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.

Craving a pepperoni pizza

Pizza Before
Creative Commons Licensecredit: A.Currell

I’m in the midst of a radical shift in my relationship with food. I’m doing a modified cleansing fast that will hopefully help break my addiction to sugar, then create a new base and standard from which to work towards being a healthy person. It’s not easy.

Today has been the first tough day, number four. Actually yesterday was hard too, the first day that I started craving my old comfort foods, which are unhealthy, but nonetheless comforting. There are a lot of fast food commercials during sports on television, and reading the food and dining section of the New York Times online didn’t help much either.

But a nice greasy pepperoni pizza is what I really started craving after seeing a photo on Flickr. Dam, you Flickr!

Steve Nash – He’s got balls

[youtube]8VwiRnQ0M4M[/youtube]

Watching this ad directed by Steve Nash, professional basketball player and a pretty good soccer player (he grew up playing soccer), it made me wonder whether there has been any other person who’s had a ball either in their hand or on their foot more than Steve Nash? Think about it: the guy is always playing basketball and soccer; that’s a lot of time with a ball in his grasp.

Early Sunderland, Massachusetts

Holding the horses in the dooryard, Sunderland, Mass.I live in a dinky little town: Sunderland, Massachusetts, though it’s weird sort of town. It’s a farm and bedroom community for a college town (Amherst and UMass). There’s still many farmers in town, and I live on a farm. You can check out some photos from Sunderland on my Flickr group. And for more old-time photos from around Western Massachusetts, you can check out the Digital Treasures project.

How do you like your major league baseball players?

I just wrote a post about the best Red Sox blogs, so this is kind of redundant, but Yanks Fan vs. Sox Fan has this great post with a proposed record book annotation system in response to the Mitchell Report and other general baseball nonsense. Here are some of my favorites:

! = Amphetamines
$ = Gambling
|| = Cocaine
~ = Alcohol
. = Dead ball era
? = Wore glasses
† = Crazy religious freak
¢ = Lousy tipper
Æ’ = Womanizer
Â¥ = Asian fetish
Å“ = Funny accent
? = Ass kisser
X = General douchebag

Photo Share Podcast #2 Is Live

photo from flickrCreating a podcast involves some heavy lifting! This is our second podcast . . . which we only had to record twice. Seems there were some technical glitches that just couldn’t be edited out with Audacity.

Lesson number 1: make sure you have your microphone cables under control when recording, because they sure make a lot of noise if they’re knocking around.

One thing our second podcast features, and that I want to talk about more of in the future, are applications (and mash-ups) that people are creating using the Flickr API.

Check it out, along with links to our Flickr group, at Photo Share Podcast.com.

Theo Epstein’s Steroid Problem

Theo Epstein’s Steroid ProblemKnowing what we know about Eric Gagne, his horrible pitching record, his clear inability to pitch under Fenway pressure, and now his steroid use as detailed in the Mitchell report, WTF was in Theo Epstein’s head when he acquired the reliever with weird glasses?

On November 1, 2006, Epstein emailed his scout, Mark Delpiano, “Have you done any digging on Gagne? I know the Dodgers think he was a steroid guy. Maybe so. What do you hear on his medical?”

Delpiano replied:
Eric Gagne, not celebrating

Some digging on Gagne and steroids IS the issue. Has had a checkered medical past throughout career including minor leagues. Lacks the poise and commitment to stay healthy, maintain body and re invent self. What made him a tenacious closer was the max effort plus stuff . . . Mentality without the plus weapons and without steroid help probably creates a large risk in bounce back durability and ability to throw average while allowing the changeup to play as it once did . . . Personally, durability (or lack of) will follow Gagne . . .

Right there! Epstein’s own scout told him Gagne was soft, that he “lacks the poise and commitment to stay healthy”. Now, why would Epstein, putting the steroid issue to the side for a moment, take a chance on Gagne, giving up major league pitcher Kason Gabbard and outfield prospects David Murphy and Engle Beltre. That was the trade of a crazy person!

Unfortunately, the craziness didn’t end there. The Red Sox also signed the free agent and suspected juicer, Brendan Donnelly; that is, the Red Sox themselves suspected him of being a juicer before they signed him, but did it anyhow. From the Mitchell report:

In considering whether to trade for Donnelly in 2007, Red Sox baseball operations personnel internally discussed concerns that Donnelly was using performance enhancing substances. In an email to vice president of player personnel Ben Charington dated December 13, 2006, Zack Scott of the Red Sox baseball operations staff wrote of Donnelly: “He was a juice guy but his velocity hasn’t changed a lot over the years . . . If he was a juice guy, he could be a breakdown candidate.”427 Kyle Evans of the baseball operations staff agreed with these concerns, responding in an email that “I haven’t heard many good things about him, w[ith] significant steroid rumors.”

Theo should be made to wear his gorilla suit in the office for a week, after these revelations. It’s one thing to make decisions blindly, without information, but Epstein’s staff was giving him information that players he coveted, both of whom turned into busts, were juicers.

Top 7 Boston Red Sox Related Blogs

Rick “the rooster” BurlesonIn honor of #7, The Rooster, here are the 7 best Red Sox related blogs. What makes them the best? I said so, that’s why! Just kidding. These are the best blogs not because they are reporting any new information, but because they offer a unique perspective, are funny, or both. The bottom line is that these Red Sox blogs are entertaining, and they’ll make you think or smile. In no particular order:

  1. For overall reflection of the Red Sox Nation culture and cutting, insightful humor, Soxaholix might be the best blog. Without question, with its comics format and regular characters, its the most original of all the Red Sox blogs.
  2. 38 Pitches, Curt Schilling’s blog has to one of the best Red Sox blogs because . . . he plays for the Red Sox! There is also the fact that he breaks news, talks about more than just baseball, is a prolific writer, and seems willing to teach interested fans about the mechanics of throwing a baseball professionally.
  3. Allan Wood is an author with a published book. He also writes the blog The Joy of Sox. It’s a good blog because he writes regularly (in my book, that’s a must to be on this list), but there are some weird things about his blog: even though he’s a published author, it’s kind of tough to find his name anywhere; also, he points readers to his book website with the heading “Except for my book”. Rewrite! Where’s rewrite?!
  4. As its authors write, Surviving Grady is “like catching your mom making out with Rick Burleson. But online.” Not sure what that means, but it’s pretty funny, no? I’m partial to funny Red Sox blogs that realize they’re driving off the Zakim Bridge with their obsession. I dig the obsession, though I wish they weren’t trying to extract every last dollar from their site.
  5. Here’s one for you: Misery Loves Company. What a screwy idea: some Sox and Mets fans write a blog together, talking about their favorite teams and baseball in general. I like it! And they’re no fly-by-night operation: they’ve been writing since 2003.
  6. The House That Dewey Built gets mentioned because it has my favorite title, has been written continuously for a long time, has a clean design without advertising, and has a steady stream of Sox news. I wouldn’t say this is the most creative of the blogs, but it’s a good tool to have in your Red Sox tool box.
  7. Am I a sucker for gimmick blogs? Maybe, but I like to be entertained when I’m reading a Sox blog, and Yanksfan vs. Soxfan does that (hey, shouldn’t that be Soxfan vs. Yanksfan?!).  One thing that I like with just about all of these Sox blogs: they give you a list of other Sox blogs in their sidebars. Giving props to the rest of Red Sox Nation is a good thing.

Am I missing any good Red Sox blogs? What’s flying under the radar, or maybe some new blogs?

How to stop working for free?

dollar signHave you noticed that if you show a bit of aptitude at either web design or computers in general, most people will just assume that you’re on call 24/7 for every one of their questions? These people never take into consideration whether you might actually like to get compensated for your work, even if it’s just through barter or trade. Lately I’m feeling like an ATM machine, I get so many withdrawals but very few deposits.

This morning I received an email from someone I hardly know asking how to rid of his computer of virus’. I wanted to tell him to first drop the computer on his foot, break the foot, get the insurance money, PAY ME, then I’ll tell you what to do!

There are hundreds of articles like “how to get people to work for free“, but hell, somebody give me advice on how to stop this!! Everybody is looking for computer and design labor, and there are trains full of people who are skinflints, but nobody with 2 nickles to pay my fee!

Pay the monkey! Pay the monkey! He’ll dance all night long!

UPDATE:  Another thing that’s astonishing are the number of people who ask you for free help or advice, then never say “thank you”.  That’s happened three times just this week . Are you telling me that in addition to not paying me, you’re going to be rude to me?

MORE UPDATES: Why would anybody send me a link in an email with no explanation? I thought the purpose of the link was to trigger action on my part (more free labor, of course), but it wasn’t. It was only a friendly email to make me aware of a flash mp3 player that I’ve known about for two years. Here’s a good rule the thumb: unless it’s some particularly tasty, free porn, do. not. ever. send me a link without explanation.

Go away Microsoft, and take your Zune with you!

stupid zune logoI‘m in the process of trying to get a new podcast off the ground (if you haven’t heard it yet, check out Photo Share Podcast), and part of that means spreading the word to listeners of podcasts, or people who might be interesting in the subject of online photo sharing (like Flickr!). And I want to help users of both iPods and Zunes to hear my podcast. But . . . Microsoft won’t let me contact users of the Zune because I’m a Mac person and can’t install their special podcast submission software (it’s PC only). If you want to submit a podcast to their “marketplace” for consideration you’ll need a PC, thank you.

I put a special button on my site for Zune users to quickly add my podcast to their stupid brown machine, but Microsoft can’t give me any love back? Truly, a screwball company.

What I learned about community radio from Chris Teskey and WPKN

photo from flickr
On Saturday morning Chris Teskey from the community radio station WPKN in Bridgeport, CT visited some of the members of Valley Free Radio in Northampton. I went expecting a sobering reality check, given that WPKN has been around for 30 years, and VFR a little more than 2 years. They must have their shit together, being professional, not in crisis mode all the time, right? Ah, not so quick.

Chris reassured us that putting out fires and keeping the latest crisis in check is what running a community radio station is all about, that what many of the people at VFR feel is normal. That was great news, I think, and it seemed like the round table discussion helped the VFR folks in a couple of different ways: 1) reassuring us that crisis in not the end of the world, that we just had to be consistantly there for the community, and 2) giving us some specific glimpses at what kind of work that’s needed to build a long lasting community radio station.

WPKN is a much bigger station than VFR (10,000 watts compared to 100), but I believe VFR has the potential to match their donor database number of 7,000. It’s going to take a lot of work, and it won’t happen in the next year, but if VFR can survive 30 years then I think it can find 7,000 people willing to contribute to its community radio station.

If you’re interested in listening to some of the round table discussion, check out the sound files on the Community Radio Hour blog.