As American as baseball and hot dogs ….

March 24, 2012

Texas is about as unrepresentative of the United States as New York, California, Florida, Hawai’i, Kansas, or …. actually no state is pretty much representative of the United States … but Texas might be more out there than any of them.

The Texas Rangers, after decades of being a pretty bad ball team are riding high after winning back-to-back American League pennants.  They are now an established power.

To wit:  the fans of a state normally unaware that anything aside from NASCAR occurs between the end and beginning of football season are starting to flock to see their beloved Rangers.  And to fee those fans, Noaln Ryan’s team is offering Texas sized food.  Last year, they offered jumbo pretzels weighing in at 3 lbs!  This year, the $26 hot dog, showing here:

($26 hot dog;  also shown:  a baseball bat and yard stick)

This thing could feed a family of four, and that doesn’t even include the disgusting jalapeños and octopus tentacles they have on that thing.  I suppose next year they will be rolling out the 1 gallon cups of beer.


Something rolled my way …

March 20, 2012

… the past two months, I and a colleague from work have been going to a local grill/pub one night a month for pub trivia sponsored by the local library.  It has been a different kind of experience … we have been friends for over ten years.  She is married … really great husband, and three phenomenal kids.  The odd thing is, I don’t think she is much of a trivia nut.  I have wondered if she is doing this to get me out of the house once a month.  It is an odd sort of relationship … I’m not sure that we have much in common, but we share a good conversation, and every so often I get together with her family and get to hang with three very nicely brought up kids.  But I digress …

Last month we showed up late, missed the first round, and managed to mount a comeback and win in the final round.  This week we showed up on time, but we fell behind early on some questions neither of us had a clue on.  Since I know next to no pop music, Sara is very helpful with that.  She is also fairly well read, and knows a lot of pop and non-fiction works of lit that I have never read.  One question asked for John Steinbeck’s last novel, and I was really stuck … she managed to shoot off a list of his works, a few I wasn’s so familiar with.

In pub trivia, it is a bit of a tradition that the team that finishes in last place pick one of the categories for the next month’s tournament. Thus when round 4 came around, we had the last place team’s choice round.  This is usually not a good thing, because it is usually something like “Ukelele tunes of the ’60s”, or “supporting characters from ‘Sex in the City”, Season 2.

This week, it was “1970s Sci-Fi”.  I turned to her, and she just got a nice smile on her face.  No problem, check is in the mail and the dishes are done.   The propelled us back into the top 3, and again in the final round, we squeaked out a win.

Farewell to an unsung visionary …

March 4, 2012

When I was a kid in the early 1980s, I collected Star Wars cards along with baseball cards like a lot of kids enamored with the films.  When The Empire Strikes Back came out, mixed in with the cards were “special cards” that included paintings … I didn’t understand wholly but these were concept artworks of what particular places, things, and scenes would look like before they were shot.  I remembered the odd name associated with the paintings:  Ralph McQuarrie.  While George Lucas invented the story and characters and places of Star Wars, it was Ralph McQuarrie who truly created them and gave them life. The look of Darth Vader and Chewbacca and C-3PO and R2-D2 and Yoda were all described by George Lucas, but the first person to draw them and give them their look was McQuarrie.

Several years later, I had the opportunity to see the real paintings that so many of those cards were based on when the Star Wars: The Magic of Myth exhibit came to the Field Museum.

In addition to Lucas’ original trilogy, he conceptualized the famous mothership in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  He did scene design and designed the spaceship in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.  He did art design for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Jurassic Park.  Even the original design of the Battlestar Galactica was one of his!  He did some concept art work for what was supposed to be the second Star Trek series … which was eventually dumped in favor of starting the motion picture series.  There was a remake of the classic Forbidden Planet that was never made, and McQuarrie did the design work for that as well.

Not bad for a kid from Gary, Indiana!

I am including a link to his official site which itself has galleries of some remarkable artwork that created some of the great iconic images on film of the last 35 years.

Research drag!

March 2, 2012

Now that I am back in student mode, I have had to contemplate a lot of things:

1.  I have now removed all doubts as to whether or not I made the best move when I decided to do my MS during the summers.  I earned my MS by taking three consecutive summers and packing up and moving.  Had I tried to do this while actually teaching, I am certain I would have gone mad and given up.  People do this, and I don’t know how.

2.  When doing an assignment, context helps.

Case in point.  I just finished my first course … a course on ethics.  It was an interesting class, that taught me, via case studies, that for all of the problems my school is facing, it could be worse.  I had a few papers to write, but they were relatively simple.  My last assignment was a short research paper on the work of a particular philosopher who specialized in moral theory applied to educational leadership.  As a matter of fact, this guy worked at UIUC when I was an undergrad and trying to stay as far from the College of Education as possible.  We never discussed him in class … that is hardly a reason not to do research on someone … but it sure would have helped in this case.

I began checking out some articles by this guy, and quickly surmised that this guy was saying “it is critical for educational leaders to have a moral core”.  Gosh … who would have thunk it?

The problem:  trying to write a paper that was longer than three sentences was something that I was having an impossibly difficult time with.  I was completely lacking in the context of where this person was.  It reminded me of Richard Feynman’s story of being involved in a interdisciplinary round-table that was supposed to come to an agreement on moral and ethical decision making, and finding that his concepts of “agreement” and “support” were vastly different than what were used by others.  He (like I) seemed to lack a common vocabulary.  Feynman could at least claim that he was the only scientist in the crowd.  This is supposedly discussing an aspect of education which is like … my calling!  I spent three weeks of the 8 week course researching and could find myself getting nowhere.  I felt like Don Music.  Allow me to give context (the part from about 0:43-0:55 is just about what I was repeatedly doing):

After three weeks, with about a two weeks to go, I was really stuck.  I gave it a few days, and it still wasn’t there.  There were three options for the paper, and two dealt with this guy … the third option dealt with a different guy.  With time running out, I chucked everything on options 1 & 2 and decided to go for broke.

The good news:  This second guy did something that I could finally comprehend and was more than just “be good!”.  Since I was working, it took me well into the wee hours of the morning for the better part of a week to start composing.  I finally finished last night, and sent it along on the last day it was due.

It is going to be a long year + until I am done.  The good news:  I learned that this first class will move me up a column of pay.  The bad news:  yesterday was the last day to submit grade reports to get the pay bump prior to the start of next year … something quite impossible with the class ending yesterday.

The world continues to conspire against me.  Fear not friends!!  I am working on a plan right now to take the world down a notch.  Then I will be laughing while the world squirms.