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Friday, December 29, 2006

Bestsellers of 2006

As the year draws to a close, Publisher’s Weekly has published its annual 100 Best Books of the Year list. Here’s a sampling:

Fiction

End of Story by Peter Abrahams

The Alibi Club by Francine Mathews

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Night Gardener by John Pelecanos

Theft by Peter Carey

Non-Fiction

At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965–1968 by Taylor Branch

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme

Small Is the New Big and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas
by Seth Godin

Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick


What were your favorite new books of the year?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Poor Richard’s Almanack

This week marks the anniversary of the first issue of Poor Richard's Almanack, published in 1732 by Richard Saunders (actually Benjamin Franklin). An advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette offered “many pleasant and witty verses, jests and sayings … new fashions, games for kisses … men and melons … breakfast in bed, etc.” The nation’s most famous almanac was published for 26 years until 1758.

Since then, there have been many imitators. Those of you who love to collect odd facts and figures can browse:

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The World Almanac and Book of Facts

Guinness World Records 2007

The Top Ten of Everything 2007

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Expect the Unexpected

Know a quirky fact or two? Share it with us.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

It’s the season for stress -– last-minute gifts to buy, rowdy kids to corral, out-of-town in-laws to entertain. One researcher has found that women who feel stressed get relief just by holding their husbands’ hands. The study by University of Virginia neuroscientist James Coan, “Lending a Hand: Social Regulation of the Neural Response to Threat” is published in the December 2006 issue of the journal Psychological Science.

For other practical tips, check out "Stress, Depression and the Holidays: 12 Tips for Coping" or "Holiday Depression and Stress". Advice includes: be realistic, do something for someone else, try something new, and save time for yourself.

What stress-busters get you through the season?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Babies

Ever wonder what celebs share (or shared) their birthdays with the holiday season?

Christina Aguilera
Steven Spielberg
Jennifer Beals
Cicely Tyson
Frank Zappa
Ray Ramano
Diane Sawyer
Mary Higgins Clark
Ava Gardner
Humphrey Bogart
Jimmy Buffett
Sissy Spacek
Dec. 18, 1980
Dec. 18, 1947
Dec. 19, 1963
Dec. 19, 1939
Dec. 21, 1940
Dec. 21, 1957
Dec. 23, 1946
Dec. 24, 1922
Dec. 24, 1931
Dec. 25, 1899
Dec. 25, 1946
Dec. 25, 1949

And that doesn’t include the post-Christmas crowd! Do you have a holiday birthday? Do you consider it a good thing, or a pain?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Underdog Day

Friday marks the 30th anniversary of Underdog Day. It has been celebrated annually since 1976 to honor unsung heroes such as Sherlock Holmes’ Dr. Watson or Robinson Crusoe’s Man Friday. It also celebrates those who “came from behind” to make names for themselves.

The origin of the word “underdog” comes from the way ships were built. Planks of wood for the construction of a ship were placed over a pit on another set of planks called “dogs.” To saw the planks, a senior “sawsman” stood on top of the platform and a junior “sawsman” was assigned to go into the pit to saw from below, where he would be covered with sawdust. The man on top was called the “overdog” — the one on the bottom — the “underdog.”

Some famous underdogs include the Biblical David, who conquered Goliath; Robert the Bruce, whose victorious army was outnumbered three to one at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 (not to be confused with William Wallace of “Braveheart” fame); U.S. President Harry Truman; boxer James "Buster" Johnson, who defeated Mike Tyson in 1990; Rocky Balboa of the “Rocky” film franchise and the hapless cat in the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons.

Who is your favorite underdog?

Friday, December 08, 2006

‘Tis the Season

Holiday shopping is a chore for many, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it’s great for the economy. Here are some stats on our holiday habits:

● Retail sales in department stores totaled $31.7 billion last year.

E-shopping jumped 33 percent between 2004 and 2005. Toys and video games accounted for the largest increase, with flowers, gifts and electronics coming in next. Last year online holiday sales totaled $27.1 billion.

● 1.9 billion holiday cards are sent out each year, making the season the largest card-sending occasion of the year. Valentine’s Day comes in second with only 192 million cards exchanged.

● The U.S. Post Office delivers 20 billion letters, packages and cards between Thanksgiving and December 25. The busiest day is expected to be December 18 when the volume of daily mail handled doubles.

● More than 20 million Christmas trees are cut each year, located on more than 21,000 farms on almost half a million acres.

● Half of the potatoes produced in the U.S. (many used in potato latkes during Hanukkah) come from Idaho and Washington.

● It’s an urban myth that Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is the busiest shopping day of the season. Actually it is usually the Saturday before Christmas, or December 23 if Christmas falls on a weekend.

So, are you an early or last-minute shopper? Let us know by taking a moment to fill out the “What Kind of Shopper Are You?” survey on the library’s Web site.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

“A Date That Will Live in Infamy”

At 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, almost 200 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The raid lasted only an hour, but nearly 3,000 people died. Almost the entire Pacific fleet was stationed there, and few ships escaped damage. Two hundred U.S. aircraft were destroyed. The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt declared war and the U.S. entered World War II.

An array of activities has been scheduled to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor at the USS Arizona National Memorial, including a gathering of the National Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and a keynote address by former NBC anchor, Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation. The USS Arizona is the resting place of 1,177 of the ship’s crew members who died in the attack. Today, internments take place on the ship for some of the surviving 337 crew members who, at their death, wish to be buried with the rest of their crew. To date, there have been 28 such internments.

Check out:

Days of Infamy by Harry Turtledove.

A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory by Emily Rosenberg.

USS Arizona to USS Missouri: From Tragedy to Victory (DVD) On Deck Home Entertainment.

Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor by Donald A. Davis.

Hawaii Goes to War: The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor by Wilbur Jones.

The USS Arizona: The Ship, the Men, the Pearl Harbor Attack, and the Symbol That Aroused America by Joy Waldron Jasper.

Friday, December 01, 2006

DOULA OR DON’T?

Belly mask? Colostrum? Doula? Expectant parents are confronted by a whole new vocabulary and a world of choices. If you’re adding to your family soon, you join parents-to-be Louise Brown (who was the world’s first “test-tube baby”), Eddie Murphy, Tori Spelling, Marcia Cross, Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Jaime Pressly, Donald Trump, Jr., Flavor Flav, Sofia Coppola and Stella McCartney. Check out:

The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth” by Marshall H. Klaus.

The Guy's Guide to Surviving Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the First Year of Fatherhood” by Michael R. Crider.

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife” by Peggy Vincent.

Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond” by Hilary Flower.

Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decisions of Their Lives” by Lori Leibovich.

The Disabled Woman's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth” by Judi Rogers.

Dr. Ruth's Pregnancy Guide for Couples: Love, Sex, and Medical Facts” by Ruth K. Westheimer.

Find other books to help you make pre-and-post-natal decisions in our online catalog.

Feel free to write about your childbirth experiences in a comment.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Trim Your Budget: Borrow a Book

Thanks again to the Waterloo Public Library's blog for this humorous New Yorker riff on advice that one should “check books out of the library instead of buying them. . . . New releases of hard-cover novels cost $25 and more these days. If you buy just two a month, that’s $600 a year.”

New Yorker humorist Ian Frazier’s tongue-in-cheek response to that advice appeared in the article, “Ten Sure Ways to Trim Your Budget.” Here are a few:

“As an accountant, the first thing I tell my clients is ‘Get a library card!’ Otherwise, you’re too subject to temptation, and liable to find yourself in over your head. Few people know that the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is the Clan of the Cave Bear novels.”

“Eventually, I was able to cut back on novels to one a month, then half a novel, then just a few pages. As of this week, I have not looked at a novel (except from the library) for eighteen months, knock wood. For the first time, I’m learning what it is to live within a budget.”

“If every American back in 1950 had quit buying novels and invested money in high-yield bonds, today we would be looking at a savings surplus of several trillion dollars, and Social Security would not be in the mess it’s in.”

But seriously . . . in this holiday season, when budgets get stretched, using the library is not bad advice. The public library remains one of the few services that can be enjoyed without having to pull out your credit or debit card. Join us for reading material and free activities this month!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Once the turkey is stuffed and in the oven, it’s time for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade got its start 80 years ago when employees of the chain’s flagship in New York City dressed in costumes, borrowed animals from the Central Zoo, and marched with floats and bands. More than a quarter of a million people watched the festivities and Macy’s decided to make it an annual event.

By 1927, balloon animals replaced the real ones. Felix the Cat was first filled with air, but by 1928 helium was used. The Mickey Mouse balloon first appeared in 1934. During World War II, the parade was suspended due to the need for helium and rubber in the war effort. In 1947, the parade achieved true fame when Hollywood featured it prominently in the film Miracle on 34th Street.

The 2006 parade will feature Miss USA Tara Elizabeth Conner, “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks and Barry Manilow. The Homewood High School Patriot Marching Band of Alabama will also be performing for their seventh time -– a record for return engagements at the parade.

Eat hearty on Thanksgiving –- it will fortify you for the rigors of “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, which has historically marked the kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

“Fourscore and Seven Years Ago . . .”

In several days, we will mark the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It took less than two minutes to deliver and was less than 300 words, but it’s considered Lincoln’s best speech and perhaps one of the most eloquent in the English language.

The speech was delivered on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of a cemetery for the 7,500 soldiers who had died at the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg five months earlier.

Lincoln was actually invited as an afterthought to the ceremony. The main speech was delivered by Edward Everett, a former secretary of state and U.S. senator who was considered one of the great orators of the era. In the program, Lincoln’s speech is just listed as “Dedicatory Remarks.” Also, contrary to myth, the president did not compose the speech on the back of an envelope on a train to Gettysburg.

Five copies of the speech in Lincoln’s handwriting still exist, including the version begun at the White House and finished in pencil at Gettysburg the morning of the dedication. It is kept at the Library of Congress.

For more on Lincoln’s famous words, check out:

Books That Made History, Part 2 by J. Rufus Fears (available on CD and video).

Lincoln’s Speeches Reconsidered by John Channing Briggs.

Lincoln’s Prose by Abraham Lincoln (eAudiobook).

A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War by Harry V. Jaffa.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gingerbread Houses

This week the National Gingerbread House Competition takes place down in Asheville, North Carolina at the historical Grove Park Inn. Hundreds of edible and decorative concoctions will fill the resort’s Grand Ballroom, to be displayed until January 6, 2007. The grand prize winner and selected other winners will appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday, December 22.

Gingerbread dates from the Middle Ages when Crusaders brought back ginger, sugars, almonds and citrus fruits from the Near East. Catholic monks started to bake gingerbread for Saints’ Day, often using saints and religious symbols in their concoctions. ("A Gingerbread Tradtion," Journal of Antiques and Collectibles, December 2000)

Cooks in the more secular 17th and 18th centuries baked gingerbread into the shape of lords and ladies, soldiers, castles and sometimes flowers or geometric patterns. By the late 19th century, when Christmas became more commercial, no bakery window was without a gingerbread house.

If you would like to try your hand at this ancient art, great instructions and good links are available at About.com -- Gingerbread Houses. Or check out:

Making Gingerbread Houses: Dozens of Delectable Designs and Ideas by Veronika Alice Gunter.

Making Great Gingerbread Houses: Delicious Designs From Cabins to Castles, From Lighthouses to Tree Houses by Aaron Morgan.

Gingerbread Houses: A Complete Guide to Baking, Building and Decorating by Patti Falzarano.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Children’s Book Week

November 13-18 is Children’s Book Week, sponsored by The Children's Book Council, the nonprofit trade association of children’s and young adult book publishers.

Children’s Book Week dates from 1919, when it was organized at the annual American Booksellers Association. It had its roots, however, about seven years earlier at the 1912 ABA convention when publisher E.W. Mumford delivered a paper entitled “Juvenile Readers as an Asset.” The New York Times reported on the presentation, which was a strong indictment of the harm done to children by reading “trashy” books. The head of the Boy Scouts read about the presentation and decided to partner with the ABA and the American Library Association to sponsor a “Good Book Week.” It evolved into Children’s Book Week several years later.

Since the first Children’s Book Week 86 years ago, children’s literature has certainly evolved. If you’re interested in some of the best in picture books and children’s literature published over the years, browse the list of Caldecott and Newbery medal winners on the library’s Web site. The awards are given annually by the American Library Association.

Check out the special Children’s Week activities at the Fairfax County Public Library.

Monday, November 06, 2006

At the Polls

It’s the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November again and at the 10,000 precinct polling places scattered across the country, voters will be lining up to cast their ballots from sunup to sundown.

For many who work, Election Day can be an inconvenience. There are those who suggest it should be moved to a weekend. But back in 1845 when Congress decided there should be a uniform day for elections, the first Tuesday in November was quite convenient for the farmers in a rural society. The hard work of the harvest was done, but the weather was still mild enough in most areas to travel the dirt roads common at the time.

Tuesdays were chosen because it often took a day’s travel to get to the county seat where elections took place, and Sundays were reserved for church. Congress also ensured that a Tuesday Election Day would never fall on November 1 -– All Souls Day and a Catholic holy day –- by insisting that it always occur after the first Monday in November. (Why We Vote When We Do)

This year all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election; as are 33 of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate and 36 of the 50 governors. For more on elections, check the Politics and Election section of the library’s Web site.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sandwich Day

November 3 marks the birthday of John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, born in 1718. He is credited with inventing the food staple that consists of meat, vegetable or cheese between two slices of bread. However, it’s more likely he lent his title to a food item that already existed. According to Wikipedia, the ancient Jewish sage Hillel the Elder created a form of sandwich when he put meat from the Paschal lamb and bitter herbs inside matzo (or flat bread) during Passover. On the other hand, it’s probable that matzo was soft back in the 1st Century BC, and what Hillel invented was actually a wrap.

Check out:

Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings: The Best Sandwiches in America by Margaux Sky.

Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever From Thursday Nights at Campanile by Nancy Silverton.

Vegetarian Sandwiches: Fresh Fillings for Slices, Pockets, Wraps and Rolls by Paulette Mitchell.

Wrap It Up: 100 Fresh, Bold and Bright Sandwiches With a Twist by Amy Colter.

Speaking of food -- sandwiches and otherwise -- Jane and Michael Stern, authors of “Two for the Road,” a monthly column in Gourmet magazine, as well as Roadfood and Eat Your Way Across the USA, will share their expertise on delicious holiday menus, giving food and wine as gifts, and more at 7:30 p.m. on November 8 at the Fairfax County Government Center. To sign up for this free event, call 703-324-8428 or e-mail libraryevents@fairfaxcounty.gov. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - Tysons Corner.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Horrors!

‘Tis the season to explore a genre loved by many -– horror fiction. Stephen King has just published his newest opus, Lisey’s Story. Other masters include Peter Straub, Thomas Harris and Robert McCammon. If you want to check out some recommendations from Fairfax County Public Library staff, browse their list of horror picks. Another source for good horror reading is the Bram Stoker Awards, presented by the Horror Writers of America each year. Creepers by David Morrell and Dread in the Beast by Charlee Jacob tied for first place last year.

Horror has its roots in the demons and vampires that populated the folklore of ancient Babylonia, India, China and Japan, but modern horror dates from the gothic tales of the late 18th and early 19th century. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are among the best known. Other pioneers of horror fiction include H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Alan Poe.

Of course, you may be asking yourself: what’s the difference between a horror novel, and a thriller? The key ingredient is the presence of the supernatural. So for example, although Thomas Harris’ book about a debonair cannibal in The Silence of the Lambs is horrifying, there’s arguably no supernatural force involved in the story. On the other hand, Black House, which Peter Straub coauthored with Stephen King, has shape-shifters and an alternate universe in addition to the horror of cannibalism.

Inquiring minds want to know: which of your favorite authors have kept you up at night with the light on?

Friday, October 27, 2006

And Now For Something Totally Different

Today marks the 67th birthday of the comic English actor and writer John Cleese, whose work has delighted a new generation with the success of the recent musical "Spamalot."

“Spamalot” is based on the 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which in turn was based on the popular 1969-74 TV series, "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Cleese, who got his start writing for a Cambridge University Footlights Club revue called “Cambridge Circus,” moved on to the The David Frost Show and That Was the Week That Was, as well British radio and TV shows before “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” achieved international attention.

He is most remembered for two sketches in that series. In the “dead parrot” sketch Cleese tries to return his defective parrot to the pet store where he bought it. The other sketch, “Ministry of Silly Walks,” made great use of Cleese’s gawky appearance. The show changed TV comedy, as evidenced by the term "pythonesque," now found in the dictionary. It refers to something that is “fast-paced, surreal, and following stream-of-consciousness.”

Cleese went on to more TV success with "Fawlty Towers," as well as the Monty Python films. He wrote, produced and appeared in "A Fish Called Wanda" in 1988 and more recently appeared in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" as "Nearly Headless Nick."

Check out:

Cleese Encounters by Jonathan Margolis.

The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons.

Monty Python Speaks! by David Morgan.

The First 28 Years of Monty Python by Kim Johnson.

The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus by Graham Chapman.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Criminal Profiling

TV aficionados who enjoy “Criminal Minds” and the various “CSI” shows can learn more about criminal profiling at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, October 24th at the Kings Park Library when author and former FBI Behavioral Science Unit Chief Roger Depue discusses his book, Between Good and Evil: A Master Profiler’s Hunt for Society’s Most Violent Predators.

Also known as offender profiling or psychological profiling, the technique dates from the Middle Ages when inquisitors attempted to profile heretics. (Offender Profiling -- Wikipedia). In the 1800s, criminology first began to emerge as a science and several practitioners attempted to develop theories of psychological profiling.

Famous profilers include Thomas Bond, who attempted to profile Jack the Ripper in London in the late 1800s; Walter C. Langer, who was asked to profile Adolf Hitler in 1943; James A. Brussel, who helped develop a profile of the “mad bomber” who terrorized New York city in the 1940s and 1950s; and three FBI Behavioral Science Unit profilers, Howard Teten, Robert Ressler and John Douglas.

For more on criminal profiling, see:

The Mind of Adolf Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report by Walter Langer.

I Have Lived in the Monster by Robert Ressler and Thomas Schachtman.

The Cases That Haunt Us: From Jack the Ripper to JonBenet Ramsey by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker.

Profilers: Leading Investigators Take You Inside the Criminial Mind, edited by John H. Campbell and Don DeNevi.

The Mad, the Bad, and the Innocent: The Criminal Mind on Trial by Barbara Kirwin.

Friday, October 20, 2006

United Nations Week

On Tuesday, October 24, the United Nations celebrates its 61st anniversary. The organization’s charter was ratified in 1945 by China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and 47 other countries.

The U.N. was not the first attempt at international cooperation. Early efforts developed around sharing technology. The International Telegraph Union was formed in 1865 and the Universal Postal Union was established in 1874. Both are now U.N. agencies. The immediate forerunner to the U.N. was the League of Nations, created in the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. The League of Nations was disbanded after it failed to prevent World War II.

Franklin D. Roosevelt first used the term “United Nations” in 1942 when 26 nations signed a "Declaration of United Nations," pledging to continue the fight against the Axis powers during World War II. (Actually, he may have borrowed the phrase from Lord Byron’s poem, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage".) In the 1950s, the U.N. was referred to as the U.N.O., the United Nations Organization, but over time “Organization” was dropped from its formal title.

Today, there are 192 U.N. member states. While the U.N. usually makes the news for its peace-keeping role, a number of U.N. agencies are involved in humanitarian assistance and international development. These include the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, while separate agencies, are also affiliated with the U.N.

You’re invited to a special program in honor of United Nations Week (October 20–27). A panel of experts will discuss Working Together Towards Peace, Security & Human Rights on Sunday, October 22 at 2 p.m. at the Sherwood Regional Library. This event is free but seating is limited; please call 703-765-3645 to sign up.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nobel Reading

Last week, the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, Sweden awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature to Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. While Pamuk is not a household name, the Fairfax County Public Library has seven of his books that you can check out, including My Name Is Red and Snow. In announcing the award, the Academy praised Pamuk, “who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures.”

The awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature has sometimes been controversial in part due to Alfred Nobel’s direction that it must be awarded to “the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency.” Since 1901, 101 writers have received the award. Recipients include Rudyard Kipling (1907), William Butler Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), William Faulkner (1949), Sir Winston Churchill (1953), Ernest Hemingway (1954), John Steinbeck (1962), Saul Bellow (1976) and Toni Morrison (1993).

To sample the work of lesser-known honorees, check out:

Final Poems by Rabindranath Tagore. (1913 Nobel laureate)
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. (1928 Nobel laureate)
Independent People by Halldór Laxness. (1955 Nobel laureate)
Strong Wind by Miguel Ángel Asturias. (1967 Nobel laureate)
The Trolley by Claude Simon. (1985 Nobel laureate)
The Tale of the Unknown Island by José Saramago. (1998 Nobel laureate)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Paraskevidekatriaphobia

It’s a variation of triskaidekaphobia, “fear of the number 13,” but in English-speaking nations around the world, “paraskevidekatriaphobia,” or fear of Friday the 13th, is widespread. In Spain and Greece, however, it is Tuesday, the 13th that is unlucky.

According to www.HowStuffWorks.com, the most common origins of the fear of Friday the 13th have Christian roots. There were 13 at Jesus’ last supper. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was the last to arrive. Also, the crucifixion occurred on a Friday.

However, there are also non-religious roots to today’s superstition. Public hangings in Great Britain were associated with Friday and 13. They conventionally occurred on Fridays and there were supposedly 13 steps to the gallows.

In addition, sailors refused to ship out on a Friday, and there is a legend that, in the 1800s, the British actually built a ship and called it the H.M.S. Friday. The crew was selected on a Friday. It set sail on a Friday and its skipper supposedly was named James Friday. Authorities wanted to disprove the superstition. Unfortunately, folklore has it that the ship disappeared on its maiden voyage.

While some honor the superstition, others flaunt it. Daniel Handler, author of the popular Lemony Snicket children’s book, is releasing the 13th book in his series, titled "The End," today –- Friday the 13!

In a 2000 survey conducted by American Demographics, only 13 percent of all respondents said they were superstitious about Friday the 13th, but 30 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds expressed the fear. (They came of age during the nine installments of the “Friday the 13th” series of horror films -- coincidence?)

Think you aren’t superstitious? Here’s a test. If you could choose, would you get married, start a new job or close on a house on Friday the 13th? Let us know.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Skateboarder Birthday

Champion skateboarder Bob Burnquist turns 30 this week. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he began skateboarding when he was 11 and turned pro at 14. Now he earns in the mid-six figures and lives on 12 acres of land in California. His backyard is filled with the wooden ramps competitive skateboarders crave.

Burnquist is a vegetarian. In fact, the organic-grocery chain, Whole Foods, is one of his sponsors. The skateboarder believes eating well helps him heal better from various bumps and bruises (“It Has Been Quite a Trip,” Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2006).

Burnquist is only one of five athletes who have competed in all 12 X Games, the ESPN-sponsored Olympics of extreme sports that began in 1993. Known for his creativity, in March, Burnquist displayed his expertise at the edge of the Grand Canyon for broadcast later on the Discovery Channel. Check out?

Thrasher Presents How to Build Skateboard Ramps: Halfpipes, Boxes, Bowls and More by Kevin Thatcher and Rick Blackhart

Skateboarding Is Not a Crime: Fifty Years of Street Culture by James Davis.

Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Skate, Board and Snow by Jamie Brisick.

Catching Air: The Excitement and Daring of Individual Action Sports by Bill Gutman.

Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding by Michael Brooke.

Got a favorite extreme athlete? Let us know.

Friday, October 06, 2006

DOG-EARED

Jezebel is a performer's dream. She listens. She pays attention. She never heckles, criticizes, or stomps out in disgust. OK, she might scratch, sniff, or lick her forearm, but what can you expect from a dog?

Jezebel is certified by Therapy Dogs International, and she's trained to listen quietly while kids read books out loud to her. She will offer her services to readers ages 6-12 on Wednesday, October 18 at 6 p.m. at the Herndon Fortnightly Library.

"Oftentimes, young children are reluctant to read out loud if they think they'll be criticized or corrected," explains Sarah Lyons, the branch's Children's Librarian. Therapy dogs are trained to offer a warm, non-judgmental ear to struggling readers. Research shows that regularly reading aloud helps children improve reading comprehension, which can lead to greater academic success. Therapy dogs help facilitate that process.

"Children and dogs bond over a shared story," the TDI Web site explains. "Children's confidence and reading skills grow in a relaxed environment. It's that simple."

You can sign up your child to read to Jezebel by calling 703-437-8855. If your family already has an attentive four-legged companion, you can try having your kids read to their furry friend for 10 or 15 minutes a day. Good read-aloud books include:

"Second Grade Ape" by Daniel Pinkwater.

"The Stories Julian Tells" by Ann Cameron.

"Frog and Toad Together" by Arnold Lobel.

"Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot: An Adventure Novel" by Dav Pilkey.

"Annabel the Actress, Starring in 'Hound of the Barkervilles'" by Ellen Conford.

Find other books to read out loud in the library’s online catalog.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Reading Groups: Beyond Jane Austen

October is National Reading Group Month. Book clubs have become so popular and come in so many shapes and sizes that the Library Journal recently devoted an entire article to the phenomenon (The Book Club Exploded, July 1, 2006). Groups these days often read and discuss not just a book, but focus on a genre or the entire work of one author -- or even a book plus its movie adaptation. The days of just tea and Jane Austen are long gone!

If you’ve been wanting to join a book discussion group, now’s your chance: the Fairfax County Public Library offers a number of book discussions for a wide variety of ages and interests.

We also offer kits with 10 copies of the same book and a discussion guide. Adult book club kits range from Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to Isabelle Allende’s House of Spirits. If your group is searching for additional books to discuss, check out Booklists for Adults or the Readers’ pages on the library’s Web site for award winners, book discussion guides and a variety of resources for selecting a good book to discuss.

If you’re already in a book group, let us know what you’re reading and how you approach the art of selecting new books.

Friday, September 29, 2006

TEEN FAIRS

The library and Volunteer Fairfax are sponsoring four volunteer fairs for teens. The fairs help students in middle and high school find volunteer opportunities with local groups that will help them fulfill the community service hours required by area schools.

The fairs are scheduled for October 3 at 7 p.m. at the George Mason Regional Library in Annandale; October 5 at 7 p.m. at the Pohick Regional Library in Burke; October 7 at 2 p.m. at the Thomas Jefferson Library in Falls Church; and October 14 at 3 p.m. at the Centreville Regional Library.

“Teens offer the talent and energy that many local agencies seek,” says Kate Wanderer, our volunteer coordinator. “The fairs allow young people a chance to meet with representatives from local nonprofit groups and learn more about how to help their community.”

More than 30 organizations are participating in our teen volunteer fairs, including:

Alzheimers Family Day Care Center
Area Agency on Aging Cluster Care Program
Clean Fairfax Council
Computer Learning Centers Partnership
Earth Sangha
Fairfax County Area Agency on Aging
Fairfax County Community and Recreation Services, Baileys Computer Clubhouse
Fairfax County Community and Recreation Services, Dept. of Therapeutic Recreation
Fairfax County Dept. of Family Services Higher Horizons
Fairfax County Office of Partnerships
Fairfax County Park Authority
Fairfax County Park Authority, Providence Recreation Center
Greenbriar Learning Center
Greenspring Retirement Village Community
Herndon Adult Day Care Center
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Lion's Eyeglass Recycling Center
Mark of Excellence Community Outreach Program
Mason Neck State Park
Northern Virginia Training Center
Our Neighbor's Child
Reston Association
Volunteer Fairfax
Western Fairfax Christian Ministry
Wexford Manor Community Resource center

Check with the host library branch to find out which organizations will be at their branch. For information about becoming a library volunteer, check the volunteer section of the library’s Web site.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Arrr, Matey!

In case you missed it, September 19 was Talk Like a Pirate Day. (Thanks to the library blog in Waterloo, Maine for that bit of information.) The folks up north even provide a link to popular pirate phrases. For all things pirate, including a list of every pirate movie ever made, check out Pirate's Cove.

Lest you think piracy is part of the world’s romantic past, it still occurs with estimated losses of between $13 billion and $16 billion per year in U.S. dollars, particularly in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. You can even browse a month-by-month list of piracy incidents compiled by the United Nation’s International Maritime Organization.

Whether you’re interested in the exploits of modern pirates or those from the golden days of piracy (such as Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, Bartholomew Roberts ("Black Bart") or Jean Lafitte), check out:

Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas by John Burnett.

Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly.

The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime by William Langewiesche.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 by Marcus Rediker.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fall Classics

Fall is just around the corner, and TV fans know that means it’s the time of year when TV networks reveal their new shows and return their old hits.

September 15 marks the anniversary of at least four shows that became part of U.S. popular culture. The oldest is "The Lone Ranger," which premiered in 1949 when TV was a new technology. The show featured Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. The two traveled the West fighting injustice. Those of a certain age will never forget Moore’s signature line, “Hi Ho, Silver, Away!” or Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” the show’s theme. The series ended in 1957.

"Columbo" celebrates its 35th anniversary this week. Peter Falk played a quirky, cigar-chewing detective who slouched around in a rumpled raincoat and literally nagged suspects into confessions. The series ended in 1978 but resurfaced in 1989 with made-for-TV movies; the last one aired in 2002.

Other shows celebrating their anniversaries this week include "I Spy" (1965-68), in which Bill Cosby made history as the first African American starring in a major TV role; "CHiPS" (1977-83), which featured two motorcycle-riding members of the California Highway Patrol; and "Bachelor Father" (1957062), a sitcom that featured John Forsythe as a bachelor whose life is complicated by his niece moving in. Forsythe later went on to hits such as “Dynasty” and “Charlie’s Angels.” Check out:

TV Guide, Fifty Years of Television by Mark Lasswell.

Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television by Michael Ritchie.

Glued to the Set by Steven Stark.

The Box: An Oral History of Television, 1920 - 1961 by Jeff Kisseloff.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Galveston Storm

August 28 was the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast. September 8 marks the 106th anniversary of a Category 3 hurricane (less severe winds than Katrina) that unfortunately took more than five times as many lives and destroyed the city of Galveston, Texas.

The Galveston Storm lasted 18 hours, killed more than 5,000 people and left 8,000 homeless. The tragedy captured the imagination of the public, and in 1904 a Galveston Flood show was created at Coney Island, NY. Housed in a building at the resort, the city was recreated with model buildings. Visitors watched “the scene of horror” on a 200-square-foot stage complete with wind, waves, thunder and lightning. Check out:

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson.

Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes by Kerry Emmanuel.

Path of Destruction: the Devastation of New Orleans and the Coming Age of Superstorms by John McQuaid.

In Katrina's Wake: Portraits of Loss From an Unnatural Disaster by Chris Jordan.

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Barbecue Season

The Web site Barbecue'n on the Internet says it all: “Barbecue is an important part of a balanced diet.” This Labor Day weekend, grills across the country will be fired up for a taste of a summer favorite — whether chicken, beef, pork, fish or veggies on a skewer.

Barbecue was introduced in the U.S. in the 19th century. During cattle drives, cowboys used this slow method of cooking for the less desirous cuts of meat they had to eat, such as brisket, pork butt, pork and beef ribs and goat, which needed longer cooking times to tenderize (Barbecue History -- About.com). Pioneers also may have used the method as they traveled West, since many were poor and couldn’t afford better cuts of meat (The Barbecue Master.com).

Whatever its origins, barbecue has become an American tradition. While some still fire up charcoal briquettes, many have moved up to natural gas and propane. For tips and recipes, go to The National Barbecue Association and check out:

Raichlen on Ribs, Ribs, Outrageous Ribs by Steve Raichlen.

Grilling: More Than 175 New Recipes From the World’s Premier Culinary College by The Culinary Institute of America.

Taming the Flame: Secrets for Hot and Quick Grilling and Low and Slow BBQ by Elizabeth Karmel.

The New Gas Grill Gourmet: Great Grilled Food for Everyday Meals and Fantastic Feasts by A. Cort Sinnes.

Good Times, Good Grilling: Surefire Recipes for Great Grill Parties by Cheryl Jamieson.

Do you have a favorite grill or BBQ recipe? Let us know!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pogo’s Legacy

Long before Gary Trudeau's Doonsbury and Scott Adams' Dilbert, cartoonist Walt Kelly, who was born August 25, 1913 and died in 1973, satirized American culture and politics with a group of Okefenokee Swamp critters led by a possum named Pogo.

According to a 2005 Washington Post article (“Pogo, Never Really Gone,” by Jonathan Yardley, May 23, 2005), Kelly’s strip appeared in 600 newspapers across the country at the height of his popularity in the late 1950s. An Adlai Stevenson liberal, he even created a character based on Senator Joseph McCarthy, an unpleasant bobcat named Simple J. Malarkey. In later years he satirized Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, showing he didn’t take sides.

But even without the politics, Kelly entertained a generation with creatures such as Albert Alligator, Howland Owl, the turtle Churchy-la-Femme, Porky Pine, the cow Horrors Greeley, the alluring skunk Mam'zelle Hepzibah, Beauregard the houn' dog, Mallard de Mer ("the seasick duck"), Deacon Muskrat and Wiley Cat.

Pogo fans still gather annually for a Pogofest to celebrate their favorite strip. This year’s event was held in Waycross, George not far from the haunts of Pogo and his friends. For all things Pogo, check out:

Pogo, Volume 1 by Walt Kelly.

The Pogo Peek-a-Book by Walt Kelly.

Flashbacks: Twenty-Five Years of Doonesbury by Gary Trudeau.

It’s Not Funny If I Have To Explain It by Scott Adams.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Black Cows

Back on August 19, 1893, Frank J. Wisner created the first root beer float by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream to his Myers Avenue Red Root Beer. Wisner, who owned the Cripple Creek Brewing Company in Colorado, was inspired by the moon over snow-capped Cow Mountain — thus the origin of the frothy concoction’s nickname, “black cow.” The foam is formed as microscopic bubbles in the ice cream create nucleation sites, which make larger bubbles of carbon dioxide.

Root beer is fermented and made from a variety of ingredients, such as vanilla, cherry tree bark, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, sassafras root bark, nutmeg, anise, molasses and other ingredients. At one time the beverage was a traditional drink and herbal medicine. It contained about two percent alcohol and was used for coughs and mouth sores. A non-alcoholic version was introduced to the U.S. as a commercial soft drink by Charles Hires at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Today root beer makes up about three percent of the soft drink market.

Ice cream and its relatives have more ancient roots. The Chinese are believed to have invented the first device for making ice cream, and the caliphs of Baghdad supposedly drank syrup cooled with snow. Middle Easterners are also credited with introducing the frozen dessert, gelato, to the West through Sicily.

August is the perfect time for chilly sweets. Check out:

Homemade Root Beer, Soda and Pop by Stephen Cresswell.

A Passion for Ice Cream by Emily Luchetti.

Ice Cream Treats by Charity Ferreira.

The Ice Cream Lover's Companion by Diana Rosen.

The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein.

A Month of Sundaes by Michael Turback.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tales That Endure

Recently CNN reported that a 1,000-year-old medieval manuscript was unearthed in Ireland. Here are a few ancient stories you can “dig up” at the Fairfax County Public Library:

Gilgamesh: A New English Version
The Epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be the oldest work of literature in the world. The most complete version of the tale of this Sumerian hero-king exists on 11 clay tablets that date from the 7th century B.C.

I Ching: Book of Changes
Considered both a treatise on Chinese philosophy and a system of divination, the exact origin of the I Ching can’t be dated, but it was in use by the time of the Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 256 B.C.).

The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
Written by the blind Greek poet, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which make up the epic poem about the Trojan War, date somewhere between the 7th and 6th century B.C.

The Aeneid by Virgil
The Roman poet Virgil lived in the 1st century B.C. His most famous work, The Aeneid, took him 10 years to write and became the Roman Empire’s national epic.

The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon
The Pillow Book contains the somewhat gossipy observations and musings of a court lady written to Empress Sadako during the 990s A.D. in Heian, Japan.

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
This epic poem dates from 700 – 1000 A.D. It tells the story of Beowulf, a hero from a Germanic tribe in Sweden, who travels to Denmark to defeat a monster known as Grendel.

The Song of Roland
The oldest French epic poem, The Song of Roland, dates to around 1000 A.D. It concerns a minor incident, the battle of Roncevaux Pass, in which Charlemagne’s Franks were attacked by Basques.

What’s your favorite old story?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Powder Room Pleasures

Thanks to the Waterboro Public Library (Maine) blog for alerting us to a great article in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. In his essay “Chamber Plots” (July 23, 2006, p. 23), Henry Alford admitted to placing 42 books in his newly redecorated “necessary house” to make it “a destination bathroom.” He also visited nine bathrooms in other people’s homes to discover what their owners were reading. His research uncovered cookbooks from the ‘50s and ‘60s in one bathroom, and books of historical interest in another. People seemed to stock their bathrooms with books for either “entertainment” or “enlightenment.”

You can access articles like Alford’s from our Web site. On our home page, click on the link to our databases. Go to “databases by company” and click on ProQuest. Use your library card number to log on, and do a search on the subject you’re interested in. For example, to read the rest of Alford’s article, type in the phrase “chamber plots” in the search box.

If you don’t own a Fairfax County Public Library card, sign up for one online –- it’s free!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Robots

Many science fiction writers have invented scenarios in which robots become killing machines. The first actual robot homicide in the U.S., however, occurred 12 years ago on July 21, 1984. A robot in Jackson, Mississippi turned and caught a worker between it and a safety bar, crushing him. The worker died of his injuries several days later.

While robots are quite safe most of the time, they have intrigued people for generations. According to Wikipedia, the word “robot” comes from the Czech word “robata,” which means “industrial labor.” It was first used in a play by sci-fi writer Karel Čapek in 1921. The humanoid, intelligent robots envisioned by writers have yet to be completely realized; the designs used for work are generally known as “3-D” - “dull, dirty or dangerous.” Such robots are found in auto production, bomb disposal, nuclear waste disposal and other environments.

There are also domestic robots that can vacuum the house or mow the lawn, and even companion robots, such as Aibo, a pet dog, Paro, a baby seal intended for use in hospitals or nursing homes, and Wakamaru, a humanoid robot also used in nursing homes.

The popularity of robots is reflected in the number of both fiction and non-fiction books the Fairfax County Public Library owns on the topic. We have 54 adult fiction novels, plus books on the design and construction of robots; robot control systems; industrial robots; programming robots and more. Check out:

Fiction

Robots by Jack Dann
Old Soldiers by David Weber
The Amphora Project by William Kozwinkle
Pet Peeve by Piers Anthony
Metallic Love by Tanith Lee

Non-Fiction

Robots: From Science Fiction to Technological Revolution by Daniel Ichbiah
Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood
Gear Heads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports by Brad Stone
Junkbots, Bugbots and Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots by Dave Hrynkiw

Friday, July 14, 2006

Mysteries and Thrillers

Summer seems made for page-turners. Here’s some recommendations from Library Journal for mysteries and thrillers that will keep you entertained wherever you may be venturing this summer.

The Third Secret by Steve Berry

One Shot by Lee Child

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

In the Company of Liars by David Ellis

Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas J. Preston

Red Mass by Rosemary Aubert

Jass by David Fulmer

Desert Blood by Alicia Gaspar de Alba

Year of the Hyenas by Brad Geagley

Demon of the Air by Simon Levack

Any other favorites you would like to share? Let us know.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Lincoln’s Assassins

On July 7, 1865, almost four months after Lincoln was assassinated on April 14 of that year, four individuals were hanged for conspiring with John Wilkes Booth. One, Mary Surratt, was the first woman executed for a crime in the U.S. Her major crime was to have owned the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators planned the assassination. The others included Lewis Payne, also known as Lewis Powell, who attempted to kill Secretary of State William Seward as part of a plot to cripple Lincoln’s government; George Atzerodt, who was supposed to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson, but never acted and may have gotten drunk instead; and David E. Herold, who waited outside with a horse as Payne attempted to kill Seward.

Supposedly, Booth and the conspirators had originally planned just to kidnap Lincoln in March 1865 in exchange for Confederate prisoners. But when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, VA on April 9, 1865, and the Civil War ended, plans changed.

For more on the complex conspiracy to overturn Lincoln’s government, check out these books:

Mary Surratt: An American Tragedy by Elizabeth Steger Trindal

Dark Union: The Secret Web of the Profiteers, Politicians and Booth Conspirators That Led to Lincoln’s Death by Leonard F. Guttridge

Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution by James L. Swanson and Daniel R. Weinberg

Manhunt: The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

The Murder of Abraham Lincoln by Rick Geary


The theme of a dark Steven Sondheim musical, “Assassins” argues that those who attempted or succeeded in murdering presidents over our history are really no different that regular folks. Are they? What made the Lincoln conspirators cross the line?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Difficult Times

If you thought telling time was easy, check out the Web site at the International Earth Rotation Service. The agency is part of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. In addition to Eastern Daylight Time and time zones, there seems to be International Atomic Time, Universal Time and a few other measures of the elusive concept that rules our lives.

Each June 30, the agency determines whether we need to add a leap second to the year to compensate for the Earth’s rotation. As hectic as our lives are, every second counts! Check out:

Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks and Cultures by Anthony Aveni.

Time: Its Origin, Its Enigma, Its History by Alexander Waugh.

Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps: Empires of Time by Peter Galison.

Time’s Pendulum: The Quest to Capture Time by Jo Ellen Barnett.

Time: A Traveler’s Guide by Clifford Pickover.

Speaking of time-traveling, do you think it’ll happen in our lifetimes? If it were possible, which era would you pick?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Radio Waves

Those of a certain age may remember "The Breakfast Club", Don McNeill’s popular early morning radio program. It debuted the third week of June in 1933 and ran for 35 years. Perhaps most memorable to kids who listened was the “Call to Breakfast”, announced every 15 minutes. McNeill invited listeners to get up and march around the breakfast table. Thousands of kids took the command seriously and strutted around the dining room.

At one time, the show was carried on 400 affiliate stations and tickets were as difficult to get as those of the “Tonight Show” are today. The hour-long show featured performers such as Fran Allison of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie", but the most popular feature was “Memory Time”, when McNeill read listeners’ letters and poems.

By the time the show went off the air in 1968, it had become a bit dated, but other radio variety shows would take its place, notably Garrison Keillor’s "Prairie Home Companion" on National Public Radio affiliates. Keillor’s show has been broadcasting since 1974 and is so popular among its audience that it was recently made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.

Radio is changing, and what it will become is yet to be determined. Martha Stewart, Bob Dylan and NPR’s Bob Edwards are now on satellite radio, and formerly conventional radio stations have started offering Internet and digital high definition versions. But no matter how the shows reach listeners, there’s still an audience for radio. Check out:

Don McNeil and His Breakfast Club by John Doolittle (includes CD).

I Hid It Under the Sheets: Growing Up With Radio by Gerald Eskenazi.

And the Fans Roared: The Sports Broadcasts That Kept Us on the Edge of Our Seats by Joe Garner (includes two CDs narrated by Bob Costas).

Voices in the Purple Haze: Underground Radio and the Sixties by Michael Keith.

Sounds in the Air: The Golden Age of Radio by Norman Finkelstein.

A Prairie Home Commonplace Book: 25 Years on the Air With Garrison Keillor
edited by Marcia Pankake.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Summer Reading Program

On June 20, the Fairfax County Public Library launches its annual Summer Reading Program. It is one of more than 9,000 public library systems in the U.S. that encourage kids to read for pleasure during the summer. Last year more than 43,000 youngsters participated in our Summer Reading Program here in Fairfax.

Preschoolers to sixth graders read 15 books (or have the books read to them), and students in grades 7-12 read eight books. Kids can read any books they choose. If they need some suggestions to get started, they can pick up a copy of the library’s newsletter This Month. Here are some samples of the recommendations they can find there:

Preschool to 2nd Grade
The Great Tulip Trade by Beth Wagner Brust
The Best Seat in Second Grade by Katharine Kenah
If Not for the Cat: Haiku by Jack Prelutsky
Spiders! by Nicole Iorio

Grades 3-6
Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin
The Magician’s Boy by Susan Cooper
Captain Fact: Dinosaur Adventure by Knife
The Get Rich Quick Club by Dan Gutman

Teens
Keeper by Mal Peet
Plastic Man: On the Lam by Kyle Baker
Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka
Clueless About Cars by Lisa Christensen

Jacqueline Kennedy may have said it best: “There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all." Encourage your kids to read this summer!

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup Fever

The world’s largest sporting event, the World Cup, launches today with 32 soccer teams and more than 700 players competing in 12 German cities over the next month. World Cup frenzy is so intense that the game has been credited with both starting and ending wars. The tournament is blamed for inciting the six-day Football War between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969, and ESPN claims the Côte d’Ivoire team forced the antagonists in that country’s civil war to declare a truce during qualifying matches in 1995. Even wives and girlfriends of the players, facing a month of lonely evenings, have set up their own Web site.

Known as soccer in the U.S. and football in the rest of the world, the history of the modern game dates to the early 1800s when efforts were made to standardize the rules used by famous English public schools. The first World Cup competition evolved when the 1932 Olympics planning committee decided not to include soccer in the Los Angeles games due to its lack of popularity in the U.S. The Federation Internationale de Football Association, the sport’s governing body, thus decided to organize the first world championship in Uruguay in 1930. Thirteen countries participated  seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America.

This year’s World Cup boasts the largest number of first-time participants since 1930, as well as the only team from a non-existent country to compete. The Federation of Serbia and Montenegro team will play under a flag that no longer exists since the two nations recently split (2006 FIFA World Cup -- Wikipedia).

For more on the world’s most popular sport, check out:

Soccerhead: An Accidental Journey Into the Heart of the American Game by Jim Haner

White Angels: Beckham, Real Madrid and the New Football by John Carlin

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globilization by Franklin Foer

National Pasttime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer by Stefan Szymanski

Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby