Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Post 2009, where we look at what the hell happened last year

I decided to do a special post on summaries of what the hell happened in 2009. This is basically a look at the previous year via posts and links I have found around the Internet. No, this is not about the usual news. You can head over to CNN or other news site to get that. This is more along the lines of quirky, odd, and curious, well, to me anyways.

Let's start with some quizzes to see how well you remember 2009:

  • Esquire has a "Top News Stories of 2009" quiz. For example, do you recall what was the first bill President Obama signed into law? Or who inspired what became known as tea parties? It may not be who you think it is.
  • Of course, the big news at the end of the year was the Tiger Woods mistress list. I can try not to bring it up, but I have to at least mention it. Not because I personally give a shit. I will say it: whatever happens between two married people and the other person (because yes, women can and do cheat too, and the other person can be a man) it's their business. Let them sort it out and stay out of it. Sadly, this has become the fodder of late night hosts, the news, and jokes. But how many mistresses did the guy have? Do you remember? Esquire challenges how well have you kept up with the Tiger Woods story with a "Tiger Woods Mistress" quiz. Try it out. See how you do.
  • However, Tiger was not the only one who got embroiled with a woman not his wife or significant other. How many of you remember David Letterman's recent confessions, for instance? The Daily Beast has put together a quiz to help you out: the "Sexiest Mistresses of 2009." Can you match the guy in question with their mistress?

Now, let's look at more news and events from 2009. A lot happened this year. A good amount of it may be stuff we wish we could forget, but no amount of bleach will clean our memories. But there were a couple of nice things too. So let us go back in memory lane, laugh now and then, and be amazed (or not) at the amounts of stupidity people exhibited in 2009.

  • Let's start with movies. 2009 had a lot of crappy movies. The A.V. Club has compiled a list of "The 19-plus worst films of 2009." If no one will say it, I will. Some of this stuff was just plain shit, and the people involved in making should be embarrassed.
  • TV Squad has the obligatory list of celebrities who died in 2009. And no, it was not just Michael Jackson.
  • Now, as I mentioned, you can get the news summary of the year at places like CNN, Fox, or any other news source. However, those news sources probably won't give you much local coverage. Local news are not exactly great, but they can often be a great source of amusement. This is usually due to the ridiculous things they choose to cover. From Buzz Feed, here are "The 15 Funniest Local News Reports of 2009." This is the kind of hard-hitting, solid, local reporting that gives local reporting its (not so good) reputation.
  • Now, let's not just gang up on local news, bad as they can be. Any news organization can have a bad or slow news day. Just check out "The 50 Funniest Headlines of 2009." This will have you wondering if anyone does any editing or proofreading anymore in news organizations before they publish the news. Found via BuzzFeed.
  • There was greed as well, and we are not just talking Bernie Madoff. Reader's Digest features "Top 7 Tales of Greed and Abuse in 2009." From legislators doing the usual piling of pork in their legislation to outrageous tales of customer service (or lack thereof), you will find it here.
  • Stupidity abounds folks, and I personally find it very amusing. When big corporations do stupid things, I find it funny. When they do things like this, I have to wonder who the hell does the hiring for them. Here are the "10 Worst Marketing Blunders of 2009" presented by the blog Collateral Damage. We even had bankers blaming Jesus for their woes. Found via AdFreak.
  • And speaking of stupidity, criminals and scofflaws are known for stupidity. When they get caught, they get booked by the cops, and this includes getting a mug shot. For your amusement and horror, here are "The 30 Most Memorable Mug Shots of 2009," a veritable rogues' gallery of the famous and not so famous. Via BuzzFeed.
  • And then there are people that folks just had to hate. Asylum ran a little poll asking "Whom Can We All Agree to Hate from 2009?" I am sure you will remember these folks. As of this writing, you can still go vote.
  • Apparently people bitched and moaned about a lot of things in 2009. There were a lot of protests for various causes, some more worthy than others. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them leave a lot to be desired when it comes to their spelling and literacy skills. Fortunately for us, people were around those protesters and took photos. BuzzFeed has collected "The Best 50 Protest Signs of 2009."
  • In addition, a lot of people saw Jesus in 2009. They did not see him in person, but they saw him in candy, boulders, irons, and other places that are better left unsaid. BuzzFeed gives us a list of "Jesus Sightings in Review, 2009."
  • Apparently a lot of guys did what guys do, and that is ogle attractive women. COED Magazine has compiled a list of "The 20 Most Ogled Women of Playboy 2009." I am assuming they went by web hits or something like that (the methodology is not included). For the squeamish, yes, there is some skin, but no naughty parts (those got covered).
  • And if after all that, you did not get enough, Asylum has put together their list of "The 100 Weirdest News Stories They Dugg in 2009." There is quite a bit here for everyone.
Last minute addition: The Texas Freedom Network has compiled "The Year in Quotes: Science" with a list of the stupid and ignorant sayings of politicians and the State Board of Education during this past year. This is basically a collection of asshat examples from evolution deniers and other willful ignoramuses who would rather keep kids dumb than actually teach them science. They are an embarrassment to the state. Maybe 2010 will mean some of those clowns would be voted out, but I am not holding my breath.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Post 2009: The Readers' Edition

We continue our 2009 series of holiday posts here at The Itinerant Librarian. I love books. As a librarian, I work with books. I think books make great gifts, so if you have a reader in your life, and you need some ideas of what to get him or her, here are some reading lists and pieces of advice for readers.

Advice and tips on books

The Newspaper (and other news sources) Lists

The major newspapers, and other news outlets, have been putting out their holiday reading lists throughout the month of December (sometimes earlier). These are pretty basic, generic kinds of lists (in my estimation), but people find them convenient. I can't speak much for these books, since my reading tends towards the more unconventional, but if I see anything, I will comment. Here then is a sampling:

Cool Books That I Have Read or Want to Read

This section is for books that I have been noting and clipping in my feed readers that I find interesting and actually want to read. Also for those that I have read already that I would recommend to my three readers. If you want another way to look at it, a lot of this stuff is not on the fancy lists above, but it's good.


  • Here is a list of suggestions for your non-reading friends. Yes, hard to imagine you would have friends who choose not to read, but it happens. So here are "10 Awesome Books to Give Your Nonreading Friends" from Flavorwire.
  • NPR offers a list of Top Picks from Indie Booksellers. I like independent bookstores, I really do, but this kind of list for me seems more pretentious than anything else (heavy on the literary and "edgy" fiction, and I don't mean "edgy" in a good way). In other words, books that did not hit the radar, so to speak. But someone out there may find it of interest.
Stay tuned. At or near the end of this year, I will be posting my annual reading list, so you can get an idea of what I actually read.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Post 2009: You are still NOT done shopping?

It is a week before Christmas. This is the last weekend to get your holiday shopping done. If you are shopping online, you better hop to it, and you are going to have to use expedited shipping by now. In case any of my three readers are not done with their shopping yet, or they need a few ideas, here is a list of links and ideas for possible gifts. Now come on, get on with it. The American economy is depending on you to go out and spend so it can get the heck out of the recession by keeping more people in the recession when they shop too much. I know, I know, that came out a bit too cynical on my part. So, let me help out with the following:

  • Maybe you have friends that spend a little too much time online. Or maybe you spend a little too much time blogging, on Facebook, so on. Mashable has put together a list of "10 Great Digital Gifts for Social Media Lovers." This is basically a list of subscriptions and gift cards to online services that social media users would probably appreciate. From music to gadgets, you are bound to find something. Mashable also has a list of places where you can get "10 Unique Gifts You Can Make With Help from the Web." This is basically a list of places where you can, with some input on your part, create things like photo albums, scrapbooks, and even your own brand of cereal.
  • Maybe you are pretty good with your hands and inclined to making things yourself. Why not try to make one of these "DIY Gift Ideas" for your friends and family. Some of these do take a bit more work than others, but they might be well worth it. Found on Lifehacker.
  • Here is a list of "12 Thoughtful Christmas Gifts That Are Better Than 'Expensive' Ones." The list combines DIY things with smaller thoughtful things like a well selected gift card or the right movie. Read on to find out more. From BillShrink blog.
  • For the wine enthusiast, a good bottle of wine is always appreciated. However, the wine lover in your life may also appreciate wine related gifts. Cheap Fun Wines comes to the rescue with their "Holiday Gift Guide 2009."
  • Would you like to give something unique, practical, and/or useful? GovGab has some suggestions of "Gifts for the Person With Everything." I particularly like this post because it is suggesting practical things that we don't often think about. Jess, the blogger, is linking to a FEMA gift ideas list. FEMA you say? Yes, this deals with emergency preparedness. For example, you can get your friends an emergency car kit, or one of those NOAA weather radios, you know, the one you keep saying you are meaning to get? Maybe while you are it, get two, so you can get one for yourself. I got jumper cables one year from my in-laws. Now, you may laugh at that, but those jumper cables have gotten me out of a bind once or twice. And they are nice long ones too, so you can have one car parked behind the other one and still run the cable. It's the kind of thing you might not get for yourself, or you may not think about, but boy are you glad to have it.
  • A lot of people go the easy route and get gift cards. Gift cards remain a popular item, especially if you happen to get them one for a place you know they'll like, like gift cards to the bookstore for me. If you go this route, do consider being an informed shopper. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has put out a small consumer alert guide on "Buying, Giving, and Using Gift Cards." Do yourself a favor and take a minute to read it.
  • Are you trying to be socially responsible in your shopping? Yes, I know this can be a challenge. You can go to Responsible Shopper and look up companies to see their records in terms of impact on human rights, social responsibility, and environmental issues.
  • If you are buying toys, you may be interested in the "Trouble in Toyland" safety report (Link to the site. You can find the report itself and other interactive tools there). The report is made by the U.S. PIRG ( U.S. Public Interest Research Group).
  • Did you get stuck having to do one of those "Secret Santa" exchanges at your workplace? I personally hated those. So if you need some ideas, Esquire is presenting Secret Santa gift ideas that are $30 bucks or so. They also have a list of "Worst Gifts on Earth," some of which I find pretty amusing, and there is at least one that I would not dare give my better half (and she is fairly open-minded. No, I am not telling you which).
  • Now, you could give one of those universal remote controls as a gift, especially if the person in question watches a lot of TV, movies, so on. But let's be honest: a lot of the stuff on TV is crap. I am not going to sugar coated; it is right down horrible. So, why not amuse someone who feels the same by giving them this pistol shaped remote control. Let them shoot at the TV for a change without actually breaking the TV set. Found at Asylum.
  • And how about soap? There is another thing that everyone needs at one point or another. Let's be honest though. Those basket sets you get at the big box retailer just don't quite cut it. So, why not try one of these unusual soaps? Found at Mental Floss blog.
  • Now, in the end, I know the economy may be tight for a lot of you. Many may not be able to afford a gift. Maybe all you can do is send a nice card, and that is cool too. To help out, here are some holiday cards with a recession twist. Yes, apparently the new business in greeting cards is cards with sympathy feelings related to the economic recession. Found the story at Bizmology.

The adult section.

The next set of links are for adults. If you are easily offended, do not like sexually explicit items, or are just squeamish, you can stop reading right now. I am perfectly cool with that since I understand a few people may be more reserved. Just don't say I did not warn you.

If on the other hand, you have someone nice in your life (or more than one, or none at all, and you wish to be nice to yourself), and you want a little sexy fun, then read on. Here are some gift ideas for the bedroom (and the kitchen, and the living room, and. . . well, you get the idea).

  • Fleshbot has put out a small holiday gift guide for 2009. And I do mean small, since it only has 6 items on it, but they are some very interesting items. If you run a search on the site, you can get their gift guides for previous years too for more ideas.
  • The online store Babeland has a holiday guide for toys and so on. Or you can try Blowfish. A couple of reputable adult bloggers mention these in their blogs, so that gives me some extra reason to mention them here. For the obligatory FCC disclosure: No, I do not work for them nor do I receive any compensation, swag, neither did I sleep with anyone, nor get taken out for lunch, etc.
  • Now, if you have gone shopping for sex toys, you know that some of them can be a little pricey. You can look at it this way: you either buy something cheap that you will have to replace soon, or you spend a bit more on something that will last you and that your partner and you will actually enjoy. But if the budget is a little tight, and I do understand the economy is not so good right about now, fear not. The nice ladies Em and Lo have put together a very good "Holiday Gift Guide for Broke Perverts." Now before you go elsewhere, hear me out. There are some nice items here from toys to candles to bubble bath. After all, as Em and Lo point out, "not all of us can afford to buy our favorite girl (or your favorite perv in life) a $175 Swarovski-crystal-encrusted vibrator with a pink feather tail on a silver stand. . . ." I know I'd love to buy it for the love of my life, but I am only a librarian (and thank the deity of your choice she understands that).
  • If you are a little shy and don't want to go to an actual "adult" site, the online directory actually has some information including a "Luxury Sex Toy Christmas Gifts for the Holidays" page and "Sexy Stocking Stuffer Gifts for the Holidays." Sure, you still have to follow the links to the actual stores to buy, but you get some nice descriptions to give you a good idea.
  • And here is the lesson of the day for me. I am sure my readers have seen all sorts of comparison sites, you know, the sites you use to compare prices on products. You type in your product and get pricing from various retailers so you can compare. Well, I just discovered there is such a site for sex toys too. Now you can go to Sexy Toy Rates and do comparison shopping on your adult toy needs. You can search by category or type something in the search box. Now, I give readers the caveat: do compare, but don't automatically settle for the cheapest.
  • And I have to throw something in for readers. As my three readers might know, I do read manga. Some of it does have adult themes, but no, not all manga does. If you want to get a sense of manga's more sensual side, here is a small "Great Manga Gift Guide" from Sadie Mattox at Extremely Graphic. Mattox is a librarian who "offers news, reviews and rants all while digging out from beneath a pile of graphic novel and manga."
  • On a final note, if you want reviews of various products, The Kinky Librarian's blog is a good source. As I warned before, this is explicit. Now moving along, if you go to the blog, and set the category to "reviews" you will find both links to reviews and her own reviews. Nadia West, the blogger, does use a good amount of toys, and she reviews them honestly and candidly; if something does not work, she will say it. In other words, you can get the review from someone who actually plays with the toys (as opposed to just a corporate product description).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Holiday Post 2009: Opening Salvo

We made it to another holiday season here at The Itinerant Librarian. After the upheaval at the end of 2008, I can say that 2009 was slightly better. I am hoping based on that that 2010 will be an improvement. 2009 also marks the fifth year of putting together these holiday posts. I enjoy finding the links and things for my three readers, and I hope people enjoy it. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, Festivus, or some other secular holiday, or nothing at all, may it be a safe and peaceful time for your family and you.

For reference purposes, here are the links to holiday posts: 2005, 2006, 2007 (three part extravangaza), and 2008, which also had three parts--the serious post, the funny post (well, to me at least), and the reader's edition.

As in previous years, I am just putting the links to things I have found in broad categories:

Santa Claus

Traveling and getting there

Sharing the spirit of the season

Miscellaneous Tips

Trivia and other stuff

  • I can always count on the Census Bureau to provide something cool for this time. They have put together a series of facts for the 2009 Holiday Season. This is part of their Facts for Features series. For example, did you know that 16.6 billion is the number of cards, letters and packages the U.S. Postal Service will deliver between Dec. 1 and Christmas this year? Now you do. Also, according to the document, the busiest mailing day is set for Dec. 14, and Dec. 16 will be the busiest delivery day.
  • PNC Financial Services once again does their feature on the Christmas Price Index. You can watch the video on the website and read more about how they figure out the CPI.
  • A little academic humor. If you happen to be a graduate student, especially a grad assistant working for a tyrannical professor, Jorge Cham of the PhD Comic reminds you of the "Professor-Approved Holidays."
  • A few interesting items from the Mental Floss blog. First, "6 Christmas Firsts." Next we have "9 Holiday Characters From Around the World." Some of you may recognize Krampus, who did a recent appearance in The Colbert Report. And many people make it a point to watch the perennial Christmas classic movie It's a Wonderful Life. Here then is "The Quick 10: It's a Wonderful Life" with some trivia about the film.

I have found many other fun things, so feel free to come back for more holiday posts, including our summary of 2009. Sure, CNN and those other guys can tell you the usual news summary. I am doing something different, but you have to come back to find out.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Signs that the economy is bad: odd jobs edition

Here we go again with another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. So, how do you know when the economy is bad? I mean, besides the pundits telling us that the economy is bad, and the long lines at the unemployment office. Well, when certain roles start reversing, that usually is a sign. Then again, as this week's highlights show, sometime not even the experts are sure.

  • When Mexican immigrants in the States actually have to get money from their Mexican relatives instead of sending money back to Mexico.
  • And if things were not bad enough for Latino immigrants (i.e. the illegal ones certain people complain about), apparently White Americans are now taking the jobs that Americans had been refusing to do that those Latino immigrants were doing. Got that? Jack Cafferty of CNN briefly goes over a report in USA Today. He writes, "USA Today reports that a growing number of American citizens are headed to street corners and parking lots of home improvement stores to find day-labor work - jobs usually done by illegal aliens." You know the economy has to be bad when American citizens (read mostly White) are suddenly competing for jobs they used to see as not good enough for them.
  • When you can make money as a private jet repo man. If you were man enough to keep your private jet, but you failed to pay for it, you are going to lose it anyways.This is one of a few odd jobs that pay well in this economy, according to Newsweek.
  • When librarianship is not exactly a growth career, but don't take my word for it. The Librarian in Black picks up on the story that librarian salaries and job prospects are not so good. A statement of the obvious, but what else is new? I am starting to consider one of those odd jobs such as futurist or golf ball diver.
  • When libraries become automated like ATM kiosks. The Librarian in Black picks up the story of the staffless library and discusses the true costs.
  • When televangelists fail to raise enough money. Yes, I know this can be seen as a cheap shot, but Oral Roberts, who just passed away (link to BBC) did say "that God would strike him dead if he failed to raise $8m for his City of Faith medical centre in the 1980s. He attracted $9m but it later closed." He's probably keeping company in the same hell where Jerry Falwell is at. Can you tell I am not too sympathetic for people who use their religion to scam people or promote bigotry and intolerance?
And as if things weren't bad enough, the experts can't even agree:
  • According to the Conference Board, consumers are expected to be in a frugal mood (link to the press release. and spend less during the holiday season. From the press release, "U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $390 on Christmas gifts this holiday season, down from last year's estimate of $418, The Conference Board reports today."
  • On the other hand, the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association both agree that consumers will exercise less restraint in spending (link to the press release. You can find the full survey on the site), so they will spend more. From the press release: "'Consumers are telling us they will not cut back as much on spending as last year, but more so than in previous years,' said CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel." Ok, so they will spend more, but still less.
So, are things bad enough to curtail spending, or can we go spend some more to make up for the fact we spent less before because things were really fucked up before (not that they are any less screwed up now)? Now, I try to make light of the situation, but it is not because I am heartless or mean. It does concern me, but to be perfectly honest, I am pretty sick and tired of the way it is so hyped and sensationalized while the government pretty much sells itself to lobbyists and the private banking and wealth sectors that caused the mess get away with it, and from the looks of it are gearing up to do it again. So for me the best option is to try to get a smile or two out of the whole clusterfuck in order to keep some degree of sanity. Maybe if the regular people took some time to read and inform themselves, like I do, and actually voted out the morons promoting this mess, things might actually change. But hey, what do I know? I am just a librarian. In the meantime, I will keep on pointing out the real signs that the economy is bad. Because anyone can look at the GDP or the unemployment numbers. But you have to look for those oh so subtle signs, and I am more than happy to do it for my three readers.

A hat tip to Docuticker for the consumer surveys above.
A hat tip to Pharyngula on the Oral Roberts story.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Booknote: Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina

I was a young and pretty bright eyed freshman in college when I first read Eduardo Galeano's Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, known in English as The Open Veins of Latin America. I remember it made quite an impression on me. It is a strong book about the history of a pillaged continent. It is also a must-read if you wish to truly understand the history of Latin America. I decided to reread it this year after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez gave a copy of it to U.S. President Barack Obama. The book once again became a bestseller after that event. Some people starting making jokes about the Chávez Book Club. It is known that many in the United States dislike Chávez, but I will argue that reading Galeano's book will go a long way in explaining why men like Chávez rise to power in Latin America and why they tend to be so popular. I will warn my American (namely U.S.) readers that the U.S. does not fare well in this book. If you are just looking for yet another U.S. history that glorifies the nation and glosses over the many pillages and imperialistic raids the U.S. has done over the centuries in Latin America, then this is not the book for you. If you wish to read the true history, written from the point of view of those who have been oppressed, and if you wish to truly understand the history of Latin America, what has happened, and what has led us to this point in time, then you have to read this book.

The strength of Galeano's book is in the narrative. When most people think of history, they think of the usual dry facts, dates, and places. You will get a lot of facts, dates, and places in this book. Galeano does provide a lot of footnotes to document things. But he writes the history as a narrative. This book can be read almost like a novel, except for the fact that what it tells is not fiction. Galeano has the skill to bring the big picture along with the stories of small places and persons. From Mexico to Minas Gerais to the Caribbean, Galeano takes his readers on a 500 year historical tour of the continent. We read about peasants and aristocrats, about laborers and kings, indians and criollos, landlords and multinationals and dictators and U.S. officials all coming together in the story. The narrative is broken down into episodes, so you can read the book a bit at a time. The narrative can be very moving at times, and at times, if you have any sense of humanity, you will experience some outrage. And if you were not informed, you will come out with a pretty good understanding of why Latin America is the way it is. From why do we have so many immigrants from there coming to the U.S. (no, not all are Mexican, by the way)? What's the deal with those civil wars in places like Guatemala? You will learn about all the resources that come out of Latin America to keep consumers in places like the U.S. happy and satiated, and the price of that happiness and satiation. But this is not just a narrative. Galeano does a very good analysis of that history as well.

The book was written in 1971. The edition I have on my shelf was finished in 1977 or so. In fact, it has an update labeled "7 years later" at the end which updates it at the time. The book itself has been updated since. For instance, there is a 1997 edition with a foreword by Isabel Allende. In that foreword, Allende, who had to flee from the 1973 military coup in Chile that put Pinochet in power, says that among the few possessions she was able to take were two books. One was a copy of Pablo Neruda's Odes. The other book was Galeano's book. If I had to do the old exercise of what books I would want in a deserted island, Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina would be one of those books. The book is available in translation in English (and in other languages), so Obama has no excuse not to read it (even if he may not be able to read the edition in Spanish he got from Chavez), and Obama probably should be reading it if he wants to have a better understanding of his neighbors to the south.

And as an added bonus, if you need a book reading idea for Banned Books Week, this book was actually banned by four Latin American countries when it came out: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay. These countries were under right-wing dictatorships at the time, and to put it simply, they did not appreciate Galeano pointing out their faults and exploitation, often done in association with the U.S., in explicit detail. As a friend of mine pointed out, any book that was banned in various Latin American countries (i.e. in its own backyard, so to speak), deserves to be read. And for me that also makes a very good reason to read it and recommend it to others. So go get yourself a copy and do some reading.

Is digitalization really killing these things? Maybe.....

This is crossposted from my scratch pad at Alchemical Thoughts. I just did it as a small exercise to amuse myself and write a little, but it seemed good enough to share a bit more widely, so here it goes:

* * * * *

I recently saw this list of "21 Things That Are Being Killed Off by Digitalisation." In my usual semi-snarky way, I would like to go over the list and see what is dying, what is dead, and what is not quite dead yet. So, here is the list. I will say that it seems the term "digitalisation" seems to be interchangeable with "online" or "Internet" in this context. The comments are all mine:

1. Memory. I would have to say that digitalization may not be killing memory, but it certainly is slowing it in some aspects. For example, phone numbers I used to memorize I now fail to memorize because I can just look them up on my cellphone. This is something I would like to work on, since there are still one or two phone numbers I would prefer to memorize for the moments when I do not have my cell phone.

2. Privacy. Every time you use some social online network, you are giving up some privacy. As a librarian, I am very aware of the issues with privacy online, and I try to educate patrons. I think a lot of the students in my campus do not realize how much companies know about them based on their Facebook profiles, for example. True, there is a trade-off between privacy and convenience, but that does not mean we should give up all of our privacy nor that we lack privacy rights that need to be protected. I see this as one of the major issues worth fighting for these days.

3. Experts. Yea, pretty much gone. Everyone these days thinks they are an "expert" if they can post something online. And don't even get me started on the wahoos who make it a hobby to comment in places like CNN when Jack Cafferty poses some question. Having an opinion does not an expert make. Writing for Wikipedia does not make you an expert either. I want knowledge. I want credentials. I want some degree of peer editing and evaluation. But maybe my standards are on the high side. It may have to do with being in academia, where we still place some value in vetting expertise (something seriously lacking in most news organizations these days).

4. Concentration. It depends on what it is you are supposed to be concentrating on. For instance, blogging does require a certain degree of concentration. So does playing some online games. And if you read online, say news or other text, that does require some concentration as well. So, I am not so sure on this one.

5. Listening to a whole album. What is this album thing you speak of? Seriously, I can see with the advent of playlists, iPods, so on how the idea of actually listening to one whole album is dying or dead already.

6. Punctuality. I am not sure how this one works. This seems more like a failing. You are either punctual, or you are not. Don't go blaming your lack of punctuality and respect for others on digitalization. Get your act together and learn to be punctual.

7. Telephone directories. When was the last time you used a phone book? In my case, not that long ago. For some things, it is easier to open the phone book than to boot up the computer to look up a local number (especially for businesses, say, a plumber when you are having an emergency with your pipes). I don't think directories are dead yet, but they may be on the way out. For me, a lot of this depends on how available access to the Internet, and I mean good broadband access, becomes. There is serious digital gap in this nation, and as long as there are parts of this country on dial-up, or with no access at all, things like directories will survive because those folks without Internet access will still need them.

8. Cheap watches. Looks like they are going the way of the dodo. I have a pocket watch myself, but when I forget to carry it, and I have my phone, I have been caught looking at the cell phone to get the time. However, I still prefer my watch. However, most of my students, as I can tell, do use their cell phones to check the time. I don't see many of them wearing watches, cheap or not. So, I would have to say dying on this one.

9. Letter writing. If you mean old fashioned, handwritten letters on actual paper that you would send via snail mail, yes, they are pretty much dead. This is probably a big reason why the U.S. Postal Service is having serious financial difficulties and a hard time surviving against the likes of UPS and FedEx.

10. Spelling. Spelling does seem to be dying. All you need to do is look at any short message service and its users to get a sense that spelling is not a priority. Also on comment boards. Pretty much, a lot of the online experience is rushed, and when people are rushed, they fail to check their spelling. I am not excusing, but that is the observation.

11. Printing photographs. If you mean printing them from actual film that is developed, yes, that is practically dead. However, printing actual photographs is not dead. Now, you can take a nice digital image, edit it yourself, then print it out on good quality photo paper, and even frame it nicely. So, printing photos is not dead. It just evolved.

12. Copyright. This is dying, at least in terms of the archaic rules governing it now. Sure, artists and creators should be compensated for their creations, but new models for that are going to be needed. The Internet is just too open for restrictive copyrights, and fighting that is just a losing battle as the music media moguls are learning. We may well need to simply rewrite all of the rules.

13. Personal re-invention. Can you say anonymity? Digitalization does allow people to create new personas and recreate themselves. However, depending on what you do and how, you do have to be a lot more careful about the image you put out. Even when you think you are anonymous, you can still be tracked pretty much, so you need to be careful in how you re-invent.

14. Plagiarism. Some people would like to think this, but no. The idea of plagiarism and stealing (because that is what plagiarists do: they steal from others) will not die just yet.

15. Reflection. I think this depends on what you use. If you just use short message items like Twitter, you are probably not very reflective. Services like that encourage more shooting off the hip, so to speak, so I don't see much reflection there. In blogging, it varies. If you happen to be a blogger who does his thing based on timeliness (say, you run a news blog), I don't think you will have much reflection. Reflection is something that takes time and thought, so those bloggers who actually think and develop their ideas when they write, those are more reflective. So, I don't think digitalization is killing reflection. It just depends on the medium you may be using, not to mention your own nature. Some people are more reflective than others anyhow.

16. Paper money. With the advent of debit cards, it seems cash is on the way down. However, there are still moments when paper money may be preferable. And that is not counting moments when you want to "pay under the table." On a serious note, with the economy as is, and credit extremely tight, including people who may be losing their credit cards, cash could make a comeback .

17. Paper statements. For people with online access, yes, the paper statements are pretty much dead. However, see my note above about digital gaps. The same applies here.

18. Airline tickets. Mostly dead, with the caveat of digital gaps I have made before.

19. Concert tickets. Ditto.

20. Landline telephones. If you mean the old "Ma Bell," yea, those are on the way out. However, since digital phones are not always reliable (by this I mean things like a phone via a modem), and you may always need 911, landline phones will put up a fight for a while longer. But as systems improve, I think the old landlines will die. Not yet though.

21. Intimacy. And how are we defining this? If you mean being social in the sense of being in front of people, well, yes, intimacy may be dying. Then again, how intimate do you want to get with some people? If you have a spouse or a significant other, I think the intimacy will live even with digitalization.

…and 7 things that aren’t

1. Public libraries. On the contrary, due to the same digital gaps I keep noting, public libraries will be around. They may not be in the same shape or form that we traditionally conceive of them, but they will not die. For my one or two non-librarian readers, the debate of what form public libraries (and libraries in general) will take in the future is a constant debate in our profession. For me, that is a whole other post.

2. Vinyl record shops. I don't have enough of a grasp on this to say. I think based on what has not been digitized, which is a lot, the vinyl shops will be around for a while longer.

3. Newspapers (look at the data globally). Depends as well. As we know them, they will barely survive in areas with low to none online access. As soon as those areas get good broadband, the traditional paper will probably be toast. As is, this is pretty generational. Older folks cling to print newspapers, but ask the average youth today when was the last time they actually read a newspaper. Not news, but a newspaper. I think the answer will speak by itself.

4. Physical banks. Well, I have direct deposit, so I don't have to go deposit my paycheck. I pay my bills online, so don't have to write checks. I have a debit card that works as an ATM card, so I can do a few transactions on the machine (as long as I use one affiliated to my bank). However, there are still some things you just have to do at the actual bank. The day they figure out how to automate those, the building as we know it goes. But for now, there are still a few things you need (or prefer) to have a human deal with at the bank.

5. Meetings. A sad reality. Meetings are not going away. If anything, it seems that meetings are multiplying, since now we can also have "virtual" meetings in addition to the usual meetings in person.

6. Paper. Not yet. Ask my daughter. She is an artist, and she still draws on paper for one. Anyhow, with so much bureaucracy, no matter how hard they try, paper is just not going away, whether is paper documents they make or people printing out things that started out as electronic documents. Paper will be around for a good long time.

7. Church. I suppose for now, church (whatever the denomination or belief system) will be around. And I get the feeling that, even if the buildings vanish, that "churches" will just move online or become virtual. Is that really so farfetched, or am I reading a bit too much science fiction lately?

What about you folks out there? Do you agree? Disagree? Have other ideas? Feel free to comment and let me know.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Facing World AIDS Day 2009

I do this because someone has to help fight ignorance and educate others. I do it because I am a librarian, and as such it is my mission to provide accurate, reliable information to my patrons and readers. I do it because it is the right thing to do. I did not realize it, but the last time I did this was back in 2005. Time flies, and a lot has changed since then. I am glad that, in spite of my busy days, I am able to take some time to blog about this. This December 1 marks the 21st anniversary of World AIDS Day. Did you know that a total of 33 million people now live with HIV/AIDS, and more than one million of them live in the U.S. ? Here is another fact:

Every 9½ minutes someone in the US is infected with HIV. I got the facts. Act Against AIDS:

The badge above comes for the Nine And a Half Minutes website, created by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). I found that and other links with a little bit of searching and digging. This is not an exhaustive list. It is meant to give folks a place to start in terms of gathering information and getting educated. It is also meant to provide a small sample of what is available out there. As always, if you have questions, you can visit your local reference librarian. My professional friends and I will be happy to help out.

You can start learning more by visiting the U.S. Government's site: AIDS.GOV: Access to U.S. Government HIV / AIDS information
Visit Access to U.S. Government HIV/AIDS information.

This site is an information portal with a lot of information and resources from how to find a testing site to educational materials. From the site, "provides access to Federal HIV/AIDS information through a variety of new media channels, and supports the use of new media tools by Federal and community partners to improve domestic HIV programs serving minority and other communities most at-risk for, or living with, HIV." They also have a blog, which you might consider looking over and adding to your feed reader here.

Medline Plus has a topic page on AIDS that may be of interest. It includes interactive tutorials, news, medical information, and even materials for our Spanish-speaking friends.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has an AIDS/HIV Awareness page here. It includes a nice overview of the history of World AIDS Day here, with facts and resources. For example, did you know that "the World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988."

If you have a spiritual bent, the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church has a page of "Worship Resources for World AIDS Day." It is a small collection of poems, prayers, and inspirational stories. They also have a resource page. I am putting this as an example that there are some religious groups who actually care.

Here you can find UNAIDS (The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS). You can find links to various publications, art, blogs, and resources. You can find statements about World AIDS Day from various UN officials here. Some are videos, others are text.

And here is the site of the World AIDS Campaign.

Over here is the British National AIDS Trust's site for World AIDS Day.

Over here is the site for the Light For Rights Campaign. From the site, "Light For Rights events are happening in cities and towns all over the world and will bring thousands of people together on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2009, to honor those we have lost to AIDS and to highlight the fundamental rights we all share. "

If you want to learn more about the legal angle and rights, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has a World AIDS Day page discussing their advocacy work to prevent discrimination against those with HIV and AIDS as well as other resources.

And I just found this website for the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. The NLAAD actually takes place on October 15th (I did not know this. Just learned it now). However, I am adding it to this list because it provides much needed information and perspective for the Latino community. You can find a variety of resources here as well. The video they feature on the front page is worth watching.

In the state, I could not find as much. The press release that UT San Antonio is hosting some events came up. You can read about it here. "Activities will include a poetry slam, free HIV testing, awareness expo, candlelight vigil, music and a photo booth where students will get the chance to personalize a statement on how they will "face" HIV/AIDS." This should be the type of thing that more campuses here in Texas, and in the United States should be doing (and yes, I am looking at my own campus, which shines by its absence).

However, you can get some additional information on AIDS/HIV via the Texas Department of State Health Services. This was not as easy to find, so I am happy to dig it out for any locals out there.

And after some very deep digging, I managed to find the site for Tyler AIDS Services. This "is a full-service HIV/AIDS facility serving Tyler/Longview and many of the 32 North East Texas communities. " I am glad to see there is a local resource. I always try to include local things on posts like these when I find them.

(Crossposted from The Gypsy Librarian and to Alchemical Thoughts).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Booknote: Working for You Isn't Working For Me

I finally finished reading Working For You Isn't Working for Me: The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Boss. The book is not perfect, but if you are dealing in a workplace with a toxic boss, then this is a good book to read in order to help you deal with the situation. And the bottom line is dealing because, unless you have the option of just finding another job right away, you are going to have to deal with your toxic boss. So, the basic idea is to eventually learn to deal and adapt so you can maintain your sanity and health. In the long run, you may want to find a different job, but in the meantime, you have to deal with the reality you may be facing.

I chose to read it after I read a review of it. Unfortunately, I can't locate the review now, so I can't link to it. At any rate, let me go ahead and state what I liked and did not like.

I did not like the fact that times it seems like authors want to give toxic bosses the benefit of the doubt once too often. While I understand that you have to adapt and learn to deal with realities, there are moments when you have to call a spade a spade. A toxic boss who undermines you or has significant ethical issues should probably not be tolerated. Maybe for me the problem is that I see a lot of toxic bosses as assholes in the sense defined by Robert Sutton, author of a book I like a lot more, The No Asshole Rule. Sadly, the reality is that the asshole boss is not leaving any time soon. This is especially applicable if you happen to work for a Sacred Cow or Junior (two of the types defined by Crowley and Elster). Those two are protected from on high, so they are there to stay. When it comes to that, I like to use this bit of consolation: the Roman Empire was not built in a day. The worse Roman emperors were not murdered in a day either. Thus, this too will pass. The authors would probably see that as some form of bad mouthing the boss or probably wishing for their demise, behaviors they say one needs to learn to leave behind, but I like to see it as a bit of dark humor. Anyhow, the book's authors seem a bit too tolerant at times, but aside from this, there is a lot of valuable advice. One other thing was that I had a little difficulty in one of the exercises, where I am asked to determine my top expectations, fears, so on. This is because I tied for two top profiles (which you then put on one line as one) plus my other two. Sorting things out was not so easy, and I had to do a bit more self-reflection to really determine what I needed. I guess a bit more guidance for that would have been helpful. That was not bad per se, just took a bit more time, so I am mentioning it for my readers.

What I liked about the book is the valuable advice. This book does a few things for the reader:
  • It helps you reflect and discover where you stand in relation to the toxic boss. Knowledge is power, and you need it in order to act and adapt. You cannot cope with your toxic boss until you start by identifying the situation. This is what the authors call detecting. From there, you can begin to work towards coping, some degree of healing, and regaining some power and dignity for yourself.
  • You get to learn about 20 bad boss behaviors. This is very neatly organized, and though the authors acknowledge that some bosses can have traits from more than one type, I don't think the issue of bosses crossing lines, so to speak, was as well addressed. I think readers may have to do a bit more reflection and interpreting on your own if you wish to identify a boss that may have more than one type.
  • Then you get to look at your relation to the boss. The best part then is that the authors give you advice and ways specific to your situation and profile (yes, they help you see what kind of worker you are too) in order to detach then deal with your boss. For the profile, some of it may be familiar if you have done a Myers-Briggs test for instance. I have personally done a Myers-Briggs, so I when I managed to identify myself according to Crowley and Elster, some of it was already familiar. If nothing else, this provided some validation, which was good.
The book is very well organized, and if you need help now, it is pretty easy to read. This means you can get to work on your situation right away. Having said that, do set some time aside to do the exercises that the authors suggest. You will learn a lot about yourself if you are willing to do the exercises and truly reflect on your situation. The authors do point out that you may get some quick relief when you start, but keep in mind that it can take at least three months for you to get long term results. This is because you are going to work on building new, more healthy habits. Their simple technique of the 4Ds--detect, detach, depersonalize, and deal-- provides an organized and systematic way of healing yourself and gaining some personal power back. Your toxic boss will not meet your needs or quell your fears. For the most part, that toxic person is not going to change. You need to accept that, and then you need to act accordingly. And yes, the moment may come when the best option is to begin circulating your resume. However, while you do that, there are things you can do to make the workplace at least bearable. I will reassure readers that at times you may not need to start looking for a new job, even with a toxic boss. If you learn to follow the 4Ds, you may well be able to survive, and for many, that is a good outcome. Finally, the book also lends itself to rereading as times may come that, for instance, you get a new boss with a different level of toxicity.

I would recommend this book to any worker. I especially recommend it to anyone who may have a less than perfect boss who drives them insane. I got something out of it, and I am recommending it to a couple of my coworkers. A few bosses may want to read it as well, if for no other reason than to use it to put a mirror to themselves.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Post 2009, now with extra stuffing for Black Friday

Well, we are almost done with another year, and we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. Last year's holiday celebration was a bit rough for my family and I since my mother passed away shortly after Thanksgiving. My mother, optimist that she was, was big on family and all of us coming together for fun and good times. So, in the spirit of having a good time, of some amusement, and to entertain my three readers, here are some links and things for Thanksgiving.

You can find my 2008 post here, and the bonus features for last year over here. Those links will lead you to the 2007 posts as well. It seems this is becoming a tradition here at The Itinerant Librarian, and that is fine by me because I have fun finding these things for my three readers. I take the time to scour the web to find fun links every year to educate, help out, and amuse my three readers. All you have to do is just click.

Some of the basics:

Doing things a little different:
  • Are you interested in a "sustainable Thanksgiving"? This means are you interested in doing something different such as a meatless meal or trying to get a turkey that has been humanely killed? From AlterNet, here are "10 Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving." Some things may take a little work (like starting a garden), but others are simple (drink tap water).
  • Maybe you want to look at some old cookbooks? Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project may be your thing. From the site, "The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum have partnered to create an online collection of some of the most influential and important American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century. The goal of this project is to make these materials available to a wider audience."
  • Want more history? How about some historical recipes? Find them here, from the Pilgrim Hall Museum.
  • Maybe you are not traveling this year? Or maybe you live in a new town, and you have not established your holiday traditions yet? Mashable has put together a very nice "HOW TO: Prepare a Thanksgiving Feast With Help from the Web." From how to send invitations to how to cook the meal and even iPhone apps.

  • Do you remember the ever popular jargon bingo games you might play in your office during meetings? Well, here is a Thanksgiving Bingo Card, from the folks at Holy Taco. So, if you are stuck with less than nice relatives, you can at least entertain yourself.
  • Want some cake? Here are photos of "25 Horrifying Thanksgiving Cakes." A couple of those are kind of cute actually, but some should have been Halloween horror spectacles. Via BuzzFeed.
  • If you thought you were just having turkey and the fixings with family and friends, you were wrong. Here is a graph on "What You're Really Having for Thanksgiving." Via the SF Weekly.
  • Are you traveling to your Thanksgiving gathering? Or are you returning, and you think you want to bring some leftovers for the trip? Sorry, but take those leftovers and ". . .shove them down your piehole." This is a tongue-in-cheek reminder about some of the restrictions the TSA has in terms of flights and foods, especially liquids. Via YesButNoButYes.
  • And if you are like me, then you are not regular people. Like grad students, I have to work a significant part of the holiday (don't even get me started on that). Jorge Cham of PhD Comics knows my pain.
  • Of course, you can always have Thanksgiving PETA style. I know this is a serious commercial, and they are trying to make a serious point. But, the commercial is quite depressing, and in the end, the effect may be somewhat more humorous (in a dark sort of way):

And after you are done eating that turkey, there is Black Friday:

  • Last year was notable because people actually got killed during those stupid early morning doorbuster promotions. The last thing retailers want is to get a bad reputation if someone dies in their stores this year. So, retailers are making plans to keep things "safe" on Black Friday (via Bizmology). If you follow the link, you get the article, and you can also get links to materials from OSHA and the National Retail Federation. These are kind of interesting in terms of seeing how retailers think.
  • Target apparently is ready to cater to the psychotic shoppers anyways, as their recent advertisements indicate. Via AdFreak.
  • On the other hand, you may want to consider staying home. According to Consumer Reports, a lot of shoppers are saying that retailers are out of line. "The survey was conducted as part of Consumer Reports' annual "Dear Shopper" campaign that highlights holiday gotchas and shopping traps." Found via Docuticker. The top annoyance is: "Stores that don't open all the checkout lanes." This is in my top peeves for retail as well. Nothing that pisses me off more than a store filled to the gills, and they don't open more checkout lanes. Pony up a bit more to pay some more cashiers, you cheap bastards. Having only 3 lines out of 40 open is not good customer service.
  • Once again, GovGab to the rescue. Here are some tips and links to help you "get ready Black Friday."
If you are driving, please be safe and careful. Also, please do not drink and drive. If you are staying home, have a safe and peaceful holiday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My small response to the librarian making the case against homosexuality

By now, Bert Chapman's post on "An Economic Case Against Homosexuality" has made the rounds of the librarian blog circuit. The first time I heard of Mr. Chapman's post was via an e-mail from a colleague who suggested that I might have a thing or two to say about it. I read it, and my initial reaction was to say, "what a load of bunk." That it was written by an academic librarian made me just a bit ashamed of my profession where we (supposedly) strive for values like openness, tolerance, understanding, diversity, and kindness. That was my initial reaction. I disagree strongly with his alleged economic assertions and with his premises that somehow homosexual people are less moral or aberrant somehow.

A couple of librarians who are better skilled when it comes to writing thoughtfully have provided a couple of replies that I think summarize how to respond to people like Mr. Chapman.

  • The Free Government Information (FGI) blog has "In Response to the Economic Case Against Homosexuality." Their guest blogger, Amy West, goes over the specific inaccuracies in Chapman's post. This is the kind of work I expect a good librarian to do. To look at the claims and then do some common fact checking, something that Mr. Chapman clearly did not do, or more likely chose not to do because it would not advance his religiously influenced agenda.
  • Wayne Bivens-Tatum, the Academic Librarian, looks at the rhetoric of Mr. Chapman's claims. This is well worth reading as well, and Mr. Bivens Tatum concludes that this is not about economics but about justice. Don't take my word for it. Go read it.
The story was picked up by Inside Higher Education here. Apparently, petitions calling for Mr. Chapman to be dismissed from Purdue University are surfacing. You can read a sampling of letters from students, alumni and members of the academic community to The (Purdue) Exponent here (if you run a search using "Chapman" as the term, you will get links to more coverage in The Exponent) This only pains me more, not for him, but for the fact that Purdue is where I got my undergraduate degree. Yes, I am an alumnus, and now I do wonder about the kind of people they hire up there. In fact, I have a friend who works there (another librarian. No, I am not saying who), that I know would not agree with Mr. Chapman's views. I cannot help but wonder how she feels having to be associated with him.

At the end of the day, these are the thoughts roaming my mind:

  • Mr. Chapman's beliefs and writing are reprehensible. They are just a screed for bigotry and discrimination disguised as "an economic case" that is anything but economic.
  • However, the beauty of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is that he has the right to express his reprehensible bigotry. That beauty also means that the rest of us have the right to ignore or condemn him. Therefore, he should not be acting indignant if he finds that reasonable, decent people object to what he's peddling.
  • Sure, academic librarians (and librarians in general) do have the right of expression like anybody else in this nation. We do not abdicate that just because we work in a library. Again, we should be ready to face the consequences of what we express. Though Mr. Chapman makes the usual disclaimer most of librarian bloggers make on their personal blogs, including me, that "views presented on this blog are the authors personal opinions and do not represent the opinions of my employer," he does mention his employer (Purdue University) in his biography at the blog. Directly or not, that reference will give him some weight, so to speak. There is a difference between some random guy making the "case," and an academic librarian affiliated to a very respectable midwestern university. He may not "represent" the university, but he does mention his association to it. Whether he likes it or not, people will look at his writing and say, "that librarian from Purdue" has it out for gay people (or something similar). This will probably not look good on the university, and I wonder if he even considered that.
  • Having said all that, I don't think the guy should be fired. Not for this, as bad as it may seem to those of us who disagree with his less than accurate views. Now, if he starts proselytizing at work, that would be reason to fire him. But it was written on his personal blog. This does not mean the students cannot protest and ask for his resignation or firing. Again, he wrote it, so he should have to deal with any consequences when it becomes clear that his bigotry is not going to be tolerated by society at large. He should not be shocked, surprised, or seeking sympathy when others denounce his wrong, inaccurate, and prejudiced views. As I pointed above, this will probably not look good on the university, and if he were fired or asked to resign, I would not be surprised. It is common knowledge that large institutions, like a reputable research university, would want to avoid any bad publicity or anything that could tarnish its image. Mr. Chapman is a tarnish on the image of Purdue University.
For me, guys like that just make our profession look bad. It's not because he is conservative. It's because he uses bad information, in a dishonest way, poor reasoning, and a clearly biased, close-minded point of view to promote intolerance, discrimination, and hatred, things that are against what our profession of librarianship should stand for. But for me it means I have to work harder to get good information out there to my patrons, to work on better educating my students and academic community, and to do my part, small as it may be, to make the world a better place, a world where we can embrace, understand, and learn from each other, a world where we can get justice and equality.

And that's my two cents.