, Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur

November 13, 2012

PAPL Newsnotes: Computer training to be offered at library

PORT ARTHUR — Computer Training Classes. Port Arthur Public Library has received a grant, through our consortium, the Houston Area Library Automated Network (HALAN) to provide computer training for area residents.

The U.S. Department of Commerce administers the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP), by which the library will offer to provide different levels of training, from basic to advanced, for area  residents. We also anticipate providing  certain goal-oriented segments, such as online job application training.

Classes are to be small, with no more than 6 or 7 participants in a class, and will be headed by a professional trainer, Ms. Jo Lynn Leal.  The small size will lend itself to significant one-on-one interaction, both between student and trainer and among students.

Participants who own laptop computers may bring them, although none are required. The library will supply computers. There is no charge for the training program.

We intend to begin classes in early December, and to focus on Thursdays. If you or someone you know is interested in computer classes, call Pat Sangwin at the library: 409 985 8838 ext. 2260. Leave a message if she’s not there.

• • •

New Books.  Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters. Gordon M. Shepard.  Gordon Shepard is a professor of Neurobiology at Yale Medical School whose specialty is the olfactory. The book bridges the gap between the “purely technical” and the lay comprehensible. In short, he explains how flavor is a function of smell, not taste.

I found particularly interesting the chapter on “Flavor and Emotions.”  Flavor (e.g. chocolate) conveys “reward value” when it passes by the olfactory on exhalation (flavor, by the way, is sensed on exhalation, not inhalation?try it).  If the flavor is desired, 6 particular areas of the brain are activated. If the desire has been satiated, 3 regions, only one of which overlaps, are activated.      There’s also a relation between smell and hearing.

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power.  Rachel Maddow.

Rachel Maddow, she of MSNBC renown, is a very good writer  who also has an Oxford Ph.D in politics. She says: “The reason the founders chafed at the idea of an American standing army was… to disincline toward war as a general matter.” In short, the founders saw, historically, that war decimates those nations that wage it. The last just war, a war that had to be fought, was World War II. Now we are in an age, totally contrary to the original conception, of “super-empowering the presidency with total war-making power.”

In a real sense, this book is heir to Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Address of January 17, 1961, which ought to be read in its entirety by all Americans (like the Gettysburg Address, it’s not long). There he said “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether  sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm and Other Adventures in Parenting. Ling Hopgood. This straightforward and sometimes droll book discusses child-raising in odd corners of the world: “How Polynesians Play Without Parents,” “How Buenos Aires Children Go To Bed Late,” “How Kenyans Live Without Strollers,” “How Mayan Villagers Put Their Kids to Work.” The effect is to make you realize that the kinds of rules one culture employs respecting its children may be (here, are) quite different from those of another?with no ill effects!

Finally, As Texas Goes…How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda. Collins. Collins concludes that America is best explained, politically, as divided between those who see themselves as heir to wide open spaces, and those who feel that they are urban. Texas, she points out, is 80% urban, but despite that fact, most Texans think they are the wide open spaces heirs.

Hence the disdain for “federal regulations,” environmentalism, gun control, and the like.

Then she goes into the political hypocrisy: “Abstinence works,” says Rick Perry. Texas has the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. Another example: “Tort reform,” which it was claimed would save consumers $3 billion a year in premiums. Actual result, according to Collins: Texas has among the highest premiums in the nation for family health insurance plans.

This is not a grim book, and there are numbers of Texas heroes in it. It also clothes serious issues in humor. But there are some unsightly truths there.

Rick Whitaker is assistant director of the Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 Ninth Ave. Contact him at 409-985-8838 x2241.

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