January is National Hobby Month. If you do not have a hobby (or need a new one) I have a few suggestions. The DeKalb County Public Library offers a variety of programs throughout the year. For example, the Crochet Group or the Quilting Workshop would be perfect for those who are a little crafty or just want to learn. You might say “I am not a crafty person.” Well, did you know the library is offering Symphony in Your Neighborhood? This program brings the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to your neighborhood for free. Meaning you do not have to sit in Buckhead traffic to experience the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. What if music is not your thing? Are you a reader? Well, the library has book discussion groups for you avid readers. Did you know that the library also has a program for those of you who would like to learn a new language? The International Café meets once a month so that you may practice your Spanish skills. Okay, so none of this has sparked your interest? What about movies? The library has a New Movie Series where we show recent movies. And how about taking a free yoga class? For more ideas, you can also check out the book Get a hobby!: 101 all-consuming diversion for any lifestyle by Tina Barseghian.
Of course, not everyone celebrates Christmas and those who do don’t celebrate in exactly the same way. My own holidays have tended to be fairly low-key especially in recent years. I bake cookies, but I normally try to avoid actual shopping as much as possible. As far as decorating my home goes, I hang a wreath on my front door and put up a Christmas tree and that’s it. I have to say that decorating the tree is one of my favorite holiday activities. After celebrating a fair number of holidays, I now have a couple of boxes packed with ornaments. Each one calls up a fond memory as I put it on the tree.
Do you put up a tree? Mine is artificial but for many people only a live tree will do. Or consider a tree made of…books…as in this post from Jesse last year.
How about ornaments? My tree decorating strategy mostly involves just trying to find room for everything (really…I have a lot of ornaments!) but I’ve known people who create subject themes (Star Wars anyone?) for their trees or devise a strict color scheme. Of course the decorating magazines this time of year are full of ideas for beautifully decorated trees.
Do you need new decorating ideas for your home? Are you decorating for the first time? Either way, DCPL has resources for you.
Finally, if you’re interested in learning how Christmas has evolved over time, don’t miss two excellent histories of the holiday—Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas and Christmas in America: a history by Penne L. Restad. You’ll learn that the Puritans banned the holiday altogether—associated as it was with rioting and public drunkeness. You’ll also learn that for all we (at least many of us) bemoan the warping of this family holiday into a tangle of commercial excess—it was actually the Victorians who transformed the holiday into what we think of as the “traditional” Christmas which includes Santa Claus, Christmas cards and what had been, up until then, a German novelty…the decorated Christmas tree.
Do you decorate for Christmas? What’s your decorating style?
Located on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, often referred to as the “main branch” of the New York Public Library, is an iconic structure. From the pair of stone lions (“Patience” and “Fortitude”) guarding the entrance to the famous Rose Main Reading Room, it is easily recognizable, even for individuals like myself who have never seen it in person.
Recently Morgan Holzer, Information Architect at NYPL, teamed up with Nate Bolt to provide us with a novel view of the NYPL; through the eyes of Lucy IV, a DJI Phantom aerial drone! Shooting after hours, they capture footage of Astor Hall, the Rose Main Reading Room, and the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division. As Holzer mentions in her write-up of the project, the different perspective provided by the drone “astounded me over and over again.” Take a look at the embedded video below and see for yourself! As noted in the description, “lots of safety precautions were taken and no books were harmed in the making of this video.” If you are interested in catching a glimpse of the drone itself, make sure to watch the video all the way through; it appears around 2:10.
Multiple magazine articles, both scholarly and popular extoll the benefits of bilingualism or multilingualism for the health and efficiency of the human brain. It is said that those who learn multiple languages from birth are less likely, for example, to develop early onset Alzheimer’s disease…if the disease does appear, it is more likely to be delayed proportionately to the fluency and depth of understanding attained in a second language. Foreign languages are promoted as a means to make your child (or self) appear more sophisticated and cognitively advanced, leading parents to believe their child will become a front running contender for advanced educational programs, degrees, and be more competitive in the job markets of the future. Of course, certain languages are considered more useful than others, depending on where you live in the world. In a not so distant past, it was believed that learning a second language could cause developmental delays, but this is no longer the current consensus.
From my readings, I often gather that an overlying assumption motivates parents’ wishes for their children to learn foreign languages: that it makes their minds more logical and mathematical, and therefore better prepared for our technical and information age. While I understand these arguments, some of which seem plausible and worthy, I have my own reasons for defending and promoting multi-lingualism. To learn a new language means to learn to understand and assimilate a new culture. Culture includes body language and unspoken assumptions about time, proximity, morality, justice, love and how affection is demonstrated or withheld, diet, and so much more. Simply learning grammatical constructs, while being great gymnastics for the rational mind, is only a small part of the benefits of bilingualism.
Okay, I’ll just admit it: I vacillate between two extremes: either I feel like I know everything about everything, or I feel like I know absolutely nothing about anything. And as annoying as I know it must be, you could call me a ‘Know-It-All’ most days.
Here are a few examples that perhaps you don’t know either:
“No ostrich has ever been observed to bury its head in the sand. It would suffocate if it did. When danger threatens, ostriches run away like any other sensible animal.”
“What killed most sailors in an eighteenth-century sea battle? A nasty splinter. Cannon balls fired from men o- war didn’t actually explode (no matter what Hollywood thinks), they just tore through the hull of the ship, causing huge splinters of wood to fly around the decks at high speed, lacerating anyone within range.”
“Whips were invented in China seven thousand years ago but it wasn’t until the invention of high-speed photography in 1927 that the crack of the whip was seen to be a mini sonic boom and not the leather hitting the handle.”
Say what?!!! I had noooo idea! This last one, however, some of us knew in the back of our minds …
“Work is a bigger killer than alcohol, drugs, or war. Around two million people die every year from work-related accidents and diseases, as opposed to a mere 650,000 who are killed in wars. …Worldwide, the most dangerous jobs are in agriculture, mining and construction. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the year 2000, 5,915 people died at work – including those who had a heart attack at their desks.”
I’ll remember that next time someone says their job is killing them! And if I say it aloud, youll just have to call me a know-it-all.