Trevor Stone Character

Sticky Post: Flwyd has Moved to Dreamwidth

After more than fifteen years of loyal LiveJournal use, I have switched to Dreamwidth as my primary blogging site. All of my LiveJournal entries have been migrated to flwyd.dreamwidth.org. They remain public on flwyd.livejournal.com as well, so as not to break any links. I will continue crossposting from Dreamwidth to LiveJournal until LJ blocks it, or until the site owners do something egregious with regards to user content.

Shout out to brad and everyone else who helped make LiveJournal a fantastic social network before "social network" was a thing. The most important asset of a site like this is the users and their willingness to share with each other. Over the last decade, a lot of user attention has drifted to other platforms. The management (now headquartered in Russia) has also focused on writers of the Cyrillic persuasion and Russians in particular, burning the trust of the Anglophone user base.

While all good things will come to an end, this blog has several years to go in its new home. Subscribe to my journal on Dreamwidth or with your favorite RSS reader. You can also find me on my website, Twitter, and Google+. Keep sharing!
Trevor baby stare

Jamaican Me Tired

My big motivation in scheduling a Caribbean vacation this spring was to jump out of my daily life sequence, which was impeding sleep and generating a lot of inflammation, and take it easy in a new environment. We set goals for various parts of the island, but didn't make commitments beyond flights and lodging so that "I'm tired and need to relax" could happen at any time.

As it turned out, "I'm tired and need to relax" happened most of the time. But actually getting sleep was a lot of work.

Outside of Kingston (the big city) and Port Royal (a spur hanging off the big city), night time featured a chorus of frogs or lizards or nocturnal birds that would chirp from sundown to sunup. This was lovely while enjoying dinner or reading before bed. It was incredibly frustrating while trying to sleep. The noise would die down around dawn, as light started to creep into the room. (There are many nice features of an eco-resort-style cabin. Impervious to light and sound they are not.) Combined with "not the same as my bed at home," the noise and light meant I spent most of the trip accumulating sleep depravation.

This lack of sleep made it hard to accomplish other trip goals. I'd hoped to find some good dance parties on our final weekend (split between Ocho Rios and Kingston). But these tend to start between 8 and 10 and go as late as 4am. By 8pm I was generally finishing dinner and yawning and couldn't fathom having the energy to do anything more adventurous than sit in a chair by 10.

Even chatting with locals was overwhelming: as an introvert, interacting with other people takes spoons, which were in short supply after a night of poor sleep. And in touristed areas of Jamaica there's a constant stream of hustlers and touts and handcrafters trying to get you to buy something. I'd expected this, and have experienced it in some other places I've traveled. But in Jamaica it was extra intense: I don't think I've previously had to shoo away people trying to sell me stuff while I'm eating lunch. One of my favorite photos from the trip is a sign in the Port Antonio craft market that proclaims "No harrasment here" [sic], and it was probably our most pleasant shopping experience. This kind of energy probably meant I spent less money with small-time merchants and led to more meals in hotel restaurants than I'd expected. One of the nicest things about New Kingston was the almost total lack of harassment and hustle: aside from the route taxis honking to see if I needed a ride while walking along the sidewalk and the touts at the big bus center hardly anyone tried to get me to buy something. The little bit of time I spent walking around Port Antonio was also refreshingly free of commercial assault; if we return to Jamaica we definitely want to spend more time in the Portland area.

We found plenty to like, of course. The water was nice, and I got in some fun snorkeling. We met some fun and chill people and ate a lot of tasty food. I had fun taking photos, though I think the number of standout highlights from this trip will be smaller than I expected. We heard some good music (though less than I'd been expecting; while one taxi driver had his car tricked out for big sound, half of them didn't even have the radio on) and I came back with a nice stack of CDs. But I think my big memory of this trip will be "Jamaica… the island where I couldn't sleep."

This trip did satisfy some of my existential angst that had inspired it. I'd been reviewing photos I took a decade ago and said "Man, travel used to really excite me, but the only trips out of the country I've taken since I started this job were for work and a wedding. Am I missing out?" It turns out the answer is no, as long as I'm dealing with autoimmune and sleep medical issues, I'm not missing out on extended adventures in unfamiliar territory. And while my goal this year was "Take a vacation that's not Burning Man, so you come back rested and don't need a vacation to recover from your vacation" there's something to be said about a trip where I've got control of my bed situation.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/387148.html – comment over there.

Trevor baby stare

Walking from the Edge

A few days into our Jamaica trip and things are irie. We spent the first two nights at the Grand Port Royal Hotel. Scenes from the James Bond film Dr. No were filmed there in the early '60s and the property has an air of once-greatness as it now doesn't get enough business to keep up appearances. I think there were more staff at the hotel than guests while we were there, though I think business picks up on the weekends when Kingston folks head to Port Royal for a quick getaway. Port Royal's main attraction is Fort Charles (renamed from Fort Cromwell after the Restoration), the remaining British naval fortress which survived the 1692 earthquake that sunk two thirds of the city and thousands of people. The site tour guide, a Rastaman claiming descent from Port Royal buccaneers provided a very entertaining narration. Despite some pre-trip hopes we didn't go snorkeling over the sunken pirate city The last two days were spent up in the Blue Mountains at a lovely funky guesthouse called Mount Edge, with buildings which do in fact cling to the side of a steep ravine. Our cabin has a mishmash of construction that you can get away with in the tropics--half of the floor is polished stone on concrete while the other half is wood over the mountain slope that you can see through the cracks. The shower has a plastic bottom for some reason and you can see the PVC drain lead off through the grass beneath your feet. As I write this the night is loud with crickets and, I think frogs, chirping and croaking away. During the day cars honk as they approach curves in the winding mountain road--the low honk of truck horns sounds like the mating call of the lorries. The establishment is also the EITS Cafe, serving seriously delicious meals in an open air dining area where twin-tailed hummingbirds occasionally zip by your head. Yesterday we toured a coffee plantation where a guide extolled the virtues of Blue Mountain coffee beans being the best in the world. I can't verify that claim; coffee generally smells so terrible to me that I don't even try to taste it. That said, I was able to drink a whole cup of pure Blue Mountain coffee without adding any other flavors which is a sing signal that it's good stuff. We then walked over to Strawberry Hill, a very fancy hotel, and had lunch. They seemed bewildered that we had just walked up their driveway; I guess guests at fancy hotels always come by car. We then walked further down into Irish Town, long ago home to Irish coopers who made the barrels by which Jamaican coffee was shipped to England. Today I hiked solo up the road two hours with no particular destination, though I turned around at the Gap Café when I discovered no one was there--so I couldn't celebrate my thousand foot accent with a cool beverage. Walking down I was bathed in clouds for awhile, taking in the scent of most tropical trees and bushes along with fresh asphalt. The clouds then lifted, revealing fine views of the Kingston harbor, though higher clouds and a mouse atmosphere likely mean the photos aren't great.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/387060.html – comment over there.

Trevor baby stare

Plus One, Minus

Public Google+ is shutting down in a week. If you're a user, make sure to request your content through Takeout. At some point I hope to get all my Plus Posts up on my website as an archive, but I don't have time to do that before traveling next week. But here's all 172 pages that I +1ed†, in case you have a shortage of things to read on the Internet :-)

[† While I appreciate some of the cleverness behind the "Google+" brand, I never got over the linguistic awkwardness of saying things like "plus one'd"—or should it be "plussed one?"]

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/386454.html – comment over there.

Trevor baby stare

Brain on Island Time

After a whole bunch of planning, Kelly and I worked out an itinerary for a vacation in Jamaica in April. Between a travel book, lots of Internet searching, and a spreadsheet we had the length of stay calculated for five areas. We booked lodging in each place and then bought tickets, returning on a Monday.

Two days later, Kelly pointed out that our return flight was on Wednesday, instead. I'd had way too many Chrome tabs open and picked the wrong one. And even though we spent at least 15 minutes closely studying return times and layover durations we hadn't actually verified the dates of travel.

Apparently my brain really needs another two days in the tropics.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/386088.html – comment over there.

Trevor baby stare

Geo Photographic Memory

I have a photographic memory. When I look at a photograph, I remember where I took it.

I got a handheld GPS device in early 2009 and keep it in my camera bag, so all my photos in the last ten years are geotagged. At the beginning of this year I started migrating all 15 years of my photos to a modern hosting platform. I made the, in retrospect, questionable decision to manually[1] geotag the remaining 5 years of photos, starting when I bought a point-and-shoot camera in August, 2003.

This took five to ten times longer than I anticipated. I considered giving up several times, but the existence of a definite time bound and the thought "I didn't take that many pictures that year" kept me going. But now I'm done tagging and will soon be able to announce my new (but still too cluttered) gallery. And it'll have pins all over the map!

[1] And by "manual" I mean "Point Google Earth to the location and then tell GraphicConverter to set EXIF data from Earth."

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/385807.html – comment over there.

smoochie sunset

Shadow Boxing Day: More Shadow than Boxing

For the last dozen or so years I've celebrated Shadow Boxing Day on February 3rd—the day after Groundhog Day, much the way that Boxing Day is the day after Christmas. Shadow Boxing Day is a day to get stuff done, particularly stuff that you've been putting off and keeping in the shadows for awhile.

This year was different. An important member of the Boulder chapter of Citizen's Climate Lobby, Eliana Berlfein, passed away on January 31st, a few months after a cancer diagnosis. Today was a celebration of her life and her passing, starting with a funeral at Congregation Nevei Kodesh, an internment ceremony, and finally a consolation meal with family and friends. All three were beautiful and touching.

Eliana brought a remarkable amount of grace to her dying process. The service included a piece she had written to be presented at her own funeral. I asked one of her sisters for a copy of the "speech" so I can remember a few brilliant quotes, one of which was something like "Guess who I ran into on the way to heaven?"

At Eliana's grave we huddled around the rabbi so we could hear over the intense Boulder chinook wind; someone commented later that it was introverted Eliana's speech now free. In Jewish tradition, written material with the name of God should not be destroyed, so the concrete box at the bottom of the grave held many papers and prayerbooks and probably a Torah or two. Eliana had chosen not to be buried in a casket, which is apparently the ancient Jewish way and common in Israel but fairly new in the U.S. So her nieces and nephews bore her body, wrapped in a white shroud, to the grave on a back board and then lowered her body in, where the gentlemen from the mortuary laid her atop her spiritual materials. Her family members then each picked up a handful of dirt and then the rest of us continued shoveling, embracing Eliana with earth.

At the consolation gathering Eliana's sisters asked her friends to share stories, since we'd heard from the family during the service. My connection with Eliana was fairly narrow, so the day of mourning and celebrations was an opportunity to discover the other facets of her life, from art to web design to skinny dipping to baking desserts. She was a fantastic person and I'm bummed I didn't have a chance to know her better.

Her nieces and nephews saw my purple Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers and, recalling Eliana's long-established love of purple, decided to all get matching purple Chucks. I smiled and shared that I actually had a CCL story about these shoes. I bought them in September (part of my annual Burning Man reentry process) and made sure to keep them clean and in good shape for lobby meetings in November. But when I got to Washington D.C. this year and headed to Catharsis on the Mall, it'd been a rainy week, so I spent the weekend Rangering in mud and getting dirt and grass all over my clean Chucks. Then, awkwardly, the legislative director in my first meeting complimented me on my shoes as we were sitting down.

I'd planned to do some Getting Things Done for Shadow Boxing Day when I got home, but instead it turned into several hours of researching Caribbean islands with Kelly fr a trip this spring. Fortunately I Got Things Done on Groundhog Day itself, clearing all of the accumulated papers on my desk and stereo system off to the bookshelves I set up in the office last weekend. Now when the cats we're taking care of for a month jump onto my desk while I'm computing they won't trigger a landslide of financial paperwork.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/385773.html – comment over there.

Trevor baby stare

And then you find / Ten years have got behind

LiveJournal emailed me "What was on your mind 10 years ago?" because apparently #10yearschallenge is a social media thing. LJ then self-answered by quoting the post I wrote on Obama's inauguration day, "They Still Call it the White House, But That's a Temporary Condition" with links to thematic P-Funk and James Brown songs on YouTube (which are remarkably all still up and still have low-thousands of views, ten years later). The Obama administration was significantly less of a soul party than I'd been hoping, but that's a blog post for another day. My next post was on February 2nd to remind everyone of Shadow Boxing Day on February 3rd, a tradition I still try to keep.

I was already ahead of LiveJournal in the "What was I doing ten years ago" game, though.

I finally got the motivation to organize my decade and a half of digital photos into a modern web presence. This was instigated by Flickr's upcoming limits on free accounts now that they're part of small-internet-company SmugMug rather than we-somehow-still-have-loads-of-cash Verizon Oath neé Yahoo. [Ironically, the last time I was surveying the landscape of photo sharing options and wishing that Yahoo had invested in Flickr rather than letting it slide from "almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world" to "a social networking site for photographers that most people forgot about" several folks had suggested SmugMug.] After exploring the state of Flickr and reading the tea leaves about SmugMug's plans for the site, I realized that SmugMug itself was probably a better fit for "Here's all the interesting photos I've ever taken, organized into time and place" and a free Flickr account might be better suited to sharing photos I've taken that stand well on their own, distinct from a travelogue.

So thus it was that I found myself spending much of my January free time organizing fifteen and a half years of photographs. And thus it was that I noticed how much more focused on getting out and doing stuff I was in 2009.

Ten years ago this month I was working to improve the state of the entity name recognition code I'd written for Tyler-Eagle and handing it off to a coworker. I then quit my job (in the midst of the worst recession in over half a century, remember) to travel for two months in Central America, and hit three festivals and three national parks over the rest of the summer and then got a job at Google. And while it's easy to get nostalgic about that time you quit your job and spent six months having fun, the photos also provided evidence that even when I had a job, I spent more time hiking in the foothills, going for walks during the golden hour, snapping pictures of sunsets, and going to drum circles. Over the last nine years I haven't prioritized these as much, which made me sad. My social life over the last nine years has been dominated by work and Burning Man (and more recently climate activism), which are big and meaningful and fun, but also kind of exhausting. I need to change this.

I also got a feeling that the world is less fun than it was ten years ago, and not just because I'm in my late 30s instead of my late 20s. It feels like there's less cool stuff happening (though I don't use Facebook, which is probably where people find out about interesting events in the twenty teens). And the general sense of techno-optimism has turned into a collective future outlook of techno dystopia. I've long imagined running a Cyberpunk 2020 game in the year 2020. Now that we're almost there, I think it's interesting that the corporate dominance part of the story is more accurate than the technical advances that create the setting.

So hey, let's all remember some of the future we were hoping for in January of 2009 and see if we can't still create some of that.


Post script: Flickr was part of that techno-optimistic future vision ten years ago. Share your work with people around the world! Global search and discovery! Use a Creative Commons license if you want! Robust APIs and RSS feeds! Metadata and mashups! But then they missed the big future transformation: billions of people were about to have pocket computers with a camera and an Internet connection. Yet Flickr was stuck in a self-conception that most photos are taken by photographers because photographers are the primary users of cameras, so they didn't try to make a Flickr app that was "Almost certainly the best way to share what you capture with your phone." And they missed the insight that, for many people, who you share with is a more important axis than the media type you share. (I also suspect that MBAs at Yahoo! had already underallocated headcount to projects like Flickr with significant growth potential, so even if they'd seen this shift coming they would've been poorly resourced to adapt.)

LiveJournal also felt like part of that open techno future ten years ago. When I've occasionally gone LJ history digging, 2008/2009 seemed to be when LiveJournal hit its peak, at least in my friends network. I think most folks joined Facebook around 2009 and eventually stopped participating on LiveJournal by 2011. And the way Facebook has evolved is definitely not the optimistic techno future that I had in mind… though they'll make a good Megacorp in a Cyberpunk 2020 game.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/385485.html – comment over there.

Trevor baby stare

Wabi-sabi Bookshelves

One thing I was looking forward to as a homeowner was some really nice bookcases.
Our new house has a lot of roomy floor space, but bookshelf-appropriate walls are at a premium. So we need just the right bookshelves.

Since moving out on my own after college I've been slowly accumulating and then moving cheap particle board flat-pack bookshelves from Target. These do a decent job of holding rows of books and magazines.
However, each move tends to leave them shabbier, with the paperboard backing starting to come loose, the central load-bearing shelf bowing out, and corner chunks of particle board get dislodged. Flat-pack bookshelves also have a tendency to have awkward shelf spacing. They seem to universally max out at five shelves, but I almost always want to fit six shelves worth of reading material on them, thus ending up with three stacks of books per shelf rather than an orderly line. And since these were acquired one or two at a time they're a hodgepodge of colors, widths, and depths.

So—I figured—when I own a house and never need to move bookshelves again, I can buy some nice solid pieces with adequate shelving that cost more than $35 a piece. I therefore nicely stacked all my file boxes full of books against the walls of the garage nine months ago, figuring I'd wait a couple months until I'd found the bookshelves of my dreams before unpacking any.

Unfortunately, furniture shopping is a pain in the butt. Boulder furniture stores are mostly high-end, so they tend to have bookshelves that look distinguished but have significant shortcomings when it comes to the business of actually shelving books. And metro Denver stores seem to mostly have a slightly higher quality on the same 5-shelf Target flat-pack theme. I considered ordering custom-built shelves, but realized that I'm not sure how many linear feet of books of each height range we've got, so it seems easy to get a custom order wrong.

So instead we had three empty mismatched bookshelves sitting in the living room for nine months and an occasional sigh of "I could look that up, but first I'd have to find the right box." A couple weeks ago, Kelly went on a quest to find a book she needed, filling the living room floor with boxes. I decided to admit temporary defeat and last weekend I stuck shelves on the cases and Kelly's books on the shelves. And this afternoon, after not sleeping last night and deciding I shouldn't spend all day on the computer again, I unloaded most of my boxes into a reasonable categorization.

I'm fairly impressed at how compactly our combined library fits. Kelly's books take about a case and a half and mine take about two and a half cases, plus a small one for paperback novels. We've still got three cases in the garage and we used two for games which had been on built-in shelving at previous residences. Still in storage, though, are two boxes of roleplaying games (takes a shelf and change), a couple boxes of textbooks (another 2–3 shelves), 40 years of National Geographic (takes a whole case), a couple hundred issues of Dragon and Dungeon magazines (takes most of a case), and a variety of magazines from a family friend who passed away, including a large number of aerospace-related books, which seemed odd for an anti-government, anti-corporate pacifist who lived in a cabin in the woods.

So… a partial victory. I can now easily read almost any book I own. I can estimate the needed dimensions of future fancy bookshelves. And it's significantly easier to move around the garage.

Also on the eventual homeowner to-do list: make a Little Free Library.
… and figure out what to do with about five cubic feet of CD jewel cases.
… and find somewhere to put my boxes of CCGs so we can put a chest freezer and beer fridge in the garage…

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/385177.html – comment over there.