Blog Point Leader Board

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bringing Back The 40-Hour Work Week

In Canada, I guess we'd say "the 37.5-hour work week," but other than that small difference, this Salon article applies perfectly to our situation here.  The article presents a compelling case for working at what those of us in the Agile community call "a sustainable pace."  Nice to see that there's not only scientific research aplenty to back it up, but also a couple centuries of historical precedent that apparently most employers have managed to forget.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nice To See "Civil Forteiture" Scam Getting More Exposure

We first heard about it on 60 Minutes, I think, and then engaged in a lively debate as to whether or not it could really be as scammy as it sounded.  I said it couldn't be, whereas Vicki wisely voted the other way.  (In case you haven't heard how 'civil forfeiture' works: basically American cops are pulling over drivers and then telling them they have to surrender some or all of the cash they're carrying on some flimsy pretext of looking suspicious, without actually charging them with any crime.)  Since that 60 Minutes broadcast, there's been more and more coverage of this awful abuse of power within the U.S.  Hopefully if there's enough indignation and noise created, the law will be either rescinded or altered to something that doesn't completely violate the civil rights of every one it comes in contact with.

Monday, September 08, 2014

How To Combat Online Harrassment

It's a problem that just keeps getting worse and worse: more and more people (often, though certainly not always, females) are targeted by online trolls and arrested adolescents for abuse.  Death threats, rape threats, verbal abuse...  It's something I hear a lot about on the comic book sites I frequent, as well as being famously bad within the various gaming communities.

I like the thinking behind this Wired article, which argues that the same sort of community norms that exist within our work environments and social settings (in the real world) need to be expected and enforced online.  I think that's exactly right, and the only reason it hasn't happened yet, I suspect, is that it hasn't really been all that long that Joe and Jane Q. Public have been frequenters of the web world.  Not too many years ago it was only a small, socially-dysfunctional subset of society (among whom I'd count myself, more or less) who were spending a lot of time on their computers, interacting virtually.  Back then, it was more of a private club, and as we all know, those are the sort of places that are usually the last to welcome diversity or adapt to changing social pressures (see: golf memberships not allowed for Jews, or blacks, or ....).

Here's hoping the ideas expressed in the article can be embraced by the main social networks, as this is clearly a problem that needs to be solved. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Jack The Ripper Mystery Solved?

This is a huge deal, if it's true: DNA has reportedly been used to determine that Jack the Ripper was actually Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski.  Genetic testing has proven fairly conclusively the existence of blood belonging to Kosminski, who was institutionalized not long after the final Ripper killing, on a shawl found near one of the victims.

The one key element not mentioned in the article, however, is whether the man had any kind of medical training, either in Poland or England, as it's always been reported that the technique of the murders indicated at least rudimentary understanding of human anatomy.  I think if it came out that Kosminski had flunked out of medical school or trained as a medic in the army, for example, that would completely cinch the deal.

I always liked Alan Moore's theory in From Hell that it was royal surgeon Sir William Gull wielding the knife all those years ago.  But even so, finding out a definitive answer is definitely better than never knowing.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Interesting News About Facial Symmetry

One of the very minor plot points in my 2nd novel, No Brother of Mine, involves the fact that a mother-daughter pair (Kelly and Sarah) share a particularly interesting common genetic trait: slightly asymmetric facial features.  The narrator, Mitch, explains in the epilogue that he considers something like that attractive because the less symmetrical a face is (within reason), the more likely it is to stand out in a crowd and draw your eye to it.  He expresses that sentiment in contrast to what he admits is the more common attitude, which is that symmetry = beauty.

Now comes encouraging news that at least one of the reasons often cited for that shallow attitude, which is the notion that symmetry = health, has been called into question by a recent study. There appears to be no relationship between the two, in fact, which means Mitch wasn't so crazy after all!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lovely Judgment In The Sherlock Holmes Public Domain Fight

It's nice to see that sanity prevailed, and then some, in Leslie Klinger's fight against the Arthur Conan Doyle estate and its attempts to bully writers and publishers of new Sherlock Holmes material into paying licensing fees for work that's already firmly within the public domain.  The judges ruled entirely in Klinger's favour in the appeal, awarding him $30,000 for attorneys' fee, and my favourite part of the ruling was:

"[Klinger was] combating a disreputable business practice- a form of extortion– and he is seeking by the present motion not to obtain a reward but merely to avoid a loss. He has performed a public service." 

Yup, that's what the ACD estate's actions have amounted to: a form of extortion. Well said!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Ebola Situation

The headline of this article pretty much says it all: You Are Not Nearly Scared Enough About Ebola!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Amazing Open Letter To Ferguson Police Chief

David Simon, best known as the creator of the TV show, The Wire, has published an open letter to the police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, where for the past several days community members have been protesting the police shooting of a (black) unarmed young man, Michael Brown. It's a brilliant composition, calling out the decision of the police force to hide the identity of the shooter as the cowardly, hypocritical move that it is.

"If Ferguson police can’t protect one of their own — a fellow officer who is armed, who is allied with an entire department of armed comrades, who are themselves buttressed by their jurisdiction’s prosecutorial arm, who have the full weight of the law at hand in support of that officer — then how in hell are they going to protect me when I go down to the courthouse and testify?  How can they ask me, an ordinary citizen with no armament, alliance or authority, to stand up in open court and be identified?"

The whole thing deserves a read.

The Many Dimensions Of Robin Williams

I've been on an on-again, off-again fan of Robin Williams since I first saw him playing Mork the alien on Happy Days before spinning off into Mork & Mindy, way back in my adolescent days.  I loved him in Awakenings, Dead Poets Society and Goodwill Hunting, though at other times his schtick would completely take me out of a film.

Vicki and I were eating dinner at Crabby Joe's this week when I looked up and saw the TV screen showing CNN with the banner, "Breaking News: Robin Williams Dead at 63."  I actually said, "What the Hell?" to Vicki then, which was kind of cruel as she couldn't see what I was looking at.  Within minutes, of course, incredulity turned to realization and sadness, as usually happens in these situations.

In the wake of his death, we've learned all kinds of things that most of us would prefer to have never learned, such as the fact that one of the funniest people on the planet suffered from deep bouts of depression, and that his death was likely a suicide.  Maybe something good will come of it, though, as mental health is a topic that desperately needs to be discussed more and stigmatized less.

On a more positive note, I saw this wonderful article today, in which it's revealed that Mr. Williams required that all events and jobs that wanted to book him also commit to hiring a certain number of homeless people to work on it, as well.  Imagine that: a celebrity who made it a condition of his employment that some of the less fortunate members of society also benefit.  And considering that I've never heard this before now, I'm guessing he didn't exactly broadcast the fact, either.  Wow.  That's a good man for you.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The First Sale

Speaking of my brother (as I was in the previous post), he gets the credit for the first sale of a comic from my collection.  He mentioned to a friend what I was up to, and the next thing I knew X-Men # 12 was flying out of its long box and off to a new home somewhere in the Strathroy area.  Easiest.  Sale.  Ever!  Thanks, bro!

One down, several thousands to go...

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

An Auspicious Anniversary Week

I was reflecting today how this week features the anniversaries of two significant changes to my life.

Six years ago, I quit my job and entered the world of semi-retirement / self-employment.  My writing career, which had just barely started while I was still working full-time, has obviously taken on a whole life of its own in the ensuing years.  I can't imagine I'd have seven books and four novels to my name in 2014 if I'd kept slaving away at the salt mines as I'd been doing for twenty-two years at that point in August of 2008.  It's been a great run so far and it's such a great feeling to have zero regrets about such a potentially disastrous decision.

Three years ago around this time, following the death of my Uncle Bruce, there was a family get-together organized to honour his memory.  It was at that barbeque that my brother Richard and I reconnected, and in the thirty-six months since then he and his wife Meena have become close friends to Vicki and I in a way that I could never have imagined before that encounter.  It's one of those things where, were I to travel back in time three years and a day, I doubt the version of me from 2011 would've believed for a second what the future would hold regarding that fractured relationship.

A couple of recent life-changing events for me, both hitting anniversaries as I enjoy the second half of this summer.  Not bad at all!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Big Sell-Off

For years now, I've been telling Vicki that I'll eventually start selling off the comic collection, since it was never my intention to have it be something that she, or Tammy, or whoever would have to deal with after I'm gone.  In my 40s, "after I'm gone" looked far enough away that I didn't really do anything more than sell some of my doubles (second copies) on eBay or at comic conventions.

Now that I'm firmly esconced in my 50s, however, I figure it's time to get started on keeping this promise.  My plan is to shrink the collection to about 10% of its current size over the next several years, meaning I'd go from around 30,000 to roughly 3000, or 10-ish long boxes in place of the current 100+.  Many of the comics I'll be getting rid of will be easy to sell, but most won't be.  Therefore I expect to give a lot of them away, hopefully along the lines of what we did with Tammy's comics last year, which was helping to get them into the hands of needy children on Christmas morning

Of course, if you're a reader of this blog and you have someone in your household who'd appreciate the gift of a pile of comics to enjoy, let me know.  I'm sure something can be arranged.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Boyhood Currently Has A 99% Fresh Rating On Rotten Tomatoes!

99%!  I can't remember the last time I saw something even close to that level.  It's kind of insane how critically acclaimed this film is, and yet most movie-goers will never see it.  Whereas drek like Transformers: Age of Extinction, totally devoid of any artistic value at all, continues to rake in millions... Sigh.  Sometimes I weep for us as a species.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Another Example Of Comcastic Customer Service

If you haven't already heard about Ryan Block (co-founder of Engadget) and his wife being harangued by a Comcrap service representative when they tried to cancel their service, please do so now!  Yes, the cable company has offered up an apology after the exchange went viral last week, but unfortunately for them, it's not nearly as unusual an occurrence as they'd have people believe.  And when I read how the annoying agent told Mr and Mrs Block they can always go to a Comcrap retail outlet to cancel their service, I wanted to punch somebody.  Too many bad memories of our recent visit to Hell!  I hate to admit it, but I'm slowly starting to realize why so many people pirate their shows instead of paying for a cable subscription... at least in the States.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Can't Wait For Boyhood... But May Have To

The good news is that the reviews for Richard Linklater's Boyhood have been overwhelmingly positive and often downright gushing.  The bad news is that it doesn't appear to be slated for a wide release when it opens in the next week, meaning that Vicki and I, for example, will have to either travel to Toronto to see it or wait for it to come out on DVD. I'm sure it'll be worth the wait, no matter when we finally get our chance, but dang, something's broken somewhere in the system when a film with this kind of reputation and moderate star power (Ethan Hawke) can't get a foothold in any but the biggest of markets.