post office
: 1 bill, 2 postcards (Brazil, Amsterdam), 1 contract to get notarized, 1 package slip too late for the package window, 1 letter from a stranger saying thanks.

thrift store
: 2 shirts, 1 belt, 3 picture frames, 1 six foot knitted scarf, 1 basket shaped like the state of Washington, 1 red bra, six dollars.

: 1 wifi connection tested, 1 broadband committee meeting, 1 flyer created, 1 hard drive defragged, 5 librarians.

phone: 1 call dad, 2 calls mom, 1 call sister, 1 call lauren, 1 call gary price

swim: 18 laps, 32 laps, 22 laps, 30 laps (yes that's almost 3 miles)

I was talking to a good friend on the phone yesterday and she said "So what are you doing this weekend?" and I said "Absolutely nothing." which is basically true and yet not like it sounds, or I am kidding myself. I have been gone two out of the last three weekends and the one I was home for began Friday night at 1 am when I got back from Baltimore. So, where most people have weekends that sort of represent "Hey you're not working, go do stuff!" I have weekend that say "Hey you're home, get organized, do laundry and get ready to leave again!" I leave again on Thursday to spend Labor Day weekend in Kittery/Portsmouth.

When someone asks what you're doing over the weekend, answers like "go to the post office" and "cook dinner" and "write thank you notes" don't seem like answers. I typed up a bunch of nice thank you notes, wrapped up a wedding gift, and signed a ton of legal documents for a MetaFilter Project and went to the post office where I had two T tokens, an envelope full of clippings from my favorite correspondent and a package from Mom. As I left, the lady at the PO said "Happy birthday!" and I realized she'd read it off the package. Don't even try to keep secrets in this town. I've been trying to give the new roommate some townish advice like that. He's from Queens and the fact that we don't have house keys was a little surprising to him. I'm sure it will only get worse.
I make no bones about it, I am not a relaxed person. The Virgo Month of Leisure is an important part of remembering to take some time off. Of course, since I don't have just one job to close the door on, the idea of "time off" is amusing at best and at worst preposterous. Let's see how I've been doing at this leisure thing over the past few years...I really don't think of myself as that busy, but it's been years since I took anything like a few weeks off without bringing work with me. Since I started working with MetaFilter, it's a rare weekend that I don't put in at least a few hours. And yet, all of my jobs and work don't usually seem like WORK. When I've got a deadline on a project and I have to really shift into hyperfocus mode then I feel busy, but the rest of the time, not so much. I see that as some sort of measure of success, being able to get published, go travelling, get paid, meet people, learn things, live someplace excellent, and have it seem like no work at all. Now I'll work on sleeping better.

Roommate update: it looks like I have a new roommate, though I haven't met him yet. He's a first year law student from Haiti and he drives the same sort of car as Ola. I'm sure there will be a bumpy transition for the two months that him, me and Ola live in the house at the same time. She should be heading out on her Peace Corps adventure sometme after the election and then it will just be me and him. This means we'll have sort of a full house for a few months, so we'll be down one guestroom.

I may have timed it right so that I arrive on the doorstep of the Virgo Month of Leisure exhausted and ready and able to do some relaxing. Or not. This past month was a flurry of writing, travelling, socializing and fretting about talks and roommates and the rest of 2006. Now I think I just have drop-in time to manage and a lovely Vermont Autumn to look forward to. I'm heading home from Chicago tomorrow, more in the way of updates from the trip then. My two talks went well. You can read them online here If this is your birthday month, make sure you give yourself a little slack Virgo; you've earned it.
8.18.2006:   binge, purge
"Alone, alone, oh! We have been warned about solitary vices.
Have solitary pleasures ever been adequately praised?
Do many people know that they exist?" - the other Jessamyn West

It's feast or famine around here. While the "eat less food, exercise more" plan is easy and doesn't involve any wild swinging one way or the other, the travelling thing is not as stable. I came back from DC/BWI with a tickle in my throat that soon turned in to a football behind my sinuses and then became a copious flood of blech from my nose. It's gone now. All I had to do was sit and write, mostly, so it was not difficult to manage. Garlic, ginger, Nyquil, sleep, water. One of the bits of wisdom that seems to come with age is being able to recognize when something you're dealing with is "more of the same" and when it requires a different sort of attention. Odd to think that anything here could be "more of the same" but there it is. I went from having people to talk to almost every waking minute of my days, to having most of my conversations come out of my fingers instead of my mouth. Rattling around this house has been satisfying. The baby birds are out with their haphazard feathers eating all the sunflower seeds, and I saw a fox cross the road.

I head to Boston this evening to go to the wedding of some dear friends and then off to Chicago to do a one-day training for librarians on tech support and power searching. I'm a good communicator about tech support stuff, but I'm less confident with my power searching, compared to everyone else out there. I've been struggling to put what I know into words and slides, when what I really want to do is sit down with everyone and learn as I teach. This would happen to me sometimes when I was teaching tech skills in Romania a decade ago. People would stay after class to talk to me, but they seemed to want me to pour knowledge into their heads. They didn't have questions, they just wanted answers. I never knew what to do in that situation. I assumed it had something to do with the weird post-Socialist state that Romania found themselves in, in the post-Revolution 90's, where learning had always been something that people in power deigned to parcel out to chosen acolytes in tiny increments. It's a hard mindset to undo. Librarians aren't like that usually, but sometimes they are.

I was on a podcast yesterday, talking about libraries and nerdy geek stuff, and MetaFilter. I don't know if you're into the wholepodcast thing, but if you are, you might like the Library Geeks Post-Social episode, a production of my friend Dan over at OneBigLibrary.
8.12.2006:   zap, travel

I sat on the wrong side of the train on the way home, or rather I'm sitting on the wrong side now, watching buildings instead of the river, though I still spot a heron once in a while. The train north out of NYC is completely sold out so I tried to pick a seat next to someone who didn't have a laptop or a noisy-looking ipod (actually my seat companion is reading the Journal of Melville Studies, excellent!). I've been listening to some new music on my own laptop and while I was sitting next to it I decided to look through some of my old archived email. My email archive goes back to 1993 and while it's far from comprehensive [in some cases I don't have my emails only the responses] it's fascinating reading. Here's an excerpt from a family member regarding the '96 elections:
How come the election was so close? I figured no one in their right mind would vote for Dole (one x'er was quoted as saying "he is the kind of guy who used to yell at us to keep off his grass"); I've heard a lot, too much about the gender gap, but what about the generation gap? the IQ gap? the Dixie gap? etc.I suppose no one really wants to know. I thought briefly of joining Writeins for Kazinski but figured my lonely voice would not likely be heard. I think the real charade here is that all this matters somehow; that politics and news and personalities are important. They're not in and of themselves, it is what they might effect that has always been the lure, but somewhere we forgot that.
The thing that is so interesting to me is how many of the people I was friends with in 93-96 I am friends with now. At least five of the people I'd been corresponding with are people I've spoken to or seen in the past month. Several more I've been in touch with in the last year or two.

I sometimes feel, especially during weeks like this, that my life is an endless string of newish people, new locations and new experiences. And yet my email tells a different story, consistency of acquaintance, consistency of message. Not bad to know. For example, from me:
Hard to argue w/ capitalists since there's so many conspicuous consumers out there who legitimize their advertising and mind colonization. People usu. just tell me to calm down, stop envisioning a conspiracy, and think about learning to like a 40 hour a week job -- they are easy to ignore, yet oddly pervasive. Haven't tried to find a "real" job yet, we'll see if my bad attitude makes me unemployable.
Sounds just like me and yet it was written over ten years ago. I had forgotten about my .ro email address. I had forgotten about my email address. Mostly I'm thinking about this since I'm still sort of unwinding mentally from the trip. Had a great time in DC, a great time in Baltimore, saw a lot of libraries. I met a lot of new people including the guy from Jordan who gave me his phone number while we were on the train, and the blind man in Baltimore who used to live a few towns south of me in Vermont and showed me how to take the bus back to where I was staying. Met a good friend of a friend and it took us just a few hours to pinpoint who we knew in common without even really trying. I'll probably write more about the week, but possibly I won't. The next few weeks include a wedding, a writing deadline, an interview with an Australian writer, two presentations in Illinois and another MetaFilter meetup. Here's the photoset from my latest trip.

My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I don't have a clue what I want to do about that.
My talk went great. Usually I'll say things like "Yeah it was pretty good" but no this one was great. Partly this was because I was on a panel with both a really engaged panel chair and also two other top-notch presenters whose ideas neatly interfaced with my own. I rarely feel so psyched about panel-type discussions but this one was really fun all around. You can read my notes and see some pictures from this link.

And then there was drinking with archivists and drinking with sysadmins. It seems like no matter where I start out in DC, I wind up in the Brickskellar drinking mystery beer. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Yesterday was a MetaFilter meetup which is sort of a way to actually face-to-face hang out with people I already spend considerable time with online. Again, it went great, nice bunch of people, nice venue, good food (cheese grits, my gosh!) easy to get to, fun.

I'm trying to make peace with the fact that other people's photos of me are going to go online even if maybe I don't look as great as I'd like to look in them [for reference, this pic is nice, this one not as nice, even this one is fine]. It sounds like a trivial issue, but it's not really. I've sort of been having a disconnect between what I look like in my head, to me, and what I see when I look in the mirror. Part of this is getting older, part of it is having moved to the country and put on weight, and part of it is just having been in a long relationship where I was always told "you look fine" but maybe not appreciated/treated as if I looked fine. Swimming all the time makes me feel fit and now I want to bring the rest of me in line and look fit. This includes dropping some weight -- nothing drastic, just paying more attention to food etc -- but also maybe learning how to dress as someone who is built like me, not built how I feel like I am in my mind which probably bears more resemblance to how I looked a decade ago.

I've always dressed almost exclusively for comfort and tried to make this work when I also had to dress for work, or dress to impress. However if you always dress for comfort you wind up in a mumu and that's just not going to work for me, not if I'm leaving the house anyhow. I'll check back in in a month and see how it's all going, this won't become an obsessive navel-gazing "how do I look" set of posts. I just think this sort of thing becomes more useful and more effective if you say it out loud. One of the downsides to being a real in-your-own-head brainy type is that it can be easy to forget that your brain isn't worth much if you're not paying equal attention to where it has to live. Yeah it's another litter box post, but again I think it's a step in the right direction.
8.05.2006:   1. 2. 3.
Lists. I make lists when I am anxious. And, since anxiety makes me forgetful, the lists also help me not leave half my crap at home. My DC trip is going to go like this: nine hours on the train, three and a half days at my friends' place in DC, three days at my friend's place in Baltimore, nine hours on the train back. While I'm away, my landlady will be staying in my room since her daughter, son-in-law and two grandkids will be visiting. I'm both sorry to miss them and not at all sorry to miss the chaos that I'm sure will ensue in the house.

9:16:17 me: I will be on a train most of the day
9:16:19 me: I bought snacks
9:16:22 me: and I have four books
9:16:26 my friend: what
9:16:28 my friend: and what snacks
9:16:29 my friend: I like snacks
9:16:34 me: the books are, lemme see....
9:16:44 me: five books
9:16:51 me: The Drowned and The Saved, Primo Levi
9:17:06 me: this weird kitschy book called What's The Difference
9:17:21 me: like what's the difference between bee and hornet and wasp
9:17:27 me: for hipsters sort of, amusing, light reading
9:17:31 my friend: that's cool
9:17:31 me: Blindness
9:17:38 me: Jose Saramago
9:17:42 me: PK Dick
9:17:47 me: Galactic Pot Healer
9:17:56 me: Holly Bishop
9:18:00 me: "robbing the bees"
9:18:03 me: about honey
9:18:16 me: for snacks
9:18:18 me: string cheese
9:18:22 me: cheese and crackers
9:18:24 me: fresca
9:18:28 me: peanuts
9:18:29 me: apple
9:18:31 me: bananachips
9:18:34 me: I'm not sure what else
9:18:47 my friend: i love you so much. [she's a book editor, good reading appeals to her. she also likes good snacks]
9:18:51 me: :)
9:18:53 me: thanks
9:18:55 my friend: sure.
9:19:05 me: and pint of syrup for my hosts
9:19:07 my friend: frersca is great
9:19:09 me: and the other host
9:19:11 my friend: except it's called fresca
9:19:15 me: I brough some peppers from my pepper plant
9:19:19 my friend: ooh
9:19:21 me: because he's a no sweets sort of guy

The list that I didn't make was the list of magazines I'm also taking. Magazines are great because you can read them even if the train is noisy, and you can leave them behind when you're done. They're like junk food for me, but without the "I maybe shouldn't be doing this" guilt. Magazines for this trip: Vanity Fair and Us (found on the train, where I am writing this from), Searcher and Weatherwise and Plenty (leftover ALA schwag), an article copied from The American Archivist (thanks Jay!), Fast Company (found at school), and Sun Magazine (2) and the New Yorker (2, had been a gift from me for the ex who apparently hasn't updated his address).

The thing I forget to put on the list when I travel in the Summer is this: air conditioning is COLD, bring socks. Since I live someplace with no AC and work in places with only some AC, the supercooled environment of many public spaces in the Summer always comes as a surprise to me. The train, for example, is freezing. I packed a sweater but no socks.

It's 8:30 in the morning. I've been up since 5. I'll get to DC at 4:30. The Hudson River Valley, which is what I see out my window on most of this trip -- everyone who has taken the trip before sits on the right side of the train to see the river -- is in prime form in August.

I woke up yesterday morning because the lightning from the storm outside was getting under my eyelids. Then I got up and realized that the dog was also freaking out so we hung out and listened to some loud music that drowned out the thunderstorm. I like extreme weather but there is something about the relentless heat of the Summer that makes me worry in an "Is this just going to get worse forever?" sort of way.

I had a busy weekend and am getting ready for a really busy next week in DC. This weekend was the drive-in, Barre Homecoming Days and a quickie trip to Ferrisburg Vermont where I hung out with some adorable kids and also knocked a few more towns off of my 251 list. I even went on a teeny hike. The 251 Club is a project I expect to get into in earnest as fall rolls around. With 75% of the towns in Vermont at least visited by me, I'm starting to notice that the ones I have left to see are pretty spread out.

I can't bear sitting near this little oven of a laptop for another second so I'll leave the rest of the abada abada til later.
Jessamyn is in...
Bethel VT

last month | archive

17sep... novascotia
24sep... NH lib thing
15oct... NELA

more? more?