Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chocolate Authority

Back in 1959 the confectionery world was a little different. Good Housekeeping was there to assist sweet-tooth owners in navigating the booby trap that is an assortment of chocolates. Imagine biting into a chocolate-covered chunk of pineapple.  Not necessarily disgusting, but I would like some warning.  Fortunately, according to GH that chocolate was shaped just like your garden variety triangle of pineapple.   Chocolate covered-cashews, Brazil nuts - these retained their distinctive shapes.  What about the chocolates filled with amorphous stuff like vanilla cream or some kind of jelly?  This choice can be fraught with peril.  But it turns out if there is a symbol on top of the chocolate, v is vanilla, b is butter cream, m is maple. Anything that saves me from biting into chocolate-covered pineapple is good.

Source:  Good Housekeeping  December 1959 p. 162-163

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weight of Silence

I just finished The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf, a Dubuque writer.  Basic premise:  Two 7-year-old girls go missing, one of whom does not speak.  Callie can talk, but she doesn't and her missing friend Petra is the person who speaks for her. An intriguing premise right there. Add in the fact that fairly recently another little girl was lost and later found murdered, and you have considerably heightened the tension. The drama is told from the point of view of at least 5 characters, each of whom relates what led them to this time and place. All good stuff, but frustrating to me because I wanted to know what was happening with Callie and Petra!!!  Now!! So I had to read the book all in one sitting. Boy-Howdy is this a page-turner.  As a bonus Gudenkauf displays a remarkable understanding of the way children think, quite differently from adults.  In that divergence lies much of the book's power.

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Iowa License Plates

In 1904 the Secretary of State began registering motor vehicles.  Apparently the license plates were issued as round metal discs!  The mind boggles.  Owners were responsible for applying the number to the rear of the automobile.  In 1911 plates that already had the number on them were issued.  Whew!  What a relief for the owners - and the populace in general.  Can't have those 1911 vehicles wandering around with numbers applied will-nilly on the car's behind. Chaos would ensue.

Source:  Des Moines Tribune, 2/29/1931

Monday, July 26, 2010

Heimlich Makes the News

July 26.  On this day in history - specifically 1981 - New York Mayor Ed Koch received the Heimlich maneuver in a Chinese restaurant.  Is no one safe! I guess mayors don't have tasters like important political leaders did back when the job was pretty much inherited.  Perhaps he should travel with a dog.  As reported in National Geographic Kids Dec2008/Jan2009, one Debbie Parkhurst was eating an apple in her home when she choked on a piece.  Her golden retriever Toby pounced on her.  Not previously recognized as a doggy Mensa candidate, Toby nevertheless was smart enough to bounce on Debbie's chest hard enough to dislodge the apple. Who's a good dog?  I guess we all know the answer to that one.

Source: National Geographic Kids; Dec2008/Jan2009, Issue 386, p21-21, 1/2p  as accessed through EBSCOhost

Friday, July 23, 2010

Top Five Heavyweights

Brains, that is. According to the Top Ten of Everything, here are the 5 land animals with the biggest brains.  And by biggest, they mean the brains that weigh the most.
Elephant              13 lb, 4 oz
Adult Human        3 lb
Camel                  1 lb, 11 oz
Giraffe                 1 lb, 8 oz
Hippopotamus      1 lb, 4 oz

This is the 2007 edition of the book, but I'm taking a chance that no land animal's gray matter has ballooned in the last few years.  Apparently more weight does not equal more intelligence as later in the list cows are right above chimpanzees.  Unless.... the cows are just biding their time, waiting for those opposable thumbs to arrive. Then we are in trouble.
The top 10 of everything 2007

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Frazetta no more

Frank Frazetta died May 10th.  "Frank Frazetta who?", you ask.  Oh my.  If you've seen his artwork - and  you probably have, even those of you who don't read fantastic fiction - you'll remember it. His cover illustrations for the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs and  Robert E. Howard reveal an exciting imagination and a painting style that is just lucious. Really, as in food.  I always thought his women looked like they were made out of mashed potatoes, due to their heft and slight lumpiness.  But it's great to see a gal  who looks like she loves to eat!  All this from a guy who was offered a contract with the New York Giants while he was still in high school.  He could have been in The Show!  That is the show, right?  But no, the call of  technicolor scantily-clad fantasy characters won out.  Isn't that always the way?

Source:  Biography Resource Center

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Curbliners, a Type of Vehicle

Curbliners were like streetcars, but not exactly streetcars because Des Moines has had both in its long and varied transportation history.  On Friday January 24th, 1964, the fine citizens of Des Moines got to ride the curbliners for the last time. Only two lines were running by then, the West Des Moines-Fairgrounds, and the University-Sixth Avenue. The following day two private groups, one from Chicago and one from Waterloo, chartered curbliner cruises. So out-of-towners had the last curbliner joy ride on January 25th. Afterwards, the power lines were cut and the curbliners were sold for junk.  Isn't that one of the most heartrending things you've ever heard?  Much sadder than the ending of Toy Story 3.

Source: Des Moines Tribune, 1/23/1964 p. 1
Link to Illinois Railway Museum site with photo of a Des Moines curbliner.  The curbliner is the vehicle on the left.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mystery Number on Drake Observatory

J. E. 6633.  What the heck does that mean?  It appears on the front of Drake Observatory and I'm pretty it's not a model number.  Hang on:  J. E. 6633 is a date based on the Julian Era, not the Julian Calendar. The Julian Era was invented by Joseph Scaliger in 1582 and named after his father, Julius Caesar Scaliger. Hence the Julian, hence the confusion with the Julian Calendar. The Era began on January 1, 4713 BCE according to the Julian Calendar. Baffled yet?  It gets odder. On that January 1, the 28-year solar cycle, the 19-year lunar cycle, and the 15-year indiction cycle (used in ancient Rome to regulate taxes) all began at once.  J. E. 6633 falls in 1920 on our Gregorian calendar. 1920 is the year construction began on the Observatory. There you go.

Sources:  Drake University Astronomy Professor Phillip Riggs, June 10 1971
The Julian Period. World Almanac & Book of Facts, 2009 as accessed through EBSCOhost
Photo courtesy Gerry Rowland

Monday, July 19, 2010

Come In ... to the Un-Perfect House

Ah, Ann Landers.  She published all sorts of homey poetry and essays written by regular Joans.  Poetry and essays remembered with fondness by many readers.  Remembered without a title and without an author because writers to Ann Landers did not reveal their names. It can be tricky to find Jubilant in Jersey's deathless prose.  Here's one we kept track of: 'Contented in Saginaw' contributed a poem called "Come In", celebrating the house unbeatiful. It's messy because of the good old discombobulation caused by having children.  The "smudgy fingerprinted door", the "crumpled rug", dishes unwashed, floors unshined, you get the picture.  I am all about that sketchy housekeeping.  Yay, Contented in Saginaw!  If you'd like to read the complete poem, it appeared in the Des Moines Register, April 24, 1986 on page 4T.  Prepare to have your heart warmed.  And your philosophy of housekeeping validated.

Source:  Des Moines Register, April 24, 1986 on page 4T
(available at the Central Library on microfilm)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lesley Gore? Really?

What a terrible name for the singer of such chipper songs. OK, maybe only Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows is actually chipper.  Waaaay chipper. But even It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To is pretty bouncy.  If you've every used that song in a conversation raise your hand.  I can feel the breeze from here.  Lesley Gore was fortunate enough to have Quincy Jones as her producer and together they made some of the most memorable music from the sixties.  Songs for when you're happy, sad, defiant:

Source:  Biography Resource Center

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Early Radio in Des Moines - Rise and Shine!

Actually, the first radio program broadcast in Des Moines took place at night. In 1922. And, foreshadowing many a show to come that would be radioed from the rooftops; it took place on top of the Des Moines Register and Tribune building. Included on the air that night: Governor Nathan Edward Kendal, waxing eloquent about the astounding new world of ‘radio-telephony’. The newspaper article reporting this included a box labeled OUR RADIO JAZZ.  This proudly announced that an orchestra would play - one including drums, banjo, trombone and several other instruments! The whole thing was sent out on temporary equipment borrowed from one Harold Kauffman. What a guy! For a huge hour and one half, from 7:30 to 9 PM on March 10 1922, music and speeches filled the airwaves. Soon there was no escaping radio-telephony. If that means what I think it means.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Park it at the Central Library - In Case You Forgot

Where can I park at the downtown library? We hear this all the time, and guess what! We have an answer! The Central Library has an underground parking lot. Yes, it is clean and well-lit and you can park for 2 hours scot-free.
Here is how to get there:
1. You are driving west on Grand Avenue, cause that's the only way Grand Avenue goes in this neck of the woods.
2. Stay on the left (south) side of Grand.
3. Turn in the drive that goes to our Pick Up and Drop Off Windows.4. Now the tricky part - do not go back out to the street. Grand will beckon, but ignore her siren call and keep turning right which will lead you down, which will land you in our parking garage.

You can do it! Parking is limited, so only people who are actually in the library can use the garage. But you will totally be in the library, and more often now that you know where to park. See ya!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Milton's Music

I happened to catch part of The Jack Benny Show the other night and Milton Berle was the guest. Which brings me to the actual topic of this post. I don't expect to recognize every song that has had a long run at the top of the Billboard charts. But really. I ran across a source claiming that Francis Craig's Near You, which later became Milton Berle's theme song, had a run of 17 weeks in 1947! Now apparently Billboard has used different counting systems over the years and if today's system was applied it would be closer to 12. Still, for months in 1947 Near You was a sensation.  Do you know anyone who can hum that?  Then again I can’t hum the number one pop song California Gurls either. Unless ..."I wish they all could be California girls" Hmm hmm hmmmm

Source:  USA Weekend 11/29-12/1 1991 p. 2

Monday, July 12, 2010

Carded - for Baseball?

Are  the Rays ahead of  the Red Sox?  I mean, today?  Even though the Red Sox team is apparently having a good year, these rankings seem to turn on a dime.  I hear this from the male half of my marriage who keeps me up to date.  Lately American soccer fans were a-screamin' on television, but I think baseball can still elicit an exciting response.  I wonder if people who  looooove baseball still collect cards?  You can read about the phenomenon in two excellent books:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Are You Sure That's an Antique?

Antique, vintage, collectible - what does it all mean?  The Federal Trade Commission is at the ready to clear up any confusion.  First of all, it's not an antique until it's at least 100 years old.  Apparently this is a law!  I'm flabbergasted.  In order to be vintage an item must be at least 50 years old.  But there was no law attached to this stipulation, so who knows if one can whiffle a tad.  As for collectibles; if people collect it, it's a collectible.  And not just people with lots of money and exquisite taste.  Anybody can be a collector. This explains Pogs.  Remember them?  So '90's.

For the latest in antiques, The Antique trader weekly is a good source.

Source:  FTC Consumer Alert April 2008 page 1

Thursday, July 8, 2010

You'll Ruin Your Eyes! Stereoscopes

You youngsters today with your TV, your computer games, your Wii.  Why in my day we looked through a piece of glass at 2 pictures.  That was enough fun for us!  Actually it was more like my Grandmother's day.  And guess what!  This was 3D!  That's why there are 2 elephants. For early stereoscopes, one photo was shifted slightly to the side to create the illusion of depth when looking at both through a specialized lens.  I'd compare it to a View-Master but you've never heard of that either.  They were really cool too.

Source: Manitoba History; Feb2007, Issue 54, p30-38, 9p as accessed through Ebscohost
Graphic source: Old Time Clip Art

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Park Fair Mall Was the First

In 1957 Park Fair Mall, the first enclosed mall in Des Moines, opened at what is now 100 East Euclid Avenue. This landmark has had its ups and downs.  In 1989 occupancy in the 200,000 square foot facility was only 9%. What was that, one store?  Very sad. In 1990, after the Denny Elwell Investment Co. purchased Park Fair and a Ben Franklin Crafts and Variety opened, 82% of the mall was in use. There were four ‘anchor’ stores – Ben Franklin, Sun Drugs, Fareway and Big Bear. They were all still there when I moved here just before the flood of '93, except for Big Bear.  Big Bear??  Apparently this was some kind of "multipurpose farm and home store". Only lonely Fareway remains of the Fortunate 4. But Ace Hardware and Dollar Tree moved in.  So Park Fair Mall's got that going for them.  Which is nice.

Des Moines Register, 11/07/1990 p. 1 Neighbors West
Des Moines Public Library Fun Facts

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First Day Back and Movies

All locations of the Des Moines Public Library are open their usual hours today. And you can once more return stuff in the book drops.  And call us if you have a problem with the web page.  We missed you too.  Did you get all those DVD's watched that you checked out for the long weekend?  I never watch them all but gotta have them because I can't go ONE MINUTE without being entertained.  Now that the excitement is over you may want movies with a little meat on their bones. Might I suggest:
Good night, and good luck  David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow shot in gorgeous black-and-white.  I'm not even fooling.  It's beautiful.
The last station  Helen Mirren rages at Tolstoy as embodied by Christopher Plummer. They laugh a lot too.
Flash of genius Greg Kinnear invents interval wipers for cars and is totally ripped off by corporate America.

Small films, yet worthwhile. They can go on your list for your slow times.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Yep, We're Still Closed - Open Tomorrow!

Last day closed!  The whole shebang opens tomorrow - buildings, book drops, and I wish I could think of a third thing that starts with a 'b'.  Interesting post-holiday tidbit from National Geographic News July 2, 2009:  "Nineteenth-century July 4ths featured noisy artillery salutes, as explosives left over from various wars were fired all day. The practice faded as cannons aged and fell into disrepair."  It never occurred to me to wonder what happened to leftover cannonballs.  Now you know.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Closed for the 4th, With Hats

Yes, we are closed today for the 4th of July.  And Saturday, Sunday, Monday!  Book drops are locked.  Web site open, no support. Just a reminder.  Now for your daily non sequitur:  If you want to wear a hat for the 4th you have many patriotic options: tricorn (or tricrone), striped stovepipe, striped skimmer.  All three represent different periods in our country's history. Hat or no hat have a terrific 4th!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Badge Generator

You, yes you, can be a card-carrying member of a non-trustworthy organization.  Think of the doors this will open!  If you attach it to a credit-card sized piece of plastic and really work the latch.  It will be even more impressive if you can figure out how to add a signature.  So you have a generator and a challenge.  Good luck, intrepid fabricators!
Photo source: Old Pictures