Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween 2009 Post

Just for the fun of it, I am tossing together a small post on Halloween. This may become a tradition given I did it last year and the year before. I may or not go out this year, since the little one is not so little anymore, but if we do, it will be in costume. Anyhow, as for this post, it is mostly a few things I have found while browsing around the Internet that my four readers (actually, those four read the other blog, but who's counting?) might find interesting or amusing. Snarky comments are mine.

However you spend your Halloween-- out trick or treating, at a party, at home watching scary movies, so on--please do so safely. Please remember that if you choose to drink (alcohol, that is), to do so in moderation, and if you do drink a bit much, please don't drive.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Scary, but yes, the economy is STILL bad

Welcome yet again to another edition of "Signs That the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the Halloween edition (sort of).

  • People can't afford to get a divorce any more.Very often people who don't know better or are single tend to say, "if things are so bad, get a divorce." Well, guess what, the economy is really bad, and people who usually would get a divorce, can't afford to do so. They end up living under the same roof much like roommates in college (and I don't mean that in a good way). After all, hiring a lawyer, going through the process, then setting up separate households, and so on can cost a lot. And yet, having said this, as I tell my students, look at the source. Who is pointing this out? The fine legal eagles of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), who are noting that there are fewer divorce filings these days. I guess things are bad when divorce lawyers are losing business.
  • Death is another big expense. Well, Wal-Mart, whose slogan is "Always Low Prices, Always," has decided to help out with some of those last details. According to various news sources, including the BBC, which I am linking, "Wal-Mart Starts Selling Coffins." Prices start at $895 for a basic steel model. So now, we see that "catering for cradle-to-grave needs, Wal-Mart already sells everything from baby wear to engagement rings." You can see some of the models here. Funeral directors may worry that Wal-Mart's prices undercut them, but on the other hand, according to the article, they add that they still beat Wal-Mart on something: the human touch. By law, a funeral home pretty much has to let you use your own casket if you so choose. This article from the Lousiana TownTalk website discusses that a bit more. You can find the actual funeral rules at the Federal Trade Commission. By the way, for the record, I personally want to be cremated (and yes, my better half already knows of this wish).
  • You may decide to skip the funeral home altogether and do the funeral yourself, a DIY funeral. It may sound like a joke, but this is serious, and there is some information out there for people to consider if this is an option. You can start with this post in BoingBoing on DIY funerals, which provides some information and links. NPR had a program on the topic as well, and here is the transcript for it. It is part of an NPR series on "The End of Life." The Free Geek has a small list of what to do if you plan your DIY funeral.
  • Are you thinking about graduate school and getting a doctoral degree? Maybe you should consider unemployment as the author of the PhD webcomic proves, "it pays more to do nothing than to get a Ph.D." If only I had known that back in the day.
  • On a serious note, another aspect of the economy that may be doing well in this time are vasectomies as well as other contraceptives. Something that the sky fairy followers and conservatives tend to forget, in their zeal for preventing responsible contraception and choice (as long as it is for someone else. As soon as their little Susie gets knocked up by the local high school jock, they themselves pack her up and run to the nearest abortion clinic under the radar), is that "that rational people facing hazardous economic times need to control the number of children they have to support. And, by the way, that kind of responsible behavior is good for the economy which can hardly afford the social programs to support families who can't make it on their own" (emphasis mine). Christina Page has the details in "Vasectonomics" (via the Huffington Post).
  • This is not new, but it certainly is interesting. Escapist reading is doing well in the bad economy. You know it is a sign of a bad economy when people just want to forget about it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The invasion of stupidity is no fun

I think we can pretty much handle every other major disaster if we put our will, efforts, resources, and minds to it. Natural disasters like earthquakes, fires, so on, are things that we can get over and rebuild over time. The rise of stupidity, coupled with the rise of willful ignorance and a serious lack of common charity and good, is something is much more fearful. When people are just too stupid for their own good that is a problem. When people are just too dumb to make some time to be informed, to learn, to be intellectually curious, then that is a problem. When in addition to that they simply adopt an "I got mine Jack" attitude where no one else matters but themselves, preferring to leave others to face true disasters on their own, that really is a problem. Stupidity and its rise are certainly a natural disaster. It is one you cannot recuperate from right away, and over time, it has a tendency to multiply. Now that certainly freaks me out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yes, the economy continues to be bad: Harvard Edition

Welcome to yet another edition of "Signs That the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This week we have a college edition. Let's get on with it.

According to The New York Times, "Leaner Times at Harvard: No Cookies." Let us look at this tragedy at the venerable institution of higher learning:

  • You know things are bad when the kids at Harvard can't get a hot breakfast anymore. According to the article, "The loss of scrambled eggs, bacon and other cooked breakfast foods in the dorms of upperclassmen on weekdays seems to have stirred the most ire." Ok, I can kind of see that. Eating cold cereal and milk just does not cut it for some people.Then again, look at this on the positive side if you are stuck with eating corn flakes: "Research from University of Scranton found that breakfast cereals provide a surprisingly large amount of disease-fighting antioxidants" (source).
  • But that is not the horrifying part. Oh no, not by a long shot. What can possibly be so terrible? From the article, "that professors will go without cookies at faculty meetings." Holy Mother of Pearl, you know shit is hitting the fan when the professors can't have their cookies at meetings anymore. It's time to batten down the hatches. Did it occur to anyone to maybe ask for volunteers to bake a batch of cookies, then take turns bringing cookies in? Not from the looks of it, and these are Harvard scholars we are talking about. We'll see how long before the local faculty governance in my school figures they can't afford the wine and crackers they usually serve after the meetings. I can only imagine the horror as they get upset, and things turn ugly. Hey, if it is happening at Harvard, it will eventually trickle down to other universities and colleges.
  • And the horror continues. According to the article, "Mr. [George] Hayward [a junior student] said that those who live on the Quad, a 15-minute walk from Harvard Yard, were disproportionately affected because the library there was closed and shuttle bus service to and from the central campus curtailed." The kids may have to actually walk. Imagine that. And no, I am not being mean, but in my undergraduate days at a certain other fine university in the Midwest, I had walks of 15 minutes or more (often more) to get to classes, with snow in the winter, and you did not hear me whining about the shuttle being curtailed (shuttle? What is this shuttle thing you speak of?).
  • And then we have this tragedy happening to some of the campus athletes: they have to share space in some facilities. Holy crap. The poor kids in the Tae Kwon Do Club have to "to share practice space with the Crimson Dance Team." This could get ugly.
Let's be honest, it is kind of hard to be sympathetic to Harvard, which, although their precious endowment has lost money since last year, they still have 26 billion (that is billion with a B) dollars sitting on the endowment as of June of 2009. I think the folks do protest too much. Of course, Harvard feels they need to cut even more. They did, according to the article, lay off 250 staff members. But, here is the most horrible idea that's floating around to save money. Hold on to your hats now, here it goes. Don't say I did not warn you:

  • "The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has started an online “idea bank” where students can suggest savings. The 170 submissions so far include charging tour groups to enter Harvard Yard and having students clean their own bathrooms instead of paying other students to do it under a work program." (emphasis added).
Imagine that, the poor children of privilege may have to learn to clean after themselves. What is this world coming to?

The New York Times is not the only place that picked up this story. The Harvard Crimson picked up on the cookie tragedy too in their article "Faculty Meeting Lacks Usual Cookies." This is certainly a hot topic if their campus newspaper picks it up. The cookie tragedy gets worse:

  • "'As part of our cost-cutting efforts, we’re doing our little part here in our Faculty meetings, saving about $500 per meeting for cookies and coffee,' Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith explained during the meeting." Where the hell are they getting their cookies from? I guess Pillsbury's finest are not good enough for these people. And I take it Folger's is not an option; they are probably drinking the most expensive coffee in the world. Having to go down to Folger's or Maxwell House could be a tragedy. Heaven help them if they have to end up with Sanka. Doing your little part, yea, sure.
  • Of course, the self-delusion that they, the faculty, are somehow suffering continues: "'This is the first time in modern times with no cookies,' Faculty Council member Harry R. Lewis ’68 said as he held a white mug of tea. 'We are sharing the pain with the undergraduates.'” Are you effing kidding me? The world will not end because you did not get your cookie after the meeting. Ask the angry kids with no hot breakfast, and then come talk to us. Boo effing hoo. Take turns baking cookies or bring your own and share. The Humanity! The first time in modern times with no cookies? What's next? No coffee in the break room? Or no tea for the esteemed old timer?
  • And you can speculate the lack of cookies is already having an effect: "But few professors were there to be disappointed as the meeting was more sparsely attended than usual, with several of the front rows almost entirely empty." No cookie, no meeting. Harvard faculty unite: "Hey hey, ho ho, I want my cookie dough!"
Drew A. Bennett, writing an opinion piece for Inside Higher Education on "Picking Up Crumbs" may have said it best:

"GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!" (emphasis in the original).

I will concur. The folks at Harvard need to get a grip. There are real economic crises at colleges and universities across the nation, situations that seriously affect students and their ability to get educated. I will be blunt: those folks in Cambridge need to suck it up. Mr. Bennett's story set in "an open-admission, two-year college within the 14th poorest congressional district in the country" is something worthy of sympathy and something that needs serious addressing. Heck, that is a lot like the open-admission place I used to work at, and we certainly did miracles with what we had, which was nowhere close to what Harvard, even with their "cutbacks" currently has. Harvard losing its faculty meeting cookies, not so much. Get a life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I was at the Candlelight Vigil last night

(Crossposted from The Gypsy Librarian).

I bet my four readers at The Gypsy Librarian were expecting the next installment in my small series on blogging mistakes and library blogs (first installment here). I am taking a break today to highlight a very important issue as well as let my four readers know about some of the good work going on in my campus. Ok, this is kind of to let people know where I was last night too. The series will resume next Friday.

* * * * * * * *

October has a few observances associated with it. One of those observances is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (link to President Obama's proclamation). Last night I attended a candlelight vigil held on our campus to recognize the issue of domestic violence and to educate people. The event took place at 7:00pm last night in the fourth floor meeting room of the library. They were going to do it outdoors, but the weather did not cooperate. Nevertheless the event was successful, and from a quick glance, I think we had about 50 people or so. We did get some representatives from our campus police, a very strong Greek presence (ladies and gents), and some students. I was the only representative of the library present. The room's lights were down, and the room was lit with candles. At the entrance, there was a display with educational materials.

The event started with an opening statement by Ms. Samantha Dwight, who among her many hats has done work for the Campus Assault Response Effort (CARE) and is an educator/facilitator/presenter extraordinaire on this and other gender issues. She does a bit of everything, so if she reads this I apologize in advance if I can't quite "put her in a slot." At any rate, she read a statement, including a recognition of the important role that law enforcement officers have in domestic violence prevention. Those men and women in uniform when they get a call never know what they may be walking into. So our thanks go to them.

Next, the ladies of Alpha Chi Omega took the stage and did a dramatic reading. Members of the sorority took turns reading statistics and facts related to domestic violence in the nation. This had a moving effect on the crowd, and we learned a thing or two in the process. The last member on stage sang a song.

The activity would come to an end as a prayer was said for the victims as well as those involved in caring for them as well as for us all. And silently the event closed.

Whenever possible, I think it is important for me to attend events like this. In my role as outreach librarian, this is another way for me to reach out to our campus community, another way for the library to say present and that we support the cause. Personally, I just think this is important and needs to be supported. We have a long way to go in educating people, and events like this are a way to do it.

I would like to wrap this up by offering some links and resources that I hope people will find useful. Please, if you happen to be a victim, or you know someone who is, know that there is help out there. Some of the links will include phone numbers and contacts. On our campus here, the folks at C.A.R.E. are one such resource. Need more information, and you are local, you can contact them, or you can contact me, and I will refer you to the right place or find you the information you may need.

The resources then:

  • The Domestic Violence Awareness Project. These are the folks who promote and maintain activities for the observance, which started as an awareness "Day of Unity" back in October of 1981. The Project is coordinated by the National Center on Domestic Violence. You can learn about campaigns, find educational materials, and get links, and phone numbers if you need help. Of course, if you are in imminent danger, dial 911.
  • The National Coalition on Against Domestic Violence. Among the things this organization does, "the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), in conjunction with Ms. Magazine, started the Remember My Name project in 1994 to create a national registry of names of those who have lost their lives to domestic violence. Since then, NCADV has continued to collect information on incidents of people who have been killed by an intimate partner and produces a poster each year for Domestic Violence Awareness Month listing the names of those submitted to the project. To date, over 7,753 people have been memorialized through the project." Names are added daily to the list, which you can view on the website.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice has an Office on Violence Against Women. In addition to listing national hotlines, the site contains a lot of good information, including statistics.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a handbook on domestic violence awareness. This seems geared to employers so they can be supportive in the workplace. Provides some good information.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The number is 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224. Their contact form can also be used to get assistance if you prefer, though they encourage calling more. You can also find some information on the site.
  • The National Youth Violence Prevention Center also has resources related to the observance here. Yes, it is not just spouses or significant others; children and youths in families where an abusive situation exists suffer too.
  • The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) is also a good resource.
  • In Texas, the Attorney General has some resources here. A bit more geared to sexual assault, but still good information.
  • There is also a Texas Council on Family Violence.
  • Locally, you have the good folks of the East Texas Crisis Center. If you need help locally, this is a place to go.
This small list is certainly not comprehensive. I have tried to put out some resources that I have looked over and seem to provide good information. Readers are invited to comment, respond, and if they have other suggestions for links, add in the comments as well.

And yes, I tagged the post under "celebrations and holidays." It is not because I think domestic violence is to be celebrated; it is not. But this is also about a monthly observance, which is what I use the tag for. Just to be clear.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The BBC Meme, or I bet you I read more than 6

I found this over at C.W.'s blog here. Here are the instructions as described over there, which come from some FB meme of all things. By the way, much like C.W., I am not too keen on FB memes, preferring to do them over here.

The directions:

"Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so i can see your responses!"

My initial response:

Yes, I have read more than 6 (even if a lot of these were inflicted on me by academia, but that is a separate issue), and the BBC in this case (assuming it is true, since I saw no actual BBC link) is sounding a bit pompous.

The list with my marks and snarks:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien - x
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (ain't happening. Not interested. However, my daughter really likes the series).
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible - x (yes, I actually read the whole thing, and I read the Catholic version including the extras. Take that Protestant wimps)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte -
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell - x
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman -
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - x
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott -
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy -
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller -x
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - x (yes, the whole thing over time. Not that I remember all of it)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier -
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien - x
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk -
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger -x
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger -
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot -
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell -
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald -x
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens -
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams -
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky -
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck -
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll - x
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame -
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy -
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens -
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - x
34 Emma-Jane Austen -
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen -
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis -x
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini -
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres -
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden -
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne -x
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell - x
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - (I tried, but there is only so much tripe I can handle)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - x
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving -
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins -
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery -
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood - x
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding -
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan -
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel -
52 Dune - Frank Herbert - x
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons -
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen -
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth -
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon - (another one I tried and dropped, tripe and "cursi," which in Spanish is a capital offense)
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens -
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley -x
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon -
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -x
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck -
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov -
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt -
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold -
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas -x
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac -x
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy -
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding -
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie -x
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville -x
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens -
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker - x
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett -
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson -
75 Ulysses - James Joyce -
76 The Inferno – Dante -x (along with the rest of The Divine Comedy.)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome -
78 Germinal - Emile Zola -
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -
80 Possession - AS Byatt -
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens -x
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell -
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker -
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro -
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert -x
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White - x
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom -
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - x (Actually, I have read all of Sherlock Holmes)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton -
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad -x
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery -x
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks -
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams -
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole -
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute -
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas -
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare - x (ok, why do they list this if they had the complete Shakespeare up on the list?)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl -
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo -

32 total. Kind of meh, since a lot of these books are things I am not interested in reading. As a good reader advisor would say, they are just not in my reading interests profile.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Yep, the economy is STILL bad

Ah, it has been a while, but it does not mean the economy is out of the woods. Welcome then to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I go out, read the news so you don't have to, and find those oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. So, let us jump right in. The stories are no particular order.

  • First of all, let's go with a little ray of sunshine. Not everything is bad. It turns out that bullet producers can't keep up with demand. I think it has something to do with some unfounded fear that President Obama is going to take guns away from gun owners, so the fearful ones are stocking up on ammunition. So, I guess things can't be that bad since the factories are running full steam. That's one industry that is not going broke any time soon (via Common Dreams).
  • However, you do have to have gun to put the bullets in. It seems that the glory days of the AK-47 may be about to end. It turns out that Kalashnikov, the Russian manufacturer of the popular assault rifle, may be facing bankruptcy. Somehow, this seems a little counterintuitive. However, it seems the big problem faced by the famous gunmaker is competition from copycats. The article is worth reading. (via Spiegel Online)
  • And you know the economy is bad when people have to break into the sex shop to get a sex toy (via YesButNoButYes, and you can get the link to the news story as well as the video there. And for prudes, no need to worry. You don't see anything explicit). Now, a good sex toy is not cheap; you do have have to pay for quality (how do I know? I am a librarian, that's how). Having said that, causing $20,000 in damages for a $150 toy is a bit out of proportion. What I wanted to know is which toy was it, but the article does not say.
  • And when colleges try to trick students into enrolling into unpopular (read boring) classes by renaming them with hip, cool names, you know the economy has to be bad. Colleges nationwide are feeling the pinch when it comes to enrollment. For example: "German Literature of the High Middle Ages" (insert snore here) becomes "Knights, Castles, and Dragons" (rock on). And there are classes like "Economics of Sin" where students will be able to study "the opportunity to explore pornography, prostitution, crime and punishment, drugs and drug legalization, the sale of human organs, and gambling." How come they did not teach that class when I was in college? (via The Boston Globe).
  • When Harvard University, known for its very rich endowment and overall upscale education, decides to license themselves for a clothing line, well, that may not be a good sign for the economy. Either that, or they are just being pretentious. (via Bloomberg).
  • And if things weren't bad enough, even cocaine dealers are having a tough time with this economy. It's gotten to the point where the coke dealer actually calls his clients hoping to drum up business. Now that is one cold call you may not want to be getting. Can you put these guys on the "Do Not Call List"? (via New York Magazine)