A Day out with Thomas the Tank Engine

By reeset / On / In Family

It’s been a busy 4th of July weekend and we still have one more day of fireworks left.  Whew!  Today, we took the long drive from Independence to Hood River, Or. to spend a day with Thomas the Tank Engine.  This was something that we had done when Kenny was 2 1/2, before Nathan was born.  At the time, we made the trip to Hood River because Kenny was the one that loved Thomas, and his little imaginary world.  This time around, the trip was for Nathan.  It’s been something that we’ve been looking forward to for months, and today was the big day.

Funny thing about the trip…I forget how much stuff Kenny has gotten to do simply because he’s older and lived in Eugene.  When we lived in Eugene, Kenny use to ride the city buses all the time.  He’s flown in a plane (when I went to DC last year) and has ridden in trains and subways.  So, traveling is exciting, but has become a little old hat.  Nathan on the other hand has never ridden in a bus (that I can remember), or a plane or a train — so he was really excited to get to ride on Thomas.  But before we could get to see Thomas, we had to ride on a bus from the parking lot to the train station.  Oh, my goodness.  You would have thought that we had driven all that way just to ride the bus.  He was bouncing up and down, ooohhhing and aahhh’in throughout the bus trip.  And then, we we got to the railroad station and there was Thomas.

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The whole idea of the Day out with Thomas is a chance for kids to get to ride on a train pulled by Thomas.  There’s a lot of activities that go a long with that — like meeting Sir Topham Hatt, the owner of the imaginary railway

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or feeding animals in the petting zoo, riding the miniature stream engine

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or getting to bounce in the fun zone,

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A day out with Thomas was a chance for the boys to get to run around and just have some fun.  Of course, the main reason for coming to this was to ride on Thomas.

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It’s funny, my wife and I were looking at pictures from our last trip here and I think that we sat in almost the exact same seat on the train as before.  🙂  Anyway, the boys had a good time hamming it up for the camera:

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But when Nathan didn’t know anyone was watching him — that’s when I wish I could have gotten a picture.  Thomas had just pulled out of the station and he has such a smile of pure joy.  He was really enjoying his ride on Thomas.  The ride takes about a 1/2 hour, and runs you next to a river and over a bridge.  The scenery is nice but the kids aren’t really looking at that.  Thomas the Tank Engine music is playing over the speakers and the kids are running around, reveling in their train ride.  In the open air car (which we were in), there is an opportunity to go up front and stand right behind Thomas.  Last time we did this, Kenny was so young, he didn’t want to leave his seat.  This time, Kenny and I spent most of the trip in the open air car.  Nathan joined us for a little while before going back to his seat and watching the river go by in his window. 

After the train ride, we did a handful of other things (including stopping at the gift shop), and then headed back.  Nathan and Kenny busied themselves with their various souvenirs (Nathan sounding like a train, choo-chooing down the tracks) until we got about 5 miles from Multnomah Falls.  That’s when it got very quiet, and Nathan finally gave in to sleep.

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It had been a full day for him, and about to get fuller.  Neither Alyce or the boys had been to Multnomah Falls, and since we were in the area, we decided to stop by.  Multnomah Falls is the second highest, year-round waterfall in the United States.  At 620 ft, the Falls is an impressive site.  You can actually see the falls from I-84, but there is a nice trail (about a mile), that will let you hike from the bottom of the Falls to the top.  Since I’m the only one to have ever been to the Falls, we decided to stop and take the hike. 

First, before the pictures, let me say two things.  First, Kenny and Alyce were amazing.  Neither of them have gotten to do a lot of recent hiking, but they climbed the trail like champs.  In fact, Kenny did so well, I’d take him just about on any moderate hiking trail I do — given a distance of 3-4 miles.  He was great.  Nathan — he was trying to do his best impression of a lead weight while I carried him on my shoulders up the trail.  One of my many fatherly duties I suppose.  *grin*.  But we all made it to the top.  The hike itself was a blast and a great stretch of the legs.  The view from the top was terrific and the walk back down (which Nathan decided to do for himself), was fun as well.  Everyone did a terrific job.  And the pictures — well, I’m not a great picture taker, but I think that they came out well.  Here are a few of the highlights from the bottom and top of the falls.

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After our Day with Thomas, our trip to the Falls (and subsequent trip to McDonalds for the boy’s favorite meal of cheeseburgers and fries), we made it home and spent the rest of the afternoon lighting off fireworks and playing with sparklers.  It’s been a long hard day for everyone — and while it’s late now (2 am) — everyone (but myself) has been upstairs in bed since about 10:30 (at least, that’s when I stopped hearing little feet running around in the room).  But it’s been a good day.  One of many this weekend. 


First run of the summer

By reeset / On / In Running

Ah — I survived my first timed run of the summer…barely.  *grin*.  It’s been 15 years since I’ve put the running shoes on and ran for time and thought that the Monmouth-Independence MiniMarathon (2.6 miles) would be a good one to start on.  Now, I’ve only been running really, for about 2 months with any seriousness.  Truth be told, I’d gotten back into it because of my Dad.  He did a triathalon last year and I’d like to do one too. 

So, for the last two months I’ve been getting myself back into running shape.  At present, I’m averaging about 5 miles a day but these a jogging miles, not fast running miles.  But today was about fast (or, as fast as I could go today).  The goal was 17 minutes (i.e., to run better than 7 minute miles) and happily I did manage to do it.  My final time was around 17:30 — though I was suffering at the end after running the first mile too fast.  But it was fun.  When I finished, I was a little queazy — definitely wobbly and at present — a little bit sorer than I thought I’d be, but all and all, a good first attempt.  And a good learning attempt as I start working on training for my 10 ks later this summer.  First lesson learned — pick a pace and stick to it — no matter what anyone else is doing.  🙂

Anyway — I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th.


Airline karma

By reeset / On / In Travel

I’d mentioned sometime back (http://blog.reeset.net/archives/489) that I was planning on being one of the crazy Beaver fans that will be making the trip to Penn State this year to hopefully watch out team spank the Nitty Lions silly.  At the time, I didn’t have football tickets, but was smart enough to make airline reservations and hotel reservations assuming I could get my football tickets sometime down the road.  I figured at worst — we could always count on scalpers.

Well, last month, it all got worked out.  My friend and I got word that we’d been given tickets to the game, so we were feeling quite smug about the fact that we were ready for the game, especially when friends that I knew had waited until they had football tickets in hand before trying to get airline/hotel reservations for game day weekend.  Like the ant who admonished the grasshopper, we probably were having a little too much fun giving our friends a hard time over the premium prices that they were going to be paying to fly to Happy Valley since at this point, a single airline ticket to Penn State costs more than what we paid for two back in Dec. 

Anyway, I think that maybe we’ve been having a bit too much fun because I get a call while I’m in Anaheim at ALA.  My wife called to let me know that Delta had just called to let her know that the regional provider that was going to be taking us to Happy Valley from Cinny was no longer flying to that airport.  Suddenly, I wasn’t quite so happy.  Ugh.

With all the flights that are being dropped next year (and regional providers going out of business), this was actually something that I was a little concerned about.  But I kind of figured that we’d weathered the storm when I didn’t hear from anyone the first week of June (plus, I forgot what airline I was flying on — so I wasn’t sure how worried I should have been).  But, like many others, we got bit by the current airline insecurity — and for a brief moment, fell into Airline purgatory (you have to imagine and ominous echo here), a special place reserved for people that have paid for tickets, but now no longer have a seat on a plane.  Certainly, this had to be payback for the fun we’d been having with our fellow travelers.

Fortunately, I say that this was brief stay in airline purgatory.  While it took about 45 minutes to resolve, I have to say that when I called Delta’s customer service, they worked it out which was a bit of a feat considering how inflexible our schedule is due to game times, etc.  Of course, our flight plan now looks more like a jigsaw puzzle than an itinerary and we are flying on a number of regional/partner airlines (which makes me a little nervous) — but they were able to get me on flights that have me arriving a little later than before in Happy Valley but getting home about at the same time.  So, A-Plus to Delta for making this a lot less painful that it might of otherwise have been.  They made the experience so good that I’m almost tempted to start feeling smug again.  I just wish I could remember how the ant and the grasshopper story ended up…


ALA 2008 Report and Impressions

By reeset / On / In Conferences

So another ALA annual has come and gone and it’s time to jot down my notes and impressions from my time here in Anaheim.  Of all the events I attend during the year, ALA is the one that I have the most difficult time quantifying what I actually get from the organization.  One the one hand, the Summer ALA meeting is different from Mid-Winter in that there are actual presentations, etc. that can be attended, but in general, it’s still very much a business meeting focused on the actual divisions, interest groups, etc. to do the business of keeping ALA and it’s many component parts going.  It’s the latter, the business meeting component, that compels me to attend ALA.  Like many, I have committee responsibilities that require my attendance — and like many, I try to fit other content around those responsibilities.

Actually, now that I think about, I didn’t mention the most prevalent aspect of the ALA annual conference — the every growing and encroaching vendor component of the conference (in the 5 years I’ve attended, it’s always had this component — but lately, it seems to be like an octopus, extending it’s reach into everything).  ALA has always had a very robust exhibitor area for attendees looking to speak with vendors or find out some information about a particular set of vendors.  And this is an important part of the conference (though, I’m finding it gets less important each year as vendors attend now attend so many conferences and have become so much easier to contact and research) — however, in recent years, vendors have started to put on more of their own product driven presentations.  In fact, take away the ALA events related to ALA, I would guess that vendor presentation make up the lion’s share of today’s ALA conference, and that I think, is a little bit sad.  So, it’s always with mixed feeling that I attend ALA’s annual meeting — torn between my responsibilities to the organization and my own aversion to presentations that feel more like Amway meetings.  It’s with that backdrop that I write this review — because for the first time in years, I’ve made a conscious decision to forgo any presentations/events that were vendor driven save for my limited interactions with exhibitors in the exhibits area. 

So how’d that turn out?  Surprising nearly impossible to do.  Before attending ALA, I had a handful of presentations that I wanted to attend, two being There’s no catalog like no catalog:  the ultimate debate on the future of the catalog and Creating the future of the Catalog and Cataloging.  These ended up being pretty representative of sessions that I attended where vendor representation was 1/2+ the makeup of the forums.  Not a bad thing, just an observation.  Another thing that I found about these two presentations is that they were mixed in that there was a lot of overly general comments (fluffy) and a few interesting nuggets.  This was especially true of the future of the catalog forum.  I’m not sure if this topic has just run it’s course (we all agree that library catalogs need to change) or what — but many of the observations are becoming tired.  Libraries today have more options that ever before — open source, vended and quasi-vendor solutions (OCLC) available to them.  At this point, choices are limited more by dollars (what you can spend), in-house expertise (what you can implement) and organizational philosophy.  Either way, I think it might be time to stop talking so much about our dinosaur ILS systems.

Throughout it all, the one reoccurring theme that did emerge from many of the sessions is the need to move more and more information and workflow to the network level.  On the ILS side, a case was made for leveraging a large master aggregation of records to provide local and more global record discovery side by side.  While on the cataloging side, the idea of moving authorities verification up to the network level in the form of URIs to help facilitate the management of authorized headings struck a cord with many attending in the audience.  I think that the library community is ready to forgo workflows that over-inflate the importance of localized content in favor of much more integrated workflows that allow them to instantaneously take advantage of work done by colleagues around the globe.  I know that Code4Lib doesn’t necessarily try for themes when they set their conference schedule each year, but here’s hoping that the 2009 conference includes a robust component dedicated to programming and building services that work at the network (rather than local) level.

The RDA update was interesting.  It’s nice to see that this work will be wrapping up soon.  I still have no idea how it will be any more than an update to AACR2 (maybe we’ll call it AACR2 1/2) in terms of practical application to the library world, but I guess we will see in a year or two.  From talking to a number of vendors (I won’t say who), I’ve been told by most that RDA could potentially represent a radical change or no change at all.  When pushed for their opinion — all are betting on the latter, at least for the foreseeable future.  I myself, am taking a wait and see approach.  At some point, I’ll need to take a look at RDA and figure out how (if at all), it will affect how I develop MarcEdit into the future — for now — I’m just waiting for the fog to clear a little bit more. *grin*

So ALA for me was filled with a few sessions (I ended up attending 7), some committee work, some time down in the exhibitor area chatting with reps and browsing books for the kids and then catching up with colleagues who have moved on from OSU or that I haven’t seen in a while.  I even found some time to go to Disneyland for a little while on Monday (I may even post a picture or two later) to scout out rides for a trip that we’ve been planning with the kids later this fall.  So, all and all, I think that it was a good trip.  I’ve certainly come away with a few more ideas related to the WorldCat Grid services tests I’ve been performing as well as a few odds and ends for both LibraryFind and MarcEdit development though maybe the value of this ALA annual conference isn’t something I will be able to really answer until some more time has past.