carpe diem

Mac & Cheese is a vegetable!
Mac & Cheese is a vegetable!

I told a friend yesterday that I felt like I didn’t carpe enough diem at Charleston Conference. It was my first time attending, and I didn’t have a good sense of the flow. I wasn’t prepared for folks to be leaving so early on Saturday, I didn’t know about the vendor showcase on Wednesday until after I made my travel arrangements, and I felt like I didn’t make the most of the limited time I had.

Next time will be better. And yes, there will be a next time, but maybe after a year or two. I understand from some regulars that the plenary sessions were below average this year, which matched my disappointed expectations. Now knowing that there is little vetting of the concurrent sessions, I will be more particular in my choices the next time, and hopefully select sessions where the content matches my expectations based on the abstracts.

The food in Charleston definitely met my expectations. I had tasty shrimp & grits a couple times, variations on fried chicken nearly every day, and a yummy cup of she crab soup. Tried a few local brews, and a dark & stormy from a cool bar that brews their own ginger beer. I’d go back for the food for sure.

food blogging & making things so labor intensive I don’t do them

derby pie
derby pie

I started a food blog on Tumblr last January. Here’s the about statement:

I started this project because after a year of taking photos of myself every day, I wanted to document something else. Over the summer and fall, I had developed a routine of trying new recipes on the weekends and some weeknights. This blog is where I share photos of the results, talk about what went right or wrong, and link to the recipes.

And sometime in May/June, I stopped. I got busy. I remembered to take some pictures, but they sat on my desktop waiting to be blogged for so long that I felt guilty and overwhelmed, so I eventually deleted them.

It wasn’t like it would take all that much time to write up something. And add a link. And format it the same as the previous posts. But it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Also, I stopped cooking/baking as much in the summer.

I have this tendency to make things that should be simple and routine into complex, detailed processes that become burdensome. Is this just some freak aspect of my desire for control and order, or is it simply human nature?

becoming a better me

I have struggled with my weight for most of my life. As a kid, I was heavier than most of my peers, and gym class was my least favorite time of day. I played some softball in my early teens, but by the time I got to high school, I had dropped that and was headed into 10 years or so of sedentary behavior and avoidance of all things athletic.

Over that time period, I allowed myself to gain 100 pounds, mostly through a love of carbs, fats, and sugars. I wasn’t actively choosing to be fat so much as I was actively choosing to indulge myself with food and my inherent laziness.

A few years ago, I decided that enough was enough. I joined a recreational softball team and started going to the gym more regularly. However, I was never able to stick with a strict diet, so all I’ve been able to do is maintain my weight. It wasn’t going up anymore, but it also wasn’t going down.

In December, a friend asked me to be her partner in a Biggest Loser-style competition at work. At first my inherent laziness and fear of the unknown made me hesitate, but I went to the information session anyway, and that sold me on it.

The participants (about 20 of us) are working with two trainers who run at least one group workout session five days a week. The sessions are a mix of strength training and cardio, and they vary the activities with every session. In addition, I’m taking a cycle (spinning) and tone (weights and crunches) class two days a week and walking several miles on the weekend.

I’m also meeting with a dietitian as a part of the program, and she has made helpful suggestions based on the food diary I turn in every week. I have been making small changes to my diet over the past year, and I found that works best for me. I’m also learning to make conscious decisions about food. Sure, I could have that doughnut from the box in the staff lounge, but I’d rather spend those calories on a tasty Belgian quadruple beer later that evening.

Right now I’m six weeks into the program, and so far the scales haven’t moved much, but I am slowly shedding the pounds. Meanwhile, I’m seeing muscle definition that I haven’t seen in a long time, and my endurance is increasing. I don’t look forward to the hard work, but seeing how much I’ve gotten stronger in such a short period of time keeps me coming back.

Aside from having two enthusiastic trainers, the other thing that has kept me going is the team spirit that has settled on those of us who are regulars at the group workouts. Theoretically, we’re competing, but I mostly forget that it’s a competition, in part because everyone encourages each other to push beyond what we think we can do. I need to have some internal motivation to keep pressing on, but having an external accountability means I still show up, even on days when I would rather be anywhere else but the gym.

It’s never too late to change your life. Whether it’s something as simple as drinking a glass of water instead of soda or something more challenging like committing to an intensive workout routine. And there’s no better time to start than today, because I’m sure you can find an excuse to not start tomorrow, either.

Whatever you do, remember to be kind to yourself. Making one bad choice doesn’t mean you have failed or should quit. Just do your best to make the next choice a good one, and take it one moment at a time.

Article first published as Becoming a Better Me on Blogcritics.

March reading

I started reading Getting Things Done by David Allen and ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founders of 37 Signals). I’m enjoying both and am forcing myself to carve out time for them, but I still wasn’t able to finish them in the month. I did, however complete two books.

Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom by Frye Gaillard, with a forward by Juan Williams, was not a book I would have chosen myself (it was sent to me for review), but turned out to be an interesting read. It’s in part a travel guide, but mostly is a history lesson about events related to the civil rights movement in Alabama, mainly in the 20th century.

Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael S. Kimmel is the One Book, One Campus selection at MPOW this year. I refrained from reading further ahead than the chapters we were discussing, so I finished the book at the same time our lunchtime discussions ended. It’s an interesting perspective on “guy” culture and how much that dominates the rest of American/Western culture. I don’t agree with all of Kimmel’s arguments, but they gave me food for thought. I highly recommend this book to anyone in a university setting (male or female).

ER&L 2010: Step Right Up! Planning, Pitfalls, and Performance of an E-Resources Fair

Speakers: Noelle Marie Egan & Nancy G. Eagan

This got started because they had some vendors come in to demonstrate their resources. Elsevier offered to do a demo for students with food. The library saw that several good resources were being under-used, so they decided to try to put together an eresources demo with Elsevier and others. It was also a good opportunity to get usability feedback about the new website.

They decided to have ten tables total, representing the whole fair. They polled the reference librarians to get suggestions for who to invite, and they ended up with resources that crossed most of the major disciplines at the school. The fair was held in a high-traffic location of the library (so that they could get walk-in participation) and publicized in the student paper, posted it in the blog, and the librarians shared it on Facebook with student and faculty friends.

They had a raffle to gather information about the participants, and in the end, they had 64 undergraduates, 19 graduates, 6 faculty, 5 staff, and 2 alumni attend the fair over the four hours. By having the users fill out the raffle information, they were able to interact with library staff in a different way that wasn’t just about them coming for information or help.

After the fair, they looked at the sessions and searches of the resources that were represented at the fair, and compared the monthly stats from the previous year. However, there is no way to determine whether the fair had a direct impact on increases (and the few decreases).

In and of itself, the event created publicity for the library. And, because it was free (minus staff time), they don’t really need to provide solid support for the success (or failure) of the event.

Some of the vendors didn’t take it seriously and showed up late. They thought that it was a waste of their time to talk about only the resources the library already purchases, rather than pushing new sales, and it’s doubtful those vendors will be invited back. It may be better to try to schedule it around the time of your state library conference, if that happens nearby, so the vendors may already be close and not making a special trip.