Friday, April 29, 2011

Signs that the economy is bad, April 29 edition

So we make it to another Friday here at The Itinerant Librarian. Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad," the blog segment where I scour the Internet to find the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure there may be little upticks here and there, but just ask the Average Joe out there; he'll tell you things are bad. So, without further ado, here are the signs for this week:

  • College graduates are not only more likely to move back home with their parents; they are also staying with their parents after graduation. (via Huffington Post). Sure, USA Today may report that the job market for 2011 college grads is getting better, but there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of that claim. I am sure that Ashley Moore, highlighted in the HuffPo piece has a thing or two to say regarding that USA Today report and the fact she is having a hard time finding any full-time job and is thus stuck underemployed in part-time work. 
  • Last week, the Philadelphia Orchestra declared bankruptcy (via Bizmology). This is not a good sign when the arts are fast losing support. Sure, some orchestras are still hanging on, but according the post, "groups in Honolulu and Syracuse have shuttered in recent months." 
  • You know the shit is starting to hit the fan when Wal-Mart is worried. From CNN Money, "Wal-Mart's core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried, CEO Mike Duke said Wednesday." Mr. Duke is not saying anything that anyone with some common sense would not say. Gas prices are high. People still have to drive, so therefore, they have to cut back on other things. Shopping would be one of those things to cut back. Now, when your business pretty much caters to those living paycheck to paycheck (that is the term used in the article), and you worry that your customers are running out of money, that could be a big problem. Now, how is Wal-Mart dealing with this situation? Well, for one, they are bringing guns back. Because nothing lifts sagging sales in your business than offering a better and more available selection of firearms. Now, sympathy for Wal-Mart does not come easy. After all, they did help create the shitstorm we are in now. You know, that whole "low prices" strategy where they squeezed competitors and small stores out of existence and outsourced everything else to China. 
  • Now here is an interesting one. It turns out that the high gas prices are driving a spike in fryer grease thefts (via Reuters).  Read on to learn more.
  • And you can forget about searching for aliens anytime soon. It seems the SETI project is shutting down one of its major research tools due to, you guessed it, lack of funds. More information from SETI here.

        Wednesday, April 27, 2011

        Article Note: On Starship Troopers, the war on terror and censorship

        Citation for the article:

        Williams, Paul. "Starship Troopers, the War on Terror, and the Spectacle of Censorship." Science Fiction Film and Television 2.1 (2009): 25-44.

        Read via Interlibrary Loan.

        As my three readers know, once in a while I read academic articles outside of library science and pedagogy. In part, this is to keep up my academic fields of interest outside of library science, and science fiction happens to be one of those areas. Since the article is not related to library science or education, I am posting about it here. At any rate, I came across the article listed above, and it caught my eye.

        The article looks at the Verhoeven film Starship Troopers in the context of censorship and war propaganda. It also makes some interesting connections to the War on Terror, especially to the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison. From the conclusion, "the discussion of Starship Troopers sheds light on America's military use of spectacle and information during the Bush Administration's War on Terror" (42). Williams goes about demonstrating this by looking at various scenes in the film. He pays particular attention to the FedNet broadcasts in the film, which are tools of propaganda and information. Notice also that the broadcasts in the film serve to reinforce the idea of a continuing, some may say eternal, war much like the current War on Terror which has no end in sight; notice how the rhetoric around the War on Terror deals with this being a long war. In essence, we are looking at a state of permanent war, which by the way, is something authors like George Orwell have described.

        The article also looks at the issue of prisoner torture and how totalitarian societies, and some societies that claim not to be totalitarian, find ways to make that torture permissible. In the film, the captured brainbug is tortured, but the act itself is censored (even though everyone knows what will happen). This is compared to the concealment of Guantanamo prisoners where the legal protections of prisoners were erased.

        Overall, the article uses the film as a way to look at the United States and its practices when it comes to the War on Terror. It looks at the mechanisms the government uses to censor and to create spectacle as needed to get people to go along with the war. The article is certainly worth a look. And personally, it also made me think of works like Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. I am thinking there may be similar possibilities for study in that novel as well.

        Friday, April 22, 2011

        Things that I do that are "old fashioned"

        The Soul Pancake website, an online community with various questions and reflection prompts where I have a profile, had the following question:

        "List 3 things you do that are 'old fashioned'?"

        Here are my three things as I posted them on the site, with some minor comments I am adding here:

        1. I carry and use a pocket watch. I got tired of wearing a wristwatch after the belt kept getting caught in places and breaking. The pocket watch looks nice, works well, and at times, it gives me something to fiddle with if I need to keep my hands busy, say during some slow times. 
        2. I recently acquired a fountain pen, and it is becoming my favorite writing instrument [I use it more at work and as a signature pen]. I do love the way it writes so smoothly. Plus, it is a nice pen, which makes for a nice conversation piece at times. 
        3. I would not have thought it old fashioned at first, but I concur with some other people here. I do read actual books, not e-books. I am a librarian, and while I am familiar with e-books, I still prefer good old fashioned paper books. For one, I own them. An e-book is something you lease (you don't really own them. If you think you own them, and you have a Kindle, for instance, you should know they can certainly just make your book vanish on a whim as recent Amazon fracas have done). Plus, I do like books on my shelves. As someone once said, a house without books is like a body without a soul. 
         So I went to read some other other replies, and I saw other things I could have easily added to the list if the prompt allowed for more than 3 things. Anyhow, here are some more "old fashioned" things I do (or agree with) in no particular order:

        • Good manners
        • Home cooked meals when possible
        • The art of conversation
        • Politeness
        • Correct grammar and proper vocabulary
        • Being a gentleman
        • Write in notebooks (like my personal journal)
        • Use libraries (not just working in one, but using them to find reading material)
        • Still write drafts on paper rather than typing
        • Iron my clothes
        • Write with non-mechanical pencils
        • Brew my own coffee
        • Not as much these days, but when I can I play and enjoy tabletop and board games
        • Hold doors open for strangers
        • Handwrite as much as possible
        • Still listen to cassette tapes in the car (hey, I have an old fashioned car)
        • Send handwritten thank you notes
        • Say "please" and "thank you" 
        • Listen to classical music, some "oldies" 
        • Love wandering, browsing, and shopping in used bookstores
        • I know how to use a paper map
        • I know how to use a compass too
        • I know how to waltz. Not something I've much use for now, but I know how
        • I still use a bank teller as much as I can
         I do find it interesting that some of these things are considered "old fashioned." Yet, as I look at the way a lot of people behave today, including some in my profession, I cannot help but wonder if indeed some of these things are indeed old fashioned.

        Oh well, that is my list now. What are things you do that may be seen as old fashioned? Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

        Friday, April 15, 2011

        Signs that the economy is bad, April 15, 2011 edition

        Welcome to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. And how appropriate that I can bring you another edition on Tax Day. Yes, the Fed may say you still have until Monday, but if you have to do state income taxes, they are most likely due today. I hope my three readers out there have their taxes done already. Anyhow, for any stragglers that somehow managed to find this blog, this semi-regular feature (as in when I find enough links and feel like posting it) is where I scour the Internet, so you don't have to, in order to find the oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is still bad. Because no matter what the pundits and hotshots say in terms of the economy improving, things are pretty bad out there. You can't always tell given a lot of the spin, and that is where I come in. So, let us see what I have recently found. By the way, when I started these posts, I mostly meant it as a joke, and yes, some of the posts have been humorous. However, I am noticing the tone, and stories, getting a bit more serious. I can only say that just reflects what is out there. It is not just the wealthy whining they can't fly their private jets anymore. Things are really hitting everyone now, including yours truly.

        • Americans are outsourcing their execution materials. Yes, these days Americans will outsource just about anything, and of course, while jobs are lost here, it is someone else's gain. In this case, we are talking the drugs used in lethal injections for executions. According to The Atlantic, "the scramble for foreign-suppliers of lethal injection drugs, and the surrounding controversy, has arisen because the American company that manufactured sodium thiopental, Hospira, ceased production at its plant in North Carolina last year." So, it was already outsourced to Italy,  because apparently they can't make the stuff in the U.S., but the Italians stopped supplying it, so it means more business for someone else to make some money on it. 
        • Guess what is becoming the number one beverage ordered in American restaurants? Is it wine? Beer? Soda? None of the above. According to this article out of Dow Jones, "Cocktails might be trendy, but water is increasingly the beverage of choice for consumers dining out." This refers to tap water, by the way. So, apparently people are not totally ready to give up on eating out just yet, but they are certainly ordering less and keeping things as cheap as possible. With the uptick in gas prices, I am sure this trend will continue.
        • By the way, that catfish platter that southerners like so much? The price may well be going up. Or, odds are increasing the catfish may come from Asia. Yes, it seems American catfish farmers are struggling with the bad economy. For one, people are eating out less. Two, imported catfish is cheaper, and some restaurants are basically outsourcing their catfish suppliers. See the story out of The Wall Street Journal entitled "South Sings Catfish Blues" for details. This one I just found interesting, in part, because in some parts of East Texas, fish fries and eating out where you can get catfish is quite popular.
        • Usually, we think of lawyers as people who do make some pretty good money. Granted, it does depend on what area of law they practice (a public defender probably makes a hell less than a corporate attorney working for a big banking conglomerate). Now, you know a lawyer may be up the creek when he is actually peddling papers, as in academic papers. Yes, in this story out of Worcester Telegram & Gazette, that is precisely the case. The lawyer in question was suspended "after running an advertisement on Craigslist offering to write and edit papers and essays for students." Of course, being less than smart by doing things like bragging you work for the Massachusetts Appeals Court certainly does not help.
        • And it seems even rich sorority girls are feeling the pinch of the economy as well as business for designer dress rentals for social functions is going up. On the one hand, I guess daddy is not able to pay for all of the princess's expenses. On the other hand, this may not be such a bad sign: the dress rental place is certainly doing business. Found via Campus Overload blog.