buy nothing day is a convenient fiction from the pre-internet days

I did manage to not buy anything yesterday, but that’s partly because Jim paid my way into the JFK Library/Museum [by previous arrangement, that’s my idea of a nice date] and paid for some gas. I looked at my credit card statement to pay it off today and realized it had paid bills in my absence [a few bucks to ebay, a charge from a few days ago that cleared yesterday] and that really it’s pretty tough to have a day that doesn’t involve spending any money even though I don’t spend money all the time.

Sometimes I feel like I’m evading imagined pursuers in the ways I travel and make plans. I was away for a week this time and had a really stupidly good time considering how many things I did and people I saw. I also think I didn’t get sick. I’m home eating heirloom apples feeling the wind leaking into the cracks in the house and am happy to be here. Here’s a bulleted list of the holiday week.

  • Friday – drove down to Providence, picked up Jim at the train station, went to the Providence MeFi meetup, stayed a little too late, stayed over at my Dad’s in Westport where my sister and boyfriend were already hanging out
  • Saturday – Dad’s 70th birthday dinner [happy birthday dad!] with Kate and Ned and me and Jim and Dad. Turned out great. Stayed again in Westport.
  • Sunday – Kate and Ned left early, drove Jim to train station later, stayed over after helping my dad fix a corrupt firefox profile, watched the football game with Dad
  • Monday – Did house projects with Dad and shopped for misc nonsense and hung out and had the first of many turkey meals out for lunch at Marguerite’s
  • Tuesday – took dad to eye doctor, went to Mom’s/Sister’s to say howdy and have dinner and hang out. Stayed over in Boxboro. Hung out with Jim a little but he scooted due to allergies
  • Wednesday – went on awesome tour of the MA State Crime Lab [see flickr for more] and headed to Jim’s for Thanksgiving eve. Caught a late showing of 2012 (weather porn!)
  • Thursday – slept in, headed to Frank’s for Thanksgiving dinner. Not as awesome as last year but pretty okay. Headed to my Dad’s for sleeptime to free up some room at Jim’s super-full house.
  • Friday – got up had lunch at the Bayside, went to the JFK Library/Museum and then the Commonwealth Museum where I saw the Declaration of Independence and other neat MA history. Headed back to Jim’s for some hangout time and then drove home in a crazy windstorm.

Woke up today and it was sunny and windy outside and I’ve got a whole weekend at home alone for only the second time since August.

hobo grifter – in which I fail at problem solving and computer fixes itself

I went to New York City for a long weekend. I was working there on Monday giving a few talks and I figured I’d show up early and see some people. This was fun, and a good idea, though it meant that when I finally showed up in Roslyn the night before a long day of work, I still had a few finishing touches to do on my talk. It all went fine, despite my night-before concerns which are becoming sort of formulaic [I worry it will go badly, I will get no sleep, I will somehow embarrass myself or oversleep, or both!]. You can see notes and slides here. It’s a 100% new talk [not a single recycled image except the moss theme] which I am proud of.

Monday night I hung out with friends for dinner and then got up early on Tuesday [not my choice, that’s when the building renovations start, eight on the dot] and walked from the East Village to Grand Central station complete with backpack. Along the way I stopped at a chi-chi coffee place that I liked and managed to be so concerned that the gal next to me would knock over my coffee that I knocked it over myself. Mostly on to myself. A little on to my laptop. Now people who know me know that I “rock” a Macbook Air [thanks MetaFilter] so it’s a sort of spendy item. I swear as soon as the coffee hit my trackpad, the gal next to me grabbed her phone and twittered it.

I basically drink my coffee without sugar just in case of this sort of eventuality so I mopped it up and was pleased to see that everything still worked. Except the trackpad button. Now the new Macs don’t even have this button but I’m sort of fond of mine. In fact I even turned off tap-to-click some time ago. This meant that with my mouse button busted, I basically was immediately transported into no-mouse land with a five-hour bus ride approaching and only one book to read. In short, I was doomed. All I needed to do was borrow someone’s mouse for thirty seconds and I could click the checkbox and I’d be fine! So began my saga.

Here are places not to get a mouse in Manhattan: Staples [$29], cell phone gear shop [$20 but they’d sell it to me for $15], Rite Aid [they said they sold them but could never show me where they were]. Other places to not get a mouse: NYPL [SIBL and the downtown branch – nothing in lost and found and no one was going to lend me a damned thing], Grand Central Lost and Found [if the guy could have detached his own mouse he would have let me use it but it was locked down under the desk] Kinkos [same]. No one brings mice with them when they travel anymore. No one on the bus that I asked had a mouse to borrow.

I was resigned to my fate [and called my sister to have her Google this problem “how do I turn on tap to click when I can’t click” and the answer was a resounding “you’re screwed!”] when my mouse functionality came back a little bit. Enough to click the box once, not enough to use. I had to put my laptop to sleep and wake it up with the mouse positioned over the check box and click and hope. It finally worked. I learned to use most of the laptop’s keyboard navigation features and hack Google searching to just type words in the URL box and hope I’d get lucky with whatever page it sent me to. I never was able to click a link, I suspect the button was stuck ON for the majority of this trip. I spent a lot of time on chat bemoaning my lack of mouse button and asking for tips from other people who mostly couldn’t believe you could laptop sans mouse.

Now that I’m home, the laptop has mostly fixed itself. I’m trying to figure out what other way I could have possibly solved this problem short of calling friends who worked in midtown and saying “Hey can I borrow your mouse?” I sure did enable tap to click though.

lunar travel ups and downs


I am going to have to admit at some point that as much as I am blase sounding about these wacky travel plans that usually go right but sometimes go a little weirdly wrong that secretly I like them.

That is, I don’t like the worry that I’ll miss my connecting flight when the airlines say they’ll “try” to hold the plane [I try very hard not to get all Yoda on their ass but really, you can’t just do it? or even not do it?]. I don’t like getting stuck in Utah at 11:30 on a Wednesday evening with no rental car where the rental car is supposed to be. I don’t like the fact that I somehow manged to make my reservations home for the wrong day and only noticed I’d screwed up when I went to print the boarding passes and the airline website was like “What? You’re not travelling tomorrow.” I don’t like eating road food for days.

But I do like the story of how they held the plane. And I like the story of how the rental car guy got out of bed at midnight and picked me up and drove me through abandoned Salt Lake City and would have let me take the RV to Nevada but as it was gave me a free tank of gas. And how I got to Elko Nevada at 3:30 am and the lady at the hotel desk told me stories about how she’d met the Rolling Stones. And I liked the part where I got home on the right day anyhow, and it didn’t cost me much more money and I’d saved all that money on the rental car anyhow after the guy said “Oh man I’m sorry about this, I’ll take care of you.” and did. And I like how most of the road food I ate was Basque, and incredibly delicious and worth all the extra time I’ll spend in the pool this week, and next.

And I love this photograph which, in the spirit of the cow that ate all the grass and went home, is the salt flats at 1:30 am, more or less. You’ll have to trust me on this. It snowed here today. It’s been a surreal week.

planes, trains, subways, buses and automobiles

Despite having a cold and/or allergies [clearly not the flu, not clear what this is exactly] I was on the road five out of seven nights this past week. This was good news and bad news. A family funeral — my Great Aunt Horty — took me to NYC and NJ for a quickie two night trip. I was pleased to find last minute tickets on Jet Blue for normal prices and got a last minute place to crash from a friend in the East Village [thanks j!] and then stayed in the worst hotel I’ve been in since I’ve been tracking these things (hello Best Western in Fort Lee NJ!) the next night. Went home via a combination of ride to subway, subway to AirTram thing, plane to car, car to home. Then I did it all again!

The next trip was more of a fun one. Went down to MA to see Jim over the weekend and spent a night at my sister’s place because I was still feeling sort of oogy and I didn’t want Jim’s whole household to get sick [turns out they were already sick, yay seasonal allergies!] and then I met friends in Newton and we went to Western MA to go to The Big E. This all worked out by means of a nutty combination of getting rides, regional busses, trains, subways, city busses, more rides and the culminating experience, getting on Amtrak a few miles from the Big E, sitting around typing for a few hours and then getting off the train and walking just a few blocks to my house.

I’ve known that Amtrak stopped in Randolph — twice a day, once up and once back — but I’ve rarely had a reason to want to take it. There was really something neat about having the big train stop right in the center of town at about nine pm, let me, and only me, off, and then go chugging off into the distance as I walked up the hill to go home with my backpack.



There’s something pleasing both with leaving 40 behind and having an age that is a prime number. I’m in the depths of a writing deadline so I’ve been scarce since the scarcity of being gone all weekend. Now I’m in the procrastination phase of my writing deadline so I’ll make some notes here.

Hey, I turned 41! I had a really nice birthday weekend. Unlike last year which was a frenzy of friend-oriented activities and houseguests and cake and not much sleep, this year was all about getting out of town and taking a lot of naps. Jim and I went up north to stay at a little lodge on Seymour Lake. We figured while we were there we’d try to

– go to Canada for ketchup chips and ground cherries
– get a lot of rest
– go kayaking
– hit some of the towns that are still blank on my 251 Club list
– go muck around in nature

Which is pretty much what we did. We stayed in Morgan Vermont. Tried and failed to go to Lewis, Averys Gore and Warner’s Grant (got all the way to the one paved road in only to find gates there; I’ll have to go again when I’m prepped for hiking). Did a lot of driving and looking at things. Stepped over and drove over the Canadian border. Got a lot of sleep.

I’d show you a ton of photos, but I dropped my camera in the lake. Amusingly, my already-purchased-but-not-yet-delivered birthday present was a new camera. So, everything is fine. I mentioned over on that I’ve got a slightly different job configuration for this school year but things are mostly the same. The same and good.

Also, towns that I still need to visit: Arlington, Benson, Cornwall, Dover,Franklin, Granby, Hubbardton, Jamaica, Lewis, Maidstone, Middletown Springs, Pawlet, Pownal, Readsboro, Rupert, Sandgate, Searsburg, Sheldon, Somerset, Stamford, Stannard, Stratton, Sudbury, Underhill, Wardsboro, Wells, West Haven, Weybridge, Whiting, Whitingham, Wilmington, Windham, Woodford

ground cherries and the virgo month of leisure

I just got back from Montreal where I was in an all day meeting that had no internet access where I tried to tell people who were hoping to sell people a web portal that people don’t really buy web portals anymore. I guess I am now a “social media consultant” so you can tell your friends.

I spent one night at the Omni and one night on my friends’ couch and as you can probably guess, preferred the couch. Not that there isn’t something nice about a fancy hotel room on the 20th floor with a view of the actual Mount Royal but the room was cold [and unwarmupable – usually my hotel strategy is to set the heat to “stun” which is good for sleeping] and the tub didn’t drain and the bidet was offputting and there were no cats.

I live vicariously through other people’s pets since the only thing I seem to be able to keep alive at home is a cactus and I think maybe it’s just dying too slowly for me to notice. It’s been so damp here that one of my birdfeeders had sprouted which was a glucky cleaning job for me when I got home. Also the trees outside are full of peeping baby cardinals and their parents giving them birdseed (and bugs!) so that’s been a nifty thing to get to spy on up in the trees here.

I’ll be gone the next two weekends, one in NH doing some hiking and friend visiting and one in the Northeast Kingdom having a little R&R with Jim over my birthday. Last year I did a big huge birthday weekend thing which was a lot of fun. This year a lot of people are going to be out of town so I’m doing something a little less planning-intensive and a little more relaxation oriented. As per usual, the Virgo Month of Leisure kicked off while I was busy doing other things and this MoL will be like all the other ones, gone in a flash. I fail every year; at least I’m consistent.

And ground cherries? They are like twinkies in a fruit, totally delicious.

aversion therapy

It was occurring to me as I made the sixteen hour slog home from Atlanta, that there’s some weird part of me that really likes complicated traveling plans. I’ve mentioned it here before a few times. The more different modes of transportation, the more connections, the more stops, the happier I am. I used to think this was normal, or normalish, now I just think it’s slightly more functional than being totally in love with vaccuum cleaners.

Put another way, there’s a sublime beauty to these systems when they work, but when they crash, they crash hard. I’d like to share my trip home with you as part of my recovery process… “Hello I’m Jessamyn and I like to make logistically complicated plans.” “Hi Jessamyn.”

My keynote speech was at 11 on Friday. I figured it would be done by noon but I’d be talking to people afterwards. I arrived at the conference center with my backpack, already checked out of the hotel. By 12:30 I was at the hotel shuttle where the guy there gave me a ride to the Athens GA airport. We stopped at the Piggly Wiggly on the way to the airport. I thought I was being all smart, taking a short hop flight instead of potentially getting stuck in traffic driving to Atlanta. The plane was cheaper than the shuttle van, too. However, for some reason the short hop flight was 20 minutes late. I was in the front row of the nine-seater plane watching us fly past the Atlanta airport on the radar screen so that we could approach it from the other end. I knew, at that point, that I was in trouble. The little plane touched down and then we got in a shuttle van to the big airport. I still feel that if we hadn’t hit every red light, I might have made my flight which was also 20 minutes late. As it was, I got to the gate after they’d closed the doors but before the plane had left. Suck.

I’m always jockeying for different and better flights when I travel, so I figured I’d just get on another one pretty easily. However, there is something wrong with the Atlanta airport. There are too many people for not enough seats and being the smiling relaxed person with no checked bags trying to get on a different flight doesn’t make you stand out enough to get what you want; it’s usually my ace in the hole. At one point, I was on one of those courtesy phones talking to a reservations person saying “Look, can you get me in to Burlington, Boston, Portland, Providence or Manchester tonight? No?” Of course, this was not just about getting home. The larger weekend plan involved getting on a bus at the airport, a bus that Jim would meet me on at South Station and then we’d take a leisurely bus ride together up to Lebanon NH where my car was waiting and drive home to a nice Memorial Day weekend in the country. So, things needed to be reworked.

At one point I was confirmed on a flight for 8:45 am on Saturday and on standby for a flight on Friday night. I was going through my MetaFilter and Facebook contacts to see if there was anyone who had a place I could stay overnight with. I’d called Jim with a “please stand by” message. There were two available seats on the flight to Boston and I was number two on the standby list, a list that was different from the list that I saw on the screen which I was not on at all. I put my trust in the lady at the gate, and not in the computer screen, but it was difficult. The flight loaded. The waiting area emptied out. My name was called. I whooped and got on the plane, making a quick call to Jim to meet me at Logan in a few hours with his backpack. I had nothing to read, so I slowly paged through the Sky Mall catalog and schemed for what we’d do next.

The first genius plan was to see if we could rent a car for a few days and just drive on out of there. The rental places that weren’t sold out were charging holiday weekend prices, total non-option. Then we checked other bus options (the last Dartmouth Coach bus had left the airport 30 minutes earlier) and found there was a Greyhound bus going from South Station to Montreal, stopping in White River Junction, so we decided to get on it. From Logan to South Station is either three subway lines or one bus and I was sufficiently bleary-eyed that we wound up on the subway(s). The line for the bus was already over 20 people long when we got there at 11. We ate some cheeseburgers and waited in line. By the time the bus was set to leave there were easily 80 people in line. They added a second bus. They split us up by how far we were going. I realized the bus also stopped in Hanover which was closer to my car. We got on the road at roughly midnight.

The bus was cold and noisy and full. I called The Google and asked for the name of a taxi service near Hanover. I spoke to a guy who said it would cost $11 to get a ride to Lebanon (I was expecting… something more outrageous) and he drove up about ten minutes after Greyhound dropped us on the side of the road by Dartmouth. Our driver was from Georgia. We got a ride to the car and drove home to Randolph along a totally empty highway, stopping for milk at the local Cumby’s. By the time we got home it was 4:30. The birds were singing. I did manage to arrive home, with my boyfriend, and my stuff, before what I call “Saturday” though it occurred to me that my early-riser friends were already awake and getting things done. We hung a towel over the window to blot out the brightening sky and set to work getting some serious sleep.

Now it’s Sunday and Jim’s taking a nap and I’m typing this up. My favorite thing about Spring-into-Summer is how you can sleep in and still have a good chunk of daylight left to do things in. We climbed up the hill behind my house yesterday and found there’s a little clearing on top with a chair and a stunning view of town. That’s enough for me to declare this weekend a success. And all the traveling, though long, was mostly enjoyable. I’m often a little raised-eyebrow to all those “The journey IS the destination” people, but I may be starting to get an idea of what they’re talking about. I like being in a state of having finished these trips, and I certainly don’t mind making them. Happy Holidays.