Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wilton outdid themselves this year, don't you think?

I intend on doing the same for 2014.  Until then, I am a very happy Sara on this Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  I hope it's wonderful and filled with sweet treats and warm fires and late-night strategy board games.

Thing I'm thankful for: Clay and Summer and their cozy house

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Carol of the Birds

People usually think I'm confused when I say that one of my favorite Christmas hymns is "Carol of the Birds," but listen, readers, here it is: a high school version of this haunting song.

I really wish I could find a free recording of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rendition for you 'cause it's out-of-this-world good.  They recorded it on their 1993 "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" CD.  You can find it on Spotify or Amazon!

THIS JUST IN:  MoTab is on Myspace, and so is this beautiful song!  Check it out!  Carol of the Birds on MoTab's Myspace.  Thanks for the tip, Anonymous!

Thing I'm thankful for: Skype!

Friday, December 13, 2013

What is Sara's Degree, Anyway?

It occurred to me that maybe 2% of my readers know what my master's degree even is.  Here's the full title: Master of Science in Information Studies.  Pretty ambiguous, huh?  It basically means that I (presumably) know how to organize and present information so that it's easy to access, easy to understand, and easy to manage.

Information scientists, as people with M.S.I.S. degrees are sometimes referred to, work in a wide range of professions.  They are librarians, archivists, preservationists, programmers, developers, and database managers.  My particular areas of interest are human-computer interaction, information architecture, usability, and user experience research.  (So if you see any job descriptions that include these phrases, please let me know!!!)*  Those areas of information studies are about users . . .  They're about you, the general public.  How do you experience the websites and products you use?  Here are some questions, for example, that information architects and user experience researchers have rolling around in their minds on a constant basis:
  • Why do people use [this website or product]?
  • How do they use it?
  • Do they like using it?
  • Is there anything that frustrates them about this experience?
  • What are the problems they encounter when they use [this website or product]?
I think about this stuff a lot.  I even think about it when I make instant oatmeal.  When I worked full-time, I would often grab a packet of instant oatmeal in the morning because it was the quickest, easiest thing to make for lunch.  But who has a 1/3-cup measuring cup on hand when they're at work?  Sure, you can eyeball the amount of water you need, but it's really the pits when you add too much -- or worse, not enough.  Well, Quaker changed all of that.  Did you know they figured out a way to turn the packet into a measuring cup?  They did!  And now it's one of my favorite products.  It's so user-friendly!

Anyway, that's the kind of thing I do -- make the experience of using things better for people.  Typically, I do that with websites, but I wouldn't mind working for OXO.**  Or some other product development company.  But then I probably should get an industrial engineering degree . . .

*Here's my website, which includes a resume and portfolio of work: sawasnow.com.  (It's a work in progress.)
**Take a look at this incredibly user-friendly product: angled measuring cup.  I was so happy the first time I saw one of these; I think I almost cried.

Thing I'm thankful for: Ricola honey lemon cough drops!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Master's Degree: CHECK!

Sometime in the late-night hours of December 5th and in the middle of a Denver Airport terminal, I finished the final edits to my thesis.  I saved it to a thumb drive just before my laptop died, and on the morning of the 6th, I submitted it to the University.  I dragged my tired bodysick with bronchitisto campus, where both my advisor and second reader signed my paper and wished me luck.  A few hours later, I went to the health center and was diagnosed with two more maladies: sinus infection and ear infection.  When the School of Information awarded my fellow graduates and me our degrees that evening, I was on my way to Walgreen's, getting a week's worth of prescriptions filled.

It was a tough couple of weeksthose weeks of re-writing and revising.  And the whole time, my body seemed to project every fear onto itself in the form of the worst sickness I have had since my childhood.  It was laughable, actually.  When one symptom seemed to be clearing up, another would reveal itself.  I was popping several over-the-counter meds every morning and trying countless alternative remedies throughout the day: colloidal silver, grapefruit seed oil, echinacea, ginger, honey with cayenne, etc., etc.  I was afraid my body would never heal and my writing would never be good enough for those elusive signatures.

It's nearly two weeks into December, and I'm feeling much better.  It almost wouldn't seem right to have an easy ending, anyway.  For me, grad school began with bumps and bruises, so I guess it makes sense that it came to a close in the same way.  There were times when I felt like I was coasting, but mostly, it was a lot of hard work and a lot of tears.  I know why I wanted to get another degree, and I think it was important that I did.  But good grief!  What a time!  What a horrible, awful, shaky time.  I'm glad it's over.

And yet.  I feel a whole lot wiserin a way that's utterly indescribable.  I feel a camaraderie, too, with a handful of other people in this world, and that connection will never be forgotten.*  And I'm grateful for that.  And I'm grateful for the experience of working with so many extremely smart and talented people from UT Libraries and the School of Information.

At any rate, I'm done.  All done.

*Carrie and Nathan and Jon and Jeff and Brooke and Rachel.  You were the regulars at Grad Lunch, and I count you as some of my very best friends.  We had some good conversations, huh?  :)