2016 has been a rough year for losses, both in my personal life, for a few of my close friends, and in the public sphere for some great artists and entertainers. One of the toughest things to deal with after losing a loved one can be wondering after the fact if something could have been done to save them – if only someone would have said something in a different way, urged the person to see a different specialist, or even just spent some more time listening.
In the cases of old age, long-term battles with cancer, and auto accidents, there isn’t usually an answer, but sometimes in the cases of of suicides, intervention is possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released a troubling report on U.S. suicides that showed significant rises, both overall and in various categories. In fact, suicides across the board were up 24 percent in 2014 from 1999.
If you or someone you know need help, there’s a 24-hour hotline available by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Chart via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
I didn’t really have a great reason to reference these numbers for work recently, but I wanted to grab some accessible stats from the Federal Reserve and Bureau of Labor Statistics that have been in the news lately, just to see how they would look in an amCharts visualization.
AmCharts has a pretty nice customizable library of chart and map options that I’ve been looking at recently. I’ve been encountering some issues across different browsers with their behavior, but I like the toolkit and documentation.
I know this may sound an antiquated move to some people, but email newsletters are actually a hot thing right now, and I launched a new one this morning. It’s just a weekly thing outside of work, though you may see some work references thrown in from time to time.
We hopped out of the city briefly on Saturday to hike Maryland’s Sugarloaf Mountain. It was gorgeous, and there’s a winery up there that’s not too shabby. There’s nothing like a good binge on fresh air to cap a week. Here’s a recap.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
I appreciated the ideas behind the dream sequences for the purposes of character development. But they really did seem like under-cooked, over-extended abstractions that didn’t need to be there. That, said, James Spader was a phenomenal villain (even if Ultron’s lip movements looked completely out of place), the Whedon-era spirit was strong during the film’s lighter moments, Stan Lee probably had his best cameo in a Marvel movie yet.
Additionally, the movie really does go all out to remind you that Marvel is part of Disney now with its use of “I’ve Got No Strings” from Pinocchio (1940) as Ultron’s personal song.
That actually worked for me as a meta-reference, as did Whedon’s Archie Comics-inspired naming of the Hulkbuster armor satellite, “Veronica” (named because Bruce Banner’s comics love interest is named Betty). That was clever.
I kind of wonder if Quicksilver’s fate wasn’t sort of a slap in the face Fox, given all the inter-company drama with the Marvel film rights, though.
Regardless, Age of Ultron was a great watch.
I stumbled upon a great interactive map for visualizing UFO sightings since 1933. I brought up how no one seems to see anything in the District, but it uses records from all over the world. So no matter where you live, it’ll show where people have reported seeing strange things in the sky.
Metro’s funding on the chopping block
WMATA deserves some scrutiny and pressure right now, given its recent disasters and reluctance to spend money on maintenance. But the move in the House to halve federal funding in the coming year seems like it’s a little risky at a time when D.C.’s public transit system needs to get safer and more dependable.
Abe’s train dreams
Japan’s prime minister visited D.C., though he picked a bad week if originally had any intentions of discussing Baltimore. He has pressured Obama in the past about a high-speed rail project that could get transport people from there to D.C. in 15 minutes. And he’s still pushing to get more Japanese train technology into the U.S. as a part of his plan to get his country’s economy into better shape.
We hit Illinois over the weekend for a wedding at Allerton Park. This is a place familiar to a lot of Central Illinois/UIUC people. If you’ve never had the chance, though, I recommend making a day trip out of it in Monticello and hiking every inch of the property.
And (if you can) catch the Carl Milles statue “The Sun Singer” sometime in the morning.
I’m doing the smart thing this year and waiting for peak tourism to subside before seeing the cherry blossoms, even if it means missing peak bloom. We did hit the National Arboretum for the first time last week, though. Blooming flowers were scare, though the Korean azaleas were out – and the old sandstone Corinthian columns that used to be part of the U.S. Capitol (until 1958) were impressive.
Other things in my line of sight that didn’t include the Basin cherry blossoms have included the following:
The new Daredevil series on Netflix
This is one of the best casting jobs on a Marvel production yet. And I don’t just say that because people keep messaging me to tell me they think the guy playing Foggy Nelson looks like me. It’s heavy on violence – much heavier that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC ever will be, for instance. But it nails the Hell’s Kitchen of the comics. And I wouldn’t be sad to see Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk (show above) become a fixture within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Maybe the best story I read this week was about Salman Rushdie’s three-star review of To Kill a Mockingbird on Goodreads. Hey, at least he’s being honest about how he feels. More online reviews should reflect that level of candor.
Google wants Android Wear to communicate with iPhones
If this Verge report is true, it could be one of the best developments in recent years for mobile and wearable devices. Apple making iTunes available to Windows computers changed the game – even if the software eventually became a bloated jungle (a “toxic hellstew,” even). As was the case for Microsoft and Apple before, Apple letting Google release that app will be good for both companies (and consumers) in the long run. Here’s hoping Apple does the right thing.
I’ve been telling people for a while that there are reasons to be skeptical about D.C.’s new streetcars. But the fact is that the city has already encouraged a huge development rush along H Street, and the fact that the line hasn’t opened yet (and that public officials have implied it might not open at all) does a disservice to the businesses there that have sacrificed street parking and patience while waiting to see a better public transit option in the area.
I know many friends and family members who would turn red in the face if you told them that they couldn’t repair and replace parts on their own cars. With computers becoming more and more infused with how cars function, there’s an important legal battleground being set up to determine who gets to do what with automobiles. Here’s a quick briefer on the crucial place where copyright and cars intersect, in case you want to catch up.
The art of He-Man
It’s pretty much impossible to overemphasize how great of a decision Dark Horse Comics made in picking Tim and Steve Seeley to do the writing duties on the new art of He-Man book that’s coming out this month. I’m really looking forward to seeing that.
April Fools’ Day
I actually really loathe April Fools’ Day. But the dev team at Streetwise pulled off a respectably executed gag on Wednesday by getting Clippy to show up in our CMS. I stand impressed.