Monday, July 28, 2008

The weather again...

This wordle thing is becoming an obsession. I could do this all day. Here's what happens when you put in this week's forecast:
Every group of words I've looked at this afternoon I wondered how they would wordle. I'm not the only one. But some are scary....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Google's effect on my brain

This morning I read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education called "Your Brain on Google" (unfortunately it is only available with a subscription). This article was in reaction to the longer article which appeared earlier in The Atlantic "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (which you can read without a subscription). The Chronicle article collects quotes from various sources about the effect of the internet on how we read and process information. My favorite was from Andrew Sullivan, Senior Editor, The Times:

"I'm certainly not more stupid than I used to be; and I'm much, much better and more instantly informed.
However, the way in which I now think and write has subtly - or not so subtly - altered. I process information far more rapidly and seem able to absorb multiple sources of information simultaneously in ways that would have shocked my teenage self. ...
Right now, we may be maximally overwhelmed by all this accessible information - but the time may come when our mastery of the new world allows us to gain more perspective on it.
Here's hoping."

Both articles discuss the evolution of the human brain and the concern that people are losing the ability to read anything longer than a blog entry. I don't think that's the case with me, but I certainly don't read as many books as I used to. I'm a book consumer and have a house full and a serious lack of will power in bookstores. I still read just about every night, but I no longer spend large chunks of free time with my head in the pages. Used to be, I would get up on a Sunday morning, make a pot of coffee and sit down with a book for several hours. Now I have to check my email first, and then I'll need to read the headlines (at several news sources) and I might as well check in on the blogs I read regularly. And suddenly half the morning is gone.

I had a conversation recently with a friend about people who are not constantly tapped into the internet. Both of us find it hard to understand those people. Some of these are the folks who have stereotypical (but incorrect) knowledge about the internets. They assume when the rest of us are 'surfing' that we are in chat rooms full of strangers (bad child molester types usually), or we cannot help but stumble across lots of porn, or we have social issues and cannot connect with real people. These tend to be people of an older generation than mine. But you also meet the people of my generation who avoid it (they usually don't own TVs either). They claim to have much richer lives because they connect with people face to face.

I have a large group of friends locally that I am in touch with daily (sometimes hourly). We see eachother all the time for lunch, parties, barbeques, politicing stuff, etc. and it was only very recently that we all realized none of us knew eachother's phone numbers. How could that be when I have conversations with these people every day? We share all sorts of information (instantaneously) and when we meet face to face we all have the same experiences, have read the same news stories, seen the same video clips, and generally have a shared culture that wouldn't exist without the internet.

But look at yourself right now. How many tabs do you have open in Firefox? How many places do you need to go every day to check on things (besides the news)? Gmail, Google Reader or Bloglines, Facebook, My Space, Good Reads (that's my latest), Ravelry, and the list goes on... Every new thing becomes more of a time suck and a responsibility. Do you feel guilty clicking "Mark all as read" when you're overwhelmed? How many times did you watch that dancing guy sponsored by the gum company? How many people did you forward it to?

I love my connected self as much as I love my bookish self. I can't stand to be away from the computer for long periods of time. It makes me twitchy. And I don't think it's making me stupid, but maybe I am more knowledgeable about lots of stuff that doesn't really matter? I think guiltily of the steadily growing pile of unread books in the corner of the bedroom, but I also think that my life right now wouldn't be the same if I didn't spend so much time on the computer. The books will be read eventually (unless I find some horrible reviews of them on line and decide they're not worth reading...) and I can't imagine a day will come when I find I don't have the attention span to get caught up in a good book and stay up reading until the wee hours of the morning.

Monday, July 21, 2008

85° and humid, with a chance of thunderstorms

The weather has gotten monotonous here in Western Mass. It's sapping the life out of me. My hair hates it. I'm living on a steady diet of iced coffee, ice cream and white wine (with an ice cube in it just like I make fun of mom for doing).

Last night Traci and I sprawled (melting) in front of the TV and watched Broken English. I adore Parker Posey. In this film she plays a single woman dealing with living in a coupled world (huh...). She was much grittier in the first part of the movie than I've ever seen her before. She's played drunk and depressed and downtrodden before, but always with that certain Parker Posey style (chutzpah? audacity? precociousness? something....). It was nice to see her do things a little differently. The second half of the movie is a fabulous modern love story. We quickly got tied up in it enough to yell out loud, more than once (in "don't let her get on the plane" Casablanca style), at Posey's character. She went through all the right transitions and spent time in lovely places. And it had a perfect, not overdone, ending (a bit overshadowed by the horrible jarring popsong during the closing credits, so just turn it off after the fade to black).

After, I immediately declared that I was moving to Paris, like, tomorrow. This evolved into a discussion of the differences between American men and European men. It went on for a bit and somehow ended with everything being the fault of American women. Not really sure how we got there....but the film is well worth seeing.

Also? David Sedaris' new book? Wicked funny. I recommend the audio version.

Friday, July 18, 2008

No place like...

Portland was terrific over all. I had some really good food and plenty of nice drinks. I spent time with good friends. I got to see Powell's (it's a little overwhelming to be honest). The weather was perfect. My hotel was just right (except for the noisy neighbors who left after the first day). The work part, I think, went well (I have lots of notes anyway... we'll see if they're worthwhile once I've decided I can face them).

But, I'm happy to be home.

The beasties were upset and clingy when I arrived home. They felt the need to check on me every 20 minutes all night just to make sure I was still there.

My family neighbors also came to check on me last night. They were happy I was home. We went out for Root Beer Floats and they listened to my travel tales. They 'oohed' at the good stuff and 'awwwed' at the bad. They told me things I needed to hear. These are good peoples. I thought about them later as I was fading into sleep (there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed...). I thought about my neighbors and my friends and my work and my lifestyle and all of the other reasons I have dug in my roots here. This is home and there's nothing like it.

My hair misses Portland though....

Monday, July 14, 2008

Things I am liking about Portland

#1. The Welcome Sign
My flight descended into the city at sunset right next to Mt. Hood. When I say right next to I mean I could almost touch the peak. The sunset was gleaming off the snow and it was breathtaking. The man in the seat next to me has lived here his whole life and travels a lot. He said he had never descended that way into the airport. He was in awe and he gets to see that mountain every day.
Side note: We flew over Utah. I didn't realize the Great Salt Lake was so big or so, um, salty.

#2. The Taxi Drivers
I have ridden with two of them and they are by far the friendliest taxi drivers I have ever met.

#3. The Farmer's Market
Huge and lovely. Lots of yummy cheese samples and I tried a marionberry.

#4 A Dear Old Friend
I met my friend Rebecca at the farmer's market Saturday after I finished setting up my exhibit at the convention center. We have known each other since first grade. Her family lived waaaay up on a hill in my hometown when we were little and for a while, during Fifth Grade she lived across the street from me. As Becca said, it was us against the world that year. She moved away when we were in high school, but we have kept in touch (but probably not as often as we should have). Becca founded the Independent Publishing Resource Center and took me by the offices for a tour. It's a great space where members have access to computers and small printing presses. From there we walked across the river to the printshop she owns with her boyfriend and his brother. I loved the back to basics approach they have to printing. I'm used to giant commercial print shops and loved being in a room with trays and drawers full of metal type and the manual letterpresses and thick rustic looking paper. After the shop we went for margaritas and stumbled upon a huge street fair. Later Becca fixed a home grown dinner and we sat on her patio sipping wine and watching the daylight fade over her lovely garden, the chickens and bees.

#5 The Coffee
When I travel for work I almost immediately settle into a routine. It's not uncommon to hear me say to a coworker 'we always meet for breakfast at 8:00 in this little cafe' on our third morning there. The morning after I arrived I asked at the front desk of the hotel where to get a really good cup of coffee. The people at Stumptown have turned making coffee into an artform. I go there every day. It's MY coffee shop.

#6 A Not So Old, But Just As Dear, Friend
#7 Gianormous Pastrami Sandwiches
#8 Pickle Platters
I met Kevin at Kenny & Zuke's for dinner last night. They have pastrami cheese fries on the menu which sounds disgustingly awesome. I opted for the PLT instead. And a pickle platter (A giant plate of all kinds of homemade pickle heaven) which we couldn't finish after our towering sandwiches and is now living in the mini-bar fridge in my hotel room (I'm sure the maid will appreciate the smell....). We've made big plans for the next few evenings. Lots of eating and drinking and various entertainments are on the agenda.

#9 Public Transport
I'm a country girl, I hate the idea of city commutes, but I have a thing about trains. I love them. The MAX trains are so easy and are free in the city center. I get to ride one to and from the convention center over the river.
Side note: The guy sitting across from me on the MAX this morning had a hand-knit (Noro Silk Garden) iPod cozy.

#10 Powell'sI haven't been in yet. I'm kind of afraid that I will enter some sort of time warp and find that weeks have passed when I finally emerge. But there it is less than 3 blocks from my hotel. I've walked by several times and managed not to get sucked in. Wednesday afternoon I will go. Wish me luck.

#11 Random stuff

This is a lightbulb store. They sell nothing but lightbulbs. Lots and lots and lots of lightbulbs. It's inspiring that it manages to exist.This building is across the street from my coffee shop. I'm trying to come up with just the right caption for it.
This one doesn't require a caption.