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Kriptonite

I always liked Superman. He had my favorite superpower – flying – and was naturally impervious to the outside world. But Superman had his weakness, and I’ve found mine.

I thought I was fighting bugs in the sheets. I was up until 4am battling the phantoms that plagued me. Turns out the netting Neal hung for me had something on it that made me break out in a crazy rash. I’ve washed everything and armed with a dose of Benedryl felt brave enough to hang out the netting, but I’m staying away from it if at all possible. It’s my Kriptonite.

Help! Help! I have to be civilized!


The last time I was here, I kept my windows open all night, soaked in the sounds of the islands and praised island life and warm temperatures.

Well, it’s not the hot season anymore and the mosquitoes are bolder. I no longer keep my windows open.

Until tonight. Neal hung a mosquito net up for me. This way I can use the wind to keep the air moving and the humidity off. Otherwise I’d have to run the fan all night (as everything is expen$ive here, costs add up fast).

One of the conditions the net going up was that the room needed to look worthy. Which turned out to mean pretty. I tried to push for the striped design, but Neal was dissatisfied. Holding down my bile, I agreed to use the flowery side of the comforter. Small price to pay, in the long run.

But that wasn’t the end. The bottom sheet also needed to be changed – to pristine white. This means that I have to wash my feet before I get into bed at night. Bummer. Civilized is not really my style.

I didn’t mind using the worn down nasty looking sheets. First of all, I’ve never been very good at caring for nice things. Second of all, one of the appeals of this island is its wild feel. We are on a sand bar! Sand gets into everything and ocean’s salt sticks to you. It’s almost not worth fighting against. In the common areas, OK, yes, we try to keep those livable, but my bedroom is my sanctuary. Anywhere else I’d hear my mother saying “Your not getting into bed like THAT!” and trot off to take a shower, but here on-island she leaves me alone (at least on that issue) and I happily crawl into bed with sandy feet and tangled hair. I told myself I was saving water. It’s a sacrifice, really.

Those excuses won’t work with white sheets. My grandmother’s going to be living on my shoulder from now on. Fun times over.

Obsession


I liked Michelle Rodriguez’s character in Avatar, but I really fell in love with her on LOST. When she socked Sawyer in that classic no nonsense way, it was all over. I’m now a devoted fan. I want to see more of her punching people out. She’s simply spectacular. And you should check out her headshot on imdb. It’s amazing.

Swimming was good today. It was nice to be on the beach again. I haven’t even walked on the beach since last Sunday. The sand on our beach always surprises me, it’s so soft. It struck me as very sad that I had forgotten the feel of the sand and the sun. I suppose since it’s winter I should just thank my lucky stars that we had a pleasant day. The currents weren’t too strong, the sun was out, and there was OK visibility. There were some huge swells though. When I first swam out I thought I was going to be sea sick. Up and down, up and down, 2 and 3 feet at a time. Like my least favorite amusement park rides. I took a deep breath and focused on the ocean floor. Things got better. The water clarity wasn’t perfect today, so finding the fish took effort. Even though I was still floating on the unsteady surface, I forgot it existed and looked for some new friends to play with.

My friend the trunk fish apparently hangs out at the same spots. I saw him again in the same place as last week. I’ll have to make a habit of stopping by to say hi.

There wasn’t too much else of interesting going on in the underworld today. The fish looked sea sick too, swaying with the currents and trying to find calm spots in between the rocks. When I looked up again, I’d realized that I’d lost Rory somewhere in the swells. This is not good. I’m calm in the water when I’m either

1) with someone
or
2) the fish are chillin’ out.

Now the fish AND Rory were out of sight. I fought off the unease by focusing again on finding the fish in the crevices, not really sure if I wanted to see anything. Swimming days with only partial visibility are the days I’m sure that Jaws is going to come eat me and I won’t see him until it’s too late (as if I would stand a chance anyway). So now I’m alone, bobbing in swells, and being hunted by a great white shark. This is how I know Mother Nature has a sense of humor. She chose this moment to send two huge porcupine fish to play pranks. They came up behind me, nearly half my size – a 2 footer and a 3 footer.

Hardy Har guys, thanks. I swam with them for a while, wondering if they had any defense systems I should be aware of. They seemed to be pretty easy going, but eventually swam off when I got too close.

They do puff up, I learned later. Can you imagine? A 3 foot fish all puffed up. That would be crazy.

image from: http://www.bootkeyharbor.com/images/Fish%20G86.jpg

Oops, I did it again.

“You can go through life the easy way or the hard way,” I told Tuvol today.

Oops, I did it again. There was my mother coming out of my mouth. She talks to me a lot in the back of my head.

Somebody needs to do the dishes,” I hear when I pass the kitchen. I inwardly groan, I don’t feel like doing the dishes.

“Not later, NOW.”

“Ok, ok,” I silently reply, as I veer over to the sink.

Mom-isms come out of my mouth a lot. So do Babchi-isms. These are women that sit on my shoulders.

Word on the Tweet

Crazy things are happening on the web. Participants are struggling to keep things new and fresh, and to stay relevant – a constant theme in any x.0 phase. Since I’m on a personal mission to enjoy the city I’m living in (and fearing addiction and possible overload) I’m not following many people right now. I rely on a few, well-informed professionals to keep me updated on new trends.

 

Steve Rubel (@steverubel) is who strikes my thoughts today. He’s currently working on a “lifestream” experiment that “abandons” blogging as the new slow media. Rubel is using faster and mobile-device friendly applications to share with his readers. iPhones and Blackberries have changed the way people interact with the web and increased the “I want it now” factor. In the comments of a blog entry, readers exchanged thoughts on Rubel’s tactics. One person stated,
“I don’t know that doing something that results in more streaming, instead of more organized streaming, is the best way to go.” (http://www.steverubel.com/blogs-are-out-of-beta-but-bloggers-are-always accessed on July 1, 2009.)
It’s a valid point, but surprising from a tech-savvy blogger. Once upon a time this was considered the argument of old fuddy duddies, no? Could it be that the value of organization is becoming more important?

 

Personally, I try not to add to the cloud unless I feel it brings specific value to my online community. On the other hand, I’m not out to make my brand or product known and adding only a little content means I don’t get much exposure. The web is a battlefield for attention and the only weapon is evaluation; which takes time. It’s an interesting conundrum. The object of the game is to find information quickly, but as soon as you find a reliable source you realize there are 25 others you are missing. To follow or not to follow? That is the question.

 

This brings to mind a question raised in the podcast What’s New at the Media Lab? by the MIT Media Labs’ Frank Moss: Has technology really impacted our lives in a positive manner? Certainly there is value on some level. Some of us get up-to-the-second news and are more connected to our geographically spread relatives, but it’s still only impacting a fraction of the world’s population – and provides more convenience than actual value. When Frank Moss speaks of the impact of technology he’s referring to projects like the Music Painter program that was adapted for a nearly paralyzed person. A laser pointer allowed the person to interact with the screen and, for the first time, express himself freely through music. Can you image the extraordinary impact this program might have on his life?

 

Not everyone has the resources and freedom of the Media Labs, but the web is an accessible and flexible tool limited only by the imagination of the user – that’s you! As people seek to improve the use of web tools, it’s important to remember that adjectives like “valuable” are as, if not more, important than ones like “fast” or “convenient”.

SLA Annual Meeting 2009

Last week was the annual meeting of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. A friend from Simmons won a stipend from the SLA IT Division to attend the conference. It was part of an award for a class paper she submitted on the suggestion of a professor. In exchange for the stipend she was required to do a short presentation explaining her paper on cloud computing. Supportive person that I am, I decided to also attend the conference; but there were ulterior motives at play. I’ve always been curious about SLA and was eager to learn more. (This is also how I ended up attending ICHORA 4 and the ASAannual meeting last year.)

The conference was a great investment. Not only did SLA and the vendors put on a great show to celebrate the anniversary (dancing in the International Spy Museum, receptioning in the Zambian Embassy and touring the Decatur House after hours), but we also met a number of really great professionals. Truly, the value of the conference manifested itself in its networking opportunities. By talking to everyone we could pull aside, my friend and I learned about current trends in libraries like competitive intelligence and the wide range of possiblities in the library profession. We were inspired, motivated, and encouraged. Here are a few samples of the conference happenings:

General Powell was the opening speaker and he had a lot of powerful things to say:

He reminded us that in a pinch we all turn to Google for a fast search, and that successful organizations move at the speed of transactions. Currently, like our Google searches, transactional speed is the speed of light. The question is how to keep up!

More importantly, Powell reminded us that good leaders give a sense of purpose, show positive attention, and provide the tools necessary to accomplish organizational goals. I wish my H&M compatriots were there to hear it – if they wouldn’t believe me, they surely would believe the charismatic man on the podium!

Powell also reminded us that our greatest power in America is our openness. In regards to issues ranging from immigration to technology, so long as we proceed with the values of tolerance and fairness, then we will be unstoppable.

On a lighter note, Powell divulged that he really misses his plane. “They gave it to Condi, now Hillary has it, and I’ll never see it again!” Now he has to go through TSA security like the rest of us. Turn about is fair play, and since he was responsible for the new regulations, the audience (the majority of whom just finished hurdling security obstacles on flights in from all over the country and beyond) found it fitting that the first time the General flew as a civilian, he got the full pat-down treatment. No one told him that paying cash and showing up late were huge red flags! Making a show of “fair treatment for all” the guards were very polite, but very thorough. Exasperated he cried, “They knew it was me! Couldn’t they just let me go?” Brings to mind a family favorite.

The sessions I attended varied from full lectures to the unstructured “Un-Conference” sessions (I’ll leave out the latter, since they are on the wiki. ). Below are some highlights:

At the Diversity in Leadership: Gen X – The Changing Paradigm session, a question arose about how we motivate employees if we can’t offer them traditional promotions. An audience member answered: play up the whole package. The simple answers are usually the best: tell them about the lifestyle, the flexibility, the learning opportunities. Send employees to training, to a class, or let them teach a class. A little creativity goes a long way towards retention.

At the Web 2.0 has Something for Everyone session Kent Anderson introduced us to the New England Journal of Medicine’s website features. He said we need to anticipate our users needs and turn search into discovery. My favorite part was when he suggested we “engineer” solutions for our users. Brilliant! The interface is innovative; attempting to create a one-stop-shop for medical news.

The Globalization: Emerging Opportunities for the Library Profession was by far the best session of the conference. First, Larisa Brigevich explained the success of outsourcing library services. By treating the outsourced employees as an integral part of the team the organization is able to manage risk, improve the process, and increase productivity. Next, Jane Meyers, president of the Lubuto Library Project, described the process behind establishing a library for orphaned and homeless children in Zambia. Finally, Saule Omarova talked about the broad context of globalization, particularly its effect on lawyers and law firms. One of Omarova’s points that stood out was that as clients become more international, lawyers must also become international. Adapting to clientele base? I’m sensing a theme…

We learned a lot over the week, but, considering our location, felt we needed time for sightseeing too.

In front of Lincoln Memorial

 

Outside National Archive

 

Vietnam Memorial

Science Club for Girls

Images courtesy of Science Club for Girls’ Picasa Web Album.

Science Club for Girls Event, Boston

I was lucky enough to attend the 15th Anniversary for the Science Club for Girls in Boston, MA. This is an amazing group that started out grassroots and is going international very soon – impressive for such a short time period. The whole premise of the group is to teach girls about science and the scientific method in after school programs and then, if they are interested, hire them as junior advisors to teach the younger girls. In teaching they learn more!

 

Listening to the stories of the girls – from 6 – 17 yrs – was so impressive. They were confident, enthusiastic about what they learned, and proud of themselves – as they should be. Girls of young ages excited to go to college and learn! It was beautiful to see. We need more of this!! There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to emphasize the impression this organization made. It’s not very large, but it’s impact is going to be wide spread. Congratulations to the girls, their organizers, and the volunteers for all their work. I felt like my complaints could be solved with programs like these. Sign me up!

 

Also at the event, I had an opportunity to rub elbows with people devoted to encouraging education in a big way. It was a real pleasure to see so many people who pledged their careers and resources to various stages of the education process. I was a bit star struck, but everyone was willing to chat and share their views on how we can support groups like Science Club for Girls. I also had a few offers to “come into the office for a chat”, so I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions.

 

Talking Sticks DemonstrationIncidentally, the Science Club for Girls celebrated their birthday by giving out “talking sticks”. They were such fun little toys. By rubbing your thumbnail across the ridged side it makes a noise that says “Happy Birthday”. I brought it into the MIT Archives and it got played with so much it ended up in pieces! Next on the agenda is the Special Libraries Association Annual Meeting, or SLA 2009. I’m looking forward to supporting my friend as she presents her paper and to networking with new people. My goal for the conference is to explore the little known areas of librarianship. I need some more information on what’s out there before I can put together my 10 year plan. (As if the 5 year plan isn’t hard enough). Speaking of planning, I have to be honest. I have been a little shaky about which direction to walk in next. Which direction is the best next step? Then suddenly I had a moment of clarity where I remembered that life is a journey. It doesn’t matter which direction you walk in, so long as you’re walking. And I? I always find ways around obstacles and pessimism. Heck, people told me I’d never get into graduate school and here I am with another b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l wall hanging – my Masters diploma. So, this situation is no different: if I just keep taking small, small steps forward, then at least I’m moving forward.

Shout Out

Just a quick shout-out to everyone that made graduation so wonderful.

Graduation

The support was tangible and I’m so indebted to those that celebrated this accomplishment with me:

 

my family,

my close friends,

and my extended family – of the “you know who you are” variety.

On the Challenges of Science and the Power of Archives

Today, (not for the first time) I heard someone say, “I wanted to go into science, but my math just isn’t that good”.

 

This caused me to ask myself, (not for the first time) who started the rumor that science is all about math? I have a piece of paper hanging on my wall that is equally as valid as the piece of paper on the walls of the whiz kids with which I had the pleasure of graduating. Theirs and mine congratulate us on achieving an engineering degree. This seems amazing given the fact that I still count on my fingers, but it’s true. I’m not exactly a prize winning mathematician and I never will be, so surely there are others who are “not so good” with numbers but can achieve the same goal. Especially the wonderfully talented and concept-minded people whom I hear constantly discounting their own skills.

 

SWE/Archives word cloudI’ll be the first one to admit that it’s hard work, but I can safely say that any setbacks were primarily a result of a difference of learning languages. My professors said tomat-toe and I heard tomat-ta. I was constantly making adjustments to help myself understand the material — which inevitably slowed me down, but I gained a solid understanding of the concepts despite it all.

 

Let’s not even talk about the fact that I mostly hear the “I wanted to… science… but didn’t…” story from women.

 

Or let’s:

 

As a nearly 10-year member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), I’ve been involved in many projects aimed at making math and science seem obtainable for girls – who at the ripe age of 4th – 6th grade get turned off the idea that math is fun and building things is cool. Building things IS cool. One of my favorite exercises is trying to build a Lego(C) rocket with a partner. While their backs are to each other, one person studies a completed model of a rocket and attempts to give verbal instructions to the other person, who tries to construct an identical model out of loose pieces. (I highly recommend it as an entertaining exercise… at least for the person(s) watching the ensuing chaos.)

 

Where, I’d like to know, is there math in that exercise? It demands communication, teamwork, and problem solving. Not math. Being involved in SWE taught me that engineering is a state of mind. It’s a way of thinking about problems and finding practical solutions. Of being aware of your limitations and your flexibilities. That is what science is about; not about LaPlace transformers… though admittedly, those do come in handy.

 

I have an inkling that many people believe that because I’ve changed professional environments I’ve stepped outside of the engineering world; but you can’t leave engineering. It gets into your blood and stays with you through life. Or maybe it’s with you from birth. Today, in my library work, I engineer systems constantly; just as I did in childhood. Only the object of my attention has changed. Now, instead of thinking about how to optimize a liquid’s flow through pipes, I’m designing systems to optimize the sharing of memories and, through memories, understanding.

 

SWE has been a blessing for me from the start. (Thanks mom, for introducing me into the community.) SWE is why I understand the importance of archives and why I (seemingly) stepped out of the engineering field and toward libraries; particularly archives. Archives contain the material deemed “important” by the creating entity. For SWE, it’s the evidence of the notable women who have provided role models for the next generations. We display their images, we collect their stories in oral histories, we remember them through scholarships that buoy up generation after generation of young women into fascinating and rewarding careers. All of this information is stored in the archives. A non-member flipping through our organization’s records would easily discover what is important to us. And so it will continue as long as the records’ format survives. In this way, our archives tell the story of our past AND our present; what has gone before us and what we value now. It’s how we share our identity with those outside the SWE community and how we tell our story to future generations. Our SWE family is relatively small, but what I’ve experienced through it has helped me to understand the importance of records to other communities. (Another unexpected benefit to my membership!)

 

As we share our histories and experiences through our personal or institutional archives, our knowledge of each other’s value system grows. With this knowledge we can share differences and similarities and begin to understand what it’s like to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. This, above all, is the power of the archives and why the attention to records and artifacts is so important. History lies in the interpretation, but story is shaped by the records in the archives.