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Tale of the trip: Traveling to Seattle

I've just returned from a five-day trip as I sit down to write this column.

I was in Seattle, Wash. to attend a librarians' conference. During the day I spent most of the time in the convention center for meetings and presentations. In the evenings I went to receptions and open houses for networking. I also managed to do a little sightseeing.

It was my first trip to the Emerald City. I learned some new things about it that are of great interest to me.

I would like to share a few things and thoughts from my trip here.

Continuing learning

Through attending meetings and presentations I was introduced to new things and new ideas. Our world is changing, and the technology is changing faster than ever before.

Take the social networking tools for example.

Even though I have personally used a few of them and most of us have probably heard about some of them -- MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Blog, Flickr,, Second Life, Wikis and Meebo -- I realized during the conference that what I know about these tools is just the tip of the iceberg.

Some of the words I encountered were like a foreign language for me: LinkedIn, Digg, Twitter, Ning, Jott, Dogster, Friendster, and Xing. I had no idea what they are.

Continuing life long learning is not an option. It is a must.

If we don't keep up, we will be left behind and become like dinosaurs in the eyes of the younger generation. Sometimes I do feel like a dinosaur because there is so much I wish I know but I don't.

Seattle Central Library

According to the America's Most Literate Cities study at the Central Connecticut State University, Seattle and Minneapolis have been the top two most literate cities in America in the last few years.

The rankings compare the country's 69 biggest cities in terms of libraries, bookstores, educational levels, newspaper readership, locally published magazines and Internet resources.

I went to visit the Seattle Central Library in downtown. The 11-story, $165.5 million library, a glass and steel building, was opened in 2004. It has about 400 public computers with Internet access and about 250 employees working in that building.

The library has a big collection of world language materials located conveniently on the first floor.

The auditorium, designed for small performances, lectures, and speaking engagements, can seat 425. The children's story room seats 100.

I was very impressed by this huge library.

Yard and food waste recycling

The city of Seattle and some other cities in the state of Washington have a yard and food waste recycling program.

I knew Seattle is a great place for sustainable lifestyle. Green living is hot there. I expected that a lot of gardeners do composting in their backyards.

What surprised and excited me was to hear that even non- gardeners living in single homes or apartments also recycle yard and food waste through the city. The city hauls yard and food waste to a local company for mass composting.

Composting yard and food waste is so much better for the environment than just throwing them all into a landfill.

I separate my food scraps and make them into enriching compost in my garden. By composting I think I have reduced the amount of normal garbage by about one-third.

I feel good that I can leave a smaller footprint on the planet.

I wish we could adopt this yard and food waste composting practice in Minnesota. Maybe the city of Woodbury or Washington County can start a similar program.

Longer school year

June 18, the day I left Seattle to return home, was the first day of the summer vacation for students in Seattle area schools. Their school year ends almost two weeks later than that in our school district.

I am all for longer school days and a longer school year.

I know Minnesota has been doing well in education. But if we don't keep up with the change, we can be left behind other states.

Also more appreciation

Oftentimes, we tend to take things for granted or complain about things that we don't like. When we travel, we get a chance to compare different places. It can make us more appreciative of what we have.

I have complained about the higher gas prices, the traffic congestion in Twin Cities or the wait at the airport check point.

After visiting Seattle, I have to think twice before complaining. The gas prices are higher there, the traffic is worse there, and my wait at the Seattle Airport was several times longer than at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.

There is only one security check line. I waited almost 40 minutes to get through the security check.

Travel really opens our eyes and mind. It allows us to experience new things and to see things from a different perspective. My trip was a great learning experience.

In summary, the conference presentations were interesting, the networking with colleagues around the country was great, the receptions and open houses were fun, and the sightseeing in Seattle was eye opening.

But in the end, I have to admit, it feels good to be back home, to see my own family, to sit in my own chair, to read my own local paper, to touch my familiar keyboards, to write this column, and to sleep in my own bed.

Nowhere is better than home.