Are you ever curious what people are actually reading? If you’re like me, you see all the books that people are checking out from the library or are buying at bookstores and you wonder if they are really reading those books or not. I know that most of the books that I check out just sit on my shelf until I either return them to put another hold on them or I renew them for another 3 weeks of book shelf sitting. It’s a little frustrating.
While I was poking around on the internet one night before bed, I found CoverSpy. CoverSpy is a Tumblr put together by people roaming around New York looking for people reading. These ‘agents’, as they call themselves, wander into bars, parks, subways, and streets to take note of the cover of the books being read and what the person reading looks like. They also have groups in Vancouver, BC, Omaha, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Montreal, Barcelona, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC that do the same.
CoverSpy caught my interest because instead of posting pictures of the people reading, which vaguely creeps me out because it makes me super self-conscious when I read in public, CoverSpy just posts the cover and a little description of the person reading. And it’s not just books adults are reading! It’s coloring books, kid’s books, cookbooks, how-to manuals, etc. Anything that looks like a book or that could be counted as reading material (BESIDES e-readers and magazines) count!
Each post is set up like the one above. I love scrolling through the list because the description of the person reading can get pretty funny.
This website veers away from traditional book recommendation sites that pull their source information from librarians or book reviewers. Instead CoverSpy pulls anonymously from people who are actually out reading in public. If you don’t find your next read on these site, no big deal. At least you were entertained and maybe laughed a bit.
Let me introduce you to my FAVORITE library resource: TeachingBooks.net, particularly the section entitled Author Name Pronunciation Guide. This section has saved me multiple times! Have you ever wondered how to say an author’s name? Maybe you’ve been saying it one way, you hear a friend say it another way, and then you start second-guessing yourself? I do this all. the. time. So confusing. This problem is just like when you say a word out-loud that you have only ever read before just to have someone correct you and say that you’re pronouncing it wrong. Super annoying, right? Well, lucky for all of us the Author Name Pronunciation Guide at TeachingBooks.net exists. We’ll all become expert author name pronunciators and can spread our knowledge to others! Sounds perfect.
That will bring you to a page that looks like the one below! Click on Audio Name Pronunciations.
Viola! Now you’re at the Author Name Pronunciation Guide which hopefully will start off with the following paragraph.
As you’re scrolling through that page, you’ll notice thousands of author names. My favorite one to have people play around with is Jon Scieszka because 1) I NEVER say his name right, even though I know about this guide and 2) kids ask for his books all the time and therefore are already familiar with this author. Anyway, scroll through the list and find his name (it’s alphabetical by last name). Once you click on it, a page with all his info will pop up! (Sorry for the tiny print.)
If you click on the orange play button, you’ll hear Jon Scieszka pronounce his name and talk some more. It’s awesome. It also connects you to author’s personal websites and their own page on TeachingBooks.net. Now play around and find out how to pronounce some author names! It’s definitely one of my favorite not-well-known librarian resources.
I also encourage you to click around the regular TeachingBooks.net site because there are a ton of other really good resources there. Who knows, maybe I’ll blog about them in the future!
Every year since 2009, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, England hosts an Astronomy Photographer of the Year Competition. Entries are collected in the spring. Winning exhibitions are displayed at the Royal Observatory September to June. This book is a compilation of the best from the first six years of that contest.
It is hard to believe these images were not captured by the Hubble telescope, but rather by amateur astrophotographers on earth. Flip through the pages of this heavy book and find eyeball-shaped nebula staring back at you from a background of innumerable stars. Feel a shiver as you take in an image of a snowy night with Aurora Borealis coloring the sky in purple and green. Ponder how tiny you are compared to all the galaxies out there. It always fills me with wonder to see images of galaxies and nebulae that resemble eyes or other body parts. I think the one displayed on the cover of this book looks rather like a heart, don’t you?
Some photos, such as the ones tracing the sun’s position in the sky over nearly a year made me wonder aloud, “How did they capture that?!?” The collection is even more remarkable when you consider that some contest entries were submitted by people who have only been practicing astronomy photography less than a year. There are special categories for those who have not entered the competition before, as well as a youth category for ages 15 and younger. You can learn more about the contest at the Royal Museums website.
It begins by following internet pioneer Leonard Kleinrock into a room on the UCLA campus where the first internet communication took place at 10:30pm on Oct 29, 1969, between UCLA and Stanford Research Institute. Kleinrock describes the moment he began typing the very first internet message, “Login.” Before he could complete it, the computer system crashed, and the first message transmitted by the internet turned out to be “Lo” – thus the movie’s name.
Danny Hillis, an American inventor and computer scientist, describes the phone book he owned back in the early days of the internet. It contained the names of everyone on the internet. Can you imagine a directory of everyone on the internet today? It is estimated it would be 72 miles thick.
Director Werner Herzog takes us to Stanford Dept of Robotics, where we learn how the discovery of biomolecule patterns was enhanced by the creation of a crowdsourced video game called EteRNA. Crowdsourcing, as defined by Wikipedia (itself a famous example of crowdsourcing) is “to divide work between participants to achieve a cumulative result.” In this case, a videogame played by a multitude of interested laypeople -“lawyers, grandmas, students, bedridden people” contributed in useful ways to the collective knowledge base about RNA (Ribonucleic Acid), which is present in all living cells. Crowdsourcing has been used in a variety of other ways for the common good. In addition to Wikipedia, another well-known example of crowdsourcing is crowdfunding, the collection of funds from a crowd (for example, Kickstarter). If you would like to learn more about how you can be similarly involved in contributing to the universe of knowledge (sometimes even by playing video games!) see this list of crowdsourcing projects.
While at Stanford, Herzog takes us to Professor of Computer Science and director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab, Sebastian Thrun, who is designing self-driving cars. He addressed the concern for safety of self-driving cars by saying, “When a computer makes a mistake, it learns from it, along with all the other computers (in use and unborn.) When a human makes a mistake, just that one person learns from it.” He shares a fascinating anecdote about a certain class he taught to 200 students enrolled at Stanford. He was able to offer the same course online to interested members of the general public. Over 1000 people signed up for the online class. When he tested them, he found that the best Stanford student ranked 412th among all the students combined. From this he said he learned that for every one great Stanford student, there are 412 better out there in the world who couldn’t or didn’t go to Stanford.
Then, we are presented with some particularly dark sides of the internet. The family of Nikki Catsouras shares their story, explaining why they no longer use email or the internet. Nikki died in a car accident in 2006 when she was 18 years old. Gruesome photos of her decapitated body were posted online shortly after the accident. Then, the family began receiving anonymous emails containing the photos, one with the caption “Woohoo Daddy! Hey daddy, I’m still alive.” The Catsouras family deeply lamented the lack of accountability on the internet.
What would today’s landscape be like without the internet? We find out more about that by visiting Green Bank, West Virginia, home of a telescope 100 meters in diameter that picks up radio waves from outer space. To eliminate interference with the radioastronomy project, all wireless transmissions are disabled within a 10 mile radius. The area has become a haven for people who experience severe physical reactions to being in the presence of radio waves. Diane Schou and Jennifer Wood describe their lives before they moved to Green Bank. They spent all their time inside Faraday cages – boxes named for the 19th century scientist Michael Faraday, designed to shield their contents from electromagnetic fields. Some regard their condition as a supersense. They regard it as a nightmare.
We visit an internet addiction treatment center near Seattle, Washington where we hear the personal stories of some clients. We learn about a South Korean couple who were imprisoned for allowing their newborn daughter to starve to death while they were consumed with playing a video game. Ironically, it was a game in which they were nurturing an electronic baby.
Adler Planetarium astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz tells us about large solar flares called Carrington Events, which have the power to disable communications and create widespread power outages, and how we could see the next powerful solar event soon. We are given a glimpse of what that might look like from footage of a recent, relatively small-scale blackout in New York City. Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss warns “if the internet shuts down, people will not remember how they lived before that.”
Famous hacker Kevin Mitnick is interviewed about the methods he employed to gain access to secured information. He goes into detail about how he manipulated weaknesses in cybersecurity systems, noting that he always found them in the people, not the systems.
In the final third of the documentary, the possible future of Artificial Intelligence is explored. Entrepreneur Elon Musk, who made a fortune through PayPal, talks about the rockets he is launching into space, and his goals of creating a colony on Mars in case Earth becomes unlivable.
Marcel Just and Tom Mitchell, brain scientists at Carnegie Mellon postulate on whether or not it is possible for computers to dream.
The Wikipedia Emergency Project is described. It is a plan that people should print out hard copies of the information found on its website and store them somewhere our heirs can find them should a catastrophic planetary event occur.
The documentary prompted much thought, and left me with so many questions the first time around, I eagerly watched it a second time a couple of weeks later, after I gave myself some time to let the ideas rattle around in my mind for a while. If you like to explore multiple sides of issues relating to the past, present, and future of technology I would recommend you watch Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World.
There is a lot of talk in the U.S. and around the world right now about fake news. What, exactly, is fake news? Generally, fake news is information that is wholly or partially made up, but designed to look like an authentic news report and to attract lots of attention – often resulting in advertising revenue. It often appeals to the strong emotions of its targeted audience.
Oxford Dictionaryacknowledged its influence by announcing the 2016 word of the year: post-truth, an adjective, defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
I think we should all exercise caution especially when dealing with those stories that do cause an emotional reaction. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is fake news (just because you don’t like the message doesn’t mean it is fake news) but it can be a red flag that the story merits double-checking with additional sources. Seek those not related to the first source where you encountered it.
Here are some websites that you can use to evaluate news sources:
The Media Bias/Fact Check news websitehas a search bar on its main page where you can type in the name of a news source and retrieve a scale that attempts to qualify how far to the left or right that news source typically leans. They maintain a list of questionable sources. The website also has a list of what is generally accepted to be the least biased news sources, which you can find here. MBFC explains their methodology and acknowledges that no evaluation is 100% without bias. Check out the list– you may learn about a new source that you will want to make a habit of checking on a regular basis. I’ll admit the ads are bothersome, but it is how they pay to keep the site running.
FactCheck.orgis one source you can use to double-check information. Facebook recently announced that it is partnering with this source to help identify and flag fake news circulated on its platform. FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. According to their website, their mission is “to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics…Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.” This site is primarily focused on U.S. politics. During election years, they will report on the accuracy of what is aired on political TV ads and in debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.
Another source to verify political information is Politifact.com, self-described as “an independent, nonpartisan news organization… not beholden to any government, political party or corporate interest.” They have a long history, which you can read about here. The system of evaluation they use is called the Truth-o-meter, which ranges from “Truth” on one end to “Pants on Fire” on the other. They have a newsletter to which you can subscribe if you wish to receive information updates on the latest fact-checks. They are also partnering with Facebook to help flag fake news when it is shared.
For information that covers a broader array than politics, Snopes.com can be helpful. I like the search option at the top of the page where you can easily type in any keywords and retrieve information on rumors and urban legends. It began in 1995 and has become a well-known online source for debunking falsehoods or verifying facts with evidence.
As an information professional, I encourage people to take some time to verify information sources before accepting them as completely true. When presented with information in any form, take care to ask yourself these questions:
Who wrote/originally said this? Is the author clearly identified? What else has the author written and has it been disputed in any way?
What is this? Is it a presentation of facts? An opinion piece? An advertisement?
When was it written? Is there new information available that could shed more light on or take the place of this information?
Where was the information gleaned? Was the person reporting it actually a witness to the events reported? Is there data/photos to back it up and are the sources cited? Are there quotes from others in the know and are they relevant to the topic being reported?
Why did the author write this? Is it designed to entertain, to influence my purchases or affect my decisions in a certain way?
We at the library want to help you build awareness about information and what it is designed to do. Not all information is presented to simply inform. Much of the information we are deluged with on a daily basis is designed to influence. That is not necessarily bad, but we all need to be aware of how information influences us. Likewise, we need to acknowledge our own personal biases and be honest and gracious with ourselves and others that they exist.
I invite you to learn more about this topic by attending a panel discussion about fake news, hosted at the Eastern Avenue branch library on Monday, Feb. 6th at 6:30 pm. The event is free of charge and refreshments will be provided. Please come with questions for our panelists, which include representatives from local television, print and radio news sources as well as writers and educators in the field of journalism. Visit our webpage for more details.
Unless you’ve been living inside a red and white ball, you’ve probably heard of Pokémon Go. The original Pokémon RPG (role-playing game) video game was released way back in the ancient times of 1996. Beginning as a game for the original Game Boy, it quickly expanded into card trading games, TV shows, movies, more video games, and even a Monopoly board game.
If you happen to be like me and only just now catching up (or you want to know what all the kids are doing) here are some questions and answers.*
So what the heck is/are Pokémon?
The name is a combination of the words “pocket monster.” Players – called “trainers” – find and collect wild Pokémon, and help them evolve into new Pokémon. Trainers also battle their Pokémon, using their Pokémon’s unique characteristics, gaining experience points, to become Gym Leaders and ultimately, the chance to become a tournament champion.
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is a “free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game.”
It’s a game that you can play on your phone or other mobile device that places you (via your avatar) within the game based on your location, superimposing the game world onto the real world.
The company that created Pokémon Go used location data (landmarks, photos, etc.) from another of their games, Ingress, to create the world within the game. So, if you happen to be standing outside Davenport Public Library Eastern Branch, then that’s where you are in the game.
Why are all these people standing around outside staring at their phones? It’s a little creepy.
That’s the augmented reality part of the game. While you see people glued to their phones in an empty field, outside a building, or wherever, they’re actually experiencing the location within the game.
Lots of public places have been made into important locations in the game (more on that later). Players must be within a certain distance to interact with whatever is at the location. And since the game is so popular, some locations have experienced very high traffic. For some businesses (and libraries!) this has been a boon. For other locations, not so much.
It’s true that there have been some horror stories – true and not – about people getting hurt, lost, or finding some terrible things while tracking Pokémon. The most important thing to remember when playing is to pay attention to your surroundings. Believe me, it can be hard. But, the game offers vibration and sound alerts so you can keep your phone in your pocket while you walk. USE THEM – or be eaten by Gyarados!
And it should go without saying, don’t play and drive.
I heard that Pokémon Go is reading players’ emails …
Yup – that’s the “go” in Pokémon Go! If you want to get cool new Pokémon and hatch eggs you will be walking. The game can tell the difference between riding in a car or even biking fast. But it’s a good thing! You get to experience new places you might never have seen before! Meet new people! Exercise!
Firstly, down the game from the App Store or Google Play. Once it’s up and running, sign in using you Google ID, or get a Trainer Club ID.
When you choose your trainer name and appearance, be careful! You CANNOT change either after you confirm!
UPDATE 7/31/16 – An update for Pokémon Go! (1.1.0) now allows trainers to change the appearance of their avatars!
After Prof. Willow’s introduction, you’re dropped into a fairly sparse map. Your surroundings should reflect major aspects in your surroundings, like roads, rivers/lakes, buildings and so on.
On the screen, you’ll see what looks like green confetti or leaves nearby. Those are Pokémon! Once you get close enough (your trainer’s radius is the pulsing purple circle around you) the Pokémon will reveal themselves. Tap on them, and you’ll go mano a Pokémon.
Tossing the Poké Ball correctly takes some practice. If you find the “virtual reality” setting too distracting, you can turn it off by sliding the AR switch at the top. The higher the Pokémon’s CP (combat points) the more difficult it will be to catch. The rings around the Pokémon will give some idea how where and when to toss the Poké Ball. When it’s large and green, toss! Yellow rings mean it will be more tricky, and orange even more so. Pokémon with higher CP (100+) will often break out of the Poké Ball and you’ll have to catch them again. Sometimes, they’ll grow weary of your attempts and run away.
Pokémon can break out?
Yes, once you catch one, it tries three times to get out. If they can’t escape, you get to keep them.
That’s … a bit grim.
What’s up with PokéStops and Gyms?
PokéStops are where you can pick up more Poké Balls, and an occasional bonus item, like reviving potion, eggs, razzberries and so on. PokéStops are usually located at some kind of landmark (although the term “landmark” is used loosely). You have to be within a certain distance to interact with them.
Sometimes, you may see a PokéStop surrounded by pink confetti or petals. That means that some kind soul has set a lure and, hopefully, more Pokémon will come close enough to catch.
Gyms are where trainers can pit their Pokémon against each other in battle to win the Gym, earn points and train up their Pokémon. You have to reach level 5 to enter and view a gym.
What Team should I pick?
That’s entirely up to you! If you have friends playing, you might want to choose the same team so that you can gain and keep control of Gyms. Or, if you live near a Gym that is consistently held by one team, you can join them and help defend it.
<cough>Team Mystic <cough>
How do I identify and keep track of all the Pokémon I’ve caught?
In the game, tap on the Poké Ball icon, then tap “Pokémon” from there you can see the Pokémon that you’ve caught, see how much CP they have and evolve and power up. The Pokédex is like a Rolodex (GET IT?) for the Pokémon you’ve seen and collected. It gives descriptions, strengths and weaknesses and each Pokémon’s evolutionary pattern.
Where are some places that I can go to catch Pokémon?
The Davenport Public Library Main and Fairmount Branches are PokéStops , and Eastern Avenue is a PokéStop and a Gym.
According to David Heitz, the downtown Moline riverfront, Rock Island arts and entertainment district, the Village of East Davenport and Avenue of the Cities are good places to find Pokémon. In Davenport, Vander Veer Park is a very popular place!
UPDATE 7/31/16 – An update for Pokémon Go!(1.1.0) has removed the footprints from the “Nearby” menu, presumably until they can get it work properly.
What the heck do I do with all these Rattatas, Pidgeies, and Weedles!?!
Even though it can get annoying, it’s worth it to keep collecting the common Pokémon. The more you have, the more candy and stardust you get (which you use to evolve your Pokémon). If you have too many, you can transfer them to Prof. Willow and get one Pokémon candy in return.
The game isn’t working, and/or my battery is dead.
Yeah, you’re not the only one. Pokémon Go has been plagued with slow and broken servers since it was released. It also uses up wireless bandwidth, so slow internet connections are also to blame. If you’re wondering if it’s you or the game server, try here: http://cmmcd.com/PokemonGo/.
The game also has some battery saving settings, too. But remember that you must have the game open if you want alerts and to count your steps. Bring a charger!
QC Museum Week is quickly approaching! Have you started planning what museums you’re going to visit? Do you have your favorites picked out. QC Museum Week runs June 18-26th this year. This event is put on by the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, as well as local museums.
This year’s theme is Quad Cities mysteries! Be sure to stop in to one of our many local museums to enjoy exhibits, events, special admissions, and learn more about some Quad City mysteries.
Visit the QC Museum Week website to learn more about the offers that each museum is running. You will also find the websites and contact information for each museum!
(Some of the museums are also participating in the Quad Cities Museum Geocache! Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants are given a specific latitude and longitude that they have to travel to in order to find the treasure. )
In 2014 I found a Black Friday deal for tablets. I could purchase an RCA 7in screen tablet for $30. It seemed like a logical purchase for my two grade school children who were now old enough to operate this type of device. At the time I was thinking that they could download games and watch Netflix. For the first year they had tablets that is exactly what they did. Honestly the last thing I was thinking about was teaching them how to be safe on the internet.
It is has been a year since our tablet purchase and much has changed. While my daughter is content with watching her shows and playing games, my son is starting to watch videos on YouTube. What he really likes to do is watch sports clips such as All Time Best NBA dunks. It is only a matter of time before he starts communicating with other friends online. For the first time I find myself thinking about how to let my children have the freedom to find all the wonderful information the internet has to offer, yet still be safe. I decided to look at some of the newer materials the library has on about internet safety. I also came across some great websites as well.
This video gets real about the dangers children encounter on the internet. It is an Emmy winning four part series hosted by Donna Rice Hughes. Testimonials and advice are given from clinicians, law officers, psychologists, parents, teens, victims and more. This DVD will be available in early May, but you can be make a reserve on this item now. Click on Internet Safety 101.
Online Safety is a juvenile non fiction book available in English or Spanish text. This book explores how to use the internet safely. It discusses social networking, online gaming and cyber bullying. Text is age appropriate for grade school students and includes colored photographs and glossary.
Another juvenile non fiction book combines both how to act appropriately online and also how to be safe using the internet. Both information and activities are presented to help students think critically and work with other students. Online Etiquette and Safetyis a hands on approach to learning about good mannered internet use.
I am a lover of American History, but I must admit that my presidential knowledge is limited. Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in needing to brush up on my presidential repertoire. To start, we have to see what you already know. There were two different quizzes I plucked from the internet that will test your knowledge of the 43 presidents. The first one gives you five minutes to input as many president’s names as you can remember. Thankfully you do not have to know when they served, but you do need a first and last named, spelled correctly. I found that it took me about three minutes to input all the names I knew for sure, which was little more than half. Then I just sat there willing my brain to dig a little deeper, feeling oh so tempted to steal a hint from the internet. Seem a little tough? Well the second quiz tests your knowledge of what the presidents looked like when they were in office. As an added bonus, it is a multiple choice. Unfortunately I somehow did a little worse on this one. Sound like fun? Give them a try.
The Academy Award nominations were announced early on January 14, and the ceremony will take place on February 28. The Academy Awards are widely known as the ultimate acknowledgement in the film industry. Unlike most film awards, the Academy Awards focus on every aspect of film making from Best Production Design to Best Supporting Actor to Best Film of the Year. While it may be the most coveted of all film awards, the actual event is probably the least exciting of any movie award show. Usually they open up with some fun awards, but the middle has a bunch of awards the general public doesn’t really care about that are won by a bunch of people we’ve never heard of. I LOVE this award show, but when the award for Best Sound Editing comes up I take a bathroom break. This is where I stop and thank my DVR for all of the wonderful things it does!
Coincidentally my favorite Oscar moment occurred during the longest ever Oscar ceremony. Of course this particular year I was watching it live and remember it well. In 2002 Whoopi Goldberg hosted the ceremony that would last 263 minutes. That is 1 hour and 23 minutes over the 3 hour allotted time slot. But it was well worth the wait as my second favorite actor of all time finally took home the Best Actor Oscar for his roll in Training Day. Fourteen years later Denzel Washington continues to be a standard in acting as he was awarded the Cecil B. Demille Lifetime Achievement award at the Golden Globes on January 10.
This year is a big year for me as a fan, probably the biggest year in my 20 years of watching the Oscars. Despite everything I just said about the award shows being a bit boring in the middle, I am definitely watching it live this year! My favorite actor of all time is up for Best Actor and he is a shoe in to win. He is one of the few Hollywood acting elite that have yet to take home an Oscar. To earn the nomination, Leonardo DiCaprio was the lead actor for the film The Revenant. For those of you that have not heard by now, the cast and crew had to endure excruciating filming conditions. The weather was was often far below zero and there were multiple set backs and difficulties. Only when temperatures reached -40 degrees did production halt for five weeks. DiCaprio pulls out all the stops for this film, including eating a raw bison liver. Leo is not the only cast member being honored, the film leads the Oscar pack with a total of 12 nominations.
Another highlight of this year’s Academy Awards will be host Chris Rock. Chris Rock previously hosted the award ceremony in 2005. There has been some push for the actor to drop out of hosting the awards due to the lack of diversity of the nominees this year. But as of right now, the actor is standing by the Academy. Rock leaves me laughing every time and I think this show will be no exception.