Staycation

Well, it finally happened…the government shut down, and since I work for the government, I am now not working. It’s an unplanned, unpaid staycation. I’ve always dreamed of a staycation – though not one that was unpaid – but never had the leave time to take it without giving up something else. So there has been a positive aspect to it. What? Well, I have enjoyed some time off, with lots of reading and relaxing. And, well, finally getting the chance to confirm what I’ve always suspected: I wouldn’t be able to enjoy unending leisure time for much more than a week. I’m starting to get busy.

We’re starting the second week of this shut down, and I am finally establishing a bit more of a routine and working out how to achieve my goals, which is to use this time properly. So I have been getting busy. I’ve been slow to do this, I think, for two reasons: one, I did want some rest; and two, not having any sense of how long this thing is going to last makes it hard to plan my activities. To a certain extent, I have to plan day to day, while still balancing my enjoyment of time alone with the need for some social interaction. I may be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also enjoy people.

Last week, I mostly rested and relaxed, with intervals of doing chores like cleaning and cooking. This week I have planned a bit more. I have a list of things I would like to get done. I want to:

  • do a good bit of scrapbooking
  • make a baby quilt for a baby shower at the end of October (piecing all done, quilt sandwiched and ready to go)
  • maybe work on purple leftovers quilt? or quilt on the big quilt that is ready to be quilted?
  • work on the couture dress
  • set up my loom for weaving with the warp that is currently wound
  • catch up on my spinning study
  • as well as spin some on the brown Romney
  • install the SSD in my old laptop, and get Linux Ubuntu installed
  • kill weeds, then pull weeds
  • scan a lot of old paperwork so I can get rid of it and/or organize it
  • get rid of some furniture and other items at the thrift store or via Craislist and/or Freecycle

And of course, enjoy myself with reading a lot. And maintaining my regular schedule of eating right, exercising regularly, Bible study, and reaching out to some friends for visits, especially some that I haven’t seen in a while.

I have a feeling I won’t get it all done, but I’ll give it my best try.

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Busy

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I have loved this sign from the moment I first saw it.

Room next door

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Pictures of renovations actually moving forward

Rants about work

There are times when I feel stifled and frustrated here at MPOW.

Why?

The obvious – because they employ me, I cannot always voice my disagreement with those in authority over me. They might want to get rid of me, and I’m not ready to go.

Less obvious – although I do disagree with many decisions, my thoughts are not necessarily based on the same information they have. Presumably, they have a wider view than I have of what MPOW is doing and needs, though I do in fact doubt that. Simply keeping up with what they do allow us to see demands way too much time, and I do have a life outside of my job.

Not visible to others – as best I can tell, management here completely ignores us down-in-the-trenches people when making decisions. While I would certainly understand not depending on the ideas of some of the stuck-in-the-mud types here, seems to me that they are not really paying attention to the fact that some people are far more interested in and welcoming to new, innovative ideas. (Age is not necessarily a factor here.) Perhaps it is because they assume that the work we are doing automatically means we are not interested in changing it. To a certain extent, they might be right, but that is at least in part because they haven’t shown me that their new ideas are workable. It looks like they are willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater, instead of truly understanding that some form of the standards that exist will always be needed even as newer social software allows us a great deal of flexibility and user-centered power.

Visible but powerless – too many are retiring and nobody is being hired to replace them. Parts of my work are being devalued by the use of shortcuts. I’ve yet to see any true justification of these decisions other than the desire to increase production numbers without increase in production costs.

What do I like about working here?

I like the actual work I do. My work appeals to my sense of order and satisfies my desire to be of service.

Though too often I have to push for them, I have found opportunities to develop myself professionally. And there are other opportunities that I have yet to pursue that are still in the back of my mind.

I have found common ground with many other colleagues here who do care about the work we do.

Although it has taken a good deal of time to reach this point, I do have opportunities to connect with sister institutions in the outside world. Unfortunately this is not easy here, because this is a very insular world, especially in my division, but I have found ways.

Slow and steady growth as a professional person has occurred.

They pay me well.

When will this change?

There will come a time, I think, when what I have here will change to point that I can no longer endure my frustrations, but that time has not yet come. I hope it won’t for several more years yet.

New achievement

This weekend I achieved a first. What dazzling skill did I conquer? (Well, “conquer” in the beginner sense.)

Canning!

For the first time in my life, I canned tomatoes all by my lonesome. Actually, I think it’s the first time I canned tomatoes at all. Previous canning adventures with friends were for jam/preserves, cherry, blueberry, and peach — not all at once.

It was ever so slightly sweaty work. If AC didn’t exist — I don’t know how we survived. I mean, I don’t even use the AC that heavily compared to some, since I’m cold-blooded and am comfortable at slightly warmer temps. But when you’re boiling water on the stove for over an hour and a half…

Anyway, as I read through the book once again and dealt with the dangers of botulism, I realized that if I wanted to do this on any kind of large scale with vegetables, I was going to have to buy a pressure canner, not just a boiling water canner. Of course, those are more expensive. A comparably sized pressure canner is $80.00 or more (high quality ones are considerably more), whereas a boiling water canner is $20 or less.

The pressure canner needs to go on the Xmas list.

This whole canning adventures is part of my attempts to eat local, not just in summer, but all year long. I won’t be able to achieve it completely, but every little bit helps. To me, it’s a combination of responsible stewardship of the earth, and direct benefits of health and taste to me. Decreasing my footprint on the earth when I don’t need to be that wasteful is, well, important to me.

Anyway, that’s the philosophy for the day. Canning is one more step on the road to eating locally more than 50% of the time, which is the first basic goal; although how I’m going to quantify 50% I’m not sure yet.

Slow April

I haven’t really been posting this month, and I can’t even say particularly why. It’s not that I’ve been overwhelmingly busy, although busy I’ve certainly been. It’s more, I think, that when I’ve spent time on the computer, required activities have taken precedence over writing.

I never did write any comments on the conference here, although I have written them up for the wiki at work, so that others could benefit. I may transfer them to my outside wiki, just so I will always have access to them.

And that little italics betrays one of the items that is on my brain nowadays. Work is causing me… concern. To be precise, I’m not concerned about losing my job or anything like that. Rather, the library management are doing things of which I do not approve, and cannot feel comfortable with. If they continue, I can easily see myself leaving there, even though I don’t really want to. The mere thought of job-hunting, moving, and all the assorted upheavals that accompany it, gives me feelings of dread. Plus, I like quite a few of the people I work with, and I’m settled in this area. Besides which, I have fun plans for this house. And furthermore, it is quite likely that any new job I find will take me farther away from family. Not a certainty, by any means, but a real likelihood. So on the whole, I’m not happy about the way things are going.

So what am I doing about this? Personally, I am taking steps, as I have been for quite a while, to make myself an extremely desirable employee in another library. Professional development is not a big thing where I work currently (short-sighted of them), so I have to push it myself. But I do, believe you me.

In relation to my job, I am left uncertain. Should I go ahead and voice my concern and displeasure publicly? I don’t have the professional stature to do it with impunity at this point. Is it fear? or inertia? or confusion about what is best? Not everything they have in mind is bad, though a great deal of it is, but none of it is not being done well, or with consideration for others. Librarianship is a cooperative world, and yet that very concept has been totally ignored in the last week.

I do know that there is a petition going round somewhere, and believe me, I will sign that!

I know I haven’t been explicit here to anyone reading this. That is actually intentional, because if I am explicit, anyone could figure out exactly where I work and what I do. I am generally too cautious on the net to knowingly expose my privacy that way at this point. Plus, the whole issue of whether or not I want to be that public where my workplace is concerned still holds. Maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable it, but not now.

Conference reflections

I like going to conferences occasionally. They stimulate my brain, inform me about things that are new in my professional world, get me excited about the possibilities again — but they surely do distract me from the everyday work. This month has been frustrating at work, because it is supposed to be a time when we put aside some of the distractions of meetings, etc., and focus on producing a high volume of work. Unfortunately, what with a class, a conference, and other, everyday distractions, I have barely been keeping my head above water. This week back after the conference helped me to get my feet back under me, but not enough to feel I’ve truly done the job of catching up, at least as much as I am able.

But then, I have once again been realizing that I am at least a little over-committed. I do this to myself every once in a while, and I realize I’ve said yes to at least one too many things. They are things I want to do, some things I need to do, but not things I can get done properly and well within the time frame I have allotted. I have to say no more often. It’s a lesson I have to teach myself over and over again (although I’m better than I used to be).

And it is that feeling that reminds me that all the excited feelings of a conference are temporary. The true worth of a conference is when I come back with a truly useful new idea, AND have the time to implement it. Since I am frequently robbing Peter to pay Paul in the work I get done, that is not often a strong possibility unless I rob from Mary too.

So what ideas am I going to try to implement? The wiki definitely. In linkage with that, I recently discovered squidoo.com, which should make a nice way to share useful links between myself and my teammates.

Other than that, I will try to talk up some really good things that I saw there. If I can get some of these things looked at by other individuals, then maybe something good would happen. I really liked the presentation that showed what the NCSU people have been doing to their catalog search interface. Go check it out — they are truly making the data work harder with requiring the user to know any more than they already do. And that’s exciting!

Ironically, the presentation on NSCU followed one by Roy Tennant that annoyed me. It’s not really that I think that what he says is so wrong, though I think that there are wrong parts. (Or at least there used to be. This one was better than previous ones by him.) It’s more that what he says and how he says it seems to devalue what I do (cataloging) and the books I love. In his eagerness to embrace the bold new world of many other sources, he ignores the continuing relevance of books to the life of many. And the fact that cataloging is not applicable solely to books, but also to everything else. When you see a citation of a journal article, that is cataloging too. When you search a database of links with social tagging, that is cataloging too. Filing is a form of cataloging. When you go on to google and search for the right page to answer your question, then the implementation of their pagerank system is cataloging too!

Cataloging at its heart is the organization of information into a functional file that can be searched by one or a multitude of access points and then link the user to the resource(s) that best answer his need. While I perfectly accept that catalogs are far from perfect, there is a degree of arrogance in saying that what we did before was bad, which is the implication of many who are overwhelmed with the wonderfulness of google. What we had before wasn’t bad — although it was frequently short-sighted — but rather it was wonderful given the resources we had to expend. What we need to do now is take what has already been built, add to it, and make both the old data and the new data work harder to answer the needs of today.

I have actually wandered far afield from Mr. Tennant’s presentation in my discussion here. I sometimes get a sense — and I don’t know if it is true or a totally misreading on my part — that many people think that cataloging could really be done by computers far better than by people. If I am right in that perception, then all I have to say is — anyone who thinks that is fooling themselves. Until you have a true AI, no computer can completely replace a human being when it come to organizing information. All that a computer can do is, somewhat, make the organizing easier. But the GIGO rule still applies.

60 done

Yesterday was a day of accomplishment. After focusing very intensely for about a month, I finally finished the 60 book sample for achieving independence in subject cataloguing. It’s been a long haul, and in many way I still don’t feel ready to be no longer reviewed by my trainer, but it’s really inevitable, since he is retiring. We are losing too many at the library, and too much knowledge is passing without the time for it to be properly passed on. So my part is to take on the cataloguing of books in Iberoamerican history and literature, and face the fact that I’m going to get some of them wrong.

(Of course, I was getting somewhat close to being ready for independence — I’ve begun to disagree with my trainer. And that is one of the prime signs that you are developing the necessary skills because you have your own ideas about how the headings should be used. I will certainly try to follow some of his patterns, but not all. No, not all, at all.)

Ah, well, at least this time of testing is past.

In the meantime, I figured out a good excuse for the baby cardigan. If I can get it done with decent speed, I’ll give it to my new baby cousin (first cousin, once removed). The giving of it would be a fine time to go and see them.

Tomorrow I take off for my parents’ house for the holidays. See you next week when I get back.

Stop the presses!

Well, today some exciting news came that I simply must share! Telework has returned!

Now, to give some background…
Where I work, the prospect of telecommuting was a long time coming. A coworker of mine, recently retired, was actually one of the moving forces behind it actually happening, but it took her a very long time. Since I work at a library, one of the reasons that management was so reluctant was that they didn’t like us taking the books off of library property to work on them; other reasons had to do with them being fairly hidebound. I’m not saying that they didn’t have legitimate concerns, just that they were so stuck in the mud that they weren’t even interested in trying to figure out solutions, but instead wanted to ignore it as a possibility. Fortunately, they can’t, since Congress is really pushing telework these days just to get people off the roads, not to mention the possibilities of greater productivity and security concerns.

Anyway, about three plus years ago, through long, hard contract negotiations between labor and management, we got a telework pilot project. I was lucky enough to be one of those who got to work in it for two and half years. It was, for me at least, and the general consensus was for most everyone else as well, hugely successful. I was able to work at home two days a week, and was so much more productive on those days that it wasn’t even funny. I loved it! (five hours of travel time saved, plus approximately $20 in metro costs, the flexibility of working at home on days like today when snow hits, etc.)

To continue, the pilot project came to an official end back in September of this year, and there was considerable nervousness about whether or not we would be able to get it back. The union pushed it. (I’m not really a big Labor person, but there is no doubt that they serve an important purpose. Something like this is a prime example.) Some of the managers wanted it; others were less happy, I think. But it went through! Today we got the official announcement that it would happen, beginning again in January, and that applications would be reviewed after the deadline of 12/16. My application is already in. Yeah!

Now, of course, there is no guarantee that I will be a participant. There is a limited number of computers to be used, and because of the kind of work I do, I have to use one that they provide. But even if I have to wait, I will eventually be able to do it again, I have no doubt. It is something significant to look forward to, I’ve got to say.

Yes! Yes! telework is back!

New challenge coming

A new month, new things.

Actually, it’s a lot of the same old, same old.

However, at work we are having a peculiar two-week period. The reason? Our major computer database program is getting an update to be able to use Unicode (we work in a lot of foreign languages, including non-Roman alphabet languages), and during the conversion process, we cannot input/update into the database at all. We can search it, however, which means a lot of people are taking the time to do research connected with longterm work problems that are sitting at one’s desk, waiting for a decision to move them along. I have far too many of these, believe me. Most of the time, the problem is simply finding the time and focus to concentrate on the problem and figure out a solution. Sometimes it is easy; far too often it requires more research; on occasion it is stinking mess. But in a weird way, I’m enjoying this time period to slow down a little bit and focus on some of these things that have been cluttering up my desk for far too long. It also is a brace myself time before facing a major time of testing. I have to do a Quality Review for something I’ve been training in for the last year and a half. I know I have the basic skills, but it’s such a big, complex area that I still feel unprepared. Unfortunately, I don’t have choice; time is limited due to a retirement coming up and I MUST do it now.

At church, we have a youth rally this weekend, and I will have some eight people in my house over the weekend. I will probably actually enjoy this, although the weekend will be exhausting, since I also plan to help out on Saturday morning some as well and I work video on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, I’ve also felt like I am fighting off sickness, so I really want to rest. We’ll see how much of that desirable commodity I can achieve.

Days like this leave me little time for textile-related activities at home. However, I’m a firm believer in preparation leaves you able to achieve much — so I carry my crossstitch with me to work for Wednesday meeting with the crossstitch lunch group and my sock knitting with me to Wednesday evening class at church. My quilt top also went with me to work today, but that was so I didn’t have to carry it all in one day, since Thursday is the day for the quilting lunch group. One way or another, I manage to fit something in, if I’m in the mood.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to introduce you to another project, but now I need to go to bed. Desirable commodity, remember?