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May 25, 2012
WHAT I'M CURRENTLY READING:Nonfiction: Stephen Puleo. Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. In 1919, a tank containing 2.3 million gallons of molasses, weighing 26 million pounds tore open, sending a 20 foot high wave of molasses across a two block area, killing 21 people, injuring 150 more, and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. A fascinating piece of historical research and storytelling that reads like a disaster novel, complete with heroes, victims you care about, a whodunit story, a courtroom drama, and a search for justice, all told within the historical context of World War I (molasses was a key ingredient in munitions) and a series of anarchist attacks on American industry (which made the company's argument that an anarchist bomb had caused the tank to fail seem possible)
Fiction: Jenn McKinlay. Books Can Be Deceiving. The first in a series of mysteries to be solved by library director Lindsey Norris, who has to investigate a murder herself to save her outstanding children's librarian Beth from being charged with it. An aspiring children's book author, Beth broke up with her Caldecott-winner boyfriend very publicly the day before his murder was discovered, and after she learned that he had plagiarized her book.
- BBQ Recipes - Food Network
The Food Network provides over 400 BBQ recipes for burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and healthy summer meals, as well as menus, how-to videos, and guides to side dishes, desserts, and ummer parties.
- Economic Mobility Project - Pew Center on the States
This project studies the factors that affect people's ability to move up the economic ladder. Note especially its "interactive tool that captures the findings of the first analysis of Americans’ economic mobility at the state level, including data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia."
- Food Production - Five Books - the Browser
Over the past several years, Americans have started paying a lot more attention to how our food is grown and processed, thanks in large part to these books.
- How To Avoid Hidden Charges - Indiana Department of Financial Institutions
This useful web site from the state of Indiana helpfully explains not only what kinds of hidden charges you may find on your credit card statements, bank statements, and utility bills, but also what your rights are, and how to contest the charges.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
If you have purchased a car based on its safety ratings, or emerged from an automobile accident with nothing worse than bruises, you owe a debt of gratitude to this organization. Thanks to its crash tests, and to its analysis of data on insurance claims, automotive engineers and manufacturers have greatly improved the ability of their cars to protect passengers. You can find info here about child safety, booster seat ratings, federal and state laws and regulations, and detailed analysis of fatalities by vehicle types, particular equipment, hazards, and drivers.
- Locating American Manufacturing - Brookings
Click on a metro area on the map to explore that city's data on manufacturing jobs, specialities, and patterns.
- Most Bikeable Cities - WalkScore
WalkScore, an invaluable tool that allows you to assess how walkable a specific home is, has added new features, including one for access to transit and this one for the ten cities with the best conditions for bike riders.
- Plant Encyclopedia - Better Homes and Gardens
Allows you to search for plants that will work in your specific garden conditions, by name, annuals or perennials, hardiness zones, sun and soil conditions, and more. An especially useful feature: the full description includes suggestions for what plants work well with it.
- Popular Baby Names
On display are kast year's most popular baby names, always an excellent guide to what parents were watching or reading (or whose tweets they were following) last year. You can also compare and contrast with the top names for any other year
- World Public Opinion
A place to find out what the rest of the world thinks about a wide variety of important issues. Search, or browse by region or issues (globalization, development, international security, human rights, views on specific countries, etc.). <
WHAT I'M CURRENTLY READING:Nonfiction: Otis Brawley, MD. How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks about Being Sick in America. This highly respected physician and VP of the American Cancer Society uses case studies to explain abiding problems with the health care system, from lack of access because of poverty to excessive access to care that has no proven value, does harm in many cases, and continues to be offered because the whole health care system makes money off the treatments.
Fiction: Erin McKean. The Secret Life of Dresses. When Mimi, the grandmother who raised her from babyhood, has a stroke, aimless college student Dora returns to take over running hre grandmother's vintage clothing shop. She's always helped with the shop in the past, but this time she truly falls in love not only with the clothes and the shop, but with the typed stories about the women who wore the dresses she keeps finding in their pockets. When Mimi dies, Dora is shocked to learn Mimi never changed her will from many years previously when she bequeathed it to their obnoxious uncle, which means his wife Camille, who despises the vintage clothes and is dying to take over and modernize the shop. No longer aimless, Dora saves the stock just before they're kicked out, and sets up shop on her own.
- 10 Things You Should Do Immediately After Losing Your Wallet - Wise Bread
One of the few things scarier than realizing your wallet is gone is realizing what its finder might do with it. It helps to have a checklist like this at hand to make sure you don't forget to do something important - and to remind you about what you should do before that ever happens to you.
- 37 Data-ish Blogs You Should Know About - Flowing Data
If you love data in all forms - statistics, maps, visualization, infographics, etc. - check this out; you're bound to find at least one blog of interest here.
- ALEC - American Legislative Exchange Council - Limited Government, Free Markets, Federalism
The Trayvon Martin shooting called attention to the the Stand Your Ground law, one of a number of pieces of model laws proposed by the influential American Legislative Exchange Council and enacted by some states. Check out its other initiatives here for a preview of what may soon be on your own state's legislative agenda.
- Be a Budget Traveler in Your Own Town - Get Rich Slowly
Chances are there are numerous free or inexpensive attractions and things to do in your own home town that you aren't aware of. April Dykman shows you a few simple tricks for discovering them.
- Children's Book-a-Day Almanac
It's a little late to tell you that this is Children's Book Week, but I always find out about these things once they've actually started. Anyway, this "daily love letter to a [children's] book or author by Anita Silvey is a good starting place to find good reads for children, both in her daily choices and in her book recommendations by age group, book type, subject, and more.
- Fishing News, Tips, Video, Gear Reviews, Blogs - World Fishing Network http://www.worldfishingnetwork.com/
If your car sports an "I'd rather be fishing" sticker, this site is for you. You'll find fishing events and tournaments, travel guides, videos, recipes for your catches, WFN TV, and a community.
- Kaiser Health News
An editorially-independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, respected for its wide-ranging research and analysis of health issues. Health News is searchable and browsable by state, and by categories including Medicare, Health Reform, Aging, Health Costs, Quality, Uninsured, etc.
- Local Harvest - Farmers Markets, Family Farms, CSas, Organic Food
My local farmers markets are currently featuring the first peaches of the season, strawberries, flower sets, eggs, corn, greens of all kinds, Angus beef and more. If reading this makes you feel hungry, look here to find out where you can buy some of the best food you've ever tasted directly from the people who grow it.
- New York City Municipal Archives Photo Gallery
Contains over 870,000 historic photos of the city, searchable and browsable by the individual NYC agencies' collections. I especially enjoyed browsing through the 233 images from a search on aerial views, the 86 images of a snowbound city, and, of course, the 171 images of New York libraries.
- Top 10 Highly Desired Skills You Can Teach Yourself - Lifehacker
Lifehacker has been showing people various skills for a long time, and in this article, refers you to past articles about how to repair just about anything, pick up just about any subject you missed in college, play a new instrument, cook like a pro, become fluent in a new language, and more.
- Tropical Cyclone Names
Just in time for hurricane season, NOAA has released the names for this year's hurricanes. Let's hope we won't have to use Hurricane William.
What I'm Currently Reading
Non-fiction: Tom Zoellner. A Safeway in Arizona. A lifelong resident of Arizona, reporter, and friend and supporter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Zoellner is in a good position to report on the shooting of Giffords and numerous other people at the Safeway, and to argue that Arizona's super-individualistic, community-repelling culture and government are contributing factors to the way Jared Loughner's mental illness manifested itself; he sees the Safeway itself as a symbol of that culture, sinceby default it's one of the few community gathering places in Tucson.
- 10 Infographics for Foodies
Intriguing infographics enlighten us on Food Waste, The Case for Beer, Eating Seasonably, and more.
- Fantasy Book Critic
This labor of love by a dedicated team of avid readers/fans includes reviews of "Fantasy, Science fiction, Horror, YA/Children’s Books and other Speculative Fiction," as well as author interviews and spotlights on books coming out each month. So far, there are 1000+ reviews already, with more added daily.
- HGTV - Decorating, Home Improvement, Landscaping Ideas...
I've noticed that since the real estate market has gone downhill, a lot of people seem to have opted for remodeling and updating the homes they already own, so this may be a good time to explore HGTV's wealth of ideas and advice on how to decorate, add decks or patios, do kitchen makeovers, start a gardening project, etc. You can get design ideas from the videos, photos and episodes of HGTV shows, and step-by-step guides on how to carry out your projects.
- Historical Marker Database
Did history happen in your town or state or in the places you're passing through when you travel? Find out here, browsing by state or country, or by historical events (wars, exploration, churches, landmarks, heroes, notable buildings, etc.)
- How To Read Science News - Boing Boing
This, and the linked original article it's reporting on, should be a basic part of your information evaluation toolkit, because much of the science reporting in standard news media is seriously flawed.
- MentorMob - Learn What You Want, Teach What You Love
Allows anybody to view or create their own "playlists" of videos, articles and websites on any topic that interests them. Existing playlists are searchable and browsable by topic, subdivided into academic or recreational. A blog highlights recent interesting additions to the site. Among the playlists: lean startup methodology, creating a video grame from scratch, weather science projects for kids, women's self-defense, baking sourdough bread at home, etc.
- National Consumers League
"The National Consumers League provides government, businesses, and other organizations with the consumer's perspective on concerns including child labor, privacy, food safety, and medication information." Of particular note: NCL's Savvy Consumer Blog, and its Fraud Center, which "tracks the latest Internet and telemarketing scams, and helps consumers avoid them."
- Public Services International Research Unit
"PSIRU researches the privatisation and restructuring of public services around the world, with special focus on water, energy, waste management, and healthcare. It produces reports and maintains an extensive database on the multinational companies involved." Since there is little follow-through by governments to see whether private contractors do in fact deliver public services as well as government workers, and with the claimed cost savings, the research here is worth exploring even though the site is sponsored by public service trade unions with a personal stake in the research.
- State of the Air 2012 - American Lung Association
Check out the rankings for most polluted and cleanest cities. Click on the name of the city for a detailed description of its air conditions.
- World Religions, Religion Statistics, Geography, Church Statistics
"a growing collection of over 43,870 adherent statistics and religious geography citations: references to published membership/adherent statistics and congregation statistics for over 4,200 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures, movements, ultimate concerns, etc."
- 37 Alternatives to Yelling at Your Kids - Parenting Squad
Provides 37 techniques for calming yourself first, for dealing with the feelings behind the child's behavior, and for modeling good conflict resolution. Not to mention figuring out whether the problem is the child being unusually irritating, or you being unusually irritable.
- The Best City Reads of 2011 - the Atlantic
People who loves cities and want them to thrive may enjoy The Atlantic Cities site, which provides its own original stories and gathers them from other sources. Here's a sampler: a roundup of the best journalism they found about cities in 2011.
- Consumer Finance Protection Bureau - Submit a Complaint
The new bureau is already investigating consumer complaints about mortgages, credit cards, banking, vehicle loans, and student loans, and already has a track record of quick response. Register here with your first complaint, and then check your complaint status here.
- Food in Every Country
Country-by-country descriptions of the foods and popular dishes, often with recipes. Useful for travelers and for anybody who wants to add a little international variety to their own cooking.
- Lady of the Stopwatch
If you're gearing up for Mother's Day, May 13, you might enjoy my tribute to all moms, the traditional stay-at-homes like my own mother, and those who learned that "having it all" is not what it was cracked up to be.
- Medical Research and Treatment Information from Medify.com
The site's motto is "Medical research is complex, the search for it shouldn't have to be." Type in a condition, and choose the overview, to search studies, or compare top treatments. You can retrieve a chart that analyzes the research on common treatments: the number of studies, number of patients studied, the strength of the evidence for each, and how they rank compared with other treatments. You can then follow the links to view the research studies through Medline.
- Non-GMO Project
Anyone concerned about genetically-modified organisms in our food supply will welcome the web site of this "non-profit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices." Supported by retailers who support consumers' right to information about their food, it includes FAQs about GMO foods and crops, provides testing and verification of products, and allows you to browse certified non-GMO products by brand or product category (baby food, dairy products, feed & seed, packaged/frozen meals, etc.).
- Natural History - The Browser
"Experts from London's Natural History Museum discuss their top five books on everything - from bats to plants, dinosaurs to meteorites and more."
- Private Company Research - LibGuides at Duke University
Because privately held companies are not traded on stock exchanges, they are not required to make public detailed financial information or annual reports, so information about them is hard to find. But not impossible, especially to determined librarians like these at Duke University. Would-be investors, reporters and job-seekers may want to learn from them how to find such information themselves. Note that use of the specialized (and expensive) databases is limited to Duke students and faculty, but your own local libraries may also subscribe to them.
- Religion News Service
Since religion - a major part of our lives and guiding philosophies - is largely ignored by the traditional news media, the Religion News Service aims to fill in that hole by providing "in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas." Searchable and browsable by categories like Politics, Faith (Doctrine & Practice, Clergy & Congregations, Leaders & Institutions), Ethics (Death & Dying, Medical Ethics, etc.), multimedia presentations, and blogs.
WHAT I'M CURRENTLY READING:
Non-fiction: Slide Mountain: The Folly of Owning Nature, by Theodore Steinberg. The problem with owning a chunk of nature is that nature has a distressing way of moving around. Steinberg presents fascinating stories of legal conflicts arising from nature's shifts, including: who owns an Indian tribe's property when its river boundary shifts position; who owns a rich underwater resource depends entirely on whether the body of water is called a lake or a stream, and more.
Fiction: William Kent Krueger's novels about sometime Minnesota sheriff Cork O'Connor. One of his novels is called Boundary Waters, and that title defines what the books explore. Those boundaries can lead to richly productive intermixing, and to conflict: the boundaries between between two cultures, white and Indian; between wilderness and human-ordered property (town and reservation); between law and justice. O'Connor is a complex character, mostly white but part Indian, who embodies those conflicts as an outsider in both cultures.
- 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners
Includes descriptions of and citations to the work the winners and finalists are being honored for, but no direct links.
Nutrition information for more than 8000 foods.
- Good Jobs First
A resource for anyone who wants to make economic subsidies offered by state and local governments more accountable and effective. The site includes Accountable USA,which reports on each state's subsidy practices and controversies, a Subsidy Tracker database which provided info on the cost and the employment impact of companies receiving subsidies, and Corporate Subsidy Watch, which tracks companies that are "the leading over-users and abusers of economic development subsidies."
- Informing the Debate over Tax Policy - Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
Since it's already clear that how people and corporations are taxed will be a major issue in the presidential campaign, this informative site will be useful. In addition to news about taxation by state, it includes state-specific reports, policy analysis ("Capping Property Taxes: A Primer," "State Income Taxes and Older Adults," "How State Corporate Income Taxes Work," etc.), and multistate reports ("Building a Better Gas Tax," "Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers," "The ITEP Guide to Fair State and Local Taxes," etc.)
- Library Journal Infodocket
This long-time guide to top-notch information resources and documents by Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy, a long-time favorite of librarians and information junkies, has found a new home at Library Journal.
- Movie Review Query Engine (MRQE)
A database of reviews of over 100,000 movies, new and old, in theaters or on DVD. For fun, you can check out the list articles: "Best to Worst Dystopian Movies," "Best to Worst Buddy Cops Movies," "Best Cold War Movies," etc.
- Old Book Illustrations
"a wide range of illustrations scanned from old books. Most of these vintage pictures are originally wood engravings or woodcuts, fewer are etchings or metal engravings." Browse through galleries of Animals, Plants, Landscapes, Buildings, etc. Click on thumbnails to get a full sized image, and the citation to the book the image was taken from. While no other info is provided, the clickable subject headings assigned to it yield clues about what and where the subject matter is.
- Paying for College Cost Comparison Worksheet - CFPB
Enter up to three universities you're considering, and it will supply for each the sticker price for first year, average grants and scholarships, total borrowing, estimated debt after school, and comparative debt burden.
- Poem in your Pocket Day - April 26
Celebrate by carrying around a favorite poem and sharing it with friends. There are plenty of poems available on the site, as well as advice to people who'd like to organize an event.
- The Thoughtful Animal
A blog by Jason Goldman, exploring "the evolution and architecture of the mind." For anyone interested in the great mystery of how 3 pounds of gray matter can produce inventions, literature, comedy, music, etc.
- 100 Greatest Cooking Tips of All Time - Food Network
When Food Network Magazine asked top chefs across the country for their best advice, here's what they got. Some are surprising, and some so obvious, like reading the entire recipe before you begin, it's embarrassing how often we forget to do them.
- 1940 Census Records - National Archives
Judging from the fact that on the day the web site opened, the servers were overloaded and broke down, some of you already know about this. The answers to the questionaires provide invaluable genealogical information and economic and social insights about families and neighborhoods.
- 2011 Customer Service Hall of Shame
"Major players in industries we love to hate -- banking, credit cards and cable -- dominate the list of 10 companies ranked worst in MSN Money's fifth annual survey." Each of the companies explains here what steps they have taken to improve their service.
- Budget Your Trip
"Travel costs from real people." Travelers can not only plan and track their travel spending here, using the site's tools, but also share it to contribute to the site's database. When you enter a city's name, you get a description of what the place has to offer, travel tips submitted by the site's users, and the average daily costs for accommodations, food, entertainment, etc. There's also a currency conversion calculator.
- Consumerism Commentary
A personal finance blog that has been recommended as a must-read by Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine.
- Europeana 1914-1918 - Your family history of World War One
This project has already collected a lot of personal stories and memorabilia about World War I, and invites users to add their own postcards, letters, diaries, and stories to the site.
- Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University
It seems that too often, the pace of societal and technological change is faster than consideration of its impact on our ethical decision-making. The Markkula Center offers a forum for research and discussion of ethical issues in biomedical science, technology, business, government, and more, presenting articles, case studies, blogs, and podcasts. Among recent topics: warning signs of ethical collapse in business organizations, conscientious refusal in health care, conflicts of interest in nonprofit organizations, when is a contribution a bribe, etc.
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood - All Videos - PBS
The entire series, much beloved by children, is available here. You can browse the episode guide, or look for the field trips and how people make things episodes.
- Pew Internet Libraries
The invaluable Pew Research Center plans to publish "a series of reports examining technology adoption and use in libraries, patrons’ expectations, the “library of the future,” and how libraries fit into people’s lives in all sorts of ways." The currently featured report is on the rise of e-reading.
- POGO Study: Private Service Contracts Cost Government Almost Double Expense of In-House Staff
The widespread contracting out of government work to private enterprise rests on the assumption that they will cost less than government employees would, but it's always a good idea to test the truth of assmptions. The Project on Government Oversight, comparing not salaries of government and contracted workers, but what private enterprise billed for those workers, found contractors to be more expensive in all but two of the 35 job classifications they studied.
- 11 Tax Audit Red Flags - CNNMoney
If you haven't filed yet, check this out. If you have, you might want to copy this and keep it with your records for next year's taxes. A bonus: the link to an article about the craziest tax deductions.
- American Customer Satisfaction Index
Go to the ACSI Results page to browse by industry sector or by company (compared to other companies in the sector and to previous customer satisfaction scores). Customer satisfaction with government services is also included.
- Choosing Wisely - Lists
"Specialty societies representing 374,000 physicians developed lists of "Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question" in recognition of the importance of physician and patient conversations to improve care and eliminate unnecessary tests and procedures."
- Civil War Records - National Archive
Information available here includes photographs, military personnel records, draft records, Confederate pension records, and a good deal more. Start your research with their broad overview of the available records, how to compile a soldier's history, and how to obtain those records.
- The Food Timeline - Food history & vintage recipes
Food historian Lynne Oliver traces what was eaten and grown from 17,000 B.C. up to the present, with citations to books and links for recipes. (If you'd like to make Bible-era food part of your Easter celebration, they recommend several recipe books.) Arrow down to the bottom of the page to browse the FAQs by specific foods, food service (fast foods, restaurants, school lunches, etc.), places and eras. The teacher tools for historic food prices and historic weights and measures will be helpful. Ms. Oliver also answers readers' questions.
- Frog Crafts - KinderCrafts
April is National Frog Month. If your kids are as crazy about frogs as my grandsons, they should enjoy celebrating this month by making frog puppets, pop-up frog cards, and origami frogs, not to mention learning all about frogs in these quizzes and coloring sheets.
- Garden Pilot Navigator
Trying to decide what to plant? Select the type of plant that interests you (annuals, bulbs, shrubs, vegetables, trees, etc.) and then limit by considerations like flower color, light requirement, growth height, water requirement, etc. You'll get an array of thumbnail pics of plants matching your specifications.
- How the National Mortgage Settlement Affects You
Homeowners with problematic mortgages may benefit from the National Mortgage Settlement, which requires the country’s biggest mortgage servicers to commit about $25 billion in relief to individuals and governments. Learn more here about the settlement, who's eligible for it, and scams already being perpetrated in relation to it.
- Locus Online - the Website of the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field
Features news, reviews, new book announcements, interviews with authors, the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards, and more.
A "one-stop child safety, product recall, health, well-being, non-toxic, eco-conscious resource. The author seems to be a conscientious researcher who reads the scientific literature about toxins and other child safety issues before taking a stance on them. In addition to the articles and product recalls notices, she offers an excellent set of links to additional resources, and a collection of "cheat sheets" on a wide variety of topics, including BPA-Free Canned Foods, Alternatives to Plastic Bootles and Sippy Cups, Natural Lice Remedies, 2011 Safer Toy Guide, etc.
March 30, 2012
- 27 Uses for a Dead Phone Book - Get Rich Slowly
If you've ever felt a little guilty about throwing away old or unwanted phone books (they do multiply, don't they?), you might want to consider these ways in which they could actually be useful.
- The Best Smart Growth Projects in America
The Atlantic tells you what these communities did to earn the Environmental Protection Agency's Smart Growth awards (link to the EPA's Awards announcement included).
- Economist's View
I have no training in economics, but when a Nobel Prize economist says we should pay attention, I will. Paul Krugman says that the blog's author, Mark Thoma, "has opinions (very sound opinions, in my view), a lot of what he does is act as a clearing house for new ideas and information. And he does a huge amount of work in finding what’s important each day." Some sample entries deal with the health insurance mandate, whether the economy's losses are permanent, "Republican Voters Embrace Government," "Did Obama Delay Stimulus Spending to Aid His Reelection?,"
- How To Reduce Eyestrain
If your eyes are tired more often than you would like, you should benefit from this explanation and advice on how to reduce the strains you are subjecting them to.
- Make Your Own Playdough
This should be even more fun for kids than just playing with it - after all, they'll get to mix in and experiment with their own color choices.
- Map of the Most Popular Surnames in the United States - National Geographic
You can tell a lot about a state's settlement and immigration history by the predominant surnames of its residents. Zero in on the area of the map that interests you and use the + sign to magnify the names.
- On Your Side
A wiki and blog from consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, who also promises to help you with your customer problems. Includes an ongoing series, "Is This a Scam," as well as consumers' stories and general articles like "7 Lessons Consumers Learned in 2011."
- Tweens and cell phones: a guide for responsible use - National Consumers League
Advice for parents on things to consider before buying, choosing the phone and plan, and setting the rules for using it.
- Water Resources of the United States - United States Geological Survey
Americans who don't live in an arid region often take the availability of fresh clean water flowing from the tap for granted, but it is, in fact, a scarce and threatened resource. This web site "collects information needed to understand the Nation's water resources, and provides access to water data, publications, and maps, as well as to recent water projects and events."
- Who Gets Published/Reviewed by Major Magazines, by Gender
It may not surprise you to learn that even in the most liberal publications, female writers are a distinct minority.
- 43 Chores Young Children Can Do
If you believe as I do that children should learn early on that they have an obligation to clean up after themselves and take part in household chores, you'll appreciate this guide to chores that children are able to do at different ages.
- The Baloney Detection Collection
As a college librarian I saw way too many students who believed that if something appeared on the internet, it was, therefore, true. Teachers and parents can arm them with a baloney detection kit.
- Carnegie Hero Fund Medal Awardees
This is a wonderful site to browse in whenever you despair of the human race. Throughout the year the Carnegie Hero Fund sends out investigators to learn more about acts of heroism and awards medals to people in the United States and Canada who "risk[ed] their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others." Read their inspiring stories, and those of previous winners, here.
- Disease Risk Index
Harvard School of Public Health offers you this opportunity to first assess your own personal risk for developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and stroke, and then get advice on preventing the diseases.
- Forced Arbitration Rogues Gallery - Public Citizen
Or, why you should actually read the contract you sign with service providers - you may be signing away your right to hold them accountable in court if they cause harm.
- Graphic Novel Reviews
Johanna Draper Carlson, who has been running Comics Worth Reading since 1999, says "Looking for the best of the best? Here's a list of Must-Read Comic Classics, my attempt at defining a comics canon."
- No Budget No Pay Act - Congressman Jim Cooper
If you're upset with the fact that Congress won't perform its basic constitutional duty of appropriating funds for government agencies and programs, you might like this idea. Its sponsor, Congressman Jim Cooper, discusses it here. (I would also suggest that members of Congress don't get to go on free vacations whenever they feel like it if they haven't done their jobs.)
- Old Book Art
A bookstore owner shares (and blogs about) both black-and-white and color images from out-of-copyright books. Searchable and browsable by Atlases & Maps, Children, Nature, Places & Travel, etc. Everything he has personally scanned is available with a Creative Commons license.
- Spontaneous Smiley - Photos of the smiley face as it appears in everyday objects
March 22 was International Goof Off Day. If you missed it, here's a site where you can have a belated celebration, because there are smiley faces on vegetables, appliances, cars, buildings, mounds of potatoes, etc. If you get in the habit of looking for them, you'll start seeing them everywhere. Share your own spontaneous smileys here.
- Spring Break Science Experiments To Get Your Kids Outdoors - Parenting Squad
And to help them see that science can be fun.
- 10 Strength Training Exercises for Women at Home without Equipment
If you can't afford a gym or fitness equipment, you can still do strength training at home with the help of an empty gym bag, 2 empty water jugs, and dirt (or sand or kitty litter).
- BenefitsCheckUp.org - National Council on Aging
There are many assistance programs for seniors that they may not be aware of. Answer some questions here to find "benefit programs that can help you pay for medications, health care, food, utilities and more.
- Eatocracy - CNN.com Blogs
CNN's blog about food includes news, an Eatcyclopedia, step-by-step recipes, a daily food-related list called [email protected] (which includes a great post on training your child to be restaurant-friendly)
- The Financial Crisis - Five Books - the Browser
If you want to know how we got in the economic mess we're in, these books offer a good explanation.
- The Library in the City - Pew Charitable Trusts
"Big-city public libraries have rarely been as popular as they are today and rarely as besieged. The hard economic times of recent years have generated increased demand for the free and varied services libraries provide, even as revenue-challenged local governments have cut back on contributions to library budgets. All of this comes at a time when libraries are being asked to perform a new and changing range of functions."
- Save Money - Saving Advice - SavingAdvice.com
A collection of forums, blogs, tools (freebie finder, calculators, financial dictionary, etc.), and articles (browsable by categories like Budgeting, Debt, Making Money, Retirement, etc.). A sampling of recent articles: "Save Money Spring Cleaning," "25 Ways To Save Money on Insurance Plans," "Money Lessons Learned from Board Games," etc.
- SF Signal - a Speculative Fiction Blog
This multi-author blog is searchable and browsable by categories like interviews, book reviews, anime, games, events, humor, web sites, etc. There's 10 years worth of interesting material for fans here.
- Summary of IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources - the Energy Collective
The forthcoming report by the International Panel on Climate Change, the summary of which is here, attempts to answer the questions "How much electricity and other energy can be supplied by renewables?" "At what cost?" "What might interfere?" "What steps would have to be taken?" What would be the challenges of integrating those resources into the power grid?" The report will be a useful basis for discussions of energy policy.
- Urban Gardening Help
Offers introductory information and resources on topics like container gardening, green roofs, hydroponics, rainwater collection, community gardening, pest control, and more. Also has guides for appropriate plants and for small garden design.
- Worst Company in America - Consumerist
Every year, Consumerist comes up with its own March madness tournament, but the reluctant competitors are their readers' nominees for Worst Company in America. Will Bank of America win back the title from BP, or will other deserving entrants walk off with the not-so-coveted Golden Poo award? Follow the competition at consumerist.com as the candidates face as readers' votes determine the winners of each bracket.
- 50 Ways To Save Money on Food
Some of these tips are obvious, but a lot of them may not have occurred to you, and they refer you to articles about how to do those things, like reduce food waste, changing yoour food habits, learning to use all your leftovers and like them, etc.
- 9th Annual Photo Contest Finalists - Smithsonian
Great photographs can make us see the extraordinary in the ordinary - an apartment building, a red umbrella, a collection of tubes...
- Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, 2012
For students in grades 5-8. Entrants are "challenged to identify an everyday problem related to the way we move, the way we keep ourselves healthy, or the way we make a difference. The problem should directly impact them, their family, their community, or the global population. The idea must be a new innovation or solution..." Submissions are due April 19. Read all about it here.
- Flower Identifier
Here in North Carolina, the unusually warm weather has been rushing flowers into bloom weeks ahead of schedule, which means we've had lots more "what's the name of that flower" questions. This tool allows you to search and to browse by petal color, number of petals, and parts of plants
- How Much Have Big Banks Been Docked for the Financial Crisis? - Pro Publica
Anyone hoping the bankers who caused this mess will get their comeuppance will find this "chart of notable settlements reached between big banks and the government—namely, the SEC and the Department of Justice—over charges stemming from the crisis" disappointing.
- The Internet Blueprint - Developing bills to build a better internet
Fair-minded internet enthusiasts can agree that the internet presents some problems, and not just to creators of copyrighted material. But since some of the legislators attempting to deal with those problems know they don't know enough about the internet to do it intelligently, they have asked the internet community for advice on how to legislate intelligently. Read proposed legislation and the explanations of it here, along with information about organizations and companies supporting the legislation. Then check to see if your own Congressional representatives support it, and make your own opinion known.
- Penguin Cam
Adorable but noisier than you might expect.
- ProPublica Recovery Tracker: How Much Stimulus Funding Is Going To Your County
The great political question is whether the stimulus contributed to job growth. ProPublica has "taken all the data used on the government’s stimulus Web site, Recovery.gov, spiffed it up and added thousands of other recovery spending records. The result: the most comprehensive publicly available analysis of stimulus spending that we know of." Find your state and county to track total stimulus money, per capita money, and the unemployment data for 2009, 2010, and 2011.
- Rites of Spring - the appeal of baseball
"Baseball is icumen in; lhude sing "Play ball!'"
- Top 50 Most Admired Companies - Fortune
Fortune surveyed business leaders to see what companies they most admired, and why. Read the list and profiles, and if you wish, add your own two cents worth.
- 11 Tips for Packing a Healthy Frugal Lunch Your Kids Will Eat
This useful tips from a lunch volunteer who's watched what children eat and don't eat includes not only food ideas but suggestions on how to get your child to participate in the selection and preparation of lunch.
- The Art of Video Games - Photo Gallery - Smithsonian Magazine
If this article does not convince you that video games are an art form, check out the gallery at <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/multimedia/photos/?c=y&articleID=139541863>
- Auto Insurance Buyers Guide - MintLife Blog
A clear explanation of types of coverage that might make you want to go back and reread your existing policy to make sure it covers everything you want it to cover.
- Christian Fiction, Movies, Authors, News - FamilyFiction.com
Whether you wish to find reviews and interviews about Christian authors, books, or movies, you can browse by specific genres including suspense, romance, young adults, children, comics, etc.
- Dictionary of American Regional English
The long-awaited final volume in this monumental work has just been published. This website allows you to sample some of the splendidly varied delights of Americans' rendering of the English language. You can listen to some of the audio interviews that were the basis for the construction of the dictionary, check out your own state for a sample of words that are unique to that state, watch a video explaining how the editors gathered the data to construct the dictionary, and test yourself with a quiz about the meaning of a dozen of the words.
- The Dollar Stretcher - Frugal Living since 1996
The site has been around for 15 years, which means it has created an impressive online library of tips, tools, tutorials, blogs, forums, and more to help you make the most of your money. Searchable, and browsable by categories like food, home & auto, baby boomers, and 20-somethings, as well as by resources for income opportunities, budgets, groceries, etc.
- Footnoted.com - Morningstar's Guide to what's hiding in SEC filings
Which, often enough, is exorbitant goodies handed out to present and departing executives, information about proxy fights, announcements of risks to future profits such as class action lawsuits - and even, in some rare cases, changes in policy prompted by shareholder rebellions. All are worth considering before you invest.
- National Missing and Unidentified Persons System
If someone you love is missing, you'll want to check this "national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records [human remains]" and if necessary, add your missing person's name and information to the database. Advanced search features allow you to search unidentified remains for a variuety of distinguishing physical characteristics including tattoos, medical implants, etc.
- Peeps Diorama Contest: Best in Show - Washington Post
I'm not sure when people began using our favorite marshmallow candy for art, but as you can see here, they've done some amazingly inventive things. Also check out National Geographic's Peeps in Places Photo Gallery <http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/2010/04/peeps-photography>. Question: have any librarians done displays using peeps to illustrate favorite books and movies in their collections? If so, do you have photos online?
- Why Nations Fail
While the site serves to promote its authors' book of the same name, the blog is "devoted to understanding why nations fail and to shed light on current economic, political, and social events through the lenses of the theory" developed in that book. It might be a good site for Congress and government officials to study before they next decide to conduct a nation-building exercise overseas.
February 24, 2012
- 11 Best Part-Time Jobs with Health Insurance Benefits
If you need a part-time job, you might want to start your application process with these national firms that offer at least some health coverage for their part-time staff.
- 100 Greatest Books for Kids - Scholastic
Many states have programs to assist and/or compensate victims of crime and keep them informed about the status of the investigation and prosecution of the crime. Here's a guide to those rights and resources at the federal and state level.
- The Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2012 - Internal Revenue Service
As if tax time wasn't worrisome enough, you need to watch out for scammers trying to get their hands on your refunds or identity, which the IRS warns you about here. Of course some of the tax scams are conducted by ordinary citizens, trying to get additional money out of the IRS, so this site also explains what the most common strategies are, and the penalties if they are caught.
- A Dress a Day
Lexicographer Erin McKean is as much in love with vintage dresses as she is with words. In her blog, she not only gives loving descriptions and pictures of the dresses she has made from vintage patterns, she also makes up wonderful stories about women who wore the dresses, each story fitting the character of the dress. Anyone who loves vintage clothing, or making dresses, will enjoy this.
- Eating Well - Healthy recipes, Healthy Eating, Healthy Cooking
In addition to providing loads of recipes and menus (including recipes for vegetarians and kids and people on special diets), there's advice on healthy cooking and recipes that will improve blood pressure, bone health, digestive health, pregnancy, and other conditions. It's also chock full of articles like "7 of the Healthiest Foods You Should Be Eating (But Aren't)," "Foods for a Flatter Stomach," "10 Secrets to Cooking Healthier," etc.
- Free Stuff Times
Enjoy it as a daily blog of current free offers, or browse by categories like baby stuff, birthday freebies, food samples, posters, etc. The search function allows you to omit expired offers.
- How To Repair - Common Repairs Made Easy
Choose one of the guides, like bicycle repair, and get an overview of how it works, how to figure out what's wrong, discover what parts and tools you'll need, and the steps to fixing the various problems.
Automated aggregation technologies find, abstract, and link news stories about the media industry.
- Planet Money - NPR
Articles and podcasts on a wide range of money-related topics. Current topics include an explanation of what private equity firms do, an explanation of the Greek crisis in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story, "The Case For Economic Optimism, From A Leading Pessimist," "Is Hosting the Super Bowl Worth It", etc.
- The 102 Best Money Sites - MSN Money
MSN columnist Liz Weston's annotated list of favorite resources: money bloggers, tools, savvy spending, saving & investing, real estate, etc. I'm willing to bet you'll add one or two of these to your own bookmark list.
- An Agency-by-Agency Guide to Obama's Budget
Not that it matters, since members of congress have already pronounced it dead on arrival, but it's a useful guide to Obama's agenda if he is re-elected. If you're up for a MUCH longer read, the complete proposed budget is available here ,
- BookBytes - Sports Fiction
What's a sports fan to do in the lull between the Super Bowl and the beginning of March Madness and spring training? How about reading novels about their favorite sports. Here are some of my favorites.
- The Civil War - the Atlantic
The Atlantic, one of America's longest-lived magazines, was there when the Civil War began. In the 150th anniversary commemorative issue, it reproduces articles it published before, during and after the Civil War. Here's the table of contents and links to selected digitized articles by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and other notables.
- Civilisation - Kenneth Clark - BBC TV
First installment of the noted TV series, in its entirety, with links to the remaining 12 installments.
My son points out that while the magazine that many thought of as the backward little brother of Mad Magazine has not abandoned its devotion to humor and weirdness, it does some entirely respectable writing on science and popular culture (albeit often cloaked in titles like "5 Ridiculous Sex Myths Everyone Believes," and "6 Real Planets That Put Science Fiction to Shame." Searchable, and browsable by music, sports, movies & TV, videos, history, science, etc.
- How-to Help and Videos - For Dummies
The official site for the "for Dummies" books has substantial reference value in the sizable chunks of content from the hundreds of how-to books and videos on a wide variety of topics: a search for "knitting," for instance, yields a glossary of knitting pattern abbreviations, a body measurement chart for patterns, and a guide to estimating the amount of yarn required. Search by key word or browse within broad categories like computers & software, consumer electronics, crafts & hobbies, food & drink, etc.
- Plant Hardiness Map - USDA
The revised map puts most US locations into a slightly warmer planting zone than in previous maps, so you might want to check your own zip code here before planting.
- Safe and Well - American Red Cross
During major disasters, when communications are disrupted and people are desperately trying to find out whether their loved ones survived, they can turn to this Red Cross site where survivors can let loved ones know they are safe.
- ScienceOnline2012 Sci-Art Show: the Winners
This competition shows how art helps to make science intelligible, and how science gives art images beyond our imaginations to play with.
- The Art Career Project
You and your parents don't need to worry that a degree in art will lead to starving in an attic, because there are many attractive careers requiring artistic skill, including medical illustration, video editing, 3D animation, automobile design, museum curator, landscape architecture, and more. Read about the careers here - what the work is like, what training and skills are required, salary range, etc.
- The Best and Worst-Run Cities in America - 24/7 Wall Street
Considerations in the rating include violent crime, poverty rate, high school graduation rate, credit rating, and population. Worth checking to see if your own town is in either category.
- Bread Recipes - CookingBread.com
A little-known fact about me is that I have been baking bread for my entire adult life; it makes for delicious nutrition, highly prized gifts to friends and relations, and a house filled with a wonderful yeasty aroma. Here is a large collection of bread recipes, including high fiber, gluten-free, flat breads, cheese breads, holiday breads, bread machine breads, and more. For some recipes, cooking classes, with step by step instructions and photos, are included.
- Five Things the Census Revealed about America in 2011
"A cascade of statistics from the 2010 Census and other Census Bureau sources released during 2011 show a nation in flux—growing and moving more slowly as it ages, infused by racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants in its younger ranks, and struggling economically across a decade bookended by two recessions."
- Google - Good To Know
Google explains what information about you it gathers and how it uses and manages it all.
- Life after College Roadmap - Mint Life Blog
Your possible courses of action based on your answers to critical questions.
- Money Saving Mom: Helping You Become a Better Home Economist
A nice mix of money-saving ideas and news about new deals and coupons.
- Our Reading Guide on Congressional Dysfunction - Pro Publica
They're back. You can prepare yourself with this collection of readings from a variety of sources and viewpoints that explain how this Congress came to be widely considered "the worst Congress ever."
- Understanding Your Medical Bills - FamilyDoctor.org
Helps you make sense of not only medical bills but explanations of benefits from insurance companies or Medicare.
- The Wackiest Animal News from 2011 - Scienceline
Huh?-inducing stories about a drunken moose in a tree, airlifted rhinos, polar bears of Irish descent, and more.
January 27, 2012
- The 25 Most Valuable Blogs in America, 2011 - 24/7 Wall Street
That's not the value of the information in the blogs, but 24/7’s analysis of what a blog would sell for, based on audience size, advertising revenues, subscription sales, and conference businesses. It includes some you'd expect (Gawker, BoingBoing, Drudge Report, etc.) and some that may surprise you (Cheezburger Network, Funny or Die, Pitchfork Media, etc.).
- Best Science Pics of 2011 - Discovery News
A cross-eyed opossum, the greatest Dane ever, the eye of a giant Squid, a space shuttle parked at the International Space Station, the lost emperor penguin on a New Zealand beach, and more.
- Humorous Cat Poems
I found this by accident while trying to find the name of a book of cat poems I read to my son years ago. I'm especially fond of Richard Shaw's "Squatter's Rights," Rosalie Moore's "Catalog," and Ann Kilmer's "Convenient."
- Infographics - GOOD
Arresting infographics cover topics like America's evolving taste for booze, the state of Muslim America, the world of megachurches, and more.
- Most Expensive Colleges for 2011-2012
You might want to have your kids check this out before they send in their college applications.
- New Bill Would Put Taxpayer-Funded Science Behind Pay Walls
I try to avoid the soapbox, but this is an issue librarians understand and members of Congress, do not. The Research Work Act <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.3699:> would make taxpayer-funded funded research - now automatically available for free one year after publication at the NIH Digital Archive - the permanent property of journal publishers who charge libraries thousands of dollars for each subscription. (See Sticker Shock <http://engineering.library.cornell.edu/about/stickershock_1>, from the Engineering Library of Cornell University, to see the luxuries you could buy for the price of just one journal.) For another overview of this issue, see the article in Chronicle of Higher Education, <http://chronicle.com/article/Who-Gets-to-See-Published/130403>. If you believe that taxpayers should not be forced to pay extortionate prices to see the research they paid for, you might want to mention this to your Congressional representatives.
- State of the Union Address, 2012
In case you missed it, here's the transcript and a link to the video. For the official Republican response see <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/44/post/state-of-the-union-2012-mitch-danielss-response-excerpts/2012/01/24/gIQAq79ZOQ_blog.html>.
A computer algorithm sorts through hundreds of tech news sites and blogs throughout the day to identify up-to-the-minute news, which is then arranged here on one page. It also has a Who's Hiring in Tech feature.
- What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen
It seems like hardly a day goes by when we don't hear of yet another business whose customer information files have been breached, so it's a good idea to know how to proceed if your data has been stolen.
- Why Our Clothing Sizes Make No Sense
A historical overview of women's clothing sizes in America explains a mystery women have long wondered about: how we can get bigger while our clothing sizes get smaller.
- 9 Essential Books on Reading and Writing - Brain Pickings
Writers and would-be writers may want to invest in some of the books described in loving detail here. Yes, Strunk & White is here (is it required by law that any such list must start with The Elements of Style?), but the practical advice from writers like Anne Lamott, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Hemingway may be more useful. (For writers of nonfiction I would add William Zinsser's On Writing Well to this list.)
- 11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard
And given how rapidly technology has changed, maybe even some of you have never heard some of these sounds either, like the carriage return of the manual typewriter or the clicking of the manual channel selector knob on your TV.
- The Best and Worst-Run States in America
As measured by state debt per capita, percentage of the population without health insurance, percentage of population below the poverty line, and unemployment level. Check here to see if your state is on the list of Best Run States, or Worst Run states, or the States Doing the Most (and Least) to spread the wealth.
- Cochrane Reviews
How do you decide whether to pursue a treatment your doctor recommends? Cochrane Reviews offer "systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation." The free abstracts are searchable, and browsable by broad categories (cancer, genetic disorders, heart and circulation, mental health, etc.).
- Friday the 13th - Wikipedia
And a happy Friday the 13th to you. This is as good a summary as I've seen on the history and mythology surrounding Friday the 13th.
- Geocurrents: The Geography Blog of Martin W. Lewis
In which he offers intriguing "Map-Illustrated Analyses of Current Events and Geographical Issues." Among the geographical issues: border disputes, the geography of crime and punishment, insurgencies and protest movements, imaginary geographies (he has written one such novel, Terranova, described here), and lots more.
- The Longform Journalism Renaissance - GOOD
If you're a fan of thoughtful analysis and argument, check out the resources here that select and display some of the best in the genre. I would add to that list The Browser: Writing Worth Reading <http://thebrowser.com/>.
- Minute Physics Channel
In these brief videos, watch the hand draw cartoons that explain things like Schrodinger's Cat, what fire is, the hairy ball theorem, how to break the speed of light, and more.
- Top 25 Weirdest Stories of 2011 - Discovery News
2011 qwas marked by a glow-in-the-dark beagle, a dog food commercial with a pitch only dogs can hear, a poop-scooping robot, an amusement park inside a nuclear reactor, and other ew-inducing stories.
- Why Doing Nothing Would Reduce Deficits by $7.1 Trillion
If this analysis by the Vice President for Federal Fiscal Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is correct, you might want to ask your legislators to read this before making the drastic cuts in Medicare, military spending, and other programs they're now contemplating.
January 6, 2012
- 20 Life-Changing Questions
Thinking about your answers to these questions might lead you to re-examine the time you devote to the things that don't really matter to you - and might also make you exceedingly grateful for the good things in your life that you take for granted.
- The Best Data Visualization Projects of 2011 - Flowing Data
The visualizations are neat, and the data and relationships are fascinating. I especially liked the comparison of the measurements for size 8 in various brands of jeans, and the visual demonstration that on Wikipedia, all articles' footnotes ultimately lead you to philosophy.
- Best Government Ideas of 2011 - Governing
And yes, government officials DO often come up with good solutions to problems. Some of the year's top ideas include allowing 911 by texting, taking job service agencies to poor, rural areas with satellite internet-equipped buses, and political boot camp to give new government leaders an understanding of how government works and how to get things done.
- Extreme Weather, 2011 - NOAA
If it seemed to you like 2011 had a lot of freaky weather, you're right. NOAA details the 12 extreme weather events that each caused a billion or more dollars in damage, not to mention the lives lost.
- Finding Out-of-Print Books
I've updated these strategies and resources for finding out of print books to include free downloads of digital books as well.
- Grocery Sale Cycles - When Do Things Go on Sale?
A month by month guide to products that go on sale with seasonal and holiday demand, as well as seasonal produce.
- Hoax? Scholarly Reserarch? Personal Opinion? You Decide
UCLA librarians challenge students to evaluate web sites on the basis of authority, accuracy, objectivity, advocacy, currency, and coverage - a useful corrective to students' tendency to assume that whatever sites turns up in the first page of Google results must be correct.
- Ingredient Substitutions - Joyofbaking.com
This is a wonderful resource that may save harried cooks an emergency trip to the grocery store for a missing ingredient.
- Must-See Science Videos of 2011 - Cosmic Log
Watch an octopus walking on land, a robot dog, two chatbots talking to each other, and more.
- Parent Hacks
Community-submitted tips to help you "simplify family life, save money, and have fun." Searchable, and browsable by age and by topics like "poop and pee," sleep, fun projects, mealtimes, etc. The subtext of many of these articles is how parents can relieve their own stress and retain their sanity.
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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week
by Marylaine Block