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Review: In the Balance

In the Balance
In the Balance by Harry Turtledove
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you wondered what might have happened if aliens had invade Earth during World War II, this book might be for you.

Entertaining. Historical characters are plausible. Invaders are multidimensional and guilty of their special brand of anthromorphism. Only three stars due to number of unerotic sex scenes. Willing to try next book.

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National Library Week Day 2 – Homework Help #nlw14

This is day 2 of National Library Week. Here in Juneau, the Juneau Public Libraries offer a number of online resources to help students with their homework, including:


Live Homework Help

Your first stop for when you get stumped.  In addition to live tutors, the Student Center, College Center, Adult Education Center and Career Center are full of reliable help resources.

  • Live Tutors available seven days a week from 12 PM (noon) to 2am Alaska Time, other resources available 24/7.
  • Covers math, science, social studies and English, all levels (K-12+ AP) and intro-level college.
  • Real time paper proof-reading/ editing. 
  • Requires Flash on your computer with pop-up blockers turned off.

BrainPop and BrainPopJr

  • The more you know, the more you know!
  • Short videos featuring animated characters help introduce new topics and illustrate complex concepts from Science and Technology to music and more!


Current Events and Special Reports

  • News articles, images, videos and other useful content grouped for convenience under specific topics and themes. From Newsbank.


In addition to these online resources, each of the branches of the Juneau Public Libraries offer study space including meeting rooms that can be reserved for study groups.

If you’ve liked this post or have a library story of your own, share it to your favorite social media site with #nlw14.

Happy National Library Week! Day 1 – Internet Access and Technology #nlw14

This week 4/13- 4/19 is National Library Week. I’m celebrating with daily blog posts about the Juneau Public Libraries (JPL), my local library system. I hope you’ll add your own library stories in comments or on your own blog.

Before I get started, here’s a message from Judy Blume, honorary chair of National Library Week:

One of things that Judy Blume mentioned was internet access. What kind of internet access does JPL have? Let’s check out their internet access page:

The Juneau Public Libraries offers dedicated Internet terminals and wireless networks at all three branches where the public may browse the Internet free of charge upon agreeing to our Internet Terms of Use.  Laptops are available for checkout for in-library use for 1 hour to adult cardholders in good standing.

In addition to the in-library internet terminals, wifi and laptops for checkout, the Juneau Public Libraries also offer these services:


The library provides a variety of audiovisual equipment and media services for library users. Some are available for checkout while others may be used only in the library.

Items available for use within the libraries include:

  • Laptop computers
  • Video conferencing equipment (see Video Conferencing Service below)
  • Document Cameras (COMING SOON)
  • Scanners (Downtown and Douglas).
  • Teleconferencer (Downtown)
  • Photo copiers
  • Typewriters

Items available for check-out to registered adult users include:

  • Photo Slide projectors (Juneau and Valley)
  • Nook (ebook readers)
  • Mp3 players (available upon request)
  • Kill-a-Watt Energy Monitors

There is a $5 per item, per day charge for the use photo slide projectors and teleconferencer. We suggest that you reserve equipment in advance. Call the library nearest you for information.

If you live in Juneau and did not know about these resources, I hope you’ll stop by a branch and check them out. If you’ve liked this post or have a library story of your own, share it to your favorite social media site with #nlw14.


Review: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon

American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon
American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon by Stephen R. Prothero
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A well researched book on the concept of Jesus in American culture. Starts off with the surprising but documented claim that Colonial America was an unchurched place outside of New England. The various culture reinventions of Jesus were for the purpose of getting more people to believe in Him. This seemed to occur, but at the cost of more and more theology and doctrine.

The first part of the book, called resurrections, focuses on how US Christians reinvented and reinterpreted Jesus within the context of Christianity. Part two, reincarnations, focuses on how American Mormons, some black churches, Jews and Hindus gave the United States Jesus figures entirely divorced from Christianity.

Stephen Prothero is careful not to endorse any particular version of Jesus. He claims throughout the book that he only intends to lay out the various claims made for Jesus by Americans throughout our nation’s history and I think he does a good job of staying even handed.

I think Prothero’s book really explains how the United States can be both a nation where Jesus is an unavoidable national object of veneration and where our national elites have little discernible conduct that can be traced back to the Christ of the Bible. The book also uses historical context to explain why the loudest Christians in our country are far more likely to quote and venerate the Ten Commandments then the Sermon on the Mount.

But enough editorializing, I guess. In addition to a generous bibliography, American Jesus features a six page timeline of Jesus related events in America, over two pages of notes and an index. This book seems like it would be useful for cultural scholars while still being interesting for a general audience.

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Review: The Frozen Toe Guide to Real Alaskan Livin’: Learn How to Survive Moose Attacks, Endless Winters & Life Without Indoor Plumbing

The Frozen Toe Guide to Real Alaskan Livin': Learn How to Survive Moose Attacks, Endless Winters & Life Without Indoor Plumbing
The Frozen Toe Guide to Real Alaskan Livin’: Learn How to Survive Moose Attacks, Endless Winters & Life Without Indoor Plumbing by Brookelyn Bellinger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve lived in Alaska since 1998 and think this was an excellent book. Should be required reading for people thinking about moving hear or who want to take an extended vacation. Great mix of authentic, actionable information along with humorous asides. Interesting stories from the author along with interesting interviews with offbeat characters. When you put it down, you’ll have a feel for why we like it here in Alaska. And you won’t take your partner canoeing. Or be a winter caretaker for an Aleutian cabin. Bonus – book is indexed!

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In Praise of the Juneau Public Libraries

Disclosure: I am a librarian and chair of my local chapter of the Alaska Library Association. But everything below is true.

Attention Juneau People!

I just wanted to put in a plug for our great library system. Last night my wife and I spent several hours at the downtown branch. She was studying for work and I was using the library’s wifi to take an astronomy course from Australia National University. A few weeks ago we both got books. About a month ago, I used the library’s website to download some legal music that helped me get through the day at work. The Juneau Public Libraries have a lot to offer and a lot going on. I find them more of a need than a want. I hope that the CBJ Assembly understand this as they face difficult budget choices ahead.

Why I believe more bad news is coming from Ukraine

Note: This post was drafted on Saturday, 3/22/2014. 

The above map convinces me the Ukraine crisis isn’t over. Russia has now annexed the Crimea. You’ll notice from the map above that Crimea is not directly connected to Russia. If Crimea were an island rather than a peninsula I think its annexation would be the end of the story.

But since it is a peninsula surrounded by Ukraine, it is pretty exposed from the Russian point of view. At some point, they will want a hard link to their new territory. Think if Canada was hostile to the United States and actively seeking support elsewhere. Do you think we’d refrain from seizing British Columbia if we felt that was the only way to hold onto Alaska? Not if we felt Canada was working against our Alaskan interests.

So, in my view the Russians will want a land link to Crimea to consolidate their hold. Ideally they would want to take territory with a natural barrier just in case NATO or other parties were to actually ever come to the defense of Ukraine, something I really doubt will happen. However, looking at the map above, it seems like the only real natural barrier is a series of lakes and rivers that ultimately run straight through Kiev. So it looks like Russia couldn’t have their natural barrier to defending Crimea without taking out the capital of Ukraine. That’s what worries me.

On the other hand, I’ve made any number of dire predictions to my friends that have not come to pass. So I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps Russia will settle for supporting Crimea by sea. Or Ukraine will approve a supply route. Or at worst, the Russians will simply seize the minimum territory needed to assure a road link from Crimea to Russia proper. But I’m doubtful.


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