Stanford Picked for Google Fiber Beta Test

I suppose most everyone around here will remember Greensboro’s efforts last March to lure Google into choosing us for a high-speed broadband network.

Well, last week Google announced that

Stanford is the first area Google has picked to get a high-speed broadband network. . . .  The network, which could deliver speeds up to 1 gigabit a second, will be built for residents of Stanford’s Residential Subdivision, an area adjacent to the California institution where members of the university faculty and staff live.  Construction is expected to begin in early 2011, Google said.

But, Greensboro is not out of the running yet.   Read this:

Google stressed that this is not, however, the first town to receive such a network through the selection process it announced earlier this year for Google Fiber, which prompted all sorts of silly publicity stunts from mayors and townspeople trying to get Google to build them a fast network.  That process still continues, with Google due to make the first selections by the end of this year.

Here’s another news item on the same topic from the Fresno Bee.

Anyway, keep those fingers crossed for Greensboro!

Election Day, November 2, 2010

Next Tuesday, November 2, is Election Day.  Local, state, and national government offices will be on the ballot.  Some of   the many positions to be voted on in Guilford County are: 1) The United States Senate seat for North Carolina  currently held by Senator Richard Burr, who is running for re-election; 2) Seats for United States House Districts, 6, 12, and 13; 3) Seats for North Carolina State Senate Districts 26, 27, 28, and 33; 4) Seats for North Carolina State House Districts 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, and 62; and 5) Seats for Guilford County Commissioner Districts 1, 2, 3, 6, and 9.  Polls around the county will open at 6:30 a. m. and close at 7:30 p. m. 

If you are not already registered to vote, you will not be able to vote on November 2.

If you would like to see a sample ballot before you go to your polling place, you can do so online at the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.  Once there, click on My Election Information.  Then, put in your first name, last name, date of birth, and county.  Your voter information will come up.  Included will be precinct number, polling place, and a link to your sample ballot.

Across the country, local, state, and nationwide campaigns are moving toward their conclusions next Tuesday.  Be sure to go out and vote so that your voice will be heard!

Auction of Rare Honus Wagner Baseball Card

Like a lot of youngsters growing up, I bought plenty of baseball and other sports cards — especially during a stretch of about three years from 1970-72 when I simply couldn’t get enough of them.  I still have all those cards too, though I pretty much lost interest in them as a teenager.

But baseball card collectors of all stripes probably will be interested in this story:  a rare ca. 1910 Honus Wagner card is currently being auctioned online.

Wagner (1874-1955) was an all-time great shortstop who won eight batting titles during a career that spanned between 1897 and 1917. 

Fewer than sixty cards depicting him from the T206 American Tobacco Company series are believed to have survived.  Among sports card collectors, the Honus Wagner baseball card has an almost legendary status — you might call it “the black tulip of baseball cards.”    

A few years ago a Wagner card sold for $2.8 million.  But the card currently up for auction at Heritage Auction Galleries is in poor condition, and it’s believed it won’t fetch more than $200,000 — still a nifty little sum for a baseball card!  The auction ends November 4th, by the way.  You can examine the card and read the description of it here.      

If you’re interested in learning more about the Honus Wagner baseball card, here’s a juvenile title kids out there might like.   Greensboro Public Library also owns an adult book on the Honus Wagner card, titled The Card:  Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card by Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson. 

And if you think you might have a valuable baseball card, you can check its value in our copy of Krause Publications’ Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

Still More Neandertal Stuff

Just a quick post here on another news item which addresses the likelihood of mating between Neandertals and early modern humans.

According to research co-authored by Neandertal expert Erik Trinkaus, remains discovered in South China indicate the spread of modern humans across Eurasia as early as 100,000 years ago — much earlier than previously thought.  These remains also share some physical traits with Neandertals, suggesting interbreeding.

Trinkaus, by the way, is co-author of an excellent survey of Neandertal research titled The Neandertals:  Changing the Image of Mankind, and Greensboro Public Library just happens to own a copy. 

Check out our previous posts on Neandertals here, here, and here.

N.C. Unemployment Falls

A little good news on the labor front today, as North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.6%, the News and Record reported today.  The rate was 9.7% last month.

If you’re looking for work, please remember that Greensboro Public Library would like to help.  We’ve got a full-time employment counselor named Kim Hailey, as well as some great resources on our Job and Career Information page.

Recent ebook Webinar: More Thoughts on Libraries and ebooks

Ever since Ken Auletta’s New Yorker article on ebooks last spring, it seems like discussions on the topic among librarians have stepped up a notch or two.  In fact, things are moving so quickly that an online summit (or “webinar”) called Libraries:  The Tipping Point was held late last month in an attempt to hash out just how the ebooks phenomenon will ultimately affect libraries. 

What seems to be intended by the term “tipping point” is something like this:  though print will obviously remain the dominant medium for some years to come, we’re getting close to a peak for print with a simultaneous shift to electronic publishing.        

I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on the webinar.  Participants were exposed to lots of ideas, and what follows are just a few things which I found particularly useful or insightful.  

First off, I suppose a lot of librarians wonder if there are any measures of the real impact of ebooks upon libraries?  The answer is that there isn’t much effect yet, but a far deeper and more profound one is believed to be just around the corner. 

According to Ian Singer, a VP for Media Source, Inc., who welcomed us to the webinar, library circulation of ebooks is up — increased 36% last year — and it’s anticipated that ebooks circulation will go up even more dramatically in the next few years — perhaps 150-200%.      

Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and futurist who has been a pioneer in optical character recognition, delivered the keynote address.  Placing considerable emphasis upon the notion that information technology grows exponentially — much like the argument Alvin Toffler made about social change in his much-read Future Shock many years ago — he argues that the technological feasibility of ebooks (for such things as interactivity and processing power) is today far greater than it was just two or three years ago.

Kurzweil has helped develop Blio, a new, free of charge e-reader application introduced earlier this year, which can be used with numerous platforms.  Working with Charlotte-based Baker and Taylor, a major distributer of books, video and music products to libraries, there are plans to release a version of Blio for libraries next year with a million titles, many of which are public domain, though some will be newer books that users will purchase.  Kurzweil believes that business models which rely upon copyright must be preserved, but he foresees “an era of more flexibility” in which the “copyright wars” will be resolved.

Of the speakers who followed Kurzweil, I found the viewpoint of Michigan librarian Eli Neiburger most intriguing, though a little scary for library professionals.  Going forward, he foresees a “bleak scenario” for libraries owing to the fact that they are so heavily invested in an increasingly outmoded technology:  the codex. 

Neiburger’s take is that libraries are literally “book temples” with values and physical facilities built around the codex.  Consequently, he sees the value of libraries as “rooted in the worth of a local copy.”  But, in the electronic world, he says, there’s no longer a difference between transmission and duplication.  For Neiburger, the local copy concept therefore no longer makes sense, because waiting for a digital object doesn’t make sense.

The position Neiburger has on the past and future of libraries reminds me of Tim Spalding’s (creator of LibraryThing) critique on how ebooks call into question the traditional role of libraries as “aggregators” of information.  That is, libraries have found their raison d’etre by 1) bringing information together in one convenient physical location, and 2) making possible multiple uses for a single use price.

Both Neiburger and Spalding would no doubt agree that ebooks, because they’re in cyberspace, break through the traditional physical barriers of brick and mortar libraries.  Ebooks in fact challenge the necessity of a whole host of things librarians have seemingly always done:  checking-in, checking-out, reshelving, processing and replacing materials, etc., etc.

The difference of course is that while Neiburger may be convinced that transmission and duplication are the same, for publishers and authors the control of copyright and/or digital rights is obviously essential to their survival.  Spaldings’ view here is more to the point:  the real crux of the issue is how libraries will survive in an ebook environment where they are not likely to receive multiple uses for a single use price.                        

Users of Greensboro Public Library’s ebooks available through Overdrive’s North Carolina Digital Library are no doubt familiar with the problem:  when you want a popular title, you usually have to make a “hold request.”  In essence, a print model for holds is artificially superimposed upon the ebook model.  Waiting may not make sense for transmission of a digital object, but there really seems to be little alternative if authors and publishers are going to make money.                      

There was lots more at the webinar, but I think the idea most important for libraries is that we’re going to have to find and maintain a niche in a rapidly evolving information eco-system — if we don’t, we won’t survive. 

Libraries of the future may need to focus more upon resources which are unique to them and their communities, such as special collections of imprints and manuscripts pertaining to local history and genealogy.  Similarly, we also need to be on watch for new opportunities in information services; for example, urban libraries could develop resource centers focused upon the “New Urbanism” trend toward downtown redevelopment and “walkability” — i.e., the idea that everything you need (work, groceries, entertainment, etc.) be within easy walking distance.  And areas where libraries excel, such as children’s programming, will have to be pushed even harder.

Anyway, a follow-up webinar on ebooks is planned for April of next year.

Early Voting for the November 2 Election

Early voting for the November 2 election begins October 14 and ends October 30.  Locations, days, and times can be found on the Guilford County Board of Elections website.  If you vote early, you can  register to vote and vote at the same time.  To register to vote, you will need to provide proof of Guilford County residence from a list of approved forms of identification found on that same website.  Just click on Registering to Vote During Early Voting.

New Discoveries at Sagalassos

Back in the late 1980s there was a wonderful archaeology series on TV’s Arts and Entertainment Network called Footsteps.

In each episode, presenter David Drew followed in the footsteps of a bold traveler or great archaeologist of the past, such as Alfred P. Maudslay, who investigated the Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala in the 1880s, and Johann-Ludwig Burckhardt, the Swiss traveler who disguised himself as an Arab and is credited with the rediscovery in 1812 of Jordan’s famous Petra, the “rose red city half as old as time.”

But my favorite episode of Footsteps retraced the journeys of the Englishman Sir Charles Fellows, the first European in hundreds of years to set foot in the Xanthus Valley of Ancient Lycia (located in present-day Southwestern Turkey) when he first went there in 1838.

I was immediately struck by the beautiful physical settings of the cities of the mysterious Lycians, nestled as they were amongst mountains and gorges, and especially by their tombs or sepulchres, which are distinctive for their house-like shapes — some perched on rock pedestals high in the air, others cut into seemingly inaccessible cliffs.

On a forthcoming trip to the British Museum, I look forward to seeing two of these extraordinary sepulchral monuments:  the tomb of Payava as well as the Nereid Monument — both of which were brought by Fellows and his “marble hunters” back to England.

Anyway, as Drew and his Footsteps crew traveled through Turkey en route to Lycia, and just as Fellows did during his journey in 1838, they passed through Sagalassos, an ancient Roman city once of considerable importance, but which had been devastated by repeated earthquakes and eventually abandoned.   Located high in the Western Toros range of mountains, the shattered remains of the city’s temples and buildings seemed to litter the site everywhere, which at the time of filming was covered by a dusting of snow.

When this episode of Footsteps was made, Sagalassos was still largely unexcavated, but over the last twenty years or so the Belgian Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project, directed by Professor Marc Waelkens from the University of Leuven, has managed to unearth and reconstruct a great deal of the city.      

Recent finds have included the remains of enormous statues of the Roman emperors Hadrian (76-138) and Marcus Aurelius (121-180), and the excavation team has also recently completed a reconstruction of the Antonine Nymphaeum (i.e., a fountain).

You can read about these and other discoveries at Sagalassos here, here, and here.

If you’re like me and have a general interest in archaeology, you may be curious about Greensboro Public Library’s latest acquisitions on this subject, which include:  Finders Keepers:  A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession by Craig Childs; Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist by Donald P. Ryan; The Letter and the Scroll:  What Archaeology Tells Us About the Bible by Robin Currie and Stephen Hyslop; Knossos & the Prophets of Modernism by Cathy Gere; To Wake the Dead:  A Renaissance Merchant and the Birth of Archaeology by Marina Belozerskaya; Cahokia:  Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi by Timothy R. Pauketat; and In the Valley of the Kings:  Howard Carter and the Mystery of King Tutankhamun’s Tomb by Daniel Meyerson.

Things to Do for Halloween 2010 in Greensboro

Well, once again it’s ghosts and goblins time, and lots of folks will be looking for something special to do in and around Greensboro — especially for the kids.

Here are some local Halloween activities I found during a quick web search:  

This Greensboro Parks & Recreation page tells about all the stuff associated with Goulash!

Greensboro Public Library has some programs for the Halloween season too.  Here are just a few of them:

  • Ghosts & Ghouls at Glenwood Branch (297-5000), Tues., Oct. 26 from 6:45-7:30 PM
  • Monster Mash Halloween Party, Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch (373-2923), Wed., Oct. 27 at 3:30 PM
  • Halloween Fun!  Halloween crafts, games & candy!  Vance Chavis Branch (373-5838), Oct. 27 from 4-5:30 PM
  • Halloween Special:  Are There Any Ghosts Here?  Stories and Crafts for Halloween!  Benjamin Branch (373-7540), Thurs., Oct. 28 from 7-8 PM  

There must be plenty of local Halloween events I have missed.  If you know of any others which should be added to the list, please comment.

Possible Basis for the Story of Lydia, the Jamestown Ghost?

Since Halloween is approaching, I thought it would be a good time to share something I found a few years ago which just might be the basis for Guilford County’s best-known ghost story, that of “Lydia.”

I well remember reading Nancy Robert’s book An Illustrated Guide to Ghosts & Mysterious Occurrences in the Old North State when I was a little boy, and being fascinated by the story of the “lovely apparition” of a girl dressed in white who occasionally appears to passers-by near the old Highway 70 underpass at Jamestown.

According to Roberts, the story goes back to 1923 when poor Lydia was killed in an automobile accident near that underpass on her way home from a dance in Raleigh.  In later years, travelers on the highway on occasion reported being flagged down at that spot by a young girl looking for a ride home.  But by the time they arrived at her destination, she had vanished.  That, at least, is the story.

There’s always been a lot of interest in the Lydia legend, and a few years ago, since I had an approximate date from the Roberts book, I decided to scan the microfilm of some of our old newspapers to see if I could find anything to support it.

And what I did find was an article on the death of a young man from Asheboro named Harvey Yow, who was killed on his way back from a dance in Carthage in the early morning hours of 29 December 1923.  Two of Yow’s companions were also injured — one, named Robert Bunch, had a serious skull fracture. 

Here I quote from the Greensboro Daily News of 2 January 1924, which described both his funeral and the accident:

The occasion was one of peculiar sadness because the young man met his death in an automobile accident.  He, with two other Asheboro boys, was returning from Carthage where he had visited friends while his companions attended a dance.  In attempting to pass a car Harvey Yow lost control of his car and it went in the ditch.  In attempting to pull it back into the road the car swerved to the other ditch, turning over four times and instantly killing young Yow.    

Yow and the other young men seem to have been of considerable prominence in Asheboro, and they also had Guilford County connections — Yow and Bunch, for example, having both attended Oak Ridge Military Academy.

Of course, the story of Yow’s death only matches a few of the particulars of the Lydia story.  However, local legends often have some basis in fact only to become garbled over time, and if we can resist taking the Lydia story too literally and at the same time keep an open mind, I think the Yow tragedy can at least be offered as a plausible explanation.   

I know I’m not the first person to try to find some evidence for the Lydia story.  For example, one of my colleagues told me that folks have searched Greensboro Public Library’s microfilm for her before.

And a so-called ghost hunter has claimed to have turned up a death certificate in recent years.  According to this website on the Lydia story, Guilford County records include a death certificate for a Lydia Jane M___, who died on 31 December 1923 (or possibly the 23rd) owing to “fatal injuries from a motoring accident.”  My own (available in the library only) search does indeed turn up a Lydia Jane McCarthy who passed away in Guilford on 31 December 1923, but she was 76 and succumbed to heart disease at her residence in the Scott Apartments in Greensboro. 

Anyway, if you’re interested in the story of Lydia and want to conduct your own search, come on down to Greensboro Public Library.  In addition to Nancy Roberts’ book, we’ve got local newspapers on microfilm as well as a vertical file on local ghost stories — all of which can aid your research.