Archive for the “News You Can Use” Category


As you may know, the West Branch Library is going to be renovated and we’d like to get community input on the design that’s currently under consideration. Please take a few minutes to check out the website and leave your comments – we appreciate your efforts to help us make a West Branch that will serve the Somerville community well!

You can view the plans by clicking here.

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..and if, like many residents of the Boston area, you don’t have air conditioning, it’s hot inside as well.

Here are some tips from the CDC on keeping yourself and people you care about safe in hot weather.

Greatist has a list of tricks for cooling down on hot summer nights.

Lifehacker.com explains how to cool off by using low-tech ways to lower your body temperature.

Want to get out of the house? Consider one of these local swimming pools.

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adventuretimesandmanwonderwoman

You might already know about Hoopla, the online service that allows you to instantly borrow free digital movies, music, eBooks and more, 24/7 with your Somerville Library card.  But did you know that the service just keeps getting better and better?  Now you can even download and read comic books on Hoopla, including titles from DC (The Dark Knight, The Flash, Wonder Woman) and Vertigo (Sandman, V for Vendetta, Fables)  There are tons of others too, including comics for kids (Adventure Time, Pocket God, Classics Illustrated), sci-fi titles (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes), humorous comics (Lumberjanes, Tank Girl, Teen Dog), and many more! Browse by genre or collection and see what you can find.

You can also have fun playing around with the display. Want to read page by page? Or would you rather zoom in close and go panel by panel? Your choice!

pagepanel

Additional titles are added every week so there’s always plenty to explore – have fun!

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TuscanTunaSalad1Let’s face it. It’s too hot to cook. Too darn hot, as Cole Porter would say. Below are some links to recipes ideal for the hottest days of summer, most of which require little or no cooking:

Weeknight Summer Dinners from the Food Network.

Hot Weather Meal Ideas from the Good People at Pinterest.

Recipes for Hot Weather Eating from The Kitchn.

And my personal favorite, Mark Bittman’s Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.

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Just a reminder.

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Sign up for Free Technology Instruction at the Somerville Public Library!  Book a half hour one-on-one lesson for any technology device or program:
• Setting up an email account
• Introduction to Facebook
• The Internet
• Microsoft Office
• Applying for a job online
• Using a laptop/computer
• Smartphone
• eReader
• Tablet
To schedule an appointment, call Heidi Downing, Technology Librarian, at 617-623-5000 x2920, or email her at hdowning@minlib.net.

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When Wikipedia first appeared in 2005, the excitement of Internet culture pundits was almost palpable.  An online encyclopedia that shared the knowledge of countless people from all over the world embodied the democratizing spirit of the web. “Behold the power of the people,” gushed Wired.  And the idea behind  Wikipedia is inspiring: it’s no respecter of persons or credentials. Wikipedia contributors just have to be willing to  do some work.

But as many of us foresaw from the beginning, the best thing about Wikipedia is also the worst thing about Wikipedia: if anyone can contribute, the door is open to a world of  biased editing and misinformation. In 2005 someone deleted paragraphs from Diebold’s Wikipedia entry that were written by a critic of the company’s voting machines. This anonymous editor left a digital trial that led back to the IP address of a computer in Diebold’s offices. Last month it was discovered New York City cops were  editing Wikipedia entries on cases of police brutality, including the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed man who was choked to death by NYC cops. The account of the police confrontation with Garner was re-written to make Garner sound more physically threatening. And recently the estimable Jessamyn West investigated the veracity of a Wikipedia claim that Louisa May Alcott had disparaged Henry David Thoureau’s personal grooming choices (she hadn’t).

This isn’t to say that Wikipedia is worthless. Some of its contributors do great work. In 2007 Noam Cohen of The New York Times praised Wikipedia contributors for the “polished, detailed article” they wrote and edited on the Virginia Tech shooting in the hours immediately following the event.

However, don’t trust Wikipedia uncritically. I always tell people to use it as a starting point for learning about a subject, but check the citations and external links that usually accompany an entry. If there aren’t any citations, be suspicious. Whenever possible consult more than one source when trying to learn the facts about a subject.

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As security goes, passwords aren’t that great. Most of us can’t think of an alphanumeric code that would stymie password cracking software.

However, you’re still going to need passwords for the foreseeable future.  Your ability to use the Internet is extremely limited without them.

Edward Snowden himself has been taking some online flack for telling John Oliver that “MargaretThatcheris110%SEXY” is a secure password. Sure, it’s a long(ish) phrase as passwords go, and the opinion expressed is perhaps not one widely shared, but it’s an English phrase, and recognizable as such. Password cracking programs have algorithms that are capable of recognizing patterns from human languages.  And as Joseph Bonneau, a cryptography researcher interviewed for the linked article above, said, “People are bad at producing randomness.”

So what can we do?

Adding characters to phrases can certainly help. For example, substituting a  with @  in Snowden’s phrase, resulting in “M@rg@retTh@tcheris110%SEXY,” makes it less predictable.  But what’s really best, Bonneau says,  is something truly random.  Take a phrase you can remember that doesn’t make any sense, such as “potato_goatdrive fish’s_neck.”

What I’ve written sums up the high points of the Wired article in the above link, but you should really read it in its entirety.

And if you’re still interested in learning about passwords and security, read this blog post by security expert Bruce Schneier. And read this piece from RaiderSec about how browsers store passwords.

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Red Tailed Hawk
Power. Ferocity. Majesty and mystery.

Human beings have invested birds of prey with these qualities for thousands of years. Their abilities to do the amazing continue to inspire our thoughts and excite our imaginations. But which ideas about these birds are facts and which are fictions?  Come to the Central Library this Sunday (March 22nd) at 2:00 p.m. to find out!  This program uses live birds of prey to explore what makes a “bird of prey,” the role they play in the environment, and how humans affect their ability to survive. Audience members will be able to see the birds up close, handle touchable natural history artifacts, and ask an experienced naturalist their questions.

This presentation is brought by Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum. Located in the Blue Hills Reservation outside of Boston, the Blue Hills Trailside Museum features exhibits on the natural history of the Blue Hills and Massachusetts. To help tell the story of the nature of Massachusetts, the Museum uses native wildlife which cannot be released back into the wild due to permanent injury or parental loss. Thousands of people enjoy and learn from the educational programs and events offered by the museum each year.

Mass Audubon works to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife. Together with more than 100,000 members, we care for 35,000 acres of conservation land; provide school, camp, and other educational programs for 225,000 children and adults annually; and advocate for sound environmental policies at local, state, and federal levels. Each year, our statewide network of wildlife sanctuaries welcomes nearly half a million visitors of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds and serves as the base for our work. To support these important efforts, call 800-AUDUBON (800-283-8266) or visit www.massaudubon.org.

This free program is limited to 30 people on a first come, first served basis.  It is recommended for children ages 5 and older and families.

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GothicTales
Please join us as we celebrate Women’s History Month by welcoming performer Rita Parisi of Waterfall Productions for a theatrical storytelling (not a reading) of three weird tales by Sarah Orne Jewett. The program will be held at the Central Library on Saturday, March 21st at 2:00 p.m.

Sarah Orne Jewett, a native of South Berwick, Maine, was one of New England’s most prolific female authors of the nineteenth century.  Her stories highlight the everyday lives of New Englanders at this time, often reflecting the mysterious and supernatural atmosphere of this region.

In this presentation, you will meet a father and daughter embroiled in a family curse, a stranger who comes to a small town and lives in the local haunted house, and a very old lady with a mysterious past.

Following the show, Ms. Parisi will give a short talk on how Miss Jewett’s characters reflected a very different lifestyle than that which was generally accepted during the Victorian Era.

This program is funded through the generosity of the Friends of the Somerville Public Library.

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