camping & Hamlet

Hamlet's BlackBerry

This weekend I went camping for the first time in about eight years. I’ve always liked the idea of camping much more than the reality of camping, as in my mind, weather conditions and insect populations don’t exist. It went better than I expected, and I even had fun. Not sure I’m up for more than one night, though. By the next morning I was ready for the indoors.

One of the things I brought along with me is the book Hamlet’s BlackBerry by William Powers. I’ve been reading it off-and-on since February, and I hoped that during the down times I could finish it up. There were a few of those moments, but not many. I ended up finishing it at home.

The book is one of the most fair arguments for dialing back online activity, or at least creating a space away from the distractions of the internet and focusing on being physically and mentally present, either alone or with other people. I haven’t gotten to the point where I feel pressure to be connected all the time, but I do miss it when I’m not. On the other hand, a part of me was looking forward to disconnecting this weekend, at least for the 24 hrs away from civilization, but I wasn’t quite sure if I was disappointed or relieved to discover I had cell service at the campground.

The Hamlet connection comes from a reference to “tables” in Shakespeare’s play. These were hot tech at the time, and reminded me of something like portable dry-erase boards. Hamlet makes some notes about the things that are bothering him, and feels relieved to get them out of his head and into a device that can store them for him until he his ready to do something with them. I feel the same way about my smart phone and the Remember the Milk app — no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I can usually take that thought that would quickly disappear and make a note about the thing I need to do.

I liked the idea of stepping away from the screens for a period of time. I thought that a 12 book challenge would be easy to complete in a year, but I’m not reading as much anymore, in part because I spend so much time on the computer when I’m at home. I need to start setting aside dedicated time at home that is not on the computer, and not just when I’m cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry.

reviews on blogcritics: december

Things I reviewed in December.

December was a busy month for me, which left me little time to do much reviewing. I had hoped to get quite a bit done over the holidays, but instead I relaxed with friends and family. I think it was worth it, but it means working a bit harder in January.

A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa, Vol. 1 & 2

If you’ve heard a country version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” one too many times this season, or if any other rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” performed by your grade school child/sibling/cousin/whatever will push you over the edge, then I suggest you pick up either or both volumes of A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa. With the selections of classic and classical Christmas songs performed by musicians who care more about the music than about cashing in on the season, these are Christmas albums worth owning.

Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller

In addition to the fairly comprehensive 60-year overview of Parton’s life, the book contains a selective discography, source notes, a bibliography, and an index – all useful tools for researchers. I particularly enjoyed looking at the 16 pages of plates of photographs of Parton at various points in her life. Unfortunately, only the most dedicated fans are likely to read the book from cover to cover.

memory, reunions, and being yourself

This weekend, I’m back in Harrisonburg, Virginia, for Homecoming weekend at my alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University. In fact, I am writing this courtesy of the as-yet-not login-required computers in the university library.

Except for the addition of a few more computers, and a small DVD collection where the reference books used to live, the library looks much like it did when I was a student here ten years ago. I think the chairs might be new. They’re more comfortable than I remember.

EMU Campus Center

Not that I remember many details of my college years. That’s the problem I’ve been noticing as I wander around, wondering if the person walking past me was a classmate or if they just look like someone I know. Even the people I’ve met who remember me are fuzzy in my mind. How did I know them then? Did we have a class together? Did we have mutual friends?

I’ve kept in touch with many of my college friends, but we were a small class, so I was acquaintances with most of the rest of them, or at the very least, I knew their name and what they looked like. And, I interacted with students in the other classes which came before and after me. All of this makes it difficult for me to remember just how I knew the people I am reconnecting with now.

In addition to all that, I’ve changed since college. Physically, I’ve put on a great deal of weight, I wear glasses, and my hair is much shorter. Socially, I’m more adept and personable (I think), and I’m less rigid in insisting that my views/philosophies are the only right ones.

I may not remember my old classmates in great detail, but I can’t assume they have as fuzzy memories of me. How do I convey who I am now when the ghost of who I was then still lingers?

Why do I feel that is important? It’s not as though we are a part of each other’s lives anymore and I need their acceptance in order to survive socially. I have gone on for 10 years without them, thankyouverymuch, and I can go on another 10 just the same. However, there is a part of me that craves acceptance, and no matter how much I grow stronger in myself, I still want everyone to like me.

*sigh*

I hope I’ll have gotten over this by our 20 year reunion, but for now, I should head over to the soccer game and see who’s there. Maybe if I show some school spirit it’ll make me seem more like one of them.

why I write for Blogcritics: reason #27

One of the Blogcritics writers was asking today about the site stats (3.5 million page views per month, if you’re interested), and another writer suggested using Alexa. That particular resource isn’t very accurate, but I found it interesting to compare what it considers to be the traffic number for Blogcritics with my own website. Eclecticlibrarian.net barely makes it on to the graph at this scale.

If you’re a writer and wanting to get more exposure to your work, Blogcritics is a great place to start.

Oh, and I forgot to do the round-up of what I wrote last month, so I’m going to do a July/August combo. Expect to see that shortly after I return from Dragon*Con early next month.