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ceci n’est pas un cactus

"that weird cactus"

I like keeping pictures of green things on my phone to look at when outside is all just frozen wasteland. This is a plant that looks like a cactus but is actually some sort of stapelia. It grew from a clipping of my grandmother’s plant and sits in the windowsill being green. My landlady comes in to water my plants occasionally when I travel and calls it That Thing.

But this is just to say that Winter is still here and that is fine but I see Spring on the horizon and that is better. I traveled to Massachusetts this past weekend to give a talk at a library that was not to librarians. It was at a brunch hosted by the Cary Library in Lexington and I gave a no-slides talk about blogging. It went off even better than I expected it to. Longtime readers sort of know my whole history of online nerdery and self-promotion via this and other blogs but people who know me from more recent times might be interested in the talk I gave. It’s online (of course) and you can read it here: Blogs Bloggers and Blogging.

Was really nice to see some friendly faces in the crowd including my Mom, James Fox and Shannon McDonough. Now I’m back home with freshly-done taxes and big weekend plans to play Rock Band and talk to some library trustees about rural libraries.


Snowy Owl and Tower

I’ve been really lucky these past few months. There has been a snowy owl irruption (you can thank the lemmings) and they’re all over the US in places that they usually aren’t. They like places that remind them of the arctic prairies which means you find them at airports and windswept beaches. This is tough in New England because they look like hunks of dirty snow of which there are many. The good news is that someone has usually done the tough work of finding them and so all you need to do is walk around a bit and look for the people staring excitedly into the dunes and usually you’ll see them. This is how I saw my first snowy owl a few weeks ago and how I saw my second just this weekend. Jim and I wrote OWL in the sand with an arrow to point to where the guy was hanging out. You’d miss him otherwise. Which I’m sure is what he probably wanted. Our arrow was blown away within ten minutes. You’re welcome, owl.

So yesterday when I hurled myself out the door in 25 degree weather order to get some exercise and vitamin D and walked around Gooseberry Point/Island/Beach/Whatever, I didn’t really have owls on my mind. But by the time I was rounding the last bend, I was a little curious if that big hunk of dirty snow might actually be…. And then it peeped at me and fluffed its feathers and I knew for sure. It was pretty exciting in that “simple pleasures” sort of way to get to have a private audience with an owl. I took a few photos as he rotated his head to keep an eye on me and then I continued on, made a report on ebird’s Snowy Owl Alert page (so gratifying to see it marked “confirmed”) and came home to look at the photos.

I’m occasionally posting stuff on Instagram also, for people who use that. It gets cross-posted to facebook (just like these posts do) so no need to install another app if you’re not already using it. If you are already using it, let me know your handle.

hunting season is over

orange vest on braided rug

I have this orange vest. Orange is my color. It looks good on me and I wear it as much as I can get away with. This was a non-issue at home, at Hampshire and no big deal in Seattle. Around here it attracts the occasional joke about hunting season. Which is fine. It’s perfect actually. As a kid, and even into adulthood, I always hated being teased, even friendly teasing. I know it’s mostly irrational and learning to roll with the occasional jab is just part of being a grown-up. But I still bristle and dislike it and always feel that people are playing status games with me when they subtly put me down for no reason, when I thought we were having a nice time. That said, I’m sure there is something that I may be missing about how I treat other people that makes them think maybe I went there first? Or that I enjoy this sort of thing? Or that I have it coming? Unclear. A big secret about me is that I am often confused.

Anyhow, I went to RTCC to go hang out at drop-in time and give people tech support. I made a joke with another teacher (intentionally, I knew it was a joke and I knew the person I was making it towards would know it was a joke, we are work friends, some things I understand) and he looked at me and said “Hunting season is over!” and we both laughed. This vest, a really nice soft vest with a lifetime warranty, is so much better than just being a bright orange down vest. It’s a predictable-teasing attractant. No one makes fun of my haircut when I wear this vest, or my shoes, or my phone, or whatever else it is that people like to point out and say “Hey you’re different, and weird!” Just that bright orange vest that makes me look like a misplaced hunter. It’s perfect, I’ll take it.

that was the year that was

I feel like I skipped a year and now I am back to visiting the US and various libraries and guestrooms with backpack or travel bag. I missed it. I am freshly back (well not even home yet but holed up in Westport watching it rain) from a long trip to see Jim’s parents outside of Phoenix and a short trip to New York City to give a talk and see some friends.

Highlights included a musical instrument museum, a drive out at night in the desert, a few easy train trips, an AirBnB place that was jessamyn-perfect (sort of unusual), a fun meetup, a great dinner (lentil flour donuts!) and cracking some kids up trying to explain to them what a Jiffy Lube was.

My year-end reading list is also online over at as well as links to my talks and some info about the conference that I was at. I started the year with inbox zero but that’s been creeping up not because I’m not on top of things but more because my inbox is my to do list and there are some things that need to stay on that list until I get all the way home. There is probably a better way to manage this than I am currently managing it.

The word for the early part of this year is hygge (one of those non-translateable ones, read up on it, you’ll be glad you did). “You know, the thing you have to understand about the Danes is that we believe that when you’re moving, your soul doesn’t catch up with you until you stop for half an hour.” and hygge is about that slow down and catch up part.

wrap-up: it was fine!

2013 could have been a better year. My personal year went pretty okay–I did less traveling, I went places I liked, I hung out with people who delighted me and saw a lot of friends–but it was tough for some other people I care a lot about. I wrote out my libraries list and was pleased with it. I will work on my reading list real soon now. I didn’t keep track of my guestroom list last year for some reason. I’ll probably get on that again. My exercise routine has become standard so while I can tell how many time I visited the gym last year (78), I’m not sure how far I biked or swam or fast-walked. This is okay with me. I spent maybe a third to a quarter of my time in Westport and that seemed about right. Jim and I rang in the new year with neighborhood friends (I dressed up, more pics here) and then went out to a poutine and chicken parm breakfast in Barre the next morning. We would have tanked the day early by having Oreo pancakes and bacon but they were out of Vermont maple syrup AND bacon by the time we got there so this was probably a good thing.

My resolution this year, if I have one, is to keep on keeping on as much as possible and to work on “not getting wrapped around the axle” so much, to quote a phrase my father used to like. That is, I’m sure there will be ups and downs to this year, like every year and I’m sure I’ll have my share of annoying travel, bad nights of sleep, and interpersonal conflicts. But those only have to last as long as they last and not live on in my head as some sort of personal instant replays that I carry with me and go over and over. Not living within my own stress or finding ways to dissociate stressful things from the rest of what’s going on in my generally enjoyable brain is my goal. This is in keeping with my time-taking resolution last year. Keeping fewer lists, keeping less track, less score. That went okay. Happy 2014 to those who celebrate that sort of thing.


I am not just a grinch around holidaytime, I tell people, I am a grinch all the time. I work on my attitude but I am a nitpicker and sometimes being a nitpicker means that you notice little tiny things that don’t bother anyone else and it makes you seem grinchy. I know that I differentiate crabby from nitpicky but not everyone does, nor should they. Often these are things that really only affect me–my friend still jokes about the level of sound coming from her refrigerator after I mentioned it when staying at her place–and some are larger issues like why libraries don’t have better websites if we are in the information business? Anyhow, the internet tires me out because it’s always full of soandso said something racist and other people flipped out, or various people in positions of power being jerks, or clickbait-y “Top Ten Things You’ll NEVER BELIEVE” and I’m always like “Try me, I have a pretty good imagination…” Headlines that offer to show me something that leave me breathless are either preaching to some other choir or have a really low bar for what makes someone amazed/breathless/stunned/whatever.

So anyhow in the vein of lowing the general internet blood pressure, here are a few things that have happened to me that you might think would have gone badly but actually went okay. I only mention them because it’s easy to think this sort of thing is never dealt with well.

  1. I got pulled over by the police for having a headlight out. The officer gave me a warning and was totally nice about it.
  2. I got a random set of death threats from someone on the Internet and the people who I was working for handled it quickly and professionally and did not make it my problem or tell me to “get over it”
  3. I went to get my headlight fixed and I got my car in and out of the mechanic’s on time and the mechanic was pleasant and charming and I was charged very little for very good service.
  4. I ordered an item from ebay that never arrived and did not get a good result from their dispute resolution process so I called them to talk about this and they gave me a coupon for twice what I paid for the item and asked if that would “make it right” and I said sure.
  5. There was a profile of me in a local paper that I think was accurate and fair (even if they did edit out one example of me saying “fuck”) and that other people liked.
  6. My flu shot gave me the predictable one day of dragass but was otherwise hassle-free
  7. The new recipe I made came out pretty much like it was supposed to and looked like the photos that came with the recipe.
  8. I went to the gym and no one bothered or body-shamed me or paid any attention to me whatsoever except for that nice Nordic lady who always says hi in the locker room.
  9. I made a mistake remembering both the time and location of a lunch with my boss and she was fine with it and we had a nice meal once we found each other.
  10. My bathroom ceiling started to leak because of ice dams and I told my landlady who said “Thanks for letting me know” and we called Terry The Ice Dam Man who came over and pounded on the roof with a stick for a few hours and now the ceiling doesn’t leak anymore.

I realize that some of these situations are ones that maybe only I was worried would go terribly wrong. But others were scenarios that have entire web communities fretting about them on the regular. I’m also aware that being a nice middle-aged white lady counts for something and that I am a fortunate person in many ways. Writing all of this down is maybe also to remind myself of that as well as to just address the old “Why doesn’t the newspaper ever have any GOOD news?” question.

in before the wrap ups!

You know it’s been a while when your blogging software has forgotten about you and you have to log in again.

The good news is I’ve mostly been enjoying the holiday season and have not been suffering from it. The late Thanksgivukkah holiday (food photo here, this year’s menorah here) means that everything feels closer together this year which is fine by me. I’ve got a trip to Arizona slotted in at the end to go visit Jim’s folks with him and Milo so I think I’ve just shifted activity in that direction. The week afterwards I’m giving a talk in Lexington MA about blogging. No slides. No conference. Just me talking about … doing this. So I figured I should not only get on it but also get contemplative about it again. It’s been a while, seventeen years? I have a lot of other online avenues of self-expression now and so this space has been for more longer-form thoughts, longer-ranging what I’m up to things. I enjoyed reading this post on Zeldman’s website where he talks about blogging and invites people who still do it to chime in in the comments. A lot of familiar names in the comments, and some new ones.

Last weekend was the Christmas Bird Count which was appallingly cold and a little spare on the birds but I persevered and saw a few. Next weekend is the Neighborhood Solstice Bonfire which is my favorite social holiday event and then I head down to Westport to chill with Jim and Kate and her friends and my friends, back up here for New Year’s Eve. It’s a cozy little routine and I’m already cueing up a day or two full of movies. I got my flu shot in-between starting this post and wrapping it up, so I’m feeling snuffly and achey for whatever real or imagined reason so I’ll wrap this up here as a good loose end to encourage me to write again before late January.