Pushing Through

After all my work this summer, I am finally seeing some movement on my projects.  My first professional book review has officially been published.  Of course, it is behind a pay wall so you can only see a little.

This came just as I submitted my first article for peer review.  For those not aware of the peer review process, let me walk you through what has been going on and what will happen.

About 2 years ago I thought it would be a good idea to write an article with other academic librarians from around the country.  What we have in common is that we all have run cultural/public programs in academic libraries.  These types of programs happen often in public libraries, but academic libraries are just beginning to run them.  I have run a bunch.  Every spring when I run another discussion series, I am running a cultural program for the public.  The five of us also happened to have been awarded grants to run specific programs from the American Library Association (ALA).

It took us 2 years to make any progress for a variety of reasons.  First, we all get very busy between September and May.  Taking the time to coordinate is almost impossible.  Second, I had no idea what I was doing as the leader of the group.  When you are a kinesthetic learner, the best way to learn is by doing and messing up.  For a year we looked at the literature to see what research gaps needed to be filled.  For a year we ran a survey to get data from other librarians regarding our research questions.  This summer, thanks primarily to my workload reduction, I was able to push things forward.  We were able to review the research, write the article and submit it.  Synthesizing data is not always easy, but our findings were not surprising.  I believe our experiences were very similar to those who responded to our surveys.  By the end of August we had a finial draft and had picked a journal for submission.

Each journal has their own requirements for manuscripts.  Primarily it relates to formats and citations.  I have used the American Psychological Associations (APA) style for most of my academic career.  The journal we selected required the Chicago Manual of Style format.  Converting one style to another is not easy, especially when they are radically different.  It has been years since I used endnotes.  It took me about a month to finish the conversion to a point that made me feel like I had done it correctly.  There are also requirements for title pages, abstracts, how the authors are listed on the article, and where the tables exist.

Today I submitted the article to the journal.  I have to wait for the peer review committee to review it and send back their feedback.  I teach this process to students all the time.  This is how research happens.  When a huge medical development happens (cure for cancer for example), we are not hearing about the moment of cure.  What we are hearing about is the publication of the article about curing cancer.  Peer review makes information more reliable because other field experts are reading and reviewing.  They are making sure the conclusions are supported by the data among other things.  It takes a while.  In medicine articles can take almost a year to go through this process.

Now I have to wait.  I should get feedback on the article.  Getting feedback is a good thing in this process.  If there is no feedback then I could conclude many things about the journal and few of them would be good.  Yes, five people have already had their eyes on this article, but the more eyes, the better for publishing journal articles.

Don’t worry, I will post updates.  Getting this article published is one very big step forward in getting tenure and establishing a national reputation in libraries.

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Indian Summer Conference Series: THATCamp Harvard

While it is technically Fall, you wouldn’t know that from the 80+ temperatures outside last weekend.  I guess that officially makes this an Indian Summer.  Is that term really still used?

Anyway, I am sitting at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education Library learning more about the Digital Humanities and technology.  The Digital Humanities are those projects that seek to digitize archives, collect and distribute data about humanities fields, and teach students using technology.  I came because I am interested in many new things these days and to have a chance to talk to more people about Wikipedia.  Not just to talk about editing and conflicts, but also about projects and helping people become editors.

After the very positive experience with an unconference at AdaCamp this summer, I was excited to see the model used at another conference.  I even focused on what type of session I would propose.  On Saturday morning, as I rode the T 3 stops to Harvard Square, I knew on what direction to focus: Wikipedia (obviously) and connecting Digital Humanities projects to increase project visibility.  I hoped there would be other editors and maybe even other editors ready to share experiences with doing just that.  I wanted to make it a fluid session so that people could easily discuss Wikipedia, but also hopefully have time to play with it.

It was clear, even after the first session of lightning talks, the projects people were working on are amazing.  There was a mapping project of the trenches in World War 1 along the western front.  There were some amazing digital archives.  My favorite was a visualization of music along the color spectrum.  It brought to mind when the AdaCamp participants wished more people in the arts and humanities were meeting them.  Yes, I did a small push for AdaCamp.  The biggest topic, from the sessions I attended, was how to find the tech people and how much non-techies needed to know in order to really engage and explain their project to coders.

My proposal was accepted and we had a great discussion about using Wikipedia.  Most people were just ready to wade into editing for the first time.  It was really invigorating to help people take that first, difficult step.  Editing Wikipedia requires confidence and sometimes you just need to know a few rules to have that confidence.  I met a bunch of people I have been following on Twitter as well.

I walked away feeling like I learned about a lot of fascinating projects, new knowledge, and potential collaborators.  As I move forward in my career, I know this is a group to continue to work with and pay attention to.

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What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I sit here at the end of my birthday weekend.  The summer is officially over for the world, even it the weather doesn’t quite agree with us about that.  For the world, this summer has been terrible.  Personally, it was a very good summer.  Back in May I wrote an entry about my plans for the summer.  From conferences to writing, I had a small but complete plan in my head about what needed to happen.  How did I do?  Let’s find out.

First, I had plans to attend about 3 conferences.  Book Expo, as per usual, was a wonderful event.  I got some great books and even reigned in my gut reaction to hoard the entire collection I brought home.  Most of them have been given away and, of those I did keep, only 4 of the 7 are unread (which is pretty good for me given my To-Be-Read book shelf).  WikiCon was amazing and has really helped me move forward with both my research on Wikipedia and my desire to run Wikipedia programming on campus.  Even AdaCamp helped me move forward with my Wikipedia plans and helped me learn what is going on outside of my little library bubble.  As I create the list of conferences to attend next year my list is now at 7 different conferences locally, nationally, and internationally.  Cross your fingers: I may go to Mexico City next year if I can make the finances work!

Excessive knitting was on my list of plans for the summer.  Not only did I finish two shawls and three bow-ties for the wedding, but I failed at something.  It is interesting to find your limit with something at which you excel and enjoy.  When I was asked to knit the cowl Katniss wore in Catching Fire (no picture- copyright and all), I thought it would be a piece of cake.  It turns out I was wrong.  It was too much for me to do well and since it was a gift for my sister-in-law-to-be, I didn’t feel comfortable giving her a hot mess.  In the end we picked another item (a cute wolf cowl) and I am very happy to be done with all the wedding knitting.  Now I can get back to doing my own projects.  Considering I bought more yarn than I expected this summer, I have been spending time on Ravelry planning more projects.

My writing plans worked out a bit differently than expected.  I have been very busy writing.  I completed the July Camp NaNoWriMo as I hoped and left my writing comfort zone.  Instead of writing about characters that have been in my head for years, I wrote about those newer to me.  I played with writing style a bit (unsuccessfully, but attempted).  I focused primarily on my academic writing though.  With one article about to be put to bed and another almost ready to be pieced together, I am feeling very productive about my work-load reduction.  The process on the first article took longer than expected, but wrangling 4 other collaborators has been the chief difficulty.  I spent too much time waiting for people to respond and contribute.  In the end I realized I had to do and then put time limits onto requests.  When it came to the article I was writing on my own I realized I needed data I couldn’t get until students returned to campus.  I have been writing as much as I can (literature reviews, methodology, and findings on some of the research).  In the end I took a little longer than anticipated.

My vacation and personal time was well spent.  Two trips to Cape Cod and a weekend in The Hamptons helped me relax and get some sun.  My hope it to be able to rent a place on Cape Cod for a whole week next summer since my travel is probably going to be limited to conferences.  I read quite a bit primarily because of audiobooks.  I have been abusing Overdrive through the library most of the summer.  I have enjoyed most of them, but my main objective is to really make a dent in the TBR shelf.  It really is an entire bookshelf, not just a pile.  It is a bit overwhelming sometimes.  I made a small dent this summer and read a few good books.

Now it is time to look towards the fall semester and re-evaluate my plans.  Originally I was going to focus on the work I have done with the College of Health Sciences.  With all the focus on Wikipedia this summer, I am switching things around and am going to focus on my Wikipedia research this fall.  This is going to include both the social drama research and planning edit-a-thons with one of the public librarians.  We are planning to present at a conference about our efforts.  We are planning a lot of things and it has shifted my focus.  It may cause a total re-evaluation of my plans come spring.  I will have to wait and see.

Until then, here is the plan for the Fall

  • Finish and submit all the summer articles to journals.
  • Research Wikipedia and Social Dramas for thesis update and possible publications
  • Plan edit-a-thons with Pollard Memorial Library
  • California for Katie’s and Bethany’s wedding!
  • NaNoWriMo 2014: Sara has no plan!
  • Read, read, and read!
  • Knit ALL THE THINGS!
  • And more…

 

 

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The 15 Books I Am Very Glad I Read

According to Goodreads, I have read 1010 books.  I am quite sure this number should be higher, but honestly I have forgotten so many of the books I read.  I recently looked over the list and was amazed by what I found.  I know most of my Babysitter’s Club years are missing from the list.  I honestly can’t remember which books I read in that series before I moved on.  Also missed is the vast number of titles I read in any Sweet Valley High series before 1989.  Why did I stop in 1989?  I got in trouble for reading instead of paying attention to my teacher.  She was terrible and reading was much more enjoyable.  Most of the classic Nancy Drew titles are on the list as are a couple of the 80s era stories.

Some of my reading choices are terrible (Twilight) and some have changed my life (Fight Club).  On the list there are quite a few books I may not have ever read if it wasn’t for chance and serendipity.  Here is that list:

  1. She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
    This title I read while I was job hunting right out of Simmons.  I had spent a few years researching the Hijras, a group of transsexuals in India.  This book peaked my interest because it is a memoir of a transexual man-to-woman in America.  While many people make this choice, in the early 2000’s we were only beginning to talk about it openly.  Finney Boylan is an accomplished academic and writer so it made her story easy to read and understand.  I ended the book wishing someone who transitioned from woman-to-man would write about his experiences.
  2. Orange is The New Black by Piper Kerman
    I only read this book in the past few months.  People get annoyed when I tell them I see movies and watch shows before I read books.  The reason: so I will enjoy both as unique creations.  I picked up this book in preparation for season 2 being marginally aware that things had deviated far from the book already.  What I like about the book is the undertone of social justice that the show treats very differently.  Kerman is able to gloss over some of her own personal issues to focus on the problems of the prison system.  The show doesn’t have the time to get into the impact the war on drugs has on the prison system.
  3. The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
    I would have never read this book if not for Nancy Pearl.  The premise is weird.  The story focuses on elevator inspectors in New York.  No, wait, come back!  In this fictional world there are two schools of inspecting: empiricists and intuitionists.  The real themes of the book: politics and racism.  There is intrigue and a mystery and all of it centers around elevator inspection.
  4. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife
    This is another book I read because of Nancy Pearl.  There are a few of them here on this list.  I am not mathematically inclined, but I seem to enjoy the concept of math.  Seife looks at why we have the number zero, how it became part of math, and what it allowed us to do.  For example: fractals would never have been possible without the number zero.  Without fractals we wouldn’t have cellphones.  All of this because of zero.
  5. The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar
    I didn’t really get into graphic novels until I ran the Jewish Literature reading and discussion series at Fitchburg State.  I had read some Sandman graphic novels, but I jumped feet first when the books for the series arrived.  The Rabbi’s Cat was my favorite.  It’s is about a cat who swallows a bird and suddenly can speak.  Sfar’s illustrations really bring the story to life (and he did the movie animations).  The cat is full of snark and I love snarky characters.
  6. True Enough by Farhad Manjoo
    Manjoo was on the Daily Show to promote this book and as soon as he started talking about it, I knew I would read it.  I work in a field obsessed with trust, validity, critical thinking, and information.  I teach students how to evaluate information to determine accuracy.  Manjoo looks at the current information landscape and tries to understand WTF is going on in the news.  He looks at research done for the past 50 years on how we interpret data.
  7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    I would love to spend a day inside Gaiman’s head.  This was not the first Gaiman book I read, but it is my favorite.  The concept that gods are beings that exist only because we believe in them is not the best part.  No, the best part is that our modern gods are douchebags representing the very worst of our values.  Plus, there is a war between the remaining old gods and the new ones.
  8. Why We Buy by Paco Underhill
    Yet another book suggested by Nancy Pearl.  Underhill’s look at how advertising works should scare the shit out of you.  The cold, calculating way retailers watch our moves in stores and our purchases choices are just the tip of an iceberg that we are only beginning to realize now.  This was written well before Target started tracking your purchases and sending you coupons based on purchases.  It was written well before Facebook, Twitter and other sites tracked our browser history to determine what ads we see.  If you want to get a better idea of what is going on behind the scenes, start here.
  9. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
    Sarah Vowell is awesome.  I suggest listening to the audiobooks for her works because she reads them.  Not only do you get the joy of her voice (she did the vocal work for Violet in the Incredibles), but you get the full force of her snark.  Vowell mixes history with her own research story in her books.  The Wordy Shipmates looks at the origin of this country, it’s Puritanical beginnings, and how terrible people could be to each other.  Rhode Island wouldn’t exist if Roger Williams hadn’t be kicked out of Massachusetts.
  10. Packing For Mars by Mary Roach
    You have to be prepared for Roach no matter what book you read.  I had the pleasure of hearing her speak about this book and her research for it while at Book Expo one year.  As soon as she spoke about taking a poop in space, I knew I would read this book.  The thing about Roach is she writes about quirky topics (dead bodies, having sex, and eating) and then she takes on the aspects of the topic that we don’t want to think about.  She, like Vowell, blends the information with her experience researching the topic.  Why?  In this case, the process of researching is just as interesting as the topic of the book.
  11. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
    Most people who know me would know this book is right up my alley.  I love books about vampires, witches and magic.  After being burned by the Twilight series, I was reluctant to take on another series about these topics.  Then Christi wouldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was… Then the book club decided to read the second one (I wasn’t a member when they read the first).  I gave in and just read it.  The All Souls trilogy is unique because Harkness grounds her story in academia and research.  She puts out there that there is a scientific and genetic reason for witches, demons, and vampires.  She uses her expertise is alchemy and history to build a story.  Yes, there is some questionable behavior by the male characters, but I felt she did a good job openly addressing this.  Plus, I walked around Oxford pretending I was in this novel.  I regret nothing.
  12. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
    For all that I love France, I read very little french literature.  This book was selected by my book club (not by me).  I don’t think they had any idea what they were in for.  Barbery deals with themes like isolation, being the person you are expected to be (rather than who you are), philosophy, death, and friendship.  It is funny, it is sad, and it spoke to my core in a way few books do.
  13. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    I was not reading YA literature when Speak originally came out in 2001.  If I had been, I am sure I would have read it much sooner.  In a world where 1-in-6 women are raped, a book like this makes you realize that number is probably much higher.  Speak looks at how a rape changes a teenage victim and sinks her into depression and isolation.  It is not a long read, but it is difficult because you are in her head and until she can acknowledge what happens, you feel the weight of what happened as the reader.
  14. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    First, listen to this audiobook.  Why?  Wil Wheaton is the reader and he is amazing.  It’s also pretty meta since he is mentioned in the book.  It’s one big science fiction/technology/fantasy/gamer geek fest.  If you know geek pop culture, you will probably enjoy this book.  In this dystopian future, most people live within a video game (think Second Life, but better) where you can build the world you want.  Add in a treasure hunt/caper/scavenger hunt and world domination… It pretty awesome.
  15. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
    What I love about Rowell is that her characters are just abnormally normal people with problems that are probably pretty common.  In Eleanor and Park we go back to the 1980s and see the world through two teenagers who slowly fall in love with each other.  Park is a geek who loves comicbooks, the Smiths, and wears a lot of black.  Eleanor is a spunky red head whose family life is a disaster, but can still get worse.   It is not a happy story.  In fact, I spent a lot of time crying, but it is real in a way most of my experience YA isn’t.  This story is just one chapter in the lives of two people.  There is no rebellion to lead, big bad to fight, society to lead, vampire to keep from eating you, or life changing death.  It is simply two teenagers trying to survive high school and it is wonderful.

Hopefully these books will give you some new ones to read!  At the very least, you have a better sense of how my mind works.

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On Writing and Knowing Your Characters

I have been playing with the idea of this entry for a while.  What has held me back is that I can’t attribute the origin of the concept.

While at Book Expo this year- I know it was the librarian’s lunch on the first day- one of the authors speaking talk about how a totally different, famous author once talked about how she talked to and lived with her characters while she was writing her books.  I am about 90% sure the famous author was Maya Angelou since she had just passed away and everyone wanted to remember her in different (and beautiful) ways.  I know the person who said this at the lunch was one of the authors speaking.  I just can’t remember which one.

It’s not really important who said it about who originally said it.  I just hate to not attribute a quote correctly.  I am a librarian.  If you were there and you remember the details, feel free to comment so I can correct things.

ANYWAY

This got me thinking about the characters I write and how well I know them.  I was already preparing for the July edition of Camp NaNoWriMo.  I knew a very simple idea of what I wanted to write.  I knew, like I had done with Pride and Prejudice in April, I wanted to give a modern spin to my other favorite Austen novel: Persuasion.  Like Pride and Prejudice I knew the original, I knew the outline of the story, the major events, the climax, and the basic modern changes I wanted to make.  Unlike with Pride and Prejudice, I didn’t know my characters other than the ones who would inspire them.

See, I do live with my characters.  For the terrible, epic novel that nobody will read (except maybe 1 or 2 people who I trust), I have lived with those characters for most of my life.  In high school these characters started to form in my mind and tell me about themselves.  In college and during the years I was depressed and trying to pull myself out of it, exploring these characters and learning about them kept me going.  I knew I would someday write down all these things I had learned about them.  When I finally did start writing the story they rarely surprised me because I had spent so many years talking to them.

Even when I wrote my version of Pride and Prejudice I had spent three years learning about my characters.  Who was my Lizbeth, my Darcy, and my Whickham?  Three years was long enough for me to simply type out what I already knew about these people.  There were surprises, more than I was use to, but I was happy with them because they helped me understand the characters better.

The more I thought about this, the more worried I got.  I know the original characters of Persuasion very well.  I didn’t want to write a modern version with the original version of these characters.  Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot needed to be more than just transplanted to the 21st century.   On the ride back to Boston from New York, I sat thinking about who my new characters were.  I had one month to figure it out.  I had to reconsider the themes of the original story, the modern changes that needed to be made, and why two people in love, in this century, would not end up together?

By mid-June I was no closer to my answers.  I had some minor story elements, but for the first time I actually talked to someone else.  I allowed my friend Christi’s perspective of the world to influence mine.  I have never done this before.  My characters, until this one, have solely been my own.  They are my friends and I am there confidant.  Why Christi?  Nobody else in my circle of friends love Persuasion as much as Christi.  I can admit she loves the book more than I do.  It took her all of 10 minutes to set me straight and to plant the right seed in my head.

I spent two weeks living with my new characters and even now I can’t say I know them.  Anne Elliot, now renamed Emma, cries a lot.  Fredrick Wentworth is now a writer who copes with the stress of a book tour (and being with Emma) by drinking and getting high.  I have actually learned more about them through writing the story than by thinking about them before I got started.  They are not acting like the original characters acted.  There is a surprise every time I sit down to write.  Things I didn’t even expect.  For example, I realized Fredrick’s side of the story needs to be told.  If my main character is officially unreliable due to depression, grief, willful ignorance, and manipulation then she has missed critical things.  Austen, writing in third person, had the benefit of  being able to pull in Capt. Wentworth’s thoughts when needed.  I did not write this the same way.

I am half way through my modern version of Persuasion as I write this.  I am actually taking a break from the writing to consider things that have happened so far and to think about my characters in light of this new information.  These are conversations in mind with them.  The anchor has been that I know the original story so well.  I know what has to happen.  Come November I won’t have this anchor anymore.  I have written everything I have ever wanted to write in the terrible epic novel.  I wanted to modernize my two favorite Austen novels and I have done that when July is over.

Next November, when I do NaNoWriMo again, is going to be interesting for me as a writer.  I won’t have characters I know better than I know myself.  I won’t have spent years with an original source to help anchor me.  I will be on my own.  I don’t have any idea at this point as to what I will write about.  Yes, it scares me a bit, but it also excites me.  While my characters drive my writing, I don’t think I share enough of them with a potential reader.  I think not knowing my characters so well will make me need to write down more about them so I can learn about them with my readers.

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Knitting Designs: Gradient Blanket

Gradient Blanket

Gradient Blanket

A few months ago one of the members of my writing group had a baby.  I searched for a nice blanket to make for the family, but wasn’t really interested in anything I found.  This led me design my own blanket.

Here is the gradient blanket.  You can see the details of the pattern bellow.  It is a simple design where you increase 1 color while you decrease the other over 15 rows.  I used acrylic yarn to ensure my friend can toss it in the washing machine and not worry about ruining it.

This is the third pattern I designed.  It made me realize, with the change to the blog and losing all those older entries, I should make a page where I keep all my designs.  I don’t design often, but when I do I should make it easier for people to make them.

Download Pattern: Gradient Blanket

See it on Ravelry!

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Sara’s Summer Conference Season: AdaCamp in Portland, OR

Bike Statue in Portland

Bike Statue in Portland

When I tell people I am going to AdaCamp, I get a lot of puzzled looks.  It seems that not many librarians have heard of this conference.  Everyone in my circle knows about Book Expo- I mean, I go every year.  WikiCon makes clear sense to people who pay attention to my research interests or explore tech in libraries.  AdaCamp though, that is new to librarians and, to be fair, even I hadn’t heard about it before January of this year.   Little did I know, I would spend a weekend in Portland at a conference that focuses on women in tech.

AdaCamp is actually an un-conference.  The program and schedule of the conference is determined entirely by those attending.  Sessions are proposed before the conference starts and during the conference.  Anyone can propose anything and anyone can participate, facilitate, or simply show up.  Session topics, in this case, ran from soft skills (public speaking for example), work issues (know when to find a new job for example), learning new code languages (Python for example), and feminism (impostor syndrome for example).  If your session didn’t get on the schedule you were free to find space and have it anyway.  People are encouraged to spend their time the way they wish to spend it.  At AdaCamp the focus is on women in technology.  The program is only open to women (yes, even trans-women).  The planning is open to everyone.  Not just session planning, but participants are included in policy development and more.  The Ada Initiative, made sure participants knew the space was safe and harassment free.

Walking around Portland, OR

Walking around Portland, OR

I can easily recognize and acknowledge that I work in a female dominated field that likes to share and toot their own horn.  I am routinely encouraged to speak at meetings and conferences.  I speak to classes frequently so I have trained myself to be a better communicator over the years (thank you Toastmasters).  Librarians are their own little bubble of uniqueness in the tech world.  Many women in tech are isolated in a field dominated by men.  Many are uncomfortable sharing their accomplishments and taking credit for work they do.  Most don’t have many opportunities to speak.  Having the opportunity to hear about different experiences and gain a better understanding of feminist issues was invaluable.  I learned more about issues like Impostor Syndrome and realized that I deal with problems like stress and criticism better than I thought.

I wasn’t sure if I was prepared to speak and what I would speak about.  I ended up proposing a session to learn more about running Wikipedia edit-a-thons and to learn more about hack and make-a-thons.  It opened up interest in people learning how to edit Wikipedia.  While the social drama research seemed to interest people, I didn’t feel like this was the right conference to speak about it.  AdaCamp, to me, felt more like a chance to learn about new things and to share how people can take action rather than looking at theory and research on a topic.  I did get a chance to facilitate a discussion, but I was happy to sit back and learn from others.  There was so much amazing information being shared by women who are doing amazing things in the world.  Even when I disagreed with things I understood that POV was informed by experience.

Mooooo

Mooooo

What I didn’t expect was that my public speaking experience would play a bigger role in my weekend than it has in three years.  It has been three years since I stepped back from Toastmasters.  I was, but shouldn’t have been surprised when I found myself surrounded by women who had amazing projects and ideas they wanted to share, but were uncomfortable with speaking in public.  I felt motivated to share what I had learned and did so through a 90-second Lightning Talk.  That sounds exactly like what it is: 90 seconds to present an idea or something to the group.  It was a great chance to test my communication skills.  Could I really focus myself to present just enough information to make an impact and not get cut off?  It turns out I can!

A view of downtown Portland, OR

A view of downtown Portland, OR

I did get a chance to see the city.  I had a short list of places to see (donuts, book, and yarn).  I made a point of getting out and walking around on Saturday during lunch and after the conference ended.  The pictures posted are the ones I took as I walked around.  I didn’t take pictures at the conference because people didn’t necessarily want photos taken and it was easier to just not take pictures than negotiate the nuances.  I walked as much as I could and even took the streetcar once, but there were times where the taxi was just a better option.  The city is totally not a driving city though.  Most people walked, rode bikes, or took the street car.

I feel like I walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for what is going on with feminism beyond my special little bubble.  I met a ton of amazing, talented, and passionate women looking to change the world.  I even got some Wikipedia editing done and learned more about ways to accomplish my goals.  It made me want to take the time to re-evaluate my goals and what I want to work towards in the future.  Meanwhile, it may mean some different content here.

Want to see the slide (that for reasons was not used) for my lightning talk?

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A Tale of Two Conferences: NYC 2014

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Sorry, my inner Dickens had to be let out for a moment.

Me at WikiCon post presentation

Me at WikiCon post presentation

As I start to write this, I am three hours away from a long bus trip back to Boston.  I am in dwindling group of Wikipedia editors who all have amazing and interesting projects and research that will make Wikipedia even more amazing than it already is.  People are suppose to be editing entries.  This period and this room is technically an edit-a-thon.  In reality, it is more networking and collaborative on our own projects.  I feel like I broke my brain and I have been knitting for about an hour and enjoying the lunch time conversations.

30 Rock at Night

30 Rock at Night

My two conference trip ends with WikiConUSA and is probably the best conference experience I could have had to introduce me to the world of tech conferences.  The thing about tech conferences is that they are usually very few women.  This is not the case at WikiConUSA.  They are at least as many women as men.  There is a mix of high tech conversations about projects and discussions about content and programming.  My session, on day 2 of the conference (my day 1), was very successful.  People have been happy to give me feedback and suggestions on where to go next.  My interest in social dramas and editing conflict resolution has been reinvigorated.  I know what to do next and how I want to approach the overall project.  No more on that now- there is still too much to share about the week.

The Empire State Building from the top of 30 Rock.

The Empire State Building from the top of 30 Rock.

I am use to being one of many women in a room where we vastly out number men.  This is the nature of being a librarian.  I am use to a mix of tech skills where mine are on the higher end.  I am in rooms with people who work with companies to help them navigate the world of Wikipedia responsibly, people who are bringing mapping data to Wikipedia, people who are successfully running edit-a-thons, people who working on medical data in Wikipedia so people can get the best information available, people who… well I could go on because it is fascinating what we never see on Wikipedia no matter how often we use it.  Some of it has been way above my head and it is nice to have to learn all these new things to be able to play in the sandbox.

I feel like a fish out of water in some ways though.  I may be an editor, but that is all I have the energy and interest to be.  I want to understand in order to study.  Many of the people here are editors who attend local events and know each other.  I know most of us are probably introverts.  I can tell the way people organize themselves.  A few of us hold back, assessing the situation and waiting until we find the right person for us.  I am holding back a bit longer than most.  I have to remind myself, when I am alone at the conference, is that these people may not know faces and real name, but they know each other well.  They have been working together on Wikipedia for years.  They attend local events and many can put faces to screen names.  I have stayed in the back ground as an editor.  I have yet to get involved in Boston events (this summer is already changing that).  Still, I met my people quickly.

Lego Chewbacca from Book Expo.

Lego Chewbacca from Book Expo.

I walked into WikiCon after three days at the other conference: Book Expo.  This is the first year, in many years, that I am doing it alone.  I had people to meet, but at the end of the day it was just me.  The NYC team of friends and family have moved on, moved away, or gone somewhere else at the same time.  I spent time with Etta, my favorite librarian and had a blast.  I got to see some of Team Unicorn: Anna and Kristi.  I walked in circles for two days grabbing books like they were going out of style.  I released the inner fangirl and snapped pictures of Jason Segel, Neil Patrick Harris, Cary Elwes, Deborah Harkness, and more.  I  waited in a few lines for books that excited me.  I sat in the librarian lounge and tried to re-energize every few hours.  Thank goodness for that place.  Book Expo is about consumption though.  Your mission is to get things, get them fast, get the free, and say thank you.   You are suppose to read and share.  You are suppose to stop thinking.  Not thinking is as exhausting as lots of thinking.  Your body just moves: it walks in circles, it puts books in bags, and your face smiles.

I love Book Expo, but it exhausts me.  The pleasure of being alone, like in London, was that I did what I wanted every night.  I wanted to walk around Rockefeller Center?  Sure!  I wanted to go to the top of 30 Rock?  Sure!  I wanted to come back the next day and shop?  Sure!  I was too tired to see a show and wanted to just stay in?  OK! My goal when I come to NYC is to always do one fun and new thing.  This year was the top of 30 Rock at night.  It was wonderful up there.  Unlike last year, which was abysmally hot, the cool air made it a pleasure to aimlessly walk around the city in the evenings.

Me presenting at WikiCon

Me presenting at WikiCon – take by WIkipedia editor Slowking4

My great excitement at Book Expo was not the books or the celebrities, but the discussion I had with Arcadia publishers about possibly working on a book for them over the next year.  The idea came up after this years discussion series.  The local Cambodian population is often overlooked.  What if we pulled them in by making a book about the community in Lowell.  After talking with the publishers, I felt energized and excited.  This, combined with the research plans that came up during WikiCon, may have made this the best trip to New York ever.

Now I just have to process through all of the things that happened and start making plans to help it all happen in the next year.

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The March of the Living: 20 Years Later

I think it is totally accurate to say that, at seventeen, I was a very different person than I am now.  After a lot of reflection, the shift from who I was as a child to who I became as an adult happened about 20 years ago.  I want to be honest about my experience on the March of the Living.  In fact, I have written this post a few times and each time it comes off angry and cynical.  I don’t want to imply that the MOTL is a bad program.  This is probably the most important thing I have ever done with my life.  It redefined who I was in the immediate aftermath and it shaped who I would become years later.  I have to be honest though.

The March of the Living (MOTL) is a trip that jewish teenagers can participate in.  When I was seventeen it was done every other year and only open to high school juniors and seniors.  I believe now it is done annually.  A rare sophomore was allowed to attend if they showed they were mature enough to participate.  Why would maturity be an issue?  You spend two weeks immersed in the Holocaust and the State of Israel.  First, participants spend a week in Poland seeing increasingly powerful representations of the Holocaust.  You spend time in the, now destroyed, Warsaw Ghetto.  You go to numerous concentration camps.  You walk the mile from Auschwitz to Birkenau camps just as prisoners walked to their death on the same path.  You see some of what remains of Judaism in Poland.  You do this all over a week before you fly to Israel and spend a whole week immersed in modern Judaism and Israel.

The second week is spent seeing the holy sites, climbing Masada, extensive time in Jerusalem, seeing museums and famous spots.  In each location you celebrate holiday.  In Poland you are there for Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  This is the day you walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau in memorial to the walk of death.  The walk is called The March of the Living and this is where the program name comes from.  You are one of thousands of people in blue jackets walking through the town.  We all look the same as we silently walk from one camp to the other.  All of us are in matching blue jackets. In Israel you celebrate Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day).  These are actual celebrations in Jerusalem.

The cynic in me wants to say this is all merely pro-Israel propaganda.  The cynic in me sees how the horror of the Holocaust was increasingly pushed upon us before we arrived in Israel.  We were isolated in Poland.  We were not allowed to go out on our own.  In Israel we had plenty of free time to roam about Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

There is also a voice, equally as loud as my inner cynic, that knows this program was critical to me understanding who I was and what I wanted out of life.

I remember the first camp we visited, Treblinka, which is nothing more than a memorial to those who died there.  I remember walking through Auschwitz thinking it was more like a college campus than a work camp.  I remember the rubble of Birkenau and the discussions our chaperones and Rabbis led about maintaining the camps in memorial or letting them fall apart because of what they actually did in them.  I remember Majdanek, the camp that could be up and running in 24 hours.  This was the last camp we visited and the worst of them all.  I walked through barracks full of shoes, suitcases, and hair.  There were three barracks full of shoes and the last one was just children’s shoes.  That was when I finally cried.  I could not maintain my stoicism any longer.  I remember Poland being cold and grey and lacking any color.  I know there was color.  I see it in the photographs I took.  I just don’t remember color in my memories.

I also remember the variety of color in Israel.  It was green and sunny.  We went from our blue jackets and warm clothes to shorts and t-shirts.  We drive up the Golan Heights where we discussed the struggle Israel had with surrounding nations.  We shopped around Jerusalem picking up things to take home to people we loved.  We ate anything we wanted rather than only the items supplied for us.  We went to the Wall and put in our prayers.  We left our hotel in the middle of the night so we could arrive at Masada before dawn.  We climbed up and watched the sun rise from the top of the destroyed fortress.  The cynic in me reminds me that this was all a sales pitch.

For weeks before we departed we met weekly to prepare up for what we should expect.  We read about each place we would visit.  We discussed what life was like for modern Polish Jews and for Jews in Israel.  We talked about the hidden Israel: bombings, battles, death, and depressions.  We were middle class, American teenagers.  We had no idea these things existed in the world.  It was our Judaism that prevented us from wearing rose colored glasses.  No matter how many jewish friends we had (and in Miami, I had a lot), we were always confronted with anti-Semitism and hatred.  The Holocaust had always been part of our lives.  We were desensitized to the talk.  We needed to see in order to understand.

There are things I associate with this trip that have nothing to do with it.  I was in Israel when the girl sharing my hotel room told me Kurt Cobain had killed himself.  Schindler’s List came out just a few months before we departed.  I read the book and saw the movie many times.  We were excited when we merely passed by this camp on the way to another.

I made and lost friends because of this trip.  It shifted how I saw the world.  I came home with no desire to engage in the planned activities of my senior year in high school.  I gave up a spot on a trip to Disney that all seniors went on.  I decided I couldn’t be bothered to go to prom.  I realized the people in my high school had nothing in common with me.  I didn’t actually like them and I didn’t want to be around them.  The friends I had outside of school began to push my buttons as well.  I had no desire to be in fake friendships.  Even a friend who went with me was not someone I wanted to be around anymore.  I saw some friends from the trip develop, what seemed to be, PTSD.  They claimed they were sleeping with their jackets and having nightmares about the camps.  For some, I knew this was true.  For others, I felt they were simply trying to demonstrate depth that didn’t actually exist.  I did cling to my old point of view sometimes, but more often than not I was reminded that this was not who I wanted to be.

I had a resurgence of faith after the trip.  It was more of a devotion to the idea of Judaism rather than faith in a higher being.  I had struggled for many years with faith in god.  I thought I had figured it out at seventeen, but it would take me years to realize I was wrong about that too.  This trip did result in me being honest with myself about what I didn’t want.  That distinction is important.  I only knew what I didn’t want, not what I did.  I didn’t know myself well enough to know what I wanted.  I had always just done what I was told and this trip pushed me to realize that I didn’t like doing what I had always done.  To be fair to the teachers and my parents who told me what to do, it wasn’t like I had an idea of my own.  I wasn’t fighting to do what I wanted or forced to do what they wanted.  It was simply the way I thought it was suppose to be.

It doesn’t matter that there is an underlying tone of propaganda about this program.  The March of the Living was the first step in changing me.  It was the first time I thought about who I really was and what I wanted to be.  It was the first time I tried to get comfortable with who I really am.  It was the first time I began to recognize that I wasn’t like my peers.  It certainly wouldn’t be the last time either.

You can see some of my photos on Flickr.

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How I am going to spend my summer vacation

It is officially summer in academia.  Finals are completed and summer plans are happening.  I have a ton on my plate this summer and I am excited about all of it.

This summer begins my sabbatical and work load reduction.  Instead of getting a whole semester off to focus on tenure requirements, I am taking a full year with a reduced work load.  Same pay, but more free time.  Why?  I need to publish something in a scholarly, peer reviewed journal.  It is something I have known I need to do in order to get tenure, but I rarely get to finish things I start over the summer because the normal duties of the school year take all my work time.  As a result I have all these unfinished research projects that I want to continue to work on.  All this extra time through the year will allow me some time to focus on these things.  I have a plan too!

  • Summer: conference season and working on an article about the public programming I do.
  • Fall: write about my outreach efforts with the College of Health Sciences
  • Spring: write about Wikipedia and the research I have been doing there.

The success or failure of summer will dictate how I spend the rest of the year.  So, how am I going to spend my summer vacation?

First, conference season happens in the summer.  I am going back to Book Expo, but this may be my last year for a while.  I may need the money and the time if my hopes and dreams become a reality.  I am going because, not only are some amazing authors going to be there, I want to talk to some publishers about the 2015 reading and discussion series selections.  The very same week, in fact over lapping, is Wiki Con.  Many people know, but this is the conference at which I will be a speaker.  This is my first, professional, national level conference as a speaker.  I am presenting the research I did for my thesis a few years ago.  I will be bouncing back and forth between the two conferences.

I also got accepted to an un-conference called AdaCamp in June.  This will take me out to Portland, OR (first time in that state) for a technology and gender themed program.  Again, my Wikipedia research is what got me accepted and I am anxious to meet people that can help me move forward with this research.  My increasing interest in the gender divide on Wikipedia is something I want to work on over the next year.  I am not sure what to expect, but it has already led to some new work related friendships that I am excited about.

Other summer vacation plans?  Knitting like crazy!  I have wedding presents to make.  September is my sister’s wedding in CA so I want to be ready for it.  Not only do I need to knit some gifts, but I have to get some sun.  Six months covered up and cold has made my skin a bit too pale for my liking.  I am looking forward to reading articles and having tea on the deck on my days off.

My personal writing is moving forward.  In April I participated in another round of Camp NaNoWriMo and wrote a novel that I may actually want people to read.  Some people have already been giving me feedback and I have some edits to make.  I am going to use the summer start making the edits I know have to be made and then, in the fall, I am going to start letting other people read.  This may be something I try to get published.  I am not sure yet.

There are other things going on.  I want to take off two weeks to just relax like I did last year.  It would be a local vacation because I am spending a ton of money on other things.  I want to sit at an outdoor pool for hours getting sun and reading books.  I want to knit tons of things and read some of the books that have been sitting on the TBR bookshelf for years.

In the end, it will be a busy summer without a doubt.  Hopefully I can get everything done!

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