Saturday, October 11, 2008

Body of Lies Review

It's been years since I've seen a movie the same day that it opened but I got to go see Body of Lies yesterday.

The plot is a CIA agent named Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) trying to bust an Islamic terrorist ring responsible for several bombings in Europe. To get inside the terrorist organization he has to rely on his boss and mentor, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), back in Langley and Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), the head of Jordan's intelligence agency. Since they're all in the spy business, none of the three really know who they can trust.

The movie has lots of action and intrigue that keeps the plot moving at a good pace. Mixed in with the violence and seriousness of the situation is a surprising bit of humor. The sarcastic exchanges between Ferris and Hoffman define the relationship of the field agent trying to accomplish the mission (and stay alive) with his bureaucratic boss who may have other ideas. There's also something ironically funny about a CIA director discussing top secret life and death decisions over his cell phone while helping his toddler go potty in the morning or dropping the kids off at school.

Crowe, best known for his action roles, plays an out of shape, CIA bureaucrat only concerned about stopping the terrorists now. He leads operations remotely either in a command center in DC watching satellite feeds or from his kids' soccer games via cell phone.

DiCaprio's character is the one whose life is on the line. Before meeting an informant, Ferris and his partner agree to shoot each other if either is captured so that they don't get their heads cut off in a terrorist propaganda video. Unlike his boss, Ferris shows concern for his informants and views them as more than expendable resources.

The acting is pretty good and mostly believable. You assume the characters are using encrypted communications but it's hard to believe that spies would talk so freely on cell phones in public places about their missions. Other than that, the movie kept my interest and was worth watching in the theater. Some of the shots from the UAVs and satellites are pretty cool to watch on the big screen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Squidoo Rocks! Record Payout and a Giant Squid

The global economy is in a rut and the US presidential campaign has devolved into an ugly unproductive mess but at least I'm having a good week on Squidoo.

Every quarter, Squidoo promotes a new batch of lensmasters to Giant Squid status. To qualify, you need a minimum of 50 good high quality lenses. I ended the quarter with 55 lenses and apparently they were deemed worthy because I got word late Monday that I'm now a Giant Squid!

So, what are the benefits of being a Giant Squid? First looks at cool new features, an extra lensrank boost for your lenses, an official badge (see above) on all your lenses and a bunch of other stuff that is probably interesting only to fellow lensmasters.

Monday was also when the August payouts were posted and I finally earned over $100 in a single month! On top of that, Squidoo HQ found an error in their payment calculations that caused lensmasters to be underpaid in prior months. They corrected that by issuing a one time adjustment to square everybody up. My share of that payment was nearly $80 which gave me a total of just over $200 for the month.

Granted, I should have been getting that $80 in bits over the last 2 years but I'm glad Squidoo owned up to the mistake and set things right. They're a good operation that works hard to do the right thing and I'm glad to be part of the community there.

I guess my next Squidoo goal will be 100 lenses. That's a ways off took me over 2 years to get 55.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

One Hundred Push Ups - Week 3 Update

I'm now into week 3 of my one hundred push up workout and seeing progress. The week 1 and week 2 workouts weren't easy but I could finish them. After completing week 2 I did the next max push ups test and cranked out 32. That's a 28% improvement over my initial test when I started the program.

The first week 3 work out was tougher...set one was 25 push ups which tired my arms enough that they gave out before I finished a couple of the later sets. I visited the workout website again and found that they had updated the workouts since I printed them out. Looks like they distributed the number of push ups across the sets more evenly so you don't burn out on the first set.

I did better with the "easier" week 3 work out, but my arms still hit muscle failure before completing the 3rd and 5th sets. So I'll keep repeating that workout until I finish it. Minor set back but the third time should do it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How Wendy's Tries To Rip You Off At The Drive Thru

Guard your wallet when ordering at the Wendy's drive thru. I went through the drive-thru at Wendy's for lunch today and placed my order for a #6 combo with Dr. Pepper. The cashier asked, "medium or large?" I don't eat at Wendy's very often so I assumed they must not offer a small size and replied, "medium". Then I took a quick look at the menu board and saw that they do have small and the medium size is an extra 59 cents!

After changing my order to the small size I pulled around and paid for my order. I could hear the cashier inside asking the next customer the same "medium or large" question. Drive-thru cashiers typically follow a script so I suspect this is Wendy's standard tactic to get people to spend more without realizing it.

Why do I say they're trying to rip us off? Because they asked if I wanted "medium or large"...that implies there are only two choices. They're not being honest about the choices. They could've asked if I wanted to upgrade to a larger size or simply asked if I wanted a small, medium or large combo. Instead they're trying to get customers to spend more by subtly removing the lower cost option from consideration.

To top it off, I got back to work and found that they didn't even give me any ketchup for my fries. It's doubtful I'll be eating at Wendy's again any time soon.