It seems as if I have one eye on the sky most afternoons now, as I try to finish whatever outdoor activity I have planned before the thunderstorms roll in for the evening. I’m signed up for Montgomery County’s Alert Montgomery service, which sends me text messages when there are severe weather watches or warnings posted for Montgomery County. Lately my phone buzzes each afternoon with one or two updates.
The level of dangerous weather across the country makes me wonder if the weather has really gotten worse lately, or if I just never noticed it when I was a kid. There are lots of conflicting viewpoints on this, too many to mention here, but it seems as though bad weather comes and goes in cycles.
Once again, the library offers a nice selection of interesting weather related books, and I’ve listed a few of them below. If you’re a Weather Channel junkie, these will be right up your Tornado Alley.
In "Extreme Weather" by Christopher Burt, you can check weather statistics and observations for the US going back to the late 1800s. The book is arranged by type of weather, such as Heat and Drought; Rain and Floods; Tornadoes; and so on. Lots of illustrations, historic photos and sidebars make it an interesting browsing choice for those interested in weather, and the statistical charts make it a good choice for those doing educational research on US weather.
I am outside fairly often during the summer months, often with a bunch of people and horses participating in some kind of competition. That eye I keep to the sky is backed up by listening for the distant rumble of thunder. More than once already this year we’ve put a hold on all activity when a lightning bolt is noticed off in the distance, and everyone moves to safety. According to "Out of the Blue: a History of Lightning" by John Freidman, the odds of being hit are only 1 in 750,000, but no one wants to risk even those pretty long odds. This book looks at man’s fascination with lightning from earliest civilizations up to today’s risk taking storm chasers, and profiles people like a park ranger who has survived an amazing seven lightning strikes!
Residents of various parts of the US, particularly Joplin and Tuscaloosa are beginning the rebuilding process after a series of vicious spring tornados leveled sections of their cities. Tornadoes even touched down in Maryland this spring. The book "F5" by Mark Levinelooks at a 16 hour period on April 3, 1974 in which 148 tornadoes, 6 of them classified as F5, ranged over thirteen states in the country’s heartland. The book, which reads in the style of a fast paced disaster novel, follows a cast of characters over the course of those hours, as their lives are suddenly changed forever.
The other main weather related issue impacting the US this year is flooding, and I can personally attest to this one. Our little creek, which has not flooded in the 14 years we’ve been here, was up and over it’s banks and in the bottom pasture this spring. I know this doesn’t compare to the destruction caused by all of the record flooding along the Mississippi and in the Dakotas, but it was a surprise to me!
An excellent book about one of the most well known floods in American history is The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. McCullough’s book draws from a myriad of primary source material including tapes of conversations with survivors, court records, engineering reports and unpublished letters and diaries. The Johnstown flood struck on May 31st, 1889, as the dam holding back the waters of man made Lake Conemaugh failed after several days of heavy rain. Over 2000 people perished, and downtown Johnstown was destroyed. McClullough explores the culpability of the wealthy members of the club which owned the private lake, and follows the stories of families caught in the disaster. If you happen to be in Johnstown this summer on a road trip you can visit the flood museum.
Hopefuly you personally will never have to deal with a weather emergency as serious as the ones that are described in these books. But it’s always good to be prepared! A good place to start is this webpage on severe weather preparedness from NOAA’s Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services. There are video and pdf guides to Thunderstorms and Lightning, Tornadoes and Floods. Take a look and find out how you can protect yourself from extreme weather.
At long last, I will soon be a homeowner! I have had house envy for years as all my friends were buying houses but I had to keep renting apartments. It’s been an exciting whirlwind these last couple of months, looking at properties online (my favorite site for searching was Redfin for how easy it was to use and for the amount of detail you could see about each property) and talking with my future husband about the kind of home we want to create for ourselves. I will admit up front that we were lucky to have the process go very quickly and very smoothly—we decided to start looking in mid-May, made an offer at the end of our first day of touring with a realtor and will settle on our new house before July! This is a first home for both of us and we thought it would take us several months to find something “just right.” Thanks to the research I did before we started, we knew what to expect during the entire process and understood some of the pitfalls and problems we could face.
Now the fun begins! We considered buying a “fixer-upper” but most of the ones we looked at needed more fixing and upping than we wanted to handle. (Remember the movie The Money Pit? I had visions of that happening to us.) Our new house is in great shape, but we plan on some minor repairs and updates and using my green thumb to cultivate a small garden and adding colorful flowers around the house to really make it ours. The library, of course, has loads of resources to help us plan and undertake all these projects.
What we can’t do ourselves will require help from a professional. We’ll definitely be checking the ratings in Washington Consumer’s Checkbook as we get to know local services and contractors. We’ll also be consulting the ratings in Consumer Reports when the time comes to replace any major appliances or purchasing new electronics. (All library branches subscribe to the print versions of Washington Consumer’s Checkbook and Consumer Reports. In addition, you can find other consumer information online through our consumer information resource page).
Old librarians don’t retire, they just go home to obsessively rearrange their spice racks in Dewey Decimal order. Or sit on the porch rocker waiting to be classified in that great big catalog in the sky, hopefully in 236.24, heaven, rather than 291.23, hell. Of course hell would suffice so long as it is furnished with plenty of books, though come to think of it maybe that’s the definition of hell, for librarians at least – a world without books.
Anyway, I’ll soon have plenty of time to spare on idle musings of this kind because, after 29 years of plying my trade as a librarian in Montgomery County, I am retiring at the end of this month. So I’ve actually been spending quite a bit of time in 646.79, the Dewey Decimal number for retirement, a topic well covered by the professional purveyors of advice and inspiration. If you are considering retirement soon, or even just dreaming about it, financial considerations come first, so check out the books on financial planning for retirement in 332.024. You Can Do It: The Boomer’s Guide to a Great Retirementby PBS financial expert Jonathan D. Pond is particularly helpful, and I found answers to many of my questions in Social Security, Medicare & Government Pensions: get the most out of your retirement & medical benefitsby J. L. Mathews. Planning to move to warmer climes or a quiet small town? America's Best Low-Tax Retirement Townsby Eve Evans includes detailed comparative tables of state and local taxes in towns across the country. If you are dreaming of foreign shores The Grown-Up's Guide to Running Away From Home: Making a New Life Abroad by Roseanne Knorr contains plenty of practical advice. On the web the AARP site is rich with information for the already retired and those hoping to join them. I know, I’ve been ignoring those mailed membership notices for years too, but maybe it’s time to face facts and take advantage of the many benefits AARP offers. The Social Security Administration also has a very helpful website including a benefit estimator and Medicare information.
Once you’ve made the big decision to retire, the question looms about how to fill all the free time you will suddenly have after years of 8 hour workdays. I must admit I’m getting just a bit irritated by all the people assuring me that I’ll be busier than ever. If I wanted to be busier than ever I’d keep on working! My idea is to slow down! But I know they are well meaning and are just trying to reassure me that I won’t turn into a batty old recluse at the stroke of midnight on June 30th. I will finally have more time to read! How else would a librarian spend extra time? After a lifetime of reading I still have some embarrassing gaps in my book list – Ulysses anyone? I won’t have any excuse now to avoid this Everest of literature, and I’ve printed out the Guardian’s list 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read to see what else I’ve missed. I’ll also be spending a lot of time interacting with my devices. They are so demanding! I have to get all my CDs into iTunes and finally get those shoeboxes full of photos scanned. Then there’s the neglected garden and somehow I’ll have to squeeze in time with my grandchildren. Yes, as I start to make my “to do” lists, maybe I really will be busier than ever. And if all else fails and I fall on hard times I have my sign all ready:
The big disease in the news right now is caused by E. coli and a great place to find information about these virulent organisms is on the site of the Center for Disease Control. But as the weather heats up, another scourge is on the rise. A hideous alilment that infects humans and turns them into...ZOMBIES. And, you know what? The CDC has a page for zombies, too. Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.
"We want you to view the library in a different way...It's a place that can literally save your day, whether you need to find that one bit of crucial information for your research or you find yourself trapped by a hoard of flesh-eating zombies."
The University of Florida also uses zombies to teach students how to use the campus libraries by way of their Zombie Survival LibGuide, complete with helpful videos.
"In preparation for Zombie infections which may affect UF campus services, this guide shows how library services can be accessed remotely. It also provides pathways for researching survival skills."