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Summer Sightseeing

20 Jul

I subscribe to #dataviz guru, Stephanie Evergreen’s blog and found this morning’s post about timelines really great.  I love timelines, both aesthetically and functionally. I particularly liked Stephanie’s idea to use a visual timeline to outline a day’s agenda:

Timeline

The next time I put together a presentation and am tempted to do that requisite “Here’s What We’re Going to Cover in this Talk” slide, I’m going to use this technique rather than some boring list of bullet points. For sure.

My friend and authorstrator, Suzy Becker, shared a wonderful article with me from the latest issue of Smithsonian magazine. The Surprising History of the Infographic will be required reading for the data visualization course that I’m putting together for next spring. And as I told Suzy, I’m changing my job title to “polymath.” I love it.

If you’re interested in joining me in this new old vocation, writer Nir Eyal’s post, Three Steps to Get Up to Speed on Any Subject Quickly may be of help. “Google once, take notes, then stop Googling and start sketching” was perhaps my favorite bit of advice.

And a few other good things I’ve come across and/or have been shared with me over the last couple of weeks:

15 Data Visualization Tools to Help You Present Ideas Effectively has a few listed that I’ve yet to try. I’m always up for trying new tools.

The Analog is a brilliant site for reviews of all things analog – you know, pens, paper, pencils and such. If you’re like me and read James Ward’s, The Perfection of the Paper Clip: Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius, and Stationery Obsession in one sitting, you’ll love this blog.

Design Observer is also a beautiful and enlightening blog that I came across through a tweet to its posts, 50 Books and 50 Covers. Books can be art, in more ways than one.

Finally, July is always a month of celebrations and anniversaries. This very day marks the 47th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon (Do you remember where you were?) and July 5th was the 20th birthday of perhaps the most famous sheep since Lamb Chop, Dolly. Yes, Dolly, “the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, was born July 5, 1996.” Scientific American’s story behind the story of Dolly is a fascinating summer read. Enjoy! 

‘Til next time…Sheep

If Pat Summitt had been a Librarian

28 Jun
Summitt

Photo by Ben Ozburn/TNJN, Creative Commons

I wonder what kind of librarian – what kind of person – I’d be, if Pat Summitt had coached me. I wonder what kind of librarian Pat Summitt would have been. How might she have changed libraries, changed our profession, in the same way she changed women’s basketball and women’s sports forever? How would she challenge us? How would she push us? How would she make us see that we are never the best that we can be? That there’s always room to get better – to be better. To not simply settle for being pushed to the sidelines, but to stand up for the importance of our work. To constantly fight and change and fight and change, as is necessary, in order to push ahead. 

 I admit that this is a strange set of questions to be thinking about (Pat Summitt a librarian?!), but I’m a librarian and I so loved and admired Pat Summitt, and I grew up a tomboy and a gym rat and in the decades of great change in girl’s and women’s sports. And so these pieces come together for me this morning.

Pat Summitt, the legendary basketball coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols and honest-to-goodness trailblazer in girl’s and women’s sports, died this morning. She was 64 years old. I live in Massachusetts where women’s basketball is rightly dominated by the dominating University of Connecticut, but I grew up in Virginia and much closer to Tennessee. I played basketball in junior high and high school and I went to college when women’s basketball was just coming under the umbrella of the NCAA (it was still the AIAW during my freshman year). I am also closer in age to Pat Summitt than to the amazing players of today and so when I read the stories of her and see the video reels, I’m in tune with the trailblazer – the van driving, laundry washing, sandwich making Pat Summitt – and I note how far women’s sports have come from those days. And I’m grateful.

I had the great fortune to have a front row seat for a small part of those early days. I was a manager for the women’s team at James Madison University, coached at that time by another giant figure in the game, Betty Jaynes. JMU never played Tennessee during my years, but we did play Old Dominion and I got to see the likes of future Hall of Fame players, Nancy Lieberman and Anne Donovan, and their own great coach, Marianne Stanley. They wiped the floor with the Lady Dukes, but what an experience to be at those games.

I used to imagine playing for Pat Summitt. I was nowhere near a good enough basketball player to ever do so (I wasn’t even a starter on my high school team) and by the time I was imagining this, I was way too old for such a dream, but I imagined it all the same. I often wondered what it would be like to come under the tutelage – under the stare – of Coach Summitt. Mostly, I wanted to play for her because I am one of the most undisciplined people on the planet and I believe that if ever there was someone who could whip me into shape, it was Pat Summitt. I might be beaten down and die in the process, but still I wanted to give it a try. 

It will never happen now. I mean, it wasn’t going to ever happen before today, either, but now it really won’t ever happen. So I’ll just have to keep on imagining it.

I think of Pat Summitt, Betty Jaynes, and Kay Yow. I think of Joan Benoit Samuelson,  Roberta Gibb, and Kathrine Switzer. I think of Linda Cohn and Robin Roberts and Doris Burke. I think of Billie Jean King. Today, I think of these women who blazed trails for so many in a world still dominated by men. They have been role models to many, many young women and young men. And I’m grateful.

In a changing profession in a changing world, I’m remembering Pat Summitt and all of her fellow trailblazers today. I’m remembering that they changed the world for the better and that they can inspire me to do the same.

What Happened to May?

31 May

It’s not a good sign for my summer that I lost an entire month of the spring. Ah well… it was a different sort of month, filled with some work events and an unexpected life event that kept me away from my computer for more than a week. But before the entire month passes, let me share some things from my “To Share” folder and keep my streak of active blogging months alive. I’ve been blogging here for going on 4 years and have never had a month without a single post. It’s not happening now!

A couple of interesting projects that I tackled for the month involved (1) creating a social network map using Tableau and (2) designing a lengthy evaluation survey in REDCap. For those interested in details regarding either or both of those tasks, I’ll write up some notes and share them in a future post. For now, let’s empty the folder:

Science

If you work in the biomedical research world – or heck, if you simply follow any news about biomedical research – you’ve surely heard the acronym, CRISPR in the past year or two. The discovery and use of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, CRISPR, for editing genes has been an enormous breakthrough in science. It’s also, per this article in Nature, a new and important key for understanding how genomes work. Curious about how it can be applied? Here’s a fun quiz from the folks at Wired magazine, Can You Tell These Real CRISPR Projects from the Fake Ones?

Wonder what it might be like to enjoy the rat race? Researchers do an awful lot of things to our rodent friends for the sake of science, but did you know that they actually enjoy some of them? The rodents, that is, not the scientists. Here’s a fun piece from the blogger, GrrlScientist,  Wild Mice Actually Enjoy Running on Exercise Wheels.

One day, cephalopods will rule the world? Do you doubt me? Here’s proof.

Data and Data Visualization

I may have shared this in a previous post, but even if so, it’s worth sharing again – Flowing Data’s 10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015. You can be both wowed and inspired by reviewing them.

It goes without saying that librarians are hardly the only professional group retooling to adapt to a data-driven, data-overflowing world. Journalism has also become a profession that looks very different from what it did just a few short years ago. Journalist Geoff McGhee’s video report, Journalism in the Age of Data, is a great piece that chronicles and explores how news rooms are changing and adapting to be able to effectively use data to tell stories.

Making data available to users in every conceivable (and even inconceivable) means is key, argues Mac Bryla in his piece for Tableau’s blog, Data Diaries: Culture of Innovation Starts with Self-Reliant People. Here’s a snippet:

What True Self-Reliance Looks Like

Self-reliance is built in part on people’s ability to answer their own questions, which is closely related to the concept of self-service analytic, especially in today’s data-driven age.

For many, the idea of self-service business intelligence, where IT opens up a small menu of capabilities for employees, has not yet produced its promised benefits despite having been around for a few years. It is clearly an improvement on the traditional, IT-run report factory, but it is still too limiting to satisfy people’s ever-growing appetite for information.

So far, self-service BI is more like IKEA’s approach to DIY furniture-making. While it allows us to build our own furniture, it’s limited by factory-manufactured building blocks. As a result, we all end up with the same results despite the process being self-service.

This is not enough when it comes to fostering self-reliance, autonomy, and innovation.

An alternative approach is to give curiosity-driven users a new generation of tools, which will enable them to explore their data and answer their own questions on their own schedules.

I loved the Do-It-Yourself IKEA-approach metaphor.

I’ve been reading Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s book, Storytelling with Data: A data visualization guide for business professionals. It’s succinct and straightforward style is terrific. It’s also filled with many excellent examples and step-by-step exercises, all using Excel. Her blog of the same name is also worth checking out. You might note that she’s on a bit of a hiatus after welcoming a new baby to her family, but there’s plenty of archived info worth perusing.

Along the same lines, you may also want to read Scott Berinato’s article in the June edition of Harvard Business Review entitled, Visualizations that Really Work.

For a fantastic, easy-reading article that uses a bunch of data to explain really well how and why complex problems like affordable housing are so complex, read Michael Anderson’s, A guy just transcribed 30 years of for-rent ads. Here’s what it taught us about housing prices. It’s well-worth remembering in this time of inflated promises by political campaigns of all stripes. (My biased, editorial comment there.)

Track the pulse of the US presidential race via Twitter. Just for fun.

Good Reads

One of the best articles I read this month was an inaugural essay for the brand new Journal of Design and Science (JoDS) out of MIT. I admit that I had to read it a few times through and consult a few outside resources to fully understand it, but once I got it,  I got it! Age of Entanglement, by Neri Oxman, proposes a very interesting theory to explain how the dissolution of clear boundaries between disciplines and specialties breeds (and thus, needs) new means of understanding how people work, think, and create both individually and together. And the Krebs Cycle of Creativity is brilliant!

03.25.16-Oxman-Krebs

Source: Oxman, N. (2016) Krebs Cycle of Creativity (KCC). In: Ito, J. Design and Science.

If you’re ever looking for good, online writing related to science, ScienceBlogs is a nice, one-stop site for finding blogs pertaining to all types of disciplines, including Information Science

A future read will be the Journal of New Librarianship a brand new, open source journal to promote innovative practices in librarianship. They’re seeking submissions, editors, and reviewers. I know I’m planning on contributing in the future. How about you?

Cool Tools

Benchmarking with SciVal in Scholarly Communication and Research Services is a great article by my friend and colleague, Rebecca Reznik-Zellen, Lamar Soutter Library, UMass Medical School. Bibliographic metrics have long been used to measure academic reach and impact, and many tools are coming online to improve and expand this method. SciVal, from Elsevier, is but one of them. Whether you have access to it or not, Rebecca’s piece gives a nice overview of how offering research impact, i.e. the measurement of it, as a scholarly communications and/or research service is right in line with the mission of any academic research library.

Do you wonder how people make those short animated GIFs that appear all over social media today? GifSoup is one way. Here’s a quick tutorial.

Here’s a quick and easy way to clear up some memory in your iPhone, iPod, or iPad. And learn from my mistake – choose a single movie, NOT a bundle. I did the latter and am now stuck with the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Ugh! I’ll never watch them.

I missed attending MLA in Toronto this month, but followed along with all of the tweeters using the #mlanet2016 hashtag. Thank you so much to those who kept us stray folk in the know. One of the best sessions I followed was an early morning one devoted to new text mining tools. So far, I’ve had the chance to play with Voyant Tools. It’s simple to use, easy to understand, and is a wonderful addition to the toolkit.

Virtual Knick Knacks

Finally, a few things just for fun:

  • Good Night, Sweet Prince – Another musical and artistic genius left us recently. This isn’t necessarily a “fun” piece, but it’s a beautiful article by Dave Ziren for The Nation. For those of us my age, Prince was our David Bowie. His music lives on, though his fans will miss him forever.
  • Last month, the Smithsonian online magazine published some hidden gems by the reclusive, Harper Lee. Great stuff!
  • Mother Goose Seeks Out Police to Rescue Baby. Who doesn’t love these stories in spring? And do note how it was the female police officer who took direct action. The male officer was too scared. Maternal instincts taking over? I think so.
  • Hilda Bastian is a scientist and editor at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the National Institutes of Health. She also draws cartoons about science. The National Library of Medicine produced a nice interview with her here.
  • If you happen to be a person who recalls with fondness those Saturday evenings watching slide shows and home movies, you might really enjoy the Home Movie Registry. Yes. It exists. Thank you interwebs.

That’s all for today and, sadly, all I shared for the month of May. I’m sorry I didn’t write more. I’ll try and do better in June.

 

And Then This…

20 Apr

ER_QuoteAfter writing my last post, Iterations on a Profession, a couple of weeks ago, I was prompted to pick up my copy of Eleanor Roosevelt’s book, You Learn by Living, and re-read the first chapter entitled, “Learning to Learn.” It’s a favorite, filled with great words of wisdom and reminders that life isn’t much of anything, once we stop learning. There are many quotable passages, but I chose the above to share here. As you read it, remember this … it was written in 1960. Fifty years ago, “our world was startlingly new.” And surely 50 years before that and 50 years before that and on and on for as long as humans have been riding on the planet. I get hung up too often on how different everything is today, how much change I’ve experienced in my lifetime and in my profession – all in the same timeframe since Mrs. Roosevelt wrote these words. Adapting to change is nothing new. 

The other line from that chapter that lifted my spirits, “if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you.” Yes. Thank you for reminding me that it’s a gift to be interested, Mrs. Roosevelt.

Now then, while I was brooding over things, my bookmark folder got filled again. Time to share some with you.

Conference time is upon us and that means many are busy making posters to show off their projects, work, ideas, etc. Better Posters is a great resource to help you make a not-so-awful-and-all-too-common academic poster. Blog posts are added frequently and humor is never in short supply.

Remember Bridget Jones, the character portrayed wonderfully by Renee Zellweger in the movies of the same name?  Well, you may or may not know that her character came to be from a regular column authored by Helen Fielding for the British newspaper, the Independent, in the 1990s. The Independent recently ceased publication of its print paper, becoming a digital-only media outlet. Fielding was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition late last month. She speaks of many things, but one of particular interest to my readers might be her thoughts on what’s lost in the shift from print to digital. Anything? You’ll have to listen to find out.

Several items related to data (because, you know, it’s a lot of what I do):

  • A real-life demonstration of the use of big data can have dramatic effects on the child welfare system – Can Big Data Save These Children, from PBS NewsHour.
  • The National Center for Health Statistics has a nice collection of data visualizations that I’d never come across before. Bookmarked. 
  • Gravy Anecdote is the blog/website of Andy Cotgreave, a Technical Evangelist for Tableau. I watched a very informative webinar that he did entitled, How Data Storytelling Can Enhance the Way You Communicate, one in the series produced by BrightTALK. I’ve watched several of their webinars and found many to be quite good. Note, there’s an audio glitch a few minutes in to Andy’s talk. Just wait through it. It doesn’t last long. (Live and learn.) From this talk, I discovered Periscopic, a data visualization studio on the West Coast (USA) doing some amazing work. You can browse through some of their portfolio. I also found Ben Jones’ blog, DataRemixed. Ben also works for Tableau. It’s going to take me awhile to get through all of the things here.
  • Why all of the Tableau focus? One reason is because last week I was trying to teach myself how to use it to create a social network visualization. I found some help from the blog post, In Chaos, Clarity: Social Network Diagrams in Tableau. I remain irked that NodeXL is a Windows-only add-on for Excel (Mac user that I am), but there are workarounds. Believe me.

Just a few more and these are mostly for fun.

Kurt Vonnegut diagrams The Shape of Stories in this YouTube video. I love one viewer’s comment, “It’s like a cross between a college lecture and a stand-up comedy routine!” It’s pretty funny AND informative. 

If you need a story about how to turn a bad situation into something good, read My Wife Left Me with Nothing but a Dog, So I Started this Fun Photo Series. Amazing! I love that dog!

Photos of the archives of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum made the social media rounds a few weeks back. In case you missed it, you can catch up here. I would love a tour some day.

And finally, the one thing that has preoccupied me for more hours than I dare say over the past month… the DC Eagle Cam. Mr. President and the First Lady had a pair of eaglets in March and I have been FASCINATED watching them grow. And I’m not alone. They’ve gotten press on both National Public Radio and the Washington Post. They reside in the Azalea Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Watch online. You can’t get close to them in person.

And with that … Happy Spring!!

Bookmark This!

15 Mar

Pookie

Ahhhhh… there’s nothing like a week of vacation to rejuvenate the soul. Now I’m back in the saddle and ready to empty out my “Fun Stuff to Share” bookmarks folder just for you. Here we go!

First off, you can jump on that crazy craze of “adult coloring” with these fun and informative (and free) downloads – the National Archives coloring book of weird patents and the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg coloring book that you didn’t know you needed. Both are guaranteed to give you hours of relaxing fun with crayons, markers, colored pencils, you name it. Go ahead! Indulge your creative side. (Personally, I’ve never stopped coloring, so I don’t quite get the craze, but…)

On a different note, I’ve been serving on a strategic task force for the Medical Library Association that’s looking at developing a research institute; a crash-course, if you will, on research methods and design. I’ve long been a proponent that research methods and statistics should be standard fare in library school curricula, but until that happens, MLA and other professional organizations are stepping up to fill this void in our collective professional knowledge. Working with this group has led me to gather many relevant resources, including this handy Basics of Experimental Design (A Quick and Non-Technical Guide). It’s a great overview on the topic.

My last blog post described how I incorporate alternative metrics into my work as an evaluator for a CTSA site. Stacy Konkiel, who works for Altmetric, wrote an interesting post recently that describes how she leads workshops on altmetrics. It contains a lot of good advice for those wishing to demonstrate to stakeholders the value of these metrics. 

And while we’re on the subject, Altmetric, a leader in this field, is offering up a unique opportunity for an Annual Research Grant to anyone looking for financial support to help carry out a research project related to alternative metrics. You can find out more information here. If you have an interesting question that you’d like to explore, consider applying!

One of my invaluable resources for learning data visualization is Nathan Yau, his website Flowing Data, and his two books, Visualize This and Data Points. He’s one of the best instructors I’ve found for taking you step-by-step through design, visualization, and statistics. (The Flowing Data site has many great tutorials and guides.) He also produces scores of really interesting visuals like this one, Why People Visit the Emergency Room. Fair warning though, you can get lost on his site for hours. Plan accordingly. 

A Short History of the Index Card is a fascinating read. From playing cards to the card catalog – enjoy!

Two helpful “how to” sites I came across; How to Turn Off Twitter’s New Timeline Feature (Ugh!) and How to Use Preview to Put Signatures on PDFs (Mac Users). Ah, the Interwebs can be so very helpful at times.

Do you ever find yourself looking for some nice background music for a presentation? If so, check out the Free Music Archive, an amazing collection of free, legal audio downloads from WFMU, the awesome independent radio station in New York. 

For those of you who, like me, still use the United States Postal Service for mailing bills and correspondence to friends and family, you can show your love of literature by using (or in many cases, collecting) these stamps that feature some of the best to ever put words to paper. Readers (and letter writers) unite!

Open Culture (surely one of the absolute best things on the Internet) recently posted 3,900 pages of the artist, Paul Klee’s, notebooks and journals. Thanks to my friend and fellow librarian, Susan Yowell, for sharing the link with me. I loved perusing it.

If you like books and you like taking photos, what could be better than the artist, Kelli Anderson’s, book that’s a camera? This Book is a Camera is on my wish list – likely not an item that I’ll be able to wait for until next Christmas, either!

For all of my friends and readers who are also teachers, you might find the substantial group of teaching aids from the documentary makers, Point of View (POV), really useful for bringing cultural events to life. Film clips, lesson plans, and a lending library are all available from the PBS program. 

Finally, two articles from The Atlantic that consumed my lunch hour yesterday, both about one of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard. The first (and recent – from their March 2016 issue), Why Annie Dillard Stopped Publishing New Material, is a critique of each of her major works over the years. After I shared it on my Facebook site, a friend from my seminary days sent me the link to a story from last year, The Thoreau of the Suburbs. The latter was … well, I’m still taking it all in. I can’t write much about it for fear of giving away spoilers. If you, like me and many of my seminary friends, were affected by Dillard’s Pulitzer Prize winning, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, read this article. Or maybe don’t. It depends on whether or not you want to know more about the truth behind the story. Great read! Really! (Thanks, Kevin!) 

That’s all for this week. As always, thanks for reading and I hope you find something of interest here, too. And if you haven’t had a vacation in awhile, consider it. Wonders for the spirit!

 

Crossing the Radar Screen

5 Feb

radar-333574_960_720It’s Friday and it’s snowing here in Worcester – all of the makings of a quiet afternoon. I’ve spent the day mostly working through a book that I recently bought, Tableau Your Data! It’s a lot to take in, so I thought I’d take a break and clear out my “Weekly Blog Post Items” bookmark folder. Here are some fun and interesting finds that crossed my radar screen during the past week:

Determined to hone my data visualization chops, I’ve been on the lookout for interesting sources of data to use for practice. The U.S. Census Department’s website is a great spot, of course, but a special gem that I found hidden on it is Stats for Stories. Here, you’ll find statistics related to stories that are in the news, calendar events and/or holidays, and more.  

It’s 2+ hours long so I’ve hardly sat and watched the entire thing yet, but what I’ve seen of the keynote address by Christian Chabot and Chris Stolte on the “Art of Analytics” at Tableau Conference 2014 is quite fascinating. Data visualization as an art form – it’s a topic that draws me in.

Obsessive fans (who me?) of the TV show, Law & Order, along with its many iterations will find Cecilia Esther Rabess’ latest entry in her McSweeney’s column, Mostly Uninformative Infographics, hilarious and oh, so true. … About Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit

My wife has been co-teaching Sunday school these past few months using a curriculum called, “D’oh, God!” It’s based around episodes of The Simpsons. Naturally, when I learned about Frinkiac, the database of 3 million+ screen captures from the show, I had to pass it along. Enjoy!

The Washington Post’s story, “What Ivy League Students are Reading That You Aren’t,” along with the data source for it, the Open Syllabus Explorer database, both fascinated me this week. 

If you’re curious about the source of words and phrases in the English language, you’ll likely find Arika Okrent’s YouTube channel awesome. Okrent is a contributor to the magazine, Mental Floss. I’ve subscribed to it for years, preparing myself for that “Jeopardy!” tryout that I just know I’m going to be invited to some day.

Virginia Woolf made famous the idea of “a room of one’s own.” I’m so very fortunate to have a studio space in an old factory mill in town where I can go and be creative in any and every fashion. It’s my space. My room of my own. Bored Panda’s “100 Famous Artists and Their Studios” is a wonderful photo trip through the rooms of some incredibly talented people. I found it inspiring.

Finally, the SuperBowl is this Sunday. I’m likely in the very small minority who tunes into the game to watch the game. I turn to a different channel during the half-time show and I mute all of the commercials. I realize that folks pay a gazillion bucks for these spots, but I always mute (or fast-forward through) commercials. Bleh! That said, these two spots made for Sunday’s game but released earlier got me. Dachshunds and singing sheep. What could be better?!  

and

Happy Friday, everyone!

And the Oscar Goes To: Best Picture

15 Jan

OscarThe Oscar nominations are out. No big surprises. When it comes to patting themselves on the back, the industry that is Hollywood is still overwhelmingly white and male. Still, it was a year for several good films and many wonderful performances and, per usual, I have a lot to catch up on before the awards are handed out next month. Cue up the movie tickets, Netflix, and popcorn.

For fun, I wondered what it would be like to name my personal Oscar nominations and winners this year. Oh, I don’t mean making picks based upon the movies of last year, but the events of my life during that time. What would be the Best Picture of my 2015? Who would be the Best Actress? Best Director? What was the Best Score, the background music of my year?

I sat down with pen and paper and started my lists. It’s more difficult that I thought and thus will take a few posts, but let’s start with what those darned Oscar celebration directors always make us wait until the end to find out – Best Picture. No need to stay up past midnight here.

The 2015 nominees for Best Picture in my year are:

ACC

It’s a long way from the Library to the 7th floor of the ACC.

The Road Less Traveled – A medical research librarian leaves the familiar confines of the library and her library kin to explore the highway of evaluation in clinical and translational  science. Along the way she meets up with intense grant writing, crazy deadlines, people who speak a different language, and much packing and unpacking of office boxes. Will it be a cliffhanger or a “happily ever after”? You decide.

*****

Little Snow

Dogs always steal the snow, er… show.

Snowpocalypse 2015 – The bustling, blue collar, chip-on-its-shoulder city of Worcester, Massachusetts is pummeled with snow the likes of which it cannot remember. Almost 120 inches of snow falls, leaving the City buried in challenges, but full of heart as the citizens all get behind the race to claim the title, “Snowiest City in the US.” No spoilers here. You’ll have to check out the Golden Snow Globe to see who won.

*****

IMG_2052

Austin, Texas. The backdrop alone makes for a winning film.

SwingTime – A bunch of medical librarians land in Austin, Texas and discover that honky tonks and margaritas and Texas Swing are all right up their alley. Meeting? Was there also a meeting? Think of this one as Todd Phillips writes a movie with smart people in the cast.

*****

IMG_2282

It’s ideal, but is it a winner?

Our House in the Middle of the Street – Adopting the title of the hit song by the band, Madness, back in the 1980s, the attempt to buy a home becomes maddeningly complicated at every turn possible. A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World it was, but this picture avoids the pitfalls of  The Money Pit and becomes an instant classic. Home, Sweet Home.

*****

Four Friends

Who will fall into the drama?

The Big Thrill – Four friends gather by a lake for a weekend of reminiscing. Twenty five years may have gone by between meetings, but the reunion is filled with laughter and tears. Lawrence Kasdan’s influence knows no bounds.

***************

Wow! What a slate. There’s not a non-deserving picture in the bunch. Hand me the envelope there, judges. And the Oscar for Best Picture of 2015 goes to…

Our House in the Middle of the Street! 

This is the first Oscar win for first-time homeowners Sally and Lynn. The sentimental favorite, yes, but who can argue? We can now sit in the comfort of a warm and cozy home and watch movies forever. Definitely a “Happily Ever After” feature.

Stay tuned for more. We’ll be back after a commercial break.

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