Blogs

When my husband and I are not dreaming about living off the land on some kind of homestead, we're dreaming about having our own restaurant. As I dawdle around my kitchen on a Saturday morning, I think, "If we had a restaurant that served brunch, people would get totally addicted to my savory cornmeal pancakes with chives and corn." My husband talks about offering his home-brewed sour cherry beer in our brew pub, and of course there would be homemade pretzels with homemade mustard. But it's all a pipe dream. Sometimes, just the work of getting dinner on the table for my husband and myself as well as a vegetarian teenager and a picky 10-year-old brings me to the brink of despair. And ask any friend I’ve ever invited to a dinner party: I am a slow cook who gets bogged down in details. Reading Molly Wizenberg's new book, Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage made me deeply grateful that we never even came close to opening our brunch destination or our brew pub.

You know Molly Wizenberg, right? From the Orangette food blog, the Spilled Milk podcast, and articles in magazines like Bon Appetit? She's that nice 30-something friend you hang out in the kitchen with while she tells you stories, and then she shares recipes, many of which celebrate vegetables, but then she's always getting you to make some version of banana bread, too. In her first book, A Homemade Life, she talked about growing up in the kitchen, the loss of her father, and how she found her food-enthusiast husband. In this one, she talks about how she and her husband opened and then operated Delancey, their artisanal pizza restaurant in Seattle. I liked it-- but then, I like her-- and she's a good storyteller. It was interesting to see what goes into a restaurant from someone who is inside that world. Keeping a restaurant running sounds even more high-pressure and difficult than I ever imagined. At one point, diners at Delancey ordered so many salads that Wizenberg started to sob, even while she continued to plate them.

One thing: the recipes do seem a little forced into this book. She admits that she wasn't cooking much during this time except when she was at the restaurant. And that's Orangette’s schtick, the stories with the recipes. But I'm quibbling here, and, really, I’m glad she included the recipes. The recipes are good. I definitely plan to make that slow-roasted pork and the chilled peaches in wine. And I'm approximately twice as glad as I was before I read it that my husband and I never opened the restaurant of our dreams.

Well, it has happened again - I have fallen in love with a fictional character who lives in a time and a place created out of real history.

Sister Pelagia bookjacketLet me explain.

Sister Pelagia is  the main character in a mystery series written by Boris Akunin.  She is an inquisitive, bespectacled, red-haired nun living in Imperial Russia, trying to observe her faith in peace and harmony with her fellow sisters and the students at the school for girls where she is a headmistress.  But her insatiable curiosity, her stubborn persistence and her penchant for seeing all the details make her a detective without equal. Somehow she always seems to find herself in the middle of a mysterious circumstance: the poisoning of a rare white bulldog, an inexplicable ghost haunting the Hermitage Abbey or a Christ-like prophet who appears to be able to come back from the dead.

Her adventures always begin in Russia but her sleuthing takes her all over the world, from the dark, thick forests of Siberia to the sun drenched land of the Middle East.

With the Sister Pelagia series you get the best of both worlds: the great philosophical questions that Russian authors have always debated: Love, Death, God, Good, Evil;  you also plunge into the depths of a world peopled with extraordinary characters, unorthodox situations and exotic places. Not the least of these is the mystery itself that is interwoven into the story as a living breathing creature.

Writing  in the style and with the plot complexity of Charles Dickens, Russian author Boris Akunin  deals unflinchingly with the attitudes of the time, especially the question of how we treat those who are different, whether by race or class or sexual preference. He doesn't try to softsoap the truth, but tempers it with humor and unusual historical details.

If you like mesmerizing mysteries set in a different time and place with a heroine who won’t give up until she finds the truth, you will love the Sister Pelegia series by Boris Akunin. Start with Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog.

 

Divorce, estate planning, landlord/tenant issues, immigration, arrests and citations... Life is full of legal questions. How do you search for answers without being taken for a ride? We can suggest some excellent resources that can help you out.

A good place to start is Oregon Legal Research, maintained by law librarians. Learn how to research the law and represent yourself in court; find the answers to frequently asked questions (When can I leave my kids home alone? Where can I get a free power of attorney form?); and more. They also maintain a comprehensive Oregon and Portland-metro Legal Assistance Resources guide (pdf) that can help you find local organizations that specialize in legal areas including disability rights, bankruptcy, political activism, bicycle law and crime victims' rights.

Link to Legal Aid Services of OregonOregon Law Help provides free and verified legal information for Oregonians. There are articles in many languages to get you up-to-speed on your rights and resources when it comes to your home, your job, government benefits and more. The site also helps you find a Legal Aid office near you.    

The Oregon State Bar public information page has user-friendly legal information, assistance in finding and hiring a lawyer, links to low cost legal help and more.

The Oregon Judicial Department can help you file a case, find a legal form and represent yourself in court. Check out their page devoted to family law for assistance with child custody and support, divorce, domestic violence, and parenting plans. The Multnomah County Circuit Court website can help you answer your questions about Family Court.

If you have questions about your rights as a renter, you might want to contact the Community Alliance of Tenants. This statewide, grassroots, tenants-rights Link to Oregon Council of County Law Libraries.organization provides renters' rights information online; if you can't find the information you need, call the Renters’ Rights Hotline at 503-288-0130.

You can always contact us at the library and we can help you locate resources that might be helpful, or visit your local county law library for a wider range of materials.

Though we are always happy to help you locate resources and give you search tips, it is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law; we may not interpret statutes, cases or regulations, perform legal research, recommend or assist in the preparation of forms, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights.

Shandra from Central Library is reading Half-off Ragnarok and has this to say: "Half-off Ragnarok" is the latest by my favorite author Seanan McGuire, combining great characters, mythical creatures that aren't so mythical, lots of action, and excellent humor."

When the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars, one report I heard described the landing using a ‘Mars Local’ time zone. 
 
Red Mars coverMan is not on Mars, but we’ve sent time in front of us.
 

The implications of people colonizing Mars were delved into wonderfully by Kim Stanley Robinson. In Red Mars, he told the story of one hundred people, most Russian or American (this was published 1993, the last gasp of that binary world), who travel to Mars. 

One has been there before but in all other ways they are The First. They are scientists, and to me the reader they feel like scientists — curious, exacting, fiercely intelligent.
 
These one hundred scientists disagree passionately about the purpose of going to Mars. Are they there to explore it as itself, without imposing their needs or even their humanity on it? To make Mars habitable? To seize the opportunity to live in an entirely new way? To exploit the mineral resources? 
 
These factions are deeply divided, and the philosophy behind each is persuasive. Do we have to change everything we touch? 
 
Do we stay Earthlings, no matter where we go? 

 

It was my second term in Conceptual Physics when I learned that I was not cut out for the career in science I had dreamed about while watching Star Wars over and over again. Subsequently, supportive friends and teachers taught me this “it’s not the end of the world” mantra: “D is for diploma.”

Things turned out fine. I remained a decent student and survived my remaining science courses. I focused on other subjects that I still excelled in and ended up with a great job that I love after plenty of other failures and just enough success; however, there are still times I dream of discovering the secrets of black holes or the ocean floor.

The Panda's Thumb book jacketArcheological digs and guest spots on NOVA sometimes enter my rich imagination and, just as I used to live out my fantasies of rock superstardom through air guitar in middle school, I find an outlet for scientific delusions of grandeur on the library shelves with those amazing scientists that can speak my language and hold my hand through the equations and lab lingo. One of the best-selling and most entertaining science writers was the late Stephen Jay Gould, and his award-winning series of essays entitled The Panda’s Thumb taught me everything I actually understand about the theory of evolution (well not everything, as you’ll see below). Gould’s short entries make it easier for us in the scientific laity to fight the urge to nap in the middle of a chapter.

For those of you with a longer attention span who are interested in evolution, I recommend David Quammen’s beautiful verbosity. His writings on The Black Hole War book jacketDarwin and Wallace more or less equal the remainder of my evolutionary knowledge. Even though it was physics that destroyed my chances of being an award-winning scientist, it is still one of my favorite subjects. The Black Hole War (eBook ) by Leonard Susskind is my favorite narrative on the subject. It combines great diagrams for all the mathy (all right, this isn’t a real word) points, fun anecdotes about some of the world’s foremost scientists, and a long arduous battle between Susskind (with a couple colleagues) and Stephen Hawking and the entire scientific world concerning what happens when information passes through the horizon of a black hole. Spoiler Alert: Susskind won and opened new avenues for String Theory, Holograms, and oh so many fun physics wormholes.

Cataclysms on the Columbia book jacketCataclysms on the Columbia brings us back home to the ancient history of Cascadia, as well as to the recent past. Bretz, an intrepid geologist, also fought with the scientific community over his discovery. He realized that it must have taken one or many (upwards of 90) cataclysmic floods to form the geological markers from Western Montana through Eastern Washington, down through the Columbia River Gorge, all the way into the Willamette Valley. Of course, everyone at the time accused him of Catastrophism, which was viewed by many as a religious perspective, not legitimate science. Bretz’s strength of character and the vivid descriptions of what the floods must have been like are respectively inspirational and terrifying.

This is only a small sample of the highly readable Science-Fact available at MCL. So if you too are a member of the numerically-challenged laity, please respond below with your favorite science book and I will add it to the Page-turning Science reading list being created as we speak!

World According to Bob bookjacketSpring has sprung, and so has a whole new crop of intriguing titles. Here are the books that are on our selectors' radar for May.

Adults - Fiction
Jo Walton presents an interesting premise in My Real Children - the main character, Patricia Cowan is very old and in her ‘confused’ state remembers two different versions of her life.

Walter Mosley's latest, Debbie Doesn't Do it Anymore is not a mystery but the tale of Sandra, former porn star (Debbie Dare), recently widowed and in debt to all the wrong kinds of people. 

In Sundance, David Fuller re-imagines the life of Harry Longbaugh, aka the Sundance Kid, who doesn’t die in Bolivia but is released from prison in 1913 to a changed world.

Adults - Nonfiction
If you loved reading about James Bowen's cat Bob, you will most definitely want to follow up with The World According to Bob: The Further Adventures of One Man and His Streetwise Cat.

If you've been following the stories about the plundering and theft of art taken during WWII, you might try The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps  - The title says it all.

Teens
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is about an old money family, a private island and a mystery.  Cadence, a highly unreliable narrator, is trying to piece together what happened two years ago when she involved in an accident that has left her with terrible headaches and some holes in her memory.

Kids
The Thickety by J.A. White contains a forbidden forest, dangerous beasts and a spellbook- all the makings of an exciting fantastical adventure.  It's 496 pages full of thrills, plot twists and adventure.


Ross, a librarian at Central Library, is reading Ship of Theseus. He is enjoying the way that it invites you to read
in a multi-directional way. 

 Buried in the Sky book coverA few months ago I thought Buried in the Sky  was an A+ read. This week it came back to hit me in the face after the avalanche on Everest that killed a dozen or more Sherpa guides. Please read this book.  You will not regret it. And if you are in the 99% of Portlanders who've read the John Krakauer book about a similar Everest tragedy, you might find yourself wondering which of the two books you like more.  It's that good. It's that important. 

 

 

 

Photo of tundraDid you know that tundra is one the coldest biomes of the world where very few plants and animals can survive? Tundra winters are cold with strong winds and summers are short with sun shining almost 24 hours a day. This biome does not sound very inviting, doesn't it?  But who lives in tundra? What grows in tundra? Let's do some research together:

In National Geographic Virtual Library you will find many photos and articles about tundra and tundra animals and plants. 

Let's not forget about World Book Encyclopedia with its excellent maps, illustrations and quality articles on tundra and many other topics.

Info Trac Junior Edition is another great resource to read articles on tundra and learn about other biomes of the world. 

Many books in the library are your loyal friends while doing research. International Wildlife Encyclopedia and Wildlife and Plants of the World are ones of  the many comprehensive encyclopedias you might use for your research on tundra plant and animal life. One can search these encyclopedias by an animal/plant common name or by its habitat.

You can also search the library's catalog by  the keyword "tundra". Type it in and you will see what we have available on this topic: print books, e-books and DVDs.  

If you need more help with your research, talk to us and we'll be happy to help! 

wind turbines

How will we power the future?  Will we harness the wind that blows across the plains? Will we build a collective of small, modular nuclear fission reactors, safer and more efficient than today's ungainly nuclear power plants?  Or maybe the success of giant solar plants like California's Ivanpah Solar Power Tower will inspire more solar projects?  Already, there are eleven states that generate electricity from renewable sources at double the U.S. average (not including hydropower).  Which states?  Take a guess.

There are a variety of renewable power options that could prove successful in the future.  All of them carry advantages and disadvantages, of course.  You'll find unbiased information on both sides at procon.org, including neatly laid out arguments for and against lots of different energy sources.  There is also a detailed historical timeline of energy source development that covers over 4000 years of human energy consumption.

So where will the future of energy take us?  Wind energy is the fastest growing energy source in the world now, with lots of potential benefits.  Hydropower is the renewable energy source that produces the most electricity in the U.S., though tidal energy (one kind of hydropower) has yet to be developed in this country.  Biofuels and bioprospecting are an exciting potential source of clean energy.  Solar power, on the other hand, was humankind's first source of energy, and may still be part of our diversified energy future, as explained below by Crash Course's Hank Green.

Want more information on sustainable energy sources?  Ask a librarian!

cover image of Rose

Why do you need a budget?  Everyday life can be difficult if you don't know where your money is coming from - and where it is going.  The Money Tip$ video series continues with helpful information about budgeting.  This episode presents simple strategies for tracking your hard earned money, allowing you to make decisions that align with your short-term and life-long financial goals.   

Here's episode three:


The Money Tip$ video series was produced by Multnomah County Library in collaboration with Innovative Changes, a Portland non-profit organization that exists to help low-income individuals and families manage short-term financial needs in order to achieve and maintain household stability.  Made possible by The Library Foundation with a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation through Smart Investing @ your library ®, a partnership with the American Library Association


 

We Live in WaterI loved Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, but I hesitated before checking out We Live in Water, his new collection of short stories. Short stories can seem like a trial--you have to go through that process of getting involved again and again--but I found that with these stories, I slipped in quickly and easily every time.

The characters  in We Live in Water are getting by in Portland or Seattle, or most often, in Walter’s hometown, Spokane, and none of them are doing very well. They’ve either fallen already or they’re headed for a fall. The title story was clearly by the same author as Ruins, with multiple narrators and a complicated structure, shifting back and forth between the '50s and the '90s. It told of a man who disappeared long ago and his grown son's efforts to find out what happened to him. It read like a film noir story, I thought, imagining Robert Mitchum as the lost father.

My favorite story in the collection was “Virgo,” narrated by the now unemployed features editor of a small local newspaper. When he and his girlfriend are together, their morning ritual involves going right to her favorite page in the newspaper, the page where you find the horoscopes and the crosswords. He notices that on the days when her horoscopes are good, she has a better day, and is more generous with her, ahem, amorous attentions. After they break up and she has a new boyfriend, he begins changing the horoscopes, giving her endless one-star days and entries like “one star: hope your new boyfriend doesn’t mind your bad breath”. He changes the crossword clue that reads, "Jamaican spice"--answer: “jerk”--to her new boyfriend’s name. I thought this was hilarious, and a great idea for a story.

If you're in the mood for a good short story, consider investigating some of the books in this list.

 

I love all things BBC! Comedies, dramas, detective shows, spy series, period stuff. I've checked out a ton of shows from the library (it's great that we have all the current seasons of MI-5 and Doc Martin) but sometimes there are shows that we just can't get for whatever reason. One of my all time favorite shows is Blackpool (not to be confused with the horrible U.S. remake called Viva Laughlin with Hugh Jackman) and here's why it's the best show ever:

  • It's British.
  • The stars are David Tennant and David Morrissey. They are beautiful men and as a bonus they can act.
  • There's a murder to solve.
  • It's a musical.

 

And what a musical! The characters basically burst into karaoke at propitious times. Which I think is the reason it's unavailable in U.S. dvd format - the issue of musical rights must be hindering the release here.

So your choices are: watch the entire season 1 of Blackpool on YouTube (don't bother with the second season; it doesn't compare to the first one) or check out some of my other favorite British shows at MCL.

Eddy from Central Library is reading A Life of Barbara Stanwyck by Victoria Wilson. Eddy says this "contains all you could ever want to know about the life of one of America's greatest actresses, detailing not just her life but those of the people around her, from Zeppo Marx to Walter Brennan or Joan Crawford.  This 800 page volume covers just the first half of her life, to 1940."

 

Hey you! Yes you, with the curious look in your in your eyes...

circus barker

Beyond these canvas walls lies an irresistible display of mystery and intrigue. Unbelievable sights, sounds, and emotional awakening await your already tingling senses.  It’s not for the faint or frail among us.  Oh no...  Only the strong of heart and soul will survive the spectacular journey that awaits you inside.  What do you say?  Dare you enter?

It’s raining (again) in PBioswaleortland today. When I’m not staffing an information desk at Central Library, I have a cubicle on Central’s fourth floor, directly under a skylight, and right now I can hear the rain pitter-pattering (actually it’s a little more than a pitter-patter at the moment) on the skylight. When I hear the rain, I think of Central’s eco-roof (also directly overhead) and the hard work that it is doing on a day like this.

Our eco-roof has a very important job: Instead of the rainwater running off the building and joining all the other runoff in a mad, gravity-inspired dash to the Willamette River – a dash that on very rainy days can overwhelm the wastewater-treatment system and cause nasty things to enter the Willamette without being treated – the Central eco-roof absorbs the rain in its planting pallets, reducing runoff by up to 70%. On top of that, it just looks nice!

Consider taking a tour of the eco-roof, viewing it from the windows of Central’s fifth floor.  Just click here, or type eco-roof tour into the search box on the home page. Come more than once … it changes with the seasons. 

The City of Portland’s Green Streets projects (pictured) operate in a similar way to our eco-roof. The rainwater runoff enters the plant-filled bioswales and collects there. Instead of racing into the sewer system, the water slowly filters into the soil, replenishing the groundwater. The plants themselves – like the plants on the eco-roof – filter many pollutants from the air and water.  Plus – it bears repeating -- they look nice!

Read more about green streets, eco-roofs, and the way cities are altering their built environments.  Green cities celebrate Earth Day every day.

Man has always dreamed of flight . . . okay, maybe that’s a cliché, but perhaps it’s because flying is now cramped coach seating, $3 bottled water, and endless TSA lines. It’s easy to forget romance that was once associated with travel by air. Airplanes were symbols of modernity and often a source of wonder and deep emotional connections. While there are plenty of memoirs by pilots about the adventure of flying, there are also those that go beyond the technology and excitement and speak of flying as an emotional, transcendent experience. Perhaps best known for this kind of writing is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, but I want to highlight some other equally enticing choices.

The Spirit of St. Louis book jacketCharles Lindberg’s The Spirit of St. Louis and his wife’s North to the Orient both describe flights of exploration. The first is about Charles’ solo flight from New York to Paris and allows the reader to experience the solitude of flying across the Atlantic. He reflects on life and the nature of flight. He writes, “There are periods when it seems I’m flying through all space, through all eternity” as he battles sleep, space, and time. His wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wrote her own account of flying with Charles in North to the Orient. She provides her own personal insight into the wonder of flying, but because she isn’t the pilot, she solely focused on the sensation of flying rather than the practice of piloting. The feeling of altitude, rushing wind, and speed is strikingly real.


A Bell P-39 Airacobra Whereas the Lindberghs captured the awe of flight, Edwards Park speaks of the relationship between man and machine in Nanette. Parks was a WWII fighter pilot and Nanette was his first fighter, a P-39 Airacobra. He writes, “the Airacobra was lazy and slovenly and given to vicious fits of temper. It was a sexy machine, and rotten. Nanette was like that, and I was a little queer for her.” Much more profane than the other books here (Park was a fighter pilot after all), he nevertheless makes very clear the personal connection one could have with an airplane. To him, Nanette had a soul, a personality, and an agenda that did not always match his own, and for that he loved her.North to the Orient book jacket

Anne Morrow Lindberg captured something of what draws me to these books in North to the Orient. “It is not in the flying alone, nor in the places alone, nor alone in time; but in a peculiar blending of all three, which resulted in a quality of magic—a quality that belongs to fairy tales.” Flying akin to magic, hmmm. . . I would have liked to experience that.

Listening to my genius nephew plan an outing with his friends  (all NW born & bred):
Them: “Yeah a hike, let’s not waste such great weather!”  (60 degrees, partly cloudy?!)
Me: a desert child- freezing and feeling like a fish out of water. Then I remembered that according to science, a fish out of water was the first step on the evolutionary bridge to humanity. Hm-m-mn.  So welcome to my fish out of water favorites.

Fresh Off the Boat book jacketEddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat, is by the proprietor of Baohaus-the hot East Village hangout where, as stated on the book cover, “foodies, stoners, and students come to stuff their faces with delicious Taiwanese street food”. Jay Caspian Kang wraps it up nicely: “(He takes) the archetypes of the immigrant experience-food, family, and capitalism-and infuse(s) them with a new energy…” If you want a howl-out–loud memoir from a Chinese-speaking, hip-hop loving kid who grew up in Florida and landed in NYC, this is it.

And now for your viewing and listening pleasure: Joyful Noise starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. Randy, failed NYC hipster, has no place to run but Pacashau, Georgia. Hiding out with his country-music loving grandma exposes him to A Joyful Noise-a win or go home gospel singing competition that is not long on brotherly love. As one MCL commenter noted, the storyline can be seen as predictable. OR, one might remember that first beings told stories around the campfire to entertain and pass on knowledge. Knowledge, my chirrens, needs to be replicable or it ain’t science. What’s it all about in the end except for the music? The Queen and Miz Dolly do deliver, along with a cast of talented others (shoutout to Andy Karl [Caleb]-scene stealer)!

So remember all you fish out of water: you’re needed for the evolution of the race because, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, “We had better learn to hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

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