Thursday, May 30, 2013

There's an app for that

When you upgrade to a 'smart' cell phone, you will then fall into the world of apps. Complete strangers will accost you and say, 'have you tried the app for ?... well anything from cooking to bird call identification to, oh I don't know, synthesized zither-playing. Let's just define some terms before we get into what apps you should get, meaning: what apps out of the gabillion out there do I personally use? Before I had a smart phone, I had a dumb phone, also known as a flip phone, a burner phone, a feature phone or a phone which causes your children to not want to be seen in public with you. Then I got the smartest phone of all made by the company named after a piece of fruit, or Gwyneth Paltrow's child, whichever came first. The first thing I had to do was rationalize the expense of the monthly fee by some very creative thinking that went like this: well it's cheaper than flying to visit all my friends and family and I can just video call with them if I get this phone. That is if they also have the exact same phone of course. So I got the phone and a 20 second introduction to it at the store and went home and watched videos on You Tube about how to use your new phone. It will be immediately apparent to anyone older than five years that your phone is now smarter than you are. That's not a problem though, is it? I mean we all drive cars and who even knows how they work? And if you are in New Jersey you probably don't know how to pump gas into your car either. Well, anyway, the next thing I did was to "Google" "best free apps". 'App' is a term which is short for 'application' which is really a little thingummy that you download to your phone that does fun stuff that you play with for a day and then forget about. So, as promised, here are some of the apps I have on my phone:

'GoTask' which is connected to my online Google calendar and with which I keep track of my to do list was highly recommended by my very organized son. I had 'GoTask' set up so that it woke me up every morning at 7 am with a cheerful little chirpy noise and a banner appeared on my phone telling me what I had to do today. This raised the anxiety level of having a to-do list to the nth degree, so I spent some time making it not wake me up. Then I learned how to not assign a date to each task and it now basically leaves me alone. What is really hard to do is to completely expunge stuff from the to do list. No, don't email me, I don't want to know. As long as 'GoTask' has retreated to a respectful distance, I'm ok. Really, I'm fine with it.

Next, I added a couple of apps that track what I eat and how much I walk. Again, these things can really keep you on task or they can really make you feel even worse about procrastinating and eating too many carbs and taking the car instead of walking. It's totally up to you. The apps are: 'Walk Star' and 'Lose It.' Walk Star' is basically a pedometer-ish thing that doesn't really work as well as the pedometer I had that clipped onto my clothes which my dog ate after we came back from what she deemed to be too short a walk, but it's free. 'Lose It' has a terrific feature on it which is a barcode reader. That provided a day's worth of entertainment as I went around my kitchen cupboards and scanned the barcodes from all the food boxes into my own personal 'Lose It' database of what I often eat. Here's the thing, if it's got a barcode, you probably shouldn't be eating it.

My smart phone came loaded with apps, but all those smart people who endlessly advise you about your computer and phone habits told me that those weren't as good as the apps I should go out into cyberspace and download to my phone, so I now have two weather apps, two map apps (say that 20 times), and overlapping apps to magazines and newspapers. Then someone showed me how to organize my apps so they don't take up all the real estate on my phones desktop/face- whatever it's called. I learned how to put the apps into little folders like putting all the fiction books into the fiction section in a library. That was fun, but now the apps are kind of out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

What follows is a list of some of the apps I have, but first I can't end an app essay without saying that the best app of all that all our library patrons should have is the BHPL app which is free and with which you can check your account, place holds, read this blog and lots of other things. Here is the link to more information about it:

My apps:

The 'Weather Channel' which I have set up to show me the weather where I live and where my extended family lives. Don't ask, it's just fun to know that it's sunny or snowing or raining on everyone at the same time.
'WebMD' for your hypochondriacal needs on the go. Seriously, this is a pretty good medical app with diagnoses and drug information.
'Urban Spoon' is for finding restaurants by geography or type of food. You can submit reviews or read other people's reviews.
I have apps for all the social media sites I use: 'Facebook', 'Twitter', 'Pinterest', 'You Tube' so to take a photo with my phone and just post it right up on one of those accounts is the work of an instant. And then all my friends out there on Planet Facebook/Twitter can tap 'like' to show that they also are never more than 3 feet from their phones.
I also have apps that connect to my 'GoodReads' account where I keep a list of what I read. You can see the RSS feed of that on the right side of this blog along with the library Twitter and Facebook accounts.

For music, I have a 'Pandora' app where you can set up your own radio station that plays the music you like and suggests music you might like based on what you already told it you like. Also in my little music app folder, I have 'Piano Free' and 'Guitar Free' which turns your phone into a tiny piano or tiny guitar to play or teaches you how to play or plays all by itself.

For traveling information, I have 'Kayak' and also the app for United Airlines. And 'Google maps' of course which is a gift to those of us who have been lost and turned around our whole lives until GPS devices like the TomTom came on the scene.

And finally, I have 'Flipboard' which is the mother of all news apps. In 'Flipboard' I have gathered all the news sources I like to follow and so I can flip from the BBC news to Al Jazeera to the New York Times with the mere sweep of a finger. Amazing!

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

In 'Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, Essays, Etc.' humorist and author David Sedaris offers his wry observations on the topics of living as an American ex-patriot in France and England, traveling the world on book tours and remembering his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina. His fans will enjoy his quirky obsessions which teeter on the edge of creepy and gross, but then pull back into touching and humane at the last sentence or two.
Standouts from this collection are: 'Dentists Without Borders' in which the author describes his own experiences with the health care system in France. He describes the care he received as inexpensive, accessible and not at all like what the opponents of "Obama care' describe as a health care plan 'where patients languished on filthy cots, waiting for aspirin to be invented." (3)
In 'Rubbish' (211) Mr. Sedaris takes it upon himself to pick up all the litter along the roads in his village in England by riding his bike around every day to pick up other people's trash. He becomes obsessed, "At nights I lie in bed and map out the territory I'll cover the following day... What did my life consist of before this? I wonder." (220)

Recommended for fans of the author. Read-a-likes - other humorous essay writers:
Quinn Cummings, Bill Bryson, Ian Frazier, Dave Barry, Sloane Crosby, Tracy Beckerman. (Click on the 'humor' label on the right side of this blog to find more posts about funny books and authors.)

There really is an app for everything: try the David Sedaris app to watch short videos of his diary entries.

David Carr's review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review (audiobook version)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Top Beach Reads for 2013

Spring is finally here and 30 degrees is a less than a fond memory.  Summer reading is rapidly approaching along with days at the pool or ocean.  I always count on a handful of authors with new summer titles:
(click on the author's name to visit his/her website for more information)

Mary Kay Andrews, Ladies’ Night (release June 4, 2013) From the author's website: 'The New York Times bestselling author is back with another page-turning beach read about a woman whose life is turned upside down when she discovers her husband cheating on her.'

Dorothea Benton Frank, Last Original Wife (release June 11, 2013)

Elin Hilderbrand, Beautiful Day (release June 25, 2013) From the author's website: 'The Carmichaels and the Grahams have gathered on Nantucket for a wedding. Plans are being made according to the wishes of the bride's late mother, who left behind The Notebook: specific instructions for every detail of her youngest daughter's future nuptials. Everything should be falling into place for the beautiful event--but in reality, things are far from perfect.'

Barbara Delinsky, Sweet Salt Air (release June 18, 2013) From the author's website:  'Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in the Maine island house owned by Nicole’s family, but they have since grown apart. A successful travel writer, Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, lives in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian.'

Stephanie Evanovich, Big Girl Panties (release July 9, 2013) From the author's website: 'a rollicking and poignant romantic comedy about a young widow who decides to get in shape...and winds up getting her groove back—and a whole lot more!   Holly Brennan used food to comfort herself through her husband’s illness and death. Now she’s alone at age thirty-two.'

Jude Devereaux, True Love (release July 9, 2013)
Nancy Thayer, Island Girls (release June 18, 2013)
Eloisa James, Once Upon a Tower (released May 23, 2013)
Chris Grabenstein, Fun House (released May 1, 2012) From Amazon review:

'The latest novel in the award-winning John Ceepak mystery series, set on the Jersey Shore. What if a reality TV show like Jersey Shore set up production in the fictional seaside resort Sea Haven? What if hitting the gym, tanning, and doing a little laundry aren't the only things the contestants get into?
By-the-book officer John Ceepak and his wisecracking young partner, Danny Boyle, have to babysit the buff and boozy kids partying it up in a Jersey shore rental house for TV’s summertime hit Fun House while simultaneously trying to stop the rowdy kids from breaking the law up and down the beach.'

More serious reading will start again in October.  By then the reserve list for the new Dan Brown book Inferno will be finished and I can take a copy from the shelf.

-S. Bakos

It's fun to follow many of these authors on Facebook for updates on their next titles, author tours and and sometimes free books!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blog favorites: 'The Psychopath Test'

The recent May 18, 2013 release of the 'DSM - 5', the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, has been met with some controversy. To read more about the new DSM - 5, read Lizzie Crocker's article in the Daily Beast. In general the criticism is that the listed diagnoses have changed, either been eliminated or added; and the widely held belief that normal human behavior is being assigned a mental health diagnosis. Whether you agree, disagree, don't care or don't know, as a reference librarian I find it fascinating that any new addition of a reference book can stir up readers' feelings to such a degree. When we receive the latest edition of most books in our reference collection, the event is marked only by the reference staff logging it in and shelving it. All this led me to reposting my review of a very funny non-fiction title that does discuss the medicalization of normalcy.

Are You a Psychopath? Take this Test

The Psychopath Test, a journey through the madness industry by Jon Ronson starts with the author, a journalist, being asked to find out who anonymously sent a cryptic self-published book to many psychiatrists worldwide, which then leads him somehow, circuitously to a Scientologist who gets him into Broadmoor Prison to interview a criminally insane inmate who claims he's not insane. Scientologists famously do not believe in psychiatry so they advocate for the prisoner. The author then goes on to learn about the Hare Psychopathy Checklist at a workshop lead by the list's creator Bob Hare himself. Armed with his newly acquired psychopath-spotting ability, the author goes all over the world for a year or so interviewing both diagnosed and suspected psychopaths and mental health professionals while dipping into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders and exploring the latest top psychiatric diagnoses like bipolar disorder in children. The irony of his research is that Ronson presents himself as an anxious neurotic; he worries a lot about being tracked down by some of the killers he meets and he worries about whether he might have some psychopathic tendencies, constantly referring back to the checklist to self-diagnose.  The book is about at least two topics: psychopaths, or course, but also how mental illness came to be diagnosed by checklists in the DSM and the subsequent increase in number of diagnoses of mental disorders and the increased development of drugs to treat them. That is an ambitiously broad range of topics to cover in only 275 pages. What is  psychopathy? How do we diagnose it? Why has there been an increase in the number of mental illnesses listed in the DSM which seem increasingly close to a normal state?  Are there more psychopaths in positions of great power, like CEO's of corporations?  Ronson raises a lot of questions, so if you are interested in related titles, you could read the following books: (call #'s follow the title)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (Ref 616.89 Dia)
The books of psychiatrist Oliver Sacks
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, which is not about psychiatry or madness, but about medicine's use of checklists.(610.28 Gaw)
Opening Skinner's box: great psychological experiments of the twentieth century by Lauren Slater (150.72 SLA)

Related websites:

Laura Miller's review in Salon
Robert Hare's website 

original posted by Anne

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Our new, enriched catalog feature: Novelist Select


The library online catalog has a nifty new feature which will help our patrons find just the right book to read next. When you search for a book on the catalog (so-called PAC or OPAC ie: patron access catalog or online patron access catalog) and then click on the title which interests you, you will see related titles and authors of interest. If the book is part of a series, the entire series will be listed in order. If the library owns the title, you can click right through to that catalog record. This new feature is produced by Novelist and has just been added to the BHPL PAC. The image in this post is a sample of features you may find now in our catalog.

Reference Question Roundup: computer help

Returning to the ever-popular reference question roundup feature on this blog, today's post is about common computer problems. Six of the public computers that offer free internet access are right next to the Reference Desk at the Berkeley Heights Public Library and throughout the day patrons who use the computers often ask the reference librarians for help. The problems that come up most frequently are:

  1. Printing documents, text, and images
  2. Filling out online job applications
  3. How to use a USB/flash drive or floppy disc (yes we still have floppy drives and give out free discs)
  4. Email issues such as:   
  • Opening and viewing email attachments
  • Printing email attachments
  • Adding email attachments versus sending a url or link in the text
  • Forgotten email provider, user names, and passwords. Many people have their email set up on their home computer to automatically open when they click on a shortcut on the desktop, but they don't know their user name or password or even what email service they use.  When their home computer goes down, they cannot use another computer to get into their email.
  • Confusion about spam and junk mail in email accounts and how to avoid viruses by not clicking on email from people with user names like and subject line 'I am freind neading mony from you right now thankes'
  • How to get a new email account when they can't access the old one because they don't know the provider, user name, password and/or the account has been hacked by the virus in the email attachment sent by someone they don't know which they opened by mistake. Whoops!
As you can see, email can be tricky, but we are glad to help patrons with it.

For other questions at the Reference Desk, take a look at this past post on our blog

And take a look at the Swiss Army Librarian's recurring column 'Reference Question of the Week.'