Friday, September 25, 2020

Signs the economy is bad: September 25, 2020 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.


It's Friday once more, and my four readers know it is time once again to see how bad the economy is doing. This week we have a bit of everything, so let's have a look.


 
Rural News


  • Rural hospitals being on a financial edge of going into ruin is not really news in the United States. However, it made the news again this week as many rural hospitals got government loans to supposedly tie them over during COVID-19. The reality is pretty grim, at least according to " some hospital administrators have called it a payday loan program that is now brutally due for repayment at a time when the institutions still need help." Via NPR.


 

                                                               Government News


  •  Because this is the United States, and the nation has clear priorities even during a pandemic, turns out that the Pentagon used money that was meant for face masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other medical equipment instead for things like jet engine parts and body armor. Let's be honest, those fancy war jets aren't gonna get built without proper parts, and you do want your imperial forces well protected against things like bullets. Viruses? Not so much. Story via Boing Boing.



The Bad Economy  Around the World
 


 

  •  Across the pond in Great Britain, some universities are paying social media slackers "influencers" to promote universities the influencers did not attend (but make it sound like they did). Story via VICE. If I had a bit less ethics, I would honestly try to get on that influencer bandwagon and bring in some product pitching cash my way. 
  • In Colombia, some women left unemployed due to COVID-19 are turning to webcam sex work to help pay the bills. Via VICE. On the positive, they get to work from home, no commute, and they are probably much safer. I will only add that this is not just in Colombia. Looking at social media, anecdotal observation here, it seems a lot more women, including women in the U.S., are turning to web cams and services like OnlyFans to make some money in the bad economy. Hey, when you gotta hustle, you gotta hustle. 
  • This next news item I am not sure about. According to the Singapore Strait Times. Singapore Airlines is going to offer flights to nowhere to get some business going. This boils down to get on a plane for two or three hours, fly around and then come back to where you started just for the fun of it. Here is where I am not sure. One, who would be masochistic enough to get in a flying cattle car voluntarily to just fly around and not really go anywhere? Two, which airline executive thought this was a good idea and why has that person not been fired from the company?

 

                                                  In Other News of the Bad Economy


  • That the United States is a nation founded on racism and bigotry and one that embraces it proudly is not news. Sadly, despite all kinds of protests, that is not likely to change any time soon. However, it turns that being a racist nation can and does cost money to the national economy. Story via NPR. Citigroup ran the numbers, in a new study they reveal that the U.S. has lost $16 trillion due to its insistent racist fuckery. To put it in perspective, according to the NPR article, " U.S. GDP totaled $19.5 trillion last year." Turns out being a racist and bigoted asshole is not just bad for you morally; it can also hurt you financially. 
  • As if racism and bigotry were not bad enough in the U.S., hunger is also a big issue in the United States. The Food Politics blog offers some links and commentary on some recent reports on the situation. Because heaven forbid a nation that is oh so wealthy actually does something decent and work to feed its own people. Instead, it's more sexy to use money to keep propping up the military industrial complex. Again, priorities, man. 
  • Did you know that 9 out of 10 bars/venues cannot afford to pay their rent in New York City? Well, now you do. Story via Spirits Business. Things are looking grim. Rents were already obscenely expensive in the city before the pandemic, and the pandemic has only made things worse. 
  • Meanwhile, bookstore sales fell during the month of July. Story via Publishers Weekly.
  • Are you unemployed due to the Bad Economy, especially now due to COVID-19? Would you like a job with some flexible hours, where you may be able to set your own hours? Are your morals kind of very flexible? If you are not bothered by people who are vulnerable and distressed, and you are happy to stick it to them (as long as it does not affect you), you could make some money in the new wonderful career of a gig eviction agent/process server. According to this story via VICE, "seizing on a pandemic-driven nosedive in employment and huge uptick in number-of-people-who-can't-pay-their-rent, Civvl aims to make it easy for landlords to hire process servers and eviction agents as gig workers." Because when the economy is seriously bad, and people are suffering and vulnerable, you can always find vultures ready to take advantage in order to make money.


Uber Rich


  • Finally for this week, let's see how the uber rich are doing. Seems they may be having some small issues selling some houses. Often when you want to sell a home, if it is not selling, you might sweeten the deal a bit, maybe lower the price a little, or you do some home improvement to make the home look better. In Beverly Hills, there is a mansion listed for about $5 million. In order to get it moving, the sellers are throwing in the use of a private jet in the deal. Story via Departures. Great deal if you got some money to burn. Get a house in a prime location AND the option of your own private jet so you can get away from it all without having to fly commercial with the hoi polloi. What a deal! 



Booknote: 365 Tarot Spreads

Sasha Graham, 365 Tarot Spreads: Revealing the Magic in Each Day. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2014. ISBN: 9780738740386.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: Tarot, cartomancy, almanac, reference
Format: e-book (epub)
Source: I own it. 


This basic book is exactly what the title states: a collection of 365 Tarot spreads, one for every day of the year.

The book is arranged as follows:

  • Introduction.
  • A chapter/collection of spreads for each month from January to December.
  • An index of spreads. This is a nice extra feature that allows readers to find spreads by theme. 

If you are looking for Tarot spread ideas, or you would like to have a nice simple spreads reference book, this book can be a good choice. Graham strives to provide a spread for just about any situation. It does not mean you have to use every spread in the book. In fact, she writes on this:

"Hopefully you'll never have to use the Divorce Spread, the Rejection Spread, or the Letting Go Spread. But life is full of bumps and bruises just as it is full of soft baby kisses and snuggles, so the spreads are there if you need them" (13). 

There is no judgement here if you have to use those spreads. You get a variety of spreads. Use them as needed or as it suits  you. The book does offer a pretty good selection. As I read through the book, I found myself marking spreads I would like to try out. I may feature some of my efforts using some of the spreads on my Alchemical Thoughts blog down the road.

Each spread entry includes:

  • "On this day." Some story or fact or trivia related to the day.
  • A quote or factoid that may or not be related to divination. 
  • "Summation of Spread." A summary of the spread's purpose and rationale.
  • "Cast your cards." The spread's instructions and a small spread diagram. 
  • A Tarot card illustration and factoid about the card and/or its meaning. The card illustrations come from the Universal Tarot by Roberto. De Angelis (link to Aeclectic for deck information). Needless to day you can use any Tarot deck you wish. I'd say you could also use your favorite oracle decks. For example, the book features a Circus Spread I think would be fun to try with the Divine Circus Oracle deck (I have not reviewed the deck yet, so in the meantime, link to Aeclectic for deck information). 
I'd say this book can encourage readers to experiment and try different spreads out. I read the book cover to cover for this review, but this may be a book to browse, find a spread you like, and go from there. That is also where the spreads index is useful: find a spread for a specific theme or need.

This is a very accessible and easy to use book. Graham's writing and directions are simple and straightforward. For learners who want some simple and possibly fun spread templates this book is a good option. For more advanced readers wanting to add a spread or two to their repertoire, this may be a good book as well.

I would also say this is a good selection for libraries that collect pagan and/or divination materials. Do keep in mind the book is very basic-- just the spreads ma'am. If you want something more comprehensive on how to make your own spreads, there are other good books out there. Still, this is a book I would consider ordering for our library. I am sure some members of our local Pagan Coalition who read Tarot and oracle cards would appreciate it.

Overall, I really like this book As I mentioned, I marked some spreads to try out later, and I am looking forward to that. I'd say it is a nice basic addition to a Tarot/cartomancy book shelf, especially for beginners.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes:

What the spreads can do for us:

"Like the value of age and wisdom, tarot spreads allows us to step back, reevaluate, and consider motives, actions, and outcomes from a different vantage point. In this space intuition leaps to life and we actually listen for guidance" (8). 


On spreads and questions:

"To come to tarot is to come with a curious mind. A tarot spread can alter the course of your life-- or not; it is entirely up to you. Will you sit on the information gathered or will you act on it?" (8).

On Tarot and time:

"It is the province of the tarot reader to move backwards, forwards, even sideways in time. It is what we do best. Readers, our cards-- our imaginations-- lie outside of calendar time. These are the highways, landscapes, and environments visited by shamans, artists, seers, and mystics-- the world of imagination. Story, essence, truth, gods, eternity, and symbols exist here. This is why tarot is a gateway to world of esoteric study, why tarot is an entrance to the occult. Because what is hidden can only be revealed by experience. Archetypes are experiential. Tarot is experiential" (12).






Friday, September 18, 2020

Deck Review: Divination of the Ancients oracle deck

 Barbara Meiklejohn-Free, Flavia Kate Peters, and Richard Crookes, Divination of the Ancients (oracle deck).Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-922161-92-5. (link to publisher)
 
Card: Handwriting. Keyword: Authenticity. From Divination of the Ancients oracle deck
Card: Handwriting
Keyword: Authenticity

The kit comes with 45 cards and a small guidebook. The guidebook includes an introduction and then the card meanings. The introduction includes a short description of what the deck does, a guided visualization (sort of a meditation prompt), divination through the ages (a very short historical overview of divination), instructions on reading the cards, and a couple of spreads to try out. We then get the card meanings. For each card, the book includes a small black and white photo of the card, the card meaning, an incantation, other divinatory meanings (some additional divinatory meaning ideas), the card revealed (a note on history of the card's divination tool). You get about two pages of content per card. Overall, the book is basic and easy to read. Content is useful and defines the cards well. The cards are fairly intuitive, but I'd recommend reading the book or at least look over the card meanings when using the deck. For me, there were some divination forms I was not familiar with, and the book gave me a start for learning something new. 

The cards' artwork by Richard Crookes is nice, bright, and colorful. Each card features the art, name of
Card: Augur
Keyword: Mastery

the card, and a keyword. As I mentioned, the deck has some forms of divination I did not know, so there is room for learning. With 45 cards, you get 45 divination forms. I used the deck mainly for a weekly draw to have a card for reflection during the week. This may be an interesting deck to do a spread or two. I also see this deck as a bit of a learning tool to learn about different divination practices. 

Overall, I really like this deck. I like its concept that works as a learning tool as well as a divinatory tool. I think you can read them intuitively, at least many of the cards, but keeping the book handy may help (at least while you get acquainted with the deck). I like the art very much. Cards measure 5 1/4 inches by 3 1/2 inches give or take. The cards are not numbered. If your hands are small, it may take some work to shuffle the deck. The card stock is good, a bit flexible, with a bit of a glossy finish. In the end, I really like this deck, and I am glad to have it in my collection. I wish the guidebook had more substance, but it does offer enough to get you started. 

4 out of 5 stars. 

This card deck kits qualifies for the following 2020 Reading Challenges: 





Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Booknote: Mark of Faith

Rachel Harrison, Mark of Faith: an Adepta Sororitas Novel. Nottingham, UK: Black Library, 2020.  ISBN: 9781789990867. 

Genre: science fiction
Subgenre: Warhammer 40000, Adepta Sororitas
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley 

 

Sister Evangeline survives battle in Ophelia VII. This is a battle where she loses her mentor and most of her battle sisters. She is gravely wounded. She is also marked on her face with marks others take as divine favor from the Emperor. She is seen as chosen by the Emperor, so when the opportunity to find and bring back a valuable relic arises, naturally the Ecclesiarchy believes she is the one to lead the expedition. So does the Inquisition, and Inquisitor Ravara, seeking the artifact for reasons of her own, is going along as well. 

This is a story of quests. It is Sister Evangeline's quest to prove herself worthy and to maintain her humility despite events thrusting leadership and attention on her. It is Inquisitor Ravara's quest to make right the wrongs of her past as well as follow her father's voice, the voice of a dead man. The novel alternates between Evangeline's view and Ravara's view. This works pretty well as it emphasizes it is their story. However, we also see some of the supporting characters through the two main characters' eyes. 

The author starts in the midst of battle, so we get into some action right away. After that and Evangeline's recuperation, the author builds up the story. Gradually the quest comes together, and soon the stakes increase as they travel, a voyage that costs lives but that may be nothing compared to the foe they find when they get there. Much of the tale's intrigue is trying to find out what motivates Ravara. Why is this quest so important to her?

The novel combines action with some suspense and intrigue. We get a bit of Ecclesiarchy politics, especially early in the novel. The novel also has pretty good pacing, and it keeps the reader engaged. This is one I wanted to keep on reading to see how it would turn out. I will note I wished Evangeline had chosen a different path for herself at the end (don't worry, she does remain faithful), but otherwise this was a pretty good tale. Fans of the Adepta Sororitas will likely enjoy this, but they may also want more. 

4 out of 5 stars. 

Book qualifies for these 2020 Reading Challenges: 



#ArcApocalypse 



Monday, September 14, 2020

Booknote: Sleeping Around in America

Andrew Beattie, Sleeping Around in America: Revisiting the Roadside Motel. Ontario (Canada): FriesenPress, 2020.   ISBN: 9781525567520.
 
Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: travel, Americana, motorcycling, motels, pop culture
Format: e-book
Source: From author via BookTasters. 
 

This was an interesting book, and it is one that makes me want to go see the places the author visited. The author embarks on a journey to see 50 of the remaining independent roadside motels in mainly the U.S. (he does start in Canada, but he then travels through the U.S.). These are motels that are now historical for the most part, and in many cases, they are in danger of extinction. Many of these continue working as roadside motels. Some have been renovated and turned into boutique destination motels, but all these places have charm and stories, and the author has collected the charm and stories in this book. 

The book is arranged as follows: 

  • 38 chapters covering the various motels he visited .The last chapter also features an essay, "Postcards from the Roadside" where he looks back at his time on the road and summarizes the state of these motels after the journey. 
  • An appendix by his partner Amanda where she writes about learning to be a motorcycle passenger. 
  • A directory of places visited with contact information. 

The book combines travelogue with personal stories. The author describes his journey, often down to very minute details including mishaps, such as leaving one of his bike's containers unlocked, and his stuff including his laptop falling out all over the highway. He also describes the properties he visits in detail. In addition, he speaks to owners and managers as well as guests to get their stories. The motel workers' stories are interesting and varied from married couples to immigrants who buy a property, work it, and make a go of the American Dream. Along the way, the author gives us a bit of motel history as well as some U.S. history. You get a lot in this book. Additionally, you get some nice color photography throughout the book. The photos do enhance the book and narrative. 

 A strength of the book is the author's narration, which is down to earth and warm. He also pays attention to detail without overdoing it. I'd say this is a book to take your time reading it. I read through it a bit fast to do the review on time, but as I said, this is one to linger on a bit. 

 Motorcycle riders and enthusiasts will likely enjoy the book. However, you do not have to be a biker to enjoy the book. If you enjoy good travel writing combined with a good dose of Americana and a bit of nostalgia, you will enjoy this book as well. The book is very evocative, makes you want to travel. 

This is one I would highly recommend for public libraries. I think patrons who enjoy travel books will enjoy this one. For academic libraries, those with good popular culture and/or Americana collections may want to add it. I think it could also make an interesting addition for academic libraries serving hospitality schools. 

Overall I really liked this one, and I do recommend it.

 4 out of 5 stars.  

* * * * * 

Additional reading notes: 

The author on writing the book: 

"I wrote Sleeping Around America as a travelogue, photo-book, and travel guide all in one. The title is a tongue-in-cheek play on the pillow trade that so many of the mid-century motels grew to rely on just to make ends meet through the 80s and 90s. It is also an irony that at fifty I'm joking about sleeping around. I don't (except to literally sleep). As this book is more than a guide to unique places to have motel sex, I added Revisiting the Roadside Motel as the subtitle.  

Through the book I travel the country seeking out retro motels, learning their stories and trying to find out what the future holds--What better way to do this than by riding a motorcycle" (ix). 


More on how he wrote the book: 

"I learn about the motels by meeting the people who own them and the people that stay in them. Through the book I meet moteliers, talk with guests, meet the employees and speak with people in the community to learn all I can about the motel. This book is as much about their stories as it is about the buildings themselves" (xi).


Reader's advisory note. These are books I have read that may have similar appeal factors. Links go to my reviews: 

 

 




 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Signs the economy is bad: September 11, 2020 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.

Another week, and another series of signs that the economy is bad. I found a lot of stuff in education and miscellaneous iterms this week, so. . .





Education News

 

  •  According to this report via UPI, school closures in the U.S. may cost the economy more than $15 trillion. Yes, that is trillion with a "t". 
  • Meanwhile, in the U.S. many children go hungry due to those school closures. Many public schools are struggling to do their best to keep many of those students fed. Story via NPR. 
    • However, the issue is complicated due to various issues that school cafeteria workers face due to COVID-19. Story via The Atlantic. Among other issues, cafeteria workers are often senior citizens, which puts them in the vulnerable category. 
  • Across the pond, The Guardian reports that one in four students are unable to access online learning during lockdowns. I get the feeling it may not be better here in the United States, but I would need to check to make sure. 
  • As if things were not bad enough in the job market, college graduates who thought they were good to go with a job offer are finding that companies are now rescinding said offers. Story via VICE
  • The public often gripes at libraries not having everything they wish they could get. This applies to e-books, where many people think we can just get them from Kindle for cheap prices like they do at home. The reality is very different, and in a nutshell, publishers are basically price gouging libraries for those e-books. RA for All has an explanation of the issue to help people see the reality. You may want to take some time to educate yourselves, and it would be nice if you then help advocate for libraries more.


Health and Medical News



  • In the United States, the issue of what happens if a medical catastrophe happens to the average person has always been a serious concern. If a disease or medical disaster does not kill you, the outrageous medical bills will probably send someone to the grave or bankruptcy if they are lucky. This issue has been made worse now by the pandemic, especially if you lose your income. Story via Salon. There is something to be said for having a universal health care system, like most of the civilized world already has, but Americans are always notorious for two things: bitching about paying taxes (even if said taxes would contribute to the public good and their own well being) and not giving a shit about their fellow human being (the old "I've got mine, so fuck you Jack")

 


The Bad Economy  Around the World



  •  The Chinese are finding that the service sector is the new driver in their economy. Story via Telesur. This caught my eye in part because the service sector has been the economic driver in the United States for quite a while, and well, let's just say that has not worked out as well as some higher ups planned; oh, it worked fine for the higher ups doing the exploiting, not so much for all those service workers. 
  • Meanwhile, over in Ireland, due to COVID-19, half their pubs are shut down. Story via The Spirits Business
  • In Great Britain, retailers worry that return to work that is starting to happen may be too late to save many retailers. Story via The Guardian.


 

                                                    In Other News of the Bad Economy


  •  NPR reports on findings from a poll that the pandemic is putting nearly half of U.S. households at risk. Oh hun, it is not just the disease. It is the financial disasters that come along with COVID-19. 
  • As if that was not bad enough, NPR also reports that nearly half of day care centers in the U.S. could be lost due to the pandemic. 
  • Salon reports about the plight of cleaning ladies due to the pandemic. This affects immigrant women particularly hard. However, I find it a bit hard to be sympathetic to the profiled employer in the story, who is an immigrant herself and to be honest is mostly exploiting undocumented women to keep her cleaning business running. I feel for the undocumented women, but not so much for the employer. This exploitation issue is not new; it's just that COVID-19 has made it worse and brought it more into the open. 
  • As many people are aware of by now, the Pendejo In Chief and the Party of Stupid hate the U.S. Postal Service, and they are doing their worst to try to eliminate it despite it being an essential service to the nation. One group of people this move hurts is independent musicians and music labels that rely on the USPS to deliver their goods. Story via Rolling Stone
  • In Texas, I am sure there will be mourning as that fine cafeteria institution Luby's is likely to close down for good. Story via Dallas Observer.


                                                          Hustlin' in the Bad Economy

Usually I use this segment to highlight small people and small businesses that get creative in the Bad Economy. However, some big guys are also hustlin' in the Bad Economy though not in a good way. Still, one has to admire their chutzpah in making a buck or two in the Bad Economy. 

  • The Miami Herald reports on a new study that finds those school shooting drills that have become a normal part of schools may do more harm than good. However, there is a whole industry making money out of those drills. As the article states, "Meanwhile, for-profit companies charge schools thousands of dollars for the training, making the active shooter drill industry worth an estimated $2.7 billion — 'all in pursuit of a practice that, to date, is not evidence-based,' according to the researchers." 
  • Speaking of guns and firearms, that industry is on pace to exceed sales from 2019 in 2020, and this year still has four months to go. That comes from a story out of The Washington Examiner. How good are sales you might ask? "Sales have been so brisk this year that many shelves in gun stores are bare. What's more, ammunition is hard to find." 
  • Another industry that is doing well suddenly is the camping and outdoors goods business. Story via NPR. Why? In large part because a lot of people who would usually book vacations to faraway places, plane travel, trips to amusement parks and such suddenly can't do that due to the virus. What they are finding they can do is go camping, kayaking, so on at a local park and/or lake. So there is a run on outdoor equipment. People find some entertainment wherever they can. 
  • Over in France, a book has the old dilemma of not doing that well on sales, or at least it is doing OK but no big deal. How do you get some sales to go up? Well, if you get a government official to call for a ban on your book, that usually does the trick nicely. Story via The Guardian.


Uber Rich


  • Finally for this week, a look at the world of the uber rich that you and me can only read about and imagine. The uber rich may be feeling a bit of a pinch in the pandemic times, at least in the art world. It turns out that the fine art trade, you know, buying, selling fine art, having auctions, parties, receptions, has slowed to almost a halt due to the pandemic. Story via Departures.


Deck Review: Thelema Tarot

Renata Lechner, Thelema Tarot (deck). Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2015. ISBN: 9780738747538. (Link to Llewellyn, who distributes Lo Scarabeo decks in the US). 
 
The Hermit-IX card

This is the deck I used during August 2020. I also used it before, but I finally got around to reviewing it now. First a quick note: it is called Thelema Tarot, but it has nothing to do with Aleister Crowley's Thelema.The deck is closer to Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tradition. 

Let's take a look at the booklet. This is a Lo Scarabeo deck, so the booklet comes in five languages: English, Italian, Spanish, French, and German. The book is written by Jaymi Elford The deck and booklet come in a small solid box; the booklet is a small paperback, which is better quality than the usual Little White Book (LWB). You get 69 pages of content in the English section. This includes a small introduction, card meanings, on using the cards, and a spread-- the Thelema Spread. For each card you get a small quote, meaning, and some keywords. To be honest, the meanings are mainly descriptions of the art in the cards with a bit on symbols in the card. This is fairly basic, and if you are learning, you may want to keep a Tarot reference book handy to supplement. Still, you get enough to get you started. Do note that content in
Justice-XI card

other languages is minimized; card meanings go down to just two or three lines per card. Based on looking over the Spanish content, they just kept the opening quote from the English section as card meaning. You will miss some material if you do not read English. 

Three of Cups card
The cards feature computer generated art with a bit of Renaissance style. I'd say the cards have a bit on an ethereal quality that invites you to really look at the cards. Colors are bright but soft. For the Minor Arcana, the colors are somewhat coordinated, say green predominates for pentacles. I find color coordination in decks is helpful to learn elemental correspondences in the cards. The art is clear and easy to ready. This is pretty much an RWS clone, so if you read in that system it will work well. The images are very much within traditional RWS. I'd also say the ethereal quality in the art is good for intuitive readers as w


ell. The cards are borderless except for a small bottom border to identify the cards. Cards measure 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches give or take. If you read reversals, the card back is not reversible but it is still very nice. Card stock feels good and flexible. The cards have a glossy, light coating. 

Overall, I really like this deck. I enjoy using it, and I am glad to have it my collection. The images are accessible, colorful, and easy to read. This is a deck you can use year round. If you are looking for a colorful and reliable RWS clone deck, this is a good choice. 

4 out of 5 stars.