Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Post 2017: Traditions, Manners, and other Miscellanous stuff

Welcome to the first of my Holiday Posts for 2017. This has not been an easy year. Work overall has been good; it has kept me busy, and it has challenged me at times. However I am grateful for the work, the fact we still have a roof over the head, food on the table, and some of the simple things in life. Clio, our new cat who had her first Christmas at home last year, has settled in nicely.

As for the rest of the real world, this year is now part of what I have come to know as the "Hard Times." I wish I could say I have hopes for 2018, but to be honest, I do not see things getting better. So I have been making an effort to just expose myself less to news and current events. I have trimmed and continue to trim my RSS reader and my social media feeds. I have been doing my best to read more in an escapist way, though that has not always been successful. I have not done my tally for books read in 2017 yet, but I get the feeling the number will be lower than 2016 just because more often than not my mood has been foul after hearing whatever the hell the Pendejo In Chief  and the morons of the Party of Stupid have done. But let's try to stay positive. I still got a good amount of reading done, and I have continued my Tarot and oracle card studies. I have found Tarot and oracle to be a  nice way to meditate and tune out for a while.

So whatever holiday or holidays  you celebrate this season, I wish you all a happy and safe time. Let's get this show on the road then.

Some trivia about the holidays: 

  • Did you know that the value of U.S. imports of Christmas ornaments from China for 2016 was $1.5 billion. In fact, "China led the way with 92.0 percent of the U.S. total imports of Christmas ornaments." The U.S. buys a heck of a lot of Christmas ornaments from China. You can see this figure and more from the U.S. Census holiday fact sheet for 2017
  • Did you know that too much Christmas music can be bad for your mental health? That is a recent finding from psychologists. Article via AlterNet
  • Learn how Santa Claus went from being a nice saint to the patron of shopping malls and crass materialism. Via The Guardian

On holiday cards: 

  •  Do you still send out Christmas or holiday greeting cards? In our house, we still do send out a few. Do you know how to address them properly? Here are some etiquette tips on addressing holiday cards. Via USA Today
  • Are you bored sending and receiving the usual holiday cards? How about spicing things up with some of these rude Christmas cards (warning, some images may be NSFW). Via Dangerous Minds
On decorations and other objects: 

  • Did you have leftover decorations from your Christmas tree? You are not sure what  to do with  them? You got a beard? How about you just hang them from your beard? No, seriously, someone thought that was a good idea. Via Cosmopolitan.  
  • You can complement those beard decorations with an ugly sweater or two. Via Shoplet blog.
  • And if you get a little hungry, you can maybe bake one of  these holiday cakes. Via The New York Times.
Some wellness advice and other tips: 

The holidays can be stressful, and  I get the feeling that in these Hard Times they are bound to be more stressful for more people. So whether you are hosting people or traveling to visit people, here are some pieces of advice to keep your stress levels low when your drunken barely literate Right Wing nutjob uncle decides to insult you and your loved ones during the holiday gathering. Don't get in a war of words or any other fisticuffs with him. He and his ilk are  not worth it. Instead, maintain the peace, breathe deeply, and if it gets bad, just leave (or kick him out). In addition, this time of year often invites reflection as we look to the  year that  has passed and we look towards the new year, so I am including some ideas to help you reflect, including ideas for journaling, which  is a practice I find helpful.

  • Via Inc., here are some tips on how to manage stress and have an easier time time during this holiday season. Do some basic things  like getting enough sleep and staying hydrated. That part about matching water for every cocktail you might  have is spot on. 
  • Are you dreading conflict over the holidays? A big piece of advice is to let it go. Or, as my mother would often say, rub some olive oil on so that stuff slides right off. Personally I prefer the avoidance tactic: just avoid the toxic people in your life, but if you can't, this may help. Via The Conversation.
  • One thing you may consider to make the world a bit better around you is giving to charity. The Christian Science Monitor has some ideas
  • Time to reflect on the previous  year? Consider some journaling. 
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you stay tuned and return for the rest of the holiday posts series. Up next, I plan to look at the many ridiculous things people give each other for presents along with a bit on shopping. And later on, I will look at some of the reading lists and other suggestions on  what to read for the next year. I will then wrap up with  the annual "WTF Happened?' post. You don't want to miss out.

In  the meantime, Happy Holidays.

Booknote: Vampire Haiku

Ryan Mecum, Vampire Haiku. Cincinnati, OH: HOW Books, 2009. ISBN: 978-1-60061-772-0.

Genre: Poetry
Subgenre: vampires, horror, humor, Gothic
Format: paperback
Source: I bought this (on clearance) from Half Price Books

This is a poetry narrative that combines  horror and humor.

William Butten was on the Mayflower on his way to the New World. En route, another passenger, Katherine, turns him into a vampire. From there, we get Butten's story of three centuries or so of his life in America. He decides to keep a journal, documenting his life in haiku verses. From the American Revolution to the 20th century, Butten feeds and witnesses various events, big and small, of U.S. history.

The story combines  horror, a little romance, a bit of a Gothic feel here and there, and a nice dose of humor. The author really manages to keep the classic 5-7-5 syllables haiku structure throughout, which adds to the book's charm. I did have some mixed feelings about the ending, like the author changed his mind in midstream, but in the end, things turn out well.

Overall, it is a charming little book. For history fans, you may finally get some answers to previously "unsolved mysteries" like what really happened to Amelia Earhart. For true vampire fans, this will be entertaining as well. In the end, I really liked it.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Booknote: Super Sikh, issue 2

Eileen Kaur Alden,, Super Sikh, Issue 2: Viva Las Vegas. Chicago, IL: Rosarium Publishing, 2017.  ISBN: 9781495627132.

Genre: comics and  graphic novels
Subgenre: heroes
Format: e-galley
Source: NetGalley

This is the continuation of the series started in issue one (link to my review of that). Issue two was great fun to read, but it was short. I wanted to keep on going. This issue picks up where the previous one left off. Deep gets released from TSA detention, and he heads out of Los Angeles to Las Vegas on his way to Graceland. In Las Vegas, he helps out a woman in trouble in trouble and offers her a ride to Memphis. Meanwhile, Group X, an Islamic terrorist group has been thwarted by Deep once too often. They find out he is  in the United States, so they send a hit squad to get him. However, even for terrorists the economy is bad so they send them over in the cheapest coach seats they can book. Will Group X succeed?

This comic has a bit less action this time, but it does add a nice does of humor. Also, Deep is a compelling and  humane character you just want to follow and see how things turn out. He is a good guy in a time we can really use a good guy or two. Additionally, we get some good art, making this a very good comic to read. The cover art was great. I will also note that the comic makes some good commentary on issues like racism, but it does so without being preachy about it. The author simply embeds it in the narrative.

Overall, I wish it was longer, and I hope the series keeps getting better. I definitely recommend following this one.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, December 08, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: December 8, 2017 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.

Unless I find a big influx of stories in the coming two weeks before Christmas, this will likely be the last edition of "Signs the economy is bad" for 2017. Do not worry. I am not expecting 2018 to be any better under the current "Hard Times," so I am sure this series will continue well into 2018. In the meantime, I have come across a few early holiday season stories along with  the usual fuckery, so let's have a look.

  • It is getting more difficult to find volunteer firefighters, especially in rural areas. To make things worse, the number of volunteer firefighters we do have now is diminishing. This is not exactly good news given recent events like the California wild fires. Story via The Rural Blog
  • Meanwhile, U.S. farmers are killing themselves in record numbers. Again, to make things worse, this trend is not exclusive to the U.S. Story via The Guardian
  • In other rural news, 2/3 of rural counties now offer even less jobs. Story via The Daily Yonder
  • Moving along, the U.S. construction industry is working harder than ever in light of recent disasters such as hurricanes in Texas and wildfires in California. Like many other industries in the U.S., the construction industry employs foreign workers, including some on various visas. Well, the Pendejo In Chief's administration, in its quest to keep messing things up and making things harder on everyone else, is moving to end protections for workers with temporary protected status,  many who do  those rebuilding jobs. Story via NPR.
  • Laborers in China are not doing much better. After being told and encouraged to leave the countryside and move to cities for jobs, those jobs are now dwindling, and they are basically being told  now to GTFO. Story via NPR.  
  • Meanwhile, in case you needed more reason to be angry at how restaurants exploit their workers, especially workers, their latest fraud is to basically skim off tax receipts. Seriously, they can now use software to void transactions, show less than what they actually sold, etc. in the quest to not pay or pay less taxes. It is not just a U.S. thing by  the way. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader
  • And in news from the friendly skies, an airline that had delays offered their passengers some vouchers so they could eat at the airport. The problem? The vouchers were for about 8 bucks, and the cheapest food available was about 11 bucks. As the kids said, #fail. At least one of the passengers was not happy about it. Story via Inc.
  • In higher education news, via Inside Higher Ed
  • On a positive for some, if you happen  to be a genetic researcher or such, the military may have work for you as it invests about $100 million in research for "genetic extinction" technology. The DARPA guys who brought you the Internet are now  interested in using genetic technologies to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes, which  sounds good, but it is the military. So naturally one wonders who long before they turn that in other fine bioweapons. Story via AlterNet
  • In avocado news: 
    • Did you know that if you are on a dating site and your profile mentions avocados, especially guacamole, your odds get better? Story via Atlas Obscura
    • In ridiculous news, here is a solution for stupid people who can't handle knives and cut avocados. Now, you can buy pit-less avocados. Story via BBC. 
  • You have to hustle in the bad economy, and this includes erotic performers online. Sidny Deveraux discusses what it is like to be "a naked lady on the Internet." This is a piece I found interesting on a topic you do not always  hear about. Story via CQ Magazine.  
  • In early holiday season news, do you ever wonder why the  hell it is next to impossible to find t that one must have toy or gift everyone wants no matter how early or diligent you are, especially online. Here is the answer. Motherfucking assholes are using bots to buy them all up before you get a chance, and then reselling them at obscenely exorbitant prices in places like E-Bay. Story via The New York Times
  • And finally for this week, do you have a gun enthusiast family member who  has it all? Are you not sure what you could possibly get them that they do not have already? Do you have some serious cash to spare? If you do, then you could get them a Trump .45. What is a Trump .45? It is a limited edition pistol, "the Rolls-Royce of firearms made for Donald Trump supporters and Second Amendment fans.It's finished in 24 karat gold, made with real meteorite, and has the blessing of the NRA.Could this limited-edition 1911 pistol engraved "TRUMP 45" make presidential firearms great again?" Story via Forbes, with hat tip to Christian Nightmares.
So that does it for this edition. Stay tuned for through the rest of the month I will be posting my annual holiday series. From ridiculous gifts to holiday traditions to books to read, I will take a look at the at the holidays with  a little fun in mind. 

Booknote: Sequential Drawings

Richard McGuire, Sequential Drawings: the New Yorker series. New York: Pantheon Books, 2016.  ISBN: 978-1-101-87159-1.

Genre: art
Subgenre: drawings, comics
Format: small hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library 

This small book collects McGuire's series of sequential wordless drawings originally published in The New Yorker magazine. The art ranges from cute and witty to somewhat plain and ordinary. The quality can vary. It is a plain book, and the art is composed of line drawings. The artist can do a lot with those basic line drawings.

In the end, it is a cute book with some sequences better than others. This may be more for fans of the magazine. I liked it, but I did not think it was a big deal.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Booknote: Thrawn

Timothy Zahn, Thrawn. New York: Del Rey, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-345-51127-0.

Genre: science fiction
Subgenre: Star Wars, space opera
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch  of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is a Star Wars novel about the character that became Grand Admiral Thrawn. This character was introduced in  Timothy Zahn's trilogy of novels that started with Heir to the Empire in 1991. The character was part of what became the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU), which was before Disney bought Star Wars. The Expanded Universe works were often hit or miss, but the character of Thrawn proved to be a popular one. Now Zahn writes about Thrawn one more time to tell the story of his rise to power.

When the novel opens, Thrawn is a young Chiss, member of a mysterious alien race. As a youth the Empire finds him, and  his tactical acumen catches the interest of the Emperor. The Emperor makes sure Thrawn enters the Imperial Academy. There he meets Eli Vanto, who becomes his trusted aide. From there, Thrawn's talent gets him promotions, making him an ally or two, and a lot of enemies along the way on his path to become Grand Admiral.

The book offers two stories. The main story is Thrawn's story. A secondary story is that of Arihnda Pryce, a woman with  an agenda of her own who becomes a ruthless Imperial administrator. She has the one thing Thrawn lacks: political savvy. She may be either an ally or a foe for Thrawn.

Along the way, Thrawn educates Eli Vanto in the art of war. Every chapter in the novel starts with Thrawn's notes and thoughts on topics like warfare and leadership, notes he is making for his student. After these small notes, the plot ensues. The book has 29 chapters plus an epilogue.

Fans of this character will definitely enjoy this book. Star Wars readers will enjoy it as well. The book has good pacing, a solid plot with plenty of action and intrigue, and Thrawn is a very appealing character. He is an Imperial, but you will find yourself rooting for him. Overall, this is a book that draws you in right away. I definitely enjoyed this one, and I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5 stars.

Side note: similar reads include:

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Monday, December 04, 2017

Booknote: Dreadful Diseases and Terrible Treatments

Jonathan J. Moore, Dreadful Diseases and Terrible Treatments. New York: Metro Books, 2017. ISBN: 9781435164710.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: history, health and medical, trivia
Format: paperbackM
Source: We bought this

The book is a history of disease and treatments over time. If anything, it reads a lot like a catalog of seriously bad medical ideas too. Before the medical establishment began to get a clue about things like washing your hands before surgery, things could be pretty gruesome if you were a patient.

The book is arranged into 11 thematic chapters. The narrative is not fully linear in terms of chronology. Chapter topics include:

  • The Black Death
  • Shocking Surgery
  • Tropical Diseases
  • On Fecal Matters
The book is an interesting read overall, but it can get gross at times. The author also includes plenty of engravings, illustrations, and photographs to complement the text. Some of the visuals can be a bit strong for some readers. I found the chapter on mental illness particularly interesting.

Overall, this is a book to read a bit a time. It  is not always easy to read, but it is interesting, and if nothing else, it may make you think twice about longing for "the good old days."  The book does give you a sense of how disease and responding to it shapes history. It is an accessible selection. Some parts have more depth than others, but still a good book. I liked it.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges: