Puzzling It Out: Crosswords at the Library

At the Ewing Branch Library, like all of our locations, just about anything you take home will have to be returned.  But one of our most popular items is something you can keep -- you can even deface it! -- it’s a copy of the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.  Every week our staff provides copies of the puzzle from the New York Times Magazine, and we often run out by mid-week.

I’ve been doing puzzles for most of my life.  It’s a daily routine that started in earnest when my uncle gave me a subscription to the magazine Games for my birthday when I was in middle school.  I enjoyed it so much, he renewed the subscription for many years.  Games was published ten times a year, and when it arrived, all schoolwork was set aside until I had worked my way through as many of the puzzles as I could tackle!  The magazine published many types of puzzles, all graded in difficulty from one to three stars -- spiral word puzzles, cryptograms, “What is it?” photo quizzes -- but the centerpiece of…

Can You Hear Me Now?

The day will always be etched into my mind – Tuesday, December 19, 2017.  It was less than a week before Christmas and I was in full holiday mode.  We had an early morning appointment with the Otolaryngology Department at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) for my 7 year old son Aidan.  For a few months leading up to this appointment, Aidan would mention in passing that it felt like his right ear was clogged.  Each time I made an appointment at the pediatrician’s office and each time we were told it was nothing to be concerned about. So we took the proper precautions to try and open his hearing.  While he first said it helped a bit we were not a 100% sure.

Aidan had failed his 6 year old hearing test as well as his 7 year old test.  His doctor immediately told us to see an Otolaryngologist.  After a round of hearing tests, it was confirmed he had profound to severe hearing loss in his right ear.  Questions were immediately starting to form: Why Aidan?  Why now?  Was he born this…

Woodstock 50th Anniversary

The Woodstock music festival of August 15th-18th, 1969, was one of the defining events of 1960s counterculture.  In the days before the festival began, 500,000 music fans from all over the country descended on the small, sleepy town of Bethel, NY. The three-day festival included an enormous lineup of acts, some already famous and some relatively unknown. They included The Who, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, the Jefferson Airplane, and countless others. The very successful documentary Woodstock – 3 days of peace and music, which came out the following year, made many of these musicians world famous. 

If you want to read more about the Woodstock festival, the Mercer County Library System has many books that cover this historic event:

50 Years: The Story of Woodstock Live: Relive the Magic, Artist by Artist by Julien Bitoun goes through a very detailed rundown of the festival. It goes artist by artist, starting with Ritchie Havens at 5pm on Friday to Jimi Hendri…

Toni Morrison, 1931-2019

Earlier this week we lost one of the essential authors of 20th century America, Toni Morrison.  Renowned for her beautiful prose that vividly describes life as an African American woman and the search for Black identity in a country still confronting racism at the turn of the century, Morrison covered subjects including sexual violence against women, the Jazz Age, and life in the post-War South.  Her writing style utilizes a fair amount of simile to help the reader relate to the issues she describes in her works, making the writing accessible and easy to read because of her even flow and well-structured wording.  While Morrison covers some difficult subject matter, she often does so by incorporating fantasy through magical realism, lending an entertainment level to her novels.

Morrison was the 1993 Nobel Prize winner for literature and has also won a Pulitzer Prize (for Beloved), been inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  She spent …

Juuuust a bit outside…

It periodically happens to me: binging baseball movies. It always starts with seeing one film. In this instance, it was Bang the Drum Slowly (which happened to overlap with a Robert DeNiro phase of movie binging). From there it was a slippery slope, falling into the abyss of baseball movie watching. There are so many titles from which to choose. There are over 200 baseball films listed in the online Baseball Almanac!

Back in 2013, a library colleague blogged about baseball movies. Like her, I don’t consider myself a baseball fan. I am just a sucker for the coming-of-age, the rooting for the underdog, or the tear jerking camaraderie of a band of misfits coming together while it takes place on a baseball field. When returning my most recent baseball movie to the library, however, it generated an impromptu, informal game among staff of “Who Can Out Baseball Movie Quote Whom,” which made me start to think about all the wonderful, memorable lines baseball movies have provided.

There is th…

Magic Tricks

Magic is the art of making the impossible seem possible. Magicians can mystify an audience by making an illusion seem real.  Many children do not excel in sports, but learning and performing magic tricks can build confidence and social skills.

One of the most important rules of learning magic is to practice each trick until you can do it perfectly at least 10-15 times in a row.  If you can, practice in front of a big mirror so that you can correct any mistakes that you are making.

Rules of performing magic: make it fun, and never tell how the trick is done!  Don’t even tell your family or friends or the mystery of the trick is gone! In fact, if the audience learns how you do your tricks then they won’t want to watch and will lose interest in your presentation.

Only do the trick once! If the magic trick is performed a second time, the audience will know what to expect and may guess how the trick is done.  Sometimes, there might be a member of the audience who will shout out that he or …

Books to Get You Thinking

One of the great mysteries surrounding the functioning of the human body system is the intricacy of how the immune system works - today the study of the human immune system is one of the most important frontiers of medical scientific research. New insights are emerging that have a far reaching  impact on how medicine will be practiced in the twenty first century, how  clinical decisions will be taken  in controlling disease progression. In the years to come, the developing science of immunotherapy holds the promise of identifying new treatments for fatal and debilitating diseases such as cancer, and auto immune diseases such as diabetes and arthritis through enhancing or restricting the activity of the body’s immune system. Available at the Mercer County Library System are several new books encompassing different facets of the immune system – the science underlying its working, the historical origins and advancements in the study of the immune system and today’s cutting edge research …