high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bonding with family over the holidays

In a few short hours Nate and I will be heading back to Columbus after our annual visit to Austintown to give thanks for the Pilgrims landing safely and settling in Plymouth Colony, directly leading to our ability today to watch television on screens of epic proportions while wearing jeans with purposefully-placed holes in them.  Thank you Pilgrims!  We salute your efforts!  And you too, Squanto!

We probably would have stayed for an extra day up here in A-town, but as many people are aware, tomorrow is Ohio State's annual contest with the University of M*chigan (more popularly known in certain circles as scUM), and it seemed like the right thing to do to be in Columbus.  Needless to say, The Game directly leads to our ability to get totally wasted and use vulgar language of epic proportions, no doubt with Jim Tressel's smiling stamp of approval.  I consider it my personal opportunity to symbolically pummel scUM professor Dave Ulrich, as our boys in Scarlet & Gray (with an "a," always with an "a") run all over the Maize & Shit.  Thank you Jim Tressel!  Thank you college football!  And you too, Squanto!

It would be quite awesome if Jim Tressel actually had a stamp of approval.  Certainly many things come across his desk that need his authorization, so it only makes sense that he would get a stamp rather than signing everything.  A stamp is kind of like a status symbol, because when you get your own stamp you are publicly declaring that you are important, because only important people sign so many things that a stamp is warranted.  But it's a fine line, knowing when to get your own stamp rather than continuing to sign everything.  At times when you see a stamp, you think "Wow, this person is awesome!  They have their own stamp!"  But at other times when you see a stamp you think "Uh, this person has an over-inflated sense of their own importance.  They do not need their own stamp."  A Jim Tressel stamp would be in the "wow awesome" category, clearly.  And obviously his stamp should be the outline of a sweater vest.

Tonight a variety of festivities will take place.  I'm hopeful to go to both Haiku for the consumption of raw fish and Dick's Den for the consumption (via ear) of raw bluegrass.  The thought occurred to me a couple weeks ago that it would be nice to find a good jazz club in Columbus, both for this weekend and any other weekend, but thus far nothing has really stood out.  When you Google-search for jazz places in Columbus, both Haiku and Dick's Den actually make the list, with Dick's Den even being one of the most recommended choices.  However, although I do like both of these places, they aren't really what I have in mind.  I'm thinking of a place where the lights are dim, any conversation is hushed, smoke is in the air, and for the most part the focus is on the music, which includes a drum set, a stand-up bass, maybe a sax, and at least one trumpet.  You know, a jazz club, like the one Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx go to in Collateral.  A place where you don't talk too much, you just chill out and listen to the music.  Execution of the trumpet player because he ratted out Felix would be optional, and probably not recommended, because then you couldn't go back to the jazz club.

Working out at the rec center down the street has been going well.  I'm trying to focus primarily on strengthening my legs and lower back, and to a lesser extent my stomach.  Only one day is really dedicated to upper-body exercises, and I'm doing push-ups rather than bench press.  I find it interesting that whenever people want to hear about how strong you are, they'll ask how much you can bench.  And then when people want to see how strong you are, they'll say "show me your muscles," and you flex your biceps.  Logic check: Bench press does not give you big biceps.  Also, let it be noted that lower body is probably the most important section to focus on, as it gets the most practical use every day.  So what I'm saying is, if someone asks how strong you are, you should really flex your quadriceps for them.  Just warn them before you take off your pants.

While in Austintown for the holiday I obviously couldn't work out at the rec center, so I just used the weight set in Mom and Dad's basement.  They also have an elliptical machine, so I used that for a bit after using the weights.  To watch something while using the elliptical I flipped on the TV with the intent of finding a basketball game, but paused when I came across Goldeneye on another station.  Some movies have excellent repeat watchability, and Goldeneye is one of them.  It's always hard to pass up if you see it.  Goldeneye represented a "new" Bond era with Pierce Brosnan, and became one of the best Bond films ever, although it wasn't based on any of the original books.  Good plot, good balance of action with dialogue, and a good Bond girl in Izabella Scorupco (yow!).  In a typical pattern, the later films went downhill a bit, so it would be nice to see if the Daniel Craig era can actually produce a film that is better than his first, Casino Royale.  Although the dialogue and girl are vital, you've got to start with intriguing plot content.  Here are my suggestions for the next Bond film:

  • Have one good car chase, and maybe one section of the movie on a boat.  Don't overdo it by trying to include a car chase, a boat chase, a plane chase, and a train chase.  The car chase is best because you can have all kinds of twists and turns, while in a plane or boat you're just in wide open space.  However, having part of the movie on the water is good, because it creates interesting opportunities for get-aways while still making you feel like the characters are sort of confined to a limited space (the boat), which adds suspense.
  • Have hand-to-hand combat, and allow each character one "weapon of choice."  The idea here is to create a memorable, creative scene by having Bond and the band guy face off in a test of strength and agility, not just shooting accuracy, but still give them something to fight with rather than just punching each other.  Good weapon options would be some equivalent of a ball-and-chain for the bad guy, and a post-hole digger for Bond.
  • The bad guy should be trying to do something like start a war between two countries, or perhaps disgrace a head of state.  I realize that about five minutes into the film nobody remembers what the bad guy is actually trying to accomplish, just that there is a bad guy and that they're trying to do something bad.  But still, there is more suspense when something is at stake like honor and pride (think of how the Three Musketeers were always trying to protect Queen Anne's dignity from the machinations of the Cardinal).  Nobody really cares if the bad guy is trying to start a financial crisis.  I think people would actually like it if the financial industry collapsed in a movie.
  • Give M an "M" stamp, and have 2-3 scenes of her stamping papers.
  • Have a scene where people blend into the crowd at some event, like a masked ball.  This always works in movies, and makes things more visually interesting than just another warehouse shootout.  Think of The Fugitive, when Harrison Ford blends into the St. Patrick's Day parade.  Great scene, right?  Plus, in a masked ball you'd be adding in color, which helps make the movie better.  In Casino Royale, the poker-playing scenes were more intriguing because of the lavish color in the hotel, the chips and table, etc.  On a side note, it still bothers me that they played poker in the film rather than baccarat.
  • Bond should suffer a significant injury, thus making it necessary for the girl to save him once or rendering him unable to save the girl at some point.  The injury scene should be a memorable scene in the movie, like Bond gets some of his fingers cut off or something.  This should come into play again later in the movie in various ways, like if Bond is trying to pull something through a small opening and he's able to do it because he's missing two fingers.  Then again, maybe the injury needs to be more significant, because then Bond could have some rehabbing scenes.  Everybody likes an underdog/comeback story.  Although if he gets his fingers cut off then you could have the bad guy get his fingers cut off at the very end, too.
  • The bad guy should not be Russian, North Korean, Middle Eastern, or even South American.  He should be from somewhere like Malaysia, or maybe Canada.
  • Have two scenes where Bond needs to visit people to get information or make a deal or something.  These scenes provide opportunities to introduce other interesting characters, add plot elements, and feature other geographic locations.  One of these scenes should be in a jazz club. 
That's about all you could fit into one movie!  Spend time getting the dialogue right, add an appropriately hot and reasonably self-sufficient Bond girl (who is not a secret agent herself), and you're ready to slap a title on it.  My suggestion is something suitably vague yet arousing, like Midnight Revelation.  The title song would be performed by a slightly drunk and consequently scratchy-voiced Michael Buble.  

"So when is this Bond guy showing up?"
"I don't know.  I'm gonna go back to playing my trumpet.  I'm working on a new number called Midnight Revelation."
"Here's a revelation: I am Bond, and I'm here to kill you."
"I thought you were Ethan Hunt?"

Monday, November 15, 2010

The heat is coming around the corner, and it's walking a little white fluffy dog

This weekend marked a return journey to the Pacific Coast to see Divya, thus doubling the number of times I've gone to the West.  It was a good trip, and Orange County was, predictably, sunny and gay.  It's quite a contrast at this time of year, when the cold weather has arrived in Columbus.  Columbus is gay at this time of year too, just in a different sense of the word (it doesn't really change with the seasons).  Orange County has plenty of that kind of gay as well, but I think Columbus probably "wins the battle."  Ha!  Take that Orange County.  You just got out-gayed.

Indeed, Columbus is known as a fairly "gay" city.  We're also known for dining and food, being a sort of testing ground for new dining options.  People in Columbus apparently like eating (I sure do), and so not surprisingly it is easy to find fat people in Columbus.  If you wanted to play a game with a friend where you went out in public to see who could spot more fat people, it would be a high-scoring affair in Columbus.  In Orange County there are very few fat people, unless they're all hiding indoors eating.  Walking around outside, there seriously are no fat people.  And there are lots of people to see outside, because along the coast everyone spends time outside in the sun, going about their merry business.  One of the main reasons why there are no fat people in Orange County is probably the fact that there are no fast food joints at which to get cheap, unhealthy food.  No joke - you have to search hard to find a McDonald's.  They are simply nowhere to be found.  It goes without saying that there are no Burger Kings, Taco Bells, Wendy's, or Arby's either.  Why is this?  Well, while Columbus is known for food, Orange County is known for absurd wealth.  What would a world look like if money was no object?  It would look like a world without McDonald's.

In place of fast food restaurants, you have a lot of small eateries all over the place.  While there may not be a market for McDonald's in the area, I would say that people in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach definitely like to eat out, because the cafes are abundant and well-frequented.  I think that's part of the culture - getting out in the sun, walking around the beach and all the little shops, and eating out at various cafes.  This is like the ideal lifestyle, right?  In Laguna Beach there's a nice spot along the beach where they have some basketball courts and volleyball courts, and a playground and benches and stuff.  Well, on a regular workday you can go there and find a group of 50-something guys, just hanging out in their shorts and flip-flops, shirtless and tanned to the max, shooting hoops and joking around.  It's like being in college, but at a point in life where most people get enthused about having a commute that was 10 minutes less than the usual drive, after a day at work that didn't totally suck.  After shooting hoops the guys would head off to some sidewalk cafe to have a beer.  And at the sidewalk cafe you could likely spot a "housewife" with a lap dog in her lap, tanned to the max, having just come from a nail appointment at the salon, where both the woman and the dog would have gotten their nails done.

It's easy to see why California has energy consumption problems, because driving along the highway at night you see lights for miles and miles around.  When you consider the amount of energy being consumed it really is staggering.  Not to mention that along the highway there is a constant flow of traffic, day and night.  High-speed, high-density traffic.  In the movie Heat, Robert DeNiro takes the female character back to his apartment, and they're looking out at Los Angeles from his balcony, and he says something about how there are little glowing algae or something in Fiji that look the same as California at night, all lit up in the dark.  Now I know what he's talking about, because it really is like this vast landscape of glowing lights.  Flying back over Ohio on the return journey, you didn't get much in the way of lights until you were pretty close to the city.

Whenever I'm flying into a city (or driving past one) I'm always very interested to see the city's skyline.  This can be hard to do from a plane because the airport is often not that close to the downtown.  The reason I'm so intrigued by skylines is because they are cool to look at, for one thing, but more because I've got something like a Napoleon complex when it comes to Columbus.  It irks me greatly that Columbus is listed as "Columbus, OH" on the airport departures listing, and that Columbus, GA is just listed as "Columbus."  C'mon!  We're a big city!  Right?!  Columbus really hasn't "caught on" as a big city, but I think this could all change if we got some more skyline cred.  A skyline is like the signature of the city, and makes you notable.  Unfortunately, I just don't foresee a lot of new skyscrapers going up in Columbus anytime soon.  Columbus has a decent skyline, but it only has a "wow" factor from very select angles, and only at night.  Since we're not likely to get any new skyscrapers, my suggestion is to just gain instant credibility by constructing a pyramid.  And don't tell me Memphis already tried this, because there was no Egyptian slave labor involved.

Despite these insecurities, this trip once again affirmed for me that Columbus is an okay place.  People aren't in a rush here, and the university area has some personality rather than just being a collection of office and classroom buildings on a pristine, bland campus.  I think all the UC-Irvine students are at the beach, and that's cool, but I don't think they have it quite as good as they might believe, because my impression is that there's no concept of campus life in Irvine.  I wouldn't trade my time at Ohio State for time at the beach.  In a similar way, there isn't a single house - a single one - with an unkempt lawn in Corona Del Mar, but I'll gladly take Richard's hodgepodge clutter of holiday decorations down the street from us over a manicured front lawn any day.

Upon reaching the Pacific, I realized that I had left my sunglasses at home.  On the coast, sunglasses are legitimately an important thing to have, because it is sunny there.  Now, the sunglasses I owned were a sport-style, pseudo wrap-around style that were purchased at Lowe's with the intent of actually being work glasses, because they are shatter proof or something.  Anyway, they are fine sunglasses, but I viewed my forgetfulness as a great opportunity to get a "cool" pair of sunglasses, with light frames and a bit more style, perfect for California.  If you haven't guessed by now, everything in my life relates back to the movie Heat, and perhaps my favorite movie character of all time is Vincent Hanna, as played by Al Pacino.  I love everything about the character, from his intensity to his toughness to the way he says "Don't waste my mutha f*ckin' time!!!"  I actually go around saying this in my head constantly, because despite the fact that my background is in HR, I actually loathe people quite a bit.  That is a joke mostly.  ANYWAY, since Hanna/Pacino is my ideal self, I of course based my sunglass purchase on the sunglasses he wears in Heat.  There is one scene in particular, where Hanna is driving along, sees his step-daughter (played by Natalie Portman) sitting on a bench at the side of the road, and pulls the car around to talk to her.  Hanna loves his step-daughter very much, as she is like the only truly good thing in his life, and so she has his full attention when he pulls up.  She tells him that her dad never picked her up, and that she just wanted to be alone for awhile, and despite the fact that Hanna/Pacino is wearing sunglasses, the sunglasses are slightly transparent, so you can see the intensity in his eyes!  You can see it! That's what I was looking for when I made my sunglass purchase in a Chevron station in Irvine for $8.99 - something that would block UV rays but allow people to see the intensity in my eyes!


Monday, November 8, 2010

What is your profession?

The anticipation for this weekend was that it would be split about 50-35-15 between house work, school work, and real work, in that order.  However, it ended up being more like a 95-5-0 breakdown, as Nate and I pretty much put in two 8-hour days of drywalling this weekend, and then I spent about 30 minutes doing school work tonight.  Well, I guess that makes it more like a 97-3-0 split, but you don't really care, and neither do I, and it even sounds better to say 95-5-0, so let's stay with that.  This different-than-expected apportionment of time was actually a good thing, because we made significant progress toward completing the upstairs, and the long-term value of the homework was/is minimal.

With the drywall, we were affixing 1/4-inch sheets to existing plaster and lath rather than to visible studs, so we used a combination of Liquid Nails (aka glue) and screws.  The screws were mostly for the purpose of bringing the drywall up tight against the existing wall, and not so much for "hanging" it.  At times using the screws was frustrating, as they would not always catch very well on the underlying materials, but overall it went well.  At one point Nate slipped with his screwdriver and rammed the bit right into his fingernail, which both splattered some blood on the drywall and elicited Nate's version of a string of expletives, which was "Grrr."  Not to get too graphic here, but the blood splatter was actually kind of artistic in the way it had a downward sloping droplet appearance.  Think of the movie 300, and the way that the title "300" has a blood splatter look on all the posters.  Actually, don't think, just look here:

It was like the splatter going up from the 3, only it was downward sloping, as I said.  ANYWAY, the point is that it was artsy, and it's a darn shame that it will get painted over eventually.  However, it did get me thinking about art.  You see, Nate and I have a couple works currently in development.  They are two leftover pieces of drywall that we've used as a surface to put paint cans and paint stirring sticks on, as well as to test some colors on.  The effect that these various shapes and colors has produced is rather pleasing to the eye, if you're sophisticated, and so we fully intend to use the pieces of drywall as art in the house when all is said and done.  Framing them is likely.  When you think about it, what makes someone appreciate and enjoy a particular piece of art in a gallery?  For most people, it's just the colors and patterns.  So it seems totally reasonable that these pieces of drywall can serve as artwork in our house.  People will say "Hmm, that's an interesting piece of art."  And we'll say "Yes, it is."  And they'll say "What is it?"  And we'll say "Latex on drywall."  Requests may follow, which will prompt appropriate pricing ($400 to start).  The connection to blood is simply that I've never seen a piece of art in a gallery that has a card next to it saying "Acrylic with human blood."  I find this surprising.  Surely some artist has consciously incorporated this medium into their work, right?

The homework tonight was a continuation of a previous assignment in which we had to create a value proposition for a particular organization.  The company I chose to use for this assignment was my favorite, Aldi.  I love pretty much everything about Aldi.  I interviewed with Aldi during my senior year in college, made it to the Final Four, but then got rejected (or to put it more gently, "Someone else was chosen").  I say the "Final Four" because they literally started with a large group at an informational meeting, invited some number to interviews, and eventually ended up bringing four candidates for on-site interviews and a tour around their operations.  Even though they didn't play the signature CBS Sports "Road to the Final Four" theme when we arrived for the on-site interview, I think that working for Aldi is still my dream job.  The operation is genius.  Ever wonder how they move customers through so quickly with such limited staff?  Well, there are a variety of reasons, but one reason (and probably it's one of the more important reasons) is that their products have bar codes all over them, so there's no need for the cashier to waste time trying to slide the item over the scanner at just the right angle for it to register.  Aldi has taken this so far that they even print the bar codes on their products in such a way that they're like designs on the packaging, so you don't even notice.

My favorite story about Aldi (not that I have that many) comes from my first round of interviewing after the informational session I mentioned above.  I know I've written about this before in one, if not two of my previous blogs, but a good story is worth repeating, or at least that's the perspective I'll take in lieu of saying that I'm like an old man who keeps repeating the same story to people who have already heard it and/or admitting that I don't have any new content for a blog post.  The interview process began in February, and during February in my college days I would participate in Facial Hair February.  During Facial Hair February, guys would (not surprisingly) grow some form of facial hair, preferably a beard.  The real heroes would not shave for the entire month.  So I had my beard going, and I go into this interview with Aldi.  Things go well with the questions and answers, but then at the end the guy interviewing me says "What if I told you that you had to shave your beard?"  I replied "Then I would shave it.  This is just for Facial Hair February."  And he said "Okay.  I was just wondering, because we have a policy that the only facial hair allowed is a neatly trimmed mustache."  At this point I could have very easily be eliminated in the Sweet 16 and never made it to the Final Four, because the obvious temptation at this juncture was to burst into hysterical laughter.  But I maintained my composure and just said "Oh, okay."  Again, I know I'm repeating this story, but I have yet to get over this.  The neatly trimmed mustache: Most frequently seen on the 1950's business man, wearing a fedora and a pin-stripe suit, going home to his wife, who is wearing an apron while bent over the oven, just getting dinner out for her bread-winning husband and two blond children, one boy and one girl.  The woman is happy, because her husband is a winner.  She knew as much when she first saw him, and saw that he had a neatly trimmed mustache.  "Now there's a man who will go far in the business world," she thought.  And so did the man's superiors at work, who smoke cigarettes in the board room and also have neatly trimmed mustaches.

I want to reiterate that I love Aldi and it is my dream to one day work for that fine company, and this policy is actually just one more reason why I want to work there.  In HR, we learn all about discrimination and reasonable accommodations and bona-fide occupational qualifications, and how to deal with these issues appropriately in the hiring process, and it totally kills me that Aldi considers it a qualification of the job to have no more than a neatly trimmed mustache.  They cannot - nay, will not accommodate a beard.

The only other news from the weekend is that we celebrated Daylight Savings Time by falling back one hour.  Festivities included balloons, streamers, a bonfire, slaughtering the fatted calf, and sleeping in for an extra hour.  I was extra glad for the extra hour this year, because I had taken some Flexeril earlier in the day, which made me drowsy.  I know, I know - some people pop Flexeril four at a time and have no problem working through the day, but I'm unable to do this.  As much as I'd like to be like some wild man requiring at least three tranquilizers to even slow me down while fleeing from the police, the fact of the matter is that I haven't built up my tolerance to such substances.  This is a good thing, right?  The reason for "indulging" in a Flexeril over the weekend was because my return to running has caused some serious muscle stiffness and pain, as well as further aggravating some back pain, which was caused by some dead lifts earlier in the week.  And the only reason the dead lifts caused back pain is because I can't use truly good form on dead lifts, because my stupid legs are so tight to begin with!  The most accurate way to describe my hamstrings and achilles tendons is to say that they are "ludicrously tight."  Seriously, when I went for some PT a few years ago (for back pain!), the therapists were trying to stretch out my hamstrings, and they were like "Oh my goodness!  This is ridiculous!"  My tight muscles = my bane.  You only have so much time to invest in various activities, and if I was really going to invest the time to get my hamstrings and other muscles stretched out each day, then I'd probably have to give up things like eating, sleeping, and most other daily activities.  There needs to be a society or something for people with tight hamstrings, where we can bitch and moan to each other, and do our pathetic stretches together, and pop Flexeril.  Either that or there needs to be advances in medical science so that hamstring replacement becomes an available operation, like knee replacements.  That would be awesome - to just "unhook" the original hamstring and replace it with a nice, stretchy one.  Raising funds (and awareness, of course) for hamstring replacement research will have to be one of the main goals for the Society.

Back in my day, we called them "calisthenics."  Also, there were no blogs, so we didn't have every jackass with a gripe voicing their complaints to the world.