Archive | October 2008

Classic websites: Homage to the BOM

This is the 100th year of the Bureau of Meteorology.  I thought I should take the opportunity to pay tribute to the BOM – for a website that intrigues, comforts and forewarns. It has become as familiar as Mike Bailey. (And is far more intelligent than Tim Bailey).

Bom website

It has a simple, no-frills interface that belies a top 40 website that is seen on work desktops everywhere (god help the sys admin who tries to place it behind Web Marshal). And all it does it tell us about the weather, information we can get anywhere. For some reason though Australians can’t get enough of the BOM.

We have a fascination with the weather, with predicting it and talking about it after it has happened. That’s pretty obvious. We talk about lazy winds that go through us not around, we talk about scorchers that turn the state into a tinderbox, rain pissing down, hail as big as golfballs, the fact that it’s blowing a gale and that green clouds mean hail so you better get your car into the nearest shopping centre carpark quick smart. We sweat our dates off in 100 per cent humidity and freeze our tits off because some of us refuse to believe that it gets cold in Australia. For some people the weather is a conversation starter. Sometimes I think Australians see it as THE conversation. Even more than that, it’s a topic for serious study.

BOM Radar

So with our penchant for chatting, nay, obessing about it we obviously want to be as informed as possible and where better to go than the BOM itself. Some are obsessed by the mesmerising four frame radar loop and then there are the warnings that elicit a ripple of excitement around offices everywhere. Storms! Winds! Pack away the plastic garden furniture! Move away from windows and turn off your telly! Perhaps office workers need to get a life but when an announcement goes out over the loud-speaker or an all-users email is sent out about the weather I know that almost every person in the building will be typing be-oh-em-dot-gee-oh-vee-dot-ay-you into their standard operating system browser.

Some of us are observers, watching every movement in temperature or drop of rain in detail. I’m definitely an observer. I recently found myself emailing someone to tell them we had had 12mm in 26 minutes. (Ahem). Some are forecasters. Some can’t get dressed, let alone leave home, without knowing in detail what the BOM has in store for the day. Packing for trips away is governed by the oracle of the BOM. They never really remember if the BOM was wrong, but they keep looking at the site. It gives them a sense of control over their life and confidence in their choice of outfit. There’s nothing worse than being surprised and finding that you are wearing too many or too few clothes.

BOM observations

Observer or forecaster, we all read the same bible. bom.gov.au – thank you and keep up the good work. Oh yeah, and never change, we like you just the way you are: no-frills.

Unpacked

Well we’ve moved in to our brand spanking new renovator’s delight but the boxes are anything but unpacked. Not even the books. I’ve realised how out-of-character this is. The first thing I do when I move into a new rented house is position the bookshelves and start unpacking the books. I make up a new categorisation system every time. Well, that’s not technically correct. I use the same categorisation system (vague Dewey grouping with no real attempt at alphabetisation) but I position the books differently.

It has become more and more difficult to position things as the book collection has grown but the shelf space has not. I usually have an internal argument about which books should be in ‘public’ areas – like the loungeroom – and which books should be in the ‘private’ areas – like the study. I remember reading an article about Kim Beasley a long time ago that discussed this very argument: he had it with his wife. Kim felt that non-fiction and ‘serious’ books should be publicly displayed, his wife felt that fiction looked better to visitors. When I think about my parents’ reading habits I can see them having the same argument. Maybe it’s a gender thing. I don’t know. It’s obviously driven by how we conceive of our book collections and how we think others see us, in light of it.

I remember that article every time I unpack my books.

I’ve been swayed by aesthetic concerns in my recent unpacks, the ‘prettier’ categories of books get to go public. So art, with its big hardcovers and swanky dustjackets, gets to stay. My hardcover/dustjacketed fiction collection has grown in recent years so I usually pick out the best-looking books that I consider to be of quality (ahem) and they stay. Dodgy paperbacks are automatically relegated to private or backrow stacking (I double pack everything these days due to space restrictions) but if the book is Australian or I particularly love it, it goes into consideration for public/front row status.

In years gone by I would have put philosophy and cultural studies (aka teh theory) out there to be seen but the last few moves have seen me squirrel away my Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Nietzsche et al. Why? I have no idea. Sudden shame? Boredom?

Lit Crit is sometimes public and sometimes private, depending on what I am working on, or pretending to work on. If I am really into it, it’s more than likely in the study because it’s practical. So if you ever come into my house and see it in the loungeroom you can guess that it won’t be at the front of my mind.

Groups of books that I see as being at odds with other groups – my collection of football books for example – get to go public because I feel I’m being honest in displaying them. It says: “yes, I am a literature girl but I love sport and hell, I know more about sport than most people and if I’m going to be honest with you, you have to know that not only have I read Nick Hornby (pfft) but I’ve read a plethora of rubbish books about English football, once bought a book about darts because of one page of stupendous description and place Football Against the Enemy and Muscle as two of my favourite books of all time”.

One section that I make no apologies for making brazenly public – and much to the disgust no doubt of Mr Beasley – is poetry, specifically Australian poetry. I just think it’s something that needs to be done to maintain good health, like eating weet-bix every morning from here to eternity, but with perhaps slightly more enjoyment. (And that’s not a slight on poetry, I happen to enjoy weet-bix).

Right now I’m sitting in a room with a bookshelf that has very few books on it. (We’re waiting until the floors are polished to unpack the books). There’s a few library books, a book borrowed from my mother that has been finished and is waiting to be delivered back up the road to her. There’s a Scrabble box, a bunch of recipe books, a tool kit and some newspapers, amongst a whole lot of other crap. I’m starting to really miss my books. (I went to the library at lunch today just to breathe the pages). If the floors aren’t polished soon I don’t know what I’ll do.

(Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla).