August 31, 2010

Alphabet game: U is for artists

Had to lean a little more heavily on U2 than I would've liked for the U artists this week...

August 30, 2010

The glory that is PLCH

I tend to brag on the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH), but I thought I'd give it one more quick little post just to back up my opinion of the awesome with a few numbers.

PLCH's executive director, Kim Fender, published a note a couple of weeks ago touting the killer trifecta that the library system hit this year...
  • PLCH was named by Hennen the #7 best library system in the nation in the category of systems serving at least half a million people.  It's their highest ranking from Hennen ever.
  • PLCH has the tenth largest collection of all the libraries in the United States - the third largest among public library systems.  In case you were curious, the Library of Congress is the biggest, and Boston and NYC are the bigger publics.
  • According to Fender, PLCH also ranked #10 among public libraries in terms of number of items checked out in 2009.  She doesn't quote a source for that, though, so linking and fisking her data is a little tough.
The note says that PLCH is the only library system to find itself in the top ten of all three lists.

In other words, our library system frickin' rocks.

Take advantage of your local branch if you're in town, woncha?

August 28, 2010

Happy Read Comics in Public Day!

Short list for today...good times, though...I'm off to BrewHaHa tonight.  Feel free to stop by our booth and support the campaign.

    August 26, 2010

    Political roundup

    So many political things in the news of late...I'll go bulleted list today...just because...
    • Why Target and Best Buy's Support of Anti-Gay Bigots is Going to Change the Way You Shop Forever - Obviously, a headline like that is impossible to actually come true.  I like shopping at Target.  I don't like shopping at Best Buy.  It's going to take some serious political wranglings to make me stop hitting up the big red bullseye.

      That being said, the Supreme Court decision opening up political donations to corporate donors with absolutely no ceiling at all scares the crap out of me.  Yeah, it's been seven months since that decision, but this is our first general election cycle since the decision, and we're seeing the chickens come home to roost.  The Consumerist article sums things up very well in this one sentence...
      Corporations have transparent but uniform policy goals: less regulation and lower corporate taxes.
      ...and they have hugely deeper pockets than you and I could ever possibly have.  Your donation and mine - combined with all of our friends - can't possibly begin to match the contributions that corporate donors can muster with very little trouble.  This scares the crap out of me.

      Whether it's Rupert Murdoch's News Corp giving a million dollars to the Republican party because "the company believes in the importance of free markets and appreciates the Republican group's pro-business agenda" or whether it's an equally passionate but left-leaning corporation making a similar donation to the Democrats, there's simply no way at all that I - or The Girl and I - could possibly buy the level of access and influence that money in that range garners.

      I do understand that groups of people should be allowed to get together and pool their money to speak their mind, to make their political opinions known.  The is what political action committees (PACs) are all about, but their are regulations as to how PACs have to report their spending that corporations aren't party to, and that worries me.
    • "Hallowed Ground" - stuff at the same distance from Ground Zero as the planned 'mosque' - which is neither a 'mosque' nor 'at Ground Zero'.  In fact, there's a wonderful analysis of those two misstatements in this post from Matt Sledge.  The uproar over the building of this Islamic cultural center - admittedly with a prayer room - is a poor example of the welcoming arms and charitable spirit that I would rather see Americans express to anyone who doesn't share their religion or beliefs. 

      Yes, believers in an extreme version of the Islamic religion hijacked planes on September 11th nearly nine years ago.  Yes, they crashed those planes into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center towers, and - luckily for us - a field in Pennsylvania.  That doesn't mean that every Islamic person is a killer or that we should deny basic freedom of religion and assembly to every Islamic person based on the horrific actions of that one day any more than we should do the same for every Christian based on the actions of David Koresh.

      I am happy to see our president defending the rights of Americans in building this cultural center.  To do otherwise would be to deny Americans their Constitutionally-guaranteed right.
    • Ben Quayle 'Worst President Ever' Ad Draws Sharp Reactions - A number of things worry me in politics.  I'd like to say that this ad by Ben Quayle wasn't one of them.  His statement that Barrack Obama is our worst president ever is clear puffery, hyperbole, and stupidity.  The statement was - I hope - stated in spite of the obvious incorrectness of it in hopes of Quayle raising his national and local profile heading into this week's primary election.  I wish that the ad hadn't accomplished that very thing and lead Quayle onward to the general election in November after a narrow primary win.  We have, however, seen politicians long able to tap into anger and resentment during tough times, and Ben Quayle's advertisement and subsequent primary victory looks to be just another example of that.

    August 25, 2010

    Triple music post...take that...

    It's a time for celebration: Jeff Tweedy's 43rd birthday...enjoy him in all his incarnations...

    ChemGuy Goes to War: the musical

    Songs of war...

    August 24, 2010

    Alphabet game: T is for artists

    It's a T-for Tuesday this week...enjoy 'em...

    A national crisis hits home...

    It's one thing when there's some vague, nebulous, national pumpkin shortage.

    Even when the pumpkin shortage from last fall edges toward this fall and prime pie season.

    It's another thing entirely when my local ice creamery puts out a plea like this...
    Currently, the US is experiencing a nationwide shortage of pumpkin. Bring in a 30 oz can of Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix and receive a $5.00 gift card! For a 15oz can, receive a $2.50 gift card!
    At this point, they're threatening my favorite ice cream.

    This isn't a joke any more, folks.

    Update:  Luckily things seem to have worked out somewhat for The Cone.  The "Pumpkin Is Back" note on the marquee today drew The Girl and me for a pair of medium pumpkin cones.  While we were there, we apologized that we didn't have any pumpkin to donate (didn't add that The Girl has been hoarding our one last can since last Thanksgiving).  The girl taking our order said things were okay - that the community had come out and that Canada didn't have a shortage and that he (the Cone's owner) had just gotten a big order from Canada.

    Who knew?  Canada, our pumpkin saviors. 

    They're not just America's hat anymore.

    August 23, 2010

    Java and YouTube?

    So, I installed the newest Java update, and now Firefox won't show any embedded YouTube clips.

    That's gonna be frustrating, and I'm gonna need to solve that.

    Why adaptation is tough...

    Ok, let's start with the sad, honest truth.

    The Girl and I now own the six books of Scott Pilgrim.  For an investment of about $44, we have all six volumes of the Scott Pilgrim series.  No, you can't borrow them because they're already on loan.

    We own the books because the Scott Pilgrim film was set to come out last weekend, and book three hadn't yet come in from the library.  We'd both read books one and two and had four through six waiting on the table.

    With less patience than me even, The Girl put in the simple order to Amazon and waited for the package to show up.  They arrived early last week, just a day after she brought book three back from the Clifton library.

    And the books waited...sitting on the table, taunting us until the end of the week when we could sit on opposite ends of the couch from each other and devour the remaining four books in one sitting Friday night, she reading the new copies from Amazon, me taking in the library's lightly used versions.  Well, I went in one sitting as I kinda read a little more quickly (my four books were finished while she cruised through two and had to finish up the next morning.)

    First off, the books are outstanding.  The promise shown by the first two that I reviewed a little while back was totally seen through to the end.  In fact, the third and fourth books are far more impressive than the first two.  The levels of background that O'Malley works into both Scott and Ramona are phenomenal, making some of the more well-rounded post-college aged character that I've read in a while.  These are characters who are looking to define themselves - Ramona, in particular - and trying to shed their baggage along the way.

    Plus they're hilarious and fully willing to make the occasional meta-joke as when Scott comments that fighting the evil exes is tiring and that he wished this (I won't tell you which) book could be the last one or when Scott refuses to catch a character up on what's been going on, instead stating simply that they should go back and read book one.  This is really funny stuff that never devolves into rote "meet ex-boyfriend, fight ex-boyfriend, repeat" as would've been so easy for O'Malley's series to slide into.  Every evil ex is a unique character who must be dealt with in unique ways.  This is the good stuff, folks: hilarious, rounded, well done from tip to tail.

    Do yourself a favor and spend the three or four hours needed to read this series from start to finish.  With volume six having come out this summer, it's available in its entirety for dirt cheap.

    Once you're done with it, check out O'Malley's interview over on Comics Alliance.  Don't read it until you're all through, though as it contains some serious spoilers.  Great interview that lent a lot of depth to my reading of the final volume.

    Now, about the Scott Pilgrim vs the World movie adaptation.

    It's good.  It's fun.  It's a solid adaptation.  It has pretty much all the entertaining scenes that you'd mark as necessary if you went through the books and asked for those kinds of scenes.  It's just, well, lacking the heart.

    This isn't the first two Harry Potter flicks.  It's not like the director missed the point and sucked all the life out of the film.  It's also not Watchmen where the ending had to be changed which necessitated eliminating almost all the subtext along the way and the core premise of the entire book - that superheros don't exist and the non-super heroes would be helpless once they did - was intentionally changed for the movie.

    No, this is a very fun film that absolutely nails the spirit, language, moves of the books in every way.  The fight scenes are phenomenally well adapted with most of the evil exes stealing the fight scenes in every way.  Their on screen representations are note perfect from Todd's Vegan powers to Lucas Lee's stunt doubles and through every other ex we see (with the slight exception of Kyle & Ken Katayanagi who are fairly well under-used).

    And the fight scenes are awesome.  The sight of Scott levitating away on vegan psychic waves, Romana moving Scott as a puppet, the first fight/dance battle - they're all excellently well adapted as are all of the exciting scenes that would 'just have to be in' this movie.

    It's actually the scenes that aren't in the movie, however, that I missed the most.  By necessity - and as #3 warned us - the movie is drastically compressed.  The comic series takes just over a year (we know from Knives's almost bookending birthday celebrations), and the movie shrinks this time frame into just more than a week.  Yes, the fact that all the fights come one on top of each other makes Michael Cera's increasingly haggard reactions all the more reasonable, but it also means that - as #4 warned us - we lose a ton of characterization in the process.

    Out the window goes the sixth book's discussion between Ramona and Scott in subspace.  Eliminated is the side plot of Todd's dalliance with the drummer.  Gone entirely is Scott's reaction to Ramona's departure at the beginning of book six.  Poof goes the torture of Steven Stills and his recording process.  Away with Scott's whole backstory with Kim Pine.  Reduced is Envy from most significant, sympathetic supporting character to one-note villain.  Plus there's the fact that she's a blond in the movie but a red-head in the books - a sad change for me to have seen.

    Yes, some of these are subplots and side trails that are simply victims of sadly necessary for adaptation streamlining, but they aren't all subplots.  Some of the content lost is actually the meat of the story.  Yes, if you had to describe the books to someone, you might shorthand things as "a boy has to fight his girlfriend's evil exes in a real-world version of her baggage", but a description of the books as such would leave out entirely the true meaning and heart of the story, that of Scott's growth and realization that no one's memories - most importantly his own - ever match the memories of the people in his past.  He - and Ramona and the evil exes, Young Neil, Knives and even we - have fashioned our memories into stories that sell us just slightly better, make us a little more handsome or beautiful, and let us be the hero in our own drama, and in the end, Scott realizes this.

    The books are a story of growth.  The movie mentions this growth almost in passing in the final act.  Where the written story took the time necessary to reveal this growth bit by bit and to point it out in the final chapter, the movie simply doesn't have the ability to let that growth develop organically.  Instead, the writers include this growth largely as a surprise in the final battle.  No, I don't necessarily fault them for this.  Their hands were somewhat tied by virtue of the nature of their medium.  The film is a week.  We don't grow in a week's time.  We grow over much longer time frames than a film like this can allow.

    This wasn't Watchmen where I thought the change for filmic adaptation was foolish and arbitrary, taken for the name of making the action scenes that much more exciting and over the top.  This is a change necessitated by the mere process of adaptation.  In that it is imminently more forgivable.

    Scott Pilgrim vs the World is a very good, fun movie.  Scott Pilgrim the book series is excellent.

    Check out some other reviews of the film if you wanna...

    There's also the Robot Chicken animation of Scott's past with Kim Pine...

    I'm absolutely tempted to go right out and ebay the Scott Pilgrim & Ramona plushes and the action figures once they're out.

    August 22, 2010


    Hope your Sunday is going better than this guy's...

    August 21, 2010

    First Saturday of the Rest of Your Life

    Might as well make it a good one...
    For now, I'm out to go watch some Little League Baseball.  Go, Big Blue!

      August 20, 2010

      Another alphabet quiz graphic...

      A while back, I tried to figure out who all the musical alphabet folks were.  Recently, I StumbledUpon a similar graphic of movie alphabet folks with absolutely no other information, just the graphic.

      So I need some help.  Who are these folks?

      I'll post my guesses after the graphic, but I'll black 'em out so you can play on your own and help me fill in any blanks.

      Z - Steve Zissou
      Y - Yoda
      X - some guy from The Gods Must Be Crazy ?
      W - Wayne of Wayne's World
      V - Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction
      U -Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite (thanks, Grace)
      T - Tony something from Scarface 
      S - the guy from Goonies...Superchunk, maybe?
      R - Ron Burgandy from Anchorman 
      Q - dunno...maybe Q from the various Bond movies
      P - Michael Sera's character from Juno 
      O - dunno
      N - Nacho Libre
      M -Margo Tenenbaum from The Royal Tenenbaums (thanks, Katydid)
      L - Leelu (sp?) from The Fifth Element 
      K - Kevin from Sin City 
      J - Bruce Willis's character from Die Hard...John something
      I - Indiana Jones...easy
      H -Harold of Harold & Maude - thanks, Katydid
      G - Gandalf from Calen's favorite movies
      F - Forest Gump
      E - Edward Scissorhands
      D - The Dude from The Big Lebowski 
      C - Brad Pitt's character from Burn After Reading 
      B - Brody from Mallrats 
      A - the main character from A Clockwork Orange 

      So, which blanks can you fill in?

      August 19, 2010

      Happy 65th to Steve Martin

      This past Saturday was Steve Martin's 65th birthday.

      I've feted him before, but many of those videos have left YouTube due to copyright violations, so I'm doing it again.

      We'll stick with the comedy today...enjoy 'em folks but know that he can strut his dramatic chops, too...

      August 18, 2010

      For the newbies...

      Every year I get a few new readers as I point my students to my class website - which now has a non-hidden link to this blog - and thought I'd take a moment to point out a couple of things that might be helpful to them.

      There's the PHS wikipedia page that I originally created and wrote but that has since been heavily - and occasionally vulgarly - edited.

      There's the Picasa Web account where I now post all of my school photos.  No personal photos there, just stuff that happens related to PHS.  At the moment, it goes back to pictures of basketball in the 08-09 school year, but I have two more years worth of photos to upload.  They'll be up there as this year goes onward.

      Just this past week I created a PHS Pasta for Pennies facebook page where we (Calen and I) will be posting events and campaign updates.  This won't replace the campaign's main website, but it'll be an easy way for the facebook crüe to keep track of the campaign.  For example, we already have four incentives listed up there and will hopefully be adding more this week.

      If you're curious about the title of the blog, feel free to go back and see the origin of the phrase as well as the series of columns that grew out of it.

      If you're actually looking to learn something about me, feel free to click on the narcissism tag over in the cloud. 

      I tend to use nicknames around here, mostly because I'm not sure that everyone wants to have their real names spread far and wide on the intertubes.  You can check an old list of who those nicknames are in this post.

      Now I have a favor to ask of the non-newbies around here.  What posts would you recommend for the newbies to check out?  It can be a post that says something important about me, a post that links to something fun, a post that sums up the pointlessness of this blog...whatever.

      August 17, 2010

      Alphabet game: S is for artists

      S's would, of course, be far easier to populate than would the Q list a couple of weeks ago, so take a listen to the S artists that I dig...

      Thoughts on a passing

      It's been a rough year or so at Princeton.  Since last winter, we've lost three students - two seniors to car accidents (last school year) and one this past weekend.  The short story - and I don't know many more details - is that the student had an asthma attack on Wednesday evening and was taken to the hospital where he was in critical condition with limited - if any - brain function until he passed away Saturday evening.  We'd gotten an initial report on Thursday morning from our principal who stated at the time that they had pulled the young man's schedule from our computer system, telling us that things weren't likely to get any better without him actually telling us exactly that.

      I've taught fourteen years now - just starting my fifteenth year - and can remember most of those years without a current student passing away during the school year.  I was speaking to one of my students from last year, another junior-to-be last Thursday and told him that when he asked if this was normal.  He didn't say it with any pleading but just with a kind of simple questioning, trying to figure out if what he'd seen was what every high school student sees.

      It's not.  It's been a very rough streak for Princeton's students this past year, and it's been something that's been oddly distant from me because I haven't known any of the students at all.  Ryan - who passed last fall - was someone who photo I'd taken a few times at a football game.  Guadalupe - who passed in the spring - wasn't anyone I knew at all, couldn't even place a face or find a photo of her.  Jovante - who passed this weekend - was someone I'd spoken to in the hallway a few times but whose name didn't mean anything to me until Calen reminded me of a story about his involvement in Pasta for Pennies during his freshman year.

      I hope that he and his family and teachers won't mind me telling the one story that I knew of Jovante here.  If they do, I apologize in advance.  That year we had an incentive for the top freshman class.  The top freshman class got to join us at a pizza party that would have two other classes there.  We were always thrilled to reward the frosh because we always seemed to see those kids again as leaders of the campaign throughout their time at Princeton.  That year, there were two classes competing strongly for the top spot, but their competition was a friendly one.  The two teachers pushed their respective classes forward but shared every opportunity, splitting store collection opportunities.

      On the final day, the two teachers' classes were neck and neck, and Jovante brought in a donation that would have pushed his class ahead at the last moment.  The teachers got together and asked Jovante for permission to split his donation between the classes so that the two classes would end up in a perfect tie - the same amount raised by the same number of students.  He agreed, and the two classes both earned the pizza party.

      This would've been Jovante's junior year.  He would've been in my chemistry class.

      I'll miss getting to know him.

      Easily the oddest part of this passing for me is that it was news, not the kind of news that says "local high school student in critical condition" but the kind of news that says "son of famous athlete is in critical condition".  For those of you who aren't Princeton people, Jovante was Ickey Woods's son, so Jovante's passing was local news and even - as the screen cap at the top of this post shows - small national news.  I was shocked to see the headline on the side of the ESPN homepage on Sunday.

      And I don't like that it was news.

      I understand that some events like this - another local student passed away this past week when his car flipped as he was driving 130 miles per hour on the interstate - are news.  They shut down the interstate.  They intrigue people.  They serve as warnings. 

      This passing was tragic and random.  Jovante had an asthma attack.  He was an athlete.  He was healthy.  He hadn't done anything wrong.  And he's gone.

      That isn't news, and I didn't like seeing it covered.  Even though the coverage was tasteful - the Enquirer's series of articles and ESPN's pair - it felt wrong.  This was a kid in my school.  This wasn't someone who gets mentioned on ESPN's website.

      But he was.

      The first day of school wasn't bad - especially considering the loss that we suffered over the weekend.  I saw a number of shirts with Jovante's name or football number, a few haircuts with Jovante's number carved into them, a few folders with Jovante's name.  The students had a few places around school where they could write memorial messages, and we heard that there will likely be a memorial held at the school in a couple of weeks.

      A few years ago, we had a teacher - the boys basketball coach - pass away suddenly overnight.  I wasn't at school the next day, but I heard a number of stories about how tough a day that was.  

      We've gotten a new principal since then, and while I don't always agree with the decisions he makes, he's sadly becoming really good at helping our school grieve.  In every case, he's been very proactive, opening the school over the weekend to let the kids start grieving together as soon as possible.  We've worked with the families to hold public memorials or to assist in any way that we could while making sure to respect the families' wishes.

      I hate that we're getting good at this.

      I haven't attended either grieving session - this weekend for Jovante or last winter for Ryan.  These weren't my students.  These weren't people I knew. 

      The closest I've come to helping with the grieving was a few years ago at Joey's funeral (I mentioned it in a post at the time).  I remember feeling absolutely helpless to help my students - and Joey was one of mine, the mourners were mine - in any way other than to be there, to grieve with them. 

      This time I'm helping by offering stability, normalcy, a regular school day.  It's probably a cop out because it's the same thing I'd be doing even if nothing had happened this weekend.

      I hope it's enough.

      August 16, 2010

      Bonus content...and points...

      As I tend to do pretty much every year around this time, I'll make an offer to any of my new students - nothing for the AP folks if they've already had me in class in previous years.

      Five points if you email me and say you saw this.  Five more points for posting a response to this post.

      Offer only good for the first five students, and only to students who are new to my class this year.

      Update:  All points are now claimed...feel free to create an account and hop into the blog commenting world, but there won't be points for doing it.

      Baseball bits...

      I love basketball - high school basketball especially.  I've only ever shown even a lick of talent in playing tennis.  But baseball is America's sport.  Its draw to me is spectacular.  I don't find myself reading about the stats and history of basketball like I do for baseball throughout the long, hot summer months.
      • Re-examining 300 - back in 2004, on the eve of Greg Maddux's 299th win, Hardball Times looked at what it takes for a pitcher to get to 300 wins.  At the time, Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemons were the only new 300 game winners since 1990 with Maddux about to join them.  Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine have since joined the club in spite of the article's doubts about their chances.  The article's conclusion is that pitchers need to be at 75 wins by age 25 and 150 wins by age 29.  At the time, the only pitcher who looked to be on pace was CC Sabathia (54 wins at age 23).  Looking at the current active leaders, the only pitchers who look to have any chance are still CC Sabathia (150 wins and counting at age 29 and maybe Felix Hernandez at 65 wins and counting at age 24).   Looks like it could be a long, long while until we get another 300-game winner.  That generation of Maddux, Glavine, Randy Johnson, Clemons, and Smoltz was pretty phenomenal.
      • Rob Neyer's SweetSpot Blog - On Tuesday night, three straight entries from Rob Neyer dealt very directly with the Reds - Is Prince Albert still king of first basemen?...Reds' Brandon Phillips calls out Cardinals...Mike Leake's roller-coaster ERA...All three are moderately interesting reads (I particularly enjoy Brandon Phillips', I guess, which seems to have lead to a bit of a donneybrook in Tuesday's game) but the story to me is that the Reds are worthy of stealing three straight posts there.  The last time the Reds bounced up like this from one season to the next was - as Rob Neyer points out in another post - pretty amazing.

        I just got this great new book about the 1990 Reds, and was reading the story about shifting Norm Charlton from the bullpen to the rotation in the middle of the season. Charlton had been a starter as a rookie in 1988, pitched OK but nothing special. Moving into a relief role in '89, Charlton went 8-3 with a 2.93 and became one of the Nasty Boys. He got off to a fine start in 1990, and when the Reds needed a starter in the second half, Charlton got the nod, and went 6-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 16 starts.

        Did it have to work? Hardly. But as the authors write, "The move was just another in a year when everything seemed to work."

        We know it didn't have to work because the Reds were not, in that period, an outstanding franchise. The year before they won the World Series, they went 75-87. The year after they won the World Series, they went 74-88. Same manager in 1991 as 1990. Same general manager. Many of the same players. It was just one of those years.
      • Will A-Rod Make Hall of Fame? - That's a stupid, stupid question.  I've written my opinions on steroids before, but to put a quick summary on that post: "I don't care."  There was (I hope not still is) an era of major league baseball - from the early 1990s through the mid 2000s when a large percentage (we have absolutely no clue what that percentage is as estimates place it anywhere between 10% and 100%) of major leaguers were taking performance enhancers - steroids, HGH, something.  The offensive numbers during those years are comical.  (For example, of the 41 times that a player has hit 50 or more home runs in a season, 17 of those came between 1995 and 2007.  The six highest single-season totals all came in 1998-2001.)  All of the numbers from that era - from every batter and pitcher - are equally suspect and at the same time equally valid.  They were earned in the conditions of that era.  Major league baseball was tacitly - if not actively - permissive of the conditions and culpable in creating them.  Chicks dig the long ball.  We all dig the long ball.  The best players during that era - Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Roger Clemons - deserve to be in the baseball Hall of Fame because they were the best of that era.  Babe Ruth doesn't deserve to be taken down a notch because he didn't play against black players.  Hank Aaron isn't a lesser player because he didn't play against Asian players.  Pete Rose isn't a lesser player because he gambled.  Alex Rodriguez shouldn't be denied the Hall of Fame because he came up in a permissive era.  Deny him being a first ballot Hall of Famer on some weirdo protest vote?  Fine, whatever. They've denied Mark McGwire so far, and they'll probably deny Barry Bonds the same way.  But they're both among the greatest of this era - as is Alex Rodriguez, and they deserve their plaques.

      August 15, 2010

      Updates: Alvin Greene & Patt Miller

      Patt Miller performed just fine on Wednesday night (skip to 50:35 to see his performance) but sadly didn't advance.

      And Alvin Greene has been indicted on his obscenity charge.

      Congrats to the West Siders

      Looks like the Hamilton West Side American Little League (a mouthful of a name) team will be heading back to the Little League World Series.

      Their pitcher on Saturday threw a complete game, one hit shutout and went 3 for 3 with a 1st inning home run.  Don't know if he's that good or just had that good of a night.  Either way, good luck to the Blue.

      I'm not posting that Grease 2 musical number again...

      August 14, 2010

      We'll have fun, fun, fun until the school board takes the summer away

      And now summer is nearly entirely gone...
      Enjoy the weekend, folks...I'm off to see Scott Pilgrim since I finished the sixth book yesterday.  I'll see some of you on Monday...

        August 13, 2010

        Every day the same dream...not quite a game...

        And it just doesn't stop...every day the same dream is an odd little time waster...I can't quite figure out the point unless it that there's crushing, repetitive despair in some people's lives.

        So far, I've been taken to a quiet place, jumped off a building, gotten fired, and managed to complete my day successfully.

        Anybody able to find other possible endings?

        August 11, 2010

        Blogger Buzz: New Comments System on Blogger

        Blogger Buzz: New Comments System on Blogger: "Posted by Saurav Shah and Junho Ryu, Software Engineers Commenting is one of the most integral parts of blogging: it’s what makes blogging..."

        A quick summary: Blogger/Google is trying a new comment spam-identifying system. Any comment that's identified as spam (hopefully those Asian character comments with a link) is not posted but instead gets listed under my comments tab on the blogger dashboard.

        Don't know when this'll show up on idtmi (slow roll-out, apparently), but just wanted to throw a note of it out there in case you make a comment and it doesn't show up. If that happens, I'll try to catch it.

        Feel free not to freak out and post nine thousand "why can't anyone hear me?" comments immediately afterward.

        Movies...a few bits and bobs...

        A few bits and bobs and different things at the movies...
        • Flickchart - yet another website that lets you rank the movies that you've seen.  This one goes for the simple mechanism of ranking two movies against each other and putting them into one big ranking as you rank more and more movies.  At the moment, Chicago is my top movie, but I'll make sure that falls over time.  Hero and Raging Bull and Up and a bunch of others need to slide up.
        • 30 Best Films of the Decade - I'm using this as a checklist of flicks to see over the next couple of months.
        • Films Based on DC Comics - I was looking for a list of all the direct-to-DVD releases that DC had done in the past few years and came upon this Wikipedia list instead.  It's got what I wanted, just further down the page.  I'm kind of surprised at how many of these I have not seen, really.
        • Dinner for Schmucks - I hadn't heard very many good things about this one before The Girl and I went to see it with the Calen clan this past weekend, so I didn't have very high hopes.  Turns out, however, that it's really funny.  Yeah, the Steve Carell character is pathetic and does integrate a number of actually sad, kind of touching notes throughout, but he's hilarious, too, so that more than makes up for the minor pathos.  And the ending is a little too neat and tidy, happy and hopeful, but it doesn't really matter because there were a bunch of times throughout when I - and The Girl and the rest of the theater - were laughing out loud.  No, it's not perfect, but it is funny.
        • Tropic Thunder - meh...there are a few chucklesome moments throughout, but in general, I just found it at best chucklesome.  At worst, there are a number of scenes that were pretty boring.  I don't think I'll ever be seeing this one again.
        • Wall-E - This leaves only Cars on my Pixar to-see list (amazing roster of films that they've put together, easily the most consistently excellent run of films from any studio, even above Ghibli in my view).  I was actually a little disappointed in Wall-E.  Yeah, it's really well done, and it's phenomenal that they were able to turn two almost non-speaking lead characters into an engaging story, but I felt that the environmental theme was heavy-handed and simplistic.  I get that Wall-E in an analog for our modern, disposable, sedentary society, but could you maybe make the people a little less helpless, a little less rotund, a little less tuned into their screens to the expense of the rest of their world, please?  And the fact that a single plant germinating - inside a refrigerator, no less - means that the entire world is ready to be repopulated seemed a little simplistic in light of the barely-visible sun, dust storms, and piled detritus all around the Earth to which humanity is returning.  I dug the film, yeah, but I don't think it's nearly the equal of Up or Ratatouille or the various Toy Stories.  I'll put it above A Bug's Life, but that's about it. Oh, and I loved Fred Willard's part.  Good stuff from him yet again.
        • Top 10 Modern Magic Realism Movies -These are some excellent films.  I would've never thought to connect them into this theme, but I really like the concept.  They feel somehow similar thematically.  I would include LA Story instead of Run Lola Run - not that LA Story is necessarily better (it is one of my favorites and the second date that I went on with The Girl), but it's simply more magical.  I don't see that Lola is all that 'magical'.  And I'd've put Big Fish in instead of Adaptation except that Big Fish doesn't feel like it fits the 'modern' part of the label.

        August 10, 2010

        Patt Miller on NBC tonight

        Just got this on the school email today and thought I'd pass it along for anybody with a PHS connection.  One of my former students, Patt Miller, is gonna be on NBC's America's Got Talent tonight,

        Below is the full sum details that I know, so don't know when in the show he'll be on or how long he'll be getting, but it's kinda cool.

        Here's the kind of stuff that I'm expecting Patt to be doing...

        Passing along this tip:
        Seems Princeton High grad Patrick Miller, who grew up in Springdale, is having one very eventful week.
        He served as the best man at a fellow Princeton grad’s wedding on Saturday.
        And tonight….
        He’s competing on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” show tonight 9 p.m.

        Miller is owner of A Slice of New York pizza in Columbus.

        His YouTube video was one of 12 selected from 20,000 submissions.

        Update: The show really hammed everything up with the YouTube folks - adding in big backgrounds, soundtracks, pointless pyrotechnics for Patt, other people on the stage (Patt had a hottie waitress up there with him, for example).  Patt represented himself really well - probably my favorite of all the acts - barely managing to not set the hottie waitress on fire when he chucked one of the two pizzas past her as she brought in the flaming pizza for him to toss.  And he held up to the judges' criticism fairly well - promising to toss three pizzas on fire next time if he gets to come back.

        Feel free to give Patt some love...give a call to 1-866-60-ACT-08...or text Vote to 4808 (apparently by two hours after the show ends - by 1am East Coast time tonight).

        Can't find any video from tonight's show online yet, but here's one of him performing yesterday.

        Update #2: C'mon, man.  Te guy two after Patt was a total pro magician.  Creepy trick and all, but it's a little different from just a schmuck doing tricks.

        Alphabet game: R is for artists

        Back to the easy letters with R artists this week...

        August 9, 2010

        Yeah, might've seen this one coming

        There are a lot of stupid contests out there (not this one, though - vote early and often), but I'm going to have to put in my nomination for stupidest contest as the World Sauna Championships.

        If you haven't heard about the competition at this point - and it was in the news this weekend - here's the basic set-up.  Morons start off in a sauna at 110 celsius sauna while water is dumped onto the hot rocks every thirty seconds to keep the humidity at 100 percent.  From there they sit still...and suffer in silence.  No wiping the sweat - except from their faces.  No drinking water, no food, no nothing.  Just suffering.

        Rick Riley took part in the contest back in August 2007, describing it like this...
        A Belarusian started out sane, just sitting there. Every 30 seconds a pitiless stream of water came out from a ceiling shower in the center of the sauna and splashed on the molten-hot rocks, creating a 100% humidity level in the room that would melt gold. About two minutes in our man started rocking a little. At three his eyes started blinking oddly. At four he began twitching. At five his eyes got huge. At six he started swallowing each breath like a gulp of scorching soup. Then he started glancing around wildly, as if to say to the others, Are you mad? Don't you see what's happening? They've locked us in a Crock-Pot! He started wiping his eyes and mouth. He moved his hands out toward his thighs to rub them, then realized that's not allowed and did so anyway, crazily, as though he were covered in lice. The judges flagged him once, then twice. Then he lurched for the door, and he was out. Sanity and cool air whooshed back into his brain, and suddenly he was normal and smiling again. 


        It was like walking into a bonfire and pulling up a chair in the middle of it. My strategy was to go in and keep time by the 30-second water splashes, but that plan was scrapped approximately seven seconds in. Thinking literally hurt. I tried to stare at the rocks and not blink, because blinking hurt. I tried to take very few breaths, because breathing hurt. I was sure flames were coming out of my mouth. My back seemed to have ignited. I was convinced my ears were literally on fire, but if I moved even slightly, they hurt more. I tried sitting up higher, but it was even hotter. I tried crouching down more, but then I was nearer to the unforgiving rocks. It was so awful I wished Barry Bonds were in there. Then came the hideous, cruel, pitiless splashes of water, each one lasting three seconds. I decided to think of something to get my mind off the torturous pain, so I began naming every National League team. I counted the Jets twice. I was just about to bolt into the fresh air when -- miraculously -- the tall, skinny guy next to me ran out. Amazing! I wasn't last! I had no idea how much time had elapsed -- four minutes? Six? I promised myself: When I get to the point where I can no longer stand it, I'll count 60 seconds and go.

        Four seconds later, I decided I could no longer stand it.

        So I started counting. One, two, three ... It was the longest minute of my life. At 60 I went barreling out. Watching other heats, I'd wondered why even losers came out grinning and raising their hands in victory, but now I knew. The cool air was so beautiful, so redeeming, so life giving. You could French-kiss Osama bin Laden. 

        ...(now, describing Rick Ellis, the only other American in the competition after his ouster)...

        Then there was Ellis, who entered the quarterfinals with dozens of blisters on his body. "Man, I knew I was in trouble right away," he later said. "When I felt this big, half-dollar-size blister behind my back, I said, 'Okay, that's enough. I gotta get out.'"

        He was the first out, at 4:15, and he was melting like the wicked witch. His forehead, his lips and his ears were giant lumps of pus. His triceps were riddled with pebble-size blisters, dozens of them. So much skin was hanging off him he looked like the world's most successful gastric-bypass patient. His forehead was a science-fiction movie. His nose was cooked like a forgotten kielbasa. And this was just what we could see.

        He lifted up his shirt and there it was: this horrible, huge, pus-filled sac -- the size of a $3 pancake -- just hanging off his armpit. His wife gasped. TLC turned away in horror. When we dragged him to first aid the guy said, "You must go to the hospital. When these blisters break, you will lose lots of fluid and be highly susceptible to infection. We can't do anything for you here. It is too serious." 
        The competition has been going for a dozen years now, but it looks like it won't be lasting any more after what happened over the weekend.  Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy, the sixty-year-old Russian runner up in this year's competition, collapsed and died on his way to the hospital.

        Here you can see Ladyzhenskiy (on the left) in the final before he collapsed...(source)

        ...and just after he collapsed and was pulled from the sauna...(source)...


        While it is, indeed, tragic that a man died, I have to say that this may have been one of the most predictable 'sports' deaths we've ever seen.

        August 8, 2010

        Special Sunday Link Service

        Yeah, I was a little busy yesterday, so...

          My musical head...

          Here's where my musical head has been this no particular order at all...

          August 6, 2010

          Subtelty? What's that?

          I'm neither here nor there in the whole medical marijuana debate, but I would like to think that there might be a little more middle ground to be had than this PSA.

          August 5, 2010

          Need vs want

          There is nothing here that I need, nothing at all.

          But there are quite a few things that I want.  No clue what I would do with military-ribbon-style pins commemorating me as a veteran of the console wars (I've earned #s 1 & 4) or with the arcade buttons or the gold ballad pin, but they're just so darn cool that I'd be tempted to buy 'em if they weren't ridiculously priced - and in British pounds even.

          C'mon, folks, get with the program and adopt the world currency already.

          August 4, 2010

          Appropriately named...

          I'm impressed that anyone can make music.  I can't play an instrument - never learned how to do anything more than pick out chopsticks on the piano as a kid or an adult, tried to take guitar lessons a while back but didn't have the work ethic to do the practicing.

          So when someone creates something musical and catchy out of the ether, I am impressed.

          When someone can listen to musical tracks and rearrange them into something entirely new, I'm every bit as impressed.

          So DJ Earworm is a miracle worker in my eyes.  Check out his mashups - everything from crossing the Beatles and Britney to putting together the top 25 hits of 2009 into a far catchier creation than any of the individual parts.

          August 3, 2010

          Alphabet game: Q is for artists

          Admit it, you weren't entirely sure that I was going to be able to put together a Letter Q playlist, weren't you?

          August 2, 2010

          Lonnieburger Baskets: Cafe de Wheels

          At least the rest of the burgers in the chase don't actually amount to a chase.

          This restaurant, however, has wheels, man.


          Luckily, the Queen City - back in June - approved opening three locations for street vendors (Court St Market, 5th and Race parking lot, and Sawyer Pt) making it a little easier to find Cafe de Wheels and their awesome burgers.

          Let's check what Cincinnati mag had to say and then check on just how awesome I thought they were...
          #19 Wheels Burger
          CAFÉ DE WHEELS - $5
          Cincinnati’s first mobile burger truck delivers a hot and juicy burger on a soft Servatii kaiser bun, enrobed in perfectly melted cheese, sweet and piquant balsamic onion marmalade, and spicy mayo. It’s one of the best things to happen to wheels since rubber.
          I'll admit, that last statement isn't entirely false.

          So, what comes inside that wrapped up package?

          • Well, first off an impressively good burger comes in that little package.  Admittedly, that might be a little more obvious if my point and shoot could take a decent close-up photo, but that's an argument for another day.  The meat is freshly ground - earlier in the day from what I understand - and nicely seasoned - you can even see the black flecks of seasoning in the patty there.  It's also served hot like lava.  We didn't dig in until probably five minutes after our burgers came out of the truck - Coach Hamburger (I swear, that's a past nickname that our visiting third burger connoisseur has gone by in the past) put her order in after us, and we were nice enough to wait for her to be served before we attacked our burgers.  Nice little crust on the burger - again, not as deep as Terry's but far better than any other we've had - good quality meat, nice flavor.  Burger - 8

          • There's something really special in the toppings at Cafe de Wheels.  It's listed on their menu (scroll down a bunch, I swear that's really the right link) as balsamic onion marmalade, and it's outstanding.  Yeah, the other stuff - American cheese, lettuce, tomato, Mike's mayo - is all good too, but the deep flavors of the balsamic onions are wonderful.  They've clearly been slow sauteed until the balsamic vinegar has turned into a peppery, sweet concoction.  From the word marmalade, I was expecting something in which the onions had turned into a singular mash, but they were still individually identifiable and outstanding.  The mayo is spiced with something - no clue exactly what that something is - also adding to the whole package of greatness here.  Admittedly, I did screw up and forget to order bacon, so I can't speak to the quality there.  Toppings - 10

          • Fries are a couple of bucks and are served in a decent sized - a solid serving for one person - cup down at the bottom of the bag.  Some of my fries had fallen out into the bag by the time I got down there, but I'm a veteran of the fast food wars and have no problem horking down extra bag fries.  The fries are well cooked and very freshly fried - for every order, no waiting around in a hopper - then liberally salted and peppered.  I appreciate the peppering but could've used a little lighter hand with the salting.  Don't know if it's a consistent trend or just a one-time fluke.  The girl got sweet potato fries for an extra buck and really appreciated that they were salted and not cinnamon-sugered.  Good stuff all around.  Fries - 7

          • Ambiance for an outside burger truck is a little tough to quantify.  On the day that we visited - Wednesday last week - the weather was a little warm and humid, but there was a nice breeze through the Court Street Market, and our stoop was well shaded so Coach Hamburger even commented that it was just a perfect day out.  The trees along the market do provide some nice shade.  The sidewalk is nicely wide meaning that even a little line at the rolling Cafe wouldn't be a problem, and Cafe de Wheels does have a couple of pretty, yellow, bistro-style tables with a pair of chairs each.  Behind Cafe de Wheels's truck was a stand for Taste of Belgium with their tasty waffles and crepes.  Behind that then was a coffee van with some cutesy name that escapes me at the moment.  All in all, it makes for a great place to have a little lunch.  Down the black are a couple of other storefront food locations with tables of their own.  All in all, this location for the mobile food vendors is a great location.  We wandered down to the 5th and Race parking lot where Senor Roy's Taco Patrol was set up that day, and their location sucks in comparison - plain, unadorned parking lot with a few orange cones setting off a few parking spots for the truck - no tables, no shade, a bus stop bench a few feet away.  If this was where we'd found Cafe de Wheels, things would be drastically different, and the Wheels schedule now just lists their daily location as either Court or Race so I don't know for certain where it's a first come, first parked situation or if Cafe de Wheels has peed in the Court Street Market spot.  If they can, they should claim the spot with a huge peeing of that balsamic onion marmalade.  Ambiance - 10 (but highly variable)
          • The Cincinnati article lists the burger at $5, but the side of the truck had our price at $5.50.  Add in $2 for fries, $1 for bacon, and $1 for a can of Diet Coke (something I find fully appropriate from a truck even though it bugged me at Quatman's), and we're at the low end of our middle price range, $9.50.  That's a middle score for me. Cost - 5
          Other stuff
          • Eating at Cafe de Wheels gives me an illusion of being a city dweller, something I love being even if it's just on a vacationing basis most of the time.  The decision by Cincinnati to encourage mobile food vendors is an awesome one and entirely indicative of the rebirth that downtown is getting all over the place.  +1
          • The balsamic onion marmalade should be an option as a side dish because I would eat that stuff with a fork, man.  +1
          • They offer sweet potato fries and do them well.  +1  
          • The buns - forgot to mention those - are freshly baked from Servatti's and griddled before getting the cheese and mayo treatment. +1

          Now to the tale of the tape...Cafe de Wheels comes in at 44 - right on the heels of Terry's 44 but with the caveat that the ambiance score could've come in a whole lot lower if weather and parking location hadn't been so agreeable. 

          Our rankings so far...
          • Terry's Turf Club - 45
          • Cafe de Wheels - 44
          • VanZandt - 34
          • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
          • Sammy's - 26