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Showing posts from October, 2019

Nobel Prize in Literature in Controversy for 2nd Straight Year

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For the last two years there has been some extra drama regarding the Nobel Prizes in Literature. The Prize was not awarded in 2018 (actually as we will see it was “postponed”) due to a slew of scandals and resignations from the committee that decides the winners and other key members of the Nobel organization. The main head-lining scandal involved Jean-Claude Arnault, a French photographer and the husband of Katarina Frostenson, a committee member. He was hit with charges of sexual assault of 11 women (he was found guilty of just one of these charges). The internal investigation by the Nobel Prize organization found that Arnault committed assaults on property owned by the organization and asked Frostenson to withdraw from the work of the committee.

The Academy was also facing conflict of interest accusations and was seeking to locate the source of leaks revealing the names of prizewinners in advance. The turmoil eventually led to a slew of withdrawals, including that of Ms. Frostenson…

Here, There Be Witches: The Salem Witch Trials in Children’s Literature

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This past summer, for the first time I took a short trip to a place that has always fascinated me: Salem, Massachusetts. It’s hard to imagine that, in this quiet New England town in the late 1600’s, over 200 people were accused of being witches and 19 were executed. The Salem Witch Trials became such a stain on this small town’s history that for decades the town tried to sweep its history under the rug, unwilling to confront its past. More recently, in the 20th century, interest in Salem and the witch trials has skyrocketed (in part due to the popular television series, Bewitched, and movies such as Hocus Pocus; as well as burgeoning academic studies spurred by the women’s movement in the late 60s and early 70s). The fascination with Salem and witches doesn’t seem to be slowing down either. With an even greater interest in all things Halloween, over half a million tourists flock to Salem every October to experience all the spooky things it has to offer.

Although Salem has recently bec…

The Mystery and Fun of Tarot Cards

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In keeping with the spirit of the Halloween season, this blog post is on the fascinating subject of tarot cards. When one hears the phrase ‘tarot cards,’ one often thinks of a wizened female hand, bedecked with large, exotic rings and bracelets, turning over a series of illustrated cards by candle light on a cloth covered table top – eventually uncovering the Death card, followed by a gasp (quelle horreur)!

The real world of tarot is not quite so dramatic. As any tarot enthusiast will tell you, the Death card usually means the end of one thing and the beginning of something new.

Legend has it that the first tarot cards came from Egypt and are shrouded in mystery. This is more fanciful than fact. The first recorded history we have of tarot dates back to mid-15th century Europe and was originally a card game called Tarocchini in Italy, Tarot in France and Königsufen (Call the King) in Austria and southern Germany.

Wikipedia has a succinct history of the cards.

Over time, the cards devel…

You Can Combat Fake News

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The phrase "fake news" was declared the official Word of the Year for 2017 by Collins Dictionary. No wonder we’re getting fatigued by the repetition of the phrase! Before the Internet existed, most news was delivered by radio, television and newspapers. These news outlets used gatekeepers, including editors and fact-checkers, who made certain that reporters followed standards of journalism. Now that we have the Internet, there are websites and social media posts made by folks who are not journalists and who are working without verification. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

How can we live with this constant barrage of information and opinion? My first step was to choose a news outlet that was mostly bi-partisan. I wondered if I could trust CNN more than ABC, for example. The Pew Research Organization has sought to understand news bias. They have ranked news outlets based on extensive experimentation. A chart called “Trust Levels of News Sources by Ideological Group” …

Wearable Health Trackers

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Earlier this year, I was watching TV while talking to my mom about a recent doctor’s visit.  She was complaining about how the doctor wanted her to check her blood sugar 4 times a day, but the insurance company will only pay for so many test strips a month, which came out to 3 times a day.  As she’s talking about how the doctor is getting ready to apply to the insurance company, a commercial comes on for a wearable glucose testing patch. “Why don’t you ask your doctor about this?” and I rewind the DVR so we can watch the commercial. She already wears a patch for daily insulin delivery, so wearing something to check her blood glucose level isn’t out of her realm of comfort. She took down some notes to talk to him at her next visit.

My mother now wears this patch and can easily open an app on her phone and check her blood sugar. Smart device management of our health is growing every year. We wear fitness trackers, track our food and water intake with apps, and share these results with …

Museum Pass Adventures

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(Featuring Elmwood Park Zoo and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)

Museum passes are some of the library’s most unique resources. Thanks to the “Friends of the Library” groups from each of the Mercer County Library System (MCLS) branches, thousands of patrons are able to go to museums annually. (Please visit the Mercer County Library System’s website for more information on joining your local Friends group, or please see this helpful blog post to find out more about the Friends’ activities).

Two museums I have recently had the pleasure of visiting, courtesy of the MCLS museum pass program, were Elmwood Park Zoo and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 
Elmwood Park Zoo is a great place to take young children, especially children on the autism spectrum. The Zoo is very aware about which senses will be stimulated for each activity on the grounds. The Zoo specifies the amount of sound, touch, smell, sight, movement and complexity each activity requires. Clear signage allows…

Visitors to our Yard

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Look out of the window, into the yard, and who do we see and hear:  blue jays, catbirds, squirrels.  Depending on your neighborhood, there might also be deer, or sparrows.  While indeed there’s signs of animal life out there, it is vastly different from that of six months ago.

Now, and for another couple of months, there is still plenty to eat for yard visitors.  No need to look for those islands of assistance that come from people and bird feeders.  It is our island that I’m remembering now, so filled with visitors that varied depending on the time of day, that makes me think of this time of year as, well, a little quiet.

Bird feeding is a big business, and a big deal to many.  Our house is no exception.  When the time is right, out come multiple feeders to various spots in the back and side yards (with good viewing angles from the inside windows, of course).  Bags of seed become regular shopping purchases – simple mixed blend stuff for everyone, and black oil sunflower for birds and…

C is for Cookie

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Do you know there is a national day for almost anything? October 1st was National Homemade Cookies Day. Who doesn’t love homemade cookies still warm from the oven?

I started baking with family members when I was a little girl. One tip I learned is to put a slice of bread in with the baked cookies to keep them soft. My two must-have baking items are an electric stand mixer and a cookie scoop. These will streamline your baking process.

Cookies originated in Persia in the 7th century AD. The word cookie comes from the Dutch word “koekjes,” which came from the word “koeke,” meaning “cake.” Cookies weren’t introduced to the United States until the 17th century by citizens with a strong Dutch heritage. Cookies are usually made with flour, sugar, eggs, and a fat - usually butter or shortening. There are various kinds of cookies, including bar, dropped, filled, molded, no bake, pressed, refrigerated, rolled, and sandwich. What is your favorite cookie? My favorite is a good old Toll House choc…

Happy Birthday, Mr. King

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September 21, 2019 will mark Stephen King’s 72nd birthday. With forty-eight novels, eighty-four short stories, sixteen novellas, and over one hundred film, television, and stage adaptations, it is safe to say that many enjoy King’s work, and many more have at least experienced it - whether they know it or not. I would even wager that there are many reading this post who would consider themselves to be Stephen King aficionados. So why write about someone who is well known and has been covered time and time again? Because, besides reading Carrie in high school and seeing Pet Sematary on television once, I had no real experience with King’s work until this past year. What I have read has been a lot of fun, and acted as a reminder to appreciate the craft of the short story.

One thing that always dissuaded me from reading King’s so-called classics was their general size. Let’s look at some of the big titles: Salem’s Lot at 439 pages, The Shining with 447, Christine at 526 pages, and It wit…