Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell 2012 (and BTW, What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?)

The most alluring version of What Are You
Doing New Year's Eve? by Nancy Wilson

12 Features From 2012:
2. New Yorker - Best Books of 2012.
3. WP - Notable deaths of 2012.
4. Wikipedia - More notable deaths of 2012.
6. NYT - Chronological index of notable deaths in 2012.
7. NYT - The Year in illustrations.
8. Dr. Weil - For 2013, simple steps to a better life.
9. PBS - The Tech. To Do list for 2013.
10. Mercury News - 50 things we now know.
11. Yahoo - Pictorial year in review.
12. And finally, hangover helpers from Dr. Weil.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Animal Bridges

Wildlife overpass in Banff National Park Canada
Wildlife overpass Trans-Canada Highway in the Banff National Park, Canada - photo by Qyd, Wikimedia Commons
I recently read about a study conducted by Clemson University students which produced some distressing results highlighting the dark side of some humans. The students conducted the study in order to help turtles which are killed crossing roads. I won't go into the details of the study, which can be reviewed here, but it did lead me to some good things that people are doing to help wildlife cross roads safely. Many jurisdictions around the world are building animal bridges which are contrived to resemble woodlands so that wildlife can safely and fearlessly use them. Some remarkable images of these bridges have been posted on the Twisted Sifter blog, and additional images can be viewed via a Google image search on wildlife bridges. So, a sad commentary on the dark side of human nature in turn revealed the good side that also resides in all of us. Thank God.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Notable Quotes

Notable quotes
A periodic posting of some notable quotes:

1. Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you
represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.

~Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964, Indian nationalist, statesman)

2.  Don't waste your life in doubts and fears: spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour's duties will be the best preparation for the hours or ages that follow it.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882, American poet, essayist)

3. Few things are needed to make a wise man happy; nothing can make a fool content; that is why most men are miserable.

~Francois De La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680, French classical writer)

4. We only think when we are confronted with problems.

~John Dewey (1859-1952, American philosopher, educator)

5. To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous.

~Chinese Proverb

6. It is not what you are called, but what you answer to.

~African Proverb

7. Poverty is not a shame, but the being ashamed of it is.

~English Proverb

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Great Library Debate

New York Public Library Research Room
New York Public Library Research Room - Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 - Wikimedia Commons
Do we still need libraries? Asks the NYT. This seems to be a perennial, nay chronic topic among librarians and library patrons. Libraries are universally venerated, but the discussion about the role of libraries today is churned over so much, though without reaching any resolution. The Times recently brought up this subject by asking a number of scholars for their views on the role and future of libraries. While Amazon has decisively overtaken the role of bookstores, there still remains a need for a physical place where people may gather to, if not read print books, at least to learn and meet. People often speak of libraries as sanctuaries, even though they long ago ceased being cloistered havens, for the whole world pretty much congregates there. Still, it may be that a library continues to evoke feelings of a good place, a place where everyone is welcome. Maybe that's justification enough for their existence.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


1.  Dr. Weil -  Do we need Omega-9? What is Omega-9?
2.  CBS - US Census to offer an online option.
3.  NYT -  A stunning collection of 3000 Christmas ornaments.
4.  NYT - A gallery and recipe file of the best holiday sweets.
5.  WP - More women now taking over home improvement.
6.  NYT - The Christmas frog - a touching true story.
7.  NYT - Lee Rogers - Central Park artist channels Audubon.
8.  Discovery - End of world reference guide.
9.  NYT - Is the cure for cancer within us?
10. The Australian - How to use that new gadget you got for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All!

The Adoration of the Magi tapestry Manchester Metropolitan University
The Adoration of the Magi, tapestry Manchester Metropolitan University.  Designed by Edward Burne Jones
with details by William Morris and John Henry Dearle. Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

200th Birth Anniversary of Samuel Smiles, "Self-Help" Guru

Samuel Smiles
Samuel Smiles - public domain img.
"A place for everything, and everything in its place," is the quote made famous by Samuel Smiles in his book Thrift. While he did not originate the concept of  self-help books, which have been around for centuries, he did, however, write a book in 1859 entitled, "Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct." This is often considered the prototype for the modern day examples of self-help books and perhaps lead to the current glut of these. The term "self-help" has a long history as well, as a legal and literary term; however, Smiles was successful in his bid to influence readers with his ideas of self-improvement - he sold a quarter of a million copies by time of his death in 1904. It did have its share of detractors, though. The Irish author, Robert Tressell, wrote in one his books, that "Self-Help" was "suitable for perusal by persons suffering from almost complete obliteration of the mental faculties". Smiles, finding a need within the human psyche to become better people, filled it with his hopeful and encouraging instructional books. More didactic quotes by Smiles are available at BrainyQuote.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

APOD - Stunning Saturn at Night

Saturn at night NASA
Saturn at Night - Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Space Science Institute, Cassini Imaging Team
APOD explains how this image was made by Cassini. Saturn certainly appears sultry and mysterious photographed in shadow!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Welcome the New Cosmic Dawn!

Hawaiian sunrise atop the Haleakala summit
Hawaiian sunrise over the Haleakala summit by Tamugreg public domain img. Wikimedia Commons
It's not the end, after all, but a new beginning - a whole new cycle to either repeat or create history! So, herewith some interesting stories about this topic, as well as recommendations from various sources on how to spend this time:

1.  NASA's take on the Mayan Calendar.
2.  NYT's how to prepare, regardless of the nature of this event.
3.  WP's report on the cosmic dawn.
4.  TIME's story on the original cosmic dawn.
5.  Dayton Daily News' 10 things to do at the end.
6.  Edmonton Journal's 7 things to do.
7.  The Village Voice's what to do about the end.
8.  Babble's 10 things to do with your kids before the end. (some of these sound fun)
9.  Timeout's 50 things to do (this will keep you so busy you won't know it's all ended!).
10. Talk Tech's 23 techie things to do before it all ends.
11.  And finally, what to do if we're all still here (rats! this looks too hard).

Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 7049 NASA
The original cosmic dawn - Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 7049 - NASA

Thursday, December 20, 2012

200th Death Anniversary of Sacajawea

Sacagawea statue by Leonard Crunelle Bismarck ND photo by Hans Andersen Wikimedia Commons
Sacagawea statue by Leonard Crunelle. Bismarck, ND
photo by Hans Andersen, Wikimedia Commons
Since there are no official birth records for Sacagawea (she was born circa 1788) and we do know when she died, we can still honor her on her death anniversary, Dec. 20. There are, however, legends that claim she died in 1884, though historically it has been established she died on Dec. 20, 1812 after an illness. Her name, it is believed, is a compound noun from the Hidatsa language, meaning "bird woman." The National Park Service's profile of Sacagawea states that while she may not have been the primary guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as is commonly believed, she nevertheless made significant contributions. Much about Sacagawea's life is still debated, but it is known that her knowledge of the geography of the Northwestern US, particularly Idaho, helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition considerably. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Amazing Video Hoax

"Golden Eagle Snatches Kid"
This is an amazing video depicting what appears to be a huge eagle snatching a toddler, but it's all done with CGI. The film was produced by students at the Centre NAD, a Canadian animation and design school. News of this hoax came out recently when a media professor admitted that film students created the footage using CGI. A very clever and impressive production!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

APOD - A Sun Pillar Over Sweden

A Sun Pillar Over Sweden Image Copyright Göran Strand
A Sun Pillar Over Sweden, via NASA - Image Copyright: Göran Strand
This striking photo makes a beautiful Christmas card. Read more about sun pillars on the Atmospheric Optics website. View more interesting images of sun pillars on Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Christmas Carol Published on December 17, 1843

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol Title Page
Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.
Illus. by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. Title page. Public Domain.
This is the book that marked the beginning of much of our modern day celebration of Christmas, minus the commercialism. Charles Dickens' classic tale of remorse and redemption brings special joy to everyone. Having read this story several times in my life, I still never tire of it; its simple message of love and caring never grows old. It has an appeal that transcends cultural and religious differences, since it exhorts everyone to be their brother's keeper. As Jacob Marley's ghost despairingly wails to Ebenezer Scrooge, "Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" This is the essence of Christmas, if we would all keep it in our hearts.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Arthur C. Clarke 95th Birth Anniversary

Planetary alignment May 2000 photo by B Magrath from NASA
Planetary alignment May 2000 - photo by B. Magrath, from NASA
Today marks the 95th birth anniversary of one of the greatest science fiction authors of our time; he died in 2008 having witnessed many of his predictions about the future come to reality, including the concept of geostationary satellites. The geosynchronous orbit of communications satellites is now known as the Clarke Orbit. It's also speculated now that he may have originated the concept behind the workings of the iPad. He is, of course, most famous for his classic 2001: a Space Odyssey, which was based on his earlier short story, The Sentinel. He was a great proponent of space exploration and wrote many sci-fi classics about humankind's role in our universe given its vastness and our own small stature. Below are some of his most famous quotes:
  • "Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering."
  • "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
  • "If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke public domain photo by Amy Marash
Sir Arthur C. Clarke - 2005
public domain photo by Amy Marash
Movie poster for 2001 A Space Odyssey Wikimedia Commons
Movie poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey
Wikimedia Commons


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Libraries and Their Landscapes

Collage of library gardens from Library Journal see article below for details
Collage of library gardens from Library Journal - see article below for details.
 Very interesting feature in Library Journal on libraries and their gardens and landscaping features. Good books and peaceful gardens are a natural fit!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Calling All Birders - it's the Annual Christmas Bird Count!

Cedar Waxwing public domain image by Ken Thomas
Cedar Waxwing - public domain image by Ken Thomas
Cedar Waxwing public domain image by Ken Thomas
Cedar Waxwing - public domain image by Ken Thomas
It's time to commence the annual Christmas Bird Count; it's been 113 years since the first one took place on Christmas Day 1900. That's the year ornithologist Frank Chapman began the count after proposing to conserve birds rather than shoot them. The Audubon Society's website has a wealth of information not only on the Christmas Bird Count, but also the history of bird conservation and science. Anyone can take part in the bird count and it promotes not only conservation, but helps us understand bird behavior and migration patterns, as well as providing bird census data. Birds have tremendous appeal to humans; their ability to fly and devoted nesting behavior have powerfully touched our sensibility ever since we first witnessed them. I've posted images of the Cedar Waxwing here because they're among the sleekest and dare I say coolest looking birds I've ever seen. There are many other beautiful and elegant birds, but the Waxwings have a modern, futuristic look that almost makes them seem space-age! Their dark eye bands, sleek crests, and smooth feathers give them a trendy appearance. And they're known to be very affectionate, often passing a berry down along a row of their compatriots!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 is Not Only a Cool Date, It's Also National Poinsettia Day

Poinsettias photo by theLibraryLander
Poinsettias - photo by theLibraryLander
Poinsettia Day also happens to fall on the Day of the Virgin, which in Mexico is celebrated with Poinsettias, very fitting since Mexico was responsible for Americans' adopting the showy plant as a Christmas tradition. Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist and US Ambassador to Mexico, brought cuttings of  Euphorbia pulcherrima to the US in 1825. These and other facts about Poinsettias are detailed on the University of Illinois Extension page. 12/12/12 comes once a century, so NPR and AtlanticWire did some research to see how people are marking the day. Though, I think the really cool date occurred last year on November 11 (11/11/11) - how perfect was that! Still, today is significant because it'll be the last triple date that will occur in our lifetimes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

International Mountain Day

Mt Everest by Luca Galuzzi Wikimedia Commons
Mt. Everest North Face toward Base Camp, Tibet - Luca Galuzzi
Wikimedia Commons
Today is International Mountain Day, which is more than just a celebration of mountains, but of the people and cultures that depend on them. Ten Years ago, during the International Year of Mountains, the UN resolved that December 11 would be set aside as International Mountain Day. This day is intended to spotlight the way of life of mountain people as well as educate the world on their plight, since they are among the poorest in the world. Mountain life is often marked by danger and a lack of basic necessities for sustainable life. However majestic mountains may be, living on them requires a lot more than appreciation of their beauty.

Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque, NM - G. Thomas, Wikimedia Commons
UN Photo Kibae Park
UN Photo - Kibae Park

Monday, December 10, 2012

Birth Anniversary of Melvil Dewey

Melvil Dewey
Melvil Dewey, Librarian
Public Domain image
As a librarian, I can't let this day pass without some acknowledgement; after all, the eponymous library classification system is used everyday in our line of work. The inventor of the Dewey Decimal system was very much a man of his time, with a marked Victorian sensibility, but he was also possessed of a decidedly odd personality. Although he had friends, his difficult nature also earned him many enemies.  A column written a few years ago in Straight Dope states, "We feel obliged to note that Dewey was no saint. He was racist, antisemitic, anti-black, anti- everything not white male Anglo-Saxon Christian." For all his negatives, however, he left a lasting legacy in the area of librarianship. A little known Indian librarian, S.R. Ranganathan, who also made contributions to library science, spoke of his communication with Dewey near the end of his life. In a transcript of his recollection of Dewey's letters to Ranganathan, it's interesting to note that Dewey was aware of how Eurocentric the Dewey system was. It's especially true when considering the religion class of the Dewey system, the 200's, which is heavily weighted toward
Christianity. All non-Christian religions are relegated to 299! Well, whatever its deficits, the Dewey Decimal system is practical in many ways and continues to keep public library collections in good order to this day. Wikipedia has an entry for an expanded list of other library classification systems.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

50th Anniversary of the Petrified Forest National Park

Balancing Rock Petrified National Forest NPS
Balancing Rock, Petrified National Forest (NPS)
While the Petrified Forest was designated a National Monument in 1906, its status changed to National Park on Dec. 9, 1962. This bit of news recalls a trip my family made years ago when we took an extensive vacation to Arizona and toured not only the Petrified Forest, but also the Grand Canyon and the Meteor Crater. It left an indelible mark in my memory because of the remarkable geology of that whole region. The entire trip was characterized by rocks, desert, and endless skies, not to mention the extreme, dry heat - almost like traveling to another planet! It has always amazed me that America has such a wide range of geological features, as if comprised of different countries and planets, especially considering that a lot of sci-fi movies are filmed in the desert southwest.
Petrified Logs Crystal Forest Petrified Forest NPS
Petrified Logs, Crystal Forest,
Petrified Forest (NPS)
Chinle Formation Tepees Petrified Forest NPS
Chinle Formation, Tepees, Petrified Forest (NPS)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Billionaire Birth Signs

Virgo symbolWarren Buffett from Forbes
Just read an interesting article on Warren Buffett in the NY'er, which goes into some detail about his personal traits and philosophy. Although I was already aware of his famous traits of frugality and simplicity, the article goes into more detail about his love of routine and stability. Hamburgers, french fries, and vanilla ice cream comprise his staple diet! This made me wonder a bit more about billionaires in general and what zodiac sign might predominate among them. It turns out, according to a survey cited in Forbes, that a good 12 % of billionaires are Virgos, including Buffett. This is considered a fairly high percentage for any one sign since there are twelve altogether. And Virgo traits do include frugality, love of service, being detail-oriented, and hyper-critical. The Forbes article also lists other billionaire signs - Sagittarius is the least prevalent among them.  Not that I believe in all this, of course :P , but as a Virgo, I can't help but feel somewhat flattered to be in this company, at least personality-wise. Money-wise, it's a whole other story, alas...

Friday, December 7, 2012

70th Birth Anniversary of Harry Chapin

Everyone remembers Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapin, but Taxi was also a big hit for him - an equally poignant ballad about time and relationships. Another great artist lost too early.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Earth at Night

Earth at Night  Image credit NASA Earth Observatory NOAA DOD
Earth at Night.  Image credit: NASA's Earth Observatory/NOAA/DOD

Our beautiful, glittering home. To see it in motion, see NASA's Youtube video. For more details on how this image and video were produced, see NASA's website.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?

This is a question that is periodically posed to library reference services. So, it came up today at our branch and I thought I'd post the answer here:  according to the Population Reference Bureau, as of 2011,  107,602,707,791 people have been born in the world. Their video above explains the process of arriving at this figure, which is, naturally, a guesstimate since no hard population data exists for most of the time humans have been around. But it's an interesting parlor game of sorts, starting with establishing when the first humans even appeared. There's even a name for the study of ancient population studies - paleodemography.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Feeling Lucky? Or Trendy? Maybe Hungry!

Feeling lucky button

I only recently noticed this Google Easter Egg when I saw that mousing over the I'm Feeling Lucky button would cause it to whir and provide more choices. This feature actually came out a few months ago and some websites, such as Mashable, did discuss it, but it flew below my radar. In addition to feeling lucky, you may feel trendy, wonderful, stellar, puzzled, doodley, artistic, or playful. And if you're hungry, the Lucky button will show you some good eateries in your neck of the woods. Round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Googling the UnGoogleable

Servers inside a Google data center in Council Bluffs Iowa
Servers inside a Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Just read an interesting article in MIT Technology Review about Google's work on basically reading people's minds. To that end, the search engine behemoth conducted a random survey last month asking people, “What did you want to know recently?” Much of the data relates to the way people use their mobile devices to find contextual information based largely on location. Googling is rapidly becoming our second brain - actually, our main brain since we don't often know what we're looking for until Google tells us! MIT Technology Review does a great job keeping us up-to-date on Google's research - take a look at their archive of articles on this topic.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


1. Dr. Weil - Why do women live longer?
2. WP - Holograms are here, from Tupac to Marilyn Monroe.
3. WP - 5 Myths (Challenging everything you think you know.)
4. WP - What Kodak could still learn from Polaroid.
5. NYT - The Statue of Liberty is ok, but its home isn't.
6. NYT - Maria Popova has some big ideas.
7. NYT - Joe Queenan: ‘Books, I Think, Are Dead.'
8. MSNBC - DNA is directly photographed for the first time.
9. Smithsonian - Exploding Christmas tree art.
10. WP - Almost everything gives you cancer - don't worry about it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Welcome Winter!

Northern Cardinal
Image composed by theLibraryLander
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
"We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
~Oliver Herford