Setting Up a Staff Blog

I was given the task to set up an internal staff blog. I choose WordPress, of course. The constraints:

  • easy to use
  • easy to update
  • easy to navigate

Advanced Comment Form: to remove unnecessary fields like website address
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded: so commenters get notifications when someone replies
USP Pro: Creates front-end post submissions without an account. This was something I choose since people complain when they have to create and remember even more accounts. So I eliminated that. They’ll just have to put their email address in every time. We went with pro since we wanted to be able to upload various file formats. There may have been a free solution, but it wasn’t worth me spending even more time researching a new plugin and then configuring it to work with the setup.

Use categories to organize the site + tags.
Created a video to show people how to use the site.
Use custom menu for “Write Post” link option.

Twenty Fifteen theme
Very minor tweaks to correct the appearance of lists

My additional requirements that I put on myself:

  • easy to comment
  • get notifications on your posts
  • get notifications on new comments to posts you replied to
  • email all staff when a new post is submitted

I am in the process of fixing two bugs:

Our all-staff email address is limited to only forwarding emails from our own domain address to stop outside spam. My colleague and I are working on a solution to this. It’ll probably deal with emails being sent to me and an Outlook rule that will auto forward that email to all staff from my inbox.

The person who wrote a post gets two comment notification emails whenever someone replies to what they wrote. Still trying to track that down…!

An annoying WordPress bug is that it’s not sending me native notifications of new post submissions, thus why I had to look into an outside plugin.

What Lies Ahead

I get very stressed out trying to plan my life for the next six months to a year out. When I don’t know what’s coming up, I become anxious and start worrying if my little house of cards is going to fall over. What should I be doing to keep up professional momentum? How can I influence things to happen?

My spouse has been firmly taking my hand these past four years and telling me that things will work themselves out. Unforeseen opportunities will arise. He continues to be right.

ALA next month is the end of the current cycle of events (OITP committee, Emerging Leaders wrap-up, teaching two online courses, giving my first conference presentations, and finishing up some freelance work). I started to worry. Then opportunity came a-knocking. My next few months are beginning to take shape. In the coming months, I’ll be working on:

  • A co-written article in a library publication
  • Oversee the first meeting of the LITA 3D Printing IG at Annual
  • Launching the “ultimate” version of the global map of 3D printers in libraries in conjunction with the IG
  • Teaching a two-hour workshop based on a presentation
  • Presenting two genealogy talks
  • Taking over the podcast side of #LibUX

Then to soothe the restless travel bug I have, I’ll be making a brief visit home to my mountains and then north to Toronto in the fall. I’m very humbled at these opportunities. I know how fortunate I am in all ways that any of this is even possible. I still feel like the girl sitting on her front steps, watching the neighborhood stray cats, completely uncertain about the future other than a vague sense that life would be different once I graduated high school.

Four years ago, I spoke to my future boss on the phone and then a couple months later, Polly reached out to me about co-teaching WordPress. Everything fell into place from those two generous acts. I’m so grateful.

What happens after this? How can one keep jumping ahead? I had a strange obsession about turning thirty. Now I’m three weeks into this new decade of my life. One of the new opportunities presented to me appeared on the day of my 30th birthday. I don’t feel so afraid anymore about stepping into a decade that others promise me will be much better than the last.

And finally, I can’t look ahead without thinking of the ones I lost during my twenties. Next month will be nine years since Forest died. It’s four years since Grandpa and Dollbaby. I promised myself at Forest’s death that I’d live twice as hard. I can’t waste the time he lost in my own life. So let’s go.

Supporting Small Biz: Digital Tools for Startups Slides

Mallory Arents and I presented this 45-minute presentation at Computers in Libraries in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, April 29, 2015.

Download the slides for the speaker notes to see what we said about each slide. The transcript by Slideshare is garbage and our notes aren’t showing up.

Wanted: a better place to share slides which includes speaker notes.

Party Like You’re 30

Birthday cupcakes
Birthday cupcakes

My coworker, Daniel, asked me last week what my favorite cupcake is. He danced about and then confessed that he wanted it to be a surprise for my birthday, but he wanted to know what I’d like best. I told him strawberry. He had never made strawberry anything before, but he absolutely outdone himself.

The strawberry on top was just sweet enough. Then the icing was delicious. Ah, and the cupcake itself? So moist and it melted in your mouth. I think I — and everyone else — had a religious experience consuming these.

Funny part: word of the cupcakes went through the building so the UX office turned into an impromptu party.

Computers in Libraries 2015: Day 3

And to round it out, the final day of the conference. I was preoccupied with preparing for my second presentation, so I missed some time. One of the highlights of the conference for me are in these notes on customer development. Too bad I couldn’t stay till the end — I had to go to my presentation then!

The NYPL session on their Tech Connect was interesting but really not feasible for smaller libraries. They have a great program and an overflowing wait list of people who want to attend the programs. We don’t have the same situation, so it was a little difficult to see how to apply their strategies to a single branch library.

A Journey Around Iceland: Day Three

We awoke to an empty house. This was fine by us as we slowly dragged ourselves together. I decided that it was too weird to shower in someone else’s house so I skipped bathing. Before we left, my BFF drew a detailed horse in the guestbook. I took a photo of it but it isn’t appearing on Google Plus at the moment. I’ll try to remember to add it in later.

GPS coordinates: 65.516, -19.301
GPS coordinates: 65.516, -19.301

The road leaving here was not terribly interesting. We were in the low point of a valley with the mountains about 1/2 to 3/4 miles away from us. A slim but fast river twisted back and forth across the valley floor. Crop fields spread out on either side while small houses dot the landscape. In the backseat, my BFF continues to play her bookworm game on her iPad while I attempt conversation while filming the landscape.

We then remember that we have the GoPro that I borrowed from work. I attempt to attach it to the window phone holder I had brought along. It kept popping off — threatening my face. Finally, my BFF offers me three brightly colored hairbands that she’s been wearing on her wrist: purple, blue, and green. She wears hot colors of red, orange, and yellow on the other wrist. It takes a few tries and seemingly losing one of the bands before I get the GoPro onto the holder. We are now climbing through the mountains. The snow is smooth with this strange glistening quality that Thomas finds quite pleasing.

GPS coordinates: 65.464, -18.873
GPS coordinates: 65.464, -18.873

The snow through here is much deeper than it was down below. However, the roads are well-cleared off and we drive along with maybe only a couple other cars passing in the opposite direction for company. The snow is packed a couple feet on top of the guardrails on the right.

Snow piled so high!
Snow piled so high!

We then come across perhaps the coolest mountain bit. It’s on the left and jagged in an unusual fashion. Everywhere else throughout here is pretty smooth, but these broken pieces splinter the sky. Thomas finds a little dirt side road to the left to pull off on. He can’t pass up this rocky outcropping. He and my BFF hop out of the car for photos. It’s cold out, so I want to stay in. However, watching them buzz around excitedly finally convinces me to get out. I spend most of my time taking selfies with the rock and then convincing Thomas to come over to take a photo together. It takes a few tries but we finally get the rock into the picture. The hilarious thing I’m discovering now from Google Maps is that it looks like everyone is obsessed with the “tooth” as Thomas just called it over my shoulder.

GPS coordinates: 65.585, -18.534
GPS coordinates: 65.585, -18.534

As we come back out of the mountains, we are approaching Akureyri, the northern capital. Akureyri is the only other city in the country — aside from Reykjavik. Akureyri is located along this gorgeous waterway which leads out to the Norwegian Sea. The land along the right side of the water (traveling east) is relatively flat along the water while there is no flat edge on the other side of the inlet. That side is just all rising mountains. We stop for gas and then keep going. Today we are headed to Myvatn lake which is east of the city. The next day will be a long drive, so we’re squeezing in the lake — one of my BFF’s requested locations we visit. As we head out of town, we see this massive snowman on the outside edge of town. I just learned that it’s the world’s largest snowman.

GPS coordinates: 65.678, -18.088
GPS coordinates: 65.678, -18.088

To cross over to the other side of the inlet, you do not drive all the way down and then around. Instead, just about 3/4 of a mile south is a raised piece of land that cuts across the water. The video below will do a way better justification of the crossing than my words could describe for you.

Once on the other side, the land swiftly raises to the north till you’re climbing over a beautiful overlook to the inlet below. The water is so blue and the snow so white that the photo below will look doctored. It wasn’t — it really is that incredibly blue and bright there.

So blue!
So blue!

Along the way, we visit the waterfall of the gods — Goðafoss — so named because this guy made the decision for the entire island population that they’d convert to Christianity. He then returned home and threw his idols into this waterfall. Now, the waterfall is hard to see as you head east. You’re surfing along the high tops of the mountains when you go around a curve which slopes downwards. You see a bridge to the right with a gas station and a few other buildings. However, according to the directions I’m looking at, there’s a waterfall in front of this gas station. You see nothing. However, we slow down and see a sign and drive over the 100 yards or so to the waterfall’s edge. That’s right — you can literally walk right up to the edge of the foss!

We lingered for a long time here. I have a few dozen photos and several videos of Thomas, my BFF, and of the foss. It’s really compelling to walk right up to the edge of the river to get a better shot. However the thick snow is deceiving even as it sucks down your shoes. You get to the water’s edge above the falls and you can almost reach out and touch that icy gray water. But then good sense kicks in and you step backwards to avoid walking out onto literal thin ice. You can see in the video below how close you can get. This was as close as I dared and it was a stupid thing to do. We finally managed to drag ourselves away though it was difficult to do.

From there, you continue driving up and away from the dip where the foss was and then out to very flat land. This part of the drive was dull. We perked up when we started to see the remnants of exploded shield volcanoes. Go ahead and click on the photo below. You’re looking for that gray “hill” in the center of the photo. It looks small here, but it was … a mountain in person. Very wide and even so destroyed taller than most buildings (which are not skyscrapers). You may also notice that the land becomes more bumpy on either side. This alternates with wide flat areas. Eventually we realized that we had made it to the lake.

GPS coordinates: 65.572, -17.066
GPS coordinates: 65.572, -17.066

In the summer, Myvatn lake, according to the guidebooks, is one of the most popular tourist attractions. The itty bitty town swells with all the visitors. The lake is the home of a huge population of waterfowl as well as black flies. The guidebook recommended buying netting to wear over your head. Otherwise, you’ll just be inhaling bugs your whole visit to the lake.

We could not find the lake. We followed the curving black road south and still saw nothing. Then we came across some open water — surrounded by thousands or millions of rocks. The guidebook told us that these rocks had been shot here by the volcanoes in the distant past. This was a lava field. In the video below, you can hear my elegant description of “piles of poo.” The snow isn’t as thick here as you can see the rocks and yellow grass in open patches. We lingered at the water’s edge for awhile. My BFF decided to go take some close up shots of birds on the water. She had to descend down a narrow trail to the shore. Thomas walked around taking his own super high quality photos. I wanted a change of clothes, so I climbed back in the car — after getting the keys from Thomas. Then I got out and took a photo sphere.

After that, an American couple pull up next to me and ask where the bird museum/visiting center is. I have no idea. Then I remember that I can look at Maps on my phone to see an approximate indicator of our current location. I show them what the phone is telling me and we compare it to their paper map. It turned out that they still had a ways to go. The lake, while mostly unseen in winter, is huge. It has no round edge but curves all over the place. Those flat areas we noted earlier WAS the lake. Once we regroup, we head back towards Akureyri. The photo below is a closer shot of one of the volcanoes.

GPS coordinates: 65.612, -16.916
GPS coordinates: 65.612, -16.916

Side note: the ground is HOT around the lake as you head further east. In places, vents open up and steam pours out of the ground. We’ll explore that area the next day. We did go up one of the low hills which was steaming a lot to get a look around. We quickly came back down after coming upon a famous hot spring bathing house. We weren’t interested, so down we came. It was here that I found another one of my loves — the icy blue heated pond.

Other interesting things were trucks sitting on a lake while people….ice-fished? We weren’t sure. My BFF reminded me that Icelandic horses are sometimes raced across the frozen lakes. We pulled into the gas station we saw earlier at the foss. Unfortunately, it had closed half an hour before. My poor bladder! Thomas pulled around back of the gas station. I got out, dropping down into wet, sloppy snow, and slogged my way to the back tailgate. I pulled a nutrition bar out for me and almonds for Thomas. This was our lunch.

The water of the inlet as we approached the northern capital was very pretty. But we were tired and ready to go find our hotel. We had only a little trouble finding Hotel Nordurland. There was plenty of parking around on this little back street, but we weren’t sure where to park. Round blue signs with red circles with lines across them dotted the streets. So we drove on past the hotel and across the road into a parking lot thick with ice. Thomas and I scooted our feet across the parking lot and back to the hotel.

The hotel turned out to be wonderful. It had been only $60, but we got a steal. The guy at the front desk spoke English very well. He didn’t even ask for ID, just took my name and then handed me the key. I asked about parking. He told us that business hours were only from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., so we could park immediately in front of the hotel’s one way road. So we did. The car was literally like 15 feet from the hotel’s entrance. I was very nervous about bringing along a third for the room since the reservation was only for two. The guy at the counter didn’t even blink. We entered the lobby, made an immediate left, and stepped up to go down the hall to our room. We had the very last room on the right which turned out to be a sweet suite.

I loved the room. Behind the door to the right was a tiny kitchen. My BFF and Thomas immediately seized the electric kettle to make tea and coffee respectively. The bed was to the left with very narrow walking areas on either side. Then there was the extension of the room of yet a smaller room which hosted a cot and a desk. A door was at the head of the cot which opened onto a very tiny piece of grass and patio at the very corner of the hotel. The street was just a few feet away. On the wall in here was mounted a TV — pretty far away from the main bed. A tall storage closet was to the right of the TV. On that same wall was the bathroom entrance. The bathroom was…interesting. Very fancy, huge, and modern. What was odd was that there was only a shower head, a curtain in the corner, and the drain was waaaay over towards the center of the room. The drain was not under the shower head’s area. This would prove to be trouble in the morning.

After we had greedily lapped up our online networks for awhile, I finally made the hard line decision that it was here we would pay for a meal. They were taking forever to get ready so I walked back out to the counter and talked to the clerk. Most of the places nearby were closed since practically everything closes at 6 p.m. He kindly circled several areas. My BFF had thought that the place across the street had dinner food, but nope. It was an ice cream cake store. It was closed. So then I went back to the group, we had a short discussion, but no decision. So I decided to lead us to the location the clerk had pointed to from the hotel’s doorway of being a few feet away.

It was cold. The wind was powerful and demanded that you stop or be pushed down. So we slid along icy walkways and around buildings towards dinner. There was no such place. I had led us to a wrong turn. Our teeth were chattering and we were thinking about giving up when we saw a promising street to our left as we headed back to the hotel. Here was a little circular area of shops and buildings pointing in towards the circle. We walked past a couple open bars, a movie theater, and several closed restaurants. Then I spotted a chicken place. Okay, we had not travel thousands of miles to eat chicken. But the only other promising restaurant was further down the road. Thomas finally gave in and we ran across the street.

You had to step upwards to get into the restaurant. The order location was a counter to the left while photos of food lined the wall facing the street. The girl at the register took pity on us and gave us a menu in English. It was weird and left me with an uneasy feeling. In the United States we usually don’t have menus in multiple languages. Thomas ended up ordering for all three of us. Then we turned around and walked past the wall of food photos into a small sitting area. It wasn’t fancy. The yellow walls enclosed a rectangular room which had a row of tables on either wall. We took the first one near the front of the restaurant. Two women sat in the back corner from us. The food was….okay. There was a strange sauce which was okay. But my main memory is of the plain bun falling apart in my hands. I ate my fries and gave up on trying to eat like a civilized person.

On the way back, I was amused by a poster of Meryl Streep as the Witch from “Into the Woods.” The poster was outside of a movie theater. Someone had pulled an Anne Wheaton on it and put huge googly eyes on her face.

That night, we continued to relax and read on our own. My BFF was watching a TV show from her cot. They eventually convinced me to try the hot chocolate which was available. It was way too dark for me, so I poured in an entire coffee creamer and then these two tiny sugar tablets. That helped some. In the morning, I packed the remaining cocoa, creamer, and sugar into my bag.