July 31, 2012

ChemGuy take a shot

Thanks to TYWKIWDBI for linking to the above video.

As I so often do, I turn to John Stewart to be both serious and light-hearted.

I don't have a clue as to how to tackle anything so serious as my thoughts about gun control, but I feel like I should at least say something - maybe because I try to keep things relatively light and airy around here. When we get too close to something serious like this, I tend to whistle as if we were passing a graveyard. In light of the current rise in gun discussion, however, I want to say a few things.

First off I understand the need for the second amendment or at least I understand why there was a need. We had just come through a war against the British, and we wanted to make sure we didn't find ourselves with another king against which we would need to rise up. Americans - however we wanted to define that at the time, however we want to define that now - lived on a continent with needs for guns. We had to hunt. We had to defend. We had to shoot lest we starve or die.

We do not exist in that nation any longer. That vast majority of us live in a nation where food comes from a grocery store, where the most hunting we need to do is for bargains and deals, coupons and nutritional information labels.

And we do not exist in a nation where we are at risk of a king taking control. Yes, we can debate the possibility of some sort of oligarchy in politics today, whether we need to rise up against the government and kill all the socialist politicians, but I'm going to come pretty firmly down on the side that says we don't need to overthrow the government and are pretty far from needing to do so.

We do exist in a nation, however, where for every 100 people, we have 88.8 firearms (source)...where between 8000 and 9000 people are intentionally killed by guns every year (not including accidental shootings and suicides - 25,000 a year if you include those - source)...where nearly 7000 African-Americans were killed by firearms in 2007 (source) - 18.1 out of every 100,000 in the United States.

The only times I've ever had a gun in my hands would be the following...

  • water guns - lots of times
  • paintball gun - one afternoon, hated it
  • pump-action air rifle - one as a kid, fired into a couple of cardboard boxes
  • suction cup dart guns - lots of times
I'm clearly not the NRA's target demographic; I know it. I'm not a hunter. I'm not a gun owner. I've had people break into my house - while I was gone, admittedly - and I still don't want a gun. I live in a world where I don't have to draw a gun to correct every slight. I know this all puts me in an group that some people would say shouldn't talk about guns because I'm speaking from a position of lack of knowledge.

But I do know that the concepts of hundred-round magazines, of civilian-purchased body armor, of a gun and knife show at the Sharonville Convention Center once a month all year long, of legal assault rifles, and of gun stockpiling worry me. I know that I would have absolutely no problems at all if the United States instituted a six-month waiting period to buy a gun, if the our background checks were stepped up to include a lot more than just whether you were ever involuntarily committed for mental illness, if we stopped just sort of making private gun ownership fully illegal in the United States. 

It's too easy to buy a gun - when forty percent of guns sold today have no background check performed at all.

It's too easy to buy guns meant to kill multiple people - semiautomatic weapons that can fire a hundred bullets without reloading even once.

Until we can find a way to make sure no one hates, no one sees so little future that they choose to solve their problem with a gun, everyone receives the mental care that they need, we have to find a way to make their mistakes less deadly.

July 30, 2012

Van Hagar

I have to admit that David Lee Roth is a more engaging front man, but I enjoyed the music that Van Halen 2.0 made more. So in the interest of equal time, I present you with Van Hagar...

July 28, 2012

See, the thing is...

Actually I have no clue what the thing is. If I did, I'd probably be happier about the start of school coming in a couple of weeks. Instead, I feel nothing but dread.

  • Record-setting flower of the day - best viewed through the miracle of the non-smell-o-vision intertubes
  • A mole of moles - that would be a mess
  • Ask Chris #114: The Dark Knight Returns - the Superman-Batman fight scene should never be reproduced because everyone "wants to recapture the feeling of that scene, but nobody's even come close to building something so meaningful, something that felt so fresh, because we'd already seen it here first. Instead, it's just one pale imitation (lookin' at you here, Hush) heaped onto a pile until it all feels cheapened.
  • Best Word Ever - Steer clear of the F's...they're 
  • National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chik-Fil-A - August 3...I'm getting pretty close to signing off from the world's greatest chicken sandwich because their views and mine don't line up.
  • Bravo/NBC Olympic Tennis - We don't officially have Bravo on our cable, but I watch it all the time, so I'll be able to watch Olympic tennis. Much happiness!!!
  • Sporting Events at the 2012 Olympics - I could medal in half of these events, easily.
  • Let the games begin - I can't imagine this stayed up for long, but it's an hilarious billboard.

July 27, 2012

Not-so-random Ten of the day

Today's search for a topic took me back into random ten land and got turned off by the ten that popped up, so I took one of them ("You Gotta Be" by Des'ree) and turned that into today's theme. Enjoy the 90's...

  • "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies - I'm gonna go all hipster here and tell you that I knew about Crash Test Dummies before they were popular. I remember that my freshman roommate, John Prince - also of New Albany birth, introduced me to the Dummies with their Ghosts That Haunt Me album back in the spring of '93. When they hit a little big a couple of years later, I was lucky enough to catch them in Aberdeen while I was overseas. Even got to take two girls I was sort of working on at the time, but that's another story for another day. I dig their first album a lot. This song is kind of okay.
  • "Good" by Better Than Ezra - This could be from any of a dozen different mid-90's bands. Very much indicative of the musical era.
  • "Dizz Knee Land" by Dada - This one I really like. Fun little guitar groove that feels very much like a summer's day to me. Feels like it should be followed up by something from Blind Melon. Nonsensical song that's got a brief political edge ("I just flipped off President George") and a safely anti-corporate tagline. Nothing threatening here but some pleasant pop.
  • "Who Will Save Your Soul" by Jewel - Saw her open for Neil Young in Nobelsville during my first year out of college. Gorgeous summer evening with The Girl...fun opener for the concert. Jewel seemed very taken with opening for Neil and gave a good opening set. I saw he on some VH1 storyteller special soon after that and was taken with her wit, her humor, and her attractiveness. Sadly, though, none of that ever really came through on her albums which after the debut one sort of tended to be all over the map - girly, AOR pop followed by guitar/electronic pop followed by twangy country. This, her first hit, is still her best.
  • "Lovefool" by The Cardigans - Pleasant enough and jangly pop with a good chorus hook. Nothing but air here, but at least it's fun.
  • "Groove is in the Heart" by Deee-lite - One of my favorite tracks of the decade, especially with the cameo from Bootsy. Tapped into a 70's nostalgia that was high for a moment in the 90's. At least it lasted longer than the zoot suit moment.
  • "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" by the Spin Doctors - I know that there were medical unfortunatenesses that waylaid their success, but these guys should have been bigger for a longer time than they were. Their moment was huge and their debut album massive, but it was years before anything came afterwards. Tragic, man, tragic...great hits off of this album.
  • "Mr Jones" by Counting Crows - For some reason I think very much of Hootie and the Blowfish when this comes up. I think it's because they both quoted Bob Dylan in their debut hits. Good song, one I heard a lot during my sophomore or senior year at Wabash.
  • "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree - The reason we're all hear. Spectacularly catchy chorus. I don't know that I could tell you anything else about the song.
  • "What's Up" by 4Non Blondes - This feels very much of the era to me. It's a great sing-along chorus and one that makes me think it's the title more than the title really is.
  • "Nothing Compares 2U" by Sinead O'Connor - Greatest 90's song...hands down. The Prince live version on his Hits/B-Sides album is outstanding as well.

July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Reviews

So, Batman...

Here's the spoiler-free version. I'll go full spoiler after the jump.

The Dark Knight Rises is outstanding. Yes, it's imperfect - particularly with the passage of time in the latter half of the film - but imperfect doesn't matter when a series as outstanding as this wraps up. What does matter is that the film works as a fitting climax to a story that Christopher Nolan has been telling over the span of three movies. Every actor here turns in a great performance - especially Tom Hardy who is forced to emote with a terrifying mask over his face, leaving him to perform in pure physicality. The finale of the film, clearly the finale of the trilogy is emotional and satisfying in spite of the hand-waving deus ex machina and a last moment character revelation.

The film does not, however, stand alone, and I doubt it would be nearly as enjoyable for someone who hasn't seen the first two movies. This is the climax of a journey, and it's a journey that needs to be taken in full.

Let's look a little deeper, shall we?

July 25, 2012

Drawing the curtains

There is nothing in my life that I am prouder of than my involvement in Pasta for Pennies.

And I'm about to start my first school year without a fundraising campaign on the horizon because I've quit.

I've been - with Calen - in charge of Princeton High School's Pasta for Pennies fundraising campaign for nearly a decade now, but it's time to step away. Both Calen and I had been involved in the campaign before that as classroom teachers and seen how much good could be done with an enthusiastic classroom teacher and a few involved student leaders. In 2004 our friend Amy Goohs-Hardman told us that should would be leaving at the end of the school year to start a family, and neither of us wanted to Pennies campaign to leave with her, so we asked her if she would run a campaign with us to show us the ropes so we could lead the campaign by ourselves the next year. That triumvirate year we lead the school to a new high of $40,015.65. In the eight campaigns since then - the eight that Calen and I have lead as a pair - we lead the school to raise over a quarter of a million dollars ($266,793.60, to be exact) for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society...
  • 2000 (winter/spring) - $7000 - Goohs
  • 2001 (winter/spring) - $12,790 - Goohs
  • 2002 (winter/spring) - $21,532.30 - Goohs
  • 2003 (winter/spring) - $31,962 - Goohs
  • 2004 (winter/spring)- $40,015.65 - Calen, Goohs, & ChemGuy
  • 2005 (winter/spring) - $35,017 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2006 (winter/spring) - $39,115.67 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2007 (winter/spring) - $39,094.50 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2008 (winter/spring) - $46,161.77 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2009 (winter/spring) - $38,378.55 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2010 (winter/spring) - $30,560.06 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2011 (fall) - $20,861.91 - Calen & ChemGuy
  • 2012 (fall) - $17,604.12 - Calen & ChemGuy
That's a phenomenal amount of money, but the money wasn't ever the goal or the thing about which we were most proud.

The goal was always to save lives, and the part that we were - and are - most proud of was watching our students pour their hearts into helping save those lives with us.

We got to become friends with phenomenal groups after phenomenal groups of students who stunned us again and again with their generosity, who set schoolwork on the back burner so they could bake cookies for a basketball bake sale, who walked the stands at the football games selling raffle tickets, who knocked on car windows in Newport, who shoveled snow instead of sleeping in on snow days, and who never failed to amaze us with their generosity.

Some of my favorite memories...
  • Matt, Michael, Andrew, and Brian closing their third Rock 4A Cause event - an event that they founded
  • Kevin returning from Kroger with twice as many cakes as we had been promised and just shrugging his shoulders, saying that he'd sweet-talked the bakery lady
  • Kedrin reporting back that the dog I'd promised him was on invisible fence had walked right through where I'd said the wire was
  • Andrew organizing students from a half dozen other schools to maximize the fundraising potential at every stoplight in front of the then new Newport on the Levy
  • Desmond shining like a star on Fox19, being more articulate and heartfelt than I could ever have dreamed
  • Kevin/Gus wearing an orange costume to poke a little fun at our 'rivals', Orange High School
  • Sam, Katy, Matt, Joey, and a very young Alex putting on the News Team leisure suits for a brilliant Anchorman-style campaign video
  • Allie and Becky being so shocked when I cursed in jest with them as we served beer at the BrewHaHa
  • Sam trying not to laugh when I dropped the F-bomb on him at a particularly tense moment before - I think - our first 5K
  • David and Kim grilling like seasoned vets their respective first nights at bd's
  • Calen and me presenting at four different national School and Youth training conferences: Phoenix, Miami, Irving, and New Orleans - and being treated like rock stars each time
  • Grace, Kate, and Joey doing absolutely everything that we could ever have asked of them and doing it all with such maturity and skill
  • Gene crossing the finish line at our first 5K and every year since
  • Emma and Amit making us so proud down on the field at Great American Ballpark
  • Ray spending a morning in a bear suit and riding crosslegged on a cart during his last spring with us
  • A succession of Direnzi's saving our butts with awesome DJ work
  • Brynn and Emma and Olivia and the rest of the marathon crew screaming their lungs hoarse on the Air Force base
I could continue this list for a hundred more lines and still miss mentioning dozens and dozens of students who Calen and I couldn't have possibly run the campaigns without - Kyle, Emily, Kristen and Mike and Rachel, Chris and Heather, Jackie and Leah, Presney, Robert, Hannah, Sam, Ellen and Emma and Alyssa, Graham, Clay, Craig, Katy, Nate, Chris, Adrian, Rohan, Kylie, Geo, Julie, Christian, - so many more.

And we were always the most proud when we'd heard that there was a new Pasta for Pennies collection at Eastern Kentucky or Morehead or even throughout the residence halls of Syracuse - either with the money coming back through our campaign our through their own...or when we heard that one of our former helpers had found their way to non-profit management a university.

We knew all along that we were making a difference, but we knew it most directly when we stopped by Sharon Woods for a farewell party for one of our patient heroes that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had helped and who was by then healthy enough to head home to Michigan, no longer needing to live his life near Cincinnati's Children's Hospital. Two years earlier, Nathan's mother had told Princeton students that Nathan probably wouldn't last through the summer, that they were taking him out of school to visit Disneyworld while he could still enjoy it. I'm not foolish or lacking hubris enough to say that it was our money that helped save Nathan's life, but I would like to think that our stone thrown into the fundraising pond had a few ripples maybe in the right direction - either through the money we directly raised or through the efforts of our students out in the world.

It's time, however, for Calen and me to step off the stage. We're hopeful that the campaign might come back to Princeton sometime, but it likely won't be under our leadership. It's time for some new blood - either to run the Pennies campaign or to start some other charitable endeavor at Princeton.

We won't be giving up the Society entirely, however, as we'll still be holding our 5K on the first Saturday in March and will each be volunteering with the Society throughout the year - stuffing envelopes, serving at Taste of the World, maybe visiting Light the Night. Saving lives through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society something I certainly still believe in; I just need to find a little different way to do good.

I'm going to go flip through a few of the thousands of photos I have of the campaign and let the tears flow at this point, folks...feel free to join me after the jump...

July 24, 2012

This is what summer's for

Summer is all about watching movies, reading comic books, and reading movies, so that's what I've been doing. Some of the media, of course, has been better than others.

Some of these reviews have been sitting a while, so I'll be quick...

Green Lantern - This one's a frickin' mess, failing to merge the cosmic scope of the Green Lantern Corps with the Earth-bound story of Hal Jordan - love with a rewritten Carol Ferris and a battle with Hector Hammond.

We get the obligatory Abin Sur crash, sending his ring off to find the most fearless replacement on the plant. We get the oath and Hal's first trip to Oa. We also get a reworked Paralax - now agent of fear having taken over a wayward big-headed Guardian of the Universe.

But none of it really works. We don't spend enough time on Earth focused on the Hal/Carol relationship (Hal reveals his identity almost instantly, something that felt wrong). We also don't get enough time in space with Hal learning anything from the rest of the Corps - especially anything from Kilowog or Sinestro (a Green Lantern Corps member as the movie starts).

The space scenes also look a lot like cartoons while the Earth-bound scenes are entirely believable with well-done CGI. The film is a Brat, an El Camino of a film. Stay away...

Mockingjay - Finished off the Hunger Games trilogy and was pleasantly satisfied with the story's wrap-up. We mostly get rid of the inner monologue of a sixteen-year-old girl and replace it with actual action, hitting the story's sweetspot for me.

The whole Panem vs Capital conflict elevates to full-out war, and our titular Mockingjay (Katniss) finds herself in the mess of being used as the face of the revolution. She finds herself as soldier and figurehead, being pulled along toward what turns out to be a fairly satisfying end.

I'm never reading this series again, though, because I don't know that I can put up with the craptacular first half of the second book.

GI Joe/Cobra - I'm digging the ongoing mess that is the IDW GI Joe/Cobra Civil War comic series that started a while back with Chuckles's story of infiltration of Cobra.

I do wish, however, that the story wasn't being told over three miniseries and three separate stand-alone issues. It's frickin' impossible to tell in what order I'm supposed to be reading the thing. So what I got was a bit of the story in order and a whole lot of the story out of order. Good for comic collecting business but bad for trying to read it after the fact via trade.

Story good...publisher very bad.

Nation X - It's been interesting to drop in and out of the Marvel universe and see the X-Men fracturing off into their own entire world with pretty much no overlap at all with the rest of the 616 Universe - especially in spite of the fact that two of their members (Beast & Wolverine) have been off and on Avengers along the way.

Here we see the X-Men taking the entirety of the remaining mutants to a rock off the coast of San Francisco and creating the nation of Utopia - which appears to be within the maritime borders of the United States even if it it a rock that didn't exist before and that is populated by walking, talking weapons of mass destruction. This, then, is what happens within the first few weeks of the creation of Utopia - Magneto brings Kitty back to Earth as a show of goodwill, the island started sinking, Emma Frost became unlocked from her diamond form, and the world of mutants had their lives roll onward.

The best of this volume is the Nation X series, four volumes of short stories from various authors and artists. We are given gorgeous, human, interesting tales of the mutants who remain on the mainland, came to Utopia, and even were depowered and have to deal with the repercussions of that. The first part of the collection is good. The last part is great.

X-Men: Schism and Prelude to Schism - Oh good God, just get on with it. We all know that the X-Men aren't going to split into two teams for long. Cut it out already...

The attacks from the new, pre-teen Hellfire Club are interesting and kind of fun, but having Wolverine advocate not fighting just rings false. 

Move one...

This Means War - every interesting part of this movie was in the preview. The rest is poorly done rom-com formula. Interesting, though, that the filmmakers filmed all three possible endings - shown on the DVD extras - with the girl choosing each of the guys and even choosing neither of them. For a movie whose female character works at a Consumer Reports analog, choosing to film every option and probably run them each through focus groups just seems too ironic.

Watch the trailer...avoid the flick...

Bamboozled - This one's a tough flick to review... Lemme start by showing you the trailer...

I appreciate the position of the review to which I linked just above:
Spike Lee's latest film, Bamboozled, is a 135-minute rant against racist images of blacks in popular culture and the complacency with which the public accepts them. According to Lee, white America is all too happy to see the black man put down - as long as it occurs in a socially acceptable, non-threatening manner, such as on television. And, while those ideas have merit, Lee's heavy-handed approach turns Bamboozled into a tedious and overlong polemic. This is sledgehammer satire. 
Throughout Bamboozled, Lee has a knack for underestimating the intelligence of his audience. As if afraid that movie-goers will somehow miss the point, he opens with a verbal definition of satire (it goes something like this: "Satire: the use of ridicule, sarcasm, irony, etc. to expose, attack, or deride vices, follies, stupidities, abuses, etc."), then proceeds to demonstrate that making a good satire is a more difficult task than adhering to the definition. Bamboozled is neither humorous nor subversively clever. It is too obvious to engage the intellect or stimulate discussion. The only ones likely to be challenged by anything presented here are the painfully naïve or sheltered - and they're unlikely to see the film in the first place. Subjecting everyone else to a soap box oratory masquerading as a satire is an act of ego worthy of Oliver Stone.
That just about says it all. I understand - I think - what Spike Lee is trying to say here: that our actions have consequences, that the line between satire and cultural damage is a tough line to walk, that both extremes of an issue are often equally ridiculous and dangerous. What I don't understand is why Spike couldn't find a more nuanced way to make his point without beating us over the head again and again with his message. This is work that has something to say but that is a drastically flawed effort to say it from a great filmmaker.

The worst part of the film is the lead performance of Damon Wayans who affects an accent and speech style that would have worked for a three-minute In Living Color skit but that grates after the first few seconds on screen here. 

Spike is better than this.

July 23, 2012

Diamond Dave

Because sometimes you just need mindless fun, and there's not much more mindless than ten videos from David Lee Roth solo and with Van Halen...enjoy 'em...

July 18, 2012

Sorry...back in a bit

Dropped and broke my laptop last week...in Indy working twelve- and fourteen-hour days this week.

I'll catch up this weekend and roll forward from here.

July 16, 2012

New Lego roundup...

So much outstanding Lego news from the past few days of ComicCon...don't know exactly where to start.

For Calen...first Lego Hobbit set was revealed...it's Bag End / the Shire / Unexpected Journey. Looks like it has some pretty outstanding minfigs and details inside. I'm not a big LotR or Hobbit fan, so this isn't on my wish list other than if Calen needs a birthday present (but that's 363 days away now, so no worries there.)

Next up was the revelation of the series 8 collectible minifigs. I got sucked in and ended up buying all the series 5 figs and grabbed a half dozen of series 7 (though not the tennis player like I'd hoped). Series 8 looks to be a mixed bag with some interesting ones (cheerleader, football, Shakespearean actor, DJ, German), a lot of uninteresting ones (Watson, pirate captain, conquistador, cowgirl, batboy, diver, skiier, Santa), and a lot of quasi-repeats from earlier series. I understand that some people probably requested a cheerleader in red since the previous one had been in blue, but early Lego collector feedback is that they want more variety not more slight variations - see also Evil Robot, Alien Queen, female skiier.

The last and coolest new gig from Lego is the new DC/Marvel superhero minfigs that we'll be getting in the coming year. I've got a Batman who came with a Killer Croc, and just this past weekend I bought 8682 which got me Superman, Wonder Woman (completing the trinity), and Lex Luthor. I don't have any of the Marvel figures yet, but I want them all.

It's interesting to see the Christopher Nolan designs coming into the Lego form here - Bane, Gordon - and the white Batman from, assumedly, Arkham City. Also interesting is how much the Marvel line is branching out from the tight core of the Avengers. Nova, Beetle, Doom - these are heading a little (or in the case of Beetle much) further afield. DC, on the other hand, sees nothing but new additions to the Batman world. Let's at least fill out the Justice League before we get three new Batman designs. How many Dark Knights do we really need?

July 14, 2012

From the circle city

Hanging in Indy this week...eating advice on the southside (near UIndy) are very much welcome...

I'll be here in Nap Town a week or so. Holler if you're around.

July 12, 2012

I've seen 'em

Entertainment Weekly's list of 50 best movies you haven't seen is clearly a misnomer.

I've seen nine of them.
  • 24 Hour Party People - enjoyed it, but not much stuck with me
  • Backbeat - saw it in high school or college over at the Vogue in Louisville...good
  • Bubba Ho-Tep - hilarious, brilliant cult weird horror flick...if you don't enjoy it, your brain must've been replaced with a bag of sand
  • Idiocracy - tragically underseen...I agree with them here.
  • Iron Giant - sad, great
  • Layer Cake - masterpiece
  • Marwencol - heartbreaking and hopeful, excellent documentary
  • Moon - small film that blossoms into brilliance
  • Primer - excellent and a thinker
  • Bamboozled - wanna see it as part of my quest to see all of Spike Lee's movies
  • Ghost Dog - I've check it out from the library two or three times and never watched it.

July 11, 2012

The miracle of evoshield...and the hilarity of their next steps

Calen's kid is a bit of a baseball player, and he got a new toy that's pretty fascinating.

He got a new wrist protector from a company named evoSHIELD. A new wrist protector in and of itself, of course, wouldn't really be much news if it weren't for the outstanding science that the wrist protector seems to exhibit.

See, the evoSHIELD is a two-part system. It's got a neoprene compression sleeve that holds the protector in place...the same exact place every time. That's kind of important because of thhow the second part works.

The second part starts out as a gel material that's sealed in an air-tight foil pouch. Once the pouch is broken, the gel material is placed in the neoprene sleeve and worn as it would be in a baseball game. The very flexible material - sort of like a gel shoe insert - starts to harden then, taking the next twenty or so minutes to turn to a remarkably rigid plastic molded exactly to the shape of the wearer's wrist.

When that rigid plastic then takes an impact - from a pitched ball, for example - it distributes that impact over the entirety of the rigid plastic all of which is in even contact with the wearer's body, spreading that impact until it has a lot less power to do any damage. If the hard plastic wasn't molded so perfectly, the impact wouldn't be spread as evenly and would instead concentrate that force on one place on the wrist, leaving the wearer open to injury.

The physics here is pretty cool, sure, but that's nothing more than snowshoes - spread the force out, do less damage.

The chemistry, however, is phenomenally cool. The material turns from soft and pliable to rigid and permanently formed in about twenty minutes upon exposure to air. And once it's formed, it's formed perfectly. It's not going anywhere.

That does mean that the evoSHIELD can't be loaned to anyone else, but it also means that it's a spectacular protective device. The company makes the same product in pads for football, softball, baseball, lacrosse, even to protector your shoulder when shooting a rifle. The can protect your ribs and thighs, chest and back, shoulders and pretty much whatever you need - even if it's a special medical need like an enlarged spleen, missing rib, or implanted device in your chest.

It's pretty spectacular materials science right there, folks. It's a cheap material ($14 for a replacement wrist protector without the neoprene sleeve) that can be molded by anyone with almost no training, and it's rock solid once it's set. I teach chemistry and run materials science workshops, so I wanted to find out how the material works.

Step one after I check the limited 'how it works' info on their website was to give the company an email. Ask 'em how it works. Here's what I sent...
I am a high school science teacher and am leading some of ASM's materials science teacher camps this summer...


One of the other camp leaders today showed me her son's evoshield baseball wrist guard before/after/during fitting today, and I was blown away. The material that your products use is absolutely fascinating, and I was hoping that you might have some literature that I could share with the teachers in the camps over the next few weeks. Do you have any such literature explaining any part of the science behind the hardening process that I could have and share?
Simple enough...just asking for some background info on the material. It couldn't be that simple, however... Here's what I got back.
Hi Lonnie,

Thank you for your email and for reaching out to us. The only person who can describe specifically how the technology works is the chemist who patented the technology and he is no longer with the company. We are not sure specifically what the patent entails, but the main premise is that our shields harden when exposed to the moisture in the air. I apologize for the vague response, but the details of the technology are not well known at all.

EvoShield Customer Service
300 Commerce Blvd.
Bogart, GA 30622
PH: 770-725-2724 | FAX: 678-753-0100
Wait. Your company is making this materials - an admittedly phenomenal material - and you don't have anybody on staff who knows how the stuff works? Seriously? That's hilarious and outstanding and brilliant. But I'm determined, so I asked further. (I do now at least know that the material cures on exposure to moisture not air.)
Thanks for sending me something to start with as an answer. Do you happen to know the patent number under which the material is registered? I'm curious enough to do a little more research. Or would you be willing to share the chemist's name so I could see if I could contact him? I promise that I'm not looking to compete but rather to get students and teachers excited about some of the exciting/revolutionary materials being made today.
I figure I can do some research on my own. I'll go looking. Let's see what they offer up.
Hi Lonnie,
Thanks for the interest and the enthusiasm. I really wish I could help more, but unfortunately all of that information is kept very secretive, even from most employees. It's treated just like Coke's secret formula. I know you're not looking to compete but there have been several copycat attempts already and they are very protective and cautious about giving out any information at all. Very sorry and have a great week Lonnie.
Looks like my searching via evoSHIELD is a dead end. Now I need to find out how to search for a patent on a material.

In the mean time I'll just be impressed with the awesomeness of materials science and evoSHIELD. Thanks, Calen.

July 10, 2012

A new search

Looks like iGoogle is going away.

I've got a little while; it's not going away until November 2013 (sixteen months from now). I am, however, now on the look out for a new way to access my various RSS feeds. I liked the way that iGoogle organized everything so I felt like each morning I was reading a modernized version of my morning paper, checking out the sports and news and how my friends (real, imaginary, close, distant) were doing.

Here's what my iGoogle pages (and I do have four of them) look like right now to give you an idea of what I'm looking for - something that'll let me see at a glance where there's new stuff (new stories, new posts, new whateveres) on the various websites that I follow. Anybody have any suggestions for me?

Landing page - email, actual news, calendar, my blogs, weather


Blogs of friends (a couple of fairly dead at this point - need to do some housecleaning)

Various entertaining blogs
So, whatcha got for me?

July 9, 2012

Into the deep end

I've been on Facebook almost a year now. I joined up last summer to create Facebook groups for my two chemistry classes, but I've been resolutely telling my students that I had no friends on Facebook at all - by choice. I had my reasons.
  • I wasn't going to start accepting friends of current students. Yes, I want to build a positive relationship with my students so that they can trust me and feel comfortable learning from or with me, but I need to maintain a professional relationship with them, leaving some distance between my private life and theirs.
  • I have heard horror stories about people saying improper/unprofessional things on Facebook in the thoughts that their comments would be read only by their friends only to find that their words went far beyond their intended targets. This past year at PHS, for example, one of my coworkers made a comment about one of our administrators on Facebook - leaving the administrators name off the comment and merely attributing it to 'a principal'. That comment quickly made its way to our administrative team - via friends of friends, parents, someone. It wasn't well received and left her a target for subsequent investigation that lead to her firing by the end of the school year. I feel that I have been diligent on this blog in offering my opinions and interests in such a way that they couldn't cost me my job, and I don't necessarily want to train myself to be as careful in another medium (Facebook).
  • I have always been prone to having a small circle of friends. As I have moved around, I have struggled to keep in contact with them - something that Facebook seems to be perfect for changing. I have, however, been happy to let more casual friends slip away as we have moved apart physically, something that Facebook seems to make tougher.
  • I am not at heart an early adopter, at least not in a lot of technologies. If anything I'm somewhere in the early or late majority. I haven't jumped into Twitter - and in fact have some pretty mixed opinions about it as I've seen it used. I waited until a billion other folks we active on Facebook before I accepted my first friend. I never made a MySpace page. I haven't IMed with anyone. I didn't dive into Google+ with the first rush. I don't flap. I kept hearing about people on Facebook and wondering what the big deal was. Sure, it let you leave little messages and post funny pictures for people, but it seemed to be a vast collection of people telling the world their minutia.
  • And, perhaps most honestly, Facebook was just another thing. I already have personal email, school email, and this blog, and a private blog that's mostly inappropriate jokes and pictures I share with my closest friends.
And yet this past week I accepted my first Facebook friend...and then I accepted about twenty more.

And I switched over to the Timeline design for my account...and added a bunch of life events (vacations, mostly)...and freaked out a few friends who I had told I wasn't taking friends on Facebook so I thought I'd take a minute to explain why I finally became a moderate adopter of Facebook.

There are probably a lot of little reasons that added together to push me over the edge.
  • I'm tired of telling people I'm not on Facebook. Yeah, I should be stronger and I should be able to forge my own path, but at some point I just seem like more of a luddite to people because I don't have Facebook than I seem normal if I just have the account.
  • I realized that I didn't have to use Facebook to tell people every time I'm pooping. I know it seems stupid that it took me a few years to realize that, but I couldn't initially figure out what else I could use Facebook to do. I see now that it can be a photo sharing site, a microblogging platform, a way of communicating with friends and former students when I wanted to, 
  • I started to see lots of my students acting as though email was beneath them, they looked at emailing the way that I look at writing a print letter. It's old technology, it's something that they simply won't do because it's too much work, it's too slow, it's old.

    Imagine the only way I would let my students communicate with me was via print letter, waiting for the letter to get to me and standing before them and yelling that I wouldn't listen to them any other way. As the ranted and raved about how important letter writing skills were for my students' futures, I would just be ignoring them and giving them the tacit message that I didn't want to talk to them, that their concerns didn't matter to me, that somehow I was looking down on them from the a self-carved bully pulpit.

    At some point that's what I was starting to feel like: a lone voice standing up on a soapbox yelling about how the rising tide, the blowing wind, the rising sun all were wrong and that my way was the better way.

So I'm on MyBook now.

Ping me...

July 7, 2012

All the pieces matter

July 5, 2012

Johnny Depp is hilarious

How can anyone not love Johnny Depp? He's just brilliant in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, hamming it up at every possible opportunity, putting on mustaches and accents, playing up the weirdness and freakiness at every turn. He's a blast and well worth watching the movie. He has a fake arm that he puts on while sitting at tables so he can hold a gun under the table with his real arm. He changes sunglasses and outfits each chance he gets, even wearing a CIA agent tshirt and a fanny pack in one scene - funny because his character is a CIA agent on an undercover operation. When he turns into a blinded gunfighter at the end, his character's arc is beautifully complete.

Admittedly, the rest of the film has to be taken with a grain of salt. It's over the top and ridiculous and an absolute blast throughout, but it's clear that Robert Rodriguez is having a hell of a lot of fun with all his high-profile friends. Makes for a fun capper to the trilogy that got Rodriguez's career started. Worth checking out, but I wouldn't start with this one. I'd end with it.

I still need to make puerco pibil, though.

Moonrise Kingdom - We're going to have to redo my rankings of my favorite Wes Anderson films, because we may just have a new clubhouse leader.

Every note of this film feels like a Wes Anderson film. The framing puts the characters dead in the center of the frame. There's an unexplained injury to a character (lazy eye's patch here). One set plays like a dollhouse with the camera tracking across and up and down through the rooms and stairwells. Children are oddly precocious. Colors are unnaturally saturated. Quirks are more common than normalcy. We look down from above on the characters. The film is gorgeous, and every scene is beautifully stylized. And there's Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, too.

What places this film among Anderson's most successful are the two strangely charismatic leads, both here in their first acting roles. The male lead, a deserting Khaki Scout, and the female lead, a troubled girl whose lawyerly parents don't know how to raise her and who goes berserk at times, absolutely carry the film and deserve every bit of praise that they get. These two actors are perfectly cast here as twelve-year-olds in love and willing to run away from their whole worlds for the chance to be together and eventually find themselves saved by their communities - Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and all the Khaki Scouts most especially.

Anderson has crafted another masterpiece, and I give this one my strongest recommendation. Beautiful, brilliant, touching film.

My favorite Wes Anderson films...
  1.  Moonrise Kingdom (4 stars)
  2. Fantastic Mr Fox (4 stars)
  3. The Royal Tenenbaums (3.5 stars)
  4. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (3 stars)
  5. The Darjeeling Limited (1.5 stars)

Catching Fire - Two books down, one to go in the Hunger Games  trilogy. I'm happier with the direction the story is going than where this book started. This book opens with Katniss back in District 12 as a winner of the Games, living a life of relative luxury and about to go on her victory tour of the various Districts and the Capital. Complications abound, however, as the President shows up to inform Katniss that her final Games act - showing up the Capital - wasn't appreciated and that she needs to make things right on her tour. Bit by bit Katniss finds out that there's more to President Snow's anger is based more on the titular catching fire throughout the Districts, something that Katniss finds out through drips and drabs overheard or seen by accident.

This first part of the story frustrated me as it took place mostly inside Katniss's head, narrated with her uncertainty and lack of satisfaction at the costs that have come with the phenomenal rise in her family's living standard. Yes, her prosperity comes with great costs, but her family never has to worry about going hungry again. They have a large house, and they can help lots of people in their community because of Katniss's success in the Hunger Games. So, of course, Katniss is miserable - in a way that so many teenage girls must love reading but that drove me nuts.

Once the next Hunger Games - with Katniss and Peeta back in the arena - kicks back into action, the book rolls along much more tightly, trading internal monologue and strife for external action and struggle. The layout of the new arena and the ways that Katniss and her team fight the arena - much more than they fight their opponents - is fascinating. I enjoyed the second half of the book far more than the first half. On balance this book was less fun than the first for me, but it does move the story along well, giving us a believable reason for the entirety of Panem to be on fire and to see Katniss as their symbol of revolution by the end of the book. Hopefully the next book will take place outside of Katniss's head.

Superman: The Black Ring (vol 1) - For a Superman volume where Superman doesn't appear even once, this is a pretty spectacular read.

Lex has been touched by the Rainbow Bright power rings. He got an orange one - greed, avarice, wanting - and has been changed by the experience. He's still brilliant and charming, always a half dozen steps ahead of any adversary - Mr Mind, Gorilla Grod, Vandal Savage, even Neil Gaiman's Death - that he meets in this volume, but he now has a goal other than destroying Superman. He wants to have the power of the black rings, power which seems have been spread around the planet. While Superman walks the world, Lex is scouring the world to collect the black rings' power and make himself immortal and unstoppable.

The creepiest addition to the Lex Luthor mythos in this volume is Lex's new robot Lois Lane assistant/sidekick/love doll. She matches Lex's intelligence and questions his decisions, forcing him to justify his choices - to her and to the readers along the way. There is no explanation given in this volume as to where 'Lois' came from, so I'm hoping that her creation was dealt with in a previous volume. If not, her introduction - as Lois with no initial mention of her robotic nature - is more than a little unsettling.

The exploration of Lexi's desires - to be Earth's heroes, to save Earth of his creation/people/leading, to have his own Lois Lane, to defeat Death - makes for an interesting and fun read. I'm hoping PLCH gets the second volume.

Captain America: A Man Out of Time - meh...this is ground that has been tread numerous times before. Sure it's well done here, but it's nothing novel. Skim it but don't give it much time.

Captain America: Two Americas - again, meh...we've just gotten Steve Rodgers back, and he's questioning whether he should ever pick up the shield again with Bucky doing a good job in the role. Then Bucky has to put down one of the former job holders.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl - meh...we all know that Bruce Wayne is coming back. All of this piddling around with 'who's going to be Batman' feels pointless. And now that we've gone New 52, it's even more pointless. I could put up with that, though, if we got a good story along the way. Instead we get sloppy artwork, poor dialogue, and painful reading.

X-Men: Curse of the Mutants: Mutants vs Vampires - blech...I look forward to the time when there isn't a vast, over-arching storyline through all the X-books. Because this collection grabs from each of the X-books, we get wildly inconsistent artwork and writing. These aren't the main storyline books, even. Nope, these are ancillary fill-in books meaning that unless you already know the storyline, you aren't going to get more then glimpses of it here. Stay away

July 4, 2012

Happy 4th

Enjoy the 4th, folks...a few suggestions...

Take a break and listen to NPR's Sound of Your America playlist.

Check out the most patriotic American ever...

Check a few things off of Nick Offerman's 4th of July to do list.

Learn something about George Washington. (I would embed the video, but it's pretty solidly .)

Grill some serious steak...

Get your hair did for the holiday...

Heck, practice a little political action for the holiday.

Enjoy some fireworks...(I suggest muting the sound on both these videos)

...but remember to be safe out there today, folks...

July 3, 2012

The Affordable Obamacare Act

Since last Thursday's Supreme Court decision that the Affordable Care Act (more commonly - and ofter derogatorily known as ObamaCare) is, indeed, constitutional but under Congress's authority to levy taxes not to regulate interstate commerce, much has been written and discussed.

Today I'm going to point out a few of the resources that I've found most helpful in my understanding of the case and the decision...

July 2, 2012

Trailer time

Movie trailers that have interested me of late...

The Man With the Iron Fists