Showing posts from September, 2015

Old School Gold (or Headache)

On those occasions (or daily) when you go to a thrift store, what items do you gravitate toward? Is it the vintage clothing, the furniture, the old toys, the old tools? I always head to the junked electronics heap in the corner. I go there to see if I can spot a gem from "the golden age of audio"; that is, high-end audio equipment made from about the 1950's to the end of the 1970's. The virtues of vintage audio gear, as generally discussed on Internet forums, is a certain tone or sound quality that you will not find in new audio gear (the cause of which I will reveal later), as well as incredible build quality (better days when no cost-cutting was actually used) - and looks! In short, qualities you cannot buy new today (as I write this I feel like someone explaining their love of classic cars as the reasoning seems almost identical).

Growing up in the 1980s I never thought much at all about the quality of audio equipment. By then, every last piece of audio gear I co…

Watch It!

Whether you are looking to start a new hobby, expand your horizons, or have simply run out of things to watch on television, the library has a treasure trove of nonfiction DVDs and documentaries available for your viewing pleasure. Informative and entertaining, nonfiction DVDs and documentaries cover a wide variety of subjects: art, business, cooking, crafts, exercise, music, religion, science, self-help, and the list goes on. You can explore a particular historical event or a controversial issue, travel to various places, discover European art, learn Yoga, improve your golf swing, or become skilled at Salsa, all within the comfort of your living room.

If cooking interests you, check out the America's Test Kitchen series and learn the fundamentals of home cooking, see reviews of indispensable kitchen equipment and recommended supermarket ingredients. While our instructional dance DVDs - foxtrot, tango, rumba, waltz, or Irish dancing- are very popular, none of them can hold a candl…

Do You Have a Librarian in Your Pocket?

A few months ago, you may have heard of the Tennessee teenager who was trapped under his truck and feared he would die when he realized he had activated Siri on his iPhone and was able to use her to call for help.  While most of us, hopefully, do not have as dramatic a need to use the built-in voice-recognition-based helpers on our phones, they do come in handy for more mundane things, like finding a nearby gas station or asking for directions or homework help.  Along with Siri, who is built into the most recent iOS devices, there is Cortana, which debuted on Windows Phone 8.1 and has made her way to Windows 10 computers and devices.

The day the Siri story broke, I was talking to my friend Lisa about Siri and Cortana while we were at work.  The discussion was basically if we saw a noticeable difference between the two and if, as library employees, we should fear being replaced by an AI librarian in peoples’ pockets.  Our Siri vs. Cortana review revealed many things, including that Si…

The Ones That Got Away ...

You love music. Me too. The Universal language, right? You listen to your favorite radio station, CDs, maybe LPs, youtube, etc. and yet there is something nagging you. What was that song? Who did it?
Usually I can find what I am looking for in the Rolling Stone Album Guide,1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, "Who sang/recorded..." sites or just a general search of the web.

Not this time.

My parents had some 78's when I was young. For those who do not know what a 78 is, it is a 10-inch disc made of a composite of shellac, fine ground stone and fiber that is recorded upon by cutting grooves into its surface and then is spun on a turntable at 78 revolutions per minute while a needle made of steel is positioned to ride in the groove and vibrate, thereby recreating the sound.

Too much info? Yes. I am old. Be that as it may, one of these recordings was of a song called "Off Shore." I recall it having a black label with white or silver lettering. The label bra…

Books to Get You Thinking

Stepping back in time and tracing the history of technology and innovations, it is fascinating to see how some individuals, sparked by an idea, devoted their entire lives to pursuing that idea. Through their creativity, genius, single-minded purpose and determined effort, they were able to push the limits of science and technology, transforming the entire industry. This month we look at three such areas - aviation, medical science and physics - and some of their defining moments marked by towering personalities that dramatically influenced future trajectories of development in these areas. Mercer County Library has some outstanding biographies where the authors, through meticulous research, provide us with portraits of individuals who pursued a dream and then, battling against all odds, made discoveries that would change the future of mankind and the course of history forever.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
David McCullough, historian, author and two-time winner of the Pulitze…

Spotlight on Jon Scieszka

If you have a young reader at home, you may have heard of the author Jon Scieszka. This children’s book author has been making kids laugh for more than 25 years. His books have definitely made an impression on my family.

My nephew first introduced me to Jon Scieszka about 12 years ago. Although he was not an avid reader, my nephew enjoyed reading the book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, again and again. He loved the comical, off the wall ‘fairy tales.’

When my son was in 2nd grade he discovered the Time Warp Trio series. He was entertained by the mix of history, humor and time travel. The Time Warp Trio series helped my son find joy in reading.
For those of you who are not familiar with Jon Scieszka, following are brief descriptions of some of his work and accomplishments.
Jon Scieszka’s first book written in collaboration with illustrator Lane Smith, was The True Story of the 3 little Pigs!, published in 1989.
Smith and Scieszka went on to create many popular p…

Philadelphia in the Phall: It's More Than Just the Liberty Bell

Tail end of summer, lead-up to the holidays, beginning of “The Season”, or just a nice time of year all by itself: Autumn is almost upon us. We’re all going to be busier now, what with the kids back in school and the holidays looming; no more lazy hazy crazy days of summer for us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t squeeze in some fun time before the good weather goes away for good, right?

So, I’m thinking Philadelphia. Not the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross, Philadelphia Zoo and Rocky Steps, South Street and Franklin Institute Philadelphia of tourists and school trips; something a little more, I don’t know. . . off the beaten path, esoteric, a little less well-known? You with me? Because there’s plenty of that in Philly, and seriously – it’s pretty much right next door.

Spruce Street Harbor Park: hammocks, a beer garden, swan boats, LED lights in the trees, games and a playground for the kids . . . what’s not to like? B…

The Great Take-Apart

What better way to explore the intricacies of technology than to take things apart? Armed with screwdrivers, pliers, and their own curiosity, children can discover what makes things tick. Supply them with defunct televisions; radios that have collected dust; printers that no longer print; DVD players that no longer play; and anything that no longer whirs, clunks, or spits. Do not give them anything that has sharp edges, parts, or blades. The children, in their natural wonder, will dismantle the most unruly CD player.

Devices that can be taken apart can be found in your garages, cupboards, or, for a reasonable price, at flea markets. Sometimes flea market dealers will donate old electronics to your good cause. Through the process of taking things apart, children will exert critical thinking, curiosity, mechanical skills, and their imaginations. Gather your spent electronics and let them explore.

It will be handy to have on hand a copy of The New How Things Work: Everyday Technol…

Meaty Tips for the Sandwich Generation

Do you belong to the sandwich generation? Merriam-Webster defines the term sandwich generation as “a generation of people who are caring for their aging parents while supporting their own children.” I guess the idea is that we are wedged between two generations of loved ones who need us.

If you are a member of this growing club (pun intended), you know how demanding membership can be. You are just getting the hang of raising children when you are called upon to change gears and provide care for aging parents. You do your best to make Mom and/or Dad comfortable: for some of us, this involves remote calls to health specialists or legal advisors; for others, regular runs to ShopRite and household chores. With those tasks accomplished for the day, you must change direction again, because kids are not as independent as they claim to be. They need you to attend their sports events, take your turn at carpooling, drive them to doctor’s appointments, teach them about bullying, pick up last-min…