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Author Archive for Candice Smith

Just how cold was it the day you were born?

by Candice Smith on March 14th, 2014

Tonight someone called the Reference Desk to find out what the weather was in a particular place, on a particular day. We sometimes get calls related to weather, people wanting to know how much precipitation occurred during that month that seemed to have endless rain, or just how windy it was on what they remember as the windiest day ever…the website I like to use for information like this is Wunderground. It gives current weather, and loads of other information besides, including historical and averages. It’s pretty interesting, and depending on what city you are looking for data about, their records go back a ways. So, I now know that the high temp on the day I was born was 36, but the average for that day is 44, and the record high is 87 (in 1897)!

Next time you want to find out what’s up with the weather, anywhere, give it a try!


Throwback Thursday…and a beer!

by Candice Smith on March 6th, 2014

So, this pBYOBookast Tuesday, I found myself wanting to discuss a good book and  have a nice beer. That happens to me often on Tuesdays…wait, what did you say? You too??!!

Well, you’re in luck! Get ready for B.Y.O.Book, the Library’s new books in bars book club. One Tuesday during each of the next three months we’re going to meet in a local bar, discuss some literature, maybe have a drink and meet some like-minded readers. First on the agenda is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It’s a long book, I know, but by now a lot of you might have already read it; if not, stop by the Reference Desk and grab a copy. Then, meet us on Tuesday, March 18 at 7 p.m. at the Sanctuary Pub.

To get started, here’s the blog I did about the book on January 15, 2010.

Lent and going without.

by Candice Smith on March 4th, 2014
Lent and going without. Cover Image

The beginning of Lent is near, and those who participate in this ritual of going without are preparing to give up something that is meaningful in some way. I know many people are inspired by this event; Christians and those holding other beliefs use this time to remind themselves of those who have less, to inspire deeper thought about possessions and luxuries and what things are important, and to offer up penitence in some way. I grew up in a Catholic home, and participated in Lent for many years…I believe I usually gave up chocolate or allowance, some very tangible thing that made a small impact in my life.

While the things that people choose to give up vary widely, I suspect that for a number of people it will be caffeine and/or coffee. It may seem trivial, but going without this chemical can have many effects; many are so used to having it in regular quantities every day, and to suddenly stop can bring on withdrawal symptoms, general crankiness, and maybe even a feeling of sadness at not having that ‘cup of comfort.’ It may or may not go deeper than that in terms of what going without might teach you, but I’m not here to judge. I’m here to offer a dispensation, of sorts…

Coffee With Jesus is a nice little compilation of the online comic of the same name. A little humor, a little iconic art, and more than a little thought go into each strip. It avoids heavy lessons in favor of quick but lingering suggestions…hey, think about this a bit. Reflect. And yes, Jesus is a main character here, but he is quite modern in view while at the same time being the old-school, accepting of everyone kind of guy. There’s no offense meant here, whatever your belief (or non-belief, in fact) is. And this little book just might help you find a different jolt of energy and comfort for the time being.

Will the real Valentine please stand up?

by Candice Smith on February 15th, 2014

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Cards and candies, hearts and love, gift anxiety and expensive dinners. Where do you come from?

There were, in fact, two Valentines who could be the St. Valentine. One was a priest in third century Rome who continued to perform marriages and engagements that the Pope had placed a ban on. The other was a man who was imprisoned for trying to help persecuted Christians, and while in prison he restored eyesight to the jailer’s daughter and they fell in love. On the day of his execution he sent her a message of farewell–a note from her Valentine. Both were executed on or around February 14. Neither of these men seem to have a whole lot to do with how we celebrate Valentine’s Day. What gives?

Like many holidays that we observe today, they are remnants or replacements of much older celebrations and observances. In this case, Valentine’s Day is kind of a PG-rated cover up of the Roman holiday Lupercalia, which was held for hundreds of years on February 15. It was a celebration of fertility that culminated in young men drawing the name of a young woman from an urn, and those two would be partnered for a lovers’ holiday (although at one time it appears to have been for a year!). Important offerings at this time were blood and milk, the red and white colors of which we still see in abundance on this day. In 469, Pope Gelasius set February 14 aside to honor Valentine and draw attention away from Lupercalia and its customs; how successful he really was is up for debate.

How do I know all this? Sure, you could Google it. I, however, went with the fascinating book Holiday Symbols and Customs, in our Reference collection. Lots of good info in there.

And, if you’re still reading, stop by the Reference Desk before 8:00 pm tonight, ask me a genuine reference question, and get some Valentine’s Day candy! Or, stop by to watch our movie tonight in Meeting Room A: Wil Wheaton’s Much Ado About Nothing and get some candy to mix in with your popcorn (you all do that at the theatre, right??).


A cold, snowy, Russian mystery

by Candice Smith on February 12th, 2014
A cold, snowy, Russian mystery Cover Image

No, I’m not talking about the Sochi Olympics. I’m talking about Donnie Eichar’s book Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, which I recently finished. In fact, I finished it about 24 hours after checking it out…it was a very interesting, well-paced book that I didn’t want to put down until I knew what had happened.

This is a nonfiction book that investigates a decades-old mystery, one that I had never heard of and that is so remote and foreign to me (both in terms of locale and subject matter) that it actually imparted a sense of foreboding and discomfort. In late January of 1959, nine university students set out on a 160 mile hike in the Ural mountains, during their winter break. They were already highly accomplished hikers, and this hike was intended to give them the highest ranking in outdoorsmanship that would allow them to instruct others; their plans were meticulous, their route reviewed and approved by foresters, their bags and provisions adequately thought out.

They never returned. After missing the beginning of the semester, officials began to search for them. Their tent was found intact on a slope, with all their shoes, clothes and belongings neatly arranged inside, and food set out waiting to be eaten. Eventually their bodies were found within a mile of the tent but in different places, mostly barely clothed, with injuries ranging from a broken nose and scrapes to blunt force trauma to the head and chest. Several died from hypothermia. After autopsies and looking at the evidence, the case was closed with the determination that an “unknown compelling force” led to their deaths.

Donnie Eichar came across mention of the hikers in a random fashion, while researching something else, and their story simply would not let him go. The mystery of what might have happened to these healthy, incredibly bright and vivacious young people in the remote, snowy wilderness prompted Eichar to visit Russia twice; he not only interviews people who knew the hikers as well as those who investigated the incident, he also makes the long journey to where their lives ended. I will admit, what he finds there and afterwards is not an entirely tidy answer, and if he is right, it is an ironic and cruel one.

I highly recommend you read his book, and see for yourself.

Lightning Bolt

by Candice Smith on October 15th, 2013
Lightning Bolt Cover Image

First disclaimer: I am one billionty percent biased in this review.

Second disclaimer: I haven’t even listened to the entire recording that I’m recommending to you, but I already know that I love it.

I’ll admit that I am not the most adventurous when it comes to music. I listen to new stuff and buy things based on reviews or recommendations, but in general, I already know what I like, I stick with it, and occasionally add to the ‘I like’ category when I want. I’m not ashamed to admit this! Yes, all those Spiritualized CDs sound similar…and they do it really, really well, so I continue to buy and listen! Yes, some of the songs I listen to when I run are the exact same songs I listened to when I ran in high school…still good to run to! The music is more than something to listen to…it’s a pick-me-up, a warm blanket, a reliable friend.

And Pearl Jam is my bff. We’ve been constant companions for over 20 years now. I have run, literally, thousands of miles with PJ (now you know why I run so much). I’ve traveled to concerts and met great people because of PJ. I have postered my locker, clothed my abdomen, and stickered my car with symbols and pictures of PJ, proclaiming my devotion and gratitude to anyone who might see! I schemed to meet my husband-to-be because he reminded me of Eddie Vedder; he (my husband, that is) invited me to his dorm room to listen to Pearl Jam bootlegs, and here we are, 20 years later, in harmonious bliss!

There’s no real way to defend or explain why you like the music you like, and I don’t think you need to. You just enjoy it, and be happy that it exists. I have no musical talent at all, so my appreciation is simply as a listener. I like the music. I like the words. I like the songs. Solidly grounded in classic rock with a flash of punk, a bit of a diy ethic, strong morals and good storytelling. Is it corny to say that it’s part of my life? Maybe. But it’s more than just music…it’s the emotions, thoughts, moments and memories that go with it.

As I get ready to listen, I recognize this album as a gift. Sure, it’s one I bought myself, but with all that comes with it, it’s worth so much more than I paid.

Go on, give it a listen…and tell me, what’s on your turntable or playlist that you love?


by Candice Smith on September 28th, 2013
Saturday+Doughnuts=♥ Cover Image

One of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings is to get up early and go for a run (“early” can be anywhere from 4-11 a.m., mainly dependent on the night before). I will often try to convince someone to go with me on their bike, and if I am successful, I will send that someone to Daylight Donuts, which I conveniently run past with two miles left to go.

Recently, my tastes have run classic (no cronut for me, thanks): blueberry or strawberry cake, or maybe a maple glazed. I seem to remember that, in the past, Daylight has made a strawberry cake doughnut with chocolate icing, but I’ve yet to see it again and I would really like to.

Other doughnut facts relevant to me:

Doughnuts of my childhood: We were a Donutland family, and I have fond memories of my father bringing home that brown and orange striped box, full of all those wonderful doughnut colors and smells…all for me??!! Erm, not exactly.

Sweetest doughnut memory: My grandfather explaining to me why they were called ‘doughnut holes.’ I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, you know?

Best doughnut: Chicago, 4 a.m., hadn’t eaten in about 10 hours, had just spent two hours after a concert getting from Wrigley Field to downtown via train and walking…and there was wonderful Dunkin’ Donuts, and there was a wonderful woman taking a tray of wonderful cake doughnuts with vanilla icing and sprinkles (I love sprinkles!) right out of the oven. It was wonderful.

Doughnut fantasy: Me. A maple glazed, chocolate drizzled, toasted almond and coconut sprinkled doughnut. Half of it eaten straight up, half of it taken to Yotopia where I work some magic into the red velvet cake froyo.

Doughnuts are the kind of treat that I don’t want to make. They seem tricky, and I think they sometimes involve very hot oil.  However, for those of you who are so inclined, you can check out a doughnut cookbook or two and give it a go! It seems like something that, if you pull it off, has a bit of a ‘wow!’ factor and makes everyone really happy — like fancy cupcakes, but for breakfast!

And tell me–what’s your favorite doughnut?

What books are on your nightstand?

by Candice Smith on September 21st, 2013
What books are on your nightstand? Cover Image

Or, as in my case, on your kitchen table?

In many magazines, such as People or Vanity Fair, there is often a column where famous people are asked what they are reading. Sometimes their answers are something you might expect (Kyle Richards is reading the Fifty Shades trilogy, okay), sometimes they’re a little surprising (Trisha Yearwood read Team of Rivals? did she finish it?), and sometimes a little dubious (Leann Rimes reads?).

Let’s be honest, though…if I were randomly asked what book(s) I am reading right now, chances are I wouldn’t have a stellar, wow-inducing response. I’m often reading a mystery, or only halfway through a couple books, or slogging through something that is a couple years old and it might have a bit of dust on the cover. Right now, I’m reading The Bookman’s Tale. It’s good, I’m almost done. But, the picture below tells the real story: those books have been on my table for a few months, I haven’t opened at least one of them, and I’m not even showing you the books on my nightstand, or the books I have on my desk at work. So many books, so little time. And flat surfaces.

So, reader, what is on your nightstand or table??







The Riddle of the Labyrinth

by Candice Smith on September 16th, 2013
The Riddle of the Labyrinth Cover Image

Margalit Fox’s book is about the decipherment of the Linear B alphabet, and the language it recorded. It’s about the work that goes into things like determining if a written system is a syllabary or a pictographic one, and whether a language has inflections at the ends of its words or not. Doesn’t sound very exciting on the face of it, and I’ll admit that I–lover of history and archaeology–tend to get a bit glassy-eyed at the idea of linguistic anthropology. However, the subject of linguistics always reminds me of a little story that a professor of mine once told that aptly demonstrates the importance of understanding the nuts and bolts of how a language works. While documenting the native Mayan language of Quiche, she learned that you could not simply remove the equivalent of ‘to do’ from a sentence with an action, like we might in our own speech…the example she used was “Fanta be tobili ke” which means “Fanta is doing the cooking.” Compare this to “Fanta tobili ke” which meant “Fanta is cooking.” Literally.

This is serious stuff.

This book is also serious, and it is incredibly interesting. There were some parts that delved into the intricacies of grammar and language that were hard for me to follow, but overall it felt somewhat similar to a lot of the fiction books I enjoy reading. There is an ancient mystery that has been waiting years to be solved–a system of writing that bears little resemblance to other systems, and for which nobody knows what language it corresponds to. How do you even begin to decipher it, when you don’t know what the symbols represent, or what they sound like?? There are three very unique people involved in the story of Linear B, and their lives are full of adventure, struggle and, ultimately, a good dose of sadness. There is a lot of guesswork, detection, and puzzle solving that happens, and the end result is a bit surprising but satisfying. For a work about such a specific and detailed area of study, this book is a really quick read, and the people involved are quite deserving of the attention.

Lost by S.J. Bolton

by Candice Smith on August 16th, 2013

A great beach read!

Ms. Bolton has done it again, crafting an atmospheric thriller that is smart and has its share of suspense and a couple twists, without resorting to an incredulous out-of-the-blue ending. Lost is moody and dark, featuring a killer who is seemingly whisking young boys right from their homes or schools, leaving them days later somewhere near the Thames, with their throats cut and all their blood drained. Detectives are at a loss to find a link between them, social media is blowing the case out of control, and the killer is starting to taunt both the police and possible victims.

While I wouldn’t exactly call her books a series, this one does feature Detectives Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury, who are in previous works of hers, and includes a cameo by psychotherapist Evi Oliver, who is also in a couple other books. They don’t feel like a series, though, because the characters are still being developed in every book, and the cases and mysteries being solved are so unique and original that every title of hers stands solidly on its own ground. Bolton’s books are a bit gritty and dark, the cases are modern, realistic and unsettling, and the characters flawed and sometimes struggling in ways that readers can relate. Real thrillers for real readers…I’m already looking forward to the next title!