business howto Personal thinking Training


As a librarian, I’m pretty familiar with the concept of Metadata – the information about information that we use to catalog items in our libraries and arrange information in our websites, among other things. A concept I’m just starting to become more familiar with, however, is the concept of Metawork. This is work we do in order to work – the email processing and the time management required to get to work on time as well as to get work done by deadlines and the understanding how to attend, take notes and process work from meetings as well as general “how to make sure we can do the work we learned how to do in college or in our training” activities. These skills are rarely, if ever, taught in school – most people just sort of pick them up as they learn the ropes in their first few jobs, but those first few jobs would be far more productive and useful for both the employee and employer if the ideas behind the metawork that we all have to learn how to do is more explicitly taught.

I just finished reading a book: Charnas, Dan. Everything in Its Place: The Power of Mise-En-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind. New York, New York: Rodale, 2017. In it, the author compares the chef’s practice of Mise-En-Place to the office worker’s need to get things done efficiently and effectively. He begins the book with a story of a *really * bad day at the office that bleeds over into the “hero’s” home life and just sounds miserable – because most of us can relate. Dan then goes on to describe a way of thinking about what is essentially metawork that happens in order for the “real” work of your office to get done.

Many of the elements of metawork I listed above (time management, meeting management, etc.) I cover in a piecemeal fashion in the classes I teach on Project Management, Personal Knowledge Management and Time/Task Management. I’m really not familiar with any course or webinar or collection of good articles that covers the entirety of what you should know before you start working, besides the details of your profession, of course. I don’t cover email management, though that is touched on in the GTD time management classes I’ve done and meeting management I’ve glanced over in various classes like my Project Management course at Library Juice Academy.

One way to tackle the problem of metawork was mentioned in R. J. Nestor’s Weekend Upgrade Newsletter on the idea of recurrant work needs to be templated. In my job, I make a fair number of training and tutorial videos and having a process that I can use as a checklist to ensure that I’ve:

  1. Created a storyboard document outlining the scenes and information I want to include
  2. Applied the template that I’ve created in Camtasia to the video and set up the production settings for each video properly.
  3. Created handouts and other documentation for each video
  4. Uploaded and posted and advertised the video to my libraries for their use

Those kinds of tasks (and this is a simplification of the actual process I go through, of course, but it hits the high points) are things I have to be able to do in order to produce the work that I’m being paid to produce by my employer. It’s a form of metawork as well – and knowing that coming up with a template that outlines the process and how to store/navigate/use that template as you do your work are all metawork kinds of skills.

So I’m toying with a metawork class, but I’m not sure where to put it (Library Juice? ALA Ecourses? Somewhere else?) and what *exactly* the course would cover, but the idea of getting a class together that young professionals could access in order to give them a bit of a leg up on how to do the work around the work they do sounds interesting to me…

Libraries MRRL Personal

Scared? Check. Excited? Check. Must mean I’m starting something new!

I put in my notice today at my current POW (Place of Work), the Missouri River Regional Library, in order to move to Lawrence, KS and take the position of Director of Technology for NEKLS (North East Kansas Library System). December 21, 2012 (I never realized – that’s the Mayan date, isn’t it?) would have been my 14 year anniversary at MRRL. That makes this a pretty big move and makes the “scared” part of the headline understandable, I hope. Heading out to Kansas to help Kansas libraries with their technology issues and to support what appears to be a *very* forward-thinking set of member libraries? That’s where the “excited” part comes in. I may be quiet for a while as I tie up loose ends at MRRL and begin to figure out just what I’ll be doing at NEKLS, but I’ll be around on my social network sites, I’m sure!

cooking Personal

Cooking and Traditions

I mentioned in an earlier post that my current obsessive compulsion is to cook, learn about cooking and read about cooking. This weekend, after watching my son (and the rest of the Jay Marching Band) nearly sweep their division in the first marching band competition of the year, I settled in on Sunday to do laundry, finish a book proposal and cook. I made both cottage pie and my Mom’s apple crisp.
The cottage pie is pretty basic – I browned some hamburger, made a gravy from the rendered fat, flour, a bit of beef stock and some milk then covered that will a bag of frozen mixed veggies and some homemade garlic mashed potatoes. That all got covered with some cheese and baked. It was very tasty and will be even tastier tomorrow for my lunch and possibly again on Wednesday…
As for the apple crisp, that is where the tradition part comes in. My mother has always made the best apple crisp ever. She doesn’t doctor up the apples – she just pours them into a baking pan, puts her crisp mixture over it (1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup each white and brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, some cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, mix it up with a pastry blender or in the food processor until the butter is thoroughly mixed through) and bakes it at 350 for an hour. I dredged my apple slices in a flour, cinnamon and nutmeg mixture and added some butter and maple syrup to the apples before I added the crisp. The apples themselves were excellent, but it’s the crisp part that I won’t mess with. That stuff is so good and so perfect with the apples – and it’s the part that makes me nostalgic for family reunions where it was plentiful and Thanksgiving dinners where it starred alongside the pumpkin pie for dessert.
Now I’m wishing that I’d gotten some pictures of my Sunday cooking efforts – the cottage pie was actually quite pretty, with the fluffy potatoes covered in cheese.


The post in which I explain my slightly obsessive nature.

I get obsessed by things pretty easily. My “obsessions” started back in ’95 with HTML (this is, at least, the first time I really remember getting obsessed with a topic) and has progressed through quantum physics, knitting, Ruby on Rails, Project Management,  poker and, most recently, cooking. My obsessions each generally follow a similar route – I first read everything I can on the subject – books, ebooks, audiobooks, magazine articles – I read it all. Then, if it’s something I can practice (see HTML, knitting and cooking), I do. Obsessively. While reading as much as possible about the subject. If it’s not something I can practice (see quantum physics and poker) on my own, then I just read. And read some more. Then I read a bit more, just in case I’d missed something.

My bookshelves at home are studded with large swathes of books on these subjects. I own HTML manuals from way back in HTML 2.0 days and enough poker theory books to start a respectable bonfire. I have pattern books for knitted items that I will likely never be able to get to and I have every book Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku have ever written. I get obsessed. There is just no other way to explain it.

On the plus side, while I might go on to a new obsession, I rarely completely abandon my old ones. I still read popular science books on the subjects of cosmology and quantum physics. I knit pretty regularly. I’ve been known to join in a poker game occasionally, too. I still write in HTML, though it’s a different beast now than it was in 1995. And I cook.

This is my current obsessive topic. I recognize this because Amazon has begun sending me emails that are peddling professional cooking books and books on foodie topics. I got two yesterday alone. I have 2 copies of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything – one in hardback format on my cookbook shelf and one in iPad application format.

Besides giving you, my loyal readers, some insight into my crazy-brain, this is also a plea for help. Do you have any good cooking books (cookbooks, books about food, books about chefs, etc.) that you really love? Any that you want to recommend to me? I need another book or two or ten to round out this current obsession of mine. If you are close enough, geographically, I’ll pay you back by making you some food.

Personal Writing

Up to Chapter 3

I’m writing another book – this one on outsourcing IT functions in the library tech department – and so far I’m up to chapter 3 (though I should be done with that and working on chapter 4, which is due next Friday, according to my self-imposed deadline). I thought I’d take a moment to write about the process I use when writing and to share some of the applications that make it so much easier than taking an actual, physical pen to actual, physical paper (for me – your mileage may vary, of course). This seems like a fine way to spend some quality procrastinating time…

First, I start off by setting up the structure of the book in Scrivener, a writer’s word processor that does everything from basic word processing to scriptwriting to providing a name generator for fiction writers.  It’s not free and it’s not native to Windows – it’s a Mac program that costs about $45 and has a somewhat delayed Windows port available (the Windows version just released 1.0, the Mac version is at 2.0). The more I use it, the more I realize the Windows version is pretty crippled, in comparison to the Mac version, but the Windows version is still far more useful than any other word processor I’ve tried. Scrivener is also not natively able to do much syncing in the Windows version – but you can set your writing folder (where Scrivener goes to save everything, sort of like My Documents in Word) to your Dropbox folder and use it on several different computers that way.

Setting up involves taking my Table Of Contents from the book proposal and making files for the various chapters. I also put any research or images that I have already gathered into the Research folder in the Scrivener file so that they are there and easy for me to access while I’m writing. After the chapter files are set, I go through and give each one a  word count “target”. Scrivener then puts a little bullseye with a progress bar on the bottom of my screen and I can see at a glance how I’m doing on my word counts – the progress bar shades from red (not much there) to green (nearly all the words are in place) and keeps me aware of where I am in the chapter, as far as word count goes. At this point, I write.

After I’ve finished a chapter, I compile it to a PDF (Scrivener does so much formatting and prettifying of the text for you that it’s really not saving your text – it’s actually compiling it according to very specific instructions that you can adjust as needed) and save it to my Dropbox. Once there, I let it sit for a bit (at least a week) before opening the PDF in my iAnnotate app on my iPad and open it for editing. I read through the chapter, making notes and comments as needed, then, when I’m done with the editing, set the iPad next to my desktop computer and go through the Scrivener file making my changes as I come across them in the iAnnotate PDF file.

At this point, the chapter is now in the “second draft” stage and ready to be compiled with the whole book for a final editing session when I’m all done. One of the nice things about Scrivener is I can set each chapter with a label of “first draft”, “second draft”, “final” and see, at a glance, where I am in the book. These labels are, of course, completely customizable to the way you work, so they can give you any kind of information you need!

That process, repeated several times – at least once for each chapter in a book – is what I do when I write either a book or an article for publication. Between Scrivener and iAnnotate, my printer is becoming a lonely and little-used (other than as a convenient place to stack stuff) peripheral on my desk – and that’s the way I like it!

Personal socialmedia

Catch-up Post

1) We survived the trip from NOLA with only a small detour through the Ozarks. It did get us to the cheapest gas of the trip (3.14/gal in Lebanon, MO), but caused us to use more, so the net effect was probably 0.

2) Google+. It happened. I’ve had my account since 6/29 and I’m kinda liking it. I plan to do more of a post later, when I have a better feel for the service (and more people are there). Stay tuned.

3) Spotify in the US. I have it. I like it. I’m not using the sharing parts of it so much (yet?), but the ability to extend my personal collection of music is pretty cool. I’m using the free version for now – we’ll see if I use it enough to make the paid version worth it.

More to come later, when I have time to write (yes, my “I’m going to get up early to write” has gone all to hell this summer, with the 16 year old child coming in at all hours of the night and interrupting my beauty sleep…).

Personal travel

Day 3 or the day my feet fell off


You may note that there is no day 2 post – I got tired. We got up, drove to Vicksburg and toured the battle ground and the museum of the Cairo (a riverboat/battleship that sunk during the battle) and had a lovely time. All my pics, though, are on my real camera and my iPad’s camera connection kit is being fussy. I’ll post ’em when I get home. After that, and much driving, we got into NOLA around 5ish. We went to the LITA get together where we ate, drank and made merry while also spotting the sign above. Gotta love a town that will make librarian jokes…

Day 3 involved getting up, getting to the convention center and walking up and down aisles of vendors until our feet hurt. We got some information, some swag and some good conversations, though! After that, we met a woman I’d met at Internet Librarian some years ago for lunch at a brew-restaurant (where I had very tasty fish tacos and a light, summer beer) and then headed to the French Quarter. We walked all around, marveling at the sights:

20110625-103156.jpg (this was from the Jester daiquiri bar, where I had an electric lemonade and Mike had a strawberry daiquiri – yum)
After all that walking, a nap was in order, so we took one, then hopped in the car, picked a couple of other folks up and had ourselves a little FF meet up at Squeal BBQ.

20110625-103441.jpg That was some damn fine BBQ. I’m still full… So full, in fact, that the FB meet up on Bourbon street was skipped in order to go back to our hotel (did I mention that we have a 2 bed, 2 bath suite? I think it’s bigger than our house.) so that I could unbutton my pants in private.
Tomorrow is a tour of the city, in some way, a second run through the vendors and dinner at Emeril’s. For now, it’s bedtime!!

Personal travel

NOLA Trip – The Day We Began

20110623-073854.jpg The day began with a quick loading of the car, saying goodbye to the boy and the dogs and taking off. We went down 63 to just outside of Memphis and then I-55 into Memphis, before we got off on the Elvis Presley Blvd and out to Graceland. We did that in one single push – we didn’t stop for anything – no pee breaks, no food breaks (we packed a lot of munchies – that helped), no lunch break. We did stop right outside of Graceland and ate burgers at Checkers, but that was a drive-through and we ate in the Graceland parking lot. That was fun… 😉
Once we got to Graceland and unkinked our poor, abused bodies, we went in to see what was what. We got the platinum tour – it was $4 more and included a bunch of the little museum bits around the grounds. The first thing we did was head for the mansion. That was an interesting tour – the rooms weren’t *quite* as tacky as I was expecting, though the gold shot mirrors and dining room table was pretty bad, as was the shag carpeting on the walls of the stairs. When we got to the Jungle room, Mike found a chair that he decided would go nicely in our house…

Following that tour, we looked through the Auto museum (Mike audibly gasped when he was confronted with not one but two Rolls Royce Silver Clouds – one white, one black as we walked in) and dropped some cash in the gift shop (the auto one – we walked around the other shops, but my snark was in full force and I was too busy making comments to buy anything else…), we were done and ready to head out for the last leg of our day.
We made it to Bally’s in Tunica within 30 minutes and got checked in quickly. The room is smallish and a bit grotty, but it was $20 and there is a jetted tub that looks clean! We rested for a bit, then headed to the casino to pay for our room (and we did…) and eat. The buffet was nice, the casino was not at all busy and the video poker was moderately generous. I still walked out with less than I walked in with, but it could have been a lot worse! Now we’re back in the room, getting ready for bed and a full day of driving, touring Vicksburg and checking into our hotel in New Orleans. The LITA happy hour will be a nice end to that day!

Libraries Personal travel

NOLA – Here I Come

I’m getting ready to head out to the Big Easy this weekend. It’s a vacation combined with a bit of work-related socializing. This weekend is the beginning of the national ALA conference (the American Libraries Association, for those of you who aren’t in libraries but are still reading this blog…) and I’m heading down to tour the town, see folks that I only see once or twice a year and get wined (maybe?) and dined (definitely) by Neal-Shuman. They are taking all of the authors of the Tech Set books (those of us that will be in New Orleans, at least) to Emeril’s on Sunday night. Sort of a celebration for winning the Greenwood Publishing award for best library literature of 2011. I’m looking forward to the whole weekend, but that will be a lovely cap for my trip.

We’re heading down there Thursday and coming back on Monday, so it will be a quick trip and without any ALA-related blogging, probably. I’m not registered for the conference, so I won’t be attending any sessions, but I will be hitting the Exhibits (free stuff!!) and will be taking pictures of both my touristy stuff and my ALA get-togethers. Those will show up here, I’m sure!


Women in Tech – a contrarian perspective?

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve faced the “can I talk to the IT guy” questions when I *am* the IT guy (Hey look, there’s a shirt for that) – but I tend to think more like Lisa Barone in her article for Outspoken Media called “A Letter To Women In Tech: I Let You Down“. It’s not that I’m particularly young (I’m not yet 40, but I’m well over 30) or particularly aggressive in my style, but I’ve been spared a lot of the getting patted on the head and told not to “worry my pretty little head” about it crap that a lot of women who write about their experiences in tech get. I’m not discounting the experiences of other women, either – I’m sure some do get patronized and marginalized – it’s something that happens to women everywhere, so I’m sure it happens in tech jobs – it’s just never happened to me. It may be that I’m just oblivious – I’m fat, but have never dealt with the kind of teasing and mean comments that women smaller than me seem to deal with on a regular basis. Being spared those kinds of comments could be a result of my attitude. I’m confident that I know what I’m talking about and I don’t put up with being talked down to. I’m also 100% sure that there is nothing technical that I am incapable of doing – I may not know how to do it now, but I could learn – quickly, even. Maybe that attitude helps to head off the patronizing attitudes, maybe it just makes me not see them or notice when it happens.

Either way, I thought the article was a thought-provoking read and wanted to share it, along with my thoughts on the subject. What do you think?

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