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greetings from hibernia

[Note: In real life Hibernia is the Latin name for the island of Ireland and has nothing to actually do with hibernating. A hibernophile is someone who is fond of Ireland, not fond of sleeping.]

So the annual joke here is that my landlady doesn’t like to turn the furnace on (not the thermostat, the actual machine that makes the heat) before October 1st. As anyone who has been in New England this week knows, it’s been cold. It used to be a situation that brought me a fair amount of anxiety. My landlady wouldn’t want to turn the heat on. I’d ask her, she’d say no. I’d grow colder and grumpier. She’d stoke her wood stove. My apartment comes with heat included, this no-furnace business is technically illegal but I don’t know how to tell a scrappy 89 year old woman that she is breaking the law and I suspect she wouldn’t care anyhow. I have an electric mattress pad warmer and have been pretend-miserable but not actually miserable as a result of this. Plus everyone likes to brag about how long they can go without turning the furnace on and I am not at all hardcore in this regard compared to some neighbors.

Over the past few years, the routine has shifted a little. Two years ago she asked me “Are you freezing up there?” and I said I was okay maybe a little cold, I’d just put on a hat. The implication that I got was that she was maybe also a little cold but her Yankee morality wouldn’t let her relent and turn the furnace on just for her. The furnace went on when I had guests coming and I said it might be a little cold… for guests. Last year I did give her a running account of what the temperature was in my place and when it got down to 58 she decided that was too cold for me and the furnace kicked in. Today I woke up and it was about that temperature in here, but I put on a few layers and it was mostly fine. I stayed active, determined not to give in. I heard the furnace rumble and the baseboards start to make their little jingling sound this evening and opened my email to a note saying “Just turned on the furnace!!!!!!” I see this as some sort of victory.

I’ve been reading a lot about hibernating since I don’t think it’s just the mattress pad warmer that makes me want to take to my bed in this weather. I learned that fresh water turtles can stay underwater for months at a time. Months. Underwater. Their heart rate drops to once every ten minutes. It’s nuts. And true, not just internet-true, I read it in a book. Then there are the internet fables about human hibernation (some heresay, some sort of true, some about hypothermia, some about who knows what) that would benefit from a bit more research.

My favorite of all the stories is this short story, fully fictional, called The Sleep by Caitlin Horrocks (you can read it on Google books or feel free to find/purchase it elsewhere or maybe get it from your library) about an entire town and a hibernation experiment of sorts. Every time the days get shorter I re-read it. I think you should read it too. Happy resting.

still resting

BIRTHDAY

It’s somewhat embarrassing that I am so bad at this relaxing stuff, but this year it’s really going okay. I am now back in Vermont where me and my landlady try to out-yankee each other by seeing how long we can go without putting the furnace on. I have electric sheets and I think I may win. But she has a woodstove. We each had a recent birthday. Some recent events have included

- Having a lousy cold – taking care of sick Jim gave me a small bout of the low-level crud. I am better now.
- Labor Day hangout in Westport – good times, good food and a lot of friends from various parts of my life. I am lucky.
- Birthday weekend – which included a nice long visit with Kate, a lot of short visits with Jim, a lot of random food and beachwalking, and many amusing photo ops because my friend GJ wants people to send him photos of people flipping him off. You know me and Kate… hilarity ensues.
- Shopping – as most of you know, I hate to shop but it was time to get rid of my 20+ year old mattress, a mattress so old I don’t even know where I got it. Second-hand something. So I went mattress-shopping, for the first time ever, with Kate there to run interference if things got dicey. The mattress guys just dropped off my new-to-me mattress and as I was making the bed, thinking about consumer choices I have made and not made, I was thinking that may have been a good Virgo Month of Leisure move. There’s a longer discursive ramble about my bizarre (to me) habit of usually immediately disliking any new item I have purchased, including haircuts but I’ll save it for a less leisurely month. This mattress looks nice.

summer

mother ocean

I don’t have much to say right now. Things are good. I am participating in the Virgo Month of Leisure and here is a nice photo of the ocean. People who are interested in some of the things I am doing and finding at Open Library may enjoy following Open Library’s twitter account. It’s one of those neat fact-a-day things.

Virgo Month of Leisure starts tomorrow

This week has been a pisser of triage work because of a broken thing at Open Library and me still getting back on track after returning from an awesome trip to London to a few days of jetlagged muzzy brain. Here are 100 photos from that trip. As of right this minute I am caught up on work things including

- Open Library inbox at zero (thank you Michelle)
- Computers in Libraries article (on Wikimania) submitted
- Full-time work looked for as per Vermont’s Department of Labor mandates
- Chandler Film Society posters and flyers designed, printed and distributed (thank you Jeff and Ed)
- Bills paid
- Booklist fixed (thank you Scott)
- Laundry done
- Fridge full of food

For the first time in a while I feel like I can work on some back burner projects like figuring out how to get wifi into the back bedrooms (I am in Westport) and thinking about starting up classes in the fall. I am also excited about a number of things I saw at Wikimania which I wrote about a bit on the Open Library blog. We don’t update much but when we do it’s usually something I’ve written, or a maintenance announcement.

I’ve also been keeping the Open Library twitter feed alive with one interesting fact each day with an Open Library citation or supporting documentation. It’s the library work I was born to do, really. Next step over the next few months is to try to merge the work I was born to do with the work I can get paid to do. Open Library is terrific but it’s super part time. That may be flexible and it may not be. Anyone with suggestions, feel free to ping me. I promised I wasn’t going to start looking in earnest until the school year started but once the Virgo Month of Leisure kicks in, I may have a mandate to try to be more relaxed. We all know how well that tends to go.

leaving the continent

I haven’t left the continent in quite a while now and I have the fidgets. One of the great side effects of not having a regular sort-of-full-time job is that I can say yes to some opportunities that I’d been missing out on. Backstory: I am on the Advisory Board to the Wikimedia Foundation. Just one of the service-type things that I do. Mostly we just answer questions if asked, it’s not a high commitment thing, but I enjoy being involved because I believe in the Wikimedia/Wikipedia vision, imperfect as it may be. So one of the things available to the Advisory Board members is travel to the annual Wikimania Conference. This year it is in London. I have always wanted to go to London. It’s a little weird to me that for all my international travel I’ve never been to any of Western Europe. So I’m leaving tomorrow and today is getting all my ducks in a row, including writing some stuff in this slightly slow-motion blog.

An odd side effect of not having an internet job (mostly, the Open Library gig is super part time) is that emails languish in my inbox and my blogs are a little unattended. So I’ve been spending a lot of time since mid-June down in Westport (with a trip back up for July 4th and now again) and doing a variety of things. A partial list. Links usually go to photos or talks.

So, now that you are caught up, I am leaving to go to London for Wikimania where I will be volunteering in the Press Office and trying to go see a bunch of talks and get my phone working correctly. Don’t call me. I won’t answer. I have some library tours and maybe a Meetup scheduled. I’m trying to play the rest of it by ear other than making sure I have enough reading material to last me through a six hour plane ride there and back (seriously, this and sleeping are my largest travel concerns) and the right clothes to wear.

Despite this list, I feel like I’ve been able to have a lot of lazy downtime, more than usual. This may be because I’m just calmer inside than I’ve been for the past few years, or it may be that for the first time in a really long time, I’m doing summer right (for me).

the road ahead

I have gone far too long without an update here. Blogs being what they are, I am certain this has not been a problem but usually I just fail to update because I’m busy or because I don’t have much to say. This time it was much more because I wasn’t sure how to say what I wanted to say. And I still don’t.

In short, I am fine and life is fine, but I made a decision to leave MetaFilter and do a few more things. Unlike leaving a shitty job where you wake up the next morning thinking “I did the exact right thing and why did I wait so long?” this one feels a bit weirder and I think I was putting off writing about it until I had that “This is totally right” feeling but now it’s occurring to me that I may never. It was not a shitty job and yet it was still time to go.

Anyhow, if you know me much at all or follow me on any other social media you know the story already. Revenue was way down, layoffs needed to happen. As employee #1 (after Matt) I had a choice to either continue working but in more of an “everyone works all the time” sort of way or move on and let someone else stay working there. The last eighteen months of working at MeFi had been, for me, difficult. We knew revenue was down, Google’s mechanisms were opaque, Matt didn’t want to tell the community about the problems, he and pb tried an awful lot of cost-saving measures but every so often there would be a “Things are looking worse than usual” email to the staff and continued discussions that the site might have to actually shut down or be sold. As Director of Operations–more of a title that I took when I also had to take a pay cut last year than an actual description of what I did–I offered a lot of suggestions and tried to keep staff morale up, but the final decisions were Matt’s to make. And it was hard, for a long time. And ultimately, as much as I loved the job, I had a few conflicting concerns…

1. I wanted to do more work with libraries. The MeFi job was pretty flexible, but the more public speaking I was doing the more I’d have to get coverage when I was away and the more I’d be working seven-day weeks including travel/speaking time. This was too much. AskMe is an amazing resource and I feel like I had a big hand in making it what it is but it’s not public and it’s not a library.
2. I was getting burned out. People who have done similar jobs know what this is like but I’d find myself looking at big fighty threads and just thinking that everyone was being awful (which, in truth, they may have been) and not wanting to wade into it to help sort it out. The community deserved better than that. Many of the other mods are better at not letting this stuff get under their skin so much. This was a good news/bad news thing. I think I was very good at my job because I cared so much about it, but it also took a lot out of me. And the meticulous attention to the work that I did may have been more than the site really needed. Maybe.
3. I was tired of covering. We’d been living with this news for nearly two years and I’d already nearly-resigned once. After the public announcements were made about the money problems and the layoffs, the community responded incredibly positively and started donating a ton of money to keep the lights on. This was, for me, incredibly gratifying but also sort of a bitter pill since it was a thing I’d wanted to do much earlier in the game, when I was still around. We’d launched a mod-intensive subsite a month before we were announcing that we were laying people off. I love the subsite, I thought the timing of the move was a mistake. But I think more to the point, I was tired of being one of the main public faces of a site where I wasn’t calling the shots, and disagreeing with some of the shots. Matt’s a wonderful guy as a person, he has some shortcomings as a boss. I’m certain I have some shortcomings as an employee. I really wanted to be in a workplace situation where I could work hard and get positive feedback for that work, or if not, feedback on how to improve. Instead I got paid well to work in a vacuum which was great but weird, mostly left alone but with occasional “Hey we’re going to make some big changes in 48 hours” emails. When Matt’s post on Medium about “the troubles” mentioned me only for my scheduling work, that stung. And made me think, more than anything else, that I was making the right decision. I needed MetaFilter to be less about me and I needed me to be less about MetaFilter.
4. I had a place to go. When the MeFi stuff started being difficult I decided I needed a hobby and I started a volunteer job over at Open Library helping do the support email there and beef up their FAQ, trying to make what had been a bit of a ghost ship into a live concern. As I was casting about thinking about what my Plan B was going to be, I asked them if they’d consider bringing me on and they said “Sure!” So I started a part time gig there a month before I left MeFi. Longer description of that here. And, since MeFi was such a good job for so long, I have a chunk of money in the bank so I don’t have to start scrambling for other work just yet.
5. I am aware this may sound snotty but I think I had sort of peaked at MeFi. I wasn’t sure there were new paths to explore there within the structure as it was and I didn’t see the structure changing. Ultimately I took the place from a Matt-and-sometimes-Jess place to a site with a staff of eight round-the-clock employees and a bunch of community-enhancing stuff (April Fool’s events, holiday swaps, music exchanges, the MeFi Mall, a user-built wiki with full podcast transcripts) better than any place else operating at a similar scale. A place where you could read the comments and not be appalled at how terrible “internet people” can be. A place where even if you did have a bad day, you’d have a chance for a better one. A place that was a good place to work as well as a good place to hang out, for the most part.

So it worked out. MetaFilter did right by me and I think I did right by MetaFilter. I’ve committed myself to not starting to look for other work until the summer starts winding down. I’ve been keeping up on my public speaking and redesigned my “Hey you might want to hire me” site and it looks really nice. I’ve taken over the Twitter accounts for Open Library and the Vermont Library Association and I’ve recommitted myself to reading books as if it were my job (check the reading list). I’ve been pruning the junipers at my dad’s place a lot these past few days and realizing that my grandmother (who used to do this a lot) may have really had something there.

And MetaFilter? It’s still my internet home and I’m still there a lot of the time, but being there because I want to be is a whole different kind of being there, and one that I like a lot.

Patient

tadpole

So for the first time in ten years, I missed giving a talk (missed the whole trip) because I was sick. And I’m bent out of shape about it. No one likes being sick, of course, but I have a weird “Am I TOO sick to do the thing?” set of anxieties that I start getting when I am doing something with other people. Do I just lump it and suffer through it? Do I stay home and get better even if people are relying on me? Do I put the people on the airplane at risk of getting the crud because I have unrefundable AirBnB reservations? I have a hard time making these decisions and I am lucky that I have sensible people around me to help me make them. I’d been feeling punk for a few days but it was waking up on the day of my flight with a fever that clinched the “Don’t go” decision for me. The nice people at TXLA were totally understanding. My talks were even online and ready to go and I toyed with the idea of giving the talks via Skype but 1) no one really likes that and 2) I still didn’t feel that great.

And so since then I’ve been digging out of feeling bad about that. And I’m heading to Mackinac Island on Monday (assuming the ice gets broken up in good time) for the Michigan Rural Libraries Conference where I’m keynoting and I’m trying not to get phobic about staying healthy until then.

Meanwhile there’s been a bit of waiting-game stuff going on at some–oh let’s be honest, most–of my other jobs and I’ve realized just how terrible I can be at just waiting and being still without some sort of geography quiz or Vermont cop mystery or todo checklist to occupy me. I’m in Massachusetts for a few days (love the jobs I can do from anywhere) because it’s school break in Vermont and I’m trying hard to go for gadget-free walks and see how things are going in the frog pond day by day. The waiting isn’t easy but I think it may be healthy.