Showing posts from July, 2014

Catching Up With Tech, Part 1

The following is the first of a two-part series looking at some brief technology articles you may have missed, but should take a second look at in order to be aware of what is on the technology horizon, or at least be in the know when someone brings the topic up at a party or on Facebook.  The second part will appear next month. Let Your Fingers Do the Reading MSN News recently reported on a new device that is being developed at MIT, a finger-based audio reading system for the blind and visually impaired.  The device is a ring that slips on the reader’s index finger and uses a camera to scan text that is then converted into spoken word, making it easy to read items such as signs, menus, and forms.  The FingerReader also makes it easier for the visually impaired to be able to access reading materials in a timely manner, instead of having to wait for a service to convert text of items such as magazines and newspapers into audio versions, a task that can sometimes take a day or

Summer Camp Fun

Hot summer days, sunscreen and swimming in a lake…when I was a child, I loved going to summer camp. For many years I had a traditional camp experience where I swam in the mornings, spent rainy afternoons making crafts and learned to shoot with a bow and arrow. I had special camp friends who I only saw during the summer and wrote letters to the rest of the year. Whether it is an academic camp, horse camp or theater camp, summer camps are a great way for children to meet new friends and gain new experiences. Your kids do not need to go to summer camp to have this fun. Here are a few titles that will help your child imagine the campouts, bug juice and friendship bracelets. Wolf Camp by Katie McKy. After two weeks at an unusual summer camp, Maggie returns home exhibiting some strange behaviors. Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the BedbugsBite by Diane De Groat. Gilbert is excited about staying overnight at Camp Hi-Dee-Ho, until he hears about the legendary c

The Lure of the Road

When I was young, summer meant wonderful road trips. By car, and later by motorhome, my parents and I visited 48 states. I still thrill to the thought of getting into a car and heading down the highway to some new destination. What will I find around the next corner? A natural wonder? A quaint town? A city? A quirky roadside attraction?  America has a rich history in roads, how they developed and what they have meant and still mean today to those who venture out for business or pleasure. The earliest federally funded road was the National Road, also known as The Cumberland Highway. President Thomas Jefferson recognized the need for good roads to reach the west and in 1806 he signed the act establishing the National Road. Construction began in 1811 and was completed in 1834.  When finished, the highway stretched almost 700 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois. The first improved coast to coast road, dedicated October 1, 1913, was the Lincoln Highway. It covere

Celtic Fling in PA

Four years ago, my friend Jimmie took me to my first Celtic Fling at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Mannheim, PA, and we have gone every year since.  It is usually the last weekend of June, starting Friday evening and going through Sunday and it has been hot every year!  Mannheim is about two hours away using the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and you have some nice views of dairy farms and fields once you get close to Lancaster.  There are a lot of bands at the faire that play Celtic music – both modern and traditional.  Many are based in Ireland or Scotland and come to America to tour music festivals.  There is food galore – most with a Celtic theme like boxtys and Scotch eggs – and a large number of vendors selling everything Celtic, including a wide variety of kilts. Speaking of kilts, almost everyone at the Fling is dressed either in a kilt made of their favorite tartan or some type of renaissance garb.  Traditionally, specific tartans were associated with regions or familie

Bug Blog

It became a cliché for many of us to swear, after all the snow and ice and school closings and general cold-weather agony we lived through last winter, that we would not, not, not complain about the heat and humidity this summer. I, for one, am holding to that oath. Every time I feel a little too warm I think of scraping an inch of ice and snow off my car and “driving” (i.e., negotiating one long, controlled skid) to work or home on slick icy roads, and I keep my mouth shut.  No, you will not hear me complain about the summer weather in New Jersey. But the summer brings more than just heat, humidity and thunderstorms. There is poison ivy (why is it not our state plant?), there is sunburn, and there are BUGS*. Insects. Spiders. Ticks. Mosquitoes (which are our state bird). Wasps. Creepy crawlies.  Biting, stinging, devouring our gardens, whining in our ears, inviting themselves to our barbecues and picnics.  Yellow jackets hiding in our soda cans, carpenter bees boring the

Encouraging Sustainable Lifestyles at West Windsor Branch

There is an increased level of awareness and attention dedicated to green and sustainable living and benefits reaped from living conscientiously. At the West Windsor Branch of the Mercer County Library System, a big effort is being made to teach children ages 4 to 11 simple concepts pertaining to sustainable, organic and conscientious lifestyles that help reduce the size of an individual’s carbon footprint. Working with funds provided by the Friends of the West Windsor Library, the West Windsor Branch has been able to purchase supplies for the Library Garden which is now entering its fourth season. The Friends have been able to make these funds available through selling books which you, our library’s patrons, have kindly donated. [i] Through the Library Garden, the children are engaged in reading about sustainable gardens, local seasonal produce, and farming. Additionally, we provide materials and crafts for children to create an even more positive experience. They are giv

The Summer Season in Classic Literature: Some Classic Summer-themed Fiction and Plays

Summer fiction is usually equated with light, entertaining reads but there are many classic literary stories and novels which take place wholly or partially in the summertime.  Often the summer season itself becomes a crucial background element in the story and can symbolize or evoke many things, from disease and decay to the awakening of life and love. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – A mysterious but wealthy young man, Jay Gatsby, intrigues his middle-class neighbor Nick Carraway who observes the lavish parties Gatsby throws over the course of one summer in his mansion in West Egg, Long Island. Nick becomes fascinated with this mysterious character and Gatsby enlists his help in his quest to win back his lost love, Daisy Buchanan, who lives with her husband nearby. Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill – Set in 1912, this autobiographical play follows a prosperous Irish-American family as it confronts demons from its past over the course of a long, foggy, lat

NJ History Comes Alive Online

New Jersey turns 350 this year and the state is in the middle of a year-long schedule of special events to mark the occasion.  New Jersey 350 has the theme of innovation, diversity, liberty – showcasing New Jersey as a center for technological invention with a diverse cultural makeup and as a seat of the country’s fight for liberty.  So it is no surprise that there are a few places one can turn to online to find out more about our state and local history. Start with the state’s Newjersey350 website, which has the expected list of events and information about the 350th celebration, but also includes a lot of educational materials that cover all kinds of topics from the state’s first 350 years.  The site is still growing, but already has a lot of information to get you started on exploring the state’s history.  The Resources section includes videos, time capsules and a Garden State Greats section.  If you are a reader, the Garden State Greats page includes 101 New Jersey books.  Mov


Looking for some good beach reads? How about a little dose of espionage? Intrigue, double agents, femme fatales, surveillance, sabotage and psychological warfare - ah, the territory of spy novels! And nobody does it better than John le Carré , the master of the spy genre. With elegant prose, atmospheric details, and superbly-drawn characters, le Carré captures the shadowy world of espionage staged against the back drop of the Cold War. In writing about the art of spy craft, le Carré creates intricate puzzles which are an enjoyable challenge for readers. So much of le Carré’s esoteric jargon: mole (undercover agent/a double agent), the Circus (MI6), honey trap (using sexual liaison solely to compromise a target), the Cousins (the CIA), has now become a regular part of the spy lexicon! Unlike the often superficial and glamorous world of espionage portrayed by Ian Fleming novels, le Carré’s writing describes the more ruthless, cloak-and-dagger reality of the post-World War II geopol