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Two weeks...two conferences...

Two weeks have now seen two conferences come and go. At the first one I acted as my faculty member's Parliamentary Private Secretary (Westminster style) in taking care of some things. At the second one I had to stand and present much akin to what a sitting in Westminster Hall as part of the proceedings of the House of Commons might be like. Sadly I wound up talking to the walls instead of being heard by any attendees...

The long strange trip in detail

My next few postings will deal with the conference, but since Walt asked, here's my odyessey:

Sunday March 28 - Board a plane in Fairbanks Alaska around 1pm with three fellow librarians and an author/presenter.

Flight plan is Fairbanks to Anchorage, then board a plane that goes to Juneau with stops in Cordova and Yakutat. When we arrive in Anchorage, we are told our flight is cancelled due to bad weather. We are booked on the same flight on Monday. (approximately 3pm)

One of my friends suggests we rent a car and stay at a reasonably priced downtown hotel. We agree and five of us pile into a small car with our luggage. Careful packing on our part enables the trunk to hold most of what we have, with me and another person holding small bags in our laps.

We check into the Anchorage Westmark (recommended) and have a WONDERFUL dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse -- food and beer both recommended. Nothing like three librarians and an author for stimulating conversation.

Monday March 29,
We have a very pleasant breakfast in good company and decide to tour the UAA consortium library, since at conference I'd been invited to do so "next time I was in Anchorage." The five of us agree that even though construction was in progress, it is a fine facility with a lot of potential.

We hop on the plane. We are told "conditions are marginal in Juneau -- we may have to land in Sitka instead." That's ok. We've previously determined that there was a viable ferry connection in Sitka that evening. If we get stranded there, we'll just spend an extra 40 bucks and get HOME! We get to Cordova w/o incident and land in Yakutat ok. At Yakutat we stay on the ground -- without being let out -- for an hour and a half. We are waiting for conditions in Juneau or Sitka to clear. Sadly, weather is very bad in both places. Alaska Airlines decides to route us directly to Seattle.

Midnight Mar 29/30 - We arrive at the Seattle airport very bleary eyed. Airport staff inform us booking counter is closed and gives us discount hotel vouchers and the Alaska Airlines 800 number. Dozens of people rush to phones. One of our number is fortunate to have a sister in Seattle and drives off with her.

After consulting with us about conditions and library personalities in Juneau, our author friend understandably gives up trying to come to Juneau, since her last talk was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and returns to her home.

After some haggling, I am booked on a Wed 6:30pm flight. One librarian friend is booked Wed at 8am and the other at Wed at 3pm. We join the aforementioned dozens of people at the Seattle Clarion around 1am where a clerk does an excellent job of checking in very annoyed and sleepy people.

Tuesday March 30 - Spent a great (under the circumstances) day with my two friends, both of whom have been to Seattle before. We check out the Pike St. Market (go see it), the Seattle Art Musuem, and the Space Needle (great place for sunsets). I'm so fascinated by the Seattle Art Museum that I leave my backpack with flight confirmation code there. Ugh! After the Space Needle, we had a small dinner at Ivar's seafood place. Ivar's is rightly renowned for the clam chowder it ships throughout the Northwest.

Wednesday March 31st.

One friend leaves on his 8am flight and does get into Juneau. My other friend and I take a leisurely drive through West Seattle on our way back to the Seattle Art Musuem. Once my bag is recovered, we go to the Seattle Aquarium. The Aquarium has a great display of sea otters and sea lions which I could have watched all day. However, my friend and I did want to go home so we drove our rental car back to the airport so we would be in time for her 3pm flight, which I entertained dreams of flying standby on.

Once we get to the airport, my confirmation code does not work, much to my dismay. I see a live ticket agent who tells me that the computer believes that I used up my ticket since I did board a plane in Anchorage. My being in SEATTLE as opposed to JUNEAU doesn't concern its binary logic. Thankfully, humans are more flexible and she fixes me up with manual paperwork to go with my boarding pass.

HOWEVER, this manual paperwork flags me for "secondary screening" in Security. Being a displaced passenger apparently being a cause for suspicion. I had to take off my shoes and belt, empty my pockets of nonmetallic items and turn down my waistband and be physically patted down. In addition, they search my backpack (which I understand) and my wallet (which I do not understand). Eventually they let me go. I am NOT grateful to my government for this treatment, but plan to write no letters at this time. I think we'd be better off creating separate cockpit entrances and walling off the passenger cabin than these intensive screenings -- but that's another story for another time.

9:20pm HOME IN JUNEAU!!!! My wife brought me roses and a card! I am thrilled to be so loved.

This sort of travel disruption truly isn't common in Southeast Alaska, but it's not rare either. It's something people should be prepared for, but not to expect. Much of Alaska doesn't have this problem at all, as the capital movers often remind us. Still, I'm grateful for my little piece of rainforest.

Until next time,

home early

I came home early, sick. I feel guilty. So guilty that I took a nap (I know, that doesn't sound guilty) and then I logged in and started doing work relating to our little telecom problem. I probably should have stayed at work to tough it out, but I felt so awful. I still feel awful. But I feel a little less awful that I got to lay down.

Police Find Bomb on High-Speed Rail Line in Spain

From a WaPo story:

The minister said it was not yet known who had placed the bomb. He said early analysis suggested the explosives were similar to those used March 11 to blow up commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and injuring 1,800.

Wait, that's not fair! The deal was we'd vote in a government that would withdraw our troops from Iraq, and you'd stop attacking us.

Gwynne Dyer on the Falluja ambush

I came across an op-ed piece by someone named Gwynne Dyer on the Iranian Mehr News Agency site, via a link from Google News. Here's the bit I want to write about:

Statistics don't actually mean much to people; pictures mean a lot. Mr. Bush has succeeded in persuading a (dwindling) majority of Americans that his Iraq adventure had something to do with fighting terrorism, which is why the public has been so patient with him as the 'weapons of mass destruction' failed to turn up and the Iraqi armed resistance grew. But surely not all of the people in those jeering crowds in Falluja can be terrorists? Is it possible that they really don't want us there? Then why are our kids being sent there to die?

Dyer's thoughts here are backwards from at least two perspectives. First of all, it seems to me that the assumption underlying the three final questions in this paragraph is that if "they" don't want us there, we shouldn't be there--bring our kids home! But who is the "they" whose ill will Dyer takes as the criterion for us to depart? Is it the residents of Falluja alone? Is their desire for us to leave adequate grounds for us go evacuate Iraq entirely? Does the will of the 15% who want us to leave immediately (among whom the residents of Falluja are putatively numbered) trump that of the other 53% of Iraqis who want us to stay, at least until there is a stable transition of power? Or perhaps Dyer means that the desire of the Fallujanis for our departure means that we should just stay out of Falluja, but continue occupation elsewhere. That would be a coherent military doctrine, wouldn't it: ceding control of the area occupied by our most dangerous adversaries? It would be rather like saying after 9/11 "well, we know the Taliban doesn't want us in their part of Afghanistan, so we'll just occupy the part now held by the Northern Alliance." Any attempt to figure out just what Dyer means reveals the utter incoherence of this bit of his writing. Doubtless he means something by it, but there is no rigorous way of figuring out what. Don't even bother wondering how he would have applied this fuzzy criterion to the unpopular post-war occupations of Germany and Japan.

Secondly, I take him to imply in his second sentence that there is no connection between the invasion of Iraq and the war on terror (if he doesn't think this, then I apologize to him). Let's think back: what was one of America's greatest crimes in Al Qaida's eyes? The defiling of Saudi soil with the deployment of our infidel troops there. And why were infidel soldiers deployed there? To prevent Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. And who now presents no threat to other Gulf states? Saddam. No connection, eh? Wouldn't bin Laden be happy if, instead of defiling Saudi soil by our proximity to Mecca and Medina, we could instead sully Shia Islam's holiest sites in Iraq? Of course, we'd still have to give East Timor back to the Indonesians, Andalusia back to the Moors, and destroy Israel before al Qaida would be placated. Oh, and cease to propagate any cultural influence whatever to Muslim countries. But even then, I don't think they'd stop trying to destroy the West. There are, after all, many Muslims living in the West being exposed to our decadance.

OCLC's ContentDM...

Hi all...

working with the public is hazardous to your health

This is my second cold in a month. While I was at Simmons, I got, I think two colds in two years. Bummer. Under normal circumstances, since I was up all night and feel very barfy, I probably would claim defeat and take a sick day. But our YA librarian is among the missing this week, which leaves us with a total of three librarians, myself included.

The weather isn't very nice. I'm hoping it keeps the kids away, but usually it drives them all in. Fridays aren't always so bad though. Kids seem to have other things to do on Friday.

Today is a break from computers day, if I can at all help it. I have some reference books I'd like to order. I should weed if I get the chance, although that's up in the air. I've done my computer related good deed for the week -- well, two of them. I got the software for the Horizon backup on line, and I got the Francomputer working. Oh yeah, and that whole timed access thing.

I like to name patrons. There's "Very Intense Man." Very Intense Man seems to be a nice enough guy but boy is he -- intense. Every statement is delivered a la William Shatner. Then there's "Racist Man." Haven't seen him in awhile. Not that I miss him or anything.

Then you start to know patrons by what they ask for. There's this one kid that comes in looking for criticisms of a certain author (well, there's lots of kids that do that, but one kid stands out). First he came in wanting a biography, which I found for him. Then he wanted criticism, which another librarian found for him (thank you, thank you Gale Group). Then we came full circle back to biographies. We aren't getting new biographies on this author every week, unfortunately. And it isn't someone like Mark Twain or F. Scott Fitzgerald, who would have several biographies.

I have been recommended a different type of lockdown software. This interests me, as I find Fortres lacking in certain features. I mean, Fortres is good, and it keeps people out of the major stuff... I would like to try something different though. The major problem being, there are a lot of things I would like to try that come first.

What I was recommended does block java based games and IM. That interests me. I wonder what else it blocks, though. Button up Fortres too tight, and it blocks all the OCS stuff. People get surly when you take away their ability to print.

Francomputer

Three LAN cards later, I gave up and shoved the IBM LAN card that was in the Linux box in the stupid Windows box. It worked beautifully, and I think I was the only one that was sorry to see the Linux terminal go. God knows the patrons weren't.

As soon as I got the LAN card working, I went online and discovered I didn't have the right drivers for the old piece of crud Nvidia card in the box. The piece of crud drivers that came with the piece of crud operating system (unless Bill Gates wants to give me a grant. I can be bought) made all the sites look like pieces of crud. Something about only 16 colors will do that. I was so intent on getting the piece of crud LAN card to work that the piece of crud graphics slipped by me.

After frenzied googling I found the correct piece of crud drivers. Finally the computer was suitable for public consumption. I managed to put the computer on the network, load Fortres, load the OCS software, and go on my merry way. It is currently out getting it's share of abuse.

So this one computer is now made up of several. It's had donated organs that have gone through several computers -- I believe the LAN card came originally out of an IBM that finally gave up the ghost in the children's room.

More praise for the timed access software. I do so wish we could get card integration, but I don't think it's going to be effective. Besides, it's sort of nice to visually see who's back there. Make the connection, and all that.

This is definitely going to be less wear and tear on the PCs. They're getting used about the same, but more seriously. As the assistant director so aptly said, "The toy factor is gone." And it's true, he's right. People buckle down and do what they have to do. They for the most part are respecting the one hour limit and aren't going back trying for a third half hour.

I think I am going to put the OS X machine sitting on the floor by my desk out as the email terminal, eventually. That way we'll have a computer with international fonts out as something that isn't carded. First I have to find a way to keep Safari from closing. Or educate the world on actually opening it.

Off to the coal mines...

I had a funny email that had a list of reasons students wanted to work in libraries from their application forms but I lost it. Sorry. Maybe I will find it again, and if I do, I will post it.

I'm just counting the minutes until I have to teach a quick session on the joys of EBSCOhost to what will likely be a group of uninterested college students. I just love the blank looks on their little faces. Reminds me why I decided against teaching as a profession. Then we have a fire drill! This should be a fun night. :-)

Going the way of the dodo

This bit appears in the March 2004 "Notes & Comments" section of The New Criterion online, under the rubric "Prizes for everyone":

Remember the Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland? The creatures “began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over.� “But who has won?� the contestants asked when everyone stopped moving. At last the Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.� We thought of the Dodo’s approach to competition recently when reading about the decision of the Nashville, Tennessee school system to abolish its honor roll because it had become “an apparent source of embarrassment for some underachievers.� As The Washington Post reported, “after a few parents complained that their children might be ridiculed for not making the list, lawyers [it’s always the lawyers, isn’t it?] for the Nashville school system warned that state privacy laws forbid releasing any academic information, good or bad, without permission.�

Surely, we thought, this is to take a very parochial view of the matter. For if students might feel embarrassed about not making the honor roll, think of how embarrassed they would be if they were not the valedictorian, the winning quarterback, a national merit scholar, a prize-winning pianist, the homecoming queen, or one of the students accepted at Harvard. Think of how awful they would feel if it got out that they were not in every way as smart, as attractive, as talented, as successful as the lucky few who were, like Emma Woodhouse, “handsome, clever, and rich.� An honor roll, as its name suggests, is meant to honor, to give public recognition, to those who excel. It is a last, pale inheritance of the spiritual patrimony we have inherited from the ancient Greeks who strove to be the best—and to be publicly recognized for their achievements. Nashville, like so many other communities, has decided to side instead with the Dodo.

Sexual Harassment

You can well imagine that when I sent a message with that subject heading to my principal, I got a swift response.

What a laugh

So I log on to check out the latest offering of articles and there's one that was suggested by an anonymous patron, and the title reads: Islamic Ministry Votes "No Jerks" in Iran.

Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was: What are they going to do with all those priests?

What a long, strange trip it has been. AkLA conf

My library conference (Alaska State Library Association) ended Sunday March, 28. I boarded a plane at 1pm. I did not get back to Juneau until last night at 9:30pm.

I was stranded with several colleagues and a nice author/speaker from the conference in both Anchorage and Seattle.

Details to follow, but I wanted to let the few folks that follow my journal that I'm still alive.

The LISNews Numbers For March

Total of about 158,000 sessions, that's about 5,100 a day.
Served about 446,000 pages, 14,400 a day.
That totals up to about 2 million hits, 63,000 a day.
Which meant about 12 gigs worth of files were transferred.

Most popular pages where, as usual, article.pl, index, lisnews.rss, comments.pl, and article.php3. It surprises me how much the old php files still get hit.

Journals:
Along with being the most prolific writers, shoe and nbruce are also the most widely read. The two of them account for about 10% of all the journal hits. The are followed, thoguh not very closely, by me, ChuckB, slashgirl, Rochelle, Daniel, rudimeyers, moneygirl, and tomeboy. The more you write, the more you're read. I'm guessing that an LISNews journal would be read more often, to start, than if someone just started blogging elsewhere. There's a good number of people @LISNews who read all the journals.
Journal RSS files are fairly similar, with shoe being the most read by a wide margin, followed by zamiel, nbruce, me, slashgirl, Bibliofuture, Samantha, Daniel, ChuckB, and tomeboy.
The top journals were hit a total of over 26,000 times last month. The top 10 accounted for about 25% of that total.

Referrals:
The big news from last month was Slashdot. They sent about 3,500 people our way, most in one day. The server held up just fine, I think I was more worked up about it than the server. The rest of the months referrers were, google, radio, yahoo, bloglines, aolsearch, and msn. "No referral" holds steady at #1 with about 75% of visitors not reporting a referral.

With well over 2800 accounts now, all the other numbers I can pull out of the Db are up again as well.
1044 comments from about 200 folks. AP's are hard to count, but my educated guess is about 90. I do know for sure, 108 different users posted at least one comment.
57 people moderated 152 different stories. Just 12 people metamoderated.

If I have some time this weekend I'll make some quarter one stats available as well.

No computers today or tomorrow--no foolin'

Today, the library where I work got a delivery of new computer furniture. Some of it will replace crappy old pods, and other of it will accommodate additional computers, nearly doubling our public access. To make this happen, we've got no public access for at least a couple days. As a result, the library is nearly dead. Thus far, we've turned away 30-40 people who only wanted access. Some have come up to the desk to sign up for service, and when we give them the scoop, they look disgusted, then look around, as if to find out where we've really hidden the machines.

Wal-mart to sell Linux pcs online

I wasn't sure whether this would be a news worthy story or not but thought that you guys might be interested. I saw this on Excite this morning...

Pretty cool. At only 289 bucks, I might invest in one and dump my XP... LOL... except I probably couldn't play Sims anymore.

doling out sweet internet justice

Yesterday I got to play with some of the finer bits of the OCS software. Luckily, the kids were acting up on the Win2k machines. I would have been out of luck on the Win 98 box.

One girl was just being a pain in the behind, deliberately defying me. I told her once that if she and the various boys that kept coming over to say hi (why wasn't I that popular as a kid -- never mind, don't answer that) didn't stop physically abusing each other in front of the computer, it would be shut off. Well, they didn't stop abusing each other, so I reset the screen. She freaked, but didn't seem to get the point. She frantically tried all her friends' (used) one time use numbers, to no avail. Since she got on (evidently) with someone else's library card, and they had left, and all her other friends either had no card or were saving it so they could use the computers properly, she was up the creek.

She wandered around for a good three minutes saying, "But I had time left." She didn't seem to realize that it wasn't a computer glitch, it was the Great and Terrible Oz that took away the computer.

Then it occurred to me internet justice isn't so cool unless they know that you took away their access for certain unforgiveable transactions. There are these boys that all gather around the computers. I don't mind so much if they are gathering, read real quick, and move on their merry ways. But yesterday they were camping out and that wasn't cool. When I told them to sit down, they said, "We're reading!"

So I did a little psychology experiment. I sent them a message. I said, "One to a computer please, or you will be shut down." They laughed, agreed that was pretty cool and -- wonder of wonders -- sat their baggy jeaned butts down. I think they realized that, at that point, I could shut their machines down if I wanted.

Now if I could only get them to read something that isn't on a computer screen.

I am trying to install a LAN card in a Win98 machine. Damned if I can get any of the LAN cards to work. There is even alledgedly a driver that comes with Win98 for one of the cards I put in. But it will not see the network. I've tried three cards, and two different drivers for one of them. I think it's time to retreat and concentrate on reference today. But I know me. I am as dogged when it comes to computer problems as some people are with computer games. So I know I'll go in and tackle the LAN card issue again.

I got this reference catalog from Congressional Quarterly. I am fascinated by it. The books look great, and some of them might even prove useful. Fun book orders!

I wonder what's become of that copy of The Innocents? I think someone took it out. It hasn't followed me anywhere for the past week. Perhaps its hold on me has broken. Now the DSM-IV TR seems to be following me around. Is there an entry for librarian in there?

I saw one of my scholarship books being used yesterday. Joy! There is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing someone walking around with a book you ordered in tow.

A Silly Notion

I just realized how many ALA higher-up folks participate here. It does seem some days that this is truly that close-knit of a profession. LISNews does appear to contribute to an atmosphere of demystification, I think.

Get Arrested @ Your Library!

We've had a series of cop visits the past few weeks (not initiated by calls from our security). Two to three cops will stride in, divide up and case the joint. This morning, there were three who fanned out and found the alleged back at a table. He was someone I had never seen before, and went quietly.

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