24jun05: the economy of travel
Got to the airport early and got on an earlier flight. Arrived in Chicago before I was even supposed to have left Boston. I love these secret caches of time you sometimes uncover. Of course, I frittered it all away getting the wireless to [not] work and having banal but important IM chats with Greg ["I miss you" "I miss oyut oo", the bad typist is me] and eating cereal. In Vermont I usually use Google Maps to take pity on myself and say "you see, there are no espresso shops
within 15 miles of here!" but here I could use it to figure out where the street is with the supermarket and the coffee and the food. I'm staying at Mark
and Fay's [amazing! lovely! cool! inviting! snack-filled!] place, and they are gone for a few more days, so discovering the neighborhood and feeding myself is up to me. It's important to arrive at the convention center fully fed, because options there are limited, lame and overpriced. I sat next to a librarian on the plane whose husband was explaining Google Maps to her, and what it could do, and she was assuring him that patrons don't want that level of interactivity, don't want to have to dig that deep, know that much. It was good preparation for this week in Chicago, I think.
I vacillate between wanting to really DO the conference -- go to exhibits, stay out late drinking with the librarians every night, see a program or two or six -- and wanting to reserve my energy, go to the meetings I have to go to, and sleep a lot every night, and eat well and healthily. I think for a lot of people this hustle and bustle is a welcome departure from their regular work lives [or looking for work
lives] and for me this sort of travel is what I've been doing lately, except that ALA is larger and more spread out, more chaotic and disorganized and, as a result, not as fun. I don't want to bring home bags of free posters and books. I don't want to be wined and dined by vendors. I can't look beyond these giveaways and think "Well you could make your product less expensive and maybe not have a plasma screen at your booth." Going to these conferences, as much as I'm happy to participate, and see being on ALA Council as a sort of public service, makes me feel more like a fish out of water than usual.
You know you've got it pretty easy when one of the worst fears you need to confront in your life is only plumbing. I went up to Topsham
this weekend which is something I have been putting off for an embarassingly long time. I had a caretaker who left a little earlier than I was expecting last year. Propane ran out, house froze, pipes froze. Ick, ick ick
. Greg went up there at some point and turned the water off but I have been unable to face it, and unhappy with myself for being such a coward. Well, after a very nice Saturday of driving around, visiting the American Precision Museum
and going to a few more towns in Vermont I hadn't been to yet, I was steeled to confront what awaited me on Sunday. Greg came along, trooper that he is, and we prepared for the worst...
And it wasn't that bad. I mean, sure the pipes are cracked all over the place, and mice ate the seeds out of my eye pillow, the roof leak spot has grown some mildew, the stove is rusty, the thermostat has been dead for I don't know how long, and there had been a power failure so the fridge has seen better days. On the other hand the grasses have been growing crazywild all over the place, the barn is still standing, there are no large mammals living in the house [furred or human] and I'm fairly certain that most of whatever is broken can be fixed, by us even. This will probably mean a work holiday: where we would have had a Fourth of July party, now we will be having a lonely-ish work weekend, complete with peeing in the yard and possibly showering at the truck stop. If I ever do get the plumbers to return my calls I'll try to get them to install a drain in the house so if and when the water starts running again, it can also be more easily stopped and the house can be closed down for the Winter.
These crazy Spring into Summer days make me feel like anything is possible, so I'd best get moving on things before the Summer into Autumn torpor sets in. Also, I got a haircut
15jun05: late, also, adelphia sucks
I was late to work today because I took a detour to see the burial site for the original Morgan Horse
in Tunbridge Vermont. Then I clinched a deal to teach some basic computer classes at the Chelsea Family Center from now through December. I feel like such a wheeler-dealer even though it's probably a no-brainer to say "Yes" when someone comes to your place of non-profit business and says "Want me to teach some classes here, for free?" I like my job.
I can not say the same for the people at Adelphia
who were sad to see me go when I switched to DSL this week. I'm sure there's some job-related reason these people have to argue with you when you cancel your service, but it just winds up leaving me with an even worse taste in my mouth about them than I had before. It just makes me assume that, like junk mail and spam, there are people on whom these slimy tactics work
and so the rest of us have to suffer through them. Some "facts" I had not known previously, that were related to me in the course of the three phone calls necessary to cancel my service:
- Viruses come from computers that are left on overnight. Everyone should turn their cable modem off when they go to bed. Macs are just as vulnerable as PCs
- I could have been paying significantly less for my cable modem if only I had known to ask the right people [as opposed to the people I did ask, several times, who told me flatly "no"]
- My cable modem could have worked much better and much faster if only I had known to ask the right people [as opposed to the people I did ask, several times, who told me flatly "that's as good as it gets"]
- the reason we don't have a la carte cable service [where you pay per channel] in Adelphialand is because of evil people like Ted Turner not evil people like Adelphia. They could not explain why C-SPAN was not a part of basic cable.
- $29.95/month + taxes is greater than $54/month + taxes [this one was my favorite, i.e. the "DSL really costs you more" angle which was in no way, shape, or form true mathematically, maybe it costs me more psychologically, but I doubt that too.]
In any case, I'm in spring-into-summer mode and so I don't care about Adelphia and their petty problems much at all. I'm just happy it didn't cost me money to do what I wanted. During the third call -- after a disastrous trip to Barre, ending when Greg found out that the office we had to return the cable modem to had closed in 2004 -- I even got someone to send a nice man in a truck to collect the rental modem that they delivered to us in a truck. Unpleasant phone lady #1 told us this man would cost us $25. Pleasant phone lady #3 [who was in the Vermont call center, not the other one, wherever it is, where they pronounce Barre to rhyme with 'car'] said "Wow, I'm sorry about that, will you be home Thursday to hand the equipment to the nice man in the truck?" I said sure, after all I'll just be in the backyard feeding oily sunflower seeds to a bunch of happy birds and chipmunks.
Got in the car Saturday morning to drive down to Hackensack NJ to go to a family get-together at my great aunt Horty's place. When I was a kid, we'd always go down to NJ for my grandmother's birthday, and now that she's gone I get there less and less frequently. There was a good group
of people there, ranging from my great aunt to the daughter
of my grandfather's brother's son. My head went blurry trying to remember how I was related to everyone, but I had a good time talking about intellectual property and the future of the ownership of information and the future of libraries. When I wanted a break from high-minded banter, there was always my cousin Jay
to discuss meat poetry and night driving with.
We had a sort of empty day on Sunday, so when we found out that Cousin Arthur [I call them all cousin, Arthur is actually my Mom's cousin, so he's mine once removed] had a computer networking dilemma, we headed down to Clinton to do some ethernet magic and have a nice lunch by the river before driving home with a car loaded with bagels and chocolate in some crazy rain.
I've done a lousy job of keeping myself underemployed, so I'm ramping up to some serious work in the next few weeks. Having ten hours to drive down empty old route 87 looking out the window at birds and buildings and the big emptiness that is totally not New Jersey and talk to Greg who I dont' see nearly enough was a vacation in and of itself.
It's finally warm. I'm finally done with my fun but tiring speaking tour. I've finally installed OSX 10.4 on my laptop. I've finally started my job in a real three-days-a-week way. I'm finally taking a trip exclusively for fun/family. I've finally gotten every member of my nuclear family in to see one of my talks. We finally joined the pool. We finally changed the flannel sheets off the bed. We finally are getting DSL [screw you Adelphia
and your redlining of rural communities with your overpriced broadband
as you slide into bankruptcy]. My freckles are finally coming back and my bug bites from last weekend BBQing are finally easing, a bit.
I'm still working on getting a windshield wiper for my 78 Toyota Cressida, getting the plumbers to fix winter damage to the house in Topsham, a possible 4th of July party, getting a grill up here in Bethel, relaxing from my last job, and figuring out if I need a haircut [signs are pointing to yes].
I can hear the waxwings peeping outside the window here where we've pulled the blinds tight to try to keep some of the sun out. It's going to be a totally different summer now that I'm not reporting to work someplace that is chiled enough by air conditioning that I have to wear a sweater every day. I head to Chicago for ALA at the end of the month and then it's two solid months of noplace to go but the riverbank.
Here is a phone call between me and my live-in landlady this week:
Me: Our neighbor is using our hose to fill his pool.
Ola: That's okay, he's done it before.
Me: Don't we pay for the water?
Ola: No, we just get a bill for water in general four times a year. We don't pay by the gallon or anything.
Me: Huh, that sort of crap would get your ass kicked in Seattle.
I gave two fun back to back talks
in a small computer lab in the basement of a lovely university
to an audience which included my Dad and his wife, the mother of a good friend of mine, and the mother of a good college friend of mine. Except for a small skillshare on Rumor Control
that I'm giving at ALA, I'm done with public speaking until September. I gave nine talks in eleven weeks. I plan to focus on my job, my house, and watching spring edge up into summer. I'm going to work on staying in place.
Last night as I was out on the porch doing that one-cigarette-before-bed thing and letting my thoughts leak out of my head, I saw some weird fat bugs that I hadn't seen before. They were slow and loud and kept bumping in to me, the lights, the trees, etc. One landed on the porch on top of a flower petal that had gotten stripped from the tree during yesterday's rainstorm. When I looked again, the big was gone, and so was the pink petal. I imagined the insect flying up into the night with its organic pink cape. Super Junebug!
I lucked into an IM conversation with a friend who happened to have more frequent flier miles than he knew what to do with and now I have a low-cost ticket to Chicago for ALA in the hopper. Greg started his Summer job in Montpelier. It's a BYOL affair [BYO laptop] so he's less of a fish out of water than he was in the all-Microsoft offices he's learned to expect. I got my first paycheck for $230 or so -- yeah that's TWO weeks -- and have met my first few students. It's a bit scary just putting yourself out there and saying "I can help you" but it's true, and I've got some free time coming up, so it will be interesting to see where it all goes.