turn off the bubble machine

bubble pipe patent

Having slightly more free time [a whole week sort of off!] has meant more screwing around online. I enjoyed my BoingBoing time — their upcoming guest blogger is John Cusack! — because I put a lot of “hey this is neat” stuff up online and people looked at it. So, my apologies dear readers, but I’m going to try to do that a little more with this space.

So I was playing a word game which, trust me on this, required me to find an old Stan Freberg track. When I was a kid this was on an album my folks had that I listened to a lot. The album was called Fly Buttons and the particular track was called Wun’erful! Wun’erful! but the part that I could remember was “Turn off the bubble machine” You can hear the whole bit here.

So I Googled “turn off the bubble machine” and found not just the video, but the Wikipedia page on Freberg, who is still alive, but also people riffing off the phrase in magazines [does it come from anywhere else?], the grave of Lawrence Welk’s “Champagne Lady,” and a ton of fun to pore over patent applications including the one pictured above.

And now, people will find this.



For the first time in seven years I had to cancel a trip and a talk. I figure I’ll explain what happened because I think a lot of people may not even understand this “I give talks” aspect of my life. I was supposed to go to the PLA Conference in Portland Oregon. I was originally invited in August of last year and said yes. As you may know from the rest of my typings, a lot of other travel then filled in around it. I was scheduled to give a talk at 10:15 today [I had asked to speak in the afternoon, denied. I had asked to speak after 11 am, denied]. The deal I had worked out was that I’d get my airfare covered, two nights in a hotel [they had offered one night, I had said for a minimum eight hours of travelling, that wasn’t enough] and a modest honorarium. I don’t know why these places say honorarium instead of fee, but there it is.

On Friday I noticed I didn’t have a hotel reservation yet and sent some frantic emails asking about this. The woman in charge of reservations hadn’t gotten my two [2] housing forms I’d emailed in. Not sure what happened. They quickly handled it. Then they let me know they hadn’t gotten the contract that I’d faxed and mailed. I occasionally have these waking nightmares that somehow I’ve ceased to exist to everyone but myself, only it happens slowly, not quickly [i.e. I send emails but they just vanish once they leave my mail client] and this was seeming like that.

I had a flight out yesterday at 2:20 pm. I have three airports I choose among: Burlington, Manchester, and Logan in Boston. Burlington is closest, but has fewer flights, Manchester is next closest, but I have to drive there [about two hours] and Logan is furthest but I can take public transportation most of the way and it has the most flights. This flight was out of Manchester, connecting in DC. I got up and left the house at 11, got to the airport at 1, ate lunch, waited on my flight. At 2 it was clear that we weren’t boarding. At about this time they made an announcement that the incoming flight that was supposed to be my outgoing flight had been hit by lightning and was going to be delayed. I saw the flight crew outside taking photos of the plane with their phones. I was pretty sure “delayed” was inaccurate. So I got in line to be rebooked and called United at the same time. The nice man I spoke to said “Oh your plane is just delayed, just wait for it” which was basically the best information he had at the time. It took United almost an hour and a half to declare the flight cancelled.

I used my librarian skills to determine that there wasn’t another flight out of Manchester that day. I found that there was a flight out of Logan, in a few hours, getting me in in the middle of the night. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have much of a sense of what normal people would do in a situation like this. I was pretty sure I could get to Boston, brave rush hour traffic, park my car in a $22/day lot [not reimbursed] and be in Portland by midnight. Maybe. I called my Dad and my sister who I call my Reality Check Network. They both assured me that only crazy people would consider this, though I should ask the PLA people if they’d reschedule me. I asked, they said no. They were pretty nice about it. Occasionally librarians are very very crabby dealing with plan changes; I am a pleaser so I try to avoid pissing people off, but this was unavaoidable bad news. I waited in line some more. I got an email from United saying that my flight was officially cancelled. I called again to see if I could maybe be put on another airline’s flight. No.

At this point I have made my peace with not going. Once this happens a switch flips in my head and I absolutely do not want to go anymore. I emailed everyone in Portland telling them I am not coming [I have a ton of friends there, I was looking forward to seeing them] because with no talk there is no free plane trip so instead of making a little money on this, I would be spending my own money which I didn’t want to do. After two hours in line [seriously!] I talk to the guy at the head of the line who confirms that yes, I am going noplace. He “refunds” my money which means he gives me what looks like an airline ticket except it implies that I will get my ticket money back. He gives me a voucher for airport food because I asked for one [and told other people to ask for one, they say “they’ll give you food money?”] and I ask if I can spend it all on beer. I call the parking lot people who come fetch me and give me not some but all of my parking lot money back. I drive two hours home, eating my free sandwich. I get home at 7. I send the nice people from PLA the links to my talk and my slides. I lose at Scrabble against Jim and sleep for eleven hours.

When I went to bed last night the United website still showed me as booked on a flight to Portland today, a fact which multiple phone calls did not clear up. “Oh just wait five minutes” said the phone support person. “Oh just ignore it” said the next one. Eventually the trip vanished – poof! I emailed my friends in town to say I wasn’t gone, and they invited me over for dinner.

I have, as always, mixed feelings. I really wanted to give this talk. I really wanted to go to Portland. I really want, in general, to do what I say I am going to do. However, I have a difficult time balancing exactly how much I should pull out all the stops to ensure that I can do what I say I will. I probably could have made it to Portland yesterday if I’d done something crazy. Or I maybe could have planned a Sunday flight and paid for my own hotel room or stayed with a friend. Or I could have gone for the weekend and been 100% sure I’d be there today [which meant leaving the day after I got back from Texas]. I say all this stuff because I want to reassure myself that what I did was okay. It’s difficult for me to say “I can’t” but I’ve been getting better at it this year. Seems like a strange goal to work towards, and it’s bad if it’ a habit, but I’m thinking it should be part of my vocabulary.

time has come today

I consider it a good trip if I can come home without being sick and thinking “I made some good decisions.”

I am home from SXSW which was more fun than I was expecting. Staying with friends instead of solo meant that I was more social and did more stuff than I might have if I had been left to my own devices [which, if history is any indicator, means that I walk around looking at things alone all day, nothing wrong with that but it’s good to change it up a little]. I also got less sleep and did a lot less narrating and more doing. A short list before I go back to the daybed and soak up the remaining sunlight hours.

  • I went to Austin and stayed with the Guys of MetaFilter in a nice house north of town. Here are my photos.
  • I was interviewed with Team MeFi for community radio. MC Frontalot was also there. Not sure where the audio wound up.
  • I was interviewed by Latoya Peterson from Racialicious about the digital divide. Not sure where the video wound up.
  • I went with librarians, MetaFilter people, old skool bloggers and others to see MC Frontalot perform with other nerdcore rappers. Here is his website. I stayed out late, really late, eating pancakes the night before my panel.
  • I presented a panel with NYPL libraran Jenny Engstrom which was, by all accounts, a smashing success. Here are my slides.
  • I went to dinner with 50 someodd people and was amazed at the confluence of old and new friends.
  • I got held up by technical plane problems at the airport and wound up flying into Boston instead of Burlington which meant a side trip to Denver and some special surprise time with Jim.
  • I ate an awful lot of tacos.

I got home three minutes before the post office closed [thanks Forrest!], which is auspicious. I still need to get the ASKMEMobile out of the Burlington airport parking lot, but I have a plan. Between the detour into Mountain Time and the time change and the 28 hour trip home [with some snoozing in-between] and my general bleariness, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more happy to come back to my little treehouse where time seems to mostly stand still. More reports as events warrant.

three fifths done

the view from the library

Bla bla bla the journey really is the destination. This was a photo I took at the Loussac Library in Anchorage Alaska. Often when I go places, I’m fidgety and sort of keeping an eye on the clock and my agenda and where else I have to be when. I’m good at getting places when I need to be, but sometimes less good at the Be Here Now aspect of the whole thing.

I finished up my Alaska trip and checked out of the hotel I was staying at around 1 pm and then had almost twelve hours to kill before my red-eye flight. I was pleasantly surprised that the library was open on a Sunday and got a ride over there and just hung out before taking the bus back to the hotel to use the free wifi for a few hours before eating and going to the airport for the long bumbada bumbada trip home. The library wasn’t too full, the heaters made a pleasant sound, the view was amazing, the wifi worked. It was one of the most peaceful parts of a long and interesting but rarely restful set of weeks.

I head to SXSW tomorrow. If you see me, please say hello.