July 18th, 2016

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

PidgeyAt this point you’ve probably seen stories about the Pokémon Go craze sweeping the world.  There have been headlines about it being the most popular app game in the country and more popular than Twitter.  So what is it?  Pokémon Go is the latest installment in a game franchise with a 20-year history.  The players, known as trainers, walk around outside with a mobile device that displays a map of their surroundings.  When small creatures called Pokémon appear on the screen, players attempt to capture them by throwing Poké balls at them.  This step can actually be harder than it looks.  Trust me.  Players gather more balls and other items by visiting places called Pokéstops and interacting with the spot on their device.  Most of our libraries are Pokéstops.  Once the players capture Pokémon they can grow them by feeding them or evolve them into stronger versions.  Players can also use the Pokémon to virtually capture places called gyms that have some tie to the real world.  Our Cecilton Branch is a gym.  Those are the basics but there’s a lot more to the game.  If you want to learn more, there have been some good articles about the game online or you could ask a player.  I know I’ve explained the game to a large number of people in the last week.

pigeondriveSo you might be wondering, how does this all tie back to libraries?  It’s a good question that has multiple answers.  Starting with the obvious physical ones, we have outlets people can charge their devices since the game will quickly drain your battery.  We also have an excellent Wi-Fi system while so you can play without using your phone data plan.  After the last week, it’s also worth mentioning since you can reach the stops and gyms at our locations from inside the building you can play while in the air conditioning.  I’m not sure who was hotter yesterday me or my Flareon.  Going a bit further there is also the social aspect of the game.  A good portion of the players like to talk to each other about the game; sharing their experiences, where things are, good places to go to, things like that.  Libraries are places for exploration and information doesn’t always have to come from our staff.  It can also be between patrons.  There’s also a growing creative community that enjoy posing the Pokémon in the world for pictures.  Our more creative staff members figured out that Pidgey shouldn’t drive the bus.

Now some advice for fellow trainers from a person that played Niantic’s previous game Ingress for over two years (Niantic is the company that programmed Pokémon Go).  In the summer bring water and sunscreen with you since it’s very easy to get distracted and stay outside in the sun too long.  Bug spray also isn’t a bad idea if you are going to play at dusk.  Pay attention to your surroundings; look up from your phone often, watch for traffic, watch for street signs and parking meters since they hurt when you walk into them, watch for other people walking and move out of the way if you are going to be stopped for a while, and don’t walk into dark areas at night.  Playing with other people is always a good idea, especially at night, since you can look out for each other.  It’s also more fun to play with a group and makes it easier to hunt down that Rare who’s three footsteps away.  Be respectful of posted hours since even public places like parks can close at night.  Don’t trespass and respect private property.  Catching anything, even something really cool, isn’t worth having the cops called on you or worse.  Be friendly to other players and people who ask about the game.  You might even be able to recruit them to your team.  Most of all have fun.  See you out there.

Where’s your favorite place to play?

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July 11th, 2016


canning-626204_640Out in my garden are a half-dozen tomato plants which means that in a month or so I will be bursting at the seams with tomatoes. Every year I freeze tomato puree but always run out of space before I run out of tomatoes, so maybe it’s time to give canning a try.

Despite the fact that my parents have always canned everything from peaches and raspberries to tomatoes and pickles, and that my grandmother was actually featured in an Iowa newspaper for her canning prowess, I have to admit that I have always been intimidated by the whole process.

What I have found, however, is that it really isn’t that complicated. There are two things to bear in mind when you start thinking about canning: destroying the microorganisms which can cause food to spoil, like bacteria molds and yeasts, and sealing your containers to prevent those same organisms from entering. For beginning canners the water-bath canning method requires a minimal investment in supplies and the process is fairly straightforward. It is safe for any high-acid food like most fruits and many vegetables, so no worries of exploding jars or spoiled food! Once you’ve got the hang of it you might want to try pressure canning which is safest for low-acid foods.

There is a reason cooking shows are so popular-many of us learn best by watching someone else. Over the years CCPL has hosted a variety of canning programs by local cookbook author J.R. Coffey. On Saturday, July 16 @ 11:00 am he will be at the Perryville Library to discuss the water-bath canning method. He will demonstrate how to prepare your food and materials, discuss how to process your jars, and answer any question you might have. A tasting of some of his homemade products will follow.

If you can’t make the program you can always check out many of the books we have in our catalog, including a list of specially selected materials, or consider taking a look at Mother Earth News Food and Garden magazine available through Zinio, where you can download magazines to your home computer or device. I also found articles on canning through our Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center available through CCPL’s online resources. CCPL has a great canning Pinterest board, too.

If you’re inspired by the new homesteading trend you can access Gale Courses through our website, where you can take a free six-week course, Start Your Own Edible Garden, which covers everything from setting up your garden and deciding what to grow, including a discussion of a variety of vegetables, fruits, berries and herbs, to a lesson on preserving your food and canning.

What will your first canning project be?