Grateful to young black men

Funny things, stereotypes.  You have a few encounters with people and decide they typify everybody who shares their characteristics.  So you make quick judgments about people you've never met.  If the stereotypes get deep enough under your skin, and you meet people who don't match them, you decide that they must just be exceptions.

When Lynn and I travel by car, as we did recently on our two week trip to Wisconsin and back, we stop every couple of hours for gas, or a sandwich, or a restroom break.  And there I'll be, unfolding Guido, my 3-wheeled walker, from the back of the car, struggling my way to the door of the gas station or rest stop or McDonald's (McDonald's being my default because the restroom is always in the same place and there's usually a handicapped parking place near the door nearest to it.)

People are generally lovely.  I can manage most doors myself, but often there will be someone who'll notice and hold one open for me.  And most consistently, that someone will be a young black man.  It's so consistent, in fact, that as I'm making my way toward the building, if there's a black dude coming up behind me, or about to exit the place, I feel myself relax a bit, because I'm sure he'll get the door.  Certainly, many of the other people who might be around are likely to help.  But I don't count on them the way I've come to count on the black guys.  

I have a theory about this.  If you know that your skin color and your sex strike a visceral fear in a large segment of the population, and that because of that fear they see you as a threat, and that because of that threat you are a target and are vulnerable, you pay attention to everyone around you.  You're exceptionally alert, because your life might depend on it.  You got the talk from your Mom or your Dad or your grandmother or the uncle who took you under his wing.  You don't make a big deal of it.  Much of the time maybe you don't even think about it.  It's not a conscious thing, it's just part of how you carry yourself.  So you're going to notice the old white dude with the black hat and the scraggly white beard struggling his way toward the door.  It takes less than half a second to see that you're probably safe from him and because you were raised right, of course you're going to wait and hold the door.  Maybe you're even going to pick up your step to get past him to get to the door first.  You probably won't make eye contact, you don't really think about it.  It's just the right thing to do.  When he looks at you and grins and says thank you, maybe you'll give him a quick nod.

I certainly don't mean to minimize the extraordinary kindness and helpfulness of so many people that we run into.  My affliction offers me wondrous opportunities daily to marvel at the generosity of people.  But the fact remains that for many people I'm invisible.  They're not unkind or neglectful when they let the door swing back at me or when they push past me in a way that almost knocks me down.  They'd be chagrined if they noticed.  But they don't need to notice.  

I'm never invisible to the black guys.  I'm grateful for that.  But I know it's because they can't afford the risk.


We Are Librarians

He's in the family room, half dozing over his evening scotch.  He's feeling pleasantly sluggish from the football game and the beer.  His team won.  Now the kids are watching their latest favorite show.  He's not paying attention, hears the voices drift in and out.  Some silly sci-fi something.  Some group of quirky, not quite normal eccentrics, out to save the world.  Snatches of dialog drift in. 

"Who are you people?"

"We're librarians."

He snaps awake.  The memory comes back.  The one that has mystified him all these years.  Oh my god!  They're real!  I met them!


It was 2000.  I'd gotten one of those Marriott timeshare offers -- 5 nights in a deluxe villa near Disneyworld for some ridiculously cheap price.  The only catch was that before you left you had to sit through the hour-long sales pitch.  Why not?  We like Disneyworld.  We'd bring Marian along.  We'd be polite during the pitch.  Hell, maybe we'd even buy in after all (this was just before we found Lynn's dreamhouse).

The villas were quite nice and the vacation was lovely.  By the time we entered the sales office on the morning of our departure we were in a mellow mood.  We weren't inclined to buy, but we were willing to have them try.  It was all relaxed and low-key.  First a video, then we sat down with the very nice, professional agent.  He asked us questions about our likes and dislikes, trying to sort out which of his categories to slot us into.  No, we didn't golf or ski.  No watersports.  More interested in cities than mountains or beaches.  He flipped through the album of pictures of the various properties.

He started to talk about financing options, but Lynn stopped him.  "If we do this, we'll probably just pay cash." An eyebrow went up.  We could see him mentally recalibrating.

So do you travel much?  Quite a bit, actually.  And is that for business or pleasure?  A pretty even mix of both.

And what do you like to do when you're traveling?

"Have lunch," said Lynn.  He looked confused.  I elaborated, "If it's a day when neither of us is working, we'll sleep late and then try to find a nice place for a leisurely lunch.  Then maybe a bit of sightseeing or a museum.  Find an interesting restaurant for dinner and then maybe a local dive bar for drinks and some live music.  That'd be kind of a perfect day."

I could see that we weren't making this easier for him.  "So where have you been in the last year?"

"Oh, let me think...  Chicago, Cairo, New Orleans..." (It had been a particularly busy year). "London & Paris, Vancouver... DC, Charleston, Bucharest..."

He looked back and forth at the two of us as we sat quietly smiling at his perplexity.  "I'm sorry," he said.  "But I have to ask, what do you do?"

Without missing a beat, and in perfect unison, we said, "We're Librarians."

We didn't buy, but we left content with the knowledge that we had rearranged his impressions of librarians forever after.  I do hope that he sees the show and thinks of us.


I know the members of my tribe are split on the merits of the show but Lynn and I rather love it.  Some of my favorite lines:

"Dad? Who are those people?"
"They're librarians, honey."
"Librarians? Wow."
"Librarians win with knowledge.  Librarians win with science."
"What is a librarian?! [Sighs] They're the ones who protect the rest of us from the magic and the weird and the things that go bump in the night."
Story of my life.

It's Not About "Balance"

Jean asked if we miss the traveling when we're home for an extended stretch.

 "I'm good for about six weeks," I said.  "And then I start getting eager to go somewhere again."

 It's been an exceptionally busy spring.  Since mid-April I have been home exactly two weekends.  It hasn't all been work -- last weekend was Salt Lake City for MEY's retirement, and the weekend before was band camp in Memphis.  And I've followed my usual practice of building in an extra day on most of my work trips so that I've got a day to play and feed my head.  (Which gave me the opportunity, in one remarkable 5 week period, to get to the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, along with several other notable museums.  And some fine dive bars.)

 I still enjoy the travel experience and despite the complaints & horror stories that one hears so often about air travel, I'm rarely inconvenienced too much -- or maybe it's just that I don't spend much time dwelling on the inconveniences.

In the front of my travel journal I list the cities that I've been to while using that particular volume.  The current one starts on February 23 of this year and the list is fourteen cities long.

 I've been able to do some of those journeys bringing only the iPad and leaving the laptop at home.  Depends on how much, and what kind of work I'm planning on getting done while I'm on the road.  If it's just email (and there is always email) the iPad has turned out to be completely sufficient.  It typically takes about an hour a day for me to get email handled and I can just about always squeeze that time out of the day, no matter how hectic the schedule is.

 If I'm working on a document or a presentation, however, I'll take the laptop.  In any case, I'm always in touch.  I very rarely bother with an out-of-office message.  I can't imagine maintaining this kind of schedule if I wasn't able to keep connected in that way.

 I saw a blog post recently where someone was trying to work out the work/life balance thing.  I rejected that notion years ago.  There was a point, probably a couple of years after I moved to Birmingham, that I realized the distinction between my "work day" and the rest of my day had evaporated.  It's not that "my life is my work" or anything like that -- it's that the time that I spend doing the things that I get paid for is seamlessly interwoven with the time that I spend doing other things.  As I've said before, I'm a library director 24 hours a day, but I'm also a doting grandfather 24 hours a day, and an amateur musician and a husband and all of those other roles that I partake of -- 24 hours a day.  I don't need to balance a duality -- I need to manage my time so that all of those roles get the time that they deserve. 

Still, as much as I enjoy the traveling and am able to interweave my responsibilities and pleasures, it does get tiring, so I'm very happy to be home for a stretch now.  As luck would have it, my next flight is five weeks from tomorrow.

When The Chef Is Having Fun...

If you cook often, you come to realize how much your mood affects how your meals turn out.   I come home weary and distracted and I make a dish that I've made many times before and I am sure that I am doing it in exactly the same way that I have in the past but it ends of up tasting uninspired -- fine, but nothing special.   Three weeks later, I'm trying the same dish but I'm in a mood where I'm loving what I'm doing and taking tremendous pleasure from it.  I still don't think that I'm doing anything different in terms of ingredients and amounts and heat and time...  but the food tastes better.  And it tastes better to Lynn, too, no matter what her moods may have been.

So it's become my standard practice in a restaurant, when everything on the menu looks interesting, and I can't make up my mind what I'm in the mood for, to ask the server to bring me whatever the chef "is having the most fun with tonight."

This only works, of course, when you have a chef who really knows what he or she is doing, and that was definitely the case last week when we had dinner at Tangled Up In Blue in tiny Taylors Falls, Minnesota, about an hour or so from the Twin Cities.

We went early, since we wanted to be able to get back to the Inn in time to watch the sunset from our porch.  It's still early in the season, so we were the only people there when we arrived.  The interior is, unsurprisingly, done up in various hues of blue, dusted with sparkles.  Wine bottles, sculptural fixtures, small candles on the tables; the place calms and invites.  It is intimate and welcoming with the sense that someone has turned the front half of their house into a casual, but sophisticated, dining space.

A nicely wide-ranging menu with a variety of seafoods & meats -- including bison, which Lynn was immediately intrigued by.  Everything looked interesting, everything looked good, and I wasn't in the mood to have to make my own choices.

So when the server came, I ordered wine and we ordered appetizers, and then, after Lynn expressed interest in the bison, I said, "Whenever I'm in a place where everything on the menu looks good..." and Lynn interrupted, laughing, "I know just what you're going to say."  And so we explained, and the server grinned and said, "I may have to have the chef come out and talk to you."

A little while later, Paul appears at our table, a little quizzical.  I explain my theory about how having fun affects your cooking and he smiles and nods.  I tell him that Lynn's in the mood to try something with the bison, but I'm up for whatever he wants to do.  He sees that we've ordered a big red wine, so he suggests that if he goes with the bison for Lynn, he can do something with a filet mignon for me.  "That works,"  I say. 

As he turns to the kitchen Lynn calls out, "Oh, and with red meat we're definitely rare to medium-rare people."  He turns, with an even bigger grin, and says, "I love you guys!"

Turns out that one of the things Paul is particularly good at (at least on the evidence of this one meal) is mixing sweet and spicy in perfectly balanced but unexpected ways.  My filet (a beautiful piece of meat in and of itself) came with a semi-spicy roasted pepper and raisin risotto topped w/ toasted almonds.  There were cilantro lime carrots and the sauce was honey habanero.  Lynn's strip steak was possibly the tenderest, most flavorful piece of bison she's ever had (and she'll go for the bison whenever she sees it on a menu) with carrot potato gnocchi, wilted spinach /w tomatoes, sauteed zucchini & squash and a bleu cheese demi glaze.

We traded up a bit, just to compare, but he'd done a perfect job of picking for each of us.  I laughed when he came out to check on us -- "As far as our own cooking goes," I pointed out.  "Lynn's the one who makes gnocchi and I'm the one who does risotto."  You'd think he knew.

At the end of the meal, it's not as if we needed dessert, but they do bananas foster, flamed at the table.  Why not?  It seemed like an appropriately celebratory way to end a marvelous meal.

I hope that Paul had fun -- he was certainly carrying a big smile at the end of the night.  So did we.  We were stuffed.  We were happy.  We were hoping we can figure out a way to get back there one day.




No Place Is Very Far Away

We went to Chamonix so that we could stand on the slopes of Mont Blanc.    When we stepped off the cable car at Brevent, I was surprised that we were standing in snow.  Lynn gave me that pitying, affectionate look she displays when I'm being particularly obtuse.  "November?  The Alps?  And you weren't expecting snow?"  Yes, well, I'd been pretty focused on the Global Health Library meeting.

We'd been uncertain, from the forecasts, what the weather would be like, but it could not have beenGeneva 2009 005 more beautiful.  Bright sunshine, crisp blue skies with just a few picturesque clouds kissing the mountain tops.  We spent an hour or so there, pushing our way through the snow toward 6500 feet, and then in the afternoon, another hour near the Mer de Glace, on the other side of the valley.

The concierge at our hotel had said that Saturday would be a good day to get out of town, because there were anti-WTO demonstrations planned.   When our bus was pulling back into the station in Geneva at the end of the day, our tour guide, Simon, said that there had been "an incident" that afternoon and we should "be careful" if we were going to be out walking through the central city that evening.  We found out later that the demonstrations had turned violent and there were smashed windows and cars lit afire a block from our hotel.  By the time we went out for lunch the next day, the cars had been cleared away and many, though not all, of the broken windows were boarded up. 

For several years now, I've kept a travel journal separate from the notebook that I write in every morning when I'm at home.  In the front of each I write the date range that it covers and list the cities that I've taken it to.  The one that I'm just finishing up starts August 7, 2009 and lists the following:  Washington DC, North Little Rock, Brisbane QLD, Lancaster MA, Birmingham, Breckenridge CO, Frankfurt, Memphis, Boston and Geneva.  Even for me, that's an extraordinary amount of travel for a four month stretch.

Without ubiquitous internet access and the trusty laptop it wouldn't be possible.   But I manage to get at the email everyday and I can get a lot of work done on those long airplane flights.  Some projects don't get done quite as soon as I would like, but I manage to get to it all eventually.  And I think that the work that I've done on these journeys is worthwhile and important.   Certainly it is endlessly interesting.

I'm glad to be home now for awhile, though.  At the moment, there's nothing on the calendar until early February, although there are one or two things in the offing that might call me out of town before then.  But for now I'm just looking forward to going to the library every day, and getting into something that feels like a routine. 

Tomorrow Marian and Josie will be coming over to help us trim the Christmas tree.  That's more exciting to me than standing on the side of a mountain.

Les Soeurs des Montagnes

Arielle greets us at the door, face beaming, eyes bright under the frame of wiry gray hair.  "Hallo," she says, in her thick French accent, reaching out to take our hands in hers.   A few steps behind her, MariJo peeks out with what we mistake for shyness.  "Bon Soir!" she calls. 

"Bon soir," we say, amused and delighted by the effusiveness of the greeting, and I ask if we can book a table for about an hour from now.  

"But of course!" says Arielle, and writes my name in her book.  "Voila! We'll see you again about 7:00."

In doing my restaurant research before heading out to Breckenridge, I'd put Le Petit Paris at the top of my list.  The reviews were pretty good, and since a nice Parisian bistro is my favorite type of restaurant, I'm always on the lookout for another one to add to my collection.  Lynn and I had gone out for dinner with friends the night before, so on our last night in Breckenridge we were looking for something a little intimate, casual and romantic, and this seemed to fit the bill.

As we walked back out onto the street, we were both grinning.  "I have a good feeling about this," I said.

We did a bit more strolling along Main Street, the sun out now after the earlier snow showers, lighting up the last bits of day.  We stopped at the Crown Tavern for a whisky, sitting in comfy chairs by the fireplace, talking about how fine and fun the conference had been.   Great speakers, superb location, wonderful friends.  We'd had a fine time the night before singing and playing until late.

Back at Le Petit Paris, Arielle led us to a comfortable corner table and we embarked on one of the most delightful dining experiences we've ever had.  The food & wine were superb, the place itself wonderfully cozy and completely Parisian, but les soeurs themselves were what lifted it into another plane.

Arielle is the elder -- sixty next year, as she told us several times -- the owner of the place, three years now in Colorado, having gone through hope, betrayal, misery, wonder and redemption to get to the place she is now.   MariJo (which we choose to believe is diminutive for Marie Josephine), of the long blond ponytail, slender in blue jeans and her crisp white waiter's shirt, is a fountain of smiles and gentle laughter, emphasizing that we have all of the time in the world.

Over the course of the next couple of hours we have a remarkable meal and gentle, funny, serious, deep conversation with each of the sisters, conversation that never seems intrusive, never gets in the way of the romantic intimacy of the evening that Lynn and I are having, but that tugs us gently into their world.  MariJo helps me with my french, particularly the tricky tongue action necessary to get "grenouilles" just right.  We hear from Arielle about the circumstances that led to the restaurant being shuttered for three months last year, and how it was the community that rallied round her to fix things and get her back up and running when she thought all was lost.  " I do this now for the people of Breckenridge."

We discover that MariJo, for all of her astonishing beauty, is quite the natural comedienne, and when she falls into an imitation of a Colorado redneck or a Parisian FN, putting her hands on her hips and puffing out her cheeks in indignation we're ready to fall out of our chairs with laughter.  She's telling us that, having lived all of her life in Paris, she was a little nervous about coming out to small town Colorado.  "As soon as I open my mouth," she tells us, confidentially, "they can tell I'm not from around here."  But everyone has been fabulous.  Yes, there are those small-minded people, but you find them everywhere and there aren't enough of them to let it worry you.  She takes her doggies out for walks in the mountains and thinks she's moved to someplace very much like heaven.

We talk with Arielle about wine, and find that, like Lynn, she doesn't care for white wines, believes that you can find the right red wines to go with anything, and that she spends a lot of time picking out just the right wines for her restaurant.  "I'm no sommelier," she says several times (she says everything several times), "But I pay attention to wine."

MariJo does the desserts and is rhapsodic when describing them.  Often, I skip dessert, but I knew that in this place I didn't dare -- her disappointment would've been heartbreaking.  When we ask her to help us select, she asks us many, many questions before she chooses for us.  There is no shyness about her when she brings them out.  She knows they're fabulous.

Eventually, after coffee and cognac, we've about run out of reasons to stay, although we would if we could.  They come with us to the door, and we kiss on both cheeks and can't quite let the conversation go.  It is inconceivable to me that we won't see them again.

Finally, we're on the street, strolling back to the lodge.    Did we just have dinner in a restaurant?  No, Arielle and MariJo just took us in for a few hours.

Halfway Round the World

Alas, when people gather to share stories about the horrors of airplane travel, we'll have nothing to share about our flight home from Brisbane.   Everything was on time, all of the gate agents and flight attendants were friendly and good natured.  Economy class on V Australia turned out to be every bit as comfortable as advertised, and Lynn had some fun conversation with the guy sitting next to her, who was on his way to LA to meet, for the first time in person, his internet girlfriend of nine months.  We watched movies, had some pretty good food, slept for a bit.  I did a lot of writing.

We breezed through immigration and customs and transferred our luggage.  Stopped for a cappuccino, and then on to the Sky Club to check email and have a bloody mary.  It was early morning in LA, and just after midnight in Brisbane (our flight left Brisbane at 11:00am on Sunday and arrived in LA at 6:45am on Sunday.  I love that.)

I'd already upgraded us to first class for the flight from LAX to Atlanta, so we had lunch on the plane.  More reading and writing and another hour long nap.  A short layover in Atlanta, then home.

Halfway around the world in 24 hours. 

I was trying to explain to someone who'd not been to an ICML conference before what was different about this gathering from other meetings of librarians.  I said that, first of all, the people who came to this meeting had a shared concern for global health issues and, in particular, the challenges of getting good health information to people in developing countries. They have an expansive view of the role of librarians.  And secondly, the people who came to this meeting really wanted to be here, and most of them had gone to some personal expense and trouble to be able to make it.  Even with the global economy in the state that it is, there were some 500 delegates from 45 countries gathered.  So it's very different from the typical domestic regional or even national meeting where many of the people are there just out of habit -- they go every year and are mostly interested in seeing their friends and checking out the local restaurants.  Of course, seeing friends and checking out local restaurants was a very important part of this meeting as well.  As was finding new friends. 

The meeting was incredibly well organized.  The keynote sessions were uniformly excellent, from Jeff Drazen doing a brilliant kickoff that provided considerable insight into the challenges of putting out a top-tier journal, to Ian Frazer on the critical role that librarians have to play in addressing health challenges in developing countries, to Brian Fitzgerald, at the session that I chaired, doing a rapid-fire overview of the intellectual property issues swirling around open access, the Google book settlement, patents in the digital world, and the opportunities for collaborative drug development.   The contributed papers & posters covered an extensive array of subjects, and I have to give particular credit to the presenters for whom delivering a paper in English was a considerable challenge and who had the courage to rise to meet it.

Conference support was superb.  The Bearded Pigs even had a professional sound & light crew for our performance at the gala dinner.  With Malcolm up in the rafters monitoring everything, I'm sure we have never sounded as good (and likely never will again).  There were still a half dozen dancers on the floor when we finally wrapped it up at 11:30.

Oh, I suppose we'll tell the story about one suitcase being delayed for a day on our way in, and the tale of our poor lost cab driver who took two hours to get us to our hotel from the airport (typically a twenty minute drive) will be good for the telling.  But right now, after getting a good seven and a half hours of sleep and waking up at my normal time on a Monday morning, I've got nothing but good things to say about international travel.    Americans really ought to do more of it.

Another Road Trip

By the time I got to the end of the Last Long Road Trip, the letters that I was writing to Lynn were becoming increasingly plaintive -- I'd been gone from home too long and was missing her and the girls too much.   As much as I've enjoyed those solitary road trips over the years, I didn't think I could do another one.

But lately, the urge to get on the highway again is coming back.  It's sparked in part by this Ambrose book about the building of the transcontinental railroad.   On that first trip, in 1992, I followed the Platte River part way across Nebraska and I remember being astonished at the beauty of the river and the landscape.  I didn't realize, until I started reading this book, that I was on the transcontinental railroad route. 

Eventually, I turned north, up to the Black Hills, the Badlands, Rapid City and Bear Butte, before continuing across Wyoming and into Utah.  By the time I got home, I'd been gone nearly two weeks and had driven over 4,000 miles.   I've taken several long, aimless, driving trips since then, but I haven't been back to the Black Hills since '96, and I think that's where I ought to head next time.

I can't manage it this year -- the calendar is already too full, with the MLA meeting in Hawaii in May, a trip to Wisconsin at the end of June, and ICML in Brisbane at the beginning of September.  So it'll have to wait until sometime in the summer of 2010. 

Something to look forward to.

Edinburgh Was Great, But Then There Was Peebles

We couldn't stop remarking on the friendliness of the people.   Everyone that we met in the town of Peebles, from the hotel Hydro staff to the barmen in the pubs (like the guy at the Bridge Inn who couldn't stop thanking us for coming by) to the waitstaff in every restaurant (although I'll remember in particular the bright eyes and "okey-dokey" of that cute young thing at the Crown) to the people that we met walking their dogs on the river path to Neidpath Castle, was as open and kind as could be (oh, wait, there was that little old lady walking her dog who startled us with the rough expletives she muttered at the women on the street ahead of her -- still wondering what that was about).

The cab driver who took us to the airport yesterday morning pointed out the sights as we drove along.  After nearly a week in Scotland I could understand most of his brogue, although figuring out what some of the words meant was still a challenge.  He exemplified the pride in place that everyone that we met there seemed to have.  They believe that they live in a remarkable place, and they were pleased, and not terribly surprised, that we thought so too.

They really did make us feel like visiting dignitaries.    The CILIPS  folks, Elaine, Rhona and Ann, who made all of the arrangements, were simply astonishing.    Alan, the current president, was a delight to talk to, full of marvelous tales of the history of the place, as well as giving us excellent recommendations for pubs and restaurants.   (And he certainly was resplendent in his white tux, with ceremonial medallion hanging across his shoulders, the evening of the conference dinner).  By the time we were gathering for our goodbyes and last pictures yesterday we were practically in competition to see who could thank who the best and the most.

According to Rhona, by the morning after the Bearded Pigs gig, we were the "talk of the steamy" and the street cred of Ringer Ruthven, our Scottish bass player, had gone up several notches.    A couple of hours before the gig, Ringer and I ran through a few of the songs and that was all it took.  He was great.  "And here's another song that Ringer's never heard before," I'd say, before launching into Little Black Car, or What Were We Playin', and he'd watch my hands for the chord changes and be right there.  The librarians drank and danced and laughed and we wailed away for hours.

For my presentation the next day, knowing that I was speaking largely to a crowd of public librarians, I emphasized the importance of medical and public librarians working together in this changed era of empowered patients.  That seemed to hit a chord and I had a number of good conversations with conference delegates afterwards.   I found the same sorts of things that I see everywhere as I travel around, talking with librarians from other countries -- we all face similar challenges, although our organizational structures and local political settings are different.  But the level of intelligence, dedication, and determination is the same everywhere I go.  I'm always grateful for the feedback that I get and I know that I learn as much or more from those conversations as they get from whatever I happen to be talking about in my presentations.

In short, a magnificent trip.  I come back, as I always do from overseas, changed a little, and for the better.



I forgot to tell my mother I was going to Scotland.  Things have been a little hectic lately.  (And now I'm wondering if we remembered to tell Marian!!)

The Scotland trip feels as if it's a long way off, but in fact, we leave just three weeks from tomorrow.  But MLA in Chicago is between now and then, and that looms much larger.

My ostensible purpose in going to the CILIPS conference in Peebles is to deliver a talk on how librarians are delivering health information to their communities.  There's been a tremendous shift over the past quarter century in the focus that medical librarians have had and it's going to be great fun to go over some of those issues and talk about some of the things that MLA and NLM are doing, as well as some of the things that are happening locally.  I haven't actually started to put the talk together (it's still three and a half weeks away, for heaven's sake!), but I've been thinking about it in spare moments and I think I've got a good handle on how I want to approach it.

The real reason they want me there, though, is so The Bearded Pigs can play at the awards banquet.  We won't quite have the whole band -- Cogman, SG & Russell can't make it.  But the nice thing about having an eight piece band is that there are many subsets of the whole group that can perform as The Bearded Pigs (or The Nucleus).   We'll have a ringer for a  bass player -- a local librarian.  We've corresponded just a bit by email and he seems unfazed by the prospect of sitting in and playing with people he's never met on songs that he's never heard.  Sounds like our kind of guy.

So on the Tuesday evening, I'll play guitar and sing my heart out, and on Wednesday afternoon (thank god it's not the first thing in the morning!) I'll spend an hour or so talking about health information and the impact that we can have on the communities that we're a part of.   

There's been some chatter lately about the perennial work/life balance issue.   These discussions often emphasize the importance of having a "life outside of work."  I resolved that for myself a long time ago.

I don't have a "life outside of work."  I have a life.  It's comprised of many things -- many responsibilities, many joys, a handful of deep sorrows, a continual sense of wonderment as the days unfold.  I never stop being the library director, but I never stop being the musician, friend, grandfather, lover, writer, or endlessly curious little boy, either.

When a "job" is what you go to for eight hours a day, five days a week, within rigid time & place boundaries, I suppose it makes psychological sense to think of "work" and "life" as two separate things.  But in the networked world in which we now live, for many people that time & space separation simply doesn't exist.  It certainly doesn't for me.    When I go to Peebles, whether I'm playing guitar or talking about health information, I'll just be living my life as best I can.