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Professional stuff

I went to Kentucky for a library conference, last week. I had a great time, because this particular conference, the Library Information Technology Association (LITA) Forum, is a smallish (~200 people?) event full of techy librarians. Chatting in the hallways and at meals, I … honestly, I spent a lot of time answering questions about life in Alaska, but I also had the chance to talk with people going through the same things I do, in my work—people with the same goals and the same frustrations as I have. It was a good reminder that I do belong in this field, and that I am not alone in the fight to modernize the library profession.

I haven’t been to a small library technology conference since I was in library school, and the last one, Electronic Resources & Libraries, was where I decided to go into tech librarianship instead of engineering librarianship. So, in retrospect, I suppose it’s unsurprising how much I enjoyed and was reinvigorated by LITA Forum.

It was also a big deal to me because part of the reason I attended was to present my first national-level talk. I’ve been on a national-level panel before; I’ve given a piece of a short group presentation nationally; and I guess my solo presentation at our regional library association was technically international—Canadians are an easy audience, though. :) So I had a good foundation to start with. But this is the first national talk that, all by myself, I proposed, got accepted, put the slides together, and stood in front of a room to present. (OK, a committee accepted it. That part required help. :)) It was a talk primarily about organizational change, at a tech conference, so I was concerned about how it would fit in with the rest of the programs—but during the Q&As for a couple of related talks, earlier in the weekend, people asked questions relevant to my talk—so I think I covered some necessary ground. I’m not sure how much of what I said was new to the session’s attendees, honestly—quite a few people wanted copies of the Web Plan I wrote for work, and there was lots of discussion during the 20 minutes I had set aside for it, so I feel like I contributed useful knowledge to the field. But I also got the sense that a couple of audience members didn’t learn anything from it, and I feel bad about that.

Family stuff

After conference ended, I hung out with my mom. (Apparently, when your daughter lives in Alaska, 7 hours is NOT too much to drive to visit with her. :)) I called it “Momference,” which still doesn’t cease to amuse me. If I don’t think I’m funny, who will, right?

We had a nice time, though we’re terrible tourists: on Monday, for instance, we had a very long brunch at Panera (we don’t have those up here), then went to Hobby Lobby (we don’t have those up here), then went to a couple of clothing stores (we have those up here, generally speaking, but not these specific ones), then went to dinner, then sat in the hotel room, where I taught her to crochet with the help of YouTube. She’d crocheted before, though she didn’t remember it fully and didn’t know the names of stitches, so the lesson wasn’t too hard. I’d never taught anyone before, so thank goodness for YouTube. Her first granny square looked a lot better than my first. :)

She also brought me some apples from home (a few of which TSA repacked wrong, after searching my bag! grr! bruises, after I was so careful!) and three pints of apple butter. That’ll last me a long while, I expect, unless I end up using some of it in baking projects; I don’t eat a whole lot of toast. (Though I am kind of thinking of pulling out the toaster oven and some of my frozen gluten-free bread, so I can try it!)

It’s a little wearing on family relationships, I think, living so far away. Mom was really sad to see me go. I feel guilty for not figuring out a way to see my dad, too, though the logistics would have been really hard. Last time Dale talked to his parents on the phone, they asked when we would be back on the east coast—a valid question. I fly a lot for conferences, but they aren’t always in convenient places. Or, I spend so much on plane tickets (ahem, Philadelphia* and Las Vegas for ALA Midwinter and Annual, respectively) that I don’t feel like I can spend the extra time in the city, exploring, because the hotels also cost money. (I can get up to $1300 in reimbursement for conference attendance, hotel, and plane tickets. That doesn’t even always cover a full conference, unless my plane ticket comes out of air miles, so much of what I spend is out-of-pocket.) Dale doesn’t really like going along to library conferences, because I’m busy the whole time, and he gets his fill of librarian social events up here. And traveling to the east coast to visit family is expensive and exhausting—especially if we try to visit both families on the same trip. (VA to CT is a long drive.) So we have to balance time and energy budgets, and … it just doesn’t happen as often as we thought it would, when we first moved up here. So there’s guilt on top of everything, right?

I’m thinking of taking classes toward another degree (yes, I know, but this one is relevant to what I’m already doing), and I’m honestly kind of hoping Dale will do that degree with me — which means I’ll/we’ll be loathe to travel during the semester. (Another reason I cut the Philly trip shorter than I usually would.)

But we’ll figure out a time to visit, because that’s important.

Travel (and weather) stuff, getting home

Before I left for KY, we were in an extended autumn, here. It rained for a month, I think, but it was unseasonably warm. (We no longer live in Anchorage. We live in New Seattle.) It got pretty cold the two nights before I left, but now there’s a thick layer of snow all over everything and a layer of ice under that. Apparently we’re getting freezing rain tonight. So… winter came.

It’s good to get out during November, maybe? I think? I got some 50 degree sun in KY, which was great. There were roses still blooming and trees with pretty-colored leaves on them. I got by with a light jacket. But it confuses the system, to come back up here to snow.

I mean, my system’s already confused, so it’s no big thing. Getting to Kentucky from Alaska, counting layovers, took 16 hours. Getting back took 15. (Usually it’s only 12 hours, but I had to make an extra hop, this time; there were no direct flights to Louisville from Seattle or Portland.) I didn’t sleep on the flights back, which put my total awake time for the day right around 23 hours. It means I don’t really have jet lag, probably, just sleep debt; that’s pretty much how I always deal with time zone changes, in part because red-eye flights are the easiest way to get into or out of the state and in part because I’m stubborn enough to stay awake, and that works for me. I got home around 2am and to bed a bit before 3, so it’s probably unsurprising that I slept past noon. :) (I also don’t work the day after I get back. That’s just asking for trouble.)

I might be fighting conference or plane plague, or I might just be tired and mildly allergic to … life. And Dale’s got a cold. So there’s a possibility of a really tough weekend coming up, if we don’t take all of our vitamins. Actually, it’s highly probable, because I’m supposed to start a 12-day round of Prednisone (I refused to take it while traveling), which has immune suppressive side effects. I’ll wait until tomorrow to start, to hopefully give all the germs time to settle.

It was nice to go to sleep in my own comfy bed with flannel sheets covered in stupid penguin pictures and no gross institutional laundry smell, and then to wake up and drink my favorite coffee out of my favorite mug and hang out with Dale (even though he’s sick) and the birds, and to eat an apple from where I grew up, and to not have to go anywhere for the day or get on a plane for the next two months. It’s less good that it’s not quite 5pm, and it’s already getting rather dark, but that’s how it goes. I should probably stop writing and go unpack, since I have work tomorrow, and I’m tired enough, still, that I’m probably going to bed early tonight.


*Seriously, I apologize ahead of time for Philly. I’m flying in on Thursday, attending conference stuff until Tuesday noonish, and then flying out Tuesday afternoon. If I let them, the librarians will keep me busy the whole time. (This year, the last meeting got out at 12:30pm; next year should be about the same. And I ought to be at the airport by 4:30. So… that’s how much time I have on Tuesday.) I have some good friends who live in Media, so if they’re up for a trip into Philly proper (I won’t have a rental car), I hope to do dinner with them one evening. But I’m not even taking my customary day to explore the city, this trip.

I wrote a big long post, but it got deleted, because WordPress’s stupid default “new post” feature is BAD and BROKEN, and I HATE IT. Not going to make that mistake again.

So just imagine that I’ve told you all about the snow (termination dust on Sept 6, snow on Oct 13, snow on the ground now and probably for months), the trouble with my car, the new doors we bought, Dale getting a PFD, our anniversary (we ate fancy dinner and saw “Looper”; also, he got a pretty ring made for me, with the diamond from his grandmother’s ring and two sapphires from a ring my dad gave my mom, back in the day—we kept his grandmother’s band, don’t worry), all the places in Alaska I want to visit, and how we’ll eventually post about the Sheldons & Brungards visiting, as soon as Dale gets finished with National Game Design Month and goes through the pictures.

Boy, I’m super cranky that that got deleted.

Anyway, sorry for not posting sooner—I wanted to post about the family visit, but the photos weren’t ready, so I kept putting it off. But maybe if I posted more often, it would be less bad if it got deleted.

Dale’s mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and 9 month old niece are coming to stay with us in mid-September for a week and a half. This is, as you would guess, both exciting and overwhelming. The adults have varying interests, and with a baby and the number of people, we don’t know how mobile the whole group will be… so we’ve been making a list of all of the things we know of, to do in and around Anchorage, so they’ll have a chance to pick things they want to do ahead of time.

Check it out, and if you’re local, please tell us what we’re missing. If you’re not local, feel free to ask questions.

We’ve already had one visitor (my dad), and he didn’t get quite as long a list of possibilities, in part because we were newer to town and in part because we didn’t have quite as much time to get organized. Also, we might not have thought of it? I feel bad, like I really should have done this then. But he says he’s coming back, so at least we’ll be ready.

Anyway, we’re hoping this is a useful resource for them—and for anyone else who wants to come visit!

Despite the last post, it’s not really winter yet. Yes, it was 28 degrees when we left the house this morning–and then I came back home, because it’s my flex Monday–but there are still leaves on the trees, and the snow didn’t stick. There’s that nice, crisp autumn feel to things.

Things have been busy, though! I spent most of last week’s evenings getting ready to teach some Unitarians to geocache. They have a camping trip, up in Wasilla, each fall, and they thought it would be cool to have a geocaching workshop. Dale and I were the only people loosely affiliated with the Fellowship (“loosely” is a key word–I’m on the mailing list, but we’ve never been to services) who knew how, so we volunteered. On the bright side, a fair bit of my preparation time can be reused when I teach my coworkers to geocache and put a cache in my library (assuming our local approval volunteer is OK with it being so close to another cache). And it seems like the class went really well: people seemed to have fun and more or less pick up the basics. I neglected to mention that you have to re-hide the cache as well as it was hidden before you found it, clearly, but otherwise, it was a success.

The remainder of the day was fun. We liked the people there and will probably start attending the Fellowship, at least sporadically. 11am on a Sunday shouldn’t be hard, but for some reason it is–it’s not that we’re [always] asleep then; it’s that we’re not usually showered and dressed and ready to go. But when I get back into my morning exercise routine, starting tomorrow, mornings on weekends will get easier again, at least for me. ;)

The day did end rather abruptly when the canoe I was trying to get into tipped, and I fell in the lake. (Dale let go just 30 seconds too soon. He was very apologetic.) Late September in Alaska is not a good time to get in the lake, at least not without a change of clothes handy, so we drove home. I was pretty bummed about missing the campfire, so he made it up to me by building a big, wonderful fire in our fire pit, last night (Sunday). We made s’mores with fancy chocolate. So we’re even. :)

Anyway, back to the homestead: during my end-of-summer/beginning-of-winter preparations, I tore down my garden and harvested what I could. All told, I got a stalk of broccoli (smallish, but delicious), a stalk of cauliflower (smallish, sitting on the counter), 3 nice-size beets (to be cooked this week), 3 servings of potatoes (a huge disappointment after how big my plants got, but at least they were tasty!), 4 strawberries (and counting–they’re indoors, now, with several berries yet to ripen), and some lettuce. We didn’t love the lettuce–this variety was kind of bitter–and because we’re so slow to use it, we probably won’t bother in future years. Other lessons: broccoli gets huge and blocks the light from other plants. Beets can, too. Cucumbers… I don’t know how to make those or zucchinis grow, but I really want to figure that out this time, since those are my favorites.

I definitely put more money into the garden than I harvested in vegetables, but the lessons learned were worth something, and I know better what to do to prepare, next year. Also, with any luck, we’ll have a little bit of sun next summer. This one was all rain. (Though fall has been lovely!)

My other project, starting on Friday, is the 365 Days of Cooking Challenge, which you can follow on the linked blog–I’m not the only blogger/participant, by far, so if the writing style looks different than you’re used to from me, check the author. ;) The goal is to cook at home and therefore not eat restaurant or pre-packaged foods for a year. Nobody, so far, is really aiming for 365 days. The most popular goal seems to be 6 days a week, which is what Dale and I are aiming for. (I’m actually aiming for 13 days out of 14, but we’ll see.) I’m also trying not to buy things with ingredients I can’t use in my own kitchen–so, citric acid is OK, but soy lecithin might not be–or with unethically farmed meat or eggs. No CAFO meat, anyway. It doesn’t have to be organic (though that’s nice), but it does have to be grass-fed or cage-free, whichever the appropriate modifier is. I’ll buy local when I can, as well. … Which means we’ll be eating vegetarian & pescatarian a fair bit of the time, too.

Anyway, that’s all the news that fits in print. Dale’s supposed to post pictures from when Dad was up here, plus whatever else we haven’t put up yet, and I’m sure he will, but like I said, things have been busy. And Halo Reach just came out. I’ll bug him. ;)

Snow (or something) is falling. Not sticking–it’s 40 degrees–but falling.

Seriously, you expect snow by Halloween, but not by Oct 1. It’s not even legal to have studded tires, yet.

(I know I sound freaked out. It’s only the inevitable march into winter that has me at all out of whack. Not the snow itself. That’s not going to stick.)

We only had 3 months with zero snowfall (well, flurry-fall, or sleet-fall, or something) this year. June, July, and August. Crazy.

Update: There’s snow on the mountains. It’s no longer summer, for reals.

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October 2021