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Festivals for Local History Buffs

August 22, 2014

Photo courtesy of Missouri Division of Tourism via FlickrIf you’re into local history and festivals, you’re in luck.

September 13 and 14, be a part of the Battle of Centralia reenactment weekend. Held in in Centralia, Missouri, this event commemorates the 150th anniversary of the fight between Federal troops and Confederate “Bloody Bill” Anderson and his men. In addition to the reenactment, enjoy two full days of activities, including music, crafts, food vendors, Civil War historians, dancing and night firing of Civil War cannons! Visit the Friends of Centralia Battlefield’s website for more information.

The following weekend will be the 37th Annual Heritage Festival & Craft Show on the grounds of the Boone County Historical Society outside the Maplewood Home in historic Nifong Park. This annual event will be even more special this year with tours of the completed homes in the village just behind the museum. More reenactments of the “good ole days” will also be included, with artisans and tradespeople dressed in 19th century attire demonstrating their trades and selling their wares. On the Maplewood Home’s porch will be booths sharing information about the Boone County Historical Society and the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri.

In October, the 2014 inductees to the Boone County Hall of Fame will be celebrated at the historical society’s annual reception. The Boone County Hall of Fame honors some of the area’s individuals and organizations “whose contributions of talent and ingenuity made an impact on Boone County’s past, helping it to become the progressive and thriving county it is today.” This year’s honorees are writer Warren Dalton; attorney Don Sanders, a key figure in the Watergate investigation, former Boone County Commissioner and past president of the Boone County Historical Society; and Little Dixie Construction. This event is a fundraiser for the Walters History Museum.

If you love local festivals of all types, here are some other events to add to your calendar this fall. Crafts, music, food – Mid-Mo has you covered.

photo credit: Missouri Division of Tourism via photopin cc

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Too Hot To Cook? Then Don’t!

August 20, 2014

Photo of Pan Bagnet by Kevin via FlickrOkay, admittedly, this has been one of the coolest summers in mid-Missouri in a long time, but we’ve still had plenty of hot days. Without all that summer sunshine and heat we wouldn’t have the produce bounty we’re lucky to have here in the Midwest – fat juicy tomatoes, cantaloupes, sweet corn, cucumbers, bushy bunches of basil, peaches, watermelon, okra, eggplant and on and on, all wonderfully and locally available. This appeal is obvious if you attend farmers’ markets – they are teeming with people scouting for the freshest picked and most flavorful fruits and vegetables.  That said, as the days of summer wear on and the heat and humidity debilitate, preparing meals over a hot stove and heating up the house drops way down on the list of my favorite things to do. Is that true for you? Well, if so, fear not. You can eat well without cooking (or cooking very little). When the temperatures rise, it’s time to resort to chilled soups, smoothies, saladssandwiches and other raw food recipes to feed yourself and your family. DBRL’s collection is replete with cookbooks featuring these “un-cooked” meals.

One of my boys’ all-time favorite meals is Pan-Bagnat (pronunciation: pan ban-YAH).  It is essentially a salad Nicoise (from the Nice area of France) on a crusty roll, packed with lots of goodies that can be varied – tuna, hard-boiled eggs, Greek olives, slivered red onion, tomatoes and provolone – drizzled with olive oil or pesto. It’s a complete meal in and of itself and so easy to make and divinely delicious to eat. I really ought to make it more often. We packed this treat along with some fresh bing cherries and orangeade kombucha for a recent bike ride picnic, and everyone went home with happy taste buds and satisfied bellies.

Another nice aspect to leaving the stove behind and focusing on these cooler meals is that they tend to involve less time in the making, leaving more time for other activities, like going for a swim – another great way to take the edge off the heat.

photo credit: Kevandy via photopin cc

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The Gentleman Recommends: Katherine Dunn

August 18, 2014

Book cover for Geek Love by Katherine DunnGenetic modification is a hot topic, and not just because of the literal heat harbored by pumpkins inexplicably modified to cast horrifying, fiery glares our way every October. There are pluses, like massive potatoes capable of feeding dozens, talking to you when you’re lonely and even playing a competent game of checkers. Perhaps you give birth to Siamese twins with a gift for playing piano. There are minuses though, besides hateful pumpkins and repeatedly losing to a potato at checkers. Maybe you birth a child with flippers for limbs and a predilection for starting popular cults that mandate the removal of one’s own appendages. Also, as gene tampering becomes rampant, people will grow weary of picking their future children’s hair colors and which professional sport they will play. Parents will long for the days when, if you didn’t like your child’s hair, you simply shaved them bald, and if you wanted them to excel at sport, you were forced to mercilessly prod them until their vertical leaps were satisfactory.

While the profile of genetic shenanigans grows with every neon-blue tomato on our plates and Robocop on our streets, people have been obsessed with genes since the first bald man looked scornfully at his father’s bountiful locks. And 25 years ago, Katherine Dunn tapped into this obsession and combined it with another topic constantly on the minds of modern humans (travelling freak shows) into one gloriously deformed firecracker of a novel.

Geek Love” is narrated by Olympia, a hunchback albino dwarf, member of her parents’ lucrative freak show and product of her parents’ crude attempts to modify DNA for profit. Her parents, Aloysius and Crystal Lil, used drugs, insecticides and radioactive stuff to conjure strange fruit from the womb. Oly’s older brother, Arturo, is the aforementioned flipper-limbed, cult leader. Electra and Iphigenia are the Siamese piano dynamos. Fortunato is the youngest, a seemingly normal child nearly abandoned for his uselessness until his telekinetic powers manifested themselves.

The novel jumps between two eras. One covers Oly’s childhood with the carnival and the familial strife, much of it conjured by Arty and his cult of Arturism. The other era features Oly taking care of a mother who doesn’t know who she is, perhaps in part because of the radiation and insecticides, and stalking a daughter who doesn’t know who she is because Oly gave her to some nuns when she was a baby. The twin narratives race along like the most awesome and lengthy roller coaster ever, and you’ll leave the tracks dazed, queasy, having lost your sunglasses and ready to get in line for the next Katherine Dunn novel, which doesn’t yet exist as the author spends much of her time using her boxing knowledge to fend off muggers.

The reader should be warned, in addition to the reckless gene doctoring, there is content not for the faint-hearted: telekinetic pickpocketing, attempted murder, a human with a tail, murder, unnecessary amputations and, depending on how you define it, incest. But if you like words and watching someone bite the head off of a live chicken, this may be your new favorite novel.

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New OverDrive Updates

August 15, 2014

OverDrive Media ConsoleOverDrive recently made several updates to their site that improve your ability to find downloadable eBooks and audiobooks and manage holds. The changes include the ability to filter items by age level, automatic hold checkouts and suspending holds. Here are the highlights.

Maturity Settings
You can now exclude items from your browsing or search results based on age levels. For example, adult users are able to exclude titles for younger readers and young readers to exclude adult-only titles from their experience. This can be done by going into your account settings and choosing the appropriate range of content. You must be logged in for this to be in effect. Users can also choose to “mask” covers for “Mature Adult” items. This is also done from the account settings page.

Hold Auto–Checkout
Holds will be automatically checked out to your account when they become available. This is optional and can be done by checking a box at the time a hold is placed. If you are unable to borrow the title at the time it becomes available (because you have already reached their maximum checkout limit, for example) you will be sent the current hold notification email and have three days to make your checkout.

Suspended Holds
This feature allows you to temporarily suspend a hold in the waiting list. Your position will continue to advance in the queue while the hold is suspended, but the hold will not be filled. You can do this by going into the Holds section of your account settings and clicking on the Options button for a hold.

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Hovercrafts and Home Brews: Science You Can Use

August 13, 2014

Everybody loves to apply ointment to wounds and toppings to nachos. However, did you know you can also apply science to life? Sure, knowledge is its own reward, but here are some books to get you started if you want a manifestation of your reading:

Book cover for Cooking for GeeksChemistry
Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food” by Jeff Potter – Avoid kitchen disasters by learning exactly what happens when you boil an egg.
True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home” by Emma Christensen – Brew that perfect fermented drink for your next theme party.
Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home” by Sam Caligione – Or just stick to brewing beer.

Neuroscience
Boost your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance” by Majid Fotuhi – Hone your concentration so that you can work on that jigsaw puzzle for longer than 10 minutes.
Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best From Your People” by Edward M. Hallowell – Motivate your employees without free pizza.

Book cover for the Firefly Guide to Weather ForecastingMeteorology and Astronomy
Guide to Weather Forecasting” by Storm Dunlop – Do-it-yourself forecasting beyond creaky knees and frizzy hair.
The Lost Art of Finding Our Way” by John Edward Huth – You’ll be glad to apply this book’s lessons if you lose your GPS, smartphone, Compass, and maps while trekking through the woods for some reason.

Mathematics and Statistics
The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life” by Michael Blastland – Be the life of the party during election season when you explain what those numbers really mean.
How Many Licks?: Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything” by Aaron Santos – Guess how many jelly beans are in that jar.

Book cover for Science InkArt and Science
Divine Proportion: Phi in Art, Nature, and Science” by Priya Hemenway – Impress a docent by rhapsodizing about the beauty of 1.6180339887….
Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art” by Arthur I. Miller – Create your next masterpiece using brain scans, artificial intelligence or gene therapy.
Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed” by Carl Zimmer – Most of these tattoos likely originated with a student’s inability to memorize science stuff before a test, but they look neat, and needles hurt.

Physics
The Physics of Pitching: Learn the Mechanics, Science, and Psychology of Pitching to Success” by Len Solesky – The average salary of a Major League Baseball pitcher is over three million dollars, so maybe it’s time for a career change.
The Physics of Baseball” by Robert Kemp Adair – Or just sit on the couch and learn to appreciate at the velocities and angles of America’s pastime.
How to Build a Hovercraft: Air Cannons, Magnet Motors, and 25 Other Amazing DIY Science Projects” by Stephen Voltz – Not using that leaf blower? Use it to build a hovercraft.

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Classics for Everyone: True Grit

August 11, 2014

Book cover for True Grit by Charles PortisAugust is American Adventures month, as established by someone. I forget who. The point is it gives me an excuse to write about one of my favorite novels.

True Grit,” by Charles Portis, is a book that defies genrefication. It’s an American adventure semi-western coming-of-age dramatic comedic fictional memoir. The narrator is Arkansas resident Mattie Ross, speaking as an older woman, recalling the time in the 1870s when she was 14 years old and set out to capture her father’s killer, a man named Tom Chaney.

Much of the entertainment value, the thing that keeps me re-reading certain passages, stems from Mattie’s voice, which Portis has crafted perfectly. Mattie holds firm convictions about how things should be. Her love language is legal representation. She freely offers the assistance of her family attorney to those she respects. Her liberties with the lawyer’s services extend to forging his signature on her own letter of identification. Early on she says “If you want anything done right you will have to see to it yourself every time.” This philosophy compels her to carry her father’s war pistol and accompany Marshall Reuben (Rooster) Cogburn, the man she has hired to track Chaney, on his manhunt in Choctaw territory, where Chaney has fallen in with a group of outlaws.

Rooster Cogburn is described by another character in these words: “a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don’t enter into his thinking. He loves to pull a cork.” But later events show he is not entirely without pity, especially when it comes to Mattie. And she is not entirely inflexible, making allowances for Rooster’s cursing, drinking and the fact that he himself once fled parole in Kansas. Unlike Mattie, Rooster thinks more in terms of how things are than how they ought to be. His catch phrase is “That is the way of it.” Despite their differences, Rooster and Mattie often bring out the best in each other.

But there is a third member of the party who can rile both of them, a dandy of a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (pronounced “LaBeef”). Chaney is also wanted in Texas for killing a senator, and there is a substantial reward involved. LaBoeuf has been after the killer for some time, but it’s unclear whether the ranger is motivated more by money or pride. His magnificent spurs – a symbol of his self-image – are mentioned multiple times.

As the trio closes in on the gang of ne’er-do-wells, the action becomes ever more thrilling. Each one of the three protagonists is required to dig deep into their reserves of courage, loyalty and, of course, grit. As in all good fiction, nothing comes without sacrifice. Mattie, especially, pays a large price for what she’s gained.

If you’ve been meaning to get around to reading “True Grit,” take heed of the older Mattie’s words: “Time just gets away from us.” Buckle down and get to it.

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Reader Review: Code Name Verity

August 8, 2014

Book cover for Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinCode Name Verity” is a fictionalized story of the friendship of two women during World War II. The first part of the book is Julie’s side of their story and then Maddie’s account is the second half. Julie is captured and is forced to write down all of the information she knows in regards to the war (code names, airports, war plans and strategies, etc.). I enjoyed listening to this book on CD. The readers did a great job of portraying their characters. I am going to listen to the book again due to the twist at the end I didn’t see coming.

Three words that describe this book: Friendship, World War II, Prisoner

You might want to pick this book up if: You are looking for a book about friendship, or you want to know what role some women played during World War II and what some people went through when they were captured.

-Sharon

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