I saw Going In Style, the latest age-based comedy, and it wasn’t bad. Wasn’t great either though.
The comedy is about three guys, Joe, Bill, and Al, played by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin respectively, whose pension funds are cut by the bank that bought the steel factory they used to work for.
Struggling to pay their bills and angry at the bank, they decide to rob it to get back at the entity that screwed them over. They hope to use the money to enjoy their old age by spending it with their families instead of restarting their careers.
There’s a few jokes, but I wouldn’t exactly call the movie a comedy, more like a heist movie that’s masquerading as a comedy. Continue reading →
I read a book recently called The Art of the Heist. It’s an autobiography/memoir written by Myles J. Connor Jr. He was assisted in writing the book by Jenny Siler.
The title probably gives a pretty good hint that Connor is a career thief. He made his living robbing banks and he had a side hobby of stealing valuable art pieces.
The book starts off by describing a museum robbery that occurred while Connor was in jail. The police blamed Connor for the robbery and as he explains later on, he had given advice to the people that committed the crime on how to rob the museum.
The story shifts next to Connor’s failed jailbreak from the first time he was incarcerated. Finally, after all that, it begins telling his story in chronological order, from his first robbery to his eventual third incarceration decades later for dealing drugs.
The stories of how he committed his robberies are interesting. Most of the time it was a combination of inside knowledge and poor security on the part of the place he was robbing.
Connor talks about how he’d learn a museum’s security by posing as a donator to the museum. He’d get a tour of the facility including places that normal visitors don’t get to see. He’d then come back a few weeks later at night, sneak through a window, and take whatever he wanted.
What makes the story so interesting is that you start rooting for Connor.
Several times Connor is accused of crimes that he didn’t commit and is put on trial. He deserves to go to jail, but for different reasons than those he is accused of. The writing made me share in his frustration of being falsely accused.
It’s also very clear that Connor is an intelligent person who could’ve done a lot of good things if he hadn’t been so attracted to stealing things.
His SAT scores are amazing, he’s smart enough to organize a criminal gang for years without being caught, and he’s smart enough to have a college-educated girlfriend who is aware of his crimes, but never has enough information that she can testify against him.
There’s some stuff about how criminals act that comes up in the book that I wouldn’t get to see in my daily life. Connor talks about honor amongst criminals. He has a code for how people act when they’re part of his gang. Two of his members break that code and he almost kills them. Criminals operate outside of the law, but they still enforce rules upon themselves to maintain some amount of order.
Connor also discusses his perpetual battle with the police. I think he views the police and the government as “just the crime gang in charge of everyone else.”
When the cops are unable to find enough evidence to arrest Connor for crimes that he did commit they start building cases to connect him to crimes he was only loosely involved in.
The false cases bring to light what might be a common practice in the judicial system. The State’s Attorney comes up to a criminal and says something along the lines of, “Confess to your crime and testify that this other guy I want to arrest committed a similar crime and I’ll cut your prison sentence in half.”
If the other guy didn’t commit that crime, there’s still a heavy incentive for the first criminal to lie and say he did. That’s exactly what happens to Connor on more than one occasion.
I’d recommend Art of the Heist for anyone who likes thriller novels or who has always wondered how criminals think. For people interested in a dramatic story, I should say that there were parts of the book where I had to put it down for several days before I was ready to read it again as the material was so intense.
I looked up Connor to see what he’s doing now that he’s out of prison. Apparently he was arrested in 2012 for petty theft of a cellphone. This was apparently part of a drug deal gone bad, but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of that. Even at over 70 years old he is still a career criminal because, as he says in is book, “he enjoys it.”
Crux is on the east side of the Jenarild River nestled in the mountains. The surrounding land mass between the Jenarild and the Curving Stream has almost no living animals on it. Due to the lack of herbivores the plants have grown to great heights except around the city where the plant life is held back. This is due to the necromantic nature of Crux.
Crux has a population of about 11,000 living people. The rest of the population is undead. The workforce for the city is skeletons and zombies for menial tasks and ghouls and wights for tasks that require intelligence. Almost all the people in the city have the ability to turn or rebuke undead from one class or another. This power is necessary to make an unliving servant do your bidding, unless it is intelligent and not already under orders from somebody else. A quirk of the city is that positive energy will allow control of undead in Crux instead of destroying them.
This city is made possible by the silver tower at its center. Inside at the top of the tower is a three-headed Bodak, known as the Antenator. The Antenator imposes his will upon all undead in the city to serve living people if the living people can call upon the power of Hades. Intelligent undead are affected by this to, but can resist it if they have an extremely strong willpower.
In some sense this is Hades’ city on the real world. All the intelligent undead must swear an oath to serve Hades or risk him collecting their souls for his kingdom. He hates losing any subjects unless they continue to serve him in the Material Plane. Any knowledge about rituals related to death can be easily found in the city, but not demon lore.
The buildings in the city get progressively higher as they go away from the city wall until they reach the silver tower at the center of town. It is more than five hundred feet high and reinforced with adamantine and alchemical silver. Anyone may enter the tower in an attempt to reach the top where the Antenator resides. It is said that the Bodak will answer a single inquiry or attack anyone who reaches the top based on that person’s intentions. Most wish to ask it a question about a dark ritual that cannot be found in any book, but some go to try to kill it. The many challenges on the way up have stopped everybody so far.
The Bank of Lamentation is found in Crux. It is a bank staffed entirely by vampires. They protect the valuables put inside without question no matter what they are and collect their fees in blood or in a percentage of what is stored. The bank is guarded during the day by golems imported from Crafterton and is only open at night for withdrawals or deposits. The bank does not offer loans unless you are willing to put up souls for collateral.
There is a potion shop in the city of Crux run by the venerable lich, Vectra. Not much is know about this old specimen, but she seems to know everything about anybody who walks into her shop. It is said that she does not belong to Hades, but to herself. She is missing her left hand and eye probably from before her, “death,” or she has used them as her phylacteries. Every potion imaginable is available in the shop including some rarities from the Factory of Ideals in Crafterton. An amazing destructive spell is also sold in Vectra’s shop. It is rumored that the spell ends all life within a three mile radius of its casting. She sells the scroll of this spell to countries, kings, and other powerful people, and is willing to do a demonstration casting on the land outside of Crux for any who seems capable of paying her. The countries that are known to possess this spell are Xoria, Persia, India, and Ethiopia. None of these countries plans on invading the others.
In recent history the city of Crux has begun to move southwest. Undead work tireless, day and night, to pick entire buildings up, move them a few hundred feet southwest, then go back to bring forward another building. Rumor says that Crux will enter the Second Alliance War, but it is not yet know which side they will fight on.
My wife and I have been thinking about buying a house for awhile and over the last few weeks we have set things in motion for us to actually get one.
The first thing we did was to call a real estate agent that had gotten a house for a couple we’re friends with.
The real estate agent set us up on a tour of houses in Davis in what we’d guessed our price range was. We fell in love with the first house we saw and none of the other houses compared to that one.
The house itself has four bedrooms and two full bathrooms. There’s an additional room upstairs that is designed to be an office space. There are two living rooms, a back patio, and a side patio. The kitchen is massive and there’s also an awesome play structure in the backyard. On top of the roof are some solar panels. The house is at the end of a block long cul-de-sac and right next to a park at the back of the street.
Basically, the house is amazing. We fully believe that we could live in the house for the next forty years.
So after deciding we wanted to make an offer on the house we had to go through a flurry of gathering papers and sending them off to the lender to get us a mortgage. Bank statements, loan statements, W2s, paystubs, credit card statements. SO MANY STATEMENTS!
We quickly got a prequal letter for a mortgage and we made an offer on the house.
The house had been on the market for five months, so initially we were going to lowball it. But apparently two other couples had gone to the open house and were going to make offers on the house as well. We went for list price and the current owners snatched our offer up the next morning.
The next step was lining up house inspections to make sure we weren’t getting a dud of a house.
The inspections happened this week. They found a few problems, but nothing major (no walls made of cardboard, no explosives under the floorboards, etc.). We’re asking the current owners to fix some of the problems before we close escrow.
There’s been a steady stream of other forms to sign going back and forth between my wife and I, the real estate agent, the solar company, our insurance company, and the lender.
It’s been an exhausting experience. When I get home I’m often printing off another form to sign, signing it, scanning it back into my computer, and then emailing it off again. The process would probably be even more exhausting 25 years ago when the forms all had to be dropped off in person or sent through snail mail!
But we’ve lined up an amazing house to move in to. Here! Take a look!
I got started on one of my New Year’s Resolutions by setting up a Kiva account.
For those of you who don’t know, Kiva is a website where you can loan money to people in developing countries that are starting businesses, or buying some new furniture, or getting medicine for their kids. Basically anything that someone could want money for.
The loan amounts are quite small, often less than $1000, but that can mean a lot of buying power when its changed into the local currency.
The person or group who received the loan uses it for whatever they said and then pays it back over a year or two. The loan usually helps them to pay it back by funding an expansion of their small business or allowing their kids to go to school to get higher paying jobs.
Every potential loan on Kiva has a picture of the person or group of people receiving the loan and a translated statement describing what they’ll be doing with the money.
When you select a loan you give a multiple of $25 that will be repaid. The people receiving loans do pay interest, but the profit on the loan is kept by the company that manages the loan.
Kiva isn’t the bank that manages the loans. They’re just a middleman between the funder and the bank. There are hundreds of microfinance banks that work with Kiva to find people to fund the loans.
Strangely, in most cases the bank has already funded the loan before the loan is posted on Kiva. The people who fund the loan (me) are covering the costs of the loan after the fact. That way if the group receiving the money defaults, the bank hasn’t lost anything and can continue offering microfinance loans without worrying about turning a profit.
If you take a look at the links you can see that some of the information statements aren’t translated as well as you’d like. It’s still great to see the face of the person I’m loaning the money to regardless!
I’d encourage you to check out Kiva for yourself. Click on this link to sign up today!