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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Welcome, Indeed.

A book that we’ve recently acquired is Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang’s Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life (whew, what a subtitle!). I’m a sucker for dumbed-down medical facts (this is why I watch a lot of Discovery Health, much to my husband’s chagrin), so naturally I found this book to be a goldmine. It’s also filled with funny turns of phrase. I’m pretty much in love with this book.

Here are some of my favorite nuggets from the first chapter, which is about how brain function is perceived, especially in the movies:

According to Aamodt and Wang, the memory loss in the movie Memento is extremely accurate; Leonard, the main character, has severe antero-grade amnesia: “The symptoms suffered by Leonard are similar to those experienced by people with damage to the hippocampus and related structures. The hippocampus is a horn-shaped structure that in humans is about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger” (14).

However, the authors take umbrage regarding the memory loss in 50 First Dates: “Drew Barrymore plays a character who collects new memories each day and then discards them all overnight, clearing the way for a brand-new beginning the next day. In this way she is able to tolerate more than one date with Adam Sandler. This pattern—the ability to store memories but subsequently lose them on a selective, timed basis—exists only in the imaginations of scriptwriters who get their knowledge of the brain from other scriptwriters” (10).

You will be pleased to know that the brain-eating scene in Hannibal is pretty accurate, though: “In a more realistic (but totally revolting) depiction of brain injury, we have the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001), in which gradual invasion (oh, let’s not mince words—the cutting up and cooking of a person’s brain) causes progressive loss of function. Putting aside the difficulty of carrying out such brain surgery without killing the patient, here at least we have a situation in which damage to the brain leads to proportional loss of function” (14).

If I got this much out of the first 14 pages, I can’t wait to read the rest of it. Welcome to Your Brain is available here at MLC if you want to check it out!

Aamodt, Sandra, and Sam Wang. Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life. Bloomsbury, 2008.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Golden Globes

The Golden Globe nominees were announced Thursday. Being a huge movie fanatic, in addition to a book lover, I was intrigued by the fact that all but one of the nominees for Best Drama were based on a book.
I decided to do a little more research. Are there more great books out there that I may have missed?
In 2008, three out of the seven nominations for Best Drama were originally novels.
The only 2007 nomination that was based on a book was Tom Perrotta's Little Children.
Have you seen these movies or read the books? (Or both?) Why don't you share your thoughts! Also, if you're like me and haven't read some of these, be sure to make a trip to your local library and check them out!

www.goldenglobes.org
www.imdb.com

Friday, December 12, 2008

Book Blogs.

Two book-related blogs that I read regularly are the New Yorker’s Book Bench blog and the New York Times Paper Cuts blog.

Both are excellent for various reasons. The Book Bench has a regular feature called Bookspotting in which they describe the people they see out in public and the books those folks are reading. I find this particularly fascinating because outside of the library, I don’t see a lot of people reading in public (yet another advantage of New Yorkers relying on public transportation). I always bring a book or magazine when I eat lunch alone, but I hardly ever see anyone else do the same.

Yesterday Paper Cuts had an interesting nugget about people who lie about books in order to impress the opposite sex. I can’t recall if I’ve ever lied about a book in order to impress someone, but I can recall being very disappointed that the guy I had just started to date only had one book. ONE BOOK! It could’ve been my favorite book (it was not; it was Slaughterhouse-Five) and it still would’ve been totally pathetic.

What about you? Have you ever lied about books? Claimed that you were Chaucer's #1 fan in order to impress that medieval lit student?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

We've been carefully monitoring the weather situation all day from our excellent vantage point here at the Information Desk. Our assessment of today's weather? Abominably, disgustingly icky! However, it could be worse. Did you know that on January 30, 1966, the temperature plummeted to -19 F in Corinth, MS? That fateful day set the record for the lowest temperature ever documented in Mississippi. Living in Mississippi, we all soon learn that snow days, or even "winter" days, are somewhat of a rare occurrence. As a child, I remember being awakened in the middle of the night just to see snow. Do you remember any of these memorable snowstorms?
  • In January of 1982, 6.3 inches of snow fell in Jackson.
  • In March of 1968, 5.3 inches fell in Jackson.
  • In December of 1997, 4.8 inches fell in Jackson.
  • In August of 2001, a trace amount of snow fell in Jackson.
Here's one more chilly fact: The greatest amount of snow to fall in one day in Mississippi happened in February of 1895. Batesville saw 15 inches within one 24 hour period!
I remember adding water to snow in order to build a snowman back in the mid-80's. The snow just wasn't wet enough to pack otherwise. That snowman lasted forever! What are your favorite (or least favorite) Mississippi snow memories?
Wood, Richard, ed. The Weather Almanac, 11th ed. Gale, 2004.
www.city-data.com/states/Mississippi-Climate.html
www.ncdc.noaa.gov/

Friday, December 5, 2008

Update on Roscoe Pitts!

My apologies if you find the removal of fingerprints boring, but the reference department has been positively aflutter over the additional details regarding Roscoe Pitts and the kooky removal of his fingerprints.

First off, a super-creepy photo of Mr. Pitts (real name: Robert Philipps) and his icky chest incisions:



Ewwww. Kudos to Elisabeth for scouring nearly every reference book in our collection on crime, criminals, and the like!

The descriptions of how the chest skin was grafted onto his fingertips after the prints were sliced off just weren't cutting it (haha, get it? CUTTING IT); I needed to know in detail how this happened. I won't tell you how much time Elisabeth and I devoted to talking about this over the past few days.

I came across a website writte by Jim Fisher, a professor in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, that explains it better:

Using a knife, the doctor peeled the skin from Philipps’ right fingers then taped his hand to skin that had been pulled away from his chest. Three weeks later, when the chest skin had grown onto his fingers, the hand was separated from his chest. The technique worked, on the tips of Philipps’ fingers were patches of smooth, pink skin. The doctor repeated the process on his patient’s left hand. Philipps endured six weeks of boredom and pain but when it was over he was delighted with the results.

Follow the link for more info on Roscoe/Robert.

Nash, Jay Robert. Encyclopedia of World Crime: Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Law Enforcement. Volume III: K-R. CrimeBooks, Inc, 1990. 2457.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pull My Fingerprint

I spent part of yesterday trying to determine whether or not John Dillinger had actually had his fingerprints removed. Are you as disgusted and enthralled as I am by the fact that he did?! He paid a doctor to cut off the fingerprints, and then to treat the fingers with first an acid and then an alkaline solution. Dillinger was "unable to use his fingers for several days." (This is a candidate for the understatement of the year.) Roscoe Pitts, a lesser known crime maven, went to even more extraordinary means to rid himself of his tell-tale prints. I will let you follow the link to read the gruesome details for yourself. The less adventuresome reader can learn more about fingerprints below!
  • Did you know that it is virtually impossible to tell a koala fingerprint from a human one? We are the only two animals with fingerprints that are specific to individuals.
  • There is method to the madness of fingerprints. Loops comprise 70% of a fingerprint's makeup, whorls 25%, and arches 5%.
  • A human fetus begins to form fingerprints 13 weeks after conception.
  • Fingerprints do not change throughout a person's lifetime.
  • Argentina was the first country to establish an official Police Fingerprint Bureau. It was started there in the early 1890's by Juan Vucetich, a native Croatian.
  • Anomalies in fingerprint patterns can be a tip-off to the presence of inherited disorders.
  • Dermatoglyphics is defined as "the science or study of skin markings or patterns, especially those of the fingers, hands, and feet." It also refers to the markings themselves.
  • The New York Civil Service Commission began the first systematic use of fingerprinting in the United States in 1902. They started fingerprinting candidates in order to deter those who used substitutes to take entrance exams.
Now that you've let your fingers do the walking through these printed nuggets (heh, heh), why don't you go treat yourself to something nice? How about a manicure? Or, better yet, why not get your palm read and have your whorls and arches deciphered? (Anyone know a good one?)
Black's Medical Dictionary. A&C Black Publishers Limited , 2006.
Blakemore, Colin and Jennett, Sheila, eds. The Oxford Companion to the Body. Oxford University Press, 2001.
Girardin, G. Russell. Dillinger The Untold Story. Indiana University Press, 1994.
The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide. Abington: Helicon, 2008.
Kennedy, Michael. The Oxford Dictionary of Law Enforcement. Oxford University Press, 2007.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
The New York Public Library Desk Reference. MacMillan, 1998.
World Encyclopedia. Philip's, 2008.
http://www.fbi.gov/

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ah Don't Know Much about the Woah.

Living in the South, many Mississippians are informal Civil War historians. We know about Pickett's Charge and the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac. This week, I had a peculiar reference question that led me to quite a few facts that I didn't know. How about you--did you know these things?

  • The state of Missouri was a split state. It contributed 17 regiments to the Confederate cause at Vicksburg and 22 to the Union (pbs.org).
  • The United States Sanitary Commission was formed as a volunteer organization which provided aid to Union soldiers. At the battle of Gettysburg, it distributed (among many, many other things) 600 gallons of ale and almost 2,500 bottles of brandy and whiskey. For the teetotalling soldier, 100 pounds of tobacco and 1,000 tobacco pipes were also handed out (Fite).
  • During the Civil War, the depreciation of paper money and the hoarding and melting down of coins led to a shortage of change. (Who wants to get rid of the penny now?) One solution was to actually cut the paper money into pieces to "make" change. In Hartford, CT alone, $20,000 of printed bank notes were cut in this manner. Another solution was the crafting of special brass cases that were used to encase stamps, which were then used as change (Reinfeld).
  • Daniel Emmett wrote Dixie in 1859. Everyone knows that the tune was a sort of unofficial anthem for the Confederacy. However, President Lincoln also liked the song and had the White House band perform it for him (Chambers).
  • There were more than 100 libraries in the United States (North and South) that contained over 10,000 volumes. Twelve were in the South; 92 were in the North. Of these 104 libraries, there were 7 public libraries, all in the northern states (Fite).
  • The population of the North was less than 1% African-American. By the end of the Civil War, African-American soldiers made up 10% of the Union army (pbs.org).
  • To raise money during the war, several Nevada towns auctioned off a flour sack. This wins the prize for the most expensive empty bag ever; it was sold at a price of $25,000 (Fite).

So: did you know?


Chambers II, John Whiteclay, ed. The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Fite, Emerson D. Social and Industrial Conditions in the North during the Civil War. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1963.
Reinfeld, Fred. The Story of Civil War Money. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1959.

http://www.pbs.org/civilwar/war/facts.html

Friday, November 21, 2008

Take a Seat.

Did you know that MLC is the only Patent and Trademark Depository Library in Mississippi? If you have a great idea for a new product or need to trademark your brand name or slogan, you can call us for assistance.
I was going to provide you a list of various Mississippi inventors and their inventions, but unfortunately most of them are super scientific and are way above my head (silicon carbide semi-insulating epitaxy layer, anyone?). However, there is one recent invention that is definitely not, er, above my head at all. From the Laurel Leader-Call:

Local man invents vibrating toilet seat
By Eloria Newell James
A Jones County native has developed a new twist to a traditional item. Johnny Henry of Laurel has developed the vibrating toilet seat.
“I believe in thinking out of the box,” Henry said. “I wanted to create something that is a little unusual.
“This invention is designed to stimulate,” he said. “It’s to make you feel good while you are there.”
Because of Henry’s invention, he recently attended the Invent Bay International Inventors Convention held at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“It was great,” Henry said about the convention. “You get to meet with licensers, buyers and investors, and I got a chance to promote my product. ... It was really nice.”
Also while at the convention, Henry, a native of Soso, made a pitch for the Jay Leno Show and The Discovery Channel. Henry said he currently has a provisional patent on the product, however, “hopefully I’ll get on one of the shows and be able to introduce my product to a national audience.” Henry said the vibrating toilet seat “is a novelty item that can also be used as a gag gift.”
When asked how he developed the idea, Henry said he “wanted to add
some life to the otherwise lifeless toilet seat.”
Henry, a 1968 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Ellisville, attended Jones County Junior College and Alcorn State University before entering the United States Army in 1973. After three years in the Army, Henry enrolled at the University of Southern
Mississippi, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology. However, Henry said the inventors convention was very educational.
“The convention was very exciting. There was 300-400 investors there,” Henry added. “I gained a wealth of knowledge about how to market inventions and how to get a product going.”
Henry, who began working on his invention in 1997, has now developed a prototype. Henry said he continues to work on the invention to make it look more slick, modern and appealing.
“I want it to automatically turn on when someone sits on the seat,” he explained. “It will have two speeds. On high speed, it will increase the blood flow and stimulate the body and muscles.”
Henry, who enjoys writing, said he has gotten poems published and
also a book. However, Henry said, he continues to be focused on modernizing his invention.
For more information about Henry’s invention, you can contact the inventor at 601-729-4470.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'll Have What She's Having...

I thought we could celebrate Wednesday with a drop of Champagne.
  • Champagne is a sparkling white wine from the region of the same name in northeastern France. It was developed by Dom Perignon at the Abbey d'Hautvilliers about 1700.
  • Other sparkling wines are not truly "champagnes." Instead, they are referred to as having been made using the "m├ęthode champenoise". It is made by a second fermentation in the bottle.
  • There are eight different sizes of champagne bottles. Note the Biblical names, which no one seems to be able to explain.
Bottle=0.75 liters
Magnum=2 bottles
Jeroboam=4 bottles
Rehoboam=6 bottles
Methuselah=8 bottles
Salmanazar=12 bottles
Balthazar=16 bottles
Nebuchadnezzar=20 bottles (Can you imagine trying to lift this? This is a
container holding 15 liters of bubbly!)
  • Arnold Bennett's play The Title contains this great line: "A cause may be inconvenient, but it's magnificent. It's like Champagne or high heels, and one must be prepared to suffer for it."
  • In the movie An Affair to Remember, Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant share a love for Pink Champagne Cocktails.
  • Anton Chekhov's last words were "It's been so long since I've had Champagne." He then drank a glass and died.
Please do not follow his example!
Do you have a favorite piece of Champagne trivia? Let us know!
A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. David A. Bender. Oxford University Press, 2005.
The New York Public Library Desk Reference
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Ed. Susan Ratcliffe. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tonight I'm Gonna Scrabble Like It's 1999!

I have a slightly uncontrolled competitive streak that feeds on games. Trivia games, card games, board games-I love them! I have been playing a lot of Scrabble Beta on Facebook during my lunch breaks and, boy, am I hooked. Last night I watched part of the documentary Word Wars, which is all about the highly competetive world of Scrabble-fascinating stuff! Here is some Scrabble ephemera for you to enjoy. (Ooo, ephemera-good Scrabble word-a p, an h, an m-need to put it on a bonus tile...)
  • Alfred Butts invented the original concept of the Scrabble game in 1938.
  • You can join the National Scrabble Association or form your own Scrabble club.
  • The first official Scrabble Dictionary was created in 1978 using the top five dictionaries in North America.
  • Chuck Woolery, the popular game show host, brought Scrabble to the small screen in a 80's TV version.
  • There were some censoring issues concerning some "objectionable words", but Scrabble solved the problem by coming out with one dictionary for family play and a separate one for tournament play.
  • Check out the book Word Freak by Stephen Fatsis who did some in-depth Scrabble sleuthing.
By the way, one of my favorite funny movie scenes occurs when Ethel and Elsie play Scrabble in the movie Foul Play!
Scrabble on, Scrabble dudes!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Prince Unicorn and Friends.

We came across this great article today from the BBC News about Secret Service code names for presidents, candidates, and other important figures.

I wish it were at all possible to match the code name with the person, but the names are fairly random. For instance, would you guess that “Sundance” is Al Gore’s name, or that “Parasol” is Cindy McCain’s? President-elect Obama’s daughters’ code names are Rosebud and Radiance.

Here are some other presidential children’s names:
Jenna Bush – Twinkle
Amy Carter – Dynamo
Chelsea Clinton – Energy
Karenna Gore – Smurfette
Patti Davis – Ribbon

And some of the sillier ones (which you know are my favorites):
Former Secretary of Agriculture John R. Block – Fan Belt
Dan Quayle – Scorecard
Prince Charles – Unicorn
Frank Sinatra – Napoleon

If you become Secret Service-worthy, what would your code name be?

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Room with a View.

We have been busy this week, folks, so very busy, but unfortunately we've lagged a little on the interesting nuggets of information front. Oh, we found some information, all right, but unless you are into statistics and county data and communication pla.......zzzzz---wha? Where am I?


Anyway, I took this picture this morning from the reference desk; thought you might want to see the awesome view the reference staff get to gaze at while we work!



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Salute Me! I Voted!

By now, many of you have already joined me by casting your vote. Countless blogs and newscasts have and will repeat the importance of an individual's vote, but it cannot be stated enough. Vote. The word vote comes from the Latin word vovere, which means to vow or to desire. The word suffrage means "a vote given by a member of a body, state, or society, in assent to a proposition or in favour of the election of a person." In essence, I support this, I desire this, I vow to uphold this. I vote for this.
  • In 1787, the Constitution did not say who could or could not vote, so it was left to the states to decide. Most granted voting rights only to white men who owned land, in accordance to traditions handed down from England and that had already been used in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War.
  • The 15th Amendment gave black males the right to vote in 1870, but after Reconstruction, most lost their right to vote again. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act, along with other important events like Freedom Summer, helped to restore the rights granted by the 15th Amendment nearly 100 years before.
  • The 19th Amendment, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, became law in 1920 and gave white women the right to vote.
  • In 1922, the Supreme Court decided that Asian-Americans were granted no voting rights under the 14th and 15th Amendments. This decision remained in place until World War II.
  • In 1924, the Indian Enfranchisement Act was passed. This granted all Native Americans full rights as citizens of the United States, and with these, the right to vote.
Knowing all of this, don't vote just because you have the right to do so. Vote because it burns within you and because you desire to make your voice heard. Vote.
Zelden, Charles L. Voting Rights on Trial. ABC Clio, 2002.
Oxford English Dictionary
Credo Reference

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween, Halloween!

Here are some of our favorite spooky names we found on old census records using www.ancestry.com:
  • Eliza Ghost
  • Ghoul Moore
  • Specter Johnson
  • Pumpkin Hill
  • Jack Lantern
  • Witch Watty (Witch was a boy--his parents must not have heard about warlocks.)
  • Warlock Pinkney (Yes, his parents got it right!)
  • Haunt Page
  • Scary Rith (Scary and Haunt were both female. These sound manly to me--who knew!)
  • Trick Rea
  • Treat Askew
  • Fairy Tucker
  • Princess Whistnant (Poor boy.)
  • October Gulley
  • Freddy Krueger
  • Frank Stein
  • Vamp Sweeney
  • Grave Daring
  • Halloween Doyle (Halloween also seems to be a feminine name!)

Have a frighteningly spectacular Halloween!

http://www.ancestry.com
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5e/Mini_pumpkins.jpg

Welcome Back, Blog!

Last week, as I was preparing for a presentation on blogging, I created a new, fake blog so I could walk myself through the steps. Then I deleted that new, fake blog. Only it wasn't the new, fake blog, it was our old, real Mississippi Library Commission Reference Blog. Oops.

So, here we are! Starting fresh! Eventually all of our old posts will make their way back over here, so never fear: you'll still be able to access those lists of interesting names from the U.S. Census, ads for chewing gum from the 1930s, and the ever-present nuggets of information. It just might take a little while.

Welcome back!
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