Saturday, December 31, 2011

Signs the economy is bad, December 30, 2011

Welcome to the last post in the semi-regular (as in I do it when I feel like it and/or find the time) feature "Signs the economy is bad" for 2011. Things have not gotten better, and from the looks of it, they may not get better anytime soon. This means that I may be doing this feature in 2012 as well keeping my three readers informed of the oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is bad. Any pundit can point at some chart and say the recession is over (as if), say unemployment numbers are better (but he probably does not count the underemployed or those who just gave up on looking or just ran out of unemployment benefits), but it takes someone with some time to kill once in a while to go out and find the not so obvious things that tell the real story. So, here we go.

  • Apparently more women, especially mothers, are taking more phone sex operator jobs to make ends meet. We are not talking "MILFs" so to speak, but your average soccer mom that you would never imagine as working a phone sex line. Now personally, I have no problem with the line of work. If someone wants to pay a woman to have some sexy talk, and she agrees to provide it for a mutually agreed upon fee, that's a market. But the point is that more women who would rather work more "mainstream" work feel this is their only option to get a little extra money for their families. And that does make a comment on the bad economy. Via Jezebel
  • I have seen this story in a couple of places, including this one at Bizmology. Dollar Stores and Pawn Shops are doing very well in the bad economy. It makes perfect sense. Salaries have been stagnant, and in some cases, shrinking, which means less buying power for people. And that is assuming people still have a job to earn a paycheck. People may have had reservations about pawn shops, but it looks like they are overcoming them, plus the shops are working to improve their image and be more welcoming. 
  • And speaking of pawn shops, this is just a sad story. Personally, I do not think this kind of thing should be happening in the U.S., especially with how supposedly patriotic Americans are and all about "supporting the troops." More often than not, those Americans are a lot like pro-lifers. They are all about caring for the fetus or whatever it is before it is born. But once born, they are very happy to deny the actual baby any form of health care or safety and care. Same thing with soldiers. While enlisted and wearing the uniform, it is all "rah rah" and "support the troops" and "thank you for your service." When they become veterans, Americans mostly forget about their former soldiers, especially if they are wounded (physically, or more often, mentally, which is harder to see). Thus we get stories like this. In this story, a soldier in need has to pawn his Purple Heart medal to pay for Christmas. Story via The Huffington Post. Actually, this story is even worse since it was a soldier on leave. So, bad enough the nation barely takes care of its vets, they can't even pay them decently enough to meet their needs while enlisted. Of course, I would recommend not bothering with reading the comments. There are a lot of the usual judgmental, non-charitable asshats judging the poor guy. As if they knew. Hat tip to mikeroweWORKS.(On updates, it seems he did manage to pay off the pawn loan).
  • Just in time for Christmas, there is a shortage of Frankincense. Apparently, it is made from the sap of a rare tree that growers are choosing to grow less because it may be more lucrative to use the land for something else. At least, that is one of the reasons. Via Jezebel.  
  • Movie studios are not doing well, according to this article from Bizmology.  The article gives a lot of the usual excuses: competition from other technologies, glut in some film genres, star power not what it used to be, reliance on sequels. However, in the end, I don't think we need pundits and geniuses. Allow me to tell you what I think are reasons movie studios are not doing well: 1) Movies that people do not want to see because, let's be blunt, they suck. It does not matter how many strong or famous stars you put in your movie. Harrison Ford or anyone else can only do so much to save a crappy movie, even a movie with what may seem a good premise (Cowboys and Aliens does make a good premise, but hey if the movie sucks, no one will want to see it). 2) Simple economics. Going to a movie theater is an expensive proposition. Tickets ranging to ten bucks or so per person. Add the overpriced concessions, and this can rival going out for a five star meal at any swanky restaurant. I do feel pity for families who feel a need to take their whiny kids to see the latest crappy animated sequel in the theater. At the end of the day, money only goes so far, and as we have mentioned before, with stagnant salaries, job losses, a night at the movies is not a priority. This should be a no-brainer. 3) Going to a movie theater is often an unpleasant experience full of selfish assholes who have to talk during the movie, yak on their cellphones, or otherwise ruin it for everyone else. When you have that combined with the big sticker price, you pretty much skip the theater. 4) This I am guessing, but nowadays you can get any movie on DVD/Blue Ray fairly quick. Even with any restrictions studios put into getting the movies out, it is still relatively quick, and unless you are one of those freaks who just can't wait, you can get anything on Netflix/your preferred online service or rent it shortly after. So, why not stay home, rent the movie, make your own popcorn, and relax in that big screen TV and set-up you have at home? Just a thought. 
  • However, not all is bad in the economy. There is one sector in the economy that may be doing well if this story is any indication, and that is the weapons production sector. Hey, war is always going on someplace, and there's money to be made in it. And of course, if you happen to be a big superpower (or former superpower depending who you ask) with interests (*cough* oil *cough) in a very dry part of the world, you want to make sure your allies have the weapons they need. Thus, "US finalizes sale of $30 billion fighter jets to Saudi Arabia."  As my father says, "not to take the beans out of anybody's mouth," but give that some thought: the U.S. does keep the Saudis (who are as repressive and regressive as they come when it comes to regimes) pretty well armed. Why? Well, besides those interests (*cough* oil *cough*), "Production of the aircrafts, which will be manufactured by Boeing, will support 50,000 jobs and have a $3.5bn annual economic impact in the US, the White House said." It's economics. The folks at Boeing do have to eat like the rest of us. So, on the one hand, would be nice if the U.S. was not such a big weapons seller, but hey, what are you going to do with all the weapon makers if they lose their jobs? Serious food for thought there. Story via Common Dreams.

      Friday, December 23, 2011

      Holiday Post 2011: Traditions and basics

      I continue my semi-serious series of holiday posts for 2011. Today I am looking at some of the traditions and basics related to Christmas and the holiday season in general. These are mostly links to things I find amusing or a little thought provoking that relate to the season and its traditions.

      Some thoughts on the so-called War on Christmas

      This has become a theme in recent years, thanks in large part to loudmouthed right wing conservatives who like to wear their religion on their sleeves and play the victim card during the holidays. The fact that Fox News keeps enabling this nonsense does not help neither.
      • John Scalzi offers some interesting and thought provoking commentary in his post "Reminder: Tis the Season Not to be an Ass." I do agree with most of what he says, but I still think he may be a bit too passive. Let's be honest, given how some of those religious conservatives behave to those who may choose a different tradition, or none at all, once in a while, saying “take the symbols you cherish and shove them right up your ass" may be in order. They sure as hell do it to us, so I say turnaround is only fair. Personally, I would wish everyone would be civilized, but there are few moments when one has to stand up and fight fire with fire. These fake War on Christmas Christians (TM) behave like bullies, and bullies only learn when you toss it right back at them. At any rate, the post is worth reading because at the end of the day the season is more than just both sides behaving, well, like asses.  In the end, I live by a very simple philosophy, live and let live.
      • Via the Texas Freedom Network, a look at "The Right's 'Plastic Indignation' over Christmas."  The whole thing is worth reading, but here is a choice quote: "To say that Christians, particularly the conservative, evangelical, Republican kind, are oppressed is to insinuate that the Dallas Cowboys play in a cardboard shack."
      • This year, unfortunately, we are headed into an election year, and the campaigning has started early. Not even Santa is safe. The War on Christmas means that new candidates are rising to replace the jolly incumbent of the North Pole. Found at AdWeek, the video pokes good fun at both the War on Christmas and those pesky election ads. 

      The Christmas Tree and the Ornaments
      • Via Christmas Tree Market, here is a very nice infographic with a visual history of the Christmas tree
      • Christmas lights are an important part of the season. Not only do we decorate the tree with lights, a lot of people often put a lot of work to put up lights on their houses. You have to buy them someplace. Via Retail Hell Underground, here is a vintage ad for Gay Christmas Lights.
      • You have to put ornaments on the Christmas tree. Most people go with those cute balls, or maybe they buy something fancy from Hallmark. But why do with the usual when you can put one of these "Monstrous Christmas Tree Ornaments"? Via Dangerous Minds
      • Want more offbeat ornaments? Topless Robot presents "10 More Nerdy, Shameless Christmas Ornaments."  
      • And even more tree ornaments. Now, these are "21 Upsetting Christmas Tree Ornaments." From really tacky to a little risque to just plain wrong, odds are good there is something here that will piss someone off. And what better way to have a holiday gathering than these conversation starters that have the potential to stir even more drama?  Actually, there are one or two I would not mind putting on our tree. Via BuzzFeed.
      • How about decorating your cubicle or office? The Shoplet blog has some ideas for "a Cubicle Christmas."  All you need are some supplies and a little imagination.
      • Duck tape (or duct tape) is pretty much something that works for just about anything. It is a versatile staple. You can even use it to make a tape wreath and a Christmas tree. Via Shoplet blog. 
      • You know that somebody will burn down a Christmas tree, by accident or ignorance or neglect. There will likely be at least one news story related to someone who overloaded the electrical outlets or put a flame near a tree, resulting in some home burning down. Don't be that dumbass. Make sure things are safe. It is why we get to see some of those PSA's (public service announcements) about Christmas tree safety. Here is a sampling of those ads. Yes, they can be funny, but there is a serious point to be made.  Via The Daily Beast.
      • More tree safety advice, this time from Reader's Digest.
      The Big Man, a.k.a. Santa Claus

      An item or two about the jolly fellow in the red suit.

        The Music

        Yes, music is an important part of the holiday season.

        • Dangerous Minds shares an alternative music mix suggestion. The actual music list, by dj, writer and Voodoo practitioner Stephen Grasso, can be found here: "A Voodoo Christmas in South Northwood." Hey, a list that features Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera can't be bad. 
        • Now if you prefer more traditional music, here are "the 19 Best Secular Christmas Songs." We are talking Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Eartha Kitt. Via BuzzFeed
        • Getting a little chilly? The Calgary Philharmonic Chorus offers some tips on staying warm. Via BuzzFeed
        • Via, here are "Five Christmas Songs That Don't Suck." They also include a nice Spotify song list.  Besides, I am sure some folks out there have had the same thought the folks at have had: "Christmas music is absurd. What if every holiday was celebrated with music dedicated to it that began a month in advance, played in all major stores and public places?" Yes, we get the bombardment nice and early, and it keeps getting worse. So, listen to something different for a change. 

        Greeting Cards

        I hope everyone got their holiday greeting cards out by now.

        The Parties and gatherings

        • For many people, getting invited to Christmas parties is a big deal or at least a common occurrence. I would not know as I am not that popular, haha. Now, you may get invited to an event that you do not really share. By this I mean, you could get invited to a Christmas party with a lot of religious Christian elements, and you don't believe in nor celebrate Christmas (you celebrate something else, celebrate Christmas in a more secular way, or nothing at all). Yet, you feel the polite need to attend. I don't think this gets considered very often, so I found this advice on "How to Attend a Holiday Party When the Holiday's Not Yours" helpful. Via Jezebel
        • Are you going to an office or workplace party? Via Grub Street, "how drunk can you get at your office Christmas party?" This is applicable to place where the workplace may be cool enough to actually have some alcohol on premises.  In other words, not applicable to my workplace. 
        • This is not really a Christmas piece, but I think it is worth a look. Whether you are eating out or at home, table manners are important. Here are some reminders on "How to Be Polite at the Table" from Reader's Digest
        Food and drinks

        Whether you go to a party, host one yourself, or are just going to spend some quiet time at home, odds are good there will be some good food and drinks. Here are some ideas and things of interest related to eating and drinking. Remember that if you choose to drink alcohol, please do so in moderation.

        • The Intoxicated Zodiac blog has some offerings of cocktail recipes for the 12 days of Christmas based on your zodiac sign. I have to admit this is an interesting and different take on the usual holiday cocktails. The Capricorn cocktail (my sign) does seem a bit heavy on the sweetness (it uses molasses), but hey, I am willing to try anything once. The Better Half is a Libra, and her cocktail does look perfect. 
        • offers some cocktail suggestions and some links for various cookie and treat recipes. Hey, you need to have something to go with those drinks.  They also offer some helpful tips for making eggnog.
        • Drinkhacker offers some rum recipes, including a recipe for Coquito, which they label as the "Puerto Rican eggnog." I suppose that is a close description. If you have never tried coquito, find a Puerto Rican friend to make you some, or try the recipe provided. You probably want to be a bit more generous with the rum than the recipe calls for, especially if you are serving it to Puerto Rican friends. We like our coquito very loaded. 
        • Here is a recipe if you wish to make prime rib for the holiday dinner. However, it does come from Holy Taco, so naturally, it also goes over how the dinner scene itself might go.  You know this is not the usual recipe when one of the ingredients includes "an almost inhuman level of tolerance for your family’s inane bullshit." Sounds like Christmas gathering at some folks' homes I know.
        Reflection and thought(fulness)

        The holiday season is one that invites reflection. Whether you are religious or secular, this time of year is often one that invites people to take stock of the past year and reflect on what may come ahead. Also, this is a time of year to be thoughtful of others.

        • Via the Anecdote blog, "May your Festive Season Be Filled With Stories." Here are some small questions and prompts to help you out a bit as your reflect. There is some stuff here for Christmas and some for the New Year's celebration. 
        • This I found interesting, and I hope it may be useful to some folks if they face this situation. From Salon, "How to talk to someone with cancer." I think much of the advice is very good when dealing with any terminal or grave disease or health condition situation.  
        • The holidays can be a time of stress, and there can be unique sitations. Reader's Digest has some "Commonsense Advice for the Holidays." Some very curious situations here with suggestions on how to be thoughtful and considerate. 
        Other Traditions and Items of Interest

        Yes, Virginia, there are other celebrations going on during this time of year besides the predominant Christmas as envisioned by the Christians (who to be honest, stole it from the pagans anyhow). In addition, I am putting here anything else that does not fit in the categories above.
        • As of this writing, our Jewish friends are in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah, sometimes also spelled out as Chanukah. Here is a "Gentile's Guide to Chanukah" so you can get a basic idea of what that holiday means and its significance. It's a bit serious and a bit light in the tone, but it does get the basic information across. Via Addicting Info
        • A bit more on Hanukkah. Mental Floss blog answers the question "Why do Jews Eat Potato Pancakes During Hanukkah?" Recipe is also included.
        • Even more on Hanukkah, some gentle reminders for everyone else, from Reader's Digest. For example, please do not call it "the Jewish Christmas."
        • has a feature with various holiday tips from flying and going through airport security to healthy eating to dealing with your holiday lights.  A hat tip to Lori's blog.
        • Most if not all college students are gone by now for the holiday break. Hopefully, they remembered to winterize their lives before they left. This article offers some reminders and tips of things to do before leaving campus. Very useful advice. Via Inside Higher Ed.
        • And this is from last year, but it is still cute. What if Mary, Joseph, and the Three Wise Men all had online social media? Video from YouTube
        • I thought this was interesting and worth a look. A radical homemaker reclaims Christmas.  So, is her family and her a pain in the ass (using her own words) or is this kind of more aware observance something viable others may consider? I will let my three readers decide. Via Yes Magazine
        • Many of our African American friends will be celebrating Kwanzaa during this time. Learn a bit more with this primer. Via BeliefNet
        • Our Pagan friends may be celebrating Yule, a.k.a. the Winter Solstice. I have to admit that finding some information on this to share with my readers was not easy. Search engines, particularly Google, show a slight (ok, more than slight) prejudice and tend to present more negative pieces about Pagans (the "expose," why Paganism is bad, Christianity is good variety of nonsense). But I have a few things to help folks learn a bit more about what our Pagan friends are up to this time of year. In addition to looking in BeliefNet, learn a bit about Winter Solstice here at Circle Sanctuary. And here is another article from By the way, please keep in mind Paganism does take various forms, Wicca practice being one of those forms (though depending who you ask, Wiccans may say they are different from pagans. Pagans overall are a very diverse group). Now, being a pagan at this time of year, especially in the U.S., where Christmas (the Christian version or the secular version) are so predominant can be hard on our Pagan friends. To help them out, here is a small guide from WikiHow on "How to Celebrate Holidays as a Pagan Around Non Pagans." The article has some useful, practical advice.
        • Here we have "109 Cats Celebrating Christmas." Why? Hey, anything gets cuter if you put cats in it, regardless of where you stand on people dressing up their pets. Via BuzzFeed. The photo I used for this post comes from this gallery. 
        Regardless of what form your celebration takes, I would like to take this moment to wish friends and family, near and far, a happy and safe holiday. Whether it is Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Festivus (which is today), or just mellowing out with some eggnog and Christmas music, may you have some peace and rest. 

              Thursday, December 22, 2011

              Holiday Post 2011: The Shopping Extravanganza, or "What do you mean you are not done shopping yet?"

              Here we go with the next post in my small holiday series. Shopping is a big part of the holiday season. Whether you are in favor or against it, shopping and gifts are a big part of the holiday season. In this post, I would like to share with my three readers a few of the more amusing or unique gift ideas I have seen. Plus, since I am a nice guy, I will also throw in a few extras.

              Commentary and advice on holiday shopping

              People have all sorts of advice and suggestions on how to shop or how to make shopping easier. Some suggestions may be more helpful than others. Some even suggest maybe you should go easy on the shopping. After all, the season should be more than flashy presents.

              • Via blog, "How to Avoid Online Shopping Fraud." Online shopping is extremely popular this year. So it is important to be savvy, informed, and protect yourself. 
              • Sometimes you get a gift that is less than idea for you, but it may be perfect for somebody else. It may also be the case you are just on a tight budget, and you have some extra item laying about. Whatever the reason,  you have decided to regift. Nothing wrong with regifting; many people do it. At least have the decency to put some thought into it. For the love of the deity of your choice, do not keep regifting that 20-year old fruitcake that was passed down from Nana. Barbara Pachter offers some very good advice and "7 Regifting Guidelines for the Holidays."  As Ms. Pachter says, "you always want the receiver of the gift to feel valued."
              • OK, so you have bought your gifts. Now you need to wrap them up. Unless you pay someone to do it, you have to do it yourself. Need some advice on how to wrap gifts? Via The Next Web, here is a small video on "how to wrap your holiday gifts, perfectly." Now, if they had a video as well for how to wrap oddly-shaped gifts, that would be perfect indeed. 
              • Perhaps you would like to give money to charity during this season. Boing Boing offers a pretty good "Charitable Giving Guide, 2011." It features some good, solid organizations that are deserving of your money, if you are so moved. You won't be seeing the "usual" suspects here. If you have a more progressive tendency, this is a very good list. 
              • Maybe you want to go a different route and avoid the consumerism of the holidays. Leo Babauta, at Zen Habits, proposes the "no new gifts holiday challenge." This may not work for everyone, but it will certainly provoke some thought. And if you must do gifts, there are some alternatives suggested. 
              • The Radical Vixen (warning: this is an adult content blog, but the post itself is not) writes about resisting the Christmas consumption, but if you must, consider a handmade gift, maybe made locally. I am finding interesting the wave of reaction against the consumerism, yet at the same time people do have the urge to shop. Personally, I lean to the middle. We do exchange some gifts, but we certainly do not go out of our budgets. 
              • Whether you exchange gifts or choose some other alternative, the fact is that the Christmas season can be a time where greed and consumerism are at their worst. Bill Maher has a nice message on on just that point (link to YouTube video). It is not new, but it is certainly relevant. A hat tip to Addicting Info.
              • Odds are good you may meet one the "12 Shoppers of Christmas" when you are out and about. Maybe you are one yourself, or you recognize one of them in a gift giver.  Via Work Fails.

              Gifts for guys

              This is mostly either gifts for men, which more often than not are usual fare for men (at least according to some folks. Really? Tools? No, I do not need nor desire a big set of Craftsman tools. However, a small, sturdy basic set of screwdrivers would be appreciated. See the difference?). Also can include gift lists focused on men (i.e. you are too dumb to figure out what to give your significant other? Let us help you)

              • Maxim magazine has their 2011 Holiday Gift Guide out. Joking aside, this list does feature some interesting choices, a lot of which I probably could not afford on a librarian's salary. So they have some $1 and under gifts too? I would skip those if I were you. There is such a thing as going too cheap. 
              • And speaking of "guys needing help" (because you know your lady will be judging you on the basis of the gift you get), the Free4Him website has a small video on "Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Your Girlfriend." The only somewhat cute idea was the coupon idea, which is not terribly new. And I am guessing if you need an inexpensive idea for your boyfriend (because you are a guy who happens to like boys), you have to go someplace else. Overall, just another little video promoting the typical dating stereotypes. And by the way, I don't consider a Kindle to be particularly inexpensive. 
              • COED Magazine has a "Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide 2011."  C'mon, you know there are going to be some guys who leave things to the very last minute. One of the items on the list are Star Trek Starfleet Robes. Though they are suggesting it for guys (at least a guy is pictured wearing one in the article), I can tell you that if the Better Half got one of these, she would be in heaven. (Light warning: it is COED Magazine, so some site content could be risque for some folks. The post itself is pretty safe). 
              • The Rifle (Paper Company) blog has a nice simple guide of gifts for men.  The parking cards are an intriguing idea, but for me, I would want them with a bit more text than what they offer.

              Gifts for gals

              As the title says, these are gifts for women or list more focused on ladies. 
              • It is a sad reality that women often need protection when going out. It is a harsh world out there, so whether they choose to carry a firearm or some spray like Mace, it does not mean they have to look drab doing it. Give the lady in your life a thoughtful gift that says you care for her safety as well as you care that she looks elegant while being safe with a pepper spray Swarovski crystals. Because nothing says personal protection like pepper spray with bling. Find the story at Jezebel. You can purchase the actual item at Guardian Girls. On a serious note, the Guardian Girls company does donate a portion of their proceeds to the Guardian Girls Foundation which is dedicated to helping end the cycle of violence against women. So, help your lady look good, feel safe, and help stamp out violence against women. 
              • The Rifle (Paper Company) blog has a nice little post with "fail-proof gifts" for ladies

              Gifts for those who want to spice things up

              This section is also known as the adult section. If you are prude, a bit more conservative, and/or offend easily, you can skip this section. If on the other hand, you enjoy sex and see it as a beautiful part of life, do read on.

              • My Sex Professor gives some advice for buying sex toys as Christmas presents.  From learning about what materials a toy is made of (yes, that makes a difference) to what to buy for a man or a woman to suggestions of reputable stores, this is a very informative post.
              • Fleshbot offers their "Naughty and Non-Denominational Holiday Gift Guide." This is a selection of various adult items from books to toys to plates (yes plates. You will have to click on the link to find out more, if you are still reading this section).

              Alcohol and Other Spirits

              Want to imbibe this holiday season? Here are some ideas.

              • Want to give booze as a gift? A nice bottle of an alcoholic spirit is a pretty common gift. For the person in your life who enjoys a drink now and then, a good, well chosen bottle is certainly a good gift. Here are some ideas of gifts for booze lovers.  This list from Jezebel has some interesting suggestions; some are certainly things I am not likely to see at the local liquor store one county over (did I mention I live in the "wettest" dry county in East Texas?). The one thing that really caught my eye, besides the Hudson Manhattan Rye, are the whiskey stones. What a brilliant little idea. You can chill your whiskey, or another other spirit for that matter I suppose, and not dilute it.
              • has a holiday gift guide for rum. Not perfect, since it makes no mention of any Puerto Rican rum, but it seems to have some interesting choices. At the risk of being heretical, I would be willing to try out one or two of their choices.They also have a holiday guide for scotch, and another one for tequila. I am not much of a scotch drinker, mostly due to lack of exposure and the fact I prefer wine as my drink of choice, but I would not turn a good bottle away of it if offered. As for tequila, which I do like, I tend to prefer mine at least reposado; añejo would be nicer. They also have a bourbon guide. From the bourbon list, I have tried and liked Woodford Reserve, but a little sip at a time. It is one to enjoy and take your time.
              • Drinkhacker has their "2011 Holiday Gift Guide." I do have to say a couple of the items are a bit on the pricey side, but it is interesting to see what they suggest. 
              Stuff for writers

              This is basically stationery and other cool things that writers might like. 

              • The Millions offers a list of "12 Holiday Holiday Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use." There are some nice ideas here besides the usual things like a nice blank journal book or a pen. Not that there is anything wrong with those, but once in a while, a little variety is nice. The only item I disagree with is the suggestion of getting the writer a pet. The 7th item on the list I think is very good--booze, coffee, and other stimulants. As they write, "find out what your friend likes to drink and buy a really nice version of that thing."
              • The Pen Addict provides his list of 2011 holiday favorites.
              • Stationery Review has its "Christmas Gift Guide 2011." From this list, the Star Wars limited edition moleskines would make me happy. They are definitely not something I would buy for myself. While I do buy nice journal books for my personal journaling, anything in the $20 dollar range is out of the question. But a guy can still dream. Now, some people would likely put these in some drawer and never open them. Not me. They would not be collector items; they would be put to work, even if for my banal meanderings that never make it to the blog.
              • The Well-Appointed Desk also presents a holiday gift guide
              • Here is a gift guide from Pens, Paper, Ink...Whatever.  Some very nice pens here. 
              • No Pen Intended also has a nice gift guide with some nice pens, conveniently sorted out by price so you can find something in your price range. That glass dip pen looks great, but I would be afraid to break it if I had one. I probably should settle for a more solid pen. 
              • Here is the guide from Pocket Blonde. From this list, I like the Lost Crates subscription idea.

                Expensive stuff

                The section of stuff I could not afford on a librarian's salary. Also for stuff that just makes you go, "holy shit, that costs how much?" You can also consider this section as a gift guide for the 1% folks. 

                • Stolichnaya Vodka is coming out with a $3,000 bottle of vodka. If you happen to have some extra money laying around, this may be a good idea. Via Drinkhacker.
                • For the nerd or geek in your life, here are "10 Insanely Expensive Nerdy Holiday Gifts." Via Topless Robot.
                • You do not want to displease the god of the lavatory with an inferior toilet. Apparently, in Japan, some people do believe there is a toilet deity. So what better way to go to the bathroom in comfort and luxury while appeasing the gods than with a $130,000 toilet? Via The Next Web
                • Some of these may be very pricey or not, but if you have one of those persnickety people on your list, maybe this selection of "Gifts for your 'Design Snob' Best Friend" might help. Via Jezebel
                • Like stationery and office supplies? Willing to pay top dollar for them, say $300 dollars for a stapler? Barney's is your store then.  Clearly, these are not office supplies for the hoi polloi. They are very nice though. Hat tip to the Shoplet blog
                • This could go with the items on liquor, but I think it belongs here better. has a holiday gift guide for the high roller. It features a $3200 port. Wow!

                Seriously weird  and/or miscellaneous stuff

                This is where I am putting stuff I just can't really put anywhere else.

                • Gifts for Old Folks. Yep, you have an older relative or friend (older here seems to be defined as at least qualified to join AARP), and you need some gift ideas. This list has some interesting selections ranging from neat to predictable to just tongue-in-cheek. By the way, if you are going with their suggestion of a case of wine, please get them something better than Kendall-Jackson. Not saying the old K-J is bad, just that there are better options. Story via Jezebel.
                • And here are some gifts for the kids. These are certainly not the usual things. Some neat things here actually. Via Jezebel
                • This I thought was a nice, thoughtful article that should be shared. Via The New York Times, Mark Bittman offers some ideas on "gifts for non-cooks." I think even folks who can do a little cooking can gain benefit from this.  
                • For the Star Wars geek in your life, these robes are brilliant. Via Failblog, who rates them a "win."  Here is one place you can buy them. If somebody got me one of these, I'd be very happy. 
                • Maybe you wish to give a present to a coworker (or you go stuck having to get something for one of those semi-obligatory exchange rituals). Here are some gift ideas for coworkers. Via Office Supply Geek
                • For some people, the budget may be bad in terms of buying gifts. Your kid may have asked for a brand new X-Box or Playstation, but Santa can't afford it, and neither can you. So maybe you want to consider instead one of these "25 Knock Off Video Consoles for This Holiday Season." Via humor site Holy Taco. Small warning, the site does contain some links to some risque content (tame, but in other words, if a woman in a bikini or lingerie offends you, skip it).
                • Take a trip down memory lane with this list of 90's kid's Christmas presents.Via BuzzFeed.
                • A calendar is always a nice, stable, and safe gift. Just find out what themes, topics, art, etc. a person likes and get them a calendar that features that favorite thing they like. Now, if you want to go a bit off the beaten path, Mental Floss offers a list of "10 Strange and Wonderful 2012 Calendars." From the list, I favor the Ryanair calendar, but that's me.
                • Are you a conspiracy theorist? Do you wish your children would begin learning "the truth" earlier? Or you just have a healthy (somewhat twisted) sense of humor. Then Truther Toys may be for you. A hat tip to Buzz Feed.
                • Is your mom a modern woman who smokes? Give her a Zippo lighter. This is a look at a vintage ad for Zippos targeting mothers. An interesting artifact from the past. Via Boing Boing. Joking aside, Zippo does make some pretty good lighters. If you do want to buy one, you can go here to their official website. By the way, it seems they make more than just their famous lighters. This may also be good for those who collect the lighters (even if they themselves do not smoke).
                • White Whine also has its own holiday gift guide.
                • Here is a list of practical things for college students and recent graduates. Yes, there are some graduations in December. Via The Washington Post. There are some very good ideas here.
                • That California cop who pepper sprayed the peaceful student protesters at UC Davis went on to become a meme. Inspired by that meme, here is a sweater of the cop pepper spraying the Baby Jesus. Buy it for that "ugly sweater" Christmas party, or get it just because. Via Jezebel.
                • Now some folks may be aware that Mattel released a Barbie doll with tattoos. Well, the fine fellows at Donco have come  up with some other famous toys updated for our times. Have a look at The Problem With Young People Today Is. . . .
                • Want something creative? Here is a list of "14 Creative and Clever Soaps." These are practical (everyone needs soap at some point), and they are fun. Via Mental Floss.
                • I am not quite sure what to make of this. I know getting children little cars they can ride in can be popular, but a fork lift? Anyhow, you can get a fork lift for your kid here. Story via Incredible Things.
                • Maybe you are into firearms. Do you want to buy a gun as a gift, or maybe receive a firearm this Christmas season under your tree? C'mon, "Open Your Heart at Christmas and Help a Gun Find a Good Home." Via  International Library blog. 
                • Not weird per se, but interesting. Your local comic book stores have some interesting gift ideas. Hey, when possible, do consider supporting your local comic book shop. 

                Photo credit: "Christmas Shopping--A Present for Everyone." From Flickr user johnmuk. Used by Creative Commons license terms.

                    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

                    Holiday Post 2011: On books and reading

                    It is a small tradition for me to do a small series of holiday posts at this time of the year.  It is the time when I wish my three readers a happy and safe holiday season, whatever holiday or holidays they may celebrate (or not). Also, it is my small gift to those three readers and the Internet folks at large to entertain a while. This year I am starting with the post related to books mostly because it was the topic I wanted to work with first. It was what I felt like, so there is no other rhyme or reason.

                    As I've said before, I could not call myself a librarian if I did not have at least one post related to books and reading as part of my holiday posting series. Whether you read in an e-reader or you prefer print books, it's all good in the end. Let's have a look at some good books and lists. Maybe you will find a last minute gift idea, or maybe you will find something to add to your reading lists.

                    Book Lists 

                    These are mostly items by mainstream media, or the usual stuff.  It may be something I am noticing this year, but the gag of "asking a bunch of folks what they read and put it on the list" seems to be the theme.Whether it is a publication's own writers or asking a bunch of famous (by varying degrees) people, they basically let others make the lists for them.

                    • The New York Times presents their 100 Notable Books of 2011
                    • So does The Telegraph over here.
                    • Via The Wall Street Journal, "Twelve Months of Reading," where the newspaper asked a bunch of famous folks what they have been reading. 
                    • Via The New Yorker, their list of their reviewers' favorite books
                    • Amazon also gets in the list bandwagon with their list of 100 Best-selling books.
                    • Here is the list from the folks at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. It is not so much a books of the year; it's really a favorites they read during the past year or that they recommend.
                    • Here are the picks of authors that Salon gathered.
                    • Via The Economist, their books of the year. Some serious and deep stuff here, but that is consistent with a serious publication known for its depth in reporting. 
                    • Here is The New York Times Book Review's list of best 10 books in 2011 without the extra NYT baggage.  Via the blog 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. I tend to like when people take some famous list, remove all the extra verbiage the oh so famous publication puts in and just copies out the actual list so I can get to the point.
                    • The Financial Times has another serious and grave list of nonfiction for the year. The list is divided into categories such as business and history. There is even a book on testicles; that may be the one I am adding to my reading list.
                    • Here is The Guardian's Books of the Year list for 2011
                    • Via Brain Pickings, here are their 11 Best History Books. The site is also doing a best of series for books, so you may want to go back to the site and browse as well. 
                    • NPR offers their list of "The Best Comics of 2011." There are some interesting items in here. I've read the Locke & Key series, which did start pretty good, but the last installment I read was dragging a bit. So I wonder if the series may be about to jump the shark. Missing from this list is something I definitely regard as one of the best this year: American Vampire. If you are sick and tired of those shitty sparkly vampires or other poor substitutes, you owe it to yourself to pick this series up. 
                    • The Daily Beast has a list of Best Coffee-Table Books

                    Some More Book Lists 

                    These are not quite the usual stuff. These items are mostly quirky things I found that I wanted to share with readers. These include science fiction, graphic novels, and other things that I know a few people out there find of interest and enjoy, but the big mainstream folks pretty much fail to cover.

                    Stuff to avoid

                    Anybody can do a "best of" list. When I see a "worst of," I pay attention. So maybe these will be a warning to you of what to avoid so you can focus on the good stuff. Folks may agree or disagree with some of the choices. After all, someone's overrated piece of tripe may well be someone else's treasure. As that wise man said, "every book its reader, and every reader its book." Anyhow, here is the worst stuff others picked out.

                    • Steve Donoghue, of Stevereads,offers his lists for the worst nonfiction and the worst fiction for 2011.
                    • The New York Daily News picks out "The Most Overrated Books of 2011." My favorite review in the bunch is the one about John Hodgman's writing. The faux pretension does get thin. It's the same reason Stephen Colbert can wear thin on me at times. I can only take so much faux pretension, but at least Colbert tends to do it better. 
                    And this little item does not quite belong in the categories above, but I figured it was an important one and one that would be of interest. Many people read magazines, and these days they may want to read those magazines using a tablet or an e-reader. So, for those people, here is a little something too:

                    Another item that does not quite belong is this series of gift guide for readers. No, they are not books (mostly). They are gift ideas for readers based on what they read, which I think is a very neat idea. So, if you have a reader in your life, and you want to get them something other than a book (no idea why you would do such a thing, but variety is the spice of life, and readers are known to do other things once in a while), then this may be helpful. Via the RT Daily Blog:

                      On a final note, if anyone wants to see previous years of the holiday series, feel free to click on the "Celebrations and Events" tag. Additionally, if there is some reading topic you did not find here, feel free to comment and add your own suggestions. I am always looking for new things to read. Or if you want reading suggestions from the Itinerant Librarian, you can comment as well. Happy reading. By the way, I will be posting my end of year reading summary and book list over at The Gypsy Librarian sometime during the first week of January 2012, so if you are interested, I hope folks will come back.

                      Update note (12/21/11): Another neat addition I just had to share. Via Flavorwire, "Stereotyping you by your favorite book of 2011."  Yes, now you can be judgmental (in a lighthearted way) of people based on these books choices. Then again, don't we always do that anyhow with anyone who has pretty much any book on hand? It may well be another reason why e-readers are becoming popular; you can't judge someone's reading tests if you can't tell what they are reading. And sorry to disappoint some folks, but I have not read (and possibly do not intend to read) any books on the linked  list. However, if you just feel a need to see and try to figure out what kind of whacked out reader I am , my GoodReads link is on the right hand column of this blog.

                      Picture credit: Page from the book "A Christmas Carol."By Flickr user Diamond Meadows, used by terms of Creative Commons License.

                        Friday, December 09, 2011

                        A few interesting things I've read, December 9, 2011

                        For this week, the theme seems to be writing "the old fashioned way." Whether it be with a typewriter or just pen and paper, articles on those topics caught my eye for this week. For me, writing by hand is a very personal thing as it allows me to reflect and think in a way that a keyboard and a computer do not allow. There are less distractions when writing by hand. And who knew there were still typewriter repairmen out there? Read about that and more this week.

                        • An article from Wired with some neat photos on what may be the last generation of typewriter repairmen.One place where typewriters are still used? Prisons, where they use clear plastic models for the inmates, and one company still remains that makes them. And then there are some nostalgia enthusiasts, but are they enough to keep typewriters alive? A hat tip to The Well-Appointed Desk
                        • A guy in India collects pens as a hobby. Sounds pretty nice, right? Well, the guy has over 18,000 pens in his collection. And he gently reminds people who want to see them that "his is my personal collection, in my house, and not for public display!"Via The Hindu (India).  
                        • Here is an article about some people who still keep journals and the reasons why they do so. The article comes from the Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, IN). As for myself, I have been keeping a journal somewhat consistently since 1992 or so, the year I went to do my student teaching. I like blogging, but as I believe I have stated before elsewhere, there are things that are private, so I keep them in my journals.  Articles about writing and journaling always catch my eye. Back in the day when I did the National Writing Project, use of journals in teaching writing, both for the teacher and the student, was an important element. These days much of that has given way to things like blogging. And yet, there are certain things you can only really express when you put pen or pencil to paper. There is more of a reflective process going on. A hat tip to Notebook Stories.
                        • Lee Rourke at The Guardian argues "why creative writing is better with a pen." Like some of the famous writers mentioned in the article, I usually compose stuff on paper first, often in my journals, before I polish it to put it on the blog. I think that is applicable to things I wish to reflect upon. For quick things, I do go directly to the blog. A neat line from the article: "For me, writing longhand is an utterly personal task where the outer world is closed off, just my thoughts and the movement of my hand across the page to keep me company. The whole process keeps me in touch with the craft of writing." A hat tip to Notebook Stories.

                          Friday, December 02, 2011

                          Reading: One to Ten (yes, this is a reading meme)

                          As seen in Ruminations, who saw it someplace else, and so on. I am doing this because I always fall for memes when they are related to reading and books. Any snark or comments are mine. You can find details for most of these books in my GoodReads profile, which is linked on the right side column of the blog.

                          1. The book I am currently reading. My three readers likely know that I usually have more than one book going. I am currently reading the following: Pat Willard, America Eats! On the Road With the WPA; Kevin Smith, Kevin Smith's Green Hornet, Vol. 2; Sandy Mitchell, Cain's Last Stand (Warhammer 40,000, Ciaphas Cain series #6); José Martí, La Edad de Oro
                          2. The last book I finished. Kozue Kaiko and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger.
                          3. The next book I want to read. Gosh, there are all sorts of books I want to read next. I have various lists, in print and online (in my GoodReads and on the scratch pad blog, where I have a series of posts on "Items about books I want to read") of books I want to read next or in the near future. So, I am going to pick one. Penn Jillette's God No!Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales. I tried getting it via ILL, but apparently it is too new, and the libraries out there either had it checked out or were not willing to lend it outside just yet. Yes, I will be putting another request for it in the future. I also have on deck Lisa Abend's The Sorcerer's Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià's El Bulli. The ILL request on this came through, so I should be starting it soon after I finish Willard's WPA book. 
                          4. The last book I bought. Actually, I had a recent pleasant trip out of town to visit Half Price Books, so I did buy a few things including Mark Millar's Wolverine: Enemy of the State and Frank Tieri's Punisher Noir. I already read Tieri's book.
                          5. The last book I was given. Simon Beecroft and Jeremy Becket, Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary. My daughter gave it to me. I have to get around to reading it (I have been looking through it here and there) and putting it in my GoodReads lists.
                          6. The last book I borrowed from the library. I currently have two books on loan from the local public library. One is Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: An All-American Road Trip. . .With Recipes. The other is Paul Collins' Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books. In addition, I have two books out via my library's ILL, which are the Willard and the Abend already mentioned.
                          7. The first book I read this year. I had to look back a bit for this one. According to the records, that would be Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Book One (Hardcover Compilation).
                          8. The last translated book you read. If mangas count (since I can't read them in Japanese), then the Lone Wolf and Cub volume previously mentioned. If you want an "actual" book, then Caligula: A Biography by Aloys Winterling, which is translated from German. By the way, finding out that little tidbit after the fact (I borrowed the book from the public library, so not in my hands as I write this)  is not as easy as it looks. WorldCat finally told me that. I did add the translator information into GoodReads so others will have it.
                          9. The book at the top of my Christmas list. Hmm, tricky here. I rarely if ever have a specific book I have to have. When it comes to this, just give me a good loaded gift card to a bookstore, and I will pick something out. But if I have to pin something down, I would say the second Ciaphas Cain omnibus, Ciaphas Cain: Defender of the Imperium, or the newest (as of this writing) Ciaphas Cain novel, Emperor's Finest
                          10. The so-far unpublished book I am most looking forward to reading. This I am going to leave blank. As I mentioned above, I rarely if ever have a specific book I have to have. I am not susceptible to hype books or bestsellers or hot/popular authors. I read what I like when I feel like it. I have no problem waiting for a book to go on paperback or to make its way to the used books market. So, I will leave this category open. 
                          What about my three readers?  What are you folks reading? Feel free to share in the comments, or if you reply in your blog or other platform, share the link. 

                            Signs that the economy is bad, December 2, 2011

                            Just a few bad signs this week. I would say the one story that really caught my eye this time is the one about the mall Santas. It's always hard when dealing with children and having to break things gently to them. And on a side note, while some pundits out there are saying that Black Friday may mean the economy may be getting back on track, in reality it may just be another sign that the economy is bad (story via The Washington Post), and people are just desperate for any deal they can get. Desperation is certainly a sign the economy is bad. Anyhow, the stories for this week.

                            • Former college student grows and sells pot in order to pay off student loans. I have a feeling we may come to see more stories like this as the burden of paying for a college education becomes more unbearable and continues to be like entering indentured servitude or slavery to a lender. Via The Oregonian
                            • It's the end of the free gravy train for the children of LSU alumni. Apparently, those kids used to get a a scholarship just for being born to the "right" parents. It seems that has gotten too pricey for LSU, so they are discontinuing the program. Via Inside Higher Ed.  
                            • Early Christmas item. It seems mall Santas now have to be a bit more tactful with the kids that visit them.  It is a tough job even if it does have its rewards. According to the article, "prospective St. Nicks are now being taught how to quickly assess a family’s financial situation before responding to children’s requests in such a manner that leaves them feeling cheerful, but not overly expectant." Via Time.

                            Wednesday, November 23, 2011

                            A few Thanksgiving 2011 links

                            Photo used by Creative Commons License.  From Flickr user riptheskull

                            Ah, the start of the holiday season is upon us. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Like many folks, I have the day off, and I am planning on spending it with family. As a little treat for my two readers, here are some links to entertain and maybe help them learn a thing or two. I wish everyone out there celebrating a safe and happy holiday.

                            • As tradition dictates, President Obama has pardoned a turkey for Thanksgiving. (link to C-SPAN). 
                            • A big fuss this time around is the fact that stores are wanting to start the Black Friday deals much earlier, as in cutting into the Thanksgiving holiday itself. I think this is just excessive on the part of the greedy merchants who honestly need to have a little respect for their workers. Then again, if people are willing to enable this greed by shopping when they should be with their families, then I better not hear them whining later about having to work long hours or some other family values nonsense. The nice folks at Next Media Animation have a nice summary of Black Friday 2011. (link to video)
                            • Spending time with family is always an issue over the holidays. Whether a positive or negative experience, holidays can be somewhat stressful. The Gentlemen share their rant on family and the holidays (link to video-warning for some strong language).I may also share this when I get to the Christmas posts later given it is applicable.
                            • The U.S. Census Bureau has their feature with facts and figures for Thanksgiving 2011. For example, did you know that 2.01 billion bushels is The total volume of wheat — the essential ingredient of bread, rolls and pie crust — produced in the United States in 2011? Go over and learn more. 
                            • For parents, teachers, and kids, here are some "Resources for teaching and learning about American Thanksgiving." Via Free Technology for Teachers blog.
                            • has some ideas on Thanksgiving cocktails as well as links to other meal suggestions. It may be worth a look if you are looking to make things a bit more interesting for the meal.
                            • Are you going someplace for Thanksgiving? Did you promise to bring something? This handy guide may help you decide what to bring. Via Chow.
                            • So, you've eaten, and you want to go shopping. However, the prospect of getting up at the crack of dawn, or staying up all night, to stand in a line is not appealing. Well, hire Dotty to stand in line for you. Here is her advertisement. Via Retail Hell Underground. I think this also qualifies as a sign that the economy is bad. 
                            • And what kind of librarian would I be if I did not offer some reading suggestions? Via NPR, here are "still more tryptophan-tastic tomes to see you through your turkey coma."  Note also the links they include to additional selections. 

                              Friday, November 18, 2011

                              The Mandarin Quiz

                              I have not done one of these online quizzes once in a while, so since it is Friday, I figured it is time to amuse myself once again. My two readers pretty much know the drill that I take it easy on Fridays. In this particular case, the quiz, for what little it may be worth, is surprisingly accurate in describing me. For instance:

                              • I do think much of the world would be better if people were better informed. Add to it that skills in critical thinking and information literacy would help. Watching Fox News, reading The Drudge Report, or depending on other "sources" of dubious reputation does not count as being informed. 
                              • I do hate when ignorant or dishonest people climb to power, which is why overall I find politics (especially in the U.S.) and politicians to be among the most despicable people on the face of the Earth. This is followed by the asshat enablers who keep voting them in. Some of those asshats may be uninformed, but a lot are just willfully ignorant sheep, and those are the really dangerous ones. 
                              • The only thing it may not have gotten as accurate is the belief in people making a difference. I honestly struggle with that, especially these days. Maybe when I was younger and more idealistic, but these days, even as an educator and librarian, I honestly struggle with the idea. I want to believe it, but I do not see much evidence it is possible in the current corporate oligarchic environment. And yet, I continue to work as a librarian in the hope, infinitesimal as it may be, that working to promote use of good information sources will somehow make a difference. 

                              At any rate, see below and then feel free to take the quiz yourself to see how you do:

                              I'm a Mandarin!

                              You're an intellectual, and you've worked hard to get where you are now. You're a strong believer in education, and you think many of the world's problems could be solved if people were more informed and more rational. You have no tolerance for sloppy or lazy thinking. It frustrates you when people who are ignorant or dishonest rise to positions of power. You believe that people can make a difference in the world, and you're determined to try.

                              Talent: 46%
                              Lifer: 36%
                              Mandarin: 59%

                              Take the Talent, Lifer, or Mandarin quiz.

                              Reading about the reading life, November 18, 2011

                              Here we go again with a few items of interest I've recently read related to books and reading. Basically, these are articles or blog posts I have read that I think those of you out there who are readers and/or love books may appreciate as well. Some of these pieces give me idea for books I may want to read, which means my list of books to be read just keeps growing. Not that it is a bad thing. For this week, I think the one on the funeral books was my favorite, or at least the one I found most fascinating. If you read any of these, let me know if you found them interesting as well and any other comments. Tips for articles on the reading life you think I should read are also welcomed.

                              • An essay on the friendship between Jorge Luis Borges and Macedonio Fernández. Macedonio is often seen as "a wizened hermit, devoted to chess and esoteric speculation, a genius in the raw, who does not even bother to capture his creativity in writing or publish it." Some say he had a lot of influence on Borges. Others say it was more, but there certainly was a friendship and, to use another term from the article, an intellectual infatuation. Interesting piece on Argentine literature and two of its great writers. What united them? Many things, such as "their proclivity for metaphysics, their unflagging interest in examining the nature of reality, the mystery of being, the fabric of time and space." I have read much of Borges, and now I am curious to seek out a bit of Macedonio's works. Via Quarterly Conversation.
                              • Laura Miller, writing for Salon, describes "Reading Retreats: Paradise for Book Lovers." The idea sounds pretty simple: take a vacation devoted to reading. This is an idea I would not mind trying out. For me, I would prefer reading books, but magazines would be ok. The materials would be in print, as I am not a fan of e-book readers nor reading on a screen for long. So, this vacation would mean minimal Internet or none at all and definitely no phone. I also loved the idea of bibliotherapists mentioned in the article, folks who, if you need a reading list, will do a consultation with you and create a customized reading list for you. Sounds like good old reader's advisory. It also sounds like a job I would love to have. 
                              • Scott Esposito reviews a new translation by Anne McLean of Julio Cortázar's work, a prose poem, From the Observatory.  The review gives a pretty good overview of the work. I may look for the translation, but I will certainly try to find the original in Spanish. Via The National (United Arab Emirates).
                              • Sarah, at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, asks about organizing your reading lists. Do you keep track of your books online, say with GoodReads? Do you make lists? I will admit that, even though I am a librarian, I could probably work on organizing my reading lists a bit better. For one, I do not have all of them on GoodReads. I have some in handwritten notes or in my journals. However, for me, a bit of that semi-controlled chaos is part of what makes the serendipity of finding something new to read fun So, folks out there, if you feel moved to satisfy my curiosity a bit, how do you organize your reading lists? Do you even organize or make reading lists? 
                              • This is something new I learned about from this article: Thai funeral books. These are books that not only serve to provide a memorial to a dead person, but they also serve as valuable cultural artifacts. From the article: "The text and photographs are not always grim, mournful or poignant. The publications can also include eulogies or cheerful tales by relatives and friends, plus Buddhist prayers, descriptions of the deceased's favorite recipes and other intriguing data." The books are usually given away for free at cremations, and they range from very opulent for the wealthy to simple stapled pamphlets for the poor. Via CNNGo.
                              • Via The Reporter (Ethiopia), an article looking at Ethiopian writers of the 60s as well as a bit on Ethiopian reading and literary society. The article is "Generation of Literary Firebrands." A hat tip to The Literary Saloon
                              • Via the Kyiv Post (Ukraine), a story about local book collectors who have done work preserving local history. Now their concern is that they may not have anyone to pass on their collections when they are gone.  One of the collectors says something that resonates with me. From the article: “'I believe we are the last generation of people who read books,' Bilokin said. 'Young people think they can find an answer to any question on the Internet. But that’s not true.'” A hat tip to The Literary Saloon

                                Friday, November 04, 2011

                                Signs that the economy is bad, November 4, 2011

                                And here we go with another week of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. As I have stated before, this feature started out as a lighthearted thing, but it seems events are just getting more and more serious. Still, I scour the Internet and other sources to find those oh-so-subtle signs that things are bad because any pundit can spin numbers, but in the end, it's the little details. I often try to find things like the story I am highlighting this week about the poor and the need for cars, stories about things we often take for granted. As a wise man once told me, and I slightly paraphrase, "there but for (the deity of choice), go I." It is a saying that a lot of people, including a vast majority of the locals here, conveniently tend to forget. Anyhow, here are your signs for this week:

                                • I think this story pretty much speaks for itself. A man robs a bank, then he turns himself in. Why? He was homeless, and he needed a place to stay. And hey, in prison they do put a roof over your head and feed you three meals a day (unless it is Texas, in which case they feed  you one meal less on the weekends). Story via Fox News 6. 
                                • A college that used to be free is looking into charging tuition. Read the story about Cooper Union, "the New York City college founded in 1859 to provide free education for the working class." Via The New York Times.  
                                • This is just wrong. A grocery store refused to let a woman pay a grocery bill in quarters (via KATU).  She was basically in hard straits, and this was the change she had. I think the comment at Jezebel, where I first saw the story, says it all: "It's legal for stores to refuse to accept certain types of payment, but hassling impoverished customers still makes you a jerk." Exactly. The woman did her best to wait until the register was empty, and she gave the cashier the heads up of what she would be doing to pay. Just count the darn quarters and don't make a big deal out of it. Doing so just makes you look, well, like a jerk. And this tough economy, we are probably going to see a lot more people scraping change from under the couches, coffee cans, change jars, etc. who may or not be able to turn it into bills. Anyhow, I don't get the fuss. The Better Half, who works in a restaurant (fast food) says they are always glad when someone brings in change; they can always use change. Sure, they may prefer you don't hold up a line paying, but they will take it. As always in a case when they screw up, the store's higher ups issued the non-apology of "sorry for the inconvenience." No, that is just an inconvenience. You basically chose to humiliate and harass a poor woman for no other reason than some petty policy your peon should have been able to make an exception on for the sake of human decency. 
                                • Many folks take for granted the ability to have a car to get to and from work. I am fortunate that, even being in the low 1%, I have a car to get me to work. Many people do not have that, and if you are poor trying to get a job, and you lack a car, the odds are even more against you.  According to the article from the Los Angeles Times, "About 1 in 4 needy U.S. families do not have a car, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That's a serious handicap for the millions of Americans who don't have access to robust mass transit." Maybe if we want to help alleviate poverty, helping those folks get a reliable car to make it to work and back home might be a good way to use some stimulus money. Of course, that would imply having politicians and folks who care about the poor, something seriously lacking these days. 
                                • And hey, in Cuba, you will now be able to have private home sales. Details here from the BBC.  However, I first saw the story in El Universal over here (Spanish). Feel free to read the source that works best for you. 
                                • Want some Wild West memorabilia and artifacts? It turns out Harrisburg, PA, one of the first places you think of when  you think "Western," is trying to sell off a pretty sizable collection it acquired over the years for a Western museum that never happened. Via Yahoo! News. 

                                  Photo credit: Photo used by terms of Creative Commons license,via Flickr user Anders Vindegg,

                                        Friday, October 28, 2011

                                        A few interesting things I've read, October 28, 2011

                                        This is just a list of articles and postings I have read and found interesting. I could not really put them in a specific category, so I am just listing them here to share and highlight. I will probably do this type of post every once in a while since I am always finding interesting (to me) things out there. Whether my three readers find them interesting is another question. As always, feel free to comment.

                                        • From The Washington Monthly, while civic organizations are pretty much losing members in the U.S., clubs like the Kiwanis and the Rotarians are growing and thriving around the world. Personally, as an adult, I could not care less about clubs and civic organizations. A good number of them always seemed a bit on the elitist side for me. Still, I find interesting how parts of the world embrace these uniquely American organizations whether as status symbols or because they fit well with their social and economic development. 
                                        • Via AfricaFeed, an article on the Sapeurs of Congo. I found this extremely fascinating: men who, in the midst of the most extreme poverty, save pennies here and there (by means ethical and otherwise at times) in order to dress up in the finest clothes that money can buy. The culture does have ties to anti-war sentiments. 
                                        • Via Dangerous Minds, a short video of an old (circa 50s or so I think) documentary about Frederick's of Hollywood. The narrator tone blends a bit of the serious straight laced with just a tad of judgmental to add a bit of the sleazy. I find it interesting how back then they do want couples to be sexy so on, and yet it has to be all hidden, what would the neighbors say sort of thing. Personally, I found amusing that there was such a thing as an inflatable bra. Overall, between Victoria's Secret and Frederick's, the latter would have been the choice for the Better Half and me. The article includes a scan of one of their old catalogs. How things have changed. 
                                        • Via The NYR Blog, on "The Lost Art of Postcard Writing." This seems to be another art that is dying off, people sending postcards in a time when it is easier to just send an e-mail with a photo attached. The article looks at the old tradition of sending postcards when traveling. I don't send postcards much, but when I am traveling on my own, I do try to send my daughter a postcard of the place I may be visiting for her collection. A hat tip to 3 Quarks Daily.
                                        • Via Mother Jones, Andrew Marantz spends a summer working at an Indian call center.  The whole process, which when you look at it can be quite exploitative, is also fascinating in its scale. These jobs are seen as well paying opportunities (about $2 an hour, $5K a year, assuming workers last that long) in a land where per capita income is about $900 a year. However, the job does come with a lot of costs not only financially for the workers (who have to pay fees for training so on), but also having to become someone else given how they have to learn to lose their native accents. And then the overall picture, which is as U.S. companies lay off people here in droves, they are creating those jobs in India.
                                        • Via the BBC, The Joy of Sex was a revolutionary book in its time during the early 1970s. It turns out it faced some challenges in terms of illustrating it. I found the article interesting in light of our times now when we pretty much take for granted that a sex manual or similar book will have photos in it.  Read about "How the Joy of Sex was Illustrated." Keep in mind that the book has been updated since then, and yes, it does feature photographs now. Also, the book has opened the way to newer versions and topics. 
                                        • Here is one in time for Halloween. Via the Fine Books Blog,  a piece on the grimoire of H.P. Lovecraft. This is basically about fictitious books that Lovecraft created for his stories. A fascinating look at some occult volumes. To be honest, some of these books sound more interesting than stuff I come across with regularly. 
                                        • Tracy Clark Flory interviews sex writer and activist Susie Bright for Salon. This is one that has been sitting in my feed reader's cue for a while, and I finally got to read through it. Learn a bit about her views on the feminist movement and where it went wrong (something that I do agree with), her work, and why she hates the term "casual sex" as well. An interesting piece not just because of her life, which is interesting in itself, but also because it looks at how times have changed and how much more there is to go. The article also mentions her memoir, which I have listed on one of my "books I want to read" lists.