Lawyer up

 Spoiler alert – My case is all settled. That is why I’ve been able to publish these posts. It took from February 8, 2014 (when I was hit) until November 24, 2015 for the last paper to be signed and check to be cut. With that out of the way, be prepared for a lot of words on this topic.

It’s inevitable. It’s days after you’ve been hit by a vehicle while riding your bicycle and you’re feeling terrible. The days pass and the talk turns to, “When are you getting a lawyer?” My first response to that question was, “I’m not sure I want or need one.” I then began talking to people with more experience (some) with these sorts of things than I had (none) and it became apparent to me that I wanted to get a lawyer.

lwyrup

I didn’t want to have to deal with figuring out how to negotiate with insurance company lawyers (who do this for a living) while also spending months recovering. I also didn’t want my wife to deal with that stress on top of an already stressful time for her. The driver’s insurance company was already calling and wanting to settle. Even with no expertise, I knew it was laughable to talk about a settlement when so little was known about the full extent of my injuries. I spoke with a (corporate) lawyer for advice on getting a personal injury lawyer to represent me and his main advice came in the form of questions, “Do you think you can get at least a third more with a lawyer involved? And do you think he’ll do that with a lot less headaches for you?” The questions were valid. First, you need reasons to think you’ll get at least a third more in the settlement with the lawyer than without. If you don’t, you could be in trouble. I hear about people getting a lawyer for a relatively minor car crash. The lawyer does a good job, but doesn’t get a third more than what the individual would’ve gotten on her own. In some cases, this can mean the individual pays out-of-pocket for some of the expense of the crash. For example, the total costs of a crash are $5,000 – property, personal injury, etc. The lawyer ends up getting a settlement for $6,000. After the lawyer takes his cut, the individual has $3,960 from the payout. The only way a lawyer even begins to make sense in that case is if the settlements is for at least $7,600.

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Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit

 

What I looked like several days after being hit by an SUV while riding my bicycle

I vaguely recall gingerly walking from the garage to our upstairs family room the day after I was hit by an SUV while riding my bicycle. My body was so bruised from the waist up, it hurt to move – at all. Since my left clavicle was fractured and my right shoulder was separated (though I didn’t realize it at the time), I could only lay down on my back without crying out in pain. I parked myself on the couch recliner and tried not to think of how bad everything hurt.

Since my mouth was in a state of disrepair, it hurt to eat. I was taking pain medication that generally made my stomach match the pain I felt through the rest of my upper body. I gave up on the pain meds. I tried to eat, but my appetite was lost because of the pain from eating. I lost about 15 pounds the first month.

I went to see the doctor about my wrist. He put a cast on it and told me to come back in a month. I saw my dentist and then an oral surgeon to determine how bad my mouth really was. I could tell by the looks on their faces that it wasn’t good. The oral surgeon found the fracture in my upper jaw. He and the dentist wanted to let my teeth settle for another week or two in order to see if the remaining top front teeth would survive. I was warned then that no matter what the plan of action was, it would take a while to heal and have everything back to “normal”. I had no idea how accurate those warnings were at the time.

The most painful event I remember during the first week was trying to change my shirt. Lifting my arms anywhere close to above my shoulders hurt so bad that it brought tears to my eyes. I was determined to change my own shirt. I eventually got my shirt off, but not without a frightening popping noise from one of my shoulders and a yelp followed by more tears. Regardless, I stood there proud that I did the seemingly impossible – taking off my own shirt. It was then that I determined I would wear a consistent uniform of tank tops and full zip hoodies for the foreseeable future. I expect this to become a fashion trend in Silicon Valley any day now.

The days drifted into one another. I was waiting. Waiting for my body to heal. Waiting to see how bad the damage to my mouth really was. Waiting for the day when I could walk without feeling every step sending jolts through my chest, to my shoulders, piercing my neck.

The first week was a haze. I had no expectation of when I would feel better. I only knew how awful I felt. I think it’s important to capture that here as a reminder to myself and for others who might be going through a similar situation. No big lesson other than it hurts and there’s not much you can do about it other than to be patient as you lay there hoping the pain goes away. It does – eventually.

The title of this post comes shamelessly from Courtney Barnett’s pretty fantastic album of the same title.


 

I’m capturing my journey towards recovery after being hit by an SUV while riding my bicycle on February 8th, 2014. I’ve learned quite a bit along the way and want to share those lessons. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or any other sort of expert in this area. Any insights I provide along the way should be taken as my insights to my particular situation. In other words, seek professional counsel if you find yourself in similar circumstances. See more here.

Throwing up blood

 

I’m starting to capture my journey towards recovery after being hit by an SUV while riding my bicycle. I’ve learned quite a bit along the way. I want to share those lessons learned. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or any other sort of expert in this area. Any insights I provide along the way should be taken as my insights to my particular situation. In other words, seek professional counsel if you find yourself in similar circumstances.

February 8, 2014. It was a normal sunny yet cool Las Vegas winter morning. I decided to go on a longer ride, take a different route than usual. Nothing crazy, just head out a different way to the usual favorite on the west side – Red Rock Canyon. I remember coming to the first stop light. It’s a long one and I realized then that I didn’t have my sunglasses. I never ride without them. I decided to make an exception. Sure, I was only about five minutes from home, but the light was going to turn green at any moment. It did and I pedaled through and kept to the right of the road. That’s about as much as I remember about riding on February 8, 2014. The next thing I remember is waking up to my name being called, “Joshua? Joshua? Can you hear us?” My eyes opened and I couldn’t make out much. I couldn’t move my head. I was strapped down, straight as a board. I answered the calls of my name. They asked me if I knew where I was. I told them I didn’t. I asked what happened, where I was. They wanted to know more about me. Did I know my full name? Did I know what city and state I lived in? Did I remember what I was last doing? I answered their questions without hesitation. I could sense some relief on their part and that gave me some comfort, immediately followed up by panic. WHERE AM I AND WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?

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Everyone is doing Agile and Lean

Agile and Lean are old news. Everyone uses and abuses the lexicons. Have a short daily meeting? Call it a daily Scrum. Trying to deliver something in a relatively short period of time? Call it a Sprint or iteration. Have a board with post-it notes in swim lanes? Kanban at your service. Writing some tests? Call it TDD. Attempt to improve a process? Continuous improvement! Use a CI server to run a job here or there? Tell the world you’re doing continuous integration. Code on production? Continuous deployment! Meanwhile, people who list experience with Agile and Lean on their resumes more often than not talk about how painful and all around chaotic it all was. The underlying reason for this bad aftertaste is most often due to the adoption of practices without an understanding of the principles behind them.

The temptation is to read an article, watch a short video, attend a conference session and latch onto a particular Agile or Lean practice without the fuller context. This is especially popular in tech where many (most?) of us have a natural tendency to chase after shiny new objects. Instead of a collection of tools that serve their purpose within a greater context, we latch onto the hammer and start pounding everything in sight. A team struggling on a project decides to try a daily standup because they like that part of Scrum. They don’t realize the nuances behind a daily Scrum. They don’t grasp the commitment demanded by Scrum as a whole, and how the daily Scrum helps enforce that commitment. A standup is easy; building teams dedicated to consistently delivering something tangible in a short period of time is not. Every ceremony within Scrum is there because the principles drive it. Adopt one ceremony out of context and the result is less than satisfying – far short of transformative. Ditto for Lean. The practices are easy to grasp and implement poorly without knowing the “why” behind them.

Wrestling with and forming an understanding of the principles behind Agile/Lean requires perseverance. There are no shortcuts. Trial and error is expected, but not without wrestling with the reason why we’re trying to implement a practice in the first place. Racing from one good idea to the next requires little discipline. Little is learned when a practice is implemented without a grasp of the underlying principles. The failed practice is tossed out and a new one takes its place, awaiting a similar fate. The only way out of this rat race is learning why a particular framework, practice, methodology is the way it is and then identifying and carefully evaluating the problems we’re trying to solve and how the two align (or don’t.) There are no shortcuts. No silver bullets. No buzzwords to save the day.

Quote from EC: “You know, Mario Brothers is like crack and cocaine for kids”

Super Mario Bros.My twelve year old son was playing Super Mario Brothers on the Wii with his friend tonight. My son has played the game so much over the years he’s come to almost hate it. His friend isn’t there yet. While blazing through each screen with ease, EC casually blurts out that quote. His friend looks at him puzzled. Welcome to the club.

Way late review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Creating a unique world in film is difficult. The safe bet is to stick to the real world or go so fantastical as to render it unrecognizable. Those who dare to mix the real and fantastical face the challenge of overcoming an audience never believing a single moment. If there is one only one thing Benh Zeitlin pulls off in his first feature length film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, it is creating a world all its own, with one foot steeped in reality and the other planted in the clouds.

Bathtub is somewhere in the Bayou, an island unto its own, filled with people living in poverty which include a young girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father, Wink (Dwight Henry). Hushpuppy lives with her dad but in her own home. Dad seems barely capable of caring for himself and demands that Hushpuppy fend for herself, possibly because he senses his days are numbered, but it’s just as likely Wink is skirting responsibility while drowning in his own sorrow (not to mention liquor) of not having Hushpuppy’s mother with him. The feisty independent girl longs for her mother and is angry her father can disappear for days without notice.

Some of the Bathtub community are defiant, so much so that they won’t evacuate when a major storm is approaching. Instead of fleeing, Wink and others hunker down. They do their best to survive the storm and hold onto what little they call their own. Hushpuppy thinks the storm is happening because the icecaps are melting and will unleash some oversize warthog looking beasts. She learned this at school. At this point, shots of melting icecaps invade the screen. I’m not sure if the images and lore were meant to convey a heavy handed message, but it felt like there was a parallel being made between Katrina and global warming. Far from an activist film, Beasts also doesn’t hide the similarities of its world and the one of New Orleans right after hurricane Katrina.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

The storm comes and trounces the Bathtub with non-stop water. Wink, Hushpuppy and some of their neighbors are left to survive the elements while figuring out what they’re going to do longer term. The journey meanders a bit, allowing us to get a fuller picture of just how adamant this community is about living life on their terms, no matter how hard the government or other outside forces try to rescue the remaining Bathtub residents.

In between the fantastic voyage and strange images of beasts racing towards the Bathtub, there is a story of a little girl who wants to find her mom and somehow make things work between her and her overbearing, sometimes abusive father. The father-daughter relationship on screen is a challenge. One of them we root for and the other against. While folklore rules the day and people revel in their plight in life, wisdom is in short supply, which is probably why the film’s most touching moments seemed a bit distant for me. The intended impact never hit fully as I found it difficult to completely empathize with a father who can’t seem to look outside of himself and a community that seems to pride itself in debauchery as much as it does in being a loving responsible community.

The cinematography and score are beautiful, creating a world all its own. The challenge is when the deeper emotional moments and themes don’t resonate as much as the gorgeous sights and sounds. What seemed like it could have been a one-of-a-kind masterpiece falls short, but there is much to love, including amazing performances by first time actors, Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry.

[xrr rating=3.5/5 label=” “]

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This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.

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Way late review: Frankenweenie

Guts. That is what it takes to make (not to mention fund!) a black and white stop motion film dealing with the death of family pets. A real pick me up if ever there was one. Leave it to Tim Burton with Frankenweenie to pull off the impossible. It’s been a while since he last tapped into his dark quirky style and made it work.

Victor Frankenstein is a loner. He’s not unhappy. He enjoys spending time with his dog Sparky, making movies and doing science projects. When Sparky gets hit by a car and dies Victor’s world takes a dive. Inspired by his science teacher’s lesson on electricity and lightning, Victor digs up Sparky and brings him back to life thanks to some ingenuity on his part and the town’s constant evening lightning storms.

It wouldn’t be a Burton film without a plethora of odd characters. Mr. Rzykruski’s, the science teacher, makes a lasting first impression as he takes some of the magic and myth out of his students’ misunderstanding of lightning. The scene is magical thanks to screenwriter John August’s punchy dialogue and Martin Landau’s creepy over-the-top delivery. Not to be outdone by her teacher, a strange little girl with beady bugged out eyes and her cat, who shares the same comical feature, make every moment of screen time entertaining. Our initial introduction to the girl and her cat are when she stops Victor to explain how her cat sometimes leaves a present in the litter box in the shape of the first letter of a classmate’s name. The gift is meant to indicate something significant is going to happen to that person. After the cat leaves a “V”, it’s not long before Sparky is dead.

Like many Burton films, Frankenweenie obsesses over the odd, even taboo subjects. This time around it’s death with a side helping of science. Thankfully, Frankenweenie sees death as it should – sad and tragic. Too many films, whether aimed at children or adults, try to put a happy spin on life’s end. Celebrate, don’t mourn at funerals. Frankenweenie will have none of that. Where it missteps is in the end where it sends mix messages to kids about both death and science. As long as your motives are good, science and our applications of it follow suit. Just as the movie says, science is neither good nor bad, but to think that good intentions equals positive results is ridiculous. There are times our best intentions produce terrible results, and sometimes the opposite is true. The lesson taught about death is ultimately puzzling, thanks to an ending which tries to redeem a situation that should be left as it is. I’d say more but – spoilers.

Aside from some thematic problems, Frankenweenie is a lot of fun in the final act. There are endless references to classic monster movies, making the action sequences all the zanier. What was once a relatively somber film turns into a bit of a thrill ride.

I’m not sure who Frankenweenie is for. I guess it’s geared towards kids but the style and subject matter don’t fit that demographic. My seven year old enjoyed it but then she also enjoys quite a few old black and white monster movies. Regardless of who the movie is targeted at, the daring style of a stop motion, black and white feature film gets paired with a solid story and some good characters, which has been missing from Tim Burton’s movies in the past. The magic is back.

[xrr rating=4/5 label=” “]

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This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MquUxWXEOLU[/youtube]

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Way late review: The Kid with a Bike

Sometimes you need a punch in the gut. As much fun as action films filled with heroes of all shapes and sizes are, there are times a more intimate and sad tale needs to be told. Enter The Kid with a Bike, a French film by Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

We’re immediately confronted with an angry 11-year-old named Cyril (Thomas Doret). He’s trying desperately to call his dad and when that number rings disconnected several times, the kid makes a break for it. A chase ensues and only takes breaks or slows down in the first half of the film as Cyril makes every attempt to find his dad who has clearly abandoned him. One of Cyril’s attempts to find his dad finds him latching onto an unsuspecting woman waiting in a doctor’s office waiting room. This brief encounter leads the woman, Samantha, (Cécile de France) a hairdresser in the neighborhood, to befriend Cyril by first getting back his bike and later providing him a place to stay on the weekends, away from the group foster home.

The behavior of Cyril as a young boy who has been abandoned is authentic. The anger he feels towards his dad is transferred on everyone else who cares enough to at least be with Cyril which is more than can be said for the father. Contrasted with the self-destructive behavior of the youth is Samantha’s love and care for the boy. Even though she finds herself over her head in taking care of him, she perseveres in a way that displays true love and grace, which is too rare in both movies and real life.

Even though he is loved, Cyril finds comfort from the neighborhood dealer, Wes, who befriends him. Unlike Samantha’s firm yet unending love for the young man, Wes gives Cyril the thrill of the moment; validation and words that serve to puff Cyril’s ego up and provide a quick allegiance to the no good criminal. Still, one can’t blame an 11 year-old boy whose dad wants nothing to do with his son to gravitate towards a male who goes out of his way to give the boy attention.

The last act in the film is a bit puzzling – neither good nor bad. The story grows a bit more complex without losing its focus on the kid with a bike and his struggle to find his way through a harsh life. Bonus points for not abusing a swelling soundtrack. In fact, there are only a couple brief moments where any music is used at all. What could have easily turned into melodramatic drip with a background track made to manipulate versus compliment the on screen drama.

A tight story focusing on a boy who struggles to find real love after his father left him, The Kid with a Bike never strays from the characters who are so real it’s easy to forget you’re watching a fictional tale. In a culture where cynicism and sarcasm rule the day, it’s refreshing to watch a film which doesn’t apologize for its melancholy nor shy away from its underlying altruism.

[xrr rating=4.5/5 label=” “]

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This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BvQSgr-DPU[/youtube]

Way late review: The Dark Knight Rises

Some films demand a grandiose treatment. After The Dark Knight, it is only fitting that Cristopher Nolan indulge in making The Dark Knight Rises a sprawling epic full of thought provoking themes supported by sometimes majestic and other times troubling sights and sounds.

Bruce Wayne is in bad shape. The billionaire and his alter ego, Batman, disappeared after taking the blame for the murder of Gotham’s beloved district attorney turned two face villain, Harvey Dent. As much as Rises is about super heroes and villains, it’s about the inner conflict of a man who has lost his sense of purpose. And, even when he believes he has that purpose back, we’re left to wonder if the purpose has turned into one last suicidal mission to save the city he loves.

The headlining villain this time around is Bane (Tom Hardy), a man who wears a mask that may have been stolen off the set of Silence of The Lambs, which makes him difficult to understand when he speaks. The voice sounds like a mix of Sean Connery and Darth Vader.  (Special thanks to my wife for that one.) There was some serious audio magic performed to make Bane more audible and clear, to the point where it was jarring to hear this booming voice coming from a muzzled mouth. Had the original voice been used (from earlier trailers) I think that and a combination of sub-titles may have been more effective, but I understand why the change was made. Having a villain with sub-titles probably wouldn’t fly with a majority of English speaking audiences. Regardless of the voice, Bane is a menacing character. The lore surrounding him is revealed over time and only adds to his puzzling motives. Whereas the Joker was the maniacal terrorist in a clown motif, Bane is the pro wrestler with a masterminded plot to destroy Gotham, but not before he has a chance to run some evil sociological experiment where he serves as the ringmaster and the people of Gotham revel in a world which punishes the rich and gives them freedom all the while crushing them.

Adding more characters to the mix is always tricky for super hero movies. Add one too many and the story bogs down with the weight of too many stories to tell and not enough time to tell them all in. Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), seemed like she would be the tipping point this time around. Instead of becoming a boat anchor, Catwoman’s story compliments that of Batman’s quite nicely. Catwoman’s arch is much like Han Solo’s in Star Wars IV. She’s a sketchy character whose desire for fortunes outweigh her desire for doing good. Both she and Batman want to be different people. She a thief who can’t get away from her life of crime even if she tries, and he a seemingly washed up crime fighter who wouldn’t mind dying if it meant a valiant effort to save the people of Gotham.

Nolan will never be accused of keeping his stories straight forward and simple. Dialogue here and in his other films is full of exposition, which is a big no-no for most. Somehow the Dark Knight director makes even plodding material interesting. Credit the constant use of an emotionally charged soundtrack for much of that. If all our lives were backed by cinema soundtracks they would instantly seem other worldly and overly dramatic. And maybe the nearly non-stop swelling music is overkill, along with a two hour and forty-five minute running time but I never once did a time check.

Commentary on modern day issues cannot be missed. The attacks on corrupt Wall Street bankers and the one percent are spread throughout much of the film. Providing some equal opportunity of a critical eye, the Occupy movement is also alluded to and, if the allusion is correct, the picture is not a pretty one. The use of laws to make organized crime a thing of the past even though they may overstep civil liberties is touched on lightly. None of it is heavy handed in a preachy manner. Nolan keeps the focus on the story while touching on various themes, some timeless and others capturing current day events.

Some will fondly recall the previous film in the trilogy as superior, with Heath Ledger’s amazing performance as the Joker being the main reason. Both films are excellent and both provide numerous areas to nitpick. The Dark Knight Rises goes out with an operatic crescendo, a thrilling yet satisfying ending to a trilogy all about a man dressed as a bat.

[xrr rating=5/5 label=” “]

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This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.

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