This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

August 4, 2004 - my wife's reading

My wife, Suzanne, admits to her almost obsessive collecting of books. Some years back, I was going to award what I thought was a clever prize: a gold library card. (Not real gold, you understand, but a gold-colored collector item.) It would go to the person who had checked out the most books over the past five years.

But there was a problem. The winner was my wife.

It would be churlish of me to complain about the piles of books around the house. For one thing, I keep running across the most interesting things. For instance, immediately at hand is a paperback called "Useless Information," by Paul Steiner.

It lives up to its title. Even the most dedicated diet-addict would be hard pressed to do anything with this:

* One portion rattlesnake steak contains 200 calories.
* One bowl bird's nest soup ... 75 calories
* One serving of barracuda ... 135 calories
* One glass hippopatamus milk ... 80 calories
* Five fried grasshoppers contain 225 calories. (You want my advice? Boil them.)

And for those of you in the dating world, here's a gloomy tidbit: "Only one woman out of ten knows how to wink, asserts a University of Melbourne professor."

Worried about contagious diseases? Well, no wonder: "Particles expelled by a sneeze have a muzzle velocity of 152 feet a second, says the Massachusetts institute of Technology." It's a wonder we're not riddled with tiny holes. Or maybe we are.

Just under this compendium of random facts lies "The Tipping Point," by Malcolm Gladwell. The subtitle is "How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference."

Gladwell posits that there are three kind of people who together add up to social movements, fads, and sudden action. There are Connectors. These are the people who always know way more people than you do. A famous example: Paul Revere was one of two riders who sounded the alarm. But only the people Revere contacted actually did anything. Why? Because he knew the people who lived at the hub of social networks.

There are Mavens. They obsessively collect highly detailed data. They are early adopters of technology. They are comparison shoppers. They are blazers of the trail. They not only know those useless facts above -- they can help you get a deal on your next batch of raw grasshoppers.

Then there are Salesmen (and women). They make you feel at ease. They persuade. They are impossible to work up a good defense against.

Together, these people can "tip" something from notion into reality.

Then there's the book "Wicked," by Gregory Maguire. It's the story of the Wicked Witch of the West -- from her side. Unlike, for instance, the Three Little Pigs, told from the Wolf's side, "Wicked" is not a kid's book. I found it utterly moving. The Witch Elphaba (whose name comes from "F. L. Baum," author of the Oz books) will break your heart.

A week or so later, Suzanne brought home the CD from the musical of the same name. And the music is some of the catchiest, soaring, most powerful I've ever heard. Glinda makes me laugh. Elphaba still breaks my heart.

Over the past 20 years, I've worked hard to pull people into the library. It's ironic that although I go to the library every day, I hardly need to. I have a talented librarian at home whose ceaseless curiosity offers a quirky education that catches me when I least expect it.

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