Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I just had to perform one of the most feared things to do as a libriarian (at least for me); catalog a foreign language book. Yikes. This particular book was in French. The title is "Secouée mais secourue" by Paula Ort. The word "secourue" was in the title which sound kind of like "succor" which means to "assistance in times of difficulty" (Visuwords.com) so I had a bit of idea as to what it might be about. I was on the right track, but didn't know what the book was truly about until I used Babelfish to translate a portion of it. A word of caution, however. Don't just type in Babelfish.com. You will get a site that tries to get you to use professional translation companies. This site doesn't actually translate anything. The site to use was purchased by Yahoo awhile back, so go to http://babelfish.yahoo.com/.

I typed in the first 3 paragraphs in French into Babelfish and had it translated into English. I found out that the author of the book woke up in the middle of the night when she heard some young people talking outside of her window. Then she felt something under her armpit and knew she had a tumor. Okay, I wasn't expecting that! Once I figured that much out, and by scanning through more of the book, I was able to get enough information to catalog it. I think Rivendell College Library is the only library in the world with this book! I couldn't find it anywhere else.

Back to Babelfish. If you have whole parts of a language you need to have translated, this is a great site. It is different than a dictionary since it will take a whole paragraph or sentence or whatever and translate it. There is also a link to where you can have a whole webpage translated. Just copy and paste the URL into the appropriate box on Babelfish and it will translate the whole original page! The syntax into English might not be perfect, but you can certainly get the idea of it.

Babelfish is a really powerful tool. So don't be afraid of foreign language websites. You might be able to get it translated as long as the site is in Chinese (simp.), Chinese (trad.), Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Saving the planet one search at a time

I know I'm a little slow on the whole Earth Day thing, since it was last week. But just in case you want to save energy more than that one day a year, you can use Blackle as your search engine. It is from Heap Media using Google custom searching. It kind of looks like Google, only the screen is black. Apparently, it will save hundreds of mega-watt hours of energy every year since it takes more energy to display white than black on a screen. The Blackle people admit that there is a lot of skepticism as to how significant the energy savings will be. Personally, I don't think it will make a whole lot of difference, but if people think it is a good thing, more power to them (no pun intended).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

World Digital Library

On April 21, 2009, the United Nations launched the World Digital Library, which is digital collection of historic maps, recordings and other artifacts from all over the world. The collection can be browsed by place, time, topic, type of item and the institution which owns it. Many of the artifacts are held by national libraries from around the world, including the Library of Congress, which has digitized over 500 artifacts for this collection. Click on one of the artifacts and it will open a window giving your more information about it. Click on the "Open" button below the thumbnail and it will open another window in which you can zoom in to look at the artifact more closely. Check out the first printed copy of the the Declaration of Independence.

Spend some time in this site. The old motion pictures are really interesting, as are the photographs and maps. The pages on the books can be "turned," much like the gallery of artifacts done by the British Library (see my previous post).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Queen

I admit it. I'm an Anglophile. I read books on British history just for fun. The Royal family and the pagentry of it all fascinates me. We are going to London this summer to see all of the cool, touristy stuff. So, today is a big day. Today, April 21st is Queen Elizabeth II's 83rd birthday. The official celebration of the Queen's birthday takes place on a Saturday in June in a ceremony called Trooping the Colour. They have the ceremony in June so as to have a better chance of good weather. The Queen used to ride her horse in the ceremony, but she now rides in a carriage. We will be able to see the carriages and all of the tack they use when we will visit the Royal Mews.

Also today, April, 21, 1509, Henry VIII ascended to the throne. As I mentioned in a previous post, there will be all kinds of cool exhibits of Henry VIII stuff when we go to London this summer.

The official website of the British Monarchy is here. There is also an official Royal YouTube channel here. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

His Brain, Her Brain

I just came inside from having a great conversation with my wonderful next door neighbor, Brooke. We sometimes chat out in front of her house when we are both out front bringing in the trash cans or picking up the mail. We have great conversations about all kinds of things. Today, as our conversation progressed, I was able to tell her a funny story about what I had heard on the radio a number of years ago regarding the development of male fetuses.

I was driving to work one day when I was living in LA. Being stuck on the 405 for 45 minutes on the way to work gave me a lot of time to listen to the radio. I was listening to Dr. Dobson on Focus on the Family and he had a guest on who talked about the "testosterone wash" that happens during the development of a male fetus. The testosterone wash causes the corpus callosum (the pipeline that allows the two hemispheres of the brain to talk to each other) to be "damaged." Therefore, women think different then men. Men tend to be more logical and sequential. Women usually see the world in a more "holistic" way, seeing the interconnections between things than perhaps men don't. As we are fond of saying around here, "Women think with both sides of their brains at the same time."

Back to LA. I thought this was really interesting and was telling what I had heard to a group of people at lunch that day, several women and one man. At the end of my telling the story, all of the women nodded their heads and said, "Yeah, that makes sense." The one man at the table said, "Wait. Start and the beginning and tell me all of this again." We all laughed as I said, "Thank you for making my point!"

Brooke was really interested in this. I thought it would be interesting to see what the literature is out there on this. I found this great .pdf article by Walter L. Larimore, M.D. called His Brain, Her Brain (this .pdf is actually excerpted from his and Barb Larimore's book by the same name). Right off the bat it talks about the testosterone wash. It also talks about an estrogen wash (which I didn't know about) and how these washes affect the way men and women interact, think and see the world. Although this article is written for health care providers and how to better understand and relate to their male and female patients, I think reading this whole article is a great resource for understanding your mate and why he or she acts the way they do. It just might give you some tools to have effective communication.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I was helping my daughter, Sarah, with her homework today for her World Geography class. This made me think of this really interesting site I had run across in the past called Worldmapper.

It has world maps, but they are not static. The size of the countries change in relation to each other based on the subject. Click on "Map Categories" on the top bar and it will show you the maps you can look in each category. It is a great way to graphically and intuitively understand our world.

Sarah and I spent some time today looking at some of the different categories. Some were funny: The number of Chinese Universists in the world are, not surprisingly, primarily in China. Some made our hearts break, like the number of cases of malaria.

Each map gives a link to a .pdf file which makes it possible to print out that map and its corresponding information.

So go ahead and look around at this site. Find out which countries import the most fish. You know you want to know.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Yesterday, our Golden Retriever, Bella, was watching out one of our windows as a couple of neighbor kids were playing on their jungle gym. You could tell she had spotted them since she stood really still and her ears were perked forward. Also, her tail was still and just turned toward her left side, just a little. When my daughter, Sarah, called Bella's name, her tail then swung to the right. (No, there are no political jokes here!) That reminded me of something I had seen on TV some time ago. I don't remember exactly where I saw it, but I think it was on the National Geographic channel and it was a special about dogs. The program was talking about how the direction a dog's tail wags tells you a lot about how the dog is feeling.

I decided to try to find out more about this phenomenon. It took awhile. There is a lot of information about a dog's tail wagging in general and how they carry it. I tried Googling various keywords like "Dog Tail Carriage Recognition" because part of the story was that the dog would put it's tail to the right if it recognized it's owner. I finally found it when I Googled "Study Dog Tail Recognition".

One of the articles I found is from the New York Times. The study is called, "Asymmetric Tail-wagging Responses by Dogs to Different Emotive Stimuli." Some researchers in Italy put volunteer dogs in crates with cameras above their hind-quarters to record what would happen when the dogs saw different things: their owner, an unfamiliar human, a cat, and a unfamiliar dominant dog.

This was the results from the New York Times:
When the dogs saw their owners, their tails all wagged vigorously with a bias to the right side of their bodies, Dr. Vallortigara said. Their tails wagged moderately, again more to the right, when faced with an unfamiliar human. Looking at the cat, a four-year-old male whose owners volunteered him for the experiment, the dogs’ tails again wagged more to the right but in a lower amplitude.

When the dogs looked at an aggressive, unfamiliar dog — a large Belgian shepherd Malinois — their tails all wagged with a bias to the left side of their bodies.

Thus when dogs were attracted to something, including a benign, approachable cat, their tails wagged right, and when they were fearful, their tails went left, Dr. Vallortigara said. It suggests that the muscles in the right side of the tail reflect positive emotions while the muscles in the left side express negative ones.
Click on the multimedia clip on the Times Page as well. It gives you a real feel for what the study shows.

Our other dog is Smokey, the Australian Shepherd. He has a little stubby tail, so watching it won't tell us much. But he does wiggle his whole rear-end when he gets excited, so we are going to watch and see if his rear-end goes one way or the other.

Dogs are so entertaining!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stand to Reason

One of the things Christians need to be prepared to do is to reasonably and rationally explain and defend the reasons for their faith. It is not enough to say, "The Bible says it and I believe it" to someone who rejects the Bible as nothing more than an interesting piece of literature, not the inerrant Word of God. What if you are speaking to an atheist, openly hostile to everything you believe? Will you be able to make reasoned arguments for your faith? What if you are accused of being "close minded" because you believe the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ?

There are many apologetics resources available on the web. One of the ones I think is really helpful is Stand to Reason, a site which equips Christians to go into the world ready to defend their faith. Greg Koukl is the primary voice of Stand to Reason. The site has podcasts, blogs and different resources, free or for purchase. The resource I read always read is Solid Ground, a bimonthly newsletter which discusses current topics and gives tips on argument tactics. Greg Koukl has also written a book called Tactics which discusses how to control a discussion, like using the "Columbo tactic" or finding the flaws in other people's arguments like "Suicide" statements-a statement which contradicts itself. "There are no absolutes!" is a suicide statement. One cannot absolutely state there are no absolutes without violating that same statement.

Stand to Reason has great resources to expand your critical thinking skills. I hope you take advantage of it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Japanese Anime

First off, I know nothing about Japanese anime other than it is a film genre. Why would I even bring it up? Well...

I received a research request from my daughter today. She has been listening to "Sad Piano" music on YouTube. There are a number of pieces that are posted by a person who puts the music to mood pictures. Anyway, she wanted me to find the sheet music to some of these pieces so she could play them. Sure, I'm up for a challenge.

I had no idea these pieces were from Japanese anime movies or games until I started my search. There is a whole world of anime fans out there! To find these pieces, I went to the YouTube pieces she was wanting to get a little more information. Fortunately the person posting the pieces gave the name of the piece and the movie or game from which it came. The difficulty for the first piece I looked for was that the title was in Japanese (written with English characters, thankfully). Truthfully, the way I found the first piece was by just reading the comments posted by other people who like the piece and wanted the sheet music as well. Sometimes someone will post where you can download the sheet music.

I found three really good websites that either have anime sheet music or links to external sites that also have it. They are Ichigo's Sheet Music, Josh's Anime Sheet Music and The Midi Shrine. I know there are many other sites if you just Google "Japanese anime sheet music". Some of the sites I linked above have linked to other anime music sites as well.

Enjoy this piece that Sarah will learn. It is called "Kiseki" from Gundam SEED Destiny.

This is one of the reasons why I love being a librarian. You can be researching philosophy or theology one day and Japanese anime music the next!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Resurrection alternative theories

With the coming of Easter, I have been thinking about some of the alternative theories that are out there in the world that try to explain Jesus' bodily resurrection in any other way than the Biblical account. This really goes hand-in-hand with my previous post about postmodernism. The postmodernist skeptics have to question everything and try to come up with naturalistic explanations for the miraculous. Instead of realizing that the Biblical narrative of Jesus' resurrection has more evidence than their alternative theories, they refuse to believe.

Dr. Norman Geisler has addressed these differing alternate theories in his work Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker, 1999). His discussion of some of these hypotheses are available on the web in two parts: part one is here and part two is here. Some of the alternate hypotheses include "The Authorities Moved the Body," "The Tomb Was Never Visited," "The Women Went to the Wrong Tomb," and "The Disciples Stole the Body." Geisler goes through each theory and exposes the fallacies in each argument.

William Lane Craig also discusses, among other evidences for the bodily resurrection of Jesus, my favorite alternate theory: Jesus had a previoulsy unknown twin brother who came and stole Jesus' body and presented himself to Jesus' disciples as Jesus Himself. Really. Read his article here (this will download a Microsoft Word document). If you don't want to download it, Google "Professor Blume William Lane Craig" and click on the "View as HTML" at that link reference.

Other theories that are out there include the swoon hypothesis and group hallucination hypothesis. Christian Classics Ethereal Library has a great outline which gives the evidences for the resurrection and the arguments against the alternatives here "That You May Believe."

So celebrate this Easter knowing that all human explanations fall short and that He is Risen Indeed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Slaying Postmodernism

Today at lunch I was asked to slay the supervillian "Postmodernism". Ah, an evil foe. One prevalent in today's society. The wizards of smart's evil ally. But one that is easily vanquished with just a little thought.

First, a definition. This from PBS of all places:
"A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one's own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

"Postmodernism is 'post' because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody - a characterisitic of the so-called 'modern' mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philospher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism 'cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.'" (emphases mine)

A postmodernist believes there are no absolute truths and that everything is relative. But that is a self-refuting statement. A postmodernist absolutely states that there are no absolutes. Can a postmodernist be skeptical of his belief in being skeptical? He can't have a belief and be skeptical at the same time. Postmodernism as a philosophy can't work.

J.P. Moreland, a well know Christian thinker discussed postmodernism in the webzine Boundless. Read his article Postmodernism and the Christian Life.

Postmodernism vanquished by the Secret Agent Librarian.

Monday, April 6, 2009

No Fear Shakespeare

I studied Shakespeare in high school, just like everyone else. I didn't always get it then. Truthfully, I don't always get it now. And I know I'm not the only one. I remember my dad telling me about when he studied Shakespeare in school. He was reading the beginning of one of Shakespeare's plays and it said something about the "hart" and hunting. And how a hart is a male deer, but in the play it also could mean a heart. I always remembered it because I knew I wouldn't have gotten it either. Shakespeare can be intimidating!

Well, now there is No Fear Shakespeare. It has the original and a modern language version parallel to each other. This way you can enjoy the beauty of Shakespeare's original language and all of its symbolism and actually understand what's going on!

Now I am not advocating that you only read the modern language version. Reading Shakespeare's original language shows his genius. I think using No Fear Shakespeare is a great way to enhance your understanding of Shakespeare and thus enjoy it more. It should be used as a supplement, not a substitute.

So go read Twelfth Night when Curio asks Duke Orsino if he wants to go hunting for a hart. (Thanks Dad.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Speaking of the British Museum....

At the end of my last post, I had a throw away sentence about the Virtual books part of the library website. I have just spent the last 2 hours using it and it has to be one of the most spectacular web interfaces I have ever seen. Hopefully you can get the right plugins to make it work because it is simply amazing.

It uses "Turning the Page (TM)" software. It allows you to look at the book and turn the pages almost as if you have it in your hands. It has the text in boxes so you can read what is written. They have audio of someone reading the text. The Mozart catalog has audio clips of the music written on the pages in Mozart's own hand. You can zoom in and out on the text, magnify it and rotate it. It really is amazing. The only downside is that currently they only have 20 texts to look at. I hope they continue to add more because it is truly a treasure. Don't forget to click on the listen icon before you open the book as it gives you some great background on the work at which you are about to look.

Henry VIII and the British Library

In preparation and anticipation of my and my family's upcoming trip to London this summer, I have just started reading the book Henry VIII: The King and his Court by Alison Weir. She is the author of numerous books about British history. I recently finished her book Eleanor of Aquitaine and thoroughly enjoyed it. I read it because I didn't know anything about her other than what I had seen in the movie The Lion in Winter starring Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor. Eleanor was a particularly fascinating woman. She was extremely powerful in a time when women usually had no power at all. She was the wife of first the King of France and then the King of England. Great stuff.

Back to Henry. Our trip to London coincides with the 500th anniversary of Henry's ascension to the throne. Throughout the spring and summer, many of the places we will be visiting are having special Henry VIII exhibits. So, I decided it was time for me to get up to speed on Henry. We all know about the six wives and their ultimate dispositions (just remember, "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived"). But I want to know more Henry than the "eating the giant turkey leg and throwing it over his shoulder onto the floor" Henry (which probably never happened).

As I was reading the other day, I read about how Henry was very interested in maps. The book referenced several specific maps that hung on the walls of Hampton Court. They might still be there. I'll find out this summer! Anyway, I wanted to try to find them online. I was never able to find those specific maps, but I did find some really cool images and maps on the British Library website. They also have a virtual books section that lets you look at original manuscripts. Just make sure you have the right plugins to view them.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The World Factbook

True to my name as the Secret Agent Librarian, here is a cool site for secret agents. It really is published by the CIA. Fortunately, you don't have to be a secret agent to use the CIA publications page. They have two cool reference tools: The World Fact Book and World Leaders.

The World Factbook
give updated vital statistics information on every nation in the world, i.e. type of government, population, GDP, etc.

The World Leaders allows you to find out the chief of state and its cabinet ministers.

So next time you go on a secret mission you will know all about Burkina Faso, Tokelau (a territory of New Zealand) or Svalbard (a territory of Norway).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day

Why in the world is there even an April Fool's Day? I asked myself this question, and of course I had to find out.

There are various different references and theories, but the one I came across the most indicated that it most likely came to be at the time when parts of Europe changed from using the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar. Using the Julian calendar, the new year was celebrated around April 1. The Gregorian calendar put the new year at January 1. So the people who weren't completely up to speed still wanted to celebrate the new year on April 1st. So they were called fools, mocked and ridiculed for either not knowing or because they didn't want to change to the new calendar.

To humiliate people on April Fool's, the French would stick fish to the backs of people who still celebrated on April 1st. Gotta love the French!