Sunday, August 26, 2012

Me and SMU

Classes started at SMU last week. I'm only taking one course this semester: The Cultural and Intellectual History of Europe. It's a two part class. This semester begins with the Renaissance and ends with the Enlightenment. It dovetails very nicely with my AP European History course which also begins with the Renaissance. Plus it's taught by a legend in history circles. Dr. Mears was once president of the World History Association. He's been at SMU since 1967 but is still as sharp as ever. We meet around a Harkness style table in Dallas Hall (pictured above. It's the first building built on campus and the oldest) and the course is in the seminar format. The first class went very well and has me stoked about the semester.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Temple of Doom is Ready

The classroom (The Temple of Doom) is cleaned up and ready to go. School starts Monday. This will be my fourteenth year in education. It also happens to be the halfway year for me to attain full retirement. But in fourteen years my son will be a freshman in college so I doubt I'll be quite ready financially to retire. This room has been my classroom for twelve of the past fourteen years. It was also the birthplace of our cat Simba. Long story.

Monday, August 20, 2012

QR Code Madness!

I am somebody!

The internets knows me!

I finally have a QR Code!

Okay, so I may be behind the game but I know I'm ahead of some you out there. I don't have a smartphone. In fact my phone is quite dumb. I even took off the data pack on my phone plan because I didn't want to be one of "those guys," Those guys who always have their head bent over staring mindlessly at a tiny screen. People are often shocked that I don't have an iPhone or at the very least an Android.

So I had no use for those QR codes, you know those little squares of garbled lines that when you scan them with your smartphone direct you to a website.

But now I have an iPad thanks to my school district. And last week during iPad training we learned about QR Code generators. So I've gone QRazy. I've put QR codes on the back of my personal business cards which direct your mobile browser to my blog. That may not be a great idea with all the nonsense I post on here.

However, I also have a QR Code for my school website. I have it posted on the wall of my classroom. If students point their smartphones and click it will direct their browser to my school website. That will direct them to study guides, make-up work and all sorts of other important things for class. Typing in an entire browser address seems too laborious for today's students so we're making it easy for them.

If you open up your QR app on your iPad or phone and scan the code at the top of this blog you'll be directed to my school website. Yes, maybe I'm easily impressed. And maybe this is so 2007 techwise. But for me, it blows my mind.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


My son is currently in a superheroes phase. He loves comic books and superhero stories. His last birthday party was a superhero party where all his friends dressed up as their favorite hero. My son was THOR. THOR (all caps required) is his absolute favorite. I like the fact that he picked a hero a little less ubiquitous than the usual Spiderman, Superman and Batman. It's a bit more of an original choice.

But he's still too young to watch many of the superhero movies. He definitely can't watch any of the Batman movies. Even THOR we rented, previewed, made note of the questionable scenes and showed him our edited version. We caved and let him watch The Avengers (after previewing it ourselves) which he loved...but not in 3D...we thought that might be too intense.

So I pulled out my DVD of 1978's Superman this week. And we watched it as a family. He loved it although he did get a bit bored during the talky parts. I had forgotten how good the Christopher Reeve version is. I had seen it at the old Glenwood Theater in Overland Park as a kid when I was about my son's age. It has aged very well. It still has the best opening credits ever of any movie of any genre.

Sure, some of the special effects are a bit dusty, especially the scene when a high school Clark Kent runs alongside a train. But most of the FX hold up very nicely and in some ways are superior to the cheap CG effects used today. CG gets overused and overblown these days. The first half of Superman is fantastic. The scenes on Krypton are some of the best true sci-fi scenes you'll ever see depicted on screen. Gene Hackman is the best Lex Luthor ever. The new Superman made a few years ago just doesn't compare. Hopefully next year's Man of Steel will do it some justice.

So it got me thinking. What are my favorite superhero films of all time? So I've composed a top five list of my personal faves. The list is negotiable and certainly not set in stone. But as of today here's my list:

1.) Ironman (If I could be a superhero...this is who I would be.)

2.) Superman (1978's version with Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and Marlon Brando.)

3.) The Avengers (My son calls me Hawkeye for some reason. I don't even own a bow.)

4.) The Dark Knight Rises (I could easily change this to Batman Begins. The Dark Knight although very good was too long and a bit pedantic. TDKR closed the series very nicely. I also really liked Michael Keaton's Batman.)

5.) The Amazing Spider-Man (The new one with Andrew Garfield. I can't stand Tobey Maguire but I will admit that Spider-Man 2 is an excellent superhero movie. If Garfield had played Peter Parker in that one that would be in the list. Spider-Man was my favorite superhero as a kid.)

You'll notice (or maybe you wouldn't) there's no X-Men. I just have never been able to get into that series. I like Patrick Stewart as Xavier and Ian McKellen as Magneto but I can never take Hugh Jackman seriously as Wolverine. In fact, his casting may be the reason I never got into the series.) Captain America also gets an honorable mention. I thought it would be cheesy. I was pleasantly surprised and it's very good. Anything with Hugo Weaving is worth watching.

Also, a shout out to one of the so-bad-it's-good superhero movies of all time...1980's Flash Gordon with Sam Jones, Timothy Dalton and Max von Sydow. Bizarre special effects and weird characters make this flick a trippy experience. I can't imagine watching this under the influence of "medicinal" properties. But the thing that takes it over the top is the awesome Queen soundtrack: FLASH! Ahh Ahh!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bourne Again?

The Bourne Legacy was a perfectly fine summer action flick. The acting was good, the story entertaining and the chase scenes frenetic. But...

It wasn't quite up to the level of the original Bourne Trilogy. Every time you watched a new Bourne movie with Matt Damon you had the feeling this was original stuff. Even the car chases felt new and different. The stories were fresh and innovative. All three movies seemed clean and modern.

I like Jeffery Renner but he just doesn't have the on-screen charisma that Matt Damon possesses. The story seemed too familiar...a bunch of seedy government types tracking down a rogue agent while looking at big monitors.

The motorcycle chase scene was entertaining but a bit blah in comparison to the chase scenes in the originals. And the Chinese assassin who was billed as "Treadstone without the inconsistencies and Outcome without the emotional issues" (or somesuch) was the weakest by far of the Bourne enemies. SPOILER ALERT: he gets killed not by Bourne but by the girl with a helmet on the back of a motorcycle in very unconvincing fashion. He was not nearly as scary as the Russian in The Bourne Supremacy or the Tunisian in Ultimatum.

The intro plods on and on. We get it. He can climb mountains in Alaska while being chased by wolves. We already knew he was an enhanced agent. Move along now to a story.

So yeah, I was entertained. Rachael Weisz, as usual, was fantastic. It was a nice summer afternoon movie. But it wasn't quite up to snuff and deserves a bit of a lesser place than being included in The Bourne canon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No more...

Okay okay! No more politics on this blog. I promise! I know I've said that before but this time I really mean not to give into temptation. I don't have the energy for a political blog. I don't even like politics despite having a degree in political science and history. Both political parties are corrupt. Human Beings are too complex to be forced into boxes and labels such as conservative or liberal. For instance, I'm pro-life but anti capital am I a liberal or a conservative? I'm not a moderate because I strongly believe in my positions. Both FOX and MSNBC are ridiculous. So I told you who I'm voting for and that's it. No more political statements online.

I hope.

Monday, August 13, 2012

MORE reasons!

So I had written a blog post discussing why I could never vote for Mitt Romney and then he goes and names Paul Ryan as his running mate. Boom! All those reasons pale to why I could never vote for a ticket with Paul Ryan on it.

Yeah, he's a good looking guy who knows how to talk to a reporter. He's much more eloquent than Sarah Palin. But...

Despite his insistence that he hates big government and he wants to cut the deficit and debt, here are some startling facts...

He has consistently applied to the federal government for pet projects for his home district. Wow, he's hardcore tea party isn't he? Just like Palin. Just like Bachmann, they talk the talk and then ask the federal government for millions.

His budget plan would actually raise the deficit and debt because he wants to cut taxes for the $300 trillion.

Under the Ryan plan Romney would have had a tax rate of only 0.82% in 2010. Newt Gingrich's staff found that nugget out and Gingrich called it radical right wing social engineering. NEWT said that.

Hates big government eh? So why did he vote FOR the auto bailout, TARP, the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind? He votes for NCLB but then says he wants to shutter the Department of Education? Huh?

Wants to shut down the IRS. Of course he offers no plan on how to actually collect taxes for the federal government.

Wants to shut down the Department of Transportation but of course offers no plan on how to regulate air and harbor traffic.

He actually told Boehner not to agree to the "Grand Bargain" in last year's debt ceiling debacle. Not because he was against it but because he thought it would work and help Obama's re-election possibilites.

His biggest inspiration is Ayn Rand who notoriously wrote her fiction while strung out on meth. Remember, she wrote fiction.

He may look good in a suit and speak well. But he is as big a freak and hypocrite as anyone you'll find in Washington.

Fortunately polls are saying that the Ryan pick is the most unpopular pick for VP since Quayle. Ryan makes Quayle look like a genius. Romney would have done much better to pick Quayle.

Paul Ryan. SMH (shaking my head). I'm starting to get the idea that Mitt has already given up. You got Rubio, you got Christie, etc etc etc and you go with...Paul Ryan. SMH.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I am about to make a political announcement. A lot of people can't handle that these days as evidenced by the vitroil and hate spewed on the internet any time sometime expresses their opinion on a political issue. I rarely post political statuses on facebook because a lot of people just can't handle it. Some of my best friends and family have opinions completely different than mine yet we get along fine. I wish that was the case more often in society.

So I'm warning you. If you have heart issues or stress management problems any time you read an opinion contrary to your own...just do yourself a favor and not read this post. And don't bother trying to change my mind via a comment or an email. If you want to talk send me an email and we'll grab coffee at the Lazy J Coffee House or something and talk in person. But that probably won't work either because I'm very close-minded person.

I am voting for Barack Obama for president of the United States of America in November. This will be my second time to vote for Obama no less.

Those who know me know I'm not a Democrat...or a Republican. I think both parties are corrupt. And Heaven knows Obama hasn't been a perfect president (drones anyone?).

But I got my reasons for voting for Obama and I got my reasons for voting against Mitt.

In the days to come I'll be posting my reasons, so stay tuned...not that it matters...because since when has a blog post ever changed anyone's mind? I'm not doing this for you...this is for my peace of mind.

So Obama 2012. Forward.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


J-Man doing the BOLT (ala Usain Bolt) at the local Splashpad.

Monday, August 06, 2012


I'm not saying anything here that everyone doesn't already know. But Usain Bolt is the most electrifying athlete in the world. I'll never forget watching his 100 meter run at Beijing with my jaw to the floor. In that race he beat the field and a world record in almost a casual fashion. I didn't think I'd see the like again.

Yes he's cocky. But it's not an arrogant cockiness like we saw from Ryan Lochte. He doesn't disprespect his fellow competitors. He talked very highly of Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay after the race. He says Yohan Blake made him stronger. His cockiness is more playful than spiteful. And it gives him a mental edge.

The race last night showcased the greatest field of runners in Olympic history. Justin Gatlin: won gold in the 100m in Athens. Tyson Gay: fastest American ever with the American record in the books. Yohan Blake: 2011 World Champion. Asafa Powell: former world record holder. And of course Usain Bolt: Olympic Champion and Current World Record Holder.

It was a much closer race this go around. But even in the end Bolt drew away from the pack. It was closer...but Bolt still won decisively. He is the man.

I felt very badly for Tyson Gay. Gay was injured for the Beijing games. Had major surgery last year. Came back and was very fast. He came in fourth...the worst possible finish for a true competitor. So close yet miles away from the podium. Strangely Asafa Powell came in last. He finished the race over 11 seconds...nearly two seconds behind Bolt. Got to hate how the body ages.

Of course if I ever ran the 100 meters in 11 seconds I'd be rejoicing night and day.

With apologies to Michael Phelps, if I had to choose one Olympic event and one Olympic athelete to watch at a games it's no contest. Usain Bolt is the man.

photo: still not close and a new Olympic record (breaking his own) to boot.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Bye Hotmail

In 1996 my university email account, my first, was deactivated due to my graduation. I actually went several months without an email address. You could get away with that in those days. Email was still a novelty and many Americans didn't have an address.

Knowing I was heading to Spain for a year I established an account with hotmail. Hotmail was free and web based so it could be accessed anywhere. I found that pretty amazing at the time. I set up my account but my name, in several iterations, had already been taken. I was forced to go with which I always thought was a little long. Plus I always had to spell it out to people on the phone.

Other web based hosts never tempted me to switch over. Yahoo had too much bulk and junk mail. Gmail didn't have enough features to cause me to ditch hotmail. Microsoft made great improvements to hotmail over the last few years. But it was never enough to erase the stigma that had been associated with the name. Hotmail was seen as a service used by computer novices. Many were embarassed to have one. I was never one of those. Hotmail always worked great for me.

But on August 1st Microsoft began their phase out of Hotmail. I quickly set up an account in order to stake my claim to a better email name. My first two choices were taken but I ended up with a pretty good name. Hotmail addresses will still be operational for the time being but they have shifted to the new format. The new name for MSN's web based email is actually an old name...Outlook.

Outlook has been MSN's client based email for years. My current SMU account is an Outlook account. But the new web based Outlook has a new, clean, minimalist format. It's very user friendly and has been getting excellent reviews from techies at Slate, Mashable and CNET. I've been impressed as well.

I hate to send out that email to my contacts about my address switch. I know it's a hassle for people to make the switch. I'll be sending it out in a few weeks. I'll keep my Hotmail for awhile, forwarding all my emails to my new Outlook account. I'm a little nostalgic about phasing it out. That email has been the constant throughout job changes (and the accompanying email changes) and service provider changes.

So goodbye Hotmail. You were a great email home.

Friday, August 03, 2012


Well, I guess I should weigh in on the Chick-fil-a fiasco.

Full disclosure: I eat at Chick-fil-A more than any other fast food restaurant. I probably eat there once a week. And I will continue to eat there because they have good chicken and great service. I don't agree with the politics of many of the companies I patronize.


Cathy is entitled to his opinion but he went too far. He stated that homosexuality will bring down God's wrath on our nation.

If he had simply said he opposed gay marriage I would have no problem with him expressing his opinion even if I disagree with him or despite it being a questionable decision business-wise.

But to single out a one sin and one group of people as the reason why God's wrath will come upon this nation is utterly asinine.

If you personally believe that homosexuality is a sin then you probably believe that all sins are equal. This is traditional Christian doctrine. Why do Christians say this sin is worse than others? Why would this sin be the one to bring down America and not lying? Or adultery, gluttony, cheating, judgementalism, gossip, drunkeness, etc etc etc?

We are all sinners and we have been commanded not to judge others. We have been called to love others. No. Matter. What. God loves us despite our sin. He loves us before we even ask for repentence. We can't extend that love to others who we think of as sinners? Really? Because I know I have no room to judge anyone. Anyone.

Stand up for what you believe in. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. Boycott groups you disagree with. But stop making a big show about it...whatever side you're on. Because if you do you are setting yourself up as a hypocrite because you'll most likely be gossiping by dinnertime. If you want to eat at CFA, go ahead. But don't post your pictures proudly on facebook. And if you see CFA as supporting hate groups...go to KFC.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

on the playlist

Some groups and songs I've been listening to a lot lately...

Never to Part - Tennis

Heartbreaker - The Walkmen

Myth - Beach House

No One Like You - Best Coast

Lazyboy - Brazzaville

Available links take you to YouTube or iTunes to sample the song.