Posts Tagged ‘conference’

Secret diaries of the BlogHer Reach out tour

I missed the party because I was staying with M. who I supposed is now to be called MamaMich and LQ alias MamaLala, their baby, and their FIVE cats. We had Cuban food that was just so-so but I love cuban food like crazy. Mmmm platanos. We gossiped more about Ping’s perfidy and how he jacked them up (so pointlessly! how could he!) for thousands of dollars. I felt all admiring of MamaMich’s Dr. Mich Harvard id card. We argued about what it meant. I said it meant something even if she didn’t think it did in her context, it did in mine. I know half the folks in ivy league are morons, well aware. It is not that! It’s still a mythical institution! Where one might, might, might climb up a tree to a place no one’s ever been before. M. climbs up the back ends of drosophilas to give them colorectal cancer! Then she gives them tiny enemas! Or maybe a grad student does the fruit fly enemas. Dunno. Counts for something mythical, surely. I always like being in the midddle of MamaLala’s stuff. It is just my style of comfort and hominess. Books are everywhere. I feel like things are in logical places, which for us means in stacks of papers and books with cats sleeping on top of them. On the ride up we talked about WisCon and the book for it and then inevitably about internet drama, politics, anarchy, and the ethics of organizations and personal interactions. Our conference hotel is in a sort of office park behind a mall out in the burbs somewhere. I will be pretending it’s a magic castle and we’re the dancing princesses, well, the blogging princesses who mysteriously disappear every night through the forest of silver leaves and the forest of mall decorations and the ogres in sports uniforms in the lobby to our fabulous witchy coven thingie at the stroke of midnight. But no… the silver leaves have faded. I don’t get to see Starkeymonster who is sick as hell with the flu, for which I was teased mightily by my ex and my sly eyed companion-in-evil as they were all like “Of course Badger has SOME GIRL she has to go see” which I protested only feebly that ack, of course, they are my priorities, I am only here one day, I halfway only intend to introduce them all as fangirls extreme, nor did I go to Honk! downtown. Instead I worked on work. I am in a king-size bed in a slightly too swanky large hotel room (next to the elevator, thank you, desk gnome with the pineapple insignia!) asphyxiating a bit in its air freshner, perhaps the carpet freshener stuff sprinkled down there… at least the bed is nice. I could fit 3 people in this bed! HEY NOW LADIES! I like inspecting all the odd accoutrements of a hotel room. there is no minibar – coffee, ice bucket, giant TV, notepaper, little shampoo and soaps, a bible and a book of mormon and a phone book. Sarah Dopp came over to give me a hug but now I can’t remember if I got the hug. Instead we laid in bed and talked about the conference, my talk & slide show, my points I want to get across, how to feel out who is listening and what they want and what they have to say. She told me more ideas for geek lab and I’ll go participate for most of it. What will it be? We’ll make it good. In the bar downstairs I sat with Kristy and Karin and one other person. A very large man in a baseball cap joined us tenatively at the end of our table. “Obama!” he said, all lit up. “Obama! Yeah!!!” Was he drunk or in some altered states? I felt us all look around the table trying to figure out which one of us was about to get hit on. Probably not me, I code as too gay for the burbs and the wheelchair tends to rule me out of the general course of lechery. “That’s right! *clappping* Obama!!!” the possibly Special man in the bar said, grinning like a maniac. “Obama, Yeah!” We smiled for a bitchosecond (the exact unit of time to be polite yet blow someone off in a bar) and went back to our political conversation. Karin said she has a special calendar and it is now down to 103 days before Bush is out of office.

Sarah and I continued our non-hug and instead had a guerilla work meeting between our two companies which we realized would save asstons of work and confusion for everyone so hurrah us. Palaces have sewer rats which scurry around with their own ways to save the secret passages in the dark of the castle. We talked over our moms and boyfriends and politics while we were at it.

I have set up the coffee machine for the morning! Bloggity morning!

I used the intertubes to telepathically bond with my young sprog, who explained that he was cleverly putting 11111 in the middle of his exclamation points, to make them cooler. U R KEWL, typed his distant mom, full of love and l33t. Rook has written up a guide to local issue voting in our district. Zond-7 pointed me to Golly the Game of Life (I missed this week’s python lesson at the EFF.)

I’ll fall asleep reading “Playing for Keeps” by Mur Lafferty! It’s about superheroes! You can get it in a podcast! You can read Mur’s mysterious twitters!

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Geek out at BlogHer Boston and DC

This weekend I’m flying out to Boston and DC for two BlogHer conferences. I can’t wait to meet new people and the women I already know! Every feminist conference I go to is super inspiring and this is one where it is totally normal to have your laptop going at all times, so at dinner there you are with 10 other chicks typing like maniacs in between the laughing our asses off, insane gossip, politics politics politics, book recommendations, and WordPress plugin tips.

erin feeling the computer love


Here’s my talk, which i will just keep on thinking of as “Quick Blog Overhaul” though it is really called “Blogging Basics: 6 Steps to Personalize, Polish & Promote Your Blog“. It will be a brief talk and then we’ll split into small groups to do the hands-on workshop stuff.

Join BlogHer’s {{Badger Hemulen}} and a team of subject-matter experts for a quick and effective blog makeover. Let’s look at your blog, whether you’ve got one post up or 100, and give it some love. Liz will explain 6 simple steps you can take to give your blog a tune-up, and then we’ll break into small groups to try out some of what you’ve learned. These 6 steps can help clarify to your readers who you are and what you write. Whether you use WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, or any other platform – you and your platform are welcome.

  • Personalize: Danielle Henderson will work with you make sure your readers know how to identify and reach you…and that you feature your community, so they can also see themselves. In addition she’ll work with you to learn how to add images, or even audio and video, to show who you are.
  • Polish: Megan Garnhum will cover the basic geeky ingredients that add up to a truly functional, findable, fabulous blog. Learn about appropriate, search-friendly hyperlinking, tagging…why and how, and even about headlines and why they matter.
  • Promote: Alissa Kriteman will help you learn how (and why) to put your post on BlogHer, Twitter, Kirtsy, Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, Stumbleupon, other social sites.

  • Then there are the parties!

    I can’t help it. Women get in my lap. What can I say?

    In DC I’ll be doing the same workshop with a different set of local bloggers:

  • Personalize: Veronica “Roni” Noone will make sure your readers know how to identify and reach you…and that you feature your community, so they can also see themselves. In addition she’ll work with you to learn how to add images, or even audio and video, to show who you are.
  • Polish: Andrea Meyers (well known for Andrea’s recipes) will cover the basic geeky ingredients that add up to a truly functional, findable, fabulous blog. Learn about appropriate, search-friendly hyperlinking, tagging…why and how, and even about headlines and why they matter.
  • Promote: Kristen King will help you learn how (and why) to put your post on BlogHer, Twitter, Kirtsy, Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, Stumbleupon, other social sites.

  • There will be too many awesome people there for me to name them all but I’m going to be super happy to get to hang out with Beth Kanter, Candelaria Silva, Erin Kotecki Vest, Laurie White, superfantabulous feminist geek Shireen Mitchell, and of course my friend Sarah Dopp, the BlogHer founders, and my co-workers like Kristy who are fantastic bloggers and who I see practically every day but don’t get to hang out or really talk blogging because we are WORKING WORKING WORKING.

    So, along with all that, I get to see my main partner in crime, editorial and geeky soul sister forever, Laura Quilter and my awesome brilliant ex and good friend M.M. and their new baby! You have no idea how excited I am. Actually it’s worse than that. Last time I got to be with Quilter and then had to leave I sobbed for an hour in the car. I will have to drown my sorrows after I leave their house, on Friday night in bloggity sisterhood in the Boston Burlington Marriott hotel bar.

    On Sunday I’m flying to Baltimore, renting a car, and sloping off to see my grandma on the Eastern Shore. I haven’t seen her in years or my uncle either. I got to hang out with her for about a day when Moomin was 2 or 3. Other than that it is all little cards twice a year and I usually lose her $25 check and am a very awful person and never write back. I regret not being very close with my extended family but that’s the truth of it. I think of them very fondly, but in actual practice, there is not much of a relationship.

    Then glorious Blogheristas on Monday again in DC! Or, really, Bethesda!

    On Tuesday before my plane leaves I want to go find my friend lavendertook and hang out at her funky local internet cafe and co-op – then it’s back home where I’ll collapse into a little travel-weary puddle.

    I know it is sort of boasty but I would like to say not for the first time that I am proud of myself for going on giant trips in my wheelchair and just kind of facing it down. I get unnerved sometimes. That feeling to me is a red flag that means I MUST DO WHATEVER THE THING IS. In general I’m walking pretty well, but after hours on an airplane, I won’t be and my ability to walk isn’t predictable especially with travel. Walking, who needs it? It’s more the exhaustion and being demoralized by pain that gets me. Still, consider the allure of jetting into town, renting a car, and the open road! Could go anywhere! (But probably won’t.) Now is the time!

    If you live in those areas and haven’t registered for the conferences, think about it, there’s still time, it’s only $100 for an all day conference with food and a cocktail party. & well worth it for learning stuff, meeting great people, the massive, massive hit of inspiration from hanging with other women writers and bloggers and geeks and people putting their ideals into practice, “networking”, and last but not least huge fun.

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    On Sunday Dinners, Cities, Pubs, Middle and Old Age

    I have various observations from my trip, written on the plane from Heathrow to LAX in a 5am delirium.

    Out of London
    We packed, cleaned, and got on a train to Ch3lmsford to visit Z.’s family, for Sunday dinner. Everything still seemed new to my eyes as we left London and forayed out into fields and suburbs. J. picked us up at the station to drive us the long way round through a Sc4recrow Fete (the first time I’ve heard anyone say that word aloud, I think) which I didn’t care about though the drive was nice. What I was really looking at was how people set up their houses and gardens, at shop fronts and billboards; they all reminded me of the rural bits of R.I. in New England near where I grew up in the summers. The architecture (maybe the time period) of the buildings was the same in some subtle way I couldn’t pin down that wasn’t just about snow and being built of bricks.

    The Rules of (not) Saying Hello
    I had another observation of going through streets and train stations. I had read in Watching the English that people don’t say hello to strangers and in fact they don’t even look at you in the face or nod – it feels wrong and rude to do that, but it is my instinct because in the U.S. if you are walking past someone in a long corridor or on the street you would at least meet eyes and give a little nod as you pass and you might say “how’re you” or “good morning” in a perfunctory way to someone in an elevator. Certainly in Latino neighborhoods, “how are you/como está” or you are eye-rollingly rude. Here in London I think that would be a sign of madness, over-familiarity that might be a dangerous challenge or open hostility, as if by boldly meeting someone’s eyes, you might be about to steal someone’s wallet — like gorillas smiling to bare their teeth. This puts people in a bind, as they become disconcerted around me and want to leap to open a door or see if I need help but they are prevented from speaking to me by the Rules of Not Saying Hello. It’s extremely amusing!

    the pleasures of essex
    So, back to the pleasures of Essex, which the saying of the name to anyone carries a load of irony and meaning which I don’t understand but which is equivalent of bemoaning the fact of having come from Modesto, or Nebraska, a flat boring place full of sameness, hay, and hicks. To my eyes it was perfectly new, picturesque, with tall grass or wheat in the fields, little fields charmingly separated by lines of trees or hedges rather than the very ugly barbed wire or chain link I would expect, roads that had character and curve from organic and long development rather than being laid out by a surveyor’s line in an “empty” land seized all at once, parceled out and fenced. The suburbanness I found oddly reassuring as after all I am mostly a suburban creature. So the malls and the equivalent of big-box stories and in fact the very boringness of things were all interesting especially as I considered the things alike in Z. and I and in how deeply he must have chafed at growing up there with his dreamy nervous energy and free roaming thoughts and desire for companionship, for social quickness of mind, and whatever else drives him or drove him then — as I did in the distant outskirts of Houston with its miles and miles of cowfields, metal-buildinged strip malls, and housing developments. (At least he had buses and trains! My god!) The narrow scope of the world and yet thick material comforts, mixed, bourgeois paradise, with definite allure.

    Parsnips are the bomb
    Immune to family weights and subtleties or nearly so (and securely knowing I could not possibly come off worse than particular others even if I was gauche and also, scandalously married; plus i hosted his family at my house; plus, they are just nice) I had a really lovely time, one of the best dinners ever with actual roast beef carved in slices along with at least 6 kinds of boiled vegetables (which seemed nearly unbearably exotically English like what people eat IN BOOKS) and including PARSNIPS which I don’t think I’ve ever seen and which I could not stop devouring – they were so delicate and faintly caramelized – better than yams and almost as good as plantains. AND apple crumble with … custard sauce? and TRIFLE. I tried to act casual but I know Z. knew how funny and exciting it was. Again, please imagine if you can possibly how strange this was. So aside from my marvelling at how stereotypes and things in books really are true, and my absolute & embarrassing uncontrollable greed for parsnips and custard (separately), one of the more pleasant things was how alike his family’s Sunday dinner was to my mom’s families’ sunday dinners (though we had our own Exotic Stereotype of incredibly great Italian food) at the leaf in the table, the lace tablecloth on top, and how the extended family would stay and play cards far into the night. (Though his did not, it had that feeling like they might have 30 years ago.) I missed his nephew (the MindWind Monkey) and worried over him in the hospital. His other (charming) nephew had a fine time with me and my amazing TWO COMPUTERS and my willingness to learn from him how to play Runescape at least long enough to get his other character online to pass some coveted black armor and a Staff of Air back and forth. (I killed some giant spiders and goblins.) I nearly fell asleep on the couch (and Z. fell asleep upstairs) which shows you how nice they all are (that no one really minded and that one feels comfy and at home enough to do so.) His mum gave us about 40 cadbury bars (I will grow out of this set of pants, dammit.) I liked his sisters especially the one I talked with more, and his teenage niece. Then we had a brief foray off to his dad’s house…

    The life of the sunday dinner
    Despite loving the visit I have to say that at my (finally true) nearing 40 and feeling like an actual grown-up, I have grown into a person who is relieved not to have a lot of burden of family no matter how nice. I felt no impulse to fulfill any role in their family really or to be specially dutiful (or in anyone’s) and felt satisfied we had not been lured into staying with family (and that I avoid staying with my own though I know that sounds a bit sad) I like to see them and to be friends with them but I really fiercely like to have my own life and complete independence of movement including not being pressured. I thought of course of Moomin and my own life and what my future might be like and how odd it would be for him to be grown, maybe seeing me once a year for a day or two, and I hope we will be closer than that. But, I do see the way people aren’t, and how many of my peers have parents who had such different expectations — they wanted the life with the Sunday Dinner, with extended family across generations getting together regularly, to cook and preside over the table benevolently — to shop and to help — to know the intimate concerns of their adult childrens’ lives. And, that has never been what I chose as an adult. The times I’ve tried it have been a strain. You know the feeling when you are just uncomfortable in your own skin – it is something like that. I feel for the frustrated dreams of the parents who saw themselves as beautiful and benevolent, generous and beloved patriarchs and matriarchs, but it doesn’t work out that way very often, maybe. As I mulled this over on the train on the way back I thought that my picture of myself as an older woman say 30 years from now does include (as I have remarked to my friend wild_irises) that I’d like to have cross generational friendships, to know and listen to people younger than me; and to be useful to them; I hope that will include my child and nephews and nieces and godchildren but it kind of doesn’t have to be them, or me for them, if that makes any sense. And also thinking of wild_irises’s way of having once a month sunday-at-home; very nice; I am not all that good at sustaining structured things; but I do host role-playing game groups which is incredibly nice, and, especially dear to me, having small swarms of kids have the free run of the house and yard (though again, it is also nice when they go…)

    Where to be when older
    I also continue to think that I will be happiest as I get older in cities, close to the center of things, public transport, good services, and (possibly most importantly) able to just see the daily life of many different people around me. I love to see people on the street, to look out the window and watch them going about their business. How stifling it is in the deep suburbs (not where I live now, but in Houston or Chelmsford’s semi-rural edges), with tiny glimpses of a neighbor perhaps once a week but no real bustle, no feeling part of a mysterious hive of life and purpose.

    Rich neighborhoods can suck
    Back in London, we switched sadly from A. and C.’s marvellous cosy be-Washleted rooftop-garden flat in Hoxton to the sterile absurd confines of the conference hotel, a scungy Holiday Inn in South Kensington which appeared to me as a hell of tourist-fouled bland international-mall-block overpriced theater-going pretentiousness. (Admittedly the Nathan Barley (or earlier incarnation, Cunt) population of Hoxton was high but still, it was nice and it felt *normal and human* like actual people actually live there.) Anyway, South Kensington. I’m sure I would like going to all the museums but, stay away from the embarrassing awful hotels. How nasty the Holiday Inn was, a little bit of importation of the worst of “America” with its ugly veneers and shoddy conveniences that utterly weren’t.

    The conference itself fascinated me and I took extensive notes. (Z. wrote it up for the Ir1sh T1mes so you may go read his summary if you like. He was up all night in a fervor and is asleep on my shoulder in the plane; I had coffee and can’t sleep on planes anyway; thus this blog post.) I went to a half day each day and worked the rest of the time. I have massive notes from conference. Not written up yet. Notable was the home office guy, and the BP1 somewhat shark-like dude and his flunky who quizzed me on whether I download music illegally.

    Monday night we went to dinner with S. who was nice, funny, and a bit pleasantly sleazy (like I can talk – I am notorious – and had a hard time not escalating to out do his stories – but could easily, without breaking a sweat). We talked about Internetty things, speculating, analyzing, predicting, trying to be wild-eyed but not quite hyped up or comfortable enough to get to that golden land of prophecy & inspiration. (Dinner was fantastic; can’t believe we lived a few blocks from Cay Tre all week and didn’t know to go there! Will amend C and A.’s house-sitting FAQ! Catfish in a clay pot, slightly caramelized, perfectly cooked with spicey sauce, and the (tender to die for) beef fried at table in rice wrappers. OMG.)

    Squirrel with a hoard of small memories
    Ultimate pleasure also at Z’s reading aloud of the Fish chapter of my Sumerian book, how happy it makes me to think of it, how absurd, but who else would share my pleasure at it (maybe Minnie) but, no one else could read it so well aloud with such understanding of the particular enjoyment.

    You know particular moments stick with you and you know while they are happening that they will and that you are at a pinnacle of happiness? I have so many moments with Rook that are like that, sometimes very little things like watching the coyote pounce on a mouse at Fermilab from the roadside and feeling wordless about it, or when we watch Moomin and just about die of happiness, or watching him do his tap dance as King Herod in the musical. Anyway it is a little silly to say so on my blog since it is a private and unexplainable moment but that is also how I feel about the Sumerian fish.

    Pubs and liminial spaces and the nature of time
    Tuesday night (after particularly exhausting work, and then more conference where I paid close attention and became more burned out than i thought possible) we went out with S. again and more of Z’s friends and conspirators. I liked seeing him happy amidst his old friends (and as at the Opent. conference his friends’ pleasure in seeing him Cured As If By Miracle Back From Insanity or Nervous Breakdown or Misery or Whatever) Though I was too exhausted again to really be social and connected I had several drinks and talked with L. and S. a bit, but mostly listened to other people. (And I know that one is not Magically Cured from life, middle age, or particular traumas and does not return to an Old Self (as people kept saying “he’s BACK” which is both true and not) but people have continuity of identity throughout whatever scars they have. It is maybe more, ah, you have connected visibly with that old self we knew and that you were and that we thought you were or wanted you to be — when as we get older (speaking again from my getting to be middle aged with my bitter yet spoiled generation’s astonishment that that can HAPPEN) and watch people we know change beyond recognition, go down paths we never thought possible, cut off and disown or forget their former selves we used to love, or simply die. So I enjoyed their pleasure in the moment but found it a little bit sad and ephemeral. (Is it very American of me to be so earnest and analytical rather than sum things up with a little ironic remark – if so then pretend we are in the pub past closing time in the liminal space of drunkenness where such thoughts are permitted.)

    Additional thoughts to my post on Cities, suburbs, middle and old age on the other computer when the battery on the first one ran out

    At Z’s dad’s house I noticed his frailty and old age and his air of real philosophical detachment which I have noticed in my own father (who is much younger in mind and body, but perhaps on the same path) and wondered at the life path that would take him to this place when nearby was the little bustle of the Sunday dinner which perhaps he might have come to. And that is clearly not part of the way he lives and I think we’ve all seen men who go that path and yet stay in a family, lurking in workshops or basements while the life of the kitchen and its gossip goes on around them. I wonder at it. I have definitely had my moments of desire (and fulfilment) of that matronly vision of the table of lovely food and everyone gathered round (and will have many more such moments) but there is a strand in me that leans another way (or that sees how I could become very different and yet be happy in it though I would not be happy in it now.) I also see another strand in future ways of living, of public involvement or public works or civic works, service rather than of private cultivation of my own garden.

    Back to the moments in the monastic living room of Z.’s dad. I got to see Z. become younger suddenly in an indefinable invisible way. (And it was the house where he grew up, which I didn’t realize till later.) Other than looking at a few photos on the wall there was no reminiscing or dwelling on that aspect of the past. His dad had a million mannerisms I recognized as Z’s or really it is opposite and some of them also in other people though in fledgling form. Also, their hands are the same, so it was odd to see basically Z’s future hands and to imagine him old (while right then seeing him as much younger than he is now because of the indefinable slightly melancholy younger-infusion effect of being around one’s parent.) His dad interacted with us by firing a gentle barrage of diffident questions mostly at Z (a relief that there were not many questions for me!) but I felt a little melancholy myself wondering about the relationship. I thought of the time that we were soldering our LED kits together and both feeling a weird bond and memory of bonding with our dads — as if our dads would be pleased with us and pleased at having transmitted something to us that they had liked (even if they don’t like it or do it now.) Or would be proud of us in a minor quiet way. My own dad seems to have forgotten the pleasures of doing things like that (soldering and little projects) and does not really get it that it was important to me or the scale of that importance in a kid’s life (and the life of the future person – as we age and return to earlier memories; he is probably lost in his own bonding moments with his dad when he was young, over baseball; thus, disconnect as our significant memories that formed us are of different times.)

    I thought of a blog entry I read recently from someone in the blogher network of being in the snow with her dad and how grateful that she was that he insisted she wake up and ski with him even though she hated it. It was not about the activity really but about giving her some way to remember him and herself, so that now whenever she skis or goes in the snow or whatever they were doing, she thinks of that time and of him. (He is not dead. But he’s different, and it’s harder for them to be close.) Her post was about her consideration of what she is giving to her children.

    I think of both Rook and Zond-7 and what they give to their kids as fathers. They are both so good at it, I suspect light-years better than their own fathers were. I wonder if because my own dad was so nice and so good at it, I like them for some of those same qualities. For myself, I have an ideal of being a parent that I don’t at all live up to and never quite have even at my best moments. I am so sporadic in my abilities to do it at all. I’m not running myself down here – it is true – and not an awful thing – just how it is.

    Partly this is because my particular skills – that I thought would be so useful in parenting – are not in my case becasue they are not what Moomin responds to and maybe I have not known how to learn and shift fast enough. Partly I might just suck wih little kids (beyond an ability to entertain and bond with any little kid for about an hour) and will come into my own & into usefulness when he is in middle and high school. But so farmy main strengths or things he will remember fondly might be much like my memories of my grandma Hemulen and the absent-minded way she would put hot dogs into the toaster oven for me and my uncle Redolb with a beautiful absence of fuss and we would run around doign whatever we liked, watching junky tv shows, playing with legos or making elaborate stuffed animal battles without interference.

    While I do have a very solid comforting motherly reality-bending home-making ability I also think it is a bit unstable and (especially in the last year with health problems) I have pulled back from it. I like that quality in myself and value it and see how other people like it in me, but it’s like it breaks down daily – this might be part of my own damage or frailty that I don’t have clear grasp of yet – the damage that being in fairly high levels of physical pain has done – and the effect of my own fears.

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    Boasting on blogs; the perils of condescension

    Help! I can’t find the inscription that Ashurbanipal had in every room of his palace. It’s one of those long recitations of boasting and praise, listing all the things he built in his cities, the places he conquered and how he puts his foot on the neck of his enemy and is like the wild lion of the mountains. It was at the end of the room with Assyrian friezes in the British Museum! Somehow I failed to take a photo of it and its translation.

    I want it for nefarious purposes, to make an Assyrian inscription boast-about-your-blog generator widget.

    Open Tech was fun; I met a bazillion people, got to see my friend cdent, saw D. fizz up with ideas and charismaticness on stage, and took notes on some interesting talks. I’ll post my notes on Composite, but the strangest and most interesting talk was from a guy who does screen scraping on Khandahar airport, filters out the obviously legitimate commercial flights, compares them against lists of planes that have open credit to refuel at U.S. army air bases, and then somehow uses that (I don’t think in any automated way) with other data from looking up airplane ownership and company records to help track down international arms dealers. So, somewhat to my amusement this was back to back with an eco-activist from Bristol who does some work on paths and public access (bike trails? foot paths? something) and while his work sounded very smart and effective I did marvel at his level of paranoia about government spying and infiltrating of his activist efforts — in sharp contrast to the dude who reviles and stalks the scary thuggish illegal arms dealers’ corporate activities, who just shrugs and says “Oh well, no one’s come after me yet.” It was explained to me at dinner that with all the strange monitoring and cctv and the power that local councils have, it might not be unreasonable for the Bristol guy to think his local cops are sniffing his traffic or tracking who he calls on his cell phone.

    I missed most of the MySociety talks and regretted it… they’re amazing and also are nice

    I liked S.G, D.G, and L. and J. right away but most people are (surprise) reserved. Some people assumed I was not techie and was just “there with D.” like some sort of fangirl escort, so that I was kind of ticked off — was it not enough that I drip with computer equipment – and work in a startup and have been a computer nerd since 1980 just like the rest of geekdom – instead, often, condescending small talk about Travel while the rest of people in a group are talking about dorky computer stuff and gossiping about icann. I also had the problem at the conference of, whenever I’d wander up to people who I’d vaguely met, they’d leap to open the door for me assuming that I needed help to leave the room, when… actually… I was just coming up to hang out and talk. So it was nice to hide a while in the corner gossiping with cdent and recharging my batteries. But, all that was minor compared to the people who were interesting and friendly.

    Actually the polite small talk about Travel (while puzzling as I never would whip that sort of thing out to someone from out of town who worked in my field who I met at a conference in SF) was far preferable to the open and obnoxious condescension from what’s her name at the first thing I was at who after an entire dinner of me interestedly listening to (and sometimes commenting on) their talk of points of international law and the net, turned to me over dessert and said with a pitying smile “You must be SO CONFUSED by ALL THIS TALK.” Oh!!! I could have smacked her! I thought of the million times I read Quilty’s million-million page white paper on ISPs – and all the times I have had useful things to contribute to discussions that are out of my depth – and when they’ve been appreciated – and coldly analyzed this person’s little gambit, realizing how many times *she* must have heard it in her career and lifetime – her loss that she chooses to apply it to other women.

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    The mildest of adventures in London

    Already I’ve lost track of the days but I didn’t want to forget lying on the leather couch in the trendy-empty bar looking out the window at some blue sky and the brick building across the narrow lane. The bricks were sooty gold with red-brick stripes and the outline of what seemed to be a ghost building underneath. The window and door frames, dark green, strangely the same color paint as the bar’s interior metal beams. I thought about the history of the building, and what it would be like to maintain it now as a facilities person or trying to run cable through it. I wondered why there were doors in a row on every story leading out into the street. Did there used to be a hallway? Zond-7 came back from ordering at the bar and said no – it was a factory and look up higher, there’s a winch. For winching out the finished websites perhaps since that’s what they make now, in the factories. We made up silly things, like the ftp man doing his rounds. “Bring out your files! Bring out your files! Uploads for downloads!” The telnetster in traditional garb, mostly superseded by the ssh man in his dapper uniform and neat-brimmed hat. Sad, really.

    Later we figured out why that bar (so nice – called Cantaloupe) was empty – there are like 50 other trendy-ass bars but with patios and on hoxton square just a couple of blocks away. Not that that should matter since every ratty bar and pub is crowded here even on a Tuesday night.

    street angel

    We spent a whole extra day recovering and working from bed, only venturing a few blocks from the flat to grab some food. I have the very-local geography down, now, and know where to buy food and how to go find a taxi and the tube station and what other directions might be good to explore.

    I am really enjoying c. and a.’s flat in every way. It’s so cute and perfect and cosy! I did my conference call from the hammock. The next door kids are cute as hell and it cheers me to hear them playing. I enjoy their art and funny kitschy stuff… and how cleverly they store all their crap… their million-page FAQ about their house and office and neighborhood, and their lovely gleaming red espresso machine (kitchenaid) and let’s not even go into how nice I think the damned washlet is. hahahah! Washlet!! I’m not super in love with having a million stairs, but on the other hand I can take my time, treat it as physical therapy, and it’s probably good for me. I’m trying to think what I can do in return or what would be nice to leave them… stock them up with nice groceries… nice coffee etc. And in general I have good “letting people crash at my place” karma so really the thing to do is to keep passing that on.

    Observation, people in Britain do not say Hello or anything at all to strangers on the street. They take this so far that they don’t even look at you in the face, which makes it damned hard to tell which way to barrel forward in your speedy wheelchair.

    fruit at night

    Today I left Zond-7 sweating over his deadline while I ran off to the British Library for a couple of hours. I felt like I had to break a little barrier of going places by myself. Thought about taking the Old St. tube to St. Pancras or King’s Cross or whatever but then realized it was a bit late, I was tired, screw it, it would then become all about sweatily going through miles of tunnels and ramps and being ill natured at railway employees’ passive aggressive “help”. So, a taxi.

    London taxis are AWESOME! I said this before, but here it is again. If you are in a wheelchair and have money to spend like water then just take taxis everywhere. All the black cabs are mega-accessible. The back doors slide open like a van, a ramp comes out, there are hand rails, seats swivel and fold down if you need that, and the back seat is huge with a big empty wheelchair-holding space.The taxis stop for me! They don’t fuss or freak out too much. A little bit, but not bad at all. I don’t need the ramp and I can pull my chair up into the taxi, without having to take it apart or fold it up.

    London taxi access

    You see what I mean about mild adventures. Hey you’re on your own in a strange city! What will you do! OH I KNOW I’LL TAKE A TAXI TO THE LIBRARY. Okay! Yes! In fact, that is what I always do!

    Then I wander around and take photos of graffiti and street art and bricks and manhole covers.

    The British Library (the giant new brick building) has very good wheelchair access. I especially appreciated the signs, big, high up, frequent, and very clear, pointing me to ramps and elevators.

    Revolution Revolution

    So at the library I got my reading pass. They get you to line up and ask if you have ID and details of what you want to see. They don’t really care what you want to see and you don’t have to prove anything to them about your research project; they just want to know that you know that there’s a specific thing in the library that they own, that you want to look at! So they ask “Do you have something written down or printed out” … but mostly to rule out the people who should go to the public library to check out a mystery novel or look something up in the encyclopedia or whatever. I had jotted down the names of a couple of poets and began to open my notebook and they waved me through. If you don’t have “details written down” then they shunt you over to some computers where you can look in the catalogue and come up with a list of books. After this queue I filled out a web form (nicely accessible computer with huge monitor and huge font) and then waited till my number was called. A few questions later and a photo… now I have a nifty 1- month card! So I will be looking at a bunch of books by (and about) Emilia Bernal, and some suffragist newspapers and I might also look for women’s newspapers from 1830s France as I suspect they might be in there and it will give me a thrill.

    I figured out by scouting it out physically that it will be easy to take the tube there and then harder to get back (because of having to come up the Old Street ramp) so it’ll be better to take a taxi back.

    After a bit more work at “home” we went out to an indian restaurant on brick lane. I took a lot of photos of great street art.

    It’s exhausting to wheel up and down all those curbs. they are oftn very low but even an inch up and down is tiring. My hands hurt like hell. Also… holy hell… bricks and cobblestones are hell on my back, it’s like the vibrations from “Wages of Fear“.

    In the library as there wasn’t enough time left to order any books, I went to exhibits. There was a great exhibit of chinese, korean, & japanese color wood block printing on the 2nd floor. I wrote down a bunch of them to look up later. A lot of the bird ones I wished I could show Minnie. Here are my notes

    - Ten Bamboo Studio 1634
    - Soken Sekisatsu 1768 Hojakuchu “Dazzling simplicity in … prints”
    - a literary and artistic gathering 1839 chikutenzan
    400 artists and writers with names. i sat there a while and counted the women. there were 22. many facing each other or sitting in groups, not isolated from each other
    - shin kawazu (..awase) 1820 New Poetry Competition of Frogs nifty anthology/collaboration
    - kawa… bumpo = awesome
    - The gifts of the seas umi no sachi 1762 mica used in ink for prints for fishy sheen!
    - kimpaen’s picture album 1820 (bumpo, same guy) Kimpaen gafu. Birds birds birds!!!
    - Wang Cheo pictures of foreign things 1998 made me think of “woolgathering”

    chocolate for women, right?

    Then saw huge Ramayana exhibit which made me think of talking with Neha (nehavish) about Surpanakha (who i did not find in the exhibit though i didn’t see all of it and she is perhaps not in every version) but mostly in this exhibit I was excited to see books written on palm leaves. One of those things I’ve often read about and wondered what it is really like… it is like thin flat fan blades about the size of an 8 inch ruler, with 2 holes drilled in rolodex style, polished smooth maybe with some varnish or sizing, and very small delicate writing.

    Swooned at lovely book binding, maps, illuminated manuscripts exhibit. I thought of how lucky i felt when i worked at the geology library and dennis let me look at the super rare illustrated books he kept back in his office. amazing french books with taxonomy & botanical illustrations & fossils… The book that blew me away today and got me to tears was a persian one from 1610 ad , Anvar-i Suhayli which is a version of Kalila & Dimna / Pancatantra. written by Husayn … v…. Kashifi (can’t read my own handwriting!) for Prince Salim who became the emperor Jahangir. Now anyone who has bothered to read this for the last N years knows I’m obsessed with the Pancatantra and all its derivatives!

    This might sound very exciting but consider that most of my time in London so far has been spent within a 3-block radius of this bed where I am lying 90% of the time peacefully Computing the same as I would anywhere else in the world, in the midst of a small mountain of used kleenexes and allergy meds, reporting intermittently that my legs and knees and back and hands hurt like hell and that I need more chocolate.

    flyers

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    Thoughts on Budapest

    Not like I’ve seen any of it but the airport and the hotel!

    Hungarian food is goddamned delicious! It’s the best ever! The little pastries even beat the Belgium pastries!

    There are billboards like crazy. It could have been Houston, getting off the plane. I noticed advertisements in London were oddly restrained and dorky. Brussels… what advertisements? Other than Antiquities and snooty-looking fashion and billboards for the opera I did not see any evidence of popular culture or the hopes and dreams and chains of regular people. But, the billboards in Budapest were all full of people bursting out of reality, leaping in the air in gravity-defying ways, living it up at water parks or wild with laughter and romance. The billboards were all along the highway next to row after row of identical enormous concrete block apartments stretching as far as I could see. The billboards seemed perhaps related to the feeling of wanting to escape, wanting some wildness, having the ability to get out of the concrete block. There was plenty of graffiti. It’s scruffy like Beijing but not so full of earnest and callous Industriousness. A lot of women on the street have dyed bright red and purple hair.

    I am happily ensconced in my swank hotel (Novotel Centrum) which is lovely & perfectly accessible.

    I might go venture out by myself if I can’t wake up Zond-7.

    I blogged a bit of the conference and have notes on later panels but then I conked out completely, took a nap, had a bath, read Iain Banks, worked, slept again. I am walking okay, in fact I feel like I could walk a few blocks as I did yesterday with no problem, but my legs hurt a lot and I have the burning and buzzing down into both feet. So, I want to go out to see the city, and yet lying down for a while longer would help my legs feel a little more normal.

    I’m sad that I won’t see more – it is beautiful and interesting and jumbledy here

    I have been feeling really grateful for my in-between-ness and ability to get around and yet also frustrated & impatient at not just being all the way better. It’s hard because, what would you rather do, walk 5 blocks painfully and not be sure you could continue on with people going somewhere, or just give up and wheel… thus being set apart and judged and also an annoyance and yet freed to go as far as you want to go…

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    Book reviews from the past, old computer hardware

    Funny but I just got mail from someone who remembered one of my first web sites from 1996 and was looking for it. I went back to check it out and it’s pretty amusing. I stuck to a list of all the books I read with short descriptions. 12 years ago, and I still sound like myself. Bookmaniac does show me that I read quite a bit more in the past and how far my habits have changed.

    I started reading Starfish by Peter Watts last night, realized it was brilliant but insanely disturbing, and put it down in favor of the blah-blah exposition of CJ Cherryh’s Downbelow Station. That got me to sleep!

    Yesterday in the middle of the day my leg completely conked out. I have no explanation for this, as usual. It was achey in the small of my back, but it wasn’t till I stood up that the intense hot stabby shooting pains and buzzing down the leg fired up. After I’d been walking really well all week! No fair! Then I tried to crutch into the fabric store to get “solar system project” supplies for Moomin. Aaaa! Oh well.

    Then, I voted, this time not being too brave with the crutches. On Measure O, increase sales tax for supporting parks and open space, I was torn but finally voted for it because the people arguing against it included our local utter lunatic libertarian, Jerk Hickey. Every time that man opens his mouth I marvel that he ever got onto the hospital board or anything else.

    Obama’s speech, y’all! How fantastic was that! The shots of the crowd & him walking through, touching everyone’s hands. Just for laughs I read freerepublic for a bit and then watched McCain’s really horrible speech where he was just phoning it in. I was reminded of the terrible moments of the roboticness of Bob Dole and I have to say, Al Gore’s total incompetence in his presidential race, slathered with makeup, smirking, and irksomely smartypantsy even to me. (Voted for him anyway.) How nice it is to have a competent demogogue on our side for once. More to the point I actually believe Obama will push like hell to shake things up in DC, and make things better for people. Please, a populist leftist…. for real…

    Mostly I could not get around last night without both crutches, even across the room or to the bathroom. That really sucked! I think today is the same.

    Zond-7 and I laid around and in fact worked fairly intensely. I helped out with some work stuff, php stuff, learned some vim tricks, and then we ended up talking about sf and about computers and went on a long riff of computer hardware we have known and loved and “how i got a particular computer or shell account 15 years ago and how I felt about it”. I particularly liked his description of his first hackery conference (Dutch one) where you had ethernet cables to your tent, his description of setting up the tent for practice in soho square, then the flickering tents all around, the sounds of the river nearby mixed with rumble and explosions of people playing Quake. I described the premises of Cyteen; we talked about Blindsight and Starfish some more; we commiserated over our physical ailments.

    (more…)

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    My new job at you-know-freaking-where

    We last left our blog at Maker Faire and just afterwards. The weekend was so lovely I wish I had written about it in the moment. Time is slipping by me like gliding through water.

    I thought over my trip to Seattle some more and the travel coming up and I’ll write more about that soon!

    My new job is lovely but more intense than I thought it would be. CAN I STILL WRITE ABOUT THIS? Well, I will anyway! I like all the people (obviously) and it is nice to work for someone who communicates a lot and doesn’t blow me off. Time will tell…. It is also scarily like, well, this is hard to describe in a way that is tactful toward everyone including myself, but I was going for this job because I thought it would be not super intense, I could keep my head down and chug away in the corner at something not too hard, but I’d do it super well, and not be too stressed. i.e. a good job for a smart person in uncertain health. And if I happened to do anything marvellous it would be just cake and appreciated extra, but i would not have to make a Cake every day. Well instead it was like, POUNCE! We are now going to extricate every last drop of your leadership-like smarty-pants glow-in-the-dark BLOOD! Holy crap! Okay then! I shall certainly try to do that for the next few weeks. But, in working, I find I am a bit more like a horse than a mule. i.e. a mule will stop and balk. A horse will sort of keep going till it breaks and collapses! A horse doesn’t want to disappoint anyone! So I will adopt a sort of mule’s warning, and do a ton now, but will need to do something less demanding for a bit, and will be clear on my limits. What I mean is maybe the stress of power as well as mental synthesis. I have to switch back and forth between hard thinky-things and doing something more menial, or I just burn out! And can’t balance my life! This, partly because I approach with intensity, but partly, it is all much more so because of how intensely I have been processing and dealing with disability stuff.

    So, on the up side, I am pleased and flattered to be seen through, and I really enjoy getting to slurp in as much information as possible very quickly and re-evaluate several times daily as info intake continues, and keep changing plans and making stuff. What I am doing is being a systems analyst for the entire organization, but not just for systems, but for people. I’m not sure what you call that. (A “consultant” who pisses everyone off, but who doesn’t get to LEAVE.) That has always been my secret superpower! When I realized that was what I was gonna do for the next few weeks I kind of laughed with glee, because it’s fun, but also felt rueful, like “Oh shit… BUSTED” because it’s also really hard.

    Wednesday I did the walkthrough/rollthrough for the upcoming conference, and a writeup, and stil did other worky things, then finally realized I ahd not eaten, drove to Atlas Cafe for a sandwich and worked on the writeup, then to Zond-7′s where i collapsed into bed, then at maybe 8 or 9 we went to R.’s party where I got to talk with her about icelandic sagas and lots of other people about science fiction and politics.

    I thought more about hte hack ability blog, but did not work on it too much. Maybe a couple of hours.

    I wrote up a long reading-guide to Timmi’s work, for Wiscon, which you should Digg and then read, here: http://digg.com/general_sciences/Plugged_In_Dystopian_Feminist_Futures_Prep_for_WisCon

    Whirlwind guide to the mindblowing work of L. Timmel Duchamp, Guest of Honor for upcoming feminist science fiction convention WisCon 32. Cyborgs, women’s relationships, surveillance, torture, interrogation, dystopia, weird aliens, critical thought, time travel, art, alternate histories; but above all, revolutionaries, resistance, and hope.

    I have another blog/web site to set up, just volunteering… first before Hack Ability.

    And, I put some finishing touches on the blog that Minnie and I are doing, Whores of Bath. It is a humorous blog about bath products and we are doing it to make money. It will soon have even more ads plastered all over it. I am particularly proud of our obnoxious, link-whoring, search-engine-honeypot, yet still freaking funny, posts on imaginary baths with nude celebrities:

    * Oh, honey! My fantasy bath with Lindsey Lohan!
    * My fantasy celebrity bath with Robert Downey Jr

    Well, gotta go, I had a half hour nap, a bloggy interlude (this one) which soothes my soul, a role playing game for the next several hours, Zond-7 is coming over, tomorrow is Recent Changes Camp (wiki unconference! come to it! in Palo Alto!) and then will drive about like a mad thing, and end up at a BBQ, so it will be another too-long day. Sunday I will need to decompress, but also, I probably need to work! ack!

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    Scary sleepwalking, sweaty night terrors

    Well, that was terrifying. Moomin used to get these “night terrors” when he was little. Just now he was screaming and sobbing and crying and calling for me – while he was in my lap – and talking incoherently – and screaming more through my attempt to cuddle him or soothe him.

    I had him looking right at me and trying to answer my questions about what was wrong, what was his name, how old is he, what school does he go to, and he would babble something about being sorry about the man, or how it hurts, or to let him go, all mixed in with what seemed like nonsense words. He got his name right once, and his school right, but could not tell me who I was or how old he was. Finally I yelled at him to wake up and talk to me, because I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I think the combination of my acting angry and the ice-cold facecloth on the back of his neck woke him the hell up finally.

    Ohhh that was scary. It seemed different from the “night terrors” of his toddlerhood, I guess because the incoherent talking was so spooky. But, he was in the same odd sweat. He breaks out into a sweat that smells really strange, not like his usual smell. His heart is pounding a mile a minute. As soon as he is really awake, he is cool and normal again. I had taken off his pajama top because it was all sweaty and rank… and he looked up at me and went, “What are you DOING… Could you please get that OFF of me… I think that is ENOUGH.” in a bossy sarcastic wondering tone. “What are you TALKING about? ” I explained that he had maybe been walking and talking in his sleep and that I couldn’t wake him up and I got a little scared and yelled at him to wake him up. (I was starting to panic and wonder if it was some feverish delirium or seizure and I should be calling the hospital and I remembered everything about when his appendix burst and the resulting week-long mayhem in the hospital.)

    I should not have panicked! I know perfectly well what to do and that this happens to him, and that I should just comfort him and wait and he will wake up! I wish I hadn’t panicked and yelled. It was after a long time of holding him and listening to his somewhat perturbing terrified sobbing and rambling. It was so spooky to have him calling me and then saying “No, I want Mom” when I was *right there*.

    He never remembers being in that state. He used to sometimes wake up but more often just appear to be confused or to fall fast asleep again – he would even fall asleep on his feet while we would try to lead him back to bed!

    Whew…

    As I recall, it never happened more than once in a night, and it would happen always in the early evening, after he’d been asleep for an hour or two.

    Right now we’re both having either the worst allergies ever, or might be sliding into getting colds. I thought for sure allergies all day today, but now I can’t tell anymore. So I would bet his stuffy nose and post nasal drip messed up his sleep.

    As I surfed about just now soothing myself with Facts About Sleep Disorders, I came across some marvellous bits of info about Dion McGregor, a famous somniloquist whose roommate (lover?) recorded his sleeping monologues. There are three albums of his sleeptalking, some of which you can listen to on this page from Torpor Vigil Records; and a book with transcripts, illustrated by Edward Gorey. I would certainly like to find that book! Anyway, listen to “Food Roulette”. “Don’t spin it so fast they fly off! THAT way lies MADNESS!” Oh, my god… this is great stuff.

    I am reading The Fountain at the Center of the World and really liking it. A guy I met at the last translation conference told me to read it and in fact I think he bought it for me in the big bookstore in downtown Seattle – he is a translator of Galeano and we got into a long interesting conversation – the novel is a fabulous globalization melodrama – brothers separated in childhood – one adopted and raised in London and a globetrotting horrible PR bigwig apologist for multinationals – the other stuck in a village in northern Mexico devastated by pollution and drought caused by multinationals sucking out all the water so the rivers run dry – and events progress so that the brothers meet and in a way switch places so that the Mexican brother (who bombed a pipeline) ends up in Seattle at just the right time. It sums up a lot of what I know as truth about the world, about complicity and action. I am enjoying all the characters, and the women are not written annoyingly or as placeholders for some Idea but instead come off as complicated people with their own view of things (views that the men around them never quite “get” but are trying to get.) It’s beautifully written. I would recommend it to anyone.

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    Before and after decluttering


    top of the bureau
    Originally uploaded by Liz.

    Here’s a good rainy day project. I am picking another small yet horrible area of my house to go through. The top of this bureau gathers anything that I’ve taken out of my pockets or cleaned out of my backpacks and bags and suitcases. Every few months for the last couple of years, I kind of go through it and try to create some order and put things away. This is the stuff that never got put away. As I ponder it, which I have infinite leisure to do since this is the view from my bed if the computer isn’t in front of my face, I realize the things fall into some main categories:

    - papers, flyers
    - business cards
    - stickers and patches
    - barrettes
    - conference junk; straps, pins
    - toys or junk, dice, gadgets, wires
    - coins, pens, chapstick, pills in foil wrappers
    - office supplies, post its, binder clips

    I’ll squirrel the papers all to my office. I’ll put the biz cards in an enormous envelope and file them in filing cabinet (they probably need their own rolodexy thing, if I keep them at all, which I will because they’re often kind of cool.) Stickers in another envelope and badges in another. Pins and buttons go up on the conference badge collection hanging on my bookshelf. Office supplies also go to the office. That will be one box in itself. (You realize that this same pattern of Junk is replicated in other places in the house; on my desk especially, and my night table drawer.)

    There is bathroom stuff like barrettes and chapstick and allergy meds and tiny bottles of hand lotion. Bathroom box!

    Then what? I guess I’ll find out. I should have a system to deal with these things, since they’re always the cruft of what’s left after I do the normal everyday cleaning and tidying.

    ****
    There will be updates, and an “After” picture later today!

    ****

    WHEW. Here is the halfway mark:

    "progress"

    And this is where I’m stopping:

    whew

    Everything’s sorted into little bins by category, including all the junk in my night table drawer and some things from other horrible tiny bins of junk around the house. I did all this sitting on the bed, but I’m still exhausted.

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