Monday, July 30, 2012

The Weekend; The Olympics; The Dark Knight Rises

So, our weekend was decidedly a good one.  It was the first weekend after Amy finished the bar, and I know that she felt really good about finally being able to relax.  I felt really good about having the chance to finally enjoy some stress free/study free time with her.  She wrapped up the bar exam on Thursday, and we didn't do a whole lot on Thursday night.  She was tired, and I was feeling a little under the weather with allergies.  On Friday, though, we got up and ate breakfast and rode our bikes to the pool at Garrison Park.  We lay on the lawn and swam in the water, and Amy got a chance to be outside and relax in the sun for the first time in quite a while.  We rode home and went grocery shopping.  In the evening we went over to Jaci and Josh's house and watched the opening ceremonies of The Olympics.

The opening ceremonies were... weird.  There were some cool parts (I liked when they forged the Olympic rings during the recreation of the industrial age and then hoisted them into the sky), but there were some bizarro moments, to be sure (the giant Voldemorts and army of Mary Poppinses and the celebration of the digital age with a boy meets girl story and a bunch of pre-digital age rock music, just as examples).  There was just a whole lot going on in that opening ceremony, and Danny Boyle (the famous film director tasked with producing the thing) seemed intent on squeezing in every notable thing that had ever happened in Britain in one live show.  As someone at our watch party pointed out, the whole ceremony felt like a theatrical depiction of what it would sound like to have a 10 year old explain the history of England to a 5 year old.
At any rate, I like the Olympics.  It was fun to watch the athletes from all of the different countries entering the stadium.  All of the sports aside, it's just cool to see the countries of the world come together in a celebratory, cooperative way to pull this thing off.  It's also strange to think that one of the few things that's consistently brought us together in such a happy way for these many years is the chance to engage in some friendly but fierce competition with one another.  We want to come together, but the thing that makes us the happiest in is the chance to prove who's best.
Humans are odd animals.
I like the Olympics.  So many people from different countries in really good shape doing amazing

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Weekend

The weekend was pretty good, all things considered.  Amy has the bar exam this week, so the weekend was mostly devoid of scheduled activity while she studied for it.  On Friday night I went to a happy hour with some of the folks who work on the mental health docket with me.  After I got home, Amy and I went to Chuy's for dinner.
On Saturday I went for a pretty long bike ride in the morning.  In the afternoon I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man with my dad.  It was an entertaining popcorn flick.  I'm still not sure they needed to make another Spider-Man movie, given the fact that it's only been ten years since we got his origin story the first time in a different movie, but at least they didn't totally botch the thing.  I still prefer Tobey Maguire's nerdier but less angsty Peter Parker to Andrew Garfield's new take on the character, but that's probably largely just a matter of taste.  Garfield did a decent job.
Anyway, the new Spider-Man movie had a few cheesy moments, but on the whole, it was pretty good.  Most importantly, perhaps, it didn't have the crowds and the hassle involved with trying to see the new Batman flick on its opening weekend (we were able to actually just walk up to the window and buy tickets.  Imagine!).  Anyway, fun time with Dad, popcorn, and action movie.  Kind of a classic Saturday afternoon.
Sunday I went for another bike ride, and then I went to the pool for a while.  The pool at Garrison Park isn't as unique as Barton Springs, and I guess I've been spoiled by swimming in cold springwater for years now instead of pools with chlorine, but that being said, I enjoy hanging out there.  It's just a big, old fashioned neighborhood pool, but it has trees and a nice, grassy lawn beside it, and the water feels good.  I can ride my bike there and back with no problem, which is also a big plus (I can ride my bike to Barton Springs, too, but it's a little further with a lot more hills).
Sunday evening we had band practice.  It was at Reed's house, and it was good.
After dinner I came home and grilled some chicken sausage and avocados.  We had sausage wraps and potato salad and grilled veggies.

That was about it.  Amy's taking the bar this week.  I'm trying to just send good vibes her way, and I'm trying to be supportive.  The bar exam is no fun, but she's been working hard to get ready for it, and I know she'll be just fine.  I love you, Amy!

That's it!  Hope all of you guys are doing okay.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Cowardly, Superstitious Lot

Ready for some random rambling?

Batman famously described criminals as "a cowardly, superstitious lot" back in his early days, when explaining the logic behind dressing in a bat suit to scare the bejeezus out of bad guys.
Well, apparently political media pundits also scare easily.  In the least week I read a story where Rush Limbaugh railed against the new Batman movie, angrily lambasting it because the movie's primary antagonist and villain happens to be named Bane.  According to Limbaugh's uninformed logic, the villain named Bane in the new Batman movie is clearly a reference to Mitt Romney's former company, Bain Capital, which has been a source of significant controversy following complaints about the company's outsourcing policies and the impact of those policies on American workers.
According to Limbaugh, the creators of the movie were obviously seeking to create some sort of subconscious link in the minds of their viewers between Bane, the movie's evil villain, and Mitt Romney's association with Bain Capital.
The problem with Limbaugh's thinking, as any good comic geek will immediately know, is that Bane has been around as a major villain in the Batman comics for a long time now (as the article points out, since before Romney made his first bid for elected office).  Furthermore, this Batman movie involving Bane has been in production and preproduction for years- since long before it was ever clear that Romney would end up being the GOP candidate in the 2012 election.
Soooooo to say that a Batman movie about Bane is meant as a Democratic campaign propaganda tool might say a little bit more about the paranoia that Limbaugh suffers from than it does about the actual content of the movie.
Not to be outdone, though, the left wing pundits are decrying the film as an obvious attempt to smear the image of the Occupy protesters and to vilify those who would champion economic equity.  Salon writer David Sirota writes about how the character of Bane is meant as a sort of bogeyman for young, budding American capitalists.  He goes on to try to make more general characterizations regarding a contemporary media environment where rich people are always portrayed as the good and righteous and where poor people are shown as scary villains.  I'm not sure that our media culture has actually moved strongly away from championing the underdog, but Sirota, at least, seems to have a somewhat greater understanding of the character of Bane.  Bane has been sort of portrayed historically as a sort of terrorist figure, and it's not necessarily out of step with history of the character for Nolan to be portraying him in this new film as a political fanatic who wants to start a class war.
But as I understand it, the point of Bane from the comics (and almost certainly in casting him in a villain role in this movie) is to show the danger of an individual who can take a rational, understandable public issue and exploit it into a movement and/or cause of action that's violent and destructive.  I think Nolan's a smart filmmaker, and he probably senses that the best villains are often the ones who have some sort of relatable, rational point to make somewhere within their warped, twisted logic- that they become villains in terms of the way that they violently react to some of the same frustrations and injustices that many normal people feel.
It's not a bad moral for a modern movie- the notion that even a just cause can lead to an unethical, unjust course of behavior once extremism takes hold.  Our political leaders might want to stop and consider that lesson the next time they shut down the government or damage the nation's credit rating through political grandstanding.

***********

I started this post a couple of days ago, and then, today came the news that 12 people had been killed and up to 50 injured in a spree shooting at a theater in Colorado.
It makes me really sad.  I'm not sure what's wrong with people.
I just want to be sure to point out that I don't see how the shooting really has anything to do with politics (even though that's sort of the theme of this post).
I'm going to publish what I already wrote, but I don't really want to right a whole lot more about this movie for the time being.  Not the movie's fault, but I'm not feelin' it...

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Weekend, Savages

Howdy!
Well, the weekend was pretty good.  Amy is pretty deep in her bar exam preparation, so it wasn't super summer fun awesomeness (I just feel a little bad for her because she's trapped in the studying), but it was a pretty nice weekend.
Friday night I went for a bike ride.  It had just stopped raining, and the sun was coming out, and I took a nice trip down to South Congress to watch the happy Austinites shop and eat at the food trailers.  I rode home and took a shower, and picked up Amy and we ended up going for a nice little impromptu dinner date at Enoteca.  We sat on the patio, had a couple of drinks, ate some pizza, and watched people go by.  It was a very nice evening.
(Amy says I have to wear my helmet.  Says
it protects my melon*)
Saturday I spent a lot of time biking.  I rode downtown to my office building (just to see if I could do it and how long it would take), rode around downtown a little bit, and then rode back up South Congress to get home.  After I got home, I grabbed a backpack with a bathing suit and a towel, rode over to Academy on Brodie (there was a whole debacle involving a bike computer that didn't work), and then rode over to Garrison Park to go to the pool.
When I got home I went to the store with Amy.
We had chicken tacos for dinner, and they were bueno.
Sunday I rode over to Target to pick up some cleaning stuff (and highlighters- the Amy bar exam study method seems to involve lots of different colored highlighters). 
We took Cassidy for a walk.
In the early afternoon I rode over to the movie theater and went to see the new Oliver Stone movie, Savages

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Goodbye Grandpa Ross

My grandfather, Marvin Ross, passed away yesterday.  His loss is sort of a personal thing to me, and at first I wasn't even going to post about it, but Grandpa Ross was an important person in my life, and I finally decided that if I'm going to go on about the random details of my weekend each week, I should probably at least mark his passing in some way on my blog.  Technically he was my step grandfather and not a blood relation.  He married my biological grandmother who passed away years ago, Kay Ross, before I was born.  Grandpa Ross was a grandfather to me my whole life, since the time when I was a very little kid and too young to even understand the meaning of blood relations.  By the time I grew old enough to figure out what the distinction was, it seemed utterly unimportant.  He was just Grandpa Ross- a fixed part of the family.
(Here's a picture of both Grandma and Grandpa Ross that Grandpa Ross'
son, Frank, took about ten years ago.  Love this picture!)
My grandfather was a really great guy.  He was a World War II vet (a paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne) who fought in North Africa, Italy, and Normandy.  He used to tell me about riding horses while growing up and about the cavalry in his earliest military days.  He once told me about sneaking behind enemy lines in Italy with some guy to get booze for a party that the guys from his unit were going to have. 
Most importantly, Grandpa Ross was a kind, friendly man who almost always had a smile and a laugh for me.  He had a good sense of humor, and he really enjoyed the company of friends and family.  He was a devoted, loving husband who really set an example in the way that he looked out for my grandmother.
My grandfather had a long, full life, and his death didn't really come as a surprise, but I'm still going to miss him.  I loved him a lot.


Monday, July 09, 2012

July 4th and the Weekend

(Cassidy gives a patriotic 4th of July greeting to our neighbors)
So this past week we got not only a weekend, but an extra, mid-week, 4th of July holiday as well.
On the 4th I did some bike riding, and Amy did some studying.
It was a nice holiday.  In the evening Amy and I went over to Ryan and Jamie's place for a while, ate a few chicken sausages and potato salad, and watched some neighborhood fireworks.  It was nice to hang out.  Amy made some chocolate chip cookies, and they were very good.
I took Friday off work (I had an extra vacation day to burn).  My mom and dad are in Alaska, but they had offered us their house in case we needed to get away so we headed out there once we both had a chance to exercise and throw our stuff in a bag. 
Our weekend out in Steiner Ranch was nice.  It gave us a change of scenery, and it felt like a mini vacation.  Amy did some studying, and I cycled around Steiner Ranch.  As it turns out, riding up and down hills on a bike can really tire you out. 
The weather was nice, and we spent a lot of our time outside.  Mom and Dad have a world class porch.  We went to the pool for a bit on Saturday afternoon, ate some watermelon, and grilled some chicken burgers and squash.  It was a nice little getaway.
Yesterday we got back.  We had some breakfast tacos at Torchy's, and I rode over for a short visit with Ryan and Jamie.  Last night Amy made some really good tortas with black beans, turkey chorizo, avocado, and cheese.  Yum!
In the evening we watched a bit of Season 2 of Treme.  I like that show, but it can be a wee bit depressing.  Still, you've gotta love the music, and- depsite all of it's problems- you have to love the city.  I guess that's part of the message of the show.  The writers really show how people in New Orleans have been put through the ringer, but they've hung in there because of their love for the city and its culture.  Watching Treme, I've wondered a number of times whether Austinites would stand by their city following a similar disaster.  Growing as fast as the city is, I hope that the people who are moving here will continue to preserve and expand upon the culture of Austin.  It's nice to have people move here for jobs, but it's important that they invest themselves in the community once they're here.
Anyway, New Orleans has definitely had its share of problems, but people remain committed to it.  They don't just live there by way of convenience.  I think that says something about what has been built over time in that town.
Annnyway, that was the weekend.  Three days, and it was relaxing, but it passed in a slow motion blur.  I was sad when it was over.
Anyway, I hope you guys are enjoying your summer.  I'm definitely enjoying mine.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A Bit on the Health Care Decision; The Weekend; Transcendent Man

Okay, so I'm starting to feel a little lame about the fact that I haven't been doing much posting other than weekend updates (I mean, I like keeping track of what I'm doing and sort of keeping a journal of it, but I just don't want the blog to become only that).
So here's a little bit on the health care decision last week. It's really about the legal reasoning more than the merits of the bill, but if this is going to make you mad, just skip it. I try not to write things just to make people upset...

Supreme Court Stuff


To begin with, I was sort of shocked and amazed that the Affordable Care Act was upheld.  For quite a while now I've been feeling (somewhat cynically) as if the Supreme Court has been nothing but a group of politicians in black robes- that their their tortured logic has been often twisting or overlooking precedent and reshaping facts in order to support whatever conclusion fits the bias of the judges.  I've guess I've just felt as though the courts themselves have grown somewhat more cynical.  For example, Scalia, in particular, has made blatantly partisan political attacks from the bench and taken hunting trips with government leaders who had cases pending before him with the court (while, of course, refusing to recuse himself).
So I guess I saw Chief Justice Roberts' swing vote as a fairly brave and honest move, despite the criticims that he's taken from the conservative leadership.  To be honest, I thought his decision was much more nuanced, well reasoned, and in keeping with precedent (as far as I understand it) than what I had expected. 
To be honest, though, even though I support the health care law, I had questions regarding the legality of the health coverage "mandate" as an extension of the Commerce Clause.  True, the