Monday, June 30, 2008

FEMA: Hire these People!

Friday through Sunday, June 27-29, I was at a conference (aka jamboree, which reminds me of hayrides and square dancing) in Burbank put on by the Southern California Genealogical Society. At one presentation, the bulb on what I guess is still called the projector sparked out -- the projector was hooked up to the speaker's laptop to put up the power point presentation or whatever it was. In two minutes or less, one of the Society's members was there with a new projector! I've never seen such a response.

It made me realize something else they had been doing: each of the conference rooms had a holder outside its entry door(s) giving the title of the session. At some point after a session began, the members were taking down the sign for the one going on, and putting up the sign for the next session. That meant that as soon as you left one room, you could easily find the room for the next session. (And yes, the daily schedule also had the room name and number, but the titles of the sessions helped too.)

And as a third great thing, the daily speaker schedules not only showed the time, room name/number, speaker name, and title of session, they also showed the page number in the syllabus (200 plus pages, I think) for the speaker's handout. On top of that, the person introducing each speaker included the page number for the speaker's bio page in the syllabus. (And was nice enough not to read the bios in their entirety -- each intro took only about two minutes, including a request to turn off cell phones.)

That sociey could teach FEMA a thing or two, or one thousand. Put them together with a cadre of Eagle Scouts and they could revolutionize the world.

Not in Kansas -- or in Northern California

Friday, June 27th, I flew into Burbank (Bob Hope Airport at Burbank) for a conference at the Burbank Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. I haven't flown to Burbank since the 1960s.

Just as in the 1960's, passengers exit the planes (or at least Southwestern's planes) by exterior stairs, then walk a short distance to the terminal. Later, at the hotel, I saw displayed lots of photos from the 1940s and earlier of various famous people posing for photos on those same types of stairs. Back to the future!

Having walked to the terminal, I knew it wasn't the 110 degrees out that had been reported for the San Fernando Valley the previous week. I decided I would walk to the hotel, which from my conference-supplied map looked very close by. To check on that, as I was leaving the terminal, I asked an employee of some sort if it was possible to walk to the Marriott. He looked stunned, and after a minute said, "It's a good eight-minute walk. There is a hotel shuttle."

I, probably also looking stunned, asked if there was a sidewalk all the way, and he said yes. I also asked if there were street lights at the intersection, and he said yes. Encouraged by this, I resolutely set out on my good eight-minute trek on the smooth flat surface and survived to tell the tale.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Living in a Card Shop, Thank Heavens

In my periodic meanderings through thrift stores, I look for postcards, notecards, and greeting cards. I sometimes buy retail versions of those things too -- my preferred site for buying greeting cards these days is the Dollar Tree, where they have very decent cards for fifty cents each.

I stopped by the Dollar Tree last night to pick up a few things, not including cards. The local paper (not the SF Chronicle) in the newspaper vending machine next to the door had on the front page a story about a county elected official who is to marry his male partner today. I used to work with the official more than twenty years ago, so I was pleased to see the news. My mind then shut off: here I am, in the store with good (and cheap) greeting cards. But do I purchase a card for them? No.

On the way out, I even stop and write down the name of the official's future spouse. Do I go back in and buy a card? No.

So, at home, after 9pm, I suddenly think: I should send them a card. Duh!

I then decide that surely I must have something on hand that would be suitable. First stop: Bollywood postcards, using photos of the film industry in India from the book Bollywood Dreams by Jonathan Torgovni. (Link is to a gallery exhibit of some of the photos.) I definitely have one possibility: two actors, looking like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, in matching costumes that I can't quite place in time and space, but looking vaguely, I guess, like Indian soldiers of many centuries ago -- or maybe just like palace guards. They're waiting for filming, and one of them has a glass of milk. Well, no, not the right card: I sent another copy to a gay couple last Halloween, with a message saying I hope they have spiffy costumes. This card is not serious enough for the occasion.

A quick skim through the box with cards and postcards doesn't show anything suitable. By now, of course, I am fixated on the idea that I MUST send the card out early this morning, rather than buying one when the stores open.

Then I thought: don't I have something in the folder with monthly pockets in it for cards? (I realize this makes me seem pathetic, but, hey, I'm a librarian, and we like to organize things. At least my books at home aren't in call number order.) And, indeed, the folder does yield something: it's in the pocket for next January (for future use on New Year's) and it's a postcard with a turn-of-the-century photo of two men in tuxes, each with a bottle of champagne, one of which is being held in a toast. The image was probably from an advertisement for champagne -- neither man looks tipsy. Perfect for a congratulatory note, although I can picture Miss Manners swooning at my failure to just write a note in black ink on white or cream paper. (Which I also have, somewhere.)

I put the postcard, with a suitable note, in an envelope (to lend gravitas) and sent it to the official's office this morning. Thank heavens for living in a card shop, of sorts.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Mechanics, quantum and automotive

A colleague is going to Pasadena this weekend for the California Senior Games, which is the qualifying event for next year's nation-wide Senior Games. (We both find it odd that an athletic meet for seniors has a one-year lag between qualifying and the meet itself ---- does everyone qualified in the 80 yrs and up age range always show up at the nationals a year later?)

The state games are in Pasadena. When I asked her where the events were held, she said at some technical college in Pasadena. After a few moments of thought, I asked her if by any chance she meant the California Institute of Technology. She said yes, that's where it was. I explained that calling it a technical college isn't quite accurate: future Nobelists, not auto technicians, are getting their undergrad and grad degrees there in quantum and other non-automotive mechanics.

We both had a good laugh. For me, it also brought back some very fond memories of dating guys in Ricketts House (dorms are houses at Cal Tech) many many years ago --- could it really be that long ago, or has the space-time continuum gone awry? So far, no Nobelists (or automotive techs) among those I dated, but one lawyer, one last heard of in law school at an advanced age, and an anthropology/ linguistics professor.