Working at the BallparkAt last! Baseball season is here (does that mean spring is almost here too?) Baseball, the most American of games, has become entwined with our history, our memories, even our language. Most of us grew up playing it, either in organized leagues or with the kids in the neighborhood and even non-fans probably understand the basic rules (“three strikes and you’re out”) creating common ground for all of us.

Lots of kids fall in love with the sport and dream of growing up to be a baseball player. Of course, not many of us make it to the big leagues, but we remain fans. Even without a curve ball or a .300 hitting average, people have found a way to stay with the game. Working at the Ballpark by Tom Jones is the story of people who work in major league baseball, from the peanut vendor to the announcers to the ballplayers. 50 people are interviewed, each giving a unique view of national pastime, of what they do and why they love their job.

Sometimes dreams do come true.

tlingit-totem-pole.jpgAs a librarian I always enjoy it when a patron asks a question about something that relates to my own personal interests. Recently I helped a patron with a question about totem poles. In 2004 I accepted a an interim library job at a small college in Sitka, located on the coast of Alaska, a decision that turned out to be a tremendous adventure. One unique Alaskan adventure I was able to experience was the placement of a new totem pole. Carved in Sitka National Park, the entire town was invited to the totem pole raising ceremony, where, after several ceremonial rites including a formal naming ceremony, adults manned the ropes on the sidelines which helped to guide the pole as children from the town tugged on the two long ropes which pulled it up and into place.

It is said that the most important person or object on a totem pole is the one that is at the base. This is an important distinction between Western and Native culture (since we usually think that “low man on the totem pole” designates a low status). There is a pole in a main square in downtown Sitka which illustrates this cultural difference. At the time this pole was constructed, the govenor insisted that he be placed at the top. Since the object of ridicule is always at the top the carvers were happy to grant the governor his wish!

The University of Alaska at Anchorage has an excellent website including an authoritative article on totem poles as well as a wealth of information about Alaskan history and culture. A trip to Alaska is always unforgettable; check the library for travel guides (917.98) and information on it’s colorful history (979.8) as well as the dvd aisle for a taste of the state’s spectacular beauty. And for more pictures of totem poles, look for The Most Striking of Objects: Totem Poles of Sitka National Park in our Government documents collection.

Mary Richards

Minneapolis is the site of the Public Library Association’s national conference this week. Hope those librarians can stay out of trouble…

Pretty Girl Gone by David Housewright

Ex St. Paul cop Rushmore McKenzie spends time doing favors for friends and getting drawn into messy murder cases. In the third book in the series, he ventures into rural Minnesota. It’s a chilling look at small towns in the Midwest where racism and methamphetamine use are prevalent. McKenzie is a self-deprecating and funny narrator – often too out-spoken for his own good.

Snow-Blind by P.J. Tracy

The story begins in the Cities (with the murder of two policemen) It moves to a fictional northern Minnesota county, when two Minneapolis detectives help a newbie female sheriff with a murder that may be connected to their case. This is part of the Monkeewrench gang series which features a group of computer geeks for hire.

Eyes of Prey by John Sandford

IMHO, this is the best of the “Prey” series which star a tough, Porsche-driving Minneapolis cop. In this book, Lucas Davenport is suffering from depression brought on by a previous case, while he investigates the brutal murder of a doctor’s wife. The ending really was a surprise – to me, anyway.

Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen mysteries

These cozy mysteries always have excellent dessert recipes and a cast of wacky characters. The reader can exercise some wish fulfillment through Hannah and her coffee shop/bakery in small town Minnesota. Can you resist the Cherry Cheesecake, Fudge Cupcake, or Sugar Cookie Murders?

Auto Repair Reference DatabaseGot car troubles? Need to figure out the difference between fuel injection and the fuel pump? Need a wiring diagram for your 1992 Honda Civic? The library has a fabulous resource that can help you and you can access it from your home computer! It’s the Auto Repair Reference Center, a full-text database of all kinds of information on auto repair, covering cars from 1945 to present. The best part – it’s really easy to use!

Start at our homepage, then click on “Do Research Online”. This will bring you a page that lists all the online databases we offer (which, by the way, are worth taking a look at – there’s an amazing amount of information offered here). Scroll to the very bottom of the page; the next to last database listed is the Auto Repair Reference Center. Simply click on the link. You’ll be asked to enter your library card number (sorry, this database is available only to Davenport Library cardholders) Click on Login and the to gateway automobile reference is opened to you.

A word of caution: the earlier years listed have very limited car models and information available; you have to go to about 1962 before many models appear. The more recent entries have lots of information including wiring diagrams, service bulletins and recalls, repair procedures and specifications. The information is well illustrated and give detailed, step-by-step instructions.

Some cool extra features of the database include “Auto IQ” which gives detailed descriptions of various car parts, where they’re located in most cars and what their purpose is and is illustrated with diagrams, pictures and video clips. There is also a section of “Care and Repair Tips” so that you can avoid future car repairs and “Troubleshooting” to help you diagnose problems.

Pan’s LabyrinthVisually stunning, chillingly frightening yet finishing with a ray of hope, the memory of this Spanish foreign language film will linger with you long after you’ve seen it.

Set after the bloody Spanish Civil War in 1944, Spain is being decimated by Fascists who brutally crush the Resistance. A particularly cruel and ruthless General brings his heavily pregnant wife and step-daughter Ofelia to the countryside to await the birth of his son. Left on her own, Ofelia explores the area surrounding the old farmhouse and explores a walled garden where a labyrinth leads her to Pan. This mysterious figure promises her that if she completes three difficult tasks she will save her mother and her problems will end. Suddenly Ofelia is caught in a battle between good and evil and the line between reality and fantasy blurs.

Beautiful, horrific, brutal, sometimes terrifying, this is a fairytale for adults about the power of the imagination and hope for the hero in each of us.

The library has many foreign language films available for check-out as well as many “independent” films that may not have shown locally. Be sure to browse our collection for amazing films from around the world.

Flower ConfidentialFor all their beauty and association with romance, flowers are part of a huge business, generating world-wide sales of more than $40 billion yearly. Yet the industry barely registers with most consumers beyond picking up the occasional bouquet or arrangement. Stewart’s fascinating book takes a look at many aspects of the industry including:

-The quest for new and “improved” flowers that will last longer in the vase, or bloom in unusual colors or shapes. However, this has come at a cost as fragrance is often sacrificed (most notably in roses)

-How large quantities of flowers are grown in greenhouses which allow the grower to control weather, insects and diseases and stretch or completely alter the natural growing season. Many flowers never touch soil, but are grown hydroponically.

-How flowers are sold. The majority of flowers for sale in the United States are grown in South America and funneled through the Miami airport for inspection. Before a flower reaches your vase it may have been out of water and traveling for 5 to 7 days.

-The impact this industry has on countries such as Ecuador and Columbia. Rainforests have been destroyed to make room for greenhouses, pesticide regulations are lax and workers rarely have the same protections and benefits as in the United States.

-The emergence and growth of the organic flower market. Still relatively difficult to find, the popularity of organic flowers is increasing.

Filled with interesting stories and great insights, Stewart’s book will open your eyes to the work behind the beauty.

PrairieCat catalogIn the last week or so, we’ve changed the color scheme and layout of our catalog. See if you think it has a more prairie feel. We’ve also made it easier to find movies, books-on-cd, etc. If you click on one of the new tabs on the home page (movies, for example) a search form will pop up. You can put in the title or actors or theme of a movie you are looking for.

You can also narrow your search – by libraries in the Quad-Cities or Iowa Quad-Cities – if you’re thinking of driving to get your materials.

Tell us what you think! (Leave a comment!)

easter-lily.jpgDid you know that Easter will be celebrated on April 14th this year? It will be by those who observe Eastern Orthodox Easter, but Western Christians will celebrate it on March 23rd. Why the difference? Most Orthodox congregations observe Easter according to the Julian calendar; all others observe it according to the Gregorian calendar.

Many of us have learned that Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon which occurs upon or after the vernal equinox. This was true when it was established by the Council of Nicea in 325; however, calendars and calculations have changed since then and so this is not technically correct.

First of all, it’s not the astronomical full moon that is used to calculate Easter, but rather, the fourteenth day of a lunar month, calculated by an ancient ecclesiastical computation, which gives us the Paschal Full Moon (which can vary as much as two days from the astronomical full moon).

Secondly, since 326 A.D., the Easter Sunday date for any given year has not been determined by the March Equinox date (which can be either the 20th or the 21st), but by March 20th only.

Each year it is the intention of Christian churches to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on a Sunday that would correlate with the exact day of the astronomical full moon on which his resurrection was said to have taken place; however, solar and lunar months don’t match, hence the development of a method of calculation and its various revisions which have taken it from its basis in the old Jewish calendar to the Julian, and then the Gregorian calendars.

Most Christian scholars have placed the Last Supper on Passover (the 14th day of Nisan), the crucifixion on the 15th, and the resurrection three days later on the 17th. Three days in the grave – from the 15th to the 17th appears to be a discrepancy until we take into consideration that WE count the days from midnight to midnight, but ancients considered the new day as beginning at sundown the day before; hence the day of what we consider to be the 15th was considered by them to be a continuation of the 14th.

Is your head spinning yet? There are ever so many more technicalities and intricacies to the method of calculating Easter, and those of you who enjoy debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin may enjoy pursuing more information about the Golden Number, the Metanomic Lunar Cycle, and the Epact on the Catholic Encyclopedia website.

And this site not only gives a great explanation of the calculation of Easter, but also provides information about Jewish, Islamic, Chinese and Indian calendars that are in use (and some others that are not)

So, how do we answer the question “how is Easter calculated?” As you can see, a technically correct answer could be incredibly complex; how about we all continue to say “it’s after the first full moon which occurs on or after the vernal equinox” and let’s just leave it at that!

Walking shoesSpring officially arrived at 5:48am this morning and it didn’t get here a minute too soon. After being cooped up inside during the Winter that Would Not End, spring is the perfect time to get outside and take a walk. Here are 6 reasons to inspire you.

1. It’s good for you! Lower stress, increase cardiovascular health, soak up some vitamin D – you’re bound to feel better. The Mayo Clinic has some great tips to get you started.

2. The Quad City area is blessed with one of the best urban recreational trail systems in the country, and they’re right outside your back door (in a manner of speaking) Duck Creek Parkway, Ben Butterworth Recreational Trail and the recently opened Sunderbruch Park all feature great walks and trails with a view.

3. Walking is cheap. All you need is a supportive pair of walking shoes and you’re ready to go. No fancy club memberships, no special equipment, just you and your feet. (Please also wear appropriate clothing!)

4. Birdwatching. Located in the midst of the Mississippi Valley flyway gives us many unique opportunities to observe birds of all kinds, from bald eagles to native songbirds. Be sure to grab a birdwatching book from the library (598 call number) so you know what your seeing.

5. Get in touch with nature. Walking gets you out of your automobile/house cocoon and connects you to the outdoors. Walking also slows you down, making it easy to observe and notice the details that rush by most of us during our busy daily life.

6. Connect with your friends and family. There’s something about taking a walk with someone that makes it easier to talk. Put down that cell phone, set the video game aside, turn off the tv and talk to a real person!

Want to get involved with an organized group? Check out the Mississippi River Ramblers, the local chapter of the American Volkssport Association. Volkssport offers non-competitive, family-oriented participatory sports events.

Now, no more excuses – get out there and take a walk!