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: