April 2009




Library page Phyllis Libbe (left) and library circulation clerk Carmin Cerullo show raw material for plarn and a plarn shoulder bag beside the library’s Earth Day display. 



When I asked my co-workers about their hobbies, I got a very detailed reply from Phyllis Libbe, one of our library pages.  I thought her hobby tied in very well with Earth Day and environmental consciousness and I’ve devoted a separate blog entry to her hobby. 


Dear Eugene,


This quarter, I have become aware of the term “sustainability” through Cal State University East Bay’s Environmental Studies online class. Synonymous with green, it appears to be the new buzzword these days in all the media. I’m seeing and hearing it everywhere: on television in the news, commercials and sitcoms, radio talk shows, newspaper headlines, bulletin boards, product packaging, etc., even at the library. My family just got back from an Orlando, Florida, vacation and it’s used there, too.  It’s national. Just like the Kyoto Protocol, it’s global!


My Environmental Studies text defines sustainability in terms of ecosystems—how they “have existed for millennia because they are sustainable.” ¹ One important reason, I have learned, is that ecosystems are efficient in recycling. One of the reasons why I like plarn is just that. What better way for man to help keep his environment sustainable than to plarn. By plarning, one not only becomes a good steward to the environment, but also gains an outlet for her artistic and creative tendencies.


What is plarn? Plarn is a verb and a noun because you plarn with plarn. Plarn, a word formed from the “pl” in plastic and the “arn” in yarn [pl + arn = “plarn”], is made from plastic bags. Everybody has them. Now there’s a practical application for them. They come from shopping and other activities resulting in an accumulation of them. One may become compulsive and search plastic bags out for color and/or lack of them. But, see, in doing so, you become a steward by keeping them out of the environment because you want to make beautiful things like handbags, carry-alls, hats, plant hangers, mats, rugs. Anything that can be knitted, crocheted, or macraméd, can be plarned. But first you have to make the plarn.


There are many sites on the internet that give instruction on how to make plarn and patterns for plarn projects. I like the ones on You-Tube. I have included a favorite one below.² Simply Google “plarn” or “plastic bag yarn” or “plastic bag projects” on Google or search some other search engine and find many plarny ideas (it’s also an adjective).


Well, there you have it, Eugene, the reasons why I like plarn. It is a fun and enjoyable hobby and art activity; it can be a conversation piece; it helps to keep the environment sustainable by recycling plastic; and best of all, outside the cost of knitting needles, a crochet hook, or other embellishments, like the sun’s energy, it’s free.


¹ Richard T. Wright, Environmental Science (tenth edition), Pearson Prentice Hall (2008): 77.


² http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdTm2V4ssvY



When I am thinking of something new to do with my spare time, I like to ask my co-workers about their hobbies.  Here are some of the responses I got, plus a book suggestion for each hobby!


Hector Villasenor writes:  One of the hobbies I enjoy doing is hiking.  Most of the time, you can find my two boys, wife, and myself on one of the many beautiful trails at Sunol Regional Park, Lake Chabot, Coyote Hills, and the Hayward-San Leandro Shoreline.  It doesn’t matter what the season is.  During the spring, one might see a fawn grazing on a hill, or a baby jack rabbit scurrying across a path.  During the winter at Sunol, it is truly magnificent to see and hear the water rushing down the Little Yosemite waterfall.





East Bay Trails:  Hiking Trails in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties by David Weintraub                             917.946 Weintraub


Dan Talioaga writes:  Years ago I was inspired by someone who turned their whole house in San Francisco into rooms full of teddy bears.  Thinking bears to be too easy, my wife and I started to collect stuffed pigs and pig-related items. That was 27 years ago. It’s only one bedroom full, but we’re currently at 365 pigs and/or pig related items in our collection.



The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book by Pauline Cockrill        688.724 Cockrill



Bill Moore reports that he has several hobbies in which he tries to maintain some proficiency.


Whittling – I use any kind of wood found, bought, picked, or given to make whatever comes to mind at the time of the actual whittling away of waste wood.  Some pieces I have had for more than thirty years awaiting the muse of woodcarvers to send the thought initiating the first shaving.



Ben Hunt’s Big Book of Whittling by W. Ben Hunt    736.4 Hunt


Flyfishing and fly tying – Almost a religion actually as I was taught by an old timer in Yosemite many years ago and the spirit reaches out occasionally and I’ve got to go.  I use only those feathers and furs I get from roadkill and hunter friends.  I don’t subscribe to fur mills sold by many stores.  I like to try manmade materials as nothing is killed in the process.  I also don’t keep anything caught but release it for its part in the great scheme is as important as mine.



Flyfishing :  First Cast to First Fish! by J. F. Petralia          799.23 Petralia



Restoration of old tools is a method of meditation for me.  Each has had its share of good or bad usage and mirrors the life of the owner.  I also like to make tools for woodcarving and use some discarded older tools for the making of special knives and chisels.



How to Use & Care for Woodworking Tools by Alan and Gill Bridgewater

684.08 Bridgewater

Author James D. Houston (left) receives a gift from DHPA President, Steve Lockart.

Author James D. Houston (left) receives a gift from DHPA President, Steve Lockart.

We are so saddened to learn of the death of author James D. Houston.  Mr. Houston died of complications from cancer at the age of 75.  We consider him our friend; he was the first author to be featured in our Dublin Reads program and he made our first attempt at this kind of programming so easy, we actually have continued to offer it!  He was welcoming and gracious from the first email contact I had with him, and was simply delighted that his book had been chosen.  In April of 2008 he came to Dublin for an author visit and I know that everyone who came found him to be a fascinating speaker as well as a humble recipient of our gifts.  DHPA sponsored his appearance offering him a DHPA pin; he also got his own Dublin Reads t-shirt with Snow Mountain Passage inscribed.

The Los Angeles Times obituary quotes California historian Kevin Starr, ” Few writers have more consistently addressed the enduring issues arising out of the California experience than James D. Houston.  He sets the standards by which the rest of us judged our own efforts.”   His lyrical evocation of the California landscape, from the brutality of a Sierra winter to the lush wildlife and spring rains of the central valley and San Francisco Bay, were often mentioned by readers as a having left a lasting impression after reading Snow Mountain Passage.

He always signed off his emails as “All the best from Santa Cruz. ”  So now we say all the best to you Mr. Houston, and thank you for the gift of your work left to us.  Our sincerest condolences to his wife, author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, and their family.

 “All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments.”  Quote from Walt Whitman on James D. Houston’s website.

Morningstar Investment Research Center is one of the investments databases available for members of the Alameda County Library System.   Access Morningstar by going to http://www.aclibrary.org, then click on the bullet entry Business & Investments under the options in the Research Guide.  Once you have clicked on Business & Investments, click on the bullet labeled Investments, and then click the Morningstar option.  This database contains Morningstar’s premier content, including independent opinions on stocks and mutual funds, as well as screeners and a Portfolio X-Ray to help you make solid investment decisions.  (Note that your library card account number will be needed to access this database from home.)


In response to a recent survey of customer requests, Morningstar has now made it possible to export from Morningstar financial statements and daily price histories into an Excel spreadsheet! 


For example, you choose a Financial Statement /Income Statement for a Stock Name, such as Hormel Foods Corporation.  Then you will click on the link labeled Export to Excel in the lower right corner of the Income Statement and you can open up an Excel spreadsheet (in my case a 10-year income statement) for the corporation of interest. 


On Wednesday, April 29th, at 1 p.m. Pacific Time, Morningstar will offer patron training on using Morningstar Investment Research Center.  To sign up, just go to the Help & Education page of Morningstar Investment Research Center.   You will see a link in the lower right corner, under the heading Live Patron Web Training.  Clink on the link, and this will automatically send an e-mail to librarytraining@morningstar.com . 


Morningstar will send out invitations to a Virtual Tour of Morningstar Investment Research Center, which will allow users to learn how to use the database to search for stocks, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).  Users will also learn how to evaluate retirement and portfolio holds, get independent analysis reports, helpful articles and industry commentary to make sense of this challenging market.


Morninstar has made available to its users a 22-page document, entitled “How to Manage Your Financial Risk”.  You can addess this document here: