Blogs: Adults

“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” We’ve all seen and heard that ad on TV. But if you decide to get a medical alert device, or are helping an older friend or relative get one, you might be ready to scream “Help! I need a device but can’t decide which one to get!”

Here’s some tips to make things easier. First, make a list of features you want the medical alert to have. The Federal Trade Commission has some good advice about things to consider. An article called “Personal Emergency Response Systems” from CRS – Adult Health Advisor (June 2012) also gives a checklist of possible concerns [ Note: to read the article, you may have to enter your library card number and PIN]. This blog post from Huffington Post, Post 50 examines three major designs and providers of each kind.

It’s hard to find unbiased reviews. For example, AARPseems to recommend ADT Companion Service, offering a discount to members, but if they are profiting on these sales, their endorsement might not be unbiased. 

Luckily, Consumer Reports did this unbiased online comparison in 2015. And in 2014, Consumer Reports Magazine also published some unbiased information in their articles "Should You Buy a Medical Alert System?" and "How to Pick a Medical Alert System."  [ Note: to read these articles, you may have to enter your library card number and PIN]. 

Also, Lawserver Online RatingLab’s comparison of medical alerts provides product reviews, advice about comparing them and a ratings chart. You can also go to the Better Business Bureau and do a search for “medical alarms” limited to your zip code, to find how they’ve rated local services.

If you are trying to help an older person who lives out of state, you might also want to find out what is available to them locally. You can use this eldercare locator to find agencies where they live, that can help you.

Be wary of phone salespeople, and online ads; there are lots of scams out there. The resources we’ve listed should help you find a reliable device that will work for you.  Need more help? Contact a librarian and we'll be glad to help. 

 

Stari most or The Old Bridge in Mostar, Herzegovina

I have been dreaming of the cobble-stoned streets of Mostar lately, the roads that lead to the Old Bridge arched above the icy blue waters of the Neretva.  I’ve been losing myself in the reminiscence of sleek winter coats warming young people crowding into hip sidewalk lounges and basement bars beneath neo-gothic facades in Sarajevo.  I miss Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I miss the friendly faces on survivors of terrors past and present; I miss the perseverance and the courage.  I miss my friends, young children during the war, that work long hours at NGOs to bring a fractured society back together amid 40% unemployment and politicians that often refuse to work together to provide even the most basic services.

Bosnia is a crossroads, a meeting place of Slavic people culturally influenced by both the Roman and Ottoman Empires, and so much more than a war following the disintegration of Yugoslavia.  Here are some great library materials to expand your knowledge of this beautiful country that rarely gets a fair shake.

Louise Erdrich keeps getting better and better. Reading her new book, LaRose, I was awed by how the stories seem to bubble out of her in such interesting, complex profusion.

The main story is a tragic one, so tragic that it almost made me decide not to read this book. There are two families connected by blood and friendship, and both have sons who are five years old. One of the fathers is out hunting and accidentally shoots and kills his friends’ son. To atone, he decides to give his own son to the other family.

That’s where it starts, but there’s so much more. These families’ stories connect to the stories of other people in their community and to the stories of their Ojibwe ancestors. And all of these well-developed characters are voiced on the audiobook by Erdrich herself, who is perhaps the best audiobook narrator ever. Her quiet voice is just plain lovely to have in your earbuds, and she wholly captures the different characters’ voices, their humor and heart.

It’s a special experience, when writers read their own books for the audio version, and especially when they read them brilliantly. You’ll find more wonderful audiobooks read by their authors on this list. Please let me know if there are titles I’ve missed that should be on it.
 

Dana and John are the masterminds behind Minimalist Baker, a Portland blog dedicated to simple, plant-based and gluten-free cooking. Dana is the recipe developer, and John handles all-things technical. We asked Dana a few questions about books, reading and food, and here's what she said:

The cookbook I can’t live without is ...

I am honestly not a big cookbook user and typically search for recipes online. However, the one I find myself going back to is My New Roots by Sarah Britton. It has so much helpful information about how to soak grains, nuts and seeds, and how to handle and prepare foods on a very foundational level. Plus, the recipes are seasonal and gorgeous!

If I could have dinner with any author it would be...

Anne Lamott. I’ve read most of her books and they’ve taught me so much about life, writing and faith.

I would serve...

I think I would serve my Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes from the blog. They’re a classic, so filling, and entirely plant ­based! One of my all­ time favorites.

The last thing I learned from reading was...

That I should wear a sleep mask to improve the quality and the amount of sleep I get (from the The Body Book by Cameron Diaz).

My guilty pleasure book is...

I don’t know that I have a guilty pleasure book, but I’m always reading up on health and diet and my favorite among that group is Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men and Discovering Myself.

My favorite thing about the library is....

The smell. Ha! I love the smell of books. I also love that there is so much knowledge at my fingertips when I’m there.

Cover image of Love Saves The Day   
     "If there's a cure for this
       I don't want it
       Don't want it
       If there's a remedy
       I'll run from it
       From it"

If you ask many people what the term "disco" conjures, you'll likely hear about drugs, excess, sex, celebrity and exclusive parties/clubs - not to mention the questionable fashions, the quintessential hairstyles and the inevitable accusations of artificiality and inauthenticity  (anyone remember "Disco Sucks"?).

But disco was a complex musical and cultural set of coordinates that originally emerged from the economic, sexual and racial peripheries of early 1970s New York City.  Tim Lawrence's Love Saves The Day - a definitive and exhaustive intervention in cultural history - uncovers these radical roots in eye-opening detail.  Lawrence draws upon a ton of archival material and interviews with many of the (surviving) primary players to construct a wonderful narrative that should appeal to anyone fascinated by the intersections of the social, economic and cultural in the 1970s. Lawrence documents the founding of David Mancuso's legendary Loft and tracks the myriad divergent strands forward that ultimately lead to the dead end of Studio 54 and the mass burning of disco LPs in Chicago's Comiskey Park.

Especially of interest for pop music aficionados (disco touched just about every pop musical genre that followed), sound junkies, and anyone curious about the complex intersections between sexuality, technology, music and politics. 

And for your dancing pleasure, here's a playlist featuring some of the best music of the period:
 











Princeless book jacketKids these days.  They get the best books!  Sometimes we get the best recommendations from patrons.  Even when they're only 7 or 8 years old!  I'm pretty sure I would have adored these graphic novels as a little girl because, I've got to admit, I really liked them as an adult. Princeless tells the story of a young princess whose father locks her up in a dragon guarded tower to await rescue by a prince.  She's having none of this. She promptly rescues herself and steals a dragon so she can have adventures instead of meekly awaiting a future spouse.  After listening to a young fan sing the praises of this series, I put book one on hold to read for myself and I'm glad I did! It's a charming adventure with some clever jokes for older readers hidden in it.

The Courageous Princess is a gentle story with a fairytale feel to it. Mabelrose is kidnapped from her loving parents, the king and queenThe Courageous Princess book jacket of a tiny humble kingdom. She manages to keep her head in the face of danger and escapes from her captor while, unknowing of this, her father sets out to try to save her.  Mabelrose has traditional fairytale virtues of modesty, loyalty and so on. She saves herself from each new problem she faces while trying to get home by doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Princess Ugg is meant for a somewhat older audience than the first two titles. Princess Ülga is a barbarian warrior princess who, on the wish of her dead mother, goes to a school for princesses in the "civilized" lands  so she can learn about her clan's neighbors. Her mother hoped that perhaps what she learned would halt the endless fighting in her homeland through diplomacy. The noble born girls from gentler lands do not understand Ülga and mock her appearance and behavior endlessly.

These titles are a great deal of fun and a quick distraction (and from an adult's perspective pretty sweet and charming) with young heroines who don't need someone to rescue them.

Amazons book jacketA figure emerges from the dusky grasslands of the steppe. She rides an antlered beast, perhaps an elk or deer. A bow and quiver is slung across her back, and an axe hangs at her side. She is clothed in a long tunic with ornate belt, a leopard skin, and wildly patterned  trousers. A peaked felt cap covers her head. As the rider moves closer her mount’s antlers glint red and gold, and you can see that they are part of an elaborate mask, and that the elk is a tawny mare, one of those with the thick scruffy coats suited to cold climates. A hunting dog bounds through the grass at her side, and a trained eagle flies above.

While this may sound like something out of a fantasy novel, it’s a scene that could have happened 2,500 years ago in the steppes of ancient Scythia. In The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World,  Adrienne Mayor compares the myths to the archaeological evidence, and reveals a horse-centric, egalitarian culture in which women riders with bows fought and hunted, both at the sides of men, and on their own. These independent women were perplexing and even scary to the Greeks, who were both repelled and aroused by the idea of women fighters… and their pants! The world's oldest trousers were invented by the nomads of the steppes and look like something you might see today on Hawthorne street, but the Greeks considered them women's wear and thus, well, TERRIFYING! There are many more fascinating tidbits like this in Mayor's book and the books on this list.

Rereading is a great pleasure for me. There's way too much new stuff for me to keep on top of it all, and sometimes you just want something you know. (Dunno how many times I've gone through the Harry Potter books.) What I'm mainly curious about are: what do YOU reread? What books bring you back every once in a while? Some people have a thing they read annually. Do you? Please comment with your favorites!

Lord of the Rings book jacketRight now I'm rereading The Lord of the Rings, and I realize that I hadn't read this since the Peter Jackson movies came out, or since I began spending a fair piece of my free time playing Lord of the Rings Online. For whatever reason, this time I'm devouring Professor Tolkien's work like a modern page-turner. Maybe it has something to do with visual cues from the movies, or the fact that I've visited Rivendell, Hobbiton and Helm's Deep in-game? In any case I am enjoying a very welcome return to a beloved place. Nothing beats it for deep sense of place.
 
Every year I read a Dickens book, and some years it's my favorite (Great Expectations). Why return to the adventures of Mr. Pip and Mr. Pocket, Estella, Miss Havisham & co.? I love the characters, the setting, the contrasts between the classes, and of course the language. 
 
My tastes run to fantasy, sci-fi, military historical fiction & classics, so I also like to revisit things that are some of each. A Princess of Mars was a recent re-read. Edgar Rice Burroughs Civil War soldier John Carter ascends to Mars and finds it inhabited by big green people, medium-sized red ones, ten-legged lizard-dogs called calots and a huge variety of other fauna. Typical, wonderful early sci-fi (but little for the title character to do other than be rescued, sadly). 
 
And of course, there is a ton of good kid-to-teen fiction out there that has stood the test of time more or less well. Regardless of the old science involved (seeThe Book of Three book jacket previous paragraph), I still love Rusty's Space Ship  by Oregon writer Evelyn Sibley Lampman. I stared at the drawings of all the creatures blowing around on Venus for what seemed like hours, and plotted out how and where to build my own spacecraft. And don't forget the wonderful Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander starting with The Book of Three where Taran, orphan and Assistant Pig-Keeper, wants to be a warrior. Based on the legends of Wales, this one has magic, swords, some chaste romance, and a giant cat!
 
But back to you: what do YOU read over and over? Let us know!

 

It is the 41st millenium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies ... Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the dark, grim future there is only war.

Ross and RodThus begins every Warhammer 40,000 novel. In an infinitely vast universe in which anything imaginable--as well as anything not imaginable--exists, the deathless emperor of humanity watches over his domain. There are over 350 books set in the Warhammer 40K universe so it only seems appropriate that it be included in that most remarkable of all books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Not wanting to actually endure the violence inherent in the Warhammer universe, intrepid Hitchhiker’s Guide contributor Ford Prefect has come to Multnomah County Library to find out what it’s all about and why you need plenty of dark towels when you visit. He interviewed Rod and Ross, reference staff at Multnomah County Library who have been exploring the Warhammer 40K universe--through books, of course. There are a couple reasons why they chose books: 1) neither has access to a starship and 2) both are quiet, gentle souls who would last approximately 8.6 seconds in your typical Warhammer 40K setting before suffering some grisly end.

Ford: What is Warhammer 40,0000?
Rod: Well, it’s a universe 40,000 (40K) years in the future where humanity has spread throughout the galaxy. The peak of human technological developmentNightbringer book jacket occurred centuries before, so most aspects of life are treated like a religion because there is no longer any real understanding of how things work.
Ross: This futuristic version of our universe was first depicted in a tabletop wargame created by the British company Games Workshop, but novels and short stories by various authors have been steadily produced over the last 30 years, such that there is now an enormous body of literature all taking place in this same grim, dark future.

Ford: How did you discover this future reality?
Ross: I first discovered Warhammer 40K as a kid through the board game Space Hulk. The game was okay, but mostly I was just fascinated by the enormous scale and dystopia of the setting and the cool looking Space Marines in their power armor. When I got older and discovered all the books set in this world, I was a little intimidated and unsure where to start reading.
Rod: Yes, “intimidated” would describe my own thoughts when faced with the overwhelming number of Warhammer 40K books. After talking with Ross and doing a little research, he and I decided to dive in and create our own list of places to start reading in Warhammer 40K.

Ford: As any traveller of the galaxy knows, a towel is the one necessity that cannot be done without. Its uses are mind-boggling in variety. As you can see, I have this lovely towel from Marks & Spencer, but you two seem to have A LOT of towels in dark, rather drab colors. Why?
Ross: Like the intro to each Warhammer book says, “there is only war” in the year 40,000. If there’s one thing that Warhammer 40K books have in common, it’s carnage. Lots of battles, lots of cool weapons (power armor! chainswords! storm bolters!), and lots of blood. Hence, dark towels.
Rod: When starting your journey into the Warhammer 40K universe, you really need to know what you are getting into. Be prepared for gaping combat wounds, ritual sacrifices, demonic transformations--all manner of violence. Not only will you need a towel for your own injuries, but chances are you’ll be staunching wounds for everyone around you, too,

Ford: Personally, I’d much rather visit Ursa Minor Beta (you remember the ad campaign, “when you are tired of Ursa Minor Beta, you are tired of life”). This Warhammer universe sounds utterly dreadful. What could you possibly find appealing about such a dark, violent place?
Ross: Hmm... there’s something cathartic and freeing about visiting a world (through books, that is) which is so bleak and brutal. And there’s more to these novels than just unceasing violence: I get a strong sense of absurd, very black humor when I read them. They are violent, funny, and so completely over-the-top that you never know what will happen next. 
Rod: I didn’t sense much humor in the books I read, but you definitely can’t take them too seriously. These are novels built around action. While individual books don’t always bother much with such niceties as plot and character, the overall universe is remarkably deep. One of the nice things about such a large catalog of books is that there are many different series within the larger universe and many different authors, so if you aren’t a big fan of one, then another might be just the thing for you.

Ford: Well, thank you gentlemen for your insights into the Warhammer 40K universe. I think I already have my entry written. What do you think of “Mostly harmful”?

 

The comedian Steven Wright said, "everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." The line makes me smile, but it makes me wistful too. If only I had the time.

Walking folds the walker into the pace of the world, while providing respite from the cares attached to our home or workplace. Baudelaire used the word "flaneur" to describe the walking explorer: "For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world." 

If you're hankering for a long walk but have no time, here are some titles to try, and a longer list, to boot.  :-)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of a man plagued by the sense that he has made nothing of his life. One day he receives a letter from an old friend who is dying, thanking him for a past kindness. Harold writes a letter of condolence, but when he goes to mail it, he's struck with the sense that he must deliver the letter by hand. And so he sets off on a journey of several hundred miles, with only the clothes on his back. As he walks he reflects on the events that shaped his life.

Walking memoirs abound, with a resurrgence tied to Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. But don't miss the earlier A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. Relax into the rhytm of Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane details the author's effort to become more intimately acquainted with his country by starting at his home in Cambridge, England and following the old roads and ancient tracks that crisscross his country. I'm looking forward in particular to Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London for a female perspective on Baudelaire's phenomenon.

Happy reading, and happy trails.

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