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?