Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My Life, Rated And Approved For Mass Consumption

This Is My Life, Rated
Take the Rate My Life Quiz
I decided to take this quiz. I wish I could remember where I saw it again as I've been holding onto this awhile. What I am happy to see is that I was over the average and that's all I can ask for.

I've been feeling like I'm in a funk today. I'm sure that it will pass shortly. I think it's lack of sleep yesterday prior to a blood donation. It was interesting giving blood though. They had me on a machine that separates the plasma from the red blood cells (I'm B+.) Instead of the standard needle, it has two holes in the end. One for drawing and one for replacing. Essentially, I have all my plasma back as well as some added saline. No wonder why I feel funky.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Little Sisters Are Gifts

Yesterday, I decided to fix a few things. No, nothing broken at the house. You see, the twins (Connor and Olivia) had their birthday party at an odd time when I would be at work. So, I drove off to Boulder City and gave them their present. As you can see in the photo, Olivia was more concerned with opening it while Connor was focused on smiling for the camera. Amazing kids. I then spent a few hours with my brother-in-law Cory working on some wood flooring he was putting in. I left after we got around the stairs so I could have time to head to the hospital.

No bad news. See, here's a photo of Connor and Olivia at the hospital eating popsicles. They are such good kids. I also read one of their Batman books to them (I don't think the understood all of it but they got a good grasp of things when Batman caught the Riddler.) That was fun. But, the main reason I went to the hospital and made the trip was because my sister gave birth to a baby girl named Lillian Jane on Thursday. I got the news on Friday morning when I got back from work and wasn't going to be able to visit the next day. Michelle was expecting to leave the hospital that day but wasn't feeling up for it (I mean geez... she had a C-section just days before but there is something about the Hennessy blood that makes you want to tell doctors that they don't know what they are talking about.)

I was actually afraid that I wouldn't find the right hospital so I followed Cory's mom there. (Las Vegas for some reason likes the name St. Rose and has a few hospitals starting with that... maybe it's a Knights Templar thing.) The baby is beautiful as you can tell from the picture (sitting on Cory's mom's lap) and very hungry. As expected, Michelle didn't want to be in the photo. The baby gets the name Lilian from my grandmother Lilian Hennessy and Jane is the middle name of Cory's mother. After hearing about the name, I hit Best Buy to pick up Depeche Mode's Playing The Angel for my sister (the song "Lilian" has been released as a dance single.) Actually, upon writing this, I don't know if they or grandma spell it with 1 or 2 L's. Before leaving, I got a chance to tell the twins that having a little sister is special as "I have one also, your mom."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Keep Your Hands Off My Books

I'm right-handed. Yet, my father is left-handed (ok, he's pretty much ambidextrous but still leans to using his left hand more.) Some stats place an approximate 10% of the population as left-handed. Seeing that this is a rare and unusual thing. Heck, many saw this as a sign of weakness ages ago and would retrain a child to use his right hand by restraining the offending arm. Nuns would smack the left hand of a child trying to write with that hand in school. That was possibly because being left-handed was interpreted as a sign of Satanic influence. It was claimed that until recently left-handed children in Africa would have their hand covered in boiling water and then buried in mud until all the nerves in that hand were killed... forcing them to use the other one.

So, I believe that we should rewrite all our elementary, junior high, high school and college textbooks to denote any historical personage with "(left-handed)" after their name. This would show students in the Southpaw minority that they are not alone, they can aspire to great things and that they will not be bullied into being like everyone else. Pretty idiotic isn't it. What if Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci didn't want people to focus on their hand preference?

Well, something similar is going on in California with another reportedly 10% of the population. A bill (Senate Bill 1437) has been introduced by Sheila Kuehl of the California State Senate to require mention of the accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people in school books for students as early as kindergarten. The bill which calls for a "bias free curriculum" was recently passed by the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the State Assembly. An Assembly Bill (606) would authorize the state to withhold funds from any school district whose policies do not adequately lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. There's even another Assembly bill that would allot $250,000 tax funds to "tolerance education" for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual lifestyle in 10 state schools.

I have several reasons for not supporting either of those bills. I have no issues with those I do and don't know in lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual lifestyles. I believe that if bills like these were passed nationwide... you are talking millions of dollars in tax dollars spent on new textbooks when schools have enough of a problem paying for the books they are short. Doing this for a footnote of "oh, by the way, he went both ways" doesn't add to an education a doesn't create a "bias free curriculum" when you only mention those that aren't heterosexual. How balanced is that? I also think that we have enough problems figuring out when to mention these things. You have artists like David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Morrissey and Clay Aiken that either dabbled, claims celibacy or denies. You then have to define how much dabbling makes the person something other than straight. Then you have people like Leonardo da Vinci that was not only left-handed but was emprisoned on suspicion of homosexuality although not convicted.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Study Of Chinese Art

So, I finished my last book, Larry Elder's Ten Things You Can't Say In America, and was looking for something lighter. I usually try to put an easier fiction book as a breather between some of the more detailed reading.

I was getting fitted for a tux at that event I mentioned earlier and found myself talking to the man taking the measurements. For some reason we got to talking about books and he mentioned that he was reading Sun Tzu's The Art Of War. It reminded me that the centuries-old text is still revered and it should be on my shelf. He also mentioned that the biggest problem with the book is the translation as some very bad versions came out early on.

I was persuaded to check online to find the best translation before buying it. This was extremely difficult to do so I gave up and stumbled around at Barnes & Noble for awhile. I was shown the section with the books and then I asked the customer service person about the translations. After thinking about it for awhile, she led me to a section of Barnes & Noble Classics. Yes, the chain actually prints their own versions of some of the classic books in paperback. It makes sense. The company wouldn't want to reprint a bad translation of the book. They'd want to sell the one that might get purchased. This was the Lionel Giles translation.

The one thing I can say (being maybe 20 pages in) is that it is an extremely easy read. The text is separated by sections and numbers (supposedly for student reference) with mainly single and double sentences. This book is going to fly by but I do find it interesting that I should take the enemy's chariot and have my troops use it to demoralize that enemy. Sure, I don't see that working now but it's little things like that and how many pieces of silver it will take to raise an army of 10,000 soldiers that I find dated but intriguing. If anything, it will hold me over until I restart Freakonomics.

Friday, May 19, 2006

In Praise Of Golden Arches or You Deserve A Bust Today... No Really, Today

I've never been a big customer of McDonalds. Sure, I like visiting here and there once in a blue moon. Yes, there is something unholy about the smell of their french fries that can make any mammal drool. Of course I'm still upset that they got rid of their ham, egg and cheese breakfast bagel but I've learned to deal with the loss. The last time I was there, I tried out their new premium spicy chicken sandwich. It currently is the most spicy one out there (just beating out Wendy's) but the chicken breast is so thin that it seems crunchy.

Of course, I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of breasts and not just chicken. I remember growing up where girls were hitting puberty at 15 (Treasa had trouble finding bras) and yes, I would notice. Over the years this age has been getting younger and younger with even a condition called precocious puberty affecting children as young as... 5. I've heard rumors and reports over the years linking childhood obesity and early puberty on McDonalds consumption and the beef and chicken producers' use of antibiotics and growth hormones. Other reports have dismissed it and said that occassional meals at McDonalds will not cause any problems with your health.

Why do I mention this now? Well, a new report finds that many Chinese undergarment manufacturers are producing less of the A-cup bras they are used to and are even seeing a sales boom of C's, D's and E's for women under the age of 20. Many scientists believe that the lack of a nutrition in the average Chinese diet in the past hampered their ummm... growth. The average chest circumference of a Chinese woman increased 1cm since 1990 according to The Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology. McDonalds opened their first stores in China in 1990. As of 2004 the city of Shanghai had 66 stores and over 600 in the country (with 100 more planned to open annually over then next few years.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006's Marty Hennessy Jr. Tennis Foundation Benefit

So, the party went pretty well. I found myself a nice tux (all black with white tie and hanky... very Mafioso) and got there with time to spare. You won't find any photos of myself. I don't take many photos and since it was my camera... I'd have to put my finger in the way to make it happen. The first picture you will see here (I won't name everyone because I can't) includes (left to right) Rudy Ruettiger, Frankie Avalon, Tony Bennett, Phyllis McGuire and Mike Agassi... ok, Dad is there behind Tony and Phyllis.

After taking the first photo, I was standing with my brother Michael (in the second photo on the far right) and this guy walks up and introduces himself. All I heard was the name Rudy but Mike heard the last name and got all giddy. "That's THE Rudy!" I tracked him down a little later and told him I'd love to get a photo of him with my brother... I found out a little later that Michael already made sure that happened. So I opted to get one of Michael, Rudy and my other brother Matt (on left.) Had a good laugh with Michael about the fact that Andre Agassi's dad Mike was at the event and that if he kept close and quiet to him, people would think he's Andre.

Finally, here is a photo of Jay Leno as he came in to wish Tony an early happy 80th birthday. Jay snuck around the corner with a big cake and said a few words. He stayed for a little while before having to go perform at the Mirage. This preceded the auction which went very well. I believe the whole event raised $200,000 for junior tennis players in Las Vegas. I even wound up purchasing a little piece of artwork from one of the kids in a silent auction. I just don't know where I'm going to put it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Life Update - 051206

Lots of stuff going on so let's dive in:

Missed my niece and nephew's birthday party last night. I was actually pretty excited about changing my shift to true weekends (Saturday/Sunday) as usually they celebrated these things then as I was usually the odd one out. Oh, well. Just means that I'm going to have to make a trip and spend some quality time with them to make up for it.

I've never been someone that gets excited about big gala events. I don't know if it's either that I'm just a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy or if it's the feeling that I'm on display. I believe that is why I've been hedging about going to one that my father is holding. I missed out on one before (which I planned on attending but had to finish the newsletter first and then couldn't find my sports coat) in which my father was honored. So, over the last few days, I've been planning to go to the tuxedo shop to get fitted (I think Dad came up with the idea of tuxes for all so I couldn't use the missing sports coat excuse again) but haven't made it. I did talk to the store owner and they'll let me do same day service on Saturday. I do plan on sneaking my camera into the event so expect a few photos. The one that I'd like most? A photo of my brother Michael with his godfather Tony Bennett (ok, maybe Jay Leno can be allowed in the photo as he'll be at the event also.)

Still working on adjusting my sleep. Things were going so well but then I had a string of nights where I'd see daylight before I could drift off. I think that I'm going to have to purchase big sheets of Styrofoam to fit my bedroom window (I never open up the blinds.) Styrofoam would block the sunlight (which rises on that side of the house) and also insulate the window during the summer season. I still need to try that 'hot shower when I get home' idea.

I'm on a frosted shredded wheats kick right now. I like them but by making that more of my meals, I won't eat a lot of the crap they serve at work. The buffet mentality is not conducive to weight maintenance, control or loss.

I'm trying to clear off my Tivo and DVD shelf before things get busy in June. Finally made it through the last of the Battlestar Galactica episodes. Now I have a bunch of Smallville and Bones episodes (maybe about 10 each) waiting for me.

I may be making a trip to Pittsburgh as the new company that I'll be working with (as early as June) wants me to see how they operate at the main office. I'm not big on travel unless I have a lot of free time and that's been dwindling over the last few years. I've been asked to clear a weekend to visit but I know that I prep the newsletter on Sunday (work on compiling new release data and sorting through some email press releases.) Maybe I can talk them into a Saturday (quick in and out) but I also wonder what am I going there on a weekend for if I want to see them work.

I think that someone would make a lot of money hiring me to compile great obscure songs for their upcoming movie soundtrack. They just need to call me and set up a meeting.

I was doing so well with my CD purchases for my iPod. I picked up a best of Kenny Rogers, best of Tanya Tucker and best of Freddie Jackson for $0.96 each. Then I found Danzig's Danzig, K.T. Oslin's Greatest Hits, Live's Throwing Copper (I know I have it somewhere but someone probably is holding onto it hoping that I forget) and This Mortal Coil's This Mortal Coil for $2.50 each. So things were looking great but then my The Best Of Kid Creole And The Coconuts came in... nowhere on the disc does it say live album. I'm pissed. I'm not big on most live albums and if I want a 'best of' I want it to be the best of the albums they've released.

I am also noticing that after mentioning that I'll expand upon a topic later in a post or reply, I often forget and never bring it up again. So here's to hoping that I remember.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Shaping Of Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a very strange place. Many would say that the way it gets its reputation from the early ties to organized crime, exotic dancers, millionaire hermits... but I believe people remember the varied themes of each hotel. History is wonderful but people are visual creatures. Themes have been a focus of hotel creation during the last few decades as a means to draw a 'different' type of crowd.

First of these to create a theme would have to be Circus Circus. Sure, it's a kiddie place with midway games and pink all over but it did draw people with circus shows and stuffed animals. Then I would say the Excalibur took the next step. They were created by Circus Circus properties and actually gave the impression of castle walls with turrets. The only problem is getting from one section to another as an employee but the theme works. They even carried the midway idea over and included a weight guesser.

The Circus Circus company then went one step further and decided to bring Egypt to Las Vegas with the creation of the Luxor. The pyramid shape had early issues as drivers reported being blinded as they passed the area so a change of reflective glass was chosen (and now sometimes has advertising on it.) The high-powered beam shooting through the top has been seen as far away as space. There is some interesting history of the hotel about it being cursed for trying to bring such a place to Las Vegas. During the first year of creation, many engineers reportedly saw cracks in the foundation widening. Many said the hotel was sinking others said the weight of the top was pushing the base out due to it being hollow in the center. More recently, the hotel added other sections around it which could be seen as lending support to the base... if you are a conspiracy theorist.

The MGM Grand popped up in 1993 and went in as a partner to build the New York, New York hotel across the strip from it. The company would later buy the partner company and the other half of the hotel. It is the only hotel in Las Vegas to actually show a skyline of any city and has a functioning roller coaster running on the outside. I still wonder how it functions internally as it is a collection of actual New York buildings. I do wonder if the rooms are themed or if they have a view from each of those little windows. Anyhow, after the purchase of Primadonna (the partner company), MGM went and purchased the Mirage properties and Circus Cirus properties (under the Mandalay Bay name.)

The MGM itself is rather interesting as it isn't the original. Many people visit and ask why it took so long to rebuild it after the fire. The MGM actually sold their hotel to Bally's after the destruction and lawsuits following the fire that claimed 84 lives and injured 679 in 1980. They actually decided to avoid the hotel industry entirely... until they decided to build the largest hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The MGM Grand is actually built on an existing structure, the Marina hotel. The newer structures took over the Tropicana golf course and included a theme park. Opening with a Wizard Of Oz theme, the hotel changed direction away from family marketing with the removal of the theme park and Oz areas. Not often mentioned is that if you look directly down on the hotel room area, it is in the shape of a crucifix.

A cross would be the first obvious use of symbology (although not often cited) in Las Vegas hotel structures but it would be wrong for me to exclude the Imperial Palace. It was long rumored that the building was slowly being shaped as a swastika. Now, you won't see many photos of it from above but this longstanding rumor still exists due to the history of late owner Ralph Engelstad. Essentially he was given the 2nd largest fine against a Las Vegas hotel ($1.5 million) for disgracing the industry with Hitler parties in 1986 and 1988 (Engelstad was the owner of a massive Nazi and World War II memorabilia collection.)

All in all, some people will see the glitz and glamour of 'Sin City' in television specials, shows and movies but there is a lot more in the buildings millions come to visit every year.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Worth A Million

No one can earn a million dollars honestly.

William Jennings Bryan

Sure, things have changed in the decades since Bryan wrote that quote. One is inflation but if you take it at face value, money can be earned honestly. The only dishonesty is when people judge the value of what you earned without knowledge of what you actually do. Yes, there are people out there that see big companies and believe that they run themselves and that the man at the top is just there as a figurehead or rolls around in a bathtub full of $100 bills. As a free society, we are allowed to believe such things. But, I wonder... where the dishonesty is in a Web site that sells space ($1 per pixel, 1,000,000 pixels)?

The Million Dollar Homepage is such a place. One perception would be that it didn't cost him $1,000,000 so why is he charging that much for it? (Cost is always a good critique.) Another view would be that because the site states the value at $1 per pixel, is that the true value? Web site value is pretty immeasurable as we've seen with a net bubble burst several years back. But... the domain name, the perceived advertising space and the fact that I'm mentioning it here give it a higher value than it took to create. Yet, owner Alex Tew will not earn $1 million for the Web site. In fact, the space will lose value over time as he re-purchases his domain name and pays for Web hosting. He will make money in speaking engagements and book deals, though. But, I do wonder what the level of dishonesty in this business model would be?

Friday, May 05, 2006

There Can Be Only One... Unless You Offer Us Big Money

I had to address this at some point but I really have no idea how anyone can get through life without seeing the film Highlander. I would think with the television series and even the film sequels that some people might have even heard of it but there are some uninitiated out there.

This film sits in my top shelf area in my video library because it blurs many genres and holds many great memories. Take one man in a kilt who is cut down in battle but miraculously survives and is shunned by his fellow combatants. Take one foreigner who befriends him and instructs him in swordplay, life, battle and what it is like to be immortal. Place them in a battle for an unknown prize that spans centuries between fellow immortals who are literally after each others heads. Throw in two love stories, wrestling, a very evil immortal, a lot of clashing swords, sparks, Sean Connery and a soundtrack by Queen. You are left with a film that touches on many levels and leaves you wanting more... even though the prize is attained and the battle is over. The film wasn't a box office hit but the advent of video rentals created a cult hit. I personally remember wielding broomsticks in the living room with my brother Matt while watching the movie over and over again.

I never got into the sequels and side-stories created as I didn't see the logic in how you could continue a battle between immortals if all but one had to die in the first film. The television series was very successful and had it's own spin-off series but after watching a few early episodes, I lost interest. They even tried an animated series in 1994. The only way I could see it existing was as something that happened before the film. Having a different Highlander with the name Duncan just messed up my mind. Films tried to follow the renewed interest but they were disappointments. Although, I felt some closure watching Highlander: Endgame (the fourth film) because they brought both Connor and Duncan into the film and made a decision on where the future would go. I have seen that they are actually working on a Highlander: The Source (film 5) which is supposed to be a search for the first immortal and the source of their immortality.

I do feel like there is something wrong with me that I can't accept a separate Highlander reality which would make it easier for me to accept there being more than "one." But I find it harder to believe that there are people who haven't seen the original film. If you haven't, rectify it and marvel in how a film like that got overlooked in the theater (ok, that happened to Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory and The Wizard Of OZ.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

No, that isn't my dog. I don't actually have one. Some day I'll probably write down my internal debate about pets but that's actually a picture provided by An Alaskan Abroad. This was the closest photo I found to illustrate my story.

I was working on my newsletter on Monday and heard a lot of barking. My bedroom faces my backyard and computer desk faces my window (which I keep the blinds up because I am a freak about privacy.) Suddenly, I hear a weird falling crushing sound followed by more barking. I peeked out my window and well, that picture fits exactly what I saw. Now, I mentioned recently that a neighbors dog has eaten a few of the new plants that I put down in the front yard. I've also known that parts of my iron gate leading to my backyard have been broken off due to someone standing on them. I've even seen my gate open here and there but here is this dog staring me in the face. So, I burst out the back door with a vengeance hoping to catch the owner of the dog also. No luck. I shooed the dog off and found the gate closed (but unlocked as I've never locked it.) It was a big dog but didn't react with hostility. The only one that was hostile was me as I looked at the yard after the smoke had cleared and noticed two "dog-piles" and digging areas in my newly created landscape.

I bought a lock that was too big for it and have run a coat-hanger through the access latch and made sure no one is getting in or out without deliberate action. Sure, I'd love to go to the dog's owner and say, "Keep track of your dog unless you plan of paying to fix my yard." But instead I'm more likely to ask, "How much is that doggie in the window?" as I write the owner a check to pay for what I wind up doing to it.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I'm Confused Are They Boycotting America Or Americans Boycotting?

Allergies have been kicking my butt. So, yesterday I visited some friends and just rested alot (with one eye on the draft.) I have to work on the newsletter tomorrow morning and normally I'd run off to work right after. Normally... but tomorrow is being called A Day Without An Immigrant and The Great American Boycott 2006 (yes, we are united but we can't agree on one name.) No, I'm not staying home to show my support.

I actually work in a "building" that has a mostly Hispanic cleaning staff (more than half of the employees on property.) The "building" is full of people renting rooms that need to be cleaned between guests and during their stay. A lot of the time, I meet these guests whether I'm bringing them things, listening to a complaint or assisting them with their keys. If the cleaning staff doesn't show up, all hell will break loose. This means that people in non-organized job classes will be told to clean rooms. I don't have to worry about that but I do know that these guests will not be happy waiting longer for their rooms, will find problems with their rooms and will want to vent these problems with someone who just so happens to be standing near them. I decided that I wasn't going to be there for that several weeks ago and put in for a vacation day. I've since seen many handouts at the "building" asking people to sign a petition as a show of support but still show up for work with the idea that they can go join the rallies after their shift. I don't think that is going to work too well. The cleaning classification is hard to fill where we are and many can use a nifty provision called F.M.L.A. (if you haven't heard about it, I'll probably talk about it soon) to get the day off and often get paid for it.

Anyhow, I look at the timing as perfect as I'm all stuffed up (I guess, I talk in my sleep when I'm really stuffy) at what feels like the peak of my allergy symptoms and I'll be able to take some nifty drugs and sleep (ok, I have to do a lot of typing but I don't have to rush it out by 4 pm like normal.) In some ways, I hope those protesting don't show up to work. Nothing shows how much you have sacrificed for honest work than to walk off of the job, have your children walk out of a taxpayer-funded school, spend no money (which means buy more before or after) and voice your "right" to reside in a foreign country illegally. I just wonder if it will take this one event, one event every year or a monthly walkout that will put businesses on the hotseat to maybe re-evaluate their hiring practices.