Sunday, February 21, 2010

Top ten forms of free entertainment at your local library

I am lucky to live in a town with a great public library. The Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts is a big, bright space full of books and much more. When I calculated my average monthly usage for the library (using this handy calculator), I learned that I'm saving myself upwards of $300 worth of services every month!

Here are the top ten reasons (in no particular order) to use your local library as a source of free entertainment.
  1. Free books!
    If you like to read even half as much as I do, borrowing books from the library will have you hundreds of dollars each year. No, you can't write in the books, and yes, you can only have them for a month or so, but you can read great books at no cost and don't have to make space on your shelves for those books you're too embarrassed to admit you've read. *coughTwilightcough*

  2. Learn a language.
    Not only can you go to the library to pick up books in other languages or language-learning software, but many libraries also offer free online learning for foreign language. After spending a few years debating the merits of the Rosetta Stone language programs, I recently started learning German from the comfort of my own home via the library. Through a link on the library website, I enter my library card number and I get free access to language lessons. All I need is my computer and an Internet connection, and I'm learning German for free!

  3. Get some culture!
    My library offers museum passes that allow you free or discount admission to Boston-area museums. I recently visited the New England Aquarium and I have a pass on reserve that will get me into the Museum of Science next weekend to see the Harry Potter exhibit at a discount price.

    And speaking of Harry Potter...

  4. Borrow movies for free.
    If you thought those $1 deals at Redbox were a good deal, consider this: you can borrow VHS tapes and DVDs from the library for a week at a time and get your movie-watching fix for free.

  5. Surf the Web!
    Have half an hour to kill in between appointments or errands? Hop over to the library, where you can usually find an available computer for thirty minutes of e-mail checking, blog reading, and Web surfing.

  6. Save paper, save the planet.
    Share resources and save the planet by reading your favorite newspapers and magazines at the library. I have my absolute favorite magazines sent to my house each month, but there are dozens more magazines I read whenever I have the chance. Next time I've got an hour or two to myself I'm hitting the library: People, Real Simple, and Harper's, here I come!

  7. Socialize!
    Libraries are way more than big buildings full of books. At my library you can watch a series of Audrey Hepburn or Alfred Hitchcock films, join a book club, listen to piano recitals, and even attend a pie tasting. Whether you're new to the area or just want to meet new people, the library is a safe way to meet new people and enjoy an evening of entertainment.

  8. Entertain out-of-town guests.
    Parents visiting for a week? Pick up a Masterpiece Theatre DVD set from the library and let the folks settle in with something to watch. Have nieces and nephews coming over? Grab some picture books, books on CD, and videos so that they'll have something to do. Throwing a dinner party on the night of your guests' arrival? Borrow a cookbook with recipes for their favorite dishes and make guests feel at home.

  9. Try something new!
    I never thought I'd like listening to audio books (it's cheating!), but they make my long commute to work fly by so quickly that I take back my criticisms (it's not cheating, it's multitasking!). At the library, I can borrow audio books for free, and if the reader isn't someone I enjoy I haven't wasted money on a book I can't listen to; I just return it and try a new book.

  10. Teach yourself something.
    Want to lose weight? Borrow a low-fat cookbook and an exercise DVD. Always wanted to try knitting? Use the library's photocopier to copy your favorite patterns from one of the knitting books. Planning a garden? Spend an evening with fellow green-thumbs at a library meeting and bring home a book about flowers. The possibilities are endless!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Would you change your name after marriage?

The Boston Globe ran a piece yesterday titled The Ms. myth. The article focuses on married women's decisions regarding whether to keep their maiden names after marriage, and claims that fewer married women are keep their own names now than a decade ago.

Though the article cites studies that suggest that about 13 percent of white, married, college-graduate women, age 30 to 34 kept their names after marriage, my own friends are generally fans of the practice. In my office, only one of my close colleagues is interested in changing her last name upon marriage. That being said, hardly any of my want-to-keep-their-maiden-name friends are married, leading me to ponder a few things.

  1. Are women who would prefer to keep their maiden names less likely to get married?
    Maybe the reason none of my I'll-keep-my-own-name-thank-you friends has married is because they have fiercer independent streaks than the (as Bridget Jones would call them) the smug marrieds. Perhaps, the desire to keep one's own name correlates with the desire to stay single (or a lack of necessity to make a relationship "official" with marriage).

  2. Why does not changing one's name brand a woman as a feminist while changing one's name is labeled as sexist?
    The status quo here needs an update. I don't particularly care if a woman changes her name or not, I just want her to have the right to choose. Taking your husband's name doesn't make you less of a feminist, and keeping your name doesn't make you a card-carrying member of NOW.

  3. Why don't more women keep their names after marriage?
    I definitely don't have an answer for this one. I find it curious that only 13 percent of women keep their names after marriage. Do women change their names out of habit or tradition? For the sake of their children so that they'll have a "family" name? Answers, please!
Though I don't begrudge anyone the opportunity to change her name, I am surprised that more women don't keep their given names after marriage. I have no desire to change my name if I get married. I grew up Danielle Brown and I intend to stay Danielle Brown. It's the name on my birth certificate, my report cards, my diploma, and my driver's license. My parents gave me a name that fits me. Why would I want to change it?

Readers, did you change your name after marriage? Would you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, February 12, 2010

2010 Winter Olympics open in Vancouver

The 2010 Winter Olympics begin tonight in Vancouver and I'll be watching.

Though I'm not much of an athlete and I don't really follow sports, I always love watching the Olympics. Something about the pageantry, the Parade of Nations, the chance to see people excelling at what they love... it warms my heart. I love to cheer on the United States, the underdogs, and whoever catches my fancy.

CNN ran an opinion piece today by Fulbright scholar Robert A. Kaufman about why the Olympics matter. The piece mentions a story about the 2006 Olympics; Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner entered her race as an underdog, having placed "no higher than eighth" in Olympic events four years earlier. In the middle of the last heat, however, Renner's ski pole broke, effectively knocking her out of the competition.

Opposing ski coach Bjørnar Håkensmoen saw what happened and handed over his Norwegian team's spare pole. Renner and her teammate completed the race with a second-place finish, while the Norwegian team didn't medal.

Kaufman continues to explain that Renner was so touched that she gave Håkensmoen a big thank you and a bottle of wine. The Canadians were so touched by Håkensmoen's kindness that they developed Project Maple Syrup, which shipped over 7,000 cans of the nation's pride and joy to Håkensmoen and Norwegians. Håkensmoen, for his part, remains humble about his part in the story, saying simply that "It was natural for me to do it, and I think anyone should have done it."

Kaufman encourages his readers to remember the collaborative spirit of the Canadian and Norwegian cross-country teams as they tune in to tonight's Olympic festivities. He encourages viewers to not only root for the United States, but for all nations participating in the Games.

I agree wholeheartedly. While I wish the United States much success, I also hope that the Canadians can win some events "at home" and that some of the underdogs have a chance to shine. Regardless of the Games' outcome, I am eager for another chance to cheer on my country and the athletes of the world.

So tune in tonight to watch the Olympics on NBC!