Friday, December 31, 2010

This New Year, Y not 2K

What were we doing 10 years ago?  Some of us were freaking out about Y2K.  Why?  OK, when computers were just babies memory was scarce and programmers were trying to save every byte they could.  So they only used the last two numbers of the year, because everyone knew all the years started with 19.  Now the 19 was going away.  Computers would go completely nuts! You'd lose all your stuff!  No one would know how to fix it!  Actually not everyone reached those particular conclusions. But those conclusions were pushing our freak-out buttons like the guy who wants the elevator NOW.   
What we thought would happen:  
Catastrophic economic crash. 
Civilization in chaos.
And everyone's favorite, nuclear holocaust.
But the whole she-bang passed without, well, a bang.  So we've got that going for us.  Happy New Year!

Source:  Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Sep/Oct98, Vol. 82 Issue 5, p16, 6p.
as accessed through EBSCOHost

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed on Thursday, December 30, Friday, December 31 and Saturday, January 1. Thursday is unpaid leave for the staff.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

We Are Closed for a Few Days and Fun Facts

Today is a furlough day so we're not getting paid.  We're closed Friday and Saturday too, but we just get paid for Friday.   Have I confused you enough yet?  Bottom line, all six locations are closed and the next time one will open is Central Library from 1-5 Sunday.  All other buildings will open their regular hours on Monday.  Nothing is due on the days we are closed.  You can still access our Web Page.  Just the facts. Speaking of which, (segue!) have you played around with the Fun Facts lately?  We are adding information from our Tough Question File, like "where was the first brick house built in Des Moines?"  Not even The Commodores knew the answer to that one.  But they're not from Des Moines.

More Fun Facts.    Minus the comedy. 
Type 'house' in the keyword box for the answer to today's Tough Question.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Do Something New

Don't you think now would be a good time to take up a fresh hobby?  Sure you do! Make the world more colorful.  One popular purveyor of painting techniques is ... the alliteration is a clue ... Donna Dewberry!  Donna knows you don't want to paint the Sistine Chapel.  You want to put some color on a brush, lay it down and have it look good.  Get ready for one-stroke painting!  It reminds me of tole painting but with softer shading and mixing of colors.  Apparently one loads different hues of paint onto one's brush in a side-by-side manner, then applies the paint with particular movements. Looks really easy.  Our selection of DD books includes instructions on painting fabric and furniture too.  That chair's not getting any prettier on its own.

Donna Dewberry Books

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Too Much Stuff

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.  I'll admit I am something of a packrat.  I come by it naturally - my paternal grandmother had small boxes lining the stairway up to the second floor.  I don't mean they were sitting there waiting to go upstairs the next time she made a trip.  No siree.  This was permanent storage, and I'm not at that point.  Yet.  The people in this book zoomed light years past Grandma. The infamous Collyer brothers, who lived in a cave of newspapers they'd stacked in their home, are covered.  I'd forgotten they'd set booby traps. Golly. Most of the people profiled aren't paranoid recluses which makes their cases all the sadder.  But fascinating.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Radio City

Look at them.  So proud in their shiny bathing suits.  And womanly thighs.  Now you know this is not a contemporary photo, no no , get out of here with your 1958 thighs, says Radio City 2010.  Radio City Musical Hall opened on this day in 1932.  And the Rockettes were there!  According to Saturday Evening Post, Rockettes needed to be between 5'5" and 5'8" tall in 1958. Now the height range is 5’6” to 5’10".  But to be truthful I did not find a thigh requirement.  Sometimes I exaggerate.   And apparently I am obsessed with size. Happy Anniversary, Music Hall!

The Music Hall. By Morris, Joe Alex
Saturday Evening Post, 1/11/1958, Vol. 230 Issue 28, p34-92, 5p
as accessed through EBSCO Host

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Blips Five - LBD

So how does a sophisticated urbanite like Rhoda Janzen wind up in her Mennonite parents' home after more than a decade gone?  Sudden divorce, overwhelming mortgage, and one heck of a car crash.  Janzen's story of acquainting her adult self with the world of her childhood is hi-larious and honest.  She discovers a kindred spirit in her mother Mary, a nurse who is more wordly than I'd expected. While Janzen obviously disagrees with much of Mennonite life she treats it with respect and is quick to point out her personal absurdities.  So. You've got your fun and relatable main character, a dandy portrait of her family plus a glimpse into a life generally unseen by the public at large. (I am not small).  I laughed, I sighed, I learned a lot.
Mennonite in a little black dress : a memoir of going home / Rhoda Janzen

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Blips IV - Sweeter than Pie

Cowboy and Wills: a Love Story.  Doesn't it just sound like the sugariest, gooiest book ever?  And I haven't even told you that Wills is a puppy!  (OK, maybe the cover gave it away).   Well compared to Marley and Me this is positively gritty.  Because Wills is a little boy with autistic spectrum disorder, and his case is pretty profound.  Soap bubbles hurt his skin.  How on earth could he ever cope with a world full of stones?  Cue the puppy.  People struggling with forms of autism often respond well to animals, and it turns out Cowboy was the key to Wills.  Sounds intolerably cute but the book is contains sharp observations of the hard facts about mainstreaming.  Plus a happy ending!  Yay, puppy!

Cowboy and Wills: a Love Story by Monica Holloway.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Week Blips III - The Science of Angels

Oh man, this was fun!  'Angels' walk among us and they are just as vain and cruel and venal as the humans they despise.  There's a convent where the nuns know all about these angels and are holding the fort against them.  The obligatory curious novice digs around and helps set the ensuing chaos in motion.  How do you solve a problem like the apocalypse?  Killer fight towards the end, and this is high praise from me because fight scenes generally bore me comatose. (I'm taking to you, Peter Jackson.  Helm's Deep took up, like, 2 pages in the book!)  This attack is riveting. Can't wait for the next book. 
Angelology Danielle Trussoni

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed for the holidays: Wednesday*, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, December 22*, 23, 24, 25, 26. Wednesday is an unpaid furlough day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Week Blips II - Kraken Up

Ready for a big fat juicy book about squid worshippers?  I know!  Where has it been all my life?  Another slow starter, but as soon as Wati shows up things start hopping.  Wati is the spirit of an ancient Egyptian slave and he can communicate with humans only when he is inhabiting statues, dolls, anything inanimate that has a head.  He's really riled up and you know it's always fun when a Barbie-like doll rants about union busters.  See, the familiars of magical people - your cats, pigeons, squirrels - are working in terrible conditions with lousy benefits and they're on strike.  So wacky!  And yet not cutesy. Hard to swallow? Maybe, but hang on for the ride.  If you like steampunk this is right up your London back alley.

Kraken by China MiƩville

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed for the holidays: Wednesday*, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, December 22*, 23, 24, 25, 26.  Wednesday is an unpaid furlough day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Week Blips - Go Wild!

All six locations of the Des Moines Pubic Library will be closed for the holidays: Wednesday*, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, December 22*, 23, 24, 25, 26.  Wednesday is an unpaid furlough day.

You may be too busy to read lengthy blog posts, so I will keep them short, if not sweet, this week.  You have plenty of sweets at home.  As do I.  They're too far away.

What you need are book reviews!  Books to take your mind off whatever.  Because the stuff I like is not going to happen in your back yard.  Oh, and there are potential spoilers in the reviews.  But only in order to reveal the coolness of the book.  First up:
Wild Life by Molly Gloss
This starts slowly but it's worth the time. First it details a single mother's life in the Pacific Northwest logging country circa the early 1900's. The main character narrates and she's kind of a pill - arrogant, condescending and not fabulously warm to her kids.  Wait, wait it gets better!  Charlotte hares off to join the search for a missing child, secure in her vast wilderness skills. But things fall apart. She gets lost and is not prepared for what's out there.  Want to know what's out there?  Bigfoots!  She lives with them and learns their language!  How awesome is that?  Very awesome!  We have it in Large Print so you won't miss a word.

Wild Life by Molly Gloss

Friday, December 17, 2010

Farewell to Mr. Bob Feller

You've heard the news by now.  Iowa's most famous baseball player, Bob Feller, died Wednesday of complications from leukemia. The Des Moines Register did a fine job reporting his life and career in yesterday's paper.   Only here do you get the Story of Bob Feller and Burke Shiffler.  Burke, a Bob Feller fan from way back, is a librarian at the Central. He has met, yes, and chatted with Mr. Feller on several occasions.  Burke has 3 baseballs signed by the legend.  Burke's son, a mere one year old at the time, received his very own signed Bob Feller baseball.  It's never too early to meet a sports icon And the baseball cards!  It's fascinating to see the variety that has been available over the years.  Not to mention the postage stamp from Grenada!  Where do you even get this stuff?  Burke has generously installed a large part of his Fellermania collection in one of the display cases on the second floor of the Central Library.  Take a look when you stop in, it is very cool.

Bob Feller Books

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rain Drops

According to hydrologists from the U. S. Geological Survey, an inch of rain falling evenly on one acre dumps approximately 27,154 gallons of water.  I'm guessing that would mean a flat-as-a-pancake acre.  Using EPA figures this would equal:  388 baths; 1086 showers; 662 loads of laundry (using an average, not high-efficiency washer); 7758 flushes (if your commode was produced in 1992 or an earlier date). Why don't showers use more water than baths since the water runs continuously?  Our bathtubs are huge.

 EPA WaterSense
Des Moines Tribune, 7/4/1968

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buried in Iowa

Veterans of the first American War, that is.  There are Revolutionary War soldiers buried all over the state.  Astounding! Since Iowa - territory or state - did not exist in the 18th century, how did this happen? The veterans all lived in the original 13 colonies at the time of the war. (Ok, duh.) Some veterans got here on their own steam. Settlement of the Iowa area began in 1833, so there was plenty of time to move here.  One veteran, Benjamin Bell of the Pennsylvania militia, lived to 102 and is buried in Vegors Cemetery, Webster County Iowa. For those who didn't live that long, some deceased veterans were moved to Iowa.  At that time it was not uncommon for families to disinter their loved ones and rebury them near their new home. This information is courtesy of Mrs. Stanley Shepard of the Daughters of the Revolution, who was in 1971 researching the locations of Revolutionary War veterans' graves in Iowa.  Since then the DAR has accumulated much more, see the link below.
Source:  Des Moines Register 1/3/1971 p. T1
Here is a link to the web page of  The Iowa Society Daughters of the American Revolution  with the names of ‘Iowa’s Patriots’, Revolutionary War Veterans buried in Iowa.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More radio news

The first ever opera written specially for the wireless was a collaboration between Charles Wakefield Cadman and Nelle Richmond Eberhart.  "Willow Tree" was broadcast by NBC radio on October 3, 1932.  Sounds lovely. Cadman composed the music and Eberhart wrote the libretto. Now get this: The two also wrote "From the Land of Sky-Blue Water".  Sung by the immortal Alma Gluck.  You know you want to say it.  I can hear you thinking it.  Sing with me now:  "Hamm's the beer refreshing!"  Nothing like a really good jingle. From the people who bring you operas.

Source: Know Your American Music, by Martha C. Galt
Billboard Nov 25, 1944 p.33

Monday, December 13, 2010

Police Radio in Iowa

The first state police radio in Iowa was created not by state, county or local government.  It was the bankers.   In 1924, the Iowa Bankers Association arranged for WHO to broadcast information on bank robberies and burglaries.  In 1932 said Bankers Association established a 400-watt station in their very own offices. The State Bureau of Investigation sent bulletins to the Bankers Association radio station which would broadcast the messages to officers throughout the state. What if the bankers were all out sick with the flu?  Hmmm?  In 1933 the Iowa Legislature woke up and smelled the crime.  They allocated money for 2 state-run stations, one in Waterloo and one in Storm Lake. And they kept the bankers' station.  The state radio system officially launched in 1937.  By this time they had the hang of it and broadcasts were sent to sheriffs, police departments, state highway patrols - some sort of law enforcement agency in all 99 counties received the alerts. I'm sure the bankers were wonderful, diligent people, but Hurray! 
Source:  Des Moines Register 12/27/1968 p.5
Photo Courtesy State Library of New South Wales

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lightning-Quick Gifts.

Get a jar. Toss in cocoa mix, chocolate chips, marshmallows, bingo!  Pretty up the top of the jar with a ribbon and you have what is known as a gift.  Soapmaking!  All kinds of fun molds are out there. Melt some store-bought soap blocks, pick your scent, and add a ribbon to your finished creation. Candlemaking! A sheet of beeswax, a length of wick and you. Wrap it in ribbon when you're done. There's always room for ribbon!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Have you noticed the way beautiful ribbons call to you?  They're shimmery, rich, colorful ... and half the time they're half off!  This is how I found myself with a houseful of the stuff. Just sitting there.  Mocking me.  "You don't have a clue what to do with us. You are stuck with us for life, toots. Nyah."  Ribbons are not known for their mature communication style. If you have lots of ribbons you'd like to actually use but you're not much of a seamstress (Seamster?  Don't mess with a seamster.) we have options.  Most of the projects start with something ready-made and add ribbons to it.  My kind of crafting.  Add gorgeous ribbons to votive candle holders, plain picture frames and photo albums, et voila!  They are transformed into spectacular gifts.  If you want to make fake flowers out of ribbons, A Passion for Ribbonry is your BFF.  Pansies, roses, lupins! I am not kidding you, lupins! Take a look at all our ribbonry books and get cracking.
Ribbon Craft Books

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jewelry. It Can Be Done

Easy easy easy!  We have several books about jewelry-making that claim to make the craft easy, and they wouldn't lie, would they?  I mean it says so in print.  On a book.  I've always wanted to try paper jewelry.  Not the fancy stuff, with origami or any other techniques that have the least whiff of difficulty about them.  Just the kind they probably make in Girl Scouts. Roll up a triangle of paper until you have a bead, slap some kind of shellac on it, dry it out and string it up.  I made one bead and it was gorgeous.  Kind of limited though.  But if I can do it ...
Jewelry-Making Made Easy Books

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paper View

Look at paper a new way!  As stuff you can easily fashion into presents.   I know you're out there.  You have scrapbook paper stuffed under beds, stashed in closets, peeking out of drawers.  And it's all so beautiful, perhaps you don't want to let go.  Buck up!  Here's your chance to haul it out and use your paper for good! 
Paper it! : 50 home decor and gift ideas using scrapbook papers.    
Handmade gifts : stylish ideas for journals, stationery, and more      
Paper : beautiful ideas for gifts and home decorations     
Papercrafts : 50 extraordinary gifts and projects, step-by-step

Monday, December 6, 2010

Make It Easy

The holidays are coming and I can feel parts of the city panic, tiny screams bouncing off the sidewalks.  My job to ease your anxiety: find quick and easy craft projects for gift-giving!  I'm like that.  First up:  potholders! Handmade ones just seem to say "Welcome to my home.  Have some pie."  If you know how to crochet, how quick is a potholder?  Easy to Crochet Potholders includes fun designs like ducks and cows, and one that is a little dress!  Too cute? If you want to branch out and still keep it small, check out the Big Book of Dishcloths, Potholders and Scrubbies. They've got kitchen textiles covered. But these babies aren't quite as easy; you have to know your needlework.   Then when you are ready to leave the kitchen One Skein provides instructions for some other little projects.  Don't you feel better now?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Skinny

You can literally have thick skin. According to Good Housekeeping, skin can vary from 1/32nd to 1/8th of an inch thick.  Both numbers are small but there's a big difference between the two.  Good Housekeeping continues:  If you are an average-sized human your skin weighs between 6 and 7.5 pounds.  Do weight loss plans take this into consideration?  I think they should.  That is totally innocent poundage, folks. Also skin is very elastic and will snap back to its original shape after being stretched 10 to 50 percent.  Really.  They don't mention the age of the skin used to determine this.  Plus ow.  I'd say we take our integument (new word points!) for granted if I didn't see about 3500 ads for skin products every day.  Do I have thick skin?  Since I can see my veins I'm guessing no.  Hey, if you try that stretching thing let me know how it works out.  Maybe I'll hear the 'snap' all the way across town.
Source: Good Housekeeping June, 1978 p. 75

Still Verbing After All These Years

As a culture I'd say Americans like action - coffee, pizza and language to go.  One example of this national characteristic:  verbing. Verbing is the act of using a noun as a verb.  Not a new phenomenon by any means, as demonstrated by the following words that were only nouns in the Concise Oxford Dictionary c. 1964, and are now verbs verbs verbs. 
Host - throw the party at your house
Access - get that info
Leverage - use your assets with all your might
Parent - actively raise those young 'uns
Transition - make that move
Our personal favorite:  geek!  From the 'Geek the Library' operation, :  "The awareness campaign introduces the word ‘geek’ as a verb and illustrates the fact that everyone is passionate about something—everyone ‘geeks’ something—and that the public library supports it all".  That is verbing with a purpose.  The public libraries not only support your interests, now we provide you with a lively new word to describe how you feel about them.  In the grand tradition of those who've kept the English language zippy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Skip the Jump

I'm reading Packing for Mars, and in the entire chapter devoted to ralphing the author has this handy tip.  When trapped in a plummeting elevator, lie down.  That goofy business about jumping in the air just before you land is not useful.  Because you are going to hit the floor.  According to author Mary Roach, who researched the heck out of this book, the body is best engineered to handle pressure in the supine position. NASA knows this due to years of studying the effect of buckets 'o gravity on humans.  One of the many offshoots of NASA research that can be applied to everyday life, ladies and gentlemen!  Bonus fact:  some motion sickness is caused by calcium deposits in your inner ear.  They're supposed to be there, but don't like it when you move your head too quickly.  I always thought of calcium as being more relaxed.
Packing for Mars : the curious science of life in the void / Mary Roach

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Replay - Who is Sanborn and Why do we have his Maps?

As far back as 1867 the Sanborn Map Company employees were busily dashing through municipalities large and small, scribbling out the street names, building use, construction details, property boundaries, house and block numbers, street and sidewalk widths and more!!!!  I checked my home town in 1909 and found out that the garage at 700 Lake Avenue had 75 gallons of 'gasolene' on hand. Whew! These people were bus-y. And it was all for the insurance companies. "The maps allowed underwriters to more accurately access the risks of a business, even if they were unable to inspect the property in person".* They are so cool. We bought the Iowa maps and you can go back in time to a small town and find out where the horse stables were. For example, in 1885 Algona Iowa had a Roller Skating Rink at 559 State Street. So everything was up to date in Algona. Candy for historians and genealogists.

*Source: A Brief History of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and the Sanborn Map Company

Digital Sanborn Maps of Iowa (use outside the library) You will need your Des Moines Public Library card and PIN to access this from outside our libraries.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Open Today and Cyberish

The earliest reference I can find to 'Cyber Monday' is from 2005.  You know, the Monday after Thanksgiving when online sales explode!  Cyborg Monday would be cooler but we're low on the 'borgs right now. Beaucoup shoppers purchase online, more every year!  "Number of Americans who shopped on Cyber Monday neared 100 Million"- a headline from the Hudson Valley Business Journal, 12/7/2009, pages 23-24.  An online plus:  you know what the mall is like after Thanksgiving.  Minus:  you have to pay shipping.  A problem with both traditional and online commerce:  shoppers' brain fog.  You see something that is so close to what you want that you know your heart's desire is out there and you just keep looking and looking ... will I ever find the perfect boots?  We should do what my friend does when she 'shops in her closet'.  But I know there aren't any boots in there.
If you feel the fog settling in already, check out:
Overcoming Overspending

Source:  Christian Science Monitor, 12/7/2005, p18
as accessed through EbscoHost

Friday, November 26, 2010

Closed Today and Bela Lugosi

I don't know when 'Black Friday' first came to mean the Friday after Thanksgiving.   Until that happened Black Friday meant only one thing to me - a scary movie!!!!  Scary if you're like, 10, anyway. In the 1960's.  Black Friday is part of our Bela Lugosi collection and features a fabulous cast:  Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Anne Nagel, (of Man Made Monster fame) and Anne Gwynne, from House of Frankenstein.  In Black Friday a partial brain transplant changes the patient's personality!  Classic! Not as good as a possessed transplanted hand perhaps, but it has its charms. If you want to take your mind off shopping there's nothing like an old horror movie.  It may not be the best way to take your mind off shopping, but there's nothing like it.
Old Horror Movies
All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Closed Today and Gratitude

Thanksgiving.  It literally doesn't sound like being grateful, it sounds like turkey.  So I need to wake up and smell the happy. Gratitude as an emotional concept has been getting some attention in the last few years.  We have two, not one, but two books that claim to examine the science of gratitude.  Could be these books owe their existence to the publication of  Simple abundance : a daybook of comfort and joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach's  juggernaut of gladness.  Not that that's a bad thing.

Books all about the art of  Appreciation
All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today and tomorrow for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Closures Coming and Yum?

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanksgiving fact du jour:  One of the foods feasted upon at the first Thanksgiving was...eel.  I should not disparage this time-honored dish as I have never eaten eel, but it is difficult to eat something you can't bring yourself to look at. Or think about too much.  But don't let me stop you!
Here is a festive eel recipe from Executive Chef Brad Farmerie of The Monday Room in New York City.

Glazed eel with pickled bean sprouts
First rustle up some eel and pickled bean sprouts. 
Slice the fresh-water eel,  fun! and coat the pieces with a mix of soy sauce, palm sugar, star anise, cinnamon and sancho pepper. Brown them under a salamander.  Gotta be a cooking term but wasn't the eel enough?  Let the eel cool and mix it with the pickled sprouts, chopped chives, cilantro and 'chiffonade of Thai basil'.  That last bit sounds yummy.  If chiffonade means what I think it does, light and fluffy. Toss with a dressing of lime juice, lime zest and chile. Put the whole shebang into a spoon and top with half a soft-boiled quail egg. Finish with a sprinkle of Maldon salt.  I imagine you could make some ingredient substitutes, but one of the cool things about Des Moines is it's so diverse you can probably find all this stuff.

Source:  Instructor, Nov/Dec2000, p78, 2/3p
Nation's Restaurant News, 5/5/2008, p52-52
as accessed through EbscoHost

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Railroads Spiked

I'm not surprised that items like railroad lanterns are collectible; they are attractive and come in many styles and colors.  Just like scarves!  But the spikes are collectible too.  There may not be a wide variety of colors, but there are different 'styles'.  Railroad nails were marked with the last two numbers of the year they were hammered in.  The numbers 08, for 1908, could appear indented or raised on the head on the nail.  When old spikes were replaced the new ones had the new year stamped on them. (Old spikes. Hard not to think of deodorant.) The heads are different shaped depending on the railroad - square, round or pentagonal or round.  The shank, or non-head part of the spike, varies in lengths and may be round or square.  See how many kinds of railroad nails you could collect!  And you could even tell them apart!  If you try really hard.

Source:  Des Moines Register 12/29/1970 p. 9

Monday, November 22, 2010

Back it up, Casey Jones

I did not realize that in the heydey of passenger trains some of the trains backed into the station.  I know they are on rails and really have nowhere else to go but the thought of it makes me nervous.  Not Peg Hansen. In 1981 she said that as a child she used to board the Santa Fe - a two car train at that point - in Atchison and when arriving in Topeka, said train would back its little self right  into the station. Across a bridge.  Not making me feel safer.  At one time Des Moines was a site for backward-train-running. Today Amtrak does this in some cities.  Everything old is new again.
Source: Des Moines Tribune 1/27/1981 p. 3
Photo courtesy Gerry Rowland

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lou Grant Hated It

Spunk.  Frankly it sounds like something that smells bad.  How did it come to mean courage, spirit, guts?  OK, guts wouldn't smell like roses either.  Anyway, the origin of Mary's Richardson's finest, if least appreciated, quality:  spunk started out meaning tinder or kindling.  Then 'spunking up a fire' meant stirring it up, making it hotter.  From here came the concept of getting fired up with courage. In 1885 a cowboy wrote that he 'finally spunked up' when he needed to draw his gun.  We now apply spunky as kind of a diminutive of brave for kids, and in the 1970's, women.  You don't hear people call Dr. Maya Angelou spunky.  That woman is brave.

I hear America talking  p 182-183

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You're Kidding - it's Really a Gun?

How many nicknames do you know for firearms?  Beyond 'Saturday Night Special' I got nothing.  Here's a story for you.  It all started with Christian Sharp, who patented a .50 caliber hunting rifle in 1848.  (Nope, his name has nothing to do with the phrase 'sharp-shooter').  Enter Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, (1813-1877) an abolitionist and not your Ghandhi type of activist.  He stated outright that, in fighting slavery, Kansans wielding rifles would be more effective than those wielding arguments from the Bible. He was not fooling around. The Reverend used the money he raised to buy Bibles ... to send rifles to Kansas. Hence the term "Beecher's Bibles", occasionally used to refer to Sharps' rifles. You've been desperate to know, right?  Glad I could clear that up for you.

I Hear America Talking p. 92

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

America Says Ain't Ain't a Word

But 'tis.  According to I Hear America Talking, ain't used to be an't, a contraction for "am not".  They do not address the eternal question, was there a contraction for am too!?  Ain't earned it's bad bad reputation when people started misusing it.  It just means "am not".  It does not mean "is not" as in 'he ain't quite tracking today'.  It does not mean "are not" as in 'those sisters ain't making mud pies'.  It does not mean "have not" or "has not".  It's predilection for green ham and eggs is unknown.  But you get the picture.  If the poor word hadn't been abused we would not scorn ain't now.  Not that it stops us from using it.  Ain't it the truth.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I hear America. Say what?

I was pondering the phrase 'long in the tooth' yesterday, wondering how it came to mean 'old'.  Then I remembered that curse of middle age, receding gums. Duh.  This leads me to the fabulous reference book I Hear America Talking.  What say we explore American language this week?   First up:  "cow catcher".  In the beginning trains ran over cows, which was good for neither party.  In 1832 Isaac Drips invented a guard for the front of the train.  The first versions were too sharp and too high and the cows wound up, ahem, attached to the train if you get my meaning.  The guards were re-designed to be blunter and push the cow aside.  The public also called these protectors of the rails 'horse catchers' but we know what they were for.  Cows.  They just don't get out of the way.

I Hear America Talking

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who is She Really?

We have the following in our libraries' collections:
38 titles by Jean Plaidy
25 titles by Victoria Holt
13 titles by Phillipa Carr

That's 76 titles. Just the titles we own mind you, and guess what!  They were all written by the same person! For comparison, we have 68 titles by Stephen King including the Bachman books. Not only did Eleanor Burford Hibbert - proud owner of all three pseudonyms - write more than 150 books, she put some heavy lifting into them.  The Jean Plaidy novels were historical fiction with the emphasis on history as Hibbert did beaucoup research for them.  These babies were not dashed off in a fortnight.  She's British so I have an excuse to use 'fortnight'.  Finally!  And her reward for all this work?  Well, not actually a reward but you'll never believe it.  She died on a cruise shipIn the Mediterranean! Glad she was having herself some fun at the end. She certainly earned it.

Born: 1906 in London, United Kingdom
Died: January 18, 1993 on a cruise ship
Nationality: British
Contemporary Authors Online, 2003
Contemporary Popular Writers, 1997
as accessed through Ebscohost

Friday, November 12, 2010

Open Today and Academically Speaking

Did you know... that you can find dissertations on the Internet? First of all, let me say that I have nothing but admiration for those who have produced a dissertation and gotten it approved. I understand the process is grueling. With that disclaimer, let us turn to titles. So much fun. "Remote sensing of vegetation using multi-baseline polarimetric SAR interferometry". For all I know this has immense practical application. But I'd have to understand the words to know that. "Anticaries efficacy of a new low-fluoride liquid acidic dentifrice." Or "does this liquid tooth-cleaner work"? "Hydration effect on human nail permeability." I knew if I looked hard enough I could find a fingernail study. Students do have to use the scientific terminology, it's not like they're allowed to say "what happens when your fingernails aren't dry?". But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the jargon. Does it?

Dictionaries of Science

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Veterans

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed in today in honor of Veterans Day.
In September the Citizens Bank and Trust in Chillicothe, Missouri sponsored a Citizens Patriot Flight to Washington D.C. for twenty-one World War II veterans.  My sister Patti Leatherman got to assist, and she shared with me the details of the day. When the group (all men on this trip) gathered, one old soldier recognized another that he had not seen since the war. The trip coordinator, Betty Preston Steele, arranged a 'mail call' for all the men, with letters written by local grade-school students, family and friends.  The GI's visited The National WWII Memorial where one gentleman was able to find the name of his co-pilot who had died in the war. For these honorees, special permission was granted to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  It was handmade by Betty Preston Steele and one man from each of the four services - Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force - participated in laying the wreath.  Our father (Patti's and mine) was a GI and would have just loved a trip like this, so it was a deeply emotional day for Patti as well as the veterans. I hope this type of recognition continues through the years for all veterans. If you have a vet in your life, now is the perfect time to express your appreciation.  If you know them really well, hug a vet today!
About Iowa World War II Veterans

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veterans Day Tomorrow

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed Thursday November 11th in observation of Veterans Day.

The first American casualty of Operation Desert Storm was Navy pilot Lt. Commander Michael Scott Speicher. His plane was shot down over west central Iraq on the opening evening of the attack, January 17 1991. For years there was hope he was alive since Speicher had gone down in a remote  area of Iraq and the remains were not found.  Until the summer of 2009, that is.  A long time for the family to wait.  Speicher had family in Iowa including a cousin, Des Moines native Julie Speicher.

Sources: Des Moines Register, 1/19/1991 p. 1A
Military History; Jan 2010, Vol.26 Issue 5, p9-9 as accessed through EbscoHost

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Art of Gravy

Gravy.  Mystery or Monster?  It's a little like pie crust.  Those who can, make their own.  Those who can't buy perfectly delicious frozen pie crust imposters at the store.  If you can make gravy you have the patience of a saint and the hand-eye coordination of a videogame master. I remember my mother, whose gravy (albeit mighty tasty) was not silky smooth, bending over the pan gently swirling that huge spoon trying to get the annoying flour to become one with the gravy.  Instead of clumping. CLUMPS!  The bane of every gravy-maker.  She did however make ham gravy which some people consider to be a myth. Want to get on the gravy train?  (I tried not to, but it's mandatory. You are not allowed to write about gravy without making the train reference.  Look it up.)  Meanwhile, Get saucy!  This book is so good even the title is happy.  Gravy-making made fun!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pogo - It's Been Awhile

Did you enjoy your extra hour of sleep this weekend?  I know, it gets dark earlier and nobody likes that, but the heaven of that one beautiful hour of sleep!  Aaaahh.  Back to Pogo.  Every so often, the Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo pops up in the media.  One reason is this incredibly famous quote:  "We have met the enemy and he is us."  I always figured this was a general comment on the human condition, but it turns out 'Pogo' was speaking specifically about pollution.  Huh. I know the strip was brilliant and hilarious political satire but you really have to pay attention. Here's a sample of the dialogue, having to do with the loss of a chapeau:  "Huh! Ol' deacon is guv my hat to Miz Stork without so much as a bayou leave."  Guess Kelly also liked your garden-variety puns.

Friday, November 5, 2010

And the Rest of the Favorite Writers

Here we have your straight fiction, your hyphenates, your uncategorizable. I looked it up and yes, it's a word. You know which one I mean.

Veronica loves Junot Diaz and Alice 'Lovely Bones' Sebold. Diaz has only published 2 books so far, but they are astounding.

Andrea's non-genre faves include (are you missing Tiger Beat yet?)
Harper Lee
J.D. Salinger
John Steinbeck
Caitlin R. Kiernan OK, I lied. Kiernan and Brite are genre writers. I suggest you start with The Red Tree for Kiernan, so as to avoid completely blowing your mind. I mean it, she is an amazing wicked writer!
Poppy Z. Brite
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Anthony Bourdain
Sylvia Plath
Jon Krakauer

Burke hearts Henry James.

David enjoys fiction writers Kurt Vonnegut and Ken Kesey. Also mystery, fiction, nonfiction, children's writer Mike Lupica

Sara savors Stephanie Bond, Nicholas Sparks and fiction/SF/Teen writer Kim Harrison

Rebecca loves Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, and Joanne Harris (author of "Chocolate"). Nothing wrong with the classics.

Mara relishes Maya Angelou Rita Mae Brown, Dan Brown, Doris Lessing Armistead Maupin, Louise Erdrich, Barack Obama and Moa Martinson, a (1930s Swedish proletarian-feminist author. Whew!

Elaine thinks Harry Bernstein is just the best – and he didn’t start writing until he was in his 90’s!

Alice Hoffman
John Irving
Margaret Atwood
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Sharon Kay Penman

Leila Meacham
John Grisham
Kristin Hannah
Luanne Rice
Linda Lael Miller
Richard Paul Evans
Nicholas Sparks

Deitrick, Pam is a Jan Karon fan, likes the way she brings her characters to life!

Liz likes Graham Greene and Kate Chopin. A very discerning reader.

Child, Lee
Clancy, Tom
Coonts, Stephen
Cussler, Clive
Hunter, Stephen fic
Sandra Dallas
Matthew Reilly,
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Alicia is a sucker for Daphne du Maurier and collects Pearl Buck!

And from our anonymous contributors:
David McCullough. turned up twice!
Stephanie Kane
Jonathan Mooney
Richard St. John
James Patterson
Gloria Naylor
Alice Walker
Barbara Kingsolver
Richard Russo
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Jane Austen
George Eliot
Wilkie Collins

Anonymous has good taste. Nice to know someone else has read Wilkie Collins. Believe it or not, The Woman in White is actually kind of funny. That would be a good one to start today. While you wait for your turn to read The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Genre Fic

Genre Fiction - that means mysteries, westerns, science fiction, horror, graphic novels humor and anything else I decide to toss in this group. Today I decided humor and graphic novels are genres. Wheee! On with the list!

Andrea is a fan of
graphic novelists Alison Bechdel, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez
and humorist David Sedaris

Arthur Conan Doyle mystery
P. G. Wodehouse humor
Jack Handey humor

Sara likesPatricia Briggs' fantasy and the oh-so popular Charlaine Harris mysteries.

Ken Scholes (fantasy)
Roger Zelazny (scifi/fantasy)
Guy Gavriel Kay (fantasy) - notice a trend?

Marion Zimmer Bradley SF
Dan Simmons SF and mysteries
George R. R. Martin Fantasy
Iain Pears mysteries

Dave C.
Turtledove, Harry SF
Weber, David SF
Moorcock, Michael Fantasy
Ringo, John SF
Burke, James mysteries
Tanenbaum, Robert K. mysteries

Both Pam and Nanette enjoy the Alexander McCall Smith mysteries.
Nanette also reads Diana Mott Davidson and Aimee Thurlo mysteries.

And these authors are favorites of anonymous library employees. Know anyone well enough to guess who?
Dick Francis
Anne Perry
David Eddings;
Ilona Andrews
Bill Bryson
Robert Crais
Laurie R King
Michael Connelly
Joan Slonczewski
Sheri Tepper
Octavia Butler
Dorothy Sayers
Nevada Barr,
Donna Leon
Ursula K. LeGuin
"Star Wars" authors like Troy Denning, Christie Golden and Aaron Allston.
"Monk" series of mysteries by Lee Goldberg, based on the TV show.

If you've kept to general fiction (what sf fans would call 'mundane'. What can I say, in comparison...) there are excellent reasons here to break out, go wild, throw caution to the winds and read something different. Why should I, you say? I will provide a shining example by reading a P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves novel. They've never appealed to me but now I shall make the sacrifice! The things I do for you, you audience. Ah, what the heck, you're worth it! Read now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Authors for Those Who Read Young

You can be an adult and still enjoy books written for the youth of the world.  How many adults do you think read the Twilight books?  Possibly more than will admit it.  When I polled the staff of the Des Moines Public Library about their favorite authors, it turns out there are quite a few who like to read Teen and Children's books.

Burke - the Mark Twain and the Franklin Dixon.  Your boys' books for boys.

Sara -  Meg 'Princess Diaries' Cabot  and  Rachel 'Soul Screamers' Vincent. I hear that Twilight fans will love the Vincent series.  How long before Rachel's turn at the movies?

Mara - you know them you love them:  Harry Potter's J. K. Rowling, Captain Underpants' Dav Pilkey, and Harriet the Spy's Louise Fitzhugh.

Sarah is all about the Sarah Dessen.  Sarah (the library employee) would like nothing more than to meet her favorite author.  More than a 12-year-old girl would like to meet Justin Bieber.  If you can imagine.

Nanette is a fan of the quiet stylings of Tasha Tudor.  Tudor's illustrations are lovely and warm and make you feel good.  Is that so wrong?

Others beloved by adults:
Christopher Paolini - someday book 4 will come out!
John Flanagan (love the Ranger’s Apprentice series).
Robin McKinley; she re-imagined Beauty and the Beast long before Jane Austen met the Zombies.
Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games are all the rage!
Gordon Korman. Go ahead, start reading. He's written a gazillion books, you won't run out.
Kevin Henkes - Lilly of Purple Purse fame! His illustrations are hi-larious.
Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series features the 14-year-old sister of Sherlock. And she solves mysteries!

Don't hesitate to raid the Children's and Teen collections for fun reads.  I never do.  Hesitate that is.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Celebrating Authors - Staff Favorites

I thought you'd enjoy my favorite authors so much you'd like more!  From other people! Here is a list from one of our prolific readers:
Laura Childs
Lee Child
Monica Ferris
Ellis Peters
L. E. Modesit
M. C. Beaton
Mercedes Lackey
Terry Prackett
Jasper Fforde
Eoin Colfer
Nancy Zieman
Patti Palmer
Alice Starmore
Claire Shaeffer
James Rollins
Alexander McCall Smith
Robert Munsch
Meave Binchy
Tomie DePaola
Peter Tremayne
Margaret Haddix
Aimee Thurlo
Kate Sedley
Margaret Frazer
Maggie Sefton
Christopher Moore
Jimmy Buffett

A fine list of writers!  Jimmy Buffett in the same list with James Rollins.  It can only happen here, folks.  I can personally vouch for Rollins for adventure, Peters for excellent historical mysteries, and we saw Alexander McCall Smith in person at AViD a couple years back.  Full kilt, ladies and gentlemen.  Just like Jimmy Buffett would arrive in a Hawaiian shirt.  If I read my Buffets right.

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Authors' Day

Hug an author today!  Ok, just say "Hi, congratulations on being an author".  That would probably work out better.  And don't we all have our favorite authors!  People just go nuts for Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, Alexander McCall Smith.  Here are my top 10 favorite authors for right now.  In no particular order.

Dan Simmons
Sheri S. Tepper
Laurie Notaro
Octavia Butler
Robert Holdstock
Shirley Jackson
Molly Ivins
Tim Powers
J. R. R. Tolkien
Minette Walters
If you'd like to venture in start with Notaro and Ivins for humor.  Tim Powers writes dazzling books set in our world with small changes.  (Say if you could keep someone's soul in a bottle).  Minetter Walter's mysteries are meaty and play off the strange reasons people do horrible things.  Doesn't that sound like fun!  Who's on your list?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trilogy of...Scary Stuff!

My new reliable horror author is Alexandra Sokoloff. Her stuff is a bit old- fashioned, which is refreshing. Sokoloff is fond of college students who get in waaay over their heads. Some don't get to keep them!  Ha!  Ooooh, dabbling in ESP and Ouija Boards and all sorts of The Haunting of Hill House creepies.  The novel that isn't a Shirley Jackson homage involves college students drawn into a cult by a charismatic, if cowardly, guy. The third book revolves around a sick child....and a bad hospital!! Ahhh!  Bad hospitals are full of sick people who aren't strong enough to help themselves, and other people won't believe them about crazy goings-on because the patients are in a hospital and may be imagining things! Man, just the thought of a bad hospital leaves me twitchy. Here are the three titles:
The harrowing
The price
The unseen

Crossword Puzzle Word of the Day

Part of the fun of working crosswords is that you figure out some of the words they use regularly, ones containing an unusual string of letters.   I mentioned Yma Sumac in a previous post - those crossword puzzle writers loooove her first name.  Comic Emo Philips' first name is another fave. You have to memorize these because they don't exactly crop up in casual conversation. (Yma Sumac.  Emo Philips.)  There are a few words that I know they're gonna use and for the life of me I can never remember them. Aglet is one.  Guess what that means.  Ennnh!  Whatever you guessed wasn't right because it is actually the cover on the tip of your shoelace.  Not the tip of the shoelace itself, but the little plastic bit that goes over the end.  Yet another word for something that really doesn't seem to need its very own name.  Here's a good one:  a person who works crossword puzzles is called a cruciverbalist.  When 'crossword puzzle fan' just won't do.

Crossword Puzzle Books
*Meriam Webster Online 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trick or Treat for other Kids

Trick or Treat for UNICEF!  2010 is the 60th anniversary of this program, can you believe it?  Back in 1950 one Mary Emma Allison witnessed a UNICEF parade with costumed children and a banner proclaiming that one penny would buy 20 glasses of milk.  The costumes brought to mind Halloween when kids went door-to-door getting handouts anyway.  Mary Emma thought the little ones should carry small milk cartons for the contributions. Penny = milk.   She collected the cartons from school, washed them up and attached an orange band.  Repurposing, we like to call it.  And a lot of work.  Now they use nifty orange boxes and UNICEF has been receiving $4 million annually.   We'll see what happens in the future because they're introducing an iPhone app for donations.  Will the kids be going door to door with their phones?  Long live the little orange boxes!  People can donate all year on their phones.  Yay!

Source:  Morning Edition (NPR); 10/25/2010 as accessed through EbscoHost Student

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scaaaaaary Jokes

What do you call a skeleton cow with a guitar?  A moosician!  See what I did there?  The original joke didn't have 'skeleton' in it and had nothing to do with Halloween.  Add skeleton, spider, ghost, zombie, mummy, black cat - any of these words and voila!  You have a seasonal funny.  Just like in the old sci-fi TV shows in which they didn't change the names of stuff, just put the word 'space' in front.  "Johnny, be sure to use you space toothbrush before you get into your space jammies."  Oh! Speaking of ghosts, what do you call a ghost with a guitar?  A boooosician.  I just made that up!  Can you tell?  Why did the mummy cross the road twice?  It was a double crosser!   What do you call a zombie with a banana in each ear?  Nothing, it can't hear you!  So if you need fresh yuks for Beggars' Night, get a joke book and change the names. The books are under the subject heading Wit and Humor, Juvenile.   Kind of appropriate, isn't it?

Wit and Humor, Juvenile

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Words of Wacky

You know why 'jokes' is there.  And caramel apples, scarecrows, etc.  But why "Princess Mask", you ask?  They were  full-face 3-dimensional masks with rosy pink cheeks, blonde hair and blue eyes.  Guess who never got to wear one for Halloween.  The poor little brown-eyed brown-haired girl with the really thick glasses. I didn't care if I could see (in the dark, running down the side streets). I just wanted a princess mask.   One the one hand, disappointed. On the other hand, still alive.  Here's a book we could have used way back when:

Illegally easy Halloween costumes for kids : 100 costumes with simple patterns, no-sew shortcuts, last-minute solutions, treat bags & accessories
Graphic source:  Wordle