28feb06: two plates of lasagna
We spent the weekend watching the snow and making two plates of lasagna
which we shared with our friend Meredith
on Sunday when the roads were finally clear enough for her to come visit. Even though it's been bitter cold this weekend, there is a sense in which that feels pretty normal, so I'm not minding it much.
I'm kicking off a big work week the same week that Greg has off from school and the same week he has a huge dentist appointment. My adult education class starts tonight and we'll be learning the equivalent of Word for Dummies, even though I never call it that. I was trying to remember how long I've been using some variant of Word. I think it came with my Mac Plus
, around Christmas 1987. That was back when I didn't know anything about Microsoft except
that they made that software. Times certainly have changed. And of course, they stay the same too. By the time I'd gotten that computer, I'd already been sending and receiving email, one of the side benefits of having a high school that was one town over from Digital Equipment Corporation, and a Dad that worked with computers. We had a VAX
at school and the guys in the computer lab showed me how to add IN% to the beginning of email that was going "to the Internet" only I didn't know anyone on the Internet, not then.
Yesterday I went to the Tunbridge Library where I helped the librarian use the scanner and talked to them about the big dinner the town is having after next week's Town Meeting. Everyone is chipping in home-baked pies, and they got a lot of local businesses to donate food. The scanning was so the librarian could print big THANK YOU signs for all the donors to hang over the voting area. I showed her how it's pretty easy to get logos over the Internet, and we learned how to crop, resize, rotate, all that great stuff. While we were there, a woman came in asking if it cost extra to send email "overseas." She was maybe in her fifties, and had a granddaughter in Italy that she wanted to write to, and she had her email address. We showed her how to get online, on one of the library's three networked computers that shares the dial-up connection, and opened up a browser for her. She went to the address bar and typed in the email address [makes sense right, it's an address after all...] and we had to backtrack and let her use the library's email account to send the message. She was pretty happy she got to do it all for free, maybe next time we'll show her how to get an email account. Since we were alll pretty friendly and helpful about it, at least we know there will BE a next time.
20feb06: the week that was
I wrote a few fairly involved posts over at librarian.net that could almost as easily have been posted here. You can read them.
But that was last week. Over the weekend, Kate came to visit and we did a number of things, which is good from a February Doldrums perspective. I learned how to make a ringtone and upload it to her phone
, a complicated multi-step process made no easier by the fact that Verizon has a vested interest in you NOT learning how to do this so that you'll buy their ringtones for $1.99 or whatever the heck. It involved this ringtone site
, this Motorola e815 site
and this community forum site
. The resulting ringtone is a beautiful whistley tune that you might recognize from the GEICO commercial
. If you Google its title you find an old mix CD
I made with it. Yes, I still have no cell phone, but if/when I get one, it will have some styling sounds. Other technological accomplishments include figuring out how to do something complicated with Excel (thanks Kate) getting more lightbulbs to combat the encroaching dimness due to lightbulb attrition and getting a nickel tour of Greg's table at the Legal Clinic where he's working. On the downside, I think I managed to delete roughly 15 GB of music from my laptop during the backup/update/new laptop cycle which is maddening since I think it was one stupid mistake that caused all the destruction. It was mostly technically illegal MP3s anyhow; I'll consider myself smited (smote?). I had a very similar response to this guy
"[M]y reaction to this loss has been, to my surprise, more of an amiable "ah well" rather than lamentation and hair-rending. I tried to fix the drive for an hour and then gave up. It's gone."
We had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, a bit out of season, at the Catholic church next door on Saturday night, to help them raise money for a new roof. I can watch the roof going up from my bedroom window; it is money well spent. What is the proper etiquette when the guy next to you at the church supper wants to talk about the pope? I was on the far side of the table and so didn't have to tackle this issue, but none of us were sure if the guy who was talking to Kate was making pope jokes, or was just one of those deadly serious pope-believers who winds up sounding a little off to those of us who are a bit more laissez-faire, popewise. In any case, the discussion was brief and we weren't ejected, so I think we guessed correctly.
One of the big memes running around the library blogging scene is the notion of community, and how libraries build it. This should come as no surprise to anyone who grew up as an avid library user, but I guess needs a bit of selling to sink into the consciousness of Anytown USA. In a lot of the towns around here, your indoor public spaces are limited to church, school, and the library. Private spaces aren't too plentiful and it's the rare outpost that has wifi, comfortable seating or, in my case, people your own age. I was discussing this phenomena, among other things, with a new local tech geek pal
, how even the lousy restaurants are packed if they're the only place people can go to drink a beer and watch the game.
Last week Greg and I went to the Tunbridge Library
to see Bill McKibben
talking about walking in the woods, global warming, and the importance of local. I find that, like technology ideas, selling people on the idea of local (local food, local community, local investment, local infrastructure) becomes a sort of weird game. The people who already do it, don't need to be told. The people who aren't thinking locally aren't the ones driving out in a snowstorm to see Bill McKibben. Technology in non-profits is similar, the people who think it's interesting and useful will be the ones using it and moving forward with it. The ones who don't, don't. I don't know how to make the second kind of people into the first kind of people, it's a blind spot that I have. I try not to be a wide-eyed tech zealot; I know you can't make people love something just because you love it.
On a love and community theme, we went to the Valentine's Day brunch at the local high school. This is walking distance for us which is always a treat -- to get to go out to eat without having to get in the car. The high school cafeteria had been done up in balloons and glitter with a bunch of high school kids in red shirts selling raffle tickets and their parents in the kitchen making bacon and scrambled eggs. We got there a little late and they had already put the chocolate fountain away, but it was a good meal with all the money we paid going to .... something for the high school, I can't even remember.
I don't claim to have cornered the market on community of course, but coming from smalltown USA it's always amusing to hear about it from people who think we're all still bowling alone
. This week I went to the college pool a few times, gave blood, visited two libraries (four more on this week's agenda), went to a high school fundraiser, saw a lecture, wrote letters, mailed packages, and did all the other stuff I do when I'm at home. I also worked on my taxes. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a financial cost to choosing this rural path, but I see the stars at night, I know all my neighbors and I never lock my doors. If libraries can make more people feel like I do, that seems like a pretty good thing.
06feb06: trying to spin
Even without the snow on the ground, the short days tire you out. This was a weekend of lassitude
. Despite that, or possibly because of it, we did some things. Greg mentions going contra dancing
and I have to say it's true, we danced. I got an IOU for an "I'll take you dancing" trip on my birthday back in 2002 and cashed it in this weekend. Up until the last minute we weren't sure we'd be going. Greg and I both have differing sorts of social awkwardness. I don't like being in situtations where I don't know the rules, and I also don't know my left from right. He dislikes being places where strangers hassle him. Both of us are shy in big groups of strangers and while we're both sort of athletic lately, neither of us dance outside the kitchen much.
So, contra dancing
seemed like it would be hell-on-earth but it turned out okay. The dance was put on by two local granges
and had the usual mix of older and younger people. The dances ranged from simple to complicated and they all exploded like math in my head; patterns patterns patterns. Of the two of us, Greg got the hang of it much more quickly and I, unsurprisingly, took a while to get used to being "led" by someone else. "Lift up your feet like you're walking through the deep snow!" one gentleman tried to advise me as I was trying to spin.
Saturday was a Jamaica party put on by some of Ola's Peace Corps pals which was a little more challenging. Nice people, good food, but both of us were feeling a bit wallflowerish. Sunday we went for a walk, pictures here: mine
. Then we swam and took advantage of the empty pool and food store during gametime. We tried to watch the Superbowl but couldn't, we watched some movies. In retrospect, we did a lot of stuff -- I finished a book, and am slogging through a Wikipedia project
-- but at the time, it just seemed like so much nothing. Short days, bleak sun.
01feb06: o pioneers
It's feast or famine around here in wintertime. Swimming has kept me from sitting around whining "I feel all blobby
!" but it's having a different sort of impact on my days. On days when I swim, I go to bed early and sleep for about ten hours. On days when I don't swim, I ache in all the muscles and generally stay in bed as much as possible, or I just make creaky noises when I walk around (my Mom and my sister will know what I mean by creaky noises, hi guys). I rarely get dressed when I'm not going to work, as if I ever did really, but I can convince myself it's some sort of fitness fashion rather than the fact that I just dislike clothes. I'm up to a mile and a half every week now.
The trip to Texas was sort of ridiculous. As you know, I'm an elected member of the ALA Council and this means a lot of meetings, a lot of reading, and some tough voting decisions. Unlike other people who represent their states, or their divisions. I'm an At Large member which means I represent everyone, and no one. One of this year's hot topic was the ALA dues increase. The average American Library Association member's dues will be increasing 30% over the next three years. For low-income dorks like myself this means an increase from $35 to $48 or something. Most members will see an increase from about $110 to about $140. The organization is a bit strapped for cash and probably should have had incremental increases over the past decade but they have not. I see many of my fellow librarians passing ALA by entirely because they think it isn't relevant, or doesn't seem to be hip to the new lingo, technology-wise. I'm on the fence about membership, but I do believe that equity and affordability ought to be part of any dues increase debate. Instead, I feel that ALA commissioned a survey asking what members wanted to see out of the organization, tabulated the results, and then said "Well, this will cost a lot of money, pony up!" instead of asking smart questions like "Would you support paying higher dues for XYZ perqs?" I sit in a room full of people, most of whom are getting an all expense paid trip to ALA courtesy of their employers, and try to talk about fairness without making it seem that I'm just kvetching about my own (voluntarily) low income.
The Council meetings follow Sturgis Parlimentary rules of order, and they're a little confusing to a flat hierarchist like myself. So, when I got on the microphone to speak against the increase I was pretty out of my element and nervous. The ALA President, thinking I was making a stand for a graduated dues structure, tried to gently interrupt me to say tomorrow was the time for talking about graduated dues structures. His microphone was off, I didn't hear or notice him, and he had to resort to banging on the gavel and shutting off my microphone to get my attention. I was confused and frightened and just managed to get out my question (something to do with the number of people who are members at low income or retiree membership levels; they didn't know the answer) before sitting back down at my table at which point I started to cry. The good news about me being an easy cryer is that it usually means I don't yell at strangers or family when I'm angry or frustrated. The bad news is that when I get totally fed up, I often can't stop crying which is more than a bit embarassing. And so, as people stepped up to get on the microphones and talk about how we should be "speaking with one voice" to raise dues levels, and how the dues levels were only going up "the cost of three lattes a year" I found myself again wondering what the hell I was doing there.
Professional conferences always sort of suck. There's a lot of prepackaged fun, marketing schwag, overpriced food, and flat-out waste. There is a dearth of nature, unhurried interactions, and unconditioned air. I love getting to see my friends and go to new places, but in all other ways, going to conferences is like my anti-life. I go to do work, take care of business, and leave. It really highlights how utopic the rest of my life is by comparison I suppose.