Archive for the ‘big wide world’ Category

Aaron Swartz, open access, and why bother

Monday, December 15th, 2014

By way of recap: for the past four years I’ve been Boston University’s institutional repository librarian. I’m writing this as a private citizen, but since this post is about why I do what I do, it’s relevant.

I spent the evening knitting. It’s hard to convey how rarely I get an opportunity to just sit and knit. Between the full time, bursting at the seams job and the child and the household, I don’t just sit down and knit. I don’t just sit down and do anything. But there’s a holiday gifting idea in my bonnet, so here we are.

Along with knitting, I finally watched The Internet’s Own Boy. It’s 1h45m long. Since you’re reading this blog post on the internet, if you haven’t already seen this documentary about Aaron Swartz, you should. I’m allergic to telling people they “should” do anything—but you should. It directly affects the rest of your life, and all the ones that follow.

It’s not even worth trying to recap Aaron Swartz, but here are some highlights. He was intimately involved in the creation of Reddit, Demand Progress, the RDF standard, and Creative Commons, among too many other initiatives to list. He had a history of making information publicly available—including court documents that were public in the first place, but for which PACER charged obscene amounts of money, effectively making the most comprehensive documentation of the U.S. justice system inaccessible to entire socio-economic classes of people.

Swartz also contributed a big-data analysis of the Westlaw database to a study at Stanford that revealed widespread corruption in law publishing. (That article doesn’t credit him, but I’ll give Kahle and Lessig the benefit of the doubt.)

In 2011 Swartz was a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, about which then-director Lawrence Lessig wrote: “The work of the Center? Studying the corruption of academic research (among other institutions) caused by money.” Whether he decided to download massive numbers of academic research articles from JSTOR for research purposes, or political-activist ones, or both, will remain unknown. But download them he did, by the tens of gigabytes, using MIT’s network.

This should be review for you, so I will only highlight what happened next. Swartz got caught; MIT, JSTOR, the state of Massachusetts, and the FBI’s cyber crimes division got involved. The state and JSTOR brought charges against him, which were later dropped. The federal government brought a lawsuit containing four charges against Swartz; the number of charges was later expanded to thirteen. They offered a number of plea deals, all of which would have involved pleading guilty to a felony, and all of which Swartz refused to take. In January of 2013, Aaron killed himself.

The documentary dives far further into the messy complexity of this. The interviewees include Lessig, Tim Berners-Lee, Quinn Norton, the Swartz family, Brewster Kahle, and numerous other collaborators. The film has a decidedly political stance from the beginning, but makes a convincing argument about the powers involved in the struggles around freedom of information on the internet. This argument is unsympathetic towards the U.S. government, specifically the Obama administration, and with good reason. At the same time as this administration has failed to prosecute what the film calls the biggest crime of our time, the Wall Street machinations that led to the economic collapse, they chose to prosecute the hell out of a young activist researcher in order to make an example of him. Plenty of other damning activity, legislative and otherwise, let’s see: SOPA/PIPA, TPP, NSA spying, net neutrality vs tiered internet access — you haven’t been living under a rock, you know this is a problem.

Now imagine the mainstream media’s coverage of the recent police murders of Black men (and women, and children) being the only thing to which the entire country, the entire world had access. Could the current iteration of the civil rights movement (and it is that) have flared up if the internet were openly censored by the U.S. government, instead of merely by commercial interests?

Enabling open access to academic literature is the way that I’ve chosen to contribute to addressing this dangerous interlocking tangle. In conversations with faculty I usually emphasize other true things: there are individual professional advantages for them, of making their work openly accessible. Increased citation, increased serendipitous opportunities for collaboration and presenting, an establishment of their public voice much earlier in their careers than was possible only 20 years ago, increased opportunities for peer review—all of these are true and valid, and come with the nice side effect of encouraging faculty to learn more about copyright, and how to retain and exercise it in a way that most benefits their purpose, which (stop the presses) publishers often de-prioritize in favor of profit. Helping to fix the thoroughly broken academic publishing system, and maximizing benefits of knowledge dissemination for individual researchers, is a great service to us all.

But that exists alongside, and does not nullify, knowledge workers’ civic obligation to disseminate the fruits of our research in a way that benefits the largest number of people. It benefits the workers, yes—but it also benefits humanity in ways we can never predict. The documentary describes one case of a high school kid coming up with an early detection test for pancreatic cancer, but there are others, and their possibility is precluded by toll access to the results of previous research. In cases where marketplace profits have been all but exhausted (most of everything ever created), retaining millions of articles behind $35-per-item paywalls when they’ve already been digitized, and the expenses of that are recouped, is nonsensical. Seriously, what would be possible if all our recorded knowledge were digitally accessible to everyone? What problems would we be able to address?

Open access (OA) issues and a more proactive approach to copyright are still met with overall researcher indifference, and this is frustrating given how closely aligned OA is with things (like careers and social justice issues) they more consciously care about. Likewise with administrators, so many of whom are surprised to find OA topics directly relevant to their work. I think it’s worth the trouble for all knowledge workers to become knowledgeable in open access and copyright issues, both for personal benefit, and for the benefit of everyone else. And for all of us, it is worth periodically reminding ourselves the consequences of not working toward open access.

Here’s that documentary again. For all its white-affluent-male-ness, it’s worth watching. Thanks for reading.

newsletter: month eighteen

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Dear Nico,

The other day you turned a year and a half old. We celebrated by decompressing at home from our three-week road trip to Nebraska. You screamed with and without reason.

Holy hell, it’s the season of big feelings with lungs to match. The feelings have been there for a few months, but now you can and do communicate them on your loudest, shrillest setting. I’m trying to minimize the perceived (by you) effectiveness of this method of communication, but damn, child, I’m here to tell you: it gets my attention every time. Especially when we’re in the car.

That said, I’m happy to report that you’re a fantastic road trip companion. We drove a total of 3,823 miles to the DH2013 conference in Lincoln, Nebraska and back. We took a week to go each way, and stayed in Lincoln for another week. On the westward leg, we were joined by your cousin Tesher. It was a great vacation.

On the way west, we went to Reptiland, where you quite enjoyed the komodo dragons and animatronic dinosaurs. We drove up and down Pennsylvania along state routes, and eventually you figured out how to make your ears stop hurting from all the driving up and down mountains. We went to Indian Echo Caverns, which you liked ok but only as long as your cousin was carrying you. None of this mama nonsense. (Tesher held up well, but come on, man, that was bordering on cruelty to teenagers!) We also went to Fallingwater, which you mostly didn’t see because they don’t allow the under-six crowd on tours—but I’ll take you there again. That place is something special.

Somewhere in there I got strep throat. Surprise! Cousin T hung out with you while I went to get antibiotics. I was terrified that one of you would get it too, but you remained healthy and ate like small horses. Since an easy way to tell a toddler has strep is that they’re not eating or drinking because it hurts to do so, for once I felt my genetically informed impulse to feed you because you’re too thin was justified for health reasons.

We spent a day and a half in Chicago, where we swam in a huge clean lake and you got to try your first Italian ices—and your first carousel and Ferris wheel. You approached all of these with the usual basic-research mindset, and got so engrossed in the carousel motion that you didn’t notice the music stop. You usually notice whether there’s music (and, to my delight, love having it on).

Then we drove on to Omaha, where we exchanged Tesher for our friends Molly and Natalie at the airport. These two joined us for the Lincoln portion of the adventure, and hung out with you while I conferenced. It worked! You visited the Lincoln Children’s Museum, like, five times; I think you might’ve gone to the zoo; you swam in the pool. Several times a day you breathlessly looked out the glass back wall of the elevator and lightly bounced, chanting “up… dow… up… dow….” while most of the adults witnessing this cracked up. I assume those who didn’t, don’t have souls.

Meanwhile, I ran around like crazy from session to meeting to super important atrium chat every day of the conference, morning to early evening, and some later evenings too. This used to be my every day, and things have only picked up since I became an only-occasional digital humanist.

Someday, I’ll be delighted if you find work that thrills and inspires you like this stuff thrills and inspires me.

Then the conference was over, and on the way back it was just the two of us with no particular plans and a week to get back. You road warrior, you. Held up like a pro. Oh, sure, there was some screaming, but I could see the gears in your head whirring and clicking: you actually exercised patience when necessary. You’re a year and a half old; you aren’t supposed to have any patience yet. But you do.

We had rest area picnics. You ate an ungodly amount of fruit and watched ants do their thing. You insisted on playing the on-off-on-off game with light switches in about a dozen hotel and motel rooms. You discovered the power button on a CRT TV.

Swimming! You LOVE swimming. We did it in the Hudson River at the beginning of our trip, and you were beside yourself with joy. We did it again in Lake Michigan, and you squirmed like a happy little pollywog. We went to a hotel pool together, and you actually tried swimming on your belly like a big kid. I may have to get over my extreme dislike of chlorinated pools just to do swimming lessons with you, fish boy.

We visited your great-uncle and great-aunt in Saint Louis, and you saw your aunt and some other relatives too. Never having seen these people in your life, five minutes into the visit you were clearly at home, demanding that Aunt Liza play clapping games with you and turning lights on and off with Uncle Roman. It was a lovely visit, and I missed your grandfather so.

We visited our New York family again, too. And your babushka on the very last leg homeward. And then we were home.

Since we came back, you’ve become that toddler. You’ve leveled up in the scary direction, my friend. Every other word is a carefully considered no. Sometimes it’s “no no no no NO. no.” The screaming has subsided, though, so maybe we have some hope of productive negotiation. Yes? Let’s try for that. In the meantime, I’ll be over there with a glass of wine in my hand, reminding myself that at least now you have the attention span to sit through an entire movie, and that you bring me books to read, and that you invent games, and that all told life with you is full of laughter.

Love you madly,

p.s. Boo.

p.p.s. More pictures still and moving, as usual.

newsletter: month fourteen

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Dear Nico,

I had this written two days ago, on time. Then the web host was broken. We can’t win! Except we do, every day, and then I sit down to write these letters and they don’t come out funny like Dooce’s at all. They come out maudlin and sappy. I’m hopelessly in love with you, is what.

You’re beautiful. I think so, the world thinks so, and Molly and her camera think so too. Lucky us, huh?

A few weeks ago you said your first Russian word. It’s шляпа, shlyapa, which means any kind of brimmed hat. I have no clue where you picked it up, but you clearly knew from the beginning what the word meant, despite there being no brimmed hats around the first couple of times. So I fixed that.

I’ve woken up in the dark morning bedroom to your tiny little voice next to me, whispering with a breathless wonder: shhhhhhhhlyapaaaaaaaa. The first couple of times you might’ve dreamed of it just prior; now, I’m pretty sure you do it partly to make me laugh. In all, not a bad way to wake up.

My belly button with the birthmark perched on its edge has become a weird little comfort object. You never nurse anymore without fidgeting until your hand finds it. Then you go all still (except for the feeding part) and watch my face, or space out.

You’re becoming measured in your old age. More deliberate in your actions. I can see inklings of little kid in the way you ponder flavors. This month was my birthday, and we had a Cheesemas party, which is just what it sounds like, so then there was a ton of cheese left in the house, and man, you love Dubliner. Even more than you love cheddar.

You also love baby broccoli, chicken, rice, teething biscuits, and your babushka’s cooking. And those homeopathic teething pills, which have a faintly sweet nondescript taste and an inexplicable calming effect on you. Mostly I think homeopathy is bunk, but if it’s doing something to relieve your teething pain, who am I to argue?

Speaking of pain: the older you get, the harder it is for you to let go of pain. You’ve begun processing it as deeply unfair. You’re the most pathetic little thing when you’re hurting. On the other hand, the other weekend when you burned your thumb on the oatmeal pot (all my fault), your lip got all trembly for a few seconds and then you forgot about it, even before I was able to see where you’d gotten burned.

Which is ok, because we’re not lacking for big feelings around here. On top of everything else, transitioning to a single nap during the day is an exercise in flexibility and zen.

But who am I kidding, mostly you’re still delighted with the world. You love watching the snow coming down. You turn up your face to feel the snowflakes, and get mad if I put up the car seat hood to “protect” you. You love the car seat, and riding in the car. You love little plastic Easter egg shells, which older kids are only too happy to give you since you ignore the candy stash. You love the Mystic river with its ducks and swans and wind. You love expeditions outside with shoes on, and sometimes march through the apartment right to the front door and demand to be let out. When it gets warmer, I’ll indulge us both.

You continue to charm your now-international audience. Yesterday you met my dear friend Jon, who lives and writes game-stories in that other Cambridge. Predictably, he’s now firmly on team NAZ. Now, if only we could figure out how to see him and his family more often than once every few years. Fancy a trip overseas?

Speaking of tripping: we’re going to Nebraska in July. What do you say we drive?


PS pix

newsletter: month thirteen

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Dear Nico,

Last month you turned a year old, and I cheated. This month, I’d best come up with something entertaining and new to write, or else face the possibility that you’ll get bored, stop reading these newsletters, and toddle off into the sunset. Happily, for now you’re still not walking independently, my tiny little captive audience.

We had a birthday party for you, which at this age is mostly a party for everyone else. There were so many everyone-elses that we ended up moving the shindig to a nearby frozen yogurt place. This turned out to be a brilliant idea; there was much merriment, which you took in impressive stride given that it lasted three whole hours. You received many fine gifts, most of them letters that we’ll be requesting every year and saving for later reading. (Thanks for the idea, Offbeat Families!)

Baby NAZ, the love you engender in your social world is astonishing. Your first birthday had to be moved out of the house because so many people wanted to attend. I can only hope that whatever magic you carry today will stay with you in the future. But if it starts to wane, there’s always glitter and frozen yogurt.

(Can it really be that I don’t have a single photo from your birthday party? Yes, it can.)

A small list of ways in which you are barreling towards toddlerhood:

  • You’ve entered the stage of using a single word (in this case an emphatic tah) to mean most things for which you would like to have words. These are: fan, light, lamp, cat, dog, [pick me] up, and others. I hear this is a common thing in baby language development.
  • The above notwithstanding, you have actual words! This development is recent: the first one emerged this past weekend while we were visiting our friends in New York. Avocado is cacacaca (Mark points out: it stands to reason that your first food word is four syllables long). Today you managed to create recognizable versions of apple and stuck.
  • Besides all this, in the last few weeks you’ve been holding forth in fairly long conversational tirades. A language explosion is just around the corner, or already happening, depending on how much the whole “intelligible” thing matters.
  • Your hair has gotten long enough that civilized people would trim it. I, of course, am compelled to clip it away from your face and let it grow out a bit. Did you know that there are no baby-safe hair clips? Choking hazards, all of them.
  • One morning a couple of weeks ago I left you sitting in the middle of the living room while I went to pack up the lunch bag. I returned to find you standing on the other side of the coffee table from where you had been, holding on to it and looking at me, all, what? Yeah, I pull myself up now. No big deal. Since then you’ve been practicing pulling yourself up on the big bed every morning, holding on to the headboard, prompting grim visions of you tumbling off the bed on the side where the foam bumpers aren’t.
  • Speaking of heart attacks, knowing that your newly found interest in climbing stairs (carpeted and bare) is healthy doesn’t stop me from wishing sometimes I could superglue you to the floor until you’re eighteen.
  • Oh gods, the preferences. You know a lot more about what you want, and of course don’t have the language to get it yet, so you do this point-and-whine thing. We’ve stepped up your exposure to sign language, because babe, the whining a thing I can take only in small doses. Happily, you seem on board with the sign language, and you practice too.

Last weekend we got in a car with Mark and Eleanor and drove due west, into New York, to visit Sianna and her kids. The weekend getaway was perfect—a sprawling farmhouse, glorious homey food, a dance party in the living room, and a museum floor full of big boxes. You sat inside your very own tiny fort for something like half an hour, exploring the adhesive properties of duct tape.


There’s more, always, but it’s time for sleep.


(ps more pix, and videos)

newsletter: month eight

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

A couple of weeks ago Mark and I took you to a drum and dance. It was your first—on the outside. I was hoping that all the drumming I did while you were swimming around in your own personal sea world had programmed you to like this sort of thing. And you did! You stayed up all evening, well past your 7:30ish bedtime. You grinned like a fool, dancing there with Mark who was kind enough to wrangle an admittedly delightful you so I could drum some. You were mesmerized by the other drummers. You didn’t miss a thing.

And that was a tiny event, just a few people. I should really take you to Amherst next.

In the meantime, you’re not wasting a minute. You’ve had a, like, month-long growth spurt. People are asking whether you’re a year old. I have no idea how heavy you are at this point, but the speed with which you’re gaining weight has outstripped my body’s ability to build up muscle. Which I need in order to keep throwing you in the air, one of your favorite activities. So, you know, slow down a little.

On the recommendation of your pediatrician, also known as my adored primary physician of many years, I’ve been reading The Scientist in the Crib. You’ll be surprised to know that in the early 21st century, we’re still in the infancy of our understanding what the hell goes on in your rapidly developing mind-body. But we do know a substantial number of interesting things, and by golly, they’re all right in that book, well written and everything. I was already convinced, mostly from memories of early childhood, that babies have insanely rich inner lives. But TSitC has given me an even greater appreciation for every new skill you acquire:

  • passing stuff from hand to hand: isn’t it heady, how you can manipulate (heh) TWO HANDS at the SAME TIME?
  • scooting backwards would totally be crawling forwards if you could, but you’re still building up the power
  • you can throw your body around in the high chair and propel it on its little wheels—unless I put the brakes on them, preventing you from getting to the fun kitchen drawer
  • you have A TOOTH and use it on every food you can get your mouth on, including oatmeal, bell peppers, apples, beef stew, ice cream, tomatoes, daikon-like radishes in hot pot soup, Russian sauerkraut dumplings, bread, cucumber, and a million other things I’ve now lost track of
  • oh, and you might be beginning to wean yourself, though I would request that you not be in a hurry on that one
  • when you’re sleepy but can’t find a comfortable position, you’d really rather be left to your own devices, thanks, and not “helped” because sheesh you can get comfortable on your own

…You know, life. I try to pay attention and write things down, but there’s just so much. We play with the hallway light pull string. You open your eyes a little wider to take in the brilliant yellow goldenrod flowers growing along the Esplanade on the Charles River. You’re into contours—containers, borders, shadows. You like Jon Stewart and Doctor Who. You’re living every moment.

I’ve had two dreams in succession in which you spoke. In full sentences. In one dream you demanded ginger tea. Can hardly wait to have teatime conversations with you, babe.

-Mama (who, as usual, has placed more visual evidence here)

newsletter: month seven

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Dear Nico,

The seven-months newsletter is two whole days late. I’m sorry, baby, but mold waits for no one. Particularly when it’s mold trying to eat half a bushel of green beans.

Just so you know, half a bushel of green beans is a LOT of green beans. And maybe August in Boston isn’t the best time to leave them sitting there for even only a day, but what could I do? Gods know I don’t have space for 25lbs of beans in my fridge, and there was Back Yard Burning Man, and a housewarming, and…

Anyway. They’re gorgeously brined now, the two-thirds that I saved from a moldy death, and the house is back to a liveable shape.

You spent your seven-month birthday weekend in the arms of well over a dozen people at three different parties. They were charmed and powerlessas you telepathically compelled them to throw you in the air, let you pull on cheeks and beards and dark safety goggles, hold you up as you bounced, make faces as you lolled on a picnic blanket, feed you bits of food…

FOOD, oh my goodness. You like, in no particular order: Os cereal, which you often eat by putting your mouth on the high chair tray; beef stew; soaked prunes; peaches; tomatoes; avocado; a tiny bit of ice cream; and whatever is on my plate. You also think wooden spoons and plastic spatulas are mighty tasty. So tasty that you bit off a little piece of a spatula with your gums. When you have teeth, no bendy spatula for you.

Huge month developmentally. Huge. You’re clearly remembering things better from day to day. Stuffed toys with floppy limbs hold your attention for minutes, and I predict that later on you’ll be loving to cuddle with the downy-soft elephant that Mary from New Hampshire gave you. Or did she give you the lamb? That one is marginally less cuddly, but happens to be delicious. Cats are a little bit like stuffed toys, but they’ll walk away if you’re not gentle. They’re still way fun to watch, though. The foam tile flooring we got from a neighborhood mom is fun to bang on, and the jigsaw edges are fascinating.

Oh, and you’re sitting. On the bed, on the floor, with and without the boppy around you for support. In a special little seat in the bathtub.

And any day now, you’ll either crawl or straight-up walk. (See what I did there? Straight-up… never mind.)

I should probably attach those bookshelves to the wall. Holy sh…arks.

Baths are way more fun in the big bathtub. You can make waves! The splashing is way more awesome! You have floaty toys that squirt water! You never smile during bathtime, though—it’s too serious a business. Your usual devotion to exploring the edges of shadows goes all haywire in the big water. SO MUCH to look at, who has time for smiling?

Speaking of the big water, we went to Walden Pond, and the same scene repeated itself there. Sunshine in shallow little waves, oh goodness. You won’t remember this, but we were there with a friend who proceeded to give birth on your seven-month birthday, and with some other friends who just moved here from California. Our social circle keeps getting bigger.

A tiny fraction of the things that have amused you this month: books (this and this and this); bending your fingers (nice isolation work there!); making raspberries and silly sounds and syllables with your tongue (tatatatatatata); having secrets whispered in your ear (it must feel nice); doing that upper-lip-over-lower thing and watching me melt; patting my back as I pat yours, helping you get the air out after a feeding.

Every time I see your naked little body when you’re trying to crawl, the muscles are more defined. Working, working. Sometime in the beginning of the month, I barely recognized your arms—they were so slender in the night. Toddler arms soon.

Even with all the changes, you’re still a small mammal. Putting my arm on your sleeping body creates a feedback hum. We cuddle at night. In fact, what am I doing up? Time to go join you, for tomorrow is another crazy, unbelievable day at work, and quality time is sometimes unconscious.


P.S. <a href=””>More pix, as usual.</a>

newsletter: month four

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Dear Nico,

Happy four months, baby! Let’s talk about health. It’s possibly the most important thing we have, you and I. So your Mother’s Day gift to me of a bad sinus cold, though astonishingly thoughtful given your young age, might have been… a little misguided.

Getting rid of a cold when you can’t sleep it off is HARD. For the first time ever, I lamented not having a full-time co-parent, someone who had signed on for the germs in advance. Both of us being sick, I couldn’t bring myself to ask any of our friends and loved ones to come and be with you while I slept; I wouldn’t have wished this cold on anyone, and nothing was dire, just hard and sleepy and discontent.

We did it, though. We got rid of it. It took a sick day (note to self: next time, take two) and a lot of early bedtime, but we’re healthy once again. Let’s try to stay that way, please.

Somerville Open Studios

Taken by Molly Tomlinson at Somerville Open Studios, May 5

It’s WARM! It’s SPRING! You are sleeping longer stretches. Oh, the incomparable joy of it! I credit a combination of warm weather and the breastmilk-in-the-nose trick I remembered to try. Worked like a charm to relieve your congestion. This stuff is magic. Let’s hope I don’t forget it when you get your first pinkeye.

Enough about illness, let’s talk about the adorable. There’s plenty of that. Take the sounds of you sucking on your entire fist in the back seat of the car. Or your extra-fuzzy, velvety head with a lot more hair than last month. Or the way you’re discovering toys—just yesterday Michel reported that you have learned to crinkle the wings of the little stuffed bee.

Speaking of Michel, you have the best caretakers. Three of them, over the four days a week that you’re in “daycare.” You love going to Vanessa’s and hanging out with her and tiny Alex, who is only a month older than you. (I can’t wait until you two start entertaining each other, hopefully in a few months.) You love going to Carolyn’s, who has been packing and unpacking moving boxes and has all the smiles in the world for you. And Michel’s, well. There’s a grownup AND a six-year-old AND a teenager AND a huuuuuge dog who are all fond of you. Pici the great dane, easily seven times your size, likes to lick your hands.


I haven’t even mentioned all our other friends besides the weekday caretakers. I hope that hanging out with all these different people will mean no separation anxiety. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just avoid that altogether?

Your hand-eye coordination is improving. Fingers are tricky to get control of, but darned if you’re not tryin’. A favorite exercise is holding on to my shirt as I put you in the carrier: you’ve discovered that you can keep yourself from falling over to the side. The power! The control! It’s heady.

You’ve definitively found your toes, and are studiously working on holding on to them. Watching you do this, it occurred to me that it’s quite an advanced skill: you have to control your arm and your leg at the same time. I imagine this can get frustrating. But you’re pretty chill about it, and we’ve been talking about practicing.

You’re definitely practicing. Given your increasing love for mouthing everything, most especially your own fingers and my forearm when I’m changing your diapers, it’s only a matter of time until you bring those feet all the way up to your mouth.

Most of your exploration is accompanied these days by a sort of aaaaaohhhhhh. Sounds are fun, even if they’re all vowels so far. An accidental consonant here and there doesn’t count for syllables, but it is cute to practically hear your brain gears turning.

Rollin', rollin', rollin'

Some of the most entertaining things in the world are: practicing your standing, supported, on top of a grownup’s belly; Baby in the Mirror; the doorway bouncer (you can hang out in that thing for half an hour); having your belly, feet, hands or head nibbled; having me sing to you. Gosh, baby, I hope you continue to be as appreciative an audience as you’re being these days. It may be the best ego trip I’ve ever had.

Speaking of feelings, yours might be growing even faster than your body, which is damn impressive given that during the days when I’m at work you’re eating all the milk I can pump and then some. Thank goodness we had a reserve; it’s depleted enough that I’ve brought the pump home so that hopefully we can build it back up a little. You feel huge to me, though the internet tells me that your weight is average for your age. So when you have FEELINGS, well. It’s a good thing we have a fierce cuddling relationship.

Today, on your four-month birthday, we went out to lunch at a Chinese buffet with babushka, Vlad, and a bunch of their friends—mostly to celebrate my mom’s and a friend’s birthdays now that everyone’s back in town from various travels. You charmed everyone, men and women. I’m told you do this about a hundred percent of the time, no matter where you go. Hang on to your gregariousness, my love. It alone won’t get you many places, but it sure helps to genuinely like other people, and have them like you back.

I like you so much that sometimes, when I have to choose a quiet bedtime for you over an evening with friends, I feel that the consolation prize is way worth it.

Is this how you crawl?



don’t just do something, sit there.

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelburne, MA, where I sat and/or served two ten-day courses, is turning 30 and having an open house to celebrate. If you have ever thought that maybe you’d like to check this stuff out, I can’t recommend this place enough. The tradition has its issues as regards rather outdated social mores, but it’s also been around for 2600 years. It’s only fair.

The center is a couple of hours west of Boston along Route 2, north of Northampton. It’s beautiful there. And by the way: your first course, should you choose to devote the ten days, is necessarily free: they only accept money from old students as donations. (The point of donating is not to repay for resources you consumed, but to enable someone else to have this experience.) So don’t let lack of funds stop you.

#reverb10 nine: party

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

You’ll notice I’m skipping the eighth prompt. Yeah, that one was a tad too narcissistic for me.

(I’m participating in Reverb 10. You can, too!)

What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

Three years ago, then-five-year-old Eleanor asked Mark if she could please please PLEASE go to Burning Man. He said something to the effect of, not until you can take care of yourself in the desert; not now, for sure. And she said, we should have Burning Man right here, in our backyard! Thus, BackYard Burning Man was born.

This past summer was BYBM’s third year, and it was soul-warming, all day. Mark and Eleanor, graciously hosting out-of-towners, worked at their place all day. In the afternoon, Rosa and I joined them to do what we do best: help with food (and, secondarily, the rest of the prep). Colorful streamers everywhere; a couple of open tents with gorgeous brightly-colored curtains; crafts for kids and grownups. Beer and big-girl drinks in the coolers; a pot luck of tasty foods; the grill going. My funky food contribution this year were little chocolate cakes made in scooped-out orange shells, wrapped in foil, “baked” on the grill. Campfire cakes, they’re called. Wicked fun! Try it—but do use decent ingredients. We had gluten free chocolate cake mixes and quail eggs, to accommodate some friends who don’t do gluten or chicken eggs, and it came out phenomenal.

A brief aside for Bostonians north of the river: Seabra supermarket in Somerville reliably has good, cheap quail eggs. And a bunch of Latin American foods that make it one of my favorite groceries around here.

Yeah, this isn’t really Burning Man. It’s not even Firefly. There’s a gas grill and modern plumbing. At the last two, there’s been a bouncy castle. (I had no idea how easy it was to rent one!) Really, it’s a mid-summer party. But it’s not just that. For one thing, it was conceived and executed (with help from her dad and friends) by a kid who gets pretty creative with it, I’ll tell ya. There must’ve been two dozen or more children there over the course of the day, and activities involving making things. There was hooping and juggling and belly dancing. In the evening, when most everyone had left, MartinH brought out his guitar and we sang and sang, The Beatles and Paul Simon and I don’t even remember what else. Fairy lights everywhere.

That’s magic I love.

#reverb10 seven: community

Friday, December 10th, 2010

(I’m participating in Reverb 10. You can, too!)

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

To my great surprise, I discovered community in my field.

When I went to my first digital humanities conference in 2001, back when it had the unwieldy name ACH-ALLC, I thought I’d discovered community. Perfect strangers sought you out and asked you about your work. Then you asked them about theirs, and next thing you knew, you were spending the many coffee breaks and every evening chatting about text encoding and digital map work and dogs and cooking. Seasoned scholars mentored us whipper-snappers, first informally for several academic generations, then formally through mentoring programs. There’s a vibrant DH presence on Twitter and in the blogosphere.

I’ve felt part of a community ever since then. Even so, work was quite lonely sometimes. Writing the dissertation is inherently lonely. And between graduation and about a year ago, my immediate vicinity was pretty low on DH.

Within the last year, things have shifted. My own horizons expanded: I’m finally comfortable with my place in the digital library world, insofar as anyone with no library degree can be. Digital humanists on Twitter have prompted me to write and think about new DH topics. I disovered DHSI for myself, and met even more brilliant people, among them Julie.

Can hardly wait to start the new job. (On Monday!) The pragmatic (if not explicit) mandate to build community is practically in the job description. And next year, more of the same, please.

And more of my personal community! Which I’d write about here, but it’s late, and I didn’t discover it this year. No, it’s been around for a long time, for me. The whole DH thing, though… still startles me at the end of the year. It’s been a long year, fundamentally a good one! So yes, more of the same, please.