Friday, July 29, 2011

Handy-Dandy List of Yearbooks - Updated

Just the link is updated, but that totally counts.  You knew we had a collection of local high school yearbooks, right?  I'm sure I've mentioned that.  Well, on our fabulous Local History Wiki there is a lovely list that includes the name of the yearbook, the name of the school and the specific years we have.  Most are housed at the Central Library and they're not allowed to leave the building.  (They simply can't be trusted.)  To take a look at the list, click here:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Proton Panic?

Protons!   They are devious.  In 1980 with $2 million from the Department of Energy, Dr. Frederick Reines headed an experiment in which a 70-foot-high hole was dug at the bottom of a 2,000 foot salt mine shaft near Lake Erie.  This was 2,000 feet up and down, not across, mind you.   The hole was filled with 10,000 tons of pure water.  The water was surrounded by 2,000 photoelectric cells.  If a proton decayed it would produce a little light which the cells would record.  Nifty.  But why, you ask?   They wanted proof that protons decay.  The supposition being that if protons decay, everything decays.   That's right, The End of the World as We Know It would be supported by scientific fact.   Yesiree.   Bob.  Unfortunately no proton obligingly decayed in this experiment, or, as far as we know, ever.  Protons!   Have they no shame?   For $2 million you'd think one of them would have the decency to croak.

Source:  Des Moines Register 05/01/1980 p. 10A

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


There is a company in New York that skywrites 50 marriage proposals a year.   And how exactly does skywriting work?   First you have to mix paraffin oil into your exhaust so you leave a nice big contrail.   Then you check to make sure you have a strong stomach because chances are that sometime during the skywriting process you will be upside down.  You and your friends that is.   A single plane can write about 6 letters.   So you write Verla, the others can manage "Marry Me".   A single letter can be one mile high.   That's good in case Verla works in a skyscraper.   You can see them from 30 miles away - good if Verla lives in the suburbs.  Skywriting has been around since 1922 and was immediately co-opted for advertising.   Surprise!
By the way, 'Surrender Dorothy' was written in a tank of water and oil. Well, I didn't believe that broom could fly anyway.

Source:  Library of Congress Everyday Mysteries
Books About the History of Airplanes

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Similes Smiles

I admit it.  I'd forgotten all about similes. Merriam-Webster online defines them thusly:  "a figure of speech comparing two unlike things".  The following are adorable.
Cruel as the pinch of a painless dentist —Sydney Munden
Lively as grasshoppers —Samuel Lover
Glittering like the spangled dewdrop —Sir Walter Scott
Smug as April —Beaumont and Fletcher
Prancing like a bean-fed horse —Rudyard Kipling
Absurd as to ask a man if he’ll have salt on his ice cream —Anonymous
Foolish as an endeavor to make a lobster climb a tree and give a report of the atmospheric conditions —Anonymous

That Anonymous is pretty sharp.  Why, you might say sharp as a tack!  hahahahaha
Source:  A Dictionary of Similes By Frank J. Wilstach
as accessed through

Monday, July 25, 2011

Everybody Was Bananas

From 1993 to 2009 the Banana Trade Wars were waged. What was the problem?  Two American companies, (United Fruit Company and the Standard Fruit Company) due to their dominance of the banana trade, had so much influence over certain areas of Latin America that those areas came to be called 'banana republics'.  I kid you not!  The trade war came in when the European Commission, concerned by this state of affairs, imposed a quota and tariff on goods from former colonies including those in Latin America.  These effected United States banana trade. With me so far?  The World Trade Organization ruled these restrictions unacceptable. So the European Commission came up with a new banana control policy.  Then the U. S. said 'if you do that we'll impose $500 million in trade sanctions against Europe'. So there. This kind of thing goes back and forth for years until the interested parties got together in 2009 and hammered things out.  And that, my dears, is where 'banana republics' come from.

Source: Food:  In Context  as accessed through Gale Virtual Reference Library 
DMPL card ad PIN required for access

Friday, July 22, 2011

Getting a Charge out of Altoids

Love the Altoids?  Can't bear to throw away all the cool tins?  You could... keep Life Savers in them!  Loose change!  Toss in some first-aid supplies!  Melt some candle wax, drop in a wick or two and boom!  Instant travel candle.  If you want more of a challenge, Popular Science will tell you how to make a battery charger out of an Altoid tin.  You have to be able to solder, you need a voltmeter and a 160-ohm resistor.  Yeah, eye of newt anyone?  Popular Science graciously offers several projects online including an eentsy BBQ grill.  You know you want one.

through EBSCOhost.  DMPL card and PIN required for access
POPSCI Online Altoids Search

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Remember the octopus-thing Princess Beatrice wore on her head at the Royal Wedding?  Of course you do, it will haunt our dreams for years to come.  Let us review Hat Horrors from the past:
Between 1600 and 1700 there was your fontage; a cap with tall tiers of linen formed with wire.  If you're lucky you get one that resembles a pipe organ.
From 1700-1795 hats the size of small countries were needed to cover the enormous hair styles.  Gotta have a callash.  Imagine wearing the cover of a conestoga wagon for a hat only it's made out of silk and it's collapsible.  The ultimate in comfort.
1795-1799 saw the rise of the poke bonnets.  Innocent, right?  Laura Ingalls Wilder wore one!  But hers didn't have a 'bill' that stretched way out in front of her face providing blinders and 'poking' the back of the person in front of her in line.  Hats are fun.  Which way to the next Royal Chapeau-wearing Event?  We are so there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Steam Heat. Cool It!

I can't stand it.  The heat is making me nuts and it is far from over, my friends.  Air conditioning, fans, light clothing - I've tried it all yet the misery lingers on.  Next stop:  Psychological warfare.  I'm talking movies that will ice up your eyeballs right in your head.  And it will feel good.  You know what tops the list.  Takes place in Russia ...Julie Christie... Lara's Theme... the doctor is in!  Pop Doctor Zhivago in that DVD player and fast forward through any part that looks like it might have temps above freezing.  Aaaahh. Then include these in your freeze film fest:  FargoLet the Right One InThe Shining;  A Simple PlanMisery.  Hmmm.  Most of these are kind of creepy.  Maybe they'll give you the shivers.  Bonus!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Be Careful of the Heat

You've got your Heat Stroke and your Heat Exhaustion and they have different symptoms.  According to The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine:
Heat Stroke;
   Hot, dry skin
   Constricted pupils!
   Body temperature in the very high neighborhood
Heat Exhaustion;
   Clammy skin
   Dilated pupils!
   Normal to low body temperature
How can the same condition (heat) cause completely contrasting sets of symptoms?  I'm stumped!  But even I can tell you to keep your perfectly normal pupils peeled for the nasty effects of 97 degree weather.  Yikes.

Source: The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine.

Monday, July 18, 2011


It's not just for schoolchildren anymore.  But for some adults it's just not worth doing unless it's competitive.  In the 1990's Robert Lang, a computer programmer, upped the ante by writing a computer program to help him figure out how to fold incredibly complex objects.  Others followed and now it's not unusual for an origami pattern to require 100 steps.  Who has the patience for that?  Well, Satoshi Kamiya.  The dragon you see took 40 hours to create.  He spread it out but that's an entire workweek.  Look at it.  Remember, no cutting or tearing of paper is allowed, only folding of square sheets of paper.  And for this work of art Satoshi Kamiya didn't even use his computer program. Personally I think it would have been prettier if he'd used some of the gorgeous origami paper that is available.  But maybe I'm crass. If you want to make say flowers and frogs and maybe chickens (wouldn't chickens be cool) take some of our books home with you after checking them out on your DMPL card.  The chickens await.

Origami Books!

Source:  THE EXTREME SPORT OF ORIGAMI. Discover, Jul2006, Vol. 27 Issue 7, p60-63, 4p as accessed through EBSCOhost.  DMPL card and PIN required for access.
Graphic Source:  Discover Magazine Gallery

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Rabbit Fun!

You know what you've been missing all your life?  Besides major lottery money?  Your very own nom de lapin.  Because everybody deserves a nickname worthy of a rabbit.  Some of these are oh-so comical!  A friend of mine is Chiquita Cheeks McGee.  Stretch-Hop-A-Long turns up often as a last name, must be a big family. Of rabbits! Ha!  I was getting so many Stretch-Hop-A-Longs that I finally made up an outrageous male name and was rewarded with  Homer Wibby Wabby Rabbit.  Worth the effort.  One of my brothers-in-law's real name comes up Rhett Butler Fuzzy-Snuzzle Tail!  He's awesome!  But I knew that. Hey, if you don't like the first sobriquet they give you, try again.  What's in a name?  Whatever you want.  You're the bunny.

Bunny Name Generator

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Auto Info: Oh That's Where the Doohickey Is!

Our fabulous Auto Repair Reference Center has a new feature. You can still look up your car and find specifications, wiring diagrams, and diagnostic information.  But now you can take a video tour through a generic car and find out where mysterious mechanisms like the 'Baro sensor' are.  Turns out the Baro sensor, if you have one, discovers that whoops!  you've driven way up in the mountains, you maniac. So said Baro sensor tells the computer to adjust the air/fuel mixture for optimum performance!  If you click on 'Baro sensor' you can watch little videos about it.  Baro sensors!  They are too cool for school.  Baro sensor, Baro sensor, Baro sensor.  Now I promise to stop saying it.

Auto Repair Reference Center
DMPL Library Card and PIN required for access

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cakes: So Much Fun to Make

We went to the movie Bridesmaids and the main character was a baker.  She lovingly baked a cupcake then topped it with an elaborate flower she made out of frosting - individual petals, leaves, multiple layers, just gorgeous.  Then she ate it!  In 1/10th of the time it took her to make it.  That's what I don't get about elaborate cakes.  You know, the ones on the covers of slick magazines. Cakes featuring marzipan forest creatures, entire beach scenes, soccer games. The creation-to-destruction time ratio is outrageous.  But if you're really enjoying yourself it does not matter that the cake you worked on for 2 days will be consumed in an hour.  Let us enable you then.

Sign up for Cake Decorating Workshop #1
Cake Decorating Workshop #2
Cake Decorating Books

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interview Tips

Everyone knows you should be prepared to answer certain questions in a job interview:  what are your long-term goals, what are you faults, (I work too hard!) why did you leave your last job (I want  more challenges!) and so on.  But did you know you should ask questions in an interview?  According to
"Interview Tips to Get the Job You Want", available online through LearningExpress Library Test Preparation, there are all kinds of possibilities.  Here are some examples.

A.  What type of on-the-job training is available?
B.  How would you describe the corporate culture or the work environment?
C.  Could you provide me with a few details regarding the job that are not mentioned in the job description for this position? 

So be prepared when they ask, "Do you have any questions for us?"

For more, visit LearningExpress Library Test Preparation.
Set up name and password.  (This can be anything; it allows you to stop in the middle of a test and pick up where you left off when you log back in.) 
It asks for your email address but you don't have to supply one. Just click on the box next to 'don't show me this again'.
Click on continue and you can now choose your test/book.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How Heavy Can it Be?

You'll never guess who was an early heavy metal artist.  No, not him.  Billy Joel!  While you retrieve your jaw from the floor, let me offer proof:  According to Sound of the beast : the complete headbanging history of heavy metal , Joel played organ on the heavy-metal songs "Amplifier Fire" and "Tear this Castle Down".  You can see a picture of the cover of this album, Attila, on that YouTube thing. Less mind-blowing facts:  Lester Bangs, legendary Rolling Stone critic, was the first to call the music heavy metal.  Black Sabbath is generally acknowledged as the first heavy metal band (1970), and while Ozzy Osbourne is pretty goofy now, "Uptown Girl" anyone?  Not that there's anything wrong with that. 
Black Sabbath

Friday, July 8, 2011

Birds Hiding

Word Search Time!  Herein you will find 13 birds that are, if not native to Iowa, frequently seen in our fine state.  There's a really easy one toward the bottom to get you started.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grisham's Lean Mean Book-Selling Machine

John Grisham was once a simple would-be author. After he was a not-necessarily-simple lawyer.  When his first book A Time to Kill was published with a measly 5,000 copy run Grisham bought one thousand copies by his own self.  He couldn't give them away!  Okay, he actually said it was difficult to do so.   Grisham "hauled them in the trunk of my car and peddled them at libraries, garden clubs, grocery stores, coffee shops and a handful of bookstores."  This was back in 1989 before Starbucks was ubiquitous.  Garden Clubs!  Coffee Shops!  The man was thinking outside the box.  Or outside the trunk.  Ha!  Who knew the publishing juggernaut that is Mr. John Grisham had such humble beginnings.  Not I.

Source:  Dedication to Bobby Moak in Ford County: Stories by John Grisham

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Back to Work, Summer Style

Money magazine has some thoughts on how you can occupy the rest of your summer.  They suggest you start by checking your roof for problems.  That's why you bought those binoculars you've never used. Check your sprinkler system oh wait! I don't have one.  Check!  Clean the junk out of the bottom of your hot-water heater tank.  I had no idea this was an issue.  Apparently mucking out involves cutting off the power and draining the tank. Yikes.  And crawl around your house on your hands and knees looking through a magnifying glass to make sure there are no bug signs like mud tubes eeewwww around your foundations, windows and walls.  Then slather your deck in protective goop.  Your deck will thank you.  Not directly but it will leave little gifts at your door. We just want to ensure every waking minute of your summer is spent fixing something.  Hey!  How much are you sleeping anyway?  Just checking.

The Four-Season Home DIY Guide. Money, Jan/Feb2011, Vol. 40 Issue 1, p47-51, 5p, as accessed through EBSCOhost.  DMPL card and PIN required for access.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We Are Open! And Shakespeare Heat

It's been so hot, I found myself worrying about the Repertory Theater of Iowa who will be presenting, in full costume,  the comedy "As You Like It," on the Lawn at Salisbury House and Gardens, July 21-24.  Ouch!  I'm guessing they are not going the Full Elizabethan.  Just the underclothes for the women would include:

Smock or shift, or chemise.  (Not all 3 at once.)
Corset or bodice
Farthingale - a hooped skirt
A Roll or Rowle - a roll of fabric tied around one's middle to make the skirt stand out from the waist
Stomacher - a triangular panel of fabric that goes over the bodice and comes to a point at the waist
Kirtle - undershirt
Forepart - a fancy underskirt, partly visible under a 'v' cutout in the skirt
Partlet - a high necked chemise, or an Elizabethan dickie?

And then you put on the dress.  Which is not exactly light as air in itself.  So good luck to the fine folks of the Repertory Theater of Iowa!  We wish you fair weather in July!  Not holding our breath, but still.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July! Today We are Closed

All 6 locations of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today in observance of the 4th of July holiday.

I finally read "The Help" and will now offer my opinions as to the movie version's casting:
Viola Davis as Abilene:  Fabulous!
Octavia Spencer as Minny:  Perfect!
Emma Stone as Skeeter:  Love Stone, even though she's not tall and gangly like the character.
Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly:  What?
Sissy Spacek as Missus Walters:  She's not that old!  Really!  I guess that's where the acting comes in.

I'd kind of pictured the guy who plays Blair on Glee as Stuart Whitworth but I'm not married to the idea.  Can't wait to see how it all turns out!  Who knows - I was appalled that they cast Liv Tyler as Arwen in The Lord of the Rings and she was great.  Maybe these casting people actually know what they are doing.

The Lord of the Rings

Friday, July 1, 2011

We Will Be Closed Monday for the 4th and Alternative Activities

Avoiding the fireworks and parades?  The Farmer's Almanac does not want you to get bored.  According to their calendar the 4th of July is one of the best days to "Cut Firewood, Mow to Increase Growth, Dig Holes, Wax Floors".  Yeah, we don't want to mow to increase growth.  The grass is going crazy as it is.  But I haven't dug a hole in ages. Back yard or front?  All 6 locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed Monday. Leaving you free for Activities.