So hey I am sometimes telling funny stories over on Twitter and I’ve been less in the mood for longform posting. I am spacey lately. I am overcome with little fits of very bad or very good moods. This is all normal. But it means I’m better at communicating in person or over email than blogging for whatever reason.
The original purpose of this blog, way back in 1997, was to make my mom quit calling me. No, seriously. I lived in Seattle and if I was gone for a weekend she’d call my house sometimes three or four times, leaving increasingly agitated messages wondering where I was. I was a late-twenties woman doing my own thing who didn’t always check in with her mom before heading out of town or just not returning a phone call. My mom was very close to her mom in a sort of “Let’s stay in touch about day to day things” way. I was always less like that. We had mismatched expectations. So I’d keep the blog up to tell general stories and tell my mom if she was agitated she could go there and read what I was up to. And she did. Over the last few years I’d made more of an effort to keep in touch: sending postcards when I would travel (a trick I learned from my dad) or, in 2017, emailing her every day.
Once email became more ubiquitous, I was a little more reachable (and responsive) but I never got the hang of the “Let’s call to check in” routine, with anyone. Apologies to those who would prefer telephone interactions with me, they are not really an option. The blog grew and became the place I would tell little stories and add updates. As social media has been more of a bigger deal, a lot of my intermittent communications to the world have taken place there. I also have a library newsletter and that’s taken away some steam from my library blog. I really like telling these stories, I just do it less frequently.
So let me tell you what has been up.
- My mom’s Celebration of Life was better than expected and you can see a few photos here. If I had any regrets it’s that I didn’t wear something more flattering because some of these people I may not see again.
- I returned to Vermont with no firm plans about what Kate and I are doing about anything. This is fine and something Kate and I agree on. As always, I am lucky to have her in my life.
- Re-entry has been great and only rocky because I am a bear of very little brain and maybe trying to do too much. Everyone has been kind. Drop-in Time has started up again. My romance with this state continues.
- I am suing Equifax because everyone needs a hobby.
- I went to Edmonton Alberta to keynote a library conference and it went well and I met some great people and learned some great things. Amy, thanks for hosting me. Some photos.
- Jim got cataract surgery on the same day/time as my keynote (it went well too!) and we were both pleased to discover we seem to have more resilience for dealing with difficult/stressful situations as a couple and that’s neat to find out.
And I’m sure there are more things I forgot to mention. I’m keeping up my usual civics/volunteerism thing and doing a few odd jobs that invariably turns into seven odd jobs. The Equifax thing is getting some attention which was most of what I wanted out of it anyhow.
I rarely think of “social capital” as some sort of cosmic karma bank that I would need to make a withdrawal from, but it’s nice to know that there are other people out there just fellow traveling who are around to pitch in a word or a beer or a sandwich when it’s useful. I hope I can do the same. Thanks for reading, thanks for caring.
Whoops, I missed April. I had a headcold. Unlike the one last time, this one lasted a few weeks. I blame sleeping in the same room as a hamster.
Since last time I’ve done some more traveling and am in an extended period of being at home. Well, except for maybe going to MA this weekend but that’s another sort of home. After I travel I usually upload sets of photos to Flickr. I do this despite all the reports of Flickr being basically adrift with a very small staff and a parent company which has been bought by an even more who-cares parent company less than a year ago. I don’t care, I’m going to keep putting photos there until I stop being able to.
One of my photos, the one you see above, actually made Explore. Explore is a thing, algo based I think, where images that are some sort of popular show up. There’s a new Explore every day. A lot of people look at Flickr to just see nice photos and so if a photo “makes Explore” it suddenly gets more traffic. This was true back in the day and it’s still true now. The photos do have a bit of samey-ness to them but it’s still a good place to go look at some neat photos in an ad-free environment. I was surprised that this photo made the cut though. I mean I think t-shirt quilts are cool but I didn’t think they hit some sort of zeitgeist.
So, the photo sets I’ve put online since I last wrote include
So, not much to say but a lot for people to look at. Things are good. Spring is mostly here. I am mostly better and staying put for a little while.
I scored a 114 point word in Scrabble last week. The word was SEVENTY. On a double double, and then a bingo. Bam. I had a cold just after Town Meeting and a return from Montréal that lasted far shorter than it should have. In contrast, Jim has been sick an unreasonable amount with some sort of lingering crud so I haven’t seen him in a while.
What’s that, you say, you were on Montréal? I thought you were in Toronto! Both are true. Jim and I had a vacation scheduled to go see friends and walk around and eat food in Montréal. He was too sick to go. I figured I could stand to get out of the house anyhow. I had friends who had a friend who had a few cats that could use company and I hung out with them (friends and cats) for about a day and a half and had a nice drive up and back. Went to a new library and picked up some local library gossip. I’ve photographed 40 of Vermont’s 183 public libraries so far. Checked out a museum and got to use my Harvard Library card to save myself $10 (it’s almost like it was a paid fellowship!). Went to the public library and tried to get help getting on wifi from people who spoke French as a first language. Interesting experience. Stumbled into a street fair and walked for miles in five degree weather, it was a good time. More photos under this photo.
Lastly, I brought bagels down to Town Meeting which was the day after I got back. We have a little coffee hour before the meeting and I’d always fill up on cinnamon buns and then be all jangley and crabby through the meeting. This year I said “BE THE CHANGE, JESSAMYN” and brought something with protein. And so did other people. I wrote a little bit about my Town Meeting experience on the Harvard blog, it was a good experience. Between getting up for coffee hour and staying late for vote counting (and getting to tell my friend he’d won his election!) I had a 12 hour day being busy. This is not usual for me. More photos under this photo.
So I got home and crashed and stayed crashed for a few days. My positive self-talk is that I was snuffly because I hugged too many people and that is the story I am sticking to.
Next week I am working at an actual library (filling in for Virgil who got a new job!) and tweeting for a week the @ThisisVT account which is something done by the State Department of Tourism. I am also feuding with the State Department of Taxes so I am sure this will all be just grand.
I’m exceptionally lucky in that I’m not too affected by the shorter days. I mean… I require more coffee, want to stay in pajamas longer, and probably sleep more, but I don’t wind up with SAD and am generally able to get out of bed with good humor most days. However I post less frequently to my blog in the winter both because I’m a little more low-functioning generally and also because I don’t want to say “Hey things are great!” and then jinx something. I am aware that this is superstitious so I figured I’d come clean about it. Things really have been okay and February is more than half over.
- My trips to Florida and Toronto went just fine even if it was a bit too much travel for me (wrap-up on my newsletter, photos here)
- I had a fly-by trip to Cambridge which went really well and got to spend some time with Jim. We found a new favorite lunch place where if you show up right before closing they give you all the leftover hash browns!
- I kept to my writing deadline and submitted an article for Computers in Libraries magazine about some ways libraries could be using Plex a sort of Netflix front end for digital content. As part of that, I learned new software which is basically the librarian version of doing Sudoko to keep your brain limber.
- I’ll be going to the CiL Conference in DC (actually Virginia), running a panel on small/rural library directors and giving a cybertour on mailing list software. Not glamorous work, but worthwhile and very enjoyable.
- I made a MetaFilter post about a dead groundhog which is perfect.
Big things coming up include a visit from Kate, a trip down to Westport where we’re going to donate some of my dad’s old tools to the local vocational school here, and doing some more Wikipedia work for Black History Month. The usual, keep on swimming.
Wintertime is for woodshedding. For me this is a combination of catching up on reading (current title is an ARC about the North Pond Hermit), catching up on housework and home care, and catching up on correspondence (email, postal mail, social communication). I spend a lot of time busy usually, enough so that it’s a little hard for me to figure out what to do when I’m not doing paid-for work. Helen and Scott Nearing, when they were talking about their version of “the good life,” spoke of splitting up their day into thirds; roughly a third for vocation/wage earning, a third for the community, a third for fun and hobbies. Mine seems to go in bigger chunks: a day for fun, a day for community, a day for work.
Today I woke up determined not to do job-work and applied myself to more of the house projects here. I’m sure from the outside it looked like work. It can be hard to explain to people that, to a librarian, or at least to THIS librarian, putting things back in place is a deeply pleasing activity. So, I rewired the stereo, dusted all the bookshelves, found out when I went to put the iron back that there was already an iron there, hung up a few pictures and listened to some records. Yesterday I was the house manager at the Chandler for a talk by Amy Goodman and Bill McKibben, two favorites of mine. I got to help people find parking, help them find their seats, help the volunteers find their coordinators, help lock and unlock doors and keep the place running. It reminded me a lot of the work I used to do at the Odd Fellows hall and made me wish there was a little room in there somewhere where I could live. Jim was up before that and we went to VINS and admired the birds and I got to cross three more libraries off of my VT 183 list (Woodstock! Northfield! Quechee!) a list which is sort of slow to get filled out.
Wintertime is also for Wikipedia. I have more free time, enough that that if I learn a new thing (particularly if I got it from a print source), I try to add it to an article if it’s not already there. The next few weeks are a project called #1lib1ref, a campaign to try to get every librarian (or anyone really) to add a citation to Wikipedia to help make it better. There is a tool called Citation Hunt where you can look for articles needing citations in categories you are interested in. I found the five articles about African American Librarians needing citations and went and tracked down some sources. A lot of this can be done with some determined Googling and some Wikipedia-wrassling to get the citations right.
It’s more challenging finding citations in categories like this because history is often racist and the historical achievements of people of color didn’t make the papers in the same way achievements of white people did. One of the things that helps with this is libraries and the (Googleable) finding aids that they create. Not everyone can become famous for single-handedly recording 40,000 VHS tapes worth of TV news footage, sometimes you have to dig harder to make the connections and verify the claims. And all the while I got to do this stuff while listening to all my old records. Woodshedding may look like work, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
Here are photos of the places I slept in 2016. I only took airplanes twice for travel last year (once to London and points south and once to San Francisco) so a lot of these places are closer to home. There was also a treehouse. And a very fancy hotel in Boston. And a place with no running water up a mountain near me. And one redeye flight. Lots of multiple visits. Two real vacations. Summer at #dadshouse. Twenty-seven places that were not my place or a family member’s place. You can tell I’ve ramped up traveling when you compare it to last year.
Eleven states. Three UK locations. Stars indicate multiple visits to the exact same place. AirBnB links for your convenience. Past years: 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 2007, 2006, 2005.
- Boston at the Waterfront Westin – right by ALA
- Cambridge at Deb’s house* – comes with excellent cats
- Washington DC at the Saint Gregory – a porch I wish I used more
- Washington DC at Mary Early’s place – small and quiet, escaped right before Snowmageddon
- Westport MA* – I think I have slept in four or five beds in this house this year
- Washington DC Hilton – excellent hotel, got a terrible cold by having the AC on for a week
- Amherst MA – did a panel at my alma mater (Hampshire) and stayed with friends
- Stow MA* – Kate’s house, always love staying here
- Braintree VT – there was a humming noise at my house so I stayed at a friend’s place for a little bit
- Dunbarton NH – Treehouse! Sounded more fun than it was. (AirBnB link)
- Albany NY – the start of the “weird AirBnB places” road trip (AirBnB link)
- Buffalo NY – where I learned to sleep with an AC unit three feet from my head (AirBnB link)
- Huron OH – stayed in two different rooms, great place, noisy train
- Gary IN – a great little place right near the beach (AirBnB link)
- Chicago IL – Eamon Daly’s Murder Room
- Zwingle IA – a town of 91 people (AirBnB link)
- Michigan City IN – a weird motel but I liked it!
- Barkeyville PA – sort of a trailer, sort of the best AirBnB we stayed in (AirBnB link)
- London UK – more odd AirBnBs, this one had a library thing going on (AirBnB link)
- Okehampton UK – fancy but not my kind of fancy (AirBnB link)
- Windsor UK – near the airport, strictly decent and small (AirBnB link)
- Boston MA – why wasn’t this place better? It looks amazing.
- Painted Post NY – looks like not much but was the best!
- Burlington VT – staying with friends before a flight
- San Francisco CA – weird but my kind of place (AirBnB link)
- Berkeley CA – the au pair’s room
- Airplane – redeye on the way home
- Salisbury NH – my librarian pal’s house where I watched the Cubs win
- Cambridge MA – Sheraton Commander is a great hotel
Its very weird not working.
I should back up a little. After my really fun trip to San Francisco where I got to meet a lot of my colleagues for the first time, I came home thinking about what I wanted out of life. My job at the Archive was great, but very hours-limited. Part of the reason for my trip to San Francisco was to have face to face meetings to try to change that. They were not successful. As much as I had Big Ideas for the future of Open Library, I felt actively restricted from doing almost anything, given the actual tasks my job included. At the same time the site was being aggressively promoted without being aggressively supported and it felt like a secret.
Working on a team with others who worked four times as much (and who coded) meant a lot of time spent trying to advocate for changes and bugfix and not enough time actually getting things done. There’s a solid team. The place will continue to exist. The Internet Archive is a great place but one that doesn’t prioritize community engagement the same way I do. I wrote more about this decision on my newsletter (mostly library stuff, feel free to subscribe, it’s approximately weekly) but it feels like the right choice. I decided to leave sort of quickly, before Thanksgiving, so I wasn’t working through the holiday season.
This is not to say I don’t have work to do, just that I have LESS, and almost none that isn’t on my schedule. What I specifically don’t have is the “Oh hey the code we released late Friday afternoon has a bug, so angry people will be emailing all weekend. You don’t have to write back to them until Monday if you don’t want to” pressure. Which, again, comes from working someplace where my values are not as in line with the values of the organization as I’d hoped. I’ve got a strong personality, I was hoping I could sway people. And I did, but not enough and not in the right way. They will miss me. I will miss them. It was a bad fit and I sort of wish it wasn’t.
So I spent Thanksgiving not worrying about email for the first time in a decade and then I went to Harvard and gave a talk about the dangers of innovation (pdf) which I am quite pleased with. While I was on campus I toured some libraries and my friend Jen suggested I check out this small art exhibit at the Radcliffe Institute. And I don’t know how to explain it but it was cathartic; scale models of buildings, made for blind people (many as WPA projects) that you could touch and interact with. All the while weather reports were piped in sort of through the walls. The invisible made visible. The visible made invisible. I had the gallery to myself. I vaguely remembered when my sister and I used to go to the Perkins School for the Blind when we were kids because we had a family friend who worked there. We met and interacted with blind children and learned about their worlds. I thought about how important that was to a rural kid in a very not-diverse environment, and how that happened because my mom made it happen, and how much that mattered.
You can learn a lot more about Perkins by looking at this lovingly curated Flickr photoset. Because, just to drive this point home, it’s the loving curation that makes some jumble of random digital crap into knowledge and not just data. Ahem.