Thursday, July 30, 2009

1000 Cranes for Peace

This summer the Library is highlighting the crane, graceful birds that have been embodied in a variety of legends, poems and stories. Our "One Thousand Paper Cranes for Peace Club" has been busily folding cranes all sommer long. You can see there handiwork hanging in the library, as pictured above.

The goal is to work together to make one thousand paper cranes as a wish for world peace by Peace Day on August 6th. Next Thursday! We currently have over 700 cranes "flying" above the children's reference section, so we're getting close, and today at 1:30 still more of the beautiful, paper avians will be added. Come join the club (for 3rd through 8th grade), it's not too late!

For anyone interested in learning how to fold a paper crane, two of our club experts have demonstrated the process for us. Just click on the video below and follow along!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Attention all Cooks

The Best Zucchini Recipe Contest deadline is rapidly approaching. There are three categories to enter in: 1)Breads & Muffins, 2)Cakes, cookies & desserts, and 3)Relishes and other recipes. Entry forms are due by next Monday, August 10. Be creative and enter your best dish containing zucchini.

Or be a judge and come to sample and vote for the winners, and collect the entry recipes. A total of six prizes will be awarded; one in each of three categories chosen by a panel of appointed judges, and one each by public vote. Winners will receive a $10 gift card to The Elegant Farmer, a $10 gift card to Crate and Barrel, and a grocery tote bag.

Get your official entry form at the Library or online. Entry forms are due by Monday, August 10th. Limited to the first 30 entries. Voters from the public need not register. Judging is on Monday, August 17 at 6:00-7:00 p.m. or until samples run out.

Insert Fork

The Brewers are done. Cooked, finished, over. Playoff contending teams do not lose to the worst team in baseball two nights in a row. At home. By 5 and 8 run margins. They just don't.

All teams go through rough patches during the ridiculously long Major League Baseball season. In July, the Brewers are 7-16 and have not won a series. That's a big rough patch, but perhaps you could write it off as an anomaly, and hope for a turn-around in August and September. Certainly, in the ridiculously long MLB season, one bad month does not completely ruin your chances.

But. The Washington Nationals are easily the worst team in baseball. Before arriving in Milwaukee on Monday, they had won ten games on the road, while losing 35. Since arriving in Milwaukee they have not just won two road games in a row, they spanked the Brewers-- 14-6 and 8-3.

Since the all-star break, the Brewers are 4-8 against teams with an overall record of 171-228. That's not a rough patch. That's just bad. Bad enough to say, it is time to pack it in for 2009-- let's make some trades to keep our farm system stocked, reload and refurbish our rotation and try again next year.

Turns out, one really good starting pitcher and two all-star position players is not enough to get to the playoffs. It is, however, a very good start. If the Brewers can fill in the holes around Gallardo, Fielder and Braun, the Brewers are legitimate World Series contenders. But the clock is ticking.

There's always next year.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Listening Sessions on Expansion

The first workshop regarding the Library’s anticipated expansion will be on and Wed. August 12 and Thursday August 13. Much of this first session will be spent getting library and village staff input, but the later afternoon and evening of the 12th will be devoted to listening to the needs and concerns of the community, especially the immediate neighborhood.The second workshop will on Sept. 8 and 9, and it will incorporate even more community involvement and feedback. The final session will be on Oct. 14 and 15, at which time Uihlein-Wilson will present their three approaches or concepts for expansion to the community. After the presentation, we will be able to give them more feedback, allowing them to further refine the approach.

Details on the exact times and topics for these workshops will be forthcoming, so mark your calendars and stay tuned. We want and need your input and involvement to make the library the best it can be for our community. The August and September sessions will be held in the Library’s meeting room. The location for workshop three has yet to be determined.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Well, That's a Relief

Apparently, flesh-eating robots are not in development. In a clarification that sounds like it is coming straight out of The Onion, we get this statement:
“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell,
Cyclone’s CEO. “We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.” (emphasis in the original)

Of course, how do you guarentee the vegetarian robot doesn't obtain a taste for meat? Bacon, say (since bacon makes everything better), and from there it's not that big a step to human flesh. Well, okay, yeah it is, but still. Although a biomass fueled robot is a cool idea.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rant or Rave: Audiobooks

I used to be a book purist. I turned my nose up at audiobooks, Kindles and the like. Then I got this job in Mukwonago, while still living just northwest of Racine-- roughly a 50 minute drive one way. And I tried an audiobook to fill some of that driving time. Loved it.

Since then I have listened to many books, and just this year I have read all of the following classics on audiobooks: Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, The Hobbit, To Kill A Mockingbird, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and The Great Gatsby. Without the ability to "read" in the car, I might-- and I stress might-- have gotten through two or three of these books. More likely I would've read one, maybe two.

And those are just the classics. In addition, I have listened to two Elmore Leonard novels, Fool by Christopher Moore, Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich, part of a Harlan Coburn novel (didn't like it), and Lion in the White House (a biography of Teddy Roosevelt).

There is no chance I would've read anywhere close to that amount of material if I wasn't able to "read" while driving. Even now that I live much closer to work, I still find audiobooks to be very useful because I do a fair amount of driving for my job and because I am inevitably ferrying my children to various events, occasions and get togethers.

So, a HUGE rave for audiobooks!

A Busy Week

On Monday, the Page Turners Book Club met in the afternoon to discuss the book Don't Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhoold. That evening Mary Blott, Executive Director of the Mukwonago Area Chamber of Commerce, talked with our patrons about Staycations-- fun, local and inexpensive vacation and relaxation opportunities during the summer.

Tuesday night was Espresso Self night, with local teens painting with espresso. The art is very cool.

Last night, the Library hosted an open mic event, and local authors, musicians and artists came out to read, sing, play and discuss their works. Fueled by some excellent coffee donated by Espresso Love, the night was a lot of fun.

This morning, Miss Jane had her lapsit storytime for our littlest patrons-- newborn to 36 months-- a session that featured quite a bit of quacking. Later today and tomorrow, there will be gatherings of the 1000 Cranes for Peace Club. 1:00-1:30 both days, the event is open to grades 3-8. Help us reach our goal of 1000 paper cranes by the end of the summer. Current crane total: 213.

Also today and tomorrow, we will have visits by our therapy dogs for the Paws to Read progam. Today at 1:30, Cinnamon will be in the house, while tomorrow at 1:30 B.J. will be available.

We are having a fun, creative summer at the Library-- come join the fun!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rant or Rave: The Great Gatsby

Well, it isn't a rave, but I suppose it isn't really a rant, either. Pretty much a, "Huh. What's all the fuss about?"

The Great Gatsby isn't a bad book. Actually it's a pretty good book. But i wouldn't classify it as a great book, and I really don't get it being consistently included on various Top 100 Books In the ENTIRE Universe lists. I really don't.

Gatsby is an intriguing figure, but the other characters are primarily caricatures and the "twist" at the end is nearly soap operaish in both its overly melodramatic staging and its extreme unlikelihood. So how exactly it has become this masterpiece, a potential "great American novel" is beyond me. Fitzgerald is a talented writer-- perhaps the only thing saving the story from spiraling completely into absurdity-- and some of his imagery is iconic. But the story itself? Eh. Take it or leave it.

Still, I am glad I read it. It was not a waste of my time, by any means. But I can't really wrap my head around the sincere adoration the book has received from so many quarters.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sports Tidbits

It's a library blog, so I won't spend too much time on this, but I do enjoy sports, playing and watching, so I have to pop in with these observations from time to time.
  • The baseball season is WAAYYYY too long. 162 games is absolutely preposterous. 120 would be just fine, allow the season to start later and end earlier, and improve the overall product since less players would break down over the course of the season. It will never happen, of course, because the owners and the league would lose 25% of their revenue, but still.
  • Ken Macha is doing a fine job with the Brewers. I agree with nearly all of the moves he's made and his calm, calculated approach to the game is a welcome breather from the tightly wound anxiety of Ned Yost. The one move I don't agree with? Having Carlos Villanueva pitching as a late reliever, occasionally even in the closer role. Villanueva is a pretty good pitcher, with some good value as a long reliever (as a former starter, he can go two or three innings semi-regularly). But he is not a closer. Or even the set up guy to the closer. Case in point, last night, when Manny Parra, recently returned from a stint in the minors, pitched brilliantly and left the game after seven innings with a precarious 1-0 lead. Enter Carlos V., supposed set up man and alternate closer. A single and a triple later, the score is tied and the flood gates are open. Brewers lose 5-1. Ugh.
  • It is appearing more and more likely that Brett Favre will play as a Minnesota Viking next year. Unbelievable. I cannot remember a sports icon so firmly and consistently determined to trash EVERYTHING about his legacy. Two years ago, Brett Favre was a demi-god in Wisconsin and everywhere Packer nation has taken root. He was, arguably, the most popular Wisconsin sportsfigure ever-- though fans of Lombardi, Starr, and Yount might disagree. But now? The hissy fits, the Diva stomp offs, the high school histrionics and communication via cell phone. The lies, the exaggerations, the stated desire to get back at Ted Thompson no matter the cost, fans be damned. It is breathtaking. In a year-and-a-half, Favre has managed to go from beloved icon to a disliked, even hated, representative of all that is wrong in sports. And now he will likely not only play against the Packers but with one of their two biggest rivals. He will be booed at Lambeau field. Loudly and lustily I suspect. And he'll have earned all of the ill will, derision and scorn that will be heaped upon his back by people who used to adore him. Unbelievable and unbelievably sad. He could have retired as the most popular guy in the state and one of the classiest, most down to earth guys ever to have played the game. Instead, his legacy as a great QB will always be tainted by his classlessness, his disregard for the fans, his narcissism and his small-minded vindictiveness.
  • As a contrast to Favre and his "me, me, look at me, aren't I great, me!" attitude, I watched the Wimbledon Final last weekend. Good heavens what a match. I cannont imagine how crushing it must have been for Andy Roddick to have played that well, for that long against the best tennis player ever... and to lose. To have his serve broken once--once!-- in five sets... and to lose. And yet afterwards he showed tremendous class and sportsmanship. He acknowledged the fans and he lauded Federer. To borrow a British expression-- it was Brilliant!
Go Brewers! Go Packers!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Best Invoice Evah!

I don't like getting bills-- who does?-- but one came across my desk this morning that made me chuckle. We don't do much business with the Oriental Trading Company, since most of their stuff is poorly made, yet over-priced, but sometimes we pick up small "prizes" for our various children's programs and events. Here's the rundown on our most recent OTC order:

1 Mega Notepad Assortment (250 pc)
6 Mini Sticky Hands & Feet On String (6 Dz)
4 Mini Noise Putty (4 Dz)

Mini Noise Putty? I really have to find out exactly what that is. And I can't quite shake the visual that "mini sticky hands & feet on string" pops into my brain. I hope the kids laugh at them as much as I did.

Rant or Rave: Nineteen Eighty-four

Note to self: following a book that, at its core, celebrates the human spirit while acknowledging its shortcomings with a book that unrelentingly examines the darkside of human nature is both fascinating and unsettling. But that's what I did when I followed up Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird with George Orwell's, Nineteen Eighty-four. 1984 is a profound, thought provoking masterpiece. It is also disturbing, depressing and hard to digest.

In capsule form, the strangeness of following one with the other boils down to two iconic passages, one from each book. I went from Mockingbird's: “Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.” to Nineteen Eighty-four's: "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

I do not regret reading it-- far from it, I wish I had read it sooner (slightly shamefaced admission, though I knew the gist of Orwell's classic book, I had never read it). But. It is not light fare. It is profoundly scary to think about the world Orwell describes and how it is not inconceivable even today. Hopefully the free exchange of information and ideas enabled by modern technology is making it less likely with each passing year and technological breakthrough.

Still, technology is what makes the Big Brother state of 1984 possible-- the constant surveillance of the telescreens, the ability of the Party to control the present, manipulate the past and thus determine the future-- so it is a double-edged sword. I also look to public library's as a bulwark against the type of disinformation and "doublespeak" so vital to the Big Brother state described in 1984. Still another reason why library's are important community institutions.

Though disturbing and depressing, Nineteen Eighty-four is profoundly important and still terribly relevant. It remains a book that should be on the short list of "must read" novels, and likely one that should be on the even shorter list of "must read more than once" novels.

Read it, digest it, and then go sit in the nice warm sun, free from observation by anyone and free to think and feel whatever you desire. And appreciate how lucky we are to live in a free and open society.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fifty Books for Our Times

A list-- and who doesn't like lists?-- from Newsweek. How exactly they arrived at this list as being "for our times" is a little unclear, but it is an interesting list nonetheless. Of course, I've only actually read three of the books on the list.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Kid Suggested Web Sites

After initially poo-pooing, and then becoming instantly addicted to,, I restrained my knee-jerk reaction to my daughter's pronouncement that was "super way cool" and that I had to try it. My initial reaction was "line rider"? What the heck is that and why would I care?

Turns out, line rider is a fairly simple little flash game that allows you to create a "course" for this little sled riding stick figure. Simple, but fun. You have the option of blue "normal" lines, on which the little dude accelerates downhill and decelerates uphill, and red "acceleration" lines, that give the sledder a pretty substantial momentum boost.

Keeping him on the sled is more than a little challenging, though I did manage to launch him into space, do a complete 360 flip, and land back on a line to continue sledding. For extra kicks, check out some of the movies of the truly fantastic-- and mindbogglingly complex-- courses others have developed for the little line rider. Like this one, for instance. Check it out.

Additionally, my daughter and her best friend had quite a good time over the weekend at: Architect Studio 3D, a website created by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust. It allows you to design a house, furnish it and even landscape it. You can view your creation as a floor plan or in a basic 3-D model.

The site even provides you with "clients" around whose needs you can design your creation. Or you can just do what you want and see how it looks. My kids, for instance, took great pleasure in placing hot tubs in the hallway. But it is fun, and creative, and does get the kids thinking about how things fit together and why.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Umm... Wow

This is a pretty impressive 9 second clip of a volcano erupting. We live in a amazing times.

Rant or Rave: To Kill A Mockingbird

Guilty admission: I had never read Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. I love the movie and have seen it several times, but I had never actually read the book. So, since I am attempting this year to catch up on many of the classic books I have either never read, or don't really remember, I added Mockingbird to my list.

Top of the list, actually. But, as I have with most of my recent reading, I went with the audiobook version. A good book on CD really, really makes traveling much more enjoyable. I like music on the radio okay, I definitely like listening to Bob Uecker call a Brewers' game, and I do occassionally drop-in on talk radio, but the day I popped in my first CD audiobook was a revelatory one for me.

But I digress. To Kill A Mockingbird, as read by Sally Darling, shoots straight onto my favorite books of all time. I wish I hadn't waited so long to enjoy this marvelous book, but I'm very happy I finally took the time to do so. What a marvelous book. I do not think I can rave highly enough about this book to do it full credit.

It explores childhood, southern culture, life during the Great Depression, racism, kindness, joy, human nature, the law, schooling and more. It does so gracefully, seemingly effortlessly (though I know it took Lee a long time to write the story, with many, many revisions), and with such a gentle, easy flow that the profoundness of much of the writing seems to almost settle into the back of your brain without any conscious effort on the reader's part.

The story of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, her brother Jeremy "Jem" Finch and their father Atticus, is both timeless and timely, gentle and unabashedly direct and unflinching. It is a snapshot into the past and a benchmark for the future.

In short, it is exceptional. Read it, savor it, and share it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

We recently dusted off some materials that had been relegated to a high, infrequently looked at shelf-- mostly because we are totally out of lower, frequently looked at shelves, but that's part of the expansion story, forthcoming-- and found some wonderful old documents from the Library's past. I can't verify the accuracy of all of these documents, nor do I know who wrote many of them, but they are a treat to read nonetheless. Hopefully, we'll be able to highlight some of them in the display cases in the meeting room.

Here's the text from one titled "Origin of the Mukwonago Library":

Some members of the Utopian Circle, who were the originators and startersof the Mukwonago Library, met at Mrs. Lena McKenzie's on Wednesday evening, August 23rd where, after due discussion, the following statement was authorised:

The idea of a library for Mukwonago was suggested in April of 1917 by the members of the Utopian Circle, an organized group of young women. The membership included the Misses Ada and Vinnie Vanderpool, Mayfred McKenzie, Ida, Margaret, and Leida Weir, Ollie Ahrens, Leona Lotz, Edith and Helen Stewart, Helen Chafin, Marie Kingston, Alice Smith, Amy Swan, Mmes. Safford and John Goetsch, and several members of the school faculty, namely: the Misses Agnes Hayes, Edna Hanson, Eda Koehler, Katherine Buchann, Margaret Walsh, beside other who assisted in the work at hand.

The financial nucleus of the library was a fund of $50.00, $25.00 of which was raised by the circle, in different ways suggested by the members, the other $25.00 being donated by Miss Vinnie Vanderpool. After the first $50.00 was raised, the first thing to do was to find a place to meet. After much searching and exchanging of opinions, the library was opened in June of 1917 in the north wing of the McNulty home, where it remained for about four years, some of the girls taking turns in acting as librarians.

The first books were donated by Miss Ether Potter from the John Potter library in Milwaukee. Others followed suit until those most interested were quite proud of the display of books which adorned the shelves, which had been built by Mr. John Gudger. Among those who tendered donations of books were Mrs. Mina Lobdell, Mr. Alexander Sclanders, Dr. and Mrs. L.E. Youmans, Mrs. Agnes Betts, and groups of books were received from the Waukesha library.

It was incorporated under the State Library Association when a representative of that body came and supervised the organizing and accessioning. At first it was open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon and evening, with Miss Leona Lotz, Miss Mayfred McKenzie, Miss Helen Chafin, and Mrs. John Goetsch acting as librarians. It was supported by voluntary subscriptions and by the membership fees which were $1.00. In order to supplement the regular books we had a traveling library. Mrs. Floyd McKenzie and Miss Betty Andrews became the librarians, Mrs. McKenzie taking charge on Wednesday afternoon and Miss Andrews on Saturday evening.

In 1921 the library was moved over to the village hall where the Study Club, having taken it over, reorganized it, continuing thus until the Village Council assumed the responsibility, and contributed $100.00 a year toward its support. These librarians continued until Miss Andrews had the misfortune to fall and break her hip, at which time Miss Leona Lotz took her place, and has continued to the present time.

The library at the present is financed by a contribution from the village of $125.00 a year and $50.00 a year from the town of Mukwonago.
$125 a year from the Village coffers, with an additional $50 from the Town. That would buy us roughly 15 books these days. I also love the idea of, "...some of the girls taking turns in acting as librarians." Unfortunately, the original "Origins of the Mukwonago Library" is undated and the author is unknown.