Monday, October 31, 2011

Two Months in One!

Not only is October National Sarcasm Month, it is also National Popcorn Month.  The best month ever!  Iowa's own Schaller is the Popcorn Capital of the World, home to Jolly Time.  We Americans eat about 52 quarts of popped popcorn per year.  I am more than holding up my end on this, so somebody out there is seriously slacking.  Sarcasm! OK, this to me is sarcasm:  someone hands you a ratty-chewed up book and you say, "Oh, thank you.  I've always wanted a book that looks truly used to add to my collection of pristine first-editions".  It's saying something that sounds nice but is not meant to be.  "Spock, if only I had that green blood of yours these pesky emotions like love and happiness wouldn't be such a bother."  McCoy didn't say that, but it totally sounds like him.  Last day to eat popcorn and say the opposite of what you mean.  October, you are just too short.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Truth About Holds

Using your awesome computer skills, you have put a reserve on "I kissed a zombie, and I liked it", which is currently available at the South Side Library.  You jump on your scooter, speed to South Side, check the holds shelf and ...what?  Your book is not waiting for you!  What is up with that?  Here's how our hold process works: "we retrieve materials from our shelves at least twice per day and we deliver items among branches, but there may be a delay in getting your hold on the shelf waiting for you. Please wait until you have been notified the item is available. If you need something more immediately, please call (515) 283.4152, extension 3 and speak with one of our librarians about expedited service."  So if you don't need it right this second, go ahead and reserve your heart's desire online.  But if 'right this second' is your time frame, give us a call!
How to place a reserve.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Symphonia? When I was a sprout and barely knew what a symphony was, the word symphonia puzzled me.  It sounded like a musical piece played by children using only triangles, tambourines and bells.  According to The New American Dictionary of Music, a symphonia is indeed a symphony.  But it’s also “any of various medieval instruments, incl. the hurdy-gurdy.”  Jackpot!  Who doesn’t love a hurdy-gurdy, as immortalized by Donovan in the immortal tune Hurdy Gurdy Man"?  Did Donovan mean the hurdy-gurdy that looks like a lute or the crank model played on the streets?  Didn't know there were two kinds did you?  Music is even more exciting than you ever imagined.  

Donovan CD:    Troubadour : the definitive collection 1964-1976

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stonehenge Unhinged

Stonehenge is awesome.  I got to see it once, but you couldn't touch the stones anymore due to vandalism. Stupidhead vandals.  I could not imagine how they got the lintel stones on top of the uprights.  Along comes Buildings that Changed the World!  (The exclamation point is mine, but you can see how the title demands it.)   So anyway, this book depicts a theory as to how "our neolithic ancestors" accomplished the feat.  With a lever and plenty of manpower.   They wedged the lintel stone up and built a scaffolding/stage, under the lintel.  Then the 'neoliths' did it all over again, eventually building many layers of scaffolding/stages until the lintel was high enough to maneuver it on top of the standing stones.  Et voila!  Those neoliths were so clever.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Occasionally Poems

Bartlett's Poems for Occasions.   Bartlett is not kidding.  Here are some of the occasions covered: "Youth and its Pleasures"; "Disappointment"; "The Perspectives of Midlife"; "The Fate of Nations and Empires"; and my personal favorite: "The Unknown and the Unknowable".  Enjoy a sample from this delightful category.  Ahem.

A man said to the universe
     A man said to the universe:
     "Sir, I exist!"
     "However," replied the universe,
     "The fact has not created in me
     "A sense of obligation."
                                                      STEPHEN CRANE

Well ain't that a kick in the head.  On the other hand, you know where to find poems for occasions that had never even occurred to you!  Whee!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ice Molecule

This is a pictorial rendering of an ice molecule.  Know it, love it.  Soon it will come and get us. What's up when water turns to ice?  The hydrogen forms bonds that push the other molecules away.  So hydrogen is like the most popular kid at school.  The kid develops attachments to the chosen ones but doesn't care to be around other groups.  Back to the science. With space in between the shoved-apart molecules, ice becomes lighter than water.  That's why the top of the lake freezes over.  And it's all that stands between you and the fish.

Source:  World Book Encyclopedia
Graphic source:  Oxford Illustrated Encyclopedia of Science

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Ostriches?

Ostriches are funny.  Har!  I'm just certain you would like to brighten someone's day with a lovely sentiment accompanied by a photo of the big birds being extra ostrich-y.  You've seen my modest attempt at matching a caption to the photo, now you try!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PAR-TY! (Got that house cleaned yet?)

Sure you do, what with all the tips from yesterday!  We've got party planning publications to get you started on your next step as you stumble toward the holiday season.  First of all, if your guests will be eating standing up or balancing plates on their laps whilst perched on a chair, think Finger Foods.  We barely have enough hands to hold our drinks and stuff our faces, much less handle utensils.  Bonus:  no utensils to wash!  You can have a party with healthy food!  A party with cheap food!  (I love cheap food!)  A party with easy, stress-free food, otherwise known as the only kind I would attempt to throw!  Someday I'd like to throw (toss? hurl?  fling?) a Halloween party.  Not this year though.  Two weeks is not enough time to work myself up into a satisfactory tizzy. 

Party Planning Books (Including partying in your garden.  At night.)
The everything cocktail parties and drinks book : the ultimate guide to creating colorful concoctions, fabulous finger foods

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Clean It Up

Some of us weren't born with the knowledge of effective cleaning techniques.  Some of us take the 'grab the washcloth and swipe it quick' approach which I am guessing is not optimal.  As with almost all contemporary problems, there's a book for this.  Let's see what the entertainingly-titled Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean has to offer.  Ooh, this one's new: to get food odors out of plastic containers, fill them with warm water and a little dry mustard.  Hey, that explains why I'm not a great housekeeper - I'm all out of dry mustard!  To get rust off a knife you can stick the knife in an onion for about an hour.  Then just try to use that knife to cut a piece of cake.  Did you think of that before you stuck it in an onion? Yeah. We don't have kids, but I live in the house so it's nice to know that a steel-wool pad filled with dry soap will take crayon marks off the wallpaper.  What?  I'm creative. And I have crayons.

House Cleaning Books (you won't believe how many!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


In honor of Halloween, allow me to present facts about bats from the Smithsonian Institute:
1.  There are 900 species of bats.  OK, how hard can it be to be a bat? You fly, eat and sleep hanging upside down. Apparently 900 different ways.
2.  Bats are the only mammal that can actually fly.  Flying squirrels can only glide.  Sorry, Rocket J.
3.  Young bats sometimes fall from the roosting area.  Ow.
4.  Bats give birth while hanging head down.  So the female has to defy gravity along with all the other discomforts of having a baby bat.  When the babies grow up do they ever call?  No.  She's only their mother.

More bat facts from the Encyclopedia Smithsonian

Monday, October 17, 2011

So Sumi !

Sumi-e, that is.  This style of Japanese ink painting dates back to 1400-ish.  Backgrounds are soft, even fuzzy because so much water is added to the ink and/or paper.  They meant to do that.  A 'dripping technique' may be employed, in which ink is allowed to flop off the tip of the brush on purpose!  Doesn't sound too impressive, does it?  Until you see some inky shadows defined with sharper strokes that transform into pine trees in the mist.  Gorgeous.  It's a very flowy style, well-suited to those like me who can't draw.  A few blobs, curves and stalks, Boom!  Bob's your uncle, or in this case, iris. That said I must admit I have not tried this style since college in 19mumblemumblemumble.  Maybe I'll start with abstracts.

Two books on sumi-e

Friday, October 14, 2011

Food or Fabric?

Chitterling:  "Ruff or frill having compact wrinkled folds resembling crinkled crepe paper; especially frill down front of bodice".  They have got to be making this up, right?  I mean, ruff and frill are perfectly good words for this kind of thing.  Oh!  Webster's has a more descriptive definition:  "The frill to the breast of a shirt, which when ironed out resembled the small entrails."  Right.  Because that's what you want the front of your shirt to resemble.  I have enough trouble spilling all over myself, don't hand me a shirt that looks like the food has been pre-applied.  Interestingly enough, if you want the food-esque meaning you have to use chitterlings, plural.  Now you get to the meat of the matter.  (Can you stand the hilarity?)   Chitterlings:  "The smaller intestines of swine, etc., fried for food."  I have yet to see a picture of chitterlings that put me in mind of frilly clothing.  So much to learn, I have.

Source:  The fashion dictionary; fabric, sewing, and apparel as expressed in the language of fashion.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Our Own Little Fashion Week

For Fashion Words, that is!  Today's word is:  flange.  In my innocence I have been erroneously referring to those extension-thingies on the backs of cars as 'flanges'.  Turns out they are spoilers. Anyway, isn't 'flange' a great word?  In the fashion world it can be applied to a collar, if the collar is 'spread out like a rim', or to the heel of a shoe if the heel flares out at the bottom.  Are we sensing a pattern?  Prepare for a 'spoiler'!  A flange shoulder has a pleat that extends out over the top of the sleeve.  Didn't see that one coming!  It's all so exciting!  What word will tomorrow bring?  I know, flange will be hard to top.  But I'll try.

Source: The fashion dictionary; fabric, sewing, and apparel as expressed in the language of fashion

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Make It All from Polymer Clay

Jewelry! Coasters! Dolls!  Rocket Ships!  Fuzzy Slippers!  Guess which ones I lied about?  You could make, like, tiny rocket ships and fuzzy slipper charms, so maybe I wasn't lying at all.  Did you think of that?  No. Polymer clay is the modern crafter's wonder stuff.  Ahem.  "Polymer clay is made of tiny particles of polyvinyl chloride suspended in a plasticizer, which keeps it pliable until heated, when the particles fuse into a hardened, durable plastic."  OK then.  FIMO, one of the best-known brands, takes its name from the daughter of the inventor. Sophie Rehbinder-Kruse worked with her father Kaethe's clay, using it in mosaics, miniatures and other creations. The original moniker was FIMOIK, a combination of Sophie's nickname (Fifi), modeling clay and mosaic.  No explanation as to how a German girl got a French nickname.  Some questions just can't be answered.

Polymer Clay Craft Books
Source:  Polymer Clay A Modern Medium Comes of Age. 
Ornament, 2011, Vol.
as accessed through EBSCOhost.  DMPL card and PIN required for access.
34 Issue 4, p38-45,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing!  I thought you got ice from the freezer.  Ha!  Comedy.  Someday it will get really cold and the lakes and rivers will freeze over and the wooly mammoths will return from the north and take all the fish.  Wait a minute!  Mammoths don't eat fish!  More for you.   Apparently you need a 'flasher' in today's ice-fishing milieu, which on the face of it seems farcical.  Then I discover that this flasher is a sonar-utilizing device.  It can tell you where the fish is, if it likes your lure, whether or not it has father issues...  Cheating or gadget-enhanced fun?  Who am I to judge?

Ice fishing : the ultimate guide

Monday, October 10, 2011

We Are Closed Today, but they're happy in Canada

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library are CLOSED on Monday, October 10 for a Staff Inservice Day.  On the other hand, today is Thanksgiving in Canada.  So if you lived in Quebec you'd be sitting around a table eating Pissaladieres, tarts stuffed with onions, olives and anchovies.  Pay attention to your food when eating because you do not want these to sneak up on you.  Gougeres, home-made cheese puffs.  Yum.  Eat them while they're still warm.  Roasted Cauliflower Soup, not sure you'd like this?  The presence of lots of garlic and heavy cream might change your mind.  They're French, they're Canadian, and just like us they enjoy a big heavy meal on Thanksgiving. Good thing our Thanksgiving is coming up soon.  It will keep me from obsessing over the Gougeres.

Simple French recipes for the home cook
French food at home
Around my French table : more than 300 recipes from my home to yours

Friday, October 7, 2011

Licensed to Daydream?

Scientists say daydreaming is good for your brain.  See, I haven't bee wasting time.  I've been activating two vital brainage networks.  One aims the brain work toward goals, the other is more personal but can be goal-related because it's in charge of picturing yourself in the future, which is Very Important. According to an article in Discover magazine "The French mathematician Henri PoincarĂ© once wrote about how he struggled for two weeks with a difficult mathematical proof. He set it aside to take a bus to a geology conference, and the moment he stepped on the bus, the solution came to him. It is possible that mind wandering led him to the solution." (Italics mine. I've always wanted to say that!)  Your brain does even better if you are so far gone that you are unaware of your surroundings!  Don't try this in the car, kids.  Because we are also more prone to make mistakes while in this state.  We're looking for the Aha!, not the Oops!.

Source:  The Brain.  Author:  Zimmer, Carl;  Discover; Jul/Aug2009, Vol. 30 Issue 7

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's a Crime!

We have more true crime books than you can shake a shovel at.  Do you know how many titles we have written by Ann Rule, the queen of the genre?  Well?  Do you?  Two dozen at least.  So you can pretty much wallow in Ann Rule should you so desire.  We have true crime books by many other authors as well!  Diane Fanning is off to a good start with four titles.  Now there is a book about the crime that Iowa write Susan Glaspell made famous.  Midnight assassin : a murder in America's heartland / Patricia L. Bryan & Thomas Wolf, is all about the axe murder of  Indianola farmer John Hossack.  If you're interested in more of an encyclopedic approach, you have: The most notorious crimes in American history, and the granddaddy of them all,  Bloodletters and badmen by Jay Robert Nash.

Other possibilities:  books in St. Martin's True Crime Library

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

But What Else Can I Do With That?

We have a nifty new book entitled Real simple : 869 new uses for old things.  It's fun to browse! You can look up any Old Thing.  An odd use for dryer sheets:  if you have baked-on crud in your pan slap on the old dryer sheet, soak overnight and wipe out!  Another: if you have crud on the surface of your iron you can iron a dryer sheet on a low setting and remove said crud.  It's the crud-master! Did you forget to clean out that vase once you removed the old flowers and icky water?  I know I did! Antacid tablet to the rescuuueww- pour water in that vase, drop in the tablet then swirl it around after a few minutes and rinse.  Dental floss - pull it tight and push it through to cut cheesecake or soft cheese.  For all those times when you have cheesecake and floss but no knife.  What will they think of next?  Do I shudder?  Maybe.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You Too Can Know Jack

Have you met Jack Vance?  As far as I'm concerned, Science Fiction writer Jack Vance has more imagination in his pinkie than most writers do anywhere in their whole entire body.  Ear lobes, love handles, second-to-biggest-toe, you name it.  Not there.  Imagination-free zones, they are.  In the Blue World of vast oceans people live on floating 'islands' made of enormous rush mats and the only metal they have is copper they boil down from blood!!!  Vance is funny too - Cudgel the Clever  is not only anything but clever, he is an extremely unreliable narrator.  Cudgel's not stupid, just deluding himself.  Then there's the Dying Earth, one of SF's most original constructs.  Set so far in the future that the sun is fading, these stories center on the return of magic and on cultures fleeing into decadence.  Pick your Vance.  Take a chance on Vance.  Ask Vance to the dance.  Well, now I'm just being silly.

Jack Vance books

Monday, October 3, 2011

Icky Science Experiment

In my day if you needed a science experiment you grew a plant from a seed and drew a poster that charted the growth.  The experiment (mwha ha ha) I share here is new to me and almost as cool as mixing up your own Blob.  Make a paste out of cornstarch and vegetable oil then put some on a spoon and put the spoon next to a balloon that you have rubbed on your noodle until the balloon is nice and static-y.  Start to pour the goop out of the spoon and it will reach for the balloon like a tongue!  Super Revolting! The cornstarch mix gets thicker too.  There must be some way to work this into a Haunted House.

Source:  Spectacular science : exciting experiments to try at home
The Blob