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April 30, 2009

What the Hell Hit Me?

So, yesterday I'm working at home. I stop a bit late to eat lunch, consisting of Top Ramen beef flavor and chocolate milk. No sooner do I finish than my stomach starts hurting. Not bad, but I figure something just went down wrong.

Over the course of the next hour, the pain becomes unbearable; it hurt to breath, it hurt to swallow, I thought I might vomit, I developed a bad headache, and my breathing became shallow (as it hurt too much to breath deeply). I also developed a cough and started having cold flashes.

M got home around 6:30 pm, and by then I was simply laying on the couch, coughing and hurting and not wanting to do much. The cold flashes had started getting severe; I would shake uncontrollably.

Went to bed early and fell asleep quickly. Woke up today with the same level of headache, my abdomen still sore but not as bad, and still a bit of a nauseated feeling. Luckily, the cough seems to have gone away and so far no cold flashes. Took another long nap after getting up, but still don't feel all that great, though.

Not sure what the hell hit me last night, but it seems closest to food poisoning or an allergic reaction to something. Not sure from what; Top Ramen can survive nuclear fallout and the milk for the chocolate milk is still good.

Needless to say, I'm going to take it slow today and recover. Next on the list, some bland toast. Yum!

April 24, 2009

A Good Manager

I finally found the correct location online in which to voice my complaints over the poor sound, projection, and food services at our local theater. I sent two emails in, being as specific as I could, and offering suggestion for how I would solve the issues I presented.

First, I got an email from the manager of the local theater. That email asked for me to call in and speak directly with her about my concerns. I called, but had to leave a message. Within 10 minutes I got a call back from her.

She was obviously nervous speaking to me, expecting me to harangue or yell, or something similar, I'm sure. But I was very quickly able to put her at ease, explain that I love movies and just wanted her theater to be the best experience possible. I reiterated my disappointments, explained my solutions, and then let her tell me what they could or could not do.

Next, she said that they went through "a bad stretch" where they had many technical issues, including the poor projection and sound that I mentioned. She said they had just recently completed a "comprehensive" review of the entire theater, fixing and replacing what they could. She expected those issues, barring unforeseen circumstances, of course, were behind them. She also mentioned that they hired a new food services manager who was retraining staff and reconfiguring how they worked the concessions. While this is ongoing, she hopes that by the next time I go to the theater I will see a marked improvement in the speed with which I am served. They have also hired a a bunch of new staff so there are more people working the projection booth. She is also in the process of retraining staff to empower them to fix problems without seeking approval (for those things within their ability to fix, of course).

Lastly, she told me to ask for her by name the next time I go to the theater and she will comp me in (along with my guest-- I probably shouldn't abuse it, so likely my wife or my buddy depending on when we next go).

People sometimes laugh or groan when I tell people I'm going to speak with the manager. I speak with management nearly as often to say how happy I am with a product or service as I do to complain about something being wrong. However, in almost every case it has been to both his/her and my best interest. I often get an apology or comped a little something, which is nice, but more importantly they learn what they are doing right or what they are doing wrong and can fix it. While my wife gets all nervous and feels the need to wait in the car, she often enjoys the fruits of my labors (which, in this case, will be a free movie).

As the summer movie season is nearly here, with some big ticket items coming up in May, I hope that the theater manager is right and that our next movie-watching experience will be superior to the last few. Here's hoping!

April 23, 2009


For the most part, I have made a smooth transition from SoCal Desert Rat to East Coast wharf rat. I enjoy living with my wife, and I think she's happy I haven't made as many changes as she thought I might to "her house." I have developed a new group of friends with whom I now play Dungeons & Dragons, go to the movies, and other activities.

However, I am really missing my friends in SoCal. I had a good group of friends who worked hard to get together at least once a month. When we couldn't get together as a group, we would still get together as smaller groups for things like lunches. I played online video games with one friend regularly, on a scheduled day, to keep in touch there. I met others often for lunch, as they were in offices close by. My mother would drive down every now and then and we would go out to breakfast, watch a movie, or do something.

Since joining Facebook, I have found even more friends in my former area that now want to get together-- and I'm sad to say I'm so far away and can't do it. I'd love to touch base with these people and see what's going on.

The four hour time difference is really bugging me, too. Not only do the few Lakers games I can watch typically start around 11:30 pm local time, but it makes it hard to play those same online games with my friends in SoCal -- when they log on at 7 pm, it is already 11 pm here. Now that I'm working, I can't play until 1 or 2 am as easily to get in some quality time with them. I would be a big proponent of those who want to start up the measure to switch NB to EST! That extra hour would make a huge difference to many aspects of life in general, but would help so much in my particular case.

I am only now nearing the end of my first year here in SJ. I'm sure that is why I'm feeling this moreso than before, and it will likely get easier as time goes by. While I've made some great new friends, I'm definitely missing the old friends.

PS - this is my 666 post on this site. Spooky number. :-)

April 22, 2009

The Lion's Roar

Coming off the first-ever 0-16 season by an NFL team, the woeful Detroit Lions have to do something to turn around the team, the city, and regain some pride in the NFL.

They got a new coach with a pretty good winning pedigree -- Jim Schwartz. They also have two first-round picks in the draft this weekend, numbers 1 (obviously) and 20 (from Dallas for the Roy Williams trade). They fired Matt Millen, the worst GM in the NFL during his tenure. They jettisoned all of the negative Nancies from the locker room.

Now, for the piece de resistance -- they updated their uniforms, logo, and font. The unis and the font are negligible, but the change to the logo is a nice one.

The original logo looked like this:
A nice logo. Gives a good feeling of a lion, but doesn't have much depth or detail to it.

The new logo, while not a huge transition, has some subtle changes to make it look more fierce and give it some dimension:
With the black outlining, the white accents giving the lion depth and detail, and adding a mouth with teeth and eyes, the new logo looks energetic, fierce, and ready to roar.

The big question is, of course, if such a cosmetic change can help the city, players, and staff feel differently about a team that has been a doorstop in the NFL for many years (since Barry Sanders retired, and even before). This is a team, after all, that has not been to the Super Bowl since it was created, last winning a league championship in 1957. For that matter, they have only made it past the first round of the playoffs once since then (in 1991, beating Dallas in the first round and losing badly to the eventual SB winning Redskins in the NFC championship game)!

On the other hand, maybe this change expresses all of the intangibles the team has seen with the new coach, the new staff, and the stronger locker room personality? Help those who remain to move past the "0-fer" season and look forward to making a new start this season?

Either way, I like it. It is a good change, and I hope it is well-received by the fans and the rest of the NFL.

Now, if we can just get some victories this season to go with the new look....

April 14, 2009


A few months ago I managed to get in to see an RA doctor here, ending one of my quests for medical representation since the move. Dr. Grant is a quiet, efficient, and well-respected doctor, and a lot of people were surprised that I got attached to his practice.

Today I saw Dr. Gillis, a new GE doctor who just hung out his shingle. He seems nice, and he seems to know his stuff. He appeared to like that I brought my former GE history with me, and he made a copy of a few things for his records. He wants to run some tests of his own, get to know me and my case, and seemed to genuinely be concerned about my care.

I'm on a waiting list for a GP/family doctor to "oversee" my medical needs; until then, it is up to me and balanced between my two specialists. I'm on the waiting list, but as a friend here recently has a two-year wait before he got a call for a new GP, I'm not holding my breath. Hopefully we'll hear something in the nearer time frame, though.

Next step is getting Dr. Grant to ween me off the prednisone and onto something else. Then, maybe, I can lose the 20 lbs I've gained being on that evil (but highly effective) medication. We'll see.

April 12, 2009


Woke up this morning to the following:

First time ever in my life that Easter came with snow. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Seems strange and messes with my internal clock.

April 9, 2009


Life is very likely the best TV show on network TV that you aren't watching. It is superbly written, has likable and charismatic stars, has a different note or edge to it than other cop dramas, and has a twist. One of the things I like most about it is how it presents a season-long puzzle and then carries that through as either a primary or secondary storyline through each episode.

The first season was picture-perfect. I watch a lot of TV, read a lot of books, and understand plot, pacing, and how storytellers try to distract or shake up the audience. Because of this, I am rarely surprised when watching most shows; I am well-known for guessing the perpetrater very early in the show (ask my wife-- she is constantly annoyed by my ability to guess plots, character motivations, etc. before she has even nailed down what's going on). This show, especially in the first season, was able to constantly surprise me; not, as you may think, with the surprise itself, but with the reason for it. Charlie Crews did the unsuspecting thing each time. When you think he's going to kill someone for revenge, instead he saves them. When you think he's going to let someone walk or that he really is dirty, he arrests them or proves how clean he is. The combination of Zen philosophy, revenge for being imprisoned, and righteous cop mentality make the character one who you haven't seen on other shows. He's a combination of Mr. Miyagi and Vic Mackey, with a little bit of Jim Rockford or Thomas Magnum thrown in.

I'll grant that the writer's strike and long layoff caused the second season to start a little shaky. The writing was still good, but didn't have the same ... crispness as the first season. The episode with the frozen scientist was a particularly poor one, relatively speaking. However, the show regained its footing and proceeded to get better and better through the finale this week. The final 10 minutes of the finale were, once again, pitch-perfect; the mix of Zen, detective work, and violence was just right.

The addition of Gabrielle Union, filling in for a pregnant Sarah Shahi, was inspired. Her character was totally different from Reese, Shahi's character, and the other characters just took it in stride. Donal Logue also seemed to get more comfortable with his role and character as the season progressed. The remaining regulars did their usual solid job.

The one thing that makes this show hard on new viewers, though, is the ongoing storyline. Just like with X-Files or Veronica Mars, which were new-viewer hostile, Life's ongoing plotline of Crews trying to figure out who sent him to prison and why makes it hard for a new viewer to step in and just enjoy an episode and try it out. But, if a new viewer were to play catch up and watch it from the beginning, I think he/she would get hooked.

Another detraction is that, while the character of Charlie Crews is quite interesting, some seem put off by the actor playing him, Damien Lewis. Both his unique look and his presentation of the character may dissuade some viewers, as he is not in the mold of the typical male lead on TV. However, I think his timing, his ability to play both the serious and comical sides of Crews, and his great chemistry with his costars can get any viewer past that, given he or she makes an effort to watch the show and learn what is going on.

My hope is that this is only the season finale and not the series finale. The show is averaging a 6 which, while not great, is steady and solid. NBC has consistently tanked every show that averaged a 6 or lower and replaced it with ... a show that averaged 6 or lower. I would like to think the powers that be would give this show a little room to grow and gain more audience before they axe it. I can't imagine that it is very expensive to film, compared to some of their other content. The network should take a Bird in the Hand approach to this show and try to grow it.

If you are into watching TV shows on DVD, or catch some sort of marathon, I recommend you watch season 1 and 2 of Life, in order and from the beginning. You might just get hooked.

They did cancel the show after the second season finale. Damien Lewis has gone on to some critical success in "Homeland." Sarah Shahi has a few good roles, and currently can be seen on "Person of Interest."