Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

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

#reverb10 three: moment

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

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

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Here’s one I don’t mind sharing.

My sister-in-law Jo Ann and I are driving. We’ve been in Quebec with the rest of the family for several days now, and it… hasn’t been easy. We escaped into twilit Quebec City, saw a random long bridge and took it, and discovered for ourselves Île d’Orléans. It’s every bit as pastoral as travel books say. It’s 34x8km, and there’s a main road going all around it. We drive all around it.

Weather is perfect. Probably about 20 degrees Celsius, a slight breeze. We are driving slowly with the windows open. It’s quiet enough that we can hear the crickets even as the car is moving. Lights here and there, close together enough to illuminate most of the space, but far apart enough that each shines brightly in the dark. Water is all around us, so everything smells like a river; the air is damp but soft and light. Jo and I are quiet, a lull between fits of animated conversation. Every once in a while we pass an inn or a restaurant, and in them white noise of conversations that dissipates as we leave the crowds behind. They’re like wind in tall trees.

It’s bright slate streaked with a pale pale blue, with accents of fading pink and orange and red. Everything is silhouetted.

DHSI and free agency

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

I’m on a plane from Seattle to Minneapolis and then to Boston, finishing up ten days of travel.  When we were taking off, Rainier Mountain just out my window was rising above the lower clouds, its head just touching the upper layer. Gorgeous and apt: the past week has given me new knowledge and a wider perspective.

I attended the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria!  This was made possible by the DHSI and by my dean, and I’m grateful to both.  The Institute’s ninth year was my first time attending, and it was an intense experience.  Something like 35 hours of instruction over five days; evening plenary talks and early-morning graduate student presentations for four of those.  I took the large project planning and management course with Lynne Siemens. It was even more exciting and useful than I’d expected it to be. Who would’ve thought I’d be into project management?  But bring industry-born ideas about cat herding resource wrangling into academe, and I’m there.  We talked about juggling (often too-little) money and time and people, getting folks to be as excited about your ideas as  you are, getting your head around a project in the first place.  We had guest speakers in almost every class and got to plan our own projects.  All of this delightfully low-tech: I’m bringing back large sheets of flip-chart paper with wild scribbles and post-it notes.  Now to get grant funding for this thing.  (Grant application is in, but we don’t find out for a couple more months.  If we don’t get funded, I imagine we’ll apply again.  In any case, the training will be applicable in other contexts, not least of them the everyday juggling of activities at work.)

The best part, of course, were the people.  I saw some old friends and acquaintances, and finally got to spend a bunch of time around Julie Meloni, who is moving to Victoria to work as a postdoc at UVic’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab. (ETCL folks put on the Institute every summer—and let’s pause for a second to appreciate the work they do, and their success at it.)

Talking to Julie, and to Jentery Sayers, and Jon Bath, and Susan Brown, and the many other folk I met at UVic,  one thing is clear: networked technologies are finally at a stage where they can be reliably and cheaply used for long-distance collaboration in the digital humanities.  There’s no substitute for in-person interaction, but it’s also increasingly easy to work together over arbitrary distances, meeting in the same place every once in a while.  This is changing our work process.  It’s no longer just that we can email Word documents back and forth.  We can use combinations of text/audio/video chat, collaborative editing environments, remote file upload and syncing venues, online project management systems, even bibliography and research sharing systems to work on projects either synchronously or asynchronously, as circumstances permit, at times across many timezones.  All of these tools have been available for some time, but have been clunky or expensive or not easily interoperable.  The recent explosion of networked tools and services (some of them created by and for academics) is a perfect storm for academic collaboration.

At the beginning of the DHSI week I got pretty discouraged about my self-imposed geographic restriction to Boston.  All this activity swirling around me, watching people who have found inspiration in working with one another, felt like being on the outside looking in.  Which is pretty ridiculous, all things considered: nobody can do everything, and I have a job in Boston that’s at least nominally a digital humanities/digital libraries job.  But it does get lonely at BU sometimes.  There isn’t much DH activity either at the university or generally in New England. (Sure, Brown University is just an hour away, and THATCamp New England has just opened for applications.  But given that we’re in CollegeTownUSA land, there’s still woefully little DH work going on around here.  It’s ramping up, but slowly.)

Well, seems like there’s nothing like a little live interaction to get things going.  Seems I’m about to get involved in a couple of projects that will feed me in ways that will supplement the satisfaction I draw from current in-person work.  This is good both for me and for my workplace.  Information will flow through more channels, inspiration can be distributed. Perspective allows serendipity to do its unpredictable future thing.

I love Boston, and have good reasons to live where I live. This has meant passing on multiple opportunities to apply for jobs I’d no doubt enjoy. But I’ve placed a high priority on being near my people. It was a hard decision to make when I made it, but the rewards are constant and significant. And now, the trade-off doesn’t seem as big as it did even only three years ago.

Being a free agent in the age of networked communication is pretty exciting.

Habitat-like, but not?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

So, to go build stuff abroad through Habitat for Humanity costs a lot. Like, a couple thousand dollars, which may or may not include airfare, and… well, aside from the fact that I don’t have that kind of money, if I did (through fundraising or whatnot), there would probably be wiser ways to spend it on others.

Is there an organization that’ll take me abroad to… do whatever, really, as long as they pay for most or all of it? And here’s the catch: it needs to be non-religious. Like, if a church organizes it, fine, good deeds and all. But if they so much as peep to the natives about Jesus (or whatever), or even hold prayer meetings with the already-converted, I don’t want any part of it.

I know there’s a lot to do locally. Right now I’m exploring international options. I’m particularly interested in Latin America, but would consider other places.


Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

It looks like I’ll be in Baltimore soon. I’ll be flying in on Sunday 11/16, and leaving Tuesday evening 11/18. On Sunday I can travel in the morning, or in the evening. If I get there in the morning (or around noon), I’ll have the rest of the day to kick around.

Worth it? What’s there to do in Baltimore? I don’t know that city at all.

If you’re reading on LJ, please to leave any comments on Words’ End and not on the LJ feed. Thanks in advance for any advice!

burning man! (it is over.) (it isn’t over.)

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Right! I am once again falling into the trap of having so much to write that I don’t write anything. Bits and pieces are better than nothing. And so, bits and pieces.

In short: on Wednesday the 20th of last month I left home absurdly early and drove westward to Black Rock City, NV. I took a northerly route on the way there and went through Ohio, Duluth MN, Fargo ND, Billings MT, Custer National Forest, Yellowstone and Jackson Hole WY. I got to the burn in the afternoon on Monday the 25th, stayed in the desert until stupid-early in the morning on Monday the 1st, and got home around 4:30pm last Sunday the 7th. On the way home I went south to Las Vegas, and then drove through Albuquerque and Santa Fe NM, Tulsa OK, Little Rock AR, Memphis and Nashville and Knocksville TN, Pretty Everyplace PA and Sleepy Hollow, NY. I drove a total of 7,253.5 miles in my friend Molly’s little 2001 Honda Civic Something Just-Pre-Hybrid, which was a complete doll and got me an average of around 45mpg. I was gone nineteen days (Stephen King, where are you?) (The number 19 carries a huge significance in the Dark Tower series); my cats expressed their unequivocal disgruntlement, and are currently over it.

It was exhausting and exhilarating and exactly the cathartic road trip I wanted. I saw some friends I hadn’t seen for a long time, met new and fantastic people, had the best burn yet (of my meager three), and spent a lot of time thinking and singing, sometimes at the same time.

Neuromancer is a bitch to experience as an audio book if you’ve never read the paper copy before. When I told Mark (who gave me the audiobook for the road) about the difficulty I was having understanding anything that was going on, and mentioned it was my first pass through the novel, he looked downright sheepish. I am glad to report that, after several false starts, I did listen to it all the way through, and am now listening to the whole thing again. It is brilliant and well read.

It’s 11:18pm, and i’m sleepy. Many more thoughts on each of the above-mentioned places.

ask the internets

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008


I need to pay for one night in any place with private rooms (hotel, b&b, whatever) in Amsterdam in early November. Naturally, I’d like to pay as little as possible while still having a door to close and no cigarette smell in the bed. Any suggestions?

(LJ feed readers: I won’t see replies left directly on LJ. You know what to do.)

long days of summer

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

At the moment of the summer solstice – at least, it was solstice as far as the internet was concerned – I was washing dishes in a quieted house, after an exquisitely summery grilled meal. A year ago I was in a very different place. The last year has brought with it changes I’d never imagined, not then, not in the near future. I went to the darkest place I’d ever been, and have come back out into the light.

Life is softly humming along. I’ve been getting re-acquainted with how it feels to rely almost exclusively on public transport and my feet for getting from point N to point ΔN. It feels long-ago-homey – more like Kishinev than even my recent experiences in New York and Boston. Maybe it also feels a little like London, where I also took both subway trains and buses regularly. It’s an entirely different pace of life, and (aside from the fact that some things are just not possible without a car) I think I like it better. But I need more audio books.

There are still many, many days left in the season before I begin feeling like they’re getting short again. The sun tends to lighten people, and I’ve been feeling my friends’ burdens fade into the background even as they don’t fall away. My own, too.

Been daydreaming about the Burning Man road trip. Right now I’m thinking something like this on the way out, and maybe a southerly route on the way back. It’s a lot of driving – the way out west as I’ve mapped it out is 11 driving hours more than the shortest route, and the way back – 13, which amounts to two extra days of driving. I don’t know how I’ll afford it, but this is the year of a cathartic road trip, so hopefully I’ll find a way to make this happen. Or, you know, shorten the route. The shortening will likely be on the southerly side, though, because the northern plains and the Bad Lands (thanks for the link, Rosa) are calling me.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some mushroom caps to stuff. Happy solar holiday, all.

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.