Showing posts from January, 2015

Out of Time: Time Measurement Oddities You May Not Know About

Last month’s Winter Solstice was the shortest day of the year, with 9 hours, 15 minutes and 16 seconds of daylight. The sun, however, did not set at the earliest time it would set during the year since that event took place earlier in the month. In fact, the earliest sunset in 2014 was at 4:28 pm (December 7, 8, and 9) while sunset on the Solstice was at 4:32 pm. A similar thing will happen in June of 2015, when the longest day of the year will have one of the latest sunsets (8:31 pm) but not one of the earliest sunrises (that would be June 11-18 at 5:24 am). The reason has to do with a concept called the equation of time, which is explained in detail on the website Time and Date. In a nutshell, the sun and earth are not perfect balls travelling in perfect circles so our traditional measures of time on a 24-hour clock do not equate to a nice, precise time for the Solstices to occur. For this reason, they occur on different dates and times each year and thus changes in the seaso…

Comfort Me with Books

If I ever doubted the comfort of the written word, it was indelibly proved to me some ten years ago. My older daughter watched her little sister loaded into an ambulance as police cars and a fire engine stood nearby. I kissed her, said “I’ll be back soon. Granny will look after you,” and five days later we were back, little sister walking unaided into the middle of her older sister’s birthday party. Afterwards, my brand-new five year old said “You didn’t say when you would come back and that made me unhappy—but I know a new poem.” And she recited part of “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth. “Auntie Julia taught it to me, and told me when I was sad to think of something beautiful.”

Like many of us, when I am sad and lonely, I turn to a words in the form of a novel for comfort. I am not alone in this. The website Goodreads has a discussion devoted to people’s favorite comfort books.

Sometimes, when I am in a bad mood, I want something new and exciting that will take me …

Squirrel It Away

I just found out that January 21st is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Frankly, I am not sure what there is to appreciate in squirrels aside from cuteness except that… apparently, they greet each other with a kiss. And a family of albino squirrels living in my neighborhood delighted my daughters when they were preschoolers. Oh, and one can admire their perseverance and ingenuity: When I was a child we had a supposedly squirrel-proof birdfeeder. Before long, the little animals were climbing up a drainpipe, launching themselves against the side of the house, and ricocheting to the feeder to grab a mouthful of seed.

Then I recalled one of my earliest memories of being read to—The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter, the story of one of the naughtiest squirrels in fiction who teases the wise old owl until the bird exacts a fitting revenge. Nutkin was a squirrel I could appreciate.

That set me on a search for more picture books about squirrels—and I found a scurry or, if you pref…


Have you noticed that yoga studios seem to be popping up all over? Often, we now even see people in television shows and television commercials doing yoga. What was once considered an oddity from exotic India has made it into the American mainstream due to yoga’s multiple beneficial effects for the body, mind, and spirit (if one wishes to pursue that particular form of yoga.)

The word yoga is related to our word yoke and basically means "union" or "yoking together." The roots of yoga go all the way back to the Vedas of ancient India, a body of literature relating to all aspects of life and especially the Scriptures of the Hindu faith. The ultimate goal of the yogi was "union" with the Divine.

For most people in the West, however, yoga is used as a means for increased health, strength and flexibility, especially of the spine. This is accomplished primarily through a series of physical postures called asanas which fall under the category of yoga known as Ha…

January 19 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Signed into law in January 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a celebration of Dr. King’s immeasurable contribution to the United States and to humankind. It is celebrated on the third Monday of January to coincide with Dr. King’s birthday (January 15, 1929). The Mercer County Library System houses a vast collection of titles about the eminent Civil Rights leader, including the following recently-published volumes:

Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year
By Tavis Smiley
Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King's life, revealing the minister's trials and tribulations—denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country's black middle class and militants, …

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service will take place on January 19, 2015. This federal holiday, marking the birthday of Dr. King, is a chance for people all over the country to join together in honor of his legacy to serve their neighbors and community. “The MLK Day of Service is a way to transform Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and teachings into community action that helps solve social problems.” (Corporation of National and Community Service)

The Martin Luther King Day of Service is a great way to encourage children to connect with their community and make a difference. On this holiday, many organizations will be holding MLK Day of Service events open to children and family volunteers. Service projects offer participants a chance to build knowledge and civic skills. Additionally, serving others gives volunteers an opportunity to deepen their understanding of empathy and compassion.

If your family would like to learn more about planning a service project or find proje…

Tablets Just for Kids

One of the benefits of owning a tablet is there are plenty of games, both educational and entertaining, for kids to enjoy. Yet, the downfalls of sharing a tablet with a younger child can be particularly costly should the child damage the tablet or just start tapping until all kinds of settings have been changed on the device. Fortunately, many manufacturers have taken notice of these issues and are now making tablets just for kids or a kid’s version of their existing tablet line.

First, there are the dedicated learning devices that have been around for a while, even before the first iPad hit the market. These devices, such as the LeapFrog and VTech lines, do not use a typical tablet operating system like Android but instead offer a proprietary system. The benefit is the tablets are easy to control since there is not a way to load outside apps or access the internet outside of what may be needed for a game. The downside for many is the parent needs to buy software made specifical…

Books To Get You Thinking

Reflecting on the many outstanding works of nonfiction that appeared throughout the months of 2014 in widely different genres ranging from history and politics to health, nature and the environment, there are some books that have made a definitive mark on ways that we think and view the world around us. Each year in December, leading newspapers and journals publish a list of the best books of the year. As we usher in the New Year and the cold winter evenings loom ahead of us, it is just the right time to pick up and enjoy these excellent works. This month’s column features a few picks from selections made by the New York Times and the Washington Post and can all be found at the Mercer County Library.

Berlin: Portrait of a City through the Centuriesby Rory MacLean
The book is a tribute to the city of Berlin by author Rory McLean, who paints an enchanting portrait of the city looking back at five hundred years of its history. Today Berlin is a culturally rich, modern, busy metropolis b…

Let it Snow à la Documentaries

Winter weather…..Some embrace the plummeting temperatures, ice, and snow. They put on their ultra-thermal, waterproof snow pants, insulated parkas, and fleece-lined winter boots just to take a winter wonderland stroll. Some travel to warmer destinations -- maybe a winter-long trip to Florida, a couple of weeks in the Cayman Islands, or an extended weekend in Mexico. Others just muscle through the winter, knowing it will come to an end. Me? I think the snow is pretty, but I tend to enjoy the icy weather from my window, avoiding going outside at all costs.

While snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes are not one of MY favorite things, I am fascinated by other things winter, such as sports and nature, that rely on or preserve in colder climates and surroundings. The Mercer County Library System offers numerous winter-related documentaries from which to choose. From winter sports to arctic adventures to extreme weather, the library has documentaries to feed a fascination for the a…