Monday, July 21, 2008

Dunna Nunna Batman

Last night a couple friends and I hit up the Towson Commons and saw the Dark Knight. I have to say, the movie was amazing, or as one friend said over and over, "Unbelievable". I have a soft spot in my heart for the caped crusader, I am a Batman fan, as he is by far my favorite superhero. I really like the classic movie and the first two - three in the Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney series. When Christopher Nolan took over the reigns in Batman Begins I was worried that he would not live up to the history of the content. I was not sure he would do it justice. I was happily proven wrong. When the Dark Knight was announced I got all gitty like a school girl.

Nolan has darkened the role much like the first couple movies of the run in the late 90's. More than that he has allowed the stories to play out as they should. He has made them real enough, while still staying true to the comic book origins. Nolan respects the source material, which is something that the past run did not do so well towards the end.

Specifically The Dark Knight seems like the perfect second act to the introduction we are given in Batman Begins. We are introduced to two classic villains, Two Face and The joker. I must say that I thought Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker in the original Batman was tremendous. Having said that Heath Ledger's portrayal of the cunning and conniving Joker was absolutely amazing. He captured the Jokers own insanity and brilliance on the screen. It was quite clear why people are discussing Oscar nominations for Ledger. I would also venture to say that this role, which Ledger clearly engrossed himself in, could be the cause for his untimely death. It is an absolute shame. The lengths he went to to in order to become the Joker must have had effects on him, even though it is just acting.

Walking into the theater I had try to lower my expectations for this film. I thought that nothing this summer could beat Iron Man for the top guy movie. I was wrong. That is not to say that Batman is a perfect film, cause there are some issues. My two biggest gripes is that the setting feels very much like Chicago and This thing that Christian Bale does with his voice when he dawns the suit. The Chicago thing gets me. I mean it is so clearly Chicago which is just not right for Gotham. It should be New York, or some unnamed skyline, but it is very clearly Chicago. My second grip is that Bale, how plays an excellent Bruce Wayne, does this thing with his voice when he dawns the cape and cowl. It becomes very low and very grumbled. I just don't think it is needed for the character and it can sometimes make the dialogue difficult to understand.

This is the bottom line. You should see this movie. it is very very very good. Take the time and see it. Oh, and if you are near a cinematic IMAX Theater, see it there. I hear it is amazing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One of the Best Causes Ever

Today is the day off in the world of sports. There are only two days in the year where there are no major professional sports games scheduled. The day before and the day after the Baseball All Star game. On the day before there are lots of events at the All Star game, including the Home Run Derby, which means today, the day after the All Star game is really a day off. It is a day that ESPN, the leader of all things sports, has made incredibly special.

On this day each year ESPN runs a charity marathon to raise money for the V Foundation. Jim Valvano, a college basketball coach, passed away after a fight with cancer in 1993. Before he did he made what some consider one of the greatest acceptance speeches of all time. Jimmy V was receiving the Aurthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian award, the first time that this award was given. Here is a video of this amazing speech (sorry for the quality, I can't get to YouTube or MySpace)

Jim Valvano Acceptance Speech

On this day each year ESPN sets aside time to raise money for cancer research, and unlike many charities, every dollar raised goes directly to research.

I personally have been touched by cancer, as my grandmother passed away from lung cancer and my father is currently battling bladder cancer. It is a disease that will afflict one in four people. 1 in 4. It is a constant in our lives at this point. I commend ESPN on taking the time to bring forward the need to continue to give to this cause and this foundation in particular.

I cannot afford to bid on one of the very cool experiences that they have up for auction, but I can give a little. I am giving my $20 to the V Foundation and hopeful that I do not have to give it next year. Within my lifetime someone is going to hear from there doctor that they have cancer, and then they will get a prescription that will eradicate the disease in their body. Until that day I will give what I can, because every little bit helps.

So here is to hope, and a day off from sports. Here is to research and the power of many small gifts. Here is to the end of suffering of the people with cancer and the families who help them fight.

"Don't Give Up, Don't Ever Give Up"
Jim "Jimmy V" Valvano
1946 - 1993

Monday, July 14, 2008

Running Update

Two weeks ago I posted about my running escapades. Things have been going very well with my relationship with the road. As you may remember from the last post. I was slowly improving the distance I was running. Each day going a little bit longer in the areas that I was running, building up to running around the entire block. I have already discussed the major undulations of the block, so today is just an update on Distance, and what an update it is. To recap, this is an image of the block that i am running, the areas in Blue are running sections and the areas in Red are walking sections.

I was doing pretty well at this point, About 50% running an 50% walking. The red section on the top I consider a warm up area, and the second is up a very steep hill. Well, I have been doing pretty well with this. Slowly, I was increasing the distance I was running, adding more distance to the end of the first running section, starting the second running section earlier and trying to go farther at the end of the second section. On Saturday I went for the gusto. I didn't get a chance to run until around noon. It was also pretty hot out at that point, but I was doing it. but the time I came to where I would have normally done a little cool down walk at the end of the second blue section I decided I was going to go for it. I was going to finish out the run all the way back to my place... and I did. This morning I did the run again and was able to make the distance. So here is my current running map.
That is pretty cool, I am about 75% to my current goal of making it all the way around. from there I think I will begin the process of adding some of the side streets into the track. I figure if I incorporate the three main side streets I will be pushing the three mile make. Once I make it around the big circle i will hop in the car and measure the side streets too.
I have to admit I am a little bit amazed that I have stuck to this little workout plan. I still feel better, though I am not seeing any visible benefits. I am sleeping better as well, except for a couple days I have been asleep before midnight, which is quite an accomplishment.
Also I am going to be in the market for some new running shoes. Charm City Run came to work about a week ago and talked about the process they use to fit people for new running shoes. I am going to head there soon, in the next couple of weeks. It was nice that they gave me 15% off in the store.
Here's to New Shoes (I know you like that CAG)

Be Cool, Eat a Rita's... In North Carolina

Let me first just start by saying that iPhone weekend was exciting and long, but alot of fun. I cannot wait to get my own phone (Labor Dayish).

Mom and I were chatting this morning and were talking about the weekend this morning. My Cousin, Eric, Play lacrosse for Triangle Select Lacrosse in North Carolina and this weekend he played in the Tri State Tournament this past weekend. The family was up in Princeton, New Jersey. While I heard that Eric's team didn't play to well, I am still pulling for him to get a scholarship to UMBC. Fingers Crossed. Anyway, while there my Aunt told my mother that she purchased the rights to open up two Rita's Water Ice Franchises in North Carolina. This is very exciting news for many reasons.

First and foremost, as a kid who grew up in Philly, Rita's is the best of all summer treats. It is the best. As an expanding company, it is also great to see my Aunt making moves to continue to prosper on her hard work. Actually, this could be great for my whole family. My Aunt and Uncle want my Step-Father to move down to the NC and manage one or both of the stores. It would be very cool, but it does give me some apprehension, since my mom and step-father would be moving. I still have very strong ties to the Philly area. While I love in Baltimore, my heart is always in Philly and I will always be a Philadelphian.

But seriously, how cool would it be to have some Rita's right now.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Interesting Time

There are times in life when things go a direction that you were never really prepared for and are not sure how to handle. I recently went through one of those times. I have been a contractor with my current company for a little over a year. In that time I have been working for a single financial company. I have tried to do side projects and improve my skills as best I can, but for the most part I have been doing the work as if I was solely employed by said financial firm. I like what I have been ding and feel like I have done my work pretty well.

Then the winds of change have began to blow. The market took a little bit of a down turn, the price of oil began to skyrocket and suddenly there were less and less of my co-workers around me. Those of us with the badges that designated that we worked for other companies slowly began to reduce in number. There were lunches to say goodbye to people who generally came into our group after I got here. It was a little strange. I got scared.

With everyone seemingly losing their jobs around me I did what I thought I had to do. i posted my resume on I did not what to do a full out search, cause my contracting company has a pretty good track record of moving people from on engagement to another, and I have really enjoyed working for them. There have been a couple things that have irked me over the past year and a third, but overall things have been really good. Yet, I thought it was my personal due diligence to take a look at what else was out there. I did my research using and (this site is pretty cool). I decided that it was going to take a 10% raise to get me out of my current position.

I started to receive calls from IT recruiters. I have to admit that some of these guys don't even seem to look at a resume before they try to contact you. I would get a call or two a day. Some people looking at the systems I have used, others looking at my experience. Some jobs sounded great, others not so much. I even got contacted by the other major consulting firm at my current engagement, the one who was laying off people as they were rolling off of the team. It was a little weird. There were a couple that sounded interesting. An investment firm in King of Prussia, the company that owns Victoria Secret and a local insurance firm. I started some interviews and clearly was impressing I guess. Most were pretty standard. There was one that had me complete an Excel proficiency test, which I thought was ridiculous, but whatever... if that is the first impression that they wanted to give so be it.

I went through a couple rounds with the insurance firm and they made me an offer that was almost 10% more, which I thought was okay. If not for their lousy education benefits I may have jumped at it right then. They were looking for an answer the next morning. Instead of being pressured into answering right then I went over and spoke with my VP. I let him know that I received an offer and we chatted for a bit. He asked me to give him until noon the next day to see if they could run some numbers. It was refreshing to not be told just to leave the company. I was a little worried about that. So I left the office and felt pretty good about things. I was hopeful that my current company would come close to the offer that I was being offered by the insurance firm, cause while the instability of consulting is something that I don't want in my life forever, for now it is just fine.

So I went home and tried to take my mind off of it. I didn't want to think about it. It was out of my hands at that point. You can't sweat the things you have no control over.

The next day I came into work and got down to business. I actually didn't check my company mail for a little bit. I was to busy with setting up my day and getting ready for the work that I would do that day. It was about 9:30 when i checked, not really expecting anything, but there it was. A message from my VP asking me to give him a call. I took a deep breath and dialed the phone. It was one of the shortest conversations I have ever had.


So I am a pretty happy guy. An 11.25% raise and I get to keep my education benefits which are really going to pay out beginning next year. Oh, and I took my resume off monster. Those calls can be very distracting.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I've Turned the Corner... No Really

So for the past three weeks or so I have been getting up every morning and tried to "Run" around my block. Now you may be asking why I have placed the word "Run" in quotes. There is a simple reason for this. It has been many many years since I have actually "Run". I would call what I am doing currently as accelerated walking... sort of.

Let me start by explaining my block. I live in a development that is built on a hill. A very large hill. Here is the best way I can show you. Take a look at this map this is my house.

I live at the the little "A" marker. My block is about a mile and a half around if you take a left out of the house, go up Oakmoor (uphill), left at Selford (downhill), left onto Francis (steep uphill halfway up then a long downhill), left onto Ingate ( with a little uphill and downhill) and then back onto Kelfield (which is a gradual uphill). It is not a bad little track, though there are some obstacles like poor sidewalks and some low hanging trees. It is difficult with the changing elevations and the steepness of the uphills. My goal is to be able to run the whole thing by the end of the summer. The following picture is a close approximation to what I could do when I started my little running program about three weeks ago. I am running the sections in Blue and walking the sections in Red. Basically I have been running the downhills and walking the uphills.

I start at the "A" and walk uphill to Selford. I look at this as my warm up. It gets ths juices flowing. When I would get to the corner I would begin my trot. From the corner of Oakmoor and Selford to Francis and Selford is pretty much a straight downhill shot. it starts to go up just before the corner and once you are there it is like hitting a wall uphill. I was walking this until I got just passed friendship drive. From there it was another downhill until the corner of Ingate. From there it was a walk home. It was challenging for a couple weeks, but I have begun to build up some strength and have tried to stretch out the distances I am running. Here is a map of what have been able to do for the past couple of days.

As you can see there has been some improvements, the biggest of which has been turning the corner at Ingate and going up and down until I get to Kelfield. I have also started to run a little bit sooner and try to stay running as I turn up the wall on Francis. I hope that I will be able to make it running back to the house over the next couple of weeks. I am making improvements, which is all I can ask. I also have to admit that running has really helped me sleep at night, which I have had quite a bit of issues with over the past couple of months.

If you have any tips on how to increase my stamina while running, or things that will help me run the uphills let me know. I am hoping this leads to a more svelte Brick. Here's to hoping!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What a Wonderful Ryanluck

So a couple weeks ago my team at work decided that it would be an awesome idea to hold a little potluck to celebrate the fact that the remaining individuals were... well... remaining. Being the foodie I am I got all sorts of excited. Due to the varying food preferences within my group it was decided that Herbivore vs. Omnivore would be a great theme for the potluck. Being the diplomatic person I am, I decided to make a dish that fell into both categories. Being the "cookist" I am, I decided that both had to be delicious.

I went to Wegmans this past weekend to get ingredients for dinner that day (Asian Braised Short Ribs) and for the potluck. I knew I would need to break out the cooking on Tuesday night since I was working at the big fruit Wednesday night. So I slaved away at the hot stove for a couple hours and packed up the yummy yummy to be unveiled on Thursday for all to enjoy. Then it happened.

On Wednesday afternoon a mail was sent to the group saying that the potluck had been postponed. to many people were in a demo or out of the office. I was a little crushed. There was no way I was making everything again. I had spent to much time and money on this shindig and people were going to eat it. I had made my mind up.

Today was the Ryanluck, where Ryan produced all the food and others came to enjoy. On the menu was Lemon Braised Artichokes and Spinach Fettuccine and the best Chinese Five Spice Wings with Cilantro Dipping Sauce. The food was excellent and I must admit that my co-workers enjoyed quite a bit. Now here is the best part:

I don't have to make anything for the rescheduled potluck.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

It Has Been A While, Hasn't It?


Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I have had good reason. My life once again has taken a turn for the busy. I, for the first time, feel like I was close to burnout last week. It has been an interesting point in my life (more on that in a later post) where everything looks like the status quo, but really there are lots of things that are different. I am stressed and the time I have seems to be spent on doing something that is either really not fulfilling or just unproductive. I like my me time, when I can do things that I like with it. Luckily I have gotten the chance to do some fun stuff and am definitely feeling batter about things now than I had in the past couple of weeks.

I recently had the chance visit Matt and Alyssa in New York. I had not had a chance to see them since their wedding in November 2006. It struck me as interesting that no matter how much time passes between times that we see each other Matt and I just pick up where ever we left off. The door opens and the banter begins. It was a really great trip.

On Saturday we went into the city and headed to the 14th St Apple store. Since beginning to work for them I like going into other store to see how we measure up. 14th was great, very large and a pretty cool place. I am a little jealous. It would be nice to able to hold some of the events that the NYC stores do, be we all do what we can I guess.

From there it was off to Chelsea Market. Being the foodie I am this was very exciting. the place is pretty posh, but there are some markets with ingredients that I have only seen on TV. There were all kinds of great produce, fish and imported products. About the only thing that surprised me was the lack of a butcher shop (though I hear it had recently closed). Also cool is that the market has offices for the Food Network (look at us being all suave), MLB and EMI. They also had a restaurant supply store that I am pretty sure I could get lost in for hours on end. IF I were to ever move to NYC I am sure that I would want to near Chelsea. Saturday wrapped up with some more walking and a really good burger.

Sunday was all about one thing...Baseball. Matt, Alyssa and I took the D train to the Brox and Yankee Stadium. There is something very special about this place. I mean, it is Yankee Stadium. There are some cool thing that are traditions at the stadium. Some of my favorites are the Field Crew doing the YMCA which raking the field and the Roll Call from the bleachers. The stadium overall is kinda a dump, but what can you expect from a place that is almost one hundred years old. Also I got to see Joba Chamberlain pitch, which was pretty cool. Of Course this was all happening in 100 degree heat, which is a little to hot to do anything.

Since my visit Matt and Alyssa have moved to the A-T-L. They are really excited about the move and I am really happy for them. I will need to plan a visit, hopefully sooner than 2010.

Ocean City
Over labor day weekend Dom, Elan Jordan, Brian, Country and I went to Dom's Place in Ocean City. This has become a semi annual trip. It is quite relaxing and just nice over all. This trip, of course had it's moments. Some of the highlights was the ridiculous night of Drunken Monopoly. Let me say this, it is never smart to play Drunken Monopoly with a real estate agent, a couple politicians and a "Communications Expert". I feel like this is a game that we will never forget... and hopefully never repeat.

There was also the moment of the trip. I am going to do my best to describe the scenario. Dom's place is on the bay, which affords those in residence the opportunity to enjoy the water. One of the many ways that people like to take in this relaxing experience is with a kayak trip on the water. It just so happens that Dom has a couple of these vessels in his garage, so throughout the weekend each one of us took turns heading out on the water. Below is the evidence of my personal outing on the water.


Yes, that is right, I F*ing fell in the water.... I couldn't believe it. I would like to thank Brian for "helping" by taking the photo above. I have promised myself that the next time I go down to Dom's that I am going to conquer the kayak.

Of course we went out for Putt Putt, which is always great and meet up with Brooks for a night a Phillips Buffet. It is an Ocean City Tradition. Take a look at this Motley Crew.

Overall we had an absolute blast. I really enjoy these trips and I cannot wait for the next one.

So that is a small recap about what has been going on with me. I am going to try to write a little bit more in the near future. Time will tell if I am able to do that. Until next time.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yay for Opening Day

So I have wanted to write this post for a couple of days, but I didn't want to talk about the start of a new baseball season until the Phillies had a win. So Monday passed, Tuesday went to the wayside, Wednesday was a no go. Finally, Thursday, three games into the season, I can finally talk about how excited I am about this season. I have been waiting for baseball since the four game sweep that ended the first playoff appearance for the Phils since 1993. I am excited to see if Chase Utley cam complete the MVP Trifecta. I am excited to make my yearly trip to Citizens Bank Park, and maybe a trip to either Yankee Stadium or Nationals Park... or both.

But this brings up an interesting point. I think I may be a two sport man. It is odd. I have always been a three sport plus guy. I love football and baseball, and in the past I was completely a basketball guy. I even like to attend some of the odd sports like Lacrosse, Arena Football (I think I would like it) and even a Soccer game. In recent years basketball has pretty much fallen off of my radar. I think some of this has to do with the fact that the Sixers have taken a turn for the worst since 2001. Also, since I am in Baltimore and there is no NBA presence it is hard to really follow the sport.

I think I am fine being a two sport guy. If I slip to one someone may come knocking for my Man Card.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Could I Teach About Twitter

Wednesday night, I went to a company business meeting where the keynote speaker was from he Netherlands. Okay, most of the keynote speakers are from the Netherlands, so it was really no surprise. I was excited for this particular topic as we were going to be talking about social computing and its impact on business and the world. It is a topic that I am very interested in, since I have two Blogs, am on Facebook, twitter, pownce and am constantly looking at Digg. This presentation was going to be in my wheelhouse. The presentation was given by the Director of ViNT, a research shop in the Netherlands. It was a great presentation, discussing the ways that the mass media is on the way out the door, and instead we now have "Me Media" It was fascinating. I got a chance to talk to the presenter at the bar afterwords and I think I impressed him.

While people were coming into the lecture hall I leaned over to a friend of mine and asked if one of the attendees was one of our old professors. Sure enough it was. I went over to say hello and see how things had been. It was an interesting conversation which basically ended with him asking me to submit a resume and such to come back and teach at UMBC. It was a really cool moment and I was flattered. While I was at the bar for some post meeting cocktails I had some great discussions with the presenter and some of my other colleagues about the idea of "Me Media" and how people can still be productive when they are constantly getting bombarded with information from the gazillion different bits that they get every day. I think I could teach this. I would love to teach this... we will see if this works. I will be sending my resume this weekend.