More Wine!

I’m a wine novice. Or whatever comes below novice on the scale. I have no concept of what constitutes a good wine or a bad wine, as I rarely drink it myself. But with the holiday season zooming in, a bottle of wine is often a go-to for party contributions and gift-giving.  Very challenging for a wine neophyte.

While I’ll never be an oenophile (vocabulary points!), I’ve decided that maybe it’s time to learn a little about the nectar of the gods, the venerable vintage, the glorious grape. With a literal library of information at my fingertips, heading over to 641.22 seemed like the smart way to begin. How pleasantly surprised I was to find that there were plenty of books (eBooks & audiobooks, too) for newbies like myself!  Maybe the next time I’m in the wine aisle of my local liquor store, I’ll be able to do more than stare vaguely at the bottles and count off “eenie-meenie-minie-moe”.

Wine : an introduction by Joanna Simon 

The Everything Wine Book by Barbara Nowak

Wine Isn’t Rocket Science : a quick & easy guide to understanding, buying, tasting, & pairing every type of wine by Ophélie Neiman

Winewise : your complete guide to understanding, selecting, and enjoying wine by Steven Kolpan, Brian Smith, and Michael Weiss, the Culinary Institute of America

Wine All the Time : the casual guide to confident drinking by Marissa A. Ross

iPhone X, the Power in Your Pocket

iphone-x-alternate-header

I recently attended a conference in Atlantic City on the future of technology. Topics included self-driving cars, virtual and augmented reality, designer babies, nanobots, the implications of artificial intelligence, and more.

One session in particular really stayed with me: The Smart Phone.

Assuming you own one, have you thought much about your smart phone and how ridiculously powerful it is? It’s an equalizer for access to information. It’s an instant connection to the whole wide world.

Exactly 10 years ago, the first iPhone was released. Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone as a combination of three devices: a music player with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough Internet communicator. The days of duck-hunting on a flip-phone keypad were over. Do you remember typing “222” for the letter C? Not very convenient! The first iPhone boasted a big responsive touch screen, a proper keyboard, and nimble navigation.

Fast-forward 10 years later: The new iPhone X has facial recognition and you can shop online using your FACE to make payment. It has photography and film capabilities that rival a professional studio. It can instantly connect you to millions around the globe and shoot stunning HDR video in 4k resolution. It’s trained to know your voice and only respond to you. Just think about it. Imagine everything you can actually do with your smart phone right now and it will boggle the mind. At first the microphone was dumb, and then we taught it to understand us. The camera just took photos and then we taught it to recognize us. Imagine what’s in store for the iPhone 2027! It’s both exciting and scary.

The iPhone X starts at $1,000, and many are complaining that this is much too expensive. Consider for a moment this revelation from esteemed economist, Brad De Long. He ran some numbers on the iPhone X’s 256 GB of memory and 4.3 billion transistors in its A-11 processor and discovered that building an iPhone X in 1957 would have literally taken all of the money in the world.

Specifically, it would have cost 150 trillion of today’s dollars, which is one and a half times today’s global annual product. The CPU would have taken up a hundred-story square building 100 feet high and 2 miles long and wide. And to power the CPU, it would have drawn 150 terawatts of power—that is 30 times the world’s current generating capacity!

Meanwhile, in 2017, we’re carrying this device in our pockets. Pretty wild, isn’t it? $1,000 doesn’t seem so astronomical when you think about it in those terms.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the iPhone, check out these awesome books below. And as always, if you have any questions on your devices whatsoever, come to CPL’s Drop-in Tech Help! We hold it every week.

Jacket.aspx The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone by Brian Merchant

Jacket.aspx

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Christmas Comfort Classics

A library patron recently recommended a cookbook to me that brought back memories of Christmases past (without the ghosts!)

The  book is  Christmas Comfort Classics: A festive collection of warm and cozy comfort foods plus sweet ideas for sharing with family & friends.

A spiral-bound book with chapters titled with feel-good labels such as “Frosty Morning Breakfasts” and “Cozy Meals for Busy Days”, this cookbook delivers up such treats as Apricot-Almond Coffee Cake, Wonderful Winter Chowder, and Apple-Cranberry Bake. I got hungry just reading the titles. Each recipe is prefaced with a short tale from the contributor, reminiscing about a past holiday or family gathering and is followed by a holiday tip such as how to add holiday fragrance to a room or how to make your own tree ornaments.

There is one recipe, Connecticut Supper, that, being a Connecticut resident, immediately caught my eye. Ground beef, potatoes, and cheddar cheese plus cream of mushroom soup. It immediately conjured a kitchen warm with good scents, keeping the cold and dark winter night at bay.

It’s not all plain cooking, though!  You can find recipes for Sour Cream Spaghetti,  Warm Cranberry-Honey Brie, Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms, Port Wine Cranberry Dressing and more. Who says cozy can’t be special?

I’m not someone who adores cooking but this book has me interested in trying some of these recipes this winter. So thank you, dear library patron, for your recommendation. It’s going to make my holiday season.

No matter which holiday you celebrate, we have many holiday and cozy cookbooks on our shelves that can give you some great new ideas for your own celebration. Take a look:

Holiday Cookbooks

Comfort Food

ECHOs of the Season

Every year there’s some tech gadget that seems to be the “in” gift, whether it’s an iPod, a Kindle or cousin, or, with the prices continuing to fall, it could very well be an Amazon Echo, also known as Alexa – available for as little as $99.

What is an Echo? It’s an artificial intelligence billed as a virtual personal assistant, and overall it can do some pretty entertaining things. One thing to understand – an Amazon Echo Dot, and the Amazon Echo, are THE SAME THING. The difference (besides $50) is that the Echo comes with its own speakers; the Echo Dot has to use bluetooth technology to feed off a blue-tooth capable speaker you provide, whether your phone or boombox or clock, etc. That’s it. So treat them interchangeably, because they are.

Inspired by the Enterprise computer on Star Trek and built on the Android platform, Echo sits in your house and by request can immediately tell you the weather forecast, the news, the time, the sports report, play games with you, set an alarm, play an audiobook, play a perfect mix of music as a personal radio, power smart devices like the Nest thermostat, stream podcasts, make you a list, provide recipes, find your phone, call an Uber, tune your guitar, order take-out, and even send messages and email to other Echos. There are currently more than 1500 downloadable apps to allow it to do quite an array of useful things for you, hands-free. The programmers have thought up just about any way an Echo could be abused – swear at it, and it will correct you. Ask it if the CIA is listening, it will give you a wise-crack answer. Ask it to Beam Me Up and it will give one of several replies. Ask it to do the fandango, and it will reply appropriately.

Of course, nothing is without controversy. Unless you hit mute, rendering it “deaf” and unable to function, the Alexa/Echo sits in your house listening 24/7 for its wake-up word (“Alexa, …”) and a command. Those commands are recorded so that the Echo “learns” what you ask most and can process your commands quicker. It learns how to interpret your personal pronunciation. Amazon swears it is not recording what happens around your house, only the commands that follow the word “Alexa.” Sometimes it will “hear” something on a TV that sounds like a command, and respond. There was an incident of a child asking Alexa for a dollhouse, and a $170 dollhouse was sent by Amazon (moral: don’t leave one-click ordering engaged).

In another incident, a woman asked Alexa to dial 911 in the middle of a domestic dispute; the police arrived in time to save her life. Problem is, Alexa isn’t supposed to do that. Not only is it not connected to any call system (unless it’s another Echo), but communication rules prevent it from being able to call out unless it’s also able to receive calls in. Nonetheless, somehow, somewhere, something in the home called 911, because in the 911 recording, the woman is screaming for Alexa to call 911. It remains a mystery. In my own case, we’ve had the Echo suddenly awake for no reason and give the news or weather or just “I didn’t hear that,” as if it forgot it was supposed to be seen and not heard unless spoken to. Just a little creepy.

If a slim possibility of wiretapping freaks you out, then simply hit the “mute” button when you don’t want the Echo “hearing,” effectively turning it off. Unmute it when you want to use it.

While there are outside apps (like Ask My Buddy) that can connect your Alexa/Echo to a phone, I think it’s silly to put regulations on any capable device from calling 911. A cellphone will call 911 without a paid plan; why can’t a virtual assistant? How many elderly fall while their help button is sitting on the bathroom sink? Having a voice-activated 911 in the home for a disabled or elderly person can be lifesaving. Period.

Still don’t like your commands being recorded? Go into your Amazon account and erase them. Is it possible to hack the Echo? Not easily – the entire system would have to be hacked. But as we know with hacking, nothing is impossible, so it’s best not to chain sensitive accounts to your Echo, and again, if you’re worried, turn the Echo off (mute) when not in planned use. Yes, you can unplug it, too, but then you have to wait a minute for it to reboot and get its bearings again.

In my family, 99.8% of the Alexa/Echo use is for a commercial-free personal radio, with great playlists from Rush to Raffi. By far, we under-utilize its capabilities. As a gadget it has a multitude of uses, especially for any physically disabled person or shut-in. Does it do anything you can’t do with a computer or a radio? No. But it’s easy to move from room to room or take with you if you go somewhere (with wifi. It must have wifi to work.) It’s easy enough for Aunt Betty to learn to use. If it’s for someone who is tech-savvy, they’ll discover a world of things they can do with it.

As far as sale-priced gadget gifts go, yeah, this one is probably worth it.

For more on Artificial Intelligence, check out these titles, and more:

Breakpoint: Why the Web Will Implode, Search will be Obsolete, and Everything Else You Need to Know abour Technology is in Your Brain by Jeff Stibel

Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy by David Mindell

Final Jeopardy: The Story of Watson, the Computer that Will Transform Our World by Stephen Baker

Thinking Machines: The Quest for Artificial Intelligence and Where It’s Taking Us Next by Luke Dormehl

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in December

The countdown to the Holidays has begun – take a break from the frenzy with some of our December programs!

Library After Hours – Holiday Edition

Friday Dec 1, 2017, 5:00  –  7:30 PM

Library After Hours is back by popular demand! Join us for a family-friendly holiday movie (“The Polar Express”) and some seasonal activities for children and parents/caregivers.  Pizza, snacks and drinks will be available for sale from the Friends of the Library.  There is no admission fee, but there is a suggested donation of $5 per family to help offset costs.  Please note that the Lower Level of the Library will not be open to the public.  Please register so we know how many goodies to have on hand.  Kids are welcome to wear pajamas! Movie begins at 5:30 p.m.

Coast Guard Saxophone Quartet

Sunday Dec 3, 2017, 2:00 PM
The United States Coast Guard Saxophone Quartet is comprised of the saxophone section of the U.S. Coast Guard Band. In addition to performing throughout Taiwan in 2009 and 2010, the Quartet performs regularly at conferences held by the World Saxophone Congress and the North American Saxophone Alliance, and has performed at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic and at Carnegie Hall. This concert is free to the public, no registration required.

Library Lab (Grades K-6)

Tuesdays, Dec 5 & 12, 2017 4:00 – 4:50 PM

Kids come together to discover the wonders of science through hands-on activities and takeaways.  Science is fun, but it can be messy. Registration required starting November 15 for Cheshire residents and December 1 for all others.  This program meets 2 times, December 5 and 12.  You only need to register once to attend all sessions.

After School Zumba

Wednesday Dec 6, 2017, 4:00 PM

Zumba® is an easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired dance-fitness program. Classes specifically for kids are formatted in a way to make getting fit fun. Kids can just let loose and be themselves. It’s referred to as the exercise in disguise. It’s an hour filled with energy and routines created to the latest music. For kids of all ages,  parents and/or caregivers are welcome to participate with their children. No registration required.

Pearl Harbor: Into the Arizona Documentary

Thursday Dec 7, 2017, 6:00 – 7:30 PM

Join us for this fascinating documentary Pearl Harbor: Into the Arizona. The USS Arizona has been resting on Pearl Harbor’s ocean floor for the past 76 years. For the first time since it was destroyed in 1941, scientists have the technology to take an in-depth look inside the ship. The discoveries made inside the ship are a stark reminder of all those who paid the ultimate price for their country. The expedition retells personal stories of survivors who lived through Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It also brings a survivor who was aboard the Arizona back to see the ship for what might be one last time. No registration required.

Create Holiday Cards with Rubber Stamps

Wednesday Dec 13, 2017, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

One of the many joys of the Holiday season is sending cheerful cards to the ones you love.  Join Sue Bernier and create beautiful Holiday cards. You will use rubber stamps, ink and Stampin’ Up products to create your cards.  All levels are invited to join.  Registration is required.

BYOC : Bring Your Own Crafts!

 Thursday Dec 14, 2017, 6:00  – 8:00 PM 
Coloring, stitching, drawing, stamping, scrapbooking, if it’s crafty, bring it in!  We will meet most every first Thursday of the month. There will be plenty of room to spread out for your crafts.  Some supplies will be provided for this adult program. Registration is required.

Relaxing Coloring Night for Adults

Thursday Dec 28, 2017, 6:00 – 8:00 PM 

Join us for relaxing coloring night for adults and de-stress from this busy time of year.  We’ll provide coloring pages and supplies, but feel free to bring your own pages, art supplies.  Registration is required.

New Year’s Party

Friday Dec 29, 2017, 11:00 AM  –  12:00 PM

It’s a Noon-Year’s Eve party!! Get ready for 2018 with fun family activities! For children of all ages and their families. Registration required. Registration begins December 15 for Cheshire residents and December 28 for non-residents.

Cheshire Anime Club Holiday Special 

Friday Dec 29, 2017, 3:00 – 4:30 PM 

Konnichiwa, minna-san! Can’t get enough Anime and Manga? Join us for a special holiday edition of Anime Club where we will watch holiday and New Year’s themed anime! Japanese snacks (like Ramune and Pocky) will be available for refreshments. Grades 7 -12, no registration required.