An Introvert’s Guide to Writing

Introvert,  extrovert, or false dichotomy?

I’ve been baring my soul and cockeyed schemes on the internet since 1997. I tell total strangers here on this site about my life, my thoughts on work, and the things that bring me joy. I’ve had two jobs where I acted professionally. I love making strangers smile. On Sundays, I invite everyone I’ve ever met to my home for BYOBrunch, and bask in the glow of a full room of happy people. I have sung badly in public, danced at any opportunity, and told jokes in front of large crowds. Very little embarrasses me.

Extrovert.

But I spend most of my life absorbing data. I work behind the scenes on applications that are the digital equivalent of sand mandalas. At my best, my effort becomes invisible, unnoticed. I love silence. My favorite vacation activity is walking through strange cities alone, or snorkling, both ways of existing in the divine silence of another world. I curl up like a cat under a blanket to recharge. When I had my daughter, I didn’t leave the house for four months. I order takeout by internet rather than phone. I rarely use my phone as a phone. I avoid answering emails, even from good friends.

Introvert.

I think the introvert/extrovert dichotomy attempts to explain seemingly incongruous tendencies that can arise in social animals. Our social dynamic and learned responses reflect a variety of alpha- or herd instincts. I would be  surprised if most people completely embody one or the other.

In related news, I’m sitting in the Noe Valley Library courtyard, and a group of middle-school kids are in front of me, giggling and making prank calls. Extroversion? Anonymous herd aggression as bonding mechanism?

Time to get up and go to the coffeeshop? Yes.

Library Tourism: The San Francisco Main Branch

Air freshener

I’ve escaped my parental bonds for a moment, thanks to my husband, so I have a few minutes to tell you about my recent trip to the SF Public library. The big one downtown. The one I visited a long time ago and left, convinced that public librarianship in a large city belonged to the realm of the nostril-less.

San Francisco has a Big Beautiful Library, located in the Civic Center across the street from City Hall. The building is full of glass and marble and echo-y ceilings, in the grandest tradition of main library excess. As a young library tourist, I had visited this landmark eager to see Library Done Right, and learn what can be made when budget constraints are erased and the architects are released from their fetters. Unfortunately, I had failed to consult with a resident when planning the walk there, and found myself entangled in The Tenderloin, SF’s most unpleasant neighborhood. I dodged madmen in wheelchairs and puddles of vomit for a few blocks, and arrived safe but shaken. Which is not to say that the special Tenderloin atmosphere ended when I went inside.

Due to its location, the SF Library Main branch has struggled with strange bedfellows. City Hall, the Opera, the Symphony, and a few lesser monuments surround the building, but the clientele and the smell remind you that the Tenderloin ends only a block away. Nine years ago, this meant the entire bottom two floors were permeated with Eau Du Armpit, and the best reading chairs were occupied by scruffy men with newspapers over their heads. This may have influenced my decision, upon moving to the city, to avoid the downtown branch entirely.

However! When Adorable Daughter and I visited the library two weeks ago (after some discreet nursing in the car) we encountered a cleaned-up building, with a less lived-in look. We visited the small soulless cafe downstairs, wrestled with the wireless (mommy has an iphone MMORPG problem), and found a nice browsing collection staffed by two friendly and incredibly overqualified librarians. The homeless problem seems to have abated somewhat, and I noticed security guards everywhere.

One of the things that prompted me to give it another try was an excellent article in the Chronicle announcing “the country’s first full-time psychiatric social worker stationed in a public library”. A quick google search reveals this to be a much-press-released, and apparently effective tactic on the part of SFPL to combat the library’s struggle with homeless patrons.  It might have been a coincidence, I’m just a single data point, but there did seem to be an improvement since my last visit.

If you want a reason to be grateful for your current job (assuming you aren’t an SF Public librarian), you might enjoy reading the many Yelp reviewers who have shared their encounters with some of the library’s pants-eschewing patrons. If you want to save thirty bucks on a newly-released hardback, you might enjoy the Main Branch’s science fiction collection.

The San Francisco Library Main Branch: Four stars. Would visit again.

A nerdygirl review of the Game Developers Conference

Greetings from an ethnic librarian working in the games industry!

I’m posting this review of my experience last year at GDC (the Game Developers Conference) held every year here in San Francisco. It was originally part of a letter to my team here at Linden Lab, but I thought you librarians might be interested/amused, considering the gender ratio at most library conferences.

-Erica

Hi guys –
I went to the Game Developers Conference last year and found it to be of dubious value.

The best part of the conference for me was the Expo room, which proved to be a valuable source of alternative employment opportunities. I learned that if I want to move to Las Vegas and design slot machine interfaces, I can more than double my salary, which I’m keeping in mind for when I have a stroke and develop an unquenchable desire for polyester and/or chicken wings. I enjoyed scanning the various game interfaces set up to demo motion graphics products, and filed away a few ideas from the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG.


Photo by ruminatrix

For me, however, the most memorable moment was riding the escalator of the Moscone center and gazing across a sea of black-clad gamed developers among whom I was the only woman.

As a Person of Estrogen and part of a numeric majority in this world, I’m used to seeing many female developers, operations experts, and release managers at work.

This isn’t the 1970s. Nerdy women exist and thrive. San Francisco is a welcoming place.

GDC. Was. Not.

I get the feeling that all is not well with an operation that returns such a limited array.

The scene: riding the escalator, about five years too old but still worried about being mistaken for a boothbabe.

Behold my personal benchmark for outsider discomfort.

wurst

In summary: meh to the GDC.

Borrow someone’s pass and check out the Expo. Cruise the demo games. If you really care about a session, read the person’s book or website instead. And if you really care about making better games, spend the three days watching user observation videos.

Hot Librarian Necklace

From the department of products-inadvertently-marketed-to-librarians:

Hot Librarian Necklace


$40 USD – Handmade in Toronto and sold on etsy.com

Oh yes. Hot indeed. I believe some of us here can confirm that boys and girls DO make passes at folks who wear glasses. Especially if they are well-versed in database design, collections management, or bibliographic instruction.

Library Tourism

bernallib.pngI visited my local Bernal Heights library branch this afternoon, in search of a place to sit and read. It turned out to be one of the last weeks the building is open before it closes for an extensive renovation. On a kid-filled sunny spring Saturday, the current building gives the impression of being a community center rather than a library, with more conversations, computers, and chaos than visible books.

I’m looking forward to the new design. The neighborhood obviously is drawn to the location, which swirls with families out walking dogs and babies.

— — — —

Things I’m currently researching…

  • Wedding venues in the Detroit area that are:
    • Non-religious
    • Interesting-looking or unusual
    • Cheap, cheap, cheap!
  • Things to do in Brighton, UK
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Cat grooming (did you know you can use baby powder to make your cat less itchy?)
  • Better WordPress plugins (I’m playing with a new Twitter sidebar)
  • Management jobs in SF for my sweetie Chuck this summer

Scientist, Model, Library tourist

Elyse Sewell came in second place on America’s Next Top Model. I know this because I spent two solid days watching it on YouTube this winter while battling the flu.

Why should you care about Elyse Sewell? Well, she’s funny, she has a livejournal, she’s smart as hell, and she visits libraries for fun. Libraries like the François Mitterrand Library.

Enjoy, and remember: Librarians can be hot and models can be smart.

And vice versa, probably. But we don’t talk about that here.

NYPL Web Resources Rock my Mundo

I got my New York Public Library card in the mail today.
rosettaspan.jpgAnyone who lives in New York state is eligible for a card, so I now have access to the library’s impressive collection of online resources.

I spent the morning refreshing my Spanish at the NYPL’s Online Language Learning Center. It uses the Rosetta Stone software, which now has a place on my desert island list of media resources, along with the White Album and the entire first season of The Dog Whisperer.

If you haven’t used or seen Rosetta Stone, it is Language learning software with the remarkable ability to hack your brain and force it to actually understand and remember all of those verb conjugations you had to memorize back in college. rosettaspan3.jpgThe lessons are reinforced with audio, video, writing and images, so it imitates an immersion experience more than a typical grammar-based language course. There’s even a module that has you speak into a microphone and shows you a waveform comparing your speech with someone who doesn’t suck.

I haven’t explored the other web resources, but I’m tickled at getting access to this one. The software is in the $300 range, and Cornell doesn’t have a license, so I feel like I’ve gotten my taxes worth this year. Thanks NYPL!

The secret to French dining…

If you have six or seven hours to dedicate to dinner and post-dinner drinks, you will discover the delightful absence of hangover or hunger the next morning. No wonder Parisians take so many vacation days. They are needed to eat properly.

Gentlemen take note: Gui brought roses to all the women at dinner. I’m just saying.