December 30th 2014
While I've certainly done everything I can to keep snoops away from my computer--I've downloaded Adblock Plus, I use the anonymizing browser Tor, I've activated encryption on my laptop, and I block cookies--I sometimes wonder if it's not an exercise in futility. I normally assume that no matter what I can download to protect myself, really determined hackers (never mind big businesses or employees of the United States government) can work their way around it. However,  a recent analysis of... Read Post
December 16th 2014
NPR has a great report on Armed Services Editions, the pocket-sized books that entertained and consoled soldiers during World War II. Here is the link to request a library copy of the new book on ASEs, When Books Went to War. Have you ever wondered what was involved in making books before the rise of industrial-scale printing in the 1840s? You can watch someone make a book with a hand-operated printing press here. Grown-ups who read YA books? You're in good company. While adult book sales... Read Post
November 26th 2014
Somerville Public Libraries will close at 5 pm today and will be closed all day both Thursday and Friday. Normal hours resume on Saturday, November 29.
November 24th 2014
Do you have a Gmail account? If you're reading this (and therefore an Internet user) you probably do, since Gmail is the most popular email service. After all, it's reliable and it's free, right? Well, it's free in that we don't pay money for it.  But as the saying has it, "If you're not paying money for the product, by default you are the product." Google collects information about you and what you do online and sells that data to other businesses so that when you're online, you'll be... Read Post
November 19th 2014
Our latest and penultimate Muslim Journeys event, an interfaith panel discussion, went even better than I had hoped. Everyone, including the panelists, had a great time. Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz of Temple B'nai Brith, Rev. Jeff Mansfield of the First Church of Somerville, UCC, and Dr. Ghiath Reda of the Islamic Center talked about what their religions have in common, how they differ, and other people's misconceptions about their faiths and its members.* Alexis Jordan Gewertz of Harvard Divinity... Read Post
November 3rd 2014
The latest event in our Muslim Journeys programming series will take place on Wednesday, November 12 at 7 p.m. with the interfaith panel discussion “All Abraham’s Children: What Judaism, Islam, and Christianity Share.” at the Central Branch, 79 Highland Avenue. The program is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, and aims to familiarize the American public with Islam, the cultural heritage of Islamic civilizations around the world. We’re... Read Post
October 30th 2014

Every year on the evening of October 31 children in the US and Canada put on costumes and go door to door asking for candy. Some adults put on costume parties. TV networks and theaters air horror movie reruns.

But why?

Halloween is a corruption of the term All Hallow E'en or  All Hallows Eve, the day in the Christian liturgical year before All Hallows Day, a.k.a. All Saints' Day, which is followed by All Souls' Day. In Catholic tradition it's the time when one  is supposed to... Read Post

October 24th 2014
We regularly learn about new assaults on our privacy, who's watching what we do on the Internet, listening in on our phone calls, and sharing our personal information. There are a number of software programs and browser extensions that can help us get some of our privacy back, but most of us don't have the expertise to know which ones we should really be using. Fortunately the staff of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the premier digital rights advocacy group in the US, has put together a... Read Post
October 17th 2014
Do you use Whisper, the  social networking app that provides a safe virtual space to say things you wouldn't on Facebook? That supposedly guarantees anonymity? Well, according to The Guardian, Whisper not only tracks its users, the company staff monitor the activity of users who might soon be newsworthy, and they maintain  a searchable database of posts, including posts users think they've deleted. Whisper also recently revised its terms of service: even if you have turned off your smartphone's... Read Post
October 14th 2014
When you check out a book (or anything else) from the library, that information is supposed to be private. Safety is essential for personal exploration and growth, and one way to help people be safe is ensuring that what they read or watch or listen to is known only to them and whomever they decide to share that knowledge with. One of the software programs developed for reading ebooks is Adobe Digital Editions. And recently various sources reported that the latest version of the program,... Read Post
October 7th 2014
October is American Archives Month, the purpose of which is to promote awareness and value of archives in society - as our country’s collective memory. The city of Somerville has its own archives, as does the SPL in the form of our Local History Room. I love old pictures, so I enjoy visiting the city archives’ tumblr, too. While it’s unlikely you actually work at an archive, you may want to create your own personal archive. Right now, it may be a shoebox full of old photos and letters, or it... Read Post
September 30th 2014
Apple has released patches for the Shellshock security flaw. They're probably not 100% effective but far, far better than nothing: download links and other information here. Go the follow links to access the patches for RedHat, Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and CentOS  here.
September 27th 2014
By now many of you have probably heard about the Shellshock bug and the dire threat it poses to computers world wide.  If you don't know what it is, it's a flaw in the user interface of some computers' operating systems that provides an opening for hackers to take control of other people's computers. Some tech journalists were opining that Shellshock could be bigger than Heartbleed, the security bug last spring that put half a million servers (and all the passwords on them) at risk. Well, don'... Read Post
August 13th 2014

Since Monday's post on Shark Week, I've received quite a few comments about the Discovery Channel's sensationalist and inaccurate Shark Week programming. And rightly so. Shark Week producers have actually lied to scientists to get them to appear in programming, and Discovery airs documentaries in which most of the material is made up.

So don't watch Discovery Channel. And whatever you do, don't let Shark Week stop being about the sharks

The National Geographic Channel has... Read Post

August 11th 2014

"Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that's all." --Hooper in Jaws

Those are great lines from a scary movie, and you know what? They're true. Sharks have existed for at least 450 million years.

That's almost twice as long as dinosaurs. And five major mass extinctions have occurred in the past 439 million years. Sharks survived... Read Post