Friday, February 27, 2009

Financial Management on a Budget

High fees and waning faith in traditional banks and investment services have led many people to online financial sites. These free sites offer many of the same tools you can find in Quicken or Microsoft Money software, which can cost $40.00 or more. Below are just a few of the options out there:
  • Credit Karma: Access free credit reports any time as well as monthly tracking and tools and articles to help your credit rating.

  • Cake Financial: Investing website allows registered users to track the performance of stock investments across multiple brokerages. Follow other users’ progress and have online discussions.

  • Mint: Updates all bank and investment account information daily. Offers suggestions for savings, provides alerts, and analyzes your investments.

  • Quicken Online: Free online version of the Quicken software. Download financial information, use budgeting and money management tools, and participate in the online community.

  • SmartyPig: Registered users create savings goals. Goals are met through required monthly contributions from a checking or savings account. Interest accrues and users have the option to make their accounts public so friends and family can contribute to the goal.

  • Wesabe: Consolidate all bank accounts, investments, and credit cards. Tag transactions to create categories, view summary information, and receive personalized tips for saving. Registration is required to participate in the Wesabe Groups discussions, but uploading bank information is optional.
Additional resources can be found in the Austin Public Library business databases, investment newsletters, and books.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Goodbye Carnival

Well, this is a day late, but Fat Tuesday was yesterday. Revelers around the world partook in festivities before hunkering down for forty days of Lent, beginning today with Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras receives the most press around here considering our proximity to New Orleans, but festivals rage from Trinidad to Brazil as well. Below are several books that depict Carnival’s history as well as insight into the variety of Carnival celebrations.

Mardi Gras Treasures: Costume Designs of the Golden Age

Mardi Gras: New Orleans

Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans

Carnival in Venice

Music in Trinidad: Carnival


All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival

Monday, February 23, 2009


I am well aware that Iran is a country that we may not understand or know that much about. I’ve often found that once you’ve taken the time to get to know a person or learn about the culture an individual comes from, misconceptions vanish and you see them for the human beings they rightfully are.

This is exactly the re-realization that fell on me like a house after watching a recent episode of a Rick Steves travel program. I was immediately struck by the beauty and very long history of Iran. The cities seemed every bit as cosmopolitan as any European, Asian, or American city and the people were every bit as welcoming as I’ve found Austinites to be. So in the spirit of trying to breakdown barriers to understanding, I’ve listed several resources the Austin Public Library has in its collection to help interested parties learn more about yet another fascinating people and culture in existence on this planet of ours.


The Ayatollah begs to differ : the paradox of modern Iran

A history of Iran : empire of the mind

Passionate uprisings : Iran's sexual revolution


Masters & masterpieces of Iranian cinema

Septembers of Shiraz


Border Cafe

The day I became a woman

Fireworks Wednesday

Googoosh [videorecording] : Iran's daughter

The girl in the sneakers [videorecording] = Dokhtari ba kafsh-haye-katani


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where You Lead, I Will Follow...

A new study at Cambridge University, reported that followers are just as important as are the leaders themselves, at least among stickleback fish. The study showed that followers bring out the best in their leaders, and leaders elicit better following skills in their followers. When timid fish were paired with a very bold fish, the bolder fish "inspired" the timid fish into becoming a very faithful follower. “Our study shows that the process by which leaders and followers emerge is a dynamic one,” said Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge. “Individuals aren't simply born leaders or followers, but their role in a pair - and we could speculate, in a larger group - is the result of social feedback where everyone plays a role.”

As you read the the Library's recommended books on how to develop your leadership skills, remember that followers can bring out the best in a leader.

Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders
Barbara Kellerman 2008

Living into Leadership: A Journey in Ethics
Bowen H. McCoy 2007

The Leaders We Need: And What Makes Us Follow
Michael Maccoby 2007

The Leadership Challenge
James M. Kouzes 2007

The Nature of Leadership: Reptiles, Mammals, and the Challenge of Becoming a Great Leader
Joseph White 2007

The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking
Roger L. Martin 2007

On Becoming a Leader
Warren Bennis 1989

Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman 2002

The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
John C. Maxwell 2005

Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life
Stewart D. Friedman 2008

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
David Logan 2008

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Earth Construction

I am fascinated with homes made of dirt. That’s right, dirt. It may seem outlandish to some, but earthen construction (building with materials readily available, and often abundant, in nature) has been around since pre-historic times. The current trendiness of all things “green” has put earthen construction back in the minds of architects and prospective home builders. Turns out this inexpensive, structurally-sound, environmentally-friendly construction method, in which adobe, rammed earth, compressed earth, cob, straw bale, earthbag, and other materials are used, can make for a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing home. A wealth of information on this type of construction is available at the library as well as on the Internet.


Alternative Construction: Contemporary Natural Building Methods

Building with Cob: A Step-by-Step Guide

Buildings of Earth and Straw: Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw-Bale Architecture

Design like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crisis

Earth Construction: A Comprehensive Guide

Earth Sheltered Homes: Plans and Designs

The Natural Plaster Book: Earth, Lime, and Gypsum Plasters for Natural Homes

Websites and Articles

"Down to Earth Homes" from Mother Earth News
"Earth-sheltered homes cut heating and cooling bills, create weather- and noise-proof shelter and blend in with the landscaping, including comparing options, designing with dirt."

"Earthbag Construction" from Mother Earth News
"Make durable buildings from the dirt in your yard"

Green Home Building
Amazing source of information including information on natural building materials, sustainable architecture, building codes and more

House Alive
Organization that teaches natural building and natural design workshops

Rammed Earth Works
"Provides consulting services to architects, contractors and homeowners wanting to incorporate rammed earth into a green building program"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents Day 2009

With a quick search in Encyclopedia Britannica, I find that the origin of Presidents Day dates back to the 1880s. Originally created to celebrate both George Washington's and Abraham Lincoln's birthday, we now generally celebrate all president's birthdays on this day.

Here are some interesting facts about both men (also found in Encyclopedia Britannica):
  • Lincoln's birthday is February 12, as is Charles Darwin, Judy Blume and Darren Aronofsky
  • as a child, Lincoln was a fervent reader, some of his favored books were Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Aesop's Fables, later in life, he enjoyed Shakespeare
  • Lincoln is often compared to George Washington in character and politics
  • Washington's birthday is February 22, as is Ted Kennedy, Steve Irwin, and Drew Barrymore
  • Washington enjoyed a good card game, even betting on those games as well
  • before politics, Washington was a skilled surveyor
Obviously, you know that the Austin Public Library is closed today, but that shouldn't stop you from doing research. Our databases are always open!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reel Love

It’s a bit difficult to be completely rosy when writing a Valentine’s Day blog on Friday the 13th. Even on a less ominous day, it must be said that not everyone is in love with this Hallmark holiday. Whatever your romantic situation, if you just want to curl up and watch a movie on Saturday, then a recent title has the ideal suggestion. Flickipedia: Perfect Films for Every Occasion, Holiday, Mood, Ordeal, and Whim provides a selection of popular and obscure films with short critiques. Below is a small sampling of the book’s topic headings as well as a few of the recommended titles available at your library. Let us know if you have other favorites!

Valentines Day:



Mr. or Ms. Lonelyhearts:

Saturday Evening with No Babysitter:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Austin Oral History

KUT recently recorded its 500th sonic ID. You might have heard one of these snippets on KUT over the past few years. They run anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute and a half and feature a unique tale from an Austinite. Some tell how they fell in love with Austin while others tell of meeting their spouse (typically a funny story). Collectively, the sonic IDs weave the unique fabric that is Austin and us. KUT’s site contains the entire archive.

Oral histories are a vital element in understanding history. These first-person tales provide a participant’s take on history. A basic search for “oral history” in the Austin Public Library’s catalog retrieves a plethora of interesting oral history collections. A brief sampling includes:

We Would Have Played for Nothing: Baseball Stars of the 1950s and 1960s Talk about the Game They Loved

Israel at Sixty: a Pictorial and Oral History of a Nation Reborn

Asian Americans in the Twenty-First Century: Oral Histories of First- to Fourth-Generation Americans from China, Japan, India, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Laos

Listening Is an Act of Love: a Celebration of American lives from the StoryCorps Project

Tower Stories: an Oral History of 9/11

Voices of Freedom: an Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s

The Library of Congress has built an impressive Veterans History Project. They also provide a nice compilation of veterans’ oral history projects spanning the spectrum of American conflict involvement.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Engaging Investment Insight

“When you look out the window, you see a lot of bad stuff these days: rising unemployment, lousy corporate profits, government bailouts, unprecedented market volatility, soaring home foreclosures, and investor fraud running into the billions of dollars. I’ll pause now while you throw up.”

This quote appeared on the front page of the January 2009 issue of the DRIP Investor. As you can see, it is quite a colorful remark. I found this to be true of all the newly acquired business newsletters the Austin Public Library has added to its business resources collection at the Faulk Central location. Each newsletter is not only peppered with market insights and stock picks but each is written in an entertaining way and is not simply a dry listing of statistical information with charts. I have listed the titles below along with some key distinctive features.

Cabot Market Letter – Each issue of this biweekly publication includes a Watch List of stocks as well as forecasts for Long-Term and Intermediate-Term market trends. A Current Condition market forecast is also included along with a section entitled Market Timing Wrap-Up.

Dick Davis Digest- The focus of this biweekly publication is on providing market insights and stock recommendations. Individual stocks are listed under broad categories such as Healthcare and Consumer. Categories for Mutual and Exchange Traded Funds are also listed. Each newsletter features a Spotlight Stock and a Follow-Up section.

Dines Letter – The focus of this monthly publication is on a broad market analysis. Areas of concentration include common stocks, currencies, precious metals, international markets, the Internet, and bonds and interest rates.

Dow Theory Forecasts-The focus of this weekly publication is on stock market trends and securities reports. A fixture of each issue is a section regarding Market Commentary and another entitled Analysts’ Choice in which a specific stock is featured as well as its recent performance.

DRIP Investor (Dividend Reinvestment Plan) – The focus of this monthly publication is on the performance of companies that allow individuals to buy stock directly from them instead of going through a stock broker and having to pay a broker’s commission. It features a Question & Answer section covering a broad range of market related topics such as, “Is diversification a dead idea?”

Prudent Speculator – The focus of this monthly publication is on the buying of undervalued stocks that have the greatest promise for realizing substantial capital gains over time. It features a Stock of the Month section as well as lists of recommended stocks to buy and lists of recommended stocks to sell.

Martin Weiss’ Safe Money Report – The focus of this monthly publication is on market analysis from a big-picture perspective. It provides the reasoning for it’s analysis in the form of Proofs and lists Forecasts as well as corresponding Actions to be taken. It also features a Question & Answer section covering a broad range of market related topics such as, “Is now a good time to buy a house?”

Morningstar ETFInvestor – The focus of this monthly publication is on the performance of Exchange Traded Funds. A list of ETF Analyst Favorites is included as well as the ETFInvestor 350 Watchlist.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Celebrate Black History Month with a Novel

If you can’t make it to Faulk Central to browse the Contemporary Black Fiction display on the first floor, please use the shortened list below to find a new author to try. The list includes “Urban Fiction” (also know as “Street Fiction”) which is one of the fastest growing genres. Authors who write greatl novels about African American history are Toni Morrison, Edward P. Jones, Caryl Phillips, James McBride and Lalita Tademy.

Family and Relationships
Connie Briscoe
Tajuana Butler
Eric Jerome Dickey
Bebe Moore Campbell
La Jill Hunt
Marita Golden
Brenda Jackson
Margaret Johnson-Hodge
Sandra Kitt
Mary B. Morrison
Terry McMillan
Evelyn Palfrey
Kayla Perrin
Martha Southgate

Stephen L. Carter
Pearl Cleage
David Anthony Durham
Edwidge Danticat
Percival Everett
James McBride
Edward P. Jones
Paule Marshall
Toni Morrison
Gloria Naylor
ZZ Packer
Caryl Phillips
Lalita Tademy
Alice Walker
Colson Whitehead

Eleanor Taylor Bland
Stephen L. Carter
Gar Anthony Haywood
Yolanda Jo
Barbara Neely
Hugh Holton
Walter Mosley
Valerie Wilson Wesley
Paula Woods

Urban Fiction
Chris Abani
Michael Baisden
J. California Cooper
E. Lynn Harris
Donald Goines
Sister Soujah
Vickie Stringer
Nikki Turner
Carl Weber
John Wideman

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Value of a Cultural Education

The Iraqi National Library Director, Dr. Saad Eskander, has had my attention for some time now. Dr. Eskander has been working to restore the Iraqi National Library and Archive (INLA) after it was burned and looted in 2003 by Americans, Sadaam loyalists, Iraqi citizens, and professional thieves. Dr. Eskander estimates that 60% of the archival materials and 95% of the rare books collection were either stolen or destroyed. In particular, he has called on an American organization with strong ties to former President Bush and a number of neoconservative think tanks, the Iraq Memory Foundation, to return an estimated 100 million pages of archival material that was seized by American troops. In order for Iraq to rebuild itself, Dr. Eskander believes a library is essential. He has talked at length with many American news organizations about the value of a library and archive in preserving culture, sharing culture, and providing a “cultural education”. He emphasizes the importance of cultural education in rebuilding a society and combating religious fundamentalism.

Dr. Eskander’s dedication to the INLA has not been without significant struggle. He and his staff have suffered through death threats, sniper attacks, further looting and the like. You can read many of the articles and profiles out there on Saad Eskander in the library’s databases and on the internet. Here is just a sampling:

“The Baghdad Librarian’s Story”
BBC profile of Dr. Eskander

Profile of Dr. Eskander, his work, and his struggle from The Guardian
Blog Dr, Eskander kept between Nov. 2006 to July 2007

INLA homepage including photos of the destruction and reconstruction of the library

“Iraq Records Spark Controversy”
“Millions of Saddam Hussein's records could soon be accessible at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, but the plan has been criticized by the director of the Iraq National Library and Archives (INLA).”*
*To read this article search from Factiva, log in with your library card number, and search for the title of the article.

“Iraq’s Cultural Curators Defy Sectarian Unrest”
NPR piece on Dr. Eskander and the INLA

From Academic Search Complete, Saad Eskander’s keynote speech to the Internet Librarian International 2004 conference

Books of Interest

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Book to Movie Biz

Adapting novels to film once again proved to be a winning formula for Oscar nominations in major categories.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was nominated for best picture, best director (David Fincher), best actor (Brad Pitt), best supporting actress (Taraji P. Henson) and best adapted screenplay.

Slumdog Millionaire, based upon Vikas Swarup's novel Q&A, was nominated for best picture, best director (Danny Boyle) and best adapted screenplay.

The Reader, based upon Bernhard Schlink's novel, was nominated for best picture, best director (Stephen Daldry), best actress (Kate Winslet) and best adapted screenplay.

Revolutionary Road, based upon the novel by Richard Yates, was nominated for best supporting actor (Michael Shannon), best art direction and best costume design.

Other new or coming soon movies based on books are:



The Spirit

Yes Man

The Watchmen

Angels and Demons

Atlas Shrugged

Deal Breaker


The Lovely Bones