Monday, July 16, 2007

Great Investment/Life advice

I was reading this article over on Yahoo Finance about athlete-turned-entrepreneur Roger Staubach and his mention of coach Tom Landry:

Staubach's role model for planning was Cowboys coach Tom Landry. "Coach Landry was a great leader," he says, "and his greatest strength was in preparation. He was an industrial engineer. He had carefully set goals that were reasonable, believable, achievable, and measured. His philosophy was that spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation.

That's really something you can take into your life. It's something that I've seen mentioned in writing and in boxing, but when you think about it, what does this NOT apply to?

Spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation.

Movie Reviews

So I usually use as the place to read reviews and check out what movies are out and all that stuff. So I decided to take a closer look at the guy who writes the reviews and it turns out that I've been ripping the guy off every time I write a review. It's crazy. Check out his reviews here and you'll see that what I've been doing is basically his routine.

The weirdest thing is I never realized it. I knew it was similar, because I liked the Q&A format, but I didn't know I was copying him.

I will try to remedy this in the future as it's pretty embarrassing.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Knocked Up, a good point

There's a conversation in this movie between the married couple that goes something like this:

Man: "It's just that, once you have a family and get married, certain possibilities are closed to you."
Wife: (on the defensive) "Like what?"
Man: "I don't know, like if I wanted to go to India or something and just chill out there and explore the country. I can't do that anymore, not with kids and everything, you know?"
Woman: "What? So you want to go to India? Go to India then!"
Man: (Exasperated, Frustrated) I don't want to go to India! I'm just saying!"

I think it's an interesting look at the way men and women look at things like family and marriage. It isn't that men feel like they are giving anything up or are "suffering" by having a family or getting married. I would say that most of us don't feel that way. We just realize that the huge list of things we have tallied in our heads that we would "like to do" some time has to be crossed out. Did we really expect to play for the Chicago Cubs? Pick apples in California for a season? Cross the Mexican border, undercover, and try to sneak into the country?

No, but we're just realizing that now, finally, that now it's REALLY not going to happen. It's a bit of realism being injected into a man's otherwise wishful thinking that anything is possible.

On the other hand, I have always told Mindy that I always wanted to move to Lake Atitlan for like two months or something and live there. Just live there and write and read and use the time for introspection. Deep down I realized I had missed my chance a few years ago when I was in Guatemala for a couple years doing nothing but having my jaw examined. I didn't do it then and now I'm in a job that wouldn't let me take that kind of time off.

So she surprised me one day when she said that, when I move on to another job, I should take some time off and go live at the Lake for a month or so and do it. She said that if it was something that was that important to me, than I owe it to myself to go ahead and do it.

And this is just one of the reasons why I'm so happy that this is the person I am going to spend the rest of my life with and marry.

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Vanguard vs Scottrade

So I really want to move my Roth IRA over to Vanguard, since they are the Index Fund Kings. They have low-cost funds that cover the exact swaths of the market I want to be exposed to: The S&P 500, Mid Caps, Small Caps, REITs, International Stocks, and some kind of dividend component.

Right now I'm at Scottrade paying 0.50% in expenses for each fund, while the Vanguard funds typically have expense ratios of about 0.20%. In the long run (which is what I'm after), that difference turns out to be a lot of money.

BUT Vanguards index funds have minimums of $3,000 dollars a piece. I don't have that much money yet where I can allocate my portfolio according to my own specifications and still meet those minimums for each fund I want to own. So, for now, I'm stuck at Scottrade owning a Mid, Small, and S&P 500 fund, as well as an International fund. I also have one share of Warren Buffett's Berkshire (a B share), which will always stay and I'll never sell.

My problem, and maybe one of you has a good, well-developed answer, is the following: Am I better off paying double in expenses (0.50% is still relatively low) at Scottrade for a few more years until I have enough money in the account to buy the funds I want? OR am I better off buying a Vanguard Life Cycle fund (which includes most of what I want, though not at the precise allocation that I want) to get my money over there, enjoy the lower expense fees, and wait until that account gets to the point where I can buy all the funds I want?

I posed this question to Matt Krantz over at USA Today, and I'll post his answer when I get it. I've asked him stuff before and he's usually been good about answering so we'll see what he says.

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Harold and Kumar go to White Castle—Not a review

Someone recommended this movie to me a while back, saying that I was wrong about it. It wasn't a stupid movie with the occasional punchline. No, this wasn't another Dude, Where's my car. This was more of an Office Space type movie.

I trusted the source so the other day I watched it. It's better than Dude, Where's My Car? but it is certainly no Office Space. It's funny, sure, and it tries to go beyond just a dumb comedy, which it almost does.

But regardless, the movie is worth it thanks to the scene where Kumar sees the huge bag of weed and goes into a daydream of what the big bag of weed means to him. Check out the clip over here, it had me crying it was so funny.

The Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) cameo was also funny, but please check out that clip, it's hilarious.

Second City—Between Barack and a Hard Place

Got a chance to go see this last night at the legendary Second City here in Chicago. Let me just say right off the bat that the two things I consider the most difficult in life are: Freestyle rapping and stand-up comedy.

To go into a room filled with people who are expecting you to make them laugh, and them make them laugh, is not easy. It is very very tough.

Before I go into what I thought of the show, you should know who and what I think is funny. Seinfeld, to me, is a genius. Family Guy is the funniest thing on TV today. I like Frasier, though that's not really "Ha ha" funny. I like The Office and the whole Jon Stewart/Steve Carell brand of humor. I also really liked Office Space.

Moving right along, the first thing you see when you go into a Second City show is the wall of pictures with all the famous people that performed here, that trained here, that began here. It has to set incredible expectations with patrons and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the performers. Maybe I was about to witness a young Steve Carell or Craig Ferguson before he/she got his/her big break. So right away I told myself that what I would pick out one person from the show—the one person I think would make it or has the best chance to make it big in the world of comedy.

It was an easy choice, but unfortunately the show wasn't very funny. There was very little improv, which is good because that is rarely funny, but the show itself just didn't have many funny lines. The crowd did laugh, there was no heckling these performers. But it was like being at a sitcom taping—the laughs were expected, the humor was standard, it was like watching King of Queens—you can see each joke coming a mile away and when you get surprised with something you didn't expect, it's not all that funny.

I may have been the only one in our party that felt that way, but you never know. The one funny line I really liked was when two smokers were out in front of an office building and a guy coughs his way past them, eventually harassing them and asking them, if they know it's bad for them, why they do it. The woman (who looks JUST like Hillary Clinton) goes:

"I do it so that my unborn baby stays tiny and doesn't hurt as much on its way out."

THAT'S a line I would've written!

I don't know what could've made it funnier, I'm not a stand-up guy. I can't do it. It's too hard.

The more interesting part of the night was betting on who could blow up in the future. My guess is it'll be Ithamar Enriquez. He was the only one of them that really cut loose and let it all out. Most of the other ones were very reserved, containing themselves and trying too hard to "act" when what they need to be doing is being funny. Ithamar had some good lines but his joie de vivre was evident in his performance. He won't be the next Chris Farley (he's not that over the top) but he could be the next Horatio Sanz or the Asian gay guy on Mad TV. He looked like he was having fun up there, while the rest of them just tried to get their lines out at the right time.

Again, the whole experience just goes to show how hard it is to make people laugh. High risk, high reward, and extremely difficult.


Who's in it? A bunch of hot people, Angelina Jolie's father, and the nerd from Quiz Show. Optimus Prime and Megatron.
What's the deal? Remember the toys you sued to play with? The cartoon you used to watch? They're all in the past now. From here on out, this is Transformers. For the uninitiated, mechanical aliens from another planet are able to transform into cars, planes, tanks, etc.
I'm sensing a positive review: You are correct sir. I went thinking, "It's before the release date, it's free, and—if anything—the trailer showed some pretty sweet special FX."
So are the effects cool? Does a bear shit in the woods? I can't remember the last time I saw a movie in theaters where the crows ooed and awwed like this. People were reacting like David Blaine was on the screen doing his thing. I heard a lot of
"What??!!! (Chuckle)"
Usually these scenes were followed by cheers and/or applause. Granted, most of the crowd were huge Transformer fans—they recognized things from the cartoon that I didn't really catch. But that energy was great. I didn't see it, but you could feel that tons of people had their elbows in their friends sides, slightly pushing as an effect unfolded (as in "yo yo yo are you seeing this!?"). When it was over, his hand would go to his mouth, he'd turn to his friend go "Hooooo! Man!" (I use he since 85% of the crowd was male, trusty Mindy was a sport about the whole thing*).
So what else? The movie is long, around 2 hours 15 minutes, which is good. Lots of effects to squeeze in. But the first half of the movie was "better" that the next. It's actually a hilarious movie with smart dialog for a big, blockbuster movie that is going for that over-the-top effect. You would be tempted, before watching it, to group it with movies like Fast and the Furious or any other eye-candy, summer blockbuster movie with a bunch of bad actors and sweet special effects. This movie isn't dumb though. It knows what it is and it avoids most of the pitfalls those kinds of movies fall into (lame dialog, unconvincing characters, ridiculous story lines, etc.).
The first half: Gets off to a great start. Sets everything up nicely and draws you into the story. Dialog is sharp and things move along quickly. Occasional spectacular graphics.
Midway point: The kid is looking for the glasses in his room and the Transformers are "hiding" in the yard. This scene is funny, yes, but it drags on forever.
Second half: Action, action, action. Here it stretches itself out a bit and you start to feel it getting a little long. It feels like it takes forever to get to that last scene between Prime and Megatron.
Prime vs Megatron: Kind of a letdown how quickly it ends after such a long buildup. Still great though.
Will you like it? The theater was filled with Transformer nerds—they loved it. Mindy didn't even want to be there—she loved it. I'm in the middle somewhere—I loved it.
Didn't expect: It would be as funny as it was without being stupid. I mean, it's hilarious in certain parts.
What to tell your bf to get him to go see it: The girl in it is smoking hot (she will also be set for life once this comes out). Also, huge transforming robots battle it out, Optimus Prime is in it.
What to tell your gf to get her to go see it: Optimus Prime is in it. Mindy liked it.
Final analysis: Yes, the guy and the girl are brought together artificially and there is the occasional cheesy line towards the end, but hey, it's a movie about huge transforming robots from outer space come to save the day. A few cheesy moments are a decent trade off.
$$$ This movie will break records, it's going to get people watching it 3-4 times and word of mouth is going to make it HUGE.

* She didn't really want to go, but she loved it!

Knocked Up—Review

What's the deal? A young, up-and-coming TV reporter with ambition has a one-night stand with your prototypical loser/stoner guy. Hilarity actually really does ensue.
Who's in it? Katherine Heigl and the guy who plays a similar character in some other movie. 40 Year Old Virgin?
Doesn't the What's the deal bullet essentially tell me all I need to know about the movie? Should I even watch it now? It's got some really funny/meaningful dialog that really captures the college feel, even though no one in the movie is in college.
It is NOT believable that this hot girl will first have sex with and then even consider getting together with this guy, right? Well, sort of. The movie even acknowledges it as much. He says it over and over how he doesn't see why a girl would like him, and especially not this one. But they also tell you why it could happen—they are both good/nice people that aren't superficial (as most of us are), so that counts for something.
Who I would like to have seen onscreen: Mr. Skin. At work we actually distribute his book and he's been in the office a few times. He's kind of become a sort of mythical figure that all us guys mentally bow down to because he's basically making a ton of money doing what the loner/stoners do in the movie for their "big idea."
Lesson to be learned: Read the baby books guys, just do it. It's pretty much all you have to do while she has to get a watermelon out via the butt. Picture that. Let that image burn in there a bit. See that? Read the baby books.
I like how: The couple that was married wasn't perfect. This was more believable, as opposed to most comedies where the other couple is great and has no problems. I also liked the relationship issues that were brought up about needing alone time, sane time, etc. Not just for the man, but the woman too.
The most honest guy in the history of movies: This guy.
His most honest line: So, honestly, if this were our second date, what would we be doing? He says, "Honestly? BJ." Priceless.
Some weird parts: They just didn't lead to anything. The Asian gyno who was just mean, rude, and a little racially obtuse. He later comes around. Also, the voicemail the guy leaves their original gyno—what was that all about?
And one personal thing: I kept waiting for the whole Jewish question to be dealt with and it never came up. I didn't think it was realistic.
What to tell your bf to get him to go see it: The Las Vegas scenes, Heigl is hot.
What to tell your gf to get her to go see it: It's a relationship movie, kind of a chick flick (watch out for the inevitable, "What would we/you do if that happened to us?"—have a good response at the ready).
Wrapping it up: It's a funny/silly movie about real hardcore life issues without softening up how serious they are.
Carlos, you're recommending a funny, silly, romantic comedy style movie? Yes. I rarely do, but this is up there with Something About Mary and Meet the Parents.