still here

photograph looking down into a sink filled with socks-and-underwear type laundry with a mask on top

So until Massachusetts gets its COVID numbers more under control, I am likely not going there for the summer, though I’m making noises like “Maybe later…” I might take a fly-by quarantined trip down there. I haven’t been in Vermont for a summer since 2011 I think? And I use the term summer loosely since it’s 50 and cloudy outside and not that much warmer inside. Ronni has done her usual thing of turning the furnace off which seemed like a fine idea when it was 85 outside, less fine now, but I have socks, and one sweater that I didn’t put away.

I’ve been pleasantly busy. Less trivia, a little more leaving the house. Have seen two sets of local friends for distant no-mask interactions and that’s been the fuel that’s been firing my furnace lately. Still not quite up to laundry at the laundromat, even though I suspect it’s fine. I’ve been making some signs telling people that masks are required, even though the governor won’t make them mandatory for people in public. My regular dog walking partner is back at work which means sometimes I have to find ways of getting my own exercise and not just being a passive walk-along, though I’ve enjoyed that greatly. As Vermont shifts to kinda opening up some more, I’m mostly not ready to shift along with it, though I’d love a good cheeseburger and should probably get one.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my parents lately, both because I am kind of happy to not have to be managing older relatives (though I miss them) and also because they had fundamentally opposing ways of interacting with the larger world. My father was a stay-at-home and work on your home kind of guy. This meant he had a lovely home but also the fail mode of that was becoming a bit of a hermit having mostly internet interactions and developing theories about the world that didn’t stand up to actual-world scrutiny. My mother hurled herself into civics work and volunteerism and town… stuff. She knew a lot of people and they knew her which was deeply satisfying but also kinda tiring/aggravating. The fail mode was that when she didn’t have energy for that, all those social interactions didn’t pivot to a new normal. Some did and some did not.

I find myself with a little of each, mindful that I am a different person from my parents in many ways, but also trying to not replicate downsides of choices they made from different points in their lives. It’s easy to stay at home when you can (mostly) work from home and have a lot of Strong Opinions™ about things that other people are doing. It’s harder to be involved with imperfect systems and do your best to try to make them better. And yet… in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and incredible reactive and visible police violence, thinking about broken systems and broken stairs has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s past time to fix the police. It’s past time to acknowledge the reality of structural racism in America, and in Vermont. It’s worth being incredibly picky about how you align with broken systems, and think about which ones are really even worth saving.

A month of food

A dutch baby (kind of like a pancake) on a nice plate with a knife and fork

So except for a single slice of pizza, I haven’t eaten anything I didn’t make at home for a month. I’m a decent cook and have a decent pantry. But more to the point, I have a huge tolerance for eating the same thing over and over again. This means batch cooking, even for one, mostly works. But even my usual go-tos got kind of boring, so I’ve been branching out into occasional internet recipes. Here’s some of what I made, though you’ll notice this is as much about getting food as eating it.

  • Healthy Banana Bread – for whatever reason many of the recipes I wind up with are on these super-healthy food blogs where everything else is some kind of kale paste or date smoothie. This bread was good, and improved with some extra coconut. We’ve been able to get flour pretty easily at the local farm stand and I had some gross bananas that needed to give up their space in the freezer.
  • Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup – the matzoh ball part of this was too foofy (made the recipe off the box) but I wound up with extra eggs (thanks to a lady from facebook who was delivering them) so figured I’d try to make the soup as well. I have saffron, this wound up good.
  • Golden Milk Chia Seed Pudding – sometimes you just want to use some foods up. I have had chia seeds sitting around since forever and I don’t even remember why I got them. This was… okay. I like turmeric as a flavor but it just didn’t turn into anything I’d eat again. Thumbs up texture though.
  • Overnight Oats – there are a million recipes for this and I was fine going off on my own, just wanted to make sure I had the right ratio. I have a large box of of internet-purchased self-stable soy milk that this was good for.
  • Dutch baby (pictured) – these are a great breakfast go-to because you can build them easily into sweet or savory. This one is a turkey sausage and parmesan baby.
  • Sweet Potato, Red Lentil, and Peanut Stew – This was the surprise favorite. A really neat combination of flavors and it’s good over rice or quinoa or basically anything.
  • Cheesey cornbread – this was just mix the box of stuff with some extra cheese. But it’s funny because I ordered the cornbread in the mail. It got delivered to Ronni by mistake. She thought it was for her (somehow) and I had to wrest it from her.
  • Never fail scalloped potatoes – I had won a mandoline at trivia and never tried it. Then I bought five pounds of potatoes from a local farmer (well I bought 25 but gave 20 to the food bank) and needed a PLAN. These were simple and tasted great and froze easily.
  • Late addition: I made this recipe three times, not sure how I forgot it: Chewy Molasses Cookies

We’ve been really lucky in Orange County, COVID hasn’t been overwhelming, and people are great at staying the fuck home. The supermarket, farm stands, farmers and people-with-chickens have created a nice food ecosystem, and we have enough people with enough to be able to help out the people who don’t have enough. Early on I bought some stuff online (soy milk, cornbread, almonds, apricots, too many fritos) and my last cheese delivery came at the beginning of March. So while I really really miss cheeseburgers with friends and porch beers with friends and thai food with friends and the Wayside with Jim, it’s not the food that I’ve been missing. And the food helps me not miss the other stuff quite as much.

two months missed

flowers bending towards a sunlit window

So I’d been kind of waiting until I had a positive “Hey I’m feeling better!” update. I had my head down, doing my thing, being basically okay but a little crabby at having felt kinda lousy since August. And two things happened.

1. COVID-19
2. The medicine my doc gave me for GERD (or something analogous) which I was sure was doing nothing, suddenly started working.

Number one sucks, incredibly, for so many. And yet number two means I’ve been without random scary mystery pains for nearly a month now and, wow, it’s really helped my outlook. I’m not any more out of work than I was before, and I’m possibly a little more employed (MetaFilter has yet to hire a new staffer so I’m filling in a few shifts a week). I’m not any more anxious than I was before, or, rather, I have an actual thing to hang my anxiety on. So since I am no stranger to this feeling, I can help other people who are having a harder time. Drop-In Time is, of course, cancelled, but I’ve been assisting people with tech stuff over email and keeping Ronni’s technology running.

Being concerned for her health has made me even more conscious of my own, so I’m minimizing trips where I’ll be in contact with others, though I do some socially-distant dog walking with a friend most days (I know this isn’t perfect, I am not perfect). Jim’s been busting his ass doing things for his department, now scattered to the wind, and my sister has been still having to go to work. She’s like my dad was, a good person in a crisis, even though it’s been hard for her.

I’ll be honest, I was hoping to be done hunkering by now, not gearing up for an extended hunker. However, I like my place, I am okay being alone, I don’t mind eating the same thing every day, I like to be able to be doing the right thing just by mostly staying out of things.

one month down

cover of a radio pamphlet from the World is Yours show featuring a set of hands holding the world with a big radio tower shooting out of one part of it.

January is a hunkering month. I get out when I can, stay home when I can’t, keep the sun box pointed at my face, and work on Wikipedia, learning new things and giving other people the chance to learn about my world. The #Lib1Ref campaign is happening, I’m barely paying attention to it, but it’s as good a reason as any to organize some of my random interests.

So, I wrote a lot of pages, mostly “stubs” (short pages, getting started pages) which seem to be my strong suit. In other parts of my life I am good at both starting and finishing projects, but on Wikipedia I’d rather starts some stuff, let other people flesh them out more. There’s also the WomenInRed project which helps get more articles about women on Wikipedia because it sure could use them. So I dipped my toe in there as well. Final count: 36 articles (I was aiming for one per day) in a few basic groups.

Library Associations

Women educators and activists (and one radio show)

A few people whose work I admire

I’m aware that Wikipedia is not for everyone, but it’s a good place to put my talents when the driveway is a skating rink, the library travel hasn’t picked up yet and I just can’t read another book! Besides, just tonight I noticed someone made a change on the Wikipedia page for my dad (Wikipedia has a way to tell who made changes to pages you edit) and they had added a video of  a Data General product announcement from 1990. And oh hey, wow, there’s my dad sounding like a sales robot talking about some sort of blabla computers thing. It was nice to hear his voice.

wraps ups

a small plant in a small plant container, held by a pale looking hand

So I got all my wrap-ups written and here’s the short list

I’m a few days behind last year but more or less on schedule. And like last year, January is a Wikipedia month, staying busy writing articles and making edits. I’ve made sure that all the library associations in the New England states (including NELA) have at least stub-length articles. Only one of them (MLA, Massachusetts, not Maine) was even written a month ago. If you’re reading this and you’re interested in helping make articles for state library associations (so many left to do) ping me, I have a formula.

I know it’s not surprising to Very Online people, though it does surprise local folks, but tech projects make me happy. The big hurdle this month was slowly moving the Vermont Library Association to membership software from the unpleasant spreadsheet that they had been using. Tough work! Slow going! But rewarding because it’s going to make future stuff that much simpler. Next up: moving VLA website to a new web host and getting a new WordPress theme working so it looks a little more kempt. Then maybe I’ll look at my own stuff. Phone needs a new battery (I have the battery, and tools, but lacking motivation). Taxes need assembling. There’s really no end to the tech tidying I could do but I’m also trying to attend to real life stuff. Applesauce making. Friend visiting. Dish washing. Bird feeding. Plant tending.

The little plant in the picture is one I got from the library. I’m not even sure how it happened just I was there and at some point I was walking home with a plant in my hand. I got a new rack to put more plants on. I can hear my mother’s voice “This is how it starts….” Well okay then, let’s get started.

my year in cities and towns, 2019

guestroom in the meredith NH hotel I stayed at.Interesting to look at, bad for sleeping

Really serious about staying out of airplanes now. Two airplane trips this year. A low key summer not feeling terrific. Lots of time doing more local stuff and not regretting it at all.

Here is the short list of places. Four states. Stars indicate multiple visits to the exact same place. Past years: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 2007, 2006, 2005.

  • Westport MA* – here most of the summer, in many of the beds
  • Stow MA* – visiting my sister
  • Cambridge MD – a great quickie trip to a great conference
  • Meredith NH – another great location for a conference, less-great hotel
  • Grafton VT – weird old inn, intensive conference
  • Burlington VT – staying with friends for an overnight for a humanities conference
  • Tampa FL – really quirky AirBnB with lovely folks

the list I almost made

two eggs in a nice looking pink bowl

As I was driving back from Kate’s house after a three-day Thanksgiving trip (as opposed to a nine-day one which is my usual MO) I was thinking of a list I’d put here. Whether I’m online or off, I’m usually thinking of lists. To do lists, reading lists, library lists, “crap to fix in my house” lists. Errand lists are a particular favorite because it’s pretty simple to cross all the things off and then, woohoo, you’ve done something! Today I got fed up with my back hallway which was where I had the “Cables to be filed” basket which was turning into a shamehole. So, I turned on a podcast I was listening to and just started untangling, filing, tossing and recycling. By the end of it, I’d learned more about cryptocurrency MLM scams and also gotten the back hall deshameified.

Oh, that was my list! I used to listen to one podcast: No Such Thing As A Fish. The episodes come out weekly. This is usually enough when I’m not traveling much but with holidaytime imminent, I could use some more. Some that I have liked are:

  • 99% Invisible – I mostly like this but Roman Mars is always bringing other people on to do their podcasts and I don’t like them as much. This is good if I pick and choose.
  • Bear Brook Podcast – sort of a complete set of how a weird crime was solved, right next door (in New Hampshire). Loved it but it’s now over.
  • Before Your Time – great little podcast about Vermont history but it doesn’t come out that often.
  • MetaFilter podcast – I am both on this and listen to it

A few I haven’t liked are the Emily Post podcast Awesome Etiquette, Marc Maron’s WTF (I did, but now I don’t) and pretty much anything by VPR/NPR (they are fine, I don’t like their podcasts). I don’t like anything with sketches, dramatizations, or people doing bits. I don’t mind interviews but I especially like to learn something. I like esoteric and hidden histories. I’m fussy about sound quality since I am often listening in the car. I like people who do their own research and prefer “deep dives” to people skimming other people’s blog posts. I don’t mind ads. I do not like TED talks. I do not want to listen to men talk about technology.

A few friends have suggested Outside Online and Heavy Weight and I will try those. Do you have other suggestions for me?