I love making lists. I’m not so good at following the lists, but I like making them. There’s something great about putting everything down and being able to see it at once. To tease out the bits you forget.

Whenever we go on a trip, my father makes us make lists. He sits the family down and asks us what we want to do during the duration of our away-from-home.* He writes down what we say and puts it somewhere prominent. About once a day he asks how we’re doing on marking things off. He tries to help facilitate us doing everything we’ve put down. He also reminds us that if we don’t do everything, it’s our own fault.

A photo of a garden

“Spending time with Dad” turned into “dig a big hole and build a garden.” Be careful of your execution!

Doing everything on the lists I used to make was easily impossible, improbable, or just not fun. When you have ten people to see, three museums to go to, two hikes, five restaurants, and a long drive somewhere pretty, you’re not going to do it all without really trying and pushing. This leaves no room for laziness, something coming up, or just taking time to enjoy what is around you.

I learned a trick for keeping Dad off my back: have simple goals, have few goals, have abstract goals. On our most recent trip to see my grandmother, my goals were:

  • Go swimming every day
  • See Savie (my grandmother -m.)
  • Have bonding experiences with my family

I did every one of these things!

A photo of three children playing in a pool

Even back in the 90s, my goals were pretty much the same, just poorly worded. (My brother–PD, me, my cousin–CC.)

I do this with all the trips I go on. When my gaming friends from college had our second reunion, the list I put together included:

  • Go swimming every day
  • Play games
  • Hang out with my peeps
  • Ride a bike
  • Drink
A photo from a giant maze

A human maze is like a game, right? Those are my peeps. Bam! Success.

I didn’t ride a bike, but part way through the week, I accepted that as my own damn fault. The act of getting a bike was more than I wanted to deal with.

In anticipation for my upcoming summer vacation, I find myself thinking of all the things I want to do. These are unintentional thoughts, excitement and nervousness creeping into my mind when I should be focusing on other things. Like work. These flights can be distilled into actual desires rather than moment possibilities. Seeing a long list of people has turned into “Spend time with people I like and people I love.” A fanciful list of activities in truth represents “Have an adventure.”

M.’s Summer Vacation 2012 Goal List

    • See some of my favorite people
    • Meet some new cool people
    • Learn something new
    • Understand something I didn’t before
    • Have an adventure
    • Listen to great music
    • Drink

I am totally confident all of these will happen. If nothing else, DA feeds me wine at Fest, so that’s two things in one go.

*The lengths I will go to to not use the word “trip” twice in a row.


This isn’t just a story of Paris, this is a story of dedication, perseverance, morals, and, of course, love.

R and I went to Paris. We walked around and took some pictures in front of things people take pictures in front of.

We ate macarons.

We had fun.

But then we were stopped at night and they took him away.

In the morning I got a phone call. It was the people who took R. They told me that I could have him back if I denounced the freedom I’d worked so hard for and publicly supported ACTA, SOPA, and the Belgian Copyright Society’s attack on library volunteers. I would have to give up on Open Education, and let all my occupational dreams and plans die if R was to live. I knew he wouldn’t accept that.

The river, which had led so many people so many places, led me to the only choice I knew I had.

The people who took him didn’t know about how my father trained me.

Or my kung fu. (I apologize to actual practitioners of kung fu. I know it is serious and has a rich tradition. My dad did, for realsies, kung fu.)

I went after them.

I triangulated R’s cell phone signal and it led me deep into the sewers of Paris.

Getting in was hard.

And dangerous.

Down there, I found R! (He was happy to see me.)

We set off a trap.

We emerged from the sewers, but there was no moment of respite. We were attacked by the enemies. I defeated them easily.

Finally we could breathe.

It turned out that the kidnappers were actually pretty nice people. We talked about it and I learned that they too were being blackmailed. They were pawns in the game.

I had a lot to think about. I could have just let it end there, but they could not get away with this. They could not be allowed to go after anyone again.

Nothing could stop me.

I met the leader of the Malicious Enforcement of All Noticeable IP Exercise Society. Even though we were in public, he attacked.

With his defeat, we could really celebrate.

Which we did it with macarons.

A special thanks to Dafydd Harries, Guy Lunardi, Rob McQueen, and Rob Ochshorn.