Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Study Shows The Empire Strikes Back is the Best Star Wars Movie

An important source of a coming generation gap

Thanks to an old college buddy, I recently made the fun discovery of FiveThirtyEight, a data- and statistics-driven blog created by stats phenom Nate Silver, famous for accurately predicting the outcomes of elections and sports contests.

In addition to addressing some plain-vanilla topics like science and economics and politics, the aces of analysis at FiveThirtyEight have provided profound probings of pressing problems, including:

What the works of the late, great Bob Ross can teach us about "the important statistical concepts of conditional probability and clustering, as well as . . . the limitations of data;"

The evolution of classic rock as a music genre, in a three-part series (here, here, and here) that addresses, among other things, regional differences in songs played on stations across America, the power of the soi-disant one-hit wonder, and the vexing question of whether bands like Nirvana and Green Day should receive airplay alongside the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Beatles;

And so forth.

But as you may have surmised from the title of this post, it's Star Wars, rather than Bob Ross and classic rock, that is at issue today.

And whether the sample was adequately representative to allow us to confidently state voters' preference, as a lifelong Star Wars fan* I can authoritatively say that The Empire Strikes Back is, in fact, the best film of the franchise.

It remains to be seen whether J. J. Abrams can knock Empire off its pedestal. It'll be tough, but I think he could at least come close.

It's being called an Episode VII X-Wing, and it's awesome!

*My bona fides include, but are not limited to, foregoing the junior prom (I mean, come on, what self-respecting guy goes to prom as a junior?) to travel with best friend and fellow Star Wars enthusiast Jared and his dad to Denver, Colorado, near Aurora, home of the Star Wars Fan Club, for the 1999--that is, first--Star Wars Celebration. Need I say more?

X-Wing image source: Digital Trends

Samoa in the News

Beautiful American Samoa

I read that America Samoa may be experiencing a small dengue fever epidemic at the present time.

That's not good.

I too had the pleasure of entertaining the famed breakbone fever while in Samoa.

I wish all afflicted a swift return to health.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Family Matters

Pa and Grammie
In January I wrote of my paternal grandfather's passing. Grammie, pictured above, left to join Pa this past May, leaving me without any living grandparents. I do feel blessed, however, to have known all four of my grandparents, something not all get to experience.

Today would have been Pa and Grammie's 68th wedding anniversary.

It's difficult to really do either of them justice, there's so much that could be said, with much more that is felt and therefore impossible to put into words.

Grammie and Pa grew up in southern Idaho during the Great Depression, though both sprang from Southern and Midwestern stock. Their ancestry traces back to Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, and even Ireland, which, for the geographically challenged, is not in either the American South or Midwest.

Grammie was born in California, though her family had settled in Idaho some years before. There wasn't enough work in the Gem State, so they had gone down to southern California to pick oranges.

Pa left his boyhood home of Tennessee at age seven. The family moved on the recommendation of a doctor who was treating Pa's older, and only, sister for tuberculosis.

My grandparents and their families' were no strangers to hardships. Few in that so-called greatest generation escaped the effects of two world wars, economic depression, unemployment, famine (in the case of Pa's Irish grandma's family, who probably left Ireland because of the Great Hunger, or potato famine, but that's going back a wee bit), migration, and disease, and Grammie and Pa were no exception.

Both served in the US Navy during World War II, Grammie in the WAVES, stationed in Seattle, Washington, and Pa in the Caribbean and South Pacific seas. After the war, they married, raised a large family, created a successful business that remains in the family, and participated in local politics.

In many ways, they were the embodiment of the American dream. The lives they led and the values they represented suggest that notwithstanding hardships, even catastrophic worldwide economic, political, and social upheavals, it is possible to rise from humble beginnings, establish oneself, and pass on a legacy to be enjoyed by posterity.

Grammie and Pa's posterity, including five children, 16 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren (with at least one more boy on the way), are all beneficiaries of their hard won legacy.

One final thought: I can't recall many times that the family got together to celebrate Pa and Grammie's anniversary. I think we usually somewhat combined it with another important anniversary celebrated on the fourth. My thoughts today are filled with memories of hamburgers, root beers, fireworks, soft summer grass, orange Dreamsicles, aunts, uncles, cousins, and, of course, Grammie and Pa.