Friday, November 30, 2012

Year End Lists - Best Books of 2012

Best of 2012
We're going to see many different "best of 2012" lists as the year draws to a close, but let's start with books for this topic. I post herewith links for the first of the best books lists for 2012.
1.  NYT 100 Notable Books of 2012 by the editors of the NYT  Book Review.
2.  NPR's Best Books Of 2012: The Complete List.
3.  WP Best books of 2012 - a slideshow of their favorite titles for fiction, nonfiction and graphic novels.
4.  Librarian Nancy Pearl's Picks For The Omnivorous Reader.
5.  HuffPost's Editors Select The Best Books Of 2012.
6.  PW Best Books of 2012.
7.  Just for fun - WP Poll: What’s the best book you read in high school?
More to come as these lists (of all kinds) are revealed.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

Christmas treeOur Town ChristmasTree was dressed up for the holidays and was officially lit tonight in a fun-filled family ceremony for local denizens. Spirits were jolly, hot chocolate flowed, carols were sung, with Santa overseeing all the proceedings. There were also powerful and handsome Draft Horses providing sleigh rides for families. This season is truly merry and bright - the best time of year!

(Photos by theLibraryLander and Friends

Draft horses pulling sleighDraft horses pulling sleigh

Christmas treeChristmas tree

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Notable Quotes

A periodic posting of some notable quotes:

1. First keep peace with yourself, then you can also bring peace to

~Thomas ã    Kempis
(1379-1471, German monk, mystic, religious writer)

2. Peace is not God's gift to his creatures. It is our gift to each

~Elie Wiesel
(1928-, Romanian-born American writer)

3. If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite
period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful
and helpful way toward one another.

~Winston Churchill
(1874-1965, British statesman, Prime Minister)

4. A man who cannot tolerate small misfortunes can never accomplish
great things.

~Chinese Proverb

5. A wise man never knows all, only fools know everything.

~African Proverb

6. If you wish to win a man over to your ideas, first make him your

~Abraham Lincoln
(1809-1865, American President (16th))

7. Endurance is nobler than strength, and patience than beauty.

~John Ruskin
(1819-1900, British critic, social theorist)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

70th Birth Anniversary of a Musical Legend

Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Festival 1967
Another birth anniversary of note - today's belongs to Jimi Hendrix, born 70 years ago. Lots of news reports of his life and times and music, among them: NYT, Rolling Stone, HuffPost, Time, and  SFWeekly . A common refrain in a lot of the tributes is speculation about what more Hendrix could have produced had he lived. It's a pointless exercise, since we already know he was immensely talented and he did fulfill a huge measure of whatever potential he possessed. I have to say, though,  I do find it a bit disconcerting when dead people are wished happy birthday!? Nevertheless, I guess we can all be happy to have experienced the talents of extraordinary people, however brief their time among us.

Monday, November 26, 2012

100th Birth Anniversary of Eric Sevareid, "The Grey Eminence"

Eric Sevareid Farewell Nov 30, 1977

I remember as a child watching him, along with my parents, deliver his commentary on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, but never really understanding what he was saying. All I knew was that his calm and authoritative voice made anything he said sound eminently reasonable. His NYT obituary really provided a good picture of this journalist, one of "Murrow's boys," and what his thinking and outlook were.

Today is also the  birth anniversary (90th) of another great Scandinavian American (and fellow Lutheran):  Charles M. Schulz. Schulz is probably more familiar to most people as he is the creater of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts Gang. HuffPost has an interesting article on 20 Things You Didn't Know About The Peanuts Creator
Charles Schulz American cartoonist 1956
Charles Schulz American cartoonist, 1956
Library of Congress image

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Driving 55

US Speed Limits via Wikimedia Commons
US Speed Limits via Wikimedia Commons

Today is the 39th anniversary of the presidential order reducing highway traffic speed to 55 mph. Pres. Richard Nixon, in response to the Energy Crisis of the 1970's, signed into law the order reducing speed limits in order to conserve gasoline.  This law was in effect until 1987 when Congress allowed states to raise speed limits to 65 mph, but was entirely repealed in 1995 when speed limit controls were returned to the state. Today, speed limits vary by geography where western states tend toward higher limits, with Texas having one of the highest speed limits (85 mph) on a small 41 mile stretch of road between Austin and San Antonio.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Math with a Beat

Jake Scott, high school teacher in Maryland
Jake Scott, high school teacher in Maryland
Jake Scott, a high school teacher in Maryland, has found a way to make learning math easier (and more fun) - he raps about it! The WP published an in-depth article about his work recently; a very positive account. He creates math videos under the moniker 2 Pi, though it's not his primary method of instruction. It's a unique tool he uses along with traditional classroom learning, and a very effective one, if only to keep interest in math alive. He has uploaded a number of well-produced math rap videos on YouTube, making math accessible to everyone. Now we can all be Triangle Experts. If we had teachers like him years ago, we might not have feared word problems so much!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Talk About Speed Reading!

BFS-Auto: High Speed Book Scanner at over 250 pages/min.

This amazing machine would make Evelyn Wood proud. CNET provides a brief description of the technology as well as the company that developed it (Dai Nippon Printing). It's a tremendous boon to preservationists, archivists, and librarians everywhere who value digitizing books and manuscripts. While digitization of printed works in and of itself may be a goal for many, I think the chief value in this is the assurance that these works won't be lost over time through some mishap. We still must protect and guard printed works that exist now - someday they may be considered one of the wonders of the ancient world!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

An Extra Note of Gratitude for our Beautiful World

This video is an amazing compilation of the most stunning nature scenes from the Planet Earth series. Crank it up to 1080p to really enjoy this experience. This would be even more breathtaking viewed in an IMAX theater, but still great to watch on a pc. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Random Book Dispenser

Designer/animator/director Craig Small came up with an inventive idea for The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookstore in Toronto. For two dollars, the Biblio-Mat will randomly dispense a book which is yours to keep and read. It's perfect for someone who wants to read something but doesn't know which title to choose. It's a kind of haphazard readers' advisory service in a box. The dispenser itself resembles a huge cigarette box, but its contents are much healthier. And the music in the video is as quirky as the dispenser! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Holidays are Upon Us...

Thanksgiving Plate Image by Alcinoe
Thanksgiving Plate - Public Domain Image by Alcinoe
It's that time of year for grateful gatherings; when tummies are filled almost to bursting, and deep slumbers follow. Those that can still walk the day after Thanksgiving may take a trip to the mall for Black Friday deals. Some will begin decorating for Christmas and get a head start on their neighbors by putting up lights - very efficient! I actually like to begin writing Christmas cards right after Thanksgiving - the Post Office may appreciate those like me who try not to inundate them at the last minute. The Postal Service says that December 17th will be their busiest day this year, so the earlier we get cards and packages mailed the better. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; we still have to enjoy our feast first. The major papers have helpful and enticing websites devoted to making Thanksgiving as delicious as possible. The NYT has a great video archive of Thanksgiving recipes, including traditional favorites as well as unusual dishes. There's a fun interactive Thanksgiving-erator where you can plan your menu if you're not sure what to do. There's also a very useful Q & A of commonly asked Thanksgiving questions. And not to be missed, a wonderful compilation of great vegetarian dishes for everyone. The WP has a nice collection of sweet potato recipes, as well as nice recipes for all those leftovers!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Today's APOD

NGC 6357 Cathedral to Massive Stars
NGC 6357's Cathedral to Massive Stars
Image Credit: NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (IAA, Spain)
A truly heavenly Cathedral to the Stars! The brilliant star in the middle of the cloudy grotto is said to be 200 times more massive than our own Sun, but is actually not a single star; the bright light is a combination of at least three stars that are still more massive than the Sun.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

222nd Birth Anniversary of August Ferdinand Möbius

August Ferdinand Möbius 1790–1868
August Ferdinand Möbius (1790–1868)

The Universal Recycling Symbol
The eponymous creator of the Möbius Strip was born November 17, 1790. It's curious that the concept of a one-sided surface was also independently discovered by fellow German, Johann Benedict Listing around the same time.  The idea of the Möbius, also called the twisted cylinder, has sparked unusual creations such as George Hart's Möbius bagel. You can also find various instructional videos on creating your own Möbius Strip on Youtube. An example of a commonly seen Möbius Strip is the universal recycling symbol, with the green arrows chasing each other. A very fitting symbol for using and reusing, unendingly!
Möbius Strip

Friday, November 16, 2012

Today is International Day of Tolerance

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell
"The Golden Rule" by Norman Rockwell - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
When the UN turned 50 on November 16, 1996, it adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. This document came about to mark a couple of auspicious occasions, such as the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi as well as the UN designation of 1995 as the Year for Tolerance. The declaration is well worth reading as it encourages true consideration of what tolerance means; more than simply getting along, it promotes actively learning about and feeling empathy toward others. More information about this special day can be found on the UN's website. With increasing globalization, the world is shrinking right before us, but this also causes fear and misunderstanding. Ironically, the more connected we are, the more insular we're becoming!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Our Story in 1 Minute

The producers of this video have collated footage from various science shows to depict history from the Big Bang to modern times - all in ONE minute! Pretty amazing. Saw this featured today on APOD.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nice Earworm

Got reacquainted with Coldplay's Paradise when I recently saw the trailer for The Life of Pi; the instrumental version is just stunning to me and curiously uplifting, especially beginning at the :35 mark in the video above. That part sounds like an aural sunburst and it's repeated throughout the song in between the piano segments. Paradise has inspired a number of remixes, especially this striking African version called Peponi performed by The Piano Guys. And the original vocal version of Paradise is also great to listen to, but the instrumental stand alone and almost sounds like a different song. Either way, it's a soaring and moving piece of music.

Monday, November 12, 2012

“Omnishambles” - OED's Word of the Year

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2012 omnishambles
Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2012 ‘omnishambles’
It's actually a neologism which was first used a few years ago in the British political comedy, The Thick of It. It became popular this year when it was uttered in a speech by a Labour Leader in the British House of Commons. It basically means a situation characterized by complete and utter disorder ('omni' meaning all and shambles meaning, of course, a mess). The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) selected "omnishambles" as the British English Word of the Year 2012 (WOTY) today, and chose "gif" as the American English WOTY. Gif, of course, is the image format Graphic Interchange Format. Gif has been around for a long time, but only just made it to WOTY status today. There are other WOTYs designated by different language organizations, but the OED probably has the greatest influence.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day - Honoring All Who Served

Veterans Day 2012
Veterans Day 2012
The US Veterans Affairs website presents a brief history of Veterans Day explaining its origins as Armistice Day at the conclusion of WWI to its rededication as Veterans Day in 1954. The VA website also has a nice gallery of current and past Veterans Day posters going back to 1978.

And not long ago, HuffPost published their 15 best Veterans Day quotes which are reposted below. These quotes are characterized by their thoughtfulness, not only in recognizing the valor of those who sacrificed for their country, but also the horror of war and the hope of peace that fills everyone's hearts.

1.  "Freedom is never free."  ~Author Unknown
2.  "How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!"  ~Maya Angelou
3.  "When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?"  ~George Canning
4.  "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die."  ~G.K. Chesterton
5.  "This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."  ~Elmer Davis
6.  "But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for, Is their monument to-day, and for aye."  ~Thomas Dunn English
7.  "I think there is one higher office than president and I would call that patriot."  ~Gary Hart
8.  "Lord, bid war's trumpet cease; Fold the whole earth in peace."  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
9.  "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy
10. "The most persistent sound which reverberates through men's history is the beating of war drums."  ~Arthur Koestler
11. "I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, 'Mother, what was war?'"  ~Eve Merriam
12. "Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul."  ~Michel de Montaigne
13. "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers."  ~Jose Narosky
14. "We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude."  ~Cynthia Ozick
15. "The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war."  ~Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Area Code is 61 Today

Map of area codes in the United States as of 12 May 2011
Map of area codes in the United States as of 12 May 2011 (produced by NASA)

AT&T created the North American Numbering Plan back in 1947 to make long distance direct dialing easier. On Nov. 10, 1951, area codes were inaugurated when the mayor of Englewood, NJ direct dialed the mayor of Alameda, CA. Today, the North American Numbering Plan Administration is the organization that runs the telephone numbering system across North America as well as several other countries in this hemisphere.  The FCC has oversight  of  this organization.
According to the NANPA website, "NANP numbers are ten-digit numbers consisting of a three-digit Numbering Plan Area (NPA) code, commonly called an area code, followed by a seven-digit local number. The format is usually represented as NXX-NXX-XXXX where N is any digit from 2 through 9 and X is any digit from 0 through 9." So neither the area code nor the exchange can begin with a zero. The history of telephone numbers seems to be at once complicated and logical.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Santana Live

Watching music shows on PBS always gets me thinking of favorite songs of the past, in this case Santana's She's Not There. Greg Walker's powerful vocals combined with Carlos Santana's legendary guitar prowess takes this old Zombies' song to a higher level. In fact, the Zombies' version pales in comparison!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Notable Quotes

Notable quotes
A periodic posting of some notable quotes:

1. There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home.

~John Stuart Mill (1806-1873, British philosopher, economist)

2. One does not discover new lands without consenting  to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.

~Andre Gide (1869-1951, French author)

3. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

~Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968, American Civil Rights leader, Nobel Prize winner, 1964)

4. Man has no greater enemy than himself.

~Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374, Italian poet, humanist)

5. Discontent is the first necessity of progress.

~Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931, American inventor, founder of GE)

6. Happy he who learns to bear what he cannot change.

~Johann Friedrich Von Schiller  (1759-1805, German dramatist, poet, historian)

7. A careful inventory of all your past experiences may disclose the startling fact that everything has happened for the best.

~Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Are You Scientifically Literate?

Lab Tech Dorothy Roland at work at CDC lab in 1964
Lab Tech. Dorothy Roland at work at
CDC lab in 1964 (CDC PHIL image library)
The Christian Science Monitor has a 50 question quiz to test your basic scientific literacy. It's an interesting test covering different areas of scientific inquiry, but the format is a little clunky - requires some patience to complete the whole thing. Nevertheless, it'll jog your memory of school days in science and math classes. It's also a fun way to learn things that you may have missed while you were doodling or napping in class. Best of all, no one grades you, the score is for your eyes only! As for me, I did best on the Astronomy questions - math and chemistry were my weakest areas.
And if you can't get enough of these quizzes, Discovery has a whole slew of them covering a wide range of subjects from Automotive Safety to Wind Energy (and Time Travel, of all things).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Young Stars in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud

Young Stars in Their Baby Blanket of Dust By NASA, JPL-Caltech, Harvard-Smithsonian CfADino
Young Stars in Their Baby Blanket of Dust - By NASA, JPL-Caltech, Harvard-Smithsonian CfADino  
A breathtakingly gorgeous image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. All too easy to get lost gazing at this mesmerizing heavenly swath of light and color.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Zero-Tasking Day

Sleeping Dog by theLibraryLander Family
A fine example of zero-tasking. 
(photo by theLibraryLander Family)
A refreshing idea for what to do with the extra hour we gain when Daylight Savings Time ends today - basically, nothing! It's a small gift we can give ourselves to help us breathe a little and not think of what all we must get done. Zero-Tasking Day is the brainchild of self-help coach Nancy Christie and is mentioned in Chase's Calendar of Events. She urges us to "stop doing and just be, an opportunity to relax, refresh and de-load yourself." How can anyone argue with that?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Value of Open Access

This video provides an interesting description of and makes a very convincing case for open access in terms of efficiency, cost, and widespread distribution of information. The presenters explain the process of publishing scientific works in an engaging and understandable manner. And while it is presented mainly from an academic point of view, it still applies to other areas of publishing, particularly as more and more authors self-publish through vanity presses, print on demand services, or directly to the web. Open access doesn't mean a free for all, but a rational method of accessing information that should be easily available, especially when much of the work is funded by taxpayers.

Friday, November 2, 2012

November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich By Evan Amos
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich by Evan Amos
An almost universally beloved food has its own month - a true comfort for the chilly month of November. Peanut Butter can be eaten in so many ways, in main dishes, desserts, snacks, and straight from the jar. In many ways peanuts are like corn, appearing in a variety of foods as either a main ingredient or as a by product of processing. And it's not just humans who love it; pretty much all rodents eat it (mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks among others), not to mention many birds. Even those who are allergic to peanuts, (and we must all sympathize with those poor folks) are often drawn to it and find it hard to resist. It's truly tragic that something so tasty and nutritious can be deadly for some. Nevertheless, peanuts are an ancient crop originating in the new world, and its cultivation and consumption have spread world-wide. A number of interesting factoids about peanut butter are presented by the National Peanut Board, including the history and current statistics on peanut consumption. (Did you know that Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth?)  And later on this month (November 20), we can celebrate National Peanut Butter Fudge Day! For a beautiful and tempting gallery of peanut butter dishes, including recipes, check out Tastespotting's peanut butter page. And one final tasty tidbit, Alton Brown has a very popular recipe for peanut better fudge on the FoodNetwork - yummers!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Santa's Quit...

Santa Claus by George Eastman House
Santa Claus, by George Eastman House
Old Saint Nick By Harper's Weekly
Old Saint Nick By Harper's Weekly
...smoking, that is. A new edition of Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas,"(much better known by its first line, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") has snatched away Santa's pipe. Canadian publisher, Grafton and Scratch, has excised these lines from the poem: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, / And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath." The publisher is an anti-smoking campaigner and has decided that in this era of extreme health awareness, smoking should not be depicted in children's books. While discouraging anyone from smoking is a commendable exercise, reworking a classic poem seems just a bit extreme simply to suit current mores. After all, it's not like Santa's a chain-smoking fiend - it's just a fragrant pipe - can't an old man have a smoke? Let's hope Santa can keep drinking his java - he'll need it even more to stay awake on Christmas Eve. Without his pipe, he might even pack on more weight, raising the possibility of his getting stuck in someone's chimney. Poor guy, let him have his pipe! Fortunately, we can still read the unedited version of, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" on the web.