Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 31 is Harry Potter's birthday!!

Credit does have to be paid to my fellow book nerd Erin, who made lovely Harry Potter cupcakes and brought them to work today (and who incidentally has a fairly literary last name, Nottingham, as in the Forest of.....)

At any rate, in honor of Harry and J.K. Rowling his creator who, I'm sure not incidentally shares the boy wizards birthday, today's blog is about birthday celebrations in books.  The first one (after Harry's) that jumped to mind was the infamous birthday celebrated by Bilbo Baggins in Tolkiens' Fellowship of the Ring.  I didn't think the date was ever mentioned in the book, or the movie, but it was pointed out to me that IS mentioned by our lovely supervisor Jo.  Fortuitously, another employee happened to be READING the book, so we checked.  Not only was Jo right in that it is mentioned in the book, the date she remembered was correct.  Bilbo's birthday is September 22nd (and he shares that birthday with Frodo)

When I started digging, I discovered that Harry Potter has quite a few birthdays which are known, but few of them are actually mentioned in the books.  Severus Snape was born in January (January 9), Hermione Granger in September (September 19), and Lupin in March (March 10).  These have all been gleaned from interviews with Rowling and other sources. I found them on the HP Lexicon.

Check out the Harry Potter Lexicon here.  It has all kinds of HP info.

Also in the LOTR universe, the Return of the King appendices indicate that Aragorn was born March 1st.  Is it just me or does it seem like J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling would have been friends?  They both talk(ed) and write (wrote) about their characters and the world they created pretty extensively. 

Sherlock Holmes birthday is January 6th, according to Homes expert Leslie Klinger, but again, it does not appear to have been mentioned in the writings of Conan Doyle.

Bill Compton, the vampire character in the Sookie Stackhouse books, by Charlaine Harris celebrated his human birth on April 9, 1840, and had what I would call his 'vampire birth' on November 20, 1868 (although I don't think Harris ever calls it that).  Sookie herself  celebrates her birthday several times in the course of the series, it is May 24th.

By process of deduction, it can be figured that Alice of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland fame was born on May 4th, which is also the birthdate of Alice Liddell, the real girl for whom the stories were written. Alice states in Through the Looking Glass that she is "seven and a half exactly" and the story is said to take place on November 4th.

For other fictional character birthdays, check out this infographic on Flavorwire.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A cool website

Today I found out is a cool website full of random facts and information.  It's enjoyable to me, and it's also enjoyable that enough OTHER people enjoy random facts and information for someone to create a whole website!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Intern time at the library ran long tonight as we were getting ready for tomorrow's big teen night (which I unfortunately am missing)  One of the things we had to do was get the prizes read for the teen book trailers which some of the kids have been working on.  Ellen claims that neither she nor Shelly have good handwriting, so I volunteered to be the scribe.  That lead to this wondering.  I do not claim to write well enough for it to be called calligraphy, but it was the only shorthand type word I could think of for "write pretty and sort of fancy".  And then I found myself wondering if there was a verb for writing in calligraphy or as I have learned, to write calligraphically.  To create a transcription is to transcribe something.  But to create calligraphy...well, as far as I can tell there isn't a word for that.  You don't 'calligraph' something. only offers noun, adjective and adverb forms of the word. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I've always wondered why anyone would look at an artichoke and think it would be something good to eat.

Just looking at this plant, you have to wonder why someone would think to eat it.  At least I do.
 This website has some interesting history including the Greek legend as does this one.  Interestingly, it is not a vegetable, but rather a thistle, although according to the strictest definition, the edible part of the plant is a bud of the flower, so that the artichoke could be called a fruit.  There could be a whole discussion about what makes a fruit a fruit and a vegetable a vegetable.  Perhaps another day......

Monday, July 8, 2013

I hate mosquitos

I hate mosquitos, partly because they seem to love me, and any time I spend more than five or ten minutes outside, it seems I always end up with half a dozen itchy mosquito bites.  Tony recently bought an AWESOME bug zapper for our back yard, which does seem to cut down on the nasty critters trying to eat me alive.

So this morning, I was listening to the lovely folks on Radio from Hell discuss a local case of West Nile Virus, which of course is caused by being bitten by the aforementioned evil bugs, and I found myself wondering, what would happen if the little pests were completely eradicated from the planet?

I googled and came across this article Ecology: A world without mosquitoes which is subtitled "Eradicating any organism would have serious consequences for ecosystems — wouldn't it? Not when it comes to mosquitoes, finds Janet Fang"  That makes me happy.  So, the question is, why haven't we wiped them out yet?

One of the reasons appears to be that it's pretty hard to do safely.  One of the most effective weapons against mosquitos is the chemical DDT, famously excoriated in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and which is now banned internationally under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Can mosquitos be eradicated? It's been done in targeted geographical areas in the past; for example, a focused effort of larvicide application in South America allowed workers to complete the Panama Canal without dying from the yellow fever and malaria which was previously rampant among the crew.

According to the Nature article mention above, there are areas of the world which would be more strongly impacted by destruction of the mosquitos and their larvae, but in many cases other insects would fill the gap rather quickly and be just as effective without the various diseases mosquitos spread.  The conclusion seems to be that eradicating mosquitos would only benefit people.  However, the article closes with one caveat. "'If we eradicated them tomorrow, the ecosystems where they are active will hiccup and then get on with life. Something better or worse would take over.'" (Fang, 2010; emphasis mine)

There's the real reason to leave the mosquitos alone in my mind.  They may be keeping away something even worse!


Saturday, July 6, 2013

The obligatory it was just the 4th of July so I have to do a post about fireworks post....

I didn't actually watch any fireworks this year.  Had a headache and actually tried to go to bed early, which was hard because my neighbors had some seriously loud fireworks.  But I digress.

Friend of mine asked on Facebook how a Chinese invention became the biggest symbol of American Independence.  So I did a little digging, as I often do. 

First of all, there is some dissent about whether fireworks actually ARE a Chinese invention.  Some credit India, others just a more general 'the Middle East'.  The era of their invention seems to be fairly consistent, they were present in China as early as 400 B.C.

The first fireworks were actually just bamboo, which, when thrown in the fire makes popping noises due to the air pockets inside it as well as it's water content.  Some say that it was believed to frighten off evil spirits. 

At some point, an un-identified individual, experimenting with ingredients which some say was an attempt to discover the infamous elixir of life (others say it was simply a cooking accident) mixed saltpeter with other ingredients and discovered that it burned with a brightly colored flame and which, when stuffed into the aforementioned stalks of bamboo, made a loud explosion as well.  Over time, the mixture and process were perfected and turned to uses such as warfare along with the more benign displays for celebrations and to ward off those aforementioned evil spirits.

The use soon spread, both for military and entertainment applications and by the time of the Renaissance in Europe, fireworks were so common a feature of celebrations among the nobility and royalty that Shakespeare mentioned them in his plays and (read the article here says that "Czar Peter the Great of Russia arranged a five-hour pyrotechnic extravaganza to mark the birth of his son." Famous pieces of music from the era also incorporate both fireworks and cannons. identifies 1608 as the date of the first fireworks display in the New World, stating that the legend gives credit to Captain John Smith for the import. Apparently, Rhode Island had so many problems with mischievous fireworks users that it had to outlaw them; the website states that they " banned the “mischievous use of pyrotechnics” in 1731."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

United States Territories

My friend Sue is still studying for her citizenship test, and today we were talking about 50 states and it came up why Puerto Rico is still a territory instead of a state.  And it got me wondering, how many territories does the US have anyway?

According to Wikipedia, there are five inhabited territories and nine 9 un-inhabited territories:

The five inhabited territories are:

Puerto Rico
American Samoa
United States Virgin Islands
Northern Mariana Islands

The territories have different governmental structures, which I thought was interesting.  Both the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico are Commonwealths while American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam have a governor.  Commonwealths have voting privileges for all their citizens, while territories do not.  All five territories do have elected representatives to U.S. Congress but they are non-voting representatives.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Job interviews are hard!!

So yesterday, I interviewed for a position at the Orem Public library.  It's just a part-time, no guaranteed hours fill in position.  Even with that caveat, there were a TON of people who applied and were being interviewed. 

Anyway, there were two questions that I feel like I kind of flubbed and as SOON as I got home, I thought of at least THREE great answers.  So today's blog is those answers!

Question: I'm a patron.  I approach the desk and ask you for books for my two children, both boys, ages 5 1/2 and 2 1/2.

So in the interview, I mentioned Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold, which boys tend to love, but which is probably too old for the 2 and 1/2 year old. The interviewer did say that his boys love it though.  Unfortunately I got stuck there....and couldn't think of another title.  I did mention The secret science project that almost ate the school by Judy Sierra and also Tuesday by David Wiesner. 

Titles I thought of after the fact:
  • Melinda Long's How I became a pirate or Pirates don't change diapers (illustrated by David Shannon)
  • David Shannon also has a couple great one for boys like Too Many Toys and No David
  • David Gordon has a series where he's 'fractured' some fairy tales by making the main characters trucks The three little rigs, The ugly truckling, and Hansel and Diesel.  These do have the potential to be a little scary for younger kids 
  • Helen Lester's Tacky the Penguin is an older series which younger boys love.  Tacky is a little bit loud and very boisterous, like many young boys! 
  • I stink! is a fun one, both for boys who like trucks, and for the 'gross' factor
  • Grandma drove the garbage truck by Katie Clark is a little bit silly, and has some fun repetitive bits that kids sometimes like to repeat.

The other question was about books for his in-laws, mother-in-law who likes those mysteries that involve cooking and a father in law who likes history.  I don't read much in the way of adult ANYTHING, but I feel like I could have handled the 'reference interview' elements of the question better than I did.

How it SHOULD have gone would be something like

PATRON: I'm looking for a couple of books for my in-laws to have by their bedside while they are visiting, in case they want to read. 
ME: I'd be happy to help you with that.  Tell me a little more about your in-laws.  Let's start with your mother-in-law.  What kind of interests does she have? Do you know the kind of things she likes to read?
PATRON: Well she mentioned these cooking mysteries she likes.
ME: There are a couple of authors who write that style of mystery, let me show you how to search a subject like that in the catalog and we can probably find a couple. 
(We find a few)
PATRON: Okay, my father in law likes history
for some reason, in the interview this turned into WAR books for me, I don't know why.  What I SHOULD have said
ME: History is pretty broad, any particular era or area of the world that he seems to prefer?

and we could walk to the 900's as well, to see if anything that's face out might jump out at him also (which I did say in the interview)

I also should have said something about how I don't personally read a ton of adult historical fiction,  but would be happy to help him take a look at the catalog to find something.