Revenge of the Nerds

Picture of NerdsWhen thousands of computer guys and gals put their competitive spirit into an effort, you benefit and companies suffer. Here is a greatly abbreviated list of some excellent programs you can install on your computer for free, thanks to their efforts testing and writing code to one-up one another. Depending who you ask, some folks find them better than their paid equivalents.

1)Open Office – A knock off that is fully compatible with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). Open Office is updated far more frequently, and does not cost several hundred dollars. It costs $0. I uninstalled Microsoft Office because I liked this one better.

2) AVG – Free antivirus program. Works pretty good. You can’t NOT have an antivirus program. That’s asking for trouble.

3) Comodo – There are a lot of creeps out there that would love to get into your computer through the Internet. Run Comodo Firewall and keep them out. Doesn’t make your system run like molasses like some of the so-called total protection programs you can buy.

4) Spybot – When the creeps get in your computer, how do you get rid of the junk they drop all over the place? Spybot Search and Destroy is an excellent spyware detection and removal program. Run it and see for yourself how much they’ve already dropped all over your computer without your permission.

5) Gimp – Would you like to edit your photos but don’t want to spend a few hundred on Photoshop? The GIMP doesn’t have as friendly of an interface, but it does let you do advanced editing beyond crop and resize for the low low cost of nothing.

See what happens when you can get techies to stop playing World of Warcraft for a few minutes?

The Armchair Traveler – Italy

Armchair TravelerEscape with the Armchair Traveler to beautiful Italy. These are not all “travel” books per se, but they will transport you from the frigid Midwest to warmer climes.

Without Reservations: the Travels of An Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach

Steinbach immerses herself in the neighborhoods and culture of European cities she travels to, but she is at her best when describing the thrills, hardships and annoyances of traveling alone.

As the Romans Do: The Delights, Dramas, and Daily Diversions of Life in the Eternal City by Alan Epstein

Again, Europe is seen through the eyes of an American, so the smallest of details of daily life are recorded and celebrated. Epstein describes the communal lifestyle of Rome (hanging out in the piazzas and raising children as a community) He revels in the elegant and beautiful art of conversation and sense of style that is particular to Romans.

Italian Journey by Jean GionoVenice

Written right after WWII, this is an elegant and elegiac view of northern Italy, and Venice, in particular.

An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser

Suddenly single, the author decides to take a trip to Italy where she begins a romance and a journey through Italy. An unsentimental but sensuous memoir.

The Fall of the Sparrow by Robert Hellenga

This novel merges the midwest and Italy, as a classics professor travels to Italy to attend the trial of terrorists responsible for his daughter’s death. (the author teaches at Knox College in Galesburg).

The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones

Jones balances his love for Italy with the realities of political corruption, Italy’s obsession with soccer and beauty, and Silvio Berlusconi

Next week: the Armchair Traveler visits New York City.

In Defense of Food

In Defense of FoodIs your head spinning from all the conflicting studies about what you should or shouldn’t eat? Michael Pollan makes a case for eating simply in this, his follow up book to The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He isn’t concerned with calorie counting or faddish lists of do’s and don’ts, but rather promotes a balanced, reasonable and pleasurable approach to food. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. With so many “edible foodlike substances” on the market, Pollan advocates eating whole foods our grandmothers would recognize rather than the processed foods that claim to be nutritious. Fellow foodies will find this a refreshing book by a man who clearly loves good, real food. This is a great read to inspire lots of shopping at the local Farmer’s Markets this spring.

Also check out Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life for more ideas about how to eat local and fresh.

Take a listen to Michael Pollan’s talk given in Iowa City on WSUI radio’s Live from Prairie Lights

Know a teen that would like to see their shorts on the big screen?

making moviesThe really big screen!

We’re having a film festival for teens of the Quad Cities. For full details, call the Davenport Public Library at 563-326-7893. But a bit of information now might help. The Quad-City area Public Libraries have put out a call for entries for our first ever YouTube film fest. We would like teens to create a 3 to 5 minute film that they post to a special account on YouTube.com and turn in to us.

To make this even more fun, the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre® have invited us to have a Red Carpet Event to showcase the winners. Prizes will be awarded for movies selected by the librarians and by audience choice.

So join us for the event on Thursday, March 13 at 7:00 PM as area teens present their YouTube movie on the giant IMAX® screen.

No registration is required for the free screening on the 13th, but teens must register their entries by March 8th. Entry forms are at both the Main and Fairmount libraries, or any local public library. More information is also online at www.davenportlibrary.com.

The Last Great Race

Iditarod sled raceAlaska, with it’s stunning scenery and distance from the continental United States holds a romantic place in the minds of most American’s. There is still wildness there, and vast spaces and untamed land and its people are tough and maybe a bit eccentric. You expect things to be bigger and wilder and more spectacular in Alaska, and usually it delivers.

Today marks the beginning of one of sports more spectacular events, the running of the Iditarod sled dog race which opens with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage. Often called the Last Great Race, the Iditarod covers 1150 miles over snowy, rugged terrain across wild Alaska. It is held to commemorate the 1925 life-saving run made by sled dog to deliver serum to avert a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. The official site of the race gives you a ringside seat to the spectacle offering streaming video, history of the race, up-to-the minute news, bios of mushers and dogs, an interactive map of the route, a tracker which lists each competitor and their position in the race and weather reports. From start to Red Lantern (the traditional award given to the last finisher) you can join in the excitement of the event from the warmth of your living room.

If you want to find out more about the Iditarod and it’s colorful history, the library has several books on the subject in the 798.8 call number area, including Gary Paulson’s lyrical Winterdance: the fine madness of running the Iditarod.

4 Fun Facts About Leap Year

Leap Year is February 29Of all the months of the year to add a day to, why did they pick February? I would have voted for May or June or maybe September, but February? Someone needs to pay for this….

In the meantime, here are some fun Leap Year Day facts:

1. People who are born on February 29 are sometimes called Leaplings. They celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1 (there’s no hard and fast rule on that) on non-leap day years.

2. An extra day is added every four years to balance the calendar. Contrary to what you learned in school, a year is not 365 days long; it is 365.24219 days long. The Julian calendar (we’re using the Gregorian calendar now) did not adjust for this difference and the calendar got out of sync with the seasons. Now an extra day is added (again, why February?!) every four years except for century years that are not exactly divisible by 400 (got that?)

3. In some cultures Leap Year Day is the day that women may propose marriage to a man, or it is the day that women can ask a man on a date. In America, it is sometimes the occasion to hold a Sadie Hawkins dance, named for a character in the Lil’ Abner comic strip who was looking for a husband.

4. It’s called a “leap year” because the extra day means that a calendar date (such as your birthday) which falls on consecutive days of the weeks during non-leap years, will skip a weekday this year thus “leaping” over a day. For instance, if your birthday fell on a Monday last year, this year it will fall on a Wednesday rather than a Tuesday (clear as mud, right?)

You can find more fun calendar facts like this for every day of the week in Chase’s Calendar of Events. Ask for it at the Reference desk.

Davenport Public Library Podcast #1

The Davenport Public Library is happy to announce the creation of our own weekly-ish podcast. The intent of the program is to focus on the Quad-Cities community and library issues in general.

Some of our podcasts will present the highlights of interviews conducted with local area veterans as part of the World War II/Korean War oral history project conducted . Our very first podcast looks at the experiences of area veteran Robert Rubley as a minesweeper (15:01).

Please subscribe to this free show in the Itunes music store so you’ll get a piping hot MP3 every time a new episode comes out. Or, just stream them off this blog by hitting “Play” below.

Just a Reminder….

Both locations of the Davenport Public Library (Main St and Fairmount) will be closed today, Wednesday February 27 for a Staff In-Service. We’ll be busy honing our skills and learning how to create the best possible library for you. Plus, we get to wear jeans, so we’re pretty excited! We’ll be open again our regular hours on Thursday (9:30am-5:30pm at Fairmount, 12pm-8pm at Main)

Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch

The Garden PrimerSpring is coming. Really, it is. And despite evidence to the contrary, it’s coming soon. Now is the perfect time to get serious about planning your garden – those juicy tomatoes and glorious flowers don’t plant themselves you know!

The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch has long been one of my favorites – there is something about her writing style that makes you think “Sure, I can grow that. No problem.” Encouraging and practical, she covers everything – from digging the garden bed to how to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and bulbs – without being overwhelming. Topics include composting, growing native plants, dealing with critters and essential garden tools. A new, revised edition has just been released with updated plant varieties and additional topics; recommended garden practices are now 100% organic.

And if you’re landless or just don’t have the time to garden but still love to eat well, the Davenport Farmer’s Markets open for the regular season on May 3! (Until then, winter markets will be held at the Freight House on March 1 and April 5)

Post-Oscar Fun

PopcornSo, how did you do with your Oscar pool? A couple surprise winners – Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress and Marion Cotillard for Best Actress among them – probably messed up more than one score sheet. A complete list of winners can be found on the official Oscar site. If you want to catch one of the movies highlighted last night (or one of hundreds of others), be sure to check the library’s collection; we’ll be purchasing or have purchased all of the winners (Atonement, Juno and There Will be Blood aren’t on DVD yet but we’ll order them as soon as release dates are announced) Place holds on your favorites and we’ll call you when they’re available.

Of course, half of the fun of Oscar night is watching the stars and seeing the beautiful gowns. Get a recap of the all the glamour (and missteps!) at Entertainment Weekly’s online site and on E! Television’s site. What do you think – who had the best dress and who needs to hire a stylist?

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