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December 30, 2006

Finally!

We got some snow today, finally. When it is -8 Celsius and the world is still mostly green and the sky is clear, my brain rebels. However, tonight, we got a nice light dusting of snow. Things turned a bit white for a short time.

Everyone is telling me that it will not stick on the ground and will be gone by morning, though. But at least I finally got to see some snow!

December 28, 2006

Still Not Feeling Well

I did not come to Canada to spend it sick. However, I am still not feeling well today. Coughing, aching, stuffy head (but luckily not a stuffy nose), occasional sneezing, and tiredness.

*sigh

At least I'm with M, even if I'm not the best company right now.

December 27, 2006

A Good Christmas

I have been having a good Xmas so far. Spending quality time with M. Got good "loot" for the holiday. Have been a little overwhelmed by the parties filled with lots of people, visiting M's relatives, and other engagements. I am more solitary and small-group oriented than is M or her group of friends, so I will have to get better at being more social when I come here. I am scheduled to participate in the annual Risk tournament this year on the coming Saturday. Am very much looking forward to that.

Today I woke up feeling a bit under the weather. Been coughing and sneezing a bit; stuffy headed and a bit lethargic. Headachy and having some digestive issues. Took some Zicam and need to take some more. Hopefully I have caught it early and can get beyond it quickly.

No snow here. Which I'm a bit disappointed. I enjoyed my first White Christmas last year. There was a chance of snow today, but it did not appear although a little bit of frozen rain has fallen off and on.

M and I went to see Rocky Balboa yesterday. Good movie. Definitely the movie that Sly Stallone wants to go out on with this character. Harkened back to the first two, which were good movies. Didn't avoid the age question.

My suggestions to get to the payoff sooner for the movie, however are this:
  • Get rid of the "love interest" and her son. While I have nothing against the two actors and they did a good job with what they are given, it is not needed for the story being told.
  • Since I am getting rid of the love interest, beef up the role of the son. Make the hurt caused by living in his father's shadow more real.
  • Give Rocky a couple of true lead-up exhibition fights. The start is slow and has too many soliloquies -- get to some action sooner.
  • Beef up the "villain" a bit-- give him an opportunity to show that he overclasses his opponents and does not have any true competition rather than constantly telling us this. Make him more villainous and/or show that he is not so much a villain as someone who is without heart or soul.
Overall, I enjoyed it. Was entertained and I got to see Rocky's will not to lose (he has this more than a "will to win") come through one last time. Far, far superior to the tragedy that was Rocky 5.

Will be taking M's grandfather to the doctor's office tomorrow. Don't know my way around the town, so should be interesting. Hopefully he can get me there and back again.

All in all a good vacation so far. Disappointing that M does not have more vacation that she can spend with me, but that is just the way it goes sometimes. Plus, she is IT-- that leads to even working during vacation a lot of the time-- price you pay for that sort of job.

Anyway, M should be home in about 40 minutes or so. Guess I should start looking around for something to eat for us tonight.

December 22, 2006

Back in SJ (Xmas Tour '06)

I made it here safely and soundly. Actually, the two flights here were two of the better ones; fairly smooth and boring, which is good.

However, I always have a tale to tell and this is no exception:

- My Super Shuttle driver arrived a bit early. Rather than being the last person on the van, I was the first person. The driver was wearing the thickest, most cloying, and strongly applied cologne you can imagine! It took almost an hour to go the 6-7 miles up the 5 freeway to Disneyland (around which we were picking up the other 6 passengers at various hotels) and by that time my eyes were watering, I had a headache, and my stomach was a bit upset. I guess my Scents & Sensibilities article was a premonition, eh?

- Same driver decided the 5 freeway was too crowded (although we would be getting over to the carpool lane) so he took the 91 freeway route to get to LAX. Just as crowded. So, the typically hour-long trek from my apartment to LAX wound up taking almost 2.5 hours due to traffic and the additional pick-ups.

Still, I was there by about 7:20pm, well in advance of the 10 pm boarding and 10:30 flight time of my plane.

- As I had performed web check-in and already had my boarding passes, I went straight to security. Got through that pretty easily, even though the idiot in front of me tried to "sneak" two gallons of wine and mineral water through security. He made enough of a scene over it that the security guys took him, his three "personal items" (yes, you are only allowed 2 these days), and a very large guy in a uniform to the "back room" to "discuss" it further. Can you say body-cavity search? I knew you could.

- My gate out was immediately beyond the security area, but the glass enclosure was locked shut. At about 8:30pm they opened the door and propped it on the door-stop. So, me and another gentleman waiting for that flight entered. We were promptly told we could not enter. We asked why. We were told they were not ready for us-- even though the area only had 5 total people in it, 3 Air Canada workers and the two of us! We asked why they opened the doors then, if they were not ready. At this point we were helped out and they closed and re-locked the door behind us. Did not re-open the door until about 10 pm, and only then because a bunch of people were deplaning from the arriving plane!

- Made it to Toronto just fine, although the gentleman next to me on the plane replied with "Shut up" when I asked a simple, introductory question. Now, I am not the talkative type, but I do try to be personable to my immediate neighbors on a plane. Didn't really expect the comment I received.

- Customs in Toronto was easy-- I pretty much walked up to the agent the moment I got there and was through in about a minute. One nice thing about the red-eye, I am usually one of the first planes to arrive at the airport due to their noise reduction policy.

- After changing terminals and finding my gate on the board, I went to the proper gate. The person running the gate, however, had to deal with about 50 of us asking if we were in the right area because she refused to update the board from the previous flight. If she had just updated it, she would not have become irritated by all of us asking if our flight had changed gates. However, she apparently wanted to be in a bad mood, so she told each of us in turn, "I am working the gate from the previous flight. I do not know what the next flight will be. Please wait for the next desk operator and they will update everything for you." She then left in a huff. Whatever!

- Toronto to SJ plane was fine. Had a jet this time, which surprised me. Sat next to a pleasant woman named Leslie who is a Professor of Computer Engineering in Vancouver at a college/university. She made it very clear that she was NOT a teacher as "they have lecturers who do THAT sort of thing." Being as she is in the same age range as M and her friends, and went to high school at SJ High School, it is likely that M or a friend may know this woman. Of course, that is not unusual, as it appears everyone here knows everyone else. For having 130,000 people, SJ is fairly close-nit community with a small-town feel.

- M took me home from the airport and I actually took a nap. Then had a very long, comfy sleep over night. However, I was STARTLED awake by the alarm going off at 7:30 (or whatever) time this morning. Even with all the rest, it still felt more like 4:30 am to me. But I am much more coherent than I was last time.

- No snow since I got here, which I find strangely disappointing. However, it has been between -5 and 0 degrees celsius (23 to 32 F), so it is plenty cold enough. Not at all used to the air I breathe actually hurting my lungs. Just not used to this kind of cold. But I have my toque with me at all times, so my head is warm otherwise. Very important.

Anyway, being here, with my loved one, reminds me just how much I miss and need this woman in my life. And being at house where I am allowed, and even encouraged, to make fire is even better still! But I am trying to keep it more sane this time; doesn't need to be 90 F in the house. ;-)

I have wrapped M's main gifts and put them under the tree, but need a box for one other gift. Of course, she has been using the other "Xmas" gift I got her-- my old TiVo-- for a few weeks now. That's the gift that really keeps on giving!! Once you go TiVo, you never want to go back to "regular" TV again!

With the frown that M gave me today at the tie I brought with me, I may need to go do a little tie-shopping one of these days. I think I'd like to get a pair of black colored jeans, as well. Maybe the official SJ "Personal Shopper" would have some time? (hint, hint)

December 20, 2006

Interesting Biological Note

On Monday morning, I awoke with a start at 5:30 am, an hour prior to my alarm clock’s set time. On Tuesday morning, I awoke at 5:00 am. This morning, I awoke at 4:00 am. I have also been getting tired earlier in the evenings and finding myself falling asleep in my chair or heading to bed much earlier than usual.

 

M thinks it is because I have a strange habit of “preparing” for my trips back east and the 4 hour time difference. Which is as plausible as anything I can come up with!

 

What that hopefully means is that I will sleep on the LAX to Toronto part of the flight, rather than staying awake mindless and numb through the dark hours. For me, the term “red-eye” is an actual fact. Plus, I do not think I stand any chance of sleeping on the Toronto to SJ flight—those prop planes are just too noisy, even with ear plug or music to listen to, for anything close to restful sleep.

 

I have about an hour to go before I head home. A couple of things to do at home, most importantly packing my cell phone charger and the PBJ I made this morning, and then the Shuttle will be arriving to pick me up and whisk me away for my 10:30 pm flight.

 

Which, by the way, is another irritant—Canada is considered international, so I have to be there 3 hours early to check in and go through customs. But in order to get there, Super Shuttle is picking me up at a little after 5 pm because of the hectic after-work traffic between here and LAX. If we cruise through traffic, I could be to LAX a good 4 to 4.5 hours before my flight! And, since I did web check in and already have my boarding pass printed, I only have to worry about security. So I should have a good long wait at LAX.

December 19, 2006

Scents and Sensibilities

I inherited from my mother a quick reaction to certain scents. For her, it is patchouli oil; I also react strong to patchouli oil (used in perfumes) as well as to certain flowers, herbs, and plants.

As I walked from my cube to the back stairs to grab a Pepsi for the afternoon haul, I was instantly struck by a heavy, sweet scent that gave me an instant headache and made my sinus areas flare. I cannot tell it if it is someone's lotion, the many flowers, pointsettas, and wreaths around the office, or someone's perfume that triggered it, but the reaction was swift and the effects are lingering.

Like many things, once I sense it I cannot get it out of my head. I am now hypersensitive to everything around me with a smell. My boss just made her popcorn, another scent I don't care for, and it is causing me discomfort. The guy next to me has shoes with an oddly rubbery smell (like they have been wet too long) that is bothering me. I can smell the soil in Fred's (my cubicle plant) pot! Even the dirty chemical smell from the recently cleaned carpet is suddenly annoying me.

Hopefully this reaction will ease back in a few minutes as the headache passes and my senses come under control.

When you are living in cubicle land every day, people must try to be cognizant of those around them. Perfume, oils, flowers, plants, the food they eat, smoking, and even natural body odors can be pervasive and annoying to those around you. It is important to listen for reactions, or to ask your fellow cube-huggers, if the scents you use often are bad for those around you. If you don't, you may find yourself in the middle of a biological war with everyone's noses the primary victims!

December 18, 2006

Gratuity

I value Super Shuttle for their ability to get me to the airport safely and efficiently. And, overall, I think it (and other services like them) is a good value for the service rendered.

However, I do have one issue: the required, minimum 18% gratuity. A gratuity is supposed to be something extra, a bonus for doing the job well or above and beyond the call of duty. Enforcing a mandatory gratuity, and one that high, does not allow me to make that judgment.

A gratuity is defined as "something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service" (Merriam Webster Online dictionary). As it relates to these types of services, it usually implies some sort of extraordinary services performed by the one receiving the gratuity. The fact that Super Shuttle makes this an obligatory amount defeats the purpose and is contrary to the meaning of the word. At that point it is a tax, not a gratuity.

Overall, I have not had an issue with this gratuity and it was close to what I would likely have paid the person in a tip. However, on one Super Shuttle trip that we booked for M from LAX to my place, she had to call me, get directions, and relay them to the driver! He had no clue how to get to my place, even with his navigation system and the notes I had provided. That was a case where an 18% gratuity was not warranted.

I have also had drivers who couldn't find my apartment in the complex. And ones who have thrown my luggage even after I mentioned not to due to fragile contents. In both cases, I should have had the right to mentally downgrade their gratuity to show my displeasure at their job.

If the cost of the services, including the "gratuity," ever becomes what I feel is not valuable for the type of services performed, I will look elsewhere. Until then, it is worth the cost as long as you remember the added gratuity amount.

Xmas Ques

From M's blog:

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate. Egg nog is gross.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Wrap.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Some of each. I like white outside, in icicle style, because it makes me think of snow and ice. Hey, I come from the desert-- that's a happy thought, there!

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
When I get to it, if ever.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Ham. Turkey. I enjoyed the year mom and I had grilled steak.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child:
The year we did the marathon Xmas trek. We had Xmas in home town, then drove to mom's parent's house and had Xmas there. Then packed into the car and continued north to dad's parent's house and celebrated there. I didn't like all that driving at the time, but looking back it was fun and we got to see a lot of relatives.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
What truth?

9. Do you open a gift on christmas eve?
In order to alleviate some of the tension, parents would allow us to open one gift on the Eve. I don't do that any more, but would likely try to institute that with any children.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
I don't generally have a tree. If I do, I like a minimalist approach-- and a theme. Say "blue and silver" for this Xmas, using only those colors and in a tasteful amount. Trees that are overloaded and have no theme tend to look crowded and busy to me. One area where M and I have a decidedly different view of things. ;-)

11. Snow! love it or dread it?
Love it! (see desert comment above)

12. Can you ice skate?
Never tried.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I have always received gifts from my list of things I wanted, so generally all of my gifts were favorites at that time.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you?
Just being calm, happy, and thoughtful.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
A bowl of chocolate ice cream while I read (or now watch) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Watching Miracle on 34th Street. One Xmas, I made a point of watching it every time it was on the TV. Managed to see it 23 times. Great movie, in all versions, but the original is the best.

A new one is going to SJ to see fiancee. ;-)

17. What tops your tree?
Whatever.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?
Neither. Giving frustrates me and receiving often embarrasses me.

19. What is your favorite christmas song?
White Christmas (or, really, anything by Bing) and Last Christmas by George Michael.

20. Candy canes:
Ok. Sometimes nice to have a little peppermint. Good as a stirrer for hot chocolate, btw.

21. Favorite Christmas movie?
Toss up: Miracle on 34th Street and Die Hard.

22. What do you leave for Santa?
Milk and cookies (usually choco chip or sugar)-- soft).

December 13, 2006

Lacrosse Case Again

There is something wrong with our judicial system when all of the evidence points away from those accused and yet the prosecution still pushes forward. I have commented before on the Duke Lacrosse rape trial, and every time new information has been disclosed, that evidence has made the case for rape more remote.

First, you have a woman of highly questionable ethics and a very scant story accusing an entire group of people of a heinous crime with little evidence except her word. The scant amount of physical evidence the police could find on the woman all pointed away from those who the woman accused of the crime. And then witness after witness, including the woman’s friend and fellow performer for the evening, all stepped up to say that the accuser was not alone, that she was never seen with the particular people accused, and that after the alleged rape she was acting “normally.”

Then the initial DNA evidence came back—none was a match to any of the Lacrosse players. And the forensics indicated nothing more than the woman had sex; there were none of the physical signs of rape (tearing of tissues, trauma, bruising), especially none of an alleged “gang” rape.

Now, well after the fact, the prosecution releases their full DNA findings and it turns out that the woman did have multiple DNA donors in her underwear but none of it matched to any of those accused. And this evidence is in direct conflict with the information the accuser provided police; she said she had not had consensual sex for over a week prior to the alleged attack and that none of her attackers used condoms and they all ejaculated. So how do you explain the accuser having DNA evidence to multiple partners in her panties and none of it a match to any Lacrosse players?

Either this woman was raped but not by these players or she has been lying this entire time. It seems likely, from comments her co-performer is on record as saying, that this woman saw an opportunity to make what she hoped was a quick buck by accusing some Duke studs of rape and having them pay her off to be quiet and go away.

And here is the thing that continues to surprise me—the prosecutors STILL MOVE FORWARD with this absurd case.

If there was even one other person who could even partially corroborate this woman’s story, if even some of the physical or DNA evidence matched in the least bit, I would say continue with it. But none of it does, anywhere down the line. These prosecutors have forever besmirched these young men’s lives with this woman’s accusations of rape without a shred of evidence. This woman has now wasted how much time and energy on what appears to be an entirely fabricated story when these cops and prosecutors could have been tracking real rapists and other criminals. This is a shameful misuse of time and money better spent elsewhere.

In addition, this accuser has set back the strides that woman have made in making people understand how sensitive and important and delicate rape cases and rape victims are.

December 12, 2006

Followed by an Oh $#!+ moment

As I cruised out to get something for lunch, I decided to go to the local Taco Bell/Pizza Hut and get a PH2. In order to get there from here, I have to sort of zig-zag my way. At one point, I have to come up and around an onramp onto MacArthur, but get over a lane so that I don't merge onto the 73 north.

At just that spot there was a small white vehicle stopped in the lane I need to be in. As I am busy accellerating to join the traffic on MacArthur, and am glancing over my shoulder to make sure I have a clear lane to merge into, there is a car stopped with no lights flashing, no brake lights shining-- just stopped.

I learned something as I slammed on my brakes and steered to avoid killing the occupants of the car-- actually, two somethings: 1. the stupidity of people knows no boundaries and 2. a stopped car that has no other traffic around it nor anything to indicate distress or being stopped (like lights flashing) can fool your brain into thinking it is moving.

As I swerved and screeched my way around the stopped car, I had time to note that two young women were in it and they just appeared to be stopped. As I skidded by them, the driver started forward and drove off, like nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Since they were in a small, 2-door coupe, low to the ground, and I drive a bigger, heavier SUV-style vehicle, had I hit them they would have had an inkling of there being something wrong right before my car crushed the life out of them. But, since I managed to avoid them, they are happily on their merry way.

It was sort of funny, too, how my brain responded. As I merged and glanced ahead and then behind me to make sure the way was clear, my brain said to itself, "There is something odd up ahead." It just did not recognize the threat the stopped car presented at that time. When I then secured the merge into the lane and had my full attention in front of me again, my brain still didn't quite see the issue; it just repeated itself and added, "... with that car in front of us." It took a couple of seconds for it to work out that the car was stopped but that I could not see any reason for it. Had their brake lights been engaged, my brain would have had a swifter reaction. Had their warning lights been flashing, it would have yelled a warning to me. Having nothing, not even other traffic against which to judge the other car's speed (or lack thereof), made it very hard to recognize and react to the danger.

Suddenly, reworking the document I deleted doesn't seem so bad.

Oh Crap!

I just had one of "those" moments. I had worked on an Alert (a small, directed document that we send out with all our builds to ensure clients are aware of specific changes to the application or of special notices about the build we think they need to know). Took me about an hour or an hour and a half to do the Alert, as it included tables and some key formatting, etc.

Realized that I had created two folders on the network drive on which we work. So I said to myself, "I better delete that other folder right now while I'm thinking about it or else I'll forget and confuse myself later."

I then promptly clicked on the folder, clicked Delete, and clicked Yes to the warning message without thinking. I renamed the remaining folder, then opened it to finish what I was doing-- and was staring at an empty folder.

Yes, you guessed it-- I deleted the folder I had worked on for over an hour.

Just contacted IT and they don't have any way of recovering that folder for me, as I created it, worked on it, and deleted it all today. Our backups only run overnight.

I did offer them a suggestion: I asked the current IT guy to pass on this thought-- is there a way to set up our systems so that, when deleting a network file or folder, the deletion goes into our own (laptop or PC) Recycle Bin. In this way, when other people have the same bone-headed moment I just experienced, we would have a way to recover from it. The IT guy noted that when we ran Novell servers, we had basically that set up, but since moving to Windows he is unaware of anything like that. He said he would forward the idea to the right IT people and see.

So, now, I am going to go grab some lunch and then come back and recreate everything I just lost. Yay. I love doing work multiple times.


*sigh

December 10, 2006

New Blog

Welcome to the new, improved John's Omniverse. I decided a change was in order. I upgraded to the new beta system from Google and changed my format and color scheme. I believe this format will be easier to maintain and update. Hope you like it!

Note: All previous posts and comments have been saved and converted to this new template.

Sunday Morning Shopping

It is fun to go grocery shopping early on Sunday morning. It is the only time I feel really comfortable shopping, as the majority of people I see are other individual males looking a bit lost and confused as they wander up and down the aisles.

I am not sure what it is about Sunday mornings, but it seems like a lot of men go. And they are all, generally, getting about two plastic bags worth of groceries. Also, there tends to be many employees roaming around, restocking, etc. This allows us men to ask questions and find our items.

However, there were a few women this time around. And, to my honey, just wanted to let you know: an Asian woman was in the bread aisle, sniffing a loaf. Unless the previous one got an extreme hair cut, this was a new one.

Why do Asian women sniff the bread in the bread aisle? Don't they know I find it rather disturbing that they open the loaf right there in the aisle and snort bread like it is cocaine? I sure hope they do not put it back when they are done and select a different loaf!

December 3, 2006

Casino Royale

I can admit it-- I had reservations about Daniel Craig as James Bond. I was not rabidly against him, as many Bond movie fans were. As a matter of fact, I saw him in Layer Cake and thought he was a pretty good actor. I just did not think he was right for the direction that Bond had gone in recent years.

However, I was more than willing to put my reservations on hold until I saw some clips, reviews, etc. If the clips and reviews were unfavorable to me, I would be reticent to see the movie even though I am a big fan of the Bond movies in general.

When I started seeing the initial reviews, pictures, and then the first clips from the production, my mind started to change. The new, harder, simpler direction seemed perfectly suited to Craig's acting skills and his "look." Further, they wrote the movie around his talents, taking advantage of his more rugged looks, his ability to explode into action, and his way of smoldering under the surface.

The fact that they did away with Q and the gadgets (for the most part), as well as the more cartoonish violence of the most recent Bond films (as well as the Moore Bond), aided this approach.

I left the theatre very impressed with the movie and Craig as Bond. It worked. I hope that this more low-tech approach and strong character and story-driven plot will continue in his further adventures as Bond. This same approach helped revitalized the Batman movie franchise to great affect (see Batman Begins).

This being said, I did not like everything about the movie. I guessed very early on that one of the "good guys" would turn bad; I just wasn't sure how bad that character would turn out (the actual villain or somehow duped into helping the villains). Also, I felt the Texas Hold'em sequence went on far too long. They definitely could have cut about 10 minutes out of that-- we got the point that it was going to come down to Bond and the bad guy. It had to. I was also surprised when they mentioned that it only took two confirmed kills to become a double-O. That seems awfully low to me.

This was not enough to mar my overall enjoyment of the film or the new direction of the Bond franchise. I definitely recommend the current movie to fans of action movies in general, and to James Bond specifically.

As a side note, here are my favorite Bonds:
  1. Sean Connery. The first and the one to whom all others will always be compared.
  2. Daniel Craig. This is provisional on the movies he stars in continuing to use his talents and stay down to earth. QoS wasn't great entry, but Craig was good in it. And Skyfall is quite good, solidifying Craig's place as "1b" to Connery's "1a".
  3. Pierce Brosnan. I thought he was #2 until Craig came along. His first two Bond movies were quite good, I thought, and he played the the suave side of Bond without equal.
  4. Timothy Dalton. On rewatching his movies, they were well ahead of their time. Dalton plays Bond with a sense of anger that those before him didn't have. They did some of the same things when Brosnan and Craig took over.
  5. Roger Moore. I always thought he was too old for the role, that his movies were too cartoonish, and relied too much on the gadgets. However, they were fun and I was always entertained.
  6. George Lazenby. I liked the movie itself, but I thought Lazenby was dull.
  7. All others, including Woody Allen. Um, no. Just... no.

Lions

It is tough being a Detroit Lions fan. This season has been particularly tough, as they have been in all but three games until the final minutes. Those three games, a big loss to Chicago early in the season, blown out by Miami on Thanksgiving, and a win versus Atlanta, show just how good and bad this team can be.

However, the fact that they only have one other loss by more than a TD (a loss vs. Minnesota by 9) show they have been tough all year. They have been up in many of those games, too! In their most recent loss, Detroit was beating New England, doing all the right things, until about 8 minutes to go in the game. Then NE got their act in gear, tied the game, and the Lions frittered away the game with some very late turnovers.

In the first game of the season, versus a Championship-calibre Seahawks team, they dominated. Only a bad coach's decision late in the game (punting rather than trying for the FG) allowed the 'Hawks to hold on for a 9-6 win.

I think this new coach is getting the team to believe. They have a decent offense. Where they fail is on the defense and special teams. They need a better QB, of course, (Kitna is a serviceable guy to fill in, but they need a franchise guy), but this team is losing these games on defense. They need much better DBs and at least one more solid linebacker to really shore up this defense. They also need to spend more money on the O-line; Jones can only run so far and whomever the QB is can only do so much as long as the team is letting the defense into the backfield. But you can shore that up through free agency and better coaching. They also have some unused talent that they can likely trade for some upgrades at certain positions.

And, of course, they MUST fire Matt Millen. He is an abject failure at GM who is sporting the worst record of ANY team during his tenure. Yes, of ANY team; even the perennial bad teams, like Arizona and Cleveland, have better records during the last 6 seasons (including this one). It is imperative that he be fired and someone with at least some experience at the job is hired to replace him.

At this point, I almost hope they lose out and have a lock on the first pick in the draft. Brady Quinn has some good press about him, and this coming draft looks to have some good overall talent. Of course, if Millen is still in charge it won't matter-- the Lions will pick yet another WR. *sarcasm However, if Millen is gone, any GM worth his salt will go with the absolute best talent available and the Lions should get a good QB, defensive player, or other position.

Yes, I'm a fan. I'm eternally optimistic that THIS will be The Year for My Team. However, their competitiveness and overall quality play and change in attitude this season does indicate some positives for the next season.

Here's hoping.

December 2, 2006

29 Palms

A little of that home town magic... Twentynine Palms is referenced in a Veronica Mars episode from this season when it is mentioned that Wallace and Pizz have headed there and are staying in a motel there for a hard and heavy weekend of studying.

Let's have a Woot for the home town!

November 27, 2006

A Little of that Family Luck

Well, M now has experienced a bit of my luck.

Her first flight from LAX was delayed about 1.5 hours for flight crew from another flight arrived. Which caused her to miss her connection at Montreal. The irony is that she was there, she ran, but didn't make the 15-minute rule.

So, she's staying with her brother in Montreal and will be back home tomorrow.

All I have to say to the Fates is this-- we're not married yet! She doesn't have my last name quite yet, so go easy on her!

I'm sure I'll have new stories to tell of my own come December. Stay tuned. ;-)

On Her Way

Super Shuttle just picked up M and she is on her (long) way back to Canada.

We had a good visit, got to make the rounds and visit with a few of my friends this trip, and had a very productive meeting with our new immigration lawyer that will allow us to make some more definite plans toward the future. So a very good visit, all in all.

I look forward to my visit at Xmas/New Year's.

For right now, I feel a bit shredded (for obvious reasons). I think I'll go take a nap for an hour before going to work for the day.

November 20, 2006

Quick Hits

Fiance
M is here and I am extremely happy. We have managed to visit with some friends, see a movie (Casino Royale—definitely worth seeing), watch some NFL together, and have some quiet time alone. My apartment is just not conducive to two-people, though. Caly has voiced her displeasure at having a woman staying in “her” apartment. I won’t mention how she reacts to having another female cuddling up with “her” human. Cats will be cats, and therefore possessive and a bit condescending.

We have a visit to another set of friends on Wednesday, as well as driving out to mom’s that evening for Thanksgiving the next day. Then Black Friday. Maybe another friendly visit on Saturday. Oh, and lots of shopping. She did bring two suitcases, after all.

Having to work today and tomorrow sucks, though.

Bank
I have already heard back from my bank on the car loan debacle. It appears they realized my recent transactions were supposed to go entirely against the Principle, so that is why they backed out the payments and then re-issued them. However, that still does not account for why my ending balance after this is higher than it was before.

Anyway, I should pay this off in a week and be done with it. Then I can start the process of trying to get my pink slip from them. On my last car, it took me nearly a year to convince them I had paid my loan and to send me the registration. Let’s see if I can top that this time.

Lions
I guess Detroit has proven yet again that they are one of the worst teams in the league. After the startling win against Atlanta, I fully expected them to reach 5 or 6 wins during the "easy" part of their schedule (San Fran, Arizona, Miami plus one more game versus Green Bay and Minnesota). However, they dropped the two against San Fran and Arizona, and Miami is looking like a solid team again and a definite spoiler.

I think that Marinelli has the team going in the right direction. However, I wonder if the choice of Martz, about which I was initially very happy, may have been a poor one. Par for the course for Matt Millen, the worst GM in the history of GMs for the NFL.

There is always next season. *sigh

November 19, 2006

Here and Safe

M arrived safely and soundly at about 12:15 pm. We packed up her gear and made fabulous time back to Irvine. We spent the day going to CostCo (twice), church, Albertsons, and having dinner.

On tap for tomorrow, Casino Royale with Chris and Cynthia and some football at a normal, decent hour (none of this midnight football in the Atlantic time zone crap!).

November 16, 2006

Crazy Evening, Crazier Morning

Internet
Last night, after my nightly chat with M, I needed to go back on the internet for some reason. I found that I had no connection at all to the internet. I tried my work laptop and even TiVo to connect, but there seemed to be nothing doing. And this after chatting for an hour and browsing the internet after work. I checked all connections, released and renewed my IP, turned everything off and back on, etc.; all the usual tricks. Nothing.

I attempted to reconnect this morning, prior to leaving for work. Still nothing. Yet Cox’s online help site indicates nothing unusual for the Orange County area. I wonder if my modem or router crapped out on me very suddenly? The lights of each were still working, everything appeared to be firmly connected.

Bank 1
I picked up my mail yesterday evening as well, but did not feel like reviewing it at that time. This morning, I went through it. I received a loan statement from KeyPoint that was dated 4-20-06—WTF? Why, in November, would I be receiving a statement showing me the activity for March and requesting the April payment?

So I called. Spoke with a nice woman named Madeline about it. I explained that I was trying to get the amount paid off, which they were not making easy, and that last month’s statement came with some oddities on it that I was hoping this month’s statement would clarify. However, the statement I received was for March/April—so I was very confused. We had to step all the way back to January 06. She then month by month read to me the balance, the amount paid, until she got to October. Then all hell broke loose. In October, I made several large payments in an attempt to get the loan from them paid off and closed. I wound up receiving two statements in October, one with my original amount owed and large payment amounts, and a final amount due of well under $1000. The second statement, about two weeks later, showed them backing out those large extra payments, reposting them in a different amount to the account, and my final amount owed on the account at over $1000. Hunh?

Madeline needed help, so she called her manager over to see if he could figure it out. Neither of them could find any notes or details explaining what finance had done with these changes. They also could not explain why I was receiving a statement for March/April in November. When all was said and done, Madeline put in a work order for finance to go through my account with a fine-tooth comb and contact me back with answers no later than December 6. In the meantime, I show I need to make one final payment of about $700 and they show me needing to pay about $1150. I do not think I will be paying anything until they get this resolved!

Bank 2
While speaking with Madeline, I tried to access my bank account online so that I could tell her the exact amounts I paid. I could not enter the site. So, I wound up having to call that bank and ask them what my account number is, as it was the account number field which was at fault.

Car
My next piece of mail was a certified letter from American Financial Warranty Corporation. It politely informed me that the extended vehicle warranty I had purchased two years ago when I bought my truck was reviewed and noted that one section was on “the wrong form.” They had corrected the mistake and were sending this change to me for my records. Wait, WTF? When I sat down with the finance guy at Saturn, I was very clear about not wanting any extended warranties. Was this a scam?

I decided to call Saturn and ask them if I did, in fact, have an extended warranty on my vehicle and if it was from this company. I had to transfer around until I reached Saturn’s Director of Finance, Mario, before I found someone who could answer my questions. He looked up my account and, sure enough, I had an extended warranty. I explained that this was a surprise to me, as I had been very explicit about not wanting one when purchasing the vehicle.

Being in the position he is, Mario could not come right and say I got scammed by their finance person. However, he did say that there were three people who worked for Saturn at the location where I bought my car during that time period. One name, Rick, stood out as familiar to me, but I cannot be sure without checking my paperwork. Anyway, Mario indicated not one of those three lasted more than a couple of months. He never came out and said it, but I got the strong impression that Saturn let them each go for “irregularities.” In general, Saturn prides themselves on being an honest and customer-centric company. And my many experiences at the particular location have all been good, so I believe him.

Further discussion and some extra research on his part indicated that this letter I received did appear to be legit. Mario apologized for my confusion and offered me some coupons for free oil change/service for the inconvenience. So, I have a $1250 extended warranty on my truck, should something go wrong, and my next service will be free. I guess that’s a good thing.

Doctor
Lastly, I received a postcard from my eye doctor’s office, indicating it was time to make a new appointment. Usually, however, these postcards also say what date/time my appointment is for, because I never leave without making the next year’s appointment. This one did not have that listed, so I called. Bob was able to look me up and determined that I did not, in fact, have an appointment scheduled. My eye doctor is generally booked well in advanced, which meant my early-December appointment is now at the end of January!

November 9, 2006

New Sensation

I like chocolate bars. Especially those made with dark chocolate. Some of my favorites include Snickers, Baby Ruth, Hershey’s bars, Three Musketeers, 100 Grand, Crunch, Smores, and Milky Way. I do not like any nut except peanuts and I dislike coconut.

Recently, I ate a Snickers, a Baby Ruth, and a dark chocolate Milky Way. Not all at once, mind you. An interesting thing happen—I had a sensation like small electrical shocks in my mouth as I ate. This has not happened before, so I was a little surprised. The sensation is nothing that causes me pain or discomfort; it is just a very mild annoyance that is enough to notice even as I enjoy the candy.

I do not know if it is the ingredients, the acidity of my mouth, the mixture of silver and gold fillings, something psychosomatic, or an entirely different reason, but the sensation is there all the same. I only notice it when eating mixed-ingredient candy bars like those I mentioned, however. When I last ate See’s Candy and a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar, I did not experience this odd feeling.

Does anyone else experience this? Is this yet another thing about which I am completely unique?

November 7, 2006

Not the 300 I Imagined

Welcome to my 300th post to this blog. I have been working on a new post for a while; I have a couple of interesting topics and have been working on each trying to decide which would be my 300th post. One is a personal event that happened while I was a child and shaped my world and life view, another was a political rant about things, and a third was simple musings about life.

This is NOT one of those topics.

------

Dorothy (friend and work) and I went to Albertsons for lunch today. I ordered the Italian Delight. And, shock of all shocks, they did it right! I actually got the sandwich I ordered, correctly made with no additional ingredients (like onions or mustard/mayo) added in and without the tomotoes, as requested.

I'm sitting here, stunned, that it only took 5 tries to get it right. I was thinking this may become my White Whale.

Oh well, I'm sure something else will come along.

November 1, 2006

Because I Like to Share

If you can see it, there is the wound. It is just over an inch long. You can't make out the egg under it very well, as it is hard to take a pic of your own head.

PS - to any women who view this: hopefully the wound will keep you from swooning at the sexiness of my bald head. If you do swoon, well, you can't hold me accountable for the sexy!

;-)

October 29, 2006

Oops... I Did It Again

Somehow, I'm still not quite sure how, I managed to cause the valence on which sat one of my surround sound speakers to fall off the wall-- and the speaker went with it and knocked me hard on the head.

I received an inch long gash in my forehead, was bleeding profusely, and became instantly dizzy/woozy and headachy. I knew I was bleeding when I saw the spatter on the carpetting and felt the steady trickle going down my face.

I staggered into the bathroom, slattered blood all over the sink, the basin, and the mirror. Grabbed a wad of toilet paper and held it tight to my head, and it became almost instantly soaked. I threw that away and grabbed another wad and pressed just as hard again. Once I felt like the flood had lessened enough that I could make it to the kitchen, I grabbed a third wad of TP, held it to my head while I went to the kitchen and grabbed some ice, put it in a plastic bag, and wrapped that in some napkins and more TP.

At that point, I became very weak and sick-feeling. I kept the ice and pressure on my head, as I was still bleeding pretty strongly. As this happened right before I was planning to make dinner, I was even woozier from the sudden loss of blood and intense pain on an empty stomach. I needed to talk with someone, so I called my mom and spoke with her for about an hour. She was obviously concerned, but soon relaxed enough to just talk with me and keep my coherent and awake.

It is now about an hour and half after the event. I'm feeling a bit stronger, the bleeding has lessened to the point where I found some gauze and medical tape and am using that. I have cleaned up the blood trail and most of the sink. I have a good-sized lump on my upper forehead and the gash is wide enough that I will likely have a nice scar from this one.

I put the chicken in the oven to bake (no frying or grilling for me-- I think it is better if I let the oven do the work). My headache is getting extremely bad, but you shouldn't take any sort of aspirin with a head wound, so I am avoiding that right now.

So, I'm wondering if hitting my head is going to be a constant issue now-- as current readers know, I smacked my head good about two weeks ago. Hopefully not, as I can't handle too much more of this.

Better go check the chicken.

October 21, 2006

Hallelujah

Over the last two-three weeks, I watched a number of shows that featured a slow, plaintive song with a refrain in which the artists repeated the word "Hallelujah" a few times. The song is, of course, named "Hallelujah" and is a Leonard Cohen song originally.

There are a few websites that refer to music from various shows, and this helped narrow things down a bit. One that was useful was:

Blogcritics

These sites and my musically-inclined friends led me to find a whole list of people who sing this song. Some are quite good versions.

kd lang
Allison Crowe
Rufus Wainwright
Daisy Chapman
Jeff Buckley (probably the most popular version)
Angelou
Steve Acho
Brandi Carlile
Elisa

The small snippets of these songs I heard on iTunes indicated that, while good, none of these were the precise version for which I was searching. I went back to the 'net to see if there were any other versions that might have been found. I found this website:

Stylus

Sure enough, the John Cale version-- which was hard to find a good snippet of to listen to-- appears to be the precise version that I liked so much. (The Stylus website also mentions a great TV moment; read the description of #2 for the episode "My Screwup.")

Some TV shows have tried to facilitate their viewers' desires to buy the music they present. However, even these shows do not do a great job of telling you what every song is-- I can't tell you how often I have watched Smallville, enjoyed a song, and it was not one of the ones mentioned at the end of the program.

But other shows, especially the dramas, make little to no effort to help the viewers find good music. It is unfortunate, as they could really get a synergy going between the production companies and the music industries. I am willing to bet the music industry would see bumps in these songs and albums if both they and the TV productions companies would make the effort. Win-win for both groups.

I am off to see if I can find the John Cale version of "Hallelujah" as a single song, since iTunes appears not to have it. Wish me luck!

October 20, 2006

Guiding Light

Okay, this is just goofy! I guess, with their viewership down to all-time lows, they are hoping to grab some of the comic-book readers in American and suck them in? I will admit, soaps and comics use many similar tactics in keeping viewers and stringing out storylines.

From IMDB.com, Oct. 20, 2006:

Superhero To Beam Onto 'Guiding Light'
Guiding Light, America's oldest soap opera -- it began on radio in 1937 and moved to television in 1952 -- will be taking aim at younger viewers next month when it introduces a Marvel Comics-created superhero on Nov. 1. Marvel Comics said that it will cross-promote the storyline with an eight-page insert to appear in several of its comic books in which the Guiding Light characters will interact with Marvel superheroes.

Follow up link:
http://www.superherotimes.com/newsarchive/001724.php

October 19, 2006

Italian Delight

I like a good, Italian style sandwich. Three weeks ago today, while visiting the Albertsons by work for lunch, I discovered their deli has a very good Italian sandwich. It has cappicola, cotto salami, genoa salami, provolone cheese, tomato, Italian dressing, and pepperoncinis. All this is on a baguette-style sandwich roll. I order it sans tomatoes.

Well, three weeks ago, I read that on the wall, ordered from the gentleman behind the counter saying, “I would like the Italian Delight sandwich. I want it exactly as it is listed, except no tomatoes.” I thought that was pretty clear direction.

Well, he asked me twice if I wanted mustard and mayo on it (yuck!) and he added onions and included tomatoes. Well, after taking the onions and tomato off, and ensuring he did not slide any mustard or mayo on there, I enjoyed the sandwich. Quite tasty and a great value for the price. However, with no one bothering him and nothing to do but make my sandwich, it took the poor guy well over 20 minutes to make the sandwich.

About a week later, I returned. I positioned myself in line so I would have the woman working the counter help me. When I asked, I said, “I’d like the Italian Delight, just as it is listed, but no tomatoes.” Off she went. I was a little distracted, left the counter to grab something nearby, and when I returned I was surprised to see she had out regular sliced bread and was starting to add avocado to the sandwich. I said, “Excuse me” enough times to catch her notice and then asked, “What sandwich are you making?”

“The Ultimate Club,” she responded.

“But I ordered the Italian Delight,” I countered. I watched as her light bulb turned on, dimly, and she said, “I’m sorry. You’re right.” And she quickly made me an Italian Delight. So, it took well over 20 minutes again, and she put it on a standard soft sandwich roll instead of the baguette. I still enjoyed it, but it is better on the baguette.

Last week, I tried again. I got the guy again. I used the same line, only I ignored the “no tomatoes” comment. Still took him a while to construct the sandwich, but he did it in just under 20 minutes and I got… onions on it. I got back to the office, picked off the onions and tomatoes and enjoyed it.

Today I needed to pick up my medications at the Sav-on inside that Albertsons, so I got that sandwich again. The same guy was there, and he even remembered me. So I ordered the Italian Delight, as listed on the menu, with no tomatoes. To his credit, he only made the sandwich as listed this time, but he managed to include the tomatoes again.

If I did not enjoy the sandwich so much, I would not go back. I do find it amusing that, with the level of direction I have provided, I cannot get them to give me exactly what I order. Oh well, I am used to taking tomatoes off of sandwiches; it is not a big deal to me or I would ask to speak with the manager and offer “suggestions.”

October 15, 2006

Memory Foam

I have a crappy bed. No bones about it. On my own and with my mom's help, I have looked for ways to improve the bed using foam, extra pillows, and feather-filled toppers.

Last week I purchased a Personal Expression memory foam topper for my bed. Well, actually two, but that is another story. With 3" of memory foam on the bed, my sleep has been deeper, more restful, and better.

The foam does a nice job of molding around me and easing the pressure on my shoulders and back. I have been moving less during the night.

Matter of fact, my only complaint is that I have not quite figured out the heat issues. The memory foam molds around me more than I am used to. Also, the temperatures are getting cooler at night, which causes me to grab my afghan during the night. Then, since the foam has me wrapped up and I have the extra warmth from the afghan, I am getting too warm. When I get too warm, I have trouble waking up. Yesterday I slept in until after 8:30 am and this morning I stayed asleep until 8 am.

However, I am happy to have this issue. I am known for having poor night's rest and only sleeping around 5-6 hours a night. Since adding the memory foam to my bed I am sleeping 7-8 hours a night, and loving it.

I give a serious thumbs up to the memory foam topper. What a great purchase.

October 13, 2006

Follow Up - Head

The headaches have eased back and I seem to be generally okay. I still have some small issues that may be related. With as hard as I hit my head, I'm sure that I had some form of concussion, even if I did not lose consciousness.

I also have some issues with my arthritis, which the knock to the head have not helped. My jaw very nearly locked shut yesterday and is still a bit sore today. However, I know that taking some prednisone for a couple of days will ease that away, so I am not overly concerned by that. But it was bad timing with the headaches and a general grogginess brought on by the blow to the head.

Life's Little Challenges

Sometimes, life is a challenge.

My fiancĂ© and I want to be together. However, through the happenstance of how we met, it turned out that we are from different sides of the continent and in different countries. So our ability to be together is stymied by rules and regulations we must overcome first. It is taking longer than we would like, and it is frustrating, but all we can do is continue to press our nose to the grindstone and move forward. We are, at least, reviewing the immigration paperwork and making some tough decisions on when and how we can get me to her. And, of course, this challenge leads to other challenges—moving, marriage, distance from my current friends and family, job. All of which I look forward to meeting and overcoming in the future.

I really enjoy Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying. I have a great group of friends with whom I play. We even have a wealth of people who like to GM, which is often unusual for groups. However, I really want to play in a super-hero related game. While my friends are open to playing in a game, it generally means that I have to GM it, as I am the impetus for this sort of genre. Which, while fun, defeats the purpose—I want to have the fun of creating the character, not knowing the plot, and defeating the bad guys. If I am the GM, no matter how much fun I may have in the game, I really cannot have the specific fun for which I am looking. The only solution to this one that I see is to find a group who enjoys this genre and join them. But that leads to other challenges; fitting in with a new group, time, location.

Bike riding is something I have always enjoyed. However, I enjoy it the most when I can ride with someone, to a location or for a purpose, and share the experience. Right now, I do not have anyone with whom I can share that joy. I have asked around in my apartment complex with those I have seen biking, but they are mostly of the racing variety; I’m just looking for a buddy to take a 3-5 mile ride with around the local environs. I am not sure why this one has been on my mind so much lately, except that I have felt the need to get some exercise in and I like biking for both the distance and speed as well as the low-impact nature of it. I am not seeing a ready solution to this one right now, except maybe to go back to biking alone. Now that I have a cell phone, solitary biking does not have quite the same worries as it once did.

PC gaming is a fun activity that I like to lose myself in on occasion. However, PC gaming is at its most fun when you can team up with people you know and from whom you can expect a certain level of play and comradeship. For a while, I managed to get two of my buddies to join me in some online gaming and I had a real blast. Just prior and shortly after their involvement, I did my best to join and play with a group within the game. But, in each case, the friends and the groups had other things come into play and they disbanded, stopped playing, or drifted to other groups. There is a new online game coming within just a few days/weeks (NWN2) which I know one buddy of mine is buying; so I may have an opportunity to get some more gaming with friends in soon. But he’s a busy guy, with a wife and a child as well as a job with a lot of OT, so I am not optimistic that he can play as often as I can. But any time will be better than none.

There are other challenges; health, family, pet, apartment, and job related. Not sure even why I mention the four I do, except maybe that those are four that are on my head a lot these days. The first and last are two that have a fair chance of being overcome in some fashion or another. The middle two are more of a challenge, and I look for ways around them. As to the many other challenges; I guess I will get to them when I get to them.

October 9, 2006

A Good Swift Kick to the Head

I hit my head. Hard.

My apartment sports a crappy over/under clothes washer/dryer set. The dryer, on top, has a door that likes to slowly swing shut if you do not put something to block it. As I was doing laundry yesterday, I dropped a piece of clothing and bent to retrieve it without considering the dryer door, which I had left open.

I stood up at full speed and, banged the back of my head into the metal dryer door with a great deal of force.

Luckily, I had folded articles on the washer top. I hit my head so hard I actually ricocheted down and would have hit the washer, but landed on a pile of folded clothes instead of chipping a tooth or breaking/bloodying my nose on the hard metal surface of the washer.

This morning, when I looked at the washer unit, I noticed it was moved back slightly and no longer facing exactly straight—apparently I hit it hard enough to move the unit, too.

What is interesting is that I did not even break the skin or give myself a goose-egg. However, I hit it hard enough to get that coppery flavor in the back of my throat, an instant, splitting, migraine-strength headache, and a bit of a nauseated feeling.

Unfortunately, I did all this around 5pm and I had a dinner get-together with a buddy of mine. I waited about half an hour to see if the symptoms would clear. When they did not, I had to call my friend and postpone our dinner. I felt bad doing it, but I definitely did not feel safe to drive or well enough to be social.

I monitored my symptoms for the requisite four hours; I never lost consciousness and I did not appear to be having any problems remembering anything. Well, no more than is usual for me now. ;-) The nauseated feeling did not turn into vomiting and I had no signs of any bleeding. No seizures or difficulty speaking/making sense.

It is now nearly 24 hours later and my splitting headache is just starting to ease off into moderate pounding. If I turn my head too quickly, I get a weird “slow fade” sensation as though my senses are not quite keeping up with me. And I still have the coppery taste in the back of my throat a bit, although that is finally lessening too.

This makes a few times now I have hit my head hard enough to worry about concussion. As an early teen, riding my bicycle and doing stunts, I went off a jump and landed flat on my back and head, knocking the wind out of me and giving me a slight numbing sensation. I have been hit in the face/head a couple of times playing sports, by balls and bats, that caused the coppery taste and a wooziness. I am fairly sure that the injury when I conked my head on the support bar on Chris’s bunked bed in the dormitories caused some damage. And then there was the time in England when I stood up way too fast and hit my head on the luggage wrack and light switch, knocking me senseless for a few minutes.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate doing laundry. Incidents like this just support that natural hatred—laundry hates me (and, apparently, is out to kill me, too), so I hate it right back!

I continue to monitor the situation and, if everything is not improving by tomorrow, I will get my head checked for permanent damage. Things are starting to improve, so I do not think this will be necessary.

And I need to contact my buddy and reschedule lunch/dinner. I feel bad leaving him in the lurch on such short notice, but I think it was for the best in the end.

October 6, 2006

Art Imitates Life

Anyone who has ever played any MMORPG, but especially WoW, needs to watch last night's episode of South Park, "Make Love not Warcraft."

I was laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face!

October 3, 2006

True Evil

Guns are evil.

They must be—every time something horrible involving guns happens, that is what I hear from the media and from people.

Recently, a man who was having psychological issues both from the loss of a child 3 years ago and from a molestation event that happened 20 years ago, took a shotgun and a 9 mm handgun to an Amish school and killed some children and himself.

He wasn’t at fault; the guns were— because guns are evil.

The guns somehow made him write the multiple suicide notes, call his wife during the incident, and choose a place where he could vent his frustrations without much fear of reprisals—a school. Damn, those guns are evil.

Two other gun-related incidents occurred this week as well. In both cases, children got weapons and took them to school and shot people. It is not the parent’s fault for not properly storing or locking the weapon. It is not the parent’s fault for apparently not teaching the children proper respect for the tool, or forgetting to teach the children that a gun is not the proper response to the travails of life. No, it was that evil gun’s fault for sitting there in a drawer and corrupting those in the household.

Columbine was the gun’s fault. The two children who were psychologically unbalanced, feared by their fellow students for their odd and aggressive behavior, and about whom the police did nothing regarding the many complaints and fears that had been forwarded to them about those two boys’ behavior for the year leading up to the event—they aren’t to blame. If those darned guns hadn’t been around to influence their minds and make them turn bad, Columbine would never have happened.

We can go all the way back to the first incident—that McDonald’s shooting in the early 80s where another unbalanced person took a weapon to a favorite eatery and unloaded, killing multiple people during a rampage. How possibly could he be to blame for that? It had to be the gun.

A growing voice can be heard once again asking why our country does not ban this gun or that gun, or even all guns. That growing voice is asking why we don’t do more to protect the children.

And here is the problem with that voice—we don’t need more laws, we just need the laws we currently have enforced. This country has literally hundreds of laws on the books, both federally and locally, about who can and who cannot have guns, where they can be used, training courses that are supposed to be taken prior to buying or using guns, and waiting periods. Some locations have banned specific types of guns or modifying weapons to make them more deadly. And the guns still find a way into those locations. Those changes still get made to the weapons. And people still manage to buy guns without the waiting periods or without taking gun safety courses first.

We need the police to take complaints against anyone about violent and extremely anti-social behavior more seriously; including funding them well enough they have people to work these complaints. For that matter, we need all of the many, many systems we have in place in schools, churches, and communities to be properly funded and staffed so they have a chance in hell of actually working.

We need people to understand that well over 95% of all legal gun owners, makers, and sellers are law-abiding citizens from whom you never hear a peep and about whom very few of these news stories are written.

We have to smarten up and realize that the guy who shot the children in the Amish school left home that day with the intent to get some sort of revenge and the need to commit suicide. The Columbine children wanted the same things; revenge and death. These people will find other ways if guns are not in the picture. Look at any country that bans guns; those country a) still have problems with guns and b) have a much higher incidence of violent crimes via other means (knives, blunt objects, fist fights, etc.), per capita. It shows that people who want to commit violent acts are going to—if you make guns unavailable, they WILL find something else to use or another way to do the violence. There is no society anywhere on earth where violent crime has been removed.

So why not smarten up and hold accountable those that should be: the perpetrators of these crimes. They wanted to commit violent acts and they did. They are to blame; no one else but those people. Blame them. Hold them accountable.

It is not the gun’s fault. It is just a tool. A tool that is incredibly efficient and remarkably good at the task it was designed for, but a tool nonetheless. Without a person to hold it, load it, aim, and fire it, the tool will do nothing more than sit there.

And maybe we can learn something from the Amish against whom this most recent gun violence was perpetrated. One Amish man was quoted as saying, “There is no sense in getting angry.” Another, who lost a family member to the violence and has another in the hospital, said, “I think it was going to happen. God has his hand in it.” These so-called ‘backward’ people understand that people get violent and violence happens. They will mourn their dead and move on.

Maybe the rest of us can, too?

October 2, 2006

Intelligent People

Sometimes, being an intelligent person actually is an impediment.

It seems like people who are not as intelligent manage, alone and without help, all the time. They just throw caution to the wind and go. Who cares if they did not do something correctly—they will just fix it and continue on. Who cares if they misunderstood the nature of that over there—they will just explain their mistake and move on.

Vacuous people throw caution to the wind and just do something. More often than not, it seems to work out for them. Not being overly self-aware allows them to damn the consequences and move full-steam ahead. They do not seem to agonize over the imperfections and faulty assumptions, nor do they let the setbacks that their lack of information creates stop them. And the universe, or the higher being, appears to smile on their ignorance and move them past the impediment with just a gentle nudge, and maybe a whimsical smile, and on they go.

Intelligent people just cannot do that. They are stifled with the need to “do it right,” to understand the process, which causes a great deal of stress and slows them down. Smart people agonize over the little and the big. They worry about the rights and the wrongs. They worry about other people involved and they wonder about the morals and the ethics of it all.

Smart people have more options available. So many possibilities open up to them that it can be paralyzing to make a choice. A less intelligent person only has to pick from a few doors and they do not seem to care about the consequences of that action. They assume they can always back out and pick the other door. Or they trust that other doors will open after this one. But a smart person has dozens, hundreds, of doors from which to choose. And they recognize that even the slightest wrong choice carries consequences.

Life is a series of choices and consequences, a smart child is taught. Those who shine less brightly are told that Life is just… life. Get to the living of it and don’t look back!

It is rare that you can see smart people just living their life. The apprehensions and awareness keeps them more fearful and contained. Living life for a smart person seems to come only after a break down or a break through of some sort. Their intelligence finally resolves the issues and can see more clearly and without prejudice. They learn that it is rare when the consequences which stymied them before are as ravaging as they once believed. Not all decisions lead to ruin.

Other times we see an intelligent person who understands the true meaning of life, it often turns out to be an older person, the child stricken with a terminal illness, or an adult with a severe infirmity. Age, illness, and infirmity are other reasons to cause an intelligent person to see beyond the possibilities of their own minds, look past the confusion that those possibilities present, and see that life is about living.

None of this is particularly deep, nor is it the least bit original. But sometimes people forget that the only thing that stops a person, smart or otherwise, from living life is that person; the person’s fears and hopes, dashed dreams and introspections, and the consequences for every little action.

Maybe it is time to take a deep breath and go live a little life?

September 26, 2006

And Gone

M is mid-flight, somewhere along the way to SJ. United and Air Canada-- please take good care of her. She's a very special cargo to me. Make sure she arrives safely.

Thoughts on this--
  • It shreds the emotions to get together, have some incredibly lovely days together, and then be ripped apart because one of us has to go.
  • It is very hard to focus at work when you are emotional.
  • We must get some resolution soon, as this is tough. Tougher than tough!
  • She's a much better packer than I am.
  • I have the benefit of a full wardrobe at her place, so can generally take just a carry-on with me.
  • St. Cecilia's is the best Catholic church we have found here. More traditional than any of the others.

We did manage to spend 4 incredible days together. I took her to my home town and showed her what a small desert community is. I think she was shocked, surprised, and a little overwhelmed (or maybe underwhelmed). It is a quiet place, hot, with just over 26k people in it. We saw all the sights I could think to show her in under an hour (not including the National Park-- which is just more desert).

We discussed our current situation in detail and have some plans of actions and some resources to search. We also came to a decision on the cat. We have had some movement with the lawyer and with a possible job that I can do from Canada, so our fingers are crossed on both fronts. But we still seem to have many miles to go before we sleep. *sigh

The countdown is now on for (American) Thanksgiving (she comes back and we can hopefully visit some more people this time). And then again for Christmas (I go there).

September 21, 2006

She's Here

M has arrived, safe and sound.

Random Thoughts (9/21/06)

  • I need M here. And these four days will be nowhere near long enough.
  • I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
  • I hate working on Data Dictionaries. I know these are important to programmers, and even sometimes to clients, but I hate, hate, hate formatting, rearranging, and putting them together. I have another one lined up, though. *sigh
  • We need parents to be parents. When they are not parents (whether trying to be our friend or otherwise), they are not performing the proper role. It is okay to be friendly with your parent, but they should always act like your parent. I’m lucky in that my parents have always fulfilled their role.
  • We still have no accountability in this country. We need people to just step up and say, “I was wrong. It is my fault. I am accountable.” How refreshing would that be?
  • It is obviously a behavior issue and my behavior modification attempts are not working. What else can I do?
  • I miss the days where I could just quietly color in my room. Even when I do that today, there are always other pressures weighing on me or other concerns about which I must take action.
  • So Cal, and all of America, really, needs to learn to slow down and breathe.
  • I am utterly amazed at my boss. She has lost around 200 lbs through force of will, Weight Watchers, and exercise. You would not recognize her if you haven’t seen her in the last 2 years.
  • Banking should be easier than this; especially with all the technology today.
  • I am really looking forward to Issue 8 of CoH and to NWN 2. I hope both live up to their FAQs.
  • I am getting tired of the new Mac commercial. Other than being out and out lies, they are also very deceptive. Especially the new one, where they claim that OS X is immune to viruses. Apple/Mac only has about 3% of the total PC market—it just isn’t worth it to a hacker to write a virus for that small an impact.
  • President Bush seems to have the exact opposite problem of the guy in Memento—our President cannot form long-term memories. How else do you explain the utter surety with which he completely contradicts everything he has said in the past?
  • It is utter nonsense to believe that if the Democrats win the House/Senate/Oval office, they will just pull our troops out. So stop saying that, Republicans.
  • Hoover Dam is truly a marvel.
  • Jericho surprised me. However, I think it has limited directions it can go without turning into melodrama and then getting cancelled.
  • It will likely be just as surprising for me to go back to 29 as it will be for M. I haven’t been in town for a few years now. I hope I am well enough to do that trip—she needs to see where I come from. It explains a lot about me.
  • With the way that Linden Avery was using both the Staff of Law and White Gold at the end of Runes of Earth, I am anxious to read the next novel.

September 11, 2006

A Mixed Blessing

Today is the 5th anniversary of that tragic event, and it seems a good time to look at how our country has responded.

9/11 has turned into a double-edged sword for America. It has drawn its people closer together and has allowed people to honor our military for their contributions. But it has also divided the country, mostly when the President chose to abandon his pursuit of the perpetrators of 9/11 and go after Iraq for what has turned out to be no reason at all. Now people still want to honor our men and women in uniform, but they also do not want to fight what has been categorically proven as an unjust war.

In the years since 9/11, our government has done many things to try to protect its people. However, once again, those actions have two sides. On the one side, 9/11 taught America how vulnerable many of its infrastructure is to outside forces. However, so many planes, trains, and ships are loading, unloading, and moving freight around this country that it is impossible to check them all. Its borders are so vast that they are nearly impossible to patrol. However, the proposals and the tightening of restrictions on its nearest neighbors have done nothing except alienate America's allies and point out problems in the immigration process (and with illegal immigration).

The government instituted tough new strategies for airline security to “keep 9/11 from ever happening again.” However, most of those strategies cannot be fairly implemented or are too prohibitively expensive to implement fully. So, instead, there are procedures that do not make Americans any safer (as the constant stream of reports about people flying with unsafe items can attest to) and only serve to anger the population and slow the primary means of transportation.

The Department of Homeland Security was created. Another mixed blessing, as this office created incomprehensible warnings and issued statements that were vague and fear-driven. However, this office pointed out inconsistencies in our information gathering groups (CIA, FBI, et al) and was used to consolidate much of that into one, more streamlined organization. But, on the other hand, most of the best information received has come from other countries’ espionage groups (like Scotland Yard, Interpol, etc.), which begs the question—how good is America's information and is there more that can be done to make this on-par with our allies?

Lastly, all of these trials have created new paradigms for racism and hatred in the country and toward Americans in other countries. Anyone who looks Arabic in any way (including Seiks, people from India and neighboring countries, and others) is still feeling some of the heat from 9/11, right or wrong. But, because of America's foreign policies since that event, many countries are looking at America as, at best, bullies, inconsiderate, belligerent and, at worst, as terrorists and warmongers. At the same time, these racist tendencies are being discussed more openly and honestly than at any other time in our history. Carlos Mencia, and other comics, are constantly pointing out and providing forums for Americans to discuss racism. News resources have started asking tougher questions and delving deeper into these areas. The immigration issues have come to a head and are on the front burner for many states.

So where is America today? Even after five years, it may be too soon to tell. The country is not where it should be—the light and the hope for the world. It is not noticeably safer. Politically, it is more divided than ever. Yet there are bright spots. America seems to be back on a good track. Its people are honoring those in the military and other protection services (Coast Guard, Fire, Police, etc.). Americans are questioning their government and asking questions that require hard answers.

It may not be until the next Presidential election that America sees where it stands. If Americans re-elect the party that has led it to this point, it will say that the majority trusts where the country is and the direction it is going. If Americans elect the other party, it says that people need change and a new outlook and will take time to see where that party leads the country and if that party can mend some of the fences with foreign countries that seem to be strained now. If Americans elect an unusual person or party (whether it is a woman or ethnic President/Vice-President, a third-party candidate, or something entirely new), it will indicate that the people need massive change and are willing to look at fresh ideas for them.

Until then, give 9/11 a moment of silence, think about the world as it is now and how it was before, and think about the future and what each person can do to move America forward.

September 7, 2006

RIP Crocodile Hunter

Steve Irwin’s enthusiasm and energy were infectious. Audiences could readily see that he cared for the critters with which he worked, and his boundless energy made him entertaining to watch as he ran, dove, leaped, and climbed his way after animals. But, while it made him a great host for wild life specials, those personality traits were also what led him to such dangerous antics when dealing with these creatures.

No amount of expertise is a balm for the recklessness that he displayed on camera. No other wild life expert prior to Irwin acted and reacted around these dangerous creatures like Irwin. It was just a matter of time. Anyone who watched any of Irwin’s specials had to come away with the idea that this man was going to die out in the field at some point. Unfortunately, since he was so successful and brought so many more viewers to wild life channels, many of the modern animal show stars now follow in his footsteps.

For some reason, audiences primarily gave Irwin a free pass on his dangerous behavior. No one deplored him when he appeared to tease the crocodiles in their habitats or when he would jump headlong into dangerous encounters. The only time any negative press came his way was when he was in on of his crocodile enclosures carrying his newborn baby. And even then, more rancor was shown to Michael Jackson’s baby dangling incident (when it was clear that Jackson was trying to set the baby on the window sill and just missed) than to Irwin for feeding crocodiles while carrying a live, defenseless, human baby in one arm.

We should honor Irwin’s contributions to animal research, preservation, and understanding. He was also an incredible ambassador for Australia. With his unique style of hosting and animal interaction, he brought new viewers to wild life programming and instructed while he entertained. And, it seems certain, Irwin would likely have wanted nothing more than to go out like he did—interacting with his critters, enjoying the job, and living life to the fullest.

However, I also think we should reevaluate how he interacted with the creatures and how close he came to these dangerous animals to avoid an accident of this nature happening again. Irwin always seemed the most interested in people learning from him. I think we can—both from the incredible job he did educating people about animals, and from the tragic but avoidable way in which he died.

September 5, 2006

Agassi's Farewell

Here is a transcription of the speech that Andre Agassi gave on the court after losing his match to Becker.

"The scoreboard said I lost today, but what it doesn't say is what it is I have found. And over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I've found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I've found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams I could have never reached without you. Over the last 21 years, I have found you and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life. Thank you."

And thank you, Andre, for always being entertaining, for your growth and maturity as a player and person, and for the many wonderful sports memories you leave behind.

August 29, 2006

The Big Easy

I do not understand why the President doesn't send the Army Corps of Engineers to New Orleans (I know they are there, but hear me out) to train those left in the city to rebuild. By that I mean, train the majority on building. Train some on wiring and electricity. Train some on plumbing. Their training would be on-the-job and their graduation would be in the streets.

Once this is started, you start putting them to work-- pick a street on which to start. Send the lumber and the other supplies. And put these people to work rebuilding that street, using the plans that must be on file somewhere for each house. Rebuild the street as it was before. When they finish that street, those who cannot do the construction can make the phone calls to tell those who used to own that home that it is back and ready for them to move in. Have others working on the moving aspect; helping to drive trucks, haul furniture, paint walls, and get those families moved.

When that street is done, rebuild the next street. And the next. These people will get more skilled, their sense of community will skyrocket, and the job will get done. Plus, this will create jobs, economy, income in New Orleans.

When the project is done (which will likely take years) you have a city of skilled workers available. They have the pride and knowledge in new skillsets and marketable job experience-- they can go anywhere in the country for new building jobs.

I see no real reason for the dicking about by those in the positions of power for the rebuilding nor any reason for the lamentation of those left behind; rebuild what was lost and put the people that are homeless and destitute to work doing it-- both problems are solved. New Orleans is rebuilt (no more dicking about, stealing the land from those who currently own it, etc.), the homeless and destitute have new, marketable skills (no more groaning about no jobs, no skills), and people come back to the city.

Why is everyone trying to overcomplicate these things? Get in there, rebuild it, and get this thing turned around.

August 26, 2006

Using Your Voice

People often ask me why I write letters, emails, and phone 800 numbers. I believe that when you have complaints or encouragements, you should voice them.

Recently, I was experiencing a strange problem: one channel, and only one, was exceptionally bright. Didn’t matter if I watched the channel using the TV input, through TiVo, or through the VCR, that channel was much brighter than all others.

Many people wouldn’t make a comment on this to their cable company. Many would reason that it might be on their end, or that it is just one channel, so why bother. “Someone will figure it out,” may be what these people would say.

Well, I went online to Cox Cable and sent in an email to their support department. It was not important enough to call and wait for a live consultation when I knew if the problem was on their end, it would be something a telephone jockey couldn’t help with. But it was important enough to contact someone and have it checked.

I received the following response today from Cox’s support:

Hello John,
Thank you for your email. Please accept our apology
for the time it has taken us to reply back. We thank
you for bringing this problem to our attention. Without
your feed back we would have never looked in to this
matter. Once we received your email, we had our
maintenance department see if this was a problem at
the headend (the main system that provides cable and
audio to your area). We did just received confirmation
that we were able to identify the problem and it has
been corrected.
We hope that we have been able to provide you with the
information you requested. If we have not, or if we
can be of any additional service to you, please do not
hesitate to contact us again.
Thank you.
Michelle
Cox Communications Online Technical Support Team

So, as you can see, voicing the complaint was important as it turned out to be a problem on their end. I just checked the channel in question and it is finally clear, under control, and the same brightness level as all the others.

And, since this problem was on their end, I just helped improve the reception for many thousands of other viewers in this area.

Sometimes, it pays to voice your opinions.

August 25, 2006

Brick

The indy movie Brick is an interesting melange of modern movie and film noir. Rian Johnson, the writer and director, set this story in San Clemente, CA at his old high school.

It is a little jolting at first to watch such young actors speaking such out-dated dialog. But once you get past this, the story is smart and intricate.

Brendan, the main character, is a guy with a past. In the classic sense of a Sam Spade, he is troubled and is not a nice guy, but he wants to do right. He gets involved with the story when his former girlfriend, Emily (or “Em”) calls him and asks for help. In his doggedly dependable way, Brendan shoulders this burden and begins to send out feelers to figure out in what she is involved. Soon, she turns up dead and, rather than letting it go, he gets in as deep as it takes to find her killer. On the way he is beaten up, nearly killed, gets in over his head, meets up with a femme fatale and the crime kingpin, and then figures a clever way to turn the tables on all involved.

Johnson uses all the classic film noir techniques. Only those characters important to the story are fully realized; the rest come across as caricatures. The dialog is fast-paced and very stylized. Some very odd camera angles are used. Despite all this, it seems to work. Yet this is juxtaposed against modern cinematography, sharp editing, current music, and today’s fashions.

Nora Zehetner (you might remember her best as the recurring character Laynie on “Everwood”), plays Laura, the femme fatale of the story. While a pretty girl, always needed for this type of role, she also plays her character with a subversive intelligence and a coy smile. She does a fair job of bringing the wit and wiles of a Lauren Bacall to this movie.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Tommy Solomon from “3rd Rock from the Sun”) is generally very good as Brendan. The director obviously wanted him to play the role tense, tough, and unyielding; however, sometimes it felt like it was too tight; a little more emotional may have provoked a bit more attachment to the character. He does get a couple of scenes where the character is allowed to react to all that is going on, and those are very humanizing. Still, the character comes across as smart, capable, and determined.

In many ways, the only film I can think to compare this movie with is the modern retelling of Romeo+Juliet. In that version, young actors in modern settings were using the original dialog from Shakespeare’s play. Daggers and swords were replaced with handguns and uzis. A similar style of modern and classic is mixed in Brick.

One thing that stood out was the fact this film, for all the violence and drugs involved with the plot, had no cursing in it. Most movies with either this subject matter or these types of characters would be chock-full of cursing.

Brick is not for everyone. The stylization of the classic noir and the staccato dialog may turn some viewers off. You definitely need to pay attention and be an active viewer in order to keep up and follow all the clues, or you may get a little lost. However, the movie's originality and slightly odd mix of genres is interesting. If you like to take a bit of chance, you may find this to be a nice gem.


You may enjoy this film if you liked: Donnie Darko, Secretary, Memento

August 23, 2006

Idle Thoughts

- I called the vet on Monday and heard back from her on Monday evening. She wrote a new prescription for Calypso of a different antibiotic to try. She agreed with me that the cat was having some sort of allergic reaction to the other medication and that I should stop.

Caly was a little more hesitant about pill time on Tuesday, but she took both pills without any apparent problems. This morning she was a little more accommodating about taking it.

- I managed to drop off the Ionic Breeze at the PostalAnnex+ that happens to be right by the vet’s office. They shipped it out Monday. Hopefully I will be getting my two new Ionic Breezes soon.

- Many of the people in my Fantasy Football league are not proving overly good at the draft. We constantly have to wait, make arrangements, and bend over backward in order to get them to draft. Irritating. It is not rocket science, just make a pick and move on. And you know it is currently running—so check the damn thing on occasion. It may just be your turn!

- C’mon Cindy!

- Went to The Fish Market with Renee for our employee appreciation lunch. Had the swordfish—and liked it. About the same texture as shark (which I already like) but with a milder flavor. It was good. That brings to three the number of fish I can say I like: shark, ohno, and swordfish. I also like lobster. Still not a huge fan of fresh-water fish. And don’t like crab, shrimp, or catfish at all.

- If you haven’t watched Hoodwinked, a computer-animated feature based on the Little Red Riding Hood story, get it. It’s cute, entertaining, and fairly clever.

- Work has been a drudge lately. Tasty employee appreciation meal or not.

- The gang is starting preparations for bowling starting in September. I’m going to miss bowling. I may just stop by to see how they are doing. Maybe I can sub occasionally.

- I took off my sunglasses this morning when I reached work—and the earpiece on one side snapped off. I’ve had these for about 3 weeks now. Even for me, that is a record for breaking sunglasses.