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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: facts, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 28
1.

BalloonTrees_128

Balloon Trees, the new title from Sylvan Dell, written by Danna Smith and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, reveals that the rubber that makes up balloons, balls, tires, shoes and many more things actually comes from trees! What other surprising things do you think trees give us?

The house you live in may be made from wood from trees; that’s obvious, but did you know that that house is filled with gifts from trees also? Do you like that your parents are less grumpy in the morning when they have their coffee? You can thank the coffee arabica tree for that, a 20 foot evergreen that grows in warm climates of the world. A cup of hot cocoa has made a long journey from cocoa trees along the equator to reach your kitchen. Maple syrup, cinnamon, fruits, nuts, and many more delicious items also come from trees.

Ever wonder how jelly candies get so goopy and great? Check the ingredients and you’ll find “gum arabic” in the list. Gum arabic is hardened sap from an acacia tree, and it’s used in foods like desserts to lend its goopy texture to them. It is also a key ingredient in glues, paints, and many other products that manufacturers want to make ‘slimy,’ ‘goopy,’ or ‘jelly.’

“Cellulose” is part of the ‘skin’ of trees, and when manufactured it can become “Rayon” clothing to make our own skin warmer. Cellulose is even an ingredient in foods and beauty products, lending its texture to them to make them ‘thicker’ or ‘heavier.’ When fat is removed from some “diet” or “fat-free” products, cellulose is often added to try and make the food ‘feel’ the same in a person’s mouth as before. 

Trees also give us many kinds of medicine, such as aspirin, and even the first medicine for fighting malaria, “quinine.” If you’ve read our book, The Most Dangerous, you know how harmful the mosquito-spread disease malaria can be. Without the discovery of quinine from Peruvian trees, malaria would have harmed that many more people, and maybe even changed world history! Soldiers in WWII that fought in the Pacific jungles took quinine everyday, and it helped the building of the Panama Canal, and the Dutch and English to build their historical empires!

Of course, this is only the beginning of the gifts that trees give us. Say “thank you” back, by planting a tree, or at least reading a Sylvan Dell book under the shade of one!


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2. The Quantum Classroom

public_domain_astronomy_23

Quick! What’s behind you right now? Did you peek over to see desks, the wallpaper, students, books, or toys? Were those objects there even before you looked at them? Are they there now, even though you’re reading this instead of seeing them? As strange as it sounds, some scientists believe that nothing exists definitely until someone measures it, such as you did with your eyes and ears. These scientists work in a field of science called Quantum Mechanics.

In the early 1900s, smarty-pants scientists like Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Werner Heisenberg studied, experimented and argued over the question of what light was made of. Light was very mysterious to scientists at the time, because in some experiments it acted like a wave, similar to the invisible radio and magnetic waves all around us. In other experiments though, light acted like a particle, a solid object like a Pop Tart, a textbook, a penny, a skyscraper… Anything that’s in one place and that weighs something is a particle. It didn’t seem to make sense for something to be an invisible wave and a solid particle at the same time, but in test after test, light was both! You might think it was time for these scientists to turn in their labcoats and get new jobs… this was too hard to figure out! Instead of giving up though, the scientists continued experimenting and studying the subject until they found a solution: light is a wave until it gets observed, then it becomes a solid particle!

This was huge news for scientists. If light acts like this, then other solid objects may not be so solid after all too. The scientists studying Quantum Mechanics presented this thought-provoking possibility: that that the world is actually a wave of possibilities until we observe it, then it becomes the solid place we can feel, touch, taste and smell. It’s a bit like hiding trash under your bed: if you can’t see it, it’s not there!


1 Comments on The Quantum Classroom, last added: 1/31/2013
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3. How not to write about libraries – some guidelines for reporters

We get it. Times are tough. The public sphere is shrinking in the US and elsewhere. Libraries are around and open, doing stuff. Their funding cycle is cyclical and short and up to the whims of various people, sometimes mysterious. The public library system belongs to everyone. There is a lot to talk about; a lot of things happen there. Many people have strong opinions about how public spaces are used and public money is spent and about the library in specific. You have a 24 hour news cycle, with pages or screens to fill. That’s terrific. We’re often happy for the attention.

At the same time, there are a few tropes that do none of us any favors. You look like people who haven’t done your research or who go for the easy cliche and we look like people who can’t take a well-meaning joke (which we’ve heard for the thousandth time). Let’s get to a place where we’re all feeling good about the whole endeavor. Here are some suggestions. Hope this list, patterned off of How Not To Write Comics Criticism, is helpful. It’s called

How Not To Write About Libraries

1. Your library joke is tired, even if it’s new to you

It is almost impossible for you to make a library play on words that has not been done a million times before, even something that sounds contemporary like riffing off of “adult graphic novels”. You’re probably annoyed that you got the job writing about the library funding crisis but don’t take it out on us. Notify the headline writer also, please. We know you’re doing your best but we should never see “turns the page” or “starts a new chapter” when a new building is built or a librarian gets a new job, retires, or dies, or any sort of bun/shush/dewey/cat pun again ever. That “Overdue book returned years late” story? Heard it. Thank you.

2. Quit it with the wardrobe policing

You try working nights and weekends in a landmark building with a heating and cooling system that dates back to Carnegie times. Dressing in wool and layers is practical and smart, as is keeping your hair out of your face when you might have to crawl under a desk to fuss with a computer. Sixty-four percent of Americans wear eyeglasses, that number jumps to 90% after age 49. We’re not absurdly myopic from all that reading, we’re normal. Saying “OMG they can be sexy too!” is not actually a good response to this; as professions go we’ve always been pretty anti-censorship and sex positive.

3. We’re not all women, not even close

In 2008 the gender split among new grads was 80% female, 20% male. Last year it was more like 78% to 22% and the female/male gap is shrinking. We come from many ethnic backgrounds and we speak many languages. We date and marry people of many genders. A good number of us are just out of library school and share the characteristics of other people in our cohort: tattoos, body jewelry, a penchant for cocktails. Many of us are not just out of library school and enjoy the same things. Nothing unusual. Diversity of all kinds is important in any sort of public service position when you work for the entire public; please try to respect and represent the diversity of our population as it exists in the actual world not as it existed in the movies thirty or even fifty years ago.

4. Many different people work in a library building

This frequently comes up when there is a crime or another scandal at a library and someone gets interviewed who is invariably called “a librarian” and is later revealed to be a page, a volunteer, or maybe just an interested and chatty patron. Librarians (usually) work in libraries, but not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. There are many schools of thought on the importance of these distinctions and while we don’t expect you understand the subtle nuances of the differences between a reference librarian and a cataloger, or a circulation clerk and a shelver, it’s simply important to know that there are many different jobs within the library and not all of them are “librarian” and if you are not sure what the job title is of the person you spoke with, you should ask them. Many professional librarians, though not all, have Master’s degrees from accredited institutions. People call this level of graduate education “library school” and graduates have degrees ranging from MLib. (mine) to MSIS to MLS to MLIS.

5. There are some amazing things hidden in special collections

…and your chances of getting to see them diminish if you continually represent library archives as dusty, musty, smelly, unkempt, or populated entirely with hobbits and wizard-beings, strange and unknowable creatures unschooled in human customs. Introduce yourself and spend some time there and you’re likely to see some amazing things and learn some nifty things about your location, your neighbors or your academic institution.

6. No one with any credibility thinks “It’s all on the internet” and there are reasons why it isn’t

This is an untrue straw man argument, so you don’t have to keep bringing it up. There is a strong case to be made that the push for increasing digitization will be a net good for a society that is increasingly looking to satisfy their information needs online. However we are far from that point now, the digital divide is real and formidable. The vendor-based silos of information which are inaccessible without a payment or a password vex us as much as, if not more than, they vex you. We are trying to help people access the information they want and need. We’re sorry that the shift to digital content is causing trouble for some businesses’ bottom line, but we’ve always been publishers’ best customers and that will change only if they force it to. We would prefer that digital rights management were less onerous too. We would be happy to talk with you at length about why it’s easier to buy something from Amazon.com for personal use than it is to borrow it from the library on your Kindle. Blame copyright and capitalism, not the library.

7. The money thing is complicated, take some time to understand it

Libraries are funded differently from state to state and sometimes from county to county. Reporting on a funding “crisis” when it’s just a possible budget adjustment does us all a disservice with the “sky is falling” approach. Giving people real information about what is happening with and to the budget, and why, would be a great service. More information less doomsaying please. And, as always, if you need the numbers we’ll be happy to give them to you. They’re public. Public libraries have regular meetings of the library board that are open to the public and worth attending if this sort of thing piques your interest.

8. Not all libraries are public libraries

I work in a public library and so I fall into this trap myself. The public library system in the US is a sort of amazing decentralized mutual aid sort of creation, but it’s not the only library system in the US. School libraries and academic (college and university) libraries and law libraries and medical/hospital libraries and other special libraries all have their own systems and procedures and governing bylaws and mission statements and professional associations. Make sure that you are not reporting on one and ascribing it the values and traditions of another entirely different type of library.

9. The entire public is welcome in the public library

…including types of people you may dislike or find distasteful. And possibly including people who find you distasteful. With few exceptions people who are spending entire days or weeks in the library or who are looking at things on their computer screen that people might feel they should be viewing in private are doing so because they lack better or more genuine options. This is a larger societal problem and we are trying to help, making the best of a difficult situation within the structure of our mission statement and policies and procedures. The situation is complicated and deserves a better treatment than the usual “Porn in the library!” headline-grabbers.

10. Libraries are full of joyful noise

Not always, but often enough to say goodbye to the tut-tutting and the shushing and the QUIET PLEASE canards. While we try to have spaces that can accommodate quiet reading as well as rambunctious storytimes and group projects, libraries’ approaches to this are as varied as our buildings. Libraries are more popular than ever by most measures of library popularity and are still tremendously well-loved cultural institutions that are available to and for every single person. The reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated, especially on the internet.

However it is true that most of us like cats and mostly do not hate Wikipedia.

Here are some more pointers to places to get good, factual information about libraries in the US.

- ALA’s Library Bill of Rights
- ALA Library Fact Sheets
- ALA’s research and statistics section including the Library ROI bibliography
- IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) reports
- ALA’s State of American Libraries report
- Library Journal’s Placement and Salaries Survey

All images come from the Library of Congress’s Prints & Photographs Online Catalog and have no known restrictions on publication. Article specifically inspired by this tweet. Thanks to Andy Woodworth for reading the draft.

18 Comments on How not to write about libraries – some guidelines for reporters, last added: 9/20/2012
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4. Fact, Fiction, Life

My latest Strange Horizons column is about John D'Agata and Jim Fingal's book The Lifespan of a Fact, which has been provoking a lot of discussion.

My favorite of the responses to the book is Ander Monson's "The Skeptical Gaze", because not only has Monson read Lifespan with some care (which cannot be said for many of the people punditing about it), but he's also done some wonderful work himself to explore the possibilities and boundaries of fact and fiction (I wrote about his excellent book Vanishing Point a couple years ago for Strange Horizons). (Pardon another parenthetical, but I also want to add that comparisons between Mike Daisy and John D'Agata are superficial and fundamentally wrongheaded, as Josh Voorhees pointed out at Slate. Daisy hid his lying and worked hard to do so, D'Agata has put his fictionalizing front and center and let the world respond. I wrote the column before the Daisy scandal broke, however.)

Anyway, my own take on The Lifespan of a Fact was written about a month ago, but for scheduling reasons couldn't be published till now, so it feels a little bit superfluous to the conversation. I'm glad it's out there nonetheless, because I don't think mine is quite the same perspective as many of the others.

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5. Five Facts You Don’t Know About Humans

1. More than half the bones found in your entire body is located in your hands and feet.

2. We are all colorblind at birth.

3. Blood is actually and organ.

4. When born we have 350 bones but when fully grown we only have 206

5. Research has shown that guilt damages your immune system. Spell check won’t let me type the reason why. 

6. We are basically water bags, 70% of our body is water.

7. We take about 600,000,000 breaths a lifetime.

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6. Five Facts You Don’t Know About Humans

1. More than half the bones found in your entire body is located in your hands and feet.

2. We are all colorblind at birth.

3. Blood is actually and organ.

4. When born we have 350 bones but when fully grown we only have 206

5. Research has shown that guilt damages your immune system. Spell check won’t let me type the reason why. 

6. We are basically water bags, 70% of our body is water.

7. We take about 600,000,000 breaths a lifetime.

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7. The future of the ebook

I recently attended a course on ebooks through Simon Fraser University’s summer publishing program (I recommend this program for those interested in publishing).  There were great presentations and inspiring discussions about the future of the ebook.  With Amazon’s Kindle, the Sony Reader and the recent launch of Shortcovers all claiming success, it certainly appears that ebooks have entered the mainstream. There seems to be a great deal of debate about whether this is a good thing or not.

There are predictions of the death of the print book, but these predictions have been around for a couple of decades now, and I haven’t been invited to any funerals yet.  Of course I’m biased.  I love print books and I’m certain I’m not alone in this. Besides – an electronic reader in the bathtub? That strikes me as unsafe.

There are some interesting things going on in the world of digitization. Textbooks and computer manuals have been widely available in digital formats for quite some time, of course, but the new options for your average reader are really interesting. Bookglutton is a site where readers can not only read books for free, but comment on them as they read.  A US company, Hol Art books has a fascinating project on the go. They are allowing authors to post book proposals onto their website. Readers can comment on the project and even become participants in the development of the finished book.

Everybody seems to have smart phones these days, and ebook retailers have created applications for reading books on the little gadgets.  It seems silly to those of us who love books, but it got me thinking about those teens I see everywhere plugged into their phones. Would a book on an Iphone appeal more to these kids than a book in the library?

Like it or not, the publishing industry seems to be edging its way toward digitization and Orca Book Publishers has joined in. We proceed with care,  mindful of copyright issues Currently our books are available in rights managed PDF format through a number of channels. If you want a particular title in ebook format, just gooogle the title with the word ebook. Most recently we have ordered over 200 titles to be converted into epubs and xml files (xml is a system of tagging documents – boring but useful).  Many of our books are available through Tumblebooks, an online read-a-long program.

It’s a mysterious process, so far, this digitization of books, but an exciting one as well. I have visions of the family cell phone plan being used for a shared reading experience – everyone reads a chapter on their way home from school or work and talks about it over dinner.  Busy teachers can download books onto their phone so they can get caught up on classroom prep while they wait in line at the grocery store. There’s a whole world of possibilities out there.

What’s possible is not always what’s probable though. It really is up to readers to decide how ebooks are used. What I’m most interested in is what you think. Are any of you reading digital books? Are you using the readers, your phone, a PC? What works for you? What doesn’t? Not interested in posting to the blog? Send me an email melanie@orcabook.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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8. Where is the End of a Rainbow?

Ok, when you were a child or even an adult have you ever wondered why you cannot ever seem to reach the end of a rainbow?

Rainbows are formed when light reflects off droplets of water.

This causes the light to seperate into it’s original colours. For those of you who do not know, ‘plain’ light consists of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light all combined together to form what we know as being white light. This process is called refraction and it basically reverse engineers light to it’s original colours and makes it visible. Now you know why you see the colours of the rainbow.

A rainbow does not actually exist at a specific point in the sky, it is the person looking at the rainbow which decides it’s apparent position and this is why it is always moving when you move, or at least until there is now more rain or the sky darkens.

So, now that we have established that you could never reach the end of a rainbow because it never has an end, let me tell you about rainbows.

If you want to see an amazing rainbow, you should go somewhere where there are rainclouds and it is still dark but the sun is starting to rise (dawn preferably). This would allow you to see for only a few minutes a spectacular rainbow, it’s colours would be very rich and vivid as it is contrasted to a dark background.

On some very rare occasions, most commonly in Alaska, moonbows can be seen. This is an incredibly rare phenomena that usually only occurs a few times every year as it needs rain and a very bright moon. This does not mean a clear sky, it actually involves the position of the earth on it’s axis of rotation and how close it is too the moon before a clear sky is even taken into account.

If you were to rent an airplane and be lucky enough to see a rainbow from the sky, you would see a complete circle. This is because you are looking directly onto the light and water droplets instead of looking at them from an angle which only allows you to see half of the rainbow.

So, that’s it! I’m all done with rainbows.. for now anyway. I would have made this a lengthier article but i tried doing some research on the science behind rainbows.. My head felt like it was going to explode, it is very complicated!

Anyway, i hope you have enjoyed this article and maybe it has helped to enlighten you as to the whereabouts of the end of a rainbow. Nowhere.

*Just incase you haven’t figured out that there is no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, purely because there is no end to a rainbow !

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9. February is African American History Month

In 1926 Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson and other African American and white scholars, launched “Negro History Week” so that Americans could reflect on the history and contributions of African Americans.  In 1976, the Bicentennial (200th birthday) of the U.S.A., the week-long observance was extended to the entire month of February in order to have enough time for celebratory programs and activities.

We are pleased to announce that Media Meltdown is on the Graphic Novels for African American History Month list.

Media Meltdown follows the adventures of a group of kids who have discovered that a local  developer is up to no good, and he is getting away with it because he’s a heavy advertiser with the town’s only media company. Working together Pema, Bounce, and Jagroop use web and media technologies to make their own media and to show everyone the truth.  Bounce is African American.

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10. Roman Toilets

J. C. McKeown is a Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  His new book, A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World’s Greatest Empire, is a collection carefully gleaned from the wide body of evidence left to us by the Romans themselves.  Each fact or opinion highlights a curious feature of life in ancient Rome.  Below we have excerpted some tidbits from the chapter on Roman toilets.

The Romans were justly proud of their extensive system of aqueducts.  Frontinus boasts, Could you compare with all these many massive and serviceable acqueducts the useless pyramids or the famous but idle works of the Greeks?  (On the Water-Supply of Rome 1.16).  Much of the water from the aqueducts was used to keep the public toilets clean, maintaining a constant flow through these facilities directly to the sewers and on to the Tiber.

According to the notitia regionum, an early-4th-century A.D. catalog of the city’s buildings and landmarks, Rome then had 144 public latrinae.

The standard of engineering in Roman latrinae was not achieved again in Europe until the 19th century.

Just as aqueducts provided an abundant water supply, so a certain degree of sanitation was ensured by the system of sewers, especially the Cloaca Maxima (Main Drain).  Begun in the city’s earliest times, it was much admired in antiquity, and is still, to a very limited degree, operational today.

Until recently, not much research was done on ancient toilets.  Archaeologists were often reluctant to identify them for what they are.  Likewise, in antiquity, Vitruvius and Frontinus were very reticent about waste disposal in the influential treatises on architecture and aqueducts, respectively.

Almost all the private houses excavated in Herculaneum and Pompeii had toilet facilities, often in the kitchen or under the stairs; there is little evidence for doors to these cubbyholes.

At the animal-fighting recently, one of the Germans who was getting ready for the show withdrew to relieve himself – that was the only privacy he had, away from his guard.  There he choked himself to death by ramming down his throat the stick with a sponge attached that is provided for personal hygiene (Seneca…).  Remnants of sponges have been discovered in a Roman sewer at York in northern England.

Apollinaris medicus Titi Imp. hic cacavit bene (“Apollinarius, physician to the emperor Titus, had a find shit here”) (Corpus of Latin Inscriptions… a graffito in the Casa della Gemma in Herculaneum).

I do not think that silver chamber pots are included with heirlooms, since they are not part of the silver collection (Justinian’s Digest…).  This legal ruling presumably exists because chamber pots were often made of silver.  Even gold ones are mentioned occasionally; most notoriously, Mark Anthony was criticized for using one (Pliny Natural History…).

The Emperor August Caesar, son of a god, Pontifex Maximus, designated

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11. Celebrate Celebtritrees!

In the wake of @Charlie Sheen taking over Twitter and apparently #winning, Lindsay Lohan and the case of the missing jewels, and the myriad of other famous folks whose lives have gone awry it got me thinking about a different kind of celebrity. The kind that deserves every ounce of their popularity and stature.

I'm talking about trees. Celebritrees!

Duh.

So instead of sticking your tots in front of the mindless updates that Extra gives us, share with them some deserving celebs! The trees featured in this book have earned their title for their global fame and significance. Both in fact and in legend, these fascinating trees remind us not only how much pleasure trees bring, but what they can tell us about history.

And that is what I call #winning.

Happy reading!

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12. Is coffee the greatest addiction ever?

Some of you may know that today is National Coffee Day. I've, personally, been trying to ignore the free/discounted offers around New York City since I'm trying to cut back, and decided to distract myself by putting together this quick video post about coffee and caffeine. Now, I would be reimiss if I did not first mention the fantastic book Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine by Stephen Braun. This is a

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13. Traditions

We still have all our Christmas decorations up; as it's another tradition I hold fast to. My youngest son's birthday is in January and we customarily keep the decorations up until after his birthday. It's so hard to put everything away and go back to being what feels like bare though it's far from it. That and the fact that due to the "project" I can't get to my Christmas boxes yet. Yippee, I can put it off until next weekend!

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14. When the Facts Change



My poetry book And Then There Were Eight: Poems About Space might be inaccurate already or soon. Some poems it contains are silly and are not intended to be factual, like this one:



Here, Girl!

She rolls
   and roams
      and wags her tail
She never needs to see the vet


I love her
   silver
      shiny coat
She's my planetary pet!

Caption: The mars Lander explores Mars.

But other poems are intended to be both fun and accurate, like this one:

Then There Were Eight

Poor ball of ice, we know you exist; but you're
Little and solid and we must insist on
Undoing the past, so though you'll be missed, we've
Taken you 
Off of the "real planet" list

Caption: Pluto was removed from the list of planets in 2006.


My friend Vijaya Bodach emailed me last week with a link to this Associated Press story that mentions the number of planets--and it's not eight! The article states, in part: 

"National Geographic Children's Books created the contest in response to the recent announcement by the scientific community that there are now 11 recognized planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Eris."

Dang. Now what? First, I don't even know if this is true. I couldn't find any other mention of this new announcement, including at the site of the International Astronomical Union, the group that makes these kind of decisions. So maybe this is just rumor. Or a group of dissenting scientists?

But either way, it brings the question to mind: What do you do when you have a factual book and then the facts change? Does your book become a quaint relic? Do publishers reprint the book (only if it was selling very well, I assume)? I would guess science writers who write on cutting edge topics face this hazard all the time. I'd love to hear about your experiences.

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15. Making Change…

There is a lot of talk about change at the moment with elections on both sides of the border. Want real change? Then Bilaal Rajan’s your man! Bilaal is the author of the just released book - Making Change: Tips from an Underage Overachiever.

Bilaal has recently been named one of the Top Twenty Under Twenty and is the current UNICEF Child Ambassador. Bilaal also holds the title of “Youngest Orca Author.” Watch the video below to learn more about him.

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16. Tagged X 4!

I was tagged by Josh Pincus, Joanie (Applehead Art), Merdith Gimbel and Carli (Carli's Corner) to reveal 7 facts about myself, then pass the torch to 7 others. So here goes:
1) I would love to post some of my art in my blog header, but there is some glitch in my blog that has repeated the header under the header, so if I add artwork to the header, it shows up in code in the repeated header under it (see above where it repeats "Kathleen Rietz - Artist / my creative diary" under the header). I have tried to get rid of the repeated words, but they won't go away. So I feel my blog looks rather.....boring.
2) I have always loved wearing brown, even as a child.
3) I like flax seed oil, salt, pepper and raw sunflower seeds in my grits (yes, I am a Northern girl who eats grits). How do you like yours?
4) I have never spent a night in a hospital.
5) I have to consciously try not to swallow my gum...yes, it is a bad habit....and no, it does not stay in your stomach for 7 years.
6) I still have my tonsils.
7) I used to be part of a women's jail ministry team for about 3 or 4 years. It was a co-ed jail. It was a very enlightening experience.
Okay, I tag:
Julia Freund
messy jessie
Bill Ross
Josh Musarter
Elizabeth Metz
Phyllis Harris
Flower Girl

10 Comments on Tagged X 4!, last added: 12/4/2008
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17. Gutenberg would breathe a sigh of relief

Johannes Gutenberg would be pleased. The German goldsmith (1398-1468), who invented the printing press in 1439, can rest easy in his grave. Computers will never replace print, avers Jeremy Klaszus in the Calgary-based Fast Forward Weekly. Never mind those exciting paperback thrillers that it’s fun to cuddle up by the fire on a rainy day –  as one news vendor points out, even a good-sized newspaper would be too much for your eyes if you tried to read it all onscreen.

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18. A glimmer of hope for Spotty

In Summer of the Spotted Owl, Dinah Galloway and her buddies save a family of spotted owls from crooked developers in the North Vancouver rainforest. Spotted owls are among the world’s most endangered animals – but they just got a glimmer of hope. In a recent story, the Los Angeles Times reported: “President Obama [recently] overrode the Bush administration on a key step in applying the Endangered Species Act, restoring a requirement that federal agencies consult with experts before launching construction projects that could affect the well-being of threatened species.” CTV News recommended Summer of the Spotted Owl for young readers seeking to learn about fragile ecosystems.

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19. Read out loud.

We have a poster at work that is titled “Unlucky Arithmetic; Thirteeen Ways to Raise a Nonreader”. It really reminds me that there are many different ways to raise a reader despite the poster outlining what not to do (Here is a pdf version of the  poster). I think the point of the poster is to show us that reading should be fun and varied. There isn’t a right way to read.. any reading is the right way. 

There is a little article here where Frieda Wishinsky which outlines her ideas for successful reading out loud and the benefits it has for the upcoming generation of readers. Enjoy!

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20. 2009 International Reading Association Conference

We recently attended the 2009 International Reading Association Conference. While we were there middle school media specialist Cathy Nelson was kind enough to talk about her experiences using Orca Books with her students (on film).

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21. Just the Facts, Ma'am

I’m always working to catch up on the ever-increasing pile of New Yorkers at my house (or as one of their cartoon captions once said, “How is never? Is never good for you?”). But I’ve just read a great article in the February 9/16, 2009 issue by John McPhee about fact-checking. And fact-checking in particular at the New Yorker.

The prowess of NY’s fact-checkers is legend, perhaps matched only by National Geographic. I used to work for some of Nat Geo’s publications and remember hearing the following story more than once. (Is it true or urban myth? I did hear it from an editor there, but that hearsay source wouldn’t satisfy a real fact checker!)

Anyway, a writer returned from Africa where he was researching a story about elephants. Supposedly he went to the fact-checker’s office and plunked a bag on her desk. I’ll be writing about the color and smell of elephant dung, he said, and knew you would demand verification.

It’s a funny story, but it also seems a bit hostile. I can understand that. Sometimes fact-checkers can be a little too precise. Their exacting minds can take the fun or magic out of things. In my book On This Spot, I was describing a prehistoric bloodbath and wrote, “Meanwhile a phytosaur was slipping into a shallow lake. When he opened his jaws, nearly 170 teeth swam toward a giant amphibian called a metoposaur. The fact-checker’s comment? “Must change, teeth can not swim.” (ps. Poetic license won the day.)

But I think the hostility in that Nat Geo story actually comes from the fact that it’s embarrassing to be caught with your pants down—to be wrong about something, especially when it’s your business to be right. I’ve felt that flash of embarrassment, maybe even a touch of hostility. But within seconds, I am profoundly grateful that the fact-checker has saved my butt. I pride myself on doing good research, but I’ve messed up more than once. Like the time the tour guide at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (which houses NASA's Educator Resource Center) said that NASA had the disposable diaper developed for the space program. Sounded good to me until the wonderful Janet Pascal, fact-checking my Truth About Poop manuscript, gave me the URL for the “Diaper Evolution Time Line” and I realized babies were wearing Pampers before Alan Shepard.

Three cheers for fact-checkers! It’s expensive, but I wish all publishers used them. You can’t have too many eyes on a page.

Ps. Then there’s the other problem—NO ONE has the right fact. That book On This Spot took a place in Lower Manhattan all the way back in geologic time to the very beginning—or at least, to when the earth was just rock, water and a dusting of algae. When was it? The top guy at Columbia gave me one date. The Harvard expert gave me another. They were many millions of years apart. And it didn’t seem as if conventional thinking took one side. What do you do?

6 Comments on Just the Facts, Ma'am, last added: 6/14/2009
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22. How Amazing is That?

Continuing on the theme of “great discoveries while researching…”

I have found so many weirdly wonderful facts while researching that I don’t even know where to start. Some are hilarious; some are profound. Some are both. Think about this one, which I discovered while writing The Truth About Poop: When they are upset, chimps who have been taught sign language (but not in this context) indicate their frustration by making the sign for poop.

But perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve discovered while researching kids books and magazine articles from my previous career is that just about everything is interesting. Everything, as long as I can understand it. There have been many times when I started a project (especially assigned ones) thinking ho, hum. But once I started looking around, asking questions, sinking into that world—it was fascinating.

Iris breeders not only know all about genetics and beauty, they also have a microcosm as complete as any society with the conservatives and the radicals and the innovators and the ideologues and all the feelings that past between them. Allowing hunters to cull herds of bison or elk might actually be the most humane thing people can do to prevent disease and starvation. A bunch of guys got together in Philadelphia a few hundred years ago and, by cherrypicking an idea here from Rome and there from France, managed to create the principles of a nation. We all know how hard it is to research an idea and come up with a decent book. How did they pull that off?

Once you look at something, really look at it, it is fascinating. No matter how big or how small, the whole world is in it.

How incredible is that?

5 Comments on How Amazing is That?, last added: 7/12/2009
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23. 10 Fun Facts I Bet You Didn’t Know!

10. Coconut crabs will climb coconut trees to eat

9. An Octopus has 4 different hearts.

8. There are more stars in the universe then grains of sand on earth. (O.o)

7. It takes an oysters take about 5 years to make a pearl

6. The first cell phone ever made weighted 1 kg.

5.  No words rhyme with purple or orange.

4. Dogs can smell cancer, and low blood sugar levels.

3. Animals can rain the sky.

2. It’s possible to have an erection after death.

1. Your heart beats 10,00 times a day.

If you want you can post some of your interesting facts in the comments.

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24. Interesting 1500’s Trivia


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Have you ever thought about how things were in the 1500’s compared to now?  Here are a few facts you may not know about.

  1. Where did the saying “dirt poor” come from?
  2. How did the saying “bring home the bacon” get started?
  3. I am sure you have heard “raining cats and dogs”, but where did it originate?
  4. Where did the tradition of brides carrying a bouquet of flowers at a wedding come from?
  5. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” sounds peculiar right?  Well how did this saying get started?
  6. What do you think their food customs were like?

Now, let’s see if you got the answers correct!

  1. “Dirt poor” was when poor people had dirt floors.  Those that had money were able to obtain something to cover the dirt, but those that were poor were stuck with the dirt.
  2. The more wealthy people were able to buy pork, and when visitors would come they would hang up the bacon to show off.  The owners of the meat would cut a little piece off to share with their guests who weren’t as financially endowned.
  3. In houses that had thatched roofs, they had straw piled up high with no wood underneath, is where they kept their animals.  When it would rain it would become slippery and the animals would sometimes fall.
  4.  Back in the 1500’s, people would take a yearly bath.  A wedding would usually take place in July because the bride would take her yearly bath in May, and so by July she would not smell too horrible.  To help cover up the smell, the bride would carry a bouquet of flowers when they got married.
  5. When they took their yearly bath in the 1500’s,  they took them in a big tub filled with hot water.  They would not empty the water out until everyone was finished.  The man of the house was first, followed by other males and older sons, then the women and children.  They kept the babies until the end, when the water was at its dirtiest.  It was said to be so dirty that they could lose someone in it, and there was born the saying.
  6. The wealthy people were able to buy plates made of pewter.  Food with lots of acid would cause some lead to get into the food, which caused lead poisoning.  Needless to say, for about 400 years, tomatoes were considered poisonous. 

Another interesting fact about food:

Bread was divided by status.  Workers got the burnt bottom of the bread.  Family members got the middle of the bread.  Guests got the top, or the upper crust of the bread.   

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25. Interesting 1500’s Trivia


Image Source

Have you ever thought about how things were in the 1500’s compared to now?  Here are a few facts you may not know about.

  1. Where did the saying “dirt poor” come from?
  2. How did the saying “bring home the bacon” get started?
  3. I am sure you have heard “raining cats and dogs”, but where did it originate?
  4. Where did the tradition of brides carrying a bouquet of flowers at a wedding come from?
  5. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” sounds peculiar right?  Well how did this saying get started?
  6. What do you think their food customs were like?

Now, let’s see if you got the answers correct!

  1. “Dirt poor” was when poor people had dirt floors.  Those that had money were able to obtain something to cover the dirt, but those that were poor were stuck with the dirt.
  2. The more wealthy people were able to buy pork, and when visitors would come they would hang up the bacon to show off.  The owners of the meat would cut a little piece off to share with their guests who weren’t as financially endowned.
  3. In houses that had thatched roofs, they had straw piled up high with no wood underneath, is where they kept their animals.  When it would rain it would become slippery and the animals would sometimes fall.
  4.  Back in the 1500’s, people would take a yearly bath.  A wedding would usually take place in July because the bride would take her yearly bath in May, and so by July she would not smell too horrible.  To help cover up the smell, the bride would carry a bouquet of flowers when they got married.
  5. When they took their yearly bath in the 1500’s,  they took them in a big tub filled with hot water.  They would not empty the water out until everyone was finished.  The man of the house was first, followed by other males and older sons, then the women and children.  They kept the babies until the end, when the water was at its dirtiest.  It was said to be so dirty that they could lose someone in it, and there was born the saying.
  6. The wealthy people were able to buy plates made of pewter.  Food with lots of acid would cause some lead to get into the food, which caused lead poisoning.  Needless to say, for about 400 years, tomatoes were considered poisonous. 

Another interesting fact about food:

Bread was divided by status.  Workers got the burnt bottom of the bread.  Family members got the middle of the bread.  Guests got the top, or the upper crust of the bread.   

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