Moments In History: The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist

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The vast, snow-capped country of Canada brings many iconic cultural images to mind: the giant bull moose, the rough and rowdy sport of ice hockey.  However, there is no image as iconic as the maple leaf that is represented on the nation’s flag.  The maple tree and its chief produce, maple syrup, is how this strange true story begins.

The origins of this incident lay with the creation of the FPAQ, also known as the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. The FPAQ began to corner the market on maple syrup production in the 1960’s.  Using strict price control and quotas systems, they quickly became Canada’s largest maple syrup producer, generating 94% of Canada’s maple syrup and 77% of the world’s supply. Many have called it a government controlled “Cartel” akin to OPEC or Narco trafficking organizations. The corporation even set up a strategic maple syrup reserve in case of national crisis or shortage. Maple syrup exceeds the price of crude oil per barrel by about 10 times the value. Realizing the value of such a commodity, it was only a matter of time before some greedy thieves would get their hands sticky.

Over the course of several months between 2011 and 2012, Richard Vallieres along with several others broke into to the FPAQ storage facility and stole more the 122,000 barrels of maple syrup (roughly 3,000 tons worth nearly $C19 million dollars).  The gang would siphon out the syrup before refilling the barrel with water. Then they would truck the product to illegal syrup dispensers in the U.S. The gang was caught when they got so lazy as to not fill up the looted barrels with water and an on-site inspection crew started finding the barrels empty. In all, seventeen men were connected with stealing, transporting, and distributing the stolen syrup.  As the accused ringleader, Richard Vallieres was sentenced to nine years in prison and was ordered to pay back millions from his illicit gains. Adjusted for inflation, this heist still remains the largest in Canadian history.  So the next time you’ve got a plate full of flap jacks or a nice Belgian style waffle in front of you, think back to this strange and sweet historical event.
For more information about Canadian history, check out:

Canada: A Modern History

 

 

The Secret History Of Presidential Pets

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When one thinks of pets, the mental image is often that of a dog or cat, or even something like a gerbil. However, what most people don’t know is how many interesting and strange animals have wandered the halls of the White House throughout the years. From exotic animals to bizarre pet names, here are the most showstopping presidential pets.

We know and love George Washington as the first American president, but his affection for animals has largely flown under the radar. He had as many as 17 pets over his terms in office: 8 dogs, 7 horses, a donkey, and a parrot. The most interesting of these are his foxhounds: Sweetlips, Scentwell, and Vulcan; Snipe the parrot, who was owned by Martha Washington; and Royal Gift, the Andalusian donkey who was given as a gift from King Charles III of Spain.

John Adams did not have quite as many pets, but he did have a knack for names. He had three dogs named Satan, Mark, and Juno, as well as two horses named Cleopatra and Caesar.

Unlike many other presidents, John Quincy Adams had no normal pets. He instead kept silkworms, and first lady Louisa Adams spun their silk. There are also stories of an alligator owned by Marquis de Lafayette residing in the White House for two months, but many think that just to be a legend as there are no records to back it up.

While he had other pets, the most notable one of Andrew Jackson’s is his parrot named Polly. This is probably due to the fact that she had an affinity for swearing and had to be removed from his funeral due to this very habit.

Abraham Lincoln also amassed quite a number of pets including a turkey and a pair of goats. His most unfortunate pet, however, was his dog Fido who was “assassinated” by a knife wielding drunk a few months after Lincoln’s own death. This is why Fido is such a quintessential dog name.

The president with the most recorded pets was Theodore Roosevelt. He is known to have had 10 dogs, 2 cats, 5 guinea pigs, 2 ponies, 4 birds, a lizard, a bear, a rat, a badger, a pig, a rabbit, a snake, and a hyena.

In addition to more traditional pets, Woodrow Wilson kept a flock of sheep at the White House. Their job was to trim the lawn “in the most economical way” and their wool was to go to the Red Cross. At its largest, the flock had 48 sheep.

Calvin Coolidge had an affinity for very strange and exotic pets, many of whom had to be sent to zoos at some point. While he had many normal types of pets, he also had ducks, a goose, a bobcat, two raccoons (one was saved from becoming a Thanksgiving dish and the other escaped never to be seen again), 2 lions, a pygmy hippo, a wallaby, an antelope, and a black bear.

Here are the contenders for best/worst pet names, along with the type of animal it belonged to and the president who owned the pet:
  • Sweetlips- American Foxhound- Washington
  • Scentwell- American Foxhound- Washington
  • Vulcan- American Foxhound- Washington
  • Drunkard- coonhound- Washington
  • Royal Gift- donkey- Washington
  • Satan- dog- Adams
  • Grizzle- shepherd dog- Jefferson
  • Billy Button- pony-  Grant
  • Veto- dog- Garfield
  • Mr. Reciprocity- opossum- Harrison
  • Mr. Protection- opossum- Harrison
  • Washington Post- parrot- McKinley
  • Admiral Dewey- guinea pig- T. Roosevelt
  • Fighting Bob Evans- guinea pig- T. Roosevelt
  • Bill the Lizard- lizard- T. Roosevelt
  • Emily Spinach- garter snake- T. Roosevelt
  • Mooly Wooly- cow- Taft
  • Calamity Jane- Shetland sheepdog- Coolidge
  • Boston Beans- Boston bulldog- Coolidge
  • Nip and Tuck- canaries- Coolidge
  • Do-Funny- songbird- Coolidge
  • Tax Reduction- tiger- Coolidge
  • Budget Bureau- tiger- Coolidge
  • Eaglehurst Gillette- setter- Hoover
  • Billy Possum- opossum- Hoover
  • President- Great Dane- F. Roosevelt
  • Him and Her- beagles- Johnson
  • King Timahoe- Irish setter- Nixon
  • Grits- border collie- Carter
  • Misty Malarky Ying Yang- Siamese cat- Carter
  • Little Man- horse- Reagan

How To Contact The Library

Contact us!

 

If you have a question about finding books, articles, or DVDs, then you’ve come to the right place! We are happy to help you on your academic journey here at the library. But how can you ask us questions? There are several easy ways to contact us!

 

Face-to-face

Visit the Circulation Desk or the Research Desk on the first floor. Our library staff and student assistants will be happy to assist you!

 

Text

We have a new texting service! Text us at 731.201.4898 with your library-related questions.

 

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There is a chatbox on the home page of our library website. You can use this service to ask us quick questions.

 

Call

The main library number is 731.661.5070.

 

Email

While each of the library staff have their own personal emails, you can also email the library in general at library@uu.edu.

 

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However you choose to contact us, we are glad to help you!

Top 5 Books About Running

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This past December, I ran my very first marathon. It was so fun and yet so painful at the same time! What I most liked about the race was the support and energy I felt from the other runners and spectators. It really felt like I was doing something meaningful, even though I’m sure a lot of people thought I was crazy for running 26.2 miles in the cold.

There’s definitely a sense of community among runners, and there are several books about running that accurately capture this feeling. Read the list below and click the links to find these books in the library!

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

My favorite book about running, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, is short and to the point. Murakami, a marathon runner and a famous novelist, writes with wisdom about his experiences. He compares running to writing and examines the discipline behind long distance running.

 

Running: A Global History by Thor Gotaas

How did we as humans become so fascinated with running? This book explains it all, tracing runners throughout world history.

 

Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel by Matt Fitzgerald

The best elite runners have learned that the key to faster running is to hear what your body is telling you. But are you listening?

 

A Heart In A Body In The World by Deb Caletti

This young adult fiction novel is about a girl on a cross-country run, trying to deal with a traumatic event from her past. Along the way, she becomes a reluctant activist and symbol.

 

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

Read all about the true story of how three elite athletes trained to run a mile in under four minutes.

 

All of these books are available at the library- just click the links to find their locations!

Book Review: “Home” by Toni Morrison

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Last year, I read my first Toni Morrison book: Beloved. It was extremely well-written but deeply heavy in subject matter, so I had to take some time before I was ready to dive into another Morrison novel. Home is the story of Korean War veteran Frank and his quest to save his sister, Cee, and somehow find his place in a world that he doesn’t recognize. Coming in at less than 150 pages, it’s a short and fast read.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Home gets right: Cee’s struggles as a black woman trying to support herself were portrayed with compassion and understanding. Sure, Cee makes some honest mistakes, but by the end of the novel she has grown up and will hopefully be able to heal from her trauma.

Frank’s and Cee’s stories are sad ones, but Home ends on a hopeful note. Their sibling bond is powerful in a world where relationships between many men and women are difficult and even abusive.

What Home does wrong: This is a Toni Morrison novel, so if you thought you were going to get out of this reading unscathed and completely emotionally sound, you’re wrong. Morrison really surprised me with one of the plot points, and this unfortunate surprise made the rest of the book hard to read. However, having read Beloved, I knew that Morrison often tackles uncomfortable and disturbing issues in her books. Should have seen it coming!

Who should read Home: Readers who are interested in history, veterans, African American experiences in the U.S., and superb literary writing.

Who shouldn’t read Home: Readers who are looking for lighter subjects and writing styles.

 

Home is currently available at the library.

Content note: flashbacks include a disturbing scene, and Cee is horribly mistreated at the hands of a corrupt doctor. Reader discretion is advised.

Book Review: “Dreams From My Father” by Barack Obama

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Right now, I want you to set aside what you know about politics and Republicans and Democrats. Barack Obama’s memoir Dreams From My Father is not really about any of these things. It’s about racism and identity: a black man with a white family trying to find his place, and who he is, in an unfair, confusing world. Dreams From My Father follows Obama’s life through his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia to his acceptance to Harvard and his journey to Kenya.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Dreams From My Father gets right: Whether or not you voted for Obama or enjoyed his presidency, you can learn so much from this book. Obama speaks with the voice of someone who has thought a long, long time about what he’s going to say and how to say it in the best way possible. He’s not afraid to use harsh language or metaphors, but he tempers this anger with understanding. Even as a fiery college student, he recognizes that others haven’t read what he has, or don’t struggle with their identity in the same way he does, and he’s willing to look past the differences and reach across the boundaries.

I’m white, so I will never have the racist experiences and burdens that Obama has faced. Racism shaped and scarred his entire journey of self-discovery. Despite my own ignorance and disconnection to Obama’s struggles as a black man, I appreciated his willingness to open up; and what I can relate to and aspire to in his narrative is Obama’s drive for truth and justice. Like Obama (although for different reasons) I also went through several months of reading every black thinker I could find in the library: W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., Marcus Garvey. And like Obama, I found that the man who made the most sense and greatest impact on my way of thinking, even though I definitely didn’t agree with his religion or his views on women, was Malcolm X.

Obama read these books as a young man for his survival; he did not have the luxury of reading a persecuted peoples’ history from a place removed as I did. I read these books to try and see the world through an opposite perspective of my own: a black male experience. Whatever your reason for reading these timeless classics, though, you will emerge with an enlightened view of how the world works and what we can do about it- the same tried and true lessons that you can learn from Dreams From My Father.

What Dreams From My Father does wrong: I loved this book because of how it fed me intellectually, so it’s hard for me to find much fault with it. I will note that there’s some uncomfortable language in it, but I think it’s warranted by the subject matter. It was also hard to read how women were treated in Obama’s Kenyan family (who were in a patriarchal culture where men could beat their wives and take multiple wives, whether the women consented or not).

Who should read Dreams From My Father: People who want to learn more about racism in the United States, and what it was like to grow up as a biracial man in the sixties and seventies. Readers who are interested in Obama’s life story and how he became the man he is today.

Who shouldn’t read Dreams From My Father: If you’re looking for something light to read or for a fiction book, then just add this one to your “TBR” list for now.

 

Dreams From My Father is available in print book and audiobook formats at the library.

Content note: language.

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Star Wars is as popular a franchise as it has ever been, and with the release of Solo, the franchise told an origin story of one of the most iconic characters: Han Solo. The film was directed by Ron Howard after there was an uproar by Disney executives and the film’s actors, who felt that the previous directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, had taken the wrong approach. As much as seventy percent of the film needed to be reshot as a result.

The plot of the film centers on a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) growing up on the crime-ridden world of Corellia. Han dreams of getting off-world, becoming a pilot, and making his fortune in the galaxy with his childhood friend Qi’ra (Emilia Clark).  These dreams are soon put on hold as Han is forced to join the Imperial Navy. Han dislikes war and serving the Empire, but he is soon court-marshaled for insubordination and desertion.  However, he befriends and teams up with a ferocious Wookie named Chewbacca, and the two make their escape.

Desperate and short of options, the duo join a thieving band of mercenaries led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) in order to survive.  The band of brigands are on a hunt for a powerful fuel source that can be sold illicitly on the black market. They are in debt to a powerful underworld criminal Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), who orders them to take on the impossible task of stealing the fuel and then smuggling it back through hostile territory. Han agrees because he sees it as a way of redeeming himself to Qi’ra and wining back her affection.

What follows next is an exciting, fast-paced heist that tests the courage and morals of the band as Han begins to become the scoundrel who fans are more familiar with. By the end of the film, Han has to walk a fine line between doing what’s right and surviving in this morally gray, dog-eat-dog galaxy.

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics and fans alike. It can be difficult to appease everyone while not upsetting the established nostalgia of a character already played so well by Harrison Ford. Due to the reshoots and rewrites, Disney felt it underperformed with an over-blown budget and only breaking even at the box office. I, however, was pleasantly surprised by the film. I’m definitely a fan of the franchise’s off-shoots like Rogue One and The Mandalorian.

Solo is a fun film that adds depth to the ongoing legacy of the Star Wars universe. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a watch.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is available at the Union University Library. It is rated PG-13.

 

 

Reading List: Valentine’s Day

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This Valentine’s Day, pick up a book with a little romance! The 10 books listed below are either about relationships or feature them in a memorable way.

 

Persuasion by Jane Austen

What happens when two people with a history meet once again, years later? Jane Austen’s characters come to life in this brief tale of romance and personal growth.

 

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simpson

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the village of St. Mary, England, until his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But will their relationship survive in a society that considers Ali a foreigner?

 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits. One extraordinary love. Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds: smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is not just about children and teenagers fighting for their lives. It’s also about learning how to love someone, even if you’ve been stuck in survival mode for a long time.

 

Where The River Ends by Charles Martin

He was a fishing guide and struggling artist from a south George trailer park. She was the beautiful only child of South Carolina’s most powerful senator. Yet once Doss Michaels and Abigail Grace Coleman met by accident, they each felt they’d found their true soul mate.

 

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Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance by Julianne Donaldson

When Marianne receives an invitation to spend the summer with her twin sister in Edenbrooke, she has no idea of the romance and adventure that await her once she meets the dashing Sir Philip.

 

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This one’s a wild and tempestuous romance, but the classic Wuthering Heights has fascinated readers for years. At its center are Catherine and Heathcliff, and the self-contained world of Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, and the wild Yorkshire moors that the characters inhabit.

 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

The book in the famous series in which Harry, Hermione, and Ron are suddenly teenagers who are trying to figure out dating- as well as where Voldemort’s Horcruxes are.

 

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Henry

The love story of C.S. Lewis and his wife, Helen Joy Davidman Gresham, was improbable and seemingly impossible. Their Eros-story led to some of Lewis’s greatest works, yet Joy is most commonly known for how she died. Becoming Mrs. Lewis allows us to see how this brilliant and passionate woman lived.

Book Review: “Educated” by Tara Westover

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Educated took the book-loving world by storm when it was published in 2018. It’s also been consistently checked out from the library since we ordered it. In this powerful memoir, Tara Westover describes her unconventional upbringing and how finally gaining access to formal education changed her life.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Educated does right: Westover’s story is heartbreaking, but it needs to be told. You’ll learn about the horrors of family violence, abuse, undiagnosed mental illness, and willful ignorance in this book. However, you’ll also learn about the power of education and the hope for a better tomorrow. The times I teared up from the book were not because of the sad situations (although there were many), but because of how proud I was of Westover for doing well in school, in spite of all odds.

What Educated gets wrong: This is not a critique of the book (it’s hard to critique memoirs from a content standpoint anyway), but more of a warning for readers: this one will hurt you. My student assistant, Mya, warned me that I would be angry while reading this book, and she was 100% right. There’s a lot of misinformation and injustice regarding Tara Westover’s family and upbringing.

For example (spoiler): the Westovers survive a bad car wreck but don’t go to the hospital due to their distrust of the “medical establishment,” which results in serious trauma and long-term injuries. So what do they do the next time they’re driving on a long trip? They let the dad take the wheel; he drives super fast to prove a dumb point; and then they have ANOTHER deadly car wreck in which, guess what, they don’t seek medical attention AGAIN. It’s infuriating to read this through the lens of a brainwashed child who knows something isn’t quite right, but who can’t articulate what it is and defends her father even though he constantly endangers her life. It’s even sadder when she’s old enough and educated enough to know that her family is not treating her the way they should, but she still reaches out to them and tries to help them even as they destroy her.

Who should read Educated: Fans of true stories. Family members who have lived with and understand serious mental illnesses. Teachers of rural children. Anyone who wants to know how NOT to raise your child (like, living in a rural area is totally fine, but throwing scrap metal at your child is not).

Who shouldn’t read Educated: If your blood pressure goes up every time you read about children in danger (like mine does), think twice before picking this one up. The negligent and downright abusive way that these children were raised is mind-blowing.

Clean Out Your Computer Day (February 10th)

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Computers can be finicky, daunting little machines whose sole purpose is to confuse you with weird errors and problems out of nowhere. However, you don’t have to be some kind of tech wizard to save your computer (and your sanity). As with anything you use, your computer needs to be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. While this may seem equal parts boring and scary, it actually isn’t as hard as you might think. That’s why we have put together a list of resources to help you help your computer. And since February 10th is Clean Out Your Computer Day, you can really get into the techie holiday spirit.

  • Our lovely friend Wired Magazine’s all purpose computer physical and digital cleaning guide.

  • Cleaning your computer’s guts (with pictures!)

  • Maintenance tasks for Windows that you should do more often.

  • When computers rebel: basic repairs you don’t have to pay anyone to do.

  • The all purpose resource to just about every common computer problem