Return to DC, also I made a thing

Briony Morrow-Cribbs from Christopher Schwarz on Vimeo.

Video detailing the work of Briony Morrow-Cribbs on the etchings she made for The Anarchist's Design Book by Lost Art Press. Filmed at The Putney School, Putney Vermont.

Music: Red Favorite/Jeremy Pisani

Film: Jessamyn West, James Poolner and Elizabeth West

I’m heading back to DC next week for the Computers in Libraries conference. If you see me please say hello.

This is a thing I made a few weeks ago. I posted it to social media on a Friday afternoon which is sort of a dead zone and didn’t get a lot of feedback on it. So I wanted to mention: I made this. I’m really proud of it and it was a lot of work relative to pushing memes around the internet so I hope you’ll watch all six minutes of it and I hope you like it.

It’s a little promo movie, a small paid gig, about a copperplate etching artist who did the illustrations for my cousin’s most recent book The Anarchist’s Design Book. I did it with my mom and Jim and with the very pleasant cooperation of the artist Briony Morrow-Cribbs. I put up a little photo set of pictures here.

I spent all day Tuesday at Town Meeting and then the next eight hours staffing the polls and counting votes. For all of my very serious beliefs that electoral politics at a national level are devoid of integrity (as much as I like Bernie) I still like watching local people try to work out their local issues by all getting together and talking about them. Not sure if I will write up a thing or not, but some photos are here.

Escape from DC

Library of Congress Interior I

Note: If you happen to read this blog on its actual website you may notice that I have updated the template. Let me know if you see anything weird.

I got back from DC on Friday night. It’s a decent story, the whole trip. I was invited down to go to an all-day meeting for a library-adjacent project that Mozilla is doing along with IMLS and some other folks. I got invited because I understand tech and digital literacy and understand digital inclusion issues. “Great,” I thought, “I’ll extend my trip a few days and see a few DC sights while I am down there…” Great plan, mostly. I got in Tuesday and went to the MLK Jr. branch and caught an MLK movie playing the Black History room. The meeting was fine, just sort of long and I am not great at meetings. I got in and they had misspelled my name on my name tag and even though I’ve been doing a lot of meditating and other uncrabby-me work, it still set the day off on a bad foot. I appreciate being invited to high-level meetings. I like the people there and feel like I contribute usefully, but there is something about them that brings out the worst in my psyche. I wish I understood it.

By the time the meeting was over on Wednesday, and I was having dinner with a Twitter friend (Hi Kyle!) it was clear that leaving town on Friday was going to be a mess because of the snow. I called the airline and they could reschedule me for a fee but not cancel my flight without a fee. Later in the week this moved to free rescheduling options but still no cancelling. I bet on it being cancelled and bought a train ticket for Friday. Since I flew out of Providence and not Burlington this was a shortish ride. When I went to bed at a friend’s place (Thanks Mary!) on Thursday after a long day of walking around downtown DC and dinner with a friend my flight was cancelled, entitling me to a refund (I can pay for my ticket online but a refund takes several weeks and forms to fill out). I got up Friday and went to the train station to get my train only to find that my ticket had been purchased for the day before. I accept this absent-minded professor brain I have been gifted with, but it’s a pain sometimes.

Despite all the news of people fleeing the city, I was able to get another ticket and had a nice Acela ride to Providence. The quiet car is a thing of beauty. Took the MBTA from the train station to the Providence airport and as I was lugging my bags from the train station to the parking garage (a schlep of about twenty minutes) a bored newslady grabbed me and asked how my day had been. Apparently there were no more flights in to or out of PVD and she was thin on story material. I blabbed for a while and then got to my car to find that I’d lost my parking ticket. Nervous about “lost ticket” threats I explained my “I just left DC!” story to the guy who took pity on me and charged me about half of what I would have paid if I had my card on me (money Mozilla doesn’t have to reimburse, you’re welcome!). Got home via the Miss Cranston Diner just in time to see myself on television.

Spent the entire day at home Saturday watching it snow and didn’t see another human being. I also visited the White House on Thursday (actually the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) to talk to the folks I spoke with over the summer, but there’s no real news and I said I wouldn’t be blogging about it. You can see some nice photos of the four-story library which is inside it and a photo of the bowling alley in the basement. Apparently once you get inside you can just walk around with your Appointment pass all day long.

Today was shoveling (Westport for eightish inches) and watching some football with Jim. I head back to Vermont tomorrow. Being back on the road has been great since I’m feeling good enough to do it. Here’s to more good days.

Resolved 2016: Let This Day Be Good

sunset over exit four

So 2015 was more challenging than usual. Mostly okay now but I had a lot of various maladies many of which took a while to resolve. This was partly because of the usual stuff–trouble getting appointments, things taking a while to heal, travel and vacations–but partly it’s because I got in my own way a bit too much. I’m smart and anxious and the first trait has a terrible multiplier effect on the second. So the end of this year saw me really working on calming down. Which sounds like an oxymoron but it’s really helped. Doing some regular meditation, staying offline for the first and last parts of the day, letting things slide more than seems reasonable at the time (but turns out to be ok!) all helped to wrap the difficult year up nicely. And I got better health insurance. And I’m working towards looking for a job that will handle this part of my life for me, the insurance part, but my status as itinerant freelance librarian doesn’t always lend itself to this.

So anyhow, I did my year end wrap ups which are listed here in one place:

And I checked back on my resolutions last year, both my offline resolutions and my online resolutions. I got my laundry done in decent fashion last year. I read before bed almost every night. I quit being only an armchair activist (mostly) and collated my online activities. It helped. I’m one of those people who resolutions work for. Making a promise to myself has motivational power. Totally AOK if they’re not your thing.

This year, in addition to flossing (because WTF why can’t I floss?), I have a meditation-inspired mantra which is the title of this post. I like it because emphasizing any of the five words can give you a different starting point and personal assignment for the day.

LET this day be good – get out of the way and leave the day be and it will be okay
Let THIS day be good – you can’t control what’s happening or what happened, let’s focus on today
Let this DAY be good – just a few hours, we can pull it off
Let this day BE good – the day without me will be fine and does not have to be special or exceptional, it can just be
Let this day be GOOD – good is okay. Good is fine. Settle for good.

That’s what I’m up to on this chilly January morning. Best of luck for a peaceful new year.

my year in cities and towns, 2015

mattress on floor, groton ct

Here are photos of the places I slept in 2015. Another short list. Now that I’ve solidly put my dad’s place on the my “projects and hobbies” todo list, I travel to other non-dad’s-place places less. So even though I didn’t go to too many places in 2015, I was away from home for several months. Which was fine.

Here’s the short list. Twelve places plus an airplane, six different states, one non-US country. Stars indicate multiple visits to the exact same place. Past years: 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 2007, 2006, 2005.

  1. Stow MA* – stayed at Kate’s place quite a few times, very nice guestroom, constantly improving.
  2. Aboard a British Airways flight – we got upgraded to business class, very nice.
  3. London UK – I got the bottom bunk in the tiny bunk bed room and found it quite to my liking.
  4. Westport MA* – stayed in a few different beds in this house (three? five?) and was here most of the summertime
  5. Raleigh NC – visited Steve and Heather and went on an actual vacation
  6. Amherst MA – saw Matthew and Michelle on my way down to Connecticut
  7. Groton CT – decided to stay in an AirBnB instead of a hotel, it was … fun and weird (and htis is me deciding to sleep in a hallway, the place itself is quite nice)
  8. Burlington VT* – saw Dave and Linda when I was in Vermont for VLA and again for ComicCon
  9. Boxboro MA – visited Mom when I was planning to stay in a hotel with Jim and the hotel was full of children. Good decision.
  10. Bangor Maine (2) – gave a talk to a bunch of fun librarians and had SO many pillows. Stayed at a hotel across the street the next time.
  11. Pasadena CA (2) – stayed with a friend and then at a snazzy hotel while I was there for CLA



So for whatever reason I decided I wanted to learn how to make those serious business hair buns the same week it turns out that I need glasses for reading. I’ve always been of mixed feelings about my perfect vision. Like, yes it’s good to be able to see when you wake up and all the rest but for someone in my line of work it’s good to have glasses! And I’ve got too much dignity (most of the time) to wear ones I don’t need. As this picture shows not having a need for glasses doesn’t mean I don’t HAVE glasses, I just rarely get to do anything with them.

On the first of December I woke up like I always do and did some reading (this book about the Metric system, really good) and I felt more than usual “Gee it’s taking my eyes some time to warm up this morning” and then I remembered my Pile of Random Glasses and sure enough, looking through one of the many pairs made all the words on the page that much clearer. People who knew my dad knew that this was sort of an ongoing joke with him. Eye troubles and multiple pairs of glasses and eyedrops and shirts that had to have pockets so that he could carry all of his glasses around. Jim is getting to be a bit like this. Now it’s my turn! I have at least a few pairs of these glasses that work for reading, so I have them placed next to anywhere in my house that I read. This is a total of about four places. If I am smart I bring a pair with me.

So then there’s the bun thing. I’ve been half-assing hair buns for a while and decided I wanted a nice way of putting my hair up that didn’t scream “I half-assed this!” So I asked my librarian friends about how to do a bun right and the answer surprised me: you use socks. Or you can anyhow. So I tried it and it’s fun and stupid and most of all it looks AWESOME WITH MY GLASSES. So that is it. The end. I made a YouTube playlist of useful bun videos. It’s been a long sometimes rocky year but I hope to be ending it on a high note.

This chainsaw is me

So my shoulder is still healing and I have become a master of speech to text techniques on various devices. I tell myself this is just me getting better at my job, but I am a little sick of it and I wish my shoulder would heal more quickly. I am doing more or less all the stuff, exercising, not doing the things that bother it, trying to sleep in the right way, leaning on the hot water bottle when I can. However, the thing that’s probably really going to help, jumping into the pool and getting some exercise, has been a little out of reach because I came down with the two-week cold thing that everyone has. 

And really, I like to think of myself as resilient, but the last two months have really been trying. I’m writing this now, or rather dictating this now, because I finally feel like I’ve turned a corner in a meaningful way maybe for the first time in months. After a few weeks of occasionally canceling class, and occasionally missing out on sleep because of coughing and other various maladies, I’m happily back in the classroom and happily sleeping at night without the assistance of 3 to 5 types of cold medicine. Everyone who has had to interact with the walking zombie that has been me over the last two months, thank you for your patience and your kindness.

On the bright side, I have gotten an awful lot of reading and movie watching done. I’ve been interviewed for two really interesting podcasts that have been transcribed that you might like to read (rumblestrip, circulating ideas). I put a new and improved daybed in the living room just in time to go spend a lot of time in it with a hot water bottle watching the birds while drinking a lot of  tea. I’ve given a few short talks, even with my hoarse voice, to the Rotary club and the New England Library Association and both went great. More to the point, I’m remembering what being me is like. I’m aware that the aging process means I’m not gonna wake up every morning feeling pain-free and full of energy and vim forever. I’m just hoping that as things decline they’ll do so gradually and not all of the sudden during my most favorite season for basically no reason.

Got home from work today at about 6:30 and was like “When did it start getting dark so early?” And I know this is a thing a lot of people have been thinking, but except for the lunar eclipse, I just haven’t been paying much attention to the outside world and I’m looking forward to being more present in my own life and the lives of others real soon now.


So hey, that Virgo Month of Leisureā€¦  I guess if you call lying around a lot watching a bunch of movies leisure then I think I did a good job. The downside is that I did a lot of this because I have some sort of pinched nerve or pulled muscle in my shoulder and it makes doing things with my primary mousing arm a bit of a challenge, if not outright painful. I’ve mostly shut up about this online partly because I don’t want everybody’s helpful advice (trust me, I am doing all the things) but also because I’ve been spending a lot of time minimizing online time in general. I mean I still read and participate a little bit, but I mostly do it through touchscreen interfaces and speech to text, and pretty much have not touched a mouse in a week except what I need to do for class.

Class is going really well, except for the unfortunate aspect where I have to put together a bunch of slides and labs and exercises each week and spend a lot of time writing on the whiteboard which is suboptimal for healing. Students are neat and interesting, VTC is a great place to work, and it really is fun to have a place to go and do your job instead of sitting at home in pajamas where everything gets filtered through a technology hole of some sort. Real life people have their own sort of challenges, and it’s a different set of challenges than the ones that I deal with with my mostly Internet jobs.

I’ve been doing my share of stuff too. We did a table at Vermont ComicCon which was really well received and a bunch of fun. I just got back from an overnight trip to Bangor Maine where I got to give a talk to a bunch of enthusiastic librarians and got to see some beautiful scenery. I was interviewed for two separate podcasts this month, both of which I think are really interesting. And you can listen to them here.

The rest of the time I’ve been trying to stay idle which is hard. I have watched a lot of movies, I’ve read a lot of books, I’ve gone for some walks outside and sometimes just laid around and stared at the ceiling, and I’ve done stretching, a lot of stretching. The weird thing about whatever this injury is is that it’s kind of hard to narrow down what the specific thing is. And, of course, doing things like ComicCon and driving to Maine are not necessarily good for the shoulder, but are very good for morale (and the pocketbook).

So if I haven’t returned your email or done that thing I said I was going to do, it’s probably because it involves some sort of mouse work. My apartment is perfectly suited for just lying around and looking out the windows and watching the birds, unfortunately my brain is slightly less suited for that. I’ve got more stories to tell about birthday mascot suits and librarian cosplay, but it will have to wait a little longer until I’m back at the helm.