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Chris' Library World

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1/21/2017

MeL. Ahhh, those three letters pronounced together are like music to my ears...and a little like someone displaying their displeasure vocally to the new XXX movie sequel with Vin Diesel coming out in 2017...or trying to hold back losing their lunch after riding a coaster. But, neither of those applies to the MeL website. Quite the opposite. (Just like finding out about new Star Trek or Star Wars movies....mmmmmmeeeeeeellllllllll.)   MeL the website is fantastic, super-duper, and simply put...whamajamaboobama. It has links and resources for just about anything and everything and more for anyone needed to know anything. There's stuff about how to get jobs, career information, how to write, how to read, how to type, what to read, what to watch, Legal forms, information on books, magazines, movies, how to do research, how to pass tests, how to build your own quantum atom particle accelerator, etc...okay not that specifically an accelerator, but it would give you access to articles and papers and facts and figures that if you had a few noodles in your brain and weren't afraid to get your elbows a tad bit dirty and greasy...you might be able to cobble something together...and learning how to cobble...there's that too. But, wait there's more?! How can there be more you might ask? I just listed like 15 things plus an etc. Now they offer etc. ++ by adding dadadadddad (that's drum roll...not me yelling for my dad after losing my lunch watching the first XXX sequel)...a Mel YouTube channel....and apps! Yes you read correctly the MeL site has been updated with new links to the MeL YouTube channel and with a list of Chrome apps. Yes, you read it correctly, MeL is on YouTube. The YouTube channel has videos of the recorded monthly training videos conducted at MCLS and LM along with individual links to the four business videos found in the redesigned Business portal and a message from State Librarian Randy Riley. All the videos are closed captioned and easy to view and share with friends and family. The site will be updated as soon as more material and content becomes available. The Chrome Apps link is located on the left side of the MeL home page with listings for the free apps for Britannica School, Mel, College Bound, Business, Michigan, Teens, Kids, and even more apps will be listed as they become available. So you don't have to take my word for it. You can reach the MeL website through the Mason County District Library website http://masoncounty.lib.mi.us/ and find out for yourself how greeeaaatttt it is (just like Frosted Flakes)...and maybe even find out how to build your very own Klingon Warship...or at least your own AT AT walker.

Test Prep

1/7/2017

I love tests!!!! No not really. Although they can be fun at times...like when you are testing out Akuma for Street Fighter V (can't get his stupid Raging Demon finishing move to work), or testing out how your new Sky Viper drone handles 20+ mph winds (not well by the way) or testing out that new peanut butter chocolate fudge tapioca pudding cookie recipe (too much ginger). But, unfortunately, these tests are not the ones students get to take while at school (at least not during class…maybe in the back with a sub…with the volume turned low…). No in school you get tests about what you were supposed to learn in class and what you were supposed to know overall…yes, I’m talking about STD’s…or standardized tests. You know the tests the state of Michigan requires schools to give students the minute they step through the elementary school door until the moment the high school door slams shut behind them after graduating. And these tests can be hard (and not just because you were not in class because you were testing something waaaaay more important in the 3 minutes you had to use the restroom after you got a hall pass…how many Pokémon Go characters were in the bathroom) with content students are supposed to know and just plain hard to take. But, there is help out there for students and the Mason County District Library website is one of those places by providing access to the MeL databases through the library website http://masoncounty.lib.mi.us/. The preparation material will help students learn how to take the tests, what to study for the tests, and what they can expect on the tests. So take some time and ask your child to explore these free resources. Doing well on these tests are invaluable and can be a major factor not only for their future education and career choice, but the future of Michigan education system overall. So ask your child to stop testing your patience by leaving their shoes in the middle of the room and take the time to check out the MeL test prep resource. Who knows it just might make the tests as easy as testing whether or not Snapchat is faster than Instagram Stories.

12/24/2016

Library Website

Ever dream about being on a game show? Maybe rub the elbow of Alex Trebec or what's his face from Wheel of Fortune? Is the fear of not knowing squat preventing you from realizing your Jeopardy dreams? Well, that is a good fear to have because you would look pretty silly showing up there and not knowing squat in front of millions of television viewers. But if that fear (and the fact that is costs a small fortune to drive and stay in LA) the only things holding you back from living your dream? The Mason County District Library might be able to help you out. Not with the money part, but with the squat you are lacking. Not only do we have tons of resources located inside are hallowed halls we also offer tons of resources online through our website www.masoncounty.lib.mi.us . From there you will find access to links to all kinds of things that can help you become a Mr. Smarty Pants so you can win that Jeopardy crown.

Now there are dozens of places on the library website where you could begin to train your brain. One link you might want to check out first is “World Book Online”. With its interactive games and 3D graphics it's packed full of information about anything and everything. It's like an online encyclopedia, dictionary, and atlas all rolled up in one. And don't worry that it is geared more toward children. We're all children at heart, so learn away as you play away with the interactive maps of the world and learn that the capital of Iceland is Reykjavik. Could be helpful if there is a category on Jeopardy called, “Capitals of countries that no one can pronounce.”

Of course, not all things can be learned online or perhaps you would prefer to read a book and feel the smoothness of papyrus between your fingers. But alas, even with our large collection of thousands of books at the Mason County District Library we do not have the 1832 printing of Aesop’s Fables and you just know it will be a category on Jeopardy. Lucky for you the library website has MelCat to save the day. With it you can search participating library catalog's to see what they have in stock and if you do find that rare Aesop edition you can request a copy to be sent to the Mason County District Library for you to checkout. Disaster averted and Aesop’s knowledge is yours to learn and know.

There are dozens of other resources on the library website that will make you smarter, but what about the rest of the LA road trip? There sure are. And no we still can't help you pay for your trip, but we can help you indirectly make some money for your trip. Through the “Universal Class” link you have access to learning skills that will make employers go, “Wow. You have skills.” Need to become a master at Microsoft Office? No problem. Need to know some accounting number crunching skills? Got that too. Finance? Writing? Personal care so you can look smooth to close the deal? Check. Check. And checkmate.

But perhaps you are not interested in impressing a boss, but being the boss to earn your much needed traveling dough. Got that covered too “boss man” with a link to the small business resource center. There you will find advice on how to start and run your own biz. The “Gale Legal Form” link on the library website might also come in handy as it will provide you with access to hundreds of customizable legal documents, such as sales contracts and Workers Comp forms. There are even forms for wills and estates if you need to offer some encouragement to your not too thrilled kids about enduring a forty plus hour LA road trip.

Speaking of children there are numerous resources for them on the library website too. There is “TumbleBooks”, an online collection of animated talking picture books that help kids learn and love to read (cool more games for you to play). There are also links to resources to help teenage kids with homework, writing papers, and finding books to read and enjoy all of which will help pass the time in the car and that forty hours will just fly by.

Speaking of passing time in the car what parent doesn't enjoy the classic time passing tune of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?” Pretty much every parent if you are anything like mine. The “UpNorth Digital Collection” is a solution to the cat screeching rendition your kids are serving up for you. Through UpNorth you are able to download eBooks and audio books (adult and children) to almost any mp3 player, smart phone, tablet, or computer making the long trek whiz by as you listen to Old Yeller. Of course, you might get a cat screeching rendition of “Why did they have to shoot him,” as your kids find out that taking the dog out for a walk behind the shed is not something a dog really looks forward to or comes back from.

Some other in the car family fun made possible through the library website could be learning a new language through “Transparent Online Language” link (could come in handy if you miss your LA exit and end up in Tijuana, Mexico), listening to some Merv Griffin from “Alexander Streaming Music” (handy so you can hum along with the Jeopardy theme song), watch an independent film from “IndieFlix” (handy because you are going to LA and come on you gotta know your film), or read the latest from a magazine you downloaded from “Zinio” (handy if you happen to run into Kim K. and you can’t remember what direction she named her kid after. It’s North by the way).

Well, after all that I think you are pretty prepared for you travels to LA and I hope I have helped you squelch your fears of pursuing your game show dreams.   But, if you still have doubts or a twinge of apprehension there is a good chance you can find some soothing and calming information on what is troubling you on the Mason County District Library website because I've only touched a small part of the wealth of info available there. And don't worry it won't add to your cost of your trip because it's all free. The only requirement is a Mason County District Library account and if you don't have one of those please call 231-843-8465 to find out if you qualify to obtain one. So be quick about it and get your card today so you can begin your journey and take your rightful place among the Jeopardy greats like Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and that one Watson dude.


10/26/2014

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.”

8/6/2014
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: