Blog PostsMost posts originally appeared on either the Second Floor Librarians blog (Corvallis-Benton County Public Library) or Austin Public Library's blog. If you'd like to comment on these posts or read the other great entries on this blog, please do so on the original sites.
June 14, 2012Summer Reading for Grown-ups
This year we're pleased to roll out a summer reading program especially for the 18 and up crowd! Summer after summer we've been rewarding kids and teens for reading, but now, this summer, it's your turn. For every book you read or listen to, fill out an entry form or stop by and pick up a raffle ticket (raffle tickets are at Philomath and Monroe Community Libraries only) and be entered into prize drawings for farmers' market gift certificates, tote bags filled with goodies, and other cool local swag. Write a book review (this part is optional) and we'll post the reviews around your local library for other summer readers to use to help them pick their next great read.
It's really easy to participate, just read and fill out a form or pick up a ticket! Here at Corvallis-Benton County Public Library we'll start accepting entry forms on June 25th and take them through September 1st. Monroe Community Library has already started giving out raffle tickets for books read and Philomath Community Library will be starting on June 18th. The more you read the more entry forms you can fill out (or raffle tickets you can pick up) and the more chances you'll have to win the fabulous prizes. If you need more info about any of this, just contact your local library branch and they'll give you the full details, or check out our info page on summer reading.
Don't know what to read? Need some good suggestions? We love to read and we also have tons of resources at our disposal (that you can use too!) to help match you up with a book you'll enjoy, so just ask us or take a gander at the links below to get started.
Find lists of staff picks, fiction and nonfiction bestsellers, sign up to get lists of new books via email or RSS, and more.
Listening to an audiobook totally counts as reading a book, so, audiobook listeners, you can get in on the fun too! Take a look at lists of new audiobooks or browse them by subject.
CBCPL Graphic Novels
Graphic novels are books too (don't let anyone tell you otherwise!) and make some of the greatest summer reads, in my opinion. Find an excellent one on this page and be sure to check out the Robin Recommends box near the top - great picks from our graphic novels selector!
Good Read Recommendations
Spend a few minutes and tell us a little about some books you've loved and some books you've hated and a librarian will work on a list of suggestions tailored just for you. Forget Amazon recommendations, have a real live librarian use his/her magic to help you find that book you've been waiting for.
Do you prefer eBooks? Or, do you want to download audiobooks to your MP3 player or iPod? We have lots of "downloadable" eBooks and audiobooks for your eReader, tablet, smart phone, or other device. Check out a how to video to get started or just contact us and we'll get you going!
The library subscribes to a lot of online content (databases and websites) that you can access from home with your library card number. Scroll down the page and look for Novelist in the alphabetical list. Novelist can help you find books to read based on your preferences and can also find author read-alikes (e.g. if you like this author, you may like this author). It's a really powerful tool with tons of reading recommendations that we use all the time around here!
May 24, 2012Meditative Journaling Workshop, June 2nd
Next Saturday, June 2nd from 2:00pm-4:00pm join Dr. Mary Ann (Wallace) Iyer in the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library's Main Meeting Room for the Meditative Journaling Workshop. During this free workshop, Dr. Iyer will lead participants into quiet places of reflection and pose relevant questions that will lead to revelatory insights. Participants will then use these new insights to journal. Advanced registration is requested, so please contact us to register.
Dr. Iyer is a licensed physician, experienced and oft requested speaker, and a leader in mindbody and spiritual healing. She is also an author with extensive training and experience in a variety of holistic healing modalities, including meditation, breathwork, imagery, dreamwork, acupressure, process-oriented psychology, vision quests, therapeutic touch, and herbology.
This workshop should prove most illuminating for all who participate! The calm clarity of meditation coupled with the emotional power of journaling will surely be a refreshing way to spend a Saturday. While you wait, check out a few of Dr. Iyer's books and CDs waiting for you at the library.
"The three tracks of this CD provide a nourishing environment for deep healing by inviting the listener to open to (a) the Elements, (b) our Heart Flame, and (c) the Breath of Life. The combination of guided imagery and soothing music carry the listener into reflective spaces which are deeply relaxing, nourishing and transformative in the most fundamental ways."
Beyond Pain Relief (CD)
"The relaxation evoked by Dr. Wallace's guided meditation, enhanced by soothing background music, provides the listener with an invitation to move beyond pain to its inherent message of deep release and understanding. True healing occurs when we embrace the wisdom of our deepest self, and pain can be the doorway to that place. This CD carries you there."
Forgiveness As Healing (CD)
"Releasing inner anger has been associated with the reduction of several major illnesses. Dr. Wallace takes you into a space of forgiveness in which deep healing can occur."
Healing the Wounds of the Past (CD)
"By revisiting the parts of our history when we felt hurt in deep ways, we discover the erroneous messages we accepted about ourselves from those times. Awareness of these messages opens a path to the amazing freedom we experience in their full release and in the recognition of who we really are without them. Dr. Wallace provides a supportive presence to aid you on this courageous journey."
The Heart of Healing: Embracing Your Mindbody As the Path To Spiritual Awakening (book)
Read reviews of this book here
Mindful Eating: Mindful Life: How To Change the Habits That Sabotage Your Health (book)
Read reviews of this book here
May 17, 2012Edible Wild Plants
Want to cook with wild plants? Learn to identify and use wild foods Thursday, May 24th at 7:00 p.m. Dr. John Kallas will be here in the Main Meeting Room of the library for a presentation and book signing of his recent book, Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt to Plate. Dr. Kallas is a trained botanist, nature photographer, writer, researcher and teacher. He's also the founder of Wild Food Adventures, an organization that teaches people how to identify and use edible wild plants. In his beautiful presentation he will show us how to identify, harvest, and prepare delicious and nutritious wild plants. Kallas will also discuss what makes a good plant identification book when you're foraging for abundant wild edibles. If you've ever looked at the many confusing, highly technical plant identification guides out there, you may especially appreciate this bit.
Kallas' book is very popular at the library and all of our copies are checked out! Definitely join the hold list, though, so you can see this gorgeous book yourself and learn how to make some tasty new meals with wild plants you can find right outside of your door. Or, better yet, join us next Thursday and purchase your very own signed copy ($25 cash or check only) to use again and again for the years to come. In the meantime, we do have a number of books to get you started on the subject, so you can go ahead and get reading and come armed with loads of questions for the expert.
Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and 38 Other Wild Recipes
A fun guide for kids and grown-ups to use together to learn how to cook with wild foods.
May 7, 2012Everybody Reads Joyce Carol Oates, May 12th @ the Library!
Here at the library we are absolutely thrilled that Joyce Carol Oates is coming to Corvallis! If you haven't heard yet, Oregon State University is awarding Oates the first ever Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement; a prize that comes with prestige, sure, but also a whopping $20,000. OSU is hosting a public discussion and book signing with Oates that is open to all on May 9th, 7:30 p.m. at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center.
To celebrate this exciting, important event the library and other places around town have been hosting writing workshops and discussions of some of Oates' work, but the finale discussion is coming up this Saturday, May 12th, 2:00 p.m. in the Main Meeting Room here at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library. We're calling it "Everybody Reads Joyce Carol Oates" and it's just an open discussion of any and all of the author's oeuvre that will be led by instructor Liz Delf from the OSU School of Writing, Literature, and Film. Read anything by Oates or come ready to listen and learn about her books with fellow community members. Some delicious pastries donated by New Morning Bakery will be served.
If you haven't had a chance to pick anything up by Joyce Carol Oates, now is your chance. She's a highly prolific, distinctly American, immensely talented writer. She's written over 50 books including novels, short stories, poetry collections, even plays. Many of her stories are haunting and will linger with you a long time as her characters often find themselves dealing with such things as violence, neglect, and abuse (though she doesn't usually portray any of this graphically). She's excellent at suspense and her works are often gripping and sometimes terrifying. She isn't afraid to deal with social and psychological issues and her works are often profound reflections on American society and human nature.
Here are some recommended Oates titles and a few articles and interviews to get you pumped about Wednesday and Saturday :) I really hope you'll join us and come witness the power of folks getting together to talk about reading - there's nothing like it!BOOKS
Big Mouth & Ugly Girl
Oates has written a few novels for young adults including this very popular title about a high school boy that makes a joking threat that his school officials take very seriously. Only one girl, Ursula aka Ugly Girl, knows the truth and is willing to help him. A coming of age type of novel about surviving high school that we had an awesome teen discussion of last week!
A fictional work of the personal life of Marilyn Monroe that is dramatic, engrossing, and true to the woman.
Oates' latest effort about a woman that fought hard to rise above her childhood into a successful academic career and what happens when the past and the present collide.
My Sister, My Love
A fictional tale based on the JonBenet Ramsey murder.
We Were the Mulvaneys
The Oprah book club pick and bestseller about a picture perfect family and its demise.
A Widow's Story
A beautiful memoir about the grief Oates experiences after losing her husband of 48 years.
Charlie Rose: An Interview With Joyce Carol Oates
A 1996 interview
Joyce Carol Oates Interview in The Guardian
The author discusses her new book, Mudwoman.
A Woman's Work: Questions for Joyce Carol Oates
A quick and witty interview with the New York Times Magazine
April 23, 2012Taking Charge of Your Digestive Health
I have struggled with what I consider to be a “faulty” stomach since I was very young. I've always seemed more sensitive to foods than others and at the ripe old age of 21 was told I suffer from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). I was prescribed a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) and was told I would remain on one for the rest of my life if I wanted to feel well and stop doing damage to my esophagus and stomach lining. I got a second opinion and was told the same thing. I took the PPI and accepted my fate; these were some of the best doctors in the state of Texas (where I was living at the time), surely they knew what was best.
I tell you this story not for pity's sake, but because I'd guess you or someone you know may have been prescribed and/or take PPIs, such as Prilosec and Prevacid, considering how commonly prescribed they are. After many years on PPIs and a lot of research, I have my doubts about the necessity of these drugs and have found much evidence suggesting they do much more harm than good by causing their own set of health problems. The most astonishing thing to me about my visits with two top gastroenterologists was that neither asked me about my lifestyle or dietary habits. Addressing one's diet seems like the most obvious way to combat these health issues and, indeed, there's a lot of info out there about dietary changes and natural remedies to deal with GERD.
In Western medicine, it has become all too common to treat symptoms rather than address causes. The Standard American Diet does not do anyone any health favors and even small changes can have big results. Of course, there are certainly some cases where PPIs may be necessary, but considering all options before taking that route may be wise considering the dependence these drugs form (see the books and links below for more info). Fortunately, your local library has all of the resources you need to help you make this and many other health decisions. Plus, a team of Reference Librarians waits armed and ready to assist you with any information need, health or otherwise; just contact us!BOOKS
Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet
This book is actually not about GERD, specifically, but it does address problems some are beginning to believe PPI use can cause, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). It prescribes the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) which has been said by many sufferers of conditions such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis as well as IBS or IBD to work wonders. In some cases, folks have been able to get off of prescription drugs entirely with this diet.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Digestive Health
The first step toward making good health decisions is to understand your condition and how the parts of the body affected work. An Idiot's Guide takes it from a lay person's perspective and will use terminology anyone can understand.
Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure
I have not seen this book, but I have heard great things about it. Dr. Koufman who wrote it is well-known for treating reflux using a diet that focuses on the pH of foods and beverages (basically, you avoid things that are acidic). You can read a bit more about her and the diet here.
Natural Alternatives to Nexium, Maalox, Tagamet, Prilosec & Other Acid Blockers: What to Use to Relieve Acid Reflux, Heartburn, and Gastric Ailments
This book has a number of natural treatment suggestions for heartburn and acid reflux that are very effective. This could be a good starting point if you are looking to avoid taking a PPI and want to know what other natural treatments are available to you.
The Primal Blueprint
Mark Sisson, well'known for his website marksdailyapple.com, outlines a diet free of grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes that has been said to offer enormous health benefits particularly for those suffering from digestive disorders.
“Are Too Many People Taking Heartburn Drugs?”
CNN article regarding the frequency of PPI prescription and some of the risks involved.
“Risks of Long-Term PPI Use”
This is a brief article that links to many other articles of interest including the FDA warning regarding PPI use and low magnesium levels and the common overlap between IBS and GERD.
“Study: Heartburn Drugs Can Cause More Heartburn”
An NPR report about a study that described acid rebound, something that happens to many when they try to stop taking PPIs. It advises a gradual approach to getting off of these drugs.
“Tips For Weaning Your Patients Off PPIs”
An article from ACP (American College of Physicians) Internist reporting a presentation by Dr. Joel E. Richter. Dr. Richter suggests that 60% of GERD patients taking PPIs can successfully be weaned off of them and he briefly describes why.
“What Everybody Ought to Know (But Doesn't) About Heartburn & GERD”
This is the first in a series of blog posts by Chris Kesser, a licensed acupuncturist and proponent of integrated medicine, that examines the reasons for PPI use and the risks. He explains common misconceptions about the causes of GERD and explains how PPI use may actually exacerbate the issue, backing up his arguments with numerous medical studies. In Part 3 he lays out the case for PPI use causing bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, which can cause new health issues such as IBS.
March 22, 2012Elizabeth Taylor
Tomorrow, March 23rd, is the 1 year anniversary of Elizabeth Taylor's death. From a mutation giving her exceptional eyelashes to her tumultuous and numbered marriages to her addictions and poor health, many of us may know more about this icon's personal life than her actual work. She contributed much to AIDS research and at a time when that was still considered a taboo disease for a star to advocate for. Her obsession with jewelry brought in a record-breaking $137 million at the Christie's auction where her jewelry collection was sold after her death.
Many of you out there probably already know all of this about the iconic star, but there's a ton of stuff I bet you don't know about her that only some of the best biographies cover. Here's a quick list of the top 3 bios the library has about the star, a few of her best movies, and some great websites to help you celebrate the memory of the violet-eyed lady:BOOKS & DVDS
Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (DVD)
Father of the Bride (DVD)
Little Women (DVD)
National Velvet (DVD)
Find out more about and see pictures of Taylor's place of burial and read a bio of her life
Elizabeth Taylor: 1932-2011
A timeline of Taylor's career complete with pictures and videos
Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79
Elizabeth Taylor: FBI Files
“These files detail multiple extortion attempts against Taylor that the Bureau investigated over the years.” Kind of strange, but I thought this might be of interest to Taylor fans; complete with scanned letters and memorabilia from seeming fans that usually either threatened or cruelly insulted her.
Elizabeth Taylor: Rare & Unpublished Photos of a Hollywood Legend
From Life magazine
Elizabeth Taylor's Tempestuous Love Affair
Video of a 60 Minutes interview with Taylor and Richard Burton in 1970
March 15, 2012Get (Vegetable) Gardening
As an amateur vegetable gardener with all of my experience gardening in Texas, starting a garden here in Corvallis is like gardening in a different world. There the soil was rocky and sandy and the weather so dry that watering was a major issue. Here I've discovered that the soil in my yard is clay and the weather so wet it was a while before I could even dig in. So, I very much feel like a complete newbie when it comes to gardening in the Pacific Northwest. Recently, I've picked up several books here at the library perfect for someone like me or anyone new to gardening. This is definitely the time to be starting your summer gardens, so come by the library, check out the perfect guide, and get gardening.
|Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long By Eliot Coleman With Austin, Texas' year-round harvests being no problem at all, I've definitely wondered about the possibility of a four season harvest in my new climate. I didn't have to look any further than Eliot Coleman's book. Here Coleman has included just about every tip and trick imaginable for making your harvest last all year long. His strategies are reasonable, cost-effective, and very smart. Even if you don't really care about making your harvest last all year long, this book surely has some insights or tips you can use.|
|Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades By Steve Solomon This is truly the ultimate gardening guide for this region. Everything is included from soil preparation to harvesting. The level of detail and specificity to this area make it an absolute must have for anyone gardening vegetables in Corvallis. Try his other book too, Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food In Hard Times.|
|The Resilent Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times By Carol Deppe Because Deppe is from Corvallis, I bet many of you have already heard of this one, but I just discovered it. Deppe addresses gardening in unstable weather conditions and environments and points to five crops that store well and are versatile. She recommends plant varieties perfect for Corvallis and avoids crops those with gluten intolerance do not eat. Her writing style is engaging and full of personal anecdotes making for one of the best gardening books I've ever read.|
|Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens By Barbara Pleasant This book is absolutely perfect for a beginning vegetable gardener. The plans included are very detailed including nice diagrams. Each plan starts with year 1 and then slowly builds up to year 3 making these plans as simple or as complex as you'd like them to be. Also included are a great number of excellent tips on organic gardening practices including insect and weed management. For anyone looking at their yard or garden space and wondering where to start, this book will set you up with a precise plan.|
Posted by Bonnie, a second floor librarianBack to Top
February 17, 2012Why the New Steve Jobs Biography Isn't Available in Library2Go
Ever wonder why you can't find some of your favorite authors available via our Library2Go service? Well, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan (and all of their imprints) have never sold eBooks and audiobooks to libraries, period. Penguin, Brilliance Audio, and Hachette Book Group stopped selling eBooks and audiobooks to libraries because of disputes with OverDrive (the vendor that provides this service to most libraries) regarding the model of eBook and audiobook delivery. And, all eBooks and audiobooks we buy from HarperCollins can only be checked out 26 times each and then they expire and the library must re-purchase them. Here at CBCPL one of our biggest priorities is satisfying customer demand, but this has been a huge barrier to providing the titles and authors our customers want through Library2Go.
Part of the reason for leaving libraries out is that publishers are concerned about piracy and another part is simply not wanting to make something available for free when they would rather you pay for it. Some publishers, particularly in the case of Penguin, do not like the delivery model OverDrive offers our library customers - they believe it is too easy and want more barriers in place for downloading eBooks and audiobooks from the library and have been particularly dissatisfied with the model of downloading to Kindles.
We think libraries should be able to buy eBooks from all publishers, just as we can in the print world, and we also think it should be easy for our customers to check them out. What do you think? You can contact the publishers mentioned above directly and let them know you think libraries should be able to buy their eBooks; just look below for addresses and additional contact info.
You can find up-to-date addresses, phone numbers, and often executive names for U.S. businesses by using ReferenceUSA (scroll down the alphabetical list to locate it). This is a database the library subscribes to that you can access from home with your library card. It's a very powerful tool that I encourage you to take a look at!
Could Ebooks Kill Off Our Libraries? Publishers Show Security Concern
This title is a bit alarming, but it definitely represents the concerns libraries have over not having access to eBooks. If we do end up an all-eBook world, libraries need to be a part of it!
Digital Public Library of America
Providing access to books, no matter who publishes them or what format they are in, is a top priority for libraries because we believe that all citizens, regardless of social standing or economic status, are entitled to the pursuit of knowledge. The DPLA is interested in creating a national digital library that would purchase and supply eBooks to libraries. If such an organization existed, local libraries could potentially get access to eBooks from the DPLA rather than a for-profit company that only allow us to purchase licenses to eBooks that we will loose whenever the contract ends, is terminated, or the company becomes defunct.
Ereader Clinic, February 22nd, 11:00am-1:00pm
We help people here at CBCPL download eBooks and audiobooks all the time on the reference desk, but we also try to host regular eReader Clinics where folks can drop in with their eReaders or tablets and get a good overview and/or troubleshooting help on using the Library2Go service. Come on down during our clinic next week or ask a librarian anytime the library is open for help with all things eBooks and downloadable audiobooks.
Ebook Publishers Want Library Borrowing to Be Difficult
This article from PCWorld describes Penguin Group's decision regarding eBooks for libraries.
Gaiman on Copyright Piracy and the Web
Neil Gaiman has found that more people buy his books in countries where piracy is highest. He began asking audiences how many discovered their favorite authors by borrowing a book and how many discovered their favorite authors by going to a bookstore and buying a book; he's found that only 5-10% answer the latter. We believe that libraries create lifelong readers and book buyers - have you ever purchased a book you've checked out from a library?
Notice to Publishers: Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal
A LOT of librarians like to blog, but Librarian In Black is a particularly popular blog by Sara Houghton. This post from her blog inspired us to want to inform our public too of the publishers that will not cooperate with libraries.
Publishers vs. Libraries: An E-Book Tug of War
An article from the New York Times that discusses the rift between libraries and publishers on eBooks.
February 13, 2012Great Graphics
When I was in library school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina we had our own library. Of course, the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Library mostly consisted of materials on all things information and library science, but they also happened to have a stellar graphic novel collection.
I didn't know a thing about comics when I first began library school. I had never even read one. Sometimes I'd glance over at the graphic novels with curiosity, but I had no idea what to even look at if I went near the section. One day I got brave, walked into the library, and headed straight for the graphic novels thinking today was the day I'd actually check something out and read my first comic. I picked up an intriguing looking book that had been placed on display. One of my fellow classmates that worked at the library passed by, looked at me, and said of the book in my hand “that is freakin' awesome.” I couldn't think of a better endorsement, so I checked it out and promptly fell in love with the graphic format. That first “freakin' awesome” book I read was Black Hole by Charles Burns and my classmate didn't lie, I loved it.
It only took that one book to turn me into a graphic novel convert. The power of the graphic format to tell a story is unparalleled. The images in a good graphic novel add layers to the text, lending these stories a complexity and emotion you can find in some of the best literature. And, the graphic format can be enjoyed by anyone no matter what genre you prefer; there's narrative nonfiction, mystery, literary works, history, memoir, fantasy, sci-fi, everything. Anyone no matter what age or reading preference can find something to love (though please note that the books listed below were selected with an adult audience in mind). If you don't know where to find something to love, take a look at these recommendations and links - they're sure to help match you to a graphic novel that is “freakin' awesome.”
BodyWorld by Dash Shaw
A fictional story about a Timothy Leary-type professor and botanist that travels to a strange town to look into a strange plant found growing behind the local school. Turns out the plant when smoked gives people telepathic powers and this discovery slowly turns the world of each character upside down.
Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
Set in Brazil, different episodes in the main character's life are depicted revealing more about him, the life he has led, and his relationships with his friends and family in this literary fiction style work. The main character's death is also depicted in each episode encouraging all who read it to take a closer look at their own lives. The author and artist are brothers from Brazil and the stunning artwork and profound musings will impress and inspire.
Epileptic by David B.
A moving account of the author's brother's epilepsy and how it effects his relationship with his brother and entire family. The author is also the artist and the intricate black and white drawings are worth pausing over.
FreakAngels by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield
You can read this for free online (or, we have volume 1 at the library). It's by Warren Ellis, a well-respected man in the comics industry, and chronicles a post-apocalyptic world in which 12 young folks that all look eerily similar and have strange powers seem somehow responsible for. Think Village of the Damned only modern and more imaginative.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
A powerful memoir about the author growing up in a dysfunctional family with her closeted gay father as well as her coming-of-age and lesbianism. Bechdel's sensitive, emotional portrayal and beautiful artwork make this one of the best memoirs I've ever read.
Habibi by Craig Thompson
A magical, epic story following two lovers, former child slaves, through a difficult and cruel world. Thompson is best known for Blankets, a critically acclaimed memoir of his youth, and he does not disappoint in this much anticipated new book.
Locke & Key by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
This is a horror series by Joe Hill, Stephen King's son, full of Lovecraftian influence. A family undergoes a terrible tragedy and relocates to an old family home in a small town. The house has many surprises in store and a few dark secrets it is desperate to share with the kids that now reside there.
Palestine by Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco is known for pioneering the comic journalism genre. After time spent in the Israeli-occupied territories, Sacco brings us a story of the people and the conflict there that you'll never hear from mainstream news outlets.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This now famous memoir of a young girl growing up during the Iranian revolution give us a character to fall in love with (Satrapi is a precocious and amusing child) and reveals much about Iran during this tumultuous time in it's history. If you like Persepolis, you'll love the famous Maus by Art Spiegelman and vice versa.
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman & Various Artists
This series is required reading for any graphic novel fan. It tells us the story of Dream primarily, but also his goth sister Death and a cast of characters referred to as The Endless. It's hard to narrow this comic down and give a nice description, but Norman Mailer once called it “a comic strip for intellectuals” and I think that's pretty apt.
Best Books of 2011: Graphic Novels
The best graphic novels of 2011 as decided by Library Journal
Drawing on Reality: Graphic Nonfiction From Bechdel to Zinn
This is an article I wrote for Library Journal about the best graphic nonfiction for libraries. It includes a list (after the article) of some of the best graphic nonfiction I know of and each title has a nice description under it, so you can find something you'll love. It was written with an audience of librarians in mind, so feel free to skip the article and just look at the list of recommended books.
An excellent site maintained by Dr. Ian Williams of Wales in which he recommends graphic novels that he believes can help patients and caregivers alike in coping with illness and health conditions. Check out his lists of recommended graphic novels here and here.
The Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time
New York Times Graphic Bestsellers
Still don't see anything here that catches your fancy? The New York Times keeps a graphic bestsellers list, just scroll down toward the bottom of the page to see this week's list.
January 25, 2012Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin is a professor at Colorado State University who spearheaded new designs for the more humane slaughter of cattle in slaughterhouses. She is also a well-known autistic woman and an advocate for the better understanding and treatment of autistic people. I recently watched the HBO movie starring Claire Danes about Grandin, (Temple Grandin) and it not only does a great job of portraying Grandin's life in an honest and heartfelt way, but it also reveals much about the nature of autism itself.
Grandin describes how a life of sensory overload - loud noises, sudden changes, and large crowds, for example, can cause an autistic person intense distress. It's as if the filter that most people have that prevents us from sensing and responding to more than is necessary in our environments is either not present or damaged in an autistic person. The movie provides many glimpses into Grandin's mind as she becomes more and more able to relate how her thinking works. What is clear to me after watching, is that autism was and still is a completely misunderstood disorder.
As a child, Grandin's mother was told that they should institutionalize her. Luckily for her, the animal world, and us, her family did not listen and persisted with her education. The road was not without great challenges for Temple and her family, but I think her life is a wonderful example of how not writing one's intelligence off because they do not function “normally” is imperative. We are only yet to understand this complicated disorder and, until we do, understanding, love, patience, and kindness seems to have the potential to help unlock the autistic mind.
We have everything you need at the library (and know how to point you to the best of the 'net!) to learn more about Temple Grandin and her accomplishments as well as autism:BOOKS
Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals by Temple Grandin
Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism by Temple Grandin & Kate Duffy
Humane Livestock Handling by Temple Grandin & Mark Deesing
Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports From My Life With Autism by Temple Grandin
The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism by Temple Grandin & Sean BarronWEBSITES
Autistic Girl Expresses Profound Intelligence
My nephew is autistic so someone forwarded me this powerful story about Carly. It's an amazing short piece that really demonstrates how intelligent and capable many people afflicted with this disorder are.
A Conversation with Temple Grandin (NPR)
This is the first I had heard of Dr. Grandin back in 2006 and the interview is fascinating.
Dr. Temple Grandin's Official Autism Website
This website links to all of Dr. Grandin's presentations, books, articles, and more on autism. You can also ask Dr. Grandin questions about autism and she'll respond on the website.
Dr. Temple Grandin's Web Page
This page links to Dr Grandin's works about animals and her designs for the humane slaughter of livestock.
In Depth with Temple Grandin
A video interview from C-SPAN BookTV
Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds
A TED talk by Grandin in which she discusses how her mind works and the world's need for many different types of minds.
December 29, 2011“Can You Pass the Acid Test?”
Ken Kesey was a graduate of the University of Oregon and a pivotal figure of the 1960s who at one point encouraged everyone to use psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD. This call from the famous author of books such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion is said to have been a precursor to the drug culture of the '60's. In 1964 Kesey and a group of friends (the Merry Band of Pranksters) boarded a school bus painted in Day-Glo colors called “Furthur” and drove across the country to New York causing a stir and inspiring many along the way.
This trip is the subject of a documentary that CBCPL has on order (it should show up in the catalog within a week or so), titled The Magic Trip. Kesey and the Pranksters recorded hours of footage and audio clips from their cross country bus ride and intended to make a movie one day. The movie sort of happened - Kesey and the Pranksters managed to par down the footage to 30 hours - but it wasn't until this year that the movie became a more digestible 107 minutes. It is a revealing, intimate look at the cross country trip and Kesey's motivations for initiating it.
Later, and as famed book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test begins, Kesey was imprisoned for a short time for marijuana possession and, after his release, he began encouraging everyone to “graduate” from acid. Kesey and the Pranksters organized an acid graduation. Believing that only so much enlightenment could come from drug-induced states, he began to encourage folks to seek new forms of enlightenment.
After reading The Electric Kool-Aid Test just a few months ago and seeing the documentary, I can say with some certainty that I could not have passed the acid test. But, really this aspect of the story wasn't what resonated with me - it was Kesey himself, the all-American, upstanding young man that believed experimentation and mystery was an essential part of life.
I'll leave you with a quote and a list of books and websites so you can read up on Kesey and this wild time in our nation's history:
“I've never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.”BOOKS
Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon's Sesquicentennial Anthology
An anthology of essays about all things Oregon including one by Kesey, “How it All Came Together: A History of the Oregon Media Referendum”. The title of the book comes from a quote of Kesey-s, “Oregon is the citadel of the spirit” (for more information see this page).
The Further Inquiry
Kesey's book based on the bus, his travels, and Neal Cassady
Last Go Round: A Real Western
Co-authored with his good friend and fellow Prankster, Ken Babbs, this is a western telling the tale of the 1911 Pendleton (Oregon) Round-up.
Off the Road: My Years With Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
Neal Cassady, the man who the character of Dean Moriarty from On the Road was based on, went on the trip with Kesey and the Pranksters. This book by his wife is a good bio of Cassady that will come in handy if you decide to read The Further Inquiry.
On the Road
Kerouac's famous book inspired Kesey and the Pranksters to take their cross country trip.
Ken Kesey, Author of 'Cuckoo's Nest,' Who Defined the Psychedelic Era, Dies at 66
An article on Kesey's death in 2001. He lived most of his life and died in Pleasant Hill, Oregon.
Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters
A short biography of Kesey, his literary achievements, and the Merry Pranksters.
The Magic Trip
The documentary's website including a preview.
December 27, 2011Chauvet Cave
I watched a Werner Herzog documentary the other night titled Cave of Forgotten Dreams. This amazing documentary gives unprecedented access to Chauvet Cave, a cave in France discovered in late 1994, which contains the oldest known cave paintings in the world.
The paintings have been dated back between 30,000 and 32,000 years using radiocarbon dating. The discovery and documentation of the paintings is a remarkable enough subject for a documentary, but what makes the film even more fascinating is knowing that very few people have been allowed access to the cave. Only top scientists and researchers have been allowed inside as it is believed that even something as simple as human breath may damage the paintings. Herzog and his crew were allowed in with special lights that wouldn't harm the paintings and they were forced to walk and film in single file so they did not veer off the narrow metal grates where people are allowed to step.
The paintings themselves are stunning. In many cases, the artists actually utilized the curves of the cave walls to produce 3-D paintings that appear to be in motion. A combination of a bison and the lower half of a woman can be found, an exceptional and significant painting for the time period. A series of red dots in one section of the cave was discovered to be created from the palm prints of a 6 foot tall man with a crooked pinky finger. There are also the breathtaking horses in the picture attached to this blog post. Additionally, tons of fossils can be found, mostly of the now extinct cave bears that used to hibernate there, along with scratch marks and footprints.
It's obvious by the wait list that Cave of Forgotten Dreams is quite popular, but you don't have to wait to see the paintings for yourself. A quick search for “chauvet cave” in the catalog will bring up many excellent pictorial titles currently in stock, or you can explore the cave online:BOOKS
Painters of the Caves
This one's for the young ones; if you want to get your kids excited about Chauvet Cave, this would be an excellent book to pick up.
The Cave Art Paintings of Chauvet Cave
Links to a gallery of the paintings, information about the film, articles from folks that have actually been there, and much more.
The Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc
The cave's official website with an interactive map of the large cave and tons of background info.
Background on the cave from an art history perspective.
“Entering Darkness” by Sam Anderson
A great article from the June 12, 2011 New York Times Magazine about seeing Herzog's documentary for the first time. This article (and many more!) are available from your home with your library card number via our online databases. I found this one in General OneFile. Unsure about how to use the databases? Ask a Librarian!
Werner Herzog: Cave of Forgotten Dreams
This is a link to Herzog's own website where the documentary is discussed at length.
December 21, 20111984
I'm reading the slow-to-start, but deeply engrossing new magnum opus by the famed Haruki Murakami titled 1Q84. This dark and bizarre novel is supposedly loosely related to George Orwell's 1984. Having not read the Orwell classic, I delayed my anticipation to devour the new novel until I could read it.
I've discovered two things: 1. 1984 is a phenomenal book for fans of sci'fi and great literature alike, and, 2. 1Q84 seems only loosely related to 1984, so I could have skipped it and still understood the Murakami novel. Reviews of 1Q84 have ranged from glowing to scathing, but no matter what I personally end up thinking of it when I finally finish 700 or so more pages (!), I will be forever grateful to it for encouraging me to read a bold, intense classic I'll never forget.
Reading 1984 is in keeping with last year's New Year's resolution to read more classics I've missed. I also read Love in the Time of Cholera (boring!) and tore through Wuthering Heights (loved it!) Have you read a classic recently that has knocked your socks off? What are some of the best classics out there, in your opinion? Reading classics has definitely given me a greater appreciation for and understanding of my favorite genre, contemporary fiction. Classics are key to fully appreciating great literature.
If you're a fan of 1984 or 1Q84, below are some other books you might enjoy. Also, don't forget about our amazing database, Novelist ( look under "N" in the A-Z list of databases and use your library card to access it from home). If you want to find books to read based on other books you've enjoyed that have been recommended by a trained and well-read librarian, take a look at Novelist.If you like 1984 try:
The Children of Men by P.D. James
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Player Piano by Kurt VonnegutIf you like 1Q84, try:
Brida< by Paulo Coehlo
The Changeling Kenzaburo Oe
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
V. by Thomas Pynchon
Villa Incognito by Tom RobbinsPosted by Bonnie, a second floor librarian Back to Top
November 3, 2011Goodbyes
Well, this is my last post for the Austin Public Library's blog. After almost 4 years as a librarian here at Austin Public Library, I am moving to Corvallis, Oregon to accept a librarian position I was recently offered. This is a huge move for me. Virtually all of my family lives in Texas and many of them are right here in Austin and have been for years. We moved to Austin when I was 10 years old and I've watched it grow from a small, quiet city to a big, bustling urban center (not without a bit of bitterness, though - I liked my small city). I grew up thinking Willie Nelson was the best country singer on the planet and didn't realize until I moved to North Carolina briefly for graduate school that not everyone felt that way. I'm going to pack up a moving van in about 2 weeks and drive 2200 miles to a new home in a strange new land. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't crazy nervous about how it will all work out, but I'm also giddy with the excitement. A new adventure and a new life are ahead!
I've loved writing for the blog and being a part of Austin Public Library. My colleagues, in particular, will be dearly missed. I may be biased, but I think Austin Public has some of the best reference librarians in the country and, if you don't believe me, you should utilize our Ask a Librarian service and find out.
I leave you all with a list of movies and TV shows that have some of my favorite goodbye scenes. Do you have a favorite I haven't listed here? (Please note that the YouTube clips provided may contain spoilers!)
This one doesn't really have a goodbye scene, but I just love the way the last scene wraps up the movie and the song is just perfect. Please note that some of the material is explicit. (YouTube clip)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
“Live long and prosper”
October 21, 2011Y: The Last Man is So Awesome
I read a lot of graphic novels, but I still haven't come across a series that sucked me in as fully and completely as Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan (well, maybe Locke & Key by Joe Hill). I read the series a few years ago. I started by checking out the first volume, brought it home, and was desperate for another volume after devouring the first in about 45 minutes. The next day I checked out every volume in the series, brought them home, and read as many as I could until sleep just couldn't be avoided. It went on like this for a few days until I finished reading the entire series and I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself.
Y: The Last Man begins with a “plague” that has wiped out all males from the face of the planet. Every mammal with a Y chromosome is dead. Turns out only one man managed to live, Yorick Brown. The series goes on to follow Yorick (or, Y) through this world Vaughan has created and Pia Guerra has expertly drawn. What does happen when all of the men are dead? How does life continue? Why did Y live through all of this, but no other male? Is there a cure? All of these questions and more are pursued as we follow Y through an intense adventure to find his girlfriend and, in the meantime, save humanity. Vaughan was a writer on the TV show “Lost”, so he knows how to hook you and keep you coming back for more.
I write about Y today because I'm going to re-read it. The deluxe editions have all come out and I checked them out from the library and hope to get lost in it again. I love the feeling I describe at the beginning of this post. Becoming obsessed with a book or series so completely that you just can't think of anything else until you've finished reading is one of the reasons I read. Of course, not every book or series gives me that feeling, but it's definitely something I seek out. Recently I went through a number of books I just couldn't really get into, so maybe that's why I've turned to this series again. What books out there give you that Y feeling??BOOKS
Book Lust: Recommended Reading For Every Mood, Moment, and Reason
Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinairre, is the woman to turn to if you're looking for a great book.
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (this is volume 1)
Joe Hill, Stephen King's son, writes this series and it is super-addicting! About a family that experiences a horrible tragedy and is forced to relocate to a family home that has many secrets. All of the best horror elements in one series and much of it a spin on the classic tales by H.P. Lovecraft. The Graphic Novels Book Club is meeting to discuss it on November 16th!
Now Read This III: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction
Also, from Nancy Pearl
Y: The Last Man, Book One (deluxe edition)
You can either opt for the trade paperbacks (10 volumes) or the deluxe edtions (5 volumes). Type “y last man” into the FindIt search box, select title, and you'll pull up all of the Y titles.
Facebook RA (Readers' Advisory)
On the Austin Public Library Facebook page each month we provide recommendations to anyone that comments back to us listing three titles they've read and enjoyed. Look for our comment on the 2nd Tuesday of each month and reply back to us for a quick reply with a few titles you might like.
We've advertised the service before here, but it doesn't hurt to remind everyone that, if you answer a few questions for us, we can provide you with tailored recommendations based on your reading interests. We just may be able to connect you with a book you just can't put down...
October 7, 2011Gluten-Free
Going gluten-free seems to be all the rage these days. I end up learning a lot about diet trends when ordering the cookbooks for the Faulk Central Library and gluten-free cookbooks have just exploded over recent years. While it is a trend right now, those with celiac disease have a real need to avoid all gluten for the sake of their health. However, there have also been a number of articles I've read recently about gluten sensitivities. It has been argued that many people may be sensitive to gluten and by avoiding it they will feel much better. Others have argued that avoiding gluten can help cure or relieve various diseases. The research behind avoiding gluten for the relief of various diseases isn't really there, but it's absolutely true that many report giving up gluten and, as a result, feel great.
I have struggled with stomach sensitivities my entire life and as I've gotten older they have become much worse. This is one of the only things I haven't tried and I think I'm going to take the plunge next week and go gluten-free! Everything I've read suggests that simply trying to go gluten-free for an entire week should let you know whether or not your sensitive to gluten and could benefit by avoiding it. Of course, I'm relying on Austin Public Library for my information needs during this difficult time. Here's a list of websites and books you can use to research what it takes to go gluten-free and read up on the potential benefits:BOOKS
Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking For a Gluten-free Kitchen
The Paleo diet is much more than just a gluten-free diet, but any recipes for a Paleo diet work for those who are gluten-free as well.
Celiac Disease, Medline Plus
Gluten-free Diet, MayoClinic.com
The Mayo Clinic's website is a well-respected health resource and this is an excellent brief, but to-the-point article on what a gluten-free diet entails.
Gluten-free Diet Guide for Families, Children's Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation
Gluten Sensitivity, Gluten Intolerance Group
A brief, informative article on gluten sensitivity. There isn't really a test for gluten sensitivity - the only way to know if you're sensitive is to avoid gluten and see how you feel.
Restaurant Dining: Seven Tips for Staying Gluten-free, Gluten Intolerance Group
Should You Go On a Gluten-free Diet?, Oprah.com
Oprah has certainly fueled the going gluten-free craze.
September 23, 2011180° South
I've watched a beautiful documentary several times now called 180° South. It features a man named Jeff Johnson narrating a trip he takes to Patagonia, a region of Argentina and Chile. Johnson was inspired by two men, Yvon Chouinard and Douglas Tompkins, who took a similar trip to Patagonia in the late '60s. Following Johnson's travels you get to see some of the most gorgeous, untouched open country in existence. Johnson's narration reveals a person passionate about the environment and travel coupled with a wonderful fearlessness and sense of freedom. His passions are surfing and rock climbing, so the documentary is full of footage of some amazing surf and seemingly completely vertical, totally smooth mountains. Over the course of the documentary, you are introduced to Chouinard and Tompkins, two really amazing men. Chouinard is a famous outdoorsman who began the well-known clothing and outdoor supply company, Patagonia. Tompkins, also a famous outdoorsman, began The North Face and ESPRIT Clothing Company, but now he devotes his time and resources to buying up land in Patagonia in an effort to preserve the area. Tompkins and his wife Kris have conserved nearly 2 million acres of mostly grasslands in Patagonia.
What I love about this documentary is that it does not have a blatant environmental message. It's really about one man's travels and his thoughts along the way. The beauty he sees is in real danger largely because of increasing development and he definitely addresses it, but I never felt there was any kind of agenda in mind. The reason I've watched it so many times is really for the scenery - I often put it on in the background as I make dinner and allow myself to be transported to the gorgeous country I hope to see with my own eyes someday. Also, it has an excellent soundtrack including songs by Andrew Bird and Modest Mouse.
Read more about Patagonia (the place as well as the company) here at the library!
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
Written by Yvon Chouinard
Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin
Famous for his book In Patagonia in which he documents his travels, this is a collection of Chatwin's letters.
September 19, 2011The Filter Bubble
I recently read Eli Pariser's new book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You. This was an informative read regarding privacy on the Internet and the types of information companies are actively collecting about your behavior online. Basically, major Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, are looking very closely at your every click and diligently recording the info in an effort to personalize their site specifically to you. For example, when you do a Google search and start clicking away at the results, Google installs a cookie in your browser so that it may track what you''e clicking on and what you're doing online. If you seemed more inclined to click on a right-leaning political website, for example, Google takes note and the next time you run a search the results displayed will include more right-leaning websites similar to the one you clicked on. If you have an account with them and are regularly logged in during your searches and activities, Google learns even more about you.
Pariser points out many problems with Internet companies using this practice and two in particular really stood out to me. First of all, you regularly have Internet companies looking over your shoulder as you browse, collecting (sometimes intimate) information about you. As a librarian, I find this assault on individual privacy alarming, particularly as a clear way to opt out of this level of data collection is not readily apparent to those that do not have an account with the Internet site or search engine they are using. When I discuss issues with Internet privacy with others I often hear back, “Oh well, if you're not doing anything illegal, what's to worry about?” Plenty, in my opinion. Information on how you behave, legally or otherwise, can always be manipulated or edited to reflect poorly on you. We see this everyday in the news. Though most of us are not newsworthy figures, I still feel that we are not immune from the manipulation of private information by various entities and/or individuals for their own professional or personal gain as most terms of agreement are vague on how the information they collect may be used. Further still, there are virtually no laws that pertain to Internet privacy, so, as of now, the information we give to Internet companies so freely could be used in a wide variety of ways that are potentially detrimental or inflammatory.
But, for me, this is not the worst of it. The reason the info is being collected on you in the first place is so Internet companies can improve and personalize their services. This sounds like a good thing, but, as mentioned above, Google is filtering your search results. Rather than a search engine that shows you a wide variety of websites from a wide variety of perspectives, you're seeing websites based on what you've already demonstrated to Google that you like through your previous clicks. With the rise in popularity of the Internet, many people, myself included, touted what a great tool it would be to bring democracy, change, and exposure to fresh perspectives to people around the world. Instead, the major Internet companies that are major players in the future development of the Internet are bringing you exactly what they believe you want to see. Eli Pariser argues that this allows for people to get caught in feedback loops that continually validate their own perspectives and sense of the world without any chance of exposure to something new or something in conflict with what you already believe.
This is a smartly argued book that raises some great questions on the future of the Internet. Will we allow major corporations to make the rules, or are we going to stand up for our own rights online and our vision of the Internet as tool for democracy? This is only one of many great books on the topic, so read up and speak out!Back to Top
August 26, 2011Conquistadora
I just finished a great new novel by Esmeralda Santiago, titled Conquistadora. It is an epic that follows a young girl, Ana, through adulthood in which she pursues her ambitions from Spain to Puerto Rico in the mid-19th century. As a girl Ana dreams of Puerto Rico in which many of her ancestors lived and died including a distant male relative that traveled with Ponce de Leon, the famous conquistador. Her dreams finally become reality after she meets twin brothers Ramon and Inocente. She marries Ramon and convinces the brothers that in Puerto Rico lies their destiny. Once in Puerto Rico Ana deals with constant hardship and a bitter love triangle. Slavery and relations with slaves factor in heavily as the sugar plantation the twins and Ana become responsible for require significant labor. Puerto Rico is almost it's own character in the book - the landscape is described in detail and the historical context is well-considered. While Ana is not the most likable main character, she is well-developed and complex. I highly recommend it; especially if you liked books such as The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende or One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
On Monday there's a free teleconference book club sponsored by the organization Las Comadres in which Esmeralda Santiago will be present! (See the links below.) Even if you haven't read the book, you might still want to tune in if you enjoyed her other work.BOOKS
Almost a Woman
This is the first memoir I read by Santiago, though it is actually a follow-up to her first published memoir, and I just fell in love with Esmeralda, her family, and her writing style. Santiago recounts her young adulthood as a poor Puerto Rican immigrant living in New York City.
This is Santiago's first novel about a Puerto Rican woman and her many struggles.
The Turkish Lover
An account of Santiago's affair as a young woman with a Turkish filmmaker.
When I Was Puerto Rican
This is Santiago's first memoir which received much critical acclaim. It recounts Santiago's early years in Puerto Rico and her experiences after immigrating to New York.
PBS NewsHour Interview with Esmeralda Santiago on Conquistadora
A great interview with Santiago about her new novel. She thanks librarians at both the end of her book and in this interview for their help finding the research she needed to complete her book; a nice reminder that if you have questions regarding research, information, or most anything you should Ask a Librarian!
Reading With Las Comadres: Conquistadora by Esmeralda Santiago
I have already registered and I hope some of you will too and listen in during the teleconference. I love book clubs - I always get so much more out of a book by discussing it with others. Plus, I'm yet to attend a book club that includes a discussion with the author, so I'm really psyched about this!
August 12, 2011Occupation: Revolutionary
“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”
When I was an undergradate at UT, I read a book that had a major influence on me, titled Assata: An Autobiography, from which the above quote is from. Shakur is a pretty controversial figure as she is on the FBI's Most Wanted list with a 1 million dollar reward for any information that leads to her arrest and capture. She joined the Black Panther Party (BPP) in 1970, but quickly became frustrated with what she perceived as a lack of a cohesive philosophy and turned to the more radical Black Liberation Army (BLA). Shakur was charged and acquitted of many crimes including burglary and murder in the early '70s. She was eventually convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in 1977. Shakur was in a car with two other male BLA members at the time. It's unclear precisely what happened, but the state trooper and one of Shakur's companions was shot dead, the other male passenger fled the scene, and Shakur was shot twice wounding her in both arms and a shoulder. She was arrested on the scene, convicted and sentenced to life and 33 years in prison, and labeled a cop-killer by authorities. She served part of her sentence, but escaped from prison in 1979 and within a few years was granted political asylum in Cuba where she still resides.
While the BLA was a violent group and Shakur is unapologetic about their violent stance, Shakur felt violence was the only answer in the face of an FBI initiative, COINTELPRO, to “neutralize” political activists. She believed the progress made on African-American rights was insufficient and her numerous experiences with the justice system reinforced this attitude. In terms of the NJ state trooper case, she maintains her innocence. Shakur has stated that she and her two companions were cooperating and surrendering when the state trooper opened fire, and in court it was presented that the shots fired on Shakur could only have hit the way they did if she were holding her arms in the air. As to the supposed wrongful conviction, Shakur points to the racism of her prosecutors and an all-white jury that could not have sympathy for a black revolutionary. Further, by being labeled a “cop-killer”, she claims to have been the target of horrific abuses by the authorities she came into contact with during her imprisonment.
It isn't just Assata Shakur's story that compelled me when I first read her book, but also her philosophy and stance on a number of issues. She, of course, discusses racism in great depth and often focuses on the self-hatred and negative perceptions African-Americans had of themselves during this time. Popular white attitudes pointed to African-Americans as being lazy, unattractive or even beast-like, and unintelligent; attitudes that were internalized by the African-American community. She also takes aim at the politicans of the day and calls out the institutionalization of racism and oppression. She writes beautifully and passionately about freedom and equality. She speaks to anyone who has ever felt oppressed, though she is clear that her fight is for the African-American people.
Though I read her autobiography years ago, it is a book I will never forget. I keep one of her poems on my wall and I often look to passages in her book for inspiration. I cannot say that my personal struggle is anywhere even close to hers or that of the African-American community, but I have been personally inspired by her and continue to share her messages with those that will listen. I am awed that in most of the biographical essays I have read about her it states her occupation as a “revolutionary”. She certainly is.BOOKS and CD
Assata's personal website
Assata Shakur and My Train of Thought
An interesting piece in which the author relates quotes from Assata Shakur's autobiography to the struggles of women today.
Biography in Context
This is a great database provided by Austin Public Library (you need your library card number to log on from home) for biographical information. The biographical details in this post are from articles I found in this database.
Common: A Song for Assata
Common wrote and performed this song, which became controversial when the rapper was invited to the White House in May of this year. Common did not perform this song at the White House, but NJ police and a number of Republicans expresssed outrage that the White House would invite someone that wrote a song glorifying a “cop-killer”. Here's an article that discusses the reaction and here's an opinion piece regarding that reaction.
The Eyes of the Rainbow: An Assata Shakur Documentary
You can watch this for free online.
July 29, 2011Time Travel
You may have noted the news item this week regarding time travel. A group of researchers in Hong Kong recently conducted a study in which they believe they have demonstrated that a photon cannot travel faster than the speed of light. This finding indicates that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light meaning that traveling back in time would be impossible. For a long time, traveling faster than the speed of light was considered a possibility and, by extension, it was also possible that one could travel in time.
This discovery was a real bummer for me. I didn't have any big plans for traveling through time, but, like any sci-fi fan, I've always been enthused that this was a theoretical possibility. Despite the news, time travel cannot be ruled out completely. There's the possibility of wormholes, using black holes, and time dilation. No matter, I'm certain it will remain fodder for book, movie, and TV plotlines for years to come. Below are some time travel-related links for your inner-scientist and just for kicks:BOOKS: Back to Top
July 15, 2011Jump on the Potter Bandwagon!
Well, many of the reviews are out and have spoiled the fun for me a bit, but I encourage you to ignore them completely and bask in the delight that is the final Harry Potter movie! I sometimes have the attitude of an old, crotchety lady and actively seek to ignore most pop culture phenomenon, but I was sucked into the Harry franchise a few years back and am long past the point of no return. Others disagree, but I've loved the movies and think they are, mostly, a fine representation of the books. The second Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 flicked off the screen, I have been twiddling my thumbs waiting for Part 2 and, clearly, so has the rest of America as it has already shattered records at the box offices. Now that the day has arrived I might actually try and wait for the crowds to dissipate before going to see it just to savor the last-time-I'll-be-anxious-waiting-for-a-HP-movie moment.
While it looks like a lot of our copies of the movies have been checked out (but, not all, so be sure to check FindIt), no doubt in anticipation of this day, we still have plenty of copies of the books available to relive your favorite Potter moments and lots of other books on all things Potter. Plus, check out some of the links I found that are pure fun:BOOKS
Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon
A story of Harry Potter fandom
Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures
The books that inspired Rowling and the HP novels are discussed in this book
KDL What's Next Database
This is a database of series fiction. You can search by author, series name, or book title.
One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter
Author Greg Garrett argues that Christians need not be alarmed by Harry Potter and insists that the values present in HP are many of the same values upheld by the Christian faith.
Harry Potter (Scholastic)
Tons of games here for kids or the kid in you
Harry Potter: A Look Back
Get a 5 minute recap of all of the Harry Potter movies
Harry Potter Spells
You can get this app on your iPhone (or iPad). You get to pick your wand, try on the sorting hat, and practice spells
Get any 150 character message translated into parseltongue
Most have probably heard of this by now, but J.K. Rowling has created Pottermore, which will be a sort of digital enhancement of the Harry Potter stories. You can watch a video of the announcement by Rowling from here.
What's Your Patronus?
Find out what your patronus is. Mine is a cat, just like Dolores Umbridge. You see? I truly am a crotchety old lady!
July 1, 2011My New York Diary
I'm a fan of Julie Doucet, a French-Canadian underground comix artist, whose My New York Diary I picked up on a whim one day and promptly came home and devoured. It's a short graphic novel in which she recounts a brief period when she was living in New York City. She depicts her time in art school, deals with two kind of crazy boyfriends, and suffers from seizures at one point to name just a few of the personal moments in her life she chronicles with a wonderful humor and frankness.
I'm also a fan of Michel Gondry's. I loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in particular, but I'll watch anything he does. So I was delighted to find that Doucet and Gondry collaborated recently on a sort of mini-movie and book titled My New New York Diary. Gondry apparently contacted Doucet and asked if she wanted to collaborate on making a movie and the process of them working together essentially becomes the (20 minute) movie. The DVD is in the back of the book which is a collection of sketches Doucet did for the movie. The result? A magic little film that is funny and sweet and a really cool merge of two distinct artistic styles. If you're a fan of either Doucet or Gondry, you just like autobiographical comics/graphic novels, and/or you finally want to see a bit of Gondry's famed style, I think you'll want to check it out.
Austin Public Library has a bunch of Doucet's other books and, of course, many of Gondry's films:BOOKS (Doucet):
This is a collection of collage, diary, and comic drawings from a year in the life of Doucet.
A visual book filled with drawings, collages, and paintings. A sort of work of art infused with Doucet's humor.
My Most Secret Desire
This is a highly entertaining book in which Doucet recounts some of what I would assume are her more bizarre dreams. Some are a bit grizzly, so consider yourself forewarned.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Blu-ray!)
Did you know that APL has a small, but excellent collection of Blu-ray movies? Search FindIt, the library catalog, by typing “blu-ray” into the search box and you can browse the collection.
The Green Hornet
I haven't felt very motivated to see this movie, but I did not know until writing this post that Gondry directed it, so my mind has changed...
This is a sort of 3-in-1 movie with three different directors each directing their own segment all set in Tokyo.
The Work of Director Michel Gondry: A Collection of Music Videos, Short Films, Documentaries, and Stories
Gondry does some amazing music videos and here's an excellent collection of them and a few other gems.
June 17, 2011I'm With the Band
I just read a gossipy page-turner of a book that I think makes it the perfect beach read: I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres. Des Barres was a teenager when Brit bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones were in their prime (late 60s-early 70s) and she was a huge fan. It started as a school girl crush on Paul McCartney that eventually morphed into a propensity to hang out outside of her fave rockers' houses and strutting up and down the Sunset Strip. Des Barres certainly epitomized the term “groupie”, but she went from just being a young, pretty girl trying to get close to rock stars to one that had (often dramatic) relationships with the likes of Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger, and Keith Moon, just to name a few. Her bed-hopping with some of my all-time favorite rock artists really got going when Frank Zappa helped to form an all girl rock/performance art group that consisted of Des Barres and other avid groupies called the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously). Zappa helped them put together an album and, while their career never really took off, it further enmeshed these ladies into the whole scene and helped set the stage for a number of Des Barres' future relationships.
As Des Barres and others would argue, though, the GTOs weren't just a bunch of groupies looking for fame. They truly loved the music and wanted to be a part of the lives of the (mostly) men that created it. Des Barres was some of the inspiration for the character Penny Lane from “Almost Famous” and, while they never referred to themselves as “Band-Aides”, her and her friends definitely believed that they contributed to the music and were venerated and treated with a level of respect that I don't think you really find among the super fans and artists of today.
When I was in high school I was totally obsessed with the rock bands of the British invasion, Led Zeppelin in particular, and I always felt it a shame I wasn't born in a different era. This may be the full explanation of why I enjoyed this book despite some complaints regarding the writing style (it does read a bit like a 16 year-old's diary), but I feel pretty confident that if you enjoyed “Almost Famous”, have an interest in this time period musically or otherwise, and/or just love celebrity gossip, you'll really dig this one.
Here are some additional books written by Des Barres and others that you may enjoy, if I'm With the Band piques your interest:
Dandelion: Memoir of a Free Spirit
Here's a memoir by Catherine James, another very famous groupie that appears in Des Barres' memoir and partied with all the big name musicians of the time
“Former Stones, Dylan Superfan Pamela Des Barres on 'Greatest Groupies'”
This is a link to an interview with Pamela Des Barres regarding her VH1 documentary that aired in December 2010 and includes a bit of info on the upcoming movie based on I'm With the Band
Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood
Laurel Canyon is the famed LA neighborhood where a number of legendary musicians hung out and resided, including Pamela Des Barres at Frank Zappa's house
Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies
In this title by Des Barres, she interviews famous groupies, so they can tell their stories
Rebel Heart: An American Rock 'n' Roll Journey
This is a memoir from another very famous groupie, Bebe Buell, mother of Liv Tyler, whose famous conquests include Steven Tyler, Elvis Costello, and Rod Stewart.
Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up
This is Des Barres' follow-up to I'm With the Band that picks up where the other left off
Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me
Not exactly a groupie, Pattie Boyd, the author of this memoir, was married to George Harrison and, later, Eric Clapton. The infamous songs “Something”, “Layla”, and “Wonderful Tonight” were all written for her.
May 20, 2011Maybe We Can Work It Out
As I eat this delicious, gooey brownie made by one of my fellow librarians, I am writing to you today about workout videos. A year or so ago I made a commitment to myself to get in better physical shape. My upper body strength was a joke and my ability to keep up on my bike was pitiful, so I knew it was time to start some strength training and build up my endurance. I've never been an athletic person and, generally speaking, sports don't really interest me. I also hate gyms. I feel like my workouts always start to get too repetitive and dull (running on the treadmill five days a week is a bore, in my opinion) and I resent having to pay someone for exercise. Lucky for me then that the library has a bunch of workout DVDs. What I usually do is check one out and test it at home; if I like it, I buy it and add it to my collection. My favorites are the Jillian Michaels workouts - they are really challenging, the exercises can be modified for different fitness levels, and a number of them can be done in 30 minutes (which I would normally think too short, but it's an intense 30 minutes).
There's really no beating being able to workout at home. I never have to leave my house to get a good workout and buying DVDs (and a few pieces of equipment: hand weights, exercise mat, resistance band, kettlebell) is quite a bit cheaper than paying for a gym membership. The convenience of it can't be beat and I haven't had more energy or looked this good since high school! I'm actually looking forward to wearing a swimsuit this summer and, I mean, how often do you get to say that?
6 Week Six-Pack
This is my current favorite. While it does focus on abs, really this is a whole body cardio workout.
30 Day Shred
This DVD turned me into a devoted Jillian Michaels fan. I don't really use it as much anymore because the workouts are so short (each one is a little over 20 minutes), but that does not mean they are not super intense. There are 3 workouts on 3 different levels and I definitely had to progress through it to finally build up to level 3. Great for when you're in a time crunch.
Denise Austin's 3 Week Boot Camp
Denise Austin is a bit too chipper for me most of the time. It also can be a challenge to follow her as her instructions are not always clear and the segway to the next move is often abrupt and not well prompted. With that said, though, this is the best Austin workout video I've ever done. Since Michaels arrived on the scene, Austin's workouts have gained in quality and challenge.
Personal Training with Jackie: Power Circuit Training
I don't know a thing about the show this lady is or was on, but this is a great workout. This is the most comparable to Michaels in terms of intensity.
This is Jillian's yoga workout and I really like it because she adds a carido element that makes it a bit more challenging (read: heart pounding) than your typical yoga workout.
*** There are tons more of these DVDs available for check out. A good way to pull up all of the DVDs we have is to go to FindIt, the online catalog, click on Advanced Search (2nd link from left), type “workout$” in the first box, and select “Videorecording on DVD” in the material format box. (Using the $ symbol is an example of truncation. It gets the catalog to search for both the word “workout” and “workouts”; this is a particularly effective strategy when searching for info on nursing, for example - type in “nurs$” and you'll receive results with the words “nurse”, “nurses”, and “nursing”.)Back to Top
May 6, 2011In Memory of Beverly Eckert
I listen to NPR's Morning Edition most days of the week and yesterday was no exception. Typically on Fridays, the program airs a story from its StoryCorps project, a massive oral history project in which the goal is to record the stories of American lives. StoryCorps just breaks me up most of the time; I fully expect to be brought to tears after hearing the featured story on Fridays and I'm usually prepared for it, but yesterday they caught me off guard because 1. it was Thursday not Friday, and 2. it was a particularly heart wrenching story from Beverly Eckert who lost her husband in one of the towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. Here I am getting ready for work practically bawling my eyes out as Eckert recounts the last phone conversation with her husband as he attempted to find a way out of the towers and eventually resigned himself to his fate. It was truly moving and sad and horrifying and beautiful all at once. It was also a reminder of the terror of that day and how it changed so many people's lives.
After the story was played, it was revealed that Eckert herself was killed in a plane crash, Colgan Air Flight 3407, in February of 2009. Turns out she had been a particularly vocal advocate for 9/11 victims and the search for truth and understanding of the tragedy. Rather than apply for compensation through the 9/11 fund, she sued government agencies and airlines for what she believed to be a significant security breach that was neither prevented or realized soon enough. She helped to found Voices of September 11th, an organization devoted to providing information and support to 9/11 families, influencing policy on 9/11 and terrorism generally, and commemorating 9/11 victims and family members by documenting their stories, and the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, a now defunct organization that called for an independent investigation of the 9/11 attacks.
In this time after Osama bin Laden's death, many are remembering 9/11 and the effect it had on our nation. While tragedies like Eckert's are abundant, it is also important to remember the time of national unity we experienced after the attacks. Much like Eckert wanted her former husband's death to have not been in vain, let's not allow bin Laden's death be in vain either by taking this opportunity to unite.NEWS & ARTICLES
Beverly Eckert Biography and Related News Articles
From the New York Times, which did you know you could read for free via our Factiva database? Access it from home with your library card. Need help? Ask a Librarian!
I really wanted to find out if Eckert's lawsuit is now defunct or what. I had a very difficult time locating this info and I think I would need access to one of LexisNexis' databases to figure it out. I attempted to search PACER, Public Access to Court Electronic Records, but you must wait for a user name and password to arrive via postal mail to even be able to use it!
Woman Rejects Sept. 11 Fund, Sues for Accountability
An NPR interview with Eckert about the lawsuit and her decision to reject the 9/11 fund.
DATABASES (i.e. stuff you can't find via Google)
Authoritative info on Eckert can be difficult to come by - check out our databases for ample news stories not available on the free internet. Factiva and MasterFILE Premier would be two great places to start for newspaper articles from tons of national and international newspapers (Factiva) and magazine articles (MasterFILE). All you need is your library card!
The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson
The report is much more palatable in comic format (but isn't everything?).
American Widow by Alissa Torres
A graphic novel about Torres's husband's death in the WTC attacks and the year after it in which their child was born.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The story of a precocious young boy that lost his father on 9/11 exploring New York City looking for the lock to a key his dad left behind.
April 22, 2011Learning to Sleep
I'm usually a pretty good sleeper. Most of the time I can fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly for 8-9 hours straight. I'm also someone who seems to require a lot of sleep - my ideal is 9 hours a night and when I don't get it I walk around zombie-like making silly mistakes and running into things. But lately, I have been having trouble sleeping and I finally fully understand how frustrating this can be. My former good sleeping days are clearly an anomaly as the CDC recently announced that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic in the U.S. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation found in a recent poll that 43% of Americans aged 13-64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on weeknights. So, I'm much like most of you out there now, I suppose, groggily slogging through my day and contemplating curling up under my desk to nap.
My problem is not being able to fall asleep. I just lay there with my mind running a mile a minute. I've been reading up on sleep and how to overcome this bit of insomnia that has struck and it's led me to a few books here at Austin Public Library. I've read about relaxation techniques, acupuncture, exercise, and no caffeine or alcohol before bed, but I'm still trying to find the solution that works for me. Are there any sleep solutions out there that work for you? If not, maybe these resources below will be helpful:
How Sleep Works: National Sleep Foundation
This page links to a number of articles on sleeping including info on how much sleep people typically need (short answer: it can vary widely from individual to individual) and creating a good sleep environment.
Medline Plus: Sleep Disorders
This is a brief article with tons of links at the bottom directing to reputable sources on sleep disorders and strategies for getting a good night's rest.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night Well and Wake Up Happy
Parents usually have a hard time getting their babies to sleep. This is a very popular guide, but the method presented here is a bit different than the Ferber method outlined in one of the books below.
Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems
This is the book by Richard Ferber outlining the Ferber method referred to above.
Sweet dreams!!Back to Top
April 8, 2011Green Smoothies
Every morning for the past two years I have greens for breakfast. Kale, chard, spinach, you name it. It's the most energizing way to start a day. A bit of exercise, a little morning news, and a large helping of arugula with pear and banana put into a blender and pureed to perfection. Purchasing books for the home economics section here at Faulk Central Library means I am constantly checking out and looking at the largest part of the section, cookbooks, which is how I stumbled across Green Smoothie Revolution by Victoria Boutenko. Boutenko, her husband, and three children had been diagnosed with a variety of potentially life-threatening illnesses and, frustrated by the limited options presented to them by doctors, turned to a raw food diet in an effort to heal. The entire family's health improved dramatically with this change including her son, Sergei, who completely overcame juvenile diabetes. As they learned to eat satisfying, tasty meals as raw foodists, Boutenko realized they were still missing significant nutrients, like those found in greens, and began adding them to smoothies, thus beginning her Green Smoothie Revolution.
The Boutenko's story certainly inspired me, but it also morphed my habit of just tossing a small handful of whatever greens I had lying around into my fruit smoothies into efforts to put as much as a full bunch of greens into them. I also learned some great new recipes and found that with a more powerful blender, I could put together some pretty amazing concoctions that were packed with nutrients and tasted wonderful. While Boutenako and others maintain that you retain more nutrients by blending rather than juicing, I've also developed an affection for green juices and have found a few books with some delightful recipes.
Start your day off right, drink your greens!
Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live Like You Mean It by Kris Carr
This book is about much, much more than green smoothies and juices. It's an entire lifestyle change to a more alkaline and raw foods diet. Carr was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 31 and radically changed her diet and lifestyle to help get the cancer under control. We have her first books as well Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips and Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor.
Green For Life by Victoria Boutenko
This is Boutenko's first book about the nutritional power of greens including recipes for green smoothies.
Green Smoothies Diet: The Natural Program For Extraordinary Health by Robyn Openshaw
The Juicing Bible by Pat Crocker
Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens by Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson
An easy way to eat greens is to grow microgreens - they're surprisingly easy to grow and just as full of nutrients.
Raw Family Signature Dishes by Victoria Boutenko
Super-Charged Smoothies by Sara Corpening Whiteford and Mary Corpening BarberBack to Top
March 25, 2011Quick & Easy
Most people in America are short on time. Everyone loves a home cooked meal, but how do you find time and/or motivation to get one on the table at the end of a crazy day at work? The only thing I want to do at the end of a long work day is sit on the couch, read or watch TV, and tune out the world for a bit. I actually love to cook, but when cooking becomes an obligation, I despise it. I also hate having to clean the kitchen every time I cook, which is all the more reason to pick up take out and toss it out with the garbage when finished.
I'm certain I'm not the only one who feels like this. Enjoying cooking prompts me to check out more than my fair share of cookbooks from the library and I often find myself flipping through them on the couch at the end of the day, pausing at a delicious sounding recipe, and thinking, “Who has this kind of time??” Spending over an hour on cooking and clean up combined is far too much for me and a number of cookbooks seem to be written from the vantage point that I have nothing better to do than slave my evening away. I finally found a (perhaps obvious) solution: quick and easy cookbooks. As many cookbooks as I've perused in my life, its funny to me that it took me so long to pick one up. I'm sort of a foodie wannabe, so I guess I've stuck to the critically acclaimed and famous chef cookbooks, which don't a care a lick about my schedule.
Here are some of my favorite quick and easy cookbooks that you can find at the library. Just because it's quick and easy does not mean I want to skimp on flavor or freshness, so these are all cookbooks that keep taste in mind and minimize the not'so-healthy shortcuts that can be typical of these types of books:
(Hint: To find a complete list of quick and easy cookbooks in FindIt, the library catalog, type in “quick and easy cookery” and select Subject from the dropdown menu to the right of the search box.)
The 30-minute Vegan: Over 175 Quick, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes For Everyday Cooking
I'm not vegan, but there are some major health benefits to eating like one and I love, love, love this cookbook! This cookbook helped me figure out how to make cooking vegan a little simpler and a little quicker. They even have recipes for easy, green juices that I love to start my day off with. I'm excited about The 30-minute Vegan's Taste of the East, which came out last year and is currently on order for the library.
The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes From a Delicious Revolution
Alice Waters, the author of this title, is the co-founder of Chez Panisse, but that's no reason to be intimidated. These recipes are healthy, utilize fresh ingredients, and are super simple. Waters also includes lots of helpful hints useful to any cook.
Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast: 250 Easy, Delicious Recipes For Any Time of Day
Martha Stewart and Co. are responsible for “Everyday Food”. The recipes are delicious and simple and great for families. If you subscribe to the magazine, there isn't much here that will be new to you, but, if not, this is one of those books that you'll use time and again.
Mariel's Kitchen: Simple Ingredients For a Delicious and Satisfying Life
I've always had a little crush on Mariel Hemingway, but I promise that's not why I included her book here. Mariel lives a very healthy lifestyle and, after reading and enjoying Mariel Hemingway's Healthy Living From the Inside Out, I was thrilled she was putting out a cookbook so I could take a look at some of the food she enjoys eating. These recipes are healthy, flavorful, and, most importantly, easy!
Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less
I have two of Bittman's other cookbooks, How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which I refer to constantly. Although I've stumbled across a few recipes that just haven't turned out at all like he said they would, most of the time this book does not disappoint and the prep and cook time estimates are almost always accurate.
Vegan On the Cheap: Great Recipes and Simple Strategies That Save You Time and Money
The recipes I've tried in this book are easy and delicious and it has helped me enjoy some dishes and vegetables I never had before. The emphasis in this one is on cost, so all of the food costs are broken out for you, but it also works as a quick recipe book. So far, I haven't spent more than an hour on any one recipe.
Vegetarian Times: Fast and Easy: Great Foods You Can Make in Minutes
This is another one where if you receive “Vegetarian Times” at home or browse them at the library, you may not find much new here. But, for those of us that don't subscribe, this is a great little collection of their easier recipes.
March 11, 2011Natural Beauty
While it can be difficult to find unbiased information on the topic, the safety of cosmetics and personal care products has been called into question by many groups and researchers. The cosmetics industry is largely unregulated by the FDA, leaving it to regulate itself (see this webpage from the Federal Government's Office on Women's Health). Cosmetic companies do not need approval from any government agency to sell their products, meaning that none of the ingredients in these products are subject to review or testing by anyone other than the company that sells them. There is evidence out there that many of the fragrances and preservatives found in these products can cause cancer, hormonal disruptions, and other health issues (see this statement made to Congress by Jane Houlihan of the Environmental Working Group). The statement made by Mrs. Houlihan is followed by a very extensive bibliography and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also has a “Science” section on its website with links to reports and research such as the President's Cancer Panel's 2008-2009 Annual Report suggesting that the number of chemicals we are exposed to in everyday household items, such as cosmetics, are contributing to Americans' increased incidence of cancer. In an effort to help people purchase non-toxic, unharmful products, the Environmental Working Group has produced a Shopper's Guide to Safe Cosmetics that is easy to print out and take with you the next time you shop to help you make better informed decisions about your purchases. Also, try their Cosmetics Database where you can search for products you own at home and find out more about any known harmful substances in them.
Many beauty products can be made pretty simply and safely from your own home using all-natural ingredients. The library has a great selection of books filled with info on the hazards of cosmetics and recipes to make your own:Back to Top
February 25, 2011Chicken Time
According to Mother Earth News, February-June (early-late Spring) is the time to start chicks! If you've been considering starting your own chicken coop, now is the optimal time to choose from the variety of breeds out there, buy your baby chicks and keep them super warm, and get to work building (or buying) your coop so it will be ready by the time the chicks are all set to inhabit it. There are many great reasons to raise chickens in your own backyard including: a source of excellent fertilizer; the addition of some friendly, low maintenance pets to your backyard; pest control; fresh eggs; and even meat. There are a number of studies out there indicating that eggs from chickens that are provided appropriate conditions, such as ample outdoor time and space, are far more beneficial to your health than many brands of even organic eggs from your local supermarket.
Here are some links and how-to guides to help you get started. Austin is the perfect place to raise chickens considering the large number of Austinites with backyard coops - there are plenty of people in town to talk to on the subject and you might be surprised how many people in your own neighborhood have chickens and dine on supberb, local eggs fresh from their own backyard.
Austin's Egg Rolls Jump As More Chickens Take Up Roost in Backyard
Good article from Austin 360 about the growing number of Austinites raising chickens.
Buck Moore Feed & Supply
There are many places you can get your baby chickens in Austin. Usually, most feed and supply stores are the places to look. Here's a link to one of the places you should be able to find baby chicks, among other supplies, this year.
Callahan's General Store
Another place you should be able to find baby chicks and other supplies.
Eggstravaganza: A Four Part Series on Raising Chickens for Eggs
An article from Mother Earth News
Funky Chicken Coop Tour
For the past few years, a chicken coop tour has been taking place in Austin where you can print out a map of residences around town where people are raising chickens and tour them. Get design ideas, talk to the people actually raising chickens, and just enjoy meeting neighbors and fellow community members on April 23, 2011.
H & H Poultry
Yet another Austin area business that can help you with your chicken (and other poultry) needs.
Organic Egg Scorecard
This scorecard ranks organic egg companies. Notably, the closest producer to us with the best rating is World's Best Eggs from Coyote Creek Farm near Elgin, Texas with a 5 egg (the best possible) rating. You can purchase World's Best Eggs at Whole Foods. See this page for more info.
Meet Real Free Range Eggs
Another Mother Earth News article - this is the one where they've run some tests on eggs and discovered a health difference in (truly) free range eggs vs. your standard supermarket egg.
February 11, 2011Robots
The first science fiction television program aired on the BBC on this day, 1938. I happened to stumble upon this little piece of trivia while browsing Wikipedia and it stood out to me for two reasons: robots and Karel Capek. A coworker's daughter actually just drew me (and everyone in our department) a picture of a robot - she's only 3 and, when asked why she chose to draw everyone robots, APL blog contributor Evelyn Carnahan replied that for some mysterious reason this is her new favorite thing to draw. Apart from finding that truly adorable, I have also been listening to a lot of Daft Punk lately, particularly Alive 2007, for no other reason than a recurring mood to dance around my apartment while getting dressed in the morning ("Robot Rock" at 7AM? Yes, please!). So, I've had robots on the brain this week...
But really, what got me going about finding out about the first sci-fi television program was the fact that it was based on Karel Capek's play, R.U.R., Rossum's Universal Robots. Capek is credited with coining the term robot, which was first introduced in R.U.R. Capek wrote novels, plays, and short stories and was considered to be Czechoslovakia's most prominent literary figure in the 1920s and 1930s; indeed, he is one of Czechoslovakia's most renowned literary figures of all time. I actually knew his name from the one novel I've read by him, War With the Newts. I absolutely loved that book - it's a science fiction story about a race of creatures, the Newts, that live below the sea and are discovered and exploited by humans. I've actually never spoke with anyone, other than the person that introduced me to Capek, who has even heard of him. But, if you're a lover of sci-fi, I'd say he's an author you shouldn't miss (I mean, come on, he invented the term and concept of robots!) and we have many of his works at the library:
The Gardener's Year
This is actually a nonfiction book about gardening - it's beautifully written and can be enjoyed by anyone no matter their level of affection (or lack thereof) for the subject.
January 28, 2011Budget Woes
I'm sure you've heard about the massive state budget cuts that have recently been proposed and will begin to be considered by Texas legislators. They're certainly alarming - the Washington Post reported that the draft would cut almost $14 billion in spending. The cuts would be made in libraries, public schools, universities, criminal justice, and health care (including mental health care). There's no doubt that cuts must be made, but when it comes to what we end up cutting, there's plenty of debate. I'm sure we're in for some, uh, “spirited” discussion in the coming weeks and months, but let's take a look at what could happen should libraries get cut.
Texas public libraries stand to be cut quite dramatically this year - in fact, it puts some significant library funds at nearly $0. Rural libraries, in particular, will be hit hard; many rely on the state funds to function and without the libraries entire rural communities could lose their only source of free computer and internet access among many other services. Public libraries provide classes on job searching and résumé writing, provide books and many other types of materials for the educational pursuits of their communities, provide a source of free, life-enriching programming such as children's storytime, help acclimate new immigrants and get them on the path to citizenship, and offer assistance to people needing help locating information, just to name a few of the services they offer.
Since the economic recession hit, libraries are being used now more than ever. This is not a justification for library funding unto itself, but I think this fact raises the question of how Americans that were effected by the recession are to get back on their feet in these difficult times without their public libraries being funded appropriately. I think it's easy in a big city like Austin that hasn't been effected by the recession quite as much as other cities around the country to write it off as unimportant or irrelevant. But, as an employee of the downtown library, I can tell you that I'm at a loss as to where people would go for much needed assistance if not for us. I'm aware of the nonprofit resources out there and they're nowhere near as extensive as all of the resources we offer.
What about the guy I helped the other day that got laid off in 2008 and slowly lost his car and house and is now living at ARCH desperately seeking employment? He uses our books on cover letter and résumé writing, uses our computers to search and apply for jobs, and comes to our Job Searching Computer Lab to get assistance from a librarian filling out job applications. What about the lady with two jobs and two kids I helped find some test prep materials so she can finally get her GED and, hopefully, a better job? She uses the test prep books, accesses our Learning Express Library database for practice tests, and takes her kids to children's storytime. What about the recently immigrated woman that needed help learning English so she could get established in this country? She uses our New Immigrants Center to listen to language learning CDs and attends Talk Time, a program for people to come together and practice speaking in English with one another. These are only three small examples of people in THIS city (I could list so many more!) that need the services the public library offers - can you imagine the assistance needed by residents of the harder hit rural towns in this state?
Bottom line, to invest in Texas public libraries is to invest in the future of Texas' citizens and residents. If we are to improve the unemployment rate and make our state and country more economically viable, we need public libraries to be funded well enough so people can take up educational pursuits that will help them in such endeavors. If we are to strip rural communities of library services, it will only serve to further devastate these areas.
Let your voice be heard! The Texas Library Association (TLA) has plenty of talking points and scripts you can use to contact your legislators, friends, acquaintances, family, whoever and let them know how important it is that we fund Texas libraries. Check out the links below for more info.LINKS
Join the Texas Library Association on Legislative Day February 16 and help get the word out about the importance of libraries. You can participate virtually too.
Save Our Texas Libraries
“We cannot say we believe in a strong Texas - in promoting education, economic development, and a competitive workforce - if we decrease investment in the very institutions, resources, and staff who equalize learning opportunities for everyone in Texas.”
January 26, 2011Discussing BodyWorld by Dash Shaw
This blog post originally appeared on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
Austin Public Library's Graphic Novels Book Club tackled BodyWorld by Dash Shaw - a phenomenal story about a bizarre drug, an even more bizarre botanist, and a pretty typical small town set smack in the middle of a science fiction world. The book itself is unlike any I've ever seen from its binding at the top of the cover to illustrated maps of the town, Boney Borough, that actually fold out and can remain out as you're reading. Shaw is most famous for his work Bottomless Belly Button, which regularly shows up on lists of the top graphic novels of all time. The present work has already received much acclaim as well and I discovered it and suggested it to the group after finding it on close to every 2009 (it originally appeared as a webcomic) or 2010 (when it was bound and published) best graphic novels of the year lists.
The basic plot of the story involves a botanist/professor/Timothy Leary-type named Paulie Panther who is sent out to Boney Borough, a town insulated from the concrete abyss that is the rest of the world, to study an unusual plant. After smoking the plant in the right context Paulie finds that it has a strange effect in which you experience the emotions and thoughts of the people around you. In other words, people using the drug become of one “bodymind.” Paulie meets a number of Boney Borough's residents along the way and the stereotypical, small town high school kids we are first introduced to begin to have much more depth.
Most of the group couldn't stop talking about the art. As you might guess considering the plot, the artwork in this book is mind-blowing. Shaw portrays the effects the drug has on people with complex, multi-colored panels where words and images are laid over one another. He seemed to be trying to communicate sensory experiences through his panels and we discussed how the experience of sharing a mind with someone would involve memories that don't exist in words, but only in the senses. While we could compare aspects of Shaw s style to comics such as Archie, we unanimously agreed that we'd never seen anything quite like it.
We also discussed the Boney Borough residents, the future world Shaw describes and illustrates, and attitudes toward individualism. The two central high school characters slowly became these more intense, emotional versions of themselves as the story progressed and we were interested in that development. The future that Shaw alludes to was a source of fascination and, like so many other science fiction books, it seemed a direct commentary on today's world. Finally, we speculated on Shaw's own attitudes toward individualism and what would happen to a world in which a drug like this existed.
I've been trying not to reveal too much, so I feel I cannot do proper justice to how absolutely amazing this book is! As an avid reader of graphic novels, this easily made it to my all-time top 10 list. If any of these themes or plot lines sound like they would appeal to your book club, don't let this title pass you by!
Here are some discussion questions to get your discussion started:
How does Paulie Panther fit in with the people of Boney Borough? What do his interactions with the people, such as Jem, Pearl, and Billy, reveal about him? How do you think Panther perceives himself compared to what others might think of him? What is your personal opinion of him?
What might we infer about Shaw’s attitude toward individualism? What would you say the state of individualism is in today’s world? How might you imagine individualism would change in a future world similar to the one Shaw describes?
December 31, 2010Woody Allen
I love Woody Allen. I recently picked up a book, Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip, featuring the great strips from the former newspaper funny “Inside Woody Allen.” I didn't even know the comic strip existed, but I stumbled upon it while browsing the 741.5s on the 3rd floor of Faulk Central. The title alone made me giggle and seemed apropos to the Woody character most that have seen his movies or been a fan of his stand-up are familiar with. “Inside Woody Allen” is full of self-deprecating humor as well as Allen's comic pursuits of women, love, and philosophical questions. The author and artist of the strip, Stuart Hample, actually met Woody in his stand-up days and had his explicit permission, cooperation, and even assistance in writing the strips. It's been a delight to read through and I highly recommend it to any fan of Woody Allen's comedy.
I'm sure I never would have picked up the book had I not seen so many of Allen's movies. The first one I ever saw was “Manhattan;” the opening scene of that movie instantly captivated me with its awesome black and white shots of Manhattan, the Gershwin tunes, and Allen's comedic narration. I went on to watch “Annie Hall,” of course, and my all-time favorite, “Hannah and Her Sisters.” After just adoring those three movies, I moved on to his earlier stuff with its slapstick humor such as “Bananas” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (*But Were Afraid to Ask)” (unfortunately, our copies of this title were damaged or missing and it is no longer available). At this point, I've seen most of his movies (except some of the newer stuff, which I don't like as much), so I could go on at length, but I'll provide a brief list below of some of my personal favorites and some of the critically acclaimed I haven't yet seen. (Hint: click on the Catalog Record tab above the title when viewing these movies in FindIt, the online catalog, to get a description of the movie along with a list of the actors.) Granted, Woody Allen's personal life and the notorious scandal regarding his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn may not make him the most likable figure in the world this present day, but, if you can put that aside, his works are well worth the watching.
P.S. Happy New Year! When you're making your New Year's resolutions consider this quote from Allen's movie “Interiors”: “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred”
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Two moral crises regarding love and betrayal play themselves out in this dark comedy/drama.
Everyone Says I Love You
I admit to watching this one probably hundreds of times. It's a musical with an all-star cast singing standards and dancing around. I freakin' love a good musical and nothing beats listening to celebrities belt out classic songs (this is your chance to discover the musical or not-so-musical talents of Goldie Hawn, Edward Norton, Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Alan Alda, and more!).
Love and Death
A co-worker suggested this one to me - it's a spoof on Russian novels such as War and Peace full of silliness and philosophical debates featuring Diane Keaton and Woody Allen. Hilarious!
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Just a fun story featuring murder, mystery, and Diane Keaton.
This is an intense tale of love and betrayal featuring the always lovely and often seductive Scarlett Johansson.
Small Time Crooks
I just love this silly plot of dim-witted would-be crooks that end up making it big legitimately. Tracey Ullman is fantastic and was nominated for an Oscar for her role.
December 21, 2010Discussing Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez
This blog post originally appeared on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
This month Austin Public Library's Graphic Novels Book Club read Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez, a stand-alone, short graphic novel by the co-creator of the very popular Love & Rockets series. Hernandez tells a story of three angsty teens, Lita, Miguel, and Romeo, growing up in a small town with about as many lemon orchards as people. In black and white, cartoonish but evocative panels, Hernandez weaves a somewhat complicated story of love and identity. While most of us were baffled trying to find meaning in some of the plot choices, we still had an interesting conversation about the trials of being a teenager and David Lynchian plot twists.
Hernandez captures the loneliness of growing up in a small town through the ominous lemon trees surrounding it. The story starts off with Miguel explaining a coma he was in for one year that he actually willed himself in and out of as a way to escape everyday life. We discussed the typical stereotype of the angst-ridden, dissatisfied teen and the ways the characters exemplified it, as well as our own experiences at the same age. It might have been easy to write off some of Miguel's attitudes as simply the norm for his age, but a number of astute, wise-beyond-the-years comments had us sympathizing with him a great deal.
A complete role-reversal among the characters, “Mulholland Drive” style, sparked a lot of discussion as to the function of this major switch. The love triangle between the main characters is further developed and, along with it, the characters themselves gain more depth, but the complete change in story left some of us a little disoriented. Nonetheless, the role-reversal added many new layers to the story that lent itself well to a number of David Lynch movie comparisons.
Despite any difficulties uncovering meaning, we all agreed that the magical realism and emotional yet comic artwork made the story resonate. Sloth is certainly a highly discussable work suitable for any book club that enjoys literary fiction or the surreal with a touch of horror. Here are a few questions to get your discussion going:
What might the lemon orchards represent in this story? How do they factor in? What do they represent to the main characters?
Why are the three characters falling in and out of comas? What is this a metaphor for? Why are they so anxious to escape their realities?Back to Top
December 3, 2010New Life
** UPDATE: There is mounting evidence that the science behind this finding is flawed! Read more in this good article at Slate.com. **
Yesterday NASA announced the discovery of a new type of life, not on Mars, but right here on Earth. What they found is a bacteria that can use arsenic to build the stuff of life, rather than the known elements all living things typically use: phosphorus, sulfur, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The microbe, GFAJ-1, replaces phosphorus with arsenic, known to be toxic to most other life forms on Earth. By discovering GFAJ-1, scientists believe we will be better equipped to potentially find life on other planets considering we now know that we need to look for more than just the six elements once believed to be the only building blocks of life. As Ed Weiler of NASA said, “The definition of life has just expanded.”
I just love scientific developments like these. I've always secretly wanted to be some sort of biologist studying life forms all day long. This discovery was made while NASA astrobiologists were running tests on bacteria collected from sediment in the beautiful Mono Lake. I, mean, who doesn't wish their job at least sometimes looks like this picture. I explored the NASA Astrobiology webpage and found information on some amazing sounding careers (now, all I need is another degree!). They even have an Ask an Astrobiologist feature where the public can submit their astrobiology-related questions and hear back from a professional. But you don't even have to wait because they've already answered your Niburu and 2012 question, you can view the answer here (apparently over 2500 questions have been submitted regarding the topic!).ARTICLES and WEBSITES
“Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.”
November 24, 2010Discussing: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
This blog post originally appeared on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
This month Austin Public Library's Graphic Novels Book Club lightened up a bit and discussed Frank Miller's classic Dark Knight Returns. Not having ever dived into a superhero comic with plenty of character history behind it, we found ourselves discussing the evolution of Batman and Miller's portrayal of him, the city of Gotham compared to present-day cities, legal justice vs. vigilante justice, and the psychology of criminals and so-called “heroes.” No one at the meeting had spent any of their youth reading Batman comics, leaving us to wonder if our perspectives would have been different had we grown up with the Batman character.
Like any major comic book superhero, Batman has an extensive mythos behind him. Miller in many ways spun the Batman mythos on its head by giving us an older, retired, possibly alcoholic Batman. This Batman is much grittier than the sort of cheesy, fairly simplistic character everyone was familiar with before Dark Knight Returns (first published in 1986). Miller gives us a dark, complicated Batman struggling with his own values and position in the world. We discussed this shift and the other Batman stories, such as the films by Christopher Nolan, for which this comic laid the ground.
Gotham City is also a place with quite a bit of grit - it's crime-ridden and a gang calling itself the Mutants terrorizes Gotham's citizens. The media is pervasive and not at all shy to show complete video of grotesque crimes they manage to catch on tape. The media as portrayed by Miller compared to the media of today was discussed at length. Particularly, in the face of the Internet and the multimedia experiences we can have 24/7, we found a number of similarities and discussed the effects this can have on people.
Bruce Wayne watches as Gotham slides further and further into crime and begins to feel drawn to his Batman persona once again. He takes up the cape and mask for the first time in ten years and, throughout the book, deals with the likes of Two-Face and Joker. The media actively debate Batman's role in society - is he a vigilante who must be brought to justice, or a hero? We discussed this fine line as well and speculated on how our current society may react to such a figure. We debated about the effectiveness of the law versus the effectiveness of being able to flout legal procedure. The ability of the law to deal with super-criminals Gotham must face was also of interest to us. The Joker's psychology, in particular, was focused on and we addressed an issue brought up in the book several times - would the Joker even exist without the Batman?
So, for a small group of ladies-only this month, we managed to have a pretty involved conversation about Dark Knight. The social and cultural issues relevant to Gotham City are, in fact, not terribly different than those we find in our own reality. The appeal of Miller's Batman is that he is the would-be Batman of the real world. Here are some questions that could get you started in your discussion of Dark Knight:
Do you approve of the Batman? Why or why not? Is what he doing moral or wrong or something in between? Is it necessary to flout the powers that be to effectively fight crime? What prevents the police from doing their jobs more effectively?
Is Dr. Wolper on to something when he frequently suggests that it is Batman’s own psychosis and role that encourage the psychosis and behaviors of criminals such as Harvey Dent and the Joker? Particularly, in terms of the Joker, would he be so set on committing his deadly crimes without the Batman?Back to Top
November 19, 2010A National Digital Library
David Rothman, a writer and founder of Teleread, has called for the creation of a National Digital Library (NDL). In fact, he first made this call in 1992, so he's been arguing the case for NDL for quite some time now. His arguments are compelling, particularly in our increasingly digital world. First off, concerns over the way DRM, digital rights management, restrictions are implemented have made many nervous that if the ebook industry continues developing the way it has it will be difficult to impossible for libraries to be much of a player in the ebook world. While some libraries offer downloadable ebooks, and Austin Public Library hopes to in the near future, libraries cannot offer any content whatsoever to users of the Amazon Kindle, one of the biggest names in the market, largely due to DRM restrictions. Additionally, companies like Amazon usually have restrictions on each book you download stating that you may not loan it to anyone (though, there is reason to believe this may change soon). Now consider the (so far) less than favorable to libraries Google Books Settlement and the (so far) iffy legality of libraries purchasing ebook readers themselves to loan out to people and a happy, user-friendly future for ebooks in libraries may seem distant.
With the plethora of restrictions preventing individual libraries from building significant digital collections (particularly ones that they actually own rather than essentially rent from a vendor), a national digital library including bestselling books, reference materials, journals, magazines, multimedia, and more is appealing. If this library were available digitally to people nationwide, this could have a big impact on literacy and the preservation of culture in digital format. Not only this, but the NDL could be an education center geared toward helping people get the training they need to get a job, prepare for an exam, or write a research paper. It could be a place where users just like you and me could add our own content, such as photos or family recipes, as well as comment on and/or interact with any of the content found in the NDL. Imagine a digital repository with video, images, audio, and more that isn't actually a repository at all because anyone can add to, manipulate, and enhance the content. Imagine the preservation of the intellectual creations of a society by an impartial body content to preserve and share rather than profit. Imagine a digital library where your imagination can run wild and education has no limits.
In the immortal words of John Lennon, “you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.”ARTICLES and MORE
Can We Create a National Digital Library?
An article by Robert Darnton who also would like to see a National Digital Library; his view is more of one as NDL as repository rather than it being anything people can actually interact with or add content to.
A Conversation with David Rothman about the Need for a National Digital Library System in the U.S.
Just this Wednesday, David Rothman held a conversation about NDL that you can listen to for free via this webpage.
The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools
A report that reflects the significant economic impact of not putting a priority on American students' education. In Rothman's argument, a National Digital Library would help American students and teachers by putting a mass amount of educational content freely available and accessible 24/7 in their hands.
Information Stimulus Plan
David Rothman's idea for an Information Stimulus Plan - “how iPad-style tablets could help educate millions and trim bureaucracy - not just be techno toys for the D.C. elite.”
Why We Can't Afford Not to Create a Well-Stocked National Digital Library
David Rothman's recently published article in The Atlantic calls for a National Digital Library - a compelling and passionate argument.
Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership
“The question of how our cultural commons, our shared store of art and knowledge, might be made compatible with our modern age of stringent copyright laws, intellectual property rights, and restrictive patenting is taken up with considerable brio by Hyde.” (see two full reviews here)
The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future (or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)
“It’s an irony so commonplace it's become almost trite: despite the information superhighway, despite a world of knowledge at their fingertips, the younger generation today is less informed, less literate, and more self-absorbed than any that has preceded it. But why?” Bauerlein seeks to tell us (read more reviews here)
The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empire
“According to Columbia professor and policy advocate Wu (Who Controls the Internet), the great information empires of the 20th century have followed a clear and distinctive pattern: after the chaos that follows a major technological innovation, a corporate power intervenes and centralizes control of the new medium - the master switch.” (see more reviews here)
November 5, 2010Disaster!
No one wants to consider disaster. I watch the news quite a bit, so I guess I consider disaster more than some might. While I've definitely read and seen a number of things emphasizing the media's use of fear tactics in news reporting, it is a fact that we can see people around the world suffering disasters, harsh conditions, oppression, and war at any given time. A heavy dose of this can get you thinking about living through such adverse conditions yourself. I realized that in most cases I would be utterly unprepared if anything sudden and unpredictable were to happen. But, as with so many subjects, I found there's a whole section of books here at the library for planning for the unforeseeable. Like a good Boy Scout, you can Be Prepared for anything.
This is a very popular book in the survival “genre” and a very thorough one that has a special emphasis on food storage.
How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It
The title of this one says it all - this book aims to prepare you for absolute breakdown covering every aspect of what you would need in such circumstances including fuel and home power, getting out of town, communication, and more.
Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens
An excellent guide that focuses on both short and long-term crisis including fires, ice storms, and even biological terrorism. Her focus is on teaching people the skills to be self-sufficient and independent so they will be ready for disaster.
Outdoor Survival Guide
An excellent guide on surviving outdoors including finding and building shelter, building and managing fires, finding and storing water, obtaining food from plants and animals, navigating, putting together a survival kit and more.
The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life
The author discusses what it takes to survive a catastrophic event by examining reactions of survivors. He also helps you uncover what kind of survivor you might be.
When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self'Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency
This one covers most aspects of basic survival in the event of a major emergency, but also focuses on general sustainability and environmentally'conscious approaches to things such as home energy.
October 27, 2010Discussing Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
This blog post originally appeared on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
The October pick for Austin Public Library's Graphic Novels Book Club was Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostalos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, a comic that takes on the subjects of Bertrand Russell, logic, and ultimate truth. Odd subject matter for a comic perhaps, but excellent fodder for discussion: we discussed topics such as the development of the fields of logic and mathematics at the turn of the 20th century, the relation of logic to madness, and whether or not ultimate truth is obtainable. The story follows Russell from boyhood to adulthood and provides an intimate portrait of the man himself as well as the ideas for which he is known.
Russell was preoccupied with demonstrable knowledge from a very early age. His studies as a youth and university student only solidified his belief that mathematics, in particular, must be based on provable axioms. It was in his infamous Principles of Mathematics that Russell set out to define those axioms, only to discover years later that the longer he contemplated logic and mathematics the further he was from anything demonstrable or provable. He eventually conceived what is now known as Russell's Paradox, which stripped mathematics of the foundations Russell and other mathematicians such as Gottlob Frege were trying to build. The discovery of the Paradox turned logic and mathematics on its head (to demonstrate the gravity, it sent Frege into a deep depression) and contributed greatly to the future development of the field.
As a layperson with one loathed Intro to Philosophy course under my belt, the ideas in this book were new to me and I had to stop every now and then and contemplate what was introduced. Luckily, the book is also interested in Russell as a person and included his personal thoughts and events from his personal life that provided insight into Russell's character. But it is truly Russell's ideas that reveal the most about him. His original belief that all knowledge is provable and his incredible drive to demonstrate this certainly provide insight into Russell’s mind and motivations. His eventual acceptance of the idea that there are things that cannot be known and, consequently, schools of thought based on unknown factors is a key element of the story. The intensity of spending years upon years of your life contemplating unknowns and only getting further away from the truth can literally be maddening and this theme is touched on repeatedly throughout the book. Russell had many people in his immediate family that succumbed to mental illness and there are many examples of logicians, like Frege mentioned above, descending into madness.
In sum, this was a complex and challenging book to discuss, but a very rewarding one in terms of the ideas we were able to explore together as a group and the greater appreciation I think we all acquired for the known vs. the unknown. We ended up agreeing that despite all the contemplation in the world Socrates was probably closest to ultimate truth when he stated, “I know that I know nothing.”Back to Top
October 22, 2010Endangered Languages
A new language was identified this month. It's known as Koro and it is spoken by 800-1200 people in a very remote part of India, called Arunachal Pradesh, a place you must actually have a special permit to enter. The people who speak it, the Koro, live in harmony with the Aka, a group that also lives there, which had led researchers to believe that the language was merely a dialect of Aka. However, after a recent expedition to the area, researchers found Koro to be its own distinct language in the Tibeto-Burman language family and began work to preserve it through recordings and documentation.
Koro is one of nearly 1,000 languages that may have 1,000 speakers or less. The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society have joined forces to create the Enduring Voices project whose goal is the preservation of nearly extinct languages - an effort to curb the estimate that half of the world's 7,000 languages may be extinct by 2100. Enduring voices identifies “hotspots” of threatened languages, such as Papua New Guinea, and sends expeditions to these areas to record and document them. Languages like Koro are at risk of dying out due to factors such as language policies that favor one language over another. Indigenous peoples will slowly adopt the favored language in order to facilitate relations with official entities or to gain status; for example, there is more language diversity in the country of Bolivia than on the whole of the European continent. As a language becomes marginalized, less young people continue to speak it leading to its dying out.
But why bother preserving these near extinct languages? First of all, many of these endangered languages have rich oral traditions and no written form, so with the death of the remaining elders that speak the language, so dies the cultural concepts and expressions captured by that language. Those that are bilingual often know that there are things in their native language that cannot be adequately expressed in the other. By losing these languages we also lose another part of the story of what our brains can do. Through the study of language humans can increase their understanding of communication, memory, and the acquisition of knowledge. Finally, many indigenous cultures have a longstanding, complex relationship with nature and the insights and understanding they derive from this relationship could inform and impact the work of scientists.ARTICLES and WEBSITES
Learn more about the project, the places most at risk of losing languages, and the reasons why we should be working to preserve languages.
'Hidden' Language Found in Remote Indian Tribe
Includes a video with a few Koro men and women where you can hear them speaking their language.
In the Search for 'Last Speakers,' A Great Discovery
Great NPR story about the discovery of Koro and recordings of various phrases spoken in Koro.
UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
Really amazing tool where you can find out more about endangered and extinct languages around the world. You can search by number of speakers, geography, name of language, and more.
Voices of Forgotten Worlds
A CD of “traditional music of indigenous people”
October 8, 2010Welcome, ACL!
As someone who lives here and has for some time, the Austin City Limits Festival perhaps does not have the same allure as it does for others. I love music and I'm actually pretty envious of the people with tickets whom will be seeing some of my favorite artists this weekend, but the traffic, crowds, and influx of out-of-towners can, for me, turn that envy into impatience and mumbled curses. Nonetheless, I'm actually really excited to welcome those whom have come from high and low places to the beautiful city of Austin! Austin is so lovely, it is meant to be shared and thoroughly explored. So, if you're looking for things to do, places to see, and free internet to use, this little blog post is meant to be a big Austin Public Library welcome - and no library welcome would be complete without a rundown of the info you need to enjoy your trip:Library Services:
- The Austin Public Library is a perfect place for out-of-towners to stop in for free internet access and book and magazine browsing at any of our 21 locations. All you need is a photo ID to use one of our computers or just bring in your laptop to hook up automatically to our wireless connection.
- Want to check out a book or two, like those Austin travel guides? Library cards are free to Texas residents that can show a photo ID and proof of current address.
- Check out our very cool used bookstore, Recycled Reads.
- Need help with anything or have questions about Austin? Ask a Librarian!
Line-up info can be found here and you can also create your own printable schedule of the artists you want to see.
Austin City Limits, More Than Music
An article by the Austin Business Journal featuring some of the cool, non-food and non-music booths from “homegrown” companies you can expect to find at ACL.
PBS's Austin City Limits
The show that started it all. This Saturday the band Spoon will be playing on the show. Check out past artists on the show including clips from their performances and full episodes.
As the ACL website encourages, respect the residents of Austin and do not park in the surrounding neighborhoods - use one of the many alternatives out there and don't worry about your car at all. For a complete list of transportation options, see the ACL website.
Austin Bike Shops
Listing of Austin area bike shops. According to the ACL website, this is the best mode of transportation to the Festival (and the healthiest)! You can even rent a bike from most of these shops, if you didn't bring yours along.
You'll see them all around the downtown and Zilker park area this weekend
Transportation to and from Austin-Bergstrom Airport
All of your transportation options to and from ABI
Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau
Info on shops, outdoor recreation, art and more
A guide to Austin from The New York Times
Best of Austin (2010)
The best of everything in Austin, from parks to pools to shopping, selected by the critics and readers of the Austin Chronicle
South Congress Avenue, Austin
This famous street is a major tourist attraction for its shops, restaurants, and atmosphere - you can read this article for free, but you must register with Texas Monthly (see the webpage for details).
Austin Chronicle Restaurant Guide
Pick a type of food and the side of town you're on and you can pull up a list of all of the restaurants in the area complete with pricing info and a description.
Best Food & Drink in Austin (2010), Critics Picks
From the Austin Chronicle
Where to Eat in Austin
From Texas Monthly
September 30, 2010Discussing Queen & Country
This blog post originally appeared on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
This month“s Graphic Novels Book Club meeting, hosted by the Austin Public Library, met this month to discuss the acclaimed, Eisner-award winning series, Queen & Country, Volume 1: Operation Broken Ground by Greg Rucka. This gritty spy drama proved to be completely unlike anything we had read before and we found ourselves poking fun at the James Bond-esque antics we normally see in the spy genre. Queen & Country takes a very realistic look at what it would be like for a young woman, Tara Chace, to be a spy for Britain's SIS (or, MI6) in a special division referred to as the Minders. If you can imagine what it would be like to have work orders that can include assassination, avoiding bounties over your head, and travel across the globe in a moment’s notice, then you may have some sense of what real-life international spies actually deal with.
Reading graphic novels that are part of a series is always a challenge. As I've written in a previous post, avoiding spoilers is essential if you've read ahead. Often times I will only read the assigned volume and no more before the group meeting just so it's easier for me to prepare without storylines from the other volumes filling my brain. The other potential challenge I feared coming across was the content of the book itself - is the life of a spy really good enough fodder for an intelligent book discussion? In this case, absolutely. Morality and trust within the international intelligence community, the immense strain of working in a highly volatile and dangerous work world, and loyalty to country versus colleagues and other allegiances are all extremely discussable themes brought up in this one, super slim volume.
But, alas, I was once again not the leader of discussion this month - my lovely apprentice, Meredith Watters, was slated to prep and lead our discussion (and, in fact, she was instrumental in selecting this book). This being the last month I had the great pleasure of having two delightful “apprentices” help me lead the group and, ideally, learn something about leading a book club themselves. Here's Meredith's perspective on the discussion and her preparations for it:
“To prepare for the Queen and County discussion I first read and re-read the novel. (I had actually read it years before, but wanted a fresh look at it from two new perspectives.) My first reading was for the story itself, examining each character for their strengths and weaknesses. Protagonist Tara Chace is a complex character and continually develops as the saga continues. For this discussion I wanted to be prepared to talk about the particular character nuances the author brings out in the first book. The second reading was to examine the art. Steve Rolston does an incredible job of portraying the emotions of characters who at many times during the story are trying to conceal true feelings or have very conflicting emotions. I based my discussion points and questions on impressions gathered during the two readings and felt that my facilitation was successful because of this preparation.”
If you're considering reading Queen & Country at your next book club, here are some discussion questions to get you going:
1. In what ways does Queen & Country challenge popular accounts of spies and espionage? Is the character of Tara Chace typical of the fictional spies you’re familiar with?
2. The book tries to give a realistic view of what life as a spy would be like. How well does Rucka do this? How would Rucka know what life as a spy would be like, or how would he be able to infer what it would be like? Do the power struggles and bureaucracy portrayed in the book fit in with your conception of the intelligence world?
3. How does trust factor into the spy world? Who can be trusted? Crocker mentions Burgess, Maclean, and Philby (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/coldwar/cambridge_spies_01.shtml) - what does their story reveal about the nature of espionage? How are loyalties determined?Back to Top
September 24, 2010Rally to Restore Sanity
A very exciting announcement was made Thursday, September 16th that I'm sure many of you have heard about: Jon Stewart will be hosting a “Rally to Restore Sanity” Saturday, October 30th! Stewart calls for a return to moderation and sanity in politics amid what he believes is a level of media sensationalism that merely fuels the divide between “conservative” and “liberal” America. One of his arguments involves the pervasiveness of 24#45;hour news channels whom fill their many hours with dramatic, grab-the-viewer speakers, stories, and antics contributing to continued polarization of the country. Stewart believes that most of us are sane and reasonable and we should demonstrate that our numbers are greater than the extremely polarized ones frequently portrayed in and sometimes dominating the media.
So, who should go to this rally? Here are Stewart's words from last Thursday night's show:
“You may be asking yourself, right now, sitting at home, but am I the right type of person to go to this rally. The fact that you would even stop to ask yourself that question, as opposed to just, let's say, jumping up, grabbing the nearest stack of burnable holy books, strapping on a diaper and just pointing your car toward D.C. - that means I think you might just be right for it.”
Stewart's new book, Earth (the Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, was just released on Tuesday - it's “Coming Soon” in the catalog and you can place a hold on it today. While you wait, try some of our, perhaps less humorous, but interesting books on the role of the media in politics and American lives - a few of which are listed below.
Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen
Colbert's very amusing graphic novel - a continuation on the story from his “unpublished novel.”
August 26, 2010Community Supported Agriculture
I recently finished a book titled Seasons on Henry's Farm by Terra Brockman and it was lovely. Brockman lives on her brother, Henry's, farm where she and other family members work diligently to provide fresh, organically grown produce to a farmer's market and CSA in Illinois. The CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, program involves local residents purchasing a share of the farm: they make an investment up front and then receive weekly shares of the farm's harvest. By investing in the CSA, residents invest in a sustainable farm and express their commitment to local foods for the sake of our environment and our taste buds.
Reading about the difficult work Brockman and her tight-knit family do every day to keep up with the harvest and farm chores coupled with the long dawn til dusk (and sometimes much later) days gave me a new respect for local farms. The work sounds almost brutal at times, but Brockman and her family approach their chores with an enlightened sense of purpose. Her prose is elegant and graceful as she describes a full year, week-by-week, of life on the farm, while revealing a rich history of family farmers and an intense appreciation for and celebration of the natural world. Farming is truly a labor of love for Brokman and her family making it a beautiful thing to read about it.
There are a number of CSAs serving the Austin area that anyone can join - a few, in fact, are taking new members right now:
A farm in Seguin. This one delivers to Austin locations as well as surrounding towns like Round Rock and Georgetown.
Green Gate Farms
Located in East Austin and currently taking new CSA members for the Fall.
Johnson's Backyard Garden
Located in East Austin, this one is currently accepting new CSA members and has a very large number of pickup locations and days/times.
Located in Seguin.
Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms
A community organization of small farms in Austin providing a CSA that is currently accepting members for the fall.
If you're interested in CSAs and farming, you might be interested in these books:
Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty
August 25, 2010Discussing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
This blog post originally appeared on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
Last week Austin Public Library's Graphic Novels Book Club met up at their usual local coffee shop to discuss a graphic novel adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick, illustrated by Tony Parker. Being perhaps the most out of the box selection we've ever tackled as well as the fact that the series is incomplete, presented some interesting challenges for me and “my apprentice”, Matt Dumond, in preparing for our discussion. I call Matt my apprentice because, technically, he is - he's shadowing me, part of an APL staff program, to learn more about the book club and what it’s like to run one. This month he was slated to lead the discussion.
The Club's whim to read something a little newer and somewhat unknown (much different than our previous selections, which have been well-reviewed and/or bestselling) definitely was going to make Matt's preparation for discussion difficult. The series is incomplete and the first two volumes only represent about a quarter of the original novel meaning that many of the themes are only partially explored with all storylines incomplete. The trick was to focus on what is there in this first section of the novel: noting how the themes are being developed, speculating on outcomes, and gauging the success of the novel as a graphic adaptation would be good starting points for developing discussion questions. I showed Matt a few sample discussion questions I wrote after reading the books and referred him to a volume of Novels for Students, a reference work here at the library, that covered Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Matt ended up leading an engaging, lively conversation and is here to offer his perspective:
“To prepare for the discussion, I started by reading the original novel, and then jumped into some critical analysis of it, supplementing both with a couple of interviews by author Phillip K. Dick (and, I must admit, 3 or 4 of his other books, to get into the right mindset), and a few reviews of the graphic novel adaptation. Our discussion centered around the characters' perceptions of reality, as well as how they defined humanness. We also managed to tackle the American Dream as experienced in a dystopian future, and to contemplate humanity's relationship with technology and religion. Each of these themes gave us a great stepping stone for the consideration of the themes in our own lives. As the GN pulled its text from the source novel verbatim, it came across as distractingly wordy and, combined with the lackluster artwork, it did nothing to increase our understanding and appreciation of the tale. The film Blade Runner, also an adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, succeeds in its own right, featuring a pruned plot that is more detective story than the original novel. Perhaps that is where the graphic novel fails - it tries to be both the novel and a re-working of it, and can excel as neither. Though the selection was a bit difficult, the discussion was a success: everyone was engaged, the conversation was fluid and dynamic, and, hopefully, all of the participants were encouraged to delve further into the worlds created by Phillip K. Dick.
We look forward to September when we discuss Queen & Country, Volume 1: Operation Broken Ground by Greg Rucka. For now, here are a few discussion questions that could be used with the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? graphic novels or the original novel:
1. Why would it be necessary to have an empathy box in this kind of world? What does the empathy box do for people that they cannot otherwise get through their own realities? What does the box represent to John Isidore, for example?
2. Rick Deckard executes the Voigt-Kampff test to determine whether or not a person is in fact an android, yet it is suggested by Luba Luft that Deckard may not in fact be able to pass the test himself. Does this make him less than human? In what ways does Deckard resemble an android? What is the author trying to say about human-ness? What makes us human?
3. On that note, androids can be retired because they are not human, they are machines designed by humans. But, what if androids did express empathy? Would that then make them human enough to avoid their fate when they escape? If humans are capable of empathy, why can't they empathize with androids?Back to Top
August 13, 2010T. rex Sue
On August 12, 1990 Sue Hendrickson, a paleontologist, discovered the “largest, most complete, best preserved” Tyranosaurus Rex skeleton known to the world. This T. rex is 40.5 feet in length, her skeleton weighs 3,922 pounds, and she is estimated to be 67 million years old. It is extremely well-preserved and has contributed to the advancement of our knowledge about the T. rex. She is named Sue, after her discoverer, and she is on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL.
Her tremendous size is really just a small part of Sue's story. A court battle lasting 5 years over who owned Sue and her subsequent $8.36 million dollar sale price from Southeby's grabbed headlines years ago. Hendrickson and her colleagues found Sue's bones by chance on the outskirts of a dig they were doing for Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. However, the land on which they discovered Sue actually belonged to a Native American tribe member who later said he had not given permission to Hendrickson's team to keep the fossil they had found and claimed ownership to it. Because the property was ultimately in the trust of the United States government as it is located on a Sioux Reservation, the federal government as well as the Sioux tribe were also laying claims to Sue. The bones were housed at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology during the long, highly publicized trial until ownership of the bones was awarded to the land owner. The land owner then decided to sale the skeleton at a public auction at Sotheby's.
The Field Museum wanted to put Sue on display for all to see. With the cooperation of several private donors, including Walt Disney World Resort and McDonald's Corporation, Sue was purchased from Sotheby's for the enormous sum of over $8 million dollars. And, lucky for us, Sue is on display for the world.
Read more about how Sue may have died, why she is so well-preserved, and some of the fascinating discoveries that have been made since the fossil was found.BOOKS
Get the Inside Scoop on Sue
The story of Sue from the Field Museum's website
Paleontologists Assess T. rex Sue's Pathologies
Sue suffered from many of the same afflictions animals of today are faced with.
This Day in History: Skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex Discovered From the History Channel
View the Many Sides of Sue
Photo galleries, videos and much more from the Field Musuem
July 30, 2010Alice
I recently re-read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll and it helped me remember how in love with this fairy tale I was as a child. The idea of slipping off into a world that you could freely explore where nothing was as it seemed very much appealed to my young imagination. As evidenced by the numerous book and movie adaptations and spin-offs, it obviously appeals to many people. I think a few things contribute to its appeal: the novelty of the nonsense world Carroll created, seeing everything from the unique child-like perspective of Alice herself, and an element of horror always in the background and sometimes center stage. But there's more to it than that. A poet W.H. Auden said of Alice:
“...one of the most important and powerful characters is not a person but the English language. Alice, who had hitherto supposed that words were passive objects, discovers that they have a life and will of their own. When she tries to remember poems she has learned, new lines come into her head unbidden and, when she thinks she knows what a word means, it turns out to mean something else.”
I couldn't agree more. Carroll's nonsense verse and plays on words are one of the reasons I have re-read this book several times!
You can indulge your love of all things Alice at the library. We have the originals, the adaptations, and the spin-offs. Here's a sampling:BOOKS
Alice I Have Been: A Novel
Alice Lidell, who Alice in Alice in Wonderland is based on, is the protagonist in this well-reviewed novel.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Carroll's original two books about Alice and Wonderland - this edition includes the original illustrations by John Tenniel.
The Annotated Alice
Includes both Alice and Looking Glass w/ Tenniel's illustrations and annotations by Martin Gardner, an expert on Carroll and Alice.
The Looking Glass Wars
Great YA and up spin-off on Wonderland - this is the first in a trilogy that includes Seeing Redd and ArchEnemy. If you like these books, you might also try the graphic novels based on them, Hatter M.
TV mini-series spin-off with a grown-up Alice revisiting a changed Wonderland. Kathy Bates stars as the Queen of Hearts.
Alice in Wonderland
Spin-off directed by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp
Alice in Wonderland
Walt Disney's animated adaptation
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
1933 adaptation featuring Cary Grant, W. C. Fields, and others
July 16, 2010Alarm Bells
I'm reading a fantastic yet utterly frightening book right now called Eaarth by Bill McKibben. McKibben was one of the first to write a book about climate change geared toward a general audience, called The End of Nature, and he has written several books since, Eaarth being his most recent. The book is titled Eaarth because this is the new name McKibben has assigned to the new planet on which we live - one where natural resources are becoming scarcer, the climate is changing surprisingly rapidly, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher (392 ppm) than the level deemed safe for humanity by scientists (350 ppm; see this webpage for more information). He informs us that we have altered our old planet in so dramatic a way that many of the rules that once applied to it no longer do. To further exacerbate this, our country, at least, but really the entire planet has been pursuing growth and planning for growth continuously. Considering we do not live on the old planet we used to, we will not have the resources, such as oil and water, to sustain growth. In fact, there is much evidence that we soon will not have the natural resources to support ourselves at current capacity.
McKibben spends the end of the book trying to work out how we might live on this new planet we've created through global warming and exhaustion of resources. Largely, it's a sort of get local, do it yourself message. He doesn't believe there is anything we can do to get back to our old planet, but he does believe that we can exist on the new planet if we start learning to produce things for ourselves. For example, if I'm capable of producing my own food, then the poor yield on wheat and/or the lack of any fish in the ocean for fisheries to catch and provide to my supermarket won't affect me as much. McKibben calls for governments and people to rid themselves of an expansionist, global point of view and get back to basics. Bigger is not better. In fact, bigger is ruining our chances at surviving on this so-called Eaarth.
It would be easy for me to get in far more detail here as the book makes many interesting points and is heavily researched with excellent notes. But I'll leave it to you to pursue along with all of the other great resources we have to help connect you with the information you need!BOOKS
Founded and lead by Bill McKibben 350.org is “an international campaign that's building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis - the solutions that science and justice demand. Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis - to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.”
Bill McKibben discusses Eaarth (a podcast)
The End of Car Culture*
*Requires an APL card to access from home
July 12, 2010Top 5 Graphic Novels to Get Your Book Club Started...
This blog post originally appeared on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
If we piqued your interest in Friday's Post “Need a novel idea for your book club? How about a graphic novel?” let us now help put you on the path. If you haven't read graphic novels before, or have but haven't thought of them for book club, guest poster Bonnie Brzozowski has a list of titles to get you started:
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuchelli
Asterios was published fairly recently and is one of those widely accepted, critically acclaimed (even reviewed by The New York Times Book Review) novels that would work really well for groups that already have an interest in discussing literary fiction. It is rife with metaphor and the artwork is a unique and essential part of the story.
Palestine by Joe Sacco
For those reading groups that enjoy discussing nonfiction, most of Sacco's work will be very appealing. Sacco is a comics journalist - he has spent time in Israel/Palestine and this particular work is a reflection on his experiences and the plight of the Palestinian people. Other works by him to try would be Safe Area Gonazde (about the Bosnian War) and Footnotes in Gaza.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I'm guessing everyone has heard of this one by now, but I want to mention it because it is ideally suited for reading groups and just a fantastic book. There are two volumes, but there is an edition that collects both into one volume. It is about Satrapi herself growing up in pre- and post-revolution Iran whose family deals with the fear-instilling, fundamentalism of the Iranian government. The second volume focuses more on Satrapi's experiences outside of Iran as a teenager. Satrapi is a wonderfully interesting, funny, deep, and emotional character that will appeal to most.
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis
Ellis is a powerhouse in the industry and this science fiction series is perhaps for what he is known best. Spider Jerusalem is a journalist and all'around interesting character living in a dystopian future world. This is a 10-volume series, but don-t let that stop you - the volumes are short and choosing to read just the first volume is usually the best way to go. You'll find that most people will come having read multiple volumes (each volume is a pretty quick read) and the trick will just be avoiding spoilers.
Watchmen by Alan Moore
This is a classic and a great introduction to graphic novels. It is a bit of a spoof on the typical superhero genre: the characters reside in a world where superheroes have played a significant role in history and have now been outlawed. The movie is good, but the book is far better because it reveals how multi-layered this novel is. It truly does what only comics can do!
July 9, 2010Need a Novel Idea for Your Book Club? How About a Graphic Novel?
This blog post originally appeared on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
In today's post, guest blogger and reference librarian Bonnie Brzozowski explains why graphic novels make such great book club selections for members of all ages! Yes ' maybe even yours. Bonnie works at the Austin Public Library and in addition to leading the Graphic Novels Book Club, she also purchases graphic novels for the library system so she is speaking from (great) experience!
Graphic novels have been gaining in popularity for some time now and most people are fully aware that comics ”aren't just for kids anymore.” I don't actually think comics were ever just for kids, but it has definitely taken the proliferation of comics published in their current, often novelistic, format and the steady acceptance of them by the mass media to help them gain wider popularity. What most people may not realize is that a good graphic novel lends itself well to discussion - just as well as novels and nonfiction books typically discussed in reading groups - and makes an excellent selection for any reading group interested in trying something new.
At the Austin Public Library (APL), I began a reading group nearly two years ago that discusses graphic novels exclusively. I was introduced to graphic novels in graduate school thanks to an excellent collection of them available in the college's library. The first one I ever read was Black Hole by Charles Burns and it was this book that opened my eyes to what could be done working in this format - the story was evocative, multi-layered, dark, not about superheroes, and full of the types of themes and metaphors found in some of the best novels I've ever read. In short, it blew me away and, largely, because the only thing I knew to expect was based on a mass generalization I had made about comics. A generalization I would guess others make as well considering journalists seem to believe it necessary to add bylines such as “not just for kids anymore” to the articles they write about the format.
My stumble into graphic novels coincided with an increased enthusiasm for reading groups, but it wasn't until I became a librarian at APL that I decided to try and combine the two by beginning the Graphic Novels Book Club. I started by selecting books for our discussions that had been put on lists of standard graphic novels (such as, GraphicNovelReporter.com’s Core List) such as Maus by Art Spiegelman and Blankets by Craig Thompson. But in my personal reading pursuits, it quickly became clear to me that, in fact, the majority of graphic novels out there are discussable and I need not stick to any list of so-called standards.
Our group has explored many different genres within this format including memoir, science fiction, literary fiction, and even journalistic nonfiction. So, not only do we get to pursue a lot of different genres, we also get to come together to discuss these often multi-layered, intelligent, emotion-inducing, well-written, beautifully drawn works of art. In fact, a regular at the Book Club told me recently that ours is the “most literary book club” of which she's ever been a member. A recent meeting turned out a young man of 18, a woman in her early 40s, two people in their 30s, and myself in my late 20s truly demonstrating the broad appeal this format has.
The only real challenge with using graphic novels in your upcoming reading group discussions is the lack of reading group guides out there. Many publishers have yet to market the graphic novels they publish as reading group selections and so haven't given us any pre-written guides to use, but this needn''t stop you. ReadingGroupGuides.com has some great suggestions for writing your own guides that work as well for graphic novels as for any other book. Focusing on themes, metaphors, character development, and setting as well as the artwork itself should give you plenty of material to cover in your discussion.Back to Top
July 2, 2010“I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
If I had stopped with my public school education, my impression of the Civil Rights Movement would be that it was largely led and coordinated by males, particularly Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I know now, however, that African-American women had a huge influence on and played an essential role in the Movement. There are a number of women that stand out, such as Septima Clark and Ella Baker, but a particularly fascinating and influential woman that I read about in college is Fannie Lou Hamer.
Hamer was born in 1917 and lived all of her life in the Mississippi Delta, a particularly harsh place for African-Americans to live during this time period due to widespread poverty and white racism and oppression. She was the daughter of sharecroppers and starting at a very young age helped her family by picking cotton. Hamer lived in extreme poverty most of her life, had a limited education, and experienced first hand many of the hardships that were suffered by African-Americans in the Delta.
But it wasn't until about middle age that Hamer became active in the Civil Rights Movement. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) held a meeting at a church near her home in 1962. It wasn't until this time that she knew that African-Americans had the right to vote. She vowed to get registered and began encouraging others to do the same. Like a good majority of African-Americans trying to get registered to vote, she faced significant obstacles including a test (obscure questions from the Mississippi Constitution, which she failed twice), poll taxes, and harassment by city and state officials and white citizens.
Hamer became a field secretary with SNCC organizing voter registration drives and developing programs to help economically disadvantaged African-Americans. Due to her role and activism she faced beatings, a particularly brutal one after being imprisoned for entering a whites-only bus station restaurant to eat, continuous threats and ridicule, and even a bombing. Despite it all, Hamer persisted and was one of the founding members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) in 1964 created to challenge Mississippi's all-white delegation to the Democratic National Convention. It was here at the DNC that Hamer made a famous televised speech in which she asked, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we are threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings?” This speech is at least partly responsible for the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that made it illegal to deny any U.S. citizen the right to vote. (Listen to the speech or read the transcript.)
Hamer remained politically active until her death in 1977 and helped found a number of cooperatives including the Freedom Farm Cooperative, “a project through which 5,000 people came to grow their own food and collectively own 680 acres of land.” Her achievements and activism are no doubt remarkable, but it was also Hamer herself - a female, uneducated, middle aged, sharecropper - that breaks the mold when we consider the persistent view of the Civil Rights Movement as having been lead by male, articulate, educated, religious and/or student leaders. In fact, it is precisely her position as none of those things that made her the effective, beloved activist she was.
There are many amazing memoirs and biographies out there about female African-American civil rights workers and activists. Come down to the library and pick one up (or place a hold!), or browse the links below to learn more about Fannie Lou Hamer.BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAYS
All quotes come from the biographical essays that may be accessed via APL's Biography Resource Center database w/ your library card number.
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
A famous memoir about Moody's life growing up poor and Black in Mississippi. In her college years she became active in SNCC and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality).
From the Mississippi Delta: A Memoir by Endesha Ida Mae Holland
A story of a woman also from the Mississippi Delta and active in SNCC after her younger years were spent in and out of prison and prostitution.
Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir by Dorothy Height
Height was a well-known activist and president of the National Council of Negro Women.
Ready From Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement by Septima Clark
Clark seems relatively unknown to most, but she was a key person in the Civil Rights Movement believing education was essential to political empowerment. She founded numerous “citizenship schools” in which African-Americans were taught literacy and organized to get them registered to vote - a concept that spread throughout the U.S. and is considered responsible for getting thousands of African-Americans registered.
Fannie Lou Hamer was known for her singing of gospel music at rallies, protests, and marches. It was common to hear a lot of gospel music at events like this, but it has been remarked that Hamer had a particular gift for bringing people together in song: according to Julian Bond, “She sang. She led freedom songs. She didn't have a perfect voice, but she could make you want to sing, make you want to join with her.”
An Oral History With Fannie Lou Hamer
Includes the audio file and complete transcript
June 18, 2010An Inspired Move
Moving is often a long, exhausting process. What you hope to unpack in a week is still in boxes two weeks later. If you're like me, you get to a breaking point where all items must be deemed absolutely essential in order to make it into a box and not the dumpster. Moving is the perfect time to downsize.
Despite the exhaustion and heavy lifting, moving brings you to a new place with new possibilities (even if those possibilities are only decorative). You can pretend you will be cleaner and more organized in your new place. You can make big plans to paint, build furniture, get some nice plants for the patio. A new place is like a blank slate ready for you to put your mark on it.
The nonfiction section at your local public library is a dream for anyone looking for moving advice, downsizing and organizing tips, basic home upkeep, and, of course, a huge assortment of books on decorating your home, from DIY, crafty projects to landscape design. Ever browsed the Faulk Central Library's 3rd floor? The entire floor is nonfiction and our selection is huge. I can't think of a better place to get inspired and help you make your new (or old) home yours.
Stop by the 2nd floor of the Faulk Central Library to browse these and many other great magazines. Back to Top
June 4, 2010Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire is a cartoonist I've recently started loving and following. His works include The Complete Essex County, The Nobody, and, more recently, Sweet Tooth (on order for the library - keep an eye out for it in FindIt!). I just finished the award-winning (an Alex award and an Eisner nomination), critically-acclaimed Essex County trilogy and it was wonderful! It is set in Essex County, Canada where Lemire himself grew up and portrays life in a rural, farm town. The sparse panels and small town characters leave an indelible impression of life in the countryside, which made me realize how rarely I come across graphic novels concerned with rural life. The first volume begins with an orphaned boy named Lester and his seemingly unlikely friendship with an outcast gas station attendant; the second focuses on the relationship between two hockey-playing brothers; and the third a charming nurse as well as the early 20th century tragedy that had an effect on most of the county's residents. The level of emotion Lemire is able to evoke from the silent panels he incorporates, the literary nature of his story lines and the way he constructs a story, and the intimacy with which you get to know Essex County's residents are just a few of the reasons you should check out either the volumes in this series or the collected edition. It has broad appeal and could easily be enjoyed by both teens and adults.
Essex County is the featured graphic novel in a *NEW* addition to APL's suggested graphic novels webpage. Every other Friday, I will be updating the webpage with a new graphic novel I've either personally read or can't stop hearing buzz about. I hope you'll take a look every few weeks, but, most importantly, I hope you find something you enjoy there!BOOKS
The Complete Essex County
This is the entire collected series, but you can also read the three individual volumes, if you like.
Good Reads: Suggested Graphic Novels for Adults
Check here every other Friday for a new, featured graphic novel.
May 21, 2010Internet Privacy
While putting private information on the internet has become more and more common, measures to protect that privacy have not. As I'm sure many of you have heard in the news by now, Facebook's privacy policies have recently been brought back into question. With some recent changes allowing Facebook to share information with third party websites in order to better advertise things to you, a great number of people are angry and plan to abandon or protest the site. In fact, May 31st is Quit Facebook Day, and a Facebook Protest has been set for June 6th. After reading about Facebook's changes, I noticed that my privacy settings had been changed so anyone who wanted to could find out my hometown, read about my interests, find out who my siblings are, etc. I was shocked - I keep just about everything on my profile private and I never would have thought to re-check my settings had I not read this article alerting me to the fact that Facebook had gone as far as to change my settings so I had to “opt-out” once again.
Facebook is not the only major website out there that has collected and/or used information you provide them in a potentially compromising way. Just a few short years ago AOL released information about people's search histories in a way that made the individuals easy to identify. Google has also compromised privacy a number of times, memorably with the release of Google Buzz, but more recently for collecting a large amount of data via Wi-Fi networks around the world.
There are some out there who say that simply not posting personal information will provide people with a sufficient level of privacy protection. However, if you make an online purchase, it is highly likely that data has been kept and stored by that company. If you use Netflix, your viewing history has been kept and stored. If you like the recommendations Amazon provides you, those, along with the info used to come up with them, are kept and stored too. Not to mention that if you have a Facebook account, you have already agreed that anything you post there may be stored and kept, even after you remove the information.
While these individual bits of info may not be terribly compromising, when put in tandem with the info you have provided to other websites, it could become so. Particularly in the face of this article from The Economist, it is pretty clear that an extremely large amount of information is being collected and stored by large corporations which are actively seeking the latest technologies and professionals to eventually analyze it and use it to their advantage. What all of this means currently is still unclear, but one thing's for certain, just about everyone could use some good information on internet privacy:BOOKS
De-Anonymizing Social Networks
The authors of this article found that even when Twitter and Flickr accounts were stripped of their identifying information, those people could still be identified 30% of the time by correlations examined in various accounts.
A guide to protecting your priavcy online
How to Quit Facebook Without Actually Quitting Facebook, Lifehacker
Interesting post from the popular blog, Lifehacker, on ways to protect your privacy on Facebook without deleting yourself entirely.
How to Stop Worrying About Privacy and Love Facebook, PC World
A good article on the privacy changes Facebook has made.
Predicting Social Security Numbers from Private Data
The authors were of this article were able to accurately predict all 9 digits of Social Security numbers for about 5 million people in the United States. They were able to do this only using information on the public record.
Tech Secrets: 21 Things 'They' Don’t Want You to Know, PC World
This is a very interesting article about the different ways information transmitted via the internet is collected and the ways you can protect yourself.
The Tell-All Generation Learns When Not To, at Least Online, New York Times
Article noting that despite public perception, it is typically younger people that are most proactive about protecting personal information.
May 7, 2010Proposition 65 and Your Health
I got a really interesting reference question last week about a California Proposition 65 warning on a water heater. A woman called the reference desk (you can call, too, anytime we’re open at 974-7400, option #3) and told me she found in her new water heater's use and care manual a Proposition 65 warning reading:
“California Proposition 65: Warning: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
She wanted to know what this warning meant - specifically, which chemicals were in her water heater, so she could research them fully. I had never heard of Proposition 65, so I had no idea what to tell her or where exactly that information could be found. I took down the model number of the water heater and her phone number so I could call her back after I did a bit of research.
I first wanted to have some understanding of what Proposition 65 actually was. Essentially, it’s a 21-page list of chemicals the Governor of California is required to maintain and re-publish at least yearly. Any amount of any of these chemicals found in household products or industrial appliances require a business to put a Prop. 65 warning on it.
With that understanding out of the way, I went on to try to figure out which chemicals happened to be in this particular product only to be thwarted by this statement on the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment's (OEHHA) website that basically reads that businesses are not required to report why a Prop. 65 warning has been added to a product.
Unfortunately, I wasn't going to find this information that easily and I had to refer the customer back to the company that manufactured the water heater. She had mentioned this not being successful in a previous attempt, so I utilized the always helpful ReferenceUSA (requires an APL library card to access from home) to get her the telephone number for the corporate headquarters rather than the customer service 800 number.
I was surprised the information this customer sought was not publicly available and easy to find, especially considering how much info has been released over the past years about chemicals linked to, as Prop. 65 states, “cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm”. Just yesterday, a press release was put out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) announcing the President's Cancer Panel report on Americans’ exposure to chemicals found in the environment, household products, cosmetics, and foods. The report indicates that the incidence of some cancers is on the rise for “unexplained reasons” (in fact, 41% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer) and it is believed by many scientists that this rise is linked to the rise of chemicals used in our day-to-day products and environments, many of which have been linked to hazardous effects on human health.
While it seems virtually impossible to avoid harmful chemicals altogether, the resources below found on the internet and provided by the library can help you make better decisions about the products you are purchasing or may already have in your home. Not to mention the knowledgeable reference librarians just a click or phone call away ready to provide you with helpful, quality information!
The EWG provides several great resources. I used the below links (plus what is linked to within the above paragraphs) to help write this blog post:
The cosmetics industry is largely un-regulated (for a good article on this click here), so no company is held accountable for the ingredients they put in their products. This database can help you determine the level of risk associated with using certain cosmetics.
Household Products Database
US Dept of Health and Human Services database that provides “health and safety information on household products”
Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk
The full report of the President’s Cancer Panel just released April 2010.
Shopper's Guide on avoiding produce high in pesticide residues
According to research, by avoiding the 'Dirty Dozen' (or, making sure to buy organic the foods on this list) and sticking to the “Clean 15”, you can reduce your pesticide consumption by four-fifths. Pesticides have been shown to cause many types of health problems in humans (for example, see Health Problems Pesticides May Pose by the EPA and Pesticides and Food, a research guide created by the Library of Congress)
ToxRefDB: Toxicity Reference Database
A new database provided by the EPA - you can search chemicals by name to find out more about any effects they may be known to have on human health.
April 9, 2010James Tiptree, Jr.
I just finished an excellent biography, James Tiptree, Jr.: A Life of Alice Sheldon. Sheldon was a science fiction author who only started publishing stories in the genre while in her 50s during the late 1960s. She wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. and for a little over 10 years of her sci-fi writing career no one realized she was a woman, including her own agent. Tiptree corresponded by mail with writers such as Phillip K. Dick and Ursula Le Guin, both of whom admired his work, and his stories received much critical praise. In his letters Tiptree used Sheldon's own autobiography as his own. In 1977 when Sheldon's mother died Tiptree wrote of it in several letters. This led many to deduce that Mary Hastings Bradley was in fact Tiptree's mother and, considering Bradley only had one child - a daughter, it revealed Sheldon's true gender. Sheldon's career dwindled after the revelation and she eventually killed herself along with her husband in 1987 in what was a sort of mutual “suicide”.
Sheldon's struggle with gender and sexuality were central to her life and her stories. As a young woman in the 1930s, Sheldon found her options (largely, marriage) limiting. She questioned her sexuality and felt a strong attraction to women that she never really pursued due to social taboo. She certainly addressed issues in her stories that no woman could have written about during that time and been taken seriously. It was only under her male pseudonym that Alice could write freely and receive the praise and respect her writing deserved. Sheldon later said of the identity revelation in an interview, “A woman writing of the joy and terror of furious combat, or of the lust to torture and kill, or of the violent forms of evil - isn't taken quite seriously.... I think that for all of us the sense of being in contact with something that has the potential to do - or maybe (wow!) has done - real evil, gives a little thrill to reading. Some people seem to have projected that onto Tiptree. Maybe I did a little too. So to write on as a toothless tiger was shaming.”*
*The quote in this article comes from Biography Resource Center, which you can access from home with your library card. This resource far outshines Wikipedia because the articles are written by respected authorities on the individual and come complete with excellent bibliographies.
The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: 60th Anniversary Anthology
Includes “Women Men Don't See”, one of Tiptree's more famous stories
March 26, 2010The Future of the Book
Being a librarian, I am obviously interested in and concerned about the future of libraries and the book. As many have pointed out, the internet puts information at people's fingertips and, to some, makes libraries, research and reference librarians, and books unnecessary or irrelevant. The rise of e-readers such as the Kindle, Nook, and now the iPad (not only a reader, but with a full color reader app) make many books downloadable at the click of a button and have led many to speculate the demise of the print book in favor of an all electronic book future.
I find these scenarios disarming, to say the least. First, to presume that the internet is full of accurate, authoritative information, and that all of this information is accessible with the click of a button is naive at best. Anyone can create a web page and make any sort of claims they choose - much of the info that you can find on the internet should at least be evaluated for its source. Additionally, a lot of information is not freely available online and may not be even 10 or more years from now. The amount of time, money, and human effort required to get all of the world’s info and books online (including huge archives, all city and state public records, rare and fragile books, etc) would be staggering. For this reason, I find it downright frightening that anyone would suggest, as has been suggested, that the internet will just turn into one big collective brain; you type in your question and it gives you an answer, with no need to look in more than one place. Who gets to decide the answer you see? Who has evaluated this answer for accuracy?
E-readers could very well mean the end or near end of print books. The ease at which you can have books delivered straight to a reader would make it seem that going to the bookstore or a library is just too much effort. Firstly, the expense of these readers as well as the expense to download all of the books you want to read is prohibitive for a large number of people (and, despite dropping costs, may remain so). Many libraries have begun offering downloadable e-books to their patrons (APL hopes to offer this service in the future when the budget allows for it), which can take the cost of downloading books out of the equation, but it does not solve the larger problem of all of your books existing in electronic files that at any point could be deleted. Electronic information is erasable - it can be wiped out in just a series of clicks and typed commands. Are we really going to start recording our histories and achievements exclusively in a format that could potentially be wiped out so easily? Furthermore, the company that owns your e-reader could at any time delete whatever they like. Take, for example, the case of Amazon deleting downloaded copies of 1984 by George Orwell from Kindles without any prior warning (I'm sure the irony is not lost on you). What does it mean when a company can so easily delete content you paid for without your consent?
To be sure, I am actually very excited about the future of libraries and the book. Information becoming more and more accessible and available is my personal dream come true and I'm really excited about newer devices such as the iPad that allow books to be read in full color (maybe comics and graphic novels can finally get into the downloadable market!). I think it is easiest to make blanket statements like “all information will be free one day” and “all books will be online” rather than consider how the reality may actually end up being some mixed up version of this. And, of course, there are many more issues that deserve consideration if you are really contemplating this issue: the Google Books settlement, few viable pricing models to ensure proper monetary incentive exists for people producing quality content, copyright issues, and the current state of both the library and publishing industries, just to name a few.
I do have faith that people will continue to demand information that has been reviewed, tested, and debated. I believe librarians will remain the professionals that can help people navigate the increasingly complicated information world. And I, most firmly, believe that I will be able to hold print books in my hands for many years to come. What do you think?
Read up on this issue online or via the great many books APL has on the subject.BOOKS
The Future of Publishing (video)Back to Top
March 12, 2010Natural Pet Care
I took my new cat to a new veterinarian a few months ago and both she and I had a terrible time. It's probably not too surprising that my poor little cat didn't have such a great time at the vet, but I did find it surprising that I had such a bad time. Mainly, I felt frustrated by a constant negotiation I had to have about the services and medicines I was willing to pay for. The vet insisted my cat needed various vaccinations and preventative medicines I've never in all my cat-owning years needed. The explanations offered when I questioned these things weren't reasoned or even particularly rational and she kept saying things like “because your cat will die”. I am no veterinarian, but I am happy to report that, even though I did not take her up on her offer of a number of medicines and treatments, my cat is still alive.
I had never had an experience like this at the vet and shortly after the experience, I began to worry that I was some kind of terrible person potentially allowing my cat to die. I turned to the library for help and started checking out some books on natural pet care and veterinary medicine. I found a real gem, Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, that really helped me figure out how to make decisions on my cat's care. Just being a regular Joe, I was surprised at how much of her care I could take into my own hands and I was shocked to learn about a few standard, legal practices such as the use of euthanized cats and dogs, road kill, dead zoo animals, and other meats not suitable for human consumption in many major brand dog and cat foods. I'm slowly learning to make my cat her own food using ingredients I can find in my own kitchen, and I'm even more slowly figuring out how to get her to like it. Her health has noticeably improved and I did not have to spend hundreds of dollars to do it. Just one of the billion reasons, I'd never be able to live (economically, anyway) without the library!!
Forgive me for the silly picture - I just couldn't resist using a lolcat. Never heard of a lolcat? Check out the Wikipedia article.BOOKS
Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats
There is a newer edition of this book and it is on order for APL. Keep your eye on Findit and you should see it in the next few months; however, this edition is still quite good and informative.
February 26, 2010Pier 39 Sea Lions
Since 1989, sea lions have been a standard fixture on the K dock of Pier 39 in San Francisco. While their numbers can fluctuate, they peak in late summer to fall and serve as a huge tourist attraction. Recently, their numbers have dwindled and it has been reported that the animals may have in fact moved and will not be returning to Pier 39. Experts originally found this move baffling - they couldn't seem to figure out why the sea lions would simply stop hanging out at Pier 39. Marine biologists reported in January that they believed the sea lions may have relocated to the Oregon coast following their food supply, though, they also noted that such a dramatic relocation was unusual. However, the sea lions appearing at all in such large numbers, sometimes as many as 1700, is unusual in and of itself and also happened rather suddenly.
But the sea lions are returning! It has been reported this month that the number of sea lions spotted on Pier 39 have been slowly increasing. Many expect that the sea lions will reappear in comparable numbers to what has been seen before. The Marine Mammal Center may still be able to attempt rescues of sea lions that have been injured and all who visit the Pier may still be able to watch dozens of huge sea lions play, bask in the sun, and bark at one another. You don't have to be in San Francisco, though, to enjoy this spectacle - just check out the Pier 39 sea lion webcam!ARTICLES and WEBSITES
California Sea Lions Use Dolphins to Locate Food
*You need an Austin Public Library card to access this article from home. It is from one of our excellent databases, JSTOR, which is suitable for academic research as well as for finding general interest articles like this one.
Pier 39 Sea Lion Webcam
This is one of the many reasons I love the internet. Simply keeping the webcam open on my computer and glancing at it every once in a while puts a smile on my face.
Video: Day 71, Sea Lions at Pier 39, San Francisco
Clips of the sea lions playing and enjoying the sunshine on Pier 39, September 2007
Video: Pier 39 Sea Lions
More video footage of the sea lions!!
February 12, 2010Dig Holes
A global water crisis is imminent. It's not going to happen 1,000 years down the line or even 100 years - it is happening right now and is due to catch up to the Western world shortly. In fact, 1 in 5 people do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. In many developing countries affordable, drinkable, and accessible water is a dream rather than reality. As the world population explodes and weather patterns become more erratic, a number of scientists, researchers, and authorities, such as the UN, believe that we may experience a global water shortage in which water will only be available to the few able to pay (i.e. the rich). The world population in 2030 is estimated at over 8 billion people (with the current population at a little over 6.5 billion). This not only means that many, many more people will be needing drinkable, uncontaminated water, but it also means that more infrastructure will be built to accommodate all of these people. With new infrastructure we will see more rooftops, roads, and driveways; all structures that do not allow water to penetrate the soil and, therefore, help replenish our supplies of groundwater (see How Urbanization Affects the Water Cycle). Climate change is a factor as well with droughts becoming a real problem and flooding producing more water than the ground can absorb to help replenish our supply. Most of us are taught in school the beauty of the hydrologic cycle, but that cycle cannot do its work with the continuing onslaught of new buildings and frequent drought.
This is only a very minor part of the problem, though. Perhaps the bigger issues are the bottled water industry and the privatization of water. Bottled water manufacturers typically purchase land and/or establish plants near local water supplies and then pump large amounts of that water supply out, bottle it, and distribute it to others many miles away. There are a number of problems with this practice. The first being the fact that water is being taken from public water supplies, in a number of impoverished countries as well as in the United States, and being marketed to Americans as cleaner, more healthy water (for example, at least one of the sources of Aquafina bottled water is the public water supply of Ayer, Massachusetts). These companies are taking a freely available resource and then selling it for a huge profit. The second problem are the environmental impacts: 1) bottled water must be transported so there is an effect on our ozone and, 2) by removing water from its locality, the industry is pumping out local water resources at a very rapid rate. To further confound this, many local governments have been turning to private corporations to manage their town or city's water supply. This puts water distribution in the hands of an organization looking to profit rather than make sure water is clean, drinkable, and accessible. Often times, in other countries that have privatized, these corporations abuse their power by doubling or tripling the price of water and cutting off those who cannot or will not pay. In fact, in some countries it is cheaper to buy Coca-Cola than water (according to the documentary, Flow: For Love of Water).
There are numerous examples of all of the problems I just described that I'm going to link to below and I hope you will read more about the issue. I don't think there are many that would disagree that water is essential to life and people have a right to it. Here are some ways you can take action:
- Do not drink bottled water. The bottled water industry is a billion dollar industry thanks to us Americans (see Columbia Water Center - Bottled Water). As mentioned, this water is often coming from public water supplies or from countries whose own inhabitants do not have access to clean water.
- Dig holes. Sounds odd, but as mentioned, with the buildings we build to house the nearly 2 billion more people that will be living on this planet in 20 years and the rate at which bottled water companies are pumping out local water sources in the US and abroad, we are making it difficult for the Earth to replenish our aquifers and groundwater resources. By digging holes in our yards we are giving rainwater an opportunity to pool and slowly reabsorb into the ground rather than running off the street and becoming useless to us. Not interested in digging a bunch of unsightly holes in your yard? Why not try a few rain gardens? See below for a list of resources.
- Get information about your own water. Where does your water come from? Is it owned and managed by a private corporation? How is your water being managed? Americans have proven more than once that they have a right to their own water supply (see the Wisconsin story and the Stockton, California story).
- Use the library's resources to read up on this issue - this blog post is a somewhat cursory explanation of the real issues at hand.
Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water
Both Blue Covenant and Blue Gold are written by Maude Barlow, the Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a chair of Food and Water Watch, a champion of water rights and access. Her documentary, Blue Gold (which is on order for APL), based on the book by the same name turned me onto this issue.
Website for the movie that includes information about taking action
Bolivia: Leasing the Rain
The amazing story of the fight to free Cochabamba, Bolivia's water (including its rainwater!) from the private corporation Bechtel
Is There Really a Water Crisis?
Asit Biswas says we do not have a water crisis on our hands, but a serious water mismanagement problem. The reasons he cites for the mismanagement are included in the discussion above.
Pipeline Not the Sole Option
Since 2007 Pat Mulroy's plan to build a 300 mile pipeline (read some background here) to ship water from rural parts of Nevada to Las Vegas has been much talked about; however, some recent setbacks may prevent the pipeline from ever being built.
Water Crisis Information Guide
Created by Middletown Thrall Library in New York state
January 29, 2010J.D. Salinger, 1919-2010
As I'm sure most of you know by now, Jerome David (J.D.) Salinger died of old age on January 27th at 91 years old. This notoriously reclusive author, who had not done an interview since 1974 and had not made a public appearance or published anything since 1965, is most famous for his novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger was not particularly prolific, having only published a number of short stories, most of which appeared in The New Yorker. However, Salinger's infamous novel gave him far more fame than he desired and is still required reading for most American students.
The Catcher in the Rye was one of the first books I was ever assigned to read that I actually enjoyed. I read it when I was 14 or so and, like many, I identified with the angsty, unhappy Holden Caulfield. Within the biographical info I found on Salinger, one website called Catcher “an authoritative depiction of teenage angst”. Caulfield thinks most people are “phonies” and has disdain for the majority he encounters. A New Yorker article pinpoints Holden's attitudes as Weltschmerz, meaning “the unhappiness of eternal disappointment in life as it is”, or, as quite nicely put in this Wikipedia article, “the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind”. It is interesting to me that we still get kids to read this book considering Caulfield's seemingly dismal outlook, but perhaps that's the point. While I wouldn't necessarily use the words “eternal disappointment” to describe my life attitude at age 14, I was certainly jaded and becoming fairly distrustful of the authority figures around me - not unlike many at this age. Maybe as adults we know teens should read this so they feel less alone in their angst-ridden adolescence? Perhaps it is just the literary merits of the book and/or Holden's precociousness that make it required reading? What do you think?
The library can provide you with everything you need to come to your own conclusions, or simply to learn a little bit more about this legendary author:BOOKS
Biography Resource Center
The Resource Center is an excellent, authoritative source of biographical information that often include extensive bibliographies. You will need your APL card, if you'd like to access it from home.
“A search for the elusive writer”. A few guys go on a road trip in search of Salinger. They video documented the journey on this blog.
“A site dedicated to the life and work of J.D. Salinger”
J.D. Salinger Biography (with great bibliography!)Back to Top
January 15, 2010The Lacuna and Frida Kahlo
I just finished The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and, despite some fairly minor issues, I really enjoyed it. It's a work of historical fiction whose main character, Harrison Shepherd, is a sort of observer among some extremely well-known people including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Lev "Leon" Trotsky. Like the meaning of the word lacuna, the book of Shepherd's journal entries, newspaper clippings, and letters has a few gaps, leaving the reader to his/her imagination to fill them.
The book has been a top seller since its release and, other than Kingsolver's reputation and the success of The Poisonwood Bible, I think part of the reason for that might be the inclusion of Frida Kahlo. In fact, Kahlo's appearances were my favorite parts of The Lacuna; Kingsolver characterizes and writes dialogue for Kahlo very closely to how I've imagined her. In the novel, Kahlo is strong-willed, defiant, and intelligent, but Kingsolver also manages to write in those more elusive Frida qualities that I've never been able to define or pinpoint. Perhaps it is these qualities that contribute to her being such a huge celebrity today. Her artwork is obviously revered, but, for me, it is her personality, so central to her paintings, that have kept me enamored with her.
Some of the best biographical sources on Frida can be found in books at the library or via our online databases accessible to anyone with a library card. Of course, there are a few good resources courtesy of Google too, vetted by this librarian and recommended for your reading and viewing pleasure.BOOKS AND DVDs
*Requires an Austin Public Library card, if accessing from home
(With an internet connection and a library card, you can access JSTOR from the comfort of your own home. Use the titles to do a search for the two excellent articles below. Need assistance? Ask a Librarian!)
- "Fashioning National Identity: Frida Kahlo in 'Gringolandia'" - Very interesting article on Frida's indigenous style of dress and national identity
- "What Frida Kahlo Thought of the Suicide of Dorothy Hale, 1939" - Frida's thoughts on Dorothy Hale's suicide and her painting of it
Frida Kahlo Bibliography
"The most complete Frida Kahlo bibliography on the web"
Frida Kahlo: The Complete Works
All of her paintings on one website
Kahlo Fakes Flood Into Mexico
Over the past few months a number of articles have been written about a rise in Frida forgeries. This article addresses that as well as the new book, Finding Frida Kahlo by Barbara Levine, in which a newly discovered Kahlo archive is on display; however, a number of Frida experts question the authenticity of the archive. Check FindIt in a few weeks for Finding Frida Kahlo - it's on order for the library.
January 1, 2010Albums of 2009
Like Liblairian said in his previous post, this is the time of year to be bombarded with ‘best of’ lists and I've got another one for you on this New Year's Day. Raised in this great music city, I love music and listen to it constantly. If the library didn't exist, I really don't know what I would do - I rely heavily on APL to buy the music by the bands I'm interested in, so I can give it a listen before committing to a purchase. True, I can just go to Waterloo and listen away anytime I want, but not for 3 weeks at a time like when I check out a CD from the library.
The below list is of albums the library owns that were released in 2009 that I really enjoyed (and am still enjoying). I'm going to go ahead and temper this list by mentioning that I have been accused of only listening to indie rock and having a feminine taste in music. In response to the first accusation, I'd say, yes, but that does not mean it is lacking in variety. In response to the second, if really enjoying a number of female artists makes one's taste "feminine", then so be it. Either way, I think there may be something in the list for everyone.
On a side note, feel free to Suggest a Title via FindIt, the library catalog, if we do not own the music you're looking for. And, if you don't know how to place a hold already, Ask a Librarian how you can get something sent to the branch of your choice and notified by email when it is available.
Around the Well - Iron & Wine
Samuel Beam, the man behind Iron & Wine, resides just outside of Austin, TX and only gets better each album he releases with his folky, lovely tunes. Read reviews and take a listen.
Dark was the Night: A Red Hot Compilation - David Byrne
David Byrne is the man: lead singer of the Talking Heads, author of a new book, and the creator of this excellent compilation including music by artists such as Spoon, Arcade Fire, Blonde Readhead, Stuart Murdoch, and Conor Oberst. Read reviews and take a listen.
Hazards of Love - The Decemberists
Decemberists songs are like novellas set to music, and, considering Colin Meloy's (the lead singer) creative writing background, I guess this isn't surprising. This album is one long story complete with ghosts, a beast, a fair maiden, and an evil queen. Read reviews and take a listen.
Kingdom of Rust - Doves
I haven't dug a Doves album since The Last Broadcast released in 2002, but this new effort reminds me of why I like them so much and makes me wonder why more people aren't familiar with them. Read reviews and take a listen.
March of the Zapotec/Holland - Beirut
Zach Condon's previous work reflects a European influence, but this double EP is a bit different as it includes influences from Oaxaca, Mexico where Condon recently visited. It's still heavy with his Serge-Gainsbourg-like vocals and European riffs, but it all comes together into another great effort. Read reviews and take a listen.
Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective
I love this band and I'm not sure I would have really gotten into them if the library didn't have their albums. This one is their most accessible, but it is actually my least favorite; however, don't let that get in your way because it's still freakin' awesome. Read reviews and take a listen.
My Maudlin Career - Camera Obscura
I love the style of pop Camera Obscura is so great at delivering. Their new album is no exception, though, my favorite is still their previous effort, Let's Get Out of this Country (watch a video of one of those tracks here). Read reviews and take a listen.
Tight Knit - Vetiver
Often referred to as part of the "freak folk" movement (and, indeed, they have done a lot of collaborating with Devendra Banhart), if you like Iron & Wine, you'll probably love Vetiver. Read reviews and take a listen.
How could I leave you without some Austin bands? Here are 3 of my favorites from 2009 that you can find at the library:
The Century of Self - ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
If you haven't heard of Trail of Dead by now and you've been living in Austin for 5 years or longer, I'd say you've been living under a rock. Get with the times and check out their new album. Read reviews and take a listen.
Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away - Slaid Cleaves
I initially stumbled upon Slaid Cleaves via the jukebox at the Horeshoe Lounge (the album Broke Down). His 2009 album does not disappoint and Cleaves still proves to be an amazing songwriter. Read reviews and take a listen.
Tell 'em What Your Name Is - Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Have you seen Black Joe Lewis live yet? Well, what are you waiting for? Read a review and take a listen.
December 4, 2009Fred Hampton
On this day, at around 4:45 in the morning, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) raided a building at 2337 W. Monroe St. where they shot and killed Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, and Mark Clark, a Black Panther Party (BPP) member. The initial report of the raid claimed that as soon as the police started knocking they were attacked by a barrage of gunfire through the front door by the members of the BPP that were inside; however, further investigation into the deaths of Hampton and Clark revealed that the occupants of the building may have managed to shoot, if any, just one bullet. In fact, most sources on the subject definitively state that Hampton and Clark were murdered by the Chicago Police Department for their involvement in the BPP, although the FBI still refers to their murders as "alleged." Hampton never even left his bed that morning - he died in it - and there is strong evidence he was drugged the evening prior, allegedly by a William O'Neal, a Panther that had been arrested previously and released in return for informant services to the FBI and CPD. The officials who enacted the raid, killed the two men, and left six others injured, were acquitted of all crimes by an all white grand jury.
It has actually become somewhat common knowledge by now that the FBI deliberately set out to destroy the BPP in the 1960s and early 1970s. J. Edgar Hoover and other officials classified the group as nothing more than another criminal gang to contend with. Ultimately, though, it was state and local officials that lent a big hand in destroying the leadership of the BPP. Members and leaders that officials did not kill have been accused of crimes, often serious crimes, they insist they have not committed, such as former Party member Assata Shakur. Even today, the FBI is still offering a $1 million dollar reward for information leading to Shakur's arrest and capture for crimes she is adamant she did not and could not have committed.
One of the consequences of this targeting of the BPP and other members of the Civil Rights Movement, is that African-Americans have been repeatedly robbed of some of their best and brightest leaders. Fred Hampton was a well-known activist who started up food programs for low income kids and health care clinics in areas that desperately needed them, negotiated truces among Chicago inner city gangs, and brought together different minority groups coining the phrase “rainbow coalition." He was charismatic, intelligent, well-respected and well-liked. It was leaders like this that were deliberately targeted, and, as Dr. Quentin Young, put it, "the people who made it their business to kill the leaders of the black movement picked the right ones.”
Many people have very strong opinions on this matter and I'll leave it up to you to form and/or strengthen your own. The library is the best place out there to do just that:
*Anything quoted in this article comes from the “Fred Hampton” entry in Contemporary Black Biography, volume 18, and was found using Biography Resource Center - an excellent source for comprehensive biographies and links to resources on a large number of well-known people.ARTICLES
Breaking the Cycle
*Requires an APL library card
Article from 1992 expressing outrage at Fred Hampton, Jr.'s (Fred Hampton's son) arrest during the riots that took place after the Rodney King verdict. Hampton, Jr. spent 9 years in prison for the arson conviction that came after this arrest. He maintains his innocence and details his other run-ins with law enforcement (including being wrongfully accused of murder) here.
Was Fred Hampton Executed?
*Requires an APL library card
Article from 1976 providing details of the raid and evidence that contradicts the police report.
Eyes on the Prize (documentary)
The Murder of Fred Hampton (documentary)
Two Nations of Black America (documentary)
You Can't Kill Revolution: Black Panther Party, 1969 (CD - a recording of a speech made by Fred Hampton)WEBSITES
Black Panther Coloring Book
Very interesting; distributed by the FBI in the late 60s
Fred Hampton sound clip from UC Berkely
Power Anywhere Where There's People
Text of a Fred Hampton speech
Shoot it Out: The Death of Fred Hampton
Very thoroughly researched and detailed account of the December 4, 1969 raid
November 20, 2009The Good Life
In the past few years, a number of books have been written about people leaving their current lives to pursue simpler, more self-sufficient lives in rural areas. These books are typically a mix of memoir and how-to and usually end up reflecting that living a "simpler" life is rewarding but not exactly simple. If the book market is any kind of gauge, it would seem that many people are interested in reading about this sort of transition. The authors of these books often find modern life alienating, unaffordable, and completely disconnected from nature, so I wonder if this is a popular sentiment of readers today. More likely, the popularity of these books is related to the rise in popularity of DIY projects and crafts coupled with a greater awareness among the general public of where their commodities come from and how those commodities are produced.
This type of book is anything but new. Many were written in the 1970s, a time in our country's history when a significant number of disillusioned people moved to farms and communes. But other than books like Thoreau's Walden, the earliest of these types of accounts that actually influenced the 1970s movement are Living the Good Life and Continuing the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing (collected into one volume called The Good Life). The Nearings departed their New York City life during the Great Depression in 1932 and moved to a rural area in Vermont (and later Maine) where they began producing their own food, built their own shelter, and provided entirely for themselves on very little money. What was particularly remarkable about such a move is that the couple had no prior experience in any sort of self-sustaining activities. It's simply amazing, inspiring, and motivational to read their account. After reading about the Nearings, I've become addicted to memoirs and nonfiction accounts of stories similar to Helen and Scott's, like these:
Country Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Live off the Land
This is an excellent comprehensive guide to country skills and knowledge published by Storey Publishing - an excellent publisher of quality country living and skills books, including one on making cider by Annie Proulx.
The Good Life of Helen K. Nearing
A biography of Helen Nearing
A Scott Nearing Reader: The Good Life in Bad Times
Scott Nearing was well-known for his writings on a number of social issues. Here is a collection of rare writings.
November 6, 2009I Was Raised on the Street
On November 10th Sesame Street will celebrate its 40th anniversary. I, like so many, was practically raised on Sesame Street. As a teenager and now as an adult, I have seen kids I cared for at a daycare, my nephew, and all of my young cousins get the same enjoyment out of the show that I once did. In my experience, a room full of children will instantly be quieted by tuning the TV to Sesame Street. While it once was argued that television could not be used as an educational tool, Sesame Street certainly proved that idea wrong and set the bar for future educational children's television shows.
Congratulations on 40 years, Sesame Street! I hope that for the benefit of children everywhere you have 40 more!
‘A Stroll Among the Memories on Sesame Street’
NPR audio that takes a look back at the many years of Sesame Street
‘Behind the Scenes of Sesame Street’
A really cool article that goes behind the scenes to the puppeteers of Sesame Street.
Sesame Street: PBS Kids
Really fun site for kids!
Monsters Munch Lunch! A Story for Two to Share (children's book)
Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street
New book (2009) chronicling Sesame Street's history
We All Sing with the Same Voice (children's book)
Follow That Bird
I was obsessed with this movie starring Big Bird when I was a kid and I recently re-watched it - I probably enjoyed it about as much as I did when I was 3!
Sesame Street Shows and Clips on Hulu.com
Watch clips and episodes here such as this Ray Charles clip. Or check out the clips on YouTube, like this Elmo and Mr. Noodle clip (Mr. Noodle was one of mine and my nephew's favorites when he was little!), or a clip of Feist's appearance on the show.
October 23, 2009What Is Human?
Wednesday night the Graphic Novels Book Club met to discuss The Surrogates volumes 1 and 2 by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele. It's been made into a movie currently out in theaters and stars Bruce Willis. I haven't seen the movie, but the books were very enjoyable and left me thinking about technological advances and their effects on society and humanity. The books take place in a future where most humans live vicariously through surrogates. Surrogate technology allows people to purchase a sort of android that they link up to from the safety and comfort of their homes and use to live life for them. Humans can feel everything the surrogate feels, so it truly seems as if you are living your life as another person. Living life through a perfect looking, super intelligent, physically strong surrogate that you can design yourself may sound ideal, but it definitely raises some good questions: Is part of humanity lost by living through machines? Is there ‘good’ technology and ‘bad’ technology? Where is the line between the two and who draws that line? What kind of world would it be if no one was ever living life as themselves?
In the technological world of today, it is not too hard to believe that one day we really could have something similar to surrogate technology. There already exist virtual worlds and games, such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, where players interact with one another and the virtual environment through avatars that are designed by the players themselves. It is estimated that somewhere between 20 and 30 million people spend more time involved in virtual activities than in real world activities, so it really isn't a stretch to say that someday many more millions may be spending most of their time in virtual worlds as well.
Finally, consider the androids developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro. They look like humans, fidget like humans, and can be used as doubles to be sent out into the world to do your bidding (read the full article here). Japan and South Korea have been developing androids for some time now and are really moving the technology along. While Ishiguro says it is unlikely that anyone could ever create an android that humans would mistake for human for more than several minutes, no one can say whether or not the further development of this technology would propel us into a world full of surrogates.
Explore the topic further with the library's excellent resources and these websites:BOOKS
Article from Scientific American about Ishiguro's androids and his pursuit of android science.
‘On the Cusp of an Augmented Reality Revolution’
*Requires an Austin Public Library card
Before our lives become virtual reality, we will have augmented reality in which computers will anticipate our needs and project information relevant to our needs as we interact with real world things. Our current realities will, therefore, be augmented by computers. Check out this demo and prepare to have your mind blown.
‘Meet the Remote-Control Self’
Article about Ishiguro's android modeled after himself (see above picture). This is the one that is most similar to a surrogate as described in the graphic novel.
‘Virtual Worlds - Past, Present and Future: New Directions in Social Computing’
*Requires an Austin Public Library card
Comprehensive article outlining the history of vitual worlds, social implications of virtual world participation, and surveys of a number of Second Life users.
October 8, 2009Living on the Moon
This morning at 6:30 AM two spacecrafts hit the moon's surface near its south pole in an effort to find water. The extremely cold crater the spacecrafts, Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), successfully hit this morning may reveal ice under the moon's surface. Unfortunately, though the impact was successful, the plumes the rockets were expected to create did not appear as anticipated and people looking through their telescopes and watching live coverage streamed from NASA's website were somewhat disappointed. However, NASA officials are encouraged by the success of the mission and expect that the analyses to come, using the footage shot by LCROSS' and LRO's many cameras, will provide evidence of water on the moon.
Finding water on the moon is a precursor to colonizing the moon. Colonization would be greatly facilitated the more natural resources can be found on the moon. After Apollo 11 successfully landed on the moon in 1969, talk of lunar colonies increased exponentially and, to many, it seemed only a matter of time until humans were living on the moon. However, after 40 years without a lunar colony being established, the subject is breached more often in science fiction novels than among scientific communities. Nevertheless, there's ample interesting information on this subject and the most recent lunar missions on the web, in books, and in our databases. Here are some links and titles for you to explore the topics further:ARTICLES AND NEWS
How Stuff Works: What If We Lived on the Moon?
Interesting article about how living on the moon would be made possible
LCROSS Impact Pictures
Pictures of the LCROSS and LRO's impact; also, includes a link to the video footage of the impact (look to the right of the screen)
Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century
"Papers from a NASA-sponsored, public symposium hosted by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., Oct. 29-31, 1984"
Moon Mines, Space Factories and Colony L5
Example of a typical 1970s era article about space colonization.
*Requires an Austin Public Library card
Welcome to Lunarville*
Interesting article about what would have happened if Congress had approved an extensive lunar exploration mission proposed by NASA in 1967.
*Requires an Austin Public Library
Why NASA Should Bomb the Moon to Find Water: Analysis
In some of the articles I read there was an occasional mention of controversy regarding the LCROSS mention; however, I only found lay people expressing concern over crashing the rockets into the moon - I couldn't find any expert or scientific opinion that the mission was potentially harmful or concerning.
NASA/Art: 50 Years of Exploration
Completely unrelated to the topic at hand, this book is about the NASA Art Program that was begun in 1958 and includes works from a diverse bunch of artists from Andy Warhol to Norman Rockwell.
October 2, 2009Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She and the Lady Lindy (her airplane, named for Charles Lindberg, the first man to fly across the Atlantic) disappeared in 1937 during an attempt to fly around the world. The last anyone heard from her was a radio transmission in which she noted that she was about to fly through a storm. Theories abound as to what actually happened, including the seemingly unlikely, such as her being a spy and faking her own death; but one theory is about to be tested by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR, pronounced "tiger"). In 1940 human remains were discovered on Nikumaroro Island, not far from where Earhart may have crashed, that officials determined could have been the remains of a Caucasian woman. Unfortunately, the remains have been lost, but another discovery of some 20th century makeup items have made a number of people hopeful that with a DNA test artifacts like this may reveal whether or not Earhart was stranded on Nikumaroro Island. TIGHAR is on a mission to explore the island for any items they can find for DNA testing using a DNA sample provided by a member of Earhart's family.
Despite what TIGHAR may or may not find out on their mission, Earhart's iconic status will not change. Her position as female in an industry almost exclusively made up of men, her attractiveness, and her flying adventures and ambitions are still appealing to us today. She was certainly a celebrated figure in her own time and challenges the image many had and still have of a woman in the 1930s. Despite her celebrated status, this quote, after one of Earhart's flights, printed in a 1932 edition of the New York Post, reveals what was surely a number of people's attitude at the time: "About all she has proved is that well-known phenomenon of nature that a girl can't jump quite as far as a boy can."
A wealth of information on Earhart and her disappearance exist in print, in our databases, and on the web. Check it out:WEBSTIES
Amelia: Theatrical Trailer
Upcoming movie about Amelia Earhart's life and disappearance starring Hilary Swank who some claim looks just like Amelia Earhart. I'll leave you to be the judge of that...
The Earhart Project
TIGHAR webpage about the Earhart mission that includes links to all kinds of information, including images, about Earhart and the island.
George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers
An amazing archive of Amelia Earhart's papers, pictures, correspondence and more digitized by Purdue University Libraries.
The Last Takeoff
This is the full video of Earhart's last takeoff from Lae, New Guinea in 1937. This is the last time anyone would see Earhart and her flying companion and navigator, Fred Noonan, alive.
Newsplayer: Amelia Earhart
A video of Amelia Earhart discussing one of her recent flights.
On the Future of Women in Flying
Audio clip of Earhart speaking on women and flying.
Solving the Mystery of How Aviator Amelia Earhart Disappeared
Article about the TIGHAR mission from The Observer
September 11, 2009One & Other
A co-worker introduced me a few months ago to an art project going on at Trafalgar Square in London called One & Other. The project, the brainchild of renowned sculpture artist Antony Gormley, involves everyday people picked at random to stand upon one of four plinths for one hour. Different people will take turns standing on the plinth (the fourth plinth, which does not have a statue on it) for 24 hours a day/7 days a week over a period of 100 days. A website is dedicated to the project where you can watch a live feed of the various randomly selected “plinthers” and their activities atop the fourth plinth. Admittedly, I've become addicted to tuning into this website and checking up on the plinthers every now and then to see what they're up to. Some people just sit there and enjoy the view or surf the Internet on their laptops, while others rally for various causes or things they're passionate about, but there is no limit to what a person can do while up there. One of my favorites was an hour late evening on a Friday night where the plinther, a girl in a silver-sequined dress with a small CD player, danced the whole time to her favorite tunes. Critics of the project say that it is not art and the plinthers are uninteresting, but, personally, I really like it. It's difficult for me to put into words why exactly - maybe it's that it is so distinctly human and it allows so many people (2400 total once the project is completed) to take part.
Gormley is a fantastic artist known for installations in natural environments and public spaces. For example, “Another Place” is a very effecting installation of 100 body form sculptures on Crosby Beach near Liverpool (see it here). He's also used some interesting materials to construct his pieces, such as white bread slices for his work “Bed” (see it here). Here are some excellent websites and articles about Gormley's works and artistry:
About One & Other
More about the project including a video of Gormley explaining the project
Flickr: One & Other
Pictures of the plinthers during their hour on the plinth
One & Other
This is the website to the One & Other project where you can watch the current plinther live from the plinth, view profiles of the plinters, and much more.
One & Other: Highlights
See each week's plinther highlights
SlowTV: Antony Gormley
Video in which Gormley discusses his work
Tate: Antony Gormley
This is one of the most well done websites I've ever seen complete with images from every angle and audio and video commentary on four of Gormley's major works.
Too Human to Put on a Pedestal
*Requires an Austin Public Library card
Article from the London Times criticizing the project's result. Use FindIt Plus to search several of our most popular databases at once including FindIt, the library catalog. This is a great way to find newspaper, magazine, and journal articles on people, such as Antony Gormley, current events and much more.
August 8, 2009“You can have New Orleans back, but you've got to want it bad”
Four years ago tomorrow, the first report of a levee breach in New Orleans, Louisiana was made (see a timeline of Katrina here). New Orleanians that had weathered the brutal Category 5 Hurricane Katrina were to realize shortly that the worst of the storm would begin only after it had ended. The flooding was terrible and, undoubtedly, still remembered by even those of us who have never called New Orleans home. Today New Orleans is slowly rebuilding, but it hasn't been and still will not be easy. Some sections of the city are coming up just fine, while others, particularly the poorer areas, are still abandoned and have been left untouched since Katrina.
There are a ton of books out there about New Orleans, and, if you've ever been there, you would understand why. New Orleans has a culture all its own and its food, music, and people are well-known in the Western world. Katrina's impact on New Orleans has been the central theme of most books that have been published about the city in the past few years. For example, there's Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza (2005), a New Orleanian who describes the city so intimately that there's no doubting his love and passion for it. Or, Nine Lives by Dan Baum (2009), who arrived in New Orleans after the storm as a reporter and became so intrigued by the city he wrote the stories of nine of its inhabitants and their hurricane experiences. A similar story portrayed in graphic novel format, is A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (2009), who captures the Katrina experiences of seven people in bold, color-infused panels, that was originally serialized in Smith Magazine.
Celebrate this fine city, its past as well as its future, with a great book or documentary from the Austin Public Library. Do a subject search in FindIt, our online catalog, by choosing Subject in the dropdown menu and search for “Katrina, 2005”, to see all of the materials we have about the storm, or “New Orleans and biography”, to see all of the materials we have about New Orleans and its culture.BOOKS
City of Refuge
A novel by Tom Piazza about two families weathering Katrina.
Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans
An excellent idea for an excellent book - listen to the story behind it here on NPR.
The Old Man and the Storm
A PBS Frontline documentary
When the Levees Broke
Acclaimed 3-disc documentary by the legendary Spike Lee
Barriers to Mental Health Services for Children Persist in Greater New Orleans, Although Federal Grants Are Helping to Address Them
*Requires an APL card
An interesting report compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on New Orleanian children and their mental health
The State of New Orleans
Op-ed from the New York Times
Then and Now: New Orleans After Katrina
Carl Lastie is the man behind the quote that titles this blog post. More about his and others' rebuilding triumphs can be read about and seen in this article.
August 14, 2009Dress Up
I love to dress up. As a little girl I used to stroll around the house in my grandmother's old hats and gaudy costume jewelry. As a teenager I took the first part-time job I could to afford my closet full of clothes. As an adult I have fallen in love with vintage clothes and the thrill of the bargain hunt. It's no wonder then that I also love fashion photography. I like to look for inspiration in what other people wear and what designers are creating and have created. In particular, I have been a devout follower of the blog, The Sartorialist - a photo blog of photographs taken by Scott Schuman to, as he says, “share photos of people that I saw on the streets of New York that I thought looked great.” Mr. Schuman puts up pictures from all over the world now and he photographs men, women, and children. While I enjoy looking at the designs created by designers like Christian Lacroix, Cynthia Rowley, and Christian Dior, it's the photos on The Sartorialist that really get me going because what is usually on display is individual style, rather than the latest fashions. Fashions come and go, but style is forever.
I can always find inspiration at the library as well. From books about fashion, developing and honing your own style, and basic upkeep and tailoring of your clothes, we've got it all:FASHION
The Sartorialist (just published - copies on order - place a hold today!)
See any designer's complete collection here, photo by photo.
July 31, 2009What Are We Eating
Going to the grocery store can be an experience - crowds, lines, carts - but the food that is being sold is the real spectacle. Did you know that the majority of food that can be found in the supermarket is genetically modified? Did you also know that in 2008 the FDA approved the sale and distribution of foods produced from cloned animals? It'd be easy to miss as none of the foods we consume are labeled as such and there is no regulation requiring them to be. But, when you consider that the tomato you just put in your basket actually has flounder genes as well as tomato genes, or that the lamb chops you plan to make for dinner are actually Dolly, it becomes clear what technological marvels all the products being sold to you represent.
Is it healthy to be consuming genetically modified (GM) and cloned foods? Well, that all depends on who you ask (and, more often than not, on whom that person works for). If you have read the many books or seen any of the other media regarding the food industry, it would seem that the consensus is that it is not healthy, but, if you dig a little deeper, you'll see that there are a number of researchers and scientists who argue that this food is perfectly safe. Often this assessment is based on “substantial equivalence,” in which the researchers find that a GM food and a non-GM food are not substantially different in terms of composition; however, there are a number of issues with this type of safety test, and others deem it unreliable as a gauge of the health risks that might be associated with eating such foods. But this is only one facet of a complex issue and, as always, the Austin Public Library has the resources you need to get to the heart of the matter.
FindIt Plus (requires an APL card, if accessing from home; FindIt Plus is one of the links in the Tools menu on the left)
A great way to search several of our databases and our catalog all at once. I found 3 of the 4 articles below by searching it.
Eat Well Guide (website)
“Free online directory for anyone in search of fresh, locally grown and sustainably produced food in the United States and Canada”
July 17, 2009Max Ernst
This past Wednesday the Graphic Novels Book Club met to discuss Epileptic by David B., a memoir about B.'s childhood and growing up with an epileptic brother. What struck me about the book were the intricately drawn panels that depicted serpents, demons, and elaborate battle scenes. A New York Magazine review of the book stated that Epileptic does “things that only comics can do,” and I'm in complete agreement. The emotion he is able to capture just couldn't be done using any other format.
David B. had many influences over his work, but one of the influences he mentioned in Epileptic was Max Ernst. I will admit that I know very little about art and had never heard of Ernst before, so I decided to check out a book or two at the library on him. Some of you may recognize Ernst's name due to his influence on the members and the music of The Mars Volta. Ernst began Surrealist Automatism and was a leading member of the Dada movement. His images are bizarre, beautiful, and dreamlike, reflecting his focus on producing artwork that originated from the subconscious. While it is quite different from David B.'s work, the influence is definitely there. Of course, we have Epileptic and a number of books about Max Ernst at the library for your viewing and reading pleasure.Back to Top
July 4, 2009Happy Birthday, Barcode
The library may be closed today, but while you're out shopping for your big Independence Day celebration, think of what life would be like without those handy barcodes that can be found on every item you purchase. It just so happens the barcode turned 35 years old on June 26 this year. While this may seem relatively insignificant, it was reported in a New York Times article that barcodes are scanned over 10 billion times a day throughout the world. The barcode has certainly changed the ease with which we shop, but the future of the barcode may prove to be even more effectual with the further development and increased use of the RFID. Just as the barcode was controversial when it initially came out, so too is the use of RFID technology. In the 1970s some people were against the barcode believing they would be overcharged at the register without a price tag. Today RFID brings up a whole set of new issues, in particular, the tracking of individuals through RFID chips.
Nonetheless, the barcode has not only improved shopping experiences, but also customer experiences here at the library. With our new self-check out machines at the Central library, people are using barcodes to check out their own books, DVDs, and CDs. In fact, this month we set a new record: over 40,000 items were checked out from the Central library using our self-check machines! That's right, of the 80,000 books, DVDs, CDs, etc. that checked out, more than 40,000 were checked out using the new machines. We think this might reflect how much all of you like the new machines, but, at the very least, it is real example of how barcodes can change the way things are done.
I hope everyone has a safe, happy holiday.
New York Times article:
Game Changer in Retailing, Bar Code Is 35
More info about RFID:
How RFID Works
June 8, 2009Summer Gardening in Texas
Lucky for us Central Texans, we can begin a garden just about anytime of year we choose. After recently moving into a new house and acquiring a huge yard, I knew I wanted to get my hands dirty and do some gardening. What to plant, when to plant, and where to plant were all mysteries to this novice. But, with the aid of the resources here at Austin Public Library and an Internet connection, I'm off to a great start.
In anticipation of our move, I first started checking out gardening books from the library that were geared toward beginners. After reading these, I was armed with a good working knowledge of gardening practices and was finally able to pinpoint my first step: choosing native plants that would thrive in my garden with minimal effort. All of the books I read advised beginners to start with the easy stuff first before tackling all of those lovely non-native plants you might want to attempt once you have honed your gardening skills.
I read up on plants that are ideally suited for our location in the Garden Guide for Austin & Vicinity published by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association and then began scouring the Internet. To my delight, I found a wealth of Austin-specific gardening websites where I could find everything from planting schedules for Travis County to listings of free local classes. One of my initial fears that there would be nothing to plant in summer was completely unfounded and I am gearing up for a busy summer planting season where I intend to get a number of vegetables and herbs going as well as a mini-forest of tall, huge sunflowers. To get your garden started, check out what the library and these immensely useful websites have to offer.
How to Collect a Soil Sample
The soil is what it's all about. Having your soil tested and making the proper amendments is crucial. Before you spend anything on seeds or plants, pay the small fee to have your soil tested, study the results, and make any needed adjustments.
Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory - Texas A&M
Send your soil to the A&M lab for testing.
Soils & Composting
More info about types of Austin soil, soil sampling and testing, and composting.
Gardening Information for Austin and Travis County
Go to one of the monthly meetings to meet like-minded gardeners and check out the info they provide including a planting calendar, organic techniques, and links to useful gardening sites.
City of Austin Grow Green
Landscaping information specific to Austin designed with water quality protection in mind.
Travis County Master Gardeners Association
Check out their educational seminars and demonstration garden.
It's always a great idea to visit local nurseries and ask loads of questions. This is a fantastic nursery that every gardener and gardener wannabe should check out.
“Austin's organic gardening headquarters” - this is a great nursery for soil and soil solutions. This website also includes useful gardening info.
Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac by Doug Welsh
Garden Guide for Austin & Vicinity published by Travis County Master Gardener Association
This is an excellent guide to gardening in Travis County including lists of native plants, planting times, and tons of other local info.
Gardening 101 by Martha Stewart Living
Love her or hate her, Martha and her team compile amazing, information packed guides such as this one. An excellent introduction to gardening.
Month-by-Month Gardening in Texas by Dan Gill
You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail
This was the first gardening book I read and it made gardening seem accessible to anyone. It is an enthusiastic, fresh introduction to the world of gardening. Check out her blog where you can also share your own gardening stories and seek out assistance via the forums: http://www.yougrowgirl.com/.
April 1, 2009Humane Education
I am writing this today from the large, traffic-y city of Houston where I am fortunate enough to be attending the Texas Library Association's (TLA) Annual Conference with a generous scholarship I won from TLA's Public Libraries Division (PLD). My schedule is jam-packed with volunteer activities for PLD (in exchange for my scholarship) and various other programs relating to all things libraries. Considering it is my first ever library conference, I am truly geeking out on all of the exhibits, gadgets, and programs, and I am beyond excited to be in the presence of so many other librarians.
My first volunteer obligation of the day brought me to a program called It's About the Animals: Humane Education in Libraries, where several panelists demonstrated various successful humane education programs in schools and libraries all with the common goal of promoting empathy toward animals. The programs typically involved pairing elementary age children learning to read with trained dogs. Yes, dogs. The children sit and read to the dogs and the dogs serve as non-judgmental, good-natured listeners. Children, particularly children with reading difficulties, seem to benefit quite a bit from these programs as they are allowed an opportunity to practice reading in front of an impartial, loving companion allowing them to gain self-confidence. Because most children have a natural affinity for animals, they tend to love it s much as the animals do. Check out this video about the program, referred to as the READ (Reading Assistance Education Dogs) program:
There was also a good discussion of building humane collections in libraries. Peg Kehret, a children-s author, discussed some of her books and their emphasis on responsible pet ownership and a general empathy for animals. She also discussed a number of service projects she has initiated in schools where students choose an animal-related charity organization to raise money and/or other resources for. Kehret brought up the fact that often times perpetrators of violent crimes do not have empathy for other human beings. Building empathy for animals through books and service projects, Kehret suggests, can be a step toward building empathy for humans, thus serving as a preventative to violent crime. Granted, Kehret admits, widespread empathy for animals is probably not going to rid the world of violent crime, but it's a start.
Not only does the library have ample children's books that promote humanity to animals (such as Kehret's), we also have a host of databases you can use to read more about dogs being used to promote reading as well as more about the use of animals to educate young people. Try a search for “reading and dogs” and/or “children and animals” to view articles from popular magazines, newspapers, and journals on the topic (this requires an Austin Public Library card if you are accessing the databases from home). Now I'm off to the infamous Book Cart Drill Team Challenge to watch one of the silliest, yet most entertaining competitions around (check out APL's award winning team here).
Charity Navigator: Animals
A good way to locate local animal-related charities to partner with for service projects.
March 4, 2009“I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore”
When I read on the Internet the day after the Oscars that Heath Ledger had won the award for Best Supporting Actor I noticed that each article I read said that Ledger was the second person in Oscar history to win an award posthumously. My librarian brain immediately thought, “Hmmm, well then who was the first?” The answer was far less easy to find than I anticipated and conflicting information was presented to me by Google. I ended up consulting the Encyclopedia Britannica database we subscribe to and found my answer in one of their Spotlight sections (comprehensive guides to several different subjects, including photos, media, and much more) that focuses on the Oscars and includes all present and past winners, Oscar history, and more. Turns out Sydney Howard was the first person to win an Oscar posthumously for the screenplay of Gone With the Wind (1939) and Peter Finch was the first performer to win an Oscar posthumously for the movie Network(1976) making Ledger the second performer to win posthumously (not the 2nd person ever as claimed by many a website).
I was personally rooting for Ledger to win the Oscar and when I found out that Finch was one of the other posthumous winners, I was floored. In fact, just the night before I had watched Network for the first time. I knew nothing about the movie other than my boyfriend once saw the first half of it and thought we might enjoy it. The movie stars Robert Duvall, Peter Finch, and Faye Duanaway and it completely blew me away. The plot and characters were well developed, Peter Finch gave a superb performance, and it included one of the most arresting and emotional scenes I've ever seen in a movie (the title of this blog post is a quote from that scene). Not only that, but the movie also provided a biting commentary on the state of television and television news and the power TV has over American life. The themes in this movie have led me on a whole other pursuit exploring books with similar themes: television's influence over America, the changes in television news programs intended to garner ratings, the corporate takeover of television, etc. Of course, the Austin Public Library has the books you and I need for this educational pursuit and practically any other:
Encyclopedia Britannica Database
*Requires an Austin Public Library card
To get to the Oscar spotlight mentioned above, log in with your library card number, scroll down toward the bottom of the page where it says “Featured Spotlight” and click on “Spotlight Archive.” Choose “All About Oscar” from the list.
February 18, 2009Earth Construction
I am fascinated with homes made of dirt. That's right, dirt. It may seem outlandish to some, but earthen construction (building with materials readily available, and often abundant, in nature) has been around since pre-historic times. The current trendiness of all things “green” has put earthen construction back in the minds of architects and prospective home builders. Turns out this inexpensive, structurally-sound, environmentally-friendly construction method, in which adobe, rammed earth, compressed earth, cob, straw bale, earthbag, and other materials are used, can make for a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing home. A wealth of information on this type of construction is available at the library as well as on the Internet.
WEBSITES AND ARTICLES
“Down to Earth Homes” from Mother Earth News
“Earth-sheltered homes cut heating and cooling bills, create weather- and noise-proof shelter and blend in with the landscaping, including comparing options, designing with dirt.”
Green Home Building
Amazing source of information including information on natural building materials, sustainable architecture, building codes and more
Organization that teaches natural building and natural design workshops
Rammed Earth Works
“Provides consulting services to architects, contractors and homeowners wanting to incorporate rammed earth into a green building program”
February 4, 2009The Value of a Cultural Education
The Iraqi National Library Director, Dr. Saad Eskander, has had my attention for some time now. Dr. Eskander has been working to restore the Iraqi National Library and Archive (INLA) after it was burned and looted in 2003 by Americans, Sadaam loyalists, Iraqi citizens, and professional thieves. Dr. Eskander estimates that 60% of the archival materials and 95% of the rare books collection were either stolen or destroyed. In particular, he has called on an American organization with strong ties to former President Bush and a number of neoconservative think tanks, the Iraq Memory Foundation, to return an estimated 100 million pages of archival material that was seized by American troops. In order for Iraq to rebuild itself, Dr. Eskander believes a library is essential. He has talked at length with many American news organizations about the value of a library and archive in preserving culture, sharing culture, and providing a “cultural education.” He emphasizes the importance of cultural education in rebuilding a society and combating religious fundamentalism.
Dr. Eskander's dedication to the INLA has not been without significant struggle. He and his staff have suffered through death threats, sniper attacks, further looting and the like. You can read many of the articles and profiles out there on Saad Eskander in the library's databases and on the internet. Here is just a sampling:
“The Baghdad Librarian's Story”
BBC profile of Dr. Eskander
Diary of Saad Eskander
Blog Dr, Eskander kept between Nov. 2006 to July 2007
Iraq National Library and Archives
INLA homepage including photos of the destruction and reconstruction of the library
“Iraq Records Spark Controversy”
“Millions of Saddam Hussein's records could soon be accessible at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, but the plan has been criticized by the director of the Iraq National Library and Archives (INLA).”*
*To read this article search from Factiva, log in with your library card number, and search for the title of the article.
“'Iraq's Cultural Curators Defy Sectarian Unrest”
NPR piece on Dr. Eskander and the INLA
January 21, 2009We Can Save You Money
If you keep any eye on the news, you have probably seen or read about the upsurge in public library use that has coincided with the economic downturn (for example, listen to this excellent segment from the Diane Rehm show [scroll down to 11:00]). Many people turn to their local public library during times of economic crisis to check out books; save on entertainment costs; use computers to access the internet and type up résumés; take free computer classes on subjects like Microsoft Word or Excel; and/or get free assistance from trained librarians on questions regarding anything from foreclosures to job searches to health issues.
Checking books out from the library may not only save you the cost of a book, but could also save you money on home improvement, food, and/or clothing costs. We have books that will give you home improvement ideas complete with step-by-step instructions, books that will get you started growing your own produce, books to help you learn to sew and make your own patterns, and much more. On top of that, we have tons of DVDs and music CDs to take a bite out of that almost $2500 a year the typical American family spends on entertainment costs (see “Consumer Expenditures in 2006”).
If you are one of the many people whom do not own a computer or do not have internet access, come to the library and use our computers or bring your laptop in for wireless internet access. If you're still new to computers or certain computer programs, check out our free computer classes and contact us to sign up. Additionally, we offer a service for an hour a week in which one of our trained, talented librarians will sit in the computer lab and help answer computer questions ranging from how to copy and paste to where to go online to look for jobs. However, the computer lab isn't the only place you can take your questions. Professional librarians are on staff at the Faulk Central Library during our open hours. We can help you find information on virtually any topic you can think of and there are many topics we have already created in-depth guides for that can be found here.Back to Top
January 7, 2009Health Information on the Internet
There is a glut of health information to be found on the internet and it is sometimes difficult to gauge which of these websites contain the most accurate information. On our website, you can now find a comprehensive guide to the best health related websites on the internet. The types of websites range from doctor locators to social networks to blog directories. More and more people are turning to the internet to research their health conditions, find licensed and highly rated doctors, and interact with people all over the country dealing with similar health issues. Though approaching health research can be overwhelming, armed with APL's new guide and the below listed pieces of advice, you should be off to a good start.
- Analyze the make up of a web address and be wary of addresses that end in a .com. .Com usually denotes a commercial organization's website. .Org, .gov, and .edu represent non-profit organizations, government offices and departments, and educational institutions, respectively. Knowing more about the type of organization that has created a website will help you decide how credible the information being provided is. Also, looking for an About Us or similar section on the website will reveal more about the creators of that website.
- By joining a health related social network you can discuss treatments, doctor advice, and more with others experiencing similar health issues. By locating a blog pertaining to your health condition you can find advice, read about new developments, and interact with the medical professionals or patients who write it.
- If you've decided to look into the medical literature (articles written about various subjects pertaining to the medical profession), only worry about reading the Introduction and the Discussion/Conclusions sections of each article. This will help you get to the gist of the article without having to stumble over the more technical aspects. Also, search for review articles that synthesize the literature for you and make your research a little easier.
- Use “Deciphering Medspeak”, a publication by the Medical Library Association, to help you understand any medical jargon you might come across.
- Finally, when using our new guide be sure to look for the top 10 most useful health websites, denoted by an *, as selected by the Medical Library Association.
And, as always, the librarians here at APL are available every day of the week to answer any questions you might have about health information on the internet.Back to Top
November 9, 2008The Rhizome Collective
For the first time last week I stopped into Monkey Wrench Books on North Loop to browse. As soon as I walked in I found a book, Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, on prominent display. I was intrigued, so I made my purchase and have now become absolutely fascinated with the Rhizome Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated to urban sustainability here in Austin, whose founders wrote the book. The Rhizome Collective (rhizome referring to an underground root system that's difficult to uproot) is based out of a warehouse in East Austin and is dedicated to the education of anyone interested in learning more about ecological technologies that simply, efficiently, cheaply, and environmentally-soundly sustain lands and people. In addition to their education center and teachers, they also offer a center for community groups to meet. Currently, their facilities are the meeting place for the Inside Books Project, KPWR, Bikes across Borders, Food Not Bombs, and a few others.
One of the most notable efforts by the Collective was the large scale clean up of just less than 10 acres of brownfield (land that may contain harmful environmental pollutants) in the Montopolis area of Austin. The brownfield had been a landfill and an illegal dump for years and the Collective obtained a competitive grant from the EPA to assist in the cost of the clean up. Between 2005 and 2006 the Collective “removed 680 tires, 10.1 tons and 36.5 cubic yards of trash, and 31.6 tons of recyclable metal from the site.” The effort received much local attention and the Collective was invited to speak at the EPA Regional 6 Annual Conference about their work.
It is refreshing and awe-inducing to read about groups so committed to the pursuit of urban renewal and sustainable living; particularly one that is dedicated to the education of others interested in the pursuit. Here at Austin Public Library we have a sizable collection of books on sustainable living, self-reliant living, urban ecology, and the like to tide you over until you can make it to one of the Collective's workshops.Back to Top
October 13, 2008Go to Harvard for Free
I love to learn. This may be obvious if one considers that I chose Librarian as a profession. I also love the internet. I think lolcats are hilarious, I use a feed reader to read more blogs than reasonable, and my delicious links are precious to me. When learning and the internet are combined, I, and librarians the world over, salivate and take note. Lately, I've been salivating over and exploring the many free college courses, offered by some of the best universities in the country, anyone can take via the internet. You do not have to be enrolled or affiliated in any way with the university. In fact, none of these websites even require you to sign up for some sort of free account. Merely click the link to the course and let the learning commence. Right now I'm taking an introductory computer science course at Harvard and next semester I'm considering taking “Ingmar Bergman, Cinematic Philosopher” at MIT, and all I had to do was point and click.
Austin Public Library's Education and Training Research Guide
Scroll down to Online Education and Training: Free Classes and Tutorials to see a more comprehensive list of free classes on the internet.
These are not necessarily courses, but it is a large collection of lectures and videos by “intellectuals.”
*You have to utilize Google to find Harvard classes - they are not all in one place. Often instructors establish their own course websites. For example, I googled “harvard computer science courses,” browsed the results, and then found a class I was interested in.
Internet Archive's Open Educational Resources
Links to many free university-level lectures and courses.
September 15, 2008This “Will Rock You in the Head”
Last Wednesday, the largest scientific experiment ever was begun. A particle accelerator, called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), straddling the French-Swiss border sent two streams of protons hurling at each other at light speed from either side of a 17 mile circular tunnel about 333 feet below the ground. In just a matter of time, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (known by its historic acronym CERN) may change the science of particle physics forever by facilitating the discovery of what our universe is really made up of.
What could be gleaned from crazy fast beams of subatomic particles racing toward each other? Well, the beams will crash and converge at four different places within the tunnel creating debris that may reveal a number of our universe's mysteries. Particle physicists believe the debris may be composed of dark matter (or antimatter) - something we know little about that may be a crucial part of the universe. Many are also hoping to find the Higgs boson, referred to in the media as the God particle; a particle that could be accountable for the mass of all other subatomic particles. Additionally, some physicists believe LHC could reveal new forces of nature and extra dimensions not visible to the human eye.
A minority of physicists are concerned the LHC will cause a black hole or several small black holes that would eventually consume the entire planet. Two physicists, Luis Sancho and Walter L. Wagner, have brought forward a lawsuit in Hawaii to stop the LHC. The men claim the LHC is a “dark matter factory” that will destroy Earth. Despite their protests, the LHC was not stopped, and the majority of physicists do not believe it can cause harm as it will not generate anywhere near the level of energy necessary to create black holes.
So perhaps we are only a few years away from uncovering the secrets of the universe. Or, maybe we're just a few years closer to being consumed by a black hole. Either way, there's ample to read about particle accelerators, dark matter, and the Higgs all at the Austin Public Library. And, please don't miss the rap created by a physics student helping out with the LHC on YouTube. If all of this doesn't “rock you in the head,” the video hopefully will.
And don't miss these great articles on National Geographic's website:
The God Particle
Comprehensive article about the LHC and all of the science behind it.
August 25, 2008That's Hot
This past Sunday at Waterloo Park The Austin Chronicle's 18th annual Hot Sauce Festival took place where hundreds of folks gathered together in the sweltering heat to sample sauces even hotter. Contestants included individuals, restaurants, and commercial bottlers with each group judged separately. Entries were tasted by a panel of judges including Austin restaurateurs and executive chefs Tyson Cole (Uchi), Jack Gilmore (ZTejas), and Alan Lazarus (Vespaio). The winners of the contest have been announced and can be found here. Congratulations to them all!
If foods help to define a region, hot sauce (salsa in particular) could easily define Texas. However, in 1992, salsa overtook ketchup as the highest selling condiment in the United States, so it may in fact more accurately define America (J. Andrews; “Chili Peppers,” Encyclopedia of Food and Culture). Either way, I think you'll find few hot sauce festivals outside of Texas, and the Austin Public Library has a number of excellent salsa cookbooks for you to prepare your own award-winning sauce. Check them out:Chronicle's coverage of this year's Festival:
“Let Commercial Bottler Winners Add Some Spice to Your Cooking”
Article about some of the best commercial bottles of hot sauce out there
Recipes using commercial bottle sauces
“Who's a Pepper?”
Interesting look at the history of Pace Picante sauce
Hot Sauce Blog
Dedicated to all sauces and foods that are hot and spicy
May 23, 2008Wildlife in Your Own Backyard
A patron contacted us recently about how she could turn her garden into a National Wildlife Habitat. I was intrigued; I have recently acquired a love of gardening and had no idea one could turn their garden into a habitat. With a few clicks of a mouse, I found all of the information she needed and passed it on to her.
Building your own National Wildlife Habitat is surprisingly easy and doesn't even require a garden. In fact, you could have your own refuge on your apartment balcony. All you need to do is provide food and water, make a place where animals can take cover and raise young, and adhere to sustainable gardening practices. This could be as simple as setting up a birdfeeder, birdhouse, birdbath, and a couple of plants.
Once you've certified your refuge, there are all kinds of perks such as a yearly membership to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), a subscription to National Wildlife magazine, a personalized certificate recognizing your habitat, and even a yard sign to proclaim your habitat to the neighborhood (additional fee is required). Besides the perks provided by the NWF, you will also experience the joys of watching living creatures hanging out in your garden. Not to mention the great service you do to the environment by helping to restore and revitalize Austin's natural ecosystems and committing yourself to sustainable gardening practices.
Below is the website where you can find more information and apply for habitat status, as well as just a small sampling of the many great books Austin Public Library has to get your garden started:Back to Top
April 30, 2008Happy Birthday, Willie
Considering I've lived in Austin most of my life, it would be quite a feat if I hadn't learned all of the lyrics to songs like “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” or “Time of the Preacher.” My mother must have played the album Red Headed Stranger twelve million times throughout my childhood and adolescent years. But even if my mother had never played Willie Nelson's music until my ears bled, I would have certainly heard his music on bar jukeboxes, heard his name in association with countless live music events, and seen his face on T-shirts around town. In other words, Willie is everywhere.
I never truly acknowledged my affection for Willie Nelson until I recently spent 2 ½ years in North Carolina attending library school. Local radio stations did not play Willie's songs on the radio, Willie never came to town to perform a live show, and I never found any of his albums on the jukeboxes at the local bars. I didn't really notice this, though, until my second visit back to Austin. I flew into ABI, hopped in my rental car, turned on the radio, and there was Willie singing “Whiskey River.” And it didn't stop there; the station I was listening to decided to play three more of his songs back-to-back. I found myself on I35, gazing at the capital, tears in my eyes, thinking to myself, “Man, I am such a sap!” But what I realized is that, to me, Willie Nelson's music is as integral a part of Austin as the capital building. Willie is home.
So a big happy 75th birthday to Willie Nelson, an Austin treasure! As you can imagine, many Austin organizations are doing much to celebrate. Check out Austin 360's birthday celebration site complete with places for fans to send Willie birthday wishes and share their Willie stories and/or pictures. Tonight KGSR will be broadcasting several hours of all things Willie Nelson including a 3 hour live set by various local artists covering Willie Nelson songs. Finally, you can download and listen to an awesome feature about Willie's rise to fame on the KUT website. But really the best way to celebrate is to come down to the Austin Public Library and check out our awesome collection of all things Willie, only some of which is listed below.
Heart Worn Memories: A Daughter's Personal Biography of Willie Nelson
Willie writing about Willie
The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes
The Electric Horseman