Gym noise (02)

Here’s the recent(ish) list of videos I’ve watched at the gym.

Okay, so it hasn’t been a lot. I’ve been listening to more Pod Save the People while running outside.

Conference roundup (2017)

2017 was a good year–and by that I mean very busy–for conferences. Here is a brief roundup of where I was.

January

Nothing!

February

FOSDEM (Brussels, Belgium)

March

LibrePlanet (Cambridge, MA)

April

Lectures in Paris

May

Linux Fest North West (Bellingham, WA)
OSCON (Austin, TX)

June

Nothing!

July

Readercon (Boston, MA)

August

DebConf (Montreal, QC, Canada)

September

Nothing!

October

Leafest (Stowe, VT)
SeaGL (Seattle, WA)
All Things Open (Raleigh, NC)

November

Public Lab Barn Raising (Cocodrie, LA)
CubaConf (Habana, Cuba)

December

Chaos Communication Congress (Leipzig, Germany)

Of these, I spoke at:

For this, I was out of Boston for 65 days. (There were a few other travel days over the course of the year.)

I have my eye on a few new conferences for 2018, but also to drop a few of the ones I attended in 2017. For example, I don’t think I’ll be lecturing in Paris; I’m not attending FOSDEM this year. I submitted to the OSCON CfP, but it’s unlikely I’ll attend otherwise; I am planning on submitting to Open West.

I submitted to some conferences I was not accepted to, but I forget which. Sorry!

MollyGive 2017 wrapup

MollyGive 2017 has come to an end. Thanks, team!

Notes: An introduction

As always, I had a lot of fun with MollyGive. Sometimes it’s a little disappointing, but it’s also hearwarming, exciting, and full of discovery. I learn so much about the people in my life and what they care about.

As my salary is a matter of public record, I am going to spend this year talking not just in percentages, but specific numbers.

I worked about 75% of the year. The donation fund this year sat at just over nearly $4.8k. We went over this. That was unintentional…

Whenever a charity asked if I would pay the transaction fee, I did.

The donations

Basic numbers

Tithe funds: $4,794
Amount donate: $5,107.92
Percentage of income: 10.65%
Charities reached: 53
Number of donations matched: 64
Mean amount: $100
Median amount: $92.87
Mode amount: $100
Charities receiving over $100: 8
Charities with the most donations: Givewell; Software Freedom Conservancy
Number of charities outside the US: 3

Note: mean, median, and mode calculations were based on aggregations of donations per charity.

This year I grouped donations into the following categories:

  • animal rights
  • civil rights
  • digital rights
  • disaster relief
  • education
  • environmental (justice)
  • Givewell
  • medical
  • nonprofit support
  • political support
  • poverty support

Charts and graphs

Here are some charts I made.

Number of donations by organization type

A bar chart in multiple colors showing donations by category.

A pie chart in multiple colors showing donations by category.

Value (USD) of donations by organization type

A bar chart in multiple colors showing donations by amount.

A pie chart in multiple colors showing donations by amount.

The Charities

Most of these are 501(c)3s, registered charities. There are some 501(c)4s. I actually cheated my own rules: over the course of the year, if someone said they were giving to a crowdfunding medical campaign, I gave $50 to it. I later donated a matching amount to MassCare. I -also- donated to one educational crowdfunding campaign and then made a matching donation to a project that supports growing technical communities.

There are some charities I like, that I normally donate to, but I just ran out of funds this year. 🙂 They’ll be at the top of my list next year.

    • 350.org
    • Act Blue
    • Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)
    • AIDS Lifecycle
    • Alloy
    • American Forest Foundation
    • American Indian College Fund
    • Animal Rescue League
    • ARC Cancer Support Center
    • As You Sow
    • Barrets Town
    • Black & Pink
    • Casa Myrna
    • Charity Navigator
    • Congenital Heart Walk
    • Conservancy
    • DSA
    • EFF
    • Effing Foundation
    • END Fund’s deworming program
    • Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative
    • Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water
    • Evidence Action’s No Lean Season
    • FSF
    • GiveDirectly
    • GiveWell
    • Giving Spirit LA
    • Go Fund Me – Medical
    • Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program
    • Hispanic Federation
    • Homeless Coalition
    • Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program
    • MassCare
    • National Parks Foundation
    • Operation USA
    • OSI
    • Parts and Crafts
    • People for Fairness Coalition
    • Public Lab
    • Rosie’s Place
    • Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI)
    • Secularism.org.uk
    • Sightsavers’ deworming program
    • Somerville homeless coalition
    • Southern Poverty Law Center
    • Water Foundation
    • Woodhull Foundation
    • You Caring
    • YVIO

    My thoughts

    Lessons from this year

    Over the past year, I’ve participated in running several nonprofit, small donor fundraising campaigns. I took what I learned from these to push MollyGive with mild-aggression. I’ve been running MollyGive since around 2012 (I think), and this is the first year I’ve used the entirety of the funds.

    It always makes me a little sad when people like, retweet, and share relevant social media bites but don’t participate themselves. Over the past couple of years, I’ve taken to giving them the benefit of the doubt (after my initial sigh): I remind myself that not everyone feels able to give.

    This year, out of curiosity, I spoke with a few of them. I also had someone else approach me and offer a similar explanation: They think MollyGive is a great idea, but, since they have more means, and are planning on giving anyway, they don’t want to take that opportunity away from someone else. That was nice to know, and nice to think about. Thanks, friends for being so thoughtful with your giving.

    General thoughts, personal thoughts

    MollyGive is still a very silly name, that feels a little egoizing to use. After a number of years, I’ve gotten used to it. The first year it felt like a bit of a lark. Having just wrapped up its sixth year, I’ve found that other people have come to take MollyGive as seriously as I do–even though the name seems a little silly. As I’m writing this, I wonder if giving something a silly name helps it be more fun, or more approachable.

    I can’t get over how generous everyone was this year. I really can’t.

    It was suggested to me that I am outsourcing a not-insignificant amount of my decision making. This is true–I believe in expertise. I trust the opinions of others, especially concerning things I know little to nothing about (e.g. nonprofits working on education reform).

    Lessons for next year

    I think next year I am going to put a soft limit on the amount a given charity can receive. This is for personal reasons. I was using funds from outside the tithe account at the end of the month (see: going over 100%!!!). I am excited about the outcome–really–but I also wished I had been able to reach some other groups that I like and didn’t have a chance to get to this year.

    I’d love to somehow expand MollyGive. One suggestion someone gave me is to invite people who want to give, but want to outsource their decision making, to join me by promising their funds.

    Acknowledgements

    I don’t think I’ve ever written this before, but I’d like to thank Katrina Romangoli. She put the idea for MollyGive into my head in the early 2000s. I’d also like to mention Madeleine and Chris Price Ball, for the inspiration their yearly giving brings me.

    I’d also like to thank the socio-economic situation that allows me to do this. I am really grateful.

    To everyone who donated: thank you so so so much. We gave over $10,000 to charities. I’d like to give a special shout out to the people who helped me find new charities I’d never heard of, the student who is struggling financially who gave $20, and the people generous enough to give over $1000.

travel

I travel a lot. Not as much as people who are travelers–people who define themselves by the thing. In general, that’s a theme in my life: I do X more than the average person, but not as much as the average person who takes on that identity.

I leave the US a handful of times a year. In 2017 I went to Brussels, Paris, Montreal, Cuba, and, now, Leipzig. It looks like 2018 will include a trip to Australia, a few to Canada, and, hopefully, one or two to Europe. I miss my nephew (who is a baby and lives in Paris).

I probably leave Boston about once a month. 2017 was a fairly unique year, and I think I averaged a week out of town a month.

Okay, so I guess I do travel a lot.

The thing is, traveling -terrifies- me. Every time. Every single time.

Traveling within the United States makes me a little nervous. As long as you have a credit card and a pocket computer (and ideally a lap computer) you’ll be okay. I have these things. I also have a driver’s license and a passport, and am pretty good at keeping both of these with me most of the time.

Traveling internationally, however, means the phone function of your pocket computer is significantly less useful, your credit card may not work, and you need an adapter for your laptop charger. It is suddenly much easier for something to go wrong.

Also, the passport/driver’s license redundancy breaks down. In fact, losing your passport will throw you into a cascading adventure of bureaucracy, stress, and mounting express fees.

Add into this mix not speaking the language (as is usually the case for me. If I do speak any of it it’s mostly limited to ordering an espresso (as in one), or occasionally a croissant as well. Okay, I can generally express wanting an object).

Traveling internationally quickly can become much less exciting and much more nerve racking. The conversation now heavily relies on not just what can go wrong, but how to compensate for your lack of native knowledge should something go wrong.

Take today for example:

My debit card isn’t working at the ATMs. It turns out, one of my friends is also having this same problem (albeit in a different part of Germany). We have the same bank. Neither of us can call our bank, because we’re in Germany, because it’s Christmas, and because we’re in Germany on Christmas. Tomorrow, we may be able to call our bank, but neither of us could go to a German bank for help, because it’s the day after Christmas and we’d be in Germany on the day after Christmas–which counts as second Christmas according to a calendar I saw! They have two Christmases in Germany.

I usually don’t even have one.

So, now I have 15 euros (actually 11.81, because I bought a double espresso). I have a credit card, and the fees, while annoying, are something I can survive. However, I still don’t have any cash, and it’s not really feasible to do everything I need with a card.

Alternatively, I could find a friend (or friends) and buy them something (with my card) in exchange for cash. Maybe I could pay for someone’s hotel room, or take a big group out to dinner. Well, what if my card doesn’t work then? It will just be embarrassing.

In order to attack any of this, I need to find somewhere with wifi, which is what took me to the Starbucks where I spent 3 euro 19 purchasing an espresso so I felt okay using their wifi to text people. (Signal has been life changing for travel.) This doesn’t help me with the ATM problem, but it does make me feel less alone in Germany.

I’m kicking myself for not having a bigger stash of euros at home.

I know I’ll figure this out, but in the meantime I’m in Germany, all I can do is order espresso and say “eine bisse bitte” when someone asks me if I want sugar with my espresso and I only recognize that they’re offering me sugar because when I used to just say “ja” to every transactional question, I would end up with too-sweet coffee whenever they said the word sucre,

CDN expressed something along the lines of being impressed at my seemingly flawless confidence when it comes to getting on planes or trains, taking ferries and cars, and a deep love of discovering public transit systems and shortcuts through alleys. The thing is, every time I do any of this–whether it’s taking the yellow line on the BART and hoping I don’t miss the last stop before it crosses between San Francisco and East Bay (or East Bay and SF) or being pretty sure the woman who is going to check my ticket on the train is going to yell at me, in German, for something i don’t know I’ve done wrong and I can’t get another coffee, which my soul needs to survive the German woman who is inevitably going to be yelling at me–I am terrified. It’s scary and it’s hard.

Being in another country, whether you’re visiting or live there, when it’s not the place you carry native knowledge from–that’s a struggle. Every day of being in a place that’s foreign (whatever that means to you) brings with it a small but constant struggle that just makes you tired. It can be your brain doing that extra little work trying to understand languages you don’t speak at all; or not being able to tell if the packet you’ve picked up is baking powder or baking soda because it doesn’t say “sodium bicarbonate” anywhere, but the illustration of a cake and some cookies and a muffin makes you pretty sure it is one of those things; or just walking too slow (or fast) on the escalator. Walking on the escalator at all.

Life is full of constant, unconscious decisions we know instinctively based on knowing where we are. When we don’t know where we are, we struggle to make it work. We have to think consciously about these things or, when we don’t, we put more energy into it than the seamless flow of our life at home.

I travel a lot for my profession. I really do enjoy it, both my work in free software and traveling. I’m tired and it’s hard, but it’s valuable. There is a real purpose to putting myself on a train, a plane, another plane, a shuttle bus, another train, a subway car, and then a short walk in order to end up in the place where I’ll meet the people I need to meet, have the conversations I need to have, and build the ideas without which there would be no progress.

Besides, going interesting places is the most interesting thing about me. I have a credit card, a pocket computer, a passport, and an ability to be so terrified I appear confident.

emacs

For years I used Gedit as a text editor. I didn’t need one to do anything other than write, save, cut, copy, paste, and give me word counts. Usually, for long things, I would use LibreOffice, but Gedit served all of my note taking, idea sketching, and song writing needs.

Then it wasn’t sufficient anymore.

Over time I needed (or at least wanted) my text editor to do more. Text wrapping, working in split screens, and even just highlighting the beginning and ends of parentheticals. So, I switched to emacs.

Why emacs?

Well, I knew a lot of people who used emacs. That’s about it. Having friends use it means having a convenient support staff.

What I don’t like about emacs.

Key bindings are those things like how Ctrl-c copies selected text. Emacs uses wacky key bindings. I have some post-it notes with my favorite key bindings on them. Since emacs uses different key bindings than everything else, you have to code switch every time you move between, say, a web browser and emacs. Yes, I know you can set up extensions so all the typing you do into a browser is actually managed through emacs, I just don’t know how to do that yet.

The most annoying thing about emacs is that if you select text and start typing it looks like:

This is an example.

to…

Of when you try to replace text. This is an example.

Annoying, right?

This is EVEN MORE ANNOYING when you have to copy and delete a large swath of text. After you copy it (alt-w), it deselects the text and you have to find it all again.

Some neat things I like to do in emacs

Here are some of my favorite / most used commands in emacs.

Save and close

  • crtl-x ctrl-s, save
  • ctrl-x ctrl-c, save and quit

Copy, paste, and other basics

  • alt-w, copy selected text
  • ctrl-w, cut selected text
  • ctrl-y, paste text

Misc

  • ctrl-x h, select all
  • ctrl-x u, undo
  • ctrl-s, search
  • ctrl-g, cancel the command you’ve already started entering

That last one is the most important command in emacs. So important, I bolded it.

flyspell

Flyspell. Seriously. I can’t get over it. Maybe just because it’s new. Flyspell has changed my life. It’s a live spell checker, which was the greatest failure of emacs for most of my time using it.

alt-x flyspell-mode

This turns on flyspell.

alt-x flyspell-buffer

This runs spell check on the buffer (i.e. all the previous text you’ve entered).

I am using flyspell RIGHT NOW.

Frequent frustrations

Here are a few mistakes I make semi-frequently:

  • ctrl-v, this takes you to the bottom of the document (buffer) or something.

Actually, that’s the only one I could come up with right now in relation to key bindings.

Anyway, that’s my brief guide to emacs. There are more commands I use, but they come up infrequently enough that I need to look it up each time.

I love emacs–or maybe I should say I love using an extensible text editor that can, a far as I can tell, do anything given the right combination of keystrokes and sheer willpower.

MollyGive 2017

Monday launches one of my favorite parts of the year: MollyGive.

Frequently Asked Questions, Frequently Questioned Answers

What is MollyGive?

You donate up to $100 to a charity and I match it. I know many of you will be waiting until the last minute to donate (I do that too, usually), but I’ll be traveling December 24th – 31st. So, donations in by December 24th at 10AM EST.

How many charities can I give to?

As many as you want! I actually have a really hard time getting people getting people to tell me about their donations during MollyGive (maybe I have bad branding?), so, srsly, go wild.

What counts as a charity?

A 501(c)3 in the United States and something kind of flexible for non-US entities.

What about GoFundMe?

GoFundMe is not and should not be a substitute for public welfare and support. Unfortunately, it is. I give to medical GoFundMe campaigns and then make a donation to match that one to a healthcare reform advocacy group or Planned Parenthood.

Families USA is one President Barak Obama likes, and they do reasonably well on their CharityNavigator ratings on metrics I think are important.

Can you match my donation to the Linux Foundation?

No. You can’t really donate to the Linux Foundation. It is 501(c)6. This is a not-for-profit, not a non-profit. You could -give to- or -join- the Linux Foundation. Additionally, it’s a member based organization. They’d likely take my money separately if I contacted someone there, but I doubt I have enough for it to be really worth their while.

Where else won’t you give?

  • Organizations that are not 501(c)3s, with a special bitterness towards those who misappropriate terms like “donate” or misrepresent themselves.
  • Red Cross
  • Organizations that sell or “rent” donor lists
  • I’ll also be grumpy about ones that -share- donor lists, but I’ve been trying to do better with being grumpy about it.
  • Charities known for misspending funds.
  • Charities that are doing work I just disagree with.
  • I prefer to not donate to charities with high budgets because they simply don’t need the funds as much as other organizations.
  • I prefer to not give to groups who have highly paid EDs.
    • There are lots of reasons why one should pay an ED well–namely that a nonprofit is in direct competition with for-profits for qualified and skilled EDs. I just don’t think -anyone- needs to make that much.
  • The FSF. I should say, I won’t -match- donations to the FSF. I am a member and donate in addition to that during fundraising campaigns. I also work there. You should still totally donate to the FSF.

How do I pick a good charity?

That’s…up to you. I like to use Charity Navigator to help evaluate charities. (Disclosure: Charity Navigator gives the nonprofit for which I work a near perfect score, so I am a little partial to their judgment.)I’ve used GiveWell in the past, but am a little disillusioned with their methodologies at the moment. I’ll spare you all why for now.

Where do you donate? I don’t want to give somewhere you’re already giving.

If I donate there, I probably already care about it and would welcome the chance to give more. 🙂

I failed to do an analysis of my giving from 2016 (or 2015 for that matter, I’ll uhh, try to get up on that). You can however read a bit about past years.

I work in the digital rights sphere, with an emphasis on free software. In addition to my paid and volunteer time, I donate to a number of groups including the EFF, Fight for the Future, the FSF, the Open Source Initiative, and the Software Freedom Conservancy. The ACLU and ACLU of Massachusetts do a lot of good work around digital rights as well.

I care a lot about environmental justice, gender justice, and prison reform and support.

I like to donate to charities that aren’t things I work on. Deb Nicholson once said: whenever I feel like I’m not doing enough for a particular cause, I donate to it, to support those who are working on it.

You named it after yourself?

Actually, no! David Nusinow did that.

Why are you doing this?

This has become a more complicated answer over the years.

Why: Option 1

I tithe–that is to say I set aside 10% of my take-home income and donate it to charity. It’s hard to figure out what to do with it all, and how to do as much good as I can. It’s great to have other people make those decisions for me.

Why: Option 1.A

You tithe? But don’t you have student loans/rent/a nonprofit salary/other financial responsibilities?

The world has lots of problems. If I wait until I am in a better position to help out then I may never do so. Additionally, there are problems RIGHT NOW that need immediate response (e.g. disaster relief), and things that will take lots of long-term effort (e.g. environmental justice). Why wait?

Why: Option 2

Matching donations are used to encourage others to give–it’s a lot easier to give $10 when you know it’s going to become $20. It’s encouraging to give $100 when you know it will be $200. I want more people to donate to charity–regardless of whether they can afford $5 or $1,000.

Why: Option 3

This is usually in response to someone accusing me of having a pathological need to give:

Who cares?

Why: Option 4

I love me some tax deductions.

Why: Option 5

Middle-class guilt.

dinner

How much does it cost to get dinner for 200 people? Someone estimated $10k, which seemed ridiculously high to me, but it comes out to $50/per person. I can easily spend that on a nice night out with friends. With a salad, dinner, and dessert–coffee and wine to our hearts’ delight–$50 no longer seems that unreasonable.

Tampons cost about $0.20/each. A tampon dispenser runs about $750. One of these stores about 50 tampons. Assuming you have to refill it periodically (let’s say it costs a generous $20.00 to have someone refill it), we get:

[20*(tampons/50)] + 750 + .20(tampons) = 10,000

Which, I think, comes out to about 8,400 tampons.

In a typical menstruation period, people use about 20 tampons. This $10,000 could provide tampons for an estimated 420 cycles.

Why are we using tampons? Access to tampons is a huge issue for the homeless.

In some ways, 420 cycles doesn’t seem like a whole lot–there are more homeless people menstruating in any given major US city right now.

Food scales pretty well, when looking at spending $10,000. GenerationOn estimates that this could buy 40,000 meals.

Massachusetts gets reimbursed $3.16 per meal by the federal government for free student lunch. This $10k could also get us about 3,160 school lunches in MA.

I enjoy getting nice, free dinners with my friends. The networking is cool, but I really like just sitting with the people I like, talking about things we care about, and not having to pay for dinner on an already expensive trip.

I’m not saying we should stop having speaker dinners at conferences. Nor am I condemning spending money for fun, or calling these things frivolous. My roommate, in response to the avocado toast debacle, and someone calling her out on drinking expensive lattes, argued that the joy she gets from those things is sometimes something she needs to deal with all the stress of living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States.

I do think we need to consider whether this is the best use of the $10,000, and if instead we should be doing something else. It’s unlikely that any major tech company would be interested in buying tampons for a bunch of homeless women or lunch for a bunch of students–the ROI on it is pretty insignificant compared to the overall industry benefits of building a strong, more connected community of “thought leaders” in technology.

But sometimes, as I turn down the piece of cheesecake someone already cut and plated for me, as I ask the waiter for another bottle of wine for the table, or as I play with the little card announcing to the organizers that I am a vegetarian, I wonder if it’s the right thing for me to be at this meal.

Gym noise

I hate running on treadmills. In general, I hate running, in spite of the fact that I do so fairly frequently. Treadmills have been great for working on form, so I try to make time each week to spend running in place.

While I don’t like running, I do like catching up on talks I miss at conferences. While I am incredibly good at making time to run, I am incredibly bad at making time to watch talks. A few months ago, I realized I could use my fancy pocket computer to enable me to combine these two activities (running on treadmills and watching talks) to a completely benign, neutral 20-40 minutes of activity.

I’m going to link some talks I’ve watched recently (at the bottom), but also add a little commentary about how this has changed my presentations.

1. I explain slides more.

Video usually doesn’t carry slides well–especially when you’re running while trying to look at them. I try to say a bit more about the content on the slide itself. I use slides as cue for what I’m supposed to say, and something to provide some visual stimulation (I don’t think I’m a very visually engaging speaker) to help people focus.

Now, I usually read slides–a practice I used to think was bad. This a) helps anyone in the room who may have a vision problem and b) provides more utility to someone listening remotely.

I always read long quotes–even if I think it’s tedious or unnecessary for in-person attendance. I try to not just analyze or provide context for graphs, but also some sort of description of what is being depicted in the graph itself.

2. I make more boring slides.

At first, Asheesh Laroia and Deb Nicholson taught me to make slides with nice images on them. It’s good personality. I wanted to have a more serious angle to my talks, so I switched to a more academic style, with mostly bullet points and graphs. I’ve since eschewed bullet points and, under the advisement of Ned Batchelder, stick to a goal of one to two lines of text per slide (barring longer quotes).

3. I repeat questions.

I’m not always good about this. Questions might be understandable in the room, but not always on the recording.

4. I remind people where we are in the presentation.

I began to explicitly divide my presentations into sections, worrying less about smooth narrative transition than I used to. When listening at the gym, I can zone out and lose track of where I am. Scrolling back in a video (without pausing the run) is really hard.

5. I repeat points.

I try to tie things together more and do so with greater frequency. This is in the spirit of helping people when they zone out and can’t easily rewind.

6. I occasionally address the remote audience.

Especially with things being streamed. I don’t just address the room (but I do do that). I make it explicit that I know (or at least hope) people will be watching it later. As part of this, not only do I list my contact info at the beginning and end, but I do it verbally as well.

7. I thank people for their time.

I always try to do this anyway. I really appreciate people listening to what I have to say when they’re not at an event. It makes you feel special to see that people want to learn about what you care about even if they’re not already at the conference and looking for something to do.

Talks to run to

quick thoughts (on free software)

Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself recently about free software. I don’t check the comments (I should just turn them off) due to spam. Feel free to e-mail or hit me up on IRC, social media, etc, if you want to chat more.

I have some intuitive answers to these questions, but will refrain from listing them, as so not to affect your first thoughts.

Are we making the right policies?

One of the things we emphasize when we talk about free software is community. We emphasize the creation of policies (community guidelines, anti-harassment, etc) in order to manage this. Frequently, these policies are based around the work of organizations like Geek Feminism, the Ada Initiative, and Outreachy.

In general, I think these policies are effective. There was a drop in use of slurs/offensive language on the Linux Kernel Mailing List after the institution of a community policy. But, I wonder what they need to cover, what they should include, and what vulnerable people need from these policies.

Are conferences good?

Unsurprisingly, my instinct to this is yes. I go to them, I speak, I hang out with my friends. I organize them, I feel good watching a room full of people chatter, I hang out with my friends. People enjoy these events. Some of us attend a lot of them. We rack up airline miles, hotel points, and spend good will to find couches and guest beds in exciting locations all around the world.

Is having so many–and attending so many–a good use of our resources? Should we be focusing on other things? If so, what should we be focusing on? Conferences are expensive and not only have a lot of the same speakers, but the same topics discussed.

Where should we draw the lines between fun and work?

Free software is the majority of my life. Even when I’m not in the office, I spend most of my time “working.” I put finger quotes around that because I don’t get paid for the emotional, organizational, and intellectual labor I put into free software outside of the ~40 hour a week I give to my employer.

My employer benefits from this. Is this fair to my other coworkers? Is this setting a bad precedent, in terms of the labor expected from my employer? Is this unfair to myself?

Is it fair to use my roommates’ Amazon Prime account or have someone else order an Uber or Lyft?

I am a staunch believer that Amazon is an evil company and try to use them as infrequently as possible. This is increasingly difficult as they take on more of a market share and hide their involvement in other fields. Still, we’re watching Legion in my house.

Uber and Lyft, in addition to being problematic in other ways, are pieces of proprietary software. Is it fair to expect other people to use proprietary software to make my life easier? I’ve switched from ride apps to taking cabs (more expensive). Can I expect this from others, who might not be able to afford it?

Do we need to have women in technical roles?

Through questionable survey and statistical practices, I say with a medium level of confidence that, among a set of women and among a set of men, a higher percent of individuals from the set of women are participating in community organizational and administrative activities than within the set of men. Incidentally, individuals who identify as enby or trans (that is to say, their trans status is a significant part of their identity) participate in technical and non-technical activities equally.

Are drones still an issue even if the software is free?

Yes. But, it’s not that simple. This question is really about what still isn’t okay, even if it’s free, and why it’s not okay.

Am I more interested in advancing user freedom or my own relevance?

This is a question we should all be asking ourselves.

BOS > MTL (03)

Day 3: North Adams to East Hebron (54 miles)

Day three and day two ended in the same way: me, tired after steadily going up hills, finally finding a flat or downhill section of road, only to come upon one last painfully steep climb. These climbs rose in front of me like a tsunami, just waiting to crush me if I stop long enough to wonder what the hell I was thinking.

However, hours after day two ended and miles before the final climb of day three, I was at a lovely bike shop in Williamstown, MA. My bike gloves–wonderful, disgusting things–were too big. That had been okay before, but they started to chafe somewhere in day two and I knew I wouldn’t make it all the way without smaller ones.

Nearby North Adams was a friendly sounding bike shop with a hip name. Actually, I hadn’t heard they were friendly. I heard they were kind of jerks, but I needed new gloves or my hands would become something unfit for use.

I showed up ready to do the thing where I have to either feel awkward, listen to someone talk at me, or assert loudly and repeatedly that I know what I’m doing. Luckily, these people turned out to be pretty awesome.

After I picked out some gloves, I decided I might as well also deal with a problem I was having called “my pedal got stuck on something and broke in half,” which was later followed by “my other pedal hit something and broke in half.” I asked Paul (the dude who works there, according to Yelp) for their cheapest pair of clips–pedals with cages that trap your feet, making it so you get “more power from each rotation” but an “increased chance of falling if you start to lose balance.”

j/k I love my clips.

He tried to convince me to switch to clipless pedals (in the midst of a muti-day ride?!), and we argued about it for a while. He then offered to put the (clipped) pedals on (I had a pedal wrench), and -then- he started to explain seat fit and how he thought mine could be better.

This is where I interrupted Paul and explained that yes, my seat fit was fine, and I launched into a prepared spiel about how badass I am.

One of my pieces of advice of people who have low self-esteem (i.e. nearly everyone) is to prepare some stock answers about how great you are. You don’t have to believe them. Just list some facts that explain how legit you are in a specific context. It’s really, really useful because you have an answer that feels more like referencing a Wikipedia article you’ve read than gloating about yourself.

A photo of a paper map of Bennginton, MA, and Hoosick Falls, Cambridge, and Petersburg, NY
Paul’s route

The dude’s attitude changed and he pretty quickly treated me as a peer. My guess is he runs into a lot of people who have fancy bikes but don’t know what they’re doing, and that he tries to make them (and maybe beginners? idk) understand how to do things better. I like to think that he was trying to be helpful, but just didn’t understand my situation.

He became pretty chatty. He gave me advice on the trip, asked what kind of days I was running, what route I was planning. His advice was based around roads he thought were good, locations worth stopping, and a few possible places to sleep, which was the least planned part of my trip.

So, I went back to pedaling, my mind shifting in and out of spaces where it knew how to do anything else. I giggled as I passed into Vermont, cursed silently as I meandered my way up a mountain, and rejoiced as I crossed the border into New York, following close to line between the two states.

Somewhere around there I also realized I really needed to figure out where I was going to be sleeping that night.

There are a bit over 110 miles between North Adams and Middlebury. This is a good two day ride for what I imagine is the lower-to-mid range of your adventure-cyclist–e.g. me. Sparing you the details of my calculation, there was a general range of ten miles in which I thought I ought to sleep–my goal had been to limit sixty mile days, and the idea of a seventy mile day sounded unappealing.

A photo of a cyclist, wearing a red and orange cycling jersey, pink sunglasses, and a black helmet, shrugging in front of a road sign that says "Town of Hebron" and "Right to Farm Law." There is a field, a tree, a telephone pole, and a road in the background.
I’d never heard of Hebron before either

There was a campground south of my range, and another north of it. I started e-mailing bed & breakfasts in the area, asking if I could set up on their lawn for a discounted rate. The first one that responded was also the least out of the way and offered me a bed with a cyclist-discount.

That was how I found myself at Hopkins House Farm Bed & Breakfast.

I’ll save all my actual praise for a review, but seriously. These people were great. They fed me TWO BREAKFASTS. They sent me away with oatmeal scones. They had A DOG. Their house was so beautiful it was a little painful, in the way wide floor boards worn smooth from centuries of feet and latch close doors break my heart.

A photo of a very blue sky with clouds, multiple red farm buildings with grey roofs, and a grass path leading to a green metal gate.
How a photo of this place is on Flickr with a CC license is beyond me. Photo courtesy of Colin Poellot on Flickr. CC-BY-SA

What I won’t write in a review is how great the hosts–Charlie and Aggy–were. They sat and talked with me for hours–about their lives, the places they grew up, how they got to a hobby farm and bed & breakfast in New York. We took apart books we read, music we liked, things in nature and science that we think and know and are captured by, what it’s like to raise chickens and how that differs from children. They talked about the afterschool programs they help run down at Salem city hall, in Washington County, and submarines and power reactors.

When you bike across Washington County, though lovely, with cute little towns and sprawling fields, you also pass for sale signs up on ramshackle buildings with promises of acreage. There are trailers and double-wides next to collapsed houses. Every farm stand has cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and piles on piles of corn. Corn, I learned, is best when really, really fresh–especially it’s going to be sitting out in the heat. Corn for farmstands is gathered several times a day, and I stopped by one such place where the guy working there (who filled a bag for me and wouldn’t let me say no) said he went out and picked more five times a day.

Day three, most unfortunately, had kicked off the period of the trip where I stopped sleeping 10 hours a night. Somewhere between not eating enough calories and spending all day creeping across New England, my body switched into some prehistoric evolutionary space. From then on, I slept between 4-6 hours a night. This was not my best decision, and one I greatly regretted after I realized how comfortable the bed at Hopkins House Farm was.

total miles: 54
elevation gained (in ft): 1,745
hours slept the night before: 10
eggs eaten: 3
great people met: 4