Thia, a clerk at the Belmont Library, is reading The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter. "It's a complex discussion of the biology of trees," she says. "I'm learning a lot."
Thia, a clerk at the Belmont Library, is reading The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter. "It's a complex discussion of the biology of trees," she says. "I'm learning a lot."
Is writing by hand a lost art in this age of typing and tapping our words? For some of us who are old enough to have been taught proper handwriting in elementary school, but young enough to have been composing our written works on the computer for most of our writing lives, the state of our handwriting may have gone deeply downhill.
Does it matter? The importance of handwriting is a subject that’s certainly open to a variety of opinions. Portland’s influential handwriting teachers and authors Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay (creators of the Getty-Dubay italic handwriting method and authors of Write Now: The Complete Program for Better Handwriting) say that poor handwriting is like “mumbling on the page.” In The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication, author Margaret Shepherd says that a handwritten note “says to the reader, ‘You matter to me, I thought of you…’” There’s certainly something to be said about the grace and character of handwritten words. You can read about the history of handwriting in Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, by Kitty Burns Florey, orThe Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, by Philip Hensher.
Indeed, there are resources for those of us who would like to improve our handwriting. Better Handwriting by Rosemary Sassoon is a brief, basic guide with practical tips. The aforementioned guide by Getty and Dubay has exercises for clear, legible italic writing. While you’re writing by hand, you might also enjoy making some fancy letters! Draw your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, and Make your Own by Tony Seddon, or Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design's Golden Age by Steven Heller might be fun. If you get really motivated, you could take a class at the Portland Society for Calligraphy.
Handwriting, of course, is distinct to each of us. What does your handwriting say about you? If you’re interested in deciphering the meaning of the loops and slants, you might enjoy The Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis: The Complete Guide to Interpreting Personalities, Detecting Forgeries, and Revealing Brain Activity through the Science of Graphology, by Marc J. Seifer. Or perhaps Your Handwriting Can Change your Life (by Vimala Rodgers)!
You may know her from the feminist manifesto The Second Sex. Or perhaps you're familiar with her circle of intellectuals (Albert Camus, Nelson Algren, Arthur Koestler) or her lover Jean Paul Sartre. But The Mandarins is much more than an autobiographical novel and a story of intellectual society and struggle after the occupation in Paris. You don’t need to know Simone de Beauvoir was a great philosopher. You don’t need to know about the relationship between her and Sartre, or the affairs. You don’t need to know about existentialist philosophy or postwar Europe. If you do, it may make the reading more meaningful. If you don’t, it will not take away from the story one bit. This is a story about friendship, loyalty, war and the consequences, the roles of women, marriage, death, breakdowns, and the breakdowns and death of marriage. It is about making hard decisions and rebuilding from the ruins. It is a love story.
It is a lengthy novel. This would usually have me muttering “still?” while madly flipping pages to see how far till the next chapter. (Don’t do this, by the way. The chapters are horrendously long.) My copy was an enormous first American edition hardback over 600 pages, and after dragging it around with me for weeks, it began to weigh what felt like that many pounds. But the heft was worth it, for I was transported during bus commutes and on those few cherished evenings reclining on the chaise longue. I haven’t had that experience with a novel in a long time. At first, the switch of narrators was jolting, but I think it contributed to keeping me interested and engaged in the long run. I found I actually cared about Anne, Paula, Henri, Robert, and the others. I was fascinated by their world and the choices they were making.
There are many elements that could bring you to this novel and keep you there…the setting, the era, the voyeuristic autobiographical aspect, the intellectual society, politics, ideology, love, or merely the writing. Whatever reason you decide to pick up The Mandarins, you will find it is not so easy to put down again. The characters will stay with you for a long while.
Donna, a library assistant at the Belmont Library, is reading Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. She says, "This cross-genre anthology is like a big box of chocolates, with original stories from the likes of George R.R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon and Jim Butcher. The theme is Dangerous Women, so you know there's going to be some good action going on! I'm savoring it, one piece at a time."
Let’s face it we all get distracted once and while. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens when key information is being conveyed in chemistry class. Or maybe you were paying attention but you just need a refresher. Where can you get the information you need for your homework right now? Try these great resources!
1. Watch a video from Khan Academy
Sometimes it’s easier to learn from a video than from a textbook. Khan Academy has high quality videos on a wide range of chemistry topics and includes useful questions and answers posted by other viewers. Did you miss your class’s discussion of acids and bases? Not sure what the word “stoichiometry” means? This is the place for you.
2. Take a look at the Mathmol Text Book from NYU
OK, so you don’t want to ask your friend what the difference between mass and volume is. That would just be embarrassing, right? But if you google it, you might get a horrible, unreliable site made by a third-grader. Instead check out the Mathmol Text Book. It includes lots of great basic information and you know you can trust it because it is prepared by the New York University Scientific Visualization Center.
3. Sign into Live Homework Help from Tutor.com
Did you know that every day from 2pm-10pm you can get help from real, actual tutors online? Well, you can! All you need is your library card and pin number to sign in from home. You can get rock star level help with your chem homework and you don’t have to bother that one friend of yours that you keep calling. Don’t have a computer at home? Come to a library and use one of ours!
The short answer is, Yes, people still try to ban books!
Here's a recent example right here in Oregon. In January 2014 some parents in Sweet Home challenged the use in an 8th grade Language Arts class of the critically acclaimed young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. According to an article in the Albany Democrat Herald, two parents asked for the book to be removed from the 8th grade curriculum.
The result? Again reported by the Democrat Herald, on February 13, 2014, after 3 hours of public testimony the Sweet Home School District reconsideration committee "voted Wednesday to retain the young adult novel, but [the superintendent] will be responsible for determining the appropriate grade level for its use..."
What's the fuss about?
"This work of young adult fiction tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to improve his future, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, [the book], which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings...chronicles the adolescence of one Native American teen as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live." --Amazon.com
Even though the book received the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, it's also been the center of controversy for profanity, racism, discussion of sex, abuse and alcoholism. But as one of the teachers said, "...it's use...prompts the most intense discussions about racism, bullying, tolerance and the daily choices students make in handling relationships."
I think that's worth keeping. What do you think?
And remember, if you need more help be sure to Ask the Librarian!
In March, we're looking forward to spring and all things sweet and bittersweet. Here are a few titles to welcome the season.
The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith is a collection of short stories haunted both literally and figuratively with ghosts. Publisher's Weekly says, "The stories shimmer with life. The heat and tumult of Vietnam's cities are palpable, and the awed wonderment of humans confronted with supernatural occurrences is artfully conveyed."
Precious Thing by Colette McBeth is getting rave reviews and is being compared to Gone Girl. Two childhood friends have grown apart and over time their roles in the friendship have been reversed. Then one disappears.
We don't really need to tell you why we are looking forward to Homemade Doughnuts: Techniques And Recipes For Making Sublime Doughnuts In Your Home Kitchen by Kamal Grant, do we?
Do you have a bunch of uncompleted projects lurking around your house like little pockets of guilt? Here comes Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects From 50 Successful Artists by Danielle Krysa. Maybe something will get done!
In the irreverant Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith - The main character, Austin narrates the end of the world "when a twist of fate sparks the birth of mutant, people-eating praying mantises. Austin not only records the hilarious and bizarre tale of giant, copulating bugs but his own sexual confusion and his fear about hurting the people he loves." (School Library Journal)
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd promises to be a fun story about a girl who lands in a quirky little town that just might be magical.
In Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, saturated colors and gorgeous artwork serve to illustrate the life of this artist and civil rights pioneer.
People love talking about the weather and this has certainly been the winter to do it. Epic storms in the East and droughts all over the West have been top stories nearly every day of the New Year. A lot of us had fun frolicking in our own mini-snowstorm earlier this month.
Usually, talking about the weather is considered polite conversation, a nice respite from politics and religion, or celebrity gossip. Of course, this isn’t always the case. As the drought seems to be subsiding (fingers-crossed) for us in the Pacific Northwest, California has little hope in sight and the gloves have come off.
The President has done his photo-ops, hundreds of millions are pledged for relief, and the fingers are pointing at the Republicans, the Democrats, the farmers, the cities, the Delta Smelt (ooh, what’s that?)… The news stories seem to be devoid of solutions for water scarcity, though many have been offered up over the years. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all detailed in Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner.
California is the main character in this sweeping epic, often the villain tormenting its neighbors. Other times, it is the victim of graft, its fragile ecosystems exploited by schemers and boosters. In riveting detail, the book recounts the long-held rivalry between the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of Interior) and the Army Corps of Engineers, the true story behind the movie Chinatown (Reisner’s recounting wins), Los Angeles’ plan to redirect the Columbia River, and many more fascinating and eye-opening chapters in the water wars of the west.
But wait! Here’s a plethora of books you could read in tandem, each one an exciting foray into water, the west, and/or land use planning (it’s all the rage with the kids these days).
March is Women’s History month and what better way to celebrate than learning more about the pioneering women from this great state? Three women you cannot ignore when doing any research are Lola Green Baldwin, Beatrice Morrow Cannady, and Abigail Scott Duniway.
On April 1, 1908, forty-eighty-year-old Lola Greene Baldwin became the first woman sworn in to perform public service for Portland, becoming a full time paid policewoman. She was put in charge of the new Women’s Protective Division and crusaded for the moral and physical welfare of young, single working women. Visit OPB to view a video about her. Oregon State University Press has an introduction online to the book Municipal Mother about Baldwin.
Beatrice Morrow Cannady was a renowned civil rights activist in early twentieth-century Oregon. She was editor of the Advocate, the state's largest, and at times the only, African American newspaper. View the OPB special to learn more about the numerous efforts Cannady launched to defend the civil rights of the African Americans in the state. Black Past, an online reference to Black History, features an excerpt from a book about Cannady.
Abigail Scott Duniway was Oregon's strongest voice for the cause of Women's suffrage. OPB has a film about her, as well as a piece on the Oregon Suffragist movement. Duniway was a true pioneer, known for her tireless efforts for women’s suffrage and women’s rights and as one of relatively few female newspaper editors and publishers of her time. The library resource Biography in Context has a biography of Duniway and a helpful resource list for more in depth research.
The Oregon Encyclopedia has detailed information and photos about these women and many more female pioneers in Oregon's history. The Oregon History Project, created by the Oregon Historical Society, is a great online resource for learning about Oregon's past and the people who shaped the state.
If you want to explore this topic more, or if you have questions, simply Ask a Librarian! We’re happy to help.
Football is my fave, but the start of spring training hearkens the eventual arrival of flowers, leaves on the trees, and blue (well, here in Portland, occasionally blue) skies. One of my most loved summer activities is taking in an MLB game or several, even though this east coast girl now has to travel outside of Portland to do so. Why do I love a baseball game? The pace is relaxed, the people watching is spectacular, and hopefully the play is on par. I mean, what could be better? Summer in all its glory captured in one evening.
Recreating this baseball mindset can be tough during the dark days of winter, but it is oh-so-rewarding when I can conjure up a June double header in December. How do I do it? You can find me hosting a tailgate party right after the new year, no matter if it's raining (or in this year's case, snowing!) on the grill and grill master. My reading selections also tend to skew towards all things baseball. I dig out my Pittsburgh Pirates jersey, and the Pittsburgh Steelers jersey is sent to the basement until fall. Pour myself a cold one, settle in for a few night's baseball reading, a few hours viewing of Ken Burn's Baseball, and I am ready for opening day! Say hi if you see me in Seattle this summer, I'll be the girl in the black and gold among the sea of blue Mariners fans.
Pardon my polite silence. I am not a plane talker.
On a recent trip to the midwest, the airport newstand held little interest and other entertainment options were exhausted.
Luckily, I remembered to look at Overdrive via my smartphone available through Multnomah County Library. Ten minutes later I’d downloaded David Rakoff’s Glass Half Empty
Boarding the plane with earbuds in place, I smiled politely at my neighbor and escaped into Mr. Rakoff's soothing voice.
If you’re interested in learning more about e-books look here or ask us in person. We're happy to help.
Maybe I'd even tell you about it when we're 30,000 ft in the air... Then again, let's wait till we've landed.
by Donna Childs
Peter Reader has made a career of helping people find and use information. Information is only useful if it can be accessed and organized—and that’s where Peter comes in. A Renaissance man, Peter grew up in Nome, Alaska, and majored in music in college. Music has been a lifelong love—he plays the accordion and sings with the Bach Cantata Choir. Peter lived in an Eskimo village and worked as a realtor. He started his 30-year career in Alaska and the continental US with the Bureau of Land Management and later moved into administration. He became fascinated with computers in the 60’s, long before the personal computer, and discovered that he loved programming. Among other things, he helped build a payroll system for Bonneville Power Administration. After retiring in 1994, he volunteered at his local NE Portland police precinct, building a database since they had none. This led to a dozen years of running his own consulting business.
When he retired a second time, he approached the Multnomah County Library to offer his skills. June Bass, Program Manager in Volunteer Services, put him to work on the volunteer database containing hundreds of volunteers from all 19 library branches. For the past 7 years, Peter has worked two days a week on the volunteer database, transferring and tweaking information, creating reports, entering volunteer information, and deleting anything redundant or outdated. The library has substantially overhauled its database twice during these years, keeping Peter especially busy. In 2009 he received a county-wide volunteer award for his work with the new database. June Bass says, “I cannot imagine any volunteer program implementing a new database without a person like Peter...” Aptly named, Peter Reader is also an enthusiastic reader, especially of science fiction. He and his wife have a library of more than 2000 books, in addition to an extensive collection of classical music CDs.
Home library: Albina Library
Currently reading: I just finished Rick Atkinson’s trilogy on World War II.
Most influential book: No one book, but Tolkien blew me away in the 60’s.
Favorite book from childhood: A Treasury of American Folklore, ed. by B.A. Botkin (I have used up four copies.)
A book that made you laugh or cry: H. Allen Smith—anything by him.
Favorite section of the library: Science fiction
E-reader or paper book? Paper
Favorite place to read: In my room
Do you need to learn the parts of a flower? For a start, look at this clear diagram provided by the American Museum of Natural History. For more descriptions of the flower parts and what they do, investigate "The Great Plant Escape".
This interactive flower dissection activity will give you even more practice in sorting and labelling, then will test your knowledge of flower parts. Once you're on this site, you can start the activity by clicking on OK in the "try this" box (it's not necessary to download). To reach the quiz, click on "Label" after you've dissected the flower. This activity includes clear, printable pictures with descriptions of what each flower part does.
If you learn well under pressure, you should look at this timed quiz. You'll notice that some diagrams, such as the one at this site, may include more terms than you'll see on other diagrams. You can play this game by clicking on "start" (there's no need to download), then begin pointing and clicking to label the parts. Try it out, and challenge yourself to keep shortening your time!
If you want more information, contact a librarian through your computer or at your local library.
Once upon a time, I went out to see bands play several times a week, I read Spin (remember Spin?) and I was on top of the local and national music scene. I had friends with encyclopedic music knowledge, and they lavished it on me. Now I’m old and I’m busy, and so are my friends who used to give me the heads up on music they thought I’d like. Babysitters are expensive, and I find that I like to be in my bed by midnight, book in hand. But although I’m not so interested in standing up in a club or music venue for hours and hours, I still love music. I’m especially always looking for new music to energize me as I take long walks around this city. There’s nothing like a new song I’m really into to get me up to the top of Mount Tabor faster.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a CD in the library called PDX Pop Now! 2008, and I found that it was just one of a great annual series. PDX Pop Now is a local nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate local music. In 2004, they started having a music festival every year and releasing a CD of recorded music by the artists chosen for the festival. The music is wildly varied and the CDs don't really hang together as albums, but as a tool for finding something new to love right here in your own city, they are unbeatable. I found a band I’ll call Starf***er, who have three whole CDs of music to get me moving. I found Ioa’s song, called “The Boxcar Children”, which unites my love of kid’s literature and pop music ("Henry and Jesse lived under no rules at all in the little red boxcar..."). And there’s a rolicking song called “Let’s Ride” by Andy Combs and the Moth that always gets me up to the top of Mount Tabor really fast. This CD series might just add some excitement to your life as well.
It’s widely known that smoking tobacco is dangerous: a major cause of lung cancer, chronic lung disease and premature death. Not to mention bad breath.
But what about e-cigarettes? Since you are inhaling only nicotine vapor, they must be safer than tobacco cigarettes. Right?
It’s actually unknown if e-cigarettes are safe. Discovery Health has put together ten facts about e-cigarettes that question the safety of the devices. For instance, they go unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the side effects of inhaling pure nicotine have not been studied. Despite the unknowns, double the number of teens tried e-cigarettes in 2013 than in 2012, according to the National Youth Tobacco study, summarized by the American Cancer Society.
What about hookahs? Since hookahs are legal, social, infrequent, and the smoke passes through water, are they healthier than smoking regular tobacco or marijuana? No, says the Centers for Disease Control. But, like e-cigarettes, youth are using hookahs at increasing rates, alarming doctors.
This is a topic where I really needed to pay attention to reliable sources. Though I found many videos extolling the benefits of hookahs and the safety of water pipe smoke, the source of this information was usually a guy filming a video in his garage. Whenever you look for health or medical information, especially about drugs, think about the reliability of the source and the potential biases of the writer, video host, or organization. For more on evaluating health information on the web, take a look at librarian Mary B.’s blog entry.
As a child, my uncle Mike would pay me 25 cents to say ‘hello’. Once I said, ‘Hello Uncle Mike’ and got a fifty cent piece. I was an extraordinarily shy child, raised by an extraordinarily shy mother. It was a good partnership and suited me well, until I had my own child.
My unabashedly sociable son liked to sit in other parent’s laps at library storytime. He chats up intoxicated passengers on airplanes and is absolutely confident that whomever sits near us at the neighborhood sushi house is dying to see his Lego minifigure collection. All of this sends me into a state of near panic. I’ve often felt that I ought to start a support group for shy and introverted parents of extroverted children. This was on my mind when I came across Polly Morland’s book The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to Be Brave.
Polly Morland is a documentary filmmaker and this book reads exactly like the most captivating of documentaries. From meetings of anxiety-ridden concert musicians struggling to overcome stage fright in the 1940s, to interviews with modern military heroes and high line walkers, Moreland explores the many different forms that bravery can take and how we define it as a society. What struck me most however, was the idea that some forms of bravery may be practiced and learned. I'm unlikely at this stage in my life to undergo training to fight a bull and let’s just forget about joining Toastmasters. Parenting however is one training I can't opt out of. My uninhibited son is guaranteed to test my faltering social skills for the rest of my life. In doing so, he might just be training me to move one small step further from timid to brave.
The days are finally getting longer, but it is still pretty dark outside! This weather makes me wonder, “Am I getting enough Vitamin D?” “Should I be taking extra Vitamin C or zinc to ward off winter sniffles?”
The information we get about using vitamins and supplements and herbal remedies can be contradictory and confusing. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine if what we’re reading or viewing is an advertisement or a news item. However, there are trusted resources you can use to find information about vitamins and supplements.
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) is part of the National Institutes of Health. ODS exists to help consumers like you find information about vitamins and dietary supplements, including botanicals. Visit the ODS website to find out what vitamins and supplements have been shown to help with certain health conditions and which have not. You can also find nutrient recommendations (how much of a particular nutrient you need) and fact sheets on many dietary supplements. The website also provides consumer protection information, like safety information and tips on spotting health fraud.
Another great source for information about dietary supplements, botanicals, vitamins, and other alternative or complementary medicine options is MedlinePlus. This website is the National Institutes of Health’s site for patients. Click the Drugs & Supplements button or use the search box to find information on a wide variety of drugs, supplements, and herbals.
MedlinePlus includes information like: what the research says, side effects and warnings, information about how an herb interacts with other medication, and more.
It is a truism in the audiobook world that authors do not make the best narrators. Audiobooks have come a long way since Dylan Thomas sing-songed some of his poems in what is considered to be the first audiobook, produced in 1952 by Caedmon Records.
Audiobooks in the 21st century are more performance than reading, and performance requires different skills than reading aloud. Hence the hesitation about having authors read their own works. At the same time, no one is more familiar with a book than its author, and familiarity can bring out aspects of a story that a professional narrator might overlook. Some authors are memorably bad (unnamed here, click through for a book you should NOT listen to!), but some are surprisingly good, even excellent. Here are a few authors I’d be glad to listen to again:
Neil Gaiman. Absolutely the best author/narrator, his quiet English accent and subtle characterizations make for an entertaining visit to a haunted graveyard (The Graveyard Book) to an alternate London (Neverwhere), or perhaps down at the end of the lane (I’m still waiting for this one!).
Khalid Hosseini. The author reads his debut novel, The Kite Runner, with a sensitivity and emotion that makes it clear that this is a very personal story.
Barbara Kingsolver. With exception of her early books, Kingsolver has read all her work since. Prodigal Summer (2000). Her gentle Southern-tinged voice, along with her clear identification with her female heroines, brings out the humor and pathos of their stories.
Susan Orlean. This writer narrates her most recent book, Rin Tin Tin, in a conversational fashion that makes the listener feel like she’s enjoying a chat with a friend who wants to impart some very interesting information.
Simon Winchester. This prolific master of narrative nonfiction is an excellent reader of his own work, as he delivers a hint of British reserve and irony, fused
with absolute authority and command of his subjects. I enjoyed Krakatoa.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention three author/narrators of books for young adults that are well worth listening to:
Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is a revelation into the mind of his alter-ego, Arnold Spirit, Junior.
Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens is a hilarious romp.
Philip Pullman expertly guides the full-cast performances of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Don’t miss them!
It’s easy to find most of the audiobooks read by the author at MCL. At the Advanced Search page, type “read by the author” (use quotes) and click Search.