In case you’re wondering, it has a grade of 7-9%.

I know a few masochists taking part in the area’s premiere social/sporting event, the Quad-City Times Bix 7.

It was my hope this post will collect new knowledge, as well as construct a semblance of personal commitment resulting from the embarassment of not not taking the plunge and registering.  I started writing several weeks ago before the registration price went up, after this brave young lady was randomly chosen to draw the world’s spotlight for a shot at a small fortune. There would be no jackpot victory with any kind of Ed Froehlich advantage thrown thus beginner’s way.

The nadir of six months of accumulated self esteem occurred at the first of four Bix at 6 events, designed to fine tune the mettle of participants.  Methinks these events were designed out of necessity, as this footrace is clearly the magnum opus of convicted Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele.  However, by the looks of the participants, these training runs are more recess time for human gazelles than the potentially injury-prone.

The Bix 7 is what is it means to be a Quad-Citian.  It started as a Prohibition-era cornet playing phenom of dubious repute, became a little jazz festival spawned out of civic pride in the 70’s, and then blossomed into a monolith that almost eclipses our little burg.

However, given the Bix’s history and global renown, there is a surprising dearth of information out there when Google searching for “tips”, “strategy”, and “advice” outside of the sagelike wisdom to drink water and prepare for hills…for real people, that’s embarassing.   It’s 2010 in the age of global GPS and I sadly have to straw poll my neighbors for data.

Advice would be great, as there are hills, and there are HILLS.  Lower-case hills are what are alive with the sound of music.  Bix 7 HILLS are acts of hatred borne of a sadist’s wicked imagination.  They are the hills your grandparents walked up both ways to get to school in the snow.  As I sat there at the base of on mile 3 profusely swearing, I felt like Medic Wade in Saving Private Ryan.

So here are some techniques developed by a pale, sickly amateur, since over several decades of accumulated experience no one has posted any truly prescriptive course advice on the Internet.

1- Run the four Bix at 6 practices.  They are free, and an excellent value because of the safety personnel and water stations.  If you go in there half-cocked, you will have a rude awakening.

2- Take Brady excessively  slow so you have something left.

3- Take two waters at the turnaround and nurse off the second’s cup of ice, also pop 4 GU Chomps

4- Drink a water before the race and eat a bunch of rice at lunch and a couple bananas in the afternoon (can’t rightfully say if this helped, but it didn’t hurt).  Fine for 6pm, not sure about how this would work at 8am.

5– Fire off a rallying soundtrack at about 1.5-2 miles left as you pass Arlington or Davenport street as a reward for making it back up the cruel ascent.

6– Yes, you do need to prepare for hills, but where, what, why and how safely is what no one is covering.  Do a few circuits at Longview Park Rock Island’s bike path in your off days.  Sidewalks are for people paying attention.  Don’t be the person with the MP3 player oblivious to vehicles making turns.  Pedestrians have an obligation to be courteous that comes with their right of way.

Bix at Sixes 1-75:38 2-74:41 3-72:13 4-74:31 (Extreme humidity, for which I am told there is no known cure)  Not exactly a Kenyan pace, but it’s as far into the red as I can push this old jalopy.

With one week left, shin splints and knee pain are signs this bag of bones is betraying me.  Progress toward this foolhardy goal ebbs away with every day of inactivity.  Finish line “refreshments” and 35 dollars spent in vain are the only thing that will rouse me out of bed next week.  The forecast for running through a 7-mile sauna isn’t helping matters either…

Really? I need to talk you into looking at this book? Because, who isn’t ready for dessert, especially the delectable desserts presented here?

Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz is arranged by type of dessert – Cakes; Pies, Tarts and Fruit Desserts; Custard, Souffles and Puddings; Frozen Desserts; Cookies and Candies; and  Basics. You’ll find a lot of standard favorites with interesting flavor twists, ideas for variations, and storage tips (as if these desserts are going to last long enough to need to be stored!)

A sampling of recipes in this book: Watermelon-Sake Sorbet, Apple-Frangipane Galette, Chocolate Orbit Cake, Passion Fruit Pound Cake, Cheesecake Brownies, and Nectarine-Berry Cobbler with Fluffy Biscuits.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I dare you to look through this book and not find something you must make, and make as soon as possible.

“They can’t make me be a princess…I mean, this is America for crying out loud.”

The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot is not only one of my favorite book series, but also one of my favorite audiobook series. In fact, I have only “read” the final two in the series–the first eight were purely experienced by audiobook! I seem to gravitate towards audiobooks where the story is in diary format (Princess Diaries, Bridget Jones, Confession of Georgia Nicholson, etc). They are usually light and funny, and I do not lose track of the story if I get distracted by something else for a second.

For those of you who haven’t seen the Princess Diaries’ movies starring Anne Hathaway (her first role, in fact!) and Julie Andrews, the series follows a girl named Mia Thermopolis as she deals with being invisible at school, having a crush on her best friend’s older brother, seeing her mom kiss her math teacher, and, oh yeah, finding out that she is the sole heir to the throne of a small European principality (the made-up country of Genovia). Mia is incredibly big-hearted and intelligent, but also quite dramatic and neurotic. Thus, she gets herself into all sorts of hilarious entanglements much to the enjoyment (and sympathy) of the listener. Also, almost everyone I know who has read this series has become infatuated with the character of Michael Moscovitz–as in he is right up there with Mr. Darcy for romantic literary figures. If that won’t get you to read/listen to it, I don’t know what will! (and extra bonus, the movies’ version of Michael was played Robert Schwartzman, who will be in the Quad Cities on August 6th to perform with his band Rooney at the Redstone Room.)

My favorite audiobook is NPR Funniest Driveway Moments. The premise, of course, is that you’ll be sitting in your driveway in order to finish listening to the story. I don’t know about that but I did sit at a red light on 4th Street laughing helplessly while Scott Simon interviewed the outrageous Dame Edna (aka Barry Humphries).

As far as I’m concerned, you can’t ask more than that of an audiobook. Goodbye road-rage, goodbye work stress. By the time you get home, you’re relaxed and serene.

All the NPR compilations are reliably good listening due to the fact that they are scripted and edited  by consummate professionals. If you are a fan at all of public radio, you’ll appreciate the skilled interviewing and marvelous voices of  Susan Stamberg, Robert Siegel, Renee Montagne and, of course, the great Scott Simon.

Every day, I have to drive across the bridge to get to work and back home.  Inevitably, cars are backed up for miles and I end up idling on I-74 for long periods of time.  Luckily, I always have an audiobook in my glove compartment for just such an occasion, and the ones that I come back to most often are the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling.  My personal favorite of the audio series is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

For an audiobook, the most important thing to have is a good narrator, and Jim Dale is one of the best.  He has won countless awards for his vocal portrayals of Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the Hogwarts gang.  Even if this is your fifth time hearing the story, Dale manages to evoke such excitement into his presentation of the text that it feels like a whole new experience.  You feel as though you are there at Hogwarts carrying on a conversation with your fellow Gryffindors.

My favorite to listen to has to be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Jim Dale gets everything right, from the light moments to the dramatic.  I have found myself more than once having to pause the CD so that I wouldn’t be driving and crying over the climactic battle scenes  at the same time.  I highly recommend this series, or any other audiobook read by the fantastic Jim Dale.

In addition to listening to an audiobook while on a long car ride, books on CD are a great way to pass the time while gardening or listening to while cleaning the house, or just about anything else!  One of my most recent discoveries is a great mystery with a hint of “chick lit,” Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.

Young, London-based businesswoman Lara Lington has just learned that her 105-year old great-aunt has just passed away – an aunt that she did not even know.  While attending Sadie’s funeral, Lara hears voices and catches an occasional glimpse of a young woman dressed in 1920s attire.  She then realizes that the young woman is not an illusion but is actually the ghost of Sadie at age 23!  Sadie has decided to relentlessly haunt her grand-niece in order to nearly force Lara to help her find her most prized possession, a dazzling, diamond, dragonfly necklace that was stolen before she died.   The pair form an unlikely duo that argue, confide in each other and share a friendship in the most unlikely of ways – all while solving the mystery of the missing necklace.

Twenties Girl has a little bit for everyone -mystery, romance, intrigue and comedy.  A definite recommended read – you may find yourself  circling your block a few dozen times to find out how the book ends!

Summer often means road trips – vacations to visit distant family or to enjoy some of the spectacular landscapes of America. To help pass the time, especially through some of the less interesting sections of highway (can we say “Nebraska”? or “central Illinois”?) – or just to ease your daily commute! – our blogging librarians have some suggestions with their favorite Books on CD. Rita gets us started with something for the vampire fans.

Some years ago, a friend introduced me to the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. Since I enjoy Audio Books, and not just for trips, I decided to try the series. Here at the Davenport Public Library we have the series read by Joanna Parker. The main character is Sookie Stackhouse. The series is a first-person account of Sookie’s life as a barmaid and telepath in the town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Her life includes vampires, including Elvis/Bubba, werewolves, faires, and other supernaturals. Joanna Parker is an excellent reader. She has distinctive voices for each character, which makes the story seem very real. It is my favorite series with my favorite reader.

Another good series for short and long trips is the Undead – Betsy Series by MaryJanice Davidson. Betsy Taylor turns 30, gets laid off, is killed by an SUV and wakes up dead all in the same week. The vampire community is convinced she’s their prophesied Queen. But she’s not having any of it—she’s got shoes to buy! And now the undead world is being turned upside-down by a Bela Lugosi throwback and her subjects expect her to take care of it! Why didn’t she read the handbook? But her would-be consort, Eric Sinclair, is (annoyingly) ever-present. If only he wasn’t so tall, dark, gorgeous…and undead. The reader for this series is Nancy Wu, and she has the 20 something whine down pat. They are fun to listen too.

It’s here at last – after years of planning and months of hard work, the new Eastern Avenue Branch Library will open celebrate it’s Grand Opening tomorrow, Saturday July 10th! Located at 6000 Eastern Avenue, this Branch has been built as a LEED building, making it as environmentally responsible as possible.

The Dedication Ceremony begins at 10:30am, but there will be exciting events all day with live music including the Wizard Rock group “Harry and the Potters”, tours, magicians, displays and giveaways throughout the day. Bring the whole family!

Both the Main Library and the Fairmount Street Library will be closed all day on Saturday July 10, so that all available staff will be on hand to help with the various programs and special events being held at the Eastern Avenue Branch.

The Main Library will re-open on Monday July 12 at 12 noon, the Fairmount Street Library will  re-open on Monday at 9:30am and the NEW Eastern Avenue Branch Library will open on Monday at 9:30am.

Size 12 is Not Fat and Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot, are the first two books featuring former teen queen and singing sensation Heather Wells.  Through an unfortunate series of events, Heather’s days of singing in shopping malls have come to a halt.  Her bad luck includes a mother who ran off with her entire fortune to Argentina and her father who currently resides in prison.  To get back on her feet she takes a job at the fictional New York College as the resident assistant in Fisher Hall, which is also known as “Death Dorm.”  In each of these mysteries, Heather plays an amateur sleuth and assistant to her landlord who, conveniently, is a private investigator and the two team up to solve the crimes that take place in Fisher Hall.

Whether she is trying to find out if her female residents are truly elevator surfing (or being thrown to their deaths) or attempting to seek out the wealthy New York College students who killed the star cheerleader for knowing too much, Heather Wells is a likeable character whose escapades will keep you laughing and guessing.  The third book featuring Heather Wells, Big Boned, completes this series.  Meg Cabot’s mysteries are full of humor, mayhem, murder and a little romance too. 

Recently the magazine Time Out New York listed the 30 best summer blockbusters ever. Borrow some these DVDs from the library and stage your own summer film festival!

Here are the top 10:

10. Aliens (1986) Sigourney Weaver

Ripley returns to the alien planet to stop them from killing off an entire colony. But when she gets there along with a group of marines, they only find one survivor, a small girl. Now they must fight hordes of aliens to save her.

9.Face/Off (1997) John Travola, Nicolas

A federal agent assumes the identity of a presumed-dead terrorist who killed his son. When the terrorist wakes up, he assumes the identity of the agent.

8. Terminator 2 (1991) Arnold Schwarzenegger

A shape-shifting cyborg is sent to the past to kill young John Conner before he can grow up to lead the resistance. But the resistance manages to send a protector back in an attempt to save him.

7. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

Fleeing the evil Galactic Empire, the rebels abandon their new base on Hoth. Princess Leia, Han Solo, R2-D2 and C-3P0 escape in the damaged Millennium Falcon. Later, on Bespin, they are captured by Lord Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker, meanwhile, follows Ben Kenobi’s posthumous command and receives Jedi training by Yoda on Dagobah.

6. Fahrenheit 9/11

Using actual footage and declassified documents, Michael Moore examines the Bush administration’s financial ties to the bin Laden family, Saudi Arabia, and our involvement in Iraq, both before and after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore

Elliott is a young boy from a broken home who discovers an extra-terrestrial creature that has been stranded on Earth – light years from home. Together they form a universal friendship, and Elliott helps E.T. ‘phone home.’

4. Ghostbusters (1984) Dan Akyroyd, Bill Murray

After being kicked out of their university, parapsychology professors Spengler, Stantz and Venkman decide to go into business for themselves by trapping and removing ghosts from haunted houses. After some initial skepticism, business is soon booming as The Ghost Busters rid New York of its undead. When a downtown skyscraper becomes the focal point of spirit activity linked to the ancient god Gozer, however, the problem may be more than the team can handle.

3. Star Wars (1977) Mark Hamill, Sir Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Star Wars: A New Hope opens with a rebel ship being boarded by the tyrannical Darth Vader. The plot then follows the life of a simple farmboy, Luke Skywalker, as he and his newly met allies (Han Solo, Chewbacca, Ben Kenobi, C-3PO, R2-D2) attempt to rescue a rebel leader, Princess Leia, from the clutches of the Empire. The conclusion is culminated as the Rebels, including Skywalker and flying ace Wedge Antilles make an attack on the Empires most powerful and ominous weapon, the Death Star.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Harrison Ford, Karen Allen

Indiana Jones battles fierce Nazis in hopes of stopping them from using the power of the lost Ark of the Covenant.

1. Jaws (1975) Roy Scheider

A Long Island vacation town is preyed upon by a man-eating shark. Recently appointed Police Chief Martin Brody faces domestic troubles and searing criticism for not closing the beaches in the wake of the deadly shark attacks. Now, Brody must decide how to retake the waters, employing the aid of a young ichthyologist and a vengeful fisherman.