mini-jinx, mini-fix

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.

image of Douglas Coupland art project

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.

stapler with a smiley flag sticker on it_f0fce3e108_c

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.

town meeting day

breakfast on a sunny day

Sort of dumbly excited about Town Meeting day. I spaced the date last year and had work plans by the time I remembered what the date was. For someone of my political bent, the only sort of democracy I really like is direct democracy and town meeting is IT. This year has been lively in town. The town manager was removed from his position amidst a lot of rumors that can’t be confirmed or denied because everyone can’t legally disclose what happened. That same town manager (who maybe is an okay person but I didn’t like him much as a town manager) is running for selectboard which is sort of crazy. There’s a schism in town between the no-new-or-higher-taxes crowd who I consider more conservative and the “Our town is awesome let’s keep it that way” crowd which I’m more aligned with. I even became the “social media manager” of the Randolph We Love page on facebook which is about as far as I go in getting politically involved outside of my library activism. As a renter I don’t even pay taxes in this town directly, but I’d be happy to chip in a bit more to keep the library functioning as well as it does and keep the opera house open. This is a great little town.

So I’m at home the night before the meeting making cookies for the “meet the town” social hour before the meeting begins at 10 am. There are a few places online to follow the statewide happenings including VPRs page of updates and a site they link to TMDVT which is a simple tagged content aggregator. I have the day off of work and a hot dog party to go to in the evening so tomorrow will be a big day which I’m sure will be in interestingly marked contrast to SXSW which is coming up at the end of the week in Austin Texas.

class and classy

It used to be a running joke in college that anyone who called anything “classy” was automatically bestowing sort of the opposite adjective to it; that classy was a word used by a person who had no class. Or used by us trying to be ironic.

I’ve been thinking about class a lot in the past few weeks. We just had our town meeting on Tuesday. I took a few photos. I like living in Vermont because there’s more of a sense that we’re in this together, whatever “this” happens to be. As of a few months ago, Randolph started charging people to drop off recycling at the transfer station. We’ve always paid for trash but recycling was free. I thought this was as it should be, small financial incentives to do the right thing. On the other hand, it was costing the town to get rid of the recycling and the so-called “tipping fees” were actually subsidizing the recycling program as recycling got more expensive to process. There was some discussion of this including one lady who said that she took a bag of recycling and it cost “only fifty cents” the easy implication being if you were going to not recycle over a mere fifty cents, there was something pretty well wrong with you. I think this ignores what it’s like to really live on a tight budget or make tough choices about where your money goes (for the record, I do neither, this is a bit of an intellectual exercise for me) and I have to admit that I’ve been letting my recycling pile up, which is ridiculous.

There was also some back and forth about the Randolph Food Shelf which was asking for something like $1500 this year to help with expenses. A young woman who was pretty new to town meeting was surprised to see people walking out of the food shelf with cakes because, well, she was on a budget and she wasn’t buying cake. She asked about it. There followed a long discussion of how the food shelf system works (cakes are day old, or donated) and who it serves (anyone who says they need it, no questions asked) and it seemed like most people in town were okay with the whole system. In a town of about 4800 people, 350 people had used the food shelf at some point in the last year. Ten percent of Vermonters have used a food shelf at some time. It didn’t look like the food shelf was going to have a difficult time getting their money. Good.

I’ve been travelling a lot on planes lately which is getting more unpleasant as the airlines find ways to save costs. I’m not complaining as much as stating a fact. I’m aware I can stay home. One day, perhaps I will. In addition to charging for checked bags, United now calls the first ten or so rows in the non-first class part of the plane “premium” seating (since they have a few inches of extra legroom) and tries to charge you more to sit in them. It’s not unusual to see a plane taking off with ten empty rows and everyone else smushed into the back part of the plane. After takeoff, people try to move into better seats and they’re rebuffed. Air travel has always come with severe class distinctions: from the order of loading the plane, to the silly curtain in-between first and second class, to additional bathrooms for first class travellers with severe exhortations from the flight attendants to only use your own bathrooms.

The stewardesses on my last flight — as I was smooshed in the back somewhere, but I don’t care too much since I’m short and can pretty much fit anywhere — actually told people it wasn’t fair for them to move forward since other people had paid extra to sit in those special seats. Ignoring the obvious “Well, who created this stupid system?” follow-up question. Then they said something about not using the forward rest rooms because of “safety.” Since it’s pretty well illegal for us to ignore anything they say because of “safety” this is a nice way to make weird arbitrary distinctions and make them unarguable. And yes I know you’re not supposed to gather by the cockpit, but as far as I know, there are no safety ramifications for a non-first class passenger to pee or not pee in a first class toilet. Are there?

Of course, people who can afford air travel in the US are often already in a privileged class, so it’s amusing to get this object lessons in how it feels to be someone who gets things denied to them just because of how much money you have, or are willing to spend. I’m glad I can take it or leave it.