Ah...the marvels of technology! One of the great things about having a virtual presence is that we can still be there for you in many ways during the weeks that we are closed.
Except for the few days when we are physically moving the servers to the new building, darienlibrary.org will be open. We'll still continue to read, watch, and listen...and then report back about books, movies, music, and technology, as usual. And, perhaps, of most importance, while we are closed you will still have access to much research information.
We want to remind you that our "Online Resources" will still be available. These resources will help you find articles that Google can't access! You will be able to access online magazines and journals, and utilize specialty databases which include topics such as Investing & Finance, Health, Consumer Information, and Geneology, to name a few. (You'll be happy to know that Homework Help will also be available!) To use these services from home, you will need to provide your library card number so that we can verify that you are a Friend or town resident.
For more information about what to expect while we're closed, click here. We're looking forward to opening the actual doors at 1441 Post Road on January 10th!
One of the unexpected pleasures of working in a library is the patron request. Although we do our best to predict which books will be popular, our members find authors we have never heard of and titles that slipped past our regular examinations of publisher's lists and book reviews.
Recently, I tried to fulfill request for Time Management by Randy Pausch, the late author of The Last Lecture. When I looked for it from our usual book vendor, it wasn't listed. I asked another librarian to look for it, in case I had missed something. She came back with the same answer. We searched online and found that Amazon was selling the MP3, but nothing else. (Later, Amazon added the CD and it seems that they have now added a paperback of the book.)
We were mystified, but intrigued, especially by the comments ostensibly left by Pausch's sister urging people to boycott the products as they were not authorized by her late brother, something we have not been able to confirm or refute. A quick Google search revealed that Pausch's time management lecture has long been an online favorite. It's available entirely online from a friend and colleague of Professor Pausch, Dr. Gabriel Robins. The great advantage of the online version, besides the obvious video component, are the accompanying slides and handouts as well as the related articles about Randy Pausch.
The video can be seen on YouTube, Google Video, Blip.tv and several other online video sites, and the YouTube version is embedded below. The slides and associated articles are all available from Dr. Robins.
What a goldmine of great content! Keep those requests coming!
Last week I was stuck in the mother of all non-holiday traffic jams-- Tuesday night repaving on I-95 northbound. For better or for worse, I entertained myself for an hour and a half by listening to the second presidential debate. Not a bad way to pass the time, but not what I expected to do during a trip that usually takes about 11 minutes.
The cause of all this craziness? Merging down from three lanes to one. You’d think by now folks would know how to do that in an organized, timely manner, but no. To find out why normally thoughtful, rational people are incapable of this simple maneuver, check out the latest by Tom Vanderbilt-- Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us). In a recent interview he summed it up quite nicely:
Merging is the most stressful single activity we face in everyday driving, according to a survey by the Texas Transportation Institute. People who have done studies at highway construction work zones have also told me of extraordinarily bad behavior, triggered by this simple act of trying to get two lanes of traffic into one. Sometimes, it’s simply the difficult mechanics of driving — trying to enter a stream of traffic flowing at a higher speed than you are, for example.
Drivers, to quote a physicist who was actually talking about grains, are objects ‘who do not easily interact.’ But I also think there’s something about the forward flow of traffic that makes us register progress only by our own unimpeded movement; as in life, we seem to register losses more powerfully than gains, and registering these losses boosts stress.
Wow. If his theory sounds familiar, check out the financial headlines from last week.
So what did I learn from all this? The next time I hit 95, I’m checking the Connecticut DOT website before I head out. You know all of those cameras along the roadway? They record what the highway action is like in real time. No waiting for traffic info on the 8’s or 10’s (and praying they will say something—anything!—about the Connecticut roads), just live pictures of headlights and tail-lights moving right along.
Another option is to check out the Tom Tom One GPS system, a great resource for finding those less traveled alternate routes. Either way, you can bet I won't be listening to tonight's debate from my car!
For the past few weeks every newspaper, magazine, and scrolling ticker has been plastered with photos of anguished traders, scary graphs and complex analysis of financial instruments that seem more like magic than math. The current financial crisis seems unprecedented and unpredictable. Yesterday’s New York Times offered some perspective by examining the roles of two famous businessmen during hard times: Warren Buffett and J.P. Morgan.
The Times notes that “Comparing the two men and their moves in periods of market turmoil, just more than a century apart, reveals how much some things have changed over the years and how other things have not, according to business historians and finance experts.”
This got a few of us thinking about the history of the markets and the comforts of knowing that we’ve been in dire straits before and it doesn’t always end with apple carts and a generation growing up sharing a pair of shoes with their siblings. Several of you are ahead of us on this curve- when we started looking for books on the history of Wall Street, we found a number of them were already checked out. We’ve put what’s here on the front table for you to peruse.
For the historically-minded, there’s
Manias, Panics, And Crashes : A History Of Financial Crises
Bull! : A History Of The Boom, 1982-1999 : What Drove The Breakneck Market--and What Every Investor Needs To Know About Financial Cycles
What Goes Up : The Uncensored History Of Modern Wall Street As Told By The Bankers, Brokers, CEOs, And Scoundrels Who Made It Happen
House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty And The Rise Of Modern Finance
If you're looking for a modern take (and maybe a little schadenfreude) we have
America's Bubble Economy : Profit When It Pops
The World Is Curved : Hidden Dangers To The Global Economy
Chain Of Blame : How Wall Street Caused The Mortgage And Credit Crisis
The New Paradigm For Financial Markets : The Credit Crisis Of 2008 And What It Means
Crash Proof : How To Profit From The Coming Economic Collapse
Undue Influence : How The Wall Street Elite Put The Financial System At Risk
If you want a more explanatory approach, try:
Money, Greed, And Risk : Why Financial Crises And Crashes Happen
How the Stock Market Works
Or for biography fans, in addition to the new Warren Buffett bio, there’s:
The White Sharks Of Wall Street : Thomas Mellon Evans And The Original Corporate Raiders
Titan : The Life Of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
The Dark Genius Of Wall Street : The Misunderstood Life Of Jay Gould, King Of The Robber Barons
Henry Clay Frick : An Intimate Portrait
Hibiscuses and asters and chrysanthemums, oh my! Last night, we had the pleasure of hosting certified Master Gardener Susan Kelly of Reynolds' Farms Nursery as she reminded us that Fall is a wonderful time to tend to the garden and try out some new plants that crave the cooler, crisper weather.
In addition to commentating a slide show of over 30 different types of breathtaking fall flowers, plants, and grasses, Susan provided us with tons of great tips for planting, such as when to prune, which flowers love sunlight, the best choices for a rock garden, and how long plants usually take to reach full, picturesque bloom. Want to make the most of your garden, even in economically trying times? Susan suggests inviting all of your friends over for a garden trading party, where everyone shares whatever plants they have an abundance of in their own backyards! Trying to figure out what went wrong with your geranium bush this year? Susan recommends keeping a gardening journal of what has and has not worked for you each season.
Two of our Master Gardener's favorite resources are The Well-Tended Perennial Garden and The Well-Designed Mixed Garden, both by Tracy DiSabato-Aust. Each book contains hundreds of color photographs and takes you from basics to more advanced techniques. DiSabato-Aust's books are unique because the author thinks outside the box (er...outside the garden?) when arranging her plants and flowers, and it translates into an incredible display that is at first risky, but always well-rewarded.
For more information about Connecticut's Master Gardener Program, which combines horticulture training with outreach to the community , click here. Also, check out the new gardening books we have at Darien Library.
Whether you're looking for those all-important primary sources for a paper or are an art aficionado, a literate voyeur or a history buff, you'll enjoy the Smithsonian's archive of illustrated letters from artists. While the site is very simple at first blush, it holds a wealth of interesting information by and about famous artists.
Browse by date or artist name to read scans of actual letters, all with fantastic illustrations. Some of the scans are frustratingly undersized, like this letter from John Frazee to his wife Lydia Frazee. The train drawn across the page is tiny in the scan, teasing the viewer with the promise of a delightful ink drawing, but delivering only nose prints on our monitors.
Fortunately, only a few of the letters leave the reader squinting. Helen Lockwood Colburn's letter about the countryside has wonderfully sharp illustrations of her rural life. The Smithsonian's Archives of American Art is continuously updating their online collections and exhibits with treasures from their archives. They're a great resource for schoolwork, research or just poking around online.
Letter from Helen Lockwood Colburn, digitized by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
Last month, I admitted to being a Google addict, and I was looking for ways to break the habit. I'm very happy to report that I recently found a new search engine that I feel has the potential to rival Google. The site is called Mahalo, and I am SO excited about it. Here's why:
Google, with its clean-cut image and results ranked by popularity among the masses, works by sending bots out into the wild, wild web to find millions of links for simple search queries. It's difficult to argue against choice; however, with so many results, it has become necessary for Google users to filter through pages and pages of inane hyperlinks in order to find a few that might be relevant and successful.
Mahalo, in contrast, employs real human beings to vet the search results for you. This means that a results list will never contain spam or unrelated links. YEAH! It also means that you won't get results ranked by popularity among the masses; rather, you'll receive suggestions for websites that have been researched by information professionals and are deemed authoritative, high-content, and well-established. And not only is the content high, but it's already sifted into sensible categories.
Let's say I conduct a search on my favorite tennis player, Pete Sampras. In only a matter of seconds, I receive the Mahalo Top 7 list of best Web sites, vital stats, timelines, news, videos, fan sites, blogs, merchandise, and links to related searches on Wimbledon, Andre Agassi, and others. Try gathering similar results in Google, and you'll find it takes much longer than a few seconds to have all of that information organized into a neat and pretty package.
Keep in mind that Mahalo is very new and still in its testing phase, which means that the number of search terms that yield search results is significantly less than Google. If you decide to give this new search engine a try and wander across a term for which results have not yet been vetted, you can request that a page be made and you'll be emailed as soon as its created. How hospitable!
Forget about the presidential election, the economy, or the upcoming Oscars; punctuation is where it's at. Today, the most emailed article on the New York Times website is about the itty, bitty semicolon; apparently, this underutilized, unappreciated punctuation mark has found its way onto a New York City subway sign and is now all the rage. It's about time that this half-colon, half-comma wonder has gotten its due. Beware, run-on sentences; you may have met your match.
If you want to jump on the semicolon bandwagon, check out some of these websites; you'll become grammatically cool in no time:
Hello, my name is Erica, and I am a Google addict. There, it's out in the open. I love Google. Who doesn't?! It's clean, neat, and always provides thousands, sometimes even millions, of results to my search queries. I even used it to help me write this post! Google is a great way to find information...but it's not always the greatest way to find the best information. After all, the web is deep. Google is just a wading pool.
Admittance. I've taken the first step. Now what?!
In the same boat? Here's an idea, courtesy of the New Yorker cartoon archive. Why not give up Google? If not for Lent, if not even for a day, then just for an hour. And instead, try finding information using the research resources we have listed on the Library's website. We have tons of databases just itching to be accessed, and they cover topics ranging from health information and financial data to photographs and literature. I'm confident that you'll come across answers to questions that you could have never found with our old pal Google.
Looking for another fun way to find information not accessible through Google? Take a trip down memory lane with WayBack Machine. I think it will help you break your Google addiction, as it did mine.