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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 ńĆapek 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?