Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mentoring

So, after finishing the Fantasy Football draft, I decided to log on to City of Heroes for a little while. Maybe run a mission. While on, a group asked for help, and I obliged. This group was not so great, with two guys who didn't understand tactics, another who kept running away at the slightest sign of danger, and a third who kept "helping" me by knocking everything away from me (I need things in close).

I finished the mission, said my goodbyes, and moved on.

As I was heading back to where I had been, I saw a poor lowly blaster about to get killed. I grabbed her aggro, allowing her to flee. She came back and blasted the two villains. We chatted, and she mentioned that she had died so many times tonight that she was well in debt and frustrated. I asked her to team with me on one of my high-level missions, and then mentored her on the game.

This person did not know what Dual or Single Origin enhancements were, where any stores were located, that Council mobs sometimes turn into Werewolves (it was fun to see her reaction), or really how to use her contacts or even powers to full effect.

I guess I have a little teacher in me. Even though I was exhausted, it was well past midnight, I couldn't help but stay online and explain all this to her, show her where the stores in Steel and Talos are, explain how to use enhancements (I couldn't explain combining, just too difficult this late!), and how to make the most of her powers and contacts. I then gave her a ton of high-level enhancements to sell to boost her Influence in the game.

She was thrilled. Not only did I clear over a nice chunk of her debt (unfortunately, I think she was at the cap, as she still had 19,000 debt after that!), but I showed her how to use her powers, how to successfully team, and how to have fun in the game.

And I got a hearty thank you and added to her Friends list.

After my rather disappointing teaming experience with the group before, it was nice to end the evening on a positive note.

Have fun and stick with it! There are good teammates out there! If your first team isn't the greatest, just say goodbye at a good moment (not in the middle of combat!), and start looking for another. Eventually you'll find a good fit and be happy.

Game on!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

True Bachelorhood Rears Its Head Again

I am sitting here eating (original) Kraft Mac and Cheese, with some lemon pepper on it, plus 3 Kosher dill pickles... because you should eat something green with "dinner."

This would make a lot more sense if I had remembered to thaw the steak in my freezer.


*Sigh.

I am such a bachelor!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Moving On

I found your picture and some letters today. Beyond the fond memories I have of those times, I felt nothing for you. You did your best to keep me hanging on by never allowing me closure to our time together. You knew me well enough to know that the lack of closure would keep you in my thoughts.

You knew I was one to hold things inside; to internalize my feelings and bottle them up. You used that to your advantage and I cannot blame you. I held you inside for much longer than even I thought I would, or could. Each letter and picture over the years, each word you use to dredge up the past and keep me locked in our little drama, was a great play on your part. You always were one to live in the past. Every step you took and every ploy you used was a masterful stroke in our little vignette. I give you one final bow, acknowledging the expert way in which you played me.

I’m happy to say, I’ve moved on. It took time, effort, and a lot of personal changes to start the process. Finally, it took meeting someone amazing to finish it. But I have moved on.

You taught me a lot. I look for very different things now. And I’ve found them in someone new. Even if we take not one step further in whatever it is we currently have, she has changed me for the better. That was the one thing you could never do; change me. I was the rock against which you broke yourself and, in breaking yourself, wounded me. Where you were difficult, she is challenging. Where you tried to wound, she nurtures. Where you spoke, she listens.

I am happy for your life. I hope the new location and people in your life suit you. I’m glad I knew you and I will treasure the time we had together. But now my sights are set on a new horizon, and one with unlimited choices and freedoms.

Enjoy the life you made for yourself. I am putting those letters and photos away. I’m cinching up the baggage in my heart that is you and placing it on the shelf. On the shelf, it can remind of those times so I never repeat them, but it can also safely gather dust in the dark.

I’m turning to a new page, grabbing an unused pen, and beginning to write new and exciting chapters to my life.

Goodbye.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Single and (not) loving it

I had an epiphany at the grocery store just now. I am a single man and I'm not happy about it.

On my way home from work I stopped by the Postal Annex in the grocery store mall to send a gift to a friend. After the woman behind the counter remarked how amenable I was to all her suggestions on the best methods and packaging for said gift (to which I just smiled and said "thank you"-- I couldn't help but think, 'why argue or discuss something so trivial?'), I was walking back past the grocery store when I realized two things; my cat needed a new bag of food and I was jonesing for some ice cream.

So I heading in and bought... cat food and ice cream.

I had three separate women and two couples give me that patronizing smile as they saw me walking through the grocery store with cat food and ice cream. The disparity in the items and the fact that those were the only things I was purchasing just screamed "Single Male" to the world. I then compounded it by going to the self-check out counters (another single male bastion, although others are starting to use it finally). I even got an "Aww" from one girl who was walking past me to the next self-check counter with her boyfriend and their bag of ice. At first I thought she might be saying it about some baby someone had in my area. Nope. Then I hoped she saw the cute kitty on the bag. No, that was on the other side. She was looking straight at me and giving me that same, rueful smile and shake of her head. Her boyfriend just sort of grimaced at me.

When women go into the store and buy what I would consider odd combinations of items, why don't we give them the same patronizing smiles and rueful head shakes? Why is that reserved for men? Are we really that inept in our lives? (don't answer that)

*sigh

I don't want to be single any more. I want to be in a relationship, preferably a long-term one. I don't want to be the 3rd, or 5th, or 7th wheel at friendly gatherings. And, frankly, I'm tired of being the one who can drop everything and go out with my friends because I'm unattached. I want to complicate the hell out of my life and have someone to share it with.

I'm not rich, but I make a solid living. I tell good stories, I am usually pretty funny, and I'm attentive and interested. I'm pretty adaptable. I've got skills, and tools, and the brains to use them. Looking for a woman who wants someone with the above qualities. Must be a non-smoker and non-drinker (or light drinker) preferred.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Stitch in Time

I don't understand clothing manufacturers and thread. Every single one of my pants, no matter how high or low quality I purchase, needs to have the stitching on the buttons replaced regularly. Luckily, I have some needles and thread and can accomplish this, but I hate that I have to.

A friend of mine has a good theory: manufacturers need to cut costs wherever they can. The thread used is one of the few areas where they can do this. And, think about it, the amount and quality of thread used to make clothes adds up.

I think she's on to something.

If you have a standardized process by which a sewing machine makes one hundred stitches in order to hold a button on a pair of pants with your average type of thread, then, if you cut the quality of the thread or the number of stitches, the savings per button sewed could equal inches of thread saved. Those inches of thread are then available for another button. Over the course of a day's work, this could add up to industrial-sized spools of thread saved for the next day.

I am sure it is acceptable to them that their wearers have to have alterations done after a shorter period of time. It is not them, after all, who has to make these alterations; the seller of the pants (if a higher-end place) or the owners make these changes. Or the owner goes and buys a new pair of pants. Either way, I guess, is good for the pants business in the long run.

However, I keep getting stuck on this end result: I have to buy pants and immediately add a few dozen passes with my own needle and thread, or pop a button after only a few washes and wears!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

And the Cleaning Continues...

I'm still cleaning, trying to whittle my life down to just those items I need. Today I managed to clear the black, four-shelf bookcase inside the front door. I walked it down to the garbage and threw it away. No remorse.

I have yet another bag of garbage ready to throw out and I managed to convince myself to get rid of three pairs of shoes that I haven't worn in at least a year. I can actually step into my tiny walk-in closet in the bedroom, but there are still miles to go before that is finished. And don't ask about the closet just inside the front door.

Now to figure out what to do with the old receiver, double-cassette player, George Foreman grill (with waffle maker), Canon ink-jet color printer, and cd player. To the best of knowledge they all still work. Maybe I can put a "Please Take Me" sign on them at work?

I'm starting to wonder what else I will find in this apartment.

The one bad thing is that I a) keep finding more and more comics hidden everywhere that need to be bagged and boxed somewhere and b) more and more old paperwork that should be shredded. If I could convince myself to just toss the paper without shredding, I would be closer to finishing this task. But the papers have names, addresses, and other personal information on them and I can't bring myself to toss them without shredding first-- even if the addresses are from 10 years ago and the personal information just isn't valid any more.

I'm fairly certain I've decided to stay in this apartment. I have a lot going on the last couple of weeks in September, right when I would need to be making plans for any move. And, as I look through Rent.com, et al, and call around, I'm finding that any place I move will be more expensive than where I am, even factoring in the increase I am forced to take here. So, here I will stay.

Just means it is more important that I get this place ship-shape, right?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Depressed Box Office

Today I saw not one, not two, but three different articles deploring the state of the box office this year. Each of them asked why such "sure-fire hits"” as The Island or Stealth have done so poorly at the box office.

Each of these articles talked with "industry insiders,"” heads of studios, and theater owners. Each postulated on why these and other movies have been less than successful.

In all of these articles I didn'’t see the most obvious two things mentioned: ticket prices and the glut of movies.

Ticket Prices
Four years ago I could go to the matinee at the theater across the street for $6.50. This seemed pretty reasonable; more than a video rental, but I was getting the benefit of the bigger screen, the better sound, and the group environment. I rarely went if it was after 5 pm, as the $8.50 they charged then seemed too much.

The last movie I went to see, Fantastic Four, was a decent movie, with okay special effects and a fairly generic story and acting. The difference? The ticket cost me $8 for the matinee. Nearly the same cost as the full-price just a few years ago. So, if a family of four wants to go see a matinee movie of a passable but not spectacular movie, it is going to cost them $32 before any snacks. Add in a big tub of popcorn and a couple of beverages, and the family is out well over $40 for 2 hours of entertainment. If they go after the matinee prices, the cost is upwards of $60.

I own a decent sized television screen, a pretty good surround sound system, and a fairly cheap subscription to Netflix. For $14.95 a month, I can watch as many movies as I can rent, watch, and return in a month. Most months I can watch around 10-12 movies. That averages out to about $1.25 a movie. I am in the comfort of my own home and I do not have to deal with the crowds or a talking patron who forgets to turn off his cell phone.

This huge difference in price makes it hard to justify going to the theatre to watch a movie.

The Movie Glut
A few years ago as the first signs of today'’s box office morass were being seen, the studios correctly guessed that the sheer volume of movies they were unleashing on the public was partly to blame for the lower box office take of all but the most successful movies. I recall reading an article that said that some of the largest companies were going to cut their movie slate by up to 10%. At that time, the average slate was around 120 movies a year being put into production. By cutting this by 10%, they could focus on just the best of their slate and realize more value by their production.

Since then, the slate of movies being produced has actually risen” from 120 to about 132 (most recent stat I could find). This increase means that more movies make it through production, more movies vie for the fickle public'’s valuable dollar, more money must be spent on advertising all these movies, and the production dollar must be spread over more productions, inevitably lowering the value of the majority of the slate.

I, like most movie-goers, am a pretty stingy viewer. There are only about four movies in any given year I feel are "must see."” That means that the five major studios' slate of 132 movies each is vying for just four paid performances. Outside of these four "must see" event movies, I may decide to see 2-4 more movies on speculation or due to friends recommendations or persuasive advertisements.

Once upon a time, when production companies release far fewer movies, you could have a movie released and leave it out in front of the viewing public long enough for people to make up their minds and decide it was worth one of their precious few "“must see"” movie dollars. There is a tale of the movie Bonnie and Clyde. It was not immediately successful, but Warner Brothers kept the movie out there and, as the audience found it and critics started to rave about it, the studio re-released it to theatres and it became a success. That would not happen today. If a movie does not "open"” well, it is yanked and another of the 132 films is put in its place.

This huge slate also ensures that every single week of the year, but especially during the ultra-competitive summer months, there are multiple "must see"” movies being released. If I have four paid performances I'm will to see, and there are twelve weekends during the summer months each with at least 2 "big"” movies, some twenty movies are going to get the shaft. I just don'’t have the time, the patience, or the money to spend on each one of these releases.

The Solution(s)
In order to turn around the current box office woes, the studios need to cut way back on the movies they produce. They need to really review the scripts and the budgets and try to make the best films they can. Instead of having two or more big releases every week, there needs to be not more than four big releases in a month. This provides two values: the studio has a better shot at getting some of my viewing dollar and a movie has more time to find its "“legs."” Movies make money on repeat visits. If there is always something new the next week, people don'’t go back to a film, even one they enjoyed.

Secondly, the theatres need to cut prices. Make it a cost-effective night out for that hypothetical family of four. If that family can go out to a matinee showing for under $30 dollars, they are more likely to increase the number of films they will see in a year. The theatres benefit by having that family attend their facility (and all the beverages and popcorn those repeat visits bring in-- where the real money is for a theatre) and the studios benefit by getting more dollars from that family.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ramblings about Shopping

If I am going to the store, I usually know which store and what product I’m going there for. If I’m grocery shopping, I usually have a list and I only get those things that are on the list. Even when I don’t have a particular goal in mind, I still try to remain courteous to my fellow patrons as I move around the store. I actually don’t mind shopping in general when those around me treat me the way I treat them.

I seem to be developing intolerance for those who don’t know where they are going or why they are there. And don’t get me started on those who exemplify a lack of courtesy. I just spent an hour plus walking around the Marketplace in Tustin/Irvine. I was looking for a specific product, knew of three stores in which I could find that product, I walked directly to those stores, and, if I didn’t readily see where the product was located within the store, I asked an employee of the store. While doing this walking around, I was constantly hindered by rude, inconsiderate people who didn’t know why they were there, didn’t know what they were looking for, or were as discourteous as could be in line cutting, aisle behavior, and idiocy.

Correct me if I’m wrong on this one, but it strikes me as rude that you would stop your cart cattycorner across one of the three main aisles in the store, blocking foot and cart traffic in both directions while you ponder the topology of your navel (or whatever the hell you were gazing down at your stomach for). When there is a line, it strikes me as inconsiderate to cut all the way to the front of the line to ask a question—what, the rest of us aren’t as important as you? And, once you have found an item for which you were looking and you are browsing through the aisle while comparison shopping for the device, don’t stop your fat ass in the middle of the aisle. Stand back and allow others to move around you. Don’t glance up, annoyed, when I say, “Excuse me” in a polite tone because I want to get to the product on the other side of you. And, frankly, your phone conversation with your boyfriend does not need to take place in the middle of the store at full volume and with wild gesticulations. Take it outside.

People often ask me why I dislike Christmas. The season has turned into a cut-throat, shark-infested feeding frenzy of holiday shopping. The behaviors I mention here are personified and glorified to the point where:
• You see fist-fights between mothers trying to get the latest fad toy for their child.
• You see people crushed and trampled in the rush to enter a particular store.
• You see tug of wars between otherwise rational people who grabbed the same product at the same time.
• You hear cursing and see rude gestures in every parking lot and every store.

I may not be the most church-going of people, but doesn’t the Bible teach peace, love, and hope? Where the hell does that go when people start shopping?

I implore you to be courteous even to those who aren’t courteous to you, to be considerate of the shoppers around you, and to please take a minute to think about why you are there before entering the store. You just might find that your shopping experience is smoother, more fun, less hectic, and takes much less time.

Oh, and the product for which I was shopping? Only one store had it and they only had the display model. So I could have saved myself the time and aggravation by just shopping online for it.

Live and learn.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Football

It's beginning to look a lot like football....