Thursday, September 11, 2014

In Memoriam: 9/11/2001

On this thirteenth anniversary of the attacks, I thought I'd write up my memories of activities around me on that day. One thing I've learned in talking with people about 9/11 is the "localness" effect on what they remember. I work in the DC Metro region so memories around here relate to the Pentagon attack. Friends in North Jersey talk about the World Trade Centers.

I was in Tampa working for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System at their headquarters library in downtown Tampa. The President was reading to school children in Sarasota, FL. Sarasota is the south side of Tampa Bay, which is surrounded by Tampa to the East & North, and St. Petersburg to the West. The bay is split by a peninsula about 2 miles wide and 5 miles high.  The south end of that peninsula is MacDill Air Force Base. With the President in the area, Air Force One was parked at MacDill and I'm sure the Coasties got the rare opportunity to use the call sign Coast Guard One and flew the Prez across the bay in one of their rescue copters.

My desk was in a processing area on the third floor of the Library. All of the Cataloging department staff had desks surrounding a central area that was filled with book carts. I think there were 10 desks in total with space to pull a book cart over to be the "third wall of the cubicle" while you were working those titles. I was the Serials Librarian, having responsibility for all of the magazine subscriptions and that type work, but I also spent half of every day cataloging.  

(THPL Cataloging department saying farewell to me Oct 2001. I don't remember what was the deal with the shoes.)

The cataloging area was designed to be stacks not offices, so we had the type of windows you find in most basements, 24 inches wide by 12 inches high, installed right under the ceiling, so we couldn't look out to see anything. We only knew if it was raining by the darkness.

My shift started at 9 am, so I'm sure I didn't hear anything until I was already at work. At work, we may have had a radio providing background noise in the area. I think that's how we first heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. (Or someone's kid may have called in and said something.)

I do remember that the first inkling we had of something being seriously wrong was a sonic boom. They launched the ready fighters from MacDill and those boys must have been in a serious hurry to get a low cap over the field because they launched on afterburners and broke the sound barrier within 1000 feet of the ground. It shook the building. With 12 years in the Air Force, I knew what it was. (Sonic booms are distinctive.) But I also knew that was serious if MacDill launched fighters without concern for the noise generated.

Shortly after that, we got word from the Director's office that there had been a second plane, it wasn't an accident, and a TV had been set-up in the break area so we could check on the news of the day.  We sent someone from the section up to watch and report back to us what was going on, but someone's kid or husband called in before that to pass on the info that the towers had fallen and all flights were being grounded.

The next big thing in my day was a call relating to a job interview. I was scheduled for a phone interview with a federal agency on 09/12, but they were leaving the office, the government was being shutdown, and they couldn't be sure they'd be back the next day. We rescheduled the interview for a week later.

We'd get random news updates through the day. When my shift ended I went home and saw nothing but news for the rest of the day. We've all seen the same clips now, but I remember seeing as much footage of the President being told about events as we did of the plane crashes into the towers.

President Bush in Sarasota 9/11/2001 

I also remember the news never went off the air. Even though they had nothing new to report, they just kept repeating the same stuff hour after hour. Even the next morning the Today show was still repeating the same old stories.

So, that's my recollections of the event. I'd like you to share your recollections via whatever social media you're most comfortable with. Recording memories is an interesting exercise.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Talkin 'bout the Good Old Days

At the time of this post, I'm 52 years old. I'm not one to reminisce about the good old days. In most cases, they weren't that good. However, two recent conversations and the Miranda Lambert song ‘Automatic’ (link below) have me thinking about some skills and knowledge that kids are missing out on these days.

When I went to Junior High, in the mid 70's, we had a choice of 6 shop classes. In the basement of the school we had 4 shops: electronics, metal, print, and wood. On the second floor we had a kitchen and a sewing room.

In Electronics, you learned the basics of power supply and home circuits. We would repair cassette decks or stereo receivers. Everyone built a crystal radio. You learned basics of batteries, fuses, circuit breakers, transistors, resistors, and capacitors. You understood the difference between series and parallel circuits. That means 13 year olds could figure the size and number of batteries to power an off grid system for one day.

In Print shop, you learned kerning of different fonts; you built a document to be printed from moveable type. Building one 8 x 11 sheet gives you a greater understanding of the process of printing a book after Gutenberg until the advent of computers. We carved designs in print blocks, inked them, and made art work. We cut stencils to silk screen T-shirts.

In Metal shop, we folded sheet metal into boxes with sealed seams that would hold water. We cold pounded bars into wall hooks. We made sand castings and poured molten metal into the form.

In Wood shop, we learned safety around saws. Band saws, table saws, and drill presses were all common hazards. We built wall shelfs and stools; fine wood working and utilitarian work.

In the Kitchen, we'd whip up recipe after recipe. From simple chocolate chip cookies to decorated cakes, we tried it all. Yes, it was the mid-70's so I was the only boy in my home ec class. (Back then, home economics was a woman's domain.)

I didn't take sewing, so I can't comment on the school course. I learned that at home. And yes, I can replace a button or sew a whole shirt from a pattern.

All of that is what we lose when we move to teaching the test and stop worrying about the whole person. One shouldn't need to be an electrician to understand how your home electricity works. Everyone should be comparing electricity needs when they are buying a new refrigerator, washer, dryer, etc.

Building something yourself gives you a better understanding of what is involved in the products you buy from the store. It also makes you self sufficient if there isn't a store nearby. I built my own three level cat tree when stationed in Germany because the locals didn't have anything like it. Just plywood, fence pole, carpeting, and tree branches, but it lasted 15 years and two major moves.

There is a basic core of knowledge and skills one should have to live on your own in this society. Forty years ago you learned both in school. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I am privileged to be Pale and Male.

In occasional Librarian discussions online, the topics of diversity and privilege come up. Those topics go hand in hand, but I'm only going to talk about privilege here.

I'll admit that I had a hard time understanding the concept of privilege. It always seemed to be saying that I had everything handed to me and I know that isn't the case. A few months ago, I came across this blog post that did a good job of explaining the concept in a way I could understand and agree with.

In a discussion today, I came across another way of explaining it for those that still don't get it. Privilege is not about getting things handed to you. Rather, it is about factors that are outside of your control giving you a head start in the race.

Think about being given a deck of cards at birth that sums up the total potential you have to rise up the pyramid of the social structure we live in. My analogy says that white males are given a full deck of all 52 cards. They can be anything they want to be. A black male or a white female is given a deck that has only the black royal cards. S/he can still rise up to be an Ace, but they have only half as many chances as the white male. They can never be the King of Hearts; only the King of Clubs. A black female only gets the royal cards of the clubs. She can still be an Ace, but she can only be the Ace of Clubs and not the Ace of Diamonds.

Remember that none of this is your fault. This is the way society is structured. If you apply to an Ivy League school, you're playing your Jacks. Now black females have a Jack, so they can go to Harvard, but they only have one Jack so they only have one shot at it. A white male has all four Jacks so he can give it another shot if not accepted the first time around. Was the difference their studies or their money? No. The difference was what society expects when they see that person. 

For my analogy, I only focused on race and gender, but there are many more factors that can be used to split us into social groups. Rich / Poor, Healthy / Sick, Christian / Muslim / Jewish, Fat / Thin, Athletic / Geeky. All of these groups are seen differently by society and expected to perform differently in any given setting.

You can't earn more cards. They're given at birth. What's important as you play the game of life is you realize the differences this uneven distribution produces. Know that everyone playing along with you can win, but they aren’t all playing with the same odds. The game isn't fair. 

"Everybody knows the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over 
Everybody knows the good guys lost 
Everybody knows the fight was fixed 
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich 
That's how it goes 
Everybody knows"
-- Leonard Cohen "Everybody knows" 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ALA Midwinter 2014 - A Travelogue

Here it is my blog post about ALA Midwinter 2014. Held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. 
This may surprise some people, but this was my first ALA conference of any type. I've been a librarian for almost 14 years. The first 3 years, I was a member of ALA because it wasn't full price, but I didn't see any reason to keep paying. Mostly I saw a lot of resolutions on social problems that had nothing whatsoever to do with Libraries or Librarians. People will ask for examples, but I'm concerned that anything I identify will paint me as a jerk. Let me state upfront that I'm not saying the topics were unworthy ones, but they were topics that did not relate directly to Libraries or Librarians. You have to pick your battles or politicians will stop paying attention. (Reference the "Boy who cried wolf")

I've been to plenty of other Librarian Conferences, most notably 6 or 7 Computer in Libraries conferences over the years, but also, FLA, MLA (Maryland not Medical), and NJLA. I even presented at CiL 2012.

My first Facebook message about ALA Midwinter listed the full names of the folks I met on Friday, but then I felt weird about listing everyone's name. So this blog post is mostly going to feature just first names. I connected with people that I've met before and with people that I'm meeting face to face for the first time. For the most part, we weren't strangers; we just hadn't been in the same room before. We've had plenty of conversations, but they were online. I'm going to use 'meet or greet' for these interactions because I don't want to discriminate between the two conditions. I'm also going to apologize from the beginning. I know I've missed people. I don't mean it personally. I just met so many people that I got overwhelmed.
A big part of this trip was to connect with my friends in their little electronic boxes, but equally important was trying to figure out where I fit in ALA. I've come to learn that you can only change an organization from within. I've also become very active with a Facebook group of Librarians, the ALA Think Tank. 

Enough of the preliminaries, let's get to the travelogue.

I drove up Friday from my home in Laurel, MD (about 2 hours), checked in to the hotel, and caught the shuttle bus to the Convention center. I got there in time to tour the exhibits at opening. I ate (pretzel, ours d'oeuvres, sliders) and drank a glass of wine. While touring around, I met some friends that  I'd previously known online only and renewed some existing friendships. (Emily, Emily, Kate, Lauren, & TJ) 

Then I bopped over to the Uncommons where I met some more friends (Paul, Michael, Maurice, and Courtney). They were discussing dinner. I was totally prepared to consider my snacks at the Exhibits as dinner, but the company was just too tempting so I joined. We had dinner at a Chinatown restaurant and great conversation.
Michael was talking about Executive board and he explained a little about it since I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked him what got him involved in ALA and I told him a quick version of my experience so far with ALA. My memory isn't good enough to quote him, but much of what Michael said meshed with my own experiences and feelings on the matter. I'm going to credit him with helping to feed the flame that started in Think Tank as a little spark.

After dinner, I intended to attend the Urban Libraries Unite gathering at the Field House. Even though we passed the Field House on the way to dinner, I got turned around heading there. When I pulled out my phone for Maps and got my bearing, I could see that I was the same distance from the Field House as the Hotel and it was freezing cold. I decided to just call it a night.

Saturday morning started with the NMRT Conference Orientation. I was a little late and ended up sitting on the floor. I'm really too old and too fat for sitting on the floor. That orientation was scheduled in the smallest room I saw during the whole conference. There were 4 round tables that sat 8 each. Maybe someone will take note and schedule a bigger room. I know they don't expect as many newbies at Midwinter as at Annual, but that's just an excuse. I talked with some folks, but none that I had previous connections with.

Next on my schedule was the LITA all committees meeting, but I didn't realize that. I saw an Interest Group meeting on the schedule and that's what brought me to the room. The interest group didn't meet and I didn't find any of the other committees to be interesting, so I left. I did get to meet or greet a few folks. Jason and Andromeda stand out the most. (I spent more time with the LITA folks later, so I may have met them on Saturday morning, but I'll credit them later.)

Leaving the LITA all committees, I decided to head up to the Uncommons and saw Derrick. I put out a call for lunch mates and connected with a Jersey buddy,  TJ. We went over to the Reading Terminal Market for sandwiches at DeNic's.

After lunch I don't remember what I was interested in, but the room was beyond standing room only and the presentation was already in progress, so I gave up shortly. I swung by the Uncommons and caught the end of the Ignite sessions and then hung out for another hour. While there I connected with Marge, Peter, Emily, JP, Patrick, John, Lauren, Annie, and probably some more. I think that was the first time I felt oddly famous as people were coming over to greet me. Some I recognized and some I frankly didn't. I go to these conferences with a mental list of folks I hope to run into. I never thought of the possibility that I'm on someone else's list. It's a reminder that you never know what impact you have on others. Someone thanked me for standing up for them, when I remember the discussion as just my normal day. I was just stating my opinion. It just so happened my thoughts agreed with someone who thought her words were being dismissed.

At 4 or 4:30 I attended the LibTechGender discussion. It was the most important event of the weekend, in my opinion. I've read the blog posts and articles about problems at some tech conferences and the ALA Code of Conduct. I'm aware that tech is significantly male, but this discussion brought up some other aspects I'd never heard or thought of. The tagline is "who isn't in the room?" But it is more than that. Cecily ,via skype, brought up the implicit discrimination that you feel when you look around the room and see no one that looks like you. You feel unwelcome and unwanted. The words may be saying we're inclusive, but the actions don't reflect it. Even if you have a diverse pool of workers, are they in the room asking the interview questions or are they just workers. 
I really wish they weren't ending so close to the last shuttle bus because I wanted to meet some people that were there like Jessica, KG, and Myrna. But timing was tight so I caught the bus back to the hotel to drop my bag and change for a night of partying.

I tried the car service Uber for a ride to Trilogy for the tweet up organized by Lauren and Annie. (I made sure to thank them on Sunday afternoon for organizing it.) It was a great location where we could drink and talk and we took advantage of both. At 9 we moved the party one block to the Latvian Society for the EveryLibrary fundraiser, film fest, and dance party DJed by Marc Recordz. I volunteered for the 10 pm to midnight shift doing coat check. I figured that would be a great way to connect with people since they had to come by when entering and leaving. It was almost too good of a thing. By midnight, I was overwhelmed by the people I'd greeted. I wasn't drunk; there were just too many of them. Some folks I remember from Saturday night include Michelle, Daniel, Lindsay, Erica, Kate, Ingrid, Craig, TinaMarie, Alisha, Erin, Megan, Jacob, & Mel. I drank another whiskey & soda after my coat check shift then caught an Uber ride back to the hotel.

Sunday morning started with the LITA Top Tech Trends presentation where I got to meet Carson. After TTT, I went to the Uncommons and caught the end of a game of Cards against Librarianship. That was cool. I really wish Emily had been there at Midwinter to see the results of her work. I also got to meet Larry.

I connected with Henry for lunch.After lunch I attended the Authority Control discussion but left early to go to LITA 201. That really told me a lot more about the only subgroup of ALA that I belong to. I connected with Aaron, Andrea, Annie, Chris, John, Cindi, Jenny, Nina, & Rachel.

Sunday was my planned quiet night (Sorry LITA Happy Hour, now that I know more, I have to plan to attend future ones.)

Monday and my last day started with Breakfast with LITA. That continued the introduction to LITA activities and brought up some interesting topics during the table activities. Unfortunately, one of the folks at my table had to be the center of every discussion so we didn't get as much done as we could have. Have you ever been sitting at a table of strangers when someone asks if they can join and you want to say no? Monday morning was one of those times. Folks I met that morning include David, Bree, Frank, Chris, & Evviva.

Next I attended the GODORT Business meeting. It was an incredibly well run meeting and met my expectations of a business meeting. They went around the room and everyone introduced themselves and their library. I was the only Gov Doc producer in a room that mostly involved gov doc depository libraries, but no one seemed surprised. They had regular committee reports and even discussed sending condolences to the families of members that had died recently. The meeting was interrupted twice for the candidates for ALA President to talk with us about their platforms.

Lunch was provided by APA. The most interesting part of it was running into Hillary. I entered the room of round tables and looked around for anyone I knew to sit with. I didn't recognize anyone, but saw someone really looking at me. I guessed it was someone from the Think Tank so I decided to sit with them. Surprise! It was a classmate from the USF LIS program. We'd graduated together 13 years ago and I'm still surprised that she recognized me. I have put on 100 pounds in those years. It was great to catch up some, over the provided box lunch.

And that lunch marked my last event at ALA Midwinter 2014. I swung by the Uncommons for some last good-byes and caught the shuttle bus back to the hotel and my car then drove home.

So, what did I learn?
1) Things you say online may mean little to you, but much to others. Remember the rules are T H I N K. Is your comment: True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? and Kind?
2) You have more friends than you'll ever realize.
3) Pay attention to who is not in the room. Work to get them in the room.
4) I'm running for ALA Council. I think I can make a difference for American Libraries and Librarians. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Gonna Live, Laugh, Love, just for today...

I went on a tangent in a conversation last weekend and never got back to an explanation of my wrist tattoo. Not that I need to explain my actions, but sometimes the thousand words only come from the picture when context is added.

Around my right wrist are the words Live, Laugh, Love separated by icons of a cat face, a smiley face, and a heart.That  tattoo is my daily reminder to live in the moment. You see, it comes from a song by Clay Walker. The first verse and chorus is:
I'm gonna live, laugh, love just for today
Gonna take all the trouble that tomorrow might bring and put it away
Gonna drink every drop of happiness
'Til they cover me up
I'm gonna live, gonna laugh, gonna love

That's not to say I don't plan for the future, but I don't want to worry about it. I've already spent too much time on worry. I don't think it was time well spent.

The past is over, there is nothing you can do to change it. The future is but a dream. A hope for things to come. This is the day you've been given, your present, do with it what you will.

So that's the story behind the tat. Some context for why I need a reminder to enjoy the moment. If you ever see me looking down & out and you think I need a pick me up, just whisper, sing, or hum a little Live Laugh Love and I'll be back to my smiling self. Try it if you don't believe me.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

America - You embarrass me

Friends, I haven't written in awhile and I'm sorry. Life has been very busy, but that's a discussion for another day. Today I want to talk a bit about politics in America.

I am a Veteran. I spent 12 years in the Air Force forecasting weather. Unlike the folks you see on TV, that meant I was responsible for warnings at my airfield that ranged from stop fueling aircraft due to thunderstorms, to close the airfield due to icing, to take cover there is a Tornado.

I am a Librarian, I've spent 12 years as a civilian working for the government. I can't tell you the details because it is an ethics violation, but I provide a valuable service that is used by over 1 million unique users daily.

I am a Patriot. "We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and ensure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity...." I find that a wonderful and succinct mission statement. One that still has meaning over 200 years later.

Here comes the bad news -- I've lost faith in our system of governance. 

Here's a clip from the first episode of Newsroom:

And the quote for you to read:
"And yeah, you, sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there's some things you should know, and one of them is, there's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only 3 categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined. 25 of whom are allies. Now, none of this is the fault of a 20 year old college student. But you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period ever period. So when you ask, "what makes us the greatest country in the world?" I don't know what the fuck you're talking about. Yosemite? [Pause] We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn't belittle it, it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in our last election. And we didn't... we didn't scare so easy. We were able to be all these things, and to do all these things, because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. [Pause] Enough?"

I type this 11 days into a temper tantrum in Congress. They've shutdown our government by not coming to an agreement to fund it. For two years, they've been pushing the problem down the road by passing Continuing Resolution after Continuing Resolution (CR). A CR basically continues to fund the government at the existing levels while you work out your differences to create a budget. That there are differences that can't be worked out after two years is amazing. When I encountered that problem in my life, I divorced my first wife. I guess these geniuses we elected never think of the greater good, but only about their access to power. They'll never think about walking away in hopes that their constituents might find someone that is willing to compromise and elect them. 

Frankly, I wish there was a way to fire the whole lot of them. I'm not going to apportion blame. There are at least two sides to this discussion and all sides are guilty when they can't even gather to discus their differences. That is their most important job. By not doing it, they've shown that they are incompetent. 

Does anyone have any idea how I can get my faith back? Do you still have hope for this country? Why?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lest we Forget

We were having a FaceBook discussion about tattoos, when someone's tattoo of numbers across her wrist led to the discussion of Nazis tattooing ID Numbers on their prisoners' arms.

I had to make sure everyone knew what we were talking about. "On the off chance that some readers may not know what L___, me, & others are talking about... Prisoners in Nazi Concentration Camps had identification numbers tattooed on their arms. Right or left, and inside or outside of the arm varied by the camp. As a kid, there were always two little old ladies sitting on the front row at synagogue. The one on the aisle had hers on the upper left forearm so you always saw her number on her arm on the arm rest of the pew. 

"Lest We Forget"

I followed up with this message a few minutes later.
 I had tears in my eyes when I typed "Lest We Forget". (And I do again). Those that don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it. 

I've seen Bergen-Belsen where they burned down the dormitories for fear of disease and all that's left are mass graves marked with the number of dead in that grave.

I've seen Dachau and the Gate of the Great Lie - Arbeit Machts Frei. There they've restored some dormitories so you can see the conditions and you can see the "showers" that showered only poison gas and crematoriums conveniently located near by.

I walked up stairs hidden behind a built in bookshelf and into the world of a little girl. Her father published her diary after the war and it has sold an estimated 30 million copies.

Anne Frank died in Beregen-Belsen of Typhus. If she had survived, she'd be 84 right now and she was a teenager during the war. Soon they'll be no one left to tell the story and that is why I MUST tell the story whenever I can.

Today's entry from the Diary - 15 July 1944: "I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty, too, shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."