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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Paws That Refresh

I hate to get personal on the blog, but it’s hard not to when it comes to the topic of dogs. It was hard, for years, to understand my dog-loving friends and their passion for their pets. I had read the accounts of how dogs had changed lives, but I didn’t buy it. I was by no means anti-pet, but I just thought that humans had a better chance of helping each other than their furry friends.

Then I got sick and came back to Fairfax County, where I had grown up and gone to high school. My parents still had the family dog -- Falcon -- and one of their first moves was to hand him over to me.

At first, it made no sense. I had a debilitating illness that I was trying to recover from, and they had they handed me more responsibility. Little did I know! Two years later, everyone -- from my mother to my best friend to my next-door neighbor -- agrees on one thing: my dog saved my life.

Now I have an interest in the healing that comes through animals and have found some great books in the library, including New York Post columnist Cindy Adams’ tale of healing in the book The Gift of Jazzy, which can be located through the online library catalog. Adams was given her dog, Jazzy, by friends after the death of her husband.

My newfound appreciation for dogs is part of the reason that I’m excited that Colleen Pelar, a certified professional dog trainer and author of Living With Kids and Dogs … Without Losing Your Mind, will be speaking at the Chantilly Regional Library next week. I love dogs and believe that they can help, heal and especially teach children lessons about kindness, gentleness and responsibility.

Hope you can make it to Ms. Pelar’s presentation on Tuesday, December 6 at 7 p.m. If you'd like to attend, call 703-502-3883.

Guest Blogger, Jayson Blair

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gridlock at the Library

A web page on The Washington Post site captures one of the most important jobs of Ron Shaffer, the traffic columnist more commonly known as Dr. Gridlock, when it says “Dr. Gridlock offers therapy for that most intimate relationship: the one between you and your commute.”

Dr. Gridlock offers much more than tips on the best hours to take the inner loop or the outer loop. I remember reading Dr. Gridlock as a high school student, studying harder to get my learner’s permit than I was for my classes, and gaining more knowledge about how to handle the roads than I did from my driving instructors and Department of Motor Vehicles manuals. What stood out about learning from Dr. Gridlock was that it was simply so much fun. He never missed an opportunity to interject some humor into the often frustrating experience of driving in the Washington area.

He also offered valuable advice on road etiquette and how to defuse tense situations. In addition, I learned from Dr. Gridlock that a downside of playing the Indigo Girls and Guns N’ Roses at full volume was that I could not hear the horns blaring at me from behind. Also: not to eat hot soup and, most importantly, not to shave while driving in my car.

As I began commuting from my home to college classes on the other side of the Beltway, Dr. Gridlock’s tips for safe ways to calm yourself and find a diversion in traffic became helpful (Tip: Don’t try to read Dr. Gridlock in traffic, especially not on your Blackberry).

There are some online resources out there. The Virginia Department of Transportation, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary next year, offers a number of cool online resources for the commuter, including maps on lane closures, incidents, and views of roadways from traffic cameras. And Google just gets ridiculous with the traffic check plug-in to its desktop sidebar. Even though the Internet has all these wonderful resources, there’s something to be said for the advice of a homespun traffic columnist who knows how to find each and every piece of the now-infinitely chopped up Braddock Road.

Join us at 1:30 p.m. on December 2 at the Lorton Library and ask Dr. Gridlock questions directly (instead of hoping to be one of the few letter writers he gets the chance to respond to in his column). You can discuss anything from the best way to respond to hand gestures on roadways to the best way to get from Reston to Fort Belvoir at 2 p.m. on Mondays. I’ll be there for all those reasons, but most importantly to thank Dr. Gridlock for years of advice that kept me -- just barely -- out of the traffic section of the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court!

Guest Blogger, Jayson Blair

Friday, November 18, 2005

Switching Gears

Swallows return to Capistrano; college students return home for the holidays. Students who left as French majors may come back with a newfound zeal for forestry; next year it might be forensics. "About 80 percent of students who start college switch their major at least one time," Career World magazine reported. "Many students will change their major three or four times over the course of a college career."

It's good preparation for the estimated seven career changes they'll make later in life. Check out what the college graduates below did before they became best-selling authors:

Maya Angelou -- reporter for The Arab Observer in Egypt.

Jeffrey Archer -- member of the British Parliament.

Jean Auel -- circuit board designer.

Terry Brooks -- attorney, as were John Grisham and Richard North Patterson.

Tom Clancy -- insurance agent.

Clive Cussler -- worked at a supermarket and a gas station; aircraft mechanic,
advertising executive.

Robert Fulghum -- IBM salesperson, rodeo performer, minister, prison counselor, bartender.

Sue Grafton -- hospital admissions clerk, cashier, clerical/medical secretary.

Ursula Hegi -- English teacher, as were Dean Koontz, Wally Lamb, Larry McMurtry and Toni Morrison.

Jan Karon -- advertising executive, as were Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker and James Patterson.

Stephen King -- janitor, laborer in an industrial laundry, English teacher.

Jon Krakauer -- carpenter, fisherman.

John Le Carré -- "military intelligence."

Anne Rice -- waitress, cook, theater usher, insurance claims examiner.

Amy Tan -- language consultant to programs for disabled children.

Joseph Wambaugh -- U.S. Marine, Los Angeles police officer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Background Checks

They've been discovered in Bethesda, MD and Vienna, VA. Women who were promised lucrative jobs in America ended up as victims of an ongoing outrage known as "human trafficking."

The numbers are chilling. The United Nations estimated that globally, up to two million women and children are "trafficked" every year, including some 50,000 who are brought into the United States. Around the world, about 27 million men, women and children are currently 21st-century slaves, generating an estimated $7 billion per year for their users.

The U.N. declared December 2 as the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. If you were investigating modern-day slavery -- or any other issue -- for school, work or personal reasons, the library makes it possible for you to find articles from thousands of newspapers, magazines and journals -- for free.

If you've ever tried to find magazine articles on the Internet, you've probably had the frustration of finding out that many publications charge a fee for accessing current or archived material. The library subscribes to services that make those articles free, and all you need in order to access them from home or work is your Fairfax County Public Library card.

To research a topic across journals, magazines, newspapers and other types of periodicals, start here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

It's that time of year again. The time when teens, adults and seniors sweat over college admission essays, scholarship applications and financial aid forms, hoping to become part of America's 15 million college students. High school students and adults seeking a career change might consider pursuing a library science degree.

"People who work in libraries are delightful -- part detective, part teacher," says Chantilly Regional Library Manager Bonnie Worcester. Librarians "handle the intellectual treasures of our culture," adds Reston Regional Library Manager Nadia Taran. "The efforts of the best minds."

"What I like about my job is the opportunity to learn at least one new thing each day," says Branch Coordinator Elizabeth Waller. "It makes me a good party guest," she laughs.

"I decided I wanted to be a librarian in second grade because I liked to read," explains Denise Morgan, Lorton Library's manager. Centreville Regional Library Manager Pat White-Williams concurs. "It was just a natural progression for me that I would end up in a job where I can share my love of reading with others."

Tina Cunningham, who manages the Fairfax City Regional Library, calls her career "an adventure in multi-tasking" and "a never-ending treasure hunt." She adds, "In our information-saturated society, there's still a need for those who can sift through information and find the fact that answers the question."

Several staff seconded Debbie King, George Mason Regional Library's manager. "I have daily opportunities to make a difference in people's lives. Sometimes readers tell us that we've led them to the answer of monumental importance, and it's personally gratifying when they say, 'You made my day.'"

Becoming a librarian requires a master's degree. Here are some resources to help you get started with the planning process for any type of degree.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Veterans Day

A U.S. Naval officer was the first. In 1982, while the concrete for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was being poured, the officer walked up, threw in his brother's Purple Heart medal, and saluted. Since then more than 53,000 other objects have been offered in remembrance.

One woman left her wedding ring. She was getting remarried the next day, and wanted to finally close the relationship with her husband who had died in Vietnam. Others have left sonograms, teddy bears, dogtags, POW/MIA bracelets, cards, letters and photographs. All are carefully bagged and transferred to the National Park Service's Museum Resource Center in Lanham, MD.

Some people use art to pay their respects. On November 9, 1984, Frederick Hart's sculpture was added to the Memorial. The statue of three soldiers faces The Wall, conceived by artist Maya Ying Lin, that names more than 58,000 Americans killed or missing in Vietnam. Others honor those who serve our country by writing about the military experience. Check out:

Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien. Winner of the National Book Award, this novel alternates between a platoon's dreamy fantasies and the harsh reality of their lives. O'Brien's beautifully-written The Things They Carried -- which captures the emotions of the Vietnam "jungle rat" -- may become a classic.

Courage Under Fire by Patrick Sheane Duncan. A female helicopter pilot is nominated posthumously for the Medal of Honor for her actions during Desert Storm fighting in Iraq. Lieutenant Colonel Nat Sterling is detailed to conduct an inquiry into her act of valor -- and redeem himself from fratricide.

Operation: Homefront by Caroline B. Cooney. When Laura Herricks' mother is mobilized with her National Guard unit to Saudi Arabia, the family learns to take care of themselves both physically and emotionally as they live the war through television.

Sharkman Six by Owen West. Trained warriors on a peace-keeping mission in Mogadishu must adhere to the rules of engagement, which prevent them from saving the lives of noncombatants. The conflict escalates when their enemies use those rules -- and the media -- to their own advantage.

God's Children by Harold Coyle. Inexperienced infantrymen and their leaders are thrown into unexpected combat encounters during a three-day operation that began as a routine patrol. A realistic look at "peacekeeping" in the Balkans.

We Were Soldiers Once, And Young by Harold Moore, Joseph Galloway. This story about Vietnam's Ia Drang battle includes a cover photo of infantry platoon leader Tommy Rescorla, and a description of his actions in the war. Footnote to history: on September 11, 2001, Rescorla safely evacuated all his Morgan Stanley colleagues out of the World Trade Center. The veteran was last seen headed back into the south Tower to check for stragglers.

Find other books in the library’s online catalog.