Saturday, June 28, 2008

Don't panic

I feel like Arthur Dent.

In addition to the Don Watson book I'm reading, I've also been reading The salmon of doubt, a collection of the miscellaneous writings of Douglas Adams. I'm really feeling for his frustrations around the U.S. and tea.

I'm a tea drinker. I like my tea black, with no sugar, the better to taste the flavours of the leaf. In fact I would go so far as to consider myself a bit of a tea snob. My ideal weekend starts with a very large pot of my own blend of loose leaf teas, taken over an hour with the weekend paper.

Today I was thwarted, constantly, in my attempts to get a decent cup of tea.

First, the complimentary continental breakfast at my hotel. Now, I'm not staying at a fancy hotel, so I wasn't expecting much, but it really was woeful, and the tea was hideous. It didn't count, really. So, no tea (to speak of).

Then Fiona and I headed over to the massive (again with the big) Hilton hotel, where our fellow presenter Andrew is staying. On the way we passed a 7-11. I decided I might be able to buy some tea bags, but the only option they had was Lipton. Again, doesn't count. No tea.

We get to the Hilton, and my spirit soars - they have a Starbucks, and it's a well kept secret that Starbucks actually has very good tea - they stock a brand called Tazo which you used to be able to buy at the DJs food hall, but not any more. They do a gorgeous range of interesting flavours, and have an earl grey so strong that the bag itself is stained yellow with bergamot. So "yay! Tazo tea!" thinks I, and joins the long queue.

Once I reach the head of the queue and ask for a cup of tea, they tell me they're out of tea.

Now, the weird thing is that they had teabags for sale on the shelf. They have always served only bag tea, so I'm not quite sure how they could be out of tea and still have tea, but nonetheless, I hadn't yet had my morning cup of tea and so was unable to argue. I did, however, have the sense to purchase said box of tea, thinking that any self respecting hotel has a kettle in the room, I'll make my own.

So up to the 7th floor of the Hilton we go, to find that Andrew's room is well stocked with tea, filter coffee, and a drip filter machine. But no kettle. That's right - they give you tea bags, but nothing to make just plain hot water. Maybe they expect you just to suck on the bags, an idea I did briefly consider. But instead I used the drip filter machine to have coffee-flavoured tea. It was still better than the crap I was offered at breakfast.

My hotel room also only has these drip filter machines, but the free breakfast did include free non-coffee-flavoured hot water, so I might head down tomorrow just for the water, and then have a good cup of tea in my hotel room. Which sounds like a good way to start the day of our presentation.

Wish me luck!

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Sydney librarian at ALA - part 1

I arrived in LA this morning, to attend the ALA Annual Conference. I should warn you that I didn't sleep on the flight thanks to the guy next to me who decided to get drunk on his duty free vodka, and I haven't slept since I got here, and I just had a large, warm lunch. If I stop making sense or if this entry decends into zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz it means I've fallen asleep.

First up, the obvious - this place is massive. Like, everthing about everything is massive. Looking at LA from the plane, everything was in a grid and everything was the same and it was huge! All the houses looked the same - it was like I was flying over some of Sydney's more charming areas, you know the ones, Blackett and the like. Except that they covered all of Sydney...

I caught an airport shuttle to my hotel in Anaheim, which involved travelling along huge, wide roads that ran below or above other huge, wide roads. I was left with an overwhelming sense of concrete.

Anaheim is...hard to navigate around. It's in a grid pattern, but the blocks are really large and every street looks the same and is lined with palm trees, and there are no directional markers. I've gotten turned around many times already, and I've only ventured from the hotel once. Everything is either a hotel or a family restaurant - I don't think anyone lives here. If I look across the road I can see the rollercoasters and other rides at Disneyland, which makes me all conflicted - one part of me is all "Ew! Horrible tacky theme parks! Full of children and tourists!" and the other part of me, the part that remembers how much I wanted to go to America when I was growing up, says "I cannot believe I'm here. And I cannot believe the thing that got me here was being a librarian."

The conference - which hasn't even started yet - is so, so huge. Shuttle buses at the airport were labelled with "Welcome ALA delegates!" - this is LAX, not some little regional airport. I got in the non-ALA branded shuttle, and it turned out that everyone else in the shuttle was going to ALA. In fact it feels like everyone in town is going. It's a very strange feeling. I got a glimpse at the trade exhibition which is still being set up and I believe I really truly did stand there gaping for a while.

So I've registered, and have all my bits and pieces and paperwork. I was going to go over it all now and pull out sessions I want to see, but I have an increasing urge to sleep, and I suspect that lying on the bed reading a conference program probably won't do much to liven me up.

There are two things I want to achieve at this event. The first is to make it through our presentation with my reputations intact (i.e., not have it changed to "blithering idiot") and hopefully some sense of pride of having done it. The second is to reconnect with the libarian I want to be. The last few months have been a bit, how should I say, task-based at work, and I feel like I'm losing connection with my greater librarian mojo. At the end of this event I want to be proud of being a librarian again, rather than just stressed at how much work I have to do.

One last thing before the sandman takes me - I've been reading Don Watson's latest book American journeys in preparation for the trip, and cos I love his writing. I highly recommend it. That's all - it's just great.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane...

I'm off to ALA Annual in just over one week! Finally, something to write about other than the fact that I got a distinction in my first unit of the MBA (I know, I know, thanks for the flowers, couldn't have done it without you all not hassling me at all about the fact that I've not blogged in ages, really appreciate it...). Oh, and the abstract I submitted for NLS4 got accepted, which is super cool but I'm not even really going to think about it till after ALA.

So, ALA! Now, this is going to sound all colonial of me,'s kinda scary! For starters, it's MASSIVE! Last year there were 22,000 delegates. Isn't that just an insane number? How does one organise an event for that many people?

Second, it's not very user friendly (this may feed in to the above question). As a first timer, I'm supposedly meant to have some kind of contact before the event from an ALA Ambassador, which is a great idea, except that it hasn't happened. The programme...I really have some problems with the programme. There's all these streams, which is fine, except they all run at different times and they're in different venues (there are, after all, LOTS of people) and there doesn't seem to be a nice table that tells you what's on where. So I really have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm a bit of a seasoned conferencer (this will be number 11!)

Third, it's in America, which I've kind of been conditioned to be scared of in the last few years. I'm going to be fingerprinted before I'm allowed in. That's freaky. And it's in LA, which is also a bit scary.

But, much more than that it's exciting. I'm speaking! At ALA! And after it's all over Fiona and I are heading to Texas to stay in what looks like just about the hippest hotel around. They serve the room serve breakfast in bento boxes. I'm not sure I'm cool enough to stay there, but maybe I can wing it.

And there will be a couple of familir faces - Gill Hallam and Kevin Dudeney are both heading over, and I'll try to refrain from hugging them in excitement when I manage to find them amongst the 22,000 (I mean, I know them and all, but not THAT well).

So, wriggling like a puppy, I have 8 more sleeps. The paper is pretty much done, I've got a brand spanking new suitcase (thank you Myer mid-year sale), I'm ready to go. I promise to write about it. I don't promise to make sense.