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1. Touring While on a Cruise by Margot Justes

I often wonder how most people tour a foreign city. How do they prepare? Is everything left to the tour company, with that extra half day on their own? Or simply venture out on an adventure? Or is it a combination of both?

In cities, I combine both, guided tours, and equal time on my own. I book specific tours, rather than  leave everything to an escorting tour company. In my youth, I did my own thing, and didn’t much take tours, but now my attitude has changed, and I think it is due to age.

Now, I’m ready for an easier way to travel. I still pick what I want to do on my own, and when to book tours, and what kind.  More and more people travel, and the ‘must see’ places are often packed to capacity, and it is easier to get in with a tour, the Vatican is a perfect example.

To be honest, as many know, cruising is my favorite form of travel now. I pack and unpack once, see a little of a lot, and have a care free vacation.

That being said, I always stay in the embarkation city at least two days, it depends on time, cost and if I’ve been there before. During the cruise the site seeing is limited, and I choose the excursions offered by the cruise line that fit my interests. Most often they’re excellent tours, there is a little independent time, and almost always there is a certain perspective from the local tour guide on the visit.

I'll be in Rome in less than two months and have already selected specific sites I do not want to miss. I've visited Rome before, last time was in 2014, but in a grand city like Rome one can’t possibly see everything, and even repeat sites offer new perspectives.

My favorite form of transportation in Rome is walking, but a guided walking tour is a good start, and keeps me from getting lost, unless I wander off, that has been known to happen. It is an excellent way to get acquainted with a city, along with a lecture on the sites, history, there are the occasional personal observation offered by the guide.

A map is very handy, if you know how to read one, for me that is a useless effort, I can't read maps, and if on my own, North happens to be wherever I'm facing-not a good thing. However, I'm not afraid to ask a stranger for directions, and I do carry a small city map  with me, after being told which way to go and where to turn, I can generally find my way.

A few years ago I was in Berlin with my daughter, she was there to do research, and I had the days to myself. One morning I wondered about the city, and of course I got lost but in the process I discovered some wondrous little side streets, stopped for a delicious cup of coffee, and wound up at Check Point Charlie, from there it was an easy walk back to the hotel, met some nice people, and I had a terrific time.  I have no ideas how I found Check Point Charlie, it suddenly appeared in front of me.

I also took a bus, and forgot to validate the ticket, and to add insult to injury it was going in the wrong direction, nothing seemed familiar. I originally took the bus from the hotel stop to the Egyptian Museum. I showed the bus driver the slip of paper with the name and address of the hotel, he dropped me off at the next stop, and pointed across the street to the bus stop. I don’t speak German, he didn’t speak English, yet we communicated. He was exceedingly kind.

I digress, back to Rome, along with a visit to the Pantheon, probably built between 118 and 125 AD, the gloriously preserved  building is a must see for any tourist.  There are a few sites that always beckon back. I will miss the Tivoli Gardens, because of the late arrival of my flight-couldn’t be helped.

An evening walking tour in planned, Rome is magnificently lit at night, and reflecting shadows and shimmers give it a romantic atmosphere. The Trevi fountain sparkles as the water cascades down. It is breathtaking. It’ll be a romantic look at Rome, I’m a romance writer after all.  Of course given Rome's age I'm sure there are a few ghosts and goblins scattered around, and I aim to find them with the help of a guide of course. In the evening I stick to guides like the proverbial super glue.

The must see stuff I do first, and I leave myself some breathing space for the unexpected treasures, a cafe, a sit down on the Spanish Steps, a small neighborhood church, an art gallery, all those delicious incidental discoveries that are so memorable.

This time I’m taking my smart phone with me, and hope to post a few pictures. I’ve already arranged to have the international app downloaded by my provider, and the rates didn’t seem too extravagant. I picked the least expensive plan that will suit my needs. Interestingly enough the app will not work in Israel, most likely due to security, and also Tenerife, because of technical difficulties.

It seems that everything is in place for this trip, all that is left is the packing. All the cruise excursions have been booked on line, and surprisingly many have already been sold out. A shelf in the closet is dedicated to random things that will be needed, and forgotten if not set aside.

In the next blog, I’ll share some of the descriptions of the tours I booked.

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice
A Fire Within

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2. Critiquing Other People's Works

Here are some things to consider before agreeing to look at someone else's manuscript.


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3. Switching Perpsectives

Question: I'd like to apologize in advance for the lengthy paragraph, sorry. The story I'm writing uses the perspective of multiple characters, alongside

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4. 11 facts about the modern peace movement

On this day on 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech left an indelible mark on American history and the world. His universal cry for a more humane and united world became a source of inspiration for all.His speech and the Civil Rights Movement were an important part of the broader peace movement.

The post 11 facts about the modern peace movement appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. BOBBEE BEE: Wrestling with politics: Playing the Trump Card

by Eric D.Graham

(BASN) North Carolina-Race has always been a factor in America.
We can’t deny that fact.
The election of America’s first African-American president showed us the ugliest part of some people’s psyche as well as  the hidden hatred dwelling in some of their hearts. As a result, we saw the rise of white supremacy theology, confederate flags, and the shouts of angry white men proclaiming that they “wanted to take their country back” become the norm.
With the world, seemingly, divided along racial and political lines, African-American voters continued to play plantation politics by pledging their allegiance not to the United of States of America but to the Clintons, who they were instructed to vote for regardless, who else ran-out of fear not strategy.
As a result, seemingly, out of nowhere, Donald Trump, who through his speeches and twitter feeds, became the anti-establishment boogeyman, while pretending to be a Constitutional Conservative Christian, fed off the fear of African-Americans and the anger of white men with promises of building a bigger and better wall to keep the Mexicans out, banning all Muslims, and bombing the hell out of Isis.
Matter of fact, Trump, it seemed, was speaking out of the Pat Buchanan’s playbook (Suicide of a Super Power), while mixing politics with professional wrestling as he offered insult after insult until he eliminated all of his opponents in Republican primaries.
Yes, in the age of the Kardashians, Fox News and Reality TV, Donald Trump’s “brand” of counterfeit politics was being applauded and cheered like one of Vince McMahon’s Monday night Raw wrestling matches on pay-per-view.
It was the “politics of fear” (Clinton) versus the “politics of Hate”(Trump).
So, I guess, former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura was correct when he said that politics was no different than Vince McMahon’s WWE professional wrestling. Why? Because, “they provide you with two opposites, who pretend to be adversaries in front of the public-one playing the GOOD COP, the other plays the BAD COP, depending on whether you’re sitting in the high-priced seats or the bleachers-until ultimately, they’re both working for the same things; maintaining their power, getting richer and making sure their wealthy backers keep their control of their stakes in the government.”
But, was this political riff between Trump and Hilary real or fake? Or, simply entertainment.
Everyone seemed confused. Because, no matter what came out of Trump’s mouth, it seemed, as if, he couldn’t lose.
Sadly, Trump had successfully turned the political process into a circus, a clown show, or, simply another espoide of his reality TV program.
But, despite Trump’s tough New York trash talking demeanor and Taylor-made suits,  “it’s still was the economic stupid…”
Yes. This was the real driving force behind the anger of all these white men, who were bankrupted, jobless, homeless after foreclosures, while they found themselves swimming in debt and drowning in red ink due to stagnant wages.
So, in their desperation, they clung to their Bibles and their guns, a prayed to their Charles Manson looking saviour, that this rich, slick talking businessman, whose wealth and riches were proof enough for them that he could fix  their financial problems and political woes-swiftly and quickly and fly away in his helicopter.
He was just like them.
So, they thought.
He wanted to make America Great Again or White Again-depending on who you were talking to.
Because, no matter what he said, he was still better than that “crooked Hilliary or lying Ted.”
Besides, they could tolerate a Black man being President named Barack Hussein Obama, who Trump claimed was from Kenya and the leader of Isis.
But, not a white woman in a pantsuit named Hillary Clinton.
Why? Because,, this is a “white man’s world” and a woman should know her place.
Eric D.Graham , a graduate from Winston-Salem State University, where he received a BA in Mass Communication with a concentration in Radio & Television and a minor in History with an emphasis in African-American Studies, is a sports columnist at Black Athlete Sports Network, where his thought-provoking articles and controversial cartoon Here Comes “The Hater” appear on a weekly basis.

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6. Journeying through the Peaks and the Troughs

So, we approach the end of summer, and for me things are beginning to calm down after months of precipitous highs and lows. Amongst the highs are the release of two picture books - Will's Words in the US (distributed in the UK) I've previously mentioned, but also Yozora o Miage-yo (Look Up at the Night Sky) for Fukuinkan Shoten in Japan..... more on these titles shortly.

Yozora o Miage-yo, written by Yuriko Matsumura
I've talked about these releases on Twitter and Facebook, but the reason I've not blogged about new books, or much else at all this year is due to all the other stuff, a variety of pressures, much of it (though not all) work related, as hinted in previous posts, plus latterly these have been overshadowed by the terminal illness of my father. I'll not linger on these, other than to say that things are just beginning to settle down now.

One consequence of all this has been much rail travel between Norwich and the Midlands for one reason or another, which has seen a lot of sketchbook activity. Having been shut up in my studio with deadlines for so long, just getting out and about is nourishing, whatever the circumstances. When I travel, I tend to sketch and doodle a lot more, lately I've been taking a revived look at my creative direction and position in the UK.

Enroute to the SCBWI Picturebook Retreat in Worcestershire, June.
In June, straight after completing the last of a string of challenging picture book deadlines I was off to the Worcestershire countryside for the SCBWI Picture-book Retreat. This was a fantastic weekend held at Holland House in Cropthorne, focused entirely on creating picture books, led by illustrators David Lucas and Lynne Chapman, both inspiring speakers. There's a full report of the weekend by Helen Liston in the SCBWI journal Words and Pictures. As I've been so focused on illustrating books by other writers the last few years the weekend was particularly effective for just nurturing the neglected buds of storytelling in my own right. Though I've had my own stories published in Japan, I find myself easily disheartened with story submission in the UK, so this was just a perfect weekend.

Most of the retreat attendees, mentors and leaders at Holland House, missing chief organiser Anne-Marie Perks and a few others (photo by Candy Gourlay)
While I was there my father was taken seriously ill, and I spent the following week further north in the Midlands, in Lichfield, travelling by bus to his hospital in Burton-upon-Trent every day. I know Lichfield well, having lived there a year when daughter and I first came back to the UK, but Burton was new to me. The return journey from the hospital meant long waits in in the town centre for the evening X12 express bus, so plenty of time to ponder the sights.

Burton War Memorial
On the wall of the Leopard Inn

It was the time of that intense heat wave in July, the beautiful, lush green of summer contrasted against the declining health of my dad. On a couple of days I gave up waiting for the X12 and took the local village bus, which winds it's way through the villages of Branston, Barton-under-Needwood, Yoxall, Kings Bromley, Alrewas, Fradley and Streethay. Glimpses of the narrow boats... the half timbered cottages... I thought I knew the area, but this was a revelation. A bus crawling the bumpy local back lanes of rural Staffordshire are hardly the best for sketching, but I managed to record his man and his coiffure...

On the local No.7 bus from Burton to Lichfield, 18th July
Staying on my own in Lichfield I ate out every night, so had the chance to try a large range of eateries. The solitude of thoughts and my sketchbook was comforting, as was re-discovering the town.

Diners in the Bowling Green pub, 18th July

I grew up a few miles south of Lichfield in Four Oaks, which I also got to see during this week. I left the area in 1978 and have rarely been back since, I couldn't believe how green everything had become in the intervening years. Standing one night on the platform of my old local station, I was gripped by a sudden bond with the Midlands. It felt like everything was falling into place, every experience framed within context of the circumstances of impending loss.

Waiting for the last train to Lichfield, 11pm, Butler's Lane Station

At the end of the week I had to return to Norwich due to visiting family from Japan, but soon booked another train ticket to Lichfield as my dad's condition worsened. Unfortunately I missed his passing by one day, nevertheless it seemed like I'd already shared a journey of conclusion with my father. I felt like he was with me all the time. He'll be with me in memory forever.

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7. The Crate Train

The Crate Train. Dorothy Z. Seymour. 1966. 25 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Dot and Pat played train. They played in the basement. They had some old crates. They made the train out of crates.

Premise/plot: Dot, Pat, and Baby Sam play together in the basement. Are they playing well together? Well, that's debatable. Perhaps because they are in the basement instead of upstairs, they have the freedom to argue more with each other? Each kid wants to boss the others around and dictate HOW they play train. Except for Baby Sam, I think I would get tired of Pat and Dot pretty quickly in real life.

My thoughts: This is a very, very simple book. I think the activity itself would be great fun--playing train using empty crates. Do I think reading about it is as fun as doing it? Not really.

The Crate Train is one of the books in the Early-Start Preschool Reader series. I much prefer Ann Likes Red and Ballerina Bess.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. My tweets

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9. सोशल साईटस बनाम अनसोशल ऐक्टिविटीज

सोशल साईटस बनाम अनसोशल ऐक्टिविटीज Sociale sites / unsocial activities सोशल नेट वर्किंग पर हम कितने सोशल … छेडखानी, पीछा करना, अश्लीलता, तंग करना, अपशब्द  बोलना ,अस्वच्छता , गंदगी सिर्फ असल जिंदगी मे ही नही सोशल मीडिया पर भी होता है और जिसकी वजह से सोशल अनसोशल बन जाता है. एक सहेली का birth day था सोचा […]

The post सोशल साईटस बनाम अनसोशल ऐक्टिविटीज appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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10. Scenario analysis and political science

Scenarios are often mistaken for forecasts, expert predictions, or simulations. They are none of these. Instead, scenarios depict possible future states of the world by combining theory and story-telling in rigorous and resonant ways to facilitate creative thinking. The Geneva experience is not important because the financial crisis scenario happened to be prescient. Rather, it serves to illustrate how hemmed in our thinking about the future can be.

The post Scenario analysis and political science appeared first on OUPblog.

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11. Helping flooded schools in Louisiana

The devastation brought about by the flooding in Louisiana is almost too much to contemplate. Earlier this week, I heard a school librarian interviewed on NPR, and thought about offering him some books, but then couldn't find the story when I went to the NPR website. This morning a couple of people brought a post to my attention. A middle school was asking for books to replace those they lost - and three of the titles were mine! I just boxed up 15 copies of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die and 15 copies of The Body in the Woods to send them. Sure, it's a drop in the bucket compared to an ocean of need, but I'm still happy to be doing something. If you would like to help, see: https://lumoslibriblog.wordpress.com or http://www.katemessner.com/rebuilding-school-classroom-libraries-in-louisiana/

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12. Teacher Who Helped: Believe in Your Students

Hi, folks, This is the last in my series of Teachers Who Helped.  Of course, I saved the best for last. In 1995, I moved to Kirkland, Washington. A friend of mine, Kathi Appelt, encouraged me that there was a vibrant group of writers in the Seattle area and recommended that I take a class on children's writing at the Bellevue Community College. Kathi said the teacher was considered very helpful.

I signed up for the class and met the teacher, Peggy King Anderson. (Those of my readers in the children's writing community are freaking out right now because I am dropping some names!)  Peggy is a teacher like no other I have ever known. She loves her students and her subject. She taught me that my best story is in my soul, curled up inside, and that it is destined to break out its chrysalis and take flight. But the most important lessons I learned from Peggy were all about loving the journey of writing books, loving the people who write children's books, and actually letting the writing transform me, before it transforms anyone else.

Her Master Classes around her dining room table were magical. Bowls of popcorn, slices of apples, and generous heaps of conversation, I met Jolie Stekly, Meg Lippert, Allyson Schrier, Vijaya Bodach, and so many more in these classes. One thing was clear about Peggy: she nurtured excellence. Most writers entered her classes unpublished. Few stayed that way. Peggy encouraged me as a mom, as a wife, and as a student. She understood that people are complex and all the pieces of who you are inform your stories.  She taught me that in the midst of storms of life that writing is my safe place. She said, "Writing is saving you."

I'm a person of faith in Christ. With Peggy's gentle critique, I learned that there was a divine spark in in my work, something wholly outside me. Each book is lit by God and is part of a great fire of goodness. Faith is something beautiful that I share with Peggy. She taught me about holiness of my work, that it is important, and that children were hungry for my words. It is my sacred duty to make my words wonderful, to draw close to the bone, and reveal the hidden truth of the worth of every individual.

Finally, Peggy's belief in each and every one of her students buoys me. Do you have any idea how powerful the faith of a learned teacher is? Her unending encouragement lit a fire of encouragement in me that I try to pass it on. Peggy is no longer teaching classes to devote time her family. (Always keeping those priorities right.)  She does however continue to mentor. Check out the link to website above if you are interested.

My puny words are never going to reveal the total awesomeness of Peggy. If you read my post, and know Peggy, drop by her Facebook, and let her know what a difference she has made in your life. If not, thank the teachers who believed in you.

I hope you liked this series and will back with next week with a series I call Close to the Bone.

Here is a doodle for you.

Here is a quote for your pocket.

I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well. Alexander the Great, (His teacher, Aristotle, who was taught by Plato, who was taught by Sophocles.)

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13. खुले में शौच, महिलाएं और स्वच्छता अभियान

खुले में शौच, महिलाएं और स्वच्छता अभियान स्वच्छ सर्वेक्षण 2017 हो या जन आंदोलन के रुप में चला स्वच्छता अभियान. महिलाओ को इसकी महत्ता समझ कर बढ चढ कर आगे आना ही होगा. अपनी और अपने गांव की स्वच्छता की ,कामयाबी की कहानी बनानी होगी. आज अचानक एक खबर ने फिर चौंका दिया. बदायूं बरेली […]

The post खुले में शौच, महिलाएं और स्वच्छता अभियान appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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14. Taking Wing

Sitting on a branch, the hawk
Seems regular in size.
He doesn’t reach magnificence
‘Til he takes to the skies.

Potential’s sometimes hidden
With the benefits it brings
But for man or beast it’s soon released
With the spreading of one’s wings.

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15. Against narrowness in philosophy

If you asked many people today, they would say that one of the limitations of analytic philosophy is its narrowness. Whereas in previous centuries philosophers took on projects of broad scope, today’s philosophers typically deal with smaller issues.

The post Against narrowness in philosophy appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. ‘I’m Dead Inside’ by Dan Britt

Music and animation by Dan Britt.

The post ‘I’m Dead Inside’ by Dan Britt appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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17. Fast Forward to Today: 7 Things I Want the Writers in my Classroom to Know

A year ago, I wrote a post titled, 7 Things I Want the Writers in my Classroom to Know. In this post, I wrote about what I knew about being a writer and what I thought the writers sharing our classroom should know about being a writer. Today, I offer an update after an another year of writing.

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A good example of the exquisite technique called sfumato.
John William Godward's Contemplation, (1903)

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19. dressing up

Some friends came over yesterday and, of course, we dressed up. Here's the friend the hero in There's a Shark in the Bath is named after:

(I love how it looks like a 1970's album cover.) And Pugs of the Frozen North is dedicated to these two rascals:

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20. Horse of Gold

"Horse of Gold" (watercolor on paper, 10" x 7"). In this piece, I'm playing with negatives even within the body of the horse. The image is not meant to be realistic. It's a symbol, a shape, representing the energy of a horse (an imaginary horse). The painting method includes wet-into-wet watercolor and wet on dry. The color is simplified because, as always in my work, drawing is foremost, color is secondary. This piece may be purchased on my website or by contacting me

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21. VIDEO: Pharrel Williams is Inspiring Again!

I love this surprise visit of Pharrel Williams to student at his former music school. It's especially interesting from 18:13 onward - and quite pertinent to writers too. Click the image to watch on YouTube:

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22. Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine

Can one person make a difference in this world? Can one kid? If you are twelve-year-old Red Porter, you can. It may take you a while to understand that in 1970’s Virginia all it takes is one person to make a stand. Soon others will stand with you and change can be enacted. From grieving his father’s death, to defending the girl that just might be capturing his heart, to finding himself in a

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23. The origins of political order

What importance do the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean have for us? This question has been answered in different ways over the centuries, but for a long time the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome have been attractive as a baseline and a model, be it in economic, aesthetic, cultural, military, or political terms.

The post The origins of political order appeared first on OUPblog.

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24. कडवे प्रवचन और आम आदमी

  कडवे प्रवचन और आम आदमी Kadve Pravachan / महाराज तरुण सागर जी के कडवे प्रवचन कुछ समय से महसूस हो रहा है कि सोशल मीडिया पर अगर कोई सच्ची और अच्छी बात के खिलाफ बोलता या आवाज उठाता है तो सोशल मीडिया का बडा तबका उसी के पीछे पड जाता है जोकि अच्छी बात […]

The post कडवे प्रवचन और आम आदमी appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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25. Video Sunday: And Stuff Like That

Good morning! We’ve not done a Video Sunday here on Fuse8 in a while, so let’s start with the ritualized boiling of the blood. Which is to say, can picture books be written in an hour? No. But Slate decided to go on and and prove as much. The results:

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 10.32.41 PM

More interesting, in a way, is the accompanying written piece in which real editors like Alvina Ling and Cheryl Klein critique what the folks here have come up with. Kindly. Very very kindly.


Looks like that Curious George documentary got the Kickstarter backing it was seeking!  Love the promo video they created for it.  Some killer original footage here that I’ve just never seen before.  Check it out:

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 10.43.12 PM

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.


A pretty advanced PSA, I must say.  Even if you’re unfamiliar with the song it’s parodying, I think you’ll get a kick out of it.  The book cameos are particularly keen.


My father-in-law wrote me a week or two ago to tell me that, “CBS Morning news had a lovely piece on the research librarians at the main library (5th and 42nd). I think you would enjoy the segment and probably know some of the featured librarians. Hopefully, the website has the video from this morning’s show.”

They did.  It does.  Here is the result.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 10.17.47 PM

I used to work a floor about the ASK NYPL team. There wasn’t any partition between the floors so you could hear them talk pretty clearly. It was a fascinating process.


Finally, this is sorta off-topic.  It’s certainly older.  I’m not one for the Cute Kids Saying Cute Things genre, but cute kids with Australian/New Zealand accents?  That’s different.  Particularly when it’s all part of an effort to raise money for sick kids.  And this isn’t entirely off-topic.  After all, there are some very interesting children’s books in the backgrounds here.  Stick around for the song.  It’s not the earnest tripe you fear at first.

Good cause.  Good folks.


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