Blogs:

ICool Tools bookjacket’ve never really read more than an issue or two of Wired  magazine, only because I knew if I did follow the periodical on a regular basis, I would further more be a slave to technology than is humanly necessary. That said, for a few years now I have been a loyal follower of the “Cool Tools” blog curated by Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired. The blog proved so popular and full of, well, cool tools, that Kelly collated the best of the best into one gigantic catalog-reference guide of the same name. Over 450 pages of a seductive hybrid, melding your grandmother’s clockwork Sears catalog and the bottomless carpetbag of an exceptional, twinkle-eyed gadget clown. Initially, I checked it out from the library (of course), but after a day or two of barely exploring one-third of the tome, I knew I had to purchase my own personal copy. 

The “title” page reads thus: “A cool tool is...anything useful that increases learning, empowers individuals, does work that matters, is either the best or the cheapest or the only thing that works.” The inside and back covers are divided and indexed into 31 separate topics such as Craft, Dwelling, Edibles, Big Systems, Mobile Living, Storytelling, Aurality, Science Process, and Somatics. Sold yet? Ok, there is also another index by the specific  name of the tool and QR codes in each and every entry to link you straight to the web, usually the manufacturer’s specific site or Amazon. The back cover alone also gives you options: Raise backyard chickens, Erect an igloo, Publish an ebook, or Design your own fabric. Kelly and his team inform you in the first seven pages that all entries and/or links are as updated as possible, provide a FAQ, a How To Use This Book primer, and a handy supportive entry of a book on de-cluttering your life. Sounds counter-productive, right? Not really. Think of it as a non-threatening “abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Kelly plays the wide-eyed Tools R’ Us Virgil to your drooling Dante. 

This seems like a sales pitch, I know. As if I’m the underground marketing intern for Kelly’s company; but the title is self-published and most of the profits go right back into the people and materials that shaped the book in the first place. The best part is that you can spend hours slowly thumbing through it and not even think of purchasing anything.  Opening it randomly now, this is what I find: Three Jaw Brace, Virtual Piano, Silicone Pinch Bowls, and Etymotic Research Earplugs. If you put this title on hold down at your local library, make sure you bring a big bag as this book is like a yoga mat for cats.  Your brain, your budget, and your exposure to stuff that’s actually productive, however, will most certainly need their own personal Corpse pose.  Enjoy. 

Who better, than a pet rock, to guide you through the intricate field of Earth Sciences.  They come from the earth and have cousins all around the world. Let me introduce them.

igneous rock

Iggy – short for igneous is the youngest of the bunch. He was born in an explosion of great magnitude in the Pacific Northwest in 1980. He has cousins all around the world, but most of his first cousins are still on the slope of Mt. St. Helens in Washington. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sedimentary rock

Sedim – short for sedimentary is very complex. She is mysterious about revealing her age. Her many layers tell the stories of different moments in her history which spans a great length of time. Some of her cousins have been known to gather at the base of Devil’s Tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

metamorphic rockMorph – short for metamorphic, is very very old. But for most of his long life he was hidden in the depths of the earth. He helped to form one  of the largest mountain ranges in the United States, The Rocky Mountains, but didn’t see the light of day until much of what was causing the pressure on him, had eroded. his cousins go back for generations in the Appalachian mountains, which used to be very large, but are now just the remaining metamorphic rocks that formed their core.

When would you like to have lived? I sometimes wonder what I would be doing if I lived in a different time. What would my life be like? The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer has helped me learn about life in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, 1558-1603.

book jacket for Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan EnglandThis is a prosperous time in England. Towns and cities are growing. London’s population hits 200,000 by the end of Elizabeth’s reign. While I am visiting London, I would want to see Shakespeare's latest play. Many customs are very different. Even the Queen likes a good bear baiting. This is a much rougher time. Some things have changed more than others. Lawyers were just as skilled then as now, but doctors are much better in the 21st century. If I were sick in Elizabeth’s time, I would probably do better if I called a priest instead of a doctor. I also need to remember to pay heed to my social betters as this is a very class-conscious time.

There is lots of beer. It is safer than the water. I will be drinking about a gallon a day. Unless I am a gentleman, I won’t be able to afford wine. A strong nose and lots of perfume are helpful as there are many noxious smells. The growing populations only add to the problem. The Elizabethan people don’t enjoy the stink, but there often is nothing they can do.

Does Elizabethan England sound interesting? Why not take a trip back and see if it is for you.

Librarian Patricia is reading Estamos Hasta la Madre. Poet and activist Javier Sicilia analyzes Mexico's corruption and so-called "war on drugs," reflects on the Movement for Peace and Justice, and demands accountability from government.

our lady of the circus book jacketWhen applause fades and bleachers empty, the big top is a lonely place. The performers in the Mantecon Brothers circus know this all too well. Night after night, they showcase their stage personas, losing who they are once the spotlight dies. The road perpetually beckons. It’s a hard life, but the adulation of the crowd is a powerful drug.

When the brothers abruptly part ways, Don Ernesto and Don Alejo negotiate for performers. The latter bargains poorly and is left with eight sub par performers and a diving pig.  The circus seems all but finished, but their story is only beginning. The quest for survival and rediscovering who they are takes over fanfare-laden dreams.

Stumbling into the nearby town with all the pageantry they can muster proves futile.  Years of abandonment are visible, as is the lack of a sustainable habitat.  As reality sets in, the vacant houses offer an invitation of unknown normality to settle down and leave the transient life. What does permanence mean for people who only know the circus?  Who will they be if they aren’t performers?  What does their future hold?

It’s not pretty.

Bowtie Venn Diagram by H. Caldwell Tanner

 

If you’ve ever had to do a report you know that there are many ways to present what you want people to know. You can give a speech, write a 5 page paper, create a graph, make a movie or sing a song. A classic way is to make a poster.

 

A new spin on the poster approach are infographics. Basically, they put information in an organized and visual way that can make it easier to pull everything together and get the big picture. They can be complex like this chapter by chapter guide to The Great Gatsby or simple like the bowtie Venn diagram. They can be interactive like this wind map of the Earth or answer questions you may have never thought to ask like, 'how many teaspoons are in a cup?' (48, yeah I didn't know either.)

 

Here at the library we have made a set infographics about how to find good information online. Like this one:

 

How to Evaluate Websites

Why did we make infographics? So that you can look at research in a whole different way.

Want more information about research and infographics? Ask a librarian!

Wit and compassion are two qualities that do not always go together, but they always seem to mingle nicely in the work of David Rakoff. It was bittersweet reading his last book, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. I’d heard him so often on the radio, especially on This American Life, that I could hear Rakoff’s quiet, witty voice in my head as I read. Rakoff died of cancer at the age of 47 in 2012, and I miss him.

This novel in verse is short and sweet, sometimes dark, but leavened with rhymes that are so clever I’d sometimes have to stop and give a whoop of pleasure before returning to the story. At one point, a 1950s secretary named Helen, her affair with her unworthy boss having ended badly, is remembering the scene she made afterwards at a memorable office Christmas party.

...Where feeling misused, she had got pretty plastered,
And named his name, publicly, called him a bastard.
The details are fuzzy, though others have told her
She insulted this one, and cried on that shoulder,
Then lurched ‘round the ballroom, all pitching and weaving
And ended the night in the ladies lounge, heaving.


The story jumps through the whole 20th century through a number of loosely connected characters, and is more a series of character studies and vignettes than a novel. Terrible things happen to some of these characters, but what shines through more than anything else is Rakoff’s pleasure in life and his pleasure in observation.

Towards the end, a chapter about Clifford, a character who is dying of AIDS, ends with these lines:

He thought of those two things in life that don’t vary
(Well, thought only glancingly; more was too scary)
Inevitable, why even bother to test it,
He’d paid all his taxes, so that left… you guessed it.

Here you'll find a list of audio books by Rakoff and by other familiar voices from public radio. Please let me know if I forgot to include a good one.

Have you heard the news that Spain is expected to relax its citizenship requirements to make it easier for people who can prove they have Sephardic roots to attain Spanish citizenship?

A copy of the 1492 Alhambra Decree, which required Jews to convert to Christianity, or be expelled from Spain. [Wikimedia Commons]In 2012, Spain passed a law with special provisions for people of Sephardic heritage to become Spanish citizens.  Now the Spanish parliament is considering a new law that would allow people who can prove Sephardic heritage to become dual citizens of Spain, and speed up the process.  This relaxing of citizenship rules is intended as partial reparation for a “historic mistake” -- in 1492, Spanish Jews were given an awful choice by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand: convert to Christianity, or be forcibly expelled from the country within four months.

If you have Sephardic heritage, or think you might, this is a great time to begin to research your family history!  The Sephardic roots booklist below should help you get started -- and it includes several general books about Sephardic history as well.  The library also has lots of books about general Jewish genealogy research.

Perhaps you want more background about Spain’s 2012 citizenship law and the revisions currently being considered?  Here are some basics to get you started:

You may also want to mark your calendar for the upcoming exhibit at the Oregon Jewish Museum: Viva Sephardi: A Century of Sephardic Life in Portland.  The exhibit opens June 11th, 2014.


Do you have more questions about genealogy research?  Are you working on your own family history?  If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

I have decided my poetry is so bad that I mustn’t write any more of it.”
- Cassandra from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

BeingStaying alive bookjacket a lapsed poet myself, I thought it important to take the time for a blog on poetry for National Poetry Month. Lapsed poet? Lapsed, meaning I studied it at university, have been published, won a competition, but have all but given it up. Sounds sorrowful, but truly it isn’t. More to the point, it is a changing of priorities. I only write when I feel like it. And often times, I feel like going for a walk instead, laying in the sun, reading, watching a film, trying a new recipe, or learning something new like the cello. You can see how poetry begins to take a backseat. 

What I do now to keep my fingers in the poetry pot, is to use the poetry post in front of my house to post poems out into the neighborhood on a regular basis. Sometimes I post my own and sometimes it is another’s work that moves me at that particular moment. This keeps me reading poetry, which often leads to feeling like writing it myself. And the cycle continues…last year I purchased three new volumes of poetry, so perhaps I am warming up again to the idea of being a poet. If you are new to poetry or coming back to it after a break, why not pick up Staying Alive by Bloodaxe Books? In this perfect anthology you will find both the old standard and contemporary poets, easily digestible and applicable sections, and approachable poems about everyday topics.

One April I thought I would write a poem each day to celebrate National Poetry Month. It ended badly. How will you celebrate?

Witch of little Italy bookjacketI've been working as a librarian for eighteen years. I have been involved in projects over the years. I heard about the My Librarian project. I thought about applying. Then I read a novel I loved. I had to share! I wanted to spread the love. My Librarian is about spreading the love of reading. I especially love novels about witches - witches that succeed and dispel evil or dark forces - witches who, against all odds, disarm evil.

Ok, maybe you're wondering what the novel is that turned my head. The Witch of Little Italy by Palmieri made me excited again about this genre. The story is about Eleanor Amore who returns to her grandmother and aunt’s home in the Bronx. She is pregnant and needs the comfort of home with her estranged family. Oddly enough Eleanor doesn’t remember her life before that tenth summer that she spent with her family. She is hoping they have the keys to her memory loss. If you liked Witches of Eastwick and Practical Magic, try The Witch of Little Italy.  Also check out my list of Witchy novels.

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