May 31, 2011

DC Comics to Relaunch All Titles at #1with Same Day Digital Sales


Big news from DC today...as reported by Comics Alliance...
The entire DC Comics line of comic books will be re-launched with new #1 issues and feature "younger" and cosmetically redesigned versions of the heroes of the DC Universe. Written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee, Justice League will be the first of the more than 50 titles to debut in September, each of which will go on sale with same day digital releases via DC's various mobile applications and Web store. The initiative is designed explicitly to make the DC Universe more palatable for new readers and, in the words of DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, "today's audience."
While I'm initially geeked and a little scared by this announcement, the truest answer came from Owen in the comments...
New #1s or not all that will matter to me is if the books are good. If they've got good creative teams and all telling good stories then great.

This announcement/relaunch in no way draws me to or away from the books. The books themselves will do that.

Update: Got a better image. This one includes the entirety of the new Justice League. Thanks to Bleeding Cool for the continuing coverage.



Pardon our ranting: Fashions I hate

High black socks with athletic shoes


Oversized sunglasses


Black,thick-frame glasses - especially if they have no lenses


Ugg boots


Sweatpants with words on the butt


Sagging pants


Ridiculously ripped jeans


Monochromatic shirt/tie combos...


Asymmetrical dresses


Lady Gaga


Skinny jeans


I'm sure there are more that aren't coming to mind right now. Expect an update at some point.

May 29, 2011

Like a frickin' yo yo

The last Ohio governor wanted to lengthen the Ohio school year from 182 days (our current length) to 200 days.

A bill in the Ohio House of Reps at the moment wants to go the other way - limiting Ohio schools to not starting before Labor Day or finishing after Memorial Day. It wouldn't technically shorten the number of school days but would instead switch us to counting school hours - 960 hours a year for grades 1-6 and 1050 hours for grades 7-12.

Longer year...shorter year...

PLC...Effective Schools...

Teach to the test...project based learning...

OPT...OGT...Quality Core...

Be creative...data-driven practices...

To quote a friend from Mount Healthy, the golden age of education is right around the corner.

May 28, 2011

The last Saturday or the school year



Just think, this time next week, it'll be the summer. So I'll have a whole new list of things I won't get done again this year.

Lucky me...



    SNL ST outtake



    Sadly didn't make the airing...

    May 27, 2011

    Murderous songs



    Some killer tunes - well, tunes about killers and killing - this week. Enjoy 'em...

    May 26, 2011

    Two thanks



    Thank you, FuzzyPack...

    And while we're at it, thank you, Maryann Sumi.

    Whadda ya want to know?


    I'm stumped.

    I don't have the foggiest idea of what to write or post 'round these parts. Maybe it's a momentary malaise, maybe it's the onset of ennui. Who knows?

    For now, though, are there any questions that anybody out there would like answered?

    Remember, this blog is linked from my school page, so certain topics are off limits, but in general, I'm pretty willing to share. Fire away in the comments.

    May 25, 2011

    Update: The Freegal Gourmet

    A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the new Freegal service that PLCH has begun offering to patrons. I had a few questions so I sent the following in to the library via their contact us page...
    I saw that you've begun using the Freegal service. My initial response was excitement, and I went and used up my three downloads for the week in about ten seconds.

    On doing some research about Freegal, however, I found that not every librarian is thrilled about the system...

    http://blog.libraryjournal.com/ljinsider/2010/07/19/the-debate-over-freegal-does-innovative-free-music-service-represent-the-downfall-of-the-library-lending-model/

    http://librarianinblack.net/librarianinblack/2011/04/just-say-no-to-freegal.html

    ...and it made me curious about the cost to PLCH for the use of Freegal.

    Would you be willing to provide details of the contract that PLCH has with Freegal. I am, in particular, curious as to the total yearly cost of the contract, the total limit on the number of system-wide downloads, and the number of downloads that you expect to actually be used per year.

    Thank you for your time.
    They, as they always do, answered me...
    Hello Mr. Dusch:


    Thank you for taking the time to submit your comments and questions to the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.


    It is fantastic to hear that you have already taken advantage of the new service we’re offering for downloading music!  The Library has a long history of offering customers options for enjoying music in a variety of formats as technology has evolved, from tapes to CDs, and we are thrilled to provide our customers a chance to enjoy music in this latest downloadable format, too.


    The blog posts you mention in your email reflect the experience of some libraries, I believe particularly those who were/are using a pay-per-download model of service that had previously been the only option offered to Libraries.  Freegal recently added an option for a subscription-style model of service for providing access to SONY artists which is what our Library is using.  This subscription model works more similarly to our other subscription service models for databases and allows us to offer unlimited system-wide downloads to users rather than rationing out a certain number of downloads per week or year.  The new subscription service model from Freegal has generated quite a bit of additional interest in the Library community with hundreds of libraries across the country now offering the service to their users.


    Other Libraries of similar size to our Library have realized up to 9,000 downloads a week after introducing Freegal.  If we follow this pattern of use, we anticipate our cost per download to be a little less than $.40 (40 cents).  To offer context, our current average cost per circulation of our physical items is approximately $.42 (42 cents).  Unlike physical items that require additional processing that increases costs, Freegal downloads do not incur additional processing costs – as you know from using the service you simply enter your card number and download your song!


    Since you clearly have an interest in the downloadable format, I wanted to mention that we also offer books and audiobooks for downloading (through a different service) – details are available at:  http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org/downloadables/ebooks.html


    Again, thank you for your feedback and for using your Public Library!


    Paula Brehm-Heeger
    Library Services Manager-Central
    Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
    I love PLCH.

    Love them...

    I'm on board



    I'm entirely on board with this campaign.

    May 24, 2011

    Happy 70th, Robert Allen Zimmerman

    Happy Birthday, Mr Dylan... 

    Rolling Stone celebrated, so we will, too.




    Hydrofluoric frickin' acid

    My students often ask me what the most dangerous chemical that we have in the storeroom at school is. I don't have any clue, I'll admit. Methanol is pretty dangerous because its flash point is so low and because it evaporates so easily and quickly. Sulfuric acid is also pretty rough stuff in its concentrated form. There's also the chunks of sodium that we have. It's all pretty dangerous.

    But then there's hydrofluoric acid.

    We don't have any, but I'm terrifically thankful for that, 'cause it's some nasty stuff. Check this from a Discover magazine article about a man who spilled hydrofluoric acid on himself a few years back...
    At the back of a dusty shelf stood a small bottle labeled Industrial Laundry Rust remover. The side of the bottle carried the warning CAUTION: DO NOT USE WITHOUT GLOVES. William didn’t read that bit, however, and he removed the cap from the bottle, spilled some liquid onto a rag, and began rubbing it into his stained coat. But as the stain began to fade, his right hand, the hand he was using to apply the liquid, began to hurt. After 20 minutes the pain was so intense that he had to stop. Within 40 minutes he could no longer move his fingers. Frightened and in terrible pain, he managed to drive himself to our emergency room.
    I know places where I could buy hydrofluoric acid, man.

    That stuff scares the crap out ofme.

    May 23, 2011

    Hitting the gray matter

    I've been casually following Theodore Gray's work for a couple of years, pretty much since I stumbled upon his periodic table table website. See, the man is geeky enough that he's been collecting elements for years and even went so far as to build a periodic-table-shaped table with each element block containing that element.

    Yeah, a periodic table table.

    From there, Gray worked his way outward putting out a book called Mad Science detailing some of his most photogenic demonstrations and experiments. It's a heck of a lot of photographic fun and contains instructions on how these experiments can be replicated by the chemically knowledgeable at home. The book is worth the price of admission for the safety disclaimer at the beginning alone.
    Real warnings vs. the-lawyer-made-us-do-it warnings

    It makes me cringe when I see warnings to wear gloves and safety glasses while working with baking soda. It's called crying wolf, and it's deeply irresponsible, because it makes it that much harder to get through to people about real dangers.


    So I'm not going to do that. If you promise to listen, I promise to tell you the truth about where the real dangers are.


    Some of the experiments in this book I would let my 10-year-old kids do unsupervised (if not for the monumental messes that would lead to). If you're pouring cold sodium acetate solution into a bowl, you are not going to get hurt, at least not by the sodium acetate. It's actually less toxic that common table salt, so unless you keep the salt in your house locked up and wear safety glasses for breakfast, you don't need to worry about sodium acetate.


    Some other chemicals, however, are not your friends. Chlorine gas kills, and you hurt the whole time you're dying. Mix phosphorus and chlorates wrong and they blow up while you're mixing them.(I have a friend who still has tiny slivers of glass coming out of his hands twenty years after he made that particular mistake.)


    Every chemical, every procedure, every experiment has its own unique set of dangers, and over the years people have learned (the hard way) how to deal with them. In many cases the only way to do an experiment safely is to find a more experienced person to help. This is not book-learning, it's your life at stake and you want someone by your side who knows what they are doing. There is an unbroken chain of these people leading right back to the first guy who survived, and you want to be part of that chain.


    When I do an experiment that looks crazy I either have someone with me who's done  it before, or it's something that I've worked my way up to slowly and carefully. I build in layers of safety, and I make sure that if all else fails I have a clear path to run like hell (and of course I wear glasses at all times).


    I have never been seriously hurt by a chemical, and luck is not a factor in that. Don't make it a factor in your own safety either.
    That rocks, man. That's well written and makes the distinction between fake safety warnings and real ones.

    Because you and I aren't Theodore Gray, we're lucky that Theodore Gray also has a column in Popular Science and on their website: Gray Matter.

    Check out the coolness that Gray has worked through for us...
















    Gray Matter: Trapping Burning Gasses With a Thin Wire Screen from PopSci.com on Vimeo.



    Gray Matter: Burning Diamonds from PopSci.com on Vimeo.


    May 21, 2011

    Happy to be here


    "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times."
    ~ Mark Twain, maybe

    C'ya tomorrow, folks, maybe...

    It's Saturday...guess what I've got for you.

    G'head...guess...



      May 18, 2011

      Soon to be a Numbskull


      Had a meet and great with this guy on Monday night who apparently created/patented Numbskull: The SAT Prep Game. He had a little offer for me (and for some other teachers, admittedly.)

      Seems that the board game's fortunes took a turn for the worse when the SAT was redesigned a few years back. The company licensing the board game decided not to redesign it for the new SAT and let the license lapse.

      So Michael Bergman (the aforementioned this guy) took back the license and turned the thing into a Facebook app. You can check the whole, not-terribly-sordid history here. Currently the app has a few hundred SAT/ACT prep questions in verbal and math skills and offers students a chance to do college admissions test prep for free rather than paying up to $1000 for a Kaplan or similar course or even buying a bulky, old-school prep book.

      Where I come in is that the app has gotten some good press and is now in need of greater content to move the app forward. Turns out they need some teachers to write questions...and they're willing to pay.

      So it looks like I have a little something to do this summer.

      My questions probably won't be online until August or so, but feel free to check out the app.

      May 17, 2011

      Just 'cause

      L'il help needed

      I'm working on some more 8track themed playlists and need some suggestions, please...

      Here's what I've got half done along with a couple of example songs each. What songs would work with each of these playlists?
      • Circus songs - "When the Circus Comes to Town" Los Lobos, "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" Muppets
      • Murder songs - "Delia's Gone" Johnny Cash, "Woman in the Wall" Beautiful South
      • Self-love songs (to put it delicately) - "I Touch Myself" DiVinyls, "She Bop" Cyndi Lauper
      • Long songs (10+ minutes, no live versions, no classical) - "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" Pink Floyd, "Less Than You Think" Wilco, "Telegraph Road" Dire Straits, "Rapper's Delight" Sugarhill Gang
      • Apology songs - "Little Lion Man" Mumford & Sons, "Valentine's Day" Steve Earle
      • Dream songs - "Series of Dreams" Bob Dylan, "Last Night I Had a Dream" Randy Newman
      • Driving songs (singing about driving) - "Highway Halo" Old Crow Medicine Show, "Radar Love" Golden Earring, "I Drove All Night" Cyndi Lauper
      • Touching songs (songs that make you cry)- "Circle Game" Joni Mitchell, "I Know What Love Is" Don White, "Cats in the Cradle" Harry Chapin
      So,who you got?

      May 16, 2011

      The best damn buggywhip makers out there



      At some point, many professions become antiquated. When we look back, we often think how lucky we are that no one has to do those jobs any more.

      But remember that there had to be a last of every one of those jobs...a last television repairman...a last one-room schoolhouse schoolmarm...a last frontier sheriff...a last record collector...

      That last record collector hasn't been quite identified just yet, but Brain Pickings has collected seven short films about spectacular examples of people in dying professions. Each of the subjects has a heart-breaking and inspiring story about why they continue to do what they love when the world clearly has less and less use for their job with each passing day.

      Check 'em, especially the one embedded below.


      The Archive from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.

      May 15, 2011

      Thirty-nine and counting



      Note three things...

      one, Djokivic wins again...37-0 and counting to start 2011 (the record is 42-0 by McEnroe in 1984)...undefeated in his last 39 matches (the record is 46 in a row by Guillermo Vilas in 1977)

      two, listen to how silent the commentators are during the points. That's nothing like American tennis commentators. I have the Wimbledon video of the great Nadal-Federer final 2008, and there are full two- and three-minute stretches without a word being said. It's refreshing, actually.

      three, if Djokovic is to continue his run, he'll have to do it at Roland Garros which starts in a week. Catching McEnroe would only mean getting to the fourth round (the round of 16). Catching Vilas would mean winning Roland Garros.

      I'm so geeked.

      May 14, 2011

      Remember to change this title



      Placeholder text that I might or might not replace later.

      Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Mark Gray on Vimeo.


        May 13, 2011

        Blogger is back

        This was the longest outage that I can remember from Blogger.

        They've been good enough to me that I'm not going to complain, but it was especially frustrating as I tried to update the other blog.

        Luckily I had all the posts on this blog lined up. Hopefully that post of Cake videos will show up again. For now, it's disappeared from the public side but still exists behind the scenes. I just can't get it public for the moment.

        Working together



        Yeah, I'm pro-labor...how'd you know?

        Thanks to Thom Hartmann...Union Songs...and About.com for the suggestions

        May 12, 2011

        May 11, 2011

        My Musical Radar

        I don't miss doing two separate blogs, but I'll still keep you updated on what I'm seeing/reading/hearing because of a long-ago request from RuffRyder.

        Let's start with the movies...

        Tron: Legacy...zzzzzzzzz

        Sorry, I must've fallen asleep there.

        The new Tron is boring. Yeah, it's pretty enough, but much of the film is nothing revolutionary, nothing that you couldn't see in dozens of other sci-fi films every year. Those visuals might have been more interesting if there was a story even remotely engaging on which to hang them. Instead we get a bland son-finds-long-lost-father tale in which Jeff Bridges returns to the role of Flynn but adds in a whole lot of 'dude's and 'hey, man'. It's like he forgot whether he was supposed to be playing Flynn the computer programmer or The Dude, stoner/surfer extraordinaire. He apparently chose some lame middle ground.

        Throw in a chase scene without any urgency whatsoever ('we have to race to the gateway...' so let's hop on a slow-moving laser beam freighter and stand around talking for a while...yeah!), a boring performance by Flynn's abandoned son, a whole lot of latex, and an incomprehensible plot about Olivia Wilde being some sort of spontaneously generated computer program organism, and the whole thing isn't even interesting enough to be a mess.

        The only two things that are worth recommending in the film are the performance by Michael Sheen as an over-the-top, traitorous bar owner and the neat special effect of seeing an aged Jeff Bridges on screen acting opposite a de-aged version of himself. That last part is admittedly pretty cool to see, but it wasn't nearly enough to hold my attention through this snooze-fest.

        At this point, I'm not sure Disney has made an interesting movie without Pixar in a decade. Have they?

        The King's Speech was at least better than Tron, not that that's all that high a hurdle.

        Actually, The King's Speech is a very well-made film, full of Oscar-bait performances from pretty much everyone involved. Collin Firth is excellent as the titular king (at least by the end of the movie, he's a second prince as the story begins), and Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter and all the supporting actors who are apparently big deals in British theater or movies or something.

        The set dressing is well done, drawing us successfully into the 1930's and 40's as Britain is drawn into World War II by the little Ratzie, Hitler, himself. Everything, in fact, is well done - the sound, the costumes, the cinematography.

        The problem is that it all feels just so well done. There's emotion here, but it's predictable, reserved emotion that just never connected with me. We know well in advance that our titular stammerer is going to overcome his impediment to rally the country. It's all so predictable and reserved and, well, British.

        Hancock was better than I expected. I hadn't heard good things about this one, and it turned out to be pretty entertaining.

        Will Smith's Hancock - he doesn't remember having a last name - is a super-powered drunk with no social skills whatsoever. He's a jerk, insensitive to any of the non-supers around him (and since he's the only super guy, that's a lot of non-supers). His take offs and landings destroy roads; his rescues do more property damage than the robberies would've done in the first place; and he doesn't give a crap.

        In the course of his daily savings, he happens upon Jason Bateman, a PR freelancer in need of a break. For some reason - the film doesn't necessarily stand up well on this aspect - Hancock agrees to work with Bateman to better his image to the world. Sure, we get a few knowing glances from Hancock to Bateman's wife Charlize Theron, but there's not much other reason for Hancock to throw in with Bateman.


        It works, however, as Bateman's changes force Hancock to be a better person little by stubborn little. Hancock's image rehabbing goes as far as even seeing him awkwardly thank the non-super police officers for securing a crime scene before Hancock comes flying in. The secrets between Hancock and Theron a revealed a good bit sooner than I expected and turned out not to be what I saw coming, so that was a plus. Once the secret is out of the bag, the movie's real drama comes in with Hancock having to fight for his reformed life, involving a dramatic last minute save of all the folks involved.

        I appreciated the twist on the superhero-as-jerk trope as well as the explanation as to Hancock's unremembered back story and the explanation for his apparent amnesiac past. It all worked for me as a story hook, and I'll admit that the three leads are all pretty solid, personable movie stars. Smith and Theron are practically movie royalty at this point, both able to carry a movie mostly on the strengths of their personalities and screen presence. Bateman provides just enough everyman to balance out the two movie stars.

        It's a fun film and was actually far more enjoyable to me than was The King's Speech.



        Fables: Vol 15: Rose Red keeps Fables rolling along and surprised me with its outstanding, climactic issue #100. This issue leads up brilliantly to the milestone issue with a wonderful revelation of Rose Red's backstory full of lots more than the jealous little sister sniping that we might've expected from Rose's morose, self-loathing that we've seen from her since Boy Blue left the series a few trades back.

        Red steps strongly back into Farm leadership in the later issues and reasserts her position as one of the more interesting characters in this outstanding ensemble series. Her ties to Flycatcher, Snow, Bigby, and so many more characters has made her a bit of the lynchpin around which the tale turns, and having her back and strong makes things that much better.

        When Frau Totenkinder comes out in full battle mode in the final issue of the series, we see the power that has belied the frail old woman for a hundred issues, and that power - and the associated cunning - makes for an excellent climax to the first century of issues. The final reveal that the Fables might not have gotten away scot free, then is more than a little disappointing but promises that things haven't wrapped up as neatly as we might've hoped.

        Fables continues to impress. It's one of the finest series ongoing right now (probably right there with DMZ.)

        Captain America: Patriot was surprisingly entertaining what with the whole no-Steve-Rogers-thing going against it. See, this isn't the story of the Captain America that we all know and will see in the theater this summer (shut up, you know you're gonna be in the theater for that one, eh - along with Thor this past weekend). It's the story of Jeff Mace, one of the replacement Captain America's while Steve Rogers was trapped in the ice of the North Sea.

        I'll admit to having never heard that Marvel actually told stories of the various replacement Captain Americas much less having read any of the Jeff Mace stories, but this one was impressively engaging, casting the quite old-school, square-jawed characters in a much more modern light, exploring contemporary issues - homosexuality, political vs private responsibilities, the red scare - within the golden-age framework.

        It's worth a read.

        Batman: Unseen was horrible.

        No, it is horrible.

        It's an art style that drives me nuts (heavy blacks; ridiculous, inhuman poses and musculature; awful, stupidly gothic everything), and I should have known better. Kelley Jones's Batman drives me to anger every stupid time I pick up one of his books, and the combination of him with Doug Moench is simply too much for me at every turn.

        It's Batman & mysticism in most of their volumes, but this one at least avoids that stupid trap. Instead, we get Batman with the invisible man. Ah, bad sci fi/horror instead of mystical/horror. So much better...

        There's a scientist trying to invent an invisibility serum who falls in with Black Mask. Turns out the serum works, but the scientist is testing it on himself, driving himself nuts and murderous in the process.

        It's a simple trope and one everybody should know. You fight the invisible guy by throwing paint on him, or tracking him in the snow, or throwing a curtain over him.

        Nope, not this Batman.

        The Batman takes the invisibility serum himself, giving himself absolutely no advantages in catching the guy. But then he wears his gloves, cloak, and cowl while he's invisible.

        They aren't invisible, thus negating any possible advantage Batman might've gotten.

        That's just the last, dumbest twist. The rest leading up to it is equally horrible.

        Steer very clear and do what you can to make sure Kelley Jones and Doug Moench never work together again.

        Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond wasn't too bad. I'll admit to digging on the whole conceit of Batman Beyond and to owning the entire series on DVD. (Still need to get Return of the Joker, but another day perhaps...)

        I especially appreciate it when they bring back some of the original Batman supporting cast to see where the various folks have ended up down the line. Commissioner Barbara Gordon...Amanda Waller still heading up Cadmus...

        In this one, we get Terry squaring off with some who's killing aged Bat-villains and making like it's the return of Hush to torture his mentor. But Hush died years ago? How could this be?

        It turns out that there are more twists in store, and the wrap up lets us know that this is firmly within the run of the television series (before the coda at the end of the Justice League series in which Terry confronts Waller) but that ties in very tightly to that finale, making for a richer reading experience if you know all the history.

        It's easy enough to read without that history, however, and I'd recommend this one for all the Batfolks out there.

        Batgirl Rising brings Stephanie Brown back into the fold, this time fully integrating her as Batgirl.

        For a character - Stephanie Brown - who has been nothing but a screw-up (caused War Games, failed as Robin, failed as Spoiler, died at the hands of Leslie Thompson), this iteration of Stephanie Brown is surprisingly engaging. She's hilarious and refreshing, in fact.

        I'll admit that I have doubts about DC's choice of shifting away from Cassandra Cain (who I think is an awesome character, by the way, but whose storyline which largely ended in Batgirl: Retribution was leading in lots of dead ends) and back to a Caucasian Batgirl. I've stated those, and I still believe that if DC courts only their white readers, that they're in trouble in the long run.

        That being said, this new Batgirl is a blast to read. The uncertainty of Brown in trying to live up to the legacy - especially with Oracle looking over her shoulder electronically - makes for a very engaging character, and the interplay between her and Damian - two new teen heroes trying to find their ways in the world - is nothing short of brilliant.

        This one's a must read for anybody in the DC camp, one of the best new series in a long time.


        Ultimate Comics Spider-man: The World According to Peter Parker sees Marvel relaunching the flagship of it's Ultimate imprint to try and tidy of the ten years of continuity that had built up. I've not gotten through all of Ultimatum (the cross-over event designed to wash away all that decade of assembled history for the line) because the library hasn't gotten the issues, and I can't find 'em in the bookstores in already opened copies, natch.

        Ultimate Spider-Man had been the most impressive and consistently well-written title in the run, never having had a significant delay in production during its run. So, of course, they started it over again.

        Luckily, the magic has continued as BMBendis has continued with the title as well. He writes a knock-out teenager book, and that rolls onward with Peter Parker trying to figure out what it means to be a hero in the city (as opposed to the quasi-menace that he'd been painted as thanks to JJJ and The Bugle) and hanging with Gwen Stacy (a even trade from the teen MJ). In this volume, Aunt May also opens her home to Bobby Drake and Johnny Storm, turning the home into - as Gwen refers to it - their very own Avenger's mansion.

        Bendis continues to write an outstanding teen-centric comic that is enjoyable for all ages. If you've got a teen comic fan (or a reluctant reader), give 'em this series to get 'em hooked. If you don't have one of those around, read this yourself.


        Four Lions was described (on the back of the box, take that with a grain of salt, natch) as a dark comedy. In answer to that, I'd say this is one of the darker comedies that I've seen in a while. There are certainly some gut-buster comedic moments in the film about four Muslim would-be-terrorists from and in Sheffield, England, but there's a lot more exploration of the confused motives and actions of people who find themselves radicalized in their own native land.

        The moments of humor are well written if occasionally juvenile as the clearly incompetent and in over their head group of Muslims looking to enact their own form of jihad within England's borders. When they begin looking for targets, they suggest in turn the internet, a local pharmacy (because they sell condoms), a mosque (to radicalize the moderate Muslims), and a local marathon. The character suggesting that the group bomb the internet plays it entirely straight, pleading his case because of what his mum said.

        As the film allows each of the idiots to find their own creative flaws within their plans, the film heads to a more sobering conclusion in which the motives and effect of each bombing comes into drastic question. This isn't to say that the movie isn't funny; it is. It's just that the humor is often sophomoric and didn't provide an equal weight to the film's more heavy subject matter.



        It's worth a watch, but it's not one to rewatch.


        As opposed to Thor which was an absolute blast to see in the theater.

        From the opening scenes and the immediate flashback to the 600s Norse life all the way through to the climactic battle on the Bifrost Bridge, this movie is a blast. Kenneth Branagh does a masterful job balancing the world of Midgard and Asgard, presenting the two as drastically oppositional but intimately connected via the titular god.


        That god runs off in a fit of pique against his father's wishes, drawing his kingdom nearly into war and getting himself depowered and banished to the Earthly realm where our opening scene finds him. The film is ostensibly Thor's search for redemption, for the growth and maturity that will let him earn his place back into Asgard. But it turns out that the movie isn't remotely about that growth.


        This is a film about the badguy, the treacherous, brilliantly underplayed Loki. J Michael Straczynski's take on Loki was masterful, admittedly among the finest and most devious takes on villainy I've ever read. The Loki here isn't given the scope to work with that he is in that comic run, but Tom Hiddleston's Loki owns this film. His performance is spectacularly understated with absolutely none of the snearing, mustache-twisting, cackling laughter that I think all the comics readers were kind of expecting from the trickster god brought to life. Instead, Loki here tells chosen truths and plays into the other characters' fears so subtly that it's not even until halfway through the movie that I knew for certain that he was our villain.

        The movie also does an impressive job making an Asgard that is gorgeous and over the top but as filled with treachery and familial infighting as any of the Shakespearean works on which Branagh cut his teeth. It's in Asgard, in fact, where the film truly shines. The sets are appropriately mythic (surprisingly reminiscent of a Flash Gordon, in fact) and spectacularly fun to watch. The interpretation of the rainbow bridge, in particular, is mesmerizing, placed right on the edge of the world and site of the final confrontation between the good and evil forces of Asgard.

        The film is also funny when it should be - particularly when Kat Dennings is on screen and singularly when Natalie Portman mentions her old boyfriend (I was apparently the only one in the theater to find that one funny enough to laugh out loud), but the Earth scenes do pale in comparison to those in Asgard as they feel like little more than original story getting us one step closer to next summer's The Avengers.

        And in the long run, I'm just fine with that. If this is the quality of the run up, I can't imagine what the main event is going to be like.

        Go out and see this one in the theater, folks.

        The Freegal Gourmet



        Yup, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH) has just gotten even awesomer. They've signed on to Freegal letting anybody with a library card download free music.

        Sounds perfect, right? Free downloading from my computer via the library's site. Well, sure, that's frickin' cool.

        There are a few drawbacks, however. First, it's only music from Sony's catalog, and it's not the full content of Sony's catalog. For example, Cake has albums available through Freegal, but it's not their newest album yet (even though it came out two months ago.)

        Secondly, you can't download a full album. The limit is three songs per user per week (the count resets on Monday morning), so that means you'll have to schedule your downloads for the next month or two if you want to get the full album (which is what I'm doing, trying to get the entirety of 7 Worlds Collide's The Sun Came Out disc).

        Thirdly, the service isn't apparently popular with all the librarians out there in the blogosphere. Check out these two posts in particular that show pretty strong criticism for Freegal's service in a number of areas...
        • Changing from a library that purchases and lends to one that purchases and gives to its patrons is a fundamental change for libraries.
        • The cost per download is in the range of $1 to $1.10 (I don't know the specifics of the PLCH contract with Freegal) - as much as it would be for me to purchase those same songs from Amazon or iTunes directly.
        • Freegal asked the second poster to remove a post about libraries and digital music. Not a library-friendly thing to do.
        It looks like Freegal isn't a perfect system by any means, but PLCH has signed up, and I'm going to do my part to see that they get their money's worth.

        May 10, 2011

        Favor...book recommendation?


         I've been fascinated reading about the Ohio and Mississippi River flooding this spring.

        From hearing that we had the second wettest month in history (behind January 1937 by less than a quarter inch), I started hunting down information about the 1937 flood and was stunned to learn that the 1936 flood was actually worse upriver in Pittsburgh.

        I've followed onward to learning about the Morganza Spillway and the Bonnet Carre Spillway - the latter of which is fully open now, the former of which is about to be opened - and the Old River Control Structure.

        From wikipedia...
        If either the Old River Control Structure or the Morganza Spillway were to fail, the consequences for Louisiana, the region, the nation, and international commerce would be immense. In this event, the main channel of the lower Mississippi River would likely change permanently to the Old River and Atchafalya River channels in the Atchafalaya Basin, thus bypassing Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Existing port facilities may have to be relocated or replaced, as would Morgan City and many smaller communities. Transportation by road, rail, sea, and barge would all be dramatically affected. Sedimentation and erosion patterns would change, including development of a new river channel and delta, as well as a new pattern of floodplains. Changes to salinity of coastal waters (less saline near new delta, more saline near present delta) would affect marine life, fisheries, beaches, and coastal marshes, as well as submerged infrastructure.[5][11]
        At this point, I want to go deeper. I want to read a book that presents a holistic view about our efforts to tame the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and to go down and visit these places. I want to see Cairo and Morganza, Bonnet Carre and Old River Control.

        It's been fifteen some years since I read Control of Nature, and I'm looking at Mississippi Floods, but now I want to know more.

        Does anybody have any idea of a book that would work for what I want?

        (By the way, thanks to Frank3.0 for the top photo.)

        From WCPO



        Presented without comment

        Some interesting kuriositas

        Today's bit of info is just a link to a blog: kuriositas.

        The blog to which I'm linking, however, is one of the more fascinating, well-run single-writer blogs out there. It's a bit tough to describe just what the focus of the blog is as it consists mostly of two types of posts. One post is a pretty standard video embed. The writer favors Vimeo embeds over YouTube and provides a few quick comments about the video being embedded. Those posts are fine and interesting, largely because he (I'm assuming he, though I have absolutely no idea there) finds videos that I've not seen posted anywhere else - expect on blogs that reference kuriositas.

        The second types of posts are the more interesting and less frequent, numbering typically one a day. They involve some semi-significant research into a topic typical of a blog named after curiosities. One day might be about the largest wooden structure in the world. The next might be about the sheep now inhabiting Hobbiton in New Zealand, or a drastically off the beaten path series of photos of a gorgeous geyser. All of these photo posts properly source the photographers and sometimes discuss the challenges of getting free rights to post photos from Flickr.

        The amount of work that must go into maintaining a blog of this level of quality must be huge, and I'm gonna direct traffic its way. So check it out, folks.

        May 9, 2011

        Update: The king is dead. Long live the king.

        I'd been wondering just how close Djokovic was to taking over the top spot in the rankings at this point.

        Turns out that it could happen by next Sunday if he wins the Italian Open and Nadal doesn't make the semis.

        That would be a big deal as Nadal and Federer have owned the top spot since February 2, 2004 - 280 weeks, longer than any other pair of players.

        Avengers assemble...on the Tri-State

        I've never visited a movie set, but it looks like that might change this summer as it was just announced that The Avengers will be filming in the Cincinnati area for a couple of weeks.


        And, yes, that is a badly photoshopped poster from Beyond Hollywood. Thanks for asking.

        Another project


        So, I've got a little thing on the side.

        For some of you, this won't come as any big surprise. It's the kind of thing that I do.

        I'm the co-chair of Princeton's efforts to repeal Senate Bill 5 (the Ohio one that takes away a lot of the collective bargaining rights of public workers - I've mentioned it once or twice). It's not anything that I intended to head up. I just sort of fell into a leadership position as we move forward with trying to get 241,419 signatures - the number necessary to get a referendum on the November ballot.

        If you wanna come out and sign a petition - especially this evening at PHS's Jazz Band Ice Cream Social - check out the whens and wheres over on the PACE For Kids blog that I've set up and am updating fairly well each day.

        May 8, 2011

        Happy Mother's Day



        Thanks to Neatorama for posting this one today.

        The king is dead. Long live the king.


        Yup, Djokovic's historic start to 2011 continues with a 7-5, 6-4 beating of Rafa Nadal in the final of the Madrid Open. Djokovic is 33-0 to start the year, and is 3-0 against both Nadal and Federer.

        If this isn't a coronation, it's entirely possible that Roland Garros could be.

        Johnny Mac won 42 matches in a row to start 1984. That's the current record.

        Villas and Lendl won 46 and 44 in a row (not to start a year). Those're still above Djokovic.

        But it looks like there's a new king for now in the men's game.

        Long live the king.







        Done...

        A few weeks back, I challenged anybody to try to beat a little online flash tennis game without losing a point and said that I hadn't been able to do that.

        That's no longer the case.
        And now I'm done with that game.

        May 7, 2011

        Things...stuff...what have you...


        May 6, 2011

        Blanketing the Beatles

        They're the Beatles' songs, but it's not the Beatles singing them.



        Thanks to...IGN...Top Hat Asquatch...Paste Magazine...Spinner...and NY Mag for the recommendations.

        May 5, 2011

        Fantasy team...in case you wanted to know

        I'm not going to take any time to tell you about my fantasy baseball team this year. Talking about fantasy teams is like talking about your dog.

        Yes, you care.

        Yes, I'm sure it's interesting/cute/fascinating to you.

        Nobody else cares.

        That being said, in case you wanted to know...

        I'm in first place after three weeks, and here's my team.


        That is all.

        May 4, 2011

        Pardon our ranting: Yappi

        Yappi is both everything that is right and everything that is wrong about the internet.

        Today's rant is brought to you by the Yappi discussion about Josh Andrews's new job as the head boys basketball coach at Middletown High School.

        I have to admit that I've used Yappi in the past. I've checked out how Princeton's girls basketball team was respected in the state, basketball scores around the state, who was going to be the next Princeton football coach, and info about some other GMC schools.

        (Oh, by the way, for those of you who aren't from around here,Yappi is a discussion site about Ohio high school sports.)

        It's a great site to get quick information from around the state. If I need to know what the best girls basketball teams are in Northern Ohio, I'm going to Yappi.

        If I need to know who won the regional final in Columbus, I'm going to Yappi.

        Because it's populated by people who are obsessively interested in their little sport niche (softball, Dayton boys basketball, seventh-grade girls Middletown volleyball), the smallest bit of minutia is typically on the site within minutes. The OHSAA won't have the results up that quickly because those people are putting it up as a job. The Yappi boarders are putting things up as obsessions.

        And this is all for good and for ill.

        These are people who aren't ever going to be able to provide the distance needed for unbiased reporting, for rational thought in most cases, for reasoned consideration of both sides of the issues.

        They're going to scream for their coaching candidates, defend their favorite baseball player to the absolute death, and they're going to take anything said against their opinion as a personal attack, a slight, a reason to start a flame war and dig up their old feelings about the hatred for that stupid rival school that cheated their ninth-grade volleyball team in the county championships in 1982 because, by god, those feelings have just never died.

        And it's all done anonymously.

        No reason to actual cite a source, VikesRulz!!, because nobody's going to know who you really are or call you on anything in the real world. No reason to prove your 'inside information' about the new jv softball coach at your favorite school, Middies4Life87, because if you really do have that inside information, you're not supposed to be sharing it - either because you're probably an employee yourself or because some employee leaked it to you.

        But of course you wouldn't be on these discussion boards if you weren't desperate to tell the whole world just how knowledgeable you are, how inside you really are, how much you love your school. So you brag about knowing inside info, you incessantly bring up the '92 football championship game whether it's relevant or not, and you flame everybody who's a little less pure of a RealMasonComet95, don't you.

        Yeah, I check Yappi from time to time, but I certainly don't want to ever become a regular there.

        May 3, 2011

        Thanks, Governor Kasich

        Hey, Governor Kasich issued a proclamation making May 1-7 as Public Service Appreciation Week.

        That's really nice of him and totally makes up for him taking away my collective bargaining rights.

        Link Click

        More covers

        This time, though, it's physical covers...as in the covers of cds and dvds and such.

        Turns out there's a website called Coverdude that has scans of tons of cd, dvd, blu ray, wii, xbox covers - in case you lose the cover to your cd, dvd, blu ray, wii or xbox game and want to print a new one in color.

        It's a niche but could turn out to be a useful one.

        May 2, 2011

        Could we be a bit more blatant?

        I grabbed the eponymous album from Eliza Doolittle and noticed that it's just a bit similar to a couple of other Brit-pop girl signers of late.

        Take a listen and tell me if you notice any similarities...







        ...to perhaps Lily Allen...



        ...or perhaps Kate Nash...



        Even the cd packages have the same sort of vibe to me...


        The music, the art...it's like some record executive said that they needed another Lily Allen but with the cute turned up slightly and the sort of mean/nasty/snark turned down.

        Turns out it's still catchy music.