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Monday, November 29, 2010

Late Fees at Jackson/Hinds

Yesterday a meebo patron asked if Jackson/Hinds Library System offered an "amnesty day" where patrons can bring in overdue books without receiving a fine. Elisabeth spoke to Carolyn McCallum, Executive Director of Jackson/Hinds Library System, and was told the "amnesty day" is not offered.
Thanks to thank both Mrs. McCallum and Elisabeth for solving this question!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gobble! Gobble!

The Mississippi Library Commission will be closed Thursday, November 25 and Friday, November 26 for the Thanksgiving holiday. We will be busy doing more of this:

We will reopen Monday, November 29. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is almost here. To celebrate Turkey Day, the reference staff decided to offer our deepest thoughts about the joys of Thanksgiving. Tracy kicks it off with this sweet, funny, and deeply creepy Thanksgiving story:

My mother has always been crafty, by which I mean “handy with a needle and thread,” although she is crafty in the other sense of the word, too. When I was in the first grade, she made me a pilgrim costume: black dress, white apron, and a jaunty pilgrim bonnet. Making the costume was not the problem. The problem was that I had to wear it to school.

Let’s think back: what did you wear to your elementary school’s Thanksgiving dress-up day? Oh yes, that’s right: there’s no such thing.

I was the only person wearing a pilgrim costume. The teachers thought this was delightful and made me stand not only in front of my own class and let the other kids ask me questions about being a pilgrim—I didn’t know the answers since THIS WAS NOT A PERFORMANCE ART PIECE—but in front of all the other classes in the school and let THEM ask me questions. “What is your name?” Good question. “What did you eat on the Mayflower?” Can’t help you. “How long was your journey?” Longish. Pretty long. “Did you make friends with the Indians?” Umm, probably?

Unlike the clown costume my mom made me wear for ten years (it was very blousy), after the first grade trauma, I never had to wear the costume again. A few years ago Mom sent me a Thanksgiving card. When I opened it, a Polaroid photo of me in the costume fell out. I can tell it was taken before school because I’m not yet crying. She signed it: “I’m sorry. Love, Mom”

Brandie keeps the Thanksgiving cheer coming by discussing her refusal to sidestep the big day in favor of Christmas. Here’s her story:

Thanksgiving is only a few days away, but you almost wouldn’t know it. With Christmas music already on the radio, Christmas-themed ads on t.v., and “Black Friday” sales already underway, it seems like people have been all too eager to skip right over Turkey Day. I love Christmas as much as the next person, but I’m sorry – I have to draw the line somewhere. “After Thanksgiving Sales” BEFORE Thanksgiving? That’s just wrong.

Despite the accelerated Christmas fervor, everyone knows that the Christmas season doesn’t officially start until the Big Man himself has made his official debut for the year, and that happens in front of the Macy’s at Herald Square in New York City. Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, listening to the commentary on the floats and balloons, and nibbling on samples from our ensuing dinner feast has been an unofficial tradition in my parents’ house for years. And until the Jolly Guy in Red rolls onto my t.v. screen on Thanksgiving morning, I refuse to play into society’s attempts to sweep Thanksgiving under the rug in favor of an extended Christmas season.

You’re preaching to the choir, Brandie. I’ll take food over gifts any day of the week. Elisabeth finishes off our Thanksgiving post by offering the menu from her first Thanksgiving away from home:

I was seventeen when I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was living in a small town in southern Germany and was lucky enough to be one of four English-speaking exchange students sponsored by the local Rotary group. Our collective group of host parents and sponsors wanted to make sure that we weren’t getting too homesick at the beginning of the holidays so, bless their hearts, they decided to make sure that we had a traditional Thanksgiving feast. In my memory, this is what was served:
Hähnchen РRoasted chicken
Kartoffelknödeln РPotato dumplings
Spargel – Asparagus
Kompott – Stewed fruit
Semmeln – Rolls
Bier – Well, that translates easily enough!

I remember that our amusement over our delicious traditional meal far outweighed any lingering disappointment and went a long way towards dissipating any lingering homesickness. Frohe Erntedankfest!

Well, I don’t have a Thanksgiving story, so I’ll just mention the two things I’m most thankful for. First, I’m thankful that I have so many wonderful friends, family, and coworkers in my life. Secondly, I’m thankful for the fact that over the last four years I’ve maintained an average body weight of 185 lbs. and kept my BMI at an appropriate level. It’s took a lot of hard work, but I look as trim and handsome today as I did when I was 25; it’s truly a Thanksgiving miracle.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Albania! Albania! You Border On The Adriatic...

Yesterday, my sister mentioned that it was a holiday in Albania. You might be wondering what that has to do with the price of beans, or anything else slightly relevant, but I really enjoy thinking about holidays, even those in which I don't get to participate!

{Side note} Yes, the sister has become quite the world traveler and has spent the last several months soaking up Albanian life and culture. She's been having a fabulous time over in the Balkans. Aside from occasional oddities, which I admit sound strange to my purely Western ears, Albania also has some remarkable offerings. Between the startling discoveries of sworn virgins and ongoing blood feuds, the country also boasts the town of Butrint. This ancient city is on UNESCO's World Heritage List and, for you literati, yes--Virgil mentioned it in the Aeneid ( Mother Theresa was an Albanian and Ismail Kadare was the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize. One last plug? Lonely Planet named Albania as their number one country to visit in 2011. I mean, you wouldn't want to miss this, would you?
Or this?

{End Side Note}

It turns out that Albanians, whose country is 70% Muslim, were celebrating Eid ul Adha (Festival of Sacrifice.) This is one of the most important holy days of the year for Muslims. "It is a serious occasion, symbolizing the submission of each individual Muslim, and the renewal of total commitment to Allah" (credoreference.) For those of you who remember your Bible, this holy festival commemorates when Ibrahim (Abraham) was willing to sacrifice his son. I was always completely flabbergasted that Abraham was willing to do that, and this celebration underscores the pure devotion he showed to following God's will. Thankfully, a ram appeared and with God's instructions, Abraham killed it instead. Now, Muslims sacrifice a sheep (or other appropriate animal) which is called a qurban in remembrance of this act ( Interestingly, the meat is then apportioned into thirds, with part going to the family, part going to friends, and part going to the poor ( It would sure help the homeless shelters out if we all gave them 1/3 of our turkeys next week!
I hope you had an Eid Saeed (Happy Eid!) and be sure not to get mixed up in any blood feuds.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Price of Tea in China.

Earlier today a meebo patron asked where they could find pricing information on various objects. Sadly, I was unable to help them right away, but I’ve since found Grey House Publishing’s Value of a Dollar. This reference book has all sorts of prices available for different goods. It also contains average salaries for different careers and shows how much money folks spent on different products. Value of a Dollar would be a great resource for anyone who is interested in consumer patterns or price influxes in different products. Here are a few examples of some interesting figures!

In 1932 you could get a gallon of Cod Liver Oil for $1.79. (214)

In 1903 you could’ve enjoyed a whole gallon of White Line Whiskey of only $3.50. (55)

In 1968 ten cartridges of Gillette razors cost a measly $0.99. (399)

In 1981 the 1.3 cu ft GE Spacemaster microwave oven cost $689.99. (460)

So doesn’t it feel great to know that while prices will rise and fall you can always get quality help from MLC for free?

Derks, Scott and Elizabeth Derks, Tony Smith. The Value of a Dollar: Prices and Incomes in the United States. Amenia, NY:Grey House Publishing,2009.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Importance Of Being A Dude

This blog post originally appeared 7/24/2008.

While perusing the pages of The New York Public Library Desk Reference, 3rd Edition, I looked at the bottom of the page containing common crossword puzzle words and saw the following fabulous fact:
The word dude was coined by Oscar Wilde and his friends. It is a combination of the words duds and attitude.
Oscar is the original dude. He had an immeasurable amount of style; this photo from 1882 captures him in his favorite coat. Talk about strutting his stuff! Tres chic!

Oscar was dude-a-rific not only for concocting new words, but also for his ready wit. Here are a few Wilde quotes to get you through the day:

The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

I can resist everything except temptation.

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.

Appearance blinds, whereas words reveal.

Definitely not a dude who would ever misplace his car!

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Ed. Elizabeth Knowles. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Friday, November 5, 2010

You the Man!

Not long ago I called a friend of mine to ask him if he considered himself a man. Of course he has the necessary anatomy but, I’m thinking here about the idea of a man rather than biology. What constitutes a “man” today? What phases does a person pass through before he’s considered a “man”? These types of questions. Unfortunately, this friend, like most of my friends (and my parents), refuses to answer my phone calls. So I took to the stacks to see if I could find out what makes the “modern man” a man.

The best book I found was Robert Bly’s Iron John: A Book About Men. Bly spends some time discussing the evolution of the modern man but he’s mostly concerned with helping dilemma of the “soft male” of the 1990s. Bly explains:

“In the seventies I began to see all over the country a phenomenon that we might call the 'soft male.' Sometimes even today when I look out at an audience, perhaps half the young males are what I’d call soft. They’re lovely, valuable people--I like them--they’re not interested in harming the earth or starting wars. There’s a gentle attitude toward life in their whole being and style of living.” (2-3)

Bly goes on to explain that he’s noticed a deep sadness to these men. Mr. Bly argues today’s men have been raised (neutered?) by overbearing women who’ve denied their sons access to their inner-Wildman. I won’t ruin the ending, but if you’re a man, and want the mysteries of life revealed to you, come in to MLC and check out Bly’s book.

As for the original question: what makes a man? I guess I’ll go back to my personal oracle of manhood: Doctor Heathcliff Huxtable. In all my years of watching the Cosby Show I’ve never questioned that Dr. Huxtable was manhood personified.

Bly, Robert. Iron John: A Book About Men. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

There's Only One "S" In Saving

OK, y'all. It appears that for my entire life I have been suffering from the misconception that there is such a thing as Daylight Savings Time. Well, that just isn't so. The correct name for the devilment that occurs yet again this weekend is Daylight Saving Time--no extra "s." While you try to remember where you put the directions on how to change the clock on your car radio, let me fill you in on a few other DST nuggets.
  • You remember Benjamin Franklin? Funny hair, glasses, one of the founding fathers of our country, invented things? Franklin penned an article that proposed “earlier opening and closing of shops to save the cost of lighting" while he was the American minister to France (Columbia).
  • Every spring and fall I try to remember when the big dates are. Every spring and every fall I can't remember without asking at least 20 other people who, guess what!, can't remember either. Here it is:

          I'm sure we could come up with an easy mnemonic to remember this... Tracy suggests starting with "The first Sunday of November is the day I can't remember." A gold star to whomever can find a good rhyme line for March!
  • If you venture forth to western Europe, you'll probably find that Daylight Saving Time starts the last Sunday of March and ends the last Sunday of October (Britannica). I am at a loss to explain why we can come up with standard time zones, but not a standard for saving time.
  • Daylight saving time was first attempted in modern times as a cost-saving method during war. The Germans, British, and Americans, among others, adopted this practice during WWI.
  • Americans also used Daylight Saving Time during WWII and the energy crisis of 1973-74, with many cities and states keeping a version of DST at other times while the rest of the country was not. All states except Arizona and Hawaii now follow the federal standard for DST (Columbia).
By the way, I haven't changed my car radio's clock for years. I gleefully ride about with reckless abandon for eight months of the year with the wrong time. I sure am glad I can't get a ticket for that! You try to be a bit more careful with time than me, and don't forget:

Spring Forward! Fall Back!

And you'll be fine!

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009. Credo Reference. Web. 03 November 2010.
"daylight saving time." The Columbia Encyclopedia. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. Credo Reference. Web. 03 November 2010.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Look BOTH Ways Before Crossing The Street

This blog post originally appeared 6/26/2008.

A few days ago I was researching Winston Churchill for a patron. The patron wanted to know about a car accident in which the Prime Minister had been involved. The answer was relatively easy to find and led to an oodle of interesting facts about this great man.

  • Churchill was unable to locate the house of a friend in New York. After fruitlessly searching for the house for an hour on one side of the street, he attempted to cross the road to look on the other side. Unfortunately, he looked right and not left! (This is, of course, is what one does in England.) He was hit by a car going about 30 MPH and was in the hospital for more than a week.
  • After this accident, a doctor prescribed "the use of alcoholic spirits at meal time...the minimum requirement to be 250 cc." (That's about one cup for all of us non-doctor types.)
  • When Theodore Roosevelt met Churchill in 1900, he said "I saw the Englishman, Winston Churchill...he is not an attractive fellow."
  • His full name was Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.
  • He made a lecture tour of the United States with Mark Twain.
  • He was on the cover of Time magazine eight times.
  • He became an honorary U.S. citizen in 1963. (He watched this via satellite from London.)
  • He was awarded Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.
  • When asked if he had any criticisms about the United States, Churchill replied "...toilet paper too thin, newspapers too fat."
  • He was Prime Minister twice.
Who knew?!
Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008.
Historic World Leaders. Gale Research, 1994.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Listerine - It Can Save Your Life

Well, maybe not save it, but it can dramatically improve the quality of it, according to a 1931 advertisement.  The ad is a narrative of the story of poor Miss Nickerson, a rich, beautiful New York heiress doomed to a life of loneliness because she unknowingly suffered from halitosis.  If only she’d had Listerine.  Her life could have been so different.  There’s an important lesson to be learned here, readers – always rinse!

This is an example of just one of the many ads I found while weeding a while back.  Not all the advertisements were as dramatic as the one mentioned above, but I found plenty of personal favorites.  Here are just a few:

Indestructible Dolls
When I was a little kid, I never had to experience the horror of having a sadistic older sibling maim one of my treasured Barbies (I was the oldest, but that’s beside the point), but there are probably more than a few little girls who did have to endure that.  If only they’d been alive in 1902.  Then they would have been able to order a Minerva Indestructible Doll Head from the Sears Roebuck catalog.  Imported from Germany, these gems combined the durability of sheet metal with the “beauty of bisque”.  It’s lightweight, washable, and will not chip.  It’s also covered with “pure, wholesome paint”.  What little girl wouldn’t want to cuddle up next to that?

Join the Sears Roebuck Chapter of the Hair Club
Today, we’re constantly bombarded by advertisements for products that promise to enhance our looks or bodies in some way or another.  Apparently, this was also the case back in 1902.  Long before the advent of the Hair Club for Men (and for Women) for the follicle-challenged, there were “hair switches”, early 20th-century versions of weaves, extensions, wigs, and toupees. 

Change Your Body – No Surgery Required!
If one didn’t like the shape of her body, there was a way to change that, too.  You couldn’t walk into a surgeon’s office and request implants, but you could order a hip pad or bustle from the Sears Roebuck catalog.  When used in conjunction with a corset, bustles and hip pads gave women a curvier figure by “filling them out” in areas where they might be…lacking.  The corset shrunk the waistline and the bustle exaggerated the look by creating a flared look right below the smallest area of the woman’s waist.  

It Can Cure Everything!
One of the best sections of the Sears catalog is the one devoted to health products.  You can find a cure for everything there – mostly because nearly all the medicines claim to cure everything.  Take Dr. Hammond’s Nerve and Brain pills for example.  Though the box has “nerve and brain pills” emblazoned across it, the ad claims that the pills, “a boon for weak men,” can cure any disease for which they are intended.  Here’s the catch – the pills are “intended” for just about every ailment under the sun, including but not limited to:  low spirits; lifelessness (Lifelessness?  Really?  I wonder what the success rate was on that one); sense of goneness or emptiness of the stomach in the morning (I’m pretty sure that a good breakfast could cure that one, but I digress…); rumbling sensations in the bowels, with heat and nipping pain occasionally; short breath on exertion; cold feet; and constant feeling of dread.

Then there’s the electric belt.  That’s right – an electric belt. 

Like the nerve pills, it was supposed to be a cure-all, capable of fixing whatever was wrong with the sufferer, no matter what it was.  Cost:  $18.00.  How much is that in today’s money?  $418.68!  It sounds like a lot, but can you really put a cost on your health?

The bath cabinet falls into the miracle cure category, too.  What’s a bath cabinet, you may ask?  This is a bath cabinet:

Bathers sat enclosed in these personal saunas, while their bodies received a rejuvenating steam treatment.  According to the ad, “a five-minute bath in a Brown cabinet starts the millions of skin pores at work expelling the dirt, impurities, and poisons from the system”.  And it could all be had at just $5.25.  That’s 1902 dollars, of course.  Today, that would be roughly $122.12.  It’s not cheap, but it still seems like a pretty good deal, considering how healthy the device is supposed to keep you.

Though a great number of the products were designed to cure everything, there were a select few with narrowly tailored purposes.  There were cures for opium and morphine “habits”, and then there were Dr. Rose’s Obesity Powders.  And of course there were the beauty aids, such as this one: 

"Ladies, you can be beautiful."  When I first found this ad, I was certain that this was supposed to be some kind of dressing that you prepared and applied to your face.  After actually reading the ad, I’m not so sure: 

Arsenical solutions have utterly failed, and until a recent discovery by a French physician and chemist, the internal administration of arsenic has been attended with more or less danger ... All danger is averted in these complexion wafers, prepared by our experienced chemist, and the remedy taken in the manner directed on each box is absolutely inocuous, while the peculiar virtues of the remedy remain unimpaired and in tact.

I’m not 100% certain, but I think that means people were supposed to eat these things!  The concoction was supposed to give a woman a smooth, flawless complexion and was “harmless when used in accordance with our directions.”  So, follow the directions exactly, and get beautiful; don’t follow the directions exactly, and get dead.  Got it.  They were pretty cheap, too.  For the low, low price of 35 cents, you could risk poisoning yourself with a box of 50 wafers.  They also offered a box of 100 for 67 cents.  That’s $8.14 and $15.58, respectively, in today’s money.  If that wasn’t enough, you could go all out and get a dozen 50-count boxes for $3.30 ($76.76) and a dozen 100-count boxes for $6.00 ($139.56).  And the best thing about it?  If the wafers failed to make a woman beautiful, they would still be a good way to deal with rodents and other pests.

The Value of a Dollar: Prices and Incomes in the United States, 1860-2009. 4th Ed. New York: Grey House Publishing, 2009.

Atwan, Robert, et al. Edsels, Luckies, and Frigidaires: Advertising the American Way.  New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1979.

Sears, Roebuck and Company. The 1902 Edition of the Sears Roebuck Catalogue.  New York: Bounty Books, 1969.
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