January 31, 2008

The Random Ten is an easy post

In the heart of the campaign, I'll take a quick and easy post here and there...so today I offer up ten random songs from the home iTunes...all of 'em are four stars except for the last which gets five...
"Body Movin'" by the Beastie Boys
Good, solid start...kicking it moderately old school with the Boys...does it amaze anybody else that they've only put out seven albums in twenty-plus years?
"Gremmie Out of Control" by Pearl Jam
it's weird how various groups get hooked on a certain old style...Pearl Jam seem to dig surf and girl groups...kinda cool...like how the Beatles liked Motown
"Guitars, Cadillacs" by Dwight Yoakam
I love this a capella track by Dwight...no instrumentation, no guitar...just his voice doing one of his better known songs
"Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" by Flatt & Scruggs
all finger pickin' and banjo strummin', this track is pretty typical of these kings of bluegrass...good stuff, not my favorite bluegrass track, but I do love hearing Scruggs drop a simple "oh, honey" in each break
"Queen of Hearts" by Juice Newton
dorky eighties country pop...kinda fun
"Bob Dylan's 49th Beard" by Wilco
beautiful simple tune from Tweedy and the boys from the tour edition of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, proving that just because it didn't make it onto the album doesn't mean that it's not a classic
"Ten Little Indians" by Harry Nilsson"
rarely has a song based on the Ten Commandments been so entertaining...each Indian drops off in the order of the commandments
"Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
now there's a classic guitar rock tune...this should totally be on Guitar Hero...fuzzed out guitar with religious bent...
"Unwed Fathers" by John Prine
nothing special here...pretty John Prine song but not nearly his finest work ever
"Black Eye" by Uncle Tupelo
and Tweedy makes his second appearance but this time with the first band, the ones who started it all...wither Jay Farrar?

January 30, 2008

My longshot has come in

I would have easily bet money that if I were to be the owner of both a Nintendo Wii and - as of this afternoon - a Play Station 2...

...and if that Play Station 2 were to be currently receiving signals from one of the two wireless Guitar Hero controllers that I now own to go with Guitar Hero III...

...and if those guitars were going to make a visit to school sometime soon so that the kids could stop by during lunch to play them...

...that I would have been the one to initiate the purchase.

I would, clearly, then have been wrong.

Because The Girl went out today - after asking me (we tend to consult on any purchases of over $100) - and bought a refurbished PS2, two wireless Guitar Hero guitars, Guitar Hero III, and two wireless controllers from the local GameStop...

...so she could take the system in to school and let the kids play during their lunch hour for $1 per song ($3 if they want to duel)...

...with all proceeds going to her school's Pasta for Pennies campaign.

You know, boys and girl, I do believe that I'm in love...

January 29, 2008

Cars bringing dogfood

The Gods Must be Tasty

Stay of Execution

Do enjoy today's brief taste of Truck Bearing Kibble, and feel free to take in a little more if you've got the time...

January 28, 2008

At the intersection of commerce and narcissism...and now charity, too...

A recent article in Wired let a blogger unburden himself of his flirtations with PayPerPost, a site that pays bloggers to write posts. It's a simple enough set-up - pay otherwise impartial folks to talk about products or companies so as to start a bit of buzz going. And, in the spirit of true disclosure, it's something that I took part in once before through a different company.

Plus it's something that celebrities do all the time.

It's not a thing that I'm entirely opposed to, even though the concept of schmucks like you and me turning into spokespeople is a little unsettling to me. I understand the draw for the companies, sure. If you hear something from a friend or coworker that you already trust, if they just sort of casually mention something - particularly if they already know your tastes and tailor their "casual" mention to those tastes, you just might be more likely to be influenced to try that fabulous new product. Plus there's the fact that hiring you and me costs pennies on the dollar instead of the thousands that it would take to get a big time celebrity spokesperson.

And now comes this email that came to the other co-chair of our Pasta for Pennies campaign:

I understand how the company found us as we've been advertising the 5K on every runners club and running store website that we could find, but it's still a little weird to think that our little event - something that I think of as being just barely bigger than the Princeton community folks - somehow got the attention of what I think of as a real company.

We're probably going to go ahead and have Fuze as a sponsor for the race - which means they'll likely be handing out their beverages and finding their logo on the back of our shirts. Partially because of the flattery of somebody else thinking of our race as being a big enough deal to want to use it to advertise and partially because we really want to give our runners as cool an experience at the finish line as we can.

But there's a tiny touch of icky in being asked to advertise...

...at least in doing it so overtly.

I discussed this with my campaign co-coordinator, her view is that we actively go out seeking this kind of thing from local businesses. Why should that process going in the reverse direction be any different, much less worse?

I think it's because it somehow seems different when we go and ask a local business where we know people and who exist in our community instead of a faceless corporation contacting us asking us somehow to endorse a product about which we know nothing and for which we have absolutely no affinity at all.

And, as always, because I'm a human so I can hold two opposing viewpoints in my mind at the same time.

In an update, another business has contacted us.

This one feels even less genuine because it seems much more a form letter request.

Play well

If it weren't for Google, I wouldn't've had any idea that today is the 50th Anniversary of the Lego brick, but thanks to today's doodle, I am informed and so shall be you...

...plus this year's the 30th anniversary of the minifig.

How much cooler can that be?

I do digs me some Legos...in case you hadn't noticed...

January 27, 2008

A brief musical interlude

From Luscious Jackson - "Naked Eye"...it took me a while to hunt down the single version of this song on mp3...the album version's not nearly as cool as it's got the awesome beat stripped away...

My new favorite, Kate Nash doing a live "Skeletons" that's better than the album version...simpler, much cleaner than the production it's given in the disc...

Arrested Development should've been around for decades, but they flashed and disappeared...sad that...

"He War" by the vastly underpopular Cat Power

Probably Steve Earle's only video...and it had to be in his long-hair phase, eh?

I first heard the Crash Test Dummies from my freshman year roommate at Wabash. Two years later, they had a hit that "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmmm", and I got to see them live in Aberdeen. I'll stick with the first album as being better...and I have no clue what this video has to do with the song...

It doesn't get much better than "Wagon Wheel" by the Old Crow Medicine Show, but the combination of them with the burlesque show is a more than a little odd...

The Black Keys get freaky, freaky and pontificated about religion...to old people...in the midsts of a Jewish sermon...

A lovely little opening or a way to get The Mountain Goats to play in your living room, you make the call...either way, it's some awful lip synching to a great song...

Now here's a cover for you...

Austin City Limits isn't all about the country...as Ozomatli proves...

C'ya next week with another smattering of YouTube goodness, pretty babies...

January 26, 2008

At least it's new to me

Today's seeqpod playlist isn't going to be for all of you as it's got a little more contry tinge, meaning that there are more than a few songs where the banjo is in the front of the mix. But there's also some impressive tunefulness and nice songwriting throughout.

Sure, there are a couple of tracks where the Avett Brothers's influences are a bit too obvious (I'm talking about you, Beatles on a banjo "Will You Return"), but it's still great music.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

And through the Avett Brothers' website, I bumbled my way to The Nelsonville Arts & Music Festival and The Appalachian Uprising - both of which sound like rather impressive festivals down in south eastern Ohio.

Huh...wonder what's up in the weekends of May and June...

Oh, and thanks to Ashley for introducing me to these guys...and for being persistent enough to nudge when I didn't take the first hint...

January 24, 2008

Gettin' older

In a recent comment, Achilles3 pointed out that Band of Horses is coming to town this coming week, but sadly, they'll be here on Sunday night. After the week of Pasta for Pennies prep work that I've had, I'm thinking that a late night out heading into the first week of the campaign might not be a great idea.

January 23, 2008

Comin' at you from every side...from every side...

Today's brief bit of original content comes thanks to Calen's first spawned and is a fun little game called pandemic, in which you get to play viral designer and try to slaughter the entire world before any countries catch on and close their borders.

Have fun, folks, and try to top my high score of 5790 - in one of only two times that I've managed to bring about the end of days for humanity.

Links of the week, kiddies...

January 22, 2008

Bow to the white space

It's a busy time 'round here with Pasta for Pennies starting, so the next few posts may be a bit on the short side.

Don't worry about me abandoning you, but certain chosen pressures get to take prescendence over other self-imposed pressures from time to time.

Today I give you two links, both related to my web and design thoughts.

Up first is a how-to on making a very cheap macro studio for taking awesome closeups of your favorite li'l things. I'm thinking this'll come in handy this summer as I get out the various Viking Legos and start snapping away.

Then there's the design blog of Andy Rutledge in which he discusses some conventions in web design and reworks some very major website front pages. I'm totally sold on his redesign of ebay, not so much on Google, but his White House Redux is outstanding.

Plus his site is very well laid out.

If you have any interest in web design - designing your own homepage to be most effective - then this site has some amazing pieces to read. I'll be perusing the archives pretty thoroughly, myself, as we look into some redesign of my major website.

Oh, and major bonus points to anybody who can reveal the source of the today's blog-side image.

January 21, 2008

Into the brain

Lots of media here and there...

I remember reading Batman: Gothic when it came out. It was the second story arc in the Legends of the Dark Knight series, and ColdNorthGamer and I had dutifully gone over the to Great Escape on out monthly and probably parent-abetted trek.

The arc is one of the rarer Batman stories in that it's got a very strong religious/supernatural bent to it as Batman is effectively fighting a villian who has sold his soul to the devil in return for three hundred years of life and unnatural power. There doesn't turn out to be any sort of scientific explanation, no hocus pocus to explain things, just a simple and effectively creepy soul to the devil gig.

The creepiest part is that it turns out the bad guy - the shadowless Mr Whisper - was one of young Master Bruce's schoolmasters at his childhood boarding school and was all prepared to abuse and kill Bruce until Daddy Wayne had stepped in.

Honestly, this story doesn't work for me as a Batman story. I like to think of my Batman as a little more pragmatic, a little less willing to accept that his father has been visiting him in dreams and that the bad guy is powered by the devil. He steps right into the mythology of the evil godless abbey in Switzerland (or somewhere, I forget and I've already returned the volume to the library).

The tale is well written and drawn with an outstandingly matched art style that is a bit blocky and all together crrepy, but it's just a tale that is right for Batman for me.

As Calen pointed out, I've got a little thing for Kate Nash.

And she's a new, coming artist, so I thought that instead of waiting for the library to come into a copy of Made of Bricks, I'd go ahead and drop the $8.99 at Amazon to send a little business her way. I know it's not exactly like she's going to get the full $9 from me, but at least her record company knows to keep pressing her discs for me and the rest of the Kate Crue.

So, the disc itself...pretty much every review I've read has matched my opinion: about half the songs are great and the other half are okay if a bit rushed. Even most of the great songs are covered up by too much production.

Take, for example, the song "Birds". Here's a stripped down version that Nash did at a festival...

Now, here's the same song as recorded on the album...

From the first strains of the overly sappy, syrupy electric guitar, it's a lesser production, and that's what happens on a number of the songs on this album. The simplicity of the songs - and a number of them are wonderfully well written - are just drown in the "special touches" of a half dozen different producers. And in the end, a solid debut is still a solid debut, but it could've been better.

So, head to iTunes and grab the good ones - "Foundations", "Mouthwash", "Birds", "Pumpkin Soup", "Merry Happy", and another that's got a D at the front of the title and that I can't exactly type here. Then head to YouTube and check out some of her live performances to see what could've been.

I picked up Sky Blue Sky when it first came out.

I'm a giant Wilco freak, so I even made sure to pick up the edition with the bonus DVD so I could see the band recording the album. You know, 'cause I needed to know that in order to enjoy the songs.

But when they - as they have on the last three albums now - re-released the album with a bonus disc of six (this time five) songs and called it the Tour Edition, I ponied up another dozen bucks or so to get that, too. It's a completists disease that I clearly get from The Mom.

For three new songs - and two live versions of songs already on the album - it's a bit of a premium to pay, but as I said, I'm a sucker for Wilco. One of the new tracks is very familiar, having already been included in a VW commercial and played in concert a time or two that I've heard. "The Thanks I Get" is a winner and well worth having - the other two aren't wonderful but are nice enough. The two live tracks are plain enough, too.

Sky Blue Sky is somewhere between good and excellent - not quite so perfect and instantly wonderful as to grab you right off the bat but more like if you're willing to listen to it a few times it'll worm its way right into your brain and stick there. If you're a Wilco junkie, go for the Tour Edition and forgo (like you hadn't already gotten it) the with-DVD version.

If you're not a Wilco fan, two things - one, you should be...two, you should go with just the standard edition.

I'd heard the name Band of Horses once or twice before, but I hadn't heard their music anywhere until a teacher with whom I work and share musical tastes loaned me Cease to Begin, their second album.

I haven't heard the first album, but the second one's a winner. It's good stuff and of an ilk with Wilco and - as the allmusic review points out - My Morning Jacket. Starts out with the grabber "Is There a Ghost" and slows down a bit from there, maintaining, however, a pretty high quality through stuff like "Ode to LRC"

This disc's one to check out, and I'll be hunting down the band's first, too.

And a new slice of Cake to go with all of this? How much better can it get?

It's actually not entirely new Cake, but it's at least a collection of B-Sides & Rarities, covers of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs", Kenny Rogers's "Ruby", the Muppet classic "Mahna, Mahna", Sinatra's "Stranges in the Night", Barry White's "Never Gonna Give You Up", and a couple of instrumentals.

It's not a great album as it's just a good ol' odds and sods collection, but Cake takes all of the covers and rocks 'em, just pretty much knowcks them out of the park and makes them their own. From start to finish, the covers are top notch. The two instrumentals are decent if a little bit down from the covers, and the two live tracks at the end of the disc aren't exactly revolutionary, either, but the covers are knock outs.

Plus, it's scratch 'n sniff.

I got grape, in case you're curious.

If you have any doubts, try out "Mahna, Mahna" for free.

Plus Cake has an awesome website - not flashy or fancy but kinda personal and environmental. Dig it...

There have also been a couple of comics read this last while - the more enjoyable of the two was Spider-Man & the Fantastic Four - Silver Rage whose title is dramatically too long but whose story is a fluffy bit of fun. There's pretty much no reliance on continuity and no worries about fitting the tale into anything bigger, but it's an enjoyable read.

Alien shows up and threatens to join human with some symbiotic race, and Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four have to stop them. No bare knuckles brawling, no major planet-wide throw down or anything, just the typical dorky science type solution that Mr. Fantastic seems to thrown down between his morning and afternoon constitutionals.

Thankfully, this collection is dopey fun...an old school kind of story that wraps up well enough after a few issues and heads on its way, not trying to do anything spectacular, not trying to show any depth of story, just a quick, fun read.

I slagged Green Lantern Corps, but I found The Dark Side of Green to be a decently entertaining read. The collection has two stories - the first is a bit of Justice League Elite kinda thing where Guy Gardener (who seems to be as close to a main character as this series gets) goes undercover to do the jobs that the rest of the Corps aren't willing to do. It's an entertaining enough tale that works well to show Guy as the moral - if immaturely so - compass of the series.

Then we get a second arc that didn't work as well for me as it's clearly a set up for the Sinestro Corps story arc that came after this volume. Apparently the Corps have a bunch of people/groups who hate them, and the li'l blue guys are noticing that it all seems to be hitting the fan together.

It's not a great series, but it's a fun little read - particularly the first half of the collection.

I didn't expect what I got from Lucky Number Slevin.

I thought it was a snappy, quick-moving case of mistake identity with a few funs thrown in. Turns out that it's a movie full of red herrings and with a surprisingly slow pace, but it turned out to be an enjoyable one.

Some of the reviews of the film have suggested that it's got a few too many twists and turns, and I'll admit that things could have been a little clearer, but I thought it was an entertaining enough tale. Yeah, things could be a little clearer here and there, but it worked well enough for me.

Don't go in expecting anything even approaching a quick pace because it's much closer to glacial in its revelations, but if you've got nothing else to do on the first day of a three-day weekend and you're entirely avoiding the grading that you should probably be doing, you could do worse.

January 20, 2008

Mind that Gap, too

A lil' Dwight Yokam for the soul's sake...

The Gap goes urban...

See, they even had black people in some of the commercials...

Anybody remember the Beneton ads from the 80's?

...and goes street, too...

Then ads in a little color for commercial in the hey-day of Austin Powers...

...where as show tunes ever go out of style...

Neat transitions and effects in this holiday ad...

Same music and idea but with different visuals...

And again, but with a better choice than "Ice, Ice, Baby"

I'm thinking these need to be stretch jeans...

Favorite songs...

An interesting twist...don't know how I feel about the AC/DC-Audrey Hepburn combo...

Not a gap ad, but in the same style and came up when I searched for "gap commercial"...

I'm amazed that nobody got hurt in the filming of this one...

January 19, 2008

Two in the news

Two stories on this morning's Enquirer website caught my eye:

First, there's the awesome story about the Cincy Zoo's new Poo Power initiative in which the zoo is currently doing a feasibility study to see if they could use the estimated 800 pounds of elephant, ahem, output to heat, cool, and light the elephant and giraffe houses.

It's apparently the newest initiative in the zoo's Go Green program - of which I was not at all aware. The zoo has decreased their water usage by 30% over the last two years. They've converted their vehicles to blended biodeisel and swapped out all of their lights for compact fluorescent and their fluorescents for more efficient fluorescents. And their new buildings are all environmentally friendly - the zoo's new education center earning LEED certification as the only Silver building in all of Cincinnati.

And they're gonna swap out all of the Festival of Lights bulbs for LED.

And yet again we get evidence that our zoo absofrickin' rocks.

Secondis a quick update on the situation I mentioned a couple of days ago. Apparently the Freedom Center caved and donated the land back to the Banks project.


Sure, I understand that a museum like this only exists with the blessing of the public and that them asking for a million dollars got them a bunch of bad press, so it might be a good move so they can look magnanimous and all, but they were well within their rights to ask for some cash in the deal.

I'm disappointed in them and in the Banks folks for showing such horror in the press.

January 18, 2008

You cannot escape us

I'm both horrified and intrigued with the new plans for Microsoft's grocery cart advertising.

On one hand, I like the idea that I could upload a shopping list from home, scan a card at the store, have the list appear, and have things checked off as I put thing into the cart. It'd be easier than balancing the pen and paper while chucking paper towel rolls into the cart from thirty feet away (because that's how I keep my Pro-Bowl caliber arm in shape, doncha know).

I'm even kinda down with the store having a better idea of their customers' shopping patterns so they can (in theory) make things more efficient.

By the same token, I sure as heck don't need more advertising in my life, and I don't want them knowing more about my shopping patterns. Feel free to learn about me as part of a group, but not about me individually. That's just creepy.

January 17, 2008

The series that wouldn't die

No cable means I miss a whole bunch of quality tv.

Flukishly, however, I caught a bit of that quality storytelling in flipping 'round the proverbial dial in the pilot episode of Dead Like Me, a cancelled show from Showtime a few years ago and apparently begin rerun on My64 here in the Cincinnati area.

The set-up's pretty simple...
...our lead character is George (short for Georgia) who dies about ten or so minutes into the opening episode. She's assisted to her death by Mandy Patainkin, Rebecca Gayheart, Jasmine Guy, and a few other grim reapers. They pull the souls out of dead folks just before the suffering starts, and George is destined to be one of them.
The show's main thrusts are two-fold as George comes to grips with being an agent of death, assigned to her appointments by yellow post-it's given out at the Der Waffle Haus by Patainkin and George watches her family - mother and father on the verge of divorce and younger sister struggling in lots of ways - deal with her passing.

For a show about death, it's impressively full of life as the characters impart to George their various bits of wisdom gleaned from years of dealing with the about to not be living. George gives an outstanding performance, and Patainkin does a masterful job of showing the joy he has in being around life (if not technically living, himself) while being rather pissed off at George for her reluctance to take a number of lives early in the series (early because that's all I've seen so far).

Sadly, the clips on YouTube aren't at all school-appropriate (it is a Showtime series, after all), so I can't share the joy with you, but feel free to find them yourselves.

I'm really thrilled to have found this li'l gem of a series is wonderfully well done and should be viewed - especially with a straight-to-DVD movie after the two seasons on cable.

And in a totally unrelated bit of news, this might be the least surprising story ever.

January 16, 2008

Look what washed up

Ah, The Banks Project has washed up in the news again.

For those of you not in the know, The Banks is the area between Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark on Cincinnati's Riverfront. It's been ten years in the planning that some sort of mixed use development - apartment and condo living, shops, maybe even the extravagance of a little neighborhood grocer - has been in the plans for that area. In the meantime, we've been treated to the spectacle that began as a mud pit and has since transformed into a parking lot and grassy field.

In this, the ninth year of planning, not a single spade has been turned, much less an apartment rented out. The fight between the Cincy Port Authority, the City of Cincy, and Hamilton County has lead to a fair standstill in the development. We've heard the need for set-asides for minority and small businesses, the desire to keep the development squat so as not to cheese off the businesses of downtown proper, the hopes for mass transit to the site, and every other possible impass that you could imagine - from race to dollars.

It's been a true quagmire with only one gleeming, subsidized project completed: the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center - which has been, admittedly, struggling a bit to remain afloat what with admissions being lower than expected.

And here's where the ugliness washes up, yet again.
According to a Cincy Enquirer article today, it looks like the Banks folks want to build a couple of restaurants on a little piece of green right there behind the Freedom Center, a little piece of green that it appears the city and county gave exclusive development rights for to the Freedom Center about six or seven years ago.

And now the city and county want the land back, but the Freedom Center is asking for $1 million for the rights.


The city and county folks have logic like this on their side:
"I think that's the most outrageous thing I've ever heard of," Commissioner Pat DeWine said.

"They are essentially wanting taxpayers to pay twice for the same piece of property. I'm not going to support that," DeWine said.

"I would certainly hope the Freedom Center would just give those rights," [Commissioner Todd Portune] said, adding that he planned to contact the organization to discuss the issue.
Well, if he's going to discuss the issue, he's clearly serious.

Be wary, Freedom Center folks, for you clearly have no leg to stand on:
The city and county gave exclusive development rights for the lot in question to the nonprofit Freedom Center in 2001 and 2002.
Wait, the city and county gave the rights away?

Just gave them away?

Not sold them, not loaned them, not leased them - gave them away.

And then...
"The ($1 million) was arrived at through discussion/negotiation, and followed two independent assessments of the value of (the lot)," [Paul Bernish, chief communications officer for the Freedom Center,] said.

The assessments, done in the fall of 2007, stated the land is worth between $3 million and $5 million.
So the Freedom Center - which is struggling financially, as the article points out, partially because the foot traffic that the Banks was supposed to provide has been on hold because of the stupid in-fighting between county and city - the Freedom Center wants to bring in some revenue by selling an asset that they own?

Those evil, evil people!

The city and county gave them something, and now the city and county want it back, and the Freedom Center is asking for the city and county to pay for it?

Why, you would almost think that the Freedom Center owned that land.
The city and county gave exclusive development rights for the lot in question to the nonprofit Freedom Center in 2001 and 2002.
What, they do own that land?

Oh, and the city and county want to steal take it back without offering compensation? And the Freedom Center folks are willing to sell it at between thirty-three and twenty cents on the dollar?

Sounds like the Banks folks screwed up and want somebody else to bail them out.

Oh, or they could be mad that the Freedom Center yelled "no take backs" after signing to get the development rights back in 2002.

'Cause unless they yelled, "no take backs"...

January 15, 2008

Here's what I've noticed

Hey, I just found these things called blogs, and it turns out that some of them have some cool things here and there. Like...

In which I play along

"The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else." ~ Martina Navratilova

Gerardo Laterza is a Paraguayan soccer player who is also an American citizen. He played for Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, South China AA and various clubs in Hong Kong, China and Paraguay. While in Hong Kong, he was selected to play for Hong kong XI and one of the match was against the national team of his native, Paraguay.

And, sadly, the photo is a mystery because I didn't save the link when I should have. Such is the way of the world.

What does matter is that these are my record covers.

So, to quote a famous man once, I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

January 14, 2008

We gots to get us some of that reform, Daddy.

So I caught a story in Reuters' Oddly Enough news telling of a pair of British twins who were separated at birth and adopted by different families. The, in and of itself, isn't the story, but they ended up getting married.

Yeah, married.

I know, apparently they were fraternal, opposite sex twins. It's not what I assume when I first hear twins, but that's got to be the case.

Two things about the story catch me as interesting...

One, how little evidence is there of this really happening?
Alton said he had heard the story of the separated twins from a High Court judge who had dealt with the case....

...and no further information was available about the twins or where they were from.
Seems awfully sketchy for a member of the House of Lords to take to Parliment and suggest litigation. No proof of who the couple is or whether they really existed. Might as well be a guy saying he heard about a guy who knew a girl who knew this couple.

Secondly, even if it is true, I can't imagine that it's happened very frequently if ever other than this one time. Legislation should not be made based on one freakish, flukish event.

Sure, there might be reasons to tell adoptive children about their birth parents - genetic testing, family history of illnesses, freakish inheritences from kings of Ghana - but because the adoptive kids might grow up and marry long, lost siblings probably isn't the best reason.

January 13, 2008

Mind the Gap

What a dancer that girl...

Dude, she burned Neil...

Somehow I'm thinking parts of this might be parody...

I digs me some Claire Danes...

The first Gap commercial I remember making an impression on me...

Ryan and Willie...

There's something to be said for a girl in a nice white t and a pair of jeans. Classic...

I just can't get enough...I just can't get enough...and I dig the comments that the poster gave...

But none of the clothes are in the color saffron - or yellow - so what's the connection?

I think this girl is having a spasm...and she's got a tie for a belt...um, I'm gonna vote for stupid...

Maybe my favorite Gap ad...

January 12, 2008

The Title of the Blog - Part 13

No matter what you're doing, there's a time when you have to stop. This, the thirteenth column of my time writing for The Bachelor was that time because it was time for me to graduate and head out into the world of teaching.

Nuts...now I'm gonna have to find something else to do with my Saturday posts...
You can’t kill an idea… - Bob Dylan

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.

-Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare

When the Bard’s Puck reads these lines, he asks his audience not to take any affront from the words that have been sounded upon his stage in the past while. He then asks for the audience to “Give me your hands, if we be friends,” so that he will know their true feelings before he departs. For me, these lines could be a very easy, very conciliatory opening to a close. I, however, choose not to let them be that.

I am not in the mood to apologize to those whom I have offended. In my previous bakers dozen of articles, I have attacked and chastised, poked and prodded, but have always tried to say my piece and get out. If you have taken the time to read my articles – from rant to rage to manifesto – then I thank you. If, even more rarely it seems, you took the time to formulate an intelligent response to that article, then I and the rest of our campus are forever in your debt, for you have helped me carry my torch. For the rest of you – those who quit on me or who chose to call my voice mail to leave obscene and idiotic messages, I wish we could have talked face to face.

I say that because face-to-face is the truest choice of those of us who wish to engage in open, honest debate. If you have a grievance with me, then I invite you to call me or to stop by the Lambda Chi house and talk to me in person. Or, if you don’t want to do that, then please pick up a pen and take my column’s space for next year. Lord knows they’ll need the space filled up.

If you do choose this last manner, then I shall charge you with a great duty. You will be a writer. True, your job will not demand the same objectivity that perhaps a good news writer must have, but you have responsibilities none the less. You must search your heart and the world around you, for the truest words come from both of them together. Rarely can you carry the shield or the sword for a cause in which you have no faith. Rarely will your words ever strike true in the hearts of your enemies if you do not wield them with the weight of conviction. And never will you convince someone else if you have not convinced yourself.

Having said this, I also charge you to choose your topics well. Some battles are lost before they are even begun. You may never convert a single soul if you choose only the fight on a battleground of faith. If you argue a side that some consider morally wrong – be it abortion, religion, or the Indy Star – your words will have to be more then perfect to win, and that is a very difficult thing to muster.

Thirdly and finally, I charge you to fight in the manner prescribed by Basil Henry Liddell Hart. I know nothing of the man other than his name and these few words, but I love what I know…
Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent, and always assist him to save his face. Put yourself in his shoes - so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil – nothing is so self– blinding.
I will not try to improve upon his words, they are far better than mine could be.

I also know that I have no moral high ground when any of these charges are considered. I have called people names, have chosen religious battle grounds, and have contradicted myself in the same article. I am about to do that last again, for I do not think I was wrong in breaking these charges that I give for you. My articles, you see, fall under the opinion section, and that is assuredly where they belonged. These are not to be taken as gospel, accepted without challenge. Nor are they to be attacked because they were wrong in some way. They never have been wrong, for the opinions expressed herein have been right for me – no more, no less.

And, if am lucky, they have sparked something in you. Perhaps you have never thought of that point in quite that light. Maybe you have never realized that someone else was unsure of his place in the world. Possible you saw an issue never before raised to you – whether you agreed with it or not. And certainly, some of you felt confident enough to challenge me on my opinions. Thanks, I hope I did the same for you. Hell, sometimes we just need somebody to say something difference so we can reaffirm our faith in a cause. If I’ve even done that, I leave this space happy.

But please, do not stop challenging the writers in the paper, the professors in your classes, the politicians in your government. If we stop checking them, then we should start being afraid, for then we have given up our power over ourselves and have handed it over to them. Don’t do that…ever…
~ ~ ~

Oh, as it seems I’m usually given free reign, I’m gonna thank a couple of folks before signing off completely. Thanks, JJ, for asking. You may not have expected what you got, but you sure got it anyways. And thanks also to Burr, Smack, Karlen, Keith, and Eric for being wonderful proof-readers, great sounding boards, and occasional inspirations…

Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead.
– Scottish Proverb

January 10, 2008

Vacation plans...very tentative stage...

I know it's early to be talking about plans for this summer's vacation, but with the nature of the vacation The Girl and I are looking at, it's something that we're going to need to plan early to get reservations and the like.

Here's what we're currently looking at and some of the hassles involved.

Sometime in early June - The Girl is available to fly out on June 9th, but I don't think I'm free until a day later - we fly to Las Vegas. This part isn't going to be tough as there are flights to and hotel rooms in Vegas available pretty much year 'round as long as you eschew things like Super Bowl weekend and March Madness.

We hang out in Vegas for five or so days, doing whatever there is to be done in Vegas - with not much gambling, honestly. We'd be more about seeing a couple of shows - Penn & Teller if they're still there - and eating a few nice meals while hanging in the desert. And I know that Vegas is an environmental disaster. I'm working on fitting that into my brain, and I'm getting close to just being able to turn the brain off and enjoy the town.

Now, here's the part that I'm all about...

We hop a two-hour bus from Vegas to Kingman, AZ (where my great-grandparents lived during the years of my youth). In Kingman, we hop a one-hour Amtrak train (the Southwest Chief) to Williams Junction. Then it's another two-hour train ride to the Grand Canyon.

We get off the train and spend a night in a lodge on the South Rim of the Canyon. Reservations could be tough there, but we can't go about getting them just yet. (Follow along to see why.)

The next morning we pack up our things and hike down into the Canyon on the South Kaibab Trail seven miles to Bright Angel Campground right next to Phantom Ranch. There we sit in the creek and bake in the hundred-ten degree heat. See the photo - that's Bright Angel Creek. Lookin' good...

The next morning sees us up at down and headed another seven miles to Cottonwood campground. This is the one that's got us stymied. We can't get reservations for Bright Angel or Cottonwood until four months out. So, to request reservations on the floor of the Canyon, we have to fax our back country permit request on February 1 and hope. From there, we'll be setting up the rest of our trip around those days in the bottom of the Canyon.

Seven more miles the next morning up to the North Rim where we camp for two more days then reverse our trek - seven miles, a night at Cottonwood, seven miles, a night at Bright Angel. Then we crest back to the South Rim via Bright Angel trail just for variety and to see Indian Garden.

We spend a night on the South Rim in a lodge and take a train back to Williams Junction where we have to stay the night before catching our ride home - a thirty-three-hour train ride to Chicago.

I know...I'm so excited!

Taking the Chief across the heartland of this vast nation of ours. It's a bit of majesty and glory. Riding the rails through Winslow, AZ; Albequerque, NM; Dodge City, KS; Kansas City,KS; Galesburg, IL; and into Chicago. Yes, we are springing the extra $300 or so to get a sleeping car, thanks for asking.

We'll probably stay a night or two in Chicago before catching the Amtrak back through the Hoosier State and into Cincinnati - where we'll need a 3am ride back up The Homestead in West Chester.

Takin' the train across the heartland.

Ridin' the rails.

No renting a car, no filling up the tank, ridin' Amtrak and the Big Grey Dog.

Sure, it means we probably won't get to the new Canyon Skywalk, but I'm kind of okay with that because I don't know that I've got the guts, and I know that I'll be happy to avoid the $60 per person admission.

It may not be everybody's idea of a perfect vacation, but I am so totally geeked about the possibility of this one.

It's particularly the possibility of taking the train back from Arizona that has me flippin' out.

I'v never taken the train here in the US, but there's a certain romanticism about the train. No clue whether the trip will live up to that romanticism or not, but you'll certainly get to hear about it once I find out.

January 9, 2008

Ya can't read more

I can't link to any of these webcomics because they all tell the occasional joke that is either slightly or wildly school inappropriate...and that's sad because they're hilarious...

January 8, 2008

Have a bit of hot chocolate

I'm a sucker for a good design. Whether it's a a gorgeous and innovative bit of architecture or a smartly crafted pair of scissors, I'm in if it works and looks pretty in the process - particularly if it leans to the side of simple elegance rather than needless obfuscation.

In my blogospherical wanderings, I've bumbled across another design blog that I've been grooving to of late.

Check out SwissMiss.

January 7, 2008

Meet the new year, same as the old year

A few thoughts noticed in bipping and bopping my way 'round these here magical interwebs...
  • DC should be doing something this cool, but they aren't.
  • That image on the right originally had a link added to it - a link that I edited out. My apoligies to the artist, but lots of the other work didn't fit the school-appropriate theme that I'm keeping on the blog.
  • The Iowa caucuses are seriously messed up, but they are understandably so - and this video does a good job explaining the stupid.
  • I think I'm on this poster of geeks a half dozen times.
  • The StoryOfStuff does a great job explaining where all our stuff comes from and goes to.
  • Early Coraline footage looks intriguing.
  • I continue to find YesButNoButYes as my go-to comedy source for stuff like Baby Bruce Lee.
  • This mash-up Dark Knight trailer is pretty impressive - especially the "Hit me!" moment about 1:45 in.

What'd I do wrong?

Take a look at my criticker rankings and tell me which movies I've misunderstood, underappreciated, overrated, or agreed perfectly with you about.

And notice that the numerical ranking aren't as important as the tier rankings. The movies I think are the best 10% I've seen, for example, are the ones I've listed in the tier 10. The worst movies I've seen are down in tier 1.

January 6, 2008

Gus vs Punkin

Ya just never know what you'll catch on YouTube...today we get the documented adventures of pets in southwestern Ohio.

These people and these pets do exist. I've met the dog and the owners. I'm taking the owners' words that the cats exist.

First off, a bit of rassling...

Then the rematch, part 1...

...and the rematch continues...I especially enjoy the paw to the muzzle...

The big rumble...with sound effects...

Luckily it's not all fighting...sometimes it's just playing around in the bathroom...

Then you can see Gus all hopped up on goofballs...

Or a very young Gus playing around with his purple mouse...

And on to the backyard...

January 5, 2008

The Title of the Blog - Part 11

Hah! Found column #1. Turns out I had just mislabeled it as a second column 10.

So, here's the deal...

In the fall of my senior year, I took an English course called something like "Essay Writing". Sort of stupid to take that late in a college career, but it wasn't about writing a non-fiction essay for class, it was about writing a two-page essay just for the sake of writing an essay.

We read a bunch of essays in various styles and had to try on each of the styles. Maybe those will make up the next series of Saturday reads.

In one of the essays, we were to use a natural phenomenon as an analogy for some human phenomenon. I remember using the impending spring storms that I loved watching so much (and that I enjoy much less now that I'm a homeowner myself) as an analogy for falling in love.

This column echoes that essay rather strongly, and I'll have to admit that it's a little more poetic than the other columns that I wrote. I think, however, that I still really like it.

In case you were curious, I got an A- in the essay class, and my professor commented to me that my first drafts were probably the best in the class. He wished, however, that I would've turned in a few second drafts.
The smell of fire was on the air. So was that of rain. As often happens during this time of the year, the weather couldn’t make up its mind. Each morning of the weekend that just passed saw Crawfordsville wake up to a blanket of new fallen snow. Somewhere in the neighborhood behind the Lambda Chi house, a home was still clinging to these reminders and remainders of winter. The scent of their fire – warm, slightly acrid, and home – came to me through a window that I had thrown open in rejoice.

Spring was come at last. The sky held in its blue expanse promises of warmth, of rain, and of a few clouds. All usual suspects for an impending spring in the Midwest. I had my window open for the same reason I’d walked to campus without a jacket, for the same reason I had driven with the window down, for the hope of a spring newly born. Ready for that glorious rebirth that comes with the first thunderstorm and the first softball game of the year.

We were caught in the middle. The warm front – passing through and driving away dark clouds of winter- still lingered above our heads. Telling us our past and showing us our future. I saw them both but could find my place with neither one alone.

From the window of room 233 at Crawfordsville High School, I watched the rain roll in and then out. That’s Prue Phillips’s room and mine as well. I teach there from about 8:30 in the morning until about 2:40 in the afternoon. I don’t take classes at Wabash anymore. Teaching is my job, and Mrs. Phillips’s classroom is my classroom. I am now a student of students.

I am in my apprenticeship and must act as such. I wear slacks and shirts to my classes instead of jeans and sweatshirts. Not that I don’t wear those in my off hours, though.

Therein lies the analogy. I am not a suit. I’m not ready, damnit, to play real world, to be an adult, to apply for jobs. I still spend my weekends on college campuses either around or engaged in drunken frat boy activities. I’m still in school. I play practical jokes and revel in locker room humor that Wabash seemingly breeds. Hell, I’m not even old enough yet to drink legally.

But I feel a warm front coming through. Instead of my weather outlook being steady - college degree, calling for a rain of juvenile humor and a 50% chance of asinine amounts of alcohol-induced fog – the front is dragging with it a change of season. Welcome to the real world, baby. Hope you brought your umbrella.

But then again, it’s nothing more terrifying that the same thing we go up against every time our friends visit, every time we head home to see Mom and Dad, or ditch town to visit the girlfriend. Whenever we do that, we slip out of our Wabash mode – hide the beer cans behind the couch, pull the clean shirt off its hanger, and maybe even shower. We leave behind the person who attends Wabash, who works all week and drinks all weekend. And we slip into something more suited for the occasion. We become the Old High School Buddy, The Triumphant Son, or the Loyal Boyfriend. Each of these is just another mask we slip on and off as the situation suits us. Just this time, I’m not going to be able to change back.

And I’ll be honest; sometimes it scares the hell out of me. But my fear of the storm front that the winds of time are pushing towards us is nothing different from the same combination of the electric fear and excitement that hangs heavily in the air when a real storm is brewing, when the clouds are heavy with rain, and when the wind that whips the pines suddenly dies.

Actually, its more like the first time you were up to bat in little league. Sure, Dad had thrown pitches to you before, and you’d even smacked a couple of those things over the backyard fence. But that wasn’t this, and now you’re alone. Everybody’s pulling for you – your sister, your best friend, even your parents. They all want to see you do well, but they can’t help you anymore. Don’t worry, though, its not home run derby. You don’t have to make it all the way around on your first swing. Just keep your head down and your eyes on the ball. You’ll do okay…won’t you?

Sure you will. Because no matter how badly the doubts mount up sometimes, you’ll be ready to scream them back into whatever hole they came from. You’re a man, a Wabash man no less. Just because you’re not ready to grow up doesn’t mean you can’t. It just means that your storm front hasn’t moved all the way through yet. But it will, and you’ll be fine – nah, you’ll be wonderful.

Oh, but don’t forget your umbrella just in case rain comes down instead of sunshine.

January 4, 2008

Because we need more stupid

Have a little fun today with NetDisaster.com.

You get to choose from among a couple dozen means of destruction, any of which you are welcome to sic on your favorite or least favorite websites.

Have fun, welcome back to school, and Happy Lumberjack Day.

January 3, 2008

The best of the best of the lists for 2007

It's good to know that some people will filter down the detritus that is the web 2.0 and provide us with a list of the best of 2007 lists.

There's a whole lot of content here, and a bunch worth checking out.

January 2, 2008

Odds and sods

Just a quick few hitters today with brief comments on things that I'd seen here and there and just never worked into full posts...
  • Meth House Nightmare - the crystal meth plague continues to get worse and worse, affecting not just the people who take the drug...don't know how we're going to cleanup the messes left behind - both the toxic waste dumps that are the sites of the meth labs and the disasters that the families and lives are turned into
  • Streetcards Work for Portland - Cincinnati is in desperate need of some form of mass transit, and it looks like Streetcars are going to be the option...it's a start, and I hope it actually comes into being...I'll settle for a start from which we can build and expand
  • Wordsmiths, Avoid These Words - A pretty anonymous university has come out with a list of overused words from 2007 - all of which I fully agree with. I'll have to check out decimate, because that's the only one of those that I use with any regularity.
  • Congress Sends Bill Raising Fuel Efficiency Standards to Bush - Bush has signed the bill into law now, and the simple concept of raising the fuel efficiency to 35 mpg will do amazing things for us...2020 seems a long way off, and it's always possible that things can be changed before that, but here's to hoping that if they are, the mileage is ramped up even further...
  • Bush tops 'most admired' poll - an odd thing to read considering his historically low job approval ratings
  • Outsource Our Jails to Mexico - I love the willingness of our community newspaper to print just about any editorial. Free speech and freedom of the press doesn't always mean that the people have something revolutionary - or worthwhile - to say.