So I won my case against Equifax and received my check at the end of last month. There was some media attention and my photograph (taken by my mom, in my favorite library) was in the New York Times. I find this all delightful. At the same time, like all good activism work, the struggle continues.
This has always been the hardest thing about being occasionally and intermittently ambitious: once you get the thing, really all you do is go figure out what other thing you might want to get. I remember this from when I finally visited the last town in Vermont that I hadn’t been to, Somerset. Jim and I celebrated with a beer and took some photographs and then the question was “Well what do you do for an encore?” (answer: go back and photograph them all, which I am in the process of doing). My dad had a few quotes he was known for, from Soul of a New Machine. One of my favorite ones was the concept of pinball: the reward for doing a thing you love well is getting to go do it again. Here’s a quote from Wired in December of 2000.
An engineer’s essential desire, after all, is to design and build a machine and see it through to completion, but completion itself is therefore not the ultimate reward. In the Eagle days, West called this paradox “pinball.” In pinball, he reasoned, the prize for winning is getting to play again.
This resonates strongly with me. What I am doing now–besides trying to have a summer full of books and outdoor activities and not full of grief–is starting a new super-part-time job–doing “product health” over at GitHub a few hours a week–and pinballing myself into some other interesting tech environment where I can offer constructive feedback about improving systems to make them more useful for everyone. Oh, and playing Scrabble.
Jim and I are entering our ninth season of head to head Scrabble matches. We’ve played 623 matches and I am up by eight games overall. He led last season’s 109 game run by one game. Our average has been 405 points per game. I often look at my Scrabble performance (and my internet trivia league performance) to gauge how I’m doing mentally. Spacey and forgetful = worse on trivia. Distractable and dopey = worse on Scrabble. I am doing okay on things. I get to keep playing. This is good.
Now that I go over to isc.ro for Scrabble, I get to play Scrabble almost daily and not have to click through the morass that is facebook to get to play a game. Here is a great video about how to win at Scrabble. It will not help you beat me, however, because I’m one of those nerds who lets you look words up. Jim and I play most evenings. We’re well matched.
This weekend turned out to be shorter than it was going to be. My colleague Josh bought one of those All You Can Jet JetBlue passes and is scooting all over the country going to MetaFilter meetups. This past weekend was Boston, Portland Maine and Montpelier VT. I was going to go to all three as well, but on my way to Boston I decided I felt oogy and went home and slept for 12 hours instead. I stopped by the doc on the way — gotta love being able to get an appointment in 20 minutes — and he laughed off my fears of the flu. The next day I rallied and went to Portland Maine for a fun meetup and grabbed Josh and brought him back to my place.
We did the normal Vermont things: pet llamas, ate pancakes, looked at leaves, took photos of chipmunks. The next day my boss Matt came to town and we did more of the same [check out this amazing photo he took] and then went to a big meetup in Montpelier which was a whole ton of fun. I got to meet more nerds in my neighborhood and introduce some of my IRL friends to my online friends and vice versa. We had a big mod slumber party at my house and then Josh and Matt got up the next morning to head to New Orleans where they are now.
I’m tidying up the house for my sister and her boyfriend’s arrival Friday. We’re going to the Tunbridge World’s Fair and hopefully have a little bit of time eked out to have some birthday cake. I should also be receiving my birthday camera which has slowly been making its way from my Dad’s place to mine. Yay for extendo birthday remix.
All of this is to say that while normally I’d be all “Awww Josh gets to go on a big adventure and I’m stuck at home!” Being home in Vermont in September is actually pretty terrific.
First off, thanks to the random internet stranger who sent me a random gift card. I got a nice orange necklace. Note to all other random internet strangers: postcards are fine, anything else is overkill and vaguely unsettling. This is not intended to be a “mixed signal”, this is intended to be a very clear one.
This year has started slowly. I went to NH this weekend because I have a friend in Manchester and a friend in the media and we traipsed around looking at things. I still find the whole political machine strange and fascinating. I do prefer it this time as a more disinterested observer than I was in 04. So, I came down and listened to my pal Robert talk about all the wacky candidate hijinks going on that he was covering for NPR. I even made him a Wikipedia page while I was down there. We checked out the Google/YouTube party (briefly met Obamagirl) and messed around in the science center where the party was, stopped in at the Ron Paul bar and took a sign home which I used to amusing effect later. I don’t mean to be an annoying liberal arts major postmodernist about this, but it sort of amuses me that my neighbors probably have no idea if I’m really voting for Ron Paul or not.
That brings me to my next topic: going back to work. I love my jobs but there is something pleasant to me about having no real schedule and a surplus of cash, books and friends. However, that time seems to come in January when all I feel like doing is playing online Scrabble and drinking more coffee. So, going back to work after the holidays is usually great. I got in the pool, my boss took me out to lunch, I’m hammering out a few classes to teach in a few months, and my drop-in time was going swimmingly. I was apalled, then, when in the normal course of chitchatting about computers one of my students (adult, older woman) mentioned rather offhandedly that she thought that all illegal immigrants should be lined up and shot, apropos of nothing. I had been helping her learn to take photos of stuff so she could put them on Ebay and I just sat and stared at her. Another student offered at that moment that he was a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. I believe the segue was “while we’re talking about crazy ideas…” and showed her some website he’d been looking at (and I taught him how to type a URL into the box, I did). She looked at me with an almost smug expression and said “You’ve gotten pretty quiet.” and I replied that I wasn’t going to talk to her about that At All and we could move on or it would just stay quiet. I’m not sure if it was the right choice.
My last student and I just sat at her desk while all the noisemaking was going on. We’ve been helping her get the photos of her trip to China on to her ancient laptop running Windows ME. She’s Chinese, I believe. I don’t know if she was particularly annoyed or outraged at this outburst but I know that the whole situation made me wince and then wonder what the right thing to do was, or is?