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Spring Fever

A few years ago, my business partner, Ana Maria, and I spent two weeks in Ulaanbataar to try and set up a new Geekcorps program. Unfortunately, we kept attending meetings and discovering that the people we wanted to meet with weren’t able to meet us and that we’d need to reschedule. After a few days, our local partner admitted to us that lots of people were cancelling meetings with us. It wasn’t that we smelled bad or were unusually boring. It was spring, and after a Mongolian winter, everyone wanted to be outside, not inside having business meetings.

It was true, as we discovered that weekend. We went to visit Terelj national park and rented a ger, figuring it was the sort of thing only tourists did. But as we settled in, we discovered that all the neighboring gers were occupied by city dwellers who were struck with spring fever and wanted to hike the green mountains, picnic and wrestle by the shores of the freezing cold rivers. (We did get a program off the ground eventually, and even shipped my friend Andrew McLaughlin off to the steppe to lend a hand with telecoms policy.)

Our ger in Terelj national park

I tell this story because I think it helps explain why I’ve been blogging less than usual the last couple of weeks. It’s been heartbreakingly beautiful out here in the Berkshires – 25C and sunny in the days, 5C at night, and we’ve watched mountains covered with grey sticks turn green literally overnight. I normally dread phone calls, but I’ve been celebrating them these weeks, because they give me an excuse to leave the house and walk in the woods while I talk with whoever has called.

So as much as I want to be outraged about Robert Mugabe taking over the chair of the U.N. Committee on Sustainable Development – yep, give that responsibility to a man who’s caused 2,200% inflation in his struggling country – my heart’s just not in it. Zimpundit is appropriately outraged, though, and rounds up reactions to the current miserable situation from all around that beautiful country.

The truth is, I’ve basically been thinking about two subjects lately: berries, and baseball. We put in two dozen blueberry bushes two years ago, and this year I have high hopes of a harvest. (I met Dr. Daniel Dennett at TED a little more than a year ago. He told me that he’d been growing blueberries as well and turning them into an aquavit that he calls “Sacre Bleu”. That’s clearly the mark of a great man.) This year we put in five raspberries, five black raspberries and five blackberries. Given that raspberries grow wild here and are basically a weed, this seems like an odd decision, but everything we’ve bought from Nourse Farms in South Deerfield has grown like mad in our soil. I have dreams of picking berries during conference calls all summer long, this summer, or the next, or the one after that.

I also feel compelled to mention that I’m not just a Red Sox fan, but a Tim Wakefield fan. Despite being forty years old and incapable of throwing a fastball over 75 mph, he’s got the best earned run average in the American League. A month ago, I’d started designing a website – runsfortimmy.org – which urged Red Sox to donate extra runs to Wakefield’s outings. But on a spring evening like this one, the wily knuckleballer and the world as a whole don’t seem to need much help.

Don’t worry – I’m off to Oxford tomorrow night, and it’s evidently raining there. Should bring me back to earth and back on topic real fast.

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