Friday, December 08, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: December 8, 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.

Unless I find a big influx of stories in the coming two weeks before Christmas, this will likely be the last edition of "Signs the economy is bad" for 2017. Do not worry. I am not expecting 2018 to be any better under the current "Hard Times," so I am sure this series will continue well into 2018. In the meantime, I have come across a few early holiday season stories along with  the usual fuckery, so let's have a look.

  • It is getting more difficult to find volunteer firefighters, especially in rural areas. To make things worse, the number of volunteer firefighters we do have now is diminishing. This is not exactly good news given recent events like the California wild fires. Story via The Rural Blog
  • Meanwhile, U.S. farmers are killing themselves in record numbers. Again, to make things worse, this trend is not exclusive to the U.S. Story via The Guardian
  • In other rural news, 2/3 of rural counties now offer even less jobs. Story via The Daily Yonder
  • Moving along, the U.S. construction industry is working harder than ever in light of recent disasters such as hurricanes in Texas and wildfires in California. Like many other industries in the U.S., the construction industry employs foreign workers, including some on various visas. Well, the Pendejo In Chief's administration, in its quest to keep messing things up and making things harder on everyone else, is moving to end protections for workers with temporary protected status,  many who do  those rebuilding jobs. Story via NPR.
  • Laborers in China are not doing much better. After being told and encouraged to leave the countryside and move to cities for jobs, those jobs are now dwindling, and they are basically being told  now to GTFO. Story via NPR.  
  • Meanwhile, in case you needed more reason to be angry at how restaurants exploit their workers, especially workers, their latest fraud is to basically skim off tax receipts. Seriously, they can now use software to void transactions, show less than what they actually sold, etc. in the quest to not pay or pay less taxes. It is not just a U.S. thing by  the way. Story via The Lexington Herald Leader
  • And in news from the friendly skies, an airline that had delays offered their passengers some vouchers so they could eat at the airport. The problem? The vouchers were for about 8 bucks, and the cheapest food available was about 11 bucks. As the kids said, #fail. At least one of the passengers was not happy about it. Story via Inc.
  • In higher education news, via Inside Higher Ed
  • On a positive for some, if you happen  to be a genetic researcher or such, the military may have work for you as it invests about $100 million in research for "genetic extinction" technology. The DARPA guys who brought you the Internet are now  interested in using genetic technologies to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes, which  sounds good, but it is the military. So naturally one wonders who long before they turn that in other fine bioweapons. Story via AlterNet
  • In avocado news: 
    • Did you know that if you are on a dating site and your profile mentions avocados, especially guacamole, your odds get better? Story via Atlas Obscura
    • In ridiculous news, here is a solution for stupid people who can't handle knives and cut avocados. Now, you can buy pit-less avocados. Story via BBC. 
  • You have to hustle in the bad economy, and this includes erotic performers online. Sidny Deveraux discusses what it is like to be "a naked lady on the Internet." This is a piece I found interesting on a topic you do not always  hear about. Story via CQ Magazine.  
  • In early holiday season news, do you ever wonder why the  hell it is next to impossible to find t that one must have toy or gift everyone wants no matter how early or diligent you are, especially online. Here is the answer. Motherfucking assholes are using bots to buy them all up before you get a chance, and then reselling them at obscenely exorbitant prices in places like E-Bay. Story via The New York Times
  • And finally for this week, do you have a gun enthusiast family member who  has it all? Are you not sure what you could possibly get them that they do not have already? Do you have some serious cash to spare? If you do, then you could get them a Trump .45. What is a Trump .45? It is a limited edition pistol, "the Rolls-Royce of firearms made for Donald Trump supporters and Second Amendment fans.It's finished in 24 karat gold, made with real meteorite, and has the blessing of the NRA.Could this limited-edition 1911 pistol engraved "TRUMP 45" make presidential firearms great again?" Story via Forbes, with hat tip to Christian Nightmares.
So that does it for this edition. Stay tuned for through the rest of the month I will be posting my annual holiday series. From ridiculous gifts to holiday traditions to books to read, I will take a look at the at the holidays with  a little fun in mind. 

Booknote: Sequential Drawings

Richard McGuire, Sequential Drawings: the New Yorker series. New York: Pantheon Books, 2016.  ISBN: 978-1-101-87159-1.

Genre: art
Subgenre: drawings, comics
Format: small hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library 

This small book collects McGuire's series of sequential wordless drawings originally published in The New Yorker magazine. The art ranges from cute and witty to somewhat plain and ordinary. The quality can vary. It is a plain book, and the art is composed of line drawings. The artist can do a lot with those basic line drawings.

In the end, it is a cute book with some sequences better than others. This may be more for fans of the magazine. I liked it, but I did not think it was a big deal.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Booknote: Thrawn

Timothy Zahn, Thrawn. New York: Del Rey, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-345-51127-0.

Genre: science fiction
Subgenre: Star Wars, space opera
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch  of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is a Star Wars novel about the character that became Grand Admiral Thrawn. This character was introduced in  Timothy Zahn's trilogy of novels that started with Heir to the Empire in 1991. The character was part of what became the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU), which was before Disney bought Star Wars. The Expanded Universe works were often hit or miss, but the character of Thrawn proved to be a popular one. Now Zahn writes about Thrawn one more time to tell the story of his rise to power.

When the novel opens, Thrawn is a young Chiss, member of a mysterious alien race. As a youth the Empire finds him, and  his tactical acumen catches the interest of the Emperor. The Emperor makes sure Thrawn enters the Imperial Academy. There he meets Eli Vanto, who becomes his trusted aide. From there, Thrawn's talent gets him promotions, making him an ally or two, and a lot of enemies along the way on his path to become Grand Admiral.

The book offers two stories. The main story is Thrawn's story. A secondary story is that of Arihnda Pryce, a woman with  an agenda of her own who becomes a ruthless Imperial administrator. She has the one thing Thrawn lacks: political savvy. She may be either an ally or a foe for Thrawn.

Along the way, Thrawn educates Eli Vanto in the art of war. Every chapter in the novel starts with Thrawn's notes and thoughts on topics like warfare and leadership, notes he is making for his student. After these small notes, the plot ensues. The book has 29 chapters plus an epilogue.

Fans of this character will definitely enjoy this book. Star Wars readers will enjoy it as well. The book has good pacing, a solid plot with plenty of action and intrigue, and Thrawn is a very appealing character. He is an Imperial, but you will find yourself rooting for him. Overall, this is a book that draws you in right away. I definitely enjoyed this one, and I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5 stars.

Side note: similar reads include:

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Monday, December 04, 2017

Booknote: Dreadful Diseases and Terrible Treatments

Jonathan J. Moore, Dreadful Diseases and Terrible Treatments. New York: Metro Books, 2017. ISBN: 9781435164710.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: history, health and medical, trivia
Format: paperbackM
Source: We bought this

The book is a history of disease and treatments over time. If anything, it reads a lot like a catalog of seriously bad medical ideas too. Before the medical establishment began to get a clue about things like washing your hands before surgery, things could be pretty gruesome if you were a patient.

The book is arranged into 11 thematic chapters. The narrative is not fully linear in terms of chronology. Chapter topics include:

  • The Black Death
  • Shocking Surgery
  • Tropical Diseases
  • On Fecal Matters
The book is an interesting read overall, but it can get gross at times. The author also includes plenty of engravings, illustrations, and photographs to complement the text. Some of the visuals can be a bit strong for some readers. I found the chapter on mental illness particularly interesting.

Overall, this is a book to read a bit a time. It  is not always easy to read, but it is interesting, and if nothing else, it may make you think twice about longing for "the good old days."  The book does give you a sense of how disease and responding to it shapes history. It is an accessible selection. Some parts have more depth than others, but still a good book. I liked it.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, December 01, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: December 1, 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.

Welcome to another edition, and today is the first of December. The year is almost done. I wish I could be more optimistic, but as bad as 2017 has been it seems 2018 is going to be worse. So I am trying to just take things a day at time and practice a bit more self-care. Meanwhile, the Bad Economy is still going strong. This week, depending on how you look at things, not all is bad. Anyhow, let's have a look.

U.S. Government and  Party of Stupid stuff. Because in government, someone always knows how to make money if you grease the right palm:
  • The big news recently is the GOP's attempt to give a tax cut to the uber rich at the expense of the rest of us.To justify themselves, Paul Ryan imagines how much better life a certain "Cindy" single mom will have with the tax cut he alleges someone like her would get. Only problem with that is "Cindy" is starving along with  her children, and their plan will just make it worse. But hey, we do need to decrease the surplus population. Story via Boing Boing. If there is a hell, Paul Ryan, his party, and those who keep voting them in should spend it, not in eternal torture, but just in the abject grinding poverty they want to give to the  rest of us. 
  • Many of us find the Pendejo in Chief's constant verbal diarrhea on Twitter to be annoying. However, it turns out that his constant brain farts online are actually profitable. It turns that political fundraisers of his base love them and  can use them to get more money from the rubes. Story via Lexington Herald-Leader
  • The Department of Homeland Security is looking to implement facial recognition technology at border entrances. Naturally, a good number of private companies are stepping up to suckle the government teat and hoping to get a contract to make money on  that. Story  via The Intercept
  • Does anyone know what exactly Omarosa Manigult, the former The Apprentice contestant the Pendejo in Chief fancies, does exactly at the White House? Whatever the hell it is, she is paid about $179K for it. The White House claims she is an “assistant to the president and director of communications for the office of public liaison.” Sounds like fancy name for a sinecure. Must be nice. Story via Reality Blurred

The other big news was of course Black Friday and the start of the holiday shopping season. Well, maybe I should amend that since many retailers have been offering "Black Friday deals" since sometime back in July or so. So let's get the holiday season rolling, have a look at holiday shopping, and see what has been happening:

  • Reuters reported that more shoppers than expected kicked off the holiday season on Black Friday and beyond in the United States. According to the article, "Shoppers on average spent $335.47 over the five-day period, with older millennials spending the most at $419.52 each, according to the NRF survey of 3,242 consumers on Nov. 25-26." So people may be whining that money is tight, but clearly it is not tight enough to keep people from shopping. Then again, let us be honest, who can blame them? With the Hard Times, people need a little diversion, and hey, shopping can provide that.  
  • I had no idea that the period from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday had a name: Cyber Five. This is peak holiday shopping season for US shoppers. Well, it does, and Inc. is reporting some trends and patterns that retailers can learn from it.  For example, who did the most shopping? According to the article, "Shoppers located in California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania made the highest volume of purchases for the second year in a row." 
  • Cyber Monday turned out to be the most popular day of the Cyber Five. There are some positive reports on it (I know, that does not sound like Bad Economy, but again, I better not hear people whining later about how tight money is) like USA Today  reporting how it is the biggest online shopping day in the U.S. and  how it is a rumble between Amazon and Walmart. Reuters is reporting that Cyber Monday sales jumped up
  • And what was the must have item for Black Friday? A gun. Both NPR and The Washington Post, among many other news agencies, reported that background checks to get a firearm jumped to record highs. 
  • Black Friday can be an opportunity for entrepreneurs, like this guy. Via Retail Hell Underground.
  • Salon argues that despite all the hoopla about online shopping that in-store shopping still matters. I am sure places like Sears, which are on deathwatch, find that reassuring. Personally, I do a lot of my holiday shopping in person, but there are some things I get online because they are not available locally. Having said that, I am glad I already pretty much got my holiday shopping done. 
  • Now, one of the impressive things about shopping online is how quickly you can get things delivered. Amazon in fact takes pride in this. However, it may  not all be a silver lining as USPS mail carriers report that, if they want to keep Amazon's lucrative delivery contract, they have to, shall we say, "fudge" the delivery numbers a bit? Story via CBS 46. 
  • In other Amazon shenanigans, what else do they do to keep prices low? Well, the latest is recruiting merchants from India. Because Americans may all bitch and moan about how they like to buy "Made in America" and similar bullshit, but they do not like to pay for that. They want their stuff cheap, and Indian merchants are more than ready to sell it to them via Amazon. Story via The New York Times
  • Finally for this shopping segment, do not say I am not helpful. Here are a couple of gift ideas in case you need them: 
    • Did you spend your Thanksgiving dinner with relatives? Did you piss off your drunken Pendejo In Chief worshiping obnoxious uncle with that facts stuff? You feel a need to make peace? Well, get him one of these. Via Dangerous Minds.
    • Do you have someone who is into video games and nostalgia? You can help keep Atari alive and get them a gift by purchasing a retro video game machine for them. Story via The New York Times.
  •  For many, part of holiday shopping is a visit to Santa Claus. Just go to the mall, get in line, sit on the Jolly One's lap, and tell him what you want. Well, not anymore. Santa now requires reservations for a spot in his lap. Story via NPR. 
There are also some higher education news this week in the Bad Economy:

And in other news:

To wrap up, let's have a peek at how the uber rich are doing:

Booknote: G.I. Joe: Future Noir

Andy Schmidt,, G.I.Joe: Future Noir. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2011. ISBN: 978-1600108655.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: manga, G.I. Joe
Format: paperback
Source: Bought on clearance at Half Price Books (but I will be weeding it out of my collection)

This is the comic's first manga adventure, and as far as I am concerned, it should be the last one and never spoken of ever again. IDW usually does well with G.I. Joe comics, so I honestly do not know why they allowed this  mess to be published.

The plot barely makes sense. It is something about Cobra unleashing giant plant monsters in Japan or other. So you may think monster movie in Tokyo kind of thing, but with  G.I. Joe. That actually sounds kind of cool, but that is not quite what  you get. In addition, the characters are not right. I know they are adapting them to manga, but Duke for instance is nothing like the Duke we know. It not just the looks; it's the actions. Duke, for example, acts more like a horny teenager than a decent soldier. The other characters are not much better.

This is one to definitely skip. I did not like it, and I definitely would not recommend it. It should have stayed in the clearance rack of the bookstore where I found it. If you see this, do not bother. This book fails both as a manga and as a G.I. Joe comic.

1 out of 5 stars (barely).

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Deck Review: The Isis Oracle

Alana Fairchild, with Jimmy Manton (artist), The Isis Oracle. Victoria (Australia): Blue Angel Publishing, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-922161-01-7.

WorldCat Record here.
Purchase it from Llewellyn (the US distributor for Blue Angel) here.

Note: I have the full size edition, which I reviewed now. There is also a pocket edition available. That one does not have the book. It has smaller cards, with card information on the back of the cards. My daughter has the pocket version, and she is happy with it.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: divination, spirituality, oracle cards
Format: card deck and book set
Source: Personal copy bought at Sqecial Media

Recently I have been using and enjoying The Isis Oracle card deck and book by Alana Fairchild. The Isis Oracle package includes 44 cards and a 220-pages guidebook; it comes in a nice, compact solid box. I wish more decks were packaged so well.

Let's start with the guidebook. The book's arrangement is simple. You get a short introduction, and then you get a section for each card. The introduction includes an author's statement and explanation of the oracle and Isis the deity, how to use the deck, and two spreads. For each card, the book includes a black and white small image of the card, an epigraph, a text expounding upon the card's meaning, instructions for a ritual related to the card, and a small incantation and prayer. You get about 5 to 6 pages of content per card, so you do get a lot to work with.

If your spiritual path or practice includes Isis, and you use oracle cards, this can be a good addition to your practice. As I mentioned, the book gives a lot to work with. Plus the cards feature great art to go with the rituals. If you are a  more vague heathen like me, you can still get a lot from the deck and book. Personally, I tend to used oracle cards to supplement my Tarot card draws. At the time of this review, I have been using it with my Gaian Tarot (Powell) deck, and it works well. Where the Gaian Tarot is casual and informal, the Isis Oracle adds a bit of formality, and for me, it often complements my Tarot deck well, reinforcing messages. If you have an ancient Egypt themed deck or a set of cartouche cards (my daughter has a set of these she uses in her craft), then the Isis Oracle can make a good companion. Even if you do not do ancient Egypt heavily, if you have a passing curiosity, this may be for you too.

The cards are about 5 1/2 inches by 3 3/4 inches, which is a good size to appreciate the painting-style art. The art is in full color, and it is very evocative of ancient Egypt and its spirituality and mythology. The card stock quality is good with a good coating for durability. The cards are not gilded, and they are borderless (for folks who care about that detail). Jimmy Manton does the art, rich in detail, and he does a great job portraying Isis and other characters and concepts of the Egyptian pantheon.  On a side note, Manton also did the art for The Halloween Oracle (link to my review). The Halloween Oracle is a very different deck; between the two you can appreciate the artist's range and ability.

Overall, I really like this deck. It is an excellent deck. I think collectors will like it. Isis practitioners will likely enjoy it and get good use out of it. Other oracle card users may likely enjoy it too. As I mentioned, you get a good amount of content, but you can use what works for you best and leave the rest.

4 out of 5 stars.

This item qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenge:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Deck Review: The Gaian Tarot

Joanna Powell Colbert, Gaian Tarot: Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-7643-5062-7.

Here is the WorldCat record.
If you wish to get your copy, here is the publisher page.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre; Tarot, divination, spirituality, self-help, card decks
Format: 78-cards deck with paperback guidebook boxed set
Source: I own this one. 

This is a deck I was using recently until I switched decks over for the Halloween season. I admit that I was a bit reluctant to switch decks over because I enjoy using the Gaian Tarot very much. It is a very positive and affirming deck. If you are looking for an uplifting, positive, and light deck, this may be for you.

I have the recent edition published by Schiffer. I understand the deck started out as many other decks do: as an independent deck. Then Llewellyn had it for a while before Schiffer. I have not seen the previous editions, so I can't comment on them. What I can say is that Schiffer has made a very nice package of a very nice deck and book.

Let's start with the book. The kit does include a substantial book, which is arranged as follows:

  • Preface
  • Major Arcana
  • Minor Arcana
  • Working with the cards. This section includes a bit on reading cards intuitively, how do to do a daily draw, and a bit on asking questions. It also includes ten card spreads.
  • Endnotes
  • Bibliography. I found this interesting. In addition to featuring some Tarot classics like works by Mary K. Greer and Rachel Pollack, it includes works on symbols, nature, the Pacific Northwest, and even Clarissa Estes' book Women Who Run With Wolves.
 The book is a softcover volume. The pages on the left corner of the even pages are color coded: blue for Major Arcana, green for Minor Arcana, orange for Working with the cards. This is a small detail that is helpful in flipping through the book. Major Arcana is arranged in conventional order, by which I mean nothing surprising or outlandish. In this deck, Strength is 8, and Justice is 11. Note also that the author used Arabic numerals in the Major Arcana. It is another small detail, but it makes the deck feel modern and a bit more accessible to beginners. The Minor Arcana are arranged by numbers (Aces, Two's, etc.) rather than by element with the court cards after the numbers.

For each Major Arcana card, you get the following:

  • Small picture  of the card in full color. This is definitely a nice touch. Other books, if they even include a card illustration, it is often black and white. 
  • A text describing the card. 
  • A "when you get this card in a reading." Here is the meaning of the card. 
  • A "when you read the Shadow side of this card. . . ". This is your reversal. Use it if you read reversals (at this point in my Tarot learning journey, I do not read reversals). I still often glance at this in using the book as I find it interesting. This is also for the folks who do shadow work. 
  • A list of themes for the card. 
  • A list of the card's symbols with explanations. This is another thing I found helpful and that you rarely see in other decks. 
  • A list of journal questions. Use them for journaling or further reflection. I think you can also use them as aide if you hit a blank when interpreting a card. 
  • Card's affirmation. This is a favorite feature of mine for this book and deck. 
Minor Arcana pages are a bit leaner. You get first a page or two per number or court card giving you the themes and a text on the numbers and suit in general. Then for each card you get:

  • Card description.
  • Card's image, still in full color.
  • Card meaning ("when you get this card").
  • Reversal ("when you read the Shadow side").
  • Card's affirmation. 
The Minor Arcana section is not as comprehensive, but then again, that is common for most Tarot handbooks. What you get here is pretty good overall and enough to get you going.

The book is very easy and accessible. Colbert's tone is warm, caring, and comforting. The book is written in plain language. There is nothing overly complicated or esoteric, but do not let that fool you. There is a lot of substance and depth in the book, the cards, and the symbols. For those seeking to study a deck in depth, there is plenty of material to work on.

When I get a new deck that includes a full book (i.e. not just a little white book, or what the Tarotistas call an LWB), I will try to read the book fully at least once and usually before I start using the deck. Some books are better than others. This is one of the better ones due to its ease of reading and tone. It  is a really nice, comfy read. It  has depth but without an academic feel to it. Though keyed to the deck, you could use parts of it to complement your general Tarot study using other decks. Overall, this Tarot's concept is positive, bright, and uplifting, and the book develops and expands on that.

Overall, I really liked the book, so I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Next, let's look at the cards. You get a 78-cards deck. Each card measures about 5 3/4 inches by almost four inches. Some folks I have used the cards with for light readings observe they seem to be on the big side; that works well for me. Each card has a painting art image with a whine inner border and a blue outer border; this makes it look a bit like old style photos you stick in an album. The borders do not bother me personally, but I see where folks obsessive about borders may consider trimming the deck. The card stock feels good and light. The card's back design is reversible.

The art on the cards is contemporary and diverse. Much of the art draws from the Pacific Northwest images and setting. The art features people, animals, and plants. People are diverse in terms of appearance and body types. The images are bright and colorful. It is very easy to read the cards intuitively. There are no dark or threatening images. For folks who would like a "gentle" deck, this is definitely a good selection. It was for this reason I recently took the deck with me to do some simple card readings. For folks who may not know what Tarot is or maybe they fear it a bit, this is a warm, basic, friendly deck with modern images that people can relate to. For my personal use, I enjoy its positivity and warmth.

Colbert does change the names in some of the cards. Examples include:

  • The Seeker (The Fool)
  • The Teacher (The Hierophant)
  • Bindweed (The Devil)
 The Court Cards in this deck are:
  • Children (Pages)
  • Explorers (Knights) 
  • Guardians (Queens)
  • Elders (Kings)
Note that the court cards in this deck can be  male or female, so yes, a "queen" can be male and "king" can be female. This let's you reflect more on what the court cards do and symbolize rather than just gender.  In fact, studying the court cards in this deck has helped me better understand the court cards in other decks.

Overall, this is a great deck of cards with modern art. It is a good deck for daily use. If you are new to Tarot, this deck may be a good option. If you are looking something different, more light, bright, and comforting, this is also a good option. For me, it is one of the best decks in my growing collection. I am glad to have it, and I hope to keep using it for many years.

5 out of 5 stars for the cards.
5  out of 5 stars for the set overall.

This kit qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, November 24, 2017

Booknote: Home is Where the Cat Is

Lesley Anne Ivory, Home is Where the Cat Is. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-7369-1848-0.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: art, poetry, cats
Format: small hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library 

This little book is a collection of cat paintings by artist Lesley Anne Ivory. The book is a celebration of felines in our homes and lives.

The book combines color paintings of various cats in real and natural poses. Some paintings are small, and others take up a page or two. Along with the paintings, you get text in the form of verses, quotes, and some very short narratives about cats.

Overall, it is a nice book. Cat lovers will probably like it very much. I know I did.

4 out of 5 stars.

Book qualifies for this 2017 Reading Challenge:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A few Thanksgiving treats 2017

This week I get to work a short week due to the Turkey Day holiday. I will be working until Wednesday afternoon, then get the holiday and Friday off. Students get the Wednesday as well. We have no major plans to travel or have guests, and we are grateful for that. If you are traveling, I wish you safe journeys. If you are hosting people, I hope it is as stress free as possible and that some peace reigns in your celebration. So, while I am gone, here is a little trivia and entertainment for the holiday.

Pat Nixon with the White House Chefs in the kitchen, viewing the Thanksgiving turkey and vegetables, November 19, 1970. From the Nixon Presidential Library.

  • Start with some trivia about the holiday. The U.S. Census Bureau has their Thanksgiving feature out so you can see the holiday by the numbers. 
  • USA Today had some features for the holiday that may be of interest: 
    • Many folks I have known are extremely informal about the Thanksgiving meal. Apparently, there is some etiquette rules that civilized people mind. Here are some highlights with my comments: 
      • "Dress appropriately." Apparently just staying in pajamas is frowned upon. 
      • "Never have more than one cocktail before dinner." This must have been proclaimed before the era of the Pendejo In Chief. You know your Trumpista crazy uncle is going to be loud. You are going to need something stronger to ignore him. Bonus if it puts you to sleep. 
      • "Avoid discussing controversial or painful family subjects. This is a day to be together in a spirit of generosity and thankfulness for all you do have. Let it be so. Likewise, do not talk about your health — good or bad." This should require no further comment. It is simple: shut the fuck up on anything controversial or painful. The old rule of "avoid politics and religion" in polite company should be in full force.Oh, and Aunt Bertha, shut it about your sister Irma's hemorrhoids. 
    •  Are you flying? Here is your reminder of the pains and tribulations you will be suffering unless you own a private jet. The Pendejo In Chief's TSA is certainly making the  airport experience much more invasive
    • Are you one of those fine souls who likes to help others? You are thinking of going to help out at a soup kitchen or serve Thanksgiving dinner to the less fortunate on the holiday? Good for you, but the service agencies would rather you not
    • On the positive, if you are running late on getting that turkey, and you are one of those nitpicky people who need it to be organic, antibiotic free, blah blah, Amazon has you covered as they are cutting prices on those at Whole Foods
  • Is your Thanksgiving kind of blah? Do you need to give it some pizazz?  The Week suggests five ways to class it up. Because you are not showing enough gratitude for the blessings you may have unless you have a $200 gravy boat and a $25 cocotte (whatever the hell that is). 
  • Still worried you might screw up the dinner? Don't worry, here is one of those chef articles you get this time of year with his "secrets" to be successful. Via Vox. Joking aside, the book featured in the article does sound interesting. 
  • Are you driving there instead of flying? That could be a better option if it is viable for you. However, you may want to keep an eye on traffic conditions.You can also check on traffic trends to know when it may be best to travel, if you must. Via Lifehacker
  • Need a bit more help with preparing and making the meal? Here is a list of a few books and DVDs that could help. Via Shelf Talk
  • By the way, did you know turkey is not really responsible for you falling asleep after the meal? Read why here. Story via The Conversation.
  • If turkey is not your thing, well, chicken is an option. Here is a bit more radical option. Via Foodiggity.
  • As mentioned here and in other places, Thanksgiving dinner can be a stressful time for various reasons. If you must either host or go to someone's home, you may want to take a few deep breaths. Here are also some Buddhist practices to help you get grounded for the event (applicable too for Christmas later on) via Tricycle
  • Still have to put up with some stubborn Pendejo In Chief fan? There is a hotline you can call to help you out if you need some constructive talking points to deal with them and more. Via SUJR.
  • And here is a little something to help you reflect on gratitude, which is a big part of Thanksgiving. If you keep a journal, you may want to consider doing this 31 Days of Gratitude journaling challenge, starting December 1st. Via Writing Through Life. I am seriously thinking about doing it.

Booknote: Usagi Yojimbo, Vol. 31: The Hell Screen

Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo, Volume 31: The Hell Screen. Milwaukie, OR; Dark Horse Books, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-50670-187-5.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: samurai, furries/anthros, feudal Japan
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

For me, this series is always a pleasure to read. This volume contains fiver stories, including the  title story. The title story is divided into three parts. In this book, Usagi faces various situations from floods and famine in villages to a murder mystery to a perilous journey. Through them all, he is an honorable, brave, and generous samurai. Sakai continues his way of writing good stories, stories that can also often be moving and have at times unexpected turns.

"The Fate of the Elders" is a short piece in this volume, but the outcome makes for a touching and unexpected turn. It was a nice piece overall.

The title story is a murder mystery, and it is a good story that also has a twist at the end. Just when you think the case is solved, the author reveals another layer.

Overall, this is another excellent volume in the series. I definitely recommend it.

5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Monday, November 20, 2017

We need a "Who is the next pervert asshole?" betting pool

This started out as a joke I made on Facebook after the latest (at the time) story of some influential male getting denounced for being a pervert harassing asshole. I think it was Al Franken at the time. Today, it's Charlie Rose. Who knows who is next. Anyhow, I am partially joking here, I think (and I will be honest, cracking jokes and humor are all that I have left in the Hard Times we are living the United States under the Pendejo In Chief), so I am saying we need a betting pool.

It would be "who is the next guy in influential position to be revealed an asshole?" We can even have categories and points. For instance:
  •  How many years ago did it happen? (We could have a point per year. 1/2 a point if we are dealing in months)
  • Location: was it the workplace? In a bathroom? in a government agency? in church? at a funeral? (lots of possibilities here)
  •  (for politicians): GOP or Democrat? (Because we all know those third parties and independents do not matter)
  • Also for politicians or figures in public service: will they resign? Will they get impeached or removed from their post?
  • The number of women making an allegation/denunciation/accusation
  • The number of men making an allegation/denunciation/accusation (if the asshole leans that way)
  •  The number of the above (women or men) that were minors at the time of the alleged incident or incidents.
  • You get a bonus if the asshole molested men AND women.
  • How many assholes are being accused in a given week/month or heck, daily at this point. So say, you get a number of points if you guess correctly how many assholes get busted in a given week.
  • For celebrities, are they popular or "washed out." 
  • Also for celebrities, do they lose their career right away (if they still had one)? Does he or she survive? (see also the long term bet below)
  • Was the asshole in question well liked before (think someone like Mr Rogers) or was he still an asshole anyhow (think New Jersey's top asshole Chris Christie)?
  • Degree of being religious (religiosity). 
    • What religion were they? (More points if it is something more exotic than the usual Christian)
    • Were they a full religious figure (i.e. a cleric or such)? 
    • If secular, were they religious nags wanting to impose their morals on the rest of us? (Think most every other RW evangelical)
    • On the other hand, were they sort of saintly (think St. Francis of Assisi  or Mother Theresa level). 
    • Or, were they atheists? (this may get you higher points since religious nags often get revealed more). 
  • Will the allegation result in criminal prosecution? 
    • If yes, you can also bet on what sentence they get and how long. Betting options for things like hung jury, having to change the trial venue, how long the jury deliberates, and other trial shenanigans and stunts available. 
  • Will the allegation lead to a civil lawsuit? 
    • If yes, you can bet on whether the lawsuit will end up with accuser winning, the accused winning, on the amount of the money won (if it does not end up sealed, which you can bet on that too), or if they settle out of court. 
  • The long term bet: how long before the asshole's career gets back on track after it is fucked up by the initial revelation. For example, in Kevin Spacey's case, how long before it becomes acceptable to employ him, watch his movies again, etc. 
  • Automatic win (this is your dark horse if you will): if a woman is revealed to be the pervert asshole. (Not saying it does not happen, but the odds are seriously slim. I think Vegas bookies will back me up on this. So, if it is a woman, you win the pool automatically). 
So place your bets folks. And if you have suggestions for other betting options, feel free to comment.

(Again, I emphasize I am joking. If you are going to comment to get self-righteous, do not bother. I will just delete you and move on.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Booknote: Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy

Vesa Lehtimäki, Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy. New York: DK Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4654-4009-9.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: art and photography, Star Wars, LEGOs, toys
Format: oversized hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This is an oversize book of LEGO Star Wars photography, and it is a pleasure to look through. This is more than LEGO for kids, even though the author states he used his kids' LEGO sets.

The photographs are well made, and the oversize format allows for better appreciation. The book's premise is mainly catching characters doing unusual things or things outside the movie scenes; note that the book focuses on the original movie trilogy. In addition, the author provides small commentary on how the photos were made, so if you are interested in how the magic happens, the commentary may be of interest too.

This is definitely a book for all ages. Whether you are a Star Wars fan or a LEGOs fan or both, this is a book for you. It makes a great selection for libraries, especially public libraries though I can see some academic libraries with strong photography programs picking it up too. Overall, it was a very nice photography book.

5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challege:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: November 10, 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.

Another week goes by. Let's see how the bad economy is doing.

  • Despite the bragging by the Pendejo In Chief, Carrier is laying off even more workers. Story via Salon.
  • Do you feel that 2017 is worse than 2016? You are not alone. Turns out a new Gallup poll does confirm that  yes, this year is worse than last year. And the rate things are going, I think 2018 will be even worse. Story via The Washington Post
  • This is not so much as sign the economy is bad as it is a moment of schadenfreude. Turns out Bill Cosby is flooded with  legal bills and having a hard time paying them. Story via Radar Online. 
  • In new opportunities for entrepreneurship, someone is supplying a Florida school with bulletproof backpack panels, which the school is then selling to their students. Sure, some might say this is just giving up on the problem of excess guns and mass shootings. I say this is a great economic opportunity to find lucrative contracts supplying schools with needed protection for their students in these hard times. After all, if you are a parent with kids in schools, you do want them safe, right? Hell, I should check and see if I can buy one of those to  insert in my backpack. Story via GQ Magazine.
  • Meanwhile, turns out the AR-15 rifle is the weapon of choice for mass shooters. Story via The Intercept. Again, plenty of economic opportunity as demand is likely to stay high. I have a good ad jingle for them: "AR-15: When you absolutely, positively got to kill every innocent motherfucker in a public gathering place. Accept no substitutes." (With apologies to Samuel L. Jackson)
  • Looking for a job? If you are in Japan, and you have acting skills, you could work as a professional friend. Story via The Week.  
  • The homeless situation is jolly bad in parts of the United Kingdom. Story via the BBC. 
  • Also via the BBC, toy makers and sellers are praying to their deities that the Christmas season will save them from the sales slumps and woes they are currently facing. The bets are on. 
  •  You may think being a freelancer is glamorous, setting your hours, working when you can, but the reality of the gig economy can be a nightmare. Story via The Week
  • For women, they cannot catch a break. Turns out there is a gender pay gap in the field of physics. Why am I not surprised? Story via Inside Higher Ed.  
  • In the "get a clue" department, Poor as Folk blogger illustrates the importance of something we  all take for granted: a phone. If you are poor, a phone is necessary, and if you lack one when your services get cut off, and you are working to get them turned back on, well, read the tale. What irks me is the stupidity and insensitivity of the service company drones, something I can relate to.
  • Meanwhile, let's see how the uber rich are doing and what are they buying. These days, if they are shopping at Tiffany's, they are buying tin cans at $1000 each. Yep, you read that right, and no, there is nothing inside the can. Story via Inc.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: November 3, 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.

Part of me was hoping to take a break this week, but the Bad Economy had other ideas. So here we are again. Let's have a look at some of what has going on the past week.

  • A big item this week is the story of the Tokyo (Japan) company that gives extra time off to workers who do not smoke. This is to compensate those who do not  smoke and thus do not get "smoking breaks." I think this is an idea that needs to catch on. If we non-smokers have to pick up the slack of smoking asshats who  need a break to feed their addiction, we need to be compensated fairly too. Story via The Lexington Herald-Leader.
  • Did you know in Kentucky your small boat is taxed much higher than a big luxury boat? (this link leads to a short  video clip) Just one  of the many tax fuckeries in the state that the Lexington Herald Leader has been highlighting this week. 
  • Meanwhile, the military industrial complex is doing just fine (even if it is at the expense of everything else). We do not need health care or schools or roads. Just keep putting in those trillions into the war machine. Story via Alternet. When it comes to war, George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, said it well, "It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that the hierarchical society needs."  
    • Want to learn more? The Department of Defense has a new report on the topic too. Story via Federation of American Scientists.
  • Under ridiculous news, John "Papa John" Schnatter decided that the reason his company is having low pizza sales is the NFL and their players protesting the U.S. anthem. I am sure it has nothing to do with his greedy attitude regarding his employees health care needs, his franchisees engaged in wage theft, or the fact his pizza is  so-so compared to local options (if you have local options).  Stories via Salon, International Business Times, and USA Today.
  • The U.S. Postal Service is considering doing Sunday delivery during the holidays season. Story via The Christian Science Monitor.
  • In some positive news, Halloween candy sales did very well in 2017. Story via NPR. 
  • Apparently Facebook was passing Russian trolls' political ads during the election campaign, and this has caused some shock to some folks. This article from Inside Higher Ed argues  you should not be shocked: Facebook worked exactly the way it is designed to work as an advertising platform. It is all part of something called surveillance capitalism, definitely a sign of the bad economy. 
  • Meanwhile, more from higher education where recent study finds that women with male partners seeking a junior faculty position (think assistant professor in the tenure line) face more bias than men with a spouse when it comes to hiring. Story via Inside Higher Ed.
  • And finally for this week, yet another article on an issue that does not go away: college students, homelessness, and food insecurity. Again, via Inside Higher Ed

Booknote: Ahsoka

E.K. Johnston, Ahsoka. Los Angeles, CA: Disney/Lucasfilm Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-148470566-7.

Genre: Science Fiction
Subgenre: space opera, young adult, Star Wars
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This young adult novel tells the story between the time Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order towards the end of the Clone Wars series and her appearance as Rebel operative Fulcrum in the Star Wars Rebels series. The book was interesting for me in terms of following the character after Clone Wars; I had recently finished watching the series DVDs, so I was curious. However, the novel does have a very slow build up initially, which bogs down the narrative pace. Once the book picks up around the middle of the book, it starts to get entertaining. The book also features various flashback episodes filling other gaps in the story. We even get some glimpses of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Overall, I liked it a little bit, but given its slow pace I found it hard to get into. I am sure hardcore fans will likely find the book of interest. If you've enjoyed both series, you might enjoy this. It is a young adult title, so it has a lighter feel than novels like Tarkin for example. Ahsoka is another example of character novels that Disney is putting out now that they own Star Wars. Besides Tarkin, there is also Kenobi. Kenobi has a bit more similar feel to Ahsoka. Personally, I liked Tarkin better. As I said, I think many fans will enjoy it. I thought it was OK, but it was nice to follow Ahsoka a bit more.

2 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Booknote: Figures of Fear

Graham Masterton, Figures of Fear. Surrey, UK: Severn House, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-7278-8446-6.

Genre: fiction
Subgenre: horror, short fiction
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This book is a collection of 11 stories by Graham Masterton. The common theme is that of figures that cause fear and terror somehow. The stories often have a twist. The twists may not always be horrifying, but they do stay with you after you have read them. Some stories are more horrifying. Others I would say feel a bit like a good and unsettling episode of The Twilight Zone or a similar anthology series, and I do mean that in a good way.

In the book, the figures may bring fear, warnings, often twists, and they are always unsettling. These can also include fear of the unknown. For instance, the battered wife story has a twist ending, and it is not quite what one may commonly think. I wish I could say more, but I do not want to spoil the story for other readers.

Overall, I really liked this book. In fact, some of the stories I feel that I will need to reread in order to better appreciate them. The book makes a good selection to read for Halloween.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Signs the economy is bad: October 27, 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.

There is a lot going on since the last post in this series, so let's get on with it.

  • One of  the big news has to be the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico (a.k.a. the U.S. colony). Latest is that the contract to fix their power grid was awarded to some small unknown and barely qualified company for the only reason they were Pendejo In Chief donors. The story as of this post is still developing as there are calls for audits, investigations, the company threatened to leave the island hanging via a Twitter hissy fit they later had to apologize for, so on. We will see where this goes. Stories via Telesur and BBC. 
  • Speaking of Puerto Rico, it is pretty much a fact that folks  in the US discount Puerto Rico regularly, largely due to the usual US racism. However, part of the reason US folks in mainland US are so ignorant about the US colony is because the government literally DOES NOT count all sorts of important statistics about Puerto Rico that it regularly counts for US states and even other territories (yes, those are colonies too, by the way). Story via The Conversation.
  • Amazon has been up to some fuckery recently: 
    • Filing this under, "what could go wrong," Amazon is proposing a new "key" program where their delivery people can let themselves into your house to leave a package inside when you are not there. Story via The Christian Science Monitor. Because that is what I want: some stranger roaming in my house when I am not there. Their excuse is this addresses package theft when they leave the package if you are not there. Here is fucking radical idea, hearkening back to the days the USPS used to do this: leave a note instead saying when you will come back to attempt delivery  and phone number (or website now I guess) to schedule a delivery when are freaking there, or for you to drag your lazy ass to the post office or delivery office to get it. See, back in the day, I never had a package stolen ever because I knew from the notes when the package was coming and to expect it, or I just went and got it myself. I know, radical, huh? 
    • And speaking of delivery, now that Amazon bought out Whole Foods, one of their plans for "Whole Paycheck" is to use is as a delivery hub. However, mall tenants with  Whole Foods in  them are using fine print non-compete clauses to keep this idea out. It may get  hairy, folks. Story via Reuters.
  •  In the United Kingdom, "one in six families arranging a funeral unable to pay." Story via New Statesman. I get the feeling this is not a UK exclusive situation. This is why, joking aside, I want any funeral arrangements for me to be as cheap as possible. 
  • Minorities and poor people are hurt hard by hospital closures in rural areas. Story via The Daily Yonder
  • In fuckery, McDonald's in Pennsylvania had to settle a lawsuit by workers who got paid with one of those rip-off debit cards full of fees. Story via Lexington Herald Leader. By the way, a lot of fast food companies here in Kentucky do that same fuckery, but this state is more lax in allowing labor exploitation apparently. 
  • In more fuckery, lobbyists from the canned and frozen foods industry are trying to lessen or remove fresh fruit and vegetables from school meals for their stuff. Because creating healthy eating habits for kids does not make them money. These are the same crowd who would claim ketchup is a vegetable. Story via The Rural Blog.
  • Want more fuckery? The United States still has a form of slavery in inmate labor. Maybe it is time to end  it. Story via Truthout.
  • More bad news about crumbling infrastructure in the United States, where the priority is to worry about foreign interventionist wars, giving tax  breaks to millionaires, and bringing back Jim Crow plus working towards a theocratic Christian nation. Meanwhile, Oroville Dam is crumbling, and it would cost about $500 million to repair it, and that is only one example of the many major dams and structures needing repair. Story via The Rural Blog
  • Banks are commonly not held accountable for their accounting mistakes, vicious overcharging of fees they later deny, and other shenanigans. Read about the guy who spent a decade fighting banks for a $482 fee the bank denied they charged despite proof being there that they did. It's plain fuckery. Story via VICE
  • On another bit of fuckery (there is a lot of it this week), did you know that half of all Mexicans paid a bribe in the previous 12 months? Read the story via Big Think.  
  • Here is an interesting piece, a defense of cash  and bringing back big bill denominations like the $500 bill. Now, I am of the theory that given all the hacks and other financial fuckery we will eventually slide back to a cash and barter economy. However, big denominations will not help. No one these days takes any bills higher than $20 other than Walmart, a few other big boxes, and banks. Feel free to comment with your thoughts. Story via The Conversation.
  • Once more, the bullshit of the hordes of librarians retiring and leaving jobs open for new librarians is making the rounds. I put up with  that nonsense when  I went to library school more than a decade ago, and library schools are still peddling that bullshit scam. The Association of Research Libraries  has a new report out warning of the impending doom of retiring librarians (insert laugh track here from librarians who know what is really going on). At this point, even the Annoyed  Librarian took a shot at mocking this  nonsense. Stories via Inside Higher Ed and Annoyed Librarian.
The news are not all bad. The uber rich have a couple of  good news this week:

  • The good movies will soon be available in movie theaters only for the rich who can pay if Regal Cinemas gets their way. They are testing a new popularity of films pricing scale. That means you pay more for the "good" movies, and you probably pay the regular inflated already price for the shitty flops. Or you can  do what reasonable people who are not impatient do anyhow which  is just wait for it to come out on Netflix and avoid the movie theater altogether. Story via The Week.
  • And finally for this week, if you need a home, and you got $410 million to spend on it, the most expensive house in the world could be yours. Story via USA Today.

Booknote: 500 Ceramic Sculptures

Suzanne J E Tourtillott,, 500 Ceramic Sculptures: Contemporary Practice, Singular Works. New York, NY: Lark Books, 2009.  ISBN: 978-1-60059-247-8.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: art and photography
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison  County (KY) Public Library

This book is a compilation of ceramic sculpture photography. The objects include freestanding objects and installations. 7,500 pieces were submitted for consideration. Glen R. Brown, art historian and critic, served as juror and chose 500 for the book. A wide variety of ceramic styles and materials are represented in this book.

The book includes an introduction, and then we get to the photos. Some pieces get a full page. Others get two per page. In some cases, you may get a full photo and a detail close up photo of a particular piece. The photographer clearly did a good job capturing the images.

Overall, I liked this book. It was a relaxing and pleasant experience to look over these excellent art pieces.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges: