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Friday, January 28, 2011

Something Stinks!

Recently I moved back home to save some money. Outside of the normal amount of shame and embarrassment that comes with moving in with parents, there’s something else that has made this move difficult; skunks. This year, more than any other that I can remember, our neighborhood has been invaded by skunks. They’re living in our culverts. They’re spraying our dogs. They’re pretty much making our lives stinky. Now, I’ve always been a deeply spiritual person who believes all animals share a purpose in this world. The beautiful hummingbird helps spread pollen from plant to plant. The helpful Egret keeps insects away from cattle. The plump housecat can make a great stew during a harsh winter. But, for the life of me, I cannot understand the skunk’s purpose.

Luckily, found enlightenment in Elisabeth Janos’s book, Country Folk Medicine: Tales of Skunk Oil, Sassafras Tea, and Other Old-Time Remedies. Janos explains how skunks often came in handy for country remedies. She says:

“Skunk oil, rendered from skunk fat, was one of the more popular healing substances used by our grandparents in the Northeast, reportedly because it had a better “penetrating powers” and “staying properties” (I’ll say) than most of the other oil that were used.”

Janos goes on to tout the healing powers of skunk oil when applied to broken bones and arthritic hands. But my absolute favorite skunk story comes from some hill-person she interviewed. He explains how skunks enhanced his love life:

“On a nice night, in the fall, it was considered pretty romantic to take a young farm gal and your dog and go roaming around the fields waiting for the free-running dog to find and bay a skunk. Sometimes we would go out with one or two other couples. When a dog spotted a skunk, the fun and excitement started. Everyone would take off in a dead run. The frenzied barking of the dog and the overpowering smell of skunk made a beacon you couldn’t miss”

Nothing says true romance like a good ole fashioned skunk hunt. Personally, I think this guy was pulling Jonas’s leg. No girl I’ve dated would attend a skunk hunt and I’ve dated some pretty rough women. But, at least I have a better idea of the skunk’s true purpose: bringing hill-folk closer together.

My explanation is certainly more gentle than, Grzimke’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. The folks at Grzimke argue,

“The striped skunk is an important vector of rabies in North America, and because of that, is often considered undesirable around human habitations. Also, the noxious smell of skunks typically annoys landowners, who fear their pets may get sprayed. In some areas, striped skunks are important predators of duck eggs. In others, skunks may kill bees or damage beehives and thus are considered pests.“

Lastly, Wikipedia argues that skunks help people by eating insects and other rodents. They also explain that the skunk’s number one enemy is the Great Horned Owl. Why? Because owls have a notoriously bad sense of smell. Who knew?

Grzimke, Bernhard, Neil Schlager, and Donna Olendorf. Detroit, MI: Gale Press, 2003. (Vol. 14 p. 327).

Janos Elisabeth, Country Folk Medicine: Tales of Skunk Oil, Sassafras Tea, and Other Old-Time Remedies. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 1990.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Life’s Little Interesting Mysteries


A few weeks ago, I received an information request pondering some of those questions that nearly everyone has thought about at some time or another.  I thought I’d share a couple of them with all you readers out in blog land.

Have you ever wondered why an apple turns brown shortly after you cut it or bite into it?  While searching for an answer to this question, I found a great explanation in an article at www.scientificamerican.com.  When an apple is bruised or cut, the injured plant tissue becomes exposed to oxygen.  According to the article, when oxygen is present in an apple’s cells, enzymes in the cells react with compounds that are naturally present in the apple’s tissues.  This reaction creates o-quinones, a colorless product that reacts with amino acids or proteins in the fruit to produce that brown color we’re all so familiar with.

But what happens to the apple after you’ve eaten it?  You know – after it’s, ahem, left your body?  Have you ever wondered what happens to waste material at a treatment plant?  Honestly, I’d never thought about it before receiving this particular information request, but the answer was enlightening, for me anyway.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, when domestic sewage is treated at a treatment plant, it forms an untreated solid, semi-solid, or liquid residue called sewage sludge.  How’s that for a scientific name!  The sewage sludge is then treated and processed into biosolids, which can be safely recycled and used as fertilizer.  They can be, but fate of the biosolids is ultimately in the hands of local governments.  They can decide whether to recycle the biosolids, incinerate them, or bury them.

Is there a “mystery” of life that you’ve always wanted to solve but never got around to?  Let us know, and we’ll be happy to do the detective work for you!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Searching for Pigman Taylor

Last week I spent a large portion of my time performing one of the quintessential jobs of a reference librarian: squinting at microfilmed records. We subscribe to a great genealogy database, Ancestry.com, which has the capability to let you go through some microfilmed records. Anyway, while looking for someone else entirely, I ran across a man named Pigman Taylor in the Kentucky marriage records. Pigman Taylor! Can you believe it? What in the world do you think his parents were thinking? "Oh, honey, let's name him Pigman; he's pretty chubby."

Another great resource we have here was compiled by workers in the WPA. (The Works Progress Administration, or later, the Work Projects Administration, which was signed into effect by FDR.) County histories were researched across Mississippi, and along with them, the family histories that make these such a valuable tool for genealogists today. If you'd like more information about the WPA files, I highly recommend this article from Ancestry.com.

Culling these files can be monotonous work. Sometimes, though, you run across a nugget like this:
Captain Ayers served for fourteen years as chancery clerk of Benton County, and at the time of his death was auditing the sheriff's books, in DeSoto County.
He died suddenly, and later a shortage was discovered in the sheriff books, and it was the suspicion of a great many people that Captain Ayers was poisoned. However no proof of this could be gotten and nothing was ever done.
This actually reads as "later as hortage was discovered" in the WPA files. I spent at least five minutes trying to find out if hortage were some sort of rare poison. I'm almost sorry I figured out the typo! Also, a whole town suspecting foul play makes me think about old English crime novels, for some reason. Here's an excerpt from the Trees of Note section:
A very large magnolia tree on the lawn of the old Falconer Place (now the Francisco apartments) is of interest to citizens of Holly Springs, in that it was once the trysting place of Sherwood Bonner, the author, and Kinlock Falconer during a rather serious romance in their early maturity. This tree measures 80 inches in circumference.
In their early maturity! That just kills me! You know that I needed to know what happened to our erstwhile lovers. Sherwood married after the Civil War and had a child, but the marriage was unhappy and unfulfilling. She moved to Boston to further her writing, and while there, published two novels, and befriended with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She eventually divorced, and then died of breast cancer in 1883. (olemiss.edu/) Kinloch was a soldier in the Civil War and afterwards, was elected Secretary of State of Mississippi in 1878. (apollo.lib.olemiss.edu/) Unfortunately, this was the same year of the Great Yellow Fever Epidemic. Kinloch went home to nurse his father and succumbed to the illness himself. (genealogytrails.com/

By the way, Pigman married Almedia S. Anderson in February of 1852. I'm sure they had a long and fulfilling life together, hopefully uninterrupted by war or Yellow Fever.

http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=699
http://www.apollo.lib.olemiss.edu/guides/archives_subject_guide/politics/manuscript-19th?page=show
http://www.genealogytrails.com/miss/marshall/yellowfever1878.html
http://www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/bonner_sherwood/index.html
State-wide Historical Research Project. Marshall County WPA project microform. Works Progress Administration for Mississippi, 1938.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Approaching the Kindle with Caution.

A few months ago, I received a Kindle as a gift (my husband runs marathons, and last fall, he ran a 50 mile ultramarathon; the Kindle was a thank you gift for putting up with him during his crazy training schedule). While it was a nice gesture, I approached it with caution.

The thing is, I like books. Books are friends. The Kindle, while nice, is not cuddly. I cannot tuck it underneath my pillow when I get sleepy (for fear it will fall to the floor) or use a photo for a bookmark. And I really can’t read it in the bathtub. What if the book I’m reading on my Kindle turns out to be my most favorite book of all time? How will I display it on my shelf? I think these are valid concerns.

It took a while, but I finally figured out how the Kindle could best work for me: non-fiction. I generally bounce back and forth between a fiction book and a non-fiction one, and it is rare indeed that I have wanted to cuddle with a non-fiction book. (Except maybe Mary Roach’s Stiff, which is hilarious.)

Therefore, I’m now reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, which is about the history of everyday objects like houses, beds, windows, etc. It’s very entertaining if you enjoy hearing about an insane gothic mansion, Fonthill Abbey, built to crazy proportions, with this added bonus: “The front door rose to a height of thirty feet but was made to seem even taller by Beckford’s practice of employing dwarf doormen.” (The only problem is that I have no idea how to cite this! The Kindle uses “locations,” not “pages,” so all I can say is that that quote is at location 2557.)

The book also concerns itself with how interesting and weird humans are. I thought this was pretty funny when I read this last night: “Even though sugar was very expensive, people consumed it till their teeth turned black, and if their teeth didn’t turn black naturally, they blackened them artificially to show how wealthy and marvelously self-indulgent they were” (location 3080). Ha!

You may be wondering how I kept track of these passages. The Kindle has a feature where you can “underline” a passage. There is also a weird feature that lets you see where all the other people who have read the same book have underlined as well. This gets a bit busy, but it’s kind of like if there were only one paper copy of a book and everyone in the world wrote in it. Kind of interesting! It makes me laugh to think of all the people who have to endure the weird stuff I underlined, like the dwarf doormen and the black teeth.

Other things I’ve learned in At Home include that the luncheon “originally signified a lump or portion (as in ‘a luncheon of cheese’)” (Location 3223). I also happened to think this quotation from William Beckford to his architect, James Wyatt, whom he loathed, was deserving of a note: “What putrid inn, what stinking tavern or pox ridden brothel hides your hoary and glutinous limbs?” (Location 2596) I am going to remember that one, at least the hoary and glutinous part. (Wyatt apparently took a reallllllly long time to complete the aforementioned insane Fonthill Abbey.)

While my Kindle and I may not be cuddling any time soon, we have at least reached a mutual respect and understanding. It’s progress!

I can't wait to see what I'll get if my husband completes that 100-mile ultra he has his eye on.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How To Meebo

Today I received a question from a Meebo patron who seemed a little confused about what Meebo is exactly and how to access it. Meebo Patron, I’m not sure if you’re asking about the Meebo application itself or if you’re wondering why we have it on our reference blog, so I’ll address both.

Meebo is a browser-based instant messaging program that supports multiple IM services, such Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and Google Talk. With Meebo, you can chat across platforms. For instance, if you have a Google Talk account, and you want to chat with a friend who has Yahoo Messenger, you can login to Meebo with your Google account and chat with your Yahoo friend.

We use Meebo in the reference department because it provides an easy way for our patrons to reach us. Perhaps you stumbled upon our blog and its accompanying Meebo app accidently, Meebo Patron, but the Meebo box is supposed to appear every time you visit our blog. Everyone who visits has access to it. If you want to ask us a question using Meebo, all you have to do is type the question in the Meebo box that appears above our posts. We’ll either answer you right away or post the answer to your question right here on the blog. That’s all there is to it!

Thanks for the question, Meebo Patron! I hope it clears a few things up for you, and if there’s anything else you’d like to know, you now know a great way to contact us!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Where is Jumpertown Anyway?

I was raised in Ellisville, Mississippi. Ellisville is not an everyday name but it’s far from unusual; at least in comparison to some other names in Mississippi. Here are a few interesting town names that I found today while searching for population records. I’ve included the town name, along with the county.

Alligator (Bolivar)
Beulah (also Bolivar)
Caledonia (Lowndes)
Cruger (Holmes)
Jumpertown (Prentiss)
Kossuth (Alcorn)
McCool (Attala) “Hi, I’m Jesse and I’m from McCool, Mississippi.”
Noxapater (Winston)
Shubuta (Clarke)
Conhatta (Newton)

If you’re from or know of an interesting town name, we’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Shredding" Light on the Situation

Yesterday, I received a request from a Meebo patron asking for help evaluating options for shredding paper. Our Meebo patron wants to know where to go to shred several boxes of paper. He or she also wants to know if it would be cheaper to buy an inexpensive paper shredder rather than enlist the help of a paper shredding service. Meebo Patron, I’ve done a little research to help you in your quest to shred paper.


I located several paper shredding companies that offer different types of shredding services. I don’t know if you’re in the Jackson area, Meebo Patron, but each of these companies has multiple locations around the nation, including a physical presence in the Jackson area, plus mobile and drop-off services.


Shred Nations
http://www.shrednations.com/
Phone: 800.747.3365
Jackson locations include: Premier Shredding, P.O. Box 9506; Advantage Secure Document Destruction, P.O. Box 7678; Cintas, 5526 Industrial Road, local phone: 601.922.0530


Shred It
http://www.shredit.com/
Phone: 1.877.607.4733
Jackson area location: 181 David Johnson Drive, Richland, MS


Record Max
http://www.recordmax.com/
Email: info@recordmax.com
Jackson location: 40 Northtown Drive, Jackson, MS
Phone: 601.977.2525


None of the companies listed the cost of their services on their websites, but they will provide quotes to customers upon request. The websites indicate that the costs of these services depend on the customer’s circumstances, primarily how much paper needs to be shredded. The types of services offered include one-time shredding, regularly scheduled shredding, and mobile and on-site shredding.


Meebo Patron, since you indicated that one of your options might be to purchase an inexpensive shredder, I’ve searched the websites for a few major retailers to see their inexpensive shredder offerings.


Best Buy (www.bestbuy.com)
  • Dynex 5-Sheet Cross-cut Shredder on sale online for $24.99 as of 1/11/11. The regular price is $36.99, and it may also be available in the store.
  • Royal 5-Sheet Strip-cut Paper Shredder for $29.99, available online and in stores.

Walmart (www.walmart.com)
  • Black and Decker 6-Sheet Cross-cut Shredder for $44.97, available online and in stores (though in-store pricing may vary)
  • Aurora Light-Duty AS600SB Strip-cut Shredder, 6-sheet capacity, for $44.99, available online only

Office Depot (www.officedepot.com)
  • Ativa LD60 6-Sheet Cross-cut Shredder for $39.99, available in stores and online
  • Ativa LD100 8-Sheet Cross-cut Shredder for $59.99, available in stores and online

Meebo Patron, I hope this information helps you find the service and/or product you’re looking for. If we can help you again, please let us know!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Angola Prison - A Vacation Destination?

A prison might not sound like an ideal place for a field trip, but if that prison is Louisiana State Penitentiary, it’s certainly possible. Yesterday I received a reference request from a current resident of the institution, and I realized that I didn’t really know much about the place. I’d passed an “Angola” road sign on the way to Baton Rouge once and knew that it had a reputation as one of the rougher prisons, but that was the extent of my knowledge. So, I set out to learn.

More commonly referred to as Angola, the prison is currently the largest maximum security facility in the country, covering 18,000 acres, and has some interesting characteristics not commonly found at other prisons. For instance, there’s a prison rodeo that takes place each year in April and October. For one weekend in April and every weekend in October, thousands of people flood through Angola’s guarded gates to watch prisoners show off their cowboy skills. They also get the opportunity to view and purchase crafts produced by inmates. Apparently, it’s a popular event, drawing over 70,000 spectators each year. Inmates also publish a magazine called The Angolite, run a gospel radio station (the only FCC licensed radio station on the grounds of a maximum security prison), and have a television station.

Many of the prison’s employees live onsite, and to improve the quality of their lives, the administration has built several amenities, including tennis courts, parks, and a 9-hole golf course called Prison View. Opened in June 2004, Prison View is the only golf course on the property of an American prison. It’s open to the public, and the cost to play is $20, which includes cart rental. Inmates aren’t allowed to use the course, but they do help maintain it.

There’s a prison museum, where visitors can see the original electric chair used by the prison for executions, authentic inmate contraband, and officer’s weapons. The museum also contains old maps of the penitentiary, records of the first inmates, inmate and officer uniforms AND a gift shop.

And then there are the tours that I mentioned earlier. A regular tour entails a visit to the museum, the historic “Red Hat” cell block where the most dangerous and violent prisoners used to be confined, a cell block or dormitory at Camp F (still in use to house inmates), lunch at Camp F (where you can eat what the prisoners eat), and the lethal injection table. Additionally, offender speakers are also available for a question and answer session with approved groups. They do offer tours to school groups, as well as churches and criminal justice professionals, according to the prison’s official website. Granted, it’s probably not the type of tour suitable for kindergarteners, though, with that stop by the lethal injection table and all.

Sources: www.angolamuseum.org, www.vva.org

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year, New Name

During our long holiday a Meebo guest checked in to ask about choosing names. This patron did not specify if they were choosing names for a baby, puppy, or boat. But, if you are looking to name a new addition to your household, or just want to start the New Year with a new name, MLC has the book for you. Our books include The Best Baby Names in the World from Around the World, A World of Baby Names, The New Age Baby Name Book, to name a few. If you can’t come by, give us a call and we’ll be happy to choose a name for you. How does Rhoda sound?

Also, if you or someone in your family received an E-Reader for Christmas, you may be able to access some free e-books from your local public library. Madison County residents can use their E-Readers to download audio books from Madison County Library System. Click here to browse their online titles. If you have any questions about your e-reader or e-books, just give us a call or send an email and we’ll be happy to help.

Jackson Streetcar Map.

Does this 1912 streetcar map of Jackson intrigue you like it does me?




Click here to read the full story from Preservation in Mississippi.