Sunday, September 30, 2007

Imaginary Stories: Chapter Two (** Draft **)

(Chapter One of this evolving tale can be found here.)

Chapter Two: The Abyss Gazes Also

"Lambert fought to return the woman's cool stare, as unsure of her intentions as he was captivated by her beauty. Sure, he'd seen her type many times before in his line of work - tall, blonde and blue-eyed with a body that made her clothes seem like they'd been drawn on with scented markers - and yet there was still something about her that made him notice the thumping of his forty year old heart.

"Am I under arrest, Detective?" she asked, in a tone suggesting that she knew more about the law than he did. "I'd like to call my lawyer, if I am."

Pausing before answering, Lambert shifted uncomfortably in his chair, suddenly aware of just how small the table was that separated the two of them. "No, Mrs Mason, you're not," he said without making eye contact. "It's just routine. We always interview the spouse when someone dies in a violent fashion." As he spoke the last few words, he forced himself to look directly into her almost-blindingly perfect features.

"So I'm not a suspect in Gerald's murder, then?" she inquired, with a raised eyebrow that Lambert struggled to interpret between hopefulness and surprise.

"Well, ma'am, I didn't exactly say that," Lambert replied. He placed both hands, palms down, on the table between them, a gesture intended as much to hide the sweat starting to form on them as it was to prevent them from shaking. Stop acting like a love-sick teenager, he told himself. You've got a murder to solve!"

- "The Abyss Gazes Also", Coming Of Age Tale, James Hancock (Born 1990), Published 2006

"Betraying his father?" echoed Linus, moving to squat beside his prone Indian friend. "What'd he do?"

Before Sanjay could respond, James rasped, "Did he have sex with his mother? I mean, his own mother, not his father's mother. That'd be his grandmother... eww, gross!"

"Because, of course," Peter said, "having sex with your own mother isn't gross!"

"You know what I mean!" James countered. "Hey, if that's where your story's going, I've got the perfect title for it: Oedipus Wrecks! With a W, like he wrecks his family!"

"It's like you've already read my book, James. Totally uncanny!"

"Ah, sarcasm, my faithful companion" crooned James, "never far from me are thee!"

"So you were about to say...?" ventured Peter, speaking to Sanjay while looking disapprovingly at James.

"Well," began the young man, as he sat up and pulled his knees up tight to his lithe body, "my central character's father has some very specific plans for him, but then he realized that he couldn't go through with them. He's conflicted, though, because there's a lot of family tradition at stake, and he's jeopardized some important relationships in the process."

"So... this is starting to sound like an autobiography, my friend," said Linus. "Is that what you're writing?"

Sanjay looked down quickly, unable to hide his discomfort. "No. Not exactly. I mean, there are certain similarities, yes. But the situations are quite different, and my hero is a few years older than me." Then he looked up, and with more energy said, "And after all, the teachers all tell us to write what we know! This is what I know!"

"Sounds reasonable to me," Peter said. "So what's the corner that you've painted him into, and what kind of vindication is he supposed to find?"

"Well, he disobeyed his father's orders, because he believed his father was wrong. But now he's in trouble with the law, even though it turns out his father was wrong!"

"Kind of like Icarus, then?" Linus asked.

"How so?" Sanjay countered.

"His father told him not to fly too close to the sun, or he'd burn his wings. Now that's crazy, because the higher you fly, the colder it gets, and so the old man was wrong as wrong could be. And yet legend has it that ol' Icarus still fell, so what're we to make of that story now?"

"Don't mess with Daddy?" James offered, at which point Peter slugged him in the arm.

Linus said, "Or maybe that disobedience is a greater sin than being wrong?"

"That's pretty screwed up, if you ask me," James replied, over the low grumble of his stomach. "But not as screwed up as I'll be if I don't get some food in me soon. See you ladies tomorrow!"

Three days later, the four boys were together again, but this time back inside the walls of their school and accompanied by classmate Elizabeth Lee and their teacher, Laurel Allen. All six of them sat in a loose circle, facing inward, enveloped in bubble chairs that combined comfort and support as if designed by an expert on both.

The group was engaged in the part of each school day dedicated to discussing Coming Of Age Tales, and Laurel was the COAT counsellor to the five students gathered around her. She'd been working with all of them, in this manner, since the current school year had started. While none of them were required to tell her anything about their own COAT progress, it was inevitable that she learned some of what each of them was up to, just by the nature of the discussions they had. Because of that, she'd gotten the distinct - and unwelcome - impression that Linus had yet to start his. Based on where the conversation was going at the moment, though, she suspected that she was about to get a serious clue as to why.

Elizabeth was saying, "It's a lot more complicated than you're making it sound. You have to consider how it started, the changes that it caused after only a few years, and the fact that it only took a couple of decades to spread worldwide. That certainly puts it on the same footing as some of the other revolutionary movements of the past few centuries, wouldn't you say?"

"I'm saying that I don't really see what one has to do with the other, is all," Linus said.

"What part of your education were you paying attention to, Linus?" asked Elizabeth, drawing a frosty look from her teacher.

"Liz, that's not a very helpful attitude," Laurel said, in her best neutral voice. You may be my star pupil, Liz, she thought, but I'm certainly not going to treat you like one! "Why don't you drop the sarcasm so that we can have a conversation like adults?"

"But that's what I'm talking about: adulthood," Linus continued, as if the conversation were going exactly where he wanted it to. "Does anyone in the 21st century really believe that the best way to judge if someone's ready to take on the rights of a full citizen is by making them write a story to prove it?"

The Big Finish

This is my last post before # 1200, which will be an installment of my "Imaginary Stories" tale, and which will also close out my first year of blogging (never fear: Year Two starts tomorrow!)

On the baseball front, only a little has been decided in the National League postseason picture. Atlanta and Milwaukee are out, and Chicago and Arizona are definitely in. But New York, Philadelphia, San Diego and Colorado are all still fighting for the last two places (Mets and Phillies, for the NL East; all four for the Wildcard, where there's only 1 game separating the group). Checking the early scores, it looks like the Mets, after winning 13-0 yesterday, gave up 7 runs in the top of the 1st against Florida this afternoon, so the Phillies must be rubbing their hands with glee as they resume hostilities with the Nationals. What a great way to wrap up the regular season... we could still have a four way tie to clear up after the final game tonight! (Though I wouldn't bet on the Mets making the playoffs after that 1st inning of theirs today!) In the much less exciting American League, the Red Sox will play the Angels, and the Indians will host the Yankees.

And with that update out of the way, it's time to wrap up Blogging Year One and get ready for whatever the second year may hold.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fox: Dumbest Network Ever?

Today, on the 2nd last day of the regular baseball season, Fox Sports has decided to show the Chicago Cubs / Cincinnatti Reds match-up as its national game. A few days ago, when Chicago was battling Milwaukee for the AL Central crown, that decision would've seemed reasonable. Today, the day after Chicago clinched the AL Central (and with Cincinnatti continuing to be out of the playoff picture, as they have been for weeks) it looks absolutely insane!

Other choices for Fox to have shown:

San Diego at Milwaukee, where the Padres are still trying to catch Arizona for the AL West title, or to lock up the Wildcard spot.

Washington at Philadelphia, where the Phillies have a 1-game lead in the AL East, after supplanting the Mets last night.

Florida at NY Mets, where the Mets are trying to get back into 1st in the AL East, or at least grab the Wildcard spot.

All three of those other matches are going on this afternoon, with the first two listed being at exactly the same start time as the Chi/Cin game! How in the world did Fox decide to show anyone the (completely meaningless) Cubs game, when they could be watching the Padres or Phillies? And that completely irrelevant game is on not only the regular Fox affiliate that we get, but also the West Coast one! Someone at the top of the sports division of that 'network' needs to be seriously fired... and fired now!

And yes, these are after all the same buffoons who decided to not show the final Drive episodes!

[Update: Less than five minutes after I posted this, the Fox commentator came on between innings and announced they'd be going to the Phillies game instead! I suspect the thousands of angry phone calls and e-mails they must've received during the first inning of the Cubs game might've had something to do with them coming to their senses!]

Reading Frenzy

It's not unusual for me to be reading two books at once, as I find that sort of variety quite appealing (if one of them gets slow, the other will likely make up for it). But right now I somehow find myself in the midst of four different books!

I just finished Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and immediately started on his previous work, The Tipping Point. Both of those were lent to me by the Man from Mars. Blink was fantastic (although it finished weaker than it started) and so far The Tipping Point is also making for fascinating reading.

I've been slogging my way through The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman, a loaner from Tammy that she thought I might like. I'd almost given up on it after a very slow - and repetitive - start, but then he hit on a topic that interested me, and I got into it more. The jury's still out as to whether I'll finish it or not, though.

After hearing many good things about it again and again over the past couple years, co-worker Kerny (aka AgileBoy) handed me his copy of Good to Great by Jim Collins on Friday. Maybe this is his way of saying that he thinks I'm "good, but could be great" or maybe he just knew I wanted to read it. Either way, I'm about 60 pages in and enjoying it quite a bit.

And finally, I'm also about a dozen pages into Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, a collection of short stories by one of my favourite bloggers. The first one is a Sherlock Holmes tale, "A Study in Emerald", and the notion of a Holmes tale by Gaiman very nearly blows my mind! Also included is "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" which I figure has to hold some good tips for all of us!

Friday, September 28, 2007

2007 Swimming Season: Now Officially Closed!

Almost five months after it started, another swimming season ends tomorrow when we close the pool. Between the dubious weather this year, and the several weeks during which I couldn't enjoy the pool thanks to boil surgery, our 10th summer as pool-owners wasn't the greatest.

But looking on the bright side... there's always next year!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hyperbole, Or Something Really Cool?

From a Babylon 5 news site comes this little J Michael Straczynski nugget:

"For the last year, very much under the radar, I've been working with two film makers who have created some of the biggest SF movies in the last twenty years on a television project. (I can't reveal their identities, but pick any three of their movies and you have box office of over two billion dollars.) We've been quietly writing and creating the first three scripts for a new SF series that would pretty much revolutionize the form, and which have gone out to the networks for auction. Offers are coming in. Whether or not the offers are enough to make the project work -- it's huge -- remains to be seen. Where this goes will be determined in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned"

Yeah, OK, I'm interested... but JMS does tend to hype his own stuff just a tad.

(And Vicki and I theorized that directors of the "biggest SF movies in the last twenty years" would be: Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, James Cameron... who else?)

Baseball Playoff Picture... Getting Clearer?

Well, I suppose it has cleared up a little from two nights ago. First, in the American League, the Tigers were put out of their misery last night and so we know for sure that New York, Boston, Cleveland and LA will be in the postseason. It looks likely that the Angels will play the Red Sox, while the Yankees and the Indians tangle. But even those matchups are still up in the air!

But it's the National League that continues to provide all of the entertainment these days. With four days left - counting tonight - there are still seven teams in serious contention for those four spots. No division leader currently has more than a 2 game lead, and the Wildcard has three teams all 1 game apart! The Dodgers have been eliminated in the last 48 hours, and Atlanta's on the edge of the cliff (4 games back, with 4 games to go, in both their division and the Wildcard race). But each of those other seven teams (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, Arizona, San Diego, and Colorado) are either sitting in a playoff spot right now, or within 2 games of one! That's a very nutty situation this late in the season, but it's making for an amazing conclusion to the 162-game campaign! I guess it's comparable to how the NHL season ended in the Spring this year, with so many teams in it right up to the final weekend.

If you're any kind of baseball fan at all, you may want to keep an eye on how things play out over the next 75 hours or so... and possibly beyond (if we go to tie-breakers)! This could be a Finish For The Ages!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Word Count

One of the side benefits of having pasted my blog entries into Word docs is that I could finally discover what my word count here has been, to date. I figured it had to be well over 100,000 by now, but would've been surprised if I'd reached half a million. In fact, I'm right around 400,000, which isn't too shabby for a year's output.

That's roughly 6 to 8 times the number of words that I expect to end up with in my Agile book, if I do, in fact, manage to finish it. I wonder, in this age of easy self-publishing, if bloggers ever simply compile their favourite blog posts into a collection, and call that a book? Kind of funny if they make readers pay for such a compilation, considering that it's all right out there, for free!

In other news... there is no other news.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Baseball Goodness

I'm watching the Jays-Orioles game tonight, still hoping that Toronto will post a winning season (they're 79-77 starting the day, and leading 8-3 midway through the fifth inning in Baltimore). During the play-by-play, the commentators referred to a game back on August 22nd of this year that I'd forgotten about, because it happened during my first week back to work and I was swamped.

The game was Texas Rangers at Baltimore, and the Orioles had actually been doing fairly well up to that point. In fact, at the end of the 3rd inning, they were up on Texas 3-0, and all looked well in lovely Maryland.

And then Texas scored 5 in the top of the 4th, to grab a 5-3 lead. The 5th was scoreless, followed by the Rangers piling on 9 additional runs in their half of the 6th, to go up 14-3! It was starting to look like a football score (Ravens vs Cowboys?) but it was far from over. Another scoreless inning (the 7th) was followed by a third explosion of offense by the Rangers, to the tune of 10 more runs, in the 8th!! Up 24-3, you'd think that would've been it, but no, in the top of the 9th, they tacked on another half dozen runs, to finish with a 30-3 win on the road! Yeah, that's a football score, alright!

Imagine if you paid a lot of money for a great seat to that game, and then got to watch your beloved Orioles allow 30 runs in a single game! That's more than most teams give up in a 4-game series! Sometimes both teams don't score 30 runs between them in 4 games!

Ironically, that was Game 1 of a doubleheader, and the Rangers "only" produced 9 runs in the 2nd game, winning it 9-7. (I think the Orioles have gone something like 9 wins and 24 losses since those games.)

There must've been something in the air that night, though, as a few other games were crazy, too: Cleveland beat Detroit 11-8, the Dodgers beat the Phillies 15-3, and Pittsburgh clobbered Colorado 11-2. Maybe it was Let Your Mascot Pitch The Game Night in the majors or something?

The Baseball Playoff Picture At The Moment

With only six days left in the baseball season - counting today - there're still a surprising number of unknowns regarding the postseason.

In the American League, the four playoff entrants are all but guaranteed to be:
  • Boston
  • Cleveland
  • LA Angels
  • NY Yankees
The only other AL team with any chance, going into today's play, is the Detroit Tigers, who are 5.5 games behind the Yankees for the Wildcard spot. For them to make the postseason, they'd need to win all five of their remaining games, and have the Yankees tank all six of theirs, in which case I think the two teams would hold a one-game playoff to decide the Wildcard. Highly unlikely scenario, but mathematically possible, although New York is already up 5-0 on Tampa Bay tonight. So Detroit could be eliminated within another hour or so.

However, there's still a chance that Boston and New York could swap places (AL East Division winner and Wildcard entrant) because the Yankees are only 2 games back, with six to go. Also unclear is how each of the AL Division winners will finish relative to each other, since all three of them come into play today with exactly 92 wins! How tight is that? As everyone knows, the Division winner with the best record draws the Wildcard team in the first round, unless both teams are from the same division, in which case the Division winner with the 2nd best record hosts the Wildcard team to begin the playoffs. So we know Boston and New York won't play each other to start (same division) but every other combination is still possible! If you're a scout for one of those teams, trying to prepare for the postseason, you're stuck checking out all three of them!

The National League has a much greater amount of uncertainty at the moment. Not a single team there has clinched a playoff spot yet, and two of the three divisions still have 3 teams each in the race! New York Mets lead the East, but Philadelphia's only 2 games back, and Atlanta is 5 back, with everyone having six games to play (and Atl and Phil going head-to-head for three big encounters this week). In the West, Arizona's trying to fight off both San Diego (3 games back) and Colorado (4 games back), with each of them having a half dozen matches left. In the Central, Chicago has a slim 3 game lead on Milwaukee, again with six each to go.

And then there's the NL Wildcard, where the Phillies and Padres are deadlocked at the top, Colorado's only a single game back, Atlanta's 3 behind, and Colorado is hanging in there 5 game behind. Add in the dark horse Dodgers, also 5 games out of the Wildcard (but 8 behind Arizona and therefore out of the race for the NL West Division title) and you've got quite the log jam! Where all four teams are (essentially) set in the American League, over in the senior circuit there are still double that many teasing their fans, despite the fact that half of them will be watching the playoffs on TV. I won't even attempt to figure out who might be playing whom in the NL postseason's first round, with that many variables still in play!

What a great time it is to be a baseball fan!

This Blog, In A Word Or Two

For whatever paranoid reason, I started worrying recently that all of the material I've written here might be lost if Blogger went out of business, or were sold, or whatever. And while the loss of this blog would hardly be a National Disaster, I've spent a lot of time laying down thoughts to have them all go up in a puff like that.

So over the last couple nights, while watching TV, I manually copied and pasted each display page of this blog into a Word document (actually, two of them, as it was getting quite slow and cumbersome as a single doc). I now have "Blogging Year 1 Part 1" and "Blogging Year 1 Part 2" saved off on both of our home computers (which get backed up regularly). I realize I was a little premature - the official end of Year 1 is still a few days away - but I figured, close enough!

And now I can stop worrying about a scenario that probably won't happen anyway!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Heroes Return

Yes, that was sweet! Lots of developments, most of which worked for me, one or two of which did not (can't say as I buy that Parkman somehow got custody of young Molly, so quickly, while going through a divorce, for example).

I love that they're establishing a set of "golden age heroes" among the older generation, and from what I've read, we'll learn a lot more about them in the coming episodes. I wonder what hottie they'll get to play the younger version of the matriarch? And who are the other seven remaining members?

It seems obvious that Hiro will end up performing the historic deeds that are attributed to Kensei, but maybe they'll still throw a different twist into the mix. Certainly having "Sark" (from Alias) as Kensei was a surprise (since I managed to not have any of tonight's episode spoiled for me!)

With the introduction of another flying man - Claire's "new friend" - are we going to start seeing powers repeated, in ways other than the Sylar/Peter absorption motif? Between this new kid, Nathan Petrelli, and Kara over in Smallville, it may be all about the flying effects this season! And Claire's family? Just weird!

Two Monkeys, A Whiteboard, And A Marker

Just for fun, Jimmy Hinckley and I spent a little time this afternoon drawing up our proposal for the new Organizational structure of our company. We did it on the VP of Engineering's whiteboard - sadly, he wasn't in his office at the time - and refined it a bit by talking through where some of the current management types might end up. When we were done, Hinckley took a couple photos of it, then we erased it and vacated the office.

Later, I sent the two photos to that selfsame VP, with the comment:

"Jimmy and I brainstormed your new org structure (see photos).

Any other jobs you want us to take on?"

If only it really worked that way...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

And The First New Episode Watched Goes To...

... The Simpsons! In recent years it seemed like The Simpsons usually debuted sometime after Halloween (with, ironically, the Halloween Special) and yet here it is, one of the first shows returning! It was a fine enough debut, with an opening chock full of what I assume was a series of references to the as-yet-unseen movie by the same name.

Besides the highly-anticipated Heroes season premiere tomorrow night, there's also CSI, ER, and *ugh* Grey's Anatomy returning this week, along with the launch of Bionic Woman. Sadly, I still have a week and a half to wait before Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan return in 30 Rock Season Two. And don't even get me started on how far away Lost is!

If the creators of 24 have gone on record as admitting last season was lousy - and they have, sort of - then does that mean that this year's Jack Bauer story might actually be good? One can only hope.

One Week To Go!

A week from today will mark the end of my first year of blogging.

[Waits for applause to die down before continuing.]

Sometime before then, I should hit blog post # 1200 here at Kimota94's Place. I've got the second chapter of my short story Imaginary Stories all ready to go for that, which I suspect will excite no one but me (and possibly Jimmy Hinckley). In the second installment, those inclined to read it will get some more character interaction, along with (what I hope is) a fairly shocking revelation at its end.

[Pauses to allow for gasps of anticipation.]

I've also noticed, in the six weeks or so that our collaborative blog, The Studio Has A Few Notes, has been open for business, that I'm managing to post more entries here than the entire gang of us are doing over there! That's not a criticism, as I'm really enjoying The Studio and everyone else's contributions to it, but merely a surprising observation. I guess I really am the King of Blogging!

[Gets drowned out by boos and catcalls.]

And let's none of us forget that Heroes returns tomorrow night!

[Gets standing ovation, and decides to leave on a high note.]

A Veritable Explosion Of Creativity

In addition to getting up at 6 a.m. on Saturday to write a work blog entry - which started the weekend off on a strange enough footing - I somehow found myself overcome with a desire to work on "the Agile book" in the past 24 hours. Last night, I wrote two chapters, back-to-back - an unprecedented occurrence - and followed that up with a third one this afternoon, accounting for an additional four thousand words this very weekend!

Floating around in the pool an hour ago, Vicki decided to quiz me on the titles of each of the (now) nine chapters written, and wouldn't you know: I could name them all!

I figure I'm now maybe a quarter of the way done, based on how many chapters I expected (forty-ish) as well as my ballpark for word count (fifty thousand, of which I've written just over twelve). Since I've been at it for about a month, and have already experienced peaks and valleys in terms of productivity, I guess that means I could be wrapping it up sometime toward the end of the year. That week off over Christmas and New Year's could come in mighty handy, now that I think about it...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Shameless Ploy To Draw Comments

Just a bunch of random thoughts that occurred to me for no particular reason:

I wonder what a die-hard Buffy fan would consider the best three episodes of that show? I certainly know what my own Top Three Babylon 5 picks would be, but do fans of the Vampire Slayer play favourites the same way? Hmmm...

Does anyone really care about the environment anymore? Sure, it seems like people are waking up to the importance of it, but is anyone really doing anything to conserve energy or reduce their gasoline-dependency? I bet no one is!

What's the most efficient algorithm for determining if a random integer is prime? Has anyone ever even considered that question before? Is it even solvable?

And are there any good live performers in the SouthWestern Ontario area these days? I imagine there must be, but who would they be? Does anyone even go to concerts in the twenty-first century?

What about George Bush appearances on The Simpsons? I seem to recall George Senior appearing, along with Barbara, but what about Junior? Has he been lampooned on that show yet?

A topic that never seems to get talked about, and yet you'd think it'd be damn popular: yoga! Why's no one raving about the benefits of that particular exercise regimen, I can't help but ponder?

Speaking of which: was yoga ever featured in an episode of Seinfeld? It must've been, considering how under-appreciated that sleeper hit series was, combined with the quiet appeal of the art of yoga!

In fact, I wonder if they have yoga classes at Google? If only I knew someone who was fixated on that cool company, who might be able to shed some light on it! Oh, if only!

And wouldn't it be awesome if there were comic books that featured ninja assassins in them? Now, I'm a pretty well-read comic guy, but even I can't think of a single offering that satisfies that wacky concept!

If you think ninja assassins in a comic book's wacky, what about local plays that feature actors and actresses who only act in their spare time? Is that crazy, or what? Some of them, I'm told, are even bankers and insurance salespeople during the day... and only act at night! They're like were-actors! It's true!

Oh, and finally: I wonder where I left my pants. Has anyone seen my pants?

"Worst Kept Secret", Or "Worst Wedding Night Ever"

I usually try not to spoil stuff in comics, but this particular "shock ending" has been telegraphed for months. Here's how that went down:

First, DC shocked its fans by announcing that former lovers Oliver "Green Arrow" Queen and Dinah "Black Canary" Lance would be getting married late in 2007, despite a recent history in which the characters had been apart for years and headed in very different directions. If one word were to come to mind as that news broke, it would be: contrived.

Next, the wedding-related special events started popping up like pimples on a candy-loving teenager's face. The final issue of the current Green Arrow series, # 75, would feature Ollie's proposal. Then there was the four-issue Black Canary mini-series - guest-starring Green Arrow! - in which Dinah would ponder the question and eventually deliver her answer. Not to take too much suspense away from that - like there was any to begin with - we then heard about the Black Canary: Wedding Planner one-shot, followed by the Justice League of America: Wedding Special and then finally the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special. And finally, we were told, there would be a brand new Green Arrow/Black Canary ongoing series, following the wedding specials.

Which was all well and good - except for the contrived part - until cover images for the early issues of the GA/BC ongoing started getting shown. Without getting too far into the complicated history of either character, suffice it to say that middle-aged "lady's man" Oliver Queen has at least one illegitimate child that he knows of: a son, Connor Hawke. During the time Ollie was dead - like I said, complicated - Connor took over the Green Arrow title (and comic) during a period in which both Marvel and DC were attempting - mostly unsuccessfully, in the long run - to replace their graying characters with younger versions. After Ollie's return from the dead, both father and son held onto the Green Arrow name, and are best buddies, to boot ("ahhhh"). Which brings us back to those GA/BC covers... all of which show Dinah and Connor on them!

The most obvious conclusions to draw from this odd turn-of-events were that the wedding had been called off at the last minute, Ollie had died in the process, or *cringe* possibly Connor had swept in and stolen his old man's lady right out of the church, in the grand tradition of Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross in The Graduate! (OK, so in the movie it was actually a guy stealing his former lover's daughter from her betrothed, but close enough. People are nutty sometimes, eh?) Before long, speculation raged that the new groom wasn't actually killed, but just incapacitated, such that Mrs Oliver Queen and son-in-law Connor would team up to track down his attacker(s). Based on the final page of the GA/BC Wedding Special (shown above), that appears to be what's going on. I mean, sure, that looks fatal (arrow in the neck and all that), but c'mon, the guy's already returned from the dead once! What's a little mortal wound to someone like that?

And the ending could've been a big surprise, if DC had simply withheld the covers for the upcoming series, or used iconic images of the two leads, or simply showcased Dinah and indicated that the first story arc was all about her. Instead, the way they chose to go, that final page had all the impact of a wet noodle.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Bottom Of The Ninth Disaster

Once again, I had the 'pleasure' of watching the Jays blow a big ninth inning lead, this time a 4-0 lead over the Yankees in New York. Halliday was on the mound once again, trying to get yet another complete game victory - because, with the Jays' bullpen, what starter would ever want to hand over the ball before the game's over? - and thanks to two straight fielding errors by Aaron Hill, the Yankees managed to score 4 runs and tie it up, sending it to the 10th inning. I suppose Jays fans should celebrate the fact that the team didn't lose the game in the 9th, just the lead (for a change).

I'm sure the only fans more disgusted than the Jays' contingent right now are the ones in Boston! With the Red Sox leading in the 9th of their game, this could've been the night when they added a full game to their oh-so slender lead atop the AL East. And I suppose they still could, but it seems unlikely after that bottom of the 9th in New York.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Man Always Worth Listening To

There's an Alan Moore interview up at Infoshop News that gives you an excellent sense of how the man thinks. I know that many readers of this blog don't care about comics, and thus have probably never heard of Alan Moore outside of my blog, but how can you not be intrigued about a man who says:

"This is one of the things about anarchy: if we were to take out all the leaders tomorrow, and put them up against a wall and shoot them— and it’s a lovely thought, so let me just dwell on that for a moment before I dismiss it—but if we were to do that, society would probably collapse, because the majority of people have had thousands of years of being conditioned to depend upon leadership from a source outside themselves. That has become a crutch to an awful lot of people, and if you were to simply kick it away, then those people would simply fall over and take society with them. In order for any workable and realistic state of anarchy to be achieved, you will obviously have to educate people—and educate them massively—towards a state where they could actually take responsibility for their own actions and simultaneously be aware that they are acting in a wider group: that they must allow other people within that group to take responsibility for their own actions."

He goes on to talk about fascism and anarchy, and has this to say about each:

"Fascism is a complete abdication of personal responsibility. You are surrendering all responsibility for your own actions to the state on the belief that in unity there is strength, which was the definition of fascism represented by the original roman symbol of the bundle of bound twigs. Yes, it is a very persuasive argument: “In unity there is strength.” But inevitably people tend to come to a conclusion that the bundle of bound twigs will be much stronger if all the twigs are of a uniform size and shape, that there aren’t any oddly shaped or bent twigs that are disturbing the bundle. So it goes from “in unity there is strength” to “in uniformity there is strength” and from there it proceeds to the excesses of fascism as we’ve seen them exercised throughout the 20th century and into the 21st."


"Now anarchy, on the other hand, is almost starting from the principle that “in diversity, there is strength,” which makes much more sense from the point of view of looking at the natural world. Nature, and the forces of evolution—if you happen to be living in a country where they still believe in the forces of evolution, of course —did not really see fit to follow that “in unity and in uniformity there is strength” idea. If you want to talk about successful species, then you’re talking about bats and beetles; there are thousands of different varieties of different bat and beetle. Certain sorts of tree and bush have diversified so splendidly that there are now thousands of different examples of this basic species. Now you contrast that to something like horses or humans, where there’s one basic type of human, and two maybe three basic types of horses. In terms of the evolutionary tree, we are very bare, denuded branches. The whole program of evolution seems to be to diversify, because in diversity there is strength."

Maybe it's just me, but I could read the man's words all day long...

Top Five Video Games

Fellow blogger Sean Twist is currently showcasing his Top Five Video Games of the Last Five Years (he's done #s 5 and 4 so far). Never one to shy away from shamelessly stealing a blog topic from elsewhere, I figured I might produce my own list. In my case, it's simply the Top Five Video Games, since I've only really been playing them for about eight years now, as hard as that may be to believe if you've been one of the many to suffer at my hands in a First Person Shooter (and yes, that was a joke).

5) Unreal Tournament (PC):

I can still hear the unmistakable "head shot!" voice-over that rewarded you whenever you made that perfect cranial contact in this way-too-fun online offering. With one of the deadliest-ever rocket launchers in gaming history - if you timed it right, you could fire six rockets at once, and effect a mini nuclear detonation! - it was the perfect game for a noob like me, especially if I wanted to piss off a much better player who'd been trash-talking up to that point.

4) Star Wars Jedi Knight (Dark Forces II) (PC):

This was the one that got me into video games (for the first time; in my 30s!). You can read all about it here. As they say, you never quite forget your first time!

3) Aliens Vs Predator (PC):

I finally ventured into the online gaming community with AVP, and it opened up possibilities that I'd never imagined up to that point. Things like: you can play against opponents way tougher than any A.I. that come with the game, you can chat with those hardcore folk while you try to kill them, and you can even play 12 to 16 hours straight, if your wife goes out of town to visit her mother! Ironically, I picked up this game at Future Shop as a total impulse purchase, simply because I saw the cover and thought it'd be cool to play against the Aliens from one of my favourite movie franchises. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay later, that turned out to be $40 very well spent!

2) Resistance: Fall of Man (PS/3):

Speaking of money well spent, this $70 game paid for itself many times over, by the time I'd played through the offline game twice and worked myself up from Private to Supreme Commander over the course of several months. This was one of the few games I've ever played online where I'd say that I actually achieved some above-average skill. I was soon able to consistently finish in the top third of any game I played, and often in the top 10%. And of course it was a treat having all those evenings where Boneman and I would spend an hour or two killing Chimera and humans... or trying to get our headsets to work!

1) Battlefield 1942/Vietnam (PC):

It was a close call between this and R:FoM, but I've got to give the nod to the Battlefield series. The work gang met up online every Wednesday night for nearly a year, just on the strength of BF:1942 and BF:Vietnam. And will I ever forget the night that we practiced jumping from one helicopter to another (without dying)? Or the recording we made of one of our sessions, that we then played back on a projector at work, while we all laughed so hard that we almost cried? Or my amazing ability to fly helicopters in every single way, as long as it didn't involve landing? Those were some great memories that simply had to make this my all-time favourite game (OK, I cheated and it's 2 games... but it seemed like one long, happy experience!)

Honourable mention goes to Ratchet & Clank (PS/2) for the long hours Vicki and I spent hunting gold bolts (after finishing the game once already), Ico (PS/2) for its amazing visuals and challenging puzzles, and Halo/Halo 2 for the incredible fun that Tammy and I had playing each in Co-operative Mode.

[Edit Jan 19/08: My enjoyment of Half Life 2: The Orange Box on the XBox 360 has reminded me that I foolishly omitted Half Life 2 - on the PC - from my honourable mentions above. It definitely would fit in my Top 10 somewhere.]

Working From Home Tomorrow

One of the side effects of my (uncharacteristically) hectic pace at work recently is that I find myself with several action items that I've had no time to complete. In the past, I've found that the best solution to that situation is to schedule a work-from-home day, since my productivity at working on stand-alone items goes through the roof when I'm not being interrupted or allowing myself to drawn into conversations. So that's what tomorrow is looking like.

I already have one "interruption" planned: a 9:30 phone call with someone to cover off something we couldn't fit in today, face-to-face. But other than that, and the occasional Messenger conversation that I'm sure I'll have, it should be heads-down on a few things that other people are waiting on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Red Sox Nation Has Seen This Before

With the Jays having just completed a 3-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, and the potential that the Yankees will move a mere 1.5 games out of first place (behind Boston) with a win tonight, this is a scenario that has played out many times before in the history of these two storied franchises.

However, as I recently pointed out to Bosox fan Boneman, it's just not the same anymore since Boston came back from a 3-0 series deficit in 2004 to beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, and then went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals and take their first World Series title in nearly 90 years. I mean, if you're living in the present, it's still disheartening to see your team blow what was a 11-game lead (?) not that long ago, but you're also only three years past a world championship. So it's painful, but it's not painful!

If I Yawn, Don't Assume That You're Boring Me!

Each of the last four or five nights has seen me waking up between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep. One of the nights I even got up, went out to our family room, and read a small stack of comics. By the time I was on the last one, I was yawning my head off, so I turned the light back off, laid back down... and couldn't sleep for another hour or more! Prior to this bout, I'd been sleeping pretty well, and was attributing it to having gotten back into a good biking routine. Now that reasoning has been shot down, though, as I'm still biking up a storm and yet not getting nearly enough sleep (probably five hours per night).

I suppose I could always adopt the attitude of that old expression: "I'll have time enough to sleep when I'm dead!" But in the meantime, I end up going into work tired and have lately been doing a lot of yawning at the office, and in the early evenings at home. All of which you'd think would mean that I'd start sleeping better.. but so far, no luck.

A couple co-workers/friends mentioned at lunch today that they'd heard or read recently that humans used to have two (shorter) sleep cycles per night. That's me, except that I can't seem to kick the second one off until just before the alarm goes off (if at all)!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In The Blink Of An Eye

Someone at work recommended that I read the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, after I'd posted on my work blog about my tendency to see solutions to problems simultaneous with the discovery of the problem in the first place. In other words, I often don't seem to require much in the way of processing time before arriving at some sort of solution, whereas - it seems - some people use techniques such as talking to others, sleeping on it, or searching out information (such as on the Internet). Another someone - our very own Man from Mars - was then kind enough to lend me Gladwell's book, along with his earlier Tipping Point work.

I'm only about 40 pages in so far, but I'm definitely into Blink. Author Gladwell presents some amazing evidence about the power of, as he describes it, those first two seconds after you're presented with something. I'm sure I'll be sharing all kinds of interesting stuff from it, but the single most fascinating section so far involved a study of married couples.

A scientist that Gladwell interviewed had been doing research for decades on the success rate of marriages. He had videotaped hundreds (thousands?) of couples, each one having a 15-minute conversation (just the two of them) on some topic that the couple disagreed upon. In one example, the couple had recently gotten a dog, and the wife was happy with how that was going, while the husband was not. The researcher simply instructed the two to talk about that situation, while they were recorded.

Anyone watching the tape afterwards would say that they appeared to be a perfectly normal couple. At no point did either raise his or her voice at the other, nor were there any long silences or other obvious signs of anger. But the researcher had long since come to the realization that there were four things to look for in the interactions between a husband and wife in order to predict - with an accuracy rate of 90%! - whether they would still be married 15 years later or not. Those four things were: defensiveness, stone-walling, criticism and contempt. Some combination of those factors was enough to tell the researcher what the outcome would be. More specifically, though, he discovered that he could focus solely on contempt, and found that in couples where one or both of them displayed contempt toward the other, divorce was almost certain (again, with 90% accuracy). Once he and his students learned to spot the signs of contempt - eye rolling, certain facial expressions, certain phrases - they could then take any short clip from the 15-minute recording, and using only those few seconds, make their prediction and still maintain their 90% accuracy!

I found this amazing, because I've never understood how couples ever stay together where there's an absence of mutual respect, and here was scientific proof that they generally don't! Like so much of what Gladwell writes about in Blink, my mind was giving me information at an unconscious level - "how can these two ever last when he clearly treats her like she's an empty headed bimbo?" - that I was doubting because the evidence in front of me - they were still together - contradicted it. Things like divorce don't happen overnight, though.

When I mentioned this little nugget to Vicki, she immediately responded by telling me how she's never felt contempt from me on any topic, but she often observes it happening between friends of ours, especially when they're out in public. I can't even grasp why anyone would marry a person who they don't have great respect for, but I guess there's plenty of evidence that it happens... a lot!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Farce Explained

I'm not a big fan of the farce, whether it be on stage or in screen form (God forbid that there's such a thing as a book farce!) although I can't honestly say that I've never enjoyed one. Vicki and I saw one at a local theatre within the last year - I don't remember the name, but chances are you wouldn't recognize it even if I did - and while it didn't rock my world, I had a fine enough time at it. And yet something about the structure of such offerings has always seemed off to me, making me reluctant to seek one out or proclaim that I like them.

So of course leave it to Neil Gaiman to succinctly sum up the formula of the farce, such that I can finally understand what I don't understand:

"Good farce is a fascinating artform -- things have to happen cumulatively in exactly the right way, and they have to build to a point where expected disasters happen in unexpected ways while unexpected reverses happen in satisfyingly expected ways -- one opening lie, or deception, or error has to ricochet and build through the plot, repercussing and causing more lies, more doors to open and close. I'd love to create a farce one day, but suspect I don't quite have the head for it."

You and me both, Neil. But at least now I sort of get the structure of what had previously seemed like simply a mixture of chaos and coincidence.

Episode Description For Heroes Season Two Premiere Now Out

For those who just can't wait until one week from right now, you can read a not-too-spoilerish description of season premiere "Four Months Later" right here.

Sounds like it has all the good bits we've come to know and expect from Hiro, Peter Petrelli, Claire and the rest of the super-types each week.

Just seven more days to go, people!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Buffy # 6 And The Passing References

As much as I enjoyed Joss Whedon's first five issues of the Buffy Season Eight comic series, I'm starting to wonder if I may just end up liking Brian K. Vaughan's even more! If BKV's first issue, # 6's "No Future For You Part 1," is anything to go by, it looks like he's going to yank the ball right out of the park, just as he does every month in his excellent Ex Machina series.

There's just something about the "other" slayer Faith that's always made her intrinsically more interesting to me than Buffy ever was. Whedon and crew did a great job of adding some figurative meat to the little blonde bombshell's personality over her seven TV seasons, but Faith was intriguing from the moment she arrived on the scene. And her rehabilitation, in the second (?) season of Angel, brought her back into the Scooby fold without diluting her rebelliousness or in-your-face attitude. I've always thought that Faith provided the BtVS writers with a canvas on which to draw the pictures they didn't dare tackle with Buffy, and they've really made the most of that opportunity over the years. I suspect we'll see more of the same in this arc.

Here, Vaughan does an impressive job capturing the voices of both Faith and former Watcher Rupert Giles. I can actually hear the characters speaking in this issue, moreso than even in the Joss Whedon stories that kicked the series off. The interior art is good, although it only occasionally captures the alternate slayer's eyes, which are certainly *ahem* among her more identifiable features. The spray-painting cover by Jo Chen (shown above), on the other hand, totally nails Faith (and I'm not even going to touch that line... I'm a happily-married man, after all!)

While the entire setup is unashamedly a send-up of My Fair Lady, the book is absolutely riddled with plenty more of the traditional pop culture references we've come to know and love from the Buffyverse. I won't attempt to note them all, but my favourites included:
  • Invoking the augers of "the great bearded wizard of Northampton" which can only be a nod in the general direction of incomparable comic scribe Alan Moore
  • Use of "You can't have any pudding if you don't eat your meat" as attributed to a "wise man," known to many as Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd (and The Wall) fame
  • Faith's misinterpretation of "subterfuge and cunning" as instruction to "go downtown on this chick" (perhaps she thought Giles was calling for a Cunning Linguist?)
  • Xander's comparison of himself to Escape from New York's Snake Plissken as he ruthlessly intimidated a punching bag
  • One-eyed Xander further pandering to the pop cultists by calling his shabby workout area "the ol' Danger Room," as if he were perhaps another X-adorned hero, Prof Xavier himself

All in all, this comic was a joy to read, and my eagerness for the rest of the story can only be classified as "five by five."

Another Rat Joins The Race

Tomorrow morning, beloved daughter Tammy enters the ranks of the full-time employed for the first time, at the tender age of twenty.

We're not sure if she's going to follow in the pattern of her mother, whose first 'grown up' job lasted for over twenty-five years, or me, who's been continuously employed for over twenty-one years (and counting) despite working for four or five different companies over that span. In other words, the family hasn't exactly been draining the Employment Insurance doles to date. Whatever the case may be for Tammy's future, I just hope she'll enjoy her new chosen vocation.

A Bad Time To Be Named 'Tony Stark'

Yes. Yes it is.

Despite being at the head of the victorious side of this year's Civil War event, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark has been on a bit of rough streak of late. It probably all started to come apart for him when his longtime friend, and opponent in the aforementioned Marvel event, Captain America, was killed after being taken into custody. The living legend's death has to be hung, at least partially, on his former teammate's head, all things considered. And there's at least some indication that Stark feels that awful weight bearing down on him, even as he struggles to figure out what to do with Steve Rogers' shield and outfit.

Speaking of responsibility that he doesn't want to own up to, there's the fact that Stark, along with Reed Richards, Black Bolt and others, sent the Hulk off-planet before Civil War even started, and that group appears to have caused the deaths of an entire planet as a result, including the Hulk's new bride and their unborn child! That's gotta hurt! But maybe not as much as the beating ol' Greenskin just laid on Iron Man in the World War Hulk mini-series, as payback for both the exile and mass murder.

As if that weren't enough, last week Thor # 3 arrived on the stands and showcased a similar smack-down falling on Stark's head, this time at the hands of the newly-reborn Thunder God. Besides being pissed at what Iron Man had perpetrated on many of their mutual friends with the introduction of the Superhuman Registration Act, the Asgardian also had a legitimate gripe about having his own genetic code abused by Tony Stark in the creation of a faux-Thor who was part clone, part android (yeah, I don't get it either). The son of Odin showed his disapproval by knocking the armoured one's ass through a few buildings, and then called up a natural electromagnetic pulse to fry the red-and-gold Avenger's suit.

And that's not even taking into consideration that the villianous Ultron has taken over the Extremis technology that currently powers Tony's armour, apparently killing Stark in the process, over in the pages of The Mighty Avengers. (No self-respecting fan believes that he's really dead, but at the very least any death and destruction caused by Ultron should also give the industrialist some additional pause once he 'recovers', seeing as all the badness was only possible because of his own invention.)

Definitely a bad run of luck for the poster boy for Good Looks, Intelligence and Money in the Marvel Universe.

To which I say: It couldn't have happened to a better guy!

The Only Other Known Photo, Sans Beard

A cadre of crack researchers have been scouring the archives, looking for another photo of me without my beard. Apparently this is all that exists.

See? I was good looking once!

(Sadly, I've never sported a good 'do.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Fun Fact That Might Surprise You

Despite comic prices having risen over the past decade - at a rate that's probably higher than inflation - I actually spend less on new comics each week than I did ten years ago. Around the end of the 90s, I was averaging close to $60 per week on my Wednesday trips to the comic store, whereas these days I seem to hover within the $40 - $50 range.

Now, it doesn't take a genius to deduce that either I've taken to shoplifting some of my weekly haul or I've simply reduced how many 'pamphlets' I come home with. And of course it's the latter. I use a little system that's worked well for me over the last several years: after cataloguing the new (and unread) comics, I stack them in the order in which I intend to read them, which is usually best-to-worst as top-to-bottom. I keep my eye out for titles that consistently end up at the end of the pile, month to month, and will usually stop collecting that title once I notice that pattern. It's sort of synonymous to what I've read of General Electric's (previous?) policy of "rank and yank," where the bottom 10% of the work force would be fired every year, and replaced by new staff. Except that I'm not actively replacing yanked titles - just buying ones I like or ones that I hear good things about - and, umm, there aren't actual people losing their jobs in my scenario. Because that would be nasty.

Why I Love "The Sinestro Corps War"

Green Lantern # 23 (shown here), which I just finished reading, is roughly the halfway mark through "The Sinestro Corps War" event that's running between that title and Green Lantern Corps right now. It's been a Hell of a ride already, and there's still a long way to go!

Geoff Johns is really showcasing his ability to leverage DCU history to tell new and exciting tales here. Instead of re-treading storylines, as some current writers seem to be doing, he's crafting new epics that pay homage to what's gone before without relying any prior knowledge of them. As one of my favourite Blog @ Newsarama writers noted over a month ago, Johns is incorporating lots and lots of little bits of lore from Green Lantern issues past, but he's doing it in such a way as to reward those who recognize them without punishing those who don't. That's a very difficult trick to pull off, but I'm seeing it done again and again in this great 'little' event.

In fact, if I were an eight year old kid today, reading GL and GLC each month, I'm pretty sure that I'd be able to follow what's going on, while at the same time sensing that there's a larger backdrop that the story's being told against. That was exactly my reaction, after all, when I read Avengers # 93 in 1971, and thrilled to the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams masterpiece in which someone named Ant Man shrunk himself down so he could travel inside an android called the Vision, to determine what had caused the malfunction of that synthezoid (hey, that's one of the words they used!) Also to be found in that classic issue were the alien races, the Kree and the Skrull, who apparently were at war with each other, with Earth simply serving as a convenient beachhead in their battle. Somehow I just knew that both those races had appeared before, and I even had the audacity to dream I might someday read those adventures!

Those are the sorts of feelings and memories that this current cross-over stirs in me. I'm sure somewhere out there in the blogosphere readers are opining that "The Sinestro Corps War" isn't accessible enough, or that only the over-30 crowd would ever enjoy it. To them, I say: fah! Get comics like this into the hands of kids around the age I was when I started reading them, and you might just create some new fans for life.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hey, I Just Wrote About This Sort Of Thing!

I just noticed this article about how one of the scenes in the Iron Man trailer was specially created for the trailer, and won't be in the movie. It wasn't that long ago that I was recommending that very approach, albeit for the Watchmen trailer. Maybe Iron Man director Favreau is a reader of my blog??!!

Finally Back In The Groove

After a very spotty biking record all year long - usually relating to wet weather, but sometimes affected by various health issues - I've finally gotten on a nice roll since returning to work after my long vacation. Of the 19 working days over that stretch, I've biked 17 times, including the last 16 workdays in a row. That's more like what I've been used to in years past, especially during the April through October part of the year.

I'm feeling like my legs are back, and while it's certainly not effortless to make the (more uphill) bike ride home, I'm also not having to struggle at it anymore.

It's times like this when I'm most happy about having gotten my act together regarding biking!

Progress Was Made

Last night, after posting a couple of blog entries here, I willed myself to go downstairs and do some work on the Agile book. I made a few touch-ups to the existing chapters - I seem to do that each time I look at them - and then I wrote a new chapter, bringing that total to six, with about 7300 words now written.

As I told Vicki, this was the first material I've written for it that could be considered dicey from a hurt-feelings point-of-view. It's been pretty innocuous up to this point, with the only butt of any jokes tending to be me. In this latest section, though, I poked just a tiny bit of fun at a few un-named individuals and groups at work, in regards to the initial adoption of Agile. I tried to write it in such a way as to not give offense, but of course some people are easily offended! So we'll see how that part goes over, if the book ever gets read by people at work.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kimota94: Empath-At-Large

Today, in a leadership training session at work, one of the activities we were asked to do at the beginning was to write down a skill we believe that we have that helps us in doing our job. Until I heard that last part, I had (seriously) planned to write down "can burp on demand" but ultimately had to admit that my "BOD" talent (as I like to think of it) hasn't really contributed that much to any of my work success.

Instead, the next thing that came to my mind was empathy. I'm not sure that's really a skill - it's probably more of an attribute - but it's definitely something that I think heavily influences my behaviour at the office. I spend a lot of my time these days putting myself figuratively into the shoes of the people on our various Feature Teams, and trying to see things from their perspective. I think that's empathy. And I think it may just be a factor that's missing from many of my management peers, either because they don't spend much time with those folks or because they've been cast in a somewhat-antagonistic role toward those teams (as the Technical Product Owner, or as a Program Manager). Most of them are too busy trying to figure out the particulars of their own roles in our Agile world to be able to spare any time for trying to imagine what the people 'below' them on the Org Chart are going through. (And that's not a blanket statement, as some of them actually do show many signs of empathy.)

And all of that occurred to me in about a second or two, as my hand was poised to write "Can burp on demand" and then had to change course.

Lest Anyone Worry

I did, in fact, make it to the comic store after work today, and was able to get all of my week's 'stories' without incident. I'm sure that more than a few of you spent a sleepless night since last you visited this site, wracked with anxiety over yesterday's shocking events. I certainly didn't want to have anyone similarly concerned and hence burdened by yet another night of tossing and turning, so I thought I'd put everyone's mind at ease.

And a special "thank you, brother" call goes out to Tim, whose compassion in this matter can't be under-stated.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Favourite Baseball Player

I've decided that my favourite player among the current roster of Major League Baseball teams right now is the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter. Not only is he excellent as both an infielder and at the plate, but he's the consummate professional every time I've watched him. When things go wrong, he's got the same look on his face as when they're going well. I've never seen him showboat, mock an opposing player, or even get particularly animated over a close call. And yet you only have to watch him once or twice to realize he's totally into the game at all times. Anyone who might think he's simply indifferent or mentally counting his millions while standing on the field should review that play last season when he ran into the crowd to make the catch on a foul ball at a critical juncture, and then emerged with a big cut on his face for his troubles. I happened to be watching that game and almost jumped out of my seat when he did that.

As professional athletes continue to decline in terms of personal conduct and appropriateness as role models, Jeter stands out like a much-needed sore thumb. I'm sure there are ball players who are better technically than Jeter, and maybe even a few who are finer human beings than he is... but I can't think of anyone that's as good a combination of the two as Derek. (And I'm not even much of a Yankees fan.)

You Know You've Had A Busy Day When...

At 6:05 p.m. today, while still at my desk at work, I suddenly realized that it was Wednesday, after 6:00, and I hadn't biked to the comic store to pick up this week's pile of four-colour shenanigans (the comic store closes at 6:00 on Wednesdays). The sinking feeling that overwhelmed me then was not unlike what a parent might experience, upon remembering that he or she was supposed to pick their child up from soccer practice about an hour ago! Except, of course, that this involved something at least a gabillion times more important than the social schedule of some stupid kid!

I missed buying my comics for the week!

Now, I'm sure there are one or two people out there reading this - perhaps a fan, still recovering from a severe blow to the head, or possibly someone who only landed on this website after mistyping "kimono" into a search field - who don't quite get the significance of this occurrence. "What's the big deal?" they might ask, in their quaint, please-don't-euthanize-me-for-being-stupid way. For them, because I truly, deeply care, here's the (as they say) "big deal." The fact that I forgot, for most of the afternoon, that it was Comic Day means:
  1. I was busy at a level I almost never allow myself to be because bad things like this happen!
  2. My memory's not as good as it used to be, because back in the day I'd never lose sight of something as important as there being new comics to buy!
  3. I'm booked into meetings solidly from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. tomorrow, leaving no time to address this horrendous situation before late in the day... by which time, some of the stuff I want may have been bought by other people.. who aren't me!!
  4. I feel all out of whack tonight, since my entire body knows that I screwed up.
  5. There is no 5th item on this list, but no one will have read it this far to figure that out.

So if you see me tomorrow and I look all out of sorts, you'll know why.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You Read It Here First

When Boneman and I were talking about the Super Series-ending concussion that New York Rangers draft pick Alexei Cherepanov suffered a couple weeks ago, I inadvertantly coined a name for him that could certainly stick if this turns out to be a sign of things to come. Or I suppose it could be applied to any of his countrymen, were they to find themselves in that situation.

The name?

The Russian Concussion.

Does that sound like a label with some serious staying power, or what?

(And of course when I just now searched on those two words, I discovered the following entry in the Urban Dictionary, typos and all:

"A Russian concussion is when you splooge into someones ear while their sleeping, and tape it up. Then when they wake their equilibrium is all off quilter like they had a concussion"

where "splooge" apparently involves the usual ejaculative material of a liquid variety. You gotta wonder what the world would be like if all that creative energy were used for good.)

One Of The Worst Comics I've Read All Year

I tend to pick up almost any mini-series that has Batman in it, because I like the character that much. The Dark Knight is rife with potential to be interpreted in lots of interesting ways, as has been shown by the likes of Denny O'Neil & Neal Adams, Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers, Alan Moore & Brian Bolland, Frank Miller, and so many others. I almost never regret any such purchase, because there's nearly always something good to be found within its pages.

Not so much, Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious # 1 (of 2). This is garbage. I actually regret the fact that trees were sacrificed in the production of this piece of crap more than I bemoan the fact that I wasted $7.25 on it. Sam Kieth both wrote and drew the steaming pile of crud of which I speak; I'd always known that I was no fan of his artwork, and now I understand that he similarly can't write his way out of a paper bag. The Batman on display within these pages did not, to put it mildly, even resemble the character I've read in any of a thousand other comics. And even that could be OK - Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns was unique, and original, after all - if there were anything at all to recommend this buffoon. He's stunned, ineffective, unmoved by any of the violence perpetrated around him, and seemingly only along to sucker people like me into buying the comic.

As for the other 'star' of the book: you'd think that by now I'd know that almost anything with Lobo in it is going to be crap. But even against that low bar, this comic's excrement.

The funny thing is that the concluding issue is due out soon (maybe next week?) and I'd almost decided to wait and read both issues together. Fortunately I happened to pick up # 1 tonight as I worked my way through the unread pile, as otherwise I wouldn't have known any better! Now, not only will I not be buying the second issue, but I'll steer clear of anything with Sam Kieth's name on it. This guy's pure poison, if this comic's anything to go by.

Six Years Ago, The World Changed

And not for the better.

If someone had told you, on the evening of Sept 11th, 2001, that six years later we'd have long known who was responsible for orchestrating the four attacks made earlier that day, and yet he was still on the loose and releasing videos every once in awhile, you'd never have believed it. Or at least, I wouldn't have. Wasn't the U.S. the country that we'd been lead to believe could track a person by satellite no matter where they went on the planet? Weren't the Americans rumoured to have Black Ops departments that had been behind clandestine assassinations all around the world over the past thirty or forty years? How could we begin to conceive that the # 1 "super power" would be made to look like morons by a guy in a sheet, hiding out in the hills of Afghanistan? Or that they'd instead target a completely different country, with no ties to the 9/11 extremists, and mire themselves in an unwinnable war there, at a cost of thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of civilian lives in that country?

Not to mention how impossible it would've been to believe that so much goodwill would be squandered by America over those six years. But maybe a Democrat will get elected next year and the country will start to recover. One can only hope at this point.

Learning New Things, Every Day

Yesterday I learned that the correct expression, when describing someone who got what they deserved, is "just deserts," not "just desserts" as I'd always thought it to be (this revelation was courtesy of PeterJ's blog).

Today I learned that we really can get a strong enough set of wind gusts in September to flip our outdoor (and heavy) glass table over, breaking its surface into thousands of pieces of glass on our back deck. And more interestingly, I also learned that the table was made of some sort of safety glass, which you can handle in bits without cutting yourself. This naturally made the clean-up that we just completed ("in the dark," which is to say, with the help of outdoor lights) considerably easier and less painful than it would've been with regular glass. We filled six plastic bags with the pieces that were whisked up, plus there's still the Shop Vac's contents to deal with, when we've got the energy (i.e. tomorrow or on the weekend).

I'd be tempted to say that the destruction of our patio table was an example of us receiving our "just deserts," except that I don't think we did anything to deserve it. Sometimes shit just happens.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Toronto Blue Jays? Yeah, They Suck This Year!

Just watched the Jays blow yet another 3-run, bottom of the 9th lead, to lose 5-4 in Detroit (impressively repeating the 'achievement' they'd pulled off just 2 days ago in Tampa). Tonight the team from Toronto actually got the first 2 outs in the 9th, had no Tigers on base, and then could do nothing but serve up hits and walks, for about five or six batters in a row. That's bad baseball! And once again Roy Halladay was unable to get his 15th win of the season, despite pitching a pretty good - but not great - game.

Well, at least Boneman - who was inexplicably at Comerica for the game - was treated to an entertaining match.

Hopefully the eight teams who make the postseason this year will be considerably more talented than the 2007 version of the Toronto Blew Leads.

Indy 4 Has A Title... And A Logo!

Man from Mars doesn't like the title but how can you not adore that retro logo? It's the 1980s all over again, people!

Writer's Block... Not.

I haven't written a single word (or any married words) for The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (theoretical) book of mine in a week now. It's not a matter of being blocked, but rather one of finding the time when I can "get in the groove." Unlike professional writers, or even the amateur types who exhibit more discipline than me, I tend not to write except when I'm in the mood for it.

That'd be no way to behave if I was doing this for a living, but the reality is: I'm not. I have a full-time job, and it pays better than any writing gig ever would for a person of my dubious authoring abilities. When I write, it's for me. So when I've got too many other things on the go to be able to slow down, breathe, and focus on writing, I just don't. And I've decided that I'm not going to beat myself up over it, either. I hope to be back at it soon - later this week, even - but it'll happen when it happens.

Hopefully He's Only An Ass Before The Accident

The Iron Man trailer that wowed folks at the San Diego Comic Con back in July is now available online. I like what I see, although I hope that Tony Stark's not quite that big of a horse's ass all through the movie. I'm OK if he learns a bit of humility as a result of the 'accident' that forces him to build his armour, but I'd hate to think he's being portrayed as a smart-mouthed jerk even after he puts on the metal. I guess I'll have to wait until May 2, 2008 to find out for sure.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Latest Purchase

It was an odd set of coincidences, to be sure: From Hell artist Eddie Campbell, whose blog I visit most days, happened to post last week that the original artwork for his Black Diamond Detective Agency one-shot from earlier this year - which I'd bought on the strength of his blog postings about it alone, and really enjoyed - was now available for purchase. Not only that, but despite the fact that Eddie lives in Australia, the pages were being sold through The Beguiling, a Toronto comic store. And, to cap it all off, Vicki and I just happened to be planning to be in Toronto this weekend, helping Tammy with some errands at her new apartment. Throw all of those facts into a blender, turn the switch to Puree, and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I'd come home with at least one new page of original artwork for the collection (shown here).

Since the dialogue was added by Mr Campbell on a computer (rather than pasted on to the page itself as used to happen), and on the off-chance someone viewing this would like to know what's being said on this particular page, here are the contents of the various word balloons:

Panel 1: "Frank Reno! Yup. That's him all right."

Panel 2: "I'll tidy it up for engraving and get it to the boss first thing tomorrow."

"He can decide just how he 'WANTS' Mr Reno."

Panel 3: "It's turned cold."

Panel 4: "I'd say the snow's coming."

Panel 7: "We can walk to my lodgings from here."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Back On The Air

Vicki and I just within the past hour returned from the megalopolis known as Toronto, where we left Tammy safely in her 400 sq ft apartment, slightly better off than when we got there. The three of us hung up some pictures on her walls, got her bed and couches fixed up so that they're considerably less likely to fall over if you look at them wrong, and made it so that her DVD player does audio as well as video! Still no Internet when we left, though, thanks to the incomparable incompetence of Rogers Cable. They knew she was moving cities, they knew she had a modem from them and wanted Internet at her new apartment, and they sent a service person this morning to hook up cable and Internet for her. And yet somehow the dope left without telling us that there was a problem 'relocating' the modem (meaning, I'm guessing, that some archaic database deep within the bowels of the Rogers mainframe can't easily be updated by the nice keypunch monkeys working the phones). Hopefully she can get over that last hurdle by herself, since she still has this upcoming week off before her new job starts on the 17th.

Having said all that, I'm happy to be back home, getting ready to sleep in my own bed, and with Sunday wide open for some rest and relaxation!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Movie Quiz Over At The Studio

90%The Movie Quiz - Movie Reviews

That, and lots of other fun stuff, can be found at The Studio Has a Few Notes, including insights into what I think makes a movie great! Who wouldn't want to read about that?

Possibly Off The Grid For A Couple Of Days

Sometime tomorrow night the Family Three is off to Tammy's new apartment in Toronto for a good chunk of the weekend, where there is no Internet access as of yet. A connection to the Information SuperMarket may appear at some point while we're there, but it also might not. So you may not hear much from me over the next couple of days. Don't say I didn't warn you!

More Proof Of Moore's Genius

I sometimes forget that there are still (lots of) people on this planet who don't appreciate just how amazing a writer Alan Moore is. He's been at or near the top of my list - of best writers, period - since about a year or two after he started writing comics for DC (in the early to mid-80s). As far as I'm concerned, he's unquestionably the Wayne Gretzky of comic writing, existing at a level that no one else comes close to or ever will.

And then I read this little essay by acclaimed Science Fiction/Fantasy author Michael Moorcock, in which Mr Moorcock eloquently sums up exactly what sets Alan apart from the rest, and I realize that the creator of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen truly is in a league all his own.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

One Month From Right Now...

... I hope that Vicki, Tammy and I (and maybe buddy Tim, if he can make it happen and remembers to get himself a ticket before they sell out) will be in Toronto at Lee's Palace, thrilling to the live magic of Magnolia Electric Company! This'll be the third such concert for Vicki and I, but Tammy will be a first-timer... and she's still not even convinced that she'll like it!

With the huge recent catalogue of songs for MEC to build a playlist from, I have no idea what to expect. But no matter what they offer up, I'm sure it'll be a fantastic evening. I can hardly wait.

Amazons Attack, Readers React!

Well, the war is over now, and all that remains is the crying.

And the bitching.

And the moaning.

And the gnashing of teeth.

And those aren't just my reactions, as it turns out!

This Blog @ Newsarama article links to a few locations where the mini-series is being discussed, in less-than-glowing terms. Among the most egregious sins perpetrated by the six issues of Amazons Attack, say I and others, are:

  1. Many innocent people died, and yet no justice was served.

  2. Despite it being a six-issue mini-series, the story didn't actually end within its pages ("It's not over yet," we're told, as though that's somehow a good thing)

  3. The mystery villainess revealed to be behind it all came completely out of left field, with no explanation as to how she could've possibly overcome an actual goddess (Athena) in order to pull off what she did

  4. No sane person, having picked up this series on spec in order to get a sense of "what comics are like" would ever, ever want to read another one!

And that's not even touching the many minor quibbles I have, like the fact that Batman's apparently clever enough to arrange to have a spell handy to take the sorceress Circe out of commission for an hour... and doesn't do anything during that hour to make sure she doesn't get back into the battle? Or that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are always meeting up, in private scenes, and referring to each other by their superhero identities instead of "Clark," "Bruce" or "Diana."

In the end, while I wouldn't call it the "most damaging, worst Wonder Woman story ever" (as one fan did), I'd certainly be willing to label it a steaming pile of crud. Five years hence, after DC has righted their ship and gotten it back on course, will we look back on Amazons Attack as the low point during the Dark Years? Or is there still worse to come? God, I hope it doesn't get any more artistically-bankrupt than this!