Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Month: April 2008

Movie Review: SunShine

Last year I saw a couple previews for the movie SunShine, but it never made it to my local theatre. Before I knew it, it was in the DVD rental list on my Netflix account.

I ordered it, and then when it arrived, I watched it expecting it to be a poorly made movie. I mean, why else would it have gone to video so soon after hitting the theatres? That is something that usually only happens to either, a. Really bad movies. b. Movies that make you really think about something or c. Movies that touch on a subject that no one wanted to accept.

So I watched it and I really liked it. The effects were great, the story, while a little improbable, was good. The characters were believable, and the end was very well done.

Granted… there are some of the concepts of the movie that were a little out there. But I will discuss those at the end.

Without giving away the movie to the people that might want to see it, the easiest way I can describe it is that it is about sacrifice. People taking a dangerous journey with the intent of using an experimental device to reignite the sun. Add to this that this is not the first attempt. They are traveling in the wake of a previous attempt, that failed. So the odds are already against them.

This movie is good in the sense that there is a lot to the story that speaks to humans in general. We usually do not give up or give in. We are bound and determined to go up against insurmountable odds to achieve something that may or may not work.

This movie is motivational, with a little horror, and a grand theme. If I were to make comparisons… it is like Red Planet, with a pinch of Event Horizon and a little bit of Core.

My only arguements:

1. The concept that by collecting all the remaining fissionable material on Earth, and taking it to the sun in an attempt to restart it, is like a flea crawling up and elephant’s rear with rape in mind.

2. I am not sure that there is much of anything that we can create that could survive a direct entry into the sun’s coronasphere and live long enough to detonate therein.

Those things aside, this is a great movie to watch!

Belching in public

Alright… I am open minded.  I can tolerate quite a bit, even if I find it repulsive.

That being said, when did it start becoming the norm for people to belch or fart in public and it be connsidered something to laugh at, encourage or otherwise support?

My wife and I where at California Pizza Kitchen a few days ago, when some people a few seats from us all laughed because there kid belched.  I could excuse this if the kid was, oh, say… five years old.  Even then I would expect the parents to explain that this was not proper behavior.  But the kid in question was obviously between thirteen and fifteen years old, and appeared to be mentally capable (i.e. not mentally challenged.)

This was not the first time I have seen this happen.  In fact there are a couple of my friends who have done similar… luckily they, at least, waited until they were outside the restaurant before doing this, but I still see this as being extremely rude.

To be fair, I am referring to the loud, intentional belches that one releases for the sake of releasing them.  I am not talking about the little ones that you cannot always control, and you release them making every effort to keep them quiet and suppressed.  Those are excusable, and should still be followed up by a polite, “Pardon me.” or “Excuse me.”  The fact is that your body still needs to function, and part of that is the production of gases that need to be expelled.  But you have a pretty good idea of how much force is coming up before you releaser it, so rarely should you be surprised by one.

So… do I belch?  Of course…  When I am sitting at home, and need arises… I do let a couple noisy ones go.  But then again, it is me, my wife, the dogs and the cats.  There have been a couple that I would proudly say are award winners.  But I still excuse myself when I do it!  If we have guest over, I will not do this.

Now that I have put all this out… I have had a few accidental ones slip out and I can tell you that they are rather embarrassing.  They usually come out in the middle of a conversation with someone, too.  Not something that pleases me, or the person I am talking to.  But I hope that my profuse apologies and reddened face can attest to the fact that it was entirely unintentional.

A story comes to mind about a guy I used to work with.  He was at a job interview where part of the interview was to display how he could save the company money.  About half way through the powerpoint presentation, in front of about six people, he leaned over to adjust the focus on the projector, when he let out a fart.  As he tells the story, it was not a quiet one… it was a “ripper”.  Add to that that it was a small room, and this one reeked.  He told me that he cleared the room in a heartbeat.  The good news was that he did get the job.  However he would never tell me the nickname they gave him… I can only imagine.

Maybe I am being too prudish about things like this.  But we really need to get back into the habit of telling our kids when something is just not cute or funny.  The kid I mentioned in the start of this piece… if he had done that at home, with just his family… I am sure it would have been hysterical to them all.  But in a restaurant or in a public place?  I think not.

Education and Experience

For as long as I can recall, there seems to be an argument about which is more important, education or experience. Being that I see the importance in both, I decided that I would address it as much as I can in this article.

In short, I will start by saying, simply, that each is incredibly important by itself, but together they are invaluable. Both are important in both your professional and personal life, and both go a long way to making you a success or failure.

I have been an on-again-off-again college student for some time. I know what I want to do, and I know the degree that I would like to, someday, get. The problem for me is that I cannot afford to take the time off work to attend school as much as I need to get my degree in a timely manner. I know that there are those of you out there that will say, “That is no excuse.” But trust me… it is.

I do not have a degree. I have several cerifications and I have several years of training and experience in computers, network design and network infrastructure. I was lucky enough to have gotten into computers and computer repair in a day when companies offered apprenticeships in such fields. Alas, you can find almost none of these types of training programs these days, unless you are a plumber or welder. I see this a unfortunate, but I will talk about that later in the article.

For the most part, my lack of a degree had not really been a problem until 1999, when there was this sudden push for everyone to have a certification or degree in whatever field they worked. In my case, it hit like a brick wall. Suddenly I was getting turned away from job interviews immediately when they asked that all important question, “are you certified?”

I was able to go and get my MCSE with little or no problem, and was back in the work force. But there was a new problem that I ran into. With the push for people to get their certifications, there was also a sudden influx of people that anyone who has been in the industry, for any length of time, refers to as “Paper MCSEs” or “Paper Engineers.” These are people that go to schools like New Horizons, and have the answers to the questions pumped into their heads, get a brief explanation of the facts, very little lab time, and then get pumped out into the world, and are not always ready for the stuff they find. Places like this are fine if you already have the experience and knowledge, but need a refresh, but they are dangerous for the rest of us when people who are just getting into the field go there, and pass the tests, then get out here and realize that life is not a lab.

The fact that I had been working with the network side of things as long as I had, was a major factor that lead me to go to New Horizons. I knew that the assembly line structure that they used would be fine for me to get the tests out of the way as quickly as I could. So, three months later, I was done, and back in the work force. So I have learned, first hand, the value of experience and how it works in conjunction with education.

There are also examples of the opposite of what I have just explained. There have been many times that I have run into people, who are just out of school, and their heads are filled with facts and numbers, but when you ask them what positions they have held, or if they did any “co-op” work while in school, very often they say that they have not held a job in that field, or they did no co-op work at all. For those that might not know, “co-op” programs are where a business will take a person that is in school (college) and give them a job in a field related to what they are studying, on a part time, temporary basis. This works well for the student, who gains experience, and for the company, who gets a “discount rated” technician, since they will usually only pay the person about minimum wage.

I think that all schools should adopt mandatory “co-op” programs for certain fields. I think that giving a person the education, and a degree, with little or no real-life experience, is unfair and unrealistic.

Education is important… there is no way that you can put a value on the benefits of a good education. Statisically a graduate will make a lot more over his or her lifetime than will a non college graduate. There is no disputing that. But education without experience is almost pointless. Why do you think that medical students need to spend almost four years of their studies actually working in hospital.

If you have the option of going to school and furthering your education, then by all means, DO! I cannot express enough how important it is to have that piece of paper. But do not knock experience, there is an equal amount I can say good about getting out there, getting your hands dirty and learning by doing. Nothing teaches you to do a job, and do it right, more than going out and busting your butt. And if you have the chance to combine the two, then not only will others respect you more, but you will respect you more.

Both a good education and good experience are hard work and both are filled with ups and downs. You may not always be a success at both, but every time you fail or make a mistake, just remember that it is all part of learning. It has happened to many before you, and it will happen to many after you.

Lastly, I would like to revisit the comment I made in the first part of this article. Apprenticeships. These are something that should be taken more seriously by employers. The Department of Labor has a very good web site dedicated to Apprenticeships and On the job training, but you still do not see many companies that use this service.

In reality, I would like to see the schools, namely at a High School level, implement a program to select people that look like they are not bound for college. People that are not scoring high enough or that just are not interested in attending college. Take those students and put them in High School apprenticeship programs where they will learn two or three trades. They will still be required to get their basic education out of the way, but they will be prepared for a job once they leave High School. Because it would be an apprenticeship, they will probably even get hired by the company that they apprenticed for in school, or could be referred by them. This would give some kids, especially in poorer areas, a chance to do more with themselves than they might have been able to do before.

Apprenticeships are not gone, but I think they are under-utilized. If a company or school really wants to make a difference, then they should look into offering this option to potential employees or students.

Head On… Apply directly to your head

Alright… So I will have to agree that these are, quite possibly, the worst commercials on TV. I cannot even tell you how the nerves grate when I see the Head On, and similar products, ads come on, and you would be amazed at how quit I am to hit the mute button, or throw a blunt object in the general direction of the television.

All that being said, I found myself, one day, with a bad headache, and walking aimlessly through Target. This is one of the many times that my wife dragged me there in an effort to buy household goods. It was in the process of this shopping that I stumbled upon it…

There… in the pharmacy, behind the counter, was a small green box, titled “Head On – Migraine formula.” So I asked the lady to hand it to me. I walked away with a sense of skepticism about my find. Being that my headache was so bad at this point that I was trying to figure out who had the nine inch nails, and why they were pounding them into my head, I broke open the box and “applied it directly to my head.”

Let me take a moment and explain me, to you. I am the type of person that, if you hand me a bag of money, my first question is: “What’s the catch?” If you tell me how great something is, I will probably ignore you, and if you rave about it, chances are I will not try it on principal. The odd thing about this philosophy is that I think I picked some of it up from one of my former bosses at a company called ADSS.

Now… after I put this stuff on my head, I felt a little tingle, but nothing major. It was not until about ten minutes later that my wife asked how my head was. It was then that I realized that the headache was actually gone. I was speechless. I went back to the Pharmacy to get another one, but they had only had the one tube, and I had bought it. So I went home with sadness in my heart.

Later that same week, I was in Vons, a grocery chain, and noticed that they had Active On… this is the arthritis version of the Head On. So I picked up the box and set out for the rest of my purchases.

That night, as it usually does, my knee started acting up on me. This is usually a dull, deep pain and I try to just ignore it. But that night I decided to try my new weapon. I put the Active On on in just the way they suggested, and within twenty minutes, the pain was almost unnoticeable. I also had the same success when my ankle acted up on me a few days later. The pain was gone within minutes.

So… I am a Head On/Active On advocate… in spite of their commercials.

If you find a bottle in the store you like to shop at, please pick one up… I think you will be pleased.

Who am I?

Who am I?

This is not a hard question to ask, but a very hard question to answer. I do not care how self confident you are, if you look at the many ways to interpret the question, then you cannot come up with a “pat” answer to it that easily.

WHO am I?

Am I the sum of my own efforts and dreams, or am I the creation of the expectations that others have placed upon me, thus shaping who I have become? Is the person that I have become based on the people that I have met in my life or the people that my friends and family expect me to be because of their needs and desires? Likewise, have I, over the years, manipulated who I am, in order to mold to the types of person that my friends and family needed me to be, thus becoming a better friend to them through empathy, of sorts?

Is it important or healthy for a person to change themselves to be a better friend, love or companion to another person, when it is obvious that this will sometimes result in the loss of some individuality? or is it more important to be yourself, for yourself, regardless of the affect on those around you? This is not to say that you be yourself sheerly for the the affect of alienating others, but being your own person and letting others accept you that way, regardless of how it affects the closeness of the relationship.

When I think of who I am, I cannot do so without thinking about how much of who I am is based on the people I have met over the years, and both the positive and negative affects that they have had upon me in that time. It is hard, also, to not think of the struggles and successes that I have had in my life that have, also, lead to my being right here, right now, in this life.

Obviously some of this is obvious. If you look at your youth, you can see that you were shaped, in large part, by your parents and other close family. As you grew older, the other adults that you met and your teachers, added to the person you would one day become. As you grew, both mentally and physically, you saw things in those people that you decided you liked, or disliked, and added them to your own personality, creating a mulligan stew personality, of sorts. This, in turn and over time, lead to who you became as an adult. Like a good stew, it takes time for all the pieces to merge and become that one thing that is you.

I encourage you to try a little mental exercise. Look at your talents, traits, opinions and anything else about yourself, and follow it back. See if you can identify why you feel the way you do about something, and where you might have gotten that opinion.

It really is an interesting exercise in and of itself, because sometimes you may not realize how you came to some of your thoughts on certain things.

As I see it… We ARE all individuals. But we would not be who we are without the interaction and guidance of others. Whether we realize it at the time or not, every person that we meet or interact with, provides that little nudge that eventually leads us to who we are now and it does not stop there. We are constantly changing and growing. You may not have the same opinions and ideas ten years from now that you do today, this is just the way things work.

Who am I?

I am that which I have become, through the guidance of the Friends, Family, enemies, loved ones and strangers that have made up my life. Through my interaction with them, I have become the best person that I can be, and I am not done yet. This is a process I will go through until the day I take my final rest.

Things I learned watching Charles Bronson movies

A week or so ago there was a Bronson marathon on TV. They showed all the “Death Wish” movies, so I sat down and watched them. To be fair, this is not the first time that I have seen them. I watched them all several years ago, and back then I enjoyed them for the violence factor… like anyone of my age, at the time. I can only say that it was probably a testosterone thing.

Today, when I see them, it is fun to watch them, but the thing that I liked about then seems to be gone. When I watched the series this last time, I could not see the same thing in them that I did way back when.

So… in watching the shows this time, I was not able to keep from taking them apart, so here are the things I learned in watching them:

1. It is much easier to get military class weapons that you and I thought.
2. With all their training and drilling, FBI, Police, Etc… are very poor shots, and could not hit the broad side of a barn with an elephant.
3. The fatality of getting shot is inversely proportional to your importance in the plot of the story being told.
4. Almost any villain can be dissuaded from attacking you, if you have a clever one-liner.
5. No one notices a heavily armed white guy in a predominantly ethnic ‘hood.
6. Gang members take their fashion queues from the the 1980’s.
7. DO NOT fall in love, the person will die shortly.
8. Most cops and ministers have something to hide.
9. Guns will always jam when you need them most.
10. If you have a good monologue, the bad guy will always let you finish it before you shoot them.

Granted… there are probably more, but I am tired, so I will stop now.

Thanks for your time.

Car shopping for the recently insane

I have recently purchased a car… Not a new car, mind you, but new to me. I can tell you one thing, though. This has been more nerve wracking that anything I have gone through in some time. My word of advice to everyone is this: If you are suicidal, have a tendency towards violent emotional outbursts, have been known to start speaking in tongues when in the presents of used car sales people or have uncontrollable fits and spasms when someone says, “Let me go talk to my manager.” If any of these describe your state of mind, then please do yourself and the legal system a favor and go pick yourself out a good ten-speed. As for the rest of you, please read on.

As any of you who might know me will understand, my last vehicle sucked. I drove a 1997 GMC Jimmy that had been nothing short of a money pit since I bought it. Luckily I also bought a warranty package, so much of the money that it has sucked, in the beginning, was from the dealer. This was my vehicle for eight years… and yes, I was surprised with I realized that I had had it that long as well.

Going into this process, I laid out three vehicles I was interested in, and kept it to that. In order of importance, here is that list: 1. Honda Ridgeline, 2. Chrysler Pacifica, and 3. Hyundai Sante Fe. Now I can already hear some of you out there groaning about the Hyundai, but let me tell you something. I was actually surprised to learn that they have come a long way and turned out to be a pretty good car maker these days. I was not, in the least, hesitant to look at a Sante Fe or a Tucson by them.

My final decision was based on the current market and the fact that I was made a very good deal on the car. It was the 2006 Chrysler Pacifica, touring edition. I wanted the Honda Ridgeline, but with the current credit crunch, Honda (and a few other dealers) are extremely tight on their policies and restrictions for whom they finance. I can accept this, as I will be the first to say that I have not been a saint with respect to my credit. I have had issues and events that have broken down my rating.

I can say, though, that my experience was not completely unpleasant. The only down side to the shopping experience was giving my cell phone and home address to Barber Honda. Even after I advised them that I was going with another dealer and not interested in them, I continued to get calls and letters from them. The place that really helped us with locating a car and the purchase process was a company called Autoland. Since my wife works with a credit union here locally, she got us in touch with a gentleman by the name of Lenny Garifo, who went out of his way to get us into what we wanted, and at the price point we were looking for. If you are a member of a credit union that uses Autoland, and get to the point where you are looking for a vehicle, then I suggest you look into them.

In the end, I think I ended up with a pretty good car that is very comfortable. Best of all… it is nice to enjoy driving again.

“The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated…”

I would like to start by thanking the great Samuel Clemens for the above comment. I figured that since it has been a while since my last post, that I would borrow some of his work for my explanation.

Nope… Cannot think of anything else to add to that.

I do apologize for the lack of anything smart in the way of posts recently. The company I work for has been in the process of a migration from Novell to Active Directory, and it has been a little taxing.

The is a lot for me to talk to you all about, and I have a few things I am working on, but they will have to wait a little longer.

Thanks to you all for hanging in there.

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