Tuesday, February 19, 2019

To Clean or Not

I assumed cleaning the trains would be the right move: years of nicotine, cat litter dust, and of course remnants of the driveway gravel we'd fill the hopper cars with. Then I found a whole chapter in a train book about how to dirty up the cars to make them more authentic. So I guess this is permission to do a bad job cleaning?

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Think Piece

For the most part, I gave up my habit of jotting down apparently wise or humorous things people say. One tidbit I held onto for a long time I wrote on an official Valentine Museum notepad. I captured museum director Frank Jewell's observation "race, class, gender: difficult stuff." That was the gist, anyway, and at 22 or so, I found it to be a profound observation that I knew should guide my look at life as well as my work in history. 

Raised in Chesterfield County by parents from the north, I did not think of myself as southern. When reflecting on my sense of identity now, I often recall the brief fad some of the alpha kids (boys?) in 4th grade pursued of asking all the kids questions to classify themselves: teams we rooted for; religion; north or south. I said "north" -- because I wanted to be different? Because I was born in Philadelphia, even though I don't remember those first nine months of living there? In high school, I had first a black teacher for world history who urged us into discussion of racial stereotyping, then a white one for US history who used terms like "War of Northern Aggression," and positioned states' rights as a leading cause of the Civil War. My chemistry teacher also taught driver's ed; he told us girls could neither do science nor drive. This was the early 1980s. And so I went to college in New England with a lot of private-school-educated women and felt very different. To emphasize that otherness, I'd layer on fake Southern -- by shouting to people being loud in the dorm hallway too late at night "y'all hush." I also bought a Confederate flag, because I thought it was merely a southern symbol, or a silly symbol of the losing side. It took taking  an actual southern history class at Mount Holyoke -- was it a whole class on the Civil Rights Movement? -- to learn about its use as a symbol of hate and hastily throw it in the trash. I don't think it was up long, but my stomach sours thinking about it. The focus of my history degree eventually became "gender and race in the modern south."

In the 90s, after those few years of work at the museum, I followed my love to Mississippi so he could get a master's degree in Southern Studies. As Virginians, we seemed Northern to most people. With public lectures and casual conversations with his classmates, we immersed ourselves in discussions of race and class. When the theme of a costume party was "come as your favorite dead Southerner," I made an "Indian" dress from cheap fake suede and went as Pocahontas. I wore it later in the 90s to portray the woman my camp is named for. I would never do it now; I feel embarrassed. I do hear myself rationalizing, "well, they were real people -- and it's not like I wore any kind of makeup." Rationalizing away privilege? Other experiences of living in Oxford in the 1990s included taking part in demonstrations against the playing of "Dixie" by the school band, seeing burly black young male athletes wearing ballcaps with that little Rebel logo on them, and watching white students sit on the grassy knoll outside the baseball diamond so they could wave the giant Rebel flags that weren't allowed in the park. I had to drive all the way to Jackson with other members of the NOW chapter for clinic defense and Roe day observances. 

By this point you are not surprised that this self-evaluation comes about thanks to contemporary leaders of Virginia's government. It's what makes me believe that people who build careers helping ALL others could have started in a different place. 

Additional reading:
"Yes Politicians Wore Blackface," Washington Post
Early Post item on the governor

Sunday, January 20, 2019


I have the family train set and really thought that I just needed to hook up some wires and hit go. I didn't realize how much wiring Pop-Pop, my uncles and/or Dad must have done for the board layout. Well. Maybe because the first thing I read was more ambitious than I am right now.

Dumping some links here and fretting a bit about joining some kind of train club.

Lionel's website re current version of ZW Transformer

Pretty useful forum discussion of what connects where for simple running.

Classic Toy Trains magazine site (joined) has wiring piece.

Virginia Train Collectors seem to meet on Thursdays.

Found everything but wire.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

CBC, King and Queen Co. 2017

Because it was 20 degrees on our assigned day (12/31/17), Dad and I shamelessly birded from the car only. Because K&Q is rural, it's not hard to do so safely and without annoying others. Mom reports that ebird rejected the large number of palm warblers we ID'd sharing a field with meadowlarks. The list we submitted for the territory we were assigned includes Mom's yard list plus our roaming:

8 northern bobwhite
1 great blue heron
4 black vulture
17 turkey vulture
3 bald eagle
3 red-tailed hawk
21 mourning dove
1 red-bellied woodpecker
4 yellow-bellied sapsucker
1 downy woodpecker
2 northern flicker
2 pileated woodpecker
21 eastern phoebe
2 blue jay
84 american crow
2 carolina chickadee
4 tufted titmouse
2 white-breasted nuthatch
1 carolina wren
1 golden-crowned kinglet
15 eastern bluebird
3 hermit thrush
21 american robin
4 northern mockingbird
78 european starling
8 palm warbler
5 pine warbler
7 yellow-rumped warbler
6 chipping sparrow
6 field sparrow
86 dark-eyed junco
40 white-throated sparrow
6 song sparrow
17 northern cardinal
12 eastern meadowlark
2 red-winged blackbird
1 brown-headed cowbird
3 house finch
9 american goldfinch

Monday, January 01, 2018


You know what I use even less often than Blogger? Browser bookmarks. Only I today I do want to set some to easily rediscover two birdwatching things that I couldn't remember by source. Who runs the bird count project I've been doing: Audubon? Cornell? Somewhere else? (Project Feederwatch is sponsored in part by Cornell, but that's not in the url.) And then there's the online class that did NOT help me ID sparrows in the field when we did the Christmas Bird Count in King and Queen Co. yesterday....

I added those two to my active bookmarks, then investigated my old bookmarks, a personal archive of projects, interests, and goals. There's much I no longer need - some of which Chrome may be foisting on me? I can't imagine I set up a News subfolder with a Tidewater paper as well as USA Today, the RTD and NYT. Even if Chrome pulled them out of Firefox for me, most weren't things I'd choose. As a loyal Chrome user these days, I start to type "ric" and richmond.com autocompletes > hit enter >  read RTD. There were copious folders and subfolders for my job search. Nearly 13 years and 2 promotions in, I believe I'm where I'm staying!  Some bookmarks -- metadata, national archives -- seem to be left from grad school. Some are from work and likely from Firefox. Now I just search anew for IRS forms or Morningstar; I wouldn't skim bookmarks. Other bookmarks were blogs I enjoyed, almost all dead now. 

And a few are mysteries: what is Instapaper and did I really set up an account? Exporting bookmarks TO IE? Seriously, self? 75 Ways to Draw More??

Monday, January 16, 2017

MLK Day Field Trip

Housekeeping first: Blogger, in an attempt to look more like WordPress, I guess, dumps us into a new dashboard -- and it reveals that I have 23 unposted Drafts?! wtf. Wait - are they really drafts? It looks like the Mulch Heart one is live. So, 22 now that I've deleted one. I am not hunting them all down. I see that I typed DRAFT onto the post below this, but don't hold your breath that I will really edit it.

The impetus for this post is a trip to the Moton Museum in Farmville. I hoped it would be uplifting, I suppose. My uncanny ability to choose the wrong direction to go through galleries didn't help; and I missed that the banners in the darkened auditorium key the visitor into the major themes. The major themes do not include the final act of desegregation. I found that unsatisfying.

It certainly wasn't the scope of the museum to dissect whether integration failed us. The exhibits praise the well-educated African-American teachers and preachers and other leaders of Prince Edward County; there are oral history interviews of former students describing the expectation that they'd all go to college. These gave me that icky "gee it seems like things weren't so bad." Yet I know separated but equal never is. I also know schools full of kids with no expectation of or interest in college; schools that are predominantly black. When I substitute taught, I guarantee I met no Ivy League-educated teachers -- even in the wealthy school districts -- like the principal of Moton School was.

I was charmed to learn that Barbara Johns, a student leader of a 1951 student strike -- one that led the teens of Prince Edward County to be folded into Brown --  went on to become a librarian. I was interested to see she was something of an "outside agitator," a New Yorker staying with grandparents.

One moment of clear uplift and understanding came from my internal rebuttal to a quotation from a segregationist.

The second from the last was easy: I have been made better by attending integrated schools. There's that to be thankful for on the day we remember the life of Rev. King. There's that to be thankful of as we approach the swearing in of a horrific bigot as our president. I, at least, have been elevated.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World, by Laurence Scott


The introduction and first chapter -- essay? -- present the meat of what drew me to this title. Scott asserts that smartphones and social media push us into a fourth dimension. We are often both with friends face-to-face while we connect to people online: we are "co-present."

Social media, for example, makes a moment four-dimensional by scaffolding it with simultaneity, such that it exists in multiple places at once. A truth and a cliche of digital life is that our comeliest meals occur both on our table and in the pockets and on the desks of our international 4D colleagues, a meal to be both eaten and approved of. (p. xv - xvi)

You're living four dimensionally when you are aware that n people are also tracking this eBay item, considering that same flight.

We're still shaping the etiquette of living four dimensionally: "one illusion that we're continually perfecting is not simply how to be here and there at the same time, but how to be there while looking like we're here." (p. 15) He offers the poignant example of UK's moment of silence on Remembrance Day: people lead a drive to extend it to online life -- and to achieve that goal, they had to be super-noisy in the fourth dimension to call for digital silence at the appointed time. Also, some automatic posts embarrassingly broke the silence (pp. 49-51).

Considers fb HBDs

He explores though an example how we feel when we follow an active, lively 4D acquaintance: "When we met in person I felt that see-saw of inequality that arises when in the presence of someone famous. I knew more about her than she me .... Such is the imbalance between the prolific social-media-ite and the silent loiterer." (p. 133)

"Fully fledged young 4D adults find it natural and efficient for ads to be (in the cosy language of marketing) 'targeted at you.' How crude it must seem to them now, this idea that television commercials used to some at us, in comparison, like grapeshot, rather than lined up through a sniper's sight." (p. 148)

We've all seen, he says, that digital screen destroy our sleep; we resolve to keep devices distant from the bed. "Except there's no landline now, sitting venerable on that little table by the stairs. What if someone needs us in the middle of the night. That is a call we should take. And so the phone stays resting on the nightstand...." (p. 168)  THIS

Ends with how we present our best selves online - we tell all, but not really.


Monday, February 22, 2016

California Bird List

The BBF and I visited Palm Springs, California! I snuck in some birding. There were quite a few things I saw but could not identify -- warblers, sparrows, and hummingbirds. Very disappointed that I could not identify a single hummer! But look at all the highlighted ones for my life list! Here's one list for three days (backyard, small city park, Indian Canyon):

mourning dove
Eurasian collared-dove
house sparrow 
white-crowned sparrow
western bluebird
ladder-backed woodpecker
yellow-rumped warbler
chipping sparrow
Oregon junco 
house finch
black phoebe

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Read this Washington Post article about nostalgia web, and it's a poignantly appropriate time. P and I have split up, and as happens when one turns single again, I need a new place for the daily brain dump. A "new" place to talk about what they guy said (about my accent?) when I volunteered at the marathon water table; about work; about what I read about blogging and whether I miss it.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

So Richmond

My library location will be replaced by a new building this fall, so we're all cleaning out not only our own accumulated junk -- this calendar illustration I loved, for instance -- but also almost 40 years of library paraphernalia. Old photos show me that we got rid of some things weird wall hangings and what not, but many office supply type things were still in place. I memorialized some library and office supplies here. A few pictures of old library interiors are here.

The painting is from a calendar that came in Richmond Magazine. I love the way it reminds me of all of my apartments at once.