Monday, October 31, 2011

Health Care - OMG!!!

Until recently, my thoughts regarding Health Care in the United States were relatively abstract. I knew the cost of receiving medical care was high because I kept being told it was so. I know the cost of insurance is high because I see the monthly premiums charged by health insurance companies. Not until I became intimately involved with the healthcare system in this country did I become truly alarmed.

A short time ago my daughter fractured her elbow. She was simply running along and fell awkwardly on her arm. It was as simple and undramatic as that. However, the redundancy and costs associated with such a relatively minor injury were shocking. I went to an emergency care clinic hoping to avoid the exhorbitant cost of a trip to a hospital's Emergency Room. A pediatrician and nurse examined my daughter's arm, an x-ray technician took five or six images of her elbow, and a pediatric radiologist examined the images. All of these costly professionals agreed that I should take her to a hospital's Emergency Room to essentially start the process over again, which I dutifully did, only this time in a more costly facility involving yet more costly medical professionals.

Now, my daughter's arm is healed. The cast she wore is a charming momento in my closet. I am grateful. However, the total cost associated with this incident has really woken me up to the profound dangers of leaving such a societally crucial service open to market forces. I recently heard a story where a sales associate working at a big box retailer and making minimum wage, was facing a $5000 deductible. This means that she will be personally responsible to pay for the first $5000 of medical care she receives before her insurance company will even begin to consider paying for the remainder. The speed with which one can rack up a $5000 medical bill is dizzying. Suffice it to say, I am giving serious thought to my daughter not participating in organized sports of any kind and will double my efforts to remain healthy just to keep away from the untenable morass and quagmire we currently have in place.

You Can't Afford to Get Sick: Your Guide to Optimum Health and Health Care
Sick and Tired: How America's Health Care System Fails its Patients
Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans
Fresh Medicine: How to Fix Reform and Build a Sustainable Health Care System
Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know
Flatlined: Resusitating American Medicine


Friday, October 28, 2011

Who's Afraid of Zombies?

The word "zombie" never appears in Colson Whitehead's post-apocalyptic story of a world decimated by a plague that turns humans into flesh-eaters. But the staggering, ravenous creatures that haunt the novel are unmistakably zombies, and Zone One (coming soon to APL) is an unmistakable contribution to an increasingly popular horror sub genre. When I search for zombies as a subject in the catalog, I get 276 titles.

Unlike vampires, werewolves, demons, witches, goblins and shapes-shifters, zombies can't be endowed with rich, complex personalities. But they can be used to point out the flaws, foibles and quirks in our society as in the TV show, The Walking Dead. You may find a certain monotony built into the genre: the flesh eaters advance, are repelled, advance again and are repelled again. Many zombie novels often read like plague narratives. You have to wonder whether our fascination with these hungry hordes has something to do with a general anxiety about the earth's dwindling resources: a sense that there are too many people out there, with too many urgent needs. Or perhaps they are tapping into our fear of weird, out of control viruses. Whatever it is, don't let the books make you as paranoid as the characters in the books.

Recommended Zombie Novels

Autumn by David Moody
Day by Day Armageddon by J L Bourne
Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney
Flip This Zombie by Jesse Peterson
The Living Dead 2 by John Adams
Monster Island by David Wellington
The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology by Christopher Golden
The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell
Walking Dead: the Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman
World War Z by Max Brooks
Zombie, Ohio, a Tale of the Undead by Scott Kennemore

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The World Series

I went to game five of the World Series Monday night. Attending the World Series fulfilled a lifelong dream. Seeing my team play in the Fall Classic made it even better. Growing up in Dallas, we called the Rangers the Strangers; their perennial mediocrity ensured they did not make the playoffs. Throughout most of the Rangers' history a day at the ballpark was just that: a day at the ballpark, many fans attending to see the parade of big stars on other teams. The past two seasons have been different with two trips to the World Series.

The best sports writing is about baseball. I’m not sure why. Perhaps the cadence of the game lends itself to a thoughtfulness absent from other sports. Or, perhaps one man’s thoughtfulness is another man’s boredom. There certainly is plenty of down time in baseball, providing the sportswriter time to begin constructing stories. I don’t write at baseball games, but I tend to carry a book along. Not much beats an afternoon game with some reading snuck into the slow, steady cadence of the game.

As for the World Series, I did not take a book. I relished every pitch, swing, hit, pop fly, double play, cheer, high-five, laugh, and smile.

Below are some excellent books about the World Series.

Glory in the Fall: the Greatest Moments in World Series History

The First Fall Classic: the Red Sox, the Giants, and the Cast of Players, Pugs, and Politicos Who Reinvented the World Series in 1912

Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: the Triumph of America's Pastime

The Gashouse Gang

When Chicago Ruled Baseball: the Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906

Praying for Gil Hodges: a Memoir of the 1955 World Series and One Family's Love of the Brooklyn Dodgers

100 Years of the World Series 1903-2003

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Traveling Librarian Cruises

My husband and I went on a cruise out of Galveston a few weeks ago. I'm not sure I liked it. The ship was very Las Vegas, only tackier, if that's possible, the food was just so-so, and everywhere we turned we were exhorted to buy something. The cabin was nice (stay out of the mini-bar); friends advised us to spring for a balcony and they were right.

I sought out the ship's library intending to blog about it, but there isn't much to say. It's a small room where passengers meet to play board games and start tours. The room's most notable quality is its fabulous swirling crown moulding and the three or four small bookcases that match it. People are on vacation, after all, so I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that all the books are "beach reads"; but really surprising is that the bookcases are locked! Things for sale: bad paintings, cheap watches, and semi-precious jewelry, lie about the ship unattended, but you can't lay your hands on a free paperback without a key! Good thing I'd brought plenty of APL books with me.

To find your next book at APL, peruse the lists on APL Recommends.

Back by popular demand, REBUSES (authors' names)!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Y: The Last Man is So Awesome

I read a lot of graphic novels, but I still haven't come across a series that sucked me in as fully and completely as Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan (well, maybe Locke & Key by Joe Hill). I read the series a few years ago. I started by checking out the first volume, brought it home, and was desperate for another volume after devouring the first in about 45 minutes. The next day I checked out every volume in the series, brought them home, and read as many as I could until sleep just couldn't be avoided. It went on like this for a few days until I finished reading the entire series and I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself.

Y: The Last Man begins with a "plague" that has wiped out all males from the face of the planet. Every mammal with a Y chromosome is dead. Turns out only one man managed to live, Yorick Brown. The series goes on to follow Yorick (or, Y) through this world Vaughan has created and Pia Guerra has expertly drawn. What does happen when all of the men are dead? How does life continue? Why did Y live through all of this, but no other male? Is there a cure? All of these questions and more are pursued as we follow Y through an intense adventure to find his girlfriend and, in the meantime, save humanity. Vaughan was a writer on the TV show "Lost", so he knows how to hook you and keep you coming back for more.

I write about Y today because I'm going to re-read it. The deluxe editions have all come out and I checked them out from the library and hope to get lost in it again. I love the feeling I describe at the beginning of this post. Becoming obsessed with a book or series so completely that you just can't think of anything else until you've finished reading is one of the reasons I read. Of course, not every book or series gives me that feeling, but it's definitely something I seek out. Recently I went through a number of books I just couldn't really get into, so maybe that's why I've turned to this series again. What books out there give you that Y feeling??


1,000 Comic Books You Must Read

Best Books For Children: Preschool Through Grade 6

Book Lust: Recommended Reading For Every Mood, Moment, and Reason
Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinairre, is the woman to turn to if you're looking for a great book.

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (this is volume 1)
Joe Hill, Stephen King's son, writes this series and it is super-addicting! About a family that experiences a horrible tragedy and is forced to relocate to a family home that has many secrets. All of the best horror elements in one series and much of it a spin on the classic tales by H.P. Lovecraft. The Graphic Novels Book Club is meeting to discuss it on November 16th!

Now Read This III: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction
Also, from Nancy Pearl

Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read

Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads

Y: The Last Man, Book One (deluxe edition)
You can either opt for the trade paperbacks (10 volumes) or the deluxe edtions (5 volumes). Type "y last man" into the FindIt search box, select title, and you'll pull up all of the Y titles.


Facebook RA (Readers' Advisory)
On the Austin Public Library Facebook page each month we provide recommendations to anyone that comments back to us listing three titles they've read and enjoyed. Look for our comment on the 2nd Tuesday of each month and reply back to us for a quick reply with a few titles you might like.

Personal Picks
We've advertised the service before here, but it doesn't hurt to remind everyone that, if you answer a few questions for us, we can provide you with tailored recommendations based on your reading interests. We just may be able to connect you with a book you just can't put down...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Studio of One's Own

In the new book, Doc: a Novel , Doc Holliday, recovering from a TB lung hemorrhage, weakly asks his visitors to list their happiest moments. My answer to such a question would include the time I spent painting in a large sunlit classroom in the UT art building, surrounded by other students quietly working. Now when I paint it's either the kitchen table or an easel in the bedroom. Last week the journal Science reported that the oldest known art studio has been discovered in South Africa. A coating of bright red powder on the insides of a pair of abalone shells date back to 100,000 years ago. So we humans have been creating studios for a long time. The library has a nice assortment of books describing art studios and a new information guide on how to develop and promote your art career.

Art Making and Studio Spaces: Unleash Your Inner Artist
Artists at Work: Inside the Studios of Today's Most Celebrated Artists
Artists' Homemade Houses
Artists in Their Studios
Inside the Painter's Studio
New Mexico Artists at Work
Open Studios with Lotta Jansdotter: Twenty-four Artists' Spaces
Setting Up Your Ceramic Studio
Studio Space: the World's Greatest Comic Illustrators at Work
Where Women Create: Inspiring Work Spaces of Extraordinary Women

You will have a chance to see working studios, November 12 - 20, when the East Austin Studio Tour opens the doors to artist studios. Library locations will have the catalog beginning October 24.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Horror… in Other Lands

I know this is a busy month for you, trying to come up with the perfect Halloween costume,  planning the best Halloween party, or carving the most amazing  jack-o-lantern.  Oh yes, this is a month with lots of fun things to do!! But if you have the time, and want to get in the Halloween mood , why not pause for an hour or two and watch a scary movie? 

I suggested in previous years some horror B-movies but this time I am inviting you to watch foreign horror films. It is fascinating to think about cultural differences when it comes to horror pictures. Have you ever thought that what makes you jump in your seat might not work in other cultures and vice versa?  A good example is  the film  “Blair Witch Project” .  It was designed to push the buttons of the American audience, but when it was shown in my country, people literally stood in the middle of the movie theatre and threw their shoes at the screen as a sign of disapproval.  They were so disappointed; it was not scary for them at all.  

But, enough talk!! Below are my foreign horror movie suggestions.   Be aware that some films are new and some are old.  Check them out and don’t be afraid of subtitles!

The orphanage (Spain)
Ring (Japan)
The ordeal (Belgium)
Benny’s Video (Germany)  
Day Watch (Russia)  
Suspiria (Italy)
Nosferatu  (Germany)
House (Japan)
Santa Sangre (Mexico)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Soundtrack in Your Head

Today, some co-workers and I were discussing our favorite soundtracks. I discovered we each liked a wide variety of songs and soundtracks. And to my delight, I discovered that the Austin Public Library has just about every one we discussed. What's your favorite soundtrack? Is it available at the Austin Public Library? If not, let us know, we'll try to get it!

Garden State
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Phantom of the Paradise
Pretty in Pink

This is an interesting CD, The Hollywood sound: John Williams conducts the Academy Awards' best scores. It's a little old but has some great classic themes from winning soundtracks: Star Wars, Wizard of Oz, Jaws, and Lawrence of Arabia to name a few. Here's the list of all the winning (and nominated) original music scores from the Academy Awards. How many of your favorites won?

One of my favorite and "go-to" websites for music is If I need to know where an artist is from, the discography of a band or similar genres, I hit up allmusic first. They've got a nice little list of soundtrack albums, songs, and artists.

I, for one, have always wished that I could have an accompanying soundtrack with whatever I do. Wouldn't that be neat? Do you have a soundtrack in your head accompanying your day? May this weekend be filled with your favorites.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 Nobel Prize in Literature

They went with a poet. Last week the Swedish Academy announced that the 2011 Nobel Laureate in literature is Tomas Transtromer. The Swedish poet is little known outside of his country, but that does not diminish the quality of his work. After working as a juvenile psychologist, Mr. Transtromer shifted his full attention to poetry and spent six decades publishing gems that address modern man's interactions with nature, spirituality, and each other. The Swedish Academy's announcement stated he won "because through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality."

Despite Mr. Transtromer's popularity in Sweden, the announcement came as somewhat of a surprise in the English-speaking world. Much of his work has been translated into English, but little of it remains in print. His American publishers are rushing to rerelease his work. The Austin Public Library will acquire more of his work as it becomes available.

The Great Enigma: New Selected Poems

Selected Poems

In the meantime, we have numerous poetic works by Transtromer's longtime friend and translator Robert Bly. Bly is a Minnesota poet I first heard in high school and have enjoyed since.

Meditations on the Insatiable Soul

My Sentence was a Thousand Years of Joy

Talking into the Ear of a Donkey

The Night Abraham Called to the Stars

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Literate Pooch

I weed the dog-training books and you would not believe how many of them have tooth marks on them! I'm sure the cookbooks have food on them, the art books probably have paint on them, the car-repair books have oil all over them, and tears streak the pages of the poetry books... I'll leave it there; you get the idea.

If you use a library book to train your dog, between sessions, won't you please store it on a high shelf or counter (the book, not the dog), so that if your dog harbors any resentment toward the author, he'll have to sublimate it by eating your slippers instead of the book?

Thank you.

New dog-training books at APL:

The Dog-Friendly Home
Follow My Lead
Top Tips from Top Trainers
30 Days to a Well-Mannered Dog

Friday, October 07, 2011


Going gluten-free seems to be all the rage these days. I end up learning a lot about diet trends when ordering the cookbooks for the Faulk Central Library and gluten-free cookbooks have just exploded over recent years. While it is a trend right now, those with celiac disease have a real need to avoid all gluten for the sake of their health. However, there have also been a number of articles I've read recently about gluten sensitivities. It has been argued that many people may be sensitive to gluten and by avoiding it they will feel much better. Others have argued that avoiding gluten can help cure or relieve various diseases. The research behind avoding gluten for the relief of various diseases isn't really there, but it's absolutely true that many report giving up gluten and, as a result, feel great.

I have struggled with stomach sensitivities my entire life and as I've gotten older they have become much worse. This is one of the only things I haven't tried and I think I'm going to take the plunge next week and go gluten-free! Everything I've read suggests that simply trying to go gluten-free for an entire week should let you know whether or not your sensitive to gluten and could benefit by avoiding it. Of course, I'm relying on Austin Public Library for my information needs during this difficult time. Here's a list of websites and books you can use to research what it takes to go gluten-free and read up on the potential benefits:


Complete Gluten-free Diet & Nutrition Guide: With a 30-day Meal Plan & Over 100 Recipes

Gluten-free Baking Classics

Gluten-free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story With 100 Tempting Recipes

Living Gluten-free For Dummies

Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking For a Gluten-free Kitchen
The Paleo diet is much more than just a gluten-free diet, but any recipes for a Paleo diet work for those who are gluten-free as well.

What Nurses Know-- Gluten-free Lifestyle

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back To Health


Celiac Disease, Medline Plus

Gluten-free Diet,
The Mayo Clinic's website is a well-respected health resource and this is an excellent brief, but to-the-point article on what a gluten-free diet entails.

Gluten-free Diet Guide for Families, Children's Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation

Gluten Sensitivity, Gluten Intolerance Group
A brief, informative article on gluten sensitivity. There isn't really a test for gluten sensitivity - the only way to know if you're sensitive is to avoid gluten and see how you feel.

Restaurant Dining: Seven Tips for Staying Gluten-free, Gluten Intolerance Group

Should You Go On a Gluten-free Diet?,
Oprah has certainly fueled the going gluten-free craze.

Traveling With Celiac Disease, NIDDK

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Doorstops or Masterpieces?

A long novel must be very captivating for you to stick with it until the thousandth page. Books that long describe more than just an event or a life, there is enough language to describe existence. Everyone uses War and Peace or Atlas Shrugged as an example of a really long book, but long novels are still being written. Below are titles published in the last few years that rival those two classics in length. And watch for Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas, clocking in at 1152 pages, which will be published in November. When you check one of the books out of the library you may keep it for 9 weeks by renewing it twice if no other customer has placed a hold.

The Instructions by Adam Levin (1030 pages)
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1079 pp)
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Little (992 pp)
A Moment in the Sun : a Novel by John Sayles (955 pp)
Reamde (1056 pp)
Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (1349 pp)
2666 by Roberto Bolano (898 pp)
Under the Dome by Stephen King (1088 pp)

Monday, October 03, 2011


I never thought in a million years I would get to see Belanova live without having to travel to a major Mexican city such as the Distrito Federal, Guadalajara, or Monterrey. The minute my wife mentioned they were coming to town, my mind was made up to go and see them. Their music is very Pop and is heavily driven by keyboards, bass, and drums. The guitar has been pushed way to the back with the very attractive and charismatic Denisse Guererro front and center. At the show, they announced there would be a return leg. I know where I'll be that night.

Sueno Electrico I

Dulce Beat