June 30, 2015


There are so many things to say about Kanye and particularly about his performance at Glasontbury from this past week.

We have to remember that his voice is actually awful, as the above video shows us. He can't sing. He can't carry a tune in a bucket without electronic assistance.

His electronic voice, however, is fascinating and musical, and this, I think, has to be viewed as an instrument in his case. Most trumpet players I know can't make trumpet sounds without the assistance of their instrument, and Kanye can't make musical noises without his electronic assistance.

He's also a fascinating showman. His set, the gigantic rig of white spotlights, must have been gorgeous for the crowd, and it makes for brilliant television, providing gorgeous silhouettes of a solo black man stalking an empty stage in front of the spotlights.

But I would imagine that watching a single person stalk an empty stage under lights too bright to stare directly into would've made for awful watching from anything but the most close-to-the-stage fans.

Oh, and Kanye brings out the dumbest in people...

I will forever say that I think Kanye's public persona is as obnoxious as it comes, but he produces some outstanding music.

He is probably a pretty intelligent man - building a public persona that has made him rich beyond any level I could ever imagine.

I wish I could somehow listen to his music without knowing anything about him, but that seems to be impossible.

June 29, 2015

Long live the long peace

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.

We live in a time of historic peace.

May we say that for decades to come.

...if you need reminding of that, check out the above video and the associated website.

June 27, 2015

You know all that. You know the whole story.

On my mark: One month

June 19, 2015

Vonne Gut Reactions: Timequake


I recently completed my quest to read and review all of Kurt Vonnegut's fourteen novels, a task I had originally set for myself during school year 2012-13 and which I completed in the summer of 2015.

And so it goes.
First, let me point out that Timequake was the least fictional of Vonnegut's novels. He offers up the following in the book's introduction after speaking about Hemingway and he last novels, his fish, as it were...My great big fish, which stunk so, was entitled Timequake. Let us think of it as Timequake One. And let us think of this one, a stew made from its best parts mixed with thoughts and experiences during the past seven months or so, as Timequake Two.

And that's a fairly apt description of the Timequake that I held in my hands. It's not a linear story, but it does contain parts of a linear story. It also contains what might be called essay fragments written from Vonnegut's point of view that aren't any part of the story, that only sometimes relate to the story, and that are told directly to the readers without any pretense of inclusion in a fictional narrative.

This is, in the end, the purest of Vonnegut. He includes Kilgore Trout - offers a far more sympathetic salute to the man than he did when the character first met his author and alter ego in Breakfast of Champions - and the Tralfamadorians. He offers up his viewpoints sometimes couched in fiction but quite often without the thinnest of veils that Vonnegut has offered us through the course of his writing. Vonnegut even gives us a sketch of Trout, himself, as shown above.

Here Kurt - it feels wrong to call him by his first name, he's too big for that, too massive in my head - Vonnegut is saying good bye and possibly realizing that he doesn't have another novel in him any more. The book was published in 1997, and though Vonnegut would live another decade, he never published anything more that would be called a novel.

To my notes...
  • dedication - "All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental." This is a sentiment that has been espoused by Vonnegut in many of his books: that we are here entirely by luck. Some of his characters are crippled by this, and others are freed. It's all in your attitude, I guess.
  • p5 - "Human rights? What could be more indifferent to the rights of any form of life than an H-bomb?" - Another common Vonnegut thought: that weapons of war are indifferent to who they are killing. This leads to the just and the unjust being endangered just alike.
  • p10 - "I made sandwiches of German soldiers between an erupting Earth and an exploding sky, and in a blizzard of razor blades." - Vonnegut has frequently described horrific acts in odd, uncommon descriptions. Here Trout is describing what he did during World War II and how he viewed those acts.
  • p11 - "If I had it to do all over again, I would choose to be born again in a hospital in Indianapolis. I would choose to spend my childhood again at 4365 North Illinois Street, about ten blocks from here, and to again be a product of that city's public schools." - Vonnegut goes on to describe how he would live his life exactly as he had the first time. He doesn't think that doing things any differently would have made him any happier. 
  • p12 - "If this isn't nice, what is?" - One of Vonnegut's most famous lines...
  • p16 - The Booboolings (from another planet) have a 'weird' custom through which they talk to their offspring and explain how they should act, how they should feel, how they should believe. The Booboolings even make their youngsters read books and explain how they should feel about the situations therein. - Yup, Vonnegut observing his world and explaining it from the perspective of an alien.
  • p18 - The Booboolings stop this custom when television is introduced. Instead of needing to divert themselves and their children from boredom (as they did with the books), they simply sit and watch televisions..."and automobiles and computers and barbed wire and flamethrowers and land mines and machine guns and so on." - Technology hasn't made our world any better in Vonnegut's eyes.
  • p19 - "The moral at the end of that story is this: 'Men are jerks. Women are psychotic.' "- Yeah, Vonnegut doesn't have the most positive image of women.
  • p23 - "My great-grandfather Peter Lieber...was a Freethinker, which is to say a skeptic about conventional religious beliefs...as would be Kilgore Trout and I." - Vonnegut is long-known to be an areligious man. That comes up again later in the book again.
  • p28 - "The late British philosopher Bertrand Russell said he lost friends to one of three addictions: alcohol or religion or chess." - I don't know that chess is a major addiction that I can think of, but the inclusion of religion there again echoes Vonnegut's areligious status.
  • p30 - "in Timequake One...by the year 2000, [writers] had become 'as quaint', in the opinion of the general public, 'as contemporary makers in New England tourist towns of the toy windmills known since colonial times as whirligigs." - Again, echoing the Booboolings, Vonnegut thinks that writers have become obsolete since the invention of television, and I don't think he believes that's a positive thing.
  • p43 - Tralfamadore makes another, final appearance. This time it's as a planet where 'representatives of all the chemical elements held a meeting...to protest some of their members' having been incorporated into the bodies of big, sloppy, stinky organisms as cruel and stupid as human beings." - It's actually a fascinating idea, and I would very much read the story, maybe even use it in class. It's not a short story that is developed beyond the sketch stage as are so many of Trout's short stories.
  • p44 - In the short story of the elements' conference, "Sulfur...made a motion that all chemicals involved in medical research combine wherever possible to create ever more powerful antibiotics. These in turn would cause disease organisms to evolve new strains that were resistant to them." - We've seen the idea of antibiotics leading to stronger diseases, though there they were tests from the Tralfamadorians to make better space travelers (the diseases). Clearly the idea of antibiotic-lead evolution was an idea that stuck with Vonnegut.
  • p46 - From Trout's memoir of the timequake, My Ten Years on Automatic Pilot, "Listen, if it isn't a timequake dragging us through knothole after knothole, it's something just as mean and powerful." - In spite of Vonnegut's famous quote about how nice this is, he really does espouse the belief that much of life is suffering, that life is generally a horrible time.
  • p51 - Here is the joke to which I linked at the very top. It's dirty, I warn you, but it's a great example of Vonnegut's characters making tragedy into dark humor.
  • p56 - Vonnegut offers this quote from his sister Allie, "If there is a God, He sure hates people. That's all I can say" - Vonnegut saw some pretty awful things in his life - suicide, war, hatred - and that (or something) left him pretty skeptical about God and how He could create a world such as this.
  • p57 - "For anybody who could believe in God, as you once did, it would be a piece of cake to believe in the plant BooBoo." - See, believing in God is like believing in a ridiculous, fictional story.
  • p63 - Trout here, not Vonnegut, "If I'd wasted my time creating [three-dimensional] characters," Trout said, "I would never have gotten around to calling attention to things that really matter: irresistible forces in nature, and cruel inventions, and cockamamie ideals and governments and economies that make heroes and heroines alike feel like something the cat drug in." - Yeah, that's Vonnegut as Trout right there.
  • p68 - Vonnegut's three favorite quotes...
    • A friend, Ted Adler, had rebuilt an ell for Vonnegut and at the end stepped back in shock and said, "How the hell did I do that?" because it was too well done for his understanding.
    • "The second is Jesus Christ's 'Who is it they say I am?' "
    • "The third is from my son Mark, pediatrician and watercolorist and sax player. I've already quoted him in another book: 'We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.' "
    • That about sums up Vonnegut's thoughts on the world...shock at beauty...skepticism and irreverence at religion...be kind to each other because the world's hard enough.
  • p71 - Hitler's last words, according to a short story by Kilgore Trout: "I never asked to be born in the first place." - see the dedication...we're here randomly.
  • p81 - Vonnegut is describing Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms as his nephew sees it, "he was close to tears because he had to read, having been forced to do so by a professor, A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway." Vonnegut recaps the novel and says thusly, "The tears Hemingway has made you want to shed are tears of relief! It looked like the guy was going to have to get married and settle down. But then he didn't have to [because she and the baby died]. Whew! What a close shave!" - Wow, Vonnegut on marriage.
  • p93 - From Trout's My Ten Years on Automatic Pilot again, "I didn't need a timequake to teach me being alive was a crock of [poop]. I already knew that from my childhood and crucifixes and history books." - Yup, a ray of sunshine, our little Kurt.
  • p104 - Discussing Isaac Newton's brain, "And well might any educated person excrete a sizable chunk of masonry when contemplating the tremendously truthful ideas this ordinary mortal, seemingly, uttered with no more to go by, as far as we know, than signals from his dog's breakfast [Vonnegut's description of a brain] from his three and a half pounds of blood soaked sponge. This one naked ape invented differential calculus! He invented the reflecting telescope! He discovered and explained how a prism breaks a beam of sunlight into its constituent colors! He detected and wrote down previously unknown laws governing motion and gravity and optics!" - Yeah, Newton is the bomb, but Vonnegut's description of all these idea (positive here, far more negative in the Booboolings) coming from a dog's breakfast, three and a half pounds of blood-soaked sponge is appropriate.
  • p117 - Jane, Vonnegut's first wife, died a believer in God, an Episcopalian after having been raised a Quaker. "She died believing in the Trinity and Heaven and Hell and all the rest of it. I'm so glad. Why? Because I loved her." Earlier, on page 73, Vonnegut mourned for his "buddy Bernard V. O'Hare, now dead, [who] lost his faith as a Roma Catholic during World War Two. I didn't like that. I thought that was too much to lose." - Vonnegut himself never had faith (he says as much in the next paragraph on page 74). He is happy for those who have faith and sad for those who lose it. That's really interesting.
  • p139 - "In real life, as during  a rerun following a timequake, people don't change, don't learn anything from their mistakes, and don't apologize." - Man, that's dark.
  • p152 - Vonnegut proposes two amendments to the Constitution, "Article XXVIII: Every newborn shall be sincerely welcomed and cared for until maturity. Article XXIX: Every adult who needs it shall be given meaningful work to do, at a living wage." - Those are pretty liberal ideas there, Kurt. I wish they could come true, too.
  • p162 - "[T]he British astronomer Fred Hoyle said something to this effect: That believing in Darwin's theoretical mechanisms of evolution was like believing that a hurricane could blow through a junkyard and build a Boeing 747." - Not quite...more like believing a hurricane - given a billion chances - could put two parts together. Once those are put together and stay together better than they do separately, a billion more hurricanes will put a third part together. Repeat until a plane exists.
  • p169 - " I had to add, though, that I knew of a single word that proved our democratic government was capable of committing obscene, gleefully rabid and racist, yahooistic murders of unarmed men, women, and children, murders wholly devoid of military common sense. I said the word. It was a foreign word. That word was Nagasaki." - Vonnegut has repeatedly said that the bombing of Hiroshima can be defended (he won't, but it can be) but that Nagasaki's can't be.
  • p183 - One of my favorite foreign phrases, "Esprit de l'escalier!" and Vonnegut never explains it, so I won't either. I love that phrase.
  • p191 - The Girl got to hear Vonnegut speak at Indiana University once. She related to me a story that he told there about a postal worker woman with whom he was secretly - even from her - in love. Here he tells that same story. It's beautiful.
  • p202 - Vonnegut quotes from Abe Lincoln in Illinois: a play in three acts and includes a large passage from Lincoln. I quote a short part of that, "I have heard of an eastern monarch who once charged his wise man to invent him a sentence which would be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, 'And this too shall pass away.' " - I'm actually kind of surprised that Vonnegut didn't ever use that phrase as one of his books' choruses. 
  • p211 -
    "I got a sappy letter from a woman a while back. She knew I was sappy, too, which is to say a northern Democrat. She was pregnant, and she wanted to know if it was a mistake to bring an innocent little baby into a world this bad.

    I replied that what made being alive almost worthwhile for me was the saints I met, people behaving unselfishly and capably. They turned up in the most unexpected places. Perhaps you, dear reader, are or can become a saint for her sweet child to meet.

    I believe in original sin. I also believe in original virtue. Look around!
    Vonnegut is just a walking contradiction - believing that the world is horrible, that the people in it do horrible things to each other, but also that there are saints.
  • p216 - Vonnegut tells a story about a letter that he wrote once and anonymously to his uncle about his brother. It's too long to relate here (read it on Google Books if you want to). It made me laugh out loud.
Vonnegut ends the book in very touching fashion.

I'm thrilled that Kurt wrote such a wonderful and beautiful and meandering and personal final novel.

I thank him digitally.

And I am thrilled that he was here to make our world - my world, especially - a much better place.

June 18, 2015

Really Looney

Looney Tunes did some weird stuff...the above is just one of the five featured over on Mental Floss's article that says pretty much exactly that same thing.

June 17, 2015

Forward or Delete?

Yeah, there's Snopes, and they do have a pretty good fauxtography category.

Into this arena, though, comes the Forward or Delete column from Gawker, in which they take four or five photos making the rounds this week and either debunk or endorse their veracity.

For example...delete (not true), forward (true), forward, delete...in that order here...

June 16, 2015

I'm sorry, but Anna Kendrick

Sorry, but I love Anna Kendrick (of the great Twitter feed)...

I warn you, there's just more YouTube clips of Anna Kendrick after the jump.

Feel free to come back tomorrow if you don't love Anna Kendrick. You know, if you hate joy.

June 15, 2015

Please don't take my man...

The Simpsons and a bit of hubris

For two or three straight collectible minifigure series, I'd gone - with the help of Calen mostly - sixteen for sixteen, not getting a single duplicate.

I thought I was hot stuff. I'd helped kids in the stores and parents of kids, even.

This time was a little different as a student of mine gave me a trio of figures as an end of the year gift, three un-searched bags. Those turned out to be two unique figures and a duplicate, but that's not on me. I didn't pick those.

So, I had fourteen for fourteen in my sights.

Calen and I headed to the Lego store a couple of weeks ago, getting there around 10:30 on a Wednesday morning with our fingers all limbered up to pick the necessary fourteen.

At eleven-oh-five we left the store thinking we had our fourteen. Plus we'd helped one of the employees by filling in five or six of his needs, too.

Then I got home and found a duplicate.

Thirteen for fourteen.

Perfection lost with the slip of a stack, because there's no way we mixed up Martin Prince (the one we missed) with either Patty or Selma (whichever one has the blue dress and the eye chart). Selma's hair is way too distinct, plus she has full-size legs as opposed to Martin's short, hinge-less legs. And we definitely didn't get a book mixed up with a 2x2 tile.

Along the way, though, I did pick up two other sets (70166 because of the carbon fiber/conductive bricks and 60077 because the gold-helmed astronauts look awesome) so I could get to the $75 reward, Winter Soldier figure.

That's okay, though, because with five minutes (and five bags) of searching at WalMart, I found my Prince.

June 12, 2015

This week's big purchase

Bought myself two of each of these items...

It's kind of sad how excited I was when I found these on Amazon. I need to replace a few of my originals because they didn't survive the shipping for summer camp.

They're great for demonstrating that crystals with more empty space make for less workable metals. See, the top ones (the rainbow ones) have individual ice cube trays that are close together, little space between them. The trays slide back and forth past each other easily when they're turned so the ridges of one tray are against the ridges of the other tray.

The other ones (the white ones) have more empty space between them, bigger gaps. When you show the wider-spaced trays trying to slide back and forth past each other, the individual trays get stuck because they dip down into those gaps of the other tray.

More empty space = less workable metals

June 11, 2015

Would you like to play a game?

There's a new bar in Cincinnati, 16-Bit, down in OTR.

Their schtick is that they have a whole bunch of 80s video game consoles that are all set on free play. Buy a drink, play for free.

I've been to the Columbus version and had a blast. The Cincy location, though, is new.

I'm there as soon as I get back from SC.

Wonder if they have a way to play Falken's Maze.

June 10, 2015

Update: QuizMeUp

Some updates on where I am in my attempts to get every achievement in QuizUp...

I've passed 9000 games (actually up to 9265 as I post this) played on my quest to get the Ubreakable achievement (10,000 games played)...

...and am at 79% winning percentage which means I have about 7320 wins on my way to Praetorian status (needing 10,000 wins to earn it)...

Currently I'm working my way through the 80's Music category, having gotten now to level 43 and being (at least before this week's vacation in a South Carolina campground (and likely without much cell reception) in the top ten in the world in that category for this month...


...even having beaten the number one player in the world in that category.

Go me!

June 9, 2015

Her own name blog!

Kerry Callen has a blog.

On the blog, she posts comic-book-related artwork like the animated cover above (and others)...

...parody comic artwork...

...a search for the best 'battle of the century'...

...modern recreations of classic comic covers, and a whole bunch more comic-y goodness.

June 8, 2015

The new spin on food

I appreciate my food with a side of cheek.

That's why I'm enjoying Deadspin's epicurean offshoot, Foodspin

They've got chucklesome columns like Which animals are the worst to eat morally?

Food-related columns like their thoughts about new LiquiGlide-coated bottles.

And a bunch of recipe columns with a healthy dosing of vulgarity and snark like how to roast a chicken, make arrabbiata sauce, and cook lobster tails.

Be warned that the site is slightly NSFW, but it's at least entertaining.

June 5, 2015

A California song...or forty

I still need to add a couple of songs to the California playlist, but otherwise, it's pretty solidly put together.

Enjoy it.

June 4, 2015

Wants and duty

I've been a Netflix subscriber since October now, having finished up Breaking Bad then working all the way through Archer, Sherlock, Better Off Ted, and as far as Good Eats allows on Netflix as well as almost all the way through Buffy the Vampire Slayer and about halfway through Mad Man and Peaky Blinders. Feel free to check out what I've watched. I've got no secrets on that list.

But there's a little bit of a problem...

See, it looks like Netflix's CEO, Reed Hastings, has a bit of an opinion about education. To quote from the Washington Post...(where they're quoting the transcript of his speech to the California Charter Schools Association)...
And so the fundamental problem with school districts is not their fault, the fundamental problem is that they don’t get to control their boards and the importance of the charter school movement is to evolve America from a system where governance is constantly changing and you can’t do long term planning to a system of large non-profits…The most important thing is that they constantly get better every year they’re getting better because they have stable governance — they don’t have an elected school board. And that’s a real tough issue. Now if we go to the general public and we say, “Here’s an argument why you should get rid of school boards” of course no one’s going to go for that. School boards have been an iconic part of America for 200 years. So what we have to do is to work with school districts to grow steadily, and the work ahead is really hard because we’re at 8% of students in California, whereas in New Orleans they’re at 90%, so we have a lot of catchup to do…So what we have to do is continue to grow and grow… It’s going to take 20-30 years to get to 90% of charter kids….And if we succeed over the next 20 or 30 years, that will be one of the fastest rates of change ever seen around the world for a large system, it’s hard. [applause]
I've been forgoing Chik-fil-A sandwiches for a while now, but giving up the Netflix will be way harder.

Maybe I'll just start writing letters to Mr Hastings every couple of days.

June 3, 2015

Least I Could Lego

Least I Could Do: the comic is very much NSFW throughout the vast majority of its run.

The past week, though, has been Lego-centric and fully SFW. Heck, there's a kid in the strips, even.

Check out these couple then start at the beginning and work forward from there.

June 2, 2015

Perfection on various courts

I love the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

Mostly, anyway. Really, I love the existence of and idea of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

The execution of the Hall, though, is sadly dated and a bit stale.

Yes, I loved watching the introductory slide show the first time I saw it, but that was twenty-some years ago when the Hall opened.

And many of the exhibits were interesting...the first time.

I've, in fact, thought about donating a couple days of my summer time to help the Hall do some of the grunt work around the place, relabeling, correcting, dusting, whatever-they-needing.

I am more than excited (ecstatic, joyous, bubbly, thrilled), however, that the Hall is filming a replacement introductory video.

They've been filming some pretty impressive, Indiana basketball greats (both men and women) in some pretty outstanding locations...
  • Damon Bailey in Bedford's gym (wish they'd visited Seymour High School)
  • Larry Bird in...maybe his restaurant in Terre Haute
  • Oscar Robertson in...maybe his house
  • Steve Alford in the New Castle Fieldhouse, largest high school gym in the world and one of my favorite sports venues
  • George McGinnis in Indianapolis Washington High School
  • Bobby Plump in Hinkle Fieldhouse
  • Stephanie White in Banker's Life Fieldhouse
  • Katie Douglas (ok, I don't know her) in Southport High School's gym
  • Judi Warren (1st Miss Basketball) in Hinkle Fieldhouse
Check out the photos on their Facebook post about the new film. Here are a couple of my favorites.

June 1, 2015

Thinking about 100 wise words

Allegedly, "an econ teacher gave his senior high school students his personal list of wisest words...and they make a lot of sense."

Thoughts about them...
  • 2 - I'm gonna disagree. Text messaging is more and more acceptable.
  • 4 - Valid...always be more generous than you think you should be.
  • 5 - Disagree again. You aren't part of the home team. You aren't a Red or a Bengal or a Buckeye - unless you attended Ohio State University yourself. Otherwise, you aren't part of 'we.' The government this, yes, 'we' are part of the government.
  • 9 - Know your audience. Sometimes you have to dumb things down for the audience. Don't undersell them, but sometimes you have to bring the level down to them.
  • 13 - We're all entitled to legroom and comfort. The means the person in front of you is allowed to kick back.
  • 14 - First fish? Who gives a crap? I'd say to take picture of everything - your first house, first dog, first boy/girlfriend, date, anything.
  • 17 - True...they need to know it all.
  • 18 - I'm not a gun guy, but this one's totally true.
  • 20 - That's sometimes tough, but yes, wear their presents at least once in their presence.
  • 21 - For a week
  • 22 - Man, sometimes bread is awesome.
  • 23 - Seriously, who gives a crap about an autograph. That'll just end up in a drawer somewhere. The handshake, though, is a far better memory.
  • 27 - I'd say do it about a week before.
  • 31 - I need to take that advice, myself.
  • 33 - No, it isn't ever too late. Apologize if you were wrong - or even if you weren't but they think you were.
  • 38 - It's not funny. Don't push anybody into a pool or off a dock.
  • 39 - Yeah, if she wants you to know, she'll offer.
  • 42 - When giving any speech, really.
  • 47 - Be appreciative. Don't say, "oh, is it..." because the best that happens is that you ruin the surprise and the worst is that you make them think you want something other than what they got you. No good either way...
  • 55 - Say less rather than more, always.
  • 56 - See #33.
  • 59 - Add in everybody who helps or serves you, anyone who makes your life easier by them doing their job. Admittedly, I have no idea how or when to tip, though.
  • 60 - Correct. The person you're with is more important than whoever is on the other end of the call.
  • 62 - One clean one, one dirty one, one short, one long...match the joke to the audience.
  • 63 - We're all trying to do our best. Nobody deserves to be boo'ed.
  • 67 - It's okay to do just about anything by yourself. If there's a restaurant that you want to eat at, a movie you want to see, a view you want to see, do it whether you have somebody there with you or not.
  • 69 - Be strong. Be sure of yourself. Be assertive. But don't lose your cool.
  • 70 - See #59.
  • 72 - I'm awful about that one.
  • 74 - It's far more valuable than talking.
  • 75 - Possibly more important than anything else on the list.
  • 76 - Yup...back row is for people who aren't interested in being there. Don't be that person.
  • 80 - Occasionally that's not the case. Everybody has their thing.
  • 82 - I should do that.
  • 97 - Nobody needs to see a sourpuss.