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.