A Friday off in the summer is allowing me to catch up on Bryan Alexander’s book club reading, the expansive, immersive “New York 2140” by Kim Stanley Robinson. This is the first novel of his I have read, which is clearly a cultural deficit I should attempt do rectify soon.
The book’s title tells you what the book is about, largely. The New York of 2140 is dealing with the impacts of a 50 foot sea level rise due to climate change. New York is underwater to around 30th Street, and much of the story takes place in the Met Life and Flatiron buildings around Madison Square Park, which make the story especially compelling to me as my office is only a few blocks east of here on 25th street (and whose building would be partially underwater in the book, although my 9th floor office would be above the waterline.) Perhaps when Bryan told me I “might like this one” his is what he meant.
A few impressionistic thoughts:
- After reading “Walkaway” by Cory Doctorow, and thinking of my favorite book club perennial also-ran in voting, “2030” by Albert Brooks, we’re getting lots of scenario building and world building around the possible futures our present choices are creating. It’s also hard for me to read 2140 and not think about the current US administration’s easing of climate legislation and rollback of environmental protection laws. I worry that the events outlined in the book (and they are described with precise timelines) might be happening sooner than this book predicts; and also, although the Surges are catastrophic, Robinson outlines a viable world that exists after them (although the extent of devastation and displacement are not fully explored, since the story does not take place then) but a world where wealth inequality and the triumph of global capitalism are decisive and permanent.
- I am an amateur enthusiast about the infrastructure and architecture of New York City and cities in general, so the discussion of the changes in the cityscape that the book describes are intensely interesting to me. The book has a lot to say about present-day New York in its description of the New York of 120 years in the future.
- It’s also fascinating how Robinson describes both what has changed and what hasn’t changed. The day-to-day of the denizens of future NYC is not very different than present-day, except perhaps with a lot more water. Computing technology seems basically the same, and there’s some advancement in materials (carbon fiber and aerogels get mentioned) but these are still fundamentally New Yorkers, recognizable to us today as such. I find it helpful to think about how 2018 New York would look to people at the turn of the 20th century–as far back from us know as we are from New York 2140. New Yorkers would still be recognizable to us, the street grid is identical, and many of the buildings would still be there (especially north of the intertidal in the 30th-streets area).
I’m gonna get back to reading and hopefully comment more. I just wanted to mark a few thoughts while I can. This is an amazing book and certainly worthy of its Hugo nomination.
In previous years I’ve done a complete blow-by-blow of the entire conference, and that’s really not useful anymore–many of the experiences are the same or similar from year to year, and honestly, I know and talk to a lot of people and to try and name them all would just be self-indulgent. I’ll just go over some of my personal observations:
- I was plagued by a few issues from home which sometimes distracted my focus but also simultaneously gave me clarity on the things I need to be doing to improve the situation on campus. I have started to formulate a plan. I know John O’Brien in his opening speech said that “your emails will still be there” when you get back, and that is certainly true, but the job may not be if you don’t address the issues.
- As always I got to have some great conversations with my Frye classmates. It was a great time to get a reading and just make sure we’re doing what we need to be and to work through challenges.
- I was again blown away by the quality of the EDUCAUSE Award winners. I know that’s funny to say since I helped pick them but to hear them talk just makes me even happier that we were able to select them.
- I was excited about the opening keynote the most, but it ended up being a lot of “This is what a 1960s futurist thinks of the future” stuff, very optimistic without any sense of the issues that the future he describes would bring; and a few descriptions and terms that felt very outdated with our current sensibilities. It was fun to watch the Twitter stream slowly start to become more skeptical of the predictions and context thereof as the speech progressed.
- The second keynote also brought up some issues of big data, but it was interesting to hear how you can be persuasive with data and change people’s behavior.
- Temple Grandin was an incredible whirlwind and her talk gave us a window into her mind. She is a powerful example of why people on the spectrum are not “broken”, they’re just different, and helping them use their difference positively is a tremendous benefit to society. It fit in well with the other thoughts of diversity, equity, and inclusion that I interacted with during the conference.
- Much of my conference dealt with issues of “diversity, equity, and inclusion”. I went to a lot of sessions about it, and thought about it a lot, especially in the context of the recent revelations from the entertainment world. Also, as I am now working in a considerably more diverse environment than my previous institution, the ideas of how to keep the experience of my employees as inclusive of their differences as possible is foremost in my mind, and providing them the opportunities they need and deserve will continue to be a priority.
- One thing (as I finish up this abandoned draft from a few months ago ;-)) that I’ve been thinking of is what it means to be good at things. Defining success and whatnot. I’m still working on that in some ways. Stay tuned.
- A shout-out to Tim Chester and his organizing the second annual (unofficial) EDUCAUSE Fun Run. The obvious choice was up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, and we had about 20 people this time (in Anaheim in 2016 it was three of us!)
All in all, EDUCAUSE remains my premier professional development event, and I will continue to participate fully, as an attendee, as a volunteer whenever my professional association needs me, and hopefully this year as a co-presenter with some great colleagues. I cannot recommend it highly enough and hope to see many of you in Denver this fall.
I’ve now been an Assistant Vice President and Deputy CIO for just over a month. In some ways, it feels like no time has passed at all. In other ways, it feels like it’s been forever. Continue reading The first month
I have just a few weeks left at Drew. One of the things I keep realizing about this transition is that it’s something I’ve never done before:
But I had forgotten something when I tweeted this: As a child, I moved three times before I graduated high school, and my parents moved an additional time right after my graduation, and another time 2 years later while I was in college. As an adult I have moved to a new domicile 4 or 5 times as well. So I do have some experience with transitions, they’re just more personal than professional.
Every time I’ve moved, there would always come a point in the move–usually when the movers had packed everything up and the house was filled with nothing but the clutter of the move–when I didn’t want to be there anymore. There was something about that trigger that made my mind say “Yes, now, it’s time.”
I’m starting to feel that, but it’s not because I’ve physically packed up my office (I’m going to start that soon) but because I’m “packing up” my job. I’m making sure I’m giving things to other people to take on, deliberately not taking on most new things, watching as the organization makes the first steps into doing things without me. Soon, my job itself will be nothing but a cluttered house, empty except for the pieces that are too unimportant to deal with.
And that is when I will be completely ready to go.
None of this means I won’t miss the place or the people. Of course I will, and it will be very hard. But I’m reminded that there’s something about the nature of transitions that readies you for the next step, just in time for when you need it.
I’ve been in higher education for nearly 25 years now, and I’m finally doing something I’ve never done before.
Teaching a college course.
Continue reading Teaching a Class
One thing I forgot to mention about Wednesday is that a few weeks before the conference I got an email from a video producer for EdTech Magazine (published by CDW) asking if I wanted to be interviewed for videos they were making about EDUCAUSE. I figured the only right answer to that question was “sure!” so I said yes. I got a call sheet with several questions on it and a warning that they would not have hair and makeup on site so to arrive camera ready. A few extra brushes of the hair, and a good shave were thus necessities in the morning.
Continue reading EDUCAUSE 2015–Part 2
I’ve been home for a while now and it’s a good time to collect my thoughts and musings about the conference. Continue reading EDUCAUSE 2015–Part 1
I wrote an article on my more personal blog (which I’ve used in fits and starts over the years) about how the gadgets my dad brought into the house growing up shaped my sensibilities about technology. I link to it here because it’s a bit of an “origin story” for my professional career, and it’s an interesting journey into some older computing and electronics technology (which especially for people younger than me will seem irresistibly foreign and exotic).
I think we are shaped by the technologies we’re exposed to in ways we don’t fully understand. It’s probably valuable to reflect upon the tools you have used, and how they affect how you attack problems these days. Both to take stock of what your experience brings to you, and what you might perhaps need to discard to move forward.
In my previous post about EDUCAUSE, I mentioned that I needed a new bag instead of my very heavy and unwieldy Samsonite leather laptop attache I’d been using, and that I was down to either a Tom Bihn bag and a Timbuk2 bag.
Well, I ended up getting a Timbuk2 Command Messenger TSA Laptop bag in black. Medium.
It’s really good. I’m still finding pockets in it. I just noticed a few days ago a zipper that led to a pocket near the bottom of the bag–would probably work well for a compact umbrella. It’s got tons of organizer pockets but they somehow don’t get in the way either. The main big compartment seems almost big enough to put a weekend’s worth of clothes in, for the right weekend. The shoulder strap is super comfortable and wearing it messenger style works.
The laptop compartment is basically awesome. It has a large part which can easily fit a 15″ laptop, and fits my 12.1″ ThinkPad Yoga very well. The compartment also has another pocket for a tablet, which I use to put my Nexus 10 (and sometimes Nexus 7) into as well. The whole thing unzips from the main case to lie flat for TSA purposes, which I got to check on our trip back from Oklahoma this Christmas (oddly, on the way down they didn’t have us take anything out of our bags or lie them flat–they didn’t have any bins at the TSA checkpoint and were just running things through intact.) It’s filled with this cool foam that is more like webbing, lined with nylon mesh. It is super cushy and super comfortable. There’s also the Napoleon pocket which you can jam all the stuff from your pockets into when going through airport security, which is great because then you can just pull it all back out as well and it doesn’t get mixed in with your other stuff.
The bag is at least 3 pounds lighter than my old leather attache and is so much more comfortable to carry it’s not even funny (I think I messed up my knee carrying my old bag around EDUCAUSE and it’s just getting better.)
I’m sure a Tom Bihn would also have been a great choice. My only complaint about the Timbuk2 is is’t not an elegant bag. I mean , it looks good, but it’s decidedly geeky. I almost got the Proof bag but I decided to save the money in the end.
At any rate, I’ve been using it for work and for air travel at this point and I keep being impressed with its capabilities, so I can recommend it. I’ll have some more travel this year and I’ll check back in on its performance and capabilities then.
I realized something recently.
I am, in many ways, quite cynical. The reasons are numerous and varied, and perhaps not entirely all good. It’s not that I don’t care about anything, it’s that sometimes other people care a whole lot about things I don’t consider important. This came about when I said that most of the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis in our work, things like what software to use, what specific methodology, etc., basically don’t matter. Or, while we might agonize over the criteria used to evaluate one item over another, many of the differences in choices are not discernible before implementation, and may not even be discernible after implementation.
Continue reading On Decisions