Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Orleans

Friends who know New Orleans might question the decision to come to this famous old city in the month of June. Surely this is one of the most uncomfortable places on earth when the summertime heat and humidity are in full force!

But coming for a professional conference, it 's not so bad. And it is kind of amusing when colleagues comment that New Orleans must remind one of Nairobi. For some reason, many people not familiar with Nairobi seem to fall for the age-old cliche that all of Africa is sweltering hot, and I of course delight in sharing that Nairobi, being at such a high altitude, is in fact relatively cool (one sleeps under a blanket).

And truth to tell, one does miss those conditions in a place like New Orleans.

Still, on the subject of weather and some comparison with Nairobi, there's one area where the two cities run neck-to-neck. If anything, the rains in New Orleans - usually of very short duration - have to be some of the heaviest I've ever experienced, with thunder definitely the loudest I've ever heard. But during its two rainy seasons, Nairobi runs New Orleans a close race since Nairobi too has very heavy rains. So in this particular weather comparison, the two places are very much alike.

Still, one mustn't complain. For the business visitor to New Orleans, the hotels are well managed, the air conditioning seems to be always working, and the convention center - venue for the meetings - is comfortable and, indeed, for some conference attendees, a little too cold.


The purpose of this journey was to attend the 101st Annual Conference of the Special Libraries Association, an regular event in my professional life. I've now attended 35 of these meetings, and they are always rewarding, providing important networking and learning opportunities. Equally important, anyone doing business with strategic knowledge professionals is almost obliged to attend this conference, simply because this gathering brings together the leading practitioners in the field. For a company such as ours - specializing in knowledge strategy development - this is the place to be. So wherever it's held, Mr. Guy trudges off to attend SLA's Annual Conference....

And it's not all business. The city is recovering from the terrible events of 2005, and there are now lovely places to stroll, as seen in the view (above) of the famous St. Louis Cathedral. [Additional photographs are at New Orleans - June 2010.] The famous French Quarter is full of interesting shops, galleries, and good restaurants, and commerce seems to have recovered, for the most part from the tragic effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Now there's a new focus of attention, though, since the devastating oil spill out in the Gulf of Mexico is seriously affecting the environment all along the shores of this part of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. There is a great fear about what the effects of the spill will be on this grand old city and throughout this part of America - indeed, throughout all America, fears about the oil spill now dominate all conversation and there's no question that everyone is frightened and concerned about the future. More than anything else, it seems, it the fear of the unknown. No one seems to know what the long-term effects are going to be or how - as a society - we are going to be able to handle this new threat. It's more than just some sort of management "challenge" - it's a fear that all of mankind might have unleashed some powerful demon that cannot be put back again.

Still, in visiting New Orleans one is once again confronted with the ongoing continuation of it all: the Mighty Mississippi - as it's still called - America's famous "ol' man river" - keeps flowing, and as can be seen here, there are times after one of those frightening storms when the power of nature and the charm of New Orleans combine into an almost surreal beauty (this rainbow photograph was taken from the hotel). One continues to be impressed.

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