March 3, 2008

I am remembering my grandfather, Giddo Mike. My mother’s father. A wiry man, maybe an inch taller than I am, gentle (to me), gruff and indestructible. He loved gardening and golf. He raised a family in Belize, and then he and my grandmother moved to Orlando when the children were grown.

When I was little he built me a bicycle out of parts and I rode it for years, until I outgrew it. He would pick mangoes and starfruit from his trees for me and my sister. My memories of him are a mix of my own stories and the stories of my parents; my dad, for instance, tells how Giddo didn’t approve of him and stopped speaking to my mother after they were married. Then one day there was a knock on their door, and when they opened it, Giddo stood there with a full bag of groceries in each arm. I was just passing by, he said, and Dad laughs, remembering. It’s a four-hour drive from Orlando to Tallahassee, where we were living, Dad says. I was just passing by.

David and GiddoDavid met Giddo in 2002, in Belize at my cousin’s wedding. My two-year-old son toddled up to Giddo Mike, craned his neck way back, and said, You’re a really tall man, thereby securing himself in his great-grandfather’s good graces forever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone grin so big as Giddo did just then. He took David’s hand and they walked around looking at turtles in the fountain and little blue crabs along the driveway.

My indestructible Giddo passed away peacefully yesterday morning at the age of 88.

As-salamu alaykum, Giddo.


Twitter’s AWOL

February 29, 2008

It started last night.

I hit “reload” to find out what everyone was doing just before I quit for the night.


Blank white page, little spinny Firefox icon. No updates. No avatars. Okay, I thought. I can cope with this. It’s late, and I can just check in the morning. No problem.

Except I can’t. It’s STILL DOWN. I can’t say good morning to the Twitter world. I can’t find out how the class went for @BryanAlexander in San Francisco last night. I don’t know whether @blamb and @cogdog got their morning coffee. How was @mburtis‘s birthday? Is @mapetite still sick? I DON’T KNOW.

Which raises a question for me: why does it matter so much? Obviously Twitter gives me something that, when it’s not there, I miss. I feel unconnected, uninformed, unaware, and, yes, lonely, out here in the California satellite office of the NMC. I know you are all still out there, doing things. Maybe some of you can actually get to Twitter; I got a direct message from @mapetite this morning (it went to my phone), and gives me a resounding NO (linktribution to CogDog, thank goodness for IM). Great, so now I fear that everyone is happily twittering along without me. This is worse than being the last kid picked for the basketball team.

Twitter, where are you? Come back!

Five Things, or Late to the Party But Hey There’s Still Beer

February 27, 2008

Like Howard Rheingold, I am hooked on Twitter. I don’t update a lot, but I like to see what folks are doing (I think of it as my virtual hallway of colleagues) and I like to be helpful and answer people’s questions. The links that come across there are also usually worth following, which is how I discovered that over a year ago, Alan Levine (the inimitable CogDog) tapped me for Five Things.

[Dear Reader: If you don’t care how it happened but just want to know my five things, please skip down to the numbered list below. Otherwise, read on.] It happened thus: Brian Lamb twittered a Churchill quote and a link to his Five Things (written almost as long ago as Alan’s tap; as you will see, this is sort of a theme here), so I went to check it out. I’m glad I did, too, as now I know to bring my bulletproof vest to places where Brian is likely to be. In the post, Brian lamented that most folks had already been tapped ages ago (true, and a problem I shall face shortly). He also thoughtfully provided the link to Alan’s Five Things, in which Gardner C. and Bryan A. were already snagged, in a comment. Of course I followed the link, because CogDog’s Five Things were bound to be interesting (and again I was not disappointed). Imagine my surprise to find that down at the bottom of that post, I too had been tapped. Thing #0, therefore, is that I can be a little slow on the uptake. There, threw that one in for free. Five Things:

  1. I can draw a mean Bill the Cat.
  2. One of my early jobs was as a secretary. I sucked. Oh, I was so unbelievably bad at it that I can’t even tell you how awful I was. I hung on for six months through sheer bloody-mindedness and then I quit.
  3. While it’s commonly known that I have a background in art, not many people know that one of the media I like to work with is metal. I prefer oxy-acet to arc welding… there is something alive about the flame that I don’t get from the sparks. Unfortunately I don’t have the equipment at the moment so it’s been way too long since I’ve had the opportunity to wield a flaming 6000-degree F (3000 C) torch.
  4. In the spring of 1992 I spent a semester as a Peace Corps Intern in Libreville, Gabon. The internship program doesn’t exist any more, or didn’t last time I checked (mine was the second-to-last group. I don’t think this was my fault, but you never know). Twice a year, six interns were selected to go to various Peace Corps countries to do things like organize the central office library or, in my case, to set up and maintain their computer network. Yes, I hooked up an AppleTalk network, in Africa, and taught people how to use FoxBase, in French. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I loved every minute (except for the 48 hours when I had malaria; that I could do without). I learned to drink beer there, so I am naturally suspicious of any beer that you can see through.
  5. I performed double trapeeze, Spanish web and shoot-thru (balancing ladder) in the circus when I was in college (sorry, no pix, don’t ask). My undergraduate alma mater, Florida State University, has a collegiate circus, and I performed in the homeshows. They take the circus on the road in the summer, but summer is such a lovely, pleasant season in Tallahassee that I always remained at home. Oh wait, no it’s not. I stayed home because I was broke and taking summer classes.

My turn to tap: as has been noted elsewhere, many have already been tapped. I couldn’t find a Five Things post from Gardner C., so I hereby tap him again. I further tap Vidya A., Martha B., Nancy W., and Fleep T. Go get ’em, girls (and Gardner)!

I gather, from reading the Five Things posts of people I respect, that there’s sort of a feeling that this kind of thing is done in spite of our better judgement, and preserving the meme is frowned upon a little bit. I’m delighted that I could bring it back over a year after decent people thought it was over.


twitter, on the other hand

February 1, 2007

… is quick and fun. Do you twitter?

that’s ten minutes I’ll never get back

February 1, 2007

Disclaimer: I’ve only spent about ten minutes using it so far, so this review is (a) uninformed and (b) very, very subjective.

Let’s talk about LinkedIn. I’ve been meaning to get, er, linked in for a while now, but only actually did it this morning after reading Alan’s very appropriately titled post on the topic. The very first thing I did was to send a couple of gauche, uncustomized invitations to co-workers (sorry guys). I hate, repeat hate, that I have to bother someone in order to add them as a contact. Yeah, I see the point; we don’t want unknown losers claiming us as their friends, and we want to be careful about who gets to contact whom. But can’t the email thing happen somewhere else? Like when I actually try to impinge on these people I claim to know by asking for introductions or information? Gah!

I was enticed by the two-degrees thing… I like the mathematics of it. And really, LinkedIn is a cool idea, and may yet prove to be a useful service for me. But I have sent four unsolicited emails to my friends, and it turns out that’s my limit. I just hate spamming people I know. So if all four of them admit to knowing me, I’ll have a little list of four contacts and I can enjoy the mathematics of that. And maybe other people who know me will spam me to become their contact (which is fine; if you know me, consider this an open invitation to add me as a LinkedIn contact). In the meantime I will slink off the site and try to shake off the greasy spammer feeling I got left with.

David at SFMOMA

August 5, 2006

David and I have been exploring art lately — I was casting about for weekend classes to sign him up for, and thought that art lessons would be good, and then realized (duh) I’m a certified teacher in the subject and why shell out bucks so someone else can have the fun? This is why I went into teaching in the first place, lo these many years ago: to share the “aha!” moments with a child I love.

We started with Georgia O’Keeffe and Matisse. We read books about them first (I recommend the Getting to Know series by Mike Venezia), and then we talked about some of their works using my extensive library of art books. That was the point at which I realized exactly where all my money went while I was in college. It really is a nice collection. We went to the grocery store and bought large flowers that interested us — we each picked out one bunch — and then brought them home and drew them close up, like Georgia O’Keeffe. Tomorrow we will be drawing with scissors like Matisse.

This morning David, Craig and I made the trip to the city and visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They have Femme au Chapeau, which is one of the images from the Venezia book, and I wanted David to see it. It could not have been a more perfect moment had it been scripted. We climbed the stairs and turned to the left on the second floor — you can almost see it right from there, but there were people in the way. We moved over toward it, and when a gap opened he saw it and pointed and squeezed my hand and gasped, “That was painted by Henri Matisse!” Why, yes, yes it was. Imagine finding that here.

We talked about how it looked, and how it was bigger than he thought it would be. I had told him the colors would look different than they did in the book. He wasn’t convinced, but that’s okay. Then we wandered through the galleries, looking at whatever interested him. Fountain stopped him for a moment, but he was perfectly ready to accept it as art. “It’s sculpture, Mom.” Yup.

We spent a few minutes in the Koret Visitor Education Center, watching part of a film that talked about Matisse and Picasso and their models.

I have a personal tradition when I visit a museum of choosing a postcard from the gift shop to remind me of one particular work that I enjoyed on that trip. David made his first postcard choice today. He picked Les Valeurs personnelles by Magritte, which is the painting he spent the most time in front of during our visit. Back in the car, he showed me Femme au Chapeau in his Matisse book. He admitted that his favorite part of the visit was the translucent walkway on the fifth floor. Fine by me: he had a favorite part.

A ticket, a postcard, a map, and a blog post — David at SFMOMA.

If your phone book were a person

May 5, 2006

The phone rang the other evening. Uncharacteristically, I chose to answer it. A pleasant female voice identified herself as a staffer doing a survey for the phone book and asked for the male head of the household. “Hey,” I shouted to my husband, who was standing about 10 feet away, “do you want to take a survey about the phone book?” “No,” he yelled back. I turned back to the phone. “I’m sorry, he’s unavailable,” I said politely. The whole exchange had been completely audible to the caller, who had the humanity to laugh. “Then may I speak to the female head of the household?” she asked gamely.

I’m a big fan of usability testing, and market research is its distant cousin, so I like to help; but I think it was the fact that she laughed that convinced me to stay on the phone. Read the rest of this entry »