Thursday, November 5, 2009

State v. National

I would like to first preface this blog post by saying I do not support a lot of President Obama's policies. However, I still think he is a good person trying to make some important changes. Also, it is not my intent to offend anyone with this post.

And that leads me to today's blog of annoyance:

Tuesday's gubernatorial races, the media craze surrounding them, and the references made to President Obama.

For those of you who have no connection to the outside world, or don't know what "gubernatorial" means (heh, heh, it sure is fun to say/type though!), there were two governor races voted on this past Tuesday -- one in New Jersey and one in Virginia. The main talking points were the tight race in NJ, which has had a Democratic governor for a long time, and the huge lead the Republican candidate in Virginia had -- a state that had gone to Obama in the 2008 election.

Now, President Obama did some campaigning for both the Democratic incumbents -- and rightly so, being a Democrat. Obviously you want as many of your party in influential positions throughout the nation as you can get. But even with his strong backing, both states went to the Republicans (an almost unheard of event in NJ!).

Now, much of the media, especially FoxNews (and now a collective cringe), jumped on this outcome as possibly a hit against the president's policies and questioning if this was a hint of the 2010 Senate/House races.

**Ok, I want to interject here that I watch FoxNews alongside CNN and I also read the NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal. Just want to make clear there is no bias or anything here. Pure opinion.**

Now, here is where I get annoyed. The media keeps trying to tie in the outcome of these gubernatorial races with President Obama's policies. They keep asking the question, "Is this an indication of the voters turning back from supporting Obama as a result of some of the policies he is suggesting?" (More or less the standard question). Well, first off, these are STATE races based on STATE issues. It is my firm belief that Obama's policies had little to do with the way the voting went in NJ and Virginia, especially NJ.

In NJ, it was more or less a choice between the lesser of two evils. And after the whole corruption scandal recently, the voters decided on a change, even though the margin of victory wasn't huge.

In Virginia, a long-standing "purple" state, voters decided to go with a Republican governor again after not being satisfied with the job done by the Democratic incumbent. No real surprise here, in my opinion.

The crux of this annoyance is how the media kept harping on how the outcomes of the state elections reflected a snub on President Obama. In my opinion, voters were more concerned about the issues in their respective states at this point in time -- jobs, taxes, etc. Yes, Obama has been working on national issues concerning this, but at this point in time, the voters were focused on state issues -- what was going on right at home.

So, it is just annoying to me to read and listen to the news constantly questioning the president on issues on the state level!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Hey! This TV show is doing well! Let's make a spinoff!"

First off, I apologize for not updating my blog regularly. I shall rectify this starting...sometime in the future. =D Just kidding...

Anyway, I know what you are thinking. 'What kind of title is THAT?' Well, it's a title that I tried to make witty and humerous without taking up the maximum title space. But I'm not here to write about the title. I'm writing about what the title means. So, let's begin...

This blog could be used against several TV shows, but I'm focusing on one in particular, mainly because I'm a fan of the parent show. I'm sure many of you have either seen or at least heard of this show:

I absolutely love this show. It is witty, humerous, and light at the same time it is dark, contentious, frustrating, etc. The characters are all their own person, meaning not one of them is the same in characteristics, thought processes, reactions, and the list goes on. Their interactions throughout the various episodes are intense, humerous, emotional, touching, frightening, etc.

So, with the obvious success of the above-mentioned show, CBS decided to air a brand new TV show alongside the new season of NCIS:

Whoa! What is this? NCIS goes to Los Angeles? Is that comparable to CSI going to Miami? I digress...

Anyway, after falling in love with the regular NCIS, I figured this new show would be pretty engaging, exciting, humerous, and everything you would expect from the parent show. Um...not so much. Sad to say, after two episodes, NCIS:LA as failed to really catch my attention. The premiere was lackluster at best, and the ensuing episode was just as bland.

Reason 1: Everyone is exactly the same, and what I mean by that is, there may be diversity in roles of the actors, but their characters', well, characteristics, are almost identical. There is not much interaction between the characters. They just seem to know everything about everyone and just take down bad guys. In contrast to the original NCIS, there is no "computer nerd", no "male chauvinist", no "can't-stop-thinking-of-girls guy", and no "goth forensic scientist", to name a few. NCIS:LA's characters just lack diversity in this way which causes a lack of true interaction between them. For those of you who have seen this show, maybe you differ in opinion, but this is what I think.

Reason 2: Did I miss something? Are these people undercover? They must be because none of them own a badge. Oh, and they have the worst crime scene investigation techniques ever. As of yet, I haven't seen the use of rubber gloves in a crime scene area or when combing through a suspect's house. Where is the professionality?! They just tell people they're NCIS and everyone just believes them! Hello!

Reason 3: If you ever thought NCIS was predictable (which I personally don't), then you'll be able to figure out the ending (whodunit) of NCIS:LA in the first two minutes. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but still, the show is pretty straightforward in its approach. Unfortunately, there are not many twists and turns yet. Granted only two episodes have concluded, but still, usually the premiere is meant to lure the viewer into watching more of the series. NCIS:LA did not really accomplish that goal, at least in my eyes.

Just because the original show was amazing does not mean the spinoff of it will be just as amazing. (There can be a lot of relation to this on the movie side of things). I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, but when you're pitting the spinoff against its parent show, please make sure it's at least as good if not better. (Especially if they air back-to-back on the same network on the same night!)

Now, I understand this show is just starting out, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it will get better and better as the show continues -- one can only hope. And for those of you out there who have seen it and liked it, that is completely fine. I'm more or less just pointing out several issues I've had with the show so far.

So, here's to hoping that this TV show spinoff turns things around and really becomes the blockbuster show people think it will be.

(Please comment below! Thanks)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Something Magical

At LeakyCon 2009, I went to a session by Time book critic and author, Lev Grossman. He was doing a session about writing and also promoting his new book, The Magicians. Having a love for the fantasy genre, I was intrigued by his new book and decided to purchase it. I had heard good things about it via tweets from friends, so I felt confident that I had made a good purchase. I finally finished reading it last night and decided to blog about it--kind of a review. So, if you have not read it yet and don't want to be spoiled...


Yes, you have been warned....

Let me first say that this a totally different take on magic versus Harry Potter (although several nods are given to HP throughout the book which I will touch on). Having not really read any reviews on it and only reading the extract received at LeakyCon, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had in mind something like Harry Potter just from what I heard, but was curious as to the direction the book would take.

The book does loosely follow some of the construct of the Harry Potter world (i.e. hidden school of magic, different years at the school, etc.), but obviously not to the same degree. For one, the school is in America and it is a college rather than a sort of secondary school such as Hogwarts. Also, the magic is very different. These are all good because obviously copying JKR wouldn't go over well.

Anyway, one of the biggest things that really caught my attention was the type of magic used. It was more based on language skills and patterns of the hands versus conventional wands. Also, the spells used were more complex than the magic of HP. Grossman used a very unique style to convey the magic of Brakebills and that impressed me.

Something else that really caught my attention was the many references to the Chronicles of Narnia. If you read the book and didn't catch the correlation between Narnia and Fillory, well, then either you just didn't make the connection or have never read the Narnia books. At any rate, there is almost unmistakable similarities between the two fictional worlds, right down to the different buttons used to get into Fillory (the rings used in the Magician's Nephew). I won't go into too many details because I want you all who are reading this to read The Magicians and find out for yourself.

Unlike HP, the book does not really revolve around Brakebills and the education there (much to my suprise), nor like Narnia does it really center on the quests of a magical world that really is not as fictional as our main character, Quentin, figures. In my opinion, the main issue in the book is finding oneself. Is it being a magician? Is it finding a magical world and having a crazy adventure? Throughout the entire book, we see Quentin battling the issue of what really brings happiness, what really brings fulfillment in life.

And that leads me to some of the issues I have with the book:

First, it does not seem that there is any real center point for the plot to revolve around. We have Brakebills, Fillory, magic, New York, etc.: several aspects of the book and yet not one really takes center stage, in my opinion. It seems that the connection between Brakebills, the magic learned, Fillory, and the magicians is more abstract than concrete, meaning it is hard to weave these aspects together as they are presented in the book. This makes the plot hard to follow.

Second, the references to Narnia are, well, very blunt. It's one thing to come up with your own world, but it's something totally different to take something already made and just change around some names and places. No offense to Mr. Grossman, but I think the differences between Fillory and Narnia are very small. I can see how making a nod to a well-written series would be fine, but taking something already written and just recreating it, well, I think that is going too far.

Finally, the ending seems very anti-climatic compared to the build-up of the entire series. There seems to be too many loose ends at the final chapter to really give closure. Yes, Alice turns into a niffin but is that it? Did that water nymph really know what that horn did? And why didn't Jane Chatwin just turn back time to before the Chatwin kids had entered Fillory, saving everyone the trouble?

Overall, a very interesting book, but my suggestion would be to borrow it from either a friend or the library and read it first before buying it (not to keep anyone from buying it, of course, but it might not be for everyone).

Please comment below! Thanks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

HBP thoughts...finally

So I finally got around to writing out my critique of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I've watched the movie twice so far: once at the midnight release, and the other a week later. It was pretty amazing both times, but as I'll talk about below, I have a few issues (but also a few praises).

First off, if you haven't seen this movie yet, your **SPOILER** alert is right now. Moving on...

The PG rating of Half-Blood Prince has always mystified me. I do not understand why Order of the Phoenix was rated PG-13 and Half-Blood Prince was not. Now, the rating scale could have changed somewhat over those two years, and maybe it did. But my problem is, why NOT make Half-Blood Prince a PG-13 movie? The books become darker and darker and yet it seems that much care is taken in preserving a PG rating.

My first issue (and this involves the rating, too) was the destruction of the Muggle bridge at the very beginning. I don't know if anyone else noticed, but every single Muggle made it off that wildly swinging and swaying and crumbling bridge safely. Now, obviously being on a bridge that is being destroyed by unknown methods is terrifying enough, granted. But seriously, how hard is it to have a few deaths to make it more realistic and to really bring to home the horrifying attacks the forces of Voldemort were making on the Muggle world? I think more could have been done with that scene to show the true terror of the Death Eaters.

The scene with finding Horace Slughorn was well done I thought. The repairing of the house was an awesome piece of special effects and Jim Broadbent did an excellent job as Professor Slughorn right from the very beginning when we find him in the chair (which was really cool!).

I had some issues with the Spinner's End scene. In the book, Bellatrix is trying to more or less stop her sister, Narcissa, from talking to Snape. But how it is portrayed in the movie, Bellatrix becomes more the instigator rather than protesting. She insists on the Unbreakable Vow when in the book, she is more shocked that Snape would agree to such a magical bond. The scene was well done for what it was, but I thought more could have been done to match the book.

I believe the whole issues between Ron, Lavender, and Hermione were well captured. Jessie Cave played Lavender really well. (Even I was annoyed by just watching her as Lavender!) Going along with the whole relationship issues in this movie, I think they were well covered without going too far overboard and straying from the book.

The cave scene was amazing! Enough said.

Overall, this movie was well done. I enjoyed the hilarity of Ron with the chocolates spiked with love potion, and Harry and Professor Slughorn's exchange at the greenhouse ("Harry!" "Sir!"). The scene with Harry facing down Snape wasn't as climactic as I had hoped, but it wasn't too bad. Also, there wasn't too much action in this movie. I was surprised, actually. The couple fights lasted only a short while and the Death Eaters entered and exited Hogwarts with no confrontation, which I was hoping for. I know that they are kind of saving for the huge battle in the Deathly Hallows movies, but still, it would've been nice to have some kind of small battle.

Anyway, those are my thoughts (at least the ones I can recall right now). Comment if you like!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who's really caring about my health?

I will be completely honest...

I do not believe the government is the best judge of what kind of health care I can have or what kind my employer can have. And before I get tons of angry comments saying that's not what President Obama is going for, yes, you are completely right. I watch the news, read the articles online. (And for those of you wondering, I watch both FoxNews and CNN, read the NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal, so my opinions are not based on only one source.)

I am totally behind the idea that everyone is entitled to health care. Also, I am behind the idea that those more unfortunate people who are unable to afford health care will be able to be under some kind of plan. However, I do not agree on the route that is being taken to pay for this.

The figure being thrown around is around $1 trillion over the span of 10 years. That is a lot of money. And before you bring up the fact that this issue has been at the forefront of the problem with passing this health care bill, yes, I know. But first I want to take a different tack that I have not, to my knowledge, heard brought up on any of the news sites.

The government is setting aside funds to subsidize their own health plan, formally known as the "public option." This has many politicians riled because it has the potential of undercutting the private health insurance sector. But my gaffe is not about that. What I have a problem with is, what happens after those 10 years?

Ok, case in point. My family does not have health insurance because it's not affordable for us. And we have had our share of hospital stays, bills, etc. So let's say this healthcare bills passes and, because it is cheap insurance, we sign up under whatever plan the government offers. Now, fastforward 10 years and about $1 trillion+ later and suddenly, the money is not there for the health insurance plans. Now what happens? Does the government suddenly drop millions of people from this plan because it can't pay for it?

Which leads me to my second point and the one most hotly contested--how to pay for this plan. President Obama has assured, reassured, and reassured (well you get the picture) the middle class that the taxes will only hit the "rich" upper levels of the American classes. But what happens when the rich decide they don't like being taxed? Will the government renege on it's promise and start lowering the income level for the surtax in order to keep the health care program going? Will this plan become another Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid? And then again, maybe all classes of Americans will be taxed one way or another to pay for this bill, be it through a tax on "unhealthy" foods, cigarettes, alcohol, etc? Or maybe it will come to not only paying for this health care plan, but also being taxed for it on top of the premiums? It would be like paying for car insurance, then getting in a wreck that your insurance covered, but still paying to have it fixed.

I do believe President Obama is trying to do a good thing. I just believe he's going about it the wrong way.

And please feel free to comment!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Brain Control?

What happens when someone gives you a suggestion?

Well, several things take place. First, you take that suggestion and process it in your mind, judging it against values that you've already set up--decision parameters, so to speak. Some of these parameters might include who the person is (i.e. is it someone you trust), what suggestion exactly has been made, if there are any "hidden" meanings in that suggestion, etc. Secondly, you formulate a response based on how that suggestion matched up to your parameters. Oddly enough, even though we know how we want to respond, depending on who the person is, or even your own personality, you may second guess you decision and end up just agreeing with the initial suggestion.

And here's the kicker--against our own personal values we allows someone's suggestion to manipulate us into reforming our response to be in the affirmative even though we totally disagree with the suggestion.

Maybe this is just me. I have no psychology background; this is just what I've observed in my own life. Some of you may say "You're just not confident enough to stick up for what you feel is right". Others may say "You're too much of a people pleaser and want to feel accepted". And maybe this is all true. But at the same time, does it really account for the fact that someone is suggesting something over and over again just to make a point?

I don't like "forceful suggestions"--suggestions that make me feel like I'm making the wrong choice if I disagree.

Maybe it is just all in my head...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Have you ever wondered what path you would be on if you had made a different choice at any number of past decisions you faced?

Or maybe a quick decision is needed and you hesitate and then the moment is gone?

Welcome to my life. Second guessing and hesitation are my faults. I don't usually make a decision unless I'm almost 100% certain it's something that will work out. And usually such hesitation leaves me with no decision because the window of opportunity has already closed.

Just recently I've been thinking about several decisions that I hesitated on--one being about a girl I went to college with. To be perfectly honest, if I had not hesitated and had just asked her to be my gf, we would've probably been married by now. But, for some reason, I didn't make that choice. I decided to "play it safe". I wanted to get through college and wasn't sure if a relationship would help or hinder me--especially since she went to a different college not far away.

And now, even though we're still friends, I don't ever see getting back with her.

So I wonder--what if I hadn't hesitated? What if I had just taken the plunge, been a man, and just asked her to be my girlfriend?

They say hindsight is 20/20 and I say that's right. But how do you know when to think something over and when to just go for it?

That is my quandary.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Texas: Part 2

I work for a company called Security International. They deal with fire alarm and security systems. My official title is estimator/designer. I help research projects and put together bids for the contractors doing the construction. Eventually, I'll be learning AutoCad so I can design blueprints and all that fun stuff...which is something I really want to do.

And that's more or less what I moved down here for. I love living on my own more than the far!!

Also, the close proximity of a beautiful beach is definitely awesome! I like the area down here, even though it gets wicked hot and humid.... Also there are lots of Mexicans. Hearing Spanish being spoken around you more or less every day is, well, rather annoying. If it wasn't for the American-looking buildings and and cars and streets and everything, I would've thought I had driven too far and ended up across the border into Mexico.

Anyway, my apartment is slowly coming together into livable quarters. My bedroom is more or less done, as is the kitchen and bathroom area. Now I'm working on the living room area. I just bought a nice TV stand and TV. Also, my landlord gave me a futon/couch thing for free that someone else had left...So yay me! And it's black, so it fits in with my black/green scheme color thing for the living room. (Oh, and btw, a black lacquer/glass TV stand is freakin' heavy to carry up to the second floor all by yourself...just in case any of you out there try it!)

And that's more or less my move to Texas!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Texas: Part 1

Good day from Southern Texas!!

Wait, what?? Texas??

Yes, that's right. Many of you know by now, either via Twitter, Skype, or the Leaky Lounge that I had moved to Texas, but I am finally getting around to a long overdue blog about the whole thing.

And what better place to start than the beginning? (which is why this will take more than one blog post)

In February, one of the guys I had gone to college with, Ryan, (we were both Business students) came back to visit and also do a presentation about the company he was working for down in McAllen, TX. They had some openings and he was looking for people to fill them. I sat in on the presentation, mainly to just hear what he had to say and also visit with some other friends who had also returned for a visit at the same time. I talked with him briefly about it, but didn't really think much of going to Texas. I wanted to stay in Wisconsin close to family (on my mom's side) and also so I could visit my sister, a junior in college, and my brother, who is going to be a freshman this fall.

Well, the job opportunities I was looking at in WI fell through and I really had no idea what to do. Then, I thought of Ryan and his presentation. The company he was working for was expanding and there was something I was at least interested in trying--at the very least it was in my field of study at college (and finding something like that in this economy is becoming increasingly difficult). So, I contacted Ryan via Facebook and he was very excited that I was interested. See, in 2008, we were both on the same team for our Business Capstone project--basically we had to come up with a brand new company and create a business plan and present it as a viable company to our "investors". So, we had past working experience together and he knew how I worked.

Anyway, we got talking and then his dad called me to talk about the business (he is the owner). It was starting to look like the job opportunity was shaping up and I was headed to Texas. But then I didn't hear from them for about 2 or 3 weeks. I knew they were supposed to be calling me back, but never did. I was getting a little worried and my dad said I should probably start looking for something else just in case.

Well, I really didn't want to do any job searching. I kinda looked at some stuff, but really had no interest. (Although, there was a job opening as a CSR for Blizzard at their complex in Austin, TX. I really liked that one.) I decided to just text Ryan and see what was up. He immediately texted back with sincere apologies at dropping the ball. Some issues had come up at work and everyone was busy, etc. I understood, and said I was still interested.

Then, all of a sudden I was telling them that I would be down in Texas by the end of the month of June....


Sunday, June 21, 2009

LeakyCon '09 -- Best Week of My Life!

Yes, I know LeakyCon happened a month ago. I just found time to write this blog. Don't get your wands in a knot....

Anyway, did you know that it takes approximately 36 hours by car to get from my town in Montana to Boston, MA? For that matter, who would be insane enough to drive that far anyway?!

Well, I'm that insane because I did it last month to get to LeakyCon.

My family is anti-Harry Potter. They are pretty much close to how the Dursleys would be like in real life (on the subject of magic, that is --- no, I am not forced to live in a cupboard under our stairs). So, when I took this trip to LeakyCon, it was like leaving Privet Drive and arriving at Hogwarts for the very first time. The events of that week were just that magical.

To tell everything that went on there would take several weeks worth of blogs. So, I'll just try and touch on some of my favorite highlights.

First off was meeting my fellow Lily and Stag Inn staffers. I finally got to meet in person staff members I had only chatted with and worked over the internet with. It really was an amazing meeting, spouting Leaky Lounge names and putting the Lounge names with the real people. My fellow staff members there in the L&S Inn are some of the awesomest people in the world!! Not to mention that out of the 25+ staff members in that section of the forum, I'm the only guy. Yeah, it's a pretty good life. =D

Meeting the Pottercasters (Melissa, John, Sue, and Frak) in real life was simply amazing. Not only that, but I ended up staying in a suite right next to theirs (dubbed the "Leaky Suite"). Yeah, that was really, really cool.

Secondly, I participated in my first ever wizard rock concerts (or "wrock" as it is more commonly known as). The only wrock I had ever really heard before was the first Jingle Spells CD which I own. But, I found out that I really love wrock! I didn't think I would; didn't think it would be my style. But I'm so glad that I was wrong! It is amazing music (and Ministry of Magic is my favorite!).

Third, I met some of the coolest people on the face of this planet. I had no idea what to expect for this conference, but the Harry Potter fandom is one of the friendliest, most welcoming, most closeknit fandoms that I know of. I made some awesome friends and long-lasting memories. Where else could I go with a group of fellow staffers and throw tea in the St. Charles River (Boston Harbor was too far, unfortunately)? Where else could I dance the night away to wrock and "Total Eclipse of the Heart"?

Where else could I finally be myself?

Thank you, LeakyCon 2009, for everything. I'll see you in Orlando, FL, in 2011!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A little introduction

One of the things I've been meaning to do is start my own blog. Well, I finally got around to it and can scratch one more thing off my to-do list. Yay!

Anyway, my name is Daniel. I'm 23 years old and just graduated from college with a degree in business management. I currently reside in Montana where I was born and raised. My only disappointment is that I wished I had grown up on the western side of the state in the mountains instead of in the badlands/plains of the eastern side. I love the mountains! One of these days I hope to live close to mountains...

I digress...

What is this blog going to be about, you ask? Anything and everything, I answer. Maybe it's something I've been thinking about, a funny story, comments on a new movie/book, etc., or just randomness. One of the subjects that will definitely be incorporated a lot is Harry Potter.

I work for The Leaky Cauldron, one of the largest Harry Potter news/fan sites on the web.
Check it out here -------->>>> The Leaky Cauldron

And just what jobs do I perform there? I work in the forum section of TLC called the Leaky Lounge. And you can check that out here ----------->>>> Leaky Lounge

The section I work in is the Lily and Stag Inn, the Reading Group forum. We read through the Harry Potter series and do chapter-by-chapter discussion of each book with lots of fun randomness thrown in with it. And speaking of discussing, the Reading Groups are going to start discussing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix starting June 20th!

If you love discussing Harry Potter or just want to hang with some of the coolest Harry Potter fans in the world, please check out both sites!

Enough shameless plugging for my place of work. =)

And that's me! Until next time...