Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Eve of the New Year

The iconic event of this holiday for many Americans is the dropping of the mega-ball in Times Square. Do you have any idea how long this has been going on? On December 31, 1907 over 200,000 revelers witnessed the original descent of the electric ball from the Times Tower. It was a huge hit! The crowd's noisy approval could be heard in Shropshire. Well, maybe not, but I'm sure it was very loud. The previous 3 years Adolph Ochs, owner and publisher of the Times, shot off fireworks from the Tower. From the base of the Tower. In the middle of New York City. At the Turn of the Century. Miraculously, the city didn't burn down to a teensy pile of ashes, and we can thank the Mother of Invention for the existence of the New Year's Ball. Read all this and much more in:
The Devil's playground : a century of pleasure and profit in Times Square

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Celebrate Rudyard

So on this day in 1865 Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay India. Actually Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born. Why he chose his middle name over the perfectly spell-able Joseph remains a mystery. There can't have been that many Kiplings running around for pete's sake. The 'Rudyard' didn't keep him from winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. He wrote poetry, novels, short stories, children's books - everything but agricultural manuals. So L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz has one up on him. Baum's first book was The Book of the Hamburgs, A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs. Hamburgs are chickens. You'd think they'd be cows, but no. I digress! Two of Kipling's most famous works, the Jungle Book and Just So Stories start with the letters 'ju'. What were the chances? About the same as someone choosing the name 'Rudyard' instead of 'Joseph'.

Graphic source: Biography Resource Center

Monday, December 29, 2008

Not Kitschty, but recycled.

Wrapping paper bows. This is such a good idea! You know all those scraps of gorgeous wrapping paper that you are loathe to pitch, but they're waaay too small to wrap anything? Use 'em to make even more gorgeous bows. Cut the scraps into strips, width and length dependent on the size bow you want. Strips should be more than twice as long as the desired diameter of your bow. (should have given you a math warning, huh.) Experiment! They're scraps already! Make a loop of each strip and squish the middle together, keeping the ends of the scrap in the middle of the squish. Staple through both layers of the strip in the middle of the squish, making sure the loop ends are secured. Keep making smaller and smaller loops, and set them inside the original loop. Adjust the position of each loop so the bow takes on a full appearance. Fluff so the staples are not visible. Admire your handiwork. Wear it as a hat if you wish. I'm not tellin'.

Graphic source: Instructables

Friday, December 26, 2008

And...Closed Again

All six buildings of the Des Moines Public Library are closed yet again! We'll come back tomorrow, we promise.

Today's Tidbit from our Local History Wiki:
The latest day to record snowfall in Des Moines was May 28, 1947.

Graphic Source: Dover Sampler

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Still Closed

All buildings of the Des Moines Public Library are still closed!

Today's Tidbit from our Local History Wiki:
The top snowfall in Des Moines was 19.8 inches on January 1, 1942!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We are Closed Today

All buildings of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today. But you can still return items in our drop-boxes.

Today's Tidbit from our Local History Wiki: The lowest temperature ever recorded in Des Moines was –30 degrees on January 5, 1884!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sleep Like a Baby. A happy, just-fed one.

OK, I know you tried a vegetable yesterday and I'm guessing your system did not reject it. (There were no news reports about spontanous human detonations, anyway.) See how well that worked out? Here's something else I'll try to goad you into, as my campaign to keep you healthy escalates. You have got to get some sleep! Go to bed now! This is what I tell myself when I'm up late staring vacantly at a mound of stuff that needs to become some other kind of stuff. If repeating this to myself 20-30 times doesn't work, my husband eventually registers the lump in the chair and encourages me to make the effort to move. In the past this has occasionally involved gently pushing me up the stairs. But not everyone has a personal trainer, so you may need a little help sleeping. This book could be just the thing. You know how I am about books. They're the next best thing to a pushy husband.

50 ways to sleep better / Neil B. Kavey

Monday, December 22, 2008

Eat One Healthy Thing Today

If you're like me, your blood currently contains near-hallucinogenic levels of sugar. I see sweets everywhere - oh wait! They're real! All too real and I cannot resist them. So I force myself to have a bran cereal for breakfast instead of cookies. I know, I'm being too hard on myself. But you might want to try the odd veggie or two this season. Best reason by far - it make the chocolate taste even better! If you need inspiration, here are titles:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Foreign Film Festival

Sounds dreary, doesn't it? Movies long on deep, subtle meaning and short on entertainment. But it's nothin' but fun if you go with Hayao Miyazaki's work. He is the premiere artist of animated film today, in my opinion. You've got your brave and lively young heroines; interesting and often bizarre worlds; and familiar plots that seem fresh again. Here are 4 recommendations, and the order in which I think you should see them. From good to absolutely amazing.

Kiki's Delivery Service. Kiki delivers by way of broomstick. Just light fun and the inevitable storm. Too bad Kiki doesn't pack a so'wester when she's outside running deliveries on her dust bunny destroyer.

Howl's Moving Castle Sophie is bewitched and winds up a servant in a handsome wizard's castle. The castle looks like a Rube Goldberg creation and staggers around with a Goldbergian lack of grace. The movie is meatier than Kiki's Delivery Service, but stumbles when Miyazaki introduces elements not found in Diane Wynne Jones' book, on which the movie is based. But you'll love Sophie enough to forgive this.

Princess Mononoke In this gorgeous movie, the battle between industry and nature is played out between physical embodiments of both. The people of the mine destroy the earth not for personal fortune, but to give a better life to society's cast-offs. The gods of the forest, appearing in animal form, fight back. Prince Ashitaka tries to avert war. That gives you the plot basics, but there is more going on in this thoughtful (yet action packed!) movie.

Spirited Away. Chihiro and her parents enter a tunnel in a remote area and come out in a mysterious place with a row of restaurants, completely unattended. Her parents eat and eat and disappear! Chihiro finds employment in a bath house for spirits - the design work here will take your breath away. There are several plots, all related to over-consumption and pollution but they mesh beautifully with the main story line. Spirited Away was awarded the Oscar for best animated film in 2003, a recognition well-earned.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chain Letters Anonymous

This is just a hoot. So you get an email chain letter that threatens dire consequences if you don't send it on. Like your dog will experience a long bout of incontinence. Or you'll burn in some kind of unpleasant afterlife. Nasty. But you don't want to burden your friends with this, they've got enough to worry about without their pets exploding. Chain Letters Anonymous is here to help. They want to be your buds! Just send the email to them and it automatically goes to your 10 new best friends, who are less afraid of cosmic karma than you are. The chain stops there, the sun comes out, all is bright and hopeful again. From the geniuses at the Skeptical Inquirer. If you'd like to read up on different types of, well, hoaxes is the word that comes to mind, here's a dandy book:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

They're Always Wright

TODAY IN HISTORY! In 1903 the Wright Brothers flew 'Flyer 1' at the interestingly-named Kill Devil Hills. No one died, but each of their 4 attempts crashed. The last flight stayed aloft 59 seconds, for 852 feet. Now that was flying! Because automotive motors were too heavy the brothers built their own engine from aluminum-copper alloy, which was mighty ingenious. But because they were so secretive - for fear of losing their invention - Europeans thought the whole thing was a fake. The brothers were vindicated, and are now rightfully famous. If you'd like to know more, this 544 page book should answer your questions.

The Wright brothers : the remarkable story of the aviation pioneers who changed the world

Source: The Equivocal Success of the Wright Brothers; Schlenoff, Daniel C Scientific American 12-01-2003

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Other Holiday Dangers

The top of my head is burned. Have you been to the tropics, I hear you ask? Nope, I've been to the attic storage. Do you have a sun lamp there, I hear you ask? Nope, just package-wrapping accoutrements. The storage area is quite long and has a low, slanted roof with a single bare light bulb smack in the middle. Yep, I've been walking into the light bulb. You'd think after the first time I would pay more attention. Nope, too busy looking for that curling ribbon I know is up there. I also have 2 small burns on my right hand from baking disasters (see Dec. 15 post) and I incurred severe glute ache from sitting cross-legged on the floor wrapping presents. Upon arising from that position, I walked like John Wayne - only much less gracefully. Let my experiences serve as a warning. The holidays are dangerous. Wear a scarf.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cookie Monster

Not the Sesame Street guy. I'm talking about my oven. I baked 2 kinds of sugar cookies last week and had to watch them like a hawk. The recipe says 8 minutes, so I check at 8 and they're not done. But they're almost done, so I have to stand there like idiot and open the oven door every 10 seconds. Are they done yet? Are they done yet? Are they done yet? You think this would prevent burning. But did it occur to you that I can only do this so long before I can't stand it anymore and wander off? I didn't burn too many, but the uncertainty drives me nuts. Plus some of them came out tough because I used a mixer instead of beating the dough by hand. The recipe did not say I couldn't use a mixer. Well it does now, but it's just a little too late, isn't it? My sister says you can buy cookie dough that's already in shapes, you don't have to cut them out. Hmmmm. Anyway, if you'd like to have a pleasant cookie-making experience, here are some books to try.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Big Generators - Write Your Own Ticket

Another goody. The Concert Ticket Generator is your entree to the world of event promotion. You could even make out tickets for your New Year's Eve party. Be sure to have someone at the door to rip the tickets if you want to achieve true verisimilitude. Aren't you impressed I know that word? And I was only off 1 letter when I spelled it the first time. Tickets, please!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Big Generators Week - You got it

Have you ever wanted receipts for intangibles? Say, excellent advice you gave your child? Acknowledgement that you suffered through an entire episode of "According to Jim" for love of a spouse? Now you can have them. Yes, the Custom Receipt Maker is there for all your emotional needs, and it looks really real! Except for the across the bottom, but hey, it's their software. Type in your store name (or person's name), your items, your prices - it will even add for you! Fill your pockets with these to remind yourself how swell you are. If you'd like to put in historical items and prices, we have some old Sears catalogs. Most are on microfilm, plus we have one that checks out. Just cool to look at -

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Big Generators - But I'm No Dummy!

You are chock-ful of knowledge, I just know it. Maybe you trounce everyone in the latest version of Grand Theft Huggies. Maybe you make the best-ever almond cookies and people fly them from Des Moines to exotic locations like Fonda! So pull up Dummiez Book Cover Maker 2008: and make your own ...for Dummies back cover. Why not create many of them, Renaissance people. C'mon, you've always wanted to tell someone who is ignorant in your specialty that maybe they need just a teensy bit of help. This'll be subtle. If you want to learn a new skill, check out our skillion Dummies books.
Finding Dummies Books for ... um... Everybody!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Big Generators - I'm no Einstein

Just a little something fun here. You've got your Albert, wild hair and all, and you can make him say anything! No matter how goofy! Break up your sentence though because each line only takes a few characters. So head on over to Hetemeel's Einstein Form and scratch away with your pithy, albeit brief, thoughts.
Need something snappy to feed Mr. Smarty-Pants? Check out The mammoth book of zingers, quips and one-liners.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Big Generators Week - Vinyl

I love the generators! They're those free things on the internet that let you do stuff you could probably do with some fancy imaging software if you happen to have it. But I don't! I do like to play with words and images though and that's what these generators let me do. Free! Bless you, software fun guys. By the way, none of these are endorsed by the Des Moines Public Library. They just entertain me. I've already highlighted a few generators in the blog - you now can make your own catalog cards, word clouds, transform a photo into some kind of garish nightmare with the Warholizer - I know, you're thinking what more could possibly be out there? Your life is so full now. But who wouldn't want to make their own 45-record images? Just mosey on over to's Vinyl Record Generator and produce your own images of songs that never were, but should have been. Now that you're thinking vinyl, you'll want to know that the new movie Cadillac Records is based on the Chess Records company and we just happen to have books about that establishment.

Machers and rockers : Chess Records and the business of rock & roll

The story of Chess Records

Friday, December 5, 2008

Books to Distract You - Deep Fathom

Those of you who like action-adventure and have not been introduced to James Rollins are in for a treat. One of the best things about his books is the puzzle - the characters don't know what's going on, what the best choices are - the uncertainty makes you want to read read read so you can find out what's happening! This one concerns an expedition to the ends of the earth to find out why the planet is suddenly in chaos! What is this mysterious thing miles down in the ocean that may have some relation to the disasters? Why is it there, who put it there! Aaaaahh! You have to know!!!! So anyway his books are fun, read em' all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Books to Distract You - Bellwether

Connie Willis is a Science Fiction writer and this book is shelved in the Science Fiction, but don't let that worry you. It's actually a fun fast read about how social information is conveyed. OK, that doesn't sound too exciting. What if I said it's about how one certain person wears a cummerbund with tap pants and suddenly everyone is wearing that ridiculous outfit without really knowing why. They just know it's cool. Because the bellwether wore it. Sound better? I must warn you that Willis says somewhat unkind things about librarians - how dare she! Who does she think buys all these books? So brace yourselves for those little bits. Otherwise just hang on and go with it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Books to Distract You - A Walk in the Woods

Native son (from Des Moines) Bill Bryson gets it into his head that he'd like to hike the Appalachian Trail. Never mind that it's an enormous undertaking for seasoned hikers, and Bryson isn't even lightly salted. And, because Bryson's a lucky guy, his buddy Stephen Katz shows up to go along for the ride. Now Bryson has done his research, bought the right gear, really tried in his scholarly, city-boy way to prepare for the trip. Katz is even more out-of-shape than Bryson and bonus: Katz pitches all his hiking stuff almost immediately because it is too heavy. Bye bye water. Later, Katz gets lost. I'm guessing no one was surprised by this. Bryson delights in his friend's company nonetheless - Katz is a really nice guy. And he makes for terrific anecdotes. This is a lovely winter read (sunshine! sweating! nature!) from a genuinely funny writer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Books to Distract -- Mama Makes up her Mind

How shall I describe this one? Oh, yeah, it takes place in the South, so that's already a point in its favor. Plus, by my admittedly boring standard, these people are nuts. For some reason I can't recall but believe me it wouldn't be reason enough, they keep a container of worms suspended from the ceiling in the kitchen. Being alive, the worms wriggle around and occasionally drop from the container onto whatever or whomever happens to be underneath them at the time. Worms dropping from the ceiling. This is why I can never see the movie Suspiria. Eek. But here are two pleasant, intelligent women sitting calmly in the kitchen whilst the worms drop about them. Whistling while Rome burns comes to mind. Only really really funny.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Books to Distract You - Not buying it

If your head is buried in the holidays and you can barely breathe, this week we'll suggest books that could give you a break. And OK, this first one is about shopping, but it will not be urging you on. Levine's year without shopping doesn't mean she grew her own food and made her own medicines. She just wanted to try to buy nothing but necessities for a year. Whether she was successful or not I'll leave up to you - she had some difficulty defining neccessity. The hardest part may have been that she had to think before spending money on all those things we just take for granted: going to movies, eating at restaurants, picking up some clothes on sale. Made for a new way of looking at her world. She's a braver gal than I am.

Not buying it : my year without shopping / Judith Levine

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sand Candles. When only an irregularly shaped lump of a gift will do.

This must be easy because I actually made one. OK it was in high school under adult supervision, but still. The basics: put sand into a box that you may want to line with plastic to prevent dripping. Because the sand has to be wet. Did I mention that? Then take your hand and make a hollow in the sand, whatever shape you want but leave enough sand at the base of the hollow to hold the shape. Melt wax – once again I refer you elsewhere for this. Pour the wax into the hole in the sand and let it cool. One method for inserting a wick is to wrap it around a dowel long enough to span your box, suspending some of the wick in the hot wax. But be careful! A hazmat suit may be in order. When you take the candle out of the sand, brush off any loose sand. Some sand will be melted into the candle, but that’s the decorative part! Another once-popular craft brought to you by yours truly. And more authoritatively by our actual craft books:

Candlemaking for the first time / Vanessa-Ann

Candle making / Cheryl Owen.

Graphic: Making Sand Candles

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

And a big thank you to Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor who badgered those in authority until Abraham Lincoln declared a Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Her letter-writing campaign spanned 40 years and we commend her persistence. All six libraries of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today for the Thanksgiving holiday. Have a lovely day, and we'll see you tomorrow!

Source: Mother of all Thanksgivings New Hampshire Business Review, 11/10/2006, Vol. 28 Issue 24, p3-3, 1/4p;

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kitschy Crafts - Frothy, but not the Snowman

So here's something my Dad used to do when I was little. He would take wax and melt it over the stove - I'm not sure how, I wasn't allowed near any of this process - then he would use an electric mixer to whip the wax. Next came the waxed-cardboard milk carton. He'd pour or spoon the frothy wax into the milk carton and let it cool. Then he'd just tear the milk carton off the cooled wax and voila! A candle was born. I'm not even sure we lit it but it was really cool. Actually I wanted to eat it, but that's another story. In this new-fangled age, frothy wax is being applied to existing candles. This appears to be called 'caking'. Very pretty as you can see from the example at right. Since I have no idea how to do this and I wouldn't want any one to get hurt with hot wax, I will refer interested parties to the experts for actual instructions.

Web Site: Let's Make Candles

Candle making in a weekend : inspirational ideas and practical projects

Creating candles / Luisa Sacchi

Graphic source: The Melting Pot

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kitschy Crafts - Nature's Sleigh?

There were years in my childhood when, in November, my mother would make one of her very few craft projects. In my house we did not sew, crochet, knit, do needlework, quilt, or weave. Mostly we read. It's OK, I don't feel deprived. But get this. Mom would take the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving and boil the heck out of the breast bones. These she would spray gold then place a little Santa figure in the cavity. She may have rigged up something for reindeer and reins, that part has slipped my mind. But the sleigh I remember fondly(!) as one of the harbingers of the holiday season. Even though it still looked like a turkey carcass. Can you believe I couldn't find a picture of one to illustrate this post? I can. Believe it, that is. Here are some fun books that might give you a little flavor of the times:

Retro style : the '50's look for today's home
Kitschy crafts : a celebration of overlooked 20th century crafts
I like you : hospitality under the influence / by Amy Sedaris.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kitschy Crafts Week - know when to fold

First of all, do you have any idea how hard it is to type Kitschy Crafts instead of Kitschy Krafts? I actually used the K and had to go back and change it. Here's a craft I remember from my youth: The Folded Page Centerpiece. Choose a paperback book and remove the front and back covers, or use a copy of Readers Digest. Fold the pages diagonally from the top right corner to the center of the book and then fold the rest of the page in half lengthwise. Once the pages are all done glue the last page to the first page to get a full circle of pages. When the glued pages are secured, spray paint the thing and decorate as you please.

Graphic Source: Book Rescue .org

Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Influenza in Des Moines

We're so used to the annual innoculation that the flu can seem ordinary. But there was a time when it was not only a killer - as it sometimes still is - but a raging epidemic that wiped out 675,000 Americans. (The photo at left is of "An Emergency Hospital for Influenza Patients." The Pandemic of 1918.

From Mike Leavitt Secretary of Health and Human Services, presented February 7, 2006: "On October 5th, 1918, the first cases of flu were reported in Des Moines, and on that same day, the Des Moines Tribune reported that local hospitals were refusing any more patients with the flu. After just 25 confirmed cases among civilians in Des Moines, the Surgeon General suggested the city close theaters and other public places to prevent a pandemic. It was already too late. Within one week, the Public Health Service reported that there were more than 8,100 new cases of the flu (civilian and military) and more than 70 deaths from it, and the number "appears to be increasing." The following week, more than 21,000 cases were reported." And that was just in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information -

The great influenza : the epic story of the deadliest plague in history / John M. Barry

Flu : the story of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 and the search for the virus that caused it / Gina Kolata.


Graphic: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cartoonist - Ready For Her Close-up

Jackie Ormes was the first female African-American cartoonist. Her popular strips 'Torchy' and 'Patty-Jo 'n Ginger' appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender. One of her passions was fashion and man, you can see that in the strips reproduced in the book. Torchy and Ginger have drop-dead gorgeous figures and wear nothing but couture. Of course this was back in the day when the comics featured some pretty slinky females. Ormes had paper dolls accompanying some of her strips, then a full-out Patty-Jo doll line with lots of different outfits. Eat your heart out, Barbie. Those Patty-Jo dolls are highly collectible now. Ormes was a fascinating artist and businesswoman and fashion plate herself. Check out her one-of-a-kind life.

Jackie Ormes by Nancy Goldstein

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Old Pyramid

It just floors me when they find a pyramid. Here you think everything has been discovered - at least everything as big as a pyramid - and they go ahead and find a new one. Apparently this one is especially cool as it is the tomb of Queen Sesheshet, a very powerful woman and the mother of Pharaoh Teti. Sitting there all these years under tons of sand. The National Geographic reports that they don't expect to find her mummy due to the activities of tomb robbers. But there should be a wealth of information in the inscriptions. Here are some great books on the construction of pyramids, to give you an inside look.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Romance To Swoon For

So you've read every Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts romance you can get your hot little hands on. We've got ideas. The Suggestions from Librarians section on our web site has lists of authors for people who like all kinds of stuff. How about a little Iris Johansen? She's written about 35 books, that should keep you entertained for a while. Romance writers tend to write lots of books, so once you've found an author you might be set for life. And when you're done with the romances, you can always move on to the War Fiction. No? Maybe the Nice Cozy Mystery Without All That Blood! list. It's worth it just for the name. Some of our romance writers, like Catherine Coulter, write thrillers as well. Another way to broaden your horizons.
Suggestions from Our Librarians

Monday, November 17, 2008

150 Best Sellers!

Those nice people at USA Today have compiled a list of the top 150(!) books of the last 15 years. Now, thank goodness, we don't have to. Some highlights: Surprise! The top ten includes all 7 Harry Potters. But Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution and The Da Vinci Code took the number 2 and 3 spots. Never understimate the American weight loss mania. Don't really have an answer for the 'Code' phenomenon. To Kill a Mockingbird came in at 22, yay! And A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle was 31. Didn't see that coming. A Child Called It and A Million Little Pieces were side-by-side at 51 and 52. Just sayin'. Take a look, it's a fun record of our cultural journey. Plus you can try to find how many Dr. Seuss books are listed. Check out the list, then check out our books.
USA TODAY's best-selling books of last 15 years

Friday, November 14, 2008

Recycling - it's not just for the other guy

Tomorrow is the 11th year of America Recycles Day! Whoohoo! Recycle like there's no tomorrow! Too true. We are lucky enough to have the enormous blue receptacle in which to plop our recyling. No sorting! Put in all the corrugated boxes you want! It's great, and we are definitely recycling more. Ever wonder what happens to all that stuff? The National Recycling Coalition, which sponsors America Recycles Day, has a nifty feature on its web site. Using the Conversionator you can get an idea of how many airplanes could be built with the aluminum cans we send to landfills. Oh, and library bonus: the Des Moines Public Library now offers 'recycling' bags, the kind you buy so as to accumulate fewer bags from stores. They're $2 each, or 2 for $3. We do our part.

National Recycling Coalition
America Recycles Day

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Eff-Bee-Eye

2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the FBI. In and of itself, this may not generate too much excitement - but they have this really cool website! The FBI's Freedom of Information Act Reading Room. Sounds dull, doesn't it? But is has some weird stuff, man. Did you know Colonel Sanders asked for federal assistance to protect him from a death threat? Plus there is a copy of an invitation to the President to join Sanders in Texas for an 80th birthday celebration (scroll down to p. 5). LBJ declined. The Unidentified Flying Objects section is big. Looks like UFO witnesses had to provide answers for a 2-page 24-point questionnaire. Here is a link to one, scroll down to the second page for the questionnaire. Everything is just a photocopy of the original so they are slow to load. But that's cool because the documents include handwritten notes. Except for allllll the stuff that's blacked out. On the other hand, who else would publish their UFO research?

FBI Reading Room
Graphic Source: Best UFO Pictures

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

River of Darkness

Veterans have always suffered from the horrors of war. Vietnam veterans struggle desperately with post-traumatic-stress syndrome. The men who returned home from World War II were wracked with shell-shock. The hero of River of Darkness suffers from battle fatigue to such an extent that his superiors at Scotland Yard question his fitness for duty. But John Madden's terrible experiences in the trenches make him both uniquely qualified to solve the mystery of the slaughter of a family and more vulnerable to its horror. This is just a fascinating book, really awful acts couched in a time and place we think of as more genteel, when it was just as brutal as life can be now. Only with fewer forensic scientists. There's a sequel, The Blood-Dimmed Tide, but don't worry about being overwhelmed with a series. It took him six years to write this one. Both well worth the read.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Female Veterans Day Two - Pilots

The U.S. Air Transport Command formed the WAFS, Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron in 1942. These women remained civilians but flew military planes in the United States.

The WFTD, Women’s Flying Training Detachment was established to train pilots. These women were treated as military personnel, complete with morning reveille, but never actually became members of the military. Through this unit, 1,074 women were taught to fly.

Confused? Just wait. In August 1943 the WFTD and the WAFS were merged and became the WASPs, Women’s Air Force Service Pilots. Now they’re cooking with gas. The WASPs flew every airplane in the Air Force inventory. And get this. Male pilots were worried about flying the Superfortress, which had not performed problem-free in testing. So, two WASPs took one on a tour of air bases. Apparently the feeling was if the women would fly it the men would be convinced. It worked. WASPS flew 60 million miles during WWII and thirty-eight WASPs were killed in the line of duty. And I'd never heard of them.

Read More:
Centennial of Flight Commission: Women in the Military in World War II
Graphic Credit Conrad Wing Collection Online

Scrapbook owned by the library:
Women in the WAVES, SPARS, MARINES, WAFS and WASPS, 1942-1945 / Des Moines Public Library, comp.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veterans of the Female Kind - Part I

To commemorate tomorrow, let's talk veterans.
We're all familiar with WACS and WAVES, but there were several other capacities in which women served the military in World War II.

The Women’s Army Corps took form in 1943 when its predecessor, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was militarized. WAC’s held positions as radio operators, parachute riggers, mechanics. Then the Navy decided they could use women like that and in 1942 the WAVES (Women Appointed for Volunteer Emergency Service) was born. Some WAVES became air control operators, a first as women were considered unable to cope with the multi-tasking required. They did great once they managed to climb up the towers in their uniform skirts.

Then there were the Marines. General Thomas Holcomb was not excited about having women in the Marines, but once he accepted them he took it all the way. When asked what catchy acronym the unit would be named, in the 27 March 1944 issue of Life magazine General Holcomb stated: "They are Marines. They don't have a nickname and they don't need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere at a Marine post. They inherit the traditions of Marines.” End of discussion.

One last group for today -the US Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPARs) was established in Novvember 1942. Most of the women performed clerical work, but some were in more specialized jobs. They worked as boatswains mates, coxswains, radiomen, ship's cooks, vehicle drivers, pharmacist's mates.

Read more:

SPARS: The Coast Guard & the Women's Reserve in World War II

U.S. Centennial of Flight Commision: Women in the Military in World War II

FREE A MARINE TO FIGHT: Women Marines in World War II by Colonel Mary V Stremlow, USMCR (Ret)

And a scrapbook belonging to the library:
Women in the WAVES, SPARS, MARINES, WAFS and WASPS, 1942-1945 / Des Moines Public Library, comp.

Friday, November 7, 2008


One of my east-coast buddies - in Davenport - has lots of young friends and they 'text' back and forth. Now I made 6 typos in the previous sentence and I'm using a full-sized keyboard. Chances of me communicating with my thumbs are next to nil. And I still don't get why you just don't talk. Isn't it easier? Yet people persist in slamming their largest digits over a teeny tiny beantsy telephone keypad. They love it! I can see why they use lots of shortcuts, and I have found a website that lists many of them, if you are curious. Some of them make no sense to me - 1337 means 'Elite? And others - URYY4M You Are Too Wise For Me - seem more like license plates. So great! Another new universe to learn! If you want to tackle it, here is a link to the website with the Text Message Shorthand. Be aware, it is a site for adults. Are you seeing the irony here?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Now for something very different - Why Warhol

I imagine most of us think of Andy Warhol as a man with more talent at self-promotion and befriending celebrities than as an actual artist. But he had an enormous effect on popular culture. Aside from astutely realizing everyone would have 15 minutes of fame - and this before the massive invasion of reality TV - his signature style of art is now iconic. Here is a web site that allows you to turn your photos into something resembling his garish yet arresting celebrity portraits: Warholizer. (Sample above. I did it all by myself!) And it makes my point. Andy Warhol was no Rembrandt, but his impact is universal.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Over!

Were you, like my husband, glued to the television last night?
Well we did it - we voted and chose the next President of the United States! Pretty powerful, isn't it? Months and months and eons of campaigning have finally come to an end, and in the end ordinary people such as I had just as much say as people with two swimming pools. Congratulations, President-Elect Obama. After you take office January 20th, what will happen in the coming four years? See if you can't make it good. Better yet, shoot for wonderful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote vote vote

Pundits expect a record number of voters in this election. Let's indulge them and vote like maniacs. Don't know where to vote? Click here to Find Your Polling Place. Polls are open from 7 AM to 9 PM. You may be asked to show identification if:

You registered to vote by mail after January 1, 2003, and you have never voted in a primary or general election in your county;

Your voter registration is inactive;

You have moved from the address where you are registered to vote;

Your right to vote is challenged;

The precinct election officials do not know you.

A current photo ID will suffice, but there are other options. For more information, go to Voting on Election Day and click on 'Identification'. Ok, now you're prepared. Vote! Because you can.

Graphic Source: Library of Congress American Memories

Monday, November 3, 2008

Presidential Pastimes

As we prepare to choose a President, I thought I'd bring to your attention what's really important. The hobbies and/or sports chosen by those in highest office. Here's a few:

Indian Clubs - Coolidge

Townball - Lincoln According to World Wide Baseball Association this was rounders,a type of stick-ball.

Pitching Hay - Coolidge

Medicine Ball - Hoover Now there's a version called 'Hooverball'.

Jujitsu - Roosevelt, Teddy

Croquet - Hayes
I just chose the ones I thought were least likely to be chosen by contemporary presidents. Although Hooverball is making something of a comeback. Jujitsu, anyone?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Scary Movies

Trick-or-treat is over, but by golly tonight is still Halloween. Looking for something spooky to watch? The American Film Institutes loves lists almost as much as I do. I was trying to find you a list of Horror Movies, but they lump them into the 100 Thrills category. These are the top-ten 'Thrills' movies that I would consider horror. Plus where they appear in the AFI list. Can you believe Alien is 29 years old? Still mighty unsettling - can't watch it when I'm home alone.

1. PSYCHO 1960

2. JAWS 1975


6. ALIEN 1979

7. THE BIRDS 1963


12. KING KONG 1933

29. THE SHINING 1980

46. CARRIE 1976


American Film Institute

Graphic: Kat Black's Film Noir

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tonight's the Night! Let the candy-flinging begin!

All ready? You've got candy, maybe something a little Halloween-y to wear, and a light turned on so everyone can tell you are one treat-giving machine. Plus, you are prepared to listen to the same joke over and over and laugh like a maniac each time. Now here's an idea. If you get a really little person who is terrified by the whole experience and incapable of telling a joke, why don't you tell them one? Here are a few to get you started:

How do you fix a jack-o-lantern? With a pumpkin patch.
What goes "Ha-ha-ha . . . THUD!" A monster laughing his head off.
Knock, Knock. Who's there? Olive. Olive who? Olive Halloween!!!!!
How can you tell that a vampire likes baseball? He turns into a bat every night.

So you've got some not-too-scary jokes with which to break the ice. Of course there's always the chance that the wee one just wants to get away from your door as soon as possible. In that case, just give 'em the candy.

Joke Source:Hickory Daily Record (NC); 10/17/2008 as reprinted in EBSCOHost (scroll down on page)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bad Candy

So once a year, at night, in the dark, you go to people's houses and knock on their door. Say the magic words and they give you candy! Free! As a child this was the most important holiday for me. Made even better by the fact that I trick-or-treated with lots of siblings and friends and we would go to the basement, dump everything out of our bags and start trading. I hated Chicken Bones, Boston Baked Beans and black licorice. Oh, and Heath Bars. Why would you put a slab of hard toffee inside perfectly good chocolate? If it was the only candy I had I would gnaw off the chocolate and toss the now-gooey toffee. No wonder I never got invited to dine with the Queen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's All the Apple's Fault

Bobbing for apples. Easy - dunk your head, get your teeth firmly buried and you're out, secure in the knowledge that you'll meet your true love or some such thing. If you want to spend a little more time there's all kinds of fun you can have with an apple. At midnight on Halloween stand in front of a mirror, eat an apple, comb your hair and you'll see your spouse-to-be in the mirror over your left shoulder. Want to kick it up a notch? You still have to wait for Halloween midnight. In front of a mirror, cut an apple into 9 pieces. One at a time, stick a knife in the pieces and hold them over your left shoulder. As soon as you see the ninth piece in the mirror - boom! There's the spouse-to-be. Seems like combing your hair would be a lot less work. The most entertaining method of apple divination involves taking the wet seeds out of the apple, naming them for all the people you're dating and sticking the wet seeds on your face. The last seed to fall off will be the person who gets serious. I don't care about the results, I just want to see somebody stick a bunch of apple seeds on their face. Any takers?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Des Moines - Haunted!

The ghost of University Avenue: it could show up in the shape of a man, or just a cloud that smelled like kerosene. Turned out in 1881 a man from Des Moines who was wearing kerosene-covered clothes went up in flames. Go figure. This apparition hasn’t been seen since 1945….or has it? Hahahahaha

The Terrifying Table of Francis Avenue. In 1937 Mr. and Mrs. James Weaver brought home a seemingly innocuous table. But no! It was a small table apparently inhabited by a ‘confused spirit’. And not a quiet one. The table kept making rapping noises! The horror! These shenanigans went on until Mrs. Weaver (whose first name has apparently been lost in the mists of time) grabbed the table and read it the Bible. Shenanigans ceased. Case closed. They kept the table.

For these and more exciting tales of metaphysical mayhem, stop in at the Central Library and take a look at our reference book The National Directory of Haunted Places.


Friday, October 24, 2008

October - Squirrel Awareness Month

There are black squirrels in the Council Bluffs area. And they are actually protected - or at least they were. Reports Field & Stream Oct 2004, p. 20: "Last April, a man in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was fined $325 for "annoying" a squirrel when his dog chased one.... Police cited the perpetrator for violating the town's Black Squirrel Ordinance, which makes it illegal to "annoy or worry" the Council Bluffs mascot." Don't mess with them.
Then there are those that find your garden variety squirrels a nuisance. An article in Countryside & Small Stock Journal; Jan/Feb 2008,p.80, provides a recipe for a homemade spray that includes Red Savina and orange Habanero peppers so hot the author advises you not to touch them with your bare hands. No wonder it deters squirrels. Now my husband likes to jump out from behind a tree and throw a bucket of water at the critters. Guess I'd better keep him out of Council Bluffs.

From the EBSCO Host MasterFILE Premier database:
Countryside & Small Stock Journal; Jan/Feb2008, Vol. 92 Issue 1, p80
Field & Stream; Oct 2004, Vol. 109 Issue 6, p20

Graphic courtesy Gerry Rowland

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October - Self Promotion Month

Me! Me! Me! Look at me! Pay attention to me! That's how a 2-year-old would do it. But adults have options, strategies, steps for getting across the notion that you are just the greatest while avoiding jumping up and down and screaming. Here are some books that might assist you in getting what you want. Now! Although 'now' may still be too late for this ray of sunshine and her sewing.