Copyright

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

Thursday, August 30, 2007

You Might be a DnDer If...

This makes you laugh out loud! (Which it did for me.)



To whomever had this idea-- awesome!

Decisions

Having autoimmune illnesses means that my immune system is attacking my own body in various ways, as though I have had a transplant and my body is rejecting that new tissue. To combat that, I take steroids that are designed to suppress my immune responses to keep the damage to my organs to a minimum.

Up until recently, all of my medications were oral. Each medication did a minimal job of suppressing these immune responses, but the results were clear-- I went from being someone who was rarely sick to someone who got sick regularly. I started having headaches that would last weeks, and then to having migraines. I went from having few allergies to having many allergic responses.

I recently was put on a new medication for my rheumatoid arthritis (which is also an autoimmune illness). Enbrel has worked wonders on my pain and swelling from the arthritis. However, this medication suppresses my immunological responses to an even greater degree than any previous medication. I have had two blood results since being on this medication and one was well below the minimum white blood cell count considered the "average" range. The second was just inside the minimum average amount.

The upshot of this is that if I feel sick I am supposed to delay taking the medication until I am feeling better. If I don't, then I am suppressing my immune system right when I need it most (to fight the sickness).

It is a difficult decision sometimes to decide between being in pain and allowing my body to get better from the sickness or potentially getting really sick but not being in pain from my arthritis. This time out I chose to skip the medication and live with the arthritis pain until I felt better. Since I am flying tomorrow, I wanted to be as healthy as possible for the plane ride.

The last time this occurred, however, I chose to take the medication. I wasn't feeling as poorly as this time, but the arthritis pain was intense. So I took the medication and, sure enough, my illness got much worse for a couple of days as it could ravage my body with impunity.

My autoimmune issues are, in the overall hierarchy of illnesses, not severe when compared with such issues as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and some of the more virulent viruses. I can only imagine the choices that people suffering with that level of illness must make on a daily basis.

Western medicine is a wonder to behold. It aggressively attacks the problem and strives to eradicate it from the body. However, western medicine does not consider the effects this may have on the mind, soul, and rest of the body of the person affected.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

IT A-Go Go

When IT gave me a new laptop and set it up for me, I was sure to mention the change in policy over emails and thought that my IT rep had understood me and set me up so that the new policy would not affect me. The policy is that, for most users of the system, all emails over 6 months old would be deleted. For the corporate vertical I happen to be in, that policy is 60 days. Originally, the policy only deleted items from the Inbox and Deleted Messages folders in Outlook. Now it includes all folders attached to the email server.

The entire time I have been using this new laptop, I thought I was safe and didn't have to worry. I was diligent about moving items out of my Inbox and saving them in the folders IT had provided. What I didn't know was that my IT rep hadn't understood what I was looking for and hadn't set me up in a way that old emails would be immune to these policies. All of these folders were still on the email server and not on my hard drive.

Yesterday I went to get an older email specific to some work I am doing and it was gone. Matter of fact, the entire folder was empty! I started looking around and many of my folders were completely empty or only had very recent emails in them. I contacted our Helpdesk and waited for IT to get back with me.

I finally managed today to escalate the issue to someone in our building and got him to come to my desk so I could show him the problem, how my Outlook was configured, and what my complaint was. He explained that how I was set up was not performing what I thought it was doing and that the corporate email policy had cleared all old emails. I asked about getting them back via a backup, and he patiently explained that only Directors and above are allowed that privilege-- any request I would make would fall on deaf ears. He then helped me to set things up so that they are the way I thought they were from the beginning, we deleted the completely useless auto-archives the application was making, we found some additional emails within an offline storage file and saved those, and I should be okay from this day forward-- except that all emails older than 60 days are gone.

It is frustrating that I went out of my way to read and, I thought, understand the corporate policy, get things set up to accommodate that policy and save things long-term, and still got screwed. The original email was extremely unclear that the folder that needed to be set up had to be in a PST (personal storage file) and on your own hard drive. I think this is because the person writing it was an IT person and not a great writer to begin with but also someone who was so close to the subject that they just assumed that everyone would know that it had to be in a PST so he skipped that vital piece of the puzzle. And, of course, when I spoke with my IT rep, I didn't know to ask about that or bring it up, so it didn't get done correctly.

Everything is correctly set up now. However, I have to contact a bunch of people to forward me work-related emails with attachments so that I can continue with some of my projects. It is frustrating and makes me look unprofessional when, what they don't know or realize is, I tried to do the right thing from the beginning. Plus, how much productivity did I lose yesterday and today trying to find out what went wrong, talking to IT, and getting them to fix me?

What He Said

I have been thinking about and trying to formulate a post concerning the recent spate of movies and which were good and why. The directions I have so far come up with allowed me to stray too far off topic and each draft I wrote was discarded.

Today I saw a hyperlink to an article and followed it. The article addressed one half of what I wanted to say very clearly and concisely, so I thought I would just share the hyperlink rather than continue to try and write it myself.

Link

While I agree with what he says, I will add that Bourne Ultimatum is one of the two best films I have seen this year (the other being The Lookout). At the next tier of high-quality movies are the other two he mentions plus 300. Each of these films delivers what the audience expects, is well presented (direction, story line, editing), and has solid or better acting.

Aside: I also think that HP: OotP is the best one of the series so far. Die Hard had two very implausible, totally outrageous scenes that took me out of the movie entirely, but otherwise it was good.

In the next tier are such films as Transformers, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Spider-Man 3 , and Hot Fuzz, which were all entertaining and fun, but had issues (could be acting, directing, story, or something else). For example, I was entertained by Transformers, but the action sequences were frenetic enough that I often couldn't tell which robots were involved and I am still confused at the conclusion; why did the box thing have that effect on Megatron? But, I was thoroughly entertained and had fun watching the film.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I Know Where The Angus Is On A Cow

I guess Jack in the Box thinks we're all stupid. It isn't wrong, of course, but it is frustrating that they rely on it for its current advertisement.

Angus is, of course, a breed of cow. Sirloin is a cut of meat. So, while the company may sell sirloin burgers, I have to wonder how many of those sirloin burgers are from Angus cows? Probably a lot of them, as it is the most popular breed of cow in America.

It is just getting irritating to watch these commercials where Jack and his crew are laughing at the competition and asking where the "angus" is located on a cow (making a thinly veiled allusion that it might be the butt), while pointing out exactly where the sirloin is.

I don't understand why the competition hasn't come back with the exact opposite commercial, showing the American person that the Sirloin comes from Angus cows.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Politics

I practice what I preach. I have mentioned before on this blog my disappointment with the current administration's actions and policies, and recommended that readers contact their Senators and members of Congress if they agreed. I then contacted all of mine. While two of them provided some fairly generic responses, I received the following back from one:

Dear Mr. ######:

Thank you for your letter concerning impeachment proceedings against President Bush. I appreciate the time you took to write and welcome the opportunity to respond.

In our recent elections, the American people expressed clear disapproval with the path this country was on. They are tired of partisan politics and of an Administration that pays little heed to the wishes of the American people. They want-and deserve-a Congress that holds the Administration accountable and fulfills its Constitutional responsibility to check and balance the Executive. I share this sentiment and am determined to work hard and across party lines in the United States Senate to promote issues that are of real concern to most Americans, including the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, homeland security, global warming, and lobbying and election reform.

At this time, however, I believe that impeachment proceedings against President Bush will only divide the country even further, frustrating our hopes for a meaningful change in direction, while having little chance of success.

I have been deeply disappointed by many of this Administration's actions and have been outspoken in those instances. Nevertheless, given the challenges our country faces I believe that we need to focus on constructive and cooperative steps that would lead us in the right direction.

Again, thank you for your continued correspondence. If you have any further questions or comments, please contact my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.


Sincerely yours, Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

While I disagree, especially since they made a point of impeaching Clinton and then not removing him from office, I at least respect that she read my complaint thoroughly and took time to answer the exact comments I put forth to her. And now I'm on record with her office on this issue.

Oh, and for those who haven't believed me when I say I write my representatives fairly often -- notice the line "Again, thank you for your continued correspondence." (emphasis mine) I'm sure the John file in her office has at least 5-7 letters and emails from me. As do all of my Reps, the President and Vice-President's offices, and whomever else I deem it necessary to write to.

I like to be heard on the issues. :-D

Druids

I lean toward Druid-type classes in the sword and sorcery games I play. Whether online or on paper, the class has a certain something that draws me to it. However, I don't think that most game systems get the druid "right."

When Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 was first released, the Druid class was the second least made/used class after the Bard. They both suffered from the same problem-- good at a lot of things but not really great at anything. In the case of the Druid, they had created a class that had good, but not great, offensive spells. They gave it good, but not great defensive spells. It had the ability to transform, but the rules were less than clear how it worked and it had some very serious drawbacks. On top of this, the class had some serious armor and weapon issues, low hit points, and a slow progression on most saving throws. Its one bright spot was that they got an animal companion to start. However, by about level 8, the companion was already lagging behind and becoming a liability (and a pain to roleplay).

Version 3.5 and the Player's Handbook II resolved some of these issues and helped to make it more powerful and more accepted by players. However, the inherent problem still existed-- should you be a spell caster? Should you be a shape changer? Should you focus on your companion and your own abilities?

If you focus your Feat selection and even your spell casting toward any one thing, you wind up being poor at the rest. And it takes a very strong focus with your Feat selection to "keep up" with the other classes. Even still, you will always be more of a support character. And if you design your character one way and then find you need to change that focus, you are screwed (unless the DM allows you a respecification, whether in game or out). So, in the end, even a really focused player may wind up with a class that is not as effective as he would like at the best of times. At the worst, it is a mess of paper work as you shuffle between your stacks of spells, your notes and character sheet on your animal companion, and flip through your sheets or the Monster Manual for the abilities of the animal forms you can shape shift into. And don't forget all the feats that could affect and alter each one of those abilities.

What I find interesting is that this lack of focus can be solved by making two classes (or even three). If you separate the Druid class into a "Shaman" (I put that in quotes because D&D has some classes that use 'shaman' in their titles) as a nature-based spell caster and a "Beast master" as a shape changer and beast handler. If you are separating into three, then you have the Shaman, Beast master (focusing on companion abilities and affecting animals), and "Shifter" focusing on the shape change aspects only. Each of these aspects would focus here only, and would not have access to the abilities of the other versions. So, for example, a Shaman would not have an animal companion (but, likely, would have a familiar) or the ability to change shape. I think that "beast master" is close enough-- all animal related abilities would be in one class (handling and shape changing).

Having this separation allows a person to select the class that is closest to what they want to play or that fits with the group the best. The Shaman would focus on the spell casting and would allow the player to focus on feats, skills, and abilities that would allow him to be a better caster. And, as anyone who has played a spell caster to high levels can tell you, having all those spells (and feats that can change the spells' damage, time, distance, etc.) can be intimidating and is a lot of paper work to focus on. You don't need to add the complications of having an animal companion (and all of its abilities) and shape changing skills to the mix.

The Beast master would focus on the shape changing and beast handling/animal companion skills inherent in the Druid class. For the same reasons above, the player wouldn't need to waste energy on remembering all the spells and abilities, nor worry about using any or some of his precious Feats on spell casting abilities. Instead, he could focus on feats, skills, and abilities that allow him to be the best shape changer and beast handler possible. Unless new feats were created to help this class, the shape changer would likely never be the best fighter in the group, but the abilities that open up with the variety of shapes they can take make them a great supporting character. And any time you focus a character in D&D, it is a good thing.

It is interesting to note that the PHB2 has the alternate way of doing the shape change aspect of the class which, according to the boards I read online, many people prefer. It simplifies the rules for the polymorph/alternate form aspects of the change. It makes the Druid a better fighter class, at the expense of some of the versatility inherent in the actual forms they could use.

I find the same issue in WoW. My Druid is my favorite character, but I have limited resources to empower the character and have had to focus on one ability "tree" in order to be good. I picked the shape changing tree. As long as I am teamed with a group who needs me as a rogue (cat form) or as a tank (bear form), I'm fine. But if I get in a group that needs me to cast spells, most of my spells are underpowered for my level and I go through mana like it's water. On top of this, there are really two paths for casting as well; offensive or defensive. My character is not all that good at either. This game could use the same separation between some of the abilities to allow people to focus on what they want.

Wizards of the Coast have announced Dungeons & Dragons 4.0 (May 2008), and the company says it has reimagined the classes in such a way that each is more "focused." So you, as the player, have a better understanding of what your role is with that character in the group. They have also created ways in which each class is more unique and more "powerful" in its specific role (for example, a fighter can do things with weapons that no other class can do with the same weapon). My hope is that they have either a) separated the Druid class abilities among multiple classes as suggested here or b) limited the powers so that the class has fewer spells and more focused abilities for the shape changing and beast handling abilities.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Lion's Chance

Apparently, as lore goes, Bobby Layne, one of the Lions best quarterbacks ever, said that the Lions "won't win for 50 years!" This was said early in the 1958 NFL season after he helped get them to, and win, the Championship game the season before. He was injured and the Lions traded him because they thought he couldn't recover from the injury.

Well, he was right. Not only did he play 4 more seasons, but 1957 was the last year the Lions reached the Championship game. Note that I said "Championship," as the Super Bowl wouldn't be created until the 1966-7 season. Since that time, the Lions have actually only won one playoff game (in 1991, against the Cowboys only to follow it by an absolute trouncing by the Redskins on their way to a SB victory). Matter of fact, they are arguably the team of the decade for the 1950s, winning 3 Championships and being runner up 2 more times.

I'm curious to know if Matt Millen can trace his heritage through the Layne family genealogy? He has certainly done his part to keep the Lions from the playoffs since he became GM in 2000.

I'm also fairly sure that they are getting up there in terms of teams who haven't won a championship in x years. In the NFL, of the 6 teams tied with the longest streak to have never won a Super Bowl (41 seasons and counting), only Detroit has never even gone to one. The other 5 teams have at least been once, and two of those teams have been 4 times without a victory.

All this being said, the curse's time limit is about to expire. With the changes that the Lions have made, you wonder if they are closing the gap and going to get their shot again soon. The offense is fine, as proven last season when Kitna was one of the top QBs in passing yards, attempts, and completions, with two fine receivers. However, the defense is still a question mark and they may have to go the Indy route of winning with offense rather than good D.

Ah, the hope of a true fan always springs eternal.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Remakes

I have a hard time believing they are remaking any of the following films.
  • The Birds - How can you presume to remake a Hitchcock classic and have it be better than the original? Yes, we can make "better" special effects now, but, other than that, nothing else will likely be as good.
  • Conan the Barbarian - A lot of people laugh at the original, but forget that it was co-written by an Oscar winner (Oliver Stone) and directed by an Oscar-nominated director (John Milius). It actually tells a good story.
  • Death Race 2000 (as Deathrace 3000) - The original is a cult classic, with weird performances from David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. How can you possibly top this B- (or C- or D-) movie classic?
  • Enter the Dragon - One of the seminal 70s martial arts flicks and with the Man, Bruce Lee, in the pivotal role.
  • The Entity - An incredible ghost story, much more believable than other similar tales told around the same time (Amityville, et al). Barbara Hershey was incredible as the beleaguered mom.
  • Escape from New York - Another cult classic. Kurt Russell is still around and still kicking ass in movies; this is his character and his alone (in most Sci-Fi fan's perspective).
  • The Fly - Haven't we seen this movie enough already? I'm not saying a remake will be bad, but just unnecessary.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man - directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. Enough said.
  • Logan’s Run - Another cult classic. I wonder if they can remake this in a way that has the same innocence as the original.
  • Revenge of the Nerds - We live in 2007; the nerds have won in reality-- why do we need another movie about their revenge?
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Mike Myers is no Danny Kaye. Enough said.
  • The Stepfather - Terry O'Quinn was so eerily scary in this role, I have a hard time believing anyone could be as convincing.
  • Sunset Boulevard - Remaking a Billy Wilder classic and Gloria Swanson starring role, for what? Glenn Close is rumored to take over the Norma Desmond role, which might be okay (she did have an award winning turn in the role on Broadway).
  • Westworld - One of Yul Brynner's great roles. One of the few Michael Crichton movies to be directed by the author. I have a hard time believing that they can do better, even with updated effects.
Special note goes out to I Am Legend, the first movie to use the title of the book from which it comes. However, in the three trailers for it I have seen, it departs as radically as Omega Man and Last Man on Earth did, leaving pretty much only the one survivor and hordes of "vampires" part of the story in tact.
I hope I'm wrong, but things aren't looking good.

Edit: There are more remakes coming, like the 3:10 to Yuma flick about to be released. This is just a list of remake movies I am questioning or find odd choices.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ties that Bind

I cannot wait to put that wedding ring on my finger. I know a lot of men supposedly have issues with commitment and fidelity, but I am anxious to be fully, completely, irrevocably married and have that "badge of honor" on my finger.

My mother recently reminded me of a conversation we had when I was pretty young. She asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and, apparently, I answered "Married with children." Now, as I've aged, the children part of that answer has become less and less important to me (not a big fan of kids, really, but I'm told it is different when the child is yours). The married part has not-- I want to be married. To "settle down."

None of the women I have dated in my past were people to whom I should or could have married. Only with one of those did the thought even cross my mind, and it was good that I thought again.

Now, however, I have found the exact right woman for me. A challenging and interesting woman who seems able to withstand my strong and quirky personality and who makes me a better person. She's damn hot, too! ;-)

I'll grant you that, technically and legally, we are already married. However, we agreed that the civil ceremony was simply to assist the immigration process (which, unfortunately, has stretched out long enough that it hasn't mattered in the end) and that we wouldn't get or wear rings after that service. Plus, my sweet really doesn't consider us "Married" (with a capital 'M') until we are married in a church with God as our witness. So, that adds to my anxious wait to get that ring.

Only 23 days to go before I can put on my badge of honor and proudly wear that ring and show the world I am married.

Plurals and Possessives

Part of my job at work is to review other people's work. Lately at work, but also online, in print media, and on TV, I have seen a plethora of acronyms made plural using an apostrophe and an s. So much so that I was starting to question my memory of what is correct! I grabbed our copy of the Microsoft Manual of Style, our bible on the job, and reviewed possessives and plurals as they relate to acronyms.

It says that acronyms are made plural by simply adding an s on the end, unless one of the abbreviated words is a plural form already-- then you don't add an s.

Correct
SUVs
CPUs
RBI (Runs Batted in-- run is already a plural)

Incorrect
SUV's
CPU's
RsBI or RBIs

This is also true of numbers.

Correct
1950s
486s

The only time you add an apostrophe to form a plural is when using a single letter. However, in addition to the apostrophe and s, the root letter should be in italics (but nothing else). Although the manual doesn't say it, I believe this is so that it doesn't look like you are forming a new acronym ( i.e., "x's" lets you see that x is the root letter, while "xs," even with the italicized root letter, tends to look like an acronym involving two words, one started with an x and the other starting with an s).

Correct
x's

Form the possessive by adding apostrophe and an s unless the word ends in an s already; then, you simply add the apostrophe. When forming possessives of an acronym, you should only use the possessive when the abbreviation refers to a person ( i.e., CEO) or generically to an organization (i.e., OEM). You should avoid using possessives, by the way, for company, product, or feature names.

Correct
The CEO's desk
The OEM's products (possessive of a generic organization)
The OEMs' products (plural and possessive of a generic organization)
The Windows interface
Microsoft products and technologies
The Search field entry

Incorrect
The CPU's L2 cache (not a person or generic organization-- use of construction instead; The L2 cache of the CPU)
The SUV's wheelbase
Windows' interface (product name)
Microsoft's products and technologies (company name)
the Search field's entry (specific feature)


Now, I let myself slack on many rules and formalities while writing personal emails and this blog, as I am not being paid to do either and the repercussions for errors are relatively low. I know, for example, that I have used "CPU's" in the past to add possession to an acronym that didn't warrant it.

It is nice that what I knew to be correct is, in fact, still the correct way to write. However, I am still left with the thought: Why am I seeing this particular mistake so much right now?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Fog (2005)

I like a good horror story. Not a slasher flick or a gore-fest-- good horror (suspense and frights as opposed to shocks and startles). I enjoyed the original The Fog. It is not a great horror piece, but it had most of the qualities I enjoyed. Some of the images from it, like the decaying hand holding the fish hook and knocking on the door as the fog swirls all around, stuck with me. It has a surprisingly strong story, too; it gives you just enough to follow the reason for the haunting and why the boat people are killing townsfolk.

Cut to last night. I watched the 2005 remake starring Tom Welling and Maggie Grace. Not one person in the movie had any chemistry with any other. Maggie Grace's Elizabeth is pivotal to the story, yet it is never really explained why she is seeing visions. Plus, she just doesn't pull off the "appear to be insane even though you are the only one who is figuring out what REALLY is going on" schtick. There is one character who is suspected of the first three known murders, yet once he leaps out the window and escapes the hospital he's in, that is never brought up. Which is probably good, because the actor wasn't conveying anything remotely sympathetic or dastardly to pull off that role. Don't even get me started on the alcoholic priest who is so unconvincing his "pivotal" scenes where he sets Elizabeth on the right path to discover made me chuckle out loud.

Matter of fact, I think the poor quality of the acting can be summed up thusly: they were a bunch of actors reading lines at the camera instead of characters speaking naturally. That seems to be the biggest difference between quality acting and poor acting-- in one, the person IS the character and you are submersed in the story and what they say sounds believable in the context of the story/action around them. A bad actor is just spitting out lines that don't seem to have any meaning or context within the story

They took a pretty decent story and added to it and changed who the main characters were. They added some decent effects, but nothing to warrant a new version of the movie. And the ghost effects at the end were less than wonderful.

SPOILER (not really, as you shouldn't watch this movie even on an edited TV version, but I am giving away the ending)
In the original The Fog, Hal Holbreck's priest figures out what is going on from the old journal that is found and realizes the solid gold cross the church has is made from the gold the founding fathers stole and murdered the crew of the Elizabeth Dane for to build their town. He sacrifices himself for the town and gives back the gold.

In this one, Elizabeth is supposed to come to the startling realization that she is the wife of the captain of the Elizabeth Dane and lead ghost and sacrifices herself and becomes a ghost, saving the town. However, the problem with this is that the ghosts swore "blood for blood" against the four men who killed them all and stole their money. It seems like they are attacking anyone who is either related to those four men or who has profited from their booty. Yet, when Elizabeth kisses the lead ghost and becomes a ghost herself (with no explanation of how/why), the ghosts let their revenge go even tho descendants still live and their gold and artifacts are still spread throughout the town. So it doesn't make much sense. Also, the found journal in this version is barely read, hardly discussed, and is not the pivotal piece of information it is supposed to be; in the original, as the priest reads the journal, things happen and it leads to a natural conclusion of him figuring out what the town founders did and how he can redress the problem. In this one, it is a throw away plot device that hardly matters.

All in all, this is a crappy remake. I had low expectations going in and it managed to come in below all of them consistently.

Grade: F (and I rarely give Fs)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Comfort

I have my off-white and wood accented chair reclined all the way back. The lights are off save for the cool bluish glow from the episode of Kyle XY I am watching.

I am laying on my right side, with my legs somewhat bent. The remote is in my right hand, which is hanging off the chair. My left arm is on my left hip. I am not quite in the fetal position, but sort of in a half spoon/half fetal. I'm relaxed, but completely awake.

I feel a movement and a weight behind me on the lower part of the chair. The chair rocks slightly. Caly has leaped onto the chair in the niche made by my calves and back of the thighs. She starts the usual kitty circling, thinks better of it, and decides she would rather be closer to my head.

She walks over my hips, making sure that each of her not-so-dainty paws lands on my hip bone so that I can feel the full of her twenty pounds as she passes to the other crook made by the tops of my legs, chest, and the wooden armrest. She nestles between my chest and the armrest, with her feet sticking out and off the chair underneath the wooden armrest. She swishes her tail once, twice. She looks me in the eye, and then closes her eyes and begins to purr.

I scratch her head and the soft fur of her neck and under her chin with my left hand while continuing to watch my programs, the remote still in the otherwise unused right hand. She lowers her head onto my right arm, takes one last big breath, and falls asleep purring.

Her fur is incredibly soft, she is very warm, and I'm totally relaxed.

We watch two more episodes of Kyle XY in that position before she wakes from her cat nap and leaps down.

"Bed time, Caly," I call as I turn off the TV and head into the bedroom. She gives me a look that seems to say, "What do you think that was, John?" and ignores my request. I haul her bodily into the room and onto the bed, close the door, and get under the covers. She once again curls up near my chest and purrs while I fall asleep.

More Cool Old Words

Here are some more cool old words from the calendar M got for me:
  • Blash - to soak, to drench. A heavy rain. Deluging; sweeping away by inundation. Applied to meat or drink that is thin, weak, flatulent, or viewed as debilitating the stomach. To blash one's stomach, to drink too copiously of any weak and diluting liquor. (1808)
  • Conskite - To befoul with ordure, as when one's bowels are loosed with fear. (1955)
  • Chimble - to crumble into very small fragments; to gnaw like a mouse or rat. (1874)
  • Ure - A dampish mist; an atmospheric haze, especially of a colored nature; Scotland (1926). To pray (1200s). to have good fortune (1400s).

Monday, August 13, 2007

TV Woes

Things I hate about TV programming:
  • Premiering a show on one night, to much fanfare and applause, and then immediately have the first non-pilot episode on a different day at a different time.
  • Moving a show's day and time from season to season. I think more people are like me-- wanting things to remain the same and easy to remember-- than those who are willing to follow a show to whatever day/time networks move it to. And, frankly, the fact that when they move a show its ratings go down and the act of moving it is generally a sign of imminent cancellation backs me up.
  • The fact that networks don't give shows a half- or full season to catch on with an audience. Some shows have to grow on you, like fungus, over time. These days, Seinfeld would never make it-- people forget that it didn't do well its first season. It wasn't until its third season that it really started to get the big ratings.
  • A show with a 4-6 rating has a solid base and is more highly rated than most shows on all the various cable channels, yet the big four tend to cancel these shows. Now, I grant that frequently these shows are costing a lot of money and the ad revenues they bring in may not justify the cost, but I think the networks can afford to keep around most shows that are in that ratings range. Shows like Studio 60, Veronica Mars, Firefly, etc. have a loyal audience, but not a blockbuster sized audience.
  • That networks overpay their talent and then cancel the show when the ratings dip to less stellar (but still good) ratings. Maybe more networks need to press for a ratings-based incentive plan. Say, for example, on a show like Studio 60, where you have an ensemble of highly respected stars and newbies. Maybe you pay your big stars $25k an episode to start, with ratings-based incentives (if we reach an 8.0, you get a $25k a show bonus, a 10.0 achieves a $50k per show bonus, etc.). That way, it is in everyone's best interest to have a great show, but if the ratings start to fall, the cost to produce the show also falls (to a degree).
It seems to me that there are a lot of shows on TV today that shouldn't be serials. Instead, they should be done as mini- or maxi-series events. For example, 24 is arguably more of a maxi-series event piece than something that should air over 24 episodes every fall. And the calls for a loss of quality and repetitive plot lines seems to back that up. While I don't watch the series, I respect that the creators for saying this will be the final season for Battlestar Galactica. In essence, the writers and producers said, "We had an arc we plotted from day one. It will take us X number of seasons to tell that story. We are wrapping up at the end of this season when we have told the story we wanted." Maybe the show will come back in the future after the writers and producers can work out another good arc.

The problem with making non-series type shows into series is that they inevitably fall from good drama or comedy into melodrama and stale, repetitive comedy. With DVD sales what they are now, I would think doing these mini/maxi-series would be even more advantageous.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Work

I don't often blog about work-- just not something I do. However, there have been more rumors than usual from more trusted sources than usual that our parent company is thinking about selling our branch of the business.

Suddenly, toward the end of the day, we got a request for an all-hands meeting tomorrow from 3:30-4:30 pm. The all-hands meeting is hosting a senior level VP for the parent company, well above the two director-level people who most frequently cause all-hands meetings to be called.

The last division to be sold was sold part and parcel (all of the people were "sold" with the business and with a pretty good retention request from our company to the new one). My guess is that it would do that for our division as well. However, my feeling is that they will not sell us at this time unless a really great deal is given because we are working on a new feature for our main product that could, if successful, close to double our income from clients. Also, they have allowed us to hire a few new people and get new hardware that we were in need of (servers, backup devices, etc.).

Then again, I've been having a harder time ignoring the rumors and have had some dreams about our division being sold to one company in particular. I've been under a lot more stress than usual lately, due to this work issue, the church wedding plans, immigration issues, etc., and have been chalking the dreams about all of these events up to just trying to deal with the stress.

Can't help but wonder where the few people like me, who work for more than one division directly, might be affected if they do sell our division. Would I be given a choice of where I can go?

I'll let you know Monday how it goes.

Bourne and More

Bourne Ultimatum

My favorite action-adventure thriller movies are the first two Bourne movies. My only complaint is a small one-- the use of "shaky cam" in the Supremacy to "heighten" the action sequences. I felt that the acting, action, and story lines in both movies were superb.

So, as you can imagine, Ultimatum had a lot to live up to. And it delivered in full. I felt it was an excellent conclusion to this incredible series. The intensity of it is high, the action sequences are taut, and the acting is, once again, well done and controlled.

The movie picks up right where Supremacy finished, but you don't have to have seen the previous movies to get right into it. It helps, and you get more out of it if you know the first two, but it is not an absolute requirement. There are a number of action sequences that are all believable and exciting, including a parkour-esque foot chase, a slamming car chase (a theme in all three movies), and a couple of good gun fights and close combat scenes.

I have only three very minor complaints against the movie:
  1. Julia Stiles' Nikki. I felt that Julia Stiles was a subtle but perfect addition to the first two movies, and I hoped to see more of her in this one. While I think she does, technically, have more screen time, I wanted more. I feel like she and Matt Damon have good chemistry in their scenes and I wanted to see a little more of that. Maybe a little more of Bourne relaxing in her company.
  2. Joan Allen. I really like Joan Allen and think she is an awesome actress. However, she needs a serious cheeseburger or two. She looks way too thin in this movie. I hope it was simply a choice she made to show the stresses that Pamela Landy is under and that she will be back to a healthier looking weight in her next role.
  3. Shaky Cam. My only complaint about Paul Greengrass's direction is the damned use of Shaky Cam. Stop! I shouldn't need to take Dramamine before watching a movie or to feel the excitement of the action going on. It doesn't put me any more "in the moment" than a steady-cam and good choreography does. Mr. Greengrass, everything else in Supremacy and Ultimatum is so superbly done, why did you feel the need to "add" to the tension with shaky cam? If I never see another thing with shaky cam I will be a happy person.
My other complaint has nothing to do with the movie itself. The woman who sat next to me was one of those people who has to whisper, loudly, all of her questions. "Who is that?" "Wasn't she in the last movie?" "What did he say?" "Ooh, I bet he's a bad guy."

I finally said, "Why don't you try just watching the movie-- I'm sure you'll get it if you pay attention." (Okay, I don't remember exactly what I said, but I did try to present it somewhat politely. Since her boyfriend didn't try to come get me or wait for me after the film, I guess I succeeded.)

At least she and her boyfriend whispered much more quietly from then on... and I'm sure it was all about the rude bald guy next to them. I don't care; at least they were quiet from that point on.

If you like strong action movies, Matt Damon, or the previous two films, you will need to see this one. It doesn't disappoint.

Other Things to Watch

I recommend if you have the chance to check out the following shows:

Burn Notice. The first show that I feel taps into the same general feel of Magnum, P.I. It has a decent main character, who is interesting and aptly played. It has a couple of costars used to back him up and for a little levity. Good interplay between all of the stars. A good mix between action, drama, and humor.

The Kill Point. I feel that this show has all of the heightened drama of 24, the good interplay between the various stars and complex plot ideas of a Prison Break, but is also more believable and down to earth than either of those two. I'm a fan of John Leguizamo and feel that he is doing some fine work here. Here's hoping they can continue to bring this as drama and gripping entertainment without devolving into melodrama. Donny Wahlberg is good as the negotiator who is trying to get the release of the hostages.

Psych. This is mostly a sugary sweet treat. Is an hour long comedy, about a guy who is very gifted at seeing and sorting through data presented to him with an eye for detail, who presents himself as a psychic in order to be allowed to help the police solve crimes. He and his co-conspirator friend have good chemistry. Now, this show doesn't try to wow you with the mysteries (I have figured out who "dunnit" within the first 10 minutes of every show I've watched), it is more so you can be amused by how this guy figures it out and gets the cops (and others) to follow along and find out too. Corbin Bernsen is surprisingly good as the father.

Eureka. I didn't expect to like this show and wouldn't be surprised if people dislike it. However, I like the Sheriff, his daughter, Henry, and the rest of the crazy crew. I like that it is primarily about smart people doing smart things, as opposed to the trend of shows and movies we had about dumb people being dumb. The effects get a little over the top sometimes, and I hope that Olivia D'Abo doesn't become a regular, but all in all the show has grown on me and I enjoy it.

Some shows I haven't quite made it to yet (but are on the TiVo): Damages and The Company, both of which I expect to like. Maybe I'll update this post or make a new one once I've watched them and formed an opinion.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pork

I hate cooking pork. I can never tell when it is done or if it is going to be juicy and good or tough and rubbery. A couple days ago I took three pork steaks out of the freezer, dethawed them, Shaked n' Baked them all according to the directions. I have eaten two of the three, and both were entirely white, juicy, and maybe just a tad overdone along the edges.

Today I went to reheat the last one, with the remaining green beans, for lunch. I wasn't sure if the meat was hot throughout, so I cut it in half to heat one more time. When I did, I noticed the entire middle of the pork steak was still pink! I'm talking, raw, uncooked, pink.

How is it possible to take three steaks, all virtually the same size, all dethawed for the same amount of time and in the same microwave, all cooked in the same stove at the same time, and two come out just about right and the third is still raw?

Anyway, I'm nuking the hell out of it to make sure it is white throughout before eating. Even still, a P'zone from Pizza Hut (granting they have dough today) is sounding better and better.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Caffeine

I've made a concerted effort to mostly eliminate caffeine from my diet. I drink the Caffeine Free Pepsi, the clear sodas with no caffeine, milk and Sunny D, Kool-aid, and even water these days. Even when out at restaurants, I have been making an effort to get lemonade or fruit punch instead of Coke or Pepsi.

Wednesday I slipped. I got a big 32 ounce Pepsi and drank it down. Then, later in the afternoon, I was still thirsty and went to the machine with every intention of getting something non-caffeinated. But, my fingers found themselves punching in D-3 for a Pepsi and I sucked it down pretty fast.

I normally don't react too much to caffeine, but after so long having so little of it in my system these massive influx hit me hard. I was wired for a good 3-4 hours and then crashed and burned. But, most likely due to the drug still in my system, I crashed in a way that made me tired but unable to sleep. I went to bed exhausted but couldn't get my brain to shut down or my eyes to stay closed. I tossed and turned as I tried to find a comfortable position. I finally did drop off to sleep but it was not restful and I woke up feeling tired.

Back when I used to drink 10-12 Pepsi's in a week, plus what I would get at restaurants and fast food joints, I never felt that it was affecting me... but of course I didn't, as I was constantly re-medicating myself with the drug. I am realizing now how much my sleep patterns were affected only because they have changed so drastically now.

I realize that my body is also changing. On top of all my health concerns, it is getting older, slowing down a little, and needing different things than it did when I was younger. Caffeine, and its affects, are not what it is looking for at this stage.

One thing I would like to do is more exercise. However, it is a case of the mind is willing but the body needs some prodding. I need to find someone who can provide that prodding and is willing to do the low-impact type of exercise I need. Even walking around the apartment complex would be a good thing, but I am a creature of habit and my habit is to do everything I need to before going home. Once home, I am in my cave and don't come out for anything, usually. I am back doing my situps, although I am not in the habit of doing them every day yet. And the inconsistent state my body is in from the arthritis doesn't help me push past the apathy and do it.

I am back on the non-caffeine horse. Last night's sleep was better and I woke up feeling more refreshed. Hopefully tonight's rest will continue that trend. Hopefully I won't have another slip that serious, but the desire for the drug is still there (and a bit stronger now that the body has had another taste).

And all of this reminds me, I'm out of the grape Kool-aid I like so much. Need to get more.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Solicitation

I got a phone call. Pleasant woman calling on behalf of injured veterans.

"Is this a solicitation?" I ask.

"No, sir. I am not asking you for money over the phone," she answers.

"Okay," I say.

"Sir, I'd like to send you a donation card on behalf of injured vets..."

"No thank you," I reply, and hang up.

Now, don't get me wrong; I'm very interested in helping injured vets. I'm from a military family, I believe in the men and women who serve in our armed forces, and this is a hot topic right now as we have so many being injured in this "war" on terror and occupations of a foreign country.

I hung up on her because she lied to me.

This actually makes the third time recently where the person has lied in the same way. What they don't seem to understand is that "solicitation" means "to make petition to." In modern terminology, this has come to mean "to make petition for money," specifically. This woman 'made petition' to me specifically for money, in this case a donation. In what way was this not a solicitation?

My guess is that they are using some sort of change in the law or a change in philosophy at these calling centers which tells them that what they are doing it is legally okay not to call a solicitation. However, they are simply wrong. And it irritates me when I am lied to.

I plan to ask to speak with the next one's manager and see if I can get transferred. I may have to lie in order to get there, saying that I want more information or want to congratulate him on the politeness or efficacy of the caller I'm dealing with. If I succeed, I plan to ask if he/his company understands the definition of "to solicit" and what justifies his worker saying "no" to that question.

I'll let you know if I'm successful with my follow up.

HERO

I don't know what exactly this is, but I like it. I like the sentiment, the things people have said, and what the narrator says.

Take a look.

HERO