Sunday, October 31, 2010
Fast forward only a few short years and the entire U.S. economy is working its way through a financial catastrophe on par with the Great Depression. Some economists believe that we have yet to truly reach the bottom. It came as no surprise to Michael Lewis that Wall Street was the driving force.
In his excellent new book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis engagingly lays out the steps to the creation of the housing bubble and the colorful players who profited emensely from it as well as those who lost sums of money whose mass could equal that of a small planet. By far, this is the best book for understanding how this financial catastrophe happened in the first place. It also affords readers a chilling glimpse into the wildly irresponsible, ignorant, arrogant, and uttlerly greedy nature of Wall Street. Read it, and you will quickly understand why investors have lost faith in the financial markets and are buying up as much gold as they can get their hands. Speaking of which, do you have any old or unused jewelry you might want to sell?
Do you really own your house?
NPR Fresh Air Interview with Gretchen Morgenson
Friday, October 29, 2010
The city has a coyote trapping program. The city and county have received hundreds of calls to 311, the city's nonemergency help line, from people complaining about coyotes in Austin areas that include greenbelts, creeks and canyons. Those areas include Southwest Austin near the Travis Country subdivision, West Austin including Camp Mabry, and Northwest Austin.
* Don't leave pet food outside.
* If you see a coyote, yell at it and throw sticks and rocks to scare it away.
* Call 311 to report coyote sightings or sounds of coyotes howling.
Source: Randy Farrar, Texas AgriLife Extension Service-Wildlife Services
The Library has two recent books about coyotes in urban areas:
Urban carnivores: Ecology, Conflict, and Conservation
Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The locals of San Fransisco call their city "the city. We want to keep our city "weird." There is a definite appeal to cities. but problems are created with rapid urbanization, such as health challenges, conflict, development and conservation. The City of Austin is now trying to plan for how Austin should grow, the Imagine Austin survey continues through December 3.
Here are 5 new book recommendations on cities - their meaning, history, and future.
The City and the City by China Miéville
A police detective is assigned to the murder of a young woman found in a park on the edge of Beszel, an old decaying city, situated in an unspecified area on the southeastern fringes of Europe. But Beszel does not exist alone; it shares much of the same physical space with Ul Qoma. Each city retains a distinct culture and style, and the citizenry of both places has elaborate rules and rituals to avoid the dreaded Breach, which separates the two across space and time. What the two cities share, and what they don't, is the evocative conundrum at the heart of The City & The City, a unique blend of fantasy, social consciousness, and a deep look into the meaning of cities. One staff member had trouble driving while he listened to the cd version.
The Great Cities in History by John Julius Norwich
This fascinating book devotes a few pages, between 2 and 6, to describe the lay-out and history of each of 70 important urban settlements from Antiquity to the 21st century, from Uruck to Shanghai.
Naked city: the Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places by Sharon Zukin
As cities have gentrified, educated urbanites have come to prize what they regard as "authentic" urban life: aging buildings, small boutiques, upscale food markets, neighborhood old-timers, funky ethnic restaurants, and family-owned shops. But the author argues that the emphasis on neighborhood distinctiveness has become a tool of economic elites to drive up real estate values and effectively force out the neighborhood "characters".
The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 by Joel Kotkin
The United States is growing at a record rate and, according to census projections, will be home to four hundred million Americans by 2050. This projected rise in population is the strongest indicator of our long-term economic strength, Kotkin believes, and will make us more diverse and more competitive than any nation on earth; however, he sees the growth in the suburbs and, increasingly in the Internet-connected world, to small towns and rural areas.
Welcome to the Urban Revolution: How Cities are Changing the World by Jeb Brugman
Urbanist Brugmann draws on two decades of fieldwork and research to show how the city is now a medium for revolutionary change. Cities are becoming laboratories for solving major challenges of the twenty-first century: poverty, inequality, and environmental sustainability.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Computer/job lab has something for everybody: if you know your way around a computer, we offer an uninterrupted hour of time online to search job listings and create resumes and cover letters. If you need some help, we can show you web sites that list jobs, advise you on writing a resume, and help you set up an e-mail account. If you're starting from scratch, if you've never so much as touched a mouse, you can spend the hour on a computer tutorial and we can point you toward free and inexpensive classes in Austin--including those at APL--where you'll start right at the beginning: "Lesson 1: The Computer is Your Friend!"
Usually three or four people show up. If you attend, be patient. Helping two people at the same time who are at different levels of computer expertise is a challenge; more than two is just about impossible. And it's difficult dissapointing a customer who comes in thinking that we're going to be able to fill out all his forms, buy him a suit, and send him on an interview for a job he's sure to get. What we have for him is a dose of reality, I guess, of what a lot of effort lies ahead. But we also have a place to start.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Koro is one of nearly 1,000 languages that may have 1,000 speakers or less. The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society have joined forces to create the Enduring Voices project whose goal is the preservation of nearly extinct languages - an effort to curb the estimate that half of the world’s 7,000 languages may be extinct by 2100. Enduring voices identifies "hotspots" of threatened languages, such as Papua New Guinea, and sends expeditions to these areas to record and document them. Languages like Koro are at risk of dying out due to factors such as language policies that favor one language over another. Indigenous peoples will slowly adopt the favored language in order to facilitate relations with official entities or to gain status; for example, there is more language diversity in the country of Bolivia than on the whole of the European continent. As a language becomes marginalized, less young people continue to speak it leading to its dying out.
But why bother preserving these near extinct languages? First of all, many of these endangered languages have rich oral traditions and no written form, so with the death of the remaining elders that speak the language, so dies the cultural concepts and expressions captured by that language. Those that are bilingual often know that there are things in their native language that cannot be adequately expressed in the other. By losing these languages we also lose another part of the story of what our brains can do. Through the study of language humans can increase their understanding of communication, memory, and the acquisition of knowledge. Finally, many indigenous cultures have a longstanding, complex relationship with nature and the insights and understanding they derive from this relationship could inform and impact the work of scientists.
Articles and Websites
Learn more about the project, the places most at risk of losing languages, and the reasons why we should be working to preserve languages.
'Hidden' Language Found in Remote Indian Tribe
Includes a video with a few Koro men and women where you can hear them speaking their language.
In the Search for ‘Last Speakers,’ A Great Discovery
Great NPR story about the discovery of Koro and recordings of various phrases spoken in Koro.
The Languages of Extinction: The World’s Endangered Tongues
UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger
Really amazing tool where you can find out more about endangered and extinct languages around the world. You can search by number of speakers, geography, name of language, and more.
World’s 18 Most Endangered Spoken Languages
Books and CD
Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have To Tell Us
One Thousand Languages: Living, Endangered, and Lost
Voices of Forgotten Worlds
A CD of "traditional music of indigenous people"
The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters In the Modern World
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I remember questioning my football habit in middle school after witnessing numerous too-violent hits. After a couple of weeks off, I was back watching. I have wrestled with watching football a few times since, but always return to the game. This season seems like the first time there exists a significant groundswell of folks who, although aren't ready to turn their backs on the game, are cognizant of the danger to the players. Dave Zirin wrote an excellent article on the subject recently. One passage, concering fans' consumption of the game, rings particularly poignant: "With each passing week, I hear from football fans saying that it's getting harder to like the game they love. They've spent years reveling in the intense competition and violent collisions so central to the sport, but this is the first time these NFL diehards feel conscious about what happens to players when they become unconscious."
Like most fans, I will continue to watch, but I will also support measures taken to protect players. Browsing the Austin Public Library catalog I came across numerous sports injury books that have been revealing. Although not completely about head injuries, the following books are helpful in understanding the complexities of sports injuries.
Sports Injury Prevention
Sports Injuries Sourcebook
The Anatomy of Sports Injuries
Mild Traumatic Brian Injury and Postconcussion Syndrome
The Austin Public Library also subscribes to numerous databases with informative articles. I read several helpful articles found in the database Consumer Health Complete.
Monday, October 18, 2010
At least she wrote lightly in pencil. At least she didn't editorialize in ink or color passages with highlighter. Often people return library books covered with florescent yellow and green and comments in the margins. Once we charged a man a fee for writing all over a brand-new and expensive coffee-table book about antique silver. While he was paying the fine he said, "I thought you'd appreciate the corrections. I'm an expert, after all!"
Most library-book markers get bored and don't make it past the preface. Some are looking for specific information and so only a chapter or two are marked. Almost always, though, what the marker has marked isn't the important part. She'll pass over "Professor Einstein theorized that space and time are one" and highlight instead "Albert preferred wool socks". Brainiacs are not the ones writing in library books.
So if a book is marked in pencil, I get my Magic Rub (my favorite use of vinyl) and rub out as I read, and I imagine the borrower who made the marks coming to the library for this copy of this book, expecting to find graphite next to her favorite passages, and as I erase, I smile.
A book elaborately coded with multi-colored highlighters, however, we have to throw out.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Native Plant Week is celebrated during the third week of October. Learning about native plants doesn’t have to be as dry as dust. There’s more to it than searching through botany field guides and memorizing names. A very good way to get to know native plants is by growing them. If you want to start your own plants from seed or from cuttings, read How To Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest. For ideas about which plants to use and how to arrange them, I recommend Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region By Region. The book begins with sample plans for each region of the state. The rest of the book is a species-by-species guide to plants, from the tallest tree to the lowliest ground cover.
The most visceral way to learn about native plants is to eat them. Before adding wild plants to your diet consult some local experts and books like Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest by Delena Tull. She tells us what can be eaten raw and offers guidance on how to prepare the rest. Tull helps you keep from dying by eating the wrong plants and helps you do some dyeing, using native plants. For stories about how people have used the plants found in Texas throughout history, try Remarkable Plants of Texas. The author has brought together information from a wide variety of technical and historical sources and synthesized it into very enjoyable chapters on 65 different plant species.
As with many things in life, you can’t learn all you need to know about using native plants from a book. In the Austin area we are blessed with local experts and organizations that can help us learn our native plants:
- Austin Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas
- Weed Feed, offered by Scooter Cheatham of the Useful Wild Plants Project
- Go Native U, classes offered at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center
Re-read these APL blog entries about gardening and water conservation in Austin: Dry Gardening with the City of Austin, Dig Holes, Bamberger Ranch.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Two great bands that played at ACL have recorded cds which the super-talented Danger Mouse produced – the Broken Bells and the Black Keys. He is also part of the Broken Bells duo and has recorded with Gnarls Barkley. Since 2005, Danger Mouse, as a producer and as an artist, has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards.
Does Danger Mouse ever sleep? In 2008 he produced Beck’s Modern Guilt. Following this year’s Broken Bells project with Shins' singer James Mercer, he had another collaborative effort, Dark Night of the Soul, where he teamed up with Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous. Guest stars included Frank Black (Pixies), James Mercer, the Flaming Lips, Julian Casablancas (Strokes), Iggy Pop, Suzanne Vega and more. The third project this year was the Black Key’s Brothers.
A few years ago Jay-Z got Danger Mouse to mash up his own Black Album with the Beatle’s White Album to create the Grey Album, which was Danger Mouse’s first hit. Then Danger Mouse was asked to produce the Gorillaz' second studio album, Demon Days.
I used to watch the very witty British cartoon series Danger Mouse back in the 1980s on Nickelodeon which was about an English mouse who works as a super hero/secret agent. Early in his career, Danger Mouse performed in a mouse outfit because he was too shy to show his face, and then took his name from the British cartoon character.
I have learned two lessons from his career – you can be shy and still reach your goals, and it helps to collaborate with other great talent.
Monday, October 11, 2010
For further reading, 2010 books about neuroscience:
Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices That Can Transform Your Life and Relationships
Bursts: the Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do
The Male Brain
Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences
The Other Brain: from Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science
101 Theory Drive: a Neuroscientist's Quest for Memory
Pictures of the Mind: what the New Neuroscience Tells Us About Who We Are
Playing in the Unified Field: Rraising and Becoming Conscious, Creative Human Beings
Wisdom: from Philosophy to Neuroscience
Friday, October 08, 2010
As someone who lives here and has for some time, the Austin City Limits Festival perhaps does not have the same allure as it does for others. I love music and I'm actually pretty envious of the people with tickets whom will be seeing some of my favorite artists this weekend, but the traffic, crowds, and influx of out-of-towners can, for me, turn that envy into impatience and mumbled curses. Nonetheless, I'm actually really excited to welcome those whom have come from high and low places to the beautiful city of Austin! Austin is so lovely, it is meant to be shared and thoroughly explored. So, if you're looking for things to do, places to see, and free internet to use, this little blog post is meant to be a big Austin Public Library welcome - and no library welcome would be complete without a rundown of the info you need to enjoy your trip:
- The Austin Public Library is a perfect place for out-of-towners to stop in for free internet access and book and magazine browsing at any of our 21 locations. All you need is a photo ID to use one of our computers or just bring in your laptop to hook up automatically to our wireless connection.
- Want to check out a book or two, like those Austin travel guides? Library cards are free to Texas residents that can show a photo ID and proof of current address.
- Check out our very cool used bookstore, Recycled Reads.
- Need help with anything or have questions about Austin? Ask a Librarian!
Line-up info can be found here and you can also create your own printable schedule of the artists you want to see.
Austin City Limits, More Than Music
An article by the Austin Business Journal featuring some of the cool, non-food and non-music booths from "homegrown" companies you can expect to find at ACL.
PBS's Austin City Limits
The show that started it all. This Saturday the band Spoon will be playing on the show. Check out past artists on the show including clips from their performances and full episodes.
As the ACL website encourages, respect the residents of Austin and do not park in the surrounding neighborhoods - use one of the many alternatives out there and don't worry about your car at all. For a complete list of transportation options, see the ACL website.
Austin Bike Shops
Listing of Austin area bike shops. According to the ACL website, this is the best mode of transportation to the Festival (and the healthiest)! You can even rent a bike from most of these shops, if you didn't bring yours along.
Austin Taxis and Taxi Alternatives
Austin's public transit system; here's the info for the free ACL shuttles: http://www.capmetro.org/aclfest/
You'll see them all around the downtown and Zilker park area this weekend
Transportation to and from Austin-Bergstrom Airport
All of your transportation options to and from ABI
Places to Go/Things to Do:
Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau
Info on shops, outdoor recreation, art and more
A guide to Austin from The New York Times
Best of Austin (2010)
The best of everything in Austin, from parks to pools to shopping, selected by the critics and readers of the Austin Chronicle
South Congress Avenue, Austin
This famous street is a major tourist attraction for its shops, restaurants, and atmosphere - you can read this article for free, but you must register with Texas Monthly (see the webpage for details).
Restaurants and Dining:
Austin360's Top 10 Restaurants
Austin Chronicle Restaurant Guide
Pick a type of food and the side of town you're on and you can pull up a list of all of the restaurants in the area complete with pricing info and a description.
Best Food & Drink in Austin (2010), Critics Picks
From the Austin Chronicle
Best Food & Drink in Austin (2010), Readers Picks
Where to Eat in Austin
From Texas Monthly
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Below are some of the Nobel Laureate's most well-known novels.
The War of the End of the World
The Bad Girl
The Green House
The Time of the Hero
The Way to Paradise
I doubt American bookies offer odds on the Nobel Prize in literature. The British firm of Ladbrokes certainly does. I like the British approach: they bet on everything*. We here in the ole US of A primarily limit ourselves to sporting events. Who knew we could have been punting on whether Philip Roth's six decade output is more award-worthy than say Huraki Murkami's impressive but shorter career.
The 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded tomorrow morning at 6:00. You may watch the award announcement here.
The going assumption over the past few years has been that the Swedish Academy shuns Americans, prefers non-English writing writers, and goes gaga for the politically oppressed. With that in mind, the smart money is firmly in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's corner. Don't hand Ngugi the check just yet though. Another soft rule to keep in mind is that the Academy does not like its announcement dampened. Since Ngugi wa Thiong'o has been championed over the past few days by so many around the world, he probably won't win.
*I do not gamble, but I get a kick out of betting companies offering odds on the Nobel Prize. Onto the odds! Sometimes Texan and all-the-time legend, Cormac McCarthy enters the announcement day as the odds-on favorite. Below are the top ten in the bookies' eyes and a selection of their notable books.
Cormac McCarthy 5/2
Ngugi wa Thiong'o 7/2
Wizard of the Crow
Haruki Murakami 6/1
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Tomas Transtromer 11/1
The Half-Finished Heaven
Ko Un 12/1
The Three Way Tavern
Gerald Murnane 12/1
The Pages of Day and Night
Les Murray 15/1
The Biplane Houses
Joyce Carol Oates 15/1
Juan Gelman 15/1
Los Mejores Poemas de Amor II
Who is your favorite for the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature?
Monday, October 04, 2010
It seems that long ago in a big lonely castle in Ireland, a jester sang a song about what a fool his king was, so the king cut out the jester's tongue. But that didn't stop the jester from whistling the song, and so the king executed him in a room in the castle--burned him in the chimney--and even as he died the jester whistled the song that angered the king.
Since then the room has sat waiting for a descendent of the king's to visit the castle, and when she came, the room became a giant bellows, whistling and hooning a ghastly ghostly version of the song, calling to the king's great-great granddaughter to come into the room...
Well, that was pretty scary when I was a kid, and it scared the neighbor's kids out of their wits, too, when I told it to them that night near Halloween when the lights went out. For a couple of weeks afterward, all I had to do was whistle at them to make them jump.
That book was a departure for Alfred Hitchcock. His movies aren't paranormal (The Birds could have been driven mad by radar or telephone wires or something entirely explainable) though they are definitely creepy. If you need to begin working on your creepy Halloween mood, the library has plenty of Hitchcock movies (below is an incomplete list):
- To Catch a Thief
- The 39 Steps
- The Lodger
- The Paradine Case
- Rear Window
Blog post in homage to the man who designed Alfred Hitchcock's most memorable scenes, Robert Boyle, who died August 1, 2010, at 100 years.
Friday, October 01, 2010
To inspire you to read, here's a quotation from The English Patient - Hana is reading again, this time to herself: She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awaking from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams.
National Reading Group Month 2010 List
Blame by Michelle Huneven
The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle
Cheap Cabernet: A Friendship by Cathie Beck
Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
Little Bee by Chris Cleve
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
Molly Fox's Birthday by Deidre Madden
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin
Room by Emma Donoghue
Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye
Up from the Blue by Susan Henderson