I know everyone thinks that their friends are the best friends that ever were but I will fight them, they are wrong, these guys are the best ones.

No sooner had I posted a breezy little “Hey here’s what’s up; check me out, posting twice in a week!” than things got busy. And this is busy-for-me busy which is somewhat crazed by other people’s perspectives. In short, I got a buyer for the barn and they were interested in closing as soon as possible. And this would mean handling all the deferred maintenance and whatnot in as short a timespan as possible. And that would mean dealing with all of this in the same two-month is period where I had six (6: MA, ME, NH, NY, NC, Montreal) talks planned along with the usual stuff. My thought at the time was that school would be wrapping up and then I’d want to be busy and then would kick back, spending some time in Westport and maybe just noodling around New England. Instead I’ve been following this schedule where I’ve been working at RTCC Tues/Weds then leaving for somewhere Thursday, giving a talk, then coming back Saturday and assembling people to go do stuff at the barn in the meantime. And also trying to get contractors to fix things at the barn that have needed fixing for longer than I care to admit.

The whole thing sort of pushes a bunch of buttons for me that are difficult. Having to make a bunch of phone calls to poke people about getting things fixed (I had to call the furnace people six times to get a set date, this seems abnormal to me). Having to face that this all might have been simpler if I’d handled chunks of it before now. Feeling time pressure on someone else’s schedule. Writing big checks for things like surveying and renting a dumpster. Getting friends to help me with a sort of messy annoying task and trying to manage a bunch of people doing a weird hard-to-outline job. Dealing with the fact that I bought this house when I was maybe too young and too isolated to really manage it properly. Explaining to people that I’m actually mostly happy being this busy but that yes, I don’t have time to hang out when I’m in their city. Deferred gratification hoping it will all feel worth it at this point. Managing a lot of other people’s stuff that was left behind at various points and being annoyed at that. Throwing away things that might, in some other world, be reusable and repurposable. And doing a lot of this while also managing my full time job at MetaFilter while other people are trying to go on vacation and have their summers be fun also. There is no cell service in Topsham. I can’t multitask there. This is the good news and the bad news.

This weekend my friends Stan and Brian and Forrest (pictured, with me. I keep forgetting I am short) came up to help me clean out the barn and it was an incredible surgical strike of efficiency. We were there for about 2.5 hours and got most of the barn emptied out. This means now I have to mostly sort out the small stuff and figure out what goes to the thrift store and what goes to the yard sale, but that the bulk of the “things I can’t lift” have been lifted. I have about three weeks.

And so there were a bunch of other things I was going to talk about, but today has been my first Totally Free Day [where I wasn’t writing a talk or having a thing scheduled or out of town] in quite some time. And I’ve been meaning to write this all down. I’ve still got a few small jobs there if people are interested in coming up and saying goodbye to the place. All barn jobs come with a free meal at the Wayside afterwards. Worth considering.



Managed my first epic travel event since my brain went away and I have to say it went pretty well. I’ve even got to the point where I’m not using my ancient backpack for traveling and I got a proper travel bag (thanks to the world of social media, I got it at a discount, thanks Tom Bihn folks!). The bag was waiting for me when I got home so even though the zipper of my backpack failed and my soggy bag of toiletries fell out and was jammed back in where it didn’t belong, I could look past it and say “This is the LAST damned time this is happening…” and mean it.

So the trip took me down to Westport to start shutting down my dad’s house for the winter. Kate and I will be back and forth there (we’re keeping the house for the forseeable future) but the place needs thermostats set and outside spigots turned off and with a big house there is always Shit To Do. Then I flew out of Providence, really a great airport for travel, and headed to Ann Arbor where I did two programs for the library. One was a panel on community moderation which I got to be on with a librarian, a UMich professor and CmrdTaco formerly of Slashdot. The next day I got to do a long presentation about running a Q&A community at a staff development day which was fun and went well. You can see slides/notes here if you’re interested. This is one of my favorite talks. The next talk was in Milwaukee and so I decided to head there via train which was a really great way to spend a day, staring out the window looking at the midwest. I gave the closing keynote, a talk about the digital divide to folks at CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources) and got to stay in a beautiful old hotel. From there it was back to Providence, back to dad’s house (when does it stop being dad’s house?) and some hangout time with Jim including a four mile hike through the Weetamoo Woods. I gave a talk on Monday at Olin College to undergrads and faculy about the digital divide which was also pretty fun and then scooted home after a great dinner and chat with my pal Deb.

Came back late at night to a Vermont that was nearly leaf free and have been trying to get on a normal [i.e. not 4 am til noon] sleep schedule which may be a losing battle until I get back into my routine here. All in all I was away for twelve days, went to nine states and while I was happy to get home, it was also a really nice time away seeing friends and eating food and roaming in new and familiar places.

The photo up top is something Jim and I saw when we were in Fall River. There is a street that we walked down, up the road from the Aroma Grille which is my new favorite food find, which is literally covered with these pencil scribblings. They seem to internally cohere, but I have no idea what they mean and I assume they are perhaps they are the notes of someone who is a little unhinged? They are on every building for a few blocks and have dates going from the 1970s to the present and a lot of initials that seem to be people. Curious, and a decent metaphor for all the things I still don’t know.

hunkerdown highscore


So according to my calendar, I’ve been away or home with houseguests every weekend since early September. Last night I got home after doing my last talk of the season and I slept for 13 hours. This morning I got up and contemplated an empty calendar. I can tell things are mellowing out here somewhat when I catch up on my RSS feeds and my sweeping. But things aren’t so relaxed that I’ve figured out where to put all the Scientific American magazines or sorted out my CD collection. This bowl of pumpkin innards was in my sink for way too long.

My new-to-me car seems all modern compared to my last one but it does actually have a tape deck, so it’s been somewhere between 1984 and 1994 in the car most of the time. It’s been fun and weird to drive around listening to mixtapes that people made for me in high school. Most of it is music I still like. Some of it is music I’ve been missing. Jim and I had a “Woah!” moment when one of the mixtape songs came on and I said “This is that song I’ve never been able to identify, even though I’ve Googled and Googled” and he said “What? This is Tribe.” And it turns out that the word that I thought was Hoedown was Down Home and suddenly it was all there.

Related big grins in my highest ever Scrabble score [against a well-matched opponent]. Jim and I have played somewhere around sixty+ games since we started keeping track. Until Wednesday we were about twenty points apart in total scores. Somehow the stars aligned and I got four seven letter words and pow pow pow. Luckily, we play using the Internet Scrabble Club which lets you replay games for kibitzing and nerd purposes. So, I made this little movie about the game, well OF the game really.

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.

breathing room

Mystery Creature is really albino porcupine

The birds on the window feeder are officially winter colors now, though the snow hasn’t started in earnest. In fact over the weekend it was a bit of a steambath here which was disquieting. The albino porcupine I read about in the paper is going to blend right in real soon now. I’m done travelling for work for the year (the year of 2008) so it’s time to start looking inward, doing all those house things that I’ve been avoiding — yesterday was all about hanging up pictures and putting receipts away — and starting to finish reading some books.

My problem is that I read big books but they’re bad books for travelling with for one-backpack girl. So I read shorter/smaller books on the plane and then come back and start a new big book without finishing the first one. I have maybe three I’m in the middle of now, but cold evenings mean less time typing and more time in bed with books. Here’s the summary of the last few talks I gave over at Since I last typed I’ve been to Albany and I don’t think I really gave you a summary of my last two trips to Kansas and my one trip to Denver. I’ve been writing a mess of hotel reviews for Trip Advisor and filling in the guestroom photoset.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but I was interviewed for this Digital Nomads site — sponsored by Dell, interviewed by BigThink — about what exactly I do. Sort of scoots me into the “pundit” arena which seems like a weird place to be, but hey maybe it pays better than librarianship and/or lifeguarding! I’ve also been recording a few more pieces for YouTube — me reading stories by Donald Barthelme and Richard Brautigan — the Brautigan story is one of my favorites of all time, I was happy to give it a little more exposure.

I noticed that the “banking” tag on that video meant that a whole lot of people saw it in the first hour it was online. I am having my own banking/holiday issues. There are two local banks in town, mine and the other one. Mine is okay but not great. The other one is the one my friends use. I picked mine because the online banking feature is better and I get fussy over bad interfaces. Mine screwed up my checks. Mine has a few tellers who are sort of snotty. Mine gives me receipts with Christmas trees on them. I dislike this. I’m not sure if I dislike it enough to go waltz across the street and switch banks. The other bank in town probably has Christmas-themed receipts too and then where would I be? I’m aware that I live in New England where this sort of thing is fairly normal to most everyone. I’m aware that Christmas is a national holiday. I enjoy winter, even moreso since I got snowshoes and snowpants. I’m working on my “Celebrate Diversity!” plan early this year. It gets dark early, lots of time to scheme. The Solstice starts December 21st at roughly noon. Soon.



So as of tomorrow evening I’ll be on my way to Dubai for ten days including about a day of not-so-bad travel each way. We just got about a foot of snow yesterday. I like snow, a lot. However, the beginning of the end of surefootedness on the ground I walk on takes me by surprise every year. This way, I can come back to the icy wavy wobbly ground expecting it. I went to the post office yesterday while it was still snowing and had to walk in the middle of the road since the sidewalks weren’t plowed yet. There wasn’t much traffic but when there was I had to leap for the side of the road into a dune of snow and salt. It was worth it, the post office is always worth it. The weather in Dubai looks like it will be fun for a visit, not so great to live there.

I’m giving a keynote talk at a library conference, sitting in for a Q&A session and then leading a few workshops on blogs and wikis and how they work. Then I have about a week of screwing around. My pal Step is there and she’ll take me a few places and I’m sure there are places I’ll see on my own. I want to see a greater flamingo. I’d like to walk around on a sand dune that I don’t have to tread lightly on for fear of erosion. I want to sit on a new beach and talk to new people.

As I’ve told people where I’ve been going and why, the responses have been interesting. There’s the normal amount of “Go you!” and “I’m jealous.” [to which my reply is always “Just go then. Once the money is in line all the rest is sorting priorities.”] and then there’s the weird “OMG are you going to have to wear a VEIL” jokes. It’s true that many women there wear full body coverings as you can see when you look at the library website. However, Dubai is fairly Westernized and people visiting can wear pretty much whatever they want with the caveat, as my friend let me know, that more revealing clothing will attract unwanted attention of the “I’m going to treat you like a slut/prostitute” variety or just feelings that you’re not being respectful. I guess to people for whom this is an eternal abstraction — men, people who don’t travel when not in the company of men, people who don’t travel — this may seem amusing or strange or worthy of ridicule.

For me, it’s just a little scary to remember that while I feel totally okay generally doing whatever the hell I want here in the States, that may not fly elsewhere. And it won’t fly because I’m female. And, more to the point, I won’t know until I get there. Exciting, sort of.