by Tom Jordan on November 30th, 2016
One of my favorite radio programs/podcasts is On Point with John Ashbrook. A few weeks ago, Ashbrook had John McWhorter on his show to talk about his latest book, Words on the move: why English won’t – and can’t – sit still (like, literally). McWhorter is a linguist and an English professor and he’s a delight to listen to. He has his own podcast too. The gist of McWhorter’s book is that English, and all languages, change over time and that, all things considered, it’s better that way. Language is best viewed like a story, he argues, and we want a story to go new places. Dictionaries are merely snapshots in time of those stories.
As you may guess from the title, McWhorter makes a case for the frequent use and varied meanings of like and for using literally to mean figuratively. He’s pretty convincing with these, I suppose, but I’ll be curious to see if those two words are still so prominent in ten or twenty years. Read the rest of this entry »
by Tom Jordan on September 8th, 2016
On August 16, the cruise ship Crystal Serenity departed from Anchorage on a voyage through the Northwest Passage. The ship is along the west coast of Greenland this week, making stops in Sisimiut and Nuuk, and it will end up in New York City next week. Here’s the route:
The first trip by sea through the Northwest Passage was Roald Amundsen’s 1903-1906 expedition. Though ships are using this route more in recent years (30 did in 2012), the Crystal Serenity is the first large-scale luxury cruise liner to make the transit. Ticket prices ranged from $22,000 to $120,000, and the ship is accompanied by the icebreaking R.R.S Ernest Shackleton. Read the rest of this entry »
by Tom Jordan on June 24th, 2016
Iowa Land Records is a website where you can search for and view Iowa real estate documents. It’s put together by the Iowa County Recorders Association.
In order to use the site you’ll need to register with a username and password. After logging in, select the Land Record Search link. The next page requires you to select the counties you’d like to search; it looks like this: Read the rest of this entry »
by Tom Jordan on March 16th, 2016
Chinese checkers is a game I like to play with my kids. It’s simple, the rules are easy, and there’s no luck involved. Alas, the divots on our playing board are too shallow, and a bumped board means marbles rolling where they shouldn’t. While searching for a better board to buy online, I often see Go boards too. Those look neat, I think, I’ll have to learn more about this game.
Have you heard of Go? It’s been in the news lately. Google created an artificial intelligence program over the past few years that recently defeated a Korean Go master. It was a big deal. The story is here. Creating an AI program to compete above the amateur level has been a project for decades. The rules are simple, but the possibilities for the game are almost infinitely complex.
The board is a 19×19 square grid and the pieces are black and white stones. The object is to hold the most territory. Like Chess and Chinese checkers, there is no luck involved in Go.
The other night, I made an account on the first Go site that came up after a search and played a few games. I was so bad that I felt sorry for my opponents. I had a friendly chat with one of them who offered some nice encouragement – thanks, kurr5.
ICPL has books on Go at 794.4. We have a manga series that features the game at 741.5952 Hotta Hikaru too.
by Tom Jordan on December 5th, 2015
I tend to read articles and books about particular subjects in phases. I’ll read a couple of books on parenting, a few biographies of athletes, maybe some philosophy or some histories. Maybe most of us do this. Exercise and food are two subject areas I often circle back to. The idea is that some of it might sink in and actually affect the way I eat and move. Experience tells me that my natural position is sitting down with my feet propped up while eating a bowl of ice cream.
One book that made a big impression on me was Eating on the wild side by Jo Robinson. It’s all about vegetables and fruits – their origins, nutritional value, and how to get the most out of eating them. Robinson, an investigative journalist, writes about how the plants we eat have been cultivated over time to be the way they are now. In general, we’ve selected them to be less fibrous and more sugary. They’re also less nutritious.
Even if you aren’t interested in changing the way you eat, there’s plenty to make it a worthy read. From Chapter 2: “The Menominee Nation of the Great Lakes region laid claim to an extensive field of wild garlic, or ramps, that was located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. The area was so rife with ramps that their odor perfumed the air for miles. The Menominee called their prized field Shikako, or ‘skunk place.’ The name lives on today in its anglicized form, Chicago.”
Jim Gaffigan approaches food and eating from a different angle. In Food: a love story, he writes less about things like vegetables and nutrition and more about things like cheese and gravy. He covers restaurants and culinary specialties in various regions of the country. Gaffigan, a comedian, describes himself as an “eatie” rather than a foodie. If you want to read about food and feel okay about yourself and your diet regardless of what you’re eating, then give this one a try.
by Tom Jordan on September 25th, 2015
The Library often has events I’d love to attend, but other life things (having children) make it a stretch. Steven Pinker was here last Tuesday, for example, and there was lots of excitement. A young couple asked me earlier that day if they would get seats by getting here an hour before he started speaking. I said I thought they would.
If you have cable through Mediacom, then you can watch events like this on Channel 20, The Library Channel.
What’s neat is that a lot of ICPL’s videorecordings are available to watch any time at http://video.icpl.org/. As with the catalog, you are able to browse by subject or search by keyword. If there is a recording that you know the Library has but you’re not seeing on the site, then you can request it be added by writing us here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Tom Jordan on June 17th, 2015
You might be familiar with the Park@201 building downtown. It’s the new building on the ped mall with the glass exterior. Take a look at the top of building, the southwest and northwest corners in particular, and you will notice two protrusions. No, they are not gargoyles. They are video cameras that provide a giant’s-eye view of Iowa City courtesy of MetaCommunications. Here’s the website: http://www.metacommunications.com/webcam.
One camera is pointing north and the other is pointing south. The neat thing is that you can control the cameras. On the lower right part of the camera view, you will see this:
Clicking on the icon to which the green arrow is pointing will give you a fullscreen view. The icon to the right of that will let you control the camera. From there you can choose the camera’s orientation and you can zoom in or out.
Here are views from both cameras:
My favorite view is Ped Mall South. What’s yours?
by Tom Jordan on May 18th, 2015
A friend recommended Blood and Thunder: an epic of the American West to me awhile back, but I was reluctant to read it. It had been some time since I had read a history and had unreservedly enjoyed it. Take Charles Mann’s 1491 and 1493, for example. They’re both great. You will be enlightened, and you will learn all sorts of fascinating things if you read them. I’ll go ahead and say that you will be a better person. But I’d guess that you’ll also find the level of detail tedious at times.
My experience with Hampton Sides has been different. He is a master storyteller.
In Blood and Thunder, Sides focuses on the American Southwest from the 1840s to the 1860s and on the life of Kit Carson in particular. Carson participated in the conquest of the West and gave his loyalty to the American military and government. He also married two Indian women and spoke many Indian languages. Popular westerns of the time – blood and thunders they were called – portrayed Carson as a swashbuckling hero protecting settlers from marauding Indians. More contemporary histories have tended to the reverse these roles. Sides is more interested in telling stories about human beings whose actions and motivations are complex and develop over time. The story of the Navajo people and their land is particularly interesting.
Hellhound on his Trail is both history and true crime, and it’s riveting. Martin Luther King, Jr’s last days are chronicled and details of his assassin’s life and flight from justice are doled out at a measured pace. The manhunt for King’s killer, who had been living under an alias or two, was massive, and it eventually reached overseas. Please note that Sides gives no credence to the government conspiracy theory of the assassination, so you’ll have to look elsewhere (one-star Amazon reviews) if you’re inclined that way.
I’ll give his latest, In the Kingdom of Ice, another thumbs up. I’m about a third of the way into it, and I’ve never looked forward more to hearing about shivering, miserable sailors in the Arctic. The mission was operating on the notion that there might very well be an open polar sea. There was a current in the Pacific Ocean, it was thought, similar to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, and that current was flowing through the Bering Strait and warming the Arctic Ocean at the Pole. They imagined the wonders.
by Tom Jordan on April 9th, 2015
The Iowa City Assessor’s website is useful if you’d like to know more about real property in Iowa City. In Iowa City, real property (land and buildings), is reassessed every two years. On the Assessor’s Duties page, there is information on the qualifications of the assessor, definitions of terms like “market value,” and explanations on how and why properties are valued as they are. Prominent on this page is the General Misconceptions About the Assessor’s Work section, and its gist is that the Assessor is a disinterested party when it comes to taxes. Grief from property owners over taxes must be ever-present.
Iowa City is divided into parcels, or defined lots of land that are owned by a person or persons. Parcels are searchable by number, name of business, street address, and legal description. It would be nice if non-commercial properties were searchable by name as well. The Johnson County Assessor, which assesses all Johnson County property not in Iowa City, allows a search by name. Do you know someone who owns property in Johnson County outside of Iowa City? Go ahead and search for the property by the owner’s name here.
After doing a search and selecting a parcel on the Iowa City site, you’ll find all sorts of information: values of the buildings and land, lot dimensions, details of building permits, etc. What I find most interesting is the sales information. Who bought from whom? And when and for how much?
You may also search property sales in Iowa City and limit the search by a number of criteria. The first listed is a date range. So, for example, you can see that there were 247 recorded sales in Iowa City in January 2015.
Another search offered is a search of buildings. Would you like to compare your house built in 1924 to others built that year? Do your search here.
To find out more about property in Iowa City, visit the Iowa City Assessor’s website. Or maybe even stop in at the office for a chat. Just be careful if you’d like to talk taxes.
by Tom Jordan on January 14th, 2015
This is not something I ask myself often. But when I do, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department has a ready answer. The County’s website is here: http://www.johnson-county.com/. On that page, there is a Jail Inmate Roster link on the left side of the page. If you’d like to see Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek’s smiling face before looking at the roster (or if you just want more information on the Sheriff’s Department), then select Sheriff from the Department dropdown menu. There’s a Jail Inmate Roster link there too.
After a disclaimer page (presumed innocent until proven guilty), then you have the roster. There’s quite a bit of information there: name, date booked, age, location of the inmate, the charge, bond amount, and a photo. Right now, Johnson County has 116 inmates. 58 are housed here in Johnson County, 57 are in Muscatine County, and one is in Linn County.