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 Qu├ębec 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.