Monthly Archives: December 2011

The D Word

It’s a hard thing to talk about. It’s one of the top stressors a person can face in a lifetime. It affects all people involved and often not in ways that can be understood until years later. And according to some statistics, about half of us who get married will go through it. The D word, in this case, is divorce.

When going through a divorce, many aspects need to be considered. Sometimes you need to determine whether a divorce is really what you want. You need to be careful about your financial future. You will have lots of questions. You need to take care of your emotional self. If children are involved, your actions, their reactions, and their feelings are of utmost importance. Then once it is over, there will need to be a time to heal—for all of you.

If this major life change is something you are going through, have gone through, will be going through, or are considering, the library can be of assistance. Whether you have legal or financial questions, need books for your children or teenagers, or want a memoir to read to show that you are not alone, there is something here for you.

Looking for Advice?:
Calling It Quits: Late Life Divorce and Starting Over by Deirdre Bair
Beyond Divorce Casualties: Reunifying the Alienated Family by Douglas Darnall
Nolo’s Essential Guide to Divorce by Emily Doskow
The Good Divorce: How to Walk Away Financially Sound and Emotionally Healthy by Raoul Felder and Barbara Victor
School Days & the Divorce Maze: A Complete Guide for Joint Custody Parents in Managing Your Child’s Successful School Career by Renae Lapin
Divorcing with Children: Expert Answers to Tough Questions from Parents and Children by Jessica G. Lippman and Paddy Greenwall Lewis
Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life by Diana Mercer and Katie Jane Wennechuk
What Your Divorce Lawyer May Not Tell You: The 125 Questions Every Woman Should Ask by Margery Rubin
The Complete Divorce Handbook: A Practical Guide by Brette McWhorter Sember
Make Any Divorce Better: Specific Steps to Make Things Smoother, Faster, Less Painful, and Save You a Lot of Money by Ed Sherman
Divorce & Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce by Violet Woodhouse

For Your Child:
How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog) by Art Corriveau
Best of the Best by Tim Green
A Day with Dad by Bo R. Holmberg
Eggs over Evie by Alison Jackson
A New Family by Christine L’Heureux
When My Parents Forgot How to Be Friends by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

For Your Teen:
Notes on a Near-Life Experience by Olivia Birdsall
Split in Two: Keeping It Together When Your Parents Live Apart by Karen Buscemi
Happyface by Stephen Emond
Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen
Swiss Mist by Randy Powell
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

For You:
Raising Jake by Charlie Carillo
The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt
Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
In Spite of Everything: A Memoir by Susan Gregory Thomas
Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up about Moving On edited by Candace Walsh
It’s Not You, It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup edited by Jerry Williams
Love Shrinks: A Memoir of a Marriage Counselor’s Divorce by Sharyn Wolf

Best of luck to you,
Melissa M.

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Batting 1000!

Today’s Eleventh Stack post is our 1,000th published essay.  That’s 1,000 days of book, music and film recommendations, fun facts about library programs and services, and interesting intellectual detours.  To celebrate, we’ve put together a short booklist of library items with the number 1,000 somewhere in their titles or descriptions.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell  (Don)

1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz (Maria)

Music for Lute-Harpsichord by J.S. Bach (including BWV 1000, Fugue in G minor) (Julie)

Where the Birds Are: A Travel Guide to Over 1,000 Parks, Preserves, and Sanctuaries by Robert J. Dolezal (Julie)

One Thousand Nights and Counting: Selected Poems by Glyn Maxwell (Tony)

1,000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art by Joey Marsocci (Don)

The next one thousand years : the selected poems of Cid Corman by Cid Corman (Don)

The Arabian nights, or, Tales told by Sheherezade during a thousand nights and one night retold by Brian Alderson ; illustrated by Michael Foreman (Joelle)

The best of Mel Blanc [sound recording] : man of 1000 voices. (Joelle)

One Thousand New York Buildings, by Jorg Brockmann (Scott)

1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire and Change Your Life, by Linda Cohen (Leigh Anne) 1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts and Tips, by Deepika Prakash (Leigh Anne)

Star Wars: 1,000 Collectibles, by Stephen J. Sansweet (Leigh Anne)

That’s just one tiny sample from a field of nearly 1500 items, so don’t hesitate to browse the catalog for more fun reading, listening, and viewing options. And thanks for reading along with us; we promise to make the next 1,000 posts just as fun, adventurous and enlightening.

the Eleventh Stack blog team


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Mighty Like A Virus

I hardly ever get sick, which means that on the rare occasions I am sidelined by a random plague, I’m convinced I’m at death’s door.

You can laugh if you like but, I have a healthy fear and respect for that tiny, mighty lifeform known as the virus. It doesn’t care what your plans are or how many items you have on your to-do list.  It just moves in, sets up housekeeping in your bloodstream, turns on some music and does the cha-cha all over your poor, feverish body.  If you’re unlucky, it will invite its friends to the party. And, frequently, there’s not much you can do about it until it gets bored and saunters off to find a new victim.


On the bright side, once you get your appetite back and can actually sit upright without feeling dizzy, you can indulge yourself in a good book without feeling too guilty about not being at your post. I’m spending my convalescence with Zoli, a historical novel about a Romani woman who is expelled from her family for revealing too much of their history and culture, though poetry and song, to the gadje (non-Romani). The narrative winds back and forth through time and place, beginning in Slovakia circa 2003, where a newspaper reporter searches the Roma camps for news of the mysterious Zoli, a legend in literary circles.  Loosely based on the life of the  poet Papusza, Zoli is equal parts beauty and heartbreak, and has definitely made me want to read more about Romani history and culture.

I do wish authors would stop using the word “gypsy,” though, in their book titles and descriptions.  From what my research tells me, many Roma people find it offensive, and yet its use persists.  Perhaps language, too, is like a virus that cannot be actively defeated, but only stubbornly waited out?

Leigh Anne


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Sony Reader Wi-Fi Delivers Features, Library Content

After nearly 12 months of rigorous use, my Kobo eReader’s e-ink display failed.  Kobo’s customer care has been very responsive and I have sent the device back for replacement.  In the meantime, I’ve learned a little more about the Kindle Fire tablet in using it as a replacement of sorts for the Kobo.  First and foremost, as an eReader, the Fire makes an excellent tablet alternative to the more expensive iPad. In other words, I ultimately found the back-lit, computer screen display of the Fire does not lend itself to lengthy eReading sessions.  My eyes quickly became irritated by the glare from the screen.

The Fire has become an excellent entertainment delivery system, streaming Netflix, old radio dramas, providing access to a host of excellent apps, and in a pinch acting as second computer.  Still, I needed something to fulfill my eReader needs.  Would a dedicated Kindle be the answer? In talking with a colleague about the various options, he reminded me that Sony offers a product that features wireless content delivery that circumvents the complexity of Adobe Digital Editions.  It’s the Reader Wi-Fi, and when I went to Sony’s site to check it out it was on sale for $99.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for a sale, so I bought it.

Two things sold me on the Reader Wi-Fi: direct downloads and active support for libraries.  From a user’s perspective, downloading library content from Overdrive on this device could not be easier.  Once you establish an account within the Sony store feature on the reader, you simply go to the Library button on the second page of the device’s default menu and tap it.  You’ll get the option to find CLP’s Overdrive site.  Once you’re logged in with your library card number, you can search for content and access your Overdrive account in a simplified version of the package available on our web site.  You can either search and check out the items from your PC or tablet device, then move over to the Reader Wi-Fi for quick and easy downloading, or do everything on the Reader’s interface.  It also includes a plastic stylus for easy data entry, and once you enter your card number it will remember it for each visit.

The folks at Sony thought enough of public libraries to build specific features for them right into the Reader Wi-Fi.  That’s the second reason I made this move.  There’s even a menu option that allows you to easily tag materials en masse  and return them early. When reading a book the navigation features include the ability to swipe to the next page (or a previous one) with the tip of a finger, or you could use the handy buttons below the screen.  Font sizes can be adjusted with the simple touch of a button as well.

Now lest you think I am completely smitten to the point of blindness, the Sony is not perfect!  Browsing online with it can be dicey, as the wireless does not provide lightning fast response time.  Also, the touch screen offers some tablet-like functionality, but “pinching” to expand the content on the 6″ display can result in unintentionally traversing links as the thumb and finger brush by them.  These issues aside, an eReader that recognizes the value of easy access to public library content merits consideration when navigating through the growing sea of devices now on the market.

If you think you might like to meet the Reader Wi-Fi in person, or any of the other popular eReaders on the market today, visit one of our upcoming Gadget Labs where we offer individualized instruction and hands-on experiences with these devices.

Now if only my hold on Song of Ice and Fire Series, Book 4, A Feast For Crows would come in, I’d be golden!



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The Barbershop Harmony of the Bucs

When you hear the names Honus Wagner, Pie Traynor, or Ralph Kiner, do you think of music?  Probably not considering that they are all enshrined in baseball’s hall of fame.  Shortstop Wagner (1874-1955) played for the Pirates from 1900 to 1917 and is still considered one of the best all-around baseball players ever.  Traynor (1899-1972) was with the Pirates from 1920-1937, had an impressive lifetime batting average of .320, and was a sports broadcaster on Pittsburgh radio for decades afterward.  Kiner (1922- ) was a slugger for the Pirates from 1946-52, leading the league in home runs for seven years, and later was an announcer for the game.

But if you were at the Syria Mosque on May 8, 1950, you would have heard them sing!  Bob Hope was the headliner, but a five-man squad of Pittsburgh Pirates, current players and distinguished alumni, were added to the bill to sing, barbershop style.

According to a May 3, 1950, article in the Pittsburgh Press, the group of singing baseball players were listed as such:

Left Tenor – Ralph Kiner

Center Tenor – Wally Westlake

Dugout Baritone – Manager Billy Meyer

First Bass – Honus Wagner

Third Bass – Pie Traynor

Another fun fact related to that night is that Bob Hope was a part owner of the Cleveland Indians, but his friend Bing Crosby was a part owner of the Pirates.

— Tim


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With Apologies to Clement Moore

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1912

‘Tis the night before traveling, and all ’round the town
Not a dry leaf is stirring, the garden is brown.
The sweaters we packed in the suitcase with love,
In hopes that Jack Frost will descend from above.

The children are nestled too warm in their beds,
While visions of snow angels dance in their heads.
And mamma in her t-shirt, and I with no cap,
Sit in the kitchen and plan our attack.

In the morning we’ll rise, board the 28X—
Will the airport be crowded? I dread these long treks.
Away to real winter we’ll fly in a flash.
To northwest Minnesota—should we bring more cash?

Moonlight on the lawn looks like new-fallen snow
But it’s 60 degrees in December, you know!
When we get to the airport, I hope I don’t weaken,
I’m feeling quite nervous and ill. You’re a beacon!

Will the plane ride be easy, lively and quick?
We’re flying Southwest piloted by St. Nick.
More rapid than reindeer, they’ll serve us hot tea.
Remember the old days, when breakfasts were free?

[Next morning] We’re off! All is calm, all is bright.
The bus isn’t crowded, I think we’re alright.
To the top of the hill! To the top of the sky!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away . . . sigh.

We’re landing already. Aunt Bea will be circling
The parking garage, and with Bing she will sing
“White Christmas.” It’s snowing! I bet the pond’s frozen.
How soon can we skate? Do you think we’ll see penguins?

And then in a twinkling, we’re here at the farm.
The house smells of cabbage, roast turkey, and glögg.
As I take off my boots, and am looking around,
From the yard Uncle Edmund comes in with a bound.

He’s dressed all in wool, from his head to his foot,
His clothes are all tarnished with pitch and with soot.
A bundle of wood he has wrapped in his arms
Split for the old stove—Aunt Bea’s cooking charms.

The kids want to hurry, get out in the snow.
Hey now! Bundle up, since it’s twenty below.
It’s too cold to snow, but that looks like a flake.
May we build a bonfire on the shore of the lake?

Soon gathered at table, it’s time for some supper.
Thank goodness we’re all here, raise praise for each other,
And lift up your glass with a toast of good cheer
Happiest holidays, brightest New Year!



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Let us come to you.

CLP podcast iconA few weeks ago, I announced the launch of Radio CLP, Carnegie Library’s new official podcast. Since then, we’ve posted thirteen weekly episodes. So far, they fall into several categories: librarian book reviews, excerpts from recorded events, like Sunday Poetry and Reading Series and The People’s University, and excerpts from visiting author lectures. In case you haven’t listened or subscribed via RSS or iTunes yet, here’s a sampling of what we’ve offered. If the holidays are keeping you too busy to visit the library, but you’re craving entertainment, book recommendations and the sound of your favorite librarian’s voice, then let us come to you with our podcast. Enjoy!

RadioCLP002: Time Is a Goon, Right?
A depressed former spastic punk rocker, a womanizing music mogul and a kleptomaniac assistant are only some of the casualties of time discussed in this librarian’s book review of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad.

RadioCLP011: A Futuristic 80’s Quest
In this librarian review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a gamer’s pop-culture infused quest for a multibillion dollar fortune proves more gripping than A Dance With Dragons and being bitten by a small child.

RadioCLP006: The Wild Woman of the North Side
Nothing is sacred and everything is hilarious in Holly Coleman’s poignant, irreverent memoirs about her experiences growing up in Pittsburgh’s charismatic Troy Hill neighborhood. This episode is an excerpt of a reading the Wild Woman of the North Side herself gave for Carnegie Library’s Sunday Poetry and Reading Series.

RadioCLP009: Beyond Space and Time: Manly Wade Wellman
This week’s episode is a librarian’s discussion of lesser-known pulp author Manly Wade Wellman, who mastered a blend of Appalachian folk tales and sci-fi/fantasy in his John the Balladeer stories.

RadioCLP010: The Myth of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
“If history is close to a myth, the myth is the thing that projects into the future,” author Nathaniel Philbrick says in this excerpt from his appearance at Writers Live @ CLP – Main. As he explores the mystery that will always be attached to this legendary battle, he describes the first shots fired in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the last time George Armstrong Custer was seen alive, and the final moments of Sitting Bull. Philbrick is the author of the best-selling books The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, and In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.


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Winter Retreat

I set the professional achievement bar way too high for myself most of the time, and then I get extra-wacky during the holiday season trying to create the perfect Christmas while simultaneously trying to be the perfect librarian.  This is why I save a chunk of my vacation time for December and spend the greater portion of a week in my pajamas, selfishly ignoring everybody’s needs but my own.  At some point I’m considering experimenting with this “moderation” concept I’ve heard about, but today will not be that day.  Tomorrow’s not looking good either.

On the bright side, I took the suggestion many commenters offered on a previous post and ordered myself a copy of Shantaram. Reading this novel has been like falling into the deep blue sea; I find myself swimming around Lin’s world, agog with wonder at the sights and smells of India, rejoicing and sorrowing with the hero as he walks the fine line between sunshine and shadow. A man with a past, trying to forgive himself and build a future, is the perfect kind of hero for the darkest nights of the year; experiencing Lin’s journey makes my own seem easier, even though my own is decidedly plebeian, by comparison.

So I hope you’ll pardon me if, just this one time, I don’t answer your comments in a timely fashion.  I’m going to spend some time alone, absorbed in a good book, lowering my holiday expectations, and soaking up the lessons long nights of darkness can teach. May your own journey back to balance and wholeness be as quiet and calm.

–Leigh Anne

who wishes you the happiest of whatever holidays you celebrate


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If We Make It Through December

Dear readers, I don’t think I’m being revelatory when I tell you that December can be pretty rough in Pittsburgh. (Author’s note: I just looked up the dictionary definition of revelatory to ensure I was using it correctly: it’s “revealing something hitherto unknown.” I’m sharing because this is my nomination for best definition ever.) The weather fluctuates, we get colds and aches, the sun refuses to come out of hiding, but still we carry on in what can be one of the more stressful times of the year. Here’s how I’m making it through December.

1Q84 is a fascinating read that I’m still not entirely through, but am comfortable enough talking about. I’ll be honest, friends, it’s kind of driving me crazy. It’s outrageously long and detailed, which is not something I need from Murakami. He always has been the type to describe meals and characters changing features, but at times this feels like overkill. That said, it’s as engaging as ever, and the dual point of view narration he utilizes to have the “star-crossed” characters intertwine is worthwhile. I still have yet to decide whether I like it or hate it – I don’t love it, because love should never put you through this kind of confusion. Or maybe I don’t know what I talk about when I talk about love (author’s note: that’s a bad joke), which leads us to Raymond Carver.

Carver is my jam. I just tend to forget that sometimes. It had been a few years since I read him, and if there’s anything better about being older, it’s that I’m smarter and able to appreciate things more. I devoured some Carver stories and have been suggesting others read or reread him on their own ever since – it’s not often you get to rediscover and re-appreciate someone of this caliber. I may have to check out that biography that came out last year, even if it did make him out to be a bit of a jerk. Then I can see how he translates to cinema, in Altman’s Short Cuts or this year’s Everything Must Go.

Finally, dear readers, if there’s anything like a quiet night reading at home, it’s being at the movies. And while I like current cinema (cue my monthly Nic Cage namedrop), I sometimes prefer until things are out in other formats, so that I can watch comfortably from home with friends and make my various witticisms without ruining others’ theater experience. While it may not be the time of year for horror, Rec and Rec2 (as in “record” on a camera) should be watched immediately regardless of the time. This is the movie that JJ Abrams wanted to make when he made Cloverfield, and the movie that its American remake Quarantine wished it could be. The dialogue is in Spanish, but don’t let the subtitles distract you, they aren’t saying much other than your generic “We have to get out of here.” It is the images that will stick with you, and probably keep you up at night.

That’s it for now, dear readers. Tell me what you’ve been up to this December, or if you want to talk about anything I’ve mentioned here today. Post below for interactive fun!

– Tony

P.S. Today’s blog title was brought to you by Merle Haggard. That’s two points to whoever knew that before reading this sentence.


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A Nutcracker Tribute

When I was four years old, my mother enrolled me in ballet school. It was one of those things she had always wanted to try but, as a working class child growing up in Detroit, it was a luxury her family could not afford. As a result, I was exposed to not only the classical world of ballet and the rigors of training, but also to the most beautiful music in the world. I danced parts in both  Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake (music by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky) and, of course, every December, The Nutcracker. While I have grown to love and appreciate all of Tchaikovsky’s music, The Nutcracker holds a very special place in my heart.

I know it is ubiquitous during the holidays and it is tirelessly performed by both large –to my deep dismay, there is no live orchestra during this performance!–and small dance companies, but I take my holiday music very seriously; it’s one of my personal holiday traditions.

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky

The Nutcracker ballet premiered in Russia in 1892, to disappointing reviews however, in America, the music was highly praised and with good reason. With its clever nuances, dramatic melodies, building tension sequences, and ornamental highlights of different instruments (the flute being my particular favorite), my own dream is to see a major symphony orchestra perform this entire masterpiece–not highlights!–without the ballet (how about it, Pittsburgh Symphony?). It has as much drama and excitement as watching the actual ballet performance, sometimes even more. I’m not a music critic or even a professional musician, but the music of this ballet entrances me. It can be quiet and relaxing and it can be exciting and loud.

The library has many ways for you to enjoy The Nutcracker on compact disc or streaming, book, or DVD. My personal favorites are the recording with Anton Dorati and the London Symphony Orchestra and the 1977 made-for-television ballet starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland, but there are more versions than you can count of both the recording and the ballet. If you’re a musician, there is also the score and, if you want to read the story, we have that too.


who, from Thanksgiving until Epiphany, blissfully listens to The Nutcracker on repeat


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