September 30, 2008

Sorry, folks...

I used to absolutely love Bill Simmons. For a fair while, I read his stuff religiously.

Now he's entirely hit or miss for me because so many of his jokes are complicated gambling/pop culture references that I just don't get, and the others are the same three or four jokes used over and over and over again. I find myself every bit as likely to be telling the screen to shut up when I'm reading his columns as I am to be laughing.

His wife - the Sports Gal - on the other hand, has earned my eternal respect with this mini-column from Bill's recent post on this week's NFL games...
I would be the world's greatest mourner. I can cry at the drop of a hat. Bill still teases me because I once cried during a Nike commercial, the one in which they showed pictures of Michael Jordan's career, with "Bittersweet Symphony." You don't see it coming when I cry; it's like a drive-by shooting. I get warmed up pretty quickly. When I watched "The Bucket List" with Bill's parents recently, I started bawling at the end, then I started laughing because Bill always makes fun of me for crying, so I was crying and laughing at the same time. I'm pretty sure Bill's dad is going to file for legal custody of our kids after witnessing the display I put on.

My problem is I have too much compassion for every living thing. I won't even let Bill kill spiders in our house! So since we found out in February that the Dooze (our oldest dog) was dying of lymphoma and probably wouldn't make it to 2009, it has been waterworks central at Casa Simmons. I haven't handled it well. We have Kleenex in every room. Every time I throw tennis balls to her outside, I think, "This could be the 39th-to-last time that I'll ever throw tennis balls with the Dooze." But after watching the "Bucket List," I finally figured out how to send Dooze out with a bang. I created a "Bucket List" for her.

First, I'm taking her on a beach vacation for two days. Her two favorite things are swimming and chasing down tennis balls, so that's what we will do. Second, I'm buying a kiddie pool and filling it with 30 cans of tennis balls and letting her jump in. I just want to see the look on her face. Third, I'm making her favorite meal: filet mignon (bloody), an ear of corn and carrot cake. I don't care if she poops all over the house afterward. Fourth, I'm teaching her how to keep two tennis balls in her mouth at the same time. She has been trying to do this for years! I really want to see her do it once. Fifth, right near the end, I'm taking her to Hollywood Boulevard at 4 a.m. and throwing tennis balls to her. It will be our best ball-throw ever, even if I end up getting mugged or arrested. And sixth, after she passes on, we're throwing her ashes into the Pacific Ocean. That's what she would want.

You can count on one thing: I will definitely be crying.
She won't be alone, because I teared up just reading it.

September 29, 2008

A snappy comeback way too late

There are dozens of the "I'm a PC" adds, and the dorky mac guy always lets the PC guy look even dorkier. And finally, Microsoft has come back with their own "I'm a PC" advertisements...

And sure, it's a decently well written comeback to the burns of the mac ads, but it seems like a bit of L'esprit de l'escalier to me.

September 28, 2008

How you living? What?...How you living? What?

In Living Color...

Jim Carey as Snow doing "Imposter"

Cephus and Reesie

"My Songs are Mindless" by Crystal Waters

"Olde Train"

"Lil Richard's Playhouse"

Three Champs and a Baby

"Love Connection"

Playing with the televangelists

"Star Trek"

Fire Marshal Bill

More coming next week...

September 27, 2008

Kickin' back on a Saturday

It's a Saturday, so we're going with songs with days of the week in the title...

In order by the days...

SeeqPod - Playable Search

September 26, 2008

Barakin' the Square

Cincinnati's got a rockin' event coming up on Thursday, October 16th with the Breeders and the National (yeah, I haven't heard of the National, either, but supposedly they're a big deal) playing Fountain Square as a rally for the Obama/Biden ticket.

Dig it...dig it!

September 25, 2008

A pretty neat contraption

Thanks to Grace for pointing out today's timesuck, Fantastic Contraption in which the entire goal is to get a pink object from that starting box into the goal box.

You get to build any sort of wacky contraption using wheels that rotate whichever way you choose and some sticks. Nothing too complicated about that, huh?

And yet it's addictive.

Admittedly, I got through like nine levels on my own and then just started using the forums to look at other people's solutions - which are way more creative and involved than mine.


Be warned, however, that some of the more intricate contraption solutions can be a bit of a drag on the processor.

September 24, 2008

Why I don't have bumper stickers

I don't wear t-shirts with political or religious messages on them.

I don't hold up signs at sporting events.

I don't even root all that hard for any sporting teams unless I know the people on the team (which pretty much limits things to Princeton teams at this point).

And I don't put bumper stickers on my car.

I want my governmental leaders to support alternative energy, not to bail out giant corporations when their leaders make horrible decisions, to protect our borders without selling out my privacy and freedom in the process, to fully fund schools, to tax me so that I can reap the benefits that they pay for, to promote America's good image worldwide, to foster peace and understanding in every nation, to allow the checks and balances to work the way they were designed, to be open and forthright about just about everything, and to let as many people as possible enjoy the fruits of the American dream.

And I'm not sure that any one of those issues is one for which I would be willing to sell out all of the others.

Education is important but not necessarily more so than the environment.

And because of that I'm not going to put a bumper sticker on my car that says that "Perfect World if Schools had Enough Money and the Military Had to Hold Bake Sales" or "Treehugger!" or "Compost Happens" or anything else.

My opinions are mine, and I don't feel the need to put them on my car because then I'd be "the compost guy" or "the abortion guy" or "the teacher guy", and I don't want to be that easily pigeonholed. I don't want to be the guy who cares about that one thing, who always wears the science shirts, who is always preaching about killing babies.

And I'll be honest in saying that anyone who considers one issue so ultimately important that it trumps every other issue scares me a little bit - no matter how much I agree or disagree with them on that issue.

Oh, I'm very much willing to spout my opinions on this blog and let those of you who care to read them do so, and I'll cover my garbage can in my classroom with chemistry bumper stickers (like "Wave if you know Schroedinger"), but I won't be putting any stickers on my car or buying any political t-shirts any time soon.

And I'd kind of rather that you didn't either.

If and when I want to know your opinions and beliefs, I'll ask for them.

Thanks, by the way, to Toothpaste for Dinner for providing today's imagry.

September 23, 2008

What a validictory gets you

It's been long enough since Andy Stephan graduated that most folks 'round school - the students guaranteed - don't remember that he gave my favorite validictory ever, far better than any of the generally bland speeches that I've heard before or since.

And now, Andy is back and throwing down a web presence with The New Cook, a site/blog that he's been adding to since March but that I just heard about this past weekend.

On the site, Andy states that...
My primary goal is to really learn how to cook. I want to be able to make meals from scratch without a cookbook. I want to know what spices go well together, how to make a good vinaigrette, and the basics behind a pan sauce. I am not opposed to recipes; I use them frequently and will present quite a few on this site. They usually lead to quite delicious food, but I want a deeper knowledge of why you do the things you do when cooking.
And he's been posting recipes, offering up technique tips, delving into some food science, outlining his cooking textbook, and generally doing a pretty good job of introducing a rookie to the kitchen.

It's always nice to see what a graduate has moved on to - in addition to the cooking, Andy seems to be hanging with the same girl he dated at PHS and working on an accounting grad degree at UC - and I'll certainly be following Andy along in his travels and travails.

September 21, 2008

Miscellania ain't just a river in Egypt

Eepybird strikes again

John McCain looks annoyed

Because I can't link to Lakes's post

Two comments...The guitarist in the light blue shoes is rockin'...and...proving yet again that religious doesn't equal well-written...

I love Jon Stewart

Because I'm not even vaguely impartial, let's be honest...

We all love our little Weng Weng

The joys of owning a beagle

Was Geraldo ever a real reporter?

Tina Fey comes through for us all

September 20, 2008

This isn't for the good people out there

This week's music list isn't any sort of endorsement for a particular alignment - especially not for the chaotic evil among you out there - but it is a bunch of songs with evil, wicked titles.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

September 19, 2008

Our Year of Living Steakishly: September, The Oakwood Club

The Oakwood Club isn't actually on the Cincinnati Magazine list, but The Girl was set on trying it as a balance to last month's The Pine Club. She had heard that The Oakwood Club was sort of a less expensive version of that other steak house.

And I remembered my camera this time, so we have some photographic evidence this month.

If you need a refresher of the ground rules of our challenge, head back to the first post in the series.

The Oakwood Club is in a really nice, clearly monied area of town, appropriately enough, Oakwood, so it won't be quite as convenient at UDayton for Joey< but that's a price you gotta pay when searching for the best steak house in the Dayton/Cincy uber-market. The area's a bit too posh for my taste with the steakhouse being surrounded by upscale clothiers for a block or so each way. But if you go a couple of blocks south, you do at least get to visit Dorothy Lane Market, which is kind of cool.

Initial view of the Oakwood Club, Saturday, ~6:30pm

As was the case at the Pine Club, the first impression upon opening the second door into the Oakwood Club was one of darkness with the room underlit and each table having an individual light fixture. The darkness of the Oakwood Club wasn't quite as total as that of the Pine Club, however, and our eyes got used to the conditions rather quickly.

The Oakwood Club takes weekend reservations for parties of five or more only, so we ventured Oakwood-way aiming for a 6:30 seating and finding ourselves waiting at the bar for probably half an hour - they expected a forty-five minute wait. The Girl and I were both happy with the bar selections and value, I having a healthy-sized glass of Pinot Noir for $7 and she a manhattan that she described as solidly alcoholic for about $5, both very reasonable for an upscale establishment.

The bar area was fairly typically appointed with the stained glass seen at the top of this post and three televisions lining the walls, all turned to silent news and sports but with the subtitles rolling along. In a decently fancy place like the Oakwood Club, I would have expected no televisions, but the idiot box is pretty ubiquitous in any bar these days, so I guess I shouldn't be too disappointed.

We were seated as a booth in the bar area after closing out our bar tab - which they surprisingly wouldn't transfer to our table - and began to peruse the menu. Remembering the rules and trying to keep everything on a level playing field, we chose the following for our meals:
  • Scallops wrapped in bacon with a red pepper sauce, appetizer
  • The Girl
    Petite surf and turf
    - twin petite filets, rare after she described how she wanted it (pink/red in the center, crisp on the outside)
    - grilled salmon
    Rosemary garlic mashed potatoes
    House salad with peppercorn ranch dressing (on the side, as always)
  • Chemguy
    Petite surf and turf (it was a good idea, what can I say?)
    - petite strip steak, also rare
    - blackened salmon
    Rosemary garlic mashed potatoes
    House salad with sweet and sour vinegrette
Bread selection, before

The appetizer came out fairly quickly, and the waitress took our entree orders while we waited for the scallops. She also brought us a bread basket with two options - herbed white bread with sesame and poppy seeds on top (very, very tasty) and a salt-topped brown bread (which The Girl enjoyed but which I found way too salty). The bread was much fresher than that of the Pine Club, so the Oakwood Club takes the early lead.

Bacon-wrapped scallops appetizer, before

The scallops were outstanding. They were nicely and very lightly breaded on top and bottom with the sides being flavorful, well-cooked bacon, a nice balance to the simple and slightly-sweet scallops. The red pepper sauce, seen in the center of the dish, was far too strong a flavor for the scallops but was tasty on the tomato halves presented as garnish. The lemon, however, was a nice splash on the scallops.

Bacon-wrapped scallops appetizer, after

The salads were next and came out in refrigerator-cold metal bowls, a nice touch to keep the salad fresh. Again, Oakwood beat out Pine as the Pine Club's salads were nothing but chopped iceberg lettuce with a couple of carrot shavings on top. The Oakwood Club offered much more interesting greens with red field greens, red cabbage, a cherry tomato half, and some carrot shavings mixed in. My dressing was a nice combination of tart, red wine vinegar and sugar, and The Girl's creamy dressing was well made. She did ask for the dressing on the side, however, which isn't how it arrived. Luckily the amount of dressing was reasonable though more than she would likely have used had she applied it herself.

Salads - mine on the left, before

Salads - mine on the left, after

We had a few moments before the entrees arrived as the Oakwood Club didn't seem quite so eager to move us along as did the Pine Club. At this point, we were approaching time for the anOSU-USC debacle, and I could see the pre-game over The Girl's shoulder, something that, again, I didn't care for when I'm out for a nice meal on the town.

ChemGuy's petite surf and turf, salmon on the left

The Girl's petite surf and turf, salmon on the right

Both surf and turfs came out on a plate with Bernaise sauce, a lemon quarter, and a simple garnish, and the mashed potatoes came out in their own dish. The full entrees come with two side dishes, but with most of the sides being a potato of some sort and the non-potato options being steamed broccoli/cauliflower or stewed tomatoes, we each went with the single side dish option of the smaller portions. The plates certainly weren't lacking in meet, however, as my steak was a seven- or eight-ounce portion, and The Girl's twin filets were in the range of six or seven ounces combined. Each salmon piece was another four or five ounces, making for a plate with in the range of eleven or thirteen ounces of meet combined for each of us.

The Girl's filets were very well cooked, much more evenly than her filet from the Pine Club, and she was quite satisfied with her choice. Her salmon was also very moist and nicely flavored. She reported being happier with her entree at the Oakwood Club than she had been at the Pine Club last month.

Mine, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. My steak had a solid line of fat along the edge - something you'll see still on the plate in the after photo below, and my steak lacked the rich, deep, crunch crust that the Pine Club had achieved. My steak was nicely rare but seemed to have sacraficed the exterior texture that I enjoy so much to achieve the rareness that I found and appreciated in the center. My salmon - likely because of the blackening choice - was a bit drier than was The Girl's.

The potatoes, however, were excellent and a vast improvement on the sides from The Pine Club. The rosemary and garlic were very well balanced, and the very few scallion slices atop each dish were a nice contrast but didn't provide the sharpness of the white pieces that The Girl found distasteful in the Pine Club's version of the same dish. The potatoes were nicely whipped with nary a lump anywhere within them - something that I often find disappointing but that fit well with the creaminess that had been achieved.

ChemGuy's petite surf and turf, after

The Girl's petite surf and turf, after

The Girl took home one of her filets and the bread to make a lunch the next day - during the wind storm but before the power disappeared. The waitress wrapped up her leftovers and cleared things - including out Bernaise sauces that neither of us found at all necessary for the meals. I'll admit to not knowing exactly what a good or bad Bernaise would be like, so I'll omit commenting on that part of the meal other than to say that I could just as easily have asked not to have it brought out.

The two entrees ($22.95 each) and the appetizer ($8.95) tallied up to just shy of $60 once tax was added in, and we threw in $12 in tip. With the bar tab and tip, we got out of the place for $87 making this a cheaper meal than the Pine Club. That does come into the rankings, and let's turn there now...
  • Appetizers - 8 - nicely cooked, good combination of flavors
  • Steak - 6 - The Girl's words it didn't have that good crust, but it was well cooked - she gave hers an 8, I'll give mine a 4 because, honestly, it wasn't anything I couldn't get at a Sizzler
  • Side dishes - 7 - the salmon counts here and the potatoes were very tasty (though The Girl found them to be a little salty and too smooth for her), the salads were good and had decent variety
  • Atmosphere - 6 - The televisions in the bar area were a negative for me, and the place lacked the old school ring a ding ding that the Pine Club had, but it gets an uptick for the stained glass around the place
  • Cost - 8 - I'm making up a scale here, so I'll define it thusly...
    10 - below $55 with tip
    9 - $55-65
    8 - $65-75
    7 - $75-85
    6 - $85-95
    5 - $95-105
    4 - $105-115
    3 - $115-125
    2 - $125-135
    1 - more than $135
    The meal itself was $72 - not including the bar tab, so that's an 8 on my scale.
  • Service - 5 - nothing special here, probably would've gotten a six, but The Girl did ask for her dressing on the side
  • Total score - 40 (out of 60)
As I said with the Pine Club, we have room for improvement, but The Girl summarized things correctly (ya have to check the stats to be certain, but they bear her conclusion out) when she said she was really happy with the money deal that the Oakwood Club offered. My steak at the Pine Club was worth the extra money because it actually made me pause with the first bite, and that's what I'm looking for in a steak house, but the totality of the Oakwood Club experience was a better one for the both of us.

If you like that nice crust on your steak, talk to the wait staff at the Oakwood Club and explain that to them. See if they can fix yours all right. If so, they'd've earned a couple more points from me.

The bar area, we sat in the third booth from the back of this photo (from the Oakwood Club's website) - my initial photo shows the other dining room to the right, behind the stained glass dividers

September 18, 2008

The joys of home ownership

So the power is back on here are Casa de ChemGuy (can somebody tell me if I've got that middle word correct, please?) so I'm blogging all regular like,

Quick update with the world.

Fantasy football team is 2-0 having been the second or third highest scorer each week.

Fantasy baseball is rocking along as my second-seeded dudes are in the finals against the five seed and currently leading (only a day and a half in, admittedly) 7-2.

And The Homestead is safe and sound.

We did have some mess and damage, but both were minor.

You can see from the next couple of pictures that part of the Bradford pear fell on the garage. The wind moved it onward off the garage with a bit of help from The Girl and me, taking part of the gutter and the downspout with it.

The back part of the pear also came tumbling down a while later into the yard.

The power came on about forty hours after it disappeared, soon enough that the freezer was still cold enough to be all salvagable, but the refrigerator had to be gutted and the food trashed.

This photo doesn't show the pain and suffering that The Girl had after chucking out all the food that she bought Sunday morning and that had spoiled over the next day and a half.

September 17, 2008

Again, somebody has misunderstood the word

So, according to CNN...
Aides to Gov. Sarah Palin won't comply with subpoenas issued by state lawmakers investigating the firing of Alaska's former public safety commissioner, since Palin "has declined to participate" in the probe, her attorney general says.
...and Palin joins with Karl Rove in the we can ignore a subpoena club.

Does nobody understand the concept of a subpoena?

As I quoted:
[a subpoena] is an order from a court for a person to appear at a trial under punishment for failure to appear

More reading in less time

I'm clearly a master of efficiency...quick reviews of the trades...

Batman: Jekyll & Hyde - excellent...dark, impressive artwork from Jae Lee, one of the bright stars of comic art right now...wonderful exploration of Harvey Dent's background, aspects of which hadn't been written before but fit seemlessly and should probably replace any origin that's come before...little more psycho-drama with Batman/Bruce than I would've cared for, but still a very strong entry into the canon...

Superman: Last Son - I dug this one, too...two for two this week...Richard Donner (director of the Superman & Superman II Christopher Reeve flicks) writes this with Geoff Johns who seems to be all over DC for the past couple of years...

basic plot - General Zod and Ursa have a son in the phantom zone...son comes to Earth and is taken by US government...Supermans steals kid back to raise him with Lois...General breaks free from phantom zone and wrecks the place...Superman ultimately prevails but not without a heartbreak...

the relationships worked for me, the sadness between Superman and Lois that they can't have a kid but that this might be their chance at having one...Chris's sudden affinity for his new father after years in the phantom zone (though I'd think there would be some psychological problems if he's willing to glom onto Supes in like two panels)...the fight scenes worked for me (though the lack of one when Zod & his crue take over the entirety of Earth and whup the JLA seems a glaring oversight)...

the artwork worked...Kubert does a great job of using facial expressions to tell the underlying story...and the 3d section worked, too...neat way to distinguish the phantom zone from the "real world"...

and I dug bringing back Mon-El in the phantom zone...

we could have another interesting time in the DC universe with the melding of golden/silver/modern age aspects into something really cool if things keep up...

I understand the complaints lobbed at the book, however...apparently the delays were bad in initial publishing (not a problem in trade paperback)...the logic of how the phantom zone is breached (and that breach subsequently sealed) is really shaky at best...the presence of the JLA coupled with the fact that they exist in the story for like two panels is befuddling...Jor-El's inability to recognize his son...

all are correct criticisms...

and the story still worked really well for me...

Batman: Lovers & Madmen - reprinted from Batman Confidential #7-12...origin story of the Joker with a lot of new elements...should work because it's plumbing depths that a hundred other writers have dreged until there shouldn't be anything left...

and it's the best thing I read this week...marvelous, wonderful story of Batman and the Joker beginning their dance...

I'm just going to reprint a review from Buffalo Rising Online because they say it very well...
Let’s get something straight right off the, well, off the bat, here. Alan Moore’s Batman: Killing Joke is damn near as perfect a Batman story if ever there was one. In addition to The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller, Lynn Varley), Batman: Year One (Frank Miller, David Mazuchelli), Arkham Asylum (Grant Morrison/Dave McKean) and more recently, Batman: Year 100 (Paul Pope, Jose Villarubia), there is none better. Each one of these titles raised the bar on the adult graphic novel in a way that their contemporaries weren’t capable or talented enough to brush the bottom of. And along comes Batman: Lovers & Madmen.

This handsome hardcover hits the soft reboot on the Joker’s origin story in the same fashion that Batman Begins flipped the film mythos on its ear. When I saw that Michael Green (the screenwriter of NBC’s hit show Heroes) penned the story, I went into it with low expectations. And believe you me, I’ve read more than my share of Batman stories. In my mind, the Joker is the main character of the series and Batman is the garnish. So it takes a lot to impress me, but I keep buying the onslaught of hardcovers and graphic novels and one-shots, praying for that original rush. Lovers & Madmen hits the brain like a sledgehammer and doesn’t let up.

Much like a folk story, comic legends can change within the structure of the original construct. One great story can ripple back and add a new dimension, a separate viewpoint on the basic premise. In Lovers & Madmen (the working theory being that the Joker and his arch-nemesis are both full-tilt lunatics), we get a different take on how a sociopathic criminal thug with a warped sense of humor and little regard for the death of others, as well as his own, turned into perhaps one of the greatest supervillians of all time. Superhero stories are built on their criminals. This is why The Flash, Wonder Woman, and so many other footnotes are less popular, because their enemies aren’t fleshed out as well as the main protagonists. Michael Green writes the Joker so convincingly that it puts a lot of the other greats into serious question. Denys Cowan’s pencils complement the tale beautifully and grittily, with a rough style and a rugged landscape.

And I’ve got to agree with Brad Meltzer’s (Identity Crisis) introduction. There’s a panel shortly after Jack climbs out of the pharmaceutical drainage ditch to be reborn as the clown prince of evil where he looks at the moon and sees a bunny etched into the middle of the moon. Batman shows up and he calls him Bunny. It’s preposterous and brilliant at the same time. The Joker’s dialogue switches over in color as well as content to a sort of free-rambling bohemian ecstasy throughout the rest of the book, and his cavalier manner of super consciousness is bone-chilling and mythic.

The book closes out with the hypothesis that Batman created the Joker. That if he hadn’t eradicated the petty thieves, middlemen and power brokers in the underworld, there wouldn’t be a philosophical impetus for a villain with super powers, an unquenched bloodlust or an unmarked streak for vicious mass murder. And in turn, the Dark Knight Detective comes to the conclusion that he is his brother’s keeper, and that he’s responsible for rehabilitating the Joker whenever there are pieces to pick up.

As food for thought, it’s an all you can eat buffet. Bravo, Michael and Denys. This is the best Batman story I’ve read since Paul Pope’s Year 100. With the new film out, march into your local comic retailer and buy a copy before the bandwagon drives the price and the value of this precious volume through the roof. It is that good.
I would actually put this one above Batman: 100 Years as the best Batman tale I've seen come out in a few years...excellent, revelatory stuff...

Hulk vs The Marvel Universe - all unconnected issues in which Hulk takes on various folks (Spider-Man, Thor, FF, Thing, Silver Surfer, Wolverine, Daredevil (?), Dr Strange, Fin-fang-foom) from around the Marvel-verse...


most of the fights are abortive attempts by people who clearly wouldn't have the power to really stop the Hulk unless the writers wanted them to...or people who are just trying to talk the Hulk down while contradictorily smacking him around...

the collection stinks and is boring, especially after I read World War Hulk this past summer...WWH was much, much better than this uneven, era-hopping piece of crap...

Though my interwebs searching for a link did lead me to Ratchet's Hulk Collection which is really neat to skim through...

The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck - entertaining stuff...bringing back the old-school crossover stuff that George Perez draws so marvelously my head, Perez is the artist for DC comics...

as I've said before, the Golden Age of Comics is whenever the comic reader in question started reading them, and when I started, DC was all about George Perez...hence, I'm a little inclined to like this one...

and the collection doesn't disappoint...great use of the team-up format with the various teams nailing the characterizations spot on, especially the Supergirl-Hal Jordan pairing...and bringing the Legion of Super Heroes into the tale is always a good thing for me...

dig reading...

Batman: Going Sane - this one probably suffers badly from comparison to the far superior Lovers &'s not a bad story of Joker & Batman, but it's certainly not as good as that other one this week...

Batman "dies" at the hands of the Joker in the first issue, and the Joker is sent into a spiral of sanity as he realizes that he has finally achieved his life's only issue later, he wakes up and finds himself looking normal, living a normal life, dating a quiet girl from down the hall, and getting flashes from time to time of his former life...before Batman finally comes back to strike the final blow to Joseph Kerr's new mirror-tale life...

there's too much of the elongated-face Joker, the Joker in funny costume with corncob pipe for my tastes, but knowing these issues came about in the 80's helps me to the tacked-on and only barely connected issue at the end of the collection doesn't help things at all...

skim it or skip it entirely...

Seven Soldiers of Victory - I have no idea at all how I would've read this story without having it collected...apparently the tale is told across seven four-issue series and two single-issue book-enders in whcih the seven soldiers become a kind of non-team team...

each mini-series has a different artistic team - with the one from the Shining Night being far and away my favorite, though the very different Klarion is a close second.

each mini-series focused on the one character and their journey to finiding out and then battling the Sheeda, the whole tale's major villians...

in the collection, it's tough enough to read as the collections each gather issues 1&2 from one series and intersperse them with issues 2&3 from another...the reading is, therefore, very tricky, but I would imagine that reading them as the separate series themselves would have been equally as tough as each would tell the story to a certain point, then you would start the next series which would tell a concurrent tale from a different point of view, a tale that wouldn't intersect until somewhere along...

and if the tale weren't an engaging one (at least through the first two collections that I've read), it wouldn't be worth the struggle to keep the tales both separate and together in the mind...

I'm hoping to get the next two collections, because I'm currently two trades in and have no real idea where things are going other than the team of un-teamed heroes (necessary for reasons that a shadow guardian explains at the end of the second volume) have to save the world...

it's interesting, but I warn you that it'll be a tough read as it does seem disjointed for a very long time before the tale starts to come together...

Once I get through the other two volumes, I'll have to read all of the Collected Editions reviews...but I'm holding at the first two so far...

which is really tough...

And I think that's enough for me for now...I've got some comics to take back to the library...and I've got more reading on reserve...

September 16, 2008

Because I'm a competitive so and so

Because Mr New School asked me to, I tried a little game over at the New York Times.

And because there's really no way for me to prove this, you'll have to take a screen cap as my proof, man.

Twenty-five questions...twenty-four right...96%

I dig the idea of using estimates, and it's something that I've worked on from here and there for years in the classroom. If a person can look at a problem and get an estimate - even if only on the scale of the answer - it shows that they have a much better math sense and will likely doa lot better once they start using the real math with the real numbers.

Brief interruption

We're under a bit of a blackout in the Cincinnati area (and much of Ohio, honestly) as the power went off at around 2pm Sunday and is expected to come back sometime late this week.

The stand up freezer full of food and the fridge food is probably gonna spoil - sadness.

School was closed today (Monday) and will probably be closed at least for Tuesday and perhaps much longer - not that I can update the website to say that.

All is well and safe and sound, we're just in the dark.

That is, unless you've come to the lone oasis of power, a strip mall with a Caribou Coffee to plug in your power strip with two cell phones and a laptop.

Like I have...

So, posting this week - other than the media reviews already set for tomorrow - will be spotty at best.

Be safe and sound, folks.

I'll be back with pics of the damage (a decently-sized pear tree that split in half and took off part of the gutter, but that's all) later this week, hopefully.

Addendum: at 5:46 this morning, the fan kicked on and woke me up.

We are again living in a world with electricity.

September 15, 2008

The spare just isn't coming...

And yet I read and listen and's what...

Superman: Camelot Falls - Dangit...turns out this is the first of two collections bringing this storyline together, and the library doesn't seem to have the second volume in the catalog anywhere even though it's been out for three quarters of the year.

Which is frustrating because the story sets up really well and is one I'd like to see followed through. It's imperfect as an entire issue is devoted to a new villain (Projekt 17 - yeah, I spelled it right) who is just brushed away in one panel by someone who turns out to bring in the real storyline, and the artwork in the first issue show Lois to look entirely different (almost Asian) from anything we've seen before.

But the plot works. It introduces four or five original characters who are at least moderately interesting and sets Superman up against a threat that seems fairly credible, something that's far from an easy task with the Big Blue Boyscout.

Looks like I'll be checking things out at the local bookstore to see how things wrap up.

The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show - you can catch a nice clip on YouTube of one of the tracks...the most interesting part of the video is the interview of Eric Clapton by Johnny and the trio playing's what (I understand) was the coolest part of the show, Johnny bringing on the musicians he wanted to play with and ignoring who was popular and might get ratings...

and, sadly, that's what's lacking on the album with only one interesting pairing - of Johnny with Joni Mitchell doing "Girl from the North Country" - but even that's a bust as Mitchell's voice never gels with Cash's.

Too frequently on the album, the versions of the songs are straight and true and so well played that they sound like they could be from the original albums. This is a live show with musicians so professional and unexperimental - likely because of the compiler's choice of selections for the disc - as to be uninteresting.

Do yourself a favor, however, and check out Dylan's duet with Cash on "Girl from the North Country" from the same show and sadly not on the album. The video isn't synched quite right, but the audio is wonderful.

Deadwood soundtrack - The series was outstanding and deserved a far better ending than the one it got, but thie soundtrack is another in a long line of soundtracks that were much better within the context than it is without the context. Most of the songs are pleasant enough but don't merit their inclusion on a stand-alone album.

One track - only fifty seconds long - "Snake Baked a Hoecake" is pretty neat, and the excerpts of dialogue are nice to hear again, but the entire cd rolls in at forty-five minutes and collects music and dialogue only from the first of the three seasons.

Watch hte series on DVD but lest this soundtrack pass you by unless there's a specific first-season song that piques your interest.

Preacher...Gone to Texas...Until the End of the World...Proud Americans - I'd heard good things about this series for a long time. For some reason it's been tied to 100 Bullets in my mind...dunno why.

Luckily my graphic novel collection doesn't overlap with perfectly with TL's, so she loaned me the first three volumes of the series (leaving me only six more to go).

Lemme warn anybody who hasn't read this before and just get this out of the way. The series is violent, vulgar, and - at times - just sick and cruel.

But it's a well-written version of all those things.

The tale is one of Jesse Custer, the titular pracher who has fallen on hard moral times and is changed by his melding with the demon/angel-spawned-creature that very quicly gives Jesse The Word, the ability to command anyone who hears and understands him.

Jesse survives his first couple fo adventures almost by luck, is reunited with his lost love, meets a good-hearted vampire, and sets out on a quest to find God and ask him why he has abandoned the world all while Jesses is hunted by Holy Grail conspiracists and the Saint of Killers, an Angel of Death character.

Pretty straight forward, eh?

And it's not an easy journey, it being beset with defrocked angels, the lord Himself, and a lot of other interesting folks.

We come into the story smack in the middle, each character having a huge past storyline to which we are given access in drips and drabs, well meted out by Garth Ennis.

It's a fun read and one that I'll try to follow along to the end.

The Wire - season 1 - Well, we've wrapped up the first season of The Wire, and we'll move on to beginning the second when the library sees fit to move us up the reserves list.

The first season wrapped up unsatisfyingly for most of the characters as most of the "bad guys" get sent away but not for nearly as long as the "good guys" would like to see as the higher ups in the department push things to wrap up more quickly than the main investigators would prefer.

This series reminds me very much of Wiseguy in the use of season-long story arcs, but I can solidly say that - as much as I enjoyed Wiseguy, this is a better show, partially because of the freedom accorded those involved through HBO. THe other thing that reminds me of Wiseguy is constant moral quandry that the characters find themselves embroiled in throughout the show. The cops are shown to be highly flawed characters - drinking and driving, some faking injuries to get off the job, often taking the more politically expedient option rather than what the show suggests would be the tougher options, struggling with dividing personal and professional lives, taking a little cut of that siezed drug money - while the characters involved in the drug trade are shown to be doing illegal acts while trying to just get through their lives, make a little money, help out their families, and often doing what they're doing just because they've never known any other way.

I don't know where the storyline will go from here, but I'm certainly going to - as the cheesiest voice over ever suggest - tap in to The Wire.

September 14, 2008

The man is east bound and down...

In honor of the passing - a couple of weeks ago - of the Snowman...

"She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)"

"East Bound and Down"

Covering "The City of New Orleans"

covering "I Got a Name"

"Wabash Cannonball" - hosted by one hell of a Nudie Suit

"Ain't Nobody's Business but My Own" and a few others with Barbara Mandrell (vastly over produced)

"Something" with Chet Atkins

with Scoob & the gang

"Alabama Jubilee"

"When You're Hot You're Hot"

gettin his snot beaten in Smokey and the Bandit but ultimately getting his revenge

Might I also recommend...

September 12, 2008

I'm stumped

No topic came readily to mind, so I went to StumbleUpon and hit for a while 'til something looked interesting...

Here's what I found...

Scale in our universe...

A place long bets...

One of the neater interactive periodic tables I've seen...

Some creative advertisements from 'round the world...

How to make home-made pop tarts...

An ecological footprint quiz...

September 11, 2008

I don't understand

There probably aren't a couple hundred people on the planet who really understand what's happening at the LHC in CERN this week.

I know I don't really.

I mean, I get what a particle accelerator is. I understand how it moves particles faster and faster in a ring using magnets to push everything forward. I even get that they have two rings moving particles in opposite directions until the collision.

I don't really understand how they track what happens.

I don't really understand how the interpret what those results tell them.

And I have no frickin' clue why any of the new agencies have been covering whatever this week's big experiment is.

But I am happy that it's cartoon fodder...

from my favorite webcomic (to which I can't link because they aren't all as school-appropriate as this one it)...

And from webcomic #2 in my heart...

And then there's the ever so simple explanation found here...

September 10, 2008

Quick note

The NFL season is underway (in case you weren't aware).

I'll update you on my fantasy team in a day or two, but here's a bit of frivolity regarding correcting some team logos thanks to ESPN's Page 2.

A little single-serving love

Pass the time today folks by going through this list of single-serving websites as found by URLesque. Each one does only one thing but does it well and with panache.


...quite entertainingly,

All of these, and a bunch more, are the creations of Rafaƫl Rozendaal who clearly knows how to do some cool stuff on the web.

Dig 'em...

September 9, 2008

Not quite a dream come true, but close

I've been searching for decades for a cd of the science song parodies that closed each episode of the classic Bill Nye: The Science Guy shows with no luck.

Now, at least, I can watch them on YouTube thanks to user NyeTunes.

Spectacular...not perfect as some of the songs are cut off here and there, but spectacular...

Enjoy my all-time favorite clip...

September 8, 2008

Amir but not playing Amir

You should be checking out Jake and Amir's webseries regularly. Get it on the RSS and check it thrice weekly. It's some of the better stuff out there.
Then do yourself a favor and check out Amir when he's not playing Amir over on his BeingFamous blog.

It's a collection of ephemera with no real focus at all. He hits the Wikipedia love, the CollegeHumor behind the scenes (with a hilarious but highly tribute to American Psycho regarding doodling at work), and Lakers love (which was paid back with a personal Celtics banner above his desk.)

Not great stuff but certainly good...

September 7, 2008

The magic of mud

Claymation in all it's freaky glory...we open with probably its most terrifying use ever...seriously freaky to start but less weird from there...

From The Adventures of Mark Twain, something I vaguely remember from childhood...there's more here...

"Marly & Delia's Claymation Spectacular"

"Carol of the Bells"

"We Three Kings" - you can find the entirety of Claymation Christmas here...

a Levi's commercial

"The Road not Taken"

Semi-random claymation

Claymation for the sake of it

The California Raisins and Ray Charles

Turkish claymation

Mr Bumpy - a sadly cancelled Saturday morning show

September 6, 2008

The reign and the rain

Roger Federer has made the final of the US Open with a four-set victory over Novak Djokovic today - none of which I got to see thanks to my kind volunteerism at this morning's cross country meet.

And Rafa Nadal is down two sets to none to Andy Murray, the world's newly-ranked number four player. Murray rolled through set one and took set two in a tie-breaker. Rafa's up a break in the third at 3-2, but the rains of Hannah have come to NYC and stopped play for the day, shutting down their match and postponing the women's final that should've taken place tonight.

No annoucement yet on when they'll be playing tomorrow and whether they'll make Rafa/Murray finish their match and then take on Roger (which I can't possibly imagine happening) after that or whether we'll get a Monday final (which would deprive me of watching the final unless I just shut things down at school and find a way to show CBS on my television.

Killing me, I tell you...killing me...

By the by, thanks to AP Photo/Julie Jacobson for the photo up top.

Mrs. Butterworth?

Seriously, man...Mrs. Butterworth?

I'd say this was a stretching things a bit, but it's actually pretty funny.

And here's another commerical that they've been showing during the US Open. I dig the kid...

The man with three names

SeeqPod - Playable Search

And in honor of my Hoosier brother, enjoy Lil' Johnny Cougar...

September 4, 2008

In honor of...

And now you too can celebrate the glory that is Jim Tressel, coach of the two-time defending national runner-up Buckeyes of An Ohio State University by wearing the officially licensed Jim Tressel Sweater Vest T-Shirt for only $20.

Or there's the similarly produced Jim Tressel Sweater Vest Beer Coozy...


September 3, 2008

Comics for newbies

I got a question in class last week from one of my students as to which comics I would recommend for a newbie just looking to dip his or her toes into the comics world, and I thought I'd go ahead and point out a few lists that I'd posted a while back on just this topic...Enjoy, 'em all...

Our Year of Living Steakishly: August, The Pine Club

I'd previously mentioned the Cincinnati Magazine article listing the top twelve steak houses in the Cincinnati/Dayton area. The plan is to hit one on the list each month for the next year. Since we're both school-going folks (me a teacher, her a librarian at a new school this year), we thought we'd count our year as starting when we headed back to school and began the tour of steakishness this past Saturday.

Okay, first the ground rules...
  • I order a strip steak. The Girl is more of a filet Girl.
  • If there are certain side dishes that are recommended in the article or in online perusal, we'll try to order them and give feedback, but we're not going to dive into something that sounds disgusting just because some magazine reviewer liked it.
  • If the steaks are huge, we split a strip.
  • Appetizers are fair game and follow the same rules as side dishes.
  • Dessert reports are unlikely as a solid steak dinner typically is a filling steak dinner.
  • Steaks are all ordered medium rare because anything beyond that is overdone.
  • Photos will be taken (probably without flash so as to not bother the other diners) before and after each course to show how much of each item was consumed as well as the general carnage and gluttony.
  • All restaurants are rated on a one-to-ten scale in six categories.
And so we begin with The Pine Club in Dayton.

The Girl had heard a review of The Pine Club (heretofore referred to as TPC) on NPR's Splendid Table and was happy to see it opening the article and being titled as CAN'T REMEMBER. Partway through the meal, she asked me what I was expecting, and I gestured around the room simply saying "this" as the restaurant is exactly as advertised.

TPC is in a nice area of town, just on the edge of the University of Dayton housing and on a decently busy street only a couple of miles from the interstate even though their website directions took us through an older section of Kettering. I'd recommend following the Google directions and dropping off as though you were going to see a ballgame at UD Arena.

The reviews told us that no reservations were taken and that waits of two or three hours were not uncommon - something we wanted to avoid. So we showed up at about 4:50 on a Saturday afternoon/evening, after the doors open (at four) but before they actually start serving dinner (supposedly at five, but we saw folks eating when we got there). We were lucky enough to walk in and get the last free table because the place was packed.

We followed the hostess to our table, allowing our eyes to adjust to the dark, wood paneled interior surrounding a sixty-year-old bar. The Girl sat against the wall on a restaurant-long wall bench adorned with a simple diamond design of upholstery tacks at the top of the vinyl seats, so she got to watch the other customers, many of whom, I was surprised to see, weren't the blue hairs that I expected to see in a place that bills itself as a Supper Club.

We sat down to a smallish table, the two tiniest bread plates I've ever seen (probably three inches in diameter), and a basket of bread - excellently shown on the Road Food website. The table was clearly an old one as it rocked dramatically every time I rested my elbows (I know, I'm rude) on it, and the decor on the walls matched it as the frames held images of Olde English fox hunts, the prints of which probably predated my entry to the world.

Our waitress got to us almost immediately and took our drink order - The Girl with hot water as it was significantly chillier inside than out and me with a Diet Coke that came in an opened can with a smallish glass and ice. She got us our drinks quickly - something that will come to be notable with the service throughout the evening - and took our orders...
  • Nantucket Cape Scallops, appetizer
  • The Girl (I'm chivalrous enough to let her order first)
    Filet mignon, medium rare
    Asparagus - an extra charge
    Baked potato with sour cream
    House vinaigrette on the salad
  • ChemGuy
    Strip-loin steak, medium rare
    Lyonnaise potatoes
    Stewed tomatoes (they were recommended in the article)
    House vinaigrette on the salad
We each ate a roll while we waited for the appetizer. The rolls clearly had been sitting out for a while before we got there but had a nice variety. There were good pumpernickel and caraway (very) salted rolls - almost pretzels but in a crescent shape. The basket also had a variety of crackers and a couple of more plain dinner rolls which we didn't try.

The scallops arrived in just a few minutes with two cups of tartar sauce and a couple of lemon slices. They weren't the large sea scallops that I'm more used to, but there were an even dozen mini-marshmallow-sized, very lightly breaded scallops in the dish between us with us each having our own plate and a cute little fork to eat them with. The scallops were very tasty, tender and simple, and the tartar sauce had a nice balance of relish and a bit of some simple herb.

As soon as we had finished the scallops, our plates were replaced with small melamine bowls with a very simple, dressed iceberg salad whose only variety was some shredded carrot and pepper freshly cracked at the table. The salad bowls were surprisingly well stocked, holding a healthy amount of lettuce for their apparent smallness.

After the salads were consumed, we had only a minute or two before our entrees arrived, each a bit fuller than expected as every steak apparently comes with a healthy pile of onion rings (thinner, really, more onion straws). No steak sauce, thankfully, was on the table or offered, a good sign for a well cooked steak.

The first bite of my (apparently-twelve-ounce) strip was excellent, balancing a nicely charred (actually they broil all their steaks) crust with a still-pink interior. The meat was tender but not livery, according to TPC press, dry-aged as all their steaks are. My steak was a very well cooked steak with little if any seasoning or adornment at all.

The Girl's eight-ounce filet (both steaks were obviously much larger than we should eat regularly but still reasonably sized for a $30 cut of meat) looked significantly smaller than my steak, though that probably had something to do with hers being half again as thick as mine. We traded tastes cut from each steak, and I can report that hers was a bit more tender (to be expected because of the difference in cuts) and very flavorful. She reported that he steak was, however, a bit unevenly cooked, having patches that were closer to medium and even bordered on medium well.

Her side dishes (asparagus with a Hollandaise sauce, baked potato) were both solid if unspectacular. The potato - medium sized - did come with a massive amount of sour cream - oddly and heavily dotted with chopped scallions including a bit oddly the white parts, enough to bury any patron's potato and those of at least three friends.

My sides were a very mixed batch. The stewed tomatoes were unappetising to view, looking like a pedestrian tomato soup with five very oily croutons floating, and they turned out to be even worse to taste. They were horrifically sweet and pretty much inedible. The Lyonnaise potatoes were better though still not very good, wrapping underdone hashbrowns around a pile of lightly sauteed, minced onions. The redemption of my side dishes came from the onion rings which were excellently well cooked - though a little light on any spice - and meshed very well with the steak.

Half of The Girl's potato, most of her onions, and most of my Lyonnaise went into a styrofoam box to be taken home and became breakfast the next morning (fried up with eggs and a bit of cheese).

The check came out with the box and tallied to $54. We did a quick bit of estimating math and realized that our waitress had made a bit of a mistake, undercharging us by about thirty dollars. We pointed this out to her - I'm honest enough, and she was nice - and got our corrected $83 bill which we paid with a check, rounding things up to an even $100 - right where I expect most of the meals to take us. TPC doesn't take credit cards, so make sure to bring your cash or personal check (which they happily accept).

So, where do we score The Pine Club?
  • Appetizers - 7 - simple, plain, well done but unspectacular
  • Steak - 7.5 - mine an 8, hers a 6 or 7
  • Side dishes - 5 - mine were lower than that but hers were higher...we both wish we had gotten the mashed spuds with garlic, and the onion rings saved the rating
  • Atmosphere - 6 - dark, wood, old, not elegant...I was a bit disappointed that the dress code was more casual than I had expected as there were people there in jeans (a couple) and shorts (maybe a quarter of the patrons)
  • Cost - 5 - we need a definition here, 5 is earned if we get out for $100 (including tip), higher scores mean we got out more cheaply
  • Service - 7 - good, quick service...not overly hovering...friendly enough...
  • Total score - 37.5 (out of 60)
So we clearly have a lot of room for improvement, but that doesn't mean that TPC was bad. It wasn't.

It just wasn't spectacular, and I'm guessing that its reputation as one of the finest steak places in Dayton/Cincy is more based on longevity than on spectacularness.

Sadly, I forgot to take my camera so there aren't any pictures of our first meal of Our Year of Living Steakishly.

I'll make sure to correct that for the next review. Of course, we may just have to go back to The Pine Club so I can take some photos for you.

Thanks, by the way, to Road Food for the photo and The Pine Club's website for the logo.