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Meghan Trainor TitleNow, I had heard “the song,” — you know, the one about the “bass” — but honestly I had under-appreciated it.  I mean, sure, it’s a catchy song, clever, and affirming, but did you also know that it nearly single-handedly redeemed the use of the saxophone in pop music for me?  In fact, it did such a good job with the baritone saxophone lines in its make-up that I was happy to hear a return of the baritone saxophone on multiple tracks throughout Trainor’s newest album, Title, and was even able to exult in a little tenor saxophone dalliance near the end of “Dear Future Husband.”  Wow.  Oh yeah.  And Meghan, she sings pretty good, too.

Suggested Use: Definitely a warm weather album.  So, if you’re tired of the cold and ready for Summer, put this disc on and break a sweat lip-syncing to your favorite tracks.  My favorites, clearly, will be the ones with baritone sax.  I am, as you say, all about it.

“A day may come when men and women will curse the name Los Alamos.”

This was said by J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico, when Japan surrendered in August, 1945, ending World War II. Atom bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, killing thousands. He was addressing the community of workers and their families who had toiled in secrecy for over two years on a dusty plateau in the mountains above Santa Fe to develop a weapon of mass destruction before the Germans did.Wives of Los Alamos

At the core of this community was a group of brilliant physicists, chemists, mathematicians, and metallurgists recruited by Oppenheimer from universities, labs, industry. Some were still graduate students; the average age of recruits was 27. Some were scientists who had fled Europe, Poland, Russia. The community also consisted of clerical workers, technicians, workers in the grocery, the hospital, the PX where many dined. Some of these were members of the Women’s Army Corps. There were military police everywhere to maintain the security, the secrecy, and monitor anyone coming and going or possibly spying.
The novel, The Wives of Los Alamos, by TaraShea Nesbit focuses on the wives of the scientists in this artificial, improvised city. They were young, educated, curious. Some were mothers, and some had left university teaching positions to accompany their husbands to a place they could tell no one about. Their phone calls were listened to, their letters censored. Their husbands couldn’t talk about their work in the Tech Area that kept them there late at night.

The wives were recruited to teach at the elementary or high school, to work in the library. But they had lots of idle time to play bridge, gossip, speculate. Were their husbands working on weapons development or code-breaking? They did not know, other than their husbands’ references to “the Gadget.” They let off steam at weekend dances at the PX, where alcohol flowed freely. They hiked or rode horses in the nearby mountains, skied in the winter. The only reasons they could leave Los Alamos were for family weddings or funerals. They could take a bus to Santa Fe for shopping, but were encouraged to be unfriendly to the locals and not talk about any activity on “the Hill.” Nesbit’s novel, based on oral histories, diaries and letters, is effective in its immediacy and insight into a historic time and place.
After the dropping of the bombs, some wives were proud of what their husbands had accomplished, some felt guilty, and some felt confused. A few scientists stayed at Los Alamos to continue research and weapon development. Others returned to academia or industry. This novel conveys what a strange, unique existence it was and the legacy it created.
This August will mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the bombs on Japan to end World War II. Bombs of that magnitude have not been used since then, although several countries possess them. Is that a good thing? Do we live in fear of not if, but when, such a weapon will be used again? Do we curse the name Los Alamos?

The short Pulitzer

The 15-Minute Pulitzers

Old Man and the SeaImagine my delight a few days ago, when my copy of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize winner arrived and I discovered it to be only 127 pages long.  I know that makes me sound a bit miserly, or even very miserly, but there are just so many hours in a day and I get tired around 7 at night.  (I’m not 19 anymore.)  Anyway, I cruised through Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer, The Old Man and the Sea (his last novel published during his lifetime and the one cited specifically in his Nobel win of 1954) in a weekend and still had time to go see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies for a second time.  Nothing like pseudo-medieval mythology from before the Second World War to set off a spent (and nearly perfect) weekend’s Sunday night.

And the book, Hemingway’s book, by the way, was pretty great.  Not only was it succinct, it was a page turner.  I mean, imagine being dragged out to sea by a giant swordfish that you’d hooked through your considerable experience and skill, then facing the vastness of the ocean with only your wits and a much patched sail and sailboat.  Imagine now that your story is told with such poetry and power that the hearers invest emotionally and begin to care deeply about the outcome, and imagine that near the end you are made to reconsider the meaning of achievement and pride and brotherhood.  Perhaps I’ve just turned Hemingway’s literary nuance into sentimental cliche, but, oh well.  For the real experience, and the ending (I believe I have yet to give away even one!), you’ll just have to read the book.  If you feel differently than I’ve described (hmm) it could be that you are heartless and mistaken, but then, it’s probably more that I’ve always been kind of old at heart and have a weakness for stories about old men (and ancient dwarves) facing high odds.  You tell me.  It’s your weekend.

parentology

Parenting is a hot topic these days. It is also a hot-button issue. Everyone has their own version of perfect parenting and is willing to blame every other type of parenting for the perceived failures of children. If you check ACPL’s catalog you will see that there are more than 11,000 records that have parenting as a keyword. Whether you believe “spare the rod and spoil the child” or “no spanking — violence begets violence,” someone will judge you or make you feel as if you are being judged.

Recently the debate has centered around free-range and helicopter parenting. Quite a few news stories are highlighting instances where civil authorities are judging parents for what the parents thought were simple parenting choices, like letting your children walk to the park without supervision. Who is responsible for determibreakthroughning when a child is old enough to be given responsibilities and when they are so young they need supervision? Should children be taken to child protective services simply because they were walking home?

Several bloggers who have lived in both the United States and overseas — Europe and Asia — think that we may have things backwards in the U.S.  In Europe and Asia children are expected to walk and bike to various locations, even use public transportation, all by themselves.  Parents are discouraged from driving their children around.  Children are not given snacks every time they are hungry, but are encouraged to wait for meals and are expected to eat what the adults eat.  They are free to climb trees, use knives in the kitchen and skin their knees as they play outdoors. This was the way I was raised.  I don’t quite know when or why our attitudes changed to fearing any sort of harm that might come to our children, to the point that children can’t play in their own yards today unless an adult is supervising.  Where are you on this spectrum?  Are you in favor of free-range parenting, or are you more of a helicopter parent?

sixAn interesting comparison of “readiness for first grade” guidelines shows that in the book Your Six-Year-Old, published in  1979, children were expected to be ready to read, add and subtract, as well as be able walk four blocks to a known location by themselves.  Today’s standards list pages of academic accomplishments a child should reach before first grade, but say little or nothing about a child’s ability to act in the world around them.

Puerto Rico is considering a law that would fine parents if their children are obese. Other laws threaten fines for the parents of children who bully other children. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t make laws that prevent parents from using their judgment in teaching their children responsibility and laws that punish parents for not teaching responsibility.  We shouldn’t have laws for either.  These are morality issues rather than legal issues.  Standards of parenting change from generation to generation, but what are we afraid of?  The world is no less safe now than it was in 1979, but governments and schools are getting scarey.

Try this buzz feed quiz to see what kind of parent you are (non-judgmental quiz).

For more on issues of parenting, try these links:

Controversial parenting style
Parentology
American parents have it backward
Obesity fines
Bullying
Banning technology
Spy on your teens
Vaccination debate
Vaccines and politics
Foster homes for fat children
Fining parents
Ready for First Grade?
1979 first grade checklist
Case for free range parenting

Send in the clown car!

Its road trip time! Yes, If the Viscount Falls has a road trip, and not 9781476786049_p0_v2_s260x420just any road trip. It’s a crowded road trip. This story is the fourth in The Duke’s Men series by Sabrina Jeffries, and I have to say, I haven’t been all that impressed with any in that series. And this one is no exception.

We have as our hero, Dom, the disinherited son of a viscount (which, by the way, I’m not sure could have been legal) and our heroine, Jane. Twelve years before this story begins Jane and Dom were engaged; however, because Dom luvvvved Jane so much he decided that since he’d been disinherited he wasn’t good enough for Jane, so instead of telling her what was going on, he stages a fake seduction of her cousin Nancy. His thinking is if Jane sees him in the act of forcing himself on Nancy, she will break off the engagement and that will somehow make everything OK. I cringed at this silly convoluted thinking. How this plan could possibly work was beyond me, but it did and Jane broke the engagement. However, later in the book it is revealed that she was probably on to him from almost the beginning. What made her mad was he made the decision for her. She was peeved. How dare he be so controlling. Let me tell you, her “how dare he be so controlling” attitude became pretty irritating after it was mentioned for the zillionth time in this book. In fact, Jane was quite an annoying character throughout the entire story. If she wasn’t whining, she was haranguing Dom about his leaving her for twelve l-o-n-g years, over and over and over and over.

Of course Dom wasn’t any less irritating; he was a controlling bonehead for most of the narration. How he and Jane would ever have a happy ending was beyond me. These were two of the most unlikeable characters I’ve encountered in a lonnnnng time. On top of that they were pretty immoral. She is engaged to a reasonably nice guy by the name of Edwin and Dom is trying to resist Jane’s “oxytocin putter-outer.” But they fail miserably and embark on an over the top “purple” bump and grind scene – moisture, grunts, groans, spit, slick stuff, hard things all over the place. It was truly ick-worthy, and while I’m on the subject of ick let’s talk about siblings. I love my brother; we have what I can only assume is a pretty typical sibling relationship – we bicker, we tease, we talk. But I would be really uncomfortable if he started to talk about his “whoopity-doo” life to me, which is what happens in this book. Dom’s sister Lisette doesn’t seem to have any problem revealing to her brothers what she and her husband do in the bedroom. In graphic detail! And this is in the Regency times! I know this scene was supposed to be funny and was supposed to show that these particular siblings could banter, but it was icky.

There were also numerous anachronisms that jumped out and threw me from the book. I’ve noticed in a lot of the historicals I’ve read lately that there seems to be an increase in modern language in these books, and as I’ve said before, if I like the book I can usually overlook them. However, it is starting to bother me more. It seems to me that the use of anachronisms is on the increase with authors who have been around the block awhile and should know better.

Let’s talk about crowding. This book has an overabundance of characters, and I got lost among the horde. I couldn’t keep track of who they were or what book they were from. There’s Lisette, Zoe, Edwin, George, Shaw, Tristan, Nancy, Max, Dr. Worth, Lord and Lady Ravenswood, Yvette, Ambrose, Claudine, Victor, Eugenie … a never-ending supply. While not all of these people show up for the road trip, most of them are there for the epilogue. By the way, the road trip is also crowded. After a few chapters of being alone together on the road, Jane and Dom are joined by Lisette and Max in one carriage and servants in another. It was a silly, over-the-top road trip.

I had a hard time finishing this book. There were numerous times I just wanted to close it and move on. As much as I am a supporter of romance novels and a great admirer of them, this one was tough to read. In the end I cannot recommend this book.

Regency England

ACPL app update

Our app developer discovered a problem with the ACPL Mobile app for iOS last week: it was not connecting to the library to display account information. An update fixing the snafu was submitted to Apple right away, but it can take about a week for it to be available in the App Store. The update is available now in the App Store! Make sure you get v2.11 (March 16) — this is the updated, corrected version.

Remember, you may always access your account online via a web browser at http://www.acpl.info or http://alpl.ent.sirsi.net/client/default/search/patronlogin/. You may call us at 260-421-1240 for 24-hour automated renewal by phone, or at 260-421-1200 during Main Library operating hours for any other assistance.

We’re very sorry for the temporary inconvenience and we hope you continue using the library app.

acpl app

Growing up far from Civil War battlefields, my first visualization of them came via a book, a great book, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. Its painted two-page bird’s-eye views — complete with tiny soldiers marching across golden fields and green forests and firing tiny cannons — engrossed my 10-year-old imagination and spurred me toward the many battlefield visits I have taken. It also fueled my lifelong fascination with maps.

This month, as I plan a vacation and work on a hobby project, I am absorbed by maps; some are in books and some are on the Internet. Although each has advantages, I wonder whether in another computer generation map books — despite all their beauty and utility — will become unprofitable. Many online map images still load slowly or are hard to read, but Mapquest, Google Maps and the like are amazingly helpful, while the slickest websites can give you views of old maps that rival the experience of holding the original documents in your hands.

Maps and MapmakersFor instance, we have a book called Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War that features maps made during that time. It’s a large book, and the images of the maps  are somewhat  readable.

But take a look at this set of old Civil War maps on the Digital Public Library of America website. The DPLA is a large collection of images from libraries, archives and museums across the country. It’s still in its toddlerhood and can be awkward to use, but when you get to this kind of good stuff, it impresses. In the lower right corner is an icon that enlarges the image to your full screen, and you can use your mouse roller to easily zoom in or out. The upshot is that you can comfortably see details that you’d have to put your nose on a paper map to equal.

American Heritage Civil WarI expect map books to be available as long as I’ll want them, but it’s easy to imagine that my grandchildren will never open one as adults. Assuming Internet speeds improve, the color, detail and utility of maps on a tablet or comparable device will just be too good, and too easy to find. (If you think, however, that I’m wrong, I’d be interested in reading why in a comment below.)

By the way, our copy of the old American Heritage book can’t be checked out of the library, but there’s a newer title, which appears to have the same illustrations, that can. It’s called American Heritage: Battle Maps of the Civil War.

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