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OverDrive Tip: Saving Books for Later

by Anne Mangano on January 16th, 2016

When it comes to holds, does it seem like all of your eBooks or audiobooks become available all at once? This happens to me all of the time. I find a few audiobooks I want to listen to, but they are currently checked out to someone else, so I place holds. Then a few days later, I receive several email notifications that all of them are ready for me to check out. Five audiobooks in three weeks for me is not happening. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our eBook and digital audiobook provider, OverDrive offers a few tools for me to manage my reading much better than just placing holds. I can save books for later.

The Wish List

The first option is using the wish list. Rather than placing holds on everything, I can just add the titles to a list. Underneath the large, red “Borrow” or “Place Hold” bwishlistutton is this small, tiny, gray “Add to Wish List” option. If you click on that, the book is added to your “Wish List”.  There are no limits on the amount of items you can have on your wish list, you can add or delete items at any time, and best of all, you can filter the list to only see the items that are available right now. You’ll find your wish list in your OverDrive account at overdrive.icpl.org.

Suspending a Hold

So maybe you want to keep a hold, you are just not ready for the book right now. This is a great option if you’ve made it to the top of a long waiting list, but are in the middle of something else and don’t want to lose your place. You’ve waited so long! If you “suspend a suspendhold,” you can pick a window of time (7, 14, 21, 28, 60, or 90 days) where you’ll keep your place in line for the book, but won’t actually get the book until the time period is over or you remove the suspension. During the suspension, it goes to the next user in line. This option can be found on your holds list in your OverDrive account at overdrive.icpl.org.

For more OverDrive tips, click on the “OverDrive Tips” tag below.

 

An epiphany, of sorts.

by Candice Smith on January 8th, 2016

holidaysI did not put up a Christmas tree this year, although I usually put one up around Thanksgiving and keep it around until at least New Year’s (actually, it’s always ‘around’ in the sense that it’s fake, it just spends a lot of time in the basement). I really enjoy having the tree; I love decorating it with ornaments that I’ve collected through the years, all of which are special to me for one reason or another, and as I unwrap and place each one I’m reminded of things like when I got it and why I chose it, who gave it to me, or who it used to belong to. I put multiple strands of lights on the tree, a tree skirt for the presents to sit on, and a star on top–the whole deal.

This year, however, I have two 1-year-old boy cats that like to run, jump, climb, and eat whatever they can get their little, adorable paws on. The tree was an obvious no.

Regardless of the sad state of my home and its holiday decor, I recently learned something that I can take into consideration the next time I am able to put the tree up–and that is when to take it back down. I never knew that there were traditions about this, so I may be late to this game. It seems that one should have their tree and all decorations put away by the Twelfth Night holiday. Simple, right? Sort of. January 5 is the twelfth day after Christmas Eve, while January 6 is the twelfth day after Christmas. January 6 is also the holiday of Epiphany, which marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas, and the revealing of the newborn Jesus to the three wise men. So, which night is the real Twelfth Night? It seems that you can choose whether you go with the eve before January 6, or the eve of–according to the book Holiday Symbols and Customs, most celebrate it on the night of Epiphany, the 6th. Which is the twelfth. Choose wisely, though–tradition holds that anyone with decorations still up will suffer bad luck in the coming year.

But wait…there’s more! There is also a tradition that one put away their Christmas tree and decorations on February 2, which is Candlemas–a holiday that marks the presentation of Jesus at the temple, and involves the lighting of many candles to represent the belief that he was a light for the world. The book Folklore of World Holidays states that this marks the end of the Christmas holiday. One representation of that end is that people put away their crèche–which is a Christmas decoration. Again, leaving up the decorations past this date can bring bad luck, even death. Of course, February 2 is also groundhog day, which at first seems unrelated to all of this, until you recall that the little groundhog (or bear or hedgehog, depending on your location) comes out to check his shadow, which is related to the amount of light.

So…short story made a bit long, there is definitely a date by which, according to various traditions, one should take down their Christmas tree and decorations. Three, in fact. Stop by the Information Desk to do a little research and help you pick which date you’ll use.

Animals in the winter

by Maeve Clark on December 31st, 2015

Walking outdoors after a recent snowfall you can discover just what animals are out and about in your neighborhood.  What animal made the track on the left?  If ySquirrel-Track-300x224ou guessed squirrel, you are right. rabbit tracks

And what about the other tracks?  Can you identify that animal?  Yes, you’re correct, that is a rabbit track.

 

For help in identifying tracks the library has a number of books to help you.  There are more advanced books upstairs in the nonfiction collection, including one that offers guidance on tracking rhinos and elephants, probably not so useful for a winter’s walk in an Iowa park, but still full of interesting information on how to best track and observe animals in a very different habitat. There are also a number of books in the children’s collection on animal tracks with easy to follow illustrations and photographs.

If you need something to take with you on a hike, you can find a good number of easy-to-print guides by simply googling animal tracks winter guide.   If  you are interested in learning more about animals a trip to the F. W. Kent Park,  the location of the Johnson County Conservation Board’s Education Center, is in order.  The center offers a good number of activities during the winter including an owl prowl, bird walks and and a snowshoe hike, all opportunities to test your animal tracking skills.   Another fun activity this winter is a chance to learn about bald eagles.  While it was once a rare event to see an eagle you can now find them along many Iowa streams and rivers.  The Iowa Department of Natural Resources hosts Bald Eagle watch in various locations in the state.  The closest one to Iowa City will be near Coralville.

 

 

Iowa weather word of the day is Graupel.

by Beth Fisher on December 28th, 2015
Iowa weather word of the day is Graupel. Cover Image

 

Today’s weather word of the day in Iowa City is Graupel.

Graupel is a winter phenomenon often mistaken for hail or sleet, but it’s actually quite different.  Graupel is the result of super-cooled droplets of water freezing to the surface of a snowflake. Unlike a hailstone, they are not truly round in shape, they’re more like little globs of lumpy ice and are usually only 2-5 mm in size.  The easy way to tell graupel from hail is to try and pick it up.  Hailstones are hard while graupel pellets are soft and mushy.graupe  This is a handful of graupel.

How is graupel different from hail or sleet?  Read on.

 

 

Hail is a sphere of ice that falls from the clouds during a thunderstorm in the warmer seasons. Hail is usually 5mm to 15 cm in size (about 1/4 inch to 6 inches), and is formed inside thunderstorms with significant updrafts. Hailstones are made of many hard uniform layers of ice that rise and fall inside the clouds until they weigh to much for the updrafts to keep aloft. Hail rarely forms in the winter.

Sleet, which resembles hail, forms during winter storms when a snowflake passes through a small warmer layer of air after forming.  The flake partially melts, then refreezes into a droplet shape before it reaches the ground. Sleet often falls in conjunction with very cold rain.

Freezing rain or Glaze Ice is super-cooled rain that freezes on contact with a surface that is at or below 32 degrees.

Here’s one last fun weather word: Rime.   Rime is what is created when the water droplets in fog freeze when they come in contact with something very cold – like a car windshield. Rime comes in two types – Hard Rime which forms on the windward side of objects during moderate to high winds or Soft Rime which forms on all sides of an object when there is little or no wind.

snowflakeFor more information about snow or weather check out the following:

The Snowflake: Winter’s Frozen Artistry by Kenneth Libbrecht

 

 

 

 

Thunder & Lightening: weather past, present, future by Lauren Redniss.thunder and lightning

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restless skies: the ultimate weather book by Paul Douglasskys

 

 

 

 

 

How Many Presidential Candidates Are There?

by Heidi Lauritzen on December 4th, 2015

Recently I tried to do a quick search on the Internet to make sure I was remembering all of the 2016 presidential candidates.  I stumbled onto a website that listed an amazing number of people (along with the usual suspects that most of us could name) who were identified as candidates.  Was this for real?  I needed to find something a little more authoritative to be sure.

The Federal Election Commission seemed like a good place to check for an unbiased and official list of candidates.  Under the “Quick Answers” section, I found out what it takes (not too much) to register as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate or the Presidency.  Also at the FEC website, I found their 2016 Candidate Summary, which lists all the people who have registered with the FEC or appear on an official state ballot.  There are well over 1,000 names running for the office of president, although the vast majority have no cash on hand and practically no one would take their candidacy seriously.  Some of the candidate names are suspect (see photo), and it’s easy to see at a glance who the real contenders are.

fec names

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is not a lot of middle ground between the FEC list, which includes so many names, and the coverage of the few candidates who register sufficiently high in polls and receive most of the media attention.   Ballotpedia is a website with up-to-date information on mainstream candidates and which notes the sources of its facts.  The Politics and Elections Portal lists many more candidates, but by no means all; it is interesting to read the short biographies of the lesser-known names.

If you are tired of the same old, same old when it comes to the president race, take a look at some of these other options.

Gas prices – how low will they go?

by Maeve Clark on November 25th, 2015

How low will the price of gas drop this year?  Iowa City recorded a low of $1.99 the first part of January 2015 and while the cost of filling your car has gone up since then,  prices are trending down tgas pricehe last week in November at $2.09 a gallon.  According to a Iowa City Press Citizen article on January 3, 2015, the under $2.00 price was the lowest since May 2009.  The Federal Energy Administration maintains a website of gas prices in the United States but not for Iowa specifically. The United State Department of Energy Fuel Economy also doesn’t have Iowa information but provides links to a number of commercial sites that track the price of gas by week for cities in Iowa.  To track current prices I used the Iowa Gas Prices from gasbuddy.com.  AAA also provides a very useful information for the past year and the highest recorded fuel price.  However, it doesn’t include Iowa City.

What causes fuel prices to vary so greatly?  There are a number of factors that determine the cost of gas.  They are the cost of crude oil, the refining costs and profits, the distribution and marketing costs and profits and taxes.  The cost of crude oil is the major factor in the cost of fuel.  The expansion of  oil production in North America is main reason the price is dropping. If you are looking for apps to help you find the lowest gas prices here are a few suggestions from CNN Money.

Can you recall the lowest price you paid for a gallon of gas?  It might make for interesting Thanksgiving conversation.

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it!

by Brian Visser on November 23rd, 2015
It’s the end of the world as we know it! Cover Image

Are you prepared for the eventual collapse of society?  I see you slowly backing away from me, but wait!  Let me put away my tin foil hat and explain.  I was recently searching for a new book to read, preferably something non-fiction. (I always make a reading resolution to read more non-fiction, but I never do).  I stumbled upon a book called Lights Out by Ted Koppel.  Koppel wrote about the likelihood of a cyber-attack against the country’s power grid, and how we’re ill prepared for a lengthy blackout.  There would be no running water or means to refrigerate our food.  The smart phones that we use constantly would be useless within days.  Heavy stuff, right?  Also, Koppel investigated the federal government’s planned response for such an attack, and, apparently, there isn’t one.  So…we’re screwed.

I’m actually not all that worried about our impending doom, but it did get me to think about some common sense preparations in the case of a disaster, natural or otherwise.  While the government hasn’t planned for a power grid attack, it does have suggestions for general disaster preparedness.  The Department of Homeland Security created the Ready website to educate us on how to respond to emergencies, and, hopefully, raise the level of preparedness across America.  If you go to the website, you’ll see a “Navigation” link on the left.  If you click on that, it brings up the site’s content including an (almost) exhaustive list of the terrible things that could happen.  Space weather (!) is on this list.  Which–this gave me a chuckle–talks about damage to the electric grid, but not to the level that Koppel is worried about.

FEMA got in on the action (cause it’s their job) and made a Recommended Supplies List.  Honestly, I need to get my act together.  We don’t have most of the stuff on the list, and it definitely isn’t assembled into an Emergency Supply Kit.  Did you look at that list?  It says to consider having household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper in your kit.  Why?  Because if things get super dire, you can use it to treat water to make it drinkable by using 16 drops of  liquid bleach per gallon of water.  I did some checking into this, and that’s basically what city water treatment does.  So, it won’t even taste weird.  Fun stuff!  If I sound like I’m making light of all this, I’m really not.  I think it’s smart to be prepared.  I’m going to start making my kit soon…Tomorrow, probably.  I’m sure I’ll get around to it sometime.

Inspiration for your fiction

by Melody Dworak on November 17th, 2015
Inspiration for your fiction Cover Image

NaNoWriMo is more than halfway over. Looking for inspiration to get you past writer’s block? Consider consulting dictionaries and encyclopedias on specific subjects.

Last week, someone stumbled upon our encyclopedias on the short Reference shelves on the second floor. He wondered if we had anything like that for sci fi/fantasy mythology. He was curious as to where storytellers got their information about the strengths and weaknesses of monsters.

Lucky for him, he was talking with someone who’s been reading a ton of fantasy fiction this year. I have read the accounts of countless vampires, ghosts, werewolves, fae, demons, witches, trolls, shape-shifters—you name it!

I got him the book How to Kill a Vampire as a place to start. As we were talking about what his goals were for finding books like this, it struck me that he had a great idea: use these kinds of books to inspire and research your fiction writing.  Read the rest of this entry »

Iowa City building permit search

by Jason Paulios on November 16th, 2015

Recently I was trying to research the construction history for my house and found some errors and/or incomplete information. The Iowa City Assessor site has a Parcel Search lookup which shows you a lot of property detail. Unfortunately, like many local databases, the information tends to be more accurate when searching construction that has happened since the world has adopted computers. My house had information describing the garage and small addition as being constructed the same year as the original building which seemed unlikely.

The next step is to visit the website for the City of Iowa City Housing & Inspection Services’ permit activity lookup. This is a great tool and could be used by people wanting to search a property prior to purchase or to research potential remodeling/repair contractors, just do a search for a local builder to see what other jobs they’ve completed. In my case the remodel must have happened too far back to be in the system so I headed to City Hall to see if they had any hard copies.  Staff there were happy to show me the back files and we found all the records on microfiche! From these I determined that the original building was done in 1955 (dated October 26th) and that the small addition (77 square feet) was from 1961 and estimated to cost $200 (hahahaha, even with inflation this is still only $1600 today or about $21 per square foot).

For your next house history hunt make sure to include the Housing & Inspection Services department!  Here’s a super detailed drawing plan for constructing a garage in 1961:

1961Garage

Is it going to snow tomorrow?

by Mary Estle-Smith on October 29th, 2015

Living in the Midwest, we all experience the ever changing weather and lament the sometimes frustrating inaccuracy of  forecasting that we experience, especially when trying to plan an event around upcoming weather. The Information Desk gets several questions per week about current and future weather.  We use sources like the National Weather Service as well as local media sites.

There are also many items in our collection that can help you to become a more informed observer of what is happening and  have a better understanding of meteorology as a science. These are just a few of the items you will find by searching “weather forecasting” in our catalog.  There are materials for readers of all levels on everything from weather folklore to experiments you can play with at home.  Check it out!! Here are a few examples:

Thunder and lightningIn Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future, Lauren Redniss tells the story of weather and humankind through the ages.  The author explores the headquarters of the National Weather Service and looks at the global and economic impact of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.  In addition to extensive research into her subject matter, the author also designed and produced the text, artwork and cover.

 

 forecastingFor the DIY weather people, Guide to Weather Forecasting  may be the book for you.  The aptly named author, Storm Dunlop includes  detailed information on causes of weather,  how to recognize clouds and interpret sky appearance, and explanations of weather systems and how they  change.  The book includes charts, photographs and diagrams amateur forecasters will find useful.  Give it a try, see if you can beat the “pros”!

71bwcGmvTcL__SX342_And finally, something better to watch on a screen than outside your window: Deadliest Tornadoes. This documentary examines the extremely deadly 2011 season to try to better predict tornadoes in the future.

 

 

 




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