26jul04: cme@dnc
It's weird here. First off, there's a lot of people in Boston. Second, there's a lot of cops of all flavors. Park police, navy guys, security, state police in riot gear, guys with gloves at the metal detectors, cattle herders for all the walkways we have to go down, police on horseback, helicopteers in the air with indeterminate markings. I finally got in to the Fleet Center after a nice breakfast with as many media people as there were "bloggers" and was greeted by not only Barack Obama but also Howard Dean. It was the first time I saw him speak and it was [so far] the high point of the day. The official blogging stuff I'm doing is at librarian.net which will have most of the updates over the next few days. Sorry to be brief, the connection is -- not surprisingly -- erratic here. The good news? There are like five women on the entire seventh floor, so the bathrooms are mine, all mine!
23jul04: ratchet up the heat, humidity, intensity, lividity
toxic megacorp coming soon to a small town near you So we've had a stretch of hot humid days which does nothing for anyone's mood. Basically the heat makes us lazy, the laziness makes us fat, and then the fatness makes us even hotter. I've been trying to do long walks to the store but I find that compensating for the punishing exercise by spending the rest of the day on the couch reading isn't the best way of dealing with this.

Last night we went for a drive out to South Strafford to see Bill McKibben talk about Wal-Mart. He's a great public speaker because instead of trotting out the same old tired "Wal-Mart is evil" tirades [though they are important also], he does his homework and shows us why Wal-Mart's "efficiency at all [social] costs" strategy is, overall, bad for people. It's not that the people who run Wal-Mart, or who work in Wal-Mart are villains, it's more that the policies that make the most money in retail are also the ones that are the most punishing to people, community and sustainability. As he puts it, there's something irrational about community in the sense that you need to value the good of the group sometimes above your own personal well-being. In a general sense, we all do this to some extent. It's only when putting someone else's well-being ahead of yours causes some serious sacrifice that we start to worry about whether, on balance, the community is somehow "worth it." Some Wal-Mart stats from his talk:
  • According to American Demographics magazine, a Wal-Mart moving into your community will, over time, destroy 1.5 jobs for every one person that is employed. These jobs are, unlike the jobs they are replacing, often less than full time, lack health insurance or have insurance with impossibly high deductibles, and come with very few if any benefits. And they're non-union, aggressively so.
  • According to a research study from the University of Vermont, the savings the average Vermonter yields when shopping at Wal-Mart, based on current spending patterns, is roughly $36 million/year, or $50 per person in the state. Of course, current spending may not be accurate since Wal-Mart encouragages overconsumption, even among the rural poor that are their target audience out here. Those goods are also more often not American-made, so more of that money is not only leaving the community, but leaving the country.
Where I work in Rutland we have an in-town Wal-Mart. It's smaller than their usual stores and it's the anchor store of a big downtown mall that has "revitalized" the downtown area. Now, of course, they're planning to move to some cornfield outside of town and leave a big hulking cave downtown. However, Rutland is also a poor city [and the people working at Wal-Mart aren't changing this] and you can't just tell people "Hey, go pay more at Bob's Boutique for your socks and underwear." So, there's a class issue in the Wal-Mart debate. The people doing the fretting are, more often, the people who can afford to shop elsewhere, work elsewhere, and spend free time organizing politically, not working two jobs. Don't get me wrong, I am one of those people. I just feel that to really face the scourge of Wal-Mart in Vermont we have to face the fact that "Wal-Mart is evil" is not a foregone conclusion among many Vermonters and realistic, genuine options need to be sought. Bill McKibben is one of the first people I saw speak who spoke to that issue -- suggesting community buying co-operatives for example -- and for that I am grateful.
18jul04: summer meanderings
butterfly from a summer walk It's weird how easy it is to do without a month's worth of recent email. Basically, since I can be pretty well assured that everyone else keeps backups [and now I do as well] I asked a few people for copies of things, and all is well with the world.

I've been spending a lot of time this week getting ready for DNC stuff, talking my sister through a laptop meltdown, and getting outside as much as possible. Our landlady tired herself out at the theater on Friday and so had two symphony tickets laying around that she didn't want for Saturday. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is a state-sponsored orchestra, so they move around a lot, playing all over the state. This weekend they were in Randolph [next door] playing at a bandshell so we brought a picnic and some folding chairs and sat on a hill under the stars and listened to Mussorsky and music from the Lord of the Rings. During the 1812 Overture, there were fireworks. It was just like the Fourth of July in Boston, only without the massive crowds and the terrible traffic. Greg and I have enjoyed playing the young professional couple and dressing up for stuff like this; I'm sure that trend will pass.

Today we took the folding chairs out to the White River [a 15 minute walk] and placed them on the shore and read for hours until it started to rain, at which point we walked home. The river is shallow enough that you can walk across it, but also loud enough that you can lose yourself in the white noise. Perfect for reading and we go to watch some fly fisherman try their luck in the deeper water.

Every Monday I'm less and less ready to go back to work. Sunday I head down to Boston for five days. Drop me a line if you'll be anywhere near the Fleet Center and want to hang out.
12jul04: I don't want to be That Girl
I had hoped to never have to post a message like this one but here goes.

My ISP, despite being mostly good, had a catastrophic disk failure and lost my last month of email, web updates, and sent mail. If you wrote to me since June 1st and are waiting to hear from me, consider writing again. Thank you.

What's weird about catastrophic failures like this one, is that my email and website were down, and then restored to a state they were in only briefly, a while ago. So, I looked at my website this afternoon and it was dated May 31st. The most recent email in my inbox said June 3rd. I was sure I had lived through June... well, pretty sure anyways. There's always room for doubt in my universe, it was a bit of a surreal evening until I figured it all out. Fortunately, and somewhat creepily, Google has cached most of my online life so it was point-click-restore for at least the web catastrophe part of this.
10jul04: DNC blogger, me?
Friday was a big day. Greg and I celebrated our third anniversary by basically doing what we do normally. I also got news that I have been selected to be a blogger for the Democratic National Convention in Boston in a few weeks. A longer explanation is at librarian.net.

The amusing thing about this, to me, is that the night before I was hosting a travelling anarchist gal who has been going around the country interviewing anarchist and radical women for a film she's making. We had dinner and talked about women in radical politics and she interviewed me about what I've been doing and how I think radical politics are working out in this country. I had to give it some thought. Since I moved to Vermont I feel like I still do a lot of mutual aid and other good works, but much much less anarchist-with-a-capital-A identifying. I had to think for a while when she asked me "Do you think you'll see revolution in your lifetime?" Soon I'll be in Boston hanging out with people who are really really invested in the American political process. While I sometimes wish I had that sort of confidence in our system, we all know that I never have. Since this is the first year there have been bloggers at a national convention, there is a bit of a fishbowl atmosphere to the whole thing. I've already emailed or talked to folks from the NYTimes, Wired and NPR about my situation which is now just about 24 hours old.

In the meantime, while I wait for my letter, I am trying to think of good t-shirt slogans that will be amusing and possibly memorable. Send ideas to DNCblogger@gmail.com or just email me the way you always have.
06jul04: post BBQ link dump
some kabobs I'm on my way to the dentist. Dentists have been playing a starring role in the nightmares of this household lately so I have nothing more to say about that. The weekend BBQ and general hoedown was a ton of fun, exacerbated [can you exacerbate fun? perhaps not.] by amazing weather and a wonderful group of old and new friends and family. Try again Labor Day weekend if you couldn't make it up this time. There may be cake. A few random links relating to said BBQ. That's it until I catch up on sleep.
02jul04: R&R tout de suite
pinecone from our walk last weekendThe sign in our library window says "We will be closed on July 5th to celebrate the 4th of July" It makes me laugh and makes me annoyed all at once. Apparently patrons at our library were unclear on what Independence Day is, so the sign was made crystal clear. I am these people's librarian.

Due to the positioning of the Forth of July and my ALA responsibilities [the wedding this year], I am pretty much always coming back from a big trip the weekend before the Forth of July party. In this case, it means a staggering sleep deficit and a quick scoot to the "party house" before the guests arrive. I remind myself that I used to have monthly parties for 10-80 people when I lived in Seattle, and that they all went well. I tell myself that my friends are some of the best people around and they would appreciate a plate of cupcakes and a pitcher of iced tea for dinner if its all we had. I assure myself that parties have gone on since time immemorial without the perfect party mix and no one failed to get their groove on who wanted to. I repeat the mantra I've been saying to myself for years "this is not the week the barn will fall down..."

Not too late to drop by. Likely no updates until Monday.
Jessamyn is in...
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23jul... Kate
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drm pirate
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