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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Get Safe Investment Information from the NJ Bureau of Securties

Several weeks ago we offered a program on Safe Investing provided by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities which is part of the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Office of the Attorney General.  The presenter left some information for us to share with the public, which you can find in a binder labeled “Investment Information” at the Information Desk, but I wanted to take a minute to summarize what the binder contains and what other information is available from the Bureau.   

The first and foremost purpose of the presentation was to alert the public that this office exists and to let you know what services they perform to assist the residents of New Jersey to make wise and safe investments.  In their literature, they say, “This is the government agency that regulates the sale of securities to and from the state and regulates those selling securities.  The Bureau encourages investors to be cautious when investing since securities fraud takes new victims every day and the scams change as often as the headlines on the front page of the news.” 
One of the fliers in the binder gives an overview of the Bureau and what information is available in their website at  There are some very useful investor education booklets that are free to print or download; a few examples of this information will be included in the binder for in-library use.  These materials can help the consumer make safe and wise investments by revealing common methods employed by successful investors.  These are some of the available titles:  Five Keys to Investing Success, The Basics for Investing in Stocks, A Primer for Investing in Bonds, Mutual Finds: Maybe All You’ll Ever Need, Where to Invest Your College Money and Maximize Your Retirement Investments.  They also have a booklet titled Getting Help With Your Investments that provides all the information you need to find and work with reputable brokers and financial advisers and a booklet that the speaker left for the public, The Essential Guide to Safe Investing. 
Also on their website is an interactive online game appropriate for adults and kids called “Avoiding Investor Scams.”   See how well you do at trying not to be ripped off by shady advisers by playing this entertaining and educational game. 
The Bureau also provides free background information about those selling you securities.  You can contact the Bureau at their toll-free number 1-866-I-Invest (1-866-446-8378) or email your questions to  They caution consumers from getting pressured into investing or even giving out personal information about you and your current investments by agreeing to attend a Free Lunch Seminar.  “According to AARP studies, over 6 million seniors over the age of 55 have attended Free Lunch Seminars over the past three years.  And according to a study by the Investor Protection Trust, about 7.3 million Americans over the age of 65 have been victim to financial fraud – that breaks down to one out of five being victimized.”  They remind you that investment scams come in many varieties and if something looks too good to be true, it probably is! 
There is one final tip sheet (also included in the binder) that the Bureau has provided called “The Top Ten Investment Traps” that lists investments that you should probably avoid to insure that you don’t get scammed.  Stop at the Information Desk next time you are at the library and review the useful information in the Binder labeled Investment Information.  It could keep you from losing your savings by making poor choices or dealing with unscrupulous brokers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You Should Be a Fan of Audiobooks

If you have a long commute like I do, or if you are planning to take a long family car trip, you should take advantage of either the books-on-CD (or cassette) that we have to check out or go to the ListenNJ link on our webpage ( to download additional titles.  I have an hour drive each way to and from work and in order to avoid the inane conversation and the thousands of commercials on the radio, I have become a major fan of audiobooks.  But being an avid audiobook user, you will find that you have a few other factors to consider when selecting your reading material. 

Not only do I consider the author and subject of a book, but I also pay attention to the reader (or readers) of the story and the inclusion of special effects.  I have over time come to recognize certain readers as brilliant and others as being less than adequate.  And now that there are downloadable recordings of books, this becomes more important than ever. 

There are about a dozen major publishers of audiobooks – Audible, Books-on-Tape, Brilliance Audio, Hachette Audio, HarperCollins, HighBridge, Listening Library, Penguin, Random House, Recorded Books, Simon and Schuster and Spoken Word.  There are, of course, many more than these that publish audiobooks but these are the ones that we generally carry since they are available from our approved vendor.  Most of the major publishers use theatrically trained actors, but I have recently heard that there are recordings of books in the public domain available that are read by a computer generated voice!  I can’t imagine my telephone voicemail reading a book to me…ugh.  I find the publishers that use actors as readers, of course, the most enjoyable, but not always.  For instance, there is an actor that reads some mysteries that adopts a voice like the narrator of a “film noir” type B-movie that can be extremely irritating after just a few chapters. 

I also have found that a book read by the author can be the kiss of death.  Even though it is the author’s own words, they are often incapable of adding the inflections and modulations that are critical to an enjoyable “read.”  The readers that I most admire are George Guidall, who reads for Recorded Books (see and Lisette Lecat, who reads the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith.  George Guidall holds the record for having read the most unabridged books – over 900.  Because he has this kind of clout, he gets to select just the books that he wants to read.  Did you know that you can search in the catalog for your favorite reader by putting their name in as the author?  In the case of George Guidall, this will bring up a list of books that sure to be enjoyable.  But watch the number of disks – he just finished reading Don Quixote which is in two parts and is overall 35 discs that runs for over 40 hours.  Even George Guidall’s skillful reading couldn’t coax me to complete that book.  And it is wonderful to have someone like Lisette Lecat, with her exotic accent, pronounce all the Setswana words and place names in the Precious Ramotswe series.  The reader of the HighBridge recording of The Secret Life of Bees, Jenna Lamia, is also a remarkable reader who is able to cover the entire range of accents, ages and nationalities of the characters and even sing the songs that are written in the story. 

I don’t care for the recordings that use special effects, particularly when I am listening in my car.  Popular added noises are gun shots and sirens, which can be very disconcerting when you are driving.   I am also not a big fan of books where there are too many readers.  I prefer the readers who are able to use a separate and distinct voice for each of the characters, like Jim Dale does masterfully in all of the Harry Potter books. 

As to downloading audiobooks from ListenNJ for use in your car, your car stereo will have to be able to play what is stored on your iPod or other MP3 player.  I don’t believe it is possible to burn a CD from your computer for use in your car, unless your car stereo is able to play MP3 files.   I have seen people driving with their earbuds in, but that is not only dangerous, it is illegal - you need to be able to hear a siren or a horn.   The newer cars are often equipped with either iPod docks or plug-ins to attach your mobile devices, but there are other adaptors you can purchase that will allow you to hear your   downloaded music and books without having to actually replace your sound system.  The simplest adaptor is one that plugs into a cassette player, if your car still has a cassette player!  There is a great tutorial on the ListenNJ site as to how to download the proper format for your device.  You just need your library card number and PIN and identify yourself as a patron of the “Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium (LMxAC).”  

I hope that you give audiobooks a try.  Yes, a lot of people think that this what their grandparents listen to, but in a recent review of audiobooks in Publisher’s Weekly, Parul Sehgal pointed out, “we turned to audiobooks for escapism and edification—and we got more than we bargained for. The industry took the business of entertaining us very seriously and readers turned in unforgettable performances.”  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to set achievable New Year's resolutions

It is that time of year again when people look at what they accomplished this past year and try to set some goals to see if they can do things “better” in the New Year. Are you one of those people? I heard recently that only about 10% of us still do this! Maybe that is because, as part of our super achieving society, we try to set too many goals. Or maybe the goals we set are unrealistic.

Here are a few tips, to help you set some goals at the New Year or at any time of the year, that I learned from Christi Hegstad, Ph.D., from MAP Professional Development, Inc., a life coach who has a website at I assume most people have heard about setting “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. [Doran, G. T. (1981). "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives." Management Review, Volume 70, Issue 11(AMA FORUM), pp. 35-36.] This concept has been around since this article was written on 1981 and many people have quoted it, refined it, built on it and some have even rejected it. The five steps in setting S.M.A.R.T. goals are: 1) make your goals Specific, 2) make your goals Measurable, 3) make them Attainable or realistic, 4) make them Relevant and 5) set a Time frame in which to achieve them.

This is a lot to do when thinking about New Year’s resolutions but some thought along these lines is necessary if you are to achieve them and therefore, enjoy the success that such a task can give you. To make sure that you have good, achievable goals, you should start early. Don’t just pick a few vague ideas out of the back of your mind while partying on New Year’s Eve. Start now and make them realistic. First, you should prioritize. Look at where you are in life to determine what is important to you right now. Dr. Hegstad says to think about “what positive change would make the biggest difference in your life.”

Don’t set too many goals. Be specific about what you want to accomplish and make a time frame part of the specification of the goal. Make the goal measurable, attainable and relevant. For example, don’t just say you want to loose weight, say something like you will lose a pound a week until you have lost “x- number” of pounds. A goal phrased in this way is specific, measurable, realistically possible, high on your priority list (to make it relevant) and set in a time frame. Remember, you can’t improve all areas of your life at once. Pick the areas that are most important to you at this time in your life and know that you will get to the other aspects in time.

Once you have set two or three of these specific goals, make sure that you track your progress. Don’t make an easy goal unattainable by complicating the tracking progress. You don’t need to record specifics (unless you want to). Just marking in your calendar that you did what you set out to do in the time frame you set to do it in (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) is enough. But make sure that you are able to get an overall view of your progress so that you can make adjustments if necessary or bask in your success. Make it positive – put a smiley sticker in your calendar when the goal is met and see how many of those little reinforcements start to add up.

The final thing you can do to be successful is to get support for your efforts, either from a professional or from a trusted friend. “Make your goals public,” Dr. Hegstad advises, “so that someone else can helping you be successful.”

It has been said that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year for many because that is the day they realize that they have already broken their resolutions perhaps because they were made in haste without proper planning or thought, or they were too vague or perhaps they were too unrealistic from the outset. If you do your homework, you won’t set yourself up for failure; you will make the third Monday and every Monday thereafter a celebration, knowing that you are making a positive difference in your life!

Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

'Help Now' from Brainfuse

Get help with  homework, create an online study group, learn a Microsoft Office software program, create a resume or study for the citizenship test.
The library's new "Help Now' service from Brainfuse is being offered on our webpage thanks to the generousity of the Library Foundation. The Foundation was started in 1996 by a group of individuals whose mission was the preservation and advancement of the Public Library in South Brunswick.

Here is what Brainfuse can offer you :
Homework Help: Enter the online classroom and receive live, online homework help from a Brainfuse tutor.

Skills-Building: The skills building service helps you master an academic concept through expert tutoring and state-aligned online lessons, HelpNow Skills Building has been designed for a variety of age groups and academic needs.

24/7 Help Center: Submit a homework question and a tutor will provide you with a response (usually within 24 hours).

Foreign Language Lab: The Foreign Language Center provides expert homework assistance and support for students who are learning a foreign language. Expert tutoring is currently offered for Spanish, and a host of helpful online resources for learning other languages is forthcoming.

Writing Lab: HelpNow offers two types of writing assistance:

Live Writing Assistance: Connect with an online tutor for expert writing assistance with our live help feature. Live help is particularly helpful during the initial stages of the writing process when you are working on the organizational and thematic features of your paper.

Intensive Writing Lab: For a more thorough analysis, simply select "Writing Lab" from the launch menu and submit your writing via our secure messaging feature. Within approximately 24 hours of submitting your paper, you will receive a detailed analysis of your paper in your message center inbox. Our writing experts are trained to focus their analysis on voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and organization.


Test Center: Visit the online assessment library to take practice standardized tests (SAT, ACT, GED and more) and practice subject specific tests, like math and science. Get results instantly and, if you choose, share your results with one of our tutors for a targeted skills building session.

Flashbulb -- Mobile friendly flashcards: Enjoy 24/7 access to an extensive library of online flashcard sets in hundreds of subjects. You can also create your own flashcards and multiple choice quizzes for efficient self-study on both computers and mobile devices.

What services are available for adult learners?

Our Adult Learning Center provides comprehensive academic support from trained adult education specialists in areas such as US Citizenship testing, resume and cover letter assistance, and core skills building including Microsoft Office help.

Find Brainfuse and many other valuable online resources on the library's website today!

For questions contact :  Mary Donne Head of Information Services

Friday, December 2, 2011

Something's Fishy Around Here

So my husband goes fishing whenever he can, and - sad but true, and the cause for much kidding - for the past two years he has not caught even a single keeper, much to my chagrin as a lover of fresh seafood.

But lo and behold, the other day:  success!  Stripers, nice ones, caught off the coast in our friend's boat.  Was the secret that he took our youngest son along? Not sure.
But even better, he cooked the fillets up, using Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook.  Delicious, low in fat, high in protein, and fresher than you can even imagine.  Now I just need to figure out how to get to Paris sometime...

Roasted Striped Bass adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 or 3 strips bacon, chopped up (2 oz.)
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1 28 oz. can diced plum tomatoes (I like Muir Glen brand, Fire Roasted or not)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. regular salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1  2 to 3 lb.striped bass fillet (or other thin white fish fillet)
1 lb. shelled and deveined large shrimp (I always keep a bag from Costco in the freezer - just thaw under cold running water for 10 minutes, and drain well)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the bacon and onion.  Saute about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but not browned.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.  Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and wine, and simmer 5 more minutes.

Put the fish in a 13 x 9 inch glass pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Strew the shrimp on top.  Pour the sauce over all and bake about 20 to 30 minutes, until the shrimp is done and the fish flakes easily.

I have cooked a number of recipes from this book of Ina Garten's.  The Croque Monsieur is great - a super grilled cheese and ham sandwich with bechamel sauce on top.  We had it cut up small for is really rich and fabulous - not for everyday consumption, but totally worth a splurge.

Get this book and others at our Library today - remember, if the book's not here, you can always put it on hold and pick it up when it comes in.

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian
Dreaming of being barefoot in Paris