04dec04: downunder
No monthly turn over here until I get to a place with reliable ftp and shell access, or a wifi node. I finished my talk this morning and it went really well. If you want to see it, click here. I've got one dinner to go to with the librarians and then I'm officially on vacation. I had the predictable bad dreams about being laughed at my a roomful of librarians, but, of course, that did not come to pass. I've uploaded some pictures which you can see if you click on the photo on the left there. I've already got a sunburn and a hoarse voice, but it's been fun so far. I've met some wonderful people. I can't stress enough that the flight, while long, is really no huge deal. Everyone should try to go to Australia at least once and see how happy people are with four weeks guaranteed vacation, free health insurance and unemployment and a really solid minimum wage. It's uncanny.
30nov04: that's it
That's it. At 10 am today I get in a car and don't get out of a car at my final destination until maybe 3 pm on Thursday. I do lose some time in between thanks to the International Dateline. Last I heard, it was a staggering 107 degrees in Sydney [which sounds much cooler if you say it in metric] so I have packed a bathing suit, a few tanktops, one nice dress, and not much else. This is an extreme example, but over time I've noticed that the weight of my tech + books payload is well above that of my clothes + toiletries. Barring disaster or uncontrollable wanderlust, I'll be back on the 12th. I hear they have the Internet down under so maybe I'll even be able to post some updates and some pictures.
28nov04: downunderbound
I made the trip to the malls in New Hampshire today. I have to sadly report that Wal-Mart actually had the best service for what I was looking for -- a power converter for Australian plugs/voltage -- head and shoulders above Radio Shack and Best Buy both of whom had salespeople who insisted on following me around despite having no idea what I was looking for. I don't live in a location where we have those cutie little boutique travel stores, so my options, when I've waited this long, are Big Box or nothing. I also bought three power bars, some deodorant, ear plugs, a thingie to put the earplugs in, and a thingie to put sunblock in. It's the most money I've spent on non-food, non-gasoline items in months. I did okay on Buy Nothing Day on Friday where, as usual for some reason, I bought only stamps.

Here's the latest from the Bryson book which I am trying to finish before I leave [11 am on Tuesday] about cricket. I remember learning how to play cricket from Tim -- who I'll be visiting this week -- when we were holed up in the dorms in Timisoara, Romania, sometime in 1994.
Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it out to center field; and there, after a minute's pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt towards the pitcher's mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to handle radioactive isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg. Imagine moreover that if this batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle forty feet with mattresses strapped to his legs, he is under no formal compunction to run; he may stand there all day, and, as a rule, does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug. Then tea is called and everyone retires happily to a distant pavilion to fortify for the next siege. Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time the match concludes Autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue. There you have cricket.
27nov04: turnaround
I've been having a low level meltdown working full days the two days after Thanksgiving. I leave Tuesday mid-day sometime and will vanish from the face of the earth for all of December 1st, appearing back on the planet on December 2nd, in Australia. I'd be trepidatious about it if I didn't have so much stuff to do before I left. I've still got to buy power plug widgets, put finishing touches on my talk, mail out some CDs, finish a short article, make a packing list, clean my room, upload my address book, etc etc etc. We had some very nice food on Thursday. I feel like I've been working ever since. If you read this site via the web page, keep in mind that things will be getting slow around here. If you're reading the RSS feed, well, you might not even notice. Last chance to get a postcard from Australia, email me your postal address [and name] before Monday night.

I've been reading Bill Bryson's book In A Sunburned Country and laughing out loud. I'll try to at least post a few tidbits about where I'm going before I head out. Did you know Australia is home to 100,000 single humped camels, the only place where they exist in the wild? No, neither did I.
22nov04: birthday
I'm on my way back to Vermont tomorrow to usher in a new caretaker, a national holiday, some serious packing, and a return to Boston on Monday to get a plane out of the country the next day. I have to say that it's been really nice, ever since the election, to be able to say "Yeah it sucks. I'm leaving the country" without bothering to mention the post hoc ergo propter hoc thing.

Two small announcement items here:
  1. Happy Birthday Dad!
  2. The TV is on at my sister's house and she has no cable so we watch network stuff. Last night's news broadcast included both a horse stuck in the mud and a truck driver going down the wrong side of the road in his truck without any pants on. There was also a somewhat amusing hunting accident story which I swear included a line about the sport of hunting "turning deadly." The fact that we are engaged in a war with another country seems to be something of an embarassment enough so that it gets pushed off the nightly news by a pantsless guy. I'm working on some legislation which will force the TV news to at least mention a war on any day that we, as a country, are in one. I don't have a "support our troops" magnet on my car, but perhaps I can at last do something. In short, shame on you, American media, you filthy panderers.
17nov04: problems and solutions
Yesterday was a day full of problems and solutions, mostly taken care of.
problem: spilled coffee into laptop [first time ever!]
solution: flip it over and wait
successful? so far
problem: printer out of all ink except black and blue
solution: clean teeny jets, soak printer heads
successful? well, it now does red, and I am covered in ink which can't be all bad, can it? Fine for printing pictures of bruises.
problem: The mix CD that I was trying to print labels for is now late
solution: get ass in gear
successful? well, I made a little web page for the mix CD. When in doubt, make a little web page.
I'm heading to Boston and then Connecticut this weekend for a cousin's wedding which should be a fun excuse to hang out with some family members I rarely see and, at the very least, get to take a mini road trip with my sister. I return on Tuesday and then leave a week later for AUSTRALIA. And there's something in between those two days that I don't quite remember....
14nov04: of bookkeepers and beekeepers
[jordan's bees] The bookkeeper came into my office on Friday and said "Do you want to see a peregrine falcon eating a pigeon?" and how could I say no? She's a birdwatcher in her other life, and had a set of sturdy binoculars in her desk. We traded them off and watched the falcon rip into the pigeon and drop its innards onto the church walkway below the steeple where it was perched.

I am a guest curator on a poem-of-the-day mailing list that I like a lot. It's the only mailing list I can safely say I enjoy all the time. Email me for details if you'd like to be on the list. If mailing lists aren't your thing, but you do like poetry, you might really enjoy the Flash version of Please Plant This Book, one of Brautigan's more creative printed works. Hate Flash, read the text.

I just finished a book on beekeeping last week the same day my friend Jordan sent me a jar of honey in the mail. I am just getting to that age where I don't think I need to email my friend and say "hey, are there drugs in this honey?" but then again, I got home-made absinthe in the mail last year, so what do I know.
09nov04: frozen chicken rollercoaster
The temperatures are in the teens today so I roasted a chicken.

Yesterday I drove home from work in real snow for the first time this year. As I'm sure you know, I drive over a mountain to and from work. Usually this is not difficult. However, the mountain is steep and cold and sometimes the road does weird things for about 100 yards at the very top. Plus, a frozen icy road and a slick wet road look much the same at night to an untrained observer. So, when I reached the Shelburne pass on the way home on Monday and was preparing for the descent I noticed that almost everyone was stopping at the top, just pulling off the road, hazards flashing. I'm not sure what they were waiting for. The sander truck? April? A really good wreck [which, of course, decreases your chances of being in a wreck, we all know this]? I decided to take my chances and went down the mountain very very slowly behind one semi and in front of another and was fine. This proves nothing, but I was happy to not be killed. It's the little things in these dark days. That and John Ashcroft resigning.

I had the day off today and was working at some other jobs and listening to a backlog of MP3s when I heard this Brautigan short story. It's hard not to say "this link says how I feel" this week but I've always liked this story and only now see new meaning in it. I've reprinted it below in case you like text better than MP3 format.

The View From the Dog Tower

"... three German shepherd puppies wandered away from their home up near the County line."
-North Country Journal


I have been thinking about this little item that I read in the North County Journal for a couple of months now. It contains the boundaries of a small tragedy. I know we are surrounded by so much blossoming horror in the world (Vietnam, starvation, rioting, living in hopeless fear, etc.) that three puppies wandering off isn't very much, but I worry about it and see this simple event as the possible telescope for a larger agony.

"...three German shepherd puppies wandered away from their home up near the County line." It sounds like something from a Bob Dylan song.

Perhaps they vanished playing, barking and chasing each other, into the woods where lost they are to this very day, cringing around like scraps of dogs, looking for any small thing to eat, intellectually unable to comprehend what has happened to them because their brains are welded to their stomachs

Their voices are used now only to cry out in fear and hunger, and all their playing days are over, those days of careless pleasure that led them into the terrible woods.

I fear that these poor lost dogs may be the shadow of a future journey if we don't watch out.
07nov04: the lure of what is near
Greg and I went out to the theater last night to see Rusty DeWees and his one man variety show The Logger. The logger is more of a character he plays, sort of an all around rural guy from Vermont [Rusty himself is from Stowe] who rails against flatlanders and their health-food eating sandal-wearing ways, among other things. He makes regional jokes about people from different parts of Vermont the way you see people on TV making fun of "people from LA" or "people from New York" Sure, they rely on some stereotyping, but they also make us smile because we know the state, we know the people that are here, and we know why saying that someone from Barre has a higher standard for what is and is not a swear is funny, even if it's not necessarily true. It's fun seeing someone on the stage at a sold out show who reminds you of your neighbors, someone who has been to the same local fairs as you have, and knowing it not because they make jokes about it but because you saw them there. He was honored by the state legislature a few years back for his contributions to Vermont's cultural heritage.

We listened to the radio on the way home and heard someone win a call-in contest who was from California. The station I usually listen to on the way home from work is local, local and independent [and not in that fakey NPR-independent way]. The DJ talked some smack about Joe Buck and that other guy who were the sports announcers for the World Series. Some guy who liked Joe Buck called him up and gave him a bunch of hell for it. The DJ got back on after the break and said he just talked to a guy from [insert local town name here, I can't remember] and that maybe he had been too hard on Joe Buck. Local folks, local knowledge, and local accountability. The election may have sucked for a lot of people, but I feel pretty lucky that I can feel proud and not embarassed of the Vermont delegation and firmly believe that they'll be almost as critical of the current administration as I will be.

In an age where faking local is all the rage, and more and more media is owned by people from out of town, out of state or even out of the country, it's nice to be someplace where local artists can be valued and appreciated and even supported by their own communities.
06nov04: oh I'm still thinking, thanks
Happy Birthday Cindy!!

One of the things we know about super-creative people, some quite famous ones, is that they were and are terrible messes. The upside to normally happy and content people being thrown into a "how could this happen to me?!" tailspin like this one is that many of them become incredibly creative, or wickedly funny. At the very least, I'm looking for some good poetry to come out of this. As for me, I never really saw the road ahead as getting easier or the path shorter no matter who was in office, so I'm still on it. I may just have more friends along with me now. Or as Greg's Dad said "I think I may be ready to join your movement now."

I don't mean to be flip, I think terrible losses were suffered especially with all the anti-gay-marriage crap that is truly mean spirited. However, just not winning doesn't mean giving up the fight, right? Some other friends of mine have had good words to say lately: James, my Dad and Cindy, the tax resister, and many other web folks
01nov04: no one's gonna fool around with us
[big brother librarian] I'm in a plane over the Midwest once again, resetting watches and computers, rehydrating and reevaluating. I always feel underdressed in Los Angeles. I posted a few links to notes others were taking at the workshop at librarian.net, but I didn't take any of my own. I feel sort of mystified by these "let's all get together in a hotel for the weekend" summits. I described myself to a friend as the "keeping it real" invitee. At this event I had many compatriots in that regard which was a blessing; it wasn't just me saying "how do we include everyone?"

The Cerritos library where the meeting-stuff happened, is in a very well-off community. The new titanium-hulled library building is a dystopian library theme park where all your needs are taken care of as long as you want something that can be purchased. It was a good kick in the ass towards thinking about the way libraries are supposed to reflect and support their communities while at the same time theoretically espousing the more "traditional" library values of intellectual freedom, access for all, and life long learning and literacy. Usually public libraries serve a skewed population cross-section of the elderly, the intellectuals, and the poor, and their services tend to reflect this. Cerritos is doing something different. As I was walking by the giant fish tank, the T Rex skeleton, the 60+ security cameras, the patron-only internet terminals, or the video fireplace, I just kept thinking "gated community" "redistribution of wealth" and "I'm not comfortable here." Suffice to say it was a weird way to start off an open discussion about the idea of "the information commons" but it did spark some lively discourse.

So, in addition to thinking about the several upcoming library talks I have in the next few months, I'm also trying to juxtapose the unformed idea of the information commons with the all-too-real idea of my public library -- which will only be "mine" for a few more months -- and seeing if there are common threads that join the two, or even if there should be.
Jessamyn is in...
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