Did You Know? (Cell Phone Edition)

That nomophobia is a new phobia that describes the feeling of severe anxiety that results from being without your cell phone.

scaredstiffI found this information on page 112 in the book Scared Stiff by Sara Latta. Nomo is short for no mobile. Young adults between 18 and 24 are the most likely to suffer from this disorder. There is a check list to help you see if this is a problem for you.

In the book Talk Nerdy to Me by Joe Fullman, it tells us that 2,425 cell phones are lost in a day in the U.K. by accidentally flushing them down the toilet, with  another 160 being chewed by dogs. Imagine all the nomophobia that causes!

isitjustmeWith so many people having and using cell phones, cell phone etiquette is becoming more and more of an issue. Whoopi Goldberg talks about this in her book Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out There? She comments on people using their phones and having loud conversations “as if they were in their living rooms” at the theater, restaurants, and in their cars. Like many of us, she doesn’t want to hear your conversation… no matter where you are!

jerkcellphoneTexting is now another part of this problem. How many times have you seen people texting and driving or been at a restaurant and seen a family at another table and all of them have their phones out?  Hmmm… is that quality time or what?!!  The Jerk with the Cell Phone by Barbara Pacher and Susan Magee is a survival guide that is even more useful now then when it was first published in 2004. The authors have some good advice on dealing with cell phone ‘jerks’ out in public.

givesuptextingKatie Friedman Gives Up Texting (and Lives to Tell About It) by Tommy Greenwald is a story about Katie and 10 of her friends who give up texting and Facebook for a week to win backstage passes to a concert. The kids are faced with incredible challenges, such as using a phone book to make an actual phone call and writing a letter to communicate. It’s actually a real eye opener to see how much we really rely on our phones.

Zapped by Anita Louise Gittleman discusses some health problems caused by electricity and wireless signals. The problems stem from ‘dirty electricity’ and can cause heart palpitations, tinnitus, chronic fatigue, dizziness, diabetes, attention deficit disorders and a host of other symptoms. You can have an electrical quality expert take measurements to determine the severity of the problem, and there are filters that can be installed to help.

worldsscariestprisonsAnother ‘cell’ is a prison cell. World’s Scariest Prisons by Emma Carlson Berne shows us some of the oldest prisons in the world. You can read about the ‘squirrel cage jail,’ aka Pottawattamie County Jail in Iowa, which was a 3 story rotating jail that is now open for tours. Or read about the Carandiru Station in São Paulo, Brazil that was the largest prison of its time in South America. It was supposed to hold 4,000 prisoners but the population grew to more than 8,000. Life in Prison by Stanley “Tookie” Williams should be read by America’s youth as a scared straight type of story. He tells exactly what it is like to be in prison. His story was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

cellsAnd finally are the ‘cells’ that make up living creatures. Cells by Darlene R Stille is an informative book that shows all kinds of cells (skin, muscle, stem, plant etc.) and explains what they are and do. Just think, without these cells we wouldn’t be here to talk on our ‘cells!’

A History of Things

Historical nonfiction comes in all shapes and sizes. There is the grand sweeping kind that tries to tell the story of a whole era or a monumental event. Then there are the social histories that see history from the perspective of a particular class or group of people. Another popular type is the historical biography that illustrates the life of an important individual. I’m an indiscriminate lover of all these varieties but I must admit I hold a special place in my heart for a historical work that zeros in on a specific object and tells its story through time. In addition to having a pleasingly quirky and often obsessive focus, these books also provide the service of telling history from a different perspective. At their best, they can help us to rethink assumptions about what is truly important and give us the rare gift of learning something new.  Here at the library, we have many of these histories of things. Listed below are a few of the standouts.

Concrete Planet by Robert Courland
concreteplanetWe take it for granted every day. The house you live in, the sidewalk you walk on, the countless bits of infrastructure that make civilization possible: they all rely on concrete. But where did it come from? Courland guides the reader through the fascinating tale of a substance that was created long ago, but only recently rediscovered after centuries of being lost. In addition to many interesting facts, the author also reveals a few disturbing ones. Chief among them is the fact that the concrete of today is not as strong as that of our ancestors despite many modern manufacturers’ claims. It turns out that those Roman ‘ruins’ have a much longer shelf life than a modern office building.

Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht by Bryan Burkhart and David Hunt
airstreamThis book is many things. It is a biography of Wally Byam the inventor of the Airstream. It is a cultural history of the Airstream, documenting its effect on the idea of recreation in America. Interestingly, it is also a history of the 1959 Cape Town to Cairo Airstream caravan. All of these parts are skillfully told with a dazzling array of archival images that make this book quite beautiful. If you want to learn more about the trend of mobile living in America definitely take a look at Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America by Roger White for a wider angle view of this phenomenon.

cellphoneThe Cellphone: The History and Technology of the Gadget That Changed the World by Guy Klemens
It is now a cliché to have a film demonstrate to the audience that it is ‘from the 80s’ by having a character whip out a cellphone the size of a loaf of bread. But this book goes way beyond that image to tell the history of the cellphone, which actually dates back to the 1940s. While a fun book, this title is definitely heavy on the technology of the cellphone with detailed discussions of concepts such as bandwidth and analog vs. digital so don’t feel guilty about skimming a chapter or two.

Digital Retrodigitalretro by Gordon Laing
This book tells the story of the formative years of the personal computer, 1975-1988, through the machines themselves. Each model is lovingly documented, photographed and provided with a detailed backstory. This was a frenetic period for the personal computer, with big corporations going head to head with eccentric professors, amateur inventors and kids working out of their garages. Definitely check this book out and visit the thrilling days of yesteryear when we were bowled over by the fact that the Commodore 64 had 64KB of RAM and BASIC was considered the programming language of the future.

theyugoThe Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic
You tend to think of history as a record of the ‘winners’ but as this book points out, epic failure can be instructive as well. Hailing from the former Yugoslavia, and riding a very brief wave of popularity in the mid1980s primarily due to a price tag under $4000, the Yugo turned out to be one of the most flawed cars ever built. The tale of how it even got to the commercial market in the first place, with the help of an overeager U.S. State Department and a Detroit auto industry reluctant to build cheap subcompact cars, is fascinating and instructive stuff.

jetpackdreamsJetpack Dreams: One Man’s Up and Down (but Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was by Mac Montandon
This is the story of one man’s quest to answer the burning, to some, question: Why can’t we all have our own working Jetpack? Popular culture, think Buck Rogers or Boba Fett, has been promising us one for a long time now. It turns out that prototypes were actually developed in the 1960s but funding quickly dried up so the Jetpack is now the province of a dedicated band of aficionados. The author travels the country to seek out these dedicated few to see if any of us will be able to commute to work via Jetpack in our lifetimes.

So if you are planning a foray into historical nonfiction, why not avoid the big picture and focus on the small stuff? The Devil is in the details after all.