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Showing posts from August, 2016

The Kinnick House Thing

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I've been watching the unfolding controversy over the whole Kinnick House controversy that's embroiling Manville Heights in yard signs with a certain amount of anarchic amusement. In general, I tend to roll my eyes at any NIMBY-type movement and start rooting for the other side out of sheer bullheadedness.  Plus, it's not like this is a Rose Oaks type of situation, where actual poor people and minorities are getting screwed. No, this is a rich neighborhood, where a rich guy wants to build a second home for his family and of course, all the other rich folks are up in arms about it.

I saw the yard signs denouncing the 'PARTY VENUE ON LUSK AVENUE' and like many I'm sure that read them, my first question was, 'where the hell is Lusk Avenue?' And, thanks to Little Dude falling asleep in the car, I decided to track it down and see what the fuss was about. I've decided that unless you're either a. a resident of Manville Heights or b. Irving Weber's…

Bookshot #91: On Writing

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I don't know why it took me so long to finish this book. I don't even remember when or where I got it, which is kind of sad, but I burned through half of it and then put it down for a very long time, until about a week ago, I picked it up again and blazed through the rest. On Writing is a fascinating journey conducted by none other than Stephen King, who, I think we can all agree, might know a thing or two about writing.

Starting with his life story- more or less, King charts his early interest in writing, which eventually lead to his early struggles to break through and then his break through and then all the rest that followed including his descent into drug and alcohol addiction and his way out. For the second part of the book, King starts to do something amazing: share his knowledge about writing and what makes good writing and, more to the point, how to be a better writer.

I think it's the tone of the book that makes it special. It's not stern and unbending, it…

This Week In Vexillology #179

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The Olympics are over, so This Week In Vexillology, we're returning to our regularly scheduled programming with the flag of Armenia!
First of all, let's talk about the country itself. Armenia as a country is old, old, old- the Kingdom of Armenia was at it's height in the 1st Century BC. The Armenia Apostolic Church is recognized as the national church- the world's oldest. So as an idea, as a country, as a people, Armenia has been around for a long long time. Armenia spent centuries under the domination of various other powers in central Asia before being split between Russia, Persia and the Ottoman Empire. The current country is about 10% of what is considered 'historical Armenia' and their people fell victim to the Armenian Genocide before falling under Soviet Domination after a brief period of independence during the 1st Armenian Republic.

Getting back to independence wasn't easy. Glastnost and Perestroika brought demands for better environmental care for…

Boozehound Unfiltered: Ron Burgandy Blended Scotch Whiskey

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When I first heard of this, I was dubious. It seemed like a publicity stunt, to be honest. As this article from Forbes points out, foodstuffs that are marketed as tie-ins to movies tend not to be all that memorable- (the author of the article cites Ghostbusters Cereal as his exception to the rule, but I'd counter that with Ecto-Cooler) and he would be right. But here's the thing, whoever decided to do this actually put a little bit of thought into it, because at the end of the day as this review from Slate noted, this stuff? It's not terrible.

Its a blended scotch, not a single malt, so budget wise it's a lot more reachable than single malt, hovering around the $25-$30 buck mark at the store I snagged this at on our super fast visit up to The Cities last month. The blend is 60% malt and 40% grain and includes whiskies from Speyside, the Highlands and Islay.

But how is the whiskey itself? Let's check it out:

Color: Dark amber/honey

Body: Deep, rich and delicious, the…

True Confessions: I Let My Kid Rig CandyLand

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Look, good parenting means teaching your kids to follow the rules. I get that. It's about learning how to play fair and the art of winning and losing, but at some point along the way, after umpteen million games of CandyLand, I just stopped caring. I mean, it's CandyLand. It teaches kids colors and counting and how games work. If you're 4 years old, I get that it can seem pretty damn cool. 
But for an adult? It's awful. This is the Caillou of Board Games with it's obnoxious characters (Gramma Nut, Princess Lolly, Queen Frostine, Plumpy, and whatever the hell the rest are) and obnoxiously bright colors. There are literally no stakes. I mean, who gives a shit about getting to Candy Castle? What the hell is the point of the damn game?
So yeah, at a certain point, I stopped giving a shit. I know, I know. That makes me a bad parent, but it was also kind of amusing to watch Little Man figure out how to count cards so he got the orange one right off the bat and could tak…

Squawk Box: Games of the XXXI Olympiad

I don't know why an American television network can't seem to figure out how to do decent Olympic coverage, but they can't. NBC's coverage has been universally panned as riddled with unnecessary tape delays, commercials, fluff and human interest stories instead of sports and an intense focus on all things Team USA related at the expense of the larger story going on at the games themselves. (Though I'm willing to give them some leeway on that last score. This is America, after all, so in competitions like these, it's generally Team USA and 'all them other people from the funny foreign places.')
But in general, it sort of sucks. Why did I spend so much of prime time watching swimming, swimming, swimming and nothing but swimming? Why did gymnastics wait until an ungodly late hour of the night to even begin? I don't care about Michael Phelps vs Ryan Lochte! At this point, their whole rivalry is a horse that NBC has beaten to death years ago. From acros…

This Week In Vexillology #178

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This Week In Vexillology, we're wrapping up our little trip down NGO Lane with the final NGO of our trio, the flag of the United Nations:
Adopted on December 7, 1946 the flag is pretty basic. A white UN Emblem, surrounded by two olive branches on a blue background. But if you dig a little deeper, you actually find out that there's a little bit more to it than that. The olive branches are simple: they're a symbol for peace. The world map? All the people and countries of the world.

But, if you dig into the Wiki-Page, you find that there are some interesting design choices and elements here. For a start, the color blue was meant to be the opposite of red, which people associate with war. While the projection is basically a projection of the world as seen from the North Pole, the original design- way back in 1945- chopped off bits of Argentina at the Southern Hemisphere, since Argentina was not planned to be an original member of the United Nations. They changed that, and shif…

They're Scared Because They're Calling Everyone Else Crazy

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Ugh, this meme*:

First of all, it's wrong. At least when it comes to Johnson. Seriously, go look at his website and see for yourself. And lo and behold nowhere do the words, 'I WANT TO OUTLAW SCHOOLS' actually appear. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Does the government waste our money? Yes. Should we abolish the Federal Department of Education? It's not the worst idea in the world, but it's hardly a radical idea either. Pretty much every Republican Presidential Candidate since I've been alive have wanted to do the exact same thing.

Is it fair to Jill Stein? Debatable. She hasn't exactly helped herself this time out, but her platform remains solid- and more to the point, especially when it comes to political reform, comprehensive and ambitious. She's raising issues that need to be talked about.

Look, I get the arguments against third parties, I do. I get that any sustained, long term success is going to involve building a solid infrastructure on th…

Big 12 Expansion: Too Little, Too Late?

The Expansion Carousel is turning at an ever-increasing pace. The Big 12 is reportedly meeting with up to 17 schools and has a timeline that seems to be hovering sometime in the end of September for a potential decision on expansion candidates, but wrinkles have emerged that are worth talking about- because there are any number of reasons to believe that this round of expansion will probably be the last before the inevitable emergence of four, sixteen team super conferences. The question is, will there be a Big 12 Conference left when we get to that point?

But let's talk about the wrinkles...
First up, BYU: they were seen as the best candidate for membership in the Big 12, but then their honor code became an issue. Being a religious institution, they're not down with LGBT folks, which sports fans and football coaches might not care all that much about, but college presidents for sure do. I'm not saying that they're totally out of the picture- because of the available s…

Albums2010 #81: Soundtrack to 'Brokedown Palace'

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So, I churned out another piece of short fiction, which I ended up calling Silence. But that sort of lead me down the memory hole a little bit- first to this song, and then to the entire soundtrack to Brokedown Palace.

If you don't remember the film, well, that's not surprising- because it came out in 1999 and didn't do all that much at the box office, but Clare Danes, Kate Beckinsale and Bill Pullman starred and basically, Danes and Beckinsale are the young, adventurous travelers that go to Thailand, party hardy a little too much with a random dude that plants heroin in their luggage. So they go to prison and Pullman is the lawyer tasked to get them out. He gets one of them out but not the other. And that's pretty much the movie.

But weirdly, it has a pretty good soundtrack. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the soundtrack is probably the best part of the movie. Thinking back on it, I think that 'Silence' had to have been getting radio play- because I…

This Week In Vexillology #177

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This Week In Vexillology, we're sticking with International Organizations, but we're stepping away from the world of sports for the flag of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization instead:


I've always liked the flag of NATO. It looks sharp as hell and kind of kick-ass to be honest. Did the Warsaw Pact* have a flag? In the immortal words of Eddie Izzard, 'do you have a flag?' Because NATO has one hell of a flag. I dig it. I'm going to even go further and say that this flag helped us win the Cold War. If Rocky can claim some credit, so can this flag. It rocks.

So what's the flag of NATO all about? Well, it's been around since October 14th, 1953 and some nice symbolism behind it. The dark blue represents the Atlantic Ocean (I'm guessing the northern part, since well, it's 'The North Atlantic Treaty Organization')The circle stands for unity among the member states. The compass rose in the center represents the direction toward the path of pea…

How Do You Fix The Olympics?

As the Rio Olympics reach the end of the first week of competition, so far, things seem to be going okay. I say 'so far' because we've got a lot of Olympics left, but for now, they don't seem to be the smoking dumpster fire that people were predicting. The Opening Ceremonies, despite the usual tedious commentary and umpteen million commercial breaks from NBC, were beautiful without being over the top ridiculous- and that Olympic Torch (or an actual cauldron in this case) probably ranks right up there as one of the coolest I've ever seen.

But with the Olympics, you get the usual chorus of voices crying out that the Olympics are irretrievably broken and need to be fixed. There's a growing sentiment that there's something to this notion- complaints of financial mismanagement and boondoggles have been around for decades- Montreal was dealing with the fall out for decades afterward and Denver actually backed out of hosting the Winter Games because well, people w…

Can We Talk About This CPD Decision?

Seems like every four years, the third parties sue to try and get into the Presidential debates and every four years they always get slapped down- the decision, handed down last week was not surprising- once again, their lawsuit got nowhere. What was different this time around was the legal tack the third parties employed as the basis of their suit- this time, they were arguing that the Commission on Presidential Debates protected a de-facto monopoly and was thus, illegal and that the 15% threshold represented a threat to the First Amendment.

When they launched the lawsuit last year, I thought it was a good idea. I mean the usual ways hadn't gotten anywhere- so why not try a different tack? And the anti-trust angle seemed to be a good way to go, but unfortunately, a Federal Judge was having none of it and the lawsuit was tossed- which means the third parties are on the outside looking in- barring a surge of support for Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson- once again.

I'm not a …

Bookshot #90: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

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If you're a fan of comics and you haven't read this book, stop what you're doing and go and find it. If, like me, you keep finding yourself enchanted by the sheer depth and complex beauty of Michael Chabon's writing and haven't read this book yet, put it on your list and read it. You won't be disappointed.

A glorious sprawling love letter to the early days and genesis of what would be the modern comic book, the story of Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay spans both the globe and decades- ranging from Joe's escape from Prague as the Nazis clamp down and close in, leaving his family behind to an uncertain fate, to Sam's fast-talking hustle that conceals a vast imagination and a talent for writing that meets it's match in Joe Kavalier's artistic abilities on the streets of 1930s New York City and helps bring The Escapist to life.

As Sam dreams up more heroes and heroines to join The Escapist, their fame and fortune only grows as the beautiful Rosa Saks ent…

This Week In Vexillology #176

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Well, we're taking a detour this week- because last night marked the start of the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, what better way to get in the spirit of the games by taking a look at the main symbol of the games- raised last night along with the flag of Brazil in Maracana Stadium- yes, This Week In Vexillology it's the Olympic Flag:


(This picture is actually from the closing ceremonies in 2008 in Beijing- the Rio Games are barely a day old, so the internet isn't exactly awash with images to snag yet- but you get the basic idea.)
The main symbol on the flag is obviously, the Olympic Rings, which were designed in 1912 by Pierre de Coubertin, co-founder of the modern Olympiad. At the time, the rings were meant to represent the five world continents- Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Oceania- while the colors of the flag- the five rings and the white background were meant to represent all the colors that appeared on all the national flags of the countries participating at th…