Baltimore, buzzword compliance, dot-communism, Friends, work

Nesting, flocking, and the solitary geek

i have now been a telecommuter for almost 15 years – nearly three times as long as I’ve spent in “traditional” work environments. Sure, I’ve spent time in the office on each of those jobs–some more than others. But it’s always been clear to me that I have been operating at a handicap by not physically being in the office–both professionally and psychically. The benefits to my family have usually outweighed those–we haven’t had to move from Baltimore, where we can afford to live comfortably (relatively speaking) and the kids have had stability; I haven’t had to deal with daily commutes, and have had more time to participate in my family’s life (at least until the last couple of years), and there have been other direct and indirect lifestyle benefits.

But I’ve been going out of my fucking mind.

My current company is at least geographically relatively close, compared to previous employers — a 75-mile drive, an hour-and-a-half commute off peak. I spend most Mondays in the office just so people know I exist. It’s certainly less of a grind than my last corporate gig, where I spent nearly every other week flying to New England, and the folks at the office park Sheraton knew me by name. That job drove me to the edge, to dark places I never want to go again, with the lost hours in airports, on Southwest, on the 128 to Needham, in a bad hotel restaurant, in cubeland trying to figure out why things were so fucked and what it was exactly I was supposed to be doing since nobody knew I existed even when I was there.

But I digress.

There is a great deal of what I do that is best done in isolation, with no interruptions. I find that I write best in the dark hours, when the house is quiet, and there are no interruptions– or at least that’s when I am *able* to write. But the inspiration for writing has to come from a more social world, and my brain needs other people to engage it sometimes.

That became clear to me when I stood up and guided a session at the recent SocialDevCampEast here in Baltimore, and then participated in several more. Part of it is ego, and part of it is just plain human need — I like the feedback that comes with gettting up and talking and thinking on my feet, and I like talking about things I’m passionate about. As solitary as I am most of the time, I am a social animal, and given my usual isolation, I find that I need approval and acceptance all the more so when I get the opportunity.

In other words, I’m a needy, egotistical serial loner. Quite the personality profile.

But, as it turns out, a lot of other very smart people are also needy, egotistical serial loners looking to be more social. One of the conversations at SocialDevCampEast was about co-working.

Dave Troy, who I used to occasionally co-guest with on the Marc Steiner Show (on what was then WJHU, along with Eric Monti) , is leading ab effort to bring co-working in the style of Philadelphia’s Indy Hall to Baltimore. Co-working, for the uninitiated, is a social approach to independent info-working, providing the professional and creative benefits of networking and idea bouncing for those who might itherwise spend the day talking to their cat.

So far, the Beehive group has been meeting at Blue House, a Fells Point coffee shop, and doing Tuesday and Thursday “jellies”-sessions where people loosely show up and work in each other’s company and leech off the establishment’s wifi. But plans are in the works for an actual shared space in Canton.

I, unfortunately, have yet to get to a jelly. But I think I’ll be trying to frequent the shared space when it opens, being as it beats driving to Falls Church for a day in the office.

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Baltimore, Family, Friends, gallagheria

Weekend Idolatry

And now for something a little lighter.

Saturday was Soccer Day, with my Under 12 Boy’s CYO team on the road with a 2 pm game. J. had been skating the night before at a Katrina relief ice-skateathon or something with his friend C., and then had a sleepover at C.’s, so perhaps he was a bit more sluggish than usual. But in any case, we all managed to get out the door to the game together this week (the whole crew in one place…the logistics are mind-boggling).

K., now hard-core as he’s playing JV soccer at Poly, wanted to run the kids into the ground as a warm-up. I eased him up and reminded him that it was going to be a long, hot game. And it did get hot–90’s again. I don’t remember September this late being this hot recently.

In the end, it was a tie again (making Brood X’s record for this year 0-2-0, at least 50% better than our record at this point last year). Then we grabbed lunch and headed for HampdenFest.

After grabbing beers and snow-cones, we wandered down toward the Hampden Idol contest in time to catch:

  • An adequate execution of “Gloria”
  • A woman who made “Whole Lotta Love” sound like a cat in a dryer
  • Ali’s inspiring rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin'” (to which K. and I waved our cell phones)
  • Chris, the “Thin White Guy”, performing “Let’s Go Crazy”, and stealing the show

My ex A. and her husband D. arrived in the midst of this. As we stood there on the Avenue after the wrapup of Hampden Idol, Benn came by. He pointed out that the spot where P. and my ex were sitting on the curb was in fact the scene of a murder:a street person, known for being a loan shark to addicts, had grabbed a little girl walking to the community center after school, and she ran in to the center crying; her grandfather emerged with a cane and beat the guy to death in broad daylight.

On that note…we headed out shortly thereafter. The boys left with my ex for the night, and P., Z. and I headed to New No Da Ji for dinner before calling it a night.

Sunday, we met up with the boys and A&D at the Irish Festival at the Armory. Nothin’ is as Irish as passing through an armed checkpoint to get a beer, I suppose; the Guard was conducting ID checks on every person who entered the Armory. Aside from the asses from Noraid (or, perhaps, the “reformed asses” would be more appropriate now that they’re allegedly behind the peace process–but from the stickers they were giving people, you’d think they were still shipping the Provos Armalites), it was a pleasant enough event, with Z. enthralled by the Irish dancing and K. intrigued by the Irish dancers. I got a free Smithwick’s as the beer concession tried to empty the kegs. J. shook us down for money for a shamrock ballcap and a faux-celtic dragon pendant. It was a Gallagher family heritage event.

Then, it was home and back to homework and other work and the grind of the week ahead.

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Friends

Of Barbie Bondage

Yesterday, Zoë unearthed a Disney Princesses Sparkle Ariel doll that Paula had bought for her 4th birthday (just a few weeks away). Paula tried to recover, saying, “Oh, I bought that for the little girl of one of my friends.” But Zoë went off into a corner with the box to sulk.

So, naturally, we had to surrender it to her

Having unboxed all of Zoë’s burgeoning Barbie collection (the Ariel, while from Mattel, is not technically a Barbie, though it can wear Barbie’s clothes), I found that the packaging for Ariel was a little less like some whacked bondage fantasy than how Mattel usually packages Barbie: hair sewn to the back of the box; tape, plastic tab ties, and a half-dozen wire ties holding limbs in that perfect store-shelf pose; a variety of clear elastic bands holding jewlry and accessories just so to the doll’s body. Unboxing a Barbie is usually at least a fifteen-minute project.

Ariel had just one wire tie and a clear plastic “belt” holding her body in place, and a pair of plastic tab implants (which needed to be yanked out of her scalp) holding her head to the back of the box. Unbox time: 3 minutes.

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