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Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Good Moment

Today I had the pleasant experience of telling a friend - who clearly doesn't read this blog! - that the Agile book which I'd apparently last mentioned to him many months ago when it was still just a kernel of an idea in my head was not only written, but was also in the process of going through some draft revisions. He was visibly surprised - and, I think, impressed! - to hear that it had gone that far, as I'm sure he probably thought that I'd abandoned the whole notion without ever doing anything about it.

That subsequently lead us into a discussion about setting goals, and how I've tended in recent years to only set goals that are completely under my control. As an example of what I mean, if my goal with this Agile book had been to sell 50,000 copies, that would clearly be a very difficult target for me to know that I could hit going into the exercise. Even if I wrote the absolute best Agile book that I had it in me to produce, it might still only sell 100 copies. There's just not a whole lot that I could do to make that higher number a reality, if there simply weren't enough people interested in buying it. Instead, the kind of goal that I prefer is the one where it's all up to me to accomplish something that's theoretically within my grasp. That first year of biking, when I tracked my trips and wanted to bike to work at least 100 times, was all on me to take from dream to reality. Similarly, with this book idea, it's all about actually writing it, and being happy with the results myself, that I'm always focused on.

Maybe that means that I'm a cop-out for not aiming ridiculously high, but I like goals that are achievable while still requiring me to stretch in some direction that interests me. After all, that's what Life's all about, right?

A Little Bit Of Watchmen Talk

Lots of good little tidbits to be found in this article from MTV's movie blog site. When the film in question is Watchmen, how can I not lap it all up with a spoon?

Answer: I simply can't not!

Here's my favourite part:

"The title sequence of this movie is going to be extraordinary. We spent many weeks over the time of the shoot shooting it. That’s going to be a very, very special thing that wasn’t scripted, that will be really empowering."

Need Another Lost Recap?

Courtesy of PeterJ comes this humourous recap of where things stand. Definitely good for a laugh or two.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Cap Makes His Debut

In case you missed the news, Captain America # 34 came out today. Why's that news? Because it featured a new Captain America, replacing the late, lamented Steve Rogers (who, as we all know, died from gunshot wounds nearly a year ago now). I'll hide the identity of the new Cap under a spoiler white-out, in case anyone who reads this blog doesn't want it ruined for them: Cap is now Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, aka Cap's WWII sidekick "Bucky." To be honest, I haven't actually read the issue yet, so that preceding whited out statement has not actually been confirmed by me, but I'm confident enough from the lead-up to this issue to stick my neck out on the topic. I'll certainly post a retraction if it turns out that I'm wrong in my theory/guess, and I'll be sure to read the comic in question shortly (probably later tonight). I just don't expect to be wrong in this case.

Now, that's all well and good, but I remain convinced that this will be a short-term situation. I still expect Steve Rogers to return, as he's just too good of a character for Marvel to waste (even Marvel under Joe Quesada!) In the meantime, though, they'll have their fun with a replacement Cap, and as long as Ed Brubaker's writing the title, I have no complaints!

And whatever else you might say about this development, at least now, after a long absence, there will once more be "a" Captain America appearing in the comic that bears his name! And that's gotta count for something!

Nightwing Gets Another Shot


Way, way back in my first fortnight of blogging, I wrote this post about two comics that I'd just read, one of which impressed, and the other of which... was Nightwing. While not totally slamming the 'Wingster's title back then, I described how it pretty much left me cold. An opportunity to get me interested had been lost.

About six months later, I revisited Dick Grayson's home once again, for a very special Annual that I was looking forward to, and which didn't disappoint. Unfortunately for DC, the regular series was still dead to me.

A few weeks ago, I read that Identity Crisis artist Rags Morales was starting as the regular penciller on Nightwing, at the same time that a new storyline was kicking off along with yet another change in the writing chores for the title (with Peter Tomasi taking over). I really like Rags' artwork and so I figured I'd give the new package a try. I bought it but it was awhile before it bubbled up to the top of my (mounting) unread comic pile.

Last night, I finally read Nightwing # 140 (cover shown here) and much to my delight, it was thoroughly entertaining! I was sucked in right from the opening sequence where Dick Grayson is sky-diving, right through the scenes with Bruce "Batman" Wayne and Tim "Robin" Drake and the new mystery revolving around some grave-robbing, and finally on to the surprise appearance by a certain Man of Steel ("Dick? We need to talk!") At no point did I lose interest or find my thoughts wandering, which always seemed to plague this title in the past. I wouldn't say that it was outstanding, but it was definitely good enough to make me come back for more (# 141's conveniently due out next week!)

At a time when I'm dropping all-things-Spider-Man, it's particularly nice to pick up a DC title, featuring another long-time favourite (geez, Dick Grayson was introduced more than two decades before I was born!) and spend my money on that instead.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Smashing The "Change Code, Break Code" Mindset

One of the mantras at work, for as long as I've been there (7 years now and counting), has been "change code, break code." What that expression espouses is the belief that, anytime you change software, you're likely to break some existing functionality in the process. It's such a deeply-help conviction by many of the old-timers in the office (like me) that it pretty much never gets challenged when it's uttered.

And yet we've got at least one Feature Team who've bought whole-heartedly into Agile, including the importance of automated tests and the practice of re-writing code to make it clearer/more testable/more maintainable. This development has caused me to begin to question "change code, break code." Today, I decided to put it to the test, and I spent most of my day analyzing bug trends among a handful of our teams (including the one in question). What I wanted to see was whether defect-discovery really does go down if you're living by the Agile principles. To accomplish that, I extracted a whole bunch of data from our bug reporting system and produced a spreadsheet showing the "new defect" counts, by Iteration, for a sample set of our Feature Teams.

The results were amazing! For the team that's focused on (and been allowed to focus on) quality, as Agile defines it, there's been a very clear and distinct downward trend to the number of new bugs being found every month. This, despite the fact that the team has re-written huge chunks of their product over that same period, and reduced their code size by about 25% in the process! So much for "change code, break code!"

For every other team that I looked at, the "number of new bugs" trend-line is either flat or moving upwards! In most cases, these teams have been pushed to release more and more features, and as a result either haven't invested in automated tests and code re-writes very much at all, or at best have been able to do so in fits and starts. The difference between the results was even more stark than I'd expected to see.

I couldn't imagine a better sales pitch for the value of placing importance on quality than what I got out of this data-mining! As our Master Coach commented, if we factor in the cost of each defect - in terms of customer dissatisfaction, support time, reporting time, and the allocation of resources to fix the bug instead of adding new features - you'd have to be pretty thick not to see that we're talking about a savings of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars implicit in this approach (considering the # of bugs we're talking about) as compared to what we've done in the past.

I'm hopeful that this data will help bring about some changes, but of course, I've been fooled in that regard before! This could certainly be a whole chapter in another Agile book, if I ever wrote one!

Mainstream Radiohead

I never thought I'd see the day, but based on Vicki's reaction to In Rainbows last night - she actually liked several of the songs when she heard them - I can almost believe that Radiohead has released a mainstream-accessible CD! I'm sure that the purist 'head fans will disown the latest release, if it truly is something that just about anybody can enjoy, because that's the way these things usually go. I'm not even ready to guess yet just how it'll hold up for me by the 40th or 50th listen, but after about 10 plays, I'm digging it in a big way! There's just not a bad track to be found on In Rainbows, and that's pretty impressive.

But I guess the question still remains: is it Radiohead-y enough? And it may not be. I swear several of the songs sound more like U2 than Radiohead, which is something that I don't think I've ever said about any of their previous releases.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Reviews

Vicki's still toiling her valiant way through The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile) but I've started turning my thoughts toward the next (and final) round of reviews. Once Vicki's done, and she and I have translated all of her observations and suggestions into a little something that I like to call "Draft # 3," I'm thinking that I'd like to get three or four people to take version # 3 away and provide me with some feedback. I've already had about double that many offers (thank you all, once again!) so I'll be trying to come up with a short list that affords me the greatest variety of perspectives and styles.

Why limit the number of reviewers so sharply, or at all, for that matter? Well, as I was describing to someone at work today, I'd rather have most people experience "the book" as a book, rather than as a Word doc. Maybe that's a silly reason. But with an expected audience that probably won't much exceed about fifteen readers, I really don't want most of them to have already read it before it's even printed!

And don't worry... there'll be plenty of free copies of the printed version to go around, when we get to that point!

Writers Round Table

I'm always intrigued by stuff like this in which several creators take turns adding just a little bit each to an organic story that's allowed to go wherever "it" chooses. In the preceding case, it's an online comic strip being produced by a group of 7 cartoonists and they chose a murder mystery as their motif. I've also seen it done with a full blown, 12-issue printed comic title called DC Challenge published in the mid-1980s, in which a different creative team produced each issue and had to figure out where to take the story based on where the previous issue left off.

I've long wanted to do something like that for a short story, and may've even mentioned it on this blog, many months ago (can't find the reference now, though). Based on the generally low output being experienced on The Studio collaborative blog of ours, I suspect that it'd be hard to get enough other people to be not only interested but also participatory in any such thing. But I still think it would be fun, if we could ever pull it off..

Telemarketers Beware!

Courtesy of my friend Gianna comes this hilarious YouTube 'video.' The prankster goes a little nutty toward the end, but the first half is definitely brilliant and nothing less than what those pests deserve.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Good Day Of Writing

With the second draft of the Agile book behind me (and that ball firmly in Vicki's court, as she wends her way through all 150 pages of it in edit mode), I spent some time today writing up a review of Syriana over at The Studio, as well as creating Chapter Four of my "Imaginary Stories" serialized tale. The latter is now ready for publication on this very blog in time for the 1400th blog post, in about a week. I knocked off both of them in one sitting each, which is probably as much a reflection of how much writing I've been doing lately as it is of anything else. It's a good habit to be in!

How Serious Is Zack Snyder About The Watchmen Movie?


Well, as you can read about here, pretty serious! In preparation for directing the film, he prepared over 2500 storyboard pages for it, just like the one shown to the left.

With still more than a year to go until the March 6, 2009 premiere, it's going to be a long time before comic fans find out if Snyder's love of the subject matter will really translate into something greater than what we normally get out of comic book movies. If Watchmen turns out to be as good as Batman Begins, I'll be thrilled. If it's as slavishly faithful to the original material as Sin City, I'll be happy. But if it doesn't manage to be considerably better than previous Moore interpretations like V For Vendetta (which was good but not great), From Hell (which didn't really do the comic series justice) or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which was just plain awful), then I'll be disappointed.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On The Road

Tammy lent me another book recently: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. It was Tammy's first foray into post-apocalyptic fiction, I believe, and so she was understandably quite impressed by what it presented and figured that I'd enjoy it, too.

I have to admit that, as I reached the halfway mark of the story, I hadn't really read anything that spoke to me all that much. It's told in a very fragmented, simplistic style, with lots of sentences that aren't (sentences, that is). It has the expected gloomy scenes of the two main characters (father and son, apparently) scrounging for food and shelter in a hellish America shortly after something unspecified has wiped out most human and animal life. There's the obligatory encounter with cannibals who waylay anyone foolish enough to come within their territory, and just day after day after day of miserable existence. It's interesting enough that I want to follow it through to the end, but I haven't found it to be as personally engrossing as, say, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, or as edgy as Harlan Ellison's A Boy and His Dog.

Having said that, though, I recently read a section that absolutely sent shivers through me and brought tears to my eyes. The forlorn pair, on the verge of starvation, happen upon a bomb shelter buried within the yard of a long-abandoned house. Within it, they miraculously find shelf upon shelf of preserved foods in varieties that the boy doesn't even have the vocabulary to name! As they settle in for a short period of salvation, and are about to eat their first real meal in perhaps years, we get the following exchange:

[Man:] Do you feel okay?
[Boy:] Yes.
[Man:] What is it?
[Boy:] Do you think we should thank the people?
[Man:] The people?
[Boy:] The people who gave us all this.
[Man:] Well. Yes, I guess we could do that.
[Boy:] Will you do it?
[Man:] Why don't you?
[Boy:] I don't know how.
[Man:] Yes you do. You know how to say thank you.
The boy sat staring at his plate. He seemed lost. The man was about to speak when he said:
[Boy:] Dear people, thank you for all this food and stuff. We know that you saved it for yourself and if you were here we wouldn't eat it no matter how hungry we were and we're sorry that you didn't get to eat it and we hope that you're safe in heaven with God.
He looked up.
[Boy:] Is that okay?
[Man:] Yes. I think that's okay.


Yeah, now that's a pretty moving scene that I won't forget anytime soon. Thanks, Tammy!

Annnnnd... It's Done

Shortly after noon today, I finished Draft # 2 on the Agile book. I continue to feel that the last quarter of it isn't as strong as the first three quarters, but I'll wait to see what others say. Right now Vicki's wading into it (a very brave woman) but I expect it'll take her several sittings to get through all 50,000+ words (yes, thanks to the revising activities of the past week and a half, I managed to burst right through the original word count target!)

I'd say that it definitely improved as a result of that second pass, but I didn't make as many sweeping changes as I'd expected to. I hope that means that it wasn't as awful to begin with as I'd originally thought when I finished Draft # 1, but sadly it could also mean that I wasn't as diligent and critical in my review of it as I should have been. Until last night, I'd only been doing 1 to 3 'chapters' at a time for the second draft, in order to avoid burning out and subsequently lowering the bar. Between last night and this morning, though, I covered the final dozen or so, meaning that perhaps I pushed it too hard at the end. Oh well... fortunately other eyes besides mine will be giving it the once over before I spend any money putting it to paper.

It's hard to get a feel for how long of a read it'll be, since I'm always editing it whenever I read it (and of course everyone reads at their own pace). I'd guess that it'll be somewhere in the 4 - 6 hour range, but I could be way off. I just hope that it doesn't end up being "the longest N hours of my life" for anyone who chooses to dive into it!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Second Draft Nearing Completion!

I just emerged from a marathon session of editing, and am now within just a few short "chapters" of having Draft # 2 finished. I hope to wrap it up tomorrow, after which it'll be time for Vicki to dive in once again (she last saw the book when it was only a few "chapters" old).

If things go according to plan, the second draft of The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned Going Agile) may be ready for a few brave souls to review in Word doc format within as little as a couple of weeks. Can it really be that far along? I guess it is!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cloverfield Review Posted Over At The Studio

Not much free time for blogging tonight, but I did manage to cobble together a semi-coherent review of Cloverfield, which Vicki and I took in at the theatre this evening. Vicki's actually been disoriented ever since we got home, and didn't even want to watch any TV before going to bed! I'm not suffering any similar after-effects, but I can just imagine what kind of dreams I'm going to have tonight. Viewers beware!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sounds Like A Pot Of Gold So Far

I'm on my 3rd listen-through of Radiohead's latest release, In Rainbows. (It arrived in my mailbox on the 2nd business day following my placing of the order at Chapters, which only happened after I'd waited nearly 3 weeks for Amazon to ship the copy I'd attempted to get through them. Talk about a stark contrast in experiences!) I won't make any bold predictions about how much I expect to love this CD just yet, because I find that my appreciation for most music changes over time, especially during that initial period where my ears are adjusting to the rhythms and beats of the new sounds. But I will say that my gut feel so far is: I like it!

The only track that I'd heard before receiving the CD (and only once, at that) was "Nude". It's currently my favourite (but, again - early days!) as I love the lilting sound and the way that it's put up against lyrics like: "So don't get any big ideas / They're not gonna happen / You'll go to Hell / For what your dirty mind is thinking".

When I told Vicki how much I was enjoying In Rainbows on the 2nd listening, she asked, "So, good biking music, then?" and I had to admit that, no, it's probably not because it's not hard-driving enough. But of course, whenever I really get into a CD, it automatically becomes biking music by virtue of my just wanting to listen to it every chance that I get! So who knows?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Apparently, I Didn't Stink

... at Bridge, that is. The Masters of Agility - AgileMan and his faithful sidekick, AgileBoy - were able to defeat their spouses in a best-two-out-of-three Bridge match of some variety. I don't pretend to understand how the scoring works - there are points above the line, and points below the line, and legs, and penalties, and all kinds of complicated counting systems that I left up to the other three to figure out - but, much like a post-stroke Hollywood octogenarian who's just been told that he's receiving an Honourary Oscar, I just smiled feebly at the end and mumbled a few words that could've meant anything.

The best part of the evening came when Mrs AgileBoy expressed genuine surprise upon learning that tonight had been the first time I'd ever played the game. I guess all those hours of watching Charles Goren's Championship Bridge on TV over the past couple weeks did some good, after all! I was still the weakest player at the table, by far, but at least I didn't completely embarrass myself (I hope).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

As if I don't have more than enough demands on my time these days - play video games, reduce growing pile of DVD movies by watching some, read comics, write Agile book, read books, write blog entries, and a little thing I like to call my day job! - I've made the mistake of showing interest in the game of Bridge.

My wife Vicki is a long-time Bridge enthusiast, and was overjoyed several years ago when daughter Tammy got briefly into the game. They went out and took lessons together or maybe played in fun tournaments (I lost track) and for awhile, Vicki was happily having her Bridge itch scratched (while I stayed home and did the stuff I like to do)... and then it ended, for whatever reason. So imagine her excitement a couple of weeks ago, upon discovering that I was at least interested enough to watch old episodes of the Charles Goren's Championship Bridge TV show from 1960, that she'd recorded on our PVR!

And then fast forward to last week where work sidekick AgileBoy mentioned to me that he'd written a Bridge tracking program in his spare time, prompting me to say, "That's funny, because I've been watching some old Bridge TV show with my wife recently!" Faster than you can say, "Let's race to the AgileCave, old chum!" the conversation turned to bringing together our respective wives and playing some Bridge as a foursome. And that's when I knew that I was in trouble! Oh sure, he was all excited at the prospect, but all I could think about was the fact that watching someone do something complicated is a lot easier than doing it yourself!

And sure enough, Vicki also panicked upon learning that I'd tentatively agreed to play bridge with someone - "but you don't even know how to bid!!" - but fortunately AgileBoy saved the day by volunteering to be my partner, saving my competitive wife the threat of public humiliation (what else would you expect from a faithful sidekick?)

So tomorrow night this house of cards will come tumbling down on my head, but at least then I'll be able to say that I tried Bridge, and be confident that Vicki will never, ever bring it up again in the future! (Or, who knows, maybe I'll like it....)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

On The Shoulders Of Giants

While the New England/San Diego game was exciting for about 52 of the 60 minutes, the Green Bay/New York game delivered more than the scheduled hour of nail-biting game time! The Giants were able to win it 23-20 in overtime, on the leg of their field goal kicker Tynes who redeemed himself for two fourth quarter misses. While Tom Brady survived a playoff worst 3 interceptions in leading his team to a 21-12 win over the Chargers, the Packers' Brett Favre threw one pick too many, turning the ball over to open the overtime period.

Both games were played in extremely cold conditions (in Foxborough, Massachusetts and Green Bay, Wisconsin) and the weather definitely affected the play. The Packers hosted the third coldest game in NFL history tonight, if I heard that stat right. With the SuperBowl set for two weeks from today in Arizona, at least bitter cold won't be a problem for the big show!

The Giants are now on an incredible roll, and one that really started when they almost ruined the Patriots' perfect season in that thrilling game at the end of the regular campaign. Despite losing that final game of the 2007 season, New York earned a lot of respect for their play in that game - a match that meant absolutely nothing to them in terms of playoff positioning - and who could've guessed then that it actually represented a SuperBowl preview? Not me, that's for sure!

With subsequent wins over Tampa Bay, Dallas and now Green Bay, New York's had (at least) four weeks in a row where they've been cast in the role of underdog and still managed to shine. Can they complete the Cinderella year and upset the Patriots after being given a second shot to be "perfect season spoilers?" The difference this time around, of course, is that the SuperBowl means as much to the Giants as it does to the Patriots! And how about the fact that Brady will play a Manning in the post-season, after all... just not the one everyone expected!

Not a bad Conference Championship Sunday at all!

Second Time Around

I'm about halfway through Draft # 2 of the Agile book. What that means is that I've started back at the beginning of the book, and am going through it, chapter by chapter, trying to make it better in terms of flow and continuity. In some cases, this is the first time that I'm re-reading sections (in others, I've been over the material a few times before). I haven't had to do as much corrective surgery as I'd expected, but then again I've only been looking at the earliest parts so far.

It's hard for me to imagine how anyone reading this book is going to receive it. Is it going to be at all interesting to someone who doesn't care about the subject matter as much as I do? Is it going to offend some people, because they'll pick the one sentence out of the 50,000 words that suggests that maybe they didn't do some aspect of their job as well as they think they did? (Not that anyone's named, because no one is... but I'm sure some references will be obvious.) I saw an example this week of someone reacting to an almost-universally positive blog post by choosing to attribute a negative tone to it because he interpreted one or two sentences in a particular way. This made it a big deal, in his mind. Imagine the field day that individual could have with my book, if he ever got his hands on a copy?!

Oh well... I suppose I could always just limit the print run to one copy and nip that problem in the bud!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Humour, Onion-Style

I stumbled across this "Ask Golden Age Wonder Woman" blog post, in which "Dear Abby" type letters are answered by the use of bondage-related panels from 1940s Wonder Woman stories. It's not hard to see where that sort of idea comes from.

After all, the comedy to be found at the above link is obviously inspired by the type of thing that shows up on The Onion every once in a while. There, they'll do something like "Ask A High School Student Who Didn't Do The Required Reading". In both cases, the premise is simple (and certainly humourous, in principle): Take seemingly-real advice column questions, such as "What should I do if I catch my husband cheating on me?" and provide ridiculous answers in the form of some pre-canned and generally unrelated material.

The trick to making it pay off as more than just a one-trick pony, though, comes in the 'matching' of the responses to the questions. Actually addressing the query isn't the point - that would be more like a 'legitimate' advice column, after all, and where's the humour in that? - but rather the striking of the appropriately absurd note between the two. I'd say that that mark is missed more often than hit, and yet I still can't help but stop to read these whenever I encounter one. I do manage to derive some odd entertainment for them, even when they're just silly. But I'd love to see one that's truly done well!

The Time Honoured Choice: Betty Or Veronica?

Lately I've been pointing out to Vicki instances of what I refer to as "Betty or Veronica" situations. If you've never read an Archies comic in your life, I suppose it's possible that you don't know who I'm talking about. Teenage Archibald "Archie" Andrews is perennially trying to choose between cute, level-headed, eager-to-please, blonde Betty Cooper, and raven-haired, temperamental and adventurous (not to mention filthy rich and spoiled rotten) Veronica Lodge. Should he go for the reliable Betty who'd more often than not be thrilled to get a date with him, or pursue haughty Veronica, who might decide to dump him for not noticing that her boots matched her top?

There's obviously something of a morality play at work in even just the setup of that dynamic. Do you play it safe, or strive for the (potentially) unattainable? Do you want the person who wants you, or the one who probably doesn't care one way or the other about you? Do you consider choosing Betty to be "settling," or does going after Veronica feel to you like tilting at windmills? For all of those reasons and more, I often ask people, "So who do you prefer: Betty or Veronica?"

To the surprise of no one, I'm sure, I'm a Betty guy. Not because she's blonde - both my first girlfriend and the love of my life are brunettes! - but because of her personality. She's real, where Veronica tends to be shallow. She cares about other people, where Veronica only ever considers what other people can do for her! In my mind, there's no contest, but I suspect that the way I view the two characters has coloured my perception, to the point where I've filtered out most of Betty's flaws along with Veronica's occasional virtues. But even that's telling, in and of itself!

As a potentially interesting example of this dynamic, consider the characters of Juliet and Kate, on the TV show Lost. At a superficial level, one's blonde and the other's brunette, but that's incidental in this case. More significantly, though, our introduction to Juliet cast her in a villainous role - not only was she an "Other" but she was also psychologically tormenting heroic Jack, to a certain degree. However, as her story unfolds, we find out that she, too, is a prisoner on the island, and that the only reason she's there is to work on what she thought was socially-beneficial research. She's no villain! Meanwhile, when we first see Kate, in the series premiere, she's the epitome of the helpful, kind and considerate female lead. She sews up Jack's wound from the crash, despite being visibly uncomfortable with the ickiness of it all. Kate's concerned with the welfare of the rest of the survivors, and seems like the perfect love interest for reluctant leader Jack. And yet, by the end of the pilot, we've seen that she's actually a hunted criminal on the run, and wanted for murder!

So which one's Betty, and which is Veronica? (Or does the archetype even apply in this case?) Jack's certainly been put in a position where he seemingly has to choose between them - currently, Juliet has the upper hand, though Jack did tell Kate that he loved her! Juliet has slowly morphed from more of a Veronica type into a Betty, at least in terms of seeming wild and somewhat edgy before setting up a more domesticated relationship with Jack. Meanwhile, Kate has engaged in her own role reversal "Betty vs Veronica" decision, having to choose between Veronica-like Sawyer and Betty-ish Jack. Even Sawyer has his own dichotomy to solve, as he's had a child with one woman (who he, in the process, transformed from a Betty into a Veronica) but is attracted to Kate, perhaps because he can't really seem to get a solid read on her (Betty? Veronica?)

Anyway, it's a fun game to play. Who else has Betty-or-Veronica stories to tell?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Even I Don't Estimate This Badly!

I've got an order in with Amazon that I placed on Dec 31st. It has yet to ship, but the current "estimated delivery date" is Jan 15 - 17. Today's Jan 18th, meaning that they're estimating that I'll receive my items - which haven't shipped yet - in the past!

I wonder if Amazon has invented a time travel machine and this is their subtle way of telling me??

[Update: I just canceled the order and placed one for the same items with Chapters. Each of the items is currently listed as "In Stock" so we'll see if the company can actually get around to shipping them to me this time! Among the list is Radiohead's new CD, which I still haven't heard yet!]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Some Weeks Age You More Than Others

This has been an unbelievably 'eventful' week at work, as it seems like every day there's been something that's set people off or caused a big stir among management. I'm inclined to think that it all comes down to being near the end of our year-and-a-half long project, since the pressure's continuing to build and some people aren't handling it all that well. I've wondered for a long time what this stressful period would look like in an Agile world, and now I'm finding out. Or rather, I'm finding out what it looks like when you haven't quite managed to complete the transition to Agile!

One thing I've noticed is that some people are reverting to form. We've all certainly paid lip service to the principles of Agile for the past 18 months, but only now are we finding out who actually believes in them. In some cases, it might be a team that's ready to give up its empowerment rather than risk pissing someone off, and in another it could be a manager who resorts to barking orders when the going gets tough. On the other hand, some of the people around me - among both management and non-management - are showing incredible strength, skill and commitment to our new way of working. I can't help but think that this is a test of some sort, and what we really should be doing is paying attention to who's passing, and who's failing!

The other revelation about our current situation that became apparent to me today is that some people prefer not to have our problems discussed in the open. That's only natural, as that sort of thing is almost always painful to go through. Because I tend to shine a spotlight on things that are happening - good and bad - through my work blog, I came under criticism today for promoting an "us vs them" attitude. What I couldn't seem to convey very well at the time of the complaint was: it's already out there! I don't have to promote it... it's already a best-seller! I'm just holding it up to the light so that we can stop denying it and start dealing with it! That sentiment wasn't particularly well-received, but these things take time. If we're ever going to become the great company that we all want to be a part of, we'll first have to get to the point where we can truly have that kind of transparency and then commit to doing something about whatever ails us. Unfortunately, at the moment some of us are still stuck at the "Denial" stage, and that's too bad.

I think if every week were like this week (and it's not even over yet), I'd only last another couple months before I'd have to pack it all in and go fishing. I just hope this isn't the start of a lot more of the same...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One More Day Of "One More Day" Bashing

So I've been planning to write a short blog post about another aspect of "One More Day" that bugged me and that I hadn't mentioned before, which is the way Mephisto (in the story) characterizes Peter and MJ's love as this "perfect love that only comes along once every thousand years" or some similar over-the-top bullshit. I laughed out loud when I read those lines in Amazing Spider-Man # 545, because it's such a ridiculous statement to make when you consider even just the following two facts from the history of the two lovebirds in question:
  • Peter was head over heels in love with Gwen Stacy long before Mary Jane was anything more than a hot-but-shallow redhead who his dottering Aunt May had tried to set him up with because May's best friend was also MJ's aunt. If Peter's relationship with Mary Jane was so mythical in the annals of romance, then how come she was his second choice and only received any consideration at all after the lovely thing occupying the top slot died horribly at the hands of a super-villain?
  • Peter and MJ had previously separated - in terms of living apart - so that MJ wouldn't be baggage when JMS took over Amazing Spider-Man a bunch of years ago. That's right... they split up and were living on opposite coasts for a significant amount of time! Yeah, that's a perfect love, alright!
I think JMS (or Joe Q, as it's unclear who really wrote those last couple issues) needs to look up "perfect love" in The Big Book of Romance to get an idea of what one would really look like... and Peter and MJ ain't even close! In fact, Peter and Gwen's merging of souls was probably more likely to qualify, as at least it was nipped in the bud and never soured like this one did!

Anyway, so there's that, and I feel better already, having gotten it off my chest.

But for even more entertainment of a Spidey-bashing nature, there's this:
Top Five Stupid Spider-Man Plots. It's one the best reads I've had so far this week. I enjoyed it so much that I'll even forgive the author for being silly enough to actually consider anything that Todd McFarlane produced as being cool. Everyone's entitled to one mistake!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Game Fun

I just spent the last couple of hours playing Portal, from the Half-Life 2: The Orange Box collection. Man, what a great puzzle game! McChicken had told me how much fun he'd had with it, but I really couldn't grasp the concept all that well without playing it. Now I can see why it's so addictive!

The idea is that you have a portal gun that you use to open 2 gates (which are really the 2 sides of the same gate) on any surfaces that will allow it (floor, walls, ceiling, etc, but only some will work with the gun). You have to figure out how to get through certain areas which are impassible on their own, by using the portal gun to move in the appropriate manner.

My favourite trick so far has been where you have to get over a high barrier that you can't jump over. To do this, you need to put one portal in the floor (that you can step into) and another on a high wall, such that you step through, fall out of the high opening back into the first portal, causing you to come out of the high one (again) but with greater momentum, which propels you over the barrier! If that sounds confusing, it is! But it's also typical of the sort of physics that you have to figure out in order to get through this very challenging game! And I'm only about 7% of the way into it so far, meaning that the going is sure to get much, much harder before I'm done! I love it!

Kinda Funny

Just a few days ago, Vicki made the comment to me that we really ought to make the trek to San Diego Comic Con sometime soon, instead of just always talking about it and never going. (We've been to the Chicago comic convention, which is smaller than SDCC but still one of the largest ones, maybe 12 times... San Diego: 0!) I love the fact that she's bringing ideas like that up, but then I read this in which someone indicates (in January, for a summer convention) that many of the hotels are already booked solid for that weekend! Yikes!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Halo 3 Fun

Tonight we had six of us from work all in a Halo 3 party, laughing, killing and dying for a good chunk of the evening. I started remembering how much fun we used to have playing Battlefield 1942 online, every Wednesday night, back in the days when we could somehow manage to keep our PC's up-to-date enough to handle the latest games. I think I've given up on that now, and will pretty much stick to the consoles for my gaming fixes from now on.

Until that gotta-have-it Half-Life 3 comes out, that is, at which point I'm sure my resolve will crumble like a fat guy's will power at the Build Your Own Sundae Bar...

Draft # 1 Of The Agile Book? Oh Yeah, She's Done!

At right around midnight on the evening of Sunday, January 13th, 2008, I put the finishing touches on the first draft of The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile). While I still expect it to change greatly in the process of revising it, I can happily report the following statistics related to that initial draft:

Word count = just over 47,000 (very close to my target of 50,000)
'Chapter' total = 32 (I had expected to be in the 40 - 50 range, but it just didn't need that many sections, as it turned out)

Parts of it are still terrible, while others are lovely, and many are just so-so. My next pass, which shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks to complete, will involve reading it through, top to bottom, with an eye toward improving the flow. After that, I have a couple of exercises in mind that should help address some weaknesses in the areas of consistency and repetition. I also have a crazy idea about producing some drawings for it but that may fall by the wayside and be filed under the category of "Too Ambitious."

And then I'll begin looking for a few brave souls to inflict it upon, in order to get some feedback on just how far from readable it still is at that point. Such is the life of the writer. (Hah! I almost managed to type that without laughing!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thus Ends A Day Of Upsets In The NFL Playoffs

After yesterday's two NFL playoff games went more or less according to script - Green Bay and New England both won at home, by margins of 22 and 11 points, respectively - today was definitely a horse of a different colour! Both of the matchups today featured frequent lead changes and came right down to the final minute of play with the outcome still in doubt. The Giants and Chargers pulled off road victories, sending the # 1 (NFC - Dallas) and # 2 (AFC - Colts) seeds to the showers early in this postseason.

Although I was hoping for a # 1 vs # 2 Conference Final in each of the conferences, I'm more than happy with what we actually got:

# 2 Green Bay vs # 5 NY Giants
# 1 New England vs # 3 San Diego

It should make for a great Conference Final weekend, which is often the best set of playoff games of the year. I just hope San Diego's healed up enough by then to put their best team on the field, as otherwise it's going to be an easy Win # 18 for the Patriots!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Stacked Up

I have a pile of unread comics right now that's just over a foot high. That's a lot of them, even for me! The reasons for this out-of-control situation are many and varied, but include:
  • Some of my spare time being chewed up by working on the Agile book.
  • A lot of football to watch on TV lately, between college bowl games and the NFL playoffs.
  • More gaming than I'd done at any point since early in 2007, courtesy of first F.E.A.R. on the PS/3 and then Halo 3 on the XBox 360.
  • Several books that have encroached on my comic-reading routines in front of the TV and at bedtime.
  • General low level of interest around most of what's going on in comics these days (especially Countdown, but also extended to the majority of whatever Marvel and DC titles I'm still buying.)
  • (As silly as it sounds) the fact that my PC's in the shop, preventing me from cataloguing the latest purchases.
It's something that I keep meaning to address, but just never get around to it. And so the stack keeps on growing...

And here's a fun fact: since each of my feet is about 12 inches in length ("My foot is a foot!") I often rely on that attribute when I'm estimating sizes in that scale. It's a convenient quirk of nature, I'd say!

Maybe It Won't Disappoint After All

Ain't It Cool News has the first of what I'm sure will be many reviews of Cloverfield up now. It's written by one of the gurus of AICN, rather than by a random reviewer as we sometimes get ahead of a movie's release (Cloverfield debuts in theatres next Friday).

To say that the review is positive would be a gross understatement. The first two words to be found there are "Utterly brilliant" and he's not being ironic or sarcastic. I didn't read everything because I don't want the movie spoiled for me, but I saw enough to assure me that AICN's Harry absolutely loved Cloverfield and thinks the hype - and viral campaign - was all worth it.

I may just have to venture out to a theatre next weekend to see for myself...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Boneman Will Have Heart Palpatations...

... when he reads this article:

"The February edition of Game Informer reveals that yes, Insomniac is hard at work on a sequel, tentatively titled Resistance 2.

According to the magazine, Resistance 2 will support two campaigns, multiplayer battles of up to 60 people, and eight-person online co-op play. Unconfirmed reports say the game will support three character classes--including a heavy weapons, special operations, and the all-important medic. It will also incorporate vehicles, including the alien-built Stalker, which will have cloaking abilities
"

Eight-person online co-op play?!? Are you kidding me?! That would be unbelievable!!

This game can't come out soon enough for me (and sadly, it's probably a year or more away.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

XBox Live, You're Starting To Really Annoy Me!

I thought that the bad times from over the holidays were over, especially after McChicken and I had a long Co-op Halo 3 Campaign last night that went uninterrupted.

And then I tried to sign into XBox Live tonight and after half an hour of futile attempts, gave up in disgust. When I check the XBox Status Page it's claiming that everything's fine, but I've seen that before only to have them later admit that there were "sporadic problems" signing in (I guess "sporadic" here means "frequent and annoying").

As I've said before, it's one thing when a free service is crappy like this.. but if I have to pay $60 for the "privilege" then I kind of expect it to just always work. Apparently I expect too much for my money where Microsoft is concerned.

Living In Jungleland

Technically not a dream, but rather a daydream...

As I was working from home this afternoon, with the Galaxie Goldrock digital music channel playing on the TV, I fell fairly deep into thought about one of the Agile topics that I was pondering (it had to do with performance management, although that's not important to this story). I lost myself down a very long chain of "What if" scenarios that were quite intriguing to me at that particular moment. And then, out of the blue, my attention shifted from that strange fugue state to the music coming from the TV.

It was the long instrumental section of "Jungleland" by Bruce Springsteen, and for about 2 or 3 seconds I somehow got this overpowering impression that a person could actually live within the confines of those few notes, in much the same way that some people can be born into, grow up, grow old and die inside the loosely defined boundaries of a small town, never really knowing what's outside of it, and therefore more or less content with what little they know.

Just like a dream, this brief sensation made perfect sense to me at the time, but quickly dissolved as the mood broke. I could still remember thinking it, and how absolutely true it had felt in the moment, but couldn't really recapture it afterwards. Very weird experience.

And no, I hadn't fallen asleep or anything close to it! I'm the guy who can never sleep, remember?!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Things I Learned Playing Halo 3 With McChicken Tonight

1) Those little squishy flood creatures that don't really harm you all that much if they attack you are also going around re-animating their other bigger and nastier flood buddies! So you actually do want to kill them and not just let them run around! (McChicken told me this as we were playing.)

2) It's really, really clever to give a good weapon to one of your AI buddies once that gun starts to get low on ammo, because the AI characters have unlimited ammo and so he'll just keep using it until he dies! (McChicken actually mentioned that trick the last time we did a Co-op Campaign together, but he reminded me of it when he used it again tonight, to devastating effect!)

3) Some levels are much easier to get through when there's two of you - even on a much higher game setting - while others are actually more challenging. This is a good thing, because it makes the experience quite different from the single player version. We both remarked on that at various points tonight.

4) Both of us are very eager to try playing a level or two in Co-op mode with four players, instead of just two. It seems like it would be ridiculously easy to get through but maybe Bungie compensates for the extra (non-AI) manpower somehow.

5) Although we hit a couple hairy sections tonight, we've yet to run into a situation where it takes us more than about four or five attempts to get through (playing on the highest difficulty setting). Since I know that neither of us is really that good of a Halo player, I have to assume that playing the game in Co-op mode is a virtual cakewalk for those who actually excel at it. In fact, I imagine there might be guys out there who insist upon getting through each level, start to finish, without dying and having to restart at a checkpoint.

6) I really do love the sticky bombs! They came in handy tonight, and even if the bad guy took me with him (got too close to me with the bomb attached to him), McChicken was then able to get to safety and allow me to re-spawn.

7) It's almost a game-within-the-game to find out all of the places that you can take vehicles that weren't really intended for them!

Good times!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow (Jan 8th Edition)

I've had to lower the bar somewhat to find anything all that exciting about tomorrow's light load of comics, but I wanted to post one of these updates tonight just for the little treasure that I've added at the end! Read on...

Countdown to Final Crisis # 16 - I'm about four weeks behind in my comic reading, so I haven't kept up with the last few Countdown issues yet. I've read a few blogs that seem to indicate that the title has finally gotten more interesting lately, but I'll believe that when I see it!

Green Arrow / Black Canary # 4 - This series started with one of the two leads supposedly dead - he got better! - and then the third issue ended with Green Arrow's son, Green Arrow (that's so much fun to say) taking a bullet through the left side of his chest! Has there ever been a mainstream superhero series so obsessed with death so early in its lifespan??

Teen Titans: The Lost Annual - Back in the 60s, when Bob Haney was writing the original Teen Titans and Brave and the Bold titles, those were the places to go if you wanted to read wacky, somewhat goofy superhero fare. While that was never really my cup of tea, I can't help but feel a little nostalgic about it now. And along comes a Teen Titans story written by Haney a few years ago - before he died in 2004 - that supposedly features the oh-so-hip sidekicks heading off into space to save JFK! Yeah, that sounds about right!

Amazing Spider-Man # 546 - Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha... no, sorry. Not wasting my money there. Pass!

The Twelve # 1 - This is a new mini-series by J Michael Straczynski, just in time to fill the void created by his departure from the aforementioned Spidey title. The premise here is that a dozen superheroes from the 1940s were frozen and are now revived in the early 21st century... and then of course some classic fish-out-of-water hilarity ensues! (OK, probably not, but what do I know? This is the first issue!)

And then there was this e-mail that I got from my local comic store owner:

"Hello Matt,

I am looking at some old (golden age) Batman and Detective books and was wondering if you would be at all interested.

Detective Comics
104, 114

Batman
19, 21, 27, 28, 29, 35, 37, 38, 40, 42.

Haven't had a close look yet but all seem to be VG - FN+ condition. Majority seem to be VG+."


You read that right... there might actually be a copy of the 19th issue of Batman (from 1943!) in my future! It'd have to be in a condition that I found acceptable, and not bought by someone else before I got to it, and within my current budgetary restraints... but it could happen! And all of those comics listed are from the 1940s, meaning that any of them would be amazing additions to my collection. Now that sort of thing qualifies as exciting!

Here's One For Tim (And Vicki)

New Yorker magazine has started up a cartoonist blog that seems like just the sort of place that buddy Tim would love to visit! I don't actually enjoy that particular periodical - I've tried a couple of times to read some of the articles but they never hold my interest - but I understand that it's quite popular with some of the egg-headier types! And yes, my wife's in that group, too!

Me, I like reading about guys in longjohns beating the crap out of each other!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Passing On The Whole "Brand New, Single Spidey" Scene

I'd actually been looking forward to the launch of the new "Brand New Day" era of Amazing Spider-Man that begins this week, ever since I heard about the initial creative teams who'd be providing the thrice-monthly material once "One More Day" wrapped up. I was sad that JMS was leaving as the writer of the title but also excited at some of the new creators who were coming on board. This change was announced back in the summer at which time I mentally noted that I'd be keeping Amazing Spider-Man on my "pull list" at the local comic store (meaning I wouldn't drop it after JMS left, as I would've otherwise).

Then I read the last couple issues of "One More Day."

Now I just have no interest in following the adventures of this bizarre new mutation of Spider-Man, whose history is unknown and undefined. I don't know that guy! When you add to that unfamiliarity the fact that Joe Quesada has made it perfectly clear that Peter Parker won't be allowed to grow or change, because Marvel's job - according to Joe - is to keep the young man frozen in time so that he's always the same lovable loser that he used to be, why would I possibly care? I could ignore him for a decade, and come back in my 50s to find him right where I left him, in terms of characterization and personal growth. I don't see the point. (I should also point out that I love that Clark Kent and Lois Lane are married, and much prefer the sorts of stories that they appear in now over the old, tiresome ones in which Lois would try to prove Clark was Superman, and Kal-El wouldn't marry Lois because "some arch foe might strike at me through her!")

So Marvel has now saved me about $10/month, which I'll use to sample some other (probably, non-Marvel) titles instead. Those various and sundry new comics will - by default - hold the promise of greater suspense and character development than Amazing Spider-Man can now boast, no matter what I end up reading! What an easy decision!

Newsflash! Biking Streak Reaches 25th Month!

Thanks to some very unseasonably warm weather this week, almost all of our build up of snow has now disappeared, and it was about 8 degrees (in the positive!) when I left for work this morning. Accordingly, I was not only able to ride my bike, but also stick to my usual route for the most part. There was one section where the bike path was still covered in ice, which I had to detour around (or risk having my tires slide sideways out from under me!) but otherwise it was business as usual...

... unless you consider just how out of shape for biking I am at the moment, which is fortunately anything but normal!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Lost Season Three All Re-Watched... Now I Can't Wait For Jan 31st!

We're still working our way through the bonus features on the Lost Season Three DVD set but holy crap that was a great season! Among other things, it restored my faith that the writing staff does have a grand plan for it all, and that they're not just marking time before resolving all of the mysteries in the series' final few episodes! Enough was explained in the third season, along with introducing an abundance of great new puzzles, to keep me happy.

I can't help but think what an amazing long-form TV story this is going to be for generations to come.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Boy, I Hate The Steelers

It looks like Pittsburgh's about to complete a comeback victory against Jacksonville, after trailing for most of the game. Words can't express how much I dislike that franchise, and have for about the last three decades or so.

If this turns into another year in which they post a so-so seasonal record - hey, they lost to the Jets in 2007! - and then march right through four rounds of the playoffs to win it all like they did a couple years ago, I may just give up on the NFL forever!

OK, probably not... but I do really hate that team! (Sorry Jimmy... it's nothing personal!)

[Update: Jacksonville worked the clock masterfully on a late drive, went up by 31-29 with less than a minute to go and then stripped "Big Ben" of the ball on his first play of the next drive to win the game. Buh-bye Steelers! Now I can really enjoy the rest of the NFL playoffs in early 2008.]

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Ups And Downs Of My Day

Vicki told me a story over dinner - at The Keg - that I couldn't help but think would fit perfectly into a section of my Agile book. I was even writing the new material in my head at the table after she finished answering a bunch of my questions about it, and could hardly wait to get home and write it up.

When I got here, I went downstairs to check something else on my PC only to discover that it wouldn't boot up. The light around the ON switch comes on - proving that it's drawing power - but there's no other signs of life. Now I've got to take it into the place I bought it for a service call, which wasn't how I was hoping to spend my Saturday morning!

At one point during the initial investigation into the problem, I panicked a little, thinking that since I've been writing the book on that PC perhaps I'd end up losing some recent additions if this turned out to be a catastrophic problem with the PC. But then I checked Vicki's PC, where I periodically save copies of the work-in-progress, and discovered that the latest backup there seems to contain the last 'chapter' that I wrote! Whew! That's at least one less thing to worry about. The last full backup of my PC was done just before we left for San Francisco, meaning that I shouldn't have actually lost anything else - worst case! - except for the cataloguing of a few dozen comics and some recently-received e-mails. Everything else would be current as of the previous backup.

Tammy's here for a visit - I knew that we shouldn't have given her that car!!!!! (kidding) - and so the three of us watched a trio of Lost Season 3 episodes: "Left Behind," "One Of Us" and "Catch-22." With seven more episodes to go, it's building up steam quite nicely. Even watching them in quicker succession now, I still haven't really detected any lull over the course of S3, whereas you certainly can feel some letup at times in S2. The Nikki & Paolo episode, "Expose," which seemed just OK the first time, was more enjoyable two nights ago when we played the commentary track for it. Among the interesting insights provided by the writers of "Expose" during the voice-over was the fact that they decided to do that storyline in answer to the fans who complained about the "no name extras" that make up the rest of the castaways. Ironically, after "Expose" was broadcast, the Lost creators heard complaints about it to the tune of, "Why did you waste a whole episode on them? We want to see more of the main characters!" Beyond that being a "you can never please people" story, it was also presented as an indication that, in the writers' minds at least, each of the people on the island have fascinating backstories behind them, regardless of whether we get to learn about them or not. It was also an opportunity for them to briefly bring back old favourites of theirs, like Arnst, Boone and Shannon.

And that, in a nutshell, was my day (after work, at least)!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Comic Story That Won't Die

Like the death of Captain America, perpetrated last March, comic fandom's reaction to last week's conclusion of "One More Day" in Amazing Spider-Man # 545 just keeps gathering more and more momentum, now a week after its publication (for most people... we got ours only three days ago). Unlike Cap's fateful murder, though, the reaction this time out is nearly universally negative (even I had to admit that Ed Brubaker wrote a Hell of a swan song for ol' Winghead!)

I'm enjoying reading all of the vitriol directed toward "One More Day" since it echoes my own reaction to the piece of crap retcon that Joe Quesada mandated for Spidey. Joe Q clearly anticipated how poorly-received the storyline was going to be, as he arranged to provide a 5-part interview on the topic that's been coming out over the course of this week. If you're interested, you can find the first 4 parts here, here, here and here. My favourite part of what I've read so far would be Joe's assertion that this wasn't like DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths - which he always publicly dismisses as bad storytelling - but rather a tiny little tweak to Marvel history. Having read the conclusion of "One More Day," it didn't play that way at all to me, as it seemed like a major revision in its implications. For one thing, Peter and MJ didn't marry, so any developments triggered off that - like moving in together, I assume - didn't happen. Therefore any story where their cohabitation, or MJ knowing his ID, was a key point, didn't happen. Similarly, if Peter's ID was never revealed to the public, then all of the sagas that resulted from that didn't happen, and on and on it goes. But then Joe goes on to explain that, for example, Peter did reveal his ID during Civil War... but everyone has been made to forget it by "the devil" (Mephisto)! Yeah, that makes a lot of sense... considering all of the video and photographic copies of it, and the newspapers that featured it on the front page, and the blog entries about it that would've popped up all over the Marvel version of the blogosphere... that's some really solid logic you got there, Joe!

So then you can read Spidey-author J Michael Straczynski's take on why he couldn't get behind the rubbish tale that he was told to write in "One More Day" right here. Of particular interest is JMS recounting his attempt at understanding the gibberish that Joe Q was putting forth, like how supporting character Harry Osborn has been brought back into continuity but without any real explanation for even whether he died and then was returned from the dead or just never died in the first place... Straczynski's interrogating of Quesada on this aspect shows more clearly than anything else in this debacle the difference between an actual writer (JMS) and an artist who fancies himself a writer and editor (Joe Q).

And finally there's this delightful link that coolly and calmly calls attention to a press release from around the time of Spidey's shocking unmasking last year in which Joe Q came right out and promised that it wasn't just a stunt, and that "Marvel won't be backing-off of Spidey's big revelation by zapping the public with a forget-me-ray." Yeah, because having a magical being like Mephisto do it is so different than using a raygun for that exact same purpose! Since Joe's recently stated that the unmasking was always intended to be reversed in this fashion, that earlier quote completely undermines any credibility that he might've still retained after "OMD."

This is a lot like watching a train wreck, except that it's fun because the people on the train are all fictional characters or severely-misguided Editors-in-Chief!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Speaking Of Radiohead

Thom Yorke and the boys were in the news today. If you care enough to actually follow the link, you can also watch the video for "Nude," from the latest CD (In Rainbows) there.

One of the things I love about new music arriving from artists that you're a fan of is that feeling, when you hear it for the first time or two, of not being sure if you actually like it or not. You'll never get to hear that music that way ever again, so it's something to truly cherish and enjoy to the fullest each and every time it happens, I think. I can still remember listening to the cassette of Peter Gabriel's So, in Cork, Ireland, in the Spring of 1986, on a Walkman that my friend Deborah lent me. The album had just been released that week and she knew how desperate I was to hear it, despite being several thousand kilometres away from my beloved turntable. All of the tracks sounded so strange and unpredictable, and yet now it's one of the most familiar sets of songs that I know.

This News Story Just Speaks To Me!

It's rare that I read an article of a national (or, in this case, international) nature and think, "Yes! That's exactly what happened to me!" but here's an example of that very thing. As McChicken and I experienced first hand a few nights ago, XBox Live was really quite sucky over the last half of the holiday period. We had long waits to get into online games, as well as terrible luck just signing into XBox Live in the first place (it took me almost half an hour, the one night). If nothing else, it's good to at least see it acknowledged "in the press" along with assurances that steps will be taken to avoid it happening again in the future. It was particularly annoying to me that I was paying for the service, unlike when Sony's Playstation Network gets wonky, which at least is free!!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

An Agile Book Update

I may've played too much Halo 3 this holiday season, but I also managed to find time to work quite a bit on The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile). Over the last 12 days, I took it from just over 20,000 words, all the way up to nearly 40,000 words. I wrote the 25th 'chapter' this morning, and am now starting to think in terms of "what's left to cover" for the first time. If I still had another week of vacation left, I think I could actually finish the first draft in that amount of time, based on the pace that I've set over this break.

I've been rewriting parts of it as I go along, but I'll be doing that at an even higher level once the first draft's complete. I'm particularly concerned that it's not currently enough of a narrative, so I'll be looking for ways to tie it all together better once I have all of the pieces in front of me. If I accomplish nothing else with this book, it has to at least read well!

More updates as they develop.

Halo 3 Reflections

I've played a lot of Halo 3 over the past several weeks, in a variety of ways. I've shot, melee'd and grenaded through:
  • most of the game in Solo Campaign mode
  • several levels in Co-op Campaign mode (locally) with Tammy
  • several levels in Co-op Campaign mode (online) with two different guys from work, and
  • many, many hours of online deathmatch and team deathmatch play.
If you add it all up, I've probably invested around 50 hours into the game so far, which is generally a good sign for a video game (Warhawk, on the other hand, I maybe played for 5 or 6 hours, after spending $60 for the game!)

While working my way through the offline Campaign this afternoon, I played a level that very much reminded me of my early Aliens Vs Predator gaming experiences. The scenario today took place inside a cavernous area littered with pulsating, gelatinous sacs that were attached to the walls everywhere. Anyone who's ever played an AVP game - or even seen an Alien movie, for that matter - recalls that pulsating eggs are always a bad sign, because of what they contain: facehuggers! In Halo 3, those disgusting sacs are filled with numerous small Flood critters, which can't kill you (as the Master Chief) in ones or twos but certainly can when you come at you ten to twenty at a time! As I pointed out to Vicki during the very short period in which she was watching me today, the game designers are no dummies: the sacs are located all over the place so that you have to be careful with your gunfire. If you're careless in your attempts to kill some of the other bad creatures there, you end up creating even more trouble for yourself by accidentally popping those nasty pimples and releasing additional swarms of enemies. I tip my hats to those evil geniuses at Bungie!

Playing in Co-op mode with Tammy is always fun, going all the way back to the original Halo. As I'm sure I've posted before, her "charge right in and start shooting" style complements my more cautious play, and usually avoids both of us getting killed at the same time. What I've discovered in the online Co-op Campaign sessions that I've had so far with McChicken from work, is that he and I are more similar in our approaches, and if anything, I'm the more gonzo of the two of us. Playing this way over the Internet has the advantage of affording each of us the full screen - when Tammy and I play locally, we have to split the screen between us - although we're unfortunately at the whim of the Internet Gods, as we were reminded a couple of nights ago when our valiant efforts to finally take down one of the giant scarab machines was suddenly aborted by a connection problem! Despite that ignominious conclusion, we'd had a great time up to that point, as only two geeks can while sitting in front of their TVs in separate locations! McChicken was wise enough to suggest that we play on the highest difficulty setting, since anything less would've been too much of a cakewalk when there're two of us in the game. At that setting, we were dying just often enough to keep things interesting.

As I experienced early last year with Resistance: Fall of Man on the PS/3, the problem with a really good game that has addictive online play is: you tend not to play any other games for awhile! In the queue for the XBox 360 right now are the Half-Life 2 Orange Box (which contains 5 games!), another F.E.A.R. game, and Gears of War. We've also got Call of Duty 4 and the latest Ratchet & Clank game waiting for time on the PS/3. Oh, and I still want to finish the original F.E.A.R. on the PS/3! So many games, and so little time!

I think once I finish the Halo 3 Solo Campaign, though, it may be time to try something new.

New Radiohead CD Now Out

After providing In Rainbows partway through 2007 via a revolutionary "pay what you think it's worth" digital distribution scheme, Radiohead is releasing that work via the conventional channels, as of today. I considered buying it previously - I would've spent about $15 for it, I think - but never got around to it. There was an option, with the way that it was set up last year, to get In Rainbows on CD at that time but it seemed exorbitantly expensive, so it was really only the digital avenue that I pondered traveling down. In the end, I procrastinated, knowing that eventually I could just get the music the old fashioned way.

Ironically, as the Jan 1st date got closer and closer, I decided to order my CD online! Rather than try to find time to get to a music store in early January, I found it for about $13 - within my comfort zone! - and decided to just have it come to my home through Canada Post.

After Magnolia Electric Company, I'd say Radiohead's my next favourite musical group among any that are still together. Unlike MEC, they're too edgy for Vicki's tastes, but that just means that I listen to them more on my iPod than anywhere else. I'm really looking forward to hearing In Rainbows, despite the fact that their previous offering, Hail to the Thief, isn't among my favourite Radiohead CDs. I guess I'm just feeling optimistic!

And I wanted to start off 2008 with some good news... for me, anyway!