Archive for the ‘people’ Category

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>

the rule of beauty

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Recently, Martha Nell Smith was awarded the Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award by the University of Maryland, where she teaches. At the second of the above links you’ll find a video of her lecture, given on the occasion of this award, “The Humanities Are Not a Luxury.” In the wake of SUNY Albany’s astonishing decision to cut some key programs—French, classics, Russian, Italian and theatre—Smith talks with humor and a stable sort of passion about the humanities as an essential, indispensable part of what we do and are. Here are some of the things that she says:

There is no frigate, no bus, no plane, no space ship, no car, no train—none of these is like a book, like a song, like an operatic voice, like a painting, like a sculpture, like a drama. To help us imagine other lands and cultures, to help us cultivate that kind of compassion and empathy required for democracy, for practicing equality as a fundamental value, instead of the more primitive ‘better than’.

And also:

We should remind our administrators that the kind of education that enabled broad access to highest quality instruction and research, and made these United States a world leader—that kind of education can never be a gated community. And it must be worldly, reaching beyond any nation-state. Healthy, too, are reminders that business management is really not the best metaphor for knowledge workers. As was noted in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a better metaphor for knowledge workers is that of gardener. We work in fields. We cultivate.

What I’ve been pointing out is that unless you’re at home in the metaphor, unless you have had your proper poetical education in the metaphor, you are not safe anywhere. Because you are not at ease with figurative values. You don’t know the metaphor and its strength, and its weakness. You don’t know how far you may expect to ride it, and when it may break down with you. You are not safe in science, and you are not safe in history, unless you are at home with the metaphor.

Smith rejects the rhetoric of a crisis in the humanities, a phrase often uttered. For more on the state of the humanities, see Stanley Fish’s recent NYTimes opinion pieces: “The Crisis of the Humanities Officially Arrives” and its sequel, “Crisis of the Humanities II.” I find it more than a little odd that not once does Fish mention digital endeavors of any kind, but can’t say I’m surprised. He didn’t mention them two years ago when asking whether the humanities would save us, either. I don’t subscribe to Fish’s opinions, but the articles and comments on them are thought provoking. Martha Nell Smith’s lecture, on the other hand, I heartily endorse. It’s well worth the hour and ten minutes it’ll take to watch the video.

poetry is not a luxury

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I came into work early today, and am taking some time to watch Martha Nell Smith‘s Distinguished Scholar-Teacher lecture titled “The Humanities Are Not a Luxury: A Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century,” given this month at UMD. I love listening to Martha Nell talk: her perceptiveness and her wicked sense of humor are a good in the world. So, as much as I wish there were a transcription of the lecture, I think the video is worth watching, and recommend it. (The lecture proper starts around minute 11-12.)

Meanwhile, though, have a quote from Audre Lorde:

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.


Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Life’s been chugging along, and the best I can do sometimes is keep up. In the now-venerable tradition of good-thing, bad-thing, here’s my week and a half, give or take.

  • ++ Birthday! I had one. I went out to dinner with mom and Vlad, and later had a party. It was well attended by lovely people; Mark supplied lights and gorgeous swathes of cloth to drape around things; the food was appreciated; much merriment was had.
  • – Then last Monday I started feeling sick.
  • – Then last Tuesday I came in sick to cover library supervision in the evening (until 9pm), and proceeded to lie on the table floor for most of the time I was in, unable even to watch stupid TV online, much less work.
  • — Then Wednesday I discovered that what I had was strep throat! I don’t remember whether I’d ever had it before; certainly not since I got to the States almost twenty (!!) years ago.
  • + Yet I recognized it for what it must be, went to get myself checked out (thanks for the encouragement, mom), and got
  • +++ penicillin, which is a wonder of (semi-)modern medicine, even though it’s kicking my butt by greatly diminishing my baseline energy level. But hey, it’s only for ten days.
  • – Meanwhile, I missed my weekly playdate/kid-sitting night with four year old Natalie. SO looking forward to seeing her today.
  • ++ On Saturday, I had fantastic dinner with my family, all of them—even brother Zhenya, sisinlaw Jo Ann and nephew Tesher came up for this—as a first, early celebration of my mom’s 70th birthday (coming up in May). I do so like hanging out with them, particularly when it involves food and then sleeping in my own bed.
  • + The last two nights, I had excellent dates, with conversations and food and laughing that left me feeling hale and whole.
  • + Yesterday, I finally finished up the saga of having had to have a tooth extracted a year and a half ago, then get an implant, then get a crown for the implant. Dentistry has been the bain of my didn’t-grow-up-with-fluoride-in-my-water body, and I’m glad this one’s over.
  • ++ Also yesterday, I acquired a physical therapist and a therapy schedule to finally fix a year-and-a-half-old shoulder injury. I like the therapist, and I like that he’s two T stops away from the building where I work. Major win.
  • + I’ve been productive and happy at work (except for that miserable evening with the strep throat). We submitted an NEH grant proposal; I’ve been talking to faculty about teaching with technology; we have several IT and digital library projects going; and as terrifying as it is to essentially be my own boss most days, I’m also learning new stuff at a pace I can feel. Mostly learning about managing time and expectations. Valuable stuff.
  • – Work is also exhausting and often frustrating. Yesterday I shut down my computer after reviewing and commenting on four long library policy documents, and literally couldn’t think for a while, just let myself be on autopilot going home.
  • + Good thing cooking perks me right up.
  • – I’ve also been chronically under-sleeping again, mostly by making bad time-management choices in favor of being with good people.
  • + Good thing I got plenty of sleep while sick with strep throat!
  • + On a different note, I’m participating in a Tufts study on how people manage their personal finances (or at least that’s what they claim the study is about). This got me thinking more deeply about my own personal finances, and once again coming to a conclusion that I can manage them well even if the jam-tomorrow enticements that just keep coming from my ex never materialize, and I have to pay his share of our mutual debts too. I wouldn’t be happy doing it, but not having any choice, find it more pleasant to be sanguine about it. Of course I have a rant about that, but that’s not the point: the point is, this isn’t driving me crazy anymore.
  • +This past weekend, I saw a bunch of old friends and acquaintances from my days of hanging out on the interactive fiction MUD.  I also got to see a screening of the excellent documentary Get Lamp, by Jason Scott of textfiles fame, which (both Get Lamp and textfiles) I’m highly recommending if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • ++ My house and my life are full of people so good in so many ways, it makes me dizzy sometimes.

And these are just the highlights. Life’s full, and mostly good.

RIP Alex Karan

Monday, March 1st, 2010

A bright soul. Ethan and I spent a weekend with him and his family once, at their home near Chicago. I also talked with Alex a lot online. I’d met him through Ethan and an online community; when I fell off that community’s radar while doing my dissertation, Alex fell off mine. I didn’t go back to that IRC channel until today.

We were out of touch for three years or so. He was diagnosed with cancer in January of last year. He died yesterday.

I spent a while reading his blog and crying like I haven’t cried since dad died. He was young. He had two small daughters with his wife Celeste. He was a partner in a law firm, and seems to have really enjoyed his work there.

Only thirteen months from news to gone. I fucking hate cancer.

let me tell you about my bad day.

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Yesterday I woke up grumpy. I had my reasons, but mostly it boils down to, I’ve been getting abysmal amounts of sleep this week – five to six hours a night. No good reason for it.

Moaned about, got out of bed like an hour late, went to work and stayed there for ten hours, in part because the first half of the day I was mostly useless. (Enh. It happens. It’s SAD season, and I do what I can, and somehow work-blogging after hours feels different, calmer, with nobody around.) And near the end of the business day I found out I’d made some people unhappy, and had to deal with that, and it wasn’t a big deal—in fact, the conversation with a third party was helpful and reassuring—but it’s never a good feeling to know you’ve screwed up. On the other hand, learning experience, and a mild one as such things go.

So by the time I left work at 8pm I was tired. And… not exactly grumpy, just feeling off. But then.

Then I came home, and there was a circus band rehearsing in my living room. Went upstairs, and housemate Coraline was hanging out in the kitchen with her friend Carolyn. I threw my stuff down and—having had no dinner—declared I needed scotch, and to make a casserole. Why? I dunno. I guess I’d had a fantastic casserole at Molly’s the day before, and I’ve had random foodstuffs hanging around the cupboards for forever, AND I’d never made casserole before.

Yeah, really.

So we broke out the bottle of 12-year-old scotch that I’d taken to Burning Man and we’d never gotten around to opening (there was other alcohol around, but it’s not tempting to drink a lot of dehydrating liquid in that climate). And I made a casserole of frozen artichoke hearts, frozen peas, frozen corn, frozen mixed mushrooms (thank you, bulk food ordering, I have a mushroom invasion in my freezer), chick peas, canned tuna, multi-colored potatoes, cream and two kinds of cheese. And I’m probably forgetting other stuff.

All the while, people around me chatted and sipped tasty alcohol and giggled a lot. And later I ate and felt more human, and around 10:45pm Coraline (ok, Johanna) and Eric and I went out against all better judgment, because spectacularly under-advertised Midnight Madness was going on in Davis Square. We gawked at antique bobbles and boutique-y clothes, but mostly we dropped by Dave’s Fresh Pasta, sampled tasty foods, and brought home mozzarella made that evening by a neighbor of theirs (or something).

Oh. my. gods. Homemade mozzarella with crushed pink peppercorns and a drizzle of truffled olive oil. Yeah, I’d say that, combined with hanging out with my awesome housemates, was a win even though it meant that once again I got too little sleep.

Boy, if that was a bad day, bring them on, you know? Speaking of days, I should probly go face mine. The sun’s rising, a warm shower awaits, and today I get to take tasty casserole to work for lunch. Oh, and tonight I get to see both of my favorite small girls (can’t call them toddlers anymore, as they’re skipping and giggling on either side of three years old), and go to the Museum of Science with one of them and her dad. WOE. Woe is me in this sad season.

Today I’m thankful for good people in my life, and for all the weird bipolar days that, in the end, let me know that things are going to be ok.

bits and pieces

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

This will be redundant if you read any of my housemates’ journals, but: I love my household. Interviewing potential new housemate last night was full of giggling and conversation about EVERYthing and cake and blueberry wine. I have my issues with living here (mostly having to do with allergies, and we’re working on this). But the people, and the circus band in my living room (oh, you think I’m kidding, do you?), and the art and science and foodie quotients are all near optimal.

My job continues to delight me. I suspect it’ll be taking up more of my brain in the next couple of months, as I transition from being almost exclusively computing support to doing more of the balanced mish-mosh of support and digital library work I’m supposed to be doing. This transition is right on schedule; I’m glad for the increased variety, and also glad to have had a reasonably intense introduction to networking and other larger computing issues at BU.

Random students whom I don’t believe I’ve ever actually met grin at me and compliment the blue hair. So do some of the faculty and staff at the school. Nobody has made a huge deal out of it, and nobody seems too weirded out. Also, I may have finally found a community event at work I’d probably feel consistently good participating in: Sabbath space, a sanctuary of sorts on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, in a beautiful chapel space used for prayer, quiet conversation, meditation and… coloring mandalas. Clearly not entirely Christian, for which I’m thankful. It’s been a strange landscape to navigate, this School of Theology. Before I came there, I thought STH was, you know, like majoring in religion except on a graduate level: you learn about as many different religions as you can, and do anthropology and cultural studies and stuff. But no, this is a Methodist seminary, and though they’re all excellent people and extremely tolerant and clearly versed in many religions (several faculty members have artifacts from all over East Asia in their offices), it’s still a Methodist seminary. People learn how to preach, they practice ministry, they graduate and go work in churches and on missions. To me, this is all alien, and the more vociferous Christian contingent hasn’t exactly been sane in this country of late, or anywhere ever. But, you know, so it goes. I’m there to do computer stuff, and to help create digital resources that help people of vastly different backgrounds find out about each other. I work with good people who do good work for their fellow human beings. Ultimately, what they believe in looks like a cross between anthropology, social activism and mythology to me. And I’d be willing to bet that not a single one of them has ever contemplated harming a doctor who performs abortions.

Spiritually speaking, I tend to steer clear of monotheism, and don’t like it around me. But the people at work are fascinating and multifaceted and kind and compassionate and, most of the time, present. I like people who are fully there in the moment with me.

It’s oh-gods-late, and I must go to sleep. There is a seven-day candle burning in my room; every one of those that burns down will light the next one until the vernal Equinox. A continuous flame through the darkest part of the year; thanks to Molly for the idea. G’night.

john perry barlow on the occasion of the 4th of july

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Just under 7min long. Watch it. Worth it. What’s your dream for your society? What do you consider your society – like your friends and your family and your pets, an entity that gives you much, and for which you’re responsible? I want to know.

Barlow, by the way, is fantastic. I want to cook him dinner and ask him about the world.

excuses and high lights

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

OK, an hour ago I still had the excuse of long-overdue catching up with a friend. Now it’s just the sneezing and the achy throat keeping me up.

Significant bright sides, both from tonight and from the past weekend: conversation over ginger lemon tea and a hummus plate at Diesel right up until they closed. Coming back home and preserving lemons brought to me by erstwhile Croatian visitors. Tasting the resulting lemon-juice-and-much-salt concoction, which won’t actually be ready for 5-6 weeks, but hey, I was curious; and experiencing a unique taste sensation that is oddly compelling. Listening to Ottmar Liebert, one of my favorite guitarists, whose album “In the Arms of Love” I’ve come to associate with the calm of late evenings.

Last Friday, seeing Mischief in the Machine, incredibly satisfying not least because the musicians have been practicing in my living room for the past several months, and some of the other performers are friends and acquaintances, and oh, also because it was an excellent show.

Food shopping with two friends and a kid, and helping the two-year-old through a comparative critique of two fairly complex cheeses.

Dinner (involving sushi), dessert (involving cherries and really actually unfortunate bacon chocolate) and conversation (involving three of my favorite peeps) underneath the Templet.

Helping a friend move – not under the best of circumstances for him, but satisfying both in a physical sense and in that I was able to participate. I’ve been on a bit of a streak reacting to what I see as empty pronouncements of love and sunshiny feelings towards the world – the only meaningful way I’ve found to counteract that is to invest of myself in my world, in practical ways that benefit it (them) and therefore myself. Hey, it’s not the best of motivations, but whatever gets me up and running, no?

Speaking of up and running, weightlifting is still having a profound effect on my life. Have I mentioned that? Yeah, like, every other post. Well, it’s true. Soon, if Molly and I succeed at mutually motivating, I’ll go check out BU’s gym facilities.

Going from strenuous move to the best picnic “brunch” yet this season. Quotation marks because it lasted most of the day. Molly and Rosa really know how to make a girl happy with food.

And then quiet and important conversation with Mark, one of the aforementioned favorite people; feeding my haptic interface; and an opportunity to start organizing my life – and snail-mail – and other paperwork – that seems to have been just the push I needed to start digging myself out of the piles-of-paper-everywhere hole I seem to get into at least a couple of times a year.

On balance, things aren’t bad. Except, of course, for the things that are. But, as I’ve written for the past several months, that’s largely out of my control.

Aki is sitting guard by my side. Time to go cuddle the cat – if he deigns to assent. Here’s hoping that the echinacea and goldenseal capsules counterbalance the lack of sleep, where my immune system is concerned.

jump start

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Been a while since I’ve blogged publicly, hasn’t it? Hello, again.

I go to write this post, and notice a new comment from Regina, an old friend from Moldova who now lives in Israel, with whom I’d fallen out of touch a while ago. Holy cats. Hello, again. It’s lovely to hear from you.

(The timing of the comment and of my being compelled to write here again are a coincidence.)

Yeah, there’s been a lot of sadness that I’m not quite ready to write down. Luckily, the last month or so has also been filled with joy and light and smart people and work (hooray, work!), so it’s not like there’s nothing to tell.

My job at Boston University, the title of which has now settled at Digital Collections and Computing Support Librarian [in the School of Theology], rocks my socks so far. It’s not that I’ve done a whole lot, yet; it’s only been a month, and the end of the academic year at that, and my boss the head librarian has been out on vacation for the past two weeks, so things are relatively slow. On the other hand, there’s plenty to do in the computing-support half of the job. I’ve been learning [more] about how BU’s network is set up, which is nifty. We’re purchasing a big pile of equipment to replace old stuff – both servers and personal workstations for faculty and staff – which, you know, from the support standpoint is great. Soon there’ll be no more @$#%! five-year-old Dells to support, and many of the four-year-old machines are going away too. People are open to the idea of Macs, which is huge in such a behemoth mostly-Windows org. (BU is an immense bureaucratic machine, and I say that with all the affection that one would expect a girl to have for her alma mater.)

Best of all, people want to learn. I’ve been getting to know the faculty and staff. Some of them are already doing digital humanities projects (like the History of Missiology site). Others have cool ideas (hello, Admissions Director using Facebook in all kinds of cool community-building ways). And still others want to figure out how computing can make their research and teaching (and administration, and the school as a community) more awesome.

This is what they hired me to work on. I’m unspeakably excited. Yeah, so far it’s been all support and no digilib, but I expect that to change. There’s a lot of hardware overhauling to do, and some basics to catch up on. That will take some months. But there’s already so much concrete investment of time, thought and resources in digital library stuff at STH that I have no doubt it’s going to go somewhere interesting.

Then there’s life outside of work. That’s been filled with friends, children, loved ones, cats, cooking, Burning Man planning, hand drumming, sci-fi reading, Battlestar Galactica, water and fire and earth, casual photography, breathing deeply. And the weather’s been nice.

Yesterday I flew to DC. Today I participated in a day-long grant proposal review panel for which I read a total of thirty proposals, which took an unreal amount of time and was fascinating and instructive, and I’m not being sarcastic about any of that. The panel itself was great too; in the past month or so I’ve learned a ton about the grant review and award process, and I fully intend to use this knowledge for good. I have generalized thoughts on the whole thing, but have to formulate them separately – must wrap my brain around the whole thing first, and also make sure not to cross any confidentiality boundaries. The whole thing made me feel awfully important, and going away for just over 24 hours meant I could travel with just my work bag, light and easy.

Coming back tonight, at the Reagan Airport, I texted a friend something to the effect of, I like traveling – the interstitial part, the going – even more than being places. She laughed and declared me liminal girl. Certainly that holds true for my life in a larger sense.

There’s more, always – the children I get to hang out with, the surprisingly strong presence of love in my days, feeling so strong from weightlifting with one of my dearest, the USB turntable I bought with which I’m digitizing records from the old country – but it’s 1:45am, and tomorrow’s a workday. Er, today. Whatever.