Archive for travel

I Went to North Korea

Me at Peace Monument

Over the New Year’s Eve holiday I went to Korea–both! I had some frequent flyer miles to burn and tried to go as far as possible in first class with the least amount of points. That place turned out to be Seoul. I booked a long trip with the plan of taking a side trip.


I have wanted to go to North Korea for a decade, so maybe secretly my brain thought this might make it happen. Seoul was great, and my photos from there aren’t fully processed yet, but will be here soon. But most people are interested in the pictures from the other side.


My pictures from North Korea are here. My tour had a videographer whose film of the trip is here. It’s worth watching for the music. An interview I did with the podcast Super Awesome North Korea is here for part one and here for part two.


It’s been about two months and I still have a lot of thought processing to do. Mainly my takeaways were that since we were lied to about some really random things, it made us more paranoid to know when we were hearing the truth or not. I think the longer you’re in North Korea, the more overly paranoid one becomes. Unlike many of the documentaries I have seen then, I feel like most stuff wasn’t for my benefit. Yes, we were shown the best of the best, but even in that the cracks are evident. I would encourage anyone to go to North Korea, and will probably say more after I’ve thought a little bit. But feel free to ask any questions and I will definitely answer them.


When you ask an unpalatable question in North Korea, the response is a laugh, “I don’t know,” or most likely a very long answer to some other question–just nonsense. It got to the point where after a few days I stopped asking those questions because I knew the answer would be nonsense. A few days is all it takes to stop asking questions. The scariest thing I learned is that this could happen anywhere. It could happen to me.

SxSW Announcements!

I will be going to SXSW again this year and doing one new thing (presenting/moderating) and one old thing (library meetup).

I will be moderating and contributing to a panel entitled Kicking Ass with Controlled Metadata.  Also on the panel are Tom Conrad of and Tim Spalding of LibraryThing.  I think it will be awesome to hear people telling everyone from Web 2.0 that good expert-created metadata can be more useful and moneymaking that crowdsourcing tagging.  But that is my hobbyhorse, ain’t it? Follow the link for deets on attending.

Library Worker Hoedown Lunch 2009— I have been running this for three years now, which is shockingly long to me.  I’ve met some of the coolest people at this thing.  And, best of all, non-librarian techies come and tell us all the dirt on how much they hate their tech hating librarians. 🙂  A lot of people from all kinds of gigs come and we’ve been getting a lot of law people, directors, IT peeps.  It’s a good time and especially good for new people who come to the conference alone and know no one.  It’s Sat. Mar. 14 at 12:30 at Iron Cactus on 6th and Trinity.

I will also be having an “important” birthday the day after these two things.  Doing two awesome library metadata things and then drinking to excess with excellent Mexican food is my ideal way to celebrate the one-two punch of Pi Day & the Ides of March.

So if you are coming to Austin (or already there!) let me know! We’ll have tacos.


I am not the most religious or holiday oriented person.  Okay, that’s an understatement.  But there’s one Christmas tradition I love, it’s Advent Calendars.  Perhaps it is the lure of chocolate, but I like surprises every day–doesn’t everyone?  I have always been left cold by the digital versions of Advent Calendars.  However there’s one that does it well every year.  It makes me feel like a kid, and the prize is—cheap flights to Scandanavia!  I haven’t bought any flights yet from them, but here’s hoping this year.  Even if you have no plans to fly abroad next year, the animations every year are fun.  Check it out here.

pets on planes

So a lot of airlines now don’t have nuts theoretically because too many people are deahly allergic to them.  I think it’s actually the airlines being cheap, but hey, in this case let me give them the benefit of the doubt.

Airlines allow people to bring pets on board though.  Yes, I can mitigate my allergy, but having had an asthma attack while on allergy meds, I’d prefer not to find out if they are working in the recycled air of a plane full of allergens miles above civilization.  The best is that even though regulations usually require a pet to be in a cage, people always take them out and play with them, pass em around, and flight attendants do nothing.

I don’t understand why planes still allow this, especially in these times of cutbacks.  If I can’t even bring luggage, why can people still bring Meowzers?

Unrelated facts learned today

Air Canada makes you pay for heavy bags, unless they are filled with hockey equipment.

Nikolai Tesla was obsessed with communication with aliens (odd fact one).  When he died he left behind what appeared to be a molted skin, like he literally shuffled off his mortal coil (odd fact two), which leads people to believe maybe he was an alien or time traveler (odd fact three).  The FBI kept tabs on Nikolai, and his file is still sealed (odd fact four), further bolstering the aforementioned belief that he is an alien.

Things I am loving


It gives you little popup messages when your downloads are done or a variety of other programs that have opted in.

Simplify Media

I have been singing its praises for months and it just keeps getting better and better.  I can listen to my entire iTunes library at work with very little effort.  Even better, I can listen to my friends’ libraries and see what they are listening to in mine.

Library Elf

This is pretty niche, admittedly, but if you check books out from a lot of different libraries, or your libraries don’t send you email updates, this is amazing.  It sends me messages when my books are on hold, about to be overdue, overdue, etc.  And it even recommends books I might like based on my library usage.  Brilliant.


I have always loved Recipezaar.  They have faceted their search for a long time, but they revamped it a while ago, and I didn’t use it as much.  Now that I have gotten used to it, I like it, though not everything is tagged as effectively as I’d like.  I realize that most people don’t care to the extent I do though, and it is extremely helpful to look for, say, rhubarb recipes that aren’t dessert–a search which cancels out 90% of the results to just what I wanted.  I also like that you can specify which cooking implements you want to use.

H&M Viscose Over-the-Knee Socks

I have a sneaking suspicion they are getting rid of these, but they are amazing.  Knee socks that stay up.  I buy most of my socks at H&M and I am totally devoted to these.  Never did I think I would be buying 7 dollar socks while thinking, “What a deal!”  But I do.  I love you H&M Viscose OTK!


I was made fun of for this, but I still drink Kool Aid.  I didn’t know there was an age limit on delicious.  Summer=Kool Aid.  If you really are having a bad day, go here and make the slimmed down Kool Aid man dance.  Him screaming, “Yeah, Oh YEAH!” over rap beats is totally frightening.  I went to the website to try and find out if I can still buy a Kool Aid Man pitcher, but no info there.  I also took this opportunity to look up the Tang website which still doesn’t exist.  I did find an awesome product locator though which told me basically I need to go to Jersey for Sugar Free Tang.  Or Flushing?  Apparently the Chinese love sugar free Tang. Awesome.

Seat Guru

I check this before I fly every time.  Knowledge is power.

in a circle jerk you can’t have your hands straight out

My family can’t keep track of my friends.  They make fun of me that I have friends in every city. And a friend mentioned today that I travel a lot.  Except I was sad I was doing so little traveling this year.  Ha.  I take for granted never staying in one place, always having someone in the next port.

And I have been in a relative (to me) slump, and lots of people called, texted, emailed, or came by plane, train, or car to help me out.  Not because I asked, or not necessarily just to see me, but that’s how my friends are.  They’ll take a 4 hour bus trip to see me when I am in a town nearby.  And I will do the same.  And you might not think that’s weird, but I think most people do.  Because a lot of people won’t even pick you up at the airport 15 mins from their house.  And my friends will.  Because they are super, super awesome.

And I am not the easiest person to help.  As my friend Grace said, “You are the most independent person I know.”  I take that as an extreme compliment, but I am realizing it’s also a bad thing.  Or it can be.  My favorite movie is Showgirls, and though people ridicule it (as do I), there’s a scene where the main character (who runs out of every scene rather than deal with anything) is told:

“You got your arms straight out, saying, ‘Back off, motherfucker.'”
“Yeah, you got that down. BACK OFF, MOTHERFUCKER!”

It’s my nature to have my hands straight out yelling, “Back off, motherfucker.” (Hereafter referred to as BOMF). I don’t need your help, why won’t you just let me do it by myself?  It’s a hereditary stubbornness, combined with an upbringing where I could never do anything alone.  I am hardwired to do things for myself, by myself, and I am not comfortable with asking for help or even realizing when people are offering it.  Asking for help feels like conning a mark to me.  But my friends are awesome, because they help anyway.  They self-correct for my BOMFy tendencies.  And that’s good.  I know a few other BOMFy people and I think sometimes we just have to be sat down (literally or metaphorically) by our friends and told to accept help.

So, thanks everyone.  You rule.  Whether you force me to leave the house, listen to my late-night calls, take my ims, offer advice, realize when I am roundaboutly asking for help because you know it’s hard for me to ask directly, or get out of the way when I am yelling, “Back off, motherfucker!” you are helping.  And I am trying to put my hands down and shut up more often.

Everything you need to know you can learn from Showgirls, in my opinion.  In the future, all writing will prove that.

dear i-banker douchebag,

I see you sitting behind me on the plane in coach announcing to your friend on the phone that the 600K you make at work is “tight.”  Then why are you behind me in coach?

I understand you don’t have a lot of leg room, what with your huge, huge cock requiring you to spread your legs wide open.  It must be hard for you to corral them during takeoff while I have to LEGALLY put my laptop under the seat as asked by the stewardess.  You could suck it up for three minutes.  You could ask me to move it.  But I forgot rules do not apply to you.  What will you do instead?  Oh yes, kick my machine, repeatedly harder and harder until it dislodges onto the floor.

So will you be giving me the 2K for a replacement in cash?   Or will I just copiously fart on you the entire plane ride?

I think we both know the answer,


airline woe

Why is it cheaper to fly from NYC to Moline, IL than from NYC to CHICAGO, even when there is a layover IN Chicago.  You know, Chicago, busiest airport in the freaking country?

If I just buy the Moline ticket and get off in Chicago will people think I am a terrorist?

dc a deux

I will be in DC the weekend of Apr. 25 around Dupont Circle.  While I have technically been to DC, I found it bewildering in its labyrinthine Orwellianness.  DC makes me want to rock back and forth, autistically.  A town based around people who loooooove rules is frightening for me.  Perhaps I have it all wrong, but if only I could figure out how to get anywhere it would help.  Or if anyone who I asked directions of knew how to get anywhere.  Or if everyone in every bar wasn’t wearing a blue blazer and watching CNN.

This is to say, if you are there, we should have brunch or something.  I am thinking of going to the Smithsonian.  I might actually go look at the mall or white house or something seeing as I spent 5 days there and saw neither last time.

But there will be eating and drinking on the subway.  Because no one tells me I can’t drink somewhere.  NOBODY.  It is my Bob-given right to hydrate, dagnabit.

Jared Friedman, rockstar

Do you live in DC, SC, NC, TN, PA, KY, LA, or AR? And do you love to listen to rock music? Or perhaps would you like to meet a Jew? Then perhaps you should go see a show by my friend Jared Friedman. He will be playing in your parts, and, in addition to being a smashing musician, he will let you in on how he controls the media for a dollar.  If you bargain with him.

You can listen to his musical stylings here and tour dates are as follows:

Apr 3 2008 8:00P
The Velvet Lounge DC, Washington DC
Apr 4 2008 8:00P
Sparky & Clark’s York, Pennsylvania
Apr 6 2008 8:00P
The Village Tavern Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Apr 7 2008 8:00P
The Juggling Gypsy Wilmington, North Carolina
Apr 8 2008 8:00P
TBA Asheville, North Carolina
Apr 9 2008 10:00P
The Acoustic Coffeehouse Johnson City, Tennessee
Apr 10 2008 8:00P
Bread and Bagel Bowling Green, Kentucky
Apr 11 2008 8:00P
Java and Jams Birmingham, Alabama
Apr 12 2008 8:00P
Caffe Cottage Lafayette, Louisiana
Apr 14 2008 8:00P
The Carousel Lounge Austin, Texas
Apr 15 2008 8:00P
Super Happy Fun Land!!! Houston, Texas
Apr 17 2008 8:00P
The Poets Loft Hot Springs, Arkansas
Apr 18 2008 8:00P
Kimbro’s Cafe Franklin, Tennessee
Apr 19 2008 8:00P
The Curb Cafe Nashville, Tennessee

Oddly Mr. Friedman will not play alone here in NYC, so I will not be able to hear the awesomeness you can!


On a layover in the Cincinnati airport (which may actually be a bus station that my plane happened to land at), I had about three minutes to pick up a sandwich. I signed my credit card bill with my usual haste (my signature includes 6 letters, tops) and rearranged everything I was carrying. The woman behind the counter stopped me and asked if I was an artist. I replied in the negative and she began listing off other creative occupations. Musician, maybe? I was starved, sleep deprived, and in a hurry so I couldn’t figure out what she was getting at. I wasn’t dressed odd, but I thought to myself, “Maybe I look hip for Cincinnati?”*

Finally she said that my signature is indicative of high levels of creativity. She was sad when I said I do things “with computers (hey, I was tired).” I was interested in this assessment, but when I said something self-deprecating about how messy my handwriting was she said it was so, but in a designed/artistic way.

Take that Queens Board of Elections, who finds my signature too arty to allow me to vote. And now I am sad to have let down an airport newsstand clerk who has an awesome hobby. I didn’t want to tell her I pretty much do the opposite of art, though I do use the whiteboard more than my coworkers.

*Though I spent scant minutes in Cin City, and they were all in the airport, I definitely did get a sense that even boring me was way hipper than your average person coming through the Cincinnati bus station airport.

SxSWi 2008

So I will be heading to Austin for South by Southwest Interactive 2008.  I am doing a Librarian meetup again, so message me/comment if you’ll be there and want to meetup!  Or if you just live in Austin and want to hang out.

Chainsaw Rendezvous

I am so glad they went with the French.

Who’s going with me to the world’s most amazing chainsaw carving competition?  I refuse to go to any lesser competitions.  And it takes a lot to get me to go to Northern PA.


okay who’s going to ALA?  and, what’s good in PA?  I should be there fri night-sundayish, but I am only registered for exhibits, so I am mainly there to get free books and hang out with you, dear reader.  Comment/call/email if you’ll be there.


I try to put as few words in my slides as possible, but my job IS words, so I am not amazing at it.  However, my slides from my presentation today may not make sense without the audio, which should be available later.  Here they are in pdf.  The wireless here is AWFUL so this may be a touchy link.  I will try to get something more stable ASAP.

Jenny’s NoCal Tour

Alert!  I will be in Northern California.

Oct. 29-Oct. 31 morning–Monterey, CA.  I am speaking at Internet Librarian 2007.  If you are going, drop me a line.  At the moment, I am taking some shuttle from the San Jose airport to Monterey.  If you know of a better way, let me know.

Oct 31-Nov 4-San Francisco.  I probably will be telecommuting on the 1st, so technically working, but that’s up in the air at the moment.

If you live(d) in the area and know good cheap places for me to stay near transit, or awesome things to see, let me know.  Also, a coffeehouse I can stay all day in and get wireless so I can telecommute would be an great suggestion.

nashville loves meat

I was starving here in Nashville and a lot of places are closed for the holiday.  So I went to the nearest open restaurant I could find.  A Mongolian Grill by night, it was a breakfast joint by day.  Not an Asian person in sight.

But they do consider a pork chop fried in bacon grease on a biscuit “breakfast,” and they charge less than two bucks for it, so I can’t quibble.
MMM…porky, yet bacony.  Hog Heaven

vacation all i ever wanted

woowoo!  I am off to vacation in Nashville!  I am quite excited even though it appears their public transit system is a donkey and a cart.  Well, not really, but it’s always a shocking reminder to me when I go to cities that don’t value public transit (or alternately idolize automobiles).  That’s what happens I guess when good public transit is in your top 3 criteria for moving somewhere.

After this I think I might try the novel idea of staying in the same state for consecutive weekends!

a long way to…

I am venturing my first Chinatown bus experience in about an hour to go to Washington DC.  ALA is happening now, but I don’t think I will be going to anything conferencey.  However if you happen to be in town, drop me an email, comment, or, more efficiently, call me.  I will be at the Renaissance across from the conference center.  I get to hit three as yet uncharted states on the way, which is very exciting if you are a map nerd.

honest, cranky question

What, other than the moral implications, keeps people from “drugging” children on flights?  I do not say this flippantly.  I ask seriously, as it would be happier for everyone involved, most specifically the child and parents.

If I had napped on the plane home I may have asked this question less crankily, and I’d be happy to drug myself but sadly no one will carry me off the plane.  Harumph.

it’s not the puritans…

Okay so you can only buy beer from the Beer Store (real name) here.  The beer store closes at 9pm.  So I went to my hotel bar and asked if I could buy beer and bring it to my room (Pennsylvania style).  No go.  That’s illegal.  Even closed bottles.  So I cannot drink alone in the safety of my hotel room.  I must only drink with Canadians in public.  Harumph.  Who knew Canada was more puritanical than America?  When I loudly proclaimed this was “crazy” a woman at the bubble tea store gave me a mean look.  Screw you Ontario, not being able to buy beer after 9pm is insane.

attack with a nutritious weapon

FYI Hummus is now considered a suspicious liquid when going through security at the airport.  I feel this is purely racial profiling.

toronto contact

Hey I am headed off to Toronto.  I will have my phone, but the international calling is pricey.  Feel free to Skype me (jennybento) or email/chat.

Of course if you are calling for important reasons–proposition of marriage, signing over large trusts, etc., I may pay the 50 cents a min.


Anyone know any cool hotels/B&Bs in Toronto?

international tour 2007

For those of you far afield, I am getting right into travel and conference season.  Here are my likely dates/places.  Those in bold are confirmed dates.  If you will be near these towns, we should hang out!  Also any suggestions of where to stay/what to see in these places is of course welcomed.  Excepting Chicago of course I have never been to any of these places!

  • Book Expo here in town the weekend of June 1.
  • June 13-17: Toronto for North American ISKO
  • June 23 weekend–ALA in Washington DC
  • July 4-9–Nashville for vacation
  • August–perhaps Labor Day weekend in Chicago
  • October 26-31 San Francisco/San Jose/Monterey for Internet Librarian 2007

zen koan

bowling injuries make you seem lame.

wii bowling injuries make you even lamer.

friends don’t let friends drink and wii bowl.


I just ate a potato and rice taco.  In a flour tortilla.  Carbawesome.

SxSW Meetup

The SxSW Library Type (and museum type) Meetup is officially here and here.  RSVP and we’ll be bestest friends.


New York marks my halfway point through the 50 states!

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

I see you cowering over there in the corner, Nevada.  Watch yourself!