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Ben Franklin was always thinking and exploring new ideas. He was a practical man who invented things that helped make life better.

1. His kite flying experiments to study lighning and electricity are still famous today.

2. He was the first person in America to invent a musical instrument.

He called it the Glass Armonica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Lightning rods are still used today on buildings and houses. Lightning rod from the Franklin Institute

 

4. Bifocal glasses allow people to use just one pair of glasses to see thing far away and close up.

5. The Franklin stove kept houses warmer and used less wood than fireplaces.

Ben Franklin invented or improved many other things as well. He never patented any of his invetions or made money from them.

If you want to discover more about Ben Franklin and his inventions watch this

documentary from the History Channel, or ask a librarian.

 

I'm a big Blazers' fan. I watch pretty much all of the games on TV (the only reason my household keeps Comcast is so we can get channel 37 to watch all of the Blazer games) and try to go to at least a couple of games every season. An entire group of my colleagues went to the San Antonio game in February. Though we (I'm a 6th man all the way!) lost by 2 points, it was an exciting game. And we all got LaMarcus Aldridge glasses, though we were very sad that he had to sit out the game with an injury. And I made it onto the Jumbotron. Woohee!

I was really happy to see that Robin Lopez attended Comic Con this year and also posted a great video of his tour through Powell's Books. He's a super big comic book fan. I grew up reading comic books - Archie, Little Dot, even Spider Man and the Fantastic Four. Then I got older and put away my comics thinking that phase of my life was over.

PersepolisHowever, while working at the library, I stumbled upon some amazing graphic novels. One of my favorite genres is memoirs and there are some absolutely fantastic memoir graphic novels. The first one I read was Persepolis, a memoir of Marjane Satrapi's childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I learned both about the history of Iran and the wrenching story of Satarapi's life in a terribly repressive society.

Another graphic novel that speaks directly to me is Ellen Forney's, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangolo & Me: A Graphic Memoir. Forney struggles with bipolar Marblesdisorder and the most difficult part is her worry that her creativity is connected to the disease. She didn't want to do anything that would take away from her artistic passion. I think that many people can relate to this - are there qualities that we possess that hinder us in living our lives to the fullest but are those the same qualities that make us who we are?

It's pretty amazing to me that comic books can teach us so much about the world and ourselves. There are lots more graphic novels that will open up whole new worlds and not just where superheroes live.

Thia, a clerk at the Belmont Library, is reading  The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter. "It's a complex discussion of the biology of trees," she says. "I'm learning a lot."

 

Is writing by hand a lost art in this age of typing and tapping our words? For some of us who are old enough to have been taught proper handwriting in elementary school, but young enough to have been composing our written works on the computer for most of our writing lives, the state of our handwriting may have gone deeply downhill.  

Does it matter? The importance of handwriting is a subject that’s certainly open to a variety of opinions. Portland’s influential handwriting teachers and authors Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay (creators of the Getty-Dubay italic handwriting method and authors of Write Now: The Complete Program for Better Handwriting) say that poor handwriting is like  “mumbling on the page.” In The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication, author Margaret Shepherd says that a handwritten note “says to the reader, ‘You matter to me, I thought of you…’” There’s certainly something to be said about the grace and character of handwritten words. You can read about the history of handwriting in Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, by Kitty Burns Florey, orThe Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, by Philip Hensher.

Indeed, there are resources for those of us who would like to improve our handwriting. Better Handwriting by Rosemary Sassoon is a brief, basic guide with practical tips. The aforementioned guide by Getty and Dubay has exercises for clear, legible italic writing. While you’re writing by hand, you might also enjoy making some fancy letters! Draw your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, and Make your Own by Tony Seddon, or Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design's Golden Age by Steven Heller might be fun. If you get really motivated, you could take a class at the Portland Society for Calligraphy.

Handwriting, of course, is distinct to each of us. What does your handwriting say about you? If you’re interested in deciphering the meaning of the loops and slants, you might enjoy The Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis: The Complete Guide to Interpreting Personalities, Detecting Forgeries, and Revealing Brain Activity through the Science of Graphology, by Marc J. Seifer. Or perhaps Your Handwriting Can Change your Life (by Vimala Rodgers)!

book cover of the mandarins american editionYou may know her from the feminist manifesto The Second Sex. Or perhaps you're familiar with her circle of intellectuals (Albert Camus, Nelson Algren, Arthur Koestler) or her lover Jean Paul Sartre. But The Mandarins is much more than an autobiographical novel and a story of intellectual society and struggle after the occupation in Paris. You don’t need to know Simone de Beauvoir was a great philosopher. You don’t need to know about the relationship between her and Sartre, or the affairs. You don’t need to know about existentialist philosophy or postwar Europe. If you do, it may make the reading more meaningful. If you don’t, it will not take away from the story one bit. This is a story about friendship, loyalty, war and the consequences, the roles of women, marriage, death, breakdowns, and the breakdowns and death of marriage. It is about making hard decisions and rebuilding from the ruins. It is a love story. 

It is a lengthy novel. This would usually have me muttering “still?” while madly flipping pages to see how far till the next chapter. (Don’t do this, by the way. The chapters are horrendously long.) My copy was an enormous first American edition hardback over 600 pages, and after dragging it around with me for weeks, it began to weigh what felt like that many pounds. But the heft was worth it, for I was transported during bus commutes and on those few cherished evenings reclining on the chaise longue. I haven’t had that experience with a novel in a long time. At first, the switch of narrators was jolting, but I think it contributed to keeping me interested and engaged in the long run. I found I actually cared about Anne, Paula, Henri, Robert, and the others. I was fascinated by their world and the choices they were making.

There are many elements that could bring you to this novel and keep you there…the setting, the era, the voyeuristic autobiographical aspect, the intellectual society, politics, ideology, love, or merely the writing. Whatever reason you decide to pick up The Mandarins, you will find it is not so easy to put down again. The characters will stay with you for a long while.

 

 

Donna, a library assistant at the Belmont Library, is reading Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. She says, "This cross-genre anthology is like a big box of chocolates, with original stories from the likes of George R.R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon and Jim Butcher. The theme is Dangerous Women, so you know there's going to be some good action going on! I'm savoring it, one piece at a time."

Let’s face it we all get distracted once and a while.  Unfortunately, sometimes this happens when key information is being conveyed in chemistry class.  Or maybe you were paying attention but you just need a refresher.  Where can you get the information you need for your homework right now?  Try these great resources!

1.  Watch a video from Khan Academy
Sometimes it’s easier to learn from a video than from a textbook.  Khan Academy has high quality videos on a wide range of chemistry topics and includes useful questions and answers posted  by other viewers.  Did you miss your class’s discussion of acids and bases?  Not sure what the word “stoichiometry” means?  This is the place for you.

2.  Take a look at the Mathmol Text Book from NYU
OK, so you don’t want to ask your friend what the difference between mass and volume is.  That would just be embarrassing, right?  But if you google it, you might get a horrible, unreliable site made by a third-grader.  Instead check out the Mathmol Text Book.  It includes lots of great basic information and you know you can trust it because it is prepared by the New York University Scientific Visualization Center.

3.  Sign into Live Homework Help from Tutor.com
Did you know that every day from 2pm-10pm you can get help from real, actual tutors online?  Well, you can!  All you need is your library card and pin number to sign in from home.  You can get rock star level help with your chem homework and you don’t have to bother that one friend of yours that you keep calling.  Don’t have a computer at home?  Come to a library and use one of ours!
 

The short answer is, Yes, people still try to ban books

Here's a recent example right here in Oregon.  In January 2014 some parents in Sweet Home challenged the use in an 8th grade Language Arts class of the critically acclaimed Book Coveryoung adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  According to an article in the Albany Democrat Herald, two parents asked for the book to be removed from the 8th grade curriculum. 

The result?  Again reported by the Democrat Herald, on February 13, 2014, after 3 hours of public testimony the Sweet Home School District reconsideration committee "voted Wednesday to retain the young adult novel, but [the superintendent] will be responsible for determining the appropriate grade level for its use..."

What's the fuss about?

"This work of young adult fiction tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to improve his future, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, [the book], which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings...chronicles the adolescence of one Native American teen as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live." --Amazon.com

Even though the book received the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, it's also been the center of controversy for profanity, racism, discussion of sex, abuse and alcoholism.  But as one of the teachers said, "...it's use...prompts the most intense discussions about racism, bullying, tolerance and the daily choices students make in handling relationships." 

I think that's worth keeping.  What do you think?

And remember, if you need more help be sure to Ask the Librarian!

Brian, a page at the Hollywood Library loves The Flame Throwers for the beautiful writing, the insight into the NY art world of the 1970s, plus the bonus of autonomia operaia, which he's interested in.

People love talking about the weather and this has certainly been the winter to do it. Epic storms in the East and droughts all over the West have been top stories nearly every day of the New Year. A lot of us had fun frolicking in our own mini-snowstorm earlier this month.

Usually, talking about the weather is considered polite conversation, a nice respite from politics and religion, or celebrity gossip.  Of course, this isn’t always the case. As the drought seems to be subsiding (fingers-crossed) for us in the Pacific Northwest, California has little hope in sight and the gloves have come off.

Cadillac Desert book jacketThe President has done his photo-ops, hundreds of millions are pledged for relief, and the fingers are pointing at the Republicans, the Democrats, the farmers, the cities, the Delta Smelt (ooh, what’s that?)… The news stories seem to be devoid of solutions for water scarcity, though many have been offered up over the years. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all detailed in Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner.

California is the main character in this sweeping epic, often the villain tormenting its neighbors. Other times, it is the victim of graft, its fragile ecosystems exploited by schemers and boosters. In riveting detail, the book recounts the long-held rivalry between the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of Interior) and the Army Corps of Engineers, the true story behind the movie Chinatown (Reisner’s recounting wins), Los Angeles’ plan to redirect the Columbia River, and many more fascinating and eye-opening chapters in the water wars of the west.

But wait! Here’s a plethora of books you could read in tandem, each one an exciting foray into water, the west, and/or land use planning (it’s all the rage with the kids these days).

 

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