Knock on Wood

Every culture is filled with superstitions. Have you ever knocked on wood after saying something, hoping that you would avoid bad luck? Many believe the tradition started with the pagans, who believed kind spirits lived in trees. They would knock to signal to the tree spirits to come and help. Many of us still do that today, and it may even be a piece of wood in our homes, not necessarily a tree.

Numbers are another area full of superstitions. In our culture, the number 13 is considered unlucky especially when that date falls on a Friday. The reasons are as numerous as can be and its unlucky status can be traced back as far as 1760 B.C. Some believed it was because of the number of full months occurring in a calendar year. Others felt that since the number couldn't be evenly divided and there was always one left over, that remaining one was unlucky. The reasons go on and on and we may never really understand how this came to be.

The Olympics in China are captivating millions of people throughout the world. Did you know in China and Japan the number four is unlucky? The Mandarin word for "death" is pronounced almost exactly the same as the word "four," causing that belief. Interestingly, when Chinese and Japanese emigrate to the United States, the belief is not always lost. Death rates for Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans are 13 percent higher on the fourth day of each month. Our cultural beliefs really can have an effect on our lives.

New Books

"Oil and Gas at Your Door?" is a landowners guide to oil and gas development. This guide was written by the Oil & Gas Accountability Project, a group formed in 1999 to build the collective power of landowners who find themselves confronted by energy corporations that drill for oil and gas. This book explains the stages of what happens when a company drills, and what the impacts are on land, safety and health. Legal and regulatory issues are reviewed and tips for landowners are included. The book has been purchased by many libraries throughout the Four County Library System. This is a hot topic which can have a huge impact on the future of our area. The organization also maintains a website at

Suspense lovers will enjoy David Hewson's latest novel, "The Garden of Evil." Detective Nic Costa is called to a grisly scene of murder in an abandoned art studio. Also in the studio is a canvas that appears to be a painting by Caravaggio. The killer escapes and Nic is determined to find him. Using clues hidden in the painting, he gets closer to his mark, but also discovers there are men who will stop at nothing to protect themselves. Corruption, power, history and more will keep readers riveted.

Lyme disease is still misdiagnosed, even 30 years after its discovery, and its one of the fastest-growing diseases worldwide. If not treated early, it can be debilitating to those infected. Learn about the disease, what to do after a bite, how to recognize the symptoms and get the best treatment, and how to live with the disease. "Beating Lyme" was written by two Lyme disease experts, Constance Dean and Lesley Ann Fein.

Nancy Ellis-Bell is an animal lover and is never able to turn away a stray animal from her California farm. When she rescues a macaw, her life will never be the same. This bird claims the laundry basket, steals the dogs' toys and even decides their food and water bowl are just her cup of tea. She even barks. "The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog" is the hilarious true story of an animal that took over an entire household.

Library Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m-5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Sunday.

Marie Bruni is director of Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. Her column appears in the community section of The Daily Star every Thursday.

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