DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

April 2015

What I knew about Thomas Jefferson could fit on an index card: Jefferson was the main author of the Declaration of Independence, became President of the United States, and had a convoluted relationship with his slaves. So on a recent road trip, when my husband and I stopped at Monticello, Jefferson’s home, I was expecting to enjoy a leisurely morning tour and to move on to more interesting things in the afternoon.

We stayed much longer than we intended and still didn’t have enough time to explore.  Grand houses like Monticello were considered normal on plantations, but Jefferson was criticized for building his house high on a hill where water would have to be dragged up—until he built a giant cistern under the house, capable of storing and supplying all the water needed for the house and the nearby grounds.  Also under the house were storerooms, lavatories, a kitchen, and a carefully stocked and inventoried wine cellar, complete with customized dumbwaiters designed to carry bottles of wine directly to the dining room above.  The house is full of his inventions, including a copying machine designed to duplicate letters as he hand-wrote them so that he could keep copies of all his correspondence.  His extensive gardens, which today supply the museum restaurant with fresh produce, include many plants Jefferson cultivated after Lewis and Clark brought cuttings or seeds back from the western territories.

Even more interesting is what I learned about Jefferson himself.  The third President of the United States was so shy about public speaking that, during his time as a Virginia delegate, he would sit in the back of the room and only add to the conversation by writing down his comments.  The author of the Declaration of Independence was against the idea of the United States having a constitution at all, and would not sign the Constitution until he knew that it could be amended.  Jefferson was in many ways against slavery, yet he owned slaves.  The strangest thing to me is what he chose to put on his gravestone:

“Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia”

President of the United States?  Apparently not important enough to mention.

I highly recommend a trip to Monticello if you can manage it.  In the meantime, there’s plenty to read:

jeffersonJefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder by Jack McLaughlin

National Book Award winning- American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis

Six volumes of Dumas Malone’s Jefferson and His Time

R. B. Bernstein’s Thomas Jefferson

For everyone, I recommend paging through the information at monticello.org, the official website of The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.   From pictures of Monticello itself to images of Jefferson’s daily weather observations, there’s enough to get a glimpse of what an interesting person Jefferson was.

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Though it must have been at least seventeen years ago, I still remember the first time a teacher stood in front of my class and proclaimed what has since become standard at the outset of every research paper and class project in schools across the country: “You must include at least one (or two, or ten) internet source(s).”

I’d heard that line at least twice a year over the course of my school career, and it never failed to put a wrinkle on my forehead every time. I am and always have been a bibliophile through and through, and it took me a long time to get over the notion that using anything other than a good old-fashioned book for academic research was sacrilege. Of course, I realize now that my views were probably in the minority; the mid-to-late-nineties was a time of rapid digital transformation, when the ideas and gadgets we now take for granted–all the games, all the programs and devices, and all of the wonders of the Word Wide Web–were still fermenting in the technological brewery. Today, I’m as much a part of this wired world as anyone else, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.

That said, I do have my misgivings over how much academic research revolves around the internet–not because there’s anything intrinsically wrong with it, but because the attitudes of far too many students literally scream “Everything is Online!” The “sad” truth, however, is that precious little of what’s readily available out there really meets scholarly muster, and as teachers wise up to the yearly round of copypasta they receive from students courtesy of Wikipedia and Google, they are putting a greater stress on quality and reputable resources. Unfortunately, many of these valuable online gems are hard to find; they’re often tucked safely away behind an intimidating pay wall, or lost in a tangle of dead links and dead ends.

The good news is that there are a number of good sources out there dedicated to teaching budding scholars how to separate the wheat from the internet chafe with confidence.  A good place to start would be the About.com Guide to Online Research: Navigate the Web–from RSS and the Invisible Web to Multimedia and the Blogosphere by Wendy Boswell. Yes, I know it’s a book (published in 2007), but it’s a helpful guide for anyone looking to learn the basics of web research. Boswell writes with the casual web surfer in mind and fills her book with helpful hints along with a glossary for readers who want to know an IP from an ISP.  While not specifically geared towards student research, it gives valuable advice on how to evaluate websites, master classic search engines, and many more useful tips for anyone hoping to navigate the internet’s murky terrain.

GALILEOA major topic in Boswell’s book is the so-called Deep Web, the huge sea of websites lurking just beyond the nets cast by the major search engines.  Major components of these hidden websites are the aforementioned pay walls and online databases that form a barricade around most of the information crucial for well-crafted school papers. GALILEO is one such resource, a huge online library portal offering vast, authoritative information from hundreds of periodicals, scholarly journals, and academic monographs. An initiative of the University System of Georgia, GALILEO provides equal access to information for all citizens in Georgia and accomplishes its mission through a network of universities, K-12 schools, and public libraries.  GALILEO can be used as a sort of scholarly Google by typing in queries and collecting results. There’s also a specially-designed GALILEO Kids interface, plus you can access any of its individual resources directly with GALILEO A-Z. These various ways of access are conveniently perched at the top of the Reference Databases page on our library website.

Here are two additional resources specifically tailored for our youngest scholars:

  • Kids Search – Designed with elementary and middle school students in mind, this bright and colorful site cuts a lot of the pain out of researching topics. Its unique check-box topic search helps students narrow down searches without fumbling around to find the right words, and it comes equipped with a dictionary and an encyclopedia.
  • NoveList K-8 Plus – Need to find books in a particular category?  This new junior addition to the popular Novelist database allows young students to browse through subject and genre categories for whatever topic they need.  It’s also a good place for parents to build a summer reading list to get a good head start on what their child may expect in the upcoming school year.

I’d be the first to admit that, if I’m looking for quick, painless information, I’d probably turn to Google or Wikipedia before I crack open a dictionary or an encyclopedia.  The internet is the source for virtually unlimited information, and having all of that at your fingertips can be quite intoxicating. But information access and information literacy are not the same, and if you or your child are trying to get the most accurate and scholarly information you can, you might want to give the Wikiverse a rest and try a resource with a little more meat.

There’s a nice list of student resources available on the library website under Reference Databases.  If anyone has their own hidden gem, please feel free to share.

 

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Apr 24 2015

Loving Mother Earth: Life in the Balance

by Rebekah B

sustainability graphic

Hello readers,

As an inquiring mind, I am interested in many vital subjects, including health, finding balance, sociology, and the environment. Throughout history, various cultures around the world have created, developed, and maintained very different philosophies, laws, and ways of being. These traditions directly affect the way humans interact with the planet, which provides for our needs and sustains our ability as humans to continue to live and reproduce. Some traditional hunter-gatherer cultures, such as our Native American forebears, most of which have been supplanted by more aggressively conquering cultures, constantly adapted individual human behavior to the requirements of their environment. Taking only as much as needed, these types of cultures lived in harmony with their habitat. As in the story of Cain and Abel, the hunter-gatherers were decimated by the builders of cities and civilizations. This story is very intriguingly explained in the philosophical tale Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn. In the tale, Ishmael is a wise mountain gorilla who can transmit his thoughts telepathically. He tries to locate a receptive person to share his knowledge about sustainability and the regrettable choices and collective fate of the human race.

SEEDSClub

Generally speaking, mythologies equate the planet Earth itself as a feminine figure or mother. Abundance, nurturing, and an infinite variety of creative strategies to live and adapt are just a few characteristics of our Earth.  Even in human terms, many of us think of mother figures as individuals whose lives are dedicated to giving and to serving others. A more mature perspective is perhaps one in which we not only show gratitude for those gifts, but also dedicate ourselves in service to those who have given so freely and selflessly of their time, energy, and love to us.

We live in a time in which human populations are larger than our Earth can sustain, especially given the post-industrial lifestyle that a large majority of the world would like to emulate. We know about sustainability, global warming and climate change, green energy and building practices. We know the advantages of organic farming and a mostly plant-based diet compared to the feedlot farms and widespread use of pesticides and hormones in farming. We know that clean water supplies, our most precious resource, are limited. We know that what was believed to be a panacea–better living through chemistry–is not what our hopes invested in these technologies would have produced in actuality.

sustainability-impactAnd so we need to step back, to consciously reduce greed and unlimited taking from Earth. We need to give back to our planet and live in harmony with her. In ancient China, the wise philosophy of the balancing of all energies may one day inspire us to respect the feminine, which is the more passive and receptive of the two forces–the giver of life. It is my personal hope that we may collectively learn that we cannot expand without end and use all available resources for our own benefit. The masculine energies of activity, expansion, and domination can happily be balanced by the feminine. Slowing down, enjoying family life, spending time in and with nature, creatively reusing man-made and natural products, using our ingenuity to create sustainable ways of living and producing energy, and admiring and respecting the wonders of our world are just a few ways of returning to balance. Our Earth needs our cooperation as much as we need her support. For this year’s celebration of Earth Day, please remember that we are all part of nature, and nature is part of us.  Loving and caring for our common heritage is just as important as taking care of our own bodies, our families, our homes.

DCPL owns and shares many wonderful works related to environmental awareness and self-responsibility.  Here are a few fairly recent books about sustainable living that you may find enlightening:

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz, 2013

Do-It-Yourself Sustainable Water Projects: Collect, Store, Purify, and Drill for Water by Paul Dempsey, 2013

Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, by James E. McWilliams, 2009

The Organic Family Cookbook: Growing, Greening, and Cooking Together by Anni Daulter, 2011

What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden? 100% Organic Solutions for Berries, Trees, Nuts, Vines, and Tropicals by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, 2013

Compact Houses: 50 Creative Floor Plans for Efficient, Well-Designed Small Homes by Gerald Rowan, 2013

The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise by Garret Keizer, 2010

The Island President (DVD recording), 2011

For children:

Earth Day Everyday by Lisa Bullard, 2012

Earth Day Birthday by Maureen Wright, 2012

 

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Apr 20 2015

Nose Notes 2015

by Hope L

sneezing

Well, allergy sufferers … it could be worse.

If you’re like me and you think Atlanta has to be the absolute worst place for allergies–what with the yellow blanket of pollen and our scratchy eyes, congested head, runny nose, dry cough, and tissue after tissue–you may be surprised to learn that Atlanta is not THE worst place for allergy sufferers.  At least not according to the  Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2015 ranking of 100 U.S. cities, which puts Atlanta at a rather unimpressive #61.  Jackson, MS, took the #1 spot.

Obviously, I was not polled for this vote!  I demand a recount!  Every year I resolutely commit to do something about my allergies.  Problem is, I see many people  coughing, blowing their noses, and making horrible noises with their nasal congestion, some even wearing surgical masks, and it is nearly impossible to get anywhere near a doctor.  My bathroom cabinet is crammed with nose sprays, decongestant pills, cough drops, cough syrup, and yes–last year’s sure-fire solution to my problem–nasal filters, which after one or two humiliating times, were put back with the rest of the other failures into the cabinet.

For a while when I lived in Columbia, SC, I went the way of allergy shots.  I am not even sure if they worked, but I’m seriously considering trying them again.  At least I felt like I was doing something.

“The fundamental issue with cities is the type of plant or grasses, trees or weeds that grow in the area,” says Daniel Waggoner, MD, an allergist in Mystic, CT, who is not affiliated with the list creation but is familiar with it.  He says that cities with an exceptionally high concentration of trees, grass, or weeds may have more pollen in the air.

From the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI):

“Local environmental factors such as wind, humidity, typical temperatures–and air pollution–also play a role in allergies,” notes Miguel Wolbert, MD, an allergist in Evansville, IN. and a certified pollen counter.

(A certified pollen counter?  I kid you not.  There are also certified mold counters. Below is the information from AAAAI on the certification process.)

National Allergy Bureau (NAB) counters are certified separately as a pollen counter or as a mold counter in order to use a Burkard Spore Trap or the equivalent. Certification is offered to counting stations that agree to provide data on a timely basis to the NAB. Following the required training course(s), the candidate for certification will be required to take a web-based qualifying exam. The exam covers the basics of pollen and fungal spore aerobiology, fundamentals of microscopy, sampler operation and conversion of counts into concentration as outlined on the “Knowledge Base for Counters” developed by the NAB. Reference materials for the exam are also provided. (The exact material for the exam will be determined by the NAB Certification Committee). Following successful completion of the qualifying exam, the candidate will be permitted to take the practical exams using slides.

Pollen Counter
To be certified for pollen, a counter must successfully count and identify grass, weed and tree pollen grains on one pollen slide, which would represent spring, summer and fall pollen types in most of the continental U.S. Once the slide is graded passing, the counter will be considered a certified NAB pollen counter and eligible to count and present data for the NAB aeroallergen network.

Mold Counter
To be certified for molds, a counter must successfully count and identify molds on a single slide. Once this slide is graded successful, the counter will be considered a certified NAB mold counter and eligible to count and present data for the NAB aeroallergen network.

You can get all kinds of additional information about pollen allergy at MedlinePlus from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. As allergy sufferers know, however, nature’s good news is on the horizon–the rainy season is upon us, conveniently arriving in time to wash much of the springtime pollen away.

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Apr 17 2015

The Crowning Touch

by Dea Anne M

There was a time in this country when adults, both men and women, were 44.105.26_view3 0003considered not completely dressed for certain situations unless he or she was wearing a hat. Certainly, shopping and working in the city was one of these situations (and, for women, gloves were also an absolute necessity). Even college students were expected to wear hats at schools in urban areas. Church definitely required the wearing of hats and there were even special “cocktail” hats for women to wear to evening parties. The regular wearing of hats became outmoded during the 1960’s and never really took hold again. For good or ill, unless a hat is part of a work uniform or the occasional accessory worn for fun, hats are simply not a significant part of our sartorial lives. Although I would never advocate for the dressreturn of stringent dress codes, I feel that maybe we lost an opportunity for bringing beauty into our lives when we abandoned hats. And I’m not alone in this opinion. As Dr. Linda Przybyszewski points out in her book The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish (a current favorite of mine!), a received piece of wisdom from the pre-sixties dress experts was that a hat worked to bring the eye of the observer up to a woman’s face–the true communicator of her unique personality and spirit. “A well-chosen hat can flatter any face,” says Dr. Przybyszewski, and this is true. If you look at vintage photographs, it’s astonishing how well hats of all styles can frame a woman’s (or a man’s) face.

So what has changed? My theory is that because hats–apart from ball caps–aren’t worn anymore on a regular basis, it’s difficult for many of us to wear one without feeling as though we are wearing a costume. Wearing a hat well, and in a confident manner, requires a certain “swagger.” For example, Cookie Lyon–the character that Taraji Henson plays on Fox TV’s Empire–has swagger to spare, and the hats that she wears come off as essential parts of her beautiful (and expensive!) ensembles rather than as cartoonish or awkward.

Of course, the place where hats can still rule the day is church–and nowhere crownsmore so than those churches that are traditionally and predominantly African-American. Hats are an indispensable part of the Sunday ensembles of many of the women who attend the churches. As Craig Marberry, one of the co-creators (along with Michael Cunningham) of Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, writes in his introduction: “These captivating hats are not mere fashion accessories. Neither, despite their biblical roots, are they solely religious headgear. Church hats are a peculiar convergence of faith and fashion that keeps the Sabbath both holy and glamorous.” This book is well worth checking out for its wonderful black and white portraits of women in their hats. Each woman gives a short account of her own life in hats, and these stories are as engaging as the pictures. My favorites are elegant Ollie McDowell wearing her black portrait hat and beautiful Sandra Wright Wallington in her feather-trimmed and tiger-printed platter chapeau.

Are you interested in hats and their history? If so, check out The Hat: Trends and Traditions by Madeline Ginsburg. The book goes up only to the late 1980’s but it is an otherwise thorough history of the hat and its permutations–from the vintagehelmets and hair nets of Bronze Age Europe, to the extravagant, ornately trimmed bonnets and top hats of the early nineteenth century, to the elegant men’s trilby hat of the 1950’s. And for some really delicious looking women’s hats, look no further than Vintage Fashion Complete: Women’s Style in the Twentieth Century by Nicky Albrechtsen. This gorgeous, heavy volume, lavishly illustrated with color photographs, takes you through the decades of vintage from the 1920’s and beyond. The chapter on hats provides particularly stunning examples of the best of the milliner’s art. I particularly like the 60’s helmet made of bright green feathers that looks exactly like a Christmas tree and the 1930’s floral fantasies of Elsa Schiaparelli. Hat aficionado or no, this book is an absolute must for any lover of vintage fashion.

One of the most celebrated, and prolific, of American milliners was Sally Victor. Her pretty (sometimes wacky) hats were popular from the mid-1930’s through the late 1960’s. Here’s a link to the extensive collection of Sally Victor hats owned by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For an example of her work, see the top of this post.

Do wear hats or wish you could? What is your hat style preference?

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Apr 13 2015

I Challenge You!

by Jencey G

Are you up for a challenge? Are you tired of reading the same types of books all the time and interested in a change? A reading challenge is a great way to do that. There are no prizes, but there are opportunities for you to try something different. Who is ready for something new or different?

Reading challenges, such as Pop Sugar, have tasks to help you pick books that you the reader would not ordinarily read. Since summer reading is coming up soon, this challenge would be a great way to keep track of books for the summer reading program at your local library. This year, Pop Sugar came out with a reading challenge that offers many opportunities for you to grow as a reader.  The challenge offers up tasks such as:

What book can you read in one sitting?

What is the first book that came out by your favorite author?

Read a book that has a number in the title.

Read a nonfiction book.

The Library has all kinds of resources to help you pick a great read.  Take a look at our Shelf Help page, DCPL on Pinterest, or use our online resource Novelist. For other reading challenges to participate in visit Goodreads or Book Riot. See how one of these challenges might fit into your summer reading!  You never know where a good book might take you!

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Apr 10 2015

Live Like You’re Dying

by Camille B

A few weeks ago I happened to walk through a spider’s web right outside my back door. Huge and beautifully spun, Anansi was sitting smack-dab in the middle. My son turned to me and said, “Mom, can you imagine how long it took that spider to build that web, and you destroyed it in like, what, two seconds?”

Well! As much as I didn’t care for the guilt trip, it really started me thinking hard about my own life, and how very much like a spider’s web it is–the fragility, and how it can all just disappear in the blink of an eye. We work so hard every day to pay our bills and put food on the table for our families–sometimes placing our own hopes and dreams on hold for everyone else, until one day, just like that web, our lives are swept away and we never get a chance to do any of the things we longed to do. If someone were to call you up right now and tell you that tomorrow would be your last day here on earth, what would be some of the things you’d most regret never doing? I mean, apart from spending more time with loved ones, etc., what would be the one thing you’ve always wanted to do and haven’t done yet?

We save and plan and keep dreaming dreams that we never try to make happen. We put off taking that trip, or signing up for that Spanish class, learning to play the guitar or taking salsa lessons. You know? Things that have nothing at all to do with New Year’s resolutions–we want to do them just because. For those of you who’ve already planted your flag on Mount Everest, run with the bulls in Spain, or appeared as a contestant on American Idol, kudos to you! For the rest of us, let’s say we start reviewing that old bucket list again. Take it out from under the mattress where you hid it three years ago. There you go, dust it off and begin, no further delays; that spider probably thought he had until tomorrow too.

Sometimes things appear more achievable when we think about them futuristically, when they’re way off and not right there in our faces–but in terms of next week or a month from now, not so much. Some of us have a little more courage than others and simply go ahead and do it, so we can check it off our list. But, for a lot of us, it might not be that easy. We might need a little nudge (okay, a great big shove) in the right direction. If that’s the case with you, why not start with something on your list that’s simple.

Like me, I’ve never been to a play (I know, horrified gasps everywhere), but it’s always been something on my “I’ll Do It Some Day” list. Going to a play is more than doable–and I need to just go ahead and get it off my list already, right? For you, it might be traveling. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take that special trip somewhere and don’t know where to start, or even which country you’d like to visit. The naturally spontaneous at heart use strategies like dart throwing to select their destinations. They find a map, throw a dart, and wherever it lands, Voila, that’s where they go! For the not-so-spontaneous, there are great books at DCPL that can give you some ideas. For example:

Italy’s Best Trips: 38 Amazing Road Trips, written and researched by Paula Hardy, Duncan Garwood & Robert Landon Italy

The Best Place to Be Today: 365 Things to Do & the Perfect Day to Do Them, compiled and edited by Sarah Baxter

World’s Best Travel Experiences: 400 Extraordinary Places, foreword by Andrew McCarthy, with recollections by Bill Bryson, Anna Quindlen, and more

1,000 Places to See Before You Die, by Patricia Schultz

When travels take you to foreign destinations or distant shores, you’ll want to at least be able to ask for a bottle of their fine wine in the native tongue. I’m just saying, why, you may need to brush up on your foreign language skills. The Library can provide you with helpful information in this area as well, from learning the very basic everyday language that will enable you to survive your trip without accidentally saying something to land you in jail, to material that will help you become a bit more fluent and sophisticated in your speech (should you have to meet with the Ambassador). In particular, you might want to try our online resources Mango or TeLL Me More.

And, if there is absolutely no way you’re getting on a plane, that’s still not a problem because there are other options closer to home to choose from:

Hiking Georgia: A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures, by Donald W. Pfitzer and Jimmy Jacobs, with photography by Polly Dean

60 Hikes within 60 miles: Atlanta including Marietta, Lawrenceville, and Peachtree City, by Randy and Pam Golden

Road Biking Georgia: A Guide to the Greatest Bicycle Rides in Georgia, by John T. Trussell

Your bucket list includes all the things you’d like to do before kicking the proverbial bucket–maybe a goal, dream or experience you’d like to fulfill before the sun sets on your life. They can range from the simplest of things, like taking a cooking class, donating blood or volunteering at a soup kitchen–to ones that border on the line of outrageous, like skinny dipping, crashing a wedding or covering your entire car with post-it notes. The sky is the limit.

What you put on your list might seem mundane to others, but don’t let that deter you. Or, it might seem over the top, silly or even outrageous to others. Go ahead and do it anyway–if it’s not hurting anyone (and you’re not committing a felony), go for it. And hey, you might even get a few raised eyebrows along the way from the people who thought they knew you oh-so-well, but that’s okay, too. You’re doing this for you.

Below, I’ve listed twenty things that came up on the bucket lists of different people across the globe. I wouldn’t mind trying some of them myself; others simply stirred my curiosity, as I’m sure they will yours. There is also a cool website bucketlist.net where you can view pages and pages of entries of what others put down as their number ones. Some of them will surprise you and, who knows, some may even inspire you and change your life.

  • Run a marathon (for fun)
  • Make a world map of all the places you’ve been
  • Publish a story, article or poem
  • Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  • Go on a road trip with friends
  • Attend a Masquerade Ball
  • See the Seven Wonders of the World
  • Party with the Black Eyed Peas
  • Eat a hot dog on Times Square, NYC
  • Visit the Anne Frank House
  • Take a cruise
  • Fly first class
  • Ride a double decker bus in London
  • Knit and donate 100 scarves to the homeless
  • Attend a Dancing with the Stars show
  • See the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve
  • Ride a horse
  • See all fifty states in the U.S.A.
  • Volunteer at a hospice
  • Plant a tree and watch it grow through every season

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Apr 8 2015

National Stress Awareness Month

by Glenda

Stress-month-photo1April is National Stress Awareness Month. Stress is a natural part of life, but it can be harmful to your health. Long term stress can lead to illnesses and even increase your risk of developing serious health conditions like stroke and heart disease. Stress is natural, your Fight or Flight Response kicks in when a perceived threat approaches, your body releases stress hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones increase the heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. Although this is a good thing when you are avoiding a disaster like falling off a mountain, continuous releasing of stress hormones can lead to serious illnesses.

To relieve some of the stress in your life you may have to change the way you approach stress. If the stressor is out of your control, let it go and move on. Control your reaction to stressors. Relax, this will make you better able to handle stress. Take time out for yourself every day, even if it is only twenty minutes. Take time to exercise to relieve stress. Do whatever you do to unwind–for instance, read a book, spend time with friends, whatever makes you happy.

Source U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,  http://www.foh.hhs.gov/Calendar/april.html

For more information about stress and how to relieve stress, visit your local library and check out these books:

The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Amit Sood

10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children–and Ourselves–the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happier Lives by Goldie Hawn with Wendy Holden

The 10-Step Stress Solution: Live More, Relax More, Reenergize by Neil Shah

The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson with Miriam Z. Klipper

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Apr 6 2015

The Saddest Voice

by Hope L

KarenC

When I was a gullible little girl of about 7 or 8, my three older brothers would tell me that there were hundreds of people singing background in those songs we were listening to, and that’s why they sounded that way. I smile today because I totally believed my brothers. Sure, an occasional backup singer was used, but in actuality it was Karen and Richard Carpenter singing all those great songs. The magic sound was created by her producer-brother Richard, who also helped to write many of the songs they sung.

And Karen Carpenter had the saddest voice ever. She would have been 65 this past March 2. When I listen to her songs, especially hits like Rainy Days and Mondays, Say Goodbye to Love, For All We Know, and Solitaire, I still marvel at her beautiful voice and the sadness it evokes.

Karen Carpenter was an outstanding singer, but few people know that she was also an exceptional drummer. And by all accounts, she had a kooky sense of humor and a host of friends, not to mention fans, whom she touched during her short life. (She died of heart failure at age 32 on February 4, 1983.) Her voice graced at least a dozen albums, and she, together with her brother Richard, won two Grammy Awards and earned millions of dollars during a time when their squeaky clean image was the antithesis of what was considered “cool” or even “popular music.”

According to The Carpenters: The Untold Story, an Authorized Biography by Ray Coleman, Karen was “hiding” by playing behind the drums while singing in the early days of the act. It then became apparent that her powerhouse voice demanded that she be the star on stage, front and center. (We have a few music CDs by the Carpenters at DCPL, including the album Singles 1969-1981.)

This YouTube clip shows Karen in a variety of early performances behind her drums.

Unfortunately, though, Karen Carpenter will be remembered first and foremost for her death and the introduction it gave the world to a disease called anorexia nervosa. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders, anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. Other eating disorders include bulimia nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

But  for me, when I hear the Carpenters’ music,  I think  iconic  70’s music–just begging for me to sing along.

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Apr 3 2015

Are you a Robot?

by Dea Anne M

So I was engaged in a marathon laundry session over the weekend and, while dialing through the cycles, I was struck for the first time by the cycle listed as “normal.” Now I know perfectly well that this is supposed to mean something like “the laundry in this demands no special requirements,” but the part of my brain that regularly engages in the “What if?” game kicked in at that very moment. What if–I wondered–my washing machine was actually telling me about its mood or state of being? “Oh. Thanks for asking. I feel pretty normal today…you know… nothing new.” Then I started to imagine a different array of washer cycles and the ways that these personalities (so to speak) would express themselves. Here’s a sample:

Blasé cycle – “Hot water? Cold water? It doesn’t matter to me. I mean, like, whatever. It’s just clothes right?”

Anxious cycle – “Am I getting these clothes clean enough? Really? How can you tell? They aren’t getting clean enough and I’m going to get fired! My boss is going to show up any minute and fire me! Oh gosh, I’ve got to calm down. Maybe this bag of Oreos will help. Wait a minute…did I unplug the iron?”

Entitled Adult Brat cycle – “Excuse me? You want me to do what? That can’t possibly be in the job description. I mean, I graduated Brown.  With honors! What? You’re replacing me? Just wait till I call my lawyer! Also, my parents.”

Sullen Teen cycle – (indistinct mumbling) “What? (long sigh) I said what’s the big deal? You’re just going to wear the clothes again. (more sighing and indistinct mumbling) Can’t you just leave me alone?”

Angry Teen cycle – “You’re such a slave driver!  I have to do everything around here! Leave me alone!” (slams own door)

Of course, my washing machine can’t really communicate with me. Nor can any of my other appliances…thank goodness.FIRST And, despite the title of this post, when I bring up talking machines I’m not really talking about robots. According to Merriam-Webster, a robot is “a machine that can do the work of a person and that works automatically or is controlled by a computer.” So, strictly speaking, a robot would be something like the Roomba–the vacuuming sensation that spawned a plethora of YouTube videos featuring an animal (usually a cat) riding one. Of course some robots are quite a bit more intricate in design. If you’ve ever seen a robotics competition then you know how truly impressive some robots can be. Find out more about robots through DCPL by taking a look at FIRST Robots: Rack ‘N’ Roll: Behind the Design: 30 Profiles of Award-Winning Robot Designs by Vince Wilczynski and Stephanie Slezycki. Kids who are interested in robots will enjoy High Tech DIY Projects with Robotics by Maggie Murphy and How to Build a Prize-Winning Robot by Joel Chaffee.

blade runnerSometimes people use the words “robot” and “android” interchangeably, which is correct–although Webster’s does define an android as “a robot with a human appearance.” In literature and film, how closely an individual android resembles an actual human can vary. Thus, you have the “droids” C3-PO and R2-D2 in Star Wars IV, A New Hope, who are obviously not human, versus the “replicants” in Blade Runner who are nearly indistinguishable from the humans they attempt to pass among. Other films featuring robots or androids include:

Metropolis

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Alien and its sequel Aliens

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Wall-E

Prometheus

Now we come to artificial intelligence, which Merriam-Webster defines as “an area of computer science that deals with giving machines the ability to seem like they have human intelligence” or “the power of a machine to copy intelligent human behavior.” Artificial intelligence takes a star turn most recently in the 2013 film from Spike Jonze, Her. Shy and lonely Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix) fall in love with a highly intelligent, talking operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) named Samantha. Both Theodore and Samantha grow in the relationship–and although Samantha eventually leaves, her departure is loving. Implied at the end of the film is Theodore’s new reality–that the experience of loving Samantha has given him the ability to open his heart to other human beings.

Contrast t2001he lively and compassionate Samantha with HAL 9000, otherwise known as “Hal” to the crew of the ill-fated spaceship Discovery One in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Who can forget the deadly certainty in Hal’s calm reply (voiced by Douglas Rain) to an increasingly desperate Dave Bowman’s (played by Kier Dullea) demand to “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.”? “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” HAL is responsible for several deaths in the film–and though one could argue that he acts through a sense of self-preservation, his ruthlessness is certainly chilling. Of course, Kubrick’s film is undeniably science fiction while Jonze’s is most emphatically not. (It’s a romantic comedy). Still, both films raise interesting questions regarding the influence that artificial intelligence can potentially have in the lives of human beings. If you’re interested in reading more about artificial intelligence, check out these offerings from DCPL:

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweilmost human

Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything by Stephen Baker

The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What it Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian

What do you think about artificial intelligence and its possibilities? What would your appliances say to you if they could?

 

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