Showing posts from 2019

Democratic Candidates, Ranked

So, it's officially after Labor Day. We've had three debates so far. Traditionally now is the time where people actually start paying attention a little bit to the race, so what better time than now to take stock about where the (still lamentably large) field stands, at least from my point of view. I'm honestly not sure what to think about the overall state of the race. Maybe it's the size of the field, but it feels like the debates aren't really clarifying anything in the polls- apart from Gabbard's attack on Harris' prosecutorial records in the second debate, nobody has really broken out in a major way. Everything feels strangely stuck and I'm not quite sure why.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that a lot of the moderates (Bennet, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Bullock) are sort of waiting around assuming that Biden is going to do what Biden usually does and collapse in a heap, leading to an opening for one of them to step in. Biden has run for President multi…

Netflix & Chill #66: Late Night

Watched On: Amazon Prime
Released: 2019
Starring: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Max Casella, Hugh Dancy, John Lithgow, Denis O'Hare, Reid Scott , Amy Ryan
Directed By: Nisha Ganatra
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Pick: Mine

So I first heard about this movie way back in like January/February or so when it debuted at Sundance and got some buzz. Amazon snatched it up and I think it did a theatrical run for a bit, but it's finally on Prime Video. Now, I had heard mixed things about it- which surprised me, because Mindy Kaling is funny and Emma Thompson is awesome- and there's John Lithgow knocking around this movie as well, so who can beat that? But a lot of the reviews seemed fairly 'meh' which is kind of surprising given the Rotten Tomatoes score.

But, I guess I was reading the wrong reviews, because this was actually a really good movie.

Emma Thompson stars as Katerine Newbury, an acclaimed comic and light night comedian who's been doing it forever, but her show's ratings h…

Bookshot #122: Ready Player One

Technically, I didn't read this book I listened to it. Yes, Ready Player One marked my first foray into the world Audible and Audio Books and I scored a sweet audio version read by none other than Will Wheaton himself. I wanted to try and finish it before I sat down and watched the movie-- but as it turns out, I tried to watch the movie with the kiddos (Eldest Spawn thought the racing scene in the movie was 'SO COOL' and was very excited by it) and between one thing and another I only saw bits and pieces of the movie- and surprisingly, I didn't really feel the need to sit back down and watch it again- which once again, proves that with surprisingly few exceptions the book is always better than the movie.

The main character of the book is teenager Wade Watts who lives with his aunt in Oklahoma City in the 'stacks' which is a poor district featuring trailer homes stacked on top of one another. He spends most of his time in the OASIS, a virtual reality, fully imme…

Merrily We Roll Along

'Boyhood' Director Richard Linklater has signed on to direct a movie adaptation of the musical 'Merrily We Roll Along' which prior to today I don't think I'd ever heard of- except perhaps in a passing reference in an episode of The West Wing or Gilmore Girls. There's a catch though: it's going to take him 20 years to film.  If this seems like an odd way to segue into some more thoughts about Brexit, forgive me- but at this point, 'Merrily We Roll Along' seems like a deeply ironic sentiment to apply to the current political dumpster fire underway in the United Kingdom. And it may well take them twenty years to resolve, at this rate.

But congratulations though! I didn't think anyone could top the current dumpster fire that is the politics of our United States, but the UK has somehow managed it.

So where are we?

There's a joke that I think showed up on an episode of The Newsroom of all places about Jesus and Moses are playing golf. It'…

Led Zeppelin, Ranked

A few months ago, we raided three very large boxes of CDs my parents didn't want and I ended up snagging just about the entire Led Zeppelin discography and then spent the subsequent months listening to all the albums I had and discovering the full depth of the awesomeness of the Greatest Rock N'Roll Band in history. I didn't have their entire discography of studio albums (I was missing Led Zeppelin III and Presence) but between CDs and judicious use of Spotify I managed to make my way through the whole set. Along the way, the secondary question came up: Led Zeppelin has made a lot of long songs over the years (for the purposes of this ranking, I went with any song above seven minutes in length)- which one is the best 'long song'? A lot of people will probably insist on 'Stairway To Heaven'- as you'll see below, I have a slightly different opinion.

So, without further ado: Led Zeppelin, Ranked.


1. Led Zeppelin IV
I really wanted to give …

Netflix & Chill #65: Idiocracy

Watched On: Hulu
Released: 2006
Starring: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolpha, Dax Shepherd
Directed By: Mike Judge
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Pick: Mine

Idiocracy is one of those movies that I've spent years hearing about but never actually sat down and watched it all the way through. It'd be on various cable channels over the years and again, I'd see some of it, but never actually all of it. So, when I discovered that the whole movie was on Hulu, I thought I'd sit down and finally watch the whole movie once and for all.  And you know what? I would say that it lived up to it's name and a certain amount of it's hype.

In 2005, Corporal Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), a US Army librarian is about as average as you can get- so, he's selected for a suspended animation experiment to preserve his average nature as the military is apparently concerned about the detriorating intelligence of future recruits. The military goes out and finds Rita (Maya Rudolph), a prostitute whose pimp 'Up…

This Week In Vexillology #294

This Week In Vexillology, we're dipping back into the Lost Archives for a national flag from Africa and a subnational flag also from Africa! (Well, it's not really a subnational flag--more of a separatist flag? Maybe a rebel flag? I don't really know how to classify it- but we'll see!)

First up, Liberia:
Adopted on August 24, 1847 as the national flag of Liberia if you think that this flag looks a little familiar, well, there's a reason for that! The country of Liberia was founded by free people of color and freed African-American/Caribbean/West Indies slaves from the United States and the Caribbean with the support of the American Colonization Society.

(I feel like the American Colonization Society is worth a tangent here. The biggest proponents of the idea of creating a colony for freed slaves/free blacks were, unsurprisingly perhaps, Southerners. African-American leader ssuch as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and many others opposed it as they (correctly) sa…

Free Write Friday #14: The Quest For The Elder Tree

Image Prompt:

Shaleena halted at the foot of the stairs, her shield in one hand and her sword in the other and just stared up at it. There, at the top of the stairs was the Elder Tree. Finally. She was here. She had done it. Slowly, she began to ascend the staircase, wondering if this was a dream. How long had she been travelling? How long had she been questing? How long had her people suffered under the blight the Sorcerer had brought upon the land? Now, at least, their salvation was here.

Her father had sent her after the last of her brothers had succumbed to the blight. She remembered the afternoon well:

"Princess Shaleena?" She had been in the library, studying hard, trying to find some scrap of knowledge of the ancient world that might prove to be the salvation they had been looking for. The Royal Library of the Kingdom of Cormant was supposed to be among the most extensive in the known world and she wasn't the first to search the answ…

Sportsyball: The 2019 Predictions

All right, I'm just going to get down to brass tacks with this post:

1. I'm not doing an Adopt-A-Team this year. I feel like I've got a good stable of teams to track whenever the mood strikes me and I want to actually figure out a way to watch some of their games using the magic of the interwebs. Secondary goals for 2019-2020: go watch some soccer! Whether its the Hawkeye women's team, the Dubuque Union or even an MLS or NWSL game.

2. HAWKEYE FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS: I think the B1G West might be one of the most interesting divisions in College Football this season. Quite literally everybody except Illinois probably can make a case for going to Indianapolis and a lot of people seem to be quite high on the usual suspect (Wisconsin), or buying in too soon on the up and comers (Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota) while completely forgetting other teams (Iowa, Northwestern). You can say the same for every division in every conference at this point of the season, since nobody has play…

Greenland, Our Fifty First State?

So apparently President Trump has inquired about the possibility of the United States acquiring Greenland, of all places- with, it is said, varying degrees of seriousness. This produced much mockery on the interwebs and a polite and firm refusal on the part of Greenland's government- but all of it got me thinking: how realistic is this notion, how would it all work and what would it look like, if it did?

Look, it sounds crazy, but it's actually not a new idea. I guess Harry Truman tried to buy Greenland for $100 million after the war. When Denmark fell to the Nazis during the Second World War, we stepped in and help defend the place and we've already got an Air Force Base up at Thule. It's not a completely crazy idea- but it is a complicated one.

First, yes, we can technically 'acquire' Greenland. It's probably not the word I would have used- perhaps, I would have said, 'maybe we can extend an invitiation to the people of Greenland to join our Union'…

The Samsonites We Carry

Do you have white teenage sons?

Listen up.

I've been watching my boys' online behavior & noticed that social media and vloggers are actively laying groundwork in white teens to turn them into alt-right/white supremacists.

Here's how: — joanna schroeder (@iproposethis) August 13, 2019 Ugh, this thread. Look, on the one hand this lady isn't wrong. As a parent, you wanna make sure that your kids- male or female, are watching and consuming healthy content online or watching age appropriate television shows. If I found my seven year old son watch an episode of The Wire, for instance that would be something that we would need to a. turn off immediately and b. have a little bit of a talk about. I have no problem with absolutely any of that.

This, however... is not that. It's not advocating healthy parenting and it's not even advocating raising healthy, well-mannered, upstanding young man. What it is doing, however, is feeding into a cultural notion that is far t…

Let's Talk About Hong Kong For A Second

One of the best classes I took as an undergraduate was a course on Chinese Foreign Policy taught by Professor Read- he was one of those Professors who really knew the subject matter of the course at an expert level and his enthusiasm for it was infectious. I appreciate Professors who know their shit and aren't just phoning it in- I think a lot of students can probably sense the difference as well, but as a result, I think I absorbed a ton of information about China and really had I been a little more focused in my career planning might have (and probably should have) doubled down on China as one of my serious areas of study for my Master's Degree.

But, c'est la vie- here I am, armchair political scientist and dabbler in the world of international relations and occasionally I follow news stories down rabbit holes and have to unload some of this excess knowledge I've accumulated over the years into a digestible form.

So, let's talk about Hong Kong for a second.

The T…

This Week In Vexillology #293

We're going back into the Lost Archives once more this week to take a look at two very different flags- both of which are from Africa. This week, we're going short and sweet with the flag of Tunisia and the flag of Mali.

First up, Mali:
The flag was predated by the flag of the Mali Federation which was more or less identical, except for the presence of a traditional kanaga figurrine. The Federation dissolved with the exit of Senegal and then the remaining colony of the French Sudan became Mali and dropped the kanaga and adopted the current flag on March 1st, 1961 and it's been that way ever since.

The tricolor pattern should be familiar: as a former French colony, it's a nice tie back to the colonial power- though I'm sure some folks were less than thrilled by that. So the color scheme of green-yellow-red are the traditional Pan-African colors and according to wikipedia, the green stands for the fetility of the land, gold is for purity and mineral wealth and the red…

Our First Political Donation

Every time we'd sit down and do our taxes and the tax lady would ask us if we wanted to throw a couple of bucks at the Presidential campaign fund, I would respond with a firm 'No.' In general, I felt that there were few, if any politicians that had done anything worthy of my money and I sort of took the attitude of, 'don't give them money, it'll only encourage them.'

The interminable march toward next November has been underway for months now. At this point in the cycle, I don't know much. I may not pick a candidate at all. I might make the decision right then and there in the voting booth next year and just let it go. It might be dependent on what the polls look like in Iowa. It might be dependent on any number of factors I haven't even considered yet. But I know two things for sure:

1. I'm not voting for a billionaire.

2. I have real problems voting for someone who wants to eliminate private insurance.

The latter point isn't because I don…

Bookshot #121: The Wandering Earth

I've never been big into collections of short stories. But lately, I've been hearing more and more about the rise of Chinese science fiction and when a preview for The Wandering Earth showed up on the interwebs a few months back, I decided to run down the original novella by Liu Cixin and give it a try-- I didn't know, however that it came along with more short stories. So, I worked my way through all of them and this is what I thought:

The titular novella, The Wandering Earth tells the story of a future where scientists detect an impending hydrogen burst from the sun which will wipe out all life in the inner solar system. In response, humanity unites to construct massive Earth Engines to first stop Earth's rotation and then start a journey out of the solar system and into the nearby star system at Proxima Centauri. Most of Earth's surface is ruined and then frozen by first stopping the rotation of the planet and then moving out into the darkness of space. Humanity…

1,556 Miles Update #4

Oh boy. The summer has not been kind to me-- my promise of consistency in May sort of failed to materialize and I was really hoping to get a decent chunk done during my hiatus. Needless to say, it didn't work out that way. The good news is that I added 92.4 miles to my end of April total of 223.2 miles, which moves us up a respectable amount to 315.6 miles and pushes us into Iowa. Here's what the map looks like as of today:
In terms of our view- this is where we were at the end of April:

And this is where ended up now:

To be honest, I'm not sure I'm going to make this in a year, but I want to keep doing it anyway. I think it's kind of fun- and yes, I need to up my game a little bit- but both the Missus and I have recommitted to the whole diet and exercise thing heading into August, so I need to get back on this. I'll try and chew up more of this goal, but it's looking more and more like this is going to be a longer term goal and not just one I can complete …

Netflix & Chill #64: Vice

Watched On: Hulu
Released: 2018
Directed By: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Jesse Plemmons
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
Pick: Mine

Vice is probably the most fundamentally honest movie I've seen in years. And there's the rub of it all: it seems like Director Adam McKay is doing what you'd expect from a big budget Hollywood biopic of a Republican Vice President. You think he's trying to take Vice President Cheney down and there are the usual shots you'd expect: Halliburton, the 2000 election, Iraq, but none of it lands effectively- and maybe that's the point. Cheney is an enigma. He's powerful. You, a mere mortal of a film director aren't going to be able to take him down.

The story opens with Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) working hard as an electrical linesman in Casper,WY back in the early 60s. His wife, Lynn (Amy Adams) got him a scholarship to Yale, but he partied too hard and got kick…

This Week In Vexillology #292

Well, after a break last week we're going to jump back in with both feet and dip back into the Lost Archives for a double shot of flags from North Africa: Algeria and Libya. First up, Algeria:
Adopted on July 3rd, 1962 as the national flag, civil and state ensign, the flag of Algeria doesn't really have a lot of deep symbolism embedded in it. Literally the only thing I could find for a solid description of symbolism: "The crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam (the state religion.)" So while the symbolism is pretty easy to explain, the history of the region digs up some interesting tidbits. For instance, while the crescent and star have been associated with Islam for centuries- in Algeria's case, the Barbary pirates of the region have been using flags with one or more crescents dating back to the Kingdom of Tlemecen in the 1200s. So, as a design element the crescent has been showing up on or off in flags for Algeria for centuries. Plus, …

Free Write Friday #13: Highland City

[IP] Highland City

"It's always beautiful in Highland City, especially when you've learned to control the weather."

Kreola sat at the small table, sipping her cup of coffee and savoring the warmth of the sun. It had been nearly a week since the project had gone fully online and she was sure that the emotional high she seemed to be riding would never quite go away. Twenty five years she had invested in the project, pouring her heart into it, believing beyond belief that ultimately, it would be the good that the High Council thought it would be.

So, she sat. She bathed in the sunlight. She took in the incredible viewdown the long northern fjord. The sunshine made the city so beautiful. The colors of the distant houses, red white, yellow and brown seemed to be more brilliant than usual. The towers of the far distant central city where shrouded in a far distant rain cloud, which was what they had programmed for this time of the morning. They…

Squawk Box: Fleabag

Look, as binges go you've got no excuse for not checking out Fleabag. It's two seasons, six episodes apiece and it's a sitcom, so we're talking like 25-30 minutes a pop, episode wise. I get the whole age of streaming exhaustion thing. I do, but finally you've got a show where you won't by physically exhausted at the prospect of getting lost in multiple seasons of a show. It's 12 episodes. They're short- and, dear reader, here is the kicker to end all kickers: it's an absolutely incredible show that leaves you begging, screaming for more than you just don't get. It's hilarious, bittersweeet, melancholy and riotously funny all at the same time- sometimes in the all in the same scene.

The titular character is Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who breaks the fourth wall frequently and is well, kind of a mess as we gradually discover in Season 1. She starts by recounting her day which begins with a one-night stand and then another encounter with a…