Category Archives: News

Cruising the Caribbean Like a Boss

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary earlier this month. April is also a milestone birthday for him, so I decided that we should do something more substantial than the classic dinner out and eating cake encrusted in a year’s worth of frosting, we decided to take a cruise.

A view of Cuba at sunrise
A view of Cuba at sunrise

This was my fourth cruise, but a first for my husband. Since we were not sure how he would like it, we found a 5 day Western Caribbean voyage, leaving from Fort Lauderdale and stopping in Belize City and Cozumel. It was perfect…just long enough to really feel like we got away, but not too long in case hubby hated it. With some Dramamine and tips from this “veteran” cruiser, he did just fine and enjoyed himself. Plus, we were on a very large ship (approx. 4,000 pasengers and 1,500 crew).

When it’s your first cruise, there are always things you have to get used to. Despite having gone on several cruises, there are always things you forget about or learn.

First, you wait in line…a lot. It takes about 1 hour from the time you arrive at port until you set foot on the ship to get processed. Then, it takes about the same time to get off the ship. Frequent cruisers or those who book suites can bypass some of the lines.

Once you board, you will realize that there are bars everywhere. Seriously, it’s like Starbucks in D.C. While your food is included, the drinks are not, and the drinks are expensive (unless you get the drink packages, which are only economical if you plan to drink more than 5 drinks a day). We learned that for a 7 day cruise, they sell about 10,000 beers. Which means, on average, each passenger has about 1.5 brewskies a day. Plus Lord knows how many tropical drinks and wine…

Cacao plant at the Mayan Cacao Company, where we learned how chocolate was made by the ancient Mayans (they use a lot less sugar :-) )
Cacao plant at the Mayan Cacao Company, where we learned how chocolate was made by the ancient Mayans (they use a lot less sugar 🙂 )

Speaking of food, there is a lot of it. If you love to eat, this is the way to travel. There is so much food aboard the ship that you wonder where they put it all. A lot of the food is locally sourced, since cruise ships are often in the tropics and in the seas where fresh produce and seafood abound. There was a pizza parlor on the ship that was open from lunch time until 3 AM. Ironically, college kids and pot smokers are not the typical cruise clientele.

To prevent the spread of viruses, there are about 2 hand-sanitizing stations for every bar. So, this is important. There are crew who stand outside each dining room to make sure you “washy washy.” Just a little bit of Purell is better than spending your cruise with noro-virus.

There are lots of duty-free and souvenir shops on cruise ships, so people often stock up on cigarettes, perfume, alcohol, and rum cake. Since ours was one of the larger vessels, it had a “promenade” with stores and restaurants in the center of the ship. Generally, you don’t really save a ton on duty-free, but the best time to get deals on souvenirs is on the last 2 days, where they are trying to get rid of everything.

Mayan Ruins in Cozumel
Mayan Ruins in Cozumel

The cruise line also will have several excursions you can book. There will also be excursions you can book at the port of call that are cheaper. However, some of these can be dodgy. Also, if you book through the cruise line and your tour is late, then the ship will not leave without you. On our recent cruise, we took a riverboat tour on the Belize river to view wildlife. Well, the boat was supposed to leave at 4:00 PM and we missed our last ferry back to the cruise ship. Thankfully, they didn’t forget about us and they were able to send a ferry for us.

The cruise line may stop at a “private island.” These are anything but private. In fact, if 3 ships arrive and dump 3,000 passengers a piece on four square miles of land (of which a fraction is habitable), well…you get the drift.

I definitely recommend taking advantage of the port of calls when you arrive, even if it is just walking around the port city and exploring. I don’t recommend the city tours since they cost around $60 a person, plus I prefer being self-guided and not prodded to shop at the cruise line’s “recommended” stores.

A Margay taking an afternoon nap at the Belize Zoo
A Margay taking an afternoon nap at the Belize Zoo

On the days where we were not at a port of call, we did several of the ship’s on-board activities. We went to most of the evening shows. The comedy shows and the play production were our favorites. On our last day, we also did Big Bang Theory trivia and took a quick dance lesson, where we learned how to cha-cha. Ironically, we learned that we are not the most die-hard Big Bang Theory fans out there, and we can do a ballroom dance without tripping over each other. Also, they will have dance parties and activities well after midnight. Though we were so wiped out from the excursions that we ended up going to bed on the early side. Meanwhile, all the Boomer cruisers were partying hard at the midnight 70’s dance party.

It was a fun time. Cruises are an easy way to travel. While the initial cost is relatively cheap, the extras can add up quite a bit. On average, usually budget for 50% of your cruise fare for these add-ons. I know a lot of people are interested in cruising, but have hesitations, usually with regards to seasickness. You’ll hardly feel the boat moving, but you do feel it more on the upper decks. You may also feel a bit of “phantom” rocking a couple days after the cruise, but it goes away.

iguana2
There are all kinds of species of iguana in the Caribbean. Our tour guide spotted this dragon-like beauty up in the trees while traveling on the Belize river.

Please feel free to add in the comments any additional tips that might help future and first-time cruisers. And I hope you enjoyed the photos, taken with my new Canon Rebel. Additional photos will be added on the Photos page.

A Brief History of the Perception of Time

Lately there seems to be a lot of buzz about librarians getting into data science-type roles, and mastery of creating infographics is becoming a hot skill. While standard office programs like Excel and PowerPoint have basic chart tools, they are very institutional in presentation. With so much data out there, being able to capture it in an engaging visual is important. Infographics are taking over statistical reporting everywhere from cost of living around the world to how to keep food fresh in your fridge.

Last year at a Research Staff meeting, a coworker brought up the use of a free* infographics tool called Canva, which she heard about at a law library conference. As a bit of a graphic design nerd, I hopped on to create an account and play around. They have a lot of free layouts and sizes for various print and social media posting, and a decent sized art library. I personally did not find it difficult to navigate, but I have experience using programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. However, I would say anyone with any basic image editing experience will not experience a steep learning curve. But for those of us who are used to all the bells and whistles of Photoshop and Illustrator…don’t get excited. You will find what you can do with this application more limited.

I thought Canva would be perfect to illustrate a comic idea that I’ve had in my head for a while. You know how some things just seem to drag while other things seem to go by in a blink of an eye, irrespective of the actual amount of time? Waiting at the bus stop for five minutes feels like torture, while you wonder where two days of weekend went (all you have to do is turn around on Friday and then you see Monday again). So…I plotted it all out on this graph.

Click to read
Click for full size image

Maybe you can relate to some of these, maybe you can’t. Like it says…time is relative.

Granted, it still took me a while to do, but having the pre-set library of graphics made it a lot easier than trying to create this thing in Illustrator from scratch. I am sure serious designers would think I am cheating, but…who has time for that ;-)?


*Layouts or graphics that do not state they are Free on them have an extra charge.

New Year, New Name, New Look!

I admit, I have been quite negligent in keeping this blog updated. Shamefully, there are no posts for 2015! However, the past year has been a busy and life-changing year for me.

To start, I married a wonderful man. The wedding was amazing, the photos are beautiful, and everyone behaved themselves (for the most part). Though the planning periods leading up to it have been stressful (hint: hire a wedding coordinator). After an unforgettable honeymoon in Puerto Rico, we started settling into our new place. Consolidating two former households worth of stuff, two families – along with trying to get adjusted to each others’ habits – has been an adventure. When asked what has been the most challenging part of married life, my answer is…the name change! Seriously, I am not kidding. It is a long and painful process. I am still having to find out where my maiden name is cropping up where it shouldn’t.

I realized that one of the places my old name was referenced was here on Novataire. But rather than tweaking and being done with it, I decided it is time to re-brand! Novataire has had the same look for around 4 years now, and honestly…it was bit dark. While I will always treasure the cosmos and far away planets and luna moths, I wanted to go with a brighter theme that reflects my love of birds, owls, and nature.

Please bear with me regarding any stylistic changes in the coming days to this site. Also, I have more artwork and photos to post (just got an amazing new SLR camera!).

The Novataire Bi-Annual (Winter/Spring 2014)

Wow, has it been 6 months already?? Guess it’s time for the bi-annual update. This year has gone by remarkably fast, and a lot has happened. Some new art and photos have been posted.

The biggest major news is that I got engaged!! The love of my life proposed Feb 22, 2014 after a lovely and unseasonably warm day at the Smithsonian National Zoo, which was where we went on our first date just a year and change ago. After a week of being on Cloud Nine and the surreal-ness of it all, I have been getting down to brass tacks navigating the murky waters of wedding planning. I’ve come to the conclusion that wedding planning is a lesson in learned helplessness. Like Seligman’s poor dogs, no matter which side of the fence I jump on, I get shocked. For my perfectionist self, I have to take some time to breathe and just accept that things will go wrong…and I will hurt someone’s feelings (hopefully not irreparably ^^;;).

In case you’re wondering about a date, we’re getting married early April of next year. Hopefully it won’t be TOO cold up here…

On the professional front, I’m taking on more initiatives in the Special Libraries Association. I’m now chairing the Employment & Career Resources Committee for the DC Chapter. During this time, I have asked more than my fair share of stupid questions…as it’s my first time chairing a committee. We just wrapped up our first event of the year…Speed Networking. It’s like speed dating, but only slightly less awkward since you are meeting people on a purely professional level ;-). Shout out to my colleague Angela for her awesome write-up on the SLA Blog!

Time is approaching fast for the SLA Annual Conference in Vancouver. After meeting a dear Canadian friend, I head to the conference festivities and exhibit hall, where many free pens and vendor swag await. I will be co-presenting on my topic – learning management systems – on June 9. About a month ago, we found out we had 90 min instead of 60 (wow, they must really love us, haha)! Well, to not bore our audience with straight talking, my co-presenter and I decided last month to do a more informal panel discussion, so I have had to do some last-minute work on what I thought were my perfected slides…which I completed back in, like, January. When you are getting your first speaking opportunity at a national conference, you tend to get a little over-eager…not to mention SUPER excited to display my speaker badge!!!

My next post will cover my experience in Vancouver, as well as at the conference. This will be my second BIG conference…the first being the ALA conference that I attended a few years ago. Hopefully I will take to heart my lessons learned.

Photography Now Available + More Updates

I suppose it’s about time for my biannual update of the blog. Hope those of you on the Northern Hemisphere are  staying cool this summer. It has been pretty rainy and muggy here…not great for picnics, but great for my allergies.

You many have noticed a new link for Photos. For the past few months, I have been trying my hand at photography, which has emerged from my newfound birding hobby.

Last spring, I started to get very interested in birds when I noticed that a sweet mourning dove used to come to my window and coo at me each morning. I live on the second floor of an apartment building, surrounded by lots of trees. I also noticed that I had occasional visits from a robin. Since I don’t have a window (just a window ledge), I decided to just put some peanuts and a suet block out to see if I could attract a blue jay. I love blue jays, and I read that they like peanuts. Well, I still have not had a blue jay come visit, but I noticed I had a large variety of other birds….chickadees, cardinals, sparrows, and titmice are the main visitors. Have also gotten some grackles, starlings, robins, and doves of course.

Soon, I started getting really into this, trying to see how many birds I could identify. I love going to Cornell’s bird database to try and find as many birds as possible. Of course, I wanted to document my findings, so I started taking pictures. I realized to get some good shots of birds, I needed a better camera than my point & shoot, so I got a new camera with much better zoom and control over the camera settings, and have gotten some crisp shots that I wanted to share with you (and also make available for sale). CLICK HERE to view the photo gallery.

In other news, I just attended the Video Games Live concert at Wolf Trap last night. Having a life and all has been really cutting into my gaming schedule, so I downloaded a couple of games on my PS3…Mass Effect and Journey. I beat the main storylines of Skyrim not too long ago, but have gotten a bit burnt out on doing so many quests.

I was so happy to see the first Mass Effect available for download, since I never got around to playing that game…now my decisions I make can be cumulative. I have some hard work ahead of me to get caught up and finish all the games. I hope to get some relaxation out of Journey. I have played Flower (another game by the same company), which I find I lose hours playing (well, that goes for any addictive video game).

On the professional front, I am still working and getting new projects at work. One project has the potential to turn into a speaking engagement at next year’s SLA Annual Conference. Last year, we adopted learning management software last year to organize and promote database training at my firm. I’ve also been working on creating e-learning courses from our recorded webinars. I have taken over a lot of this project, and in talking with some colleagues, was encouraged to share this at SLA.

How to Train a Cat To Use the Toilet

For my Java class, our first assignment is to write out a list of instructions for simple everyday tasks, keeping in mind all of the contingency planning in case things go wrong. The idea is that a computer takes things very literally and will often not successfully complete a task since it cannot make an assumption.

Being my snarky self, I decided to write fictitious program instructions on how to train a cat to use the toilet. One day, I would like to make this into a flowchart so it can join the ranks of all of the other everyday tasks, such as The Grad Student’s Flowchart for Doing Laundry.

Warning: it is very complex. And I have never tested whether this works. But it is totally for humor.  Enjoy!

BEGIN:

1) Do you have a toilet? (Y/N). If Yes, Proceed to Step 2.

If no:

  • 1a: Go to Sears and talk to sales-person about purchasing a new toilet.
  • 1b: Proceed to Step 2a: Call a plumber.
  • 1c: Consult with plumber about what kind of toilet works with your plumbing
  • 1d: Go back to Sears and buy toilet.
  • 1e: Spend hundreds of dollars and proceed to Step 2.
2) Does toilet work? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to step 3.

If no:

  • 2a: Call a Plumber
  • 2b: Have plumber look at toilet and fix it. If fixed, proceed to Step 3.
  • 2c: If plumber is unable to fix toilet, replace it. Repeat Steps 1a-e and 2.
3) Do you have a cat? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 4.

If no:

  • 3a) go to shelter and adopt a cat. If you are unable to adopt a cat, steal one from the crazy cat lady next door. Trust me, she won’t miss it.
  • 3b) Put cat in the bathroom
  • 3c) Put food dish near toilet so cat makes positive associations with it.
4) Is cat able to jump a vertical distance of at least 20″? (Y/N). If Yes, proceed to Step 5.

If no:

  • 4a: Is cat too old? (Y/N). If Yes, purchaes pet ramp.
  • 4b: is cat too fat? (Y/N). If Yes, put cat on diet.
5) Is cat currently using the litterbox? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 6.

If no:

  • 5a: Did the cat go potty inside the house? (Y/N). If yes, give cat a stern “NO!” and proceed to Step 8.
  • 5b: Did the cat go potty outside the house?(Y/N). If yes, you probably have an outdoor cat, and really do not need to train a cat to use the toilet since you rarely have to clean the litter box. Proceed to END TASK.
6) Open first toilet lid
7) Place litter box on top of toilet.
8 ) Place cat on toilet
9) Wait for cat to go potty.
10) Keep waiting…

11) Decide that the cat’s evil glare as you wait for him to do his business is not effective, as he has made it clear through his death stare that he will not, under any circumstances, bow to your wishes.

12) Go to Sears and buy camera for bathroom (referred to from now on as CatCam.

13) Install CatCam per product instructions (refer to separate program entitled “Vague Instructions in 145 Different Languages”) and connect it to your wireless device. If you do not own a wireless device, END TASK, as you are therefore not a functioning member of society and thus unable to perform a complex task such as training an unyielding animal to effectively utilize a toilet.

14) Does camera set-up work? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 15.
If no:
  • 14a) Find receipt (you never throw those away, right….right??!!). Since you totally threw it away…
  •     14a-1) Call geek friend and pray he can fix it. If so, proceed to Step 15.
  •     14a-2) If no, go to paint store and find colors that match your shower curtain. Skip Steps 15-17. Repeat Steps 9-10 and pray.
  • 14b) You have the receipt, which means that the planets have aligned, Jesus has returned, and you are existing in a transcendent universe where cats do, in fact, use the toilet. Therefore, proceed to END TASK.

15) Go to Starbucks.

16) Order an over-priced sugarbomb latte and turn on your CatCam. Repeat Steps 9 and 10 as your glucose levels spike to Pluto.

17) Rush home when cat finally does do his business.

18) Place a cat treat on flusher

19) Does cat operate the flushing mechanism by reaching for the treat? (Y/N). If yes, give cat another treat. If no, manually place cat’s hand on flusher and provide treat.

20) Hide litterbox and place catnip near toilet. If cat decides to go potty inside the house (which he will just to spite you) repeat Steps 5a, 6, and 8.

21) Continue repeating Steps 8-19 until cat finally gets it.

22) If you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and the cat is in there reading the Wall Street Journal, congrats! You have successfully trained the cat to use the toilet!

23) Smile in satisfaction as you hear the flush.

END TASK

Getting There

I’ve really been dragging my feet trying to get this site up and running, but luckily the template issue resolved itself. It must have been a fluke or a bug with WordPress. I am very excited provide a more customized look to this site. Spent most of the day Saturday creating the header and background images, and will probably do some more tweaking with the color scheme.

Hope to be posting more soon!

Where Do We Go From Here?

In case anyone actually reads this thing, I realize it has been months since I have posted. I am still trying to figure out what exactly I want to do with this site, where I want it to go, how I want to brand it, etc. It’s so hard for me to come up with stuff that is worth writing about. Frankly, a lot of it is personal and I don’t want to put it all up for the Interweb’s viewing pleasure. Right now, it’s just a web presence.

I want to share and write about so much but do not know where to start. Usually I am very organized, and do not just jump into stuff without a plan. I created this blog in 2010 mainly as a resume booster so I could show potential employers I was knowledgeable about my field, that I could put together a coherent sentence, and so on. However, I do have a vision for this blog. There are so many blogs out there about library science, and I just hate being put into a box and being forced just to write about that. Which is probably why you as the reader may have noticed the later entries have little to do with library science. Not that I will stop writing about the library profession, but expect a wider range of topics.

I switched from cloud hosting on WordPress.com and bought my own domain. Now that I have all of these options I can work with and plug-ins I can install, I feel very overwhelmed. I am one class away from completing my Advanced Web Development certificate, but what I learn in class really does not go far. I really want to do more with experimenting with different themes, but for some reason, I cannot get content to display correctly, despite scouring the CSS and PHP files for any possible reasons. It would probably be obvious to someone who is a pro at this, but I am still learning.

There is so much I want to do, to learn, and to explore. Yet I only have so much time. And when I do have the time, I feel very unmotivated. Trying to get into a creative swing when working a full-time job and wanting to have a social life has not been easy for me. When I do have free time, I usually crave the comforts of my bed :).

Cobb County Libraries in Trouble!

I read about library closings all over the county. Since 2008, every issue of ALA’s American Libraries mentions some article about library closings…11 branches shut down in New Jersey…another 13 shut down in Nevada…etc etc etc.

However, a colleague of mine who works for the Cobb County Library system recently posted on Facebook that, in order to balance the budget, Cobb County officials are going to shut down all but FOUR libraries in this very large and populous county.  This really hit close to home. While I no longer am a Cobb County resident *sniff* I felt that I had to say something.

The Cobb County libraries were such an integral part of my life.  I spent so much time there, especially during my school years.

While I cannot attend any meetings in person, I wrote the following missive in hopes that it will make the Cobb County Commission chairman rethink his budget strategy:

Mr. Lee:

Please reconsider your proposed closing of Cobb County libraries. Thousands of Cobb residents depend on the libraries for internet access, reference materials, and critical information. In doing so, you will be cutting off many people from this. Cobb is a huge county, and 4 libraries are not enough.

Each day, Cobb County librarians and staff are harried and busy, helping people with filing tax returns, apply for jobs, assisting patrons with major purchase decisions, and pointing students in the direction of the right sources for school projects. This is a typical scenario that I have witnessed each time I was at the East Marietta Branch or Vinings Branch libraries, two of the libraries that you propose shutting down.

I grew up in Cobb County my entire life, and the library was an integral part of it. As a child, I remember story-time and voraciously reading about topics of interest at the East Marietta Branch. I worked as a page at the Vinings branch during high school, and as an adult, I have utilized Cobb County libraries to do the following: register to vote, research for the purchase of a new car, teach myself programming languages, learn about traveling in a new country.

You probably think that you can get “everything on the Internet” these days, but it is not free and not cheap. When you find the NY Times upping its digital subscription prices (which it already is), and you are flabbergasted you have to pay to access stuff like Consumer Reports online, you will wish you have some place to go where you didn’t have to pay so much for basic reference materials (which, by the way, are getting more expensive that even the affluent citizens of East Cobb will not be able to afford).

Libraries do a lot more than store books and offer a few terminals to people who cannot afford their own PCs. They offer programs to educate and equip people to gain skills and knowledge that will enable them to become more informed citizens…to equip them to find work so that more people can pay the taxes which will then support your infrastructure. I am sure you are aware that the reason you are in the predicament that you are in is because of the lack of jobs in Georgia, which in turn reduces the amount of revenue-generating taxpayers. It amazes me that Georgia officials are often turning to education for their biggest cuts. Cobb County alone laid off hundreds of teachers last year, resulting in class sizes that are too large to provide quality education.
While I understand  there are probably many, many critical things competing for your small budget, closing libraries and massive education cuts will not ameliorate this problem. In fact, you are only digging yourself a larger hole in the long run.”

I will be keeping my fingers crossed for my colleagues who currently work in this system. I really do think that GA officials are really wrong to cut as much from education as they have been.  And people wonder why the US in general is lagging behind in education…

New Look, New Job

I am really liking this Clean Home theme!

Since I am too cheap to pay for CSS editing ;), this theme allows customizable colors, background AND header! And it just has a much nicer, larger, and more readable text than my previous theme. The background image used is courtesy of WebTreats. They have a great Flickr gallery of icons, Photoshop patterns, etc.

In other news, and the reason for the lack of posting, is that I have secured a new professional position. I have been working in my new job a little over a month now. And, like many of us in the library field, I relocated so that I could take it. I am very thankful. Moving is very, very tough, and it was not particularly easy, but I definitely think it was worth it. And I have a great apartment in a great location :D.

The job is right in downtown Washington, DC, and I am working for a huge, international law firm with a variety of different practice groups. I do a lot of different aspects in this position, but my overarching theme is utilizing technology to assist the attorneys with their law practices and client development. I am getting some great experience and skills in this position, and I have always liked the DC area. There is a lot more variety here, and it’s a good place to start my career (FINALLY!).

I am eternally grateful that I was able to find something relatively quickly after graduation. I figured I would be searching and searching for months…especially with my lack of direct library experience. However, this job was a good fit for me and for my supervisor, as she was looking for someone who had my unique combination of random skills (legal experience, comfort with technology). So, even if you have a hodge-podge of skills, eventually, there is a place for you! :p