some context

My name is arlene williams, and platypus abandon is my website. What’s it about? you ask. Um. Everything?

If you “ask the internet”* for advice on how to create an effective blog, creating a website about “everything” is not how you do it. You’re supposed to pick a topic, write about all the different aspects of it. Specialize. This is how you build an audience, according to various sources offering advice. Often via their own blogs.

* That is, do a Google search – this is a phrase my partner and I use (I’m sure we picked it up from somewhere). It’s fun to say, but if it reminds you of the vague concerns you already have about the extent of Google’s influence, well, me too.

But I have never wanted to “pick a topic”. The world is made up of myriads of interesting things, and I’ve never wanted to choose one and leave the rest behind. For my undergraduate degree studies, my choices came down to either English literature or civil engineering. I chose “English” for a lot of reasons, some of them related to those “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” I loved reading. I loved math. But engineering seemed so definitive and specific, and I had vague eighteen-year-old worries about it hemming me in. Whereas English seemed broader, more open — maybe because reading had always created new worlds for me.

Even then, I didn’t really want to pick. Now, from engineering to English is a still a good representation of the range of my interests.

As I started on this journey, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to answer the question of what the site is about — how to define what I want to explore. How could I pin down something that could include pretty much anything?

After much soul-searching, my conclusion is: I don’t.

As much as I agree that is can be useful to have a clear goal to work towards, I also deeply believe in the value of a meandering journey. A journey where I stop to marvel over things I never would have seen if my focus was too narrow. A journey where the so-called “diversions” are some of the best parts. A journey where the steps and stumbles are what makes it worth while…where my goal is the experience itself, not the end result of that experience.

And so I see this site as less of a product, more of a process. A way for me me to engage with, and share, whatever ideas, issues or thoughts arouse my interest or passion.

Maybe some kind of pattern will emerge, some coalescence of themes or representation of my philosophy of life. But what is a pattern but pieces coming together, so that the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts? Sometimes those parts seem to intuitively go together…and sometimes they don’t. 19th century European scientists, sent a platypus pelt from Australia, were sure it was a fake.

But platypus exist. And I believe a world that includes a small, duck-billed, web-footed, beaver-tailed, egg-laying, venom-producing mammal is inherently better than a world without one.

By extension, I hope the web might be a tiny bit better through including whatever this space evolves into containing.

So, welcome to my land of wanderings. I am glad to have you here.

Location, location, location

Given that platypus* live in Australia, you might reasonably guess that this site does, too. But no. In the way that websites are connected to physical reality, this one is currently grounded most concretely in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with very stubborn roots extending out to Edmonton, Alberta and a couple slender runners stretching out to London, Ontario.**

* Platypus is a greek word. If treated as such, the correct plural would be platypodes. However, because the name has made the jump into common English, platypus or platypuses are acceptable plural forms. Platypi is apparently an incorrect hybrid that attempts to graft the latin plural suffix onto the original greek. This site follows the Australian Platypus Conservancy (which provided these fascinating – right? – grammatical details) in using platypus for both singular and plural.

** Not the “real” London, although it has a Thames River, and a Covent Garden Market, among other things. Congratulations to early British immigrants on their creative naming abilities, as evidenced throughout the former colonies. Okay, okay, they were probably homesick – what kind of crazyfool moves to Canada before the invention of indoor heating? Ack. I may have mostly included poor London here so I could make fun of it…or it may be because my favourite person in all of the world is from there. Or a little bit of both.

Will physical location matter to the content? Definitely. There is a reason the platypus evolved where it did, along the eastern coast of Australia. Conditions had to be just right for those particular characteristics to be evolutionarily desirable. In the same way, certain conditions* were required for platypus abandon to be born.

* Metaphysical as well as physical, but that’s a different story, that will likely be revealed through the site content.

Although I’m in Canada, I think it’s important to be aware there’s much more to our planet than our own little corner of it. So with the platypus I am foregrounding a creature that lives somewhere other than North America. I’ve been lucky enough to meet many terrific folks from Australia and around the globe, and learning from these other perspectives has been a key part of my journey.

And (not even close to finally) for me, the platypus evokes all of the richness that exists in nature, here on our amazing planet and and throughout the universe(s). I want to do better at stopping to remember how truly marvellous and incredible it all is. That we are here. That life exists.

“Whoooooooo?” said the owl*

* Maybe it’s the one hanging out with the pussycat in that beautiful pea green boat.

Again, my name is arlene williams. I designed and administer this site (and am grateful for the help I received with wordpress implementation, from humans I know as well as various sources on the internet). Right now I’m also the only writer/contributor, but we’ll see how that evolves.

Any opinions given on the site are strictly those of the writer/contributor, and are not necessarily held by me (unless I am the writer/contributor, when presumably I agree with myself…mostly). I also reserve the right to assert editorial supremacy (otherwise why have a website?). However, opinions will sometimes be presented out of playfulness, to aid exploration, to create straw people, to express sarcasm, to make fun of anyone or anything, or just to be contrary, depending on the writer’s mood, process and/or inclination. (For example, I could be deliberately not agreeing with myself, or struggling to come to terms with something – which happens a lot. Or just being contrary. The possibilities are endless!)

Writers/contributors may identify themselves using their real-world names or pseudonyms, at their will and depending on their preferences and editorial assent.

Here there be footnotes*

*Like this one. Deep appreciation to David Foster Wallace and Robin McKinley for encouraging the use of footnotes through their examples.

I like footnotes. Unfortunately, they can be difficult to keep track of in web documents, with all that irritating up-and-down scrolling, and html page anchors have never operated precisely enough for me (although this could very easily be because I’m not a good enough coder to make this happen). So, this site will experiment with placing footnotes directly under the referencing paragraph, slightly indented, in a smaller font, still coded with anchors. Hopefully this makes the footnotes both easy to read and easy to skip, depending on your preferences**. If you’ve seen a way of dealing with footnotes that better facilitates the reading experience, please feel free to suggest it.***

** Although you should read them. I bet that sometimes the footnotes will contain the best parts.

*** I am particularly concerned about how the footnotes affect accessibility (I think they might create an unhappy mess for screen readers), and would love suggestions on how to elegantly deal with this issue. Suggestions to just not include footnotes will be glared at intensely, then emphatically deleted.

On spelling: She travelled with the organization to experience her favourite colours and flavours

Again, I’m from Canada. Canadians often spell things differently than Americans. It confuses us, too. My sense is that many of these differences are remnants of UK culture.* Partly because I lived in the UK for a while, I like these small departures from the enormous influence of our southern neighbour.

* Because, yes, we used to be a colony. No, we are not any more. But yes, we still have the Queen on our coins.

But anyway: American friends, we really spell “neighbour” that way – it’s not a typo.

And similarly: British friends, people here think it’s an error if we spell it “organisation” – sorry.

To the rest of the English speaking/writing world, hopefully you find the spelling comprehensible, and your own systems are less of a mishmash.