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Showing posts from 2017

5 For 2017: How'd I Do?

1. I am getting that tattoo, damn it.

Well, that didn't happen. I know exactly what I want to get and where I want to get it and I just have to make the appointment and do it. Guess what's rolling over to 2018? That's right...  I am getting that tattoo, damn it.


2. I'm declaring this my Year of Books

I did do a ton more reading than I had in years past this year...  I haven't been reading exclusively from the list and I have taken some detours (Lincoln In The Bardo, Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion) but I think I'm going to make it a goal to finish this list in 2018.

The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
Before The Fall, Noah Hawley
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Ulysses, James Joyce
Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse
Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks
Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson

3. I want to up my writing/blogging game.

I…

This Week in Vexillology #241

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We're wrapping up 2017 with two more flags featuring the letter 'B', this time a duo from Africa: Benin and Burkina Faso. (I'll be off for a couple of weeks for the holidays ostensibly to do my annual year end review as I scratch my head and puzzle at how to take this modest little blogging venture of mine to the next level, whatever that is- though this year, I'm really combining holidays with a scoop of paternity leave as the arrival of Baby #3 is imminent!) Our two flags this week are actually pretty cool in their own way and while they dip into the traditional color scheme/design pattern seen across West Africa quite a bit, they're striking in their own way.

First up, Burkina Faso:
Okay, mild tangent time: I have an incredible twitch when it comes to globes in antique stores and Burkina Faso is one of the countries that I use to figure out just how old the globe is, since there was a bit of a coup d'etat there that changed the name of the country from U…

Albums2010 #96: Songs of Experience

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Okay:

At the outset, I should admit that I've only listened to parts of Songs of Innocence and since this album is intended to be a companion piece to that album, I'm probably going to have to back track to listen to that one as well, just to get the full effect. (Songs of Innocence, of course, was the infamous album that just sort of showed up in your iTunes a few years back- for free, mind you- but regardless of whether you wanted it or not.) But any new U2 album is going to pique my interest, so I found this one on the old Spotify and gave it a listen.

Songs of Experience is enjoyable enough and shows flashes of interesting moments, but didn't really do much for me overall. I feel like it sort of balanced between trying to recapture the sort of sound that the band went for in All That You Can't Leave Behind and pushing into something new and different. I remember listening to All That You Can't Leave Behind and thinking, 'man, I don't know where U2 have b…

Epic Bookshot #1: Winston S. Churchill's The Second World War

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According to Goodreads, I started reading this on February 4th, 2012. I finished it on December 8th, 2017. That's almost six years to get through all twelves volumes of this series and it feels as if an incredible weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

You can say a lot about Churchill and goodness knows people have, but the man could write. I'll be honest though: I have an abridged one volume version of his A History of The English Speaking Peoples knocking around somewhere and I vastly prefer that one volume to this twelve volume monstrosity. Partially, I think it's because when properly constrained, Churchill can write history that is both compelling and informative. When left to his own devices, however, he can, well, carry on and on and on and on- and that, combined with Churchill's own admission that the twelve volumes about The Second World War are about giving his own version of what happened to ensure the old phrase, 'history is written by the victors…

Squawk Box: An Oddly Mismatched Trio

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I'm shaking off the cobwebs of the great and grand Star Trek Cycle and catching up on a lot of shows that I've missed and this month's Squawk Box is a kind of a good example of 'catch-up' featuring a oddly mis-matched trio of brilliant television: American Vandal, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and, of course, the second season of Stranger Things.

American Vandal I read about courtesy of NPR and gave it awhirl based solely on their enthusiastic review only to find it was as brilliant as advertised. A satirical take off of Netflix's Making A Murderer,American Vandal plunges into the depths of the social strata of Oceanside High as the school is reeling from an ambitious act of vandalism: 27 dicks were spray painted onto 27 cars in the faculty parking lot and class clown and school ne'er do well Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) has been expelled for the crime. A couple of members of the AV Club/Morning TV Show for the high school, Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sa…

Netflix & Chill #34: The Bonds of Timothy Dalton

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Watched On: Amazon Prime
Released: 1987 (The Living Daylights), 1989 (License To Kill)
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d'Abo, Joe Don Baker, Art Malik, Jeroen Krabbe, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe
Rotten Tomatoes: The Living Daylights- 71%, License To Kill- 77%
Picks: Mine

James Bonding has made it's way back into my podcast rotation and they've tackled both the Timothy Dalton Bond movies in recent episodes and thanks to Amazon Prime getting every non-Daniel Craig Bond movie, I decided to give both of them awhirl and watch them again. I've always felt that Dalton got kind of a bad rap as Bond. The Living Daylights is probably one of my all-time favorite Bond movies and License To Kill...  not so much. (My main beef with License To Kill was Felix not dying, which made Bond's revenge tour seem somewhat pointless to me, but on a revisit, I've actually changed my mind.)

I started with Dalton's debut, The Living Daylights. 007 is assigned to…

This Week In Vexillology #240

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We're dipping back into the 'Lost Archives' for the last two weeks of 2018 and focusing on the countries that begin with the letter 'B'. Why? Well, I just sort of feel like it knocking off some 'B' countries...  so, this week, we've got Belarus and Bulgaria and next week we'll tackle Benin and Burkina Faso.

First up, we've got Belarus:
Infamously known as 'Europe's last dictatorship' the flag of Belarus was adopted on June 7th, 1995 and was modified again on February 10th, 2012. It's a modification of the old Soviet-era flag which was adopted in 1951. There were some obvious tweaks made to the flag: the symbols of communism have been removed and the ornamental pattern on the hoist, set against the flagstaff was changed as well. The original pattern was white on red and this one is red on white.

There's no official interpretation for the colors of the flag, but President Lukashenko has stated that red represents freedom and th…

Sportsyball: Tennessee Dumpster Fire Edition!

Adopt-A-Team: Well, good news is that Defensa y Justicia seems to be doing okay! We last checked in on October 13th and since then, we've had a loss to San Lorenzo, a draw with Olimpo and then four wins in a row, over Temperley, Lanus, Banfield and Godoy Cruz in that order. Right now, they're sitting at sixth place in the Super Liga Table. In short, for being where they are in the table, they seem to be doing what they should be doing at this point in the season. The draw with Olimpo (currently relegation bait along with Arsenal and Chacarita) is really the only bad result of the run. Yes, San Lorenzo thumped them pretty good, beating them 3-1, but San Lorenzo is second behind Boca Juniors in the table with an 11% chance to win the whole thing at this point in the season according to FiveThirtyEight anyway.

We'll see if they can keep it up, but it's somewhat heartening to know that apparently I'm not the kiss of death to whatever team I follow around for a season. …

Bookshot #103: Norse Mythology

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This book was another birthday purchase and is the perfect intersection between my appreciation of the writing of Neil Gaiman and my long time love of all things mythology related. While most of my mythology obsession was when I was much younger and centered around Greek mythology*, I've always been curious about Norse mythology but never seemed to be able to find a really good one volume book on Norse mythology- until now that is. (I do have the actual Prose Edda kicking around my Kindle somewhere, but I haven't gotten back to it yet.)

Gaiman happily stepped in and produced an eminently readable volume of Norse mythology that breathes new life into the tales from both the Poetic and Prose Edda while managing to put them into a contemporary voice that can appeal to as many readers today as possible. Gaiman starts the book with an introduction to all the major Gods (Aesir) in the pantheon, ranging from the familiar like Odin, Loki and Thor to names like Balder and Freya and Fri…

Netflix & Chill #33: Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Watched On: Amazon Prime
Released: 2008
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Shia LaBeouf
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Pick: Mine

I listened to a recent episode of James Bonding where they talked about Indiana Jones instead (they called the episode 'Indiana Jonesing' which I dug) and that sort of got me interested in going back and revisiting the fourth and most recent Indiana Jones movie: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I remember not really liking it all that much the first time I saw it, but upon second viewing, I am happy to report that despite the weird paranormal bits and the ridiculousness of escaping an atomic blast in a lead lined fridge, it actually was much better than I remember it being.

The film opens in 1957, with a group of Soviet commandos sneaking into a secret Army base to raid 'Warehouse 51'- in the trunk, they've got a kidnapped Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his associate Mac (Ray Winstone) who…

This Week In Vexillology #239

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We're kicking off December with our Second Trifecta of World Cup 2018 Qualifiers! Yes, we've got Colombia, Belgium and Switzerland. (Of our six, I think France has the potential to make the deepest run, but Belgium has ridiculous amounts of talent that didn't really go anywhere in Brazil, so I feel like if they don't go deep, it'll be disappointing. South America is getting gloriously deep these days, so while I'm bummed Chile didn't get in, I'll be cheering for Colombia instead!)

First up: Colombia!
Adopted on November 26, 1861 as the national flag and ensign, the flag of Colombia is the brain child of both Goethe and Fransisco de Miranda and once upon a time was part of Miranda's vision of a united 'Gran Colombia' which encompassed Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador (and I guess Panama too?) which is why you see the yellow-blue-red combinations running across all three countries. Historically, the color combination is due to something that Go…

The Upload Project #11: Elton John and A Whole Lotta Nothin'

This was supposed to be a new roll of blank CDs for me to go through. As you can see below, this proved to be the easiest and least time consuming edition of The Upload Project to date, because it was one CD, heavy on the Elton John and 8 blank ones.

Oh well, on to the next bunch!

CD #1, Untitled
Eddie Money- Take Me Home Tonight
Elton John- Bennie and The Jets
Elton John/Kiki Dee- Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Elton John- Your Song
Elton John- Levon
Elton John- Tiny Dancer
Elton John- I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues
Elton John- Rocket Man
Elton John- Honky Cat
Elton John- I Want Love
Elton John- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Elton John- The Bitch is Back
Gorillaz- Clint Eastwood
Gorillaz- 19-2000
Soul Coughing- Sixteen Horses
Justin Timberlake/Snoop Dogg/Charlie Wilson- Signs

CD #2: Blank

CD #3: Blank

CD #4: Blank

CD #5: Blank

CD #6: Blank

CD #7: Blank

CD #8: Blank

CD #9: Blank

28 Days of Tai Chi

My original idea, back in the spring had been to try yoga. I felt like I needed something. I can't remember if I was thinking I was in need or more inner peace or health and fitness at the time, but I wanted something easy that I could learn to do at home on a consistent basis. The kiddos are still fairly young and in between my then work schedule and the Missus' work schedule, coordinating regularly scheduled visits to the gym has been something of a challenge. I couldn't be bothered with hauling my ass all the way down to the CRWC or paying for some place like Anytime Fitness. I wanted to at least attempt to do some moderate activity with some tangible health benefits at home.
I thought yoga was  good place to start, but as soon as I spooled up a video and tried to get my yoga on, I realized some drawbacks almost immediately. The first was, of course, the dogs. If you get down on their level, they're going to get all excited and come over and sniff and be like, '…

Albums2010 #95: In The Mountain In The Cloud

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Portugal. The Man is one of those bands that has sort of popped up on my radar now and again over the years- I've seen mentions of them float by on various social media feeds now and again, but I had never actually bothered to sit down and listen to any of their stuff until Bill Burr mentioned them on a recent episode of Monday Morning Podcast and I thought, 'well, hell. Why not?' So I found an album and took it out for a spin.

The first thing that stands out about the band is probably it's name. "Portugal. The Man" is kind of a brilliant name. It a declarative statement 'Portugal.' followed by the reassuring clarification 'The Man' to make sure the listener knows we're talking about a band and not a country here. The band's wiki-page has their origin listed as Portland, Oregon, but I guess they all got together and started playing music during their high school years in Wasilla, Alaska. Having listened to at least one of their albums,…

Netflix & Chill #32: Arrival

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Watched On: Amazon Prime
Released: 2016
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Pick: Mine

Arrival opens with a sequence that shows Louise Banks' (Amy Adams) daughter Hannah, dying in early adulthood from an incurable disease of some kind. (It's never actually named, but it appears to be cancer.) She heads to work the next day to her job as a linguistics professor/teacher and everyone seems to be incredibly distracted by something and half her lecture hall is empty and when Louise turns on the television, she finds out why. Twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft have appeared in twelve different locations across the globe- their purpose is unknown and attempts to communicate with the craft seem to be unsuccessful. But an Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) shows up at Louise's door to recruit her to join the government's effort to establish contact with the aliens.

Louise initially insists that she has to be on sight …

This Week In Vexillology #238

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I hate to reopen old wounds for US Soccer fans, but the field for the 2018 World Cup is officially set and looking at the list and cross referencing it with my 'lost' archives, I noticed there were six teams going to Russia that I had yet to tackle, so I thought I'd round out November and head into December with a double trifecta of Lost Weekends In Vexillology featuring teams that made it to Russia. (Just as an aside, if you're a USMNT fan still in need of some serious therapy/grief counseling, then I highly recommend the Men In Blazers Live Podcast 'What Happened'- it has some fun, but it also has a serious discussion about what happened and possible remedies/hopes for the future going forward.)

So let's begin with our first trifecta- Senegal, Nigeria and France! First up, Senegal:
Adopted August 20th, 1960 the flag of Senegal serves as the national flag and naval ensign for the country. In 1959, France melded Senegal together with the French Soudan to fo…

My 2020 Vision Thing

I stopped my occasional lurkings on Reddit a few months ago and actually signed up and joined the place (I'm at u/litcityblues if you want to follow me or do whatever it is redditors do in that regard) and as I was reading through r/IowaCity I noticed a grandly titled post, An Iowa City Manifesto For The Future. 

I read it. I didn't agree with a lot of it but there were some interesting points made and some very real criticisms leveled at Our Fair Metropolis. Then, the University sent out a big email to everyone asking for Feedback and Input on their UI 2020 Initiative. They were asking some big questions like:
What ideas do you have for helping the UI thrive in the decades ahead? How can we better address the grand challenges of the 21st Century through our research, creative endeavors, curriculum, and teaching? How can we better serve our state and its people? We welcome all ideas, including bold proposals. Bold proposals, eh? I might be able to rustle up some of those. Well,…

Drop The Hammer (But Not On Your Toe)

So, I signed a petition last month to support the Fair Debate lawsuit that the Our America Initiative is bringing to try and crack open the stranglehold the Commission on Presidential Debates has on the presidential debates- they're taking a somewhat unusual tack this time and filing an anti-trust lawsuit and they did raise more the $100k to support their legal efforts. Thing is, I'm just not sure that opening the debates is going to be the cure all the outside parties think it is.

Don't get me wrong: I hate the two party system and I'm pretty sure a lot of the rest of the country isn't exactly enthused by our lack of choices at the ballot box, it's just that the effort to break the system faces three distinct problems: a chicken vs egg problem, history and the structure of our political system.

The chicken vs egg thing is a common response I've seen on Facebook whenever people bring up Fair Debates. "They don't get airtime because their views aren…