some accomplishments


I am fortunate that there are a lot of people in my neighborhood who like to do crazy things like sled down luge-like hills late at night and then eat hot dogs. Lucky because I was always a bit of a shy kid and while I might not do a lot of dangerous sledding myself, and don’t have kids to act as my foil, I like being able to stand by and cheer and take some photographs. These events take all kinds. I did sled down the hill a few times. Once I lost my mitten. Once I bottomed out and had to hurl myself off the track to avoid being run over by more fearless sledders. Once I made it down okay. I did take a great set of photos which I tossed up on Facebook because that’s where a lot of the other sledders can be found. Here are some more photos.

I was also asked to write a piece on Wikipedia and gender for the New York Times’ Room for Debate section. I kept to the requested word limit and hammered out a few paragraphs in a few hours that said pretty much what I wanted to say. I then watched a bunch of grouchy internet people complain loudly in the comments section. Usually I’m pretty cautious when I write online. I try anticipate people’s objections and write with a lot of equivocal language. This time I said more or less what I wanted to say–that Wikimedia Foundation deciding that they care about things like this is a good thing and an opportunity, and that there are ways of trying to make online spaces welcoming to women–and if people didn’t like it, well I guess they didn’t.

It’s not always the best way to make friends, to talk about gender differences and social inequality and centuries of unequal representation, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m not always doing what I do to make friends. We’ve taken some affirmative stances on MetaFilter to try to keep women interested in participating. Not all of them are successful but many of them are. I work in my real world to help women (and men) get interested in technology and to pass on the general idea that interacting with computers is something that anyone can do, given the right motivation. It’s been interesting watching Facebook, in many cases, becoming that motivating factor.

why I don’t live in paradise, for some definitions of paradise

It’s been a good long while since I’ve used this blogospace to talk about other blogs. I still read a lot of other people’s news in the form of twitter, facebook and yes, blogs. Rafe Colburn pointed me to something I never would have seen otherwise, a post on a NY Times sports blog where Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick talks about why he moved back to Indiana. Since I’m one of those lucky people who could probably live anywhere in the world, people sometimes ask me what I’m doing here. This guy’s answer resonated with me.

I’m really all Bay Area at this point. I’m loving it out there. In the course of this dinner, Tom tells me that he’s moving back to Detroit. I said, ‘That’s crazy, why are you doing that?’ He said: ‘If you can live anywhere in the world, you ought to live here, because it’s fantastic. It has all this natural beauty, and the weather is great. As a consequence, so many people who live here don’t have a reason to be somewhere else. They’re attracted by those thing as opposed to something else.’ He said, ‘I need to be someplace where there’s a sense of community because that’s what motivates me.’ That was an absolutely light-bulb moment for me. I said: ‘That’s me. That’s what motivates me.’ On a dime, I switched and said, ‘Where can I get involved in the community?’

It’s not so much that I think Randolph, Vermont is the only place for me, or that my family has been here for generations or whatever. It’s that I really like living in a small town, where I have a special job to do and where people still need to learn the sorts of things that I teach. And I like living in the woods and despite my grousing about the mice, I like living close, really close, to nature. I like having a short list of options even though I’m aware it’s a sort of artificial constriction of the whole list of what’s possible. There’s always the larger bloggy world when I need to go someplace I’ve never been before. Thanks, Rafe.