Thursday, April 30, 2009

TTDNTMiLS: Digital... Everything

When I graduated from library school in 1996, the Web was just starting to get into the picture business (most of the sites were text intensive, with maybe a few small graphics). Connection was still via phone line modem dial-ups, and if you could get 56K transmission, you were flying! The paperless office and electronic book were on the radar screen, but wayyyyy off at the edge. Somewhere close to the second star on the right.

Consequently, my education at library school did include some training in office suite software, html (yes, with the hard coding of tags), online public access catalogs (OPACs), and CD-Rom software for patron use. I don't think the word "downloadable" occurred, or if it did, as a passing reference and of little import. Scanning documents, photographs, and maps was in discussion, but the technology was large, clunky and expensive and the resulting digital product was limited to in-house use. The files were simply too large to transmit over dial-up modem connections.

Fast forward to 2009. Everything (nearly literally) is on the web. High-speed internet connectivity is the norm. Scanners have come down in price and are much easier to use. The typical distribution point for music is shifting (may already have shifted) from the brick and mortar record store to the downloadable web store. Books are available on mp3 players and i-phones.

It is not a stretch to say that the way society disseminates, accesses and manipulates information has been transformed. So, while books remain a staple of the library, and shall remain so for quite a while to come I suspect, much of what the library is about is completely different from what library school taugh me.

In this case, I can't blame the school-- it would be quite a challenge indeed to teach us and train us in technologies and service paradigms that had not even been conceived of in 1996. But it is interesting to step back from time to time and see how much my profession-- our whole world-- had been transformed in less than 15 years.

Change-- it's the new constant.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

March Madness Winners

Congratulations to Bonnie Mielke, our Week Five winner. The competition was fierce in week 5, because there were only 12 available points instead of the 24 of previous rounds. Bonnie correctly picked six of the seven games in Week Five, missing only the second round match up between Mark Twain and Janet Evanovich (she picked Twain, and Evanovich edged him out, 6-5). Her total of 10 points was two more than Tina Guillama and Shawn Carlson, who each had 8.

Congratulations as well to Eric "Web" Weber who is our grand prize winner for most overall points in the March Madness tournament. Web finished with a grand total of 51 points, holding off Gail Weber, 49 points, and Shawn Carlson, 48 points. He didn't fare too well in Week Five, getting only one game of the seven correct for a single point, but he had built up a big enough lead to hang on for victory.

Once again, a big thank you to Espresso Love Coffe for sponsoring the tournament, and a big thank you to everyone who participated-- including the librarians at Mukwonago who had the awesome responsibility of determining the winners.

Final totals for all of our participants:

Eric Weber: 51
Gail Weber: 49
Shawn Carlson: 48
Bonnie Mielke: 40
Nicole Weber: 38
Karen Grisham: 33
Peter Willinger: 30
Tina Guillama: 25
John Bronk: 15
Richard Hanauer: 10
David Vander Pluym: 8
Terese Phillip: 5

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

TTDNTMiLS #4: Activities Near the Library

I admit I was surprised on Monday morning when I drove into the Library parking lot and the Andler house, the white building just to the east of the Library, was gone. In it's place, a smoking hole:

I knew the village intended to demolish the building, after the fire department used it for some practice burns, and I knew it was scheduled to come down before the end of April. But I didn't know that all of that was going to happen on Sunday. Quite a difference. Over the next week, the remaining walls should be knocked in, the hole filled and the entire property seeded.

It's been a while, but I do not recall any of my professors talking about the building next to the library being burned down. Live and learn. Interaction with the municipality supporting your library is also something they could include more thoroughly in library school. Fire, Police, Public Works, Water & Sewer, Engineering and Village Attorney-- all departments and individuals within the village that I have had interactions with and depend on for a variety of services and issues.

Theory vs. practice, I suppose. Most of the time, practice winds up being significantly different than the theory. Still, once the clean up is complete, I think the lot next door will look quite nice-- stay tuned!

Monday, April 20, 2009

What's Up With That Tree?

Hopefully, you have noticed the colorful mural that is taking shape on the south wall of the Library’s lobby. The second phase of the project is starting to take shape—the creation of a spreading tree. This tree will serve not only brighten and beautify the library’s lobby area, but also to recognize donors to the library’s expansion.When finished, the leaves, branches and roots of the tree will contain the names of the many generous donors to the expansion fund.

The creation of a tree as a symbol for the library is a good one for many reasons—a tree has strong roo
ts, provides shade and comfort, and is a living, growing part of its surroundings. Likewise, the library has deep roots in the community, it provides education, recreation and community development, and it to is a growing, vital part of its surroundings—the entire Mukwonago Community.

The tree is being created by Jessica Schreib and Anna Boelk, two dedicated and talented seniors at Mukwonago High School. Supplies and support for the project have been graciously provided by the Friends of the Mukwonago Library, a group that helps the library and the community in so many ways.

Friday, April 17, 2009

March Madness: The Championship Game

This was it. The big game. Weeks of struggle, great games, tension, last-minute wins all came down to one game for all the marbles. All the dead authors were gone, and only two remained standing. In one corner, bestselling mystery/adventure writer Janet Evanovich; in the other corner, bestselling legal/suspense writer John Grisham. Who would claim the crown of the first ever Author's Showdown?

#2 Janet Evanovich vs. #1 John Grisham
Under the whitehot glare of the spotlights, these two had proven repeatedly that they not only wouldn't wilt, but they would thrive and respond with their very best. Each have millions of fans, and the stadium was packed for the game. At the tip, it was Evanovich that seized the early momentum, scoring on her first possession and also stifling Grisham with her defense. But she was unable to pull away from Grisham, and as the half wore on, she seemed to lose a half-a-step, perhaps as her initial adrenaline rush waned. Grisham was able to score two late field goals and took a 3-2 halftime lead.

There was a long layoff between halfs as the advertising barrage carried on for NetLibrary and Overdrive Audio and all of the Library's many subscription databases, and there was much speculation on how the extended halftime would affect the two contenders. Would they come out flat, or would the extra time give them more opportunity to make some adjustments?

They came out flat. Neither team could find the basket for several minutes and halfway through the second period it was still 3-2; tense but not really all that exciting. The advertisers had to be nervous. Then Evanovich stuffed a Grisham jumper, snagged the rejection and drove the length of the court for an easy layup. All tied, 3-3 and the game was afoot. From there, both teams seemed to settle in and the lid on the basket seemed to come off. They traded baskets, then traded again and it was 5 to 5 with time running down. Evanovich drove down court, made a brilliant fake and had a clear 20 foot jumper. It caught the back of the rim, rolled halfway down, then popped out the other side.


Grisham snagged the rebound and quickly called timeout. The stadium was rawkin, with Grisham fans waving their file folders and Evanovich fans chanting "De-Fence, De-Fence". Out of the timeout, Grisham brought the ball in, dribbling at the top of the key, then fed the ball into the post. Evanovich got a hand on the pass and knocked it away and her fans went wild, but the ball went straight to Kyle McAvoy, protagonist of Grisham's latest legal thriller, The Associate. McAvoy, despite his youth, smoothly grabbed the loose ball and let it fly from about fifteen feet just before the final horn. The shot wasn't pretty, it caught iron, backboard and iron again, but with the Grisham crowd going wild and the Evanovich fans holding their breath, it settled through the net. Game over, and John Grisham is the champion, 6-5, in a thriller.

Congratulations to Mr. Grisham!

Magician Rick Allen visits the Library

And a good time was had by all--

Thursday, April 16, 2009

March Madness: Final Four

Four titans of the library world faced off for a shot at the title-- Janet Evanovich, Mark Twain, Jeffrey Deaver and John Grisham were left from the 64 authors that started back in March. Only Grisham was a #1 seed, with Evanovich and Twain being 2 seeds and Deaver, as a #7 seed, being the suprise team of the tournament.

#2 Mark Twain vs. #2 Janet Evanovich
Mark Twain pulled off the upset of Superman in the previous round with the aid of a little Kryptonite, but there were no "magic" rocks available to help him against the fiesty Janet Evanovich. This was was billed as a classic clash of opposites, Twain's more literary, 19th century wit against Evanovich's edgier, 20th century humor. Evanovich's aliveness versus Twain's deadness. Man versus woman. Lots of contrasts, yet from the start it was clear that each author respected the other and that their styles-- tough, in-your-face defense and slashing drives to the basket-- were actually quite similar. The first half was low scoring, with defense prevailing and both contestants seeming to feel the other out and a 3-2 edge for Evanovich after the first. In the second half, both teams made adjustments, and the game became a little more fluid. Defense was still the order of the day, and the lead never got beyond one, but at least it wasn't a complete brick-fest and some astonishing twirling, slashing drives were highlighted on both sides.

It came down to crunch time, less than a minute left, and the score tied at five apiece. Both Twain and Evanovich are veteran writers, tested and proven over time. But while Evanovich had squeaked through several close games-- barely edging out Agatha Christie and struggling against H.G. Wells before pulling away at the end-- Twain had an easy path to the Final Four. Only Charles Dickens had really challenged him during the previous four games, the other had been complete wipeouts. As time wound down, it was clear that Evanovich was a little more comfortable, a little more adjusted to the pressure than Twain. He tried a cross-over dribble, but she picked his pocket clean, then stormed down the court for the winning lay-in with only two seconds left on the clock. When Twain's last second heave clanged off the backboard, Janet Evanovich was on her way to the Championship Game.

Afterwards, Ms. Evanovich was ecstatic, "It feels great, really great. To face off against such great competition, Dame Christie, H.G. Wells and now Mark Twain... well, it is very gratifying to be in the same league as them. Just so awesome... its hard to believe I'm still in this, but I thank the fans and I just hope that Stephanie and I have one more good game in us. I know matching up with either Mr. Deaver or Mr. Grisham will be a real challenge, and I look forward to it."

#1 John Grisham vs. #7 Jeffrey Deaver
Jeffrey Deaver has been the darling of this tournament, pulling off upsets against Dean Koontz, Ann Rice, Edgar Allan Poe and Carl Sandburg. Only the game against Rice was an easy one, the others were one point victories including an overtime win in the Elite Eight against Sandburg. John Grisham, by contrast, was one of the early favorites to win the whole tournament and he had made it to the final four fairly easily, recording convincing wins over Clive Cussler, Michael Crichton and J.K. Rowling. Only David Baldacci had come close to upseting Grisham. So, the table was set-- the underdog, crowd favorite versus the powerful #1 seed that was looking to add a championship to his long list of accolades.

The game opened with a flurry of missed shots. Both men seemed a little hyped up, running on a little too much adrenaline and the shots were all going just a little long. After the initial jitters faded, both teams seemed to find a little groove and they traded baskets until half-time, score tied 3-3. Unfortunately, there were no cameras or microphones in the Grisham lockerroom during halftime, but it must have been one heck of a good pep talk that he gave the team, because they came out like gang busters in the second half. Grisham jumped out to a 5-3 edge, then added another bucket after Deaver recorded a basket to bring it to 6-4. From there, Grisham clamped down the defense, holding Deaver to only 1 point in the entire second half and propelling himself into the championship against Janet Evanovich.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Student Art @ the Library

As part of our National Library Week celebration, the Library currently has a variety of student art on display. These lovely and lively pieces of art have been created by local art students and will be on display at the Library for the next several weeks-- stop in and see how talented and creative the children of Mukwonago are!

Here's a small sampling of the art we have on display:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Week Five, Elite Eight

The play-in games for the Final Four: Comics vs. Literature, Suspense/Horror vs. Poetry, Children's Books vs. Popular Fiction and Mystery vs. Science Fiction/Fantasy.


But fascinating madness. How would the 19th century, and long-dead, Mark Twain fare against the entirely fictional, but nearly indestructible Superman? Would Carl Sandburg be able to continue his run now that he had to face an author other than a fellow poet? Why did so many of the remaining authors have first names that start with J? Okay, that last question, while odd, is probably not going to resolved in the games-- just one of those quirky things. For a berth in the Final Four:

#2 (Mystery) Janet Evanovich vs. #2 (SF/Fantasy) H.G. Wells
It had been a while since either Evanovich or Wells had last played a game. Our Week 1 winners had to sit by, perhaps working on their jump shot or doing some passing drills, while weeks two, three and four played out. Would the layoff affect them, and if so, would it affect one more than the other? The layoff did appear to be a factor early, as neither team started well. Midway through the first half it was only 1-1. From that point on, however, Evanovich seemed to find her groove, while Wells continued to struggle. At halftime, it was 4-1 and Wells was visibly agitated, shaking his head and mumbling under his breath. The break allowed him to regroup, and he came strongly out of the gates in the second half, quickly closing to 4-3. But then, with the score at 5-4, fatigue or rust or just the fact that he died in 1946 seemed to catch up to Wells and the last part of the game was all Evanovich. She cruised down the stretch, with a final score of 8-4. Congratulations to Evanovich, our first member of the Author's Final Four.

#1 (Comics) Superman vs. #2 (Literature) Mark Twain
Superman is nigh onto invulnerable: super strength, super speed, able to fly, bullet proof and well, super. Mark Twain is irreverent, satirical, a brilliant writer and, well, dead. On paper, this one seemed like a complete mismatch-- game over for Twain, welcome to the Final Four, Mr. Kent. But, as the cliche goes, that is why they play the game. In reality, this game was a complete mismatch, but the overwhelmed team was Superman's, while Twain was in a groove and seemed incapable of missing. When the dust settled, the final tally was, Mark Twain 11, Superman 1. Afterwards, Twain was asked about his success, "Well, I appreciate the value everyone places on my writing, I do. But I am also a voracious reader and, well, all it really came down to was finding this funky little, green rock." At which point the white-haired author pulled a small chunk of glowing, green crystal out of his front vest pocket. "Some of my coaches were concerned about the effect it could have on me, but I said 'Hey, I'm already dead, what's the worst that could happen?' That's a pretty convincing argument I find."

#7 (Horror/Suspense) Jeffrey Deaver vs. #2 (Poetry) Carl Sandburg
Jeffrey Deaver is undoubtedly the surprise of the tournament-- he was supposed to lose to Dean Koontz, then to Ann Rice, then to Edgar Allan Poe. A big underdog in all of those games, he edged both Koontz and Poe and demolished Rice. Could the Cinderella of the tournament keep dancing? In his path is Carl Sandburg, the champion of the Poetry Bracket and one of the premier defenders in the tournament. The match-up was all defense early and neither man seemed able to find a rhythm. At half-time, it was only 2-2. Both men found their stroke in the second half, but neither was able to distance himself from the other. The score and lead see-sawed back and forth, with Deaver grabbing a late 6-5 lead on a beautiful, driving floater in the lane. But Sandburg took the inbounds pass, drove down court, then dished for a wide open jumper that just beat the clock and swished home-- overtime! In overtime, the defense reasserted itself and it was a late steal and break away layup by Deaver that proved to be the difference, and the underdog Deaver was on his way to a Final Four match up.

#4 (Children's) J.K. Rowling vs. #1 (Popular Fiction) John Grisham
Wizards and lawyers and multi-million selling titles, oh my! Dumbledore's Army against The Firm. An intriguing matchup, and one that promised to match the Deaver/Sandburg game for intensity. But, of course, as is often the case promises aren't always kept. Grisham jumped out to an early lead in this one and never looked back, cruising to a surprisingly easy 7-4 victory over Rowling, filling the final slot in the Final Four.

Twain versus Evanovich and Grisham versus Deaver-- who will be the Final pairing of the 2009 Authors Showdown? Stay tuned!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Week Four Results

The Final Eight are set, and we have a Week Four Winner. Congratulations to Gail Weber, who notched 15 out of 24 points to take Week Four honors. Gail picked every game of the Popular Fiction bracket correctly, which was enough to counter-balance her choice of Dr. Seuss to win it all in the Children's Bracket (Seuss lost in the first round to Shel Silverstein, in overtime). Runner-up was Bonnie Mielke, with 13 points. Bonnie correctly picked J.K. Rowling to win the Children's Bracket, but had John Grisham-- winner of the Popular Fiction Bracket-- losing in the first round to Clive Cussler. A point back in third place was Nicole Weber, who also correctly picked J.K. Rowling to win the Children's Bracket, but who struggled in the Popular Fiction Bracket.

The Overall Standings through four weeks:
Eric Weber: 50
Gail Weber: 47
Shawn Carlson: 40
Nicole Weber: 36
Karen Grisham: 33
Bonnie Mielke: 30
Peter Willinger: 29
Tina Guillama: 17
John Bronk: 15
Richard Hanauer: 10
David Vander Pluym: 8
Therese Phillip: 5

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Week Four, Round Three

Two more games to decide the Elite Eight and the Week Five matchups:

#4 J.K. Rowling vs. #2 A.A. Milne
Magic or whimsey? Wizards or adorable animals? Tough call, but the oddsmakers were giving a slight edge to the fuzzy guys and a "kinder, gentler" tournament. But being a "tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff" only gets you so far, and the battle-tested Harry Potter crew were more than enough for the 100 Acre gang. With Ron minding the middle and Harry and Hermoine shooting from the perimeter, Rowling had good inside-out movement all day and rolled to a 6-2 lead. Tigger managed a couple of late dunks to make the final score respectable, 6-4, but this one was never close after the first few minutes.

Popular Fiction
#3 Michael Crichton vs. #1 John Grisham
In the finals of the Popular Fiction, Michael Crichton and his killer dinosaurs finally ran up against a force equal, and perhaps superior, to their own: litigation. The legal system has taken down many a giant of industry, politics and celebrity and from the start of the game, it was clear that John Grisham's legal thrillers were going to cause Crichton great difficulty. Grisham managed to get the tyrannasaurus rex thrown out (exceeding the statutory weight limit) and without their post-player, the Crichton team struggled. At halftime it was 4-2 Grisham. In the second half, the speed, and disemboweling ability, of the velociraptors kept Crichton close, but they were never able to surge past Grisham's crew and as the final buzzer sounded it was 6-4 in favor of John Grisham.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Week Four, Round 2

With only the final two brackets in play, the final 8 are taking shape: Evanovich, Wells, Superman, Twain, Sandburg and Deaver have all already punched their ticket to Week Five. Looking to join them are Silverstein, Rowling, Ingalls Wilder, Milne, Ludlum, Crichton, Baldacci and Grisham. But only two of those eight can advance... who will it be?

Children's Bracket

#4 J.K. Rowling vs. #8 Shel Silverstein
After a bracket destroying upset of Dr. Seuss-- the #1 seed and the overwhelming fan favorite to win the bracket-- some wondered how much Shel Silverstein would have left against the #4 seed, J.K. Rowling. Initially, the answer seemed to be: Plenty. Silverstein jumped ahead, 3-0, but then perhaps some fatigue did set in as Rowling slowly, methodically and relentless cut into the lead. At halftime it was 3-3. After the break, Silverstein seemed to get his second wind and again jumped ahead, 5-3, but it was deja vu all over again as once more Rowling reeled him in, 5-4, then 5-5. With time running out, Rowling drove to the basket and Silverstein couldn't get his feet set before the collision, leading to a blocking violation and a free throw for Rowling. She calmly swished the shot and was headed to the Sweet Sixteen as Silverstein's last ditch heave ho from half court clanged off the side of the basket.

#2 A.A. Milne vs. #3 Laura Ingalls Wilder
With star point guard, Winnie-the-Pooh, running the show and the veeerrrry bouncy Tigger manning the middle, A.A. Milne's team entered its second round match up poised and confident. Opposing them was half-pint, Pa, Ma, Mr. Edwards and Mary-- this last an odd choice, given that she is blind. But, L.I.W. must have had a plan, for it was Mary that stripped a visibly surpised Rabbit, then dished a beautiful pass to a streaking Ma Ingalls for the game's first point. From then on, the 100-acre wood crew paid attention to Mary. The game see-sawed back and forth, tight throughout, and the final result was in question until the very last minute. The Ingalls had the ball and Pa brought the ball down court, looked for first-round hero, Mr. Edwards, inside but elected to pass over to Laura on the wing as Tigger had Mr. Edwards boxed out. The pass wasn't bad, but it was a little soft and Owl was able to swoop in, snatch it out of half-pint's hands and soar to the other basket for the winning shot, sending A.A. Milne into a 3rd round battle with J.K. Rowling, already being hailed as the "Battle of the Initial Initials!"

Popular Fiction Bracket
#2 Robert Ludlum vs. #3 Michael Crichton
Jesse Stone had been no match for Michael Crichton's velociraptors, but how would Jason Bourne fare against the killer reptiles? This battle was tight throughout, with Bourne's amazing speed and dexterity keeping him out of reach of the dinosaur's razor sharp claws and teeth. A few well-placed martial arts' blows also made the reptiles a bit hesitant to attack Bourne directly and at halftime, it was Ludlum 3, Crichton 2. Crichton's crew regrouped at halftime and came out fired up, but though they tied the score at 3, 4 and 5 they could not pull ahead of Ludlum's team. Then, they unleased the Andromeda Strain, and it was game over, 6-5 Crichton. Afterwards, Crichton defended the use of the deadly bio-organism, "Well, some will say it is unethical, releasing a deadly biological organism in an effort to win, but this is the big leagues. You do what you gotta do." Ludlum and his team were unavailable for comment, having died from the devastating effects of the Andromeda Strain.

#1 John Grisham vs. #5 David Baldacci
Baldacci was a surprise winner over Nora Roberts in the first round, but most pundits gave him little chance to upset John Grisham in the second round. Baldacci used the perceived slight to motivate his players, and they jumped out to a quick lead and the game was tied at halftime. In the second half the momentum seemed to flow back and forth, leaving the game tied as Grisham came down court for one last possession. Like the consumate professional that he is, he ground the clock down, then drove left, pulled up and let the final shot fly... swish, nothing but net.

Week Three Results, Brackets So Far

Congratulations to Shawn Carlson, our Week Three winner. Shawn had an astonishing 23 out of 24 possible points in Week 3, picking the Comic Bracket perfectly and missing only the Dickens v. Hemingway match up in the first round (he mistakenly picked Hemingway) in the Literature bracket. Close on Shawn's heels was last week's winner, Eric Weber, who had 22 points, picking the entire first round correctly, but then selecting William Shakespeare in the second round instead of John Steinbeck. Despite losing the week, Weberman distanced himself from the pack in the overall standings, which currently stand thusly:

The overall standings through two weeks:
Eric Weber: 45
Shawn Carlson: 35
Karen Grisham: 33
Gail Weber: 32
Nicole Weber: 24
Peter Willinger: 19
Bonnie Mielke: 17
John Bronk: 15
Tina Guillama: 14
Richard Hanauer: 10
David Vander Pluym: 8
Therese Phillip: 5

And here are the brackets so far:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Week Four, Round 1

I'm a little behind in updating the Week Four results, so Round 1 now, Round 2 a bit later today and Round 3 tomorrow. Also, a Week three summary and grand total update. The Popular Fiction early round games were all pretty lopsided-- but the Children's bracket results were much more competitive:

Popular Fiction
#2 Robert Ludlum vs. #7 Danielle Steel
Two multi-million selling authors faced off-- but that's pretty much the case with all of the match-ups in the Popular Fiction bracket. In this case, Robert Ludlum's thrillers against Danielle Steel's romantic melodramas. Utilizing the amazing super-spy skills of one of his protagonists, Jason Bourne, Ludlum jumped out to a huge lead, 4-0 at half-time. Danielle bounced back a bit in the second half, but it was too little, too late as Ludlum cruised to an easy 8-2 lead.

#3 Michael Crichton vs. #6 Robert B. Parker
Sam Neill and killer dinosaurs against Tom Selleck as Chief Jesse Stone. Advantage, killer dinosaurs. Parker and his chief protagonist, Stone, hung close to Crichton and his intimidating velociraptors for a half, trailing only 4-3 at the midway point. But after the break, it was all Michael Crichton, playing stifling defense-- aided by the carnage wreaked by the raptors on the members of Parker's team-- en route to a 7-3 victory.

#4 Nora Roberts vs. #5 David Baldacci
Nora Roberts has written over 150 novels of romance, passion and intrigue but she was no match for David Baldacci. The author of Absolute Power and Last Man Standing rolled to a 7-3 victory as the edge-of-the-seat thriller once again outlasted the romance novel, just as in the earlier match-up between Ludlum and Steel.

#1 John Grisham vs. #8 Clive Cussler
Clive Cussler's action-adventure novels helped pioneer the field and have sold millions of copies world-wide. Unfortunately for Clive, his opponent's legal dramas and thrillers have sold even more millions of copies. While it would seem that the action-adventuring marine archaeologist Cussler would have the edge over the courtroom based Grisham, this one was as lopsided as the other games in the Popular Fiction Bracket, with Grisham jumping out to a 4-1 lead and coasting to a 7-3 victory.

Children's Books
#1 Dr. Seuss vs. #8 Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein has made a nice career as the children's author who liked to challenge his readers, their parents and the accepted norms of children's writing. He was up to his usual hijinks in the tournament, hanging tough with the incomparable Dr. Seuss despite being a huge underdog coming into the game. The good Doctor might have been looking past Silverstein to an intriguing match-up with either Maurice Sendak (just picture these guys facing off), for he fell behind early to Silverstein and trailed 3-2 at halftime. After a rousing halftime speech by Horton, Dr. Seuss rallied in the second half and at the final buzzer, the score was tied 5-5-- overtime! In the overtime, Silverstein unleashed this guy, and it was all over. Despite a late rally behind Thing 1 and Thing 2, the #1 seed went down to defeat and Shel Silverstein moved on.

#4 J.K. Rowling vs. #5 Maurice Sendak
Hard on the heels of the thrilling overtime upset of Dr. Seuss came another tense, nail-biter. This time it was the 4 and 5 seeds hooking up, with Maurice Sendak's monsters facing off against J.K. Rowling's boy wizard and crew. Sendak's creations jumped out to an early lead as they proved resistant to the spells that Harry, Hermoine and Ron threw at them, and at halftime it was 4-1. In the second half, the wizards gave up on their wands and switched to their brooms, with Harry and Ron's Quidditch skills serving them well as Rowling's team rallied, scoring just before the buzzer for a 5-5 tie and another overtime game. The momentum had swung by then, and it was all Rowling in the extra period, setting up a round 2 match up with #8 Shel Silverstein.

#3 Laura Ingalls Wilder vs. #6 Judy Blume
Two of the first ladies of children's fiction faced off after two riveting first round match ups, and neither the Ingalls clan nor Blume's various protagonists disappointed. It was back and forth from the get go, with Blume taking a slight, early edge, but Ingalls Wilder tied it up, 3-3, at halftime behind some outstanding passing by Ma Ingalls. The second half was a defensive struggle, as both teams seemed to tire down the stretch, and as a late hook shot from Karen Newman bounced off the back of the rim, the score was tied, 5-5, at the end of regulation. Another overtime game! In overtime, the Ingalls turned to Mr. Edwards, and the burly post-player came through big time, overwhelming the smaller Blume squad and leading the third-seeded Ingalls Wilder into the second round.

#2 A.A. Milne vs. #7 L. Frank Baum
After three straight overtime games, the Children's Bracket was due for a blowout, and A.A. Milne was happy to oblige. The creator of Winnie the Pooh, Eyeore, Tigger and Piglet cruised to victory over L. Frank Baum's Oz cast, 7-3. Behind some good point guard work by the Pooh himself, Milne took the early lead. Then, down the stretch, it was Tigger that powered the Milne team, responding with some rim-rocking dunks every time Dorothy and the gang made a run.

Friday, April 3, 2009

March Madness: Week Three, Round 3

What looked like two battles for the ages beforehand were a bit lackluster in reality. Batman vs. Superman has been a discussion held by many comics fans over many years, and Mark Twain vs. John Steinbeck also seemed like a classic 19th century vs. 20th century match-up. The end result... well, read on:

#1 Superman vs. #2 Batman
This one was over practically before it was begun. In an urban setting, with diplomatic and personality considerations over a time-frame that requires strategy as well as tactics, Batman would have a legitimate shot at taking out Superman. On a small, rectangular court with very precisely prescribed rules that emphasize physical skills like speed and power... well, all the gadgets in the world might not have helped Batman enough (except maybe for a kryptonite infusted basketball). Superman scored early and often, cruising to an easy 7-2 victory.

#2 Mark Twain vs. #3 John Steinbeck
As easy as Superman's victory was, Mark Twain's path through John Steinbeck was even easier. Anticipated as a bumping, physical match-up between two literary icons became a contrast of beautiful, nothing-but-net jump shots and flat, clanking-off-the-back-of-the-iron bricks. The end result was an 8-1 thrashing, and an Elite Eight match up between Superman and Mark Twain. From the opening tip, it was clear that John Steinbeck was tired-- worn out perhaps from his emotionally and physically draining victory over William Shakespeare in the previous round. Twain, meanwhile, looked fresh, moving easily and jumping like his famous frog. He'll need all his energy and more when he faces off against the Man of Steel next week.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

March Madness: Week 3, Round 2

Some intriguing match-ups in round two-- Spiderman against Superman, Mark Twain vs. Charles Dickens, the solitary Batman against the "gang" of the Fantastic Four. Who would win, who would go home to wait for next year? Onward...

#5 Fantastic Four vs. #2 Batman
The literary and sports pundits were unsure about this one-- four individuals with super-human powers against one man in a cool suit? Yet the Bat is the #2 seed and Vegas had the Dark Knight as the favorite. Somebody in Vegas knew something-- on game day, it wasn't just Batman, it was Robin, Batgirl and even Alfred. The inclusion of the gentile Alfred seemed an odd choice, until it became clear that when an extremely proper, dutifully courteous and yet persistent gentleman with a British accent asks you to sit for tea, it is virtually impossible to say no. Consequently, after jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, and appearing ready for an easy romp to victory, Mr. Fantastic, Thing, the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman found themselves seated primly around a linen draped table, dutifully sipping a nice Earl Grey. Meanwhile, Batman and his crew had the court to themselves, easily rolling up the score while showing off their mad dunking skills. By the time the Fantastic Four had finished their tea, and some delicious cucumber sandwiches, the scoredboard read 6-2, in favor of the bats. The teams exchanged a pair of baskets late, for a 7-3 final, and the Batman moves on.

#3 Spider-man vs. #1 Superman
Spidey had no trouble in the first round with Iron Man, but steel is much harder than iron, as the Spider-man soon found out. The man of steel jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and only some magnificent web slinging and backboard climbing got Spider-man close, 3-4, by halftime. Superman was hot out of the gate again to start the second half, and Spidey was never able to quite recover, falling 6-4. Afterwards, Spider-man was both philosophical and diplomatic, "Well, Superman is, well, super. I mean, flying, able to bend steel, laser vision-- you name it, he's got it. And some amazing basketball skills, too. His fade away jumper? Money, man, just money. I played my heart out, gave it my best, and honestly I feel pretty good to have had a shot late."

#2 Mark Twain v. #5 Charles Dickens
Two prominent 19th century authors faced off in round 2, one English, one American. The result was the kerfuffle heard round the world-- well, okay, maybe not. But it was a good game, featuring bushy mustaches and florid, 19th century prose. The teams went back and forth throughout the game and it was tied 4-4 midway through the second half. At that point, Twain put on a stifling, full-court defensive press that clearly took Dickens by surprise, and two turnovers and easy backets the other way were the deciding points in Twains' 6-4 victory. Afterwards, Dickens admitted to being caught off-guard by the press, "Yeah, I didn't expect that, didn't gameplan for that. I mean, the guys been dead for nearly a century and he's out there, challenging me all the way up the court, trapping me in the corner and forcing me to pick up my dribble? Amazing stuff-- kudos to Mark, he brought his A game, no doubt."

#1 William Shakespeare v. #3 John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck has received heaps of praise and critical acclaim, and his work is worthy of all of it and more... but his opponent is William Shakespeare. From a literary standpoint, still the man even four centuries later. So, while some forecast a close game, almost no one expected Steinbeck to take out the Bard of Avalon. Which is why, as they say, you play the game. Steinbeck came out hot early, burying long-range jumpers from all over the court. Shakespeare, by comparison, seemed tentative, a little out of synch. At halftime it was 4-2 and most of the pundits believed that Shakespeare would regroup during the break, refocus his prodigious talents and come out and make a serious run at Steinbeck. They were wrong. Instead, it was Steinbeck that opened the second half with a run and he cruised to victory, 7-3, throwing many brackets into disarray in the process.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March Madness: Week Three, Round 1, cont.

The first round of the Literary Bracket was far more one-sided than most of the early round match-ups. Only one of the games was competitive and the top seeds stormed easily into the second round:


#2 Mark Twain vs. #7 James Joyce
With his flowing white hair and bushy mustache, Mark Twain looks like a kindly old grandfather. But make no mistake, the man is competitive and knows how to go for the jugular. In his first round match up, Twain showed no mercy for the critically acclaimed, but lesser known, Joyce. When the dust cleared, Twain had shut out Joyce, dominating from start to finish in a 12-0 thrashing.

#4 Ernest Hemingway vs. #5 Charles Dickens
An intriguing match up between 19th century virtuoso Dickens and 20th century literary superstar Hemingway lived up to its hype. Neither author was able to gain much of an upperhand during the first half, with score tied 3-3 after the first period. The second half began similarly, but at the mid-way point, Dickens suddenly brought forth his third ghost, of Christmas Future, and the jarring effect of that intimidating figure threw Hemingway off his game just enough for Dickens to grab a 6-4 lead. He hung on to that slim margin the rest of the way to record a minor upset, 7-5.

#3 John Steinbeck vs. #6 Leo Tolstoy
Despite having a wicked beard, Leo Tolstoy seemed over matched against the younger (well, more recently deceased anyway) John Steinbeck. Steinbeck jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before Tolstoy scored his one, and only, point. In the second half it was all Steinbeck as Tolstoy seemed resigned to his fate, perhaps wondering what a century dead Russian novelist was doing playing basketball in the first place.

#1 William Shakespeare vs. #8 John Updike
Even nearly four centuries after his death, William Shakespeare is still the name in literature. A tall order for John Updike to tackle, the breadth, depth and longevity of Shakespeare, but the author of the Rabbit series showed some spunk out of the gate. Though Shakespeare jumped out to an early lead, he wasn't able to shake Updike in the first half, and the score at halftime was only 3-2. The second half was all Billy, however, as Bard of Avon clamped down defensively and began to hit with his outside jumper for a final score of 10 to 2.

March Madness: Week Three, Round 1

I've been looking forward to these brackets-- Comic book characters and Literature. I am very curious to see who makes it through both brackets. Will it be Batman versus Shakespeare in the Elite Eight? The X-Men against Charles Dickens? Superman vs. Steinbeck? Time will tell, but first the comic book characters face off against one another, and the literary luminaries battle it out.

#1 Superman vs. #8 The Incredible Hulk
Whether he is The Incredible Hulk or just The Hulk, the big, mean, green guy had his work cut out for him against the man with the big S on his chest. Able to fly, laser vision, super strength-- Clark Kent's alter ego can pretty much do it all, and in the opener he looked focused and determined. Whether it was clearing the jumbotron in a single bound to slam the rock home, or swooping in to repeatedly steal the ball from the over matched Hulk, this one was over almost before it began. Indeed, The Incredible Hulk's only point came on a technical foul against Superman, after the man of steel vaporized the basketball with his laser vision before the Hulk could dunk. Final score: Superman 11, The Hulk 1.

#5 Fantastic Four vs. #4 X-Men
This match up took forever-- they had to replace the baskets over a half-dozen times! First it was The Thing accidentally smashing the backboard as he tried to block a shot by Storm, then it was Wolverine "chopping down" one of the support posts as he swiped at Mr. Fantastic's rubber-armed attempt to dunk from mid-court. Plus, there was a thirty minute delay in the second-half when the officials had to borrow several dozen basketballs from a neighboring school because The Human Torch kept melting them, and Cyclops kept zapping them. In the end, it was The Invisible Woman who turned the tide, twice sneaking in late for easy scores and an eventual 7-5 Fantastic Four victory.

#3 Spider-Man vs. #6 Iron Man
Perhaps Iron Man was too busy reading all of his press clippings from the success of his big screen debut last summer. Or maybe the web-slinger is just that good (he's had a few successful movies himself). Either way, this one was a whitewash, with Spidey dominating early and often en route to a 12-0 stomping of Iron Man.

#2 Batman vs. #7 Wonder Woman
Though seeded #2 overall, the Dark Knight is at a disadvantage against the others in the bracket as he has no actual superhuman powers. Lots of cool toys, tremendous physical abilities (for a normal mortal), and tons of money... but would that be enough. Wonder Woman, by comparison, has super-strength, the ability to fly, and that really cool gold lasso. From the beginning it was clear that this was going to be a tight game. The pair traded baskets, Batman seeming a little tentative in the beginning, perhaps feeling some chivalric need to "take it easy" on his opponent because she was a woman. He was soon disabused of the notion that anything would be easy against the amazonian Wonder Woman, and quickly found himself in a 4-1 hole. His utility belt came to his rescue, and four quick hoops put him up 5-4 before Wonder Woman lassoed on a break away, stole the ball and sent it home with a thunderous one-handed dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. With the score tied and time running down, Wonder Woman launched a beautiful long-range jumper that seemed destined to be the game winner, but a batarang caught just enough of the ball to cause it hit the back iron and bounce out. Despite Wonder Woman's pleas to the officials for a foul, there was no call and the game headed to overtime. In the extra period it was all defense, with neither player able to get off a clean shot until nearly the end, when Batman was able to dodge under Wonder Woman's lasso, then drive down the court for a layup and a very hard fought berth in the second round against the Fantastic Four.

March Madness: Week Two Results

With Week Three underway, it is time to take stock of last week's results. The final tallies are in and our second weekly winner is Eric "Web" Weber. Web was the only one of our entrants that correctly picked Carl Sandburg to make the Elite Eight-- most of the other contestants had Robert Frost making it through. None of the participants correctly picked dark horse Jeffrey Deaver to win the Horror bracket. Runner-up to Web was Gail "Gail" Weber, who was also the runner-up in Week 1. Gail had 11 points and 2nd runner up Shawn Carlson had 9.

The overall standings through two weeks:
Eric Weber: 23
Gail Weber: 23
Karen Grisham: 19
Tina Guillama: 14
Nicole Weber: 13
Shawn Carlson: 12
Richard Hanauer: 10
Bonnie Mielke: 8
David Vander Pluym: 8
Peter Willinger: 6
Therese Phillip: 5