Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

cover image of Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich
A comedy of holiday errors.
Ahhhh, here we go again—Thanksgiving is upon us. Feasting and family fun and football (for some) or shopping (for others) or hibernating far from the madding crowds.

While I do try to stay away from the crowds, I also like to get in a little activity in my day to balance out the gluttony in which I know I will indulge once dinner starts. No matter whether the menu includes healthy dishes or decadent treats, I always end up eating more than I know I should.

There are plenty of local “Turkey Trots” that you can find to burn off those extra calories. Or just get everyone bundled up while the turkey is roasting and head out for a quick walk in your neighborhood.
Some of my favorite fall decorations.

Make it meaningful by carrying along a bag and picking up trash as you go (your neighbors will be thankful!). If you have time to spare, find a way to give some time or talent through volunteering for an hour or two. That can make a big difference to people who can’t be with family or can’t pull together a feast of their own.

The library has plenty of books on Thanksgiving (for kids and adults) if you need some reading material for the long holiday weekend. Traveling? Pick up an audiobook or two to break the tedium. 

No matter what you do or where you go for Thanksgiving, travel safe and enjoy yourself!

Tina R.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Pirate's Life For Me

End of a Pirate’s Day by ecstaticist, on FlickrI’ve been spending a lot of time with pirates lately. The virtual kind, on TV and iPad screens, and in the flesh. My two-year-old grandson is, well obsessed is not too strong a word, with all things pirate. The Disney cartoon show Jake and the Neverland Pirates is top choice every day for his allotted TV time. Thomas the Tank Engine and Caillou are consigned to his babyish past. For Halloween he dressed up as Jake, of course, and I had the pleasure of accompanying a little pirate around the neighborhood. We had to teach him to say “Trick or Treat” not “Yo, Ho, Ho.” He lagged behind his older brothers, a spy and Spiderman, but still managed to collect more candy than little pirate hands could carry. I console myself with the thought that Jake and the Neverland Pirates does have some redeeming value. The stories emphasize cooperation among friends to solve a problem, and at the end the pirates always count the gold doubloons they have earned for their treasure chest. My grandson counts along with them.

If there is a pirate obsessed child in your life here are some books you can find in the children’s section of the library:
  • Shiver Me Timbers by Douglas Florian is a collection of poems perfect to read aloud to the littlest pirates as they
    Shiver Me Timbers by Douglas Florian
    take in the lively accompanying paintings.
  • In Pirate Mom by Deborah Underwood a little boy’s mother is hypnotized into thinking she is a pirate. How can he change his Mom back? A Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award winner.
  • Eloise’s Pirate Adventure by Lisa McClatchy is perfect for little girls who aspire to the pirate life. Eloise dresses up as a pirate and goes on an adventure in search of treasure.
  • And don’t forget the classics Peter Pan and Treasure Island, both perfect for reading aloud a chapter at a time at bedtime.
How to be a Pirate by John Malam
  • Older children will enjoy Pirate by Richard Platt, one of the lavishly illustrated Eyewitness book series, and How to be a Pirate by John Malam.
You can find more children’s nonfiction books about pirates by exploring the shelves in the J910.45 section. And the children's librarians will be happy to recommend more pirate-themed fiction for specific ages.

There is some serious history behind the popular image of the swashbuckling pirate, some of it surprising. Quite how violent criminals of the past became beloved children’s characters is an interesting story in itself. (J.M. Barrie and Johnny Depp surely share some of the responsibility). Here is a sampling of some of the books for adults that explore this fascinating history:
Meanwhile I’m going to be watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates (or Ho Ho Pi as my grandson calls it) until he moves on to a new enthusiasm. But it has its uses. With some of my imaginary gold doubloons I purchased Jake the Pirate underwear as an incentive for potty training! 

Rita T.

Image: "End of a Pirate's Day" creative commons license by ecstaticist on Flickr

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mike Smith's Medical Illustrations & Safari Books Online

Some of the most elegant illustration being done at present is coming from the field of medical illustration.  Medical animator and illustrator Mike Smith produces some particularly stunning images.  Watch the demo video below, a little under 3 minutes long.  Speculative fiction, science fiction, in print and on film, owes a great deal to the vision, imagery, and techniques, of medical and biological illustration.

Our ability to comprehend the powerful forces and interactions in the microscopic worlds around us and within us are made possible by this kind of illustration.
Here are two stills from a previous animation.  The animation is linked below.

image of bacteriophage T4 virus
bacteriophage T4 virus - Still image from animation depicting a 
bacteriophage virus attacking a bacterium.
Done with 3ds Max and After Effects.

These illustrations require a great deal of knowledge of computer tools.  The artist knows and uses the computer as a painter knows the hairs on the brush, or the physical and visual qualities of pigments as they adhere and blend on brush and painting surface.

Image of Stereocilia
Stereocilia - This image depicts stereocilia in the inner ear, and the 
 resulting chemical reaction travelling down the pillar cells.
Done with 3ds Max and After Effects
Watch them in action at the Demo Reel (bacteriophage T4 and stereocilia).

All images above are copyright and used with permission of Mike Smith.

Mike Smith used the programs 3ds Max and After Effects to create these animations.  You can learn about using this software from the tech e-books available from MCPL in Safari Books Online.  You can access these from the E-Books section of the library's website, MCPL E-Books.

You will need a current library card to log in.  These books are free to read through the library website, but do not download,  You can read them online in your browser window.  When you enter Safari, there is a search box in the upper right hand side of the page.  Search for 3ds Max or After Effects and you will find a selection of books on how to use these programs.  You can do a more general search for animation, or search for any other tech subject that interests you.  There is a huge online library available to you through Safari.

If you are an illustrator or are looking for a local illustrator, there is an illustrators trade association in the DC area you can visit online here: The Illustrators Club of Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.  There is a fair amount of information here, including links to illustrator portfolios, including medical illustrators, FAQs, fair practices, and business and legal tips.

Nell M

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Sea of Red

Like a few of my colleagues, I vacationed in Great Britain this summer. Mindful of the centennial (or centenary) of the outbreak of World War I, my husband and I kept an eye out for historic monuments and exhibitions. Nothing even came close to the impact of these poppies, flowing like a flood into the moat of the Tower of London. One over-sized ceramic poppy for each British service member to die in the 1914 - 1918 War.  In this case, British, refers to soldiers, sailors, and flyers from Great Britain alone, not including her colonies and possessions at the time.

More explanation about the art installation.

War is always fertile ground for writers and we are seeing some great new fiction and non-fiction on this subject or set in this time and its aftermath. You may wish to put The Embrace of Unreason; France 1914 - 1940 on hold so as to peruse it at leisure when it hits the shelves. If biography is your preferred non-fiction genre, how about Lawrence of Arabia.  Perhaps a trip to Paris at the End of the World or To Conquer Hell.

If fiction is more your cup of tea perhaps the graphic novel The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks will thrill you, while awakening your awareness of the first Black regiment recruited in the United States to serve in Europe for this conflict.

But for my taste, a great mystery is just the thing and any of the Maisie Dobbs whodunits will do it.  And now their author, Jacqueline Winspear, has given us a stand alone novel of the Great War - The Care and Management of Lies.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hey, that's not me!

thief with credit card
Credit Fraud

I shop frequently at Home Depot,  so when the notice came out that their electronic records had been accessed and credit card info stolen, I was mildly concerned.

Two years ago, my debit card was compromised.   My bank caught the $600 worth of charges from a boutique in the south of France, and quickly replaced my card.  (If only I HAD been shopping in Nice!).

On the recommendation of my bank, I started using a credit card for all transactions, and checking the account every couple of weeks.

You can probably figure out the rest - this week, I checked the account and found that  I had been simultaneously - shopping in New York City; buying lunch at a hospital in Florida:  and placing orders from QVC!  I am NOT a QVC shopper.  AND charging $1 at each day.   After 30 minute call to the fraud department of my credit card company, all of that was cleared up. Or so I thought.

The next day a letter from QVC arrived, telling me that my pin number on my account had been updated as I had requested.   A call to customer service at QVC, and the fraudulent account was closed.  But now I knew that my name and address was associated with fraudulent use of my credit card.

So, off to research what I should be doing to protect my identity and my credit.

First stop was the Federal Trade Commission website, where there is an excellent page dealing with how to address identity theft.  The page walks consumers through the steps to take initially, such as placing a fraud alert on your credit file, and how to get a free credit report.  There is also detail about further steps you can take to protect your identity.

Since I had a strong suspicion that my information was stolen through Home Depot, I checked their website for any information.  There I found that I could sign up for a free year’s subscription to a credit monitoring company, and I took advantage of that offer.

I am cautiously hopeful that I have taken enough steps to protect my identity and financial information, but will certainly continue to be vigilant.  After all, I don’t want to end up like the characters in these works -

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
Book Cover - To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
To Rise Again

After noticing his identity has been stolen and used to create various social media accounts, a man with a troubled past, Paul O'Rourke, begins to wonder if his virtual alter ego is actually a better version of himself.

Book Cover "I'll Walk Alone"
I'll Walk Alone
I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

Thirty-two year old Alexandra Moreland is a rising star in the architectural world and lives in Manhattan. But when she is plagued by identity theft, her successful life is turned upside down. Someone has gained access to her bank accounts, credit cards, personal background, and is now impersonating her. Then, with overwhelming circumstantial evidence stacked against her, Alexandra is arrested for the murder of a woman she claims she's never met. Or has she?

DVD cover of film Identity Thief
Identity Thief
Identity Thief (DVD)

 - Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy star in this story of  mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson who travels from Denver to Miami to confront the deceptively harmless-looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy's identity.

Cover image of e-resource
50 Ways to ...
If you feel that you'd like to have more information about protecting yourself from identity theft or credit fraud take a look at this e-resource:  50 ways to protect your identity in a digital age by Steve Weisman.  Just click on this link to access the catalog record, then link to the e-resource from the record.

Stay safe!  Anita