Friday, August 31, 2018

Booknote: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: Incredible Cross-Sections

Curtis Saxton, et.al., Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: Incredible Cross-Sections. New York: DK Publishing, 2002.  ISBN: 0-7894-8574-5.

Genre: picture books, art, diagrams
Subgenre: science fiction, Star Wars
Format: oversized hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is certainly the kind of neat oversized picture book kids who like knowing how things are made would love. If you are a fan of the movies, even if you did not like the prequels as much, you may still like this book. It is a good book for fans of the vehicles in the movies.

This oversized volume contains 13 large and very detailed illustrations including one that has pull out pages. Each illustration includes some text and additional trivia. Illustrations are in full color, and the artists clearly paid a lot of attention to detail. You get pretty much every possible detail you can get.

Though it is a book for young readers, I think readers of all ages will enjoy it. This is definitely a good series for public libraries, though keep in mind they can wear and tear with ease. The public library copy I borrowed is pretty beat up in parts.

Overall, I really liked it.

4 out of 5 stars.

Signs the economy is bad: August 31, 2018 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.





Another week, and another set of signs the economy is bad. Just when I think I can take a  week off, more stories appear, and here we go again.

So, what's going on with the government?

In corporate fuckery and the bad economy:

  • Flying United Airlines and you are running a bit late? Well, fuck you, they are not holding the plane for you. Well, they are not unless you are important somehow. Also, did  you pay  for a  good seat? Well fuck you too, if some big honcho, like a federal legislator needs  it, you are getting bumped. Story via Inc.
  • Meanwhile, Southwest is raising the price on their Early Bird Check-In fuckery. Story via Inc.
  • It is commonly known that women pay more for basics like their feminine hygiene products, which are essential, as well as other things like razor blades. That is often called a "pink tax." Well, seems women cannot catch a break, and companies, banks, so on also tack on a "pink tax" on other products and services like mortgages, cars, and other goods. Story via TruthDig.
  • Pork producers do more than make bacon and pork products. Their big farms often mess up their local communities with pollution, flies, stench, and more. Naturally, pork producers are mobilizing their lobbyists and lawyers so they can prevent people from suing them so they can keep effing up the environment and their neighbors' property. Story via Truthout.
  • A new report finds that guns are a significant factor in rural suicides. Story via The Rural Blog. However, the gun industry is more concerned that the Pendejo In Chief is bad for business. Story via The Week. Did the Pendejo In Chief suddenly declare he is confiscating guns or such? Did he say something stupid to scare people off buying guns? Nope. On the contrary, he loves guns and is happy supporting gun owners, gun rights, etc. And that is an actual problem; there is no boogeyman like Obama to scare gun fetishists into buying more guns.They are just not stockpiling AR-15s and other guns as before. From the article, "As a Maine gun manufacturer put it, there's just no 'fear-based market' pushing gun lovers to stock up anymore." 
  • This is more like corporate soap opera. A former CEO of Barnes and Noble has sued the company, and all sorts of sordid revelations are coming out as a result. Story via The New Republic.
In education news:

  • Turns out that no matter if you do everything right, you WILL STILL get fucked when it comes to student loans. Story via Mother Jones. The best advice I can give you is to not take out any student loans matter what. Those loan forgiveness programs  you may have heard? Mostly illusion or just not worth the effort or time to try to use it. 
  • And if things were not bad enough, it turns out the problem with student loan defaults is bigger than previously thought. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
  • Usually I have sympathy when some small college has to cut back and lay off faculty. However, this particular "university" I am more than happy they have to lay off people. Heck, if they go broke and close down, I would not shed a tear. Where is this place? It's Bob Jones University, and they are laying people off to close a budget gap. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
In some odd, curious, and miscellaneous items:

  • Funding conservation efforts is not easy. How do you find money to help save species and preserve the environment? Well, in the U.S.,  one way is allowing people to kill animals. The problem is people are just not hunting as much as they used to. Story via Truthout.
  • The whole probiotic movement is a cash cow if you play it right. People will pretty much swallow anything (literally or otherwise) if you toss in some goobledygook and make it sound all scientific. So, stay tuned as baby poop pills could become the next big thing. Story via Big Think. As often attributed to P.T. Barnum, "there is a sucker born every minute."
  • Via Marketplace, learn how exactly casinos decide where and when to put in slot machines as well as when to retire and replace them. It has to do with the urinals theory. 
  • And when LGBT are kept out of a place, they make their own space and excel. Via VICE, learn about the world of same sex ballroom dancing. This is just a cool story (gotta have one of those once in a while). 
And finally, for this week, let's see how the uber rich are doing:

  • Well, if you are rich and retired, odds are good you are living it large, like these folks in fancy retirement homes in Florida.We are talking about "residents who are willing to shell out $13,000 a month to live in a $100,000,000 palace with a pool, a theater, and 'yappy hour' for dogs." 2Chainz explains for VICE.




Friday, August 24, 2018

Signs the economy is bad: August 24, 2018 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.

 


Another week, and a lot of stuff has been going on. Let's see how many bad signs are out there.

In news of the Pendejo In Chief and the Party of Stupid:
  • A new estimate for the Pendejo In Chief's toy soldier parade is at $92 million dollars. However, things are not looking good, so for now the parade is off and the powers that be are postponing it until 2019. So is the cost too high? Kind of depends on who you ask. Stories via the Los Angeles Times and NPR.
    • And speaking of the armed forces, things may be getting expensive, especially for the U.S. Army due to them getting less selective about who they let in. The article's subtitle puts it well: "Recruits who are fat, stupid and have criminal records is no way to run the military." Plus consider the implications when said fat, stupid, and criminal record recruits get out of the army and back into civilian society. Story via Salon.
  • Meanwhile, Pendejo In Chief fans, miffed that his Hollywood Walk of Fame star keeps getting vandalized (hey, not all heroes wear capes) are going about the Walk of Fame pasting fake fame stars with his name on it. Why is this part of the bad economy? Well, whoever is selling them those stickers is probably making bank. Story via VICE.
In the world of corporate fuckery:

  •  Payday loans are a pox and curse, especially for poor people. So basically what companies what Walmart and others are doing is sort of  modified pay day loan anyhow with what appears to be a less onerous system. That remains to be seen. Basically the problem in the end is people in the Bad Economy living paycheck to paycheck mainly because they are not paid enough by said big corporations who are fine paying slave peon wages (we should note slaves do not get paid). Story via NPR.
  • In Texas, where they are not always exactly friendly to employees, turns out the employers doing recovery work after Hurricane Harvey were basically stealing wages left and right from their workers. Because what better way to show gratitude to the people helping you rebuild than stiffing them on pay they earned working for you? Story via TruthDig.
  • In the fast food world, a bunch of companies agreed to stop their "anti-poaching" behavior, i.e. preventing workers from leaving one job in one fast food place for a higher wage at another, basically sort of blackballing them in an area. This was not out of the goodness of their hearts. It was because the lawsuits were out in force, and they figured it was that or getting sued into oblivion and bad publicity. Story via NPR.
  • Medical insurance companies like Anthem are running a sweet scam making patients pay outrageous co-pays on medicines that would be seriously cheap if paid in cash, if only the patient knew about it by the way. Why does the patient not know? Well, for one, asshole companies like Anthem have lobbied to put laws in place to keep pharmacists from telling patients of such cheaper options. For example, read about the Anthem patient stuck paying $285 as copay on a $40 medicine. Now THAT's corporate fuckery. Story via Boing Boing.
  • Google will track you, whether you allow it or not. They are probably tracking you right this moment, even if you turn off location tracking options. At least one lawsuit has been filed. Read the story with updates over at Infodocket.
  • Meanwhile the Twitter overlord Dorsey says his company is "experimenting with 'features that would promote alternative viewpoints in Twitter’s timeline to address misinformation. . . '".  Story via Nieman Lab. Let me put it clear to you and the others. I do not need nor desire  your help to get "alternative viewpoints." I am already well versed in information literacy, my Google-Fu is strong, and I can certainly detect bullshit when I see it. I also have my feeds on social media finely tuned to avoid the "alternative viewpoints" bullshit you tend to tolerate (yea, I heard you put Alex Jones in time out, but that was more because you got bad publicity not because it was the right thing to do). So fuck off. I am doing just fine online, and I always have the option to just delete Twitter and go elsewhere. 
  • I knew that news sources, especially local news, are getting lazier and lazier, putting in less effort. Some of it is economics, but also just the laziness of going to the Internet, finding some crappy YouTube video or such and linking to it, passing it as news. Don't believe me? According to a new study highlighted by Nieman Lab, an analysis of 16,000 stories across 100 U.S. communities found very little actual local news, if any at all. The findings are not encouraging. For example, "Only about 17 percent of the news stories provided to a community are truly local — that is actually about or having taken place within — the municipality." And it can get worse, for a part of the sample, "There’s a lot of reporting on Jay-Z’s latest tweet, for example. One thing we found was that even at the local media outlet level, Twitter and YouTube are fairly easy go-to sources of news." Now that is seriously depressing. 
The Bad Economy in Education:

  •  So how are school teachers doing? Well, teachers continue to be underpaid, and naturally parents and community members whine and balk about properly funding schools because heaven forbid they pay taxes to sustain a common good and get a well educated citizenry. Then they think that, if they can afford it, they can send their kids to private school failing to see privatization is not a solution but rather a racket that often seeks to get the public to pay for something private with public money because otherwise they are not sustainable. But I digress. Let's have a look.
    • Overall, public schools are severely underfunded. According to this story out of Pacific Standard, 12 states cut general funding for education by 7% at least. 
    • They are turning more to free supply shops, basically like food pantries except for school supplies, to get the supplies they need. Story via NPR.
    • To make ends meet, teachers are also flocking the sharing economy, doing things like opening their homes to AirBnB. AirBnB surveyed its hosts and found "the results of a volunteer survey this week containing the striking statistic that nearly one in 10 of its hosts in the United States is an educator." In some areas of the U.S. that number of educators is higher. Story via The Atlantic.
    • And as if things were not bad enough with underfunded public schools, you have to also worry that the kid you send to school may get shot in school. However, not to worry. Maria Bartiromo of Fox News has you covered as she praises the latest fashion trend for school kids: bulletproof backpacks. Found the story via The Week, which includes link to the Faux News segment.
    • And while students carry bulletproof backpacks, teachers may be packing guns. Because there is no money, according to the powers that be, to fund classrooms and teachers properly with materials, books, supplies, etc, but dang nab it, money can be found for guns as Betsy DeVoid pushes to allow schools to use federal funding to buy guns to arm teachers. Story via AlterNet. Because, priorities man. 
  • And higher education, things are not much better. 
    •  A report shows that enrollment for students in teacher education is dropping. Story via Inside Higher Ed. Gee, I wonder if being underpaid, underfunded, and possibly sent to some crumbling school has anything to do with that, not to mention the common disrespect teachers get from society and people with no clue and who would never dare step into a classroom.
    • Meanwhile, colleges are cutting back on programs, especially in the liberal arts. For example, University of Akron is cutting 80 degree tracks, and Goucher College is gutting liberal arts. Stories via Inside Higher Ed
    • At Purdue, they admitted too many students, so many that they had to make temporary dorms. Needless to say, students who are forking thousands of dollars for tuition and housing are not pleased, and have taken to social media to express their displeasure. Story via COED
 So how are the uber rich doing?

  •  It's payback time for Party of Stupid millionaires as they reward the party for all the bounty the Party of Stupid gave them in tax breaks, so on. Story via VICE.
  • However, for some Party of Stupid politicians, getting juicy tax breaks is not enough. They are greedy bastards who want it all, and when they say want it all, they literally want it all, even things meant for those in need. Like this Alaskan politician mofo busted for welfare fraud. Yes, she was cheating to get money she was not entitled to. According to the story, she stole "more than $10,000 in food stamps that they shouldn’t have qualified for." Story via The Midnight Sun. A hat tip to Juanita Jean's.
  • Meanwhile, in the world of wine, when it comes to rosé, there are all sorts of sordid things going in with bribery, pay to play, and outright bad wine displacing the good in the fancy restaurants. The result is "an outbreak of shitty rosé on wine lists everywhere." Story via Bon Appetit. Here is yet another reason why I prefer to buy my own wine and spirits and drink peacefully at home with close folks.
  • Meanwhile, those rich people may suffer more as more fancy hotels add more fees for things like using the spa. The horror. Story via The Los Angeles Times. I have no idea what that pain of spa and salon fees is like since my hotel budget is pretty much El Cheapo Motel. As long as it is clean and has a bed in it, I am good. 
  • And finally, if you got some money to burn, maybe you want to indulge in the most expensive ice cream sundae. For the measly amount of $60,000 you too can take a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro "where Three Twins Ice Cream's founder will hand-churn a batch of ice cream with glacial ice from the mountain's summit." I guess for some people Dairy Queen just does not cut it. 

Now let's see how people are Hustling in the Bad Economy:

  • A liquor store figures they need to do more than just sell liquor. So, they opened their own private gun range and club inside the liquor store. Story via KING 5.
  • What does Waffle House do to increase their business and get hustling? They get their own food truck to cater events. Story via USA Today.
  • Are you a farmer needing to make a few extra bucks? You got a spare barn you are not using in good condition? Well, turn that barn into a wedding venue for hipster and bougie couples who want "like every wedding you see on Pinterest with the burlap and the lace and the baby breath and Mason jars." Story via the Journal Sentinel.
  • Bigger organizations also have to hustle to find those extra bucks, even college football. So if you are one of those bowls they have every year post season, one way to rake in more money is with naming rights. For instance, the Cactus Bowl just became the Cheez-It Bowl. Story via USA Today. Hey, for the right amount, college bowls will pretty much slap your name on their bowl event. So for the right price, we could get the Kotex Bowl or the Massengill Bowl. Imagine how much money your bowl could bring in when big tough macho guys show up to cheer their teams at the Kotex Bowl. Imagine your college or university having the glorious distinction of having beat their rival at the Massengill Bowl. 
  • Dr. P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula suggests he could supplement his income as a professor by peddling his own vitamin supplement. You may laugh, but he tells the tale of a guy who has made a fortune doing just that. 
  • Meanwhile, a teacher, who again, probably needs a few extra bucks, gets arrested for hosting an adult website with her husband after hours. Story via Click On Detroit. Mind you that doing so is not illegal, and she is doing it outside of school hours. What you need to ask is who was the busybody moralist who was trolling for porn, found her site, and then decided to rat her out (probably after jerking off to a video or two from the site)? Way I see what consenting adults do to earn a buck or two is their business. It's not like teachers are highly paid or anything. 
  • Now some may say some women have it easy to hustle in the Bad Economy. Just sell some sex online, and perverts customers will pay you. If possible, try to do the least amount of work as possible and still get paid (let's be honest, fucking on camera can be work, even if it is with your hubby). So, maybe you figure you can sell your dirty panties. Yes, there are freaks fetishists out there who do enjoy gathering and collecting women's soiled unmentionables. So hey, wear a few panties, don't wash them, put them in a plastic bag, and sell online. Voila, right? Watch the money roll in. Well, according to this article in VICE, turns out selling dirty panties online is harder than it looks. A lot of it has to do with how certain sites have monetized the process, and it is not in favor of the panty sellers.

And finally for this week, in "Great Debates of Our Time"




Today's great question: are 90 minutes enough time to eat a full meal at a fancy restaurant and still relax? According to this restaurant critic, he whines it is not enough time to relax. Feel free to chime in. Story via The Guardian. I would not know. Places I eat usually serve me food relatively quick.








Booknote: Big Nate: What's a Little Noogie Between Friends

Lincoln Peirce, Big Nate: What's a Little Noogie Between Friends? Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-4494-6229-1.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: humor, children and young adult
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch  of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is another collection of the comic strip series, and it is still an entertaining read. In this volume, his soccer team manages to lose to a school with a 60-games losing streak, and a classmate Nate has a crush on is moving away. So, what's our hero to do? He keeps his chin up, and he does have his friends to cheer him up. Overall, a nice and amusing book with humor for all ages.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Booknote: Ghosts: a Natural History

Roger Clarke, Ghosts: a Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-250-05357-2.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: ghosts, paranormal, history
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library

This book just did not keep my attention. I barely got through it. After reading Ghostland (link to my review), this book seemed like a good choice. The book promises a natural history of ghosts, but to be honest, it was more a collection of ghost and haunting stories than an actual history per se. The book contains 18 chapters plus a chronology and a list for further reading. It also includes some illustrations.

According to the author, this is what the book is about. Too bad it did not deliver:

"Discussion has drifted away-- thank goodness-- from efforts to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. That idea belongs to 1880s London. In a basic sense, ghosts exist because people constantly report that they see them. This is not a book about whether ghosts exists or not. This is a book about what we see when we see a ghost, and the stories that we tell each other about them" (17).

The author opens the book by telling  of his own experiences as a child with  ghosts and the paranormal. He was the youngest person to join the Society for Psychical Research (Wikipedia link; official website link) in 1980. So he sounds just like the right person to write this book, except he is not. He takes a most interesting topic and presents it in the most boring and soporific way possible. Ghost stories often keep you up at night. This book is an excellent cure for insomnia. The stories overall are not that interesting, and some of them just get bogged down in excessive and  mundane minutiae. In the end, the book had potential, but it is just not a good read at all. This is one I say you should skip.

1 out of 5 stars.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Signs the Economy Is Bad: August 10, 2018 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.



A lot has been happening since the previous post in this series, so let's get on with it.

  • The Bad Economy in the big national news, including dispatches from the "War of Tariffs": 
    • Apparently the United States has been at war in Afghanistan for about 17 years or so now. Anyhow, read more about the real cost of that mostly taken for granted conflict. Story via Big Think
    • That big 12 billion bailout aid package the Pendejo In Chief is setting up for those suckers poor farmers that will suffer in the War of Tariffs (I covered that last week)? Well, turns out it might not be as helpful after all, and in fact, it could very well make some things worse. Story via The Rural Blog
    • A lot of pundits are saying the economy is fine, however, the consumer prices have been  inching up at "a rate of inflation that suggests Americans are earning less than a year ago. . . ". Story via Lexington Herald Leader
    • Here is a look at slaughterhouse employment across the U.S. It is hard work often for low pay in seriously bad working conditions. Also an industry that often loves to hire immigrant workers, including undocumented ones. Story via The Daily Yonder.
    • Bankruptcies are rising among senior citizens. I do find it hard to be sympathetic given that generation pretty much has done so much to fuck up the nation and the generations that came after them. The new study "places blame squarely at the feet of a hollowed-out safety net and policy changes that have left people without adequate retirement savings, paying huge out-of-pocket medical expenses, and seeing their funds dwindle due to the student loan crisis that many people mistakenly believe affects only younger generations." Story via TruthDig. This is pretty much another one of those time bombs that is about to explode. Again, who hollowed out the safety nets and changed policies? Pretty much them and the politicians they put in place. Basically a case of the past coming to haunt them. 
    • Tariffs on newsprint are hurting newspapers across the nation. Story via The Rural Blog. This I can attest to as the local news rag we receive at home (mainly because The Better Half insists on reading print) decided to reduce the size of the newspaper from three sections to two during most days of the week as well as the number of pages. However, they are still charging the same rate for less content. 
  • In health and the Bad Economy: 
    • Why are Americans in general so fat? Well, according to these 7 charts, it is very easy to see why. One reason? “In America, the unhealthiest foods are the tastiest foods, the cheapest foods, the largest-portion foods.” Story via Vox.
    • I am sure you have heard of or seen advertising for a variety of coupons and "savings programs" for prescriptions. On the surface, they sound great. In reality, they may not be as helpful, especially since the insurance companies are finding ways to basically counter them and stick it to you anyhow. Story via UPI.
    • Meanwhile, abroad, the U.S. is making a nice racket to profit from TB (tuberculosis) epidemics in poor countries. And if you think this is just a Party of Stupid thing, think again. A former Obama administration official is teaming up with the current administration to make it happen. There is a reason Democrats are pretty much Republican-Lite. Story via Boing Boing.
  • Education and the Bad Economy: 
    •  In a bit of news of the obvious, a writer at The Guardian opines that a PhD should be about improving the world, not chasing academic kudos. I laughed because yes, it should be, but that idea is like unilateral disarmament. No one is going to be first to say there will be less emphasis on things like chasing citations, impact factors, and publishing obscure articles no one outside their niche field gives a shit about in "prestigious" journals.
  • The Bad Economy  hitting rural areas: 
    •  In Appalachia, natural gas is basically decimating coal. The "War on Coal" that McConnell keeps whining about (and the local yokels keep believing in) is not so much that the coal industry is strangled by environmental rules or other boogeymen; a large part of the reason the industry is declining is other sources of energy are cheaper. There's the capitalism right there that the Party of Stupid loves to cite. Story via The Rural Blog.
    • A new report reveals that rural customers pay more for crappy Internet. In many areas, the only thing you can get is shitty DSL, if at all. I am "fortunate" I can get cable Internet, but it is still pretty crappy. Story via The Rural Blog.
    • Rural manufacturers are desperate to find workers. Among the results is towns are giving tax incentives to said manufacturers. However, keep in mind manufacturers are only as loyal as the next tax incentive, which means as soon as they get a break someplace else they will happily leave and decimate local economies, a lesson I wish more rural towns would freaking learn so they'd work on other ways to diversify and develop local economies instead of waiting for some factory to just save the town. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • The Bad Economy in some states: 
    • In Kentucky, where they are big fans of the Pendejo In Chief, employers are opposed to his tariffs. Despite that, the Pendejo In Chief remains seriously popular in the state. Again, I quote an old Puerto Rican saying, "sarna con gusto no pica" ("mange that you delight in does not itch."). In other words, this is what Kentuckians willingly, proudly, and gladly voted for. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader.
    • Also in Kentucky, that religious boondoggle known as the Ark Encounter is facing decreasing ticket sales. This is actually a piece of good news. Story via Fortune. Hat tip to Pharyngula.
    • In California, they are exploiting prison labor to fight the wildfires. Why pay professionals, or heck, even minimum wage when you can get prison labor to do it. Story via Vox
    • In Arkansas, they are basically running a good old fashioned debtors' prison. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader.
    • In Texas, rural libraries are important community centers, yet they struggle to stay open. Story via KERA. Hat tip to InfoDocket.
  • Meanwhile, back in the U.S. colony: 
    •  Puerto Rico tried to quietly raise the official death number due to Hurricane Maria from 64 to 1,427. Story via The Guardian. The whole thing with  the number has been one big combination of incompetence, corruption, and lawsuits as reporters and others sued to get accurate numbers and the local government did its best to keep the numbers low so as not to look bad. That FEMA and other federal agencies have botched so much did not help either.
    • And the island's government announced they are making the GWU report finally available to the public. Story via Latino Rebels
    • And as if things were not bad enough, the government is also gutting the safety net in order to appease the colonial overlords. Medicaid is getting cuts. Story via Salon.

How are the Uber Rich Doing?
  • Well, for the most part, the rich are the ones who use services like Uber  and Lyft. Not only that but they are also the assholes who prevent cities and localities from developing public transportation. Story via Grist.
  • If you are rich and have some money and time to burn, you can take a high end butchering class so you can learn how to "process" your hunting kills. They even teach you how to cook it. But as I said. this is not for just any Joe Six Pack. Story via Salon
  • According to the BBC, apparently rich people doing tourism are the only ones able to save the planet. So I guess I can say fuck it to the recycling. 
  • However, there may be some bad news for the uber rich as climate change is targeting things they care about. The latest victim? Champagne. The horror. Story via Grist.
This week we are opening up a new feature here in Signs the Economy is Bad:







Hustling Every Day

In this feature we will look at unique, inventive, original, or somewhat out of the way things people do in the Bad Economy to earn a buck or two. These can be full time jobs or gigs or side hustles. Things are bad out there, so you have to hustle every day to get a buck or two:


  • You try to sell some of your junk online with an app or two to make some extra money. Here are some hints that may or not be helpful via Wallet Hacks
  • Teachers, given how shitty they get paid and treated in the U.S., definitely need a few side hustles: 
    • Wallet Hack suggests 12 "perfect" hustles for teachers. I would question the definition of "perfect" in this list, but hey, desperate times and all that. 
    • Many teachers are turning to crowdfunding to get money to pay for school supplies for their classrooms, since as we all know, society chooses to not pay teachers decent salaries let alone fund schools properly. Hey, with enough funds, a teacher could even pay to give his or her students a field trip. Story via Vox
  • You could always get a job as a foreclosure boat tour operator. I had no idea this was a thing: taking potential buyers of distressed properties on boat tours to see said properties. The job does also include doing some evictions. Story via Daily Intelligencer
  • In Michigan, a man is offering an "Amish Uber." Basically he gives rides for five bucks or so in his horse and buggy. Story via Boing Boing.
  • You can always do like this man in Japan and rent yourself by the hour (as long as it does not involve physical contact). He can give you advice, be a friendly listening ear, and mentor younger people. Story vi CNN. On a side note, I am about that guy's age. I am wondering if I could do a similar side hustle here. 
  • If you are a nice, muscular lady, and you need a side hustle, maybe you could consider the wonderful world of Female Muscle Worship. Yes, men (and maybe a woman or two) will pay you to flex your muscles, look fierce, and be dominant. According to the article, this is also becoming an increasing option for bodybuilder women whose days in the competition circuit may be passing. Story via VICE.


Media Notes: Roundup for July 2018


These are the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during July 2018.


Movies and films (links to IMDB.com for basic information unless noted otherwise). Some of these I watched via TubiTv.com or other online source. The DVDs come from the public library (unless noted otherwise):

  • John Wick (2014. Action. Thriller. Crime and mob). An entry in the genre of "fucking with the wrong guy who was just minding his business." A bunch of punks decide to steal John Wick's very nice muscle car. They also beat him up, and they kill his new puppy dog. Did we mention Wick is also recently widowed, and the dog was the last gift from her to him? Well, soon, the lead punk, son of a Russian mafioso who knows Wick very well, finds out who Wick really is, and the hell on earth that is now coming because Wick, an extremely skilled hitman, is coming for them all for killing his dog. Great action film. Very well done. Keanu Reeves performed a great character, and the cast is memorable too including appearances by Willem Dafoe and John Leguizamo. Overall, I enjoyed this one. I will be looking for the sequel. DVD borrowed from Madison County (KY) Public Library. 
  • Mr. Holmes (2015. Mystery. Drama). Sherlock Holmes is retired now; he is now 93 years old, and his last case made him decide to retire to the country to do beekeeping and live a quiet life decades ago. Around this time, he takes a trip to Japan seeking a medicinal plant. However, the memory of the case still haunts him, and he gets to work on solving it, remembering it in the right way, and not just as another story Watson wrote.  In this story, the great detective is portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen. The movie is bittersweet, very well made, and it captures the spirit of the great detective well. Overall, a great film. DVD borrowed from the Madison County (KY) Public Library.
  • Curandero (2005. Horror. Mystery. Spanish language film). Based on a script by Robert Rodriguez, the Curandero is the son of a small town healer (curandero) who struggles with accepting his gift and fate after his father passes away. Reluctantly, he gets involved in a case chasing a drug lord who is also a black magic master. The premise sounds pretty good, but it is a fairly slow film at times.  The gore is actually fairly minimal. However, I found the ending to be pretty satisfying. It was OK. Via TubiTv.com.
  • Class of 1999 (1990. Action. Horror. Science Fiction). By 1999, public schools in major cities are controlled by gangs, and some of those cities become free fire zones where not even cops go in. A Department of Educational Defense forms, and they intend to retake the schools with the help of Megatech. They send new teachers to one of the schools, cyborgs, programmed to teach and discipline. And then things get way out of hand as the students need to save themselves. A very 90s kind of film with a silly premise (though maybe not that silly up to a point). The movie had a decent cast including Malcolm McDowell, Stacy Keach, and Pam Grier. It was entertaining enough, especially in the early parts. Via TubiTv.com. 
  • Carnivore (2000. Horror.) This is bad, and I do not mean "so bad it is good" bad. It is just plain bad. Here is the IMDB description: "A government experiment goes totally wrong as a creature confined in a hidden lab inside and abandoned house escapes. Afterwards, some teens show up to have a little fun in the house, not knowing that the beast is loose and watching them." The acting was bad. The plot was total nonsense, and overall the setting was as cheap as you can get. The creature is not particularly impressive neither. The end does leave an opening for a sequel, but it is not one I would look forward to. This is one to skip; whoever ordered this for the library should be shamed. By the way, the sound quality on the DVD leaves a lot to be desired too. Via DVD from Berea branch of Madison County (KY) Public Library.  
  • 7 Assassins (2013. Action. Adventure). The movie description: "When gold goes missing in ancient China, royal guards entrusted with its recovery realize they are not the only people in pursuit." Plot is a bit more complex. Gold gets stolen by Tie Yun, a rebel leader opposing the Qing dynasty. He gets ambushed by a bandit who may or not be working for the Qing Prince; her loyalties are not totally well placed. Tie Yun manages to escape capture, and with the help of some retired assassins and warriors, goes on the offensive to take down the prince, get back the gold, and rid the land of the prince's corruption. A very nice story, even if some parts take a bit to follow. Good action and martial arts sequences. Solid characters. Note movie is in Chinese, but you can get subtitles in English or Spanish. Overall, I liked this one. Via DVD from the public library. 


Television and other series (basic show information links via Wikipedia unless noted otherwise). Some of these come in DVD from the public library. Others may be via YouTube, which, as noted before, I keep finding all sorts of other old shows in it, often full episodes.

  • Supermarket Sweep (Game show. 1965-2003). I continue watching the 1990s run hosted by David Ruprecht, which ran on Lifetime Channel, on YouTube this month. You can see last month's roundup for my additional comments on this show. An interesting thing of watching this is some of the products and promotions they feature are very 90s kind of things, references some younger folks might miss now. It is still nice easy clean fun to watch. Watched 7 episodes.
  • Iron Chef (Japan). (1993-2001). I keep watching these via YouTube. This month I watched:
    • Tuna Battle 2. Featuring Takashi Mera as challenger, a chef that wields "the longest knife in Japan." 
    • Tomato Battle 2. Franco Canzoniere, a Roman cooking specialist, challenges Iron Chef Italian Kobe.  
    • "The Legend of Michiba." Special episode highlighting the career of Iron Chef Japanese Rokusaburo Michiba. Michiba was the first of three Japanese cooking Iron Chefs the show had. The other two were Nakamura and Morimoto.  
    • "Ayu (Sweetfish) Battle 3." With Michiba out on health leave, Iron Chef French Hiroyuki Sakai cooks against Chef Omino, a young traditional Japanese cooking chef.  
    • "Ayu (Sweetfish) Battle." By now, Iron Chef Michiba as long retired. Iron Chef Japanese Morimoto is settling in, but this is early in his tenure, and he needs to focus more on Japanese elements versus just the neo-Japanese of New York. So to challenge, Michiba sends in his right hand man from his restaurant (who was also his assistant back in the days of Kitchen Stadium) Kenichi Miyanaga.  
    • "Swallow's Nest Battle." Li Jinlun, a Cantonese chef battles Chen Kenichi, the Chinese Iron Chef, whose specialty is Szechuan cooking. 
  • Mobsters (Documentary. true Crime. biography. 2007-2012). I continue watching episodes of this series via YouTube here and there. See the June roundup for previous commentary on the series overall. 
    • "Sam 'Mad Sam' DeStefano" (Season 4, Episode 3, 2012). A ruthless and very violent mobster with the Chicago Outfit. DeStefano was also a mentor to Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the Las Vegas enforcer (portrayed by Joe Pesci in the film Casino). 
    • "Joseph 'Mad Dog' Sullivan" (Season 4, Episode 1, 2012). The Irish hitman who also lived a double life as a man walking the (mostly) straight and narrow with his wife and kids. He was a gun for hire, mainly for the Genovese crime family. Eventually put in prison for life, Sullivan is one of the few mobsters who lived to tell the tale, and he does speak from prison as part of the documentary. He passed away in 2017. 
    • "The Gambinos" (Season 1, Episode 14, 2007). An extra long episode (1 hour and almost 30 minutes) presenting the history of this Mafia family from Carlo Gambino, the man who made the family to Paul Castellano to John Gotti, who eventually brought it down with his attention seeking ways. 
    • "Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano" (Season 1, Episode 4, 2007). Profile of Gravano, who was the Gambino crime family underboss under John Gotti. Gravano went on to become government witness, helping the government to send at least 30 mafiosi to jail including John Gotti. 


Booknote: The Infographic Guide to the Bible: the Old Testament

Hillary Thompson, et.al., The Infographic Guide to the Bible: the Old Testament. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-5072-0487-0.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: religious studies, Bible, reference, infographics
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch  of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

As the title indicates, it is a guide to the Old Testament in infographics. If you find it difficult to get
through some of the slow parts of the Old Testament, or if you need a refresher on the important parts, this can be a good book for  you. It is visually appealing and easy to read.

The book contains 50 infographics covering people, places, events, and other bits of information. A sampling of topics include:

  • Noah's Ark: By the numbers
  • The 7 Sacred Feasts of Israel
  • The 12 Judges of Israel
  • 5 Enigmatic Old Testament Characters
  • 6 Little-Known Women of the Old Testament
As it states in the book's introduction:

"Whether you're looking to supplement your Bible study, find a quick and easy reference for a religious education course, or simply brush up on Old Testament facts, this handy guide covers a broad range of topics in comprehensive yet concise charts, lists, and graphs" (8).

The word "comprehensive" may be a bit generous; this book does not cover every single detail. It does cover major topics, and it covers those pretty well.

This is a good selection for public and academic libraries.Whether you are religious or not, it is a pretty good reference source. I did try to see if there was a volume for the New Testament, but I did not find one. That would be a good idea to publish. Meanwhile, I really liked this one. I have read the Bible cover to cover, though it has been a while. I feel this book gave me a nice basic review for the Old Testament highlights.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Booknote: The Godfather

Mario Puzo, The Godfather. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Corporation, 1986.

Genre: fiction
Subgenre: audiobooks, crime, Mafia, Mob, organized crime
Format: online audio/audio cassette
Source: Found on YouTube randomly (I then tracked down the exact edition).

I recently finished rereading The Godfather. I checked this blog and my journals and realized I had never written a review of the book, so here we go.

This time I found an audio version. The Godfather is a favorite novel of mine, and rereading it reminded me of all the side stories Puzo has in the book. The movie, which I also love, is a great adaptation, but part of the reason the movie is great is that it distilled the essence of the book so well. The movie left a lot out from the book. Having said that, the book is still an entertaining read, and the additional stories add some more detail to the main plot line, some more than others. For instance, Johnny Fontane has a whole side story, and so does Lucy Mancini.

The novel is also very rich in details; Puzo has the ability to immerse the reader in the world of the Corleones. Granted it is very romanticized, but it is an alluring world, at least until you look
underneath the surface. Still it makes for great escapist fiction, which is why I find it comforting and enjoy rereading it every so often.

If all you know of The Godfather is the film, great as the film is, you really should read the book. It really expands and fleshes out the characters and adds richness of detail. On the other hand, if you have read the book but not seen the movie, what are you waiting for? There are reasons why the film is a big part of popular culture. Plus watching the film having read the book will give you a better appreciation of both works and how they tell and weave stories.

As for this audio version, the narrator had a nice, smooth reading voice. The audiobook dramatizes the story, so you get different voices as the characters speak. Overall, it was well done. For me, it was relaxing to have someone read the book for me. Note the edition is unabridged, so you get the full book.

Still, after all this time, 5 out of 5 stars.

P.S. Since I know Millennials and young people today can be impatient, and find something like reading a long book hard, and watching a long old movie is hard too, here is a quick video to help you guys out. I saw this recently, and I found it overall very amusing, even if not perfect: