Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Odd Quotes

It becomes rote. You miss little miracles.
The problem is, that if you repeat something over and over again, it loses it's meaning. Our lives for example. You watch the sunset too often, it just becomes 6pm. If you just keep waking up and keeping it moving, one day you'll forget why you're making the effort. You"ll make the same mistakes over and over, and you stop calling them mistakes. This is why we should take chances. This is why we should chase our dreams. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

And Boom, there goes your bracket...

Ramblings Post #260
I'm just curious as to why Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans only offered a billion dollars. I mean, since nobody was going to win it, why not offer five or ten billion? As I understand it, only the first day of games have been played and more than 99% of the participants are already eliminated. So the only real winner was the intended winner: Quicken Loans...who now have your information. That you gave them. Willingly. Isn't America grand? 

Well, it's the first day, and here we are. Around 9pm last night I wondered if I could sue the NCAA selection committee for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Really, North Dakota? Okay, I picked Harvard, but Dayton? Kiss. My. Ugh.


Oh, well. More ball today. Should I keep watching, or maybe I'll just load me up some Grand Theft Auto V? Oh, I'm a glutton for punishment. Where is my remote?

Barkeep. Just a beer. Cold. Whatever.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How To Put Together Your Bracket

Ramblings Post #259
March. Wasn't it supposed to warm about now? Hello? Can I get a little heat up in here. I'd like to thank that California station for their bold musical effort to end winter, but I'll guess we'll just have to move on. Basketball! This used to mean the start of the Atlanta Pro Party Circuit. Ah, the good old days.

My brother is not a sports fan, not really. For years he seemed amazed that I would devote time and attention to following my favorite football team. Only recently has he started following a team of his own, the exact rationale of which I'm not sure, although at one point he articulated his interest as the game being a small metaphor for life: No matter what happened on the last play, you have to line for the next play, etc. He may have another motivation now, but I don't know what it is.

This life long attitude is why I wasn't surprised when he asked me about NCAA brackets a week or so ago. I think he's doing this because in his office, much like in every other office in America, it's a thing you do. Print a bracket, put in $5 bucks, and comment on it going forward. Realizing the truth of the matter, that the lottery has better odds, I've taken a few moments to put together a little primer to get him and all the rest of you interested in donating to office pool started.

Step 1. Watch every college basketball game, keeping track of who did what.

I realize that this step is long and tedious, and at this point will require a time machine, two cases of red bull, a unlimited pizza account and a cray supercomputer. Since this particular step may prove a bit pricey and difficult for most, so let's chuck this one and start over. But, if you can afford it, get the time machine with XM, you're gonna be in there a while.

New Step 1.  Print out a bracket.

If you can't find a printable bracket online, you might want to just go ahead and let this go now. Just donate that $5 to the office pool and tell everyone you'll submit it later, then pretend to get busy and forgot. Yeesh, everybody has one. ESPN, CBS Sports, NCAA, Slate, everybody. Okay, I don't have one on here, but I know everyone else does. Just type "printable bracket" into Google. You may need to just type "printable br" and auto fill in will get it.

Step 2. Pretend to do some research.

Traipsing about I found this wonderful tool on HuffPost, which also has a printable bracket. It's a research thing type bracket dealie whatsits that lets you decide how much weight to give to all the pertinent factors - experts, seeding, defense, rebounding - and to all the non-pertinent factors - tuition, graduation rates, etc. Play with it, it's kinda fun.

Or you could read through an ESPN, USA Today or Sporting News article to see who is hurt on which team, who looks hot for the tourney and who is off their game right now. Expert opinions are crucial in pretending to know what you don't know. It won't matter, but do it anyway. Reading is fundamental.

Step 3. Fill in your bracket.

Yes, just fill it in. Let your pretend research guide your hand. Just remember that #1 seeds always beat #16 seeds. Well, there is always a first time they might lose, but what are the odds? And #2 seeds almost always beat #15 seeds. Almost always. After that it gets, well, I want to say tricky but I'm gonna say easy. Pick the higher seed unless you know the team, in which case pick the team you know, unless you know one of the coaches, then pick the coach. Unless of course you know which team has the more prominent shoe contract, or if you read an article about them, in which case flip a coin. Not rock paper scissors, that would be unscientific. If you know a player or a water-boy, pick that team, unless it's Wednesday and you had fries with lunch, then pick the team with dark colored jerseys. Unless the coach has a G in his name. Now, if it's Tuesday and you use a Mac, pick the team whose mascot comes first in the alphabet, otherwise, you'll need some soup bones, some chicken blood and then draw a circle on the ground with 64 numbers around it. Let me look up the spell you'll need.

Your pretend research should have also revealed a few "bracket busters", teams which nobody expected to win and which ruins cumulative wins by removing a team everyone thought would go far. Actually it won't, I'm just playing. You won't see them either, heck, half their fans won't, but it's nice to pretend you did see it, so claim you meant to pick them, but hedged your pick.

Step #4. Relax. 

If anyone asks how you're doing, you always have to "Go check your brackets." Never have it handy. In reality, the only person paying that close attention after day one is the person running the pool. If it's online, he's not even doing that. Feel free to use the phrase, "I think I got that one" after a victory or loss if anyone asks. No one expects you know all the teams or all your picks.

The weird part is I've actually won my office pool in the past. I don't know how, I was told that I did and I accepted my winnings. Just so you know, the odds of picking a perfect bracket, getting all the teams right, are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. I was nowhere near perfect. You see, you don't have to beat those odds, you have to only get luckier than anyone in your pool. As the tourney proceeds, few of the expected winners are going to have off nights and lose. There will be a Cinderella story that will fizzle out before its all over. But in the end we'll all get to see some pretty good basketball, and that's what counts.  

Barkeep, I'll need a bucket of beers, a thing of nachos, a bowl of peanuts, the wing appetizer, and double order of ribs. I don't know if anyone else wants anything. And no, I'm not leaving for a while.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Truly Living

Ramblings Post #258
There are hard questions in life. Should I stand here and let her go or chase after her? Do I take a chance and jump? Should I put ketchup on my hotdog and damn Chicago? Does the toilet paper hang over the top or from the bottom? You know, tough questions. And sometimes we get an answer. Not because we thought hard about it or weighed all the factors to reach a reasonable solution, but because we're so shocked the question answered itself. Which is why we need to learn to step up, even if we're wrong. And for the record, toilet paper hangs over the top.

I was asked the question recently : Do you know how to truly live? I answered with the legal professional staple: Depends. And by that I meant that the asker of the question has to define what is truly living, from their viewpoint.

Is living a constant seat of pants adventure, a being only in the now experience devoid limitations and fears created by past failure and to whom the of the ambiguity of  future consequence is but delicious
possibility, filled with the highs and lows that come from happy accidents, fortunate mistakes, or even terrible decisions and trusting that what comes as an undeniable inevitable?

Or is living a meticulous attention to detail, a constant drive for betterment and self improvement, an
existence checking off the boxes of an per-ordained existence structured by societal ideals mixed with
expectations created by loving family, faithful friends and seductive commercial marketing?

Because most of us live neither. (Although there are some single women I know whom I had in mind when I made up second group.) To some it is going to be caring for family, raising good kids, being a good neighbor. For others it will turn out to be seeing the sunset off the coast of Morocco, a wine tasting in Rome and swimming with the dolphins. And some will locate it chasing their dreams until their souls bleed to exclusion of all else, leaving their mark on the world, being remembered. For most however, it will be a mix of all of this because most of us aren't one-dimensional. We'll want the school recitals and the surfboard lessons, meticulous in this, carefree in that.

Sadly, although many are loathe to admit it, there is no blueprint to a "correct" way of living, one universally recognized as the one path. Many will profess to be able to sell it to you, but I suggest you keep your receipt. Some will find it in religion. Others find it in sport. Still others find it at the bottom of a empty glass. Well, maybe not find it, but I'm fairly certain they feel if the keep looking it will be there one day. No, we have to remember that the concept of "living truly" is what WE make it.

Living is personal. So "truly living" is one of the most personal things you can do.

Barkeep. I swear the answer to life is the bottom of the next glass. Well, maybe not life, but this week for sure. But note, if I do find it at the bottom of this first one, I'll need to check a few more just make to sure.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Fast Movie Pitch

Ramblings Post #257
Thank you for seeing me, I know I only have five minutes but I think you're gonna see that this idea is a blockbuster. Or an Oscar winner. Or will at least let you complete a look see agreement to get you out of a contract! It's got everything, love, action, salamanders, cowboys, space pirates, and a forty piece jazz band playing the Star Spangled Banner underwater! What? Leave it on the table and you'll get to it? Sure, my card is attached! We'll do lunch! Call me. 

Every now and then I get a movie idea. Something mildly topical, sometimes just stupid, but it's always something I have to commit to a medium (i.e., write down) just to get it out of my head. Otherwise it will rattle around in there, as I nit-pick at it trying to improve on it but never doing anything about it. Not remake ideas, which I'm still going to post, or ideas about how to improve something, but original ideas that just coalesce full blown in my head. So, the ones I don't think I'll ever make (because once I get some money, I will be shooting some movies, believe that) I'm going to start putting up. Ideas, treatments,  outlines, or whatever if you will. Not that anyone will ever see them. Maybe.

Note: I wrote this like last summer, so some of it might not be as ground breaking as first envisioned. 

Story: It's the biggest college football game of the year, with the two biggest rivals facing each other to close out their season, both ranked #1 and #2. It's the lead up week and we see the media frenzy.

The Punch: The head coaches are childhood friends, long time rivals, are gay and in love with each other. One's wife has died, the other wife knows but loves him anyway (older generation thing). The two coaches are tired of living a lie, first plan to test the waters, get a middling approval of sorts privately and then retire quietly, together. 

Tension: One of them has cold feet, and while their coaching staffs and others are accepting a couple of boosters get wind of it and are sure that not only will there will be backlash, they don't want to lose their coach, a great new recruit draw. A player admits to one of the coaches that he's gay and the coach is conflicted with counseling him to stay in the closet so as to not affect his NFL stock while he is himself contemplating coming out. The two coaches decide to come out together after the game...on the field during the press rush.

Resolution: The coaches get separated on the field, but come out together as a couple during the press conference. There is some backlash, one coach loses his job, the other the school stands behind. They move in together and it ends with the fired coach being offered an analyst position on a major network...

At this point maybe lose the gay NFL player angle as tension, as it's happening in real life. Not really a football movie, there is very little action, more a drama played out with football as the backdrop. I thought it could be a touching story, kind of Oscar bait if you get the right actors for the leads. I mean they made 2012. They made it.   

Barkeep. Let me a get a tall Stoli with a dash of soda and lime. Then get me a phone.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Odd Quotes

Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o
"My mother again would say to me you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you …And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”
~ Lupita Nyong’o

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Have I got a deal for you...

This is a political post.

I'll be honest, the first time I looked since this "dust-up" I had a little trouble finding the Ukraine on the map...and I like looking at maps. But I didn't comment because a) I had other priorities and b) and didn't know all the facts, except that the photos made it look like a baby civil war taking its first steps. And as it turned out, I was right.

The pictures I glanced at of the Yanukovych's estate were impressive, and the boat restaurant was a nice touch. In my opinion, I think his departure may have allowed them to sidestep a great deal of bloodshed, despite the deceptively named "military exercises" Russia's has decided to have and the mysterious troops with no insignia who just happen to speak Russian. Sure, not Russian though. Really. Sure.

So what to do? How about Ukraine just sell Russia the Crimean peninsula?

Why you ask? Because that's what it's all about. Unlike our own forays in retaliation in Afghanistan or outright revenge in Iraq, the Russian's major goal right now is securing the port of Sevastopol. This city on the Black Sea is the home of the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet. Without Sevastopol, their ability to field a navy in Atlantic ocean is severely hampered for six months a year by this pesky thing called ice. It is a major strategic point, hence the designation geopolitical argument. This major base became part of the Ukraine in 1991 when they declared independence and since the Russians have LEASING it from Ukraine. Because they had no choice.

And geopolitically speaking, even as a novice, I'm going to guess that having your main southern military port under your own control is generally a preferable situation.

Up until a few weeks ago, the ownership mechanic wasn't really a problem, because Ukraine relied on Russia for quite a bit of its resources meaning even the previous western leaning leaders had understood their role. Despite overtures from the EU about membership the then current Yanukovych government was pretty much pro-Russian. This would be understandable after Russia cut-off the gas in 2006 and 2009 during the winter months, plunging the country into cold and darkness, to pressure the government to be pro-Russian. The whole thing was a sham of sorts, independent but not really. However, a large part of the general population did and still do believe the ruse and are interested in joining the European Union. Hence this, well, let's be honest, coup of sorts.

So, again, how about Ukraine just sell Russia the Crimean peninsula for 150 billion rubles? Or maybe just Sevastopol, the surrounding ten or fifteen miles for 100 billion, and we'll throw in the undercoating, no charge?

As it appears, Ukraine will have be split into it's East, West and Crimea component parts, which is already a stye in Putin's eye - he wanted it whole in his quest to rebuild old Russia. No, he's got to walk away with something. So Sevastopol, which is home to five Russian naval units including subs and surface ships, and where they're already "protecting" Russians frightened by recent events would be the perfect prize.

You see, while the Republicans here scream at the top of their lungs that this whole event exposes a truth, that Obama's foreign policy appears weak to the rest of the world, the reality is that Putin letting his country's major southern military port slip out of his hands will actually make him weak.

Further, here is an opportunity to learn from our previous mistakes in um, ...Nation Advising? Effectively the EU and America are now backing an off brand coup, which is some ways is reminiscent of change friction in Egypt - the banning of political parties, sweeping changes that upset the general populace, etc. Which means the whole thing could fall apart as quickly as that did. So even when this tense part is over, this whole thing is not gonna be over soon. But just so we're clear, everybody needs to holster their weapons and clear their throats. Words are needed here. Careful well thought out words.

But first things first. Putin. He's not leaving the Crimean peninsula. Way too much at stake. And they think we're all for sale anyway. So, Tell you what, Sevastopol, the land and a I'll throw in a flat screen TV. Forty inch plasma. 95 billion. My manager is gonna kill me. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Is This What You Were Going For? AKA: Watching Syfy's Helix

Ramblings Post #256
When I was younger they used to have these things called soap operas that came on in the afternoon for your homemaker's entertainment. Maybe they still do, I dunno, but on these soap operas, it was a serialized story where the most ridiculous things happened and we all just went along with it. People would get married eight or nine times, kidnapped six or seven and come back from the dead if the actor signed a new contract. Now that I think about it, soap operas do still exist. They just come on at night now.

I watched an couple of episodes of Helix, this horror show pretending to be science fiction and had to stop watching. I thought I'd be able to work with this because unlike so many shows this one promises to have all it's major questions answered by the end of season one, but I just could not do it. It wasn't the silliness of the science - fifteen nanometers? Really? With just a plain old microscope? - or the zombies by a different name, or any of the other ridiculous setups...it's fiction, I get it. But how the show set up the premise and the rules and then proceeded to completely ignore them ten minutes later is just too much. 

Let's see, the story starts with a crack team of CDC scientists who fly into a top secret facility situated above the 83rd parallel, where apparently no law applies because it's really really cold. There, a company called Arctic Biosystems has been working on, something, only now they have a problem, because a virus has developed.
Our Hero, Dr. Farragut - Photo via Syfy
First problem - At some point the youngest of the agents proclaims to some people in quarantine that
they have "full jurisdiction." Only they don't. According to the show nobody has jurisdiction. And this would forgiven except this the same person who pointed out the lack of jurisdiction just one show ago. But maybe this is hyperbole to quiet the patients who are getting agitated. I'll grant that this is more nitpicking than anything else.

The joint is run by your non-denominational Asian I'm going to assume is your bad guy mad scientist who pretends to be helpful but is plotting on his own to do...well, something. The head of security is his adopted son tough guy who looks like a giant marshmallow. The army Sargent whose supposed to be the military support is sending secret messages and doesn't seem at all interested in solving the mystery.

Second Problem - Who called the CDC? The first time you see the bad guy mad scientist (BGMS) he's leaning over one of the first victims, eyes aglow with delight at his find, calling it "progress." He wouldn't want the CDC there. He controls the information in and out. The head of security follows him like he's in a cult, so not him either. If you need to placate the scientists, why not call in a fake CDC team, declare the whole thing over and get on with your day?

Now this facility is a massive structure in the middle of downtown nowhere, shaped like a new age
football stadium. How they achieved that...no roads, no boats, just ice mind you, is just off the scale believable of course (insert sarcasm). Of course it has to be that large so that the air vents are big enough to crawl through, but that's coming up in like twenty minutes, hold on. Now, when the CDC arrives, the BGMS informs the them that this base in the middle of nowhere holds 160 scientists, of various disciplines.

Third Problem
- The CDC arrives, looks around and decides to let the base run as usual, we'll figure this all out. But it's just four of them. They couldn't ask the staff of scientists (who by episode 2 are getting antsy) to say, help out? Even if only 20 of the onsite scientists are qualified, isn't twenty people working on it better than just four people spread really thin?

Peter Farragut - our infectee - Photo via Syfy
Which leads to the fourth problem immediately. At the start of the second episode the first zombie-like infectee (who just happens to the head of the CDC team's brother who slept with his ex-wife who also happens to be on this CDC team - oh the luck!) slips out of the ventilation ducts and breaks into a section, infecting six people, three of whom run off. The heroic head of the CDC orders everyone to their rooms, and for everyone to only travel in pairs.

So why are the two CDC agents in peril in the first half of the episode doing exactly the opposite?  The old wise woman scientist is working alone in the half-monkey lab in the basement? Knock knock, zombie like creature. The youngest agent goes to the medical supply room alone. Knock knock, zombie like creature? Really? I understand where they might not follow the rules of reality, this is fiction after all, but then you can't follow the rules you JUST MADE UP? These silly setups were followed by a half assed quarantine, the patients (all doctors!) clearly displaying one of the signs the CDC says to look for but everyone ignoring it, a heavy handed reveal that that wasn't so much a hint as it was a lazy writing cliche and boom...the big horror finale. And that's where the free episodes stop.

Now I realize the time line and social circles are all condensed for television, so some of this is be
expected. I mean the weeks or months it would normally take to track what virus actually looked like
would be ridiculously boring television, so eh. But still, the show is supposed to have each episode equal roughly one day, so maybe you can stretch things out a little more? And while there is boring TV there is also stupid TV.  This is the latter. They keep saying "I've never seen anything like it" and "we don't know what it is," then why don't they act like it? And I keep getting horror cliches from the skeletons, blood spatters and people looking over their shoulder seeing nothing then BAM! Monster. Er..zombie like infectee. That's not good television, and I shouldn't be able to guess what's coming this frequently. The upbeat waiting room music they play to keep the viewer off balance quickly becomes annoying as well. I'd looked a review that said this is good, only to realize that the reviewer was lying.

This to me creates what I consider a counter productive trend in niche television. You've got a serial show, where people need to watch every episode to understand what's going on. I watched the two episodes online, then watched the current episode I and I have no clue what happened in between. The latest episode has new characters, new alliances, but hey, the big horror finale was addressed. I think. The BGMS is tied up in a room. If something else key happened, I don't know. Because as it turns out, unless I give them money  - because I THINK the other episodes are unlockable online due to the key symbol over the episodes - I'll never know what else the writers decided. But honestly, with the writing so hokey, I'm not all that interested in finding out. Yeah, lose an episode and you got no reason to watch anymore. So I'm out playa, ya'll at Helix have a good run.

Barkeep. I'll need a glass of white wine and a small plate of the crab cakes. Thanks. And could you turn to ESPN. Cool.