Saturday, June 30, 2007

Double The Pleasure

Last night, while Vicki watched, I finished the single player game of Resistance: Fall of Man for the second time. The last level is one of the hardest to get through, and I think there was awhile there when the wife was sure I was never going to be able to blow up all four of the power rods before being killed by the Chimera and various monsters! But after about eight or nine unsuccessful tries, I got it done (again).

Next up will probably be the Marvel Ultimate Alliance game that I've had since late last year but haven't tried yet. I bought it because it sounded like it was similar in style to the Baldur's Gate PS/2 games that Vicki and I have enjoyed in Co-op mode. That's where I do most of the fighting, and she does most of the treasure-collecting! (OK, it's not really that bad, but you get the general idea.)

With a big long vacation less than a week away, I should probably also be find a new game that I'd enjoy playing by myself, since I'll soon have all kinds of time for it. Suggestions, anyone? Preferably a first person shooter for the PS/3.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Giving A Little Back

A trio from work - myself, Chris the Infrequent Blogger and Jakub my cycling mentor - headed off to the Blood Donor clinic late this afternoon to have a few pints drained. This is something the three of us, sometimes joined by other bleeders, have been doing semi-regularly for a few years now. A recent alteration to the routine has been that I've been joining Jakub in his mode of transportation there and back: riding the bike! I didn't used to do that, even on the days that I would've otherwised biked to work, because I worried about the exertion of cycling home (approximately twice the distance of my normal one-way commute) so soon after giving blood. But eventually, sometime last year I think, I took the plunge and tried it. Jakub and I had a fantastic bike ride there, as it's a winding, scenic route that's mostly bike path with a little side-street action and one small stretch that feels like it's through someone's back yard! And I was thrilled to discover that I felt no action-effects of being down a pint on the ride home, so my worries were for naught. And in fact, after just one trip, I'd enjoyed the experience so much that I knew I'd never bother driving there again!

Today was my 49th blood donation (going back to sometime in the late 1980s). I decided awhile ago that I'd stop once I got to 50 donations. While I like doing it, because it feels like a good thing to do, I've gotten pretty tired of having to supply the same information (what prescription drugs I'm on, what trips I've taken outside North America, sexual history) every time I go there, like they've never heard of computers and couldn't... y'know.. record any of it and just ask me to confirm that nothing's change? I've mentioned this more than once in my visits there, but apparently there are rules, and requirements, and blah blah blah... So it is what it is. But I figure, when I've done it 50 times, I've probably more than fulfilled my responsibility in that area. From what the nurses there tell me, Canadians donate blood at around 1 - 2%, meaning that only about 1 or 2 out of every 100 Canadians ever donates blood. And yes, that's low, compared to other comparable countries. (The U.S., which used to pay for blood, I think has stopped doing that from what I heard.) It's surprising, and saddening, to me that we're not more responsible in this area, since I tend to think of us as being pretty good in that regard.

But I guess it's either squeamishness, (completely unfounded) fear of comtamination, or just plain laziness that keeps most people from at least trying it. I know some people have pretty low pain thresholds, but until you've tried it a couple times, you can't really say "it hurts too much." And I find that more often than not, it doesn't hurt much at all. Poor Vicki, having to remove a sliver from my foot last night, inflicted more pain on me - at my insistence! - than I felt during the entire 'transaction' this afternoon!

A few days ago I read an article about organ donation. The writer was promoting the idea that you should only qualify to receive an organ transplant if you've previously agreed to donate your own, upon death. I really like this, since I think anyone so selfish as to be unwilling to have their own organs help someone else shouldn't deserve to get that privilege themselves. And that got me thinking: wouldn't it be interesting if blood donation worked the same way...? You could only receive blood, in an emergency, if you'd at least tried to donate at some point in your life! That might up the number of donors! And it's just the sort of thing that appeals to my sense of fairness!

'Interesting' Pricing Strategy

I just read, on the PlayStation blog, that the 2 new Resistance: Fall of Man online maps are coming out tomorrow, via the PlayStation store (these were supposed to launch a few weeks ago, while I was still in PS/3 Saga Hell and not paying much attention, but they ran into last-minute problems and had to delay the release until now).

I see that the approach they're taking is to sell the 2 new maps for $7.99 (for the pair). While I don't ever want to be among those who expect to get everything for free (pirates, typically), new maps for an existing game that cost about $80 to buy in the first place... ought to be free! I realize that hardworking game developers and testers spent valuable time getting these maps ready for production (twice now!) but the reality is that it's in their best interest to keep everyone playing the game online as long and as much as possible. More copies of R:FoM get sold in stores or online, if people are showing their friends how cool it is and raving about it at work/school. Before too long, they'll have a Resistance 2 game that they want to sell millions of copies of, and more copies of that will be sold if most people who purchased the first game played it tons.

So I'll be passing on these two new maps, and probably playing less of the game as a result. I suppose it's possible that the maps will be offered for free later on, but then what would that say to the people who forked over $8 for them? It just seems like a poor strategy to me, and one that conveniently overlooks the $800 investment for the PS/3 in the first place and the $80 expense of the game itself. Nickel and diming the gamers who've already spent all that cash just doesn't seem like the wisest course to take. Am I wrong?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wishful Thinking, Or Real Casting News?

What to make of this, I wonder?

At this point, I'm more interested in learning that there actually is a cast signed for the Watchmen movie, and less worried about who they might be! Until they actually start filming it, and we get leaked photos on the Internet, I'm not really going to believe the motion picture version of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' comic masterpiece will ever come about.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Time For PeterJ To Use Those Blog Points

It's been a couple weeks since PeterJ passed the 25 Blog Point mark, so it's long past time that he get to do something with them!

I haven't had any brilliant thoughts on this topic in the intervening time, so how about I make it easy? PeterJ: Pick something that you'd like to see me blog about - preferably a subject I haven't written about before but I leave that up to you - and indicate it via a Comment to this entry. It may have to wait a week and a half until my vacation starts, but I promise to tackle it to the best of my meager abilities.

Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow (Jun 26th Edition)

If it's Tuesday, there must be comics coming out tomorrow! Here're the ones that most quicken my pulse in anticipation.

Amazons Attack! # 3 (of 6): This wacky mini-series keeps rolling along, both here and in Wonder Woman (also out this week). The last issue had at least one glaring continuity error between a scene it showed and what was featured in Diana's regular title (in terms of her arrival onto the battlefront) which you'd really think a good editor could ensure wouldn't happen. Otherwise, though, it was a good read. They do really need to start dealing, head-on, with how weird a set-up the whole thing is (Amazons with swords and spears threatening a 21st century US military not to mention hundreds of superheroes). Maybe this week?

Countdown # 44: Ties into Amazons Attack!

Wonder Woman # 10: Ditto!

Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special # 1: As if Amazons attacking wasn't enough, we've also got Green Lantern nemesis Sinestro starting up his very own collection of fear-inducing villains. This reverse image of the Green Lantern Corps has been building slowly in the background, but with this Special it looks like it's going to burst onto the DC Universe and start wreaking havok. Maybe Countdown will be tying into this storyline soon?

Criminal # 7: I'm actually really starting to get into this Ed Brubaker-helmed, non-superhero title that I only initially picked up because Ed was the writer and I wanted to send the message, "Publish more books by guys like this!" Since I don't normally frequent too many comics outside the favoured genre, I didn't expect to stick with it very long. But it's really well-written, well-drawn, and doesn't glamourize the criminals who take up the lead role each month. I'm solidly behind this title for the foreseeable future now.

Daredevil # 98: More Ed Brubaker, and some of the best DD stuff I've ever read! The last couple issues, featuring the Gladiator's bizarre and uncharacteristic rampage (which I can't help but suspect is being masterminded by Killgrave, the Purple Man, whose power is that people do whatever he tells them to!) have been almost painful to read, they're so full of excrutiating moments for Matt Murdock, his wife and the rest of the supporting cast. And last issue ended with DD handcuffed in the back of a cop car, just as his blind wife wandered into a room occupied by the crazed Gladiator, himself! How'd I ever wait the whole month for this issue?! (Trivia fact: Killgrave's first appearance? Daredevil (1st Marvel series) # 4!)

Immortal Iron Fist # 6: And still more Ed Brubaker (co-writing with Matt Fraction)! Three Bru titles in one week! Wowza! I'm in Brubaker Heaven!

Silver Surfer: Requiem # 2 (of 4): JMS' first issue was one of the best reads I had last month, so I've got sky-high hopes for this mini-series now. The artwork was also gorgeous, leaving me breathless for more. Hopefully I won't be disappointed.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Today started with an event I'd hoped to go my entire life and never be a part of: a backed up toilet overflowing out of the bowl, spilling its foul and dirty water onto the bathroom floor! It could've been a lot worse - we only got a little spillage - but it was bad enough to set the day off on a very bad footing.

I ended up deciding to work from home, because in the past when I've had days begin like that, they've only gotten worse once I got to the office. I avoided that scenario this time around, and instead had a productive day - by myself - digesting material from last week's Agile Consultant visit, among other things. I now have only eight working days left before the start of my long vacation, and am trying to figure out what to try to accomplish during that time. Anything I don't finish by July 6th will almost certainly die on the vine while I'm away, since there's no one I can really hand such things off to. I have a notion of what I'll take on, but have to work out some details about it before I can get started.

Over the weekend I also decided that I'll go "off the grid" for this vacation, meaning that I won't be checking my work e-mail while off. I almost always keep in touch over my break, in that way, but don't plan to this time. There's no point in taking a five week sabbatical if I'm going to let work events continue to play through my brain the whole time. We'll see if I can stick to this resolution...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Prestige, Or What If Batman Fought Wolverine?

Last night Vicki and I watched The Prestige on Blu-Ray DVD. We own exactly one Blu-Ray disc so far, and I'd delayed viewing it during the whole PS/3 Saga for obvious reasons. Now that things were good again in that department, though, it was time to give Blu-Ray a chance!

We definitely enjoyed the High Definition quality of the movie, even if we don't - yet! - own a TV that supports 1080P resolution. Everything looked great, but as I always say: the difference between DVD and HD-DVD just isn't dramatic enough to wow me, unlike the contrast between HD and SD. So there's definitely no hurry for us to go out and replace our 150+ DVDs with HD equivalents, and even future DVD purchases will skew more toward the regular DVD format in most cases. If the price difference between the two formats were less, that might not be true. But as it is, only the biggest, most eye-popping movies will see us spending the extra $10 (Spider-Man 3, perhaps?)

As for the motion picture itself, we both loved it! Since it features Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as competing stage magicians, in an escalating battle that quickly turns violent, I couldn't help but think of the comic book characters they've each recently portrayed on the big screen, to the delight of comic fanboys and fangirls everywhere. It seems to me that Bale is the better of the two actors, but they both were excellent here, despite some issues with their accents. The plot is full of twists and turns, almost all of which Vicki and/or I saw coming, resulting in lots of Pause moments while one of us - usually me - ventured a theory forth that the other had already formed by that point! It's being billed as one of those movies that you'll "want to watch a second time, right away" and I'm tempted to agree (although we haven't yet). Not for the usual reason of seeing what it looks like once you know the big twists, but simply because there's so much story to it, and so many different time periods covered, in seemingly-random order, that it's hard to take it all in with just one viewing. It's also one of those movies about obsession that makes you glad that neither you, nor anyone you (hopefully) know and love, is quite that crazy!

This was definitely the best of the movies we've seen so far during our current rash of DVD watching.

Patron Of The Arts

When Peter Gabriel played this part of the world a few years ago (for what I think was the first, and so far only, time) Vicki and I decided to take some of my bonus money for that year and buy a bunch of tickets to the show that we could give away to friends and co-workers. Considering how long I'd personally been a big fan of his - over twenty years, at that time - this seemed like a natural and logical thing for us to do. However, it definitely got some weird responses from people, and in some cases seemed to prompt people to think that it couldn't possibly be even worth their time to accept the tickets being offered. After all, if you're giving them away, they mustn't be worth anything, right? Astonishingly, of the 20 extra tickets we bought, we ended up with a pair that had to be given to the parents of someone we barely knew, as otherwise they would've gone unused! Such is life. Those who took the free tickets, though, and made it to the show, seemed to have a great time, and at the very least got to see an actual 'art rock' concert, complete with theatrics as only PG can deliver!

Today we experienced something similar, but on the receiving end of the generosity. PeterJ arranged a small, intimate concert by his friend and favourite performer, Lenni Jabour. This was apparently something that he'd been thinking about, and organizing, for quite some time. He mentioned vaguely, months ago, that he had plans for his 2006 performance bonus, but wouldn't reveal what. As it turns out, he'd made it possible for Lenni, along with one of her Third Floor bandmates, cellist Alex McMaster, to visit our fair town, and grace a select few of us with an eighty-minute (or so) private concert! Both musicians were fabulous, Jabour in terms of her keyboard playing and vocal range, and McMaster for some lovely accompaniment on the cello.

It was clear from the get-go that Peter has a special relationship with these women, and that it runs much deeper than simply following their exploits from afar (stalker-fan, was how I'd once referred to him!) He's put his money where his mouth is, and made an obviously-heartfelt attempt to both support them, and expand their fan base, which is what patrons of the arts are supposed to do! Kudos to him for his generosity and devotion, and to Miss Jabour and Miss McMaster for a wonderful show! And Vicki and I look forward to listening to the two Third Floor CDs we bought, and possibly even seeing the entire band in concert sometime... as paying customers!

Award Winning Fiction

Thanks to Wil Wheaton's blog, I got pointed to When Sysadmins Ruled the World, the winner of the 2007 Locus Award for Best Novelette. It's posted on the Internet with the blessing of its author, Cory Doctorow, and makes for quite a good read. The fact that it's set in Toronto is cool, and all of the technospeak in it should appeal to almost anyone I work with!

World War Wow!

I had little or no expectations around Marvel's World War Hulk event that started up this month. It comes hot on the heels of Civil War, as well as Planet Hulk, after all, causing many fans, like me, to go, "Another big crossover? Sigh." As such, it seemed a little too manufactured to have any real "wow" factor for me. Plus, it was being billed as a big ol' "Hulk smash!" miniseries, which can be fun but generally not all that interesting.

Having read the first issue now, though, I'd say I'm somewhat impressed! While there was certainly a fair bit of Hulk smashing - some of it happening off-panel, strangely enough - more important from a story point of view: the ante seems to have been upped considerably. Usually in this sort of thing, the fights take place out in the desert somewhere; in WWH # 1, ol' Greenskin, recently returned to Earth after an extended sojourn on a hostile, faraway planet thanks to the connivances of folks like Tony Stark and Reed Richards, informs the residents of New York City they have 24 hrs to evacuate before he throws down in Manhattan with the 'villains' who shot him off into space. I'm not sure that even these days Marvel would go so far as to have the battle significantly damage NYC, but at least there appears to be that possibility. And Hulk has already laid a beating on Black Bolt, the leader of the Inhumans, the likes of which that character has never seen before!

I have to give Marvel a lot of credit over the past year or so. They've been willing to tell very large stories, in terms of the effect they're having on the status quo. Joe Quesada, Marvel Editor-in-Chief, has said many times that he thinks operating that way is actually more in line with how Stan Lee did it, back in the 60s. After all, you never used to know what to expect in a Marvel comic back then, since Stan was making up so many of the rules - and then breaking them - as he went along. And under Joe Q, even the stories I haven't really appreciated the endings of - see Civil War - are impressive in their scope nonetheless.

I just wish DC would get their act together, as right now Marvel's handing them their head on a pike, whether you measure such things in terms of editorial vision, risk-taking, or even just sales.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Heroes World Tour

Interesting article about the creators and cast of Heroes doing a big promotional tour over the summer, and hitting cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Munich! Included in the write-up are quite a few teases about Season Two, as well as more details on the Heroes: Origins mini-series, which apparently will follow the second season (I had somehow gotten the impression it lead into it!)

Definitely a good read, and recommended for any fan of the show!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Everything Old Is New Again

How can you not like a picture like this?

Apparently this is from the set of Indiana Jones 4. I'm already lining up to see this movie (in my mind, at least).

The original, Raiders of the Lost Ark, made an immediate and enduring impression on me as a teenager, when it debuted. Amidst the films of that late-70s era, where so many of them were working hard to be "artsy" or "brainy", along came this rollercoaster of an experience-on-celluloid that absolutely left me breathless in parts. It's funny how we take that sort of thing for granted now, but for me: Raiders was the one that started it all, and did it best.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Brain-dead Blogger Blathers 'Bout Bart-death & Back-from-dead-Wally

I've got my laptop back - temporarily, as one of the issues with it hasn't been fixed yet - but don't have a lot of brain cells left functioning right now, after my second day this week with the Agile Consultant. Each of the last two workdays have been about 9 hours long, without a break - they extended through lunch - and that sort of thing always leaves me drained.

Lots of comic news this week, what with the JLA/JSA/Legion storyline wrapping up - in a very strange fashion that left me quite unsatisfied - with Wally "Flash" West returning from the Speed Force (and here I thought he'd died!) and Flash # 13 featuring the death of the current Flash, Bart Allen. Weirdly, Barry Allen - the Flash I'd hoped might be coming back from the dead - showed up ever so briefly in the JLA story, just long enough for Batman to think that his old friend was finally going to cheat death. The last lingering bit of hope for us Barry fans came in the 31st century, when most of the Legion members got back to their time period and had someone's essence with them, which might by the Silver Age Flash (or Bart's... or someone else's!) But the fact that the Legion's little lightning rods were somehow being used to bring Wally - and wife and kids! - out of the Speed Force where they'd been lost, made little or no sense in conjunction with how the rods were originally used: to transfer the life energy from a living person into a dead body, as a way of reviving it. How the Hell does that relate to using them to pull an entire family out of the Speed Force? (And why were the Legion members acting like they'd die in the process, and yet none of them did?) It may only be silly comic book pseudo science, but couldn't it at least be consistent??

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Of The Same

Another day without my laptop, as it's still in with the IT boys. Hopefully Dell will actually show up tomorrow to replace the motherboard, as that's what's delaying its return. Oh well.

Not really all that much to blog about at the moment, anyway. However, I'm now only eleven working days away from the start of my five-week vacation. Once my big summer break gets underway, I expect I'll be blogging up a storm, just like in days of old.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blogging 'Topless

Laptopless, that is!

The laptop's in with the IT boys at work, getting its motherboard replaced (I'd lost audio control on it, which apparently was a symptom of a bigger problem). It's certainly nice to be able to hand problems like this off to someone else to worry about for a change, since it seems like at home lately, it's quite the opposite, eh?

I also celebrated post # 100 on my work blog today, which seems piddly when you consider I just passed 950 here... but it's a whole 'nother ballgame at work! I have to worry a lot more about not saying the wrong thing, for one, which would severely limit my output here if it applied!! Not to mention that I at least have to try to make my subject matter there appealing to the audience! Thank God I operate under different rules at Kimota94's Place!!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Still Watching For Watchmen

All of a sudden, Watchmen casting news is breaking once again. It seemed like we were on the verge of another doomed attempt to make "the movie" - and may still be - but of late there's been a plethora of rumours around who might be added to the cast. Check out this short article at Ain't It Cool News for some interesting speculation.

Fun With Pools

There I was at work today, just after finishing my lunch, when I saw that I had a voicemail message, as well as an e-mail from someone I work with, sporting the Subject of "Pool Trouble."

It turned out that we'd had a seal break on the PVC pipe coming out of the pool heater, such that water had been gushing out onto our lawn near the heater late this morning. Fortunately for us, the next door neighbour heard the water from his yard, and was smart and considerate enough to jump over our fence and come turn off our pump. We only lost a few inches of water (equal to several hours of hose-running, to replace it) before he saved the day. Then he tried to figure out how to get ahold of Vicki or me, since all they had was our home phone #. Since one of their children was in the same class as the child of one of our work-friends, that eventually lead to me at work. After a sweltering bike ride home in the high heat of the day (31 degrees, feeling like 35) I arrived to survey the situation and try to arrange to get someone to come and re-seal the pipe.

I'd called three different places - including the company who'd installed the heater, six years ago, with the apparently-poor seal in it, who told me they would get here "sometime this week" - when I got lucky once again. The same neighbour had had a couple pool repair guys over to look at his problem - his pool liner was pulling away from the edge - and he asked me I wanted to have them look at the pipe. Happy not to have to wait for "sometime this week" I jumped at the chance. A couple hours later - after they left to go find a proper replacement part, since the original heater installers hadn't used the right one - they'd sealed it up and I was able to run the pump once again. Another $80 out of the house-emergency fund - in addition to the $60 on Friday for the PS/3 situation - and we were all settled up.

Throughout all this, Vicki was incommunicado as she'd gone to a Women's Canadian Club meeting and had forgotten to turn her cellphone on. Sometimes it's a lonely battle I fight...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Game So Nice, I'm Playing It Twice!

While I continue my quest for a new PS/3 game with excellent online play I've been doing my second pass through the single player version of Resistance: Fall of Man. A friend from work, who also switched PS/3's, like I (as it turned out, unnecessarily) did, has played through it a second time, as well. That's a sign of an exceptional game, I think: if you're so into it that you'll fight your way through those seemingly-endless enemy AI's in an encore match shortly after finishing it the first time!

I've already noticed a couple of levels that had seemed soooo hard to get through previously and yet were fairly straight-forward upon replaying them. I suppose if I were a better gamer, I'd have upped the difficulty level - from Medium to High - and given myself a greater challenge. But no.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"Now I'm Going To Show You The Martians"

Sometimes lines or moments from movies, TV shows or books get stuck in my head, and keep coming to mind at the weirdest times. Right now what I have wedged in there is that final scene from The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, in which the human family has settled on dead Mars just as humanity destroys itself back on Earth. After many earlier encounters between Earthlings and Martians, which didn't go well at all, the native life has been wiped out on the fourth planet out from the sun, except for a few immigrants from the third planet. The children in the family keep asking when they'll get to see the Martians, and the father finally tells them he'll show them.

He takes them down to a reconstituted canal, flowing with water for the first time in ages, and tells them to look down into it. "There they are," he says, as they stare down at their own reflections. It's a sad and yet somehow hopeful ending to a very depressing story of conflict, ignorance and intolerance. It's not one of Bradbury's best written stories - by any stretch! - and yet that final image, and the bittersweet message it holds, has always remained with me. I can still remember seeing the TV mini-series version with Rock Hudson, when I a teenager, and that's who I always picture as the dad in that sequence, even though I'd read the book years before that.

Perfect moments like that in fiction are what keep me coming back for more.

A Date With Destiny

On This Date In History:

I started working full-time twenty-one years ago today. Over that time, though I've worked for five different companies, I've actually only changed employers once. The other three changes were acquisitions or name changes, rather than terminations or resignations. And even with my one real job change, I've never been unemployed, not even for a single day. Or, as I like to say, I've been earning money continually for twenty-one straight years now.

By far the most significant thing about my first job was that it put me in a position to meet Vicki. I was joining a Systems Development team at the bank, almost straight out of university - just a six-week sojourn through Europe separated the two eras - and Vicki was moving from the Product Area to the same Systems team at that same time. As such, we were both rookies on the team in June of 1986, which established an initial bond that probably helped us strike up a friendship. That relationship continued to grow over the next several years, to the point where, when she finally left her unsupportive husband - Tammy's dad - we were already best friends and both just knew we were going to end up together. For all the money I made working over various teams at the bank, and all that I learned over my fourteen and a half years there, nothing comes close in terms of value to that fateful introduction to my future-wife.

Twenty-one years down... one or two more to go?

Friday, June 15, 2007

The PS/3 Saga Concludes (I Hope)

Well, the TV repairman was scheduled to come by today, and I was expecting the worst.

Instead, it only took him about 10 minutes to decide that it probably wasn't the TV that was causing the video and audio problems with the PS/3... but rather the power supply! Sure enough, we switched which outlet it was plugged into, and all the distortion went away! Joy rushed over me! To think that I'd tried nearly everything else - new cables, new PS/3, and was thinking about buying a new TV! - only to have it be an issue with the power! The TV and PS/3 were plugged into the same outlet, and the technician theorized that it was a weak ground between the two that was manifesting itself in "noise" to the PS/3.

I was very relieved, paid the $60 service call charge, and was back in business! I played a little Resistance: Fall of Man tonight, but really need to find a new game, now that it's all working again. I'd like to find one with a good online component, so that Boneman and I can have many more nights of hilarity. But I haven't come across the right one yet.

Sometimes It All Comes Together

A bunch of disparate pieces of comic information suddenly all coalesced in my brain a few minutes ago, making me think that maybe I've cracked part of what DC is up to.

1) DC's been hinting that major changes are coming in the Flash: The Fastest Man Alive title that's barely a dozen issues old now. I'd given up on it shortly after it debuted, because the writing team (from the old Flash TV show) was so unreadable that, combined with a new Flash (Bart Allen) who was neither the Scarlet Speedster I'd grown up with (Barry Allen) nor the one I'd gotten to know and love over the past two decades (Wally West), I couldn't find anything to like. I've bought a couple recent issues - new writer, at least! - and clearly they're building up to something big.

2) The JLA/JSA/LSH crossover running between Justice League of America - by Brad Meltzer - and Justice Society of America - by Geoff Johns - has the 31st century Legion members from a LSH incarnation that was popular in the 70s toting around little lightning rods as they roam mysteriously across our 21st century. Longtime Legion fans - like me - recall that devices just like those were used back in the Silver Age to resurrect Lightning Lad, after he'd been killed a few issues previous. The catch was: whoever holds the rod that draws in the lightning charge to revive the dead person gives up their own life in the process! (In the old Legion story, a bunch of them formed a ring around LL's coffin, in an electrical storm, and let chance decide!) Why does this bunch have those rods, and who are they planning to use them to bring back from the dead? And who's going to sacrifice himself or herself to save another?

3) A couple weeks ago we saw the dead Flash image that DC leaked, suggesting that Bart's days as the Fastest Man Alive were numbered.

4) Today DC caught everyone unawares by announcing, out of the blue, that Mark Waid will be returning to one of the characters he made his name on - the Flash! - as the current series will end shortly, after which Waid will take over the character and DC will resume the numbering of the old series. The fact that this has been planned for over a year now, Waid's already written three of the issues, and one's already been drawn, and nobody outside DC knew about it, is amazing in this Internet-spoiler age of ours. But that notwithstanding, this is great news for most Flash fans - myself included - and promises big things in the future.

5) Waid's current DC series, Brave and the Bold, recently featured the Legion villains known as the Fatal Five, and there've been hints that the Legion themselves may show up there within a few issues. (This may or may not be related to the pattern I'm seeing.)

So when I started adding all of that up, I saw the following:

Meltzer, Johns and Waid (all big Silver Age DC fans), working together to tell a story in which the Legion comes back from the future to revive a fallen Flash! The JLA/JSA/LSH teamup is called the Lightning Saga, after all, and Flash (at least, Barry and Wally) got his powers thanks to a lightning bolt. And all of the Flashes wear that symbol on their chest!

So will it be Bart who's brought back from the dead? (I hope not.) Wally?? (Possibly, as he was the Flash Waid spun tales about for a decade or so.) Barry??? (Probably too much to hope for, but on the other hand, rumours of his return have been circulating for awhile now. And Waid's a monster Barry Allen fan!)

And how does all of this tie into Countdown, and potentially the next Crisis? I have no idea, but all of a sudden I'm a lot more interested.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Too... Much... Happening!

Not only is it the anniversary of the day the Earth stood still, and a day in which I lead a draining, four-hour Story Point workshop (my 2nd), and a big comic news day with lots of followup interviews with the writer of the Skrull thing along with various other tidbits like John Cusack saying he wants to be in the Watchmen movie... but today saw the first confirmation that, in fact, the Silver Age Comic Trivia Contest is going to happen at the Chicago Comic Convention in August... except Mark Waid won't be attending so we need to figure out a different format!

My head... she's a-swimming!

The Day The Earth Stood Still

On This Date In History:

Thirteen years ago today, I had one of the best days of my life. It was our annual Golf Day at the bank, meaning that Vicki and I - and most of the rest of the company - spent the afternoon on a golf course, rather than sitting at our desks. Dinner was held in a big hall, where all of the golfers from our neck of the woods came together for food and fun. The entertainment was provided by a well-known hypnotist, and I was one of the volunteers to go up on-stage and have my brain screwed around with. While most of what "mentalist Mike Mandel" did to us seemed to have little or no effect on me, a little bit of it actually seemed to "work." And something else special happened that night. What was it again? Oh, that's right:

The New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup!

I suspect I have too biased a viewpoint to ever really know how big a deal that playoff year, series and Game 7 really were to the rest of the hockey faithful, but they seem to still get talked about in sports circles, more than a dozen years later. Here are some of the reasons why I think it was a magic time, regardless of who you were rooting for, or against:

1) For the second time in three years, the Rangers finished 1st overall. However, when they did it 1992, their playoff run came to a screeching halt in the second round, when Mario, Jaromir and the rest of the Penguins knocked them out on the way to their second consecutive championship. So the 1993/94 President's Trophy was a return to the top, but also a reminder of how badly things had gone the last time.

2) In the opening round, the Rangers drew their hated rivals, the New York Islanders. Because of their 1st place finish in the NHL that year, the Rangers were favourites to finally end their 54-year Cup drought, but the pesky Islanders were licking their lips at the thought of being in a position to bring it all crashing down around their cross-town foes' ears. Despite the hype, though, the Rangers methodically dismantled that Islander group, winning the first 2 games at home by identical 6-0 scores. In fact, they scored the first 15 goals in the series, and outscored their opponents 22-3 by the time they'd swept them under the rug. It was one of the most lopsided series results of all time. And it seemed fitting that their Cup run required them to travel through Long Island.

3) The 2nd round match-up, against the Washington Capitals, was the only one of the four series that really had nothing to hang a hat on. The New York team quickly got up 3-0 in the series, having posted a 7-0 run by that point, before losing focus for one game en route to their first playoff loss. They rebounded the next game, and closed the Capitals out in five.

4) A much tougher opponent awaited the Rangers in Round Three. Finishing 2nd in the regular season, just six points behind New York, were the New Jersey Devils. Ironically, the team had played six times that season, with the Rangers winning every context. Devils fans were quick to point out that, had the two teams split those games, it would've been New Jersey finishing 1st, with New York six points back. Fortunately it didn't go that way, and the Rangers held the home ice advantage in the playoff series. With the Rangers down 3 games to 2 and heading back to New Jersey, Rangers captain Mark Messier boldly promised that "there will be a Game 7." The media had a feeding frenzy with that, bringing comparisons to Joe Namath and others, and drawing most of the attention onto Messier himself. As captain, he knew his team needed a lift, and so he figuratively piled them all up on his shoulders and carried them into Game 6. In the game, the Rangers were trailing 2-0 in the second period, when Messier sent line mate Alexi Kovalev in on Brodeur, to break the shutout. When the teams came out in the 3rd period, you could tell the Rangers were fired up. Before the game was over, Messier had completed the natural hat trick, scoring 3 times, including into an empty net, to win the game 4-2 and force the Game 7 he'd promised.

5) Game 7 featured stellar goaltending at both ends, and ushered in the final minute of the third period with the hometown Rangers up 1-0. In a scene that was burned into my memory cells, the Rangers iced the puck late in the period, forcing a face-off deep in their own end, which resulted in Jersey netting the tying goal with 7.7 seconds left on the clock! With that crushing blow, I figured their pursuit of the Cup would be over, and as one overtime period stretched to a second, my hopes continued to flag. And then, on a play that seemed as innocuous as it would prove historic, recent addition Stephane Matheau circled around the back of Brodeur's net, came out on the far side and tucked it in behind the Jersey goaltender to end one of the greatest, and most exciting series in years! The fact that the Devils had finished 2nd in the regular season and would win the Cup the following year, indicates just how good a team that was. And the Rangers were finally past them!

6) The Stanley Cup Finals between the Rangers and Vancouver were filled with twists and turns, including some controversial calls (and non-calls) in the early games, but after blowing two chances to win the Cup - Game 5 at MSG, and Game 6 at GM Place - the Rangers had one last shot, playing Game 7 at home, for all the marbles. This just happened to be scheduled for Tuesday, June 14th, 1994... the same date as our Golf Day and dinner!

I got to see from about the midway point of that game on, after leaving the Golf dinner early. It was 2-1 Rangers in the 2nd when I got my first glimpse of it. The fact that the game stayed close all the way through, and went into the dying moments of the third period with the Rangers holding a precarious 3-2 lead, just adds a little more to the lore. There was the Vancouver shot that beat Mike Richter but blessedly dinged off the post and out, and several other late scoring chances for the Canucks. And sure enough, the Rangers iced the puck very late in the period, forcing one last face-off in front of Richter. How could any Rangers fan not expect history to repeat itself, after the adventure of Game 7 in the previous series? But luck was with the better team this time around, and the puck was drawn into the corner as the clock counted down, and New York City celebrated the end of a string of futility that had, until that night, stretched all the way forward from 1940. As the sign read somewhere in the crowd at MSG: "Now I can die happy!"

This was unquestionably a high point in my life, and the culmination of - at that point - two decades of watching the Rangers do everything but win a championship. It is, after all, half of the reason that my online alias is Kimota94!

And by the way: for quite awhile after that day - and possibly, to some degree, still to this day - I suspected that maybe I'd simply been hypnotized to believe the Rangers won that game! After all, if I'd asked for, and received, a post-hypnotic suggestion that said, "Regardless of the outcome of tonight's game, whenever you see or hear anything related to it, you'll interpret the words and pictures as meaning your team won it all..." how would I ever know the difference? I mean, really?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tammy: Breaker Of Hearts

Tammy, now starting week three of her eight-week European odyssey, contacted Vicki earlier tonight via electronic carrier pigeon, and informed her that she was going to be back online for 2 whole hours tonight, between 7:30 and 9:30 (our time). This was exciting news to her mother, who's had to get by with just e-mail exchanges, along with the one frantic phone call on Night # 1 after her purse was stolen. The prospect of actual, realtime conversation - or what passes for that in this Information Age - with her only child had Vicki poised and ready by her PC at 7:25 or so.

Only to have her attention go unrequited for the next two hours. Oh, she entertained herself ably, playing computer games and catching up on e-mail, but it was a sad scene indeed. Did Tammy get the times wrong? Was she just not able to get the access to the Internet that she'd expected? Or - and this is where my cynical money would be bet, if I had to put any down - did she simply get a "better" offer? I guess we'll find out eventually...

Ah, the heart of a mother... made to be broken!

October Just Got A Little Better Looking

With all the upcoming excitement in July (start of my five weeks of vacation, Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, and the re-launch, after way too many years, of Nexus by Baron & Rude), August (Magnolia Electric Company box set Sojourner, Heroes Season One on DVD, possibly BSG Season Three on DVD, hopefully the Chicago Comic Convention and maybe even taking part in the Silver Age Trivia Contest there) and even September (new TV season, full of hope and future disappointments, baseball playoff races, and probably something else important that I've forgotten), October had been looking a little... well, dull.

But that all changed this week thanks to the ever-watchful eye of buddy Tim. I now know that the great Magnolia Electric Company is playing once more at Lee's Palace in Toronto, on Friday, October 5th, which makes it automatically the concert event of the year, in this household! I'll have to figure out how to order tickets soon, as I don't want to risk a repeat of our second-to-last attempt at seeing them, when the show was sold out and we came home broken-hearted.

Women From Mars

I don't pretend to have any emotional attachment to Veronica Mars - the show, or the character - but those who do should probably read this Toronto Star article.

Could this mean that Tammy is going to end up buying yet another monthly comic book?? Is she just turning into me, minus the beard and rapier-like wit?

It's Not Exactly Captain America Dying, Now Is It?

There'd been a few teases offered up by Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, and others, that this week's New Avengers # 31 was going to contain a "last page shock" that would have people reacting as strongly as they'd done when Captain America # 25 hit the stands earlier this year (that's the one where Cap was killed, in case you were on the Moon for two weeks in March). Retailers were urged to up their orders on this otherwise-innocuous comic lest they find themselves in the same shortfall situation that had surrounded the death of that American icon back in early March. Just as had been true then, though, there was no leaking of what the big event might be, so fans and store owners alike were left to ponder, and speculate, and potentially order extra copies.

So I read New Avengers # 31 as soon as I got home today. I prefer to be surprised, and experience the event in the moment, rather than via a spoiler. But I have to say: this one kind of left me cold. I'm about to reveal it, so stop reading now if you care about such things and don't want it spoiled.

The Elektra who the on-the-lam New Avengers (as opposed to the enforcing-the-Superhero-Registration-Law Mighty Avengers) were fighting in this storyline, who is subsequently killed by one of the heroes, is revealed in death to have been a shape-shifting Skrull. (The cover, shown here, kind of gives away the death - as well as being an homage to the scene of Bullseye killing Elektra from Daredevil # 181 by Frank Miller - but obviously not the Skrull revelation.) Why this turn of events is considered to be so significant is left unanswered at this point, although I imagine the Marvel P.R. floodgates are about to open in that regard. The only thing I can think of is that this is the first clue that the Skrulls have infiltrated Marvel-Earth, big-time, and possibly are behind the Civil War and who knows what else. Tony Stark? Maybe all his bastardly behaviour recently is on account of.. you guessed it, he's a Skrull! Reed Richards, acting pretty weird of late...? SKRULL! Possibly even dead Cap will turn out to be simply... dead Skrull?

Is that where this is headed? If so, it seems to me that it actually weakens, rather than enhances, the significance of what's been going on in the Marvel Universe over the past year or two. Rather than Civil War being a groundbreaking tale about different political ideologies at odds with each other, acted out in the form of super-powered heroes beating the crap out of one another, it's just another hokey alien invasion tale that can be undone by simply finding the dopplegangers and unmasking them. (And the Marvel Ultimate universe did an alien invasion story a year or two ago that will probably be remembered more fondly, anyway, so what's the point?) Or maybe it's going in some other direction entirely. At this point, there's not much to go on.

The other thing I noticed is that the big Skrull reveal happens a few pages before the end of the comic. The final page actually shows Luke Cage's wife and their young baby, waiting for the heroes' return at Doctor Strange's hide-out, and we're shown an extreme close-up on the baby's face as her eyes open. Could it be? Is it possible? Are we to believe she's... a Skrull?! (And does that mean one, or both, of her parents are, as well?) Maybe everyone's a Skrull...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Noise Annoys Me

One of the banes of my existence is noise. My sleeping habits are such that, pretty much any noise will wake me up, as well as prevent me from falling asleep in the first place. Having lived in apartments for most of my first twenty-seven years, I was always having to deal with - live with - noisy neighbours who'd play music at all hours of the night, bang around like elephants on parade on the floor above me, or slam doors every time they came or went. Once I graduated to living in houses - thanks to Vicki! - some of this went away. As a home-owner, you can control a lot more of what goes on around you, but of course not all of it.

Case in point: for the last few years, one of the houses that our backyard backs onto has been infested - I mean, inhabited - by a young family of four who, I've come to believe, are socially-retarded. Their mental faculties aren't really impaired; just their social graces. Vicki quickly labelled them as "trailer trash" when they first moved in, and I scoffed. But before too long, I had to concede her the point. The two parents are the types who yell back and forth across their very small yard - which is mostly just the pool - rather than getting off their fat asses so as to be able to speak to each other at a conversational level. Or possibly they're just hard of hearing and don't realize it. Either way, we get to hear exchanges like:










And it's like that... all the time! I don't think there's ever been a time when more than one of them has been in their backyard, when we've been in ours, that we haven't heard pretty much everything they've said to one another. And we're usually up on our deck, at least thirty or forty feet from their yard, with a hedge in between! Their yard is completely exposed, with five or six houses within earshot of them, and yet they act like they're out in the country somewhere, with no one to bother for miles around. I can usually hear them better than I can pick up on what Vicki's saying to me, sitting across the table from me.

Anyway, what I've been thinking about lately is how Vicki solved part of my overnight noise problem. She bought me a small device that we call a NoiseMaker, which you plug in and turn on in order to produce audio loops of various sounds. There's White Noise (the only one I use anymore), Waterfall, Heartbeat, Storm, Light Rain, and so on, along with a volume control so you can adjust it to the proper level for you. This thing's a lifesaver when I stay in hotels, because often they're so noisy late at night that I'd never get any sleep.

So now I'm wondering if they sell bigger versions of that idea, for use outdoors? I don't want to drown the knobs behind us with music, because I'm afraid that'd give them the idea of bringing a boom-box into their own backyard so they can play Rap, Conway Twitty, or something comparable. But I'd love to have some sort of a White Noise Generator that I could install in the back part of our yard that's next to theirs, to see if it could make things better at all. I actually left the lawn mower running, one day last summer, just to enjoy ten minutes outside without having to hear them yammering at each other at the top of their lungs.

So does anyone know of any such product on the market? I've tried looking for something like that on the Internet, but always end up on sites that simply recommend putting privacy hedges up (which we did... two years ago!). Every summer, since they moved in, I've contemplated moving, despite the fact that I know we could end up with the same problem anywhere.

PS/3 Procrastination Almost Over

I finally called and made the appointment to get a service call for the TV this week. Since my last update on the PS/3 saga, I found out that our extended warranty on the TV had, in fact, run out. Bummer. This meant that I had to decide between having this issue looked at - at our expense - versus moving that TV upstairs (where we need a new TV, as we're currently using my mother's old television... and she died in 1984!!) and buying a new, better HD-capable display-a-matic for the living room.

After thinking about it for a month - aka procrastinating - I decided to simply ask Vicki what she thought we should do. She was in favour of seeing how much fixing the TV would be, first, and then deciding based on that. So that's where we stand, awaiting the technician's visit on Friday. At least in this case I'll be able to demonstrate the problem immediately, and if fixing it is an option, then I'll know right away if it's been corrected. Our previous big screen TV developed an annoying video problem that would only show up occasionally, and never on demand.. sort of like the Singing Frog, in that old Warner Brothers cartoon!

Monday, June 11, 2007

And Finally... More Trivia Answers!

As promised, here are the answers to the recent trivia quiz, (click on the "comments" link to see them) as well as updates to the Blog Points. And to anyone who didn't get their answers in in time: you need to check my blog more frequently, foo!

Blog Points awarded:

PeterJ - 6 BPs (#s 3,4,7,8,10,&Bonus)
Shane - 5 BPs (#s 1,4,6,9&10)
Tim - 7 BPs (#s 1,3,4,6,7,9&10)
Vicki - 2 BPs (#s 2&8)

Nobody got # 5, but every other question - including the Bonus - was answered correctly by at least one of the four respondents. Not bad at all! Congratulations to all four!

PeterJ has also passed the 25 Blog Point mark, which means we'll have to figure out something for him.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wil Wheaton And I... Twins Separated At Birth?

Probably not (since we're not even close in age!) but at least we have the same favourite album of all time. It just took him a lot longer to realize it...

I actually heard a track off of it today, as a matter of fact! Thirty-five years old, and still as amazing as the day it was released.

And Finally... More Trivia!

It's been ages (almost three months!) since I posted some trivia for the entertainment-starved masses who frequent this site. I guess that means this is overdue! I'm gonna make it a potpourri of trivia today, so as to provide a little something for everyone. Answers will be posted by Monday end-of-day, so get your guesses/answers in before then.

1) The last 3 Stanley Cup Finals have featured Canadian teams losing to American ones. Name the 3 Canadian hockey entrants in those series.

2) What classic movie popularized the expression, "That's a horse of a different colour"?

3) What state was the fictional "Twin Peaks" located in?

4) What was the original name for the band that eventually became known as "The Beatles" (pre-"Silver Beetles")?

5) Which Marvel super-hero had the Mandarin as his arch-foe?

6) Which two teams battled for the 2006 Major League Baseball World Series title?

7) What movie brought us the line, "I am not an animal! I am a human being!"?

8) What well-known TV writer co-wrote the screenplay for "Toy Story"?

9) Who were the five original X-Men in the 1960s comic series?

10) What other famous singer died in the same plane crash with Buddy Holly, after winning a coin toss with the Big Bopper as to who'd get the final seat? Bonus: What famous Country & Western singer, then a member of Holly's band, gave up his seat on that fateful flight, unwittingly saving his own life and allowing him to enjoy a long and illustrious career?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Into The Fray

Having finally caught up completely on my weekly comic reading, today I got to dive into the Fray trade paperback that I'd bought around the time Buffy # 1 hit the stands, several months ago. This is a collection of the eight issues of Fray that came out back around 2002 or so, at a time when Joss Whedon was working on Buffy, Angel and maybe even Firefly. As far as I can tell, this was his first actual comic work, predating Astonishing X-Men.

You'd never know it from the final product, though. He was already showing the good sense of pace and rhythm that we've come to know and expect from him in his more recent comic scripts. The usual Whedon humour is on display, as well, despite the dark subject matter. This particular slayer, Melaka Fray, isn't cut from the cheerleader mold that Buffy was, and is already carrying around a lot of emotional baggage even before she finds out she's the chosen one. And that's when she isn't carrying around the loot from her latest grab, since thieving is how she makes a living in the far-flung future we find her in.

It's a very good, self-contained story that you could read and enjoy without ever having seen a Buffy or Angel episode. If you're well-versed in the Buffyverse, though, there are all kinds of things you'll appreciate more, including what happens to Fray's watcher, and why Fray isn't quite prepared for her role like she should be.

I hope Whedon revisits this set of characters at some point, because he fleshed them out to the point of making me want to see more. Considering the futuristic setting, it'd even make a Hell of a motion picture, and wouldn't even require getting petulant Sarah Michelle Gellar involved! Not likely to happen, but a boy can always dream...

Next up: Alice in Sunderland!

Friday, June 08, 2007

If You Like Sodoku...

... then you just might like this site and its daily Zengaku puzzle. It's owned and operated by a co-worker friend of mine, who also holds the self-proclaimed title of AgileBoy (to my AgileMan). I haven't tried to solve one of his Zengaku puzzles yet, although I'm intrigued enough that I probably will over the weekend.

"The Meal Planner Lives On!"

The Story Point Workshop that I lead this week seemed to go really well. I got some good feedback on it, in person, as well as high marks on the survey I handed out at the end of it. It was such a success, in fact, that now I have to do it again! Next week I have to pull another rabbit out of my hat, and create and present material on Story Points that's appropriate for our Product Owners and Project Managers.

For one of the two Story Pointing exercises that I did with the Feature Team representatives in this week's workshop, I needed a piece of software - real or imaginary - that the attendees could estimate feature enhancements and bug fixes for. I didn't want to use any of the products from our company, since that would create inequities between people who were familiar with it, and those who weren't. While I was scratching my head trying to think of what I could possibly use that wouldn't require a whole lot of work by me in order to define and describe it, it suddenly dawned on me that my beloved Meal Planner Java application would be perfect!

Since I know the application like the back of my hand - I designed and wrote it, after all! - I knew it'd be easy for me to play the Product Owner role, which was needed. It's also an easy enough concept to understand - you tell it what meals you eat, and how frequently you'd eat them, and it generates meal schedules for you with as much variety as possible - that I could explain it to a large group in only a few minutes. And, since none of them had ever seen the application, let alone the Java code for it, they'd all - Engineering and Quality Assurance reps, alike - be on the same level playing field to begin with.

And I'd say it worked extremely well! People quickly "got" it, and then the feature requests and bug reports I'd provided for them to size made sense to them. Whenever they had questions about the details, I was able to come up with them on the fly, or give them an appropriate "out" if I knew that the problem they were trying to solve was going to be too complicated for this hour-long exercise. I even had one person tell me that I should make the application available to all Feature Teams, so they could practice Story Pointing with it!

It was also fun to show them the real Meal Planner on my laptop, at the end of the session, and explain that yes, indeed, it's been providing dinner suggestions for Vicki and I for two and a half years, now. As I always say, I don't know how we ever got by without it!

And it was Boneman who, upon hearing of the use I'd put my application to, supplied the title quote for this blog entry.

Publish Or Perish Too

Thanks to the Mans from Mars' tip, I spent some time recently checking out the Lulu self-publishing site in order to see what was involved in such an endeavour. It seems like a well-thought-out process, where you - the self-publisher - make as many of the formatting and layout decisions as you feel capable of, and they help with the rest. I was most interested in getting a ballpark notion of how much it would cost, which I was also able to do.

My best guess is that, were I able to come up with the material to fill, say, 150 pages in a hardcover format, I'd probably be looking at around $20 - $25 per copy. For whatever reason, 100 copies seems like a reasonable stash to dip into, over time, as I hand out copies to people who I think would enjoy it. Using that figure, I'd be spending $2000 to $2500 for the privilege of stroking my ego and sort of fulfilling a lifelong dream. (It was that, or monorail engineer!)

Now I get to think about things like, "Would I write a Foreword for the book, and if so, what should it say?" And, "Is there anyone I know well enough, whose writing I'm an admirer of, who I could ask to provide an Introduction for it? Mark Waid, maybe? Or would that be rude or presumptuous of me?"

I also love the challenge of figuring out how to bring all the pieces together, and make the whole greater than the sum of the parts, and do it in the amount of time it takes, instead of having to cram it all into a timeframe set by someone else. I'm becoming increasingly sick of having to rush things, or dealing with people who do a crappy job because they have way too much other stuff on their plate, and so the prospect of working on a project that's going to be done right, instead of quick, really appeals.

Those are actually quite fun thoughts to have. Even if nothing ever comes of it!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Now This Is Fun!

Probably only of interest to the comic fan, but I really got a kick out of this site which shows more than a dozen classic Marvel covers and the alternate versions of each that they replaced at the last minute. The Amazing Fantasy # 15 (first Spider-Man) example is absolutely... well, amazing!... in terms of how bad the original cover was, compared to the one they actually used! Has to be seen to be believed!

(And in case you're as slow as I was initially: just click on your cover choice from their main page, and then when the bigger image appears, run your cursor over it and you'll see the original version. It even says that; and still it took me a minute to figure it out!)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Only One Team Can Win The Cup

It's certainly no consolation to Ottawa fans tonight, but the sad reality is that 16 teams enter the playoffs every year, and 15 of them end their run with a loss. This year, Ottawa came within three wins of not finishing on a loss, but that's as close as they could get. On the other hand, the Sens took their postseason to a new level this year, after what seemed like an endless run of disappointing finishes. They made the Finals for the first time ever... maybe next year they'll make that last step?

Congrats to the Ducks. I have no great love for that team, but at least they turfed the "Mighty" offensive part of their name before ever winning the Cup. And they beat four very good teams in winning this year, which isn't always the case for Cup winners *cough* 1993 Habs *cough*.

So this'll be remembered as the year of the Ducks... and the year the Rangers got their playoff form back, after a decade without a win! Hard to believe there'll be no more hockey to watch for months now... but there's always next year!

My Subconscious Is So Much Smarter Than I Am!

Last night, I had a wicked stomach ache shortly after going to bed, and was in discomfort for a good portion of the night. It was a really bad time, because not only was I dealing with a sore tummy, but I knew I had the all-afternoon Story Point Workshop to lead at work, and I was going to have to do it on almost no sleep. Arggh.

Eventually, around 3:30, I thought to get up and take a couple Ibuprofen pills, to numb some of the pain. An hour or so later, I must've fallen asleep, because I had a very vivid dream. In it, I went over to visit a couple who Vicki and I used to be very close friends with, but have lost touch with in recent years. Before we moved houses, and I changed jobs, we used to socialize with this other couple once or twice a week, and I would've said the husband was my best friend, after Vicki. But then we drifted apart, and I haven't seen either of them in probably three or four years now.

In the dream, I let myself into their house - I used to even have a key to their home, and they had one to ours! - and was looking forward to surprising them by showing up unexpectedly, and catching up. But when I got to their dining room, they were sitting at the table, candles lit, holding hands. As soon as I saw that, I thought, "Oh no.. I've come over to visit them on their 20th wedding anniversary! How stupid am I!" Embarrassed, I tried to quietly sneak back out of their house, without being seen. But the wife of the couple saw me, and her expression showed how disgusted she was that someone had ruined their wedding anniversary.

After I woke up, I was thinking about that dream, and how weird it was that I'd dream about them, when we haven't seen them in so long. Their names do come up occasionally between Vicki and I, but not in any significant way. Then I thought about it a bit more, and realized, "Hey, today is their wedding anniversary! The 6th day of the 6th month! That's when they got married!" (I was in their wedding party.) Then I thought, "What year would that have been?" It didn't take long to remember that it was the June after I started at the bank, which would make it 1987. Holy crap! Today is their 20th wedding anniversary!

If only my brain worked that well when I'm awake!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Publish Or Perish

An idea occurred to me recently, that's been worming around in my brain ever since.

I think, once I've stopped working - or taken a long break from it, whichever turns out to be the case - I'm going to look into self-publishing a collection of my short stories. There are lots of vanity presses out there, I'm sure, that'd be more than happy to take some of my splurge money and print up a few hundred copies of anything I feel like cobbling together, and call it a book. I know people who've done this before, typically with the intention of selling the result as a means toward becoming rich and famous. In my case, I think I'd like to do it, and then just give copies away to all my friends, family and hangers-on. That assumes, of course, that it's really something that could be done for several thousands of dollars or less, and not an endeavour requiring tens of K's or more.

It obviously wouldn't be the same as being published for real, but I still think it would be cool to have a book on my shelf that bears my name, and contains my own words in it. It's not exactly immortality; it's more like a slightly better chance at being remembered.

How crazy an idea is that?

Happiness Is 300 Pages Of New Bryan Talbot Material

I'm all a-quiver at the thought of soon starting to read Bryan Talbot's recent release, Alice in Sunderland. It's a 300-page hardcover comic that's been getting a lot of critical acclaim, as his work often does.

I first experienced Talbot's unique style in the 80s, when I tried to wrap my brain around The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. That particular series of comics, telling a complicated and incredibly-dense story involving multiple realities and British intrigue, was such a challenge to get through - because of how much was going on in it, not because it was bad! - that I've been on the lookout for more Talbot ever since. He eventually did a sequel to it, called Heart of Empire, that didn't really match the original in depth, but was still a fine read. He's also written and drawn some mainstream DC books, always to good effect, and produced The Tale of One Bad Rat, a heart-rending story about child abuse, that's just excellent.

All of which has prepared me to be amazed by whatever he's come up with this time. I know next to nothing about Alice in Sunderland, because I'd rather be surprised. I do know that the reviews have been very positive, and it was just nominated for some sort of genre award. I may be setting myself up for a big disappointment, but I guess that's a chance I'll have to take.

I also got a great deal on the book itself, through my local comic store. It's marked as $29.99 US, but I got it for $24 CDN. I asked Vicki what she thought it had cost me, after she saw the size of it... "$100?" she asked. Being able to tell her it was only a quarter of that felt pretty good. I hope by the time I'm done the book, I'll think it would've been worth that C-note!

Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow (Jun 5th Edition)

Here it is:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 4 - Concluding Joss Whedon's initial storyline for the Eighth Season, it hardly seems like all of the plot threads can be wrapped up in one issue, but we'll see. It's certainly been a good read - and ride! - so far. And Brian K. Vaughan's up next!

And that's it... one of the meagerest (most meager?) weeks in recent memory. I'll be buying a grand total of 7 comics this week, with only the Buffinator really qualifying as exciting. Uncanny X-Men # 487, by Ed Brubaker, almost makes the list, but UXM is the weakest of the Bru titles and not quite up to the high bar.

For Absent Friends

"Passing by the padlocked swings,
the roundabout still turning,
ahead they see a small girl
on her way home with a pram."
- "For Absent Friends", Genesis (from Nursery Cryme)

I had a dream last night that Tammy came home early from Europe, after only about two weeks of her planned eight. She explained to me that that was all she could take, before the homesickness got to her. Then she got really sad and said she wanted to know if she'd ever be able to go for a longer European vacation, after having to cut this one so short. I told her that of course she could, because it got easier to be away from home the more you did it.

Which is a really strange thing for me to say in a dream, since it's not at all how I feel. If anything, I'm finding it harder, the older I get. It's Tammy that's getting better at it, as far as I can tell. And Vicki has never had any trouble with homesickness to begin with!

So I don't really know what to make of the dream, except that obviously I must be missing Tammy, as she nears the start of her third week abroad.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ducks Push Senators To The Brink

Even Alanis Morrisette singing the national anthems wasn't enough to nudge the Sens to victory in the pivotal Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight.

With yet another 1-goal win, Anaheim now has a 3-1 lead in the series, heading home with a chance to wrap it up. The momentum swings were unbelievable tonight, with Ottawa dominating the first period and then getting smoked in kind in the second. The Sens' two goals each came late in a period (less than 2 secs left in the 1st, around 2:00 remaining in the 2nd), and two of the Ducks' three arrived bang-bang in a 1:00 stretch of the 2nd period, both by the same player (McDonald?)

Ottawa's facing the daunting stat that says that Eastern Conference teams have an abysmal record of 1-7 when facing elimination this year, with Buffalo's Game 4 win to avoid a sweep at the hands of Ottawa counting as the lone successful avoidance (short-lived, though it was).

Tonight was also Anaheim's 12th 1-goal victory this playoff year, according to Hockey Night in Canada, tying the record held by the Ducks themselves, in 2003, as well as the too-lucky-for-words 1993 Montreal Canadiens.

And finally, I forgot to mention on Saturday night, when Ottawa won Game 3, that now we all know it to be true: the Rangers were the winners of the only sweep in the 2007 NHL Playoffs! How awesome is that!? (Especially after being the first ones out of the 2006 Playoffs, getting swept by the Devils.)

Tonight's Rest & Relaxation? Prepping For A Workshop!

I've got a 20-person Story Points Workshop to run at the office on Wednesday afternoon this week, and rather than leave all of the preparation for tomorrow, and risk getting really busy, I figured I should do the right thing and get most of the setup done tonight. This includes coming up with the overview material (some of which I wrote at work this afternoon), the sample exercises, and figuring out how the timing of each part looks (I have 3.5 hours to fill.. or squeeze it all into, as the case may be!)

And I got about four hours of sleep last night, so I'm just a wee bit groggy as I do this. Probably no further blogging from me should be expected tonight, as such. (What's it matter, when Hinckley's not reading these days, anyway?)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Some Answers, Of A Sort, On The Heroes Finale

Since they address at least two of the more common questions asked after the Season One finale - why did Peter need Nathan to fly him into the sky when he already has that power himself, and why did Candice's true form not appear when she was knocked out? - you probably want to read this Q&A over at Comic Book Resources. I can't say as the answers to those two apparent gaffs are all that great, but at least they're not entirely dodged! And there's lots of other material covered that's interesting.

And really... how cool is it that we live in an age where we have this kind of interaction with the creators behind TV shows, movies and comics? Damned cool!

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales Trailer Is Now Out

For those B5 fanatics out there, click here, then "Main Menu", followed by "The Lost Tales Movie," and you'll be treated to a short trailer for the July 31st release.

Certainly the visceral experience of hearing that music again is worth the $20 for the DVD alone! B5 definitely had some of the best music ever for a TV show, in terms of perfectly complementing the excitement that was going on in the story. This clip delivers some of that, so cue the nostalgia!

I found the trailer intriguing, but I've long since given up getting my hopes up too high where B5 movies are concerned. Of the roughly half-dozen there've been, about half were really excellent, and the other half were just so-so. I suppose the biggest difference this time around is that it's been years and years since we've had any new stories set in this universe, so it's possible that even a "meh" offering would be welcomed anyway. The single greatest asset of the TV series, for me at any rate, was the huge arc of the storyline, and the fact that virtually everything fed into it. (Explains a lot about why I also love Lost so much, eh!) Where B5 TV-films like Thirdspace and River of Souls disappointed me were in their inability to really add anything significant to that canvas. If you find the characters, politics and races of B5 fascinating on their own, then I guess any story told against that backdrop is going to be a winner for you. For me, it's only impressive if it introduces a new piece to the puzzle, or reveals a new dimension to something we already thought we knew. And that's probably how I'll be evaluating The Lost Tales when it arrives in my hot little hands, in early August.

And finally, on this topic: does anyone remember if this is the only such direct-to-DVD B5 movie committed to, or are more expected? Or is everything dependent on how well the first one sells?

Getting To Know Something Better Through Its Absence

I just finished reading Captain America # 26, by Brubaker, Epting and Perkins, the first issue after the Big Death Story. There've been some so-so one-shots since the previous, history-making 25th edition in this series, but none of them were written by Ed Brubaker. To say that those one-offs were disappointing would be putting it mildly (filler, or fluff, would be other names for them). Finally, almost three months after Cap made the news for all the wrong reasons, we get our first glimpse of how Bru plans to carry on a title whose lead character is now pushing up daisies.

By the end of the first page - shown here - I was already sucked right back into the magic that's existed in this title since it re-launched a couple years ago. Sure, the "Death of..." angle is what filled the air-time in March, and is the reason people were seeking out the previous issue like it was printed on sheets of gold. But the real appeal, for those of us who care about more than sensationalism and topics du jour, lies in the incredible characterizations that've been a staple of Captain America all through its current run. This issue brought it all back to that, as we got to see how Sharon Carter, Sam "Falcon" Wilson, the still-on-the-lam New Avengers, and Bucky "Winter Soldier" Barnes are all dealing with the loss of America's greatest hero. To them, he's all that and more, as boyfriend, best friend, beloved teammate, and former mentor.

And we also get to see more of Tony Stark's hypocrisy, as he espouses a remorse at how things turned out that's clearly not in line with his actions, which are more those of a winner who's on top of the world.

I remember how good the various Superman titles were, immediately following Superman's death in 1992, and how I could hardly wait for each new issue to come out. That was probably my favourite Superman period, even though it settled back into mediocrity pretty quickly after his return. The key difference here is that Cap had a great title before they killed him, full of three dimensional characters, both good and evil, surprises aplenty, and treats for the eye, each and every month. And not one bit of its allure has been lost - so far - by his absence. If anything, we're getting schooled even better in the moral strength of the character, through the reactions to his death by those closest to him. I still expect Steve Rogers will be back among the living before too many more Stanley Cup winners have been decided, but even if that happens: it's going to a triumphant return, if Ed Brubaker's involved. And I plan to enjoy the ride immensely, in the meantime.

Who Am I? I'm The Bat-Man!

The night before last, I was having a tough time falling asleep, resulting in lots of tossing and turning. After an hour or so of that, Vicki got up and left to sleep on the couch in the family (aka computer) room. Before long, now that I had the whole bed to myself, I dozed off.

Only to be awoken around 3:00 am when Vicki came into the bedroom, saying, "Bat! Bat! Bat!" There's not all that much that's funny about that, except that it's exactly what Tammy used to say, whenever one would get into the house and start flying around her bedroom upstairs. Not "There's a bat in the house!" or "I'm scared cuz there's a bat!".. just "Bat! Bat! Bat!" It must be genetic or something!

Over the nine years that we've lived in this house, I'd say we've had somewhere around a dozen or so bat events. Usually one of us will hear it flying around in the night, and then I have to go deal with it while Vicki, or Vicki and Tammy, cower under the bed covers. The first few times it happened, I carefully caught the little critter in a towel - always a challenge, especially if it's circling in a bigger room - and then released it outside. However, after one incident in which I did just that, we then we had a repeat performance the very next night, and I became convinced that it was the same damn one! I may've even said to that creature, "I'm pretty sure we've met before!" So then I started resorting to killing them. I don't like killing anything, not even spiders or bugs, but I'm also not crazy about setting them free only to have them come back.

Anyway, we'd thought that we'd finally solved the bat problem early last year (or possibly it was late the year before) when I sealed up a narrow crevice in our kitchen. The kitchen's an add-on to the house, as originally the house had a very small one and so previous owners tacked on an addition that made it about 6 to 8 feet wider. They chose to leave one small section of the original brickwork in place, showing where the house used to end (which I think is kind of cool). As a result, the double sink and the cupboards are all outside of the original house, and there's a space about an inch or two wide that they never filled in, between the brick and the start of the first cupboard. Vicki had suspected for awhile that we had had bats squeezing into the house through that access, after somehow getting past the siding on the outside. Once I finally listened to her theory (a year and a half or so ago), I immediately found cardboard and sealed up that crack, after which we suffered no more nocturnal visitations... until the night before last!

After dealing with the latest intruder, and eventually getting back to sleep, I woke up the next morning and for just a few seconds, I convinced myself it had all been a dream! After all, we solved that particular issue, right? There couldn't really have been a bat in the house last night, now could there? But sadly, it was no dream. So now we're back to trying to figure out how they're getting in.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I Just Played On The Wii And Boy, Are My Arms Tired!

We spent the late afternoon and evening over at the boss's house, where we were treated to dinner and then some Wii fun. I got to play Tennis, Baseball, Bowling and Golf, and I can totally understand now why people are finding they're hurting themselves with this console! I was probably only at it, off an on, for a couple of hours, but that was enough to leave me with sore shoulders and a little stiffness in my neck. The games are all easy enough to pick up, and yet challenging enough to really excel at, that you just want to keep going. And of course you're getting more muscles exercised than you would while playing standard video games, so you end up feeling it in more than your wrists and fingers.

Anyway, while it was a lot of fun, it also convinced me that I wouldn't want to have the Wii myself, as it'd probably wreck me!

My Mid-Year Resolution

I don't know how long it'll last, but I decided this past week that I really need to start challenging people - including myself - to defend their positions more ably. Specifically, I get a lot of people making claims to me, usually about Agile-related activities, that are quoted as fact, when really they're simply opinions.

I fell into the trap of believing one such non-fact over the past couple weeks, and it was only after I thought about it for a few days that I realized that I could easily check its veracity myself (with just a few hours' research). When I finally got the time on Friday to do the actual number crunching, I found that a glaring error had occurred, because of the way the data was being presented. Compounding my complicity in this was the revelation that I'd warned those responsible for the data about the potential for this misrepresentation to happen, and then still fell for it like a rube, months later. Being tricked by something that I'd previously foreseen as an accident waiting to happen makes me feel very, very stupid. As well as, determined not to let it happen again!

So if you work with me, and you thrust something unsubstantiated in my face, be prepared for me to come back with, "Prove it!"