Some of you will recognise the title of this post as the opening ‘music’ of the Europe song, “The Final Countdown”. I wasn’t sure what to call this post because it was the final component of a year long cycle that begin with some sketchy diagrams and a sketchier plan and has seen several different types of development over time. It is not, however, the final post on this blog as I intend to keep blogging but, from this post forwards, I will no longer require myself to provide at least one new post for every day.
This is, perhaps, just as well, because I am already looking over 2013 and realising that my ‘free project’ space is now completely occupied until July. Despite my intentions to travel less, I am in the US twice before the middle of March and have several domestic trips planned as well. And this is a reminder of everything that I’ve been trying to come to terms with in writing this blog and talking about my students, myself, and our community: I can talk about things and deal with them rationally in my head, but that doesn’t mean that I always act on them.
In retrospect, it has been a successful year and I have been able to produce more positive change in 2012 then probably in the sum of my working contributions up until that point. However, I am not in as good a shape as I was at the start of the year, for a variety of reasons, so when I say that my ‘free project’ space is full, I mean that I have fewer additional things to do but I am deliberately allocating less of my personal time to do them. In 2013, family and friends come first, then my projects, then my required work. Why? Because I will always find a way to do the work that I’m supposed to do, but if I start with that I can use all of my time to do that, whereas if I invert it, I have to be more efficient and I’m pretty confident that I can still get it done. After all, next year I’ll have at least an extra hour or two a day from not blogging.
Let’s not forget that this blogging project has consumed somewhere in the region of 350-400 hours of my time over the year, and that’s probably an underestimate. 400 hours is ten working weeks or just under 17 days of contiguous hours. Was my blog any better for being daily? Probably not. Could I be far more flexible and agile with my time if I removed the daily posting requirement? Of course – and so, away it goes. (So it goes, Mr Vonnegut.) The value to me of this activity has been immense – it has changed the way that I think about things and I have a far greater basis of knowledge from which I can discuss important aspects of learning and teaching. I have also discovered how little I know about some things but at least I know that they exist now! The value to other people is more debatable but given that I know that at least some people have found use in it, then it’s non-zero and I can live with that. Recalling Kurt Vonnegut again, and his book “Timequake”, I always saw this blog as a place where people could think “Oh, me too!” as I stumble my way through complicated ideas and try to comprehend the developed notions of clever people.
“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'” (Vonnegut, Timequake, 1997)
I never really thought much about the quality of this blog, but I was always concerned about the qualities of it. I wanted it to be inclusive, reliable, honest, humble, knowledgable, useful and welcoming. Looking back, I achieved some of that some of the time and, at other times, well, I’m a human. Some days I was angrier than others but I like to think it was about important things. Sexism makes me angry. Racism makes me angry. The corruption of science for political ends makes me angry. Deliberate ignorance makes me angry. Inequity and elitism make me angry. I hope, however, the anger was a fuel for something better, burning to lift something up that carried a message that wasn’t just pure anger. If, at any stage, all I did was combine oxygen and kerosene on the launch pad and burn the rocket, then I apologise, because I always wanted to be more useful than that.
This is not the end of the blog, but it’s the end of one cycle. It’s like a long day at the beach. You leap out of bed as the sun is coming up, grab some fruit and run down to the water, still warm from the late summer currents and the hot wind that blows across it, diving in to swim out and look back at the sand as it lights up. Maybe you grab your fishing rod and spend an hour or two watching the float bob along the surface, more concerned with talking to your friend or drinking a beer than actually catching a fish, because it’s just such a nice day to be with people. Lunch is sandy sandwiches, eaten between laughs in the gusty breeze that lifts up the beach and tries to jam a big handful of grains into every bite, so you juggle it and the tomato slides out, landing on your lap. That’s ok, because all you have to do is to dive back into the water and you’re clean again. The afternoon is beach cricket, squinting even through sunglasses as some enthusiastic adult hits the ball for a massive 6 that requires everyone to search for it for about 15 minutes, then it’s some cold water and ice creams. Heading back that night, and it’s a long day in an Australian summer, you’re exhausted, you’re spent. You couldn’t swim another stroke, eat another chip or run for another ball if you tried. You’ll eat something for dinner and everyone will mumble about staying up but the day is over and, in an hour or so, everyone will be asleep. You might try and stay up because there’s so much to do but the new day starts tomorrow. Or, worst case, next summer. It’s not the end of the beach. It’s just the end of one day.
Firstly, of course, I want to thank my wife who has helped me to find the time I needed to actually do this and who has provided a very patient ear when I am moaning about that most first world of problems: what is my blog theme for today. The blog has been a part of our lives every day for 1-2 hours for an entire year and that requires everyone in the household to put in the effort – so, my most sincere gratitude to the amazing Dr K. There’s way I could have done any of this without you.
For everyone who is not my wife, thank you for reading and being part of what has been a fascinating journey. Thank you for all of your comments, your patience, your kindness and your willingness to listen. I hope that you have a very happy and prosperous New Year. Remember what Vonnegut said; that people need to know, sometimes, that they are not alone.
I’ll see you tomorrow.