this is me

BEST COSTUME

The shift from Vermont to Massachusetts is always sort of weird. I feel like I get amnesia for a week or two and I forget what size I am and bump into everything. Then I spend a few weeks cleaning everything up (last year it was pruning junipers and this year it’s been cleaning the garage and basement) and then I settle in to summertime. I’d been back in MA for a few weeks and came up here to Randolph for the 4th. A great but incredibly busy time and (knock wood) everything worked. I saw friends, met a new baby, ate hot dogs, hosted people, was hosted, made some new professional contacts, petted a bunch of pets, watched the parade, got some good sleep, went walking with Jim, bought a library table, opened mail and marveled at how GREEN everything is up here. I even got out on a kayak on Lake Champlain (thanks Kristen!) which I’d never done before.

So today is reversing the flow, getting into the car and puttering back down to Westport where my calendar is empty of social stuff but full of work for the next five days. I like work. But I like it even more when it follows a lot of play.

Photos of some of the clean up efforts.
Photos of the Fourth of July parade.

[note, despite title, that photo is actually not me but I sort of wish it was]

as the sun goes down, here we are

apples!

Apple season is the best. I think if I were forced to choose between “apple season” and “autumn” I might go with the apples. Fortunately, I don’t really have to choose and that’s good news. Here is a gallery of some of the apples I’ve gotten to sample around here in the past few years.

Two big pieces of news here. The first is that I’ve actually gotten me and my healing ankle back to the gym over the past few weeks which is doing wonders for my mood. While I think the mandatory ankle-inspired slowdown was maybe not a bad thing, I’m very happy to be scooting around at my regular pace again. Being able to ride a bike and swim laps and still be able to walk okay afterwards is happymaking and especially before the winter comes. Now that daylight saving time has passed, the sun sets over the nearby hill at about 3:30 and I’ve lost all momentum by about the time I start mod-work at about six pm. Exercise helps.

The other odd piece of news is that I’m now an elected official in Randolph, Vermont. I’m now an elected Justice of the Peace along with eleven other people. I start February 1st. Yes, I can marry people. I also help out with elections and tax abatement hearings and not too much else. I can become a notary. I can get a special stamp. I started a little blog about it if you are curious about Justice of the Peace-ery, as I am. Basically once I started traveling significantly less for work, I wanted to do something here in the town that I love so much. And I’m pretty mouthy about people’s civic obligations to one another, so this is me walking the talk. I wasn’t really expecting to win, truth be told, and yeah I’m not really entirely a Democrat but it’s significantly more of a pain to run as an independent, so here we are. I’m excited and interested and we’ll see how it goes, as with most things.

metadata and the back catalog

some of the backlist

This was a rainy weekend. This is mostly fine with me because the improved weather has made me insta-wistful for all the chilly indoor data projects that I got to muck around with over the winter that will now lie fallow-ish until it gets nasty out again. But with the rains, comes a little extra time.

So my new nerdy project is to go back and photograph all the 251 towns (and four gores) that Vermont has and that I have been to. Some of this is simple–I have been to most of the towns around here hundreds of times–and some is difficult. When people talk about data collection and organization and how it’s all on the internet and really you go to school to be a librarian? and bla bla bla, I look at teeny little stuff like this. Of course, with a phone and geolocation and a ready Flickr account, starting this project today is simpler [for all the towns where I can get a cell signal, which is an interesting statistic in and of itself] than starting it would have been back in 2004 when my first photo is from. Similarly, many older photo and information organizing projects are these long tatting projects merging metadata and content, preferably in some sort of machine-readable way, where previously there had been a box of photos in an attic. I could do this stuff forever. Enjoying organization and metadata in this day and age, pretty much means that I will always have a job that will make me happy.

My workflow for today has been amusing, filling in some blanks. I figure I have about 1/4 to 1/3 of Vermont’s towns photographed. Here’s an example of what I’ve been doing.

  1. Remember that I had a photo of a trip I’d made to Bennington and Shaftsbury a few years ago, towns that weren’t yet on my list.
  2. Search my email to find the exact date of the trip (because I’d mentioned it to folks)
  3. Go through iphoto to figure out what photos that I’d taken on that day
  4. Check my paper map and photo list to see which towns I didn’t have photos for
  5. Try to figure out where random nature scenes were from using context clues (okay I’m pretty sure that Welcome to Vermont sign has a highway sign beyond it, zoom in… zoom in…)
  6. Cross-check that info with the highlighted gazetteer I have which shows which roads I’ve been on to locate them
  7. Upload photos with good metadata (tags, town name, add to VT 251 set)
  8. Add uploaded photos to Flickr map
  9. Manually put an x on the paper map
  10. Add a strikethrough to the town list on the Flickr set page
  11. Do a reality check and realize I’ve uploaded a photo once calling it Rupert and once calling it Pownal.
  12. Repeat, trying to remember other trips I’ve made

Most of this starts because I have the memory of a photo. Often I can conflate that with a highlighted line on a map. Ultimately I’ll have clickable pixels and linked data and a neat thing to show people. I ge tto do this in-between keeping up with MetaFilter, running out to the post office and running out to the library where I just realized the book I am dying to read is actually checked in and on the shelf.

And speaking of neat things to show people, the other project for today was to start the Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge. I know I sound like a weird shill for the Vermont State Parks, but really this is a fun project. A lot of little things to do, points assigned for the things you document, you send in documentation after you reach 250 points, you get a free parks pass for the rest of 2011 and all of 2012. It’s possible I lack imagination but I really enjoy the “Let’s pick from a list of things to do” process more than the “So, what do you want to do?” one. I started a little blog to keep track of what I’ve been doing on the project. That’s the rainy day report. There’s always something to sort around here.

finished, start again

yay

So hey, Autumn! I’ve broken free of the rapturous stupor that is fall around here. There has been some rain. The leaves are more a mushy brown memory than a glowing poppy field of possibility. And I’ve been getting stuff done, somewhat subdued by the seasonal allergies that characterize this time of year for me.

The biggest thing that’s been on a ten year To Do list was the 251 Club. I can now say that I’ve set foot in every town in Vermont. I started this officially sometime back in 2004, when I had to roll my own website just to keep track of this stuff online. Now there’s an official website and hey I’m helping them maintain their mailing list in exchange for a membership. The last town on the list was Somerset, population five, mostly home to a giant reservoir, a campground and some hiking trails. I couldn’t tell from the gazetteer, but it’s also in the shadow of Mount Snow, a place Jim used to go when he was a kid, so the closer we got, the more he was saying “This all looks familiar” It’s interesting driving around a deserted ski area in off-season.

So, with little fanfare, I finished up. Jim and I split a beer by the reservoir. I’ll write the 251 Club and probably get a note in the next (print) newsletter. And because I’m not much for resting on my laurels, now I want to go back and “do it right” and take a photograph in each one.

In other accomplishments, I sent in the second draft of my book and it’s on its way to the production department. It should be ready to ship on March 30th, my sister Kate’s birthday. And I went to the doctor to figure out why my nose has been half-stuffed up since April. And I’ve started my drop-in time up again, teaching people to use a computer mouse and related basic computer stuff. I don’t know if I mentioned that the panel I proposed for SXSW, Offline America, Why We Have A Digital Divide, was accepted in the first round, so I’ll be in Texas again in March.

Meanwhile October is ramping up. The public speaking stuff I do has been dropping off some. I’ve gotten more picky, there’s less work, and it’s possible people are less interested in me and/or the things I talk about. I have very little perspective on this sort of thing. I had someone turn me down, after inviting me, because I said I wouldn’t, really couldn’t, work before 11 am. So starting in November there are big gaps of free time. I know I often say this and then fill it all up before it arrives. We’ll see. I am hoping to be able to get used to being okay with big open spaces on the calendar, good times for woodshedding some new ideas, reading books, dreaming new dreams.

some projects

cupcake

Cupcakes are better than moss because even if you sort of screwed them up, the evidence is eaten and does not sit around moldering and dying in your window and eventually smelling bad. So this is just to say that the really terrific looking mossarium keeled over in a spectacular way (should have known that the dried orange peels would mold, what was I thinking?) but the other one remains hale and hearty. Also Jim and I made nearly four dozen cupcakes this weekend and I have a few left, but they were delicious. And even if they weren’t, they are basically gone and you’ll have to take my word for it.

So yeah, the birthday weekend was a success. I get nervy around birthdays because I always seem to remember them, so I hope that they are nice so that I will have pleasant memories. My mind is inscrutable even to me. Anyhow, the weekend was great. Jim came up on Friday and we made cupcakes. The secret was getting some decent cake mixes and then loading them with cardamom and nutmeg and mace to make them taste exotic. I couldn’t have made 50 exotic cupcakes. And then I realized I didn’t know how to frost them [I don’t like supermarket icing, it is gross] so I took a crash course in royal icing and covered up my mistakes with colored sugar. There was a neighborhood porch party on Saturday to celebrate a few local birthdays and it was a good way to see everyone and get birthday high fives in a fun relaxed atmosphere.

Sunday we trekked to the Northeast Kingdom and went to Lewis, Maidstone and Granby, three of the five towns I have left in my 251 project. I was talking to someone about the project this weekend [Kate maybe?] and they were surprised that The 251 Club is a real club. It’s real! I even get a newsletter. The newsletter also came with crucial information to help us figure out how to get to Lewis Vermont, population zero. On the way home we stopped at the Miss Lyndonville Diner for a birthday dinner that couldn’t be beat, complete with strangers from the next booth singing happy birthday to me. Home to movies and a low key day with mini-golf before Jim headed home. Yay for three day weekends.

Now I’m facing the grim reality of a month of edits to my book (available on Amazon, now you can go look at the cover) and “school” starting in a few weeks. I’ll be going back to teaching night classes and doing the same old drop-in time from now through holidaytime. The leaves are changing here and have been filling up the driveway for the past few days. I’ve started sleeping in my fuzzy hat. Summer you were fun while you lasted.

my long underwater nightmare is over

In some way I think I knew it was coming and so hurried up my efforts to appear to be hurrying it along.

Once I’d written the song, someone passed it on to a friend and the next thing you know the Time Magazine blog, Techland called me about it asking “Is there a video we can link?” And of course I’d been meaning to do one… so I spent an hour or two putting this together, they wrote a nice piece and linked to it and tweeted about it which caught the attention of someone at Google Maps who got to play the hero and fix it practically while we watched [while at the same time entreating us to use the “report a problem” link as if that’s all we had to do in the first place]. So the system works, sort of.

By that I mean that people who can be adorable and agitate politely to get their problem fixed by making use of their high placed connections can really get things done. Was the world ever any different? I’d feel slightly better if I felt that I’d improved the overall system and not just my place in it, but I think being any sort of activist means always remaining a little dissatisfied. It’s pretty cool to see my town in the right place again. I dropped the local paper’s editor a note about it.

moving

randolphnot

I am not moving. I am happy here. However, according to Google the town has moved to someplace in the north part of Lake Champlain. Yes, in the water. This is weird and sort of amusing. The only reason I happen to know this is because I was giving two different folks directions to my house and they both said “I thought you lived in the center of the state?” and I said “I do… WTF?” I have submitted a bug report. I am curious to see how long it takes to resolve this. If you can’t recreate the Fake Randolph on your own, you can click this link to see what I (sometimes) see. You can search for 05060 to see where the town really is.