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Thursday, April 30, 2009

It Does A Body Good!

We recently received a new book in the Reference Department called The Handy Anatomy Answer Book. I can't seem to put it down! Here are just a few of the nuggets that I've managed to glean in the past few minutes.

  • People with the plague smell like apples. People with eczema or impetigo smell like mold. People with dandruff are not mentioned.
  • Forty-seven percent of an average person's water comes from actually drinking it. The other 39% comes from solid food.
  • Eye muscles move "up to 100,000 times in a 24-hour period." For the legs to achieve a comparable workout, a person would have to walk fifty miles. Do you suppose there is any relation between my extreme laziness and poor eyesight? I guess not...
  • "The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps blood out of the body to squirt blood about thirty feet." As I watched Kill Bill Volume 1 for the first time last night, I have a remarkable visual running through my head.
  • The clavicle is the bone that is most likely to be fractured in the human body.
  • Leonardo de Vinci was the first person to propose contact lenses. Bless you, Leo!
  • An average person swallows about 2,400 times in a 24-hour period.
  • The fastest growing hair is the beard. Hair grows fastest in warmer weather. From this I can deduce the reason it seems to be taking my hair such a long time to grow for Locks of Love!

I suppose the moral of all of this nuggetty goodness is that the body really is an amazing creation. I hope you were all as enlightened as I was, and don't forget to drink your milk. You know it does a body good!

Balaban, Naomi and Bobick, James. The Handy Anatomy Answer Book. Visible Ink Press, 2008.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tybalt or Not Tybalt...

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that we haven’t yet tired of playing around with the U.S. Census to find interesting names. Because today is Shakespeare’s birthday, here are some folks whose parents were apparently influenced by the Bard:

Feste Salisbury
Toby Aguecheek
Malvolio Thomas (Twelfth Night)

Shylock Moorehouse (The Merchant of Venice)

Petruchio Sweeting (The Taming of the Shrew)

Oberon Hope
Titania Kaldrubski
Nick Bottom (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Othello Crisp
Desdemona Chubbuck
Iago Jones (Othello)

Lear Argiopoulos
Goneril Gottshall (King Lear)

Tybalt Longcore
Mercutio Munro
Benvolio Sanborn (Romeo and Juliet)

Timon Maddox (Timon of Athens)

Cleopatra Beamer (Antony and Cleopatra)

Hamlet Beagles
Hamlet Boring (Hamlet -- I couldn’t resist including both of these!)

Prospero Adams (The Tempest)

Coriolanus Pilkington (Coriolanus)

Hotspur Huggin
Falstaff Pallotta (Henry IV)

In related news, today is my son’s birthday. I love the name we gave him, but I’m thinking I should’ve checked out my old copy of the Riverside Shakespeare for inspiration. I could’ve gone with Benvolio -- Ben for short!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shakespeares After Shakespeare.

This week we received an interesting new reference book: Shakespeares After Shakespeare: An Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture, Volume I, edited by Richard Burt. It includes essays and lists of Shakespeare references in cartoons, comic books, films, and pop music.

For instance, did you know that there are at least 54 references to Hamlet in various cartoons and comic books? From a 1906 Buster Brown strip to a 2005 Zits strip, various references to Hamlet abound, although most are variations of Gertrude’s line “Methinks he doth protest too much,” a person holding a skull (“Alas, poor Yorick”), or plays on the phrase “to be or not to be.” A large number of comic characters find themselves in productions of Hamlet, such as the gang from Archie (Jughead offers to play the part of Yorick) and Donald Duck.

There are a couple of stretches, though: in Act II of Hamlet Polonius says, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”; therefore, the authors cite every use of “madness” and “method” in the same breath as a Shakespeare reference…even when the Incredible Hulk says it. Although I guess a reference is still a reference, even if you don’t know you’re making it!

In the pop music section, I learned that the Smiths song “Cemetry Gates” contains this reference to Richard III:

The singer takes issue with the way his friend recites texts without acknowledging sources, first “claim[ing] these words as [his] own: ‘Ere thrice the sun done salutations to the dawn.’ The singer retorts that he’s heard these words ‘a hundred times,’ which is all the more ironic because it seems to hint that the line in question is already an echo, already double-voiced. In his popular adaptation of Richard III (1700), Colley Cibber gives a very similar line. . . to Catesby, while in Shakespeare’s play, Ratcliffe alerts the king that, since “[t]he early village cock / Hath twice done salutation to the morn,’ his friends have been arming for battle. (387-88)

And it should come as no surprise that this section contains many, MANY references to Romeo and Juliet!

Stay tuned for a fairly silly Shakespeare-related entry on Thursday, April 23, which is the day Shakespeare’s birthday is observed.

Burt, Richard, ed. Shakespeares After Shakespeare: An Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture. Volume I. Greenwood Press, 2007.

Friday, April 17, 2009

When In Macedonia, Drink Like Beetle Bailey

The life of a reference librarian tends to be mundane and fascinating at the same time. The range of questions that we answer every week, and the interesting facts our brains accumulate, never cease to amaze me. Here is a selection from this week:
  • Beetle Bailey's sister is Lois, from the comic strip Hi and Lois.
  • If you are bitten by a snake, you should bring said snake with you to the emergency room for identification. It is best to verify that the snake is dead. Antivenom is scarce enough that a snakebite must be deemed "serious" before it is administered.
  • Macedonians have not one, but two rotting beverages that they enjoy imbibing. All right, juva and boza aren't actually "rotten," but fermented. Juva is fermented cabbage juice and boza is a fermented wheat drink.
  • Bamboo should have "bright indirect light."
  • Back in 1909, there was a feud between the Newmans and Prichards down in Meadville, MS. The deadly feud seems to have started either because a Dr. Newman won the position of Chancery Court Clerk or because of an anonymous letter disparaging the reputation of a female relative of the Prichards.

My favorite question this week, though, was asked by a young patron who wanted to know more about Bunny and Clyde. (Wink, wink.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eudora Welty!

Today would have been Eudora Welty’s 100th birthday. Here in Jackson, we consider Miss Welty royalty. If you’re in the area, head on over to the Welty House today for free tours—and birthday cake! The Welty House is one of the most authentic literary homes in America; Welty not only left her house to the state, but apparently all its contents as well. The books on the shelves are hers. The dishes in the china cabinet are hers. Even the tiny travel bottle of shampoo on the edge of the tub is hers! Take the virtual tour if you’re not a local.

When I first moved to Jackson and found an apartment in the Belhaven area, my parents asked if the neighborhood was safe. “Eudora Welty lived here her whole life,” I replied. And when my mother saw that my apartment had window air conditioning units and told me I would die of heat stroke, I drove her past Welty’s house and said, “Look: she has them, too.” (I learned later during my tour of the Welty House that she only had ONE window unit for her entire house. I had two in my small apartment. I think she was stronger than I am.)

Check out these other Welty Centennial events going on as well. The Mississippi Reads program encourages all Mississippians to read Welty's Collected Stories in 2009.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter, Again.

One day, all of our archives will be back up (we keep telling ourselves that, anyway) and it won't be so hard to find older posts. Here's part of one from around Easter last year featuring interesting names from the U.S. Census, 1900-1930. You know what? I still find them entertaining!

Daffodil Wright
Egg Flattum
Bunny Warren
April Showers
May Flowers
Spring Hatcher
Spring Parks
Spring Poole
Easter Lily
Easter Bunny
Easter Cross
Tulip Pitts
Tulip Summers
Zinnia Cooner [note: male]
Zinnia Funk
Calvary King
Ernest Salvation
Victory Cross
Jesus Man [female!]
Jelly Bean Cook [male!]
Pansy Wood
Pansy Ham
Magnolia Posey
Lent Johnson [female]
Bloom Green [male]
Peter Tisket
Royal Tasket

And in other Easter news, check out this article from "Top Ten Things You Didn't Know about Easter."

Have a great weekend, whether you wear a hat like these or not.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha!

I was talking to my upstairs neighbor a few nights ago when he remarked that he had lavender scented plug-ins in all of his outlets to keep away roaches. Because I have a near phobia of roaches myself, I decided that this definitely needed some investigation! He claimed that roaches don't like strong smells and would therefore stay away. (I would like it noted that there is NOT a roach problem in my apartment complex! We're just overly cautious.) As I was looking for clues to the lavender enigma, I ran across the following nuggets. (Do not read further if you are as squeamish about roaches as I am!)
  • Roaches can feel a vibration upon the surface where they stand that is less than one-millionth of a millimeter. (O'Toole) No wonder they can always sense me coming to get them!

  • The Macropanesthia rhinocerus roach of Australia can grow to a length of 2.8 inches. (O'Toole) Note to self: Do not move to Australia.
  • A female American cockroach can lay more than 1,000 eggs in her lifetime, which can last over four years. (O'Toole) That's when she starts getting a little long in the antennae...

  • Some species of the Malaysian cockroach Perisphaeria are metallic green and can roll into a ball like a roly-poly when they are attacked. (O'Toole)

  • It is thought that cockroaches and humans have been cohabiting, so to speak, since the days of the caveman. (O'Toole)

  • Roaches breathe through tiny holes in their bodies. (

  • When the cockroaches of the genus Ergaula are attacked, they play dead and emit an odor that smells like rotting flesh. (O'Toole) Why did I need to know this?

  • I'm sure that you've heard of the so-called spitting cockroaches of the Eurycotis species that make a substance that they can squirt at you from up to 8 inches away! (O'Toole)

  • Cockroaches also have the grotesque ability to remain alive without their heads. Actually both halves of the body can stay alive after separated: the head for several hours and the body for several weeks. ( Again, this falls under the category of nuggets that I never wanted to know.

Be sure to check out this fascinating roach FAQ from the University of Massachusetts. It answers such fascinating questions as Do cockroaches bite?, Why do they die on their backs?, and How do roaches walk on walls?

Getting back to my neighbor's assertion that cockroaches don't like lavender, I did manage to find a website that claims "liquid extracts of lemon grass, peppermint, basil, lavender, citronella, and angelica herbs inhibit a cockroach's foraging." Well, whadayaknow.

DM "Cockroaches" Encyclopedia of Insects and Spiders. Ed Christopher O’Toole. Oxford University Press 2002. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Mississippi Library Commission. 9 April 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

National Porphyria Week- Who Knew?!

A handy new book in our reference department is Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries. I was using this book to answer a reference question the other day, and I stumbled across an interesting question.

“What is porphyria, and is it really the origin of the vampire and werewolf myths?” (196). What?!

Reading on, I found out that Porphyria is not a disease, but the name of a group of several different disorders. The disorders are caused by a build up of chemicals in the blood, known as “porphyrins.” Symptoms of the disorders can vary but can include visual hallucinations, disorientation, extreme sensitivity to the sun, blistering of the skin and scarring, and excessive facial hair growth (196).

Looking for more information, I went to The Vampire Book: the Encyclopedia of the Undead by J. Melton. According to Melton, in 1985 a scientist at the University of British Columbia by the name of David Dolphin caused a debate over this very topic. He wrote a scientific paper stating that untreated porphyria cases were the cause for reports of vampires (542).

Dolphin pointed out that one of the treatments for the disorders is the injection of heme, a common substance found in blood. He then concluded that people suffering from the disorders in the past may have attempted to drink the blood of others to get rid of their symptoms.

A New York Times article from 1985 goes further into Dolphin’s thesis. According to Dolphin, if left untreated, these disorders can have a disastrous effect on the body. Dolphin wrote that for those with the disorders,” …exposure to even mild sunlight can disfigure the skin, cause the nose and fingers to fall off, and make the lips and gums so taut that the teeth, although no larger than ordinary, look like they are jutting out in a menacing, animal-like manner.”

So why do victims of vampire bites become vampires themselves? The New York Times article states that Dolphin even had an answer for this. (Yes, he stretches the theory even further out on the limb of the crazy tree.) He suggested that family members could have shared the defective gene that causes porphyria, but that only one of them might exhibit symptoms. If that family member then bit a sibling to get blood, Dolphin stated that “… the shock of the experience might have triggered an attack of the disease in the bitten sibling, thus producing another vampire.”

As fascinating as this is, it is important to note that in the medical community today, Dolphin’s theory has been discarded (Melton, 542).

For current information on the disorder, check out the Porphyria Foundation. The Porphyria Foundation points out another interesting tidbit about the history of the disorder. Some medical experts believe that King George III suffered from it (which they say could explain his mental illness in later life).

You know what’s really weird? Last week was national Porphyria week, and I didn’t even know it until I wrote the end of this blog. I totally did not plan that!

Have a question about the undead? Need to know where to find the next Twilight book? You know who to call.

Boffey, Philip. "Rare Disease Proposed as Cause for Vampires." New York Times 31 May 1985.
Kane, Laura T. Answers to Health Questions People Ask in Libraries. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2008.
Melton, J. The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Detroit: Visible Ink, 1999.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

The other day I was trawling through our collection of The New York Times microfilm for an obituary and came upon a fabulous advertisement. Is this car not one of the most adorable things you've ever seen? It's tiny like a Mini Cooper and looks like a modified buggy, minus the horse, of course. Plus, they figured out a way to cram five speeds into a car that tops out at 18 mph. I'd heard of electric cars, but realized I knew absolutely nothing about them. The search was on!
  • The 1903 Columbia Mark LX Electric Runabout (That name's quite a mouthful, isn't it?) could make it about 40 miles before its batteries needed a recharge. According to a Time article, that's about the same distance a 2007 Chevrolet Volt could go. Makes me wonder how much progress we really have made in the last 100 years!
  • The driver maneuvered the car by two levers on the left hand side. One lever was for steering and the other controlled speed. (

Check out this page for a little bit more on this classic car. I'm almost ready to trade in my Honda for one of these cuties!,28804,1669723_1669725_1669729,00.html

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hey, Your Shoe's Untied!

Gotcha! What other day in the calendar year can boast of the phenomena of spaghetti trees, the felling of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and left-handed burgers? Only April Fool's Day can claim such outrageousness. Everyone enjoys the novelty of being able to play pranks on friends and strangers alike, but have you ever wondered where this license to joke freely originated? It seems that the beginnings of this pseudo-holiday are as obscure as the day itself is wacky.
  • Some people believe that April Fool's Day is a derivative of ancient festivals which marked the spring equinox. These were still celebrated in medieval Europe and were a way to act out the unpredictability of Spring weather. People would themselves become unpredictable by playing tricks on their neighbors.
  • Another possible theory involves the year 1582, the date Pope Gregory XIII decided to switch the calendar being used from the Julian one to a calendar that was more to his liking (the Gregorian one.) New Year's Day was effectively moved from April 1st on the Julian calendar to January 1st on the Gregorian calendar. Needless to say, not everyone adhered to this change. Many people continued to celebrate New Year's on April Fool's, thus earning the contempt, and practical joking, of their more forward thinking neighbors.

Whatever its roots, I think a day that can inspire worldwide mirth is something to be admired!

"April Fool’s Day" Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained. London: Chambers Harrap, 2007. Retrieved 1 April 2009
"April Fool's Day" A Dictionary of English Folklore. Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 1 April 2009

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