Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A NASA Kind of Mood


I've been in a NASA kind of mood lately. I think it started with seeing the movie Gravity at the IMAX a couple of years a ago. Then Interstellar came out and blew my mind. FOX brought back Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The Martian was excellent. I think these movies and shows rekindled my interest in all things space related. I always loved NASA stuff as a kid. I had a big NASA poster on my wall and a model Space Shuttle growing up. I even had a pretty sophisticated and thorough manual on how to fly the Shuttle. But as I grew up and realized my strengths and interests didn't lie in Math or STEM, I kind of let that phase pass. I focused on studying the Liberal Arts and Humanities. I still loved the big ideas of science, but the technicalities were beyond my skill set.

Then these movies and shows got me back into it. So I started looking at more than fiction. I began reading up on the recent expeditions to Mars such as NASA and JPL successfully landing a rover the size of a MINI Cooper on the surface of Mars. Space X and Virgin Galactic are doing incredible things. Space X just successfully landed a reusable rocket on a drone barge in the middle of the ocean. Crazy stuff!

Being in the space mood, we traveled down to Houston over Spring Break to visit the Johnson Space Center, among other sights. The Space Center is a pretty cool place. My nine-year-old son loved it, as did I. We saw the original Mission Control center that guided the Apollo missions. We saw massive rockets and amazing interactive exhibits. It was a pretty cool trip. My son is really big into all this science and engineering and already says he wants to be a rocket or robotics engineer. I remember feeling the same thing at his age, only difference is he actually enjoys doing science and math homework.

So this summer we're going to continue the theme and take him down to Cape Canaveral, Florida. We're going to spend a few days at Cocoa Beach and tour the Kennedy Space Center which is even more massive than Space Center Houston. I visited Cocoa Beach and toured Kennedy when I was in eighth grade and had a blast. My son can't wait. We're going to visit other places in Florida as well, but for my son, Cape Canaveral will be the number one attraction.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day 2016



Prince

The Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas honors Prince last night.

I wasn't a massively huge Prince fan. I owned a couple of his albums but I didn't actively follow his career. I did really dig some of his stuff. Some of it was amazing. But much of his work just wasn't my style. His flamboyant creativity often overshadowed his brilliant guitar playing. He was one of the most innovative and skillful guitar soloists ever. He had an intuitive sense on how to take a song in new and unexpected directions. Brilliant and weird guy. I wish more of our modern pop artists were as daring and creative. Here are two examples of Prince's guitar solos that blew my mind...

The first video is from Coachella 2008. He's covering Radiohead's Creep. This song is a Holy Grail song for me. This song was extremely important to me in the early 1990's and the thought that someone would dare cover it seemed almost sacrilegious. But Prince respects the song yet takes it and makes it his own. The guitar solo work is crazy good...



The second song comes from a 2005 tribute to George Harrison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps. This band features a lineup of legends: Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others. Prince was given the solo originally played by Eric Clapton and he rips it apart. Even in a band made of legends, he stands out. So yeah, he was flamboyant, strange, crazy and sometimes profane. But the guy could play and could play hard. He will be missed.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bout Time


I am thrilled to see Harriet Tubman will be honored on American currency. She was a hero of great courage and moral conscience. It is also wonderful to finally see a woman represented on American money. Not to mention that it is fantastic to see an African-American represented on our currency. This is a great move on so many accounts. There is nothing bad to say about this change except this...

They are still keeping Andrew Johnson's image on the $20 bill albeit in a different form and on the back side of the bill.

He should be removed entirely.

No one on American currency is perfect. But who are you going to replace? Washington? Lincoln? Franklin? Hamilton? Grant might be debatable since he did oversee one of the most corrupt and scandalous White House administrations in history. However...

Andrew Jackson? Not really a debate.

In no particular order...

Andrew Jackson was against paper money. He was a strict adherent to the gold standard and made it illegal for people to use currency to buy federal lands. Only gold or silver coins could be used which caused the Great Panic of 1857 and led our nation into its worst economic depression until the 1930's. He was against the idea of a national bank. To have his image on currency has long been a ridiculous joke.

He murdered a guy in a duel.

As a general he illegally declared martial law in New Orleans and had federal judges arrested. He suspended due process and shut down all opposition newspapers. Hundreds arrested with no due process.

He owned hundreds of slaves. He was virulently against abolition.

He broke federal law as a land speculator by buying and selling Indian land already protected by Federal treaty.

He forcibly removed thousands of Indians out of Georgia, against their will, in an act of ethnic cleansing. He did this to make room for many more plantations worked by thousands of slaves.

He summarily executed prisoners of war during the Creek Indian Wars.

The list goes on and on. How this guy was ever honored on our currency is beyond me. This is not liberal propaganda. This is simply the truth, the facts...facts that Jackson was proud of and wrote about freely.

So yes, I wish Jackson was off our currency for good. And it was way past time for a woman and African-American be so honored.

The only people that seem to be upset by this change are white males. Hmmmmm. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Duolingo


Things I try to do everyday:

Use the Duolingo app to study Spanish. Five minutes a day. Amazing little app. Available for lots of languages. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ladies Man


My son was super embarrassed to have to take this photo with members of the High School's Drill Team who were greeting kids as they came to school Friday. He looks pretty cool and collected in the pic but he's a pretty shy guy and this caught him off guard. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Baseball Baseball Baseball


It's baseball all the time for us now. Practice twice a week. Often games twice a week. That's four nights a week of our lives taken by baseball...and we are not even on a tournament or select team! Not too happy with our league. We have several games that start at 8:00 pm on school nights. That means wrapping things up around 10:00 pm...for nine year olds...on school nights!

Youth league sports have gotten ridiculous. Jackson loves playing the game. Loves getting dirty on slides. Loves playing ball. He's progressing very nicely. He has a good coach and a good set of teammates. We like his team. But the overall culture places a lot of pressure on these kids. We have friends on select teams and the burden they put on these kids are terrible. 

People wonder why so many kids burn out or why there are so many Tommy John Surgeries these days. We are over-working these kids and most of them, the vast majority, will not play any sort of pro ball. A few might get lucky to get scholarships for college. But this should be about fun. It should be about building teamwork and social skills. It should be about exercise and fitness. It should be about learning the game and good sportsmanship. But now it's mostly about obsessive adults, living out their failed dreams vicariously through eight and nine year olds. And it only gets worse as the kids get older.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The White Album


I've been talking all this spring about the amazing number of new releases coming out from my favorite bands. Since January; Gungor, Chris Isaak, M. Ward, Brazzaville and now Weezer have dropped new tracks. Radiohead and Local Natives are also slated to release records soon. It has been a great year for music, at least for me. My faves don't usually all line up their releases at the same time.

April 1st, Weezer released The White Album. No April Fool's Joke. It's good stuff. The sound is very similar to last year's excellent Everything Will Be Alright in the End. Guess it should go without saying it's not on the Blue or Pinkerton level...but probably nothing ever will be and I've accepted that. Still, these most recent two albums have been their best in years. I've got a few tiers when it comes to Weezer albums...starting at the top...

The Incomparable Work of Genius: The Blue Album.

The Classic and Amazing (but not quite as good as Blue): Pinkerton

Really Great Stuff: Green, Maladroit

Excellent: EWBAE and White

Very Good: Red, Make Believe

I dig it even though I'm embarrassed to admit it and would never say so to hardcore Weezer fans: Raditude

Meh. Some good, some meh, mostly meh and some lame: Hurley, Death to False Metal

So yeah, I'd put The White Album somewhere in the middle. I particularly like King of the World and Endless Bummer. If you put the best one or two songs from each of their last five or six releases you'd have one super great album. Unfortunately  too much of their stuff is hit or miss lately. But White really holds up pretty much all the way through. I dig it.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

SMU Nights



Going to miss these beautiful nights on The Hilltop. 

Friday, April 01, 2016

Critique


So, I'm going to brag a bit. Annoying Parent Alert. My son is a voracious reader. He can't stop. He's about to come in first in his school (out of 400 students) in Accelerated Reader Points for the third straight year. He's a third grader reading on a sixth grade level. 

He just started the Harry Potter series. Before that he wrapped up John Grisham's series for kids about a kid lawyer. Since he had read the book via a library loan from Amazon he posted (screenshot above) a review (under my account). His first review and all his own words. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

America is Great!



Trump is wrong. Dead wrong. Any country where you can find Arby's at Walmart don't need fixin'. America is already great!