abraham-lincoln-youngHappy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln. The sixteenth president was born on this day in 1809. If you enjoy historical photography you might be interested in checking out a recent SPL acquisition, The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln, a collection of every known photograph of Lincoln, from his days as a young lawyer to the end of the Civil War. It’s a beautifully printed book and a fascinating window into life in 19th-century America.

Another title I recommend is Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of teamofrivalsAbraham Lincoln, a masterful account of how this relatively unknown frontier lawyer, who was scorned as a bumpkin by the political establishment, succeeded in getting his disgruntled former rivals to work together and save the country during an unprecedented crisis.

Some might find my final reading suggestion a little dense, but I love the Library of America volume The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It. Other books about the Civil War are written in hindsight, but this collection of letters, diary excerpts, and speeches shows you how people of the day viewed events as they were happening and contemplated the uncertain future: the hysteria that swept the South, the furious debates in the border states, the dismay of Northern observers of secession, and finally, the grim resolve to go to war. In these pages are the voices of the important men of the day, such as Lincoln, Davis, and Frederick Douglass, as well the voices of those viewing events from the sidelines, such as the diarists Mary Chesnut of South Carolina and George Templeton Strong of New York.

You can get other Lincoln-related reading recommendations by going here.

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Jef
It’s going to be cold. Looking for something fun to do inside this weekend?

Join us at the Central Library Sunday, Feb. 14 at 3 pm, where local artist/musician/children’s book author Jef Czekaj  is hosting a DJ dance party for children and families.

Jef is a Somerville resident and dad.  He plays grown-up music kids love.  And he’ll be taking requests!  Jef is a longtime friend of the library and host of library programs. Everyone has a great time at a Jef Czekaj event!
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On this day in 1845 Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” was first published. It appeared in the New York Evening Mirror. Over at Share This is a brief post about the poem and its cultural impact.

Below is a dramatic reading of the poem by Christopher Walken. And below that is another reading by Vincent Price. And below that is my favorite.


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adWhenever you click on an online ad, the companies that track your  movements on the Internet take note and use that information to build a profile of you to decide which ads to send your way. Search engines also use the profile they’ve created to determine what links to retrieve when you do an online search. It’s creepy and it’s suffocating. Not only are we being tracked, but what appears in our virtual environment, what information we find online, becomes part of a self-reinforcing pattern. The profile created by various companies puts us in a bubble created by our online pasts.

There are two browser plug-ins that can help you break through the bubble. If you use Chrome or Firefox, you can install AdNauseam, an extension that will automatically and instantly click on every single ad on every single web page you visit, which will totally confuse the ad companies that try to  profile of you. Note: you’ll need to install an ad blocker to work with AdNauseam. AdBlock Edge or AdBlock Plus are recommended.

Another extension, TrackMeNot (versions available for Chrome and Firefox)  pursues a similar strategy to mask your online searches. Every time you search for something, TrackMeNot sends out  fake searches in the background to confuse Bing and Google as to what you’re actually looking for. For example, let’s say you search for “life insurance.” TrackMeNot sends  a barrage of fake searches to the search engine’s info-gathering bots, everything from “organic wet dog food” to “is Bruce Willis single?”

Try them both. See what you think.

Next time I’ll post about some privacy apps for mac users.

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pcmagIt’s an  election year. Candidates are saying a lot of things to get people’s votes, which means many of them are, to be blunt, lying.

How do you know what to believe? How do you sort fact from fabrication? Surprisingly, the Internet can actually help if you go to the right places.

Factcheck.org is just what it sounds like: a website devoted to finding the truth behind politician’s statements, misleading headlines, and viral rumors. Factcheck is published by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and it’s refreshingly bipartisan: today posts’ dissected the spin in the Republican candidates’ most recent debate; earlier in the week their writers took Obama to task for some exaggerations and omissions in the State of the Union address. And if you have a question about something you’ve heard that’s not covered on their website, you can ask them.

Politifact is another reputable fact-checking website published by the Tampa Bay Times. Their staff subject politicians’ statements and campaign ads to their famous Truth-o-meter and their Obamameter tracks how well Obama’s kept his promises from the 2004 and 2008 campaigns. Their page “Pants on Fire” lists recent lies by public figures, untrue stories circulating online, and faked viral images and videos.

Of course, skepticism is warranted all the time: not just in an election year, and not just about what’s on the news. If you’re snopeswondering if a charity is legitimate, if a story going around on Facebook is true, or if that email forward from your uncle has a single fact in it (hint: probably not), you can find out on Snopes.com, a site devoted to debunking rumors, conspiracy theories, urban legends, and hoaxes.

If you’re interested in taking the time for a more in-depth analysis of what appears in the media, try the podcast On the Media from NPR. it’s where I learned one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given about breaking news coverage: don’t listen. In the hours immediately following a disaster, a terrorist attack, an assassination or any other big event, reporters are under a lot of pressure to have something to report, but the bottom line is no one knows anything yet, and all they’ve got to go on is hearsay.

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Have you ever noticed the 600 section in the main Somerville library on the second floor? The one where all the eating healthy and fitness books are? Well, I’m on a mission to read all of those books. Will I fail or succeed, who knows? Starting in the 613.2 section, I’m going to read the ones that interest me the most, and write mini reviews along the way. So here it is.
Laurie Bell in her book, Loose the Lies, Loose the Weight, is incredibly m51hDagJaQ-L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_motivating and will help you to believe that you can lose the weight, she goes over any myths about weight loss including, not being able to lose weight as you age. She gives you some incredibly good eating tips, and even a workout routine to help you build muscle and tone up!
Vani Hari, in her book The Food Babe Way covers emphasizes eating organic, non-GMO’s, no additives types of food. She recommends researching food before eating (because most food products lie to you) and buying to stay fit. “The Food Babe way” essentially tells you do things like:
1. Drink water with Lemon Everyday
2. Drink a green drink everyday (something with kale)
3. Stop drinking fluids with meals
FoodBabeWayBESTSELLER4. Eat fewer diaries (Only Use as Condiments
5. Stop Drinking Soda
6. Pay attention to alcohol consumption by only drinking organic wine & beer
7. Pass on Fast Food
8. Give up Sugar
9. Eat meat more responsibly
10. Eat Super foods!
11. Choose best possible grains and carbs.
12. Balance Fats
13. Avoid GMO Foods
14. Also Eat organic
15. Fast for 12 hours overnight -No late night eating!

Hari discusses how items like sugar cause cognitive decline, depression & irritability, as well as weight gain and diabetes. Did you know that? Because I didn’t.

In Yogalosphy, Mandy Ingber uses yoga every day to promote self-growth, and healing for you. The moves tend to lean a little more towards Pilates, yogathan any specific type of yoga, but it’s good if you would like to start feeling a little bit healthier each day. Ingber adds every day activities, like journal, drawing,  listen to music and cardio exercise in addition to the yoga as a form of self-healing. A personalized diet plan to follow for the 28 days, one you get to pick!
All in all Yogalopsophy, the 28 day make-up is a good way to start if you’re looking for a healthy new year’s resolution but you’ve gotta keep doing it even after the 28 days if you want real results.

If your interested in more health and wellness books, check out the 15 Best Wellness books of 2015 on MindBodyGreen.com

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highlandersRecently I walked past a re-shelving cart and noticed a paperback romance called Some Like It Scot, with cover art depicting a heterosexual couple  under-dressed for Scottish weather. According to the catalog record, the novel is part of a series called Scandalous Highlanders. Then scanning the shelves where we keep paperback romances at SPL, I realized that tartan-themed passion seems to be a really popular genre (I know next to nothing about romance novels, so this is all new to me): The Devil Wears Plaid, To Kiss a Kilted Warrior, Highland Rogue, and The Highland Dragon’s Lady (among other titles) are all available as guilty pleasures at SPL. And over at GoodReads someone compiled a list of “Best Highland/Scotland Romance Novels” consisting of 449 titles. As my co-worker Ellen and I were talking bemusedly about the existence of Scottish/Highland love stories, she asked, “Why is this A Thing? Why Scottish romances? Why not Czech romances? Or Norwegian romances?”

I didn’t have an answer. And it’s a fair question, especially if when willieyou hear the willie163602-76630-groundskeeper-willieword “Scotland,” the first thing you think is “Groundskeeper Willie.”  I started thinking about it, mentally rummaging through what I remember from reading British history.

Before the mid-eighteenth century, Scottish Highlanders were considered dangerous and uncivilized by most of the English-speaking world, including the inhabitants of Scottish towns and cities. But in the 1740s the British government enacted a series of laws that forced Highlanders to surrender their swords and outlawed traditional Highland culture, including the clan system of government and mutual obligation.  Then much of the Highlands were depopulated when lords evicted tenant farmers to use their land for raising sheep.

Once a people or a society formerly considered dangerous and living in a remote place is no longer a threat, they’re easy to romanticize.  In a blog post entitled “Hot for a Scot,”  Harlequin books editor Carly Silver wrote that the archaic image of Highland culture–a warrior culture in an untamed land–make Highland Scottish men “seem more foreign, and simultaneously, more desirable…the loner bad boys of the British Isles.”

robroyContemporary romance writers were by no means the first to tap into the appeal of the Scots in general and Highlanders in particular.  That distinction probably belongs to the inventor of the historical novel, Walter Scott (1771-1832), who  tapped into Scottish history and legend for the plots of his novels such as Rob Roy, The Bride of Lammermoor, and Waverly. He was one of the best-selling authors of his day, and composers and filmmakers  adapted his work for the next century.

The romantic of appeal of the Scottish past has also shaped folk music and even amateur athletics. So if you’re someone who reads Scottish romances and is a little embarrassed by it, take heart: we’re all entitled to guilty pleasures.

And you’re part of a long tradition.

And for the record, there are Norwegian romances. Sort of.

 

 

 

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Now that I think about it, this blog post title sounds like it should be the name of a kid’s book–the If You Give a Pig a Pancake for the automated warfare age. But seriously, drones were one of the most popular gifts this Christmas. And anyone who owns a drone has to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration–even if it’s tiny, and even if you’re not using it to attack people. So, to register your drone, go here.

And somebody out there go write that kid’s book.

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Is online privacy important to you? Worried that someone will hack into your account, or worse steal all your credit card and personal information? If so, you should practice internet security. A very important, part of internet security is choosing the right password. So, how do you choose the right password?

Well first off,

1. A password should be between 8-12 characters long.

2. Does not contain a solid word (especially not your name, username or company name!)

3. Must be different from previous passwords.

4. contains upper case, lowercase, symbols & numbers.

Secondly, Don’t use anything obvious, if you use Hello$2016, it’s too obvious. Even H3ll0$2016 is too obvious, if it looks like something an expert hacker could guess, don’t use it. Instead use something like Hmn1b$2o16 – I’m creating this password from something like “Hello, my name is Bernie” by using the first letter of each word and adding a character and then numbers.

If you ever want to check your password for strength, trying using the Password Checker.

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