Tuesday, December 10, 2019

POTD: Memento Mori

From 2019 08 17 Lima, Peru

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Basilica de San Francisco de Lima in Peru. Walk up the main aisle of the basilica and halfway to the altar you walk over a grate in the floor. Below are these skulls, reminders of our own mortality, that this world is only our temporary home.

A less jarring photo of the basilica is after the jump. The dark spot in the aisle floor is the grate.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Marriage Story (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Marriage Story (2019): Intimate portrait of a marriage coming apart. Lots of touching scenes, heart-breaking scenes and searing scenes. Lots of dialog gives lots of opportunity to dissect everything about this relationship. Scarlet Johansson and Adam Driver deserve Oscar noms. A-

Sunday, December 8, 2019

POTD: Tulips for a Good Cause

From 2019 04 09 Waxahachie

Today's photo-of-the-day is to brighten your day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when winter approaches and spirits might be low. It's from Waxahachie's Poston Gardens.

"Poston Gardens is only open during tulip season (spring) when the tulips are blooming. When you visit, you'll see hundreds of thousands of tulips blooming. Pick your favorites, take them home and even buy your own tulips to plant at home. And get the best pictures to share with family and friends. Poston Gardens is a 501 c3 organization helping to fund scholarships at Daymark Living for adults living with intellectual and developmental delays."

Next spring, make it a point to pay them a visit. Until then, enjoy the pretty picture.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

POTD: Fridheimar

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day shows the Fridheimar greenhouse in Iceland. Visting Iceland, the land of fire and ice, in winter, might give you the impression of a barren land. But then you come across this greenhouse, filled with tomatoes, and not just that, a restaurant among the plants serving fresh vegetables year round.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Review: The Sixth Extinction

The Sixth Extinction
From The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert:

Open quote 

Very, very occasionally in the distant past, the planet has undergone change so wrenching that the diversity of life has plummeted. Five of these ancient events were catastrophic enough that they're put in their own category: the so-called Big Five. In what seems like a fantastic coincidence, but is probably no coincidence at all, the history of these events is recovered just as people come to realize that they are causing another one."

In a calm, reasoned, tone, Kolbert lays out the case that we are living through a mass extinction on Earth. We should be tearing out hair out, but we are not. Despite the intelligence of our species, humans are such obtuse creatures.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019): Magazine writer with anger issues with his father is assigned to write a profile of Mr. Rogers. The interview turns into therapy. Rogers is a saint, the same off camera as on. Hanks has Rogers down. The movie is more Matthew Rhys's. B+

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

POTD: Gullfoss

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day shows Gullfoss (Golden Falls), a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. It was both very cold and very windy the day we visited in late winter.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Ford v Ferrari (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Ford v Ferrari (2019): A sports movie. A good one, but still. Predictable plot. Two-dimensional characters. Clichéd dialog. The guys from Ford are supposed to be the good guys, but I found myself cheering for the "wops" from Ferrari. Good performance by Christian Bale. B-

Monday, December 2, 2019

Idle Thoughts: Family of Grifters

Tweets from November, 2019:
  • 2019-11-01: Parasite (2019): Korean. Family of grifters con a rich family. All is going well until a complication arises. Then it's chaos. A black comedy with violence, suspense, and farce. Just when you think writers have written themselves into a corner, they escape. Over and over. A-
  • 2019-11-02: Whose was bigger? The Washington Nat's World Series victory celebration or the Trump inauguration crowd? Trick question: the correct answer to any question about whose is bigger is never Trump.
  • 2019-11-04: Echo in the Canyon (2019): Documentary about a magical place and time when the mid-60s California Sound was in its prime. Reminiscences by many of the musical geniuses of how they inspired each other. Lots of 2015 tribute concert. Lots overlooked. Not enough old video. B+
  • 2019-11-04: Thread. Maybe the most important message you'll read during the 2020 election campaign.

After the jump, more idle thoughts.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Irishman (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Irishman (2019): Scorsese directs De Niro, Pacino, Pesci (that's all you need) in a 3.5 hour intimate epic (there can be such a thing) about the mob and the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. A disapproving look from De Niro's daughter, just a look, supplies the morality. A-

Saturday, November 30, 2019

POTD: Geysir and Strokkur

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from central Iceland, the land of fire and ice. Here is a basin of geysers and hot springs. This particular geyser is named Strokkur. A larger, but less regular geyser (we didn't see it erupt during our visit) is named Geysir. It's the geyser that gave all other geysers around the world the name.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Stuber (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Stuber (2019): Big fan of Kumail Nanjiani but this movie misuses him. More a violent action movie than comedy. Does neither genre justice. Dave Bautista is given more role than he can carry as an actor. C-

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Knives Out (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Knives Out (2019): Wry murder mystery that's worthy of and pays tribute to Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, CSI, and Murder, She Wrote. Convoluted plot (a donut hole inside a donut inside a donut hole) that never takes itself seriously (*cough* Daniel Craig's accent). B+

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? (2019): Cate Blanchette as an manic-depressive, anti-social architect whose problems stem from leaving her career. Artists need to create. Great lead performance in a role that the audience can never quite connect with or cheer for in the end. C+

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

POTD: The Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Revealed

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from central Iceland. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a mountain range located along the floor of the Atlantic Ocean on the dividing line between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. For most of its length, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is under water, but a portion of it is visible above sea level. That's Iceland. The tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of about 1 inch per year. This photo shows where that pulling apart is happening in Iceland. Find just the right crack in the ground, perhaps right under that house, straddle it, and you can claim you are standing with one foot in Eurasia and the other in America.

Monday, November 25, 2019

POTD: Geothermal Energy in Iceland

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from a geothermal power plant in Iceland. Hot water is pumped into the ground, where it is heated by geothermal energy. Steam is used to drive turbines to generate electricity. When the water has cooled too much to drive the turbines, it is piped all the way to Reykjavik, where it is used to heat homes and businesses and even pavement to keep the city ice-free in winter.

Geothermal power plants provide Iceland with some of the cheapest electricity in the world. A New York Times story explains how Iceland captured American aluminum smelters, an electricity intensive industry. Ore is shipped to Iceland from as far away as Australia, to be smelted into ingots which are re-exported for things like auto manufacturing in Japan. Bitcoin mining, another hugely electricity intensive activity, now consumes more electricity in Iceland than homes do. BBC has that story. This photo shows where it all comes from.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

POTD: Check Off the Northern Lights

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day shows the reason we went to Iceland, and the reason we went in winter, when nights are long and dark. It shows the Aurora Borealis as it appears in Thingvellir National Park, a suitably remote vantage point away from the lights of Reykjavik. The Northern Lights have been on Ellen's bucket list since high school. She can now check them off.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

POTD: Bathing in the Blue Lagoon

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken on a late winter day at Iceland's Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa in a lava field in southwestern Iceland. It is supplied with water used in the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station. Boiling water is pumped up from underground. Steam drives turbines to generate electricity. When the water cools too much to generate any more electricity, it is released into ponds for humans to enjoy warm bathing even on cold winter days.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Review: A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase
From A Wild Sheep Chase, by Haruki Murakami:

Open quote 
It was my partner. "Could you come here right away?" he said. There was an edge to his voice. "I have a terribly urgent matter to discuss with you." "Just how urgent is it?" "Come in and you'll find out," said he. "Heaven knows it's got to be about sheep," I said, letting go a trial balloon. It was something I shouldn't have said. The receiver grew cold as ice. "How did you know?" my partner asked. The wild sheep chase had begun."

If that sounds to you like the start of a surreal, absurdist mystery novel, congratulations. You're right.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

One Child Nation (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
One Child Nation (2019): Personal documentary about China's One Child Policy. Propaganda, fines, abortions, sterilizations, abandoned babies & abductions, international adoption racket. Policy now relaxed but China still scarred. Thought-provoking in surprising way. Must see. A+

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

POTD: Scenery in Iceland

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Reykjanes Peninsula, outside Reykjavik, Iceland. It looks back towards the mountains that surround Reykjavik.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

POTD: Hressingarskálinn

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Reykjavik, Iceland. It shows Hressingarskálinn (literally, "refreshment hall") which "was built in 1802 and established as a restaurant in 1932. Ever since then it has been just that, a space for locals and foreigners to gather and enjoy refreshments as well as each other’s company. Over the years it has housed some of Iceland’s most talented artists and writers."

Bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Spy (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Spy (TV 2019): Sacha Baren Cohen plays it straight in a serious role. And carries it off excellently. Real life story of an Israeli spy in Syria in the 1960s. High stakes. Suspense. What drives him, patriotism or adrenaline? Show lags when Cohen is not on-screen. B-

Sunday, November 17, 2019

POTD: "The Best Hot Dog Stand in Europe"

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Reykjavik, Iceland. It shows the hot dog stand Bæjarins beztu pylsur, "the best hot dog in town". According to Wikipedia, "the British newspaper 'The Guardian' selected Bæjarins beztu as the best hot dog stand in Europe." This is it on a sunny day in winter.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

POTD: Soaking Up the Sun in Reykjavik

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Reykjavik, Iceland. It shows the sidewalk dining of the Sæta Svínið Gastropub on a sunny day in late winter. People don't hide from winter in Iceland. If the sun is out, they will be, too.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Traveling the World...Without Leaving Richardson

This article was originally published in "Richardson Living" magazine. Read it on that website or read it here. Or read it in print. Look for it in your mail box.

Traveling the World...Without Leaving Richardson

City Hall

The town where I grew up was anything but diverse. It seemed to me like everyone was white and descended from northern European Catholics or Protestants, just like I was. There were no blacks on my street. Or anywhere else in my not-so-small city. There were no Hispanics. Or Asians. No Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus. There were no other ethnic groups in my school. Or in my church. I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, in the mid-twentieth century. I thought I was unprejudiced. In fact, I just didn't have any opportunities to test me. To me, diversity meant we had a German Catholic church and an Irish Catholic church. There was no Italian Catholic church, but there was a place to get pizza, said to be the first pizza restaurant north of Milwaukee. That was our ethnic food. You get the idea. Appleton has come a long way since I left town fifty years ago to see the world, but that's the place I came from.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

POTD: Sun Voyager on a Rainy Day

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Reykjavik, Iceland. The sculpture on the sea front is Sun Voyager, which according to Wikipedia has been "described as a dreamboat, or an ode to the Sun. The artist intended it to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom."

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

POTD: Tjörnin Swans

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Reykjavik, Iceland. Tjörnin is a small lake in the center of the city. The word Tjörnin in fact means lake or pond, so calling it Tjörnin Lake would be like calling it Lake Lake. According to Wikipedia, the popular pastime of feeding the swans has led to the lake being called "the biggest bread soup in the world."

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Modern Love (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Modern Love (TV 2019): Anthology. Adaptations of personal essays from NY Times. No violence. No shocks. No twist endings. Just the many forms that love takes. It does what it sets out to do very well. A welcome diversion. Lots of familiar faces. B-

Monday, November 11, 2019

POTD: Frikirkjan and Hallgrimskirkja

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Reykjavik, Iceland. It's a human-sized (pop. 125,000), walkable city, pleasant even in winter, on mild days, anyway. The week in late winter that we visited the temperatures were actually warmer than they were back in Dallas. We joked we had traveled to Iceland to escape the Dallas winter. With the warm Gulf Stream and global warming, Iceland just might grow more popular as a winter destination.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Autumn in Richardson

Duck Creek

It's November, and Northern Wisconsin finally makes it to North Texas.

H/T C.M.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Undone (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Undone (TV 2019): After car accident, young woman finds she has powers over time and space. With help of her dead dad, she tries to find out who killed him. Her struggle to figure out her own life is what causes this show to succeed. Rotoscoping animation gives a unique look. B+

Friday, November 8, 2019

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing
From Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens:

Open quote 
Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace—as though not built to fly—against the roar of a thousand snow geese."

The story of the marsh is the third major story line in this novel, the one that makes the novel soar above the love story and the murder mystery.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

RISD Election: How Did It Go?

On November 5, 2019, the Richardson ISD conducted its first-ever election with single-member districts. The new voting system was specifically designed in reaction to a voting rights lawsuit that complained that RISD's at-large voting system discriminated against the minority community. In this first election, three of the five single-member districts were up for election. In each of the next two years, another single-member district, plus an at-large district, will be up for election. At the end of three years, all of the new districts will have been elected under the new system. Now that the first election is behind us, let's ask how it worked.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

POTD: Heads-Up! Puffin.

From 2019 03 01 Iceland

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Kevflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland. That's a puffin poking down from the ceiling in the baggage claim area in way of greeting arriving passengers. Iceland's puffin population is estimated at 10 million birds. The human population in the whole country is only about 340,000, so it's natural that puffins get a lot of attention. Admission: we didn't see any puffins. The best time to see puffins in Iceland is the summer. We were there in winter to see the Northern Lights. More on that to come.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Jojo Rabbit (2019): A boy's family shelters a Jewish girl in WWII Germany. An imaginary Hitler mentors the boy to be a good Nazi. It's a comedy. Work with me on this. Nazi Germany through a boy's eyes. Movie does a good job of balancing farce, tragedy, and touching scenes. A-

Monday, November 4, 2019

Echo in the Canyon (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Echo in the Canyon (2019): Documentary about a magical place and time when the mid-60s California Sound was in its prime. Reminiscences by many of the musical geniuses of how they inspired each other. Lots of 2015 tribute concert. Lots overlooked. Not enough old video. B+

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Idle Thoughts: Just Another TV Talking Head

Tweets from October, 2019:
  • 2019-10-01: "Jeffress is just another TV talking head, selling his apocalyptic tomes, and always searching for another Other to demonize." -- Rob Wilonsky. (Link)
    Yep. He says he's powerless to bring on the Apocalypse, but that doesn't seem to stop him from trying, no matter what he says.
  • 2019-10-01: Downton Abbey (2019) Faithful to the TV series. Julian Fellowes gives every story line that wasn't wrapped up in the series finale a happy ending. If you've never seen it, you'll be lost by all the characters and subplots, and raise your eyebrows at some plot contrivances. B+
  • 2019-10-01: Shame on you, President Trump. 45 million people died under Mao's Great Leap Forward. It's time for China to quit honoring that legacy. And it was never time for an American President to honor one of history's greatest tyrants. (Link)
  • 2019-10-01: Trump's tariffs have forced Bayou Steel Group, an American steel company, into bankruptcy. They used recycled scrap metal that is largely imported and subject to tariffs to produce new steel. Another failed promise. (Link)

After the jump, more idle thoughts.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

POTD: Na Pali Coast

From 2019 01 17 Kauai

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Na Pali coast of Kauai, Hawaii. Think Arizona's Grand Canyon but where the Colorado River is replaced by the Pacific Ocean. It's spectacular, whether by sea (like this picture) or by land (like the second bonus photo of Waimea Canyon — think Grand Canyon, only green).

Bonus photos after the jump.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Parasite (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Parasite (2019): Korean. Family of grifters con a rich family. All is going well until a complication arises. Then it's chaos. A black comedy with violence, suspense, and farce. Just when you think writers have written themselves into a corner, they escape. Over and over. A-

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Lighthouse (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Lighthouse (2019): Two men confined in a lighthouse descend into madness. Dark. Unsettling. Intense. Like a punch to the gut. Who's mad and who's sane? What's real and what's hallucination? Is it all damn metaphor? Did you like it is the wrong question for this movie. A-

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

POTD: Luau

From 2019 01 17 Kauai

You go to Hawaii, you go to a luau, right? We went to Hawaii, so today's photo-of-the-day is from a luau in Kauai.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

POTD: Kauai Coffee

From 2019 01 17 Kauai

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Kauai Coffee plantation.
"Grown in rich volcanic soil, touched by abundant mountain rain, warmed by the Pacific sun and cooled by the gentle Hawaiian trade winds. Taste Paradise. One Cup at a Time.™"
Too bad Ellen doesn't drink coffee. I do.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Laundromat (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Laundromat (2019): Satire with no bite based on "Panama Papers" leak showing how billionaires and corporations use shell companies to avoid taxes and hide corrupt money. Too many disconnected stories. Not even Meryl Streep can save this. Why is she even in it? C+

Sunday, October 27, 2019

POTD: Polynesian Red Junglefowl

From 2019 01 17 Kauai

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Kauai. It shows one of the countless free-range chickens all over the island. These feral birds are believed to be descendents of chickens that escaped from coops during hurricanes in 1982 and 1992. DNA analysis shows that they are a mix between the chickens brought by the original Polynesian settlers of Kauai and chickens introduced much later by Europeans. The most interesting fact (to me) is that chickens in South America lack the DNA of Polynesian chickens, suggesting that Polynesians themselves never settled South America. So the next time you hear a rooster crow, know that the story it tells contains much more history than I ever imagined.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Tell Me Who I Am (2019): Documentary. Alex wakes from a coma with amnesia, remembering only his identical twin, Marcus, who fills him in on his life story, starting with childhood. Except for a dark family secret. Alex turns obsessive detective. Marcus clams up. All well done. B-

Friday, October 25, 2019

Review: Something Deeply Hidden

Something Deeply Hidden
From Something Deeply Hidden, by Sean Carroll:

Open quote 
Quantum mechanics, in the form in which it is currently presented in physics textbooks, represents an oracle, not a true understanding. We can set up specific problems and answer them, but we can't honestly explain what's happening behind the scenes. What we do have are a number of good ideas about what that could be, and it's past time that the physics community started taking these ideas seriously."

The title comes from a quote by Albert Einstein. All his life he sought to understand the foundations of physical phenomena. "Something deeply hidden had to be behind things," and he was determined to figure out what it was. So is Sean Carroll.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

POTD: Quinn's, the Southern Most Packers Bar

From 2019 01 15 Hawaii

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Quinn's in Kona, Hawaii, the self-proclaimed "Southern Most Packers Bar in the USA." Go Pack!

Bonus photos after the jump.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Judy (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Judy (2019): Last months of Judy Garland's life, on a London tour, filled with depression, pills and alcohol. Unrelentingly depressing, with nowhere near enough glimpses of the brilliance that made her a superstar. Not a tragedy, just sad. Renee Zellweger deserves Oscar nom. B-