Friday, May 28, 2010

It's all about them!

I came across an interesting article today on Yahoo. http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20100528/sc_livescience/todayscollegestudentslackempathy

It states that based on test scores, today's college students are less emphatic then 20-30 years ago. I will point out though, that measuring empathy like many emotions, is an extremely subjective process and generational differences can play a part in how effective a test is as well. (that's assuming the test is the same as it was 20-30 years ago.) This reminds me why I never pursued further education in Psychology after getting my bachelor's. The field of psychology and sociology both have issues in 'measuring' data. The number of variables, bias, perceptions, and a myriad of other factors make these sciences very soft. In other words, the 'data' in them is going to be open to far greater interpretation due to the factors I listed then any other science.

This isn't to say that testing in the social science fields is worthless, it's just that as a society we tend to view these 'result's poorly, whether that should be blamed on the field, the media, or people in general I don't know, but typically these tests when measured against other groups indicate change has occurred, but doesn't always indicate what type of change we are looking at. As an example, while it may in fact be empathy, the perception of what is emphatic could very well have changed over the years, hence the change to the answers. (i.e the test is no longer measuring empathy in the same way because socially it's been redefined).

Oh well, enough venting on it, it's just one of my pet peeves.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost: Why did you expect more? *Updated*

The season finale was last night, you'd have to live in a cave to not know it was on, after all ABC has been promoting it for 5 months during the final season and over the last month seems to have assaulted every potential advertising route.

Let's start with the epic fail on the part of ABC and the East Coast HD feed (possibly for regular feed too). Technical difficulties plagued the broadcast with stutters and display breakdowns every couple minute, with a TV audience hanging on every word for a 'solution' this was unacceptable. ABC's ad focus seemed to be "You've invested 6 years, tonight all your answers will be revealed" and then on broadcast made it one of the most infuriating things to watch. This is what I would call an epic fail, but alas during the broadcast (1/2 way through the actual show) they flashed regularly "Technical difficulties, please stand by" stand by for what? As the show went on, they flashed that they'd be replaying the episode due to difficulties next Saturday, so ABC fucks up and they get to generate more ad revenue on their worst performing night? Plus make people wait the full week to watch the show as it was produced? I can assure any advertisers that it will be TIVO'd on my system and I will not watch one commercial of the show for that night, but will view the show in order to watch without the interruptions that plagued the broadcast. Just for the sake of the advertisers anyway, I watched the show on delay last night anyway, so I missed those commercials too.

I can also promise I won't be watching shows on ABC for the next year at least, call it a self imposed boycott that I'm sure will have no effect on the station, but it will make me feel a bit better.

So let's get to the episode itself. For those that are disappointed in the finale, I have to ask "Why". Did you expect to see everything resolved or to be satisfied with the ending that's just another occurrence of the biggest TV hype? If you did, I'm sorry, it just wasn't going to deliver that 'perfect ending'. However, like much of the final season, they provided answers and resolutions to issues on the show. I thought they did a fair job considering it's been evident that the 'story' of the show has never really had a central focus, there were way too many story lines that felt 'made up as you go along' throughout the show. As someone who writes like that, it's hard to connect all of the story lines when you've ventured down different tangents. Considering they had opened so many lines though, I thought they did a fair job of providing closure.

Most user reviews I've seen have stated they are upset, that 'they all were dead the whole time'. Well this is the first part that's really wrong, while they did all meet at the end, and Christian did advise Jack that he was in fact dead, the references to the other people, was that yes they were dead, but some died far after Jack and some died before him. In my opinion the story was Jack's throughout with the other characters supporting him, it was his path to death that the story focused on, and completed with his eye closing, which fit with the mythos, as Jack's eyes were what we saw out of after the plane crash in season one. I don't believe they were all dead throughout the series, as Jack's father pointed out, all of it was real, so they crashed and lived and died on the island. Jack died at the end after repairing the island and in his journey to the other side was visited by all who helped resolved his life.

The problem I have with this though, is it doesn't explain the sideways flashbacks that we experienced for the last year or so, given Christian advised that 'everything was real' I can't put my finger on how that played into it. I expect at some point (likely the series finale DVD available for purchase 8/24) will have some commentary from the writers that further clarifies it.

The rest of the show was closing out story lines from the previous two seasons and trying to put characters to rest. For a show with such an ensemble cast, it was an attempt to resolve the issues for all of the characters, even though the story was about Jack. (at least in my opinion).

I thought the episode was fair and given the large amount of material they were supposed to close up, I thought they did an average job of doing so and giving people a chance to say goodbye to their favorite characters. The episode reminded me a lot of "Quantum Leap's" series finale, where Dr. Beckett learned that he essentially was the cause of his continuing leaps and we got to see favorites from the show at the end, but in the end he continued 'leaping' with no reason other then it was his choice.

I do want to give props to Jimmy Kimmel's special after Lost, where he provided 'alternate endings' using the actors to film skits of alternate endings from "the Sopranos" and the "Newhart show". In my opinion there has never been a series finale that lived up to the "Newhart show", his second one, where he wakes up in bed with his wife from his first show, and tells her he just had the strangest dream, he was running a resort in Wisconsin. That's the gold standard that people look for (and were expecting something approaching that for Seinfeld), but I doubt that we'll see anyone manage to pull of that perfect closure for some time.

I would have liked a little levity for the show's closing and I think they had a chance for the Newhart style ending. My suggestion would have been after full credits for them to cut to the Dharma Initiative's favorite scientist, who then proceeds to thank viewers for participating in the Dharma Initiative's 6 year social experiment where they have been monitoring our emotions and thoughts on the concepts of the Dharma conceived fairy tale.

*Update* I was mistaken to the technical problems being on the east coast HD feed. It was purely a WEWS Cleveland problem, they've posted their explanation and 'apology' here. http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/local_news/%27lost%27-disrupted-due-to-equipment-issue

Here's a thought for WEWS, since the local news ran right after the series finale, perhaps that might have been a good time for an apology, or for an explanation of a rather large technical fail on your station's part. For local area news on a Sunday, I would say it's a rather significant event, considering 20-30% or more of the population was tuned into the show and rather likely a higher % that was watching your news would have been left overs from the show. Not mentioning the issues or apologizing at the beginning of the news broadcast shows me that you really didn't care to apologize and the only reason you've posted any type of apology is due to the fallout from your station's failures.

Friday, May 21, 2010

F&%k Texas!!!!

Here we go once again. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100521/ap_on_re_us/us_texas_schools_social_studies

The Texas State Board of Education has voted to reduce the curriculum for Social Studies, watering down issues like the civil rights movement, slavery, U.S involvement with the U.N. and the Founding Fathers focus of separation of church and state.

I wouldn't have as much of a problem with this if the idiot Texans wanted to educate their own children that way. If they want to ignore the past and policies that have formed this country, then so be it, let their children be stupid.

Our textbook companies and our software companies typically base their versions of books or software on their largest customer. This is where the problem comes in, due to Texas being such a large state, they wind up being one of the largest customers, hence they dictate what is put in the textbooks.

So due to the small minded agenda driven crusade by the Texas School Board leaders other states who respect the actual history of our nation are forced to utilize these revised textbooks for their classes.

I've never wanted electronic books more.

I understand that I'm ranting a bit and being an alarmist. I know not all textbooks are dictated by Texas or California, but they do affect the content of books delivered to other states. There are alos so many major publishers, while the following list portrays them as elementary school publishers, I'm familiar with a number of them as secondary and college textbook publishers.
http://childparenting.about.com/od/elementarytextbooks/Elementary_Textbook_Publishers.htm

Friday Thoughts 5/21

It's been a couple weeks since I've had a Friday thoughts post and I think I've got enough finally to make it interesting. If not, just ignore it.

1. The iPhone camera really sucks. On the morning bike ride I was trying to photograph the deer that was 20ft away (any closer and he'd have bolted). However the camera sucks so bad you can barely make him out in the picture. I put it up on Twitter, but it's so bad I'm not even going to bother here. Same issue with a family of geese I saw this morning. #picturefail Although it was sort of neat seeing all of the wildlife this morning on the trail. Likely because it's still a bit too cold for many people out on the trail.

2. The weather here has been crappy, so my 1000 mile challenge for the summer has gotten off to a slow start, but I am up to 50 and am hopeful to get another 40-50 in this weekend.

3. Another week and news that another friend is getting divorced. This one hits home a bit closer as it's someone I'm close with. I haven't talked to him a lot over the last couple years, but expect to hear more from him now. (yeah, it was one of those types of relationships).

4. Another friend who I don't talk with much anymore, we weren't what I would consider really close is getting married again (his 2nd or 3rd I believe). Is it bad that I'm thinking about not going? What is the protocol for that? If you are invited and were friends years ago but haven't seen or talked in years are you still obligated? Struggling with this one.

5. As we see more and more articles over the next 5-10 years of "How to Fix Social Security", it's worth pointing out that the only reason Social Security needs fixing is it was modified to move funds over the past 20-30 years that would have sustained the system through it's own program.

6. Hmm, this is definitely one way to move the focus from those silly civil rights comments. Defend BP, after all it's just an accident that happened.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100521/ap_on_bi_ge/us_rand_paul

7. The three day weekend of Memorial day cannot get here quick enough.

8. Social Media advertising stinks, actually maybe I should clarify, Facebook advertising stinks. I mean it's one thing to promote your company or product on Facebook, but I've yet to see one company do anything unique to the medium besides accepted spam. I swear if I see another ABC post for Lost or V, I'm going to scream. Isn't it a reasonable assumption that 'fans' of the show Lost know it's season finale is this week. I mean it's not like it's not repeated on your station 24/7, been cross promoted on your shows, been talked about on radio stations (with ads too), or about a zillion other ways of promoting this 'event'. I'm guessing at this point you've hit the saturation level, especially considering that you sort of have to even care about the finale.

9. Here's a fun recipe that worked out for breakfast last week. Stuffed pancakes with blackberries. The pancakes, well just make them however you are used to. The stuffing is what I think worked well this time.

1/2 block cream cheese, softened.
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
12 oz tub of whip cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Beat all ingredients except for the whip cream. The mixture should be wet, but should not be too runny. If too runny add in some powdered sugar.

Then mix with the whip cream, depending on the consistency you can fold it in, but given it's going to melt on the hot pancakes anyway, I wouldn't be overly concerned with folding.
of the whip cream together in a bowl and then combine with the whipped cream.

Layer between pancakes with an additional spoonful on top, add your favorite berries and maple syrup and enjoy.

10. My daughter has been hoping for a garden, if there's one thing I have attempted and failed at miserably, it's growing plants. However, I have decided to give it one more try. I'm not expecting it to be successful, but might make for some interesting stories over the summer. I'm thankful there is no PETP (People for the ethical treatment of Plants) as I would likely fall number one on their most hated list.

Have a good weekend!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

They pay people to come up with this stuff!

Here is a pic of the 2012 Olympic mascots.
I don't know what to say, I know we've had weird Olympic mascots before (Izzy) http://4corners.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/mascot2.jpeg , but these are really just creepy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Top 10 favorite movies

I think at one point I did a top 10 albums list. I went out and purchased a movie today, as my stack of what to watch on a flight is running thin. (I typically rent movies and rarely ever buy them). Anyway, I thought it would be a good opportunity to put down a top 10 list for my favorite movies. I'm sure I'll get the list done and forget 5-6 that are my real favorites, but this is my best guess after minimal research and off the top of my head. (These aren't necessarily in any order, except where noted).

1. Pulp Fiction - this might be my favorite movie of all time. Quentin Tarantino's breakout classic. If there ever was a movie that personified 'coolness' on screen it was this one, literally reinventing the careers of John Travolta and Bruce Willis, and taking movie dialogue to entirely new levels. I still laugh so hard I almost cry, every time I see the scene where John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are driving Marvin away from the shootout and Jackson hits a bump causing Travolta's gun to go off and kill poor Marvin.

2. Clerks - Kevin Smith's first movie had me laughing hysterically in the movie theaters. No movie captured Generation X better in my opinion, at least at that point in their lives, out of high school and grasping with what to do in life. Even though I was in college at the time, the issues the characters were dealing spot on for my generation.

3. Avatar: This spot could easily be Star Wars, but I'm putting Avatar here. My reasons for it are that it's a more recent candidate and due to the integration of CG throughout the film. James Cameron managed to create a world in a way that no director has ever done on the screen (imo). Visually the movie is stunning and considering how much of it is rendered through computers it's amazing to me how seamless the actual video shoots and CG are blended. Star Wars was a phenomenon, but the world evolved over time with the other movies and books. The original story while fantastic was very character driven. That's not to say that being character driven was a bad thing or that George Lucas didn't create a unique world using the tools available to him at the time, it's just that it wasn't Avatar at it's time in comparison.

4. True Romance: There's something about this movie that I just love. I don't know if it's the fact that there are so many small parts for actors that either were "B" category at the time or on their way up, or it's the Quentin Tarantino overseen dialogue that just makes it fun. The story itself isn't anything remarkable but the part I really love is the final fun scene where almost everyone ends up dead during the standoff between the groups. The buildup too it was impressive and the suspense prior to it engaging.

5. Tombstone: I've never been a fan of westerns, until I saw Tombstone. It managed to take an old concept and modernize it. Doc Holliday, played by Val Kilmer, is one of my all time favorite performances.

6. Batman (Tim Burton's): I believe this movie ultimately kicked off the philosophy that superhero movies could be blockbusters. Superman came before it and did well, but in my opinion people don't relate well to Superman. Batman when shone in the manner such as this or in the new series directed by Christopher Nolan, has a depth to his character that opens up the story potential. Tim Burton was able to capture the darkside to the character that hadn't been shown on the screen before (comics and graphic novels had always mined this). Add in the Gothic backdrop of the city and outstanding performances by Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton and you have a classic. (I will say Nolan's Dark Knight with Heath Ledger as the Joker was very good, I didn't think another Batman/Joker movie could come close to Burton's, I was wrong, as it missed by a hair being put here above Burton's. If it wasn't for my preference for Keaton and Burton's take on Batman over Bale and Nolan, I think it might have beat it out.)

7. Ghostbusters: Comedy, action, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and an epic story line. There's a reason it's the highest grossing comedy of all time (although The Hangover might have beaten it out last year). Ghostbusters was a phenomenon. Everything in 1984 seemed to be covered with the international stop symbol, red circle crossed by diagonal slash and you couldn't turn around without hearing the theme song on the radio, hearing someone quote a line, or talking about it. As a high effects movie done in the 80's it actually holds up very well to the test of time now in viewing too. We will ignore the fact that they made a horrendous sequel to this movie. There is hope though, as there seem to be indications that we might get a third movie in the next couple years. http://www.aintitcool.com/node/43624

8. Braveheart: As the Southpark kids pointed out, regardless of what you think about Mel Gibson's personal views, the man knows story structure. Gibson managed to mine the history books for a story that was both interesting and which hadn't been done 30 times (Robin Hood). The epic movie did a fantastic job of showing large scale battles for the time period and in many cases the after effects of those battles. The chaotic nature of those skirmishes was brought to life during the movie. It didn't hurt that the storyline of the movie was solid as well, which just made the battle scenes stand out more.

9. Say Anything: I have a confession, with the exception of the movie listed here, I hate the 80's 'brat pack' movies. Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles I can't stand any of them. I just could never get into them. You can imagine my pain as they are some of the wife's favorites and if they are on TV, the channel mysteriously finds its way to them. Having said that, the one I do like is Say Anything, I'm guessing that I never related much to characters in the other movies, but that I connected a bit more with "Lloyd Dobler".

10. I wanted something a bit more obscure here, I debated between Fight Club, In the Mouth of Madness, and my actual choice Army of Darkness. I decided on Army of Darkness based on the fact that Bruce Campbell. Army of Darkness was the third movie in the "Evil Dead" trilogy it has the highest production costs and took the series in a bit more of a comical direction then the previous two, which were a bit more horror focused. The movie works for one reason alone, the coolness of Bruce Campbell. I would do a poor job at trying to describe why Bruce Campbell is cool and even just watching this movie you might not be convinced, it might require viewing the whole Evil Dead series, watching "Bubba Ho-Tep" and "My name is Bruce" as well. If you aren't familiar with who Bruce Campbell is, he's in all three Spiderman movies directed by Sam Raimi (who collaborated with Bruce and their acting troupe on the Evil Dead series). Bruce appears as three different characters during the Spiderman movies, typically hassling Tobey Maguire.


There were a ton of other movies I could have put on the list, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the first three Star Wars, Rocky I or II, Fight Club, Silence of the Lambs, In the Mouth of Madness, Jurassic Park, Talladega Nights, Office Space, the Professional, and many others. I tried to focus on a bit of variety and personal preference, rather then greatest movies of all time. It's tough though to find criteria to narrow it down to just 10 places though and it doesn't help that I think most of my favorites are from the 80s and 90s.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting back on track

It's amazing how much a creature of habit I've become, take me out of my daily routines and everything seems to collapse around me. Well maybe not everything but the blog at least.

I didn't get the job, I found out last Thursday, the hiring manager was nice enough to call and let me know that while I was a strong candidate and they felt I could do the job (a fairly significant point to try and 'move' into management at my current company), they just had stronger candidates that were available. It was a good experience, as I was grilled through 4 interviews, and handled them very well. If there is one thing that can become rusty from not using it, it's how you handle the interview process. So for now I'm in the same position, hopefully some more internal positions will open over the summer.

The Cavs lost, the good news is they did it in 6 games and no matter how much the sports talk hosts and fans try and 'label' this, they'll fail. The city's become a bit too proud of catchy nicknames for failure. ("The drive", "The fumble", "The shot"). In truth this loss reminds me of the '96 Indians the year they lost to the Orioles in the first round when they shouldn't have. It's never fun to be ousted early in the playoffs, as the beginning of next season, just seems so much farther away. The additional good news though for Cleveland sports reporting is the fact that they get to focus on Lebron James and the will he leave or won't he story.

The pending free agency of Lebron James feels bizarre. If he wanted to stay he can do so either by taking his player option for next year or by signing a long term deal. If he wants to go there's nothing wrong with that either, but the comments that 'me and my team have a plan' just don't make a lot of sense if he's intent on staying. The numbers that the team can offer him are pretty standard, so 'this plan' almost has to be going somewhere else, otherwise it's just an ego boosting tour in order to be courted by other teams and raise the media visibility of his star power (although I'm not entirely sure that's possible). I could care less to tell you the truth, it's one thing for these stars to be coddled by teams and be paid according to the league rules or what they can negotiate for earnings. It's quite another for teams, cities, and fans to start lavishing praise on these stars in order to get them to stay. Check out this Miami Heat 'official site' http://www.wewantwade.com/ I can't find it, but I read at one point there was suggestions to fans to not approach Wade at functions and discuss him leaving or to say anything negative to him. All we need now is a chimney and the white smoke to 'announce' the anointment for Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James.

I'm thinking of taking down my 'cess'pool that we have in the backyard. I'm so tired of the upkeep on it, the fact that it takes up half of my yard and that the weather in Cleveland, rarely makes it possible to use on a regular basis. It just doesn't seem worth the trouble, although my daughter is already lobbying to keep it. I have to give it some more thought but the thought of buying another round of chemicals and a new pool cover have me leaning toward tearing the thing down.

The band thing looks to be dead at this point, I haven't heard from the drummer in a couple weeks, so it looks like if I'm going to do something it would be with a new group. I may start mining the classifieds. I'm just waiting for some things around daily life to settle down and resolve themselves before determining whether or not I have the time to do it. My state of mind continues to flip flop a bit on this, I want to give it a try and succeed at performing with a group for a while, but it has to be the right situation and right time. I guess we'll see what happens.

That's all I've got for now, hope you have a good week.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Counseling for the Cleveland Sports fan

I'm guilty of neglecting the blog. I admit it freely. I've been on a bit of a whirlwind trying to get back in my routine with little luck so far. I did want to drop in for a quick update though.

The mood around town is one of sheer panic, as the masses are about to launch themselves off of the tallest points they can find in town. The reason why? Our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers. It seems that over the course of the past couple years, Cavalier fans have forgotten that there is a Cleveland at the beginning of the team name.

They've dared to hope and have become emotionally invested in this team, I can't say I blame them, there has been a strong pull in believing this Lebron Jame's lead team would be different and make us forget things like the The Drive, the Fumble, Red Right 88, the shot, the grounder through Tony Fernandez's legs, or just erase from our memory Michael Jordan, Art Modell, or John Elway completely.

However, as I pointed out this is a Cleveland team and while we don't win championships, we are the champions of creating gut wrenching sports stories of almost and if. It appears we are at that point again. In addition to possibly losing in the semi-finals (badly) we also are faced with the prospect of Lebron James being a free agent and leaving. At this point, I want to open up a phone line and offer support before the whole city follows a similar path of the Heaven's gate cult.

The problem is there is nothing I could say that would help. The Indians stink, the Browns stink, Lebron is likely leaving, and the Cavs are probably going to lose one of the next two. Hell, the only positive we've had in this town for a sports team over the last 20 years was Indoor Soccer and the dominance of the Force. (I can't believe how true that statement is)

I guess my only consolation to long suffering fans, is that this may end fairly quickly and with little drama, the Celtics have outplayed the Cavs throughout the series for the most part and it appears there won't be any last second shot or foul that we have to endure replays of for the next 1 years, it has a chance to end quickly.

It's a small consolation I know, but don't we at least deserve to be put out of our misery quickly if we can't win the whole thing? Of course I'm posting this with potentially two games to go, so if the Cavaliers end this series in a game 7 getting beaten at the buzzer, we won't even have that going for us.

I guess I haven't been much help at all.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Terribly busy

I haven't had much time to update the blog lately. Getting back from a couple days away always throws me out of my rhythm and on top of it, I've been fully occupied with three follow up interviews this week. (The next one in 30 minutes).

Just wanted to post some type of update though, the interviews so far have went well (knock on wood). In addition to handling them well, I'm getting a bit excited about the position. I should clarify that, I dread the thought of taking a position I'm not qualified for and due to the ever changing landscape in my field, I tend to understate my abilities in order to avoid this. As I've been going through the interviews though, I've become acutely aware that I'm qualified for the position and could bring some outside perspective to the new organization if I get hired. Now it's just a matter of closing out the last manager interview and then hitting a home run in the final interview with the hiring manager.

It also doesn't help that I'm quite comfortable in my current position, no travel to worry about, solid relationships with the organizational people I need to deal with, and there's not much that comes to me that phases me in the way of work. I'm telling you, getting old sucks, as you have to continuously find that energy to change and it gets harder and harder as the years go by.