Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Half Bad Boy DVD Review - The Island

Summary: Lincoln and Jordan learn something very important about their life. No, it isn't that they are clones. They learn how important it is to be free.
Grade: A-

About This Movie: Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannson respectively play Lincon Six Echo and Jordan Two Delta, two of thousands of cloned human beings living in a secret compound. Each clone knows that one day they will be sent to the Island, a tropical paradise where they will live worry-free for the rest of their days. But things change when Lincoln discovers that selection to go to the Island is really a death sentence.

The Best Part About This DVD Is...
... what the DVD teaches us about the importance of freedom. Lincoln and Jordan's life in the compound was secure, safe, equal, and healthy. But it was not free. It was even frustrating for me just to watch the lack of freedom that the people had. The scary part is, I couldn't help but wonder how much our current society is trending toward that life, where we are willing to trade freedom for safety. What is wrong with us?
I also have to mention the action sequences. We are talking about Michael Bay after all. In particular, the train axles on the freeway was awesome and even realistic-seeming. Also, the part when Lincoln and Jordan first learn to kiss is rather endearing.

The Worst Part About This DVD Is...
... Lincoln and Jordan falling 70 stories, landing in a net, and not even being hurt? I guess we decided to suspend realistic physics for the sake of the heroes.

The Bottom Line
The Island was exactly what I expected from Michael Bay - a two-hour action-packed thrill ride - and it didn't disappoint. What I didn't expect was a lesson on the importance of freedom. Freedom is not about being able to do whatever you want without consequences. Freedom is about choosing for yourself, from something trivial - the clothes you wear or whether you get to have bacon for breakfast - to something important - in Lincoln and Jordan's case, to choose whom you will love. Freedom is more important than health, safety, or security, and should never be traded away those things. Even the promise of a future life in paradise is not worth it if one doesn't have the freedom to choose to go.

I'm Starting to Dread the Holiday Season

It is sad to admit that, more and more, I'm starting to approach the holiday season with feelings that are a mixture of anticipation, joy, dread, irritation, and frustration.
The anticipation and joy come from having time with family and remembering the birth, life, and atonement of Jesus Christ. It is certainly helpful to make a special effort every year to be more focused on remembering His coming, and to look forward to when he comes again.

The other feelings come from the fact that people are forgetting why we have Christmas in the first place.

First, the commercialism of Christmas has gotten out of control. We've gotten to the point that it doesn't matter what we get for Christmas as long as we get more of it than someone else. I have family that insist on buying me a gift of a certain price point even when I tell them that I don't need anything. What is the point of spending the money? I create a budget and budget for Christmas all year long, and then when the time comes to buy, I feel that I must spend the entire budget even if it is on junk that the recipient won't really want.
This is one part of this season that I'm starting to dread - the complete waste of money. Money spent on things that will become the recipient's trash before summertime comes around. It has become a season where people save all year so they can come before the big businesses and trade their money in for junk. What is wrong with us?

I am starting to despise the calculated messages in the media that are trying to cause us to forget why we have these holidays in the first place. These messages are even being taught to children. They tell us not to forget the reason for the season, at which point they inform us that the reason for the season is to be with friends and family, or to be kinder to our fellow men, or to marvel in the wonder of lights and decorations. They pitch the "hustle & bustle" of the holidays as exciting and fun, not irritating. I've even heard some of these messages suggest that the reason for the season is to receive gifts!
The reason for this season is entirely religious. I don't care whether you are Christian or not. If you believe in Thor the thunder god, and celebrate him on August 10 (or whatever), just because I don't believe in Thor doesn't change the reason why you might celebrate on August 10. The reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It does not matter whether you believe in him or not. It is a flat-out lie to suggest that the reason for Christmas is anything else, no matter how ennobling.

I'm frustrated because I want this to be a religious occasion. I'm upset that I worry about how many gifts a person is giving me, and that I have to give them the same number of gifts back, and for a similar monetary amount, even if the gifts are junk. It feels like it isn't enough to give for the sake of giving. It feels like if I'm not giving my significant other a diamond ring or a new car I'm under-gifting. I hate that I feel like I work all year long to blow money on junk at the end of the year. And for what? Just so recipients can feel that I care - but not because of what I gave, but because of how much I gave and how much I spent.

I don't know what to do about this exactly, but I don't like it, and I feel justified in not liking it. I may do something drastic next year - like cut my Christmas budget.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Half Bad Boy DVD Review - Fantastic Four

Summary: Riddled with poor acting, inexplicable and illogical events, and poor acting, the only highlight of this CGI showcase was Jessica Alba in a bikini. Oh wait - it didn't have Jessica Alba in a bikini.
Grade: D-

Memo to Hollywood: Great special effects are not enough to save a terrible movie. I don't know if you are listening or not. This has been going on long enough, and we won't stand for it anymore!
Ok, that was a lie. But could you please at least try to create a real movie?

About This Movie
There are five people with requiste snappy-sounding names: Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, Sue Storm, and Victor Von Doom. How they are related is as follows: Reed and Sue used to be together, but aren't, but are still in love with each other. Victor and Reed used to be friends, but aren't, and Victor is hot for Sue who works for him. Johnny used to work for Ben but now Ben works for Reed while Johnny parties. Johnny and Sue are siblings but don't really like each other. Victor is rich and Reed is poor. Oh, and somewhere along the line cosmic radiation alters their DNA.

The Best Part About This DVD Is...
... the closing credits. That's when you know the movie is over!

The Worst Part About This DVD Is...
... so many things that just don't make any sense. For example, do you really want me to believe that someone who looks like Sue Storm could be hopelessly smitten over someone that looks like Reed Richards? I mean no offense, but come on. And then what about the part where Ben Grimm says, all patriarchically, "There is nothing like the love of a good woman," not long before his supposedly rock-solid relationship dissolves like an Alka-Seltzer in water? And how is it that five human beings (which are all nearly identical genetically) exposed to the same cosmic storm are all affected differently, but their suits (which are identical materially, but are of a completely different makeup than the wearers) happen to be altered exactly the same as the person wearing them? Can someone explain to me why the zippers on everyone's suits seem to go all the way up except Sue Storm's?

And that's not even the best one. Reed Richards, the supposed intellectual genius, devises a plan whereby, in order to reverse the effects of the cosmic storm, he will attempt to expose them to the exact same type of radiation that caused the problem in the first place. ??? Isn't that like hitting someone in the face with a baseball bat, and then saying, "Hey, I know how to fix that broken face. Let me hit you again!"

The Bottom Line
I guess maybe they thought that anyone with any education would be able to tell from the trailers that they should steer clear of this mess. I certainly should have.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Christmas Cookie Who Did Not Believe In Santa Claus

I suppose most middle-class neighborhoods across the country are like mine, where every Christmas season the ladies in the neighborhood spend several hours stressing out about what type of goodies they are going to take around to their neighborhood friends, and trying to outdo each other with the cutest story to accompany their treats.
My wife had already decided to give cookies to everyone, and was trying to figure out what story to put with the cookies. I suggested the following story. I think it is a pretty good one.

The Christmas Cookie Who Did Not Believe In Santa Claus
Once upon a time, there was a batch of Christmas cookies. One of the Christmas cookies did not believe in Santa Claus. No matter what the other cookies said, this cookie still did not believe in Santa Claus.
"I don't believe in Santa Claus," the cookie said.
"How can you not believe in Santa Claus? Don't you know that if you don't believe in Santa Claus, he won't bring you any presents?" the others replied.
"I don't care. There is no such thing as Santa Claus."
"Well, who is it that brings the presents on Christmas Eve?"
"Nobody. There is no way that Santa can bring presents to every house in the same time zone at 12:00 midnight."
"Well, who is it that flies around delivering presents?"
"Nobody. There is no such thing as flying reindeer, and even if there were, eight reindeer could not possibly tow a sleigh that was big enough to hold all the toys for every boy and girl in the entire world."
"Well, then how do all those presents get into people's homes?"
"Who knows? But most people don't even have a chimney. How could he get into the homes? And how is it that he is never arrested for B&E?"
"So you really don't believe in Santa Claus?"
"But you are a Christmas cookie!"
"Doesn't matter. There is no such thing as Santa Claus."
And this cookie held stubbornly to his belief clear up until Christmas Eve. That night, the children carefully took all of the other Christmas cookies out and put them on a plate, leaving him behind. Later that night, Santa Claus came and ate all the other cookies.

The End.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Half Bad Boy Music Review - Live Hallelujah

Summary: Packed with hits from Montrose, Van Halen, and his solo career, this is Sammy Hagar at his live, raw best. If you are a Sammy Hagar fan, that is a good thing.
Grade: B

Ladies and Gentlemen, t's time for the first ever Half Bad Boy Music Review. Today's topic is the album "Live Hallelujah", a live album from Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas.

I just downloaded this from iTunes the other day after hearing the live version of "I Can't Drive 55." This song is particularly awesome and reminded me of the time when Sammy et. al. came to perform at Novell's BrainShare conference. In fact, I think it was for the same tour, but not sure.

Anyway, it was a great concert, and being a collector of live albums (I love concerts but they rarely come here), after hearing "I Can't Drive 55" I decided to get this live album to remind me of a great show I attended once.

About This Album
First of all, this is not a recording of a live show; rather, it is a compilation of live recordings of different songs from several shows. This album sounds almost like a high-quality bootleg. The sound is very raw and unpolished - when I crank it up in my car, it sounds very much like it did live. He plays a variety of songs, from his time in Montrose, pre-Van-Halen Red Rocker, Van Halen, and post-Van-Halen Red Rocker.

The Best Thing About This Album Is...
... the awesome live sound. Isn't that the point of a live album - to recreate the live experience for the listener? I mean, if you want a polished sound, you'd buy the studio equivalents. It sounds like you are there.

The Worst Thing About This Album Is...
...Sammy's language. Not really unexpected with Sammy Hagar, and it doesn't make him a bad person. But Half Bad Boys don't need to talk like that!

The Bottom Line
Despite the language, the album is pretty sweet. I would have preferred more Sammy Hagar songs and fewer Van Halen songs, and a two-disc set would obviously have been better than just one. There are a lot of great songs in there though, and the set from "Rock Candy" to "Heavy Metal" really rocks. If you are a Red Rocker fan, you'll probably want this album - it's Sammy at his best.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I Want To Ride My [Motor]cycle

Here's a picture of me on my motorcycle. My bike is a 1998 Kawasaki KX 250. I picked this bike up for under $1500 and then spent another $500-$600 fixing it up. So yeah, it isn't new or anything, but considering what I spent it is a pretty awesome bike, if I do say so myself.

This picture was taken at a local track. This track is a fairly easy track, with nice big berms and easy jumps. No whoops anywhere on this track. Hey, I'm not a professional racer or anything. I just want to go ride and have fun. This track is plenty challenging for me.

I haven't ridden my bike for a few months now. Last time I went riding, we went to a different track than the one in the picture. This track is a lot more difficult, with whoops, rhythm sections, and double jumps.

It was bad timing cause I'd just come home from the US Open of Supercross in Las Vegas the weekend before. I'd spent all this time watching guys, even little kids, jumping these double jumps like it was nothing. I was thinking, "These little 8-year-old kids can do these doubles on a 50cc - I should be able to do this on my 250 no problem!"

Well, I'll admit it - they are much better riders than I am. After clipping the front tire on the top of the second jump, I almost rode it out before I lost control and went over the top of the berm. All I really know is that I landed really hard on the back of my left shoulder, and when I got up I had a huge bump on my collarbone where there shouldn't be one (see above). I now have a metal plate on my collarbone. Hey, sometimes it hurts to be a half bad boy.

Oh, and by the way, if you ever break your collarbone and the doctor says they can't do anything about it, don't believe it. That's what my doctor said also. Then I referred myself to an orthopedic surgeon who told me they do this all the time. If I had listened to my first doctor I would have been crippled in my shoulder for life. No kidding.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I Finally Got My Boss

You have to know my director to know how great this is. I've worked for this guy for about 3 1/2 years now and even though he is technically my boss's boss, I work with him quite often and know him fairly well. One thing about this guy is that he really gets off on pushing your buttons. Usually we end up going toe to toe on this, although it seems like he always ends up getting the better end of the deal.

This is unusual for me as about anyone who knows me will attest. Part of it has to do with the fact that I do work for him after all; I'm not so stupid as to insult someone who is responsible for my bonus planning. But after 3 1/2 years of "I bet you wish your calves were as big as my biceps," or, "You might want to consider having your hair cut by a professional," or, "Do they sell men's watches where you bought that watch?" I'd been waiting for my chance to nail him.

So it comes about today, as we are trapped at a work party where they strategically inserted the holiday sing-along during the luncheon instead of after when it is easier to fake receiving a cell phone call. He's sitting across from me singing, and I'm trying to figure out whether he is singing bass, or a low alto, or just what. After the song, I said to him, "So, what, do you basically just try to sing all of the parts at the same time?" He made some comment about it of course, but I actually saw his face turning red! Oh, this is great. I pointed it out to him: "Wow! You're actually blushing!" to which he replied, "No, it's just the salsa." But the look on his face betrayed him. "I can't believe it! I finally got you! After 3 1/2 years I finally got you!" He just smiled sheepishly and didn't say anything. "This is going in my blog!"

And here it is. Toma!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Where is Chad Reed?

It was easy to dismiss the Toronto Supercross, but after watching the Vancouver Supercross, I'm starting to wonder what is going on with Chad Reed. It isn't reasonable to expect a win every race, but I must admit I was pretty surprised to see him so finishing so far off the pace of Stewart and RC.

I don't think Chad cares too much about the World Supercross GP; I expect he's using these two rounds as warmup rounds to get the kinks worked out of the new bike and to learn to ride the 450 in Supercross. Last year it took him six races to get a win. Hopefully he'll be ready for Anaheim 1 on January 7.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Demise of My Leather Jacket?

On my way to work today I realized I had severely torn my black leather jacket. This is not good at all.

A leather jacket is a key element of the half bad boy. If I don't have a leather jacket, will my wife still find me attractive? Will I be able to successfully convey that critical amount of badness? I may have to stop shaving so often in order to compensate.

I am actually bummed about this. A few years ago I made a suggestion for a new initiative to my employer that turned into Novell Forge. It was key in my employer's attempt to reinvent itself as an open-source software company, which reinvention was worth about a 50% increase in our market cap, or about $1B. And to compensate me for my key role in this major change, they gave me a leather jacket.

Admittedly, I think my employer got the better end of the deal, but I do love that jacket so it really is quite a bummer that it is now suffering from a pretty substantial tear.

I might actually be forced to go out and buy my own jacket.