Author Archives: Maria Baratta

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Blog post submitted by Tara Kehoe

intothinairIn the spring of 1996, Outside Magazine journalist and amateur mountain climber Jon Krakauer joined a commercial expedition team on their climb to the summit of Mt. Everest — a decision he has come to regret.  Krakauer’s Everest attempt was funded by Outside so he could write an article for the magazine about his experiences as a client on a professional guide-led climb. Though several teams vied for him, Krakauer joined New Zealander Rob Hall’s “Adventure Consultants.” Hall, a renowned expert climber known for his commitment to safety, had successfully guided several groups to the summit in previous years.  Krakauer was one of eight clients in Hall’s group, led by three guides and seven climbing Sherpas.

The climbers spent six weeks preparing for the push to the world’s highest mountain, an effort that involved an arduous climb just to reach base camp and then acclimatization forays to the higher camps on the mountain.  This level of physical exertion at such high altitudes had detrimental effects on most of the team members’ health — including debilitating headache, intestinal distress, lack of appetite, and inability to sleep.  Krakauer describes a chronic cough he developed on the way to base camp that did not subside until he returned to his home in Seattle.  Another problem was, with several other commercial expeditions also leading teams to the summit that month, the amount of climbers on the mountain created bottlenecks at some of the more difficult passes — congestion that slowed down climbers and forced them to wait and use up more of their precious oxygen reserves.

With a favorable weather forecast on May 10, 1996, Adventure Consultants slated that day to attempt to reach the summit peak.  Several other expedition teams, including “Mountain Madness” (led by famed American climber Scott Fischer) also selected May 10 for their summit attempts.  On that fateful day, after hours of grueling climbing, Krakauer reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain — where he barely took a moment to enjoy his accomplishment.  Instead, the journalist was more focused on how dreadful he felt due to a deprivation of air (despite using canned oxygen for the climb), lack of sleep, worry over his fellow climbers who were nowhere in sight, and fear of the impending difficult descent he would have to make.  The few clouds brewing below the north side of the summit face barely registered amongst Krakauer’s concerns.   The storm though, would prove to be devastating to the Adventure Consultants team.  Of the five members of the expedition who reached the summit — four perished on the mountain.   All told, twelve climbers from four separate expeditions were dead by the time the month was over.

Fryderyk_Sup-Into Thin Air is a page-turning suspenseful adventure tale.  Krakauer describes what he could remember from his time on the mountain and interviewed many of his fellow climbers and base camp support crew, with the caveat that Krakauer admits that recall of events that occurred at elevations ranging from 19,000 to 29,028 feet are sketchy at best.  The human brain is arguably not meant to function at such altitudes, and certainly the body and the mind do not perform as well at such great heights as they do at sea level.   This book is also full of details including a history of Everest climbing; cultural implications to countries including India, China, and Nepal; Sherpa culture; gear used to aid climbers; and the commercialization of guided expeditions.  Rather than seeming extraneous, Krakauer’s skillful descriptions only add to the level of suspense while reading; one feels like they are right there on the mountain with Krakauer.

The tragic loss of human lives including, Rob Hall, Doug Hansen, Andy Harris, Yasuko Namba, Ngawang Topche Sherpa, and Scott Fischer are lamented, not glorified nor sensationalized.  Krakauer chronicles events, including the mistakes and decisions made with arguably questionable judgement that occurred on the mountain without assigning blame.  Though some climbers also on the mountain that month have since publicly criticized Krakauer’s account as laying blame, being misleading, and/or incorrect.   In fact, the author is hardest on himself—for he survived when so many others perished.

After his article was published in Outside magazine, the events of May 1996 on the mountain and his perceived role in the deaths of fellow climbers and friends continued to haunt Krakauer.  Feeling that he had more to say on the ordeal, Krakauer penned Into Thin Air.   Although this book chronicles events that occurred twenty years ago, Mt. Everest and the drive people experience to reach its summit continues to take lives.  Just this past May, four Everest climbers died tragically.

Into Thin Air offers a thrilling edge-of-your-seat account of a spectacular tragedy and poses great questions — that we are still asking ourselves: why do mountain climbers feel the urge to reach heights roughly the same altitude as a commercial airplane?  Why do people feel compelled to take on such challenges even knowing the risks involved?

Introduction To Internet & Mobile Privacy: Class Follow-Up

privacy image

Thank you to all who attended the June 17th  Introduction To Internet & Mobile Privacy Lunchtime Learning class.

 The entire presentation can be downloaded here

In this section I will answer some questions that came up during the class:

What are some of the best news sites to learn about online privacy related topics and stories?

I recommend reading stories from the following sites:, (there are many others out there as well):


What are some other organizations that offer information about Online and Mobile Privacy?

The following organizations, many of them non-profits, offer some great resources regarding online privacy:


What is some other software that can be used to help protect your email and phone number privacy online?

This service was brought up by class participant:

  • It allows you to hide your real email, phone number, and financial card numbers while browsing online for a fee.
  • ***NOTE*** I have never used this service and can not personally vouch for it’s effectiveness.

What about password managers, are they safe?

Many participants in my last online privacy class were concerned about having to remember so many complex passwords for different online accounts.  We already covered the importance of creating passwords that were as long as possible,  but I brought up the option of using password manager software to help you keep track of it all.

A password manager saves many different passwords and encrypts them.  Users create one master password which is used to log in to all of your accounts. Obviously this makes protecting this master password very important!  I would like to make it clear that using a password manager does not make your passwords more secure necessarily, instead it makes managing them easier.

One of my favorite online sources for finding tips on software and online security is the online media website called Lifehacker.  They have two excellent articles covering the topic of choosing a difficult to guess password as well as choosing a using a password manager that is secure.


As always if anyone has any other questions please feel free to contact me!

Best in Books

Blog Post Submitted by Tara Kehoe

At this session I spoke about books that have been published over the past year (or will shortly be released) that I recommend.  I attempted to include a variety of genres, though suspense books are currently in high demand now so this type of books appears on my list most frequently.  Before I jump in, I want to issue a disclaimer: I have not read every book published in the past year!  I wish I could have, but I do have to eat, sleep, and work.  So I am sorry for the many books out there that I have not yet had a chance to read.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. Published June, 2015. Genre: Non-fiction

modernromanceComedian and actor Ansari narrates this surprisingly informative exploration into finding a mate in today’s tech-centered world.  Klinenberg, a socialist at NYU, and Ansari conducted extensive research on dating. The two interviewed hundreds of men and women and traveled as far as Tokyo, Paris, and Buenos Aires (and as close as Wichita, KS) to find out how people look for romance.  The results are often surprising and frequently hilarious.  Online dating may seem like a wonderful and endless supply of potential great hook-ups but can lead to the dreaded paradox of choice: too many choices can lead to never making a decision.  Many potential partners communicate initially only via text message (where a misspelled word can doom you to be forever viewed as a dummy.)  You will laugh, you will learn, and you will be surprised.  It’s not often you find a book that is really funny AND informative.  I recommend the audio as well (narrated by Ansari).  Great book to pack on vacation.

luckiestgirlaliveLuckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.  Published May, 2015. Genre: suspense.

This a fresh twist on the dark suspense genre. I predict this will become a movie and Gone Girl and Girl on the Train fans will enjoy this title. Ani is a highly successful magazine editor living New York city with her filthy-rich fiancé.  After formative years of always trying to fit in with the “rich kids”– Ani has finally made it.  But a documentary film featuring Ani brings back a lot of buried memories.  Slowly, the shocking truth behind Ani’s past and the subject of the film get revealed.

carson-walk-on-earth-largeWalk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson.  Published  September, 2015. Genre: YA/Historic Fiction/Supernatural

It’s 1849 in Georgia.  Many settlers, like Leah’s family came for the gold– which is running scarce these days.  But Leah has a secret: she can sense gold.  Her talent helps keep her and her parents afloat but they try not to draw too much attention.  Until the horrible day when Leah returns to find her mother and father brutally attacked.  Neither survive.  So teenaged Leah is left under the care of her father’s scheming brother.  Her best option seems to be to join a westward journey to California dressed as a boy.  Here is the first book in a trilogy; it is rich with unforgettable characters and takes us on a journey into the past under the massive sky of the American West.  Much like Leah’s talent for finding gold, just the slightest whiff of magic is all we need to make this a nearly perfect tale.

whynotmeWhy Not Me? By Mindy Kaling.  Published September, 2015.  Genre: Humorous memoir.

Loveable Kaling is back with another funny and honest memoir.  Between disclosing Hollywood beauty “secrets” and revealing the truth behind the often less-than glamorous life of a TV star and writer, Kaling seamlessly offers real emotion: searching for genuine friendships and real romance in LA, finding acceptance of who you are, and almost crashing on a cross-country flight with her friend BJ Novak.  If you like hilarious irreverent women you will love Why Not Me.  Many readers say they feel like they wish Kaling was their best friend.  I highly recommend reading this one in audio format.

heartgoeslastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood.  Published September, 2015. Genre: Literary

Atwood’s keen eye gazes into an imagined near future.   An economic crisis has affected millions and Stan and Charmaine are among the many now unemployed and homeless.  Charmaine works as a cocktail waitress once a week for the little money the couple now survive off. Tired of living out of their car and fighting off vandals, the two move to a new city advertised in an infomercial as the necessary solution for a happy peaceful life.  In this new place, residents live one month a year in a comfortable home provided for them by the government and work a satisfying job.  Alternate months are spent as prisoners where last month’s inmates swap their cell for your (shared) home.  This dystopic literary critique of society is reminiscent of Atwood’s famous book, The Handmaid’s Tale.

PrettyGirls_HCPretty Girls by Karin Slaughter. Published September, 2015.  Genre: Suspense/Mystery

When Claire and Lydia’s older sister Julia disappeared without a trace, the tragedy tore the family apart.  Twenty years later, Claire’s husband Paul is brutally murdered right in front of her.  But the aftermath of Paul’s death is even more shocking. Claire discovers horrifying videos on Paul’s computer that makes her question the validity of their entire relationship.  Claire finally turns to Lydia for help, and the two seek out the truth—which is far worse than they could have imagined.  Here is a can’t-put-it-down suspense thriller with dark twists and turns that will shock you.  Fans of James Patterson and Dean Koontz will enjoy.

scorpionrulesThe Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow.  Published: September, 2015.   Genre: YA/Sci-Fi

Here is a Sci-Fi accessible by all (even non-Sci-Fi readers!). Years ago, the world was overcome by raging wars.  The most advanced Artificial Intelligence being created, known as Talis, was tasked with coming up with a solution for peace.  Talis’ answer?  All children of those in a position of political power will be kept as hostages.  If their loved one declared war?  The child will be executed. Princess Greta’s world is stable (other than the looming threat that at any time she could be killed) until a new hostage, Elian, joins their community.   Here is an enjoyable read that will make you question our way of life, and one you will not soon forget!  (companion book coming!).  Fans of the Hunger Games trilogy will enjoy.

lakehouseThe Lake House by Kate Morton.  Published October, 2015. Genre: Literary

Where: A vast Cornwall estate.
Who: The Edevanes; a wealthy beautiful family
When: a midsummer Eve party in 1933
What: baby Theo disappears

Years later, in 2003, Sadie Sparrow, a detective on forced leave after getting too personally involved in a case stumbles upon the Edevane estate, now in shambles.  Sadie becomes fascinated in the case– grown so cold over the years.  Alice Edevane, one of Theo’s older sisters (who was just fifteen when he went missing) is now an elderly woman and an extremely successful mystery writer.  Sadie joins with Alice to try to save the real mystery of the past.  Layers upon layers of time and inter-woven mysteries come together in this highly readable and enjoyable literary tale.   While this may not be fast-paced book, it is interesting and suspenseful enough to be a good book to pack on a trip!

roguenottakenThe Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean.  Published December, 2015.   Genre: Regency romance

A fun and steamy Regency road-trip romance!  Sophie is the youngest of the infamous Talbot sisters.  They are like the Kardashians of London society: beautiful, fun-loving, and always the subject of gossip.  Except for Sophie, who hates society and would prefer to run a small village bookstore.  After a particularly disastrous garden party, Sophie runs (literally) into the Marquess of Eversley– a known rogue.  She begs for a ride away for awful event, and he says no.  But she sneaks onto his carriage, presumably heading to London. Except, the carriage takes Sophie in the wrong direction… and she finds herself on an unexpected journey fraught with scandal, danger, and romance.

deliciousfoodsDelicious Foods by James Hannaham.  January, 2016.   Genre: literary

This unique powerhouse of a book is dually-narrated, alternating chapters between a young man who lost both of his hands, and by crack-cocaine. After her beloved husband is killed horrifically in a violent hate-crime, Darlene is left all alone to care for their young son Eddie.  Devastated, Darlene becomes addicted to crack and quickly degrades into an existence of single-minded purpose: the need to get her next fix.  Desperate, broke, and out of drugs, Darlene is approached by a stranger driving a rag-tag group of other street-dwellers in a large van to places unknown: a “better life” is promised. Instead, Darlene works on a farm for a group known as “Delicious Foods”; a place that runs on a system closer to slavery than employment.  But Eddie never loses his determination to find his mother.  Race, addiction, modern-day slavery, child abandonment, and so much more are tackled in this book: a tragic tale that eventually leads to redemption.   Will appeal to fans of Richard Price.

whenbreathbecomesairWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  Published January, 2016.  Genre: memoir

People are talking about this one!  And once you read it, you will too.  This is very hard book to forget (and you will not want to).  Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon and lover of literature–was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the age of 35.  A future imagined with his wife Lucy (also a doctor finisher her residency), is now re-imaged.  Paul wrote this book as he was dying, and yet it is extremely life-affirming.  Paul had always pondered life’s greatest questions, which inspired him to study the great works on literature and to dedicate his career to understanding the human brain.  When Paul was forced to confront his own mortality (far sooner than he expected), this man decided to ponder the meaning of life and death with grace and he indeed, left us with this great gift of a book.

longandfarawaygoneThe Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney.  Published February, 2016.  Genre: Mystery

Two unrelated crimes occurred in Oklahoma City over the same memorably hot summer in 1986.  The first was the disappearance of Genevieve, a troubled teenage girl who brought her thirteen-year old sister Julianna to the local fair, said she’d be back in 10 minutes, and was never seen again.  The second was the brutal slaying of six movie theatre employees after a robbery went from bad to worse.  There was but one survivor: young Michael working his first job.  Twenty-five years later and Julianna is still haunted by the loss of her sister and determined to find out what happened to her.  Michael, who now goes by Wyatt, is a PI working in Las Vegas.  Wyatt’s friend asks him to work a case in Oklahoma City, a place Wyatt swore he’d never return.  Berney presents this elegant mystery layered upon unforgettable characters in this searing western-noir tale. Will appeal to fans of Tana French’s mysteries and the HBO series True Detective.

murderoveragirlA Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High by Ken Corbett.  Published: March, 2016. Genre: non-fiction

In 2008, Lawrence “Larry” King, a fourteen year old student at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California was shot to death by his classmate Brandon McInerney.   Larry had been recently going by the name “Letecia” and wearing heels, dresses, and makeup to school.  Psychologist Ken Corbett sat through day after day of Brandon’s trial, he was tried as an adult for first-degree murder.  The dense argued that Brandon was sexually harassed by Letecia, driving him to kill her in an internalized form of self defense.  This is a quick read courtroom drama – yet implications of this case and how it ended are profound.  Gender identity rights, prejudices, male aggression, child abuse, poverty, legal questions, and so much more are addressed.

the-passenger-lisa-lutzThe Passenger by Lisa Lutz.  Published: March, 2016.  Genre: Mystery/suspense

Who is Tanya Dubois?  Who knows?  But she didn’t kill her husband. Nonetheless, Tanya runs.  She changes identities as often as other women change shoes. “Borrowing” from others along the way, Tanya/Amelia/Debra/etc. keeps running.  Reader remains unclear of our heroine’s past crime(s) and Lutz slowly unravels the thread.  This is a stellar, stand out in the crowd fast-paced, adrenaline-racing thriller with strong female characters.  It takes a stand on right and wrong that becomes murkier and murkier as the story progresses.

eligibleEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.  Published: April, 2016.  Genre: romance/ classic re-telling.

Extremely enjoyable read!  A modern Pride and Prejudice which is snarkily romantic and impossible to put down.  Lizzie and Jane Bennett fly home to Cincinnati to be with their father after his heart attack.  The eldest (and smartest) Bennett sisters lived in Manhattan, while their younger sisters (Lydia, Mary, and Kitty) all still at home in varying states of incompetence.  At a party, they meet Charles Bingly, a rich doctor who just moved to town.  Bingley is famous as the most recent star of the reality show “Eligible” (think “The Bachelor”) and the matriarchal Bennett pushes her daughter (Jane especially) to pursue him.  Surprisingly, Jane and Charles hit it off.  But Charles’ friend Darcy is a real jerk – insulting the Bennett’s, Cincinnati, and Lizzie herself.    Great book to pack on vacation.

everybody'sfoolEverybody’s Fool by Richard Russo.  Published May 3, 2016.   Genre: literary

Richard Russo has written many wonderful literary tales over the years.  But, perhaps his most beloved book was Nobody’s Fool.  In a pool of incredibly memorable fictional characters penned by this master, Donald “Sully” Sullivan is the one we can’t forget. Sully was played by the late and great Paul Newman in the movie version of Nobody’s Fool.  Now, nearly twenty years later, Russo offers to us a follow up book to Nobody’s Fool. In Everybody’s Fool, we return to Bath, a sad and run-down small town in upstate New York where Sully is back to old tricks.  The rest of the town’s quirky characters – running from the dim-witted, brave, virtuous, and pitiful – all ring true.

And we are now entering into future publications.

modern-lovers-review-ewModern Lovers by Emma Straub.  To be published May 31, 2016.  Genre: literary

In the 1990s at super-liberal Oberlin College; Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe, and Lydia started a band.  They played local shows and had a small following, and then–because life happens, they broke up.  But one song (lyrics penned by Elizabeth) had the potential to make it big.  Lydia soon quit college and became a real rock star– with a tragically young heroin-overdose death to boot.  Lydia made Elizabeth’s song famous.  Now, Elizabeth and Andrew are married to each other and live next door to Zoe in a hipster up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood.  Their children are teenagers and they are somehow staring down fifty.  When a film studio wants to make a documentary on Lydia, they need Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe to sign over the rights to tell the story of the band.  But Andrew refuses.  Here is an engaging tale of relationships, identity, and friendships; melding the everyday with the unique.  Fans of Julia Glass will enjoy.  A good summer/beach read with some substance.

thegirlsemmaclineThe Girls by Emma Cline.  To be published June 14, 2016.  Genre: Literary/Historic Fiction.

People will definitely be talking about this one! (they are already). This is fiction inspired by events carried off by Charles Manson and his “cult” of female followers.  It’s 1969 and Evie is fourteen years old, wealthy, and lonely.  After her parents split up and both are preoccupied following their own path (with new partners and lives), Evie is left to her own devices.  The girl is painfully awkward and acutely aware of and constantly embarrassed by her changing female body.   Evie’s only friend is Connie- an equally awkward girl.  The two have a falling out and Evie is truly alone.  She notices a group of girls at a local park: they are long-haired, dirty, and breathtakingly beautiful.  Evie becomes obsessed with one such girl: Suzanne.  Evie covets Suzanne’s perceived freedom and confidence.  Evie begins spending her days at the “ranch” where everyone follows a charismatic leader named Russell.  Grounded in the real-life history of a horrible event at a tumultuous time in our history… Evie’s story rings true to anyone who has ever felt alone and insecure.   Read-alike is Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides.

womanincabin10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  To be published July 19, 2016. Genre: mystery

After a night of too much drinking, Lo Blacklock is sleeping it off in her basement flat in London when she hears a noise– it’s a masked man is standing in her living room.  Lo is not physically hurt much by the intruder, but her nerves are shot.  However, she cannot nurse her damaged psyche long as she has an important business obligation. As a writer for a travel magazine, Lo has the chance to sail to Norway to see the Aurora Borealis on a billionaire’s private yacht.  The yacht is extravagant, and the guests are pampered.  But during her first night on board, Lo wakes at night to the sound of a woman’s scream followed by a loud splash.  Lo is convinced that someone murdered the woman staying in the cabin next to her, but according to everyone on the yacht, that cabin was empty.  Is Lo’s trauma causing her to see danger where there is none?  Or is something sinister happening?  From the author of last year’s hit debut In a Dark, Dark Wood, here is an old-school mystery that relies on plot twists rather than gore and shock value.  Ware’s writing style  has been compared to Agatha Christie.

couplenextdoorThe Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.  To be published August 2016.  Genre: suspense

Folks, here is another can’t-put-it-down psychological suspense thriller destined to be a big hit this summer.   We start with a couple having dinner at their neighbors’ home.  Lots of wine, food, and a bit of flirting.  Anne is still trying to lose the baby weight, and feels jealous of Cynthia’s fine figure.  By the time the last bottle is uncorked, Cynthia is opening flirting with Anne’s husband Marco.  The sitter had called to cancel at the last minute, so Anne and Marco left their 6 month old baby Cora sleeping next door.   With baby monitor in hand, the young couple checked on Cora every half hour.  Anne and Marco stumble home a little after 1am.  The crib is empty.  Cora is gone.  Here is an examination of what happens when the curtain is pulled back on a family: revealing the lies and betrayals in their totality.  This is a quick read, with sparse and formal-sounding language– a storytelling style that makes this twisted tale all the more disturbing.

And here are some books that were made into movies coming out soon.

The BFG by Roald Dahl.  Movie release date: July, 2016. Genre: Childrens/fantasy

The “BFG” means the “big friendly giant.”  Here is a classic story for the young and the young at heart, by beloved author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  Movie release date: September, 2016. Genre: YA/Horror

This is the creepy tale of a young man’s search for his grandfather’s past brings him to a children’s home that has been long-deserted.  Or has it?

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  Movie release date: October, 2016. Genre: Suspense

A suspenseful tale with the most unreliable narrator.  High anticipated movie!

And, while you are waiting (years) for tickets to the Broadway show…

Read Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow!  Genre: Biography

The biography of Alexander Hamilton which inspired the wildly successful show.

Lunchtime Learning Blog: Programming & Creating Circuits with Arduinos Follow-Up

Thank you to everyone who attended the Lunchtime Learning class covering how to create circuits and write computer code for Arduinos.


Here are some of the resources mentioned and used during the class:

  • If you are inspired to purchase your own Arduino and continue tinkering, this is the company that produced the boards we worked with:
  • They also have an excellent support site with project ideas, step-by-step instructions, and other learning resources:

Now to answer a question that was  raised during the class:

What age group do you recommend for introducing working with Arduinos?

In my opinion I think 7-8 years old could be a great time to start introducing creating circuits and programming with Arduinos. This is an arbitrary guess however as I can see there being interest with people younger than that as well.  As we saw in our class, the activities were challenging and fun for adults too.

There are other similar products geared to teach young people about electronics and computer programming, some of them include:

  • Legos Mindstorms kits are an excellent way to introduce computer programming to those in the 7-12 year age range. The Legos kits introduce basic programming in a slightly more beginner friendly way than the Arduino kits we
  • Makey-Makey Kits are a very fun way to introduce basic electrical concepts to children of all ages.makey
  • Snap Circuits take away the slight difficulty of having to make electrical connections on a breadboard.  They are excellent for younger learners or those that might have more limited motor skills.snap circuits
  • Littlebits are also a similar product to Snap Circuits and can be easier to work with than Arduinos.little bits

Please feel free to email me with any other questions you have.  Also please let me know if you might be interested in taking a second version of this class again in the future.  Lastly, thanks to PSEG who generously donated the materials used in this class.

Benjamin Saracco
NJ Reference & Digital Projects Librarian
New Jersey State Library
609.278.2640 x115
Email me.

The Pork Roll Cookbook by Jenna Pizzi & Susan Sprague Yeske

The Mid-Atlantic Treat

The Pork Roll CookbookNo other food-product is associated with New Jersey in quite the same way as the infamous processed pork product
known as pork roll, (sometime referred to as “taylor ham” by the misinformed).

With writing by the former Trenton Times/ reporter Jenna Pizzi and recipes by Trenton-based food writer Susan Sprague Yeske the Pork Roll Cookbook is an excellent, if somewhat heartburn-inducing read.  It describes a detailed history of pork roll from its inception over 150 years ago to today. It also includes almost 50 unique recipes using pork roll as an ingredient.


Pork Roll Through the Ages

pork roll

The first half of the Pork Roll cookbook goes into depth about the origins of the tasty processed meat hailing from Trenton, New Jersey. It covers the history of the two most famous businesses that still produce Pork Roll to this day: Taylor Provision Company and Case’s Pork Roll.

The entire book contains many historical images of the key players in involved with the history of Pork Roll as well as other historical New Jersey scenes.  You can learn more about the recently created Pork Roll Festivals held annually in Trenton, New Jersey as well as times in the past when pork roll has appeared in popular culture.

Pork Roll Recipes

The last portion of the book covers recipes all involving pork roll. Recipes covering every meal are featured including soups, hors d’oeuvres, sandwiches, casseroles, and main dishes. Recipes and anecdotes from famous New Jersey chefs are also incorporated.

Some of my favorite recipes include:

  • Deviled Eggs with Pork Roll pg. 46

  • Trenton-Style Spaghetti A La Carbonara pg. 102

  • Pork Roll Fried Rice pg.122

If you are in the mood to pig-out on pork roll history and recipes then place a hold today on The Pork Roll Cookbook by Jenna Pizzi with recipes by Susan Sprague Yeske.

pork roll animated gif

This book can be checked out from the Jerseyana Collection located on the fourth floor of the New Jersey State Library. The Jerseyana Collection contains a wide variety of books covering New Jersey-related topics.  You can find books covering the history of your local town, current/former NJ politicians, and even infamous NJ characters such as Tony Soprano and Snooki.  Some items have even been digitized and put online on the State Library’s Digital Jerseyana Collection.

The Pork Roll Cookbook. Pizzi, Jenna
Call # J641.6 P695 Jerseyana Collection – Level 4

Lightning Talk: Health and Wellness

On April 22nd, the New Jersey State Library hosted a Lightning Talk on Health and Wellness topics. For those of you who might not be familiar with the idea, a lightning talk is simply a short presentation, and in our case, those presentations covered a variety of topics related to health and wellness.


During the course of the presentation, Principal Library Assistant Lorraine Jenkins oversaw the distribution of coloring book pages for grown-ups, in order to facilitate a calm and relaxing atmosphere for the assembled audience.

The presentation started off with TBBC’s Reader’s Advisor Meaghan Moody, who talked about three excellent free fitness apps available. Those apps were :


MapMyRun, and

Nike+ Training Club.

All three are available for download for both the iOS and the Android systems.

Next, Reference Librarian Martha Sullivan discussing reliable and authoritative websites one might use for health information. Martha summarized her talk thusly:

“At the Lightning Lunchtime Learning session on Health, we looked at some trustworthy websites.

Many of us look for health information online, and it helps to know some sources that we can feel confident are authoritative and up-to-date. Visit this site if you want to know how to treat the hemorrhoids.

During the session I described 4 websites:

New Jersey Health Care PortalThis website provides some background information about doctors, podiatrists and optometrists in New Jersey.

Drug Information Portal This site provides detailed information about prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as drugs in the approval process.

MedlinePlusA vast consumer health site with high-quality information on diseases, conditions and wellness topics in multiple languages.

HealthyNJ New Jersey-focused information on many health and wellness topics, diseases and conditions. A “Health in New Jersey” section lists county resources, government agencies, healthcare facilities, health statistics, and more!”

Online Health Resources handout:

Great Online Resources for Health

Reference Librarian Laura Shiber discussed online resources for healthy veganism. Sites covered were:

The Vegan R.D.
The Vegetarian Resource Group
Vegetarian Nutrition
The Post Punk Kitchen
The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart
Meatless Mondays
Compassionate Cuisine
Oh She Glows
Keepin’ It Kind
Minimalist Baker

Just a few recommended cookbooks included:

Moskowitz, Isa Chandra. Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildy Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week. 2013.

Schinner, Miyoko Nishimoto. The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples. 2015.

Patrick-Goudreau, Colleen. The 30-Day Vegan Challenge: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Cleaner, Getting Leaner, and Living Compassionately. New York: Ballantine Books, 2011.

Patrick-Goudreau, Colleen. Color Me Vegan: Maximize Your Nutrient Intake and Optimize Your Health by Eating Antioxidant-Rich, Fiber-Packed, Color-Intense Meals That Taste Great. Beverly, Mass: Fair Winds Press, 2010.

Turner, Kristy. But I Could Never Go: -Vegan!- 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It’s Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over for Dinner. 2014.

Vegan Resources handout:

Online Vegan Resources Handout

The fourth presenter was Ben Saracco, also a Reference Librarian here at the New Jersey State Library. Ben talked about the process of fermenting foods and the health benefits of fermentation in food, and provided sourdough starter to anyone who wanted to start making their own sourdough bread. Apparently, that was everyone, as there wasn’t a starter sample left over at the end of the event.

Ben’s presentation can be viewed and downloaded here.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Steig Larsson

Blog Post Submitted by John Foglia

What do a disgraced journalist, a computer hacker with a photographic memory and a girl who has been missing for 40 years have in common?  They all are all part of the twisted crime world within Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book coverSet in modern day Sweden, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in the Millennium series that follows Mikael Blomkvist, journalist for Millennium magazine, and Lisbeth Salander, computer hacker and freelance investigator as they plunge into an unsolved case that could either redeem Mikael or bring his utter demise.

Stieg Larsson paints a very bleak and dismal world in which crimes against women seem to go seriously unnoticed and unsolved.  The character of Lisbeth Salander, a victim of rape and injustice, is portrayed as a frail girl of only 20 something that society could easily forget.  However, behind the scenes, Lisbeth is a force to be reckoned with and a character of high moral standard.  Her talents with hacking give her the edge over those who would try to exert their power and make the mistake of thinking she’s just a frail girl.  Indirectly becoming a champion towards the injustice against women, Lisbeth is exactly who Mikael needs in solving what seems to be an unsolvable case.  Could this missing girl still be alive or is she just another statistic in a long growing list of crimes against women?

The Girl with Dragon Tattoo is a very intense read and can be easily described as a page turner. There are graphic depictions of murder, rape, and violence.  Through this though we get two intriguing characters that you can’t wait to learn more about or see what they will do next.  If it’s 3 a.m. and you can’t put a book down, it could be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance.  He does a great job providing a variety voices for all the characters that keep listening to this book interesting and engaging.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Larsson, Steig.
Call # F LAR Audio Books – Level 3

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Larsson, Steig.
Call # F LAR Fiction – Level 1

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina

Picture of a wolf

Cover of Beyond Words by Carl SafinaBeyond Words, by Carl Safina, is a well written, well researched book that explores, as the subtitle suggests, what animals might think and feel. It is a difficult book to review for a few reasons; the first, because it covers so much about animal and human behavior that it is nearly overwhelming, at least to this reader. Luckily for me, Mr. Safina makes his science eminently readable and relatable. The second reason is that it will likely cause you to silently root for the relatively quick and not necessarily painless extinction of humanity.

Mr. Safina writes primarily about three animal communities – elephants in Amboseli Park in Kenya, wolves in Yellowstone Park, and killer whales in the Pacific Northwest – and weaves in and out of those three main stories countless others that shed light both on animal behavior and communication, and on the scientists and philosophers who observe those behaviors, and the conclusions that they come to. It is rarely, if ever, pretty. It is often infuriating and heartbreaking, though there are stories of great charm and delight and hope, as well. It is a roller coaster of a book, especially if you feel even remotely sympathetic or connected to animals, domesticated or not.

To see how many of those animals suffer at the hands of scientists and philosophers (I’m looking at you, Descartes!) was the least surprising and most depressing aspect of this book. The human toll on the animal kingdom is documented in terrible detail; it’s a rough life if you don’t have opposable thumbs – and sometimes, as with many primates, even when you do.

Picture of a wolfIn the first chapter, Mr. Safina tells a story about the elephant researcher Cynthia Moss. When asked what she had learned about humanity from years of watching elephants, Moss dismisses the question, and suggests that it is valuable to observe them simply because they are elephants. The value comes in understanding the animal itself, not in any potential parallels to humanity that might be drawn. This response to what was to have been the subject of his book appears to have radically shifted Mr. Safina’s thinking, and that rather than writing about how animals might be like us, he says, his task “would be to endeavor to see who animals simply are – like us or not.” (pg. 13)

Many of the stories that illustrate who those animals might simply be may come as a complete revelation to the reader. Prior to reading Beyond Words, my understanding of killer whales was limited largely to that of “big scary fish, many teeth.” Now it’s unlikely that I will look at one without wondering about the individual behind those many teeth. And that, I think, is the great strength of this book; it is a sane, rational, science-driven argument that provides the encouragement to move beyond the sort of thinking that places man eternally in dominion over animals, and rather, suggests the possibility of a better world for all of us, humans and animals alike.

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. Safina, Carl.
Call # 591.56 Saf Browsing Collection – Level 3

Free eBooks and Audiobooks with eLibraryNJ

The webinar, “Free eBooks and Audiobooks with eLibraryNJ,” held on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, was designed to familiarize authorized State Library users with the OverDrive service, as made available to them through eLibraryNJ, found at Thank you to everyone who attended! I hope I was able to provide some basic information regarding OverDrive and eLibraryNJ.

It’s easy to download e-books and audiobooks through eLibraryNJ, and through the accompanying OverDrive mobile app. Attendees were walked through the process of checking out and downloading a book through OverDrive Read, OverDrive’s browser-based book delivery service, as well as to the different formats available through OverDrive. We took a look at placing a hold on a title, as well as renewing a title from either the OverDrive/eLibraryNJ website, or the OverDrive app.

We also discussed OverDrive Help, a robust source of useful information, which can be found at, and through the website and the OverDrive app, by clicking on the Help icon, indicated by a question mark, like so:

Screenshot of help button on eLibraryNJ website

There were three handouts included in the webinar, and they are attached here. The first, “Getting started with the OverDrive app,” will assist you in downloading and setting up OverDrive on your mobile devices. The second, “Getting started with Kindle eReaders,” will assist you in downloading OverDrive titles to your Kindle reader and app. The third, “Getting started with OverDrive Read,” will help you use this browser-based service to read books on your desktop or laptop.

Lastly, in response to a question we received during the webinar, I wanted to link to a video tutorial on the NJSL website that will instruct patrons in renewing a title they’ve checked out from the State Library online; you can see that video here.

Again, thank you so much for attending the “Free eBooks and Audiobooks with eLibraryNJ” webinar, and I hope to see you at an upcoming webinar or Lunchtime Learning event soon.




The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food


Book cover for "The Real Cost of Fracking"Authors Bamberger, a veterinarian and author of two books, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell University who serve on the advisory board of Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy have written a readable book on the controversial subject and practice of fracking. The book focuses on families in rural Pennsylvania where fracking is booming. Case studies of seven families are explored where either their property or a neighbor’s property is being used for drilling.

Families interviewed describe how they were approached by the energy companies, what was described as a safe process, and the money that was to be earned in “royalties.” The authors not only interviewed families but also toured their land. Companies blocked access to where they were working, and bullied them by going back and forth in their trucks taking photos and just riding by slowly looking at their homes. Chemicals leak in wells, ponds, from torn plastic coverings, and spills (some deliberate) on the road by trucks. Farm animals unable to reproduce, sickened, and sometimes died. Pets died after a few years. Air quality was badly compromised resulting in sickness to humans, pets and livestock. Property values plummeted as land was rendered useless.

Veterinarians and doctors are unable to disclose chemicals used as families settled with the gas companies by signing a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for monetary settlement. In Pennsylvania as in many states, there are no sunshine laws which require that a company must disclose the chemicals used and held accountable for damage to humans, animals, land, and water. Texas has one of the strongest sunshine laws in the country. The authors were able to describe chemicals that companies were injecting in the land and water. Cracks in the rock using these chemicals leaked into aquafers.

The last chapter details how fracking is done. What can be complicated is explained clearly. How did these companies talk people into this travesty? Some explanation is that they did not know what went into the process of fracking. Companies told them it was safe. Rural families don’t make much money, so the promise of royalties is viewed as a blessing. Only when drilling proceeds do they recognize that they’ve been lied to, and that there is no help from government. Sometimes they move and others who have lived on the land for several generations do not want to move. What is frightening is that some of the animals sent for butchering may just wind up on our table.

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food. Bamberger, Michelle; Robert, Oswald.
Call # 363.17 Bam Browsing Collection – Level 3

Introduction to preserving digital images & scanning: Class Follow-up

Scanning Word Graphic

First off, thanks to all who attended the class and had such great questions.

You can always view the presentation again in the link below.

As promised here are some answers to a few of the questions that came up during the class:

1.How do I know what type of sleeves are best for storing my film and printed photos:

Mylar aka (polyester) plastics sleeves are a good choice for storing your prints and negatives. Gaylord Archival, a respected supplier of preservation materials, recommends the following:

Plastic—Clear plastic enclosures are particularly useful for photographs and negatives that receive continual handling and viewing. Plastics must be chemically stable, free of additives and abrasive surface coatings.

Plastics manufactured for commercial packaging, for example, often contain additives that react with oxygen and light to produce harmful chemical compounds that can damage photographic materials. Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish plastics with additives or surface coatings by look or touch. The best guarantee of quality is to purchase enclosures from a recognized supplier of archival materials.

Three types of plastics are currently considered acceptable for long-term storage:

  1. Polyester—Melinex® is a brand of polyester that meets the requirements of long term storage of photographic materials. Clear, smooth, and rigid, polyester gives support while letting users see the image. Dupont Mylar® Type D, an acceptable brand of polyester, has been discontinued.
  2. Polypropylene—Untreated (uncoated) polypropylene is an acceptable low cost alternative to polyester. It is less rigid but is clear, and can be used for photographic materials that do not need the greater support provided by polyester; or where the greater cost of polyester cannot be justified. Avoid polypropylene that has a surface coating applied.
  3. Polyethylene—The softest of the plastics and the least clear. High-density polyethylene is translucent, like glassine, and its smooth surface is the least likely to cause surface abrasion. Like polypropylene, it is a lower cost alternative to polyester, where the clarity and rigidity of polyester is not needed.

Vinyl pages and some “magnetic photo albums” are unacceptable for the storage of photographs. Sheets and enclosures made of polyvinyl chloride (also called PVC or vinyl) are recognizable by their oily feel and smell. They release chemicals that react with photographic materials to cause staining and deterioration. Many older style “magnetic albums” have poor quality backing pages, coated with a tacky adhesive, that may cause discoloration and make it difficult to remove photographs in the future. Cellulose triacetate is not recommended for long-term storage because it becomes distorted and can cause surface abrasion.”

2.What about converting films and home movies into digital formats, particularly VHS tapes?:

There are private companies which can do the conversion for you though prices range widely from $15 to $50 per tape. The quality of the digital video files can also vary by vendor. Fotobridge is a local New Jersey company which provides this service.

You can try and convert the videos to digital formats at home as well if you have the equipment. The basic equipment needed is a computer, a VCR, and an analog to digital converter along with its software.

This blog entry from well known camera company B&H photo goes into greater detail about the pros and cons of both of these options.

If the VHS tapes you are converting contain extremely important historical footage you may want to consult with a preservation professional and study what standards and steps libraries and archives have followed.

Cited resources:

  1. Shrock, N. (2005). SECTION 2: Archival Storage of Photographic Materials. In Guide to collections care: Paper, photographs, textiles & books. Syracuse, NY: Gaylord.
  2. Kliner, K. (n.d.). Converting VHS Tapes to DVD: A First-Hand Experience. Retrieved October 26, 2015, from
  3. Pennington, S., and Rehberger D. (2012). The preservation of analog video through digitization. In D. Boyd, S. Cohen, B. Rakerd, & D. Rehberger (Eds.), Oral history in the digital age. Institute of Library and Museum Services. Retrieved from

 Introduction to preserving digital images & scanning slides

Weaver’s Paradise at the New Jersey State Library

One of my favorite places at the New Jersey State Library is the General Collection, on the first floor. There resides a large collection of fiction and non-fiction titles designed to support State employees in all aspects of their lives, both personal and professional. Collection policies have changed over time in response to financial resources, but in the first half of the twentieth century, the collection had much attention devoted to it. Most of the titles reflect that in many ways, and like so many other special collections, it’s an incredibly charming time capsule, and terrific fun to browse through.

If you like old books – and I do, very much so – even a casual glance through a random shelf in the General Collection is rewarding; if you like humorists like SJ Perelman and James Thurber, you are in tremendous luck. Looking for the original Arkham House releases of HP Lovecraft novels? Yes, we have those, as well. Perhaps you’re interested in hardbound copies of Search Roebuck catalogs from the 1920s? Come on down!

Stacked booksMy previous experience as a fine arts undergrad skews my interest greatly toward the crafts section. It’s impressive to see just how much was collected in that area, and as someone with an interest in fiber arts, I am amazed at the number of titles we possess related to handweaving, with publication dates ranging from 1910 to 1984. I suspect that whoever was purchasing for that collection was a weaver themselves, or barring that, simply cared deeply about the creative lives of State employees. I applaud their effort and concern! (Note: Since I wrote this, I’ve been informed that the crafts section was actually collected with state-wide reference in mind. I’d still prefer to think of a State employee with a weaving obsession standing in front of those shelves with a tear in his or her eye.) With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at just a few of those titles.

Detail of an illustration from the Shuttle-craft Book of American Hand-weaving by Mary Meigs AtwaterFor an introduction to weaving and its history (granted, its history up to the year 1928, when this title was published), Mary Meigs Atwater’s Shuttle-craft Book of American Hand-weaving might be the best place to start. Mary Meigs Atwater is so meticulous and exacting in her telling of the history of handweaving and so full of scorn and polite invective for anyone who might disdain this noblest of arts that it makes reading this title really quite enjoyable. I suspect that when the Shuttle-craft Book of American Hand-weaving was first released, Mary Meigs Atwater’s weaving colleagues sat around and talked about what a pistol and a spitfire she was. In addition to the history of the craft, the title also contains concise instructions for the dressing of the loom, for the actual practice of weaving, and a large number of beautifully illustrated historical patterns. I admit that I have a bit of an arts and crafts crush on Mary Meigs Atwater now.

Marguerite Davison’s A Handweaver’s Pattern Book is widely regarded a classic in the field; I have a later edition of this, and it is one of a very small group of books I’d consider indispensable to the handweaver. While there are any number of pattern books available on the market for those interested, few are as encyclopedic and as beloved as Davison’s. Our edition is from 1944. We also have a copy of Davison’s Home Craft Course in Pennsylvania German Home-Weaving Patterns pamphlet from 1943; our edition is a 1945 reprint of this hard-to-find title.

The coat of arms of the Weavers Company, London, as seen in Luther Hooper’s Hand-loom Weaving Plain & OrnamentalLuther Hooper’s book Hand-loom Weaving Plain & Ornamental is exciting, in that it introduced me to the coat of arms for the Weavers’ Company, London – their shield portrays three lions holding shuttles in their mouths, framed by the motto, “Weave Truth With Trust.” As coats of arms go, that’s pretty splendid. Our edition of that title is a 1926 reprint, and it is an extensive treatment of both the history and process of handweaving.

Should you desire to weave, but have no equipment on which to do so, fret not! The aforementioned Mr. Hooper has also published Weaving for Beginners, which walks you through the process of making a loom, from start to finish. I think the chapter “The Ironwork of the Loom” shows a remarkable amount of optimism, as I’m guessing that even in 1919, when the book was first published, not everyone had a backyard foundry.

And these are only a few of the titles we have available to check out! The lovely thing about many of the books in our collection is that they highlight arts and crafts that have only lightly felt the changing touch of technology. While it’s true there have been several significant technological advances in weaving, the foundation of it is still exactly the same as it was when these books were published, making the titles enduringly useful reference works for the fiber artist, and a valued part of a library’s collection. I certainly value them, and think them extraordinary.

Reviewed by Laura Shiber

Hand-Loom Weaving: Plain & Ornamental. Hooper, Luther. London: Pitman, 1926.
Call # 745.5 Hoo – General Collection – Level 1

A handweaver’s pattern book. Davison, Marguerite Porter. 1944. Allentown, Pa: Printed by Schlechter’s.
Call # 746.14 Dav – General Collection – Level 1

Home Craft Course in Pennsylvania German Home Weaving Patterns. Davison, Marguerite P. Allentown, Pa.: Schlechter’s, 1945.
Call # 746.14 Dav – General Collection – Level 1

The shuttle-craft book of American hand-weaving; being an account of the rise, development, eclipse, and modern revival of a national popular art, together with information of interest and value to collectors, technical notes for the use of weavers, and a large collection of historic patterns. Atwater, Mary Meigs. 1928. New York: The Macmillan Company.
Call # 746 Atw – General Collection – Level 1

Weaving for beginners: with plain directions for making a hand loom, mounting it and starting the work. Hooper, Luther. 1919. London: I. Pitman.
Call # 746.14 Hoo – General Collection – Level 1