Friday, June 29, 2007

Road Trip from HELL

I write this in the lobby of a cheesy hotel in a city I never intended to visit since I can't sleep. It's Friday, and I am wearing the same clothes I put on Wednesday, and don't currently expect to get home until Saturday night. Who knows where my luggage is.

"What happened?" you ask?

I was in DC for the American Library Association Annual Conference. The third Council meeting ended slightly ahead of schedule on Wednesday at about 11:30 am. Checked out of the hotel, and headed to Regan National Airport for the 3:30 flight to Chicago (ORD) and then on to Minneapolis (MSP). It was a nice, uneventful cab ride. Checked in, and got in the long, slow line for security. Then headed to the gate (right next to the bar!). Eventually, after three trips to the podium, the flight disappeared from the list.

Mid-afternoon the trouble began. American Airlines canceled all its flights to O'Hare and half of its flights to Dallas because of weather. I stood in the line and finally got re-booked for a Thursday noon flight to MSP via DFW. I asked for a voucher, but was told, because it was weather an act of God that I was not entitled. Then they announced that the flight was canceled......great. OK....I collected my luggage and called one of the hotels on the list the gate agent told me was nearby. That was where the trouble began.

First, the hotel was further away from the airport than the downtown hotel I had left. It cost $31 in metered cab fare (not including tip vs. the $21 including tip from downtown) to get there. Ahead of me in line were two separate women who were also "refugees from American." What began to get me really aggravated is that they both had vouchers for the hotel and for a meal!!!! They were going through Chicago and their flights had been canceled for the same reason.

Here is where it really started getting bad. The hotel "restaurant" was a pizza place with only wine and beer, and they even ran out of at least four of the beverages (brands) on the menu. The rest of the night went relatively uneventfully, since it was a newer hotel, and a quite nice room.

Thursday morning, and back to the airport. Since the hotel was fairly close to the Metro. They offered a free shuttle there. I got in line to take it (with my luggage). However there were all these TOURISTS who were also going, and one really rude lady tried to push her way ahead of me in line (after I had watched the van go back and forth three times). The Metro ride was uneventful, but the airport was a mess. It was chaos. It was totally out of control!

American's counter is in the middle of the terminal. When I got there, the line to check in, at both the self-service and regular check-in stations went almost to one end. It was so long that airport police were there to be sure that other travelers could get across the line, in several places, and go down to security. I stood in line for about an hour and a half and got about half-way through when an agent told us that the self-check machines were working......ugh. I went to check in. When I got to the screen which asked about bags, it showed 2 bags already checked and asked how many bags I wanted to check. What would you say if you saw that? I answered "0" since my bags were already checked! Turns out that is the wrong answer.... Bags got checked, and security was a breeze. The gate was where I had spent the previous afternoon, and eventually a plane arrived and we got on.

But wait, the adventure continues. Because National has a short runway, the airline had a choice, leave 30 people behind, or stop in Nashville for more fuel. They chose the latter, and actually that part went well. We landed in Nashville, and got gas (without opening the door at the gate or any other delay). Then the flight arrived in Dallas.

At first, I could not find the "board" and went to a counter where there was an AA staff member typing away. I asked him, and he rudely pointed to the monitors. But.....the flight was not listed. So I went back! Standing there, wearing a uniform, AA id tag, and typing at the computer he rudely said, I'm not working. I pressed and he looked it up. I arrived at Gate A-35, he sent me to D-37.

It has been about a decade since I was last in DFW (and it will take another act of God to get me back here). The signage to get between terminals is lacking. Finally I found the tram, and got to D-concourse. But the flight was not listed. The gate had a different flight being boarded. I finally asked an agent who said "Oh, that flight was canceled for mechanical problems, go to Gate D-34 to be re-booked." Needless to say, there was a line. It moved incredibly slowly. After all, they had to find us flights. I got on the phone with the airline. The best they could do was book me for Saturday night! I still needed to work the line for a voucher. The agent suggested that I could get on a flight the next day on Sun Country Airlines, she gave me a print out and said, go up there right now and pay for the ticket. I went up and found the place.....but all the windows were closed!! Later in the evening, I finally found a phone number and Sun Country says, we don't work with other airlines, and we do not have a seat for you! I was fit to be tied.

So that gets me to Friday morning. Sitting in clothes I have worn for days. Looking at 48 hours in a place I never asked to be in, have been to before and hated and have incredibly strong negative feelings about on so many levels and without any of my clothes.

What upsets me most about the airline is that they will pay for ONE of the two nights, one meal out of six, and have given me nothing for clothing, while I chose NONE OF THIS! [I may even not ever choose this airline again.] They have taken two work days from my employer PLUS one of my days off. The loss to me is incredible.

This journey through hell cannot end soon enough!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

ALA Elections

Well, the elections are over, but in ALA the conversation never ends.

This week I learned that the Elections Committee recommended to the ALA Executive Board that the amount of text that appears on the ballot be limited. This sure flew under my radar when it was first reported. The document involved is part of the EB agendas for Midwinter which are here. It is on the agenda for 9:30 am, and there is a hot link to the document. It is duly reported in the actions of the Executive Board.

I'm happy that they are including links, but limiting how much information a candidate can list about past activities is discouraging. In another document which I have, but is not linked to on the site, yet, the Election Committee notes say "Committee members noticed that many candidates did not include complete biographical information in some cases leaving some categories such as “Honors and Awards” or “Offices Held” blank." So, just because some people do not fill it in, they want to limit what those who have credentials can say. The good news is that there will be a links section.

However, the EB document talks about limiting to "words." So, how do you count words? Microsoft Word (the software) counts individual words. In the printing industry it used to be true that a "word" was 5 - 8 characters. So a URL like the one for my article (still on the ALA web site) which is 63 characters, is one word for Word, and 8 - 12 words for a printer. Who will decide. The unintended consequence (of course there is one) is that if folks put lots of URLs, then the ballot will actually be longer!

The final issue is probably the most important. The EB is being asked to authorize the printing of only one version of the paper ballot. Since some 20 plus years ago, ALA has produced 4 ballots with the candidates in different order on each one. This came from a scientifically based study which concluded that being in the first or second quartile dramatically increased the probability of being elected. Remember, this was when the Nominating Committee lists were shorter because terms were for four years so there were only 25 slots open (normally) as opposed to the current 33 (or 34 every third year).

Is it in the purview of the Executive Board to make a change like this without talking to Council? Is it even their role? Isn't this policy?

The one part of the report (EBD 12.66) which is the EB's job, and would be a very good thing is to have the election notification no longer conflict with ALA Legislative Day.

It is on the agenda for Friday morning (at 9:45, at the moment). I'll probably stop by.

Monday, June 18, 2007

How to "fix" ALA

There are a bunch of folks who have ideas on how to "fix" ALA.

One of my favorite blogs is the "Annoyed Librarian." I love the drinking style, but this pseudonymous blogger has some important points to make. In a recent post, s/he says:
There are many political issues the ALA is completely justified in addressing, and there are many library issues that the ALA isn't addressing. There's a lot of room for the ALA to help people and to try to make the world a better place.
The part that strikes at my heart is the "there are many library issues that ... ALA is not addressing." That is why I have voted against so many of the "foreign" resolutions, with the exception (that I remember) of the resolution condemning the egregious destruction of libraries in the Balkans.

Those of involved in ALA are heading to the Nation's Capital this week. (I leave on Thursday morning from the nearest really major metro airport.)

For me, among the joys are those of seeing siblings, a child (I hope), and the general blood family stuff, as well as all of those who have become my family from my activities in ALA. Friday brings the folks at ALTA who "adopted me" when I was their liaison (which I learned to spell in that position). I'll get to see all my Council "bud" and the before and after me members of the EB which has to be some kind of club.

Others who are working to "fix" ALA include Aaron Dobbs and my great friend Karen Schneider.

Aaron was not successful in his most recent run for Council, but he has some great ideas here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

ALA Wheel of Confusion #1

TESLA? ANSS? ECRR? Join us in a lighthearted look at those confounding ALA acronyms with staff members Charles Wilt, Marci Merola, and Adam Burling. Can any of them overcome the mighty Wheel? Featuring host extraordinaire John Chrastka and the woman with the answers (most of them, anyway), Karen Muller.

Check out the new AL Focus video site from American Libraries!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fahrenheit 451 not about censorship?

That is what Ray Bradbury says in this interview which I picked up from AL Direct. What it is about is how television kills reading. It is an interesting interview and still shows Bradbury's ability to envision the future.

A new hero - Filters still don't work!

I may have a new hero. A recent PUBLIB post alerted me to Cory Doctorow's column in the Guardian.

Here is the key paragraph from his column:
But every filtering enterprise to date is a failure and a disaster, and it's my belief that every filtering effort we will ever field will be no less a failure and a disaster. These systems are failures because they continue to allow the bad stuff through. They're disasters because they block mountains of good stuff. Their proponents acknowledge both these facts, but treat them as secondary to the importance of trying to do something, or being seen to be trying to do something. Secondary to the theatrical and PR value of pretending to be solving the problem.
How many times have we as librarians said this? I know I have! Thanks Cory!

What is Web 2.0?

Andrew Keen has a great article on the seductive nature of Web 2.0 in the Daily Standard. It was actually published some time ago, I noticed as I finally looked at the date. [This is, I guess, the daily on-line version of The Weekly Standard a DC based print and web publication.]

The quote which struck me was these two paragraphs at the end of "page 1."

In his mind, "big media"--the Hollywood studios, the major record labels and international publishing houses--really did represent the enemy. The promised land was user-generated online content. In Marxist terms, the traditional media had become the exploitative "bourgeoisie," and citizen media, those heroic bloggers and podcasters, were the "proletariat."

This outlook is typical of the Web 2.0 movement, which fuses '60s radicalism with the utopian eschatology of digital technology. The ideological outcome may be trouble for all of us.

I think it the "fus[ing] of 60s radicalism with the utopian eschatology of digital technology" which so captivates me. It echoes a phrase I have heard and used in ALA about "unreconstructed 60s radicals."

Thanks to my new Facebook friend Amy Kearns who called my attention to it.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Exercise, nature, and reflections

I have been in blogging hibernation for a bit, but that will change as my life settles down more.

Yesterday the weather was predicted to be "blah." So I planned to do paperwork. By mid-morning it became clear that it would be a gorgeous day. So, I got my bike ready, packed some water and headed across town to the Chippewa River [Bike] Trail. It was my first time riding south of I-94.

Because it follows an old railroad bed, it is fairly level (no major hills), and was easier than riding across town to get there!

I visited the several stops along the way (including getting a snack in Caryville), and rode all the way to Meridean. At mile post 19, I turned around and headed back. So, including the city streets, about a 40 mile ride in about 4 hours (including the breaks).

There are stretches of the trail which go through fields and are very Midwestern-looking. There are other stretches along the river and through wooded areas. In particular, the wooded areas could have been in any northern area (at times it almost felt like Southern Rhode Island).

On yesterday's ride I saw a box turtle crossing the path, numerous rabbits, both brown and black squirrels, and a chipmunk. I heard lots of crows (they seem to be prevalent in this area) and other birds I cannot identify by song. I did see sparrows and barn swallows. The latter had a nest under the balcony outside my apartment for a time. There are many in the area of the apartment. In previous rides around Carson Park and Half Moon Lake, I have seen what I think is either a crane or a heron (I can't tell, and was riding quickly at that point). I have noticed that the squirrels here are mostly "black" rather than grey.

If you are quiet enough, and slow enough, you get to see a lot. It has been good for me to take the time to sit and watch. While my bike ride was un-eventful weather-wise (well, except for the slight burn on my neck), later in the afternoon, the storms moved in. I sat out and watched as rain moved from south to north, with the rain (and thunderstorm) to the west of where I was sitting. But then the winds changed, and that storm started to come back from the northwest, until it stalled for a bit. It did finally rain, and says that we got almost an inch of rain (and I believe it!).