Posts by: Rebecca Morin

At some point this week we are celebrating National Ask a Stupid Question Day- I can’t tell you when, because reports differ as to whether the Day in question is September 28 or the last school day in September.

According to this article in the Telegraph, the point of the day is to encourage students to ask questions they might otherwise be embarrassed or too shy to ask.

Here at the Hirsh Health Sciences Library, we are all about answering your questions. Ask us anything! Step right up, don’t be shy. We will never tell you that you’ve asked a stupid question or give you a stupid answer!

You know what is kind of stupid? Shaving a baby. Or letting a baby shave himself. Don’t ask us about that.


Gillette Safety Razor Co. (Courtesy Miami University Library Digital Collections:

Aside from questions about baby-shaving, the ONLY stupid question is the one that goes unasked!

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…the Jewish New Year, that is!

This year, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Sunday September 13 and runs through nightfall on September 15. Among the customs associated with Rosh Hashanah is sounding the shofar (an instrument traditionally made from a ram’s horn), which you may have been hearing already, as a shofar blast typically accompanies the end of morning services for the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Below is a photo of a Chaplain with the United States Army Forces in the Middle East sounding the shofar during Rosh Hashanah services in 1942.

Digitized by the Gruss Lipper Digital Laboratory at the Center for Jewish History -

Captain Joseph H. Freedman Hq, USAFIME, is shown blowing the Shofar (Courtesy American Jewish Historical Society:

For many, Rosh Hashanah is a time to get together with family and friends, and to enjoy sweet treats to symbolize a sweet year ahead. A traditional indulgence is apples dipped in honey, or any variety of delicious baked goods incorporating either or both ingredients. While my personal favorite method of getting apples and honey into my mouth is with a sweet and savory apple/honey/grilled cheese sandwich, there are a variety of spectacular desserts out there utilizing apples, with recipes both traditional and new. One of my favorite apple desserts is these Apple Brownies, from Amy Traverso’s wonderful The Apple Lover’s CookbookDeceptively simple, quick and easy to make, these fantastic “brownies” have no cocoa in them, but have a toothsome, dare I say fudgy texture that guarantees you won’t miss the chocolate.

So, hit the farmers’ market, scare up some local honey, some early-season apples, and some sweet thoughts for the year ahead.

Shanah Tovah!


We love an offbeat holiday here at the Hirsh Health Sciences Library, and we learned recently that May is Zombie Awareness Month. This is probably a good thing, since most of use go through our everyday lives without much regard to zombieism (or zombiism), even though the concept has both a rich cultural history and a handful of real-life scientific examples.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my first exposure to zombies was from the Scooby Doo cartoons that I watched as a kid. Based on the fine scholarship of my 6-year-old self, I knew for certain that zombies were nothing more than bumbling robbers in disguise, and easily foiled by groovy teenagers and their dog.

Many years later, I learned about the concept of the zombie in Haitian folklore and its connection to the brutal New World slave trade, which you can learn more about from this NPR Code Switch story. Now, zombies are chic. They’re hip. They’re everywhere. Even the CDC has a cheeky Zombie Preparedness website.

Yet REAL zombies walk among us, in the form of parasites. Fungi of the genus Ophiocordyceps require ants to complete their life-cycles, and turns the hapless arthropods unlucky enough to encounter fungal spores into slaves that give their lives to spread the fungus. After exposure, the fungus manipulates an ant’s brain, bidding it to climb high. Then it digests the internal organs, and grows a spike out of the head of the ant, which serves as a delivery mechanism for more spores. Read about it here; it’s both fascinating and totally disgusting.

Many other examples of this phenomenon exist, from Toxoplasmosis making rodents lose their fear of cats to a bacteria that causes a flower in Madagascar to change it’s bloom so as to attract the exact insect the parasite needs to spread. And my favorite, the flatworm Leucochloridium paradoxum, pictured below with its unfortunate garden snail host.

Zombie by Mario Quevedo is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

After ingesting the flatworm in bird feces, the parasite invades the snails digestive system and brain, taking over an eyestalk, filling it with offspring and creating an appendage that looks like a delicious worm. The zombified snail shuns its instinctive fear of light and travels to areas where the wiggling, wormy appendage attracts the attention of a hungry bird. After ingesting the parasite, it matures in the gut of the bird, and the process begins anew.

This is worse than the brain-eating humanoids on TV, right?

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The crew here at Hirsh Health Sciences Library love our mascot, Leo the skeleton. He appears in our videos, hosts exciting holiday events (like our Valentine’s Day Kissing Booth), and he might even bring you #CoffeeOnCall. As we usher in the month of April, we decided to repay Leo for all of his hard work by giving him the gift of facial reconstruction. Forensic facial reconstruction is a fascinating field, blending art and science to recreate faces based on the characteristics of the skull. Enjoy this brief video from the Smithsonian Channel on the practice.

Recently, we’ve been able to see for the first time the faces of many individuals lost to history, from J.S. Bach to Richard III to colonists from Jamestown. Doesn’t Leo deserve, nay DEMAND the same treatment as great minds such as William Shakespeare and Copernicus?

Without further ado, I would like to unveil Leo, the true face of the Hirsh Health Sciences Library.


Or, you know, I really would like to. But we ran out of money a little bit into the process. We hope to finish this project someday, but man…those artists are GOOD, and good work doesn’t come cheap. In the meantime, gaze fondly at Leo while he…um…stares you down? Invades your psyche? Haunts your nightmares? I don’t know, I’m not the boss of you. Happy April!*




*Happy April Fools everyone! Also, Leo is made of plastic, he’s noone’s earthly remains…but I do wonder what (or WHO) he’d look like.

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…Your estates and your freedom, your children and Wives; A story I’ll tell you that’s truth now indeed, And when you hear of it your hearts will bleed.

The above comes from A Verse Occasioned by the late horrid Massacre in King-Street, a broadside published in Boston in 1770 to express outrage over the events of the evening of March 5th, the event we now know as the Boston Massacre. On the evening of March 5, 1770, a row broke out in front of the Custom House on King Street (now State Street) in Boston. Accounts of what provoked the trouble are mixed, but most include a soldier striking a boy, and a mob of Bostonians replying by hurling both snowballs and insults at the soldier. As the crowd grew more hostile, more soldiers were called in, and eventually nine armed British soldiers faced a rowdy group of over 50 colonists. Eventually, the soldiers fired into the mob, and when the casualties were totaled, five men were dead and six more were injured. The events of that March evening were seized upon by Boston radicals, and spun to create even more animosity toward the Crown. One of the most famous pieces of propaganda is Paul Revere’s compelling (if inaccurate) depiction of the event, which circulated wildly in the spring of 1770.

Paul Revere, “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street, March 5, 1770.” Boston, 1770. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Of course, this event took place a short walk from the Hirsh Health Sciences Library. Commemorate this event with a Boston Massacre Study Break! Start on the Freedom Trail, and visit the Boston Massacre Marker on the corner of State and Congress Streets, right near the Old State House. Head back toward campus on Tremont Street, and stop in at the Granary Burying Ground. You’ll find the grave marker for the victims of the Massacre next to Samuel Adams. You can also visit with John Hancock and Paul Revere while you’re there. As you follow Tremont toward Boylston Street, take a detour into Boston Common at Avery Street, and enjoy the beautiful Boston Massacre/Crispus Attucks Monument, erected in 1888. If your interest is piqued, there is a full day of (ahem) “family friendly events” planned at the Old State House Museum, including activities for little ones and culminating in the annual reenactment of the Boston Massacre at 7:00 pm this Saturday.

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You spoke, we listened! Starting today the Hirsh Health Sciences Library launches a pilot project that opens 7 rooms on Sackler 5 for advanced reservations.

These Collaboration Rooms are available for groups of 2 or more Health Sciences Campus students to book for academic work during staffed Library hours. These spaces are designed for collaborative projects, brainstorming, and group work of all kinds. They are equipped with various types of technology for all your needs.


Time to Party, Book Your Rooms! (New Year’s Eve party aboard the shantyboat Lazy Bones. Original 

Visit to book your Collaboration Room and read the full details, terms, and conditions.

This Pilot Program will run from March 2 through May 15, 2015. Continuation of the Collaboration Room booking program depends on YOU! Please send questions, comments, or concerns to

And go here to book your room now!

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K-I-S-S-I-N-G! Join the staff of the Hirsh Health Sciences Library Thursday 2/12 and Friday 2/13 to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Stop by to warm up, eat some candy, and maybe share a smooch with our resident skeleton heartthrob, Leo. That’s right, Leo is opening a kissing booth!


Alone on Valentine’s Day? Sweetie stranded somewhere in the snow? Don’t despair ladies and gentlemen, there’s plenty of Leo to go around! So stop by the HHSL Service Desk on Sackler 4, from noon – closing on Thursday the 12th and again from 10am – 5pm on Friday the 13 (spooky!). Sneak a smooch*, snap and share some selfies (tweet your pics to @TuftsHHSL), and fuel your winter-battered body and soul with delicious candy!

* Please don’t actually kiss the skeleton. It’s cold and flu season. You have no idea where he’s been. Air kisses only, please.

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Here’s a weather update for you: Tufts University will be CLOSED tomorrow due to the storm. Keep in mind, the Governor has declared a State of Emergency and the MBTA is closed tomorrow as well. You can keep an eye on conditions via the National Weather Service.

Ice cased Adelie penguins after a blizzard at Cape Denison, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Ice cased Adelie penguins after a blizzard at Cape Denison, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Remember to keep abreast of the storm and its impact on the Tufts University Community here:, and don’t forget to sign up for or update your information in TuftsAlert as well.

Stay safe, stay warm, stay tuned for more information as we get it.

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Hello everyone!

The Hirsh Health Sciences Library will close at 5:00 pm today (pending any further notice), in order to get patrons and staff home safe and sound before the storm hits tonight.

Image courtesy Miami University Libraries:,2469

Image courtesy Miami University Libraries:,2469

Please return your materials by 5:00 pm.

Be careful out there!


January is apparently National Soup Month (who knew?!), at least, it is according to the good people at Campbell’s, and I feel like they know a thing or two about soup. And here at the Hirsh Health Sciences Library, we know a bit about soup, too.

For example, according to this article published in The Nurse Practitioner, there may just be something to the idea that chicken soup is a valid treatment for the common cold. According to this paper, it provides relief from symptoms and decreases the inflammatory response related to viral illness- in other words, chicken soup might actually make you feel better when you’re sick. SCIENCE!

Cure for the Common Cold?  (courtesy University of Washington Libraries. Digital Collections:,360)

Cure for the Common Cold?
(courtesy University of Washington Libraries. Digital Collections:,360)

Regardless of its efficacy, who doesn’t like a hot bowl of soup in the winter, regardless of whether you’re under the weather? Research and Instruction Librarian Jane recommended this pot of Fire Roasted Tomato Soup for a yummy meal. If you’re looking for a weekend project (it is supposed to snow, after all), make someone’s day with a labor-intensive batch of delicious Chicken Matzo Ball Soup (aka Jewish Penicillin). For vegetarians/vegans/spicy food lovers, this Lentil and Coconut Soup with Cilantro-Habanero Gremolata is delicious and cheap to make. It also makes enough soup to freeze for the next time you feel the sniffles coming on.

There’s a proverb (of Spanish or Portuguese origin, apparently) that states: “Of soup and love, the first is best.” I offer no opinion on the matter, but wish you a wonderful National Soup Month.


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