Category Archives: Hot Topics

Guest Post: Are You Ready for the 2017 Solar Eclipse

By Dr. Billy Teets, Outreach Astronomer at Vanderbilt University

August 21st is quickly approaching as one of the most anticipated days of 2017.  For the first time in 38 years, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the U.S. mainland.  Partial and even annular solar eclipses have been visible since then, but for those who have had the rare opportunity to ever witness the splendor of a total solar eclipse, partial and annular solar eclipses cannot compare.

Solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and casts shadows on our planet.  For the Moon to be able to obscure the Sun, it has to be in the new moon phase.  We have new moons approximately every 29.5 days; however, we have solar eclipses about every 5 1/2 months.  This discrepancy is due to the slight tilt of the Moon’s orbit with respect to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.  At most new moon phases, the Moon will either appear slightly above or below the Sun in the sky, so the shadows it casts miss the Earth.  As time passes the apparent annual motion of the Sun in the sky and the daily motion of the Moon in its orbit eventually bring the two bodies to one of two points (known as nodes) in which their paths intersect.  If the Sun and Moon are on the same side of the sky then a solar eclipse occurs.  It is not surprising that approximately two weeks before or after a solar eclipse we experience a lunar eclipse in which the Moon passes through the shadows of the Earth.  In that two-week period the Moon has had time to move to the opposite side of its orbit and the Sun has not moved substantially on the sky.  Thus, the Moon is now on the exact opposite part of the sky as the Sun, allowing Earth to cast its shadow on the Moon.  On August 7th, two weeks before the August 21st eclipse, the Moon will indeed undergo a lunar eclipse; however, the U.S. will not be able to observe it as we will be on the day side of our planet during the lunar eclipse.  By the time we rotate to the night-side of Earth, the Moon will have moved out of our shadow.  Oh well, the U.S. will still have the opportunity to observe a beautiful total lunar eclipse on January 21st, 2019!

The arrangement of the Sun, Moon, and Earth during lunar and solar eclipses. THE OBJECT SIZES AND DISTANCES ARE NOT TO SCALE. Credit: Prof. Patricia Reiff, Rice Space Institute

The August 21st total solar eclipse will be special for several reasons.  This will be the first total solar eclipse visible from both U.S. seaboards since 1918, and Nashville is the largest city in the path of totality.  For this particular solar eclipse, observers will have up to 2 minutes and 42 seconds of total eclipse (“totality”), but this value greatly depends on location, especially with respect to the centerline of the path of totality.  With this being the first total solar eclipse on the U.S. mainland in nearly 40 years, millions of people are anticipating the opportunity to witness this heavenly spectacle.  Numerous events focused around the eclipse are being held in cities all throughout the path of totality as well as outside of the path.  Nashville also has many groups that are planning festivities and viewings on August 21st (a growing list of events can be found here).

Click for Close-up: A map of the continental US showing the path of totality as well as the magnitude of partial eclipse for the rest of the country. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.

But, as with real estate, observing a total solar eclipse is all about location, location, location!  There is no, “I’m close to the path of totality so that will be good enough.”  IF YOU ARE NOT WITHIN THE PATH OF TOTALITY, YOU WILL NOT SEE THE TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE.  The closer you are to the center of the path of totality, the longer the duration of total eclipse you will experience.  Observers are encouraged to move towards the centerline, but that will actually take some planning.  First of all, excitement for the eclipse has really been gaining momentum over the past few months, and many people (some estimates say well over two million) will be flocking to Nashville to witness totality.  As you can expect, this is going to create major issues on the interstates and even side roads, especially as totality is about to occur.  People will be stopping alongside and in the middle of the highways and getting out of their vehicles to see the totally eclipsed Sun – the interstates may literally be parking lots.  The point here is that if you are planning on viewing from a specific location, then plan on leaving very early in the morning or even a day or two before.  Many hotels are already booked solid, so the chances of getting a room in or near the path are pretty slim now.  It is advisable to keep a close eye on the news of road conditions.

A close-up view of the path of totality for Tennessee. The violet contours mark the differing lengths of totality. At the center of the path of totality the duration of total eclipse is greatest (approximately 2 minutes, 42 seconds). Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.

So, what can you expect to see during the three hours of solar eclipse?  For the majority of the time, the Sun will only be partially obscured.  It will take almost 90 minutes for the Moon to move completely in front of the Sun and then roughly another hour and a half for it to move back out. So, in all, most people will get to see approximately three hours of partial eclipse.  During this time, proper solar filters (not sunglasses) must be used to protect your eyes, cameras, telescopes, etc.  If one has a properly filtered telescope, then the partial eclipse would provide an opportune time to get an up-close view of the Sun as the Moon gradually covers it.  It may be possible to observe sunspots (cooler areas that appear as black blemishes on the solar surface).  Some astronomy enthusiasts may even be able to observe prominences (enormous clouds of gas lofted up from the Sun’s surface) during the partial eclipse by using a special type of telescope known as a hydrogen-alpha telescope.  The long durations of the partial eclipses provide ample time for one to take pictures.  Also, be sure to take a look under the surrounding trees – as sunlight passes through the gaps and holes in the tree leaves, numerous images of the partially eclipsed Sun will be projected on the ground.

Tree leaf pinhole projection of a solar eclipse: Credit: Ed Morana

As the last few minutes of partial eclipse pass, one will be able to feel the tension and excitement filling the air.  By this time the vast majority of the solar disk is invisible and only a few percent of the Sun’s photosphere (the technical name for the solar “surface”) are illuminating the surrounding landscape.  If the day is clear, then this time will provide a very dramatic lighting that many often describe as “eerie” or “surreal.”   If you have a good view of the northwest you will notice that portion of the sky is darker and growing darker – you are seeing the umbra approaching at roughly twice the speed of sound! In the final few seconds before totality, as the last percent of the Sun’s surface is still just peeking around the silhouetted Moon, the dramatically diminishing sunlight will begin to allow the corona to take center stage.  The corona is the outer atmosphere of the Sun, and even though the gas of the corona is several million degrees Fahrenheit, it only glows about as bright as the full moon.  The last bead of light visible from the Sun’s surface, along with the corona surrounding the eclipsing Moon, form a spectacular “diamond ring” in the sky.

The diamond ring effect. Credit: Babek Tafreshi

The effect only lasts a few seconds before totality begins and a few seconds just after totality ends.  The faint corona is safe to observe with the naked eye; however, one should not look directly at the “diamond” as direct viewing of any portion of the Sun’s surface can damage your eyes in a matter of seconds.

 

Once the diamond disappears, the corona will blaze forth in all of its glory – totality has finally started.  By now people are screaming, cheering, clapping, crying, you name it!  Observing a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event for most people.  Some people become addicted to seeing them and travel the world in order just to be in the path of totality for those precious few minutes.

During totality one MUST remove any protective eyewear and observe the corona with the naked eye, for solar glasses will completely block out the corona. The corona will appear very tenuous, and you may see some structure in it that is caused by the Sun’s complicated and ever-changing magnetic field.

Numerous prominences appear as bright red “flames” in this view of a total eclipse. Credit: Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

Right around the edge of the Moon’s silhouette you might even see some reddish-pink tufts barely sticking out from around the Moon – these are prominences, which are now visible to the naked eye. Depending on your observing location one portion of the Moon’s edge may appear outlined in a pinkish-red hue – this is the lower atmosphere of the Sun, which is known as the chromosphere.  The coloration is the distinctive hue of hot hydrogen gas – the main component of the Sun and all stars.

It will be difficult to peel your eyes away from the beauty of the corona, but remember to take a least a few seconds and look around at the rest of the sky.  During totality, the sky will be dark enough to observe a few planets and stars.  Venus will be visible in the upper western sky while Jupiter will appear about halfway up in the southeast.  Both will appear as very bright stars.  Mars and Mercury will be located close to the eclipsed Sun and appear as moderately bright stars.  A few of the true stars, such as Sirius and Arcturus, will likely be fairly easy to spot if you know where to look.  Don’t forget to look around the horizon as well – though the sky above you will be fairly dark the majority of the horizon itself will illuminated.  Try to keep an eye out for odd animal behavior as well.  Birds have often been reported to exhibit roosting behavior around and during totality (birds flock in to roost, roosters crow, etc.)

A simulated view of the Nashville sky during totality (approximately 1:29p.m. CDT). Four planets and numerous stars will be visible to the unaided eye while the Sun is completely obscured. Credit: Dr. Billy Teets

 

It will also be difficult during totality, especially in this age of technology and social media, to suppress the urge to snap pictures and text.  Don’t think about selfies.  The precious seconds of totality will pass by quicker than you think, and you don’t want to spend all of your time looking through a viewfinder or staring at a phone screen.  The end result will be no different than if you stared at a picture of the eclipsed sun on your computer.  Experience this eclipse!  Take in the splendor of the event with your own eyes.  Try to live in the moment so that you can remember it vividly for the rest of your life.  You may never get another chance like this, especially if the skies are completely clear.

If you are going to take away anything from this article, then here are a few key points to remember:

  1. Do not look at any portion of the Sun’s surface with your naked eye during the partial eclipse – you MUST have appropriate eye protection when any portion of the Sun’s surface is exposed.  Do not look through an unfiltered telescope while wearing solar eclipse glasses – the focused sunlight will melt the glasses in seconds and then cause permanent eye damage.
  2. During totality, when the entire solar disk is obscured by the Moon, you MUST observe the total solar eclipse with your naked eye.  Any protective eyewear will make it impossible to see the total solar eclipse and you will miss the spectacular part of the show.  Remember, the corona by itself is safe to look at naked eye.
  3. It is NOT recommended to observe the total eclipse with a telescope as this requires using an unfiltered telescope to view the corona.  This is dangerous because one does not know the exact moment when the solar disk will begin to emerge from behind the Moon.  Less than one percent of the Sun’s surface is easily enough to cause permanent eye damage in a short period of time, especially when looking through an unfiltered telescope.
  4. Photographing the partial eclipse is recommended since you will have close to three hours to do so, but remember that your camera can be damaged by the unfiltered Sun.  Therefore, you must use an appropriate solar filter to prevent your camera from being damaged.
  5. Photographing the total eclipse is NOT recommended (even without using a telescope) solely for the fact that we will only have a maximum of two minutes and 42 seconds to see the total eclipse.  Due to the large dynamic range of the total solar eclipse, it can be fairly difficult to capture a good image that really shows the awesome splendor of a total solar eclipse. There are, however, websites, magazine articles, and even books that deal with the subject of how to photograph a total solar eclipse. Experienced eclipse observers have also stated that even the best images they have ever seen of a total solar eclipse do not convey the beauty of what you will see with the naked eye.  They also recommend that if this is your first total solar eclipse you should only focus on actually seeing it with your own eyes because it will be an experience that you will never forget.  Don’t waste those precious seconds trying to take images – people all over the United States will be taking images, including professional photographers who have had experience photographing total solar eclipses.

Good luck, and here’s hoping for clear skies across the U.S. on August 21st!

 

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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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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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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!

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

What’s the best 3D movie:

A Play!

Ever since plays moved to the screen, back when they were black and white with text dialogue, movie makers have been trying to recreate that feeling of being in the middle of the action, of the immediacy of the people on stage.  But no matter what they add (sound, color, 3D effects with glasses), I doubt they will ever be able to recreate the feeling of closeness and investment that you get from attending a play, which is why they’re still amazingly popular today.  So in honor of the longevity and popularity of plays (in particular Shakespeare’s), let’s take a look at one of the most famous stages in history: the Globe Theater.

The Globe Theatre was built in six months in 1599 by William Shakespeare’s company, run by Richard Burbage—Shakespeare had a small stake in the theatre.   It was a three story, open-air amphitheater that could hold up to 3,000 people.  There was standing room area at the front where the poor could watch the play for a penny.  There were three tiers of seats; the fee increased by one penny as the tiers rose.  Those who sat of the fourth tier were paying four pennies, and they were the richest audience members.  They would have to stand up during the whole play.  During bad weather, the plays were put on elsewhere, often at other theatres with roofs.

Then a tragedy occurred on June 29, 1613; London’s Globe Theatre burned down.  Of course, in the time of thatched roofs, wooden building and torches and other open flame lighting, buildings burned down all the time.   The fire started during a performance of Henry VIII, probably when the cannon on stage misfired, (that’s what you call a realistic performance). The sparks caught the thatch on fire and spread rapidly to the wooden beams.  It was lucky that the only reported injury was a man whose pants were on fire; he was able to put them out with a bottle of ale.

In 1614, the Globe theatre was rebuilt by Burbage and Shakespeare, and this theatre was running until 1642, when it was shut down by the Puritans.  All theaters were.  The Puritans outlawed gambling, bawdy plays, prostitution and many more fun activities.  That was one reason, perhaps the main one, which was Cromwell’s downfall.  Charles II reinstated all of the vices, but The Globe was never rebuilt.

In 1949, actor Sam Wanamaker went to see the sight of the original Globe Theatre.  He was very disappointed that there was no memorial to Shakespeare.   In 1970, he formed the Shakespeare Globe Trust, which constructed a replica of the Globe Theatre near the site of the first one.  The theatre opened in 1997; the first play was Henry V.  The theatre still stands today, thanks to much better fire retardant materials!  They did top the roof with thatch though.  It just wouldn’t be right otherwise.

In the 1990, the new Globe Theater was built, some distance away from the site of the first one.  While they were excavating, they found the pit area of the theatre lined with hazelnut shells, the detritus of years of the poor standing room only eating food and dropping the shells.  This did cushion the feet of those standing to watch the plays.

Interesting facts about the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:

  1. During Shakespeare’s day, theatre companies advertised what plays they were putting on with flags: white for comedy, red for history and black for tragedy.
  2. The city of London did not allow theatres to be built in the city proper.  All theatres were built along the South Bank, where most of them still are today.
  3. The Globe was built to look like the Colosseum in Rome, but on a smaller scale.
  4. The Globe was closed several times because of outbreaks of the plague or the Black Death.

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THINKING ABOUT ADOPTING A CAT OR DOG?

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

“Who rescued who?” This touching (although grammatically incorrect) sticker seems to be attached to every other car bumper in Williamson County. As the sticker makes clear, giving a home to a needy animal does not only benefit the animal. But a successful pet adoption that works for both the animal and the adopting family is a serious undertaking that deserves careful consideration and lots of planning and preparation. It’s an obligation that can last more than a decade. Not everyone is up to the task. If you’re in the market for a new pet, the list of adoptable critters is endless – you can adopt homeless turtles, cockatoos, rabbits, horses, even spiders! Since we’re in the middle of “puppy and kitty season,” when shelters are swamped with unwanted litters, let’s concentrate on the ins and outs of dog and cat adoption.

WHY ADOPT?

The Humane Society of the United States has compiled a list of the top reasons to adopt a pet:

  • Save a life. Each year 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the U.S. This number could be reduced if more people adopted pets instead of buying them.
  • Get a great animal. Shelters are full of wonderful, healthy animals, many of whom ended up there through no fault of their own.
  • It costs less. A purebred dog or cat purchased from a breeder can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. The MUCH lower adoption fees often include the cost of spaying/neutering, first vaccinations, even microchipping.
  • You can fight puppy mills. If you buy a dog from a pet store, online seller or flea market, there’s a good chance it will come from a puppy mill. Puppy mills are breeding factories that put profit over animal welfare, and the animals often live in deplorable conditions. Puppies from the mills are often ill and have behavioral issues. By adopting a pet, you won’t be giving the puppy mills a dime.
  • Your house will thank you. Lots of rescue animals are already housetrained. Give your rugs a break!
  • Pets are good for you! Not only do animals give you unconditional love, but they have been shown to be psychologically, emotionally and physically beneficial to their companions. Caring for a pet can provide a sense of purpose and lessen feelings of loneliness.
  • Adopting helps more than one animal. Many shelters are overcrowded, and when you adopt one animal, you make room for others. Adoption fees allow shelters to offer better care for their animals.
  • You’ll change a homeless animal’s whole world and get a new best friend out of the deal!

Included in the “Resources” section at the end of this article is a list of books about people whose lives have been improved by adopting an animal. Have a box of Kleenex handy when you read them.

BEFORE YOU ADOPT:

Think hard and ask yourself a lot of questions before you make the decision to adopt a pet.

  • Why do you want a pet? As a travel companion? To cuddle with on the couch, go for strenuous runs and hikes, or something in between? Analyzing your reasons for adopting can help you determine what sort of pet to look for.
  • What kind of dog or cat do you want? High energy or mellow? Large or small? Long hair or short hair? Affectionate or more independent? Male or female? Puppy or senior? Once you’ve decided what type of dog or cat works best for you and your family, stick with the decision. Don’t fall for the first adorable puppy or kitten you meet.
  • Take your family’s feelings into consideration and make sure everyone is one board with bringing home a new pet.
  • Can you afford a pet? The cost of food, regular vaccinations, spaying or neutering, toys and other supplies adds up. A serious injury or illness can break the bank.
  • Do you have time to devote to a pet? Dogs, exotic birds, and cats need lots of daily interaction, but even “pocket pets” like mice and hamsters need supervised time outside their cages. If you work really long hours or travel a lot for work, adopting a pet might not be your best option.
  • Do you have enough physical stamina to take care of a pet? Cats like a lot of play time and dogs have to be walked. Some high energy dogs need more than an hour of exercise a day.
  • Are you honestly ready for the responsibility? Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer,” offers this clue: Look at your closet. Is it neat and organized? That may sound odd, but Millan says the state of the closet has always been a true test of a person’s ability to provide a pet with a structured life that has rules, boundaries and limitations. Yikes – good thing nobody checked my closets before I got my dog!
  • Are you prepared to handle some of the physical and emotional “baggage” that rescue pets can bring with them?

NEW PET PREP

So you’ve decided to adopt and you’ve found the right pet. There’s still a lot to do. The following should all be in place BEFORE you bring home your new pet.

  • Create a plan with your family to divide up the responsibility of caring for your new pet. Who is expected to do what and when?
  • Decide where your dog will stay during the day and where it will sleep at night.
  • Pet proof your house. Put cleaning products, poisonous plants and any foods toxic to cats or dogs out of reach. Tape electrical cords to baseboards. Put away any small items that could be choking hazards. You might want to roll up and put away expensive rugs until you determine your new pet’s level of housetraining.
  • Buy basic supplies. For a dog: high quality dog food, a crate of the appropriate size with a crate mat, food and water dishes, sturdy chew toys, a cozy bed, a collar with an ID tag including your cell number and address, a leash, dog shampoo, brush, and nail clippers. For a cat: High quality cat food, food and water dishes, litter box or boxes and cat litter, toys, a scratching post, cat shampoo, brush and nail clippers. Try to purchase the same kind of food the animal has been eating, and if you want to try a different brand, introduce it slowly by adding increasing amounts of the new food to the old food.
  • Have an appointment already scheduled with a veterinarian so you can have your new pet checked out as soon as you collect it.

BRINGING YOUR NEW PET HOME

First of all, be patient! Moving to a different home will be stressful for your new pet. It might take anywhere from six to twelve weeks for it to become fully adjusted to its environment. Here are some tips to make your new pet’s transition run smoothly:

  • Introduce family members and other pets in a controlled way. Try to do this in a calm, quiet manner.
  • NEVER leave a new dog unsupervised around children.
  • If you’ve adopted a dog, seriously consider using a crate, which will aid in house training and prevent destructive behavior. Feeding your dog in its crate and making sure the crate contains toys and a comfy mat may make it more appealing. WCPL has some good books that include tips on crate training.
  • Spend as much time with your new pet as possible.
  • A little exercise may make your new dog feel better. Check with your vet for your dog’s appropriate level of exercise and don’t overdo it.
  • Keep things quiet and calm for the first few days. Don’t let your new pet get too excited.
  • Realize that even if your new pet is already house trained, it may have a few accidents until it settles in.

REAP THE REWARDS

If you do your homework and follow through on the prep, planning, and day-to-day care of your new pet (with lots of love and patience tossed in), you will have an amazing addition to your family. I’m not ashamed to say that when I was a kid my two best friends were a dog and a cat. I can’t begin to describe all the ways these beautiful little creatures enriched my life. There are thousands of wonderful dogs and cats just like them out there who need great homes. Go rescue them!

NATIONAL AND LOCAL PET ORGANIZATIONS

The following sites offer general information about pet adoption.

Local Adoption Agencies and Organizations:

If you are interested in a specific breed of dog or cat, many shelters often have purebred animals available. In addition, almost every breed has its own rescue organization. Just Google the name of the breed and “rescue” (for example, “basset hound rescue”).

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How to Find Reliable Information on the Internet

 By Cindy Schuchardt, Reference Department

The Internet can be both bane and blessing if you are researching information. While the World Wide Web allows almost immediate access to information around the globe, it also provides the perfect setting for those seeking to dupe a consumer, perpetuate a rumor, create a scare, or push an agenda. It is therefore crucial to evaluate online resources before believing them or using the information they contain.

Ask Some Questions

Evaluating information starts with asking yourself some questions. One way to do that is to turn to the 5 W’s – who, what, where, when and why.

Who?

  • Who is responsible for the information on the site? Is the site owner clearly identified with contact information provided?
  • What does the domain extension for the site tell you about the information owner? A non-profit organization is typically indicated by .org, an educational institution by .edu, a commercial site by .com, a small business by .biz, and a government site by .gov.
  • What do you know about the site’s owner or publisher? Is he or she a recognized expert with credentials provided? Does the site represent a particular, subjective viewpoint, or can it be considered a reliable, objective information source?

What?

  • What is the purpose of the site?
  • What type of information are you finding? Does it seem credible? Is it professionally presented and without obvious typos or grammatical errors?

Where?

  • Where did the information owner or publisher get his or her information? Are sources cited? Are additional resources cited?
  • Where is the organization or owner located? Is there a contact address provided that helps to legitimize the source?

When?

  • When was the information written? Is it timely, or is it hopelessly out of date? Has it been recently updated?
  • Are any links included still current? Or do they lead you on a wild goose chase?

Why?

  • Why was the site created? Does the organization state a mission, goal or objective?

A quick run-through of these questions can help you to get a sense for the integrity and usefulness of a website. There are no guarantees, however. The caveat of “buyer beware” or “reader beware” should be kept in mind.

The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. Your library can help with your research needs, guiding you to carefully vetted sources of information and free, specialized online research tools.

Use Our Online Resources

If you need help finding trustworthy information on a particular topic, you’re in luck! WCPL has a variety of resources available to help you:

  • Our Articles and Databases collection is accessible 24/7, so you can use it while visiting any branch library, at home, or on-the-go. Just use your library card number or password to access remotely. You’ll find resources on the Arts, Education, Health, History, and more.
  • The Gale Directory Library features “51 trusted directories on companies, publishers, associations, and more—sources that cannot be found elsewhere on the Internet.” Try using this resource for your business, research and homework needs.
  • The Gale Virtual Reference Library has reference e-books and encyclopedias that cover business, cultures, history, literature, science, technology, travel and more. It is similar to the great Reference section that we have upstairs in the Main library, but you can use it from the comfort of your home.
  • Our Helpful Websites page features an assortment of free, informative websites that can help you with homework, research, and other informational needs. We did the groundwork for you, so you can start with a list of reliable sources on a given topic, rather than trying your luck with Google.

Take a Free Class (or Two)!

Don’t be overwhelmed by the Internet! Come to our Surfing the Web 101 class to learn the basics. We will introduce you to web browsers and search engines, teach you how to search online, and help you to evaluate what you find there.

Our computer class schedule is published monthly. Just call us or visit the web page to see what we’re offering, when.

Ask a Librarian

Last, but definitely not least, ask a librarian (or a reference assistant). We can help you find information at the library or in our digital collections. You can use our online form, email us with your questions , or call us during regular library hours at 615-595-1243.

Better yet, stop by the Main library and ask us in person. We’d love to meet you and help with your information needs! And if nothing else, remember the CRAAP test.


Sources:

May Is National Pet Month

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Furry or feathered?  Scaled or smooth?  If you are considering getting a new pet or adding an additional beastie to your home, these are only two of the many questions that you must ask yourself and your family members, of the two-legged and four-legged variety, because your existing pets are also family.

National Pet Month was created as a celebration of the joys that pets bring to people’s lives, and vice versa.  Some of the aims of National Pet Month are:

  • Promoting the benefits of pet ownership
  • Supporting pet adoption
  • Increasing awareness of the services available from professionals who work with animals
  • Raising awareness of the roles, contribution, and value to society that service animals provide

If you are already sharing your home with a pet, here are a few fun suggestions to celebrate National Pet Month:

  1. –Do a photo shoot or a YouTube video with your pet!  Who knows, your segment with Captain Fluffypants could be the next viral sensation, maybe even with more “hits” than a Kardashian video.
  2. –Look into creating a “Take Your Pet To Work Day” at your place of employment.  (Hey, if they let human children do it, why not the animal children?  I bet you a box of Milk-Bones that some of them would be better behaved and more pleasant to have around for the day than the humans.  Just sayin’.)
  3. –Got a hipster cat or a feline princess?  Make them a customized bed that matches their personality.  Pinterest has squillions of ideas.
  4. –Get off the couch!  Hit your favorite dog-friendly park with your pooch for some new training, such as jumping through a hula hoop or learning to respond to hand signals, or just take a leisurely stroll along the trails and enjoy the day.  For your feline friend, teach your cat to walk on a leash so she can enjoy the outdoors, too.  Make sure you and your pet stay hydrated while playing outside.
  5. –Be a “pet whisperer” and learn to decipher your dog’s or cat’s body language.

Certainly, not everyone can (or should) have a pet.  However, this doesn’t preclude your ability to contribute to enriching the lives of domestic animals.  If you choose not to share your home with a pet, please consider making a donation to a local or national animal welfare organization.  There are several listed at the end of this article.

I hope you have purr-fectly enjoyed this blog, and that I haven’t driven you barking mad.  (OK, y’all know I can’t make it through a blog without at least one pun, right?)

 

Local resources:

  • Happy Tales Humane Shelter
    4001 Hughes Crossing, Suite 161, Franklin TN
    615-261-7387
    “Happy Tales Humane is a privately funded no-kill animal shelter.  We envision a world where every companion animal is loved, wanted, and nurtured. Happy Tales is committed to our mission of providing human, no-kill options for homeless and neglected animals in Middle Tennessee.”
  • Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue
    www.snootygiggles.com  
    SGDR began when founder Shawn South-Aswad and her husband began taking in a few dogs who needed a place to stay until they could find their own home. As time passed, they developed an affinity for “senior” and medical needs dogs that were being overlooked by the general rescue population. SGDR has now grown into a foster team of more than 50 families who open their homes and hearts to these amazing dogs and foster them until the perfect match of a forever home is found.
  • Williamson County Animal Center
    106 Claude Yates Drive, Franklin TN
    615-790-5590
    www.adoptwcac.org
    The Williamson County Animal Center is a public open-intake shelter serving the citizens of Williamson County, Tennessee. The shelter is a county tax-funded agency caring for domestic animals, and enjoys the distinction of being a 2nd place winner in the 2014 ASCPA Rachael Ray Challenge.

As always, the opinions and viewpoints expressed here belong solely to the author, who is owned by 4 cats (Roxie, Pearl, Blackie Lawless aka Boo, and Jack Bauer), a betta fish named Swimmy Hendrix, and a leopard gecko who goes by the name Charmian, which means “little joy.”  No animals were harmed during the making of this blog.

You’ve All Heard of Limericks, I’m Sure

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Limericks can even be done for Math!

You’ve all heard of Limericks, I’m sure
Whether racy or actually pure
They’re funny old rhymes
From good old times
And the good ones are rarely demure

They all start in jolly old Britain
Whose poems were occasionally written
In lyrical styles
To bring forth some smiles
And the poets were instantly smitten

City of Limerick, Ireland

The name, it comes from good green Erin
The Maigue Poets used to declare in
the city, Limerick.
Those bards got a kick
from the poetry style used there in.

The transition to bawdier verse
(Or something ocassionally worse).
The decade was roaring
and not a bit boring,
still, reactions were quite terse.

Original Edward Lear Limerick

There once was a man, name of Lear
Who wrote them, though not very clear
His meanings were nonsense
With ridiculous contents
And his fame stretches from then to here

Some people delight to change form
From the meter and scheme as a norm
They sometimes depart
On whole, a la cart
But can do so in in whatever manner they choose and still leave it mildly humorous

So let us praise the limerick this way
On this, the Limerick’s Day
They bring joy and delight
And the length is just right
Except like now when I’m carried away!

As one last PS I must add
A very hard time I have had
To not use Nantucket
Or mention a bucket
But I know that would really be bad.

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