Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 8 News Items of 2008

As we only have 12.5 hours and 1 extra second left in 2008, I thought now would be a good time to list the top 8 news stories of the past year. This list is subjective (as all lists on my blog will be) and reflects which stories interested me most over the last 12 months. In looking back at these events, 2008 has to rank as the most newsworthy year of the decade thus far.

  • 1: Barack Obama becomes the 44th President
I admit that I am buying into the hope hype that Barack brings to the table. I'm glad that 2009 will bring an end to the Bush/Clinton reign and give an injection of youth and fresh ideas into the country's government. I think the most significant immediate change from the Bush administration to the Obama administration will be seen overseas. Other countries will view the USA in a much more positive light with a competent and engaging Commander in Chief at the helm.
  • 2: The Economic Woes
I'll lump all of the bailout, banking and Wall Street stories into the most depressing topic of the year. The real economic trend for 2008 was volatility. During the past year gas jumped up all the way to over $4 a gallon and now sits well below $2. While down significantly from the close of 2007, the Dow Jones industrial average experienced record single-day gains AND drops.
  • 3: Michael Phelps wins 8 gold medals
We watched most of Phelps' wins down at the Jersey Shore on vacation. It was great to be able to see so much of the Olympics (especially the swimming) at night when the kids went down. I saw most of Phelps' races live and between the close finishes and the overall endurance of the effort, this was without a doubt the greatest Olympic feat I've ever witnessed.

  • 4: Tiger Woods wins 2008 US Open on one leg
This is a story that makes this list only based on events that occurred a few days AFTER Tiger received the US Open trophy. It wasn't just amazing that he roared back with two super clutch putts to beat Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in June. It was utterly incredible that he made that comeback on a leg with a torn ACL and a stress fracture. Shut down until the Masters next May, Tiger proved once again that he's the greatest athlete of my generation.

Side note: Did you realize that December 30th (yesterday) is both the birthday of Tiger Woods (now 33 like me) and Lebron James? Talk about a day you want your son to be born on if you're a sports-enthused dad.
  • 5: Sarah Palin's run for the Vice Presidency
I was never a fan of Sarah Palin and did not think she was at all qualified to assume the post of Vice President of the United States of America. She did seem to garner a lot of (undeserved) attention though and become a cultural icon of 2008. Tina Fey's spot-on impersonation probably helped fuel the fire. I'm betting we say a where-are-they-now piece on Palin sometime next decade.
  • 6: Heath Ledger overdoses in NYC
There are a few news events in a lifetime where you can remember exactly where you were when you heard the news. While this is not one of the significant ones in the grand scheme of things, I vividly remembered riding an elevator at Safeco Insurance in Seattle (my client at the time) on a cold January day and looking at the news LCD screen they have embedded in each elevator. The breaking news crawl on the top read that Heath Ledger had died in NYC. This was very unexpected and unfortunate as he was just about to become a major movie star. His last performance in The Dark Knight should earn him a well deserved posthumous Oscar in February.
  • 7: Terror Attacks in Mumbai
A painful reminder of how sick some people are and their need to resort to senseless violence and terrorism to prove a stupid point.
  • 8: Usain Bolt destroys his competition
Another Olympic achievement rounds out my personal list. Bolt completely toyed with the rest of the field in Beijing, redefining the sport of track and field. What is mind-blowing is that he would have absolutely shattered the world record in the 100m dash if he raced hard through the whole race.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sigur Ros

Some of you may have heard of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Those who have not and enjoy the ethereal sounds of Enya and other instrumental/new age/ambient music should give them a try. They recently released their 5th studio album titled Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. I have no clue what that means or how to pronounce it, in fact nearly all of Sigur Ros' music contains Icelandic lyrics that make no sense to me. My personal taste in music does not depend on lyrics however, and the falsetto voice of the lead singer is a perfect complement to the other-worldly strings, guitars and percussion that sets the mood for each track. I actually stumbled upon this band thanks to Harry Potter of all people. I was reading a magazine interview of Daniel Radcliffe a few summers ago and he mentioned listening to Sigur Ros during the production of the 5th Harry Potter film and that the tone of the music fit the mood of the movie. I'm always looking for new bands/groups to listen to in the realm of new age music and decided to give it a try.

The video below is from an appearance on the Craig Kilborn show from a few years ago. The band is playing "Njosnavelin (The Nothing Song)" which I heard for the first time a few years ago. This is without a doubt my favorite Sigur Ros song and I just found out it was used at the end of Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky. When I first heard it I immediately thought that it would serve as a great background soundtrack for a film. I didn't realize that Crowe had already picked it for his 2001 film. I had seen the movie on DVD years ago but did not remember the song being in the film.



If you want to give Sigur Ros a try, download a few of the singles from ITunes to see if their post-rock Icelandic sound suits your musical taste. As a disclaimer, this recommendation comes from someone who loves Coldplay (insert your 40-year-old virgin jokes here) and thought Viva La Vida was the album of the year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Not Quite as Advertised

So I'm about to eat a microwave side dish of "Pasta & Vegetables" from the good folks at Birds Eye last night. After removing the plastic film from the tray once it stopped nuking, I noticed a lot of pasta paired with a sole carrot and singular broccoli stem (pictured). I'm not really complaining because I selected the dish more for the pasta than the vegetables. I know my resourcefull wife will be sending a complaint to Birds Eye though to get us something free.  

Note:  After stiring the food post-picture, I did find 3 more small carrots and some corn burried beneath.


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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sack Da-Da

While Lori and Josh were at church today, Alex and I were at home watching my Redskins finish 8-8 and completely derail themselves from a 6-2 start.  I ended up playing around with Alex (who is 23 months old for those who don't know) on the floor in front of the TV and Alex started playing one of his favorite games:  Sack Da-Da.  This basically consists of Alex standing a few feet away from me, saying "Sack Da-Da" and running at me while jumping in an attempt to sack me like a quarterback.  After I "play along" and fall down backwards, he then proceeds to say "Da-Da CRY!"  He wants me to fake-cry to pretend that the sack hurt.  This is the same kid who turns Yo Gabba Gabba's "Don't bite your friends" into "BITE FRIENDS!"

It's all in good fun and I am the one to blame (or thank) if he turns to a career as an NFL linebacker.  The game started as Sack Alex, as I would knock him down (carefully) as he ran at me.  I think he enjoys the new version much more though. 

Strange Magazine Rack at Ballys

The gym I belong to (Bally Total Fitness in Alexandria) usually has a pretty bare magazine rack with a few old Sports Illustrateds and some Muscle & Fitness / Men's Health. Today I noticed that the rack is not only full, but for some reason full with numerous scuba diving magazines. I'm not sure if Ballys has some diving promotion going on or not but this striked me as being a bit odd.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Find me a Jordon, ANY Jordon please

The number one pet peeve of mine nowadays is when people send me emails and address me as Jordon.  This bothers me on a number of different levels.
  1. My signature on all my emails from my work email address reads as Jordan Rose
  2. I have never met anyone who spells their name J-o-r-d-O-n (I would understand Jordin for the American Idol winner)
  3. The country and river Jordan are spelled as such.
  4. The letter A on a QWERTY keyboard is only two keys away from the D.  The O is all the way on the other end.
Now what is REALLY amazing is that this happens with about 50% of the new clients/employees that contact me.  It seems to be getting worse over the last few years too.  If anyone has any explanation why this seems to occur so frequently, I would love to hear it.  Arguably the most famous athlete of all-time spells his name with an A, so I'm not quite sure where the confusion comes from.

NOTE:  I just used blogger spell check on this and Jordin was highlighted as incorrect while Jordon was left alone.  Maybe there are some Jordons out there.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all

Merry Christmas to everyone and a Happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends. I'll leave you with this classic holiday quote from Clark W. Griswald:

"Hey. If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, fore-fleshing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is. Hallelujah. Holy shit. Where's the Tylenol?"

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Fringemas


It's no secret that JJ Abrams is one of my favorite media visionaries. The guy has created one of the best TV shows of all-time in Lost and produced a pretty good monster movie last January in Cloverfield (his Star Trek reboot looks very good as well). The good folks at Fox didn't have to twist my arm to get me to watch Fringe, Abrams' latest effort.  Some of you may know that I was a huge fan of The X-Files which remains the only complete TV series I own on DVD (too bad X-Files: I Want to Believe was such a disaster).  Fringe has some noticable similarities which is part of what attracted me to the show.  Mulder and Scully are replaced by Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson from Dawson's Creek fame) and Olivia Dunham (Australian actress Anna Torv).  

The plot of Fringe is "fairly" simple.  Agent Dunham and Special Agent Phillip Broyles (played by Lance Reddick who is a guest player on Lost) began investigating cases that make up "The Pattern", a set of unexplained instances of fringe science.  Fringe science includes off-beat scientific studies like telepathy, levitation, invisibility, reanimation, genetic mutation, etc.  In order to fully investigate these cases Agent Dunham tapped into the resource of Walter and Peter Bishop.  Walter Bishop spent over 20 years in a mental institution but was the leading fringe scientist in his days of being a professor at Harvard University.  The character of Walter Bishop is played by Lord of the Rings veteran John Noble as an absent minded hilariously brilliant scientist.  I'm thinking an Emmy nomination may be in the future for Noble if this series extends through a few more seasons.

The roster of episodes so far plays out like stand-alone mysteries (a la The X-Files) but also contains a conspiracy theory throughout which is highlighted by Massive Dynamic, a fictional global corporation that may or may not be involved with all events related to the pattern.  The M.D. website is another viral site produced in the same way the Dharma Initiative sites were for Lost.  Another orginal and very cool aspect of Fringe is the inclusion of a bald spooky character named "The Observer" who has appeared in each episode so far.  In the 4th episode of the season we find out that The Observer is taking notes on events related to the pattern and seems to be an alien being of unknown origin.  In all other episodes, The Observer can be spotted through a Where's Waldo disection of the show.  He often appears for a second or two in the background of a scene.  This link catalogs all his appearances for those who do watch the show and want to review.

If you missed the Fringe train when it debuted in September, it's time to hop aboard now.  The series was renewed for a full season and made Entertainment Weekly's list of best shows of the season (at #7).  Fringe returns for more new episodes on January 20th, until then, enjoy a recap video of the first series of episodes below.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Economy 1, PPC Winter Gala 0

Earlier this year I was asked by my company's CEO to lead the planning effort for the 2008 Holiday Party.  After holding planning meetings with my committee throughout the year and moving the date of the event from 2008 to January 2009 just a few months ago, a recent decision was made to cancel the event.  I had already reserved the hotel (the site of my brother's 2007 wedding), set the menu, planned the theme (Red Carpet Awards style), hired the band (The Dickens), booked a photographer and even set up an after-party complete with an outdoor cigar bar beneath a heated tent.  Unfortunately, my company cancelled the PPC Winter Gala to conserve spending and allocate the funds for other needs.  Today, my CEO sent out the message via an all-staff email.

I have mixed feelings about this decision.  While I completely understand that this may not be the time for celebration given the economic climate of the world right now, part of me wanted the party to serve as a break from the norm and a chance to get out for the night for our employees.  I was eager to see all of my team's efforts come to fruition in a kick-ass event.  I do trust the judgment of my CEO though and believe that we (PPC) can ride out the economic storm in the long run.  The one good bit of news that results from all of this is that January 2009 will be FAR less hectic and stressful now that we have abandoned planning efforts.  I don't have to worry about coming up with a centerpiece design scheme!  SWEET!   I can also focus on planning my company's second season of employee poker nights (we're getting a plaque made for the winner of last year's series). 

Lori told me that this effort would be almost similar to planning a wedding.  Unfortunately with this wedding, the economy forced PPC to have cold feet.  What would have made this easier on my team is if the decision to cancel was made earlier in the year so we didn't get this far along in our planning efforts.  In his messaging efforts, our CEO informed us that he would try to make up the cancellation over the course of 2009 through more small celebrations.  Hopefully my vision for the 2009 Winter Gala can be put into action a few years down the road in more prosperous times.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Drink: Dark N' Stormy

Lori and I were out at an Xmas party Friday night and I sampled one of the best cocktails I've tasted in quite some time.  The party host had several bottles of Jamaican ginger beer.  The ginger beer itself has no alcohol (allowing Lori to drink a beer while pregnant).  To help give the drink a kick, a few shots of Cruzan Blackstrap Rum was used.  The delicious mixture was smooth and refreshing.  Not the traditional holiday-time elixir but it did the job.  

After searching Google for the ingredients I found that Wikipedia calls the drink a Dark N' Stormy.  I will probably head out to New Jersey's finest liquor stores tomorrow to try to accumulate the necessary ingredients. Apparently they do not sell ginger beer in stores in Northern Virginia though (Dagger!!!).  If you like ginger (ginger ale especially), give it a try:


Ingredients:
60mL of dark rum
Ginger Beer
1 slice of Lime


Preparation: Pour the rum into a glass over ice. Pour the Ginger Beer over it. Squeeze in the lime wedge and drop it in.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Overrated Christmas Melodies

As I'm about to call it a night and mentally prepare for the 3.5 hour trip up North tomorrow (hoping Alex keeps his crying to a minimum), I thought I would throw out a topic for conversation.  What Christmas song(s) do you just find too annoying and overrated when the holidays come along each year?  I would like to nominate my least favorite Xmas song, "Jingle Bell Rock".  I hear this monstrosity all the time when December rolls around.  I hate the melody, I hate how it tries to be hip and upbeat and I really hate the lyrics.  What in bloody hell is a Jingle Horse?  I think my wife's family tries to play it on purpose when we visit just to bug me.  

Does anyone else have that one holiday song that they think is overplayed and annoying?

Snow up North!

According to some weather reports I've come across, central NJ is currently receiving significant amounts of snow. This is of intererst to Josh and I because A: we're heading up to Jersey tomorrow morning and B: we love snow and C: we haven't had snow accumulation in the DC area in far too long. We may have to go scout out a good sledding hill on Tuesday.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rockin' in the Wii world

Like blogging, I am late to join the party when it comes to Guitar Hero. Today we made it down to Richmond to visit my mom and step dad for an early Christmas and my Mom stepped up to the plate and got me Guitar Hero World Tour for the Wii. Not just the regular game but the full band set with guitar, drums and a microphone. The box itself could fit a small child comfortably and after assembling the drums and guitar, I was ready to go. I started with a few songs and played horribly on guitar. I found drums a little easier and vocals very easy (although my Mom's ears are probably still bleeding). Later in the evening, I was able to play with Lori. We took turns on guitar and drums and actually rocked out real good on "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins (one of my favorite songs by the way). I managed to hit the first 115 notes on drums in that song but realize I'm playing on easy level. I'm just not ready for medium anytime soon (I'm sure Doe will hate on me for that).

All in all the game is just as advertised and I imagine becoming very addicted to improving my performance. It looks like only about 30 percent of the songs are unlocked at first so I'm sure unlocking songs will be a nice incentive. I'm going to try to bring it all with me when we go up north to Jersey next week so we can have a few jam sessions with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend (I imagine the game will be way over the heads of my in-laws).
Thanks for a great gift Mom!

Friday, December 19, 2008

My kind of soda machine

So we were at Safeway buying wine for the Xmas party we're at (complete with medieval swords and thrones). This selection was on the 35 cent soda machine. Too bad it was sold out or I would totally have rolled the dice.

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Syracuse Suspension Revoked

I want to premise this post with stating to all of you who don't know that I am a die-hard Syracuse Orange fan. Having graduated from SU in 1997, I remain a loyal supporter (and will be attending the annual Syracuse/Georgetown game next month). A few weeks ago, the university announced that Junior guard Eric Devendorf (one of our top three players) would miss the rest of the season due to his off-court conduct. This news came during a 9-0 run to start the season for the Orange. On November 1st, Devendorf was charged with hitting another female student . There were reports that she tried to run him over with her car before the physical altercation.

Today, Syracuse officials have decided to change their stance and suspend Devendorf immediately for six games, after which he can apply to be reinstated for the rest of the season. Now while I am very much against abuse towards women of any kind, the facts in the case were a little gray on both sides. Along with coach Jim Boeheim, I thought a full year suspension was a little high for an incident that did not even garner any punishment from the local police. I'm not a big fan of the way #23 acts on or off the court (the word PUNK comes to mind), but having him for the Big East season and (hopefully) the NCAA tournament will be critical to the team's success.

It's a Girl!

We just had our latest sonogram today and found out we're having a little girl! We're all very happy about the news. Josh and Alex have been hoping for a little sister. She's due May 14th (my birthday).

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Editorial Note: A few months ago, when my wife first asked Josh whether he was going to have a baby brother or baby sister he said "Baby Sister." When Lori asked him why he was so sure, he said "Because I ALREADY HAVE a baby brother, duh!!" I guess he was onto something.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

World of Goo = Best value on Wii

It's been almost a year since my Mom bought my son Josh and I Nintendo Wii for Christmas. We've (mostly me) definitely got a lot of use out of it over the year. While Mario Kart may be the best overall game we own, a recent addition has become my personal favorite. World of Goo is a puzzle game that is hard to describe. It's a cross between a Tim Burton movie and the old school game Lemmings. The object is to attach living, breathing "Goo Balls" to one another to build a variety of different structures until the "Gooscraper" reaches a vacuum pipe which sucks in the remaining balls. Now if this sounds wacky, it damn well is! The levels get progressively tough as you move along and all the while a fantastically weird soundtrack sets the atmosphere. The physics model (programmed by developer 2D Boy - which is actually just two nerds) used in the game is extremely realistic and wind is utilized as an obstacle on certain levels. The real amazing thing about this game is that it costs about the same as a large pizza ($15) and you don't even need to leave the house to get it. Using the Wii Shop to get online, you can instantly buy Wii points browse the Wii Ware games and get your goo on in minutes.

Don't tell Josh, but I believe Guitar Hero is on deck for this Xmas so Goo may have to take a back seat soon (more on GH4 in another post down the road). If you own a Nintendo Wii and don't own World of Goo, shame on you! If you have at least 15 bucks in your bank account, go download it right away. I know many of you have already heard me preaching about this game before, but I'm really hoping 2D Boy reaps the rewards for developing a quality game for a great price and parlays that into Universe of Goo!  Those of you who don't have a Wii can download the game from 2D Boy and play it on your PC.  I can't imagine the gameplay would be as good as using the Wii remote.  A Youtube look at the World of Goo gameplay can be found below.



Casting Batman 3

For my money, The Dark Knight was one of the top movies of 2008. Apparently most everyone agrees with me judging by the box office gross and the fact that IMDB rates it as the 4th best movie OF ALL TIME. It's a no-brainer that with the success of the Heath Ledger vehicle that a third installment should be coming our way. Director Christopher Nolan has not confirmed he will be making Batman 3, but that hasn't stopped the rampant internet speculation of whom would be playing whom in the next film.



Today there was news from a UK source (The Sun) that Eddie Murphy is being considered for the role of the Riddler and Shia Lebouf is on tap to play Robin. Fortunately this was all fabricated by The Sun and is not true at all. As far as I'm concerned, Eddie Murphy's career died with this movie. And while I am actually a Shia fan, I think putting Robin in this new wave of Batman flicks is a BAD idea.

This did get me thinking about who should be cast in particular roles if the third film does get the green light. A lot of rumors are floating around about Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing the role of Penguin. While I think that is a pretty solid choice, I present a much better alternative: Paul Giamatti. He already has the balding look down and he's short, stocky and possesses the kind of demented humor you'd expect from the character. I think Giamatti is the perfect choice for Penguin if they decide to cast the role. Other ideas I have (depending on if Nolan decides to include the characters in the story or not) are:

Riddler: Steve Carrell
Catwoman: Angelina Jolie (I don't care if she's "too big a star" for a Batman movie, she's definitely the best choice)
Robin: If the boy wonder ever does get introduced into the new series of Batman films, I think Brian Austin Green (fresh off a strong career revival in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) should get the role

Any other creative casting ideas out there?

Mile High Surfing

My brother pointed out to me that a private company is looking to make in-flight internet a reality next year. Gogo (a pretty goofy name if you ask me) is offering internet on selected flights. So far only American, Delta and Virgin are planning on offering the service. American is already offering it on selected cross-country flights. Gogo is a service owned by Aircell, a private aviation broadband company.

I think the reality of allowing internet on flights is something that is long overdue. The price ($12.95) seems pretty fair for a long flight. If you just cut back and order two less vodka tonics during the flight you save up enough money to pay for it and you're more sober upon landing. I've been OK with watching movies on my laptop as an alternative (or doing work if I have to), but the idea of seeing a few flops in the air is intriguing. Would anyone actually pay for this service? Or do you enjoy the brief internet detox that air travel currently provides.

So now i'm just like everyone else | Snow in Vegas!?!?

It seems like everyone is bloggin' these days. As when the cellphone wave hit everyone in the late 90's, I tried to stay away from conforming to the masses as long as I could. I have found lately though that I need a place to put some of my random thoughts and comments on life and pop culture in some sort of documented format. As most of you who know me are aware, I am a pop-culture junkie and love to discuss movies, TV shows, sports, etc... Hopefully those of you who share that interest will chime in on my various postings (until I decide to give this up). And yes, I am prone to bad writing habits (like using parenthesis a lot). This is my blog though so as Eric Cartman would say, "WhatEVAH.... I do what I want!" I do have a degree in Journalism though so that should count for something. I couldn't think of a very original/catchy title for this monstrosity, so I went with a play on Tag Team's classic hit.

For my first post, I wanted to share a bit of interesting news on the weather front. Seems that Vegas received an early Christmas snow last night. Over three inches! In VEGAS!?! I found this pretty cool picture of the Luxor (one of my favorite Vegas casinos) coated with a slight dusting of snow. Pretty bizarre and makes me slightly question global warming. I actually view it more as global chaos as weather seems to be getting more extreme (hot and cold) over the past few years. I'm still waiting for a solid snowfall in the DC area and I'm hoping that Xmas at the in-laws in Jersey will be a white one this year.

That's all for now. I hope to try to keep on top of this and update it regularly. Tell your friends (and enemies) to add me to whatever RSS reader they're using.

--JR