Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy π Day! - 3.14

Founded in 1988 by physicist Larry Shaw, π (or pi) Day celebrates a constant and irrational number which has fascinated mankind for over 4000 years.

π represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It is commonly represented as 3.14, hence π day is celebrated annually on March 14th. π is a constant number because regardless of the size of the circle the value for π remains the same. It is also irrational as it can not be expressed as a fraction nor be calculated precisely as a decimal. To date, π has been calculated to over 10 trillion decimal places, taking a computer 90 days to perform the calculation.

Presently, Newcastle is home to a world renown π expert; Jonathan Borwein is a Laureate Professor at the University of Newcastle who regularly publishes academic articles on π, exploring its mathematical uses and meanings as well as its place in popular culture. You can find out more about Borwein and his publications here.

π can be found just about anywhere. We seem to have an endless fascination with this number, referencing it over and over in popular culture. Explore the following items available at Newcastle Region Library and see if you can uncover the π references within.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (book, DVD movie)
Probably the easiest place to find a π reference, Martel names the protagonist in his prize winning novel Piscine Patel, shortening his name with direct mathematical reference to π.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (book, DVD movie, DVD series)
The first in a 'trilogy' of 5 books, we follow Arthur Dent and his best friend Ford Prefect as they escape the demolition of Earth and set out to locate the President of the Galaxy with the aid of a computerised guidebook called the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. If you struggle to find the π reference, you may need to look closer at the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. The reference is fairly obscure but given Douglas Adams' playfulness with all things obscure, it is unlikely to be a coincidence.

Matrix Reloaded (DVD movie)
Neo races against the clock to save the inhabitants of Zion from a machine army of sentinels set on destroying them. Whilst negotiating the unusual and complex characters of the Matrix, Neo must find the Keymaker in order to save the last of the free humans.

Twin Peaks (DVD TV series)
This series follows the FBI investigation into the murder of popular teenager Laura Palmer, but the real draw is the quirky vision of creators David Lynch and Mark Frost and their ensemble of curious characters. It is often suggested that a certain character's fondness for a particular pastry is a direct reference to the mystery that surrounds π.

Torn Curtain (DVD movie)
This cloak and dagger mystery from Alfred Hitchcock depicts an American Scientist defecting to the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Whilst embroiling the audience in the political and military intrigue of the Iron Curtain, the protagonist is actually on a secret mission to steal a mathematical formula and escape back to the West.

The Simpsons (DVD TV series)
With many of this show's writers holding advanced degrees in mathematics, it follows that 'The Simpsons' is chock full of mathematical innuendo. So much so that a book, 'The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets', was published to shed light on many of these references. For π, check out the episodes 'Bye, Bye Nerdie' (season 12, episode 16) and 'Simple Simpson' (season 15, episode 19).

You can find the above books and DVDs at Newcastle Region Library. Check them out on the catalogue

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What's new?

We have new books arriving all the time in our libraries, here's a selection of what's new right now. Click on the link to access our catalogue, and while you're there why not browse through all our latest titles? Don't forget, you can login to reserve titles and access your online account.

Ghost: 100 Stories to read with the lights on compiled by Lousie Welsh.

Haunted houses, mysterious Counts, weeping widows and restless souls, here is the definitive anthology of all that goes bump in the night. Hand-picked by award-winning author Louise Welsh, this beautiful collection of 100 ghost stories will delight, unnerve, and entertain any fiction lover brave enough...
Here are gothic classics, modern masters, Booker Prize-winners, ancient folk tales and stylish noirs, proving that every writer has a skeleton or two in their closet.
The all-star cast of authors inlude:
Hilary Mantel, William Faulkner, Kate Atkinson, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Franz Kafka, Ruth Rendell, Edgar Allan Poe, William Trevor, Helen Simpson, Haruki Murakami, Dylan Thomas, Bram Stoker, H.P Lovecraft, Lydia Davis, Sir Walter Scott, Annie Proulx, Bram Stoker, Angela Carter and Stephen King.

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray

In this sequel to A Thousand Pieces of You by New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray, Marguerite races through various dimensions to save the boy she loves.Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents' invention, to cross through to alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse even hurt the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked, and his consciousness is scattered across multiple dimensions.The hunt for each splinter of Paul's soul sends Marguerite racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each dimension brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with every trial she faces, she begins to question the one constant she's found between the worlds: their love for each other."

That's not funny, Bunny! by Bethany Hines

Bunny just wanted to be different. He was always dressing up in silly clothes, trying to impress his friends.'Written and illustrated by a new talent in children's picture books, 'That's not funny, Bunny!' is a warm and beautiful story about learning to be happy with who you are.Distinctive illustration style makes 'That's not funny, Bunny!' stand out from the crowd.

Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured by Kathryn Harrison

The story of Joan of Arc, the young peasant girl who rallied French rulers against British invaders in 1428, has fascinated artists as diverse as Shakespeare, Voltaire and Mark Twain. Was she a divinely inspired saint or a demonically possessed heretic? Kathryn Harrison's insightful work deftly weaves historical fact, myth, folklore and centuries of scholarly interpretation into a compelling narrative.

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Is Your Dog Seeing Red? Libby Hathorn Book Launch and Dog Parade

Newcastle Writers Festival Event
Libby Hathorn Book Launch & Dog Parade
You and your beloved canine friend are invited to join us for the launch of A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy by award-winning Newcastle born writer Libby Hathorn.
April marks the centenary of The Battle of the Somme and we are commemorating the occasion with this special book. There will be lots of activities for you and your dog, including a parade.
Remember to dress your dog in red!
When 01 APR 2016
Time 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Where Newcastle Region Library, Laman Street, Cooks Hill
This is a free outdoor family event.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

International Women's Day, March 9 2016

We celebrate International Women's Day with a list of women who inspire us with their integrity, courage and creativity.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a social commentator, founding member of Youth Without Borders and young Australian engineer. Read more about about her in Yassmin's Story to be released later this month.

Harper Lee, who sadly passed recently, wrote one of  history's most important books. To Kill a Mockingbird's vivid storytelling exposed decades of readers to the cruelty of racial intolerance.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel peace prize and author of I am Malala who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.

Patti Smith, the singer-songwriter and poet who influenced the punk movement. Revisit her music in Freegal or read her books Just Kids and and M Train.

Iran Awakening describes the the powerful life of Shirin Ebadi, female judge and Nobel Prize winner, before, during and after the revolution in Iran.

Robyn Davidson journeyed alone through the Australian outback with a team of camels in the 1970s. Tracks records the connections she made with the people, landscape and and her own identity.

Lucille Ball - writer, performer and producer was a pioneer of television comedy. You can watch I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show on DVD and via indieflix.

Nellie Bly was one of the world's first investigative journalists. Read her biography, Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist or the digital edition of her work Ten Days in a Mad House

Enjoy these and countless other stories of female achievement in the Library's digital and printed collections.

Visit Newcastle Region Library's Catalogue and Website.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Chinese New Year - The Year of the Monkey

Wallsend District Library turned red once again for Chinese New Year, celebrating the Year of the Monkey, the 9th animal of the Chinese zodiac. For two weeks, 8-20 February 2016, a dazzling array of monkeys greeted customers as they came in the door, leading them into the library (and to the return chutes). The customer service desk was artfully decorated with authentic Chinese motifs, which invited many comments and compliments from customers of all cultures.  Everyone enjoyed the festive atmosphere, and applauded the multiculturalism of the event.

Characteristics of those born in the Year of the Monkey are honest , intelligent, flexible, sociable and lively, and some of those definitely applied to the various activities on offer, which were very well received by the community. We were very generously supported by the Confucius Institute at the University of Newcastle, an organisation that works to strengthen and expand exchange and cooperation between China and the local regions.

A Chinese/English bilingual storytime was held at two branches, with over 100 children and parents attending. Many families joined in singing the Chinese version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and all enjoyed learning more about the Chinese culture, and the festivities traditionally held during Chinese New Year. The City Branch storytime was followed by a traditional Chinese Lion Dance, performed by four dancers from The Ching Nin Lion Team, which means young and green, or  youthful. Wallsend hosted the lions the following week, where the children joined in the revelry, touching the dragon for good luck, laughing and squealing with delight as it cavorted around the library.

Four members of the Confucius Institute treated Wallsend patrons to a Chinese New Year cooking demonstration, under the live trees of our internal 'avenue'. Jonathon Yi was a most entertaining presenter, cracking jokes while he explained some customs, and why glutinous rice balls with red bean paste are significant. Red, for good luck, round for longevity, and the continuity of the seasons. His three assistants, April, Julia and Maggie, busily prepared the ingredients for the demonstration, amazing everyone with their nifty knife skills, reducing carrots and other vegetables to fine slivers. Patrons were then invited to have a go at making the rice balls, which were then boiled, and the gow gees filled with chicken mince, finely chopped vegetables and spices,  which were steamed. The stirfried fish with Szechuan chilli paste created a fragrant aroma that permeated the library, making everyone very keen to taste the results. They were, of course, delicious.

The Chinese paper cutting demonstrated by the incredibly talented Sarah Dunn was extremely popular. Patrons were given tips on how to successfully cut out intricate designs and mount them on colourful paper, then had a chance to try their hand at cutting out pre-printed templates. Naturally, the monkey design proved the most popular.

The Confucius Institute also offered an extremely popular Chinese knotting demonstration. There was lots of laughter as staff and patrons discovered that they are far more involved than your average knot. All persevered until a couple were completed, and many took advantage of offers of one-on-one help. At least one staff member had to have hers 'finessed' by our wonderful hosts, but everyone was happy with their final product, and gained an increased appreciation for the nimble fingers that are required, and the intricate work that is involved.

Overall a wonderful two weeks, and we are very much looking forward to celebrating the Year of the Rooster next year. Cock-a-doodle-doo, or wo-wo-wo, as the Mandarin Chinese say!

Visit Newcastle Region Library's website to see what else we're up to!