I'm a little behind in work now. I had to reschedule a meeting I had set for tomorrow morning because I wanted to make sure I caught up with work for the week. Its only about an hour or two of work - but enough to set me back a bit.
This morning I met with Steve Burke, president of Ithaca Hours, Inc. and owner of Small World Music. We've been discussing ways to help improve the local currency's website (http://www.ithacahours.org/). In the summer of 2005 I worked with Ithaca Hours to re-develop their site with a dynamic database that allowed for easy administration of the members of the currency.
We also used the redesign as an opportunity to add in a way for members to apply and pay online and to allow for announcements are fresh content on the site. Since the site launch on September 28th, 2005 the site has had 49,500 visitors (as of this evening). That is about 50 visitors a day - one every 30 mintues. Visitors spend on average 1 minute and 18 seconds on the site and visit 1.3 pages. This is over 3 years of data.
In the 2008 calendar year the site average about 1100 visitors a month from January to August. In September the number jumped to 1,411; October 1,984; November 1,924; December 2,577. Today we had 97 visitors - twice the average since the site went live in 2005.
So what does that mean? Are the changes in the national, regional, and local economy giving people second thoughts about currency, credit, and local trade and barter systems? Steve mentioned that before we met (at 10am) he had two different radio interview already. Ithaca Hours has been in Newsweek and Time magazine recently. I believe local currency will grow as a way to keep local dollars local.
In the short term, the website will start to allow for a few ads to help support the site and to help run the system. The ads will also give participating businesses a chance to be in front of some 50 visitors a day. For information on advertising, or joining Ithaca Hours, contact Ithaca Hours here: http://www.ithacahours.org/contact.php
On Sunday afternoon Arjan and I returned to Stewart Park for art, music, food, and a good mix of IthacaCulture.
Saturday I headed to IthacaFest activities around 5pm after what I thought was the end of the day's rain. As I passed into the Ithaca city limits more light rain started. I found a place to park on Tioga Street and walked around the commons briefly. I hopped the 13 bus from Seneca Street to Stewart Park.
I made my way across the wet park for the second time in two days and found a small, dedicated crowd in front of the Grove Stage to see Emerson B*.
A little later I bumped into Steve B. from Ithaca-Blog (and Ithaca Hours Inc.) and we watched and listened to most of the Evil City String Band show (featuring Steve's brother).
Around 9pm we headed to the bus stop and bused back to Ithaca Commons, where I met Arjan for the next stop on our IthacaFest trip.
There was the wedding dance and the wedding cake and the wedding speeches and the wedding ceremony and mixed in with all of that was a wonderful three mile wedding hike.
Arjan's friend's Julia and Morgan were married at Upper Treman State Park on Sunday afternoon. Following the ceremony the guests were invited to walk down the Treman Gorge to Lower Treman State Park for the wedding reception.
The weather was perfect - blue skies and comfortable mid-70's temps. Arjan and I had a great time and made lots of mental notes for our own upcoming nuptials.
Pictures are here:
My cell phone's tiny crappy camera works!
Last night Arjan and I had dessert (Toffee Bar for me, Chocolate Pie for her) and a drink (coffee for me, red wine for her) at the ABC Cafe. We finished up our dessert just a few minutes before Alash performed.
Alash is a throat singing band from Tuva, a republic in the southern reaches of Russian Siberia. It had been mongolian or russian or both. There's a bit of a history on Wikipedia. Throat singing is a method of singing where the singer controls the air from the lungs to the mouth and lips using the throat like an instrument - mostly sounding like a flute. At the same time the singer is singing or humming through the throat . There's a Wikipedia article on overtone singing which is the same thing.
There's a lot of magical harmony and the four performers worked well together making it sound as though there were 8 or 12 people performing.
My friend Steve from Small World Music (and Ithaca Blog) described Tuva as a place where the people are mostly cowboys. These cowboys raise and oversee horses and yaks. When they bed down at camp for the night they sing. They've done this for generations and it is a style learned from a young age. Steve mentioned a movie called "Genghis Blues" about an aging blues singer from San Francisco who stumbles onto Tuvan music and goes to Tuva to learn and sing, "The Story of a Blind Blues Musician's Journey To The Lost Land of Tuva".
I'm sure the Tuvans don't think they are lost. It was amazing to see them sing and to think that they came from so very far away and from a time that was all but forgotten. If noone would have visited Tuva their tradition would have stayed hidden forever perhaps. We are lucky here in Tompkins County to be able to have such visitors in our towns.
This morning Arjan and I decided to try the brunch at ABC Cafe on Stewart Ave in Ithaca. Arjan's friend J. and his wife D. were finishing up a cross country tour (from Santa Barbara to Portland, Maine) and were in Ithaca for the weekend. Last night I asked them all kinds of questions about their cross country travels to compare their journey to my own 2003 tour.
I parked on Lynn Street this morning where Cascadilla Gorge meets the flats part of Ithaca, met up with the Gimme enhanced Arjan and D. and J. and hiked up to Collegetown. The sun was in the air and the weather was cool near the gorge (warmer in the direct sun!).
We found some great stick and tree and vine sculptures in front of the Schwartz Center (of Cornell) when we got to Cornell. After a few pictures we hiked halfway back down the hill and had our ABC brunch.
We noticed the little tree buds breakng out and Jonathan took pictures and I took pictures of him. After we split up (I was heading to see some football games) I took pictures of the abandoned Christmas Trees all around Ithaca and Belle Sherman.
Check out the pictures here:
The End of Christmas
Today, Sunday, New Years Eve, at a little after 4pm six friends and I jumped into Cayuga Lake. We didn't even jump - we ran down until the water was at least waist deep, did a little dive under water and then ran back to the shore.
It was icey cold, though compared to other new years eves in Ithaca it was a balmy 40 degrees at dive time. We had an invigorating swim - so much that after we all promised to do it again next year - that two of us (not me) decided to get a second helping today.
Dirk and Kyle ran off - in slow motion this time for a second dip in the lake.
Photos on flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmakar/sets/72157594450774199/
AVI file on YouTube here:
This is from Steve's Ithaca-Blog post (http://ithaca-blog.blogspot.com/):
Ithaca Hours, the local currency system, welcomes members new and old at its annual membership meeting, at 7 pm, Tuesday 17 October, at the GIAC building, on Court and Albany Streets.
Ithaca Hours is a local currency system that issues a local money for people to spend with each other, and at participating businesses.
Currently there are about 600 members, and over $100,000 in Hours in circulation.
Hours is owned and operated by its members. Annual membership costs one Ithaca Hour, or ten dollars. Members receive an annual disbursement of two Ithaca Hours, or twenty dollars. So you make money just by joining.
If you join (or renew) at the annual membership meeting, you take advantage of a special offer that doubles your disbursement. You get 4 Ithaca Hours for signing up at the meeting. This means you make three Ithaca Hours, or thirty dollars.
The organization benefits from this by having a lot of people sign up at once, saving time and effort. It also wants people to come together and meet one another.
That's why there are also free desserts, from great local eateries.
You can find out more about the meeting, and Ithaca Hours, at Hours' website, ithacahours.org.
for Ithaca Blog
For more information about Ithaca HOURS see their website here: http://www.ithacahours.org/