Subject: Electronic Postcard #2

Hello again, folks!

I'm back at the Internet Room e-mail annex at the ALA conference
in Chicago.  This area is outside the secured exhibition space and
is kept open 24 hrs.  Good thing, since it is almost impossible to
get into this place without standing in a long line.  As I expected,
the Internet is big business these days.  Not only are there numerous
vendors of Internet services, tools, and connectivity hardware this
year, but the Internet Room (despite being bigger than I ever remember
it, as well as being split into separate e-mail, netsurf, and demo
operations) is constantly busy during the hours the exhibits are open.

It's been on the hot side here the past couple of days -- in the 90s
in inland areas, but fortunately ten degrees cooler by the lake shore
where I've mostly been.  Humid, but not oppressively so.  Today is
cooler, somewhat overcast, with rain predicted for the next few days.

Watching life in this city is fascinating.  Pedestrians cross streets
with an alarming lack of regard for traffic lights.  Drivers are a
little more compliant, but not much so.  Taxi and bus drivers seem to
drive as if under some special dispensation from traffic laws.  Perhaps
the scarcity of traffic lights in favor of four way stops on many of
the side streets is a factor.  During peak traffic, there are traffic
cops in many large intersections, saying in effect, "I don't care what
the light says, do what I'm telling you because it makes better sense."
I'd thought perhaps they were rather casual on traffic enforcement in
this town, until the guide on the city tour I took pointed out the huge
traffic court building, where you get your fine cut in half if you
plead guilty.

Everything about this conference is large.  The attendance may very
well set a record -- between regularly registered conferees (itself
numbering around 13,000), people holding exhibit-only passes, and
exhibitors, there are about 20,000 people here.  There are about 800
vendor exhibits.  The convention center itself is huge, and currently
undergoing expansion, so that Chicago can retain bragging rights for
having the world's largest convention center.  Our meetings and programs
are spread over the two existing buildings, making for long walks
between the two. There are also numerous meetings and programs in
several hotels, making for even longer trips between the various events,
of which there may be hundreds going on simultaneously.  The convention
center is located in the downtown area, although within a bubble of
space filled with museums, parks, and railroad tracks, making access
by foot impractical.  Nearby Grant Park is the site of the Taste of
Chicago festival now in progress, which also adds to the traffic woes.
The shuttle busses have to drive a mile south past the complex before
they can turn around and enter the tunnel where they can drop off and
pick up passengers -- adding slightly but significantly to the time
conferees spend in just getting places.  The shuttle service itself
is not as good as in years past -- too few busses, run inconsistently,
and occasionally driven by drivers who are unfamiliar with the streets
because they were brought in from other areas.  It seems as if they've
been working hard lately to try to address these problems, but travel
by shuttle is still occasionally unpredictable and unnecessarily time

Signage and layout in the convention center could be better.  The food
concession stands have always been either extremely busy or closed
every time I've visited them, and my eating habits have been disrupted
more on this trip than during any other conference I've ever
attended.  I do occasionally manage to eat here -- McCormick Place,
home of the $4.96 turkey sandwich.

One more day here at the conference for me tomorrow, followed by a day
of sightseeing, shopping and visiting the places where my family used
to live. I'm going to try to get up early tomorrow, although it's been
hard to do so the past couple of days. I've been trying to get in sync
with the time zone, but for the first time, I've been attending several
of the social functions, and have not been getting back to the hotel
till after midnight -- and when I do that, there is a part of me that
still knows it's really only 7 pm in Hawaii.

Even with all that, I'm still having a good time.

Ralph Toyama                                       /      73 and Aloha
Automation Librarian                              /__         from
University of Hawaii - Leeward Community College    /  Radio NH6PY/9 Mobile
rtoyama@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu                     /     Chicago IL, USA