Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Numbers in all their full color glory!

Following up on Mike's post of March 11 (Some randomness from the web)...
I agree about the increasingly wonderful and fun visual representations of information on the Web. I don't know if these clever graphics will make us any smarter, but they sure seem useful. Anyway, what made me think of adding to Mike's entry was this great set of visuals on Internet use on the BBC site. Among the gems presented you'll find:
**The top 100 web sites (by usage) are presented in a "treemap" by the type of service. The categories are sized proportionally so at a glance you can see that Search Engines were the top category (about 24%), followed by News, Retail and Sofware. And within these service groups, the individual web sites are shown (with stats) as you mouse over them.
**Twenty-six Internet billionaires in a (slightly) interactive table showing the web sites, portraits, wealth, age (young!!!) and a brief identifying comment.
**A world map with numbers of Internet users shown as you mouse over the countries. Change the year (1998-2008) and the numbers change with it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Great Captains of Antiquity

Despite the myth and legends built through the passage of ages that separate us the great captains were quite like us. In the same way that a modern president is at the end of the day just a person, so too was this true of the great captains of antiquity. It is our shared human nature which permits us to appreciate the great captains and doing so understand ourselves. The great captains shaped their times and in so doing shaped the modern world.
- Richard A. Gabriel

Thutmose III
Thutmose III : The Military Biography of Egypt's Greatest Warrior King
Richard A. Gabriel
This king is best remembered for military campaigns that led to the largest territorial expansion of Pharaonic Egypt. Gabriel, though not an Egyptologist, has consulted most of the recent scholarly literature on Thutmose III
as well as many published sources in translation. Thutmose III did not permit his military training and war experience to narrow his intellect, but retained his interest in scientific, religious, literary, and aesthetic concerns all his life. He discusses the strategic setting, the Battle of Megiddo, the campaign for the Lebanon coast, the Euphrates campaign, and the counterinsurgency campaign.

Leonidas and Themistocles
Persian Fire : The First World Empire and the Battle for the West

Tom Holland
In 480 B.C., Xerxes, the King of Persia, led an invasion of mainland Greece. Its success should have been a formality. For seventy years, victory—rapid, spectacular victory—had seemed the birthright of the Persian Empire. In the space of a single generation, they had swept across the Near East, shattering ancient kingdoms, stormin
g famous cities, putting together an empire which stretched from India to the shores of the Aegean. As a result of those conquests, Xerxes ruled as the most powerful man on the planet.

Yet somehow, astonishingly, against t
he largest expeditionary force ever assembled, the Greeks of the mainland managed to hold out. The Persians were turned back. Greece remained free. Had the Greeks been defeated in the epochal naval battle at Salamis, not only would the West have lost its first struggle for independence and survival, but it is unlikely that there would ever have been such an entity as the West at all. Tom Holland’s brilliant new book describes the very first “clash of Empires” between East and West.

Alexander the Great

Alexander : The Ambiguity of Greatness

Guy Maclean Rogers
For nearly two and a half millennia, Alexander the Great has loomed over history as a legend–and an enigma. Wounded repeatedly but always triumphant in battle, he conquered most of the known world, only to die mysteriously at the age of thirty-two. In his day he was revered as a god; in our day he has been reviled as a mass murderer, a tyrant as brutal as Stalin or Hitler.

Who was the man behind the mask of power? Why did Alexander embark on an unprecedented program of global domination? What accounted for his astonishing success on the battlefield? In this luminous new biography, the esteemed classical scholar and historian Guy MacLean Rog
ers sifts through thousands of years of history and myth to uncover the truth about this complex, ambiguous genius.

Ascending to the throne of Macedonia after the assassination of his father, King Philip II, Alexander discovered while barely out of his teens that he had an extraordinary talent and a boundless appetite for military conq
uest. A virtuoso of violence, he was gifted with an uncanny ability to visualize how a battle would unfold, coupled with devastating decisiveness in the field. Granicus, Issos, Gaugamela, Hydaspes–as the victories mounted, Alexander’s passion for conquest expanded from cities to countries to continents. When Persia, the greatest empire of his day, fell before him, he marched at once on India, intending to add it to his holdings.

As Rogers shows, Alexander’s military prowess only heightened his exuberant sexuality. Though his taste for multiple partners, both male and female, was tolerated, Alexander’s relatively enlightened treatment of women was nothing short of revolutionary. He outlawed rape, he placed intelligent women in positions of authority, and he chose his wives from among the peoples he conquered. Indeed, as Rogers argues, Alexander’s fascination with Persian culture, customs, and sexual practices may have led to his downfall, perhaps even to his death. Alexander emerges as a charismatic and surprisingly modern figure–neither a messiah nor a genocidal butcher but one of the most imaginative and daring military tacticians of all time. Balanced and authoritative, this brilliant portrait brings Alexander to life as a man, without diminishing the power of the legend.

Hannibal and Scipio Africanus
The Punic Wars : Rome, Carthage, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean

Nigel Bagnall

The Punic Wars triggered an era of astonishing human misfortune. Resulting from a mighty power struggle between the military confederation of Rome and the trading empire of Carthage between 264--241 B.C., 218--201 B.C., and 149--146 B.C., the wars were fought over a period of 118 years. Massive man-made devastation on both sides left Rome’s population radically depleted and Carthage razed and erased from the map.

Sir Nigel Bagnall brings his military experience and a modern professional eye to bear in analyzing
the Punic Wars here. He marshals classic military strategists such as Livy, Polybius, and Diodorus to plot the wars’ campaigns in Spain, Africa, Sicily, and the Peloponnese, and follows Hannibal’s daring but unsuccessful strike into the heart of Italy. But Bagnall goes beyond military strategy to discuss the force, structures, and politics of Rome and Carthage at their heights. And he contrasts their conduct of battle at strategic, operational, and tactical levels to show how they were governed by the same military principles used by nations today.

His thought-provoking final chapter relates these wars’ lessons to modern times in an impressive argument for adapting the experience of the past to the needs of the future. While the history of the Punic Wars dates back over 2000 years, Bagnall’s comprehensive account demonstrates that this ancient conflict is remarkable both for its scope and its contemporary relevance.

Julius Caesar
Caesar : Life of a Colossus

by Adrian Goldsworthy

As Adrian Goldsworthy writes in the introduction to this book, “in his fifty-six years, Caesar was at times many things, including a fugitive, prisoner, rising politician, army leader, legal advocate, rebel, dictator . . . as well as husband, father, lover and adulterer.” In this landmark biography, Goldsworthy examines all of these roles and places his subject firmly within the context of Roman society in the first century B.C.

Tracing the extraordinary trajectory of Caesar’s life from birth through assassination, Goldsworthy covers not only Caesar’s accomplishments as charismatic orator, conquering general, and powerful dictator but also lesser-known chapters during which he was high priest of an exotic cult, captive of pirates, seducer not only of Cleopatra but also of the wives of his two main political rivals, and rebel condemned by his own country. Ultimately, Goldsworthy realizes the full complexity of Caesar’s character and shows why his political and military leadership continues to resonate some two thousand years later.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Calling All READERS!

Hope you have taken of copy of our monthly print subscription book review and author interview publication called BookPage that the Library provides just for you. Whether you are looking for fiction, suspense, mystery, science fiction, romance, history, cookbooks, children's books or book club suggestions, BookPage will highlight potential bestsellers and interesting titles.

All of the content from the print publication is available on BookPage. Blogs and newsletters are also offered.

Be one of the first to sign up for Book of the Day, a review of a new book title sent to your e-mail every day. A great way to keep up with some of the new titles being released! SH

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Celebrate Chopin's 200th Birthday

The great composer and pianist was born in March, 1810 outside Warsaw, Poland. He composed an astonishing number of works for piano in his 39 years of life. His pieces included about 180 works for solo piano in addition to two concertos. Chopin was born at the beginning of the Romantic Period yet his love for classical music, notably Bach and Mozart, is evident in many of his works. Feel free to browse our collection of sound recordings and DVDs of his music and biographies of Chopin's life.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Group at the Library

Looking to join a book group? Interested in a group that actually talks about the book for more than five minutes before moving onto other topics? Well, the Wellesley Free Library Book Group is for you! We meet in the Arnold Room of the Main Library on the first Monday of each month. Books, reviews, author information, and refreshments are provided. All you have to do is show up for an hour -- and make sure you've read the book. We're always looking for new members.

Our next meeting is April 5 at 7pm and we'll be reading I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

some randomness from the web

There's some pretty crazy stuff out there on the Internet, some useful, some not-so-much, and some just totally NSFW. Out of all of it, I hope these three random websites offer some entertainment, usefulness, or just get the reaction of "huh, that's cool" from you.

First in terms of usefulness with a fun or coolness-factor is Visuwords, described as an "online graphical dictionary." There's a lot going on in terms of visualization of information on the internet, especially in terms of diagramming relationships and being able to navigate among them graphically. Being in an Elvis mood, my first search was for "hound dog" and the visual result was a springy series of word bubbles that started to branch off from the original term, giving relationships to other words and dog breeds. The website works great as a thesaurus and for visual learners.

For all you bikers out there, especially in the greater Boston area, check out the new function on Google Maps, which allows you to map out routes for riding your bike. If you run a business that's green or bike friendly, you might want to use Google's bike directions gadget to embed biking directions in your website.

Last, but certainly not least, all sorts of cool things are being done with Google Maps. Called mashups, these sites take something from the web, like Google Maps, and then add a little twist. This one works off of the question, have you ever wondered where your milk comes from? Well, of course it comes from cows (or, for those of you more adventuresome than I, goats or soybeans) but I mean what farm did your milk come from? There's now a website for that, called Where Is My Milk From? Just plug in the code you find on your milk carton and it'll locate the dairy farm on a map. I was surprised to find my "locally produced" milk was actually produced at a farm over 8 hours away. Looks like I'll have to keep looking for a local dairy farm--maybe I'll look at a few of the farms listed here.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Political Scandals of Massachusetts

Now more than ever, politics is a hot topic. Sean Murphy, a long-time investigative reporter and editor at the Boston Globe, will speak at the Library about many of the political scandals in Massachusetts and trace the history of corruption in Bay State politics. Murphy has the low-down on it all, including the Big Dig and the resignations of no-show politicians. Thursday, March 18th at 7 PM in the Wakelin Room at the Main Library.

-- bw

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Googling Better

Google. First let me say that my natural tendency is to be a lazy Googler: that is, someone who does the simplest Google search, looks at the first few pages of hits and stops there--even if the results are not satisfying. So I was pleased indeed when Google made the date search so easy. (For those even lazier than I am, just hit the Show Options button.) Now those clever chaps have added another useful limiter for Google searches. In that same Options menu, we can now click on Nearby, to get local hits listed first. So, whether you're searching for environmental lawyers, ball bearings or cooking classes, Nearby is just a button away.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Popular Science

The Wellesley Free Library has a nice collection of science books that focus on the general reader. Here are a few of the most popular science books during the last 8 months.

1. One Hundred Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know : Math Explains Your World
by Barrow, John D.

How can calculus prolong a life? In answering this surprising question, Barrow shares just one of the fascinating bits of mathematical lore he has collected here. Though unpredictably diverse, this treasury piquantly reminds readers of how much we err when we dismiss mathematics as a dryly academic specialty, cut off from the rhythms of real life. - Booklist

2. A Mathematical Nature Walk
by Adam, J. A.; Adam, John A.

How tall is that tree? How far away is that cloud, and how heavy is it? Why are the droplets on that spider web spaced apart so evenly? If you have ever asked questions like these while outdoors, and wondered how you might figure out the answers, this is a book for you. An entertaining and informative collection of fascinating puzzles from the natural world around us, A Mathematical Nature Walkwill delight anyone who loves nature or math or both.

3. The Age of Wonder : How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
by Holmes, Richard

The author of a number of biographies, British author Holmes presents a series of stories which collectively provide an account of the second scientific revolution, which produced a new vision--Romantic science--in 18th-century Britain. Included are chapters on botanist Joseph Banks (1743-1820), astronomers William Hershel (1738-1822) and his sister Caroline (1750-1848), 18th-century balloonists, chemist Humphry Davy (1778-1829), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and the soul.

4. The Complete Ice Age : How Climate Change Shaped the World
by Fagan, Brian M.

In examining different facets of the Ice Age, which characterized worldwide conditions from approximately 2.5 million years ago until about 11,000 years ago, the author concentrates on four areas. These include physical features of the Ice Age, along with myriad factors such as oceanic currents and salinity, atmospheric influences, tectonic forces, and planetary orbital mechanics that played important roles in initiating, sustaining, terminating, or otherwise moderating alternating glacial and interglacial periods; Ice Age influences on human evolution; a global survey of the Ice Age bestiary; and the post-Ice Age future in an era of global warming. The work nicely describes aspects of human evolution and the natural history of Ice Age megafauna in relation to environmental extremes and fluctuating resource availability. This material is largely accessible to general readers. - Choice

5. How We Live and Why We Die : The Secret Lives of Cells
by Wolpert, Lewis

Everything about our existence: (movement and memory, imagination and reproduction, birth and, ultimately, death) is governed by our cells. They are the basis of all life in the universe, from the tiniest bacteria to the most complex animals. When we age, our cells cannot repair the damage they have undergone; when we get ill, it is because cells are so damaged they stop working and die. Wolpert examines the science behind topics that are much discussed but rarely understood: (stem cell research, cloning, DNA, mutating cancer cells), and explains how all life evolved from just one cell. Lively and passionate, this is an accessible guide to understanding the human body and life itself.