Monday, July 15, 2013

Playmobil triggers, or why I spend so much time on Twitter

Last night, my daughter decided to recreate our entire kitchen in Playmobil. The counters and kitchen furniture, a dog and three cats, a bowl in the island and silverware in the drawer just where we keep ours, but also dishes in the sink, overflowing compost, father making dinner, son playing soccer, and me on Twitter. I'm biased but it's quite brilliant.

Liz (and her phone) in Playmobil

My kids tease me about my Twitter addiction and at dinner, after I tweeted the tomato picture they also accused me of being one of those “food tweeters” (gasp!), clearly not a good thing. But subscribing to Tim O'Reilly's tenet that ambient intimacy is one of Twitter's keystones, I forged ahead undaunted, and tweeted the part of the Playmobil portrait that was of me and my coffee and my phone.

Which is when Twitter did its magic. My Twitter friend Melissa Techman favorited it and asked if she could use it for a Thimble mashup she was doing with her teens. Melissa is a librarian in Virginia (Maryland?) who is always working on amazing ways to get kids thinking and working on books and technology. Though we haven't (yet) met in person, we've been following each other for a year or so, and seem to continually find interests in common and ways to bounce ideas of each other. She organized an online workshop last year for which she invited me to do a short presentation on ebook production. I'm excited to see what else we can collaborate on in the future.

Melissa and Thimble

Meanwhile my daughter wanted to know what a Thimble was, so I asked Melissa, and she pointed me to the website. And it turns out it's a way of creating web pages—I haven't figured out the remixing part yet—and so my daughter and I spent the next hour or so writing HTML. It's hard for me to quantify what a treat it is to be able to share my knowledge with my kids. They know almost everything already (!) so it's pretty rare that they let me teach them anything. But if someone else suggests it... well, thank you, Melissa!

After my daughter went to bed, I spent a little while following some of Melissa's tweets about #clmooc. I keep bumping into MOOCs and I know I should know more about them and that I will love them when I get there, but I haven't had a moment to look more closely. But just reading those MOOC-related tweets is what gives me hope about the world. There are so many people working together, sharing knowledge, learning cool things, inventing, making.

It didn't stop there. This morning I found that Kevin Hodgson had started to follow me. It caught my eye that he lives in Western Mass, but as I wandered about the last few tweets in his timeline, I found interesting clues to just what #clmooc is up to, and also found a great list of Techno Skills, written by Kevin Kelley, which I shared with my Catalan tweeps. Hopefully, one of them will be inspired to translate the list into Catalan so it can be shared further.

One of Kevin Hodgson's links also got me thinking about Minecraft which helped me realize I should probably not freak out quite so much about how much time dear daughter spends with it. Indeed, encourage her even. And so it goes full circle, while leaving and sharing a little bit at every stop.

Bonus. This is not the first time I've been depicted in toys. I met another Twitter friend, Maia Weinstock after reading in her bio that she makes "science and music personalities come to life in LEGO". (I love Lego.) Then I noticed she retweeted my Catalan stuff, and it turns out she's part Catalan too! We met in person for the first time for a Sant Jordi event at Harvard University in April, when she presented me with a Liz Castro minifig. Totally honored!

Thursday, July 4, 2013



My garden this year is mostly populated by volunteers, and a good thing too, otherwise there wouldn't be much there. There are several patches of Mexican sunflowers, and a couple of surprise pumpkins (or gourds, perhaps :), and even a cosmos or two. The only thing I planted myself were two rows of peas, in a fit of energy and desperation at the end of May, and a tiny collection of tomato, cucumber, and annual starts that I bought at the farmer's market, which is cheating, but I don't care.

I'm not a very good gardener. I'm not good at imposing order: I hate thinning what I've planted and I almost never pull out volunteers. It's an unwillingness to choose between serendipity and what I think I want. In a way, it's a refusal to take responsibility, and/or to pretend I have control. Before I fall overboard, I'll admit that I do distinguish between 'volunteers' (plants I like) and 'weeds' (plants I don't like), although I'm not very good at pulling the latter either.

cosmosHow do you know when to push for change and when to accept what's offered? When is it right to change course—in a sort of zen exercise of being present—in order to follow what you have before you. And when should you pull it out, to leave space for the seedling that you thought you wanted there?

The space of my life is overrun with both planted seedlings and volunteers. And I can barely keep up with either one. I met an important mentor because I didn't do well enough on a Spanish placement exam. I found my first job in Barcelona because I got lost in an office building. I got the rights to the Spanish edition of The Macintosh Bible after asking for permission to publish just a few tips. I got invited back to the US in the middle of a concert of the Rock Bottom Remainders. I agreed to do the HTML book so they would let me do the Netscape books. Oh my. But I knew I wanted to do EPUB as soon as I saw the iPad :)


And everything is so interconnected, and gets more and more so. The peas climb up my volunteer sunflowers, and I go to Barcelona and learn how to publish books and then 20 years later publish books about Barcelona. I never know what's going to come out and how tightly to hold the rudder.

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