November 13, 2015

NERFA - Day One

First day at NERFA (my second) under my belt.

I got up here a bit late (3:30 pm) - was intending to hit the road by noon, but got out a little late, and stopped multiple times en route (lunch, gas, grocery, and coffee), and it was a grey and rainy day which slowed the drive (especially over the mountain). Still, I got here in daylight and the weather cleared a bit for unpacking the car and the yoga toys. 

A CT registered car followed me over the mountain, turned out to be my Falcon Ridge friends Paul and Barbara, who I greeted in the parking lot. First of a bunch of friends from the festival and the local folk world I found yesterday - Anne and Bub from Falcon Ridge, Nancy (one of our merch tent crew who I did not initially remember), Barbara from CT Folk, Ethan and Jake from Pesky J. Nixon, Falcon Ridge mainstay Brad Yoder (the only artist I've actually played with, by dint of Ben's Silly Songs written for the volunteer open mic), local fave Kate Callahan (back for her second year, after have a quad showcase last year), and Ira and Julia Levin (aka The Levins) who had a well deserved DJ Spotlight slot this year. It feels a little more like "family" this year which is nice.

I settled in to my hotel room (roomie arrives today, a Canadian singer songwriter named Bobby Dove whose internet footprint brings to mind a young KD Lang) and rearranged the deck chairs (the room had a clear "bed wedged in the corner" feel and I wanted to give my roomie space, a desk, etc. so I pushed shit all over). It's a step up from last year, but not a BIG step up....

Last year the DJ Favorite's showcase was a bit too crowded - they seemed to have more seating this year so I was able to sit and listen through most of it - missed a few artists for bathroom and beverage breaks.

Some notables (in no particular order):

Mt. Thelonius - Interesting jazz/folk fusion, novel way they used folk instruments. Not really my cup of tea but I appreciated something different.

Davey O - Kind of omni-present here at NERFA and in the folk world in general, first time I got to sit and listen. Enjoyable, sweet.

Kirsten Maxwell - Had a sort of early Dar Williams vibe (think "As Cool As I Am") - I really liked her energy, playing, singing.

The Levins - What's to say? Dear, sweet, talented people, dare I say friends. Their songs and harmonies make me want to cry and melt this crusty soul.

Evie Laden Band - Has she played Falcon Ridge? If so, how have I missed her. Just amazing claw-hammer banjo with a couple of sidemen. She turned an old folk standard"Your Face" on it's head and charmed with her prelude about having Peggy Seeger listen to it. LOVED her lots.....

Caroline Cotter - My NERFA yoga teacher and a sweet woman (with a bump upon her head, she ought to cover Suzanne Vega's song Gypsy this weekend) - and pretty damn poised to come out with an a capella sing-along. She had the goods to carry it off.

Meghan Cary - A FRFF Emerging Artist, glad to hear her outside of the fest. A ton of energy and a strong performer. I picked up her latest CD after fest so it will get a fresh listen.

Fendrick & Peck - Unplugged duo using a single mic; they were funny as hell (vibing Burns & Allen) and talented too - definitely want to hear / see more of them. My only complaint, they were a little far from the mic so there was a slight feedback bubble forming throughout their performance.

Annika Bennett - the NYU freshman who wowed Falcon Ridgeas an Emerging Artist, and has continued that here at NERFA.

Rik Barron - Extra credit for going last. A journeyman who was charming and solid - I was not really expecting much but he won me over. He played two quick ones and said goodbye, when the moderator told him he had more time he came back with a solid song. Well played, getting an encore in the DJ set :)

I did not do much in the way of guerilla's (as evidenced by my sitting in the lobby blogging this morning) but I snuck up to Cup of Joe #2 (Joe Virga) for a few songs by my friend Kate Callahan (she and Joe did a kind of song swap) and a nlovely surprised, David Massengill followed up. David was so sweet (no surprise there) and despite speaking about arthritis that has impacted his dulcimer playing, looks to be in good health and spirits.

Interesting, two of the artists I covered back when I did Open Mics (and we're talking 20 years ago here) - David Massengill (#1 in America) and Kate McDonnell (Ordinary Man) are both at NERFA this year. I hope to chat a bit with them both before the weekend is out.

The quiet of the lobby is kind of refreshing - the energy of this conference is a bit overwhelming, with so many people looking to make contacts, be seen and heard, catch up with old friends. I'm giving myself some time for quiet, for stillness, in the middle of this music whirlwind.

November 10, 2015

NERFA and Me - Round II

I'm headed back to NERFA (North East Regional Folk Alliance) this week, an annual "industry conference" designed to connect folk and acoustic musicians with venues, DJs, promoters, managers, and service providers.

I go ostensibly as part of my "crew chief" role at Falcon Ridge (I get to meet and work with so many of these musicians each year) but mostly I go because I'm too damn busy during Falcon Ridge to actually site out front and listen to the music, so this is myself reward.

The conference itself is a bit overwhelming - rather than doing full concerts, musicians are showcased on two nights - with a large auditorium show (five+ acts) followed by the "quads", four simultaneous showcases in breakout rooms, with another five acts. So there are 50 musicians / bands in official showcases, plus a handful of other formal showcases.

In addition to that bountiful harvest, there are daytime workshops on music industry, targeted at performers, managers, venues, etc. (always something interesting), and a chance to mix and mingle with other folkies.

And then there are the informal, or guerrilla showcases. Many attendees choose to convert their hotel rooms into small concert venues late at night or during off peak hours, and musicians roam the halls, instruments in hand, to play 10 or 15 minutes to intimate audiences. Needless to say, a lot of magic goes down as musicians sit in with others, play unusual songs, etc. I confess to just tasting the guerrillas last year - we'll see how long I last this year. Even if the late night showcases don't work, there are song circles and jam sessions that sprout up throughout the weekend, in every available space and nook.

In addition to all this, it's a fine get-away weekend for me (who rarely / ever takes time off or a vacation) - there are ample and diverse meals included in the room & board price (an opportunity to eat well and reasonably healthy), there is morning yoga (courtesy of musician Caroline Cotter, and your truly, who is bringing along her stock of mats, blankets, and props), and there the usual resort hotel amenities (pool, exercise room, etc.) if I wish to partake of them.

Looking forward to my second year!

August 31, 2015

Om Street Follow-up

Two bits of video footage from the Om Street event, this past July.


First, a time-lapse video of the entire class, as captured from the roof of the Elbow Room. Since I suggested that the still photographer see if he could get in to the Elbow Room for the first Om Street event, and suggested a time-lapse video for this one, I take partial credit, although Breck McNab set it up and created the wonderful video.

And second, a drone video which really gives some idea of the scale of the event - the time-lapse video is impressive but there's a certain collapsing of the depth of field and length of the space that the drone footage makes evident. You can even see me, right side of the still frame above, working the sound board.

It's kind of cool to be in the middle of, and integral to, this sort of event. Although there's a small part of me that would love to assist and/or practice.

August 17, 2015

Camp Camp Farewell Farewell

After four years of spending a week in August in the woods of Maine at an LGBT summer camp, called Camp Camp, I've decided to take a year off.

Camp is doing some organizational / management things that have resulted in the annual fees increasing significantly, even for staff members. While I could certainly make it happen if I were highly motivated, I'm not highly motivated. I've become pretty ambivalent about the experience, I'll try to flesh that out a little here.

First off, an internal problem. I have this tendency of getting involved / embedded into an organization or event in such a way that I'm not so much enjoying the event as I am working. Camp has become that way for me - I do almost no formal activities, the evening stuff seems like an effort, and between official and unofficial responsibilities: teaching yoga, rainbow group leader, talent show set-up - it felt more like a job. If I were getting more back, I guess I'd feel OK about that, but more and more I felt like I was putting in time, trying hard, serving others, not getting too much back.

On some level, that's an "It's not you, it's me" kind of thing - increasingly I've felt myself having a "stranger in a strange land" experience, feeling as if I move through, observe, serve this human species without actually being a member. I guess I've come to accept this feeling of alienation and separateness in the mainstream world; I take the moments of connection where I can find them. But to have that experience in a queer ghetto like camp is particularly difficult and painful.

Added to that is an increasing sensitivity and awareness of the difficulty of negotiating what is predominantly a G/L camp as a transwoman. While there is a "gender free" cabin (that, for the most part, is not occupied by transfolk), all of the out transwomen at camp have ended up in the same cabin in a way that has increasingly felt ghetto-izing and exclusionary. While I've never experienced trans-exclusionary-rad-fem (TERF) attitudes at camp, there are the occasional MWMF shirts and hats visible, and my own suspicions that the egregious / outspoken TERFs are just the tip of a much larger iceberg of lesbian women who don't see transwomen as women.

Last year, a camper of color made some waves with regard to a tea dance outfit (a rough approximation of drag geisha) and a talent show outfit (an afro wig, glasses, dashiki that was supposed to be hippie chic, but was perhaps somewhat colonizing of african american fashion). I was not too involved or invested in that discussion, but it kind of hit me square in the face how she was empowered / entitled to her discomfort with these encroaches, while as a transwoman, I'm sitting in a camp filled with nontrans men doing drag, and kind of sitting on my own discomfort / difficulty. Blackface (however mild) - bad. Transface - no big deal.

Finally, with the increase in cost, I felt that there would be a continued and increasing skewing of the camp population towards men (more money) - although I know camp is not really a "dating and mating" experience, its still nice to have that possibility. Between coupled women (many) and fewer women, well, the odds are growing increasingly long. Again, moving through the straight world, I've kind of grown accustomed to spending time alone, not having a lot of support or relationship opportunities  - but spending a week at a relatively "target rich environment" such as camp and feeling similarly uncoupled and ineligible is particularly painful. 

So - no camp for me, this year, this year for sure and possibly into the future. I'd rather spend the time and money at something that I get more out of (such as the NERFA conference).

July 26, 2015

Om Street 2015: From the Soundboard

Om Street: Yoga on LaSalle went off yesterday without a hitch.

About 1,800 Gather In West Hartford For Outdoor Yoga (Hartford Courant)

‘Om Street’ Draws More Than 1,700 Yogis (


You can actually see me in this photo, I'm the orange dot in the front / left, at the sound board. 
Once again, I was in the middle of it all, setting up and running the sound system for the event.

I've been involved in this event from the very start.
Aug 6, 2011: A few days back I started sniffing around to be sure Barb could connect her wireless headset to the sound system. I was a little shaky on the sound system Lululemon had rented (a battery powered PA from Taylor Rental, never did get the power or model) so I decided to bring the studio kirtan sound system. It rocked all the way to the back rows.

And we've grown the tech each year as the event has grown. Last year I set up a zoned PA system (a second satellite PA, 200' down the road, with a delay line to match the sound from the main system). This year, we added a third PA (and a second delay line) and I convinced the band (the talented Craig Norton and Co. / Hands on Drumming) to let me mix them through the board. (in previous years, they ran a PA and I took a feed into the mains)

Green: Road Closed Off / Blue: Stages / Red: Speakers / Yellow: Audio Table
It's a bit of a challenge - I was out on LaSalle Road at 5:30 am (for an 8:00 am event) and it was all I could do to get it set up. It helped that I pre-staged a lot; putting together a board with power, mixer and delay units for the satellite PAs (see right) and setting up and testing the entire system at the studio on Friday night. Even with all that, I had some issues with the speaker cables (bad cables and/or bad connectors) but it all got fixed.

Today is a recovery day; even though there was help on hand from the studio, I still did a lot of the lifting, cabling, and clean-up myself - it's quicker to coil a 100' cable the right way myself, rather than have someone else do it and then have to redo it at home, and I had 400' of XLR, 600' of power, and 300' of speaker cable to deal with. I'm 54 here - doing sound for this sort of thing is a task for  younger legs, shoulders, feet and back!

Glad it's over, glad the weather cooperated, glad there were no significant technical problems. And thank to the Twitter, a bit of feedback live from the event.

July 22, 2015

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2015 - Merch Tent Prep

Even though my near focus is on Om Street: Yoga on LaSalle (and the three sound systems, 600' of power cord, 400' of audio cable, and multiple mixers, delay boxes, wireless headsets, and mics that I need to cobble together to make it all work), I spent a good chunk of today immersed in preparation for the 2015 edition of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.

Checked off my to-do list in the past couple of days:
  1. Finalized the 2015 pre-fest spreadsheet (researched and input most of the artists' CDs), printed out all pages, and created the three binders we need to make it work
  2. Printed out 6 copies of the schedule (yellow paper this year, I had a pile of it lying around) and laminated same for the merch tent / trailer
  3. Printed out table cards for all artists
  4. Purchased (24) 5"x7" plastic sign holders and made placeholder signs and download card signs for these  
  5. Ordered the little removable colored dots we use to color code / price merch
  6. Checked out the old printer (still going strong, since 2007) and replaced the ink cartridges (need to buy a couple of spares tomorrow)
  7. Checked 3-hole punch paper (1.5 reams should be enough)
  8. Booted up the laptop and updated software / virus protection, and loaded up the 2015 spreadsheet
  9. Unpacked and repacked the merch trailer bin
New for 2015:
  • The placeholder (no merch yet) / download cards (available at cashier) signs 
  • LED lights (I'm always a little nervous about the site electrical, plus the LEDs will be less hot if it's a hot / humid year
  • A new desk lamp that has been sitting in my office for a few years unopened, I'll donate it to the fest and that will free up the one we've been using

July 08, 2015

Project Saturn Window Regulator 2015

It started off innocently enough. I had two worn tires on my 2007 Saturn Ion (I am rather notorious about not rotating tires, so the front ones wear out much more quickly than then rear) so I went to Town Fair Tire yesterday morning to purchase new ones. All went smoothly, but when I went to drive away, the driver's side window was stuck down - the motor engaged, but all I got was a clicking noise that communicated "off the track" (a bit of an anachronism, turns out) or "gears slipping".

So I had a window stuck down, intermittent rain in the forecast, and no way to lock the car. When I got home, I dug around online to find out how to take the interior door trim off, in order to at least pull the window up, and found this gem.

Easy enough; I gathered the tools and proceeded. The interior moisture barrier was a bit of a challenge (glued on, removing it involved more tearing than I'd prefer) but all good. But this really did not give me sufficient access to the window to either manually raise it, or so see what was going on. So I decided to remove the exterior plastic door panel, also with the aid of a Youtube video (albeit a much more coarse and in some ways amusing one)

Fortunately, I have a full collection (several different sets in fact) of star and security bits, so the door panel was not a big challenge. The result, a somewhat freakish looking driver's side door that was nevertheless fully driveable.

Once apart, I was able to raise the window (about 1/2 way up, the gears engaged, and the power window kicked in), and although there was a bit of a sliding bolt adjustment on one of the support bars, I could not seem to improve the situation.

However, while I was Googling around for door removal information, I had stumbled upon door removal instructions published by Dorman Products, a company that makes the window motor / regulator assembly. They were very clear, copiously illustrated, and I realized that I was almost 1/2 way to the point of replacing this part myself, if I could find the part.

So I dug around online, found a "parts finder" at Advance Auto Parts, and within 10 minutes had purchased the part online, and was 30 minutes away from picking it up in downtown New Britain. My one mistake was not shopping around online (turns out I could have gotten the part for much less) but perhaps not within 30 minutes, and I do not think I wanted to drive around for a day or two with the door disassembled (parts were all over the front floor, the cup holders, and the back seat) for too long.

The actual replacement also went well, the Dorman Products instruction se4t I found was most helpful, as was yet another Youtube video (which turned out to be the master video that the door removal one above was clipped from)


I remain somewhat curious about the whole "left vs. right" issue - since the window regulator is not side specific, I assume it's mounted "backwards" in the passenger side door, but I'm not prepared to pull the door apart to find out. 

The regulator went in fairly easily; a little challenge to unclip the window from the old device and reseat it in the new device. Nothing got broken (those little plastic clips are notoriously easy to mangle, not to mention the big piece of glass), there were no parts left over, and I impressed myself by having everything I needed, tool wise (including Gaffer's Tape to hold the window in place during the repair). The Facebook video link below will have to suffice until I get the Vine-ish video of the window going up and down uploaded. 

My Facebook feed was somewhat engaged: 
  • Wow you're very handy (to which I replied "Poor more like it. Also self employed so I have time to mess around.")
  • Impressive
  • Nice job, just saved hundreds of $ 
So yeah, mischief managed, thanks in no small part to the information afforded me by Google, Youtube, and the Internet, and the content providers therein.   

June 29, 2015

No Job is Finished....

...until the paperwork is done.

I underwent a little change of identity back in 2003, before this blog started up. And though it rarely rises to the surface, I'm also not particular shy or closeted - it's just not on the front burner these days. I don't experience the same levels of discrimination or struggle that many members of Identity Trans do, so I'd just as soon step aside to permit other voices, other experiences to be heard, especially those less privileged and in more need of protection, legislation, assistance, or support.*

Now, part of transitioning is dealing with paperwork - things like state ID (driver's license, legal name change, birth certificate), federal ID (passport, social security, IRS), and the myriad of other places (credit cards, business affiliations, banks, insurance, employment) which keep track of names and/or gender. And most of this stuff I dealt with back in 2003-4, when it was all kinda fresh.

A legal name change and CT driver's license were pretty easy, even back in '03. Social Security and Passport required some sort of confirmation surgery, back in the day, and I was privileged enough, and chose to undergo that sort of surgery, so also not too much of a big deal. But I was unfortunate enough to be born in New York City (St. Albans Naval Hospital in Queens, now a VA Extended Care Facility) and well, the City of New York was, for many years, a b*tch when it came to birth certificate changes.

Even for someone as privileged as I, the hoops needed to get a birth certificate amended were significant - a post-surgical psych exam, for instance (what would they do if I failed?), a post-surgical physical exam as well, both by NY State Certified docs. I have a file folder full of rejected applications from back in the day, and I simply gave up.

To be honest, it has not been that big a deal. With congruent state ID (driver's license) and federal ID (passport and social security), I have never needed my birth certificate for anything. If I had, I was also not particularly shy about disclosing my history (via my birth certificate and name change documents). So I've just never bothered. In fact, I've had a little bit of perverse pride in not getting it done, having grown up reading Orwell's 1984 and the Ministry of Truth. I lived 40 years under one name and gender, and it feels a little disingenuous to be effacing or rubbing out that part of my life. 

However, I've recently been on a "getting crap done" tear in my life - long dormant projects like cleaning, organizing, tossing, engaging. One of those was a corporate pension (I vested back in the 90s and so I'll get a little check every month when I retire) and they lost track of me (and never got word of my transition) so as I put together the paperwork for them, I looked into the NYC birth certificate amendment procedures. I know they've lightened up considerably (no longer requiring confirming surgery for instance). And although there are still some small hoops to jump through (a medical professional affidavit) it's minimal.

So I spent some time this afternoon collecting all the pieces - the affidavit from my doctor came in, and although it's probably not all required, I sent an original name change document (I got a bunch of them back in 2003 and have hung on to them), copies of my present documentation (passport and state ID), my NYC birth certificate, even my St. Albans Naval Hospital birth certificate with my footprints and fingerprints, time of birth (4:55 am, sorry Mom), birth weight (7 lbs. 4 oz.)

What does it mean? Who knows. In some ways, my lack of urgency to get this done reflects my privilege as a person who does not struggle with gender these days, whose gender is by and large recognized, honored, unquestioned, and who can live comfortable with a certain level of openness. So in a weird sort of way, putting the final nail in the coffin of my former identity gives me solidarity with those that are not so privileged, for whom a congruent birth certificate might be a matter of life or death. 

It will be in the mail tomorrow.  Be interesting to see how long it will take to come back, and if it will go through smoothly or if I will have one more rejection letter to add to the file.....

Edit: And the new birth certificate was delivered to me on Thursday, July 23 (very speedy service) along with an almost effusive cover letter inviting me to participate in a trans health / needs survey. What a difference a decade makes.....

* One (of several) reasons that I'm not a fan of Caitlyn Jenner's public transition, but that's another story, and one that I probably will not blog about. 

June 24, 2015

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival - 2015 Emerging Artists

Just released; I'll be plugging in links as I get the chance!

1 - Annika - Blauvelt NY
2 - Bernice Lewis - Williamstown MA
3 - Camela Widad - Mechanicsburg PA
4 - Chasing June - Rockaway NJ
5 - Dan Weber - Vancouver WA
6 - Gina Forsyth - New Orleans LA
7 - Jay Hitt - Butler PA
8 - Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers - Fayetteville NY
9 - Jessy Tomsko - Astoria NY
10 - Josh Brooks - Vergennes VT
11- Katie Dahl - Baileys Harbor WI
12 - Katrin - Brookline MA
13 - Liz & the Family Tree - NYC
14 - Mare Wakefield & Nomad - Nashville TN
15 - Mark Allen Berube -Brooklyn NY
16 - Mason Porter - Honey Brook PA
17 - Matt Harlan - Houston TX
18 - Meg Braun - Nashville TN
19 - Meghan Cary with Analog Gypsies - Erdenheim PA
20 - Mya Byrne - NYC
21 - Neptune's Car - Sutton MA
22 - Scott Wolfson & Other Heroes -Jersey City NJ
23 - Skout - NYC
24 - Teresa Storch - Longmont CO

June 21, 2015

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2015

Six weekends from now, I'll be finishing up a long week of camping, music, working (crew chief duties), friends, and fun at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. It will not be too long before I start to load up the performer merch spreadsheet, send out emails to all the performers and/or managers, and start to collect and organize my camping supplies, food and beverages, and my portable office to run the merch trailer.

I happened to pop by the Performers Page yesterday to refresh my memory about who will be there (and who will not) and I'm starting to get a little excited about the fest.

Old Faves: Wonderful to have Brother Sun coming back, they are really a "three-for" because each member of the group (Greg Greenway, Pat Wictor, and Joe Jencks) brings individual energy to the fest and the stages. Speaking of Pat Wictor, his "Most-Wanted" (if I recall correctly) partner Ellis will also be back this year - she's not been back in a while. Susan Werner has become more regular recently, a welcome addition. Nerissa & Katrina Nields (if they weren't coming, it would be news). The Grand Slambovians. June Rich (saw her at FRFF many years back, and not since). Jay Mankita (a long ago fave who has also resurfaced in the past few years).

Most Wanted: Caitlin Canty, Jean Rohe, Matt Nakoa, and Hayley Reardon (stepping in for Tumbling Bones, who will not make it in 2015) will be back this year, rising to the top of the polls from last year's Emerging Artist field. But mention to previous "Most Wanted" artists Ellis, Pat Wictor, Roosevelt Dime, ilyAIMY, and Pesky J. Nixon - all of whom are "home grown" emerging artists now coming back to main stage gigs. One thing I love about Falcon Ridge is the Emerging Artist showcase - in some ways the 24 artists who play short sets each year become my "bucket list" of artists to see in featured spots throughout the musical year.

New for 2015: Garnet Rogers, Judy Collins, Martyn Joseph (not really new, he visited a few years back, and I became a big fan, so welcome back!)

There are always "yeah, but....." artists out there - my FRFF core has been artists like Gorka, Larkin, Brown, Morrissey, Shindell, Kaplansky, Dar Williams, and well, they are getting older (or are no longer with us) and are perhaps a little rich for what has always been a bit of a struggling festival. I get to see them enough. Just being on a hillside in Hillsdale, with friends and music and sun (and rain) is generally sufficient....

June 16, 2015

Le Morte du Paper Files

When I started my consulting practice way back in 1995 (coming up on the 20th anniversary in December), I mirrored my corporate office / consulting practice for my home office / small business. When I last worked in corporate America (Philips Medical Systems), email was a new phenomena - I guess I had an email account, but it was mostly an in-house thing - the web was pretty thin, and most everything I did was via US mail and hard-copies.

A good part of my job at Philips was collecting information for obscure bits of technology, products, or technical solutions that I would reference, reproduce, and distribute as needed to international contacts, field service engineers, and management. So when I started my business, I found a used filing cabinet, and filled it with folders, like the one I left in my corporate office.

I had a lot of file folder categories:
  • Medical imaging OEMs (my primary client base) 
  • Tools and test equipment manufacturers (I used, and consulted on, various meters, loggers, and other test equipment)
  • Power conditioning technologies and specific manufacturers (things like surge suppressors, UPS systems, voltage regulators, transformers, and filters) 
  • Customer projects (perhaps 20-30 projects for my principal clients, over many years)
  • Business projects - advertising, marketing, registration, professional organizations, etc.
  • Personal files - credit, utilities, financial, insurance, etc.
It's been a good file cabinet - rugged, roller bearings, solid. Also, heavy as hell - I've moved it 4 times (Waterbury home office to Newington office space to Hartford home office to Newington office space to New Britain home office) plus a few trips up and down the stairs in Waterbury as my office moved. But somewhere along the line I did a paper purge; the files have been sitting empty for years, and it's been opened in recent memory only to search for art / office supplies in the single drawer I used to store my office supplies. So today was the day I decided to ditch the filing cabinet.

I pulled out 220 mainly empty file folders from the drawers: 
  • 111 Dark Green
  • 66 Tan 
  • 20 Red
  • 14 Blue
  • 9 extra wide / thick Dark Green
There's am 8" stack of mostly personal files (bills, insurance, etc. from 2006-2007 that somehow escaped disposal / filing in my annual tax boxes; I'll go through those at some point.  And there were a matching number of folder tags, which I removed from the folders, and am tasked with removing the slide-in labels.

I've got the cabinet up on Craigs List (Free!) and it will probably be gone tomorrow - I'll give away the hanging files and tabs as well if anyone will have them.

End of an era, I guess.  It's been a little bit nostalgic going through this today; old clients, old projects, an age when I was not sure what type of paying work I would find so I collected everything and anything. An age when a technical inquiry would involve a phone call, and result in a few faxed pages copied from a manual, or a thick envelope in the mail with the latest catalog. Today, it's all up and online, or perhaps an email and a PDF document away.

June 08, 2015

Social Media Rules: Facebook Edition

Rule 1: If you use your personal Facebook account to run your business, I will probably hide your feed. I'm happy that you are third level black belt Reiki or whatever you are, but if I have not specifically "liked" your business page, I really do not want it in my feed.

Rule 1A: If your personal Facebook page is a nonstop diatribe for or against anything - shelter dogs, politics, rights, activism, etc. I will also probably hide your page. I know the planet is warming, I know there are a lot of shelter dogs looking for homes, I know what the major political parties stand for.

Rule 2: If you do a spam mass invite to your event, class, workshop, etc. to your entire friends list, hiding you will not protect me. I'm going to unfriend you. If I want to know about your workshops, classes, gigs, etc. I will "like" your business page.

I'm not being too much of a crank here - my logic goes like this: I have (at the moment) nearly 700 Facebook friends. If every one of them acted like you do (mass invites) I'd be swamped with events - spending time every day declining things and probably losing track of things I *do* want to attend. You are decreasing the quality of my Facebook experience. Buh-bye.

I cut folks slack - a lot of slack, really, and am happy to get personal invites from people and for things I've shown some interest in, have "liked", occur 1-2 times a year, etc. But there are folks I've never met in person, inviting to things I'd never go to, on a weekly basis. And that's a no-no. 

May 29, 2015

Spring Cleaning

I have spent a good part of the last month "holed up".

May started with a bang - a spate of teaching (5 classes / 4 days), a long evening of teacher training video review, and then whoosh, off to North Carolina for a family reunion / graduation (my niece graduated from UNC-Wilmington). Ever since, I've been off my game.

I've had a hard time pinning it down - some light-headedness / vertigo / fatigue that might be food related, might be something I picked up on the plane, might be anything. Since it came along the same time as our first wave of hot / humid summery weather, it kept me out of the studio and off my mat except for some home practice. That morphed into a sore throat a few days ago, and has since evolved into a full blown sinus event (sneezing, headache, post-nasal drip) which I am increasingly thinking might be allergies. I always seem to get a spring time "cold" but it's never been this debilitating; apparently one of the side effects of global warming is an increase in the duration and severity of pollen season (due to higher CO2), making things more miserable for allergy sufferers and perhaps pushing some of us into full blown attacks.

As annoying as this phase of things it, at least it feels like stuff is moving out.

So the past month has been a pretty reclusive time - I've not felt up to socializing, have hardly hit the studio at all. I've done a few social things - a Red Sox game last weekend, dinner with friends, some band rehearsal - but in general I'm hunkered down.

That has not been a bad thing, though; I've been going on a cleaning spree; kitchen, bathrooms, living room, bedroom, yoga room, basement / office area. Some of the harbingers of "this is not a drill" spring cleaning include:
  • Purge the fridge
  • Cleaning out the hidden basement areas: office, tool area, the storage closet, laundry area
  • Completing my season clothing transition well before memorial day
  • Recycling multiple bags of clothing; giving away some tech (a small TV and an antenna) that have been sitting for years unused. 
  • Working on living room carpet stains (Elo is pretty good about pee and poop, but he does puke now and then, and also never misses an opportunity to grab food off the counter and drag it into the living room for a little party) - and I'm not all that careful about dragging stuff in on my shoes.  
I could, technically, have friends over to visit. Not that this is likely, but it COULD happen.

Heading into a teacher training weekend; which ought to be challenging (giving the present state of my body, allergies, and sinuses) but I'm a very reluctant drug taker - I've only recently started to dose with alka-seltzer cold meds, and night-time cough/cold syrup (I awoke dazed but apparently well-rested this morning), and I'm going to venture out to CVS for some of the new fangled allergy meds that I've never taken before.

At least it's silent weekend at teacher training, so I'll be able to rest my voice (not demanded for the staff, but I like to honor the silence as much as possible). And hopefully, with the weekend behind me, and pollen abating, I'll get my sorry butt back into the world. 

May 22, 2015

Lawn Mower Saga: Gas vs. Electric

I live in a small (4 unit) condo that has a very low monthly fee, and a bit of a do-it-yourself ethos among the residents.

My first year here, the lawn care (previously handled by the guy I bought the condo from, who had been the long time association president) was arranged by the new president, mostly cousins or acquaintances. The lawn was often over-grown, and when it got cut, it was somewhat cursory.

My second year, I volunteered to cut the grass for a nominal fee, just to keep it somewhat under control. I'm a fan of the "broken windows" theory of crime prevention, and the sketchy lawn care was, I feared spreading to a general degradation of the condo value and safety. I got a few bucks per cut, although the president was a little concerned I was cutting too often; I told her just pay me whatever per month and I'd take care of it - and have over the years assumed general responsibility for the outdoors (cutting the grass, trimming, picking up litter, patching potholes). I used a beater gas mower that belonged to the association.

Last year, after five years, the old mower died, and rather than get it fixed, I invested in a low cost ($200) Troy Bilt mower, which I used last year, and which sat behind the unit (as did its predecessor) all winter. Last week, after I cut the lawn, the mower disappeared. I suspect somebody saw the old mower (which I had finally put out to the curb for town pick-up / junkers a week before) and realized there was probably a newish mower around back, and walked off with it.

Called the cops, filed a report, even had the model and engine serial number, but it's gone. Not worth filing an insurance claim (what with deductibles).

After sitting on the decision for a week, I finally went out and bought a new mower. I decided I would not leave the new mower sitting out unprotected; it either had to be locked up or brought in (to my basement, also my office). Not wanting to bring gas into the condo, I decided to go with an electric lawnmower; picking up a Kobalt 13A, 21" mower ($179) and a 100' extension cord. I did a small test cut today to (a) see how the mower worked, and (b) ensure that the cord could reach the entire condo. Looks good on both counts.

In general, the mower is very similar to the old gas model. A bit lighter than the gas mower (positive) but the need to work with / around the cord is a bit of a pain. The mower is a three way (mulcher / bagger / side exit) so no problems there. Although it feels like a lot less power and gets bogged down in thick grass, it seems to cut fine; I suspect moving slowly, cutting in thin strips, and keeping the blade sharp will be important.

And while I made this purchase for completely practical / pragmatic reasons (deciding that the hassle of a corded mower and bringing it in was less than the hassle of locking up a gas mower), there's an ecological upside as well. I've always known gas mowers to be problematic, in terms of pollution, but never really looked too deeply. Per National Geographic:
In 2009, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that an hour of gas-powered lawn mowing produces as much pollution as four hours of driving a car. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also recognized the alarming amount of pollution generated by lawn mowers. In 2008, the EPA created rules to enforce manufacturers of lawn mowers and weed whackers to cut smog-forming emissions from their products by at least 35 percent starting in 2011.
So after a lifetime of using a regular old gas mower, I am now an electric mower. We'll see how it works, long term.