Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ever the Movie Review

I have been a fan of Wendy McColm and her Youtube channel for a while now so when I saw she was staring in a new full length film that would be posted on her channel, I was looking forward to it!  The new film is called Ever, and it is written and directed by Josh Beck and stars Wendy McColm and Christina Elizabeth Smith with cinematography by Micah Van Hove.

I went into the film without any expectations figuring it would be an artistic expression type of movie that might be ok.  After watching the movie, it surpassed all my expectations!  Not only is it a great movie for Youtube, but it is good enough to be in theaters.  It really has a high production value from the filming and soundtrack to the writing and acting.  

This is the kind of movie you should watch without knowing anything about it ahead of time.  I would recommend not even watching the trailer or reading a plot summary.  This is because there are some twists and it is best not to be spoiled.

Without giving anything away, just know that it is a drama about a girl who is going through an emotional period in her life and the movie is about what happened and how she deals with it as she meets new people and forms new relationships.

The film was featured at many indie film festivals and the creators have been generous enough to upload it to Youtube and Vimeo to watch for free.  I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes movies with emotion, drama, and twists.  Wendy and Christina both have excellent performances as the main characters in this movie. You can watch it above and visit the official website for more information.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What To Do With Found Money?

The other day I was shopping at Target and as I was checking out, I saw there was a $20 bill on the ground folded in quarters.  Immediately I picked it up and showed it to the cashier and said, "Someone dropped some money down here."  She took it and looked if the previous shopper was still there but they were gone.  It would be hard to know if it was from the previous shopper or if it had been down there for a while.

Since we didn't know whose it was, she said she would turn it in to customer service.  The customer service desk was literally 20 feet from where we were standing so she walked it over and handed it in.  She came back and said thank you.  I paid for my items as I normally would and was on my way.

I was wondering what would happen to the $20?  In my mind I had a feeling the person at customer service would just keep the money.  It didn't help that the person behind the desk didn't exactly look the most trustworthy, but who knows, hopefully they will hold on to it in case anyone comes in to claim it.

In a case like this though I think the chances are slim that anyone will claim it.  Likely the $20 just fell out of someone's wallet when they were paying and they will not notice it for a while and even if they do, not know where it went or figure it is long gone if they dropped it somewhere.

So what will happen to the money if no one claims it?  I probably should have turned it in myself and asked about the policy.  I did a little searching online and found a couple other cases like this.  Apparently if it is not claimed, it just gets added to the store account.  It would be nice if they gave it back to the person who found it if it went unclaimed.  I kind of know the cashier who turned it in for me because I shop there often so I might ask her about it next time I am in there.

Reflecting back, I turned in the money immediately because I am an honest person and I figured it does not belong to me, but other people may have just picked it up and pocketed it.  In the back of my mind I always think I am going to be on one of those hidden camera shows like  "What Would You Do" where they make moral dilemma situations like this to see how people react.  I wouldn't want to be the person they catch picking up the money and keeping it and then running into John Quinones at the door asking me why I didn't turn in the money. Of course this never happens but it definitely makes you think twice. 

So what would you do in a situation like this?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jury Duty Experience

Like many, I was going through my mail one day and got the dreaded jury duty summons. It was for standby jury so you have to call the day before so see if you are needed. I called and the recording said if your last name begins with certain letters, you are required to come in, otherwise you will be called at a later time. My name happened to be in this range so I was required to report for jury duty.

Day 1:

I commuted to the city and arrived at the courthouse building. There are metal detectors when you walk in so you have to put everything through the scanner. It is ok just an inconvenience.

Then you take the elevator to the check in location and waiting room. We were told to arrive at 9:30am. It is a big room with a lot of people waiting. They showed an orientation video and then we waited for our group number to be called.

My group didn't get called until about 12:00pm, so there was a lot of waiting. They did have a tv to watch and you can bring something to read or go on a laptop or phone. After we were called, we went to a court room where they talked briefly about the process. Then we moved to another court room on another floor and heard a little bit about what the case would be about. Our group had about 40 people to start.

Then we had an hour for lunch. They don't have much in terms of a cafeteria or anything, but you can leave the building to go out. I brought my lunch an ate in the hall/lobby area outside the courtrooms.

We were supposed to meet back at about 1:30pm but they were not ready until about an hour after that. Then they went into a process of calling people in, having some sit for questioning while the others waited. I didn't even get called in for questioning until about 4:00pm! To me this does not seem very efficient considering I was told to be there at 9:30am.

The lawyers of both sides ask questions to each person in a group setting based on the form you filled out ahead of time. They want to make sure you will be a fair juror and not have bias to one side or the other. I did not like this process because they are asking you questions in front of a huge group of strangers. It is almost like you are on the witness stand! Because of this format, people are likely to just go with the group, especially when they ask a question to the group as a whole. There are clearly people who try to make their answers seems like they would have bias because they don't want to get picked. Also people are less likely to be 100% honest when they know everyone is listening to their answer, even though you are supposed to be 100% truthful.

They definitely need to improve this process. If they want to know specific answers to questions, they should have the jurors fill out these answers on the card, not answer them in front of a court room full of people. Also they should only have you arrive at the time they are ready to bring you in for questioning.

After all of this, they announced who the 12 jurors would be. I ended up getting picked. Now I'm not an expert on jury selection but I think they try to pick people who they think are easily influenced and will be fair. I feel like I must have given off this impression. We were finally dismissed at about 5:30pm. A long day, especially when you only get paid $17 for the the entire day which pretty much just covers the cost of transportation to get down there.

So far my impression of the jury/judicial system here is not good. The case will be a civil case to decide how much money is to be paid. It seems like something like this should be decided by a judge if there is a dispute. It is not worth inconveniencing so many people for an entire day or more for something like this. From what I understand if you go to court, you have the option of having a judge or a jury for your case. I would definitely pick a judge after this experience so as not to make more people come in for something like this.

Day 2:

I showed up at 9:30am for jury day 2 not looking forward to it. They did provide pastries and juice for breakfast as well as let us pick out something to order for lunch which was nice. The jurors and I signed some papers and chatted a bit while everyone made their way in.

A short while later we were called in to take our seats and they started the case. Both sides took turns explaining their side. A few witnesses were called up for questioning and were examined by both sides. Often there would be a need for a break as the attorneys would ask for a sidebar to talk with the judge. The case itself was pretty simple but they really dragged it out. I guess this is the way it is done, but I really wished they could just get to the point instead of asking 20 vaguely relevant questions before getting to a point.

We got a nice lunch break around 12 noon and resumed the case afterwords. At about 4:00pm they had wrapped up what they wanted to say and it was up to us as jurors to decide the outcome. We deliberated for about an hour. Our group got along pretty well and we just went around saying what we thought the outcome should be and why. After more discussion we reached a decision. It was for deciding a monetary value so we kind of had to get an average based on what everyone thought was fair.

We went back in and handed over the results. They were read to the court and that was it! We went back to the jury room to just wrap things up with the judge and then we got to go home.

Overall it was an ok experience but personally I think this type of case should be done without a jury and the process in general needs to be much more efficient and streamlined. In my opinion a case like this could have been decided in a couple hours by a judge. Instead it took 2 days and a lot of people to come in to listen to it and decide the verdict. It was good to get the experience of being on a jury, but overall I would not look forward to doing it again.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Tic Tac Toe Logic - How to Win at Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe is a classic game pretty much everyone is familiar with.  You probably played it as a kid and maybe as an adult with a kid for fun.  It is a simple game, but most people do not really put much deep thought into it.  They just use their common sense to try to get 3 X's or 3 O's in a row while blocking their opponent from doing the same.

I started thinking, with such a simple game, there are not that many combinations available.  There had to be some logic behind it to determine what the best moves were.  I decided to test it out logically to figure out the results of each type of move on the board.  I determined that there were about 8 possible scenarios based on the first move from each player.  You will see the examples below. 

Numbers 1-9 are used to show the sequence of moves.   Odd numbers are the first player or "X". Even numbers are the 2nd player or "O". 
One observation to note is how the first player has 5 possible moves while the 2nd player has only 4 possible moves so the first player always has the advantage. 

Results if both players play well and do not make mistakes:

First person can win by picking corner if 2nd person then picks corner or side.

2nd person cannot win but can cause a draw by picking center if first person picks corner.

Draws will result if first person picks side or center to start with.

Best Strategies:

First person - Start with corner.
2nd person - Start with center.

By following these tips you will be able to win or at very least not lose in the game of Tic Tac Toe.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Bike - Story about one of my favorite things growing up

(In keeping with the theme from the last post, here is a an essay I wrote in school about one of my favorite things in the world at that time, my bike.)

I remember the first day I got it. It was a weekday after school near the end of 7th grade. My dad took me to the bike shop. I picked out a chrome colored Dyno freestyle bike. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself! As soon as I got home I was riding it and did not stop until it got dark and I had to come in. The next day at school, I couldn't even concentrate on my work because I was so excited to get back home and ride it.

So how did I become so interested in bikes? It started when this guy moved into a house across the street. He was in his early 20s and he and his friend each had freestyle bmx bikes they would ride in the street. They had a ramp they would bring out every now and then and jump it and do tricks. I thought they were so cool so I had to get a bike like them. He was nice enough to hang out with us and let us use the ramp.

Back to the bike. I kept it in perfect condition. There was not one smudge on the whole bike and for a chrome bike, that is pretty tough to maintain. I rode it every day as long as the weather was good. There was no way I would bring it out in the rain.

One night I opened the door leading to the garage and saw the garage door had been left open. I was about to close it but something didn't look right. I glanced to the side where I kept my bike and froze. My bike wasn't there! I stood there for a few moments in disbelief. Frantically I tried to remember if I left it at a friend's house. I hadn't. Did I leave it somewhere? No. I quickly ran outside and looked down the street hoping to see someone riding it. No one was there. I couldn't believe it. My bike, my very favorite thing had been stolen.

I was in shock. We lived in a good neighborhood where kids didn't even hesitate to just leave their bike lying around outside. Who would do such a thing? Was it some kid in the neighborhood or did someone with a van drive by looking for open garages to take things from? What was I going to do now? I had no bike to ride? I couldn't sleep a wink that night as my mind was racing all night.

I started thinking it was time for a new bike anyway. Although my old bike was still in good condition, I had worn it into the ground and would have had to get a new one soon anyway. A few months later I got a new bike. It was great, but it wasn't the same. It was a better bike, but I still wanted my old one back. I didn't have the same love for riding I had before. What used to be a daily activity became a weekly activity, then a monthly activity. Soon I did not ride at all. I guess as I got older my interest switched more to cars as I was getting towards the age of driving.

Although I made quite an effort to find my old bike, I never got it back. There is no happy ending to this story other than the good memories it provided over the years.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Alone at Night - Suspense Story

Note: I was going though some of my old papers from grade school and found a suspense essay I had written about being home alone for the first time. It is a good story so I thought I would share it here. This is the original essay with minor updates and edits:

"See you later!" I said to my parents and waved to them as they pulled out of the garage. I was feeling great! I didn't really like going out for dinner with them and this was the first time I convinced them to let me stay home alone. I was ten years old and I had the whole house to myself! I started walking around. It felt a little awkward with no one else around. I yelled out because normally I was not supposed to yell in the house. I jumped onto the couch and put my feet up with my shoes still on.

I was relaxing peacefully when I heard a few sounds outside in the back yard. It sounded like someone walking around a couple yards away from the house. I also heard some kind of metal jingling together. It startled me so I sat up and listened carefully. It was completely silent when I tried to listen. I walked over to the window that was covered with drapes and put my ear up next to it. I listened closely but could not make out the sound. I thought about peering out but it was dark outside and light inside so I was afraid whoever was out there would see me looking out.

I sat back down on the couch and started thinking. What if there was someone bad outside? What if they were going to break into my house and try to steal something or even kill me? My heart began to race. I got up and started walking to the kitchen when I heard the sound outside again. Someone was definitely out there.

Feeling unsafe downstairs, I dashed up the stairs to my parents bedroom. I shut the door and leaped onto the bed. I wanted to get in touch with my parents, but they were out to dinner and this was before the days of cell phones. I thought about calling 911 but I was afraid if they came over and saw me home alone, they would take me to the police station.

I decided to try to calm down and went to my room. A few minutes had passed and I was starting to feel better when I heard the sound outside again. I figured I had less of a chance of being seen from the upstairs window so I turned off the light and peeked outside. It was dark but I could see a shadowy figure walking around the side of my house.

I watched it until it was out of sight. My heart was pounding again. I sat back down and looked at the clock. I wasn't sure when my parents would be home. I thought about calling one of my friends. I was about to pick up the phone when the doorbell rang! I ran to the top of the stairs. I looked down and listened fearfully. The outside door opened and someone started knocking on the door! I was so scared and didn't know what to do. I wished my parents would come home. Finally, the outside door closed and it was quiet again.

I was a bit relieved but still very nervous. I went back to my parents room. Still looking at the clock. They had to be coming home soon. Then I heard the garage door opening. I ran to the window and looked out to see my parents car pulling in. I dashed down the stairs and opened the door to meet them. I had never been so happy to see them in my life! My dad walked in and I hugged him. I saw my mom and started to cry. I told them about what had happened and about what I had heard and saw.

We went to the living room and sat down to talk about it. Then I heard the jingling noise outside the window again. "That's it!" I yelled. "They are in the back yard!" My dad walked over to the window, opened the drapes and turned on the back light. We saw our next door neighbor outside walking his dog. My dad opened the patio door and said, "Hi, how are you doing tonight?"

"Not so good." he replied. "When I went out to walk the dog, I accidentally got locked out of my house. I walked around your house a few times to see if anyone was home. I wasn't sure so I rang the bell and knocked on the door but no one answered. Do you still have my spare key?"

"Sure!" My dad said and went to get him the extra key. The neighbor was very thankful and wished us a good night. I was relieved that is was just the neighbor but still a bit shaken up. Staying home alone did not turn out to be as great as I thought it would be. I thought to myself, maybe next time when my parents go out for dinner I will go with them

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Best Songs of 2014

It is time once again for the annual Best Songs of the Year!  This year, was different because I did not closely follow music as I have done in previous years, in fact I tried to avoid music for the most part.  Despite this, I still managed to find some good songs to share throughout the year.  Enjoy!

1. Bad Lip Reading - Carl Poppa
Bad Lip Reading is a Youtube channel known for voice dubbing over popular music videos, tv shows, movies, and sports. They are also incredibly talented at making original music as heard in this video where they make an original song to some clips from the show Walking Dead.  BLR knows how to make a catchy hit song that could easily top the pop charts.  They have many other great songs as well including this other song released for the Hunger Games movie.

2. Violent Soho - Saramona Said
Here is a band out of Australia that has sort of that 90's alternative rock sound.  They had a few big hits this year with the songs Covered in Chrome and this one here Saramona Said. It also has a great video featuring the "one continuous shot" style.  If you like bands like Weezer, Nirvana, or Pixies, definitely check this one out!

3. Duck Sauce - NRG
A high energy electronic pop song comes in at number 3 this year with NRG by Duck Sauce.  It has kind of a timeless pop likeability similar to Junior Senior's Move Your Feet.  The original song is great and there is also a good remix of the song here in collaboration with Skrillex, Kill the Noise, and Milo & Otis.  This video features Phil Villeneuve as he dances through the streets listening to the song. 

 4. 311 - Five of Everything
311 has been around for a long time and was one of my original favorite bands.  This year they came out with a new album "Stereolithic" which has been positively received my many of the the long time fans.  This single off the album captures the classic 311 sound many have been missing for so long.

5. Gregory and the Hawk - Heart Attack
Meredith from Gregory and the Hawk is a singer/songwriter/musician who has been making beautiful songs for many years.  This year she released and album "A Selection of Demos".  They might be demos, but this song "Heart Attack" was good enough to make it onto the best songs of the year list! 

6. Meghan Tonjes - Don't Call Me Love
Meghan Tonjes is a Youtuber who is also a great singer/songwriter.  Here is an original acoustic song called Don't Call Me Love.  She has a lot of other great original songs as well as cover songs here on here Youtube channel.

7. Dave and Ethan - Youtube Comment Song
Here is a song from the funny Youtube duo of Dave and Ethan.  It is a song they made inspired by the comments they received on their videos. The topic and lyrics are silly but the song is actually very catchy and they are pretty good at singing too! 

Hope you enjoyed the best songs of 2014!  Feel free to leave a comment below if you found a good song here or if you had another favorite song from 2014.

Also check out the Best Songs of 2013