Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Give Me That Penny!

This isn't the post I meant to make today, but those can wait (and already have). This just happened today.

I was trying to be a good son on the way over to visit my folks. I stopped by Subway to pick up some lunch for us. When everything was assembled and ready to go, the total came to $11.26. Unfortunately, I didn't have a penny.

Hoping to not get a pocketful of change, I handed over a $20 bill and a quarter and said, "Can I borrow a penny?" The guy said sure, rang it up, then handed me my change... $8.99! Then, he said, "Now you have a penny," and took one out of my change! WHAT!? I was so dumbstruck that I couldn't speak. He saw the obvious confusion on my face and tried to explain his transaction, how I was "paying back" the penny I "borrowed." I just shook my head and left, the whole time knowing I'd just been shorted, but not exactly able to reason out why.

(Edit: $11.26 from $20.25 leaves $8.99. He gave me correct change, then took a penny for no reason.)

By the time I got to my car, I was actually mad enough to go back in and demand my penny back. Fortunately for the dude behind the counter, but unfortunately for the entertainment value of this blog, I did not. I just didn't think I'd be able to convince the cashier of his error.

As I drove home, I kept dwelling on it. I wasn't sure what made me more angry: that the kid just didn't "get" why I wanted to borrow a penny, or my inability to correct him after the transaction.

I know a lot of people would just blow it off, reasoning that "it was only a penny." But those people don't know me very well. I still get genuinely excited when I find pennies on the sidewalk. (By the way, I don't go in for any of that heads/tails nonsense. A penny's a penny!) I always look at the date and the mint. I hoard them miserly until I roll and deposit my change. Pennies rule.

I have demanded correct change for a penny before, so that didn't deter me. It was my own innumeracy that kept me from arguing about it. For shame on me!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Need a New Word

Is there a word for things that are so bad, they're good? How about "Awfsome" or "Terriffible."

My wife has a ritual called "Bad Movie Sunday." This is where she flips through the local channels and finds some mind-numbingly bad movie and watches it. I think you can imagine the kind of drek that is available. Think Weekend at Bernie's or Little Nicky. Being the sophisticated cinephile that I am, this is a habit I've just never understood. Or so I thought.

I had forgotten about my love for disaster movies! Even their premises are horrible! Anyway, I picked up 2012 the other day knowing full well it would be painful to watch. Boy, was I rewarded! This one is a classic!

I have very fond memories of my youth watching cinematic masterpieces like The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno. Something crazy always happens, and you never know who is going to survive to the end of the movie.

Unfortunately, modern disaster movies just don't have the same flair. Although I rank Volcano and The Day After Tomorrow pretty damn high on the So-bad-it's-good Meter, but most of the others are just plain bad. All the computer effects just don't have the same impact as a real set of an upside down cruise ship.

Anyway, back to 2012. It does a pretty good job of recapturing that classic '70's badness. Sure, it's got the crazy computer special effects, but what can you do. It also has completely ridiculous plot points and dialog, crazy cameos, over the top sentiment, and at least some suspense regarding who lives or dies.

The biggest problem with modern disaster movies is that they aim too high. Back in the day, they were satisfied to destroy a skyscraper, an airplane, or even a city. These days, they feel like they have to outdo all of that by destroying cities during the opening credits. Of course they have to destroy famous landmarks (a trait shared with monster movies of the '50's), but the number increases every time. 2012 basically destroyed the whole world! Where can they go from that?

Is 2012 a good movie? Not by a long shot. Was I entertained? Immensely! Would I recommend it? Only if you have the right attitude. With a big bucket of popcorn, some beer, and a lazy, rainy afternoon, it's a perfect combo.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Star Wars Improv

I haven't posted a video for a while, so let's see if this one works.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Father's Health, Part 5: Neurology

Well, I've been putting off posting about my Dad again for over a month. I still haven't completely collected my thoughts or decided exactly what I want to say, but the longer I put it off, the more difficult it will be. A couple of months ago my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

This was the result I most feared, and yet somewhat expected. He's taking medication (Aricept, I believe) which is supposed to slow down the onset of symptoms. They think they found it early enough to make a difference, but there still isn't a cure.

I've been very reluctant to do the necessary research about the disease and treatment and what to expect in the coming years. I don't think of it as denial, but maybe it is. I accept that he has it, but I just don't feel like learning about it yet. When he was in the hospital back in December/January (See Part 4), he suffered from dementia brought on by "sundowning" and accentuated by a drug he was taking for his bladder. He was very cantankerous, often extremely confused and forgetful. On a number of occasions he didn't even recognize me. That was hard to deal with, but at the time I coped with it very well. I was the one telling the rest of my family that we might have to accept the idea that he might never recover from that. I was very glad to be proven wrong.

But now, it looms on the horizon, which is even worse. Being struck with it suddenly, I had no choice but to deal with it. Now that I have an indeterminate amount of time to prepare, I find myself not wanting to prepare at all. But enough about me.

I'm concerned about my Dad. He's been in and out of the hospital numerous times this past year, and he absolutely hates it. It seems like at least once a month something occurs that requires a hospital visit, and inevitably that extends to a stay of at least a couple nights. He puts on a good face around the doctors and nurses, but he absolutely despises being there, and I don't blame him. The problem, however, is that now he is reluctant to say when something is wrong or to see a doctor for fear that it will put him back in the hospital.

Just this week his home nurse made her visit, and was shocked by how difficult his breathing was. She insisted my Mom take him to the ER, and they found early stage pneumonia. It's been treated and he's been released, but I have no doubt he would never have said anything about having trouble breathing.

But even that isn't really what concerns me. My Dad's depressed. He doesn't like to talk about it with the rest of the family, but he confides in me. I think it's a combination of his poor health, the frequent hospital visits, and the Alzheimer's diagnosis. Which makes me wonder if that was really necessary. I wasn't there when my parents went to the neurologist for the verdict. I can only imagine what the scene was like. My mother is practically deaf, and my father hears only what he wants and often forgets or misses details.

My question is, should the doctor have told him he has Alzheimer's? Wouldn't it have been better for just the rest of us to know and deal with it? Why put that burden on him? My Dad used to volunteer at a local home for Alzheimer's patients, ironically. He knows exactly what to expect (I sometimes wonder if he had a secret suspicion about himself that made him choose that kind of volunteerism). Like most men and most fathers, my Dad likes to be in control. He doesn't believe there are things he can't handle by himself. To be hit with the knowledge that your mind is slowly leaving you must be devastating.

I said my Dad was depressed, but it's more complicated than that. I know he wants to live. I know he wants to get better. But I think he finds it hard to motivate himself when he knows what's coming. He doesn't want to be a burden on his family. All the things he was hoping for the future may never come to pass. He still talks about fixing our old motorboat to take the kids water-skiing. He talks about the chores he needs to do around the house. He talks about getting his strength back in order to drive. Yet at the same time, I think he knows none of those things are ever going to happen. Do I discourage him by reminding him of limitations? Do I feed his delusions and encourage those plans? Currently, I sort of humor him and then try to change the subject.

I don't know how to end this post, which is appropriate since I'm sure there will be many more to come on this subject. I just needed to write something to get some of these thoughts out of my head. Don't worry, I have several more up-beat and strange posts coming, I just wanted to get this one out of the way first.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Run Wild 5K

Whew! This may be my last one for a while. It's just too dang hot. By 7:30 in the morning in Houston, TX it is already 78 degrees with 90% humidity. We've had a lot of rain for the past week, so the humidity is slightly higher than normal. I was really expecting (and hoping, actually) that it would be raining during the race, but alas, no such luck. In fact, the course was designed in such a way that I felt like the sun was shining directly into my eyes no matter which direction I was running!

My stats degraded a bit from last time:
  • Time: 27:25 Pace: 8:51/mile
  • Overall position: 304 out of 807 (37.5%)
  • Men's 40-44 position: 34 out of 63 (54%)
My pace slowed down a bit, but I mostly blame the heat. I also haven't run as much this week as the past several, but I really don't think that had much to do with it. I don't know why they can't organize these things to start around 5:30 in the morning. It might actually be cool then, and I could get back home to take a nap and feel like I haven't wasted the day.

There might be one or two more runs I would be interested in doing this summer, but after today I will really think about whether or not it's worth it. It's just so hot. I should just wait until September when the weather is better, but since I'm running almost every day in this heat, why should a 5K be any different?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Couple More Thoughts

Just a quick note, since I forgot something I wanted to mention about The Invasion from my previous post. The most heinous part of the most recent version was the coda. Yes, she gets her miracle boy to the helicopter, and his blood helps them find a cure. The last scene takes place some time in the future (weeks or months, it's not specific) as they all sit around the breakfast table congratulating themselves on still being alive.

I hate this ending for a couple of reasons. First, it could not feel more Hollywood-tacked-on. The first remake to actually have a happy ending. I guess that's the aughties for you. But the other thing is the unanswered questions it leaves. If all the "body-snatched" people were just suffering from a disease (which was cured), doesn't that make a lot of people murderers? Our heroine killed dozens in the frantic car chase alone.

"Miss Bennell, were you aware at the time that slamming your car into a crowd of people would likely kill many of them?"
"Yes, your honor, but it was self-defense."
"Self-defense? Were they threatening you with bodily harm?"
"No, your honor, but..."
"Were they carrying weapons with the intent to kill you?"
"Not exactly, but..."
"And if they had caught you, the worst that would've happened was that you would go to sleep and wake up with a detached and calmer outlook on life? Is that correct?"
"Well, yeah, but they wanted my boy."

Now that would have been an interesting courtroom drama.

On a completely different note, I absolutely have to share this link. My friend Dale sent it to me yesterday, and it's just wonderful. I've long been a fan of the movie Joe vs. the Volcano. In fact, it is the source of the name of my blog. I know it isn't a great movie, but still I love it beyond rationality. Here, the writer posts a beautiful defense of the movie, and even goes to say it is Tom Hanks' best performance. Check it out: The Best Role: Tom Hanks.

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