Thank you for dropping by!

I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dear Hollywood...

Today we spent the morning at a Borders Bookstore location that was going out of business.  While the deals weren't insane, our family somehow managed to leave with an armful of books.  Most were things for the kids, but books in general, are my crack.  I stopped myself at one book since I've now converted to being a Kindle person.  Sorta.  That's another blog for another time.... Anyhow, if funds had been unlimited, the line a little shorter and my basket a little bigger, I would have overdosed on reading.  I clearly was not the only one- the line was huge.

Tonight, on our way home from the Sadie Hawkins dance (yes, you read that correctly- keep in mind, I'm married to a high school teacher), we stopped by the Blockbuster Video store that was also going out of business.  No lines.  We spent a good 45 minutes walking up and down each aisle.  Nothing. 

In the entire store, there was 1 movie that I would have considered purchasing- "Up."  But they didn't have it on Blu-Ray.  The clerk also was very upfront about the condition of the children's previously viewed disks-- "They are usually covered in scratches and boogers.  I recommend buying it new." Good to know.

I should also point out that my husband is a cinenerd.  Not in the "let's-discuss-genre-films-and-do-an-analysis" way, but in the "I-could-watch-pretty-much-every-movie-that-doesn't-have-subtitles" way.  Action, horror, drama, comedy- he's seen it.

So how on earth did we leave without ONE movie?


They all sucked.

Well, not sucked.  They just weren't all that great.

I kept walking up and down the aisles thinking "A lot of money has been wasted making a whole bunch of crap."

We had seen most of them, too.  I use nearly all my charge card bonus points for movie tickets.  It's an easy date night.  It's fun.  We don't have to talk to each other.  There's popcorn.  It's good.

It has been a long time since we've seen anything that we loved.  "The King's Speech," "The Deathly Hallows," "Gran Torino" and "Up" have been the exceptions. (Oh, and "The Hangover."  Sorry, we loved it.  And we usually mock the crap out of Vegas movies. )

Now most of the movies aren't bad, but they seem very self-serving.  Like homages to themselves. Inside jokes that people outside the business don't get.

I appreciate that many movie makers don't want to make "entertainment."  I also appreciate that many movie executives must think that every American is a moron.  But is there some sort of compromise?

What happened to thoughtful entertainment?  Movies like "Jerry Maguire" are fun, had a nice message and I left the theater smiling.  I was entertained.  I didn't leave, shaking my head thinking "What the hell was that?" or the typical "Well, it didn't suck."  I'm not holding "Jerry Maguire" up there as the best movie ever made, but there's a reason people went to see it.  There's a reason it's quoted.  Like the original "Rocky" or even "Caddyshack."  Comedies used to have plots-- remember?

Apparently, these days, Hollywood is too full of itself to make movies that actually entertain people.  Or if they do, they are so completely stupid - "The Expendables"- it's an insult.

What on earth is wrong with wanting to be entertained?  Is it limited to 12 year old boys?

And let's go back to our experience at Borders....

It's not like there aren't great stories out there.  But Hollywood destroys them.

"The Time Traveler's Wife" was not a bad film.  The ending, however, was completely different from the book.  There was no need to change it.  It made the story make sense.  Instead, people left the theater going "That was dumb."  I understand you can't make every page into a scene, but when you start to mess with the endings and characters, you really get some crap.  The list is long on great books that have been completely destroyed recently.  I know a movie will rarely be as good as the book, but wow, lately, they aren't even in the same ball park.

And again, I've read an insane amount of great books in the past 10 years.  I have not seen an insane amount of great movies.

So this weekend, as Hollywood slobbers all over itself in the awards show that was created solely to increase ticket sales, I would like to say:

Dear Hollywood,

Please entertain me.  It's been awhile.

Make me laugh.  Make me smile.  Make me think.  Make me be grateful. 

Times are tough.  I want to smile.

Stop banging me over the head with some political agenda.

Stop making farts and vomit jokes in lieu of witty banter.

FYI, CGI has made me numb to all effects.  I want a story line.  I want a character that I love.

I want to see a good movie.

If in between your awards shows celebrating yourselves, someone could actually make one, we'd really appreciate it.

Thank you,

Mrs. Bean

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back to the gym

Yesterday, I signed up again, for the 4th time in my life, as a Las Vegas Athletic Club member.   If you're curious about the gym, here's the link:

Las Vegas Athletic Club

You truly need to check it out to see how stinking fabulous it is.  And it's open 24/7, every single day.  I cannot begin to tell you how great this local chain of gyms is- seriously.  It's like a freaking spa.  There's swimming, fitness classes from 5 am to 10 pm, a steam room, clean locker rooms, TV's on nearly every treadmill, bike and elliptical, audio on every cardio machine for the giant screens, a smoothie & sandwich bar, a 1/5 mile indoor track with amazing views, every kind of weight, a women's workout area- it's amazing. 

I even prepaid my 3 years, got a guaranteed renewal for $98 a year for life.  (You read that right, $98 a year, not a month.  Insane.) Now that's commitment, don't you think?

Oh wait, I did that before about 12 years ago...

And did I mention that I live across the street from a park with a track?  And the weather is pretty nice here about 90% of the time.

Well folks, I guess this is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak.

The irony of my battle to fit working out into my life is that I enjoy it.  Honestly.  I love going to the gym. I like lifting weights.  I don't mind cardio machines (assuming there's a good show or good music).  I love fitness classes.  When I hear people complain about working out, I don't get it.  I love the feel of being exhausted.  The jello legs (and not from my jiggly thighs...), the feeling of accomplishment.

In reading that great book "If I'm so Smart, Why Can't I Lose Weight?" I came to the conclusion that I've been sucking the fun out of working out the last 10 years or so.  It's been about losing weight or toning up or some random goal.  It became a job.  One more thing on my to do list.

No more.

I am going back to the gym because I like it.  I don't care if I lose weight.  Period.

I really don't.  I'm letting it go.

Now my guess is that once I start working out again regularly, I will start to watch what I eat and then, based on basic science, I will probably drop a few pounds.  Based on a few years ago, that number was about 7 freaking pounds after a year.  So I gave up.

I never stopped enjoying working out, though.  I developed a "what's the point?" attitude, however.

I think the difference this time around is I'm going to stick for a completely different reason- I enjoy it.  For the same reason that I read.  Sometimes I read non-fiction for business, but usually it's for fun.  And if I learn something, then great.  If not, it was a good story.

I had fun this morning.  I love the 5 am crowd.  I had missed them.  I purposely waited until February to rejoin because I knew all the New Year's Resolution people would be gone (6 weeks, it's like clock work).  They were.  At 5 am, I was one of two fat people in the gym.  5 am is the time of the diehards.  There's no flirting, no socializing, no wait on the machines.  The ages vary from the 20 year old's to the 70 year old's.  It's inspiring.

And the best part of the diehards, rather than cast me a judgmental look for "letting myself go," I get a nod of encouragement.  The teeny bopper hotties aren't snickering at 5 am. 

So today I renewed my love affair with my gym.  I'm not going to run a marathon.  I'm not going to try to get back in a size 6.  I don't care what I look like for my 25th reunion.  I don't care what it does for my overall health.

I had fun. 

And I will go back tomorrow for the exact same reason.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine

My Valentine is a completely normal person named Shane.  We are married.  We have 2 kids, 2 dogs, a mortgage and a nice vegetable garden.  We live in a tract house.  We drive Toyota's.  We go to the movies on date night using free coupons from my Amex rewards points.  We are the single most boring people you'll ever meet.

And I love every single minute of it.

I met my husband just over 10 years ago.  It was a set up. A woman, Gigi, I knew from volunteering with the school district said she worked with a guy and thought I was the kind of woman who would "appreciate" him.

Uh oh.

He was a little shy.  He didn't date a lot.  He had just moved out from his parents- but he bought a place.

Woo hoo.

I said no.

I said no for 3 months.

But Gigi, if you know her, is quite persistent.

So the three of us went out.

Yes, you read that right.  All three of us.  What was supposed to be a group getting together, turned into Gigi, Shane and me.  They talked about work.  I checked my watch.  They talked about people they worked with.  I thought, "Please let this night end..."

Then sometime during the night Gigi asked the question that would change the course of my life.

She asked this quiet, shy man a question.  A question that I still am in shock she asked...

"Why do men like oral sex so much?  Really, what's the big deal?"

I believe I spit my drink.

I was horrified- not that the question was asked, I've certainly been inappropriate before-- but that it was asked to this sweet, kind, gentle soul.  I was embarassed for him.  There was no way he could answer that. 

But then, to my further shock, my husband shot something back that for the life of me I cannot remember.  What I do remember is that it was funny, confident and witty.  I think the reason I don't remember his response is because I was in shock.

This big old teddy bear had more to him. 

As we were leaving, he asked if he could call me.  I said sure.   Gigi looked surprised.  Up until the last half hour I hadn't said much.  Shocking, I know.  In the car I told her "He was kinda cute.  I'd go out with him."

Two days later he called me to "hang out."  I told him I had to take my dogs to the park.  He offered to bring his dog along.  I said sure.  I didn't know until a few years later, that he thought I was blowing him off (and not in the aforementioned way...). 

We got to the dog park, I  tripped getting my 2 dogs out of the car, his dog humped mine,we laughed and we started talking.  And talking.  And talking.  And I took my dogs home.  And we went to dinner.  And we talked.  And I went home and I called him and we talked until 1 in the morning.

I think I knew that I had just begun what looks to be the longest conversation of my life. 

Yes, we've had some ups and downs.  We even took a break while we dated.  It hasn't all been roses, sunshine, rainbows and unicorns as love is depicted in my daughter's books.  But I wouldn't change a thing.

On the exterior, we have nothing in common.  He was a jock.  I was in band.  I went to Cornell.  He went to UNLV.  He went camping with his family every year in Utah.  I went to math camp.  He's lived in Vegas his whole life.  I've lived all over the place.  He is tall.  I am short.  But if you spend more than 10 minutes with us, it all makes sense.

He's the rock that keeps us grounded.  I'm the kite that plans for the future.  He's the brake that keeps us from going over the cliff.  I'm the accelerator that gets us out of the driveway. 

I never would have imagined that being "boring" could be so amazing and wonderful.  The thought of "til death do you part" sounded like a reasonable excuse for murder to me before.  Now I can't imagine not being married to him.  I love that every day we get to know each other a little bit better.  Surprisingly, the longer we are married, the better it is getting.  I smile when our house comes into view on my way home from work.  I am a dork, I know, but I already disclosed that I was in band.

Our conversation is still going strong.  Some days the volume is a little higher, but it hasn't stopped.

So on this Valentine's Day, I'd like to give a little shout out to my Mr. Bean.  It's an overused phrase, of course, but a classic...

I love you. 

Happy Valentine's Day.

Oh, and don't forget to pick our son up from Chess Club after school.



Mr. Bean is my love, my heart and my soul
Although to be a wife was never my goal.

He was the only one to capture my heart
And now I can't imagine being apart.

He has loved me through thick and thin and thick some more
He even laughed when he hit the garage door

We were having a race and rather than lose
I put the garage door down on his truck's roof.  (try to make it rhyme, people)

We are silly together and for that I am glad,
He's not just a good husband, he's a mighty fine dad.

He puts up with my banter and my self professed wit
He even can call me out on my bullsh*t.

He's really quite tall and can reach high places
He's also gifted at parking in narrow spaces.

He can fish with the best and he takes me along
Even when I talk nonstop or hum a dumb song.

He is insanely strong and can move anything,
When I need a hand, I just give him a ring.

He plays with kids and sometimes gets a time out
Because sometimes it's he who is the rowdy lout.

It's been more than 10 years since we first met.
Every day gets better, I have no regrets.

When he holds my hand, I still melt
His love is like something that I've never felt.

I never imagined I could feel so much love
and I am so grateful to the big guy above.

So on today, St. Valentine's Day,
I wanted to take a moment to kindly say,

Thank you, my dear, for giving me this life.
I am proud and quite happy being your wife.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Merits of Merit Pay

Ahhhhh.... merit pay.  Our governor (for whom I voted, by the way) would like to solve all the education problems in the state by transitioning the teachers over to a merit pay system.  I guess he watched "Oprah" the other day.

Well, since I actually studied this sort of thing in college and actually worked specifically in compensation in my prior life, I believe that I have a bit of insight into the topic.  Let's see if you can figure out where I stand on the issue.

I believe that if we are going to make the teachers subject to merit pay based on student performance because it promotes efficiency, we should do so for other areas of government as well.

Take the police.  A policeman's job is to maintain peace.  In fact, to quote Sheriff Gillespie "The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is committed to our mission to protect the community through prevention, partnership and professional service."   He does a nice job, by the way.  I do think, however, that using the governor's logic, the police should be held accountable by measuring their success.  Patrolman should be paid directly related to the crime rates in their area.  High crime rates = lower pay.  After all, it is their job to prevent crime.  If crime is occurring, then clearly they are not doing their jobs.  It shouldn't matter if there is a difference from area to area in economic stature, previous crime rate, drug influences- nope.  The good cops are keeping the crime rates down.  The areas with higher crime rates surely are the result of poor policing.  Sorry guys and gals.

Now on to the firemen.  Well, the Clark County Fire Department has taken a LOT of heat recently for a few people (okay 120) who were abusing a sick leave/call out glitch in the system.  So let's ditch the ol' collective bargaining agreement in its entirety, similar to the agreement with the teacher's union, and enforce a merit pay system for the fire department as well.  In 2009, according to city records, over $6.5 million of damage was the result of fires.  They should have to pay for that. Their job is clearly to prevent fires.  Someone must not have been doing their jobs.  Yes,  I know, like police officers, they could get killed fighting fires, but hey, they knew that coming in to the gig.  Let's base their pay on the number of fires- the higher the number, the lower the pay.  Again, I realize that fires are started for a variety of different reasons- bad wiring, accidents, meth lab explosions, but if they were doing their jobs- c'mon there is a fleet of inspectors- they should be able to prevent all of them.  No fire left behind.

My favorite change will be to the elected officials.  All elected officials- not their support staffs- will only get paid from excess funds from the government.  If they do their jobs and don't blow all our tax dollars, THEN they can get paid.   If we go into the red as a state, they should all personally have to write checks to cover it.  After all, it's their job to balance the budget.  No room for oopsy daisies in this administration.

So I think you can see where I stand on this issues.

Now, from my limited professional experience in administering merit based pay, let me tell you what happens.  The overwhelming majority of managers will give EVERYONE THE SAME RAISE.  Unless they don't like you, then they won't.  It creates an administrative nightmare.  And it does squat for morale. The average positive impact of a raise or bonus is something like 30 days.  Besides, most people don't know how well they compare against everyone else.  You might be pissed to get a 3% raise, only to find out that everyone else got 1%.  Woo hoo 2%.  Now THERE's an incentive to soar like an eagle.

There are only three true merit pay systems and I am happy to have experienced them all. 
#1- Own a business.  You get to keep what's left at the end of the day.  The smarter you work, the more you make.  I own a business.  I get to keep net profits.  Sometimes that's not a big number.  When it isn't, I get off my duff and work a little harder.

#2- Work on straight commission.  The more you make/sell/do the more you earn.

#3- Work for tips.  The more you hustle, the more you make. I loved waiting tables and working the bar.  I made a crap load of money.  I didn't take 30 smoke breaks.  I had a little zip in my step.  I smiled.  This irritated my co-workers.  I didn't care. I figured it was my job, I should do it well.  It also paid for college.   I don't have to wait tables any more.

Now the unique circumstance in all three of the above is that as a worker, you control the environment to some degree (selling crappy products or bad food aside).

As a teacher,  you can't control the environment (same with a police officer or firefighter).  You're given a curriculum to follow, a textbook to use and we'll stop in twice a year to check on you. The students are given to you as they are, with all the baggage of the past strapped to them.  You get a few minutes a day to interact, if you're a high school teacher.  You get a few hours to interact, if you're an elementary teacher.  You can't fix everything.  And by the way, it's not their job.  Issues like nutrition, sleep, study environment all play a huge role in ensuring a student's success- in other words, the PARENTS.

If  a child is in 7th grade and can't read, rather than pay the 7th grade English teacher less, how about we raise the parents' taxes?  This money could be used to reimburse the school for the money they wasted on the child in grades 1-6. 

If a kid is fat, it's not the school cafeteria.  Your child eats 915 meals a year at home and 180 at school.  Got a problem with school lunches?  Pack a lunch.  Your kid won't eat a packed lunch?  I guess they get hungry.

The problem with education in the United States isn't the teachers - sorry Oprah.  Yes, there are some bad teachers.  And bad doctors.  And bad hair stylists.  Most teachers are pretty good people doing the best the can in a bad situation.  The problem with education is the parents.  They aren't getting involved.  They aren't holding their children accountable.  They aren't doing their jobs as parents.  When parents parent, kids achieve.  It's not the school's job to raise your child.  

And yes, I'm married to a teacher.  I am married to a spectacular teacher who is beloved by his students, wins awards and puts his heart and soul into his job- regardless of his pay.  He didn't go into teaching to make millions, he did it because it's his passion.  Randomly changing his pay from year to year, based on a supervisor who watches him 2 times a year, is a joke.  Getting his classroom size down so that every student has a desk, would have a much bigger impact.

The following blog has an essay that was circulated about "No Tooth Left Behind" which applies the same ridiculous standards that are set in the No Child Left Behind act to dentists. I love this. I think it clearly illustrates the issues that teachers are facing today.

So this is what's in the bubble over my head tonight.   I hope the governor rethinks his plan.  He's in a bad position- there's no money and a bunch of people with their hands out.  He has my sympathy.  I just wish that for ONCE someone would think something through and do a little research.

Discuss amongst yourselves.