Category Archives: My Life

Not much really, just things about me that you might find interesting . . . or not.

How farmers are using Twitter

Like more and more farmers across Canada, Black has found that Twitter has become, among other things, a way to bridge the gap between farm and table, and connect Canadians wanting to know more about where their food comes from with the people who make their living producing it.

“We’re able to explain what we do on our farm,” says Black, who farms with his father in Huron County, near Goderich.

In one exchange, Black answered questions on pesticide use. In another, he invited a consumer from Ottawa to come and walk in his soybean field.

CBC News: Tweeting farmers bridge gap between farm, table

milton bradley school

What a 2nd grade teacher did this summer

School teachers do all kinds of things in the summer. Hang out, travel, spend time with their families, learn.

My sister Patty took one of her former students, now in the fourth grade, to the zoo. From the story I heard, the little boy has lived a rough life. Already. He was a behavior problem in school, which probably had something to do with having a less than stable home.

Patty brought the student under her wing, staying in touch with him and his family, inside and out of school. At the end of his year in my sister’s class, the boy won a bicycle for being the most improved student. He didn’t know what to do with it. He’d never ridden a bike.

If you were to ask my sister’s colleagues at the elementary school she teaches at, some might say she’s a strange bird. She taught in an inner city school with inner city problems (Springfield, MA); left for a plum job in the suburbs, only to get bored and realize those kids didn’t need her; then come back to the city because the job was more rewarding.

Students in Patty’s class get presents from her at Christmas. Don’t think just pens, pencils, and paper. Depending on the student, the present is more likely to be underwear, socks, or other essentials.

Sometimes, that’s the way teachers in an inner city school roll.

On The Appalachian Trail — You Won’t Believe The Evolution In 21 Years

I‘m grateful to Bree Carlson, a friend currently working on her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, for taking the photos above (they’re stitched together). They’re full of surprises, but to understand what’s happening you’ll need some context.

When thru-hikers get to the ceremonial halfway point — the Appalachian Trail Conference in Harper’s Ferry, WV — they take a photo. In the old days, like 1990 when I rolled through, Jean Cashin of the ATC used a Polaroid instant camera. Today it looks like they’re using a digital camera. A hiker’s pedigree is written on the photo: real name, trail name, residence, date of the photo, and the hiker number that season. The ATC counts of all the thru hikers that come to the office, every year. Unlike 1990, it looks like they’re also including the start date and email address of the thru-hiker.

Two Suprises

First, if you didn’t notice, Bree had her photo taken 21 years to the day after mine, on June 14. Sitting here in Massachusetts, I think that’s a little trail magic. It’s a positive omen. Watching Bree from afar, it tells me Bree’s going to finish her thru-hike. It’s not just about coincidence. I had different kind of good omen the first week I was on the Trail, and I rode it all the way to Maine.

Surprise number two: look at how many people are thru-hiking! Bree is hiker 424. In 1990 I was 99. That’s a 328% increase in the number of hikers at the ATC by June 14. Walking in 1990 I met another thru-hiker every 4 or 5 days, but today it’s a crowd. It’s hard for me to believe the increased popularity in thru-hiking, because walking more than 2,000 miles, from Georgia to Maine, isn’t a stroll through the woods. It’s hard work. Why are so many people hiding out on the Trail?

And I bet the little businesses that grow-up along the Trail are probably doing well.

Update: The ATC recently went live with a new hiker photo archive — they’ve scanned all the photos from 1979 to the present, tagged them in a searchable database, and it works. Here’s my photo page with info about the other hikers in the photo. And below, the uncropped photo:

1990 @ ATC office - photo probably by Jean Cashin

Top photos used with permission of Bree Carlson.

Storming in Sunderland

On May 4, 2010 there was a storm that whipped through Western Massachusetts. It knocked out power to many places in the area. This video was shot in Sunderland, MA, where these types of storms are frequent in the summer.

Sugarloaf Moutain and the surrounding area is a place of sometimes turbulent, strange weather. The Native American name for the mountain is Wequamps, and is a place of myth: it’s supposed to be body of a giant, human devouring beaver who lived in the former glacial Lake Hitchcock (now the Connecticut River).

No Fishin’ In The Ditch [video]

I was doing my regular walk in Sunderland, MA, when I came upon what I thought was a nut fishing in a drainage ditch. Turns out she wasn’t a nut at all, but a graduate student from the University of Massachusetts Amherst doing research. This drainage ditch/brook overflows often, so Colleen Samson’s thesis project is to better understand the water flow. She’ll present her findings to the town, who may then fix the ditch.

Help me write one of the best blogs of 2010

I have high ambitions this year: write a weblog that’s good enough to be on one of those end-of-year best of lists. I’d at least like to write blog that garners noteable interest in 2010.

I’ve been blogging off and on since 2001. Mostly off. But in January of this year I was meeting with a new client about setting up their professional blog, and they asked me why I hadn’t updated my own blog in more than 6 months. I didn’t have a great answer, but I got the message: if you want to help people with their blogging needs, you need to be a regular blogger yourself.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve been writing regular posts about things that interest me, or that will be useful to some readers. Usually, I’m writing 3 or 4 posts a week. Not all the writing is great, but at least once a week there’s a post I can point to with pride, in my opinion.

What would you do to make this a great blog? I’m leaving this open for comments because the more feedback the better, and I could use your help. Thanks for taking the time.

Photo by Annie Mole and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Picking up pieces from PodCamp Western Mass

After attending PodCamp Western Mass 2, I found a lot of questions and notes scribbled on my notepad; here were some of things rattling around my head:

  • I wonder what it would be like if nobody was writing on their laptops and phones during sessions. That means no Twittering. Personally, I can’t pay attention to a presentation or discussion while at the same time writing Tweets. I can jot notes down on my little yellow pad, though, and still follow a conversation.
  • Maybe it’s a personal phobia, but I need a schedule of sessions ahead of time. I like planning my day to optimize the learning I can do in one day.
  • PodCamps at educational institutions are the way to go. They have all the facilitates needed to learn.
  • Maybe having two colors of name badges would be a good idea; self-identified “nubies” would have their own color. It’s a good conversation starter and everybody can make sure the nubies are getting the info they want or need. How about corresponding the nubie color with useful sessions on the schedule?
  • Was there a Facebook session? Wouldn’t make any difference to me because I gave up using it two years ago over privacy concerns. “Social as I want to be” is something I think about when using social media.
  • Surprised there was only one podcasting session.
  • I really like Steve Garfield. I’m kind of a shy person, so his positive vibe, confidence and outgoingness inspires me. I remember him at PodCamp Boston 1 and thinking, “who’s this geek running around with a video camera?”
  • Getting one of my clients (a nubie) to PodCamp turned out to be a good idea. He was able to dip his toes into the social media community, learn a bit, and gain the confidence that he could learn these skills. Plus, we had a great wrap-up meeting at The Tavern in Westfield.
  • PodCamp is not the place to find clients. Concentrate on learning and networking, and that may payoff in a referral. Maybe. Otherwise, don’t worry about doing business.
  • It’s interesting how people interact with the unemployed. It’s like we have a communicable disease with a social stigma that shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company. This observation isn’t unique to the PodCamp community at all, but I did a little experiment during PodCamp Western Mass. On one of the conversation starter stickers I wrote “unemployed,” and to make sure it was seen, I put those stickers on my back. Conversations were started based on the other stickers, but nobody talked to me about being unemployed.
  • I liked the wide variety of skill levels that came to PodCamp. When I heard this dude ask how to register a URL (I think he called it “getting my name”), it blew me away. I take for granted how much learning I’ve done.

Did you have anything rattling around your head after PodCamp Western Mass?

Photo (CC) from stevegarfield

Who are the idiots that began this torch business?

Torch security
Creative Commons License photo credit: tomsflickrfotos2

The Greeks started the Olympic flame business, but the people to start running this stupid candle around the world were the Nazi’s before the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany. That’s right, the idea to have a relay around the world with the terminus being Berlin were the Nazi’s.

A enlightening article by the BBC succinctly gives us the history:

The organiser of the 1936 Olympics, Carl Diem, wanted an event linking the modern Olympics to the ancient.

The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich.

And the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.

The Nazi’s ran this torch through countries it would later invade.

So, why do you think China is going to run the 2008 Olympic torch through Tibet?

Olympic Torch Relay Protests at Tower Bridge London - P1220502e
Creative Commons License photo credit: clearbrian

Update: This just came to my attention. See those guys dressed in the friendly looking powder blue track suits, sort of looking like United Nations peace keepers? Well, they’re from the Chinese secret police, which Great Brittan, France, and the United States have allowed in their countries to protect the Olympic candle. Japan said “no, thanks,” we’ll take care of it ourselves.

How you can stop me from robbing a bank

DONATE PLASMA
Creative Commons License photo credit: zombophoto

I don’t know how I missed the Amazon Honor System, but there it was, making setting up a donation system very easy. And why you might ask, would I need donations? Because, I give a lot of my time away for free, can’t say no to sad story about how some person or another needs a Website, design work, or podcasting advice. Plus, everything I like doing doesn’t pay, or I haven’t discovered how to turn the cash spigot on.

Some of the projects I work on are the Photo Share Podcast, Writer’s Voice, this blog, the Netcast Blog, and I volunteer a lot of time to Valley Free Radio. This doesn’t count the ad hoc questions I get every day, none of which I ask money for answering.

Asking people to donate to my sustenance seems like an honorable thing . . . it’s better than robbing a bank! Or maybe not? My favorite radical defense attorney, Gerry Spence, said that the one crime he could rationalize and defend was bank robbing. Can you stop me from robbing a bank? Please check out my Amazon Honor System page.