So Run DMC has that catchy song where they say “Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good” and that’s how I feel about forgetting about the Virgo Month of Leisure. I mean it’s sort of a joke already. I have to have a vacation from my life, an entire month, because I am high strung and don’t know how to relax. So forgetting the fake holiday because I was (maybe) busy relaxing? Joke writes itself.
But! This year I’ve been getting better at it. I meditate now (I will only talk about it if you ask) and do yoga when I am in Vermont. I went on nearly three weeks of actual vacation this summer and as a result, forgot about the Virgo Month of Leisure entirely until a few days ago. And then I went back through the old MoL posts to see if I’d been keeping up with them and no I had not. Last year I had a weird shoulder problem and so wasn’t posting much. I’m not even sure what I was doing the year before. In 2013 I did a 15 year wrap-up so I’m pretty plugged in from before that.
This past weekend was both Childnado IV (pictured) AND my birthday on consecutive days. I haven’t even gotten my photos from London uploaded yet but I can just word-picture it for you and tell you it was a good time. And London was a good time. And I miss being home in Vermont but I feel like I really summered it up this time, in every good way. This week is about putting things away and loading up my car and eating all the leftovers and getting ready to teach people how to use computers and becoming reacquainted with smaller towns and emptier roads and woodsier yards and colder weather. Totally ready for it.
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So I got back from Westport last weekend just in time to go the Scully’s for their annual BBQ that can not be beat. And then BAM I was home with class starting in two days. I was a little surprised that school started so soon, so I was only sort of prepared. I missed the orientation because I was at a baseball game so I was a little out of my element. Turns out I have an ID and a key and even a fractional office in the same building as this cool art math triangle thing. I teach one class which is called Web Development but is really more like HTML and CSS. My students are over half CS majors but a few equine studies majors. The class is set up to have two hours of lectures (?) and two hours of labs. I have 34 students. It’s been challenging for all the normal reasons and some digital divide reasons. Here are some photos of the VTC environment that I work in.
The last ten days have been a little busy. I spoke to the White House. I was briefly on Science Friday as a caller. I recorded a podcast talking about the White House talk. I opened a lot of mail. I taught for almost six hours.
I also just got 800+ images off of my phone (I save them all until I get home, my archiving system is ridiculous so I will not share it with you) so I can do a little “What I did this summer as determined by my photostream because my memory is shot” bit here.
- Did my only kayaking in Ferrisburg (VT) with Kristen and visited the clan up there before I left Vermont after the 4th.
- Enjoyed getting occasionally buzzed by a local immature red tailed hawk (I think) when I got to Westport. It eventually grew up and wandered off.
- Fixed the labelmaker, got rid of the old lawn tractor, failed to get rid of three giant television sets, fixed the wifi situation and the sink faucet.
- Had a great Thai meal in Providence with a bunch of MeFi folks.
- Walked on the beach, swam in the ocean.
- Did outdoors/wilderness training for women in MA with Kate and Deb and Andrea. Shot a bow. Enjoyed it!
- Several trips to the Claire T. Carney Library at UMass Dartmouth including getting a tour which included the basement!
- Fixed up the mailbox with stickers with our name and some mermaid reflectors. It’s nice.
- Explored new restaurants with Jim and with Kate. Had a chow mein sandwich. Worth trying, probably will not have another one.
- Went to an all new (to me) movie theater with Matt and Jen and saw the regrettable but fun with nerd friends Jurassic World.
- Saw Ed at the Cranston Library and all the great things they are doing.
- Tried to go kayaking in Cambridge but wound up going to Castle Island instead since it was windy. Free parking! In Boston! Amazing!
- Hosted Tim and Pam and Deb and John and Susan and Kevin and Karen and the Childnado Crew (Dave, Lizzie, Alex, Eli, Tex, Beth, Jillian, Spencer, Dan, Kathy, Max, Henry and Sophie and later arrivals Dawn and Elliot). Special visit by Colin, Gina, _____ and Brixton
- Watched the Red Sox powerfully lose to the Cleveland Indians.
- Had dinner at One Main with Virgil and Nicole and was thrilled to find they have real beer flights now.
- Met Ronni’s new dog, Cory Bean who is a Dandie Dinton.
I’m heading back down to Westport next weekend because hey it’s my birthday. I decided that instead of doing a Labor Day blowout as in previous years I was just going to hunker down with Kate and Jim and do what my dad used to call The Nothing. I vaguely remember liking it.
So thanks to my friend Andrea, me and Kate and my other friend Deb all went to a Women in the Outdoors program this weekend. It was a one-day event put on by a local (Auburn MA) fish and game club. You show up early in the morning and take wilderness/outdoorsy classes all day long. I learned to shoot a bow and arrow in a friendly supportive environment and even (once) got a bullseye! Kate took this photo. Jim supplied the color commentary. We did some other fun stuff like learned to identify turkey signs in the woods and build a makeshift shelter if you’re trapped outdoors. Some of the best parts of the day were the parts that weren’t even part of the actual classes we took: seeing a bunch of HUGE snakes swimming in the water and talking to trappers about “nuisance beaver work.” It was also sort of fun watching the falconer try to get her kestrel out of the tree, but it may not have been much fun for the falconer.
So my continued efforts to Do Summer Right and stay offline a bit more and socialize a lot more have been going well. The accessory parts of the house–garage, garden shed, basement areas–have been organized. I feel much better doing this sort of thing when I feel it’s me and my hobby and not me and my unpleasant tasks. We’ve been slowly de-accessioning some of the things in the house that are old, non-functional or just not for us. Anyone need a 15 year old 99 pound television set? I didn’t think so, no one does.
Some of this is also distracting myself from the fact that I’ll be teaching my first ever college class in August: HTML and CSS to about 30+ VTC students. The class is taught in a lecture/lab format which some people think is the way to do it and some people (including myself) think is nuts. But I’m up for trying it and I’ve been trying to maintain enthusiasm and excitement for this which is good for keeping anxiety and impostor syndrome at bay.
My other summer hobby appears to be lobbying to get the right person elected to the Library of Congress. I made a website called Librarian of Progress and recently wrote an article fleshing out some of those ideas. Ultimately this is probably the most important librarian job opening that will happen in my lifetime so I sure hope the people who are selecting the new Librarian of Congress make sensible choices and aren’t just swayed by big companies who are lobbying out of greed and not concern for the cultural history of the country. The thing about the big political machines isn’t really the voting so much–I also have an article I’m writing about my compromise position on anarchism lately–it’s the machinations that never get voted on.
I haven’t left the continent in quite a while now and I have the fidgets. One of the great side effects of not having a regular sort-of-full-time job is that I can say yes to some opportunities that I’d been missing out on. Backstory: I am on the Advisory Board to the Wikimedia Foundation. Just one of the service-type things that I do. Mostly we just answer questions if asked, it’s not a high commitment thing, but I enjoy being involved because I believe in the Wikimedia/Wikipedia vision, imperfect as it may be. So one of the things available to the Advisory Board members is travel to the annual Wikimania Conference. This year it is in London. I have always wanted to go to London. It’s a little weird to me that for all my international travel I’ve never been to any of Western Europe. So I’m leaving tomorrow and today is getting all my ducks in a row, including writing some stuff in this slightly slow-motion blog.
An odd side effect of not having an internet job (mostly, the Open Library gig is super part time) is that emails languish in my inbox and my blogs are a little unattended. So I’ve been spending a lot of time since mid-June down in Westport (with a trip back up for July 4th and now again) and doing a variety of things. A partial list. Links usually go to photos or talks.
So, now that you are caught up, I am leaving to go to London for Wikimania where I will be volunteering in the Press Office and trying to go see a bunch of talks and get my phone working correctly. Don’t call me. I won’t answer. I have some library tours and maybe a Meetup scheduled. I’m trying to play the rest of it by ear other than making sure I have enough reading material to last me through a six hour plane ride there and back (seriously, this and sleeping are my largest travel concerns) and the right clothes to wear.
Despite this list, I feel like I’ve been able to have a lot of lazy downtime, more than usual. This may be because I’m just calmer inside than I’ve been for the past few years, or it may be that for the first time in a really long time, I’m doing summer right (for me).
No sooner had I posted a breezy little “Hey here’s what’s up; check me out, posting twice in a week!” than things got busy. And this is busy-for-me busy which is somewhat crazed by other people’s perspectives. In short, I got a buyer for the barn and they were interested in closing as soon as possible. And this would mean handling all the deferred maintenance and whatnot in as short a timespan as possible. And that would mean dealing with all of this in the same two-month is period where I had six (6: MA, ME, NH, NY, NC, Montreal) talks planned along with the usual stuff. My thought at the time was that school would be wrapping up and then I’d want to be busy and then would kick back, spending some time in Westport and maybe just noodling around New England. Instead I’ve been following this schedule where I’ve been working at RTCC Tues/Weds then leaving for somewhere Thursday, giving a talk, then coming back Saturday and assembling people to go do stuff at the barn in the meantime. And also trying to get contractors to fix things at the barn that have needed fixing for longer than I care to admit.
The whole thing sort of pushes a bunch of buttons for me that are difficult. Having to make a bunch of phone calls to poke people about getting things fixed (I had to call the furnace people six times to get a set date, this seems abnormal to me). Having to face that this all might have been simpler if I’d handled chunks of it before now. Feeling time pressure on someone else’s schedule. Writing big checks for things like surveying and renting a dumpster. Getting friends to help me with a sort of messy annoying task and trying to manage a bunch of people doing a weird hard-to-outline job. Dealing with the fact that I bought this house when I was maybe too young and too isolated to really manage it properly. Explaining to people that I’m actually mostly happy being this busy but that yes, I don’t have time to hang out when I’m in their city. Deferred gratification hoping it will all feel worth it at this point. Managing a lot of other people’s stuff that was left behind at various points and being annoyed at that. Throwing away things that might, in some other world, be reusable and repurposable. And doing a lot of this while also managing my full time job at MetaFilter while other people are trying to go on vacation and have their summers be fun also. There is no cell service in Topsham. I can’t multitask there. This is the good news and the bad news.
This weekend my friends Stan and Brian and Forrest (pictured, with me. I keep forgetting I am short) came up to help me clean out the barn and it was an incredible surgical strike of efficiency. We were there for about 2.5 hours and got most of the barn emptied out. This means now I have to mostly sort out the small stuff and figure out what goes to the thrift store and what goes to the yard sale, but that the bulk of the “things I can’t lift” have been lifted. I have about three weeks.
And so there were a bunch of other things I was going to talk about, but today has been my first Totally Free Day [where I wasn’t writing a talk or having a thing scheduled or out of town] in quite some time. And I’ve been meaning to write this all down. I’ve still got a few small jobs there if people are interested in coming up and saying goodbye to the place. All barn jobs come with a free meal at the Wayside afterwards. Worth considering.
I licked my iPhone today and it reminded me of my dad. Family members will get this immediately, but for everyone else… My dad used to get up in the morning and do the exact same thing every day (as near as I can remember, being a little kid when he still lived at home). Shower with the same soap, come downstairs with his hair combed and wet, fold his shirt cuffs up to his wrists and stick his glasses in his mouth to clean them off. He was sort of blowing on them but I think maybe licking them as well. My iPhone was all grotty from my sweaty fingers and it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Sure did work.
In any case, I am still doing okay and improving. It is funny, however, how subjectively I really feel like I am doing pretty well but objectively I’m not really all there. I am clumsier than usual, my proprioception is all off. I bent a fingernail nearly off while doing the dishes the other day, hitting it against the fridge. I bumped my head bending over to do something and forgetting the window was above me. I’m generally sharper than that. More objectively there is my online trivia league. I won’t say that I’m awesome but I usually hold my own. I started in the Rookie League, went up to the C League where I stayed for five seasons, and this season I wound up demoted to the D League which didn’t even exist when I started. This is clearly, to me, a sign that I’m not all there and this is mostly fine. It’s summertime.
Jim was up for a long holiday weekend and we got to eat food, go exploring (see above, this is in my backyard), play bocce, roast marshmallows, watch a parade, see a free concert, ride bikes, sleep in, go to the drive-in and stare at birds. I made a little post on MetaFilter about birders which you might enjoy if you like that sort of thing. Small public service announcement: I feel like we’ve told everyone but if you wanted to come to the Celebration of Life thing that we’re doing in memory of my dad, it’s July 23 in Westport and feel free to contact me for more details. I’ll be zipzipping around planning stuff, so if you’d just like to see me, this may not be the time for it, but there will be plenty of time over the next few months. It’s summer time.
You can click on the gator to see more of the photos from my quickie trip to New Orleans. The worldwide party went off pretty much excellently. We really did have a guy at the South Pole which I thought was just terrific. I ate some Southern foods up to and including grits, gumbo, alligator (in aforementioned gumbo), po-boys, Abita beer (just like this blog’s name!), beignets, chickory coffee, biscuits and a whole lot of bacon. I did not get to try the praline bacon that other people had at the breakfast after the meetup because I was sleeping in, in the world’s most comfy bed.
I got back, via the long route through Boston/Belmont, on Tuesday night and have been hosting a houseguest until this morning. Then I went to work at the library where me and my friend Stan finally linked the first library record to library book barcode, starting the final big process to get the library automated which I’m hoping I’ll be able to wrap up in late August. It’s been raining, I’ve been feeling slothful, Summer is excellent and why am I still typing?