penultimate 2007

I figure I have another day before I make a big list of stuff from 2007. Books and beds mostly. It’s been a banner year for beds and only so-so for books. I always worry when I haven’t been reading much that maybe I’m Done Reading Books and from now on all I’ll be doing is scanning stuff from the Internet and leafing through magazines. So far this has not been the case, though reading was down last year even though air travel was up. I think this may be because movie downloading was also up and as you know my Watch More TV/Movies resolution in 2007 went pretty well.

In fact, it went so well that I’ve been chosen to be a Nielsen Family for February 2008. This, even though I 1) am not a family and 2) told them on the phone that I never watch any TV. Apparently as long as you have a TV, you can be a Nielsen Family. Anyone who has pet shows that they would like me to promote in February, please let me know. In exchange I will give you copies of all the great movies I have been watching, though many of them are DVD screeners or subtitled in German.

I got back from a week down in Massachusetts today. I spent time with my sister, mom, stepmom, and dad in roughly that order and had a good though exhausting time. That’s four people, but seven cats and a dog! Since we’re not real xmas celebrators and everyone in the family is, to put it politely, quirky, figuring out how to honor non-existent family traditions and forge new ones is always a little challenging. I had a great time eating candy with my Mom and sister, cleaning my Dad’s basement with him, having dinner with my stepmom and taking photos of my sister’s loom and her using it. I rode a lot of buses and subways and got a lot of rides to various places.

As always when I get home I’m amazed at how quiet and dark the place is. Sound great? Well the house next door — a sort of copy of this one that the parents who lived in this house built for their children next door, less fancy, similar footprint — is for sale. 210K gets you an 1894 Victorian with three bedrooms and a mother-in-law apt in the back. If you’ve been contemplating a back to the country move, think of Bethel!

happy whatever

rabbit rabbit

As predicted, the Solstice in Vermont was a cloudy day that I spent running around with gritted teeth, working. However, at least one little library will have wifi for Xmas because of my efforts. Then I got some time off. Working at a high school means high school holidays are my holidays so no more classes or drop-in times til the new year. I took the bus down to Kate’s place and we’ve been hunkered down with cats and holiday food watching the snow all melt.

The photo is from a trip to Ikea that we took on Sunday to see if we could get and assemble a guestroom bed. My job when I come down here is Chief Motivator for Slightly Difficult Seeming Tasks, so I said “Hey let’s go now, how hard could it be?” and surprisingly, I was right. So we stumbled around a not very full Ikea two days before Xmas, got a bed that was totally decent and super cheap, and put it together in about an hour, even though we couldn’t and still can’t find the drill. Kate had to work on Monday and I walked into Davis Square in the bright sunshine and got four sweaters for about $20 because the thrift stores here have clothes I can actually see myself wearing. Thrift stores up my way just mean I’m wearing something my neighbor is likely to recognize.

Last night we hd Chinese food and wrapped a few things and had to check through our email archives to figure out what we did over Xmas 2005. Of course, searching my Flickr archives would have netted results a lot more quickly. Today we’re heading over to my Mom’s for bagels and lox and tomorrow I’m heading down to my Dad’s to fulfill his one Christmas wish: a clean basement. Back at the end of the week to go to my friends’ NYE party which is open to pretty much anyone. Anyone needing a NYE plan in the Northeast, feel free to email me for details. I hope this day finds you doing what you want to do.


sunset, abu dhabi

My photos of Dubai are now completely uploaded and in a photoset on Flickr that you can see here: Dubai 2007. The cactuscam was a success and allowed me to see the christmas cactus flowering until something happened and it went dark on Decembe 11th. Here is the last photo from the day I got back. As I recall from the last time I went left the country in mid-December, coming back to a US that has gotten its Christmas on while I was away is always a little jarring. Christmastime in Dubai was interesting because Dubai is a Muslim country and so it is crystal clear that the trees and ornaments and lights designate a secular, shopping holiday. It’s a little more murky here.

However, I like Winter. And yesterday I woke up to a box of fancy english muffins on my doorstep. In two days from now the days are going to start getting longer. If that isn’t a bang-up reason for a celebration I don’t know what is.

home dreaming of dates and palms

tile palms

So, it’s early Monday morning. My apologies to those people who are Flickr friends of mine who now have to suffer through all the second-string photos that I am now uploading in fits and starts. Now that Flickr works reliably and I have an always-on connection, I have been filling in the gaps of the trip narrative. I’m a bit cheerier than in the last post. The facts haven’t changed, but my outlook on them has. I’ve had good conversations with friends and family and am looking at the back end of a long plane ride, not an impending 24 hour trek. The plane ride is funny. The sun set in Dubai around 6 pm. My flight was at 2 am. I was on the plane for 14 hours — not great, but not that bad either, I don’t mind planes terribly and Emirates is a decent airline with good food and movies — chasing the dark around the world. So, Thursday night was 20+ hours long. I got to NY, had a five hour layover, amused customs with my luggage full of candy, and got home just as the snow was starting to fall in Vermont.

As of this morning it looks like it’s pretty much stopped and there’s a foot or so of new powder on the ground. Nothing like a lot of shovelling and hollering hello to neighbors over the sounds of the snowblower to get you back to your home-based reality. You’d think getting up at four or five am would mean I’m more productive somehow, but it only means I stay in bed reading longer.

I’m sure I’ll have more updates and reflections on the trip when I’ve settled in more. I’m still getting used to the cold toes and uneven icy ground and the women, there are women everywhere here!

abu dhabi

looking out at the gulf

The oddest thing about these trips is how much life goes on no matter how exotic your location or experiences are. While I feel like I’m in suspended animation here in an Arabian Disneyland, my timeshifted friends and family back home are living their lives. Or not.

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Anita Rowland. She was one of the first bloggers I ever met and was one of the small group of folks who was at the first Seattle Blogger Meetup back in February 2000. We’ve been in touch on and off over the years and I think we both delighted at all the funny bloggy things that have happened in the seven and a half years since. I’ll miss her.

I also got bad news about my mom’s health situation last night that I don’t feel like going into more now. Things that we thought were better are not better and we’re back in the “more tests” phase. Send my Mom your good wishes if you know her or even if you don’t. That news, compounded by the thought of almost a day of travel alone to dwell on it, has really sunk any more “wow, vacation!” things I might be thinking and writing. Everyone makes difficult choices; my love of near-constant travel means that there’s not really a good time to get news like this to me. Still, I wish they could have waited. Pictures continue, but for all intents and purposes my trip is over. I’ll write from snowy Vermont.

dubai, day five

porch in the morning

So I’ve been here about five days. The first two, which included the conference, were a blur of librarians and jet lag. The third day was a mass of paperwork and mall walking and yesterday was a noodle around town day. Step, the friend I am staying with, is going to Abu Dhabi to teach a few classes for the local digital preservation initiative (oooh metadata) and I will be tagging along. We leave in a few hours and I’m looking forward to the car ride even though traffic here is a really different animal from the no-traffic back home.

I’ve been enjoying myself, despite tiredness and weather adjustment and weird internet foibles. My talk and workshops went really well and you can read about some of the odd synchronicities I’ve experiences over at In a nutshell, when you’re in a place like this with a large number of expats and people who travel around, don’t be surprised if they know you from … somewhere. At a conference of 100 people, I met two people from Vermont, two people who had seen me speak before and one person who I’d served on a five person committee with four years ago. Oneof the women from Vermont actually had my home phone number in her address book because she knew Ola. I’m used to the small world phenomenon but this was pretty impressive even to me.

I wonder sometimes when I travel if the food situation in Vermont won’t be the thing that ultimately causes me to be one of those people with a summer home there and a tiny apartment in some big city somewhere. I’ve eaten food from a different nationality — Iranian, Lebanese, Indian, pseudo-Mexican — at pretty much every meal. It’s great to get to eat so much hummus that you’re not just like “Mmmmm hummus” but where you can actually explore and appreciate the variety of tastes in the different kinds of hummus. All this and I still can have coffee and a bowl of cereal for breakfast and be in the pool as many days as I want to be.

Yesterday I headed into the city with a backpack and no destination other than the public library. The library system here is, like many things here, relatively young. The cab driver didn’t know where it was and there is no big central library. While Zayed University has a really lovely library, the local public facility was small and seemingly underutilized. I walked around taking photos which I am slowly uploading to Flickr for or five at a time. And then I just walked. I had a guide book in my bag and an email from my friend with some good advice but I just ambled around lookin at things. I had some great meals, ate bizarre candy, went to the museum, took an underpass that actually went beneath the canal, took the water taxi back across the canal, went into a bazillion little shops seling all manner of things.

I was, for the most part, almost the only solo female under the age of 60 that I saw all day. I don’t mean just traveller/tourist, I mean female person. It was totally disorienting to be walking up and down completely full streets of people and suddenly thinking “Wow, I haven’t seen another woman in 10-15 minutes”. I vaguely remember Turkey being like this as well. However, unlike Turkey where I didn’t get out of the big downtown Western area much I was out and about walking for hours and it was always somewhat the same. This wasn’t any sort of problem — no one gave me a hard time, no one seemed to much care — it was just a constant vague awareness.

Last night we just sat around on the couches here at Step’s place and ordered food in and watched Syriana which was filmed partly here. Since I’ve been here I’ve been asking Step a million questions “what about the nomads?” “how do the royal families interact with everyone else” “what can you tell about a person by how they’re dressed?” and the movie I think makes a new sort of sense to me than it would have if I had seen it five days ago.

totally different stars

where I was swimming this evening

My friend Colin Lingle read a story at one of my open mic parties which were semi-regular occurences when I lived in Seattle. I liked it so much I asked him if I could put the story online and he said yes. The title of this post comes from it, the story is called The First Thing. I think the sentiments he expresses are very familiar.

So I’m in Dubai and it’s wonderful and pretty foreign feeling. I took a very crowded flight here which was full of mostly non-Americans and was a little too tightly packed to read all the Wikipedia articles I’d saved about the place. I still haven’t read them. I watched a lot of Doctor Who and the Simpsons movie. When I lived in Romania I remembered visiting Turkey and getting off the train in Istanbul after a long and crowded trip and being amazed that the place smelled like food and … something … instead of garbage and sewage. Dubai smells like flowers and grilled meats and heady incense and someplace else. I type backwards into the Google box. A few sites I like to visit are blocked entirely. The call to prayer wakes me vaguely at 5 am and I’m not sure why I’m awake.

Today is my big talk and the workshops I’m leading, so I’ll feel a lot more settled once they’re behind me and not looming and I’ll be sure to let you know how they are. To work off a little extra nervous energy I went swimming last night in the next door pool. I don’t think I’ve ever been swimming outdoors in a pool at night before (ponds and lakes, sure, but it’s weirdly different doing lap swimming much less wearing a hot pink bathing suit outside in a Muslim country) and, like most other experiences here — besides my morning coffee which I’m enjoying as I type this — it was familiar and yet totally different.