Saturday, March 29, 2008

Last day of PLA and vacation

The third and final day of PLA was a short one. I attended two fascinating sessions, one on interior Library design, and the other on the Librarian's image in the media. That one was hysterical! Librarians have a strange cultural iconography, where we are sometimes viewed as prissy, thin lipped, with our hair in a tight bun and glowering behind small glasses; other times, we are viewed as the hidden seductress, prim and proper until we pull our hair out of the bun and whip off the glasses in one smooth move. The lecture I attended had tons of examples of the Librarian in the media- be it from books, movies, television, and advertisements. It was fascinating and funny to see all the different ways we've been portrayed!

After that enjoyable lecture, I bid farewell to PLA, but not to a library vacation entirely! I once more met up with my good friend Andie, and we took a tour of Minneapolis's new downtown library! It was a huge building that was visually interesting. I was impressed with all the fun details in the children's department, like huge, beautiful dragonflies hanging from the ceiling, and artful end caps on all the bookcases. A librarian's vacation is never complete without a visit to a library!

After our library visit, we all (me, Andrew, my Mom, and Andie) went out to a fantastic dinner at an Italian restaurant. The food was Divine, the company great, and the atmosphere wonderful! The restaurant was full of old architectural elements, and I couldn't get enough of them! What a way to end a day in Minneapolis, and what a way to end PLA!

Despite PLA being over with, our vacation was not. On our way home, we went straight passed my Mom's very best friend Diva's house, thus making a perfect opportunity to visit! It was great to see Diva again- growing up, she was like a second mother to me. She's always fun to see and spend time with. I just wish I had more time on the trip to visit with her, but Andrew and I were only able to stay for a few hours before we left for a small, mini vacation at a nearby resort to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Mom stayed with Diva so they had time to catch up without the kids around.

The resort Andrew and I stayed at was lovely. We had a fun suite that was bear themed, complete with a fireplace and a balcony. We had a great time together, relaxing and reminiscing over the years we've been married. We're still insanely happy together :)

This was the view outside our balcony,

but this was my favorite view of all:

Along the way at our resort, we also stumbled upon this vending machine, which had us both laughing hysterically:
"Your choice for healthy eating!" but the machine was filled to the brim with junk food!
It was a lovely way to end our trip, and the next morning we picked up my Mom, and hit the road home, happy and content with a fun trip.

Oh, and remember our lovely SUV we rented? Well, here's the trunk before we left for PLA:

and here's the trunk after:

What a great trip!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Blogging PLA Day 3

The third day of my PLA extravaganza bloomed bright and early for me. I had my very conference session of the day at 8:30 a.m. The session was about musical storytimes, and let me tell you, nothing wakes you up more than sitting in a room with over a hundred other children's' librarians, clapping and singing along to silly songs! It was great fun, really informative, and left me with a wealth of new ideas.

Afterwards, I rushed down to the exhibit hall to meet up with Andrew and my mom who were already browsing the aisles, seeing what was new and exciting. I spent a few gleeful hours talking to vendors, looking at new books, meeting new people, and having a grand time, before I rushed off to my next session, all about new technology and how the library might integrate it.

Following that program, I went to one of the programs I was really looking forward to- a luncheon presentation with Nancy Pearl, my librarian idol. She's simply super cool, and even has her own action figure. She started the now nation wide program called "One Book, One City" and all its incarnates. She's authored some fantastic books called Book Lust, More Book Lust, and Book Crush. She gave an inspirational speech about the role of books in her life, and the "dangers" of being a book lover- "dangers" like thinking you are from the 18th century after reading an historical novel, saying words incorrectly that you've only read, and not wanting a book to end. By the end of her talk, I was once more enthralled with books and reading and my profession.

After that, I spent a hectic 45 minutes once again roaming the exhibit hall (I am an addict of the exhibit hall, I confess!), before rushing off to another exciting event of all: Authors Readers Theater! This was a presentation by Sarah Weeks, Avi, Brian Selznick, and Pam Munoz Ryan- all fantastic authors of children's literature. Together they put on wonderful spoken word performances of each others work. It was inspiring and uplifting, their voices blended beautifully and the stories really came to life. In particular, Selznick's awarding winning illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret became cinematic in nature, as slides from the books flashed behind the authors as they read their parts. I left thoroughly enchanted with each and every one of the authors- and I got a book signed by each, too!

By the time the program was over, the whole day had passed by, and it was nearly evening. Mom, Andrew and I headed back to our hotel, laden down with fantastic books, to rest for awhile, but not for long. Andrew and I were jetting off to an all conference reception! Once there, we met up with friends, enjoyed a strange but delicious meal (Hot dogs on sticks, steak, casseroles, ham, potato salads and lots more), listened to some music, watched librarians dancing, and had a great time talking with everyone around. By the time the party ended, I was thoroughly exhausted, but thoroughly happy!

Another PLA day over and done with, and more fond memories than I can possibly record.

Book Count: 101!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Roaming Minneapolis...

The PLA adventures continue...

After our exciting arrival in Minneapolis the day before, Andrew, my mom and I were eager to jump right in and explore the city on our first full day in the city. The convention actually didn't start until 4 p.m., so we had the whole day to explore the city. We had poured through brochure and identified several places we wanted to visit, and we set out bright and early to begin our adventure.

The first place on our list was the American Swedish Institute. It was housed in a castle! We were really excited to check this place out. It took us a while to find the place, being unfamiliar with the city, but before too long, we found ourselves in front the lovely museum. Just as we were circling the place to find a parking spot, I- the ever observant librarian- happened to look at the brochure we had for the museum and notice when itty bitty little problem. It was 9 a.m., and the museum didn't open until 12 p.m. Whoops!

Quick change of plans! We quickly consulted our list of places to visit, and decided to visit the Minnesota Center of the Book Arts. A place dedicated to books! Perfect! What a way to spend a book-centered vacation. Once more, we navigated our way to the Center, which was on the other side of the city. Once there, we quickly found a parking space and made our way into the Center.

The first thing we noticed when we entered was that the place was quiet- almost too quiet. There was a little cafe in the Center off to the side with only one person working the counter, and one customer sipping a drink inside. Interesting. We looked to the other side of the Center, and saw that the place was dark. It seemed that while the Center's Cafe and Lobby were open, the actual Center was not.

Quick change of plans!

We were quickly realizing that exploring Minneapolis might best be a thing done on a weekend, not a weekday morning. But we were out and about, and we wanted to do something! Once more, I scoured our list of things we wanted to see and do in the city. This time, I paid attention to the opening times of places we wanted to see (Third time's a charm!). Everything we were interested in opened late except one place, so we decided that it would be our destination.

The place: The Cathedral of Saint Paul.

In a word, the Cathedral was beautiful. It stood high atop Summit Hill in Saint Paul, with breathtaking views of the city all around. It's Renaissance inspired architecture took my breath away. Inside was a peace and calm that truly did make one feel closer to heaven. I found the place so lovely that honestly, I don't think my words only can describe what I felt, and only my pictures can provide a half way adequate description of what I saw. Please enjoy!

When we were finished enjoy the enchanting Cathedral, we decided that rather than try our luck at another attraction, we were in need of some retail therapy. We went downtown and started to explore the area.

Of course, book lovers that we are, we did manage to find the city's bookstores, including a delightful used and antique bookstore. There, despite the fact that we would soon be scouring the aisles of the convention center for free books, we did find one gem of a book we couldn't live without: the special edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Andrew and I are huge fans of the series and have taken to collecting various versions of all seven novels, from special editions to foreign volumes.All along the shopping district were sculptures that really brought life to the street.

I was particularly captivated by this one:

Andrew, however, really was inspired by this statue of Minneapolis's own Mary Tyler Moore:

After shopping, all three of us were starved! So, we looked around for a place to eat. One place in particular called out to us, or rather to Andrew: The NBA City Restaurant. Andrew is a huge basketball fan, so this place was like nirvana to him. My mom and I could care less about sports- particularly basketball- but seeing Andrew's face when he saw that NBA City was a restaurant was too much to resist, so we decided to check it out.

It was a fun place that really embraced its theme, but not in an over the top way, as a matter of fact, it was quiet tastefully decorated and had a gourmet menu. I was particularly enthralled with the actual menu from the place- it's cover was made from a basketball! Even though I'm not a fan of basketball, I couldn't help but enjoy myself!

After our tasty meal, it was time to hit the convention center. The exhibits were opening, and we wanted to be there when the doors opened! We weren't the only ones, however, the place was swarming with librarians eager to hit the stacks as the exhibit hall was called. To keep us occupied, there was an om pah band playing which created a, shall we say, interesting, atmosphere.

When the doors opened, the stampede began! Librarians literally swarmed in the doors, rushing to get to their favorite booths. Some booths had sent out fliers and coupons, offering special prizes and giveaways to the first 50 people who showed up to their booth, so there was a lot of mad rushing to the desired booth. Not one to be left out, I, too, had a desired booth to hit, craving to be one of the first 50, and I was! My reward for my efforts? A nifty little tote bag filled with candy, a paperweight, and a slinky! Yes- it was definitely worth it!

After that, the floor passed by in a blur. There were so many booths! Among my favorites was Harper Collins, a publisher that really goes all out for librarians. They always have fantastic authors visiting and lots of free books! I also really loved the Romance Writers of America's booth. Although I am not always a fan of romance novels, this association goes all out for librarians and always has the nicest and friendly booth in the stacks. No matter when you stop by there is always an author there, signing books for free, and lots of other books- signed as well- for the taking. You are always assured of a warm welcome and a fun conversation. And you know what? The books they were giving away? They were awesome! Romance novels have come a long way from the days of Fabio covers.

The stacks were only open for 2 hours, but we sure made those most of those two hours! We had bags of books and made many trips out to the car to drop them off! By the time the stacks closed, we were wiped, but there was still more to do!Andrew has an aunt and uncle who live near the Twin Cities, and we went to meet them for a lovely meal out. I absolutely adore Andrew's family, so it was a fun time. They took us around the city and showed us some places we might not have otherwise seen, like a beautiful park with waterfalls! Andrew and I could have spent hours gazing at the beautiful surroundings.

We had such a delightful time with Andrew's family, that we were reluctant to say good night and goodbye, but the time was swiftly passing us by, and it was almost 11 p.m. by the time we got back to our hotel. Whew! We were tired.... but we still had another long day ahead of us! The very next day, the convention started in full swing! Stay tuned for more details.

Book Count of the Day: 100

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

So a librarian does what on vacation?

Recently, I decided to take a vacation. I needed a chance to get away for awhile, have some fun, relax. Yes, I needed an escape.

So where did I decide to go to get away from it all?

To Minnesota... For a library convention- the Public Library Association (PLA) to be exact.

Yes, my idea of getting away from it all is to spend my free time at a conference devoted to my profession. What can I say- I really LOVE my job!

I happen to find library conferences to be quite fun. There are always interesting programs, fascinating people, and terrific events to attend. And, my absolute favorite thing about library conferences is the exhibit floor. Aisle upon aisle of vendors with books- lots and lots of books. The best part about all those books? A vast majority are free! Yes- FREE! It's heaven for a book lover!

As I'm not the only book lover in my family, I was joined on vacation by Andrew and my mom (where do you think my love of books came from?). Yet, right away, we were aware of a problem. Three adults, all book lovers, traveling together to a convention where lots of books will be given away- for free!- and only itty-bitty cars to our names. What to do, what to do?

Our answer: Rent a massive SUV to travel in!

Isn't it pretty?

Sure, we felt a little silly at first, driving that big SUV in the hopes of returning home with a ton of books, but we got use to it. The SUV was actually fun to drive. It provided great views of the road, handled awesomely, and had really cool features, like a CD player you could control from the steering wheel! We made full use of that CD player, but listening to John Irving's Until I Find You on the long drive to Minnesota.

Along the way, we also found time to stop at cheesy (literally!) tourist attractions, like these:

After a long and enjoyable ride (the audio book was great fun to listen to!), we arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our hotel was in the heart of downtown, a great location. It had everything: a nice restaurant, a pool, a hot tub, a bar called Timbuktu (I just love that name!), and Internet lab, and a designer with questionable tastes!

Questionable tastes? How so? Well, basically, our hotel room was the most clash happy hotel room we had ever seen. Leopard print curtains and checked carpets, crazy art deco mirrors and tan-colored laminate furniture. Let your eyes burn on these images from our, um, charming room- oh, and yes, these patterns were all side by side in all their garish glory:

When our eyes had finished adjusting to the room, we decided to run over to the convention center to pick up our registration packets for the conference. These packets are like gold to me- they contain the keys to the conference: your badge, your programs, your tickets to special events, and sometimes, if you are lucky, some sweet freebies. This was one of those occasions were the registration packet had some really sweet freebies in it- namely, two books! They were James Patterson's first two Maximum Ride novels- a series I found to be a fun and addicting ride, great for a quick read.

After we registered, we met up with a friend of mine (and fellow blogger!) Andie for a little exploring of Minneapolis and some dinner. We found a great little downtown neighborhood, with lots of neat restaurants, and our eyes were immediately drawn to a very interesting looking restaurant called The Bad Waitress.

It was a hip sort of cafe, that lived up to its name by having you, its customer, fill out your own order and bring it up to the counter to the cook. The walls were filled with images from old B movies and comics, and the booths were retro looking red and black numbers. They made a mean hamburger- really delicious!

After dinner, Andie and I said goodbye to Andrew and my Mom and headed over to the first event of the convention- a party for an ALA (American Library Association) presidential candidate. It was fun and interesting to meet a candidate and all of her supporters. I was also thrilled to meet the current ALA president. That's why conference rock- you never know who you are going to meet!

By the time the party came to a close, it was almost midnight and I was tired. Andie and I bid each other good night, and headed back to our hotels. I was beat- it was a long, fun day, but I just knew the next day would hold even more for me (and more free books!)!

Book Count of the Day: 2

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Small Little Adventure

Every now and then Andrew and I enjoy making a mini escape to Japan. Its always a fascinating adventure when we go, full of interesting things and exciting finds. We try to go once a month, and if we're lucky, we can go twice!

Well, actually, our little trip to Japan is to a charming little Japanese mall about 45 minutes away from where we live. It has a large grocery store, a bakery, a food court, video store, liquor store, travel agent, and a book store. We love to wander in and out of the various sections, seeing what we can find. Every time we go, we make it a point to try something new, along with picking up some of our favorite treasures (like Pocky and Curry- yum!).

We just took a mini-vacation a few days ago, and I thought you all might enjoy seeing the souvenirs we brought back with us, sharing in some of the strange and unique things we found on our trip.

These are a trio of tasty fruit drinks that Andrew and I love. On one of our visits to the shopping center, they were having a sample fest and these were some of the items we tried, and we fell in love with them. The green one is a grape juice, which has a light taste and, surprisingly, is filled with whole, peeled grapes. It creates a delicious combination. The orange can is a Mango juice, also with pieces of mango in the juice. The white can is a mystery- it simply looked to good to pass up!

On a sale table, for $1.25, we found these interesting treats. They are mini jelly cups! The jelly is a little like Jello, but with a slightly bitter taste to it, just a hint of seaweed, no matter the flavor. The cups, slightly bigger than a quarter, come in apple, peach, cherry, strawberry, and pineapple.

These interesting snacks caught me eye. They appeared to be a thin rice cake with a sweet frosting on them, and interesting combination. However, when I bit into one, that sweet frosting was actually salty! These treats need a healthy dose of water to wash them down with!

Andrew saw this snack, and couldn't resist trying it. It looked like frosted flakes, a favorite cereal of his. When we tried it, however, it proved to be quite different, but very tasty. It had the texture and consistency of a fortune cookies, with a little bitter bite of ginger in it, with a sweet frosted coating. Yum!

This is one of our favorite treats, found in the bakery portion of the mall. It's the Japanese equivalent of a hot dog. The hot dog is baked into a sweet roll coated with mustard and ketchup on top. It is a perfect combination, the salty hot dog, balanced by the sweet roll, and with a bit of a tang from the ketchup and mustard. Your taste buds will sing trying this out!

No visit to the mall would be complete without a visit to the bookstore. Granted, I can't read 99% of what's in the bookstore, but I love looking. This time, I couldn't resist picking this magazine up. It's huge! The spine is literally 4 inches thick. Wow!

I can't read the magazine, but I like to imagine what the pages say. I wonder what's going on it this panel. The girl looks angry- maybe she's yelling at me for spending money on something I can't read? Or maybe telling me its about time I learned Japanese?

Included with the magazine was a little gift. Apparently some magazines, particularly comic ones, come with gifts. So, you get something fun to read and a present! I recieved a cell phone strap with interchangeable decorations. They're from a popular Anime series called "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya." I think they're rather cute.

That's it for now! I hope you enjoyed our mini-vacation to Japan!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Train Man

Just the other day, Andrew and I watched a delightful film called Train Man, or, in its original Japanese title, Densha Otoko. It is based on a supposedly true story that happened in 2004 and has captured Japan's heart, and has had books, mangas, a TV series, and now a movie based on it.

Densha Otoko tells the story of a young man and his quest to win the woman of his dreams. Yet this young man is no ordinary young man, rather he is a self proclaimed otaku. In Japanese culture, an otaku is somewhat of a social pariah. They are what Americans might call geeks, but even more so. Otaku are obsessed with certain cultural phenomena, like music, electronics, or anime. They are often portrayed as socially inept, hygienically challenged, and very strange. In Japan, to be called an otaku is considered a severe insult, although here in America anime and manga fans have embraced the term otaku for themselves proudly.

The story starts in 2004 on an online bulletin board (like a chat room) called 2channel when a user user named Train_Man posts a story about what happened to him that day on the train. A drunk business man was harassing several woman on the evening train, and Train_Man, usually shy and quiet, surprised even himself when he stood up to defend the women. He managed to subdue the drunk and went with the women to the police station. After their police interviews, all the women wanted his name and address so they could send him a thank you note for his gallantry, including one lovely young woman who took Train_Man's breath away. He posts his story on 2channel in hopes of receiving help on what to do next, should anything happen, and just to share his story with some friends, strangers though they may be.

Then, just a few days after his first post he comes back to the board with more news. The pretty girl from the train has indeed sent him a thank you for his help, and its not just a card, but a package. At the urging of the users of 2channel, he opens the package and discovers a set of two tea cups. Describing the details of the teacups to his readers, he tells them that the manufacturer is a company called Hermes. He has no clue what that means, but again, the users of the chat room fill him in on the fact that it is a well known, very expensive company from England. The users of 2channel then encourage Train_Man to call the woman, now known as Hermes, and invite her out to dinner to thank her for such a generous gift. They then guide him on what to wear, how to act, where to go for dinner, and what to say. They are the fairy godmothers of Train_Man's tale, helping change him from an otaku into a prince.

What is charming about this film is how earnest Train_Man is in his quest to win Hermes's heart. His efforts to change himself are endearing, and you can tell that he is changing himself not just for Hermes, but for himself as well. You really feel for Train_Man as he fumbles through his dates and all the awkwardness of first love.

You also become involved with the users of 2channel, who appear not just as anonymous users on a computer screen, but as real people. One user is a nurse who seems to be trying to heal a broken heart. Another user is a tired business man, almost cynical with life, but Train_Man's story brings him hope. Another is a woman who seems tired of her life as a housewife. Yet one more user is actually three people combined- a group of otaku who view Train_Man as the representative of otaku everywhere, and take his trials and tribulations to heart, and engage in wild fantasies illustrating just that notion.

Train_Man is a movie with heart. I had a smile on the entire time I watched the film. It was a sweet love story and a fascinating glimpse into another culture. If you are looking for a bit of whimsy in your life, this is the film for you. Whether or not it is even a true story doesn't matter, as it gives you a sense of hope that there is a love for everyone out there in the world.

PS- if you do watch the film, be sure to sit through the credits for an amusing little bonus scene at the end!