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Showing posts from August, 2014

A War of Spies & Secrets

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In my previous blog post, Cloak-and-Dagger, I wrote about some of John le Carre's novels.  The majority of the books I mentioned in that blog post revolved around the Cold War. From The Spy Who Came in from the Cold to Smiley's People, the theater of the Cold War provided fodder for most of le CarrĂ©'s novels. The Cold War dominated the post-World War II geopolitical stage and a great number of books and movies were spurred by its politics. The stalemate between the two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, lasted for almost half a century from 1945 until the breakdown of the communist bloc countries in 1991. John le CarrĂ© was not the only writer who used the Cold War as the backdrop to his stories.

Books such as Graham Greene's The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor, Old Flames by John Lawton, Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon, Last Call for Blackford Oakes by William Buckley, The Ipcress File and Berlin Game by Len Deighton, The Whitehall Manda…

Catching Up With Tech, Part 2

The following is the second 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 first part appeared last month.
Someone is Following You
Being tracked while in a store or other public place has some obvious pros and cons, which could be debated in an entire blog post on privacy versus creating a personalized outing.  Today we will just look at the technology that will make this debate possible, iBeacons.  SAP ran a blog post on the devices in January, describing them as “a low-cost, small piece of hardware that utilizes battery-friendly low-energy Bluetooth connections to monitor users’ activity and transmit messages or prompts to their smartphones or tablets.”  The idea behind the devices is a business, say a retailer, could put the little pods all over their store and se…

A Visceral Love of the Game; and a Word on the Baseball MacGuffin

In an earlier post, I briefly discussed how paying attention to advanced metrics can help you better evaluate player performance in baseball. I contrasted looking at a player’s numbers — including advanced statistics — with relying on the “eye test,” noting that the eye test can be deceptive.

In this post, I will attempt to show, using a specific example, just how the eye test can be deceptive.

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The video above is of an extraordinary catch that Phillies’ centerfielder Ben Revere made in mid-April 2013. As you watch the video, it is difficult not to share the excitement plainly evident in the voice of Phillies play-by-play broadcaster Tom McCarthy. Revere’s running, leaping grab is spectacular; he seems to defy numerous laws of physics in making this play, not the least of which being the law of gravity itself.

As a Phillies fan, I have watched this video and enjoyed it at that visceral excitement level numerous times. Now, over a year later, I sti…

Books To Get You Thinking

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Published by authors from widely disparate walks of life who through their words and writings share some of their deepest thoughts, reflections and significant moments, memoirs make for truly fascinating reads. Going through the pages of a memoir, I find myself drifting to another world, a different place in time that is rich with the images, experiences and challenges surrounding the author. This month’s column highlights memoirs penned by prominent persons who have influenced the social, economic and political landscapes of their countries. Next month the focus will be on other notable memoirs that tell personal stories of courage and hope.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
On May 28, 2014, Maya Angelou died at age 86 and the world lost an acclaimed writer, poet, playwright, performer and civil rights activist.  The many different facets of her personality are depicted through her prolific writings and powerful words which have inspired and touched millions all over the world. A…

"Are You Ready For Some Football?"

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The 2014 FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil ended over a month ago, with Germany defeating Argentina in a match loaded with international soccer stars. 
What is not over is America’s exponentially-growing love for the sport of football (or, soccer, as most of us refer to it in the United States). If you followed the world’s largest sports tournament to any degree, you undoubtedly fell in love with the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT), led by stars Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and several New Jersey-tied stars such as goaltender Tim Howard and midfielder Michael Bradley. 

To catch you up to speed on this installment of the USMNT, as well as some history on previous United States squads, I recommend (believe it or not) a juvenile title: U.S. Mens Team: New Stars On The Field.
Want a crash course on World Cup history? Check out these titles! The Mammoth Book of the Word Cup by Nick Holt
Match! Brazil 2014 Guide: The World Cup Book for Football-Mad Fans by Matt Read 
Golazo! The Beau…

Happy Birthday Wizard of Oz!

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August of 1939 marked a change in United States popular culture. It was during this month that The Wizard of Oz was released in theaters across America. If you are like me, you have whined an “I’m melting” when it is too hot outside.  Or, again like me, during the first few weeks of living away at college you wish you could tap your heels together three times while saying “There’s no place like home.”  These are just two examples of how this movie has influenced so many of our lives.

There are numerous ways to celebrate the Wizard’s anniversary:



Read Frank L. Baum’s Oz Books:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
•The Marvelous Land of Oz
•Ozma of Oz
•Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz
•The Road of Oz
•The Emerald City of Oz
•The Patchwork Girl of Oz
•Tik-Tok of Oz
•The Scarecrow of Oz
•Rinkitink in Oz
•The Lost Princess of Oz
•The Tin Woodman of Oz
•The Magic of Oz
•Glinda of Oz

You could also read Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years series:
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
•Son of a Wit…

Kids' Craft-Rain Stick

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Between the scorching heat and pouring rain, many families have spent more time indoors this summer than preferred. The Rain Stick craft is easy to make from household items and will keep your kids entertained. After making the craft, you can talk about our recent thunderstorms and compare summer storms to spring rain. Follow the directions below to make your own rain stick and create an indoor storm!
What you’ll need:
-Paper towel tube -Uncooked rice -Aluminum foil -Construction paper -Glue/tape -Scissors -Markers/crayons, stamps, stickers, etc. What you’ll do: 1.Trace the end of the paper towel tube onto construction paper twice. 2.Cut a larger circle around the traced one and cut fringes into the paper towards the traced circle.
3.Place one circle over paper towel tube opening and fold fringes up and around the tube and glue or tape in place. 4.Cut a sheet of aluminum foil 1.5 times the length of the paper towel tube. 5.Cut the sheet of aluminum foil in half and roll each half into a “snake” …

Heraldry and Coats of Arms

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Did you ever wonder what all those cool symbols, signs and animals on a family’s heraldic Coat of Arms or a nation’s banner mean? They may appear to be the imaginative doodlings of a creative artist, but they are not. Heraldry is the art and study of creating a Crest or Coat of Arms in which specific symbols, objects, and colors have meanings that pertain to the family or families on whose Crest they appear.

There are literally thousands of terms, symbols and objects that are used in heraldry. These include trees, plants, insects, and real animals, as well as mythical beasts such as unicorns, mermaids and griffins. They may also contain human body part symbols such as arms and hands and legs, hands may be open or closed fisted. Commonly seen animals, such as the lion, are depicted in various poses, each of which has its own terminology; for example, a lion rampant is one that is standing on its hind legs either at an angle or upright as opposed to standing or reposing on all fours.

Co…

NASA Celebrates 56 Years This Month!

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In 1957, the former Soviet Union became the first nation to launch a satellite into orbit. The launch of Sputnik marked the dawn of the Space Age and prompted the United States to create the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Since NASA’s founding in 1958, its accomplishments have enhanced our knowledge of the world and the universe.  Check out books like these from the Mercer County Library System to learn more about the “final frontier”:

Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration
By Chris Impey
Dreams of Other Worlds describes the unmanned space missions that have opened new windows on distant worlds. Spanning four decades of dramatic advances in astronomy and planetary science, this book tells the story of eleven iconic exploratory missions and how they have fundamentally transformed our scientific and cultural perspectives on the universe and our place in it. The journey begins with the Viking and Mars Exploration Rover missions to Mar…