muppet! and tree swallows.


I went away last weekend and headed down to Amherst where I hung out with Jim and my friend Matthew, went walking around outside a lot, ate a lot of delicious food and saw the Asylum Street Spankers for the first time on what was, sadly, their farewell tour. It was a good time.

The last few weeks have been a lot of adjusting to the shorter days and hoping that my poozly sinuses can hold up long enough for my ENT appointment which is in December. So, I’ve been scarfing down a lot of zinc, drinking a lot of tea, trying to get some sunlight and dwelling on my least favorite dwelling-topics: sinus infections (avoiding) and sleep (getting enough of). Mostly successful.

A story you might like is how this video of my colleague Josh and I swearing up a blue streak wound up making $200 for my local food bank. It’s sort of complicated and involves a lot of inside baseball, but I’ve had a frustrating day trying to explain Mac computers to local folks, so I’ll try this.

– There was a thread on Ask MetaFilter where some one asked for good jovial insults to call your friends. It was, predictably, hilarious.
– So, we mentioned it in the monthly podcast. Yes there is a podcast, about a website. And yeah it’s really us talking about the website. I can’t explain it, it is somehow good.
– In the comments for the podcast — yes we put the podcast about the website on the website itself and then people comment on the website, about the podcast — someone mentions that he’ll give $20 to my favorite charity if I read the list of insults into a video camera. He did this knowing full well I would totally do this.
– Josh (cortex on MetaFilter) offers to help and he is much handier with video stuff than I am.
– I do the reading and send the link to my friend who donates $20 to the Randolph Area Food Shelf (my charity of choice) via PayPal. He mentions it on Twitter and a few other people offer to make donations if I send them the link. I do
– The next day, Josh finishes the remix and it is terrific. He makes a separate thread about the new video and people enjoy it and because PayPal is so ridiculously simple, chip in some cash for the food bank.
– I put up the original video of me just reading words off, with no remixing. At some point I decide to explain to the Food Shelf what exactly is going on and I receive a nice note back from them. I have no idea if they saw the video or not.
– I teach a somewhat frustrating Mac class and decide I would rather explain this to internet strangers [and facebook friends] than make myself a drink.

This has nothing to do with tree swallow houses, which I decided to use as an illustration on the off chance that an auto-playing video of me swearing like a sailor might be surprising or off-putting to anyone. I realize this is not likely.

the last thing I will say for a while about MetaFilter

I wish I could say I’ve been not-around online because it’s been lovely outside, but in truth it’s been raining an awful lot, but it’s sunny today! MetaFilter turned ten years old yesterday which was an occasion for much online grab-assery as well as a lot of “awwww” reminiscing. I’ve been using the site since maybe early 2000 and it’s been my paid job (or one of my paid jobs) since 2004-ish. It’s a great job, my co-workers are terrific and I’ve met a lot of real life people who make my life excellent. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to New Orleans for an in-person MeFi Tenth party and a few days of hangout time. I made this little movie yesterday in response to Josh’s little movie and I think it’s amusing and you might enjoy it.

a few worthwhile things from the internet

coral snake fights alligator thing.

Every so often I rue the fact that this part of my website is really more of a journally thing than a bloggy thing. Sometimes I have internet things that I want to refer to that don’t fit on This is one of those times. Here are those things.

  1. I made a post on MetaFilter about a chapter in the excellent book my friend Matthew gave me. The book is called Amazing Rare Things, about the history of nature illustrations with tons of lovely drawings, and the chapter I found links for was about The Paper Museum
  2. My friend Adriana made a few great posts on her blog about the poetry of ASL. You may want to read Flying Words and Good Things. A while ago I also made a post on MetaFilter about my favorite at-the-time YouTube trend of people who spoke sign language doing signed versions of popular songs. I guess it’s standard fare for ASL classes, and some of the people whose songs I enjoyed were clearly hearing folks, but I had a good time watching people signing songs I was familiar with and perhaps you will too. And, amusingly, my favorite of all these is a Mexican Sign Language version of Hips Don’t Lie (originally by Shakira) who is a singer Adriana turned me on to originally.
  3. I am speaking on a panel at SXSW next weekend. My panel is called Social Network Coups: The Users Are Revolting. It’s amusing because the name of the libraryland book I co-edited has the word Revolting in the title too and yet has nothing to do with this. The panel is on Saturday at 5 pm at the same time as seventeen other SXSWi events. If you’re nearby, stop on in, but I’ll understand if you don’t.
  4. Someone else on MetaFilter helped me remember a book that I loved from when I was a kid: The Animated Thumbtack Railroad Dollhouse and All-Around Surprise Book! by Louis Phillips and Lynn Braswell. As I related to someone, I can remember going to visit my great grandmother in Pennsylvania and she had this book, among other things as distractions for us kids while the adults did that boring “sit around and talk” thing they always did. I loved it and its wacky humor and think it went a good ways towards my love of Donald Barthelme later on in my adult life.

I can’t remember what else there was I wanted to show you, but I may add it here at some later date if I remember.

power, tech, quick and slow catch-up

I sort of like the zombietime that I have when I get back from travelling. There is always a morning — or if I’m lucky a day — where I just hang around in my PJs and catch up on things digital — email, blog updates, photo uploading — and do all the “I was away” things like laundry, opening mail, watering plants etc. The following days are for longer-term catching up like paying bills, going to work, unpacking, food shopping and the like. I’m at the end of catching up. It went well. I did some good work with some local libraries, I helped some folks do computer stuff, I planned out my next few months and I made these excellent homemade croutons out of some everything bagels I’d had in the freezer. I also caught up on a little YouTube.

When Kate and I decided that the Natural History Museum really wasn’t probably going to amaze us, we started riffing on it a little. I made a little movie with Kate in it called Halifax – Great people, so so museums. You can watch it.

I also found out that my favorite Channel 4 unwatchable-in-the-US TV show is available via YouTube. Granted, you have to watch a 25 minute show in three segments, but I find it to be worthwhile. The show is called The IT Crowd and it’s about nerds that work in an IT department in the basement of a big office building. What makes it amusing, to me, is that the guys are really nerdy they’re not Robert Carradine in high water pants and horn-rimmed glasses. They act weird, they talk weird, they interact with women weird; they’re spazzes. You can also peek around their office set and spy EFF stickers and Flying Spaghetti Monster propaganda and think “oh hey those look like the stickers on MY laptop”. Anyhow, you can look at some of the playlists on YouTube and watch it. I recommend this one which I think has all the episodes on it.

It’s raining and thundering a lot this evening. Anyone wanting to get to VT before the leaves are gone probably has about 5-10 days to do it in.

weird little radar blip

So I got back from the Massachusetts Library Association conference on Friday. Monday I went to one of the little libraries I work with and installed Ubuntu on their donated PCs. They have two Windows machines and the new machines asked for a Windows product code key when you turned them on. Pretty annoying. I had been messing around with Ubuntu — a user-friendly Linux distribution — and was pleasantly surprised how well it worked on my new laptop. Previously I had messed around with Linux on old PCs and it had been a nightmare of drivers and missing fonts and me not really understanding enough to make it work right. That has changed.

So I installed Ubuntu and made a little movie of it. I’m working on my little movie skills as I’m sure everyone who reads this knows. Each time I try to learn one more new technique. This time it was the freeze-frames and I actually put myself in this one doing a small voice over spot. It took an hour or two to put the thing together, cheezy graphics and all, then I went to bed. Tuesday I got up and went to work, sent the video around to my friends as usual. I’m always happy when 30-40 people see them. YouTube has a lot of little statistics so you can see what people rate your movie, or who links to it.

So by Tuesday afternoon, I checked my movie page and instead of a few hundred views I had a few thousand. That was weird. I clicked around somewhat and discovered that my movie had been linked as the 802 Online VT Video of the day and Cathy Resmer had sent the link over to Boing Boing who also linked it. I got email. I always get a fair amount of email from random people thanks to working for MetaFilter and having the job that I do, but this was a whole new crowd. I got install advice & tips and just a lot of nice “you go girl” messages. The video makes installing Ubuntu look fun which has always been the sticking point for a lot of non-super-genius geeks like me, the unfunness.

So then I got home after some burgers with Stan (amusing recounting of this whole thing on his blog) and Ubuntu called. Actually it was a guy who does support and systems whatnot over at Canonical and we had a long rambly phone conversation about tech geekery. He said he’d send me a bunch of pressed professional looking Ubuntu CDs so I could hand them out to librarians everyplace. I said that was great since I go to library conferences all the time, and that my local conference was next week. I told my friends “Ubuntu called!” and their first question was oftn “How did they get your phone number?” but of course, my phone number has been on the internet since 1996 or so.

I watched my little video creep up the stat-o-meters over on YouTube for a while, replied to more email and IM well-wishes, took out the garbage and went to bed. I sort of feel like the continuous partial attention that the networked world gives us results in not just continuous partial friendship [as my friend David Weinberger calls it] but also continuous partial fame. When Boing Boing linked to me — calling me an “Internet folk hero” which I find gigglingly amusing — they linked to an old post they’d made about me from 2003 and I had a hazy memory of this sort of thing happening before. Meanwhile I had eight people at drop-in time yesterday, a new high for 2007, and I signed people up for PayPal, showed them how to “make a link,” helped them make flyers for their Mary Kay spring sale, explained gmail and helped them with resume templates. To a person they were all like “Boing WHAT?” which is always a good keeping it real moment for me. Parlaying the Internet Folk Hero karma into Local Hero greenstamps is pretty high on my “to do” list. This all may help.

little movie about bethel

I made another little video, this one is actually decent and may transcend boring though I do use the adjective “little” far too often. It’s just me walking around my town but I managed to put a vocal track (all in one take!), and and audio track and keep some of the original sounds and I think the mix works pretty well. Every time I go to the VT International Film Festival, I leave thinking “I’d like to make a little movie.” This year I finally got off my ass and learned to do it. Like many technological things, it’s not hard to do at all, but I’m finding it a real challenge to learn to do well.

blah blah me blah blah links, woo

I have two links to show you.

  • There was an article about Wikipedia in the local paper, Sunday supplement even, that has some quotes from me and even a picture. No, I don’t know what is up with my hair. Close readers may notice that this is the second time I have been photographed for the Times Argus holding a laptop. I’m not sure what happened to that other picture, it was almost seven years ago.
  • I went to see the Tunbridge 55th Annual Show (youtube link. their title, not mine) a local fundraising effort from the Tunbridge Civic Club. Apparently in days of yore this was a minstrel show and now it is decidedly a non-minstrel show (except for the guy in blueface?) with an introduction explaining what the show used to be like. I made a little movie of some high points. Still learning how to use all the camera + software + youtubery.