Friday, January 27, 2012

Signs that the economy is bad, January 27, 2012

Welcome to another Friday here at The Itinerant Librarian and another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad." This is the semi-regular segment (as in when there are news worthy of the segment, and I have time to pull this together) in the blog where I scour the world (ok, mostly catch items from my feed reader and look over some news site) to bring my four readers those oh-so-subtle signs that the economy is bad. Not too many this week, but here we go.

  • This item is a small leftover from the just finished holiday season. More people are returning more items they purchased. This past holiday season, things were so bad that a lot of people bought presents, and even before wrapping them, were already returning them to get cash back. Hey, those bills don't pay themselves, and if things are tight, it seems you need to find cash someplace. Those gifts that are not so essential after all represent that cash the people can use now. For retailers, this is not good neither. Via MSNBC. 
  • Supermarkets are now more interested in those people on food stamps. Yes, things are hard. More people are getting food stamps and food assistance from the government. For the grocery stores and discount stores that means one thing: cha-ching. Sure, right wingers, Republicans and tea baggers may bitch and moan about those poor people on food stamps, but hey, for the supermarkets and grocery stores, those poor people bring in money, and may even help create jobs. I know somewhere in there you can find some irony. Via Bizmology.  
  • Public college and universities are outsourcing the building, and often the maintenance, of their college dorms to save a few bucks. However, according to the article, the savings may be short term, if at all. Via The New York Times.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reading about the reading life, January 20, 2011

Just another small round-up of stories on things about reading and readers that I have found interesting. I read some of these a while back, but I did not get around to sharing them until now. As the saying goes, life (really) does trump blogging.

  • Aside from my native fluency in Spanish, and a very small barely working knowledge of French, I can't read in foreign languages. Thus, I am a reader who has to rely on translations if I want to read works from around the world. If I had unlimited time and wealth, going back to school to learn a few more languages, plus maybe spending some time abroad to immerse, would be my dream. In the meantime as I said, I have to look for translations for stuff I can't read in the original. I found this small piece about Indian publisher Seagull of interest. What they do is buy the English world rights for works and then translate them. From there, they then work to sell them in and out of India; University of Chicago distributes them in the U.S. Anyhow, the article also has some interesting tidbits about how the translation process works. Via Publishing Perspectives.
  • Here is a piece about the bestsellers in South America, specifically Chile and Argentina. The piece gives a small annotated list of titles and it briefly discusses a bit about the reading habits of both countries. From Chile, El escritor de epitafios by Hernán Rivera Letelier (The writer of epitaphs) sounds interesting to me. Unfortunately, according the WorldCat, which I used to get the book record, there are not too many places nearby that have the book for me to borrow. It may be a while before I get to it. Story via Publishing Perspectives
  • The Icelandic book market has some interesting quirks and issues. Well, they seem a bit quirky to me, but in reality a lot of it is a reflection of Iceland being a small nation with a small population, and a small, very educated population at that.  This item on the article's list caught my eye" Intellectualism is not a dirty word." Clearly very unlike the United States where more often than not Americans from the United States often take pride on their lack of erudition or just not being informed at the very least. If you are an intellectual in the United States, you are often seen as some academic egghead or a snob. Icelanders, while they may have other defects as the author mentions, do not have a problem with intellectuals. In fact, "erudition isn't considered to be a sign of elitism and snobbery but of education and intelligence." It sounds like it might be a good place to be a librarian. Via The Bookseller
  • Holy shit! Apparently there is a problem in Pakistan with students and other lower class people wanting to read "unethical, obscene and immoral literature." Gosh, they make it sound like it's such a bad thing that people may want to read some books. In other words, they are going through one of those "let's blame books and magazines for any social ills-real or perceived" stage. Favorite line from the article, in referring to these books, "give rise to many gender related issues in our society." Translation: folks may get ideas that sex and such could be fun, and lo and behold, heaven forbid if women read these, they may get uppity and kick our collective patriarchal asses. If nothing else, the books are competitively priced, so if you are in Pakistan, make a bee line for the bus stops. Via Daily Times (Pakistan). A hat tip to The Literary Saloon.
  • Joshua Kim at Inside Higher Ed has "8 Techie Ideas to Read More Books." The article does focus on reading more books, thus he does suggest going a bit lighter on magazines and newspapers, which are also forms of reading as far as I am concerned. The suggestions on online social media use and sharing what you are reading more are good. I certainly try to share what I read and comment on it, which I mostly do via my GoodReads page. These days, I will review or comment on a book more extensively in the blog if I took notes out of it or think it really is something I want to get my two readers to read. Otherwise, my GoodReads profile works out fine.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Booknote: Glazed America

    I am going to try a bit more to share reviews of books I think may be of interest to my four readers, or just books that I think are worth sharing with others a bit more. So, here is my short review of Glazed America as I posted it on GoodReads. I am sharing this one because I did find it interesting overall. Also, it seemed like something good to read given that East Texas pretty much as a doughnut shop in every corner, and no, that may not be a good thing. In addition, I was finishing up the book just as I heard stories reported on Dunkin Donuts expanding (link here to Huffington Post, but it has been reported in other places). It was kind of neat to be reading something related to a news story.


    Glazed America: A Social History of the DoughnutGlazed America: A Social History of the Doughnut by Paul R. Mullins

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars


    This was an interesting book, but it did have some repetitive moments. It was the repetition at times that made me give it three stars instead of four. In some ways, this read like an extended series of magazine articles. Now, leaving that out of the way, it is a pretty interesting book. The book does a few things. It gives a history of doughnuts and especially of doughnut shops in the U.S. Though there is a bit focus on the chains (Dunkin', Tim Hortons, and Krispy Kreme), there is discussion of independents and their role in that history. The book also gives a look at the social role that doughnuts play in American society from being served in church functions and in office settings to the shops being one of the few hangouts teens have given they are too young to drink. Third, it looks at the morality and ambivalence of feelings that doughnuts generate. Are they comfort food? Are they the devil incarnate when it comes to diet and food discipline? Something else? Why are they so appealing and yet so reviled depending on who you ask? The author does a pretty good job of conveying this conflict. And finally, there are also bits and pieces of the economic dynamics involved in the doughnut business from marketing to image. When you think about it, the book does cover an awful lot in a little volume, thus if you like microhistories, you will probably find this one interesting. And if nothing else, well, it is a pretty short read.



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    Sunday, January 01, 2012

    Holiday Post: What the heck happened in 2011? Or, a last look before we go on with 2012

    Starting a new year seems to invite all sorts of looking back, reflections, and remembering the past year. I would like to think we do that, in part, in order to learn to avoid the mistakes of the past. That may be a bit too optimistic on my part. People being people, they do repeat mistakes left and right in a fairly consistent fashion. Still, it can be fun to have a look back and get a laugh or two now and then. So, here is my roundup of links about things from the past year. I will try to steer clear of the usual as much as possible, looking for the more quirky things. As I often do, these are offered with some of my thoughts and snark.

    The News: How Much Do You Remember?

    Whether you paid attention or not 2011 did have a lot of stuff in the news going on. There were big events and there were some not so big ones. How many do you actually remember? Try your hand at one of these quizzes and see how aware and informed or not you were this past year? So, if you think you are mostly over your hangover, take a crack at these.


    The News: Summaries

    OK, so maybe you did not do so well in the quizzes. Maybe you did your best to forget 2011, and who can blame you. It was a messed up year in many ways. So, to help you remember, here are some news summaries.

    • Mark Fiore summarizes for us "The Year in Crazy." With his animation, I think you won't be needing CNN or the usual folks to remember what happened last year.
    • Now, you can go to one of those big networks or websites and get a summary of the usual news. Miss Cellania over at Mental Floss, on the other hand, will give you a list of "Top 20 Weird News Stories of 2011." Let's be honest, these stories are more fun to read. I think the horse herpes one is my favorite from this list.
    • Via The New Yorker, "The Most Overhyped Political Stories of 2011."  If you have to look at politics, here ya go. 
    • Via Scientific American, here are "The Top 10 Science Stories of 2011." 
    • The ACLU posts on their blog a small summary of the year in terms of civil liberties. This is worth a look given it is the kind of thing that often slips under the radar. 
    • For something different, The Guardian has a photo set of news events, in Legos.
    • Not all news are serious and depressing. Here are "The 50 Funniest Headlines of 2011." Via BuzzFeed
    • Via Treehugger, here are weird animal stories of the year.  
    • 2011 was a big year of protests from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement. Here are then "The 40 Best Protest Signs of 2011." There are some very good ones here. Via BuzzFeed.
    • Pundit Kitchen points to a pretty good summary of the news. The video does have some language, so there is your warning.
    • As we know, a lot of people get their information from Google. So here is a roundup video of top searches in the search engine for last year. Via Free Technology for Teachers.
    • And finally for news, since I am a librarian, I have to include an obligatory list of stuff with specific appeal to librarians, lest I lose my cred as a librarian "who keeps up." My three readers would not believe how the "keeping up" thing is such a big deal in librarianship (even if a lot of librarians actually fail miserably at it, including probably one or two in hiring committees who, ironically, ask candidates how they keep up. Yes, I have seen that happen). At any rate, via LISNews, "Ten Stories that Shaped 2011."
    Deaths

    It is always obligatory to look at those we lost in the past year. So, here are some lists of those we lost this year.
    • Bizmology summarizes the 2011 losses in the retail industry. What? Corporations are people now according to the U.S. Supreme Court (in one of their less than brilliant decisions), so this list belongs here. The only loss I would mourn here is Borders. They always had a much better selection than Barnes & Noble (at least the local one), especially in things like manga as they brought in titles the whimpy local B&N would never dream of stocking (probably due to certain local pressures). Granted, I had to go out of town to visit Borders, but it was usually worth it. 
    • This one is certainly open to argument and comment, but Xfinity has a list of jobs that died in 2011. Some may be moribund, but the writing is in the wall. Hat tip to mikeroweworks.
    • Most of the death lists focus on the famous people. You can go find those lists someplace else. Here are "10 Not-so-famous People We Lost in 2011." Personally, I find these lists more interesting. Via Mental Floss.

      Pop Culture

      A lot happened in pop culture as well. Some of it was good, and some of it was not so much.
      • Via AlterNet, we get "10 Pop Monstrosities That Almost Destroyed Our Culture in 2011." In the case of one or two of the list items, I think our culture has already been destroyed, razed to the ground, and then lit on fire so nothing can grow afterward. Case in point is the TLC atrocity known as "Toddlers and Tiaras." Why the hell child services agencies have not raided them, taken all the children away, and put their breeders in prison for child abuse is something I do not understand. Why people insist on watching it is even more puzzling as they are just enabling child abuse. Let's be honest, if no one watched it, there would be no advertisers, and the show would be off the air. So yes, those who keep it on the air help the problem. 
      • Not all is bad. There is nothing that cute cats cannot fix. So, here are "The 30 Most Important Cats of 2011." Via BuzzFeed.
      • And just because I think animal photos are neat, here are 50 more. I like the one of the workers in panda suits working the panda cub. Via BuzzFeed.

      Pop Culture: Film

      As my three readers know, I do not go to movie theaters any more. I watch my movies on DVD at home when I feel like it. It's not that I dislike cinema. I am very picky about what I do like to watch, plus I do not care much for the modern theater going experience. Anyhow, here are some things on film.
      • The Daily Beast brings together a couple of critics to banter and chat about their best and worst movies. To be honest, I think most of their "best" kind of suck, but their interaction was amusing to watch. The guy who likes the Twilight flick needs to not just turn in his "man card," he may need a lobotomy if he wants to keep his cred as a movie critic. 
      • The AV Club offers their list of the "Worst Films of 2011." Lists like these just reaffirm my desire to stay far away from a movie theater.
      • John Scalzi gives a nice overview of science fiction films in 2011 over at Filmcritic.com.

      Pop Culture: Television

      Television stuff. I am not a big television watcher aside from a few shows and things I like. I don't really watch many dramas with any regularity, and I am getting to the point that for series, I prefer to wait for the DVD to come out, then rent or buy, and watch it on a sitting or two.  I am not one of those snobs who say they don't have a TV. I do watch it, but it is mostly light things. Anything that requires a lot of attention I tend to like getting the package as stated. My other issue tends to be things like seasons ending at odd times (that bullshit of a mid-season finale The Walking Dead pulled is an example. The stunt was b.s.; the episode was fine, albeit a bit predictable), reschedules (say because some sports season starts, and they move a show), and the incessant commercials. But I do keep enough awareness to know what shows are on and if they are good or not so I can find them later. I do like TV shows (some); I just don't always like having to watch them on TV. Anyhow, a few things on television.

      • From The Daily Beast, their opinion on best and worse TV shows of 2011. There are a few things here I have watched now and then and liked. A few others I have not seen, but they seem interesting enough to get the DVD later. And some others that I honestly do not give a shit no matter how much my friends gush over them. From the list I have watched and liked Sons of Anarchy (though have not kept up with it recently). They mentioned Hell on Wheels, which I started watching, but it is not really growing on me. Not sure I may keep up with it. From the list, Boardwalk Empire may be the only one I would look up sometime later. I did try watching The Killing, but I hated it. I overall hate slow, slogging shows, and The Killing was slower than dripping molasses (and not in a good way). 
      • Now for the most part, commercials tend to suck. But once in a blue moon, something creative comes along which is amusing (at least til television stations drive it to the ground by showing it every five minutes). Via Stash Magazine, their videos on best ads for TV and cinema for the year. A hat tip to Adweek.
      • Adweek also presents the 30 Freakiest Ads of the year.

      Pop Culture: Music 

      This is an area I do not follow as much. I follow just enough to be aware. Take a stroll of what the year offered in terms of music, maybe find a suggestion or two of something new to listen to as well.


      Reading and books

      This would not the blog of a librarian if I did not offer things about books and reading. There was a good amount of neat things happening in the world of books and reading. Plus, this may give you some ideas of things to read in the upcoming year.

      • IO9 presents their list of "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics of 2011." 
      • GOOD offers their list of GOOD Books 2011. These are not necessarily books that came out in 2011, but it is a list of what they see as good.  From their list, I've read Among the Thugs, and I was fortunate enough to see it staged in Chicago back when I was in graduate school. The stage version of it is worth seeing if you get the chance. I have also read The Walking Dead series, which I do recommend if you like the zombie genre. 
      • Via Longreads, the editors of Mental Floss pick out some favorite long articles to read that may be of interest.  
      • Katherine Dacey, the Manga Critic, picks out the best manga of 2011.She also provides a helpful 2011 Manga Hall of Shame, which has the stuff to avoid.
      • From the blog Arabic Literature (in English), here is a best of Arabic Lit in English list. Want to find something different to read, here are some ideas then.
      Asshattery and stupidity

      Yep, 2011 was a fine year for asshats and stupid people overall. Here are some fine examples.
      • The Texas Freedom Network always puts together their list of quotes by various stupid people and asshats. A lot of it is focused on Texas, but there are a few national ones too. Here is the Islamophobia list, and here is the bashing gays list. You can visit their blog for other lists. 
      • Via AlterNet, here are "The 10 Most Ridiculous Right-Wing Outrages of 2011." I am sure that I notice this kind of nonsense more because I live in East Texas, where asshats like Leo Berman (our local state representative) and Louie Gohmert (our Congressman) thrive as they keep getting elected by the locals who take great pride in their right winger fundie way of life. Plus there is that thing called the GOP primaries going on that amplifies it. So, there is the War on Christmas (TM) and nine other stupid non-stories the Right Wing wanted to peddle.
      • And speaking of the GOP primary, the GOP hopefuls and not-so-hopefuls did say some very stupid things this year. Why anyone votes for these people is beyond me, though I am guessing most of them are just as dumb as the politicians they favor. And by the way, the Democrats have their dumbasses as well. Here is the Democrats' compilation of stupidity. Via BuzzFeed.
      • Asshats for some reason tend to like Fox News as a source. Of course, calling Fox News a "source" when it comes to news is an insult to the concept of news source. I guess right wingers and asshats need to get "news" that reaffirm their warped and ignorant worldview, so Fox News stays in business. If you missed it, here are "The 45 Worst Fox News Moments of 2011." I am sure the list could be bigger. Via BuzzFeed. C'mon, can you really take seriously a broadcaster that rails over Spongebob Squarepants, makes a fuss because President Obama was not wearing a tie in one instance, and accuses Sesame Street of being a danger to the nation? I will be blunt: if Fox News is your go to news "source," I will not have a good opinion of you unless you are a fact checker for a legitimate news organization or you work for The Daily Show.
      • Then there are the pathetic and just funny asshats. These are the ones often seen in the First World Problems meme. The site White Whine collects these, and here are their most viewed white whines for the year.
      • This needs little explanation Via Jezebel, "The Year in Dicks." Basically guys who did their best to be jerks and lower my faith in humanity. As they point out, Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach, deserves to be on the list, but so do the mofo students who rioted when Paterno was fired for helping cover Sandusky's crimes. I sincerely hope that those students, when potential employers find out their actions, decline to employ them because rooting for a guy who enabled child abuse is the trait employers should embrace. See what other jerks shined this past  year.
      • Jezebel also looks at "The Year in Workplace Discrimination, Harassment, and General Fuckery."

        A Few Neat Things Mostly for Adults (may be NSFW)

        And to wrap, a thing or two that may not be for the kiddies. Yes, I do enjoy adult entertainment in various forms, as does the Better Half. And I am sure some out there do as well, so this one is for you perverts out there. If you are easily offended, repressed, your sky fairy tells you not to read this, etc., you can stop reading here now. If you like taking a walk on the naughty side, please proceed.
        May the new year bring you peace, happiness, and many other good things.