Friday, October 30, 2009

Actual Halloween

Here's an old Halloween tradition that's new to me. The Irish and Cornish folks held that you could not eat blackberries or sloes picked on October 31 or after that date. Why? Because the fairies fly over them and 'rendered them inedible'. Who knew fairy cooties were so powerful? Or so evil? No sloe gin fizzes for you tomorrow night. Just in case.
The great encyclopedia of faeries
An encyclopedia of fairies : hobgoblins, brownies, bogies, and other supernatural creatures

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beggars Night Tomorrow

Back in the day - the worst Halloween treat was an apple.  Just give us candy. Candy candy candy!  That's what we want!  Not gum.  Especially not black licorice gum, and there were like 3 brands of the stuff!    After collecting the candy my second favorite part of Halloween was when we all got home spilled our candy on the basement floor and traded!  I couldn't wait to get rid of  Boston Baked Beans, Chicken Bones (Aaahhh!  They literally gave me nightmares!), and  Good and Plenty, aka black licorice in a capsule.   This year "The 2009 National Confectioners Association's Halloween Survey reported that chocolate treats will reign supreme this Halloween.... According to the survey, 52 percent of Americans plan to pass out candy this year."  Yay! If only I was just a little shorter.

Source: Your Halloween preparation guide
Authors:And Tonya Fennell, Courtney Hudson
Sedalia Democrat, The (MO); 10/20/2009  accessed through EbscoHost

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Falll Baaaaack!!!

The best day of the year is upon us.  On Sunday November 1 Daylight Savings ends.  Yahoo!  One extra hour of sleep.  Bliss.  Oh yeah, set your clocks back an hour Saturday night.  You do not want to miss this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Horror Fun!

Some of my favorite movies are horror/comedy.  First we have a few with actually scary parts.   These would be An American Werewolf in London, of the famous naked-man-running-with-balloons scene.  Another one is the first Tremors movie.  With Kevin Bacon!  The huge sandworms aren't too smart but they're genuiunely dangerous.   Beetlejuice is more jokey.  Eight-legged freaks is totally jokey but it features a very young Scarlett Johannsen.  Then there's Shaun of the Dead.   Shaun is sublime, its comedy played perfectly straight hitting all the action-horror cliches.  At one point the ragtag survivors led by the unlikely hero meets another group exactly like themselves.  Each group stops for a moment, dumbfounded, then falls back into their roles and go their separate ways.  Perfectly seriously.  Aren't you dying to see these? Ha! 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Your very own haunted house

It's not too late!  You can still have the best Halloween ever, because we have books to help you.  You know those people who have headstones and skeletons and spiderwebs and scary things that laugh at you as you walk by in their yard?  You could be one of those people!  Or you could have a great party and the yard people will look at your house enviously from behind their skeleton-in-a-cage.  Because Halloween's not just for kids anymore.  Mwa ha ha ha ha.
The complete haunted house book
Give them a real scare this Halloween : a guide to scaring trick-or-treaters, and haunting your house, yard, or party
Haunted house Halloween handbook
How to haunt a house for Halloween
Halloween : a grown-up's guide to creative costumes, devilish decor & fabulous festivities

Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween Postcards

We know Halloween has become big business in the last 15 years, the merchandising has exploded!  When I was a child (cue sound of rocking chair creaking) you had your costumes, your jack-o'lanterns, and maybe a candle in the shape of a pumpkin.  That was Halloween. This year I saw some sort of liquid candy that comes in a drip bag like it's blood from the hospital.  Eew.  In a less gooey vein (Get it?  Vein!)  Halloween lovers have been mailing celebratory postcards since the turn of the century.  The last century, not this one.  Guess what?  None of them featured blood.  Go figure.  The macabre and terrifying caption for the postcart at right:

A Hallowe'en merry, a Hallowee'n bright,
Though pumpkins make faces
and ghosts walk a night
Let no noises scare you, and don't start to run
For 'tis but a joke and Hallowe'en fun.

Here are some books to help you bone up on your Halloween lore.  ('Bone' up!  I'm on a roll!)
Death makes a holiday : a cultural history of Halloween
Halloween : customs, recipes, spells
Carving jack-o-lanterns

Source: Country Living; Oct 98, Vol. 21 Issue 10, p94, 2p
as accessed through EbscoHost

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pretty on the Inside

I understand there are people who like to decorate their homes as opposed to hanging random pictures on the walls and calling it a day.   It can be hard to make your home look nice when you are, say, on a budget.  Or without a budget.  We have books to help you through these difficult decorating times.  And if you love a dollar store like I do  (the only place I can find pretty paper towels - does that count as decorating?)  you're in luck.
Decorating ideas under $50 /
Dollar store d├ęcor
Quick decorating ideas under $20
Thrifty chic : interior style on a shoestring

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Librarians! Authors! Action!

Who are those good-looking, intelligent folks you see milling about Des Moines?  The Librarians have landed!  It's the time of year when the annual Iowa Library Association Conference is convened, and this year Des Moines has the honor of hosting!  Whoohoo!  The mind-boggling 48-person Iowa Author Fair tonight is being sponsored in part by ILA.  If you want to see  Librarians and Authors bloom together in an ideal environment, wander down to the Central Library this evening for the 8 PM festivities.  It will be a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pre-Raphaelites ... but they came after

So which Raphael did the Pre-Raphaelites precede?  According to the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, these artists were rebelling against the long-dead Raphael of Renaissance fame.  More specifically they wished to return to "the simple depiction of nature in Italian art" before Raphael and his cohorts Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci messed it up for everybody.  Pre-Raphaelite paintings are gorgeous and lush but not what you'd call simple or especially natural. Rosetti's women  have heads that are flat as a pancake and their hair is enormous.  Example right.  So in addition to being beautiful the paintings are just a tad weird.  What more could you ask of art?
The art of the Pre-Raphaelites
Essential Pre-Raphaelites
Dante Gabriel Rossetti / Julian Trueherz

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia as found through eLibrary, one of the Des Moines Public Library's online resources.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Speaking of Robots... well the other day anyway...

There's a fun Robot Movie Quiz that presents you with a photo of the robot, and you choose which movie the robot appeared in.  Hey, it's multiple choice!  Everybody's got a shot.  Hint:  some of the movies are not-so-well-known.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 15, the first flight - depending on how you define 'flight'.

On October 15, 1783, Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent, Marquis d'Arlandes (whew) were the first people ever to rise up off the earth in some kind of contraption.  Said contraption:  a  Montgolfier hot-air balloon.  You won't be surprised to know that this happened in Paris, France. The big trip lasted 4 minutes, soaring to 84 feet.  I kid, this was a major step forward.  And contrary to popular belief, the hot air was not provided by reciting the aeronauts' rather lengthy names. 

Source: Chase's Calendar of Annual Events
Fun Book:  Balloon flying handbook

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Science Update: Crocodiles have reason to cry

Know what kills a crocodile? Besides the obvious blunt instrument. Fat! And they're not having heart attacks or strokes either. Nile crocodiles are dying in the Olifants River, (South Africa) sometimes at a rate of 20 per week. Scientists  found "some kind of pansteatitis--an inflammation of adipose tissue" was killing the animals. Adipose tissue is fat, and somthing is causing it to build up in crocodiles' tails. To the extent that the tail becomes so stiff and swollen that the animals can't move. A cause has not been identified, and they are trying to find out if other creatures are effected. And I just found out that I can feel sorry for crocodiles.

Crocodiles are dying in the wierdest way.  Hunting a Croc Killer.
Author Lubick, Naomi

Source:Scientific American; Oct 2009, Vol. 301 Issue 4, p25-25, 1p, 1 color

Science Update: Robot discovery - the other kind

Did we learn nothing from Battlestar Galactica? And if you haven't watched it, (the new version) you should. The article I will be quoting starts with the words "A robot scientist". And how many years of college does the robot have? Higher education notwithstanding, this robot made a scientific discovery all by itself.  It found new ways that the genes in baker's yeast work! OK, not scary. But this robot can devise a theory then design and run experiments based on the theory all by its lonesome. To be fair, the robot didn't have to sit with its chin in hand wondering what on earth it was going to tackle . They handed him a "freezer containing a library of thousands of mutant strains of yeast with individual genes deleted".  Let's hope they don't hand it a vat full of world domination techniques next time.

Robots take the drudgery out of science.
Author:  Kleiner, Kurt
Source:  New Scientist; 4/11/2009, Vol. 201 Issue 2703, p17-17, 1

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Money - What do We do Now?

The economy.  Not a happy subject and I'm worn down  reading about it - unless the writer is helping me out with good coping options.  Skipping the morning latte tip is all well and good, but hey, I don't drink coffee.  To the rescue, the comprehensive  Iowa State University Extension's Financial Security: Managing Money in Tough Times page swoops in.  They're getting down to brass tacks here, answering questions like Deciding Which Bills to Pay First and What Can I do When Money Is Short.  If your question is more specific, you can email a guru using the Ask an Expert form.  It's Iowa State University Extension, people.  Pretty darn trustworthy, and oh so helpful.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Closed Today

All six buildings of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today for a staff training day.  So we can better satisfying your library needs.  See you tomorrow!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Carvin' Time

Hey!  Haven't you always wanted to carve a masterpiece of a jack-o-lantern but been held back by your unwillingness to buy 20 practice pumpkins?  That's you, right?  With this generator you can practice to your little heart's content on a virtual pumpkin.  Hmmm, do I want a triangle for the mouth or a circular mouth with teeth?  Ears/no ears?  So many decisions, so few pumpkins.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October Bright

October!  At last, my favorite month.  Do you ever run across a quote or phrase that puts what you feel into words?  Here's a sample: 

O suns and skies and clouds of June, and flowers of June together.
Ye cannot rival for one hour October's bright blue weather.
Helen Hunt Jackson
Helen gets it.  If you're an October enthusiast, read a couple titles from from The Man Who Understands Autumn. That would be Ray Bradbury. When you can actually smell dust from the leaves while you're reading you know it's good. October Country and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Speaking of Siblings...

I have a mess of siblings. And because I'm old my parents had to stumble through on their own, without any of the oh-so-helpful books available to today's families. You on the other hand, have a pulic library stuffed with modern books, standing ready to assist. We have resources for parents coping with battling siblings. Understanding sibling rivalry sounds useful but my favorite title is "Mom, Jason's breathing on me!" Man, that was the worst . When they were doing something completely innocent to you just to drive you crazy. "I'm not touching you!" Aaahh! For us supposed grown-ups we have The birth order book : why you are the way you are, which would be really nice to know. And Sister knot : why we fight, why we're jealous, and why we'll love each other no matter what. Because siblings don't go away even when you're past 50. I don't want them to! As long as they're not not touching me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 1979, Pope John Paul II, a field in Iowa

The actual Pope said Mass outdoors in Iowa in front of a gorgeous quilt under the bright October sky. The emphasis on the land and on a traditional woman's art made for a stirring backdrop to a very old ceremony. My parents and younger sister attended. Janet says they got to see the helicopter arrive (quite a thrill) then walked over to the hill. The sun was out but there was a bitingly cold wind. She and my father finally gave in to the weather and put big trash bags over their clothes to cut the wind. Then they sat down on the hill and Janet started to slide. There was giggling. My mother, a devout Catholic, had nothing to do with these shenanigans. Not in front of the Pope! Nikita Khrushchev, Pope John Paul II, and The Moon Landing. Quite a year for anniversaries.

Resources on the Pope's visit to Iowa. Many of these may not be checked out, but may be viewed at the Central Library.
Graphic Source: John Paul II Visits Rural America p. 59

Monday, October 5, 2009

New Kate Shelley Bridge

Here they are, side-by-side, the new and old Kate Shelley High Bridges.  In honor of the new bridge, here once again is the story of Kate Shelley. It was 1861 and a terrible storm raged. Fifteen-year-old Kate Shelley lived close enough to Honey Creek that she could hear a train crash into the water. She ran to the bridge, saw two men trapped. Not only did she need to get help for them, but she knew a passenger train was scheduled to come over that broken bridge in a matter of minutes. In the filthy weather, her lamp long blown out, Kate Shelley crawled across the broken bridge, over slippery railroad ties - the kind with the gap between them and a looong fall down - full knowing she could be hit by the ongoing train. Where is this girl's action movie! Kate made it to the station on time, the passenger train was saved and two of the men who went into Honey Creek survived. She died in 1912 and the Kate Shelley High Bridge near Boone is named in her honor. I don't even want to run the 5 yards from the house to the car in a nasty storm. Kate Shelley was one amazing Iowan.

Additional Information: Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Photo Courtesty Gerry Rowland

Friday, October 2, 2009

Baseball Sign Generator

This generator has lots of ads, but it's fun anyway. You can put whatever message you want on a ball park sign. I'd keep it short or the words get hard to read. Something snappy like 'Get your eyes checked!' Or perhaps a more personal dispatch. 'We're out of milk' 'Who tracked in that mud?' I'm sure you'll think of something.

Baseball Field Sign Generator

Don't forget the Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience exhibit at the East Side Library.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Western League Baseball Park

So where did professional baseball teams play before Sec Taylor/Principal Park was built? The site of yesterday's Dizzy Dean game, the Western League Baseball Park, was at Sixth and Holcomb Avenues in Des Moines. It was built in 1912, and in 1919 was sold to North High School. In the summers the Western League would rent the ball park from the school! 1939, the grandstand was badly burned and in 1945 the site was razed. Game over.

Source: The Des Moines Register October 18, 1995 p. 8, Neighbors Section.
Graphic source: Public Domain Clip Art
Suggested by Luann Rowat, East Side Library

Don't forget the Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience exhibit at the East Side Library.