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Showing posts from August, 2011

Technology Rocks!

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Me and Bob in Jeff's basement. It's a small world with technology.
So, I was checking out Facebook tonight when I got a message from my friend Bob asking if I had a camera then he went into a rather strange explanation of how he didn't mean for that to sound weird. Huh. Well, it kinda did.

Turns out, he's visting our friend Jeff in Pennsylvania so he wanted to do a video chat. A simple download from Google on my part and we were able to connect.

What fun!

We chatted for quite a while and it was delightful. I only see Bob at boy poker and I don't get to see Jeff much anymore (cuz he now lives in PA) so it was nice to just shoot the breeze. It was also very nice to hear Bob talk about his new job. He's excited and I love that for my friends.

As we were chatting, Jeff took a picture of us and sent it to me. Lesson learned, don't try to go into Google+ while doing a video chat in Google because your chat gets cut off.

I need to do more video. I do a fair bit of…

Fantasy Football Draft One

We had our Parrot Head club fantasy football draft on Sunday. I say club because it originally started that way but now it's a collection of the original members and their family members and friends.

It was the weirdest draft I've ever been in. I got the 8th pick out of 12. Looking at all the scouting sheets, I thought there was a chance I would get Aaron Rodgers because everyone takes the premier running backs first. I'll admit, I would be very happy to have my favorite team's QB because then there would be no emotional conflicts during the season.

Alas, the dude who picked first took Rodgers. Frankly, I think that was crazy. Our league gives QBs only 4 points for a passing TD so QBs aren't as valuable as RBs. Plus, I think with a healthy Ryan Grant, Rodgers won't have to throw as much as he did last year.

The draft just got weirder after that.  So many strange picks that I can't recount them all. Several players were taken way too early for their value an…

I Guess I'm Kinda Popular

I was in another building yesterday for 2 ½ hours while one of my work buds was stalking my desk. Since he’s not very quiet, everyone knew he was looking for me. I got told several times after I got back that he’d been around and found a note on my pad “Where are you?”

After a one minute stop at my desk, I went into another meeting and he cruised by again. One of my team told me afterwards that she was surprised he just didn’t bust in on my current meeting because he could see me through the window.

I returned to my desk and found new notes on my desk. Some of my peers are doing a presentation and asked us to keep a list of Task/Goals for the week then record any interruptions that we encountered. Under the task list, I had the new items of “Day Dreaming”, “Surf Internet” and “Go Home”. Under the interruptions, I had “No interruptions because I can’t be found!!”

Excuse me for being value added and that people want to talk to me! I really do have too many meetings. Eight this week during …

If You Don't Make The Effort To Be Literate, How Do I Know You'll Be Effective?

An outside consultant prepared a multipage document for my company that I read yesterday. Well, tried to read. There were so many grammatical mistakes that I found it hard to concentrate on the ultimate meaning.
There were sentences without verbs, several instances along the line of "their" being used for "there" and "to" being used for "too", missing "a" or "an" in several sentences and subject/verb mismatches. Oh, and several outright misspellings.
It was a summary of a current technology process, a proposed new solution and a quote for services. The quote was for tens of thousands of dollars.
I realize you can be a brilliant technologist and not be a literate author. However, if you're going to be asking someone to pay you (regardless of the sum), it would behoove you to get someone to proofread your work.
If this had been a resume, it would have immediately gone into the reject pile.

Book Review - The Magician King

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The Magician King by Lev Grossman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Grossman goes even darker in this second book of the series. King Quentin finds he's bored in the magical land of Fillory so he seeks a quest. He gets more than he bargained for as he and his friends must prevent the end of magic (which may also be the end of Fillory).

There are two stories told here. One is the current quest and the other is the story of Julia, the damaged Queen. Her story shows how she learned magic outside of the Brakebills school and it's not a pretty story in a lot of places.

I liked this one and finished it one lazy Saturday but it was not as engrossing as the first book.

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Book Review - Smokin' Seventeen

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Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I think it's gotten to the point where Evanovich writes these via checklist:


Stephanie and Lula have hilarious hijinks while trying to capture skips - Check
Grandma makes a scene at a funeral viewing - Check
Stephanie goes through several cars - Check
Someone's out to kill Stephanie - Check
Someone goes for chicken and doughnuts - Check
Bob eats clothing - Check
Stephanie has no food in her house - Check
Stephanie has sex - Check
Stephanie picks between Joe and Ranger - WILL NEVER BE CHECKED

While I won't officially call it quits on this series, I am at a point where they're nothing more than complete fluff. I have no compulsion to read them as soon as they come out like I used to.

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Movie Review - Captain America: The First Avenger

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Loved it!
(That's the short story, here's the long.)
I found a work bud whose husband is not into the action movies so went to see Captain America together tonight. Steven saw it without me because I was out of town too much. I don't blame him as this was the last big flick until The Avengers next year.
The casting was superb. Steve Rogers was always a too good to be true type and Chris Evans played him pretty much straight up but with a slight touch of humor. It was a far cry from his Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four role. Tommy Lee Jones was great as Colonel Phillips and Hugo Weaving was superb as the completely mad Red Skull. Is Hugo Weaving ever anything but great? It was also nice to see Stanley Tucci.
Clocking in at just over two hours, the movie felt long but it also felt full. We got a well developed story of character and plot development, a ton of action and a huge amount of special effects. I was conscious of the time but never fidgeted.
Oh, if you don't know Capta…

Every Day Should Be Good

Is this a common (figurative) water cooler conversation for you?
You: How's it going? Them: Well, it's a Monday. or Them: Not bad for a Tuesday. or Them: Glad it's hump day. or Them: Good because tomorrow's Friday. or Them: Great, its the start of the weekend! or Them: Loving my Saturday! or Them: Not so great because it's back to work tomorrow.
Happens to me a lot and I've been the "them" in the conversation. However, I really started thinking about it and it made me sad.
Ideally, it should be a good day no matter what. Good during the work week because you're doing something you enjoy and getting paid. Good on the weekend because you've got some free time to enjoy other activities.
Maybe I'm just stuck in my Puritan work ethic but I think there's value in the work week. I love when I can be a constructive presence at my job. I hope others feel the same.
So, why the depressed work week comments? Why do we all seem to live for the weekend? Sometimes, …

Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

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There I was, blithely reading my morning paper when I saw it. It made my heart skip a beat and almost made me instinctively toss the newspaper.
It was this picture (which I won't upload until this post is completely done because it gives me the heebie-jeebies still):

It's a phobia that I can't help. The fight or flight part of my brain says "run away, run away, run away!" Even though I know it's completely irrational, I'm somewhat OK with that. I don't really need to be friends with snakes. In fact, I think it's best not to. People who keep them as pets confound me. Do they not know those are SNAKES?
I've got snake avoidance stories galore. One time, I was with the Babes in Florida and a guy walked in with what looked like a big stuffed albino (like the picture) around his shoulders and I thought it was a stuffed animal like the big prizes you win at a carnival. Until it moved. Then, I was out of my chair in a millisecond, putting our table betwe…

50 Books in 2011 - Done!

Last year, I participated in a Goodreads reading challenge with the goal of reading 144 books in 2010. I actually completed 145 but it became more of a chore than a pleasure, especially towards the end of the year.
They continued the challenge again in 2011 but this time you got to pick your goal. The total goal for all participants is 9,000,793. That's a lot of books.
I looked at what I had coming up in my life and decided to make my goal a nice, easy number of 50. I figured one a week with a few breaks there wouldn't stress me out.
I might have made the goal too easy, though, as I made the number yesterday. According to their math, I'm 38% ahead of schedule and they suggest I increase my goal.
Nope, I'm good where I am. I'll see where I end up but I don't feel any need to make a bigger number to hit just for the sake of it.

Book Review - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was our book club selection this month. What a delightful and moving read!

Henry is a young Chinese-American living in San Francisco during WWII. His father hates the Japanese and wants Henry to grow up "American" so he sends him to the white school. Henry meets the Japanese Keiko at school and they become fast friends. Of course, that doesn't go over well at home.

This is a story about a period of American history that I'm embarrassed actually happened. The U.S. government sent thousands of Japanese-Americans to internment camps. Keiko and her family are sent there even though she and her father were both born in the U.S. What scares me is that I feel like we're not that much more enlightened today only we've replaced the Japanese with Muslims. Or, anyone remotely looking like a Muslim.

Ultimately, this is a love story between parents and children, friends and lovers. Ford goes …

Book Review - The Last Werewolf

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The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very interesting take on the paranormal. Jake is the last known werewolf as the rest of his kind has been hunted to extinction by a group associated with the Vatican. At 200 years old, Jake is ready to give it up but others have different plans for him.

Told in the form of Jake's journals, for the most part, the story goes back and forth through Jake's life and it's a violent, sexual, graphic tale. I had trouble putting the book down as I got to the end. I'll probably check out another book from Duncan after reading this one.



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Movie Review - The Help

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I always have a bit of trepidation when I watch a movie or TV show based on a book that I've read and really liked. Will they stay true to the elements of the story that I thought were most important? Did they cast the appropriate people in the critical roles? Will the vision on the screen exceed the one in my imagination?
The basic plot of both the movie and film, The Help, is that a young, privileged woman in Jackson, Mississippi aspires to be a writer and decides to tell the stories of the black maids that raise the white children in the town. The story takes place in the 1960s so racism is alive and well and the civil rights battles are just beginning.
The Help in film form mostly met my (good) expectations. I'd read a few reviews that found it only so-so but the in-person reviews from my friends and co-workers were universally complimentary. More so from those that hadn't read the book actually.
There's a lot left out of the movie that I think made the book a more en…

Sweet!

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The Rocket Scientist and I went to dinner tonight with long-time friends of mine, Mark and Eileen. Eileen and I used to work together way, way, way back in the day and we've kept in touch ever since. I've been to a couple of Buffett shows with them and, despite being from Chicago, they actually rooted for the Packers. So, good people. Clearly.
When we got to the restaurant, there was a flat, wrapped package waiting for me. I opened it to find this:


Yep, a musical relic. A vinyl record from 1978. How cool is that!?!?!

Man, just looking at the old pictures of those hippies and seeing the band members who are no more brought back memories.

Who wouldn't want to party with these folks? I bet there was a lot of drinking, drugging and screwing going on in this group. Oh, the stories that may never be told.
Mark and Eileen found the album at a used record store. Are they even called record stores anymore? Used music store just doesn't sound right. The price was right: $3.99. Reg…

At Least They're Thinking About Me

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I love it when people take random pictures and send them to me or tag me on Facebook with a message of "this made me think of you" or something of the sort. It's fun and it makes me feel special. I do it quite a bit as well - you should see the cross with the Texas flag on it that I sent to The Rocket Scientist. Tee hee.
But, what does it say about me when someone tags me in this pic?

I don't believe thinking of me when they see PBR means they appreciate my high level of sophistication.

I Don't Want To Know What This Meant

Man, I didn’t sleep well last night. Technically, this morning.

I had the craziest, most disturbing dream. I was being pursued by a crazed assassin who, if he/she couldn’t get to me, would hurt my loved ones instead. There were lots of people and places from my real life including my Mom, the bookstore where I used to work and several friends. There were also several actors playing people I knew (or thought I knew). It was much like a movie or a TV show.

I kept coming out of sleep and tried to stay awake long enough to clear it from my subconscious but would doze back off and go right back into the dream. Ugh. My alarm went off at 5:30 and I was never so happy for it.

Can I just go back to the dream where all my teeth shatter and fall out? I’m used to that one.

Does Eating This Make Me A Canadian?

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Poutine - An Alleged Delicacy
With my many trips to Canada, I often get asked "Have you had poutine?" I must admit, the first time I was asked I didn't even know what it was. Do you know?
In case you don't, it's french fries smothered with brown gravy and cheese curds.
Sounds yummy...not. I tried to envision it and couldn't get past lumpy cheese curds falling off the fries. Doh! Apparently, they melt the curds.
I finally had it last week. We went to a rather nice place in downtown Calgary and they had poutine on the menu but with a fancy twist. The fries were fried in duck fat. It made them a little heartier but didn't taste that much different than those fried in oil.
I like french fries. I like brown gravy. I love cheese curds. I do not like poutine.
At least I can answer the question in the affirmative now so I got that going for me.

Cancer's A Drag

We have two women at work who are doing the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk this fall. As part of their fundraising efforts, they’re running a “Cancer is a Drag” contest at work. I think it’s a genius idea.

Here’s the deal. They got six male managers to volunteer. For 45 days, employees can put money in the box corresponding to a specific manager. The one who gets the most money will dress up in drag for an entire day at work. I believe they will parade around all of the buildings, too.

If $1,200 total gets collected, all six of the guys will be in drag for a day. That’s something to shoot for because, trust me, some of these dudes are going to look very funny. Also, I suspect one or two will look scarily good as psuedo-chicks and make me feel inferior as a woman.

As a little preview teaser, they photoshopped the guys’ heads on to model bodies in nice dresses. Too funny!

Book Review - Ghost Story

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Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When we last left Wizard Harry Dresden, he was, well, he was dead. How do you continue a series from there? Make him a ghost!

Harry finds himself in an afterworld and is given a choice to move on or go back to his beloved Chicago and help his friends who are in danger. Being Harry, he goes back. He's a loyal friend past the end, apparently.

Chicago is in a mess with lots of nasty paranormals trying to take over and Harry's friends trying to defend the city. There's the typical Harry smart mouth comments, self doubt and ceaseless attempt to do good by others (unless they're bad guys). Things were pretty bleak for his peeps, especially Murphy. I hope they lighten up for her in the next book. I think she's a great character.



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Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder...

...but, in the case of blogging, it makes your readers go away.
Man, I've been running nonstop since I got back from Calgary last week so posting, while on my mind, wasn't on the to-do list. I wish I were prescient enough to know when I'm going to get slammed so I could queue up some posts to reward the peeps who stop in here. (I'm going to stick with the word, reward.)
I'd set a goal for myself to average one post a day every month and I'm behind so it's catch up time!

I'm Molting

I'm not sure how many layers of skin a human has but I must be done to the base level by now.
It's all my fault, of course. We were in Galveston Bay two weekends ago and hung out in the pool on Saturday. Because the weather wasn't that hot, temperature wise, and because it takes a lot for me to get sunburned I scorned the sunscreen. I also briefly thought about wearing my ball cap but decided I didn't want to mess up my hair. Which wasn't actually looking that great so I don't know why I made that decision.
End result? I completely baked my front, back, upper arms, face and the part in my hair. I'm talking red hot, nasty, blistering in some places baked.
The peeling started a few days after I got home and still hasn't stopped. My back and front are totally itchy. I'm constantly scratching and coming away with dead skin. Fortunately, I can cover it up with a short sleeved shirt.
The part in my hair, however, is not hideable. Besides being bright red, the…

The Best Music

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Now these boys played great music! (And Barry was soooo easy on the eyes.)
In my home away from home bar in Calgary, they play the best music. I've spent many hours there now and I've not heard one bad song (OK, that's a lie, they have played Stevie Nicks). But, it does make me wonder why I think it's the best music.
The thing is, it's mostly from the 70s and 80s with a few 90s thrown in. Think Rick Springfield, Bee Gees, Devo, Gin Blossoms, Dire Straits, Alice Cooper and Night Ranger. Yes, I love Sister Christian. It's a definite sing-along.
Are those really great classic tunes? I do hear them played a lot and I'd like to think so. If they were sucky, they wouldn't still be around. Right?
Or, are they tunes I (and other late Boomers/Gen Xers) associate with the glory and freedom of youth which makes them special on a personal level? And people of my generation are the ones putting together the playlist?
I'd like to think they're classics that have s…

Book Review - Mission Canyon

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Mission Canyon by Meg Gardiner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second in the series finds Evan and Jesse tracking down the man who ran Jesse and his friend Isaac over and left them for dead. Jesse was partially paralyzed and Isaac died. There's a lot of corporate and violent shenanigans in this book. People get beat up, people get savagely murdered and, as in the other two books I've read in this series, the formal authorities aren't much help. This was a good read on the plane book.



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Admirable

I was chatting to someone this week and she mentioned that she's going back to school (while still working). Based on my personal history and her senior position, I asked if she were going for her MBA. She said she didn't have a college degree so she's going for a Liberal Arts diploma.
Now, I know a lot of people who work and go to school but they're doing it to either advance their career, switch careers or because it's expected by their employers. This woman has exceptional credentials, work history and reputation. I have no doubt she would have no issue getting another job if she wanted one nor is there any payoff for her current position to get a degree.
She's doing it for the sake of learning.
Man, that's impressive. And makes me feel like a slug in comparison.
I got my MBA while working full time but I was a lot younger then. Now, I try to take advantage of every webinar and learning experience through work that I can get. But, I haven't taken a coll…

Wilfred

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I wonder if there's something fundamentally wrong with me that I really enjoy Wilfred. It is possibly the most disturbing, crude, vulgar and absurd show I've ever seen. It makes Louis C.K. seem tame in comparison.
I missed DVRing the first episode and haven't watched it yet but it was easy to catch up. The story revolves around Frodo Baggins, er, Ryan, who's an unemployed burned out lawyer. His cute neighbor asks him to watch her dog. While everyone else sees the dog as, well, a dog, Ryan sees him as a Australian dude in a dog suit. A belligerent, selfish and boundary-less dude.
The two sit around, smoke pot, drink beer and get in to the most ridiculous of situations, all of which are brought about by Wilfred. Ryan tries to do the "right" thing while Wilfred does his best to push Ryan to the limit.
There have been some great guest stars. Chris Klein plays the neighbor's uber-competitive boyfriend whom Wilfred loathes. Jane Kaczmarek had a spot as a businessw…

Three Good Friends...

I was reading an article from one of my many business news feeds that said, in effect, "you can't hate your job if you have three good friends working with you." I thought about it quite a bit and even mentioned it some people.
Bogus statistic made up to sell some theory? I don't think so because, somehow, it feels right.
In the past couple of years, two of my three best work friends left my company. I went to lunch with them, worked on projects with them and talked to them nearly every day. While I still see them both socially, their leaving left a void. A big one. (Damn them.)
While other friends have left over the years, I always had enough close friends to fill in the space left behind. But, not anymore. I'm a social butterfly so I know a lot of people but there has to be a combination of proximity and like mindedness to make someone a close friend. I'm just not finding that with my current situation. There are new people I talk to and go to lunch with (or …

Managers versus Leaders

We have a monthly company manager’s meeting where we talk about what’s going on in our areas, do some training and activities and have people take turns presenting on topics that really interest them. There’s a subset of us that plan and run the meetings and we got together this week to discuss the agenda for August.

As always with our group (especially thanks to one member), we got off track for a philosophical discussion that extended our meeting considerably.

The topic: managers versus leaders.

From Merriam-Webster:

Manager :
a: a person who conducts business or household affairs b: a person whose work or profession is managementc (1) : a person who directs a team or athlete (2) : a student who in scholastic or collegiate sports supervises equipment and records under the direction of a coach the act or art of managing: the conducting or supervising of something (as a business)

Leader:
a:guide,

The Weather is in the Eyes of the Beholder

A conversation from our break room:

Dude: How are you doing?
Dudette: Fine, if this humidity would go away.
Me: If you think this is bad, y’all should have been in Texas this weekend.
Dude: I would have hung myself.

I think the Dude was not maligning the great state of Texas, for the record.

It’s all in what you’re used to, I guess. It’s 101 with humidity of 22% in Phoenix right now. Galveston Bay had an average temp of 87 with around 70% humidity this past weekend when I was there.

I’ll take the 101 any day!

Movie Review - Cowboys & Aliens

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Steven and I have been impatiently waiting for this movie. We love Jon Favreau and were excited to see what he would do with the very interesting meld of genres.
Well, it was interesting but it wasn't the fantastic film we were expecting.
The gist of the story is that aliens have landed on Earth in the post-Civil War era. They're snatching up people for unknown purposes and one guy, Daniel Craig's character, has a weapon that can stop them. The only problem is he doesn't know who he is or how it all really works.
I expected more humor in the story. There were a few bits here and there but Sam Rockwell, who's usually hilarious, was muted and Daniel Craig's tidbits were as well.
Harrison Ford was good as the crotchety rich dude with a loser son. Their attempt to make him a layered character showed him alternating between total, heartless badass and suddenly kind father figure. It sort of worked.
Keith Carradine was not well utilized though he had a few good scenes. S…

Book Review - Jericho Point

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Jericho Point by Meg Gardiner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dang, I just realized I read this out of order. It's back to book number 2 for me. No wonder I thought I was missing some back story.

Lawyer and author Evan Delaney is a victim of identity theft. To the point where a girl is found dead with her ID and her family gets notified that she's gone. Once again, it seems the authorities aren't all that helpful so Evan must ride to the rescue.

This was a somewhat convoluted story of serial crime (including murder), family dramas and extreme violence. I was actually disturbed at some of it but it's a welcome change from the stories where the main characters always seem to come out relatively unscathed.



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Book Review - China Lake

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China Lake by Meg Gardiner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw an email from one of my bookstores that Gardiner was doing a signing so I decided to check her out. I love finding an existing series that I can plow through non-stop. I hate having to wait for the next book.

This was good. Evan Delaney is a lawyer and author with a hot but damaged boyfriend and custody of her nephew while her Navy pilot brother is stationed away. A crazy cult (is there a non-crazy cult) makes it appearance and one of its members is her future ex-sister-in-law. The cult is after her nephew and has murderous plans against the government.

Lots of action and violence in this one with a healthy disrespect for police authority as the cops are portrayed mostly as inept jackasses so it's up to Evan and crew to save the day.



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