Monthly Archives: July 2017

So, a Shark…Nado?… and Other Strange Phenomena

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

By now, anyone who has strayed into the modern miasma of pop culture is familiar with the concept of giant sharks dropped in L.A. by water spouts while has-been and never-will-be actors line up to kill or be killed. It’s ridiculous. It’s impossible. It’s ludicrous. It’s not as weird as some things found in nature.

One of the most common types of odd phenomenon is the optical illusion. Our atmosphere likes to play with light a great deal more than you might expect. Take for instance the green flash. This odd blink of green light just as the top ridge of the sun hits the horizon is rumored to bring good luck in love. In actuality it is the light of the sun’s journey through more atmosphere than any other time that absorbs the lower wavelengths of light, leaving green. It’s also visible right as the sun hits the horizon at dawn, but being diurnal creatures, most of us aren’t watching for it then. Other optical phenomenon, when light and water, ice or dust interact includes sun dogs (small sun like balls on either side of the sun), light pillars (a ray of light going straight up from the sun when it is near the horizon) and arcs or rings around the sun. The most impressive are, or can be, the fata morgana. The fata morgana is a mirage caused by the drastic temperature differences in the atmosphere causing something to appear to be floating in the sky. They can be as basic as a boat appearing to be above the surface of the water to as complex as the city in the clouds seen over Foshan China in October of 2015.

Frost Flowers, photographed by Mark Adams

The atmosphere can produce other bizarre things as well, in the form of weather phenomena. Frost flowers form on plants and frozen surfaces. They’re actually two separate phenomena. The ones that form in meadows are windblown frost crystals that accumulate into curling petal-like structures. The crystal structures at sea are formed from ice crystals freezing from the atmosphere creating long chains the stretch out similar to ferns or cacti.

Another amazing weather phenomenon is the Catatumbo Lightning. This is a raging lightning storm in Venezuela with an average of 280 strikes per hour, ten hours per day up to 260 days out of the year. The air and water currents make for a spectacular light show that has been going on for years. Although it pales in comparison with the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, a cyclonic storm that has been continually observed for over 300 years, and was probably seen earlier than that.

Tales of fish or frogs falling from the sky date back to Pliny the Elder in the first century. The predominant theory involves tornados or waterspouts picking up the animals and depositing them outside their natural habitat. There have been documented occurrences of everything from fish to frogs, to even jellyfish in England in 1864 and spiders in Australia in 2015 (no sharks though).

Natural climate activity does not have a monopoly on the unusual event front.  Animals have a few crazy occurrences of their own. Crop circles have been seen all over, but under the water? Seven foot diameter patterned circles popped up off the coast of Japan. The cause is a mating display by one species of puffer fish.

Pyrosoma

Also underwater are great tube-like things called pyrosomes. The structures look like jelly fish and can stretch up to 60 feet in length, but they are not actually a single organism. Each tube is composed of hundreds or thousands of individual organisms that are actually clones of one another. These zooids such water in through mouths on the outside of the tube and all expel the water thrught the center, creating a jet like propulsion.

The red crabs of Christmas Island also observe an insane mating display. Every year in late October or early November millions of crabs make a journey from the mountains to the sea shores to mate and release their eggs on the tide.  They cover the ground and cause roads to be closed. A month later a seething carpet of ant sized baby crabs return from the water and make their way back into the mountainous forests to mature.

When we think of something that is as plain as plain can be we often go to water as an example. However, water can elicit some strange effects while doing nothing out of the ordinary. At the confluence of the rivers Negro and Amazon you can see two separate rivers flow within the same banks, one brown and one black, for miles until they truly merge. In Alaska a similar situation occurs when glacial melt water encounters the sea. Both of these situations result from different particulates in the suspension of the particular body of water in question.  The Negro is a slow moving river with a lot of vegetation that steeps in the river like tea, while the faster Amazon carries a lot of sediment. The Glacial melt also meets the differently dense ocean carrying particulates the leave a clear line where one starts and the other stops. The most extreme examples of this are the underwater pools. Yes, SpongeBob was right, there are pools of water under the water but I don’t think anyone wants to take a dip here. High salinity and dissolved methane mean that almost anything that goes in this pool is not leaving.

In some cases, Mother Nature is trying to add insult to injury. Imagine frozen wastelands with explosive bubbles and volcanic lightning. Methane comes back here as bubbles are forming in arctic lakes. These dangerous little spheres are close to the surface too. All it takes is an ice axe, a lighter and an extreme lack of sense to create a fountain of fire for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. The methane rises from the ground beneath the lakes and usually passes through into the atmosphere, but during the winter the bubbles can be trapped, waiting for a thaw or adventurous ice fisherman. If flaming ice wasn’t bad enough try volcanic lightning. Dirty thunderstorms, as they are called, occur when the particles in a volcanic eruption build up static electricity the discharge occurs with a bolt of lightning.  So you may be able to be struck by lightning while running away from lava and pyroclastic flow.

While not reaching the level of sharks dropping from the sky in danger, the natural world sure does have its share of weird and amazing phenomena.

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What’s Crazier than a Tornado full of Sharks

By Howard Shirley, Teen Department

Sharknado.

Sharktopus.

Megashark.

Sharks with frickin’ lasers for eyes. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

What do these have in common?

Sharks, you say?

Well, duh.

They always come out on Shark Week?

Okay, yes, that too. But keep going.

They’re really, really silly ideas for monsters?

Bingo! Winner, winner, monster dinner!

Sharks in a tornado? A cross between a shark and an octopus (which really isn’t that scary a beast, unless you’re a clam)? A giant shark (okay, yes there did use to be these megalodons)? And laser eyes? What are they, sharks from Krypton?

Okay, they’re all fine as a doodle on the side of your algebra homework (which you really need to finish; it’s due tomorrow). But let’s be honest they’re kind of, well, dumb.

But they’re not the dumbest ideas ever for monsters. And the truth is, dumb monsters can be a lot of fun.

Dumb combination monsters go back a long way. The ancient Egyptians believed in jackal-headed men, crocodile-headed men, cat-headed women, and of course the original sphinx, with a man’s head on a lion’s body. The Phoenicians gave us a man with the body of a fish. But the Greeks topped them all. One-eyed giant (cyclops), men with the bodies of horses, the chimera with the heads of a dragon, a lion and a goat, the medusa with snakes for a hairdo (maybe she got all stone-faced because she couldn’t do anything with it), a man with the head of a bull, men with goat legs, a man with a hundred eyes, and worse.

But it seems every age has its bizarre combos. The Middle Ages gave us the unicorn and mermaids, and things went so bizarre in the Renaissance that travelogues seriously suggested there were men with their faces in their stomachs (talk about fast food).

Today we know that’s all nonsense. Unless, of course, you believe in Nessie, Champie, Bigfoot, Mothman (no kidding), Yetis (no, not the coolers), Chupacabras, the Jersey Devil, and human-faced goats (okay, that last one is bizarrely real)! And, of course, aliens.

Why do we create these monsters? Is it to explain, to entertain, to scare, or just because we can? That’s a question for another article, but at the library, we like ‘em all. So if you want to “check out” some monsters on your own, here are a few of our favorite literary monster mish-mashes:

Miss Erin’s Picks:

  • Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black. With a title like that, you know it’s gonna be epic!
  • Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn. Because nothing says “hunk” like a dude who’s also a dinosaur.
  • Zombie Blondes by Brian James. Mean girls are so much meaner when they’re undead.
  • A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz, featuring fairies maimed by the cannibalistic gnomes who work for them (“Call it a tax.”), and a revolution and, well, what more do you need to know? Read the rest for yourself!

Mr. Howard’s Picks:

  • The Dragonback series by Timothy Zahn, featuring an alien dragon poet-warrior who’s also a living tattoo. Starting with Dragon and Thief, this sci-fi action series is part Star Wars, part mystery, and part coming-of-age tale, and all terrific.
  • Squirrel Girl, from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl graphic novels. Okay, not a monster, but a superheroine with the combined powers of a squirrel and a girl, which turns out to be awesome. And yes, she can beat anyone, even the most powerful villains of the Marvel Universe. Take that, Galactus.
  • The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, being the purported memoirs of an assistant to a 19th century monster hunter who hunts down the “those can’t be real” monsters of fable (including those “face in their stomach” guys). Scary, realistic, and very intense, Yancey pulls off turning nonsensical creatures into a horrific threat. And then does it again in two more books in the series!
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett, seems like a light, funny fantasy “con game” story… until the legendary “Rat King” monstrosity enters the picture, in a sequence that will have you looking over your shoulder with every word.
  • The Hungry Cities Chronicles, beginning with Mortal Engines, by Phillip Reeve, which has the best mash-up ever: a city and a tank. Okay, no that’s not a monster, but actual cities on tank treads that gobble up other cities? How could your inner monster-mashup muscle not love that? Just because it’s mechanical, doesn’t mean it’s not a monster!
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The President of the Galaxy, who’s also a starship thief, has two heads. And he’s one of the more normal monstrosities the hapless British hero meets in this over-the-top scifi laugh fest.

Or come by the Teen Room and peruse our Dungeons & Dragons manuals, ‘cause nothing says ridiculous monster mash- up like an Owlbear. (Yes, it’s a bear. That’s also an owl! Oooo, scary!) Unless it’s a Gelatinous Cube, which is, uh, basically acidic Jello. Shaped like a giant cube. That moves.

Sharknado, you’ve got nothing on us!

After Harry Potter: What to Read Next

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

My childhood was largely influenced by my obsession with Harry Potter. I spent far too much of my time writing and reading Harry Potter fanfiction, having analytical discussions with strangers on Harry Potter forums, and creating perfect Harry Potter costumes. I even took a fantasy lit class in college just because Harry Potter was on the syllabus. Embarrassing confessions aside, Harry Potter helped me through some difficult experiences and taught me lots of life lessons along the way. Needless to say, I was devastated when I finished the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, less than twenty-four hours after I’d waited in line at midnight to secure a copy. I just knew that I would never find another book to love like I loved Harry Potter.

So in honor of the tenth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I bring you read-a-likes! This list of recommendations is for you, Harry Potter lovers of all ages. I know they won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them.

For Children:

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (J F BLACK)
Warned away from magic all of his life, Callum endeavors to fail the trials that would admit him to the Magisterium only to be drawn into its ranks against his will and forced to confront dark elements from his past.

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (J F MCMANN)
In a society that purges thirteen-year-olds who are creative, identical twins Aaron and Alex are separated, one to attend University while the other, supposedly Eliminated, finds himself in a wondrous place where kids hone their abilities and learn magic.

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood (J F LITTLEWOOD)
Twelve-year-old Rose Bliss wants to work magic in her family’s bakery as her parents do, but when they are called away and Rose and her siblings are left in charge, the magic goes awry and a beautiful stranger tries to talk Rose into giving her the Bliss Cookery Booke.

Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull (J F MULL)
Whisked through a portal to The Outskirts, an in-between world, sixth-grader Cole must rescue his friends and find his way back home–before his existence is forgotten.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (J F CHAINANI)
At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option.  Best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil. The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed–Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.

For Teens:

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (YA F MAAS)
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin serving a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, and she is summoned to the castle; not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. But when competitors start dying one by one, her fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (YA F BARDUGO)
Orphaned by the Border Wars, Alina Starkov is taken from obscurity and her only friend, Mal, to become the protegé of the mysterious Darkling, who trains her to join the magical elite in the belief that she is the Sun Summoner, who can destroy the monsters of the Fold.

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (J F FLANAGAN)
Fifteen-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (YA F TAHIR)
Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older (YA F OLDER)
When the murals painted on the walls of her Brooklyn neighborhood start to change and fade in front of her, Sierra Santiago realizes that something strange is going on–then she discovers her Puerto Rican family are shadowshapers and finds herself in a battle with an evil anthropologist for the lives of her family and friends.

For Adults:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (F MORGENSTERN)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. Behind the scenes, two young magicians prepare for a duel that they have been trained for since childhood. Despite themselves, the duo fall in love, but what they don’t know is that this game can only leave one standing.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (F GROSSMAN)
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

The Passage by Justin Cronin (F CRONIN)
The latest test subject in a covert government experiment, abandoned six-year-old Amy is rescued by an FBI agent who hides them in the Oregon hills, from which Amy emerges a century later to save the human race from a terrifying virus.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (F BUTCHER)
For Harry Dresden—Chicago’s only professional wizard—business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (F HARKNESS)
Witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her.

Billy the Kid vs. Pat Garrett: An Old West Showdown

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

On July 14, 1881, Billy the Kid was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett.  Those are the facts, nothing but the facts.  Oh, but the legends on these two and how they are linked forever in history makes this killing as important as the OK Corral in the annals of history.

Billy the Kid

So, who exactly was Billy the Kid?  History gives him several names: probably born as Henry McCarty, and took the aliases Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney.  Information is sketchy about his early years: it is known that he was born in New York City in to a poor Irish family.  Not much is known about his early years but he ended up in New Mexico Territory in 1873.  Again, not much is known about him at this time, but 4 years later he arrived in Lincoln County, New Mexico.  This is where he makes history, mostly of the notorious type.

Lincoln County had just been established and was divided between two factions of cattlemen, the John Tunstall/ Alexander McSween side and the James Dolan faction, allied with the county sheriff William Brady.  William Bonney (Billy the Kid) joined the Tunstall side, which was ultimately the losing side as well.  Each faction had enforcers (gunfighters and criminals).  Tunstall was murdered and in revenge, his men, “the regulators”,  killed the sheriff.  That brought on what came to be called the Lincoln County War, a five day gunfight and siege battle.  The regulators were surrounded, McSween was murdered and the Tunstall men that were able to escape scattered.   Billy the Kid was on the run for two years before being captured by Pat Garret the first time.  The Kid was tried, convicted and incarcerated.  He escaped from jail, after shooting both guards, and rode off into the sunset—for a while.

Pat Garrett

And Pat Garrett??  More is known about him (there usually is for lawmen).  He was born in Alabama in 1850, but the family moved to Louisiana in 1853, and lost everything after the Civil War.   In 1869, he headed west, resurfacing in 1876 as a buffalo hunter.  As the buffalo disappeared, he headed to New Mexico territory.  He became a ranch hand for Pete Maxwell, married and had children.  Pat Garrett was sworn in as the new sheriff of Lincoln County in 1880 with the understanding that he would clean up Lincoln County.  Several times he almost caught Billy, but each time he slipped away or Garrett was given the wrong information.  He finally caught him, arrested him and put him in jail.  Garrett was away from jail when the Kid escaped.  Eight months later, Garrett found out that Billy was staying with Pete Maxwell, at his ranch.  He came at night, and shot and killed Billy the Kid.

Almost immediately, Billy the Kid became a folk legend, which in turn mage Garrett seem an assassin.  Garrett wrote a book about tracking and killing Billy.  It didn’t sell well, but has become quite the collectible.  The book was later found to be full of errors and imaginative tales.  It was ghost written by a friend of Garrett.  Pat did not run for sheriff again, but moved with his family to Texas and briefly became a Texas Ranger.  He returned after a year or so to Roswell, New Mexico where his ranch was.  He had several businesses that never prospered and moved back to Texas in 1892.  In 1896, he returned to New Mexico where he was appointed sheriff of Dona Ana County.  He was nominated by President Teddy Roosevelt as customs officer in El Paso, and confirmed by the Senate.  He burned his bridges with Roosevelt and was in deep debt the rest of his life.  He also was highly disliked for killing Billy, as the Kid had become a folk hero.  He was shot in the back as he was going from his ranch into town.  His murder was never solved.

Dick Brewer, Billy the Kid, and the Regulators by John Hacker, and Andy Thomas

As time passed, some people started the rumor that Pat Garrett either shot somebody else and claimed it was Billy or helped him fake his death.  Someone even claimed to be Billy in the 1940s.  Even so, historical records show that Billy’s body was identified by several different people—most generally agree that Pat Garrett got the right man—Billy the Kid.

Interesting Facts:

  • Billy the Kid was involved in at least nine murders.  He was said to have committed as many murders as he had years—he was killed at age 21.  (He may have been his own best publicist.)
  • Over 50 movies have told this famous historical event.  He worked on his reputation before his death, and afterward his legend only grew.  The first movie was the silent film in 1911, entitled Billy the Kid.  Other stars who played him on the silver screen have been Paul Newman, Val Kilmer and Emilio Estevez (in Young Guns, which we have in our collection.)
  • When Bill Richardson was governor of New Mexico, Billy the Kid found another champion.  Richardson was a New Mexico history buff and was publicly thinking about pardoning William Bonney posthumously.  Before Billy the Kid died, he appealed to then governor, Lew Wallace (who while in office wrote Ben Hur!) for a pardon for his role in the Lincoln County Wars.  Wallace agreed, but the pardon was never given to him because he was killed.  So when Richardson was thinking about this pardon, he churned up old history.  The descendants of Pat Garrett started a petition to stop the pardon from going ahead.   Bill Richardson is no longer governor of New Mexico, so this pardon will never happen, but it just goes to show that the past is not that far away.

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Mo Books, Mo Fun! The Wonderful World of Mo Willems

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

I often say that having the great fortune to be employed in a library—yes, Darling Reader, paid to be here—is a wondrous thing, but it really cuts into one’s reading time.  Library Mythbuster Numero Uno:  we don’t get paid to sit around and read.  What, you think the books get back on the shelves all on their own? And that all library patrons are as smart and savvy as you and don’t need my assistance and expertise?  I’m so sorry to be the one to burst your bubble if you were operating under that premise, and were making career plans accordingly.  We are, however, expected to possess an extensive breadth and depth of knowledge of the materials that are available to patrons, especially in the departments in which we spend our days (and evenings. And weekends.  Library Mythbuster Numero Dos:  this is not a 9-to-5 weekday gig.)  Some of us amass this knowledge through advanced degrees in Library Science and/or work experience in libraries, and others of us learn about the abundance of wonderful children’s books from the hours we spent reading to our own offspring.  (Some of us also have a deep-seated loathing for certain children’s books, usually through no fault of the author but because of the stultifying number of times we have read certain books that our kids loved but that we did NOT.  That’s a topic for a future blog, but I have two words for you in the meantime:  Johnny Tremain.)  It saddens me a little that I missed out on the joy of reading Mo Willems’ books with my children, but I have immensely enjoyed perusing them since signing on to the Children’s Department at WCPL and recommending them to patrons.

If you have children, or have ever spent any time with children, you surely know that they have these acute, finely-tuned internal sensors that enable them to see right through any awkward attempts by adult humans to try to be funny or whimsical or relatable when they just aren’t.  One thing that differentiates Mo Willems’ books from the paper-and-cardboard sea of kiddie lit is that they are very, very funny.  I mean . . . a picture book about a naked mole rat who just wants to express himself through creative sartorial choices?  Come on, people, that’s freaking hilarious, I don’t care who you are.  Willems’ formula works due to the culmination of several factors:  excellent timing, precise word choices, and just-right repetitions of words and phrases.

 

Mo Willems was born in February 1968 in suburban Chicago and grew up in New Orleans.  He graduated cum laude from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  After graduation, Willems spent a year traveling around the world, and he commemorated this journey by drawing a cartoon each day.  These cartoons were subsequently published in the book You Can Never Find A Rickshaw When It Monsoons.  When he returned to New York after his adventure, Willems began his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street, where he was awarded six Emmy awards for writing during his tenure from 1993 to 2002.  Since 2003, Willems has authored dozens of books for children, many of which have earned him critical acclaim and numerous literary awards.  (A bibliography of Willems’ books appears at the end of this article.)  My personal favorites include, in no certain order:  the previously mentioned  Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed; Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was ExtinctKnuffle Bunny:  A Cautionary Tale; and Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late! Check ‘em out, Darling Reader.  (See what I did there?  Y’all know I couldn’t make it through a blog without a pun.)  Happy reading–

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Is Williamson County the Australia of America? Williamson County’s Most Feared Bugs

By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department

Someone told me they thought that living in Williamson County is like living in the “Australia of America.”  Just like in Australia, there are many strange bugs here as compared to the rest of the world.  This is most certainly an overstatement, but due to our mild winters, Williamson County does have significant insect concerns.  Some insects are mostly nuisances, such as Japanese Beetles munching on tree leaves.  Other insects, however, can cause significant injury or damage.  What follows are five of the bugs of Tennessee that register higher degrees of fear among residents of our area.  We will go from number five to number one.

Numbers Five and Four:  Hard working but harmful Beetles or Borers.  Most give little thought to various beetles that fly about our area, but those who manage our forests and those who love beautiful landscape trees soon learn to respect the menace that certain beetles pose.    Landowners and cities see some of their favorite, older shade trees die within three years after being attacked by the Southern Pine Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer.

5. Emerald Ash Borers (EAB)

Adults are dark green and fly in Tennessee especially in May and June.  They spend the rest of the year as larvae eating away under the bark of ash trees, leading to the decline and death of their host tree.  EABs emerge from the trees as adults and leave a small, distinctive D-shaped hole in the bark.

4. The Southern Pine Beetle

It is native to our area, causing extensive damage to pine trees during times when its population expands.   When Tennessee’s southern pine beetle population gradually began to build in 1998, the beetles killed close to 350,000 acres and $358 million of pine in the years that followed.

3. Imported Fire Ants (IFA)

Lest the reader think I am exaggerating, I will quote from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture regarding this newcomer to the county which has a low tolerance for humans.

Imported Fire Ants (IFA) were accidentally introduced into the United States from South America, beginning in about 1918, and have spread to many counties in Tennessee, including Williamson County….   Imported Fire Ants are very aggressive when disturbed and cause a painful sting that produces a small white pustule about 8-24 hours following the sting.

Fire ant colonies build mounds that may be 10 inches or more in height, 15 inches or more in diameter, and 3 feet or more in depth. ….

Imported Fire Ants cause harm and economic losses in a variety of ways.  Stings from fire ants inflict intense pain to millions of Americans each year with thousands requiring medical treatment.  A small number of people develop a life-threatening allergic reaction to IFA stings.  The number of human fatalities resulting from IFA stings is not known due to lack documentation.  However, there have been confirmed deaths due to IFA in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.  Imported Fire Ants also attack and kill domestic animals and wildlife as well as destroy seedling corn, soybeans, and other crops.  Fire ant mounds can damage farm equipment and lawn mowers.   IFA are attracted to electrical equipment and chew on insulation, resulting in short circuits and interference with switching mechanisms.  Fire ants can shut down air conditioners, traffic signal boxes, and even airport runway lights.  Approximately $2 billion in damage, including costs for insecticide for fire ant suppression and eradication, is caused by IFA in the United States each year.” [https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/article/ag-businesses-ifa]

 

Wiki commons “Face of a southern yellowjacket”

2. Yellowjackets (Paper Wasps, and Hornets runners up)

UT Assistant Professor of Entomology, Karen Vail, tells us:  “Yellowjackets are often considered the most dangerous stinging insects in the United States. They are more unpredictable than honey bees and will sting readily if their nest is disturbed….. During late summer and fall, yellowjacket colonies are near maturity and large numbers of workers forage for food.  Sweets support large populations of foraging

wasps. They are particularly fond of sweets (e.g., fruit, soft drinks, ice cream, beer), but they will also eat meats, potato salad and just about anything we eat.”

Many county residents are unaware of where yellowjackets build their paper nest.  They nest mostly  underground, which makes their presence harder to detect.  They can be highly aggressive and sting multiple times.

 

Public Domain, Wiki

1. The Brown Recluse Spider

The most feared bug of Tennessee as reported by several exterminators is the brown recluse spider.
Most of us are familiar with the Brown Recluse, if not by sight, then certainly by its reputation.  I have unfortunate personal experience with the Brown Recluse, receiving two bites over the years that left the horrendous pain and scars that their bites can sometimes do.

So I am an informal “expert” on the spider, trying to avoid being bitten again.  I even discuss them with our “bug man” exterminator named Joe from All-Pest Solutions, who sprays our house four times a year.   He recently added to my knowledge about the spider when I explained the enormous size of one I saw last week. The “bug man” said that Recluses do get that big, but no bigger.  What I saw was likely a female adult (larger than the males) in her prime (who can give birth to 130 little recluses just like that).  So they will be around.

But the exterminator also gave me some good news.  He said, “Did you know that they can’t bite you without help?  Their mouths are too small.  They have to be mashed or pushed into the skin, most often by ourselves, and then they have the force to bite.”    I asked for clarification, “You mean if one just gets on you, or you hold it in your hand, it can’t bite you?”   “Yes, that’s right.  They have to have help.”  That was news to me, and good to know.

Something else came out about the spider during my second bite (this one to the temple of my head from lying on an old, rolled up blanket for a pillow while camping).  The venom of the Brown Recluse is interesting.  It is only 15% or so actual poison, so it basically tricks the body into turning on itself in reaction.  It is powerful through deception.  Further, unlike the immediately painful and burning bite of the Black Widow spider, the Brown Recluse bite seldom hurts at first.  In fact, the venom, for the first 24 hours,  tends to create a state of euphoria (extreme gladness) in the human victim.  I experienced this very thing.  But afterward, the effects of the tricky venom begin to turn living tissue into dead tissue.  The victim must wait and see just how deep the wound will go.

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Check Out from Total Boox

By Lisa Lombard, Reference Department TBX-log-low-rezTotal Boox is an app that provides another way to read digital books while you are on the go or at home sitting in your favorite reading spot. The app is available for Android, Amazon Kindle and iPad users. Some great features of this app include; no waiting lines, you can read books offline (you only need to be online to download books), there is no return date, and once the book is on your device, it stays on your device until you decide to delete it. So you can keep books on your device for as long as you have the app and read them as many times as you want without having to re-download. Another perk of this app is that if you get a new device all of your books will be automatically downloaded onto that device so you do not have to search for them again. I’m going to take you through the app from start to finish and I hope that you will consider adding this as a way to read more books in the future!

If you need visual help to learn how to use the app you have two options. One option is a user guide located at the bottom of every page under the heading “readers” and shows you how to best use each section (pictures are provided as part of the guide). The other option is a YouTube tutorial.

An important detail is making sure you get the app that is for libraries so you have FREE access to books. Once you have downloaded the app and open it you will be prompted to login. To login make sure you have Williamson County Public Library selected then enter your library card number and pin, the next screen will ask for your email address.

Once you have completed those steps you will be taken to the “home” screen which in this case is the “My Library” page. From here you have two options: you can either click on “Get Books It’s Free!” or the “+” to create a new shelf. By tapping on the “Get Books It’s Free!” iconic book you will be taken to a page that has several options. These options include sections titled “editors’ picks,” “featured authors,” and “just arrived” sections and have several books to browse through by scrolling right to left. By tapping on a book cover you will be given the synopsis of the book along with the option to read it or download the book, by selecting to read, it will automatically open and if you select download the book will be placed on your “My Library” page.

The other ways to find books include the search area (great for if you know the title or author), browsing through the categories tab or browsing through the shelves tab. If you want to search by category you are in luck there is a wide variety of categories to choose from, 28 total. Of those 28 categories, 18 have sub-categories. This is a great way to browse for something if you have a specific idea in mind or you know you want a historical fiction book. The shelves tab is an awesome option for getting a lot of books from specific categories onto your “My Library” page quickly. For example, there is a shelf titled “Great books to take on your next flight.” In this shelf there are a total of 15 books (for right now), a brief description of the type of books in the section, who shared the shelf and when it was last updated. By clicking on the download button all 15 of these books will be available to you with the shelf title on your “My Library” page. None these books are automatically downloaded to your device you still have to click on “read” to have them available to read without the internet.1362333041

Once you have a book open there is a pop up tool bar (tap in the empty area on the bottom of the page) with 5 options at the top: Home, Table of Contents (for the current book), Font size, Browse Bookmarks (for browsing where you have placed bookmarks for the opened book before), and Add a Bookmark. Also to be found when you tap in that empty space is a drag bar that allows you to jump further ahead or behind in the book which is much easier than going page by page.

Back on the “My Library” page you can create your own shelves by moving around the books you have downloaded or selecting “copy” from a book that’s on another shelf and moving it to the desired shelf. You also have the option to delete your books when you desire, all you have to do is tap on the book cover and select the delete option.

While you might not find the most popular books and authors in this app I think it’s worth the time to get to know and it search around, because you will find classics, books in your favorite genre you wouldn’t of normally read and who knows what other good books you might run across. I already have a shelf downloaded and two books ready to read!

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