July 30, 2014

But first, a little instrumental...

The minimum to make today's playlist was a thirty second (or longer) instrumental introduction to a song that most people will - I think - recognize.

See if you can name them all before the words kick in.

July 28, 2014

Maps, huh!

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind is exactly what it says: 19 maps that will blow your mind.

Really, though, it's an article that can't possibly be described properly. It needs to be read with little introduction or prior knowledge. Check it out for yourself then come back and discuss...

July 26, 2014

They seem to be on the roof of the Grand Bazaar

July 25, 2014

So, pit bulls

I am the proud owner of two pit bulls and the foster father to one more at the moment (and two more in the past year or so).

Yeah, I said pit bulls.

Here they are...

I know, I chose the dopeiest picture of the two (Hollis is the white one on the left, Clementine is the blue- that means this for dogs - brindle on the right), but I could've chosen a bunch of other goofy pics of the two...

They're spectacular, loving, kind, gentle dogs. They're the kind of dogs about which friends of ours have said after meeting them, "they didn't seem like pit bulls at all."

And it's that last part that's the kernel of today's post.

People think pit bulls are mean, vicious, terrifying, killer dogs. People look to ban pit bulls from their city. People read that pit bulls attack little children.

And I still own pit bulls.

And I foster pit bulls.

Because I've known a number of spectacular, gentle, loving pit bulls in my lifetime. My parents' first dog, the first dog in my home when I was born was a pit bull, a gorgeous, even-tempered, mostly black Staffordshire Terrier (a related if not identical breed to pit bulls) named Shebie.

I've been educated in the history of the pit bull breed (a bit of a misnomer as pit bull is a group of dogs, not a specific breed), and I know that the dogs that many people think are pit bulls aren't really pit bulls. Take this quick quiz to check your knowledge.

They can be trained to be vicious dogs, true. So can chihuahuas. So can German shepherds. So can miniature pinschers.

They can also be trained to be wonderful family dogs, loyal and protective, gentle with children and wonderfully intelligent.

Pit bulls can save lives. They can be police dogs.

No one should go into dog ownership - or pet ownership, really - blind, and if you're at all interested in learning more about pitties, do your research first and feel free to stop by one of the Adore-A-Bull adoption events.

And check out a recent Esquire article about The State of the American Dog. Good read...

July 23, 2014

Not so helpful statistics

Sorry for the watermark - source
WLWT.com published an article last week (I'll link, but I warn you that there's an auto-playing video with an advertisement right at the beginning) reporting that Fairfield City Schools has to hire 79 new teachers, 13% of their district staff; and Hamilton City Schools has to hire 40 new teachers, 6% of their district staff.

The entirety of the context given for those numbers is this quote, "[b]oth districts said that's a jump over previous years."

The article also says that Ross Schools has to hire 12 new teachers, 8% of their district staff, which is, "fewer new faces than the last two years."

No hard numbers from previous years...no comparative numbers from other districts...no state-wide averages for districts of similar sizes (or even of not-so-similar sizes.)

From second-hand information, I've heard that Princeton City Schools have hired 58 new teachers district-wide this summer, about 18% of our district teaching staff (plus another seven administrators). Anecdotally it seems higher than in previous years, but I don't have any hard evidence to prove that.

Numbers without context aren't useful.

In this case, they're just evidence of lazy reporting.

July 21, 2014


  • The Purge - I'd heard that this movie was an interesting turn on a typical horror/torture movie. It wasn't. It was awful and boring and predictable and lazy. It's a home invasion movie that only has drama because of a series of stupid decisions by the protagonists. Stay away from this one.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes -Easily that finest film of the week - which could be very faint praise since the rest of the films were such crap. This is one to see on the big screen because the special effects are outstanding, creating more believable digital characters than we've ever seen before. Every ape is well on the happy side of the uncanny valley, showing very human emotion and communicating with each other marvelously. This is a film where the apes are clearly the main characters. The humans are the drivers of the film, but this isn't a film about the humans. This is a movie about how ape society continues to mature - often in negative ways, seeing the peace and harmony disappear as ephemerally as it sadly does in human society. Very enjoyable...not quite heart-wrenching, but certainly worth a watch. I would very much suggest seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes first, though. This is a strong sequel (not a soft sequel like the next film).
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me -Moderately interesting but not quite successful comedy showing a man's lack of maturation through two marriages, raising a child, his ex-wife dying. The part is played by the same actor throughout with no aging makeup at all, as though he wasn't maturing in the least. I guess that was supposed to be symbolic. It didn't work well. enough that I can recommend it.
  • Drinking Buddies - Plot summary - two friends drink and flirt, but they're in separate relationships that aren't exactly movie-style true love...one relationship survives, the other doesn't...nothing comes from the flirting. I actually liked it more once I saw in the extras that the film was made without a script, that the lead actors (Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, a couple of guys who were pretty much window dressing as far as I was concerned) had a plot outline but not a full script throughout the film. That explained the lack of snappy lines and witty comebacks and significant plot movement. It's not bad, but there's not much happening here.
  • Kick-Ass 2 - This is an atrocious, offensive, hyper-violent film. The first graphic novel was interesting in its exploration of costumed heroes in a non-super-hero world. The first movie lost some of that by ignoring many of the rules that it set in place and just turning the non-super heroes far more super-powered. The second comic, then, took the story into a far darker, sicker, more disgusting place, and the second film follows right along.

    Don't watch this film. There's no happiness, nothing joyful or even remotely pleasant even. Yuck. It's not even stylish enough to merit a watch.
  • Daredevil (by Mark Waid) vol 4 & 5 - I begin to wonder if Daredevil hasn't been written into a corner. His identity is semi-public (a little more, a little less depending on the writer's needs of the moment). His love life is one big disaster. His professional life as an attorney is all but pointless since he's kind of a vigilante. I don't necessarily see how the plot can be rehabilitated, but Marvel continues to try, having rebooted Daredevil in 2011 and not again in 2014.

    The two volumes I read of late come from the 2012-13 period in which a paralyzed Bullseye strikes out at Daredevil through - get this - people that he loves. No, really, a superhero gets attacked by going after the people he loves. In Daredevil's case, he also gets attacked by Bullseye recreating this accident that gave Matt Murdock (Daredevil) his powers and sending a near-unbeatable assassin after him. Daredevil wins, of course, and stops just short of killing Bullseye along the way.

    Enjoyable enough read, but continuing a cycle that happens every couple of years to daredevil.
  • Nemo: Heart of Ice and Nemo: Roses of Berlin by Alan Moore - Moore continues to mine the fictional-historical-literature landscape of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in these two (the first two of three) tales focusing on Captain Nemo, a title that has been passed to the daughter of the original Nemo who was a major mover in the first volume of the League. Here we see the new, female Nemo retaking an antarctic expedition that left her father nearly mad (Heart of Ice) and rescuing her daughter and son-in-law from the clutches of World War II-era Germans (Roses of Berlin). Moore again brings in brilliant references to literature - many references I am sure that I missed in addition to the numerous ones that I did manage to catch. The antarctic expedition sees Nemo facing some of the Old Ones of Lovecraftian mythos chased by American hirelings after revenge for a deathless African queen. The same African queen returns to plague Nemo in Roses as Nemo must delve into a Murnau-inspired Berlin (not quite Nazi but just a street or two to the side, lead by Hynkle instead of Hitler.

    The volume aren't essential, and they're not to the level of greatness of the first two League volumes, but they are more linear and almost easier to read because of that. Plus, O'Neill seems to absolutely revel in drawing the fantastical Berlin. Worth reading (after the first two Leagues)
  • Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z (Book 1) - I don't get it, man. Captain America is somehow transported to another dimension where Arnim Zola has set up a factory to create and subjugate mutants. The Cap escapes but only after having a Zola screen/virus implanted into his chest and having stolen one of Zola's human children, a baby boy that Cap then raises on his own. The volume ends with Cap ripping the Zola from his chest, leaving a gaping, one-foot-square hole.

    Skip it...even Romita Jr's artwork couldn't redeem this.
  • Superior Spider-Man: Team Up - I dug the Superior Spider-Man era and haven't read to the end via collections. This shows an interesting series of team ups between Spider-Man (as inhabited by Doc Ock) and various members of the Marvel universe (the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, Daredevil, and others), all of whom react interestingly to this not-quite-Peter-Parker Spider-Man. It's fun to see the other heroes recognize that something isn't quite right but that things might be better or at least good enough. Worth a read.
Actual books...
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood - I'm relistening to this one as the start of the trilogy. I'd read the book a decade ago as part of a book club in Northside, and I enjoyed the book then. I did wonder at the time why the ending was so open-ended, so inconclusive, and now that I know it's the opener to a trilogy, I understand that better. Still a fun read of a world headed for - and already in, in fact - a biologically-brought-about apocalypse.
  • MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood - Turns out this is the third book in the Oryx & Crake trilogy. I read it second, however, and it does being directly after the actions that conclude Oryx & Crake, so I would argue that reading it next does make some sense. As I've begun the other book in the trilogy (Year of the Flood), I did wonder why Atwood seemed to have jumped back to fill in some of the backstory of many of the Gods Gardeners characters from MaddAddam, but I might suggest reading MaddAddam just after reading Oryx. Much of the book is told in flashbacks as Zeb explains his past to Toby, but the device works well. Admittedly, there isn't a whole lot of present-time action going on, but there is a lot of lead-up. This is a 'how-did-they-get-there' volume, filling in the backstories of many of the characters that we met in Oryx and in Year of the Flood. Worth a read but only as part of the trilogy. It wouldn't stand on its own.

July 20, 2014

Forty-five years ago today

That isn't a photo of the first footprint on the moon.

Sadly THE first footprint was obscured underneath a few of the next footprints as Neil Armstrong ensured that he could get back up to the lunar landing module.

That is, however, one of the first few footprints on the moon, a footprint made forty-five years ago today by Neil Armstrong and quickly followed up by Buzz Armstrong making a few of his own.

In my eyes, there hasn't been a greater accomplishment by modern mankind than our half dozen manned moon landings between 1969 and 1972.

And then we stopped.

We haven't been back.

Which is tragically sad.

Read up on Armstrong & Aldrin's short time on the moon here.

July 18, 2014

Today's random ten tunes

Today's random ten iTunes and my comments about them...
  • "Political Science" by Jeff Tweedy - Not bad. I like the original by Randy Newman better, and the recording from Wilco's Kicking Television is far better quality.
  • "Colluden's Harvest" by Deanta - Sadness in a bunch but at least from a really pretty voice.
  • "La Grange" by ZZ Top - Probably my favorite ZZ Top song ever. Love the blues walk of the bass line...love the 'how how how how' of the growled vocal.
  • "Shenandoah" by Bill Frisell - This is my favorite song ever...not my favorite version of it, pretty enough...instrumental enough...too slow...I miss the words.
  • "Black Velvet Band" by The Dubliners - This is the version that Bunion played at the Bond Bar while I was in Aberdeen. I loved my evenings in that bar, and I love this song by the transitive property.
  • "Einstein on the Beach: Trial 1 - All Men Are Equal" by Philip Glass - I've written about my experiences seeing this performed. My wife is a wonderful woman. I love the whole opera, even this freaky piece.
  • "Let Go" by Frou Frou - Ah, Garden State...very much of an era, of a feeling...great soundtrack...good song
  • "Light a Roman Candle With Me" by fun. - Feels very much older than it is, almost vaudville-era in the bouncy lyrics.
  • "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by David McCallum - I went through an period when I listened to - and bought - a bunch of lounge music. This is from On the Rocks - lounge versions of all your favorite rock songs. It's entertaining enough.
  • "One Way or Another" by Blondie - We need more Blondie in our lives.

July 16, 2014


How the heck did I not know this existed until now?

July 13, 2014

I'm so fancy...

July 11, 2014

Lego news roundup

A few bits and bobs of Lego news that caught my eye of late...

  •  Seriously, GREEN spacemen!
  • LEGO Ideas Exo-Suit finally revealed - Check out the comments from Lego_Nabii, the LEGO designer who was tasked with translating from the original Ideas proposal to the actual set. It's a great insight into the business/design process at the Lego group.
  • Stressing the elements - The discussion of the Exo-Suit design mentioned a number of illegal connections, and I wasn't as knowledgeable about what those were as I would like to be. Thankfully, one of the redditors linked to this presentation clearing things up.
  • Lego hands fit cables perfectly - who knew?

July 9, 2014

Looking back at Batman (1989)

I have noticed what I consider to be an annoying trend in celebrating pretty much every film's every five-year anniversary via news article posts of 'twenty-five facts you didn't know about StepMom (or whatever crappy movie)!'

Yes, I love Big Trouble in Little China, but I don't need Buzzfeed providing me with thirty-seven new facts about it (or about The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai) in honor of thirtieth anniversary just because your website is trying to get me to click through a few more times.

That being said, I have no problems with the recent celebrations of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Batman (1989). Whether it's Wired's argument that the tug of war between Tim Burton's and the studio's visions of the film made it fascinating or Comics Alliance's multi-part, week-long celebration of the film, I'm down with it all because - for me - Batman is where comic books hit the big screen.

Yeah, I remember Superman and even saw Superman II and III on the big screen, but I was eight when III dropped a Richard Pryor bomb into the middle of a comic book movie.

I was fourteen when Batman hit the screen. I was a teenager deep into my comic-book buying trend. Probably seventy-five cents of every dollar I got in allowance went to filling my next long box from the Great Escape whenever I could get my parents (or Wayne's, let's be honest) to drive me over there.

Batman was gorgeous and stylish, dark and colorful at the same time. It had Michael Keaton stumbling in trying to reveal his other side to Vicki Vale (a low spot in Keaton's portrayal). It had Prince's very-Prince'ish soundtrack (high point)...

It mashed the origin of the Joker into Joe Chill's killing of Thomas and Martha Wayne (another low point). It gave us brilliant scenes like these...

Batman was THE movie of 1989. 1989 was the summer of Batman - not Batman but rather Batman. It wasn't the best movie of the year (that was either Field of Dreams or Born on the Fourth of July). It wasn't the biggest world-wide earner that year (Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade was that). It was, however, the biggest hype machine of the year, the movie that had been coming and Coming and COMING for a year. Batman was finally here!

It's far from a perfect film (Chris Sims even wrote, "This is a pretty good Tim Burton movie. It’s an awful Batman movie. It misunderstands basically every aspect of the character.") - and in a radically different direction, the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman films are much much better, but I do love it so. 

PS: Oh, and if you the chance, check out these two things...the video for Prince's "Partyman" song from the Batman soundtrack (sadly un-embedable because it's Prince)...and this synopsis of the plot of Batman based only on a listen to the soundtrack.

July 7, 2014

Just the right amount of wrong

It was the music from the above commercial that really caught my ear while I heard it in my hotel room in Houston a couple of weeks ago.

Then I saw the second commercial, and it had the same music, too.

I love the music there, so I went hunting and found a couple of articles about the ad campaign and the past campaigns of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Turns out it's an instrumental of the Mos Def song, "Twilite Speedball."

July 4, 2014

Our Pets...a 'free' photo book

I've been collecting MyCokeReward points for a few years, primarily redeeming them to get free magazine subscriptions. A month or so ago, however, Shutterfly offered up a free offer to anyone redeeming some sort of drink points, a free photo 8"x8" photo book.

After shipping, of course, the book ended up costing $7.99 (and the free shipping offers online couldn't be combined with the Coke offer), but I think the book turned out pretty well.

In a week or so, I'll have it in my hands and be able to tell you the quality of a Shutterfly book (in case you were curious, of course.)

July 2, 2014

My musical radar

...more comic book radar, really...

Great stuff...
  • Saga, vol 3 - This continues to be fascinating with wildly un-human characters doing incredibly human things. There're also two new plot lines - two reporters come hunting the Alana/Marko pairing, and Marko's mother perhaps finds a new love. Great stuff
  • Locke and Key: Alpha and Omega - The series is done, finished, marvelously well wrapped up. I cried, admittedly, as key characters went away - one of whom does come back in the end. I can't imagine a more perfect wrap-up than Joe Hill manages here.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis - It's a slow build to the marvelous close, but it's worth getting there. I do warn that it's slow getting there, very...very...very slow. Stick with it; it's worth it.
  • Breaking Bad, season 1 - We finally got to...and through...the first season of Breaking Bad, and it was well worth the time and investment. Second season up next...
Decent stuff
  • The World's End -fun set-up (former friends get back to their hometown to finish a long-past pub crawl only to find the town over-run by aliens...or robots...or something)...and occasionally fun to get there, but the finale is stupid...
  • Prophet - hard to follow because the artwork is very hard to distinguish and because the plot is weirdly repetitive but unconnected (cloned John Prophets on wildly spread planets trying to get back together)...interesting ideas but not worth fighting through or hunting down another volume...
  • Jazz by Queen - not a great album from a great group...way too disco-influenced
  • FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) - When the laws of physics are breaking down, there has to be a governmental agency to protect us...in fiction there does, anyway...interesting enough to give the second volume a check when it comes out
Bad stuff
  • Dexter (comic) - This is an awful volume putting out a story with little of the feeling of the television show and using the realm of comics to make a far-grander (and far-less-human) story. To be avoided...

July 1, 2014

First Listen: Old Crow Medicine Show's Remedy

Old Crow Medicine Show has a new album out, and it's up for full streaming on NPR's First Listen.

Check it out...