Suburban Wildlife with a South American Twist

When school ended, the 10-year-old classroom degu (South American rat) came home with us. The teacher told us that Cedar, named for her reddish fur, might not survive the summer, given her advanced age, in which case we should freeze her (near the cool-pops?) until fall, when she would get a proper school funeral. I did not fall immediately in love with this creature, despite her being cute, caged, fairly clean, and friendly. Instead, I clicked into the Oxford English Dictionary, to learn that a degu is “a rat-like animal, rather smaller than the Water Vole, the head and body measuring from seven and a half to eight inches in length.” A definition often makes me fonder. Now I like Cedar, sort of, and having her around has made me curious about the new book Central Park in the Dark: More mysteries of urban wildlife. Who knows, maybe Cedar has dozens of cousins in New York City.

Choice Web Sites

Some of the best browsing you can find begins at aadl.org in the Research section. AADL Select Sites offers high quality Web sites on many topics, chosen by an AADL librarian. Click on the first topic that interests you. A great surprise for me was in History: Primary Sources, Making of America. It was a very readable digital copy of a June 1842 article, "Blindness and the Blind," in Southern Literary Messenger. I will be going back to this site a lot because there's something for everyone!

Find appropriate books and movies with DiscoveryJourney

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Want to know if there is sex, drugs, or offensive language in a book without having to read the whole thing? Check out the DiscoveryJourney website. DiscoveryJourney has reviews of many popular children's books and movies with listings of each incidence of violence, profanity, nudity, sexual content, scary elements, and the use of drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. It also suggests an appropriate age range for the intended audience.

DiscoveryJourney rates books and movies on each of ten character traits, including honesty, compassion, courage, and faith. The reviewers give positive and negative examples of each character trait. For example, in the review of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," Harry and his friends' bravery is listed as a positive example of courage, while Gilderoy Lockhart's behavior is listed as a negative example of courage. When rating morals or values, there are bound to be some personal differences of opinion, so use your own judgment when reading the reviews.

New Electronic Database: the Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary is now available online at all library locations and to Ann Arbor District Library cardholders from home or office. The Oxford English Dictionary is a historical dictionary providing the meaning, etymology, pronunciation, and usage for over half a million words from across the English-speaking world.

The advanced search offers some useful features. You can use wildcards in your search. The question mark, “?”, can be used to replace any one single character. The asterisk, “*”, can be used to represent any number of characters (or no character at all). In the advanced search you can combine two or more words in your search. You can use “and”, “or”, “and not”, and “near” to combine words. With “near” you can choose whether your search words need to appear within 1, 2, 5, or 10 words of each other.

If you want to find a word for a lover of words, then you can enter “love*”, select “near” and enter “words”, then choose within 2 words from the pull-down menu on the right.

The eight search results include logophile, defined as a lover of words.

Homework Helper on Steroids

If anyone you know will be writing research papers this year, be sure to tell them about Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. From Animal experimentation to War crimes, from Global warming to Same sex marriage, it's hard to imagine a topic not covered here, and hundreds of articles can be accessed.

Another of our gold-mine databases is General Reference Center Gold where as of today you will find 42,575,731 articles "updated as recently as recently as Sept. 11, 2007."

Rarely Seen are Now Readily Accessible

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This is not a zigzag bladderwort, it's a Blanchard's cricket frog, one of the more than 600 rare plants and animals featured in the new Michigan Rare Species Explorer. The curious of all ages can search by habitat, location, name, best time to view or browse the beautifully illustrated entries for all the species. Kudos to the team at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory for this wonderful new resource.

Define-a-thon!

Afraid you may be losing your perspicacity*? An opportunity to test yourself is just hours away. But what if the questions come from a guy who, according to an article in the New York Times, “has a tattoo of the phonetic vowel chart on his back”? Steve Kleinedler, owner of the aforementioned tattoo, will be presenting a Define-a-thon at the Ann Arbor Book Festival on Saturday, May 19. According to the article, Define-a-thons, sponsored by Houghton Mifflin’s American Heritage Dictionaries, are sweeping the nation, and attracting huge crowds to witness contestants battling for largest lexicon. I, for one, am relieved not to be competing—I had to keep dictionary.com open while reading the article—tintinnabulation, anyone?

*The first person to correctly identify this reference gets a prize**!
**The prize is the receipt of my approbation and obeisance.

One Hour to Better Job Interviews

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Considering a career or a career change? The experts at Manpower will discuss the do's, the don'ts, the strategies for successful job interviews. Learn how to prepare, how to interact, and how to follow-up with savvy and style. Join us Thursday, April 5th, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. in the Downtown Branch Freespace. Please call 327-4525 to register.

Mission: Organization

The staff at the library recently had a visit from local professional organizer, Carolyn Anderson-Fermann, who helped us to see that some of us are “innies” when it comes to organizing (we like things out of sight), and others are “outies” who’d prefer things out in the open… (and all over the floor).

For those of you who join me in the innie category, it’s time to squeal with delight: Martha the omnipotent has returned with a new book, sure to solve all our household woes: Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook. Clocking in at over 700 pages, the Handbook is getting great customer reviews on Amazon, where you can read portions of the text, and even take a peek at Martha’s Golden Rules of Kitchen Organization.

Innies, please join me in a cleansing deep breath.

Let’s Eat Out Tonight

Local governments provide a cornucopia of information for residents on the Internet. Here’s one that will help you make informed decisions about eating out. Washtenaw County provides Restaurant Inspection Reports for local restaurants, bars, night clubs, school cafeterias and more. Then you can check out the restaurants section at Arbor Web and leave those pots and pans for another night.

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