kid weirdo

two small children sitting on a sofa in an old=time sepiaton print

I’ve been focusing on positive self-talk, or at least being aware of negative self-talk, lately. Noting the times when I’m saying to myself “And then you did that thing that screwed it all up” and trying to reframe that feeling/expression somewhat. But there are some expressions that may SOUND like they’re negative, but that really aren’t. I was a weird kid. That’s not negative self-talk, that’s fact. Spacey and solitary, things went fine for me for the most part. I grew up, went to a college for weirdos, and wound up finding my path and things are good. I occasionally struggle, but I don’t feel out of step in my little town here.

I wrote a thing and was interviewed for a thing that both touch on this feeling. One is about Hampshire College and the financial mess that they’re in, maybe closing and maybe not. I both care and don’t care about this. But I was surprised to find that I had some left over grar feelings from back then, and they open the article. The other was a very short piece I wrote about how much Alison Bechdel’s book Fun Home affected me, how much I felt, to use the common parlance, seen. Here are the two pieces:

I’m mostly off my Wikipedia jag which is probably just fine for now. Expect to see it flare up again this time next year.

quantified other selves

My other year end lists, over at the other blog are online now: reading list, library visit list. It’s the 13th day of the year and I’ve already racked up five library visits, but mostly because I’ve been filling in at the library. It’s been fun.

The big other winter hobby, which I somehow pick up every winter and then drop again when the weather improves, is picking away at Wikipedia’s representation problem, which I wrote about in March (shortly after I wrapped up a brief consulting gig with Wikipedia). Everyone’s got their own special set of skills and I’m always trying to use mine to do the things I like doing. This winter, the plan is to create Wikipedia pages, mostly for women and people of color. I’ve done a page a day so far and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve also been able to upload a bunch of photos of people that are better than the ones that were there. Until this weekend the general plan was:

  1. go to the NYPL’s Digital Collections
  2. do a search for the word “portrait” and limit to images that are in the public domain
  3. scan the results (all 6000 of them) for people who look like they might not be well-represented in Wikipedia
  4. add them
  5. GOTO 1

Then I finished scanning NYPL, and discovered that the Digital Library of Georgia also allows you to search by what is in the public domain, so that is next. Previously I’d used Florida Memory. I’d love to be adding photos from Vermont but there is no statewide image resource, much less one that allows searching by rights. Which is too bad. To be fair, most states don’t have this sort of archive.

I felt like listing what I’ve done somewhere and, while I speak Wikipedia, not everyone does, so here’s what I’ve been up to in a bloggy format. These are pages I created.

I also added a bunch of photos and you can see those mainly over at Wikimedia Commons. Most of these people either didn’t have a photo of them on Wikipedia, or they didn’t have a good one. A lot of people grab images from public domain books to add to Wikipedia which is great but then time passes and better images are available. It’s good to be able to add better photos and improve someone’s legacy. Once a photo is up on Wikipedia, it makes it to Google within minutes, it’s actually a little eerie.

The photo that leads this post is the one I’m stuck on. The caption just reads C. A. McGill and the photo is from Monrovia, Liberia. I’m pretty certain that this woman is part of the McGill Family who emigrated to Liberia (I added the woman’s photo that is on that page). There are photos of a few of the McGills and other early Liberian colonists in the Library of Congress. But, documentation is scarce and I haven’t been able to prove that this woman is related to those McGills. I’ll noodle around some more with this next week which is when #1lib1ref starts up again, and maybe write a few more pages. It’s good to have a hobby.

 

my year in cities and towns, 2018

three cats on a colorful bed with the #allwasok hashtag on it.

This picture is actually my sister’s bed, which I did not sleep in, because I was bad at taking photos this year. This was the year I said “No more travel!” after the summertime and mostly meant it. I did only three airplane trips this year and actually forgot to take a photo of the most exotic place I stayed, a sort of dorm room situation in Hawai’i. I wish I could say I enjoyed all this travel but it was sort of a down year for me and I didn’t rise to it. I took good pictures and I generally had that “Sitting in the backyard wrapped in a blanket” feeling to a lot of it. Sort of safe and comfortable but also sort of pining for home.

Here are all the places. Four states. Two provinces. Stars indicate multiple visits to the exact same place. Past years: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 2007, 2006, 2005.

  1. Boxboro MA* – here a lot doing various cleaning things. I do love this room.
  2. Westport MA* – here most of the summer and many of the holidays
  3. Toronto ON – wanted to stay at a friends but he was very sick and this trip was both enjoyable and a total bummer
  4. Montréal QC – my friends’ new house, super fun
  5. Brooklyn NY – the funniest looking bed with the best hosts
  6. Manoa HI – ups and downs here, I wish this excellent place was not right next to a bus stop
  7. Canandaigua NY – -this was a good trip but I should have stayed in a little motel
  8. Stow MA* – Kate got the guestroom up and running again! Always great to stay here
  9. Washington DC – a funny little hotel right by the train

civic intensity continues

the constitution spelled out in license plates of every state

I did most of the things (books, tires, momhouse cleaning) from the last post. I am no longer mostly irritable and/or frightened, but managing this stupid mental health issue is still an open trouble ticket. Thanks to all who offered various kinds of support, I always appreciate it. We’re now halfway through the holiday season (after Jimsmas and Thanksgiving and most of Hanukkah, before Solstice and Christmas and whatever New Years is going to turn into) and it’s good. I went away and I came back and took some pictures while I was out (which is where this license plate photo is from). There is snow on the ground. There is a flock of pine siskins on my feeder. I finally cleaned out the grotty place around the kitchen trash can which was a coffee ground pointillist painting for months because I could not be arsed to get on my knees and handle it. I cleared the “to get to” stuff off of my standing desk, rewired the space underneath it, and put up a new light. Now I can use it after the few hours of daylight are gone and I’m up for another day’s worth of time.

One of the people I checked in with about my mental health, when I would tell him about my days, said repeatedly “You do a lot.” It was said in a way that seemed sort of suspicious, like it was a symptom of something, like I was maybe doing too much. All I know is that I’ve always been this way, it’s nearly always worked, and I’m not sure of any other way to be, nor do I have any desire to explore other ways to be unless something is wrong. Maybe I talk about “doing things” a lot, listing out every errand, everything I clean up in my house. Maybe I have performative tendencies “Oh I am so busy!” but I know people who are like that, and I don’t feel I am like them. I am reading a great book by David Sedaris, his latest, where he talks about talking to his husband’s mother. She is a very reserved woman who doesn’t believe in talking about one’s good deeds publicly because it’s like you want credit for them. I’ve always come from a family where you talk about all the things–the good things you did, the stupid ways you fucked up, the errors you made, the way you tried to fix them–and talking about some of the good things is, I’ve always felt, a way to encourage others to do good things too. The internet can make things weird, and people worrying too much about “virtue signalling” may be part of that.

Last night I worked at a party at the Chandler Music Hall. This involved mostly stocking restrooms, sitting around, directing people upstairs, answering the occasional question. But while I was there, I ran into a woman who is the mom of a woman I knew was looking into being on the Conservation Commission. We’ve been looking for a new member for a while and I put in a good word for the committee “The meetings are well-run. You get a chance to give back to the town. I think she’d be a great fit.” I know I may be being overly optimistic, but I truly feel like nearly everyone I know in town is involved in some sort of civic endeavor. Some of the people who aren’t might just need a nudge. Talking that sort of thing up can be that nudge. Civics can be catching.

civics and the things that measure the day

side of a barn entirely covered with license plates

Yesterday I slept through my alarm and nearly missed my court date. Today that same alarm woke me right the hell up but it’s a Saturday and I didn’t have to be awake but hey there is stuff I can do.

The last month was sort of a blur. I went in for a routine “Hey can you refill my anxiety meds prescription?” appointment and my slightly-new-to-me doc said “No.” (for a number of reasons, none of which had much to do with me) In addition to making my anxiety sort of spikey, this just set off more appointments and more “wait and see” nonsense and it’s been a month of alternating between irritable and frightened, so I haven’t been super chatty. Things are mostly stable for now. Though I still lack a long term plan, I am set up for the near future. I don’t talk much about my mental health here because it’s boring to me and it’s always been one of those “I have some issues, they’re being effectively treated.” things. But it might explain why I was MIA in a lot of October.

I did do a few things however. I testified in the trial of the guy who defrauded the town by doing a Kickstarter to raise money for a drive-in movie projector and then skipped town with it. I was the star witness. Exciting. I did a different thing for Halloween (walking around with friends instead of handing out candy) and it was a nice little shake-up to a routine. I’ve been helping a friend campaign for a state office which is where this photo is from, the hills of Granville. Drop-in Time continues and I tweet a little thread about it every week. Tuesday I work the polls all day. Today I get in a car and go see Jim in his new apartment in Belmont and visit with him and his friend Karla. Before that I help my sister clear some stuff out of my mom’s house.

The days are shorter. I’m spending more time in bed with the covers over me with my nose in a book. I’m on track to read 100 books this year which was my “stretch goal” (booklist is here) and maybe do 100 library visits. I have to put my snow tires on. We all get a free hour tomorrow. My friend has a tag she uses on Instagram that has always resonated with me #thingsthatmeasuretheday and that’s where my head is at lately. These are the things. They measure the day. And that is enough for now.

leisure

several home made brightly colored envelopes made from pages of an atlas

The coda to the last post is that I wound up with another consulting gig, same amount of time and over twice the pay. I am happy to be a person who lands on her feet.

This summer has been a nice mix of some work and some play. Staying off the internet is good for my mental health and yet I am bad at it. So I made an offline project which is my 50 x 50 project. I turn 50 in a few weeks. I am sending 50 cards and letters in the month before that. If you are reading this and we know each other in real life and I have your address, there is a decent chance I am sending you one. This started out with making notecards using a technique in a book called Creative Correspondence. It’s a fun book with simple suggestions. One of them is basically bubble stuff + sugar + food coloring + straw to make these cool lunar patterns on paper. After sending out a few moon-y postcards, I was doing some cleanup here with Kate, getting rid of extra books, broken books, bad books. One book was an old atlas that had grown some green fuzz on the outside. It had gotten as far as the recycle bin when Jim asked after it… weren’t there some good maps on the inside…? Jim is always a sucker for maps. And since the green fuzz was only on the OUTside, we took the inside of the atlas back inside the house and I’ve been using it for envelope making, another thing described in the book. In this one, you take one big piece of paper and fold it a few times and then you have an envelope that is held together just by the stamp on the front. It’s quite elegant.

So, you know me, perpetual helper-lady, I made a little photo-essay so other people can see how to make notecards and envelopes too. This is where I admit that the Virgo Month of Leisure starts tomorrow and I am busy already. I will make another post outlining my decade-plus of Virgo Month of Leisure fails. I did make a new little web page for it. #VirgoMOL What are you doing this month?

losing

fortune cookie reading "I learn by going where I have to go"

So I lost that job I was sort of excited about. And when I say lost I mean I was summarily fired last Friday afternoon with a vague collection of reasons after working there eleven days. I’m not even mad so much as “Wow, I guess that was a terrible fit, huh?” I own my part in it. Here’s the story anyhow. This is not intended to be a call-out, so I’m leaving some things vague.

This company, or rather, one person at this company who I had worked with elsewhere, had been asking if I was interested in work since last January. I had a Skype interview that I thought went well, where they said “We’ll call you” and then didn’t. Contacted me again later in the year and we slowly started putting together a gig for me there. I have a lot of requirements, but I also work my ass off. I think I’m a good employee but it depends what you’re looking for. Eventually we settled on ten hours a week contracting (temporary but maybe an option to extend) at a rate of pay that made it worth it. I’d be doing spam fighting. Not glamorous, but necessary, and really interesting in a puzzle sort of way. This company uses an agency to do all the hiring for their part-timers, so I’d technically be an employee of the agency, but this was seen as a mere hurdle. I started the process in June.

Onboarding was a serious pain in the ass. You can read the set of tweets about it here. Being publicly grousey about this may have been part of the issue, but who knows? My future manager saw my tweets. Heck, he listened to the MetaFilter podcast where I talked about the job. I presumed he knew what he was getting into. I had to e-sign fifteen different documents, read dozens of curiously formatted URGENT emails, get logins to four different portals and a new Outlook email address, and drive to a service center to show someone my passport, all before I got any credentials at the job. There’s a longer discussion about how the tech industry treats contractors generally, I just figured this was a temporary hassle, a one-time gauntlet. My soon-to-be manager was with me sympathizing every step of the way. I had a STAFF badge on my profile page.

All the documents requiring signatures could be signed by checking a box, or you could draw something in a signature box. There was no room for discussing the terms of the contracts, one of which was a loyalty oath. I won’t lie, I had fun with this. Signing my NDA “ABOLISH ICE” was probably something I’d do again, but it was also something that got called out as “unprofessional” and I can’t argue with that. That said, the agency approved all my signatures and everything else and cleared me to work on the 5th of July. I thanked them and told them about the typos I’d found in their documents.

My job start was delayed due to the difficulty of getting my work laptop to me as I was traveling for the holidays, rural package delivery is always a challenge. I wasn’t expecting to be given a work laptop, so I got to add “learn Chrome OS” to my todo list which wasn’t that difficult but did take some time. The regular workers at the company mostly use Macs. On July 11th I got all my credentials, set up various two-factor authentications, and did a little training. I worked every day from then until the 20th, sometimes just a little, sometimes a few hours. The work was fun, the people were nice. I really liked being on a team. I really enjoyed having a boss who was good at being a manager and seemed to like the work I was doing.

Friday the 20th I got a phone call from my manager at 5 pm saying the agency could not extend an employment contract to me. He had received an email from one of his superiors and was asking me if I could think of why that might be. I could think of a few possibilities but was pretty confused. Then I got a call from the agency saying my “assignment was wrapping up” which I knew wasn’t true. I asked for some clarification and the woman from the agency–I rag on the process a little, but the people who worked there were pleasant and professional across the board–made a few phone calls and said there were two issues:

  • my NDA signature was unprofessional (truth)
  • I had used a computer other than my work laptop to do work (my manager had said this was ok and apparently it was not)

My manager had no idea, this had happened without his input. A spam fighting job is technically a security job, my title was Platform Health Security Analyst. Security jobs are more SRS BSNS than other jobs. I am not SRS BSNS, but I am pretty good at following rules. By the time I got back to my computer, all my credentials were revoked, my STAFF badge was gone. My manager said he’d check in with the big boss on Monday but he was pretty sure this was a done deal. I was told I could keep the laptop which had a list price of around two weeks of work. I talked it out with my sister. “Dude, I work for state government and we fire people all the time, this seems like a weird firing.” That said, it was a done deal and so I’ve sort of made my peace with it. I’m even a little hesitant to write about it because of my concern that someone will tell me that the real reason I was fired was because I am awful, or an idiot, or something. I can’t help feeling that there is more to the story, it’s tough to settle with the idea that I’ll probably never know.

My sister and I had Chinese food that Friday and I waited to open my fortune cookie until I’d gotten the final word on Monday that I wouldn’t be coming back. I got the final word. My fortune said “I learn by going where I have to go.” I don’t know if all Chinese food eaters are readers of Roethke, but I was, and I knew this poem. I’d written a report on it in high school. And I could make all sorts of hand-wavey interpretations of it within this context, but it felt good to see something familiar.

I’ve got no wrap-up here except that writing this down is my symbolic “OK now that’s over with.” I wasn’t even there long enough to put it on a resumé. I have some vague concerns that maybe I am secretly unemployable, but they’re pretty low key. My dad had a Bob Dylan song he liked to sing a lot, more than anything parts of it are running through my head, and not always the same part.

P.S. I’m giving the laptop to my Drop-In Time intern. His parents said it’s ok.