Friday, August 18, 2017

Booknote: The 24-Hour Wine Expert

Jancis Robinson, The 24-Hour Wine Expert. New York: Abrams Image, 2916.  ISBN: 978-1-4197-2266-0. 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: wine, alcoholic spirits, guides, reference, food and epicurious
Format: small hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


This book is a nice little guide to help readers learn the basics of wine and even a little of wine culture. The author's aim is to make you a self-confident wine expert in 24 hours. I am not so sure about that claim, but I will say if you study the book and try some of the suggestions, you'll learn a few things. The author also suggests right away to just get a few bottles of wine (this seems easy enough), some friends (this may not be so easy), and start practicing.

The book is arranged in small chapters covering a broad range of topics such as:

  • Bottles and labels
  • Matching wine and food
  • Common wine myths
  • Types of grapes
  • Wine regions
At the end of the book, she also includes a glossary, labeled "wine jargon," and a very small list of resources (i.e. mostly her websites and a couple of books she edited. This is far from diverse, and a bit gauche if you ask me).

The book is fairly easy to read. She explains things clearly, and the chapters are not too long. It is a good, basic book to keep handy when you have questions or need to look something up. It can also serve as a start for readers who want to see out more later. In the end, I really liked it.

4 out of 5 stars. 

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:






Friday, August 11, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: August 11, 2017 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.





We are on a roll for another week with "Signs the economy is bad." Assuming the Pendejo In Chief does not get us blown up with his saber rattling and blustering over North Korea, let's see what else has been going on.

  • In addition to saber rattling, the Pendejo In Chief has been talking tough on immigration. The result of this  is that American farm owners are scared shitless because it means they could lose their cheap, exploited, underpaid, often undocumented barely slaves immigrant workforce. There is already a shortage of farm laborers as it is, and his tough talk is not adding anything. And as we all know, heaven forbid white anglo Americans who may need a job rush out to pick fruits and vegetables. Story via The Daily Yonder.
  • For many parents, it is that "most wonderful time of the year." No, not Christmas. The start of school where they can finally send their kids out of the house. Part of the ritual is buying them school supplies. If you feel as a parent, or as a teacher stuck buying their own school supplies, that those supplies are more expensive this year, it turns out they are more expensive this year. Story via BillMoyers.com.
  • With the legalization of marijuana in a few locations, there has been an economic bonanza for many. Now some have noticed  that more  than a few pot shops have opened in poor neighborhoods. Is The Man trying yet another plot to kill off poor people? Trying to keep the poor masses down? Not quite. There is actually a good explanation for it, and it boils down to economics. Story via Alternet
  • Speaking of poor people, time to settle one of the old canards: No, poor people do NOT eat more junk food than anyone else. Research reveals that poor people actually eat less of it and do so less often than middle class people. Story via Vox
  • And while are calling out bullshit, turns out that whole thing of employers whining that they can't find workers because those potential workers can't pass a drug test is also not really true. Story via VICE
  • In rural areas, country stores are closing. Story via The Rural Blog
  • Churches and houses of worship in some areas are not doing well. For instance, in New York City, they are facing the possibility of having to sell their buildings to developers, often historic buildings, to make ends meet. Story via The New York Times.
  • In other news, it seems that drinking is on the rise in  the United States, especially among women  and minorities. I can't imagine what could possibly be prompting that. Some people may say that is a problem, but in the bad economy I say this is opportunity. Personally, I am thinking if my librarian gig does not work out, I can go train to be a bartender. Plus, imagine the possibilities of jobs opening and being added in the liquor industry from manufacturing to sales and distribution. That is just the alcohol. People often eat with food, so boom, food service jobs might expand too. Just saying. Story via NPR.
  • So, let's see what can we blame on Millennials this week. It turns out that grocery stores are putting in full restaurants inside the grocery stores in order to attract Millennials. There is even a new term for this: "groceraunts." Story via NPR.
  • This week has been a bit rough on some rich folks too: 
    • Macau billionaire was convicted of bribing UN officials. Now, for a guy like him it means basically house arrest in a fancy residence. However, he was just told no more private massages. Life is tough. Story via Reuters.
    • In San Francisco, apparently a bunch of rich people could "not afford" (a.k.a. figured rules do not apply to them) to pay a small sum of taxes, which then added up over the years. So the city finally called them on their shit and took away a private street. Story via NPR. 
  • Finally, a little trivia item. Ever wonder what happens when someone wins a contest from an eatery where you get "free food for life"? Well, it turns out there are rules. Read more about it in this article from Wise Bread.

Booknote: How the Hell Did This Happen?

P.J. O'Rourke, How the Hell Did This Happen?: the Election of 2016. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-8021-2619-1.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: politics, humor
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of  the Madison County (KY) Public Library


Let me give you the bottom line on this book right away: O'Rourke is basically full-on Republican on this one and not in a good way. He spends just as much time trashing Hillary Clinton as he does his own party, maybe more so. After a while, the not-so-subtle misogyny just gets old. Add to this that his humor is just not there like in previous books. I remember reading and enjoying Parliament of Whores, and Give War a Chance was decent. By now, O'Rourke has basically jumped the shark.  I am not writing more because I do not recommend the book. Borrow the book if you absolutely must, or find a better political humorist.

Let me save you by providing his conclusion: elites being bad is not really true (him being an elite and all). Overall, if you want to know how the hell it happened, this book is not the answer.

1 out of 5 stars (barely).

Book qualifies  for these 2017 Reading Challenges:



Friday, August 04, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: August 4, 2017 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.




 Some folks, among them The Washington Post, are reporting that U.S. job growth did well in July. Now you might get lulled into a sense that things are good, or at least not bad. I am here to reassure you that yes, the economy  is still bad, and there are plenty of signs to prove it. Job numbers? Pshaw. Here are the signs the economy is bad for this week:

  • In some sad news, a well regarded sex toy company has closed its doors. As reported by Hey Epiphora, Fucking Sculptures (yes, that is the company name. No, I do not think the name was the issue) is closing its doors due to the bad economy. The company was well known for making fine blown glass dildos. According to the report, the company lasted about four and half years in business. This was an artisanal product, and at $180 a toy, as the blogger points out, not many folks can afford that. As much as The Better Half and I love good sex toys, we are among those who can't just plunk out close to $200 for a sex toy, even if we love and appreciate the craftsmanship and quality (we do have a few glass toys, modest purchases). If the topic interests you, the post also discusses a bit of the sex toy industry and lists a few companies still standing. 
  • Let's get back to the usual bad news of the economy. A new report points out something we have known for a while: Black women have it bad in this bad economy. How bad? Well, it turns out they have to work 7 months into 2017 to get paid (and equalize) what men got paid in 2016. Story via BillMoyers.com. 
  • Let's see what can we blame Millennials for this week. In the bad economy, more often than not something is the fault of those darn Millennial kids. Kids can't buy homes? Must be all that avocado toast they splurge on. This week, we are blaming Millennials for killing the oil industry. Why? Because old oil workers are retiring or dying off, and those damn slacker kids do not want to work in that filthy, dirty, polluting industry. Apparently stuff like climate change is important to them. Story via In These Times
  • On the ten years anniversary of a major bridge collapse in Minneapolis, infrastructure in the United States is still crumbling, and there is no solution nor plan in sight to address it. Story  via NPR.
  • And speaking of local infrastructure and maintenance on highways and such, some states are tight on money for mowing grass along highways, so they are using goats for the job. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • Also via NPR, in what can be described as a not so bright moment, folks in Las Vegas, NV can now get marijuana legally. Naturally the sales and taxes are a boom for the local economy. So, what is bad about that?  Well, tourists visit the place too, and they buy a little pot. Turns out there is no place where they can go and smoke it due to local laws. Not exactly a moment of genius there, and a potential sign of the bad economy if word gets out, and those tourists decide to go elsewhere for their recreational pot needs. 
  • In rural areas, small business often have it rough when a Walmart comes into town. Now, if that was not bad enough, it turns out that very often delivery companies that bring those small businesses their merchandise charge them extra to deliver in rural areas. You see, the thing is that, unlike the U.S. Postal Service (which people love to rag on) that has a mission and commitment to go into all parts of the nation, including rural areas, delivery companies like UPS and FedEx dislike going into rural areas because they are not as profitable to them. Thus they charge extra to go there (or at times, they may hand off the last leg to the USPS for a delivery even). Story via The Rural Blog
  • Think you might need an antibiotic or other medicine? Can't afford to go to a doctor? Lack health insurance? Well, in the bad economy, people without means need to get creative, so fish antibiotics are a new option for people needing a medication but on a tight budget. Yes, I mean literally the antibiotics you might put in your fish tank if you had one. Story via Boing Boing.  
  • This story is in Spanish, so I apologize to my non-Spanish reading friends, but it is an important one. It is a common story that various companies and employers go to Puerto Rico to hire labor to work in the U.S. Sometimes, those employers are less than ethical (they are actually exploitative), such as the case of fish canneries in Alaska exploiting Puerto Ricans they imported to work. It was so bad the state of Alaska even launched an OSHA investigation. Story via El Nuevo Dia
    • And in other news from the U.S. colony (this one is in English), they are announcing employee furloughs, at least two days off a month for public employees. Story via Caribbean Business
  • More signs that coal is not coming back no matter how much con men politicians like Kentucky's Mitch McConnell howl about the "War on Coal." CSX, the big train transport company, is not buying any more freight cars for coal. The reason? The company's new president as of this post stated simple that "fossil fuels are dead." That is pretty much the gist of it. If a guy whose company has made a fortune transporting coal sees the writing on the wall, there is your sign. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • In other trends, seems the adult coloring book trend is starting to die out too. This story came out this past week just in time for National Coloring Book Day, which was held on August 2. Woo hoo! Story via Vox
    • Now, if you want to keep up with the trend, and you want to go all out fancy, maybe this $30,000 adult coloring book is for you. Story via Atlas Obscura.
  • In higher education, a new study finds that at least 13 percent of community college students face hunger and/or food insecurity. Story via Inside Higher Ed
  • Another study found that kids from rural areas may eventually earn higher incomes as adults. The catch? They have to leave those rural areas in order to find jobs with those higher incomes. Story via The Rural Blog
  • And one more study related to rural areas: turns out that SNAP, the nutritional assistance program (you know, one of those programs the poor use that the Party of Stupid wants to cut because they'd rather those poor people starved), plays a very large role in keeping grocery stores in business. Seriously, SNAP funds that poor people use to buy food and (some) groceries are a significant revenue for grocery stores, especially in rural areas. The irony of course is that a lot of those SNAP recipients in rural areas, like here in Kentucky, went right ahead and voted for the Pendejo In Chief and the Party of Stupid. Story via The Daily Yonder.  
  • Here is a trend that someone is finally noticing, besides me, that FAIR dubs as "perseverance porn." Basically it refers to those sappy human interest stories of some guy who walks 20 miles in 30 feet of snow to get to a menial job despite having no shoes or proper winter gear, then people take pity and crowdsource to buy him a car. More often than not these and other such stories are nothing more than poor shaming bullshit tales. Read the story and get the details. 
This week we have a couple of ridiculous items:

  • Dunkin Donuts is trying to pull what Kentucky Fried Chicken did a while back when it became KFC. Dunkin Donuts is hoping you will sort of and kind of forget they sell donuts (because those are junk food), and you will remember more that they sell coffee (including those abominable "coffee drinks" that are more sugar loaded milkshakes, a.k.a. junk food). How? They are dropping "Donuts" from Dunkin Donuts name to become just plain Dunkin. Story via  The Week.
  • As you may have noticed, many restaurants, specially chains, pride themselves on selling giant portions of food abominations at a somewhat accessible cost (well, accessible to some). This is the kind of food that you need to "check with your waiter for a list of nearby cardiac care units." Now some people get all high and mighty and whine arguing, "hey, don't eat it every day; it is just a treat." But if said treat could potentially send you to an ER, or at least the nearest toilet due to excess, well, that could be a problem. Well, to reasonable people. To most Americans, hey, that plate is not big enough, put that thing on a trough. And how do you know who are the best of the best in these kind of restaurants? Well, you can check the recent winners of the 2017 Xtreme Eating Awards. Story via Alternet.
In job openings:

  • Looking for work? NASA (yea, the space guys) are looking for  a planetary protection officer. Pay is good, and you make sure you get to protect the Earth from the scum of the universe. Story via The Washington Post
To wrap up the week, sadly the Pendejo In Chief offers a couple of signs the economy is bad:

  • I mentioned previously how the Secret Service was setting up a post in Trump Tower. Well, apparently he, or his "organization," drives a hard bargain since the Secret Service decided to not take the lease and set up shop there after all. Story via  NPR. 
  • Finally, find out how the Pendejo In Chief may be ruining book sales. Story via The New Republic. This story I did find interesting as a reader and librarian, and I think a few folks might too.

     

    Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 24, plus a bonus.

    These are some books I have read recently that I borrowed from my local public library. They were quick reads, so I am just doing some quick review notes on them.


    Pénélope Bagieu (author) and Nanette McGuinness (translator), California Dreamin'. New York: First Second, 2017. ISBN: 9781626725461. 

    This is a life of Ellen Cohen, better known by her stage name of Cass Elliot. Cass Elliot was a member of the 1960s band The Mamas and the Papas. The book has an entertaining and moving narrative. It is also humorous at times. We get her life from childhood until the time the title song becomes famous. Each chapter is told mainly from the view of someone in her life. In addition, the art is nice, done in black and white; it is lively. I really liked it. It is a solid biography. The end of the book features a small list of sources and a musical playlist. To note in the end: her friends and her were extremely  dysfunctional, yet she kept her vision, and with the talent she had, she got her dream. This edition is a translation from a French original work.

    4 out of 5 stars.

    Jason Aaron, et.al., Star Wars, Volume 2: Showdown on the Smuggler's Moon. New York: Marvel Comics,  ISBN: 978-0-7851-9214-5.

    This volume is part of the Star Wars series now owned by Disney. It covers issues 7-12 of the Star Wars comic. The story takes place between Episode 4: A New Hope (i.e. the original Star Wars movie) and Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back. There are two stories in this volume. The main story is Luke Skywalker searching for information and sources about the Jedi. His lightsaber is stolen, and he gets trapped by a Hutt who plans to use him in his arena. Meanwhile, a woman from Han Solo's past threatens him and Leia Organa. It is a good and entertaining story with great pacing. The art is very colorful. The second story is of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine, from Kenobi's journal. Overall, I think this is one that fans will find satisfying.

    4 out of 5 stars.


    Jim Davis, Garfield: Lard of the Jungle. New York: Ballantine Books, 2011. ISBN: 9780345525840. 

    I continue to read and enjoy this comic This time, it's the 52nd book in the series, and we get the usual clean fun here. Among the highlights, Jon gets a new cellphone. This may take you back to when you got your first cellphone. How many of you remember that? Another amusing comic is Jon remembering some previous dates and girlfriends some of these descriptions are cringe-worthy but still amusing. 4 out of 5 stars.

    Diane Muldrow, Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned from a Little Golden Book. New York: Golden Books, 2014. ISBN: 9780553508758.

    Diane Muldrow continues her series small life lessons from the art in Little Golden Books. This time she focuses on love and romance. Though you can read this at any time, this volume is clearly targeted for the Valentine's Day audience. Overall, it is a cute and charming book for adults, and it can be a nice trip down memory lane. If you have enjoyed others in the series, you will enjoy this one as well. 4 out of 5 stars.

    Friday, July 28, 2017

    Signs the economy is bad: July 28, 2017 edition

    Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.




    Here we go with  another week in the bad economy. A bit of everything this week, so let's have a look.

    •  In big business merger news, even the world of sex shops can't escape the mergers as Good Vibes acquires Babeland. Story via the Good Vibes blog. 
    • The economy is bad, even for college graduates who were hoping to not have to do manual labor or other menial tasks. Well, now that some forms of manual labor all of a sudden have cachet, jobs like barber, book binder, and jeweler are becoming hot career choices, at least for a few hipsters. Story via The Christian Science Monitor
    • Public school teachers have it rough. It is bad enough that they get lousy pay, but then more often than not, due mainly to whiny tax payers who refuse to fund schools properly, teachers often have to buy their own school supplies for their own classrooms. One teacher decided to try something different to address the issue: she went out panhandling. Story via The Washington Post.
    • Baby Boomers are getting old. Their legacy is often one of messing up a lot of things for the generations that followed after they got all sorts of good breaks. They are also leaving behind a legacy of a lot of stuff. Many are hoping they can leave the stuff to their kids, but it turns out their kids could not care less. This may be related to the fact that many of their kids just do not have the space nor the desire for a lot of things they deem as junk or unnecessary. Story via The Christian Science Monitor. Having said that, if Nana is about to croak, and she wants you to have her vintage made in the USA Pyrex dishes, and you cook regularly, take them. Those suckers are not only valuable and collectible, but they also cook better than a lot of modern dishes, and in a pinch, you can sell them for a decent price. Pyrex story via NPR. 
    • Amazon needs employees, and they are going on a hiring spree. A concern is the labor market may be a bit tight. Story via USA Today.
      • Anyhow, Amazon will be just fine as more Americans keep using it to shop. In fact, when it comes to seeking out products to buy, Amazon has overtaken Google as the place to start. Story via Business Insider.
    • Mom and Pop markets are facing extinction, especially in rural and isolated areas where they are not only the main source of groceries but also serve other community functions. The problem is as owners retire or die, no one wants to take over the business. Story via The Washington Post
    • A few countries around the world are looking for a few good American researchers and scholars, so they are launching various recruitment campaigns. I will remind them that such scholars often need research support, so they may want to consider hiring a few librarians too. If they do, I am ready to go. Story via Inside Higher Ed
    • Apparently McDonald's needs to diversify. Selling fast food is not enough, so they also have an apparel line. Yes, not only do you pay for their food, now you can also pay to wear clothes plastered with their advertising. Story via Foodiggity
    • Apparently there are concerns Starbucks sales of overpriced burnt coffee may slow down. They had a tumble in their stock shares. Story via Reuters.
    • And in news from the world of science, turns out you are more likely to be happier if you DO order out more or eat out more and pay for a maid to clean your house once in a while. Story via The New York Times.
    Sadly, we have some news from the world of the Pendejo In Chief. Oh well. . .

    •  The military is renting space in Trump Tower for about $130K for the space. Why? So just in case the Pendejo In Chief happens to spend the night, they can keep the "nuclear football" nearby. Because apparently the "football" needs to be comfortable too, and it needs a 3,475-square-foot space to do so. Story via New York Magazine.
    • That is peanuts compared to the expense of protecting the Pendejo In Chief when he takes some time off at Mar-A-Lago. So far guarding him there has cost $6.6 million dollars. May be a good time to work for the Secret Service or other protective services. Story via The Hill
    • The Pendejo In Chief is all about "Made in America." However, he outsources his e-commerce platform that sells his red MAGA hats and other products to a Canadian company. Story via Good.Is.
    • And finally for this week, as I often say, when the economy is bad, you have to get creative to make a buck or two. So, someone has taken those words to heart and created a new product. They are selling Donald Trump condoms. Yes, that is real. Story via Dangerous Minds.





     

    Booknote: Ghostland

    Colin  Dickey, Ghostland: an American History in Haunted Places. New York: Viking, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-101-98019-4.

    Genre: nonfiction
    Subgenre: travel, ghosts, hauntings, history, paranormal
    Format: hardcover
    Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library.


    The book does have history, but it also offers a bit of pop culture and trivia. I think some fans of the ghost hunter shows may find it of interest, but keep in mind this is not about ghost hunters. What the book really presents is a  look at various haunted places in the United States and what those places say about us as people and society. Dickey's claim is that hauntings and stories about hauntings are really about people, about a need to cope with an event, or fill gaps of information.

    The book is organized in four parts, and each part contains three to five chapters. Each chapter looks at a specific place, but it also continues the overall discussion of hauntings and how they work. Keep in mind, as Dickey states in his author's note, "this book is not about truth or falsity of any claims of ghosts" (xiii). His book does discuss the stories, but he looks at them more in terms of the living. He looks at how people deal with stories and places and the dead and their ghosts. He tells the stories and then discusses what the stories do for people today. Some stories become popular, and their locations make money from tourist and ghost tours. Others are barely remembered.

    Overall, the book is a very interesting read. Anyone interested in a ghosts, hauntings, and how such stories are generated will find it interesting. The chapters are not too long, making the book an easy read. It is much like reading a good travel book with the author as your guide. This is one I really liked.

    4 out of 5 stars.

    * * * * *

    Additional reading notes:

    As I mentioned, the book does not seek to make claims on truth or falsehood of ghosts. On this, the author writes,

    "There is no amount of proof that will convince a skeptic of spirits, just as no amount of skeptical debunking will disabuse a believer. As [Samuel] Johnson remarked regarding the paranormal, 'All argument is against it; but all belief is for it'" (xiii).

    What the book is truly about:

    "This book instead focuses on question of the living: how do we deal with stories about the dead and their ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed haunted?" (xiii).

    On the persistence of believing in ghosts:

    "Spend enough time debunking the legends associated with haunted places, trying to see past it all-- the marketing, the dubious electronic devices, and all the other trappings-- and you sometimes forget how real, and how persistent, the belief in ghosts is for many of us. A belief that in various ways, and for various people, gives an explanation and meaning to experiences that can't be explained away easily. A belief that can help us mourn and give us hope" (92).

    How ghost stories are born:

    "This is how ghost stories are born, after all: not from a complete story so much as from bits and pieces that don't quite add up, a kaleidoscope of menace and unease that coalesce in unpredictable ways" (139).

    On ghost stories and cities:

    "Ghost stories, for good or ill, are how cities make sense of themselves: how they narrate the tragedies of their past, weave cautionary tales for the future" (248). 


    * * * * *

    This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:



    Friday, July 21, 2017

    Signs the economy is bad: July 21, 2017 edition

    Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.





    It has been a couple of weeks since the previous edition, and the economy continues to be bad. Features this week include: cigars, dollar stores, Venezuela, and I give you an update on avocado toast news. Let's get on with it:

    •  The big news this week is that the Pendejo In Chief declared this past week to be "Made in America" week. He even got states to highlight some of the crappy, barely known few remaining fine products made in the U.S. Chick-Fil-A? Georgia? Really, that was the best you could come up with? In the end, there was a note of irony as Carrier, the big factory he bragged about making a deal to keep jobs in the US is eliminating jobs anyhow. Stories via NPR, USA Today.
    • Apparently, the Pendejo In Chief's administration is also considering banning oil imports from Venezuela. Keep in mind  Venezuela is the U.S.'s third largest supplier. If you use Citgo gas stations, they use gasoline from Venezuelan oil (in fact, Venezuela's PDVSA owns it). That is just one example. What I am trying to say is do not be surprised down the road if gas prices here go up. Story via Telesur.
    • Not that "made in America" matters much to a lot of Americans. For all the bitching and  moaning they do about it, most Americans are not willing to pay more (a.k.a. the actual cost) to buy products made in the U.S. Story via Reuters. 
      • Not only that, but they are not even willing to work at picking or harvesting produce grown in the U.S. In North Carolina, they can't find local Americans (or any American) willing to do farm work and pick produce. Same situation in American vineyards. Americans may like to brag about drinking American wine; they just do not want to make the hard effort to pick the grapes to make that wine. Overall, they prefer foreigners, often undocumented, to do those jobs and exploit their labor as cheap as possible. The problem with that is the Pendejo In Chief along with the Party of Stupid have sworn to crack down on illegal immigration, thus shutting down, or at least dramatically threatening the dirt cheap exploited labor supply American farm owners (and other industries like restaurants, hotels, etc.) depend on. So, it's made in America as long as someone else, preferably not an actual "American" does the work for cheap. Stories via The Rural Blog and The Daily Yonder
      • And further proof most Americans are all talk when it comes to "made in America," turns out Dollar General stores are crowding out mom and pop retail in small town  America. In fact, Dollar General has almost as many stores as McDonald's by now. Don't get me wrong, I get the economy is bad and all, but going for just the cheapest stuff made in China or abroad  is not going to fix it. Just saying. Story via The Rural Blog.
    • Teachers in the US already have it tough given low salaries, bad working conditions, and to make it worse, they often have to pay for their own school supplies for their classrooms and themselves because heaven forbid local whiny taxpayers actually pay to have the classrooms their communities' children attend fully funded. So, to add insult to injury, it gets even worse if they have college loan debt. In the end, hey, you can always just shut down schools and let your kids run around illiterate. What could go wrong? Story via NPR. 
    • Meanwhile, in rural parts of Arizona they have a shortage of physicians. Story via NPR.
    In the bad economy, you have to make a buck however you can. People often need to get creative if they want to work and get some income. Often you need a bit of ingenuity and looking outside the box to make it, like the folks in these stories:

    • Higher education could be an option. However, higher education is often like the rest of America: it does not want to pay what it actually costs to hire someone to do a job. So they try to weasel around and  pay whatever exploitative wage they think they can get away with, like the University of Illinois-Chicago where they need a language program director and professor but they do not want to pay what that is actually worth. So they are spinning it as creating an opportunity for some desperate, out on their luck, will take any job to stay off the streets fine entrepreneurial academic who eats little and is willing to incur the wrath  of the IRS in not paying taxes (because the job does not pay enough  for even that) to take that job. What that fine institution of higher learning did is what many of their peers do: call the job "a visiting scholar" which makes it cheap and temporary even though it is full time substantial work that should be hired and paid accordingly. Story via Inside Higher Ed
    • When you are in a relationship, breaking up can be hard. Getting over the other person can be tough, and you may need a little tough love and emotional support. If you are someone willing and able to provide said tough love, tell someone to get the fuck over it already, go work out, and learn to move on, and get paid for doing what women often do for other women for free (or over a few cosmos at the local bar), then a career as a "break up expert" may be for you. Story via Alternet.
    • In Yellowstone, they are finding that it may be more lucrative to promote people taking pictures of bobcats than shooting them with bullets. Turns out a bobcat is worth more alive than dead according to research. Plus you get to promote ecotourism. Story via The Rural Blog.
    • In Lexington, KY, an alcohol delivery service is expanding. That is right. You can already order pizza delivery, so why not get some beer to go with  that pizza delivered too? I look at this as a plus. If alcohol being delivered means one less drunken driver who instead stays home, that is a good thing. Story via LEX 18.
    • I have highlighted before how legalized marijuana has been an economic boon for states that implemented it. Most anyone can get some pot now in those locations, but what about the wealthier folks who may want a more upscale experience? Well, fear not. Entrepreneurs are already on it, and they now offer a cannabis cigar. It's the "420 for the 1%." retailing for about $110. Story via Alternet.
    And finally for this week, an update from the world of Avocado Toast news. It turns out you can stop being an idiot and blaming Millennials money woes on their craving of avocado toast. The topic has been investigated, with actual empirical research  and everything, and avocado toast is not to blame. You can read the story here at The Intercept, and you can read the actual research paper here (this one is a PDF) from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.


    Another one of those "must-read" lists of classics, let's have a look

    Once in a while I get amused when I see yet another list of stuff someone thinks you ought to read in order to (insert a reason here: be more cultured, be better read, be more of a hipster, be more of a book snob, attract chicks, be more manly, whatever). Also, once in a while, I want to see how I do in relation to the list. Here is one of those lists, which I saw at Book Riot a while back. This is their "100 Must-Read Lesser-Known Classics." I think that, aside from some exceptions, that list is a polite way of saying "some obscure shit that most likely you have not read unless you are a hardcore literature major, a recluse with no other media, or just do not have enough to do with your life." On a serious note, a few things here do sound interesting, and I may add them to my TBR list down the road.

    Anyhow, I am transcribing the list below. I removed the big bookstore behemoth links to keep things tidy. I will highlight in bold books I have actually read. In some cases, I will highlight in bold an author to indicate I may have read something else by that author instead. I will make any comments on titles in parenthesis after the title.

    The List:

    • The Recognition of Sakuntala, by Kalidasa (India, c. 4th century) 
    • The Poems of T’ao Ch’ien, by T’ao Ch’ien (China, early 400s) 
    • The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu (Japan, early 1000s) 
    • The Song of Roland, author unknown (France, c. 1040-1115) (If I recall, I read this somewhere in high school. It would have been around the time I had to read El Cid).  
    • The Essential Rumi, Jalal al-Din Rumi (Iran, 1200s) (I have read some of his verses.)
    • The Bustan of Saadi, by Saadi (Persia, 1257) 
    • The Táin, author unknown (Ireland, 12th-14th century) 
    • Essays in Idleness, by Yoshida Kenkō (Japan, 1330-1332) 
    • The Cloud of Unknowing, author unknown (England, later 1300s) 
    • The Book of Margery Kempe, by Margery Kempe (England, 1420s) (Read in  graduate school as an English  major) 
    • Lazarillo de Tormes, author unknown (Spain, 1554) (I read this, in Spanish, in high school. To American gringos, this may be obscure. In Latin America, this is pretty well known in school syllabi. It is a classic of Spanish Peninsular literature ) 
    • The Heptameron, by Marguerite of Navarre (France, 1558) 
    • The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish (England, 1666) 
    • The Princess of Cleves, by Madame de Lafayette (France, 1678)
    • Oroonoko, by Aphra Behn (England, 1688) 
    • Brief Lives, by John Aubrey (England, Late 1600s) 
    • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho (Japan, 1694) 
    • Love in Excess, by Eliza Haywood (England, 1720) 
    • A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe (England, 1722) (I read Robinson Crusoe instead) 
    • Letters of a Peruvian Woman, by Françoise de Graffigny (France, 1747) 
    • Fanny Hill, by John Cleland (England, 1748) 
    • Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin (China, mid 1700s) 
    • The Female Quixote, by Charlotte Lennox (Scotland, 1752) (never heard of this. However, I  have read Cervantes' Don Quixote, in Spanish, in full version) 
    • Letters of Mistress Henley, by Isabelle de Charrière (Netherlands, 1784) 
    • The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, by Olaudah Equiano (Nigeria, 1789) (read this in graduate school. Most people read Douglass, which is fine, but this one may be more interesting) 
    • A Simple Story, by Elizabeth Inchbald (England, 1792) 
    • Caleb Williams, by William Godwin (England, 1794) 
    • A Voyage Around My Room, by Xavier de Maistre (France, 1794) 
    • Jacques the Fatalist, by Denis Diderot (France, 1796) 
    • Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, by Mary Wollstonecraft (England, 1796) 
    • The Coquette, by Hannah Webster Foster (U.S., 1797) 
    • Wieland, by Charles Brockden Brown (U.S. 1798) (Not this, but I have read other works by him in graduate school) 
    • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg (Scotland, 1824) 
    • Hope Leslie, by Catharine Maria Sedgwick (U.S. 1827) 
    • The Wide, Wide World, by Susan Warner (U.S., 1850) 
    • Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell (England, 1851-1853) 
    • Ruth Hall, by Fanny Fern (U.S., 1854) 
    • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs (U.S., 1861) (Again, in graduate school) 
    • Lady Audley’s Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (England, 1862) 
    • The Story of Avis, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (U.S. 1877) 
    • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, by Isabella Bird (England, 1879) 
    • Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, by Robert Louis Stevenson (Scotland, 1879) (I read what most kids read, namely Treasure Island.)
    • The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (Brazil, 1881) 
    • Hester, by Margaret Oliphant (Scotland, 1883) 
    • The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner (South Africa, 1883) 
    • Hunger, by Knut Hamsun (Norway, 1890) 
    • Effi Briest, by Theodor Fontane (Germany, 1894) 
    • Trilby, by George Du Maurier (France and England, 1894) 
    • Elizabeth and Her German Garden, by Elizabeth von Arnim (Australia, 1898) 
    • The Conjure Woman, by Charles Chestnutt (U.S., 1899) 
    • I Await the Devil’s Coming, by Mary MacLane (Canada/U.S., 1901) 
    • The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton (England, 1908) 
    • Jakob von Gunten, by Robert Walser (Switzerland, 1909) 
    • Kokoro, by Natsume Sōseki (Japan, 1914) 
    • Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (U.S. 1915) 
    • Tender Buttons, by Gertrude Stein (U.S., 1915) 
    • The Home and the World, by Rabindranath Tagore (India, 1916) 
    • Diary of a Madman, by Lu Xun (China, 1918) 
    • Return of the Soldier, by Rebecca West (England, 1918) 
    • Demian, by Hermann Hesse (Germany, 1919) 
    • The Sheik, by Edith Maude Hull (England, 1919) 
    • Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Unset (Norway, 1920) 
    • Cane, by Jean Toomer (U.S., 1923) (Again, in graduate school) 
    • Zeno’s Conscience, by Italo Svevo (Italy, 1923) 
    • The Home-Maker, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (U.S., 1924) 
    • There is Confusion, by Jessie Redmon Fauset (U.S., 1924) 
    • Bread Givers, by Anzia Yezierska (U.S. 1925) 
    • Chaka, by Thomas Mofolo (Lesotho, 1925) 
    • Lolly Willowes, by Silvia Townsend Warner (England, 1926) 
    • Home to Harlem, by Claude McKay (Jamaica/U.S., 1928) 
    • Quicksand, by Nella Larsen (U.S., 1928) 
    • Doña Bárbara, by Rómulo Gallegos (Venezuela, 1929) (Again, read this in high school. Not obscure at all in Latin America. Many of us down there already know about "the devourer of men.") 
    • A High Wind in Jamaica, by Richard Hughes (Wales, 1929) 
    • Dance Night, by Dawn Powell (U.S., 1930) 
    • A Note in Music, by Rosamond Lehmann (England, 1930) 
    • Devil’s Cub, by Georgette Heyer (England, 1932)* 
    • Frost in May, by Antonia White (England, 1933) 
    • Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain (England, 1933) 
    • Street of Crocodiles, by Bruno Schulz (Poland, 1934) 
    • Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata (Japan, 1935-7) 
    • Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier (England, 1936) 
    • Nightwood, by Djuna Barnes (U.S., 1936) 
    • Journey by Moonlight, by Antal Szerb (Hungary, 1937) 
    • The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen (Ireland, 1938) 
    • Beware of Pity, by Stefan Zweig (Austria, 1939) 
    • The Invention of Morel, by Adolpho Bioy Cesares (Argentina, 1940) (I have not read this author, but again, in Spanish language he is not obscure.) 
    • Dust Tracks on a Road, by Zora Neale Hurston (U.S., 1942) 
    • Iceland’s Bell, by Halldór Laxness (Iceland, 1943) 
    • Love in a Fallen City, by Eileen Chang (China, 1943) 
    • Near to the Wild Heart, by Clarice Lispector (Brazil, 1943) 
    • The Makioka Sisters, by Junichirō Tanizaki (Japan, 1943-1948) 
    • Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1944) (How the hell anyone other than someone clueless thinks Borges is obscure or lesser known is beyond me. Seems some people need to read outside the usual stuff more.)  
    • Miss Pym Disposes, by Josephine Tey (Scotland, 1946) 
    • Trilogy, by H.D. (U.S. 1946) 
    • In a Lonely Place, by Dorothy B. Hughes (U.S. 1947) 
    • The Mountain Lion, by Jean Stafford (U.S., 1947) 
    • The Slaves of Solitude, by Patrick Hamilton (England, 1947) 
    • I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (England, 1948)

    I have read 10 books from the list, either from high school for the Spanish language ones or in graduate school as an English major.

    I have read 12 additional authors.

    I will comment a few others I have heard of, and I honestly wonder how a few others rate as "lesser known." Borges lesser known? You'd be laughed out of polite company anywhere south of the U.S. border. Having said that, there are some here I personally had not heard of and may be adding to my TBR list.


    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    Booknote: James Bond: Hammerhead

    Andy Diggle, James Bond: Hammerhead. Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2017. ISBN: 9781524103224. 

    Genre: comics and  graphic novels
    Subgenre: action, adventure, spies, secret agents
    Format: e-book galley
    Source: NetGalley


    Dynamite has a new run of James Bond comics, and I finally got to look at one of them. Warren Ellis started writing them. This one is done by Andy Diggle, continuing that work. I will say that it captures the feel and spirit of James Bond quite nicely.

    In this adventure, James Bond has to stop an anti-capitalist radical that is targeting Britain's nuclear arsenal. As he investigates, he crosses paths with an industrialist who also happens to have the contract for a lot of British military work, including work with that nuclear arsenal. There may be a little comment there on just how much a military should be getting cozy with  a private contractor, but I digress. What Bond finds is a plot to make Great Britain be a great empire like used to be once more.

    The story has a good pace, and it is entertaining blending action and intrigue. As I said, it captures the feel of the James Bond world and characters. If you enjoyed the older James Bond movies with Sean Connery, and even the ones with Roger Moore, you will probably enjoy this comic. It captures a bit of that old time feel with a nice contemporary touch. You get the gadgets, the action, the glamour, the sexy ladies, a femme fatale, so on. For me, it almost felt like watching a movie. The story moves along pretty quickly, so it left me wanting more, and I will certainly seek out more of this series. The art is very good as well, and brings the story to life.

    Overall, I really liked it.

    4 out of 5 stars.

    This book  qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:



    Monday, July 17, 2017

    Booknote: Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love

    Sara Vaughn, Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2017. ISBN: 9781401268411.

    Genre: comics and graphic novels
    Subgenre: ghosts, superheroes, horror, gothic, romance
    Format: e-book galley
    Source: NetGalley

    Boston Brand, a.k.a. Deadman, has a mission to help others. He is a ghost, and the others he often helps are ghosts as well. In this story, he comes to an old mansion, only to find himself trapped in the house. He is unable to leave it. The mansion has new residents: a writer and his fiancee who can see ghosts and interact with them. Deadman and the lady must join forces to solve the mystery of the mansion and the lady ghost that haunts it. However, that ghost may be the least of their concerns as there is another evil lurking.

    This comic was a pleasant discovery for  me. Deadman was not a character I was familiar with, so I went in as a new reader. This was a good tale. The story combines a bit of superhero narrative, supernatural and paranormal tale, gothic horror, and some romance. The author builds up the story and the suspense, and you stay with the story to find out what exactly is going on. What is the real threat? You will have to read to find out. The story, as I mentioned, is built up well. It has a good, strong pace, and it draws you in. As an added bonus, I found the binary character interesting, and it is a character I would like to see more down the road.

    The art is very good, and it captures the suspense, horror, and gothic feel of the tale very well. In some ways, this comic feels like old classic gothic horror, and I say that as a compliment. Fans of the gothic horror genre can enjoy this one.

    This is a title I would recommend for libraries with graphic novel collections. It is definitely a  good one to add to your Halloween book displays too.

    4 out of 5 stars.

    This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:





    Friday, July 14, 2017

    Booknote: Doom Patrol, Volume 1

    Gerard Way, et.al., Doom Patrol, Volume 1: Brick by Brick. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2017.  ISBN: 9781401269791.

    Genre: graphic novels and comics
    Subgenre: superheroes, surrealism
    Format: e-book galley
    Source: NetGalley


    This pretty much falls under "what the heck did I just read?" While I am not an obsessive geek about Doom Patrol, I am familiar with the concept enough to appreciate it. This volume was pretty much a mess in terms of plot and story. Also, from what I have gathered from other reviewers, you probably will not appreciate it much unless you are seriously hardcore about these characters, and it likely helps if you are also a fan of the previous run by Grant Morrison. I have observed fans of the Morrison run either like this one (because it reminds them of that) or hate it (because it is nothing like that). I have not read the Morrison work, so I come to the comic mainly as a new reader, and I can tell you that based on this I would not pick up the next part of the series.

    Let me give a bit of the book's description as reference:

    "Flex Mentallo, Robotman, Rebis, Crazy Jane, and more are back to twist minds and take control. This new take on a classic embraces and reimagines the Morrison run's signature surrealism and irreverence. Incorporating bold, experimental art and a brash tone to match a new generation of readers, Gerard Way's DOOM PATROL establishes radical new beginnings, breaks new ground, and honors the warped team dynamic of the world's strangest heroes"

    The above sounds a lot better than what you actually get. The premise is that of heroes in our world who for whatever reason have forgotten they are heroes and have powers. They need to be reminded fast since there is a new threat. Our protagonist, Casey Brinke, is a young female EMT ambulance driver, but it turns out she is more than that, and so is her ambulance which is actually a vehicle as well as the embodiment of a higher being. It goes downhill from there as you struggle to figure out what  is going on. You don't really get the hang of it until about the third issue (this volume collects the first six issues of this run, so that means you have to read at least halfway into the series to get your bearings).

    So, are there any redeeming qualities? To a small extent, some elements of the story are reminiscent of the film They Live (yes, the Roddy Piper film) of a secret alien world just under ours. The other redeeming element is the art. If you like surreal and "trippy" art, this may be a volume for you. But it  is not really a volume to read for the story, which is basically a convoluted mess I would not recommend to anyone. Only readers I see picking this up are hard fans, and I get the impression even some of those will pass.

    This  is a title I  would not order for my library, and  I do not recommend it to other libraries. If a patron asks for it, get it via Interlibrary Loan for them. This is just not worth purchasing for a collection.

    1 out of 5 stars.

    This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:







    Booknote: Speaking American

    Josh Katz, Speaking American*: how y'all, youse, and you guys talk: a visual guide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.  ISBN: 9780544703391.

    Genre: nonfiction
    Subgenre: maps, geography, language studies, Americana, trivia.
    Format: hardback
    Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


    The book is mainly a collection of maps and charts showing different American language and word usage customs. You learn about things like where in the United States people say "soda" versus "pop" or how do you pronounce the word "pecan." According to the author, with a few select questions on how people pronounce certain words and/or use a specific word, say "hoagie" versus "hero" versus "sub," you can pretty much tell where someone is from in the U.S.

    The book starts with an introduction, then it has five parts, a conclusion, and indexes for terms and places. Each part has a variety of maps and graphics, and it ends with small sections on "how to pretend you're from. . . " that expand on a specific city or region. The visual guide is also colorful and eye catching.

    Overall, I find the book to be interesting and entertaining. Fans of trivia, Americana, language, and geography will find it of interest. This is a good selection for public libraries, and I'd say some academic libraries may consider getting it. In the end, it is one I really liked.

    4 out of 5 stars.

    This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:


    Friday, July 07, 2017

    Reading about the reading life: July 7, 2017 edition

     Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason).




    This week, in addition to things about reading, I have a couple of items dealing with trivia that I felt were interesting enough to share as well. It's Friday, so let's have a look.

    • The Daily Beast recently had a profile of Michael Thevis. You may not know the name off the top of your head, but in the 1970s, he made a fortune in the world of pornography way back in the good old days  before the Internet. And then all was lost in corruption, greed, and even murder. 
    • Via Telesur, a report on a big find in Argentina. They found a big cache of Nazi artifacts, likely brought over by Nazi fugitives after World War II. They plan on donating the items to a museum. Part of the idea of making a donation is to  prevent resale of the items. 
    • Someone observed that in bookstores diet books get primacy over books about eating disorders. Take it for what it's worth. Story via Refinery 29
    • In Houston, they recently had a drag queen story hour. This story did make the rounds of librarian online forums for a while. Story via Houstonia Magazine
    • A bookstore is opening up in the location that used to house a brothel, and they even have a coffee shop. Story via The Chronicle (Lewis County, WA). 
    • Both as reader and librarian (and as a guy who enjoys porn now and then), I find porn statistics and trivia interesting. Porn Hub, it turns out, puts out a lot of information on their stats and analytics. This time around, it seems there is a disconnect between what gay porn studios make and what their customers actually want to watch. Story via VICE
    • Speaking of research  and statistics, it seems Millennials are more likely to use public libraries. I could take this as another sign the economy is bad since that generation tends to be broke, so hey, public services including entertainment and education would be good. But I will take the good news about people using the library wherever I can get them. Another bit of trivia? Women are still ahead of men in terms of library usage. Story via Signature.
    • Learn about "The Ghost Club" where famous figures including writers like Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle tackled a big issue of the 1800s: ghost and spirits. Story via Open Culture
    • And finally for this week, John Hubbard offers a compilation of Top 20 Recent Library Scandals. Yes, libraries can be quite lurid places. Story via Medium.



    Signs the economy is bad: July 7, 2017 edition

    Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.




    We have made it to another Friday, and my four readers know it is time to check on the bad economy. So let's get on with it.

    •  The United States has a serious problem with plastic forks. This may be a time to consider bringing your own silverware to those fast food places where you may need silverware. Story via Grist
    • In New Mexico, farmers are worried the price of pecans may get too high. Why is that a problem? Pecans are used for a lot of things, besides just eating them and making pecan pie. It turns out pecans can be ground up and used in a lot of other products, and if the price gets too high, companies who use pecans may switch to a cheaper nut. Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader.
    • As some of you may have heard, Puerto Rico is having a massive economic crisis. It is so bad that  Puerto Ricans are migrating to mainland US in droves. These days they favor Florida as a destination given the warmer climate. However, turns out many of them struggle when they get there to get a job. Reasons include language barriers, lack of academic preparation, or if they have academic preparation and/or credentials, the expense of getting a license, say if you are nurse, to get licensed in Florida. One of the interesting results, well to me, is a cottage industrry rising of consultants, trainers, so on to help those Puerto Ricans navigate the Florida job markets. Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader
      • In fact, things are so bad in Puerto Rico, even the kidneys are leaving. It turns out that the agency that runs transplant lists and gives priority to who gets  an organ changed rules so certain ratings that used to be regional are now nationwide. The result is that they are taking a very large amount of kidneys from Puerto Rico that could be going to Puerto Ricans on  the waiting list. Because the colonials may not be good enough to be full Americans, but their kidneys are certainly good enough for some bigot in Louisiana or wherever. Just a bit more colonial fuckery. Story is in Spanish language, via Primera Hora
    • If you need more reason to hate Amazon, turns out they have cost brick and mortar stores at least 295,000 jobs. Find that piece of trivia and more at Yes! Magazine.
    •  Even rich people are having it tough. Getting a private jet can get expensive. Well, one company is taking that problem head on, and they are building a little jet that "comes in with a $2 million pricetag that is billed as substantially less than that of its closest jet- powered competitor, though it's still more expensive than most piston planes." Story via USA Today.
    • QVC is buying Home Shopping Network (HSN). Why? They are hoping that with consolidation they can stand up to Amazon. Personally, I do not shop via television channels, but once in awhile I do find it entertaining to watch some of their sales segments. At times, it amazes me some of the things they sell that people are willing to buy. Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader.
    • The Washington Post asks why churches value cash so much when it comes to donations. There are some reasons given in the article, which is also looking at the anniversary of the ATM machine. However, I have a more basic and straight theory. It's so it is easier to skim the top without anyone being the wiser, kind of like a casino (YouTube link). When you think about it, both businesses, and yes, churches are businesses, are not that much different in separating money from suckers. 
    • Meanwhile things have gotten so bad for the 1% that in some affluent town in Massachusetts the high school students want to drop their school's mascot. What is that  horrible mascot? The Millionaire. Kiddos, just because  you drop the mascot, your parents and you will still remain 1% assholes in all likelihood. Story via The Washington Post.
    • For the remaining 99% in the US, things have gotten so bad that car buying has slowed down. Now, in a nation that loves its cars and the mark of independence they give, slow car buying is definitely a sign of the bad economy. Story via The Week
    • Some of you may recall that the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City went bankrupt. Well, Hard Rock Cafe recently acquired the building, but before they can convert it to one of their properties, they need to clean it out. They are holding a massive auction. Here is your big chance to get a gaudy lamp or  some other souvenir. Story via VICE
    • And finally for this week, if you want to be hip about your chocolate addition, you can now snort it thanks to new chocolate snuff. Story via Boing Boing.

    Booknote: Yankee Magazine's Living Well on a Shoestring

    The Editors of Yankee Magazine, Yankee Magazine's Living Well on Shoestring: 1,501 tried-and-true hints, tips, and secrets to help you reduce your spending and live well every day. Dublin, NH: Yankee Books, 2000.  ISBN: 978-0-965-18894-4.

    Genre: nonfiction
    Subgenre: home economics, frugality, finance, tips and advice, self-help, Americana
    Format: trade paperback
    Source: Better Half bought it at Half Price Books on clearance


    The Better Half enjoys reading self-help books, and she bought this one cheap. She kept it in the bathroom, so it became bathroom reading for me too. On a side note, I am seriously considering starting a book review feature for old and "vintage" type books, books that may be forgotten, or that "may be a bit past the expiration date." Stay tuned for deity of choice knows I come across plenty of those.

    The book is organized  into 30 chapters. It provides tips and advice for frugal folks on topics from budgeting to decorating the house to vacations. If there is a penny to be pinched and saved, the book editors probably found it. The book does deserve credit for being, or attempting to be, very comprehensive. It does include advice and tips even for things you might not think of right away like dealing with some larger expenses and dealing with financial emergencies; it even provides some suggestions on how to hire a lawyer should you need one. There are many things here that no one teaches in home economics (or whatever they call it these days), or just plain do not teach at all. So in that regard, it is a useful book.

    A disadvantage of the book is that it is falling out of date at a pretty quick pace on many topics. It was published in 2000, and it shows. For example, there are mentions of the Internet as if it is this new thing; we are way past that stage by now. So if you read this book, do keep an attentive eye. Some tips are still applicable and relevant today. Others, as I said, are out of date. Pick and choose wisely. In addition, some of the tips and ideas they suggest are not always as realistic as they make them sound. They often assume you already have certain supplies in your home, which to be honest is not as likely as they would like to think.

    The book overall has its pluses and minuses. It does have a certain folksy charm to it that makes it easy to read. In addition to the tips and strategies, they include some short personal stories from Yankee Magazine readers, some of which are amusing. I liked the book; I think people can still get a some things out of it, but it could use a serious update. These days read it more for the "folksy charm" than for its practicality.

    3 out of 5 stars.


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    Additional reading notes:

    Just some things that caught my eye enough to want to share: 

    The wonders of a cordless phone (and by the way, slightly sexist since this seems to be geared a bit more to women. Overall, a lot of the book seems more for housewives. As if men do not cook). So, buy a cordless phone so you can cook hands-free in the kitchen. And you even,

    ". . .can take the same phone with you while you wash windows, ride your exercise bike, or wind yarn" (163).

    Or you can take your cellphone with you to go walking or jogging and leave the house once in a while.

    A nice piece of advice, which is making a  comeback, is their suggestion for family game nights. Bring out your board games, some simple snacks, and have a nice time.


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    This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:


    Friday, June 30, 2017

    Booknote: Friends of the Family

    Tommy Dades and Mike Vecchione, with David Fisher, Friends of the Family: the Inside Story of the Mafia Cops Case. New York: Harper, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-06-087427-8.

    Genre: nonfiction
    Subgenre: true crime, police corruption, Mafia, the mob, New York City
    Format: paperback
    Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library


    After reading Casino and The Way of the Wiseguy (links go to my reviews of those), I wanted to try out the true crime genre a bit more. I saw Friends of the Family at the library. It seemed interesting, so I picked it up. It is the kind of story  that might make a decent made-for-television movie but not so much a Hollywood film.

    This is the story of two cops, Louie Eppolito and Steve Caracappa, who went on to be highly ranked and decorated NYPD detectives. They also became paid hit men for the mob and moles for the mob inside the police. At the time, this was the biggest scandal and betrayal of the badge the NYPD had ever seen. They almost got away with it. They were not caught at the time, and they happily retired to Las Vegas, Nevada in the 1990s. They were living the good life. A decade later, another NYPD police detective, Tommy Dades, who is close to retirement, takes a long look at the case, and working with Brooklyn ADA Mike Vecchione, brings the case back to life, turning it into a historic case.

    The book has drama, and suspense, and characters you can root for. It also has a lot of procedural details. If you like reading about the work investigators do behind the scenes and about legal wranglings, this book is for you. Those are the not so glamorous parts that don't make it into legal dramas but make the bread and butter of police work. So you may find it interesting or a bit slow reading at times. Then you get to a real infuriating part, the legal maneuvering for fame and glory. Brooklyn started building a case the feds all but forgot. The moment the feds sniffed a chance at press and glory, they did every cheat, lie, and trick to steal the case from the city, even reneging on deals they made with  the city for collaboration, so on. That part I found particularly disgusting because the feds showed that justice did not matter as much as getting headlines even if it meant taking credit for work they did not do. Despite that, the cops were eventually taken to trial, but getting them there took a lot of drama.

    The book's pacing varies. It has parts where the narratives moves fast and draws you in. Then it has other parts where it slows down, and at times it may get bogged down in minutiae. So in terms of reading experience, it can be a little inconsistent. Yet overall it is a dark tale of corruption and justice served. Overall, I liked it. It's a book to read once and enjoy; certainly a book to borrow.

    3 out of 5 stars.

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    Additional Reading Notes:

    So, how bad were these cops? Well, at the time, nothing like this had happened. The closest thing was a 1914 case of an NYPD lieutenant who was associated with street gangs. The two cops' damage was so bad we may never know all of it:

    "The extent of the damage that Eppolito and Caracappa did to the department may never be completely totaled. They gave up informants to the mob, who murdered them. They informed the mob about wiretaps and investigations, they warned men who were about to go on the lam, they forced innocent people to confess to crimes they hadn't committed by threatening to kill their families, they provided whatever  information the mob needed, they kidnapped people and turned them over to wiseguys to be tortured and killed, and finally they put on their badges, pulled their guns, and murdered at point-blank range. There's no possible way of figuring out how many investigations they destroyed, how many people died because of them" (7). 

    Turns out that, as if all else was not bad enough, the two cops even had instances of passing on the wrong information:

    "Casso found out they'd wacked the wrong Nicky Guido from the newspapers. According to the story in the papers, this Nicky Guido was an installer for the telephone company. The murder of Nicky Guido had been a simple mistake. The two cops had provided the wrong address. No one knew what the intended victim looked like, so they had killed an innocent person" (87). 

    One way investigators fill in information gaps:

    "There are information gaps in every investigation. Usually, they can be filled in by putting together causes and events, what had to happen to enable the next action to take place. It's a leap of information, sort of the way a nerve impulse will leap across a synapse from one neuron to another" (146). 


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    This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges: