One of the many weblogs I scan daily is Freelance Switch, which has all manner of helpful hints and information for the sole proprietor, small business owner, and hired gun. One recent article that caught my attention was about a group of Philadelphia free agents who essentially banded together to create a communal design space, called Independents Hall. The inspirational part, for me, was the story of the guy who saw a need to create a community, and went out and did it. The paragraph explaining how he got people involved is a case study for building interest in, well, anything, really:
“I started with going to all these different meet-up groups and finding ways to bring them together and cross-pollinate them. I did that sort of physical outreach and then started a mailing list, which was just a place for people to converse about…whatever. It didn’t really matter to me at the time. As long as they were talking, it was good,” he says. Soon, Hillman and some friends and colleagues started face-to-face events of their own…
…The first meeting consisted of four brave souls who came out in the middle of a snowstorm. The next one was a little bit bigger, and the next one even bigger. It kept snowballing from there says Hillman. “That whole visibility thing was finally starting to go somewhere, and people said ‘whoa I had no idea how much stuff was going on in Philadelphia. I had no idea that my neighbor was doing x-y-z,’ and I thought, ‘finally, people are getting this.’”
On a related topic, I’ve often thought it would be great to share part of the house here with other freelancers in the area, or find a cheap space to rent, fill it with tables, haul in a printer or two, set up a wireless network, and put the word out. I imagine, like any other community-building exercise, it would be taxing to be the glue and the energy, but I bet the underlying guidelines would be much the same as other successful online communities, only with flesh-and-blood people and not screen names.
I have a new friend sitting on my desk this week: a working Powerbook 160. I don’t know why this particular model struck my fancy—I suppose it was always something I wished I could afford back in my poverty days. Manufactured in 1992, it originally listed for $2,430, or about two months’ salary at the time. Last week, it cost me $10 in postage and a DOA powerbook gathering dust on my shelf.
It’s not small. It doesn’t have a battery, and still weighs quite a bit. The screen is tiny. But it feels solid—something my fancy color 520 never did. It boots up in about 10 seconds, running System 7.1. The keyboard is springy and tight. The trackball (remember those?) is smooth and fast.
There are applications for modern Macs which are supposed to aid in productivity—going so far as to black out the entire screen so that the writer isn’t tempted to check email, surf the internet, etc. My solution? I installed a copy of Word 5.1 and was writing within minutes. I can’t get the machine on the internet without a dial-up account and a lot of patience, so there’s no temptation to fool around reading the IMDB. I’ve already used it to produce some writing for work, which means it’s paid for itself already. Sometimes the simple solutions really are the best ones.
This afternoon, we’ve got two nice fellows down in the basement wrestling part of our heating situation back into submission, which will increase the standard of living at the Lockardugan Compound. When the good Doctor expanded his waiting room outwards to the enclosed front porch, he moved the radiator from the dining room out there so that his patients wouldn’t freeze while thumbing through Reader’s Digests. Because the whole porch is so poorly insulated, any heat released out there immediately gets sucked outside, requiring the boiler to be run at dangerously expensive temperatures. Our first year here, I turned the valves out there down to 0 and waited until we could afford to make changes, but it always annoyed me to know we were heating the front yard.
Additionally, when we gutted the kitchen, we made a decision to remove the radiator there to make room for more cabinetry. The upshot of this decision was that there was no heat on the west side of the first floor last winter, which made entertaining (and cooking) a chilly prospect.
This is the first of many steps to reclaim the front porch for a habitable space within the house—we have dreams of using the reception room and office for another usable living space, as well as the exam room for a TV room/den. Having the radiator moved back inside will not be cheap, but I think that in the long run it will make the first floor a better place to live, and it’s great to make a little forward movement.
The Mobile Chapel is parked at a rest stop in southern Pennsylvania, and it’s open for business at 6:30 on a Monday evening.
A beautiful Pontiac conveniently parked aross the street from my parents’ house yesterday afternoon.
Taken in my father’s garden, upstate New York.
I have a client inside the beltway who I have to visit from time to time. On the way there, I’ve spied a beautiful green touring car of 20’s vintage sitting in a nondescript gas station parking lot through sun, rain, and snow. On my way back from a meeting, I finally stopped to shoot some viewfinder pics of the car, and found it to be a Hudson sedan in reasonably good shape. At this point in time, I’m stopping to shoot every interesting car over 30 years old because of the ravages of Eastern winters on pre-undercoated and galvanized bodywork. This particular car looks like it was treated to a comprehensive overhaul sometime in the last ten years, and then left to its own fate outside in the elements. A grand car like this deserves to be stored in a climate-controlled garage, and then packed each weekend with suitcases, a picnic lunch, and a family, and then driven to scenic destinations—in other words, loved and used. It pains me to see rust bubbles on the sills of the running boards and spiderweb cracks in the chrome on a survivor as proud and dignified as this, because I’d hate to see it deteriorate past the point of restoration.