2018 and 2019

First…  This post is also serving as the annual letter that would have gone out with my Christmas cards, had my Christmas cards gotten here on time and not been back-ordered.  And I would have ordered or bought cards sooner had I not put off looking for cards I know I still have but haven’t unpacked yet, only to not find them (yet).  I don’t send out many cards, but I certainly send cards to people who send me cards.

Second…  We all get excited at New Years and use it as this giant celestial event to review the outgoing year and set goals or resolutions for the new year, all based on the regular orbital path of the ball of mud and rock we’re stuck on around the local star.  We, or at least I, tend to also do this on my birthday.  And honestly…  It’s good to reflect on the past and set and adjust goals for the future.

Though there are global issues going on that made 2018 less than stellar, I look back on my own life in 2018, and while not the best year on record, it certainly wasn’t bad.  Or at least, the good stuff outweighs the bad.

WORK

Things have been building up for the last year or so, but overall, 2018 was a good year for me at the library.  Okay, getting flooded out of our room at the end of November wasn’t so good.  Short version is that UD facilities put off replacing a badly corroded pipe leading off the hot water tank, and the Monday after Thanksgiving, the pipe burst and flooded the lower level/basement with hot water (at least it wasn’t sewage!).  Our room is one of the last, if not the last areas of the library with asbestos tiling under the carpet, and so, after the water clean-up and relocating of us and our equipment and storage of other equipment, asbestos abatement is under way.  In addition, we’re not getting new carpeting, but instead are putting in tile, which makes sense for an area with piping overhead and is prone to occasional mild flooding during large rain storms or snow melts.

Leaving that aside, I’m being given more integral tasks and projects for my department, which was renamed to Digital Collections and Preservation this year.  We’re still working on the National Digital Newspaper Program, whereby newspapers on microfilm are being digitized into a searchable format and put up on Chronicling America.  The project is managed by the Library of Congress with support from the National Endowment of the Humanities.  I’m finishing up my part for the 2017-2019 grant cycle, our second grant cycle, which involves me collating base metadata from the microfilm, which includes date and issue information for each paper as well as counting/verifying the number of pages for each issue and noting duplicate or missing pages as well as damaged pages.  It’s tedious and time-consuming, but also a very necessary first step in the digitization process.  After me, the spreadsheets and microfilm reels are sent to a company in India that has lots of people and microfilm scanners and can, en masse, scan the pages and link the images to the metadata I create.  Stuff gets sent back to us for some post-processing and quality control, and is then sent to Library of Congress, where it gets run through optical character recognition to make the text searchable.  Then LoC puts everything up on their servers and is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Keep in mind that I’m a bit of a history buff and my second degree has a minor in history.  And as a representative from the Library of Congress said on his visit to our library, “Newspapers are the rough draft of history.”  For one who knows semiotics and how to read between the lines, how to read what’s not there as well as what’s there, this project is a rich source of primary material not only for history, but for culture, art, and life in general, mostly for the local area, but with hints of life spanning the world in those articles about events overseas.

Also with this project, I now maintain a library-based blog on the Delaware Digital Newspaper Project (DDNP) wherein I look for interesting stuff to post about.  NDNP encourages program participants to have blogs to, basically, get the word out about the project as a tool and to get people using it.  Last I heard, our blog, the one I maintain, is one of the more active blogs.  And I must be doing something right, as several co-workers follow the blog via either their own WordPress readers or subscribing to e-mail notifications.  Sometimes I even get positive feedback in the halls as I pass people.

We’re working on a third grant proposal for a 2019-2021 cycle.  I’m currently working on doing copyright research for the proposed titles for the third grant cycle, making sure copyright wasn’t renewed for the dates beyond what is now old enough to be eligible for public domain.  In addition, though I’ve been involved with this project since the first grant cycle, my role is being written into the grant proposal.

Among other projects, I finished transcribing Delaware Senator J. Allen Frear’s weekly radio addresses from the 1950s.  This was a lower-priority project that I’d been working on for a few years, and it was finally completed and put into our institutional repository.

With other organizational changes in the library, the individual internal staff organizations merged into what is not the Library Staff Council.  In the past, I’d been involved with the Library Staff Association and even served as President for three years.  With the new organization, I was elected to the Advocacy Committee.  I and two co-workers are still defining the committee and streamlining the functions we in herited from the previous organizations.

HOME

Home life has remained good.  Mom and Stepfather remain rather active for their age, which is good.  My sister continues to work as head of a tech support department and my brother-in-law continues to design and run tests on medical diagnostic equipment.  We’ve all been active in keeping up with Danielle, who started K4 this fall.

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Don’t mess with the Jedi princess.

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Activity increased with the arrival of Diana Lynn, who arrived the evening of September 14…

MomMom and Diana

She was born via c-section seven weeks early, as my sister was pre-ecleptic. She spent three weeks in the NICU before coming home, and is now doing pretty well.

Dani, fortunately, has adapted well to having a little sister.

For Halloween, Dani was Ladybug from a French anime featuring the superhero. Diana, whose original due date was on Halloween, instead participated as Ladybug’s sidekick, Kwame.

Dani is starting to become literate. She can write her own name (with relish!) and can write other things if you spell them for her. She can read names and small words. She’s also able to do some basic addition.

Diana is still realizing there’s an environment around her. Her eyes are open more these days and she watches everything. She primarily knows me as “diaper guy,” since when we’re babysitting her here, I typically change her while Mom gets a bottle ready. She watches every little thing I do and I typically now get a smile and a little bit of a coo when I’m done giving her a clean diaper.

Rocky is pretty good with Dani. If she pulls out one of his toy mice, he will play with it for as long as Dani’s interest holds. And Diana? When Diana’s “hangry,” he will purr and rub against her for all he’s worth, even if a stray arm or foot hits his head. He has to be one of the most patient cats I’ve ever had with regards to tiny humans.

On an aside: Rocky and Minerva are both doing well. Well, mostly well. Minerva is going blind due to diabetic-related cataracts and possible retinal degeneration. We need to take her to a veterinary ophthalmologist at some point to verify the retinal degeneration. But thus far, she can still judge light, dark, and movement and has minimal impact on her life in general. That is, she still jumps up on the bed, and off the bed, has no problem finding her food or litter box, and so on. She is also pretty patient with Dani, especially since Dani will often bring Minerva’s dinner to her whenever we have Dani for an overnight and such. As for Yoda… We got him a new plexiglass cage. Given that his balance has been pretty bad since his outer wings had to be amputated a few years ago due to calcium tumors, we got him a smaller cage where he can’t climb and consequently fall all over the place. As a result, his tail has finally grown in fully and what’s left of his wings tend to look halfway normal these days. While he’s purely obnoxious sometimes, he’s become much more interactive with the family.

Dance

In late February, I started dancing with Brittany. Brittany had, a little over a decade ago, taken the HESC 120 class for credit, then danced on the team for about a year and a half afterward. She had competed all of once, and, unfortunately, never had a regular partner. She is now married and has two kids, one of which goes to the same day care Dani went to. Thus, Brittany knew my sister, and they got to talking, ballroom dance and my search for a partner came up, and so we reconnected and started dancing together. We’ve made noticeable progress in the last 10 months thanks to regular practice and semi-regular lessons with Francesca Lazzari. Francesca and her husband/partner Emanuele are one of the top dancers in the world for International Standard, and while Brittany and I specialize in American style, Francesca and Emanuele are more than capable of coaching us in all styles. Though Brittany and I may start testing the waters with International style at competitions. Smooth and Standard have a lot of similarities, and I’ve tended to do well when dancing Quickstep in the past for shits and giggles.

Then, because a few students had requested it, Brittany and I held a small workshop on Samba (an International Latin dance) back in December. We mentioned this to Francesca, who then asked us to demonstrate what we taught. So we did, and her response was that we should consider competing in Samba at the next competition.

In 2018, we competed at BAMJAM (University of Maryland) in April, Princeton in October, and DCDI (University of Maryland) in November. Over the summer, we also did a small performance for an adult day care center for people with Alzheimer’s. And we continue to teach beginner social ballroom classes on Sunday nights.

While the team has actually shrunk in the last year, I remain optimistic that we’ll get some interest and start having a net gain of members. At the very least, the finances are stable, we are still teaching our classes, and I’m still getting occasional donations of dresses, shoes, and other materials. So, when we do finally start to gain new members, we’ll have the resources to help them achieve their dance goals. In addition, I was contacted back in September about teaching ballroom dance classes at Cecil College for their lifelong learning program. So as of the end of January 2019, I will be an adjunct professor there.

Last but not least, I had a short story published in an anthology this year! An historical fiction short story I’d written for a history class nearly two decades ago, “The Chandler at Windsor Castle,” inspired by some historical research and my visit to Windsor Castle back in 2001, is in the anthology She Blended Me With Science.

So, I am dancing, am a professor (if in title only, since they don’t have a position for “dance instructor,”) am technically a professional blogger at work with the DDNP blog, and am a published writer with the book.

Only a test…

I’m taking a workshop this afternoon on advanced WordPress stuff.  I’ll likely be using this account as a test bed.  Please don’t be alarmed by anything weird posted here.  And apologies if I post 20 things whilst I learn new stuff.  🙂

Testing Videos

I’m testing to see if I can share videos from Google Drive.  And if I can maybe embed them in entries.

And after looking around, unless I purchase a plan, I can’t embed videos.  And uploading videos would also take up space.  So instead, here’s the direct link via Google…

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fZ0tGLBPwAxA7wTQqpUyl-c_Mu0Etgy5/view?usp=sharing

Warm-up at Princeton, 2018

Someone let me know if this works…

 

Quick Update

So, I will need to start maintaining this blog, as well as the regular blogs, as well as the Ballroom Team blog I just started.

I also need to play around with themes so I have the “dashboard” set up right, like I do with the DDNP blog for the library.

Things have been crazy the past few weeks, let alone the months since I last gave this blog any attention.

Writing – I donated a story to an anthology that will be due out…soon-ish.  No money from it; just a contributor copy.  But the proceeds for the anthology are going to support battered women.  I can’t remember the name of the organization, but I vetted it earlier this year, and it’s all legit.

Dance – Dance has been crazy.  Right now, the team has three people: Me, my partner Brittany, and Louise, who is a junior this year.  Stijn and Mitali are still around, but are relocating soon now that Stijn is now Doctor Stijn and entering the work world.  Kate is most probably coming back, since I was contacted by Cecil College just over the line in Elkton, MD, saying they needed a new teacher for their ballroom classes.  Way back when, the team taught those classes, and we made a fair bit of coin from that.  I’m glad to be getting those classes back.  Other than that…  Current students are sharing the class announcements for the next session of public classes.  Some of the shares are going to the English Language Institute, class lists, and defunct ballroom lists from now-retired instructors.  I…guess it helps to have professors taking my classes and such.

I also got a message from another professor, wanting to know if we could do a “Dancing With the Stars” kind of thing, but with professors.  I told her that we only have one undergrad at the moment, but maybe in a year or two, we’d have more students.  Turns out, she’s the advisor for the freshmen in the business college here.  She offered to send out interest info to the students.

Yes, I’m a bit overwhelmed.

Current plan is to get the team registered as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization so that our income isn’t taxed, especially since it all goes right back into the team – coaching, workshops, costumes, competition fees, floor space fees, and so on.

Then, once we have enough students, we’ll have a sit down and chat about whether to try to get “legitimacy” from the university again.  I was pretty much ready to renounce all of that, being that the team can run without the university.  But… If we can set up a student group or club sport with the university, we can at least attend activities night.  Granted, we never got much from that.  But, things change.  In addition, if we’re on the rolls, so to speak, then when opportunities like “Dancing with the Professors” comes up, we can get more visibility and such.  Just…got to keep the paperwork going.

Part of this reconsideration is also due to realizing that there’s the professor in our public classes who, if he’s not an adjunct but a full professor, could potentially be the requisite advisor.  And then this other professor from the business college who is almost certainly a full professor, and who might be interested in being the “official” advisor and content to get irregular updates and sign off on certain paperwork…  Yeah.

Ultimately, it’s looking like I might help kids discover ballroom, bring old teammates back to ballroom and actual enjoyment of dancing, and keep it all affordable for people.  Oh, and do all that while providing a community service with the classes.

Last but not least…  I have a new niece!  Diana was born about a month ago.

I have yet to meet her.

She was born seven weeks early, and until about a week ago, was in the NICU.  Every time I thought about asking my sister if I could go see her, something came up.  Well, first, I got a booster on all my previous vaccinations as well as a flu shot for this year.  Then Mom told me about the NICU nurses complaining about how Diana was “having too many visitors.”  And shortly before Diana got kicked loose from the hospital, I got the cold Dani was getting over.  Yesterday and today, I’ve finally been feeling much better, but am still horking up the occasional mucous glob and having the occasional cough or sneeze.  Thing is, I may be going right into fall seasonal allergies.

Anyway, that’s all for the moment.  I’ll…see what I can do about linking this to the Book of Face and about linking the dance team blog to the dance team page.

More later…

An overdue update…

As I have been working on several blog posts for the Delaware Digital Newspaper Project (DDNP) blog, I have to first note that the dashboard and post editor for a paid account seems a bit different than the one for free accounts.

As you can see if you click on the link above, you can see I’ve been rather busy with that blog.  Woot?

And what you don’t see are several entries for date-specific that are set to automatically post.  In fact, I’ll be trying that feature with this blog.  If you see this on Monday, Jan. 22, then it didn’t work…

From  my work researching older newspapers, I’m finding that what we typically think of as “greeting card holidays” and such were actually celebrated for…quite awhile.  As in, before greeting cards.

I’m very slowly working on collating basic metadata for the second batch of NDNP.  I have the sample reel and the first batch done, and am intentionally dragging my feet because we haven’t sent anything to HTC yet.  There was a backlog for purchasing orders and contract signings, so, things have been delayed.  Being that the NEA and NEH are having their budgets slashed, I’m sure plenty of places are trying to get their new projects on the dockets with vendors before the new, defunded budgets are in place.

Maybe I’m being a bit of a history nerd, but, I’m really interested in these projects.  Primary source material stuff.  Newspapers are often viewed as “history’s rough draft.”  And the other projects we have are primary source stuff.  Personal correspondence, pictures, artwork…  To preserve and organize it all…  Yeah.

In other news…  I’m halfway through teaching a Rumba class for the ballroom team with my old teaching partner, Kate.  Last night, we realized we’ve known each other for 16 or 17 years, rounded up to two decades.  And we suddenly felt very old…  But, at least we’ve fallen into old patterns and such with teaching this class.

I have a competition coming up on February 10 in Philadelphia, PA.  UPenn’s Clover Star Classic.  I’ll probably also do the Rutger’s competition and the UMD BAM-Jam competitions in April.

I think that’s all for now.  I will try to update a little more frequently…

 

New Beginnings, Different Purpose

At some point, I may add a page, as in, a biography page.

This will be my third attempt at WordPress.  The first attempt was when Putin was being elected and did a lot of suppression over on LJ, which caused the servers to crash and such, and there was a mass exodus to WordPress and other blogs.  I tried cross-posting.  Didn’t work.  The second attempt was another attempt to cross-post, and still didn’t work.

Dreamwidth is my platform of choice.  That is a more…personal…blog.  WordPress doesn’t seem to have the same security controls that DW has.  It’s all good.

But, lately, I have been submitting content to the Delaware Digital Newspaper Project at the University of Delaware Library, and as that is WordPress-based, I’m kind of reviving this blog.

This blog and accompanying pages will be a bit more professional.  I may even link it to my Facebook page.  The main purpose is to have an account from which I can submit content to the DDNP blog for review and such.  But, it doesn’t hurt to have a more public-facing internet presence where I can promote projects at work, among other things.

Obviously, I work at the University of Delaware Library in what is currently called the Center for Digital Collections.  We’re going through a period of transition with new leadership and such, and our department may see an increase in what we do not just for the library but for the University of Delaware community in general.

What do I do here?  I’m what could probably be best described as “project support.”  As I have a cool little transcribing program on my computer, I’m the “go-to” person for transcription projects.  Such projects have included the radio addresses of Delaware Senator J. Allen Frear, which will be up on UD Space, which is our institutional repository, and through Special Collections.  I also transcribed the oral histories for the Friends of School Hill project.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve been doing work on the National Digital Newspaper Project, also known as Chronicling America.  I create the spreadsheets with the base metadata that includes newspaper title, date, issue number, and number of pages in that issue (and any duplicate or missing pages).  This then gets sent off with the microfilm, where the pages are scanned into a digital format and a character recognition program applied, then sent back to us.  We verify the results, then ship it to Library of Congress, and they put it up on their website.

We’re currently between grants, so I’ve been helping with smaller projects, like the School Hill project, helping clean up some other projects, expanding my skills via the library’s subscription to Lynda.com, and coming up with blog entries for the newspaper project to (1) show the value of such a project and (2) entice people to use it as a research tool.

So, with the Lynda.com, I’m learning more and more on how to run WordPress and such (and I plan on taking more of their online video courses on Excel, Access, Google Apps, and so on).  Hence, why I’m resurrecting this blog.  Rather than it being just a repost from my regular blog, I plan to, as mentioned before, use it as a more public-facing blog.  So, I may only update one to three times a week.  Though as a treat, I may toss in a summary of the highlights of my regular blog, like maybe including the list of books I’ve read so far and so on.

In addition to working at a research library at a mid-sized university, I also manage the UD Ballroom Dance Team and compete American Smooth and Rhythm (and will eventually add International Standard to my list).  And I teach public classes for the team and help teach the classes for the social club.

 

(Yeah, there’s about fifteen years between those two pictures…)

Let’s see, what else…?  I have two diabetic cats, Rocky and Minerva…

Two cats, one black, one tortie
Rocky and Minerva: The Diabetic Duo

 

…And I have an adorable niece, Dani…

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Dani, making critters for Halloween

…and all of that keeps me off the streets.

I’m also an avid reader.  Primarily tie-in fiction for Star Trek and Star Wars, and science fiction in general (I’m currently reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, among other things) as well as fantasy and urban fantasy (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, for example).  I read/collect comic books (mostly DC).  I’m a coffee and tea enthusiast (sort of).

This is all probably more than enough for this entry.  I mean, this whole entry was for me to try to use some basic features of WordPress and put into practice some of what I’ve learned from the tutorial, plus set the tone for this blog and so on.

More later…