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Outside, it’s America…

Outside, it’s America…

There was this moment, about 10:30am this morning.

I was in our joint presentation; my co-speaker had the brilliant idea of awarding cash prizes to people who could identify the Nintendo games in her part. To speed things up, I started to throw dollar bills at people who came up with the right answers, like some kind of Las Vegas pimp on a night out in a joint on the strip.

Outside the building, long lines of people are waiting to vote, even in states with early voting. In Ohio, the police have got riot gear on already. In Virginia, a crucial swing state, voting machines are breaking down. In Pennsylvania, another key state where there was no early voting, the queues to vote are extending up to a mile.


18 miles from here, the police are trying to organise an event where Obama accepts the presidency, and up to half a million people are expected to turn up. Part of me wants desperately to go to it. But another part of me is terrified at the thought.

The news is wall to wall election – there is no other news – it’s election on 80 channels; rumours and anecdotes feed into the less-than-insulated event here in a Chicago hotel. The conference organisers, attendees, librarians, gamers, and gamer-librarians, seem pumped up, nervous. Someone threw up their breakfast this morning, ran off to the restroom. Her colleague turned to the rest of the table and just said “Election”. And it’s pretty clear, from the reaction in the room to the last slide of my half of the presentation…

…which way the political allegiances of the attendees leans.

Chicago seems on edge; locals stopped smiling when the election was mentioned from about a couple of days ago. But that moment; it must have been some kind of hyper-moment, throwing dollar bills at people while being aware of some of the extreme events happening for hundreds, thousands of miles in every direction as over 130 million people cast votes to decide who will be their collective president. Suddenly it felt … yes. Yes, this is America.

Chicago on election day

Chicago on election day

The TV news is awesome this morning; a country appears to be queuing to vote. View from hotel room balcony below. Apologies to other guests a few minutes ago who were opening their curtains; I should probably have put some clothes on first. Your day can only get better (depending on who wins).

Good morning America...

GLLS2008 food

GLLS2008 food

Anthony’s Italian Chop House in the Doubletree Hotel. Head right when entering the hotel and keep going. Warning to GLLS2008 delegates – food here good but v high calorie. Currently twittering and eating cannelloni there:


That’s complimentary olive oil soaked parmesan cheese on the right, which complements the cheese-stuffed cannelloni. Shopping mall across the street in case need to buy elasticated or larger trousers :-( Which is where I’m  going now. Foxes Bar (near to reception) is loud sports bar but looks good place for a beer or so. There later this pm or twitter me.

Montana at dawn

Montana at dawn

Miles travelled on trip so far: 8,492.
Planes: 3. Trains: 10. Buses: 14. Taxis: 5. Car trips: 4.

The Amtrak arrived in Whitefish, Montana just before dawn. Departing the train, I was greeted by the coldest weather yet. No snow, but apparently it’s the right temperature for it.

Amtrak in Whitefish

The hotel has two outside hot tubs, from which the steam is billowing off in the cold morning air. Am imagining getting scalded on the parts below the water, and frostbitten on the parts above (yes, Finnish colleagues, I know you will snort in derision at this). Time to explore Montana for a bit.

Sleepless in Monterey

Sleepless in Monterey

Well, not quite, though the jetlag has not entirely gone and I have strange panda-like eyes now. I guess I should blog a bit, especially as my badge has a “blogger” appendage to it. So I’m here at the Internet Librarian 2008 event, or IL2008 as it’s Web-2.0-known. Monterey, on first look, is a bit of a sleepy place (compared to in-your-face LA) and pseudo-Mexican (there’s probably a proper word for it) in style. The conference centre has air conditioning and is surprisingly low-key from the outside. I know very few people at this event.


I’ve met my session chair before (another ex-eLib person) and one of the speakers who is on before me. Apart from that, I haven’t met anyone amongst the several hundred (or thousand) delegates here I know. Dispiritingly, most people are younger than me. Some appears to be at least a generation younger than me. Anyway, my presentation for tomorrow morning is in the can. Should any delegate come across this beforehand, it’s the Digital Games in European Libraries one.

I’ll be discussing such diverse topics as:

  • Playstation games in English public libraries.
  • George Washington and the Stars and Stripes.
  • Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox games around the continent (of Europe).
  • What the National Libraries of Europe said when I asked them what they did with video games.
  • …and why Sarah Palin is the closest the US has to official royalty.

Hey, there’s a cocktail reception at 6pm on the 10th floor of the Marriott. Hopefully that’s on the west side, as it’ll afford good views of the sunset over the pacific. Think I’ll go to that, then go to the evening presentation by the Dutch posse who are moving around the place dressed in black and looking particularly cool in that way only continental Europeans can do.

Los Angeles and Santa Monica

Los Angeles and Santa Monica

It’s morning, and around 80 degrees. The eight lanes of traffic on the road outside are getting heavy. A mile or so away, jumbo jets are queuing up to take off, on their way to Japan, China, Europe and Australia. The view from the window:

Waking up in LA

As you may have guessed, I’m not in Berneray. Instead, I’m in an airport hotel in Los Angeles, California (Is that last bit necessary? Does anyone *not* know where LA is?). It’s about a week into the trip away, though it seems a very long time ago now since Shonnie Alick dropped me off at Benbecula airport. Yesterday and today are jetlag recovery days. As it’s my first trip abroad as a middle-aged bloke, and as jetlag has hit me hard on the last two US trips, am in chill-out mode for a while. Especially after the 11 hour flight here, though that wasn’t too bad. Heathrow Terminal Five was modern and relaxing, though the range of things to do was a little disappointing. The flight itself was pretty good; some spectacular views of Greenland (below), Canada, the Rockies, the vast midwest desert and Las Vegas


That Asus EEE is also damned useful in small spaces; I knocked off a whole presentation and about half of a paper in the seven hours of battery power (yay for solid state memory).

Working at 32,000 feet

LAX wasn’t too bad this time, and I was out of there within an hour of the flight getting in. Non-US arrivals are thoroughly checked; passports are scrutinised (not just checked) on three occasions. Two fingerprints and a picture are taken. The questioning can be detailed; I was worried for a few moments that my reply to “Why are you here?” of “To encourage librarians to use Nintendo Wii’s in their libraries” (which it is) may have misconstrued as taking the mick, but they let me through. Today, like yesterday, I’m off to Santa Monica. Last evening was shopping and pier time; today will be beach time, a swim in the Pacific (surely warmer than the sea off the Uists, though probably not as clean), and possibly a trip to the Getty Center.

Pier from the sidewalk

I’m travelling by Amtrak to get around the US on this trip. This’ll be an interesting experience, and it started yesterday when making the first reservations in the fabulous Union Station in central LA. Amtrak, oddly, seems to operate more like an airline (used to) than airlines do now. They advise you to arrive 90 minutes before, check in your baggage, and do other bits of admin before getting on the train. Tomorrows trip is a mere 8 hours (so no overnights) from LA to Salinas, after which I’ll make my way to Monterey where I’m presenting in a few days time.


Logistically, so far so good. Sensibly, US hotels often have laundry rooms, so I’m pretty up to date with clean clothes, supplemented by cheap purchases in the UK (Primark) and the US (Gap). And so, with just laptop, camera and towel packed, it’s off to the beach…