Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Trip To Indian Orchard

So the plan for this weekend was to go to the bookfair held in Suffield to support the Kent Memorial Library. Alas that did not come to be due to tornado warnings in the area. With our recent history here concerning tornadoes I decided that driving a few towns away was not in my best interest (and yours my faithful following). On the positive side though this was the 42nd Annual Book Sale so I feel that there will probably be another next year.

It doesn't look like its in Springfield! A plus!
That doesn't look like its in Springfield! A plus!

So then, how in the world did I end up in Indian Orchard of all places???? I am sure that you deduced from the title that is where I went. Well it was a long and arduous journey, I finally arrived there to claim my prize! Yes, the Springfield Public Library had run a little contest on Facebook asking people to associate various fantasy locales with their parent books and stories. Well I added my two bits to the list of answers and I won. It was a moment of heartfelt joy. They said that they would contact me when my book was available and they did! It was good.

My Precious!

This little trip I have been planning for... oh.. two years I think. I tell you that it was well worth it. This branch in the Springfield Public Library System is a nice comfortable place to visit. That is what I looking for in a branch. Is it a comfy place to relax and read a book. Obviously, in these days of inter-library loans and statewide library collectives you aren't really going to judge it by selection. However, even in saying that I was very impressed by the media available there.

I am glad that they kept the old CCs.

The parking is on-street so that can be a little dicey, but on an average day I would say that you would be fine. It is located in a nice area of Indian Orchard. There are some nice shops nearby if you want to run out and get a coffee or grab some lunch.

I love paper lanterns!!

My only critique would be to get some larger reading chairs. Now I know the joke, haha, fat, lazy American can't fit in a chair. No, these chairs are small for an Asian middle-school girl. They are small. Move those over to the children's reading area and get a good man-sized man couch in there. That is my only critique. Aside from that the building is a lovely revival style building. It has modern amenities and is replete with artwork. It is a good, quiet reading environment.

Nice quaint atmosphere! I like it! I don't have a pic of the chairs though. Next time!

The building construction itself was funded by a grant from that evil, greedy industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The branch was opened in March 18, 1909 and has stood at that same location for more than a century. I could feel the history when I walked in. The grant paid for the Library Proper and three branches. The first of which was Indian Orchard. The second was the Forest Park branch. Now the third I can't seem to locate in my little bit of researching here. I sense another blog post coming out of this mystery.


Here is nice link detailing the branch's 100th Anniversary !!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Sunny Day In Suffield [Kent Memorial Library]

Not my photo, but nice too!
So I found myself in Suffield yesterday. Now if there is one thing that you should know about Western Mass it is this - if you ever find yourself off the beaten path there is some beautiful driving around here. Farms, pastures and Victorian and colonial houses abound. It was on that lovely drive down that way that I said to myself - you know this would be a great day to stop into the library here and visit for a blog. It has been far too long. The Sun was out. That muggy Summer air was being pushed out by a cool front rolling down from Canada. Yes it was hot, but the shade and shelter of a friendly setting would be nice. So after I completed what I had to do I swung back that way.

Now I know what you are thinking. Eric, isn't Suffield in Connecticut and thus not a part of your original blog mission? Yes, you are correct. It is in Connecticut, but it used to be a part of Massachusetts - Western Mass to be precise. So the former Southfield which at one point (aside from the Cape) was the southernmost point in Massachusetts (at least to the Sprinfieldians, thus its name). In my ultimate wisdom I have granted it an honorary status and once again claim that land for Massachusetts. Looking back, Connecticut did have a point why not just run the damn line straight across. Mass still had Maine at this point, so yeah taking advantage of a surveyor's error really was a land grab.

Ye Olde Behemoth
Now the history of how that town's original border came to be is pretty humorous. It reads like two cranky neighbors arguing over where the property line is to put up a fence (border disputes are nothing new, but it is still pretty entertaining to read). The fence is eventually put up and Suffield - daughter of Agawam, Grandaughter of Springfield is born in 1674. Settled by a Pynchon. Reading the histories of how many local towns spun off from other larger towns is a fascinating read. [Actually, as I was driving around I also saw the building for the Suffield Historical Society. I am going to have to stop in there and visit one of these days as well.]

Well over the years of colorful New England history, border wars, the King's Phillip War and such, Suffield is eventually annexed by Connecticut in 1749. The factional back and forth raged in the town for generations. Until the point where the pro-Connecticut 'dissenters' took power at the town meeting made their application to the court of Connecticut. And they were pretty serious about it too because they were going to right to the King to settle it once and for all. An excerpt from the town history detailed in History of Suffield, IN THE COLONY AND PROVINCE OF THE MASSACHUSETTS BAY, NEW ENGLAND COLLECTED, TRANSCRIBED AND PUBLISHED BY HEZEKIAH SPENCER SHELDON. 1879:

"Voted that Lewt Aseph Leavitt Be Joyned as an agent with Capt Lyman to Prosecute the affair of Geeting of to Connecticut; who are joyntly & severly Impowered to make application to ye General Court at Connecticut to Receive us under their Jurisdtion and Protect us, and to mack application to ye Great and General Court of this Provinc to Be Relesed from thair Judisdiction, and with ye agents of Woodstock, Somers, & Enfield, to Do any thing Necessary to Prepair the Case for a tryall att ye Court att Greate Brittain, if we cant obtain our Right without, and to be at our Preportionable parte of ye Cost with sd Towns acording to the Respective List of each Town, allowing the major Parte of the agents upon good advice shall govern the affair."

It was fun reading because the name family name Kent came up often and lo' I went to The Kent Memorial Library. Which is a very nice library - a good town-sized library. Modern by architectural standards. Parking was great! There's a small grocery store and plaza out behind it.

A little Zen with your read?
When I walked into the building it screamed 70's and I was right. Those buildings always evoke a strange feeling in me for some reason. The present building was constructed in 1972 after the original building erected in 1899 outgrew its confines. The original building was purchased by the Suffield Academy and the library moved across the street. They recently had an upgrade just last year which I read on their Facebook page. It is very open to the outside with much by ways of atria and glass walls. So that sunny day really gave the building an uplifting feeling.What I truly loved about this building is that it had a glass-enclosed, open-sky rock garden reading area in the middle of the library - very clever and a nice touch.

There was a small art gallery downstairs which I poked around a bit, but it looked closed so I didn't want to pry. I looks as if they hold small public meetings, readings, meet the author type deals in there. A stately grandfather stood across from the counter. They also have a bust of Mark Twain, but unfortunately it is at the town clerk's office for the time being - Sad panda.

The staff there was very cordial to talk to as I found out. There were some boxes of books at the door so quite naturally I poked in and took a look. I had seen some signs on the Green advertising a book sale. I thought that those were for sale. But alas, they were not ready to be sold as was explained to me. They were taking book donations there for the major 'on the town Green' book fair that they do every year. Hmmm... interesting. It is the weekend after labor day. So mark that on your calendars. She saved my book to be priced when they were ready. She also ran off to find a flier for me after my request.

What to choose? What to choose?
It is easy to get to being right on Rt. 75 which is picked up easily enough in Agawam. I had a great little visit there. I look forward to going back later next week to get my book.

(Disambiguation note - There is another Kent Memorial Library in Kent, CT)

Here are some great links about the article:

History of Suffield

The Kent Memorial Library

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What To Do With Those Old Payphones?

In these days of cell phones and superior forms of communication the old public payphone is a dinosaur. They stand there like portals into a bygone phone phreaking era. Ripped from their former places of glory they are disappearing one by one.

Today while meandering through cyberspace I happened upon a photo which looked familiar. It was the photo of a phone booth converted into a little impromptu lending library. Now I have been meaning to blog on this cute little topic because I had seen this reported as happening in England. Towns were converting these old phone booths into libraries. They were buying the government owned phone boxes for a discounted price and doing something very good with them. Not all were converted into libraries, but others were turned to other uses like showing off art, wifi hotspots, etc.

Thimble Islands, Brandford, CT.
Now I thought that this fad had started in England, but that may not be the case. The article I read detailing the English phone booth conversion was dated roughly three years ago. However, while I was poking around this morning I found a news article dated five years ago in Connecticut. (Note - that booth is now on the list of places that I am going to visit.) I really am curious to know where this fad started. I love digging into this type of pop-cultural history. I don't know if the people who have been doing this in Britain got the idea from the article about CT. I'll have to look into this. I can't really see these events spawning independently of each other. It is just so in the niche. Obviously, I will start by trying to contact whoever converted the phone booth in CT since that is the earlier conversion.

One of the English phone kiosks.
In researching this article I've found that an individual in New York is spearheading an effort to do something similar in New York. He is installing shelves around still operating phones to do provide a take a book leave a book option. As long as property isn't being damaged I have no issue with. Yet, in NYC I don't see how sustainable this effort is going to be. Its not that I have no faith in New Yorkers, it is just that I have no faith in New Yorkers. The conversions I have discovered have been in rural / suburban settings.   

There is also the phenomena of the Little Free Libraries. Again something similar, but not quite the same. There are quite a few of those little guys all over the place. A few of which are probably in a neighborhood near you. There are three right here in Western Mass. This is a blog for another day.

Overall, this is an awesome idea. This is what I mean by pushing for library support in a positive manner. This shows the community that people need libraries without ticking them off by hiking their trash fee and things like that. I love this idea. It shows actual community support. It shows the community how fun library support can be. Plus, it is just a great to have for a community landmark and adds little spice to local life. I want one!

Adding a little warmth on a snowy day!

For further reading:

Guerilla Libraries in NYC

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If You Happen To Be In West Springfield Tomorrow

Aunt Helen's Herb Garden located in Storrowton Village on the Big E exposition grounds in West Springfield will be hosting a tour of the garden. There is no cost to get in. The garden itself is a full of many types of useful herbs arranged in a way that the average layman can better understand.

The plot is considered a 'teaching garden'. The tour will explain many of the different uses of the various herbs as well as demonstrations. Time is from 10AM to 1PM.

A link to the article talking about this event is here. http://www.masslive.com/living/index.ssf/2012/07/tour_aunt_helens_herb_garden.html

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Will The Pyramids Stand Forever?

Not if Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi‘i
 has a say in the matter.
Last year when everybody was jumping up in down in joy because Momar Qaddafi was deposed and killed I stated openly this is not a good thing. Now the chaos of the Islamic Spring has spread to Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. I predict again right now that the devil we are going to have now is going to be far worse than what had before. This will be evident politically and in other venues. We have blindly and stupidly supported a step toward what may be the nuclear annihilation of Jerusalem or New Delhi. I am not joking or being a sensationalist here. It is my honest level-minded thinking on this subject.

I'm not trying to be a Islamophobe here, but of all the major religions they have the poorest control over their radicals. I believe that a large percentage of their population enjoys their bad boy image at the very least. Now why am I saying this and how is this connected to historical matters? Well, now that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken control of at least some of the Egyptian government calls are coming in to destroy the Pyramids. Yes, the Pyramids.

Now don't sit there and say, oh that is just anti-Islamic propaganda or just some nutcase spouting off. True, caliphate-oriented Islamists have no country other than Islam. Historical monuments dedicated to what nationality or religion they used to be are not only open game but endangered targets of destruction. The destruction of the Library of Alexandria was concluded under Islamic control as was the attempted de-facing of the Sphinx.  More recently and pretty much case in point of the major possibility of this happening was the destruction of the giant Buddha in Afghanistan and the destruction of Mali artifacts in Timbuktu.

Now I have worked with people who follow Islam. I am not condemning them all here. They are normal folk, but these things are happening in the name of their religion. If it is perfectly fine to taint me for every sin committed by a Catholic, thus the same are they tainted. Yes, it is wrong, but it is a sad fact of life. And in the evidence of fairness, yes, we as Catholics have done some very rotten things in the name of our religion. There is a big however here. I would say as a whole we have moved on from the days of the Conquistadors. They have not.

The destruction of the Pyramids would be a sin against history and humanity. I will say that in the same vein that the destruction of Mecca would be just as evil. History and archeology are tools to learn about our past. They tell our story as humans on this Earth. We must always know and remember where we strode, the struggles we faced, to gain insight in how to overcome those obstacles again when we face them again.

I hope, beyond hope, that there are enough clear-headed Egyptians to prevent the destruction of their past.

Read the article here: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/raymond-ibrahim/muslim-brotherhood-destroy-the-pyramids/

Monday, July 9, 2012

Museum Moneyball

When I read opinion articles I honestly do try to read both sides of the argument. I won't always agree with one side, but usually I make the attempt. I do this from the counsel of Sun Tzu who stated, "If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles." So it is good to know the thinking of those you disagree with. With this in mind every now and then an article comes along which goes beyond the effect of making me angry and I just have to roll my eyes back and laugh with an occasional sneer of contempt.

Listening to NPR or reading The Daily Beast usually accomplishes this quite well. So what I have today is an article from The Daily Beast concerning a trend in museums to make the attempt to level out their budgets. The article was the snippy, highly comedic, liberal response to this trend. The author of the piece, Blake Gopnik, was in a real snit over this. The flashpoint which he noted was the changing of the guard at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. He basically likened this trend into turning The Met into your local Burger King or the Nazi takeover over of the Wiemar Republic. He laments the move away from typical Ivory Tower views on art. By that I mean the real art snob views where art is on majestic left-wing pedestals where there is only 'their vision of what is art and what it is not'. Which honestly is pretty funny with all the utter crap they hold up and call art.

Now, I do agree with him to a point. I would not want all museums to fall prey to pop-trend, movie-hype, meme of the day filler just to get the turnstiles moving. Museum endowments are whiddling away and something has to change. I think that spicing up the museums palettes a bit to generate interest is fine. The mood will not be corrupted. No matter how much Blake hyper-ventilates over this trend the museum model will never equate to a get rich quick for-profit model. I akin this change of becoming less 'insular' and 'going downstream' to having the Boston Pops having a night where they play tasteful sci-fi themes. Whatever happens in the museum is still going to be classy. What truly brings people to museums will never change.

You have the choice of watching museums shut down or modifying their business model a bit. Personally, I wouldn't mind some of the leftist art snobs kicked out. (And yes, I'm sorry this a left wing / right wing issue. Art was taken out of the center and placed squarely in the domain of the left).

At the end of the article Blake has the gall to say that while, yes, it was the industrialists who built the great museums of the past age - they were just showing that they were human. Now with people with that same mindset and better business acumen re-taking the reigns 'they better not mess with our insular vision of what art is'. Hey buddy, it was your ilk's turning away of the common folks sensibilities towards art by calling a Crucifix in a jar of urine art and other items like that that started this downward spiral. Now we have to come back in and clean up your mess.

And for a quick clarification I really talking about art museums here. That is where the most controversies lay. Science and history museums while in a bit of the same pinch aren't really susceptible to the 'vision thing' issues - as much.

For a good laugh - http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/09/museums-are-about-the-art-not-racking-up-big-numbers-on-crowds-and-revenue.html

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Making the Web the Mirror of the World

In an earlier blog I noted that the Albert Einstein archives were being digitized and put online. Well that trend of making documents available online continues with the announcement this week that the video footage and propaganda reels of the 'Il Duce' Benito Mussolini will be made available online. In a deal with the Italian government over 30,000 newsreels and documentaries will be hosted by YouTube in the new channel Istituto Luce-Cinecittà . This is part of a larger effort by Google to make available world historical archives and documents. Other documents include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nelson Mandela archives and images from the Yad Vashem holocaust museum.

I support this effort of Google. I think that this is a noble effort which should be supported and lauded. This is a nice content diversification for YouTube. Plus, I think that it ensures that these documents remain online. They could be hosted by a government site or a site supported by a grant, but that is a mercurial existance with no garauntee of being around in the future. I understand that little is garanteed in life, but YouTube/Google is theoretically self-supportive. With Google/YouTube there is the best chance of these documents remaining readily available.

Reading this article reminded me of a couple that my Mom and I used to know. This note is significant because it was listening to their stories which helped forge an interest in me towards history. They were an old couple Alfred and Mary Clark. We met them when we used to live in Whiting Farms in Holyoke. They met when Alfred was with the army in Italy during WWII. Mary was Italian. She used to tell stories of what it was like to live in Italy during the Mussolini regime. She was quite proud when she said that she was present in the crowd when Mussolini was strung up in Milan. A bit macabre, yes, but it sparks the memory. I was always fascinated by the stories she told with her old pictures and memorabilia which she had in her apartment. Its partly those memories which drive me to tell my own in the hopes that I can spark a similar interest in others.

The original Guardian UK article - http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/05/google-mussolini-online-youtube

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Springfield and Shutesbury Woes

Two items on the agenda this evening.

First off, concerning the branch closings in the City of Springfield. I recieved an email update on a proposal for an addition of a $5 trash fee to pay to keep the branches open. This is why I don't vote Democrat. It sounds great on paper, but in reality it won't work. For starters there is no guarantee that the money will be directed to the library system. OK, sure, this time around they keep the branches open, but a couple of budgets down the road those branches will be on the chopping block again. That extra $200,000 (proposed figures) will be spent somewhere else and the people will be stuck paying the added fee.

So, while I support my public library, I have to say that this is not the answer. On one hand it is not fair to those that do not use the library. Yes, many people pay taxes of which some of those revenues go to pay for services that they do not directly use. I understand this. However, this proposal is specific. There is going to be resistance to it. It runs the risk of making people angry at the library system. It is sad to say, but not many people out there are civic-minded anymore (for a diverse amount of reasons). And on the other hand, it is like I said earlier the money will be wasted on projects of a different intent. Just look at the tolls on the Mass Pike if you don't believe me. They were supposed to be removed decades ago. The government will never give up a tax, fee or fine - ever. So don't be fooled into believing that this trash fee proposal is going to save the day.

What you need to do is prove to the city that those branches are needed. People need to organize and use the branches. Cite statistics. Tell stories. If the city feels that those branches are necessary they will be kept open. Or you just wait for the national economy to pick back up and the branches can be re-opened then.

Second item, Shutesbury, It appears that their new library will not be constructed as it was proposed. After much political infighting, votes, appeals, lawyers fees and I think at one point they were throwing melted ice-cream cones at each other it is done. I guess that I have  more time to visit their quaint little library.

Read the story here in Karen's Library History Blog:


On this note I am sad. The state funding was in place to take a majority of the burden. Still though, this is where I have to say it is on us as library supporters to go out and make the case. The cities and towns need to feel that these places are indespensible. Shutesbury was split right down the middle on this. If just a few of those families were willing to support the proposal it would be a different story. Support for libraries is not a left / right / democrat / republican issue. This is local issue and it is fought in the hearts and minds of your neighbors and friends.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Breastfeeding in a Library?

Dateline - Minnesota. Now here is an interesting article. This issue has been in the news here and there as of late - Public Breastfeeding. Now leaving the salacious details aside - is this a library issue? It is not exacting two concepts one commonly puts together. However, if this happens in your local Walmart having it happen in the library was due to happen. In the article a woman who was breastfeeding her child was asked to leave the premises of the library or to go to the bathroom and do it. She was within her rights to do so, but the security guard and librarian asked her to be more discreet. When she refused and a police officer showed up the officer informed them that she was allowed to do it.

In my personal opinion as long as she is not being an exhibitionist about it she has the right to do it. The article says that in the opinion of the guard she was exposed - how much is not clear. The library is considered public grounds. However, I can understand the other side of this. Again, my thoughts here, why the library of all places? But then again, do I want a screaming, hungry baby in the library? There are medical, nutritional arguments against using formula; maybe she can't pump her own milk? Who knows?. Why should she be asked to leave just to feed her child? Using the bathroom is just plain unsanitary and forcing her outside deprives her of her rights to use the library.

It is interesting how the library truly forces an examination of rights, first amendment conflicts, usage and access disputes. Everybody has a right to be in the library as long as they are obeying the law. This issue is a learning issue. I can't blame the guard here. He believed that he was defending the public sanctity of the library. I respect him for that. I'd like to see him in Springfield kicking out the idiots playing music in the reading rooms. The librarian too is not at fault. I was a bit put off by the reaction of the mother throwing a fit about it. She has to be aware that public breastfeeding, truly, is a long, dormant right which is being asserted again. Was she trying to create a scene for attention? I don't know her mind here.

Despite what tragic turns society chooses to take the library remains a place of knowledge, learning and public awareness.

Here is the link to the article:


Coming up next: More Shutesbury Shenanigans!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Student Gets Library Ban For Wanting To Study???

I recently read an article which is just mind-boggling. This story takes place in Ifield, England but I can see this happening here. In this story there is a student who clearly wants to study and is to the point of being neurotic about it. That aside, he wants to study. His desires should be accommodated, but they aren't. Why you say? It is because the college which he is attending just won't make it happen - very sad.

Back in the Middle-Ages when actual education was very rare colleges were unique places to be. Students there, their eyes being actually opened to the world - demanded education. The students demanded that teachers do their job and teach them. If the teacher failed in that task by not showing up or just not doing the job well that teacher stood a good chance of taking a physical beating. Yes, students would actually violently lynch professors for not doing their job. What a radically different world we live in today.

So, back to England, this student got into a confrontation because he wanted to set up an after school session with his professor. The professor did it once earlier in the year, but in the second-half the professor balked (no reason given in the article as to why). Well, the student (I think rightfully) got upset. I'm sorry - teaching is not just a job it is a profession with a duty. The subject was Psyche so I can imagine this arrogant teacher who feels his precious free-time is being assaulted. Yes, I know, so sad for the prof making six  figures, easily.

So, there was a blow up with the Head Teacher (i.e. Principal). In response, the school bans the student from the library. This kid WANTS TO STUDY. Fine, the stupid teacher doesn't want to help, but don't totally shut the student off a week before exams. The student is already amped-up and nervous. I don't care if this kid is the most annoying student in the school - he deserves to receive his due which his family has paid for. Well, the student shows up at the library anyways to study because his family doesn't have a computer. So what does the school do? They call the police and he is escorted from the library. I honestly hope that his family sues.

I'm sure the student did fine he was a top-line A student there. Still, the situation was handled very poorly by the school. The value of education has become so commonplace it is wasted and malapportioned. Yes, this is a singular incident, but it just never should have happened. I laud Mr. Jamie Gagliardi for standing his ground. Seven or eight centuries ago he would have been among allies, but now sadly his act of defiance just merits a blurb in a tabloid. Sad.

Article Links:



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Local Library Branches on the Chopping Block

The party seems to be over world-wide and the debts are being called in. Those of you who pay attention to the news have heard the reports coming back from Greece, Italy, Spain... Europe in general of economic doom. There are those who mind-bogglingly think that even more government spending is the answer. The cliff is here and spend happy, loopy Europe is at the edge. Throw the usual mix politics, war and strife into the pot and you have the world today.

So it is not surprising to hear that here in the States and locally here in WMass that the economy is still slumping. No, President Obama, the private sector is not doing fine. Thanks to your policies it has declined steadily. Being an economic conservative people always assume that I have no compassion and I want to cut everything in sight. No, I want to spend our public monies wisely and not just score points with a public sector unions or to spend money on a needless projects. [Driven to Hadley lately? Near Atkins Farms? If you want to see a golden example of wasted money before your very eyes go there. Take a look at the round-a-bout which is being built. WTF?! Honestly?!]

I am a fiscal conservative but how can support libraries? You may want to ask that of me. Precisely to avoid the news that just came down that three Springfield Public Library branches are on the block. Springfield was in receivership not too long ago. That period helped the city somewhat. However, the damage which accrued over years of political machine waste and bad contracts left the city in a very bad position. So I am not going to fault the current mayor and city council for proposing this budget. Everything has to be put on the table. Honestly, it is the fault of the voters of the City of Springfield that those branches are on the block. Decades of voting for fiscally irresponsible politicians put those branches on the block. Look yourself in the mirror before casting blame. 

Now the negotiating begins. Now the boosters need to go out and find support. Now those who utilize those library branches need to go plead their case. It never should have come to this but it has. It is what it is. I know the value of the public library system. I will mourn the loss of those branches if they are closed. Private funding can be found out there. Holyoke is refurbishing their library. Libraries are being built around the state. The will and the funding are there.  However, are those private donors willing to invest in Springfield? The task is out there now. Springfield needs to prove the case.

There is big point to this which I know a majority of the library boosters out there are going to miss. Let's just say those branches are saved through an outpouring of support. What is going to prevent this from happening again in the future? I looked at a selection of the proposed cuts. I think that the fire dept and police are getting whacked just as hard, perhaps harder. This was no frivolous choice to put those branches on the table. Yes, the city could be bailed out if the national economy picks up. Still though, the underlying problem in the city is still there. The city can't depend on handouts from the State to fund its budget.

Mayor Sarno blamed the city's budget woes on what he called the
triple negative forces of  reduced property tax revenues, a lack of
increased support from the state and an increase in non discretionary

That is one of my biggest pet peeves with all municipal government. You can't depend on State funding for everything! The budget needs to be sound before the aid comes in. That I truly have no faith in ever happening, but that is one of the core problems. The economy flags, the money is no longer trickling down from Heaven and the cuts have to be made.

It is possible to get those branches saved. Just make sure that it not just a temporary fix. If it is this problem will come back again.

The above quote was selected from this webpage article - http://wamc.org/post/springfield-budget-calls-job-cuts-library-closingshigher-fees

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Athens of the South

Want to visit the Parthenon, but don't want to get sucked into the impeding Greek civil implosion - Go to Nashville! The fact that this is news to some through no fault of your own is just a case of not knowing what is in your own figurative back yard. Raise your hand if you knew that in Nashville, Tennessee is an exact replica of the Parthenon, by exact I mean pretty damn exact. It even includes the massive 42 foot tall statue of the Athena Parthenos holding a taller than man-size statue of Nike in her hand.

The building was constructed as the centerpiece of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Before the evolution of country music and the Grand Ole Opry Nashville was (and still is) called the Athens of the South. The building was born of the Neoclassical Movement and is a beautiful testament to the American Renaissance. The connection to Athens in Nashville's early history was so strong that after the exposition was over there was furor when it was slated to be taken down. It stood a good 20+ years before its temporary building materials could endure no longer. When it became apparent that building was going to collapse the city approved a permanent reconstruction.

In 1990, the Athena Parthenos constructed by Alan LeQuire to the exact Phidias specifications completed this marvelous tribute to the original Greek treasury building of antiquity.

Note - if you've seen Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief you've seen this building.

Here is a nice article in greater detail about this structure: http://nashville.about.com/cs/historynsites/a/parthenon.htm

That is one big woman!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Family Journeys

Not sure how accurate this is, but it looks cool.

These past few weeks I have been involved in a project which I actually started while I was a teen. This project is investigating and mapping out my family tree. When I initially started my family tree - way back when - I really did not get very far in comparison to what I have accomplished in these past few weeks. It was just a little kit I ordered. I have the paper work somewhere buried in a box in the cellar.

In my prior investigation I managed to get back to my great-great grandfather in around 1848. I did so through talking to my relatives and writing down what they had to say. I was always a fan of listening to my older relatives speak their history. I just wish today that back then I had the acumen to pay attention a little more and have a greater kernel of understanding. It was something that I always intended to pursue further, but my education and life's little complications had me put that pursuit on the back burner. In addition, the need for me to get it done wasn't there. I had other family members who already had their own trees... or so I was told. I have always been meaning to do some following up on that... still.

Honestly though I was always interested in genealogy. To me it is just another facet of history. I've always loved looking over genealogical tables. Two sources in particular were Jesus' genealogies in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and the other were the Middle-Earth genealogies listed by J.R.R. Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings. I was always fascinated by both. I thought that it was so cool to see all those names listed so far back. Throw in an interest in heraldry and the tangled history of the European noble houses and I was hooked.

So here I am today. I have truly delved back into this interest. In a short time I have solved some mysteries which I have always wondered about and discovered some things I never knew. It sounds cliche, but it is an experience. Thanks to the wonders of technology and my local libraries I have made a decent amount of progress. I haven't really tapped my family sources yet. I eventually will. I want to see how far I can get on my own. There is one major roadblock remaining. The details of one of my great, great grandmothers. She just shows up out of the blue on a census. Of course, its her married name being an 85 year-old Irish illegal immigrant widow who came to live with her daughter. She was in the country since 1860 she could have gotten her paperwork done. She is the next mystery to untangle.

The resources available online are numerous, as well as public records. With a little effort anything you want to know is available. Luck certainly helps as well. It is nice to see where other long-off branches of the family have done the work for you. However, the voids are there too and that is where the detective work begins. I never need an excuse to get out to the library so it is nice when a personal task brings me there. Its just like watching an episode of Who Do You Think You Are.

I'm one generation away from the 1400's in my Baker lineage. My family comes straight here from England and settles in Rhode Island, no time in Ireland. My Irish marries in very late it seems. That was another mystery - to what extent was I Irish on my father's side and what was the mystery nationality. Well that was English and Scottish. I may also be related to one of the original Pilgrims which is another matter which I need to learn the truth. Still looking for my Native American blood on my mother's side. Once I have all my discoveries double-checked for accuracy I'll post more on my journey and the people I have discovered in this search.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Theft of the Lorax

Tonight I have a news item which I am going to examine which is truly sad. Yes, some of the less scrupulous may have laughed at this when they heard it in the news. Though in truth there really is nothing to laugh at here and it really makes me mad when I think of the disrespect. The item I am talking about is the theft of the Lorax statue from the yard of the widow of Dr. Seuss.

Is it the end of the world for her? Probably not. Of course it is insured. I am sure that she is set financially. There are some who will say that it is only material. Yes and no. I can see where, yes, it is only an object. It is replaceable. However, that is a testament to her late husband's work. Those people who stole knew exactly what they were doing and what they were going after. This isn't some Robin Hood-like 'justifiable' theft. This was stealing for the full purpose and intent for stealing a piece of unique art for sale on the black market. This was not some bumbling copper/bronze thieves. These were art thieves who targeted an old woman. Despicable.

Yes, if the Lorax were stolen and it ended up somewhere else on purpose like say on the front steps of city hall or on top of the police chief's car then that would only be a prank. It could be funny on a level if she had a sense of humor about it. In Holyoke, there is an establishment called the Yankee Pedlar Inn. (My Mother worked there for a time.) It is a beautiful landmark in the city. I have been inside it. It is truly a nice place. Well, they hay a horse in the front called 'Dobbin'. Poor Dobbin has been through so much in his tenure in front of that restaurant. It has been painted pink. It has ended up in the intersection in front of the Inn. It has actually ended up all over Holyoke. It is a piece of the city's pop-cultural history.

I wish that this incident were the case for the $10000 Lorax statue. It is not. This crime was grand theft larceny. This is a few years in jail if caught. These people, if caught, deserve their jail time. Not only for the theft of the statue but also for the terrorizing of an old woman who will fear for her safety. Finally, this was a crime against the legacy of Dr. Seuss who is part of this country's cultural heritage. While, in the grand scheme of the world's travails, probably not the worst crime, but still I had to take notice.

Monday, March 26, 2012

There and Back Again!

Sometimes it takes a long time for things to back to where they belong. It took Odysseus twenty years to get home after leaving his home for Troy. Halley's Comet graces our night sky every 75 years. So while normally books borrowed from a library are usually returned on time some books take a little longer. This little extra time may be a day or month. Sometimes that little extra time is 88 years.

Hey it took a little while but some books borrowed from a Dormont, PA school library in 1924 have made it home. This is a feel good story if there ever was one. I love old books, especially when those old books turn out to be time capsules. One of the books had a red rose pressed into the pages. I wonder what the story behind that was. Another had a note as the book passed from one owner to another. A fascinating story and family history for each book.

Not all those books were overdue library books but for those that were I'm sure that they were replaced. But heck it was the Roaring 20's and the printing industry was in full steam. So after 88 years these books which had traveled all the way to Arizona finally was returned to the (now) Dormont Historical Society.

I just would like to say that, no, I am not advocating waiting 88 years to return books. These books were not his and he was doing the right thing (if going way out of his way to do it). He is a saint here. Still though, it is better late than never. Oftentimes a story like this will dig up a little history as well which was discovered in the article. In a way these books were saved in a time capsule which returned to us. 

Now if only Paul Kaminski (the man who found and returned the books) had a Delorian with a flux-capacitor built in he could had sped along the highway at 88 miles per hour gone back in time and returned those books on their due date.

Meanwhile I'll be here waiting until I am... yes... 88 years old and await Halley's Comet's return (with some overdue books of my own I am sure).

Here is the link to the CBS 2 Pittsburgh Article

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Complete Albert Einstein Archives To Be Digitized and Catalogued

I love his room!
Today's item of note is a happier note than my last entry. Some of you may think that I have a thing against technology or its use in research. That could not be farther from the truth. I got into computers at a very young age and I am very pro-technology. I just seek a balance. I see the direction that we are moving in as culture-less which in my opinion is a very bad place to be.

There is a balance which can be struck and here is a perfect example. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has announced that it is digitizing their archive of Albert Einstein materials. Everything from his research notes to his fanmail to his love letters. Previously only a small portion was available online. Now the first 2,000 documents (roughly 7,000 pages) are available now. His collection includes 80,000 items in total.

Here is the link to the archives.

The funding for this effort is credited to the Polonsky Foundation UK. They bankrolled the effort to get Isaac Newton's works digitized and made available as well. Also part of this effort are CalTech and Princeton University (his adopted home in the United States). They are focusing an initiative to publish annotated commentary on the Einstein collection.

This is excellent. This is what we need more of made available. Not everybody can gain access to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem let alone their archives. This will allow people around the world to access Einstein's world. They can not only learn about his ideas and what he thought of them, but also the man himself and the world he lived in. Yes, there is already tons of material available, but these are his personal notes, unblemished and pure.

This is where the balance should lie between the digital and material world. Allowing access to what otherwise could not be accessed. I've said it before and I'll say again. Anything which only saved in a digital format is frail as a piece of glass and easily broken. Don't build a world on it.

Here is the article: From The Guardian UK

Friday, March 23, 2012

Encyclopedia Britannica Folds Printed Edition After 244 Years.

There is an item which recently passed in the news that I wanted to comment on. It has to do with the recent revelation that the Encyclopedia Britannica after 244 years is going to stop printing its encyclopedia volume set. In my early years growing up if there was one thing in my bedroom that stood out it was my bookshelf. On that bookshelf were at least 4 or 5 different sets of encyclopedias. I had medical encyclopedias. I had science and technology encyclopedias. I had the World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica Sets. My parents loved buying them and then bought them for me. I spent so many days just looking through all the articles. My favorite article without a doubt was one on the periodic table of the elements. It was a 60's era listing. It was arranged in the typical fashion with all the colors denoting various properties and groups. I was so fascinated by all the names. All I wanted to be was a scientist when I was a child. Alas, that road was not to be for me.

This news item is a sad note. Ultimately it was inevitable. The economics just isn't there anymore. I have been wondering for some time now how long at-home encyclopedia sets were going to be viable. I have to say that this is not a good development. I am not just being a Luddite on this point. The encyclopedia had been the mainstay of primary student research for over a century. Sure the teacher wanted three other books, but really, were those books every cracked open save just to get the bibliography info? Students just paraphrased what they read in the encyclopedia. Imperfect, but still, it was the start of basic research training.

Now all this is moving online (has been for over a decade). Yes, the encyclopedias are available in the library, but soon they will be out of date and eventually will just be relics. I'm sure that the other major brands will follow suit. Now why is this bad when all the data is available online? I know that some of you already know the answer to this question. The Internet is hardly a source a neutral unbiased data. Yes, unbiased data does exist on the Internet, but will young students be able to discern where the bias lay amidst the blogs, news clippings, forum posts, press releases and spin that exists all over the place online. Those old Britannicas were fairly unbiased in their articles.

It is true that Britannica will still be published online (a fee-based service), but will it still hold its catbird seat amidst the storm of what the Internet holds. Sure, advanced students in high school and college will have the training to differentiate, but will the younger students have that mental acuity? The first place they'll go to is the Wikipedia and while a tool it is by no means a reference (yes, citation needed). Sure, teachers (provided that they themselves aren't trying to steer their charges in a political direction) will point to approved sites to glean research. However, all those other sites will be there and students will read them and be influenced. While, of course, not texting or browsing social networks or playing MMORPGs. It is all very muddy.

On the article itself after reading it while I understand the business reality I truly hate Britannica president Jorge Cauz's reaction to the event. While he may have held off as long as he could by his comments he didn't seem all too upset about it. If I have to point to a personality type which I loath it his attitude that people out there (like me) just don't understand. People like me are just a bunch of throwbacks to an earlier era. I knew that it was coming. I understand. I just have more respect for an era which he seemingly (I may be wrong) couldn't give a damn about ending! Yes, you want to position your company for the future, but please give us - the people who gave you a job to begin with - a little more respect before you kick us out the door and down the stairs. I invite you to read the article and judge for yourself.

Knowledge is a grand thing. The Internet has it all, but an era is passing. There will be advantages and disadvantages, but one this is certain - the days of sitting in a library with stacks of books at your table are dwindling away and I don't like it one bit!

Here is a link to the article.

Encyclopedia Britannica to stop printing books - CNN Money

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shutesbury: M.N. Spear Memorial Library News!

I've never been to Shutesbury or I can't recall if I have ever been there. I am not sure if the people of Shutesbury have heard that the Revolutionary War is over. There may very well still be armed groups of militia patrolling the woods waiting for Hessian troops to come over the ridge at any time. The pictures that I have seen say to me quaint little Yankee village.

Here's one:

But I digress, Shutesbury was one of the libraries in Western Mass which in 2011 received funding for the reconstruction of their town library. The town recently had a vote whether or not to approve local funding for this project which has been four years in planning. Their library is small and severely lacks modern amenities (like running water). The project comes with a price-tag of $3.5 million. The vote passed with a one vote margin : 523-522. The vote had been tied, but a ballot which had not been counted passed official scrutiny and was counted. Their own little slice of controversy I'm sure which will be the talk of town for generations to come.

This very close vote details the financial considerations particularly in these hard economic times that small towns need to make. Does a town of 1,800 people need a new-fangled library? I'm sure that there was a combination of factors which lead to those no votes. Some, quite simply probably didn't want to change their old cute as a button local library. I can certainly feel for them. There is something to be said for tradition. Some I'm sure, simply didn't want to pay for something in all honesty they would never use. I can appreciate their honesty.

Having done a little more research into this library I want to check it out for myself. It was 'on the list' but now I need to get up their sooner rather than later because I want to see this little old library. I was going to go there tomorrow, but alas, they are closed on Friday. Maybe Saturday, but in any event, I will get there soon.

Here is a small citation on the story Shutesbury library measure approved by single vote from Boston.com

The official M.N. Spear Memorial Library homepage.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Update: Holyoke Public Library

There has been an update on the opening of the temporary library. It has been rescheduled for next Monday. These things never run as planned, so I am sure that the public is resigned to be patient.

Those locally in Holyoke who need the use of a library should know that the South Hadley library is only about 5 to 10 minutes away depending on how friendly the lights and traffic are.

Here is a link to the Masslive Article.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Library Fines Are Serious Business

Many of my more meme savvy readers may recognize the nod in my blog title. However, according to the Charlton (Mass) Library overdue books will be retrieved with extreme prejudice - regardless of your toddler's age.

CBSBoston.com Article

Now this is not the first time the police have been sent after a library scofflaw. Usually we hear these stories attached with somebody who has some really ridiculous fines and a bad history. I am no saint whatsoever when it comes to this. I have yet to see the sheriff's blue lights outside my window. Most libraries understand that people can be forgetful. I believe that they use this as a tactic to create a little buzz and just get the message out there that they would like their books back. I have no issue with that.

Here comes the big however... A 5 year old girl! Really now? Are those dog-eared. pastel sprayed books that important. It is not like she checked out your one first-edition print of The Catcher in the Rye. Isn't that in the least bit excessive.They have amnesty return days for Heaven's sake. The books aren't that expensive.

You don't want to traumatize the child to hate the library. The library is meant to foster community and be a resource. Yes, obviously the institution wants to protect the community material, but this was a massive mental malfunction for the staff involved.

I really feel sorry for the cop who ultimately is going to be portrayed as the heel and will catch nothing but national ridicule (It was on Drudge - nuff said) until this blows over. The library was clearly wrong in this and needs to apologize to the family. I am very much a republican, law and order guy, but even with that being said there is a line.

So libraries, please don't be stupid when it comes to this. You have a standard of decorum to show the community. You do not want children to never want to never enter your doors or their property-tax paying, community issue voting parents to hate you. Go after the easy targets, not the rugrats.

It is unknown whether or not she only had 30 seconds to comply.