Over the holiday I enjoyed several days of standing in the kitchen cooking and preparing to cook. I was determined to be organized, approaching each task calmly and efficiently. Keller's kitchen is apparently like that: Each task begins with a clean work station. Use a cutting board once, then clean it and your knife so they're pristine for the next task. Each step of a process is done perfectly: a perfectly cut brunoise, an undisturbed boil, just the right amount of seasoning. It's respect. It honors the people who grew the vegetables, picked the vegetables, packaged, shipped and sold the vegetables. It honors the plants and animals themselves.
For the most part it worked out well. There were a few minor mishaps over three days, but I came away satisfied and more experienced.
One dish that I did was traditional glazed carrots. I needed to have a long shape on the plate to balance asparagus, so I trimmed a couple pounds of whole carrots into small, evenly shaped fingerlings. The classic method cooks carrots in stock till the stock is thick and reduced. For the stock, I started by making a "perfect" mirepoix and roasting chicken backs with it. At the end of the first day I had a quart of very nice, dark chicken stock. The second day I defatted the stock and brought it almost to a simmer with carrot shavings and egg whites. After the second day I had a couple cups of stock that tasted like an essence of roasted chicken, but was sparklingly clear. I didn't need all of it, so I poured a few ounces into a wine glass that was sitting on my counter. It was beautiful. The color of iced tea, but not at all cloudy, with no sediment at all. It caught the light just like the crystal around it.
Did it matter? To me certainly. To the dish- I'm sure it was important though I doubt many would notice or care. It was clean and attractive on the plate, but after simmering with carrots, brown sugar, butter and cracked pepper probably no one could tell that it had been crystal clear. It just worked as intended, and tasted good, too. And I'll do it the same way next time.
At this late point in my ETS career I didn't expect Management nor Human Resources to take me up on my last post's offer to share my meaning of appreciation. It is, after all a simple concept… right? But someone asked! Thank you for the opportunity Cole, though none of this will be a surprise to you. I've already mentioned that to show appreciation, the simplest, easiest, most effective way is to, well, appreciate something or someone. That's sincerely appreciate, not appreciate in the Harvard Business Review sense where you learn how to appear sincere so people follow you willingly.
What might work best is a demonstration. I'll write about a few things that I appreciate and maybe, by example, what I was talking about regarding my bauble will become clear. And if I'm right, nothing I say will be a surprise because I'm merely writing down things that I've felt and responded to, in some cases for 15 years. It should all be obvious.
First, Molly Kline. I don't know anything about Molly. I don't know if she's married or single, has kids or not, lives thirty miles away or lives across the street. I don't know the difficulties she may have just getting to work. What I do know is that Molly smiles. I know that any time I've asked Molly a question she has provided an answer. Neither are common reactions to me. Especially considering that Molly provides answers, guidance, and support to quite a few other people in ITS besides me. And she's been pleasant and understanding about all the crap a bitter old man can dish out. Thanks Molly. When you ask How are you doing? you sound like you actually want to know.
Next, but in no order other than random selection, is the ETS Radar O'Reilly Barb Smith. I know more about Barb. Barb is raising kids, responding regularly to a widespread and complex family, working while her life partner works a different shift, and she still gets to work before 8 am. She stays till after 6 pm. That's dedication. I sat on the floor playing cars with her boys back when the youngest wouldn't speak to strangers. We built forts in the hall of Computer Building on Saturdays while Barb struggled to finish paper work that other people's concerns kept her from finishing during the week. I've raised a daughter close to Barb's kids in age. I understand when Barb says her family is her number one priority, but that just means sometimes you have to make the job take precedence. Thanks Barb. I hope your kids find great jobs, too.
I have known Brian Young for less time than anyone else that I could list. He's much younger than I am, much more educated--different in a lot of ways, but the guy can finish most of my sentences. He has a daughter like I do. When he talks about her, I feel every word. I feel it too when he talks about the needs of faculty and the promise of education; his work, his dedication, is completely selfless. It's common sense. Brian speaks with the most passion when he talks about faculty passion: their dedication, their excellence. Occasionally he speaks with equal passion about hamburgers, but really, for the most part, it's faculty. Really. Thanks for what we'll call sanity, Brian; you've kept the past year bearable.
These are a bit long. Sorry. Nobody has time to read so much. I'll try to be brief. Or at least briefer.
Kim Winck taught me how to use a scanner. She was an old hand at computer imagery before I knew how to turn a computer on. Ever since then, I've been able to depend on her visual sensibilities. She's organized, she's meticulous, but mostly she's an observant eye and an incisive, reasonable opinion. My work was always made better by her involvement. Thanks for all of that, Kim; but mostly for your friendship.
Although Tara Caimi was taken from our group soon after she started 10 years ago, we've collaborated several times since. She does her job, I do mine; she respects whatever I do and I have the luxury of being able to sit back and trust what ever she does. What a joy that is. Another artist who wants nothing but to be the best artist she can. Tara, you've introduced me to writers like Jeanette Walls, Abigail Thomas, Frank Conroy, and Sara Pritchard and you've helped fill my library with wonderful literary gems. Some of them written by you. Thank you.
When I talk about Pat Besong, it's easy to mention the humor and easy going viewpoint that he brings to projects. Everybody loves it. Unless you've worked with him, depended on him, or asked for his help, you might miss his calm resolve, his resourcefulness, and his massive skill set. Pat will always find a way. Thumbs up.
Even though our paths should put us in the same place most of the time, I haven't worked with Derick Burns very often. He does large scale stuff and I do small scale stuff. He works with a broad population, I work with one professor. He has an easy manor, while mine is often volatile. Yet in the end we see the same goal. Derick achieves with compassion, understanding and humility. I hope ITS gets to tap in to the talents I've been able to see during quiet moments talking with Derick. This is a good man. And in any zombie movie, he'd be alive at the end.
What could I say about Gary Chinn that isn't obvious? Tremendous intellect, excellent taste, wonderful wit, loving family, funny hair there in the front where it sticks up. I may have worked with Gary only a couple of times, but really, to be around Gary is to be understood and appreciated. You make the neighborhood. Thanks, man.
How many years has it been since I've worked with Brian Shook? We used to share a cubicle. At 6 am the second floor of Computer Building was empty except for two guys. And we were squashed in a cubicle sitting four feet apart. If you have a daughter, Brian is the guy you want her to grow up to marry. Smart? sure. Driven? that too. But there's something else about Brian: a warmth? an inner strength? Nobility? Peace?
Regardless of how busy Mary Janzen can get, every time I've knocked on her door and asked for help she has stopped to give me help: an opinion, a ruling, an insight in to editorial standards. Very gently, Mary nailed it. Every time. Thanks Mary; lucky for me not everyone knows the depth of your knowledge. Too bad for TLT and Penn State.
TK Lee stops by and when he leaves, I always have more to think about. He doesn't give me work, just insight. TK thinks longer and harder about the things I think long and hard about. Curiously, it's often just what I needed to talk about. We've never worked together on a project, actually. It would have been epic.
I think it's important that none of these folks would be surprised by this post. I could be mistaken, but I hope that throughout my lifetime I've made positive feelings as well as negative feelings clear enough at all times. There's no need to hire someone to feed the rabble, and there's no lexan involved.
A messenger handed me this the other day. I was surprised; no one had discussed it with me. I contacted the folks in charge and said that I was embarrassed to work for leaders who think I respond to baubles. I would have instructed everyone to disregard such nonsense, but I didn't have that chance. Perhaps in the future they might alert people to what's going on ahead of time? I'd have been humiliated to get this in front of our large group.
They were concerned that I had feelings of embarrassment and humiliation and advised me to discuss the feelings with an HR rep. He went on, "The physical gesture of the plaque aside in this case, the old phrase 'it's the thought that counts' comes to mind…"
Funny. "It's the thought that counts" was pretty much my point, too. Several years ago a supervisor asked me how I thought we could show appreciation. I replied that I thought we should start by appreciating what people do; the 'showing' part would take care of its self.
To the plaque givers I suggested that, 'physical gestures aside', if anyone wanted to hear what I would consider to be a sincere appreciation, I'd be willing to talk with them.
I haven't had a request for something like this in a long time. I probably should have turned it down, but I managed the lion's share on Monday afternoon, and in the end I get to provide an image that will be used in the Millennium Science building to encourage proper attire. I'm honored!
Apparently, everyone must wear a tail.
This small image links to a very large set of images set up to display as one giant Penn State Halloween image. If you have a retina display, the images loading for you will be twice the resolution. It's a number of experiments rolled into one, and I appreciate the struggle you have to go through just to look.
First, the style is a new one for me. I think it's successful for the most part, but I swayed from my intended path in a few places. The image is actually constructed out of Photoshop shape layers that have bitmapped texture and shading layers clipped to the clean shapes. It makes it, well, not resolution independent in it's psd form, but very close. I'm thinking the style will be great for illustrations for children. Next, I wanted to test my new machine: the original file is just over a gig when opened. I'd say it's likely the most complex file I've generated in Photoshop- and the MacBook handled it very well. Finally I wanted to experiment with presentation. I think this shows real promise. The large image isn't something to view as a whole composition, but something to enter already zoomed in, and explored by scrolling around. Presenting it so browsers won't scale it was important- the image doesn't really work for me as a large composition. The idea works for me, but I'm not sure how it will work for others. I think kids could access it like a book at bedtime and parents could talk with them about the image as the kids scroll around. For my next image I'm thinking something that scrolls horizontally rather than vertically; possibly reproducible as a children's book across multiple pages, or as an iBook. Just on the web works, too- and I think it will be my primary focus. Maybe with little animated segments. A well formed manifest list so the files cache. It could be a lot of fun.
Considering the time I gave myself, I'm happy with the way it came out. Making it halloween focused gave me a solid deadline: it had to be posted before Halloween. That limited my going back in and tweaking over and over. I'm excited by the potential of this, too: Children's books, social commentary. It will be fun to see where it can go.
Recently I posted to yammer a link for a Berkeley news release about the commission being formed to "envision [the] Library's future". I'm not really sure if yammer is the best place or if the spot I put it was appropriate. That's unfortunate, and I'd rather not have to think about that- so I'll use this space. The post seemed especially important as next week I'm also planning to attend the IT Pro Roundtable Digital Stewardship: Libraries and Archives vs. the Digital Dark Age (which can also be attended via Adobe Connect if you register.) It's fascinating stuff, I think; there are important things happening.
One of the first things that I noticed about the Berkeley information was the charge letter available for download. It's only a few pages, but includes important reference material in links as well as the charge and a list of those charged. The pdf is a scanned image, not text; the links don't function. I noticed, too, that within the 12 member commission being charged, there were only two obvious IT people: A professor of rhetoric who is Director of their Center for New Media, and an adjunct professor in the School of Information. Initially I thought this was a good thing- the world doesn't need to be lead by IT people. But there's that horribly inaccessible and barely usable pdf…
The non-functional links are a disappointment. Not only do they not function, but if you enter the URLs into a browser, they don't all return information. One in particular grabbed my interest, then took me a while to find: The University Leadership Council's 97 page PDF on Redefining the Academic Library: an Education Advisory Board report from 2011. It has some good information and could be of general interest to all of us. I found a link to the PDF as well as a link to a repository that has the pdf. The document is extenssive and engrossing; it touches on issues like the size of a collection losing importance; access to digital collections through Google, HathiTrust, and the Internet Archive; patron driven acquisition models; "Public access mandates from federal research funders and increasing opposition to rising journal prices have begun to push publishers to make more content available on the web at no cost"; open-textbook pilots; and redeploying Library staff.
Other resources include the 55 page California Digital Library Value Review and Recommendations Final Draft which includes a few "emerging opportunities:" Like the delivery and access to licensed resources on mobile devices and the learning management systems used by scholars; the presentation of resources in a unified fashion via a portal; publishing digital textbooks with interactive dynamic tools; the availability of data repositories for students; and building activity and delivery of digital audio and video.
It took a while to get this book. Amazon back ordered it, then back ordered again. I finally severed all ties with Amazon and picked it up overnight through Barnes and Noble. I was very excited to get it. The Where, the Why, and the How is being billed as a creative and educational tour de force with illustrations of 75 scientific conundrums by 75 of today's "hot illustrators." Did I say how excited I was?
I've seen several animations - very cool, very innovative - done using a few of the 75 illustrations, and aimed at marketing the book. I admit that they served to get me more excited; but then I had to wonder why the animations were being used to market static illustrations. Especially when the kindle and nook versions of the book only had static illustrations in them - exactly like my print copy.
Long story short here: the illustrations are an extreme disappointment. The questions are great, the one page answers are fascinating, and I'm engaged every time I have a moment to read one or two. The illustrations though; the illustrations are completely and totally unremarkable. Every one seems as if it was done just to provide assets for a Flash animator. A complete bummer for me. My own tastes in illustration are fairly eclectic, but I guess I'd say Brad Holland is a favorite. Marshal Arisman too. I like painting and woodcut, abstract expressionism and realism, anything, really, as long as the illustration is good.
Except for these. They just don't do it for me. Or for the book or for science. Too bad. It was a great idea and the book's fun to read. Just not fun to look at.