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The Friends of the Albany Public Library
for the
Spring Book & Author Event
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Community Room, Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Ave
Second floor (across from the new children’s room), 1:30 p.m.
Speaker:  Amy Biancolli
Topic: “Living and writing in Smalbany: A love story.”

Amy Biancolli was born in Queens, grew up in Connecticut and holds degrees from Hamilton College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

She has published three books so far: one musical biography, “Fritz Kreisler: Love’s Sorrow, Love’s Joy”; and two memoirs, “House of Holy Fools: A Family Portrait in Six Cracked Parts” about her childhood family; and “Figuring Sh!t Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide, and Survival,” about her husband, who died in 2011, and dealing with the blessings of life in the aftermath.
Luncheon Buffet
University Club
141 Washington Avenue (1 block from the APL)
Good food for $20.00
Checks payable to the Friends of the Albany Public Library may be sent to:
Friends of the APL, 161 Washington Ave, Albany, NY 12210
Reservations by Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Photo credit: Danny Richardson. Bio via and

flowers-sidewalk-crackSomehow, I had a litany of things to do for work (prepare for conference, do reference questions), and the Friends of the Albany Public Library (too many to count), and this Author/Illustrator thing at a local school on Saturday, and no time for much blogging, plus this couple I knew split up, and, per Yul Brynner, et cetera, et cetera. And I couldn’t sleep, because the brain was processing all of the above.

So let me note two just about perfect hours after work Friday. I had taken my bike to work (on two buses) and needed to take it (on two more buses) to the bike shop to get fixed. The 5:17 out of Corporate Woods to downtown had been notorious late all week Read the rest of this entry »

magic8ballOccasionally I get the darnedest questions at work. Someone wanted information about the toy The Magic Eight Ball, which used for fortune-telling or seeking advice,. It is apparently manufactured in China, and someone wanted to know if the number eight was selected – instead of seven or nine – because the number eight is considered lucky in China.

I found no evidence of that. I assumed it was developed from a billiards reference, which it appears to be. But it was interesting to read about the derivation of the term behind the eight-ball:

…a common idiom meaning to be in trouble, stymied or thwarted, in an awkward position or out of luck. Read the rest of this entry »

new jim crowLaw professor Michelle Alexander wrote a book called The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which has become not only a surprise best seller since its paperback version came out in January 2012, but arguably THE definitive book on mass incarceration, particularly of men of color.

From the New York Times: “The book marshals pages of statistics and legal citations to argue that the get-tough approach to crime that began in the Nixon administration and intensified with Ronald Reagan’s declaration of the war on drugs has devastated black America.

“Today… nearly one-third of black men are likely to spend time in prison at some point, only to find themselves falling into permanent second-class citizenship after they get out… Professor Alexander’s book [asserts] that the crackdown was less a response to the actual explosion of violent crime than a deliberate effort to push back the gains of the civil rights movement.”

Our church studied the book in February during the Adult Education hour. In brief, Alexander shows an imperfect, but palpable, link from slavery to the Jim Crow laws that took effect, from after the American Civil War to perhaps a half century ago. That was followed by a NEW Jim Crow of mass incarceration, where the number of people in prison in the United States grew from about 300,000 in 1970 to over 2 million by 2000.

Check out Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration By Race and Ethnicity and Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity.

Moreover, that mass incarceration has had a devastating effect on communities. From the book:

What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind.

Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.

The problem with having read this book is that, once you’ve done that, you know the basic premise to be self-evidently true, and don’t understand why EVERYONE doesn’t know this. The one saving grace is that, when Alexander first started investigating the issue early in this century, SHE hadn’t connected the dots either.

I will note that the author occasionally repeats the narrative, I reckon, so that she’s certain the reader gets the point she’s making. But these are important points. Moreover, the issues are still taking place. Read Jails: Time to Wake Up to Mass Incarceration in Your Neighborhood.

toiletThe things I do for informational purposes. According to a recent article, there are 10 restroom rules people are constantly breaking.

Independently, this is something I’ve noticed in men’s public restrooms for decades. If there are are four bathroom stalls, as there are in the men’s room on our floor at work Read the rest of this entry »

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