July 30, 2014

But first, a little instrumental...



The minimum to make today's playlist was a thirty second (or longer) instrumental introduction to a song that most people will - I think - recognize.

See if you can name them all before the words kick in.

July 28, 2014

Maps, huh!

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind is exactly what it says: 19 maps that will blow your mind.

Really, though, it's an article that can't possibly be described properly. It needs to be read with little introduction or prior knowledge. Check it out for yourself then come back and discuss...

July 26, 2014

They seem to be on the roof of the Grand Bazaar



July 25, 2014

So, pit bulls

I am the proud owner of two pit bulls and the foster father to one more at the moment (and two more in the past year or so).

Yeah, I said pit bulls.

Here they are...


I know, I chose the dopeiest picture of the two (Hollis is the white one on the left, Clementine is the blue- that means this for dogs - brindle on the right), but I could've chosen a bunch of other goofy pics of the two...



They're spectacular, loving, kind, gentle dogs. They're the kind of dogs about which friends of ours have said after meeting them, "they didn't seem like pit bulls at all."

And it's that last part that's the kernel of today's post.

People think pit bulls are mean, vicious, terrifying, killer dogs. People look to ban pit bulls from their city. People read that pit bulls attack little children.

And I still own pit bulls.

And I foster pit bulls.

Because I've known a number of spectacular, gentle, loving pit bulls in my lifetime. My parents' first dog, the first dog in my home when I was born was a pit bull, a gorgeous, even-tempered, mostly black Staffordshire Terrier (a related if not identical breed to pit bulls) named Shebie.

I've been educated in the history of the pit bull breed (a bit of a misnomer as pit bull is a group of dogs, not a specific breed), and I know that the dogs that many people think are pit bulls aren't really pit bulls. Take this quick quiz to check your knowledge.

They can be trained to be vicious dogs, true. So can chihuahuas. So can German shepherds. So can miniature pinschers.

They can also be trained to be wonderful family dogs, loyal and protective, gentle with children and wonderfully intelligent.

Pit bulls can save lives. They can be police dogs.

No one should go into dog ownership - or pet ownership, really - blind, and if you're at all interested in learning more about pitties, do your research first and feel free to stop by one of the Adore-A-Bull adoption events.

And check out a recent Esquire article about The State of the American Dog. Good read...

July 23, 2014

Not so helpful statistics

Sorry for the watermark - source
WLWT.com published an article last week (I'll link, but I warn you that there's an auto-playing video with an advertisement right at the beginning) reporting that Fairfield City Schools has to hire 79 new teachers, 13% of their district staff; and Hamilton City Schools has to hire 40 new teachers, 6% of their district staff.

The entirety of the context given for those numbers is this quote, "[b]oth districts said that's a jump over previous years."

The article also says that Ross Schools has to hire 12 new teachers, 8% of their district staff, which is, "fewer new faces than the last two years."

No hard numbers from previous years...no comparative numbers from other districts...no state-wide averages for districts of similar sizes (or even of not-so-similar sizes.)

From second-hand information, I've heard that Princeton City Schools have hired 58 new teachers district-wide this summer, about 18% of our district teaching staff (plus another seven administrators). Anecdotally it seems higher than in previous years, but I don't have any hard evidence to prove that.

Numbers without context aren't useful.

In this case, they're just evidence of lazy reporting.

July 21, 2014

Purging

Movies...
  • The Purge - I'd heard that this movie was an interesting turn on a typical horror/torture movie. It wasn't. It was awful and boring and predictable and lazy. It's a home invasion movie that only has drama because of a series of stupid decisions by the protagonists. Stay away from this one.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes -Easily that finest film of the week - which could be very faint praise since the rest of the films were such crap. This is one to see on the big screen because the special effects are outstanding, creating more believable digital characters than we've ever seen before. Every ape is well on the happy side of the uncanny valley, showing very human emotion and communicating with each other marvelously. This is a film where the apes are clearly the main characters. The humans are the drivers of the film, but this isn't a film about the humans. This is a movie about how ape society continues to mature - often in negative ways, seeing the peace and harmony disappear as ephemerally as it sadly does in human society. Very enjoyable...not quite heart-wrenching, but certainly worth a watch. I would very much suggest seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes first, though. This is a strong sequel (not a soft sequel like the next film).
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me -Moderately interesting but not quite successful comedy showing a man's lack of maturation through two marriages, raising a child, his ex-wife dying. The part is played by the same actor throughout with no aging makeup at all, as though he wasn't maturing in the least. I guess that was supposed to be symbolic. It didn't work well. enough that I can recommend it.
  • Drinking Buddies - Plot summary - two friends drink and flirt, but they're in separate relationships that aren't exactly movie-style true love...one relationship survives, the other doesn't...nothing comes from the flirting. I actually liked it more once I saw in the extras that the film was made without a script, that the lead actors (Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, a couple of guys who were pretty much window dressing as far as I was concerned) had a plot outline but not a full script throughout the film. That explained the lack of snappy lines and witty comebacks and significant plot movement. It's not bad, but there's not much happening here.
  • Kick-Ass 2 - This is an atrocious, offensive, hyper-violent film. The first graphic novel was interesting in its exploration of costumed heroes in a non-super-hero world. The first movie lost some of that by ignoring many of the rules that it set in place and just turning the non-super heroes far more super-powered. The second comic, then, took the story into a far darker, sicker, more disgusting place, and the second film follows right along.

    Don't watch this film. There's no happiness, nothing joyful or even remotely pleasant even. Yuck. It's not even stylish enough to merit a watch.
Comics...
  • Daredevil (by Mark Waid) vol 4 & 5 - I begin to wonder if Daredevil hasn't been written into a corner. His identity is semi-public (a little more, a little less depending on the writer's needs of the moment). His love life is one big disaster. His professional life as an attorney is all but pointless since he's kind of a vigilante. I don't necessarily see how the plot can be rehabilitated, but Marvel continues to try, having rebooted Daredevil in 2011 and not again in 2014.

    The two volumes I read of late come from the 2012-13 period in which a paralyzed Bullseye strikes out at Daredevil through - get this - people that he loves. No, really, a superhero gets attacked by going after the people he loves. In Daredevil's case, he also gets attacked by Bullseye recreating this accident that gave Matt Murdock (Daredevil) his powers and sending a near-unbeatable assassin after him. Daredevil wins, of course, and stops just short of killing Bullseye along the way.

    Enjoyable enough read, but continuing a cycle that happens every couple of years to daredevil.
  • Nemo: Heart of Ice and Nemo: Roses of Berlin by Alan Moore - Moore continues to mine the fictional-historical-literature landscape of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in these two (the first two of three) tales focusing on Captain Nemo, a title that has been passed to the daughter of the original Nemo who was a major mover in the first volume of the League. Here we see the new, female Nemo retaking an antarctic expedition that left her father nearly mad (Heart of Ice) and rescuing her daughter and son-in-law from the clutches of World War II-era Germans (Roses of Berlin). Moore again brings in brilliant references to literature - many references I am sure that I missed in addition to the numerous ones that I did manage to catch. The antarctic expedition sees Nemo facing some of the Old Ones of Lovecraftian mythos chased by American hirelings after revenge for a deathless African queen. The same African queen returns to plague Nemo in Roses as Nemo must delve into a Murnau-inspired Berlin (not quite Nazi but just a street or two to the side, lead by Hynkle instead of Hitler.

    The volume aren't essential, and they're not to the level of greatness of the first two League volumes, but they are more linear and almost easier to read because of that. Plus, O'Neill seems to absolutely revel in drawing the fantastical Berlin. Worth reading (after the first two Leagues)
  • Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z (Book 1) - I don't get it, man. Captain America is somehow transported to another dimension where Arnim Zola has set up a factory to create and subjugate mutants. The Cap escapes but only after having a Zola screen/virus implanted into his chest and having stolen one of Zola's human children, a baby boy that Cap then raises on his own. The volume ends with Cap ripping the Zola from his chest, leaving a gaping, one-foot-square hole.

    Skip it...even Romita Jr's artwork couldn't redeem this.
  • Superior Spider-Man: Team Up - I dug the Superior Spider-Man era and haven't read to the end via collections. This shows an interesting series of team ups between Spider-Man (as inhabited by Doc Ock) and various members of the Marvel universe (the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, Daredevil, and others), all of whom react interestingly to this not-quite-Peter-Parker Spider-Man. It's fun to see the other heroes recognize that something isn't quite right but that things might be better or at least good enough. Worth a read.
Actual books...
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood - I'm relistening to this one as the start of the trilogy. I'd read the book a decade ago as part of a book club in Northside, and I enjoyed the book then. I did wonder at the time why the ending was so open-ended, so inconclusive, and now that I know it's the opener to a trilogy, I understand that better. Still a fun read of a world headed for - and already in, in fact - a biologically-brought-about apocalypse.
  • MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood - Turns out this is the third book in the Oryx & Crake trilogy. I read it second, however, and it does being directly after the actions that conclude Oryx & Crake, so I would argue that reading it next does make some sense. As I've begun the other book in the trilogy (Year of the Flood), I did wonder why Atwood seemed to have jumped back to fill in some of the backstory of many of the Gods Gardeners characters from MaddAddam, but I might suggest reading MaddAddam just after reading Oryx. Much of the book is told in flashbacks as Zeb explains his past to Toby, but the device works well. Admittedly, there isn't a whole lot of present-time action going on, but there is a lot of lead-up. This is a 'how-did-they-get-there' volume, filling in the backstories of many of the characters that we met in Oryx and in Year of the Flood. Worth a read but only as part of the trilogy. It wouldn't stand on its own.