Blogs

Tennessee Couple Finds a Home at the Title Wave Volunteers Don & Lynn Lampard

by Donna Childs

Writing these profiles has introduced me to many interesting, accomplished, and downright nice people; Lynn and Don Lampard are no exception. A husband and wife team of Materials Processors at Title Wave Used Bookstore, Don and Lynn moved to Portland from Knoxville, Tennessee, and started volunteering soon after. They came here to be closer to two grown daughters, one of whom had volunteered at the Title Wave many years ago.  

Processing materials in the back room at the Title Wave, Lynn and Don get to see and sort through the thousands of books, CD’s, DVD’s, and audiobooks sent from the 19 Multnomah County libraries.  In order to resist the temptation to buy them all, Don makes lists of interesting books he comes across and then orders them from his neighborhood library. Although Lynn and Don do the same job, because they already spend most of their time together, they volunteer on different days so that they can meet more people and have diverse experiences to share.  

Don chose to volunteer at the Title Wave after retiring from a career as a computer analyst and programmer, and before that a professor of English. He thought it would be “a good way to do something constructive for the community.”  It is that, but now he enjoys it so much that he volunteers as much for himself as for the library.  After working for many years as an academic librarian in the Midwest (Indiana U, Purdue, U of Wisconsin), Lynn naturally gravitated to a volunteer job where she would be surrounded by books, and she still sees that as one of the best parts of a great job.  

In addition to their work at the Title Wave, the Lampards’ other favorite volunteer commitment is babysitting for their grandchildren, three and nine, every Wednesday and whenever else they are needed. They have created a fun, interesting, and useful life in their adopted city.

A Few Facts About Don and Lynn

Home library: Albina and Hollywood libraries

Currently reading: I just finished The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette and next up is Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. (Don) Dog of the South by Charles Portis (Lynn)
 
Most influential book: Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (Don); Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse (Lynn)

Favorite book from childhood: Probably the Hardy Boys series (Don); any science fiction (Lynn)

A book that made you laugh or cry: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole made us laugh (Don and Lynn); the last of the Wallander mysteries by Henning Mankell, in which the protagonist has terminal dementia made me cry. (Don)

Favorite section of the library: I can’t choose. (Don) new books (Lynn)
 
E-reader or paper book? paper (Don and Lynn)
 
Favorite guilty reading pleasure: I read quite a few mysteries, especially Poirot stories by Agatha Christie lately. (Don) Scandinavian mysteries (Lynn)
 
Favorite place to read: at home, in bed (Don and Lynn)

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Book jacket: Mannequin Girl by Ellen LitmanIf you’re a female who grew up in this country during the 1980s, odds are good that you lived in fear of scoliosis checks. The impact a back brace could have on a teenager’s social life was made very clear to me by Judy Blume in her book Deenie.  

But what if, instead of growing up in New Jersey under the watchful eye of a controlling mother, Deenie had been born in Soviet Russia to inattentive bohemian parents?

What if Deenie’s spine curvature got her sent to a school-sanitorium where life’s disappointments brought out a bit of an impulsive mean streak?

That alternate universe Deenie might look something like Kat Knopman, the sympathetic but prickly protagonist of Mannequin Girl by Ellen Litman.

Part of what I love about reading 80s coming of age stories, is recognizing my own experience in the lives of characters in fiction.  The other part is reflecting on how much of these experiences of a common era are colored by things like geography, race, politics and maybe just simple circumstance.

Were you an 80s child, or just interested in coming of age stories set in not so far removed historical times? Check out my list for more tubular tales from different points of view.

"No one can escape justice!" When I tell people that I’ve been reading a lot of Judge Dredd comics, the first thing most of them say is, “Oh yeah, wasn’t there that movie with Stallone in it?” Well, yes, there was. I was at it on opening weekend, in fact. There was also a much better (and funnier and more violent) Dredd flick that came out in 2012.

Cover of The complete Carlos Ezquerra: Volume 2But I’m not here to talk about moving pictures: Judge Dredd is all about pictures and words on paper. The character of Judge Joseph Dredd first appeared in the British magazine 2000 AD in 1977, and his adventures have been running there ever since. I did not know about that magazine when I was growing up, but I did know about Dredd (and respected the badge) thanks to Anthrax’s “I am the Law” and the occasional special-issue appearances with Batman. Only recently have I gone back to the source and started reading some of the original British comics, and I am very glad that I did.

Set in a chaotic, post-apocalyptic 22nd century U.S. city, Mega City One, Dredd is one of the Judges, authorized to detain and deliver judgement on any law-breaker. The sentence is often death. This would be a grim premise, were it not for the fact that the comics are completely, gloriously over the top. People get infected by radiated mushrooms and start breaking out in spores. Robots have egos and sing songs about themselves. Weird skeletal psychopaths talk with hillbilly accents and make various diabolical poisons (or “pizens”). It’s fantastic! The satire is often thick. And episodes are incredibly short, only about 6 pages long: they were originally serialized in 2000 AD over many issues. Collections of these episodes are the perfect quick-bite reading, for when you don’t have much time or much of an attention span.

There have been some recent Dredd comics by American writers and artists, too: an ongoing series by Duane Swierczynski which kind of turns it into a sci-fi police procedural (albeit with plenty of cheeky humor and misplaced body parts), and a great miniseries called Mega City Two: City of Courts by Portlanders Douglas Wolk and Ulises Farinas. In Mega City Two, Dredd takes an assignment on the west coast, a place much brighter and glammy than MC1. Rest assured, he will still find a way to deliver justice, even if he is stuck with a gun that only shoots “friendly bullets.” Because, after all, he is the law.

In September 199_, at the age of 14, I was driven into the city and deposited in the brick hallways of Catholic high school. It was in that cold, drafty, but nevertheless optimistic institution (in the English class of one Mr. Stiff) that I first encountered the writings of John Irving. The book was A Prayer for Owen Meany, which follows two boys as they grow up (one of the boys is unusually short, has a strange, nasal voice and believes that he is an instrument of God). I enjoyed this long, funny, sad book, enough so that I decided to try another book by Irving: The World According to Garp. This one was even more funny, and it had a lot more sex. It was also about an unusual boy and his progression through an unusual life, en route to becoming a perhaps slightly less unusual man. Did I mention that there was sex in it? Naturally, it became one of my favorite books during those high school years, and Irving remained a favorite author of mine during all of the challenging, arduous, character-forming years since.

More recently, I read his Until I Find You, about a young boy with a fantastic memory who, along with his tattooist mother, journeys around Europe in search of his wayward father, a church organist addicted to tattoos. The book goes on to follow this boy as he grows to manhood and comes to grips with his relationships to both of his parents. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think, "...again? Another boy with a screwed up life, growing up?" But still, I loved it and couldn’t put it down. And it got me thinking about why it was that I like Irving’s books so much, even though the stories and characters in them seem so similar. His writing and plotting are wonderful, but I think that maybe the appeal is also exactly that the stories are so classically structured and almost formulaic in the progression of the character from young age to adulthood. Almost all of his books are examples of the bildunsgroman genre, the coming-of-age story. And he’s not the only one writing in this mode: a My MCL search for the subject term “bildungsromans” produces, at the time of this writing, 2,082 results.

So why do I/we like this kind of book so much? I suppose that the one constant in life is that you grow older, and maybe it’s nice to think that we also mature along the way. Or maybe there’s just nothing funnier or sadder than growing up.

“You need a rest, and so do I," I'd say firmly, and then I'd close the door (also firmly) and brew myself a cup of tea. Then, with a sigh of happiness, I’d pull out a book or pop in a DVD and take at least an hour for myself. My kids both stopped napping at about three and a half, but I didn't stop being a quiet time-enforcer until both of them were in the care of Portland Public Schools five days a week. Days with young children can be very long, and I found that if we had this time to refuel, the rest of the afternoon and evening would be much more pleasant for everyone.

A library patron recently told me that she uses audiobooks to entertain her preschooler during quiet time and I think this is a brilliant idea. Let them be diverted for a while by Frances, a badger who likes to make up charming little songs, or let them spend some time enjoying the sweet friendship of Frog and Toad. I’ve made a couple of lists to give parents ideas for audiobooks that would be perfect. The first list contains audiobook CDs and the second contains downloadable audiobooksI offer them with the sincere hope that the stories you'll find on them will provide enough time for both parent and child to feel refreshed.

No visit to memory lane is complete without a few moments of fascination and horror.  Remember your 20’s?  I do -- my first apartment, helpful or harmful roommates, dating, and encounters with people that have since turned into lifelong relationships. I love that I had so much energy and anything felt possible. I still love many of the people I encountered then.

So, it’s not surprising that I love the HBO series Girls created by Lena Dunham, a sometimes comedic and horrific drama. This series is a very entertaining guest that I want to invite into my living room.  Dunham’s girls explore connections with lovers, jobs, friendships and all the possibilities of life while trying to maintain and develop their self esteem in wild New York City. It’s the exciting and uncomfortable 20’s unveiled in all it’s shabby glory, something to witness and marvel at while discussing the thought-provoking topics that each episode brings up. Oh and she just wrote a funny and moving collection of essays called Not that Kind Of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "learned".  I’ve learned that I love what Lena Dunham creates and hope she keeps making books, movies and television for a long long time.

 

cover image of mr. phillips

Mr. Phillips is a modern classic in my estimation. Faintly inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, this single day novel focuses on the life of a middle-class British male who has been summarily sacked from his job of accountant last Friday. Monday morning however, he dresses the part and leaves for the office just the same, Mrs. Phillips being none the wiser. The reader is privy to his thoughts (which are borderline sexually obsessive) as he spends the day wandering London, doing some very normal things like riding public transport and the not very mundane like witnessing a bank robbery. It is bawdy, but great. 

Having walked the streets of London myself on those quiet weekday afternoons (not because I had been made redundant, rather a work schedule thing); I have selected a musical pairing for this book. If there was ever an album to enjoy while exploring the city (employed or no) it would be Songs for Distingue Lovers by Billie Holiday.

 

 

Film adaptations of popular books are usually eagerly anticipated happenings. There is a curiosity inherent in waiting to see just how beloved characters and settings, so well established in the mind’s eye, present themselves on the big screen. It can be very satisfying to see a movie character who is the embodiment of the person you have been imagining all along. On the other hand it can be deeply frustrating to see a film character say or do something that your well-established fantasy character would just never say or do.

Orange is the New Black dvd coverThe bigger challenge in accommodating a film translation is accepting the subtle or not-so-subtle changes to the story line that Hollywood feels it needs to make the movie work. Take, for example, the Netflix adaptation of Orange is the New Black, an episodic rendering of Piper Kerman’s 2010 memoir of her time in prison. Bored with her middle class life and fresh out of Smith College, Kerman took up with a group of artists-turned drug smugglers. In exchange for a world of first class travel and posh resorts, Kerman became a drug mule, delivering large cash payments to international drug bosses. Ten years after she quit the business, federal officers knocked on her apartment door and arrested her. She was sentenced to fifteen months in a minimum security women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut.

The show is highly entertaining, with familiar characters come to life and new and interesting ones added to the mix. The film versionOrange is the New Black book jacket highlights and deeply embellishes the drama, which was much more subtle in the book. The book highlights Kerman as an adept lexicographer of prison life as well as someone who took a painful experience and made something of it. But the amped- up drama of television keeps viewers hooked and waiting (as I am, I admit) for season three.

I’m grateful to have read the book. It is an engaging and informative read and since the publication of the book, Kerman has become an outspoken advocate of prison reform. Part of her success of Orange is the New Black comes from indirectly highlighting some of the failures of the U.S. Prison system. By creating an emotional connection to these injustices through the book and through a highly-watched television series, Kerman has been a powerful advocate for change.

Beyond the potential discrepancies between book and film, it’s just plain interesting to see a beloved story come to life before our very eyes. So watch the show or read the book? Why not do both!

One of the things I like about science fiction is that it can encompass almost any other genre, but to be done well, the author really needs to be aware of the elements that define both science fiction and the genre from which they are borrowing. One particular melding that I’ve been enjoying is that between science fiction and the murder mystery—especially when it involves the intersection of our inherent human nature—jealousy, greed, envy, etc.—and the unintended consequences of technology.

Caves of Steel book jacketThese stories have a long history. For me, Isaac Asimov set the template in the 1950s with his first two Robot novels, The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. What gives the stories their power as science fiction are the ways in which Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics shape Nimbus book jacketthe murder investigation at the center of each tale and the society at large. Another of my favorites is Nimbus by Alexander Jablokov which opens with someone murdering members of a group who had been secretly modified as children years before. What those modifications were and who is responsible are closely linked—and that’s all I’m going to say about it. More recently, Ken MacLeod wrote The Night Sessions where artificial intelligences play a central role following the bombing of a church and murder of a bishop. MacLeod writes very sophisticated novels that often focus on artificial intelligence and this is no exception. And finally, just published in 2014 is Jon Scalzi’s Lock In which opens with a murder in a world where a large number of people are fully conscious but trapped within catatonic bodies. Some can escape by either projecting their consciousness into machines or into the minds of “Integrators”-- individuals who can share their physical bodies with others. One of the big questions here is how do you know who is responsible when consciousness can be swapped?

Whether you like science fiction or mysteries, there is much to explore within this sub-genre. Using a science fiction setting allows for all kinds of new and interesting questions—the nature of reality, what is consciousness, the ethics (if any) of non-human intelligence—these are just a few that you won’t find in, say, an Agatha Christie story. So, if I’ve piqued your interest, go ahead and dive into this subset of science fiction and let me know what you think in the comments below.  Also check out this list for more great science fiction mysteries.

Existen miles de sitios en Internet dedicados a la salud personal. Hemos reunido una  lista de los mejores recursos con información gratuita y evaluada por profesionales.

 

Smartphone con página móvil de MedlinePlusMedlinePlus le brinda información sobre enfermedades, condiciones y bienestar en un lenguaje fácil de leer y basados en estudios médicos recientes.

El Departamento de Salud y Servicios Sociales-Healthfinder ofrece material sobre una gran variedad de temas de salud recopilados por más de 1,600 organizaciones gubernamentales o sin fines de lucro.

Manual Merck contiene información médica para el hogar sobre temas como: el control de enfermedades, ideas para una alimentación más saludable, sugerencias para ayudar a los pacientes, y comunicación con los médicos.

Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades, CDC publica  información sobre la promoción de la salud, la prevención de enfermedades y lesiones, las discapacidades y preparación acerca de nuevas enfermedades.

 

Para tener acceso a los siguientes servicios, tenga listo su número de tarjeta de la biblioteca y su contraseña. Si no tiene una tarjeta de la biblioteca, obtener una es muy facil.

Informe Académico ofrece artículos sobre salud pública y temas relacionados como la dieta, la piel, el agua, la salud y el bienestar.

Health & Wellness le proporciona miles de libros y artículos de revistas con información sobre los derechos del paciente, la planificación familiar, la diabetes, la depresión y más.

¿Dudas o preguntas? Comuníquese con un bibliotecario por mensaje de texto, teléfono o correo electrónico.

cup of teaMany mornings lately, I have had a date with an Earl. During the hot summer months I don't often crave his company. But when the rains begin, he once again becomes appealing. He is warm and steamy, he smells wonderful, and he gets my day off to a great start. When the Earl is not available, or I'm just not in the mood for his charm, I soothe myself with a robust English or Irish breakfast, or perhaps even some zesty orange and spice. And for those mornings when I need extra calming, green always does the trick.

This is your friendly reminder of the wonders of tea. Coffee is swell, but, to me, nothing beats a warm cuppa. The endless varieties only add to the pleasure. One of the best parts of my mornings is the daily choosing of the tea! Black (especially Earl Grey), green, white, or red, I can always find a tea to match my mood.  Then it's time to take in the aromas and flavors of the day's selection, a bit of peace and tranquility before the start of the day.

The library has many wonderful books about the history and culture of tea. If you are so inclined, check one out, brew yourself a steaming pot of your favorite blend, wrap yourself in a blanket in front of a rainy window, and lose yourself in the world of tea.

 

 

Below is a list of resources the library has collected for veterans and their families, from health care to employment assistance.

Support and Benefits

  • Multnomah County Veterans' Services Office: "The Veterans' Services Office works to ensure that Multnomah County veterans and their families receive all state and federal benefits available to them by providing them effective and dedicated representation free of charge."
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits: Information from the VA about the complete range of benefits available to Veterans. Also access eBenefits, "your one-stop shop for online benefits-related tools and information."

Transitioning to Civilian Life

Employment

  • Veteran Employment in Oregon: The Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs provides links to information about Veteran preference points for jobs with the State of Oregon, national programs, and a list of Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVER) and Disabled Veterans´ Outreach Program Specialists (DVOP).
  • Feds Hire Vets: A site focused on jobs with the Federal Government with information for Veterans, transitioning service members, and family members. Get detailed information about Veterans' Preference, Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans, and education and training resources for Veterans.
  • Job Seekers: The library has a variety of books, classes, programs and open labs to help with job seeking. Please contact us for more information.
  • Key to Career Success: From CareerOneStop, provides career information and links to work-related services that help veterans and military service members successfully transition to civilian careers.

Women Veterans

  • Women Veterans Health Care: The Department of Veterans Affairs has a site devoted to women's health care with information and resources directed at women veterans. Locate local VA services for women. The Portland VA has a list of services and contact information for the Program Manager and medical staff serving women's health needs.
  • Center for Women Veterans: The VA's has collected some information and resources of interest to women Veterans. The "Her Story" section features profiles of many different military women. A PDF document of the "25 Most Frequently Asked Questions and Responses" for women veterans is available, scroll down the page to the Links and Documents section.

Health and Wellness

  • Veterans and Military Health: MedlinePlus: MedlinePlus.gov, an authoritative source for health information compiled by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, has created a page that addresses the specific concerns and health issues of veterans.
  • My HealtheVet: Access the VA's e-health website for Veterans, active duty soldiers, their dependents and caregivers. Login for your personal health record, medical information, information on services and benefits and more.
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care: A portal page to find out about health benefits, medical conditions, services, wellness information, and health-related news and stories of interest to Veterans.
  • Returning Veterans Project: A local resource for free counseling and other health services for returning veterans and their families. The Provider Directory lists volunteer service providers who will treat veterans for free when they mention they were referred by the Returning Veterans Project.

Resources for Families

Not finding what you need here? Please contact us for assistance!

Guest blogger Jay H. works at the Gresham Library and shared this story of how useful the library’s language learning resources can be.

One of our patrons who visits once a week wanted to learn to speak Portuguese.  I showed her our Mango Connect language learning resource, which she was able to use on one of our computers.  Each week she would come and complete some more Portuguese lessons.  Flag of BrazilAfter a few weeks, she had completed all the lessons that Mango Connect had to offer, and asked me for more Portuguese learning resources!

As I chatted with her, she told me she was motivated to learn Portuguese so that she could speak to her daughter-in-law, who is from Brazil.  I was able to find more advanced Portuguese resources on CD audiobooks for her.  She kept at it, using our computer lab computers to listen to the CD's, and quietly practicing Portuguese as she learned.

Then one week, she reported that she had gone to visit her son and daugher-in-law, and her family was shocked when she could converse quite well in Portuguese!  It worked!  Cover of Pimsluer Portuguese III She continues to study, and is now on level III of Portuguese in the Pimsleur Language Programs.   She is grateful to her library for having such wonderful language learning resources.

Staff like Jay are ready to help you with Language Learning resources - however you visit the library. Ask us!

When Angela Johnson was in elementary school, her teacher chose Harriet the Spy as the class read aloud.  Harriet carries a notebook and keeps notes on classmates and neighbors, and has a unique voice amongst children’s books characters. Listening to Harriet, Johnson knew she wanted to be a writer.

Johnson’s own writings, inspired both by the outrageous storytelling of her father and grandfather and her love of poetry, have a lyrical voice and a rhythmic cadence. Her tales range from tender to outrageous, from preschool to teens, from fiction to historical fiction. Angela’s characters and families reflect her African American culture, yet her emotional tone rings true for all.  No wonder she’s won numerous literary awards for both diversity and her amazing voice. Check out this booklist with some of my favorites.

Sweater selfie of Cathy Carron's belle curve cardiganFall, It took you long enough to come around, but all is forgiven now that you’re here.  Let’s not waste another moment. It’s time to break out the yarn stash and get knitting! I know you year-round knitters are out there, but so far my knitting habit is strictly seasonal. It comes on strong only when the temperature drops and holds steady through the winter, though admittedly, it’s been slow to progress.  

The first year I did scarves: messy and uneven, with lots of irregularities that I tried to pass off as design features. They were presented to family who had the good sense to politely tuck them out of sight. Next it was hats: ribbed hats, striped hats, much too itchy baby hats, and one unintentionally slouchy Rastafarian hat.

Last year was known in my house as the year of the snood, and so this fall I’ve been determined to make a great leap forward: sweaters.  That was until I picked up Short Story: Chic Knits for Layering by Cathy Carron and my great leap has started instead, with an enthusiastic hop.Book jacket: Short story by Cathy Carron

The belle curve cardigan on page 82 proved to be the perfect middle step between knitting circular accessories and piecing together a sweater with sleeves.  It was relatively quick to knit up, has no seams and was knit on circular needles.  Most important, it passed the test of withstanding frequent interruptions and a five year old ‘helper’ without resulting in a wooly meltdown.

Carron is known for her knitting books, loaded with innovative patterns, ranging from basics with a twist, to over-the-top looks for more daring souls and this one is no different. So if you’re not quite ready to knit a sweater, but can’t in good conscience bestow another hat upon a family member, check out Carron’s Short Story and she’ll get you halfway there.

Looking for more tried and tested books for the novice knitter? Check out my list.

Long ago, I spent four summers in a small fishing town in Southeastern Alaska. I slimed fish, lived in a tent, met the love of my life, and discovered a lifelong appreciation for hiking. I drank vast quantities of lousy beer with fishermen, cannery workers, and loggers at the Harbor Bar. I caught my first fish, crossed paths with black bears, watched killer whales breaching, saw so many bald eagles that I almost stopped finding them thrilling, and took a skiff out to the local glacier where seal pups cavorted on blue icebergs.

It was an amazing place.

It gets too dark there in the winter for me, so I live in Portland now (with the aforementioned love of my life). I miss it, but I’m so glad that I discovered the books of John Straley, which bring that world to vivid life. There are colorful bits of folk tales interspersed with perfect descriptions of the landscape and the people. The characters are so important and such a pleasure in Straley's books.

In his Cold Storage Alaska, which I listened to on audiobook this past summer, one character asks, "Is everyone in this town a goddamn comedian?"

The man he’s talking to replies, "No, actually most of the people in this town are drunks or depressives, but we have our funny moments."

And they really do. Straley has mentioned that this novel was influenced by his love of screwball comedy and you can tell, although officially, it's categorized as crime fiction.

Miles, the main character of this book, is a medic who pretty much holds together the fictional small fishing town of Cold Storage, Alaska. He's a good guy, but kind of lonely. His brother, the bad son in the family, is coming back home after spending years in jail, bringing with him a whole bunch of money he thinks he's earned and the ugliest and most ferocious dog anyone has ever seen. The ownership of the dog is not in dispute, but someone will be coming after that money. So that's the plot. But really? All this is just a framework to start with so you can listen to the people in this book have wildly entertaining conversations in bars, in diners and out on boats in the untouched Alaskan wilderness.

I read a new graphic novel that is so compelling I couldn’t put it down. It’s definitely a page turner!  March is an autobiography by congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. It is filled with stunning visuals by award-winning Nate Powell. The story starts with the family chickens. His care of the flock helps him build his moral core. As a reader it  helped me get to know him and care about him. At the same time, this comic book is a biography of our civil rights movement in the United States. Important issue, important man: Fantastic read. Don’t miss it.


If you are interested in more comic books about history they can be found in the History through graphic novels list.

plane guy

What’s in your carry-on?

Some people fret about clothes, maps, or hotel reservations for an upcoming vacation.  Me?  I’m too busy worrying about what to read.  While ebooks can alleviate this dilemma, I’m still a physical book guy and limited luggage space makes for challenging decisions.

What makes a good book for a getaway?  Easy reading, light subject matter, and a touch of humor are a start.  There’s also a number of factors to consider such as: flight length, travelling companions, and tome portability. Taking these variables into account I’ve put together a short list of potential travel companions.  

What’s your next vacation read?

 

 

The Bridge photoIn a landscape of endless grey and flowing clouds, a body is found on a bridge, “dead” center, if you’ll forgive the pun, inconveniently straddling two jurisdictions. Who will take the case, Portland or Vancouver… err wait, make that Denmark or Sweden, all that grey bridginess confused me!  And just to complicate things, what if the body turns out to actually be two bodies… the upper half of one and the lower half of another? Diabolical, I say.

What stands out about The Bridge, more than the color-drained Scandinavian setting and the tricky plot, is character. While at first the two detectives seem to be embodiments of a Danish/Swedish culture clash, they soon become fully realized entities all their own. Saga Norén is a leather pant clad, goatlike (I kid you not, her acting in this role is partly based on a small goat ) Swede with a sharply analytic mind and no social skills. In fact, many watchers believe she has Asperger’s syndrome, though that hasn’t been explicitly stated.  Martin Rohde is a fiery Dane, a devoted yet philandering family man, which leads to him being all kinds of tortured. He’s very perceptive of psychology and emotions, and Saga needs him to help her interpret the confusing world of interpersonal relationships. It’s the contrast between these two and their complex friendship that really makes the series. If you like Nordic noir, you must try this.  After binge viewing the entire first season in the space of two weeks, I found myself wandering the house, responding to questions with Ja, ja, and Nej, and brewing up a steaming hot batch of glögg, the better to view season two with. Trailer is here.

picture of the U.S. ConstitutionWhat Is It?

Most Americans know the Constitution is the foundation of American government and law. Many know that James Madison is often recognized as the “Father of the Constitution” and it was written near the end of the 18th century. When it comes to the details, however, Americans are often a bit fuzzy.  Polls consistently show that many—if not most—Americans do not have a firm grasp of the Constitution and the powers of government. For example, surveys from The Annenberg Public Policy Center and The Center for the Constitution both show most Americans lack a firm understanding of the Constitution. Curious about how much you really know? You can test your own Constitutional IQ at Constitution Facts.

Where do I Learn More?

In 2004, Congress set aside September 17th as national Constitution Day, a day in which we, as a nation, can celebrate and learn more about one of our founding documents. There are plenty of resources available to help explain the Constitution and how it shapes the American government, but the trick is finding one that does not have an agenda that may bias the interpretation. In today’s political arena, groups and individuals from across the political spectrum invoke the Constitution as the foundation for their particular point of view. In such a climate, it is important to find authoritative resources that can provide a balanced look at the document, the time and place from which it arose, and its role in government and law through the decades.  

So, where should you start? Of course, reading the Constitution itself is a logical starting point, but some context can be very helpful.  One good resource is the National Constitution Center, a museum chartered by Congress to provide nonpartisan education about the Constitution and the U.S. Congress itself also hosts an annotated version. The National Archives, which houses the original Constitution, has a useful online exhibit dedicated to the Charters of Freedom, which includes the Constitution. Outside of the federal government, Cornell University hosts the Legal Information Institute which provides an explanation for each section. Finally, try one—or more—of the books from the reading list below. After all of this, you will be well equipped to be a responsible citizen for, in the words of James Madison:

 A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.  –Letter to W. T. Barry (4 August 1822)

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