Saturday, January 29, 2005

Teaching - and trying to be a grown-up.

Finally a quiet evening at home to go over how Wednesday night went - that was my first chance to help teach a formal beginner-level paddling class since 2001. It's been a long time & I was afraid I wouldn't remember - but it was really exciting how fast things started shaking loose from long-term memory. And it was good to rediscover that the stage fright (which has always been a problem for me - I just get scared when everybody's looking at me)mostly ends once we pass the initial talking stages and I get engaged in the challenge of actually finding the key to making something work for the student.

I did find myself in an interesting situation though - I tend to be very patient & if there's someone who's feeling nervous, I tend to end up working with that person. Problem is that at some level - I feel like sometimes I am TOO willing to hold a person's hand when they might learn more someone who's a trifle LESS patient.

Well - in this case I don't think it was bad - it was the first class in a series of six, so it was very introductory. Usually the first thing that happens in a beginner class is a thing called the "wet exit" where all the students practice falling out of their kayaks. No, really. This is necessary - we are using decked (closed) kayaks with sprayskirts and there's always a chance of capsize, which is not a problem unless a person panics. Which is of course quite possible because the natural reaction to suddenly finding yourself upside-down, underwater, in a boat that you're attached to is to freak out, it's just completely contrary to every self-preserving air-breathing instinct we land mammals possess. The intentional capsize & bail-out makes sure that everybody knows what they need to do to get out of their boat & to get past that potential panic moment in a controlled fashion with an instructor RIGHT THERE ready if anything goes wrong. I'd say 97% of the time the first wet exit goes fine. When somebody does panic, the instructor can flip the person rightside up very fast - then it's time for some deep breathing & another try (sans spray-skirt if necessary - repeated until the panic gets under control - if it doesn't, might be time to talk about whether kayaking is the right sport)

Now the other thing that the wet exit does is get the student through The Worst Thing That Can Possibly Happen right away. A good kayaker is very fluid - a tense person with a stiff spine is going to have a much harder time controlling their kayak. Besides, it's supposed to be fun & how much fun is it to paddle around in a pool being afraid to capsize? Capsizing really isn't that awful - especially in a pool - so the wet exit practice lets a person work through that fear right at the start, they discover it's really not scary & then they can relax, enjoy, and learn.

Except when they won't work through it.

One of the students has just gotten over a case of neuropathy affecting her legs. I didn't know what exactly this was but have now read up on it & know a little more which will hopefully help me work with her. Without going into detail, symptoms include pain, spasms & sometimes loss of coordination. In other words, this is not something that's going to make you trust your body to do what you ask it to do when you ask it to do it - quite the contrary. So - coming out of this, she's understandably nervous & managed to psyched herself right out of trying. We did do a variation - she tipped with her legs out of the boat, falling out as the boat went over, but at least getting the feeling of pushing the boat past the tipping point & nothing bad happening. But I do wish I had been somehow persuasive enough to get her to try the full drill at least once as now she'll have all week to dwell on being scared instead of thinking about how easy it was in the end (and I know that she would have done it fine).

We did have a long talk about irrational fears. Problem is moving from talking to doing.

Been there myself enough times, from that high-dive I came down from BY THE LADDER - dammit - when I was in 2nd grade or so to that long shaky moment of balancing on my toes on the edge of the platform on my first jump at the New York Trapeze School last summer - oh, yes, I was terrified, but dammit I was not coming down by ladder that time. Nice thing about getting older is that I'm getting better at charging through that moment of fear that precedes doing something that turns out to just be a total blast.

Next week I think I will get one of the other instructors (and I'll use the biggest one) to capsize & show her how I can right him - I know that what I will do as a student depends a lot on how much I trust my instructor, so maybe if I can convince her she can trust me to get her back up to the air no matter what happens, then she can work through the exercise. I believe that once she does, she'll find out that this thing that she's finding so hard to do is actually pretty easy, we'll have a good relieved laugh, and move on from there. If not, well, no spray skirt & on with the basics anyways - maybe once she's more comfortable in the boat & with us, she'll give it a shot.

speaking of irrational fears...yep, a certain guy did indeed show up for the 2nd half of the session & I had to fight back a strong desire to run away. I wasn't a saint - I couldn't look him in the eye & say hello like a civilized person - but I also wasn't truly horrible. In fact did sort of OK in one way. I'd told the very small group of mutual friends who know what happened that he'll still be paddling with us, and I don't want anyone snubbing him because of what happened. We've got a good group and keeping the social fabric of our paddling circle more or less in one piece is more important to me than winning a popularity contest. I've tested that fabric enough by talking to ANY mutual friends & damaging it wouldn't fix anything & would in fact be a loss to all involved - so why do it? Anyways, this was the first test of that declaration & when it came to a moment where I did have a chance to go back on what I said & pressure these folks to show that they were "loyal" to me - I didn't.

Doesn't mean that looking up and seeing him didn't feel like being kicked in the gut by a Clydesdale. But I did manage not to totally knuckle under to stupidness. Helped that I was able to sink myself deep into the teaching I was so glad to be rediscovering.

Friday, January 28, 2005

my favorite webcam

just for fun - thought I'd share my very favorite webcam.

I just think this is so cool. Plus it's actually really useful for winter paddling - like right now I pulled it up 'cause I'm trying to figure out whether I have any chance of getting my boat off the dock on Sunday, when it actuallY WILL be warm enough to paddle. "Warm", of course, being a relative term.

Doesn't look too promising at the moment of posting. Sigh.

nice sunset though.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

who'd a thunk?

the Mr. Softee jingle has...lyrics???

This is what I got for reading the Times this morning. Try to stay informed & end up with that darned dinglety-jinglety ice cream tune stuck in my head all morning - just what I needed when it's 10 degrees outside. Eventually I might even finish the article (which was on noise pollution regulations) - but the sentence "The jingle, with its lyrics" just leaped out at me...lyrics? as in words?

oops, I just heard the little outlook "bee-ding" that means the report I was waiting for is here. back to work!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

waiter there's a fly in my ointment.


of course the one small fly in the ointment I was trying not to worry about was the fact that a certain guy I know might be there tonight - not for the beginner paddling class but for the rolling session that follows. I may have to figure out how to leave right after the class 'cause I really really hate crying in front of people & I'm afraid I might when I see him.

Basically, this guy...well, I liked him a lot. That's all. First time I've been really intrigued by anyone in about...well, actually, in years. Sigh. Thing is, I'm a pretty self-sufficient person and I don't go for people that often but when I do it's pretty wholeheartedly & in this case it was just a long slow fizzle of a nothing (operative word being "nothing" as in "nothing happened") with a massive shock at the end. Halloween, 2004 - halfway through a circumnavigation of Manhattan I specifically scheduled & made happen for this guy...he tells me about this girlfriend that he's had pretty much the whole time I'd really known him (a year). In answer to a direct question about how he'd gotten invited to some fancy-schmancy shinding at the Waldorf in fact. Otherwise I don't think the info would've been volunteered and I might still be mooning around waiting for him to get over his traumatic divorce. I'm such an idiot. Personally I think March 2004 when I first told him I wanted to be a little more than paddling buddies would have been MUCH better timing too tell me about the girlfriend but hell, that's just me. But...then again, NOTHING had happened. I've come out of all of this thinking that he's definitely a complete space cadet but not convinced that he's a complete cad. Long story, 2 sides to it, lots of details you aren't getting here.

Anyways I DID actually tell my original blogging friend BoBo about this last night & since he might be reading today I figured I'd squeeze a quick post in here.

As far as I'm concerned this was just one of those unfunny jokes life plays on me every now & then (and there've been some doozies - always hear my mother's voice afterwards saying "It's a character-building experience" - well, how much character does one person need? A lot, apparently...). I'm dealing with it but it still hurts some - I really liked him a lot & it was a huge dissappointment to find out that there was an SO all along (which if I'd known I wouldn't have let myself go where I went in the first place, I don't mess with people who are already attached - between empathy for the 3rd person involved - and the concern that if a guy would hurt a SO for me, why would I expect him not do the same thing to me for the next one that comes along?). I was trying to not think about the fact that he might turn up & it'll be the first time I've seen him since Halloween. I literally don't know what I'll do. Did dream about him last night & it was a really sad one - basically about being said no to yet again - woke up much more worried about seeing him tonight than I was before.

oh well. that's life for ya.

wow. a record.

Wow. I have managed to do this for 6 days straight...that's definitely a record for journal-keeping for me. Runner-up would have to be a journal kept during a class trip to the Big Island in 7th grade & there was some extra credit involved in that one.

But six days for nothing but my own personal amusement? That's pretty good! This business of being able to cheat & link to other people's stuff or copy in quotes does help.

This is shaping up to be an oddball of a blog though ...knowing me it's going to stay that way for however long it lasts. I've heard that most blogs have some sort of theme - birdwatching, cooking, politics - but since this is purely for fun, heck, I'm gonna write my blog like I live my life - extremely interested in too many different things. I'm not an unsuccesful person, but I do sometimes joke that if I could pick one single thing on which to concentrate, I could probably be fabulous at whatever it was. But then I'd have to give up everything else, and that would make me sad. So I will just keep skipping from birdwatching to politics to kayaking to whatever grabs my attention'll be a mishmosh, but at least I'll enjoy it.

Ha. I always suspect that if I was a kid in this day & age instead of way back when, somebody would just diagnose me with something, put me on Ritalin and voila, straight-A student (as it was it was always "she has so much potential, if she'd only apply herself").

But really, I think my life's more fun this way. I might have more money & at least give more of an appearance of "success" as people commonly define the term - but I kind of like me the way I am.

And speaking of more fun, time to give myself a break tomorrow 'cause I'm going off to help teach a beginner kayaking class after work, and I'm SO excited about that! It's been a long time & I'm working with people I really respect & it's going to be a great chance to loosen up my rusty dusty teaching skills. I used to be an ACA-certified coastal kayaking instructor & taught a lot, I think I was even pretty good at it, but the New York City kayaking scene is a strange & politically fraught place & I eventually stepped away from it. Longer story than I want to go into right now plus I just wrote myself into a pretty darned good mood & don't want to wreck it (the headlines do that all too well every morning anyways). Suffice it to say I don't miss the politics at all. I do miss teaching though & am just so psyched to do this. In fact this might even turn into a kayaking blog for the next few weeks!

hmmm...look, I just said "next few weeks"...if I'm thinking that way...

maybe I should tell the folks whose blogs got me intrigued by this blogging thing that I am in fact blogging now - really did prefer to warm up being secret hermit blogger but the interplay between blogs is definitely a fun aspect of the whole thing - and I can't play if I don't tell anybody else that I want to, now can I?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Most Depressing Day...

Sez here that a researcher has scientifically proven January 24th is the most depressing day of the year. As if to prove it I was brought bumping back down to earth, after a thoroughly cool weekend. Aside from my 45-minute commute taking more like 2 hours, and then a long day at work, two articles in the Times jolted me back into my depressing sense of how scary things are getting for those of us in the minority-by-a-whisker set these days. Anti-abortion marchers braving the cold & being cheered on (if only by phone) by their president, and certain senators announcing that they are still planning to push for a constitutional ban on gay marriage (even though W seems to be happy to let that one drift away now that he's finished using the gay community to achieve his political ends - sort of like all those terror alerts leading up to the election just died out afterwards, anybody else notice that?).

Can't take both at once. This being the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I'll stick to that one. I'm sure I'll provide a gay-marriage posting soon - I'm not gay but I've got a lot of gay friends who feel really used & hated & I hate seeing them being vilified like this by people who have probably never met a real gay person in their life (or at least a gay person who wasn't afraid to be him or herself in the presence of a closed-minded bigot), it's just not fair.

A little net-surfing & you can find all the arguments ever made, so I won't try to take that tack. However - I will share a thought (wait...if a thought is shared on a secret blog that nobody reads - is it shared? hmmm) that has crossed my mind pretty much anytime I've heard about anti-abortion activities ever since I was old enough to have thoughts on the issue.

Quite simply -

How many of these protestors would be protesting if THEY - individually & personally, not just as taxpayers - had to bear the consequences were Roe v. Wade to be overturned?

Just think about it -what if it was simply a fact that overturning of Roe v. Wade would only happen simultaneously with a ruling that anyone who attended or supported that or any other anti-abortion rally (note - including Bush) was AUTOMATICALLY REQUIRED to help a woman - one who for whatever reason is really in a bad situation to have a baby but who doesn't have the option not to anymore - through her pregnancy? I'm talking the WORKS here - making sure she has proper pre-natal care, being there to support her mentally & physically when she's feeling tired and sick and enormous, being there when she gives birth, helping her through recovery, making sure that she still has a job to go back to afterwards, and then ADOPTING THE BABY and being ready to be that child's parent for the rest of his or her life. No loopholes, all protesters on a registry, ready to be chosen by lot do their duty.

How many of those protesters would be out there then?

Nowhere near as many, I would bet. Easy enough to force your beliefs on others when you aren't likely to pay for the consequences of doing so.

And there would be even less if you got purely theoretical (and I do mean PURELY theoretical, we must include the anti-abortion guys here - no evading consequences based on the accident of gender, gents) & added actually going through pregnancy, labor & birth on behalf of the woman whose right to choose not to has been taken away.

add that as a requirement for all anti-abortion protesters - how many would protest then?

Very very few, I'd imagine.

Now - the ones that would be willing to accept those conditions? I might still disagree with them - but I'd have grant them at least some respect for their willingness to shape their lives to their principals, not just mouth words.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

First Robin of - er - winter?

What a good weekend.

Stayed closer to home today, but once it stopped snowing & cleared up & got gorgeous I decided to head out to Prospect Park. My ramble plan was to go around the lake, through the ravine & come out somewhere on the Park Slope side. That gives a pretty nice sample of the scenic effects Olmstead & Vaux planned out so well way back in the 1800's. (I've been told that Olmstead considered Prospect Park to be more of a success than Central Park because the illusion of being in some far-away pastoral fancy is much more complete - it's really quite a place, hard to imagine it was all built & planted, but it was).

Going to the park after a heavy snow is great. Everybody's there for the sole purpose of playing in the snow. All colors, all ages - all of us with the same slightly goofy "isn't this FUN" look on our faces. There's a lot more eye contact as people pass each other, a lot of quick but friendly exchanges between strangers that you just don't hear on a normal day. Particularly cheerful due to the storm being conveniently on a weekend. Now on a weekday the looks & exchanges would still be happening - but they'd be more rueful - lots of what-can-you-do eye-rolling - than cheerful as we'd all be struggling to get to our homes before the trains decided to quit working.

But it was on a weekend, which was great. Prospect Park's always beautiful but with a foot of fresh snow, it's your Winter Wonderland to a tee, snowmen in the meadow and all. Everybody going sledding - or ice-skating - or x-country skiing (man I gotta get me a pair of those) - or like me just doing that penguin waddle even the most graceful person does in the snow (we are not really well adapted for walking in snow, are we? part of the fun, though) - but everybody happy & having fun. The air was filled with the sound kids yelling with that gleefully panicked noise kids do when they're sledding, laughter, dogs barking along happily. I passed one trio that was walking a big brown dog that was just leaping through the snow and bounding up to every person they passed (including me) with a look on his face that just said "Isn't this the greatest thing EVER?". Of course dogs are just generally great that way but this one was being particularly specific in going up to everyone he passed to make sure that they understood that.

I'm not a bird-watcher but at one point I did stop & watch some birds. There was a woman standing watching & photographing them, so I figured they must be doing something interesting. And it was pretty interesting (at least to my non-TV-owning real-world-preferring way of thinking). First off - they were robins! Somehow I had always thought robins headed south for the winter - y'know, first robin of spring and all that? But nope, there they were. Wasn't sure at first because they had their feathers all fluffed up so much that they looked like much rounder, fatter birds - but they were. The path was bordered by a low stone wall; it was in the sun & sheltered from the wind & covered with water from the snow melting on the sunny slope above.

I don't know if the birds were thirsty or if there were some sort of bugs in the wall that they were catching, but they lined up like people sitting down to breakfast at the counter of a busy coffeeshop. The photographer moved on but I stayed for a while & there were at one point 15 of 'em - all totally concentrating on whatever it was in the wall. Interesting. As I said, I'm not a bird-watcher - but I like watching animals in general, and it's fun when they really quit watching you back & settle back down to doing whatever it was before you got there. These were birds that were clearly not too worried about people - whenever anyone else came by, they'd fly away - but not too far, and then they'd quickly come trickling back down one or two at a time. Finally a whole flock went by overhead & the ones at the wall went flying up to join them.

I wonder if they were on their way south & took shelter in the park yesterday when the storm started? Strange to see so many robins in the snow.

Anyways, great day. 'Course, most of the evening was spent attempting to plow through chapter 1 of Robert C. Higgins' "Analysis for Financial Management" - but that was good in its' own way, been procrastinating on that - and life just can't all be cozy-wozy, now can it?

Blizzard in Beacon

I made a rather unexpected trip to Dia:Beacon today. This was with my aunt & her two friends, all of whom are from Michigan & aren't easily intimidated by a little snow. I'd decided to join them when they invited me at dinner last night - I actually hemmed & hawed a bit while listening to the forecast this morning (had been at 1-3 inches of snow last I'd looked but overnight turned a LOT more, to the point I start to worry about getting home at the end of the day)- but decided to go in the end. This is one of those things I like the idea of doing probably wouldn't ever actually get around to doing when living my day-to-day routine, decided it was best to latch onto the moment of momentum offered by the appearance of some culturally aware out-of-towners (who also happen to be some really pleasant & fun-to-be-with ladies) to hop out of my rut for a day. Worse came to worse, they said I could sleep in the bathtub where they are.

Well, I was glad I did. We only got to stay an hour before they closed - travel conditions got nasty very quickly & the staff needed to get to their homes. But what an absolutely beautiful - gloriously subdued - hour. The gallery is in an old factory with tall, tall windows and a roof consisting of tilted rows of glass skylights. It's very open, lots of white, concrete gray, wood floors & metal factory fittings. Much of the art is uncolored too - it's the color of whatever it's made from, gray felt, metal (some mirror-shiny, some rust-red), stone, plywood - rooms full of neutrals. The light coming in was soft gray - the world outside gray and white and black - lines either very clean & simple, or not even attempted (as in heaps of gravel or glass) - and I got such a sense of being lifted from my ordinary setting and placed into one that was almost monastically pure.

It was funny - as we walked out into the gray to go back to the train station, the Michigonians were all commenting about how beautiful it would be in the spring - and it would - but somehow I just don't think I'd have quite the same visceral reaction, can the art critic stuff, the same reaction of "wow, this is amazing". I think that what made it so remarkable for me was the simple contrast between what was in front of me, versus the day-to-day visual onslaught offered/inflicted by life in NYC.

Every now & then I will try to imagine what the city would look like if I had no ability to filter things out (which is it, autism or schizophrenia, that is like that?) conciously removing mental blinders and instead of only really looking at that which is relevant to myself at that moment, letting extraneous stimuli recede to the background - I try to take in everything.

It's dizzying, in a fun way - fun because I can stop anytime I want to, guess it's sort of the mental equivalent of how little kids spin themselves around just for the feeling the world going spinning off around them when they stop - and it's interesting to do it & really think about just how much work the average urban person's brain does just screening out irrelevancies all the time. You don't think about it - you just do it, natural as timing your breathing when you swim.

But then to suddenly be in a place where the surroundings are so much cleaner...maybe that "wow, this is amazing" was whatever little piece of the brain is responsible for doing the sorting just giving a huge sigh of relief at suddenly being given a break from the onslaught.

Did make it home in the end & am looking forward to a nice quiet outer-borough day tomorrow.

Friday, January 21, 2005

already slipping...

ok, so my skepticism regarding the probable longevity of this blog - see first post - wasn't misplaced. Just got a call from a relative who's in town & wants to have dinner tonight, so probably no original thoughts today; then I also just got invited to go help somebody who's teaching a set of paddling classes at a college in the area (I'm psyched, been feeling like my teaching skills have been rusting away from lack of practice so this'll be great!) so there go Wednesday posts -

but then the interesting difference between the multitudes of journals I've started & lost interest in and a blog is that in a traditional journal - you don't have the option of either pasting in something somebody else said really, really well OR linking to something else that's far more interesting than anything I could come up with on lunch hour (all the time I've got today):

She was supposed to talk about dresses. ha. yay for her.

let's see, statistics so far:
1/3rd of postings: original thoughts
1/3rd of postings: quotation
1/3rd of postings: linking to someone else's much more interesting blog...

boy am I lazy or what?

hm. maybe if options other than me writing every single entry all by myself existed, my on-paper journals would've had lifespans longer than those of your average mayfly.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


In honor of today's coronation - er, oops, I mean inauguration - here's something well worth reading:

"Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism." — John Stuart Mills, Introduction to On Liberty, The Library of Liberal Arts edition, p.7.

thanks to (google search, "tyranny of the majority", and there it was - I used the site, I owe them the mention) for saving me the work & time of actually going to the library & finding & retyping during a busy work day toda. I woke up this morning, turned on NPR, and although I was only half-listening as I got ready for work, my attention was grabbed by hearing Karl Rove saying "the American people approve" and with that absolute whatever - language fails me - simmering in the back of my mind all day, I eventually realized that no matter how eloquent I may wax - Mills said it better a long time ago.

what's a frogma?

I'm a sea kayaker.

Well, like most people, I'm a lot of things but I made up the word "frogma" while enjoying a flame war on a rather lively local kayaker e-mail list, so it came from a sea-kayaker frame of mind.

Kayaking is a sport with a lot of subdivisions - whitewater, flatwater & sea kayaking barely begins to touch it. That's part of why I like it so much - so many different avenues to explore & so far ALL of 'em fun. But then I just like being on the water in the water, around the water - I swim & sail too - as long as I can get out there in some way on a regular basis, I'm pretty much happy.

But to return to the point of the story - these subdivisions do sometimes produce divisiveness. Surprise surprise. Recipe for a great flame war - take a bunch of people who have been drawn by different routes to a sport that can be approached a lot of different ways. Make some of 'em fanatically devoted to THEIR approach. Make a lot of 'em opinionated New Yorkers just for kicks. Put them on an e-mail group where real names don't show, drop the temperature to 15 degrees, freeze the river they love to play on, stir in the resultant cabin fever and...yee-HA! Very amusing - from the sidelines anyways.

Anyways, I was following this particularly violent thread one day when the word "Frogma" hopped into my brain. I can't remember whether it was the one where paddler A accused paddler B of trying to lure beginners to an ICY DEATH after paddler B posted a winter trip notice or the one where an inflatable fanatic (I mean a fan of inflatable boats, not...oh, you know) went on this howling rant about the terrible dangers of decked boats. It's always about the terrible danger. Whichever it was, I was following the postings & almost got to the point where I felt like I was reading fundamentalist religious maniacs, it got that fierce. The unquestioning cleaving to certain sets of beliefs - the certainty that all others are doomed...Unbending, self-aggrandizing, dogmatic...only amphibious. Voila. FROGMA - the dogma of the semi-aquatic.

Rather delighted with having made up a good word like that, I did a Google search, found that the only other people using it was some band in Denmark or someplace, and stashed it away for future use.

Seems like as good a name as any for a semi-aquatic persons's personal ramblings.

As I mention in the description, btw - I'm starting this because it's too cold & dark right now to go paddling & I'm bored. There's a very good chance that it will last only until it's more inviting outside - and that's at the outside. I don't think I've ever managed to keep a journal for more than a week. But for what it's worth, figured I'd give it a try. the question is - do I tell the bloggers whose blogs I already read & occasionally comment on that I'm blogging, thereby giving my blog at least a base of people I know (and that's the weird thing about reading these blogs - I feel like I know these people but only one of 'em is actually a friend of mine) - or do I just keep quietly anonymous for a while & see what coalesces?