31 August 2011

We Were All First Timers Once

I have a million things that I need to be doing right now, so of course I decided that now was a good time to catch up on my blog reading.  After skimming and reading through over 500 postings, one theme seemed to keep popping up - new bloggers who are also new to conference-going and while excited about attending, most are questioning whether they will fit in.  Maybe if we all shared our first time at a conference, it will make others less nervous. 

My first conference was an experience I'll never forget.  In 2006 I decided to attend my first conference.  I had just finished 2 years of Family History Studies at Monterey Peninsula College and felt I was ready for action.  

The Conference:  BYU's Conference on Family History & Genealogy
The Place:  Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah
Where I Stayed:  In the BYU dorms ON CAMPUS
Length of Conference : 5 days

Picture if you will - ME, a cigarette smoker, coffee guzzler,  and notorious for using swear words at inappropriate times attending a conference where about a 95% of the attendees and speakers are Mormon.  Heap on the fact that I  stayed in the dorms of a Mormon university.  Then top it off with I did not know one single person with the exception of my instructor from the above mentioned coursework.  The cherry on the very top was that my wardrobe did not include anything that covered my body down past my knees nor over my shoulders.

I'll give you a few minutes here to soak that image in and then to stop laughing. 

Looking back at it now, I am not sure where I got the nerve to attend such a large venue all by myself on my first time out the gate. Before the day was even half over, I wanted to go home.  Salvation came in the form of a most excellent roommate.  We had been paired up by the staff and had never met each other before.  She came into the dorm room and found me in tears.  I explained that while I had been allowed (albeit grudgingly) into the conference center with my attire, I had been turned away at the BYU Library and the BYU cafeteria. It was the end of July and 100 degrees, what was I supposed to wear? I felt really out of place.  I needed caffeine and a smoke, heck even the soft drink machines on campus were caffeine-free.  I had flown in and had no way to even leave campus.  I then thought with horror - was the entire city of Provo caffeine and smoke free?

My roommate just smiled and then explained to me about the dress code on campus and as guests we were expected to adhere to it.  She then drove me off campus to buy some instant coffee and a mug to keep in our room.  By the time we returned, there were appropriate clothes hanging on the door to our room. That instructor I mentioned earlier?  She had heard about my difficult day and had brought me clothes from her own closet.  Thank you Karen Clifford.  My roommate then told me that 25 years ago she was a student at BYU and the dorm we were in was the same one she lived in.  She showed me how to get on to the roof of the building where I could sneak a cigarette.  She never told me how she obtained this knowledge and I never asked.  I made it through the rest of the conference, I learned so much and made some new friends.

So here is what I think needs to be done for first-timers:

1.  To the conference planners:  Do not assume that everyone attending has been to your venue before and already knows the ropes.  Jamboree 2011 had a session devoted to the first timer.  The orientation showed how to get the most out of the 3 days.  It even showed people where the bathrooms were located!  

2.  There should be a type of "Buddy" system available for the first-timer, especially if they are attending alone.

3.  Nobody should have to eat alone.  If you are at a conference and see an obvious first-timer eating alone, invite him/her to join you and/or your group.  

We were all first-timers once.  Come on people, pony-up and spill your guts.  It's cheaper than therapy and you'll probably encourage someone to attend a conference.  Win-Win.

21 August 2011

Hangouts Are The Coolest Thing Since . . Well Since Ever!

Part of Google's new social platform - Google+ - includes a group video chat feature.  Google Hangouts allows up to ten people to video chat with one another. Hangouts are FREE and easy to use once you download and install a browser plug-in you’re all set.

In my experience, it does make a difference  what type of webcam you use.  The first time I tried to participate in a hangout I was using my Asus Netbook that has a built-in webcam, microphone and speakers.  It was very frustrating - a huge lag in the video to voice, constant freezing up of video and issues with the speakers.  I tried plugging in a headset with microphone and it made things a little better with the speaker sound but still had the lag and freezing.

So on the advice of Mark Olsen, I bought a Logitech HD Webcam C525.  It came with software but after reading reviews of the webcam, I elected not to install the software.  All I did was plug it in to the USB port and Voila - I was in video chat heaven.  

I am sure that any brand of webcam will do the trick as long as it has the following capabilities:

Resolution - The higher the resolution the better. Low resolutions make the video appear "grainy."  A minimum of 640x480 is suggested.

Frame Rate - Frame rates are measured in frames per second, so look for "fps" on the webcam packaging.  Low frame rates produce images that freeze.  You must stay above 15 fps in order to stream video, and you're better off staying closer to 30 and higher.

Auto-focusing and automatic light adjustment are also features to look for.

While in a Hangout, I feel like I am in the same room talking with people.  It's like magic being able to see and talk to other genealogists who, because of logistics, I might never have had the opportunity to meet in person.

If you are not over at Google+ and need an invitation just leave me a comment and I will happy to send you one.

Disclosure - Mark Olsen only suggested the Logitech brand to me, I chose the specific model.  And no one compensated me to mention this in my blog.  However if Logitech or Mark Olsen would like to make me a poster girl for their company, I might be able to find the time.  They know where to find me.   

20 August 2011

I Ching, You Ching, We All Ching For Something

Over at Randy Seaver's place - GeneaMusings - it is time once again for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1)  The writer of the Nuts from the Family Tree blog wrote about her question for the I Ching ( Book of Changes) guru in Cluless No More.  I thought that this might be a fun thing to do on Saturday night.

2)  Go to http://IChingOnline.net and ask a question relating to your genealogy research.  You can "throw the coins virtually" or "throw the coins by hand."  You have to click the "throw" button six times, then click on "Read."

3)  Report the question you asked and the answer you received, in the form of the Cast Hexagram (which explains the situation you are now in, or what has gone before), to your readers.   

4)  Does the answer make any sense to you?  How do you interpret the answer?

OK so I asked a question that is a little different than what the game calls for.  I asked the Great and Powerful I Ching  - 

"Oh where, oh where has my writing Mojo gone?" 

Although not a direct question about my genealogical research, the outcome certainly affects my research.

I chose to "throw the coins by hand" rather than "throw the coins virtually." A little extra effort might go a long way.  Here is my reading:

Cast Hexagram: 15 - Fifteen

Ch'ien / Modesty

The Mountain does not overshadow the Plain surrounding it:
Such modest consideration in a Superior Person creates a channel through which excess flows to the needy.

Success if you carry things through.


The Cosmos is moving toward equilibrium.

Extremes are being tempered, excess is beginning to shift toward the empty.
You can use these moderating influences to strike a balance in the world around you.
Remember, though, that this Leveling will not come about through an arrogant confiscation of excess, but through subtler persuasions.

OK I can go along with all the above.  I think that I even understand some of  what it is trying to say to me.

HOWEVER the price I have to pay is very expensive.  BEHOLD! - the last sentence  in my reading -

Modesty and moderation are the keys.

I Ching - you're killing me!

photo of I Ching from Wikimedia Commons

09 August 2011

A Quote That Should Be Set To Music

Today in my mailbox there came a gift of a wonderful quote that sums up perfectly how I feel about documentation and citations and such.

"Documentation is like Sex:  When it is good, it is very, very good and when it is bad it is better than nothing"
                                                                                                                            - Dick Brandon

The only thing that would make this even more perfect is if it were set to music.  I don't know who Dick Brandon is but I am now a huge fan. Sigh.

06 August 2011

Hip Hip Huree - Today I Am Three!

Huree?  Just go with it, it rhymes.

Three years have passed in what seems a blink of an eye.  Three years ago there were less than 100 Geneabloggers and today there are close to 2000! I am told that there are close to 300 readers who follow my blog on a regular basis.  I am simply amazed that anyone reads my blog.

When I started out, I had no idea what I was going to write.  Three years later and I still do not have a clue from one day to the next what I will write.

Now that summer is coming to an end, my off-line world is gearing up. El Toyon Chapter NSDAR (I am still the registrar), The San Joaquin Genealogical Society (I am still the editor of the newsletter) and as if I didn't already have enough on my plate I am now the secretary for the California State Genealogical Alliance.  Client projects have been slowing down, but hopefully things will pick up in the Fall.

I am starting a new blogging venture in September with some of the cream of the crop in the geneablogging world.  Look for an announcement coming soon.

In this next year I'll try to stay on topic or theme . . . .or not.