Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Consider the Teapot

At first tea was brewed in bowls! Gasp! But pots popped up in the Song Dynasty (AD 970-1279).   Both tea and teapots wandered over to the West in the 1650s.  In Britain in the 1740s, your blue and white teapots were all the rage.  Teapots have been produced by classy companies such as Wedgewood and Spode!  The proverbial ante was upped in the 1860's with animal-shaped pots made of majolica*.  (What the heck is majolica?  I can never remember.  See below.)   Some models were curvier than others, some plain some fancy.  "But were they short and stout?" she fretted?   One could describe as 'short and stout' the monumentally garish teapot-in-the-shape-of-a-house she gave to her sister in the 1980's.  Whew.

Books on Teapot History
Source:  A Spot of Tea. By: Timm, Maureen, Antiques & Collecting Magazine, Apr99
*Majolica:  "earthenware covered with an opaque tin glaze and decorated on the glaze before firing;" Source:  Merriam Webster Online 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

They Know Where They're Going

I know the perception is that education in the U. S. is slipping, on the skids, declining.  Apparently that is not true in every aspect.  The average geography score for fourth-graders was higher in 2010 than in 1994 and 2001.  Fourth-graders!  Do not play Trivial Pursuit with these tiny people, they will wipe the floor - or should I say map? - with you.
1994 206
2001 208
2010 213

Monday, August 29, 2011

County Histories of Iowa

We have county history books for most, if not all, of the counties in Iowa!  Good golly!  The histories live at the Central Library and don't leave the building but they do enjoy visitors.  A few sample titles: 
Biographical and Historical Record of Ringgold and Union Counties.  Two for one!  Actually this is fairly common.   Greene/Carroll, Butler/Bremer, and Chickasaw/Howard are other double-county mashups.  (Mashups!  We're so hip!) 
Then there is the History of Winneshiek county with biographical sketches of its eminent men.  If you were not eminent, or male, I'm guessing the cookies were pretty tough. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Keyboards - Making It Better for You

Wouldn't you just love a little extra oomph in your keyboard?  Say you press a key and you get chocolate.  A key for that, a key to beam me home at the end of the day, a key for money! Now that I think about it, keyboards are kind of pathetic.  Use this generator to make your very own magic key:  Custom Computer Keyboard

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes

I miss 'em, I do.  Aside from Stone Soup, Calvin and Hobbes was one of the few comic strips that showed librarians a little respect.  When Calvin calls the library and, using a cheesy French accent, asks for a list of scatological terms the librarian hangs up.  Calvin's take:  "Those librarians are a sharp bunch".   Calvin calls the library asking for books on why girls are so weird.  When the librarian finds no information on the subject Calvin says he 'bets the library just doesn't want anyone to know'.   Nuh-unh!   We do want people to know!    We'll do our darndest to find out!   But what can we do if girls just aren't weird?   At least we have more Calvin and Hobbes books than you can shake a stuffed tiger at. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sadder Than Melted Ice Cream

Oh, the humiliation! Five years ago today Pluto was demoted.  Yes, the planet (ha!) that reminded my generation of a friendly cartoon dog, the food stuff in the mnemonic 'My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas', the little guy who only just became a planet in 1930 ... what was I saying?  Oh yeah. 424 picky astronomers attending the annual International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague voted to demote Pluto to a dwarf planet.  Does that make it Dopey?  At least it would keep it in the family.

Chase's Calendar of Events

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

American Industry! What Defines 'Food'?

While conducting research by using this book you may run across the heading Food and Kindred Products.  Plus its sub-heading 'Natural, Processed and Imitation Cheese'. Well that explains it - the whole 'cheese food' 'cheese product' mystery.  They could be kindred products, not unlike food but not exactly food either!  As for actual cheese it's been around since about 6000 B.C.  Not just tasty, cheese held up well enough to be a popular take-along for travelers and armies. How well does cheese hold up today?   Well let's find out.  Kraft Foods Inc., the leading cheese producer in the United States, collected $6.8 billion of cheesy revenue in 2009.  Not bad for a category that includes 'Kindred Products'.

Source:  Encyclopedia of American Industries as accessed through Gale Virtual Reference Library DMPL card number and PIN required for access

Monday, August 22, 2011

Man, These Stripes are Hard to Get Off

This is a picture of a Burchelli's Zebra, also known as the plains zebra.  Or, as most of us know it, A Zebra. There's more than one kind of these stripy beasts!  Who knew?  Another one grammatically owned by a person is Grevy's Zebra.  More stripes and they're thinner.  The stripes that is. The animals themselves are bigger.  Grevy's zebras weigh 990 pounds!  Let's call it a ton and get out of their way.  Then there's the mountain zebra with a tan muzzle and a dewlap.  A dewlap.  They've got little flaps on their necks, like a turkey's only way less gross. What the heck is that 'dewing' on a zebra?  Ha!  We try to leave you laughing, folks.  Or groaning?

Source:  Grzimek's animal life encyclopedia.
 Photo Credit: Glenn Franco Simmons

Friday, August 19, 2011

Signpost Up Ahead - The State Fair Zone?

More generator family fun! Kids having trouble finding the garbage they're supposed to take out?  Car keys going missing?  Laundry basket ignored?  Make a reeeeaallly obvious sign and point everybody in the right direction.  Don't make it a swivelly sign though.  That's just asking for trouble.

Directional Street Sign Generator

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tipping the Scale

When I was young and naive, a friend and I patronized the 'Guess Your Weight' guy at the State Fair.  We were very pleased that we 'won' since the gentleman could not indeed guess our weight.  It was years before I figured out that the dollar we paid for the 'guess' would have purchased 10 of the prizes we won.  But what the heck, it was fun. Should you choose to play some of the carnival games at the fair, here's a tip:
"Milk-Can Toss: Never throw the ball directly at the center, as you would a basketball. Instead, aim for the edge of the closest lip and make sure to throw with a big arc."
That milk-can money adds up. The country's largest fair, (but not The Best State Fair in Our State) the State Fair of Texas, takes in about $4 million from these games.  Yowsa.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

As the Cow Flies

Was the movie'Twister' one of Iowa's well-known disasters?  It had Philip Seymour Hoffman, how cheesy could it be?  You decide. I kind of liked it.  On another note, Iowa has certainly seen its share of  non-fictional disasters. Four notable railroad accidents:

1.  August 29, 1877;  Rock Island Lines passenger train wrecks in Des Moines killing 20.
2.  March 21, 1910;  Train derailment in Marshall County kills 55.
3.  October 22, 1937;  Near Mason City, a Renwick school bus collides with a Rock Island Lines train, killing 10. 
4.  September 28, 1944;  Missouri Valley train wreck kills 9.

Was rail travel more dangerous than travel by plane?  Maybe not, but the accidents were just as tragic.

Source: Des Moines Register 7/25/1989 p. 5A

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

USDA Nutrition Database

Want to know how much water is in a bagel? What the lipid situation is? Does it have a lot of ash? I kid you not, ash. Then the USDA "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference" is just the thing. It's easy to search, I just typed in 'bagel'. But I did get more hits with 'bagel' than I did with 'bagels'. Hmmm. The amount of info is staggering. I don't know what a kJ is other than some kind of energy measurement. But it's there when I need it. And of course it does not break out your brand name products, but you can choose the size of the food item which is handy. It even does lasagna, admittedly frozen. Even the USDA doesn't know what you put in your pasta dishes. Or do they?
USDA Nutrition Database When you want to know more than you want to know.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Racy Names

Race Horses, that is!  They have the best and oddest names.  War Admiral, Seabiscuit, Man o' War - they sound more like ships than steeds.  Then there's your Barbaro, your Dan Patch, your Funny Cide.  Whimsical names!  My favorites are the names that you'd never call your pet. The following are actual registered horse names,  brought to by the Jockey Club Registry

A Girl On Each Arm
D C Midnight Tango
Dinner At Jackies
Halo's Big Racquet
Umbrella Bag Nite
Jesse's Gone West
Maggie's Revenge

Now I know you want to read Race Horse Biographies!  To find more more more book lists from our Fabulous Readers Lists just click!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Tip: How to Reach All of Us

How easy is it to speak with a live person when calling the Des Moines Public Library? Glad you asked! 283-4152 is the general number for all 6 libraries. None of the branches have direct lines, all the calls start at the Central Library. The folks at the Central Library try to answer your question, but you'll always be transferred to the branch when necessary. Here's the tip part: When you dial 283-4152 you get a recording. Said recording provides you with several options.  But if you need to speak to one of us humans, you don't have to listen to all that. As soon as the recording starts, press 3 and you'll be talking to an actual person.  No lie. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Check It Out Here, Return It There!

Did you know that you can return your items to any of our six buildings, no matter which library you checked out?   Well you can!   Plus as a bonus you can use our drop boxes for any-time returns. Check out Monday morning at East Side, return to South Side Saturday evening - all over town, any time of day! 
Library Locations:
CENTRAL LIBRARY: 1000 Grand Avenue, 50309
EAST SIDE LIBRARY: 2559 Hubbell Avenue, 50317
FOREST AVENUE LIBRARY: 1326 Forest Avenue, 50314
FRANKLIN AVENUE LIBRARY: opens at 5000 Franklin on August 22
NORTH SIDE LIBRARY: 3516 Fifth Avenue, 50313
SOUTH SIDE LIBRARY: 1111 Porter Avenue, 50315

The Des Moines Public Library.  Making it convenient for you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baseball News! Surprise!

 That's right, actual sports reportage.   Today a statue of third baseman Ron Santo will be unveiled at Wrigley Field.   That's the Cubs' stadium.   The Chicago Cubs.   Santo was not only a respected ball player, he was a beloved commentator for 20 years.   Santo provided color commentary which included many emotional reactions to what was happening on the field.    Which endeared him to Cubs lovers - Ron Santo was a huge Cubs fan, no attempt at impartiality.   That's what the play-by-play guy is for.  Santo's statue will join three others at Wrigley Field, those of:  Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, and Harry Caray.  Ron Santo died December 02, 2010.

The Official Site of the Chicago Cubs

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mark Twain Stamp/Quotes

Is it not cool that Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens has his very own postage stamp?    The guy is eminently quotable and here are a few favorites:

"Classic.  A book which people praise and don't read." 

"The report of my death was an exaggeration." Waaay before Paul was dead but really alive.

"Always do right.  This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

 My very favorite: "I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did.  I said I didn't know."  Question: What do librarians say in their time off?

Source:  Bartlett's Familiar Quotations

Monday, August 8, 2011

Yoda Not Was He

Oh, that wag Winston Churchill.  He was one sharp dude and did not care to be corrected.  Once he was scolded for ending a sentence with a preposition.  His response:  "This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put."  See how you can mangle a sentence when attempting to avoid those prepositional finales?  If you've forgotten all about prepositions (and who hasn't?) they are simple things.  According to The Everything Grammar and Style Book, "a preposition is a word that links a noun or pronoun to some other word in a sentence".  For example: When criticized, Winston Churchill was beside himself.  In this case beside is the preposition that links was and himself.  OK, now you're on your own. Good luck!

Source:  Words on paper by Roy H. Copperud

Friday, August 5, 2011

John Merrick's Birthday

On this very date in 1862 John Merrick was born.  We know him as the Elephant Man, whose story was told in the movie of the same name. He is believed to have suffered from Proteus syndrome, the cause of which was unknown up until last week.  On July 27th it was announced that a team of researchers at the National Institute of Health have identified the genetic mutation responsible for Proteus syndrome.  The mutation is not inherited, it occurs spontaneously while the embryo develops. And the mutation does not appear in all the body's cells, just some of them.  Last fact:  this syndrome is caused by a "single-letter misspelling among the 3 billion letters that make up the human genome".  Can't say that I fully understand that, but it is amazing.

Chase's Calendar of Annual Events
The Elephant Man

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tomatoes! Run!

Don't you just love produce brand names?  Well maybe not now, but they used to be mighty entertaining.  Consider the DOMINATOR tomatoes.  Imagine looking out your window to see these looking in.  On the second floor!  How about some Treasure Chest oranges.  If you prefer your citrus well educated there were Alphabetical oranges.  Pete's Best apples.  If they were so good why did the Beatles drop them?  No wonder fruit crate labels are so collectible. They're odd and colorful!  They originated in California in an effort to put the Golden State's citrus on the map - and to identify the brands to buyers at Chicago produce warehouses. Where the fruit wound up when refrigerated cars were added to the transcontinental railroad.  Transportation, transportation, refrigeration.

Source: Antiques & Collecting Magazine, Dec2010, Vol. 115 Issue 10, p20-24, as accessed through EBSCOhost
Graphic source:  Dover Publications

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Creature Domination!

Who will inherit the earth when humankind bites the dust?  Maybe not cockroaches.  Personally, I'd rather they didn't.  There are other candidates for meek-dom.  (Get it?  Earth inheritance?  Meek?  No?) These invasive species have a shot.
1.  Nutria!   Not a breakfast cereal but 12-15 pound rodent pests, reproducing like crazy and destroying other species' swampy habitats.  In addition to these survival traits there is evidence that they live happily ever after in polluted areas.  Plus they're ugly.
2.  A really nasty squid, called the 'red devil' by Mexican fishermen.  Actually named the Humboldt squid, these babies grow to 5 feet in the space of a couple years and swarms of them are appearing far from their usual habitat.  The stuff of nightmares, they have hooks around the suctions cups so there is no escape!  If only they'd eat Nutria.
For more on this subject read the book that is the source of the above information: Super species : the creatures that will dominate the planet by Garry Hamilton

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


For some, this is the only way to carve.   With Power Tools!    We are way beyond whittling here, folks.   The details you can achieve with these tools are stunning.   What tools you ask?   Well, if you want to carve birds you need your 'Micro-Motor Machine'.   It does not have the high torque of the flexible shaft machine.   I thought you should know.   The Micro-Motors are little and light carvers that can get you the teeny-tiny cuts you need for feathers and the wee ribs on a bird's claw.   Oh! Oh!  Vocabulary alert!   When you are carving out large chunks of wood it's called wasting - or hogging.   Yeah, I said hogging.   Whether you wish to hog or detail your piece, the book Power Carving Manual is your source for all things torque. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Truck Stop USA

You might have missed USA Today's list of "10 great places to motor into a truck stop".  Well.  The second truck stop they list is in Walcott, Iowa.  Have you seen that thing? World's largest!  You can see it right off I-80 between here and Davenport.  Been past it many a time.  Never had the guts to go in.  How do you explain to your friend that you got lost in a truck stop?  "Come get me, I'm over by the Dog Wash."  I'm not kidding, you even can get your pet cleaned and shined. There are a lot of truckers in Iowa.  In the Bureau of labor statistic report "States with the highest concentration of jobs and location quotients in this occupation (truckers)", Iowa comes in third. Truck stops are so au courant that the Travel Channel's going to have a show set entirely in the Midway Travel Plaza near Columbia, Missouri.  Midway has cow patty bingo.  And lawn mower races.  It's all about the activities, man.  Who can compete with that?

Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics
USA Today article
I-80 Truck Stop, Walcott