Category Archives: Humor

Go see The Martian (Movie Review)

It was a given that Ms. Barrows and I were going to go see The Martian, Ridley Scott’s multi-million dollar blockbuster film that was released this past weekend.

See, Mr. Gette and myself have been captivated by Andy Weir’s novel since we read it over a year ago during the 2014 March break (as made evident by our texts during that short but exciting period in our reading lives). We proselytized for this book for months. We put it on display. We recommended it to everyone who so much as looked at the library. We did not shut up about it at the lunch table. We were insufferable.

When Bookriot announced The Martian was opted and being made into a film, we were ecstatic. When we saw the teaser trailer and found out Matt Damon would be playing the titular character, we ran victory laps on the lower level of the library, high-fived everyone in the vicinity, and threw books in the air while Queen’s We Are The Champions played in the background. It was, to say the least, a celebratory moment in our reading lives.

But we balked – we were hesitant. We should have been the ones who were first in line for the midnight showing. But we weren’t. We were…afraid. Book-to-movie adaptations are almost never successful. And when they are successful, book fans must respect the film enough to accept it as a different entity. But then the reviews started coming in (93% on Rotten Tomatoes!). By Saturday, we were both in the theater. And thus, here is our review.


Ahem. But really, SO GOOD.


JG: They got the tone just right. One of the best parts of the book is how funny it is, and i was worried that would be lost in the pursuit of super-serious-suspenseful-space…movie. And it does have its serious moments, but the jokes are still there. I haven’t laughed this hard in a theater in a long time. And oh man, is it a beautiful movie. I give it five Martian Potatoes.

JB: To rip off the Wired review, the movie is the book with better editing. Those who read Weir’s book will remember the paragraphs upon paragraphs of science-y, engineer-y text. With the help of visuals and, well, better editing, those descriptions are pared down. When Matt Damon looks into the vlog and does describe science, it is always funny and fascinating. I didn’t expect the film to have moving and/or serious and/or touching moments. But it did. And they were, to be repetitive, SO GOOD. If you can, take the time/money to see The Martian in a 3D IMAX theater. It felt like you were on Mars with Mark Watney, harvesting martian potatoes and kicking science butt. I give it 5 stars (harhar, space joke).

If you need any more encouraging, watch this:

it's over

-Signing off, Steely-eyed rocket man (James Gette and Jenny Barrows)

Introducing Calarco Library’s New Tablet Program!

As you may know, Calarco Library has a successful Kindle program. We have about 30 Kindles available to lend to students, faculty, and staff, and a library of over 500 ebooks (and growing!).

While some might be content to rest on their laurels, we’ve decided to expand our collection of alternative ways to read.

That’s why we’re adding tablets.

Since this is a pilot program, we currently only have two tablets available to lend out. If they prove to be popular, we will try to acquire more.

Each tablet has been engineered to have a specific focus. Tablet 1 is angled more towards social sciences, while Tablet 2 is more for recreational reading.


Photos of our new tablets are in the slide show below:

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You may notice we took some liberties (such as installing translation software) to address accessibility issues.

A note for prospective borrowers: It is standard policy to ask borrowers who lose or damage a book to pay for the replacement copy. Unfortunately, both of our tablets are out of print, and while copies are available from Christie’s and the Amazon Marketplace, the lowest asking price for a tablet of similar quality is $4,114. Just something to keep in mind.


Please stop by the library to check out (both figuratively and literally) our new tablets! We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

-Signing off, Mr. Gette (Happy April, everyone!)

Texts From Librarians: A Review Preview

Ms. Barrows and I both read some good books over break, and will have full reviews soon, but we thought we’d give you a bit of a preview of what’s to come.

And so I present: Mr. Gette and Ms. Barrow’s Spring Break Texting History.


Saturday, March 15, 4:54 pm

JG: I am 424 pages into Night Film.

JB: That good, huh?

JG: We’ll see how it wraps up.


Saturday, March 15, 6:52 pm

JG: Finished Night Film. It was good, but I’m kind of disappointed.

JB: That’s too bad! I”m going to start The Death of Bees tomorrow.


Monday, March 17, 1:53 pm

JG: The Martian is AMAZING!


Monday, March 17, 3:03 pm

JB: Death of Bees is immensely readable and so messed up.

JG: I got that impression. I am going to finish The Martian so I can pass it on to you tomorrow. Also because I can’t put it down.

JG: Fangirl has competition.


Wednesday, March 19, 7:15

JG: Just finished Help for the Haunted. It’s a whole bunch of mysteries tangled together, with a decent dash of spook. Didn’t love the ending, but I think that’s partly due to personal prejudice.

JB: What’s the personal prejudice?

[ED: Rest of conversation redacted due to spoilers]


Thursday, March 20, 9:45 am


JG: Despite or because of how messed up it is?

JB: Both. In some ways, it fits together a little too nicely at the end.

JB: But there are no holes in the plot structure, and I”m borderline impressed the author pulled it off.

JB: I think she also did a good job of swapping between narratives.

JG: Yeah, the two points of view (and the resulting differences in the story) were something I really liked in the excerpt I read.

JG: Martian next? I am trying to decide between Lexicon and Lives of Tao.

JB: Yes next.


Thursday, March 20, 11:25 am




JB: The vampire line is my favorite so far.

JG: Love this book.


Thursday, March 20, 12:53 pm


JB: Just laughed very loudly in quiet car on the train.


Saturday, March 22, 11:29 am





JG: The local library had a long hold list, and I need my sister to read them. Also I have poor impulse control.

JB: LOL. I finished The Martian and gave it to my sister.

JG: Well, I was jealous because her library had Ancillary Justice, so I decided to just buy my own copy. They didn’t have it. But it put the others within reach…


Thursday, March 27, 1:04 pm

JG: I do not care about aliens.

JB: And?

JG: I think that’s why Lives of Tao isn’t doing it for me.

JB: Drop it, then.


And there you have it! Action packed excitement from beginning to end.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this preview of our coming attractions.


-Signing off, Mr. Gette (who feels really bad about not finishing The Lives of Tao…)





Library Tips and Tricks: Printing

There is nothing worse than a printer mishap when your class started 2 minutes ago and you need that paper NOW. So here’s a guide to common printer problems, and how to solve them.

Sometimes when printing from Blackboard, your document may come out looking like this:

You didn't need to read that, did you?

The Heart of Darkness

Worry not! There is no madcap censor blacking out entire pages.  Blackboard and Chrome don’t always like to play nicely together.

Ken is Chrome

Via chipsprites on Tumblr

If your printouts are coming out looking like something out of 1984, just switch browsers. Firefox or IE will be more than happy to help.

Even more frustrating is when you can’t print at all! Sometimes when you hit Print, your only choice is something called “Send to One Note.”


You see, our computers can be a little forgetful. Kind of like…

Are you crazy? I'm not messing with Disney.

Photo credit: Jonathan Beeston via Flikr

…yeah. I can add a printer, and next period: POOF! It is gone again.

Tiny magician, give me my printers back!

Photo credit: Eva Peris via Flickr.

And as everyone knows, the only way to counter a magician is with a wiza- I mean, librarian. So call one of us over. Of course, if you’re tech savvy/impatient/MS. SPERBER IS GOING TO KILL ME AUUUGH you can always fix it yourself.

Just click the Start button, and type in \\print. Then hit Enter.

Thank you, Karl, for teaching me this.

Then scroll down the list to Library_Upper_Copier.

print 3

Double click, wait for it to install, and you’re all set!

Hopefully this will help you solve some of your printing woes, and ease your mind while waiting for that research paper to print.

After that, though, you’re on your own.

-Signing off, Mr. Gette (who estimates he spends approximately 23.97% of his time dealing with printers.)

My Summer Nightstand Pile of Books in Review

For better, or for worse, I will share what I read this summer with the Hopkins community. Due to my faulty memory, I must rely on my Goodreads “read” list and other trusty clues…such as my overdue notice from Mr. Gette.

Assuming I marked books “read” in Goodreads as I actually completed them, this is also more or less the order in which I completed my summer reading from mid-June through August. There is rational behind [nearly] every reading choice. Even the terrible one, which is the first.

*deep, yogi breathing*

Here we go:

1. Inferno, by Dan Brown

Yes I jumped at the opportunity to read the new Dan Brown book. Yes it was terrible. Yes it was a waste of my time. I read it on my very first beach trip of the summer (which is only a kind-of excuse). He should have quit when he was ahead-ish . Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself – the Calarco Library has a copy!.

2. The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood

For those of you who love dystopia (*raises hand*), the roles of women in dystopian worlds (*waves hand in circles*), trilogies (*jumps up and down in chair*), overlapping plots (*waves both hands furiously in an air traffic controller fashion*), and mad scientists and the impact of their genius/craziness (*abandons all decorum and shouts ME!*), you MUST read Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. Between kindles and books, the Calarco Library has a copy/version of all three installments – Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam (coming soon). If you want to read more about Atwood, the MaddAddam trilogy, and her other works, check out the articles/posts that were published by on Margaret Atwood Day.

3. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

I am a member of what I can confidently dub The World’s Best Book Club. We skipped a meeting mid-summer and instead read two books for our meeting in September. As you read further down the list, you will probably quickly identify the second assigned book. McLain’s historical fiction novel reveals the 1920’s Paris ex-pat/literary/art scene through the eyes of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. McLain was staunchly loyal to archival materials and correspondence between Ernest and Hadley, as well as their communications with their friends and associates. I love this book because the historical accuracy is rewarding – I spent an entire layover in 1920’s Paris instead of Chicago-O’Hare. Hadley’s voice is sometimes lost and overwhelmed amidst her husband’s – which is sometimes frustrating, but also revealing of how Hadley may have felt while married to Ernest. A worthwhile check-out from Calarco for anyone who is fascinated by Paris, the 1920’s, and/or Hemingway.

4. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

Premise – genius. Plot – hilarious. Characters – unbelievable but likeable. Messages RE: social issues – commendable. Writing and overall grade – eh. Reading Beauty Queens made me realize why some books that are widely considered Young Adult (YA) Fiction are major flops for me. Overwriting. Bray’s multi-narrative story would be great if she would just stop writing so many damn internal monologues for the characters. I found myself skimming several “pages” (kindle version) of the story because, “I got the point, Libba. I understand what that character feels, thinks, wants for breakfast, etc.” I think the writing was playful and interesting, but Bray could take it down a couple notches and stop assuming that teenagers (or anyone) cannot possibly understand her characters unless she explains every last thing about them.

5. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

I still have no idea if I like this book – honestly. I cared about the story, about Wolitzer’s incredible interwoven exploration of why some achieve greatness and some reside in mediocracy. And then she of course asks you, “Wait, who is an interesting? What and who is mediocre?” I also appreciated the realistic portrayal of lifelong friendships – things change and people definitely do not stay the same, and often the “nevers” happen and the “always” fades into the background. Did I care for the characters? Ehhh….but worth the hype and definitely enjoyable for anyone who enjoys reading about the late 1970s/80s and New York City.

6. Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

Of course I read this book in high school for American Lit – as did anyone who went to public high school in the late 1990’s or early 2000s (and maybe they still do). For those who don’t know the story of Chris McCandless or the writing of Jon Krakauer, read it. For those who have read Wild before, read it again. For those who think McCandless was an arrogant, naive kid, read this article published by The New Yorker a few days ago. This was the best book I read this summer, and in fact all year. Sometimes it pays to re-read.

7. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth

Bray, take a leaf out of Danforth’s book – this is YA fiction that is compelling without being over-written. Danforth takes the common YA “orphan” storyline and combines it with the less-common (but thankfully increasingly prevalent) “wait, am I gay?” character. What makes this more than a writing formula is Cameron Post herself. In the hands of a less-talented author, Cameron could have come to be nothing more than a character representative of the audience Danforth is trying to reach. But Danforth’s Cameron is real. This is only enhanced by Danforth’s choice to place the story in the midwest and creating circumstances that allow the reader to view the Ex-Gay movement through the believable lens of Cameron’s perspective.

8. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson

Again and again I make the mistake (or awesome choice?) of reading Bill Bryson in public, where I receive cautionary looks and complaints regarding my roaring laughter. For anyone who has read Bryson, you won’t be surprised to learn that he is not an ace hiker. You will be regaled with tales of his misadventures along the Appalachian trail (with his sidekick/buddy Katz) and simultaneously steeped in the history of American wildlife and national parks. A great choice if you are experimenting with your first summer of hiking (*bows head and shyly raises hand*).

9. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

The second installment of my summer book club series and also a “check” on the literary classics list. Overall assessment – I could have skipped the entire book excepting the story of Hemingway’s cross-country automobile trip with Fitzgerald. A drunk, a drunk who doesn’t think he’s a drunk, hypochondria, a broken convertible top that just possibly can’t be fixed (Zelda), bad weather, bath thermometers – if it was made into a 21st century comedy film starring Zach Galifianakis, it would get a favorable review.

10. Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami (or The Beatles?)

Hi, have you met Haruki Murakami? Because you should – you really should. Whether you are introduced through Kafka on Shore, 1Q84, or this very book, you should get around to meeting him. Narrator Toru Watanabe is in love with a girl who does not love him, and he must struggle between living in the very real world of 1960s Tokyo and lingering in the shadows of Naoko’s unstable unreality. A+ for scoffing the protest movements as shallow and hypocritical, and an A++ for prose, characters, musical references, and deciding to become a writer during a baseball game in the 1980’s, Haruki Murakami.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (whose reading habits will be in the toilet until Breaking Bad ends)

Free Books Explained


No really, they are free

The Scenario

Several weeks ago, a cart of free books appeared on the lower level of the Calarco library. Frequenters of the space would peruse the selection, grab some choice items, and continue on with their days. As time passed, the word spread and the newbies began to appear – sometimes solo, often in pairs. They would whisper furtively to each other (or to themselves, which was weird), sneaking hurried glances at the nearest librarian as they discreetly slipped books into backpacks and tote bags. Just as the Hopkins community breathed a sigh of relief – only the worst of the worst books were left  – we clever librarians cycled out the rejects and stocked the cart with a fresh batch of alluring volumes.

The anticipation grew, and we observed as students, faculty and staff once again put themselves through the stress and anxiety of trying to “steal” library books.

And we laughed. We chuckled. We snickered to each other. We pointed and guffawed, “Look at them! They think they are doing something wrong – how endearing!”

The Explanation

Where there is a school, there are books. Lots and lots of books. While our love for books is boundless, the shelves are not. The enclosed space of the Calarco Library has limits, and so do the enclosed walls of a Library Department meeting. Last year, we would sigh as we sifted through books 12 copies of The Complete Collection of Mark Twain or The Future of Soviet-U.S. Relations ©1972. We would walk through the library and find each other buried under books that had fallen off the overburdened shelves. As I extracted Mrs. Dubois from a pile of Microsoft Word for Dummies ©1994 and Recent Advances in Genetics ©1998, she furiously declared that she could not even find a copy of Hogwarts: A History, by Bathilda Bagshot.

In that moment, two things became clear:

  1. Mrs. Dubois needed to see a doctor, and
  2. The library desperately needed to undergo spring cleaning

It was decreed during a Library Department meeting that the weeding of books, CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes (yea…), etc. would henceforth commence ASAP, ending only when the dust settled and victor had been declared.

There can only be one victor. And it will be us – the librarians.

Treat yourself to the spoils of a hard-fought war and visit the library to explore the latest free books. We will be offering even more to the Hopkins community before the school year is over, so keep an eye out for more “FREE BOOKS!” announcements.

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Good luck you, young soldiers. We wish you courage and bravery as you build your own home libraries, and we offer only one piece of advice to those who must commence their own book purge.

Be bold. Be merciless. And take no prisoners.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who amid dust, debris, and loose pages, waves fists in victory as she runs through the liberated shelves)

Fines for Food

food and books

photo credit: Silvia Sala via photopin cc

KG: Welcome back from Spring Break! One of the nice things about having two weeks off is that Spring has suddenly arrived on the Hill. Yes, spring. The trees are budding, the birds are singing, the flowers are starting to bloom, and a young librarian’s fancy turns to fines.

Yes, fines. Those unfortunate side effects of overdue books (return your books)

JB: Woah, let’s not jump right into being all judge-y and blame-y. That’s not how we convince people, Mr. Gette. Do over.

KG: <smiles, grabs pitchfork>

JB: <smiles, holds puppy and lamb>

…wait, why are we on a farm?

…annndddd do over.

KG: Welcome back from Spring Break!

JB: We welcome you with pitchforks, puppies, lambs and farm stuff!

KG: …I thought we were starting over.

JB: Right! Ok. We welcome you with the Canned Food Drive!

(if this was an English paper, we would already have a C- for avoiding the point for this long)

KG: I know what you’re thinking. “Canned Food Drive? That was in the fall. Now we’re in spring! Don’t you ever leave the library?”

JB: Yes, proverbial audience, we do. We leave to eat. Eating happens year round. Even when the leaves grow instead of fall.


KG: …right. Anyway, because eating is an every-season activity, Mrs. Prendergast had the grand idea of donating to the Connecticut Food Bank all library fines collected this month.

JB: So instead of groaning at us humble librarians when we mutter phrases like “overdue books” and “library fines,” rejoice! Cheer and skip merrily down the hill with arms linked a-la The Wizard of Oz (NOT the Great and Powerful…they were not as joyous).

KG: Yeah, he doesn’t look like the skipping type.

JB: And when you get to Oz…or the library, happily donate your fines to the Connecticut Food Bank. And forget the metaphor. We are basically wizards.

KG: Yer a wizard, Barrows.

JB: Don’t joke about that, Mr. Gette. I’ve been waiting for that letter since 1998.

KG: My apologies. But now I know what I should have done for April Fools’ Day.

JB: The devastation of discovering the falseness in such a potential joke would have warranted a convalescence…somewhere.

KG: So please, return your books and pay your fines (if you owe any). Calarco Library is proud to be putting them towards such a good cause (even though it will eat into our hovercraft fund).

JB: We support eating, and believe that everyone has a right to it…seriously, it’s a human right. Also, we can scrape by for the hovercraft fund and Hogwarts tuition.

KG: (You know they’re not going to pay in Galleons, right?)

Happy reading and happy eating, everyone!*

*comma to prevent cannibalism