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juggling

I'm starting this new year with a lot of of accomplishments to feel good about. I've lost 30 pounds since I began my eating/activity changes in August. And I've done a lot of grant-writing, course development, and thinking about intellectual endeavors over the past few months, as well.

But I feel as though there are three juggling balls that I'm always trying to keep in the air...my physical well-being, my intellectual well-being, and my spiritual well-being. And no matter how much I try, I seem only able to to keep two of them moving at the same time--the third invevitably ends up on the floor.

For the past seven years, it's been the physical well-being that's suffered as the other two have flourished. This year, it's been the spiritual that keeps escaping my grasp, while the physical and intellectual have soared.

I'm not much of a fan of new year's resolutions, but I do hope that this year I can begin bringing the three into balance.

summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime

Seven years ago, I wrote a post on this blog entitled "free at last, free at last!," about how very good it feels to reach the end of a long school year and gaze out at the blissful summer stretching out ahead.

Between then and now I got into a terrible habit of overcommitting myself over the summer. The memory of relaxation lulled me into a false sense that I could take on just one little project...or maybe two...or... And then, suddenly, that wonderful feeling of school being out for summer was gone.

Last summer, I think, was the last straw. Picture the Impossible was a wonderful, gratifying project to create and implement. But it swallowed my summer (and fall) whole, and left me struggling to get my energy and engagement back when it was done.

This summer, I deliberately chose not to take on any new projects. And one week after commencement, I already feel like a new woman. I'm spending plenty of time in my backyard hammock, reading trashy novels (currently working my way through J.D. Robb's "In Death" series) on my iPad, tending to my Upside-Down Pation Garden (jury's still out on how the tomatoes will do in that, although they're definitely safe from the dog digging them up), and getting plenty of sleep. But at the same time, I can feel my intellectual energy perking back up. I'm playing with technology in way that I haven't in a long time, and finding it fun rather than frustrating. I'm cooking up new ideas for research and classes, without any stress about implementation timelines. I'm plotting out a late-summer cross-country road trip with Gerald and Alex (we'll ship Lane off to San Francisco for the duration). And, as you can see, I'm actually blogging again.

I have no idea how long this euphoric state will last. But I'm awfully optimistic. I have three more months of summer still to go. Life is good.

remembering the 2000's

An enumerated wrap-up. Thank goodness for my blog and iPhoto, which helped me fill in blanks, remember dates, and relive some of the best moments of what has been for me (personally) a really wonderful ten years.

(The lists aren't in order of importance; some are random, some are chronological.)

Ten Wonderful Places I Visited

  1. Featherdale Wildlife Park
  2. Shanghai
  3. Tokyo
  4. Dubai
  5. Vienna
  6. Lucerne
  7. Yellowstone Park
  8. Mount Rainier
  9. Mount Pilatus
  10. House on the Rock

Ten Games I Spent Too Much Time Playing

  1. World of Warcraft (PC)
  2. Katamari Damacy (PS2)
  3. Dance Dance Revolution (PS2)
  4. Animal Crossing (GameCube)
  5. Sudoku (web, iPhone)
  6. Solitaire (iPhone)
  7. Bejeweled (PC, iPhone)
  8. Snood (PC)
  9. Zuma (PC)
  10. JewelQuest II (PC)

Ten Life-Changing Events

(I'm focusing on personal events rather than world events, which is why 9/11 doesn't appear on the list...)

  1. Gaining Weez as a friend (2001)
  2. Starting my blog (2002)
  3. Acknowledging my depression publicly (2003)
  4. Getting tenure (2003)
  5. Being asked to speak at Supernova (2003)
  6. Getting invited to the first Social Computing Symposium (2004)
  7. Going to my first Al-Anon meeting (2004)
  8. The death of my first husband, Dave Tudder (2004)
  9. Spending a year at Microsoft Research (2005)
  10. Playing WoW with an amazing group of colleagues and friends (2005)

25 random dibbell-inspired things about me

I've been assiduously avoiding the 25 things meme, but Julian's fabulous entry spurred me to post. Perhaps his insertion of new DNA will result in a mutated version of the viral meme?

1. I'm holding out for a hero.
2. Because you're mine, I walk the line.
3. I'm no angel.
4. I feel the earth move under my feet.
5. I'm crazy, crazy for feeling so blue.
6. I've seen the bright lights of Memphis.
7. I would rather, I would rather go blind, boy, then to see you walk away from me.
8. I'd do anything, for you, dear, anything.
9. I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more.
10. If I had $1,000,000 I'd be rich.
11. I've got my love to keep me warm.
12. I've had bad dreams too many times.
13. I want to know if love is wild, girl I want to know if love is real.
14. I'd like to know that your love is love I can be sure of.
15. I need someone to hold me, not some fool to ask me why.
16. I am curious, don't want to hurry us.
17. I learned the truth at seventeen.
18. I've looked at clouds from both sides now.
19. I dig rock and roll music.
20. Since you been gone I can do whatever I want.
21. I'm gonna love you forever and ever, forever and ever amen.
22. I believe it's time for me to fly.
23. I'll be home for Christmas.
24. I feel like a woman!
25. Someone saved my life tonight.

(Every song comes from my iTunes library. How many artists can you name without looking them up?)

happiness is...

Lane's old bedroom cleared out, my stuff (antique desk, comfy rocker, bookshelf, yarn, ipod+speakers, tv) moved in.

Scented candle eliminating the residual olfactory traces of former teenage boy and pet lizard resident.

60gb iPod loaded with my entire music library playing in speaker dock on shuffle, serenading me with music I forgot I love.

Productivity app loaded up with all projects and to-dos, and tagged with context for quick retrieval.

Bright sunlight shining through windows, lovely bare tree branches against a perfect cerulean blue sky.

Bliss.

crazy time

4: days since my laptop died, apparently from something I spilled on it though I don't remember such a spill happening. the bad news? it will be very expensive to repair, and it won't be done before I leave town this weekend. the good news? my department will pay for it, I have a loaner computer, and my time capsule backup worked perfectly.

3: days since I realized that my iPod touch wasn't in my computer bag where I thought I'd left it. no sign of it in the house or the office. the bad news? it seems to have been misplaced on my trip to new york. the good news? none, really. i'm eligible for a phone upgrade next month, so i guess this means i'm getting an iphone despite my misgivings about its battery life.

2: days until the entrepreneurship conference at RIT. the bad news? I'm completely unprepared for the workshop I'm giving there. the good news? it's a topic I know well enough to pull things together quickly.

3: days until I leave for seattle for this year's social computing symposium. the bad news? i'm totally overwhelmed by getting all the details in order, preparing my own talk, and responding to all the email. the good news? i love the symposium and can't wait to see so many people I respect and enjoy.

6: days until the first of three class days I'll miss while traveling. the bad news? I have to prepare self-guided materials for all of those days, and that's a lot of work. the good news? um...

14: days until my conference talk in monterey at internet librarian. the bad news? haven't even thought about the talk yet. and I have to take a redeye home as soon as my talk is over. the good news? fabulous conference, great people, and I adore monterey.

In other news, I seem to have stopped playing WoW. Not sure why, really. Nothing happened that I can remember...I got busy with other stuff, and suddenly realized that I didn't miss it. Weird.

are you an omnivore?

Via my friend Simon comes this list of 100 foods...how many have you eaten? Those I've tried are in bold, those I'm not willing to try are crossed-out.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (all of them, actually)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

summer to fall transition time

It's that time of year again. Faculty are slightly more visible in the hallways of my building. Emails and calendar invites from RIT addresses are starting to pick up. I've had to put my fall schedule into my Exchange calendar to coordinate committee meetings and upcoming travel. As Gerald put it the other day, when we had a blessedly cool morning after weeks of heat, "summer has broken." (And then I had Cat Stevens playing in my head all day, which was maddening.)

Today I got a message from one of our administrative staff reminding us that orientation for freshmen is only two weeks away. Eek!

So today I'm in the office. Elouise and I (and Lane) went to the gym this morning, and now Lane and I are in my office, where I'm actually starting to think about things like classes and the lab and such. Easing into it slowly, though, which is better than trying to cram it all in a week in advance.

Stay tuned soon for an announcement of the all new LSC website, with a beautiful design by my students. We had hoped to have a Drupal-driven version ready, but it turns out Drupal is insanely hard. (Any Drupal experts on campus want to make some money doing a few hours of tutoring?) So we'll launch the static version, and then work on getting it transferred to the super-cool-dynamic-flexible Drupal version asap.

And perhaps this means that my summer stupor is lifting, and I'll be blogging a bit more :)

my excellent air force adventure

Way way back in 1995, I gave a talk at the national Computer Training & Support Conference on the topic of "Training the Internet Trainer." This was back when the Internet was still pretty new, and Internet trainers were very hard to come by. One of the people in the audience was a military employee from Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, and he rushed back to tell his colleague Sheila Brennan that she absolutely had to hire me to do some Internet training at the base. And thus began a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

I gave talks at WPAFB in November 1995, February 1996, August 1996, and Februrary 1997. (Sheila, we were wrong; I wasn't there when I was pregnant with Lane, who was born 5/94, I was there when I was pregnant with Alex, who was born 10/96!) Sheila brought some of her colleagues down to meet me in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (where I then lived) in early 1997 so that I could help them develop a structure for a web-based database of training opportunities. And in 1998, after she'd taken a management job at Ramstein AFB in Germany, Sheila brought me out again to do training for foreign nationals on basic Internet concepts. (We also took a lovely trip through the Alsatian wine region, and spent a fabulous weekend in Paris!)

After that, Sheila dropped a little bit out of sight. I received occasional e-mails from her, including one saying she'd come stateside again, and was director of human resources at Hanscom AFB outside of Boston, but for the past ten years we've not had a professional relationship.

Then a few weeks ago I got an email from her asking me if I could come do some training on "social media" (blogs, wikis, social networking sites, virtual worlds) for her staff at Hanscom. The timing was perfect, since it's summer and I'm not based in Seattle this year. So I spent yesterday and today giving talks on basic concepts of social media ("What is a blog?" "How does RSS work?" "What is an avatar and why should you have one?") to members of her staff.

Once again, it was great fun to work with Sheila, who's one of the most intelligent, focused, and tenacious managers I've ever known. It gives me an incredible amount of hope to know that people like her are working for our military, and helping to push things in a direction that could make a difference!

Hopefully, it won't be another ten years before I'm back to offer assistance on technical topics. In fact, my next few weeks will include the process of trying to get my consulting business onto the GSA schedule, so it's easier for her to hire me. Wish me luck...I can't imagine that process will be a whole lot easier than the one I just went through to be able to get paid :)

firing on all cylinders

This quarter there's a lot going on for me...I'm teaching yet another new class (not just new to me, but completely new, meaning I have to create it from scratch), we're about to roll out a brand new website for my lab as well as bring Julian Dibbell in as a speaker, I'm helping to recreate our departmental advisory board and run the spring meeting for it, Lane's being homeschooled as of last week, Weez and I are finally getting back to the gym on a regular basis, and the new dog requires an inordinate amount of attention and energy.

But rather than feeling overwhelmed, at the moment I'm feeling quite happy. Almost everything is going reasonably well, and I feel as though I'm functioning at a better and more engaged level than I have in a long time.

Some of it is that I've managed to find a solid cohort of talented and energetic colleagues--both in the game design & development program and in my lab--whose enthusiasm and competence help to motivate me. Some of it is that the days are getting longer, which always lifts my spirits and energy level. Some of it is probably because I took a real, honest-to-goodness vacation over spring break. But whatever the magical mix is, I'm happy to have it.

The downside of having so much engaging and motivating me is that I'm completely and totally exhausted. Mentally and physically. What with getting up with the dog before 7am on a regular basis and taking her for walks, lifting weights and doing cardio with Weez at the gym, and putting a significant amount of energy and thought into classes, the lab, and Lane's homeschooling...well, I'm definitely feeling like tomorrow needs to be a rest and recuperation day.

help me, internets, you're my only hope!

I'm in desperate need of a decent haircut. Can anyone recommend a good and not ridiculously expensive place to get one near Union Square in SF?

booyah kodak!

Via my colleague Neil Hair comes this fabulous video by Kodak, originally intended for internal employee distribution but made available via Youtube for the rest of us. Very, very (intentionally) funny.

on toronto tv tonight

A couple of months ago, I got a call from a producer of the Toronto-based public TV show The Agenda, asking me to be on a panel of people addressing the topic of "people who live their lives online." After some discussion, I decided they sounded like good folks, and I agreed to do the show--which was done with an uplink from our local public television station.

It's very strange doing an uplink for a live show--I was at a desk in a studio by myself, with an earpiece so I could hear the people in the Toronto studio. Instead of looking at the people I was talking to, I was looking at a piece of notebook paper with a smiley face drawn on it, taped to the camera in the studio. The disembodied voices would talk in my ear, and I'd respond. To be honest, I've been afraid to watch the online version of the show after the fact, so I have no idea how well it all meshed together. The level of discourse was pretty high, so I suspect that it came out fine--overall, it was way above the level of insight and quality that I've come to expect from most media coverage of Internet phenomenon.

(At a conference the following month, I mentioned the appearance to some Canadian friends, who confirmed that the show is very well-regarded in Canada.)

Yesterday I got a call from the same producer, asking me to be on the show again tonight--the topic is "The End of Web Anonymity." I agreed, so after class today I'll head back to the WXXI studio for another uplink appearance. So if you're in the TVO viewing area, you can see me live at 8pm tonight. If you're not, but want to watch the show, they put them up online a few days after the show airs.

--

Update: Much to my surprise and delight, I was joined on the show by two women I know and love--danah boyd, and Annalee Newitz. (Also on the panel were Toronto journalist Jesse Hirsh and Justin Kan of justin.tv.)

three thousand, two hundred, and forty-two

Marc In a press release this morning, the US Department of Defense announced casualty number 3,242 in the Iraqi War: Staff Sergeant Marc Golczynski, who was killed by enemy fire in Al Anbar province on Tuesday, March 27th.

Boy at Cross - Arlington WestFor our family, this wasn't just a number. Marc was my stepdaughter's best friend, someone she's known and been close to since they were both in junior high. In a few days, she'll be in Tennessee for his funeral, along with his ex-wife, his eight-year-old son, his parents, his brother, and dozens of people who loved and cared about him. These same people had planned to be gathering soon, but for a different reason--Marc was scheduled to come home from his second tour of duty in Iraq next month.

Look at this list of DoD news releases. Every single day they release the names of people killed. People with family, with friends, with a life that's been cut short. How many of us are really paying attention? How much faster will this list grow as more troops "surge" into Iraq to replace the ones who have fallen?

omg! omg! omg!

I couldn't believe it when I opened the box. A Canon EOS 30D?!?!
Time to take a photography class, I think!

five things you may not know about me

Joe McCarthy tagged me with the "five things you don't know about me" meme, which I thought I'd safely avoided. :)

The problem, of course, is that depending on who "you" are, there are different things that "you" may or may not know about me. None of this is likely to be a surprise to my mother or my husband, for example. So I guess I'm really writing this for the people who know me mostly through my blog...

  1. I hate green vegetables. I never outgrew this aspect of picky eating. I eat a wide variety of meat, fish, dairy, grains, and fruit. I eat a wide range of cuisines. But I don't eat green vegetables (unless there's absolutely, positively, no way to avoid them without being rude). No salad. No vegetable soup. There are a few exceptions to this--Linda Stone made it her personal mission to change this while I lived in Seattle, and she pulled it off by roasting asparagus and thin-sliced zucchini. I actually enjoyed those, but not enough to add them to a regular rotation. I do eat potatoes and corn, and in the world of green foods I do like Jalapeno peppers and pesto.
  2. I lived in Malta when I was 13. My father, a political scientist, took a sabbatical leave to study the electoral system in Malta, and we all went with him. Thirteen, in case you don't know, is not an age that takes well to change, and I was not at all happy to leave my friends behind for an isolated Mediterranean island. There was no internet back then, and international phone calls were outrageously expensive, so I was cut off from my friends the whole time we were there. Since the only schools on the island that used English were the Catholic schools, I have the distinction of being one of the few Jews I've ever met who can say a Hail Mary or recite the Lord's Prayer in milliseconds (we had to say one or the other of these each time a nun entered the classroom). After a few months of Catholic School I threw one of the few tantrums of my life, which resulted in my leaving the school and getting a tutor for math (the only subject where I wasn't already ahead of grade level). In an amusing twist, one of the members of my World of Warcraft guild is Maltese, and knows quite a few young women who attended that same Academy of the Sacred Heart!
  3. I met Gerald, my husband, on FidoNet--which gives me Old Skool geek credentials far surpassing that of most current Internet users. The specific "echo" we were on was the New Age echo, which will baffle most people who know us, as neither of us is exactly a stereotypical New Ager. When I asked him early on what on earth he was doing on that Echo, his answer was "Waiting for you." 'Nuff said.
  4. I didn't change my name the first time I married, but I did the second time--mostly because there really is a Lawley, Alabama, and it really is named after Gerald's ancestors. His mom lives just over the border from Lawley, in Randolph. I loved the idea that my kids would be able to point to a place on the map that was named after their family, since so few people in the US have that kind of deep connection to place.
  5. In high school, I was a member of the Pantherettes--a dance/pom-pom squad that performed at football games. Senior year I was co-captain of the squad, and the other co-captain's mother was our coach...which create somewhat of a power imbalance. After a few months of being completely ignored or overridden on all decisions, I finally lost my temper with the whole group, hurled obscenities at them as I left the gym, and went home and burned every single one of the hundreds of stupid white tissue paper flowers that I'd been making for our homecoming float. I look back on that as one of my finer adolescent moments.

So there you have it. Five things you may not have known about me, complete with colorful details.

And....Weez! Kathleen! Dorothea! Jenny! Adam I choose you! (...to carry on the meme, natch)

completely bearable lightness of being

For the first time in I-don't-know-how-long, I'm not feeling overwhelmed by commitments this week. I've said no to some things that I really wanted to do, but knew would add too much stress, and it feels sooooo good to not be struggling with overload now.

It's finals week here at RIT (we're on a quarter system). Student projects get turned in today, and I've got until Thursday to get them graded. The final exam is Thursday morning, and it's mostly opscan graded, so I should have that all done by the end of the day. That means starting Friday I'm completely done with this quarter, and have 2.5 full weeks of break time before the winter quarter begins. More importantly, I have no conference travel or presentations until the end of February.

So what will I do with all that free time? I've got afghans to finish, and TV episodes to catch up on. And since Weez just started playing WoW, I've got lots of collaborative playtime planned for the break.

Oh...and I need (really, really need) to get my flabby flat ass in to the gym.

It's all good.

a house is like a sponge

We're slowly unpacking boxes and watching as items are reabsorbed into the house. It's quite remarkable. Box after box is emptied out, with no noticeable change in the house's appearances. Items go into closets, drawers, shelves. They sit on dressers, and on top of the stove, and behind the fridge. Packed into the car and into boxes, the detritus of our daily lives looks overwhelming. Unpacked, it soaks into our surroundings and becomes part of the fabric of daily life.

monday morning monkey mind

It's not morning anymore, obviously, but Monday mornings always seem to be "monkey mind" times for me. I've gotten pretty good at turning work off on the weekends and simply relaxing. This weekend was particularly nice, because Sunday was my birthday. Gerald and the boys took me to my choice of restaurants, The Crab Pot, where you order a seafood feast and they dump the pot of crabs, shrimp, clams, mussels, potatoes, corn, and sausage out onto your table. Everyone gets a bib, a mallet, a crab-cracker, a fork, and some melted butter. Yum!

But weekends off means that when I wake up on Monday my mind starts racing, jumping around all the projects that I've got on the table, all the things I meant to do over the weekend but didn't, and all the things I've got to get done that day. I take loooong showers on Mondays, while I try to organize my thoughts.

Today I had four areas of focus--the upcoming social computing symposium and related communication, the research project I've been working on here (and hope to be blogging about this week), the Star Wars: Galaxies "community summit" event that I took Lane to on Saturday night, and whether or not to return to my position at RIT.

The first of those, as you can see by the link, now has information available online. Once I've got webcast details, I'll link them from that site.

The second is something I want to get clearer in my head before I start blogging about it, but I think that will happen this week.

The third I've just written up in some detail, but won't be posting here. Why? Well, I've been invited to be a guest author on one of my favorite blogs, TerraNova, so watch for it to be posted there in the near future. (Yes, I know, I need another blog like a hole in the head. But it's so much more fun to start new projects than to finish old ones, isn't it?)

The fourth is a sticky subject. It turns out I like MSR. A lot. It's been wonderful to be in a place that really values the kind of work that I do--without my having to constantly explain and justify it. And it's not clear yet whether that's going to be true at RIT. As my end date here grows closer, my angst over this has grown as well. On the flip side, my family and I have strong ties in Rochester, and a strong sense of connection to community. While it's been nice having a break from teaching this year, I'm starting to miss my students. We also have a house we love in a great neighborhood, at a fraction of the cost of something comparable in Seattle. Life would be easier, I said to Gerald, if only someone would invent a teleporter. If I could live in Rochester and work here at MSR, that would be pretty much perfect. But life's not perfect, and I'll have to find a compromise that my family and I can all live with. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining. I know how lucky I am to have such great choices. But it's a big decision with a lot of repercussions, and requires a lot of thought.)

not enough hours in the day...

It's been a whirlwind visit here in Rochester--I thought a week would give us plenty of time, but I still feel rushed, and it's hard to believe that tomorrow's our last full day here.

I've gotten a chance to see a lot of people I enjoy, and have been reminded of how strong our ties are to the community. Eight years is enough time to put down real roots, and to build real relationships. Lane keeps saying that he'd love to live in Seattle if he could just move all his friends there, and I know exactly how he feels.

I suspect my blogging will be very light over the next few weeks--not only because I'll be catching up from this trip, but also because I bought myself an early holiday present. I've been lured into the World of Warcraft, and I know myself well enough to know that I'm likely to fall hard for this. Since time won't expand to give me extra hours for gameplay, something has to give--and blogs (both reading and writing) may well be it. The good news is my kids will probably love it, so we can play it together.

(For those already playing, or thinking about starting, I'm currently a Dark Night Elf Druid named Musette, in the Khadgar realm, and have joined Joi's We Know guild.)

donate a sleeping bag; save a life

The weather's getting colder here in the Northwest, but I'll be spending a cozy Thanksgiving in a warm house surrounded by family and friends.

In the earthquake-damaged areas of Pakistan and Kashmir, however, many people are fighting to stay alive as the temperature drops.

North Face Sporting Goods, in collaboration with one of the relief organizations, is sponsoring a "Gear Drop" where you can drop off your sleeping bags, tents, and other cold weather survival gear at their retail stores through tomorrow--they'll ship what you bring to Kashmiri victims. (For local readers, the local North Face store is 1023 1st Avenue in Seattle.) They're also offering a 10% discount for items that you purchase there for the relief effort.

Colleagues of mine at RIT are in the process of organizing a site to coordinate similar initiatives, at QuakeHelp.net--so if you can't make it to North Face today or tomorrow, take a look at their site over the next few days to check for other opportunities.

I'll be bringing some items to North Face in Seattle tomorrow. I hope you'll also do something to help the millions of victims in Asia. It's easy to feel bad about disasters when they happen--and equally easy to forget about them when they're not in the headlines anymore. Please don't forget about these people. You can help.

hit by lightning - literally!

We got a call this morning from the family that's leasing our house in Rochester while we're on sabbatical--apparently the chimney of the house was struck by lightning this morning! There are bricks littering the lawn, and the ones that fell down the chimney caused soot to spew out into the family room, setting off smoke alarms and generally causing chaos.

The good news? Our insurance company is Amica. One phone call was all it took. The Amica rep immediately confirmed we were covered, said someone would be out within hours to take a look at the damage and start arranging for any short-term preventive work necessary to keep things from collapsing further, as well as to figure out what kinds of repairs and cleanup would be necessary. We've got a $500 deductible, but after that all the reconstruction and cleanup will be covered in full. Such a relief.

my public apology to adam smith of google

So, I owe Adam Smith an apology. I was awfully snarky in my blog post last night, and somewhat unfair in my characterization. He was gracious enough to stop by to say hello this morning, after having read my post, and I apologized to him then. But if I'm going to ding him publicly on my site, I feel as though I should apologize publicly, as well.

First of all, as many people pointed out to me this morning, he's most definitely not over 40 (while I cannot authoritatively confirm his gender, I'm still fairly confident that he's male...).

Second, as someone representing his company, he's under significant constraints in terms of what he can say. When I went through employee orientation at Microsoft, I was warned many times about how quickly people would distort what I said or wrote simply because of my affiliation with the company. I was skeptical, but since then I've seen first-hand how that does indeed happen, and I can't fault Adam for being cautious in his responses, and sticking close to the party line.

Finally, I have to give him (and Google) huge props for being here, and engaging in the dialogue. He's weathered a lot of criticism gracefully, and that's not easy to do even when you don't have hundreds of people watching you.

odds and ends

I've been neglecting my blog lately. Between personal and global events, I've had precious few cycles to devote to writing. But I'm determined to make writing a regular activity again, and there's no better time than the present.

(I've made a deliberate decision not to write about what's going on down in New Orleans--there are plenty of bloggers and news organizations giving you all the information and commentary you could want. I'll limit my remarks to saying how relieved we are to know that our friends Deborah and Bruce left the city early Saturday with their dogs, and are safe with relatives in Alabama for now.)

Among the many things that I've neglected to share with my readers over the past month are the acquisition of several nifty new toys. The first is the first new car I've had in over 15 years (the Odyssey doesn't count, since it's Gerald's vehicle). At the end of July I signed a lease on a brand-new 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca, and I love it. I'm feeling slightly bad about not having gotten something with better mileage, but we'll be turning the Odyssey in next summer, and will replace it with something much more fuel-efficient--the Tribeca, which has seating for 7, will become our primary family car.

We got the Tribeca with the DVD system for the kids, but not the GPS navigation system, which added nearly $2000 to the price. Instead, we bought a small, portable Garmin Quest GPS unit for less than $400 from Amazon. It's wonderful. So, so helpful when you're new to a city and have lots of navigating to do. The only problem is that we keep stealing it from each other's vehicles, so we'll probably have to acquire another one to keep the peace. Without a doubt, this is the best gadget purchase in a long, long time.

Today was the first day of school back in Rochester, and also the first day of homeschooling for the boys. They each went to an enrichment class sponsored by the school district ("Grammar Games" for Lane, and "Origami" for Alex). Lane is taking two additional classes that meet later this week--"Origami Math" and an improv acting class, and Alex is taking a cooking class. Early reports from the field (yay for cell phones!) are that the classes got a big "thumbs up." They've also been playing with some online math activities, and some discovery channel tv/worksheet tie-ins.

We're thinking about acquiring some caged pets (for their scientific educational value, of course), and spent a good bit of time last night reading about the pros and cons of different options. I was unenthusiastic after reading about gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs. But then we found out about pygmy hedgehogs. How cute are they? So tomorrow the boys are off to a downtown Seattle pet store to check out some babies for suitability.

Also on the agenda for that all-important "socialization" aspect of homeschooling are a regular Friday afternoon "HomeZone" program at the YMCA that includes gym, swim, and art, as well as a local homeschooling group that sponsors everything from lego clubs to family hikes. And perhaps most surprising to anyone who knows us, we're going to check out a local Unitarian Universalist church on Sunday and see if it's a good fit for us.

On the professional front, I'll be speaking at C2: Connect & Collaborate later this month, participating in a workshop at State of Play III: Social Revolutions in early October, and then speaking at Internet Librarian in late October. If you'll be at any of those, come say hi!

All that ought to give me plenty of fodder for writing on a regular basis. Plus it's September now, so my brain is kicking into gear (as befits a well-socialized academic).

making a difference

I was reading my daily blog doses on Friday when I came across Lilia's post The Kindness of Strangers. I followed the links. And I cried, too.

When Lane was born, Gerald and I were both students. Lane ended up in the NICU for ten days. It turned out to be a false alarm--he was fine. But we had an enormous hospital bill on our hands--neonatal intensive care ain't cheap. Luckily, that was 1994, well before the Republicans had gutted our national safety net. We qualified for Medicaid, and escaped financial disaster.

In contrast, here's how Badger, an ABD with a 12-year-old son (Badger-boy) and terminally ill husband (Mr. Badger), described her "safety net" experience:

I brought him home from the hospital only five days later, so determined was he to make a speedy and full recovery. But between the weight loss from the cancer (he’d lost almost 40 pounds before he finally had surgery) and the trauma of the surgery itself, he was very weak. So I applied for Social Security Disability. Fortunately, like good honest Americans, we had paid self-employment taxes on his art and teaching income, and he qualified for benefits: $590 a month. Although our combined income—my salary as a GTF and his disability check—does not cover all our monthly bills, the Social Security Administration determined that we make too much money to quality for SSI. The maximum income to get SSI: $570 a month. You like that math? That $20 difference? And without SSI, there is no Medicaid coverage (until you’ve been on Social Security for two years), and without Medicaid coverage, there is no assistance with any medical expenses we accrue in his follow-up care.

Cost to date for surgery, CT-scans, hospital stays, doctors’ visits, and labwork: $79,000. Insurance benefit left for year: $21,000. Days left until new benefit year: 145. Response from Social Security Administration when I went down to their office with our 2004 tax returns to prove our lack of income: Priceless.

“There’s nothing I can do for you. Come back in two years.”

Prognosis of someone with stage four liver cancer: 3 months

Read the whole post, entitled "The political gets personal." Please.

I can't solve the problem of world hunger. I can't bring peace to Iraq. And I can't cure Mr. Badger's cancer. But I can help Badger and Badger-boy by donating to a fund to help them with medical and living expenses. So can you. I hope you will.

changes afoot at msr

Seems like a lot is going on at Microsoft this week...I found out yesterday that I'll be working for Marc Smith rather than Lili Cheng during my year at MSR, for reasons that are good for everybody involved, I think.

More details when I'm sure that it's okay to provide them.

useful household tips

I'm cleaning out my inbox, and came across one of those "forwarded from umpteen friends" emails that I'd gotten back in '99 (yes, I have over 4000 messages in my inbox, and many are from years ago...). This one was worth saving, and it occurred to me that I should put it here in my "google-able outboard brain" so I could find the tips again if I needed them. I have no idea who the original author is; leave a comment if you know, and if I can verify it I'll add the attribution.

and we're back!

Apologies to those of you who came to the site this afternoon and thought it had been hacked. We were making some changes with our ISP, and my son's web site (http://www.something-else-inc.com/) accidentally got swapped with mine temporarily. Everything should be back to normal now.

aural history

I'm up late...too late...grading student projects tonight. I have iTunes on party shuffle, after having spent the past week or two loading up my library with a ton of CDs I haven't listened to in ages.

A few moments ago, a song started playing that I haven't heard in years. And suddenly I was flooded with memories of the first time I heard the song--in 1989, to be exact. I can remember the location (a bed-and-breakfast in West Virginia), the weather (crisply cold and sunny), the golden color of the wood in the sunlit high-beamed room I was in, the smoky smell from the fireplace, and the way the singer (Diane Schuur) blew me away with her voice. I bought the CD as soon as I got back to DC.

Very strange, how a song can do that. Send you tumbling backwards in time, back to a place that you didn't know you even remembered.

free sidekick phone available

Now that I've moved off TMobile and onto Cingular, I've got a first-generation Sidekick sitting around gathering dust.

It's a b&w version that has some screen scratches (not terrible), so I probably wouldn't get much for it on Ebay. So, if someone out there in blogland would like it, I'll give it to you (along with the power adapter and the camera attachment) for the cost of the postage. (If you're local, you can just pick it up from me at RIT.)

Leave a comment here...first person to ask gets it.

Folks, this entry is more than a year old! The Sidekick is long since gone, so I'm closing comments.

note to self: remember this equation

Sunny Sunday morning + kids with grandma + excellent latte + free wifi + great jazz = greatly improved state of mind

sudden loss

Tuesday afternoon when I came home from work, Matthew was cutting our grass. Gerald hired him to do it last month, after he'd hurt his back, and we'd kept it up because he was a friendly, reliable 17-year-old kid who wasn't charging a fortune to mow the lawns. I'd only spoken with him a few times on the phone and in passing, but I was impressed with his quiet confidence and gentle voice. I remember wondering to myself on Tuesday what Matthew was going to use his earnings for--was he saving up for something special? Was he taking a girlfriend out to dinner? Was he just hanging out and having fun with his friends?

I'll never know the answer to that question.

Wednesday night, Matthew was killed by a drunk driver.

How do I make sense of this?

I know alcoholism is a disease. But how can I feel compassion for the 39-year-old man who got drunk on Wednesday night, then climbed behind the wheel and sped into Matthew's car? How can I not feel rage and despair over this senseless death?

The one thing about becoming a parent that nobody warned me about was the extraordinary sense of vulnerability that comes with the love. With each new sign of independence comes a mix of pride and fear.

My heart breaks for Matthew's family. I can't imagine what they must be going through.

this grrl can write

This is one of the most touching love notes I've ever read. Brought tears to my eyes, even the third time through. Read it. It will make your day.

ups and downs

The Bad News
Those of you who said I wouldn't last a week in Japanese were wrong, but those who said I wouldn't last two were right. It wasn't that I couldn't do it, it's that I couldn't do it without other things that were more important (my family, my research, my recovery) suffering greatly. I still plan to study it on my own this summer, perhaps sharing lessons with my son on weekends. And I'm still pretty proud of myself for learning all of the hiragana kana (including long vowels, short consonants, and glides) in under two weeks.

It's summer, and I'm sitting in my office, coding data. (Well, blogging, really. But thinking/stressing about coding data.) Blech. I'd rather be floating in my pool, or tending my garden.

I have to travel again next week, much to my kids' dismay. Only for a few days (to Santa Clara for Supernova), but I really am tired of traveling.

The Good News
Dropping Japanese lightened my psychic load more than I could have imagined. Last night I actually was able to relax with my family. The fact that it seemed like a barely-remembered luxury to do that was pretty telling.

While I have to work on the grant this summer, I set my own hours. If I want a two-hour lunch-and-sun break, I can take one. If I want to code data on my back deck (glare permitting), I can do that, too.

If I have to travel anywhere, Supernova's a pretty good destination. I had a great time there last year, and I'm looking forward to meeting some new folks this year.

The iSight 1.02 firmware update seems to have finally gotten my iSight to work with my computer again, so I can videochat with my kids while I'm away! That will be fun.

My new 300GB drive should arrive this week. w00t!

learning japanese (i think i'm learning japanese)

(Those d*mn soundtracks in my head!)

Anyhow, I really am going to be learning Japanese this summer. I just registered for a summer session class here at RIT (one of the nice perks of working here is free tuition for me, Gerald, and the boys).

Two hours a day, four days a week, for five weeks. Ack! It's taught by someone that comes highly recommended, though, and the first five weeks of the summer session are best for me in terms of free time--no teaching, no faculty meetings, but the boys are still in school. When I've taught summer classes in the past (out of economic necessity), I've always opted for the first half for that reason.

I'm planning to apply for a fellowship (a Fulbright, ideally) for research and teaching in Japan for the 2005-2006 academic year, so learning a bit of the language first seemed like a wise idea. We'll see how it goes--I don't have much of a facility with new languages, and the thought of trying to learn not just vocabulary but also character sets (three of them, no less!) is more than a little daunting.

distributed audiobook development

AKMA's got a great idea. Take advantage of the Creative Commons license that Larry Lessig put on his new book Free Culture by having a bunch of people each record a chapter of it in audiobook format.

Amazing...I was thinking exactly the same thing today, about both Lessig's book and Cory Doctorow's eastern standard tribe.

Not only does this make the book more broadly accessible, but it has the added bonus of being a chance to hear real voices from the bloggers I know and love.

I have no strong preference on chapters, though I suppose the librarian in me likes the idea of Chapter 9 ("Collectors"), and the title of Chapter 11 ("Chimera") is fabulous!

I nominate my friend Weez, who has a marvelous voice (which she uses as co-host of a local PBS radio show), for the Preface or Intro. Weez, you in?

cult member and proud of it

Via my friend (and sxsw roommate) Kelly comes this article from The Black Table entitled "The Cult of Diet Coke."

The Cult of Diet Coke is strong and slavishly devoted, making their beverage of choice the undisputed leader in diet sodas for the last two decades and the third-most popular soda in the United States, trailing only Coca-Cola and Pepsi. And nowhere is this cult stronger than in the worlds of media and politics, where publicists, pundits and the people they orbit demand the Real Thing.

The list of who's addicted ranges from REO Speedwagon and Elton John to Donald Trump and the Clintons.

Since my husband and I go through cases of the stuff each month, I'm glad to know we're not alone in our devotion.

(And, of course, my first contact with Joi Ito was over his Diet Coke post, so it played a significant role in my social networking experience.)

things i wish i didn't know

I've always liked that line in Bob Seger's song Against the Wind..."Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then."

It's been a rough winter. Too many illnesses, too many losses, for too many of the people I care about.

On the list of things I wish I'd never needed to know--

  • That there's a back entrance to the Strong Hospital parking garage that's much quicker for getting in and out
  • What the visiting restrictions were for neonatal ICUs ten years ago, and what they are now (pretty much the same, it seems)
  • How effective antidepressants can be at helping those of us with a tendency towards chemical imbalance manage the curve balls life throws at us
  • What a month of below-freezing temperatures feels like
  • The difference between sitting shiva in a reform household vs. an ultra-orthodox household

Yeah, I think life would definitely be easier if I'd never had to learn any of those things.

But the sun is out today (even if the temperatures are still below freezing), and my husband and kids--the people who matter most in the world to me--are happy, healthy, and at home waiting for me. That's worth a lot.

mystery song from "joan of arcadia"

I watched this weekend's episode of Joan of Arcadia, and at the end there was a lovely song. It wasn't from any of the albums they listed as being featured on the show that night, however, and I'd really like to know where it came from so I can buy the album.

Here are the lyrics...if you recognize them, could you clue me in? Thanks!

tell me where you are and i will come and get you don't you know my love for you is true
just give me a sign and I will be behind you
don't you know i have to find you

don't tell me that it's over
that's not how it should be

babe i recognize i see it in your eyes
there's way too much hurt too many lies

but if we come together, make our love forever
that will be the greatest treasure

don't tell me that it's over
you just got to believe

baby don't you care about the love we had, being happy not sad
guess sometimes things don't work out like we planned

tangible handiwork

Sometimes I just get tired of being a technologist...spending so much time in front of a screen, typing away, with nothing tangible to show for the effort. Which is why when I get burned out on computer work I tend to turn to real-world crafts. In grad school I took advantage of courses in "Decorated Papers" and "Papermaking" through the MFA in Book Arts program. Here at RIT, I took a woodworking course. But my old standby, the thing I take up when I'm most in need of comfort, is crocheting.

rainyday.jpgMy maternal grandmother (my "oma") taught me how to crochet when I was very young, starting with simple granny squares. As I got older, I tackled more complex patterns. As an adult, I've accumulated a stack of pattern books from Leisure Arts and American School of Needlework--most afghans, with a few hats and scarves and mittens thrown in.

When my brother-in-law passed away earlier this month, I decided to start an afghan for my sister--something to warm her during the cold months ahead. I chose the Rainy Day Blues pattern from Sandy Scoville's "Warm and Cozy Afghans" ASN pattern book. (The picture on the left is the one from the pattern book.) I've made this afghan twice before, once for our house, using Lion Brand Homespun yarn in Sierra--and it's a much-loved item in our living room. I made another one as a wedding gift for my older stepdaughter a couple of years ago (this one in Homespun Shaker), and she and her husband adore it. This time I chose Homespun Colonial, which seemed to suit my sister.

finished afghanThe nice thing about crocheting--as opposed to, say, blogging--is that I can talk to my family while I do it. I don't have to shush the kids when I'm finishing a row of stitches the way I do when I'm finishing a sentence of a long post. I can watch television while I do it, too, so over the past few weeks I've become quite a Gunsmoke afficionado. (Did you know they run two episodes of Gunsmoke every night on the Westerns channel? Neither did I! But Miss Kitty is definitely my new favorite television character!)

I started the afghan on Saturday the 6th, and finished it last night--record time for me on one of these projects. That's it on the right, next to our Christmas tree (we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our house...) It turned out quite well, I think. And I'll be able to give it to my sister as a moving-in gift on Monday when she moves into her new apartment.

Tomorrow I'll stop by JoAnn's, where Homespun yarn is on sale for $3.99/skein. It takes about 12 skeins to make the afghan, but it's well worth it for the enjoyment, satisfaction, and lasting warmth it provides.

how to live life

As we begin to untangle the legal and financial aftermaths of my brother-in-law's unexpected death, it has become increasingly clear to me that there are real risks and consequences to believing the best about people, particularly when that trust goes against one's better instincts.

And because there are in fact legal and financial issues involved, that's about all I can say about that.

Except that I have managed to formulate one simple rule for how to live life:

Live so that no one you love will be unpleasantly surprised
by what they find when you die.

tonight's soundtrack

For the past several days, for reasons I can't talk much about, this Cowboy Junkies song has ben playing in the back of my head. Maybe posting it here will help me to purge it.

this street, that man, this life
This street holds its secrets like a cobra holds its kill
This street minds its business like a jailer minds his jail
That house there is haunted
That door's a portal to hell
This street holds its secrets very well

That man wears his skin like a dancer wears her veils
That man stalks his victims like a cancer stalks a cell
That man's soul has left him his heart's as deadly as a rusty nail
That man sheds his skin like a veil

Lord, you play a hard game, you know we follow every rule
Then you take the one thing we thought we'd never lose
All I ask is if she's with you please keep her warm and safe
and if it's in your power please purge the memory of this place

This life holds its secrets like a sea shell holds the sea,
soft and distant calling like a fading memory
This life has its victories but its defeats tear so viciously
This life holds its secrets like the sea

parking lot wifi?!?

I'm sitting in the parking lot outside the RIT gym. I was supposed to meet Weez here 20 minutes ago, but I forgot my ID, which is required for entrance. (Yes, RIT folks, I know you can get in without it--but I've done it so many times that they've told me I have to have it from now on... :/ ) My husband--who's mobile again, and back to taking care of me instead of the reverse--is en route with the ID, so I'm sitting in my car, waiting.

I figured I'd work on some course materials while I was here, so I opened up my laptop. Much to my amazement, I get a wifi signal out here! Not a strong one, but enough to get me online. Who'd have thought I could blog from my laptop while sitting in the middle of D Lot?

woohoo!

michigan.jpg

binge behavior

One way that people who know me well are able to gauge how stressed (or depressed) I am is by watching my eating habits. When things aren't going well, I tend to binge. My drug-of-choice in tough times is Ruffles potato chips, preferably with a big container of french onion dip.

Rationally, I can look at that bag of chips and know that it's going to make me feel ill in the short term, and make me overweight in the long term. But rationality doesn't play into the decision. It's a kind of short term gratification that feels great at the time, and it somehow fills an immediate need for me. I've never had a problem with drug or alcohol addiction, but I suspect some of what I feel when I'm weighing the decision about whether to wolf down that bag of chips is what someone with a substance abuse problem wrestles with.

I was thinking about that this morning at the gym. I try to make workouts a regular part of my life, and to make sure that it's part of a routine. If it's not a routine, it's too easy to fall into bad habits. The same thing is true for what I eat...if I get into the habit of buying healthy foods and having them easily accessible--at home and at work--I eat better. I'm less tempted to binge on potato chips if I'm full of chicken makhni. I'm less tempted to grab a pizza for lunch if I've brought in a hard boiled egg, salami, and sharp cheddar cheese. (Obviously, I'm trying to reduce my carb intake.) And it's true for finances, as well. If I have a budget, and stick to it, I'm less likely to binge on spending. If I don't, the money (like my trim figure) slips away when I lose control.

It's hard, though, to stay balanced in all areas. Physical health, emotional health, fiscal health, intellectual health. I don't think it's a "choose any two" kind of thing, but I do think the hardest challenge I face on an ongoing basis is finding a balance. Not to obsess about perfection in any one area, only to find that I've let something else fall part. And I'm also learning to recognize my own warning signs...when I find myself overindulging regularly--whether on potato chips or shopping trips or blog reading--I know I have to stop and reassess the choices I'm making. The things that are hardest for me--whether it's changing my eating habits, going to the gym, or or turning off the computer--are probably the most important things to look at.

So now I'm going to (a) turn off the computer, and (b) go home and spend some time with my family. The first one is hard, the second one is easy. The rest of my personal challenges...well, I'll keep those to myself. :)

informal legal advice needed

I have a relatively simple question.

Can I use a famous quotation from a living person on a commercially marketed t-shirt without first getting that person's consent?

I'm not sure whether that consitutes copyright violation or whether it falls within fair use.

(And yes, I realize that advice I get for free via my blog is worth less than the paper it's not printed on. Just trying to get a general sense as to where I should look for guidance on this.)

you may ask yourself...

"How did I get here?"

That's what I was asking myself the whole time I was at the NSF PI conference this week. What an amazing experience.

I'm still trying to sort out what I can blog about the workshop, and what I can't--many people were sharing very preliminary results, and it wouldn't be appropriate to disseminate them at this point. But I will try to sit down this week and distill some of what I took away from the whole thing.

Meanwhile, blogging will continue to be light because I leave town again on Saturday--this time for the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey. Happily, the hotel rooms there have high-speed access (and I'm hoping for conference wifi, as well).

(Speaking of wifi, there's now free access in the Rochester airport! Frontier Communications is running a business center, and the signal is strong enough to reach most of the gates in the A terminal.)

still here

It's been a busy week. Lots of stuff that I can't blog about--personal stuff, work stuff, yada yada. Some things that will be revealed in time, others that won't. Plus a nasty cold that had me going to bed at 8pm every night. Nothing to worry about, though. I can breathe again, which means I'll be blogging again. After I grade the 34 papers on my desk.

clean bill of health

From the radiologist, anyhow. (I still have a cold.) I'll certainly sleep better tonight.

And Isabel passed too far to the west to have any real impact here. Almost no rain, and while it's windy, it's nothing significant.

Thanks for all the well-wishing. It helped.

tonight's soundtrack

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that's so cold?
Maybe I'm just too demanding
Maybe I'm just like my father too bold
Maybe you're just like my mother
She's never satisfied
Why do we scream at each other
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

control freak

When I was in high school, I went to an Al-Anon meeting with a friend. It was my first exposure to a 12-step program. I hated it. The fact that the whole program depended on my admitting that I was powerless over (meaning not in control of) some aspect of my life was a deal-breaker for me. Because I'm all about control. Always have been. (It will come as no surprise to players of Magic: The Gathering that I typically play a Blue/White control deck...)

Since I've been lucky enough not to have needed a 12-step program, the control issues have come back to haunt me in other ways. I was thinking about that this week, writing this post and mulling over whether to post it. The news of mazeone's death helped push me to change the post status from "draft" to "publish."

rest in peace

From Joi's blog, I learned that a regular on the #joiito IRC channel--Mike Lea, aka mazeone--had committed suicide this weekend.

Joi also linked to Mike's web site. The diary/weblog portion of the site broke my heart.

07/18/03-09:21:54 PM Friday -- touching the rocks and flying i will never be a writer, an artist, a musician, a programmer; i will never be an athlete, a monk, a dancer, a mechanic; i will never learn how to talk to people, meet strangers, make friends; i will never have a happy childhood, another chance to make the connections that i missed, another chance with friends i have lost. i will never be, i will never learn, i will never have.

back from detox

I'm back from my week with my family at White Lake. It was a wonderful trip. While I did bring the computer, and dial-up information, I logged on a total of two times all week, both times for less than an hour.

The first time I went online was Friday morning. We'd heard some strange conversations on our walkie-talkies Thursday about a brownout or power problem, and I thought I'd try to find out what was going on. So I (we) didn't even know about "the great blackout of 2003" until after the worst of it was already over. Up in our little rural corner of the world, the blackout had no effect. (In fact, as I was writing this I had to go onto CNN's site to find out what day the blackout was, because I couldn't remember what day I went online.)

The best part of the trip was that by midweek I'd stopped blogging things in my head. I hadn't realized how much I'd begun to detach from real life, always running meta-commentary in my head to save for later blogging. Letting go of that was very refreshing. It's not that I don't want to blog, it's that I don't want to do it all the time.

I'll try to post photos of the trip later today or tomorrow on a TypePad photoblog. But since my new 17" Powerbook arrived while I was gone, that may get delayed. Priority will be on switching machines, installing new software, and seeing what the online world looks like when you hook a 17" powerbook up to a 23" cinema display. (It's good to be a funded researcher.)

when you assume...

Discovered Breaching the Web via my Technorati Cosmos (which, alas, has shrunk considerably due to the domain change).

Can't find a name for the blog's author, but I quite liked the post entitled "Don't Assume I'm Like You," which I will quote extensively here:

Don't assume that because I'm successful, my parents never divorced. Don't assume that because I'm progressive, I'm also vegetarian. Don't assume that because I'm a professional, I don't like homemaking. Don't assume that because I dress conservatively, I disapprove of clothing you think is "skanky." Don't assume that because I'm married, I like children. Don't assume that because I have a Ph.D., I look down on people who didn't finish high school. Don't assume that because I criticize a country, I don't love it. Don't assume that because I look a certain way, everyone in my family looks that way. Don't assume that because I work with you, I like you. Don't assume that because I'm straight, I don't know (and love) any gay/bi/trans people. Don't assume that because I'm quiet, I have nothing to say. Don't assume that because I go to your church, I agree with your politics. Don't assume that because I'm a feminist, I look down on housewives. Don't assume that because I knit, I want to make something for you. Don't assume that because I'm cute, I'm not strong. Don't assume that because I act unashamed of something, you can comment on it. Don't assume that because I'm related to you, I agree with you. Don't assume that because I'm smiling, I'm not angry. Don't assume that because something is in a predicate in this paragrah, it's true. And most importantly, don't assume that if I look like you, I am like you.

Nice.

Sounds like it's probably a woman. And probably a woman I'd like to have as a friend! (Though, of course, that means I'm making assumptions!)

blogs worth re-reading

Most blogs I read lightly. The list of blogs I find interesting is so long that I skim them, looking for nuggets of information and entertainment. Blogs tend to lend themselves to that sort of light reading--skipping from post to post (images of video games come to mind, complete with picking up useful items and "content points" along the way).

But every now and then, I stop short on a blog post, forced into a deeper level of reading and consideration than I expect. I tend to go back to the posts to read them again, trying to understand why they interrupted my breezy progress through the 'roll.

Timothy Burke's post "Living in a Historical Time" was one of those. Here's a bit from the end:

Some things cannot be cured, and must be endured. Or if not just endured, instead changed for the better and faced with responsibility and a principled understanding of what the limits and possibilities of action are. We can know, learn and grow in wisdom, and even fight back against the burdens of our time, looking for and making the miracle of progress in a world that has ceased to believe in it. But grief is grief. It is right and just that we feel loss from which there is no restoration. I can raise my daughter, and try to move back from grief. I can try to find again my sense of joy in the world and reconnect to friends and life. My father is dead and will always be, and everything that depended on the changing possibilities of his life in the world is gone. A ruin is broken stone and scattered metal forever, no matter what gets built on it later.

That's why I don't take Burke off my blogroll, despite the fact that he doesn't ping when he updates, doesn't update often enough, and doesn't allow comments. :)

gone swimmin'

na1459ex1_md.jpg

Wedding over, my sister and her new husband happily nesting. Kids farmed out to friends and family. Flight to the Bahamas leaves in just under 12 hours. Ocean-view room booked at the Westin Our Lucaya (view from the rooms shown above). Back Friday night--hopefully relaxed and tan.

feeling stretched

It's been a rough week. Lots of energy expended, not all of it in the right places or for the right reasons. Unhappy calculations that involved figuring out whose hurt was more or less important, more or less recoverable. Choices between active paths that did harm and righted wrongs while incurring risk, or passive approaches that allowed harm to go unchallenged but kept me safe. Inevitable (or so it seems) accusations of neglect and narcissism from those not focused on, balanced by gratitude and appreciation from others. Hard to know what to do or how to do it right sometimes. Feeling like I'm off balance. Taking a break from blogging to focus on other things for a while. Hope to be back soon.

spring is in the air

The last couple of weeks have been rough. My grandfather passed away, my aunt has had problems recovering from gastric bypass surgery, my younger son was diagnosed with pneumonia only hours after I got on a plane for California, and I've been hopelessly behind in grading, grant revisions, and other responsibilities. The weather in southern California was gray, rainy, and cold while we were there, and the clouds followed us home.

But things seem to be turning around this weekend. Spring is here in all its glory--blooming forsythia, kids racing along the sidewalk, neighbors appearing in their yards after months of hibernation. Alex is healthy again. I'm slowly but surely catching up on my work. I'm even finding time to delight in the wonders of blogaria's writing again.

Today Gerald took the boys to a Rochester Red Wings' baseball game. He called at 1:00pm from the stadium, saying that as they approached the box office, someone offered them three premium box seats. He called again at 1:25, to tell me that Alex had found the winning egg in the easter egg hunt, and would be throwing out the first pitch; they were calling me from the field. Wish I could be there to see his face right now.

Haven't been doing much "professional" blogging recently, but that will be changing soon, I promise. Interesting things brewing on the social software front, some of which is already public, but some of which I'm sworn to (temporary) secrecy on. And while I won't be at ETCON, I'm hoping that blogs and other tools will let me participate vicariously.

Now it's off to the back deck, where the wonders of WiFi will keep me connected while I enjoy the warm breezes and try to get caught up with grading.

my secret life

Yes, it's true. There's a side to me that nobody suspects, except a few of my closest friends.

By day, I'm a mild-mannered professor. (Okay, maybe not that mild-mannered. But still.) By night, however, I'm a... (wait for it...) Tupperware lady. (Or, as one of the women at the party last night suggested as an alternate moniker, a TupperB*tch. I like that, but I suspect that corporate hq won't approve.)

Yes, it's true. Following the excellent advice provided in The Graduate, I have invested in plastics. Well, invested probably isn't the right word. I just happen to love Tupperware. And when my best friend invited me to a Tupperware party last year--the first one I'd attended in easily 15 years--I found that I love the new products as much as the old ones.

So I did what any sensible person with a stay-at-home-spouse would do...I went home and tried to convince him to become a Tupperware consultant. "The woman running the party has a &*^% company car," I told him. "This is easy money." Plus (and here's the real incentive) we get a discount on all our purchases. A pack rat's dream--all the Tupperware we can fit in our cupboards! Updated versions of all my old favorites, like the serving center and the cake taker. Brand new space-age Lexan-based rock-n-serves for all my leftovers. Modular Mates to organize the pantry (ha! who am I kidding?). Woohoo!

Amazingly, he bought it. For a couple of months, anyhow. Then he (and I) realized that it was not a good fit for an introvert. :-) (I know, I know. Duh.) But I just couldn't bear to give up the discount. Their stuff is just too much fun.

So every now and again I actually throw a Tupperware party. Or take an order for a friend because a big sale is running. Or direct people who love Tupperware but hate Tupperware people to my Tupperware web site, where they can order without ever having to talk to me.

Now that the truth is out, I can stop living a lie. No more excuses--"Gee, I'd love to attend your seminar on digital identity tonight, but I have a...um...a book group tonight." Say it loud...I'm a TupperB*tch and I'm proud!

So the next time you find yourself craving one of those handy-dandy plastic items (with a lifetime guarantee, no less)...stop by the web site and pick something up. And know that by doing so, you may well be funding my summer trip to Gnomedex. What could be a better cause?

public accountability

No, this isn't a post about politics, departmental or global. It's a much more personal level of accountability. It's about getting my sluggish self back into the gym on a regular basis, after months of lethargy. Last April, when I turned 40, I was in the best shape of my life. And it's been downhill since then. I got out of the habit of going to the gym over the summer, couldn't find a time to hook up with my regular workout partner this year, and have let a thousand excuses bloom.

The good news is, I've only put on about 8.5 pounds since early summer (haven't been on a scale since then). The bad news is that those are all in the places I want them the least...my face and my stomach. And my endurance and strength are way down. So my goal is that by the end of this quarter (11 weeks, if you include exams), I'll be back to feeling good about my physical self again. This isn't about dress sizes, or bikini-preparedness (though that would be nice...)--it's about energy and strength and confidence.

New quarter begins today, and a new routine goes into place along with it. And to keep me honest, I'm putting a "gym update" into my left sidebar. Am working on writing a little bit of scripty goodness in PHP so that that if I don't update it, it shows that I did nothing--and making an easy update form so that if I do make it in to the gym, I can put in the results.

I realize that most of you care about this not at all. But I know that if I'm publicly listing my accomplishments (or lack of them) I'll be more motivated. So ignore it if you're uninterested. Or use it as fodder for scolds or praise when you e-mail.

temporarily awol

There's nothing like a severe case of gastroenteritis to put the rest of your life in perspective.

I put the computer down at about 1am this morning because I was feeling queasy. nearly 20 hours later, I'm just starting to keep clear liquids down.

So, forgive me for starting all kinds of interesting dialogs and then disappearing entirely from the conversational space. Not only am I not up to sitting up with the computer for more than a couple of minutes at a time yet, I've now lost nearly an entire day of grading, and the pressure to get that done will have precedence over the pleasures of blogarian conversation for a day or two.

But I'll be back, soon.

write...write like the wind!

Grant proposal due next Wednesday. Draft of said proposal due this Friday. Budget for said proposal due tomorrow.

We cease blogging immediately, and heed our friend's urging to "write like the wind." Expect no updates until the draft is done Friday, and scold me soundly if I poke my head out for any reason other than to announce that it's done and posted on the blogresearch blog.

Ack.

local journalism: "midwives to the dying"

Took the boys to Starbucks today (their choice...not that I'm complaining). Picked up a copy of the local City Paper, which I love. Wish they had their content online, but they don't. (Updated 1/3; thanks, Michael!) The cover story was entitled "Midwives to the Dying," and was based on interviews with a doctor, a nurse who runs a small hospice, and a pastor.

The whole story was wonderful, but the interview with the nurse, Kathie Quinlan, was really moving. It got me to think a little differently about the process of dying, and the inevitable loss of the people I love. (Which has been on my mind lately, even more so after reading about Gary Turner losing his dad.

We need to educate about death, just as we've done so beautifully with birth education. Dying is not something to be shunned. In our society, we resist dying. We deny it. We defy it. The greater percentage of the health care dollar is spent on futile end-of-life measures that desecrate the process of dying, not allowing it to be lived in a comfortable, dignified, reverent manner. We know so well that dying can be lived fully and beautifully. Yes, painfully. I would never attempt to romanticize death or to diminish the anguish. But within that anguish there is the potential for transformation for the whole family.

and further...

All along that way, we are givin them every medication we can for their symptoms, always assuring them they won't be alone. In that inward journey toward the work of spirit, the work of soul, going deeper and deeper into oyourself, your center, your spirit. Getting ready to let go of that is an incredible effort. You don't have the energy to keep relating to even those dearest around you.   Oftentimes, the waiting seems interminable. Clincally we may see no reson why the person continues on, and yet they do. The permission to die is so important. And we will suggest at teh eend, ever so gently, "Have you told your mother, hyave you told your child, that it's all reight to go when she is ready?" The person will say, "How could I ever say that?"   I tell them you can't rehearse this. You just sit beside the bed and speak from your heart. She may be waiting for that. [...] Sometimes families tell us they don't know what to say to the dying. I tell them to go in and shut the door and reminisce, tell family stories. Of course they can hear. The hearing is the last of the senses to depart.

sense of wonder

I spent this evening with my six-year-old, Alex. We went to McDonald's for dinner, because the "Mighty Kids Meal" has the coveted Yu-Gi-Oh cards that he and his brother are collecting. Alas, they were out of the cards. But we ate there anyways, and as I sat there across from him at the table, watching him devour his chicken nuggets and fries, I had one of those moments where I was simply overwhelmed by the enormity of parenthood. This amazing creature, so beautiful, so bright, so full of surprises and life and love...how is it possible that I (we) created him? There are few feelings as powerful as looking at a human being and knowing that you had a hand in his or her existence.

When I met my husband, he was still involved with the work of Gurdjieff, and he spent some time explaining the ideas of that group to me. I can't say that much of it took, but one thing did. It was the concept of being/becoming awake. Gurdjieff holds that most of us spend our lives asleep...walking through life not fully awake and aware of it. We have moments, however, when we are more awake. And as my husband explained it to me, those are the moments we remember best out of our past--the moments where we feel as though we are outside of ourselves, looking in. That's what happened tonight, for moment...I was alive, aware, and intensely grateful.

Now we're home, and have slipped back into our sleep. This week, I'm grateful for the mental rest that this sleeping state provides. I've turned off the part of my brain that says "work! prep for class! learn new technologies! faster!" Unfortunately, that seems to have turned off the part that blogs, but I'm working on waking that back up now--hopefully without the work-related tension to accompany it.

One of things that's helped with the detachment is our Christmas Day acquisition (or at least unwrapping) of a brand-new GameCube, complete with the game that I really wanted, Animal Crossing. And it's as addictive as I'd expected (and hoped). Both the boys agree--we're all hooked. I'm not even willing to admit how many hours we've logged on the game since we opened it. (But I will tell you that Lane has woken me before 7am for two days in a row, demanding that I turn on the game--not as easy as it sounds, since we have an outrageously complicated entertainment system in the living room, and I like the game too much to banish it to the disaster area that the boys call their room.)

So that's all the news from the Lawley household, where tonight I'm curled up on the couch watching the surprisingly enjoyable Country Bears with Alex, waiting for Lane and Gerald to get back from the Amerks hockey game. Life is good.

ack

Went to the departmental holiday party...ate, drank, and was merry. Came home to an inbox full of messages from students asking what had happened to my web site. Checked it...or tried to. It was gone. No trace of my account. No syllabi. No links pages. Worst of all, no blog. It was like walking out to the parking lot and finding your car stolen. Or coming home and finding your belongings out on the street. Vertigo-inducing.

Happily, our sysadmin actually answered a page at 5:30pm on a Friday--after a holiday party. Wow. NIS errors corrected, web site reappears, I can breathe again.

wow

I've been reading Mark Pilgrim's blog for a couple of weeks, mostly because of his great stuff on tech topics I'm interested in.

Stopped by there today, and his post on addiction blew me away.

This is what makes blogs so amazing. That you can be browsing for XML and end up deep inside someone's head. It shakes you up. It makes you remember that it's a big world out there, with scary things and beautiful things and amazing people who write about both.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the unclassifiable category.

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