writing, freezing, watching

I got a whole new outlook on garbage, mine in particular, when I had to carry it to the dump myself. In my own car, with my own hands, etc. I feel the same about the leaf explosion that is so popular around here. I love it, same as everyone, but the leaves in my own yard, the ones that come from these big beautiful trees, require moving. Last year Ola hadn’t quite left yet and so did most of the trim and mulch work herself. This year it falls to me. The good news is, I’m really enjoying it, a lot. The bad news is, it’s a LOT OF WORK to move each leaf just across the street. Also it’s starting to get really cold. Today I bought gloves and mulch, the slice across my middle finger reminding me that grass is sharp. Mulch is on sale, it’s that cold out.

And back on the topic of mail and writing. I got a lot ready to go this weekend. I packed and prepared four of my books — $84 straight to the EFF, yay for tiny fundraisers — and mailed a friend a box of lawn clippings that I suspect he’ll like. I wrote a letter to my Topsham Postmistress saying that I guess it was time I closed out my PO box there and stopped paying for it, and then I filled out a change of address form and checked the “permanent” instead of the “temporary” box on it. I mailed a copy of The Thin Man to a stranger on PaperBackSwap and I got my inbox down to normal levels by sending a few thoughful and overdue replies.

So today, oh my! I know that karma is mostly in my mind and that nothing I actually did this weekend was what caused my mailbox to be full of wonderfulness. Logically, I know this to be true. The mail I got today was sent before I even started my weekend reply-to project. And yet, there was something about feeling that not only did I get awesome mail, I halfway deserved it, that made the rest of my day shiny. What follows is a vaguely dull-to-others list of what I got.

  • A letter from my friend who I sent the weeds to, full of news and XO signoffs
  • An AskMe t-shirt from a relative stranger in just about my size and bright green
  • A thank you note from the librarian who invited me to speak at NELA
  • A check from my Mom whose domain I renewed over the weekend when we couldn’t figure out her password at Gandi (always make your kids your technical contact!)
  • The phone bill, I love $19 DSL
  • A silly reminder from my bank that they cashed yet another Canadian check for me
  • A random birthday type present from an old friend including a top-notch Belgian chocolate bar, a tiny box of shells from Capetown, a card and my 128MB USB drive that I had lost at her house last December. Also a stick of RAM, for no reason I could fathom. I wish I could say that the drive contained something fun, but it was just class notes from last year.

I woke up today and it was freezing, frosty, frozen outside so I’ve switched the house into Winter mode which means closing all the inside doors, putting the weird little area rugs back around, locking all the doors but the side door, preparing to stop using 75% of the house, and buying plastic for windows. There should be one or two warm days left when I can put it all up. Today I just noticed the sun and the shade as I drove around. Sunny places were warm, shady places were still a little icy, or maybe they just felt that way to me.

I would have written, but

Tom Robbins once dedicated one of his books — Still Life With Woodpecker, says Google Books — “to everybody whose letters I haven’t answered” which I always thought was an oddly hopeful phrase. This was back when I thought Tom Robbins was the original redheaded truth-teller and well before I saw him speak at Bumbershoot with a “Heaven Doesn’t Want Me and Hell’s Afraid I’ll Take Over” t-shirt and became uninterested in him, boom just like that. But I liked the way I read that and thought he might write to me. I’ve been on the receiving end of more than I’ve been giving lately, and there’s a reason or two for that.

I was in recuperation mode after a week on the road. The whole trip went great and I was happy to have gone and happy to be back and those two things aren’t always true. I got back in the pool and back to work and to make a long dull car story very short: the steering rack in my Honda basically disintegrated all at once. My excellent mechanic kindly informed me that while he’d love to take my money, this wasn’t really a repair that was worthwhile since I’d soon need a new oil pan and new snow tires and at the end of it I still had a 12 year old car with 160K miles on it. So, I have to go get the car and drive it home without any power steering and see if I can interest the kid next door in it, otherwise it will go up on Craigslist (unless anyone here wants it. It’s much more cheaply fixable if you can do the work yourself). For now I’m driving the green AskMeMobile and feeling pretty happy that I decided that having two cars was a decent investment a few months back. Now I have basically one. So, I spent some time online thinking about buying a new (to me) car, but I didn’t see what I was looking for. I dislike shopping, and car shopping more than most shopping.

Monday I decided to take some of this energy and hit the front yard to get things ready for Winter and with the help of my pal Rick, got a lot accomplished (photos here). Then I went out and kicked a soccer ball around with Kelly and Forrest and by the time I got home, after some beef tacos, I had forgotten that I was in a quandary. Similar thing today. Swam, went to the library, went to Adam and Meredith’s and ate ice cream and pizza and even though I opened my laptop once to see the 31 emails waiting for me, I closed it back up again and waited until I got home to deal with it.

So, I’ve been in intake mode more than output mode lately and as long as I’m getting out of bed and dressed sometime before noon, I’m still considering things successful. I’ll get to those letters I’ve been meaning to write. Soon.

tiny shill in an otherwise hype-free world

While I was in Topsham I realized I had a few leftover copies of Revolting Librarians Redux, the book I edited with KR Roberto in 2003. I don’t need them; I have a few copies for myself. We’re selling them on Ebay and donating the proceeds to the EFF if I can find a way to donate money to them without getting mail from them every week for the rest of my life. Makes great gift, blah blah. Also, I have 100% positive feedback so you can totally trust me! Plus, here is a hot shit rainbow, no extra charge.

walking to the post office, day two

hemming, also hawing

I’ve been in need of some new clothes lately, so I’ve been getting on that. I found a perfect pair of pants except they’re made for someone taller than me. Story of my life. However, I’m getting to the point where cuffing just isn’t going to work if I’m trying to look halfway professional. So I got out the sewing kit and started hemming. As I did that — just sat in one place and measured twice and pinned and cut thread and threaded needles and sewed — I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve done one thing at a time.

I complained at the library conference last week that the free wifi was worse than no wifi at all because it was oversubscribed, so you could really only do one Internet-thing at a time. I no longer knew how to do that. As soon as I’d open a tab or try to IM someone or even click a link to open in another window, I’d get booted by the network and remember “oh yeah one thing at a time…” It’s worth remembering. While I truly believe that the cell-phone-while-driving contingent isn’t paying enough attention to the road, I do drive and listen to the radio, or read and eat, or fly and watch a movie. There’s a media aspect to all of this that isn’t really present if you’re, say, walking and singing. Or swimming and thinking. Or eating and laughing, mouth open and all.

I know the difference. I’m not trying to draw weird fake-o conclusions about “OMG technlogy convergence made me impolite!” but I notice how getting things done [not Getting Things Done, lord help me] often involves this sort of media-lumping to get more done faster. Which is great if what you’re saving time for is pie, or time with friends, or a good book before bed, or the river. I just spent a lot of time with this artificial throttle when I was already in hyper-productivity away-from-home mode and resent that my lack of multitaskability made me come home with a few things left undone in the internetto-blogoland. On the other hand, last night I listened to the radio and hemmed my pants, and looked out the window, and listened to the rain, and heard my nemesis the mouse invade the downstairs and it didn’t really seem like multitasking at all.

in a hotel with half-assed wifi, my thoughts turn to F. Scott Fitzgerald

Apropos of nothing, I have always liked this ever since I read it in the Book of Lists when I was too young to really understand a lot of it. Some of it I still don’t understand. You can read the almost-full letter over at the New York Times, and you can read what was elided from that at the original source via Google Books. The parts that are removed explain why he is threatening to assault the White Cat and let her know he will “arrange the camp bill”

Half-wit, I will conclude. Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship…

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?

How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:
(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful intrument or am I neglecting it?

coasts and libraries

turnbuckles, sort of

I was really worried when the flight I was taking to Vancouver Canada was switched at the last minute and I was suddenly on a new plane with no seat reservations. I usually plan these trips pretty carefully — the connections, the things I’m going to do, the places on the plane I sit — and one small derail can send the whole thing down like dominoes. However, that’s not what happened.

I was going to Victoria Canada to speak at the Access 2007 conference, keynote actually. The week previous had been Glory Week in Vermont and I had a lot of fun visitors and things to do so while I worked on my talk I didn’t pay a lot of attention to things like “How to get to Victoria from Vancouver BC” and “How to print out my final set of notes for the talk.” I drove down to Kate’s place right after work on Tuesday, steeling myself for an early morning (well, 9 am) flight so that I could show up in Canada with a reasonable amount of time to figure out the rest of the travel stuff. And then my flight was cancelled.

What followed was a strange series of good news/bad news escapades. My United flight wasn’t flying because of some mechanical thing so they put me on Air Canada. Air Canada, in case you don’t know, is a superior airline. Seats with TVs and music players, really professional staff, decent connections. I even got good seats. Since United’s problem was “mechanical” and I nicely explained the whole “I’m giving an important talk the next morning” thing, they put a note with my old ticket to be cool and put me up someplace if Air Canada couldn’t get me there. Not bad. I transferred in Toronto instead of O’Hare (score!) and found out there was a flight leaving earlier than the one I was one and they were pleased to put me on it. Then I dropped my boarding pass into the heater vent by mistake which it turns out is no big deal — they just printed me a new one.

I got to Vancouver before I was even supposed to have arrived and did some librarian reconnaissance to figure out how to get to Victoria. There are a myriad of ways ranging from expensive and fast to slow and cheap. I had time so I decided on slow and cheap and had a great time taking the bus to the bus to the ferry (which was an amazing sunset cruise which was a totally fortuitous accident). Inside the ferry there was actually a bus which you could get tickets for so I climbed aboard and took the bus off the ferry and down through Victoria. The bus dropped me off about ten blocks from the hotel which I then gladly walked. I even turned down the ride offer of some nice-seeming man on a Harley who kept driving by me.

Then I went to bed. It had been a very long day. The next day I got up and gave my talk which went pretty well though it was a bit of a stretch for me. I hung around for a while to talk to people and hear a few more presentations and then took the Helijet back to Vancouver in about 30 minutes. The previous day’s trip had taken almost ten times that but what a trip it was! I went to a MetaFilter meetup, stayed with a friend of a friend right in downtown Vancouver and took the bus back to the airport the next day.

By the time I finally got back to Logan — at about 1 am after a bunch of weird travel delays thanks to weather — the Red Sox had just won some major game and the taxi stand was completely empty when I got outside. If you don’t know Boston well you may not also know that all public transportation also stops running around this time. I waited and watched as the folks who checked bags queued behind us until there were about 40 people waiting for zero cabs. I was scheming how I could politely ask other people, when my time came, if they wanted to share a cab (I’m not that hip to cab lingo and etiquette) when the guy at the front of the line asked “Anyone else going to Somerville?” which I was. I squeezed in with two other people. Turns out he was going two blocks from my sister’s house and refused to let me pay for anything. I let myself into Kate’s place and was pleasantly surprised to see her still up and chatty, so I got to do a little debriefing about my trip and she told me about the baseball game.

This morning I’m preparing to go to Sturbridge MA for the New England Library Association Conference where I’m giving a few talks on social software, Firefox and library 2.0 pretty much in that order. I don’t think I was on the West Coast long enough to really have jetlag. I have a second bag of clothes here to bring with me so I don’t have to spend all day doing laundry. Also, since this is a conference I can drive to, I’ve brought my favorite pillow. I am usually pretty happy with whatever pillow I have available but figured there was an off chance that the previous three days would have been wretched and I might want something familiar and comforting during my three additional days away. Turns out I probably won’t really need it after all.

music and soup

One of the things I schlepped down from Topsham was my old iMac. I got it in exchange for one of my first webbish jobs, a job that I was forced to learn CSS for. I turned it on and learned that it hadn’t had a software upgrade since 2003. Not surprising since I never had more than dial-up in Topsham and you can’t do 100MB downloads realistically over a 42K connection. Two more things about it. 1) it has all the music on it, or most of it that I lost in the “oh shit” music massacre of a few years ago, that’s neat 2) it has kickass speakers. I’ve been on laptops since that machine and they all have pretty lousy speakers. I have the iMac set up on the kitchen counter belting Goodness which is great for reasons 1 and 2.

The last few days have been a blur, enough so that when I looked at the online Scrabble games I had been playing, it was my turn in all (9) of them. Whoops! I had a soup party thing at my house to welcome Chris Mear to town. He’s a guy I’ve known from MetaFilter and he’s on a VT – MA – NY trip for a few weeks. He stayed with Rick and Sarah for a few days and then me for a few days. There’s something about having a guest in town, particularly during an amazing week in October, that kicked my ass into gear getting things done. I got my oil changed, took out the recycling, cooked two pots of soup and some tasty foccacia, went to Montpelier for barbecue, hosted seven people for dinner, upgraded my WordPress install, cut a bunch of flowers and put them all over the house in jars of water and even cleaned up afterwards. Not necessarily in that order. Now I’ve got a day of downtime — actually getting four talks ready for next week — before my friends from Brooklyn show up and we try to find the tastiest chicken pie supper in Orange County.