(This is part two of a two-parter. Here is part one. I should probably mention before I go on that Jim is fine, got a good diagnosis and is back in shape)
Day Six – Gary IN to Chicago
We were headed to a meetup in Chicago that wasn’t until 4 pm so Kate and I headed to Miller Beach which was walking distance from our place while Jim slept some more. It was so nice, and just a few minutes from our door. Lots of people and dogs, it reminded me of being in Massachusetts only it was a giant lake and not the ocean. We grabbed Jim and headed out just as the neighborhood was starting to FILL UP with people. Apparently there was an air show happening that afternoon and we scooted out just in time. On our way out we hit the Farmer’s Market which was small and great and we got some exceptional tacos and street corn and other knicknacks including the saltiest string cheese in the world (sorry beardo cheesemonger, you were nice but your cheese was awful)
So hey I went on a ten day vacation where I did NO WORK. I’m fairly certain I haven’t done this since I started working at MetaFilter, so that’s over a decade. I had someone filling in for me at the Archive and I’d wrapped up everything else. I didn’t do anything crazy like ignore my email, but I basically just vacationed and didn’t work. I’m not even sure I know what to do with this level of nothing-to-do but it went well! Here’s a wrap-up which stands in for any liveblogging sort of thing. I put some photos up in this Flickr photoset and you can see a few at-the-moment notes from me and Kate on Twitter with the #WestOn20 hashtag.
The loose outline of the trip was this: Kate and I picked up Jim on the 5th of July and headed West on Route 20. We dropped him off in Chicago to fly home and then kept going for another day and a bit and turned around and drove home using quicker routes. Here are the specifics. Anyone who still uses Swarm/Foursquare can maybe see my history there (or not, unclear how that works). Here’s some notes from memory. Part of doing the vacation right was, to me, not viewing it as a blog-for-later.
I have a sunburn. And my class is wrapping up on Friday (grades due on Tuesday, how unfair is that?) and it’s gone pretty well. I have enough of an impostor syndrome thing with teaching that I am half expecting my student evaluations to say “Um, this wasn’t actually a class at all.” even though I think it’s been a good experience and I think they did great work. There’s just something a little … non-class feeling to me about asynchronous teaching. I’ll probably get over it. Or maybe not!
This was a quiet week or so for me for a few reasons. The class. The (sudden) onset of summer. And I got in a small car accident last week and have been buried in paperwork and car repair. I am fine, everyone is fine. It was one of those slow motion fender benders in stop and go traffic. My fault. My car was crumpled-looking but driveable. The other car was scratched. And I’m fairly bummed with myself because it blows a thirty-year “no crashes involving other cars” record. I’m usually a good and careful driver. I was turning my phone off when it happened, so now I’m one of those people I bitch about all the time, messing with phones. I thought “Oh shit it’s getting trafficky, should turn off this podcast…” and then the car in front of me stopped short.
I’m firmly in the “It’s a crash, not an accident” camp but I think telling people you’ve been in a crash makes them worried for you and I am fine. On the bright side, I met a guy in Westport (where I am for most of the summer) who does body work and he is amazing. A great repair guy but also just a good local guy to know. I still worry I’m going to take my car in somewhere where they chide me for not taking care of it (which pushes all sorts of buttons for me) or overcharge me because they think I don’t know what things cost. The only thing Dwayne said was that for a car that nice–I am driving my Dad’s old CRV, my Forrester stays in Westport and is a beach car–I should probably get collision insurance. And he’s probably right. He took photos of the repair, which he did over the weekend, on his dumb phone. So what I thought was going to be my week without a car turned out to only be about 24 hours since Kate and Jim were down for the weekend.
Kate and Jim and I are scheming to start our ROUTE 20 OR BUST road trip next week. We’re going to drive the length of the nation’s longest highway. In stages! We have maps and apps and snacks and big plans. I’m just really happy to have things mostly back to normal, and maybe getting to travel with someone who can run the podcast machine.
For people who might be interested, I also have a little librarian newsletter that comes out every week or so. Feel free to sign up here if it’s the sort of thing you think you’d like.
Because I am the relentless self-promoter that I am, I let my local newspaper know that I had won an award (and was on VPR – transcript now available) and they sent a photographer out to take a picture and put a little story on the front page (above the fold) which was immensely gratifying. It’s also been the source of some amusement as everyone in town is all “Oooo the famous librarian!” which is a name I’ve had on the internet for some time but not around here. These photos are great and I got to cut them out of the newspaper and put them in an envelope to send to my mom. My landlady always saves me a copy of articles about me in the paper to send to her.
Teaching has been going well though in my attempt to avoid terrible courseware I seem to have given myself a fairly chunky TODO list every week. I think this may be the secret to teaching: the more you can foist off on other people and systems, the less you have to do. Which is less of an incentive to a full-time professor than an adjunct who teaches a class here and there. It’s a weird decision to have to make, or even think about: the less I do, the higher my hourly wage winds up. I always design things that are easier for the students and possibly tougher for me and then wind up thinking “Why is teaching so hard?” when the answer is basically because I made it that way through sheer overcomplication. While I would have liked more complex classes in graduate school, I’m not sure that’s true for everyone. My students are a really interesting bunch of people and we’re entering the third week. Last week had Memorial Day. This week has Kamehameha Day which I have been learning more about. I try to learn a new thing every week I try to teach a new thing, seems only fair.
So hey last week was nutty! In a mostly good way. The Vermont Library Conference happened and I received an award for Library Advocate of the Year, an award given out irregularly and last given to Bernie Sanders in 2003. This was mostly for the advocacy I did around the Librarian of Congress over the past year. What made it extra special was that my friend and neighbor Virgil (also VLA president) was the one who gave it to me. And that my local librarian Amy gave me a heads up that I’d be receiving it so that I would come to the conference earlier than she knew I would otherwise, so nice of her. The town library gave me a shout-out on facebook. People have been wonderful.
The next day I was interviewed on VPR’s Vermont Edition show about library stuff, the award, moss, the gamut. You can listen to the interview on their site and I should be getting a transcript up in a few days. I was nervous, like I always am, and carried a little card with me that said DON’T SAY UM and DON’T SWEAR and it went well. Jane is an incredibly gracious and friendly host and helped me be my best self. As a token of thanks I made her a Wikipedia page. Vermont being in a tech shadow often means that people who would otherwise deserve pages there aren’t represented. I can help with that. And when the page was reviewed and slated for deletion (“How is this person notable?”) I had the photo of her ready plus my librarian skills to make the case.
The funny thing is, I think the reason that I was on VPR has as much to do with this goofy tweet I made than anything else. A lot of the opportunities I’ve had lately have been “right place, right time, open to anything” sorts of situations. I got to meet Jane because I was willing to drive all the way to Colchester instead of sitting in an empty studio with a headset on in Montpelier. I got to talk to the White House because when someone gave me contact information for someone there, I followed up on it and when they said “Are you free for a phone call tomorrow?” I said “Yes!” even though I wasn’t really free, I just made the time. This is not, at all, to say that there wasn’t a lot of luck (and the privilege of being able to make these sorts of choices in the first place) that helped me out here. But also that there are ways of “forcing luck” if you’re already in a position to take advantage of it. I think calling myself lucky does gloss over some of the work I’ve done to make some of these things happen. But saying “I worked hard for all of this.” isn’t quite true either. I mean sure I work hard, but so do a lot of people.
This next week starts a whole new challenge which is teaching graduate school (for University of Hawaii) online and asynchronously. I am nervous, like I always am, but made a really nice website and (I hope) some good choices of what to talk about and how to talk about it. Site isn’t finished yet but you can look at it here. I’d been putting off working on it because I was so mad at the Course Management Software I couldn’t really think straight. So I just asked myself “Well if you could use whatever tools you wanted, how would this work?” and came up with this. I hope it works. I think it will. I’m lucky like that.
Continuing the quest for offline hobbies and activities I’ve added a few things to my “stuff I know how to do” list. Last week I was in Westport and instead of getting the lawn guy to take down the sea grass that grows really tall in the backyard (you can see it in this image only now it’s taller and dead) I decided I’d try to do it myself. This involved learning to use a hedge trimmer which I’d never done before. Internet randos claim this isn’t a skill–“Is mopping a skill?” they’d ask–but it felt skillful to me. Especially since I did what every novice hedge trimmer user does and chopped the cord clean off. “Why is that part of the hedge on fire? Oh…” I presume this is something everyone does because 1. that is what everyone told me and 2. it has a replaceable cord. So that went mostly well. Jim helped a lot with the clean up. Always save some time and energy for the clean-up. Advice I used to ignore and now mostly do not.
This week I was back at home and had a week with multiple hours of (mostly good) online meetings and I needed a thing to do which was offline and nominally creative. At some point I need to go mossing but the outdoor weather hasn’t been quite there yet. I went by a thrift store to drop off some stuff and found a cool book about as old as I was, full of art photography. I decided to revisit an old hobby which was making envelopes out of nifty old paper. So I spent the time in-between my sub shifts at the library cutting and folding and gluing. I took a few photos and put them online and people asked for more detail so I supplied it in the form of a HOWTO set. And then for laffs I made an animated GIF of all 40+ of my envelopes. I think they look pretty good. Now I need to write some letters. Fortunately this is not difficult.
So I started out trying to find an image of a medal or some other ribbon to commemorate 100 days of flossing. My previous flossing record was in the single digits. I don’t know why it’s a thing I always had trouble with and why I suddenly started being able to do it regularly. Meditation too, 100+ days. Helpful.
But I wound up flipping through some books on Open Library and found this entry in an auction catalog which led me to this coin from 1860 (above) and this forum posting explaining what the heck it is. And I still only sort of understand it, but it was an enjoyable 15 minutes poking around search engines with synonyms until I got an explanation.
I celebrated National Library Week (which was last week) by making a post a day on MetaFilter and listed the posts I’d made over on facebook. Similar stuff. You might like it. This week is nominal vacation week after giving a talk at the University of Rhode Island about the digital divide so I’m down in Westport, cleaning out closets and fixing toilets. More fun than it sounds.