sunny day

So, I know you’ve heard it before, but Ola’s coming back to Bethel. At some point. I got an email from her saying she was leaving Botswana tomorrow and I’m sure she’ll show up here eventually. So. I am having my friend Jill over to help me clean the house. I am moving stuff around, consolidating mainly. And I am thinking if there might be some place else I would like to live. I’m pretty sure I can stay here if I want to, but the sweet free rent deal would vanish. I am curious if I could find another one.

I like it here a lot. I like Ola a lot. However I also like living alone a lot. Living with Ola isn’t just not living alone, it is like the opposite of living alone. While she is great company, our sleep schedules are about 90 degrees off. She’s disorganized (she says it, I’m not calling her names) and I’m… not. I like it quiet or quiet-ish, she frequently has the TV or the radio or both going. She likes strongly smelling stuff in the bathroom, it makes me sneezy. So, unlike last time I thought she was coming back where I was a bit more handwavey and OMG about it, now I’m more reflective. I also have a more regular job — my MetaFilter work has me as an official W-2 employee as of 2008 — so I’m less worried about money. This is a good opportunity to ask myself what I’d like to be doing for the next few years, in case what I AM doing isn’t quite it. I have a few interesting options and some more prosaic ones. As always, I’ll keep you posted.

This past weekend I was in San Francisco. Sometimes I swear I go on long trips just so I can take a red eye flight home and have that amazing experience of going to sleep dead tired at 7 pm and sleeping til 9 am the next day. There’s nothing like it, to me. The trip was fun, I wrote a bit about the meeting I was at over at librarian.net. I saw some librarian friends, saw my friends’ new baby, went to a MetaFilter meetup, went to a good friend’s birthday party, slept (well!) in a Murphy bed, went birdwatching and didn’t drive my car for nearly five days.

I miss the West Coast in a general sense, and it’s odd to me that I miss San Fran more than I miss Seattle. I felt like I had time to get sick of Seattle and watch many of my friends move away. Now in San Fran my friends are all moving closer to one another so that I can walk to a whole bunch of their houses without too much trouble. It was neat to do and I’ll have to do it again really soon. As I told James and Shinjoung, having a free rent option figures high on my list of “desirable qualities” in a place to live. Not like I’d move straight to Atlanta for free rent, but if a place I otherwise like — especially the way-too-spendy West Coast — had some weird live-in caretaking opportunity present itself, you can bet I’d be listening.


I told my friend James that the puzzle hunt was like nerd Easter because everyone gets dressed up in their nerd finery and congregates at the nerd holy land (MIT) and gets to geek out together. We laughed about it at the time. The next day, after we’d all had a little sleep, James came up to me and said “You know, your metaphor is not quite right…” and explained why it wasn’t [churches are local to a region, we had people from all over the place and remote people]. We thought a little bit about better metaphors but didn’t come up with one. It was a big thinky weekend.

So last weekend was the MIT Mystery Hunt which, you may remember, I did last year. Last year our team came in second, this year we were third. I don’t know how many teams there were last year. This year I heard there were thirty-seven. That’s not bad, though really we’d like to win. I took more of a leadership role this year and did a lot of the exciting “calling in to headquarters to confirm answers” and “updating the wiki” parts. It was more fun than it sounded. We had a team of somewhere between 100-200 people. The hunt started on Friday at noon and, unlike last year’s hunt which was over by about 2 am Saturday night, this one ended at 8 pm Sunday. This meant the wrap-up was on Monday and I got home late Monday night, just in time to be around for one drop-in time (two students) and some un/re-packing and then I left early Wednesday to head back to the airport to go to SFO.

Almost everyone on our team had a really good time. We had several librarians, a lot of programmers, at least one lawyer and a few students. Our team had absorbed another team and so there were a lot of new faces both locally and remotely. We kept our work and communications on a combination of a mailing list, a giant wiki, a series of jabber chat rooms, Google docs and spreadsheets, about ten chalboards, some whiteboard material stuck to the chalkboards, and bits of paper scattered all over the place. The team running the hunt communicated with us by phone, email, their web site, and in person. It was a busy net of data transfer. This was especially so for me. I’m used to all the data buzzing back and forth in my day to day life, but not so used to sending and receiving it in a room full of people typing.

My one regret — besides the fact that I don’t live my whole life like this — was that I could not figure out what was necessary to swim in the inviting pool that I passed on my way to the classroom/clubhouse. From what I hear, it’s the robot pool, a pool for aquatic robotics, but I bet I could find a way to swim there. Next year.

Update: a few other posts about the hunt with more details.

good choices made a long time ago

[sometimes I read my own sent email and I just like it]


My name is [$NAME] and I am a high school senior. Two days a week I volunteer at the local public library and am very interested in making a career out of the library field. I read your blog (librarian.net) whenever google reader tells me that you have updated. Today I found out that you attended Hampshire College, the school which I shall be attending next fall. I was wondering if you could tell me about your experiences there.

With immense appreciation, [$NAME]


I went to Hampshire sort of a million years ago [1986-1990] and Helaine Selin from Hampshire was my librarian role model because she could find things online [when online was fancy services you had to *subscribe* to mainly] that I had no idea existed. I was there when Adele Simmons was president. I lived in Merill dorms, then Prescott, then Dakin dorms, then Prescott again. Over the summer I lived on campus two out of three summers. I only lived about an hour and a half away so I could go home often if I wanted or needed to, but didn’t go home that much.

I studies linguistics with Steve Weisler and a few other people in the CCS school which I think is called something else now, and creative writing with Lynne Hanley. I took (well, passed) 16 classes the whole four years I was there. I graduated in four straight years which is unusual. I took classes at Amherst, UMass and Mount Holyoke as well. I got to take a writing class at Amherst from David Foster Wallace who is actually not much older than I am.

I always felt like Hampshire was where all the weird kids from every high school wound up and some of them decided to outweird everyone else and some of them decided that since they were now in a group of weirdos, they could just be themselves. I was part of the latter group. It was a strange time. There were a lot of protests over political correctness types of things. There was a takeover of one of the science buildings. It was the year after Andy Hermann killed himself live on public access TV which was a long time ago but still seems like a big deal. You can read more history from about that time at this link. Tim Shary and I went to Hampshire together.


Fascinating stuff.

I did some extracurricular things. I was part of a film and video club. I was on the volleyball team. I was an artist’s model. I worked at the Farm Center. I threw parties and helped bring bands to campus. I was part of the motorcycle collective. I sort of fit in at Hampshire and liked it there. I am still in touch with MOST of the people I lived with my senior year there and I’m always surprised when I run into other Hampshire people my own age in different places that they are interesting and have done interesting things with their lives. Despite my having enjoyed college well enough, it was in no way the “best times of my life” which I think is entirely okay.

As far as academics, I was pretty self-motivated and this was in my favor. I saw a lot of people drop out because they just couldn’t keep doing work when there weren’t grades or professors hounding them. I think some of those people were better off not being in college but for some of them Hampshire just wasn’t the right place and maybe another school would have been.

It’s an interesting place filled with interesting people. This is the good news and the bed news. There are a lot of people with a lot on their minds. Creative arty types but also just moody melancholy types, or both. There was a suicide or a suicide attempt every year i was there and a lot of drug-and-alcohol fuelled drama that may be typical for colleges but hasn’t been part of my life since.

I went on to library school at the University of Washington at the school they now call the iSchool. It was less of a big deal then, but I was able to get in with nothing but my GRE scores and that stack of recommendations that they call a transcript. I didn’t have any trouble segueing to graduate school. If anything, I felt it was LESS rigorous than Hampshire and all the focus on GPA seemed silly and missing the point of education. I have a weird collection of jobs now that make me pretty happy and I live in rural Vermont in a place not unlike Amherst and rural Massachusetts where I grew up before college.

Lastly, you know those scary dreams about being in some school hallway and realizing you have a test you haven’t prepared for, or a speech you have to give that you didn’t write yet? I never, ever, have them. I think that alone makes me feel that I made the right decision about college.


double-digit 08

Our Mother the Mountain

First off, thanks to the random internet stranger who sent me a random gift card. I got a nice orange necklace. Note to all other random internet strangers: postcards are fine, anything else is overkill and vaguely unsettling. This is not intended to be a “mixed signal”, this is intended to be a very clear one.

This year has started slowly. I went to NH this weekend because I have a friend in Manchester and a friend in the media and we traipsed around looking at things. I still find the whole political machine strange and fascinating. I do prefer it this time as a more disinterested observer than I was in 04. So, I came down and listened to my pal Robert talk about all the wacky candidate hijinks going on that he was covering for NPR. I even made him a Wikipedia page while I was down there. We checked out the Google/YouTube party (briefly met Obamagirl) and messed around in the science center where the party was, stopped in at the Ron Paul bar and took a sign home which I used to amusing effect later. I don’t mean to be an annoying liberal arts major postmodernist about this, but it sort of amuses me that my neighbors probably have no idea if I’m really voting for Ron Paul or not.

That brings me to my next topic: going back to work. I love my jobs but there is something pleasant to me about having no real schedule and a surplus of cash, books and friends. However, that time seems to come in January when all I feel like doing is playing online Scrabble and drinking more coffee. So, going back to work after the holidays is usually great. I got in the pool, my boss took me out to lunch, I’m hammering out a few classes to teach in a few months, and my drop-in time was going swimmingly. I was apalled, then, when in the normal course of chitchatting about computers one of my students (adult, older woman) mentioned rather offhandedly that she thought that all illegal immigrants should be lined up and shot, apropos of nothing. I had been helping her learn to take photos of stuff so she could put them on Ebay and I just sat and stared at her. Another student offered at that moment that he was a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. I believe the segue was “while we’re talking about crazy ideas…” and showed her some website he’d been looking at (and I taught him how to type a URL into the box, I did). She looked at me with an almost smug expression and said “You’ve gotten pretty quiet.” and I replied that I wasn’t going to talk to her about that At All and we could move on or it would just stay quiet. I’m not sure if it was the right choice.

My last student and I just sat at her desk while all the noisemaking was going on. We’ve been helping her get the photos of her trip to China on to her ancient laptop running Windows ME. She’s Chinese, I believe. I don’t know if she was particularly annoyed or outraged at this outburst but I know that the whole situation made me wince and then wonder what the right thing to do was, or is?

not a wrap-up!

That was a lot of lists. I always wonder if, in the absence of religion in my life, I find some sort of meaning in assiduous data collection. The good news is that if I decide I don’t care, no one smites me.

I have been having an okay 2008 all things considered. I spent the New Year’s Day after a really fun party hanging out in bed with coffee and later tea and later cocoa catching up on reading and email and setting the mp3 player to play every favorite song I have (about seven hours worth, totally worth the time). Then I vowed to try to not do that again in 2008. There is value to staying in bed, but I’m into working on the things I can accomplish after putting on pants, this year.

This week has been about snow and snowshoeing and shopping (spending holidaytime money — I got magnets and a swim towel and gloves and showshoes and a necklace and something else I can’t remember) and getting back into the world of work and schedules, at least in theory. Next week I get into work and schedules in earnest so this weekend I’m taking some time off to screw around in the political wonderland that is New Hampshire with a few friends and maybe get some bowling in.

Yesterday I went showshoeing for the first time in my life with my friend Kelly who is a great person to do these things with because she pushes but not so much that it’s unfun. My resolution, for today, is to do this again.

what was swum – the last wrap-up post for 2007

I apologize in advance for the extreme wonkiness of this post, again.

swimming 07

So, swimming the length of Lake Champlain didn’t quite work out, but I did pretty okay. As of June, I was ahead by about ten or fifteen miles. However I pulled my shoulder swimming a little too much and then took to my bed for about a month. Well, not exactly, but I didn’t swim in any case. September saw another few weeks out of the pool when I tried to get tricky and do that breathing-out-of-both-sides thing I hear is so popular in freestyle nowadays and pulled some muscle I didn’t know I had. In any case, by the Autumn it was clear that I was either going to have to go full-out towards completing my goal and risk further injury, or go walk around in the leaves some. I made the obvious choice. I still managed to put in 82 miles this year which is less than I’d hoped but pretty awesome in my opinion.

I swam 111 days this year for 82 miles total which is about 3/4 of a mile per swim.
I swam 130 days last year for 79 miles total (it says 80+, I don’t know why I said that, wishful thinking?) which is about 3/5 of a mile per swim.

This year I was away from home even more than last year. I’m calling this all a success. I got special swimmers’ shampoo from my sister for holidaytime and I’m on my fourth swimsuit since this all started way back in Summer 2005. I am also a lifeguard, though it doesn’t come up much. That is the year in swimming.

2007 reading list, a year end summary

My apologies to those who have already read this on librarian.net. This is the exact same post except for this paragraph right here. I track a bunch of data but usually only report on books, travel and lately swimming. It’s weird, I also watch a lot of movies but I just write them down on a long boring list, for some reason they lack the impact or import in my life of books and beds. In any case, here’s the reading list. If I were a New Yorker cartoon I’d be the one where all the guys are in the boardroom and they’re pointing to an arrow that is falling off the righthand side of the chart. It’s okay, time for a minor adjustment. I had a “watch more TV” resolution (in addition to the other ongoing resolutions) last year to get me off the laptop and maybe it’s time to change that to a Read More Good Books resolution. I’ve been enjoying a lot of genre fiction this past year but it can make deeper reading harder and/or slower. That said, I find both kinds of reading rewarding but the pendulum has to shift more towards at least the middle.

Here are previous year end lists: 2006, 2005, 2004. As you probably know, my booklist lives in a separate blog and it has its own RSS feed. I’m not a voracious reader and I’ve been heavy into genre fiction this year, but here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2007.

number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78
average read per month: 4.4
average read per week: 1
number read in worst month: 1 (November)
number read in best month: 9 (March)
percentage by male authors: 78
percentage by female authors: 22
fiction as percentage of total: 63
non-fiction as percentage of total: 37
percentage of total liked: 89
percentage of total ambivalent: 11
percentage of total disliked: 0

It was not a good year for reading, to put it mildly. I did more travel than ever before, but I spent more time on planes either working or watching back-of-seat movies or just sleeping. Last year I felt like I got a lot of reading done on planes.

This year I also had a new time-consuming hobby which was (and is) swimming. In an attempt to meet a pretty ambitious goal — one which I did not wind up meeting, but boy did I try! — I spent a lot more free time swimming, driving to the pool, showering, etc. And then of course when you swim you sleep like a log, which means less fidgety before sleep time for reading which was a standard reading time for me. I like swimming a lot, but the impact it has on my reading is, to me, quite clear.

So, it’s interesting to do this every year to see how the years compare. I read a lot of genre fiction — six books by John Lescroart, two by Greg Bear, two by Henry Petroski, four graphic novels — and that will probably continue. I read a few books that I enjoyed but which took me weeks to work through, 1491 and Men of Tomorrow, which really put a damper on other reading. I did less parallel reading this year and more serial reading, so when one book bogged me down, I was less able to pick up something else. In any case, I believe that every single one of those books was a loaner from a friend or family member, a library book or a library booksale book and to me that’s a decent accomplishment. Happy reading to everyone in the new year.

Here are some other reader’s lists: Anirvan, Ruby.