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Showing posts from June, 2017

Celebrating Summer

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The June solstice marks the beginning of summer. June 21st is the first day of summer and the day on which the Northern Hemisphere experiences the longest period of daylight. What a welcome relief it will be to bask in the warm sunshine after what has been a long, damp spring. Summer is finally here and along with all the trappings of summer comes summer reading! As you may be aware from my prior blog, Under the Boardwalk, I do not like the term beach reads with its connotations of poorly written books with one dimensional characters and contrived plot lines. Of course, I do not want you, or me, to spend our summer poring over literary tomes. But, rather than reading mere fluff, I prefer reading, and recommending, entertaining books that are well-written. With that in mind, here are some summer-themed books that you will breeze through and enjoy thoroughly!

Library Journal hails Hilma Wolitzer’s Summer Reading as "thinking reader’s beach book." I could not agree more. It is a…

Dear Chef, Your Steak is Now at 140 Degrees or Medium Rare

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A few months ago, my washing machine suddenly decided it no longer wanted to spin through the rinse cycle. I then spent the better part of an hour hand wringing towels dry enough so that the dryer did not make a similar exit, stage left maneuver. Whether it was years of overwork or a simple desire to retire to a scrapyard in the sun, the washer never gave any indication that the end was near. My new washer and dryer, however, like to email me when they are feeling a bit off. Mostly they tell me they want a spa day, suggesting I run a cleaning or descaling cycle to make them feel fresh and ready to do more socks. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you have yet to encounter a smart appliance.

Part of the internet of things, or non-computing devices that connect to the internet, smart appliances are becoming the cornerstone to many smart homes. A quick Google search for smart appliance shows a range of devices from coffee makers to refrigerators inside the home and water…

Animal Lovers Welcome

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Ever since I can remember, I have been obsessed with animals—both in the wild and closer to home. (And who am I kidding? By "closer to home," I mean dogs wedged into the gap on the couch between me and my husband.)

I am currently the doting owner of an elderly Australian Cattle Dog and a younger, more sprightly Chihuahua. Over the years I have also owned—and been owned by!—horses, cats, rats, mice, a hamster, and a bird. My experiences with animals have only deepened my curiosity about their lives and experiences, as well as the relationships they form with us humans.

With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite animal-focused reads.
Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk is at once a memoir of falconry and grief. At the beginning of the book, Macdonald explains that after her father died unexpectedly of an infection from a cut, “a kind of madness drifted in…. My mind struggled to build across the gap, make a new and inhabitable world.” An experienced falconer, she be…

Books to Get You Thinking

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The science of medicine has made amazing strides over the last century with a deeply expanded understanding of how the human system works, and the development of drugs and instruments to counter and prevent disease. The result has been a rise in life expectancy and the eradication of diseases like polio and small pox. Yet many challenges remain that include the quest for cures for diseases like cancer as well finding solutions for the looming threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria and mutating viruses. The recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika are just reminders of all the work that remains to be done. This month’s book selections provide a fascinating look at some of the research and development that has taken place in medicine as well as the race to meet new threats posed by pandemics. Next month’s column will focus on books that examine a different but equally important facet of medicine—the problem of health care access and health care delivery.

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics…

S-Town Reads

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Earlier this year, the producers of the This American Life public radio series, as well as the Serial podcast, released the S-Town podcast. Unlike a majority of other podcasts, which are released weekly or monthly, Brian Reed, the creator of S-town (and also a Senior Producer at This American Life) released all seven episodes simultaneously. The podcast's genesis came from John B. McLemore contacting the producers at This American Life about a story of murder and corruption in his hometown, Woodstock, Alabama. Like many enthusiastic listeners, I "binge listened" to the seven episodes—enthralled as John B's story unfolded with plot twists and turns.

As the series evolved from one story line to another, no matter where the plot's focus landed, I was taken with its Southern Gothic undertones, similar to stories of Flannery O'Connor (e.g., "The Life You Save May Be Your Own") and William Faulkner (e.g., "A Rose for Emily"). Additionally, the …

Dig Deep...You May Be Surprised

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Most people have a favorite style of music.

Some have a different genre for each activity of their day.

Some just snap on the radio (in one of its various guises including hoopla and Freegal through the Mercer County Library) and let it run as a background to their tasks. Whatever your choice of listening material may be it is always worthwhile to stretch your musical boundaries from time to time. Give a different style a chance. Do not worry about what the recommended “flavor of the week” is. Try a few different spices on your aural dish today. You may find something you never knew existed or that the hideous act you hated a while ago is suddenly much better than you gave them credit for.

It is fun to find the artist or band that got you through school or that tedious job you previously had. It is also very cool to find out what THEY were influenced by...musically. Go online and pull up an artist or band site. There will usually be a list of influential albums or singles that made…

Flitter Flutter Butterfly

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Have you ever hatched butterflies? I had never done it before but last year my co-worker, Rebecca, suggested that we hatch them at the library. It would be the first time that we hatched insects at the Robbinsville Branch! We ordered a Butterfly Garden Set which included a cup of 5 caterpillars, a butterfly habitat, and a butterfly feeder. We purchased our kit from Insect Lore, but kits are also available through Amazon, Toys “R” Us, and many other stores. When the caterpillars were delivered, we set everything up on our Circulation Desk so that all of the children and adults coming into the library could see them. Everyone was so excited!

The caterpillars arrived in a small cup that had all the food that they needed right at the bottom.
It took about 8 days for all the caterpillars to climb to the top of the cup and start to form their chrysalids.

Once the chrysalids had hardened fully (about 2 days), we removed the top and put the paper with the attached chrysalids in our butterfly …

I Want to Be a Baseball Player

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As a young girl growing up in New York during the early to mid-1970s, I was obsessed with baseball. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say the first female baseball player in the major leagues. I was a tremendous New York Mets fan. I never would miss a Mets game on NY’s Channel 9 (WOR). I did not just watch the games; I kept the scorebook, figured the players stats, watched the postgame show, and sorted and flipped my TOPPS baseball cards. Every now and then my Dad would take me to a Mets game at Shea Stadium, and if I were really lucky I would get to see a doubleheader.

In 1974, at the age of nine, I joined a Little League softball team. Little League softball was founded in 1974, and I played on one of the first teams ever at West Shore Little League on Staten Island. We had practice a few times a week on the concrete schoolyards, and played a game or two per week. Unlike today, there were no travel teams, but we did have Interleague All-Star games. I cam…

U2’s The Joshua Tree at 30

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2017 marks 30 years since U2 released the album The Joshua Tree. The Irish rockers started out like a typical band, playing in clubs and small venues, and have now come to be known as The World’s Biggest Rock Band. By 1987, the ten-year-old band had established a following, peaking at number 12 on the U.S. album charts with 1983’s War and 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, when The Joshua Tree was released in March. The release was well-received by critics, including Steve Pond of Rolling Stone, who predicted the album “could be the big one” that would launch the band into superstardom.

Looking back, Pond’s impression was spot-on, as the album is now one of 90 that has been diamond certified in the United States for selling over 10 million copies (out of an estimated worldwide sales figure of 25 million), placing it on the list with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Adele’s 21. Subsequent studio releases from the band have all been top-10 hits. Interestingly, Pond also commented that h…