train blog

Amtrak Palmetto by mod as hell
“Amtrak Palmetto” by mod as hell

Left Richmond on time. This is the first time I’ve traveled south on Amtrak, and apparently the system is a little different. For one, the conductor assigned me a seat in the coach car, rather than letting me choose like I usually do on the train to DC. Maybe it’s because the car was full? There also appeared to be designated seat groupings depending on whether you’re going to Savannah (final destination for this train) or Charleston (my destination). Everyone else was fit in where there was room, and one woman kept pacing up and down the aisle saying she didn’t know where to sit, so I guess not everyone was assigned a seat, either.

What is it about train stations being in the ugliest areas of town? The gorgeous view crossing over the James River followed by an amble through the wooded neighborhoods on the south side of the river was a nice balance to the ugly.

After munching on my packed lunch, I pulled out the laptop to work on some to-do items that didn’t get done before I had to leave for the train. Unfortunately, this is not an Amtrak train equipped with wifi (again, another thing different from the train to DC), so all the emails I composed will be delayed until I get to my hotel in Charleston tonight. Same with this blog post, actually.

The view seems to be better in smaller, less industrial towns. The area around the tracks in Emporia (VA), for example, is actually quite pleasant. Pretty sure I saw a deer in a field of corn stubble south of town, too. The tracks here are pleasantly not surrounded by trees on all sides, and we’re clearly in major farm land. Reminds me of Ohio. Except for the cotton fields! So pretty.

Stinky, gassy child across the aisle from me is pleased with her stinky gassiness. Wishing once again for the quiet car option. Or at least a 21+ car.

The late night watching the NPR election page and listening to their coverage hit me. Along with the rocking of the train. Was out cold for a good 30 minutes before I woke up when we pulled into the next stop.

Somewhere in the middle of North Carolina, thousands of beat up cars go to die in a junkyard near the train tracks.

Discovered that the snack car has wifi, and was relatively child and talker-free. Got an hour of online work done. Yay! Also, did some research on beer bars in Charleston. Pleased to see there are several near my hotel.

The train arrived 15 minutes early, and I was at my hotel at the time I originally projected I’d arrive at the station. Sweet! Time for a beer. And thus ends my train blog post.

resolutions and all that

statue reading a book at Mozart Museum in Prague
statue at Mozart Museum in Prague

I’m terrible at making and keeping resolutions. The first week or two are great, and then it starts to slip. That’s partially why I’m hesitant to articulate them, much less share them with anyone else. That being said, I have made a few promises to myself regarding things I want to work on this year. I have hopes that enough practice will eventually turn the new behaviors into old habits.

One thing I really hope to do more of, and have been working on unsuccessfully for several years now, is to set aside time to read books. And if not physically read them, at least make use of the time I spend in my car or at the gym to listen to them. I used to consume several books a week on summer breaks from school, and even kept up the habit in the working years between college and graduate school. I think it was the combination of graduate school and home internet access that broke the habit.

Last year, I chose twelve books that I planned to read. I made it through six, finished one a day into 2012, and gave up on another. Here’s the list of books read, with links to my reviews on GoodReads:

When I made the original list, it was a mix of books I’ve wanted to read but didn’t own and books that I owned and hadn’t read yet. I thought maybe the list would make me more focused, and only 12 in one year seemed doable. In fact, I read 17 books total last year, just not all of the ones I told myself I would read. About four of the books I read were ones I found in audio format at my local public library, and they were my road trip companions for the Thanksgiving and Christmas pilgrimages to Ohio.

Ultimately, what it came down to, was a mix of feeling like the list of 12 were more like school assignments and less like something I would choose to read, even though I did choose to read them and no one but myself “assigned” them. It was an interesting experiment, but this year I’ve decided to just make the time to read, and leave the material selection up to whatever I’m feeling like or have recently discovered.

Maybe all this resolution making and breaking is a good thing in the long run. Maybe it teaches me more about how my brain works and how to trick myself into making better decisions. Or maybe I just need to turn off the computer and pick up a book.

LITA 2008: Web Site Redesign – Perspectives from the Field, Panel Discussion

Panelists: Robin Leech (Oklahoma State University Libraries), Amelia Brunskill (Dickinson College), Edward M. Corrado (Binghamton University), Elizabeth Black (Ohio State University Libraries), Russell Schelby (Ohio State University Libraries)
Moderator: Mary LaMarca (Dartmouth College Library)

Black & Schelby:

When they began the project two years ago, the website was large and maintained by 100 content submitters, most of whom had limited coding expertise. Selected and implemented a Web Content Management System, and created a team of technical experts with both coding and project management skills. Black consciously focused on team development activities in addition to the projects the team worked on.

The team made a commitment to security, usability, maintainability, and data preservation of the website content. As a part of the data preservation, they were careful to document everything from architecture to passwords.

 

Brunskill:

Four years ago, Academic Technology, Library, and Information Services merged to become one division. The website was initially integrated, but then user feedback caused it to be broken out into separate divisions again. After a few years, the library wanted to make some changes, so they did a usability study, which resulted in some menu and vocabulary changes. Then, they began to plan for a much larger redesign.

To solve the communication problem, they set up a blog, charged unit representatives to report back to their units, and circulated usability data among all library staff. The usability studies also served as a buffer for touchy political situations, since the users are a neutral party.

 

Leech:

Developed two teams. The usability team informed the web redesign team, with only the library webmaster serving on both. Suggested that usability team read Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

 

Note: I had to leave early because I could not stop coughing. The hotel HVAC was not playing nicely with my cold.

wkrp in cincinnati

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”


by 20th Century Fox

Baby, did you ever wonder?
Wonder whatever became of me?
I’m livin’ on the air in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati WKRP

I'm not sure when I first watched WKRP in Cincinnati. I was only two years old when the show first aired, so I'm pretty sure I didn't watch the original broadcasts until the later seasons and possibly not until it was in syndication, but it was definitely prior to the airing of The New WKRP in Cincinnati in the early 90s. All this is to say, I was pretty young when I was watching the show, so the details are perhaps more fuzzy for me than my older fellow fans.

This show was one of my favorites in the 80s. I don't remember why, but it could have been because I liked rock music and was fascinated with radio stations from a young age. Also, I felt like this was my TV show, since I lived in southern Ohio at the time. This is the perspective that I brought with me when I sat down to watch the recently released first season DVD set.

Continue reading “wkrp in cincinnati”

northwest airlines is going down

Or, why I think Northwest Airlines is going to fold in the next year if they don’t get their act together.

Or, why I think Northwest Airlines is going to fold in the next year if they don’t get their act together.

My parents were told late last week that their original flight from Dayton (Ohio) to Seattle through Minneapolis was canceled and they were re-booked on a flight through Detroit instead. This flight was scheduled to leave earlier than the original one, so they booked a hotel room in Dayton the night before with a 4am wake-up to get to the airport in time.

Their day began with a 2am fire alarm in the hotel that didn’t get shut off for an hour. This is the only screw-up of the day that is not Northwest Airlines’ fault. After the alarm was turned off, they decided to go ahead and stay up, rather than trying to sleep for another hour or so.

They arrived at the airport in plenty of time for their flight, and everything seems to be okay until they are on the plane, which sat for an hour waiting for mechanics to fix a problem. Finally, everyone was told to get off the plane and go stand in line at the other end of the airport where they would be re-booked on different flights.

Except that the flight they were supposed to be on was never officially canceled in the computer system, so no one could get re-booked. On top of that, even when the customers could get re-booked, both printers at that station were broken. Neither of the airline employees at the counter knew what was going on with the flight. In fact, they told the people in line to call some numbers to see if they could find out what was happening. At no point did any management person come down and explain anything or try to fix the problems.

After several hours of standing in line, my parents were told that the best they could get was a United flight that would arrive in Seattle tomorrow night, and they would still be returning on Northwest Tuesday afternoon. They declined and went home.

Here’s the rub: Their original flight through Minneapolis was not canceled at all. It left on time while they were standing in line. And, they weren’t the only ones on the Dayton-Detroit-Seattle flight who had been told the Dayton-Minneapolis-Seattle flight was canceled and had been re-booked through Detroit.

Along with the “mechanical problems” that delayed my Northwest Airlines flights in December, this is the reason why I think the airline is going down and will likely fold in the next year if they don’t get their act together.