Blogs

The Girl with the Dragon TattooI’ve been reading Scandinavian mysteries for years (even before The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo burst onto the international scene). I’ve always been drawn to the dark, murderous mayhem in these books, but I’ve also wondered about the crimes that abound in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic mystery books. Are there really so many violent occurrences in those cold climes? Or is it rather that all of those sunless days of winter just breed writers searching in the dark for soulless murderers?

Since I spend my days at the library, I decided to do a bit of research on this. First, looking at crime statistics in those countries, I compiled this chart from statistics in 2012:

Homicides per 100,000 people rate

population

Iceland 1 0.3 320,137
Denmark 47 0.9 5.59 million
Sweden 91 1.0 9.517 million
Finland 118 2.2 5.414 million
Norway 111 2.3 5.019 million

Okay, compared to the  U.S. (14,612 per 100,000 for the rate of 4.7!), Scandinavians are a peaceful people. In terms of sheer numbers, the United State is the ninth most murderous country. Yes, there are tons of books set in this country about horrific murders and violence but sheesh, there was only 1 murder in Iceland in 2012 (or possibly up to 3, I couldn’t find the actual number),but I counted at least 20 murders set in Iceland written by their popular authors.

I can only think that those long, dark winters create the perfect atmosphere to spin tales of violence. Here are some of the Scandinavian mysteries I’ve curled up with during Portland’s long, rainy winters. Skal!

 

Blogs tend to lend themselves as a platform for books. It is a natural forum for sharing book reviews, what you’re reading now, and learning about new books you might be interested in reading next. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites who all just happen to be British…

Rachel at BookSnob is a voracious and serious reader, who has thankfully been slowed slightly by her duties as a new(ish) literature teacher to a group of sometimes apathetic students. She also shares stories and pictures of her weekend explorations of her beloved England. I stumbled upon her blog through LibraryThing, which is another handy tool for the bookish crowd. I use it more as a means to catalogue my books, but there are plenty of reviews and chances to discover new titles.

Persephone Books is not a blog, rather it is a publisher of classic grey paperback novels. They re-publish neglected titles by women, for women, and about women that have gone out of print. Their claim is that “the books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking, and impossible to forget.” This forum is a book club of sorts. Each month a book from the Persephone Press catalogue is chosen and discussed.  

Dove Grey Reader is another one of those insatiable consumers of the written word.  She always has a list of titles she’s currently reading and anticipating, plus what she’s watching or listening to at the moment. 

Honorable mentions go to Simon over at Stuck in a Book who has very similar reading tastes to myself but brings a male perspective to the table, Jane over at FleurFisher, and to the now defunct blog by Verity where she catalogued her read through the entire Virago Modern Classic canon.

How will you find your next book?

Eric works at Central Library and is reading The Female Man by Joanna Russ.  "It reminds me that Sci-Fi can actually warp minds and beg questions that will never be easily answered.  Who can resist a radical feminist take on gender destabilization, utopia and forms of resistance? The novel is somewhat demanding in its break with straightforward narration but commitment pays off.  It's also very funny."

Are you going to school and need money, but feeling overwhelmed by the thought of where to begin?  Your Scholarship Application Guide was developed by Portland Community College staff to make the scholarship search and application process easier for you.  This guide outlines much of what you need to know including an explanation of what a scholarship is, reasons why you should apply, the scholarship time cycle, links to where you can search for them, and much more to help you get started!  Understanding the scholarship application process is the first step toward continuing your education without breaking the bank to do it.

Happy scholarship hunting!

 

 
Kate is reading Thomas Jefferson: Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything. She finds that it is full of facts both small (the number of windows at Monticello) and large (the ownership of people).

Elizabeth Blackwell - first woman physicianLadies! Your health issues are different from those of the males in your life. Luckily, there are lots of resources around to help you learn more about your health.  

Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration has a page devoted to women? You can find information about medicine and pregnancy, heart health and women (did you know that women can experience the signs of a heart attack in different ways than men?) and much more.

The National Institutes of Health includes an Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), which partners with the other 27 National Institutes and Centers to “ensure that women’s health research is part of the scientific framework at the NIH—and throughout the scientific community.”

The ORWH has partnered with the National Library of Medicine to create a women’s health resources portal that links to many resources, including information for women veterans, the ORWH’s Primer for Women’s Health, alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse resources, information on exercise and fitness, and much more.

Womenshealth.gov is a site created by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH). Follow the OWH blog for up to date news and thoughts on womens’ health, search for information, or browse health topics A - Z. This site is also available in Spanish.

OWH also maintains a site for girls ages 10 - 16. At girlshealth.gov, girls can learn about health, fitness, nutrition, bullying, and more.

MedlinePlus, the National Institute of Health’s consumer website, is a great place to go for health information. The site contains a wealth of information about women’s health, including information on specific conditions, stages of life, prevention, and more. The site is also available in Spanish, and contains information about women’s health in Chinese (traditional) and Korean.

Multnomah County has a women’s services page, too, as well as a pregnancy resources page.  

cover image of joy harjo books

Science can be fun, and one of the most practical ways to start having fun with science is by creating a science fair project. Ready to get started? These free resources will make your project easy.

First, here are a couple websites with information about science projects in general.

Basics of science projects:
Science Buddies has assembled science fair project ideas, answers, and tools.

How to do a science fair project:
This is an informative video series from NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory.

Jet Propulsion Lab logo.

 

 

You can get ideas for your science projects at these websites, which feature weather and climate change.

Climate change activities:
National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The focus here is mainly on atmospheric issues. The site includes a section on climate change, with projects and data about climate change.

Science Fair project research guide:
Internet Public Library project guide.
Contains step by step guide to getting started, choosing a topic, completing the project and displaying it. The section on choosing a topic has lots of great ideas to get you started.

 

Today's Science science project parg is illustrated here.

 

 

 

You can also consult a database like Today’s Science. You will need your library card number and PIN to log in from home. Clicl on the Resources drop down to find the Science Fair guide. This database, from Facts on File, is for high school and older students. It contains suggestions for developing a hypothesis, an experiment and repeatable outcomes for your science project.

 

Remember, if you need help, you can ask a librarian, either online, or at your neighborhood library.

 

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.

 

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? 

 


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.

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