Birth, death and vacations at the casino

It’s time for some how-to. The Lennoxville Library has all kinds of self-improvement books, and all kinds of educational how-tos.

Did you know, for example, that 2011 is the year of the Rabbit?

Find out all about the Chinese horoscope with Richard Craze’s Astrologie Chinoise (1999). This is a spiral-bound mix-n-match flip book, where you can begin by discovering what animal you are — Tiger, Hare, Dragon, or ? — by finding your birth year on a chart.

Each animal has its own short section, where you can learn about yourself and how you supposedly relate to other signs/animals in the ancient Chinese zodiac.

This sort of fluff is fun for wasting away a lazy hour or so. Then you can tease your friends about their Snake or Goat personas!

Or how about a little gambling? Kevin Blackwood and Francois Montmirel have pulled together a guide to losing less money than you might otherwise in Le Casino Pour Les Nuls (2007), a games-of-chance 101 type of thing with the now-familiar yellow-and-black cover of this popular “– for dummies” series.

There is the obvious here — casinos are in business to make money, not to pay it out. So don’t bring plastic to a casino, else you’ll be tempted to keep buying chits. Instead, bring cash, and bring only what you can afford to lose. It’s a cliche, but people still overspend, so it bears repeating.

The authors advise you to join the casino’s preferred members club, because the more time you spend there, the more freebies you’ll get. Mind you, the casino needs you to lose ever more money in order to be able to afford to give you that free meal and key chain. And if you are winning, make like you’re losing, the authors suggest. You’ll get better freebies and far less pressure to spend spend spend as a perceived loser, because — again! — management loves a loser…

There are sections on frequent mistakes made by newbies, tactics, even suggestions on what to wear and casino etiquette. Beware of seemingly empty seats at the slots, for example — people often play two machines at a time, or just zip off to the bathroom for a short break. And players can get extremely testy if you take their seat — you may find yourself, to your consternation, in a gambling-rage situation.

Les Nuls includes info on fave destinations like Nevada and Atlantic City, how casinos play mind games to get their fingers right into your wallet, and sections on poker, blackjack, baccarat and roulette (the European model, without the double zero, is more favorable to players than is the US version), even keno, bingo and video poker machines. You gotta know when to hold’em, and know when to fold’em!

Now to move off-world. Mars is next out from the sun after Earth, and has long captured the imaginations of scientists, philosophers and storytellers. Sur Mars: Le Guide Du Touriste Spatiale, by Pierre Lagrange and Helene Huguet (2003), offers the ultimate vacation handbook. Guaranteed no crowds!

The authors begin with solid scientific fact, then build fanciful conjecture on top. Atmosphere, geography, gravity, time taken for a radio signal to reach Earth, past visits by satellites and remote-controlled rockets, it’s all here. There’s even a section on the possibility of frozen water (indeed, NASA’s Curiosity rover is set to land in a crater that looks like it may have been carved out by water). Then comes the fanciful, including a look at your four-star hotel (the rating is based on safety, not luxury).

A large section is set aside for a cultural history of Mars — or how humans have seen Mars — a bright star, an evil omen, a home of strange and delightful creatures. The early 20th century astronomer Camille Flammarion promised telepathic communication with the aliens, and the pages of Astounding Science Fiction and IF competed with the silver screen for ever-more impressive tales of surprise and suspense. The old movie posters and sci-fi magazine covers alone are worth your time (“How will you talk to the Martians? Maybe they haven’t got mouths!”).

Of course, we all eventually have to come back down to Earth.

Let’s move on to the really important things — human life itself. What To Expect When You’re Expecting is a big, solid guide that will re-assure you and see you through every month of your pregnancy (or of your panicked time as the supportive partner). This is the third edition (published in 2002), so errors or confusions have been caught and fixed.

Here’s something taken from the chapter on Month 7: “I’ve heard women are supposed to feel terrific in the last trimester. I feel tired all the time.” The response? “‘Supposed to’ is a phrase that ought to be stricken from a pregnant woman’s vocabulary. Though some women feel less tired in the third trimester than in the first and second, many continue feeling fatigued or feel even more fatigued. Actually, there are probably more reasons to feel tired than terrific in the last trimester. First of all, you’re carrying around a lot more weight….”

And that little spasm you feel every so often? Baby might be hiccupping.

There are safe exercises offered, and info on sex while preggers, diet, and answers to all kinds of other questions that you might otherwise just feel too embarrassed to ask. What’s normal, what should get you to the doctor’s office ASAP? Authors Heidi Murkoffr, Arlene Eisenberg and Sandee Hathaway bring their own experiences to the book, as well as tapping that of physicians, nurses and more.

They’re not afraid to tackle the downside, either. There’s a section on depression and other health hazards, plus short pieces on pregnancy when mom has a chronic condition like ALS.

This is wonderful guide. It’s American, though, so when the authors say “by federal law…” remember that may not hold in Canada.

An announced pregnancy is usually an occasion for joy. An announced death — that’s rather different. I Don’t Know What To Say: How To Help And Support Someone Who Is Dying, by Dr. Robert Buckman (1988) is exactly what it sounds like, offering some aid to those of us who simply feel lost and awful when bad news strikes friends or family, even though we know they need us.

Toronto physician Buckman specializes in cancer care — many of his patients die, no matter how hard he tries to save them — and he was himself once at death’s door: “As a patient I learned the value of the sympathy and support that distinguish good doctors from ordinary ones.”

He knows from experience that most don’t know what to say, including at times himself, and has some practical advice.

Under pressure, Buckman explains, it’s easy for misunderstandings to pop up. But it’s important not to let those misunderstandings control you, nor control your relationship to someone who’s dying.

Need help figuring something out? Ask a librarian for a book. How-tos can be serious or frivolous, and at different times in our lives, we need different kinds of help.

– Eleanor Brown, November 18, 2011

About BiblioLennLibrary

The Lennoxville Library, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, offers free memberships to all residents of Sherbrooke. We have a great selection of books in French and English, plus books on tape and CD, too! Check out our large-print section, our graphic novels... La Biblio Lennoxville se situe dans les Cantons-de-l'Est du Quebec. Les residents de Sherbrooke peuvent devenir membre gratuitement. Nous avons une grande selection de livres en francais et en anglais. Venez donc nous voir! Hours/Heures d'ouverture: Mardi-Tuesday, 10am to 5pm -- 10h a 17h Mercredi et Jeudi -Wednesday and Thursday, 10am to 6pm -- 10h a 18h Vendredi-Friday, 10am to 5pm -- 10h a 17h Samedi-Saturday, 11am to 4pm -- 11h a 16h Pour plus d'info, vous pouvez nous trouver au http://www.bibliolennoxvillelibrary.ca/ Click on the above to get to our website!
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