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  • August 2010
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Creative Biology

Claude Monet’s exquisite sensitivity to light, color, and detail was central to his work. He once said, “I am pursuing the impossible. I want to paint the air.” If you are not familiar with Monet, he is commonly known as the father of impressionism (and is one of my all-time favorite artists, much to the chagrin of my more modern artist family). In many of Monet’s paintings, repetitive patterns like leaves or ripples of water provide the illusion of three-dimensional volume.  This illusion of depth is created by a confused matching process involving the brain and our retinas (the light-sensitive tissue layer at the back of the eye that acts like the film in a camera). When we look at Monet’s repeated (but non-identical) patterns, the brain tries to match them, gets a little confused, and ends up with a perception of volume or depth even though you are looking at the flat surface of a painting (a rather complex process you can read more about in Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing) .

Unfortunately, many of the world’s great artists (including Monet, Degas, Rembrandt, Mary Cassatt, and Georgia O’Keefe) endured eye conditions later in life that negatively impacted their work. Monet wrestled with depression as his worsening cataracts blurred his vision and caused a general yellowing of his color perception. “Monet must have struggled mightily as he looked out into the murky yellow-brown garden and tried to decide what subtle impression to create on canvas,” according to Michael Marmor, MD, a Stanford University ophthalmologist.

If you are interested in the intersection of science and the creative process, check out these books:

                   

Sara Dora, CLP-Hazelwood

STEELER TRIVIA: THE ANSWERS

1.  When Santonio Holmes was traded to the New Yorks Jets, that left the #10 available for Dennis Dixon, which he wore in college.  What number did Dennis wear last year? 

The number 2.

2.  Which Super Bowl did the Steelers not win and who was their opponent?

Super Bowl XXX was the only loss.  The Dallas Cowboys beat the Steelers 27-17. 

3.  What’s the highest  number of Steelers who have received Pro Bowl honors in the same year?  What’s the lowest number?  This question comes from Matt Fulks’ book The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

In 1976, 11 Steelers went to the Pro Bowl.  1979 and 1980 each had 10 players named.  In 2000, no Steeler players were selected to the Pro Bowl.

 4.  The AFC has four divisions and the Steelers are in the AFC North.  Prior to 2002, there were only 3 divisions–East–West and Central.  What teams were in the Central Division in 2001?  Bonus question:  Which four teams were the original members of the Central Division?

Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Jaguars, Steelers and Titans were all in the Central Division.  The original members were the Oilers, Bengals, Browns and Steelers. 

5.   In what year did the hated by all Pittsburghers Baltimore Ravens play their first season?

The Browns became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996.

6.   Few rivalries are as fierce as the one the Steelers had with the Houston Oilers during the 1970′s.  What AFC team used to be the Houston Oilers?

The Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans.  They still wear the “baby” blue uniforms which they call “Titans” blue. 

AFCS-Uniform-TEN.PNG

7.  In 1992, what team did the Steelers beat in Bill Cowher’s first game as the head coach?

On September 6, 1992, the Steelers beat the Oilers 29-24 in Houston. 

8.  In 2007, what team did the Steelers beat in Mike Tomlin’s first game as the head coach? 

On September 9, 2007, the Steelers beat the Browns 34-7 in Cleveland. 

9.  What year did Heinz Field become the Steelers home stadium?  What team did the Steelers beat in the home opener

Heinz Field opened in 2001.  The home opener was on October 7, 2001 and the Steelers beat the Bengals 16-7.  The opener was so late that year because  the second week’s game was cancelled due to the September 11th Attacks, and the 3rd week was a bye week.

10.  In what year was the Steeler mascot Steely McBeam introduced? 

Steely McBeam was introduced in 2007 as part of the team’s  75th Anniversary celebration. 

STEELER TRAINING CAMP:  PHOTOGRAPHS BY LEE NEDROW.

 

~Marian

Vacation Books

**Edited: Suzy scheduled this to post before she left on vacation, but WordPress hiccuped and it’s posting after her return.  I hope her vacation was fantastic and book-full! -Karen**

I am leaving Friday night for a glorious week-long visit to the beach. To say that I am looking forward to it would be an understatement. I am ecstatic. I am euphoric. I am jubilant. I am in a frenzy of bliss.

I really need a vacation.

I take my vacation books seriously. When I was in Florida for my honeymoon, I brought all the Harry Potter books. I finished the last one (crying) somewhere around Zelienople. I read a lot and I read fast, so I worry that I’ll finish my books before I come home. Then I’m forced to buy some cheesy paperback at a grocery store. Which is fine, but when you work in a library, buying a $9 paperback feels so wrong.

I posted a Facebook message asking for recommendations (it’s good to be friends with lots of librarians) and got a huge response. Here are the books I have packed (some are YA, some are not):

Sookie Stackhouse Series, Charlaine Harris
Recommended by Val, Librarian and library customer
Okay, I know. What took me so long? I feel like the last person on Earth who is not addicted to this series and the television series it spawned, True Blood. I didn’t like the covers on the books. No kidding. As a librarian, I am constantly telling people to not to judge a book by its cover…so, lesson learned.  This series (which is still going) begins with a Southern waitress named Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie can read minds, lives in a world where vampires are newly legal, is being courted by a shape shifter and is searching for a serial killer. What’s not to love? Between friends and the library, I have all 10 books to take with me.

The Red Queen, Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory is best known for The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a (bad) movie. This is the second novel in a new series of books called The Cousins’ War. The first book in the series, The White Queen, was about Elizabeth Woodville, and English commoner who married King Edward IV. The Red Queen is told from the point of view of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of King Henry VII. Beaufort isn’t my favorite women in Tudor history: she often confused the will of God with her own ambition and may have been responsible for the death of two English princes. But no one can deny that she sacrificed her life to get her son the throne of England. I’m looking forward to reading this because Gregory always delivers a great story; even if the history isn’t always spot on.

Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
Recommended by Karen, Teen Librarian
I confess I finished this one. I picked it up to see if I would like it and could not put it down. The best way to describe this book would be ‘lovely.’ The Waverly family in Bascom, North Carolina has always been an odd family. They all have ‘special’ talents. The older sister, Claire, tends a garden that flourishes year round and owns a very temperamental apple tree- with apples that will tell you your future. Younger sister Sydney also has a talent, but it takes her much longer to find it. This novel is part magic, part love story and part small-town gossip page.

The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen
Recommended by Karen, Teen Librarian
I liked the first book so much; I figured I would like the rest. Right? This novel also has magic, in the form of a closet where Josey Cirrini discovers local waitress Della Lee Baker. Josey likes sweets and paperback romances and before she knows it, Della Lee is transforming her life, ala Fairy Godmother.

The Girl who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen
Recommended by Karen, Teen Librarian
Family secrets, inter-generational storylines, magic wallpaper? Count me in! Like her other two novels, Allen’s newest effort has elements of a fairytale, but stops short of being too sweet. There is a giant and a love story, too.

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart
Recommend by Dan, Library Clerk
Publisher’s Weekly said this novel is, “A rich commentary on the obsessions and catastrophes of the information age and a heartbreaker worthy of its title…” Shteyngart is an expert at satire (Absurdistan) and I hope this novel is no different.

Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office, Jen Lancaster
Recommended by Michele, Customer Service Rep
Michele (the recommender) is one of the funniest people I know. And she usually only reads serious non-fiction. So if she says this is funny, it’s going to be funny. Lancaster has a blog where she discusses unemployment, shopping, being bitter and everything else under the sun.

Matterhorn: a novel of the Vietnam War, Karl Marlantes*
This book took Karl Marlantes thirty years to write. Himself a decorated Vietnam veteran, Marlantes debut was an Amazon Best Book of the Month for March, 2010 and is already considered the great novel on the Vietnam War.  At a whopping 592 pages, it spans over many months and follows Marine lieutenant and platoon commander Waino Mellas as he navigates his way through the horrors of war.

Now this blog is finished. This was the last thing I had to do before I left and it’s done! Time to lay on the sand and read to my heart’s content.

suzy @ knoxville

*My ‘just in case’ book

STEELER TRIVIA

The first regular season game for the Steelers is just 16 days away.  Yes, I am counting the days!  Are you ready to test your knowledge of all things black and gold?

1.  When Santonio Holmes was traded to the New Yorks Jets, that left the #10 available for Dennis Dixon, which he wore in college.  What number did Dennis wear last year?

2.  Which Super Bowl did the Steelers not win and who was their opponent?

3.  What’s the highest  number of Steelers who have received Pro Bowl honors in the same year?  What’s the lowest number?  This question comes from Matt Fulks’  book The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

4.  The AFC has four divisions and the Steelers are in the AFC North.  Prior to 2002, there were only 3 divisions–East–West and Central.  What teams were in the Central Division in 2001?  Bonus question:  Which four teams were the original members of the Central Division?

5.   In what year did the hated by all Pittsburghers Baltimore Ravens play their first season?

6.   Few rivalries are as fierce as the one the Steelers had with the Houston Oilers during the 1970’s.  What AFC team used to be the Houston Oilers?

7.  In 1992, what team did the Steelers beat in Bill Cowher’s first game as the head coach?

8.  In 2007, what team did the Steelers beat in Mike Tomlin’s first game as the head coach? 

9.  What year did Heinz Field become the Steelers home stadium?  What team did the Steelers beat in the home opener

 10. In what year was the Steeler mascot Steely McBeam introduced? 

Clues to the answers can be found by clicking on the links.  I will post the answers in a few days. 

For more information about the Steelers, check out their web page and Facebook page

~Marian

Slay wererats @ the Homewood Branch!

My name is Jamie Albrecht; I work at the Homewood Branch of the Carnegie Library, and I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was twelve years old.

I don’t know what it was that first got me interested in roleplaying.  Growing up, I had always enjoyed reading fantasy novels, from JRR Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander to Brian Jacques and the Lone Wolf series of Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks.  I loved the worlds they created: full of danger and wonder, monsters and magic.  I even tried to write some myself, which turned out about how you’d expect.  The first time I played D&D, I thought, “This is amazing. I created this character (a human paladin named Sir James, naturally), fought goblins and wererats and returned the stolen magic orb to the elven village!  I feel like I’m in Middle Earth!”

Thus began a love affair with roleplaying games that still persists over ten years and dozens of systems.  Through playing and running games, I’ve created fantastic worlds, made wonderful friends and done amazing things.  I learned how to think critically, cooperate with other players and invent creative solutions to problems, not to mention a ton of mental math (quick, what’s 16 plus 8?)  And now, I’m bringing all that adventure and excitement to a weekly Dungeons and Dragons game for teens at the Carnegie Library.  This isn’t the first campaign to be run at the library.  I fondly remember playing in a D&D summer program at the Main Branch before I went off to college (Hi Scott!  Hi Joseph!)  But it’s the library’s first ongoing campaign, with adventures every Wednesday afternoon at the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library.  We’ll be using the recent 4th Edition of the Dungeons and Dragons rule set and NO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED!  The library will be providing the materials, including rulebooks, dice, character sheets and token miniatures.

The program starts on September 8th and will run every Wednesday from 3:30p to 6:45p.  If you want to reserve a slot in the game, email swensrundl@carnegielibrary.org or james.a.albrecht@gmail.com!

Someone’s watching

I use Facebook.  The teen specialists and librarians here at CLP use Facebook.    It is probably a little unrealistic to tell anyone to not use Facebook, because it has many fine and fun uses.  But there are some things to consider when you’re using Facebook.  They have to do with P R I V A C Y.

photo by flickr user rishibando

 Julie from Carrick has already written about the reasons that Facebook can be fun to use, and the ambivalence two of her teen customers had towards being part of it.  You may or may not have the same ambivalence.  You may not think at all about where your status updates go once you’ve pressed the Share button.  But you should!

Check out Matt McKeon’s pie graph showing how the information on Facebook has gotten less and less private over the last five years: click here.

 Unless you customize your privacy settings on Facebook, anyone can see them.  Why does this matter? Is anyone looking?  Don’t they just disappear into the internet ether? 

1. It matters because it can affect your life.  Facebooking while out sick has gotten people fired from jobs.  A death threat on Facebook got a student expelled from school.  Someone complained about their boss on Facebook and he saw it (warning, contains foul language.)

2. Yes, people other than your friends are or can be reading  your status updates.  In fact, there’s a whole website devoted to making people’s status updates searchable: youropenbook.org  Even what seems like a harmless search for “Pittsburgh” turned up T.M.I. on someone’s brother’s arrest and someone’s personal update on their celibacy.

3. No, your status updates do not disappear into the internet ether.  They are saved.  Even if your account is deactivated, the information is saved.  A company named Skull Security even compiled a list of user data (names, email addresses, etc.) and made it easily available for anyone who wanted to use it.

But I’m not here to try to be a scare-mongerer.  Just to tell you to take the time to go to Facebook’s Privacy Settings page and customize your profile a little bit.  (They made it a little easier to navigate after criticism of their changes.Make a friends list so you’re only posting your updates to a limited number of people (this is why my updates are not available on Youropenbook.org).  Think before you post. 

The old advice about counting to ten before you speak in anger?   That still applies on Facebook.  And if you really feel a need to be dramatic, do like Erin Schrode and Hannah Grosman, two teens who are writing a novel that unfolds on Twitter and (fake) Facebook accounts.

Teen Advocacy Day II – This Thursday!

On Thursday, August 19th, from 2-5 pm, Teen volunteers at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main (in Oakland) will be hosting Teen Advocacy Day II.  The first Teen Advocacy Day was a great time, and really made a difference in our 2009 fight for funding.

We’re hoping to repeat that success on Thursday, because the fight for funding continues.  So come on down to Oakland for a free program, where you we will have:

  • Button making – make yourself a button that shows you support the library.
  • T-shirt making – decorate a t-shirt with your personalized advocacy design.
  • Letter writing to influential politicians – write a letter to the RAD board, the Mayor, and the County Executive, urging them to fund libraries.
  • Video interviewing - get “library famous” by sharing what you love about the library.
  • Candy and cookie eating – of course we wouldn’t offer a big program like this without a few noshy bits!

We’re calling it Teen Advocacy Day, but it is really a program for all ages… so bring everyone you know, and have a blast while doing some good!

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