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
  • 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 
  • 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,, 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.