Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bookcart Drill Teams

A great way to round out the conference on a happy note is to attend the Book Cart Drill Team Championships, sponsored by Demco. Teams compete for gold, silver, and bronze book carts from ... Demco! This year's competition was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, June 29th.

An ALA news release on June 17, 2008 named the participating teams:

  • “Bibliotechies,” St. Margaret's Episcopal School,
    San Juan Capistrano, CA
  • “California Girls,” California School Library Association
    Southern Section
  • “Call Number 007,”
    Riverside County Library (Calif.) System - West
  • “Dancing Raisinettes,” Fresno County (Calif.) Library
  • “Palm Desert Library Cart Attacks”
    Riverside County (Calif.) Library System
  • “The Bibliofiles,” Austin (Texas) Public Library
  • “The Delaware Diamonds,” Delaware
  • “Well Stacked Scibrarians,” Santa Monica Public Library
Once again hosted by our favorite MC's authors Jon Scieszka and Mo Willems, the event is always a crowd pleaser. This is the third drill team championship I have attended and was by far the most well-attended in terms of both participants and audience members (SRO crowd). Demco posted the winners on their ALA conference page:
  • 1st place - The Well-Stacked Sci-Brarians
    Santa Monica Public Library, CA
  • 2nd place - The Bibliofiles
    Austin Public Library, TX
  • 3rd place - The Bibliotechies
    St. Margaret's Episcopal School, Palm Desert, CA

Not able to attend? Well, shame on you ... but never fear. There are several YouTube videos of the program. I've been a bit video happy here lately, so instead of embedding I am adding links.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Best Books for YA 2009

One of the reasons I enjoy ALA Annual and Midwinter is the inclusion of YALSA sessions. Yes I am an academic librarian, but ACRL does not offer the diversity of children's literature programming, actually, they don't offer childrens literature sessions at all, during their conferences. I am charged with juvenile and young adult collection development, ALA Annual and Midwinter Meetings provide me great opportunity to see what's new. This is especially true with the Best Books for Young Adult nomination program. My favorite, the teen session where young adults provide their insights to titles currently being considered for the award, was held on Sunday, June 29th, in Anaheim.

A group of invited young adult readers gather at the front of the room and are given opportunity to present their views and recommendations, positive or negative, to the audience and panel. The students are charged with the task of presenting reasoning opposed to a summation of the title discussed. As we progress through the list one section at a time, students gather at microphones to await their turn. Accompanying the opinion pieces are power point slides depicting the book cover, title, and author. Comments were concise and illustrated an enviabile depth and bredth of understanding, as well as a love for reading.

A quick perusal of the list showed I had read, and formed a personal opinion on, fewer titles than normal. Among those titles were The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Debby Harry Sings in French, The Last Exit to Normal, Compound, My Most Excellent Year, How to Build a House, and How Not to be Popular. I belatedly recognized some titles when they showed the book I remembered seeing the cover art. Several of the teens mentioned cover art in their comments, even to the extent of noting sometimes you can tell a book by it's cover, while other times it is horribly misleading. For the first time, this year a few were completely unknown to me.

Here is a short within the list of titles most frequently discussed, including both positive and negative comments from the participating teens:
  • Airman, by Eoin Colfer
  • Undercover, by Beth Kephart
  • The Host, by Stephanie Myer
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson
  • Climbing the Stairs, by Padma Venkatraman
  • Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr
  • How Not to be Popular, by Jennifer Lynn Ziegler

I will be checking this list against the catalog soon. It is always interesting to learn how many of the titles are represented in the juvenile collection.

An annotated list of the 2009 nominations is available on Members Only section of the YALSA website. An updated nominations list, sans annotations, is available with the Best Books section of the YALSA site (titles nominated). This list was updated on June 6, 2008, prior to the Best Books Nominations session held at ALA Annual in Anaheim.

The Conference Center ...

I found the Anaheim Convention Center to a reasonably attractive and well located venue, no better or worse than any of the previous three convention centers ALA selected for annual conferences. It did have a few perks that I especially enjoyed, specifically the outside garden area and open decks on all floor levels that enabled me to photograph Anaheim without restrictions and reflections of windows. The biggest oddity was having registration behind closed doors as opposed to in the open lobby area (similar to midwinter in Philadelphia). There was a lack of extended hours of operation the first two days as people arrived in Anaheim for the conference, only to be unable to register after 5:00 pm.

Don't forget Mickey

Working Saturday has it's rewards, amongst them is having the following Monday off work; it's my weekend, just one day removed. My home office cleaning quest unearthed my ALA Annual folder containing a plethora of maps, session notes, and handouts. In turn, the discovery led me to several draft blog posts previously loaded with accompanying photographs for discussing ALA in Anaheim. They are dated July 3rd. It is amazing how quickly the conference faded to the background as the holidays and subsequent return to work surged to the forefront demanding attention. The exhilaration of being near Mickey, palm trees, sun and breezes are faded, but my pictures and notes remain.

ARCL had several EBSS sessions, including committee meetings, scheduled at the Disneyland Hotel (hence the welcome from Mickey). It was a simple matter to ride the purple Gale shuttle bus into Disney to attend. Stepping off the bus was like entering another world, one full of happy families and delirious children steeped in the magic kingdom's allure; mouse ears in ever size and colors with even the restrooms playing Disney music. Naturally the hotel was well prepared for conference goers. At the end of mornign sessions they set up a reasonably priced lunch area in the lobby. While definitely a pragmatic move, we did not have to leave the premisis to eat and our money stayed on site, it was a welcome option to scouting an eatery nearby that would serve lunch in the short hour between meetings and afternoon programs.

I Attended ACRL's EBSS session Knowledge Wants to be Known that featured John Willinksy (Stanford), Ray English (Oberlin), and Alison Muddit (Sage) speaking on the topic of Open Access. The web site description:

"Are you interested in alternative scholarly publishing models? Do you want to know more about how open access is playing out in the social and behavioral sciences? Open access is not one-size-fits all; disciplines have unique publishing histories and requirements. Learn how to energize behavioral science faculty and connect access issues with the "publish or perish" imperative." - EBSS Program Announcement

Each of the speakers had a different perspective on Open Access and presented their points with enthusiasm. I found the session informative and it helped to clarify everyones stand on the issue at hand. An audience member raised an interesting question at the programs end that further expanded upon the publishers view of this growing trend. It could be argued that everyone wants information to be available, but agreement how it reaches the masses has a way to go. This is a publishing area worth watching. For more information, visit the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Between loads of laundry and grocery shopping this afternoon I found reruns, also known as encore presentations, of Eureka, season 2, on SciFi. Praise be, a clever and intriguing show that is not reality based returns to television on Tuesday evening (9:00 pm). I have to admit, HGTV's Design Star is not holding my attention; Bravo's Shear Genius is a bit annoying; and the new season of Bravo's Project Runway has just taken off. Sure, Stargate Atlantis has new episodes, it is just not the same. But, I digress. Here are two Eureka video promotions from the SciFi Channel and YouTube:

Stargate Continuum arrives in stores on Tuesday as well. The commercials show Jack O'Neill as more than a cameo appearance and GateWorld says it's good, but I'm waffling a bit with that one.

My current favorite book

I cannot help being book fickle, so honesty compelled me title this post thusly; Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 How-To's: 100 Essential Techniques, by David Karlins, made my week. I know I talked about this book in a previous post, flush with my web success I decided it deserved a second mention.

After spending the last ten days transferring existing resource center pages to the new library template, Thursday afternoon I finished the site and was ready to create the menu include and "put" everything on the review server for a test drive. The new template is library specific, none of the menu options within its header link to resource center pages. Therefore my side menu has to function as a stand-alone feature allowing users to maneuver through both the resource center and library site independently while still co-existing. I narrowed my choice to drop down menus (ungainly for my purpose) or spry menus and determined using a spry menu widget would solve the problem nicely.

Relatively sure the process could be painless, grabbed my Dreamweaver books for a how-to refresher. 100 Essential Techniques had several short chapters on using spry widgets and menus. With the book on my desk and site map nearby for reference, I created a three level menu. Next came the color options - or rather lack of color in this instance. I wanted only the palest of colors for rollover effect and absolutely no color on the menu itself so it would blend with the existing template palette. This was a bit trickier as the book had no specifics regarding individual css commands associated with the menu (there were general instructions). I started at the top of the css menu and assessed each to remove or add color as needed.

It was then time to "put" my pages on the review server and I gleefully sent my folders, images, and spry menu items. Thankfully the review server is immediate and I was able to check my work without the regular two hour delay.


Let me say that again.


And, even better, it was not hideous. I ignored it for a day and checked all of the menu links with a fresh eye on while working on Saturday (it was my summer weekend schedule). One task down, another equally daunting one awaits me as I continue my quest to get page content from others on the committee. That is a complaint for another day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The moving table

For the last week two different oddities have been puzzling to me; an annoying intermittent beeping from the east side of the library and a study table that continues to edge closer and closer to the bathroom. After due consideration and diligent observation, one mystery has been solved and the second no longer an issue.

I have been unable to locate the source of the noise. It was faint, inconsistent, and only sounded early in morning (weird), probably because at that time all of the printers were turned off and I was able to hear; not smoke-detector loud, more like a watch timer. My guess is it was from a battery in a materials kit, probably one of the timers. However, this morning the beeping stopped. Time will tell as I am sure a student will bring it to our attention some time during the upcoming term.

The table and the bathroom was a mystery to me. Space is at a bit of a premium outside the resource center and there are two tables placed next to the stacks adjacent to the restrooms. For the last week, each morning when I arrived one of the tables inched closer and closer to the women's restroom. Since this is a high traffic area, and not the most comfortable spot to work, I was baffled. In and of itself, furniture moving in the library is a common occurrence; last summer a student consistently moved sofa and chair cushions. Returning the table to it's rightful spot today I finally noticed the lone electrical outlet outside the janitors closet next to the women's restroom.

The light dawned.

As one of two free electrical outlets on the floor, everything else is in use with computers, printers, copy machines, scanners, and so on and so forth, they were moving the table to be able to plug in a laptop.

That, at least, makes sense.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hand gestures?

No, not that kind of hand gesture, an early-in-the-workday Blogthings quiz. There were two options today; I found this one more interesting than learning if I could spot a liar. Plus, the hand gesture in question was neither offensive nor a disappointment.

You Are an "A-OK"

Your life philosophy can be summed up as, "Whatever will be, will be."

Your greatest wish is to live each day a little better than the next.

You are naturally calm and stable. Some people would call you a rock.

You feel one with the world. You are a spiritual person, though no one who knows you would guess it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Hotel ...

My ALA conference blog posts have fallen a bit by the wayside due to my avoidance of all things computer. So, I have a bit of catching up to do. Attending ALA in Anaheim I followed my usual process of selecting a hotel; conference hotels were sold out and I utilized the map to locate properties near to the shuttle bus route. I finally settled on the Anaheim Plaza Hotel and Suites. It was across the street from Disneyland, had two stars from AAA, appeared nice on the hotel website, was within walking distance (though a bit of a hike) to the conference center if need be, and was next door to an ALA hotel with shuttle service.

All things considered and because I do not want to expend an entire post trashing this establishment, I will simply state I have stayed in less attractive places. Waiting for the shuttle on my return trip I spent time talking with another librarian who mentioned the place could be described "care worn." It was convenient and I could hear the fireworks at Disneyland, enough said.

My keyboard ... it's a sign

I have 28 more author information pages to complete before moving on to the next section of the resource center web page/library template project. It is well within my grasp to finish the entire conversion, create a menu include, and send it to the preview server (something I recently learned I have access to) this week; especially since I am scheduled to work Saturday (sigh). As I trudge along my merry way creating new template pages using keyboard shortcuts, I noted the advance decay of my laptop keyboard ...

and have been thankful for one summer school session during my youth when I learned basic typing and keyboarding skills. Because of this I "know" what key is positioned where and am not soley reliant on the visual. Yes, there are letters missing, worn-off from use.
U, I, O on the top row
H, K, L, on the second row
N and M on the bottom row

The space bar and "mouse" pad both look a bit worse for wear as well. An IT student technician ordered me a replacement keyboard, it was under warranty, and just recently told me it arrived several months ago; no word on why it's living there instead of on my computer. Go figure.

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's just me

A quick perusal of myBloglines account uncovered this post courtesy of Infodoodads, Is that site downforeveryoneorjustme? It is a way to see if a web site problem belongs to the site, or if it is inherent to only your computer. Naturally I had to try it, first with Amazon.

Not quite the response I was expecting, so I tried Blogger.

Great, I was just getting ready to post about this site and Blogger is reported down (it wasn't as this post proves). Now that I am batting a thousand, I decided to try Bloglines since I was successfully reading feeds from my account. Finally ...

All was not lost, it was fun to play with and thanks to Infodoodads I learned what it means to prairie-dog your cube neighbor. Since two of the sites said they were down when I had them open in other windows, I am left to wonder (and wander after lunch).

Libraries Build Communities

Photograph c. 2008, ALA, Libraries Build Communities

Happy librarians wearing dull gray t-shirts with blue grahic elements holding orange traffic cone colored bags smile merrily for the official ALA photographer. A long caption indeed, but not inaccurate. This photo, along with thanks and an evaluation form, arrived via email earlier this week. I believe it is the same picture featured in ALA Cognotes on Saturday, June 28th.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Paperclip technology

Beyond their traditional use, clipping papers together, I have found paperclips to be versatile, malleable, little tools. In a pinch, a paperclip will hold a skirt or slack hem in place. Unbend it and use the straight end to open a jammed CD drive on a computer. Though a golf tee works better, I have stuck large paperclips into the laminator to over-ride the fail safe and load film. Sure I am careful not to "stick it" anywhere inappropriately, but there are always a couple to be found when you need them.

This afternoon, however, is the first time I have used one on a computer monitor. Shortly after lunch, I had a student inform me a monitor was broken. The computer was on, you could see the green button glowing gleefully on the keyboard, but some genius had pushed the power button with gusto and it was jammed into the monitor casing. She kept telling me, "I don't understand, it's not that hard to turn on the screen." Be that as it may, it was well and truly stuck in the off position. Unwilling to place a help ticket for repair, thus condemning the computer workstation to innumerable days with an out-of-order sign, I tried using my keys. Alas, even the smallest was too big for the job. Not to be thwarted, I grabbed a paperclip off of the desk, unbent it, and used it to successfully free the button.

The students working nearby were oddly surprised (smile) and the potential freshman and her family touring the library and resource center at the time were suitably impressed. This is why I went to grad school, eh?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Recreational reads ....

There are three new titles in my recreational reading table this weekend. New releases from favorite authors and one unexpected collaborative project that was worth the purchase. Here they are:
  • Silent Thunder, by Iris and Roy Johansen
    "It was the assignment of a lifetime. . . . Brilliant marine architect Hannah Bryson has been given the job of a lifetime. A U.S. maritime museum has just acquired the decommissioned Soviet submarine Silent Thunder for public exhibition. It’s Hannah’s job to make sure that every single inch of the legendary nuclear attack sub is safe for the thousands of visitors anticipated. Enlisting the aid of her brother, Connor, they examine the enormous vessel and delve into its long---and lethal---history." - Amazon product description
  • Tribute, by Nora Roberts
    "Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is a long way from Hollywood. And that’s exactly how Cilla McGowan wants it. Cilla, a former child star who has found more satisfying work as a restorer of old houses, has come to her grandmother’s farmhouse, tools at her side, to rescue it from ruin. Sadly, no one was able to save her grandmother, the legendary Janet Hardy. An actress with a tumultuous life, Janet entertained glamorous guests and engaged in decadent affairs—but died of an overdose in this very house more than thirty years earlier. To this day, Janet haunts Cilla’s dreams. And during waking hours, Cilla is haunted by her melodramatic, five-times-married mother, who carried on in the public spotlight and never gave her a chance at a normal childhood. By coming east, rolling up her sleeves, and rehabbing this wreck of a house, Cilla intends to find some kind of normalcy for herself." - Amazon product description
  • Death Angel, by Linda Howard
    "In Linda Howard’s gifted hands, second chances, unexpected romance, and unrelenting action combine into a riveting new novel of suspense. In Death Angel, bad girls can wake up and trust their hearts, bad guys can fight for what’s right . . . and dying just might be the only way to change one’s life." Amazon product description
I finished Silent Thunder last night, more on that later, and will start Nora Robert's Tribute after Design Star (a disappointment this season). Summer reading is in full swing!

To early in OC

ALA scheduled their annual conference in Anaheim, Orange County, California, a week or so too early; we missed the 30th Annual Mooning of Amtrak festivities by a mere ten days! Seems this started twenty odd years ago when a patron at a nearby saloon said he'd buy a drink for anyone who went out and mooned the train (Mooning Amtrak Trains). What an interesting picture for AL Direct or ALA Cognotes that would have been! The website disclaimer reads ...

"Attending this event may be hazardous due to the large concentration of silly people cars, motorcycles, motorhomes, concrete vehicle wheel-stops, potholes & cracks in the road & parking-lots and dangerous pets. Everyone present is responsible for their own actions. If you trip on something, or hurt yourself, you alone are responsible. There is no one to sue. No one either promotes this nor charges admission. If you do come, act safely! If you're accident prone, please don't come, go somewhere else where you'll be safer. Neither Mugs Away Saloon, The City of Laguna Niguel nor Amtrak, nor Metrolink are responsible for this event, nor for assuring your safety. The City & the railroad would rather you didn't bother coming to this event. No one is carrying public liability insurance for this. Besides, would any insurance underwriter insure an event called, "Mooning Amtrak"?" - Mooning Amtrak Trains, Southern California.

You just can't make this stuff up!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Healthy lunch? Ha!

No, I have not been on vacation. Today's break in the conference-themed posts will be comprised of meandering musings and serve the purpose of publishing actual blog content.

Returning to work after ALA I was immediately plunged back into the library web page project. While patiently waiting for content to be delivered to me (ha, who am I kidding), I determined it would behoove me to practice using the university template on the resource center web site. As a part of the overall library web presence it will eventually need to conform, so why not do it first? It will provide me with the added benefit of opportunity to learn. Win - win.

I spent a solid week updating the resource center site. Since I am changing web structure, appearance, and content, with exception to the hours and staff pages, most of the content will remain stagnant until the new site is unveiled. Within each author page there are catalog links to books we own; it was necessary to check each of them for new purchases, new article resources, and dead web links. I have compiled over one hundred children's author and illustrator pages on the resource center site. A steady week of updates and the last thing I wanted to do was turn on my computer after work. Hence, the week without posts.

By the way, the new site now has a floating deadline of Thanksgiving break.

Today is my summer student worker's last day; she has been a wonderful resource. I admit to being humbled by her obvious appreciation of the job opportunity. She brought me a big bag of Dove chocolates and a lovely thank-you card this morning. I was able to offer opportunity for hours in the fall as a student worker or possibly GA. Time will tell.

With plenty of chocolate on my menu, I determined a more healthy fare for lunch would be a good decision. Perhaps a salad? That lasted until I saw today's special was taco salad. Goal of a lunch salad? Yes. Healthy fare to offset the chocolate overindulgence? Not so much.

On the way to lunch this afternoon I noticed a significant amount of chalk writing on the sidewalk outside the student center. One large area was dedicated to the following: "Welcome class of 2012!" Classes begin again in approximately six weeks.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy July 4th!

Have a hot dog.
Go see the fireworks.
Put your American flag outside.
Spend time with family and friends.
Thank you to those serving now for our freedom.

Enjoy the Independence Day holiday!

Post-conference ruminations

After any ALA Annual Conference there is a lot of chatter throughout the blogosphere as conference goers ruminate over their experiences. I have to admit to surprise regarding the number of people vocally dissatisfied with the conference venue, conference location, the length of a city block, the weather, and lastly the accommodations in Anaheim. Some reports have been rather harsh ranting about Disneyland, tourists, lack of restaurants, and even complaints about available bars in the area.

I will be the first to admit I was not thrilled with my hotel, but it was convenient to the conference center and next door to an ALA hotel on Gale's shuttle bus route. The conference center was spacious and included several shaded outdoor areas, as these photos display, where attendees could gather for gossip (oops, networking) breaks, phone calls, lunch, or even a nap. Only one of the five days in Anaheim had temperatures above the mid-eighties, so the outside venue was welcome.

When I arrived on Thursday afternoon it was necessary to walk to the conference center and register. Yes, it was hot. But it was hotter in Ohio when I left that morning. Yes, it was a bit of a hike from my charming hotel to the conference center. But the walk was welcome after five hours sitting on my behind in an airplane. Yes, I was a bit frustrated that on my return trip to the hotel most of the restaurants did not open until five. But I grabbed a value meal at a local Subway and beverages at the 7-11 across the street. A plethora of restaruants were in the resort area, in fact ALA's Dine Around series chose Thai, Italian, Mexican, California Cuisine, and good old American for participants. Anaheim was not unlike any large city, there were good, bad, and generic chain restaurants for all.

Walking was an option between all but a few of the conference hotels, specifically the Disneyland Hotel. And yes, the size of a city block was astronomical. Those are not things a conference committee can control. I enjoyed the Anaheim venue and was reminded how magical a family vacation could be, especially with the excitement Disney creates in it's smallest fans. Watching the children bounce with glee in the morning as they crossed the street to the park made me smile.

Yesterday's AL Direct noted there were upwards of 22,000 in Anaheim; down from the 26,000 + in Washington, DC last year and up from the 18,000 + in New Orleans. I am not convinced the location is solely responsible for this decline in attendance. There are other factors to consider. Not a contented flyer, I hesitated due to the sheer amount of travel time involved (a statement that will undoubtedly make any west cost librarian shake their head in pity). Then there is the economy, cost of travel was significantly higher (and not only due to location) and many libraries are facing budget cuts making funds less available for professional development. A relative newbie to the large converence experience, I may be a bit naive. But I felt this conference had a bit more to offer in sessions and content than DC last year, and New Orleans the year before; none of it had to do with the location.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Libraries Build Communities 2008

According to ALA Cognotes (Issue 1, June 28, 2008) from Anaheim, more than 100 conference attendees participated in this year's Libraries Build Communities effort on Friday, June 27th.

"Volunteers were dispatched to thirteen project sites in the Anaheim area to illustrate the importance and influence local libraries can have on their communities." -- ALA Cognotes.

Participants gathered early Friday morning in the convention center garden to receive project locations. Prior to the conference I somewhat blindly, i.e. I did not know what task would be assigned, selected an elementary school library. When assignments were handed out, I learned we would be - gasp - cataloging! It has literally been years since I copy cataloged at a public library. I immediately volunteered to do technical services book processing by adding spine labels, bar codes, and reading levels to each book.

We worked efficiently for most of the day, stopping only for lunch (Dominoes pizza with ALA supplied coupons) and scrumptious treats (chocolate and items of a healthier fare) provided by our librarian hostess . At the end of the afternoon, an entire table of freshly cataloged juvenile books were added to the school's library collection. An added bonus? I got to browse through the purchased titles while processing - and - was able to gossip with librarians from academic, school, and public libraries. Not the profoundly necessary work done at ALA in New Orleans, on it's own scale it was both needed and appreciated by our host librarian.

Wondering about the man on the balcony pictured above? I took a picture of the official photographer taking our picture before leaving. Corny, but I could not (didn't even try to) resist.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Books, backpacks & autographs

I promised myself this would be the year I would refrain from gleefully and greedily grabbing every free book offered by publishers in the exhibit hall. I did not want to drag them to sessions, back to my hotel room, or through the airport and on to the plane. Eager to stick to this missive I did not even take my bright orange day-glo ALA Anaheim Conference tote (it really is department of transportation orange barrel orange) to "The Stacks." Satisfied with my personal declaration, I shared it with various friends along the way.

I lasted until happening upon the Scholastic Publishing booth. Though they were selling more than giving away, I did snag a 39 Clues book bag and thought ... "I will only take as many books as will fit comfortably into this book bag" and NOT make me wander through the remainder of the day as a hunch back. A bit less smug than anticipated, here they are:

Juvenile/YA fiction ARC's:

Regular fiction and non-fiction ARC's:

Not ARC's, these books are already in technical services destined for the library collection. All three are probably more suited for a public library, and point of fact are located in several nearby public collections, but the two juvenile biographies will work in my collection as well.
The autograph? I was dragging my bookbag toward the exhibits exit when a nice man from Harper Collins publishing handed me a paperback copy of Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I politely declined with thanks, stating I owned the hardback edition. His reply? She's currently autographing these paperback copies, take another! I was thrilled. The long line moved quickly; Ms. Phillips very gracious and, if I may say so, snazzily garbed in a trendy animal print dress. I now have an autographed book in my paperback collection and know that her next novel, What I Did for Love, has a February 2009 release date.

Flying the friendly skies

Thursday morning's wake-up was an unfathomable 5:00 am. My bags were packed and ready to roll; I was on the road at 5:30 am, in the dark, traveling at reasonable speeds, with only trucks for company. An 8:05 am departure meant providing myself enough time for traffic (almost non-existent at that hour), possible delays (construction at the airport parking lots), parking (wonderfully bereft of issue), airline check-in (frightfully friendly for the hour of the day), and security (quick and without smiles). The puddle jump flight from Columbus to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was quick, free of turbulence, and on-time.

Chicago was bustling even at 7:30 am, but soon they were herding countless laughing librarians like cattle, loading the charming Boeing 757 destined for John Wayne International Airport, Orange County, California. All buckled into our seats we backed slowly away from the gate when the captain announced the "tow bar" had broken off from the gate and we needed to wait for maintenance to bring a new bar and check the nose for any damage. My first thought? How important is the tow bar? Second thought? Yes, please make sure the nose is fine before we take off for a three hour and fifty-minute flight!

All was well as we cruised over the mid-west. From the airplane window, even though I dislike flying I oddly enough enjoy the window seat, it is always disconcerting to look out and see clouds below. Even more so being high enough in the air to see the curvature of the earth! We landed in Orange County over the Pacific Ocean, so I was able to at least see it from my window seat in the sky. Things went smoothly upon landing. I gathered my belongings, deplaned, located a restroom, gathered my suitcase, took a quick photo of the John Wayne statue, and was quickly directed to an airport shuttle to my hotel (more on the hotel later). Less than an hour after landing I was checking in to my hotel and destined for the convention center to register.

If possible, my return trip was even less eventful. The super shuttle arrived on time, our driver was a comedian trying to convince us we were headed to LAX, check-in lines were at a minimum, security checks went smoothly (even for the girl with a cat), and I had ample opportunity to call home before boarding for Chicago. Tow-bar intact the pilot informed us take-off from Orange County airports were different due to the noise ordinance; we would be departing at a relatively steep incline and he would be throttling back the engines to reduce noise. O-kay. No worries, I got an even better photo of the Pacific Ocean and we were on our way with free soft drinks and opportunity to purchase three dollar cookies and six dollar sandwiches in our near future.

Do you ever wonder why pilots feel the need to tell you what state you are currently flying over? It's not like we can see someone on the ground holding a flag that says "welcome to Missouri." But, I digress.

I did the airport dash at O'Hare Monday evening since the big 757 landed at one end and the tiny little American Eagle Express bound for Columbus took off at the other end of the concourse. I made the boarding time with three minutes - and a bathroom trip - to spare. There was a beautiful sunset outside the airplane window, yes a window seat again, that I could not resist. I have another shot without the airplane wing, however I liked this one better. Flying the friendly skies, the portion of my journey filled with the most angst, was not only painless, but on time with accompanying luggage.