Blogs:

I don't actively look for vampire books. Or zombie books. (The only undead I like are skeletons.) That said, some horrific stories are so darned good that I have to like them despite my prejudice. The novella     I Am Legend and the book World War Z were of that calibre. Old-fashioned horror like Frankenstein is just plain fascinating. And so is Rick Yancey's tetralogy that begins with The Monstrumologist.
 
The Monstrumologist book jacketThe story begins with old folios and copious notes written by someone who appears to have lived an unusually long life. They chronicle Will Henry's days as an apprentice to a 'monstrumologist', a professional scientist who pursues and studies monsters. His new master, Pellinore Warthrop, is arrogant and mercurial, brilliant and generally uninterested in humanity. He's larger than life, yet he soon comes to find his young ward 'indispensable'.
 
These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me. 
 
Orphaned Will Henry (never just 'Will') is taken in by this unlikely mentor and soon finds himself tested, body, mind and soul. How much horror can he endure and still remain himself? And can he avoid the fate of his father, Warthrop's assistant before him, who met... an untimely demise?
 
The writing feels like classic horror; the reader wanders street, crypt and drawing room in a Lovecraftian New England and then much further afield in the later books.  It's absolutely accessible to teens (my 16-year old loves them), but I recommend this most often for people who like Dracula rather than Twilight
 
The books are The Monstrumologist, The Curse of the Wendigo, The Isle of Blood and The Final Descent. Now that the last one is out, get them all. This Dark Endeavor book jacketFreeze your holds until they're all ready. Set aside a weekend, pull the shades, and read by candlelight for maximum shivers. And then thank me or shake your fist and vow vengeance.
 
For other deliciously eerie fun (that involves beginning a career dabbling with dark forces) I also recommend Kenneth Oppel's series-in-progress featuring the apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Start with This Dark Endeavour.

France’s various media outlets have developed free, fun, and accessible language learning resources. While they are generally designed to help immigrants in France, they are also a boon for those of us working on our French from far away!

For video lessons, check out Apprendre le français avec TV5MONDE. There you will find French lessons divided into four levels. Each lesson has recent news video with a series of questions or grammar exercises. Examples of recent video topics: Le lycée c'est fini!Les Tatars de Crimée, and L'histoire de la moutarde. Learn about culture, travel, news and more while improving your French!

Prefer audio lessons? Take a look at Radio France International’s Langue Français page, which has a huge array of lessons, many of them downloadable. If you like podcasts be sure to look for the link for Journal en français facile (iTunes), a daily news broadcast in simple French. The broadcasters speak slowly, provide context, and often have an explanation of an idiom. Even if you find yourself struggling to understand it is invaluable to hear the accent and the rhythm of the language without being completely overwhelmed.

And remember, at the library we have CDs & downloadable audio to help you learn French, and check out Mango!

Looking for more language learning resources? Ask us, we can help!

Ben Franklin spent his life asking questions, discovering answers, learning new things, and enjoying time with friends and family.

 

During his lifetime he was a printer, a writer, an inventor, a postmaster, a diplomat and is one of the best known Founding Fathers of America.

As a young man he opened his own print shop in Philadelphia. He printed many things, among them his own newspaper the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richards Almanac.

 

Using the pen name Richard Saunders, Ben wrote and published Poor Richard's Almanack from 1733 to 1758. 
The most popular part of the almanacs were sayings and advice such as "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
 
 
As Postmaster General he improved delivery times and was able to send all of his own mail for free.
 
Many of his inventions are still used today.
 
Without Ben's work as a diplomat to France, the United States may not have won the Revolutionary War. He spent a year negotiating with the French for arms, ammunition, and soldiers.
 
Ben played a vital role in the birth of our country. He helped write the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. He is the only person who signed all four of the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance, Amity, and Commerce with France (1778), the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the United States (1782), and the U.S. Constitution.
 
If you want to know more about Ben Franklin, and have lots of time, watch the PBS documentary on his life and times. You can also contact a librarian.

What is my car worth now if I want to sell it?

I want to buy a used pickup truck. How can I find out what a fair price is?

What is the safest car for my teen to drive?

 

All of these questions and more can be answered with these online resources:

  • The Kelley Blue Book Online gives you timely and accurate prices on new and used cOld Red Truckars based on geography and condition. For most vehicles you can get a good idea of prices for buying a new or used car from a dealer or private seller and also what you can expect to sell one for to a dealer or private buyer.
  • The Car and Driver buyers' guide covers automobiles manufactured in the last two years and can be searched by manufacturer, vehicle type, price range and more.
  • Click and Clack, the comedic brothers from Car Talk, use down-to-earth humor to give you actual car information on buying, selling, and owning a car.
  • CarInfo features car information provided by consumer advocate & auto expert Mark Eskeldson. It includes car buying and leasing secrets, as well as information on used cars, car loans, and insurance.
  • Edmunds Automobile Buyer's Guide has used car prices back to 2000, safety information, and updates on new vehicles.
  • The US EPA Fuel Economy website allows you to compare gas mileage (MPG), greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution ratings, and safety information for new and used cars and trucks. There are also gas mileage tips, a page to search for the cheapest gas in your area, and a page of links to other sites about automobiles, safety, and the environment.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute provides accident facts, results of crash tests, child safety and teen driving brochures, and news releases about safety for cars, drivers, and pedestrians.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a website dedicated to safety. This resource has  information about recalls, crash tests, car seats, drunk driving, and pedestrian safety.
 

In addition to these online resources, the library also has the most current NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book Guides in print at the information desk in each library location.  The Science and Business Desk at the Central Library even has the Kelley Blue Book guides going back to 1999 so you can see what your vehicle was worth in years past.

For a round up of car repair resources available at your library, see the blog post: Get Your Motor Running: This car isn’t going to fix itself.

Buying or selling an automobile can be a complicated process!  If you do not see the resource you need here to answer your questions, please Ask a Librarian.  We will help you connect to the information you seek!  

 

 

Terry Baxter, Archivist, Multnomah County Archives (photo by Giles Clement)Our guest blogger is Terry. Terry has worked as an archivist for 28 years, the last 15 with the Multnomah County Archives, and currently serves on the Society of American Archivists Council. He is also a proud card-carrying library user who empties the system of poetry and cookbooks on a regular basis.

Multnomah County is going to be 160 years old this year.  While no one is old enough (as far as we know, anyway) to remember those sixteen decades of history, there is a place where those stories are kept. The Multnomah County Archives, in the shadow of Mt. Hood and nestled between a gravel pit and a landfill, has been collecting, preserving, and providing access to the archives of Multnomah County government for 12 years.

Archives are the official records, usually unique and created to document actions and not as a purposeful historical narrative, of an organization preserved indefinitely because of their long-term research value.   In the case of the County Archives, this means records of the activities of Multnomah County’s government agencies. “How boring is THAT?” I can hear you saying right now.  

Map of the Multnomah County Poor Farm, 1938Well, maybe you’d like to see and read about the origins of McMenamins Edgefield as the County Poor Farm. Or watch a film of the 1948 flood that destroyed the second largest city in Oregon, Vanport.  Or see the plans for a professional baseball and football stadium in Delta Park. These and thousands of other records, documenting all aspects of the county and its interactions with its residents from 1854 on, are preserved by archivists for anyone to view and use. Archives have all sorts of tales to tell us about our individual and common pasts, about each other, and about ourselves.

1948 flood that destroyed Vanport, OregonArchivists love to connect people with these stories. Stereotypical views depict archivists as introverted Jocasta Nu’s, hiding in basements, hoarding piles of dusty files. If this was ever accurate, it certainly isn’t now (except the basement part!). Archivists are deeply concerned about context and connection. They locate and describe records and how they relate to the organizations that created them and then work to make those records as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. An archivist’s happiest moment comes when a person’s face lights up after finding something deeply meaningful in the archives.

Proposed stadium in Delta Park in the early 1960sArchivists are also collaborators who know they usually don’t have all the information in their archives that a person needs. There are a number of archives in Multnomah County (and across the rest of the world).  Many residents of Multnomah County are familiar with downtown Portland’s “History Row. ” Located within a short walk of each other on the south park blocks are the Oregon Historical Society, the Portland State University Archives, the Portland Archives and Records Center, and “Portland’s Crown Jewel” – Central Library and its wondrous John Wilson Special Collections.

So come visit, meet an archivist, and let the stories you find connect you to the voices, past and present, of others who have inhabited our county.

Contact:

Terry Baxter, archivist
Multnomah County Archives
1620 SE 190th Avenue
Portland, OR 97233
503.988.3741

Located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day Iraq, the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia made remarkable achievements in writing, art, and agriculture. Image of ziggurat

This National Geographic video provides a short introduction. For older students, here’s a John Green Crash Course video with more details. You may also like this interactive map, which shows how Mesopotamian culture developed.

The University of Chicago has an amazing collection of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, and at their website, you can examine them in depth, learn about what daily life was like, listen to interviews with archaeologists, or even go on a virtual archaeological dig.

At the British Museum’s Mesopotamia site, you can find maps and information about the writing, mythology, buildings, and astronomers from various Mesopotamian cultures.

Ancient Mesopotamia covers geography, religion, economics, clothing, and the achievements of Mesopotamian cultures.

Several different empires existed in region of Mesopotamia, including the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. The Sumerians were known for inventing cuneiform writing. You can see what your monogram would look like in this writing system. They also wrote the first superhero story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and played board games. One Babylonian ruler is famous for creating Hammurabi’s Code, a collection of laws. Ziggurats, large step pyramids like the one shown in the photo, were built by the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians.

If you didn’t find the information that you need, please contact a librarian for more assistance.

Triple Package book jacketSome of the publicity I’d read about The Triple Package by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld made me wonder if it would be like The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, which aimed to prove that there is a racial difference in intelligence. The Triple Package is not a book about racial differences, but about cultural similarities. The Triple Package is a narrative about ethnic and religious minorities in America meant to explain what three factors make them successful. The traits are: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control (or self-discipline). These are characteristics that any individual can possess and aren’t exclusive to any race, ethnicity, or culture.

As a reader, I felt drawn to the stories shared about the immigrant experience and the complicated relationships immigrant parents have with their children. I thought some of the anecdotes felt true to my experience and I could imagine seeing myself and people I knew in these stories. I could also think of other figures and books I admire and imagine how their stories could fit within this schema. Before they were cited, Jhumpa Lahiri's work and Sonia Sotomayor, both popped into my head as “Triple Package” examples.

Although I found issues with The Triple Package, I found it to be a quick and straightforward read. The Triple Package addresses an incredibly controversial subject and raised many questions for me. I recommend this book for anyone who loves reading statistics and scientific studies. I especially recommend this book for those who are interested in pondering the meaning of the American Dream and America’s comeback in a recovering economy.

‘Tis a good thing that I canceled my Spring Break trip to Crimea because, whether hosting the Olympics amid conflict over human rights, racing to police Pussy Riot's random protests, or facing the tense scrutiny in the fight for Crimean annexation, Russia hasn't been this magnified since Reagan and Gorbachev sat through numerous photo-ops pretending to like each other. With all the negativity surrounding this great kingdom as of late, I was reminded of my first memorable images and introduction to Russian culture...skewed as it may have been. 

For someone whose formative years were sculpted in the late '70's through the 1980's, the image of Russia, other than my grandmother reading me sinister Baba Yaga tales, was discovered mainly through the synaptic helmet that was the burgeoning American media scene.  Initially, it was James Bond films, Robin Williams's discovery of true freedom in Moscow on the Hudson, or Yakov Smirnoff's anti-Cold War comic "therapy."  

Suddenly, the image became more ominous, a threat to the milk and honey U.S. zeitgeist. It was always "Us vs. Them," through the simplest, primordial lens of good vs. evil and everything was securely color-related. Anything referenced to Soviet life or Cold War politics was unscrupulously "red," moreso than any of the malingering effects of the McCarthy "Red Menace" years, and it seeped into American culture via John LeCarre and Tom Clancy books or the Hollywood films Red Dawn, Red Heat, and WarGames. You had  to choose or risk becoming ostracized: Yanks or Commies. Wolverines vs. Russkies. MI6 vs. KGB. Rocky vs. Drago.  

Once in high school, it was my trusty English teacher who introduced me to the more respectable literary and cinematic windows of Mother Russia. Not only did I devour classic films and books such as Ivan the Terrible  or every single frame available on Rasputin, but I learned that Russia had so much more to offer than Dr. Zhivago, Turgenev, and Tolstoy. Sure, I read the assigned Crime and Punishment  and Fathers and Sons, and I connected with Dostoyevsky while my classmates groaned, yet through college I learned that not all Russian literature was depression, oppression, and long brutal winters. There, slumbering comedic enlightenment came in the guise of The Master and Margarita, Gogol, and Viktor Pelevin with characters, stories, and political musings that I never knew existed outside of the omniscient, censoring hand of the Iron Editors (I assume in red  pen, naturally).  

The Russian legacy continues to innovate and astound into the 21st century as well, with genre fiction such as Sergei Lukyanenko's pseudo-Angelic Watch  series or stories from the hilarious pen of ex-pat Gary Shteyngart. Whatever your personal desires in Russian literature or culture, they can all be accommodated down at your local library should you seek more than blizzards, "If I Were A Rich Man," or the former governor of California's Oscar-snubbed role as a KGB agent. For in this expansive landscape of history and determination, Behemoth is not just a subversive, vodka-swilling black feline but a rich, thunderous bibliography of a resilient nation. Pazhalsta!

Photo of Asmat people in dug out canoesIt turns out that headhunting isn’t such a simple barbaric act as one would think.  It’s strategic, spiritual and essential to maintain the equilibrium of the universe. At least it was for the Asmat of New Guinea when they encountered Michael Rockefeller swimming towards shore on the morning of November 20, 1961.

Michael Rockefeller was living his dream, collecting primitive art for his father’s new museum, when his makeshift catamaran capsized and he vanished off the coast of New Guinea. After a search-and-rescue effort came up empty handed, it was determined that Michael Rockefeller drowned before reaching shore that fateful day.

Savage Harvest: A Tale Of Cannibals, Colonialism, And Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest For Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman presents a very different story. Balanced and exhaustively researched, Hoffman pieces together a picture of a divided island with a tense colonial history, a fierce cannibalistic warrior society stripped powerless by outsiders, and a privileged young man, unaccustomed to confronting barriers, and so passionate in his pursuit of art, that he cannot recognize the real danger he is in.Photo of book jacket: Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman

While perhaps not for the faint of heart, I found Savage Harvest to be a fascinating, one of a kind read for armchair anthropologists such as myself. It’s also the ultimate real-life whodunit for mystery fans. Books like this perfectly exemplify why I love reading non-fiction; stories like this simply can not be made up! 

If after finishing Savage Harvest, you find you can't easily let go of this story, check out items on this list to explore different aspects of the Rockefeller disappearance.

Ah the stories of King Arthur and his knights, the cute thatched cottages, the banquets, the country life, and the bustle of growing cities!  What’s not to like about the Middle Ages and Medieval period in history?  Well, the smell for one.  And let’s not forget the plague. Get all the dirt on what life was really like in Europe during this time.

picture of knightsStart at the Annenberg Learner Middle Ages site for loads of info on everyday life in medieval times including the feudal system, religion, clothes, the arts and more.  This includes movies and other cool interactive stuff.  After you click on the link, scroll to the right to get the content!

 Click on the different people in the street in the Camelot International Village to learn more about their craft or trade and how they lived in the Middle Ages. Find out about entertainers, peasants, traders, thieves, knights, church and religion, women, and lords of the manor.

For a funny and informative video series about the Middle Ages, watch Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives.  Each 30 minute episode examines a different type of person important during the time period like kings, knights, monks and damsels.picture of a king's seal

For a video and interactive introduction to medieval life, watch Everyday Life in the Middle Ages and see if you could survive way back in the day!

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is super boring to look at, but amazing in its amount of primary source material (letters, legal texts, religious documents etc.).  It’s a comprehensive collection of online texts from the entire medieval era, organized by topic and chronologically.

Now that you’ve learned a lot about the Middle Ages, test your knowledge here.

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