Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Post 2008: The one for readers

I barely managed to get back to this, but here we are. As the Spanish saying goes, "lo prometido es deuda" (a promise is a debt), and I promised three posts for the holiday. This is the third, which is basically a collection of some reading lists and other things for readers I have found around the net. As a disclaimer, I tried to avoid the obvious lists (The NYTBR, TLS, and similar) since you can easily find them elsewhere. I will be posting the annual list of books I read later this week at The Gypsy Librarian, so I hope my two readers will return for that. In the meantime, here we go:

  • 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.
Hope everyone out there has a safe and happy celebration of New Year's Eve. If you drink, please do so in moderation, and for the love of your deity of choice, if you do drink a bit much, do not drive. There are always those stories of stupid drunk drivers at the end of the year. Don't be one of them. Best, and see y'all in 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Post 2008 Continued: The Funny and/or Interesting

This second posting for the 2008 Holiday Season is a compilation of amusing and funny things I have been finding.

  • 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:

  • How to make a bottle Christmas Tree:

  • 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.
Have a chuckle or two, and a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, or, you get the idea).

The Holiday Post 2008

My goodness. I have not posted here since last month when I did the post for Thanksgiving. Time does move fast. I will simply say that things got very chaotic right after Thanksgiving. My mother passed away on December 4th after a decades long battle with lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus if you wish to get specific). She remained optimistic and positive to the very end, and at some point I will probably write a post or two about her. For instance, she enjoyed riding roller coasters, but that is another story. She was a big fan of Christmas, and in our house, the tree went up the day after Thanksgiving. So I know she would want me to continue with traditions, and thus we come to our Holiday Post of 2008.

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.
Gifts and Shopping:
Food and Spirits:
Arts and Crafts:
Books and reading:

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 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.
Another tradition in our house is to track Santa. Once again, the folks from NORAD have their Santa Tracker in place. The actual tracking starts on December 24, but they already have some activities in place to amuse you while you wait. We'll be spending Christmas Eve (the semi formal plan is to go out and see some Christmas lights in the evening, but in true gypsy fashion, depends on what we feel like doing at the moment) and Christmas Day at home. The university is closed until January 5th, so I am getting some time off. My wife managed to get a few days off from her work, so we'll likely be hitting the road sometime around the 26th. We'll see. I would like to take this moment then to wish my friends and readers a safe and happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice, may it be a time of peace and joy.

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.