Copyright

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Direction

My new RA doctor heeded my request and has switched my medications around so that I am taking far less prednisone and much more Imuran. We will see how the liver likes that and how the RA stands it over the next three months and adjust again, as needed.

This pleases me as I am the heaviest I've ever been after a year of predominantly using prednisone to help with the RA flares I was having almost constantly. Unfortunately, one of prednisone's biggest negatives is that it stimulates appetite. I was finding myself eating way more than I wanted or needed and would litterally catch myself at the refridgerator with the door open and not remember how I got there-- my hunger cravings having caused me to ease there and start looking for something to munch.

Each time I've been on prednisone for an extended time I have gained around 15-25 lbs. Back when I was grossly underweight at 115-120 lbs, this was a good thing. Getting me to the 155-165 lbs my doctors wanted me at made sense too. However, I was averaging 166-168 a year ago before I moved to SJ and my RA doctor and I decided to go with prednisone while I moved, found a new RA doctor, and got up to speed with the medical services/system here. A year of prednisone later and I'm happy when the scale reads less than 190. Ecstatic when it reaches as low as 185, which it has twice since moving here-- both times after being violent ill, but still. My face has gotten very heavy and round-looking, to the point of what both M and her mom refer to as "prednisone face" (having seen it in M's brother when he was on prednisone).

Over the course of the year, I have averaged about 20 mg a day, with bad flares causing me to go up as high as 50 mg before tapering back down. During that same time, I was taking 50 mg of Imuran. My new doctor has me up to 100 mg of Imuran and I have been able to lower my prednisone intake to 5-10 mg a day, usually closer to 5. Already I am seeing a decrease in my appetite after only a couple of weeks.

A month ago I was eating a 12" sandwich, a bowl of soup, a cookie and/or chips, and drinking a 24-32 oz soda for lunch. Today I had an 8" sandwich and a 12 oz soda and felt pleasantly full. I was not even tempted by the last bit of pound cake on the counter, and I love pound cake.

Hopefully, this trend will continue and I'll go back to eating sensible amounts and not feeling like grazing or binging between meals. If it does, some weight will come off as my caloric intake decreases. If I can up the activity level, even a small amount, at the same time, I feel like going back to 175 or less is achievable.

Here's hoping!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bundle of Joy

We have ourselves a new companion! We pulled the trigger on an adoption from the Animal Rescue League via the Pet Corral on the west side. We turned in the paperwork on Sunday midday, were called with the approval that evening, and then was called by the owner of the Pet Corral that we could pick him up on Monday (even though it was a national holiday). We got him Monday, and bought a ton of cat-related products to go with him (at 20% discount).

This male, neutered tabby is about 10 lbs. He is around 2 years old, seems mostly well-behaved so far, and is an absolute attention whore. He loves sitting on a lap or sitting near to a person so he can be scratched and petted. He loves having his belly rubbed.

He seems so petite and delicate after my 22 lbs cat, Calypso. He has a remarkably similar face, though, which M even commented on. Her words were, “He’s like a gray Caly.”

We’re calling him “Romy” (roam-ee) for now. It is the name he seems to respond to the most of all our choices. However, he had a previous name (the surprising “QQ”) which he also does not respond to at all, so no big deal. We’ll get him to figure it out.

We initially put him only in the basement, to let him get accustomed to us and the new environment. I figured that might last for a few days, but he took to the new place quickly and well. He proved to be litter box trained by consistently using the box and litter we provided, so we let him up into the main house the next day. He continues to use the litter box even though it is downstairs, so that is good. I am still diligently looking in all corners upstairs and around, just in case, though!

He likes his dark purple collar and has no issues wearing it—he obviously has had one before with his previous owners. He doesn’t seem to like the toys we bought, but we’ll keep trying until we find something he likes to play with. Purple, M has decided, is his favorite color; toys, blankets, and such will be in masculine shades of purple. I’m fine with this, it allows her to bond with the pet, and the purple looks good with his gray and white coat.

While the pictures don’t show it, he does do a lot of exploring. He seems fairly active and does like both of us (which was important—we needed a cat that would like M straight away, because she is out of the house more than I am. Plus, who are we kidding, cats just like me!). He is mostly a quiet cat; he meows sometimes, especially at the top of the stairs, and he definitely seems to want to tell us something every now and then, but otherwise he just stays quiet and purrs loudly instead. Since I’m not overly fond of loud or talkative cats, this suits me just fine.

He came home with a bit of an infection in the left eye, which we are treating with some cream and is already clearing up nicely. Boy, does he hate the medication time! He is otherwise, according to the vet, in great shape and she was impressed with how well-behaved he was during his visit. We take him back for a follow up and some booster shots on Tuesday.

M is adjusting. She is fearful of having this living thing with us and reliant on us. However, she does like him curling up next to her and purring and keeping her warm. This morning I woke up and Romy was curled up right next to her and she was petting under his chin with a really sweet smile. I think the cat is winning her over.

Her main concern right now is the cat hair. While the cat doesn’t shed too badly, all hairy animals shed some amount. She is trying to come up with a plan to minimize the hair infusion. I’ve told her all we really can do is be more diligent about vacuuming and dusting plus using lint brushes as needed.

He does have a couple of bad habits; he appears to like being on tables and counters and he begs a bit at the table. We don’t mind him on the bed or the chairs, but we do not want him on the kitchen table or counter tops nor on the PC desks. He seems to be okay with this, but I think he’s getting up there at night. We’ll see if we can’t break that. As to the begging, I will not feed any pet anything from the table, as it only creates issues no matter how “cute” it might be, so we will need to break him of this habit as well. As it is not bad, it shouldn’t be too hard to break him of it.

I’m very excited about this change for a couple of reasons: we picked a very loving cat, I love having a pet around, and M is responding very favorably. I think it is a good growth and bonding experience for us as a couple and I hope it continues to go smoothly over the next few months while M gets used to the idea of being a “parent.”

Going to Get a Rep

I had an appointment today with a dermatologist to see about some skin issues I’ve been experiencing. Nothing too big or bad, just want each checked to make sure it is, as I suspect, nothing and maybe have a few troublesome moles removed from places that get irritated easily (like my neck).

My appointment was at 2:30 pm, so I got there about 2:20 pm. Good thing, too, because the location was inside a store, which was not readily apparent. I walked the entire length of the little outdoor mall twice before realizing where it was. They need much better external signage.

I filled out the paperwork, which took about 3 minutes, and then waited about 15 before being called back. So, let’s call it 2:50 pm before I am called into the back room. I am told to strip to my underwear and “the doctor will be with you shortly.”

At 3:30 pm, cold and irritated, I put my clothes back on and left. I stopped at the receptionist and in a not-impolite voice said, “Please tell the doctor I’ve left.”

She said, “Has the doctor seen you?”

To which I replied, “No. I gave him an hour and ….” I shrugged my shoulders.

I turned to leave and she said she would forward my referral back to my primary care physician. After she said that, the second receptionist added insult to injury by sarcastically saying, “Have a nice day!”

I have always found that if you accept unprofessional behavior, you get unprofessional behavior. We had an agreement that I would be seen at or around 2:30 pm today. Now, I grant that doctors get busy, emergencies occur, and time gets away from them. However, to keep a person waiting in a cold room in their underwear for approximately 40 minutes is uncalled for. Then, to add to the wonderful first impression the doctor provided with being so late, the second receptionist acts in an equally unprofessional behavior.

I’ve gotten used to the rampant Canadian behavior of apologizing for a bad job or poor service rather than just providing adequate (or better) performance. Luckily, I don’t feel any of my new friends or family here fall into that category (they complain about it as much as I do) – but it is a shame that so many get away with doing the least possible without reprimands or termination.

However, this doctor and his office staff were, to me and how I was raised, something worse. To me, this was the height of arrogance, disrespect, and rudeness.

I was raised that if you make an agreement, you honor it (or have a really good reason – note, not an excuse, a reason, why you couldn’t). A “date” (professional or personal) is one such agreement. We contracted to each set aside this time to meet professionally. He didn’t live up to that agreement, actually missing it by a long shot. His staff then followed that up by being unconscionably rude.

First impressions are important. This doctor and his staff have, in my mind and to my upbringing, proven themselves unprofessional in the extreme. I will tell anybody I know not to go to him.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cameron's Wedding

M and I watched the House episode from this week last night. During the wedding shots of Cameron and Chase, I whispered in M's ear, "You looked better than her" about our wedding. I was NOT trying to score bonus Husband points-- it was an honest statement.

I am frequently surprised at how actresses look in the wedding dresses picked for them for TV and movies. While Cameron looked nice, I didn't think the particular ensemble was right for her body or coloring. Whereas my wife picked a dress that was right for her and looked beautiful in it with her tiara and flowers.

Just goes to show that you can have millions of dollars and personal shoppers, but still get the wrong dress. Or you can be a frugal woman on a budget and get the right dress.

Baby Steps, Cat's Paws

M and I went down to the Pet Corral last evening and looked at the 7 cats they had. One was in an open cage at the front of the store, was cute, but not overly responsive to either of us. In the back of the store there were three in the upper windowed viewing room and three in the lower.

In the upper area was a black with some white highlights (reminded me a lot of my buddy Chris' cat Sam) short-hair, another was a sleek grey with black stripes short-hair with an evil look (no, seriously-- looked like it just wanted to rip our throats out), and the third was a large grey and white short-hair cat.

In the lower area was another grey and black striped short-hair, a white and gray/black short-hair, and a medium-hair black/orange mixed cat.

As we cooed and watched them, the black/orange was definitely interested in me. It came whenever I put my hand by the glass, rolled over on its back, and was generally very interested. The black cat had some interest in M, but not enough to really get up and say hello. After it finally woke up and decided to stretch, however, the large gray/white definitely became interested in M and definitely liked me. It walked by us and rubbed against the glass whenever either of us put our hand up.

My guess is the gray/white was about 2-3 years old and the rest were around 1-ish, from their size (all looked fully grown) and the level of activity of each.

As they were in the process of cleaning up the shop and seemed fairly busy for that time, we didn't ask to interact with any of them, although I admit I would have liked to.

Two positives: M wanted to go looking (but not purchasing or taking home-- baby steps) at the cats with me and she commented that the one that liked us both was "like a gray Caly."

She also got to see a little of what our friends and I have been saying about getting two cats-- the gray striped and black/orange cats got to playing and entertaining each other, and also spent some time grooming each other. While I doubt we will be a two-cat household, she did get to see it in action a bit and it helps her understanding of why we say these things.

We have some plans to go to another location and view some more cats in the near-ish future. Again, without any immediate pressure to get a cat, but just to look and see if any like M and if she likes any of them. I think she could be convinced on the gray/white we saw yesterday, but I'm trying my best not to put undue pressure on her -- if I do and she winds up hating the animal, that would be a strain that we do not need.

It was a cutey, though. ;-)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Miss California

Any beauty queen's job is to be a public figure, a leader, and a representative of whatever or whomever elected her. In the case of a state, the woman is supposed to represent the many varied people and lifestyles and to encourage people to go to that state. As many in other types of public positions of leadership and celebrity can attest, these positions require tact and the ability to comport oneself with decorum and sensitivity at all times, even when the cameras are "off." In this, Miss California Carrie Prejean failed miserably, both in the Miss America pageant and since. If she doesn't have the forethought and comportment to answer questions during the pageant in a politically appropriate and sensitive way, what must she say when she thinks no one is listening?

California has enough gay people and those believing in gay marriage to pass a bill in the state to approve homosexual marriages. Many have argued that the only way the opponents of gay marriage could get that bill rescinded was by introducing a new proposition that was so confusing that many may not have known which way they were voting (and was barely a majority, with 52% voting to overturn gay marriage).

Miss California has stated categorically and unequivocally that she does not represent the gay people or culture in California, both during the Miss America contest and afterward in interviews. She now is getting paid to represent groups who agree with her stance; this is also in direct contradiction to the agreement when she became Miss California. She is no longer representing California as a whole and is, in fact, actively disavowing a group of people.

Another blow to her credibility in this very public position of leadership is that she lied to the Miss America governing body about semi-nude photos. So, not only is she unwilling to live up to her obligation as Miss California, she is perfectly willing to lie to try and win an even more prestigious public position. She's starting to seem like she should be in an office, all right-- normally I would say Congress, but the previous administrations (Clinton's and Bush's) indicate maybe the President is the best office -- a disregard for those whom you represent and a flaunting of the rules seems to fit!

I won't even go into the Miss California Organization potentially paying for Carrie Prejean to have a boob-job. If true, however, it is another interesting twist in this woman's 15-minutes of fame.

Lastly, of course, is her stating that she is staunchly Christian and follows the Bible. I guess she forgot or missed all those passages where Jesus preaches love and acceptance? Didn't think Jesus meant it when he was inclusive of all of the "worst" of society (for that time period). Missed all of his speeches on tolerance, turning the other cheek, etc.? She certainly is not the careful, polite, and considerate public speaker that Jesus is in the Bible.

Makes me wonder how her position on these issues reflects on her church and its leadership and members? I wonder if the membership went up or down there after all this came out? I wonder if her priest teaches this particular intolerance to his parishioners?

Of course, this debate says as much about those who agree with Carrie Prejean as it does about Miss California; if the question had been "What are your feelings on the rights of Mexicans (or any other minority) to marry?", or "What are your feelings on giving women the right to vote?" we would all be appalled that she said she is not in favor of it. We would think she was racist, sexist, and bigoted and would have stripped her of the California crown immediately, and no groups would want to pay her to be in ads extolling her opinions. But because this is against gay men and women it is okay for her to keep her crown and keep "representing" the few in California that she doesn't have a problem with.

Prejudice and bigotry are wrong, people. Even against gays.

Regardless of my position on any of the issues mentioned above, I can tell you this much: Carrie Prejean does not represent me in any way. And that, at the end of the day, is supposed to be her primary job until next year's Miss California pageant. And that is the reason why her crown should be revoked.

Star Trek

I managed to convince M to leave work and go see the new Star Trek movie last night.

Once there, we asked for Julie, the manager I spoke with about the poor quality of our last few experiences at this theatre. She was willing to give us the free tickets to get in, so we have resolved that issue. We also noted that the food lines were running more smoothly. Ironically, they had some projection issues to start with, but had them resolved before the previews.

Star Trek is a great science fiction action adventure movie. It has a solid story, good acting, very good effects, and dependable direction. I think that most fans of any of the before-mentioned genre subtopics would enjoy the movie, would be strongly entertained, and would leave the theater happy/satisfied.

Trekkers (aka Trekkies) may see it otherwise, however.

Time travel is one of my least liked plot devices because it is rarely done well and rarely answers the questions it raises. It fills the screen with plot holes the size of semi-trucks and expects you either to ignore them or tries to explain them away, usually to little effect.

In this case, the main villain comes from a future where his planet has been destroyed. He is transported somewhat by accident back to a past where the actions he takes changes things. And herein lies the problem for Trekkers: Nero's actions affect the future of the entire Star Trek universe such that all of TOS, Next Gen, et al cannot happen in the same way as they "know" from the canon presented in the existing shows and movies.

One of the strongest aspects of the Star Trek universe for both Trekkers and non-Trekkers is the coherent continuity it has always maintained. Roddenbery and Berman, among others, always tried to fit everything into a coherent whole. Even other time travel stories, like First Contact, showed that "history" as we know it still happened, there was just another side to it that we didn't know until now. This Star Trek story, however, actually erases and changes all of those known stories and the much-loved continuity.

For example, because of Nero's incursion into the earlier timeline, Kirk's is not born in Iowa, as has always been established. Instead, Kirk's parents are separated in space by a battle and Kirk is born on a shuttle craft. These ripples keep spreading throughout the universe, causing people to be a bit different, to have different histories than fans are used to, and to meet under very different circumstances than canon states.

According to the writers and producers of the new movie, the fact that certain coincidences happen to bring the crew of the Enterprise together (for example, Scotty just happens to be on the ice planet that Kirk just happens to get stranded on) is the universe's way of trying to correct itself. However, this is not explicitly stated in the movie; I know that from a recent interview with them (see here). If this had been a line somewhere in the movie, I think Trekkers would have an easier time with the changes.

Never brought up is the fact that Nero is transported back to a time well before the precipitating event occurs; it seems strange that he would go on a rampage against the Federation instead of doing things that could prevent that event from happening in the first place.

The other thing that disappoints me about using time travel as the main plot device is that this is a reboot movie. I could rewrite the exact story without the time travel aspect and it would be a better film because you would not be invalidating everything that comes before. You would instead just be telling everyone that this is new and, because you're at the beginning, different things are going to occur than you're used to. It would make it stronger overall and wouldn't irritate the Trekkers nearly as much as a time-wipe would. If forced to keep with the time travel story, I would have put a lot more explanation in to suggest how this was going to affect the universe and the people in it.

I was disappointed by the fact time travel was used but was otherwise completely and thoroughly entertained by the movie. I was willing to set aside most all of my knowledge and understanding of the Trek universe as things started to change. If my wife is any indication, true Trekkers and die-hard fans will likely have a greater issues with doing this.

Especially strong in the movie are Chris Pine (who does not do a Shatner impression, but does hit the right spirit often enough that it feels like he is paying homage to the Shat without trying to mimic or impersonate him), Karl Urban (his Bones is very well done throughout, and he gets some of the best humor lines throughout), Simon Pegg (he was a bit broad, but in a good way), and John Cho (his Sulu was strong but definitely a secondary character). Zachary Quinto did a very good job with Spock, but didn't make it his own-- a second movie would likely let him grow into it more.

This could be a break out hit, along the lines of an Iron Man. It is strong in all facets of production and acting. All it needs is some time to find its audience. Hopefully Trekkers will give it a shot and will set aside their preconceptions and Trek universe knowledge and embrace it.

I look forward to a second movie from the same team.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fire, Fire Burning Bright

It is not looking good for my Uncle's house (formerly my grandmother's house) in Santa Barbara. Got word from my mother that the fire was burning on the two streets on which the house was built.

This is sad for a number of reasons:
  • It is the only home my Uncle has known, and he has a large family and it will take time to rebuild.
  • That house was one of the original built on that hill over 60 years ago, before it became a posh place to live. It had a view of pretty much all of Santa Barbara, the main city beach, the channel, and on a clear day, the channel islands. We actually once saw a pod of whales swimming down the channel from the deck of the house (they were tiny from that distance, but we still could make them out).
  • I have many fond memories of summer and Christmas visits to that house.
  • I've always like Santa Barbara.
  • The Mission and Botanical Gardens are both just down the hill from that house; they may be threatened or destroyed.
Luckily, my Uncle and his family evacuated early and took what they could with them, so they are safe. I should learn soon whether his house was burned, destroyed, or saved... hopefully today or tomorrow.

The one good thing that may come from it is that, upon rebuilding, my Uncle and his family may choose to paint the house something other than the garish, bright pink it always was before!

---
Update: Just got word from mom that my Uncle's house is okay, as of right now. He's trying to drive his work-truck and some stuff out of the area, as the fire could come back at any time. Law enforcement was pissed at him for showing up, and may not allow him to do so, but if I know my Uncle, he'll do it anyway.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Oh, Canada!

I'm feeling a little like I'm being punished for moving to Canada. There are a few things that make little sense that are affecting my ability to get things done here. One of which involves financial situations.

M doesn't like dealing with the financial side of things. She wants me to take that over because she knows I care about it and will watch it. However, because I haven't been in Canada for very long, I'm a bit stymied in certain things.

For example, in order to earn more interest in a savings account, and because I have been a long-time member of ING Direct, we decided to open an ING Direct Canada account. Although it is the same company, the American and Canadian side do not have ANYTHING to do with each other in the slightest-- to the point of not even checking my credit history and account status on one side to prove I'm an okay risk on the other side. Our joint account is now on hold because I have no credit history at all (which, frankly should be a good thing, shouldn't it? I mean, I have no negatives to work against me! But, having worked for a company that knows all about credit histories, I know that's not how it works). This includes disallowing my wife from doing anything on the account, even though she has a very good credit history, because I am the other person on the account.

It took almost a half hour on the phone to get this reason discovered and explained to me. Now I have to wait 5-7 business days for the official forms to arrive, fill them out and get them notarized, and then 5-7 business days to send them back before either of us can transfer money into the account.

Ironically, anyone, ourselves included, can write a check and put our account number on it and ING Direct will happily deposit the funds into the account even without my credit history. The only REAL reason they want that signed form is so that I (or my wife) can take the money OUT of the account.

Why can't any financial institution simply ask for my SIN -OR- SSN and check both? When they see I have a great credit rating in America, they can use that information as part of their decision making process. Also, the man admitted they use Transunion and Equifax -- both of which work equally well in America and Canada (but, probably, like ING, are completely separate units that cannot talk to each other). Or do they think I've come to Canada with the sole purpose of trashing my credit rating here, being a never-do-well, and then leaving to my pristine credit across the border?

So, now I await the forms. Luckily, we have a friend who is a notary public, so we should be able to get that part done fairly quickly/easily. But having to do it at all is aggravating.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Life Ends

Life, one of the best shows on TV you weren't watching, was canceled yesterday by NBC. Yet another of that network's best, most inventive shows is axed so they can put another hour of mediocre "reality" type programming on.

I've checked a few entertainment sites that have commented on the loss of Life. On each, there are dozens to hundreds of positive comments about that show. What should worry NBC is the fact that the vast majority of people say that Life was the last show on that network they watched; by canceling it, NBC has done the opposite of what they wanted to do -- they have lost viewers.

The other thing I note, and have been noting on a lot of entertainment sites, is the fact that there is a very strong anti-reality programming backlash brewing. People are getting fed up with the Survivors, Dancers, Idols, and the rest and are seeking good, quality dramas wherever they can find them. Yet another reason why the off-networks like TNT, Spike, and FX are gaining viewers as fast as the main networks lose them-- they are producing those quality hours that the networks don't feel the public wants anymore.

Life was one of my top three shows. It consistently got between a 5 and a 6.5 rating in season 2. It will be interesting to see if the replacement show(s) can top those numbers. Since, so far, every show that has dipped to or below 6 has been axed by NBC and replaced by something that has done the same or worse, I seriously doubt it. Also, an interesting thing to note is that when it was on at its original time slot (10pm) it averaged an 8 rating and when it moved to 9pm (against some heavy-hitters) it dropped to just below a 6 average rating. How many blogs, emails, and phone calls do I have to do before the networks understand that changing the time and/or day of a show is an effective way to kill it? You rarely pick up viewers doing so; most shows lose about 20 to 35 percent per switch, no matter how highly rated the show was at its original time slot.

Oh well... Burn Notice and Leverage are only about a month or so away from restarting for the summer. If NBC doesn't want me, another network will!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Flagrant Fouls

Moreso than usual, this year's NBA playoffs has shown some woefully inept refereeing. While the NBA is somewhat known for bad officiating, these playoffs have really sunk to new depths.

The most egregious of which is the handling of Rajon Rondo's foul against Brad Miller in game 5 with 2 seconds left in the game. Here is a copy of the rules concerning a Flagrant Foul in the NBA:
Section IV--Flagrant Foul
a. If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary, a flagrant foul--penalty (1) will be assessed. A personal foul is charged to the offender and a team foul is charged to the team.

PENALTY:
(1) Two free throws shall be attempted and the ball awarded to the offended team on either side of the court at the free throw line extended.
(2) If the offended player is injured and unable to attempt his free throws, the opposing coach will select any player from the bench to attempt the free throws.
(3) This substitute may not be replaced until the ball is legally touched by a player on the court. (EXCEPTION: Rule 3--Section V--e.)
(4) The injured player may not return to the game.
(5) A player will be ejected if he commits two flagrant fouls in the same game.

b. If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary and excessive, a flagrant foul--penalty (2) will be assessed. A personal foul is charged to the offender and a team foul is charged to the team.

PENALTY:
(1) Two free throws shall be attempted and the ball awarded to the offended team on either side of the court at the free throw line extended.
(2) If the offended player is injured and unable to attempt his free throws, his coach will select a substitute and any player from the team is eligible to attempt the free throws.
(3) This substitute may not be replaced until the ball is legally touched by a player on the court. EXCEPTION: Rule 3--Section V--e.
(4) The injured player may return to the game at any time after the free throws are attempted.
(5) This is an unsportsmanlike act and the offender is ejected.

c. A flagrant foul may be assessed whether the ball is dead or alive.
I've watched the video for it from a variety of angles and at no time does Rondo go for the ball, which is about 2-3 feet from where Miller's head is located. It has been widely interpreted, and called by refs for the last few years, that any blow to the head of any sort when not going for the ball (and sometimes even when going for the ball) is deemed "unnecessary" (flagrant 1) and oftentimes automatically called as "unnecessary and excessive" (flagrant 2). Rondo made no attempt for the ball, as it was well past him when he initiated the movement that resulted in the blow to Miller's head.

The blow itself, while performed by a smaller man on a much larger man, still managed to result in a bloody mouth for Miller. Was this unnecessary? Definitely-- it appeared to be done with the sole intent of knocking Miller down so he could not make the game tying dunk he was about to achieve. Was it excessive? Rondo (6'1"/170 lbs) hit Miller (7'/270 lbs) hard enough in the head to knock a much bigger man down and bloody his mouth.

For this hard hit, Rondo was simply given a standard (not flagrant) foul. Miller missed the two free throws (some would argue due to the intense pain in his mouth and head after being knocked to the floor), and Chicago lost the game by 2 points. In reviewing the play the next day, the NBA decided Rondo would not receive any further sanctions and his foul would not be upgraded to a flagrant 1 or 2.

Now, obviously, this would have been mitigated had Miller made his foul shots and potentially forced overtime (or made the dunk and the subsequent free throw for the victory). However, the fact that he was hit hard enough not to make either the shot or the free throws says something about how hard this hit was. Had this foul been charged a flagrant, though, the Bulls would have had the free throws PLUS the ball -- and could have tried again to tie or win the game. This (non)call changed the outcome of the game.

The very next game, in the first quarter, Rondo threw an elbow at Kirk Hinrich's head area. The video shows Rondo purposefully throwing that elbow. He was assessed a flagrant foul (1) but stayed in the game. The Bulls went on to scrape a triple overtime victory in the game. I mention this foul as Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic threw a similar elbow at the head area of an opposing player, similarly missed, and was given a flagrant foul (2) and was suspended from playing in the next Magic game -- which the Magic lost. Would the Bulls have needed triple-OT to win that game had Rondo been properly assessed a flagrant 2 and ejected from the game?

The NBA has for years been trying to lessen or eliminate the appearance of bias by the referees. They added the third referee to cut down on "phantom" fouls but, instead, fouls increased. They recently released, fined, and suspended a referee accused of betting on basketball games and did a "thorough" review of all other refs to make sure sports betting wasn't happening. Although some small improprieties were found, no one else was suspended, fined, or held accountable.

Most of my friends and I agree that the following are the main problems:
  1. The rules as written are too subjective. They allow for too much interpretation. If you rewrite the rules to be more objective, then the fans, players, and refs all know what equals what. For example, if the rules said "Any strike or attempted strike to the head of any sort is a flagrant foul (2) and automatic ejection for the player initiating the strike" everyone would expect the same punishment for Rondo and Howard -- if it didn't happen in-game, then the NBA would assess it the next day. Writing rules objectively will also likely mean a lot of stupid, tick-tack issues will be written out of the rules (hand-check fouls, 3 second violations, making it so that the person who initiates the contact is the one who is called for the foul, no more different rules for stars/super-stars, will reduce the "thug-like" behavior of many players, etc.).
  2. Referees need to only call fouls they ACTUALLY see. No more phantom calls or, my favorite, the referee completely blocked from seeing the play calling a foul. Also, fouls slow down the flow of the game; only calling what refs see means the game will be faster as fewer fouls will be called. It will also allow players to get more physical, which is one thing that fans in general seem to want (not violent, just physical; bodying up and playing the game).
  3. Having the rules more objective will allow the rules to be called fairly on everyone. No more "classic" shot of Michael Jordan pushing down an opposing player (not called for offensive foul) and making the game winning shot or Reggie Miller kicking a defender and getting a foul call against that defender for contact. Will this mean that star and super star caliber players will have to adjust? Sure. But that's a good thing.
In the end, the subjective nature of the officials and the appearance of bias and improper reffing is entirely in the hands of the NBA. It also struggles against the perception that the NBA is filled with players who are a bunch of "thugs." I think it is telling how little they do year-to-year to actually change this perception or change the rules to do away with bad or subjective calls. As long as we keep buying its product, it will keep things as they are.

It All Makes Sense Now

I rarely renew my CostCo card on time. Prior to having my wife in my life, I went about once a year, sometimes twice, and filled up on goods and then didn't go again for months at a time. I often complained to my mother and friends that it seemed like I was constantly renewing my CostCo card and only getting a short amount of use out of it before needing to renew again.

Well, today I got an email about a class-action lawsuit filled against CostCo for all those who renewed their membership between March 1, 2001 and March 31, 2009. It seems that CostCo always made your renewal retroactive to the original renewal date, regardless of when you renewed it. So, for example, let's say your renewal date was April 1. You went in and paid for a twelve month renewal on June 1 (two months after your renewal date). Although you paid for 12 months, your next renewal would come up on April 1 again... 10 months later.

The person who brought the class-action sued because she felt she had paid for 12 months and should get twelve months of membership out of it. I would say she was right, and a judge ruled in her favor against CostCo's renewal policy.

I complained a few years ago to my mom about this; my renewal date was something like October or November. One year I didn't need CostCo so I let it slide until around August. Paid for my membership, went to CostCo and used it, then had to go back around end of November-- and was told I had to renew. I argued with the lady that I had just renewed it in August. I even stopped her line cold (and pissed off a few people in line behind me) and asked to see the manager. I explained the same thing. I got absolutely nowhere. Basically I was offered the choice of adding another almost $50 onto my bill and leave with my goods, or leave without paying anything and without all my goods. I wound up paying and taking my stuff and going, but I sent an angry email to CostCo about it. However, nothing indicated to me that I was paying for the previous 9 months in which I had not used my membership when I had renewed in August.

I see now I should have been more diligent about following up on this. It seems my ranting was right yet again -- I just didn't know why.

In case you're wondering, or if you don't believe me about this, here is the bulk of the email I received:

CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT NOTICE


TO: All persons who, from March 1, 2001 through March 31, 2009, purchased and paid for a new 12-month term of Costco membership, including Gold Star (individual), Business, and Executive memberships, after the expiration of their prior annual Coscto memberships.

YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that a proposed class action settlement has been preliminarily approved by the court in Rhonda Dupler v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, No. 06-CV-03141 (JFB) (ETB) (United States District Court, Eastern District of New York). The lawsuit challenges Costco’s practice of deeming the 12-month term of memberships that are renewed after their expiration as having commenced on the expiration date, rather than on the date they are renewed. The lawsuit alleges that this practice is unlawful and deprives Costco members of a portion of the membership period for which they paid a renewal fee. Costco denies all claims and liability stated in the lawsuit.

If, at any time between March 1, 2001 and March 31, 2009, you renewed your Costco membership after the passage of its expiration date, your rights may be affected by the settlement of this lawsuit. For further information regarding the settlement and your rights, including information on how to exclude yourself from the Settlement Class or object to the terms of the settlement agreement, please visit the website http://www.costco.com/renewalsettlement.pdf. If you would like to receive a printed copy of the settlement information available on the website, please send a written request for these materials to REQUEST FOR NOTICE, P.O. Box 34682, Seattle, WA 98124 in sufficient time to be received by June 12, 2009.

PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THE COURT OR THE CLERK’S OFFICE.