We’re Moving

Today is the last day for the old library to be open for all activities. Beginning tomorrow morning, the old library will be open only from 9 AM to 3 PM exclusively for our Children’s Summer Reading Program (and of course also for all scheduled Summer Reading Program workshops and events – check here for the details).

We’ll also continue to sell permits for the Haysville Citywide Cleanup (for details, see our earlier post on Citywide Cleanup).

During the month of June we’ll be conducting a complete inventory of the library, packing, moving and setting up operations in the new library at 210 South Hays. Volunteers are welcome to aid us in the move. Our volunteer orientation session will start at 9 AM Monday June 1st.

As you can see, the process is already under way:





We’ll do our best to keep you informed about the status of our move and the date and time of our reopening — expect it on or before the 1st of July. Check the library website and the HCL blog frequently for updates and items of interest.

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 1:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (George McGovern)

A Brief Review of George McGovern’s Abraham Lincoln

George McGovern – former Democratic senator from South Dakota and losing presidential candidate in the 1972 election – has written a short, solid, workmanlike biography of Abraham Lincoln as part of Henry Holt and Company’s The American Presidents Series (see previous reviews of volumes in the series on Grover Cleveland, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Buchanan and Thomas Jefferson). A mere 155 pages in length and compiled from a careful and thorough reading of the secondary sources, McGovern’s biography is not so stunningly incisive as James McPherson’s very brief Abraham Lincoln, nor so voluminous as many of the new biographies appearing in this bicentennial year of Lincoln’s birth, but is nevertheless a good introductory work for those with limited time seeking to learn more about America’s greatest president.

If McGovern’s biography has a conspicuous weakness it is the short shrift which he gives to Lincoln’s role as commander-in-chief and the course of the war — his discussion of battlefield developments is somewhat confused and discontinuous – but this is a relatively minor flaw in a book which must necessarily sacrifice some detail for the sake of brevity. If the book has a strength, it is McGovern’s emphasis upon some aspects of Lincoln’s life and presidency which receive little attention in other compressed biographies. For instance, as in this excerpt, Lincoln’s other legislative achievements beyond the imperatives of the war:

“As he prepared to deliver his annual message to Congress in December, Lincoln reflected on the legislative achievements of his first term, which had been all but overlooked because of the country’s preoccupation with the war. Many new laws, passed by the Republican-controlled Congress, would prove to have long-lasting consequences as the nation pushed relentlessly westward, settling new lands and expanding its borders.

“A series of financial measures had been enacted to fund the war, which was costing $2 million daily. Under the direction of the Treasury Department, and with the administrative guidance of the Philadelphia banker Jay Cooke, the government had issued war bonds (which, over the course of the war, would raise about $3 billion for the Union, or 65 percent of its revenue). Needing an unrestricted currency supply to fuel the bond program, Congress passed the Legal Tender Act in 1862, which authorized the production and distribution of paper money, known popularly as greenbacks.

“More significantly, the Internal Revenue Act of 1861, the first federal income tax in American history, assured the financial community that the government would have a reliable source of income to pay the interest on war bonds. Subsequent Revenue Acts of 1862 and 1864 created moderately progressive tax brackets and set rates at 5, 7.5, and 10 percent. By the end of the war nearly one in ten American households (mostly in the affluent states in the industrial Northeast, the section of the country that held most of the wealth) paid an income tax.

“Also enacted was an excise tax system that imposed taxes on almost everything: liquor, professional licenses, carriages, yachts, medicines, corporations, stamps, and the like. The Morrill Tariff Acts of 1860 and 1861 doubled the amounts of taxes collected on dutiable items brought into the United States, while at the same time protecting the steel, iron, mineral, beef, and fishing industries, among many others. Congress also enacted the National Banking Acts of 1863 and 1864, which established a system of national charters for banks and encouraged the implementation of a national currency. They also mandated that one-third of a new bank’s notes had to be backed by federal bonds, thus assisting the war effort. When state banks balked at the new regulation, a provision of the 1864 Act imposed a 10 percent tax on state bank notes; state banks then had to choose to comply or go out of business. Overall, the tax system quickly grew so large that the Bureau of Internal Revenue was created to administer it. These finance measures reversed the downward trends instituted by Democratic Congresses of the 1840s and 1850s, and fulfilled Republican promises from the campaign of 1860.

“During Lincoln’s first term, the Republican Congress also passed the Homestead Act of 1862, which made public lands in the West available for small farmers. For decades the distribution of these lands had been the subject of great debate and controversy, in Washington and among the American population. Under the new Homestead Act, any adult citizen who headed a household could win title to 160 acres of frontier land simply by living on it for five years. By the end of the war more than fifteen thousand homestead claims had been filed, with more to come. While some portion of the land ended up in the control of speculators and railroads, many settlers stuck it out, raised their families, and harvested crops, thereby establishing a framework for the large-scale development of vast Western territories over the course of the next forty years. The 160-acre tracts created the model of the American family farm for the next century.

“Also in 1862 Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Land Grant College Act, named for Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont. The statute transferred federal lands to states to be sold for the establishment and support of agricultural and mechanical arts colleges, which paved the way for the establishment of state university systems throughout the Midwest and West. The program was set up proportionately, dependent upon the number of congressional representatives, and eventually involved the transfer of nearly seventeen million acres of land. That same year, Congress and Lincoln established the Department of Agriculture to look after the interests of farmers (although the department would not gain cabinet-level status for some twenty years.).

“These three landmark acts – the Homestead Act, the Land Grant College Act, and the creation of the US Department of Agriculture, all enacted in the middle of the Civil War – formed a tripod on which much of America’s great agricultural success has rested from that day until the present.

“also of great importance was the passage of the Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864. These laws provided for the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from Omaha to Sacramento for the movement of passengers and freight as well as government use for postal, military, and other purposes. All told, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads received more than 175 million acres from the government for use as right-of-way, and began construction. Utilizing thousands of immigrant laborers from Ireland, Germany, Italy, and China, and with the Union Pacific pushing west and the Central Pacific pushing east, the two lines met and merged near Ogden, Utah, in 1869, finally and forever linking the two coasts. Lincoln’s support for all these laws was a reflection of the Whig principles that had nurtured him: the belief that the federal government could and should play an important role in the public welfare.”

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

How To Live On Mars

How to Live on Mars

A Brief Review of Robert Zubrin’s How To Live On Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet

It isn’t over-the-top wild and whacky like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Douglas Adam’s array of hilarious sequels, but Robert Zubrin’s How to Live on Mars is funny, easy and quick to read, and as well grounded in the science as it is possible for a book written not less than six decades prior to its fictional publication – and well before the exploration and settlement of Mars – can be.

How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet offers assertedly practical tips on “how to get to Mars”; “how to choose a spacesuit”; “how to choose your homestead”; “how to save money on radiation protection”; “how to stay alive in the desert”; “how to profit from the Terraforming Program”; and much else besides, interlaced with wry aspersions cast at NASA, the Mars Authority, Earth and Earthlings, and interspersed with political and social commentary from the acquisitive, anti-authority interplanetary pioneer narrator/author.

One short excerpt should suffice to give you some of the flavor of the book, “Surviving Without Oxygen”:

“We now come to what many new arrivals regard as the most fearsome scenario of all. What happens if you are caught stranded out on the planitia without oxygen? No doubt Earthlings view this predicament as particularly terrifying because it never happens on their home planet. However, while such feelings may be understandable, they are basically irrational, since oxygen is actually quite plentiful on Mars. You just need to know where to find it.

“The most obvious place to get oxygen on Mars is from the atmosphere, which is 95 percent carbon dioxide. To get the oxygen out of the CO2, all you need to do is react some hydrogen with it over a copper-on-alumina catalyst in a reverse-water-gas-shift (RWGS) reactor. This will yield water and carbon monoxide. The aqua you electrolyze to make your oxygen, as well as hydrogen, which you recycle back into your RWGS reactor to continue the process; while you just toss the CO back into the air as waste. (You can do that on Mars – we have no Environmental Prosecution Agency here.) Alternatively, if you find water, you can just electrolyze it to produce your oxygen directly.

“These techniques are obvious and quite simple, but they do involve a problem in that, to produce the 1kg/day of oxygen you need to live, the electrolyzer used by either the above approaches will require an average round-the-clock power level of 180 watts. Unless you have a radioisotope generator with you, this in turn means that you would need a solar array capable of producing about 500 watts during prime daylight.

“Well, if you are really scared of oxygen deprivation, you can go buy yourself a 10-square-meter photovoltaic panel set and make your own breathing gas that way – which after all, is the same method by which it is done in the life-support system of your hab; or on an industrial scale at the central oxygen-generation plant at New Plymouth. But why waste good money on such a fancy (and heavy) approach when there is a much cheaper way to make do when you are out in the field? Really folks, safety is fine as far as it goes, but what’s the point of keeping yourself alive if you have to spend so much to do so that you have nothing left over to use to have a good time?

“So forget about making emergency oxygen by the book from the air or permafrost. There’s an easier way that works just fine, and that is to use the regolith itself. Virgin Martian dirt is loaded with peroxides, and these can be made to break down and emit oxygen just by wetting them with water. This surprising fact was discovered by NASA’s Viking lander probe way back in 1976. Viking was sent to Mars to look for life. One of its experiments involved wetting Mars dirt with water, to see what might grow. But the scientists got quite a shock when, instead of promoting a slow growth of native plants, the soil itself responded to its irrigation by immediately releasing a flood of oxygen gas into the test chamber.

“Well, 1976 may be ancient history, but the trick still works. If you wet unprocessed Martian soil, you will get oxygen. So, instead of a RWGS unit with a 10-square-meter solar array, what you need is a large plastic bag, a shovel, and a small roughing pump. To get oxygen, just shovel some dirt into your bag, and then wet it, using water obtained by the methods I explained to you earlier [“Marooned Without Water”]. In fact, highly saline water obtained simply by melting permafrost is also fine for this purpose. When the oxygen starts fizzling out, just turn on the pump to bring the gas up to your suit pressure, and inject directly into your helmet’s auxiliary feed line. The stuff tends to smell a bit like fired gunpowder, but it’s quite breathable. If the smell does bother you, you can deal with it by inserting a small activated-carbon filter into the gas feed line. When the fizzling stops, just dump the bag, reload with soil, wet with water, and continue. There’s nothing to it.”

How to Live on Mars will never be an immortal classic — not even in the “science fiction” genre — but it is both interesting and fun. If you’re at all inclined to the general subject matter, I think you’ll enjoy it immensely.

For a wealth of additional information on this topic, see The Mars Society website, hub for the organization (Robert Zubrin is its president) which seeks “to further the goal of the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet . . . by broad public outreach to instill the vision of pioneering Mars . . . support of ever more aggressive government funded Mars exploration programs around the world . . . [and] conducting Mars exploration on a private basis.” You’ll find the Mars Society’s Founding Declaration here, and also in the final chapter of How to Live on Mars. For an abbreviated Case for Colonizing Mars by Zubrin, see the article previously printed in Ad Astra July/August 1996. For a more extensive brief, see Zubrin’s book The Case for Mars.

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 5:41 pm  Comments (2)  

New Library Deliveries Proceed Apace

While the bulk of the shelving has not yet arrived (it should be here late this week) much of the furniture and other items continue to be delivered, assembled and installed. A few new snapshots of the evolving interior:








Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 5:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Books #7

Doomsday Book

“. . . William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book, written on vellum in 1086 AD, has survived 900 years. However, the medium used for a digital version of the book, encoded in 1986, failed within 20 years.”

Science Daily
“New Memory Material May Hold Data for One Billion Years”
May 26, 2009

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Landscaping & Furniture Delivery Begins

The first of many deliveries of furniture and shelving . . .

The first of many deliveries of furniture and shelving

Today's loads were primarily library chairs, easy chairs & sofas

Today's loads were primarily library chairs, easy chairs & sofas

A view of young adult workstations, computers & chairs

A view of young adult workstations, computers & chairs

Boxed and unboxed library chairs, easy chairs and sofas for the main library

Boxed and unboxed library chairs, easy chairs and sofas for the main library

Landscaping along southwest front

Landscaping along southwest front

Sod delivery

Sod delivery

Landscaping crew works on northwest front

Landscaping crew works on northwest front

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 5:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Moving Time: Check Out Books ’til July 1st


It’s time to move into the new library. It’s not quite ready for us yet, but we’ve got to start inventory and packing now, so that we’re able to move in the moment we can. So, the old library will be closing on the 1st of June — except for the Children’s Summer Reading Program and a few other very limited odds and ends — and then we’ll be opening the new library on July 1st. (The Grand Opening is set for the Fourth of July).

The best part of all this is that you can check out books now and you won’t have to return them until July 1st. That’s good for you, but it’s also good for us. Every book that you check out now at the old library and check in at the new library is one less book we have to count, evaluate and move.

Stop by the library today and take home all the books you’ll need for early summer reading

Published in: on May 20, 2009 at 3:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Homestead Act

Nebraska Homesteaders -- The Chrisman Sisters, 1887 (U of Colorado)

Nebraska Homesteaders -- The Chrisman Sisters, 1887 (U of Colorado)

One hundred forty seven years ago today, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law — May 20, 1862. The act, as the Library of Congress observes, “encouraged Western migration by providing settlers 160 acres of public land. In exchange, homesteaders paid a small filing fee and were required to complete five years of continuous residence [in a house at least 12 feet by 14 feet] before receiving ownership of the land. After six months of residency, homesteaders also had the option of purchasing the land from the government for $1.25 per acre. The Homestead Act led to the distribution of 80 million acres of public land by 1900.” For more details, see the Library of Congress webguide to Primary Documents in American History – Homestead Act and the National Archives’ resources on the Homestead Act.

Homesteader Family

Homesteader Family

Sod House Near Claflin, Kansas -- 1870s (Kansas Memory)

Sod House Near Claflin, Kansas -- 1870s (Kansas Memory)

For many more examples of pioneer sod houses and homesteads see Kansas Memory at the Kansas Historical Society.

Decatur County Kansas Family with Sod House -- 1880s (Kansas Memory)

Decatur County Kansas Family with Sod House -- 1880s (Kansas Memory)

Published in: on May 20, 2009 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Island Biodiversity

Biodiversity of Plants (University of California -- San Diego)

Biodiversity of Plants (University of California -- San Diego)

“Although islands account for less than four percent of the Earth’s land area, they harbor nearly a quarter of the world’s plants, more than 70,000 species that don’t occur on the mainlands. Vertebrate land animals – birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals – broadly follow this same pattern.”

Scientists from three universities have developed a weighted measure of biodiversity and applied it to 90 biogeographic regions. By their measure, the “populations of plants and vertebrate animals are eight to nine times as rich” in island ecosystems as compared with continental ecosystems. See this article in Science Daily for details.

Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 4:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bizarre New Animal Discoveries

The Grey Sengi of Central Tanzania

The Grey Sengi of Central Tanzania

From the psychedelic frogfish to the pink cyanide millipede, a photosynthetic seaslug and the world’s smallest snake, here’s a delightful gallery of bizarre animals that are new to science.

Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 10:32 am  Comments (2)  

Is the Universe Flat?

Galaxies on Collision Course (Hubble Space Telescope Ultra Deep Field)

Galaxies on Collision Course (Hubble Space Telescope Ultra Deep Field)

Despite beginning with the discredited old saw that “the ancients believed the Earth was flat,” Eugenie Samuel Reich initiates an interesting discussion concerning whether the universe is flat (be sure to read the comments). The paper which occasioned the discussion is How Flat Can You Get? A Model Comparison Perspective on the Curvature of the Universe, which is epitomized here.

Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Equal, Not Separate

Supreme Court Building

“In 1950, eight-year-old Linda Carol Brown discovered she could not attend the Sumner School, even though it was only a ten-minute walk from her home on First Street in Topeka, Kansas. At the time, she could scarcely have imagined that a lawsuit in her name would make United States history.

“The Browns, who were African Americans, lived in a mixed ethnic neighborhood near the Sumner School. They had received a notice at their front door telling them how to register their children for fall classes. Linda’s father, Oliver, took her to the school and left her outside while he went to the principal’s office. When he came out a few minutes later, Linda saw that he was upset. What the notice didn’t say was that the Sumner School was for whites only.

“Linda and her two sisters were being kept out of Sumner because Topeka city law set up separate elementary schools for blacks and whites.

“As Oliver Brown later told the federal judge who would hear the case, it was dangerous to have Linda travel six blocks on foot through a vast amount of traffic, then take a school bus to the Monroe School reserved for black children. In order for her to go to the school across town, she had to leave her house at 7:40 A.M., walk between the train tracks from the railroad yard on First Street, and wait for the bus. Frequently, the bus was late, leaving her on the corner in the cold, rain, or snow. If the bus came on time, Linda would arrive half an hour before school opened at 9:00 A.M., and be forced to wait outside. She often had to clap her hands or jump up and down to keep warm.

“Oliver Brown did not want his child exposed to these hardships. He wanted Linda to be able to go to her neighborhood school, a safe seven-block walk from home. So he decided to fight for her right to do so in the courts. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took up Linda’s case, together with that of seven other black children, against the Topeka Board of Education. Linda Carol Brown, whose family name was first in alphabetical order, led the way.”

The case, of course, was Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision which mandated equal schooling for all, by overturning the ignominious 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. Plessy permitted “separate but equal” – which is to say de facto unequal – access to public services and facilities. The decision in Plessy v. Ferguson is 113 years old today.

(The preceding excerpt is taken from the Enslow Publishers series of Landmark Supreme Court Cases, Brown v. Board of Education: Equal Schooling for All, by Harvey Fireside and Sarah Betsy Fuller. You’ll find it in the Young Adult section of the library.)

Published in: on May 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment