Chris' Library World
Check out a Telescope
August is a cool month. Not literally cool because it’s really hot outside, but figuratively cool because you can go outside and see some amazing things at night. Bats, night crawlers mating, and probably the most impressive of all the crystal clear nighttime sky. When I look up at the night sky I think of only one thing, “Space the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Millennium Falcon.” As you probably can guess I was and still am a huge fan of Star Wars and Star Trek. Now I know I'm not a diehard Trekker or Warsser, but I do know enough to tell the difference between a Wookie mind meld and a Vulcon mind trick. And I still get goose bumps when Vader tells Captain James P. Curt that he's his father, which I always thought was weird because Curt looked a lot younger than Vader so how could he be Vader's father?
Any who. As I was saying, when I look up at the night sky I yearn to get a closer look at Tatooine and its two suns and three moons, but I know that's not possible without a warp drive and clearance from the Klingons to pass through their airspace. So, I've found the next best thing to explore outer space from the relative safety of Earth.....telescopes. Now I don't personally own a telescope because I'm saving up to buy a ride on Virgin Galactic, so instead I'm taking advantage of an awesome resource provided by the Mason County District Library. The library has telescopes you can checkout and use for free. The only requirement is you must have a library account. If you don't have one please call 231-843-8465 to find out how to get one. Once you have an account you can check out a scope for three days. Plenty of time to see the Death Star motoring around the heavens. And the scopes are prefect for beginners like me. Both are easy to use and yet powerful enough to view far, far away objects (we’re talking light years here bud) including Han Solo's home planet Vulcan.
The first telescope, an Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector Telescope, is a great compact, easy aiming beginners' telescope. It's small and light weight weighing in at thirteen pounds (about as much as a fat Ewok), but powerful enough to provide detailed views of the Moon, Jupiter, and large celestial objects like nebulae and Jabba's stomach. The second telescope, a Bushnell Voyage eight inch Dobsonian Telescope with a wide-field finder scope, is a bit larger standing nearly five feet tall (a tad bit taller than Luke), but more powerful with a few more features including a 6x30 finder scope allowing for an easier time locating and focusing on objects. Both are point and view scopes so there’s nothing too high tech to operate. Don't worry. It's not like trying to build or own life saber or anything. And instructions and manuals are included with the scopes if you have difficulties or questions.
After you borrow one of the scopes the next task is fairly simple, “What do you want to look at?” Should you first try to see the remains of Alderaan floating in space? Or perhaps watching Romulus get sucked into a black hole? Now as incredible as it may be, I realize some of you might not be Star Wars or Star Trek fans, but no worries. There are still plenty of amazing things to look at closer to Earth. A great place to start is the Moon. It's big enough and close enough so it's pretty easy to find and observe through the scope (it's the big round thing in the night sky). You'll be able to see craters and mountain ranges galore. And if you are really lucky maybe some cheese too. After the Moon you might want to check out Jupiter or Saturn and their rings and moons. Or maybe the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy to see some fine-looking images of stars light years away. Now don’t panic if you don't have a clue where to find these nighttime objects. There are plenty of resources available on the Internet to help you find these and other jaw dropping space bodies. Plus the library has numerous astronomy books available for checkout that will guide you on your quest to see if there really is a cow jumping over the moon.
So if you dream about visiting Dagobah and chatting up the ghost of Yoda or stopping by Hoth to see if ton ton's really do smell that bad on the outside the Mason County District Library can't help you with that. But, if you want to see some amazing out of this world holy “maw ‘tok” (Klingon for wowser) stuff check out a scope and begin your mind boggling sightseeing journey to a galaxy far, far away. And “chaq raD.”
Transparent Online Language---Cosas interesantes (cool stuff in Spanish!!)
Ahhh yes. It's that time of year again.....summer (at least that's what the calendar says) with 70ish degree temps and sunshine galore. And since it is summer you know what that means.....winter is right around the corner. Yes, snow, cold and gray skies, they are a comin’. And like many of you I imagine, I was ill-prepared for last winter with the non-stop monsoon of snow and the temps that did not see a record low they could not break. But, I vowed to myself that my ill-preparedness would not happen again. I've come to the conclusion that that the only solution is that it is never too early to plan for a winter beat down.
So, I've taken steps to ensure I will be ready for whatever Old Man Winter and his conniving partner in crime Mother Nature have concocted to let loose this winter. “Bring it on,” I say for I have a foolproof plan to escape their wrath......a winter vacation. But not just any vacation. A guaranteed snow-free vacation. Of course I will be heading south, but the obvious southern destinations of Texas and Florida are no longer snow-proof as demonstrated last year when the snow plague infected those once winter warmth havens with inches and even feet of snow. No, I'm planning on going to a place where snow has been outlawed and it dare not show its ugly face in fear of being instantly slushified .....Puerto Rico. Hold on you may be thinking. Chris, buddy, pal, the official language is Spanish and less than 20% (or 1 in 5 for you fraction lovers) of the people speak English fluently there. How on Earth will you be able to communicate with the residents there and find an Internet cafe where you can email pictures back to friends and family in Michigan taunting them with the warm and sunny Puerto Rican weather? “Good point,” I say. But, I have it covered.......Transparent Language Online.
“What's that?” you ask. Good q. It's a fully online interactive fun-filled way to learn a second language. With this program not only do you get listening, reading, speaking, and writing exercises, but also vocabulary lists, video grammar lessons, and a social community allowing you to communicate with fellow students and native speaking language instructors. There are also resources available allowing you to learn about the history of the language and the cultures of the countries that speak the language, thus providing you a way to fully immerse yourself into learning and mastering the language. Personally, what I like the most about the program is it teaches you common phrases right off the bat aimed at helping you navigate any unforeseen and dangerous circumstance you might find yourself in. Such as, where's the bathroom? Or where's the bar? Or more helpful yet, where's the bathroom in the bar?
Well, you may be thinking that's great Chris, but Puerto Rico with its 80 degree temps and sunshine galore may be all well and good for you, but you would prefer to go to Paris with its damp streets and gray skies for the winter. Pas de probleme (that's French for no problem). There are over ninety different languages to choose from so if you want to escape the cold and snow of Michigan and instead enjoy the cold and wet of Paris, that's your choice and the Transparent Language Online will help you make that mistake.
Now I don't just want to tell you about Transparent Language Online and not tell you how to take advantage of the program because that would be mean. Funny yes, but still just plain mean. So I'm happy to tell you that it's not only easy to do, but free as well. All you need is a Mason County District Library or Hart Area Public Library account. And if you don't have one, no hay problema (that's Spanish for no problem). Stop by either the Ludington or Scottville branch with your Michigan driver's license or state id with your current address on it showing that you are living in Mason or Oceana County. Or bring proof in that you own property in either county or you reside in either county for several months of the year. After signing up for a card you just create an account with the Transparent Language Online, which you do right from the Mason County District Library website (www.mcdlibrary.org). And voila, you are now ready to learn and conquer a foreign language.
So there you go. I have provided you with the tools you will need to escape the bone chilling clutches of Old Man Winter, the rest is up to you. But I suggest you act now because it's never too early to start planning on how to mock your friends and family here in Michigan as you enjoy your winter escape.
So, trying to find Transparent Language Online? Look for this logo on the Library's main page: