Saturday, December 10, 2011


Finals week. So do not have time for this. But I have to return books to the library, so I guess I'd better mention I read:

"500 Handmade Books": My only complaint about this book is that it itself was not handmade.

"SanterĂ­a": I would like to say that I respect all religions. But animal sacrifices and worshipping gods with venereal disease? Umm... okay.

"The Alloy of Law": The "this is a stand-alone" statements had all better be BOLD-FACED LIES. C'mon.

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance": Enough has been written about this book over the years. Two comments: 1) Paranoid schizophrenia is not kind to its sufferers (Or... their families). 2) As I shut this book, I looked out the window and I saw a sign for Quality Inn.


Yeah, I don't know either.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Pig War by Betty Baker

I actually detest most children's books. They commonly fall into the trap where the author believes that since the audience is a young child, they aren't looking for literary value, but rather "fun" and simple words. "Fun" words include but are not limited to forced rhymes (including a word "rhyming" with itself), words that end in "-ie" or "-ey", excessive alliteration, repeating repeating repeating repeating words, or other verbal obnoxities.

What the author isn't taking into account is that at most ages, the kid isn't reading the book alone. And kids don't read a book once. They latch onto their favorite(s) and make the parent/older sibling/babysitter read it ad nauseam. Except kids are IMMUNE to nauseam. Little punks.

I should've accidentally destroyed this one book maliciously after little little brother got bored with it (after a period of about three years) before little sister became obsessed with it (for a period of about three years).

Sometimes, in the dead of night, the words still haunt me: "Chick with the bow and the bunny are looking as hard as can be/ for chick with the bow's baby sister!/ Oh where oh where could that chick be?"

I don't know. I. Just. Don't. Know.  (Okay, actually she's in the hayloft with the rooster.)

In the words of Gru from "Despicable Me": "You call this LITERATURE?"

But THIS. This book is something I wouldn't mind reading a few dozen times to the ferocious little beasts, I mean, lovely children.

"The Pig War" is a true historical account (though some liberties may have been taken with the characters; I'm not sure) of a territory dispute between Britain and America over some islands off the coast of Washington state. Yes, there really WAS a Pig War. The only casualty was a single pig. It's a great story, and it's told in simple enough (though not gag-inducing) language so that kids could follow along and/or read it for themselves.

Instead of exchanging gunfire, the combatants threw potatoes at each other. Then they realized they were fighting over trivialities and worked together to stay fed through the winter.

Scratch that. This book isn't for kids. This is for the WORLD. Someone put potatoes in the Defense budget. Everyone, make nice with your neighbors.

And that, folks, is all.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Weld 29 Metals

The extensive mechanical engineering section has limited options, because most of the books are either longer than "War and Peace" or are so technical it would be the equivalent of me picking a book from the Japanese section and attempting to understand the characters.

Luckily, this handy little volume caught my eye. "How to Weld 29 Metals" is, well, just that. I learned that low-carbon steel is pretty much a welder's dream, whereas high carbon steel makes arc welders cry. Well, not really, but it does require a little more cajoling (heat treatment, etc.)

Here's me experimenting with techniques I learned in the manual. (Just kidding, it's some other guy.)

So I know the burning question in all of your minds is: what are the twenty-nine metals? (And for Sanderson fans, what are their Allomantic properties?)

1. Low Carbon Steels
2. Medium Carbon Steels
3. High Carbon Steels
4. 3 1/2% Nickel Steels
5. 4 to 6% Chromium Steels
6. Cromansil Steels
7. Man-ten Steel
8. Cor-ten Steel
9. Yoloy Steel
10. Yoloy Steel
11. R.D.S. Steel
12. Chrome-Vanadium Steels
13. Chrome-Molybdenum Steels
14. Manganese-Vanadium Steels
15. 12-14% Chromium Stainless Steels, 16-18% Chromium Stainless Steels
16. 18% Chrome–8% Nickel Stainless Steel, 25% Chrome–12% Nickel Stainless Steel
17. Stainless Clad Steel

Okay, right now the word "steel" looks like gibberish to me.

18. Austenitic Manganese Steels
19. Cast Steel
20. Cast Irons
21. Malleable Iron
22. Aluminum
23. Copper
24. Everdur
25. Herculoy
26. Monel Metal
27. Nickel
28. Bronze
29. Brass

No, Everdur and Herculoy were not just stuck in there to see if you were paying attention; they are actual industry name for metals, copper-silicon-manganese and copper-silicon-tin alloys, respectively. 

To weld, you deposit molten metal (usually of the same variety) on the melted surface of the joint. 

This is from; the book didn't actually contain any visuals of this.

Some metals are actually pretty wacky to deal with. Aluminum, for example, does not show any visible change as it melts (you know, like iron turns red, then white hot). Instead, it suddenly collapses when it reaches its melting point. 

You should definitely consult this book if you want to arc weld metal. Also if you want to see diagrams entitled "Double Vee Butt Joints– Hands Down Position Coated or Shielded–Arc Electrodes". 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Love Poems by, I kid you not, Karl Marx

It seems improbable that that one teenage guy with the notebook full of angst-ridden, bad poetry is a future shaper of human affairs, a revolutionary, an economist, historian, philosopher, sociologist, and a founder of a new socioeconomic philosophy.

The poet in question

Marx, though, was definitely that one guy. At eighteen, he languished for his burning passion for Jenny Von Westphalen, who loved him with equal helpings of angst and burning passion. However, since she was four years older than him, she feared their love was improper and kept their promise of engament secret. She was also afraid that his youthful ardor would soon be extinguished, and asked him if he really loved her.

Jenny herself
In return to her pleas for reassurance he wrote romantic poems in a derivative Romantic style. He makes frequent references to bosoms, lyres, and burning passion. My favorite poem was called "Lucinda", and it told a rather melodramatic tale of a young knight who promised his love to a lady. He left to fight in her honorable name, and returned after much success to find his lady marrying another man. He gathered the attention of the wedding party, decried her infidelity, and promptly stabs herself. Not to be outdone, Lucinda grabs the dagger and has a go at herself. She doesn't die, though, and cackling madly and bleeding, she drinks from the fallen knight's blood and skips off with her new husband.

Geez, I wonder what poor Jenny did to earn that poem. 

Oh, by the way, they did end up getting married. They had seven children, one of whom they named Franziska.

Karl: What you didn't know is that I ALWAYS keep a pistol in my pocket!

I'm telling you, that one guy with the horrible poetry... watch out for that one. Especially if he begins cultivating shrubbery on his face and muttering about the proletariat. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011


How many ranges, exactly, do I have to get through? The answer might surprise you: I'm not sure. I wandered through every section of every floor, notebook in hand, noting what each and every range was. It's not that I don't have the data; it's that the data is inexact. 

See, I refuse to read periodicals, reference (dictionaries and the like), special collections (inaccessible), and things that I am unable to read, which is anything not in English or Spanish. So no Japanese, Chinese, German, Korean, French, or musical notation.

That's why my count is so inexact; it's possible I find some things in English on the Korean shelves; it's possible I don't. It's possible that some sections of computer science and engineering are all reference and periodicals without being labeled as such.

So how many books do I have to read?

About five hundred. Probably a little less.

If you're curious, the breakdown is about thusly:

Again, this is inexact, but it's not just because I don't know if I can read something on every shelf. It's also because the categories are a little odd, but I tried to have it make some sense: 
  • Literature: literature (American, English, German, Spanish, French, Greek, Latin, Russian, general, Danish, Norse, Swedish, Icelandic, Italian, and Portuguese literature), prose, oratory, journalism, and libraries and the book trade.
  • Social Sciences: history, religion, sociology, marriage, communities, social pathology, political science, education, philosophy, manners, customs, anthropology, folklore, psychology, general social sciences, military and naval science, law, genealogy and memoirs, yearbooks, almanacs, general humanities.
  • Business and Economics: business and economics. 
  • Languages: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Germanic, West Germanic, Modern English, Romance, Eastern Asian, African, Oceanian, Hyperborean, Indian, Welsh, Middle Eastern (Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, and Turkish languages), Oriental philology, and linguistics.
  • Arts: fine arts, music criticism, dance, music, motion pictures and broadcasting, music study and instruction, theater.
  • Sciences: engineering, medicine, physiology, anatomy, biology, botany, zoology, physics, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, animal culture and hunting, geography, cartography, math, geology,  computer science, chemistry, general science (method), astronomy.
  • Fiction and friends: juvenile literature, recreation and leisure, science fiction and fantasy, crafts and home economics, humor, mystery, self-help.
And there you have it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Overland and Underground by D. G. Thomas

I entered the Welsh section with some skepticism as to the feasibility of this project, since I can't read Welsh. Luckily, I found a handful of books about Welsh things or by Welsh people written in English on the shelf. In a battle between "Pilgrim's Progress" and this volume of mining poetry, this won because, hey, it's mining poetry.
The miner-poet in question, D.G. Thomas

Before I get into what exactly what poetic Welsh miners talk about, I want to talk about the physical aspects of this book. First, the cover was slightly sticky (!) Other than that, there's the history of this book. It was donated by George Bundy to BYU, but before that it evidently belonged to one Gomarian:

To Gomarian
In appreciation of your writings and with my sincere compliments–
David G. Thomas
I love seeing the author's handwriting, and to think that this inscription is circa early 1900's (No publication date is listed, but Thomas does mention mining accidents in 1903.) A note from one of the owners of the book says that D. G. Thomas's full name was David Griffiths Thomas. Almost as cool as Clive Staples Lewis, but not quite.

Someone has also stamped things into the pages, which were only faintly noticeable as outlines, unless you shine light through them. I have to admit I felt a little National Treasure-esque when I noticed this:

This one said "Old Downshi". in other places I've found "Old Down (page break) shire". Google offered me no conclusive findings as to what Old Downshire is. It could possibly be a quality brand of paper from the early 1900's.  I should try using a hairdryer and lemon juice to see if the book will yield more secrets.

Now, finally, what we have all been waiting for: the text itself. Thomas was a Welshman who moved to Wyoming and supported a family mining. What do Welsh miners in America talk about? It turns out:
  • Nature and how pretty things are when he gets to be aboveground
  • His buddies, their cabins, their lives, and their deaths
  • Missing Wales and going back to visit
  • Fishing
  • Mining
  • Mining accidents, explosions, and deaths
  • Townsfolk
  • Noble Indian chiefs
  • Women's rights

That's right. D.G. Thomas spent a lengthy poem extolling women's suffrage. Wyoming territory was actually the first to allow women to vote. 

The most prevalent theme is death; apparently living in Rock Springs, Wyoming, didn't give you the greatest life expectancy. I suspect all the breathing coal dust and frequent accidents didn't help. One of the poems in the book Thomas wrote to his eleven-year-old daughter to console her on the death of her friend. All saccharine aspects of the poem aside, it really is quite sad.

My favorite might be the poem he wrote of his journey to visit Wales again. Here's a sample verse:

The ship as we went over in,
The biggest we had seen,
Wor loaded with nice things to eat
An' every thing was clean,
But still we could na' eat it,
Nor taste on it nor smell
Wi'out unloadin' all we had
Inside on us as well.
 Who knew there was poetry about vomiting written by Welsh miners? I sure didn't! 

I'm no judge of poetry, but none of it seems to be of extremely high literary quality. Some of it is written in the Welsh-accented English dialect of the vomitous poem, while others are written in a solemn, high-flown, standard-English style.

It was a good read nonetheless, and I enjoyed the poem for Simple Joe. The miner Joe had his head "mashed" by falling rock in an accident. It addled his wits, and he lost his job. The town provided for him. One day after the accident he was at the mine when he spoke for the first and last time after the accident to warn everyone of a fire in the mine. The advance warning helped everyone rescue the miners before they became trapped by the fire. Thomas presents the tale of Simple Joe as fact and not allegory; it makes me think he actually existed. I hope he did.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. "Clive Staples" Lewis

"The Horse and His Boy" is one of the Chronicles of Narnia that I never actually read as a kid. It is the third book chronologically, and the fifth book published in the series. You're probably wondering why they haven't made a movie out of this one yet; I see three possible explanations. One, the title "The Horse and His Boy" doesn't exactly sound too thrilling or like a box office hit. Two, they're following the main Peter/Lucy/Edmund/Susan storyline first (Well, also Mr. Caspian, but he's an entirely different bucket of fish.). Three, no one in the entire book shouts "FOR NARNIAAA!" thus making it cinematically inferior compared to the others.


The plot follows Shasta who is (spoiler) an exiled prince from the northern next-door neighbor to Narnia kingdom of Archenland. He was raised in the southern kingdom of Calormen (which seems to be a stereotyped version of the Ottoman empire) by a personalityless fisherman named Arsheesh. When the one of the grand Pooh-bahs, I mean, Tarkhans, comes and tries to offer Arsheesh a little baksheesh to buy Shasta as a slave, Shasta overhears this and wanders away, encountering the Tarkhan's horse, Bree. The horse reveals he can speak and that he's sick of servitude. They plan an escape to Narnia where they can both be free. In the process, they run into a female Talking Horse with a young noblewoman, who is escaping an arranged marriage with the ancient vizier. 

In the process of their escape from Calormen, Shasta and the girl Aravis learn of the headstrong prince Rabadash's plot to attack Archenland and Narnia so he can capture Queen Susan and force her into marriage.

Whenever the book mentioned Rabadash, which was often, I couldn't help picturing this:

Rapidash, Rabidash: not the same thing. Rabidash is actually supposed to look a lot like this: 

So yes. The good guys win (with liberal help from Aslan) and Shasta is restored to his true heritage as crown prince Cor of Archenland. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why I Worry for Today's Youth

Today at the Paleontology Museum a fourth-grade (I'm estimating) class came for a field trip. They got the special behind-the-scenes tour, which meant they got to come see me while I was working in the lab. I was in the middle of gluing two iguanodon vertebra fragments together when one of the kids said, "Hey, what are you doing?" So I told him that I was working on some fossils that were from the backbone of an iguanodon.
"No, iguanodon. When they discovered it they thought it looked like an iguana skeleton* so they named it after an iguana."
At this point, I started to weep for humanity. Not a single person in the class group showed any sign of knowing or caring what an iguanodon was. Isn't an obsession with dinosaurs kind of a prerequisite for being a normal 8 year old?
"Can I take a picture of you working?"
The little girl whipped out her iphone.

I guess that explains it. They're too busy playing Angry Birds to go to the library and learn that birds themselves are descended from dinosaurs. That's just sad. Oh, humanity. HOW FAR WE HAVE FALLEN.

*Technically it was named for having iguana-like teeth, but no need to get picky.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Childhood of Jesus Christ by Henry Van Dyke

This little volume is from Range 9 (the Jesus Christ,  four gospels, and millions of commentaries range) in the Religion section. With it's title and flowery cover, I was expecting a cheerful journey into the apocrypha, or at least some stories about building bridges from the beams of the sun.

Instead, I was disappointed with a nonsensical, if high-flown ramble about Van Dyke's opinions on paintings of the child Christ. The paintings were reproduced for the reader's edification in tiny, grey, grainy form. I suppose that's excusable owing to the fact that this book was published  before the widespread use of color photography. (1905, to be exact.)

Bask in the nonsense!

I'll make sure to get something a little more meaty next time I'm in the religion section. Or maybe not... this was surprisingly fun to read (If only to be able to justifiably think "What the heck are you even saying?" every two seconds.).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Irish Landscape by Frank Mitchell

The first book I chose came from Range 6: Physical Geography, Oceanography, and Environmental Science. Entitled The Irish Landscape, it's a long and rambling treatise published in 1973 on how the Irish landscape has changed over the last few million years.

Mitchell comes across as an affable great uncle, that is, if your great uncle is an Irishman who gets excited about historical pollen count diagrams. (Seriously, I think he was having some sort of contest with himself to see how many pollen count diagrams he could fit in one book.) To be fair, I have to admit Mitchell proved the usefulness of his precious pollen diagram by explaining how they showed historical shifts in land clearance and farming. 
Such beauty...

Aside from pollen diagrams, his other favorite hobby is bemoaning the leached or infertile state of Irish soils. (And then the bronze age people overworked the soil. And then the iron age people. And then the Anglo-Saxons. And then...) His favorite subject is soil, and his favorite word to use talking about them is podzolic. I guess his editor saw how excited he was about saying "podzolic" and didn't have the heart to tell him it wasn't a real word.

Between the soils and the pollen, Mitchell managed to get across some very interesting things about Ireland:
  • Ireland used to be an ocean. Also, possibly a lake. Also, a huge ice-age skating rink.
  • Ireland had coal deposits matching Britain, until they were destroyed shortly after their birth in the Armorican upheaval. The coal-bearing rock was, well, upheaved, leaving all the coal to be washed away by rain. This single geological event 270 million years ago changed the economic fate of Ireland come the Industrial revolution.
  • Animal fossils? Sure. Plant fossils? Yep. Even evidence of tiny protists and certain bacteria? Fine. But ice fossils? Surely not. Actually, ice wedged into soil layers during the ice ages was filled in by different rock, making casts of the shape of ancient ice. 
Ice wedge cast: perfection itself.

  • Speaking of fossils, it doesn’t seem that any dinosaurs were kind enough to keel over in a prime spot for fossilization. However, one kind gent left his tracks in Northern Ireland, so we know that dinosaurs did once grace the Emerald Isle.
  • Ireland has excellent fossil evidence that vegetation in Europe was once on par with that of America. Several rounds of death-by-massive-sheets-of-ice caused the extinction of species out of Europe that are now distinctly American.
  • Major rivers in Ireland don’t follow any kind of geological logic with their flow pattern. They cut straight through extremely hard deposits of granite instead of taking an easier route. This led geologists to conclude that they settled into their courses back when Ireland’s top layer of rock was a thick cap of chalk, which is easy to cut through. When the chalk eroded away, the rivers stayed their courses in an Apostle Paul-like fashion.
  • Rhododendron, common in Ireland today following import in the 1700’s, is not an invasive, introduced species in Ireland, but rather a re-introduced one. It was abundant in forests before it got wiped out by successive ice ages. 

I don't do well with ice, apparently.

  • Ireland as a landmass actually sank deeper into the Earth’s crust when it was weighed down with ice over 1000 meters thick during ice ages, meaning that sea level was at one point 4 meters higher than present. 
  • Ireland used to be home to bears, reindeer, wooly mammoths, hyenas, and megaceros, the great deer. 
  • At the height of the Roman Empire, surveyors came to look at Ireland and deemed it too agriculturally unprofitable to bother with conquering.

Meh... it's too wet here. Let's go home.

  • During the monastic age of fourth and fifth century Ireland, for lack of coinage, property was commonly valued in terms of female slaves.
  • During the early Christian and dark ages, there were specific penalties assigned to chopping down different trees and bushes; if you felled an oak you were fined a cow.
  • To preserve butter without refrigeration, it was buried in acidic bogs, where there were few bacteria.
Dangit, I forgot where I buried the butter again.

  • During the 17th century, trade for oak staves to make barrels reached such a peak that Ireland ran out of oak trees to cut down.
  • At this same time period, the only wood left in Ireland was planted on rich estates and some farms. Lords set booby traps in their woods to catch wood thieves. Poorer farmers patrolled their woods with swords.
  • Ireland has been occupied by humans for over 10,000 years, and has been farmed extensively for over 5,000 years.
  • The population of Ireland (currently 5.6 million) has yet to recover from the pre-Great Famine high of over 8 million.

Here are some notably awesome quotes from the book:

“It was in Ireland, during this grassland phase of the Woodgrange Interstadial, that that magnificent animal, the Irish Giant Deer (Megaloceros giganteus), reached the zenith of its success, only to be struck down, like Lucifer in full flight, by the abrupt climactic deterioration which followed.” 
“Northeast Ireland was covered by ice, but it is not clear how much was of Irish, and how much of Scottish origin. The two ice-masses confronted one another here, just like two opposing sets of forwards in a Rugby scrum, and the resulting thrusting and wheeling has produced a series of glacial deposits more than usually confused.” 
If we thrust and wheel enough, we could confuse some glacial deposits.

“Variations in wind and cloud come rapidly in Ireland, and the never-ending change in the strength of the light and the value of the colour tones brings delight to the eye– and despair to the brush– of the artist.”
“At the end of the century the potato stood poised and ready to revolutionize life in Ireland.”
Seriously great mental images on all of those. 

Well, Mitchell, my time with you was fun, but now it's come to an end. 

I promise I won't usually write this much about the books I read; it's just that this one was rather long and thus merited a rather long post.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Adventures in Shoe Shopping

On Thursday we (being Amy, Caitlin and I) ventured forth from Provo to the mystic land of "Lindon*" (I still think the natives were lying about the name of the town; it sounds like a chocolate brand, or a Utahn boy's name. (These are my twins, Lindsay and Lindon.)) "Lindon" had a Payless, and Payless had the boots I wanted. Exciting, I know.

In addition to the boots, they also had these beauties that I couldn't resist trying on: 
I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!
I've also found that dating advice appears in the most unexpected places. Why waste time on the complicated dating game when you can take the simple Payless approach?
All along, all you had to do was ask the salesperson.

*Okay, so it might have actually been Pleasant Grove. I wasn't really paying attention.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Manifesto of Sorts

I, the undersigned, do declare that I'm going to read one book from every range (shelf set) in the HBLL (excluding shelves of things I can't check out, including reference, special collections, and periodicals). I embark upon this quest with some verve (though less than your average vervet monkey) and a lot of curiosity. 

I predict I'll get through three, maybe five books before I realize I don't actually have time for this. 

Ah, well, a glorious attempt it shall be.