From December 14-16, I had the distinct pleasure of traveling, with McMaster’s Chief Librarian, Jeff Trzeciak, to Washington D.C. for the annual workshop of the Council on Library and Information Resources. It was an amazingly good workshop, held in the Cosmos Club, in D.C. – a club whose members are all somehow linked to science, literature or the arts. It is an incredibly beautiful place, with a gorgeous stone elevation and rich hardwood floors throughout. The walls are all wainscotted in a tasteful fashion and the ceilings vaulted and marked by ornate mouldings. The Warne Room in which the workshop was held is palatial with a pleasant, sunny view out of splendid bay windows that face onto Massachussetts Avenue. The workshop itself was fascinating, with leaders from the world of library sciences from around America participating. We heard about many library innovations, including three-dimensional tours of ancient places and how the PhD in digital humanities at King’s College was founded. Most interesting to me was a talk about an American-style university that is being built from scratch in Vietnam by an American consultant, using the investment money of a prominent Vietnamese businesswoman. Since we at McMaster are contemplating building a new campus in Dongguan, China, hearing about how a similar institution is being built in another communist Asian society was very enlightening.
Also while in D.C., I visited the Newseum (my favourite museum in the world!) and had dinner at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, which is always friendly and full of fascinating people. Another highlight was a late-night walk with Jeff and Marshall Breeding, Director of the Vanderbilt Television News Archive. We went to take in the Lincoln Memorial, which is so beautifully lit at night and then, inspired, walked down to the White House and looked at the beautiful Christmas tree all lit up and festooned. Under the tree was running a very elaborate train set, which tooted and chugged along, round and round, all night while fascinated children and their parents watched and took in the quiet splendour of the White House in the background. There was also a giant firepit in which whole logs burned red-hot and filled the air with and homey smoke that made you think you were at a Christmas party somewhere in the bush. I love D.C. – it is one of my favourite cities. It is full of tradition and quirk, grandeur and a sense of home, all at the same time. Just like America.
On December 9, I went to the Liberal Caucus Christmas Party, which was a really nice time. The snow storm that hit on the day of the drive up something right out of an action thriller and a drive that should have taken about 5 hours took more like 7. I got a late start because I had to invigilate my Intro Comms students’ exam. At McMaster we aren’t obliged to invigilate exams – we hire professional invigilators for that task – but I like to stay for the whole time. The class has 350 students and for many of them, it is their first experience writing a major exam. So I stuck around. Then I got in the car and drove through rainy skies in Toronto and then terrible snow up highway 416. But I got there, just after Mr. Ignatieff’s speech, and joined the Gerard Kennedy table. I was happy to be there because I got to meet some old friends and catch up. I was also happy because I got to meet Hon. John McKay and converse with him – it was a great coincidence, since his daughter, Rachel was in News Analysis fourth-year seminar. The drive home the next day was a lot easier. I left late in the day, after spending some time with friends on the Hill and also visiting Mr. Erik Wessman, the father of Lars Wessman, one of my oldest and dearest friends, who now lives in Portugal. Overall, a great couple of days, and a big road trip adventure, to boot!
Today was a very literary day. I got a chance to meet Terry Fallis and listen to him read excerpts from his first book, The Best Laid Plans. Terry is a McMaster alumnus (Engineering), a former political staffer and organiser and is current one of the principals at Thornley-Fallis, a marketing agency based in Toronto. He also does Inside PR, a podcast about the Canadian PR industry.
The story of his novel, The Best Laid Plans, is quite amazing. He self-published, first through podcast, chapter by chapter, and then in print. After that he won the Stephen Leacock Award for humour. Amazing. His novel follows the adventures of Ottawa political staffer extraordinaire, Daniel Addison, who convinces Angus McLintock, a professor of engineering at the University of Ottawa to run as a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in one of the greatest Tory strongholds in the country. Much hilarity ensues and, needless to say, it is a pleasure to read a book that treats of subject matter – Canadian political communication – that I am so close to and enjoy so much. I read the book ahead of time and was looking forward to Terry’s reading. He didn’t disappoint. He read with aplomb and vigour – and even tried to imitate a Scottish accent for Mr. McLintock’s speaking parts.
Many members of the ADFW Federal Liberal Riding Association were present (it was the association’s annual Christmas volunteer appreciation event) and there was pleasant conversation over punch and cookies. A surprise during the evening was the calling to order of the meeting by the Dundas town crier! That was certainly unexpected, but comforting and familiar at the same time. A good night was had by all.
Tonight was the CSMM Christmas Party, organised by the Communication Studies and Multimedia Students Society. It was a great time. The students booked a room in 1280, McMaster’s newly-renovated undergraduate student pub, which used to be called Quarters. At first, there was a little noise, as just beside us, the Social Sciences students were having their annual charity auction, but that ended quickly and soon we were able to converse comfortably. Our students had bought some great Two Oceans cabernet wine and a few trays filled with tasty cheeses and nachos. We all had a chance to connect and reconnect with each other, professors and students alike, in a casual and elegant setting. A wonderful night. I love our students. They are so full of life and optimism and passion and creativity. They inspire me.