- Random House has their "Books are Great Gifts Campaign." I could not agree more: a book does make a great gift. And if you live in Latin America (or in our house), you are still on time for Dia de Reyes (Three Kings' Day). They even have a video with some celebrities telling why books make great gifts. I love Jon Stewart's reason because I will often pop open a book when I come across a slow buffering website too. And because you can travel to faraway lands for less than the cost of a gas tank, according to Christopher Paolini.
- I found this story about book clubs that don't quite get along interesting. Personally, I am not a reader who cares for book clubs, and some of the reasons in the article are mine as well. From The New York Times, "Fought over any good books lately?" This could be why I would not make a good public librarian: I don't care much for book clubs (at least as most of them seem to work).
- Want to remember some forgotten books? Go to The Neglected Books Page.
- BusinessWeek has a list of Best Business Books of 2008. Not so sure we want to remember 2008 in terms of business given the economic chaos and the many financial villains, but still worth a look.
- The Financial Times has its look at The Reading Year for 2008. They have lists in various categories.
- Now, if the economy is tight, you may want to consider this piece of advice: read the books you already have on your shelves. From The Wall Street Journal. I know I have a good number of books sitting in my perpetual TBR pile. Maybe it's time in 2009 to see if I can make a dent on that TBR pile and read some of the books I have bought (or gotten as gifts, so on), but not quite gotten around to yet. For the pile to grow is easy: I am a slow reader, so books often pile up in my case. But maybe 2009 will be the year we decrease the TBR pile.
- The Library Advocate offers a huge "Gift Guide for Library and Book Lovers." You are bound to find something here.
- Cosmic Variance blog has a list of "The Thousand Best Popular-Science Books." The list itself is not quite a thousand, but what they do is they ask readers to comment and provide their own suggestions as well. This could be the year for more people to read a bit more in the area of science.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
- Ever wonder what would happen if Santa had to put up with the dreaded Institutional Review Board? You know, the guys on campus whose job it is to make sure any experimental subjects are treated humanely (at least, that's their story). Apophenia imagines what Santa's IRB proposal would be like.
- PNC Financial Services does their annual Christmas Price Index. What amuses me so much of this feature is how the financial advisor keeps such a straight face in spite of the cute subject. Keep an eye on the ticker as well. They also include an about section where they explain how they calculate the whole thing. They even have a little economics trivia game for kids.
- And speaking of how much things cost, it seems the animals for hire business is having woes of its own. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- YesButNoButYes looks at guns and Christmas, specifically recalling the good old days when you could give a boy a gun without the PC Police coming over.
- Now giving is a big part of the holiday, specially charity giving. But what if you happen to be atheist (or just plain secular), and you want a charity to match your needs? Look no further. Here is a list of Atheist (or at least secular) Charities. From Techskeptic's Data Daily.
- It is not all peace and love during the holidays. There are just some people that we hate during this holiday. Campus Squeeze has a list of "People You Hate During the Holidays." Go ahead, have a look. I am sure you can identify at least one of them.
- And as if things were not bad enough, Campus Squeeze also points out "16 Things About Christmas We Hate." I bet you can find at least one or two from the list you agree with.
On gifts and shopping:
- Maybe kitsch is your thing. The BBC has a photo gallery of "Kitschmas" items. They got the items from Ship of Fools, a Christian humor site.
- Cool Material has a list of What NOT to Buy Your Girlfriend for Christmas. One or two of these may work any other time of the year. A few others should certainly remain forgotten.
- Do you need to send some Christmas cards? However, you just want something alternative? Order of St. Nick has you covered with some alternative greeting cards. If you have a healthy sense of humor and are not easily offended, you can get these (not for the faint of heart or the pc people).
- I will go on a limb and say that I find the whole "War on Christmas" nonsense (as exemplified by people like Bill O'Reilly) totally ridiculous. If someone says to you "Happy Holidays," it does not follow they must be some enemy of the season. Personally, I will reply with what you use: you say "Merry Christmas," I will say it back. You say something else, I will reply in kind. Simple. Live and let live, but unfortunately some people have to impose their views on others. The "friendly" folks of the Liberty Counsel (same folks from Liberty U) want to make sure you know where the battle lines are on this "crucial" battlefront. They have created a list of merchants that are naughty (no mention of Christmas) and nice (do mention Christmas). Go have a laugh at their expense. They certainly deserve it for promoting division during what should be a season of peace and friendship and family (and they claim to be for family values).
- Now I am sure by now everyone has seen the infamous commemorative plates honoring Barack Obama's election victory. Well, what about that other guy he ran with? Fear no more: now you can get his plate too, and in time for Christmas (a hat tip to the Rude Pundit):
- And what happens when you have one of those people who just has everything already? What do you get them? Well, if they are heroin addict, this sketch has the answer:
On arts and crafts:
- From Lifehacker, here are some DIY Beer Can and Liquor Bottle Holiday Ornaments. With all the drinking that goes on this season, you may consider doing some creative recycling. Besides, beats Hallmark. My personal favorite is the Three Wise Men ornament.
- From last year, here is Tattoo Santa. You can put some ink on the jolly old man and then send it on e-mail to your friends. Just the right blend of amusing and slightly unsettling.
This is now the fourth year I have done this (see 2005, 2006, and the 2007 three part extravaganza), and I do enjoy putting these together for the amusement of my two readers. This time I am putting things in no particular order by broad categories, so my two readers can find what they like. Just like last year, we have enough stuff to make another three part extravaganza. Part One is this post. Part two will be a collection of humor with a bit of "spice" thrown in (an adult thing or two could get in), and Part Three will be a special post for book lovers and readers (hey, I am a librarian after all).
So here we go:
Safety: It is important to be safe during the holidays.
- From the blog GovGab, a post on holiday safety with those Christmas lights and decorations. They also point to information on food safety. Given the many meals that will be prepared, being aware of food safety is important.
- Speaking of safety, this time when traveling: if you fly, you may want to look over the list of restrictions on food and gifts from the TSA.
- The Federal Trade Commission has some Holiday Shopping Tips, Circa 2008. They offer some good advice for consumers.
- By now, you probably bought most of your gifts. If you had to ship anything, you should have done it by now (hey, Christmas Eve is tomorrow). Anyhow, here are 10 Tips for Shipping Holiday presents.
- Maybe you have decided to do a little regifting. If you go this route, here are 12 Rules for 'Regifting' you may want to consider (via MSN). There is even a whole website dedicated to the concept of regifting (www.regiftable.com).
- The economy is tight, to put it mildly. So people are looking for ways to save and still have a meaningful holiday. To help out, here are the "Top 25 Life-Improving Christmas Gifts Under $10" (via ZenHabits).
- If you are looking for gifts that may be a bit humourous or amusing or just plain different, you may want to give Uncommon Goods a try.
- Giving can also involve charitable giving. But how do you give when money is tight? From the National Better Business Bureau, here are "Five Ways to Donate to Charities When Money is Tight."Found via GovGab, which also has other ways to get creative with giving. I am not very good at giving formally, but I always put something in the red kettles of the Salvation Army when I come out of stores and establishments. While I don't keep track of it, I am sure it would add up.
- From The New York Times, a feature on Hanukkah Recipes, for our Jewish friends as well as those of us just interested in what other people do over the holidays.
- I always say if you choose drink during the holidays, to please do so in moderation. Here is an article on making the perfect holiday drink, from the folks at the Wired HowTo wiki.
- From WikiHow, here is how to make mulled beer.
- Liquor Snob has published their 2008 Holiday Gift Guide.
- Cheap Fun Wines also has their 2008 Holiday Gift Guide. Find something for the wine lover friend or family member. As for me, yes, wine is always a welcome gift.
- Food Network always has a big section for the holidays. Find food ideas for Christmas as well as other holidays.
- Epicurious also has their feature for Christmas recipes.
- Since I am Puerto Rican, even though I live in East Texas (not exactly the most diverse place), we still make a recipe or two at home. This year, we will be making some coquito at home. I will let you know how it turns out. If you are curious, here is a small summary of Puerto Rican holiday traditions (from PRCooking.com). If you want to do some shopping of PR things, El Colmadito might be able to help (I just discovered this). Want some books on Puerto Rican cooking, Amazon has a selection. I personally recommend the one by Aboy Valldejuli. Wikipedia has a decent overview of Puerto Rican cuisine, just so you have an idea of how good the stuff is.
Miscellaneous (or I was not quite sure where to put these):
- This is one I saved from last year. If you need some ideas, here are 50 Ungrinchy Holiday Ideas. It has a selection of simple things to do for things like crafts, shopping, and cards. (via Tinker X).
- Make sure that you get the right lyrics when you go caroling. Look them up in this handy Christmas Carol Lyrics Database. You can browse it online or download it to your computer.
- The U.S. Census Bureau always puts out a Facts For Features sheet for the holidays. Here is the one for 2008. For example, did you know that sales by U.S. Christmas tree farmers in 2007 totaled $493.3 million?
- Many people will be traveling this holiday season. My family and I will probably take a short road trip (or at least a day trip or two), but not too far. To help out travelers, here is a list of 20+ Tools for Holiday Travel, from Mashable.
- The holidays can be a time of stress for some people. There is a Spanish song, pretty popular in Puerto Rico, that speaks of Christmas that returns ("Navidad que vuelve") where some are happy, and some are crying ("unos van alegres y otros van llorando"). Christmas this year will clearly be a bit different for me this year, but I am doing my best to keep the party going. To help folks out, here is a Holiday Survival Guide from the folks at About.com. The guide has items on things like dealing with family during gatherings and simplifying things. Folks, do remember to take care of yourselves as well as each other. And do keep things simple.
- Ever wondered who invented those cool Christmas lights? Find the answer here, a feature from the Library of Congress.
- GovGab has a nice summary of what they do for the holidays at the White House. There is even a link to the first dog's BarneyCam.
- The Australian Government cultural portal has a page on Christmas in Australia. A shout out to my brother who is currently living in Australia with his wife and two lovely daughters.
- The American Antiquarian Society has an online exhibit on "Visions of Christmas." They present a nice collection of images from books and materials from the 19th century.
- Also from GovGab, a summary of issues about animals and the holidays. This is mostly about whether to adopt an animal and giving to agencies like the Humane Society. We have two cats at home, Autumn and (the mighty) Isis, who were adopted from a shelter. We were in Houston when we adopted them and got them at CAP. If you are getting a pet, I would encourage people to seriously consider adopting one from a shelter, especially for cats since they often have more kittens than they know what to do with, as the saying goes.
- Talking about music, Accuradio has an excellent holiday music section. Their Navidad section has a great selection with a lot of Puerto Rican and Caribbean holiday music. If you want to get a taste of "mi musica," go listen. It's what I am listening to now while I am blogging.
And I leave you with a bit humor for now (by Matthew Henry Hall, from Inside Higher Ed.):
Update Note (12/31/08): I added the links to Parts 2 and 3 above.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
- From Campus Squeeze, "The 8 Worst Things About Thanksgiving." No, not everything about Thanksgiving is good or something to be thankful for. By the way, this article does have a bit of political incorrectness (you have been warned).
- The recipe, with pictures, for the Turbaconducken (a turducken wrapped in bacon). Yes, you read that right. I posted that link on my Facebook, and people can feel a heart attack coming from just looking at the picture. Go have a look and try not to keel over. (From Bacon Today. Who knew there was a site just for bacon, with daily updates?).
- And if you are still cooking, or you just left it to the last possible moment, here are some "Last Minute Recipe Tips" from Medicine Net.
- And if you eat too much, especially sugar (maybe one piece of pie too many), here is what could happen.From the Sheldon comic strip.
Deadliest Catch is one of my favorite shows. Odds are good I will be catching the marathon on Friday. Someone else can go inflict some violence at the malls over some stuffed animal.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Here then is a collection of links to entertain my two readers as well as provide a few useful things for the holiday.
Facts and trivia:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers some statistics spotlighting Thanksgiving. For example, did you know that turkey "has usually been less expensive during November and December than in other months"? The cynic in me would have thought the opposite would be the case.
- The American Farm Bureau reassures us that the traditional meal is still affordable. Take a look at average costs of items and total costs.
- Get sleepy after the meal? The turkey contains tryptophan, which combines with other things from the meal, like all those carbs along with some alcohol, to make you sleepy.
- As many know, the U.S. President pardons a couple of turkeys every year. You can still vote for their names. Go here. The pardon happens on November 26.
- Alaska Governor Sarah Palin pardoned a turkey up in Alaska, but that was not as successful given the background for the event.
Recipes and food:
- Disney Family has a themed page for Thanksgiving with recipes and games. All sorts of neat stuff for the kids and families.
- When it comes to food, you can always count on Epicurious for Thanksgiving recipe ideas.
- Many people love the leftovers. I am not one of them. Mr. Breakfast helps out with some recipe ideas for those leftovers.
- The Norbest turkey marketing co-op has a lot of tips for handling turkey such as how to select a turkey, whether to go frozen or fresh, and how do you know if it is done or not.
- Wonder how the astronauts up in the Space Station have their Thanksgiving meal? Wonder no more with this informative essay from NASA.
- But what happens if you happen to be Vegan? Well, fear not. Here is a site with some recipes and ideas for our Vegan friends. Nava Atlas also has some ideas for our vegetarian readers.
- Curious about old recipes? What did they make back in the olden days? Here are some old recipes, courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum.
- Lifehacker links to a video for making a better sweet potato dish. Personally, I do not particularly care for sweet potatoes (I will eat them, but I do not favor them). Anyhow, this is a nice alternative to the usual canned stuff.
- Maybe you want some wine with your turkey. I happen to like wine, and I often bring a bottle or two when I visit someone for a meal like this. Usually, I tend to favor local wines, so in this case, that would be Texas wines. But, what kind of wine? Martha Stewart seems to have an idea or two. Also get some ideas from Eat. Drink. Better.
- If instead of wine, you happen to be a beer drinker, we've got your back here too. Beer Advocate has an article on celebrating the holiday season with a beer or two. The article covers pairings from aperitif to after the meal. Find more on pairing beer and food at the Seasonal Beer and Food site. You may also want to put the beer in the food, like making a beer can turkey. Find one such recipe here from Cooking for Engineers.
- Now, you could also have some Wild Turkey to go with your turkey. Yes, I mean the bourbon. Get some ideas on enjoying Wild Turkey from Liquor Snob.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Starbucks: It turns out that "Starbucks conceded that the once high-flying company was losing its footing. It has since been forced to close stores and lay off workers as profits have plummeted." I never saw the allure of Starbucks. I am not saying I did not buy a nicer cup of coffee once in a while. I just did not get it from Starbucks. When I lived in Houston, I went to Bad Ass (much better than Starbucks, and the baristas are less pretentious) once in a while, that being maybe once a month at the most with the family. It was usually a treat for after a dinner out of home. Since it was a treat, it never was an issue of breaking the bank to get the better half a cup of that white chocolate mocha, a cup of hot cocoa for the little one, and whatever the coffee of the day was for me. Otherwise, we brew our coffee at home like any other average person. I even have a small coffee pot in my office to make my own when I feel like it. Why people feel a need to line up at Starbucks's drive-thru every morning and pay that money is beyond me. And the thing is, the Starbucks here in Tyler located on the route I take to work is almost always full every morning. The line goes around the building. Then again, Tyler, Texas is a bit of a bubble economically when compared to the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, being in that bubble means a lot of the "pious" conservatives here have a serious empathy problem, as in they have no compassion for anyone who may not be doing as well in this economy.
Gambling: That is a no-brainer for us. We don't gamble at all. I don't even buy lottery tickets. According to the article, "when times are tough, the common assumption has been that people will continue to gamble for relief and the hope of striking it rich." Throwing my money away is not my idea of relief, and I know the odds are always in favor of the house. You see, I take Ace Rothstein's words to heart: "in the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all" (from the film Casino). I just don't go in at all. I personally don't see the allure, neither does my better half. And I know I won't strike it rich anytime soon (not working as a librarian anyways).
Smoking: This is even easier. We don't smoke.
Alcohol: Now now, let's not get desperate or extreme here and cut out the alcohol. We do drink in moderation. I personally prefer wines, but I am amenable to various alcoholic drinks. However, we don't drink at bars. We do our drinking at home or at the homes of relatives. Therefore, we buy our liquor and stock up. When it comes to wine, it is actually not that difficult. For one, Texas has a pretty good wine industry, so you can get a good bottle of wine from one of the local wineries for a few bucks, and you support your local industry. Actually, small wineries in the U.S. like the ones here are as local as they get. Even if they import their grapes, they still get them from California. It does not get any more "made in the USA" than that. When we lived in Indiana, it was the same thing. As for other wines (read non-local), I usually pick and choose and try to go moderate as well. For harder liquor, I just keep an eye on price and stock up when I can. Since we drink in moderation, a bottle of rum for instance will last a while.
Cable: Most people cut this when it comes time to cutting. Not for us. We admit we think of it like a utility. Given broadcast TV sucks, you have to have at least basic cable. We get the next tier up, but not premium channels. But we do get our value out of it. Daughter likes Discovery, Nick, Cartoon Network, and few others. So do we. I personally like shows like Dirty Jobs, and you can't get them without cable. We do bundle the Internet and phone with the cable. A bit pricey, but we get our value since we don't go to movie theaters, and we rarely rent movies. I use the Internet quite a bit for everything from news to blogging.
Movies: I gave up on movie theaters, and I am not alone in this. Cell phone jerks and overpriced movie tickets are not my idea of fun. When we want a movie, we just rent a couple of DVDs. Part of the reason we rarely rent films is we are rarely home together. My better half works an erratic schedule as a food service manager which can be open shift one day, closing the next, a midshift (about 10a or so til 7p), so on. It's one of the realities of life we both work.
Sporting events: We have no interest in this overall. My brother who lives in the DFW area has been to a Dallas Cowboys game or two, and even he gripes about the price. He stopped going I believe. No, he is not a librarian (he is not rich either, but he is comfortable). 150 bucks or more for a ticket to an event is pretty much not right in my view. Maybe they do need to rethink those excessive athlete salaries.
Phones: We have the land line with the cable company as mentioned. In part, we are not ready to simply move to cellphones exclusively. Our cells are for personal use; we do not give the number to anyone other than relatives and some people at work. Telemarketers can simply call the land line for all the good it will do them since we screen all calls.
We are not wealthy by any extent. We rent our housing, and we do have some college loans. We won't be getting a house any time soon, in part due to the college loans, but also to remain mobile. I hold no illusions about staying here long term. To advance in librarianship, you have to be mobile, and I know I am not advancing further here any time soon. Just the way the workplace is set up. Although who knows, maybe I will settle here. We keep our options open, plus, when something breaks at home, one phone call to the landlord gets it fixed. We do watch what earn. We do watch what we spend, but we are certainly not going the hysterical route that some people seem to be following. What I found interesting about the article is that it mentions the economy is so bad people may actually stop drinking, gambling, and smoking. And I think to myself, is that really a bad thing? To stop drinking, gambling, and smoking that is? Quitting the smokes is definitely a good idea. Stop throwing your money to the casinos and/or the lottery. As for drinking, do it in moderation. After all, there is evidence a drink now and then is good for you.
So just another sign the economy is bad. As for us, we are just hanging in there, and living the best we can.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
To those zealots I simply say, you believe being gay is a sin? Don't be gay then (or lived a repressed life and hope no one catches you in some airport restroom). I have news for you: a lot of people in the nation and world do not share your beliefs. So we would appreciate it if you minded your own business and stayed out of our lives.
So, I sit down and think, and I ask:
- Will gay marriages destroy my marriage? No.
- Will I turn gay, or my family, just because gay people decide to express their desire to live in a committed relationship and get married? No.
So, since I often try to use a little humor when coping with the stupidity of others, here is a simple proposal. A lot of those zealots believe in "traditional marriage" for procreation purposes only. So, lets round up all the married people out there who do not have a bushel of kids and revoke their marriage licenses immediately. Hey, either start breeding and fulfilling your "obligation," or lose your license. Now, you say you are Catholic? But you also say (quietly) that you use contraceptives (a big no-no for Catholics, and no, natural family planning does not really work reliably, nor is it necessarily the most practical method for couples)? Well, too bad. Hand over that marriage license unless you start popping out some kids. Sounds ridiculous, huh? But when you look at it, you see the hypocrisy of those zealots exposed, hypocrisy that shows they don't even follow all their own morals, but they are more than happy imposing them on others who could not care less. And let's not even look at divorce stats. I think I recall Jesus had something to say about divorce being adultery (Matthew 5:31-32 if I recall correctly, for example). Matthew does allow for "unfaithfulness," but this is not the case for Luke (see 16:18) or Mark (10:11-12). I knew all those years in Catholic school would pay off. The point? Keep your beliefs to yourself. You think it's a sin? Don't do it! Your rules. Your religion. You go to hell. We are living and moving on.
But seriously, what is it about two people loving each other and simply wanting to express that love and have others witness it that scares those zealots so much? Should we go back to the days when blacks and whites were not legally allowed to get married? Oh wait, that would be bigotry and discrimination. So is this. Maybe those people should own up to the fact that they are intolerant bigots. Don't like that label? Tough, because by voting against something that is a matter of human dignity, you are showing yourself as a bigot. So, embrace your bigotry then. I want those who voted for that proposition to own up and say, "I voted for it because I am an intolerant bigot." Can't do it, huh? Unfortunately, that is exactly what you are revealing about yourself. Don't try to say that your religion tells you it is wrong. I can quote you the scripture too, like Luke 6:31, which by the way is not an exclusive Christian idea. The Golden Rule and reciprocity have been around for a while longer. And maybe, just maybe, that is what this is all about, the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
And by the way, I am not about to let minorities like blacks and Latinos off the hook either. To be honest, I am feeling kind of ashamed to be Latino after my brethren fell for this. Then again, a lot of them are Catholics. Not that it makes it right.
Anyhow, I was not planning on posting this (I wrote an earlier draft in my journal), but after reading some of the accounts, and after seeing Keith Olbermann's commentary last night, I knew I had to say something. Because at the end of the day, wrongs have to be denounced.
Here is Mr. Olbermann's commentary (from YouTube; was going to put the MSNBC, but the embed code is messing up Blogger). He said it very well: "this is about the human heart":
Get the text here. Maybe this cartoon by Tom Toles, (cartoon's date is 11/07/08) which was published in The Washington Post, make the point for you:
Friday, November 07, 2008
- When it comes to education, I would suggest anything written by Jonathan Kozol. The Shame of the Nation would probably be pretty good, but Mr. Obama is on a tight schedule. So, I would instead suggest Savage Inequalities. It will make the point clear, and it is a shorter work. Our schools are pretty much an embarrassment. They need to be fixed pronto. And then ask him if he would send his children to any school Kozol writes about. If the answer is "no," then point made. By the way, Kozol has also written about the homeless and the illiterate in this country. Maybe a scan of those works might be good as well. The illiteracy issue is one close to my heart. I worked for almost a year as a volunteer at an adult literacy center. I have a tale or two I could tell.
- For a treatment of war, I would suggest Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. In addition to doing a little escapism with science fiction, our new president can certainly reflect on the nature of war, especially in the context of two wars that seem to keep going without end in sight.
- Need some insights on the working people? I would probably throw in Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. Maybe he, along with the rest of the legislature, will get a clue that the minimum wage as it stands now does not work for most hardworking people. Not to mention getting some appreciation for the people who do the small jobs that make life better for the rest of us.
- Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting with Jesus. This is probably one of the better books on looking at the red areas of the nation. By the way, the chapter on health care should give you enough reason to work on getting us universal health care (not just some token "improvement" over the disastrous system we have now).
- Since the original list had plays, I have to put one in as well. After things like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, I would hope our new president is ready to put torture and other less than decent practices out of business. So, to go with this I would recommend Griselda Gambaro's Information For Foreigners. Originally in Spanish, it has been translated. Anyhow, Mr. Lemee assumed Mr. Obama would have a crack team of translators standing by for anything not in English.
- The article suggested reading the words of Osama Bin Laden. I could not agree more. There are some editions out there by now. The article mentioned Messages to the World, which I read, so I am recommending it as well. This nation cannot afford to be ignorant of the enemy. To go along with this, pick out a good history of the Middle East and also read some parts of the Qu'ran while at it.
- Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Not one of my favorites, but it will certainly show what will happen if we don't remember there are such a things in this nation as the separation of church and state as well as a right to the freedom of religion (and by logic, freedom from religion). In fact, I think a few Republicans (the few reasonable ones left) should be reading it as well before they keep letting religious extremists hijack their party.
- Robert I. Sutton's The No Asshole Rule. A good number of people in the campaign behaved like total assholes, pure and simple. They should not have been tolerated. And I would hope Obama would not tolerate any in his administration.
- Latinos in this country are emerging as the largest minority. They are a diverse people; yes, Mexicans are different from Puerto Ricans who are different from Cubans and so on. Ilan Stavans's Latino USA: A Cartoon History will provide a very quick and visual look at Latino History in the U.S. There are other books that treat this history well, but again, the man is on a tight schedule.
- For Latin American History (i.e. the rest of the continent heading south), Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America will do nicely. I read it in Spanish, but it has been translated into English.
- I know; I said ten books, but here is one more, just for fun (and in case they give Obama one briefing and handout too many on how things work in the White House), here is How To Be President: What To Do and Where to Go Once You're in Office. This will remind you of things like who takes care of the laundry, how to get a haircut, and other little details of the new home.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
That the U.S. managed to finally figure out that maybe we needed a change is nice. That this is a historical moment with the election of the first black man to the presidency is clear. Now, if the media would just drop it already, quit rounding up every black person they can find (preferably someone who lived during the struggle for civil rights era), and asking them "did it occur to you this would happen in your lifetime?" or a variant of that question, it would be nice. Because, folks, let's face it. Obama is inheriting one hell of a mess thanks to the previous guys, and he has his work cut out for him.
For me, one of the things that made me cautious was watching McCain's concession speech last night. No, it was not his speech. I thought his speech was very gracious. It was his followers and the big bunch of them who started booing. Because that is what I worry about. You see, at least in my humble point of view, in politics, you can disagree. You can do some trash talking. You can debate. But once the campaign is over, and there is a winner, it's time to concede, pledge to support the new guy for the sake of the nation, and move on. I just get the feeling there is a pretty vocal and significant minority out there just cleaning their rifles right about now. There is a substantial group of folks who make the Taliban look like amateurs. Not to mention that even though Obama won, bad things are still happening; his election was not the only thing in the ballots, folks. That stupidity with Prop. 8 in California comes to mind (not to mention similar measures in places like Arizona). The fact that, as of this writing, Ted Stevens (Mr. "The Internet is a Series of Tubes") might get reelected even though he is a convicted felon. That there are still a whole bunch of legislators, on both sides, who were pretty much collaborators with the mess the last administration caused and who pretty much are paid for by their lobbyists and special interest groups. It's not going to be an easy time for the new president (who I am sure has to answer to special interests of his own as well) as many would have us believe. So sure, celebrate now, but please, don't get cocky or complacent. This mess is going to take a long time to clean up, assuming the will is found to clean it up. There are a lot of wounds that need time to heal, unless the HMOs and their lobbyists actually take over, in which case those wounds will be declared pre-existing conditions and thus the insurance won't pay for it. Yes, in case you wonder, I find it pretty disgusting that in this nation health care is viewed as a commodity like oil or corn to be traded instead of a universal right like the rest of the world sees it.
Now, I am sure one of my two readers is going to ask, "why is he pissing on my corn flakes?" Maybe because I am a bit of a cynic. Maybe because I truly want to believe, and yet I have seen what stupid people in large numbers can do. Maybe because, like George Carlin would say, all politicians are bought and paid for (video link to Carlin on politicians here; some of his quotes over here). As Dr. PZ Myers, in his blog Pharyngula, puts it, "the world is a somewhat more hopeful place today than it was yesterday, but let's get real." He also went and gave some context for his view. So, take a breather, celebrate that the last years are coming to an end, then get to work. Because this is not over by a long shot. It's a new day, but that just means it's time go get to work. And we still have a lot of work to do in this nation. It's time to grab your prods and make sure that those you elected actually do something, and so something substantial and for the common good for a change.
So, we'll see.
Oh, and in case anyone wonders, yes, I did vote. It was tempting to follow Carlin's advice and stay home though.
Friday, October 31, 2008
First, what does my favorite candy say about me?
What Your Love of Twix Says About You
You are a generous and caring person. You are soft hearted.
You're the type who needs a partner. You just don't feel right on your own.
You are more fragile than outward appearances would suggest.
You tend to be a pushover. You are very sensitive and easy to break.
You Are a Vampire
You are charming, sensual, and even a bit manipulative.
You can't help but get people to do what you want.
You have sharp senses and a strong predatory instinct.
You go after what you want, without mercy.
While you have the heart of a killer, many people are drawn to you.
You are elegant, timeless, and mysterious. You are the ultimate fantasy object.
I will admit I liked that result, since I like vampires a bit better than werewolves. In fact, I have dressed up as a vampire in the past. This year I am going out as a devil, hehe.
A hat tip to Liz at Library Tavern for pointing these out.
Tonight is Halloween. I'll be going out tonight to take the little one to trick or treat in the early evening, and yes, I will be in costume myself. Now that I got my early voting out of the way, I can go enjoy the night. By the way, if you are in Texas, today is the last day of early voting. If you are registered to vote and live here, dang it, go vote today.
Anyhow, for the amusement of my two readers, here are some links and fun things I have found around the Internet to help you celebrate Halloween:
- The U.S. Census Bureau, as always, has their Facts For Features for Halloween. Go learn some fun trivia about the holiday. For example, did you know that 1.1 billion pounds was production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2007?
- If you are looking for something to read and keep you up late at night, the Monster Librarian offers various links to horror fiction lists for adults and kids.
- From the website eHow, here is some information and templates to help you carve your pumpkin.
- PBS Kids has a bunch of fun activities online for Halloween.
- Ginger at GovGab has a nice collection of various government sites with information and fun facts about Halloween. There are items on safety for Halloween (from candy safety to trick or treating) as well as other things. Worth a look.
- Are you in the mood for a movie? The Stuck in the 80s blog features a "Night of the Never-Ending Horror Movie List." Get a list of the top 20 horror films of the 80s.
- If you are more in the frisky mood, the site Fleshbot put together a list of adult (porn) titles (Warning, for those who may need it: this is NSFW and NOT for kids).
- If you feel like having some adult beverages (also known as alcoholic beverages), please do so in moderation. Cheap Fun Wines has a post on "Blood of the Vines: Halloween Wine Guide." Also, Liquor Snob has a "Halloween Cocktail Recipe Blowout," just in case you prefer something other than wine. Me? It's got liquor in it, so it's all good, hehe.
- Now, when you drink, it is usually a good idea to eat something as well. Food Network has a special feature on Halloween with party menus, recipes for treats, and a few other things. You can also find Halloween recipes and goodies at Epicurious.
- Now maybe you need to have a gluten free diet. I have you covered there too. Here are "10 Recipes for a Howling Good Gluten Free Halloween Party." From the site About.com.
- And for your amusement, from Smash!ng Apps, here are "19 Creative Halloween Advertisements." It's a selection of advertisement posters for various products with a Halloween theme.
- A few more images, this time pinup art. I happen to be a big fan of classic pinups (Vargas, Elvgren, so on). Bobbie Dawn has put together a nice little montage for Halloween.
- And speaking of art and images, who knew there was a site for Zombie PinUps? (Somewhat safer than Fleshbot, but still gruesome hehe).
- And learn about other festivals of the dead from around the world. Via the EDSITEment site.
- Finally, Pop Goes the Library has another set of neat links of fun Halloween stuff. Go have a look there too.
Oh, and since we can't seem to get away from thinking about the economy, here is a spooky thought:
Thursday, October 30, 2008
"'Everywhere I go, I hear there is an increase' in the need for housing aid, especially for families, says Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates federal programs. He says the main causes are job losses and foreclosures."
This will get worse before it gets better. As the old saying goes, for those of you with more of a spiritual persuasion, "there but for the grace of God go I." What also moves me when I see pieces like these in newspapers like USA Today that allow reader comments is the constant lack of compassion. No sense of common good whatsoever from people who, though they claim to be much better off, I am willing to be if they used their real names, we would find out they are really a step away from a financial disaster themselves. And therein lies a lot of what is wrong with this nation these days. There is no sense that, when we help out those who are less fortunate, we are in reality helping out ourselves and all of us. Because, if the economic forecasts and numbers are any indication, things will get worse before they get better; today we had reports of the GDP decreasing as "Economy flashes recession signal" from USA Today. Even the rich are finding, according to Andrea Stone for USA Today too, that "Luxurious lifestyles take a hit." Now, I am sure the folks that merely have to trade in their expensive facelift for botox are not going to be homeless anytime soon, but I hope the picture is becoming clearer. If you still have a roof over your head and food on your table, consider yourself fortunate (thank your deity of choice if need be). The next time you could be the one on the street. Thus, show some compassion and human decency for a change. Just a thought.
Friday, October 17, 2008
- Check your voter registration status as soon as possible.
- Vote before Election Day if you can.
- Locate your polling place before Election Day.
- Plan ahead if you need special assistance.
- Don’t wear political attire to the polls.
- Bring some form of identification if you have it.
- Vote early in the day.
- Follow all instructions.
- Ask for help if you need it.
- Take your time.
"QUIT EATING OUT :
At least stop eating inside the restaurants. Try your hand at dumpster diving in the back of the building. The homeless have been doing it for years, and trust me it will not kill you. Although, when you’re done you may believe you’re dying."
I don't know about the rest of my two readers, or anyone else for that matter, but I don't think making a joke at the expense of the homeless reflects well on the paper or the author of the opinion piece. In fact, the "joke" is reminiscent of the same insensitive attitude that Northwest Airlines displayed a couple of years ago when they were having layoffs. Northwest decided to send a little guide for money saving and economizing to their workers, a good number of which were getting laid off through no fault of their own. You can likely find the story in a few places if you Google it. Here is a link to it from the Washington Post written by Michelle Singletary. Now, Northwest may have been insensitive, but at least they were a bit more coy in their "advice:"
"Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash."
That's how Northwest phrased it. It's still dumpster diving, but at least it pretends to just be "you are pulling something out of the trash" as opposed to "dumpster diving" which is something "the homeless have been doing for years." We have enough of a problem in this country with homeless and their plight without one of our students, who probably should know better, making light of it. Maybe instead of using the homeless for a cheap joke, some education might be in order. For starters, I would suggest a visit to the National Coalition for the Homeless website. If you go under the link for publications, you will find various sources of accurate information, and if you go under FactSheets, you find a variety of brief resources that will provide a serious overview of the issue. I know Tyler is not the most diverse of towns, but I know there are some homeless in Smith County; I am sure folks working for organizations like Tyler Path or the East Texas Rescue Mission will be able to have a say on the matter. And, given that these days, many homeless are actually "couch homeless," one of those homeless persons could be a student right here at UT Tyler, and one would never know it.
The bottom line: advising people to quit eating out, or at least, eat out less often is probably a good idea. "Advising them" to go dumpster diving because the homeless have been doing it for years certainly is not funny, and it clearly is tasteless, showing a certain lack of compassion.
And I am not even going to touch what Fields-Thomas said about global warming. Not that funny either, but I am only doing one issue at a time. You folks can go look at it if you want.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
A tip of the hat to Pharyngula.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Kyle Volk, an assistant professor of history, placed stickers promoting El Diablo on a syllabus for “The Americas: Conquest to Capitalism,” his survey course covering American history to 1896, with an enrollment of 250. He also mentioned the restaurant by name during class, and projected its logo on a screen.
Now, that does not sound like a big deal. It's kind of like saying, "this class is brought to you by El Diablo Restaurant, makers of fine burritos" or something like that. And besides, Dr. Volk was being resourceful. His department ran out of funds for paper and copier toner, so he did what a lot of entrepreneurial Americans do: he sold ad space. If Dr. Volk would have been in the business school, instead of the history department, this probably would not have been an issue. The department would have been funded just fine. But even if he did do it in the business school, my guess is he would have been praised for his ingenuity and his sense of entrepreneurship. I bet his initiative would have been taught in other business classes as a good business model. Hey, selling ad space works for MySpace, Facebook, The New York Times and even Google. So it ought to work for academia, right? Unfortunately, our dear doctor works in the humanities, where they have a bit more concern about not selling out. And since administrators often have little concern for the humanities, departments like Dr. Volk's run out of supplies to teach their classes. So, you can't advertise in textbooks apparently, and now you can't even place an ad for a burrito in your classes either.
Damn, and here I was thinking that I could sell some ad space during my BI sessions at the library to help with the funding issues. Think about it. We could sell space for things like coffee (Starbucks), food (pizza), computers (pick your brand, though our campus I believe contracts with Dell), and so on. Heck, I could even advertise burritos (Taco Bueno and Taco Bell, not to mention a few Tex Mex places, can be found in town. I am sure I could get a good deal). And it could work out pretty easy. I could put a small logo on any pathfinders I use for BI (sticker if print, or online for websites). I could feature the business's logo at the start and end of the session with a small mention, then move on. And we could raise some much needed funds. It's not like the university is giving us a whole lot of anything for materials.
And by the way, advertising in a class called "The Americas: Conquest to Capitalism" practically means the jokes write themselves. One of the commenters over at the story asked why should the athletic departments get all the sponsors? Something to ponder.
Friday, October 03, 2008
The results then:
Your Score: Progressive
You scored 64 Equality, 78 Liberty, and 21 Stability!
Your commitment to both liberty and equality makes you a blend of the Liberal and the Socialist. For you liberty and equality are two parts of the same condition. Everyone has to be free to pursue their own way-of-life but in order for that to happen everyone must start with a similar basic standard of living.
You value liberty particularly in cultural and personal life. You also value government intervention to promote equity in economic life while still supporting private enterprise. If this is too bland for you then try the Radical on for size.
|Link: The Political Objectives Test written by Originaluddite on OkCupid Free Online Dating|
A hat tip to Liz at the Library Tavern.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The story linked above comes via Florida A&M. Students that goof off on campus computers annoy peers who actually have work to do. Imagine that. This definitely had to be a slow news day if it made it the campus newspaper. Like, really? Here, on my campus, we regularly see a blend of students who seem to be doing academic work and those who are cruising MySpace and Facebook, the Yahoo! games, and a couple of "recreational sites." And at this time of the year, our small computer lab does fill up, and we have people waiting. That's life. If the lab is full, you get to wait your turn. Here is something about this article that no one seems to be asking:
- How many of the people claiming annoyance over their peers goofing off are simply annoyed because they themselves can't get on a computer fast enough to goof off? Let's be honest, would they fess up if asked, "why do you want to get on a computer?" to admitting "I just want to check my Facebook?"
Anyhow, this qualifies as a "Department of the Obvious" selection.
Found via The Kept-Up Librarian here.
P.S. The newspaper had a link for sharing that included Blogger, so I tried it out. Thus the layout of the link at the opening of the article. I am having mixed feelings on how efficient using those little tools work for Blogger (they work ok for Facebook it seems), but for now, I willing to give it a fair shake.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Anyhow, I am sure if you go on YouTube, like I did, you will find a few spots to remember the man and his great voice. One of my favorites, of all silly things, is that Geico spot where they "hired that announcer guy from the movies:"
Also, via Campus Squeeze, a routine featuring Mr. Lafontaine as one of the 3 Tenors of Movie Trailers:
And finally, a little feature from ABC television:
Sunday, August 31, 2008
I barely made it this year. What between the holiday weekend and the fact that I have been busy as heck. But I could not disappoint, so here are my five choices this year for Blog Day 2008. This is now my third year participating. To readers and bloggers here and around the world, a happy Blog Day!
- In the librarianship realm, Director Who is one I just recently discovered. Get some library insights from a library director.
- Also in the librarianship front, the Academic Librarian is a thoughtful, well, academic librarian in one of those larger research universities. When he write, I know I can count on something substantial, thoughtful, and well written.
- When it comes to books, Paulo Coehlo is one of my favorite writers. I recently added his blog to my reader. There is always a little something interesting. I also follow Neil Gaiman's Journal among the authors I like.
- Finally one from the world of science. Dr. P.Z. Myers writes a popular blog, Pharyngula. When he is not explaining how biology and evolution works, he is busy railing against those who would pretty much replace science with religion (disguised as something called "creationism"). Worth a look.
(the Technorati tag)
Saturday, August 30, 2008
- Have people read it in the hopes, infinitesimal as it may be, that the people will actually vote the whole lot of bums in government out once and for all.
- Or, and this is the effect I feel it may have on me, to make people just say, "the hell with politics and politicians. I am just disengaging. It's not like I can do anything anyways."
His experience with the Texas megachurch are not that much better. Reading some of this is only slightly disturbing that watching Jesus Camp (which I did, and it was not a happy experience). However, a lot of what emerges is the fact that certain religious leaders are doing nothing more than take advantage of very vulnerable people, brainwash them, and then use them for their purposes. That those same leaders put politics right into their religion only adds to the hypocrisy. That a lot of these folks vote on the basis of what their preachers tell them (which often ranges from barely literate to just plain bigoted, to put it mildy) should be of concern. Then again, in this nation, I don't think too many people would be surprised. Taibbi points out that some people advocate trying to reason with these extremist evangelicals and their ilk, but there is no reasoning with them. Here is some of what Taibbi learned from his experience:
"By the end of the weekend, I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to be 'rational' or 'set aside your religion' about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you've made a journey like this--once you've gone this far--you are beyond suggestible. It's not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc. that is the issue. It's that once you've gotten to this place, you've left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things" (87).
If that does not spook a few people, I am not sure what will. Personally, and I have probably said this before, I am not a religious person, but I am very live and let live. If your religion (regardless of which one) moves you to be a better person and to make the world a better place, go for it. If on the other hand it moves you to ignorance, bigotry, hypocrisy, and to try to impose your narrowminded view on the rest of society, then I have no use for you. And to those who say, "oh, but not all Christians (or Muslims, or so on, because they have their extremists too) are that way," I will say, "oh, and just what exactly are you doing to tell your loud and dangerous brethren to chill and shut up?" Because if you make that claim, but do nothing, you are simply enabling them, not to mention giving your tacit approval. And let's not even wonder why a church would need a potential member to submit social security number for a background check (see page 99).
Taibbi also looks at the military, and he looks at the Left as well, where he finds that they can be just as dogmatic as the evangelicals. He even looks at the 9/11 conspiracy people. In all, what he details is a nation that pretty much has gone insane and become so polarized that they pretty much let the government to its own devices with the worse possible consequences. I bet the Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves. Citizens engaged in their democracy? That's pretty much gone by now. Taibbi tries to remain optimistic, saying that maybe by now people are not buying the bullshit anymore (265). But I just can't bring myself to believe that. I think, if nothing else, a lot of people are still drinking the Kool-Aid. Sure, a lot of people may trust their government less, and/or they may be disgusted by it after things like 9/11 and Katrina, but memories tend to be short term. So what I see is a lot of people disengage (instead of being deranged) while special interests simply keep on with business as usual. It may be a different guy in charge, but things will likely remain the same. So in the end, the book just leaves no real hope, and it displays a terrible picture of the people in this nation, not to mention the leaders they keep electing. It just shows that those who should be educating the people and giving them the truth have chosen not to do so out of greed and a desire to hold on to power. And it shows most people pretty much gave themselves to ignorance and their own (mostly flawed) narratives. Does not exactly make the work of a librarian any easier.
I want to believe, like Taibbi, that things may be looking up, even in a very small way, now, but I just can't quite see it. I already know this nation is pretty screwed up. I did not need this book to tell me (though it did make me angry at times). I don't want platitudes. I want to see some serious action, and I will go futher and say it: I want heads to roll.
So for me, this book had some funny moments, and it had some angry moments. But I don't think it is that much different from other political books I have read lately. However, for some people who may be less informed, this may be a pretty good book. I will warn readers that Taibbi can get a bit wordy at times. I would say it was an "ok" book to read during this election year.