Blogs

http://multcolib.tumblr.com/image/60866198248“City of the Book” is a poem that Kim Stafford wrote for the Multnomah County Library, to mark the formation of a new library district on July 1st, 2013. At a celebration that day on the steps of the Central Library, he led the crowd in a reading of the poem.

Kim Stafford reading in front of Central Library

When asked about the experience of writing this poem, Stafford said:

I understand the library as a force of nature--more like a river or an orchard or a lagoon teeming with fish than a box of silent books. The place is alive, bountiful, brimming, spilling treasure of ideas and stories, facts and films, songs and tales for children in all directions. It's a watershed, harvesting rain and feeding everyone. So, to write a poem about such a place is more like turning on the tap than struggling for words. Words flow from libraries, for libraries, for people in libraries. I was just a small part of this bountiful storm of words.

Kim Stafford’s father, William Stafford (1914-1993), spoke at a different library event 30 years ago at the Lake Oswego Library. Lewis & Clark University is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of William Stafford’s birth, and the 2014 statewide Oregon Reads community reading project will focus on his work.

 

There’s lots of ways to measure yourself, and this video tells you some ways to do it.

If you are paying attention to calories, concerned about your weight, planning to exercise, or just want to check how healthy your are, check out these online tools. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) measures the number of calories you burn even if you’re sleeping.  Your Body Mass Index is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight that will help you know if you are under, over or average weight.

You can look up how many calories you burn doing your favorite activities, or how long you should do an activity to lose weight, plus figure out the best exercise to lose weight. If you’re a runner and use a pedometer, you’ll need to measure your step length to figure out how far you run.

Your target heart rate can help you know how hard you should exercise so you can get the most aerobic benefit from your workout.

There are other health calculators you can use, and one that will help you assess your health, exercise, and vulnerability to disease as well. If you need more help, feel free to contact a librarian.

Searching for information on Native American tribes and Native nations? These big web sites may be able to help you.

You can search tribes alphabetically to learn about them, and learn about native languages as well as native culture. Try putting the name of the tribe you are looking for in the search box to see what other information they list, or scroll down to find the names of tribes listed alphabetically.

If you would rather search by location using a map, you can find state-by-state information, covering historic and contemporary information, languages, culture and history.

If you still need more help, contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.

500 Nations is an eight-part documentary that looks back at life in North America before the arrival of the Europeans, then follows the epic struggles of Indian Nations as the continent is reshaped by colonialism and settlers. For older students.

 

Looking for consumer reviews for cars and household products? Try checking Consumer Reports - to get reviews and articles from Consumer Reports for free through the library, follow these steps:
graphic showing how to search MasterFILE Premier for Consumer Reports articles

 

  1. Go to MasterFILE Premier
  2. Click Begin Using This Resource, then enter your full library card number & PIN.
  3. Type your topic in the Search box, for example dishwashers.
  4. Type Consumer Reports in the Publications box.
  5. Click Search.
  6. Click on the PDF Full Text link to view your article.

It’s awards season again!  

What's that you say?   The Grammys aren’t for another 90 or so days and the Oscars aren’t until March? That they haven’t actually announced the winners for the National Book Awards yet?  And the MTV Music Awards have already gone down in infamy for the year?  I say that you aren’t thinking big enough.  It’s Nobel Prize season!  Winners have been announced and the big fancy ceremony isn’t until December, so we still have time to prepare for our Nobel Prize Parties.  

Photo: Graffiti about the Nobel Prize by Quinn DombrowskiFirst awarded in 1901, there were prizes for Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature.  Added to the list in 1968 was The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel which is a bit more of a mouthful. All in all there have been 561 prizes given out to 875 people.  Which seems like a lot until you remember that there are over 7 billion people on the planet right now.

This year’s Economics prize went to three American economists: Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller "for their empirical analysis of asset prices”.  My first two thoughts reading this were “Congrats!” and “Huh?”  I had this vision of scientist working side by side wearing matching lab coats.  As it turns out, it’s all about how markets price things, like stocks and bonds.  And that the scariest thing an economics will probably spill on themselves is coffee, so no lab coats.

Stocks which are explained by a nice video from Investopedia are basically little parts of a company that you buy into. The Stock Market are where people (traders), and computers (big ones!!) buy and sell stocks.   There’s actually a bunch of markets. Wall Street in New York is the one most people hear about, but the idea of everyone getting together and trading actually started in London coffee houses.  The stock market lets you buy little pieces of a company, which gives the company the money to grow their business. This sounds like a really great plan: They get your money, so the company get bigger which means your piece of the company is worth more!  But...   What company?  And what if something goes wrong?  Markets crash when prices people think something is worth gets too far off from reality. What if you pick a company and they don’t make more money?  When to buy? Sell?  Yeah.  I don’t have any answers here.  But Fama, Hansen, and Shiller do!  Sort of, well… Of course, it might have been nice if the answers were the same.

Fama says that you can’t use the past to predict the future.  What happened to a stock last week will not tell you what the price will be next week and that the markets take in and react to new information so quickly it doesn’t really change much for very long.  This isn’t a bad thing and when markets are working well, they look really random because everything is swept along so fast prices bounce around.    And then Shiller came along to say that you can predict the future: but only from a distance.  Because people aren’t as cool and reasonable as economists want us to be it takes a while for things to work out. If you look at what a stock is doing- the price vs. the dividend (the payout you get on the stock), you can tell where it is heading 3 to 5 years from now.  

Photo Ticker board by Frank GruberAnd where does Hansen fit in? He created a model (as in a math not fashion) called the Generalized Method of Moments that actually make both Fama and Shiller make sense at the same time.  

So why is this such a big deal?  Because it changed how people think about economics and markets.  It opened new ways to research and gave real human emotions and actions a place.  It changed how people actually buy and sell things in the stock market.  They changed how we see the world.  And that, sooner or later, will change your life.

Do you want to more than we covered here?  Contact a librarian!

In 2011, the  United States Department of Agriculture replaced the idea of the Food Pyramid with My Plate ,which gives you a plan to figure out what you need to eat to be healthy. But not everyone agreed that My Plate represented healthy eating habits. Healthy Eating Plate vs. USDA Eating Plate argues that the USDA plan was influenced by political and commercial pressures from food industry lobbyists. They said that their plan, created by experts at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, is better because it’s based on science.

 

There are also food pyramids created to represent Latino, Asian, African Heritage and Mediterranean Diet food cultures. Which ones match the way you eat? If you need more help researching diet and nutrition, feel free to contact a librarian.

 

Photo of pills and bottle (by Sponge, via Wikimedia Commons)Have you noticed that you’re paying different prices for the same medication, depending on where you buy it? Drug prices are not consistent from store to store and it can be really hard to find information on pricing. One resource you can use to find prescription drug prices is called GoodRx.

GoodRx is free to use; the site is funded by advertisements and fees from pharmacies and discount providers. Enter the name of your medication and your city or zip code, and click the Find the Lowest Price button. From the next screen, you can choose whether you’d like to see generic or name-brand prices and you can choose the dosage and the quantity. You can also limit your results by type of pharmacy; do you need a pharmacy that’s open 24 hours? That delivers by mail?

Consumer Reports “Best Buy Drugs” project (a tool that allows you to search by drug or condition, and recommends “best buy” drugs based on their effectiveness, safety, side effects, and cost) tested the GoodRx mobile app (which is available for iPhone and Android devices) and found that it did retrieve the lowest price (of two tested apps) for the cholesterol-lowering drug, Lipitor.

If you need more information about a drug or supplement, have a look at MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine’s consumer health information site. You can find information on drug and food interactions with your medication, generic/brand names for a drug, side effects and more.

Information from these sites can help you stay informed, but you should include your health care professional in any medication decisions.

Questions? We are always happy to help!  Just Ask the Librarian.

Breaking Chains book jacketGuest blogger Rae Richen’s short stories, poetry and articles have appeared in anthologies of Northwest authors, in Pacific Northwest newspapers and in Writers’ Northwest Handbook. She has taught junior high, high school students and adults since the ice age, and has always been impressed with the wide-ranging curiosity and the persistent search for answers among her students. Her newest book, Uncharted Territory is written for young adults and adults who enjoy a triumph of life over fear.

Breaking Chains: Slavery on trial in the Oregon Territory, by R. Gregory Nokes is an important addition to Oregon’s history. For three generations, my mixed-race family has known that Oregon’s legal relationship with its African American citizens was rocky, but details were elusive. Much of Oregon supported an apartheid-like atmosphere well into the 1960s. When my children and my students ask for specifics, I can now give a more complete answer. I can offer them Breaking Chains.

This untold part of Oregon’s history came to Nokes’s attention because a former slave was mentioned in his family genealogy. Nokes soon learned that Oregon, though admitted to the union as a free state, also tolerated slaveholding and had a constitution that supported a ban on African Americans. Its citizens voted for pro-slavery politicians, including the first territorial governor. Even when slavery was opposed by white Oregonians, it was often for reasons more self-preserving than selfless.

Nokes’s deep research, his interviews of slave’s descendants and his incisive story-telling style delves into the history of Robin Holmes who, with great perseverance, successfully sued his owner for his freedom, and of Reuben Shipley who was forced to choose between remaining near his enslaved family in Missouri and his tenuous hope of freedom in Oregon. There is a wealth of information about the life of Oregon’s early African Americans in Breaking Chains.

Welcome to the world of banned books.  Use this guide to learn about censorship, the First Amendment, and challenged or banned books. 

Censored StampWhat is Censorship?  According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), censorship is when words, images, or ideas are blocked or removed because someone finds them offensive.  When an item is removed, we say it's been "banned".  Banned Books On-Line is an exhibit of books that have been the objects of censorship or censorship attempts.  It includes the classics Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  A "challenge" is an attempt to remove or restrict access to books and other materials.

Why do we care if a book is banned?  The American Library Association (ALA) views a challenge or ban as a "threat to freedom of speech and choice", freedoms that are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.  Watch the video below for a short description of the First Amendment.  To see more short videos about Congress, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, check out the Facts of Congress youtube channel or read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and more at the government archives: The Charters of Freedom.

How does a book get removed?  When a person or group decides that a book is not appropriate, a request is made to the library to remove the book or restrict access to it.  The leaders of the library review the challenge and decide how to respond.  Although many books are challenged, very few are actually removed.  Find lists of challenged books at the ALA's Frequently Challenged Books.

Why does a book get challenged or banned?  The National Coalition Against Censorship says books are challenged, censored and banned for many different reasons.  Some of the most common include:

  • Profanity:  Books are often challenged for the language they contain.  A good example is Captain Underpants and its sequels by Dav Pilkey.
  • Sex:  Parents and schools have challenged books for certain sexual passages.  Works such as It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman have frequently been challenged.
  • Violence:  Objections to violent content are often based on the idea that these books make violence okay.  Books challenged as too violent include Scary Stories to tell in the Dark and its sequels by Alvin Schwartz.
  • Religion:  Today, parents and ministers often object to works which discuss topics such as sex, evolution, or witchcraft or occult themes.  An example of this is The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Did this get you started?  If you need more help, just ask a librarian!

On October 28, 2013, the governors of Oregon, Washington, California, and the premier of British Columbia announced they had agreed to a set of shared goals for the region to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change, called the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy.

Although the plan is not legally binding, it says that Oregon will, among other things, set a price on carbon emissionsestablish a target for reducing carbon emissions, encourage the use of zero-emission vehicles and the design of "net-zero" buildings. 

In 2012, the Union of Concerned Scientists produced Cooler Smarter: practical steps for low-carbon living, which "shows you how to cut your own global warming emissions by twenty percent or more."

Hank Green of the popular Crash Course and Vlogbrothers series explains five human impacts on the environment:

 

 

MLA Handbook coverDoes your writing assignment require that you follow a particular style of citation, such as MLA, APA, or Chicago? Or are you writing for a particular discipline, industry or audience? Perhaps you are wondering: why are there so many different forms of citations?!?

A style guide (also known as a stylebook or handbook) is a set of standards for writing and document organization. These are used for different kinds of writing - academic, journalism, business, and so on. Each style guide sets out guidelines for writing and documentation of research in the discipline in question, and (perhaps most famously) they tend to be chock-full of really specific rules for formatting and punctuating citations.

Where to turn for authoritative advice on writing style and citation? Try these guides for writing for specific disciplines:

 

Academic writing tends to be guided by either the MLA, Chicago (or Turabian), or APA styles.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is often used for high school and undergraduate students, while the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing is geared toward graduate students, writers and researchers in the humanities.

The Chicago Manual of Style, created by the University of Chicago Press, is used in editing and publishing as well as academia. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers by Kate L. Turabian (sometimes you'll hear people refer to “Turabian style”) guides undergraduate and graduate student writing, but perhaps more for coursework than for publication. Turabian style is based on Chicago style, and almost identical to it.

The Concise Rules of APA Style is the go-to guide for students and researchers in the social and behavioral sciences, particularly above the undergraduate level and for published work.

 

There are also style guides for different professional writing disciplines.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law is the standard used by newspapers and the news industry in the United States.

The Gregg Reference Manual is the style guide for business, both for professionals and students.  

The Elements of Legal Style is a handy guide to legal writing, based somewhat on Strunk and White’s classic text on writing style (see below). Citation in legal writing is complicated, because different courts have different requirements for citation. Most of the various forms of legal citations are based on the Bluebook system, which is described in the book Legal Writing Citation in a Nutshell, by Larry L. Teply.

The Yahoo Style Guide for the Web is a great resource if you’re writing for the web.  

 

Not sure what you need, or perhaps your classes require that you use different citation formats… a guide that covers the different styles might be useful to you:

A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker contains extensive advice about grammar and academic writing style, in addition to citation guides for MLA, APA, and Chicago style.

Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More by Charles Lipson focuses on citations, including many different styles.

Last but definitely not least, try out the OWL - Online Writing Lab from Purdue University. It’s a free online resource that covers academic citations formats (MLA, APA, Chicago) as well as a wealth of information about general writing, grammar, research, job search writing, ESL, and more. In short, it’s rather amazing.

 

Above I mentioned Strunk and White's classic guide to writing, The Elements of Style,​ which is a guide to language usage and form (not citations). It continues to be a great resource, and is freely available online via Bartleby. For other guides to writing, grammar, and composition, see our blog post about improving your writing skills.


As always, please feel free to ask a librarian if you have questions - we’re always happy to help with research, citations, and writing projects!

The City of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is developing the Comprehensive Plan, a long-range plan for the growth and development of Portland through 2035. The public review draft of the Comprehensive Plan is being published in two parts. Working Draft Part 1 was published in January 2013 and contained the draft goals and policies. Working Draft Part 2 is now available for public review and consists of two products:

  1. The online Map App, an interactive series of maps showing the geography and location of various policy proposals. For example, the “storm water areas of concern” mapshows areas that have both a potential for new development and significant stormwater management constraints.

  1. The Citywide Systems Plan, a 20-year, coordinated infrastructure plan for the City of Portland. It updates the City of Portland’s Public Facilities Plan, which was last done 24 years ago in 1989.

All Multnomah County Library locations, except for Gresham, Troutdale and Fairview, have been given a binder which contains a one-page overview of this Map App and a copy of the Citywide Systems Plan. This binder is available for public review and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability are accepting comments until December 31, 2013.

More information on the Comprehensive Plan, as well as how and where to give feedback, can be found on the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability website.

Have you ever wanted to be invisible? What if you didn’t want to be invisible and you were? That’s what happens to Clover Hobart. One morning she wakes up and she is invisible.

It doesn’t help that she is 55-plus woman and already invisible in society’s eyes. Even her family is oblivious to the fact that she is invisible. The only one who notices is her best friend, who tries to help Clover in her non-visible adventures.

Calling Invisible Women is a clever and hilarious new book by Jeanne Ray. It’s a thought-provoking look at women of a certain age in our society and one of my favorite novels.  

Kids these days. Back in the day we walked to school and didn't have cell phones to call home and report, "mom, come get me - there's a zombie following me!" But that was okay, because zombies back then could only shamble along at a mile an hour and it was easy to outrun them. And the vampires? They were a lot more polite back then. They'd only come into your house if you invited them, and what dork would do that?
 
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown jacketFiend bookjacket
Nowadays, you have your fancy schmancy running zombies and your political activist-type vampires. The undead just aren't what they used to be. Don't believe me? Take a look at this list of hipster horrors.
 
Tana wakes up at a party to find all her friends dead and her boyfriend infected with vampirism, necessitating a trip to Coldtown, home of vampires and their infected human pets.
Some people look on the zombie apocalypse with horror, but for meth-head Chase, zombies are just one more impediment to getting that next fix. One reviewer calls it Trainspotting for the Walking Dead crowd.
 
In the early days of the zombie apocalypse, a family stumbles upon a dead mother and her baby, also dead - undead, that is. Defying all mythological convention, baby Stony starts to grow and as he does, causes awkward situations for the family that adopted him.
 
Teenage angst, uptight parents and family dysfunction are all so much worse when you have to hide your true nature.
 
Like other zombies, R. feeds on humans, not only for sustenance but to absorb their memories. When he eats the brains of a teenaged boy, heHusk bookjacket falls in love with the boy's girlfriend. This is a book for those who wonder what zombies think about. And hey, if nothing grosses you out, it's also a movie.
 
Boyfriend troubles, an empty bank account, and several auditions gone disasterously wrong, but that's the least of Sheldon's troubles. How will he get his big break when he's falling apart - literally.

The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) is currently hosting the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes. We here at the library love Sherlock Holmes! He’s detail-oriented and excellent at making connections - some of our favorite traits - and his amazing tales have brought the love of reading to hundreds of thousands of people all over the planet!

It all began with Arthur Conan Doyle back in 1886 and more than 120 years later, Holmes is still going strong. Not only are tales of his adventures found in novels, but also in comics, movies, television shows and even the Broadway stage.

We’ve created a reading/watching/listening list for all Sherlock fans (or soon to be fans) and we would love to hear about your favorite Sherlock stories in the comments.

Want more recommendations of stories involving famous sleuths (or anything else)? Go ahead and ask a detail-oriented and connection-making librarian!

Elizabeth T. Kinney (from Smithsonian collection)Now that I have a niece, I have become even more aware of the amazing female role models that can inspire her to learn and succeed in whatever way she chooses. Women have been instrumental in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) since ancient times (Hello, Hypatia!). Children have survived leukemia because of the work of Nobel Prize winner Gertrude B. Elion. Mathmetician Katherine G. Johnson calculated the flight trajectory for the first American to go into space in 1959. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if not for the work of Grace Hopper, who advanced computers beyond binary. Yet we still tend to think of the accomplishments in these fields as belonging almost exclusively to men.

Ada Lovelace Day, happening this year on October 15, 2013, aims to change that. Named after early programmer Ada Lovelace, Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This year’s events include lectures, meet-ups, and a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to edit and create Wikipedia entries on women who have made significant contributions to the STEM fields.

In honor of my niece and all of the other young girls (and boys) in my life who might design the vaccine or software that changes the world, I am celebrating this week by learning and spreading the word about women in STEM past and present. The Anita Borg Institute has some fascinating profiles of women in technology; Eastern Illinois University rounds up biographies of women in science and Agnes Scott College brings us bios of women mathematicians through history; and I can’t get enough of this amazing set of photographs of women in science from the Smithsonian.

And I definitely got schooled watching this epic rap battle between Rosalind Franklin and Watson and Crick. (Don’t miss the shoutout to Shirley Anne Jackson at 2:27!)

Want to learn more? Check out the incredible reads below or contact a librarian. And let us know about your favorite woman in STEM in the comments!

Helping to Create New Americans

by Donna Childs

Photo of Bryan and Maya McGowanThe purpose of these spotlights is to recognize a few of the many wonderful volunteers at the Multnomah County library, so of course, they feature glowing tributes to deserving people.  Even given that, I came away from meeting Bryan and Maya McGowan especially delighted by both of them and impressed with the Multnomah County Library itself.  Bryan and Maya are volunteer instructors in the library’s citizenship classes, a program of six-session classes for immigrants who are studying to pass the United States citizenship examination.

I am impressed with the library for offering such classes. While it may come under the rubric of good citizenship and of promoting literacy, it nonetheless seems a step beyond what might be expected.  Bryan and Maya belong to a cadre of volunteers who teach citizenship classes throughout the library system. Classes focus on preparing for the history, government, and civics portion of the exam, known as the 100 questions, as well as English proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking. The library also provides all the other resources that participants need. Furthermore, the library offers numerous language-learning resources, as well as bilingual staff, books in many languages, conversation circles for English learners (Talk Time), and “amazing online resources for learning English,” according to Bryan. (In a recent year, 27,246 county residents attended 1,843 such programs.)  In 2011, Multnomah County Library received a National Association of Counties Achievement Award for its attention to immigrant communities.

Bryan and Maya bring understanding, commitment and enthusiasm to their task of teaching the citizenship classes.  A passionate, dedicated immigration lawyer, Bryan began his involvement with the citizenship classes as a visiting legal expert at one session and now teaches the six-session classes. An immigrant from Russia, Maya not only brings first-hand experience from her own naturalization, but has also taught English as a second language in Russia. She is now pursuing a master’s degree at PSU to continue teaching in this country.  Together, they share these talents and experiences as they guide new Americans from uncertainty to confidence as they navigate the process of naturalization.

"I couldn't believe our good fortune when not only Bryan, but his wife Maya volunteered to teach citizenship classes," said Melissa Madenski, interim coordinator for adult literacy programs at the library.  "They bring a richness of activities, skills and understanding to the safe environment they create as teachers.  Plus, they are just plain fun to be around!" she added. Bravo, Bryan and Maya (and all the other citizenship instructors), and Bravo, Multnomah County Library!

A Few Facts About Bryan and Maya

Home library: North Portland Library

Currently reading:

Bryan -- The Complete Short Novels by Anton Chekhov

Maya --  Petersburg by Andrey Bely and Gipsovy Trubach by Yuriy Poliakov (in Russian)

Most influential book:

Bryan -- Another Way of Telling by John Berger and Jean Mohr

Maya -- The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Favorite book from childhood:

Maya -- Again it's a Russian book - Dinka by Valentina Oseeva

A book that made you laugh or cry:

Bryan -- The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Maya -- City of Thieves by David Benioff - this book made me laugh and cry.

Favorite section of the library:

Bryan -- History

Maya -- Children's, gardening, and foreign language (Russian in particular if the library has it)

E-reader or paper book?

Bryan -- Paper books

Maya -- I am definitely a paper book reader.

Favorite reading guilty pleasure:

Bryan -- with whiskey

Maya -- Reading detectives. However, it's been quite a while since I read one.

Favorite place to read:

Bryan -- At work!

Maya -- On the couch in the living room

Sometimes I think it would be great to be the Queen of England. Having staff at your beck and call to cook and clean for you and drive you wherever you need to go, the trips to exotic locales, the lovely palaces and castles to live in - it just doesn't get any better. But there are definite downsides: the paparazzi, people constantly judging your every decision, and the daily round of obligations to meet (and meet with a smile). It's just so exhausting!

In Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn, Queen Elizabeth is tired. She's well past eighty years old, she's had some pretty significant stresses in the last few decades (children's divorces, Diana's death, Windsor Castle burning, the decommissioning of Britannia, the Royal Yacht) and now the final indignity: no more Royal Train for Her Majesty's use. The expense, she's been told, is just too great. So on one dreary winter day, Queen Elizabeth is thinking of Britannia, one of her favorite things, and takes the opportunity to slip out (mostly) unobserved and take the train to Scotland where the yacht is moored. What ensues is a wonderful story of the palace staff who care about Queen Elizabeth and a portrait of a monarch nearing the end of her long and largely successful reign.

Other people have imagined Queen Elizabeth II's life in books and film. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett examines the person the Queen becomes when she starts reading books from the local bookmobile. The film The Queen takes a look at the royal response to Diana's death.

If you, too, think it would be good to be queen, enjoy this film and these books and see if you change your mind!

 

This post contains high levels of drugs, crime, and lawyers. What we may be missing is quite enough justice…

Statue of Lady Justice

How often do we hear the words of the Miranda Warning, You have the right to remain silent; you have the right to an attorney in our favorite cop shows?  Usually, that’s where the show ends. And yet the real story is only beginning. 

I admit I really don’t spend much time thinking about criminals or lawyers, except to avoid them.  So when Attorney General Holder gave a speech to the American Bar Association  last month about how we send people to prison, saying that “as a nation, we are coldly efficient” at putting people in prison and that “we must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is in too many respects broken”, I had only a vague idea of what he was talking about. Turns out it is all about numbers: The number of prisoners, the number of years they are in prison, the number of cases that public defenders have, and the money we spend as a nation.  The forces at play?  Mandatory minimum sentencing and the 6th amendment’s right to an attorney.

The right to an attorney can be found in the Bill of Rights. Our modern idea of it is from the case Gideon vs. Wainright:  When Clarence Gideon was tried for stealing $55 dollars and breaking into a pool hall the State of Florida told him they didn’t have to give him an attorney.  He was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and used that time to change the legal system

Mandatory minimum sentencing says there are crimes people shouldn’t serve less than a set amount of time for.  They aren’t new- the minimum sentence for the killing a meat inspector was set in 1907- life in prison or the death sentence.  (That's the year after Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published.)  Then in the mid 80s and 90s sentences were set for a wide range of drug crimes.  The effect?  The U.S. now has the highest prison population in the world, but not in any equal sort of way, and we spend huge amounts of money ($80 billion in 2010) locking people up.  

Sing-Sing Prison in the early 20th century

When people are sent to prison for set amounts of time no matter the situation, things just get weird.  And don’t let me forget the Cooperation Paradox: the more involved you are in a criminal enterprise, the more information you have to bargain with- meaning that the criminals who are the guiltiest get the lighter sentences.  

So, two very different parts of the legal system.  What happens when they collide? Nothing good.  There are too many people in the system for the number of public defenders.  Many people never actually see their lawyer- or a trial.  In a wonderful if curse laden interview by John Oliver with the director of the documentary “Gideon’s Army” Dawn Porter they explain better than I ever could

Steve Edgar, Prison number 21655

So let’s head back to where we started: Holder’s speech for the Smart on Crime Initiative.  The gist of the initiative is that by focusing on prosecuting the most serious of criminals and not snaring everyone else in mandatory minimum sentencing crimes, the Department of Justice will be able spend money and effort elsewhere, saving people from the system and the system from the burden of all those people.  It’s pragmatic and surprisingly readable.  Changing the laws will literally take an Act of Congress, but the U.S. Attorneys can choose how to charge people.  Will it work?  I can’t tell you that.  I’m a librarian not a seer.  But we can hope for the best.

Curious to know more?  Check out the Reading and Viewing List on the subject or ask us a question!

So I'm pretty sure when a six-year-old asks if the babies just "explode out of their moms' stomachs" when they're born, the officially sanctioned and appropriately parental answer is not, "Well, yeah.  It's kind of a mess." To follow that terrible answer with an intentional subject change like, "Check out this kick!  Do I look like a ninja?" is probably enough to get me placed into some sort of mommy lock-down until I can be re-educated by guards named Spock, Leach, and Brazelton.

Luckily it's back-to-school time and I can again place my children's formal education in the capable hands of skilled professionals. Child the Elder's wailing and gnashing of teeth over school starting again was probably heard from space. After the children went to sleep on that dreaded and fateful eve, I joined the rest of the school-age parental demographic in the ritual night-before-school celebratory margarita. This night should probably be a recognized and formal holiday, like Mardi Gras. As Mardi Gras marks the sober beginning of Lent, we have a long school year ahead of us to attempt to make our children lunches they will actually eat or rip our hair out over projects requiring posters, costumes, and sonnets written in perfect iambic pentameter. In the face of all this, one night to party is not too much to ask.

As summer faJiro Dreams of Sushi jacketdes in the rear view mirror, it is good to be reminded that we are never too old to learn. One of the best movies I watched in between SpongeBob SquarePants and Brady Bunch marathons was Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about an amazing 85 year old sushi chef and his tiny three-star Michelin rated restaurant (the first of its kind) in a Tokyo subway station. This quiet movie is simultaneously a feast for the eyes and a meditation on work and family that should not be missed. Jiro's story had both me and my 11 year old riveted from beginning to end (which is saying something for a subtitled documentary with an 85 year old subject containing no chase sequences, explosions, time travel or animated sea sponges.) Jiro's wildly successful restaurant career is countered by his and his sons' musings on what price that success exacted from his parenting.

If you aBarbarian Nurseries jacketre a parent, you have entertained a fantasy about running away from it all. What happens when you decide to take a break from parenting and family life without properly informing all the parties involved? The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar examines this question through a lens of class and culture in southern California when the mistakes of one family become front-page tabloid news. Inexplicably left alone with Scott and Maureen's two boys, live-in maid Araceli takes them on a journey to Los Angeles which changes all their lives forever.

As all parents learn, the miseries of parenting are relative. We welcome new parents into the club without bothering to haze them, because we know the children will haze all the new members for us. (You know you are on the relative-misery scale when you are happy you only had to get up with a baby two times last night instead of three or four.) As a parent reading Jim Gaffigan's book Dad Is Fat , the first thing I thougDad is Fat bookjacketht was at least I don't have five kids under the age of eight. In a two-bedroom apartment in New York. That guy is up a certain creek without a certain piece of necessary boating equipment.

But of course, he is not. He is another parenting voice in the wilderness, proclaiming how our kids are our frustrating and adorable crucibles, slowly and painfully refining us into better, if more exhausted, people. We know there are good answers out there and maybe we can come up with them if only someone will let us take a nap. Because this is due tomorrow. And I need a costume.

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