Copyright

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks (Seriously)

If the reports are to be believed, Roy Williams got Dez Bryant back for not carrying his pads by inviting the defensive players to a dinner Bryant was hosting for the offensive players at a local Dallas steakhouse. The grand total as reported is nearly $55,000 for the meal.

Let me give you a moment to wrap your head around the fact: ONE DINNER cost this rookie twenty grand more than the average salary in America. One meal. One. If the entire roster of players showed up, all 53 of them, the nearly $55,000 price tag of the dinner means that each player had approximately $1000 worth of food and services.

Bryant got over $8 million in guaranteed money. He can afford it. But was this prank by Williams the right thing to do at time when most Americans can't afford to go watch these millionaires play a game for a living? During these tough economic times, was it a good idea to flaunt just how far above the people of Dallas these players are in terms of money made?

The question also arises: was that the total bill, or the bill before gratuity? If he paid a 20% tip (likely more) on having such a large group at a single restaurant, then the bill goes upwards of $66,000. If that amount includes the tip, then we're still talking a $44,000 meal. Supposedly, some players were walking out with $600 bottles of wine. Some reports have players ordering multiple meals, charging them to Bryant, and then not eating them.

The thought of this prank makes me sick to my stomach. The audacity of these players doing this is a spit in the face of every hard-working person trying to keep making ends meet in this tough economy.

If anything shows the disconnect between these athletes and the world around them, this does.

ADDENDUM: This per Peter King, my favorite football insider, in his Monday Morning QB column:
"This doesn't deserve a monumental amount of coverage, but one thing should be said to the Cowboy veterans who delighted in spending about $2,500 per man (one estimate I heard for the 22 to 25 men who attended this dinner) as most of America struggles to pay for weekly groceries: Stop being pigs. It's disgusting."

Random Thoughts

1. California sent me an absentee ballot for the upcoming November election. They sent me a full ballot, however. Reading carefully, and then going to some overseas voter information websites, it appears that if I use this ballot, even to only vote for the two federal election areas (Senator and Representative), California can claim I am a resident and tax me next tax season, even though I live out of the country. Pretty tricky, says I.

Following up on that, I found the FVAP (Federal Voter Assistance Program) which helps overseas military and nonmilitary personal to vote. When I filled out everything correctly, the ballot I got ONLY had the two Federal selections on it, as I should have received in the first place. So I'll be faxing that in as my vote, which should help me avoid any taxation issue.

2. Looks like my current contract is winding down earlier than expected. I was too fast in doing some of the work (I could have been faster, actually, but didn't get all the training I needed until a month into the work), and other parts of the job were canceled by the requesting employer (I am working for a company that does work outsourced by other companies). I expect to finish next week, instead of working through the end of October.

There are some benefits to this, as we have some tasks around the house that have been neglected with both of us working full time. I may also have a new contract lined up which will start sometime in November. And the current company knows me now (I've worked for them twice) and will keep me on file.

3. I was sick all last week. Sore throat turned into painful swallowing and an area under my jaw but well away from my tonsils that was very painful. Hot and cold flashes. Alternated between not being able to sleep hardly at all and sleeping for 12 hours and napping during the day. Coughing. Headaches.

4. If you get migraines, you know what I'm talking about when I say that you get light sensitivity and sometimes flashing/strobing effects. Well, on top of those, I often also get a rainbow-colored squiggly visual effect in my eyes which, when added to the strobe effect and light sensitivity can make me nauseated on top of the pain in my head. Well, last night for about an hour or so, I got the rainbow-colored effect and slight light sensitivity without the migraine. It makes me wonder (and worry a little bit) as to what caused it. Very odd.

5. Canadian politics makes American politics look simple. Their version of a democracy doesn't involve direct representation and having a direct voice in the Federal government the way America's does. It has its pros, but it certain has its cons, too, from what I see. I'm kind of glad I don't get to vote here; I don't want to spend the time figuring out how it all works and then voting. If American's feel like their voices aren't heard, you should listen to Canadians complain about it!!

6. I was really getting into the groove of personal writing again, hitting my blog regularly, writing on two story ideas, putting down ideas for a renewal of my DnD game, creating and working on an MnM game. Then I got this current contract and my person writing has come to a near halt while I write professionally. One problem with doing something you love professionally is that you don't as often want to do the exact same thing personally (sometimes you do, and I haven't turned off completely).

7. The weight loss continues. I'm seeing numbers that begin with "18" now. My current goal is 185 and to hold that weight. Once I get down to that and can hold there, I will shoot for 180. I'm simply taking it slow, making sure I leave the table without being full, eating more fruits and vegetables, and eating more fiber, and trying to eat more regularly and smaller portions. My face already looks a bit leaner. Once I hit 185, I'm going to try to start putting more exercise into the mix as well. My feet are feeling better and my plantar fasciitis isn't bothering me as often, unless I stand or walk for longer periods. So at 185 I think I can start walking on the treadmill and doing some minor weight lifting and similar to rearrange the weight I do have. And to firm up the tummy. ;-)

8. Been having a lot of seriously odd dreams lately. One involving raccoons. One involving a strange school with very odd people and courses. Another involving strange careers. A few involving Dresden or Dresden-like situations, but I expected those as I've re-read the entire series over the last month (and am on the final book now).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Working Globally, Struggling Locally

Globalization makes communication difficult. English is currently the "common language" used, but often you are dealing with people who know English as a second, third, or tertiary language, so communication issues can arise. On top of this, you may be dealing with people in multiple time zones and locations, so your window for communicating is narrow.

I have an issue with my current contract. I am in one time zone, the person I am working with is in a time zone 6 hours ahead of me (Israel) and we both are working with developers who are plus hours to that (India). So, basically, I have a window of about 2 hours at the early start of my day to communicate with everyone. Therefore, we use email as our most dedicated system of communication.

However, the developer in India doesn't like to respond to my emails. When he does respond, it is usually only to answer one question out of the 2 or more that I sent. The responses I do get assume a level of knowledge that I've repeatedly told him I do not yet have. They also show a lack of understanding of English, on top of everything else.

In addition, each location works different days of the week and has different holidays where they are out of the offices.

Yesterday, I provided some documents to my direct report, he reviewed, I corrected, and then he sent on to others. Today, I have an email in my in box from the developer saying I didn't do two things. I have the email chain where I asked him those exact questions but never received a response back, so I politely referred him to those and then said I would be happy to add those details if he can provide them. In the second case, he is somehow claiming that a process is different than it is. I went through it step by step on Monday, took screen captures, and discovered it was virtually identical to a set of steps already documented and approved. So I copied those procedures and made the changes needed for this process. He is claiming it is different than that process and I need to use a whole other set of steps (which, btw, are virtually identical anyway). So I mentioned all this as well.

This makes the second time now this particular programmer has said that I'm wrong or lying and I have had to go back and show him that I am not using screen captures, previous emails, etc. to prove the point. I don't like doing that professionally, calling someone out or being called out, but I also have to cover my own ass work-wise. The time zone, holidays, work days, and English issues all are contributing to the lack of communication, as is my still growing knowledge of the application and hardware involved.

I am struggling to figure out the best way to communicate with him using our limited means in order to get responses that answer ALL of the questions I have. Hopefully I can hit on something soon so that the remaining time on this contract is used wisely and well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting Older

I've noticed lately that it takes longer for my eyes to readjust to not wearing my PC or distance/night glasses when I remove them.

I notice that, similar to puberty, I have hair growing from interesting new places. Why does your body say that it needs to grow hair from the nose, ears and other strange places as you age? Didn't we go through this once already?

I notice that, while I still have enormous issues with sleep in general, I can't stay functional as late as I used to. Which means, on those many nights I have insomnia, that I'm awake but not really able to do anything with that time.

I notice that I get strangely upset each time I see the kids in our yard. Especially when they ride their bikes through/over/across it.

I notice that I don't have the same patience for today's music, preferring stuff from the 70s, 80s, and 90s much more than what I hear today. I also notice that today's music seems to pretty much all sound the same. The other day at Quiznos, they played Katy Perry and then Ke$ha, and I thought it was a double-play of the same artist.

I notice a lot more white hairs in my hair and facial hair.

I notice I'm not as patient with electronic devices that don't seem to do what they are supposed to do.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Living Each Day As If...

I was recently chatting with someone on the instant message service within one of my favorite games. He asked everyone if they "lived each day as if it was (their) last". To which I responded, "No. That can be a dangerous thing for people to do." He became indignant and a bit self-righteous with me, proclaiming that he was doing it right now and it was the best choice he ever made. Everyone should do it; it is so freeing and creates so much love in the world.

The point I tried to make, but his righteous indignation wouldn't listen to, is that not everyone is inherently good.

You see, the catch with people extolling you to live each day like it is your last is the assumption that people are inherently good and want to do good things to others. What if the person who decides to follow that advice is not a good person? What if they are, in fact, a sociopath? A sadist?

There have been a rash of news reports about people going to work and shooting their coworkers. What if that was the result of them deciding to live each day as if it was their last? What if that statement, and belief, freed them to do everything they wanted to, and what they wanted to do was kill that heinous boss that always kept them down and shoot all their coworkers who they never liked anyway?

There have been a couple of parents who have slaughtered their families recently. What if their decision to live each day as if it was their last included being free of all impediments to their happiness, and they decided that their family needed to be the first to go?

You could argue that those who were caught doing the Ponzi Schemes and those on Wall Street who helped create the economic turmoil we're struggling with were living as if it was their last day... and they wanted the most cash and toys when the day was done. They didn't care about the laws or that it wasn't their money or who they hurt, they just wanted to "win" that day.

In my life, I have not always been a nice guy. I admit that I have a dark side that likes to hurt people, be cruel, and is a bit merciless when drawn into an attack. If I live each day as if it is my last, wouldn't that mean that whenever "Evil John" wanted to come out and do something vicious, I should let him? I also have a good side which I foster and feed, and I would hope that my new-found philosophy would mean a lot of good would come to those around me. But I cannot deny that if I live as though it was my last day, some of my baser thoughts and feelings would come out, and people would get hurt.

I agree with the overall sentiment of that phrase, the spirit of it, if you will. But I also am smart and cynical enough to realize that not everyone should follow that particular mantra or belief. It only really works if you free your humanitarian side and do not engage your baser instincts.

I hope that guy I was chatting with continues to tell those around him how much he loves them. I hope he continues to give of his time, money, and/or expertise to those who can use it. I hope he, and the others like him who change their lives for the better using this philosophy, continue to make good, conscientious decisions toward themselves and others.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Dreams and Nightmares

This is the dream I had last night. Each time I startled myself awake, I fell back to sleep into the same dream, in sequence, and kept the story moving forward.

****
I was a detective in a desert community. No pariah or outcast, instead I was a decent detective, well-respected, and involved. However, my one quirk was that I thought a serial "killer" was at work. The twist being that the killer didn't actually kill anyone; instead, this guy serially targeted people, captured, tortured, fed them Ketamine, and lobotomized his victims. He effectively killed them-- they were no longer the people they were prior to his intercession in their lives-- but they were technically still alive.

Soon, my forays into finding him came to the serial killer's notice. He started taunting me in letters, emails, and such. However, everything was just inside the letter of the law for harassment and/or stalker rules, so there was nothing I could do. Soon afterward he started targeting people around me and first acquaintances, then friends, and finally family were lobotomized by the sadist. And then the killer started framing me for the crimes, which, of course, made me look guilty as hell and suspicious to most of my colleagues. My boss believed me and believed I was not to blame, standing by me through it all.

It soon turned out that the killer believed he was possessed by the spirit of an ancient tribal Indian shaman. He had found a piece of ancient wood, that he thought was part of a sacred totem pole from that tribe. It became a cat-and-mouse game between the two of us as I hunted him and he hunted me. In the end, I captured him but he screamed out to me that he would be free in a very short period of time. Even if convicted, the most they could get him on was aggravated assault with special circumstances, because while "(he) took everything they were as a person, (he) didn't kill them!"
****

Needless to say, I woke up exhausted after such an active, scary, and trying dream. Since I wasn't able to fall asleep until close to 2am and I woke up from this dream (for the final time) at about 8:30am, I got right to it and dreamed this one dream for most of the night's dream periods. Even when it got graphic and scary enough to force me awake, I fell back to sleep and picked it up as though pressing play after pausing live TV. I'm tired, sore, and a bit mentally fatigued after a 'good night's rest.'

What's really sad is that this isn't the worst dream I've had recently nor is it the most graphic.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Weighty Issues

When I saw "205" on the scale, I knew it was time to be more active about weight management. For my height, that was simply too much. While it is true I have mitigating circumstances that help me to gain and keep on the weight, that number had steadily increased over the last three years in particular to an out of control amount.

It's funny, because except for the belly, I don't look like I'm carrying that much weight. The rest of me is normal sized in nearly every way. I just have this suddenly large, round belly on top of it.

Since many forms of exercise are out of the question due to the arthritis I have throughout my body, especially anything that is too harsh on the hands or feet, dietary changes were where I decided to start first. To that end, I have been trying to eat healthier, having snacks of oranges and other fruits instead of chips, ice cream, or chocolate. I've been eating more salads with dinners and as entire meals. Limiting pasta and other carb intake in favor of fiber and protein. Have cut way back on my soda intake. Have been trying to cut back on my chocolate milk habit.

The end result is that this morning the scale reads 191. 14 lbs in, basically, one month isn't too bad; average of about 3.5 lbs per week, which is better than most weight loss programs can claim (most of those average 2 lbs/week). My short-term goal right now is to reach and maintain 185. My long-term goal is to reach 170.

The good news is that I'm feeling some effects from the weight loss already. I walked up to the mailbox today and, while my calves got really tight, I wasn't nearly as out-of-breath as I was the last time I did it (when I was 200+). And losing the weight should help my plantar fasciitis in my right foot, as less weight means less stress on that tendon.

Hopefully soon I will be able enough to do more regular and systematic exercising, which should help the process when the dietary changes slow down. The best thing for me would be swimming, but I really don't like the water or swimming at all, so I am not sure I can overcome that to try it. Plus, I'd have to go somewhere and likely pay something to have the privilege of swimming, which makes it less likely I'll do it. I've tried riding my bike, but I'm so heavy and out of shape that all the hills surrounding my home make that choice awkward. I'm going to focus on the tread mill and push ups and sit ups to start, and maybe some light weights, to start and see where it goes from there. Maybe I'll even join my wife on her work regimen... she could likely use the company and I can definitely use the exercise.

Now to focus on the next 6 lbs and get that gone.