Et tu, PBS?

I’ve written regularly about online privacy issues, and readers of this blog know that I teach a course on the politics of privacy. I’ve more or less made my peace with where I leave my data trails and who is harvesting my personal information for material gain. But somehow I did not expect to have to make this kind of calculation for PBS.

I know PBS is a shadow of its former public self; it gets less and less funding from government agencies and more and more from corporations. “PBS” as a national broadcast network is really an aggregation of local stations, and those stations range from tiny and poor to large and influential. Even at the big, well-known stations, money is always tight and they are always looking for ways to get more.

[An aside: PBS is sometimes compared to the BBC. It shouldn’t be, because they are totally different in funding, organization, and cultural context. PBS has always, from its inception, been dependent on federal funding, and its shows are produced by private companies, by tieups between local stations and production companies, or both. It is not-for-profit and it has a stable of well-known public affairs shows, but it also has terrible infomercials and endless fundraising drives.]

In the olden days of online availability, some shows would be available for a brief period of time after their airdates (two weeks to a month), while other shows, mostly the “public affairs” shows like NewsHour, Frontline, etc., were available for much longer. All of them were free, and while you were strongly encouraged to identify your local PBS station, you didn’t have to set up an account or pay anything to stream what was available.

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Back online

We got back a few days ago after spending most of the last days of our vacation completely devoid of both data and phone signals. We had an emergency contact nearby, but my only access to news was the local public radio station and a Christian radio station. So I caught the US headlines but no sports to speak of (sports tends to be a “feature” subject on NPR). In many ways it was refreshing, although I longed for my Euro 2016 updates.

I’ve finally caught up with the comments here at RRW as well as most of my RSS feeds. And of course the news. We did have internet for much of the first week so the Brexit vote and immediate aftermath were closely monitored, but that was about it.

The news is so awful and so depressing. Just when you think 2016 can’t get much worse, it lets you know how wrong you are.

I have plenty more photos to post, and while I didn’t get much reading done on the trip, I’ve made a bit of progress on my 20 books of summer challenge and will update that as well.

Sad news about the moose calves in the last post: they were indeed orphans. Some horrible person deliberately shot and killed their mother near the Denali post office. On the bright side, however, the calves were captured and are being rehomed in a sanctuary.

Humans. Ugh. Here, have a photo of an adorable bulldog Boston Terrier* with a ball in its mouth to make you feel better.

Bulldog with ball



*Of course it’s a Boston Terrier (thanks for the catch, Nate). I had French Bulldog stuck in my head for some reason (they do look alike but this is a classic Boston Terrier).

Settling in

SF bay, southern section, looking east

We have arrived at our Left Coast location for the summer. The dogs are recovering. As usual, when we got within sight and smell of the San Francisco Bay, the two Olds perked up and started paying attention. JimiArthur in particular stuck his head out the window in the stop-and-go traffic through Berkeley. JA hates, hates, hates being in the car, so when he gets close to home he wants to jump out. This year he climbed onto the console between the front seats, shaking and panting, and he wouldn’t go back. So I dragged him onto my lap, all 40+ pounds and 2 1/2 feet of him, and let him pant on me for the last 40 miles.

Once we pulled up in our driveway he hopped out, waited for us to open the front door, and recovered his equilibrium. The other two dogs followed suit more calmly, reconnoitering the house and making sure there was nothing lurking in the corners.

As you can see from the photo, we’re in that lovely weather pattern where we have morning fog/clouds followed by afternoon sun with a breeze. It’s the best.

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On the road again


Day 3 and the dogs are feeling it. Soooo tired.


How I do morning pages

For the last year and a half I’ve been doing morning pages, a writing practice introduced in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I did them daily for the first few months of 2015, then fell off the wagon, returned in fits and starts for the rest of the year, and then committed to doing them as part of my 2016 productivity practices. I’ve written them daily (with two exceptions) since 3 January; there are a group of us on Twitter who check in with each other as well. Now that I’m on Twitter hiatus I’m not checking in but I’m still doing them.

I wanted to write about how I do them, because one thing that became clear was that the four/five/six of us on Twitter don’t all approach them the same way. Cameron is somewhat self-contradictory on whether there are rules: she says there is no “right” way to do pages, but she also says you should do them longhand and you should do them in the morning. She makes a distinction between journaling and morning pages, and she really does see them as the expression of your stream of consciousness. Her blog posts on the topic address quite a few of the questions that come up about the “best” way to do them.

My method has worked for me in part because I have followed the two basic directions, but also because they have been pretty low stress in terms of how I approach them, so even though what I write in them has changed over time, my ability and desire to write them hasn’t. I don’t always want to do them, but I know that if I’m really stuck I can just write “blah blah blah” over and over again. I haven’t done that yet, but having the option helps.

I have to do them in the morning, that much I’ve learned. It’s not just that I won’t do them later in the day, it’s that they don’t have at all the same function. My mind is in a different place at 3pm or 8pm than it is at 8am. Even doing them mid-morning rather than as soon after I wake up as is practical makes a difference in what I write and how I feel. And I really need that stream of consciousness approach. It leads to discoveries (intellectual, emotional, practical) that don’t emerge consistently any other way.

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Remembering Jo Beverley

I was offline Monday night so it wasn’t until I woke up yesterday morning that I saw the news that Jo Beverley had died. I just sat there for a minute in shock. She was only 68, and her cancer recurrence was swift and terminal.

JoBev was one of those authors with whom I only had a few direct exchanges, but whose books permeated my reading life and set the standard for what I looked for in other historical novels. She’s best known for her Georgian series (the Mallorens) and her Regency Rogues series, and the books I’ve read in those are very good to excellent, but my favorite series was her first, the Regency series featuring the Daffodil Dandy, Kevin Renfrew.

Beverley was known for her historically rich contexts and characterizations, whether she was writing closer to the Regency trad format or longer single-title novels. One of the things I loved about her books was that her aristocrats worked. They attended Parliament, they took care of their estates, and if they were spies they actually spied, with all the unsavory aspects espionage involves.

Apart from brief Twitter conversations and the rare comment on my reviews of her books, I only had one interaction with Beverley, but I’ve always remembered it. Miranda Neville observed on Twitter that one of the best known conventions in Regency romances, that a debutante had to have the permission of Almack’s Patronesses to waltz, was nowhere to be found in the historical record. She even offered a $100 bounty to anyone who found it. Someone suggested we ask JoBev about that, since she was one of the most likely people to know. So I emailed her (with a bit of trepidation). She responded promptly and said she had never found confirmation of that either, and went on to talk a bit about Almack’s and the waltz more generally.

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Wake me up when November comes

I unsubscribed from my last remaining Tiny Letter this weekend and purged a few more RSS feeds. The Tiny Letter confirmation email asked if I would tell them why I unsubscribed. I like them, they’re not a company or overtly building a brand, so I answered.

Nothing personal, you are all fun to read. But I’m trying to cut back on my meta-reading, i.e., reading about people reading, and just read the things. Hope that makes sense.

I still follow quite a few individual blogs and get two newsletters, but I’m down to one large/corporate feed (I can’t possibly give up the Guardian Football RSS feed). I’m reading The New Yorker every week but ignoring the many blog posts it generates between issues. I’m seriously considering subscribing to a print newspaper again.

I also cancelled my Audible subscription. I have hundreds, probably more than a thousand, hours of audiobooks in my TBR and even one credit a month was more than I needed. They offered me the $9.95/yr plan where you continue to get the deals and discounts, but I haven’t bought anything because of an email blast in over a year.

Why the sudden purges? Partly because I do this every spring. When the semester ends we get ready to drive to the west coast, and we spring clean and organize in preparation for that. But it’s also a feeling that I spend way too much time finding virtual distractions rather than thinking, writing, working, knitting, and engaging with the physical world around me. Yes, I know that the online world is real and the people in it are real (and I have real relationships with quite a few of them). But TV is real too, and I don’t spend hours a day watching it.

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My ToDo list system

This is not a post about the wonders of the Bullet Journal. Just to get that out of the way so anyone looking for a BuJo discussion isn’t disappointed.

Now that I’m more than five months into my 2016 productivity setup I’d been thinking about writing an update, and a Twitter conversation today motivated me to do a quick post.

Standard caveat: Everyone is different, with different needs, interests, and psychological makeup, so whatever works for you is the best system ever. If anything I do resonates with you, or sounds like something that might work, feel free to ask questions in the comments or just go off and try it yourself.

The hardest part of my productivity system is figuring out a way to make ToDo lists that work for me, which means get me to do the things that are on them. I like lists a lot, but I hate having ToDo items hanging over me. These two feelings are contradictory, so I’m frequently tweaking whatever method I’ve adopted. Right now, what is working best, and has been working for the last few months, is combining four different lists in three different places.

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Chicago Pen Show 2016

As readers of this blog know, I’m a fountain pen user from way back. But I’ve never been to a pen show, and I didn’t even know they existed until the wonders of the internet enlightened me. This year I discovered that the Chicago show coincided with the weekend after the end of classes, so TheHusband and I decided to combine a quick holiday with attending our first show.

Neither one of us are pen collectors per se; we both have more pens that we can use in our regular rotation, which makes me, at least, anxious that I’m not treating them properly. We have old but not vintage pens, valuable but not “collector” pens. You get the idea. But I’d been having trouble with one of my nibs, and pen shows have highly skilled nibmeisters on the premises. Plus, all those pens. So off we went.

We were staying in the city near Lake Michigan and the pen show was held in the northwestern suburbs. Since we couldn’t leave home until Saturday morning, we spent the rest of the day we arrived in the city and then drove out to the pen show on Sunday. We got there around noon and bought daily passes. We were immediately drawn to the Franklin-Christoph table (more about that in a bit). I’d read about these pens but seeing them in person was much more satisfying, and they had the full range of nibs available for testing.

We wandered into the main room, which was about the size of a ballroom, and were immediately overwhelmed. So many pens. If you’re a Parker fan you have tables and tables to choose from, but all the brands were well represented. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming to newbie visitors. I chatted with one vintage pen collector/seller, who listened to my description of my faulty nib and thought it was just in need of a simple adjustment. He kindly pointed me to the nibmeister present, Linda Kennedy, whose named I recognized from the Fountain Pen Network website. I wandered over and put my name on her list.

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Q1 2016: Productivity/Planning Update

I keep meaning to write monthly updates but my blogging mojo has been wintering somewhere warm, apparently. So, here’s a quarterly update:

Hobonichi Techo: Still using it, still love it. I don’t miss the weekly diary format as much as I thought I would. I use a Fine nib Pilot Metropolitan pen and it works well with the Tomoe River paper, which I love writing on.

I’m time-logging with colored Muji gel pens to mark work, daily/regular practice activities, chores, and social stuff. I’m happy to report that my Too Much Internet spells have decreased quite a bit.

I write daily tasks in a list on the right-hand side of the daily page. I try not to write more than 3-5 tasks a day, with the optimal being the three Most Important Things from the Zen to Done system.

Midori Passport: Still using it as my wallet and notebook. I like the idea of the Bullet Journal, but I just haven’t been able to get it to work for me. I need more than a daily task list and I don’t need a monthly list or index because I use a planner. So I abandoned the daily Task List/Notes system I had been using for the past year or so for a GTD Inbox-type dump list. Every few days I write the date at the top of a new page and write down everything I can think of that I need to remember to do, whether it’s to be done immediately or further down the road. Then I refer back to that list as I make my daily task list in the Hobonichi.

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