December 31, 2009

Things that matter: The Electric Brae

I like to think of myself as a fairly non-materialistic person.

When people ask me what I want - for birthdays, for Christmas - I tend to just say that I don't need anything, that I have put myself in a place where I can simply buy the few things I want and don't really want to have too many things around that don't really matter to me.

I love music and books and movies, but I love enjoying them, not having them around me.  I don't want to own most book; I just want to read them and then pass them along.  I don't want to have six hundred cds on my shelves; I just want to have the music stored in my computer so I can enjoy it when I want to.  And there are very few movies that matter enough to me to have the DVDs on my shelves (the Kevin Smith collection, in fact, is probably going to hit the road soon because I haven't watched any of those films in at least half a year - most in more than a year now).

But there are a few things that I own that matter to me.

Today I begin what is likely to be an irregular series of posts (kind of like the A Glimpse series of posts a year or so ago).


December 30, 2009

Best gift this year


The Mother-in-law came through big time with this Christmas's best gift: a PVC marshmallow gun.

The whole of the gun didn't cost $2 to make, and I'm the one who cut all the pieces and put the thing together, but it's a cheap blast of fun.

Head over to Instructables and make one for yourself.  The comic above (also from Instructables) is really about how easy it is.  I will make one suggested change to their instructions: a ratcheting PVC cutter makes quick work of the pipe cuts and is way cleaner and easier than a hacksaw.

December 28, 2009

The Decade in Lists


I dig that everybody in our society digs round numbers.

We get to 2009, and everybody feels the need to look back at the last decade, as though there were some sort of magic to that ten year span.

We were even worse about it back in 1999 and 2000 when everybody had to put out a list of the best something of the last millenium.

Here are some of the lists that I've found as the best of the decade:

December 25, 2009

They're coming back, you know...

No time for Christmas, Dr Jones...























I'd link to their trailer, but it's a little .

December 23, 2009

Tuesday Morning Quarterback (a week late)


As a general rule, I find Gregg Easterbrook's writing for ESPN to be long-winded.

He can be insightful, yes, but he wanders off into so many non-sports tangents (the large hadron collider, economics, politics, bodyguards, CEOs) that I tend to skim his articles for interesting bits but skip the rest of the article.  Really, what else should I expect from a guy who's writing a football column but whose new book "Sonic Boom, [is] about the pluses and minuses of the evolving global economy"?

Every now and then, however, he hits on something that's tightly sports and also important enough that it should be read by more than the dorky few who light up his column each week.

One such occurrence came this past week as Easterbrook laid down a diatribe about the disjointed nature of colleges claiming to prepare their football players for the NFL and allowing their academic performance to suffer in the name of this goal - but seeing less than 10% of their players actually ever play a down in the NFL.

The full column is here, but I'll reprint the important parts here...
Charlie Weis and Bobby Bowden had to go -- Notre Dame and Florida State weren't winning every game! Get rid of the bums! All we heard from sports commentators, and from alums and boosters, was get rid of the bums, we gotta win, win, win. Sorry to interject, but why? Why does Notre Dame or Florida State or any university need to win every game? Is it now official that big colleges care more about sports than education?

If an NFL team, which is strictly a commercial enterprise in the business of providing entertainment, doesn't win, get rid of the bums. But a university exists to educate; winning football games is a secondary concern. Don't get me wrong. I attend way too many college football games, and I always like it when the school I'm rooting for wins. But I am not so misguided as to think that a college's winning games means more than a college's educating students, including athletes. Why is this distinction practically absent from sports commentary?

Maybe the sports artificial universe won't face the uncomfortable reality that the NCAA system uses football and men's basketball players to generate revenue and great games -- then tosses way too many of these players aside uneducated. It's a lot more fun to talk about winning and losing than to talk about education.

Perhaps you're thinking, first, football players at big colleges are not being taken advantage of because they are being prepped for the NFL; and second, academics-oriented "smart schools" don't do well in sports, so if a college wants to win, standards must be low. Both of those assumptions are wrong.

Prepped for the NFL? Each year, roughly 2,500 Division I football players leave college because they have exhausted their athletic eligibility, or are leaving early, or have graduated. Each year, about 200 rookie players make NFL rosters. Thus, more than 90 percent of Division I football players never play a down in the NFL. Take into account that some of the NFL rookies are Division II, Division III or NAIA players, and it's closer to 95 percent. Watch any top college football team -- the players are fast, muscular, and obviously devote tremendous amounts of time and energy to football. Ninety-five percent of them won't play in the NFL. If they don't study and don't go to class, they walk away from college football practically empty-handed.

Is it different at the very top? Lisa Brooks and Matt Willis of ESPN Stats & Information looked at the national championship teams of 2000, 2001 and 2002 -- the best football colleges of those years, with enough time passed to determine what kind of NFL outcomes the teams produced.

Oklahoma, the 2000 national champion, sent two players into the NFL for five or more years (that's a "career" in sports terms), six players for two to four years, and one player for one year. Of the 85 scholarship holders on that team, 11 percent advanced to the NFL. The rest went away empty-handed in football terms. Remember, this was the best team of 2000.

Miami, the 2001 national champion, was among the most talented collegiate squads ever, with a roster that included Andre Johnson, Vince Wilfork, Clinton Portis, Ed Reed, Bryant McKinnie, Jonathan Vilma, Sean Taylor and Jeremy Shockey. That team sent 20 players to the NFL for at least five years, 12 for two to four years, and four for one year. This was one of the most talented college football teams ever assembled, and almost two-thirds of its players never played a down in the NFL.

Ohio State won the 2002 crown, and produced 11 players who were in the NFL for five years or more, 16 who played two to four years, and seven who played for one season. Again, this was the year's best college football team, and almost two-thirds of its players never played an NFL down.

Brooks and Willis looked at USC between 2002 and 2004 -- a period of very strong teams, including the 2004 squad, which won the BCS championship. In those three seasons, USC produced 12 players who were in the NFL five years or more, 15 players who were in the NFL for two to four years, and 13 who had single-season stints. Approximately 120 individuals had football scholarships at USC during that period; again, about two-thirds never played an NFL down.

Brooks and Willis also checked out Nick Saban's 2002-2004 LSU teams, including the 2003 team that won the BCS title. (Saban has not been at Alabama long enough to assess how his recruits there will do in the pros.) From those LSU years, 11 players played at least five seasons in the NFL, 10 played two to four years, and three played one year. That means 80 percent never played an NFL down.

It's simply not true that playing football at a big-deal college grooms you for the NFL. Coaches sometimes encourage this illusion -- which lures players into giving their all to the team, only to discover, too late, that college is over, the NFL didn't call, they didn't attend class and are not prepared for success in life. A couple of weeks ago, Saban told reporters he got the Crimson Tide fired up for its game against mega-underdog Chattanooga by warning players, "You would someday be an NFL player in a Mercedes-Benz and roll your window down to talk to a pretty girl and she'd say, 'You lost to Chattanooga when you played at Alabama.'" The overwhelming majority of the players on the current Alabama roster will never be an NFL player in a Mercedes-Benz. Encouraging that illusion improves Alabama's football results, while potentially distracting players from studying. Yet studying means a lot more to the typical Crimson Tide player's future than football.

One reason the system is so skewed is that big-college football coaches aren't rewarded for player graduations, they are rewarded for wins. Boosters don't care if the players graduate, they only care about victories -- and most football-factory coaches are in effect employees of the boosters, not of the university. If Saban creates a pleasant fantasy for his players that they are headed to the NFL, Saban's income rises. Future incomes for the majority of players decline if they fall for the fantasy and don't study.

In the past two decades, there's been a race to the bottom, in which many football-factory schools have lowered academic standards for football and men's basketball, dropping any pretense of education in pursuit of wins. (NCAA strictures govern whether a player can become a college athlete; colleges or conferences generally impose their own rules about whether athletes, once admitted, remain eligible; some big universities now define a football player taking a half-load of courses pass/fail as a "college student.") Here, "Outside the Lines" details how, at Florida State, a suspiciously high percentage of football players have been classified as learning disabled, which creates exemptions from already lax academic requirements. The lowering of standards in pursuit of wins is incredibly cynical on the part of big universities -- not only do hardly any of the players at colleges that don't focus on educating athletes advance to careers in the NFL, the recruiting pitch could be, "Come here and we'll never make you go to class."

Notre Dame was among the few prominent holdouts, insisting its football players be students too. This generated a recruiting disadvantage -- and a recruiting disadvantage caused by high standards, not Weis suddenly forgetting how to coach, is the reason for the recent records of Notre Dame football. Notre Dame alums and boosters should have been proud that high standards keep the school from going 12-0!

What about the other commonly heard claim -- that "smart schools" can't win in football and men's basketball? Cal, Georgia Tech, Navy, Nebraska, Northwestern, Stanford and TCU -- all academics-first colleges where football players are more likely to attend class -- are on their way to bowl games. Most of them have been in the top 20 nationally this season, and Georgia Tech and TCU even made BCS bowls. Notre Dame would be headed for a bowl game too, if it weren't for athletic director Jack Swarbrick's bizarre notion that winning "only" six games is something to be embarrassed about. Villanova and William & Mary just met in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, while Coe, Illinois Wesleyan and Johns Hopkins made the Division III playoffs. Penn and Amherst also would have advanced to the playoffs, if the Ivy League and the New England Small College Athletic Conference did not prohibit member schools from sending their football teams to the postseason. It is simply not true that colleges where football players study hard and go to class can't have winning seasons.

Reader Natasha Lettis of Oakland, Calif., provides this troika of stories about academics being enforced in the Cal football program: One player gave up his starting position because a class he requires for graduation conflicts with practice; another was suspended for a game for missing class; this article assesses Cal's overall commitment to blending academics and football. Cal's example shows that a football-factory school can enforce academic rules and still have a great season -- Cal finished 8-4 and will face Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Is this autumn some kind of fluke? No. Last year, Boston College, Cal, Georgia Tech, Navy, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Rice, TCU, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest made bowls. Colgate, Villanova and Wofford made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, while Case Western, Occidental and Wheaton of Illinois made the Division III postseason. Harvard and Trinity (Conn.) would have made the playoffs, except for Ivy League and NESCAC rules. All these are academics-come-first schools.

The field for last season's NCAA men's basketball tournament included Boston College, Butler, Cal, Cornell, Duke, North Carolina, Purdue, UCLA, Villanova and Wake Forest. In the women's tournament, Cal, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgia Tech, Lehigh, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Stanford, TCU, Villanova and Vanderbilt made it. Brackets for the men's Division III basketball playoffs included Amherst, Brandeis, Carnegie Mellon, Claremont McKenna, Middlebury, MIT, RIT and Washington in St. Louis (which repeated as champion). In Division III women's basketball, Amherst, Bowdoin, Brandeis, Rochester and Washington-St. Louis all made it. All of these schools enforce academic standards for athletes.

Smart schools dominate the Directors' Cup standings of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. For Division I sports, Stanford has won the Cup 14 times; in Division III, Williams has won 11 times. North Carolina, Penn State, Princeton, UCLA and Virginia are other smart schools that perennially finish high in the Cup standings for Division I; Amherst, Bowdoin and Middlebury perennially finish high in Division III. The Directors' Cup honors overall athletic success, across the spectrum of collegiate sports. And smart schools do really well -- in many cases better than sports-factory colleges that channel far more money into athletics than the smart schools.

A college can field winning football teams and still have strict academic standards for players; in turn, because the overwhelming majority of players (even at football-factory schools) will never advance to the NFL, they must go to class! Why does the sports universe shy away from discussing these core points?

In fact, athletics can even help improve academics. Studies have shown that in high school, male members of sports teams have better grades than male students as a whole. Some critics have suggested this outcome is deceptive, owing to "self-selection" -- the sort of boys with the work habits to be on time for sports practices are also the ones likely to do their homework. Over the last generation, girls and women have entered organized sports in large numbers. If athletic activity improves grades, female academic performance would be expected to rise. And that's exactly what has happened. Girls' GPAs in high school, and women's graduation numbers in college, are way up.

This important study by Betsey Stevenson of the University of Pennsylvania tests the relationship between Title IX, which led to an increase in girls' and women's sports, and female academic and professional outcomes. (The link is to her draft; the final version is upcoming in the Review of Economics and Statistics.) She found that every 10 percent increase in participation in girls' high school athletics leads to a 1 percent increase in girls' college attendance and a 2 percent increase in women's workforce presence. Further, Stevenson finds that "greater opportunities to play sports leads to greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly for high-skill occupations." It wasn't just that girls who were likely to be good students also tried out for the field hockey team. The same fraction of girls likely to be good students always existed -- becoming athletes improved their college and career prospects. Sports made them better students and more successful in the workplace.

Stevenson's findings have not made a major splash -- maybe her work has simply gone unnoticed. But evidence that athletics actually improve academic performance makes the lack of academic focus in much of big-deal college sports all the more wrong. This won't change until college and university boards and regents stop shirking their duties -- and until the sports media stop covering college sports as though the sole thing that mattered was winning.

...

Not only do most football-factory colleges place too little emphasis on education for players, there is a second level of scandal: low graduation rates for African-American players. This new study from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida shows that of the 68 colleges which made bowl games this season:

  • 21 graduated less than 50 percent of African-American football athletes, while only two graduated less than 50 percent of white football players.
  • 7 graduated less than 40 percent of their African-American football players, while none graduated less than 40 percent of white football players.
  • 35 had graduation success rates for African-American football athletes that were at least 20 percent lower than their rates for white football athletes.
College is what you make it, so it's fair to ascribe some of this poor performance to players not working harder in class. Even so, the figures should shock -- half the schools appearing in bowl games this holiday season have substantially lower graduation rates for African-American football players than for white players. The boosters don't care. Do the deans, regents and coaches care?
Easterbrook's commentary is well researched and scathing.

At some point, I need to consider whether my fandom for college sports - basketball more than football - is more important than my knowledge that many of the institutions for whom I cheer, to whose successes and failures I pay far too much attention (which is still far less attention than many people pay to them) are deserving of my attention and cheering.

I also need to talk to a friend's brother who is the academic advisor at the University of Memphis to see what his take on all of this is.  He would clearly be more knowledgeable on the subject than I am.

Oh, and Joey, I notice that he actually has praise for Notre Dame's academic stances but scorn for their denial of the bowl because they only went 6-6.  Your thoughts on that?

December 22, 2009

Last minute Christmas reminders


When you're in need of a Santa, only go with a member of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, and make sure that Real Bearded Santa gets his Santa suit from Adele's of Hollywood, maker of the finest Santa suits in the land.

It's amazing what you can learn from NPR.

But, if you're looking to just kill some time with a Christmas movie, check out the best ever.

December 21, 2009

Advice on Surviving the World - from the Fred Paulson Institute in Wincheck City, PA

I respect the simplicity of the blog design with a comments written or graphs drawn on a chalk with the artist/writer standing beside them.

Plus, when the advice is this good, you just have to pay attention...


 
 
 

Do enjoy, everybody...

December 20, 2009

In the interest of full disclosure



The recent changes in the Federal Trade Commission's position on blogging - which you can read here - means that every blogger must disclose whenever he or she receives any sort of payment - cash or merchandise - in return for consideration, even reviews published on a blog.

I can only think of one or two times when I ever received any free stuff that I then mentioned on this blog, and I think I've been pretty clear and forthcoming about those times, but, in the interest of legality and full disclosure, I offer up this legalish bit of blahbitty blah...(thanks, DisclosurePolicy.org)...
This policy is valid from 13 December 2009

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog does not accept any form of advertising, sponsorship, or paid insertions. We write for our own purposes. However, we may be influenced by our background, occupation, religion, political affiliation or experience.

The owner(s) of this blog will never receive compensation in any way from this blog.

The owner(s) of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

If any of these claims change, notification will be provided in an appropriate manner.
Ain't life in a litigious society grand?

If you want to know more, DisclosurePolicy.org did post a series of videos from Mary Engle, Associate Director Bureau of Consumer Protection that you can check out.

December 19, 2009

Last links before Christmas


December 18, 2009

The Queen City



This one is actually better but not embedable



Sadly, this is what some people think about when they hear of Cincinnati.



A very positive spin on Cincinnati...



I'm really curious where this took place and if they had tranq darts handy.



Anybody seen this one?



We own a railroad line?



I miss Kids in the Hall...it's nice, though, that they rated our mass transit system so highly as to be "3rd rate"...



Big Klu in the house...



I'm thinking that Mallory wasn't a jock growing up...



It's like an updated "Super Bowl Shuffle"



I wish they'd kept building.

December 17, 2009

Still the best

Every now and again, I hunt this video down and view it...

I just love it that much...



By the way, you can see Amir at the end of the video, but can anybody find Jake?

Music with a disclaimer



Enjoy the tunes, folks...but remember to keep it straight.

I can honestly say that I have never tried any illegal drugs and had only minor experience with underage drinking.

Luckily, however, being straight laced doesn't prevent me from enjoying music about such pastimes.

December 16, 2009

Gifts for a ChemGuy

Just in case you were in need of a few last-minute gifts for your handy, neighborhood chemistry teacher / blogger / friend / husband / brother / son / coworker / Tiger Woods '10 stud and didn't just want to bang away at my Amazon wishlist.

Wally Wabash Glass - $8.95

I tend to take 90% of my drinks at home from one of the dozen or so different pint glasses that we keep in the cabinets.  They're a nice size in that I can drink a full one in one gulp, and it's enough water to whet the whistle.  Plus, most of the pint glasses (other than that Dewey's one) fit perfectly in our water dispenser on the front of the refrigerator.

Wii Energizer Flat Panel 4x Induction Charger - $49.96

I've mentioned it before, and the early reviews look to be pretty good.

I play the Wii often enough, that I'm constantly popping batteries in and out of the Wiimotes, so this would save a bunch of pain, and I'm thinking that I could use those AA rechargables in a lot of other things around the house instead of having them sit in the four wiimotes like they are right now.

Sadly, though, it doesn't come out until the first week of January.

Lifetime Pass to Monster Mini-Golf - $???

No clue how much this costs as their site doesn't offer any details on purchasing just the pass.  They, in fact, only mention the pass as a part of their various party packages - the Mean Teen and the Not So Sweet 16.


IU semi-fitted hat - $21.98

I have hats for Princeton and Wabash.  I'd like to add in hats for each of the other schools that I've known well - New Albany, Indiana, Terre Haute South, and Aberdeen.  Admittedly, I never attended or taught at IU, but I grew up a die-hard IU fan and am watching the IU-UK basketball game (UK 42-41 at half right now) as I type this.  Old allegiances die hard.


Donation to PHS's Pasta for Pennies campaign

Every year I mention this as a possibility.  I'll be doing it again when late January rolls around, but I thought I'd go ahead and give you a link in case you wanted to make a donation as a bit of a tax shelter.

Really, any donation to a charitable cause is a good thing - no better at this time of the year than any other time, but it's easy to think about being charitable during the holiday season.  Take your pick from any worthy cause, and you'll be doing a lot of good with your money.

Helping the LLS now would be especially helpful because...
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has received a research challenge grant.

An anonymous friend of LLS will match $100,000 in donations made by December 31st to support an important research focus - to reduce the long-term and late effects of some of today's intensive treatments.



Rave Theater gift card - any amount, really

I don't see nearly enough movies - mostly because of time constraints, but I can pretty much guarantee you that if I had a bunch of money sitting on a gift card in my pocket, I'd stop by on the way home from school and catch a few more 3:00 showings.

Which would give me more movies to review.

Which would give you more stuff to read about.

It's the circle of giving right there.

December 15, 2009

AV Club Wrap Up and Analysis


A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that The Onion's AV Club was doing a Best of the Decade in various media categories - best movie, tv show, album, book, other stuff.  I promised that once they had wrapped everything up, that I would give their lists a quick run through.

So I am.

Movies...
  • I'm impressed with their list.  Very much a list of the world, not just American and European films.  Sadly, however, I've missed pretty much every non-American film on the list.  That's what I get for not driving to the Neon or the Esquire enough, I guess.
  • #47 - Moulin Rouge - excellent choice...wonderfully original concept of marrying lyrics from new songs to melodies entirely unrelated to their originals but perfectly woven to tell the story.
  • #43 - Brokeback Mountain - one of the best love films of all time...so calm, so small, so slow, so gorgeous...admittedly, the sex scene left me really uncomfortable - certainly because of the male-on-male nature, but the arc of Heath Ledger's character is heartbreaking in its restraint and emotional rawness
  • #41 - The Dark Knight - How can you rank this against the other films?  We're so trained to look at a drama and wonder if it's Oscar worthy but to look at an action film like this and wonder if it's going to make a billion dollars - which it did.  Great acting, easily the finest adaptation of Batman or the Joker on any screen, ever.
  • #36 - Pan's Labyrinth - one of the oddest experiences I've ever had in a theater (missing the first ten minutes of this film which set up the entire movie)...once I got that cleared up, however, I recognized the mastery that del Toro had worked, creating an entire fantasy world from one little glimmer of imagination...the previews did the film no credit suggesting that it was a fantasy/horror film - it isn't...it's a story about the power of imagination, and it's del Toro's finest melding of the gorgeous fantasy/creature work and a moving, tight story
  • #33 - Punch Drunk Love - another surprisingly moving love story...good to see this film - easily Sandler's best acting - getting some love...the tale of two damaged people attempting to connect with each other - told between Sandler's explosions of rage - is emotional and engaging to a fault...wonderfully small story
  • #18 - Mulholland Drive - No...it's too cryptic, too impossible to follow, too weird...just, no...
  • #17 - The Royal Tenenbaums - I love Wes Anderson's works...this is easily his high point
  • #16 - Almost Famous - so far, this is the most open, inviting of the films on the list...rare to have such a huge crowd pleaser, such an open, inviting film resonate so well with its audience...this is the most fun film on the list even though there aren't moments of open laughter, over the top comedy at any point
  • #13 - Grizzly Man - I think this one's oversold at #13.  I don't know that I would have inculded it in my top fifty of the decade at all.  Yes, it's a moving portrayal of a man looking for hope and projecting much of that hope onto animals who clearly were not what he wanted them to be.  It's a good film, it's an excellent documentary.  But it's not one of the top fifty films.
  • #12 - Before Sunset - I couldn't possibly see what Linklater and his stars could say after Before Sunrise, but he topped the first film with this one.  He's hit some out of the park.
  • #10 - Children of Men - Another fine choice...Clive Owen's great parformance, Julianne Moore's supporting part, the brilliant, nearly silent climactic scene as the battle suddenly stops raging, and te heartbreaking ending...stunning from the first moment to the last
  • #7 - Kill Bill, Vol 1 - I love this.  I enjoy nearly every moment of it.  But it's not nearly deserving of this ranking.  As time passes, the film reveals itself to be more and more derivitive.  Tarantino didn't craft an original film as much as a pastiche of an entire genre - something he seems so good at doing.  Plus, Basterds is a better film.
  • #6 - Spirited Away - The decade's best non-Pixar animated film, hands down.  One I can watch a hundred times and be amazed with every second.  It's alternatingly terrifying and tender, touching and tragic.
  • #5 - Memento - I should see this again.  I've only seen it once, and that's been years.
  • #4 - No Country for Old Men - How could the directors of O Brother ever come up with this?  Where O Brother was brilliantly comedic and welcoming, this is equally dark and tough.  
  • #3 - There Will Be Blood - Here we part ways.  90% of this film was excellent, but the ending scene was so ridiculous, so over the top, so out of character for the rest of the movie that it was ruined for me.
  • #2 - 25th Hour - It's getting tougher and tougher to choose Spike Lee's best film.  He continues to improve as a director, having blown this decade away with 25th Hour, Inside Man, When the Levees Broke - none of which have more than a glimmer of heavy handed directing of Lee's first films.  He has turned out to be one of the finest directors working, able to craft a gorgeous film - which this most certainly is - by getting out of the way of the story.  In this, he draws out Edward Norton's finest performance, and that's saying something, too.
  • #1 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - the weirdest love story on the list...a fine choice for the top spot, however, as it was very much of the era (Charlie Kaufman is the most distinct screenwriter of this decade) as well as being a brilliant film.
I have very few complaints about their list other than that I now have so many new movies that I need to see.

My favorites from the list...in various combinations...

The films I would most want to watch again...
  • 25th Hour
  • Before Sunset
  • The Dark Knight
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Moulin Rouge
The films I haven't seen on the list that I most want to see...
  • Wall-E (shut up, I know I should see it)
  • The Prestige
  •  American Psycho
  • The Man Who Wasn't There
  • Audition
 The films that I think were robbed because they weren't on the list...
  • Hero
  • Up 
  • Brick
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Dogville
  • The Fog of War
  • Munich
  • Lost in Translaton
The films I didn't enjoy...
  • The Squid and the Whale
  • There Will Be Blood (mostly for the ending)
  • Adaptation
  • Traffic
  • Oldboy
Things I noticed
  • Not a single Jud Apatow film is on here.  I'm very much okay with that.
  • Little Miss Sunshine  wasn't anywhere near the list.  I'm very much okay with that - neither was Crash, also a good thing.
  • Apparently the AV Club thinks the best picture Oscars went to the wrong films as only one of the ten winners (No Country) made the top fifty.  In fact, only five of the fifty nominated films made this list.
Other Sites that I consulted for this later stuff...

    December 14, 2009

    Two sad moments

    Both of these came up in class this week, and I thought I'd throw them out there for the world.

    No real connection between the two...

    The first came up because one of my students asked me to tell them a joke.

    I defaulted to one of my standard jokes and said...
    Ok, a baby seal walks into a club.
    It's an old Bob and Tom joke, and it's one that tends to make a few kids chuckle - typically because I preface it with...
    Man walks into a bar. Next guy ducks; he saw it coming.
    and
    A cannibal passes his brother in the woods.
    This time, however, I dropped the seal gag into the ether with no set up and ended up having to explain the act of seal clubbing, which, of course, lead me to mention this clip from The White Seal, an animated film that I vaguely remember from my childhood (turns out the animated "film" is more of a short, only twenty-four minutes long, but the memories of childhood make it much longer.)

    Skip ahead to 3:43 for the beginning of the horror...



    I will say, however, that Robby McDowell's narration is wonderful throughout the film, and the Chuck Jones animation is brilliant. The film has aged surprisingly well for something that I haven't seen in a few decades.

    That scene, however, with its flashing red and blue, the flames superimposed over the fat seal adults, the nearly faceless humans in their seal-skin coats, and the ghostly white seal terror left me with nightmares for weeks when I was a child. It's impressively horrifying for something in a children's film.

    Later in the week, a different group of students came in asking if I had "Christmas Shoes" which they claimed was the worst Christmas song ever. I didn't, though I'll hunt it down for this post, but I did respond that I had a different song that I would put up as the worst Christmas song ever - because of both the horribly sad tone of the song and it's utter and total lack of rhyming even though the song form suggests direct rhymes at many different points.

    So, to you, I present "The Cat Carol" by Meryn Cadell (performer of the much finer "Sweater Song").



    By the way, in case you were not aware of The Christmas Shoes, here's the song on which the entire movie is based...



    Mysteriously, there are other versions out there...

    I'm not sure "The Cat Carol" is worse...

    wow...

    December 13, 2009

    December 12, 2009

    Happy final square day of 2009


    See, 'cause the date and the month are the same number...it's a square day, see...get it?

    December 11, 2009

    Good ol' Wabash...



    Long in our hearts, we'll bear the sweetest memories of thee...



    Great finish to a great rivalry game...



    Ballad of the Monon Bell



    "Operation Frijoles"



    Sad news...



    When the day is done and the western son is fading in flashing glory...



    Well made commercial to show during the Monon Bell broadcast



    Frosh doing good deeds...the first guy to speak was my senior roommate and now a prof at Wabash...



    Nice video...I have the DVD...



    The 1974 promotional video...



    History of Wabash football



    Even great schools produce videos like this



    Choosing a college...like Wabash...



    The Great Wall of Wabash

    December 9, 2009

    Get festive



    Three simple offerings tonight...all are sites the offer winter-themed desktop wallpapers so you can update your look for the season...


     





     

    December 8, 2009

    Ryan Moats


    I've met a grand total of one NFL player in my life.

     I'm not a huge NFL fan or anything, so that's hot really a huge surprise.  I haven't exactly been hanging out at NFL games or fan gatherings in hopes of adding to that total or anything.

    But I've met Ryan Moats, and he's every bit of Jim Bullinger's equal to me because of that.

    It was the spring of 2005, and Calen and I were in Dallas for a National Science Teachers Association conference - we were both presenting for the first time.  We flew into Dallas on the morning of the day before the conference, Thursday, probably, getting into town in enough time to take the DART (I think, maybe it was a shuttle, who knows?) out to our hotel at Mockingbird Station and get settled in.

    Once we oriented ourselves a bit - figuring out where we were, how we were going to get to the convention center to pick up our conference materials - we headed out to see what there was to see around the area where we were staying.  Turns out that we were just a few blocks from Southern Methodist University, home of the only athletic death penalty in major D1 sports.

    We checked out fraternity row and a few neat sculptures and eventually ambled our way to SMU's football stadium where we looked for an open gate, eventually heading into the stadium and down toward the field to take a few pictures of Beaker (my class mascot, don't ask if you aren't already aware).


    As we wandered are the stadium, looking for the best angles to pose Beaker, we saw that there was a lone athlete down on the football field working out.  He was running wind sprints and line drills alone, simply out for a workout.  He even wandered up into the stands to run the stairs later as we headed away from the stadium.

    While we were there, however, the athlete stopped up into the stands and asked us what we were doing.  No accusation, no worry, just some sort of odd curiosity as to why these odd people were taking pictures of the stadium with this little Muppet in the foreground - no pictures with people in them, of course.



    We told him that we were science teachers from Cincinnati in town for a conference and explained that I took my Beaker figure - my doll, as he said - with me on vacations to let the kids see where I'd been.  Since we were missing a couple of days of school for the conference, I wanted to make sure the kids knew we weren't just ditching school for a quick trip to the warm south while they wiled away the hours in rainy, dreary Cincinnati.

    The athlete introduced himself, saying that he had played college football at Louisana Tech University and was about to be drafted into the NFL in the next few weeks.  He was temporarily back in his hometown of Dallas working out to stay in shape.  He wished us well - our entire conversation probably lasted two or three minutes - and we wandered onward.

    Calen and I have both followed Moats's career since then, mentioning it to each other whenever we'd see his name in the news. 

    Moats's career hasn't been too much to write home about, really.
    • Drafted by the Eagles in the 3rd round
    • Headed to the scout team initially but finished the season strong as an injury replacement with 260+ yards and three touchdowns in the last six games of the season
    • Not even 70 yards in 2006
    • Missed the full 2007 season with a preseason injury
    • Moved on to Houston in 2008 but didn't do much - just twenty-six carries all year
    • Filled in admirably when Stave Slaton was injured this year - 114 yards and three touchdowns in a single game against Buffalo
    • Back to the bench the next game 
    But I'm always pulling for Ryan Moats.

    If ever I'm back into fantasy football, you'd better watch out for my team, the Ryan Moats.

    Oh, Moats has also been in the national news for one other, far sadder incident.  In the spring of this year, Moats and his wife were speeding through the streets of Dallas, on their way to the hospital where his mother-in-law was dying.  Moats reached the hospital parking lot where he and his wife got out of the car.  A police officer who had been trying to pull Moats over for a mile or two pointed his gun at Moats's wife and ordered both back into their car.


    Moats's wife went into the hospital, but Moats himself was detained for eighteen minutes while his mother-in-law passed away inside.  By the time Moats was able to get inside, she had died.

    The incident became national news as a white officer had treated a black man unfairly - or at least unfairly as many people saw the incident.  You can view the whole police tape in two YouTube videos here.

    I certainly don't know that I consider the incident racially motivated, but I certainly know that the whole situation was regretable and sad, and I was sorry that Moats's return to the headlines had to be because of it.

    Run hard, Ryan Moats.  There are at least two midwestern science teachers cheer for your every yard.

    Yeah, I'm not waiting for either of these

    Too good to wait until the weekend on this one...


    Beautiful Day from Derek Doublin on Vimeo.

    Thanks to Transbuddha for today's li'l pick-me-up.

    Oh, and Monster Mini Golf is running a special price this week.  This came in from my email ('cause I'm on their list...shut up)...
    Cincinnati Magazine declared us the Best Mini Golf in Cincinnati for 2009

    Come Celebrate with Us!!

    Play Mini Golf for only $1 this Tuesday – Thursday, $2 Friday, and $3 Saturday and Sunday

    Just tell us “You’re the Best” to receive this special pricing. And yes, we’ll probably get a big head.
    Only it came in yellow and red and neon green which was kind of annoying, I'll admit.

    So grab yourself some mingolf, ya freaks.

    December 7, 2009

    Today's food-themed pun

    Today's food-themed pun is from Crepes of Wrath - a recipe blog that I am going to safely say is the finest recipe blog titled with a witty pun based on a horribly depressing Americana novel (though I am open for other nominations).

    It's a pretty casual recipe blog - nothing that looks like I couldn't manage it (especially considering I cooked my first whole chicken tonight for dinner) and lots of stuff that looks like I want to eat it right now, full stomach and all.

    There's the Chorizo, Egg, & Potato Hash (though I'd probably cook the fried egg a little further)...



    No Bake Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Balls...



    Crispy Smashed Potatoes...which I might just kill someone to get to if they taste as awesome as they look...



    Beans, Chorizo, and Brown Rice...I'm thinking I've found next week's dish for a cold winter's night...



    After all, with the apparent loss of The New Cook, I'm going to need some sort of source for new food to try...

    December 6, 2009

    I kinda wanna go outside

    It's minorly , but it's awesome.



    And while we're at it...

    Don't lie down on this fundraiser...

    It may seem an odd fundraiser, but that's only because it is.

    But, anybody need a mattress?

    December 5, 2009

    Saturday night's all right


    I told The Pater Familias that all I wanted for Christmas was for him to grow a mustache and soul patch like a Kentucky Colonel.  I'm thinking I'm not getting that, though.