Last week I set out on a trip that took me to Chicago for a conference and to Cape Cod for a short vacation with my family. I’m going to write about Chicago in this post and Cape Cod in the next one. This year’s annual American Library Association conference was in Chicago. As I am sure I’ve probably mentioned here before, I hate Chicago for this particular conference. Chicago is a fine city, but its convention center is in a terrible location not near to anything. You have to rely on shuttle buses to get back and forth from hotels as it’s not walkable to anywhere. After my last experience doing this a few years ago I decided I was going to skip the conference this year, but then an opportunity for me to be on a panel at the conference came up so I wound up going anyway.
It turned out to be a lovely conference, and I’m glad I went despite my still existing hatred of the logistics of the convention center. Luckily this time everything I had to be at and most of the stuff I wanted to be at was either scheduled in the convention center or the hotel attached to it, so I was able to just go over there in the morning and stay through the afternoon instead of trying to maneuver back and forth between the convention center and hotels for meetings multiple times per day. I also learned from my last trip and made reservations at a hotel that made it more convenient to get back and forth on the shuttle buses than the one I stayed at last time while also still leaving me walkable to lots of things to do in the evenings.
I had a great time at the conference. It was productive in that my panel went well as did the other program one of my committees was involved in planning. I’m not sure that I wound up going to anything that was super enlightening to me, but I left feeling good about my profession and my place in it so I’ll count it as a win.
The weather while I was there was pretty good. Friday night I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to play with me. My hotel was very close to Millennium Park where they were having a free Stravinksy concert, so I grabbed some take out and went over to listen to it. It was a lovely evening sitting outside in some beautiful weather listening to music.
Saturday night I got to meet up with an old friend who I used to work at Barnes & Noble with in Baltimore, but who moved to Chicago a number of years ago. It was great to catch up with her face to face rather than just over Facebook for a change.
I got to do the same on Sunday with another friend who just left Baltimore six short weeks ago for a job after finishing her masters at Hopkins. When she told me she was moving to Chicago, I told her I was going to be there for a conference and we should get together while I was in town because she wasn’t getting rid of me that easily. It hadn’t been that long since I’d seen her, but I got find out how she’s faring in her new life and then be sad all over again that this person I like very much is now so far away from me.
Sunday afternoon I also got to finally put a real face to a Twitter pal over lunch. She is also a big music fan like I am and we’re always making each other jealous of the concerts we’re at from across the country. Of course she lives in Colorado so always gets to pull out the Red Rocks card. One day, Red Rocks, one day. It was fun to meet up with her and chat in real life for a change.
I wasn’t really looking forward to this conference at all, but it wound up being a good time and I’m really glad I wound up going.
The other day I was reminiscing about high school, so it only seems fair that today I’m talking about living in a dorm. Don’t worry I’m not planning on continuing to examine every phase of my life since high school. I spent Tuesday at a copyright conference in Colorado Springs. The conference itself was free, but obviously there are flight, rental car, and sleeping accommodations that still had to be paid for. I was long out of professional development money from work, so anything I spent on this conference was coming out of my own pocket.
I debated for awhile if I should come because it seemed a little silly to fly from Maryland to Colorado for a one day conference. (There was a half-day pre-conference on the basics of copyright that I decided I didn’t need to go to and flight times would have made difficult anyway.) After looking over the agenda multiple times I decided it really was something I wanted to go to. The copyright sessions at the big library conferences I mostly wind up going to tend to focus on copyright basics or on the new relevant case law. I already know a lot about copyright, and I keep up with the current case law so oftentimes these sessions aren’t as useful for me as I would like. This conference was really focused on doing the work of a copyright librarian. It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The sessions were really helpful, and I’m glad I decided to make the trek.
You may be wondering what the heck all this has to do with living in a dorm. Well like many conferences held on university campuses during the summer there was an option to stay in the dorms for much less than it would have cost to rent a hotel room. I had done this once before a few years ago. I received a scholarship to attend a week long workshop at the University of North Carolina, which included accommodations in their dorms. I didn’t find that a particularly pleasurable experience, but I’m also cheap so I decided to give dorm life another try.
While I’m staying here I vow that I’m too old for this and it’s not worth it, but I know myself and should the option present itself again I know I’ll do it to save money. Dorm life as adult is both better and worse than dorm life when you’re actually in college. First of all in college you really don’t know any better. I also stayed in hostels while traveling at that age. I wouldn’t do that now because I don’t have to. Also you have all your stuff with you so you make it home for yourself. As an adult just staying in a dorm room for a few days it’s a pretty spartan existence. Think back to what was in your dorm room when you arrived no campus each year, add the cheapest possible sheets and towels and that’s what you get for your stay. This room at least has blinds. The UNC dorm had nothing on the window so a streetlight shined into all night long keeping me up.
Dorm life as an adult is much quieter than when you’re in college though. There are no students in the dorm, so there’s no crazy drunk people wandering the halls all hours of the night. In some ways dorm life was never for me even when I was in college because I am a pitiful sleeper. My freshman year when I had to live on a hall it was loud all the time, and I really don’t think I slept for the entire year. After that my dorm rooms were always in suites so there were only a few rooms in my hall area, which generally made it quieter. My sophomore year I lived above a frat that ended their parties every weekend with the song American Pie. If I was home I knew not to even bother trying to go to sleep until after that song played.
I can’t say I’m sleeping much better during this dorm experience mostly because the dorm doesn’t have air conditioning. With temps in the mid-80s the past two days and the afternoon sun shining directly in my window it’s been pretty warm in the room. I’m one of the lucky Baltimoreans that has central AC and we also keep a window unit in our bedroom since the AC doesn’t get to our top floor very well, so we keep it nice and cool while we sleep. This warm weather sleeping thing is not for me.
This was a weird, rambling post which is mostly to say that I’m happy I no longer have to live in a dorm and I look forward to staying in my nice comfortable bed in my cool bedroom tonight.
*Tap* *Tap* *Tap* Is this thing on? Sorry for the radio silence around these parts. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and just haven’t felt like blogging. Probably I should do it anyway seeing as how I started this blog focusing on things that make me happy in order to try and break myself out of a similar funk I was in a few years ago. I’m going to try to be better about posting around here.
Another reason for the lack of posting is that I spent most of last week traveling to Portland, Oregon for the Association of College and Research Libraries conference. I had always heard amazing things about Portland, but had never had the chance to go before so when they announced it as the location for the 2015 conference I marked it off my calendar to attend.
I know most people reading this don’t care about the actual conference, so I won’t say too much about that. As you may recall from an earlier post I was doing a poster presentation at the conference. I think it went well. A number of people were interested in the topic, and I even had someone try to recruit me to apply for a job they have open right now. It’s in Michigan though, and given my hatred of the cold I don’t think that would work out for me.
There unfortunately weren’t a lot of presentations that were focused on the types of things I’m doing in my job these days, but I did attend a couple of really good round table discussions. I also thought the keynote speakers for this conference were excellent. Librarian conferences weirdly have a tendency to have keynote speakers that don’t really have anything to do with libraries or only in the most tangentially related ways. This conference was no exception, but they were all great speakers and I loved what they had to say even though I’m not sure how much of it was applicable to my actual job. G. Willow Wilson, the writer for the new Ms. Marvel series was the least relevant personally to me, but still a great speaker with a lot of great things to say. Most of Jad Abumrad of NPR’s RadioLab’s talk was entertaining, but obviously a mostly canned presentation he’s done before. Parts of it did resonate with some things I’m feeling about my life and job at the moment even though I’m not sure it helped make any of that more clear for me. The closing keynote speaker was Lawrence Lessig, who I was super excited to hear speak. I literally did a little dance in my office the day they announced him. His speech as expected was really inspiring and did help make me feel more inspired about some things I think about a lot but haven’t done much to actually try to drive into action.
Aside from doing stuff at the actual conference I did get to play around Portland some. I got in Tuesday night. My friend Alison happened to join me on my plane in Chicago during our layover, so I got to take advantage of her work paid for cab to get to my hotel. After that we grabbed dinner at an excellent Japanese restaurant around the corner from where I was staying. I don’t remember the name of it, but it’s in the Roosevelt hotel. I said you can tell it’s good Japanese food when you walk in and 90% of the people eating in it are Japanese.
The opening keynote wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon, so my friend Natalie, who I was rooming with, and I started off the morning with breakfast at Voodoo Donuts.
We then did the proper librarian thing and headed over to Powell’s City of Books. It was slightly overwhelming. After that we walked over the convention center to register, then walked to meet up with Alison. We then did a lot more walking. We stopped at a thrift store, that amusingly was catering to librarians at the conference with a special discount and gift thanks to the owner having a librarian friend who alerted her that the librarians were in town.
After that we grabbed lunch at a delicious place called Cheese & Crack that specialized in well lots of cheese plates. It was delicious.
Natalie and I made the trek back to our hotel after that to get ready for the opening keynote. At that point we had walked about 10 miles. I reached 12 by the end of the day. As you can tell if you’re someone who likes to walk Portland is a very walkable city. I very much appreciate that about it. I walked to the convention center from my hotel every morning.
I have a lot of librarian friends in Maryland who were at the conference, but when I’m at conferencesI like to try and hang out with people from other places that I don’t get to see all the time. I didn’t have any plans with anyone for dinner on Wednesday night, but used Twitter to find someone to dine with me. The power of social media at work. We had a nice dinner at a place called Bottle + Kitchen.
Although there are always a plethora of receptions and other after hours parties, meetups, and activities that go on at library conferences I’m usually pretty lame. The 3 hour time change didn’t help anything. I was pretty much ready for bed by 8 every night given that equalled my normal bed time at home. I generally just went back to my room after dinner, and am completely fine with that. As an introvert conferencing takes a lot out of me, and I generally am not up for much more after dinner even when I’m not contending with jet lag.
Thursday afternoon I decided to bail on the vendor lunch I had signed up for because the location was really inconvenient. I was just wandering off to find some lunch on my own when I stumbled into a gaggle of my Maryland library friends headed off to some thai place whose name I cannot remember in the least. I guess they have two food truck locations, plus the brick and mortar place. It was pretty tasty.
Thursday night I got to meet up with my Twitter pal Holly. We’ve determined that she is my west coast doppelganger. She’s not an academic librarian so wasn’t at the conference, but lives in the Portland area so came over for the day to hang out with us conference people. I got to snag her for dinner and we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Southpark Seafood. It was great to finally get to meet her in person. Sadly I’ll be out of town when she’s over my way in a few months.
Friday night I made plans to meet up with another Twitter pal, who I often get together with at conferences or when I’m vacationing in San Diego where she lives. We just wound up grabbing dinner at Swank, which was the restaurant in my hotel. It was pretty darn tasty though. Friday night was also the all conference reception at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. After dinner we headed over to that. It was fun to wander around the museum and play with all the things, though I’m not smart enough to figure out any of the brain teasers they had scattered around the museum.
Saturday afternoon after the keynote I met up with Alison and our friend Julie, a friend who used to live in Baltimore and work with me but who abandoned me and moved to Seattle. It was great to spend time with her. We had access to her car, so we got to go a little bit farther afield than I had made it at that point. We grabbed lunch at brew pub and then continued tasting Portland doughnuts at a place called Pip’s. They are mini doughnuts that come in denominations of 4. They were delicious and very different from the crazy overload of Voodoo Doughnuts. Everyone says Blue Star is great too, but their schedule never seemed to jive with when I would have been able to make it to one so they sadly went untasted.
After that we headed to the Chinese gardens, which is a lovely little oasis in the middle of downtown Portland in Chinatown. The gardens were beautiful, and if you couldn’t see skyscrapers sticking up over the walls of the garden you would have no idea you were in the middle of a city.
After that we headed to Powell’s books because they hadn’t made it there yet. It was a lot more crowded on a Saturday afternoon than it was when I was there on Wednesday morning. I totally cracked up though when I overheard to employees talking to each other. One of them was saying to the other that they needed to keep better track of librarian conferences because tons of librarians kept coming and immediately looking for copies of the Ms. Marvel comic, which they had apparently been sold out of since Friday morning. We finished out the day by wandering around the stores in a neighborhood called Nob Hill and grabbing some dinner at a sushi restaurant.
All in all it was an excellent trip. I’m really glad I finally made it to Portland, and I can definitely see why so many people love it there. I’m not sure how well I would deal with the gloominess they deal with for much of the year, but everything else about it that I could see makes it seem like an excellent place to live. The next ACRL conference which happens in 2017 is going to be in Baltimore, so I look forward to showing off my beloved city to some great librarians.
I am giving a poster presentation at the Association of College and Research Libraries conference in a few weeks. I just have to give a shout out to posterpresentations.com because so far this experience has been 100 times better than the last time I had to put together a poster presentation. Someone suggested that instead of printing the poster on paper it’s better to get it printed on fabric because then you don’t have to deal with trying to fly with a giant poster tube. Instead you can just fold it up and put it in your luggage.
The last time I gave a poster presentation I did in fact fly across the country to Seattle dragging a giant poster tube and worrying about whether or not I would be able to carry it on or whether I would be forced to check it. It was a huge pain and I wound up just mailing it back home to myself so I wouldn’t have to deal with the return trip. I absolutely was going to jump at the chance to not deal with that hassle even if it was going to cost more.
I started searching out online sites that would do the printing to compare prices and I came across posterpresentations.com. They were competitive in price, but what really sold me on using them was the easy templates they provided. The last time I made a poster I struggled my way through creating it InDesign and was dreading having to deal with that again. I don’t think I’ve used InDesign since I made that last poster and I certainly had little to no recollection of how to do it.
Instead I got to work with a PowerPoint template, which is easy peasy for me. It was so much easier to design the poster this time using their template. It took me so much less time than it did last time. I just had to upload the PowerPoint slide when I was done with it. They sent me back a proof, I approved it, and then the printed it and shipped it out the same day. Even that part was better. I didn’t have to drive back and forth to Kinkos with the files and then go pick it up again.
I got the poster in the mail a few days ago and it looks great. They even sent me thumbtacks and velcro hooks to hang it with. If you ever have to do a poster presentation I would highly recommend them.
Since dealing with copyright issues is part of my job I was curious about the recent MOOC on Copyright for Educators and Librarians. If you are not familiar with MOOCs the acronym stands for Massive Open Online Courses. They’re the new trendy thing in higher education. I have my doubts, but that is not for this blog post. Professors teach online courses to large numbers of people for free is essentially the gist of it. There are a couple of different sites for MOOCs including EdX, Udacity, and Coursera, which was used for this course.
This particular course was produced at Duke and taught by 3 instructors, one from Duke, one from UNC, and one from Emory. MOOCs can have enrollments in the 10s of thousands. This one had about 8,000 to start. Statistics show that completion rates of MOOCs are pitifully small, so I would be curious to know how many people actually completed this one.
Back before the program got eliminated I also completed an online certificate in copyright management through the University of Maryland University College’s Center for Intellectual Property. I was curious to how my experiences learning online in a more traditionally sized course compared to a MOOC. The biggest difference was obviously the size. There is no way the professors could give personal attention to all the students in this course nor could they actually grade our written assignments. All we got in the way of feedback was an answer rubric that let us compare what we had written to what they thought we should have written. In both instances I felt like online learning was not as useful as in person learning. Both revolved a lot around discussion boards and it felt like people were just responding to the instructor’s questions and not so much each other so it wasn’t really much of a discussion. Maybe other instructors have found better ways to facilitate this, but so far my experiences have been poor. It’s nothing like having an in-class discussion on a topic where people are really engaging it. In the MOOC it was also impossible to keep up with all the posts because there were a ridiculous amount of them. The software running this course was also pitiful in regards to the discussions of this scale. The box to add your input to the discussion was at the bottom of the thread which could be hundreds of posts long so you had to scroll forever to get there if you weren’t one of the first people to respond. Second if you actually did start having an actual conversation with someone you could never realistically go back and see if they responded to you. Good luck ever finding that particular post again, and there was no way to subscribe to just a single post conversation without subscribing to the entire discussion thread. I accidentally did that once and my email inbox was flooded in minutes until I got back in and shut it off.
Though most of the content for me was stuff I already knew, I did pick up a few things especially around international copyright law which I’m not very familiar with. It was also good reinforcement that I do know what I’m talking about, which is definitely good since I’m trying to educate others about copyright. I did find the topic order a little haphazard and not the order I generally see copyright information presented. It made me wonder if people who were coming into this cold or with very little knowledge of copyright law were able to follow along as well as I did. I do know that one of my friends who also took this course was confused by where they got some of the answers because she didn’t know the case law they were pulling from and they didn’t specifically note it in the example answer.
I certainly appreciate that something like this course exists, and hope they do run it again in the future. I think it’s a good first step for people interested in copyright. I’m glad I participated and got to experience what learning through a MOOC is like. I can see MOOCs being useful for people wanting to get a baseline amount of information or a refresher on a topic, but I in no way think they substitute for more traditional courses whether online or face-to-face.
Well hello there my poor neglected blog. Sorry for the radio silence around these parts. I’ve been traveling over the past 2 weeks or so. First I was on vacation with my family in San Diego, which I get into more detail about within the next couple of days. I haven’t had time to sort through the pictures I took for that post yet. So I’m going to go a little out of order and post about the trip I took to Las Vegas for the American Library Association conference immediately following that vacation. This will be a fairly quick post because this blog is supposed to be about happy things and lets face it Vegas is not really my thing. I am not into the gaudiness. It reminds me of Times Square in New York, which I also loathe, except that it’s the entire tourist part of the city. I don’t gamble. I can’t drink. I am not fond of it being 110 degrees. I don’t like walking through people’s smoke. I don’t like being lost and wandering around aimlessly every time I have to find somewhere in a casino hotel because they refuse to sign things well in order to keep you trapped in there. I don’t like being propositioned by skeezy men. I don’t like being surrounded by stupidly drunk people on public transit. Need I go on? I don’t think so. You get the point.
So what pray tell could I possibly write about that was good about this trip? Well first off, the conference itself was useful even if I was not fond of the location it was in. I went to several good sessions that provided me with information that will be helpful in my job. The committee meetings I went to were productive, and I think we’re moving in a really good direction. I also had several opportunities to do some networking and hopefully be helpful to some other people in what they’re looking to do in the future. You always hear that networking is the real reason you go to conferences. I don’t think that I’m super good at connecting with people who I might have a mutually beneficial relationship with work wise, but this conference I got to chat with at least two people about common things we’re working on.
Case in point about my lack of beneficial networking, generally I somehow manage to connect with librarians that are doing entirely different things than me. Not that this is a bad thing because they’re awesome people and I like having them as friends, but I wouldn’t call it networking as such because there’s not much for example that a children’s librarian is doing that is going to be relevant to my work in an academic library. Anyway, I did get to use the conference to connect with some friends that I usually only get to interact with online, so that was fun.
Although Vegas is somewhat known for its food these days with lots of celebrity chef restaurants, I can’t say that I had any super amazing meals. I had a decent burger and yummy milkshake at Gordan Ramsey’s BURGR in Planet Hollywood. The fries were subpar though. One of my friends and I decided to splurge and go out for a fancy dinner one night while we were there. We went to the Eiffel Tower restaurant at the top of the Paris hotel and casino. It was fine, but nothing I was overly impressed with especially for the price. Though the potatoes alone might have been worth the $75 price of my meal.
Also I cannot fault Vegas for its workers. Obviously a good chunk of their population makes a living working in the hospitality/tourism industry and they apparently know it. Aside from one waitress that wasn’t great, the service I had the entire time I was there was great. Everyone was super friendly and helpful. And I was in multiple sessions where an AV person came to set things up and checked on us multiple times and let us know where they would be if we had problems. Most of the time if the AV equipment isn’t working right good luck finding someone in a convention center or hotel who can help you out in a timely fashion. So kudos to Vegas for really having well trained customer service staff. We in libraries should have been taking notes on that during our conference.
All in all despite my numerous complaints about Las Vegas itself, the conference was good. This was the first time that the conference has been held in Las Vegas since 1973. Here’s hoping it’s another 30+ years before it’s there again.
I had been noodling around with the idea of getting a stand up desk for a long time, but for various reasons had not done anything about it until recently. I’ve had issues with pain and numbness in my shoulders, neck, back, hands thanks to sitting in horribly unergonomic positions at work and at home on my laptop. I did get my work to add a keyboard tray for me a few years ago, which helped a lot. I still have a tendency to start slumping in my chair after I’ve been sitting for awhile though. Add that to the many hours I spend sitting on my couch watching TV and playing on my computer after work and well you get the picture of a not so great lifestyle even adding in the 4 miles I walk most days.
My office has a very large fixed desk that covers most of the walls so there as no way for me to consider any additional or replacement furniture in the way of a full on standing desk. Additionally I wanted something that would allow me to move back and forth between standing and sitting. I’ve worked jobs where I’ve been on my feet for 8 hours a day and that’s no fun either. That led to a lot of lower back pain, especially when I was just standing in one place all day like I would be at a desk. Thus I needed a way to convert back and forth between standing and sitting while using some sort of conversion for my existing desk.
There are lots of fancy things you can put on an existing desk to move up and down to an appropriate standing height, but those cost at a minimum $400 and can get much more expensive than that. Since whatever I did was going to have to be paid for out of my own pocket I was never able to pull the trigger on buying one because it was just more money than I wanted to spend. Then one day towards the end of last year I somehow had the epiphany that I could use the window ledge above my desk to hold my monitor and it would be pretty much the appropriate height for me while I was standing. That meant I just needed to buy something that would sit on top of my desk to make my keyboard the appropriate height.
I looked online and saw lots of more expensive things and then also some cheap Ikea hacks. I considered trying one of those, but wanted something that would look a little nicer. Eventually I stumbled on this stand up desk. I could order it in a color that matched my existing desk and at $70 it was a price I was willing to pay.
It was fairly easy to assemble once I got going. It comes with Ikea-like instructions of pictures only and the same sort of assembly that is required with Ikea furniture, which I am horrible at dealing with. I also didn’t bring the appropriate sized screwdriver with me to work, so I’m pretty sure I stripped every screw in it trying to assemble it with a screwdriver that was too small. Guess I can never take it apart again. Once I figured out what I was doing though assembly didn’t take too long and was pretty easy.
The information on the desk indicates that it’s appropriate for people 5’3″ to 5’11”. I just barely make it at 5’3″, so it is probably about an inch taller than I would ideally like it to be, but it’s good enough. I also bought a padded mat to stand on with a gift card I got for Christmas, which helps give me a little height to even things out a little bit in addition to making it easier on my back and feet.
I’ve been using it since the end of November, though between holidays, snow days, and a conference that actually hasn’t been that many days. So far I’m enjoying it though. I usually alternate an hour sitting with an hour standing, though sometimes I sit or stand for a longer stretch of time depending on my schedule or what I’m working on. It only takes me a few seconds to move the monitor and keyboard between their sitting and standing positions, so it’s easy to move back and forth. I do find that there are certain tasks that I prefer to do sitting. When you read a lot of things people say about having a standing desk on the internet they talk about being more productive and having more energy. I’m not sure that exactly true for me. I don’t think it makes me any more or less productive, but when I have to do something that really takes a lot of brain power I prefer to do it sitting. If I start working on something while I’m standing and all of a sudden can’t stop thinking about wanting to sit while I’m doing it I will sit.
Reactions from my co-workers have been amusing. Some of them have said they’re jealous and want to figure out a way to create something for themselves. Others have looked at me like I’m insane and asked me what in the world I’m doing. At this point most people have seen it though, so no one really says anything anymore.