a telephone pole in front of a grassy area with a sign on it saying "Normally open"

I feel like I’ve gone through a lot of this pandemic in a Groundhog Day sort of every-day-like-the-last situation. I am just thankful for the seasons so something has been changing. But this last month has been eventful. Apologies if I didn’t tell you some of this stuff in person, I’m not the best communicator about emotional things, or big news.

A lot of this news runs together but one part that didn’t is that Jim finally got to meet his biodad–you may know him as Klaus Flouride from the Dead Kennedys (backstory)–and it went really well. I zipped down for a meal with them and it was really nice.

The larger news is that Ronni Solbert, who many of you know as either my landlady or the illustrator of The Pushcart War (among other things) or both, died a few weeks back at the age of 96. I’d known this was in a works a few weeks earlier. She had decided to enter hospice, and told me, and when I asked how I could support her she said “Keep people away?” so I mostly did. She was well looked after by a collection of family and friends. I’ll save a longer remembrance for later since my thoughts haven’t really coalesced in any particular way yet. I’ll miss her, she was good company a lot of the time and when she wasn’t, she was at least interesting company. We got along well.

Many people had asked me before now what my plan was when this happened. What was happening to the house? Ronni had done me the favor of telling me she was leaving the house to a collection of family members in a trust so they’d own it straight off. I know relatives of those family members and we’d had a talk before Ronni died just letting me know “Hey nothing is going to happen fast. You’re welcome to continue on here while things get sorted out.” I tend to dislike uncertainty so this was a gift. At the same time, the housing and rental markets here are bonkers. And yet, we’ll be selling my mom’s house just as soon as we finish the septic work (a few months?) and so I have options. I want to stay in Randolph because not only is it my home–I’ve lived here for 14 years–I’m also an elected official (JPs need to live in the town) and I’d hate to stop doing that just because I didn’t have a place to live. My worst case situation was staying at my dad’s place in Massachusetts while I figured things out. Not the worst by any stretch, but not what I wanted. I had some weird feeling, as I often do, that things would somehow work out.

And, long story short, things did work out. I have a friend who grew up in Randolph who mostly lives in France now. She wanted to sell her childhood home because she was tiring of renting it to people just so she’d have it available for the few times a year she was back in Randolph. It’s a little big, it needs some work but nothing major. It’s not quite as funky as this place, but it’s also less funky than what I thought I’d wind up with (the old karate studio? that giant orange place? a trailer on my friends’ back 40?). She was looking to sell for about what I was able to spend, so we’ve signed some papers and we have a closing date of August 15 and she has an agreeable situation with another friend to have a pied-à-terre there when she comes to town. The street address is one digit different from the street address of my sister’s first home which has some nice synchronicity. Here are a few photos.

I haven’t owned the home I’ve lived in since the early aughts, this will be a big change. Right now there are a lot of goodbyes to say, assessments to make and, frankly, time to kill before the next big thing.

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.



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.

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.

on leisure


I pretty much skipped the Virgo Month of Leisure last year and decided to get my lifeguard certificate instead. Two years ago Ola hadn’t yet left for the Peace Corps and I was preparing to caretake her house and greet my new roommate. I also made a list of what I’ve been doing about this time every year since 1998.

In 1998 I celebrated my 30th birthday in Guatemala and was pretty pleased with how it all went down. This year I’ll be celebrating my 40th, from my new apartment here in Vermont, and I’m also feeling pretty pleased. I’ll save the list-making for a few weeks from now, but this is just a peek at whether I’ll pull off any leisure time in the next thirty days.

As I’ve mentioned, I haven’t been working at the tech center this Summer which has been pretty good. It’s enabled me to unpack slowly and get settled here. I don’t start any real travelling-for-work for a few weeks, though I was in Maine last weekend and I’m doing a flyby to New York City at the end of next week. September will see me in Potsdam New York, Sacramento California and Marquette Michigan but then I’m not going anyplace far until I go to Kansas in October. I’m a little better equipped for travelling now also. I have a lightweight laptop and I just got an EVDO card from “work” [MetaFilter: the job that doesn’t seem like a job] so I can connect from pretty much anyplace, even the dead zones in my apartment where my cell phone doesn’t work.

So, I suspect the next week or so may actually be leisurely, after that it’s anyone’s guess. Here are a few links to other things you might like to look at.

I came home from the transfer station today [i.e. the dump] and there was a little paper bag of cucumbers on my steps. They were delicious.

three moves equals one house fire

the last known photo of my data....

I’m not sure why this phrase isn’t all over the Internet but my folks always say that three moves equals one house fire. This is especially true if a move is accompanied by a data disaster. But let me back up and let me tell you about my backups.

This is the first time I’ve moved in to my own apartment. I’ve lived alone before in various ways (caretaker of an Odd Fellows Hall, caretaker for Ola’s place, first or last roommate in an apartment share, bought a house) but not me and my stuff moving into an empty place. It’s sort of neat. The space is nice and I’ve put some photos up. Moving day was amazing. Ten people and six cars and most stuff was moved in about 45 minutes. There was a short list of post move-in problems including the landlady’s smoke detector beeping non-stop for the first few days, a little bit of leaking during the downpour (renter’s insurance on the way!) and a collapse of the shelves in the closet which were holding my stereo equipment (yes I am old enough to have stereo equipment) also since repaired. Fortunately, the closet is also one of the guestrooms, so there was a mattress on the floor and my stereo is fine. I’m not sure if I mentioned, but the camera I dropped in the toilet last week is also fine.

I was not so lucky with my hard drive. I was using my laptop, just plugged into the wall, in an old house while a roofer used power equipment outside. Past experience has shown me that this is a bad idea. However, a lesson you learn once every ten years tends to not sink in well. At some point my laptop’s hard drive stopped working and did not start working again. I have spare laptops. I even have backups. However, my backups are a few months old meaning I’m missing a chunk of photos, chat transcripts, work documents, calendar junk and stuff I probably don’t even remember. I thought I could tough it through this, but I’m rethinking that position. This is a problem money can solve and I may want to use some of my money to solve it. If anyone has suggestions for decent data recovery places, please feel free to let me know.

Otherwise unpacking and readjusting is going well. I slept in my new apartment finally. It’s hella quiet and dark here which pleases me. I’m still trying to figure out how to create counterspace in my kitchen and maximize the very few grounded outlets here. I think I’ve learned which corner of the house my cell phone actually works in and the wifi I share with my landlady seems to work well as long as she’s not on the phone, which may be good enough. I’m getting okay with being only approximately contactable. I mentioned this on Twitter a while ago (re: Neal Stephenson) and wound up getting namechecked on 43 Folders. Woo. Maybe it will catch on. If not, postcards always reach me, albeit slowly.


I decided to get a post office box again even though I don’t need one because I do enough workish-stuff through the mail that having a non-home place to get mail seems like a good idea. In the post-9/11 world, you need to prove what your home address is to get a PO box. Since I got the PO box before I moved, and I can’t get mail delivered to my house in Bethel, I had to get a note from Ola saying that I live here. Ola thought this was amusing and scrawled me a note in pencil. The post office found this amusing but what could they do, say “go back and have her type this”?

My new mailing address has a nice sort of number pattern to it. Box 345, Randolph VT 05060. The box has a combination (letters instead of numbers) so I don’t need to carry a key around with me. Today is moving day.