New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve:

  • 1979-1980: I get drunk for the first time. I also get caught by my parents getting drunk for the first time.
  • 1981-1982: Someone hits my car just as I’m getting started on what turns out to be the last heterosexual date I will ever subject myself (or anyone else) to.
  • 1984-1985: I spend the night with a boy I have a major and obsessive crush on. Nothing happens. Sigh.
  • 1994-1995: I’ve just broken up with someone. I go to a quasi-legal party at a warehouse down the street in San Francisco. It gets raided.
  • 1999-2000: Millenium party with accordion accompaniment.
  • 2008-2009: On a very cold night, the ex and I find ourselves on the wrong side of downtown Pittsburgh for the fireworks.
  • 2010-2011: Most depressing New Year’s Eve ever. Enough said.
  • 2012-2023: Done with this shit.

Other than 1974-1975, when I was ten years old and at Disney World, I’m hard pressed to think of a single New Year’s Eve that was memorable for actually being enjoyable. Maybe that’s why I pretty much just say “fuck it” at this point. I never liked New Year’s Eve. It’s nice no longer having to pretend to. I was even sort of faking it in the photo above from 35 years ago…and who the hell are those people?

For the record, this year I invited a Spectrum tech over for an early date at 4PM. His repair didn’t “take” and now I get to see another Spectrum tech at 9AM on New Year’s Day. Good thing I won’t have a hangover.

I do have collards, Hoppin’ John, and pork things for tomorrow. Nothing changes New Year’s Day (to coin a phrase).

Socially mediated

I’m an introvert. Hardcore. I play the game well and a lot my coworkers in particular might not even recognize it, but I’m not especially “social” and I generally am quite happy with my own company most of the time. This has a lot to do with my being an only child and probably has even more to do with the fact that I had very few friends in general until I got to college and have always felt very socially awkward. I never really absorbed that whole social interaction thing correctly, though I have gotten really good at “faking it” particularly though my long past working in retail and my current career, which involves a lot of collaboration, interaction, and public speaking.

I’ve been communicating online (often as my primary medium) for more than twenty-five years. In the late 1990s, back when this site was really popular, I carried on regular email correspondence with many, many people in many, many places. Seriously, there were few places in the U.S. I could go where I didn’t know someone within on or two area codes. Even then, though, it was all asynchronous. I was not hanging out in AOL chatrooms or message boards or IRC (except maybe to download pirated software or porn on the latter). It was all sort of “old school”: email using complete sentences, etc.

Things changed a bit when I got partnered. Frankly, I neglected a lot of friendships because I really only had so much “social” in me and I felt like I should probably be giving most of that to my partner. That’s not an unusual or bad choice but in retrospect, I do have some regrets about it. Between neglect and the fact that the website because less and less of a medium because people weren’t really interacting that way so much anymore, I found that I had a much smaller social circle ten years later when I found myself single again.

I tiptoed into social media while in grad school and eventually got pretty active on Facebook as a way of keeping up with friends, which was nice for quite a while. I also did Twitter, but that was always more about using it as a reading list and a place to promote content on the other site. I generally avoided much engagement in general on Twitter and didn’t really join in on arguments and heated discussions very often on any platform.

Mid-pandemic, in the summer of 2020, I suddenly swore off Facebook. There was some specific interaction that pushed me in that direction (oddly enough, I don’t remember exactly what it was) but it was something I had been thinking about for a long time. I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore; it started feeling like work. I liked the aspect of keeping up with friends, but so many of my friends were no longer posting anything personal to begin with. It was all either politics or memes about how awful everything was. And I already knew how awful everything was. I didn’t need to spend time doom scrolling my friends’ posts to realize that. About the same time, I swore off news sites for a good while too, and was basically only watching The National on CBC every night because it was less awful. I tried to unfollow or mute the friends who were the worst “offenders” but after a while I just hated logging on, so I stopped. And I sort of regret that too because I lost touch with a lot of people I really like. But I couldn’t do it anymore.

I stuck with Twitter, oddly enough, just because I could tailor it to my needs and curate what I read. And it was great for a few years. But then, as the Muskrat took over, that functionality went away, and with it went most of the small group of people I interacted with there. Twitter basically just blew up one day and was never quite the same. I stuck around for a year, not posting as much and not spending as much time there. There were still things I followed regularly (most of them related to history, architecture, and urbanism) but increasingly people who used to post interesting material were abandoning ship as Twitter became more and more of a sewer.

I should have joined the exodus last year. I didn’t. I’m doing it now. And I’m not sure which platform comes next, if any. I have an account on Mastodon, but I mainly repost things from Twitter and Flicker there to an audience that’s a fraction of what I had on Twitter and I don’t otherwise engage. Threads does not impress me and Instagram never did, so a return the Land of Meta is not in the horizon. I do Flickr sometimes, but that was always more about sharing photos (and hosting them for the site) than about socializing. And BlueSky? Who knows? Maybe I’ll just start getting better about adding content here again and conversing by email. Probably not.

The social aspect is hard. I’ve sworn off most social media, I hate talking on the phone, and no one corresponds by email anymore except for work. What’s left?

All of this is not to suggest that I don’t have friends whose company I enjoy and with whom I still interact regularly (in person, even). But I’m increasingly worried that my isolation may be growing, particularly since many of my closest friends live nowhere near me. I think this is a pretty common worry for us introverts and other “non-joiners” for whom online communication worked well until it didn’t.


The state of the stream


I swore off Facebook almost three years ago. I’m pulling back a lot on Twitter nowadays too, using it for what it does best: providing me with a reading list of material on other sites. I do still use Twitter to push the other site, but that’s mainly reposted photos from flickr and pushes from the RSS feed. I use Mastodon for that too, but let’s be real. No one seems to care that much about Mastodon. That said, no one seems to care that much about Twitter anymore either except as argument fodder. Response to my stuff is way down over the past six months since the Muskrat came into power.

I don’t really use social media to forge relationships or (Great Pumpkin forbid) get into arguments. I use it to stay updated on topics of interest and to find other things to read.

I probably won’t be posting much on Twitter going forward, but I will probably keep using it as a reading list as long as it serves that purpose well.


All in all, things are good. I had my annual physical recently and my fat, sedentary butt remains far more healthy than it has any reason to be.

I’m having, um, a milestone birthday next year and I’m thinking of taking a really huge road trip in celebration thereof. Maybe cross-country even. Or something that would knock out those last three states I’ve never visited (Idaho, Montana, and Alaska). Then again, there’s a reason I’ve never visited them.

Work is good too, though budget cuts, declining university enrollment, and the current political climate in my home state are a little terrifying. I think tenure will protect me for the six or seven more years I need it to. We’ll see on that.

Almost three years in, I’ve managed to keep on maintaining my daily (private) audio journal. My life will be well documented when I die, though I’m not sure anyone would (or should) care that much. But the archivist in me feels like it’s required.

I continue to hate spring.


I want to write about things, really, but it just ain’t happening.

Last but not least

Does anyone want to buy a slightly used house?


Muskrat, muskrat

I’m not quitting Twitter, at least not for the moment. I am, however, in the process of migrating to other platforms and using Twitter basically as a reposting service for content that’s primarily hosted elsewhere. That means, for now, this website and flickr (the latter for photos, obviously). I’m not sold on Mastodon yet, though I did stake out a territory there today (more when that territory is better occupied).

A little about how I use social media, just for context:

  1. As a publishing platform for brief thoughts, links, and photos.
  2. A way to promote updates on the site.
  3. As a reading list for other content I might want to see more of.

That’s pretty much it. I don’t generally “engage” on social media. I don’t get into long discussions and I avoid arguments entirely for the most part. Who has the time or energy for that? Life is way too short.

Interestingly enough, though, this is why Twitter works well for me. It’s easy to post links, photos, etc. when I’m on the road, and it allows me to pretty well curate what I see (or don’t see). It’s no different than handling toxic politics, white supremacists, homophobes and other bullshit every day walking down the street. My feed is pretty much buildings, retail history, a little music, some random Canadian pop culture, and a couple of friends. That’s it. No drama, no pointless arguments with idiots whose minds will never be changed anyway, and a lot of pointers to good content that’s posted somewhere else (and some that’s actually posted just on Twitter). I tune out the moronic conspiracy theories the same way I tune out the moronic “Let’s go Brandon” bumper stickers. They irritate and horrify me, sure, but they’re not the majority of what’s out there. We have to choose our battles and choosing “all of them” is invariably a losing proposition.

I’m the muskrat’s nightmare user.

I swore off Facebook a few years ago mainly because it was such a “walled garden” and because it no longer seemed like a good use of my time or something I enjoyed. I make no promises right now that I will or won’t be exiting Twitter altogether. There are things I like about it, just like there are things I like about the purple state where I live. Leaving either would be, in many ways, like cutting off my nose to spite my face. The muskrat doesn’t care whether I’m here or not. And there need to be people hanging around to balance out the crazy, in virtual environments just like in “real” ones.

I do think the platform will ultimately implode, which is why I’m also using others. Backups are good.

(Cross-posted from the other site.)

A productive pandemic

When I get overwhelmed or start wondering where the last year went, I remind myself that since March I have:

  • Co-authored a book that should be published later this year
  • Migrated one of the largest library digital collections in the state to a new content management platform (link later)
  • Participated in the salvation of American democracy
  • Added a bunch of new cities to Groceteria
  • Eighty-sixed Facebook
  • Rebuilt a friendship that had been dormant for almost thirty years
  • Watched at least a hundred vintage episodes of “What’s My Line?”
  • Become disturbingly conversant in the MODS metadata schema as well as several new XML tools
  • Supervised three student capstones and independent studies
  • Managed to avoid getting a COVID-related illness
  • Done a few pretty good media interviews (radio, national magazine, well-trafficked blog)
  • Read many good books (and bought way too many more)
  • Never hoarded toilet paper and also never run out of same
  • Managed three big grant projects simultaneously and remotely
  • Only gained about five pounds and actually ended up with better labs than last year
  • Stayed reasonably sane

Try it yourself. It helps!

By the numbers

Things insomnia made me count. In my life I have:

  • Owned 3 houses and rented 5 apartments.
  • Lived in 3 states (4 if you count a vacation home).
  • Had 2 roommates (not counting a few temporary situations of less than a month).
  • Had 1 (common law) husband.
  • Owned 9 cars.
  • Had 6 traffic accidents, 2 of which were ruled my fault.
  • Spent time in 3 countries, including 45 U.S. states and 6 Canadian provinces.
  • Had sex in at least 24 states.
  • Had phone numbers with 5 area codes.
  • No brothers or sisters, but 14 first cousins (approximately 12 of whom are still alive).
  • Spent 2 nights in a hospital (not counting when I was born).
  • Been to 0 high school class reunions (with plans to attend 0 more).
  • Had 5 primary home computers (all Macs, which is why I had each one for so long).
  • Had 3 full-time employers (though I had multiple positions in multiple locations for the first two, plus a ton of part-time and freelance employers).
  • Had 4 medical procedures for which I was put completely under.

What was I thinking?

Why do I start doing things that will make me crazy at 9:00 on a Friday night? In preparation for getting this site SSL compliant (which actually was easier than I expected, despite some weirdness stemming from two very old WordPress plugins I should have gotten rid of a long time ago) I ended up doing a global find and replace. There were problems, and to oversimplify, when I finished the process, my site reverted to a state from sometime in 2009. I’m not entirely sure how that happened; it seems a bit random.

And then I tried to restore from my nice, fresh backup…which was apparently corrupted.

Anyway, after lots of SQL and FTP and SSH and all those other acronyms I’m glad I still remember how to use, I’m back up now for the enjoyment of all three of my fans! And everything should be pretty SSL compliant by later tonight, so you will stop seeing those “not secure” warnings that really don’t matter because you’re not submitting data anyway.

And I have a good, clean backup again. I know because I just restored from it.

Yes, I could leave the server stuff to someone else, but I don’t want to.

Anyway, I’m glad I did this site before the other one, at least.


…do weird and heart-stopping (and temporary, thank the Great Pumpkin) database outages at your web host only happen at the precise moment when you just log in to check something right before bed?

Oh well. it inspired me to do overdue backups of all my site databases. And it’s not really all that late.

Random thoughts (mostly) unrelated to April Fool’s Day


Yesterday had more texture. Today is a bright, sunny spring day in North Carolina, which means, of course, that I do not particularly wish to leave the house because of the bright (and the pollen). So I’m taking care of things at home. And creating bullet points:

  • A month or so in, I ask again why I never used Plex before. It’s pretty wonderful, especially with my new router. Having everything I own from porn to film noir to home video on every device in the house rocks.
  • Credit Karma Tax. Love it. It was quick and painless, helped along by the fact that I no longer have itemized deductions since I no longer have a mortgage. If I hadn’t had a few thousand dollars in one-time freelance income for a consulting project I did, my taxes would have taken all of five minutes. And no fucking TurboTax fees and add-ons.
  • Anyone have a good commercial VPN provider recommendation? I’d been thinking of going with one for quite a while and in light of recent events I’m pretty sure I will.
  • For the record, it’s kind of discouraging realizing that your home state is more concerned with college basketball than with your basic civil rights.
  • Lovely. North by Northwest is having one of those TCM limited screening things, and i’ll be crammed into an airplane for both dates.
  • Best April Fool gag this year from NPR.
  • I’ll be in Albuquerque next week. That’s just not something one gets to say all that often.

Social mediation

It was a very productive weekend. I got a lot done around the house, took care of a lot of nagging paperwork related to my mom, took bundles and bundled to Goodwill, and still managed to have dinner with a friend on Saturday and to make a quite lovely pot of soup today.

I’ve given Facebook the heave-ho except for the work-related posts that are sort of part of my job. I’m sure this did not cause the flurry of activity this weekend, but it was certainly a contributing factor. I’ve been eliminating a lot of time-sucks lately, starting with the cable TV about six months ago. More recently, I have pruned my social media feeds to largely eliminate posts from people whose only contributions are memes and links to clickbait “news” sites. It helped a lot, but I’ve still been finding the signal-to-noise ration a little bit low. And I’m really growing weary of reading other people’s arguments.

As it happens, Twitter makes it a lot easier to control what you see. I use Twitter mainly the same way I used to use RSS feeds (I actually still subscribe to a few) and that’s to keep me up to date on news and interests. I follow a couple of news-related feeds and many urban- and history-based ones. And I follow friends too, but I find I’m spared most of the arguments and flame wars (or that I at least have to seek them out more actively rather than constantly being spoon-fed comments and likes). The environment is a lot nicer.

It’s exhausting being in a constant state of outrage, which seems to be the goal of much social media today. Mind you, I’m already plenty outraged about plenty of things, but I really no longer see the benefit of walking around looking at my phone every five minutes and seeing just how much more clinched my teeth can get.

Maybe it will get better after the election. Or maybe I’ll no longer care by then…