Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Some notes in lieu of a new year’s post and Midwinter post

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Call it ego, but I don’t think I can let this go unremarked, although I apparently tried for three days…

“This” is a really interesting post by Dorothea Salo about the power of blogging in specific situations–but that’s not the reason I’m linking to it. (It might be the reason it turns up in a C&I piece–or might not–but that would be because of the real content.)

Nope. It’s this paragraph:

Over the last couple years I’ve learned that I can do professional writing, though it takes a hell of a lot out of me and I don’t think I will ever find it easy. Speaking is worlds easier, and whole universes more fun. (Combine Walt Crawford, to whom good writing comes as naturally as breathing, and me and you’d have one frighteningly effective public-figure librarian.)

Thanks, Dorothea. Not that I wasn’t a pretty good speaker back when I was in demand, but “to whom good writing comes as naturally as breathing…” Wow. Them’s kind words.

And, as I noted back to her in email, “Sometimes I have trouble breathing.” Which, fortunately, is not true (although if I ate a banana I might have terminal trouble in that regard)…but there are certainly times I have trouble with (some forms of) writing. Naturally, I’ve written about that too. When I had two monthly print columns, a bimonthly print column, and Cites & Insights, I managed to use “if you’re not ready to write X, write Y instead” to keep from missing deadlines. With two bimonthly print columns and a supposed state of semi-retirement, it’s easier to say “if you’re not ready to write X, read something instead–you’ll get around to it.”

Which I usually do, but it can be painful. When life offers a range of excellent excuses to avoid writing, it can be really painful.

Which is another way of saying that I haven’t written any of the essays for C&I 8:2 yet–and by now, I should have about a third of an issue ready. (Well, I do, but it’s another Offtopic Perspective.) As acute observers of C&I 8:1 may guess, I haven’t really focused on the range of usual C&I topics for a while now, making an exception for book digitization projects… I’m sure that will change after Midwinter. It had better. Of course, now that I’ve published a January issue on January 1, I could theoretically publish a February issue even a little later in February…

What was that slogan from a six-book trilogy (which we saw as a not-all-that-good flick)? Don’t Panic? I won’t. Of course, writing this post (and another one to come) is one way of procrastinating… (I’ve already done the “do Y”: I’m my usual month early on “disContent” with what I think is a tightly focused 850 words that came about partly because I wasn’t ready to work on C&I. And, for that matter, I finished writing Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples partly to avoid working on C&I; it will be available in two or three weeks, after I receive and approve proof copies from Lulu and CreateSpace. $29.50, of course, and just a few pages shorter than Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. So far, I’m disinclined to combine the two into Walt’s Big Book of Library Blogs, but if I thought there was a market for that $50 580-page combination…)

Serious rambling here. Short form: Thanks, Dorothea. It ain’t always as easy as it looks–although, once I’m ready to write something, the words do flow. (No, I can’t and don’t do “15 minutes every day regardless.” For me, at least, that would yield choppy writing that read like it was written in little pieces…and probably take a lot longer than just not writing on Those Days and settling in when the time is right. My practice. Not suggested or recommended for anyone else.)

I didn’t really do a “here’s what I did last year and am going to do better this year” post, except by inference here and there. Fact is, last year was traumatic in some ways, enormously productive in others, and I don’t regard it as emblematic of any sort of succession. At least I hope not: I’m not sure I could cope.

One motto that popped up at several key points last year and that resounds in my mind when I read certain bits of advice these days does apply–for me, at least.

Life is too short.

Yes, I’ve turned down an invitation because it would put me on the same program with someone who I really couldn’t abide (worse, it would have me introducing someone as a principal speaker, someone who’s insulted me in writing and in public). Either I was being asked to increase the audience size, in which case I’d be lending my cachet (my cachet? I have a cachet?) under false pretenses, since I fundamentally disagree with this other person’s approach and persona–or I was being asked either to create a controversy or out of ignorance as to my stance. Either way, I lose. I’d do the same thing again with no apologies. Life is too short.

Oh, and yes, I’ve avoided some situations because I was pretty sure they’d put me in contact with one of maybe three people in the whole field who I really find grating on a personal level, and the situations didn’t have enough going for them to overbalance that. Why not? Life is too short.

That’s also getting to be my internal response when I see someone with a high-profile speaking or writing gig and think maybe I could have done a better job on it, if I was more of a go-getter. Life is too short, and since I’ve made a deliberate practice of encouraging new writers/speakers and treating people as people regardless of their highfalutin’ reputation or lack thereof, it’s absurd to grump when other people do well. I should celebrate their successes. Mostly, these days, I do. Life is too short to do otherwise.

The trifecta section: Why I’m not posting a Midwinter schedule.

Oh, I’ll be there–from Friday afternoon through Monday night (leaving way too early Tuesday morning, to match my middle-of-the-night drive to SFO on Friday), at the Embassy Suites Center City. I could even say “Of course I’ll be there. Midwinter 2008 is the formal launch of the PALINET Leadership Network. How am I not going to be there?”

But that formal launch also means my schedule will be changing up to the last working hour on Thursday and quite possibly beyond. If I can talk to people from library publications about PLN (open to all English-reading [potential] library leaders, free, great stuff), I will, and those who are trying to set things up know that. I’ll probably spend some time at the PALINET booth as well, although maybe not a lot–PALINET has a lot going on this conference, what with VuFind, Villanova University’s “open source discovery tool that replaces the traditional online public access catalog (OPAC) without requiring a new integrated library system (ILS).”

What I think I know so far, all subject to change:

  • I hope to make part of the LITA Happy Hour Friday, and maybe head off with some strange colleagues (you know who you are) afterwards, but it’s a hope, not an expectation.
  • I plan to attend the ALCTS Medium Heads DG on Saturday morning, since it’s on a topic of particular interest for PLN (succession planning).
  • I will most definitely attend PALINET’s member reception, which probably means I’ll miss another reception that I would normally make a point of attending.
  • I might hit LITA Public Library Technology IG on Saturday morning and NextGen Catalogs IG Sunday afternoon. I might not.
  • I’ll probably be at part or all of that saloon thingy–oh, wait, Blogger’s Salon, not saloon. Or not: There may be conflicts there as well.
  • So far, Monday’s wide open. I imagine that will change.

I anticipate having at least two and maybe four or more other meetings scheduled while I’m there. I also anticipate lots of time in the exhibits–and if the weather turns out to be nice, Philadelphia is a great walking town.

Want to get together? Send me a note before Thursday evening. I’ll have a cell phone, but only outbound and only for emergencies–and no, I’m not Twittering.

Ah, what the heck. Now that I’ve killed three birds with one post, why not go for a foursome?

I don’t carry a portable computer. My wife owns one, but it’s one designed for good value rather than light weight.

I’ve thought about the possibility that what I’m doing might make it much more desirable at some point to change that practice–to have “something” along when I’m traveling so I can do web-based things and maybe a little lightweight writing. I’ve also thought about my desire for traveling light, my sometimes-frugal nature, and my bad habit of leaving valuable things sitting around places (otherwise known as “Why I carry a $5 compact umbrella, not a $20 Totes”).

If I did need access on the road, I’m pretty sure I know what I’d buy, at least in today’s market. Hmm. Inexpensive. Semi-decent full keyboard. Decent screen. VERY lightweight and fairly rugged.

Nope, not that one. I’d give you the reasons, but only in person.

This one, silly as its name is: eee–by Asus. Two pounds, 7″ screen, not touch-typable but a plausible undersize keyboard, wifi built in, 4GB memory (flash, of course) for $400…

Yes, it runs Linux (Ubuntu, I think). That seems like the sensible thing to use on this kind of cut-down, hard-diskless PC.

Am I likely to get one of these (or some equivalent)? Unless someone’s in a silly mood, only time will tell. Frankly, all else being equal, I really rather like being off the air when I’m traveling.

Even fewer posts

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

I know, I know, I’ve said more than once that people shouldn’t need to explain why they’re not blogging for a while…but always with an explicit or implicit caveat: unless they want to.

I want to.

You’re unlikely to see any posts here for at least five days, maybe more–which is even a little more irregular than this irregular blog usually runs.

Why? For positive reasons, in this case–positive but also disruptive:

  • Tomorrow I’ll fly out to Philadelphia, and go from there to Baltimore. (This means getting up way too early to drive to SFO instead of SJC, my favorite and closest airport–because there are nonstops from SFO to PHL, even if on airlines I’ve never used before. In this case, a 7 a.m. nonstop makes the whole trip workable.)
  • What’s up in Baltimore? PALINET’s Annual Conference & Vendor Fair, at the Tremont Hotel & Conference Center, October 29-30 (with a Digitization Expo October 31, but I won’t be going to that).
  • On the way from Philadelphia to Baltimore–and much more so in Baltimore–I’ll meet the people I’m working for and with in my new (part-time) position as Director and Managing Editor of the PALINET Leadership Network. Up to now, everything (including interview and hiring) has been done on the phone or via email.
  • I’ll also get to meet some of PALINET’s members and start talking up the PALINET Leadership Network. I’ve gotten off to a running start over the past two weeks in setting out milestones and looking at the current beta wiki to see how things might proceed. We decided not to add me to the program as such–probably just as well, given how early it is in the process–but I will be meeting with most of the PLN Advisory Group to work through some issues I’ve identified.
  • Why am I flying into Philadelphia rather than Baltimore (an airport I like quite a bit)? Because Tuesday night we’ll drive back to Philadelphia–and I’ll spend Wednesday morning at PALINET headquarters before flying back home Wednesday afternoon (just in time to help deal with trick-or-treaters, specifically the older ones from outside the neighborhood who show up after dark).
  • I still travel without technology–at least for the moment–so I won’t be blogging during that period (or checking email, or reading Bloglines, or…). And chances are I’ll spend Thursday and maybe Friday writing up notes and catching up with everything. So a post prior to next weekend is fairly unlikely.
  • For my LSW Meebo friends, that also means I’ll be even scarcer over the next week, as in not there at all. Which has mostly been the case since 10/15, so no big surprise…

Not that you’re likely to notice. A bunch of bloggers at IL will cause blog overload for most avid liblog readers anyway. If experience is any guide, readership numbers will probably rise as long as I don’t actually write anything (that’s not just my experience–it’s a fairly frequent occurrence).

If you need a dose of my writing, there’s always the current Cites & Insights–you can write nasty email after reading the ©3 essay, see whether you find the 12-page “Thinking About Blogging” standoffish, and try a few Trends & Quick Takes on for size.

Better yet, if you’re in a public library or library school, buy a copy of Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. (Or Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change, same link–both books also available at

First post-ALA post (or “Why C&I 7.8 will be delayed slightly”)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

I discussed the lead essay in the forthcoming July 2007 Cites & Insights with some of you during ALA, noting that the issue was basically written, just needed a little more trimming and editing, and would probably come out the day after I got back from DC–which, presumably, would be today.

I still hope to publish the issue the day after I get back from DC. But that turns out to be tomorrow. After decades of luck in avoiding snowin during Midwinter, my luck ran out (at least a little bit) with a different sort of weather problem. To wit, I got to San Jose International Airport today at about 1 p.m. PDT–roughly 33.5 hours after leaving the Grand Hyatt in Washington to catch a shuttle to Dulles. I expected to get home around 3 p.m. Tuesday; instead, I got home around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

I’m sure some of you have experienced worse–heck, you may even be experiencing worse as I write this. My brief chronology:

  • 6:20 a.m. Tuesday 6/26: Shuttle to Dulles, reaching airport at around 7 a.m.
  • 9:30 a.m.: American flight to DFW takes off a few minutes early, gets in right on time (11:35 a.m.)
  • 12:25 p.m.: I’m at the gate where the American 12:55 p.m. flight to San Jose is supposed to be loading–but it’s now scheduled for departure at something like 1:45 p.m.
  • 2 p.m.: The plane (100% full) pulls back from the gate and gets in line for takeoff.
  • 3 p.m.: Given rain, progress has been slow, but this flight is now the first in line for westbound takeoff. And westbound takeoffs are shut down. We pull onto a midfield taxiway.
  • 6 p.m.: We return to the gate; after four hours of running the plane generators, there’s not enough fuel.
  • Everybody on the plane is told to go back out to the ticket counters to rebook. After various attempts at standby or rebooking, I run out of options…along with several hundred others. (The only San Jose flight later than 11:20 a.m. to go out at all is the 3:15 p.m. flight–which departs at around 9:45 p.m., and probably incurred a penalty for violating San Jose’s noise curfew.)
  • Even in the first class/Gold/Platinum frequent flyer line–or maybe particularly there–it’s VERY slow going to try to get Wednesday standby or new confirmed seats (everybody’s told that everything’s sold out until Thursday or maybe Friday; this turns out to be either false or intermittently true), and I finally wind up with a baroque confirmed booking (flying to Orange County and from there to San Jose, leaving midafternoon when storms are likely to be troublesome and not getting in until 7:30 p.m.) and a standby boarding pass for the first SJC flight out (7:55 a.m.)
  • At this point, getting a hotel room makes very little sense: Everything near the airport is sold out, and the only deals I can find are $200 to $250 plus a $20-$25 30-minute shuttle ride each way. Since it’s now 1 a.m. and I’d obviously need to be back at the airport by 6:30 or so to be there for possible 7:55 a.m. takeoff, that figures to be $300 for about 3 hours of sleep and a shower. Not worth it. So, along with a few hundred others, I head back through security (before it shuts down at 1:30-2 a.m.) to sleep inside the airport (there’s really no place to even sit outside the security area, at least in the American complex). I believe some 600 people couldn’t get standby passes before the ticketing shut down at 1 a.m., and were stuck either going to a hotel or making the best of the outside facilities.
  • American did at least one thing right: They invested in a few hundred lightweight foldable cots, so people could do something better than lie on the floor–and they made several hundred blankets available. With such comfort, I probably got an easy 60-90 minutes of something resembling sleep.
  • Based on weather forecasts, we were hearing the worst–it might be even worse today and continuing until Sunday. I figured that if the 3:25 flight didn’t get out, I’d give up at that point, get a hotel room, and try for Thursday…
  • Fortunately, American’s standby-rollover algorithms are pretty clean (placement is almost entirely based on when your original flight was scheduled to take off). I wind up #15 on standby for the 7:55 a.m. flight–and get real hopeful when they’ve gotten to #11 and I see that 12-14 all have the same last name. Turns out there’s exactly one seat left–but the parents of the teen in the family decide to send him ahead.
  • Next flight 10 a.m. This time, I’m #8. Then #9. Then, glory be, #4. The flight’s delayed (but mostly preboarding, then a little because of catering), but I get on, the weather seems to be holding at overcast–and at 11:15 (I think) we pull back. As promised, once we’re past the Sangre de Cristo mountains, it’s a pretty smooth ride (and the $5 turkey/shaved parmesan/turkey ham/lettuce wrap isn’t half bad, actually).

So there it is: My 24 hours (almost precisely) at DFW. Right now, I’m running nearly on empty, with no real deep sleep for a day and a half. This could clearly have been a lot worse. OK, so they didn’t feed us (except first class) or give us free drinks during the four hours, but the lights and air conditioning were on, the johns were functioning, and it was clearly a legitimate weather problem, not an airline issue. (They did provide water or orange juice after a couple of hours.) Four hours isn’t seven; some people spent two days getting through DFW, not just one.

Odd. My wife suggested that maybe I was getting too old for the outbound flights–American Eagle to LAX midafternoon on Thursday, June 22, followed by the red-eye from LAX to Dulles, But even in coach, I did get 2-3 hours reasonably decent sleep on that flight–and Grand Hyatt gave me my room at 6:15 when I got to the hotel, so I could crash for a few more hours. This was my first experience “sleeping” in an airport; I hope it will be my last. Maybe I am getting too old for that sort of nonsense. Maybe not.

So, maybe I’ll have C&I ready tomorrow. Maybe Friday. Maybe not. I think it’s a good issue, with a section on copyright, a Library Access to Scholarship piece, another chunk of Making it Work, a couple of other features–and a lead essay that I’ve already mentioned to a few people. Soon.

I may post later about why Twitter-during-conference really didn’t work for me, for ALA. I might post about other things…

Meanwhile, a little thought experiment (“picture in your mind’s eye”) that may say something about the underwhelming success of a revolutionary mode of transport.

Picture in your mind’s eye half a dozen really cool people. Let’s say Halle Berry, Will Smith, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis–I don’t know. Choose your own.

Line them up. What a spectacle of coolness!

Now put them all on Segways and get them moving.

What do you have? Dorks on Parade.

At least most of the security guards at the DC Convention Center didn’t have the “I love this Segway because it means I don’t use up any of those doughnut calories” look I’ve seen in some other cases of “official Segway” use–but still…

And that’s it for a highly unofficial and inconsequential ALA post that at least says why I’m a little slow with some other things. If the above is a little less coherent than usual, you can guess why.


Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

I’m still not quite back–that is, I’m back in Mountain View, but not ready to get back to real writing and blogging just yet. (Apart from plowing through blog posts, there are newspapers to catch up on, a tiny amount of taped TV to watch, and a whole lot less energy than I’d like.) Maybe tomorrow. Meantime, a few housekeeping notes:

  • Much as I’d love to comment on some of the stuff reported from CIL (in what seemed like an endless string and variety of posts), I learned my lesson from earlier cases of commenting-on-conference-reports: You can’t win. I wasn’t there. Any attempt to triangulate what was actually said, the vocal inflections, the body language, only works one way–that is, if I take issue with anything that was noted, well, clearly I misunderstood. So, no comments on what happened at CIL. I wasn’t there. (This one’s hard but essential to my sanity.)
  • I was at Washington Library Association. Thanks to Sarah Houghton-Jan (who did the first opening statement) and good moderation and questions, we did a bangup opening keynote in a breakfast session. I stopped counting the compliments. It was probably my only speech of the year (but 2008 may be looking up), or at least the only one I know about so far, and the first speech in many years where my written notes didn’t play into the actual talk at all. Of course, it wasn’t really a speech (10 minutes up front, then a minute or two as appropriate), but it was a kick.
  • I went to underattended sessions. I went to overcrowded sessions (but left, since I figure those who paid registration should get the seats). I went to very good sessions, and some that weren’t quite as great. WLA had a pretty fair amount of non-session time, and people were talking. A lot. Which is probably the best thing about face-to-face conferences.
  • While I’m definitely writing a C&I essay about the whole blogging-code-of-conduct thing, and that essay might include my own current stance, I don’t think my practice is going to change enough to require explicit statements. Two mild changes, though, both affecting comments: I will feel freer to delete comments than I have in the past if I think they’re “out of bounds,” and much freer to delete anonymous/pseudonymous comments, although I don’t forbid them. The other: As time permits, I’m going to lock out comments on older posts, since that’s where most remaining spam and attempted linkback spam comes into the system, and “real” comments tend to have an otherworldly nature a year after a post appears. I’m thinking about a one-year comment window, or maybe six months after the post or most recent comment.

Now back to catching up…

Moderation in all things

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Well, for a few days at least.

My big speaking cavalcade for 2007 begins Wednesday: That is, one (shared) keynote, at the Washington Library Association in Kennewick, WA, on Thursday, April 19. The cavalcade proceeds from there to…well, that’s it, actually.

As usual (when feasible), I’m going to the whole conference. As always, I’m traveling without technology. OK, I might take along my cheapo portable CD player, or I might not, but that’s as far as it goes: No cell phone, no notebook computer, no PDA, no pager, no Blackberry.

I wouldn’t even bother to mention that I won’t be blogging for four days: That’s pretty much par for the course on this sketchy site. But I’m blessed with a fair number of comments–high by liblog standards, if low by “A-list” or political-blog standards.

Unfortunately, a couple of spamments have been sneaking through Spam Karma 2 and WordPress’ native methodologies. Nothing terribly serious or obscene (cross fingers), and I delete them as soon as I spot them, but I’d rather not have them stick around for several days.

So, assuming that the change works (the interactions between Spam Karma 2 and WordPress’ moderating systems are a little mysterious), I’m turning on moderation for all comments tomorrow afternoon (April 17) and will leave it on until I return and have a chance to catch up (probably Sunday, April 22; possibly Monday, April 23).

Feel free to comment on posts (including any of the 16 stub posts for Balanced Libraries) but don’t be surprised when your post doesn’t show up until I get back.

Sorry about that. Of course, it’s equally possible that nobody would add any comments between Tuesday evening and Sunday, in which case this is a waste of typing. Fortunately, I’m a fast typist.

Five plus one

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

I must say that the “five things” meme/chain post/whatever has been fascinating. It’s guided me to a few new liblogs (and caused me to glance at a number of “outside” blogs that usually didn’t get Bloglined), and it’s provided some great insights into people within the field.

And at least five other bloggers from OCLC have participated, so I consider my pseudo-tagging complete. I don’t really believe in tagging either (hi Alane!), so I did a pseudo-tag without names. Yes, one response does count for as many different taggers as possible…

Andy [oh, go look at It’s all good if you don’t understand the reference]: Here’s what happens if you break the chain. Somewhere in Greater Los Angeles, a demon goes flat while singing in a karaoke bar, interfering with reading its future. Otherwise, there are no consequences. [And for those who don’t understand that reference, think Joss Whedon. Or don’t.]

Reading all those semi-intimacies prompted me to add a bonus:

6. Why I compulsively get to airports very early–and did so even before TSA and all that.

The first time I had occasion to fly was a job-related trip at UC Berkeley: I had to go to UCLA for some reason. (It was a long time ago, I believe in the mid-1970s.) The arrangements were made for me. At the time, the efficient way to get from Berkeley to SFO was to take the helicopter service from the Berkeley heliport (long since disappeared)–and that’s how the arrangements were made. Plenty of time to catch the flight; just don’t miss the helicopter.

I was there in plenty of time for the helicopter. Which didn’t take off for quite some time after its schedule. I believe it was because some bigshot was late, so they held the flight.

When we got to SFO, it was something like 15 minutes before the flight time. I ran full-tilt through what seemed like endless corridors. I made it to the plane with about a minute to spare.

These days, it would be simple: Since they would have closed the doors ten minutes before takeoff and given away the seats for anyone who hadn’t shown up 15-20 minutes before, I would have missed the flight and the meeting. As it was, I made it–and vowed never to be in that kind of situation again. I’ve learned to appreciate airport food, factor in more than enough time for traffic problems, and once in a while catch an earlier flight–and, of course, I always have plenty of reading for the two or three hours of sitting around.

[I hate running, and my ankles aren’t built for it. On the other hand, I’m a fast walker, enjoy walking and can walk basically forever, or at least 5-10 miles.]

And, to be sure, I make my own travel arrangements.

Boutique hotel in Manhattan: Run away!

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

That’s not fair, of course: There are doubtless wonderful hotels in Manhattan that carry the “boutique” label. But I thought a quick post might not be out of order after returning from a quick speaking trip.

I’m not naming the organization I was speaking to, because they’re not really to blame for the hotel problem and absolutely not to blame for the other problem (see below). They offered three possible hotels that were reasonably priced and not too far away from the conference venue and suggested reserving very early. I failed to reserve very early, and the other two hotels were unavailable.

First, the other situation: Be wary of SuperShuttle in Manhattan. I use it in other cities, almost always with very good success. This time, with a prepaid voucher (thanks to Orbitz’ recommendation), I arrived at the pickup point at 4:35 p.m. (SuperShuttle doesn’t actually have airport stations, at least not in JFK Terminal 9). I arrived at my hotel at…7:25 p.m. Yes, part of that was Manhattan’s grotesque rush hour; a lot more, though, was loading up the van with people going to six different places–and, as I didn’t realize until my return to the airport, almost perversely bad choices as to routing. (Going by the same buildings in the same direction two or three times didn’t give me a lot of confidence either.) When I asked at the hotel how early I should book a SuperShuttle return on Saturday (I had a prepaid voucher for that as well), in order to be sure of reaching the airport by 7. a.m., they said “4 a.m.–if they show up.” I booked a sedan, which took 25 minutes to get to JFK from the hotel. Sure, it was $50 instead of $17–but my time’s worth something.

Now, as to the hotel (and I use the term loosely): That one I will name–the Union Square Inn.

Here’s the description on their website:

Welcome to Union Square Inn, the finest affordable boutique hotel in Manhattan, New York City. Great rates, great location and great service make us the best New York boutique hotel choice.

Not merely a boutique hotel, but the “finest” and “best” New York boutique hotel!

I suppose “European-style” and “cozy” elsewhere on the site might be warning signs. Despite the claim of rooms as low as $99, the rate wasn’t that wonderful: $357 for two nights (including tax), for a room with one double bed. The rest of the site talks about first-class amenities, “modern, comfortable rooms” with private bathrooms, and even has a menu for their hip Cafe Samantha.

Here’s the reality. Cafe Samantha doesn’t exist–well, the teeny-tiny space does, but it’s only used for a “continental breakfast” (apparently coffee and one variety of sweet roll, maybe two). Maybe the Cafe did exist as a breakfast-lunch place at some point, but it doesn’t now. No big deal. There was a decent 24-hour restaurant two blocks away.
My room was on the fifth floor. There is no elevator. Not a broken elevator–no elevator. Funny how the website doesn’t mention anything that might suggest that. (Maybe “European-style”?) The room was large enough for the double bed, two nightstands, a dresser, and a chair–“cozy” is probably the right term. Modern? Well, the paint was in good shape and there were electric lights.

No closet. Only a short hanging rod (half of it over one of the bedside lamps). Yes, there was a bathroom–but if I’d been two inches taller, it would have been very difficult to use the toilet without banging my knees on the opposite wall.

As for first-class amenities–those did not include either a radio or an alarm clock (or room service, or anything indicating phone charges, or…). So, down those five flights of stairs again, ask at the front desk, they say they’ll be happy to program in a wakeup call. Which I asked for. And, the next morning, called to cancel since it hadn’t happened, at least by five or ten minutes after the hour. It was critical that I get the 5 a.m. wakeup call on Saturday, so I’d get my transportation to the airport, but they assured me that I’d get that wakeup call. Fortunately, my sleep was sufficiently affect by premonitions that I woke up before…there was no wakeup call. (Are alarm clocks that expensive, that at $180 a night they can’t afford to have them? The TV, such as it was, was hospital-style, locked to a wall mount up in the corner, so maybe that’s the case.)

I suppose the first-class amenities meant that there was soap and shampoo in the bathroom. That’s true. (No handtowels the first night, but that’s being picky.)

Again, I don’t blame the conference organizers. They probably checked the same first-level reviews that I did. Only one of those reviews mentioned the lack of elevator (and even then didn’t mention five stories). Since I know from reading user-submitted reviews elsewhere that some very negative reviews have to be discounted. (I remember sailing on Crystal Cruises once, a magnificent line with superb service, and hearing one couple starting to complain about this and that even before the ship had left the dock–I think that mostly boiled down to their Not Being Recognized as Very Important People and being treated as well as the rest of us…) If I’d read more assiduously, I would then have had a problem: there were no other available choices that suited the group’s apparently tight budget, or at least none they’d suggested.

My “speaking page” on my website includes among my requirements “lodging at the conference hotel (if there is one) or a business-class [or better] hotel,” After this trip, I may do a little rewriting to clarify what I mean by business-class (think Hilton, Marriott, Embassy Suites, Westin, Sheraton…). It’s fair to say that I assume a business-class hotel will have elevators if it’s more than two or three stories tall and will have radios or alarm clocks, maybe even closets. Heck, it’s fair to say I’d assume the same of a Motel 6. But, of course, there are no Motel 6s in Manhattan.

Would I go back to Manhattan? For the right arrangements, sure–but those arrangements would absolutely include a name-brand business-class (or better) hotel. And taxi, not shuttle, fare to and from the airport. (Which the inviting group’s paying: Again, this isn’t aimed at them.)

The final pre-ALA post (probably)

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

I’m not departing until Friday [very early], and I don’t see much point in posting my ALA schedule (don’t carry a cell phone, won’t be IMing or emailing, unlikely to be able to set up anything except in person).

But I thought I’d note a couple of things, for anyone who did want to look for me…

Friday: I plan to be at the WebJunction reception, and have registered for it–but that assumes that I get from the airport to my hotel in good time. I might be late. I might not make it at all. In the latter case, sorry I missed all you good folks…

Saturday afternoon: I might go to the LITA SF program, or I might go to “the ultimate debate,” or I might be in exhibits, or…

Saturday late afternoon, evening, night:

  • I suspect I won’t make it to the LITA Happy Hour because of OCLC/RLG stuff.
  • While I’ve RSVPed for the ALA blogger’s bash, 10:30 p.m. is pretty late in the day for me (I’m an early riser, and I do adjust to new time zones almost immediately). So my attendance there is, at best, iffy, and if I’m there at all it won’t be for very long.

Sunday: I will for sure be at the LITA Top Tech Trends program, but not spouting off: I’ll be the one shoving trendspotters away from the mike (or just speaking over them if there are multiple mikes) if they keep talking after their time is up. I’ll try not to have too much fun doing that, and I will be moderating the discussion period. Heck, with luck, The Experts will recognize that five minutes means five minutes, and I won’t have much to do at all.

I do plan to attend the LITA Awards Reception following the TTT program.

Monday? Well, if you’re another former LITA president, you know where I’ll be at 8 a.m. Otherwise, I’m leaving Monday just as loose as possible.

And I return on Tuesday, ready for the final three days of the 27 years and 19 days I will have worked for RLG.

In all those empty spaces, I plan to peruse the exhibits, maybe go to some other programs or discussion groups, say Hi to a few hundred colleagues and have longer conversations with some, continue my occasional gumbo survey of decent cheap places at lunch and dinner, overtip, have a glass of wine here and there, and do some minor touristy things. If you want to stop and chat, don’t let the fact that I seem to be walking like a bat out of hell dissuade you: I always walk fast…

New Orleans 2: The New York Times Got It Wrong

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

(OK, there’s always the possibility that the San Francisco Chronicle changed the wording on the NYTimes story it reprinted this morning–but I doubt it.)

If you know New Orleans and you’re going to ALA, you must have gone “Wha?” when you read this morning that the Central Business District, CBD, was a hotbed of drug activity and was where the quintuple slaying occurred.

After all, CBD’s pretty near the conference area.

Here’s a key paragraph of a New Orleans Convention & Visitor’s Bureau statement:

Contrary to reports in the national news, the recent reprehensible murders of five youths in the city occurred at 4:00 a.m. in the sparsely populated Central City neighborhood miles away from the Central Business District, French Quarter, Convention Center and Warehouse Arts District. Unfortunately Central City has historically been the location for criminal behavior prior to Hurricane Katrina, and remains a “hot spot” for unlawful behavior. The murders have no bearing on any crime or safety issues in the areas of the city frequented by tourists.

Read “conventiongoers” for “tourists” and you get the idea: The media just plain got it wrong.

Of course you should be careful in New Orleans, more so if you’re going outside the general convention area (CBD, Warehouse Arts, Convention Center, French Quarter). For that matter, I can’t think of many cities where you should be walking around by yourself at 4 a.m. in any downtown area…
But don’t get panicked because of erroneous reporting.

ALA New Orleans: A few thoughts in preparation

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Some of you may remember a flurry of posts back in 2004, offering good advice for people attending ALA. I pulled together some of those (and some other related lists) and even added one tip of my own, in Perspective: Good Advice: Making Some Lists in the July 2004 Cites & Insights. (OK, I might have added more tips during the blogging–but I didn’t have W.a.r. back then.)

I haven’t seen similar sets of advice this year, and the stuff from 2004 still makes perfectly good sense; that portion of the HTML page (down to “Suggestions for Presenters”) fits on both sides of a single sheet.

So there’s the first thought: Those tips from 2004 are just as valid this year. I’ll particularly stress “don’t overschedule” and “you will walk miles every day”

I haven’t been back to New Orleans since Katrina, but I have been back within the last two years. From what I remember of the convention center/downtown area, what I’ve read about the situation these days, and what I know of ALA’s arrangements, I will suggest a few specifics:

  • You’re going to walk half a mile to get from the exhibits to the front door anyway. Add another mile to that, mile and a half at most, and you can get to many or most hotels, lots of restaurants, the French Quarter, etc. In other words: You may need the shuttle bus if you’re heavily loaded, but I think of “the sliver by the river” as a walking town, at least in daylight or in groups. For an average walking pace (say 3 miles per hour), most places you’d want to go aren’t more than 30-40 minutes from the CC’s front door, and many of them are closer than that. (Nothing wrong with taking cabs, but they may be in slightly short supply, particularly on the big flight days.)
  • Which emphasizes another point: Wear comfortable shoes. If you’re able to walk a few miles a day, plan on walking a few miles a day. You’ll get more out of the town and the conference.
  • And wear comfortable clothes! Figure on it being 90/90: 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) or above, and 90% humidity much of the time. One time when ALA was in New Orleans, a general call went out to scrap the coats & ties (and equivalent stuffy clothes for women). Maybe that call should have gone out this time as well. You’ll have a lot more fun when you’re not dying from the heat and damp.
  • Sure, the high-end restaurants will mostly be open, apparently including Commander’s Palace. If that’s your thing, go for it: New Orleans depends on tourist/convention money, and always has. But, you know, those less fancy restaurants mostly have good Nawlins food as well, at considerably lower prices; you could put some of the difference toward maybe slightly overtipping the people who are trying to recover. (It’s real easy to figure one dollar out of every four on the bill…) (OK, I’m prejudiced on this one: I’ve generally been happier with the “ordinary” meals I’ve had in NO than with the hotshot restaurants, although they sure do fancy service at those expensive places. To my taste, the everyday NO places do food that’s maybe 80% as good as the top places, at 50% of the price,and with a whole lot less attitude. I like the neighborhood places, the semi-dives, and for that matter some of the heavily-localized hotel restaurants. Of course, I’m doing another gumbo exploration anyway, so I may not be the best judge here.)
  • If you’re volunteering on one of the two special days, good for you. If you feel the need to take one of the tours that features unrecovered areas, that’s fine too. But if you just want to enjoy the conference, enjoy getting together with all your twice-a-year face-to-face friends, enjoy good food, and enjoy New Orleans for what it used to be and the pieces that have returned: You know, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You’re part of what will bring (most of) New Orleans back: Visiting Money, Having a Good Time. If anybody tries to lay a guilt trip on you, ignore them.
  • As at any conference, show a little common sense. I don’t know if post-Katrina French Quarter is still a 24-hour-a-day frat party (as one local cabbie described it at 5 a.m., as we were passing all these drunks leaning against lightposts in that 24-hour drinking town with “sure, take the drink out on the street” laws), but you know, you really don’t have to see how many Hurricanes you can drink. Going out alone most anywhere at 3 a.m. is rarely advisable in any city. And, for what it’s worth, it really doesn’t hurt to tuck your badge into your pocket when you leave the convention center or your meeting room–although, if you’re swinging one of those freebie bags, chances are your status isn’t going to be any big secret.
  • Finally, and most important: Laissez lez bon temps roulez. Let the good times roll. New Orleans needs ALA. New Orleans needs you–to come, enjoy yourself, eat, drink, and spend money. And, to be sure, visit the exhibits, take in some programs, and wave or stop for a chat if you see me. [No, I don’t know any French. I’ve been to New Orleans often enough to know that motto, though–even if I did have to check the spelling.]