PALINET08: Random impressions from a short trip

I just returned from my annual visit to the home office–that is, attending PALINET08 Conference+Vendor Fair and staying on for a meeting at PALINET headquarters in Philadelphia, PA. Just a few quick random notes along the way…with no deeper import.

The conference

I was mostly there to talk to people about PALINET Leadership Network (PLN)–specifically, what we could or should be doing more of (or doing better). I got a fair number of good ideas and discussed some ways for PLN to improve support of library leadership across the board. I’ll be working on those in the weeks and months to come.

Unfortunately, those discussions meant that I missed one of several breakout programs that sound particularly interesting–and, as I discovered during the reception, I stupidly skipped another session in which a proper pirate discussed copyright issues.

Fortunately, I did not miss two sessions Tuesday afternoon–one on “Hidden downsides and possible future directions of open source software for libraries,” which wasn’t really about hidden downsides but was a spectacular, engaging, informal presentation, and the closing “open source round robin presentation” which was lower-key but also engaging, informative and convincing.

I believe those who attended the conference probably got more out of it than I did. It seems to be a solid, worthwhile annual event. But most of these notes are about the periphery…

The trip

Last year, I did the sensible thing in terms of time: Nonstop from SFO to Philly on USAir.

USAir did such a spectacular job on that trip that this year I flew American from San Jose, even though that meant changing planes in DFW (going) and O’Hare (returning) and a net extra travel time of about an hour each way. (About two hours actual in-flight time, but SJC is a lot closer to home than SFO.) I think it was the right choice…

Getting to SJC very early Sunday morning, I didn’t feel like any of the somewhat limited breakfast alternatives. Fortunately, my upgrade for the first leg (and only the first leg) came through, and American provided a very satisfactory cheese & spinach omelet with fruit, potatoes and bagel. (DFW has lots of good choices for lunch; that wasn’t a problem.)

The best meal was probably dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Air Cafe at O’Hare, but that note comes last…

The hotel and Philadelphia

Pleasant surprise: The HP net PCs (maybe they were real PCs, for that matter…you could see a keyboard and flat-screen display, but you could plug a flash drive into the media console under the TV) with free web service. The speed was spotty and you didn’t really get much screen estate to play with (about half of the vertical space was blocked by Sheraton overhead), but since I travel without technology, this was an unexpected bonus: I didn’t get behind on email or blogs, and could even fix a problem with a page here. )

Otherwise: The hotel (Sheraton University City) was fine. The restaurant, usually mostly deserted, had reasonably-priced options. There were dozens of nearby choices as well, but getting in late Sunday and rain Monday (and lots of food at the reception) encouraged dining in. (Tuesday I went to a nearby place; it was fine.) Oh, and this time the wide-screen high-def LCD TV was getting digital signals on network stations, so it actually displayed shows properly–the first time I’ve watched full episodes in high-def.

I didn’t explore Philly much because of the weather and time commitments. Given comments from locals, I was semi-dreading late Monday evening–until the game got rained out. (The general tone: “Stay in your hotel and away from the bars and you’ll be OK.”) I imagine it wasn’t really that bad on Wednesday, but I wasn’t there…and I’m certain locals are relieved that the quarter-century championship drought is over.

…and the Borg

I knew I’d get home way too late to have dinner, but there was an hour between flights at O’Hare, and Puck’s cafe was about 200 feet from the gate I was flying out of (K-1, an oddly stranded gate that’s on the hallway between the H/K concourses and the L concourse). I had an excellent individual pizza.

The table next to mine was occupied by two men, both business types (OK, I had a coat & tie on, so I was a business type too), both eating…and both talking. Talking fairly loudly. And, I realized (you couldn’t help but hear them), talking simultaneously and on different topics.

The answer, of course, is that two Borgs were seated at the table. They may have been “dining together” but neither of them was really there. Both were busily talking to other people (or other machines) in other places. I wonder whether either one actually tasted what they were eating–not that it’s up to Puck’s top restaurants (I have no idea: that cafe is as close as I’m likely to get to Puck’s restaurants), but it’s very good food.

It all seemed a little sad. (Almost as sad as the woman across the aisle on the plane who, as soon as we touched down in San Jose, brought out two, count them, two phone/PDA thingies, checking both simultaneously for messages.)

Me? I had a cell phone along in case of emergency. It was on twice, for about two minutes each time. Since 1-800 numbers were free at the hotel, I used the years-old calling card minutes to call home instead of the cell phone…and my wife, who loves cell phones as much as I do, didn’t expect me to call On The Road unless something went wrong.

4 Responses to “PALINET08: Random impressions from a short trip”

  1. stevenb says:

    Too bad you couldn’t stick around for the finale of the championship game on Wednesday night. That would have really given you something to write about. Just a little bit of good old hometown rioting and destruction. I don’t know how we get from celebrating a baseball championship to breaking store windows and stealing things, overturning cars and setting fires. Most of the crowd was just having a good time – there are always going to be a few bad apples. The next time you are in West Philly take a walk up to 38th and Walnut and try Cavanaugh’s Bar.

  2. walt says:

    Steven: Oh, I was entirely happy to leave before the celebration/riot.

    I’ll try to remember that recommendation (but the next time I’m there will probably be a year from now)–I was planning to explore further, but the weather discouraged it.

  3. Jeff says:

    It’s sad that people can’t talk to each other anymore. I remember walking with my wife to a romantic dinner downtown on our anniversary. There was another couple walking in front of us. The guy’s cellphone rings, he drops his girlfriend’s hand and answers the phone. It seemed unimportant (because of course I could hear the conversation), but the girlfriend just waited.

    Whenever I am at a conference, the only person I call is my wife, unless I can bring her along. Thanks for sharing.

  4. walt says:

    It is indeed–although, around here (the heart of Silicon Valley, home to Google), it’s relatively rare for people in a restaurant to be Borging (that is, communicating with some unseen power rather than the person in front of them)–and some people still take the phone outside when they get a call.

    The only time I even carry a cell phone is when I’m traveling; otherwise, it’s still off but in my wife’s bag in case of emergency (if she’s on the road or whatever).