Thursday, November 30, 2006

If I had a million dollars

I love the musical group The Bare Naked Ladies. I even went to see them live last month. They put on an excellent show. They have a funny and thought provoking song that has been creeping into my brain a bit lately: "If I had a Million Dollars" The song totally collided with my appreciation/love/fascination with the movie "Office Space", in which there is a scene where the characters discuss the tactic of some high school guidance counselor helping you figure out your ultimate career by asking you what you would do if you had a million dollars. One of the characters points out that "the question is bull shit to begin with. If everyone listened to her there would be no one to be janitors because no on would clean shit up if they had a million dollars."

What would you do if you had a million dollars? Does this desire point to your ultimate career?

For me, it doesn't. A million dollars just isn't what it used to be. As much as I love the music of the Bare Naked Ladies, the final line from their song just doesn't hold water: "I'd be rich." Nope. A million dollars in the bank really doesn't make you rich. It takes a lot of the daily economic stress off of you, but it doesn't make you 'rich'.

I would pay off some stupid consumer debt, for starters. I would definitely quite my current job that is 60 minutes from my house. I'd set aside at least 10% of the million for my son's higher education and related expenses. I'd probably finish all the remodeling that my house desperetly needs. Having a million dollars probably wouldn't give me enough financial cushion to work where I'd really like to work, in a book store or library. I could probably take some less intense geek job in NH, where I wouldn't have to spend two hours a day in my car. But, it is enough to think about working just enough to get by.

What would qualify as 'rich'? 'Rich' would be owning a comfortable home in a semi-rural area, without a mortgage. 'Rich' would be having a nest egg in a low risk investment that would net you at least $200k/year. 'Rich' would be being able to part with 10% of your income each year to charities you value and not to feel the bite on your standard of living, in any way. 'Rich' would be being able to look your child in the eye and tell him/her that he should apply to any college and not worry about the cost of tuition, room, or board, that it was already set aside.

'Rich' definitely takes more than a million dollars. What is 'Rich'? I'll take 'comfortable wealth' for ten million dollars, Alex.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Grow some funk of your own

I have been in a kind of funk for the last couple of weeks. It seems to grow worse by the day. Initially I simply thought it was PMS. Then I thought it was a combination of PMS and some real issues.

I really do like the work that I am doing at my (relatively) new job. Unfortunately, my boss is a volitile Mr Hyde/Dr Jekyll combo pack, with definite emphasis on the Mr Hyde persona. Plus, my sixty minute commute is sucking the life out of me.

The good side to the horrendous commute is my audio book time. It really does make a huge difference in my sanity. The week before Thanksgiving I listened to "House of Sand and Fog". What a depressing depressing DEPRESSING story. I nearly gave up on it several times. The writing was great, but I didn't think I could ride the train wreck of events until the end. I was grumpy enough without hearing about stupid people doing the most stupid things they could could do in every horrible situation they found themselves in.

Today I started Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a somewhat depressing post-apocalyptic story. I love the genre and the writing is great. However, the tone may not be in my mental best interest right now. Maybe the physical book I am reading will help counter act the downer to the McCarthy book.

This morning I started The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery. This non-fiction work is about how an amusing runt pig changes the author's perspective on life just when she needed it. I forget how I stumbled on the title, but I have been wanting to read it for a while. I like non-fiction about animals. Also, the author is a New Hampshire native. I was so warming to the author's voice this morning that I was annoyed that the timer on the stationary bike was beeping at me telling me it was time to go take a shower and start my misserable day.

I have been extra touchy around my family lately too. It's not fair to them, I know. I'm not sure what's causing it, so I don't know how to make it stop.

Unfortunately, my son is really starting to act like a sullen self-absorbed teenager. I had errands planned on Friday, that I expected my son to accompany me on. However, his attitude demonstrated that coming along would be a massive burden, so I uninvited him, in a snit as I stormed out the door. Then, my husband and I had planned a family outting on Saturday, which I categorically uninvited my son on, since he didn't seem all that interested in and I didn't want him sullying my good time (which I did have, thank you). Then, this evening, my son and I were discussing the latest topic in his school music class. Apparently, they are about to start a unit on music from the 1950's. When I offered to pull out some music from the era from my collection, he shot me down, saying that he really wasn't that interested in that music and would just take notes in class to meet the requirements for the unit. This really bummed me out, since I LOVE music and love to share it with others.

The day was also darkened a bit by an argument I got into with someone regarding Middle East politics. My undergraduate major was in history with a dual focus on both Middle Eastern and Jewish history. However, the person I was arguing with treated my knowledge and opinions as if they were meaningless. They know what they know and would not hear me. This has happened on this topic before with this person, even though my academic background on the topic is known.

So, grow some funk of your own, amigo.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Movie Marathon (with reviews)

Over the long holiday weekend, I managed to view two movies in the theaters and two in my living room. Here are the reviews, in brief:

"Deja Vu" (in theaters) - Denzel Washington stars as an ATF agent investigating a terrorist bombing of a ferry full of armed service personnel out of New Orleans. His uncanny Sherlock Holmes-like ability to pick up odd details, and make clues out of them, gets him invited to join an experimental investigations unit looking into the event. The unit has access to technology that lets them see exactly four days and six hours into the past. Washington is somewhat obsessed with one indirect victim of the bombing. Her involvement is key to catching the culprit.

Good mystery with minor touches of science fiction (some suspension of disbelief required). Acting and writing are very good. Recommended for fans of Denzel Washington, thrillers, and lite SF.

"Casino Royale" (in theaters) - Daniel Craig makes his debut as the latest James Bond. Bond is after an international financier who fronts for terrorists.

I'll admit it, I really wanted not to like Daniel Craig as Bond. I had some loyalty to previous actors, and was disappointed that some of my favorites for the next bond didn't win the bid. However, Craig is a mighty fine Bond, indeed. The implementation of this Bond installment was done somewhat differently than previous versions. While purists may find fault with the differences, I think those same differences made the film a better mainstream film. First difference that a Bond fan will notice: no scantily clad female silhouettes during the opening credits. Second, the music was more complimentary and less of a character in its own right (yes, I know this will make many cringe). Third, Bond was less over-the-top cheeky. Don't get me wrong, he was still arrogant and cheeky as all hell, it just wasn't as gratuitous as in past installments. AND, a number of the other characters faulted him for his arrogance. Finally, (minor spoiler here) Bond doesn't expend a lot of energy, or screen time, casually sleeping with the hot women in the film (and those women are not as shallow as the bulk of previous Bond women).

In summation, if you are a long standing fan you may find fault with this installment, but try to view it with fresh eyes, I think you may find that the execution will gain the film a new respect outside the traditional audience (and isn't it worth it to broaden the fan base?). For folks who have had little use for Bond in the past, DEFINITELY give this one a shot. It is a fine FILM, not just another Bond flick.

"Four Brothers" (on DVD) - Mark Wahlberg stars as one of four adult adopted brothers of a murdered mother. All four men have checkered pasts, that would have been worse had they not been adopted by their mother. Two men are white, and two are black; though the race thing is nearly superfluous to the story. The men decide that their mother's death was an execution and vow to uncover the reason behind it, and to exact their revenge. Things are never what they seem, and get way out of hand. (Ultimately, this flick reminded me very much of an old favorite western, "The Sons of Katie Elder" starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Earl Holliman.)

I didn't have high expectations for this flick. However, it was an evening well spent. The twists were interesting. And the action was great. If you like tough guys that you can care about, who are somewhat smarter than you initially want to give them credit for, and you like lots AND LOTS of gun play, this is worth a rent.

"Lucky Number Slevin" (on DVD) - Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, Ben Kingsley, and Stanley Tucci. Got your attention, yet? Bruce Willis is an assassin. Josh Hartnett is the seeming victim of mistaken identity caught between two warring crime bosses (Freeman and Kingsley), one who wants a pile of money, while the other will forgive a debt in exchange for assassinating the other mobster's son. This is a complicated situation, that is made all the more intriguing by where the story goes by the end. You may see it coming, but you probably won't. Even if you do, it is fun getting there.

This was an unexpected gem. The plot, writing, and acting were all fantastic. I am still stunned that we didn't hear about this flick when it was in the theaters. Great sleeper. Excellent choice if you are a fan of Hartnett, Freeman, or Kingsley. Also excellent if you like movies about organized crime, or mind benders. HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. My son loved it and now wants to buy a copy. I don't know that I'd go that far, since half the fun was the twist that the movie took at the end, but maybe another viewing is in order to make the final call on that. Definitely MORE THAN WORTH A RENT.

Overall, we made some very good entertainment choices this weekend. Now, its back to the mundane world of work.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Battle of the bulge - an intriguing challenge

A few weeks ago, the gym at work posted an interesting challenge. They noted that the average American gains seven pounds over the holiday season (from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day). Their challenge: Fork over $10 to a jar and weigh in the week of 11/13. Weigh in once a week through the week of 1/2. As long as you gain no more than three pounds, you get your $10 back. If you are the one who loses the most weight over the holidays you get the money forfeited by the other participants for going over the three pounds. You get disqualified if you lose more than twenty pounds, so that they don't appear to promote rapid starvation weight loss. I signed up, of course.

My first weigh in was ok. I lost two tenths of a pound. Yesterday probably put a massive crimp in that, along with some leftovers today. However, I went to the gym this morning, and plan on going Saturday, Sunday, and Monday as well. Hopefully, I'll behave on the food intake the rest of this weekend.

I'm not too concerned about food intake during December. I don't really feel the need to cook for December holidays. And, I tend to steer clear of most holiday parties in December. So, if I can maintain an even keel/keester come my Monday weigh in, I may have a shot at getting my ten bucks back. Who knows, maybe my competitiveness will kick in and I'll even lose some weight. (HA!)

Friday, November 17, 2006

You can't make this stuff up

"Adult educator wins city's citzen of the year award"

The above WAS an exact quote from the Nashua Telegraph. Perhaps she should work with the newsroom staff on their spelling?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Too little, too late?

I just read that Rumsfeld resigned as Secretary of Defense today. While it's way past "about time", don't you think this action might have had a more positive effect for Republicans had it occured, say, at least a few days ago??? Duh!

I was happy to wake up to the news that the House will now be in the hands of the Democrats. NH sent two democrats to the House for the first time in twelve years. That's a definite indicator that people are tired of the current administration.

Will the Democrats turn things around? Will they get us out of Iraq? Will they reduce the deficit?

Ya know, I don't have high hopes for any of that. They're walking into a pretty big mess to clean up. I agree with the Republican pundits that the Democrats don't really have a plan on how to fix any of that stuff. I didn't really vote FOR the Democrats. As sick and sad as it may seem, I voted AGAINST the Republicans.

I really need to get around to reading Barak Obama's "Audacity of Hope". Maybe then I'll feel like I can believe IN something instead of just disliking what's going on in politics.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why ask?

Pet peeve #100 (it's not #1, but it does deserve a distinct number): People who ask "How Are You?" when they are passing you in the hall way.

OK. You pass someone that you know in the hall way. You make eye contact. You each say "Hello", and then one of you says "How are you?" Typically, as you pass the person asked has time to say "Good" or "Fine" or some other meaningless short answer. The respondent usually doesn't have time to return the inquiry, because the parties have passed each other.

The question really is meaningless. Usually the person asking doesn't REALLY want to know. The respondent both knows this and doesn't want to create an awkward social situation by giving a longer, if more truthful, answer (by offering perhaps, "I've been sick all week." or "Fantastic! I got laid last night.")

When I actually speak to a friend that I haven't talked to in a while, if one of us asked the other "How are you" we do so because we actually care about the answer. The respondent usually gives an answer more closely approximating reality.

I wish people would not casually throw out the question "How are you?" when they really don't care, and they really don't feel like taking the time to stop to find out.

Next up: Those statements people make at someone who has just sneezed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Out of touch, but not without things on my mind

I really intend to post more often, but life gets in the way. I don't want it to. I want to have time to write what's on my mind. Maybe I'll just make a sprint down the list of things and see if anything comes of it:

  1. Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. However, I didn't enjoy it as much this year because I was too distracted with other commitments and goings on in my life.
  2. It's national novel writing month, and I'm depressed that I'm not doing something with that.
  3. My college counselor contacted me to find out if I still wanted to pursue my degree in Applied Health Care Technology. I do. Unfortunately I have two things standing in my way right now. First, money. A number of other financial commitments have come up since I first became interested in the program (family related). Second, I'm having a hard time keeping pace with all the intellectual demands of my new job, so I don't feel like I can spare the brain cells on school right now.
  4. I'm trying to figure out a long standing family issue. I took the first step, but I don't know where I want to go next. Uncertainty has never been a friend of mine.
  5. After getting on a plane for the second time (fourth if you count both directions) this year, I'm starting to feel better about air travel again. I'm beginning to revisit some long standing desires to see other countries. High on my list is Iceland. The juxtaposition of glaciers and volcanos fascinates me.
  6. I'm really looking forward to a big party that I'm throwing for some former coworkers. I'm also nervous as all get out about hosting such an event and all that could possibly go wrong. Me? Type A? YUP!
  7. Physical therapy for my back is moving VERY slowly. I worry that I'm not really making any real progress. I don't think I could stand to live with this pain for another twenty to forty years.
  8. I've lost a total of about 55 pounds since the first of the year. While that is very cool, I would really like to drop another 15. I don't know if I have it in me to do it. At least not permanently. I also worry that I could gain all the weight back.
  9. I really don't like the way the world is going. I plan on voting on Tuesday, if only to vote against the status quo. I don't know that it'll make any difference, but it's got to be more effective than screaming into the wind or sitting in the dark and getting drunk.

Hopefully I'll be able to devote some more focused attention to a posting soon. However, this month is EXTREMELY busy for my household. At the very least, maybe I'll make some short glib posts during the chaos.