Friday, October 17, 2014

A Brief History of Xbox

              Microsoft made a foray into the gaming world in 2001 with its first system, Xbox.  Even more than the PlayStation, the Xbox was touted as an adult gaming machine. Most of the system’s notable titles were rated Mature and even the box’s bulky shape, rough patterns, and stark green and black color contrast contributed to its edgy persona. Released just three days before Nintendo’s Gamecube, Microsoft aggressively assailed Nintendo as a “kiddie” console and looked to cut in to Sony’s reputation as the mature alternative.
                The Xbox was released alongside a (at the time) little known title called Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo is a first-person shooter (FPS) in which the player interacts with the world through the point of view of the character and the game play revolves around fast paced, tense shootouts. There had been first-person shooters before, notably Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64, but Halo would go on to be a revolution in mainstream gaming and an entertainment juggernaut.
                Xbox was one of the first game consoles to feature online capabilities and it indisputably did more to advance this trend than anyone else with its Xbox Live service. Xbox Live is a subscription service through which users can play any of the system’s games online as well as download new content for those games after their initial release. It also operates as a virtual hub with access to nearly limitless digital media including movies, music, and games. In subsequent years, Xbox Live has evolved into a a sort of home media mothership with possible connectivity to other media services like Netflix and YouTube. Streaming services, movie rentals, apps, social networking, and even exclusive, independently produced games are just part of what Xbox Live offers today. Back in 2002, Xbox Live’s ability for players to easily and smoothly play competitive games such as first person shooters and sports titles, with convenient features like voice chat and friend lists, alone produced a new standard for online gaming.
                The Xbox would outperform the Gamecube but never come close to reaching the Playstation 2 in total sales. Still, the system was considered a success and powerfully established Microsoft as a force in the video game market.. With a successful first system and the company’s bottomless coffers behind it, the Xbox brand was just getting started.
                The Xbox 360 released in 2005 and cemented Microsoft as a top dog in the industry. While its success was partially eclipsed by Nintendo’s phenomenon the Wii, the 360 would claim the mature gaming crown from Sony’s PlayStation 3 and, largely through the evolution of Xbox Live, present the brand as the leader in gaming trends and culture. The Xbox 360 was received especially well in North America and with titles like Halo 3, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, and Gears of War, coupled with the system’s advanced online capability, the Box endeared itself to “hardcore” and competitive gamers like no other system.
                Even while the Xbox 360 is still alive and well (and will be until at least 2016 according to Microsoft), its newer, more powerful predecessor, the Xbox One, is now the flagship system for Microsoft. The Xbox One, in addition to standard enhancements such as improving graphical capabilities, expands upon the 360’s focus on the Live service and the motion sensing technology known as Kinect. The Xbox One took a nasty beating in its nearly concurrent release against its most direct competition the PlayStation 4 but it is not yet even a year old and is consistently gaining ground on Nintendo’s Wii U. Compared to Sony and Nintendo Microsoft might still be the new kid on the block but Xbox is already a proven rival peer and certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review- Before Amen

Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado

It is hard for me to imagine that I would ever be disappointed by a book by Max Lucado.  I have read all of them and enjoyed each one very much until now.  In his newest book, Before Amen, Lucado explores the power of a simple prayer.  While I agree with the author that prayer is indeed powerful and that God answers prayer, this work comes very close to promising that the book's "pocket prayer" is virtually guaranteed to get an answer.  This led not only to my disappointment but also may lead the reader to a misunderstanding of the nature of prayer and the ways God answers.

Still, there are some gems in this book.  Lucado uses his own relationship with his daughter to point out how God invites us to approach Him as little children approach their own parents with complete trust.  Kids ask because they understand that their parents are usually good to them.  We as God's creation ask Him because He is good, and able to provide all that we need.  Many of us are most likely to pray when we or one of our loved ones is sick.  We pray, "Lord heal me, heal him/her."  Lucado points out that Jesus hears these prayers, is moved by these prayers, and answers them with immediate healing, gradual healing, or, for those who have faith in Him, ultimate healing.
This idea of ultimate healing leads nicely into the chapter on forgiveness.  In a brief, clear look at the Day of Atonement ritual of Judaism, Lucado illustrates how the guiltless scapegoat takes away the sin of the sinful.  Lucado encourages us to place our sin on the true sin-bearer and be assured that our sin is forgiven.  In the chapter "They Need Help," Lucado uses several examples from scripture to illustrate the importance of praying for others and for being persistent in those prayers.  In another (rather disappointing) chapter Lucado provides an alphabetical list of things that he is thankful for.  The encouragement to be thankful in all things and at all times is well taken, but the method comes off as gimmicky.  In the final chapter, Lucado explains why so many of our prayers are offered in Jesus' name.  It is a good reminder of the power and privilege we have because of Jesus.

This book, like many of Lucado's previous works, comes with an included study guide written by Lucado's daughter.  The study encourages the reader to delve deeper into each chapter by using the acronym "P.R.A.Y." (Personalize, Reflect, Abide, and Yield).  The acronym tool was not my favorite, but the study itself includes many helpful Bible verses to explore and some good questions to help the reader develop a richer prayer life.

If you are looking for a quick introduction to prayer, then Before Amen may be of some help.  For a true Lucado treatment of prayer, though, I recommend The Great House of God, which is an excellent study of the Lord's Prayer.

Submitted by Jim Ritter, Library Clerk

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Seven Questions with Staff - Jim

Today's installment of our "Seven Questions with Staff" series features Jim. Jim has worked at the library since May 2009, but he enjoys reading, walking and watching sports - especially college football and the Chicago Blackhawks - in his spare time. Jim is married and has five children and one grandchild. We hope that you learn something new about Jim from his answers to our questions!

Q: How would you describe the place where you grew up?
A: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is a large city of nearly 1 million people located 500 miles north of Great Falls, Montana. It started as the "Gateway to the North" during the Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890's and grew rapidly with the oil boom in the 1950's. It does reach 40-below-zero most winters and into the low 90's in the summer. Many years there is snow on the ground from November through March.

Q: What's your favorite book of the Bible and why?
A: The Gospel of Mark has been a favorite of mine for some time, perhaps because it was the first book I did extensive study in.

Q: What's the best advice that you've ever received?
A: Do not be so busy looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that you fail to see the beauty of the rainbow that is leading you there.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do at the library?
A: I enjoy being able to help people, whether it is in the Computer Lab, finding a book or answering a question.

Q: What's the perfect pizza?
A: Having spent 10 years in Chicagoland, I have had some great pizza. I like thin crust with light sauce and Italian Sausage - the true Chicago style pizza.

Q: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
A: While Max Lucado is my favorite, lately I have enjoyed several of the Monk mysteries by Lee Goldberg.

Q: What is your favorite thing about fall?
A: I love the wonder and the beauty of the change of seasons. I enjoy ducks and geese (Canada Geese, especially), and this time of year provides many opportunities to see these majestic birds on their journey south.

Posted by Jed Robbins, Library Assistant

Italian Fest Parade 2014

Staff and Board members from the Mississippi Valley Library District recently had the opportunity to walk in Uptown Collinsville's Italian Fest Parade. They handed out books and bookmarks along the route and promoted the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Collinsville Library.

Posted by Jed Robbins, Library Assistant

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Did You Know That...?

  • On the second Wednesday of each month, you can stop by the Blum House between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM for free music by the Collinsville Ramblers.
  • We have a weekly Baby Boogie program for babies and toddlers.  Stop by on Wednesdays at 9:30 AM to listen to music and dance along--we may just make our own music, too!
  • A student from SIUE is here every Monday and Wednesday night between 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM to assist students in grades K-12 with homework assignments and reading coaching.  Miss Morgan is available on a first come, first serve basis and works for America Reads, a federal work-study program.
  • The History and Genealogy Club of Collinsville meets at the library on the fourth Thursday of each month at 6:00 PM.  Family historians of all ages and experience levels are invited to join this group to share successes, ask for advice, and learn about the variety of resources available to those discovering the roots of their family trees.
  • Anyone interested in natural healing can join the monthly Herbal Remedies Workshops on the fourth Wednesday of each month.  Community herbalist Kristine Brown helps you discover the vast wealth of nature's remedies at 6:30 PM at the Blum House.
  • Children ages 3 through 3rd grade can enjoy bedtime stories in their PJs every Monday evening at 6:30 PM.  Pajamas are encouraged!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

On This Day In...1997

Gul Mohammed of New Dehli, India died at the age of 40 on this day in 1997.  Standing just 1 foot 10 inches tall, Gul held the world record for being the shortest verified adult human being at the time of his death.  Heavy smoking by Gul led to the respiratory complications that caused his death.  In 2012 a new world record holder was announced, the 1 foot 9.5 inch tall Chandra Bahadur Dangi.

Key Library Checkouts:

Guinness World Records--These fascinating annual reference books are wildly popular, and the latest 2015 edition will be available for checkout soon.

Posted by: Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book Review: The Monogram Murders

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

It is no mystery that Agatha Christie died nearly 40 years ago.  It is also no mystery that she and the characters in her mysteries remain among the most popular in literature and on television.  Perhaps best known among these is Hercule Poirot.  The famous Belgian detective appeared in 33 novels, one play (Black Coffee), and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975.  Many of the Poirot mysteries have been made into movies and television shows, the most recent being on PBS featuring David Suchet.  Now in the pages of The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah has brought Ms. Christie's most famous detective back to life.

This fine addition to the Poirot cannon was authorized by the Christie family and contains all the twists and turns one would expect from a Christie mystery.  The author wastes little, if any, space on unnecessary background, scenery, or history.  Nearly every line drives the plot, reveals a clue, or undoes the readers' previous suspicion.  As in any good mystery, the brilliant and accurately revived Hercule Poirot reveals the solution in the final pages.

Christie fans will enjoy a new adventure with this popular sleuth and a new generation of mystery readers may discover a new (old) favorite.

Submitted by Jim Ritter, Library Clerk

Monday, September 22, 2014

Top Ten Places to Park Your Bike at the Library

10) Against the book drop

9) In the grass

8) In the rocks

7) Against the fountain

6) In the hallway

5) In the dirt

4) Against the picnic table

3) On the bench

2) Directly in front of the steps

1) Directly in front of the door


"Aaalllll byyyy myyyyseeeeelf.  Don't wanna be aaalllll byyyyy myyyyseeeeelf anymore."

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk