This year, I saw 55 movies in theatres in both Arizona and Iowa (56 after this weekend, most likely), and I enjoyed over half of them. Below is my ranking of the movies I saw in 2013, based on how much I enjoyed them. Thanks to Harkins Theatres for the free popcorn (with my shirt) and the cheap sodas (with my refillable cup) and to mom for the shirt and cups as last year's Christmas gifts!
To see this weekend (therefore, not rated): 47 Ronin
55. A Good Day to Die Hard
54. The Counselor
53. After Earth
52. Percy Jackson 2
51. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
50. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
49. 2 Guns
46. Runner Runner
44. The Heat
43. White House Down
42. Escape From Planet Earth
41. Zero Dark Thirty
39. The Wolverine
36. GI Joe
35. The Family
34. Last Vegas
33. Identity Thief
31. Monsters University
30. Man of Steel
29. Red 2
28. World War Z
27. Now You See Me
26. Jack the Giant Slayer
25. About Time
24. Pacific Rim
23. Jurassic Park 3D
22. Oz the Great and Powerful
21. The Croods
20. We're the Millers
19. The Call
18. Saving Mr. Banks
17. The Book Thief
15. Kick Ass 2
14. The Internship
13. Delivery Man
12. The Lone Ranger
11. Iron Man 3
10. Thor 2
8. Captain Phillips
7. The Hunger Games 2
6. Olympus Has Fallen
5. Ender's Game
3. Star Trek: Into Darkness
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Everyone knows the ultimate goal when sitting in the bleachers at a baseball game is to snag a home run, and someone at today's White Sox-Mariners game did just that - a grand slam home run, no less, off the bat of Kyle Seager. But while the announcers showed replays of the home run, all I could see was one poor little kid who should have gotten a baseball and didn't, thanks to the carelessness of another fan (that I think was his dad). Therefore, I present to you How NOT To Get A Baseball At A Game (a pictoral representation in four photos).
Image 1: Here we see the stands in left-center-ish field. Kyle Seager has just mashed a ball out there, and it falls a few rows behind the wall, just in front of the man in the white shirt.
Image 2: Clearly, the man did not catch the ball cleanly, and he begins his hunt for said ball. We also see in this photo what can only be presumed to be the man's son, in the blue Mariners shirt standing nearby, holding his own baseball, perhaps from batting practice earlier in the day.
Image 3: The man has now spotted the ball somewhere in the center aisle, and his tunnel vision is focused so intently on obtaining his prize that he has forgotten that he is a father, let alone that his son is standing nearby. He runs his own flesh and blood down, sending the kid sprawling backwards!
Image 4: The kid goes flying to the concrete and whacks his head on a nearby railing, dropping his own baseball as dad goes running after the homer. It is unclear whether or not dad got the home run ball because the video reverts to Seager's home run trot.
Watch where you're going out there, people...!
I am officially a Master's degree holder from the University of Arizona today!
Yesterday was my graduation celebration, and it was really very nice (if a long day). My day started with my being mostly unable to sleep in anticipation of all the events, so I got up and got showered and put together fairly early (for me). I was out the door by 8:30am on my way to the SIRLS Convocation ceremony.
Once I arrived at Crowder Hall on campus for the ceremony, I got dressed in my cap and gown, and met my parents outside. The ceremony itself was brief, but intimate and very nice. The SIRLS director, Bryan Heidorn, spoke and presented a couple awards to faculty and staff who were leaving the school, and then the former director Jenna Bradley gave a guest speech about the future and our place over our new and hopefully long and prosperous careers as librarians and information scientists. Finally, Tom Wilding, the SIRLS advisor and everyone's favorite professor, read off our names as we crossed the stage, were hooded, and received faux diplomas (which I may very well frame and hang in my office this week). Afterwards, there was a reception, but we decided not to attend in favor of trying to find lunch and get to the Tucson Convention Center for the second ceremony.
The second ceremony at the convention center was for all of SBS (the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences) and included my school along with things like Political Science, Economics, and Geography, among others. The Dean of the University of Arizona spoke, and there was a guest speaker from Australia. Everyone got their names read, and it was generally a nice ceremony. The only downside was that the undergrads sitting directly behind me had gotten completely liquored up beforehand and were obnoxiously commenting throughout the ceremony. They were talking the entire time, and it made it hard to hear the speakers. After their names were called, they all took off (before the ceremony had concluded, which I thought was incredibly rude) to presumably party some more.
I met Mom and Dad back at our cars, and we went and had lunch at Denny's, before they took off back to Phoenix and I went to my hotel to relax. There was a third ceremony for the entire University's graduating class at 7:30pm that night, but I decided not to go because I was tired and didn't feel like standing in more lines. And anyway, no one was there to watch, so it wasn't so big a deal.
Now that everything's over and I'm back home in Phoenix, I find myself happy that I accomplished the degree, yet kind of depressed that my formal education is over. I may yet some day go back and get a Ph.D. or something, but to have reached the end of school, which has been a huge part of my life for so many years, is very bittersweet. I don't know where my 5-year future is going to take me yet, but I hope I can retain my love of learning and parley that into a long-term career that I can enjoy.
Good morning, all! Today is my big day: graduation from the University of Arizona with my Master's in Information Resources and Library Science (MLS). I'm blogging this from my hotel room, having come down to Tucson a day early to try to rest up before this long day begins. I even got a rental car (the first time I had done so since 2007). It's a red Toyota Prius, and while it is a little small for someone of my height, I actually rather like it. It's got bells and whistles, a hybrid gas-electric engine, some kind of charging system for the battery that uses kinetic energy from the brakes to charge, a touch screen radio system, digital display for the odometer and speedometer, and it's a push-button start (no key). I got it from the airport yesterday early morning and took it back to my apartment for a little bit while I finished packing and doing some dishes before my trip down here. Perhaps good timing, as my water pressure went down considerably just after I did a load in the dishwasher.
The drive down to Tucson was (mostly) uneventful. Traffic was moderately light the whole way, although there was one snafu - a gravel truck had spilled its entire load all over the highway about 30 miles outside of Tucson and it caused a complete shutdown of the highway. All four lanes of traffic were diverted to the left shoulder of the road, through which the cleanup crew had created a bypass. It took about an hour to go about two miles to get through it, but it wasn't terrible.
Once I got into the city, I got to my hotel room, which was the same building I'd used the last time I was here for my Preservation class two summers ago. The room is a single studio room with a tiny kitchen and a decent bathroom, a desk, and a very small television. At least there's plenty of light from the four lamps/fixtures.
Today, the plan is for me to be very busy. There are three entities which are having graduation ceremonies today: SIRLS, which is my specific program, SBS, which is the college my program (and many others) is in, and the UA ceremony, which features all university graduates. At 9:30am, there is a SIRLS convocation ceremony at Crowder Hall on campus where I will be "hooded" - which is apparently the entire point of graduating with a Master's degree. Then at 1pm, there is a ceremony for all the SBS students with individual recognition of each graduate (kind of like my high school graduation, I understand). And finally, at 7:30pm, there is the big university ceremony. Master's students get recognition as a giant group of Master's students, but they're not going to read names.
I expect to be completely drained by the end of all this (in a good way), and so I have my hotel room for one more night down here before I come back up to Phoenix tomorrow morning. I'll probably post another blog and photos once I have them. My family is coming down for the ceremony, as are a couple good friends, so it should be a great time!
Well, it's officially official. I accumulated enough points in my classes to make the cut for As and Bs in each course. That means that on this coming Friday, May 10, I will be able to walk and get my mock diploma (the real one will arrive in a couple months from the printer).
I'm heading down to Tucson on Thursday (even rented a car and everything!) and staying Thursday night, doing all the graduation-y stuff throughout the day on Friday, and coming home Saturday morning. My parents will be in town, so they're going to come to Tucson for Friday's festivities and then we will have some sort of party on Saturday. Several of my friends are also planning to make the trek down to Tucson for the ceremony too, which is very nice of them all! On Monday, my boss and colleagues are taking me out for dinner, too, so that'll be fun!
I'm really glad to just be done with it all and not have to worry about deadlines for papers anymore. The way my job is going, now I'll be better able to focus on work and doing good things there, and it looks like I'm going to be there for a while. I'm going to be starting a prospective research project with some of the neurosurgical residents at the hospital (by which I mean, I do data entry and they do surgery). That project is going to be about operating room traffic and surgical site infections, and will take about a year, but I'll be listed as the third author on the published paper.
I also just got listed as the second author on a chapter in the Barrow Quarterly publication on acoustic neuromas. I edited the paper, picked out all the illustrations, and wrote exactly one sentence-paragraph in the paper, which got changed a little by one of the higher-ups, but my name's on it, so that's awesome! It's going to be distributed to neurosurgeons from around the country at the Barrow Symposium in a couple of weeks.
Hopefully, pics to come from graduation, so stay tuned. I need to buy a real digital camera....
I had a plan for today. Really. I was going to get up, go put money on my laundry card, do laundry, return my movies, return my library books, print my ticket to the Dbacks-Rockies game at the library, and get to the game around 2:30-3:00pm to get in early and try to catch a baseball during batting practice. Unfortunately, the world mostly decided not to cooperate with me.
Once I got up and put on the only clean pants I had available, I went down to the apartment complex office where I live to put money on my laundry card in their little machine. But to my dismay, the office was closed. I tried to wait, thinking I was just a little early, but the office manager never came. I went back home and waited a bit, then tried again, but to no avail. The office was supposed to be open by 10am, but by 11:30, it was still locked up tight. So annoying.
So I tried to be productive. I returned my movies to the movie store across the street and ran down to the post office and picked up a couple packages that were waiting for me (a 2012 Allen & Ginter Bryce Harper framed auto card and a 2012 Bowman Sterling Yoenis Cespedes refractor auto /199). Upon returning to the apartments an hour later (thank you, US Postal Service employees who take FOREVER), the wonderful office staff was STILL not there. So, no laundry today. I'll have to take my clothes to a laundromat tomorrow because the office is closed on Sundays.
After I decided that, I decided to just take a shower and go to the library to return my books and print my ticket. I went to the Burton Barr library, parked, threw my books in the drop, and went up to the second flood express computer area. As soon as I walked up to the computer lab, the librarian put out a sign saying "Out of Order." Apparently, the entire computer network for the library had just crashed and there was no way to tell when it would be back up. Even the librarians' desk computers were down, as was the printer. They suggested that I run down to another library to print my ticket, but I decided I would attempt to wait a little and see if the network would get back up quickly. I had enough time before the game, and I had by that point decided to just skip BP.
After around 40 minutes of waiting (during which time, in retrospect, I should have just grabbed a book to read, but I did not), the network finally came back online and I was able to print my ticket without any issue.
I drove to Chase Field, and the gates were by that point open - and it was Wade Miley Garden Gnome giveaway day so there were thousands of people waiting in very long lines - and I just decided not to even try for any baseballs today. Instead, I went up to my seat and sat down to relax. I had a great seat for the game, in the third deck of the stadium, second row, aisle seat, just to the left-field side directly behind home plate. In my estimation, one of the best seats in the house. I set up my scorecard and settled in. Then I got hungry, so I went out to the concourse and bought some loaded nachos from the Macayo's stand (which were really messy, but REALLY good).
The game itself was one of those weird games where lots of strange things happen. Wade Miley was pitching and started out the game with four strikeouts in the first inning, and seven overall on the night. He only lasted 4 1/3 innings, throwing 98 pitches, but he didn't give up a single run. Martin Prado hit a solo home run to left field in the first inning for us, and it was followed up by an RBI triple by Cody Ross in the same frame. The Diamondbacks wouldn't score again until extra innings. For the Rockies, Wilin Rosario hit a solo homer in the sixth and Troy Tulowitzki drove in the tying run in the seventh before trying to stretch a single into a double and being thrown out by 20 feet.
In the sixth, Dexter Fowler robbed Miggy of an extra-base hit with an amazing diving grab. In the home half of the seventh, a sweet wild pitch allowed Gerardo Parra to take two bases at once, but the Diamondbacks couldn't put anything together against Adam Ottavino. In the Rockies' eighth inning, Michael Cuddyer singled, then Rosario singled. Then, when Josh Rutledge was batting, Cuddyer was picked off and caught trying to steal third. Rosario took second on the play, and one pitch later, Rutledge flied into a double play as Rosario couldn't get back to second in time.
Flash-forward to the bottom of the tenth inning: AJ Pollock singled, then stole second and took third on a wild throwing error from Rosario. Paul Goldschmidt struck out swinging, and Miguel Montero was walked intentionally. With runners on the corners, Cody Ross stepped up to the plate, took strike one, and hit a long, high, towering fly ball to deep left-center field which was caught at the wall - scoring Pollock on the sacrifice fly for the win!
Good ending to an otherwise strange and epic day. Go Dbacks!
This week saw Major League Baseball celebrate the legacy of Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play the game - or at least, the first black man to play with such notoriety. Little-known fact: at least two or three African-American men played the game in its very early days in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But certainly Robinson gets credit for the modern era.
Either way, Topps baseball card company had a little contest on Facebook to describe what I was doing on Jackie Robinson Day. They read through the responses and picked their favorites. The prize? The card on the right. Suffice it to say that because I'm writing all this about it, they picked me. I watched the movie "42" that day about Robinson's beginnings in white baseball.
"42" was actually a pretty great movie. It was obviously toned down a lot - the vitriol against Robinson was likely much worse than a few n-word shouts at the stadium and one old man making a threat outside his house. But the tone of the movie was sufficient to portray Robinson as a great man, and I really enjoyed Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey - owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Next movie on my list is "Oblivion" with Tom Cruise. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Hello, all! You might have realized that I have switched over from Blogspot to Weebly for my blog, and in the process added a website for myself.
Now my reasoning behind this is rather simple: I want a unique place I can showcase myself that is more versatile than a blog alone, and someplace where I can put my accomplishments.
In the future, this website will house my CV and work-related accomplishments, photos from my adventures, and this blog. At some point, I'll probably upgrade to a Pro account here and have the ability to add videos and such, but we shall see about that.
Why Weebly? Well, I'm already pretty familiar with it through my work. I used it to create a pretty decent website for my boss (www.rportermd.com) and for the Barrow Beyond Borders program that's getting off the ground (barrowbeyondborders.weebly.com). Feel free to check them out. Anyway, that's why I'm using Weebly. Once I get even more familiar with things, I may see what I can do with SqaureSpace or with something even more professional, but I envision that being a while down the road.
Look for posts on here on a hopefully regular basis. I know I promised that with the last blog, but I really want to follow through on it now that I've got more to say than "still looking for work, blah blah blah."
Opening Day of the 2013 Major League Baseball season was on Monday for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and once again, I was there for my sixth consecutive Opening Day. Honestly, it was something of a last-moment decision to even go this year. I was anticipating a meeting at work that would require me to stay late and I was tired from a weekend spent having fun with some friends.
I actually didn't even purchase a ticket in advance. I just drove down, paid the cursory $15 for parking, and went find a scalper to buy an overpriced ticket in the nosebleeds. While I was walking to the stadium, I encountered an older man selling a single ticket and offering it for less than face value. I asked him where the ticket was, and he said it was next to him in the left-field bleachers. He wanted $15 for it, which was a killer deal, so I took it. He, his friend, and I all walked over to the stadium and went in together.
Our seats were underneath the overhang in left field with a poor view of the scoreboard, but a very nice view of the field (as you can see in the pics above and below). The place was packed - an attendance of over 48,000 - and because the Dbacks were playing some great ball, it also got pretty loud. I suppose it helped that Julius and the Dbacks fanatics were in our section, which was fun.
There was a very talented 16-year-old cancer survivor who sang the national anthem, and there was a short moment of silence for the Sandy Hook school shootings. I attempted to score the game, but after about three innings, my companions were more interested in talking to me than letting me focus on the same. I just had to give it up, and I went and got some delicious loaded nachos from the gluten free stand topped with beef, nacho cheese, and jalapenos and a GF Redbridge beer.
As for the game itself, the Diamondbacks trounced the Cardinals 6-2. Gerardo Parra stole the show with three doubles and four hits overall as the leadoff hitter, and Ian Kennedy picked up the win after seven innings and eight strikeouts. Honestly, I went to the game more to relax than anything else, and I succeeded in that goal. It was a fun night for a last-minute decision to get out of the apartment after work.
First of many games this season for me!
Jeff Flake's War on Political Science
Here we go again. Another member of Congress has decided to introduce an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which would ban the National Science Foundation from spending money on political science research. And if this story seems familiar, it should. I wrote about Senator Tom Coburn's (R-OK) amendment to the 2010 CJSRA Appropriations Act which would have done the same thing back in October 2009 in my post Is Political Science a Science? You can read the particulars of that fiasco by clicking on the link, but the gist is, Sen. Coburn submitted the amendment, which read, "None of the funds appropriated under this Act may be used to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation."
So two nights ago, attached to the 2013 CSJRA Appropriations Act (HR5326), Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ06) submitted House Amendment 1094: "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation." Eerily similar to Sen. Coburn's amendment, which failed to pass in 2009. Earlier that day, Congressman Flake attempted to cut over $1.2 billion from the NSF budget in order to save taxpayers from purportedly frivolous scientific research studies in everything from biology to sociology to astronomy, and tried to convince the chamber that NSF spending should be brought back to 2008 pre-stimulus levels (the 2011 NSF budget was approximately $6.8 billion - about the same level as the country of Singapore spends on their National Science Foundation).
In advocating for the anti-political science amendment, Congressman Flake, who holds a Master's degree in political science himself, it must be said, called government funding of political science research "a meritless program" (Congressional Record H2543) and espoused that since 75% of the grants being given by NSF were going to large universities, shutting down the NSF political science grant programs wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. On behalf of the 25% minority (and the 75% majority regardless of the numbers) I beg to differ.
Congressman Flake eventually got his anti-political science amendment to pass, posting on his Facebook page that
"You'll be pleased to know that my amendment to the Commerce/State/Justice appropriations bill to prohibit more spending on questionable political science studies passed early this morning by a vote of 218-208. One of the studies taxpayers recently funded, for $200,000, asked 'Why political candidates make vague statements.' I guess it's because...well, because, well, our children are our future?... Enough said. Good riddance to this waste of your money!"The study Congressman Flake cites is NSF Award #0921283, given to a pair of researchers collaborating on the research question of "why do candidates employ ambiguity, and what are the consequences?" (Please note that nowhere in the award do they ask the question "why do candidates make vague statements?" This is ambiguity on the part of Congressman Flake.) The award was handed out in 2009 (not exactly recently, given that most research studies of this nature take less than two years to complete) for $216,884. The project involves undergraduate and graduate students helping practice doing scholarly research and employs potentially innovative new methods for experimentally studying campaigns. Surely the congressman, with his Master's in political science, realizes that the advancement of research and scientific knowledge depends on studies like these.
What's even more interesting to me is that Congressman Flake has singled out the NSF political science research as something that is going to save taxpayers money. In fact, it's not "good riddance to this waste of your money" at all. Congressman Flake's amendment doesn't cut any money from NSF's budget. It redirects the funds that were going to be spend on political science research questions to other hard science or social science research questions. Instead of "Why political candidates make vague statements," the money could be going to "Peer Influence and Aesthetic Taste" (Award #1203426 researching if people's opinions are influenced by what other people think) or "Major and Minor Element Ordering in Minerals" (Award #8318674). Both of these studies have just as much - or in Congressman Flake's case, just as little - merit as any political science research funded by NSF. So why the war on political science?
Speaking of money, I wondered just how much money was going to political science research from NSF in the first place. I mean, Congressman Flake had to be targeting political science because it represented some major source of research funding that stands out against the backdrop of all other research, right? To get something in your sights, you first have to be able to have it large enough to see. According to NSF's website, the organization made 74 grant awards in fiscal year 2011 (FY2011, going from October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011) for a grand total of $6,229,523. Out of the entirety of the FY2011 NSF budget, this represents 0.00092% of all NSF appropriations ($6.8 billion). Congressman Flake is targeting political science research that represents nine-ten-thousandths of one percent of the budget. (I did try to find statistics showing whether or not this was greater than or less than the amount the US Congress spends on Post-it notes and pens in a given fiscal year, but such numbers have eluded me. I suspect the Post-its win, though.)
Sadly, this cut-everything Congress decided that NSF's political science funding deserved to be transferred to other departments, and late Wednesday night (Thursday morning in DC), H Amdt. 1094 passed the House of Representatives by a roll call vote of 218-208 with five not voting. Five Democrats sided with 213 Republicans to pass the amendment, while 27 Republicans and 181 Democrats had a little more respect for scientific research.
(The Republicans who voted against the amendment are: Aderholt, Bartlett, Biggert, Bilbray, Cole, Dent, Dold, Fitzpatrick, Gibson, Grimm, Hanna, Hayworth, Hurt, Johnson (IL), Kelly, King (NY), Latham, Lucas, Platts, Reichert, Renacci, Stivers, Thompson (PA), Tiberi, Tipton, Turner (OH), and Young (IN).)
This has been Congressman (and current Senatorial candidate) Jeff Flake's big problem for me: he tends to focus on issues which sound great to fiscal conservatives - cutting poli-sci money from a big government science foundation - but which really make absolutely no difference in the grand scheme of reforming anything in Washington DC. Even the Congressman's quest to eliminate earmarks, while a good idea, hasn't really resulted in saving the taxpayer any money. That money that would have been hidden as an earmark in some giant bill somewhere simply got shunted off and spent on some other program that Congressman Flake probably had just as much of a problem with. I keep wondering why the most conservative member of Congress - as he is consistently voted by a variety of groups - doesn't use his influence and his stature to tackle entitlement reforms for Medicare/Medicaid, cut spending to the bloated Department of Defense, or work on the other actual problems this country faces instead of spending time and energy trying toredistribute money for political science research!
The congressman calls many of the studies done by NSF "meritless" and questionable. I have to wonder who he is that he can prognosticate the future and know what research will be valuable and what will not. I also wonder why he thinks it is a good idea for the federal government to be in the business of telling people what science is questionable. That kind of thinking leads in one direction: toward government control of ideas and knowledge, and you get "1984" all over again.
Congressman Flake has disappointed me with this amendment, but there is hope. The Senate and the House will have to meet in conference committee to hash out the differences between their passed versions of the Act. It is possible that the amendment will be taken out during that time. I urge everyone who reads this to contact Congressman Flake's office at the numbers below and make your voices heard. It might not be a bad idea to let your own congressmen and women know your thoughts as well! Together we can help beat back a bad idea.
Washington, DC office: 202-225-2635
Mesa, AZ district office: 480-833-0092
Mailing Address: 240 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
Feel free also to leave comments below. I will work to forward any I get to the congressman's office myself.