I do not consider myself a film critic in the sense that I would not claim to know the difference between a good movie, a great movie and an all-time classic movie. Frequently the chosen winner of the Academy Awards baffles me and, more frequently, movies that I really enjoy seem to be hated by the critics. This all being said, last weekend I got to see Slumdog Millionaire, this year's Best Picture, and it was incredible. I thought Dark Night was an excellent movie and should have won more awards. Well, in my non-expert opinion, now having seen it, Slumdog was better. Go see it. You won't regret it. 

But first, have a look at this week's news. 

  • This bit of news has hung around in my saved folder for a while waiting for a punchline. Here is that punchline. Don't ask me to ever feel sympathy (or give bailout money) for a business that sends out ridiculous soliciatations like that (and I have good credit - what do they send people who don't?) No wonder we are having a financial meltdown. 
  • First Wall Street, then Main Street and now Sesame Street. Say it isn't so! Although it does give me a chance to share one of my favorite all-time Sesame Street clips that I recently found surfing YouTube with my oldest daughter. Enjoy.

  • Friend of TPB.com Jon Commers made me aware of this report called "Small Towns, Big Ideas" put together at the University of North Carolina School of Government.  I've read through the executive summary and scanned through what seems like hundreds of well-assembled case studies and I'm impressed. The report details success stories, innovations and new approaches in small towns across the country. Recommended reading.
  • A Maryland County has established a program to help homeowners pay for upgrades to their individual sewage treatment systems. It has always interested me how we play this game of environmental chicken....do we pay to fix this stuff or do we allow people to degrade the environment. Our commitment to the environment in this case does not trump basic financial sense:

"People who owe more on their house than it is worth will not be approved for the loans, said Terry Shannon, the county's finance director."

  • The NY Times reported this week on how the stimulus money is being used for road projects, "big and small". The bill was designed to put people to work, but was frequently criticized for being pork-laden. According to the Times, the federal earmarks are only part of the political wrangling over where the money is spent.

"States have tremendous latitude in how they spend the money, and in some places that is leading to pitched political battles — battles that must be waged quickly, since the states must begin spending the money in four months. Regional politics is playing a role in some states, as local lawmakers fight to get money sent to their districts."

  • A Duke University study indicated that people believe America is losing its technological edge, which is kind of funny because, as the article about the study points out,

...only 34 percent of Americans gave themselves a grade of A or B for understanding “the world of engineers and what they do,”....

          For the record, that often includes my wife, at least around the house here.

  • We talked about this topic breifly this week our weekly Making Sausage segment on KAXE (Thursday mornings at 7:15, also broadcast online at KAXE.org). It has not made sense for the state government to cut the feed of local government aid that small towns have grown to depend on while at the same time limiting the local ability to compensate in any way. On the other hand, LGA has allowed a lot of local governments to make really poor and wasteful decisions on growth and development. If the caps had not been in place, a lot of inefficient governments would have simply raised taxes and blamed it on someone else. Tough call. 
  • Viedo 8 of 9 in the Andres Duany series we have been looking at focuses on some engineering issues as well as the impact of inefficient development on seniors and youth.