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Friday, December 19, 2014

Why do my legs itch when I run?

“Every time I try to go running, my legs itch really badly. Is something wrong?”

We’re neither doctors nor physical trainers here at the library, but we looked into it. Itchy legs during exercise are common enough that Go Ask Alice, Livestrong, and Outside all covered the problem on their websites.

If the itching is accompanied by hives and difficulty breathing, it may be a symptom of exercise-induced anaphylaxis, a serious, though very rare, condition, and you should visit your doctor. If it’s only the hives, they can be triggered by a multitude of things, including the increased body temperature that comes along with hot weather, stress, or exercise. (Another term for hives is “urticaria,” and the specific type that’s triggered by exercise is “cholinergic urticaria.”)

The season could also be the culprit. Skin can get dry and itchy in the winter, and may be further irritated by sweat and tight-fitting clothes. Some people also have cold urticaria, a condition where, as the name suggests, cold temperatures bring on hives.

According to another theory, the itching is caused by blood moving through your capillaries. The capillaries expand during exercise to increase blood flow, and if your body isn’t used to that, nearby nerves send signals to the brain that it interprets as an itching feeling. Go Ask Alice and Livestrong both support this theory, though Outside argues that there isn’t enough evidence.

To control the itching, try wearing loose cotton clothes, as tight synthetic material can aggravate sensitive skin. Make sure your skin is well-moisturized and that you’re dressed for the weather. Outside and Livestrong also suggest taking an antihistamine before exercising. Finally, keep at it – as your body gets used to the workout, the itching sensation may diminish in time.

Runners looking to improve are welcome to come check out our selection of books, including Build Your Running Body by Pete Magill, Thomas Schwartz, and Melissa Breyer; Runner’s World Complete Book of Running; Running: Start to Finish by John Stanton; and Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now by Ben Kaplan.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What's the difference between llamas and alpacas?

“What’s the difference between llamas and alpacas? Do people use them for different things?”

Upon seeing another patron’s alpaca-wool winter coat, one of our patrons was led to wonder about what separates a llama from an alpaca. Do llamas produce wool as well? What else are they used for?

Llama and alpaca farmers seem to have noticed that people are curious about their animals, because most of their websites included a fact section, often listing the differences between the two. We took our information from, Storey’s Guide to Raising Llamas by Gale Birutta, Jennifer A. Kingson’s New York Times article “The Llama Is In,” and the websites of Rising Sun Exotics, Bald Hill Alpaca Farm, and Serendipity Farm.

When a llama and an alpaca are side by side, it’s easy to see the differences. Llamas are about twice as big, with straight backs and long noses. Alpacas have shorter, rounder snouts and more delicate features, with a large puff of hair on their heads that often falls over their eyes. Their ears point straight up, while llamas’ ears curve toward each other in a “banana” shape.

Alpacas are better known for it, and their wool has been prized since the Incan Empire. While llamas have two coats, the soft, dense fleece coat and then a coarse topcoat of guard hair, alpacas have only the fleece, so their wool is of a much higher quality. Relatively recently, however, some llamas are bred to have little to no guard hair, so as to improve the quality of their wool.

While alpacas were bred for their wool, llamas were meant to be pack animals. They can carry about a quarter of their weight, navigate difficult terrain, and their padded feet minimize damage to the environment. Storey’s Guide to Raising Llamas recommends them as hiking companions.

Llamas typically have a more confident personality than the timid alpaca, but both animals will spit if provoked, though their owners often insist that they get a bad rap and in fact spit much less frequently than people expect. Llamas’ bold natures can make them effective livestock guardians, but many are also docile and well-behaved enough to serve as therapy animals. The owners interviewed in “The Llama Is In” liken their llamas to dogs and note that they often have a special sense as to who needs them most. Therapy and “ambassador” llamas have made successful visits to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and even libraries.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Can non-Mormons attend BYU?

“Can you go to Brigham Young University if you’re not Mormon?”

After our library book discussion group read David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife, which focuses on characters who have various relationships to Mormonism and made several mentions to Brigham Young University, one of our patrons was curious as to whether or not people were welcome to attend even if they weren’t members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We checked the BYU website and it turns out the answer is yes. Originally established in 1875 for the purpose of infusing academics with LDS values, they nevertheless accept students of other religions – though the number is relatively small. According to the statistics published on their website, 29,293 students in Fall 2014 identified as Mormon, while 379 either identified themselves as members of other religions (including Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and several different denominations of Christianity) or indicated no religious preference.

For a non-Mormon student to attend, they must first meet with a local LDS leader. They must also agree to follow the school’s honor code, which includes being honest and respectful, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee, and abiding by the modest dress code. Because part of the Church’s tithing goes to the university, LDS students pay less for tuition. In the 2013-2014 school year, Mormon students paid $4,850 for tuition while non-Mormon students paid $9,700.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Can I ship cookies to Australia?

“Can I ship gingerbread cookies to Australia?”

With the holidays coming up, one of our patrons was planning how she’d send her Christmas cookies to her friend overseas. She wanted to know if they’d last the trip and if they’d be able to clear customs once they arrived.

We checked the Australia Customs and Border Protection website and found that there shouldn’t be any need to pay taxes or duties on the cookies, since they wouldn’t be worth more than AUD1,000. The prohibited imports list includes porpoises, certain novelty erasers, and radioactive material, but cookies are in the clear.

They should also still be fresh by the time they arrive. According to Nancy Baggett’s The All-American Cookie Book and Tish Boyle’s The Good Cookie, gingerbread cookies can be stored in an airtight container for three to four weeks. Christmas Cookies Are for Giving by Kristin Johnson and Mimi Cummins cautions bakers that crispy cookies like gingerbread break more easily in transit. Johnson and Cummins recommend baking the cookies in small geometric shapes (cutout circles, for instance, will be more likely to make it in one piece than cutout reindeer) and packing them carefully.

Fortunately, Christmas Cookies Are for Giving and the Land O’ Lakes website both have tips on how to pack the cookies so that they survive their journey. Our patron will need a rigid container (such as a tin), bubble wrap, plastic wrap or tinfoil, and another large box for shipping that allows for at least two inches of cushion all around the cookie container. First, use plastic wrap or tinfoil to wrap together similarly-sized cookies in packages of four to six. Line the container, putting bubble wrap in the bottom and a piece of plastic wrap or tinfoil on top of it that will be big enough to cover the cookies once they’re all packed. Layer the cookies in the container, separating the layers with more bubble wrap or crumpled up tissue paper. Once the cookies are all in, cover them with a final layer of bubble wrap and wrap the extra lining over them before sealing the container. Put the container inside the large box and surround it with packing material (either more bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or crumpled up newspaper). Tape up the box securely and be sure to mark it perishable, and the gingerbread cookies should be able to make their journey.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Where Can I Exchange Foreign Money?

“Is there anywhere local that I can exchange foreign money for American money?”

If you’ve been out of the country and ended up with foreign currency that you want to convert back to money you can use every day, there are a few different ways to go about it. Sometimes it’s possible as soon as you get off the plane. Most international airports, such as Cleveland-Hopkins, house a company that will sell foreign currency to travelers and buy it back again after they return. However, they often charge steep fees for this convenience.

Many banks, including Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, and TD Bank provide a similar service. However, it’s always best to call ahead and see what, if any, fees they charge and if they deal in the currency you have. Iraqi dinar are particularly difficult to exchange; Wells Fargo and Bank of America both make it clear on their websites that they don’t work with dinar.

For more advice on traveling, Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips is available through CLEVNET.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How Do Chameleons Change Color?

“How do chameleons change color?”

Chameleons have several layers of skin containing special cells called chromatophores. The cells are filled with pigment, which they’ll redistribute in response to chemicals in the chameleon’s body. For example, the cells containing the red pigment (called erythrophores) are in the upper layer of skin. When those cells expand, they can block out the colors contained in the lower layers of skin, turning the chameleon a vivid red. This can happen quickly or over the course of several minutes. There are over one hundred species of chameleon and not all of them are able to change color to the same extent, though almost all of them have some range of green and brown.

While most people think of the chameleon as a master of camouflage, they mainly change color as a way to communicate. Their changes in hue can indicate whether or not they’re looking for a mate, aggression, or their level of stress. Chameleons also change color as a way to regulate temperature, turning darker to absorb more sun and lighter to reflect it.

If you’re interested in having your own chameleon, Bartlett and Bartlett’s Chameleons: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual is available here at the library. However, be aware that, according to the authors, they’re one of the most difficult lizards to care for. Gary Ferguson’s Chameleons: Care and Breeding of Jackson’s, Panther, Veiled, and Parson’s and François Le Berre’s The Chameleon Handbook are both available through CLEVNET.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Can I get information about an artist?

“I inherited a Chandler pastel painting. Could you give me more information on the artist?”

Our first step was to find out the artist’s full name. Searching “Chandler pastel artist” in an online search engine brought up Timothy Osha’s Pastel Masters website, which has a section devoted to Chandler and his works. Along with an online gallery showcasing Chandler’s paintings, Pastel Masters also provided a brief biography. The artist’s full name is William Henry Chandler and he lived from 1854 to 1928. He’s known as an extremely prolific pastel artist and, as such, his work tends to vary dramatically in quality. The article also mentioned that Chandler was featured in the book The Power of Pastels, but it seemed to be long out of print and, unfortunately, wasn’t available through any library we could find.

We weren’t able to find William Henry Chandler in any of the reference books we checked, but we were able to turn up a little more information online. The Butler Institute of American Art gave a short biography going a little deeper into his personal life. Chandler grew up in New Jersey where he suffered a hunting injury that left him with a permanent limp. He moved to Chicago to work as a cameo engraver in the button industry, and it was in Chicago that he met his wife. They had three daughters together. Sadly, though, the youngest died when she was only a few months old, and Chandler’s wife died soon after, so he returned to New Jersey to raise his daughters with the help of his sister.

While the Butler Art Institute covered his personal life, appraiser Mike Wilcox wrote an article for WorthPoint that fleshed out Chandler’s professional life a little more. According to the article, in 1887, William Henry Chandler and his brother Frank Chandler established W.H. Chandler and Co. in Manhattan. The company produced decorative art to be sold through gift shops, art dealers, and department stores, but unlike similar companies (such as Currier & Ives), they didn’t rely on mass production. Instead, they had a loft with up to twenty easels set up and artists working on several paintings at a time. Landscapes are the most common Chandler pieces, followed by still-lifes and hunting scenes, with seascapes as the rarest.

Price It!, the library’s database for estimating the values of antiques and collectibles, lists Chandler paintings as having sold for anywhere from thirteen to one thousand dollars. Such a large range makes it difficult to estimate how much something is worth, but fortunately our patron had the name and contact information of a professional appraiser who could price her painting accurately for her.

If you’d like to see a Chandler painting in person, the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown has Scene in the Adirondacks in its collection.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How Do You Get a Copy of Your Driving Record?

“How do you get a copy of your driving record?”

According to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles website, there are a few different ways to go about it, depending on what you need and how soon you need it. You can request a certified copy of your record either online, over the phone, by mail, or in person.

To order online, go to If you’d prefer to use the automated phone system, you can call 1-866-675-2837. You can also get an official copy of your record through the mail by filling out form BMV 1173 and sending it in. The cost for ordering through the mail is $5.00. Be aware, though, that it can take two or three weeks to go through.

If you want to order your driving record in person, you can visit a License Reinstatement Center, a Deputy Registrar license agency, or the Shipley Customer Service Center in Columbus. A copy of the record will cost $8.50 if purchased at the Shipley Customer Service Center or a Deputy Registrar license agency and $5.00 if purchased at a License Reinstatement Center. You’ll be required to fill out a different form depending on where you go, but you’ll need to bring your license or identification.

You can also access a free, unofficial copy of your driving record online by going to and going to the link in the second paragraph under “Online Driving Records.” To view the record, you’ll need your driver’s license or state ID number and the last four digits of your Social Security number. (If you don’t have a license or ID but do have a letter from the BMV, there should be a number on that to use instead.) The record only goes back two years, but it will let you know if you have any points on your license.

For information on automobile law, Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law includes a section on cars and driving and is available here at the library.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Do You Tell a Crow from a Raven?

“How do you tell the difference between a crow and a raven?” These scavengers look similar, but there are a few ways to distinguish them.

Ravens are about a quarter larger than crows and have shaggy feathers around their throat. They have longer bills; longer, more narrow wings; and their tails are wedge-shaped as opposed to crows’ rounder, fan-shaped tails.

The subtle differences of appearance are harder to notice when you aren’t seeing the two birds at once, but fortunately, they also have different behaviors to watch for. Ravens are less sociable than crows, often appearing only one or two at a time, although Fred J. Alsop III writes in Birds of North America that they’ll move in larger groups in the winter. While crows tend to fly in a steady, methodical way, ravens will soar, riding the thermals and updrafts, and pairs will engage in impressively aerobatic courtship flights.

Crows and ravens are both members of the corvid family, along with jays, rooks, and magpies. Corvids are considered some of the most intelligent birds. Magpies, according to Noah Strycker’s The Thing with Feathers, are thought by some to be even smarter than parrots, and have been observed grieving their dead. In 2008, Michelle Nijhuis wrote an article for the New York Times exploring crows’ and ravens’ ability to remember faces. As it turns out, ornithologists have been harassed in the field by birds they've trapped in the past. John Marzluff, a biologist at the University of Washington did a formal experiment on the phenomenon and concluded that crows are indeed remembering the faces of the researchers who trapped them, and will continue to pester them around campus. 

Both birds are mimics, and, according to The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, can imitate human speech. However, if you’d like to hear their typical calls and learn to tell them apart by sound, Bird Songs: Eastern/Central, Birding by Ear: Eastern/Central and Lang Elliott’s Know Your Bird Sounds: Volume 2 are all available for checkout at the Newton Falls Public Library.

Friday, October 10, 2014

When Were Bar Codes Invented?

“When were bar codes invented?” One of our patrons remembered when prices were stamped on all the items at the supermarket, but wasn’t sure how far back it was.

We found our answer in Ideas that Changed the World by Julie Ferris et al. and World of Invention, edited by Kimberly A. McGrath. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver patented the bar code in 1949. They had been looking for something that would be able to quickly and easily identify products at the supermarket, considering Morse code, when Woodland was inspired by going to the beach and drawing lines in the sand.

There weren’t yet any lasers or computers that could properly read the codes, and, unfortunately, Silver died in 1963 before his and Woodland’s idea could come to full fruition. Woodland kept at it and finished developing the UPC (which stands for Universal Product Code) by the early 1970s.

In either 1973 (according to World of Invention) or 1974 (according to Ideas that Changed the World), the first item – a pack of gum – was rung up at the supermarket using its new UPC code. Bar codes aren’t only used in supermarkets, though. They were used early on to identify railroad cars and, of course, you can find them on our library books!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Where Did the Phrase "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" Come From?

“Where did the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ come from?”

You’ve probably heard the saying “blood is thicker than water,” meaning that family ties take precedent over any other relationship, but you may not have realized how long it’s been around. In the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, Gregory Titelman traces its origin back to John Lyndgate’s Troy Book. Lyndgate’s book, a long poem about the history of Troy from its beginnings until the end of the Trojan War, can be found in the Cleveland Public Library’s special collections department, and parts of it can also be found online at It was written around 1412 in Middle English, so it’s interesting to have a look at.

Titelman cites a few other early uses of the phrase: A Collection of English Proverbs by John Ray, written in 1670, and Journal of Athabasca Department (which seems to refer to Sir George Simpson’s Journal of Occurrences in the Athabasca Department), written in 1821. Both are available at the Cleveland Public Library, the former in microform and special collections and the latter in the history department. An edition of A Collection of English Proverbs is also available at

However, claims that “blood is thicker than water” first appeared in Sir Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering; or, The Astrologer, published in 1815. The exact quote where it appeared is "Weel, blude's thicker than water; she's welcome to the cheeses and the hams just the same." 

The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins (3rd Edition) by Robert Hendrickson traces it back even further. According to Hendrickson, the phrase became famous when used by U.S. commodore Josiah Tattnall in 1859. Tattnall came to the aid of the British against the Chinese even though it would violate U.S. neutrality, and gave “blood is thicker than water” as his reason for doing so. However, Hendrickson writes, the phrase is much older than that – it was first recorded in Germany in the 1100s.

Despite whatever you think about family ties, the phrase is scientifically true – blood is indeed thicker than water.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Are Barns Usually Red or White?

“Why are barns painted red or white more often than any other color?”

If you’ve spent a lot of time in the country, or spent a lot of time on the road watching the scenery go by, you might have noticed that most barns seem to be the same few colors. One of our patrons wanted to find out why that was. and both tackled the question, and Barns of the Midwest, edited by Allen G. Noble and Hubert G. H. Wilhelm, devotes an entire chapter to barn décor. As it turns out, there’s conflicting information on the subject.

The Curiosity and Farmers’ Almanac articles give the same basic theory: hundreds of years ago, European farmers would seal their barns with linseed oil mixed with milk or lime, which gave the wood a sort of yellowish-brown color. The red paint began to emerge when they began to either mix in animal blood or rust. The rust had the added bonus of killing off the moss or mold that could grow on the wood.

Barns of the Midwest agrees that the red color developed when farmers began to mix in blood or rust, though the book doesn’t mention the rust’s anti-fungal and herbicidal properties, only its aesthetic value. In fact, David T. Stephens, the author of the chapter, argues that, at least at first, more barns were white than red, since whitewash was the cheapest option. This is in sharp opposition to – according to that article, red paint was popular until the cost of whitewash went down.

Stephens agrees, though, that by 1872, red paint had gotten much cheaper than white. When ready-mixed paint came on the market, red was the color most commonly marketed specifically toward barns. It may have also been a popular color because of how striking it looked against the landscape, or because red would absorb more heat in winter than white.

Barns of the Midwest goes on to list yellow, gray, green, and blue as the most common barn colors, in order of popularity, after red and white. Red with white trim is the most popular combination, followed by white with green trim and white with black trim.

We have several books here at the Newton Falls Public Library with pictures of barns and information and nostalgic reminiscences on farm life. This Old Farm, edited by Michael Dregini, Farm by Grant Heilman, Old Barns of Gustavus, Ohio by Patricia Jeffers, The Barn by Eric Arthur and Dudley Witney, An Age of Barns by Eric Sloane, and Down on the Farm with commentary by Steward H. Holbrook, are all available for borrowing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Why Do Potatoes Sprout?

“What makes potatoes start sprouting? Are they okay to eat?” If you’ve left a bag of potatoes sitting around for a while, you might have noticed them starting to grow green, white, or somewhat purple sprouts. That’s the potato trying to grow into a new plant.

The sprouts themselves, as well as any green part of the potato, are home to a toxic alkaloid called solanine and must be removed. Eating them will make you sick - the National Library of Medicine even has a page on their website devoted to potato plant poisoning – though it would take quite a few to do it. The solanine gives the potato a bitter taste, so it wouldn’t be worth eating anyway.

As long as the sprouted potatoes are still firm and haven’t started to shrivel up, there’s no reason to throw them away. Once the sprouts and any green part of the potato have been removed, it’s safe to eat.

You can also plant your sprouted potatoes, though The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith recommends using seed potatoes (which are available from garden supply stores and were grown for the express purpose of being planted) rather than supermarket potatoes for gardening.

To inhibit sprouting and keep your potatoes in their best condition, store them in a cool, dark, dry place with ample ventilation.

For more information on growing potatoes, check out Food Grown Right, in Your Backyard, by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm, Ortho's Complete Guide to Vegetables, or The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour, available at the Newton Falls Public Library. If you're looking to learn about the potato's history, Andrew F. Smith's Potato: A Global History, John Reader's Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent, and Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-eye View of the World are all available through CLEVNET. For recipes, we have Kay Halsey's Potatoes on the shelf here at Newton Falls. Or you could order Alex Barker's Potato: The Definitive Guide to Potatoes and Potato Cooking through CLEVNET and get information on potato cooking, gardening, and history. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

What Used to Be Built Near the Falls in Newton Falls?

A patron was walking near the falls and grew curious about their history. “What used to be built near the falls in Newton Falls? Was there a mill or anything like that?”

We were able to find a lot of information in Fragments of History of Newton Falls and Newton Township, Ohio, compiled, edited, and annotated by Wendell F. Lauth and the Friends of the Newton Falls Public Library and History of Newton Falls, compiled by Ella A. Woodward. Fragments of History even included a picture of the falls, circa 1900, with the Hoyle Woolen Mill on one side and part of the Eagle Mills on the left.

Mr. Canfield and Mr. Ruggles (no first names available) built a sawmill in 1806 on the site that would later house the Hoyle Woolen Mill. The woolen mill itself was built in 1825, enlarged and improved in 1843, and sold to Allen Hoyle in 1857. Under Hoyle's ownership, it became well-known for the excellent quality of its products. According to History of Newton Falls, some of the blankets from the Hoyle mill were still around a hundred years later.

Canfield and Ruggles built the first grist mill (also known as a flour mill) in 1811, but a drunk man took refuge in it one winter night in 1817 and ended up burning it down.Twelve years later, Horace and Augustus Stephens (or Stevens, depending on the source) built the Eagle Mills, another grist mill, to take its place. The Stephens were bought out and their mill rebuilt by the Porter family in 1871, who renamed it the Eagle Mills of Porter and Sons.

Both the Eagle Mills and the Hoyle Woolen Mill seem to have been bought up by an electric company around 1908.

We’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated volunteer who works in the local history room most Wednesdays and may be able to pull more information and old pictures. Give us a call any Wednesday to see if she’s available!