Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flattened by the Dome

I just finished Under the Dome, the new book by Stephen King.  And by 'finished' I mean I read the first couple chapters, saw the way things were going and skipped to the last third of the book.  I am sooooooo lazy.  I didn't want to read the part where things got worse and worse I wanted to read the part in which the plucky band of good folks figure out how to fix things.  So I did!  I do think Mr. King is an excellent writer, or I wouldn't have picked up the doorstop that is his latest.  I found it very enjoyable in the self-abridged form.  If you too are daunted by the size of the Dome, you are most welcome to use my method.  Then you can talk about it with those who read the whole thing.  And say something like... "I don't quite remember, what was the story with the young woman who had the baby?"  If you find out tell me. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Books to Read Together

Not necessarily with another person, although that could be convivial.  Especially if you read out loud.  These are just three books that struck me as entertaining and similar in theme.  They're fairly new books but not so new they have long waiting lists.  Perfect! Here they are: 
Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

The Lace Reader: A Novel by Brunonia Barry

What do these babies have in common, you ask?  They each have some sort of witchcraft driving the story, but you can drown in books on that subject.  These books are about 'recipes' passed down from generation to generation of women, hidden from the outside world.  In the case of Katherine Howe's novel the book of enchantments is pretty much misplaced.  Baker and Brunonia write of spell 'books' whose format is part of the puzzle.  Howe's book is a fairly straight-forward (highly enjoyable) potboiler, the other two more thoughtful and inventive. Yet fun!  The books differ in tone but, if you like one there's a good chance you'll like the others. I did!

Friday, August 27, 2010

French Covers

This is kind of fun.  Go to the French Book Cover Generator and ignore the instructions because they're in French. I know, I was surprised too.  In the empty box type a book title.  Personally I think it's funnier if you make one up, but that's just me.  Click 'go' (is that a French word?) and you get a book cover that I think translates your title into the French Language  The cover reflects whatever graphic the generator thought would be appropriate for your title.  But doesn't 'gourmandies' have something to do with food?  And 'fous' means fools, right?  So maybe they're just assigning random words  Still it looks cool and somewhat ominous.  For a jump rope instruction book.

French Book Cover Generator

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Playaways? In case you've forgotten...

Sounds like a 3-year-old's dates at their friend's house. But this is way more fun! Playaways are little digital audio players that are pre-loaded with a book. You can find them listed in the catalog by typing in playaway. Don't type playaways, the 's' just confuses things. Check one out just like a book, put in your own AAA battery, plug in your own headphones and you are good to go. As a bonus, they are just as cute as a bug! Features: you can move back and forth in a chapter; it remembers where you stopped listening and picks up again at that spot. You can change the speed of the reader's voice! Wonder if you can get "War and Peace" read to you by a chipmunk? Word to the wise: don't pick Alvin.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home Work

The kids are going back to school and summer's almost over.  Are you thinking home repair?  Who isn't! We have buckets of books dying to assist you in making your house the best it can be.  Given limited resources, that is. I'd like to highlight 3 for you.

How to cheat at home repair : time-slashing, money-saving fixes for household hassles and breakdowns

Money-wise makeovers : modest remodels and affordable room redos that add value and improve the quality of your life

Green $ense for the home : rating the real payoff from 50 green home projects

See?  They all want to help you with your home and maybe save you a little money in the process.  You check them out at the library for free, so you're ahead of the game right there.  As a bonus I'll throw in a link to links of lots of other repair books.  Sorry about the whole 'Dwellings' subject but what can we do?  The Library of Congress picked that out for us. A good library uses assigned subject headings and we are a good library.  Darn tootin'.
Other books on fixing or remodeling

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Patricia Neal and Klaatu

You know Patricia Neal died recently.  She was one of the most beautiful actresses I've ever seen, and that purr of a voice!  Elegant yet earthy. Plus she could act up a storm.  Most newspapers and magazine articles have focused on her classy films, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Subject was Roses, Hud.  OK, maybe Hud isn't classy, but it's the one that snagged her an Oscar so it always comes up.  Not all of the articles mention The Day the Earth Stood Still, an iconic SF movie. She uttered one of the most famous lines in movie history:  "Klaatu barada nikto".  For years I thought  the robot's name was Klaatu.  It looks like a Klaatu.  But Klaatu is the alien that controls the robot.  Klaatu says clean up your room.  No wait!  It was  actually ... no one knows! There is no official translation. It's rumored that the author of the script, one Edmund H. North, said "Klaatu barada nikto" means 'There's hope for earth, if the scientists can be reached'.  Patricia Neal  said a mouthful.  She was a fascinating woman, if you get a chance we have a biography you can read:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Album Art

It's just not the same with CD's,  those tiny little pictures smooshed into jewel cases.  Album art really was striking; a treat for the eyes if memory serves.  (And it should considering what I pay it. Hah!)
Here are my top ten favorite album covers that I can think of right now.  I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I remember another cover.  The numbers don't indicate which ones I like best.  I just think the list is easier to read when enumerated.  E-noo-mur-ate-ed.  It's worth saying twice.

1.  Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus.  The happiest, juiciest tomato you ever saw.  In a hammock.
1.  Supertramp,  Breakfast in America.  The happiest waitress you've ever seen.  On an airplane wing.
3.  The Moody Blues, Every Good Boy Deserves Favor.  I don't know what's going on with the boy and the old man and the crystal, but it's gorgeous.
4.  Kansas,  Masque.  Nothing like a guy made out of sea creatures.
5.  Styx,  The Grand Illusion. A forest, a face, a horse.  They're not kidding. 
6.  The Tubes, Completion Backwards Principle.  White T-pipe, blue background, sublime oddness.
7.  Genesis,  Duke.  Watercolor of a green man, blue sky. Nothing to do with the music.
8.  Janet Jackson,  Control.  Primo 80's art - HUGE hair, photo with squiggles, dramatic colors and space.
9.  Steely Dan, Aja.  I never notice the face, just the red and white ribbon(?), very striking.
10. Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark.  There's a hug and some vivid watercolor mountains.  Calming.
If you'd like to look at books with pictures of album covers, here you go:
The greatest album covers of all time

Friday, August 20, 2010

Iowa State Fair Contests. LIBRARIES CLOSED 8/19-8/22

Here are a few more fun Iowa State Fair contests at which you can prove your prowess:
Yodeling.  Be prepared to yodel one tune for 3 minutes or yodel 2 different tunes.  I wonder how many yodeling tunes there are out there?
Whistling.  Same rules as yodeling.  But since you can whistle almost anything, finding 2 tunes should be easy!
Hog Calling.  No live pigs allowed!!!  How do you know it works?
Just a few of the fun things to see at the State Fair while we're closed!

Library Closure Details:
All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed Thursday-Sunday, August 19-22 for a computer upgrade.  Two of these are unpaid furlough days for the staff.  Nothing will be due these dates and fines will not be charged for the closed days.  The Des Moines Public Library Website will be up, but the online catalog, online holds, online payment of fines and fees, Libby - the automated telephone circulation system - and our online resources will not be available.    Bookdrops will remain open.  We look forward to seeing you Monday August 23rd!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Iowa State Fair Contests - Decorated Diaper. Plus Library Closed

Now for your edification, a few facts about the Iowa State Fair Decorated Diaper Contest:  "1. Three categories will be judged: Most Creative Decorated Diaper, Iowa State Fair Diaper and Group Theme Diaper.    3. All babies must be in decorated diaper attire, disposable or cloth. Contestants may design a costume to coordinate with the diaper but the diaper must be visible for judging."  This last seems kind of obvious but I guess it doesn't hurt to spell it out. Then the Diaper Derby is a race!  The baby will crawl towards someone they presumably like, who will cheer them on.  Come on baby!  Who's a big girl!  Or maybe you just put your arms out and look welcoming.  Maybe there are strategies!  It's all a mystery to me.
Decorated Diaper Contest and Diaper Derby

Library Closure Details:

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed Thursday-Sunday, August 19-22 for a computer upgrade. Employees will take two of these days as (unpaid) furlough in conjunction with the city's budget reductions for FY 2010-2011. Nothing will be due these dates and fines will not be charged for the closed days. The Des Moines Public Library Website will be up, but the online catalog, online holds, online payment of fines and fees, Libby - the automated telephone circulation system - and our online resources will not be available. Bookdrops will remain open. We look forward to seeing you Monday August 23rd!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Iowa State Fair Iowa - Championship Auctioneers Contest

First, all six library locations will close Thursday, August 19 - Sunday, August 22 for a computer upgrade. Employees will take two of these days as (unpaid) furlough in conjunction with the city's budget reductions for FY 2010-2011. OK then.
I haven't been to many auctions, but each time I go the auctioneer is amazing.  I'm not talking Sotheby's here, so the people I've seen have been a little loosy-goosy and they have a patter as well, keeping things lively.  Not to mention egging folks on to bid against each other.  And the 'bid calling'.  It's not just the speed it's the clarity.  Auctioneers talk a gazillion words per minute yet you can understand everything they say. Half the time I can't understand what I'm saying.  At the State Fair event, "Contestants will bring three items of their choice. State Association will retain 25 percent commission to help defray expenses". Sounds like this is a real auction with money. The stakes are high!  To win you have to hit these marks: "contestants will be judged on speed, bid calling ability, salesmanship and appearance."  Lookin' good.  It matters everywhere.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Iowa State Fair Contests - Cribbage Tournament

Sunday August 22 1 PM at the Youth Inn! You can test your cribbage skills against the rootinest, tootinest cribbage players in Iowa!  If only my Grandmother was alive, she would wipe the floor with y'all.  Yes, my family plays cribbage.  Intensely.  I never really understood the game, and looking over these rules of play at the State Fair Contest web site I am not encouraged to take it up.
Some Rules:
"4.  If your opponent misses points in counting, you cannot take their points. After hand is counted and peg set, you cannot take points missed; but, if you take too many, you must move back."
"10.  No helping another player count points unless you are personally playing that game."
"11.  Two points for a win; three points for a win with a skunk; zero points for a loss."
See, this is a tough game.  No helping!!!  Don't even try to take someone else's points!!  And you can have 3 points and still get skunked!  Cribbage is obviously not for the faint of heart.  But if you think you're up to it, be registered by noon.  I'm guessing they are not kidding around about that either.
Cribbage Tournament

Monday, August 16, 2010

Interesting State Fair Contests Week - Ladies’ Nail Driving Contest

On Saturday August 21 at 10:30 AM, prepare yourself for the excitement of the Ladies’ Nail Driving Contest.  I cannot tell you how much I admire  these ladies as I am incapaple of driving a nail in straight.  Even when I sacrifice a thumb.  Here are the rules as posted by the Iowa State Fair:

Each lady is given six nails; one is extra and five need to be nailed flush within one square marked on the board. Each lady must put hammer down as soon as she is finished and put her hand up. Ages: 18 and over.  More power to you Ladies!  And aim.

A list of the Iowa State Fair contests. Ladies' Nail Driving Contest falls under the Heritage Contests. Heritage Contests are held at Farm Bureau Pioneer Hall

Friday, August 13, 2010

Inventions Week! Iowa's African Americans

In celebration of Black History Month in 2008, the State Library of Iowa compiled a document highlighting inventions from African Americans in Iowa.  "Black Inventors From Iowa"  includes available biographical information for the inventor and a description and diagram of the invention!  SEE a sketch of the can opener for which Albert Mendenhall, on May 9, 1916, received patent number 1,182,781.  THRILL to the 27 patents collected by David Nelson Crosthwait, Jr. (No diagrams for these.)  MARVEL at Walter G. Madison's elegant design for a flying machine! (Seen above)  It's so cool to get a taste of the ideas that make it all the way to the Big Time in Patent City.

African American Inventors from Iowa

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inventions Week! A Better Brew

Melitta Bentz was a German housewife who hated the taste of coffee.  In order to produce the java in 1908 you had 2 choices. You might dump the coffee into muslin and dunk the whole shebang into boiling water.  Or you could use the even more sophisticated 'dump the coffee directly into boiling water' method.  Either way you wound up with crunchy coffee. Melitta Bentz took action!  First she seized a pot and punched holes in the bottom.  Then she grabbed a sheet of paper, cut a circle out of it and stuffed it into the bottom of said pot.  Creating a filter.  She put dry coffee in the pot, poured boiling water over it and drank the resulting beverage.  It was good.  Melitta Benz and her husband had tin filters made, sold them, and  eventually the Melitta Company was born.  It is still in business and now sells coffee filters made from bamboo.  Ever the innovator. 

Sources:  Biography Resource Center
World of Invention

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Invention Week! Iowa Inventors!

Such a cool thing.The State Library of Iowa created an Iowa Inventors Database. You can wander through the patents by keyword or location. You can find out if someone, anyone from Aurelia has patented objets d'function. Why, it turns out Aurelia is a veritable hotbed of innovation! According to the database, Frank and Irving Minor of Aurelia invented the wheel. Hmmmm... could there be a connection to Asia Minor? Or was it a specific, mysterious type of wheel? Alas, the database does not reveal those details. But we do have a patent number of 1011987 and a date of 1911. Someone out there knows. Have fun trolling the Iowa Inventors Database!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Inventions Week! Keeping it Close to the Chest

The proud people of law enforcement  are safer today because a young woman with an interest in fashion pursued a career in her other passion, chemistry. Stephanie Louise Kwolek decided to focus on fibers in her research. Circa 1964 she began to develop a fiber intended to make stronger radial tires.  Radial tires.  Hah!  Her discovery went waaaay beyond that.  It took  the form of a liquid polymer, which needs to be spun in a ... wait for it... spinneret!  The spinneret guy didn't want to put Kwolek's goop in the machine for fear of clogs(lumps, not shoes).   Eventually he was persuaded, and the fiber that resulted was so light and strong Kwolek didn't want to file her report because she could not believe it.  And then she could.  The stuff they named Kevlar is five times stronger than steel and one heck of a lot more comfortable.  So even though Dr. Kwolek did not become a fashion designer, folks are wearing her creation.

Source: Biography Resource Center as accessed through EBSCOhost

Monday, August 9, 2010

Inventions Week! Listen Up

Everybody loves a good invention.  Like the paper clip or the zipper.  Or one with a really great story behind it.    Let's have fun with inventions this week!  In 1816, young physician ReneTheophile Hyacinthe Laennec was attempting to assess the heart condition of a very large young woman.  And I don't mean tall.  The usual method, pressing his hands down on the area of the heart, was not cutting it.  Too much in between his hands and the lady's ticker. The other usual method, planting his ear in that area, was not an option for Dr. Laennec as he was uncomfortable getting that close to a young woman's bosom. 
But all was not lost!  Rene had some basic knowledge of acoustics and here's what he did:  rolled 24 sheets of paper into a tube and placed one end  against the patient's heart, the other end to his ear.  Viola!  He could now hear the heart better than he had with the direct ear method. You know, with other patients.  Less large.  He made  a more sophisticated tool out of wood and the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the application of a freezing cold piece of metal to our tender skin.  Thank you Rene.  Looks like it was a good thing for us that the young lady was large. 

Source:  Biography ReSource Center, as accessed through EBSCOhost

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wedding Etiquette - All New

I'll be attending my nephew's wedding this weekend and I'm all aflutter.  Who knows what the etiquette is for kids these days?  We RSVP'd to their Facebook page. Does Emily know about this? Which of the old stand-by's still apply?  I hope I don't do something egregiously stupid with cutlery. Fortunately both my nephew and his fiancee are just the best, and I'm pretty sure the ceremony involves real people talking with no electronic intermediary. On the other hand there will be a soundboard.  Amidst all this change, you would not believe all the Wedding Etiquette Books we have.  Go ahead. Just try to figure this out.  And if you do, tell me because I have two more weddings coming up!  Yay!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Benet's Surfed

Three things I found in Benét's Reader's Encyclopedia that I'd never heard of:

1. The Girondists. A political party circa French Revolution.  In France.  These were middle class guys who wanted the monarchy overthrown. They themselves were overthrown in June1793. Oh the i-ron-y.   p. 402 
2.  King's evil.  Scrofula was called king's evil because the British were under the impression that it could be cured by the touch of a royal personage.  This notion lasted from Edward the Confessor (1042) to Queen Anne (1702).   p.558  
By the way, "Scrofula is a tuberculous infection of the skin on the neck."*  Ick. 
3. Kulak.  A rich Russian peasant.  Soviet authorities named them for the word fist, and they didn't mean that in a good way.  The Soviets got rid of the kulaks in the 1920's so farming could be collectivized.  p. 569

Thank you, Monsieur Benét. 
Benét's Reader's Encyclopedia
*Source:  MedlinePlus

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I consumed my first smoothie on Monday.  Newbie that I am I had to ask what the difference was between a smoothie and a milkshake.  The owner, instead of laughing at my ignorance, kindly explained that basically the smoothie doesn't have milk products.  I started out small with just basic strawberry plus ice and, because I am oh-so-trendy, a shot of protein powder.  Vanilla protein!  Absolutely avant-garde. The smoothie was the consistency of a snow cone and the flavor was very light and clean.  Did I mention that I purchased this delight inside the Central Library?  We have a new vendor in our little restaurant, the juice bar Natural Thirst.  And everything is fresh fresh fresh.  They'll put together any flavor combinations you want, even ones that would not appeal to yours truly.  Like banana-mango which a friend of mine finds delish. These options will change with the seasons because, well, fresh fresh fresh.  You'll like it.
Natural Thirst;   Central Library, 1000 Grand Avenue 
Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays,
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays,
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bookplates - neither for reading nor eating

Ex Libris?  Growing up, when I saw that phrase in a book I thought it was some arcane way of saying "I see you reading my book! Watch it!"  Somehow 'From the Library of" never occurred to me.   Bookplates have been around since the 15th century. You don't see them much anymore but at one time they were quite the thing. Celebrities had them custom designed!  Isadora Duncan had her very own bookplate - ID printed over 3 yellow flowers.  This charming picture is reprinted in one of our Reference Books Nothing or the Bookplate, an intriguing title.  There is some academic interest in these little works of art.  Canada’s McGill University, the Philippe Masson Ex Libris collection owns 4,500 items.  I wonder how many have swords on them.
Source:  Why bookplates speak volumes. Irish Times; 01/11/2010 as accessed through EBSCOhost
Nothing or The bookplate; with a handlist by E. Carrick. This book cannot be checked out, but you can stop in at the Central Library and take a look!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Which One is the Superhero?

The lady in the middle has a cape anyway.  Perhaps inspired by a certain superhero? Wonder Woman debuted in 1941 as the creation of William Moulton Marston.  The same William Moulton Marston who invented the lie detector.  I kid you not.  Didn't he give her a golden lariat that forces people to tell the truth?  Nice touch, William.  And here's a revolutionary concept for a comic book her message was that girls could do anything, they just needed the right training!!  Yow! And then they could work good jobs in the factories while the men went to war. Her characteristics have varied over the years, but my favorite version of Wonder Woman is the contemporary one illustrated by Alex Ross.  She is big and muscular. As befits a superhero. Help yourself to our fine selection of resources. 
The supergirls : fashion, feminism, fantasy, and the history of comic book heroine
A list of Wonder Woman Books - click on the individual title for information

Source: Superhero History: Using Comic Books to Teach U.S. History. OAH Magazine of History; Apr 2010, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p41-47 as accessed through EBSCOhost