22 Apr
2014

Earth Day, Earthy Earthy Earth Day!

This is an earth appreciation post.

I’m not here to talk about global warming or carbon dioxide in the atmosphere- you can get yelled at about that simply by watching the news.

I’m here to talk about the earth. The tiny spinning full-of-life planet we’re all riding through space.

The earth is pretty spectacular when you think about it. I mean, just look at it for a minute.

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Majestic, yes?

Okay, now look at this.

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Honestly, how are we not just staring at Jupiter all the time? HOW CAN’T WE SEE IT? HOW ISN’T THE SKY JUST JUPITER?

Probably because of how far away it is, but still. The thing is gynorm.

To get marginally off topic, who remembers this?

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JUPITER

I still can’t say Jupiter out loud without going jupitERRRRRRR.

Okay okay back to the earth. Should I be capitalizing earth? And I call myself a ‘writer’. Yeesh.

What I’m trying to say is that the Earth is our home. According to science, there’s nowhere else for us homo sapiens to live in space. They keep trying to say we can live on Mars, but let’s get real. Living on Mars makes living on Earth look heavenly. Air to breathe, water, agriculture… We may be slowly destroying the earth one pollutant at a time, but I challenge you to think about how you’re impacting the Earth. What can you do to help out the frigging planet we live on? Pick up some trash, stop driving places you can walk, use reusable grocery bags, stop buying those godforsaken plastic disposable water bottles, recycle everything you possibly can, plant some clean air friendly plants, or get some energy efficient appliances. Simple changes can make a difference, and I implore you to make just one change in the name of the wonderful planet we call home.

You stay classy, Pittsburgh.

hadfield Earth Day, Earthy Earthy Earth Day! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

The ‘burgh from space

20 Apr
2014

420

April 20 has become a counterculture holiday in North America,dedicated to the gathering of people and the consumption of cannabis (ganja, weed, pot, tree, green, the dank, the stank, or real sticky bud). 4204:20, or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) is a code-term that refers to the consumption of  cannabis and by extension, as a way to identify oneself with cannabis subculture or simply cannabis itself.

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This year, 420 happens to fall on the same day as Easter. Which means the internet exploded a little bit. These are some of the results…

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.. and he brought the party.

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If you’re looking to make your Easter family dinner a bit more interesting this year whilst celebrating this joyous holiday,  you could always  BAKE yourself a treat. Why did I capitalize the word bake you ask? Because you can bake your pot right into a delicious baked good treat. So when you get the munchies you can satisfy your hunger with those Easter cookies you made special for the family, and keep your 4/20 going strong by ingesting more Mary-Jane. I know, my head almost exploded too. It’s like some kind of crazy stoner paradox.

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I’m sure no one will notice…

For those of you who dig poetry I dug up (see what I did there with dig and dug, pretty cool, right?) a poem about 4/20. Dr. Seuss would be proud.

I was asleep in my bed, and then I awoke
I looked at the date, today I will toke.
I snatched up my pipe, and grabbed all my tree,
Then I got dressed and found my car key.
I drove to the park,
sat alone in the dark,
and now I can’t lie.
I’m utterly high.

Okay, so it’s not Robert Frost, but have a happy 4/20, and don’t bogart that joint. Just remember in the words of Mr. Matthew McConaughey, if you don’t have a joint “You’d be cooler if you did”.

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15 Apr
2014

We Miss You, Gilmore Girls! (and Other Thoughts from Our April Book Klub Meeting)

We are officially finished with our first book!  Though at times challenging (sometimes, magical realism can be really obtuse, you guys), the group’s consensus seemed to be that Little, Big was a gorgeous, thought-provoking read.  I definitely encourage everyone to pick it up sometime soon; we just got a fresh shipment AND we can tell you all about it now that we’ve read it!  

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The Gang discussing “Little, Big.”

So, you’re probably wondering what’s next!  Well, geez, hold on a tic.  I’ll get there eventually.  But don’t you want to hear more about the meeting?

After finishing up our discussion of Little, Big we talked a little about our other current reads.  Adam is just now ending a months long Tolkien binge-reading spree (if you’re a fellow LoTR fan, you NEED to talk to him about the series).  JP is reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath as part of her mission this year to read a book a week (Godspeed, JP.  Godspeed…).  And Michael just started The Martian by Andy Weir (and so far I’m not enjoying it but I will prevail!).

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But seriously…

Sadly, Carly wasn’t able to attend t his past meeting, so tarot readings have been placed on hold for now, since they don’t really jive with next month’s book pick, but more on that LATER.  Stop trying to change the subject.  We did, however, pursue a lengthy discussion of Ricky Gervais’s body of work, and how he is quite possibly the world’s most annoying actor vis-a-vis his role in the film version of Stardust (branching off from an earlier discussion of Neil Gaiman, because obviously Neil Gaiman is a talking point of every book klub meeting).

And then we talked about SHAILENE WOODLEY because she is sweet and pretty and oh, ya know, she may have shopped at Kards Unlimited not too long ago (and bought a copy of The Fault In Our Stars!!!).  We are so planning a group outing to see the movie this summer.  And to get you all in the mood, I’m going to link to a hilarious interview where Shailene talks about her New Age-y philosophy regarding food and sunbathing.  LOVE HER.

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Ok, ok.  I suppose it’s time to announce our next book klub book, which issssssss {[(*pause for dramatic effect*)]} The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer!  This is a fantastic spring read and it just came out in paperback.  We are fully stocked so stop in and grab your copy!  Our next meeting will be Sunday, May 18th @6pm.  Hope to see everyone there!

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13 Apr
2014

It’s National Library Week!!!

My name is Jess and I’m in love with the idea of libraries.

If you know me you know that the library is one of my absolute favorite places to visit. I tend to get really excited when I talk about them, and here’s why.

Libraries represent everything that is right with the world. Want to learn how to knit, or plant a garden? Suddenly interested in a new genre or author? Thinking about getting a dog? Thinking about having a baby? Libraries provide you with an extremely useful amount of free knowledge. Not to mention all of the sessions they hold for things like intermediate French conversation club, teen book clubs, or children’s story time. And it doesn’t just stop at books. Libraries also offer movies to rent for a small fee, books on tape (or CD), computers, access to the internet, tons of magazines to read, printers, help finding a job or fixing up your resume… Libraries do all of the things that have the power to positively change someone’s life. Reading keeps me sane and the endless amount of books the library houses will keep me reading, well, forever. So let’s celebrate National Library Week and get to the library!

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Arthur had it right all along

12 Apr
2014

Drop. Everything. And. Read.

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This is our sweet DEAR day card, obviously.

Here’s the thing about reading, guys: it’s the best thing in the world.  Now, plenty of people have waxed poetic about the joys of a new hardcover fresh off the shelves, the iconic smells of books old and new, and the literally awesome power of books to engage and entrance the imagination.  And I fully endorse and agree with all those things.  I’m not saying there isn’t anyone who loves books as much as I do, folks, I’m just saying those people are rare and if they and I could move to a deserted island and build a city out of words, we would.  And we would love it.

But on this Drop Everything And Read Day, I’m gonna talk to you about something slightly different (but still very much word and information-related, this isn’t Crazytown.)  One of the most surefire ways to get me to drop everything and read is to point me vaguely in the direction of Wikipedia.  It’s a bit of a running internet joke that reading any Wiki article can easily become an hours-long marathon of reading, since there are so many links in every article and they all link you to other pertinent articles!  It’s like a conspiracy to give people information!  Of course, information on ye olde wiki is not necessarily to be taken as Gospel, and students everywhere are uniformly admonished never to cite it as a source in papers, but I think that gives wikipedia an unfairly bad wrap.  Most wikipedia articles, at least the ones with real information (i.e., not the ones about pop culture icons and active political figures) cite their sources with links to the information across other media.  Randall Munroe really says it best in this comic:

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It’s exactly like this.

Except by problem, he obviously means incredible glory.  It’s literally an almost infinite amount of information.  That’s amazing!

My point is that while books are great, (I seriously cannot stress enough that books are great.  For about an infinite number of reasons.) there’s plenty of reading to be done in other areas.  Literacy is probably the single most important skill a kid can learn in the information age, and a love of reading instilled at an early age is super important.  And that’s why Drop Everything And Read Day rules.  Thanks Beverly Cleary!

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11 Apr
2014

National Barbershop Quartet Day: Stories From the Front Line

April 11th is National Barbershop Quartet Day, a day to mark the creation of one of America’s characteristic musical forms (read: one of the most surefire methods of embarrassing oneself).  Over the years, I’ve participated in a number of rather ridiculous group activities – a few of which, for posterity’s sake, are better left undetailed – but my most bizarre experiences always seem to stem from my involvement in musical ensembles.

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Happy (happy) [happy] {happyyyyy} birthday to youuuuu.

For example, there was the time I spent my summer vacation in a small New Mexican town with my dad – a town where extreme boredom drives most teens to join either the local gang (and let’s be honest – I’m not built for that) or the mariachi band.  As far as I know, the only lasting evidence to come out of this experimental period is a handful of Polaroids in which my band mates and I can be seen sporting cartoonish, tire-sized sombreros, and which by now have probably been buried deep beneath the town’s drifting sand dunes.  I hope.

 National Barbershop Quartet Day: Stories From the Front Line Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

A forensic artist’s close approximation of the incident in question.

Without a doubt, though, the award for Singular Most Scarring Adolescent Experience Involving Music and Costume goes to my role as “Quartet Member #3” in our middle school’s performance of The Music Man.  As one might safely deduce from the fact that my character is numbered, rather than named, my personal role in this production was quite small.

But baby, did we steal the show.

You see, it turns out that harmonizing with three other young men at a time when puberty has just started to mold our girlish voices into their older, more masculine equivalents – or, in my case, its older, slightly less girlish equivalent – is really quite difficult.  It certainly didn’t help that our group’s soprano (somehow, miraculously, the music teacher had managed to unearth a boy whose voice reached even greater heights than my own) thought it would be funny if he made his voice crack during the last bar of our song, effectively profiting from his own puberty.  The music teacher – damn her to hell – agreed.  And thus, what was supposed to be a simple musical number quickly devolved into a four-man comedic act.

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The gents. (I’m second from the right.)

Each rehearsal, I would beg the soprano to give up his little voice-cracking thing, because really this was about all of us – not just him – and I wasn’t comfortable with the group’s artistic direction.  I wanted us all to be serious, yet musically cohesive; he wanted to go for laughs.  I saw myself as the band’s lead guitarist, trying in vain to prevent one of my back-up instrumentalists from making us into a joke.  But the soprano had our music teacher’s blessing, and he wore it like a talisman.  I was powerless to stop him.

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Some would say I have a diva complex. #noshame

A few weeks later, after our opening performance, I went up to my mom and grinned at her through my stage makeup.

“What’d you think, Mom?” I asked.

“Oh, you guys were hilarious!  Your voices sounded so awful together.  Everyone in the audience was cracking up!”

Dear God.  I hadn’t expected that.  Honestly, I had begun to think our quartet sounded quite good – considering, you know, everything mentioned about it already.

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Still, though, there comes a time in a young man’s life when he realizes it’s better to accept certain praise – misplaced as it is – rather than none at all.  Unexpectedly, our quartet had become one of the highlights of the show, which is why I finally decided to stop fighting our quartet’s little shtick and just go with it.

“Did you like the way the soprano’s voice cracked right at the end of our song?”

Mom laughed.  “That was my favorite part.”

My grin widened.  “It was my idea.”

Note: This story has been modified slightly to make the narrator appear more devious and clever, but essentially that’s just how it happened. 

7 Apr
2014

KU Picks: Best Books for Teenage Boys

Customers are constantly asking us for book recommendations (we *are* a bookstore after all), and one of the things we always get asked about is book recommendations for teenage boys.  Something about that age group, perhaps, is a little off-putting to people.  What if he doesn’t like it?  What if he’s already read it?  Questions of that nature.  But one thing about young male readers: much like their eating habits,  they’ll consume pretty much anything!  Classics, contemporary, science fiction, realistic fiction…it’s all up for grabs.  Here’s a list of tried-and-true books geared towards young guys.  For even more recommendations, stop in the store and we’ll help you out!

Science Fiction/Fantasy:

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

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     Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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      Percy Jackson & the Olympian Series by Rick Riordan

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     The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

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      The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini

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      The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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     The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

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     His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

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      Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

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Classic Fiction:

     Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger

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      Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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      To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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      The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

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     Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

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      Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

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Dystopian Fiction: 

     The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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     The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner

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     The Giver by Lois Lowry

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Realistic Fiction:

     Holes by Louis Sachar

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     The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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     The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

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      Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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     The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

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6 Apr
2014

New Beers Eve

The day was April 6th. The year was 1933. Prohibition had been seriously bringing people down for thirteen long, sober years. But there was a new dawn on the horizon. A new dawn filled with intoxicated Americans, and tall, cold, foamy beers. Midnight marked the end of the drought cause by prohibition, and dedicated beer drinkers around the country lined up to purchase the golden liquid of the gods when the clock struck 12:00.

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This calls for a drink!

Since then, the night of April 6th has been referred to as “New Beer’s Eve”, although what was served wasn’t quite beer, it was only 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, but after 14 thirsty years, it was close enough.

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Apparently the “good old days” included marching band attire. 

When the act took effect at 12:01 a.m. ET April 7, trucks and carriages burst out of brewery gates bearing cases and barrels of beer for a parched republic — at least for the District of Columbia and the 20 states whose laws permitted it. Several breweries dispatched cases directly to the White House and the Capitol. According to the Brewers Association, more than 1.5 million barrels were snapped up in the first 24 hours.

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“To beer!…. and late night drinking!”

So this New Beer’s Eve, gather around with some close friends, support a local pub, and celebrate the great beverage that is beer, and be ever thankful that you have it!

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