Friday, June 29, 2012

New Mexico Trees

Now that spring has sprung and the summer is in full bloom, we can finally enjoy the greenery in Albuquerque until the fall when it will again begin its rapid decline. We should all take a moment to appreciate the variety of trees in Albuquerque and how they provide the shade that protects us from the hot summer sun.

Photo courtesy of J.N. Stuart

Pinon Pine
How can we talk about trees in New Mexico without mentioning the Pinon tree? The Pinon tree happens to be the state tree in New Mexico. It is most well-known for nuts that it produces that are enjoyed by wildlife and humans alike. 
Photo courtesy of azmichelle

Photo courtesy of _-Ellie-_

Rio Grande Cottonwood
The Rio Grande Cottonwood can grow to be 90 feet tall and is mostly found along the Rio Grande River. It is one of the only species of cottonwood tree that is not banned in New Mexico. Perhaps the only extensive band of Rio Grande Cottonwoods remaining today exists along the Rio Grande from Espanola south to Belen. So when you want to take a shady stroll, head down to the trails along the Rio Grande.
Photo courtesy of Theilr


Photo courtesy of Peter Guthrie

Quaking Aspen
The Quaking Aspen can be easily recognized by its white colored bark. They are usually around 40-50 feet but can be as tall as 70 feet. The leaves are rounded with a point and are a very distinctive golden color in the Fall.
Photo courtesy of Matt Lavine

The Bur Oak is a drought resistant tree common in New Mexico and can grow to be over 40 feet. The leaves are a distinctive shape and they produce the largest acorns of any other native oak tree. 

Siberian Elm

Although the Siberian Elm is an outlawed tree species in New Mexico, they spread so rapidly that you will still see them just about everywhere you go. They are leaches for water and are known to aggressively take over any nearby water supply, preventing other plants from receiving much needed water.

Photo courtesy of Matt Lavin

Photo courtesy of Marjorie Lipan

Blue Spruce

If you're stepping on crunchy cones you might be walking under a Blue Spruce. These trees can grow from 75 to 100 feet tall. They provide excellent cover for birds in the winter. The cones contain seeds that provide food for many seed-eating wildlife.

Photo courtesy of Tony Frates

The next time you are walking in the shade, take a minute to enjoy the trees around you and see if you can identify them.
Find more info about trees in New Mexico with these great books from your ABC Libraries:

Trees and Shrubs of New Mexico by Jack L. Carter

A Waterwise Guide to Trees by The Water Use and Conservation Bureau

Trees by Paul McEvoy

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Living with Books

Here at the library, book presentation is not so fun.  The shelves are pretty uniform, they are mostly full, some shelves might be a little floppy, the book spines might not be precisely aligned but the books are shelved in order.  Boom. Libraries can be pretty & interesting places, but it's generally not due to the way the books look on the shelf. 

Your personal library might have a little more character, Dominique Dupuich & Roland Beaufre suggest in their book Living with Books. "Far from being simple storage spaces, home libraries reveal the personalities and lifestyles of their owners," the book's blurb attests.  The authors have been allowed access into the homes of a variety of bibliophiles, collectors, writers, interior designers, journalists, & artists - they even have toured a couple of château - from France to Morocco, & they present pictures of the books collections in these homes along with interviews with some of the bibliophiles. Interview questions run along these lines:
  • How did your book collection come about?
  • Where are your bookcases? What are they made of?
  • How do you arrange your books?
  • Do you keep anything on your bookshelves apart from books?
  • Where & how do you like to read?
  • Are you happy with your book collection?
  • Do your bookshelves provide a clue to your personality?
  • What is your favorite public library?
The personal libraries featured include a four room library, ultra-functional shelving solutions, a cosy English library, & books, books, everywhere.

With this lovely book before us, your friends at abcreads thought it might be fun to invite you, our readers, to submit pictures of your personal libraries, & as much (or as little) information as you'd like to share about them, which we will include in a future blog post.  To get you started, here's a picture of one of our personal libraries!

"This is one of 3 1/2 bookcases currently found in my apartment, & the largest.  It's in the kitchen, & the bottom two shelves, which you can't see, are chock full of cookbooks.  Pictured are some of my favorite books, which get carted from place to place religiously, & they used to be shelved in the order I discovered them.  (Looking at it now though, I see somehow my high school & college years have gotten ahead of themselves.)  As you can see, shelf space is at a premium in my house, so the books are forced to share space with various knickknacks & tchotchkes, as well as my Hello Kitty tape player.  Books that are shelved horizontally are on my to-be-read-list."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Alternate Wars - "Destroyermen" and the "Axis of Time"

The 1980 film The Final Countdown asked an interesting science fictional question: what would happen if a modern U.S. aircraft carrier was somehow transported through time to arrive just before the attack on Pearl Harbor? Could they resist the temptation to change history?

John Birmingham's Axis of Time Trilogy takes the question even further. What would happen to the world if a multinational naval taskforce from 2021 was transported into the midst of World War II? What would happen not just to the world of that time, but to the world as we know it today?

In the trilogy Birmingham takes the time to consider not only the military effect of advanced weaponry, but also the sociological effects of advance notice of future events and discoveries. Because progress is not just technological but also cultural -- the future fleet brings with them different cultural expectations (female combat officers!), startling insights (databases of information equivalent to the Library of Congress), and even popular songs decades before their time. (A fascinating thread running through the series: what happens to patents and copyright when the people who developed the properties haven't even been born yet?)

The Axis of Time trilogy lays out the culture shock collision between a world slightly ahead of our own and a world that fewer of us remember each day, America in the 1940s.

The Axis of Time trilogy:

1. Weapons of Choice (2004)
2. Designated Targets (2005)
3. Final Impact (2007)

John Birmingham also writes the Without Warning series, about a world struggling in the wake of a devastating cataclysm that wipes out much of North America.

The Without Warning series:

1. Without Warning (2009)
2. After America (2010)
3. Angels of Vengeance (2012)

Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series goes beyond alternate history into alternate-Earth action:

"Pressed into service when World War II breaks out in the Pacific, the USS Walker - a Great-War vintage 'four-stacker' destroyer - finds itself in full retreat from pursuit by Japanese battleships. Its captain, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Patrick Reddy, knows that he and his crew are in dire straits. In desperation, he heads Walker into a squall, hoping it will give them cover - and emerges somewhere else.

Familiar landmarks appear, but the water teems with monstrous, vicious fish. And there appear to be dinosaurs grazing on the plains of Bali. Gradually Matt and his crew must accept the fact that they are in an alternate world - and they are not alone. Humans have not evolved, but two other species have. And they are at war.

With its steam power and weaponry, the Walker's very existence could alter the balance of power. And for Matt and his crew, who have the means to turn a primitive war into a genocidal Armageddon, one thing becomes clear. They must decide whose side they're on. Because whoever they choose to side with is the winner." - from the book jacket, Book 1

Full of classic gung-ho naval characters, believably realized alien species, and lots of detailed nautical adventure, the popular Destroyermen series offers readers a fascinating blend of World War II action and science fictional possibilities.

The Destroyermen series:

1. Into the Storm (2008)
2. Crusade (2008)
3. Maelstrom (2009)
4. Distant Thunders (2010)
5. Rising Tides (2011)
6. Firestorm (2011)
7. Iron Gray Sea (2012)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Birding New Mexico

One of my co-workers is an enthusiastic birder (she's one of the top 100 eBirders in New Mexico!) & she's inspired me to take on a completely new subject today: birding or birdwatching.

You think you know birding?  My dad looks for birds in his backyard & on walks, & I've always considered him a birdwatcher, but there are whole aspects of birding I'd never considered. According to Wikipedia, "In the 20th century most of the birding activity in North America was done on the east coast. The publication of Roger Tory Peterson's field guide in 1934 led to the initial increase in birding. Binoculars became more easily available after World War II, which made this easier. About 4% of North Americans were interested in birding in the 1970s and in the mid 1980s at least 11% were found to watch birds at least 20 days of the year. An estimate of 61 million birders was made in the late 1980s." There are birding activities, such as planned excursions to foreign climes to observe birds; some birders participate in a volunteer census such as the Christmas Bird Count;& there are competitive birdwatching competitions such as "Big Day" (teams have 24 hours to identify as many species as possible).  Ever heard of "twitching" or "chasing"?  Not a synonym for birder, a "twitcher" is someone who travels long distances to see a rare bird to check it off a list. 

My co-worker took up birding several years ago & has totally immersed herself in the birding world!  If you are interested in learning about birding or taking field trips with other birders, she suggests that you "like" Central New Mexico Audobon Society on Facebook for updates; the Rio Grande Nature Center has guided bird walks on Saturday & Sunday; & she recommends the UNM campus (including the duck pond) & the Sandia foothills (where the east/west roads end) as prime birding locations.

Some new & recommended reads for adult birders:

Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird by Tim Birkhead

Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song by Les Beletsky

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley

Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John Marzluff and Tony Angell

What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young

Zen Birding by David M. White & Susan M. Guyette

Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding by Scott Weidensaul

New Mexico Bird Finding Guide by John Parmeter, Bruce Neville, & Doug Emkalns

Birding Hotspots of Central New Mexico by Judy Liddell & Barbara Hussey

The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik (the book was also adapted into a movie)

Know a child interested in birding or want to interest a child in birding?  Try these titles!

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns

Olivia's Birds: Saving the Gulf by Olivia Bouler

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

What's That Bird?: Getting to Know the Birds Around You, Coast-to-Coast by Joseph Choiniere & Claire Mowbray Goldin

Backyard Bird Watching for Kids: How to Attract, Feed, and Provide Homes for Birds by George H. Harrison

Online resources for birders:

Central NM Audobon Society

NM Ornithological Society

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

American Birding Association

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mysteries Set in Egypt

Accounts of exotic foreign locales have always stirred
the blood of "armchair adventurers". And the mysterious
sandy reaches and ancient culture of Egypt provide rich fuel for works to delight armchair detectives
and lovers of historical mysteries.

New Mexico author Lauren Haney starts us off way back in 1464 BCE with the Lieutenant Bak series.  Bak is a Commander of Police in the town of Buhen during the reign of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, and like any good policeman in any time has to deal not only with mayhem and murder but also the bureacracy of his superiors.

The Lieutenant Bak series:

2. A Face Turned Backward (1999)
3. A Vile Justice (1999)
4. A Curse of Silence (2000)
5. A Place of Darkness (2001)
6. A Cruel Deceit (2002)
7. Flesh of the God (2003)
8. A Path of Shadows (2003)

P.C. Doherty's popular Amerotke series visits a slightly earlier period, during the reign of Tuthmosis II (1493-1479 BCE). Or rather the stories commence just at the end of that reign as the pharaoh's widow, the new Queen of Egypt, must try to stabilize her control of the region with the help of her advisor and chief judge Lord Amerotke. The series is rich in historical detail.

The Amerotke series:

1. The Mask of Ra (1998)
2. The Horus Killings (1999)
3. The Anubis Slayings (2000)
4. The Slayers of Seth (2001)
5. The Assassins of Isis (2004)
6. The Poisoner of Ptah (2007)
7. The Spies of Sobeck (2008)

Lynda S. Robinson takes the time of King Tutankhamun (1341-1323 BCE) as the setting for her Lord Meren series. Meren is Tut's chief investigator and travels the kingdom in pursuit of justice.

The Lord Meren series:
2. Murder At the God's Gate (1995)
3. Murder At the Feast of Rejoicing (1996)
4. Eater of Souls (1997)
5. Drinker of Blood (1998)
6. Slayer of Gods (2001)

Nick Drake also uses the fabled time of Tut as the backdrop for his mystery trilogy involving Rai Rahotep, a young chief investigator in Thebes.

The Rai Rahotep trilogy:

1. Nefertiti (2006)
2. Tutankhamun: The Book of Shadows (2008)
3. Egypt: The Book of Chaos (2011)

Brad Geagley sets two mysteries in ancient Babylon and Egypt, around 1150 BCE, about Semerket, Egypt's Clerk of Investigations:

The Semerket series:

Leap to the Edwardian period in Cairo and the Mamur Zapt series by Michael Pearce. Pearce, who grew up in the region, brings us Captain Owen of the Cairo CID, assigned to navigate the political intrigues that are as constant and murky as the flow of the Nile.

And digging up the evidence from all of these periods is Elizabeth Peters' justifiably famous archaeologist Amelia Peabody. ("Elizabeth Peters" is the pen name of Egyptologist Barbara Mertz, who also writes under the name Barbara Michaels.)

The Amelia Peabody series:

2. The Curse of the Pharaohs (1981)
3. The Mummy Case (1985)
4. Lion in the Valley (1986)
5. The Deeds of the Disturber (1988)
6. The Last Camel Died at Noon (1991)
7. The Snake, The Crocodile and the Dog (1992)
8. The Hippopotamus Pool (1996)
9. Seeing a Large Cat (1997)
10. The Ape Who Guards The Balance (1998)
11. The Falcon at the Portal (1999)
12. Thunder in the Sky (2000)
13. Lord of the Silent (2001)
14. The Golden One (2002)
15. Children of the Storm (2003)
16. Guardian of the Horizon (2003)
17. The Serpent on the Crown (2005)
18. Tomb of the Golden Bird (2006)
19. A River in the Sky (2010)

Explore the world of Egypt mysteries!

Other mysteries set in Egypt:

Catherine Aird - Little Knell
Conrad Allen - Murder on the Marmora
Agatha Christie - Death Comes as the End, Death on the Nile
K.K. Beck - Murder in a Mummy Case
Matt Bondurant - The Third Translation
Marjorie Eccles - The Shape of Sand
Joan Hess - Mummy Dearest, a Claire Malloy mystery
Jane Jakeman - The Egyptian Coffin
Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen - Storm Cycle
John Maddox Roberts - The Temple of the Muses
Carol Thurston - The Eye of Horus
Robyn Young - Brethren

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Toast to Santa Fe Opera 2012!

For some New Mexico residents, the beginning of summer means opera season.  The Santa Fe Opera opens its season on June 29, and continues over July and August, with operas performed several times a week.  The hills of Santa Fe make a perfect backdrop and the real storms often seen around the edges of the stage enhance dramatic performances.  The setting is one of the things that make SFO one of the most sought after opera venues in the world.  Performers, singers, musicians, choreographers, directors, set designers, apprentices, and patrons come from all over the world to be part of the magic of SFO.
Even if you’re not a fan of opera, being a part of the Santa Fe Opera scene just once is a pretty amazing experience.  The opera parking lot in the hours before a performance is a sight to behold.  Tailgate parties are very popular at SFO.  Some tailgaters pull out all stops bringing hibachi grills, crystal stemware, fine china, beautiful floral centerpieces and elaborate meals.  The rest of us make do with homemade sandwiches, eaten off paper plates, sitting in the bed of a truck, but enjoy the atmosphere nonetheless.  While dressing up is not a requirement at the opera it is always fun to see what New Mexicans will pull out of their closets to wear to an opera.  Sometimes it’s jeans and a t-shirt, sometimes an evening gown.  Sometimes it’s bright pink Converse worn with a tux, sometimes it’s a diamond tiara and a fur coat.  People-watching at the Santa Fe Opera is never boring. 
You also might be interested in taking a backstage tour at the theater to see how these performances are put together and get a close up look at the sets and costumes.  In the summer these tours are offered daily and don’t require reservations.  Adults have to pay a five dollar fee, but kids up to age 17 can join in for free.  Click here for more details.  The Prelude Talks, which are free to ticket holders, before every opera performance are a good way to get in the opera mood, with information and history about the operas being staged. 

If tickets are sold out, which sometimes happens months before a performance begins, take a look at for suggestions, as well as information about tailgating and the opera shuttle service to and from Albuquerque.  There are lots of ways to ease yourself into opera without actually sitting through a performance.  Even when the official opera season is over Santa Fe Opera offers concerts, lectures, and other performances, shown both at the opera site just outside Santa Fe and at performance spaces around the state.  SFO’s Community Concerts, which feature singers from the Apprentice Program, are even free, although still require reservations.  Sign up to receive emails from SFO to be up to date on the very latest and always make sure you make your reservations or buy your tickets well in advance as events are booked quickly! 

Santa Fe Opera also tries to get kids interested in opera at an early age by selling tickets for Family Nights or Youth Nights. These tickets are usually for dress rehearsal performances and are available to families with children, to give kids a chance to see an opera performance.  Be sure to call well in advance.  Like all other opera performances these tickets sell out fast.

Even from home you can appreciate opera.  Check out the library for CDs, DVDs and books about opera, including some wonderfully illustrated ones for children.  Page One Bookstore will be hosting a book discussion with Desiree Mays, author of Opera Unveiled, a book that talks about the operas being performed in Santa Fe this year, on June 25. 

Opera CDs:

The Miracle of the Voice

Romantic Arias

Great Tenors of the Century

Opera DVDs:

La Traviata


The Tales of Hoffmann

Opera books:

Opera by Robert Cannon

Fantastic Opera: The Great Operas by John Martinez

The Santa Fe Opera: An American Pioneer by Phillip Huscher

Opera books for kids:

The Random House Book of Opera Stories retold by Adele Geras
Aida as told by Leontyne Price, based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Carmen: An Urban Adaptation of the Opera by Walter Dean Myers

Some of the unique fun of living in New Mexico is discovering the opera.  Come see for yourself one of the reasons why our Land of Enchantment becomes world-famous every summer.  Here's a toast to the opera!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Featured New Mexico Author: Walter Satterthwait

Author and world traveler Walter Satterthwait settled in New Mexico for a time, the result of which was the mystery series featuring Santa Fe private investigator Joshua Croft who relies on "his unique blend of low-key humor, hard-won street smarts, and a familiarity with barroom etiquette". Later joined by investigator Rita Mondragon, Croft navigates the unique environment of northern New Mexico, dealing with movie stars, Navajos, New Age healers, and commune farmers.

The Joshua Croft series:

1. Wall of Glass (1988)
2. At Ease With the Dead (1990)
3. A Flower in the Desert (1992)
4. The Hanged Man (1993)
5. Accustomed to the Dark (1996)
The Death Card (1994)

Satterthwait also gives readers the historical mystery series about Pinkerton agent Phil Beaumont, who seems to always end up interacting with governess Jane Turner. Set in the 1920s, the books in the series include such real historical characters as Harry Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and even Adolf Hitler! The first book is a play on the traditional "murder at the manor", the second book explores 1920s Paris, and the third takes Beaumont and Turner to pre-WWII Berlin. Partly told through Jane's letters to a friend, the books offer a fine experience for the mystery / history buff.

1. Escapade (1995)
2. Masquerade (1998)
3. Cavalcade (2005)

Satterthwait set his pen to two famous historical characters, with intriguing results.

Wilde West (1991) is a fictionalized account of Oscar Wilde's real 1882 lecture tour of the American Southwest, turning this famous event into a murder mystery! Lots of Wilde wit and appearances by Old West characters such as Doc Holliday make this a fun, clever read.

Folk wisdom has it that Lizzie Borden "gave her mother forty whacks, and when she saw what she had done, her father forty-one". But in Miss Lizzie (1989) Satterthwait reminds us that Borden was actually acquitted of the crime. Which doesn't stop her from being a prime suspect when a similar murder occurs thirty years later. An excellent period mystery.

And in 2007 Satterthwait revisited a famous case from the 1920s in Dead Horse:

From Booklist:

"The latest from one of crime fiction's most reliable publishers of edgy noir goes in a different, but delightfully entertaining, direction: a historical mystery drawing on the life of hard-boiled pulp author Raoul Whitfield, who, in the 1920s, was the most highly paid mystery writer in the country. In 1933, Whitfield married socialite Emily Davies Vanderbilt Thayer, and the pair lived the money-guzzling jazz-age life in a sumptuous home near Las Vegas, New Mexico. After a tempestuous separation in 1935, Emily died, apparently a suicide, though many thought she was murdered. Whitfield, who quit writing after the marriage, never escaped the cloud of suspicion surrounding his wife's death. Genre veteran Satterthwait offers his version of what might have happened, jumping back and forth in time to tell the story of the couple's storybook romance and its tragic denouement. The alternate history is completely credible, and the portrayal of a genre star brought down by the high life is addictively readable (especially for its links to Dashiell Hammett, who may have based Nick in The Thin Man on Whitfield). Great fun, particularly for pulp fans." - Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Walter Satterthwait -- your connection for historical mystery!

Other mystery series by New Mexico authors:

Rudolfo Anaya - Sonny Baca series
Christine Barber - Lucy Newroe series
Steve Brewer - Bubba Mabry series, Drew Gavin series
Stephen R. Donaldson - Mick Axbrewder series
James D. Doss - Charlie Moon series
Tony Hillerman - Jim Chee series, Joe Leaphorn series, Jim Chee & Joe Leaphorn series
Darynda Jones - Charley Davidson series
Robert Kresge -  Warbonnet series
Sarah Lovett - Dr. Sylvia Strange series
Michael McGarrity - Kevin Kerney series
J. Michael Orenduff - Pot Thief / Hubie Schuze series
John Maddox Roberts - SPQR series
Connie Shelton - Charlie Parker series
Susan Slater - Ben Pecos series
Virginia Swift - Mustang Sally series
Pari Noskin Taichert - Sasha Solomon series
Aimee and David Thurlo - Ella Clah series, Lee Nez series,  Sister Agatha series
Judith Van Gieson - Claire Reynier series, Neil Hamel series
Robert Westbrook - Howard Moon Deer series