Friday, November 30, 2007

My blog addiction

And, since it is Friday, we have our semi-regular feature. In terms of the result for this quiz, well, I suppose it could be worse. Anyhow, have a good Friday and weekend.

71%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2 - Dating Site

Secretaries and others, remember to treat them well

When I started my first school teaching job, many years ago, I was told that the most important person I would know would be the secretary. I don't recall who gave me that piece of advice, but it is very valid and true. My father always gave me similar advice; he knew that in an office, a secretary was the one who really ran the office. He was an industrial salesman back then; he drove a lot. But I also remember how he treated the secretaries with respect and dignity. True, he treated everyone that way, but the point is he made sure his secretaries felt appreciated and well-treated as well as janitors and other workers. I can say, as I look back, that I never saw him act as if he was better than anyone else. He also made sure his three sons learned that valuable lesson: treat others with dignity and respect. Just because so and so may be a plumber or a janitor, it does not mean they have any less worth.

I work at the university level now. If I had to give that "treat your secretaries well" advice, I would modify it as follows: treat the secretaries, the janitors, the IT techs, and the campus police well. If you get on their good side, you'll be in good shape. Of course, you should do this out of common decency, but I will add that if you follow my advice, they'll remember you in a good light. And when you need to get some light fixed, you may just get it done a bit faster.

Note: this small post was prompted by this piece from Inside Higher Ed on "The Lasting Impact of a Departmental Secretary." The comments on the piece are mixed in terms of interest. Seems that, as academics often do, they have to focus on making it a class/privilege war issue when it is a tribute to a woman that clearly had an impact on many people. My two cents.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lose Pot? Call the cops

Apparently some dudes either lost or tossed a couple of large bags of marijuana on the side of the road in Florida. According to the AP report, entitled "Dude, didn't we have 60 pounds of pot?," highway workers "picking up litter from along Interstate 4 near Tuesday morning made an unusual find: two big plastic garbage bags stuffed with freshly harvested marijuana."The Florida Highway Patrol, wanting to do the right thing, "says anyone missing two big bags of pot can call their Tampa area office."

I can imagine how that phone call might go:

FHP: "Florida Highway Patrol, Tampa Office, how may I help you?"

Stoned dude: "Oh, yea, like, dude, I lost two bags. . ." (silent pause). . ."along the highway, kinda big, with some, uh, plants in them. . ."

FHP: "Sure thing, sir. Just give us your address, and we'll bring you right over to claim them."

Now, I am sure the cops meant their remark in a light spirit, but you know someone out there is dialing their headquarters as we speak.

I can decide for myself what I want to read, thank you much

This has to be the quote of the day for me. It comes from the story of yet another woman who refused to return a library's book she checked out because she considered it offensive once she got her hands on it. I posted about another mofo in this category here. And before anyone says anything, if you are thief, you lose any credibility for your cause later. On this story, the book in question is Ellen Wittlinger's Sandpiper. The author, on learning her book was challenged, said what I pretty much always think about people who, having the freedom not to read something, choose to complain about that thing they themselves don't want to read and deprive the rest of us. So, here is the quote of the day, from Ellen Wittlinger:

"'I know that there are people in this country, who, in the name of religion, feel high school students should be kept as ignorant of sex as possible, but I was shocked that the girl herself was equally afraid of knowledge,' Wittlinger said. 'Of course, the bottom line, as always, is that Lysa Harding didn't have to read the book if she didn't want to. But there are no doubt other students who do want to read it and she should not be able to decide what anyone else can or cannot read.'"(emphasis is mine)

While I have my opinion about people who choose to keep their children ignorant, unfortunately, that's their parental right. However, don't go around with your self-righteousness trying to censor for the rest of us. Don't want to read it? Fine by me. But you don't get to tell the rest of us what to read.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A few more Thanksgiving links

Just when I thought I was done with my post for Thanksgiving 2007, I found a few extra things. Rather than putting them in the previous post, I just figured it would be better to make another post, so here it is. Here are some extras for your amusement (maybe you learn something too).

I will be back sometime in the weekend. I am certainly unplugging tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving.

Why Thanksgiving Dinner Could Cost More? Could it be the gas?

I came across this report from the Renewable Fuels Association discussing the "Impact of Higher Oil Prices on Thanksgiving Dinner" (note: PDF file). This pretty much sounds like common sense to me. If the price of gasoline has been going up, it is going to have an impact on a lot of things. It will cost you more if you are driving. It will drive up the price of food items since they have to be transported, and transport has higher fuel costs, which I am sure get passed down to consumers. It really is a chain reaction, so to speak.

One example from the document:

"At today’s prices, Americans will spend more than $1.8 billion on gasoline over the Thanksgiving holiday, nearly $520 million, or 39 percent, more than Thanksgiving 2006. That is $520 million that cannot be spent on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season."

Interesting way to look at it. You may have less to spend on the crazy Friday because you spent more getting there. Yes, for me, it is crazy Friday. The limited "specials" retailers offer for their wares at the crack of dawn don't justify my family or me getting up to buy anything. We may however go do some people watching later in the day, but buying anything is not part of the plan. Besides, most the time you can find a good price anyhow later in the season if you do some comparison shopping or shop online.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving 2007

I will be doing a short road trip to visit with family for the Thanksgiving Holiday.

For those of you who are traveling, whatever your mode of transportation, may it be a safe one, and may you enjoy a great meal in the company of friends and family. If you are not traveling, and instead people are coming to your home, may the stress be low or nonexistent, and may you have a great time. And just in case you want some reading before or after you head out, here are some things I have found:

  • The Census Bureau has their feature on Thanksgiving Day. Here are some highlights:
    • 272 million. The preliminary estimate of turkeys raised in the United States in 2007. That’s up 4 percent from 2006. The turkeys produced in 2005 together weighed 7.2 billion pounds and were valued at $3.2 billion.
      Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service <>

    • 144,086. Number of certified organic turkeys on the nation’s farmland, as of 2005. Most of these turkeys were in Michigan (56,729) or Pennsylvania (48,815).
      Source: USDA Economic Research Service <>
  • The American Farm Bureau Federation reports that "Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Inches Higher This Year."
  • Unfortunately, not everyone may be as fortunate in sharing the bounty.
    • For instance, the National Coalition for the Homeless recently issued a report finding a situation of "Feeding Intolerance: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness." According to the press release about the report, "the report details how local governments across the country are using a wide variety of ordinances, policies, and tactics to restrict groups that share food with poor and homeless people. The report also offers examples of more constructive alternatives to these counterproductive laws." Now, I am sure that in spite of such findings, many charitable organizations will provide a meal to those in need.
    • Meanwhile, Second Harvest issued a report finding that "in the United States, one out of six children in small towns and big cities lives in a food insecure household, which means they do not always know where they will find their next meal." Something to think about while you are watching the traditional football games after the meal: "That’s enough children to fill every seat in all of the professional league football, baseball, basketball and hockey stadiums and every Division One NCAA basketball stadium across the country at the same time."
    • However, I cannot just give you the bad news and leave no hope. So, I urge people who are able and willing to consider volunteering. For example, here in East Texas, the East Texas Food Bank may use some volunteers not just now but during the year. Visit the site for details.
  • Do you need some help with the recipes? Epicurious has a nice thanksgiving guide. So does the Food Network here.
  • But what happens if you are vegetarian? We got you covered here with some recipes that are friendly to our vegetarian and vegan friends.
  • And what about the leftovers? Personally, I am not much for Thanksgiving leftovers other than the pie. However, I know plenty of people who like the leftovers, so here are some ideas from Mr. Breakfast. Apparently, that is all that guy does; I may have to revisit the website during the year for other ideas.
  • Does this holiday give you stress? Well, getting together with family, especially if some things are a bit tense, can be stressful. Dr. Joyce Brothers offers some tips on dealing with the stress.
  • If you are one of those people who just have to watch the Macy's Day Parade, find some information and trivia here about it.
  • Learn a little history about the festivity from the Smithsonian here. Learn a few more facts from this CBC article on "Talkin' Turkey," including the answer to the question, "why do I feel sleepy after eating that turkey."
  • If you somehow manage to stay awake after the turkey, maybe you want to do some reading. Here is a list of some books with a Thanksgiving theme. If you like cozy mysteries, this may be your list for Thanksgiving. And here is a list for children.
  • And talking about the football games, it is not just sitting down and watching them. James Alder has some advice on "NFL Football on Thanksgiving." There is strategy to it as it turns out. Make sure you know what games are going on. The NFL's site has some information along with a list of memorable Thanksgiving games from past years. Do check your local listings accordingly then.
  • Of course, for you to have your holiday, you either have to make it (see the recipes and tips above), or you have to travel someplace.
    • If you are traveling by car, you may find Google Maps useful. When you open it, there is a link in the map area that says "Traffic." Click on that, and the map shows some traffic lights. Click on a traffic light and zoom in to get some local traffic information.
    • If you are flying, may the deity or higher being of your choice have mercy on you (can you tell I do not have a high opinion of flying? And no, it is not fear of flying itself, but let's leave that for another post, shall we?). A quick look at the news using Google as well reveals a few stories about delays in flights. You may want to make sure you leave with plenty of time. If you need some information about delays, the FAA site has it here with an interactive map for airport information. Calling ahead to your carrier or looking online may be advisable as well.
  • Finally, if you are feeling frisky, and you happen to be holding on to that turkey baster, here are "15 Ways to Use a Turkey Baster for Sex." Now, this is where I do the usual warning: If you offend easily, or you are underage, DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK. On the other hand, if some graphic suggestions don't bother you, and you feel like trying something different, go right ahead and click here.
So, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sure, she stole the book, but the library having it was the real problem

In what I can only classify as the "mofo du jour" (heck, I may make that a new category for the blog), this lady out in Lewiston, Maine checked out a book title. She decided that the book offended her sensibilities. So instead of returning it, she took it upon herself to be the moral police and stole it so that other people would not be able to read it. She claims the book, It's Perfectly Normal, violates local anti-obscenity laws. And it is not like she is denying the theft. According to the story, she did check the book out at two library branches. At least, the thief was "thoughtful" enough to write a check to cover the cost of the books. How nice. Folks, the reality of this story is that the lady is a thief pure and simple. If she did not want to read the books, all she had to do was leave them alone on the shelf. She could have even filed a complaint or request for review at the library without having to resort to theft. The minute she chose to become a thief, she lost any sympathy and credibility. It is not an act of civil disobedience no matter what her wishful thinking may be. To even consider labeling her actions as such simply gives a bad name to the actions of such noble people as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We can only hope that the people in Lewiston, ME have a little more reason and common sense than that lady.

So. it turns out college students DO drink more during football games

According to a study from the University of Texas at Austin (also known as the flagship), "College students drink larger amounts of alcohol on football game days, comparable to well-known drinking days such as New Year's Eve and Halloween. . . ." What do you know? I am not terribly surprised or impressed. Of course, there is always a catch:

"The researchers found students were especially likely to drink more during high-profile games against conference or national rivals. However, the increased drinking rates only occurred when students were on campus. For instance, drinking levels were high for the 2005 regular-season Ohio State game, but were relatively low for games against rival Texas A&M (played during Thanksgiving break) and both Rose Bowl games, including the national championship (played during the semester break)." (emphasis is mine.)

Sure, drinking is not as high on campus when the students are not there. Really? I wonder why that could be. It might not be because they are drinking someplace else, could it? Or, to be more optimistic, they may be drinking less if they went home for the holidays, and they can't drink at home. Although, they could be drinking at home, but that would not matter to the study since they are not on campus. I cannot help but wonder who paid to have this study done, let alone how much it actually cost.

A hat tip to the Bold Types blog.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Children in many states live with hunger

"One of every four children in New Mexico and Texas and one of every five in a dozen other states, live in households that struggle to provide enough food at some point during the year, a report released Thursday says." So opens a report in USA Today entitled "Study tracks hunger among children." I cannot help but wonder how in a nation like this one people can so casually allow this to happen. All those billions of dollars spent on a questionable war abroad while children are allowed to live with insecurity about where the next meal might come from. Add to this the price in gasoline that continues to rise as well as the cost of food, and this is not bound to get better. As I often ask, is there a magic number? Is there a moment when people in this nation will look at their own children, finally say that a single child going hungry is wrong and immoral? And when they do so, will they finally vote for people who will work towards ending such a problem here at home?

Here in Texas, it does not look good either. "In Texas, [Jan] Pruitt [chief executive officer of the North Texas Food Bank in Dallas] says, demand for food has steadily risen in recent years as working poor families struggle to pay for gas and housing."

This blog's readability level

It's Friday once again, and the two readers of this blog know what that means. This readability for blogs thing has been going around a few blogs already. I have no idea what exactly they use to measure this. Add to it that I am not sure if I should take the result as a compliment (i.e. the blog is fairly easy to read) or an insult (i.e. only high school level?). Anyhow, go put in your url and see what turns out. The result then:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No "ho ho ho" for you

Just when I thought I had seen it all, along comes this ridiculous story out of the AFP: "Santas Warned 'ho ho ho' Offensive to Women." Apparently, a company in Australia has told its Santas that they should say "ha ha ha" instead so as not to offend any sensitive women (or sensitive anyone else) out there. After all, "ho" could be taken to mean the certain slang. What do I say to that company? Get over yourselves and take a fucking chill pill. How ridiculous is this? Do people honestly think that children are going to think anything other than Santa is being jolly and laughing when they hear "ho ho ho?" How many women will actually feel offended at Santa's mirth? Let the jolly one laugh to his heart's content. And enjoy the holiday folks. Leave the PC crap to those who have nothing better to do. Better yet. Tell them to get over it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I should go here for vacation

Well, we made it once again to Friday. No meetings today, so that is a good thing. I do have to work this weekend, so maybe not so good. But it's still Friday. I would like to see Europe sometime in my lifetime, but given my librarian salary, and my current distaste for flying, it probably won't happen anytime soon. I can still dream and read though. Overall, there are a lot of places in this world I would like to see, but that may be the subject of another post. In the meantime, here's the Friday quiz.

Where should you go on vacation?

Southern Europe

Europe is full of interesting old civilizations, perfect for a knowledge hungry person like yourself.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Damn, that is one expensive dessert

The AP reported on a $25,000 dessert. Some restaurant in New York City is offering this concoction:

"The dessert is a frozen, slushy mix of cocoas from 14 countries, milk and 5 grams of 24-carat gold topped with whip cream and shavings from a La Madeline au Truffle.

It is served in a goblet with a band of gold decorated with 1 carat of diamonds and served with a golden spoon diners can take home."

Well, at least they let you take the spoon home. I guess they figured they had to give you some sort of memento after you plunked down 25K for some chocolate slushie in a fancy cup. Go figure. It does make my little cup of applesauce that I am having with my lunch seem kind of puny, but I bet it's healthier.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pancakes in a can

When I saw this, I thought it was a joke. It turns out that Batter Blaster really provides pancake batter in a can. And for the finishing touch, it is organic too. What's truly tragic is that apparently there are no stores here in the area that carry the product. I love pancakes, and I would certainly appreciate being able to save some time when making them. The whole "shake, point, blast, and cook" sounds easy enough. Then again, do we really want to shake, point, and blast pancake batter? I can only imagine the nefarious uses this canned item could have. Batter fights anyone? When I saw it, that was what I envisioned: two brats in a kitchen grabbing hold of the cans and bombs away. Anyhow, the site features a nice little advertisement clip. Man, I could use some pancakes.

A hat tip to Say No to Crack.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Believing in luck?

Well folks, we made it to another Friday, and it is the start of a new month. Halloween has moved on, and we are headed towards the holiday season. As far as I am concerned, we can skip Thanksgiving and go directly to Christmas. But that's me. Anyhow, here is the Friday quiz. In terms of luck, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, and I think this quiz caught that pretty well. Anyhow, do you feel lucky? Maybe you should try it out then.

You Are Balanced - Realist - Powerful

You feel your life is controlled both externally and internally.
You have a good sense of what you can control and what you should let go.
Depending on the situation, you sometimes try to exert more control.
Other times, you accept things for what they are and go with the flow.

You are a realist when it comes to luck.
You don't attribute everything to luck, but you do know some things are random.
You don't beat yourself up when bad things happen to you...
But you do your best to try to make your own luck.

When it comes to who's in charge, it's you.
Life is a kingdom, and you're the grand ruler.
You don't care much about what others think.
But they better care what you think!

Cell Phone Users: Get Some Manners

For a long time, I lived happily without a cell phone. After living in Houston for a while, I finally had to cave and get one. The commute and having to worry over picking up a child on time from school made it a necessity. But even though I have one these days, I still make every effort to mind my manners. I usually keep it on vibrate. I don't talk on the cellphone while I am driving. I don't start yakking out loud in public places, and I sure as heck don't interrupt talking with people in person to pick it up. It's a matter of common courtesy and manners, which are clearly sorely missing with a lot of cell phone users. Don't like hearing it? Tough. Get a clue and some manners. The world does not revolve around you.

This little rant was prompted by an article from CNET Reviews posted in MSN entitled "On Call: Mind Your Cell Phone Manners." Kent German, the article's author, gives us some reminders of common manners to maintain when using a cell phone.

  • "Be nice to the person behind the counter". German tells the story of some self-absorbed guy who can't even bother to place an order at the lunch counter. He has to hand a note to the attendant because his call is just too important. I am sure a lot of librarians can relate to this. I get that once in a while. Some student comes to the reference desk to ask for something, but they are yammering away on their cell phone. They can't be bothered to hang up or put their friend on hold for a moment to deal with their reference transaction. Usually, if I am not busy, I will signal that I will wait, but otherwise, I tell them to either wrap it up or come back later. Overall folks, have some common decency. The person giving you service deserves some dignity and respect from you as well. They are there to help you. Least you can do is give them your attention.
  • "Take it outside". This one is a peeve of mine. If you go to some restaurant or other public place with a lot of people, take your call outside. I really don't need to hear about your Aunt Hilda's hemorrhoids, your sister Wilhelmina's fourth (failed) marriage, or your crazy Uncle Jimbo who failed to make bail (yet again). People who answer their cell in a movie theater should be tasered and/or shot on sight. Between that and the bozos that just can't be quiet in a movie theater are the reason movie rental places get my business and not theaters. This should be non-negotiable. It's not your living room. Have some manners. Personally, there is no fate bad enough for someone picking up the phone in a church, funeral, etc. If you are a doctor, put it on vibrate and step outside. This goes along with German's other point: "Yes, they're talking to you". It means when they announce in a theater or play to turn off the cellphone, it means you. Last thing I need when I go see a live play is to have the actors distracted because you thought the request to turn off the phone did not apply to you, and your stupid ringtone now broke their concentration.
  • The point about using the cell phone in the bathroom should go without saying. Just don't do it.
  • As for the Bluetooth headsets, other than proclaiming you can spend money on the little gadgets, you look like a geek, or worse. If you are not actually talking on the phone, take it off. We don't need confirmation of your self-importance.
Don't get me wrong. I think a cell phone can be a useful device. And given all the advances they keep adding, they are bound to get better. But it does not mean you have to behave like a barbarian because you have one.