Goodbye 2008, I hardly knew ye

Time.com does a nice job of year-in-review stuff, for example, and obviously people can find what they're interested in on their own, so I recognize that this is not a major contribution to the blogosphere, but I la la love the reviewing at the end of each year. So....

Speaking of Time... their top awkward moment (Bush dancing while waiting to endorse McCain) is pretty funny, and their ninth (but my top) political line is Colin Powell endorsing Obama on Meet the Press and saying "is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?"

Words of the Year include hypermiling (New Oxford American Dictionary), bailout (M-W), overshare (Webster's New World), and meh (me). The American Dialect Society will announce its word in early 2009, but it looks like the word will be change.

Minnesota Shopping Center Association Awards (yes, such an award exists...) go to Best Buy in Mall of America for redesign, SuperTarget in Southdale for design and aesthetics and many others. Sheesh. And the only non-metro prize was awarded in Mankato.

Best New Bars of the cities include moto-i, Barrio and Seven Sushi. I do not get out much. Never even heard of these. Hmmm...maybe now is the time to start a New Year's resolution to get to these places...

Minneapolis, economically, ranked 137 out of 200 in The Best Performing Cities of 2008, according to the Milken Institute, but tied for first place with Seattle as being the most literate city of 2008.

Best Books of the Year for adults that I have read include The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, Away, by Amy Bloom, Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, Persuasion, by Jane Austen, The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas and The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy.

Best Books of the Year for teens that I have read include The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, Paper Towns, by John Green, Little Brother, by Cory Dotorow, and Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr.

Best Books of the Year that I intend to read include Books: a memoir, by Larry McMurtry and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson (Library Journal), The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (Washington Post), Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (The Atlantic), The Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich (CS Monitor) and 2666, by Roberto Bolaño (NYT), and City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare (Teens Top Ten, because I've read the others).

Two of the five things we learned from Michelle Bachmann are the truth about the Declaration of Independance: 'Guess what? Not all cultures are equal!' and the geography of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge: 'dark most of the year' and 'no trees' courtesy of the Uncommon Loon Awards from Minnesota Montly Magazine.

How To 2008: How to do almost anything with social media is a great resource to keep on hand. Especially for those who are new to things like Google Reader, or for those who decide to join Twitter.

Sad and too-early farewells include Heath, Tim, and local blogger Emilie Lemmons.


The 2008 Kat and Dan Index

Average age of Kat and Dan's cats: 9

Percentage of time Kat spent on the computer that the girl cat violated the no kitties on the keyboard rule: 80

Number of quilts Kat bid on in an Amish quilt auction she attended in Ohio with Jill, Kathy, Barb and Phyllis: 3 (And she got them. It was the best trip!)

Number of quilt tops Kat put together: 5

Percentage of those quilts Kat completed: 80 (The fifth quilt top was donated to a fundraiser after her mother's church quilting group finished it. Then her mom bought the quilt!)

Chances that Kat will ever think of herself as a crafty person: 1 in 1,000,000,000

Estimated number of hours Kat and Dan stood in line to caucus for the first time ever: 3.5 (What a year to participate in the election process! They've voted before and all, but participated in more this year than ever before, and really enjoyed it.)

Average number of batches of cookies the cookie-making machine known as Dan made per week since June: 2

Percentage of times Dan made cookies that Kat's coworkers requested: 100

Estimated number of minutes the ferry took to get Dan and Kat to Madeline Island for a much-needed weekend getaway with great friends: 25

Chances that Kat and Dan are getting out to Portland in 2009 to visit friends and family: 1 in 2

Chances that Kat and Dan are getting out of the country in 2009 to visit friends and family: Sadly, 1 in 365

Estimated number of hours Dan and Kat spent geocaching around the twin cities: 60

Ratio of caches sought to caches found: 1 to 1 (Our signature trinket to leave behind somehow ended up being Dora the Explorer hair ties. Dan got them at the Target One Spot without knowing who Dora is, but it works. With the exploring and all...)

Percentage of authors Kat was dying to meet that she actually did meet: 100% (The most excellent, nerdtastic John Green).

Number of blogs Kat authored (or co-authored...one with family, one with a friend): 5 (or, 6 if you include the blogging she does for hclib.org, but she doesn't count that for some reason).

Portion of those blogs active as of this writing: 2

Number of Final Fantasy games Dan completed: 12

Estimated number of hours this feat required of him: 483

Average cost of the computers Dan works on at the University of Minnesota's Supercomputing Institute: $4 million

Chances Kat will ever be able to explain what Dan actually does beyond "he is the storage guru for big important data": 1 in 42

Number of hours Kat spent reading and singing to babies at the library: 12 (This number does not reflect the hours Kat spends in her regular storytime for preschoolers.)

Number of individual book club meetings for children and teens Kat held at the library over the summer: 41

Number of NO BOOKS! Club Kat held at the library this summer: 6 (Kids who don't like to read have a place in the summer reading programs too! BUT! They did all literacy-based things, like creating comics online, and doing a mystery play, and...well...playing Guitar Hero. Because it rocks.)

Ratio of perennials Kat planted prior to 2008 that survived to those planted that did not survive: 1 to 0 (Did that come out right? Basically, nothing I planted prior to this year survived under my care.)

Number of perennials Kat planted in spring of 2008: 12

Percentage of those plants that made it through the summer: 91.6

Number of perennials Kat planted in fall of 2008: 12

Chances she and Dan will see them again this spring: Let's not jinx this by putting a number to it.

Number of Christmas trees Dan and Kat put up this year: 2 (Keepin' it real downstairs; fakin' it upstairs.)

Number of grains of rice Kat donated to the UN World Food Program via FreeRice.com while composing this, her very first form Christmas letter ever: 11,960
(Really, if you haven't gone to this site yet, do. I would say don't even finish this letter, but you're almost done...)

Number of hours Kat and Dan spent with friends and family, and being thankful for it: too many to quantify.


If you have a sensitive gag reflex...

...I apologize, and recommend that you read no further. For I, Dear Readers, have discovered for myself the wonder and relief of the neti pot.

I think that most people know about these miracle devices already (especially if they watch Oprah, which I do not-I have my friend Amanda to thank for this discovery), but on the off chance I'm not the last among my acquaintance to use one, it is basically used to pour a saline solution through your sinuses and flush them out. I'll leave it to you to YouTube it if you're curious about how it works. I've been grossed out by the concept for the several months I've known about them, but was desperate this week. And I have to say...it feels good.

One tip, though. If you're nose is raw from blowing it all day, the salt water won't feel so good.


(S)he just smiled and gave me a

vegemite sandwich!

Yes, I had my first (and possibly last) vegemite sandwich tonight. (The jury's still out as to whether I actually enjoyed it -- definitely an acquired taste!) I didn't know what to expect at all -- but I wasn't expecting the salty bitterness. It's like nothing else I've tasted, but the closest I can come to describing it would be a concentrated cross between tamari soy sauce and...a sour Guiness? If Guiness were sour...

My husband's cousin from Australia is making a long trip visiting family and friends across the US and, as she is spending a lot of time en route, carries a small pack of healthy food with her. (Smart. Avoid the vending machine meals). Vegemite is a yeast extract, and a little amount packs a lot of Vitamin B, is fat-free, and should last forever given how salty it is! I definitely understand why Aussies take it with them while they're traveling!

I feel okay if it takes awhile for me to enjoy it, though. After all, the Fred Walker Company (now part of Kraft) had to go through several campaigns to get it to take in the 1920s and 1930s!

Just remember, if you're so inspired to try it yourself, that a little bit goes a long way!


Then again...

It isn't always my elders who inform me of things before my time. Earlier this week some of my young patrons at the library told me about various things that were before my time as well.

Bye Bye Birdie
One of my 11-year-old girls told me all about how Bye Bye Birdie is inspired by Elvis Presley's draft into the army and part of the plot involves a staged "last kiss" to occur on the Ed Sullivan Show. I've heard the name of the musical before, and some of the songs, but never really knew what the plot was about. Now I do.

A four-year-old patron asked me for books about the pegasus the other day. Nothing was really coming up in the catalog so I had to ask her if she could tell me more about it...and she gave a great description of the wings and the color and its abilities. Once I learned that it was a winged horse, we were able to find some books for her in the horse section. The next stop would have been the mythology section, but by then she was looking for books on mummies.

This seems like something I might have known before, and definitely should have known before, but hey. Can't win 'em all.


Before my time

I used to feel almost guilty when anyone would make a remark that something was before my time if I had no clue about a reference that was being made. I decided awhile ago to not let those comments bother me, and I had a chance to exercise my resolve the other night.

At a recent gathering people started reminiscing about Sonja Henie and what a beautiful skater she was. I had no idea, the remarks were made (very gently, of course) and while I did wonder how everyone knew who she was, I did just quietly say to myself -- yup. Before my time.

Sonja Henie was an Olympic figure skater in the 1920s and 1930s, and went on to act in Hollywood films. And, that's all I feel I need to know for now.


I blame the anz

Garbanzo beans.

Organza bags.

garbanzo bags, which I just searched for.


Link Love

I've been doing more reading than writing of blog posts lately, and I thought I would pass a couple of my finds along.

The Bata Shoe Museum
Must. Go. To. Toronto.


Like geocaching, but instead of using GPS coordinates to find treasure, use directions like "turn north at the yellow house" or "turn right at the corner with the yellow concrete triangle." Oh, and bring your signature rubber stamp with you.

Question: When is the next Harry Potter movie coming out?
Let Me Google That For You


Hello, is this Mrs. Deh...(voice trails off)?

New (and occasionally old) acquaintances don't typically attempt to pronounce my name. Most jump ship after the first syllable.* I don't blame them, actually.

It is often assumed that librarians know how to pronounce the names of authors. I can understand the assumption, given that we writers and librarians are all in the book biz and everything. But, like teachers doing roll call or telemarketers making cold calls, we're not automatically bestowed with knowledge of the ways people pronounce their names.

Sometimes we can go to their website, and the author will have answered the question in their FAQs. Janet Evanovich is pronounced /e VAUGHN o vich/ like LAWN, which was intuitive to me, and although I started by saying /JOE dee pee COLT/, Jodi Picoult is pronounced /joe dee pee COH/.

This is not the easiest method, and sometimes misleading. The official Roald Dahl website provides a recorded interview with the author from 1988, for example, but never pronounces his name. The fan website gives the Norwegian /rule doll/ but most other websites give the anglicized /rolled doll/.

For an excellent pronunciation guide to the names of authors, turn to TeachingBooks, where several authors have recorded themselves saying their names, and occasionally give a brief background story about their name. Tamora Pierce (rhymes with camera, not /ta MORE ah/ as most people say), for example, gives the story about the mixup with her birth certificate.

For a hilarious guide to pronunciation, revisit the classic essay by the now National Ambassador for Young People's literature, Jon Scieszka.

In other pronunciation news, see the 50 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid from Daily Writing Tips.

*I did have a non-family member correct me on how to pronounce my last name once. But to his credit, he made it sound like a lovely name.


For the record...

I made two statements today that introduced a fair amount of confusion, and that quite obviously needed immediate attention and prompt resolutions.

For the record, I was wrong in both cases.

#1 The rooster is certainly talkative today!

I order the puppets for the library, and I was most certain that I ordered a rooster. So, when a little girl was walking around with this puppet (which, incidentally, was quacking) I asked what the rooster had to say today (and then I helped her make the bawk sound). My partner at the reference desk said something to the effect of "I thought that was the hen..." and we were off -- what is the difference between a rooster and a hen? Appearance-wise, that is.

Female chickens are shorter and plumper than the males, and the head feathers, wattles and tail feathers aren't nearly as outstanding as those of the males. Of course, the fact that this puppet doesn't even have a wattle or colorful tail feathers is evidence enough, but I double checked the Folkmanis site where I bought the farmyard collection of puppets.

I had ordered the hen. (This is convenient, since I use that puppet to tell the story of The Little Red Hen.)

There are so many breeds of chickens -- it's crazy out there in the world of poultry breeds.

Food babies are the same as beer bellies.

The DH and I both felt too full after an okayish dinner and amazingly perfect dessert at Nick and Eddie's tonight. He said something to the effect of "I'm having a food baby" and I incorrectly thought food babies were the result of extended periods of eating too much, i.e., fat.

Nope. Food babies are a one-time deal after eating too much. The only time I've heard it used was in the movie Juno, but I had forgotten the context in which it was used.

0 for 2 today.


Sixes, sevens, nines,

All you will see is a girl you once knew (although she's dressed up to the nines) at sixes and sevens with you. ~Don't Cry For Me, Argentina (Evita).

There are (thankfully) many, many years between me and my Andrew Lloyd Weber days, but over the weekend I found myself dwelling on these lyrics. I still think it clever that ALW worked these number-based phrases into his lyrics, and after a wildly hilarious game of Apples to Apples this weekend in which these phrases came into play, I decided to finally look into the etymology of these sayings.

Dressed to the Nines
AskOxford says that the first recorded instance of "to the nines" comes from a Robert Burns poem in 1793, and is later recorded in a slang dictionary in 1859. The Phrase Finder (UK) points out that the link between material and clothing (9 yards of material for expensive clothing, for example) is weak, but that the number nine has always been used as a superlative. And WiseGeek says "anything is possible whenever dictionaries throw down the etymological gauntlet known as 'origin unknown.'" The phrase could have originally been "dressed to the eyes" for all we know! Today, the phrase means to be dressed most smartly or flamboyantly.

At Sixes and Sevens
The Phrase Finder points out the earliest known instance of the phrase comes from Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, and was a phrase used in gambling language at the time meaning to risk all your fortune on the highest numbers of the dice. Of course, the highest numbers then and now would have been five and six, but the Online Etymology Dictionary says that the phrase could have morphed over the years from the French cinque and sice to sixes and sevens. Today the phrase means to be in a state of total confusion and frustration.

Basically, Eva is all stressed up with nowhere to go. And I need a new earworm. I don't want to be singing songs from Evita any longer than I have been!


artículo post

That's IT! The DH and I were trying to remember this word the whole week...

Polydundant describes those phrases that are redundant because the words in the phrase mean the same thing, but are in different languages. (I first heard the word from the Dictionary Evangelist, which she gathered at the Pop!Tech conference. Her example was Panera Bread Company, which of course means Bread Bread Company.) My favorite example is Agora Market (located on Lyndale and Franklin in Minneapolis). (Agora is a greek marketplace.)

But if you don't want to be trendy, you can simply refer to these types of phrases in the traditional way -- as etymologically redundant expressions.



Oooohhhhhh -- that's why it's called "Black Friday." For companies "in the red" this major shopping day helps them get back in the black! I'm surprised it took me this many years to figure it out -- I use spreadsheets often, so am quite used to seeing the negative numbers displayed in red and the positive numbers displayed in ... well ... you get it.



I have the cutest hairdresser. He's Vietnamese, has a thick accent and a loud high pitched voice, and is always at the ready to great customers with a sing-song "Can I help you?". He's awesome.

During my last haircut he gave me an eight-minute version of Vietnamese history, and focused mainly on the written language. I never really realized that the official Vietnamese language is written with the roman alphabet.

Or, as my hairdresser would have it, "it's written a, b, c."

Basically, there were three manifestations of the written Vietnamese language throughout time. In ancient history, the Chinese ruled Vietnam which (among other things) greatly impacted the development of the language and Classical Chinese was the written language for many centuries. The 1600s brought French missionaries to the area, and they kind of rewrote the language using roman letters for their ease, but it was never standardized or used much outside of the missions. When the French colonial government came, they mandated the use of and standardized the final manifestation of the written language -- quoc ngu. (Actually, the French preferred the French language, but recognized the quoc ngu as the offical language in the early 1900s...). When Vietnam won independence from France in 1945, the provisional government declared quoc ngu to be the official language of The Republic of Vietnam.

Or, as my hairdresser would have it, "the French came in, made up the lanugage. Then they got tired and left."


No limits for governors here

There is some speculation that Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak would run for governor of Minnesota in 2010 (something I would love to see, and at this point would definitely support him). And this lead us to a discussion the other morning about whether our current governor could or would run again, and that lead us to an attempt to figure out if governors had term limits.

And the answer in Minnesota is no.

The Council of State Governments' Book of the States outlines which states follow which practices for state official term limits. (Found via National Governors Association). And it varies from state to state -- some have two-year terms, most have four-year terms; many allow no more than two consecutive terms, others have no term limits in place at all.

The Book of the States (an annual publication) publishes just about everything one may need to know about a state's government, and includes that hard-to-find information along with an expert essay about state trends. (I have never seen this publication -- I work with a small print reference collection, and it doesn't seem to be published in its entirety anywhere on the web).

Another aspect of the governorship that varies in eight states is succession. In most states the lieutenant governor takes over, but in eight states it could be the secretary of state or the speaker of the senate. And, Oregon is the only state that does not have any tools in place to impeach a governor.


Finding dead people

I learned of some resources to discover family connections recently, and although I am not into genealogy, I want to remember these. So, after exploring Ancestry and Heritage Quest online at your local library, these sites might give some additional links...

Cyndi's List
A list of genealogy sites that you can browse by categories such as adoption, oral histories, orphans and various countries.

Dead Fred
A photo archive for the enthusiast. This site seems to depend on contributions from its users, but I like the list of surnames and possibilities. There's also a great mystery section!

WorldGenWeb and WorldGenWeb for Kids
I knew about the USGenWeb before, but missed the WorldGenWeb. A volunteer organization that maintains great starting points for genealogists around the world. Most sites include information about local resources, and I came across several that were in their original languages.

And one tip...

Graveyards and Cemetaries
Lots of cemeteries post their lists of burials (lots don't of course) but finding those cemetaries can be a great starting point, and Cemetery Junction is there to help you do just that. Finding the actual graves can be a good way to get some birth and death dates, and names of relatives. You can also submit (in fact, you are encouraged to submit) graves you know of at Find a Grave in addition to searching for graves. Interment.com publishes cemetery records as well. All of these depend on the kindness (and initiative) of strangers to get the information up there, but there's a lot there already.



I must have been having a day where I signed up for anything and everything I stumbled across online a few months ago.

In my email inbox at work I had a notification that the next issue of Go! was available, and I thought "what the heck is this? I wouldn't register with a women's magazine online..." And, indeed I didn't, for it turns out that Go! is all about transportation...for teens. I'm still trying to figure out why I even signed up for it in the first place, and while I was trying to figure that out I came across a few interesting tidbits.

MyKey is a new technology (currently available in the 2009 Ford Focus) that supposedly works as a self-regulator for bad drivers. "The transponder unit inside your key fob transmits and receives messages to and from your vehicle" and the car's computer adjusts what the car is doing when it hits certain benchmarks. Good driving behavior, according to this technology, involves not exceeding 80 mph (this would never fly in Germany) and maintaining a stereo decibel level no higher than 44.

When a railroad bridge collapses, the rail company that owns it is responsible for funding the repairs (unlike highways and freeways, which are government funded). The Northern Railway Company is responsible, for example, for fixing the downed bridges in Iowa (resulting from the recent floods) and, in the meantime, are seriously losing revenue from having to take the long way around.

A bicyclist in Ames, Iowa was issued a $50 fine for failing to yield at a train crossing (she yielded for the first train, but not the second that was traveling in the opposite direction). This, after she was hit by the train, thrown from her bike and suffered many broken bones. The folks at Operation Lifesaver continue to work to educate and reduce the number of accidents at railroad crossings.


Oh, Grumpy

Aaahhhh, the 80s. I was a child in the 80s, and I like to think that I know my fashions, sitcoms and toys of the decade quite well. (Popular music? Not so much. I basically only listened to Michael Jackson, Madonna and Debbie Gibson. Explains a lot). I had Pound Puppies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Garbage Pail Kids, Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Ponies, a Glo Worm, Transformers...(this started to look like a long list, but no...) and Care Bears.

And, like children today, I watched the shows, read the books and really got to know the stories of my favorite dolls and stuffed animals. I had Funshine Bear, but I thought I took great care in familiarizing myself with all the Care Bears and their cousins.

Why am I writing about this? - Part I
This Halloween someone came dressed up as Good Luck Bear (with a very impressive costume, but I don't remember my Care Bears drinking beer and smoking cigarettes) and of course, some of us started discussing the other Care Bears. My friends were convinced there was a purple bear with a rain cloud, but I, in all my life, had never seen such a bear nor could I imagine that there would be a gloomy Care Bear.

Why am I writing about this? - Part II
I have a bookshelf at the library for some favorite, highly merchanized characters -- Arthur, Caillou, Dora & Diego, Thomas the Train, etc. One of my teen volunteers could not find the Care Bear section when she was shelving books the other day. I started to tell her that the Care Bears don't have their own section, but stopped mid-sentence before I could tell her where to shelve it.

For there in her hands, Dear Readers, was a book was called Snow Fun. And it features Grumpy Bear.

The ten original Care Bears are BedTime Bear, Birthday Bear, Cheer Bear, Friend Bear, Funshine Bear, Good Luck Bear, Grumpy Bear, Love-a-lot Bear, Tenderheart Bear, and Wish Bear. Grumpy Bear shows us "how silly we look when we frown to much" but he also validates the grumpy feeling that children can have, and the rest of the Bear's stories can be found here as well.


The Letter B

Wednesdays are my storytime day.

After we sing our welcome song we check the mailbox for the letter of the day. Usually we get the letters first (which are giant magnetic foam capital and lower case letters) and name them, pronounce them and trace them in the air with our fingers. Then we see what else the mailman has left for us -- which is a bunch of various objects that start with the sound of the day, or have some connection to the sound of the day. I'm not a "theme" person when it comes to storytime, but my first books, songs, fingerplays, etc., tend to emphasize the letter of the day. So in my planning I tend to think about the letter.

Today, we got the letter B.

As it happens words that start with the letter of the day/week stick out for me. (This happens more often than I care to admit.) A few things from this week....

One of the things we learn about Robert Ferrars in Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility is that he is "quite the most popular bachelor in London. He has his own barouche." As I was watching the best version (read: only version worth watching) of Pride and Prejudice over the weekend, I was reminded that I had never seen one.

The fancy convertible of the early 1800s, its features include seats that face each other and a collapseable top.

Not spelled b-a-t-o-n (as I previously assumed), Bataan is a province in the Philippines. Imperial Japan captured Bataan and were able to force a surrender from American and Filipino troops in 1942. They forced their prisoners to walk 60 miles to death camps, and this event is what is known as the Bataan Death March. There is a new

Barack Obama's transition website is Change.gov.


Random tidbits

Just passing along some random tidbits from the week...


One year and prompts

I started this blog one year ago today, and must confess that it lasted about 50 weeks longer than I expected. This is a good thing for me, and I really enjoy the writing and I really enjoy my readers. That's you.

Every blogger I know eventually does a why I blog thing...

..and every blogger I know eventually needs a few tools or techniques to overcome writer's block.

I came across such a tool at the Tragic Optimist just in time (a week ago -- it took me a week to get going on writing something!). "The idea is to give one word answers to the questions, which is cool when you're stuck on writing, because all of a sudden you want to write more. Perfect!"

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Where is your significant other? couch
3. Your hair color? brown
4. Your mother? awesome
5. Your father? awesome
6. Your favorite thing? purple swarovski necklace
7. Your dream last night? none
8. Your dream goal? expatriation
9. The room you're in? narrow
10. Your hobby? quilting
11. Your fear? amputation
12. Where do you want to be in six years? here
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you're not? snuffleupagus
15. A wish list item? wii
16. Where you grew up? Duluth
17. The last thing you did? sneeze
18. What are you wearing? sweats
19. Your TV? off
10. Your pets? perfection
21. Your computer? macbook
22. Your mood? irritable
23. Missing someone? yup
24. Your car? pos
25. Something you're not wearing? topsiders
26. Favorite store? borders
27. Your summer? hectic
28. Love someone? yup
29. Your favorite color? purple
30. Last time you laughed? Tuesday
31. Last time you cried? forgot

There. I killed two proverbial casual-blogger birds with one post.

I'm all about efficiency here at Oranges and Peaches.


Inside my wandering mind

It looks something like this...

The DH and I were trying to remember if the donkey was Republican or Democrat.

We finally figured out that the donkey was Democrat.

The DH said something to the effect of "too bad they're sterile."

I said something to the effect of "wha????"

Then we had to figure out whether it was donkeys or mules that were sterile.

And usually when I have to figure something out I decide to blog about it.

Mules are the result of breeding a jack (male donkey) with a mare (female horse).

Although it is possible and legal to breed different species from the equidae family, the offspring are almost always sterile.

Other hybrid equids include the hinny (male horse with female donkey), the zonkey (donkey with zebra) and zebroid (zebra with horse).

Donkeys are not sterile.

Why the donkey anyway? A poor branding choice, if you ask me.

It first started with Andrew Jackson using his critic's term "jackass" in his favor on campaign posters, and he continued to be considered "stubborn" on issues throughout his presidency. But, it wasn't until the late 1800s when a political cartoonist used the donkey to symbolize the reaction of what he perceived to be an anti-war publication to the death of Edwin Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary of War. The donkey stuck, and has been used to symbolize a bunch of different aspects of the Democratic party.

I wonder if the Democrats agree with me, that the donkey isn't necessarily the best choice, as they have never officially adopted the donkey as the mascot. I can't imagine anyone changing it though.

And (although frightening at times) that, Dear Readers, is an example of how my mind tends to wander.


Swords: an artist's devotion

The following is a "book trailer" I wrote to deliver at my library's upcoming semi-annual reader advisory meeting. Booktalks, as we call them in the book biz, are not summaries or reviews. They are teasers intended to give just enough information about the book, to grab the attention of the reader, and honestly, to sell the book. What you can do with this blog post is this: Pretend you are a 10-14 yr old boy, and pretend you're listening to a librarian give her spiel about a book. Then decide if you want to read it. My husband has to gets to do this quite often.

Swords: an artist's devotion, by Ben Boos. 2008.

Maybe you need a nonfiction book for a report. Maybe you're looking for a book like the DK Eyewitness books that you can read for just 15 minutes a day, or that you can read for hours. Maybe you are in the mood for books like David Macaulay's Castle or City that has lots of detailed illustrations that you can learn a lot from.

Whatever your reason, whatever your mood, I have a book for you, and it is all about swords.

You know that a sword must be very hard, but did you know that the earliest warriors actually cut notches into their blades to make them flexible? You know that swords must be strong enough so that the handle doesn't break off, but did you know that the blade of a samurai sword can actually be removed from the handle?

You'll find swords from around the world that have been used by Viking raiders, Medieval knights and kings, Turkish sultans, African war chiefs, and even swords that Maidens of War used. You'll learn about the many different styles of swords, the small details of swords that aided warriors in battles, and you'll discover something new every time you open the book. You'll see close-up details of blades, decorative hilts (the top of the blade), tangs (the part of the sword that connects the blade to the handle) and pommels (which balance a sword to make it easier to handle). It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword, but after seeing these illustrations, I find that the sword is significantly more beautiful. The life-like illustrations of the swords are absolutely striking. They are done so well, and it's no surprise because the author and illustrator of this book is Ben Boos, who is known for his work in creating the video games Diablo and Diablo II.

Maybe you are as devoted to swords as the author, and maybe you're not, but I highly recommend you check this book out.

Weekly radio and other

Has anyone ever actually heard the President's weekly radio addresses before?

(I mean, the current occupant. I admit, I still think it romantic to sit around the radio and listen to presidential addresses (well, NOT the current president), or old time horror shows. The DH and I listened to the debates on the radio this year, rather than watch them, and it was kind of cool.)

I found the official transcripts online at the Government Printing Office, but have never heard the radio address live. I've heard clips from them on the news from time to time, but never live.

The nice thing about the GPO is that, because it provides a central electronic access point to documents from the three main branches of federal government and some federal agencies, it provides a good (and pretty easy) starting point for someone who doesn't know who publishes what information. (And for someone who doesn't know all the committees and offices that exist).

Nifty stuff from the GPO

200 Notable Days from the Senate
Did you know that the Senate elected the vice president in 1837? Or that the Senate majority leader broke with the president (FDR) of his own party in 1944, and ultimately resigned? Or that in 1946 the Senate delayed swearing in a controversial figure until his conduct could be investigated? Or that in 1951 a Senator was elected as a write-in?

Budget of the United States
From the Office of Management and Budget. I can just manage to keep track of my own budget, but for the curious, the fiscal year 2009 budget is online at this time (which, isn't the next president supposed to propose this?), along with analytical stuff about previous budgets to the year 1997. Ugh.

Cybercemetary of Former Federal Websites
Exactly as it sounds, where dead federal websites can live on. It contains mostly former independent commissions sites and whatnot.

House Ways and Means Committee

Apparently the oldest committee of the Congress, the Ways and Means committee legislates on how the government can raise money, and has authority on issues like economic policy, international trade and stuff. They publish The Green Book and The Blue Book.

The Unclassified Version of the Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilites of the Unites States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction
Unlike most other texts one would find at the GPO, this is actually a good read. The commission was charged with understanding why the findings by the Iraq Survey Group did not match what the intelligence community had stated pre-war. It was NOT charged with reporting on how and why policymakers used the bad intelligence.

And links to...
The Federal Citizen Information Center, which provides all kinds of consumer information for the big stuff (cars, education, health) but the "and more" contains a consumer guide to funerals, and how to attract different species of birds in the collection.

Historic Documents from WWII (including a great publication called 99 ways to share the meat).

The fact that I spent any amount of time on a Friday night reading through "old stuff" from the Government Printing Office confirms in my mind that if I ever take another degree, it will be in History.

I am such a nerd.


Big Gorillas Eat Hamburgers Not Cold Pizza

Belize. Guatemala. El Salvador. Honduras. Nicaragua. Costa Rica. Panama.

I stole (then modified slightly) this mnemonic device that a facebook friend created to remember the names of the countries in Central America. I wondered...shouldn't it be *MY* Big Gorillas Eat Hamburgers Not Cold Pizza because...isn't Mexico part of Central America?

With a simple question comes a simple blog post....

Wikipedia says no. WorldAtlas says no. SICA says no. NAFTA (duh! that should have been my clue!) says no.

No. Mexico is not part of Central America. Mexico is part of North America.

Thus, big gorillas (all of them, not just mine) eat hamburgers not cold pizza.


Charles de Gaulle. Good? Bad? Otherwise?

Charles de Gaulle once said "the sword is the axis of the world and its power is absolute."

If I were a sword I'd be inclined to take that as a compliment, but one can't just take endorsements from anybody these days.

Charles de Gaulle certainly had quite a career. Ultimately the president of France in the 1960s, he was previously President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic in the 1940s and Prime Minister of France in the 1950s. He organized the Free French Forces (a French army that continued to fight against Nazi Germany after France surrendered to the Germans) from London. He was a member of the cabinet at this point, but prior to his political career he was career military.

Like any political leader, he made his controversial decisions. He withdrew France from NATO, but also granted independence from France to Algeria. He was among the first international leaders to support President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis,* but he also caused quite an uproar when, at the 1967 World Expo in Montreal, he exclaimed "Vive le Québec libre!" in front of the gathering.** He remains an admired, yet controversial figure in France, but not considered especially evil or bad.

So, again, if I were a sword, I'd take the compliment. Of course, if I were a sword, I would recognize that any power I might have would rest in the skills of my wielder. After all, Confucius once said "never give a sword to a man who can't dance."

True that.

*An interesting article from the International Herald Tribune. de Gaulle was offered photographic evidence of the missiles, but reportedly said the word of the president was proof enough to pledge French military support. Not anymore!

**The current French president does not support the sentiment.


Guernsey (NOT the cow)

I do not normally enjoy epistolary fiction.

At my mother's suggestion, I gave The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer a go, and when I finished the book this weekend, was sad to have to say goodbye to the people I came to care quite a bit about. This story of a writer and her relationship with the people who lived in German-occupied Guernsey unfolds in the form of letters. And, like the letters written in 84 Charing Cross Road, I believe that these letters could have actually been written.

To me, good historical fiction tells the human side of history -- it gives a glimpse into how events in history might have affected the people - their reactions, heartaches and triumphs, motivation behind their actions, etc. And this book achieves this brilliantly. Just...just...read it. (Or listen to it -- it's a good cast of narrators. I confess that is how I was able to bypass my dislike of letters. I do intend to read it, too.)

Good historical fiction also prompts me to learn more about the place or time period...

Guernsey is real...
It is one of the Channel Islands, something I had not known before. The Bailiwick of Guernsey consists of six other inhabited islands, in addition to the island of Guernsey. Although Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom, it is a dependency of the British crown. The UK is constitutionally responsible for its defense and international representation.

...and it really was occupied during WWII.
And it was horrible for them. The BBC's Guernsey History page includes history of the occupation, including diaries, memories of liberation, and brief information about the involvement of the Red Cross.

Non-Jews from The Islands were sent to concentration camps
I'm not giving much of the book away by mentioning this, but I was surprised when a few of the characters' experiences in camps were revealed during the novel. Upwards of 2200 Channel Islanders were deported to German civilian camps, mainly Biberach and Wurzach, during the occupation.

There exists a Guernsey Society today
Although not started as a spur-of-the-moment aliby like the fictional society, The Guernsey Society holds regular meetings that are meant to keep the spirit of Guernsey alive.


The more you know...

...the easier it is to ask.

A patron wanted the list of terms for each decade of age. You know -- octogenarian for people in their eighties, nonagenarian for people in their nineties. I just entered "octogenarian nonagenarian" into google and presented the patron with a list of terms from Wikipedia and let her get on about her day.

I knew the terminology beforehand, so getting a list for her purposes was not a problem. But, me being me, I tried to find this list again assuming I didn't know anything from the results. And, online at least, stumbled at finding the right search terms and found some way wrong results.

A little link love from my missteps

I eventually found another way to get at the answers with the reverse dictionary at onelook.com.


Division, it's not just for today

I don't always get the juiciest bits of historical gossip at work, but the other day a patron asked to see the signatures on the Minnesota Constitution the other day, and thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society, I was able to pull up both the original constitutions and transcripts.

That's right. Plural. Transcripts.

The Republicans and Democrats of 1857 Minnesota could not even work together to form a constitution for the new state. There are two versions of our state constitution because, even after they agreed to text, neither party could agree to sign the same document as the other. (According to MNHS the differences are primarily grammatical, and don't actually present difference in meaning).

Minnesota Reflections (Minnesota's digital library) includes the proceedings of both constitutional conventions in its collection, and both records include a lot of information about the delegates and their responsibilities, but nothing on the personal information level. The Secretary of State offers some bits of history (on their student site named, get this, History/Old Stuff) including the fact that when the constitution was put to vote, the ballots only allowed for a positive vote forcing those in opposition to write it in, and the fact that Congress ended up approving an amended constitution - not the original(s). (Although, some historians report that the Democratic constitution was submitted to Congress, but they approved the Republican version).

It is interesting to keep historical episodes of division along party lines in mind during intense election seasons. In 1974, an amendment to the constitution was voted on and passed that restructured the document for ease in reference, and that's what we have now.



First, I didn't know that there was such a thing as a map of the tongue, but apparently it is commonly known that the taste buds on the tip of the tongue taste sweet, the next quarter of the tongue tastes salt, the next quarter of the tongue tastes sour, and the taste buds for bitter are at the back of the tongue, closest to the throat.

Second, it's good that I didn't know about any kind of tongue map because it's bogus anyway. All taste buds can taste all tastes at all times.

Third, I thought there were only four primary tastes, but forgot that there is actually a fifth taste (umani, the Japanese word for savory) that is generally accepted in the scientific community. There is potentially a sixth taste (fat) as well.

Fourth, taste buds contain gustatory receptor cells. When they are stimulated by the chemicals in our food, they nerve impulses to our brain which allow us to experience taste.

Fifth, if you told me a year ago -- even three months ago -- that I would be craving the savory taste of beef (specifically, beef stroganoff and pot roast with gouda cheese), I would have said you were absolutely crazy. But, here I am. Craving pot roast and beef stroganoff. Who knew?


To blog or not to blog: the eight years later edition

Note: There are many reasons why I blog, and many more reasons why I don't blog. One of the reasons I do not blog is to publish a bunch of personal diary-like stories that a) are probably only of interest to me, b) would be better written in an email to those who might care, or c) fall into the too-much-information category. I've made exceptions before, and probably will again -- and while this post falls into the personal category, I like to think that situations a, b, or c do not apply.

I miss my dad. A lot. I always miss him, but more so on the anniversaries...and today happens to be the eight year anniversary of his death. And it still sucks. I'm happy he was mine, though, and I wish I could have known him longer.

For some undetectable reason, this year I'm thinking about the small things today. Small things like...
  • he didn't laugh at me when I asked him if he shook Elvis's hand after the concert.
  • he pretended not to know that I was going to play How Great Thou Art for him on the piano for Christmas one year, and he cried when I did.
  • he only said "get it out" when I dyed my hair green the night before I was to play my violin in church on Palm Sunday.
  • he hit my uncle Wayne with a golf ball one year, and responded the next year by making a welcome sign that said "Wayne II: the target returns"
  • he simply said "wow" at big moments, and my brother and I knew how proud he was and how much he loved us.
  • he always answered my "guess what!" exclamations by saying "Jeanne eats dry ramen." Always, since I was in 8th grade.
  • he called me, all nervous and cute-like, from the jewelry store to discuss the mother's ring we were getting for Mom.
  • he and I had a routine phone greeting. I would say "Hi Dad, it's me Kat!" and he would say "Hi Kat, it's me Dad!" and he knew something was up if I didn't start off the phone conversations that way.
  • he sang Sixteen Tons a lot. And...kind of out of tune.
  • he never stopped putting me on his lap, holding my head and saying "you don't feel better yet." seriously...I was 23 the last time he did that.
...and many many more. But those are just my memories...what are yours?


A quick how to

I discovered this last Saturday that I have never pinned a corsage or boutonniere on anyone but myself before, and even then I made it up as I went along. This is a situation where visuals are needed.

For the ladies
A corsage is worn on the woman's right side (my left, as I'm pinning it on) so that her flowers are on the same side as the man's when they dance.

For the gents
A boutonniere is worn on the man's left side (my right, as I'm pinning it on) so that his flowers are on the same side as the woman's when they dance.


Not charged, but guilty of an eggcorn

Kings and queens reign.
Our little eight point five pounds of perfect, the girl cat, reigns.

I have free rein.
Our boy cat has to rein in his compulsive behavior before hurts himself.

Although I have not been caught (recently at least) having "free reign" or "reigning" anything in, I am sure I am guilty of having made this common error in the past. Lexicographers call these substitutions 'eggcorns.' The DH calls them 'thinkos' (not typos) and brought this example of reign/rein up last night, somewhat randomly I might add.

Ben Zimmer blogged for the Oxford University Press about tracking the usage of these and other types of misspellings and how the Oxford English Corpus is used by lexicographers to track our language and its usage and evolution. It is a great tool to have when one is writing a dictionary, but it does not mean that just because people use it, it is correct.

While the fact that writers today (in the blogosphere, press, print world, etc) may give free reign 46% of the time, it does not follow that the incorrect spelling has to be accepted as correct. At some point it might warrant a note in the dictionary, even if it is a "see free rein" note, or that there might be a note under "free rein" indicating that it might be often misspelled as "free reign." You get the idea.


Check out The Eggcorn Database for more examples of common misspellings/substitutions.


The 5-1-1 on ISBN

I suspected, and I was right, that the publishing world was running out of numbers, which is why the industry made the transition from 10-digit to 13-digit International Standard Book Numbers. What I did not suspect is that part of the conversion was to "fully align the numbering system for books with the global EAN.UCC identification system that is widely used to identify most other consumer goods worldwide."

Other fun ISBN-13 facts include:

Printing two ISBN numbers was encouraged during the transition period between 2005 and 2007. It was also expected that purchases, marketing communication pieces, lookup functions (like library catalogs and goodreads.com) and other transactions should include both numbers. After 2007, the 10-digit number was allowed, but discouraged.

ISBN numbers actually mean something about the book. The current 13-digit ISBN number can be broken down into five parts:
  • A prefix of "978";
  • A country identifier;
  • A publisher/imprint identifier;
  • A title identifier, which can also be unique for particular editions of a title; and
  • A single check digit used to validate the number
Some numbers end with an X because the "check digit" system is an 11-digit rotation (ranging from 10 to 0). It would, of course, totally defeat the system of a 10- or 13-digit number with one slot for the check digit, to have that digit be too big, so they cleverly use the roman numeral for 10.

ISBN-13 for dummies (seriously...is there a topic out there not for dummies?) should explain even more about the wonderful world of book industry standards. For further information (and, I know...there's a lot more to know!) another good starting place is ISBN.org, which is where I got my intel.


What's wrong with Robert Zimmerman?

Robert Alexander
Author of such excellent novels as The Kitchen Boy, Rasputin's Daugther and The Romanav Bride, student and expert of all things Russian, excellent storyteller and all-around funny guy.

Given name: Robert Zimmerman

Bob Dylan
Singer/songwriter born in my hometown, perhaps best known for his song "Like a Rolling Stone," fan of poet Robert Burns and American icon.

Given name: Robert Zimmerman

What gives? What are all these (oh, okay...only both of these) Robert Zimmermans giving up their names?

For Robert Alexander, he had published mysteries under his own name, and when he wrote literary fiction his publisher told him he needed a new name. Alexander is a family name, and has the added benefit of moving his books up to the beginning of the alphabet. Placement on the shelves can make a difference in terms of sales and circulation!

With Bob Dylan, he took the new last name from the poet Dylan Thomas, apparently because he was simply born with the wrong name. Stuff happens.

I think Robert Zimmerman is a perfectly lovely name, but, in the end I'm glad they both changed their names. I would be referring to the author, not the musician, in the majority of my conversations, and their both changing their names saves a lot of confusion and explanation on my part. So, thanks guys.

A short informal poll let me realize that everyone who knew Robert Alexander or Bob Dylan knew the name Robert Zimmerman. Why the blog post on this now? I found about about this on Sunday and Thursday of this week respectively.


And the award goes to...

among many many others, ME!

I was given this little bit of blog love by The Tragic Optimist (my friend and fellow librarian, Ann) whose blog posts range from librarianship, infertility, parenting her rapidly growing daughter and are a delight to read. And, I humbly accept the award.

The spirit of the award is to award others, so, I pass it along to

Dulcey Heller
For her excellent bead blog, accessible to both artists and non-artists (like me)

Rosco's Family
For keeping us up to date on the latest and greatest from The Invader

Serious Twins Girl
For taking on the task of learning more about her team and sharing the love

Shelf Check

For making me laugh and cry at the library world one comic strip at a time

For those that I’ve passed this on to, they are supposed to:

  1. Place the Logo on your blog
  2. Link to the person who awarded you
  3. You can nominate up to 5 blogs
  4. Add their links to your blog
  5. Leave a message in the comment section of their blog to notify the winners.


There was one author I wanted to meet...

...and today I (and over a hundred other fans including the DH) met him!

Dear Readers, the awesome John Green. I had the pleasure of meeting him behind the scenes, as well as hearing his presentation and listening to a reading from his soon-to-be-released new book.

Granted, I met him for only a teeny tiny second, but a) I had to get control of my giddiness before I could introduce the person who was going to introduce him, and the best way to do that was to join my colleagues who were in conversation with him, but b) it was great to hear him talk about how well he knows his audience.

He is a great storyteller and has such a cool way of expressing himself about everything - what makes a great book, what his writing and vlogging lives are like, what it means to truly and actively participate in..well, life. And funny. Oh, so funny.

BTW, I'm with my awesome library girl in the second photo. She wrote the introduction to get the program started, and it was pure awesome. She had everyone, including the author, roaring with laughter.

It was a wonderful day at the library.

First Photo Credit: Joanna R. Check out the rest of her pictures from the day!

And our resident meteorologist is....

...Kat! ME!

Not really, but my colleagues were getting a kick out of listening to me answer various questions about lightning and lightning rods as they relate to houses yesterday, and dubbed me the resident meteorologist. Just give me a green screen and a teleprompter...but mostly the teleprompter... and I am *ready*.

How many people are struck by lightning?
In 2005, according to Statistical Abstract of the United States, there were 32 deaths and 309 injuries. (I discovered later that the National Weather Service does break their hazard statistics down by state, location, age and gender. Everyone was outside, and the majority of deaths were people who were in the open).

Do lightning rods help protect my home?
From the National Weather Service, lightning rods will not prevent your building from being struck. They actually INCREASE it by making your house TALLER. The purpose of the lightning rod is to direct the current from the lightning to the ground along a preferred path instead of to the house. However, this works only if the rod is connected to the ground with heavy gauge wire.

How should I protect my house?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a number of suggestions to protect the equipment and the people inside houses, including staying off of corded phones, refraining from leaning against concrete walls, avoiding contact with your plumbing units, and unplugging your appliances before the storm arrives.


Thursday: A random sample

Just another day at the library...

Monks of New Skete
The monks' method of dog training is quite popular, and I have seen the books before, but when people ask for the books or the videos, it sounds like they are saying "do you have that dog book by Munskov Nuskit?" (or something Russian) to my ears.

A note about the videos -- seems like the monks are kind of ticked about something -- they no longer own the rights to the videos it seems (did they ever?) and have a stern note on their website: If you have placed an order for the videos with any other company or concern, we can make no representation about the service you will receive or if you will even receive the videos that you order. (Emphasis mine). Yyyyyouch!

Continuity Editors
Did you know that there are people whose job it is to check for inaccuracies and ensure consistency in series? What a cool (and tough) editing gig! (I'm not saying that a child could do this job) every young reader I know notices when there is inconsistency in their favorite series, and they can be quite vocal about it. (Story found via LISNews. I do, on occasion, have a chance to read through some library blogs at work.)

The Ramayana is an ancient epic poem of India, and, along with the Mahabharata is considered a sacred text of the Hindu religion. Apparently, there are parallels between The Ramayana and The Iliad. I leave it to you, dear readers, to find them.

Autologous stem cell transplants
Ugh. Basically, this means that the transplant procedure uses stem cells from your own body, rather than a donor. A patron wanted a specific article from PubMed. I had not used PubMed before (that I can remember, at least. Other resources from the National Library of Medicine? sure!), and I am here to report that it is not intuitive - particularly when it comes to linking to the full text. And (this is the part where it isn't always fun to be a librarian) I don't particularly want to figure it out. I will, I'm sure, but I'm resisting it. I think my three weekends of learning to use DIALOG will come in handy, though.

A word that I know to mean "to shout" or "to yell", but I could not find it in a dictionary for the patron who wanted it. I checked the American Heritage (my second favorite), the Random House and the Dictionary of American Slang we have on hand at my library, as well as the Roget's Thesaurus (under yell), and online at various dictionary sites. The only place I could find it was at Urban Dictionary (which is an awesome community-written dictionary).

It was kind of bothering me, so I did some more looking around when I got home. I checked my Oxford American English Dictionary (my favorite) (no luck) and did some more simple googling. Webster's Online Dictionary (no affiliation with RandomHouse or Merriam-Webster, it seems to be a personal project) says that beller has been in use in the English language since the 1800s, and that it might be a cognate of bellen, which is German for "bark." They also quoted its usage in Lady and the Tramp (Trusty: And if I remember correctly...they beller a lot.)

My favorite lexicographer, Erin McKean, wrote about using words that are not in the dictionary for the Boston Globe last month, and said that "instead of being defensive, demand that any who dare to quibble over your use prove that your word is, in fact, not a word. In short, if it seems wordish, use it. No apologies necessary."

So, I'll just chillax about the bellering for now.


"Everyone knows the Spiegel Act"

These were the words spoken to me by a patron who appeared to be rather frustrated when it took me more than 37 seconds to find an encyclopedia article on The Spiegel Act.

Turns out, we were looking for the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, commonly known as The Banking Act of 1933 (which we found approximately 23 seconds later. We were able to pull a few encyclopedia articles on the original act, as well as its repeal in 1999.)

The GSA was essentially an overhaul of the federal banking system - something much needed after the financial crisis the late 1920s/early 1930s. One of the major changes was the separation of commercial and investment banking -- commercial banks (that were members of the federal banking system) could not invest their money in the stock market (except for certain types of debt securities). This mandated separation was apparently repealed in another piece of legislation known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) of 1999.

As part of the Banking Act of 1933, Congress also established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures bank deposits and "maintains the stability and public confidence in the nation's financial system." I have to admit, I've never really paid attention to the FDIC before, but they maintain a well organized and extremely informative website. Generate reports on the current state of the banking industry and learn about insured deposits to your heart's content.

By the way, I kept bumping into the comptroller of currency (not literally, of course) while reading about this stuff. A comptroller is a "public official who audits government accounts and sometimes certifies expenditures." Now you know.