Friday, April 18, 2014

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau Reading & Presentation

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau, author of Biting through the Skin, will read and present from her new book next weekend in Chicago! For more information, visit our Facebook event. We hope you can make it!

Date: Saturday, April 26
Time: 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Location: Kendall College, 900 N North Branch Street, Chicago, IL

Praise for Biting through the Skin
"It should be noted that the recipe for the keema… had me combing the country for cardamom pods."—New York Times Book Review

"Lush and lyrical, Nina Mukerjee Furstenau's memoir, Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, blends foods and childhood, cuisine and family into a story that resonates and lingers like the spices she lovingly describes."—Kansas City Star

"A beautiful and sensitive memoir—with recipes!—about life in Kansas for a Bengali family."—Star Tribune

Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

David Peterson Book Signing

David Peterson, author of The Drake Relays and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, will be signing copies of his new book this weekend! He will be in Des Moines, just in time for the Drake Relays. For more information or to RSVP, visit our Facebook event.

Date: Saturday, April 19
Time: 10:00 am
Location: Friedrichs Coffee, 4126 University Ave, Des Moines, IA

Praise for The Drake Relays
"If, as the great sports commentator Heywood Hale Broun has said, 'Sports do not build character. They reveal it,' then here—in the masterful images of David Peterson—is character revealed beautifully, powerfully, fully."—Chris Johns, editor in chief, National Geographic

The Drake Relays: America's Athletic Classic, by David Peterson

Monday, April 14, 2014


"To contain plants that spread quickly and can become invasive (such as mint and lily-of-the-valley), plant them in a piece of sewer pipe or a bucket or plastic pot with the bottom cut or knocked out."
—Lucille Keeling, Federated Flower Art Club, Cedar Falls

Gardening in Iowa and Surrounding Areas, by Veronica Lorson Fowler with the Federated Garden Clubs of Iowa

Friday, April 11, 2014

Amana Pickled Ham recipe

The University of Iowa Press is making Easter preparation easy for you this year by providing an Easter ham recipe from Lawrence L. Rettig's Gardening the Amana Way. Now all that's left to worry about is where to hide the eggs!

Amana Pickled Ham
4 cups cubed ham
1 large sliced onion
2 cups water
1 cup vinegar

Combine all ingredients and let stand at room temperature for four hours, then refrigerate.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Interview with James Sandrock and Jean Prior, pt. 3

James Sandrock and Jean Prior are the authors of The Scientific Nomenclature of Birds in the Upper Midwest, a Bur Oak Guide published just this month. Bur Oak Guides series editor Holly Carver asked them a few questions about the book.

HC: Now that you have mastered the nomenclature of all these species, what new connections among names, behavior, plumage, etc., have you discovered? What was the most intriguing?

JS: It is both interesting and amazing that the binomial system perfected by Linnaeus more than 250 years ago endures to this day, practical, resilient, and valid. As we worked our way through the research and writing of this book, it became more and more evident that the early taxonomists and ornithologists possessed a deep knowledge of classical languages and literatures; the names they assigned to avian genera and species reflect their easy familiarity with classical Greek and Roman myth, history, literature, geography, even geology, as well as with the languages themselves.

It surprised us that not all binomials were helpful; some were misleading, some inaccurate. We found at least one name to be a nonsense word. The genus Xema appears to be such a word concocted by William Elford Leach for the genus of Sabine’s Gull. (More about William Leach later.) Many species names are eponymous, such as henslowii or swainsonii, which do not describe any distinguishing marks of the bird itself—not much help to an observer in the field, but interesting as ornithological history.

Most binomials, however, augment and enhance the description of distinguishing marks. The binomial of the Red-eyed Vireo, for example, is Vireo olivaceus; the specific Latin term is a descriptive adjective that calls our attention to the olive-green plumage of this small bird. While the common name focuses on the red irises of this species, the Latin binomial affords the observer another important distinguishing mark to look for when identifying it.

These examples and many more served throughout this enterprise to deepen our interest in and appreciation of scientific nomenclature.

JP: I can’t say that I have mastered the nomenclature of these species, but I certainly learned a lot working alongside Jim. His special background for this enterprise awakened new insights into language, history, biology, art, and literature. Though Aristotle, Pliny, Nuttall, and Newberry were familiar names from other scientific studies, I found their contributions and connections to the naming of birds to be quite fascinating.

I was responsible for including the regional or folk names for these birds, and I found they often were more useful than the attributes provided by the scientific name or even the common name. Wilson’s Warbler, for example: Alexander Wilson was a remarkable scientist, writer, poet, and painter, but his name alone is not as descriptive and helpful as the regional name “black-capped warbler.”

Other useful, colorful, or humorous names include “thunder pumper,” “bog bull,” and “look-up,” which tells you a lot about the sound, location, and demeanor of an American Bittern. “High hole” and “yarrup” suggest where to look for the nest of a Northern Flicker and what to listen for. “Golden slippers” takes your eye to the feet of the Snowy Egret for a positive identification. Coming upon a “hang-nest” suggests the “hammock-bird,” the characteristic suspended home of the familiar Baltimore Oriole. The tree trunk antics of a “topsy-turvy-bird” help confirm both the White-breasted Nuthatch and the Red-breasted Nuthatch. But be careful, “fly-up-the creek” can apply to both the Belted Kingfisher and the Green Heron.

HC: What were the quirkiest factoids that you discovered?

JS: Two quirky things come to mind. The name of the Slovenian Ornithological Association (OAI) is IXOBRYCHUS, which is the genus of the Least Bittern. And the quirkiest? William Elford Leach (see above), a British zoologist, named many genera and species that occur under, on, and over the sea. While the numbers vary, it is said that he used anagrams of the name “Caroline” possibly thirteen times in scientific binomials. The identity of “Caroline” remains unknown.

JP: One of the quirkiest bits of information was that accompanying the ordinary and common European Starling. It seems that this bird from Europe was first released in Central Park, New York City, in 1890 and 1891 by a Eugene Schiefflin, a great fan of William Shakespeare and also president of the American Acclimatization Society. A goal of this group was to introduce all the bird species mentioned in the works of Shakespeare to New York’s public parks. The group’s greatest success was the European Starling (see Henry IV, part 1).

JS: Thanks for the interview. We think that our book will be both helpful to birders and interesting on many fronts. It has been described as both scholarly and quirky. We hope its readers will find it to be all these things.

Featured Birds
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
Spinus: This is a Latin form of the Greek word spinos, which was Aristotle's word for "a small, finch-like bird."
tristis: The Latin word for "mournful, sad" refers to the long, soft, sweet song, which Linnaeus apparently perceived as mournful.
Common Name: American Goldfinch, which distinguishes this species from the Eurasian Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Other Names: wild canary, thistle bird, yellowbird

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Streptopelia: From Greek streptos = collar, necklace + peleia = a kind of dove or pigeon. "Collared dove" alludes to the small black and buff "scarf" on the nape of the adult.
decaocto: From the Latin prefix deca = ten (decem) + octo = eight. Several sources cite the Greek myth in which Decaocto (meaning "Eighteen"), a lovely handmaiden, prayed for release from her cheerless existence. The gods obligingly changed her into a dove. The call of this species is supposedly a version of her name, although perhaps not recognizable.
Common Name: Eurasian Collared-Dove, introduced to the United States from its native Eurasia
Other Names: None found

Monday, April 7, 2014

Interview with James Sandrock and Jean Prior, pt. 2

James Sandrock and Jean Prior are the authors of The Scientific Nomenclature of Birds in the Upper Midwest, a Bur Oak Guide published just this month. Bur Oak Guides series editor Holly Carver asked them a few questions about the book.

HC: Many people are mystified, intimidated, or even infuriated by scientific names. How can they conquer this reluctance to embrace technical terminology?

JS: This is neither the time nor the place to break a lance for the study of Latin and Greek and their use in scientific nomenclature. Independent-minded and intellectually curious people will not be swayed by educationists and by the groupthink that have demonized the study of classical languages and literature for decades. I hope that the use and explanation of the Latin and Greek and latinized terms in this book will convey to its readers the fact that classical languages can be relevant, practical—and cool!

JP: Scientific names are unique IDs essential to the correct identification of each species making up the world’s living and fossil organisms. These assigned names are recognized internationally by all persons who study or refer to them, no matter their native language. It’s the one way to be sure that everyone is on the same page when referring to a plant or animal. While these names don’t roll off the tongue of those for whom plants and animals are an avocation rather than a profession, taking the time to look closely at the scientific name of a bird or a plant or a fossil can reveal useful information about appearance, habitat, behavior, or geography, or the travels and dedication of the person who studied and named it, or the person honored through the naming. Look at these scientific labels as the entry point into another world, one that can help us expand, explain, and enjoy the familiar world we know.

HC: What most interests you about scientific nomenclature? What problems do you solve by understanding it?

JS: Classical languages and literatures have been a major part of my life since high school days; words, phrases, names, and etymology are an abiding interest for me. To see these Latin and Greek words, roots, and stems used in a practical, clear, descriptive way that is universally recognized is intriguing and gratifying. Scientific nomenclature can and does solve the “language problem” for a world that speaks in many tongues. In the introduction of this book, we explain how this works.

JP: Delving into the root meanings of scientific names opens a window onto the fascinating history that lies behind scientific labels and the remarkable people who attached them. Readers also have to marvel at the durability of a system (of scientific names) that has been used for centuries to unite people of all languages in common understanding. Knowing the meanings that lie within the scientific names of birds can be helpful aids to their identification and characteristic markings and traits. This is not a standard field guide with pictures; instead, our book helps interested readers “see” birds through their names.

Featured Birds
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)
Pica: Latin word for "magpie."
hudsonia: Coined Latin adjective for "Hudson" + suffix -ia = pertaining to. "Hudsonian" does not refer to Hudson Bay, which is east of this bird's range. The reference instead is to the Hudson Bay drainage basin (also known as the Hudson Bay Territories or Prince Rupert's Land). The type specimen was collected in 1819 at the Hudson Bay Company's Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, Canada, 400 to 500 miles inland and well within the range of this species.
Common Name: Black-billed Magpie for the beak color
Other Name: American magpie

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Falco: A postclassical Latin word for "falcon," from falx, falcis (genitive) = sickle, scythe, pruning hook. The allusion is to the curved talons and beak—or to the wings in flight.
peregrinus: Latin for "foreign, of foreign places" from peregrināri = to travel about. "Wandering" is an appropriate adjective for this far-ranging bird, one of the most widely distributed in the world.
Common Name: Peregrine Falcon
Other Names: duck hawk, wandering falcon, rock peregrine

Friday, April 4, 2014

Interview with James Sandrock and Jean Prior, pt. 1

James Sandrock and Jean Prior are the authors of The Scientific Nomenclature of Birds in the Upper Midwest, a Bur Oak Guide published just this month. Bur Oak Guides series editor Holly Carver asked them a few questions about the book.

HC: In your professional lives you, Jim, were a professor of German language and literature, and Jean was a research geologist. Tell us how you got from there to this level of obsession with birds.

JS: For some reason still unknown to me, I sat in on an informal birdwatching class offered by Mike Newlon in the winter of 1979–80. On the first field trip (to Cone Marsh in Louisa County), I discovered that there were more birds than just “a duck” or “a sparrow.” After tagging along on several sponsored field trips, I began to bird alone. My notes show that I identified the first species previously unknown to me on 14 June 1980; that bird was Polioptila caerulea. Later that day, I identified Dendroica (now Setophaga) dominica. Learning how to identify birds by sight, sound, behavior, habitat, and season grew more and more appealing to me. For several years, I birded almost daily—alone or with others—in Hickory Hill in Iowa City or Lacey-Keosauqua State Park in Van Buren County; soon I was making trips to the Black Hills, the Rio Grande Valley, southeastern Arizona, California, Canada, and Europe in search of birds. Thanks to Jean, who is wise in the ways of nature, my initial urge to list great numbers of species has given way to a more contemplative appreciation of birds and the experience of birding—traveling, hiking in a variety of landforms, observing wildflowers and butterflies, exploring a canyon, following a stream.

My metaphysical interest in birds was triggered by Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis, still a target bird for me—but not an obsession!

JP: One of my colleagues at the Iowa Geological Survey was Carol Thompson, also a well-known birder and a co-author of The Iowa Breeding Bird Atlas (University of Iowa Press, 1996). I began paying closer attention to birds when doing field work with her, riding in a vehicle that came to frequent abrupt halts in response to bird sightings. It was self-defense. Even earlier, however, I had parents and good friends who were interested in the natural world. In my work as a geologist on the State Preserves Board and during natural history field trips for teachers or the public, I spent considerable time with biologists, ornithologists, and ecologists, and we learned from each other. When Jim Sandrock, also a birder and text editor of The Iowa Breeding Bird Atlas, came into my life, we began making regular birding loops through Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, a place he knew very well. Birds were incorporated into the Iowa Nature Calendar (University of Iowa Press, 2007), which we did together with artist Claudia McGehee, and now this new book is a total immersion into Jim’s world of birds, words, and classical language and literature.

HC: Writing this book must have called for excessive amounts of patience and research, not to mention attention to detail. What was the most challenging part?

JS: There were several challenges. All my professional writing—whether a note, a review, an article, or a book—called for a narrative style; I was able to explain, comment upon, expand upon, and ponder the use of metaphors and figures of speech. This book required a style that conveyed detailed information in a compact, streamlined—sometimes almost telegraphic—style that fit the pattern we had established. (Note: The reader will see that I reverted to narrative style in some entries.)

Always a challenge for me is what information to include, what to leave out. Research always provides much more information than appears in the text. Discipline must be drummed up—not without pain—to omit information that is interesting and appealing but, alas, not essential.

And it was a challenge to assure the accuracy of spelling (and transliteration) of all English, Greek, Latin, and words from other languages and of names, dates, and places. These concerns became even more challenging when recent DNA testing brought about many and frequent changes in taxonomy. During the time that we were working on this book, for example, the warbler genus Dendroica was changed to Setophaga. We have included all the changes published by the AOU [American Ornithologists' Union] to July 2012. In July 2013, however, two shorebird monotypes were put into another genus. Since the final manuscript of this book was then in the hands of the UI Press, we were unable to include these most recent changes. Upon publication, therefore, this book, like all field guides, will be—to some degree—obsolete.

JP: Decoding Jim’s handwriting of all those Latin and Greek words. My high school French wasn’t much help. Most of my research for this project focused on finding regional or folk names used for upper midwestern birds, and Jim had many helpful reference books. Usually they were all spread out and open at the same time as we each looked up or confirmed different information on different birds for different purposes. This project did require patience and precision, especially as we checked and rechecked spellings and sources, and as we edited and honed to get the clearest meaning into the fewest words.

Featured Birds
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Bombycilla: From Greek and Latin bombyx = silkworm, made of silk + spurious Latin cilla = tail. "Silky tail" apparently alludes to the glowing dash of yellow on the tip of the tail.
cedrorum: From Latin cedrus (Greek kedros) = cedar tree. "Of the cedars" refers to the evergreens that provide the favored berries.
Common Name: Cedar Waxwing
Other Names: cedar bird, cherry bird

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)
Anas: Latin for "a duck."
crecca: This specific term was applied very early to this bird by Linnaeus in his Fauna Suecica (1746). It is apparently a latinized form of the characteristic utterance of the male, perhaps crek or crüc. Similar onomatopoetic names for the Green-winged Teal are the Swedish kricka, Danish krikand, and German Krickente, all of which seem to confirm the etymology as echoic. It is difficult to exclude Greek krex and Latin crex; both are rail-like birds named for their raspy sounds.
Common Name: Green-winged Teal for the prominent green speculum, especially visible in flight
Other Names: redhead teal, mud teal, winter teal