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

August 2015

Aug 31 2015

Falling Off the Workout Wagon

by Camille B

Old-Running Shoes

One morning on my way to work I saw a woman, probably in her late seventies or early eighties, walking. She had on a jogging suit and was pushing her walker briskly around the parking lot of the shopping center.

Well, if that didn’t just put me to shame. You see, like everyone else, I’d had every intention of getting aboard the workout wagon this year and so far haven’t quite made it. (Truth be told I haven’t even been anywhere in the vicinity of the wagon at all.) As if that’s not bad enough, a recent weigh-in showed that I had gained two pounds, which may not be a whole lot, but it’s still two pounds in the wrong direction–up!

Even though it’s nobody’s fault but my own, I was still embarrassed but soon realized that I am not alone. While there are many who have managed to make great strides this year with eating right, exercising more and staying fit, there are just as many (and probably more) who never even started–or if they did, they eventually gave up along the way.

My sister recently accompanied a co-worker to LA Fitness who had been agonizing over the fact that more than half the year had passed and she still hadn’t used her gym membership. While at the gym, they encountered yet another member who was desperately trying to get out of her contract and get her money back because she too had been paying for a membership she wasn’t using.

According to an article on bodybuilding.com, 73% of people who set fitness goals as New Year’s resolutions gave them up. Another said that “…even though the gym will be packed in the weeks following New Year’s Day, many will lose their motivation quickly. More than one-in-ten (11%) U.S. adults who signed up for a gym membership as a New Year’s resolution quit before the year was over.”

So what do we do? Do we continue to beat ourselves up because the wagon has moseyed on down the road without us? Sit in the dust of self loathing, throwing a pity party while we wait for it to roll around again next year? No, I don’t believe that we should.

Personally, I’d call it just a set back. I mean we have jobs and kids and spouses, meetings, shopping, chores, and the list goes on and on. Some of us will probably never be able to adhere to a weekly routine at the gym. So, we should lower the bar a bit, be realistic, and set goals that are achievable for us.

Take me for example. I work in a building that has four floors, and as I’m writing this post I’m thinking to myself: Four floors  mean that I have four flights of stairs at my disposal every day that I can take advantage of instead of using the elevator. This means I won’t have to worry about squeezing in an hour or two at the gym after work. Combine the stairs together with parking my car at the farthest end of the supermarket parking lot as I run in to grab dinner items, and the brisk walk to and from my car, it all adds up.

What do you already do from day-to-day that you can incorporate into some regular exercise? For example:

  • Using part of your lunch hour can be another great way to squeeze in some daily exercise. Walk to go get lunch instead of taking your car. Or if you bring your lunch from home, save 15 minutes for your lunch time for a walk around the parking lot–and maybe enlist a co-worker for support.
  • That treadmill you paid so much money for really wasn’t meant to be a clothes rack. Go on and use it already. Combine it with something else–like reading a magazine, listening to music, watching an episode of Scandal.
  • Wake up 15 or 20 minutes earlier in the morning to exercise, before the busyness of the day clamors for your attention. Not a morning person? Then do it before dinner–maybe some sit-ups or crunches, or even a short workout video.
  • Power walking around your neighborhood is also a great way to get in some exercise every day, or at least a few times a week

Cut yourself some slack. You will never get it perfect every single time, some days will be better than others. Yeah, we all feel bad when we miss a day or two of our routine–but don’t feel so bad that you stop altogether. The main thing is to try and be consistent. And it may seem like small steps, but as the saying goes “more may be better than less, but some is definitely better than none!”

Below are some books and DVDs that I checked out at DCPL while writing this post. They include simple and practical exercises as well as overall healthy living habits that may be helpful to you.

Ageless with Kathy Smith: Total Body Turnaround (DVD)

Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath

Fit in 5 by Gregory P. Whyte

Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It by James A. Levine

Sit and Be Fit (DVD)



Aug 21 2015

To Read or Not To Read: No Question

by Amie P

I have a confession to make: I hate reading Shakespeare’s plays. (This can be a bit of a problem when you major in English Literature and Writing.)

That said, over the course of my high school and college years I saw productions of As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew (twice, once as a western and once set in 1950s Italy), Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, and Macbeth, and I was one of the fairies in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’ve seen Shakespeare productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, England; the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada; the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern, in addition to many smaller theaters.

I’ve loved them all!

How does this work?  I made a deal with myself: I only read a Shakespeare play after I’ve seen a production of it. After all, plays were made to be seen, not read, right?

It’s not always possible to find a theater production for each play you want to see, of course, and that’s where DVDs come into play.  Two of my favorites are available from the library. Try these:

Much Ado About Nothing

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

There’s more where those came from, so just ask your librarian for a hand if there are others you’d like to see.

Taming of the ShrewIf you’d rather read your Shakespeare (or if your teacher says you have to), take a look at the No-Fear Shakespeare series. Each book has Shakespeare’s original words on one side of the page with a modern English translation on the other. I recommend starting with The Taming of the Shrew.

See? Easy-peasy. Enjoy!


Aug 18 2015

What is Code?

by Jesse M

It is sometimes said that in this digital age we now live in, programming is the new literacy. The ubiquitous nature of software products in our modern life means that even if we don’t realize it, code is all around us, running on our smartphones, handling our banking transactions, and helping to circulate library materials! As software has gradually woven its way into our day-to-day lives, we’ve become increasingly dependent on the services it makes available, which also makes us dependent on the programmers who wrote the code–and who occasionally must step back into the picture to fix any problems that arise.

Back in June, Paul Ford wrote an excellent article titled What is Code? which does an in-depth and thorough job of examining what code is and how it affects our lives. It bounces back and forth between an examination of some of the most popular and/or seminal programming languages to how IT departments operate in the corporate world. It is a multimedia document with a lot of fun and interactive examples and conceptual demonstrations–and is easily the best and most comprehensive depiction of the subject I’ve ever encountered.

If you’re interested in learning more about some of the programming languages discussed in the article, you can check out one of the many related books that DCPL has to offer.

Coding for dummies cover

Coding for Dummies

Beginning Programming with C for Dummies

MySQL Cookbook [ebook]

Sams Teach Yourself Java in 24 Hours

Mastering Perl

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Aug 13 2015

Libraries as Community Centers

by Arthur G

I’ll be honest–I’m not a fan of most library news stories. Too often, they revolve around buzz words and other vagaries, like how libraries can supposedly “reinvent themselves,” or “become relevant for the new century”–all the while not showing the slightest understanding of what libraries are and their place in the community. But writer Deborah Fallows over at The Atlantic has struck a cord in me with her spotlight on the Deschutes Public Library, a small, six-branch system in Central Oregon pioneering a creative formula based on extensive community partnerships and outreach.

This core of this idea isn’t news to me; DCPL branches have always acted as community centers, providing a myriad of different services across the county, including ESL and continuing education classes, free internet access for all, and simply being a safe and welcoming haven for the world weary. The Deschutes Library System and its director Todd Dinkelburg have taken this basic element in a decidedly more aggressive direction, sending out library staff in a web of partnerships that include over 60 community groups. The article itself is well written, with Fallows doing justice to the institution–and without recourse to clichéd buzz words. Catch the article here–-it’s well worth the read.

And if you’re itching for more of the latest by the good writers at The Atlantic, you can catch them on Zinio, our free eMagazine Library available online.



In 1981, at age 29, he stopped working and began living off of the money he made from investments. In winter 1981, I was trying to get used to the fact that since someone stole my bicycle I would be trudging about my college campus on foot in Flagstaff, AZ, ad nauseam. My thoughts were not of retirement but of frostbite. And of pizza.

In his book, Gillette Edmunds claims: “Most middle-class Americans, including me, could live comfortably on the investment returns from $500,000.”

Now, granted, Edmunds began his investing at a crucial time in that he could earn returns of 18% or more per year throughout–until the bursting of the dot.com and housing bubbles.

Now, in the current economic climate, it isn’t that easy. But his book How To Retire Early and Live Well With Less Than a Million Dollars is still considered a  good book on investing by many, including myself and the Motley Fool (no, they are not one in the same!).

Other DCPL books on the subject include Investment Options for Teens by Tammy Gagne and How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire by Stan Hinden.

And no, doggone it, playing the lottery is not one of the recommended strategies for planning an early retirement.


Aug 7 2015

It Changed My Life! (sort of)

by Dea Anne M

As much as I enjoy housework in general and organizing in particular, you might believe that I possess a clothes closet that is perfectly organized, terrifically efficient and, in general, a joy to behold. Well, all I can say to that is that people used to believe that the Earth was flat.

Up until very recently, my closet was a tangled, snarled mess–full of clothes that I could never see because everything was layered on top of everything else–in short, a disaster. I would go in and weed through and carefully fold, sort, and stack or hang all that was left. Seemingly a day (and sometimes mere hours) later the closet would be back in the same ridiculous and unusable condition. At one point, I decided that the problem was not having the right sort of storage containers. This may have been an unconscious excuse to spend money because I am, at best, an unenthusiastic shopper–but I love, love, love Ikea and The Container Store.

Well, putting things into other things didn’t really work for my closet because I could never use anything because I couldn’t see it. My “solution” at another stage was to put on hangers absolutely everything that could be put on a hanger, but for some reason that never worked for me either. Then I picked up an odd little volume called The Life-Changing Magic of magicTidying Up by Marie Kondo. You might have heard of it. The author, who is Japan’s premier organizational consultant, lays out in the book her “KonMari Method” of decluttering and organizing one’s space. The book has been a runaway best seller in Japan, Germany, the UK, and now here. In fact, The London Times dubbed Kondo “Japan’s preeminent guru of tidiness, a warrior princess in the war on clutter.” I haven’t actually read the entire book yet but I look forward to doing so. From what I have read however, I see that Kondo provides specific organizational guidelines for only three broad areas–clothing, books and papers–and this makes sense really because these are usually the areas where many of us have the most trouble. Her organizational tenets are few, and on the surface of it, very simple. They are:

Let go of things to make room for the things that matter.

Keep only things that spark joy.

“Someday” never comes.

Treat your possessions as if they were alive.

Your possessions reflect your state of mind.

Now a lot of this made sense to me, at least on an intuitive level, although I knew that some of it would require more of a leap of faith on my part. Anyway, this past weekend, I decided to take that leap of faith in a small way. I thought “I’ll do one drawer in my clothes closet and then we’ll see.” One of Kondo’s directives is that you cull your clothes to the point where you are left only with those that “spark joy.” Not stated, but I think implied, is that usefulness is a part of joy. I don’t think that Kondo is suggesting that anyone get rid of absolutely everything they own and spend money replacing it. After culling the one drawer, I was left with a much smaller and much more reasonable collection of apparel. I then proceeded to the next step in Kondo’s program…storage.

Kondo insists that you find a place for each object to “live,” put it there, and always put it back in the same spot. Next, any clothing that can be folded should be folded (into neat rectangles no less) and stored in drawers, or on shelves, vertically with the edges facing you. What you don’t do is stack anything. “This isn’t going to work,” I thought. “Oh well,” I told myself as I dived in. “It’s only one drawer.” Well, a few hours later, I had what I can only call my dream closet. Not only that, I didn’t have to buy a single extra hanger or storage item.

Another of Kondo’s premises is that you already have all the space and tools you require–and while I don’t think that this is necessarily true for everyone, it certainly was true for me in this instance. In fact, my closet now has room to spare. I plan to move on to the books this weekend, and there I will really test myself since books–looking at books and having them–are very much an emotional issue for me.

As far as the clothes closet goes, several days later I think I can safely report that the system is working beautifully for me. I can get dressed faster, and the vertically “filed” clothes don’t flop over as you might think. In other words, I am a convert. I don’t think I’m ever going to be one of those true believers (and there are many right now) who call themselves “Konverts” and post before-and-after shots on social media, but I’m here to tell you that this method is definitely starting to make a difference in my housekeeping…and maybe in my life.

To be sure, some of the zeal with which MariKon disciples describe how the method has made a difference in their lives can seem a bit over the top.

  • “I love green vegetables now!”
  • “I lost 30 pounds!”
  • “I folded my husband and my children into neat rectangles and organized them into drawers!”

Of course, I’m joking here, but I hope you get the point. I think some of this fervor obscures the real value of this program, which is that mindfulness can indeed work a sort of “magic” in our lives and that we can change a great deal of we might be dissatisfied with simply through paying attention…even to, or maybe especially to, the smallest things.

Are you interested in organizing your space in a way that works better for you? Are you simply feeling overwhelmed at all the “stuff” in your life? You may not buy into all, or any, of Kondo’s suggestions. As an example, Kondo asks you to empty your purse each evening, thank it for its service to you that day, and put it in its own special spot to “rest.” Sound wacky? I know, and yet I must confess that I have started doing this and it really does make a difference in some subtle way. Anyway, whatever your organizational inclinations may be, DCPL has resources to help. Here are a few that I recommend.stuff

One of my favorite organizing experts is Julie Morgenstern. Her Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck is a thoughtful guide to making change happen through surrounding yourself with only those elements essential for you to live the life that you desire. Her older book Organizing From the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life is still relevant today and is a classic of its kind.

peaceI think the best books on organization take a psychological approach to the subject (as opposed to focusing exclusively on systems and tools), and Cindy Glovinsky’s book Making Peace With the Things In Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You and What to Do About It  is one of these. Glovinsky, who is a therapist along with being a professional organizer, helps the reader learn to distinguish between the “things” in her or his life and the “Things.” Very useful indeed and, in any case, the subtitle says it all.

The success of companies such as Zipcar and Spotify indicate that there may bestuffocation growing numbers of people who value access over ownership. Stuffocation: Why We’ve had Enough of Stuff and Need Experience More than Ever by James Wallman is not so much a guide to organizing what you own as a treatise on living in a more satisfying and conscious way by letting go of the imperative to accumulate possessions instead of experiences. I found some of the real-life stories of people who have actually done this both fascinating and somewhat irritating. Irritating because so many of these people were able to break the grip of possession overload primarily because they possessed a certain level of financial wherewithal. Someone who has to work multiple jobs in order to keep themselves and their families clothed, housed and fed probably doesn’t have the leisure to think about optimizing the experience factor of his or her next vacation. In fact, she or he may never be able to take vacations at all. Actually, I think Wallman’s real aim in the book is not in promoting a certain lifestyle so much as it is to encourage a mind shift in the prevailing culture. Interesting, provocative, and well worth reading.

Do you think that you need help getting organized and what is your biggest area of challenge? Maybe your organizational skills are already finely honed. If so, do you have any tips for the rest of us?

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How many of you know what the Cousins’ War is about? I will give you a hint. You studied it in school under a different name. If you said the War of the Roses, then you are correct!

The author Philippa Gregory has written a series of novels about the War of the Roses, but her series is named The Cousins’ War. When you think about it, it makes sense. You might want to check out the family tree. All of the cousins were related in one way or the other. Philippa Gregory in her writing focuses on the women of this time period. The women are Lady Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford; Lady Margaret Beaufort; Queen Elizabeth Woodville; Queen Anne Neville, and Princess Elizabeth of York.

The story of the war begins with Jacquetta’s story about the Lancaster throne and what happened to cause the Yorks’ uprising against the Lancasters. It ends with Princess Elizabeth marrying King Henry (Margaret Beaufort’s son of the Lancastrian line).

Women of the Cousins' WarI found some other books in the DCPL catalog specifically relating to the women of the Cousins’ War. The first book is The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King’s Mother by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, and Michael Jones. This book specifically focuses on Jacquetta, the Duchess of Bedford; the White Queen Elizabeth Woodville, and King Henry’s mother Margaret Beaufort. Each of these women played an important role and helped shape the events of this war. This book delves into the history of each woman. You might enjoy this video available on YouTube, Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin and Mike Jones discuss Women of the Cousins’ War.

The next book is Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood, who also explores the women behind the Cousins’ War. This book explores women such as Margaret of Anjou; Cecile Neville, the mother of the Yorks, and Margaret Beaufort. Gristwood discusses what each woman was willing to do to attain power during this period in history.

Wars of the Roses by Dan JonesThe final book is The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones. It explores how the Plantagenet family fought to the death for the right to rule England. A specific focus is given to Catherine of Valois, Margaret of Anjou, and Elizabeth Woodville, and their fight to secure the throne for their offspring. This book truly tells the story of these three great families.

You can check out more on the women of the Cousins’ War in the books mentioned above and in these books by Philippa Gregory: The White Queen, The Red Queen, Lady of the Rivers, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, and The White Princess.