Archive for Personal

2016 Full Bore Ahead

It’s already 2 months into 2016. Time continues to fly as usual and life remains relatively uneventful. The most exciting thing going on right now is in making the decision on if I should cut my hair or let it grow out a few feet again. As much as I enjoy having long hair, the cat likes to eat it, which is hazardous to her health if she manages to get it wound up in her intestines, so for that and other reasons (laziness) my years of 3ft. long locks may be well and truly past.

My time nowadays is saturated in multiple small commitments. I play a tabletop RPG with friends every Sunday, help run a board game group two nights a month, belong to two bookclubs, and still volunteer at the Quatrefoil library. On top of that I’ve somehow found myself on the committee of a local convention. How did this happen? Granted, I still spend a lot of my time relaxing at home and playing video games. Even though it’s a distant dream, I spend a lot of time learning about game design and writing too. I find I’m a much less happy person when I’m not pursuing some sort of creative project, and in the last few years my activity on that end has fallen drastically. So now I’m writing a text game. Like most of my creative projects it will probably never be completed, but as a hobby project it still provides its benefits.

Work continues on without much change. I’ve already had my first fair of the year at Pasadena. California as a state is not my favorite, but the Cali fair itself attracts some wonderful dealers. There wasn’t much there for me to buy as it’s a higher end fair, but one dealer was gracious enough to point me to a box of kabuki postcards notable for the fact that almost every one of them were annotated in the back with information on the play depicted. When I didn’t show as much enthusiasm as he did he went in with my boss “so that I’d have them anyway,” and when I realized they had essentially beat me to it he let me buy out his half. It was extremely generous of him, considering the amount profit he thought could be had with the item. The reason I looked so incredulous was the price tag. It’s still hard for me to be willing to invest a sizable amount of money into a single thing, even when that thing seems to be a steal. But when the risk is shared it becomes a more palatable prospect.

I’ve benefited a lot from simply listening to other dealers talk amongst themselves, and one of the themes that comes up constantly is whether or not certain people have the personality for this sort of work. They talk about whether or not so-and-so has it in them to “take the blows” and “get knocked around.” A bad few months, a disastrous purchase, shifting collecting trends that render a specialty unsellable: there is so much risk in this business that those who are timid about it simply don’t last. I’m still learning whether or not I have it in me to take those risks. It’s harder to do, knowing that my personal wealth is in the negative dollars, thanks to my student loans, but I suppose we’ll see.

It occurs to me that money comes up often in these little posts. I don’t think that will change in the future. I’ve never been one to buy into the common wisdom that one does not talk about one’s finances. I think there’s much to be learned in hashing it out and recognizing that money drives our behavior in a myriad of ways, no matter how much of it we have.

Anyway, the fair itself was remarkably well run, Pasadena was a bit of a bore, but it had good restaurants, and dining out is half the reason I think dealers till do these fairs. I had myself some decent ramen, and a shake as thick as cement, and managed to dodge the illness that was spreading through the fair floor like wildfire. Now all there is to do is catalog and hope that my investment will pay off.

Books Read So Far

Every year I tell myself I will try to read 52 books in a year. I fall short by a great deal every year, and then the next year tell myself the same thing again. Since we’re halfway through 2015, it’s time to take stock.

1. George R. R. MartinA Clash of Kings: I’m trying to read these before I watch the show, which means that I’ve been dodging spoilers as much as possible but haven’t been entirely successful. As the second book this builds up on what the first laid down very well, but since everyone and their mother has read these things I’m not going to invest much time in a review. The worldbuilding has gotten more interesting, which is something I may have to come back to in a later post.

2. Melissa Scott - Point of Hopes: Another series book. This is the first, and is a sort of mystery in a weird alternate fantasy world that has the trappings of some Elizabethan steampunk era but not quite. It’s okay, but not something I’d recommend. The plot is stagnant, the worldbuilding has some novel elements but doesn’t think them through, and the characters are dull.

3. Graeber DavidDebt, the first 5000 Years: My favorite book so far. An anthropology of debt that challenges the myth of the barter society evolving into fiat finance. This was written in the context of the Occupy Wall Street movement and has a clear political bias, but even so I thought the angle the book takes in fascinating, and there is a lot that can be pulled from it, not just for people interested in how our economy has become the thing it is, but for those interested in alternatives.

4. Hiromi GotoKappa Child: Hated it. Limp magical realism that never really satisfies, low level domestic abuse that serves as a constant frustration, weird quirks of character that makes everyone feel surreal without balancing them out with humanity, and so on. Least favorite of the year.

5. Johanna SinisaloTroll, a Love Story: Weirdest of the year by far. A guy finds a baby troll and brings it home. Disaster ensues. The narrative format was a constant bounce between POV characters interspersed with “excerpts” from non-existent sources on trolls, and even though there were bits that seemed meaningless or drifting, the book as a whole succeeded in building up a lot of suspense.

6. Sam van Schaik- Tibet, A History: The book I’m on now. So far an engaging attempt at a succinct history from beginning to now. It’s main flaw is that it has to sacrifice a lot of nuance and depth in order to cover so much history in a single book, and things start to blend together somewhat. But as an introduction I think it’s great.

7. Maurice Olender - The Language of Paradise: A fascinating book about something that I didn’t really know anything about before reading it. The beginnings of Philology were rooted in certain notions of race, history, and truth, and those foundations had an important effect on modern history. Reading it brings to light the development of ideas that many people probably assume came out of common sense without really interrogating it.

It appears I’ve been reading 1 book a month instead of four. Ah well. I am ever the optimist.

 

What I’ve been up to these past few months

Time flies when you are a habitual project starter. July and August were both crazy. My time spent in Virginia, and then immediately after in Colorado Springs, was an amazing, once in a lifetime thing, that reminded me why I’ve taken the path that I have and helped me refocus myself. The first leg of my two week intensive book tour was at the Rare Book School, where I took a course on the basics of bibliographical description. The class was intense, the instructors excellent, and the experience as a whole was just as amazing as everyone says it is. There’s a sort of bliss that comes with being surrounded by people who not only love what you love, but are so mature in their love that you are constantly in awe of the vast depths of knowledge to which one can plunge in pursuit of it.

The students in my bibliography class joked that we would never be able to explain to other people just what it was that we had been doing all week, because it was so esoteric, but for me one of the great things about getting to really understand a subject is that it makes it easier to help other people understand that subject. That part of my personality has gotten me in trouble for being a bit of a know-it-all at times, but when something is interesting it’s really hard for me not to tell everyone all about it.

And, in fact, I got a chance to apply my new found education immediately after my week at Rare Book School ended, when I flew out to Colorado Springs to work as staff for the Colorado Antiquarian Seminar. This year the faculty was trying something a little different, and gave seminarians a challenge to “Adopt” two books and spend the week applying what they were learning to the cataloging and description of those books. Collation (describing how all the pages and leaves are put together in the binding) was not explicitly part of that, but after Terry Belanger’s talk on collation everyone turned to their adopted books and started struggling to put their new found knowledge into practice. What I had spent a few books of study and a week of lab time on, the CABS folk were attempting to do after 2 hours of instruction.

And they did remarkably well. A lot of people were a little intimidated by the terminology and notation in the beginning, but I was still in COLLATE ALL THE THINGS MODE and was practically begging people to ask me questions so we could collate something together. Occasionally we would come to something a little complex and I would say it wasn’t necessary to get too deep into it, which only resulted in them going to Terry, who would sit down and do it all, no shortcuts. I should have known better than to think that CABS folk wouldn’t want to know it all.

Over both weeks I ended up meeting some amazing people, refocused and reinvigorated myself, and drank more beer than I usually do over the course of an entire year.

Since then I’ve been occupying myself with the usual endless list of projects, which are below if anyone is interested.

Complete:

A few weeks ago I finished working on the digital catalog of Thomas G. Thrum‘s library for Librarything. Thrum was white man who moved to Hawai’i at a young age, and is primarily remembered as a folklorist and compiler of almanacs. His library was recorded by an anonymous bookman, most likely as part of estate proceedings after his death, and the majority of the books appear to have found a home at the University of Hawai’i. When his project came up I couldn’t resist snatching it up, since it was so closely connected to my alma mater, and the catalog looked straight forward enough, but it actually ended up taking some time to get everything written out.

For one thing the bookman who recorded the library did so with a shortlist only, and one in which he was in the habit of truncating titles to the point where it took some doing to find out just which “Report” was being referenced. The second problem was in the obscurity of some of these titles, particularly with the serials. I would say that almost half of Thrum’s books had not been previously cataloged on librarything, and many were not in enough libraries to pop up doing a broad search. A number of times I had to use the UH library system catalog to find the item, and then bring that information back to librarything. But persistence paid off, and now if you want to know what a scholar of Hawai’ian folklore from the 19th century liked to read all you need to do is go here.

I also managed to watch all 140 some episodes of Hunter X Hunter. It can’t be work time all the time.

Ongoing:

Notice I only really have one thing “finished.” Such is my life. Recently I’ve been working on:

  • Getting 52 books read by the end of the year. I’m currently at… 17. Haha… ha… ha… Well, that’s still a decent average for me. I haven’t actually hit 52 ever, even though I always say I’m going to aim for it.
  • A worldbuilding toolkit. For almost ten years I’ve been managing a “contest” of sorts where participants have been challenged to answer a series of prompts about different aspects of an imaginary world that they create. The platform that I had been using was not optimal for this sort of thing, so I’m migrating it to something I have more control over, and in the process I’m fleshing the whole thing out into more of a toolkit. With 400+ original prompts to migrate, and a lot of editing work required to get them into the new format properly, this is a project that will take some time.
  • I’ve picked up Japanese again and am making my painful way forward with it. Trying to work back to fluency is both painful and gratifying. I’m hating myself for how much I’ve forgotten, but it’s surprising how much I’ve managed to retain. My biggest hope is that my next step in life will be utilizing Japanese more centrally, but for that to happen I need to get serious.

Upcoming:

  • NaNoWriMo is in a month. I haven’t won in a very long time, but I’m getting tired of the dry spell.

 

The Difference a Year Makes

It has been almost 11 months to the day since my last update, which I believe is officially the longest I have gone without a blog post since I started blogging some time around the year 2000. In one way the silence is good. I’m busier than I’ve ever been, and almost everything that I’ve been doing has been a positive experience. On the other hand, I do miss keeping track of life via blog.

A very quick update:

In October of last year I moved from Denver to the Twin Cities to work for Rob Rulon-Miller, a rare book dealer. I’ve been with him ever since, and have been enjoying the job immensely.

Now that I’ve graduated it’s clearer to me how miserable I was while in school. Getting my MLIS was a soul sucking experience for me, but the details of that can wait for another post.

Even though I technically have less time to myself due to the full-time job, I feel like I’m doing a ton more than I had been before. I’ve been working on some personal projects surrounding my pet hobby of worldbuilding and conlanging, go to a local zendo slightly more than occasionally, and have a regular gaming group. Not only am I doing a lot of stuff, I’m doing it consistently. I have the emotional capital to spare, now that my energy isn’t being taken up on angsting about grades and papers.

The place where I put the most of my free time (outside of just chillaxing at home and arguing with the cat) is the Quatrefoil library. The Quatrefoil is a GLBT library in Minneapolis that is entirely volunteer run and maintained. I found out about them shortly after arriving in the Twin Cities, and since I’m not flexing my librarian muscles at work, I thought this was a great way to keep my cataloging fu sharp while also doing helpful work for the community. So every week I go in to do my small part in managing the flood of donated materials. Because the library is volunteer run, there is always more to do than there are people to do it, but now that I’m getting comfortable with the workflow I’m starting to eye some special projects that the “bosses” have said they would like to have done.

That’s life in a nutshell for the moment. The near futures is coming up with some fun stuff, some of which I’m really excited for.

In a few days I’m going to attempt a haircut. I say attempt because I am taking my ~2ft of hair to a German Festival, where I am told a salon will be putting up a booth to donate to Wigs for Kids. I’m not sure what the logistics will be, but if all goes well my butt-length mop will be cut down to a few inches.

The last week of June is the Twin Cities Antiquarian and Rare Book Fair (a mouthful). We’re exhibiting there, but I personally have been deputized by the organizer to help manage the thing. I haven’t build up that curmudgeonly patina that so many other dealers seem to end up with concerning fairs, so I’m looking forward to it, and hoping there is nothing there that strikes my fancy. My wallet can’t take it.

Then, next month I’ll be flying down to Virginia to attend the Rare Book School, specifically the course on bibliographical description. The pre-course readings alone have been more educational than a years worth of library school. Once the course is over I might say it was more valuable than the whole degree, and at 2% the cost.

After that, who knows. My hope is still one day to be working at an archives or special collections department, but my immediate concerns are more humble. With the amount of student debt I’m facing, a well paying job in another field is looking more and more attractive.

Out of the Frying Pan

The weather right now is awful. Shortly after my last post Colorado decided that it was done with the blizzards and it was time to turn on the heat. Things have been slugish and miserable ever since, and my laptop has finally given up the ghost, so I’m now working on putting together a new machine. The tower and powersource have already arrived, but the graphics card that I’m looking at has been out of stock, so I may end up downgrading or finding something else. I don’t expect to do anything all that impressive with it. My main concern is getting an operating machine that will let me finish that damn Omeka site.

Another recent loss has been in the shoe department. I’m not a shoe person. I own something like five pairs, counting my flipflops, so when one pair goes it’s a loss. A few weeks ago I was watching the Star Trek movie with my friend, and when I was walking back to the car I noticed something was weird with my old canvas shoes. I had bought these things in Japan, back in 2006, and they were probably the rattiest things I owned at the time, but I loved them, and they reminded me of a great time in my life. When I got back to the car and tried to figure out what was up, the entire inside lining had disconnected from the sole and fell right out. Now, I had worn these shoes down so much that there wasn’t much of a sole to begin with. When I walked in them a good portion of my heel was hitting pavement and dirt, but they had still been comfortable. With the lining gone, so goes the comfort, so I had to admit defeat and declare those shoes dead.

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RIP shoes.

My bike has been another point of frustration for a while now. The front tire kept on going flat, even after I patched the tube, and then replaced it completely. For a while I let it sit around, useless, but now that the snow is all gone and I’m getting sick of walking 30 minutes to and from work in the heat, I’ve renewed my attempts at getting it in working order. The bike was a hand me down, and while it’s been useful it’s started to be more of a pain than it’s worth. A single tire is something like 50 dollars! On top of that, the gears are jammed, so it’s essentially a fixie mountain bike. I struggled and cursed with the wheels and brakes all day to day, and everything appears to be in working order, but I’ll know tomorrow when I check whether or not the air is staying this time. I haven’t been able to get the back wheel off either, and that one appears to have a very slow leak too. The only thing worse than walking to work is having to drag a bike with flats along with you.

The job hunt has been slow going. I graduated in late May, and found myself in a real slump immediately after. I’m enjoying the job I have quite a bit, and have been learning more and more as I’m given more and more responsibility, but it’s a part time job that will likely disappear in the fall. This coming August is the Book and Paper Fair, followed by CABS. My volunteer work last year has earned me a paid position at the fair this year (woo!) and I will be driving down for the CABS keynote speech, since that is open seating. I’d love to spend another week at CABS, since last year was so fun and educational, and this year their specialty dealer works in Asian materials! But unless they let me sneak in for a few hours, I think the keynote will be all I’m getting.

 

Mondays

I don’t have all that much on my plate nowadays but all of it is piled up on Monday. Part of the problem is that parking is either inconvenient or expensive on campus, and walking home between work and class is an hour round trip, so I end up leaving for work at around 8:30 and don’t get home until 10 PM at night. Good thing we have a library for me to hide in again. It gives me time to do my homework.

Work has been getting more and more interesting. After a year I’m finally moving past basic code monkey stuff and getting deeper and deeper into the workings of the system. When I started I was afraid to change anything in the offchance that it was a vital component that would break the entire site (and I did end up breaking the site once). But now I generally know what things do and why, and am not so timid about making changes without asking permission to change very comma or what have you. I was told that I would probably be able to keep working through the summer, which means I will have something resembling an income as I continue to look for a full time job, which I’m thankful for. I can’t wait to finally end up in a position that lasts for longer than a year though. It feels like every time I’m starting to hit a new level of expertise it’s time to move on to something else. When you’re an undergrad jet-setting across the world you’re not really thinking about developing a history of long term employment, but now I kind of wish I could say I’ve been doing something for more than 2 years at a time.

It’s not that big of a deal though. What I don’t have in terms of length I make up for with a large variety of experience and a lot of adaptability.


Last week had a couple nice breaks from the monotony of daily life. I wrangled one of my good friends Amanda into going to a wind ensemble concert and had a great time. I still prefer wind ensemble to any other form of classical-type music, so it’s nice to have free access to it through the student concerts at DU.

One of the pieces performed was Colonial Song, by Percy Graham.

Not a bad way to spend a night out.

This weekend was a fellow DU student’s birthday. Her house is amazing and includes a common backyard with her next door neighbors in which cats dogs and chickens roam around doing their thing. A good time was had by all and I got to hold an irate chick.

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These birds have been bred so that they literally cannot see past the fluff on their faces. It’s both hilarious and sad all at once.

 

Out like a what again?

What Denver giveth Denver taketh away. We’ve had a few weeks of excellent spring weather, and last evening the wind picked up and the snow started falling. It is now a mess outside. We were hearing emergency sirens all day long, but the snow has finally stopped falling (for now) and most of the first volley melted, so there isn’t as much on the ground as there might be. If we’re lucky it will warm up right after and everything will be melted by Tuesday.

My roommate and I ended up having to drive through the worst of it, because we were at IKEA when it started, enjoying a traditional Swedish Easter smörgåsbord. We were joking with each other because there were very few people other than families with small children and retirees that seemed to think coming to IKEA for an Easter buffet was the thing to do, but there were piles upon piles of smoked salmon involved, so it was worth it, even if the drive home was a snowy mess.

It was technically spring break last week, but because I had no classes it felt like any other week. The last two classes I need to take for my degree start on Monday, and then at the end of May my schooling will be over! I have no idea what will happen after that, but one thing at a time.

Rufus had to be put down earlier this week. It was a sudden and unexpected thing. He spent all day being his usually dorky self, and then later that night blood clots had cut off the circulation in his front legs. We rushed him to an emergency vet and left him overnight to be treated and monitored, but the next day Shannon had been advised to let him go. So this week has been rough. He was an atypical little cat, a pleasure to be around when he wasn’t being a bossy jerk, and he is already dearly missed.

 

Music

Yesterday night I attended St. Martin’s Choir’s Tenebrae concert. It was a small, event, with maybe fifty or so attendees and a choir of 13. It was wonderful, as their concerts always are, but I think I like the larger scale of the usual choir size more. I’m always one of the youngest people at these things. Sometimes there’s a kid that comes with their parents, or someone my age who has an obvious connection with the group, but other than that it often feels like the audience is composed of a bunch of people aged 60+ and then me. Not that I mind. More people my age should take advantage of the classical music in the area. For one, it’s cheaper than a dubstep concert (by about 60 bucks. I know from experience.) And going to a live choral concert is kind of like going to a spiritual massage. It’s a good way to shake off some of the stress that comes from being a student with bills due.

I’ve missed music a lot. It’s one thing to listen to a few good tracks on the computer and another to go through the process of musical creation, which is something I haven’t done in many years. I’ve been playing instruments since fourth grade, maybe sooner if you count the banging I did on the piano at home, and I kept at it until I graduated high school, at which point my participation in the creation of music dropped off entirely. I left my flute and drums at home when I went to college, and besides a random taiko class my freshmen year and my senior year spent playing rock band I’ve been out of it entirely.

For the last few months now I’ve gotten back into it by buying a pennywhistle. It works perfectly because it’s ten dollars and doesn’t take up any room. I’m used to the concert flute, so the limitations of having only 2 octaves and not much in the way of halftones has been a struggle to figure out, and I was appalled when I went to read some music and realized that I couldn’t anymore, but those difficulties have been more or less overcome. I put about thirty minutes a day away for practice, and playing makes for a nice, tactile break from the computer work that takes up most of my day. Traditional Irish music is an oral tradition, and although there are a lot of websites for traditional Irish session music there’s a lot of emphasis  on just listening, watching, and replicating. I was a very good sight reader back in the day, but learning by ear has always been my weak point, so that’s just another challenge to throw onto the pile.

I live in an apartment complex and have two roommates, so although the walls here are mercifully thick, a high pitched wind instrument played by an amateur can only be tolerated so much. Maybe when I get better I’ll start practicing for an hour at a time instead.

Moving In

Welp, I have finally moved house enough to start posting here, after quite a long bout of silence in the old blog. I’ve been back in Colorado for about a month now, and am putting things in order one by one.

Eventually this site is going to have a front page, but that won’t happen until I have a machine that I can do some design work on. My little netbook is a godsend, but there are some things that it should not do, and designing web pages is one of them.

My old laptop failed on me a little before I went to India. First the CD/DVD drive failed, and then the display drivers started shutting the machine down, and finally I found myself spending an hour to boot the computer every time. At that point I just started relying on the netbook. I’m in the process of finding something new, but today I lost patience with working on a 9″ screen and decided to use the old machine as a test bed. Since everything on it was already backed up, reformatting it was conceivably an easy process. The only problem was that I couldn’t use a boot disk and apparently Windows does not provide .iso files for download (or if they do I failed to find them.)

So I decided to have a go at Ubuntu. I can’t say I like the Ubuntu OS all that much. The lack of a (decent)task bar has already put me into a minor rage as I had to alt+tab through 10 different windows to get what I wanted, and I don’t know if I will adapt to having 4 different workstations to flip between. I wouldn’t need the work stations if I had a task bar! The OS runs slow sometimes, but it’s faster than Win 7 was, and I managed to run the machine for over 4 hours without it shutting down on me, whereas it was dying every 10 minutes before.

The DVD drive is still broken, and I don’t think the format was a long term fix, so I will probably need a new machine in the near future, but at least now I have something to work with.

China In Africa

China In Africa

This past Friday I was able to attend Korbel’s annual China Symposium, which, as the little poster above clearly states, was about China-Africa relations. Did you know that China is Africa’s number one trading partner, and Africa is China’s fourth largest? Or that China maintains a political relationship with 50 of the 54 countries on the continent, and Taiwan has an official relationship with the other 4? Back in my undergrad years I had done some study on the aid war between Taiwan and China, where both countries were competing for official recognition by third party states, but the texts I read were focused on Eastern Europe, and anyway a lot changes in politics in a few years.

Most of the hundred or so participants were involved in international relations in some way. Two of the panelists were US Ambassadors (pretty sure I bored the hell out of one of them during the dinner). I ended up telling people half a dozen times that I was a library science student, and the reactions were mixed. A few people were not aware that library science was a thing. A few more went on the “everything is digital now” track. During dinner I was speaking to a lady who started talking about the archive in Timbuktu, and I had the happy task of informing her than a lot of the material had been evacuated prior to the burning of the buildings by the rebels. It was a little awkward, having nothing to do with Korbel or the Air Force Academy, not speaking Chinese, and probably being the only person in the room with a bunch of metal shoved through their ears, but for most of the day all I really had to do was listen.

The symposium lasted almost 12 hours and was like a booster shot history and policy. After having to endure so much idiotic, pandering rhetoric during the election over the nature of the Chinese threat, it was refreshing to be surrounded by people who had a more nuanced view. Even though most of us were interested in China because of US interests (large Air Force Academy presence there) the discourse itself was almost devoid of any acknowledgement of them. I think most people never even have the experience of learning about modern China from such a perspective.