So I’m now a Cingular employee

Well, the day has finally arrived. Other than being asked to comment by the local news crew outside the building, it was fairly uneventful. As Melanie just said, I should probably put something on my resume about working for companies that get bought out. If you’re looking to sell, hire me! I suppose only 50% of the companies I’ve worked for have been bought (if you include the company I owned and operated), so it’s no guarantee, but those are pretty good odds.

Things look pretty good for my job. My boss’s boss is the only executive from AT&T Wireless who’s directly reporting to Cingular’s President/CEO, Stan Sigman. That looks pretty good for our jobs, although there’s still the possibility they could decide that International has to use all of domestic’s IT systems and phase our jobs out, but something tells me that’s unlikely. Our technical systems aren’t incredibly complex, but our legal arrangements are, and something tells me that we’ll probably be left fairly alone for the time being, especially with all Cingular has to worry about and considering how small our division actually is.

However, I’ve been seriously thinking about trying to get a job at ClearWire, which is Craig McCaw’s new venture in Kirkland which is venturing into the area of WiMax deployment. WiMax is a new technology, the 802.16e standard, which will allow broadband fixed wireless deployments (and sub 2ghz mobile deployments). It has a theoretical bandwidth potential of over 200 megabits a second, which would allow for Video on Demand, VoIP and Internet services all to flow over the same pipe, wirelessly, into your house. Obviously, this bodes incredibly well in rural areas where fiber to the premesis isn’t likely to come along for quite some time (and with this kind of technology, probably ever). It’s an excellent last mile alternative, and with McCaw’s history and connections, it’s probably likely to go very big.

In the mean time though, things look good for me at AWS. I have work to keep me busy for the next year if nothing changes, and I’ve got a good position there. With the announcement of where our organization is reporting, we’ll have our own representation in Cingular’s strategic leadership, so that bodes well for our jobs to remain in Redmond for the forseeable future. Who knows what’s going to happen, but seeing as no other senior AT&T executives are remaining, I think things are looking pretty good for me. I hate orange though, I wonder if that’ll cause a problem…

Scary Movies

Like everyone else in the world, I love movies. And while a good drama or comedy is always good, nothing compares to the horror film. This disturbing desire for something to scare the shit out of me is in my blood. My parents went to see The Exorcist at the drive in when I was a baby (I hear my growling back at Linda Blair was creepier for my parents than the actual movie), and snarling monsters, shrieking ghosts, and screaming damnsels in distress were pretty much a staple at my house. As much as I love horror, I’m very rarely frightened. So I spend a lot of time in front of the TV hoping against hope to be scared out of my wits. Every once in a while a movie gives me a start. So since Halloween is around the corner, and becasue I love lists, I give you my top 10 movies that actually managed to give me a case of the willies.

10. The Exorcist – Possession isn’t always creepy, but when it’s a little girl who says things like, “Your mother sucks cock in hell” to a priest – it’s just unsettling. I know most people pick the head-spinning scene as the scariest, but personally the image of the vandalized statue in the church sets the stage for the whole movie – it also makes me feel super uneasy.
9. Flatliners – This isn’t a great movie, but luckily, greatness isn’t a criteria for establishing horror. This movie has a few jumps, but it also tends to stick with you for a while, especially when you go to bed. The movie has great atmosphere, which puts you in the right mood to be a little nervous during Kiefer Sutherland’s nightmares of a vengeful child he tortured in his youth. Julia Robert’s dead dad is pretty eerie too.
8. Dementia 13 – I’m betting not too many people have seen this movie. This was Francis Ford Coppola’s first film and it’s a decent story. A woman spends time with her husband’s family in Ireland and attempts to work the death of her husband’s little sister to her advantage. It has two pretty terrifying moments. (1) The discovery of the underwater grave (water is scary to me all by itself). (2) The younger brother tells the doctor about a dream he’s had since childhood. In his dream he’s standing next to his mother while there’s a man who is insane in the room with them. The man says that someone else in the room is also insane and when he nods his head, the other insane person will nod their head back. When he nods his head, the younger brother looks up and his mother for comfort and sees that she is nodding too.
7. Nosferatu – The original dracula is still the best. Black and white does well for horror and combined with it being a silent film, you just can’t watch this without feeling some serious unrest. What makes it so great is Max Schreck’s portrayal of Count Orlock (aka Dracula). He was so convincing there are actually rumors that he really was a vampire. But what really gets me are all the scenes of him floating across the rooms – which I’m sure was just the actor on roller skates of some kind being pulled across the room – and the wonderful use of shadow. The shots of the shadows of the vampire’s fingernails and hands reaching out to an unsuspecting victim have been the inspiration for images in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
6. The Ring – Most modern horror movies rely on gore to frighten the audience, and usually at the cost of decent story and atmosphere. But not this one. There is some gore, but it’s well placed and isn’t intended to be the main gimmick. The plot is laughable, but it works. The best scene is the final scene where we finally get to see Samara in action. I hear the original is scarier. I’ve got it on my Netflix rental queue so I’ll know soon enough.
5. Halloween – Another classic, but it really does stand the test of time. I don’t know how dangerous a man that could be easily outrun by my grandmother could be, but he sure seems to create a good amount of havoc. Everyone’s got their favorite scene, but for me it’s the hanging sheets scene. You know, where Jamie Lee Curtis looks out her window to catch a glimpse of him between the billowing sheets on a clothesline? Super creepy.
4. Suspiria – Off all the movies on this list, this one is probably my favorite. I love, love, love this film. The plot is insanely lame, but the visuals and the soundtrack more than make up for it. The acting is also pretty bad, though I think this can mostly be blamed on the fact that the film was originally intended to feature a cast of girls under the age of 12. Due to it’s graphic nature, this was changed to older girls, but the dialog was never re-written. It makes the coversations akward at best – and ridiculous at worst. Basically the plot is an American dancer (ballet) travels to Europe to train at a famous school where she uncovers a devious secret. The visuals are amazing – the sets are all vibrant reds and blues, the school is breathtaking, and the music makes you a little uneasy right from the beginning. The music is mostly one track that sounds like a music box, but it’s spooky. The opening murder scene is, in my opinion, the most gruesome and fantastic murder scene in the history of horror.
3. Night of the Living Dead(1968) – This is the only movie that creeped me out as a kid and can still make me check the locks twice and run quickly across the hall to the bathroom in the middle of the night. This is also the only zombie movie I think is worth a shit. Zombie movies just don’t do it for me. Low budget at it’s finest, this movie has some truly terrifying moments. When I was a kid the dead body dripping blood from the upstairs landing was about as scary as scary could get – and I’m happy to say that even as I type this, I’m not looking forward to going upstairs. But what will keep me from going outside for one last cig is the opening scene in the cemetary. “They’re coming for you Barbara, they’re coming for you.”
2. The Exorcist III – Ahh, here we are at the one movie that makes me curl into a ball on the sofa, hug my pillow tight, and whisper with fearful delight, “it’s coming, it’s coming.” The “it” to which I refer is the one scene that scares every person I’ve ever met – the hospital hallway scene. If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t worry about it being ruined, knowning what’s going to happen doesn’t take away any of the scare. I don’t know why this scene is so damn frightening, but it is . When I watch that nurse walk around, performing various tasks while every other person in the area walks away, I’m never prepared for the genuine terror I feel when she walks down a hall I can’t see and that “thing” dressed in a sheet carrying garden shears follows her down that hall. That scene lasts maybe 5 seconds, but it is 5 seconds of pure terror.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974) – Scoff if you will, but for keeping me in a state of true anxeity, my money’s on this one. Leatherface is pretty damn spooky on his own, but combined with the cruelness of this film, nothing could be more horrific. I know I’m reusing my adjectives, but cruel is the only word that really fits the mood. The actors in this film aren’t the best, but because they were truly afraid during the filming (most of the blood on Sally is real) you forget it’s only a story. Contrary to popular belief, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not based on a true story. The discovery of the room full of bones is taken from descriptions of real-life killer Ed Gein’s home, and while Gein did wear the skins of his victims, his story is very different. Some of the characters are so annoying, Franklin in particular, that you root for them to face the chainsaw, but this just adds to the horror. The fact that you identify with the monster makes it hard to decide what to be afraid of. And you have to feel some sympathy for anyone who was rasied in that family. The scene where they decide to let grandpa take a crack at Sally is pathetic, shocking, and oh so cruel. If you can get all those feelings rolled into one package, you deserve the number 1 spot on my list of scariest movies.
So there it is, I know there are tons of movies that give others a big ‘ol case of the willies, and some of them I’m sure I haven’t seen. So if you also don’t scare easy, and know a movie that wasn’t listed but scares the shit out of you, let me know. I’ll pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and snuggle up close with a cat (because my husband is way too much of a weenie to watch them with me – I can make him squeal like a little girl by saying “Danny….. come play with us Danny… forever and ever”) and give it a chance.

Happy Halloween

Baseball, Michael Moore, and losing weight

I’m a casual baseball fan. I used to be a big fan but after the Pirates lost all their great players and stopped winning games I stopped following it as much. I tried to rekindle my love for Anahiem, and the 2002 series certainly didn’t disappoint, but it just didn’t get me going the way it used to. When we moved here I thought I’d try to be a Mariner’s fan…………. but we all can guess how that went. It’s hard being teamless, but it does allow for you to throw your support behind a great story. At this moment, I’m glad I have no loyalties. I’m certainly not a Red Sox fan, but hell, how can you not be rooting for them right now? Game 6 hasn’t been as exciting so far as 4 and 5, but I’m actually hoping they won’t go into extra innings on this one – I actually have other things I need to do tonight. While the ALCS games have been pretty awesome, I can’t say the same for the National League. My dad would kill me for saying this, but if the Cards keep playing like they’ve played the last couple of games – they don’t deserve to go to the world series. I’d like to see them in it. They had a killer season, but those last two games were just poor. I don’t know anyone who isn’t hoping to see Boston and St. Louis in it this year. Of course, that’s cause I don’t know any Yankee or Astro fans – if you’re a Yankee fan, know that I hate you 🙂 Not as much as any Braves fans, but close. So while I sit here and enjoy Boston’s lead I’m going to do a bit of complaining – about somoene I dislike not as much as an average Braves fan, but again, close. Ooh – hold on – you can’t slap the ball out of somebody’s hand. Let’s see what the umps are going to say. Wooohoooo – Yankees fans are not happy – back to a 4-2 lead for the Sox. Ok, back to annoying bastards. I was all set to watch this stupid Fahrenheit 911 movie just so I could say I’ve seen it. My reasons for not looking forward to it weren’t that I necessarily disagree with it’s message, but that I can’t stand to see anyone stomp around, waving their hands in the air, and screaming about the injustices they believe surround them. I didn’t buy Ann Coulter’s books either. I’m sure some would say that’s not wise and that I should “listen to the truth” or “know my enemy”. But I would say to them – I know my enemy, it’s the damn misrepresenters of fact. I know their game and I know how easy it is to manipulate facts any way you want. Well, I was going to watch the movie anyway, but I’ve changed my mind. For the same reason the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth make me want to vote for John Kerry, Michael Moore makes me want to vote for Bush. This guy is beyond obnoxious. I was already peeved that he’s a complete media whore….

Baseball break – they’re bringing out police in riot gear – I’m going on record right now – the American League playoffs will be more exciting than the World Series. Not that this is uncommon – Frequently, the “big game” is a disappointment compared to one or two of the “smaller ones” leading up to it.

Media whore …. now he’s working on a new film. Apparently, he dug deep into his vat of knowledge and decided that the pharmaceutical industry was bad and needed to be exposed. Why he chose this as his new target is a mystery. I mean, both Bush and Kerry have singled out drug companies as a big evil contributor to the “disaster” that is our health care system. The average person is going to be with him from the beginning. Mainly because the average person is a moron and says to themselves, “yeah, when I had syphillis I had to pay a lot of money for the medication to treat it, and these drug companies are getting fat while I had to eat ramen noodles for a month to pay for my drugs…. drug companies are evil.” The average moron (Michael Moore included) doesn’t consider the billions and billions of dollars that go into R/D to make a pill that will lower your blood pressure, heal damage to your esophagus, allow you to play chess with your grandson, and cure your venereal disease. So yeah, drug companies are evil – let’s make laws that make it an unprofitable industry so that all the good developers quit – great plan. Here’s my next reason for why this whole thing annoys me. Moore has offered Doctors $50,000 if they’ll let him install hidden cameras in their break rooms and sample closets, and $5,000 to any pharmaceutical rep who’ll give him info. This is the same logic employed by Mike Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High – “If you put out the vibe to 50 -60 girls eventually one of them’s gonna bite.” If he succeds, he’ll find some bad reps , but big deal, I could find some bad teachers, factory workers, lawyers, programmers, or ministers. Also, no decent rep is going to risk his or her job for $5,000. If they do, they were on the verge of getting fired anyway.

Did you know that the Sox are one out away from being the only team in baseball history to come back from a 3 game deficit?
This suspense is killing ….. .oh, it’s over. Get those boys out of there before there’s a riot. Game 7 is on – Did you know that God touched Curt Schilling? That’s what he says, he’s also proud of his teammates. Uh – oh, coach says Schilling got through on heart – now I’m confused, was he touched by God or did his heart pull him through?

Ok, bad drug reps – they exist. Michael Moore sucks, and just to make sure I mention something about all the things in the title: loosing weight, the low carb craze pisses me off. There is one way to loose weight – burn more calories than you eat. If you follow healthy eating habits and exercise, you will not be obese. Unless you have a real condition that prohibits this – and I mean a real condition, not some imagined, “I’m big boned”, “I have a thyroid problem”, “It runs in my family” line of crap.
I recognize that a real thyroid problem can result in weight problems, but the percentage of people who blame their weight on this far outweighs the percentage of people actually afflicted with it.


Atlas Shrugged – my review

Before I begin this review, I want to acknowledge two things: 1. This review may contain a few spoilers. If you haven’t read the book and want to some day, consider yourself warned (though if you possess half a brain, there’s not much I can give away that won’t be obvious within the first 100 pages) 2. I predicted it would take me 2 to 3 weeks to read this book – don’t take the 3 months it took me as a sign that it would really take this long to read it. In fact this is a 2 week read – I just spread my 2 weeks over a course of months due to a couple of snags.

Being a reader all of my life, I have indentified certain criteria for which I judge the merit of a novel. I expect anyone who has spent a good portion of their free time with books has done the same. My standards are:

    Plot – Not just that the story itself is good, but that the story moves along well and is both plausable and unique.
    Characters – I want the characters to be well defined and three – dimensional. It’s also important for at least one or two of the characters to be likable enough that I care what happens to them.
    Atmosphere – I need to feel that I am standing next to the characters, experiencing the story as they are. If I’m not brought into a novel, there’s no hope of it evoking an emotional response from me – which is important.
    Grammer and Style – I don’t read a book, red pen in hand, ready to make corrections. I want an author to observe proper form and usuage only my for my own ease of reading. The two things that annoy me more than any other are bad dialog attribution and wordiness.
    Knowledge – While I read primarily for pleasure, I feel slightly let-down if I close a book without gaining some knowledge. It doesn’t matter if what I learned was how a small town in Maine smells on an autumn evening or the motivation behind the French Revolution. I just want to come away from the book with a new bit of information.

Based on these standards, this is my opinion of Atlas Shrugged.

Plot: This is a great story. I never thought a railroad or a steel mill could be so interesting. The story is merely a backdrop for theory, but it’s a good backdrop. The story does drag in a few places, but these instances are usually due to elements other than the plot itself.

Characters: Overall, the characters worked. Dagny and Rearden were well defined, believable, and likeable (to me at least, I understand there are some who took the looters’ perspective). I had a problem wtih Eddie Willers simply because he seemed very flat. It’s debatable as to whether or not his character was even necessary. I personally feel he wasn’t, the only information he held was obvious from the beginning. Clint thinks he was necessary to bridge the gap between the great minds and the workers – and I agree that a bridge was a good idea. I just don’t think Eddie Willers really offered us much to relate to. Francisco was both laughable and endearing so I can’t complain about him. My only real complaint is that we weren’t given any backstory on the Washington boys to explain their reasons for behaving as they did. Jim Taggart gets the most backstory, but it lacked any real substance. I was also a bit disturbed that so many of these men were so “beautiful”. How can both Rearden and Francisco be the ideal of a man in Dagny’s mind. I’m glad that Ellis Wyatt, Ken Dannager, and Owen Kellogg weren’t so devestatingly attractive or the book could have been retitled “Dagny the Slut”. Interestingly, Clint cites Francisco as his favorite character – I would choose Rearden.

Atmosphere: Again, overall very good. Ayn Rand did an excellant job of luring me into the setting and making me feel as if I were actually seeing and hearing rather than reading words. I feel that I could navigate my way through the Taggart Terminal, or recognize the face of Francisco d’Anconia. I felt pride for the accomplishments of the industrialists and digust at the actions of the looters. Of course, I grew weary of hearing about Dagny’s angular appearance and the mouth that was sensual in spite of the nature of the woman. Halfway through the book I was wishing desperately for an accident that would render her armless or blind so that I could get a new description. I was aware that she was thin by chapter two – why keep bringing it up?

Grammer and Style: Ayn Rand needed an editor. Everything that is wrong with this book is the direct fault of Rand’s shortcommings as a writer and the absense of the editor. Where was the editor? I don’t know – but this book should have been about 400 pages lighter. I said that I have two pet peeves – bad dialog attribution and wordiness – this is rather unfortunate for the author. Let’s start with dialog attribution. Take a look at this sentence:
“We … can’t … let … this … happen …”, Bob said slowly.
I ask you, is “slowly” really necessary? The three dots in between each word indicate Bob said it slowly.
How about this one:
Ann slammed her fist on the desk. “Get me that report now.”, she cried angrily.
Is “angrily” necessary? No, we know she’s angry because she slammed her fist on the desk.
I don’t like having my intelligence insulted or my time wasted by this kind of drivel. I also dislike having to go back to the beginning of a discussion to count lines so I can figure out who the hell is saying what. I don’t know if there is a standard on how many lines one should write without attributing dialog to a speaker, but I’m guessing somewhere around 6 is the limit for the average reader. This book is full of useless adverbs and confusing exchanges. If you’ve made it past 500 pages, you’re aware that if Jim Taggart says “I can’t be blamed”, he shrieks it. If Rearden says “What do you want?”, he says it in a flat and confident tone. Ayn Rand failed to respect the intelligence of her reader in this way.
At the risk of falling victim to my second pet peeve, I will move on to wordiness.
Of all the examples and criticisms I could dredge up, the John Galt speach is the only one necessary. By the time this speach rolls around I had read 915 pages expressing all of the ideas this speach contains. If this information could have been conveyed in the 64 pages it takes to make this speach, why wasn’t it done? I understand that certain events had to occur before the resolution could make any sense, but too much of this book was spent on characters over explaining themselves, driving points into the ground, and then bringing the same theory up 20 pages later in a different setting. I’ve got more to say on this but it really fits better into the knowledge standard so we’ll come back to it there. On with the speach. This speach only had four or five points, but each one is explained several different ways in excruciating detail. If the reader hasn’t grasped the concept of cause and effect by this point I can’t imagine they had the mental ability to get through the first chapter. I understand that the whole nation had to hear this speach, but since the reader already heard it (several times), couldn’t we have moved on to something else. We don’t read Dagny’s explanation of her month long hiatus to Rearden because we were there – we saw it first hand. Why, oh why, did we have to hear that speach for the millionth time? This tendency towards wordiness is apparent in every single page. Ayn Rand would describe my decision of which pants to wear as such:
She stood in front of her closet. In front of the closet she stood. She glanced at a pair of black trousers, then at a pair of tan trousers. She liked the black ones better. The black ones pleased her at this moment. A cooper wire broke in a phone booth in Montana. In front of her closet, she choose the black, not the tan, but the black trousers, which were black.

Knowledge: I have heard it said by many people that this is “my favorite book” and that “it made me change the way I think”. This will not be my favorite book, and overall, it has not made me change the way I think. I could talk for weeks on why it has not changed the way I think so I’m only going to try and identify a couple of the main reasons. If I had read this book when I was 16, I think it would have made a much bigger impact. There wasn’t a theory or belief expressed by the industrialists that I wasn’t already familiar with because I have worked and lived. Because I’m familiar with Communism and Democrats, I’m also aware of the theories and beliefs expressed by the “looters”. There were a couple of ideas that did influence or solidify a connection. For example, I’ve always been put off by hearing someone express their desire for someone to “love me for myself”. I now know why this has always disturbed me. The bulk of the theory was not earth shattering or unique – even at the time it was written. I will say that because of my interests, it’s possible I may have been exposed to a lot of philosophy the average reader would not have been familiar with. I will also say that in the many coversations I’ve had with many different people, these philosophies are quite common – and a majority of these poeple do not hold my particualr interests and have not read Atlas Shrugged.
Regardless of these facts, I do not consider the time I spent reading Atlas Shrugged wasted. The ideas expressed are commonplace, but it never hurts to be reminded of them. For the record, I sided with the Hank Reardens and not those acting on the supposed interests of public welfare.

In summation, I enjoyed the book. It was an interesting story full of memorable characters and events. I think the ending was pretty ridiculous, but we can’t have everything. Clint was unhappy with Dagny’s decision to return, and while I think it was necessary for both the reader and Dagny to understand the alternative – the book probably could have ended there and been essentially the same. Possibly the motivation for such an ending can best be understood by looking at the important works of Edward Gorey. One of his finest examples of storytelling, The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr. Earbass writes a novel, may give us answers. Early in Mr. Earbass’s process, we read:
“He cannot help but feel that Lirp’s return and almost immediate impalement on the bottle-tree was one of his better ideas.”
Later we discover,
“He is engaged in making diagrams of possible routes and destinations, and wishing he had not dealt so summarily with Lirp, who would have been useful for taking retributive measures at the end of Part Three. At the moment there is no other character capable of them.”

PS – I was only kidding with the Democrat statment… kind … of … , she added slowly.