number of ways technology has enhanced my life. also: my new car
Jul 21, 2007
Here is a story about ways technology has enhanced my life.
I got a car. Here is a photo of it. (1) For some reason I like having two cars. Part of this may be that I like having a back-up car. Part of it may be that it costs almost nothing to insure a second car in Vermont. Part of it is that I've wanted a wagon for quite some time and the opportunity presented itself. So, this is my new (to me) car. It needs a name.
The way I got it wasn't really your typical deal. In fact, it's a neat story. My pal Erica just left her librarian gig at Cornell to start a nifty new job in San Francisco at Second Life. (2) She was selling her car on Facebook. (3) You might know Erica because her blog and my blog are the first and second blogs that show up on Google when you search for "librarian" (4) Yeah, that's us. I saw the photo and said "oh hey that's the car I need." My car is totally fine, but ever since a scary run-in with a guardrail last winter, I've been thinking I might want something a bit more AWD-ish. Plus, I've wanted a wagon or at least something I could, in a pinch, sleep in. I haven't slept in a car in a few years now, but I like having the option.
Since these cars are basically Vermont's State Automobile they're tough to get good deals on. And I don't really enjoy driving all over the place looking at cars from Craigslist (5). So, Erica's seemed decent and when I said the price was maybe a little high for me, she made it not a little high and I emailed (6) and said said "I'll take it". I sent her a check through my online bank. (7) It was forwarded to her in CA. She mailed me the title and the bill of sale. I called my insurance company. They emailed me proof of insurance. (8) I got a ride from my very good friend Forrest out to Ithaca (thanks Forrest! I met him on MetaFilter (9)) where we found the car in the Ornothithology lab parking lot with a note to me and the keys under the mat. Erica said "It's the one with the flying spaghetti monster (10) on the back, to distinguish it from the 45 other green subaru legacies in the parking lot."
We drove back in tandem keeping a sharp eye out for danger. The trip would have been shorter but Forrest heard on the radio (11) that there was a huge wreck on 87 North and we took a detour through Saratoga Springs to avoid it. I got home and made a few moves in an online Scrabble game (12) to chill out, answered some personal and work email, (13, 14) prepared a book to put in the mail for paperbackswap.com (15) and went right to bed.
So I went to bed as soon as it got dark last night and slept for 14 hours. The fact that I can still get away with this indicates to me that it's okay to keep taking redeye flights if it saves me some money. The loose outline of my trip is this
- Get to Portland late at night Friday and go out for beers with Sara and Steve. Marvel in that yokelly way how great it is to go out for beers at 11 pm and have a GOOD BEER. Crash out. - Go out for brunch at the Vita Cafe and have corncakes and bacon with real maple syrup. Drink more coffee than is good for me. Yammer on about maple syrup and tastiness of same back home. Ogle all the great tattoos. - Wandered around the Saturday Market and some junk shops. Started in with my tired "you know this is the sort of thing that everyone has in their barns back home and here they sell it to you for $50" spil. My friends are very nice to ignore this. - Checked in to crazy hotel where the gal at the desk asked me "Oh are you part of the Arizona Wests, they're a wealthy rancher family..." I felt like I let her down a bit when I said no. Despite this, the rooms were nice. Fancy hotel but still, free Internet and coffee. - Dinner with Josh and Angela at Bush Garden. Very nice chill time before the crazy party. - Crazy party. - Planning meeting with MeFi heads of State at a suitably late hour the next day. TravelFilter launches this week sometime. It will be fun. - Got in touch with my friend Lisa DeGrace and spent a few hours helping her prepare for her Sundance Ceremony and also getting coffee and shopping for toilets. - I got a haircut at Rudy's. It looks great. For future reference, my barber told me that the cut I like is a "Graduated A-line Bob" Good. - Hangout time with Steve and Sara including Lebanese food that was totally OMG tasty. Stayed up too late. - Chill out day the next day. Then walk around time checking out the library. Then dinner time with Steve and Sara and Hiram and Melissa (two new MeFi friends) including some excellent dessert and the movie Valley Girl projected on to the back wall of the dessert place. - Dropped at airport, redeye home, work and doctor's appointment, then bedtime.
I was away. MetaFilter had an eighth anniversary party in Portland Oregon and I got flown out to attend. I also got to see some friends I haven't seen in a while and meet some new ones. I like Portland. It feels like Seattle did when I first got there, before Seattle got hinky and most of my friends moved away. The MeFi party was at Ground Kontrol, a video game and pinball arcade. MetaFilter sprung for free games all night and an open bar. Maybe 120-130 people showed up over the course of the evening, some I knew, some I didn't know. I got a high schore on Tempest but it didn't last. I did some more hangout stuff over the weekend -- photos and links forthcoming -- but now I have the "I waited to come home til the last minute" problem where I was on the redeye last night and I'm at work today. Sleepily at work.
So I got my wallet back yesterday and on the way to getting it back, I had a party. Let me explain.
I left my wallet at the mall somehow on Friday, I have no idea how. Casey and Sandee -- who live in New Hampshire nearish to the mall -- offered to go to the mall to pick it up. I asked them what would be a good way to meet up to exchange it and they said "Why don't we come to your place to grill stuff on the 4th?" Sounded good to me. I invited some other people.
They went to the mall where my wallet was locked in a safe that very few people knew how to open, but they persevered. I got a lot of definite maybes from people who already had some stuff to do on the 4th. After the parade (photos of all of this here) I came back to do some prep work. I made turkey/pork burgers, two salads, some angel food cake and cut up some peppers (for the grill) and strawberries (for the cake). I also had some Spirit of America Little Debbie cakes because I thought they were hilarious and they were on sale at the dented can store.
My wallet was returned to me. People came to eat food. We had a good time. It rained like the bejesus. I was a little pleasantly surprised that except for cash money (which I had to borrow from a friend for things like eating) I could safely do without everything in my wallet for almost a week. I don't really need my library cards to check out books. I didn't need to buy anything on credit. I wasn't flying and didn't get pulled over while driving. The supermarket let me use their discount card. I didn't need emergency road service or health care.
Today one of my projects is to take all my stuff in my wallet and photocopy it so that if I ever lost my wallet for real, I can more easily straighten this all out. I'm also going to take a dremel tool to my health care card which has my social security number on the front of it. I had previously crossed it out with permanent marker, but I think it's time to make a stronger statement.
I did not get an iPhone. I've been a cell phone user for about two months now, I don't need a cell phone that costs more than I make in a month at one of my jobs. Oh, and they don't have service in Vermont. I'm sure you can use them here, but I wouldn't be able to get an 802 number. However, I was definitely iPhone curious so when my friend Casey said he was going down to the Rockingham Mall to wait in line, I said I'd swing by and say hello and see what was happening. It was a good time. I took a few pictures. I made a little video. I watched my Flickr photostream fill up with pictures of people with their new phones.
Once Casey got his phone registered we messed around with it a bunch. The interface is impressive. It's not Mac-like at all, and to me it felt sort of intuitive, but I've been around computers a lot. It does some pretty basic things fairly well: phone calls, photos, video-watching, music playing (great speakers actually) and has some really killer mapping tools. The on-screen keyboard is a little tough for people with big hands and as near as I can tell there's no other way to interact with it. It took forever to sync up the first time. And, of course, it's $600 or so. The line-waiting experience was so weird, so staged, so hypey but the people were really nice and chummy. I like geeks. I even met a guy who had been linked on MetaFilter which was a fun story.
The last time I can remember waiting in a really long line for anything that wasn't food in Eastern Europe, a roller coaster ride, or airport security, I think I was buying Violent Femmes concert tickets in high school. We camped out overnight in Boston and got fourth row seats. This was before Ticketmaster was a huge Internet business so if you waited in the big line at the box office you'd wind up with something good. There were maybe 100 people in line at the Apple Store when I stopped counting and I think the bulk of them wound up with phones. While Casey was making his purchase I noticed that the store model phones were active so I stood around making iPhone calls while he finalized his purchase.
At some point in the whole crazy mall experience -- when do I ever go to malls anymore? never -- I misplaced my wallet which I realized the next day right before I headed home. After a few phone calls it turns out that the mall security people had it and all my crap was still in it. I had spent a lot of the drive back making a mental list of what was in my wallet [credit cards and library cards mostly] and getting to not spend the rest of my saturday reporting all my stuff missing or stolen turned out to be the high point of what was still otherwise a very entertaining start to my weekend.
note: for those of you who were wonderng why you couldn't comment all of the sudden (this past month) without being part of my "team" it was just a momentary blip. I suddenly got a ton of comment spam while I was on the road, turned comments off until I could deal with it and then... forgot. Feel free to comment away. Thanks to Kate for pointing this out.
I know the whole jessamyn.com universe sometimes seems like it's just this blog now, but there's a lot here. I did update the "about me" page today, for the first time in a few years. I didn't write anything new, just copied the Valley News article that was published about me and now no longer online, in flagrant violation of applicable copyright. I guess if there's one thing that blogs and continuous partial broadcasting have taught us, it's that there's never a whole story. So this is another freeze frame from back when that article was written. Close readers will notice a few teeny inaccuracies, but it's really mostly right. I added a few hyperlinks but otherwise it's just how it was in the newspaper.
update: in the "weird timing" category, I ran into Valley News writer Alex Hanson, who wrote this article, at Onion Flats this evening where I went for dinner. I don't think I've seen him since the interview.
I wrenched my shoulder overswimming and now have to take it easy and do exercises according to my physical therapist (a nice Libertarian sort who uses words like "wimpy" and "freaky" to describe my physiology but I have to believe he means it in the nicest way) so I've been annoyed and a bit under the weather lately. Add to this that two of my other female colleagues seem to have fluish symptoms of eerily similar description and I've shifted from my normal low-grade hypochondria to full-on chemical warfare conspiracy theories. My guess is that I am only right if they've been able to somehow lace the toxic agent into the local pollen because there's certainly a lot of that around and I haven't had any of my normal Spring sniffles....
In any case, I've been tired and achey and taking it easy. I got back from NH only to head back out to go to my Dad's for Father's Day and a MetaFilter meetup in Marlboro MA on my way back home. This weekend I'm going to a wedding in Brooklyn and then I swear I'm staying home.
I had some good successes at work today, more Ubuntu happiness as well as more old people with new computers who seem to think I am some sort of super wizard lady when I explain how to open a program, follow a hyperlink or send an email. It's sort of low-hanging fruit I guess, but it's fun for me to do I also got to talk to one library about a long range plan that might include an open source library catalog and a media creation center for people to learn how to interact with their web environments. I'd be happy if that happened, but I was happy just to get to say it out loud and have someone seriously listen to me.
When I got home from my friends' house this evening, there was a phone message from JetBlue -- the airline that lost/stole my stuff in Puerto Rico -- saying they had forwarded the letter I had sent to their CEO to some central baggage specialist who would be calling me back in a few days. Apparently JetBlue may not want to go to small claims court over $70 worth of cables. I, on the other hand, would love to go to small claims court over $70 worth of cables. I have nothing but time and a burning distaste for getting jerked around over technicalities on stuff like this. I like JetBlue an awful lot most days, but I think they could have handled this with more class.
My only other recent event of note is that I bought a car, on Facebook, from a friend of mine. I need to go to Ithaca to get it, or get someone from Ithaca to drive it here. If you are Ithaca-linked in some way, please feel free to drop me an email.
Yesterday was deemed "one of the country's worst days this year for air travel." And hey check me out, I made it home! Well, I made it home this morning actually at a time which is late in my world but not obscene. I had a good time in Ann Arbor and even a decent time in the Detroit airport where I was waiting, loaded on to the plane, loaded off the plane, delayed and finally transported home where we had to stay in a holding pattern over Burlington waiting for the wind to die down. By the time I got back, the Thrifty lot place where my car was had closed. Thanks to my cellular telemophone I had arranged with the guys to leave my car in their parking lot, key under the floormat. I got a ride to it from a guy on my flight. I drove home on an empty foggy highway which was lit mostly by the moon. I pulled into my driveway as the church bell struck three, noticed that someone had mowed my lawn while I was away, and went immediately to bed.
I talk a lot about places I travel as not really being my idea of a fantasy. I got home and got out of the car and heard the river rushing behind the house and the peepers making all of their noises and saw the freaky looking moon hanging over the neighbors' yard and figured maybe it's just tough to top this.
I'd have a photo to show you of Puerto Rico except I don't have the cable for my camera. I don't have it because either I lost it or it was stolen/lost from my luggage. Either is about equally possible. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
I know that if you travel enough once in a while all the forces conspire to give you a truly bad trip. This trip is, apparently, mine. That said, it's not too bad. Here's what's been happening. I got up early on Sunday to get to the airport. I don't like getting up early but I accept that it's necessary. However, my flight was delayed. Then it was delayed again. Then it was finally cancelled. I was too busy fruiting around on the free wifi to get in line quickly enough to complain, so I got to twiddle my thumbs on hold (yay for cell phones) and figure out my next move. US Airways said they could get me out the next day. Jet Blue said they could get me out in a few hours. These two airlines don't really talk to each other in a computer fashion however, so it was time to shell out for a new ticket and hope against hope that the conference people would see this as a necessary added expense. As usual, my lack of "What would a normal person do in this circumstance?" sense means that I had far more nervousness choosing this route then I might have otherwise.
JetBlue got me out of there at 4 pm and then stuck me in JFK for a few hours, and on the tarmac in a rainstorm for an hour more. I got into San Juan at 1:45 in the morning -- this is totally a normal hour for me, not so much for other people on my flight -- and was in bed and asleep at the Intercontinental by around 3. My room faces the ocean. It's nice. The room they tried to put me in faced the highway and was right up against the elevators. I traded it in. I don't think I took anything out of my bag there. When I unpacked I realized that my stuff was soaking wet. Not like a little damp, like dripping wet. This was mostly okay. I hung stuff out to dry. One of my shirts may be a little screwed up. When I got back from my trip to Old San Juan today (more on that later) I went to offload my photos and realized my camera cable wasn't in my bag. Neither was my battery charger. Neither was my dongle, the stupid expensive dongle that I need for my laptop to talk to the projector. In fact everything in the side pocket of my bag was ... gone. Solving these problems takes time. I didn't lose anything I can't replace, but I do sort of need that dongle for my talk tomorrow. CompUSA has one I can buy, but I'll have to spend all day tomorrow on busses (or $40 on cabs) to buy one. I was hoping to go to the beach.
I've spoken to people at the places where I think I might have left my stuff, in case maybe this was my own fault. My day yesterday was pretty long, I forget things occasionally. I worried that when I told JetBlue that TSA left not one but two "we inspected this!" tags in my bag that they might hand off resposibility to them, but I guess that's not how they operate. They say they're treating this like a "pilferage" as if anyone wants my stupid cables. I'm treating it like a "some things fell out of my bag" case, but one that happened on JetBlue's watch. I talked to my contact here today and he mentioned something about being on "Carribean time" and said he didn't even know if my talk was going for 90 minutes as we discussed or 60 or even when it started. With this sort of approach, I'm not biting my nails down worrying about it, seems like they'd be happy with a decent puppet show and maybe a few duck jokes.
When the phrase "radio silence" doesn't make me think of Thomas Dolby, it makes me think of a bunch of guys in a submarine turning off all of their soundmaking equipment and engines and floating quietly in the water looking nervously around waiting to see if something bad happens, expecting something bad.
So, I've been MIA because I've been waiting for some test results from the doc that turned out to be nothing but had a small chance of turning out to be something and I sat around with my noisemakers off for a week, worrying. I am developing a very very annoying [to me] habit of becoming irrational about my health during periods of great stress. Now that I'm back into rational-land [or "illusion of rational" land which will have to suffice] it's something I'm officially working on.
Or will, when I get back from Boston, and Puerto Rico, and Ann Arbor Michigan, and New Hampshire. I know, I know "Gee, Jessamyn can't imagine what in your life could be stressful!" Today I can mostly laugh at myself, yesterday things weren't seeming so funny.
But despite my seeming hibernation, a lot has gotten done. I helped install an online catalog for a public library. I used a reel mower to mow my lawn. I sent out some letters. I almost finished a book. I took a lot of people out to lunch in the past week or two and got taken out to lunch myself. Yay for lunch. Today I get in the car and drive down to Massachusetts. Check me out on this list of fancy people! I hope to be checking in here a little more often. Thanks, as always for checking in with me.
It's a good and bad week for birds. The grosbeaks have come back this week and I saw a Baltimore oriole way up high in the trees which never happens. My neighbor Chris was over so he was able to help me identify the bird and share in the little "yay orioles!" party. It was a bad week for the hermit thrush who flew into the window, first one of the season.
It was a good and bad week for Ubuntu+Jessamyn. I got briefly internet-famous which as you all know does not translate into beer or anything useful most of the time. Then I spent too much of yesterday trying to get Ubuntu to do all the great stuff it does on my own laptop. I installed what seemed like several hundred package upgrades. I got Flash working. I was online... and then something happened and I wasn't anymore. Then I looked out the window and was like "what the HELL am I doing inside today?" and left.
It was a good and bad week for the lawn. I actually got off my ass and raked up last year's leaves and gave everything the once over. The good news is that tulips and daffodils are up and looking great. The bad news is that I have no idea what the hell I am doing and that's going to be clear in about four days as the lawn gets overgrown and I don't even know how to start the lawnmower. I'd consider investing in seven cats just so it's obvious that I plan to hole up here for the next 40 years (j/k, j/k) but my neighbor has those. Maybe he'll let me borrow them.
My Summer travel plans include Burlington (VLA), Puerto Rico (ACURIL), Ann Arbor, New York (wedding), Portland (MeFi Anniversary) and Seattle (wedding). I think I am taking August off.
So I got back from the Massachusetts Library Association conference on Friday. Monday I went to one of the little libraries I work with and installed Ubuntu on their donated PCs. They have two Windows machines and the new machines asked for a Windows product code key when you turned them on. Pretty annoying. I had been messing around with Ubuntu -- a user-friendly Linux distribution -- and was pleasantly surprised how well it worked on my new laptop. Previously I had messed around with Linux on old PCs and it had been a nightmare of drivers and missing fonts and me not really understanding enough to make it work right. That has changed.
So I installed Ubuntu and made a little movie of it. I'm working on my little movie skills as I'm sure everyone who reads this knows. Each time I try to learn one more new technique. This time it was the freeze-frames and I actually put myself in this one doing a small voice over spot. It took an hour or two to put the thing together, cheezy graphics and all, then I went to bed. Tuesday I got up and went to work, sent the video around to my friends as usual. I'm always happy when 30-40 people see them. YouTube has a lot of little statistics so you can see what people rate your movie, or who links to it.
So by Tuesday afternoon, I checked my movie page and instead of a few hundred views I had a few thousand. That was weird. I clicked around somewhat and discovered that my movie had been linked as the 802 Online VT Video of the day and Cathy Resmer had sent the link over to Boing Boing who also linked it. I got email. I always get a fair amount of email from random people thanks to working for MetaFilter and having the job that I do, but this was a whole new crowd. I got install advice & tips and just a lot of nice "you go girl" messages. The video makes installing Ubuntu look fun which has always been the sticking point for a lot of non-super-genius geeks like me, the unfunness.
So then I got home after some burgers with Stan (amusing recounting of this whole thing on his blog) and Ubuntu called. Actually it was a guy who does support and systems whatnot over at Canonical and we had a long rambly phone conversation about tech geekery. He said he'd send me a bunch of pressed professional looking Ubuntu CDs so I could hand them out to librarians everyplace. I said that was great since I go to library conferences all the time, and that my local conference was next week. I told my friends "Ubuntu called!" and their first question was oftn "How did they get your phone number?" but of course, my phone number has been on the internet since 1996 or so.
I watched my little video creep up the stat-o-meters over on YouTube for a while, replied to more email and IM well-wishes, took out the garbage and went to bed. I sort of feel like the continuous partial attention that the networked world gives us results in not just continuous partial friendship [as my friend David Weinberger calls it] but also continuous partial fame. When Boing Boing linked to me -- calling me an "Internet folk hero" which I find gigglingly amusing -- they linked to an old post they'd made about me from 2003 and I had a hazy memory of this sort of thing happening before. Meanwhile I had eight people at drop-in time yesterday, a new high for 2007, and I signed people up for PayPal, showed them how to "make a link," helped them make flyers for their Mary Kay spring sale, explained gmail and helped them with resume templates. To a person they were all like "Boing WHAT?" which is always a good keeping it real moment for me. Parlaying the Internet Folk Hero karma into Local Hero greenstamps is pretty high on my "to do" list. This all may help.
I made another little video, this one is actually decent and may transcend boring though I do use the adjective "little" far too often. It's just me walking around my town but I managed to put a vocal track (all in one take!), and and audio track and keep some of the original sounds and I think the mix works pretty well. Every time I go to the VT International Film Festival, I leave thinking "I'd like to make a little movie." This year I finally got off my ass and learned to do it. Like many technological things, it's not hard to do at all, but I'm finding it a real challenge to learn to do well.
Just a note to say that I decided I don't like blogging on Vox that much. Too confusingly nonintuitive for me, too low tech, too chirpy. May be fine for you. Wasn't right for me. After all, I already have a blog. It's here.
Some people get all their good ideas in the shower. I get a fair amount of good ideas in the pool but have to wait until I'm out and dry to write them down or implement them. However, often I get my good thinking done in the car. This is a bit of a problem since I don't like to drive much. I like the act of driving, but I sort of don't enjoy car culture, traffic, wasting resources etc. Since my car got a little banged up this Winter I go back and forth on the "Huh, do I need a newer car since this one is shabby now?" question and it's usually a good litmus test of my mood at the time [good mood = car is fine, bad mood = changeup the car situation].
Anyhow, I spent enough time driving in the past two days that my driving muscles are sore. I didn't know that this was possible. I drove down to Suffern NY to talk at a local area library conference. I gave a variant of my 2.0 talk and stuck around for lunch where I got to hear Pete Hamill give a really great lunch talk.
But, back to the car. The drive down was about five hours and the drive back the same. On the way down I took the Thruway and on the way back the Taconic State Parkway to Route 7. Nice easy driving, a lot to look at out the window. I had the radio on and didn't have to think much about where I was going and I got to plan out what the heck I'm up to in the next six to twelve month time period (upshot: more of the same but hopefully with some more focus and more actual vacation not work-as-vacation) and actually write a few things down. Even though I have a bunch of digital distraction widgets that were packed in the back somewhere, there's something nice and relaxing about just looking out the window at trees and rivers and the occasional groundhog to help gain some perspective on my whole job/career/path doing wireless, tech, teaching, moderating, typing and clicking.
My talk in Dodge City went well, though I may be nearing the end of my fly in one day, talk one day, fly out next day trips. It's tiring. To get to Dodge City you have to fly over it, to Denver, and then back. This airport is teeny. It has one gate, one employee, and one TSA person. It also has free wifi as did the Boot Hill Bed and Breakfast where I stayed. I'm pretty sleepy and the throat tickle hasn't abated entirely but neither has it gotten worse which is some sort of victory. My photos of Kansas are up on Flickr. I got to walk around a bit during sunset and look at some old buildings in the downtown area. Tonight I get to DC where I'll be hanging out with Mary Early, a pal of Forrest and Kelly's who I just met. She makes beeswax scultures. I get on the train Sunday and will be back by Sunday evening. I'd like to say "and then I'll sleep for a week" but actually I'll teach a few classes and then drive down to suburban NY to give a talk on Library 2.0 stuff. Then maybe the week-o-sleeping will commence.
I made a little movie about the train ride down. I sat on the "wrong" side of the train which is the side that doesn't face the Hudson River. It's definitely a less dramatic view, but I found there was some nice stuff to look at anyhow.
My talk at Computers in Libraries went really pretty well. There were a few hundred people -- librarian types mostly -- who heard my Pimp My Firefox talk.
At the point at which I heard the woman on the train next to me coughing, I knew I might be coming down with something. I've had a tickly throat for a few days, not helped at all by talking nonstop from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep. I go to Kansas on Thursday to give a talk, so I'll be resting up tomorrow.
I am once agan confronted with the old travelling salesman/Jessamyn problem where I have to get myself from here to DC somehow. The good news is, this is easy. The bad news is, there are a ton of options. If I were going to LA, the answer would be simple "Fly! Find a cheap ticket!" but to DC the possibilities are all over the place. Drive? Bus? Bus + fly? Drive + train? Carpool? Rideshare? Trip + visit? Through NY? Boston? New Haven? Amherst?
I settled on a short drive + train + train plus a quickie stop in Brooklyn to see some friends and their baby who I haven't seen since she was about a week old. When I get to DC I'm staying in a hotel that costs more than I pay for a month of heating oil, but it's covered by the conference committee. I am going to be giving a fun talk on how to make Firefox (the browser) do the things you want it to do including make searching easier, make pages easier to read and putting more resources at your fingertips. I've been spending a lot of time mucking about with it this week. The real reason the train won out, of course, is that I can read on the train.
I can, of course, read here at home but there are a lot of other thigns to do as well. lately I've been watching James Burke'sConnection series and relearning some of the science and technology history that I had long since forgotten. I have also been watching some old Hercule Poirot mysteries with David Suchet, many of which the library has.
It's supposed to snow here tomorrow. I suspect there will be cherry blossoms in DC.
The Digitization of the Rural Electrification Project
Apr 6, 2007
Sometime in 1999 there was an episode of 0sil8 where Jason had people call his voicemail at work and leave him messages. Then he published them on a little timewasting page. I can't get them to play through the interface but all the .rm files are still there. I liked having an audiorecording of a story I liked, so I made a little web page with the text, and a nice looking picture and linked the story. Then I forgot about it for a long time.
Now that I've been making some little movies, I'm digging through some old folders labelled storage/ancient/reallyreallyold/misc crap/todo and finding things like this. I got a copy of Audio Hijack and made an aiff out of the story. Then I converted it to an MP3 with iTunes. Then I put it here. [crossposted from vox]
There was an article about Wikipedia in the local paper, Sunday supplement even, that has some quotes from me and even a picture. No, I don't know what is up with my hair. Close readers may notice that this is the second time I have been photographed for the Times Argus holding a laptop. I'm not sure what happened to that other picture, it was almost seven years ago.
I went to see the Tunbridge 55th Annual Show (youtube link. their title, not mine) a local fundraising effort from the Tunbridge Civic Club. Apparently in days of yore this was a minstrel show and now it is decidedly a non-minstrel show (except for the guy in blueface?) with an introduction explaining what the show used to be like. I made a little movie of some high points. Still learning how to use all the camera + software + youtubery.
wonky bad week turns into good week - recap
Mar 31, 2007
It's tough when it's school vacation. This is not because there are more teenagers on the street or because the library isn't open as much. It's tough when it's school vacation because the pool schedule gets erratic becaue most lifeguards are on vacation. When I'm having an otherwise good day that goes south, I can't work it off in the pool. Or, I may show up all ful of piss and vinegar expecting to swim and then can't. In this case only vegetable soup will save me, apparently. I'm up to 35 miles for the year.
In any case, these are the milestones from this week, both up and down.
Ola is getting relocated to Botswana. I got a series of confusing emails from her where it looked like she was leaving Kiribati because of safety/transportation issues (not hers personally as I understand it, but the country's generally) and might be back soon. I went through about 24 hours of "Oh my god, I just got this place working like a finely oiled machine" Then she emailed and said she'd be going to Botswana instead. She's getting back to California on Monday and heading out to Africa in mid-April. I will likely not see her, but I'll probably talk to her on the phone. She seems okay with the change, but she'll have done more plane travel than me without all the fun vacation part of the trip. I'll keep you posted on her whereabouts.
I had a Kafkaesque run-in with the health insurance company. They bill on the 15th of the month. If you haven't paid by the first day of the next month they cancel your health insurance, effective immediately. Now, I'll jump through a lot of hoops for low cost health care, but I sent a check and... something happened to it. I was jetlagged, who knows where I sent it, or maybe it arrived and slipped through a crack. By the time I figured it all out, it was Tuesday and I spoke to many nice people who claimed that the ONLY way, the only way to pay my health insurance bill was via check, via the mail. No person could take my money, no phone representative would take my credit card, no state worker would confirm my check had been delivered, no one would take my eleven dollars. Their back up plan was to give me an address to Fedex a check to when I asked where I could drop one off. I was very nice and, in my most pleasant phone manner asked if they were really going to cancel my health insurance because their system was so antiquated they did not have a post-1950's system for taking my money. Eventually I got through to someone whose job title included the word "grievance" and was given an address, in Waterbury, where just this once, I could drop a check off. It felt like a somewhat hollow victory but at least I don't have to worry about getting his by a bus.
I went to see a fancy ear doctor about the ringing in my ears that's been going on for the past few months. She says my hearing is fine, but the ringing may not go away. It was nicer the way she said it than the "suck it up" way my doctor said it. I'm not being driven crazy by it, but that's partly because I've been doing my best to ignore it -- been working okay so far. Don't expect to hear anything else from me on the subject, it's one of those weird topics where endless talking about it actually makes it seem worse than it is.
I got an article published in Library Media Connection magazine (yay!) and they screwed it up (boo!). One of the hardest things for me about writing is that I dislike being edited, a lot. I've found a few editors I work really well with, but maybe it's the profession or maybe me being a perfectionist but I swear I've had more errors injected into my articles via editing than taken out of them. In this case a perfectly good screenshot that I'd supplied was replaced with a different screenshot, of a completely different part of the website, that didn't illustrate what the caption said it did. My first inkling that this had happened was seeing it in print. I got a very nice apology from the editor but also a "gee I don't do layout" admission so it's still a mystery what exactly happened.
Good things that happened included my Excel class that has been going gangbusters and my hilarious (to me) sample spreadsheet that I whipped up for Seven Dwarves LLC for everyone to work on. I also got a copy of my friend Meredith's book Social Software in Libraries in which I am one of the two back-cover blurbers. I went to Maine last weekend for a MetaFilter meetup and to see some friends and it was a great excuse for a day away. You can see some dorky pictures here. I also went to Small Dog and finally bought a dongle for my newish laptop so that I can use it with a video projector. I then came home and showed it off to Forrest and Kelly who already had one that they never used. It never occurred to me to ask "hey before I drive off the Burlington, do you guys have a spare dongle?" I made another little semi-boring movie. The house next door is for sale again if anyone would like to be my neighbor. The property value has been decreased by one birdhouse which I stole because squirrel piss destroyed one of mine. Won't you be my neighbor?
If last year was any indication, it will take another week until I feel that my entire brain is back from Australia but I've done better at waking up before noon lately, though the obscene phone call (I think it was obscene, I couldn't really make out what the kid was saying) at 1 am didn't help. I've decided to learn a new skill: making little movies. I spent part of our road trip hanging out the window taking little videos of the Great Ocean Road and side of the road sights. When I got back I tried to put them together into something that wasn't just clip-clip-clip-end. Then I tried it again with some different scenery yesterday. Neither of them are high art filmmaking but they have some neat things to look at and some okay music. Every year when I go to the VT Film Festival I say "I should make a little movie" and now I think I may know how to go do that. Also, thanks to YouTube, you can see them.
A quick note to say my sleep is still a little messed up but I have finally uploaded all the photos (or all the decent photos) from my Australia trip. Kate and I may combine our sets of pictures into one huge group at some point, but for now, mine are here and you can see them even if you don't have a Flickr account: My Australia 2007 photoset.
touchdown in US, wrote this from the airplane
Mar 13, 2007
I don't have much else to say about the Internet situation in Australia except that it surprised me. Maybe if I had been with more net-native locals I would not have found the quest for Internet so taxing, but as it was, I felt a little hunter-gather-y trying to figure out what part of my day I had to dedicate to finding access so I could check email and upload a few pictures. Serious props for the local public library systems of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney -- and the coffee shops of Perth -- for having almost the only decent (and affordable) wifi in the whole country.
I'm writing this from the plane. We left at 11 am Sydney time and will arrive in LAX about five hours before we left, timewise. Add to this the daylight savings change of a few days ago and I expect to be thoroughly confused by the time I get home. There's a real-time map of our journey on the little teevees in front of us so I know, to the minute, when we should be touching down.
A lot has happened, nearly all of it good. We finished our Great Ocean Road drive and I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. What a totally beautiful unforgettable trip. We got to Melbourne in decent time for a fun lunch with some local librarians. One of them told me that she had the keys to the Melbourne Atheneum and Kate and I and Tim got an impromptu tour. I went to two MetaFilter meetups in 24 hours, one in Melbourne (Japanese food, fun techie folks, ice cream, rooftop bar!) and one in Sydney the next afternoon (harbor walk, emu pizza, silly photos, lots of Americans!). I've always enjoyed meeting MetaFilter people and it was fun to have Kate along for these.
The early downside to Sydney, soon rectified, was our hotel room. I booked us a room where I had stayed last time, at the downtown YWCA Hotel. This time it was a more touristy season and so our room -- the last in the place, they told us -- was small, had a single giant bed (I have now learned the difference between "twin" and "double" in Australian), no windows that opened, and poozly AC that didn't really work. In short it was a sauna, and we were exhausted and sunburned and in need of rest. Kate and I turned on all of our "How can we make this right?" customer service charm, but the folks at the desk couldn't fix the problem. I wound up renting a computer at Kinko's, logging in to wotif.com, booking us a room slightly south of the cental business district, asking for and requesting a full refund at place #1 and walking us a mile with our gear to the new place, all after about 9:30 pm on a Sunday. Yay for us!
The new place was amazing and friendly with ice cold air conditioning and a fun quickie mart around the corner connected to a Malaysian restaurant where all the cab drivers hung out. That restaurant was the source of one of the best meals I've ever had -- tasty, but also in a "Wow this day has been one huge tiring hectic hassle and now I'm going to get into bed in my PJs and eat honey chicken and fried rice and isn't life grand?" way.
We had a day in Sydney to wander around, spend our extra Australian money, and be sad that we couldn't stay longer which I think is always the best way to leave a vacation. Kate and I got along great, just really great. I have to remember that even though I'm sort of used to having a sister who is fun to hang out with, game for almost everything, and has complementary sensibilities to mine about travel, money, other people and how late to sleep in the morning, that most people don't and I should count my blessings about this from time to time.
[note: this is from two days ago, but I didn't have any Internet until today. more recent update in a bit.]
So, hey, it's been a while. I'm in Robe, South Australia at a camper park of some sort. Kate and Tim and I are spending the night in some tricked out cabin type thing which has three bedrooms. I got the bunk bed room [no one else wanted it, I could not believe it!] and so decided to spend some time in the top bunk catching up a little here. We are across the road from the Southern Ocean and are on our drive from Adelaide in South Australia to Melbourne in Victoria. We'll spend the day in Melbourne and then fly up to Sydney, spend a day and a half there and then head home.
It's hard to believe that the trip is half over, or that we've already been to two State Libraries in two Australian states. It's harder still for me to believe that I've given three talks to a total of almost 300 people. And, lastly, it's almost impossible for me to believe how hard it's been to find Internet access that didn't either a) cost an arm and a leg (i.e. $30/day hotel prices) or b) have absurd downloading restrictions (Intermod's 100kB at a time policy). Thank jehu for the public library, really the only reliable source I've found on this trip so far.
So, what have we been up to? Well, in short, there was the long (36-38 hour) trip which was actually mostly fine. There was the hanging out with the librarians in Perth, the fancy accomodations at the Parmelia Hilton, the LocLib conference, and going out for drinks with Mom and Pat's friend Ian. Kate got a sunburn. I slept remarkably well. We found some great coffee shops and rode the bus around a lot, ate kabobs. My talks went well and I met a ton of interesting people who I was sad to not get to spend more time with. We went to King's Park and took a bunch of pictures only a few of which have made it online at this point.
Then we flew to Adelaide. My friend Tim met us there and we went to the fun animal park that I'd gone to in December 2004. Kate got to hug a koala. I gave a talk which was really more fun than it should have been and great that Kate got to sit in. We ate schnitzel and I got to drink some great beer. We looked around for non-library Internet access (wireless anyone?) and came up short. I took some night photos. Kate and I got to share a bed for the first time since.... since I can remember, maybe since we went to Cape Cod when I was eleven?
Today we got in the car and drove South to the coast and we're heading east towards Melbourne. At some point tomorrow or the next day we'll hit the Great Ocean Road which is the highway one of Australia. Nice and scenic and full of strange pull-offs and quirky little towns. Today we already got to see a wild emu, a kangaroo carcass on the beach, a weird lizard and a whole lot of beach/ocean/shells/surf. Even though I loved giving talks and meeting librarians, today I really feel like I'm on vacation, wearing my flip-flops and not worrying about what my email says.