August 31, 2005

Not in my school...

I've heard of loose and permissive discipline, and we certainly have a number of teachers in our building who swing the other way toward being tyrants and strict disciplinarians...but this just seems insanely ridiculous...

Pretty much every first year teacher has had discipline issues that they've tried to deal with in one way or another - discipline contracts, isolation of students, being too harsh, being too soft - and eventually you reach level of control with you and freedom for the students with which you're comfortable.

Seriously, though, this seems like an utterly crazy attempt at permissive discipline. I'll admit that I have no clue what the students are currently like, what their backgrounds are, what sort of culture they come from, or anything at all. Typically, that means I'd be loathe to comment on anyone else's solutions to their problems, but this one just sounds kinda nutty.

The Big Not-so-Easy...

Looks like New Orleans is a near-total loss. Looting and shooting, fires and building collapses, overflowing toilets in the Superdome with more people being dropped off there.

Cats and dogs living together, we're talking real Old Testament stuff here.

I once had an offer to live in my aunt's house in Miami for a year while she was out of the country for a job. My first concern was that I had made a conscious effort in my life to steer clear of Hurricane Alley and didn't see any reason to reverse that course. After seeing the devistation in New Orleans, there's been absolutely no reason for me to reverse that course.

There's been doubts for years as to whether the River should even be flowing through New Orleans anymore, but now it appears that the River and the Lake have taken New Orlens for their own. God luck, folks...

August 29, 2005

What the heck?!?!

I was taking a little break once I got home today, watching Xiaolin showdown - as is my pattern in the afternoons - and got a news break crawling across the bottom of the screen. I came in on the middle of the announcement, seeing words like evacuation and looting and explosion. First response in my head was a simple what the?

Apparently, a railcar full of styrene had begun to leak - in a big way, I guess - and has caused a decently large area of the east side of town to be evacuated with evacuations possibly staying through tomorrow. The mayor of Cincinnati has declared a state of emergency causing a curfew of 8pm tonight throughout that area. The Ohio River in the area nearest the train car has been closed to traffic, and the officials are reporting that there's a risk of explosion because the styrene's stabalizing agent expired months ago, leading to a build up of pressure and - according to reports - an increase in temperature which caused the pressure release valve to open wide.

I've got the tv on right now and am listening to a fire official saying that their explosive worry is that there could be an ignition source nearby which would cause a spark that would lead back to the tanker car - where they can't guarantee the structural intensity of the car.

I've got so many questions...
  • It's my understanding that a liquid changing to a gas leads to a drop in temperature. How is this build up of temperature occuring?
  • The supposedly dangerous level of styrene (according to the news) is 20 ppm, but the concentration here is only 0.5 ppm. How far away from the tanker does it drop below 20 ppm?
  • The fire department says they've got people no closer than .5 miles. How are they dumping water on the tank without getting any closer?
  • What is the styrene changing into as it becomes unstable?
  • Is that compound inherently explosive?
  • How can I use this information in my chemistry class?
  • How massive an explosion could they expect to evacuate the are they're evacuated?
  • Whose styrene is it?
  • Mayor Luken actually said that he'd spoken to the chemical company and that they'd just said "hummina hummina." Seriously, who says "hummina hummina" to the mayor?
For some video, click over here. Supposedly the city of Cincinnati is setting up a webcam to allow viewing. If/when I get this address, I'll pass it along.

Seriously freaky stuff...very odd...

August 28, 2005

Shout out to a former Viking...

Nice, Annie...

Send a message of horror...

Ah, bloody finger mail...a true classic of gross-out internet usage. And now that connection speeds are decently high enough, things should work just fine for pretty much everybody. So, go ahead, send somebody you love a little bloody finger mail...

American Beauty robbed...

And The Usual Suspects, too.

Joe Hollerman of the St Louis Post-Dispatch recently posted his list of the best films of the 1990's in honor of The Truman Show coming out on DVD, and his list is a pretty good one...(quick recap)...
  1. Pulp Fiction
  2. L.A. Confidential
  3. The Truman Show
  4. Shawshank Redemption
  5. Fargo
  6. Goodfellas
  7. Silence of the Lambs
  8. The Matrix
  9. The Big Lebowski
  10. FIght Club
With honorable mention going to:
  • Apollo 13
  • Chasing Amy
  • Clerks
  • Lone Star
  • My Cousin Vinny
  • Payback
  • The Player
  • Tombstone
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Unforgiven
First off, I kind of dig that this is a movie critic who's keeping to the fairly mainstream releases. I like a lot of art house films, but there's something to be said to reviewing and enjoying the big popcorn flick, too. Second, I've seen every movie that he mentions except for Lone Star, so I feel a decent ability to comment on his listing.

So, my gripes. I think he's got Fargo overrated and probably The Big Lebowski as well. I'd probably also drop Shawshank down some, as well. All three are very good movies, with Shawshank probably being the best of them, but I think there are three other films that deserve to be moved up in their place. I'd easily move The Usual Suspects and Unforgiven into the top ten from his honorable mentions, and I think he's absolutely forgetting one of the handful of best movies of the decade in American Beauty.

So, my list...quickly thrown together from what I've mentioned...
  1. The Usual Suspects
  2. Goodfellas
  3. American Beauty
  4. Silence of the Lambs
  5. Pulp Fiction
  6. Unforgiven
  7. The Truman Show
  8. The Matrix
  9. Fight Club
  10. The Truman Show
And I think he's got My Cousin Vinny and Apollo 13 and Payback way overrated. I enjoyed the last of those especially well, but I don't know that it's a great film. The other two are solid films but far from deserving of a top 10 of the decade look. Chasing Amy is one of my favorite films and an excellent one at that, but I'll admit that Kevin Smith's film is a little too rough around the edges to be in this conversation, as is Clerks which deserves a note for being the revelation of a great original talent and a fine film, but if we're looking at best of the decade, then you can't have as many rough spots as Clerks has. The Player deserves to be mentioned here. It is an excellent, intelligent, suspenseful film that didn't get nearly the love that it should have, but I find it just outside the top ten. Same feeling about Fargo, L.A. Confidential, and The Big Lebowski - excellent but just not quite top of the decade.

August 26, 2005

Roadside attractions...

I'm listening to a book by Neil Gaiman called American Gods - great listen so far - and Gaiman has the characters headed for The House on the Rock (HotR) for a meeting, and it got me to thinking how much of a draw the HotR is to me - and why it is such a draw.

I've never been to the HotR, so I can't speak to what the place is like, though there are a bunch of reviews of the attraction onlineAnd pictures as wellBut there's a sick draw. The place seems like a sicko museum of one man's weirdo obsessions with getting the freakiest collections all sorts of things - plus there's the infinity room which is shown in the picture above and the one to the right here. The room floats out from the house precariously and would probably scare the crap out of me because of a bit of fear of heights that I have, but I would love to give it a try sometime.

It's not even an attraction like I want to look as the phrase goes, like a train wreck, laughing and chuckling because of the weirdness of it all. It's something that I would simply love to see and that just might have to merit a trip sometime. My wife's mentioned wanting to go to the Dells of Wisconson (which I have no clue what they are, so I've always said no), and I just might piggyback this one in with the other stuff. Kinda sick...

But then again, it might never top quite possibly the best attraction that I've ever seen - nothing that I would spend days and days wandering through, but something that I would happily go through a half dozen times in a row because it was so amazing. It's the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston. The Mapparium is a spherical room (round top and bottom and walls, seriously) that is one giant stained glass globe of the world - as produced in 1935 - that you walk through on a clear plexiglass bridge. While you're in there, a recorded voice over talks about peace and bringing people together - heck, I don't really remember the recording. But you're in a stained glass room, lights outside shining in toward you in a nearly perfectly round room. The echos alone are phenomenal as you can hear your echos change and finally nearly deafen you when you step to the dead center. Then you can whisper to someone across the room in the opposite focal point and hear them with perfect clarity. The physics and acoustics would be enough, and then they add in the beauty of stained glass surrounding you. Sadly, no camera are allowed inside, so you have to buy their pictures, but it's phenomenal...Stunning...amazing...wonderful...

August 25, 2005

A request...a favor...

So, I was talking to one of our new teachers this afternoon, and he commented that he didn't know where anything around was. He's from Dayton and has lived in the Cincinnati area for like a month now - maybe two.

So, the request is this. Where would you suggest that he go to eat / shop / see the sights in and around the district or Cincinnati as a whole?

Post your suggestions, and I'll forward them his way en masse...

August 24, 2005

Ah, the jungle...

Ah, Jungle Jim's - finest grocery store in at least a three-state area. Since my wife and I moved outside the I-275 loop, Jim's has become our grocery of choice, necessitating a visit pretty much every week - sometimes multiple times a week if we're entertaining.

They've got the best produce section anywhere around, including imported produce that people drive hours to get - from durians to ugli fruit, from nine varieties of cabbage to four varieties of peaches - a full acre of produce. It's phenomenal.

Then there's the import groceries with aisles of food from England, Switzerland, Spain, India, Brazil, Mexico, and a dozen other nations. Everything you could want from any nation you could visit.

They've got a great bakery, a fabulous butcher, an in house sushi chef, a cooking school, the most impressive selection of adult beverages, and the best seafood selection around. Incredible.

And Jim is expanding. He's building more and more onto the stores, adding restaurants, a bank, an ice cream store, an oxygen bar, an entertainment district, and a monorail to take everyone around. Plus he's headed into Oakley for a second store.

Jim's had a Smithsonian article written about him; has become a roadside attraction, and become a destination for tourists.

The Jungle is a store that every Cincinnatian should be visiting. It's incredible...amazing...phenomenal...

August 23, 2005

Do you have the time?

So, sometimes the clock in my classroom goes down or gets stuck, and I have to rely on another timekeeping method. I've found a couple that project decently well on the tv screen, and I thought I'd give them each a little shout out...

August 22, 2005

People will never pay for water...

Continuing its steps toward global domination a la the Sons of Sam. Starbucks recently purchased Ethos Water, a smaller bottled water company with a public committment to improving water delivery systems in less developed countries around the world.

This continues Starbucks expansion from simple coffee merchant to marketing giant. They appear to be working on becoming a major player and taste maker in the media field as well with the recent exclusive CD releases for Bob Dylan and Alanis Morissete. And here they step into an already crowded bottled water market with a product that - with the backing of Starbucks - will likely be a major player very quickly.

I kind of dig Starbucks as a store. I'm not a coffee guy, but my wife worked at 'Bucks-Bucks for a few years (full benefits with twenty hours of work), so I've seen some of the corporate side of things. They've done an amazing job of keeping their brand strong through massive expansion both in stores and in brand identity without showing the brand dilution typical of such explosive growth. Their image as a deliverer of affordable affluence - show off your money for $40K by buying a Lexus or for $5 with a Starbucks-branded latte - is among the most pure and clearly defined of any restaurant in the world. They're incredible, and from all apearances of what I've read, they haven't abandoned their corporate good citizen stance in giving back to environments that they mine for their products. They've also done a great job creating a third space for customers to feel comfortable in. It's a powerful combination...

And the food's good, too...

August 21, 2005


Caught a kind of cool ad in the recent Entertainment Weekly last week. Lightscribe - seems to be a CD/DVD burner that allows you to burn a label directly into the top of the CD-R disc. It's an interesting little idea, 'cause I've been writing on the front of all my CD-R's with a Sharpie for a while now, and it's not a very attractive method of labeling. The lightscribe stuff, on the other hand, seems to create pretty nice looking labels - in a limited specturm of colors, admittedly - with just gold, brown, and kind of a tan being available.

It's something I think I'm going to look into since I tend to burn a bunch of cds here and there.

August 20, 2005

Great game...

Right, so my fantasy team didn't get any help from either Troy Glaus or Shawn Green last night - or from David Weathers, though Brandon Clausson did pick up the win for me - but I had a blast at the game last night. The Reds won 17-3, but it wasn't just the fact that the home team beat the holy snot out of the visitors. What was cool was the seats we were in. First row over the outfield wall bordering on the Reds bullpen. Great seats, leaning on the outfield wall, hearing the bullpen phone ring before the players did.

But the best parts...Austin Kearns popped one over the wall about four seats to the right of us, just barely over the wall. The fan there caught it in his hat, and a boy in our group got to be on ESPN's Sportscenter last night when they showed the highlights.

Then, the Reds' bullpen coach - Tommy Hume - chucked a ball up to the little girl in our group as well.

And the Reds beat the holy crap out of the D-Backs. Twenty runs scored in a 3:14 game - loads of offense and a game that moved right along. Good times...good times...

The IHOP is dead to me...dead!

The wife and I woke up this morning nostalgic for a breakfast at the table of the multi-flavored syrup caddy of the International House of Pancakes (IHOP). We had some errands to run - Home Depot, Joanne Fabrics, and Jungle Jim's - and headed out toward the Cincinnati Mills area for a stack of flapjacks.

Here's the problem, however...apparently, you can never go home again. Instead of the slightly dingy blue roof that we remember from childhoods around the country (mine in Clarksville, IN - hers all over the country), we found a nice, new, spiffy IHOP - no A-frame, no syrup caddies on the tables. We might've well been sitting at a Bob Evans with blue awnings. The hostess offered us a trio of specials - funnel cakes, instead of pancakes - which the waitress began to go through again until she saw the disinterest on our faces. She paused, and we asked her whether the funnel cakes were actually any good. Instead of a quick reassurance, she gave us a report on her diabetes and her surprisingly high sugar level last night. I'm not so much good with the chatterbox waitress concepts.

Then the food came. The sausage was fine, as were the eggs. The hash browns were nicely done, too - just like a good Waffle House order. And my cinnamon-roll french toast was tasty. Karlen's food was pretty much the same - except that she went for the big, fluffy pancakes - nasty if you ask me. I'm clearly more in favor of thin, crisp pancakes instead of the big, doughy pancakes that most restaurants sell. For me, if the batter doesn't pour from the spoon, then it's way too thick.

But the place was like the moon - no atmosphere at all. Instead of a place that we both remembered fondly, this was a restaurant anywhere in the US with nothing special at all. Could've been a Bob Evans, a Denny's, a Perkin's or just about any of a dozen other chain restaurants. Blech...

We won't be going back.

Call me a Waffle House man any day of the week...and twice at three in the morning...

PS - an interesting aside, it turns out that the IHOP chain has been going through a major redesign, trying to tie back into the nostalgia that apparently Karlen and I aren't the only ones with. Here's an article discussing the fact that Cincy is supposed to have been a part of this new roll out. Our store this morning didn't have any sort of A-frame, however.

And it appears that the folks in Deerfield Township look to not be adding an IHOP to their breakfast options any time soon.

And not everybody disliked their IHOP experience. This couple in Oakley gave it a fair rave.

August 19, 2005

Ah, comedy in unusual places...

One of the true measures of comedy genius is the ability to find humor in the most unlikely of places. The guy who can crack a quality joke in a tense situation or the girl who can drop a nice pun when the mood of the room had turned sour, that's good stuff.

Apparently, the artist of is at least part way toward comedy genius. The site is subtitled poorly-drawn cartoonsinspired by actual spam subject lines! and is just what it says. The one shown here is titled it's not a joke and references one of my all-time favorite jokes:
A minister, a rabbi, a Polish guy, and a midget walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says What, is this a joke?
There are loads more where that came from, folks. I'll be here all week. Remember to tip your waiters and waitresses; they work hard.

August 18, 2005

Fancy or crappy?

I run a pretty decent classroom website (check it from the sidebar if you're interested), at least I think I do. Admittedly it's got a ton of extra, frivolous crap that probably doesn't need to be around, but at least I make sure that you don't have to fight through the frivolous crap to get to the usefull stuff if you don't want to. Now, if you want to spend dozens of hours looking at every easter egg and hidden link, you can do that, but you don't have to.

My question is...Northstar Elementary School - is this fancy and neat and useful or is this frivolous crap that gets in the way of actually using the website as an effective communication tool?

August 17, 2005

My other love...

Architecture was the field that I was going into before I chose teaching. Until I was a sophomore in high school, architect was my standard answer to the What do you want to be when you grow up? question. Then, somwhere along the way, I found out I was going to be a teacher, that's just who I was and still am...but I digress...

I still love and appreciate architecture, finding myself reading architecture books, watching specials about architecture, and just enjoying the sight of a beautiful building. Which is why - a year or so ago - I dropped $10.99 on a total impulse buy at the Target check out line on the softcover Time: Great Buildings of the World. It's a pretty cool book with two-page spreads on dozens of the greatest buildings in the world. And I thought I'd give a shout out to some of my favorites in flipping through the book...

First up, the Taj Mahal...the Guggenheim in NYC...Salisbury Cathedral...Shirasagijo Castle...all of Brasilia...the Millenium Bridge in London...Angkor Sagrada Familia...Monticello...Fallingwater...Target in Montreal...Pompidou Centre...Jewish Museum of Berlin...Guggenheim Biblao...Experience Music Project...Burj al-Arab Tower Hotel (as shown on the right)...Milwaukee Art Museum...Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank Tower...Petronas Towers...Thorncrown Chapel...and the book closes with Tail o' the Pup...

August 15, 2005

Found in searching...

Two awesome things found while searching for a picture of Bill Simmons for the previous post...

One, a black and white animation titled either Over Time or Muppets Overtime...check it out, streaming from clue what's up with the dead guy, but the movie's kind of moving and incredibly well done...

Two, a great blog with some really well-written comic book reviews...not quite in the same style as Comics 101, but not aiming to be...

Makeup call...

Okay, the Sopranos post was a bit of a cop-out...I felt like I needed to post something for yesterday's absence, and I didn't really have anything to's not bad in retrospect, it's just not my best work...let's try again, shall we?

If you're a guy in the age range of about 18-40, you've gotta be reading Bill Simmons of regularly. He's the best thing left on ESPN's website that you don't have to pay for, and they've been expanding his world step by step until he's nearly running Page2. He started out with a little column, couple of times a week. Then he got a side column of stuff not quite worth a full article, and they let him call it More Cowbell. Then they gave him an intern whose job it is (at least in appearance) to simply run the Links of the Day column, which everyday has better links than anything I'm posting up (well, not everyday, but he's got a full-time intern to be his toadie, what've I got?). Then there's the classic time in and time out mailbags where Simmons takes what his readers give him and riffs on them. And they turned him into a cartoon character The Sports Guy complete with sidekick/girlfriend/now-wife The Sports Gal. The man's a modern day classic. Follow him...

In the past few days alone, here are some of the highlights...

More for me to watch...

It's been a while since anybody's seen anything new from the Sopranos - since the summer fo 2004 - and even longer for me since I'm catching the series in bunches on the DVDs (no cable here, personal choice), but it looks like there's an end in sight with twenty episodes coming (eight in 2006, twelve more in 2007) being announced by HBO this past Friday.

In case you haven't had a chance to check this show out, do what you need to (check libraries, get HBO if you need to) because it's an amazing story of so much more than just a wiseguy. It's a wonderful exploration of the family dynamics of a man with two families, and it adds to much more than just the Mafia media culture (even if it was just a mob show, it would be historically good). It is violent at times, and it's vulgar often, but it's spectacular.

As an aside - other favorite mob works, probably pretty obvious ones - The Godfather (all three parts, including the underrated third act), Goodfellas (my vote for the best ever), The Untouchables (with Sean Connery over the top but earning his only career oscar), and Goodfeathers. There are even entire websites devoted to mafia flix.

August 13, 2005

A second post ('cause I missed yesterday)...

Please note that I am doing nothing here more than posting a couple of links to news stories that could be entirely untrue and possibly even libelous. I have to say that in advance since two of the links are pointing to stories posted by FoxNews.

But, at least one of their "writers" is claiming that it's possible that Katie Holmes, pictured at left, may have been brainwashed into "loving" Tom Cruise. Please note that I have absolutely no reason to believe this in any way, form, or fashion other than the fact that the whole situation is just creepy and that I'd rather the brainwashing be true than the alternative.

So, here goes a good, healthy dose of muck raking and rumor mongering...And there you go, another fine example of blogs providing quality citizen journalism at its finest...

Better (and more expensive) living through chemistry...

Karlen and I were in the local Kroger Thursday night grabbing some granola bars and other snacks for our twelve-mile canoeing excursion yesterday (quick review: fun) when she pointed out the most amazing new product: Wolfgang Puck's Gourmet Lattes in self-heating cans.


The thing's gotta be better than the HeaterMeals that I usually use in my chemistry classes to demonstrate exothermic reactions, because these cost a measely $3 per latte instead of about $5 per HeaterMeal - and the lattes don't have like 300% of your USRDA of sodium per serving.

This thing's gonna rock - of course, I don't drink coffee and haven't actually used one yet 'cause they cost like $3 each, but I'm sure they'll be the most amazing things ever. To check more about them, here are some links dealing with these new revolutionary products certain to make our world about 3456 times better

August 11, 2005

Madden coming to town...

It's in the game...and it's gonna be in town...

Madden 2006 just came out, and I haven't had a Playstation or X-box or any sort of gaming system since I was at Wabash, so I'm certainly not going to be taking part in this one, but I'd like to point something out for all the game junkies out there. The Madden Challenge - national tourney, with its $100,000 top prize - is coming to Newport on the Levee - right across the river from Cincinnati - on October 23rd. Registration's available online in case anybody's interested.

Got a weird mailing yesterday...

In the mail yesterday came to us a nasty stream of vitriol aimed squarely at our local Wal-Marts - two of which are opening within ten miles of my house, a third and a fourth in the same radius are being transformed from Wal-Marts to Wal-Mart Supercenters, and a fifth is being closed to make way for one of the new ones, um, hello market saturation. The flyer was about the size of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper when folded up but unfolded to be roughly poster sized - four sheets of 8.5 x 11 taped together in a rectangle. Glossy paper in a mostly red background with black type and a few yellow stars here and there to resemble the flag of China.

The flyer went through a bunch of facts about Wal-Mart's relationship with China
  • Wal-Mart is China's 4th largest trade partner.
  • American manufacturing jobs are moving to China as our trade deficit with China increases.
  • And a lot more, see their website if you're curious
The thing that really surprised me about the flyer, however, was the lack of direction that it gave to anybody reading it. There were no talking points, no urges to boycot Wal-Mart, to pester the workers at Wal-Mart about the issues, to write letters to Wal-Mart or to congressmen, or to do anything, in fact.

I'm sorry, but if you're going to spend thousands (if not hundreds of thousands, I don't know how far and wide this mailing went) to get people all worked up about the horrors that are Wal-Mart (at least the ones you claim are horrors of Wal-Mart), then you might as well send the mob rabble out with a purpose. Tell 'em what to do. Don't just scream that the scientist up the road has built a monster, talk about the poor girls who he's going to rip limb from limb, and send us home. Instead, get us whipped into a good frenzy, hand out the torches and lighters, and point us up the road. Otherwise you're just spitting in the wind, flapping your lips.

And also curious to me, there is no mention of who's paying for this mailing. On their website, after a couple of clicks, I get this under their Mission link:


This organization exist to educate, inform and mobilize citizens of our communities about the causes, effects and losses of good paying middle class jobs across this country. Because elected officials and greedy corporations have abandoned the American Worker and because the profit driven "race to the bottom" of low wages and no benefits destroys families we are fighting back. The Tri-State Coalition will lobby, campaign, demonstrate and engage in all forms of peaceful legal activity to bring attention to the disastrous results of unfair foreign trade policies, abuse of workers and their rights, destruction of local businesses by gluttonous global giants and the damage being done to the American standard of living and values in the name of free trade and "good business".

The Tri-State Coalition for Good Jobs will call on Americans as citizens, workers, parents, people of faith and as consumers to take a stand against greed by supporting only businesses, companies, corporations, elected officials or politicians and products which make jobs more secure, communities more livable and our national economy stronger.

...but there's nothing under the About Us link. There are a number of articles and links to other organizations supporting this viewpoint, and there is a page to leave comments which is falsely advertised as contact us, but never to we hear who's bankrolling this propaganda machine.

Some of the comments left, by the way...
From Brian , Fri May 6, 2005, 8:10 PM

I like shopping at Wal-Mart...they have low prices and help people who have little money.

From Anonymous , Thu Jun 2, 2005, 11:52 AM

if Walmart is so bad, how are they able to attract and maintain employees.......over 1.5 million people can't all be miserable

From Anonymous , Thu Jun 9, 2005, 10:11 PM

Almost all the infromation and web links provided come from union sources and folks with a agenda like Michael Moore & Bill Moyers ...Can't you provide more infromation and links from neutral parties??

Admittedly, I had to search a bit to find these few pro-Wal-Mart quotes.

I'd really like to know who's put this website together and what their specific goals are (not just a blanket Put Wal-Mart out of Business, but rather what they want people to do after coming to their website).

I'm also curious to hear who else got the same mailing I got - if you're 'round the Cincy area and either got or didn't get the mailing, can I get a shout out with an area of town where you are? Thanks

August 10, 2005

Celestial fireworks...

You've a couple of days to plan for one of the finest celestial fireworks shows of the year. In the early morning of Friday, August 12th will be the Perseid meteor shower.

Conditions are pretty much perfect. The moon sets around 10pm on Thursday night. The skies are expected to be pretty clear (at least they are around here in the Cincy area). The weather's supposed to be nice, and things are supposed to peak in the early morning dark hours - around 4am. The peak is expected to have roughly a hundred shooting stars an hour, so this is one to get out and see.

To learn a little more, check any of these links...

August 9, 2005

Help out the local independents...

Sorry, kiddios...just got back in town yesterday from visiting the family and dropping a lil' birthday gift on the sister. Happy 27th, by the by, if you see this.

Also took a moment after dinner at Wick's Pizza Parlor - I especially recommend the bacon and banana pepper, loads of bacon from the Wick folks - to stop over at a music store that my mom's been frequenting of late, Underground Sounds and grabbed the new Richard Thompson album. Pretty nice album, not quite on par with his last studio release, Mock Tudor but not without its highlights. Gimme a couple of days and I'll have it posted over on my entertainment blog.

A little discussion that I had with the proprietor of Underground Sounds got me to thinking that I might wanna give a little shout out to some of my favorite local independent media providors, the record vendors of the world. Since I've only spent a great deal of time in three or four cities, this won't be by any stretch an exhaustive tour through the finest independent media dealers around the country - for that, check either AIMS or CIMS. I'm just dropping in a few of my favorites.

First and foremost, there's Shake It Records down in the Northside region of Cincinnati. They've been named the best music store in town for three years running - impressive considering they've barely been open longer than that. They've got the most exhaustive and successful arrangement of genres in the city - Americana, Unlistenable, Punk, Oldies, Grunge, Garage Rock, and a bunch more that I should be able to remember but can't. They have some great listening stations, and they sell tickets to local shows at some of the smaller venues around town - including but not limited to my favorite place to see a show, the Southgate House. And they're able to make some great recommendations if you're willing to chat them up about what your tastes are.

Shake It has taken over the title of best record store in town from Everybody's Records which used to have an impressive offering of import and less officially released, shall we say, albums but have really pared back their offerings and begun targeting more rap and hardcore music, genres that I don't enjoy quite as much. They're far from a bad store at this point, and they're great about buying used CDs ($4 cash or $5 store credit), but they're just not the alpha dog in town anymore, and I do wish their hours were a little later on the weekends.

In Louisville, it's one of two places - either the afore mentioned Underground Sounds where I will admit to having found a couple of less officially released live recordings from some great artists or Ear-X-Tacy in the same area of town. Both are great record stores, and I haven't been in either enough of late to compare them - hey, ya move out of town and lose a little connection with the local scene, so sue me. I do love the Ear-X-Tacy bumper sticker, though...

And in case you needed more impetus to drop by your local independent retailer, all of these stores I've mentioned sell exclusive CDs by artists who want to help out their local little guys - Ben Folds, Ween, Richard Thompson, PJ Harvey, Jay Farrar, Belle & Sebastian, Ben Harper, My Morning Jacket, Queens of the Stone Age, Mars Volta, Matthew Sweet, Jason Mraz, Phish, and a bunch more. If you want the good stuff, you'll have to go to the good places...

August 6, 2005

My musical radar...

Slow news day yesterday...I actually took the time to work on an online class that I'm taking (and thoroughly enjoying, please note the sarcasm) instead of dropping some knowledge to you folks. Well, that and the fact that I didn't get a whole lot of mental stimulation 'cause I was reading ed psych and working on a projcet for the class all day...

But today, back in the saddle...

I was rolling through my bookmarks and checking to see if anything merited a bit of a mention here in good ol' casa de Dusch (nice, butchering multiple languages at once, it's a skill, admit it), and thought I'd drop a mention for some of my favorite bands, pointing out their various websites of varrying quality.

Leading the pack for me has to be Wilco a band with a seemingly rolling membership under the banner of Jeff Tweedy - lead singer, songwriter, and apparently pain in the tuckus to work with 'cause not a lot of these guys stay around more than a couple of albums. Apparently it's a rough gig being a Tweedy bandmate. Honestly though, I could care less, 'cause that albums they put out keep getting better and better. Their music is a little hard to describe because each album has been pretty different. From the alt-county of AM which sounded like what it was, a first album from a half of Uncle Tupelo split off on its own to the Stones-inspired Being There through a Beach Boys riff on Summerteeth to a radically different masterwork Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - put out on their website for free download after their label dropped them for making non-commerical albums, check I am Trying to Break Your Heart, a great documentary on the band's experiences for one tumultuous year, for more info on that one - and on to A Ghost is Born which has some of the most beautiful, quiet music they've made. It's new every album, but the quality is consistently high - well, A.M. was a weak effort, but it lead things off, so there's slack to be given.

Next up is the Yonder Mountain String Band, a bluegrass/jam band that tends to come through the Cincy area a couple of times a year - something about the mandolin player having gone to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. They've put out three studio albums and three live recordings (a bunch of others available for download from either the bonnaroo downloads site or from The Band has been on the forefront of the movement to post live performances for download. In the Band's case, it's a great thing because they haven't been able to capture the fun and energy of their live performances on any of their studio recordings yet. Instead, their albums have been pretty standard modern bluegress fare, but their live performances are absolute knockouts - typically three-hours of high energy with unexpected covers and great musical breakdowns. See 'em live if they come your way. It's a hell of a show.

I've already pointed out Richard Thompson's website in a previous posting, so I won't dwell there other than to point out that he's got a new album coming out next week - Front Porch Ballads. I heard two or three of the tracks when he came through and performed in Newport this spring, and it looks to be a great album, his first solo album in a decade or two, should be a real treat.

I'll close with a link to John Prine's site on Oh Boy records. Prine has been making music and writing wonderful songs for more than twenty years now and has gone from being the next Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson to a wonderful artist in his own right. His songs tend to tell stories of people just a little off center - see "Donald and Lydia" and "Illegal Smile", "Jesus - the Missing Years" or "Sam Stone" - or of his recollections of youth - "Paradise" and "Angel from Montgomery". His singing is casual and relaxed, and his songs are absolutely wonderful. My favorite is "Lake Marie". He's a hell of a writer and an absolute joy.

August 4, 2005

Wal-Mart goes green...

On today's All Things Considered on NPR, there was a story about a new Wal-Mart supercenter being built in McKinney, Texas with all sorts of new environmentally-friendly technologies - more skylights, a new boiler that burns motor oil from the auto shop and oil from the in-store deli, a wind turbine outside in the parking lot to help provide electricity, special HVAC system, and other innovations. Wal-Mart management is understandably proud of this new store - and a matching on in Colorado that will explore the same gree technology in a colder climate - and they have pushed the concept to all the major news agencies.

Not everyone is sold on the idea, however, suggesting that the new technologies are more for public image than for actual environmental care. Feel free to read short piece entitled "Response to Wal-Mart's New 'Green' Store in McKinney, Texas" or this one which deals with a more general concern over Wal-Mart's environmental record or this one that deals with the view of major unions toward Wal-Mart (note: thee negative articles to balance the three positive articles, I'm trying to be a good citizen journalist here.)

My personal view of Wal-Mart is a bit of a convoluted one. I hate going to Wal-Mart because I find that their stores are junky (constantly in need of restocking and straightening of aisles and shelves), often dirty, understaffed (particuarly at the check-out lines and in offering on-floor assistance), and underlit (perhaps the skylights will help, research suggests it will.) And I despise their business practices. They build stores in area in order to over saturate the market, driving smaller competitors out of businesses, and then closing the stores that are the least profitable, leaving empty buildings - which they never owned, only rented after agreeing to rent so that they would be built - that are too large to rent to any other tenant. They are as a corporation so large that they can negotiate whoelsale prices well below those that any of their competitors can ever manage, allowing them to undersell those competitors. There are always charges from their employees that they don't promote women to positions of power and that they do everything they can to break up any unions before they form. And their environmentalism can certainly be called into question.

On the flip side, Wal-Mart is the perfect model of how a business should grow, compete, and ensure its success for the years. They began small, finding themselves a niche where no one else was willing to go. Sam Walton found out exactly what that niche wanted to be filled, and he filled it perfectly. He built his business slowly, determining a business plan that allowed successful growth without overgrowing their support structure. Sam visited every store personally throughout his first years, ensuring that the quality of the stores and the attitude of the employees was up to the standards that he set. When it later became clear that Sam would have to pass his business to his heirs, he made certain that the succession plan was clearly in place. If a new business could choose any company after which to patttern themselves, Wal-Mart would be the perfect match.

Read a bit - I have - before you you decide for yourself. I recommend How Wal-Mart is Destroying America and The Wal-Mart Decade. There are a number of others that would certainly work just fine as well. I'm guessing that your local library would have quite a few in stock.

A little cheerier...

Sorry for those last couple of posts, folks...occasionally life intrudes on all our fun around here...but now, back to the frivolity...

Every month the World Almanac people compile a list of entertaining - and sometimes important - dates and anniverseries for that month. For the month of August 2005, we get to learn that the August 13-29 is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, that the US Open tennis tourney starts August 29th, and that National Aviation Day falls on August 19th this year. Also, we see that today is the 50th birthday of our current US Attourney General, Alberto Gonzalez. They give us a recap of the significant passings and events of July as well as a couple of stranger stories - like that fact that more than 100 Santa Clauses met in Copenhagen in July to compete in Santa-skills contests. But my favorite section is the "Links of the Month" from the editor in chief. It's down toward the bottom of the page, and it always seems totally random. There's only a slight theme, but it ends up being mostly stream of consciousness from Edward A. Thomas (for now). Strange things pop in and out each month.

You can subscribe to have the link sent to you on the first of each month easily enough, or you can head over here and click on the Free World Almanac Newsletter for the current one.

August 3, 2005

Marines killed...

One of my former students - Chris Dyer, Class of 2002, my student for two years - was killed in Iraq today. He was one of fourteen Marines from an Ohio reserve unit killed yesterday morning in Iraq.

This is the second time this year that this has hit home to me...first with Jeremy Wright, and now with Chris...

Two deaths are too many, and we've seen far more than just two.

August 2, 2005

Give a Little, Get a Lot...

At my high school, we do a yearly fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lyphoma Society called Pasta for Pennies. We've been pretty successful, as I think I've mentioned before, raising over $140,000 in our six years with the program, even finishing first in the nation in 2005.

Through my involvement in the fund-raiser (I've gotten my class as high as second-most per capita money raised the past two years and sahved my head in a lost bet the year before, and I now co-chair the campaign at our school), I've really come to hold this cause close to my heart. We've had patient heroes - kids who suffer from leukemia - out the past year to speak about the disease, and it's tough to listen to the mother of a four-year old explain that she had to hold her daughter down while the doctors did a spinal tap, to hear another mother tell the statistics of the 4000+ pills her son has taken since his diagnosis.

And I've begun to become involved in helping out in ways outside of the campaign in little ways - going to the national School & Youth conference this summer to present ideas on how other schools could do as well as my school has been able to, signing up for the Light the Night walk in Butler County where I live on September 24th. I'll be raising funds here and there as best I can to help out the cause and offering my help in setting up anything they need help with.

It's a cause that I'd ask you to take a moment and check out. It's a tough one to pass up once you begin to learn about it.

Thanks...and I'll try to keep the wholesome posts to a minimum, don't worry...

Stupid trade consumated...

One of the owners who's new to our fantasy baseball league this year has been crabbing and moaning about the lack of trades in our league. And, I'll admit, there have been paltry few trades this year because of various factors - the most likely being that the miserable website - - that we've chosen to go with this year doesn't allow easy evaluation of trades. In past years, you were able to view the trades players side by side and see if the whole thing was worth your time or not.

Well, as commissioner of the league, I sometimes feel that it's my duty to keep the new kids happy. So I told him to offer me a resonable trade for my second-to-last place team. Here's what he offers up Mark Mulder, Raffy Palmeiro, and Shawn Green in return for my trio of Carlos Beltran, Eddie Guardado, and Jake Westbrook. I took it...maybe stupidly, but I took it...

The very next morning, I see the lovely headlines that Raffy has been suspended for ten days for violating the league's steroid policy. Doh! Nice timing, boys, nice timing. Looks like th Flaming Moes - my team - will be putting their new aquistition on the bench for a while.

By the way, if you wanted to check our Raffy's side of the story, here's his statement.

I really don't know what to think about the Raffy situation. He got his 3000th hit recently, and there has been a spate of news stories and articles online about whether Palmeiro was Hall of Fame worthy or not. After a lot of reading and consideration, I'd come to the conclusion that his long career of seasons with pretty high value just happened to come at a time when there is one of the great positional gluts at first base with Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, and others who sort of overshadowed Raffy's time. That Raffy deserved to go into the HoF because of his excellence for such a long time. But it was a close decision, because I've never viewed him as anything other than a pretty good hitter who happened to be a fantasy study because he played in some hitters parks. But this just might change things. After seeing him testify very vehemently before Congress that he had never taken any steroids, period, and now having seen this new suspension, I just don't know. My feeling is that he perjured himself and that he's going to need to bear the brunt of the steroid-fueled anger in baseball.

Good luck, Raffy...hope the mustache and the viagra help...

August 1, 2005

Juggling artistry...

From time to time I've been known to juggle a club or a ball here and there...never more than three of either as I'm an amatuer enthusiast at best, nothing anywhere nearing a professional or even what I'd call a really good level in the least.

Today, I present for you a few links to juggling videos - in various formats - of some of the more impressiv performances that I've been able to find online. I do warn you that many of these are quite large file sizes and are probably best viewed via a high-speed connection.

First up is five minutes of Anthony Gatto, widely regarded as the greatest juggler living today and in the argument for greatest juggler of all time. What he does here in this video is simply amazing. The inital ball and ring work isn't bad, but wait until about two minutes and ten seconds in when he starts performing with the clubs. From there onward, he works showmanship and numbers juggling in what is easily the most impressive display I've ever seen.

I'll balance Anthony's routine with a few videos from someone who apparently has some sort of beef with Gatto. Check the performances from Jason Garfield - and particularly the rap video (which does have some slightly offensive lyrics, but is hilarious in showing that apparently the East Coast-West Coast rap wars have begun to spill over into the juggling world. This is a man who's more about the numbers than about the overall performance. Doesn't do it for me, but I don't think I'd tell him to his face. It's not like he isn't a great juggler, but I'd rather see him juggle than hear him jabber about it.

If you want to check out some other videos, head over the the IJDb to see some of their 2000+ videos.

And we'll close with a demo of the trickiest trick that I know how to do. Here's a video that'll teach you how to do Mill's Mess. This is the best that I'm able to do, though I'm not the guy showing it off in this video.