Life Update October 2012

By Christopher Allan Webber on Tue 09 October 2012

I'm long overdue for another life update. I guess the last update I gave was in June with a supplemental post to update that I was leaving CC to focus on MediaGoblin. So, 4 months. That doesn't seem like a long time when I put it in month-numbers. In my mind though, it feels like a universe away. So many changes have happened in my life at once that it feels impossible to record them in one entry. Which I guess is why I intended to blog earlier to avoid this situation, but of course, I didn't do such a thing. Oh well, "life update" blogposts are fairly self-indulgent; interesting mostly as a record to myself and to keep the scattered few family and friends who have passing interest informed.

I don't think I can really intelligently list everything off, but let's start with bullet points and see where we go from there.

  • First of all, I wrapped up my work at Creative Commons. Well, kind of. I'm still somewhat involved as a contractor (details on that still being worked out though, so even that is vague), but anyway, there certainly was a significant "wrapping up" phase that happened during that exiting period of two months, during which a lot of the other things I'll be talking about happened consecutively. Largely I did a lot of work to try to put the tech team in as best of a place as I could and push forward various agendas I care about very much so personally forward (CC 4.0 stuff especially). There was also a lot of Liberated Pixel Cup wrapup stuff, but that actually kind of deserves its own entry, so I guess I'll list that next.

  • Liberated Pixel Cup's contest submissions on both art and code wrapped up and we got tons of amazing results. Way more than we anticipated, and way more than we prepared for. We did end up wrapping up the art judging but very much so significantly after when I would have liked to seen it wrapped up. Part of this was because of how overwhelmed we were by so many high quality entries, and thus a lot of judges fell through (not their fault necessarily given we didn't prepare them, didn't know to prepare them, for the volume of stuff). Another part of it was because Bart and I, the main organizers of the project, both had several large disruptions to our project; him with some family medical emergencies, me with being "homeless" for two weeks (more on that below) and settling into a new place and launching a major campaign all at once. The code side of things still needs to be judged, and I'll be returning some focus to organizing that shortly. Anyway, failure on our part at all largely comes in another way from a large amount of success, so that's a weird situation of pride and guilt that I'm feeling right now. It's good to have one of my major dreams come true and proven right, anyway.

  • Kind of a weird off-note but right before the move I made a major change to my mail setup. For years I had been using a terrible pop + fetchmail + local spamasssassin + gnus setup that I had cobbled together before I understand how any of those things worked from mailing lists and wiki pages and all sorts of cargo to build cults from. Problem: I could only check mail from my desktop, and when traveling, I always had the stress-inducing process of having to ssh into my desktop from wherever and open up gnus. I finally decided I was tired of that, and in a long and painful process that I really should have documented but didn't, I moved my mail over from gnus and nnml with some hacky elisp over to offlineimap and the incredible mu4e. mu4e is a real pleasure... I even added a small extension called mu4e-uqueue to make iterating through my mail a bit easier. Definitely happy with the change.

  • So yes, about the move. First, about leaving, which I have more to say about than probably makes sense. A couple of years ago we had the misfortune of moving to DeKalb/Deklabbs and a couple of months ago we had the good fortune to finally move out. DeKalb wasn't so bad for Morgan (and she had given me the option to live someplace closer to Chicago or in far west Chicago, but I didn't want her to have such a long commute) mostly because she had a community there. But I didn't... I was mostly friendless and depressed, which isn't good when you work from home. I had such a lack of community and sense of connection (excepting a university LUG that I attended sporadically) that I realized there were only a few things I would feel at all like I missed in DeKalb: the food co-op, the coffee shop, and most especially the restaurant Pita Pete's, which I ate at almost every other day (and I made sure the exact last thing we did before driving out of town for the final time was to get one last delicious seitan wrap). Going out to eat was in some ways one of the few connections I had to other people living in that town, so we did it quite a bit. On the last day there I was in a "finally, I'm getting the fuck out of this town" kind of mood. I went to the coffee shop, got a final coffee, and the woman behind the counter asked me if I'd come back. I said I didn't think so, I didn't think I'd miss anything, except maybe this place a little bit and Pita Pete's, but not really that much anyway. She told me that I should come back and visit, they'd miss me (not really sure that's just one of those things you say or not) and I asked her if she was still there as a college student (largely because I had the "so, when are you gonna get the fuck out of this town too?" type attitude on the mind) and she said she used to be, but she stayed around because she loved DeKalb. So, something about that moment felt significant, that there really wasn't an intrinsic terribleness to the area... it was really just a lack of connection to anything on my part.

  • So enough whining about a place I don't even have to live at anymore... we had someplace new and exciting to move to... Madison! But before we could do that we had a two week space of non-residence between our leases. Technically, we were without a home, so were "homeless" in one sense, but that seems degrading to people who are actually homeless, since our situation was the opposite of any sort of hardship. (Whatever, I'm rambling. Whatever to that too, this whole post is a big ramble.) Quite the opposite: we decided to do something we really haven't done much as a couple and do some vacation traveling.

    We had a two part-trip, first in Boston, then in New York. In Boston Morgan and I stayed with our good friend Deb Nicholson. For Morgan, this was pure vacation. For me, it was kind of a "work-cation"; I spent a lot of time hanging out at the FSF and meeting with various free softwareish people (a few highlights were meeting friends Mo and Ray of Fedora hackingness for lunch and Bassam Kurdali and Fateh Slavitskaya of Tube for dinner, as well as hanging out with a lot of friends from the FSF). Will Kahn-Greene also came down and Will, Deb and I gathered to discuss the MediaGoblin campaign, how we'd go about it, and whether we'd go a Kickstarter type route or do things through the FSF (whom had mentioned they would likely be interested in doing such a thing). After laying out a long list of requirements that the FSF would have to add for our campaign to work with them, we all agreed on that route forward.

    At some point, Deb's partner Ernie asked me when I was going to stop working and start vacationing. Actually, hanging out with free software people, and even doing the MediaGoblin stuff while lurking at the FSF offices, had me in a better mood than I had been in ages. Guess that's how I roll.

    Nonetheless, we also did some wonderful hanging out and seeing some touristy things with Deb, who as always, is a great host and excellent friend. Anyway, Boston was great times.

  • In-between Boston and New York, we thought we'd try to play it cheap by going to a smaller town in-between and just relaxing and reading and keeping things simple. So we MegaBus'ed it to Hartford.

    When I told people in Boston that we'd be having a few days in Hartford, we got a lot of "Oh god, why would you do that?" and stories about Hartford's insurance industry lobbying to kill all taxes, thus completely not investing in any infrastructure, and better hope you won't be stabbed, blah blah. I figured these were exaggerations from township rivalry. It couldn't be any more boring than DeKalb, anyway. I was wrong. I won't go into details, but Hartford kind of feels like one huge ghetto. Sad city Hartford indeed. Anyway, we took the fastest trip out of there we could, which meant buying extra bus tickets and spending the extra money I didn't want to spend in New York, but there you go.

  • New York was great though. I didn't really do any work, so that was real vacation for me. Some high points were museums, walking around Central Park, weird but delightful films, live puppetry, and meeting MediaGoblin contributors Aaron Williamson and Sam Kleinman. But maybe most of all I really enjoyed hanging out with Karen Sandler and her husband. The original plans to record my interview on Free as in Freedom while I was in-person didn't work out, but on the up side we got lunch on Karen's rooftop, which is had a crazy amazing view, and unsurprisingly really great conversation.

    Oh, and we didn't bring back bedbugs. Which is great, given that's a huge phobia of mine, and we were staying in New York.

  • We moved to Madison. Madison is, I will say, completely and totally amazing. For some reason I was afraid of moving to another college town after DeKalb, but there is simply no resemblance between towns here. Madison has a great tech community, amazing food, lots of interesting things going on and people, and so on. Also, we live between two lakes and are three houses away from the town's amazing Willy Street Food Co-op.

    If you ever plan on stopping through Madison, maybe consider contacting me... we have crash-space, and an extra desk for people to work from.

    Anyway, Madison is amazing. I'm very happy with the move.

  • Some bad news on Morgan's health. I won't go into details, but some things we thought were fixed weren't. Lots of stress.

  • Last Saturday my mom got married. I really like the guy she married, and the wedding was beautiful. Plus, I didn't screw up my part in the ceremony too badly. Morgan and I danced for five hours straight at the reception having a wonderful time and regretting it the next day.

  • Most significantly of all though is the MediaGoblin campaign. This will get a post of its own shortly (hopefully we launch this week) but what I will say now is that I've been working insanely hard on it. The video, the website (with commissioned help from Jef van Schendel), etc are all coming together well, and things are mostly coordinated with the FSF.

    In the meanwhile, I am really fried. I have put as much of myself as is possible into the campaign over the last month and a half, pretty much working as much around the clock as my body and mind will let me. I guess I can't complain though if I am living the dream?

    Or hopefully at least I will be! It really depends on how the fundraiser comes out. Really hoping for the best. As said, I've poured myself into it... and I think at least that the results are really good and I've tried my damndest.

    I'm feeling quite confident that this campaign is the right thing at the right time in many different ways, but most especially in the "more socially important than ever" type way. Here's hoping everything goes right. You'll certainly hear about it here when things launch, which is fairly imminent.

So those are the things on my mind these days. More news about the campaign comin' up shortly.