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Friday, December 19, 2014

George Clooney On The Sony Cyber Attack

Deadline has published a brief interview with George Clooney in which the actor/director talks about his attempts to get studio execs to sign a petition declaring their opposition to what the North Korean hackers have done regarding Sony's film, The Interview.  As he says, "Not a single person would sign."  Clooney goes on to point out, very intelligently, what this sort of acquiesence to terrorism means in the big picture of standing up to extortion and threats.

It's definitely worth a read.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

At The Intersection Of Music And Business

Here's a great article by musician Amanda Palmer on the crazy attitude so many people take when artists choose to pull back the curtain on how much money they make (or lose).  She really nails it, laying out the double standard that exists on this topic.

One of the cases she cites is the backlash directed at Pomplamoose's Jack Conte after he published the finances of his band's 23-city tour that lost almost $12,000 recently.  His post makes fascinating reading, absolutely.  But the reactions to it are equally gripping, as they perfectly demonstrate just how big the disconnect is between the reality of band life and the illusion so many buy into.

I love that both Palmer and Conte focus on the long view in their decisions, being willing to lose (or make less) money in the short term in order to grow their fan base over the long haul.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Alien: Isolation Sequel At Least Being Discussed

I absolutely loved Alien: Isolation this fall, despite some obvious flaws.  It played shamelessly on my obsession with Ridley Scott's Alien film, and I was joyfully sucked right in.  Therefore I'm glad to hear that a potential Alien: Isolation 2 is something that the development team is discussing, although it sounds like it's far from a given at this point. Also of interest to me in that interview is news of two new difficulty settings for the original game: Novice and Nightmare.  I can't imagine playing on the latter, but having an even easier / less deadly setting in which to explore the space station definitely appeals.

I really hope AI wins some 2014 gaming awards, as I find it hard to imagine there was a better game released this year.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Very Cool Trip Through Time

I love the Up documentary series and the movie Boyhood for lots of different reasons, but one of the main ones is the way that both allow you to experience the passage of time.  In each case, you get to watch a small set of people change as they age and it's hard not to be affected by the journey.

Here's something similar, done with still photos: four sisters were photographed each year across the span of four decades, and it's fascinating to see how differently each woman ages.  I can't even imagine how it must be for them, looking at those photos now.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

December Biking

I couldn't resist the 1° C (or -1° C with windchill) temperature today and so I biked downtown to get comics.  This was actually a much easier ride than last week's, thanks to the wind being nearly non-existent.  I also took more than enough Kleenexes with me today, unlike last week, which made for a nicer experience, too!

This means I did at least 9 months of biking in 2014, as I'm uncertain as to whether I got one in during March but I know April through December are now in the bag.  Not bad for a guy pushing 52!

The Latest On The Preacher TV Series

It seems like the project that will never happen: getting Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's amazing Preacher comic series adapted to either television or film.  There have been several aborted attempts, and it's still very much up in the air as to whether the latest one will fly, but at least now a pilot has been ordered for the proposed AMC series.  I still have my doubts that anyone can successfully translate the material out of its original medium and deal with the inevitable push back from religious types, but time will tell.

My love for Preacher is nearly boundless, and it's one of the very few long comic series (75 issues) that I've re-read multiple times.  It's also on my short list of comics that I won't be selling as long as I still own any comics.  That's how good it is.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wacky Science May Get Our Kids Or Grandkids Into Space

I don't quite understand the science involved but this article makes it sound at least possible that an alternative to rocket-propelled space travel may be within our reach in the next 20-50 years.

Still Biking In Late November

I did the bike ride downtown today for a comic (that's right, it was for one comic this week: Lazarus) and that was in 0° C (-4° C with the windchill) weather, recognizing that this may be my last chance before March of next year.  We've already had one big snowfall this month, though warm temperatures over the past weekend and earlier this week took care of all that.  It's still possible I'll get one more ride in next week if it's not too wet, but I'm not holding out much hope that I'll actually make it into December.

Oh well, as it is today's trip was strenuous (and cold) enough that I feel pretty good about being able to get this late into the year at my age. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Creating A Leader-Leader, Rather Than Leader-Follower, Culture Within An Organization

(Hat tip to Mike Cohn for the original link via Twitter): I really like this article about U.S. nuclear sub commander David Marquet and his approach to leadership. While the language used (on board the sub) might be too formal and stilted to work in a software environment, the ideas behind it - ensuring control, competence and clarity - would work perfectly in an Agile development shop.  Or, put another way, the goal is to have everyone on the team able to make good decisions because they understand the mission (including the relative priorities) and are actively engaged in the completion of it.  No one's "just following orders," nobody feels unappreciated, and every member is pulling in the same direction as the team.

Definitely worth a read for anyone out there still doing the 9-to-5.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Another Book Update

Just to show that progress is continuing to happen: I finished my first cut of the third chapter on the new book today.  It needs some work but hopefully by the end of the week it'll be in good enough shape that I can move on to Chapter 4 next week.  For reasons beyond my understanding, the chapters this time around are turning out to be slightly shorter than they've typically been in the past.  I guess that means I'll either have more chapters in the fifth novel or it'll be somewhat lighter than its predecessors, if this trend continues.  You'd think I would know which, but then again you'd probably also think I was working from an outline on this project.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New Book Project Finally Has Some Steam Behind It

I started it over three months ago, and then completely stalled.  My fifth novel (and eighth book) just wasn't happening for me for awhile, but now it seems to be coming together.  I finished the first chapter, and then wrote the second chapter, all during the four days Vicki was visiting relatives in Baltimore last week.  Since then, Vicki and Tammy have reviewed the chapters and given me edits and feedback, both of which help to motivate me to keep writing.

So there's some cause for optimism that this latest writing project has finally started to take off.  I still expect it's likely going to be an autumn book release in 2015 rather than a spring one, but we'll see.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Another Hallowe'en Comes And Goes Like A Ghost

Well, it wasn't a bad turnout this year, despite the cold and rainy weather that descended on us today.  We saw a baker's dozen trick-or-treaters this time around, up nearly 50% from last year's 9.  So it goes.

Here are the up-to-date totals for the 9 Hallowe'ens over which I've been blogging:

2014: 13
2013: 9
2012: 14
2011: 15
2010: 18
2009: 19
2008: 19
2007: 18
2006: 12

And yes, that means that this blog had its 8th anniversary at the start of the month, not that anyone noticed (including me).  How about that?  8 years!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alien: Isolation Just Keeps On Giving

Minutes ago, I finished the main campaign for Alien: Isolation, my pick for the best Alien-based video game of all time.  Alien Vs Predator, the original 1999 First Person Shooter, was probably better but it wasn't as true to the source material nor as much of a love letter to the fans.  I've been so hooked on AI over the past couple weeks (as has Vicki, as an observer), and so absolutely in love with it even as it sometimes frustrated the hell out of me!

I still have more to enjoy with it, too, as there's a short second campaign, Crew Expendable, that allows you to play as Ripley, Dallas or Parker from the original film as they try to drive the xenomorph off their ship.  Incredibly, the game makers got the cast members of Ridley Scott's 1979 Alien to come into the studio and provide their voices to this part, lending it a degree of authenticity that I can't wait to experience.

And then there's something called Survivor Mode which I think is an online Nazi Zombies-style adventure that always ends badly but manages to provide some great fun along the way.  [Update the next day: Nope, Survivor Mode is single player, as well, and basically times you while you try to escape an area and achieve objectives as you go.  Not quite as much fun as I'd hoped, but still OK.]

All of which means I expect to be playing this game for at least another several days, making it more than worth the money I spent on it.  For me, this has definitely been the Game of the Year!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Race Car Richie

After several failed attempts due to bad weather, my brother Rich and nephew Dick finally got to drive race cars around a track like lunatics.  It's not anything I'd ever want to do (I'm holding out for jumping out of a plane, maybe along with Rich) but if the look on his face below means anything, my brother had an amazing time:

Not So Fast On Solving Jack The Ripper's Identity

A month and a half ago, I posted a link to a story claiming that the identity of Jack the Ripper had finally been proven, and that it was a Polish immigrant who'd been a suspect at the time.

Now, however, it seems that discovery has been called into question, in a big way.  Either the scientist who did the test has to come forward and disprove the claims that he screwed up the DNA matching, or we're back to not knowing who Jack really was.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Alien: Isolation - Never Has Dying Been This Much Fun!

I've now owned Alien: Isolation for almost a week, or perhaps I should say, it's owned me!  It's easily the scariest and most difficult video game I've ever played, and I couldn't be happier with it.

As someone who normally hates stealth missions in games, it's taken me some time to adjust to AI's style.  It really is all about survival, pure and simple.  Although he takes his time showing up initially, once the titular xenomorph appears on the scene you're pretty much screwed if you don't buy into the strategy of sneaking around slowly and making as little noise as possible.  I've been killed by the big-headed bugger dozens of times by now after trying numerous methods to terminate him (knowing all along that you can't, but it's still fun trying) as well as discovering countless ways to unintentionally draw his attention.  What a great ride!  Rarely frustrated, and never deterred.

This truly is the ultimate gaming experience for fans of Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece like me.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Best And Worst Of Alien Videogames

Tomorrow, Alien: Isolation launches and my copy for the PS4 is already on its way to me!  Unlike the relaunched Aliens Vs Predator and Alien: Colonial Marines of recent memory, this Alien game is actually getting very good reviews (averaging around 8/10 or so) and has me very excited... as well as more than a little bit scared!  Not scared that it'll suck, but rather that it'll be so hard that I won't be able to get very far in it.

Anyway, in anticipation of that momentous arrival, we have this lovely article, reminiscing about the best and worst of the games in the genre til now.  And yes, the original, 1999 AvP game really was every bit as great as the reviewer says!

Twin Peaks Returning From Oblivion

It seems somehow fitting that right after the 10th anniversary of Lost's debut on TV, we get this news that Twin Peaks, the original "full of potential but not really paying off its many mysteries" headscratcher is being brought back by its creator, David Lynch. 

Vicki and I initially heard about Twin Peaks a couple weeks after it launched (right around the time we got together) and were then lucky enough to catch re-runs of the episodes we'd missed.  To say we were hooked would be putting it mildly!  But the honeymoon (with the show, anyway) was somewhat short-lived, as the series seemed to promise so much while delivering so little.  I think we stuck with it to the end, but I can't say for sure as I don't recall how it wrapped up.  I'm certainly curious to see what Lynch will do with this opportunity to give us "answers and a satisfying conclusion."  I guess we'll have to wait to see what Canadian channel will pick it up, of course.