

It’s also the same shape as my Colour Affection that I wore so often before the weather got too warm. And finally because I’m working on a group thesis at the moment garter is about all I can manage at the moment.

My Paris 041The yarn is Fyberspates Scrumptious 4ply which is closer to a Sport weight than Fingering weight. The merino is so soft and the silk gives it a lovely sheen. This shawl was calling out for a muted, more natural colour than I’ve knit with recently so I chose the colourway Water. I think it will fit nicely into my wardrobe as so many of my other shawls are quite bright. It’s filling a gap.

The love yarn, love the pattern, love the result.

Allotmenting

This morning my Capstone (group thesis) group had to present our project to a number of staff members from the department, as well as some external commentators. I’m so tired now I’m not sure if this post is evening going to make sense. We were running on so much adrenaline that now that I’ve relaxed I can barely keep my eyes open. The presentation itself went great and we had some good questions and feedback in the Q&A session. I actually feel excited about the project again. I think we had gotten so bogged down in the project it was hard to see the wood from the trees, so it was great to get an outside perspective.

And then I took the afternoon off.

Allotment (87)It’s been quite a while since I’ve taken a chunk of time off, I feel like I’m always tipping away at the project, there’s always something to be done.

Allotment (21)R has an allotment that I haven’t visited much because I’ve been so busy. He was heading there for the afternoon so I decided to join him and bring my camera and knitting along. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves as, to be honest, I’m too tired to type much more.

Here are some of the yummy produce…

Allotment (80)

… kohlrabi…

Allotment (111)… and loganberries…

Allotment (149)… some potatoes …

Allotment (90)… hops, weaving their way around a bench …

Allotment (93)… and my knitting in the sunshine. Bliss. A most delightful way to way to spend an afternoon I must say.

Live and learn

Clara dress 013I love this pattern but didn’t particularly enjoy knitting this dress. I had bought some acrylic yarn in Aldi to make some baby clothes as gifts. There were two (very good) reasons for this. One, I wanted to give gifts that could be put in the washing machine. And two, I didn’t want to spend a large amount of money on yarn for a gift that may not get used very much.

These reasons are still valid, but I won’t make that mistake again. The resulting dress is super cute – and practical but I didn’t enjoy the knitting process. You live and learn. I still have more of this yarn left but I think I’ll make some little cardigans with it, they’ll be quicker, which means less time with the yarn. In my head at least.

Digitisation in a Day

About three weeks ago I took a workshop with An Foras Feasa at NUI Maynooth called Digitisation in a Day (and have been planning ever since to write about it but never quite got around to it). I’ve always been interested in technology, my undergrad was in Computer Science, Linguistics and French, and during my studies this year I found myself drawn to the more techie side of librarianship and the digital humanities. So when the most recent Digitisation in a Day workshop was announced I jumped at the chance to attend.

The course was fantastic. It was designed to give a brief overview of the process and the whole day was a bit of a whirlwind as we attempted to pack in as much as possible. I particularly liked that we were working with real documents, in a semi-real project so we got some hands on experience, as well as learning best practice. We digitised a Guest Book from a cafe.

I was surprised at first that so little of the day focused on the actual digitisation (capturing the image) process. But there is so much to digitisation than just taking a picture. The first lesson I took from the day was don’t digitise for the sake of it. Our digital libraries lecturer had already drilled into us that digitisation is not preservation. Let me say that again – digitisation is not preservation. Digital copies also need to be preserved.

The fist session descirbed An Foras Feasa’s digitisation process, then we moved on to user requirements. This was a total lightbulb moment for me, and also clarified a few issues in terms of our Capstone (group thesis). How can you do anything without knowing what your users might need!?!? So before you digitise your resource you need to know WHY you are doing it, and what research questions your users may have. This makes so much logical sense to me, and is something we had discussed in my Information Architecture class in our first semester. But unfortunately users don’t always seem to be at the core of many projects.

We also looked at some software, which only slightly went over my head. And that’s ok, if working on a large project there would be a software engineer on the team. But at least most of the terms used (such as Fedora, XML, XQuery, Apache web server) were familiar to me. This is yet another theme I keep returning to. Although I studied Computer Science I’m not, and never will be, a developer. But as a librarian I don’t need to be. I only need to be able to communicate with the developer, and I feel I have sufficient competency in that area to be able to do just that.

Next up: we actually took our digital images of the guest book, and got to have a look around An Foras Feasa’s labs, which was very exciting. Once the image was taken we had to segment them using software and created a map so we could tell the XML encoding where each bit of transcription was on the page. We used Map Edit and the online version available at http://www.maschek.hu/imagemap/imgmap.

After lunch we encoded our transcription in XML. Having said I’m not a developer, I do love a bit of coding. The logicality of it all appeals to me. XML looks quite similar to HTML, which I studied in Web Publishing, so that really helped me understand what was going on in our very brief introduction to this encoding standard. I’m also writing about XML for my Capstone and firmly believe that an open standard is the way to go. Using XML also means that once your data are encoded (and yes, data are plural) you can transfer them from one system to another, making sharing of your resource easier.

A question was asked later in the day about TEI, which is another encoding schema used in digital humanities. However our facilitator vehemently defended XML as being superior. We didn’t cover TEI in our course, so I won’t attempt to regurgitate her defense of XML, except to say I was totally convinced by her.

At the end of the day we got to see our live, online, digitised guest book. So much of this day strengthened for me that I want to be working in the digital aspect of libraries, in some capacity at least. Speaking to one of the facilitators during a break he also mentioned that my linguistics qualification could come in useful with the natural language analysis in these types of projects. And so many of the themes from our lectures cropped up here again, particularly the focus on the user and the use of open standards.

I drove home feeling exhilarated and motivated by my new (and reaffirmed) knowledge and excited about what the future holds for me and my new skills.

Puppy Love

I’ve been pretty quiet for the last few weeks. The main reason is that all my focus has been taken by Capstone project, which is essentially a group thesis. Working on a thesis is stressful enough, but working in a group brings it’s own challenges. Maybe I’ll write a little more about our project some other time.

Foster pups 046Right now I have puppy pics to share. I hadn’t planned to foster puppies while I’m working on the Capstone, as I had planned to work from the library and wouldn’t be around the house every day. Plus, our last foster didn’t work out so well. Daisy was a Staffie X, I love Staffies, love them but this puppy was crossed with a Collie and even at 10 weeks old was bigger than Ollie and Mia. They didn’t like that very much, a huge puppy bounding at them, so she went to another foster family for her own sake.

Puppy 2Anyway, last Friday I was up at the shelter and a litter of 8 puppies and their mum were coming back from a foster home to get their first vaccination and microchipping. They were separated from mum and paired off to go back into new foster homes for another three weeks, until a week after they’ve had their second vaccinations. Well 8 puppies running around my feet, who could resist.

Puppy 1I weakened, so now I’m working from home and having so much fun with this pair. They’re so easy to have around. With the heatwave we’ve been having we’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden or with the back door open, so we’ve had very few accidents in the house. They’re great at helping with the stress, when things are getting tough with the Capstone one of them will bound across the room and make me laugh.

These two ladies will be available for adoption through the DSPCA, subject to suitability assessment, home check and rehoming fee.

A trip to Foxford Woollen Mills

My mum’s family is from the West Coast of Ireland and over the years I have longed to visit Foxford Woollen Mills as we head west. But when you’re visiting family you don’t want to loose precious time with them so we never quite made it to the Mill, which is about 15 minutes off the N5 at Swinford. Myself and R finally had a chance to visit this weekend after a very relaxing stay in Ballina. I only had my phone with me so the photos aren’t great and don’t really do the colours justice. Please forgive me.

imageThere are two tours you can do when you arrive at the Mill, the first being the historic tour. This was really interesting as I hadn’t known the history of the Mill. It was set up by the Sisters of Charity to help the locals gain employment after the Great Famine of 1845 and a second subsequent failure of the potato crop. They did a good job of describing what life would have been like at the end of the 19th century, although some of the wax figures used to tell the story were a bit creepy. Life must have been pretty bleak back then.

Blankets at Foxford Woolen MillsNot surprisingly the Mill doesn’t run on the weekends so we couldn’t do the factory tour, which was a bit disappointing. I would really have loved to see the working mill and see how the beautiful blankets are made. And as a knitter I wanted to ask all sorts of questions about the history of the production, as well as current production methods. We’ll just have to go back again on a weekday some time. As well as a visitor centre there is a shop selling Foxford products and a lovely cafe upstairs.

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There were some examples of the yarns used dotted around the shop and cafe. But they weren’t for sale, boo. When we were paying I asked if the yarns were still procuded locally, and wasn’t surprised (but still a bit disappointed) to hear that they are imported from the UK.

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The blankets are so beautiful that we ended up buying two, one deep grey mohair blanket and one cream blanket with really bright coloured spots. There were just so many colours it was really hard to choose. They are relatively expensive, but beautifully crafted and I feel they’ll be hard wearing. There was also a section of the shop selling seconds, so that certainly helped with the cost. All I have to do now is wait for a cold evening so I can curl up under one of our new blankets.

If you’re ever travelling in Mayo and are looking for something to do I would recommend visiting the mill. Yes, it’s all about selling blankets and other gifts to the tourists, but I kind of feel – so what. The shop and visitor centre did a good job of setting the scene historically as well as showing how aspects of our heritage can be preserved and modernised and still remain relevant today. And to me that’s a good lesson.