Friday, March 27, 2015

The Walking Dead Ep. 515, Try

The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 15: Try

TV rating


ZPAA rating

Teens and up

Offensive content

A mild amount of zombie kills; bad attitudes; human-on-human violence including an extended fistfight with bloody faces and threats of eye-gouging; bad language; a suspenseful cliffhanger ending.

Synopsis & Review

"If you don't fight, you die" is a line said by Rick several times in this episode. It's an idea that has kept him going since he woke up in that hospital way back in episode one. Making it requires effort. He thinks the Alexandria people are not making enough effort which makes them weak and vulnerable. They can't handle an abusive spouse because they want the benefits he provides. They have at best semi-competent runners collecting resources, which led to the fiasco in last episode where multiple people have been killed. They aren't living in the real world, he thinks. He's ready to take over--the Ricktatorship that was threatened three seasons ago but never really happened after the end of season two.

A lot of people are having trouble dealing with the real world. Sasha is off shooting as many walkers as she can; Carl's new girlfriend sneaks out and taunts walkers to feel more alive; Carol makes a gesture of Machiavellian kindness that is apparently received as such. Rick's assuredness is a result of too much Carol (the bad angel on his shoulder encouraging him to take over) and not enough Daryl (the good angel on his other shoulder who wants to fit in and make things work--but he's off recruiting new people for Alexandria, so Glenn has to be a poor substitute). Rick does want to fight but since he's not out among the walkers he's gonna fight the Alexandrians.

The problem is the deeper issue of what a person should fight for--his own good or the good of everyone around them. Rick seems to be mistaking the second for the first in an admittedly complicated situation. He's going too far in the wrong direction...can he be pulled back in time?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling

That's not a mistake in the title for this book. I own a British-published copy of the book (thanks, Sis!) where a bunch of the vocabulary is different. My children are finally old enough to have it read to them, so we are starting the series. They have seen the movie and were curious about differences, though there are hardly any with the first two books and movies. They enjoyed it immensely.

This was my first re-reading in over ten years. For me, as an adult whose already read it twice before, the story is still exciting. I forgot how Rowling's early writing style leaned more to fairy tale. The oppressed boy who has a fabulous destiny awaiting him is fairly common but has a freshness here thanks to the modern day setting. The story moves quickly and has an amazing amount of detail in it about the wizarding world which makes a nice contrast to our everyday world. Some of the detail is light satire (Quidditch's crazy rules are a parody of cricket, though my favorite bit of satire is the history professor who died in his sleep but keeps teaching classes as a ghost). Most of it is just plain great storytelling. The book doesn't get old and I'm looking forward to reading the next one with Jacob and Lucy soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: Anne Frank by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon

Anne Frank's story of hiding in occupied Amsterdam from the Nazis has had several treatments in several different mediums (all based on the diary that she wrote while in hiding). I was excited to discover this graphic-novel treatment at my local library. While most versions focus on the time hiding in the attic, this book gives a full overview of Anne's life, starting with the marriage of her parents. The story moves at a good pace, describing their life in Germany, their flight to the Netherlands, their hiding from the Nazis in the attic of the father's business. The book also covers the period after their discovery, when the family is sent to the concentration camps where all but the father dies. The last ten pages tell the story of her father's discovery of the diary and how it became famous.

Anne's life story is well told. In addition to the overview of her life, the authors added some "snapshots" which are sidebars describing historic events (like the Nazi rise to power or Kristallnacht) or important information (like a world map showing the Allies, Axis, and neutral countries during World War II). I found this book compelling reading and definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lucy's First Public Art Exhibit

The local school system has an art exhibit showing students' works from now until April 24, 2015, at the Howard County Center for the Arts. We went to see it because Lucy's creation is on display! The exhibit is called Personal Geographies - Maps as Art. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and had the place to ourselves.

Howard County Center for the Arts--looks like a converted school to me

The exhibit's entrance sign

The exhibit gallery

Lucy's work is called My Neighborhood Map and is one of three works from her school on display! She didn't have anything enlightening to tell us about the work. I suppose it, like all art, should speak for itself.

Lucy with her work

My Neighborhood Map by Lucy (click to enlarge)

The gallery has plenty of other interesting works. Summer's Past shows a student who has a lot on her mind.

Summer's Past

DC Superhero Islands is a fun, imaginative map. Batman is clearly a favorite considering three islands are related to him. I wonder if Abandoned Island was supposed to be for Hawkman?

DC Superhero Islands

Voyage shows a fun trip in fondly remembered days of sailing.


Map of My Heart is an interesting exploration of a second grader's true loves.

Map of My Heart

Topographic Island is an interesting exercise in patience and precision.

Topographic Island

A few students made 360-degree panorama pictures in a ring. Visitors stand with their heads inside the ring and enjoy the view standing somewhere else. This one shows a street in Ellicott City.

Outside the ring

Inside the ring

DC Cherry Blossoms uses the waters of the Tidal Basin by the Jefferson Memorial (where most of the Cherry Blossom trees are) to show the trees.

DC Cherry Blossoms

Here are some other groups that caught my eye.

Various maps

France and Texas on its side

On our way out, we saw an outdoor painting that looks like it's an advertisement to visit the Walter's Gallery in Baltimore. It's a copy of The Painter and His Model by Alfred Stevens.

The Painter and His Model

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jacob's BSA Report March 2015

The big scouting event in March is the Scouting for Food collection. At our first den meeting, Jacob worked on two activities. One was building a tower of plastic cups with his den mates. It was a nice chance to practice team work. It was a difficult chance to take a picture, however.

Typical fate of a tower

The other activity was crafting puppets. They made the classic sandwich-bag-style puppet, decorating with cut out bits of construction paper, pipe cleaners, etc.

Jacob and his puppet

While the kids were busy, one den leader handed out plastic bags and neighborhood assignments to the parents for the food drive. In the next week, we had to put plastic bags on people's doors asking for a donation of food for the needy. The following Saturday, we collected the food that people left on their front steps. We had a good haul from our assigned neighborhood (which wasn't where we lived but was nearby).

What we collected for the drive

At the pack meeting, the boys did several different activities, including push-up, sit-up, and foot racing stations. The push-up station was especially challenging since the boys had to form a push-up square, with their legs on the backs of each other so that everyone was held up by arms. The Tigers did a respectable job with a tough task.

Trying to make the four-man push up

The fourth station was the monthly distribution of badges, patches, and belt loops. Back at the Blue and Gold dinner, Jacob and his fellow Tiger Cubs were awarded their Tiger Patches but thanks to all the snow storms, the actual patches hadn't come in. At this meeting, the patches had come in but weren't ready for handing out, so we'll have to wait another month.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is the outdoor part of the gallery and has some intriguing works on display. We wandered through on one of our trips to DC.

Six-Part Seating is a work conceived in 1985 by Scott Burton but not made until 1998, nine years after his death! The seats are made form polished granite. Jacob wanted to sit down but a sign said that we shouldn't touch the sculptures (plus, there's that rope).

Six-Part Seating by Scott Burton

Aurora is an intriguing steel sculpture by Mark di Suvero. At first glance it's quite industrial looking, but the angles and curves make it more thought provoking. As a comic book fan, I see some Avenger-style As in it, though surely that can't be intentional. Looking at it more, it seems like all the letters from its name are there.

Aurora by Mark di Suvero

Puellae (Girls) by Magdalena Abakanowicz also brings out the comic-book sensibility in me, suggesting an undead horde on the move. The starkness of the bodies and the lack of heads misled me!

Puellae (Girls) by Magdalena Abakanowicz

House I is a fun trompe l'oeil in aluminum that looks like a house facing different ways depending on the location of the viewer. The intersection of the roof and two walls in the middle is an odd angle that looks normal from the right angle. It was modeled by Roy Lichtenstein but only made in 1998, a year after his death.

House I looks normal here

Quite different from over here

Spider is a bronze sculpture by Louise Bourgeois that captures the creepiness of the arachnid.

Spider by Louise Bourgeois

Graft is a stainless steel tree made in 2009 by Roxy Paine. I'd enjoy this even more in the winter.

Graft by Roxy Paine

There is another work I don't have the title for but it was interesting enough for me to take a picture. I am not sure what to make of it. It's sort of industrial, sort of spiderish. It's the kind of abstract work that exercises my mind but does not provide a satisfying conclusion.

Another sculpture

Nearby the garden (or at least they are within viewing distance) are some other famous buildings.

National Archives

Smithsonian Castle

Capitol Building

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dual/Duel Review: St. Patrick's Day Celebration vs. St. Joseph's Day Celebration 2015

Dual/Duel reviews are an online smackdown between two books, movies, games, podcasts, etc. etc. that I think are interesting to compare, contrast, and comment on. For a list of other dual/duel reviews, go here.

St. Patrick's Feast Day and St. Joseph's Solemnity fall two days apart in March, on the 17th and 19th respectively. We celebrated both this year, though which was the better celebration?

Lucy as green as could be

Nicholas uses food to get green

Three happy siblings

For St. Patrick's, we had corned beef for dinner, even though it is really an Irish-American dish. The recipe is adapted from here. Instead of slow cooking it in the oven, we used our crock pot for the four to six hours of cooking time. I went a little over, since our beef brisket was three and three-quarters pounds and the recipe calls for three and a half. Also, we skipped over the veg part of the recipe since our friends were bringing vegetables. Here's what we did...

  • 2 bottles of Guinness Stout (other stouts of Irish origin are acceptable)
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 3.75 pounds uncooked brisket for corned beef, rinsed well and patted dry
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spice (or use the packet that came with the brisket, like we did)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 head of garlic (sliced on the equator, rendering the other half sort of unusable?)
On the stove in a large pot, whisk together beer and sugar. Put the brisket in, making sure it is mostly covered by the beer (I had to add half a bottle extra to get enough coverage, which meant I had to drink the other half bottle (can't let it go to waste like the garlic, can I?). Add in pickling spice packet, onion, and garlic. Bring to a simmer on the stove, then transfer to the crock pot. Cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours, flipping once halfway through cooking. Remove from crock pot then slice and pour some of the sauce over the corned beef before serving.

The beef on the stove

We also made Irish soda bread and mashed potatoes.

Soda bread

Pre-mashed potatoes

Our friends brought not only vegetables but also home-made Irish Cream ice cream. That was delicious. They did not give us the recipe so I can't share it here, though we will probably try to recreate it once the weather is warmer and we are back into making ice cream at home.

On to St. Joseph...

For some reason, St. Joseph has become associated with Italy so Italian cuisine is typical. We had pizza for dinner, even though it is really an Italian-American dish. Thursday nights have been soccer night for the kids. It was supposed to end the week before St. Joseph's Day, but thanks to snow delays we have some make up classes. There wasn't really time to cook, so we ordered from a pizzeria.

Can you guess from the picture?

We did make some treats at home. The kids have gotten into crispy kale, which is kale baked in the oven.

Lucy eats kale

A much better treat was brownies. Ghirardelli sounds Italian, right?

No Irish Cream here

This duel is a tough call for me. As much as I love home cooked foods, corned beef just isn't a glamorous or especially tasty cut of beef, even soaked in Guinness. Pizza is almost always good, even from chain restaurants (as long as it isn't greasy). Irish Cream ice cream comes out on top of the brownies but the brownies are awesome. Hey, that gives me an idea--the Irish Cream ice cream should top the brownies... hmmm... mmmmm... Okay, I'm back.

St. Joseph's celebration--since the ice cream defected.

St. Patrick's celebration--we'll go back to Guinness Beef Stew next year.