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Friday, February 29, 2008

Vicki Ratchets Up Her Game

Tonight Vicki was finally able to crack open her Christmas present of Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction for the PS/3 (now that we can lazily choose to use the PS/3 whenever we want with the simple flip of a switch!)

In an uncharacteristic display of ferocity right out of the gate, Vicki-Ratchet started off kicking bad guy ass like she never has before, showing her unbridled enthusiasm for getting to play the game at long last. She made it through the first planet in only three tries (a very low total for her in any R&C game) and only needed my help once, very briefly, with a timed jumping section.

The amazing graphics in this game are everything that we'd heard (and got a taste of in the demo that we downloaded late last year) and I can see why people have been raving about R&CF:ToD in the months while we waited for the Component Video Switch to arrive! We particularly like the re-spawning ammo boxes that allow Vicki to *ahem* not skimp on the shooting! Me, I never hesitate to empty my weapons in a fun platform game like this, but my wife usually tends to be a bit more... frugal in that regard. Not anymore!

A Site Every Alan Moore Fan Should Know

Thanks to Blog @ Newsarama, I learned about this lovely website, which attempts to collect links to all known Alan Moore online interviews! Can you say "bloody awesome!" with an appropriately intimidating English accent? I thought you could!

Oh, Buffy, What Have You Gotten Yourself Into This Time?

# 16's cover (revealed today) isn't quite as awesome as the one that adorned issue # 6, but still pretty exciting! I'm pretty sure that it's the same artist (Jo Chen) in both cases and I like her style just fine!

So many good comics to look forward to, and that's not even counting the big pile of unread gems that I've been ignoring over the past few weeks while I finished up the Agile book. This weekend, it's time to dig into 'em!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Off To The Printers We Go!

I spent a couple hours tonight (with Lost sandwiched in the middle) getting my book onto the Lulu site. I wanted to get a copy or two printed ASAP so that Vicki and I can look over the results before placing a mass order. Some things were easier than I thought - such as the conversion into printable format - while others were, if not harder, at least more frustrating (such as designing the cover). I may post more about that whole process later, but right now I'm heading off to bed. Sometime in the next two or three weeks I should be getting the "proof" copies in the mail, after which it'll be another similar delay (at least) before receiving copies for everybody else. So no one outside of this household should expect to see anything until mid-April, by the looks of it. Such is Life! I hope it'll be worth the wait for everyone involved. (And that initial wait time will no doubt result in further changes, since I never seem to be able to quit fiddling entirely.)

My PS/3 Lives (Again)!!!

The Component Video Switch that I ordered via eBay earlier this month arrived in the mail today, and so I've now got an easy-peasy way of moving back and forth between my XBox 360 and PS/3. This comes after nearly 3 months of pretty much sticking with one or the other because of the hassle involved in manually switching the cables at the back of the TV each time I wanted to use the other console! Happiness now reigns supreme on the gaming front!!

First thing I did after hooking up the new toy was to get the latest System Update for the PS/3, as I figured I'm probably a couple months out of date by now. I also want to get back to playing the F.E.A.R. game that I was nearly through on the PS/3 when the 360 arrived, although there's also the matter of finishing Portal, Halo 3 and Half-Life 2 (all on the 360), not to mention starting up HL 2: Episode One, HL 2: Episode Two and F.E.A.R. Files (360) along with Call of Duty 4 (PS/3)... and somewhere in there Vicki would like to play Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (back on the PS/3)! Good thing I don't have anything else to do these days....

Whenever Vicki next visits her mother in Michigan, I'll receive my second (first, in terms of when I ordered each) Component Video Switch, meaning that I'll have a backup, I guess. As I keep telling Vicki, it's better to have two than to have none! Which is true of so many things in Life... (But not wives! I swear!!)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Now That's A Cover!

I completely forgot that All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder # 9 was going to feature another Neal Adams variant cover (just as the previous issue had) but fortunately my local comic store owner, Tim, didn't forget about me! He knows that I'm a big Adams fan, and so when I showed up to get this week's pile of new comics, there waiting for me was a bagged and boarded copy with the eye-poppingly gorgeous scene shown here. Yum!

That's Batman, Robin, and a very bloodied Hal Jordan trying desperately to recharge his Green Lantern ring in a room that the Dynamic Duo just finished painting yellow, apparently.

I'd say Neal can still draw some!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow (Feb 26th Edition)

Look, Ma! Another black-and-white cover for All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder! Imagine how late this series would be if they actually had to colour the covers!!

This week's haul actually counts as exciting, so let's get 2 R!

Action Comics # 862 - Geoff Johns and Gary Frank continue the terrific "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" story that's pushed this title very close to the top of my "must read" pile. The central plot - that a bunch of isolationists in the 31st century have succeeded in making most people think that 21st century Superman was really an Earthman, in their attempts to further fuel anti-alien hostility among the populace - is so off-the-wall that it actually works! I've loved every page of this run so far!

All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder # 9 - Is it terrible to admit that I'm actually starting to enjoy Frank Miller's tour de force blitzkrieg of the Batman mythos in this title? Oh, sure, the writing's totally ham-fisted and over-the-top, but at least Miller has a clear vision of this particular Batman, which is of course part of what worked so well in The Dark Knight Returns. I may actually miss this series when it ends... OK, maybe not!

Batman # 674 - If I had any idea what Grant Morrison was up to in this current storyline, I'd probably enjoy it even more! Apparently Joe Chill's back in continuity - or something - as Batman's haunting him while lying on the edge of death. Ummm... OK?

Justice Society of America # 13 - It seems like it's been a long time since we had an issue of JSA, but then it dawns on me that # 12 only came out 3 weeks ago... and is sitting in my big stack of unread comics! Which means... come tomorrow, I'll have 2 issues to read!! The Kingdom Come Superman story continues, and it's been good, though a bit slow, so far. I might worry, except that: In Johns, We Trust...

Legion of Super-Heroes # 39 - Not to be confused with the Legion running around in the pages of Action Comics, because that's actually a completely different incarnation of the group - and DC keeps promising to explain that away, soon, in the form of an event of some sort - this one suddenly transformed into Jim Shooter's playground overnight. After reading Shooter's first two issues, I was left scratching my head about just why all of the characters' speech patterns changed between issues! "Continuity be damned!" screamed Dan DiDio, as he scampered down the halls of DC Comics, red-circling heroes' and villains' pictures on the wall with the promise of "wrecking them all... or die trying!"

Captain America # 35 - So now we have a new Cap - OK, forget the spoiler warnings: it's Bucky, damn it! - and you just know things are going to go as smooth as can be for him, right? Or not. In the capable hands of Ed Brubaker, with Sharon Carter, the Red Skull, the Falcon, Iron Man, and an economic collapse weirdly similar to what's going on in our universe, I'm content to just sit back and watch the show.

Daredevil # 105 - And in the other corner... also, Ed Brubaker! It's amazing that two knockout Bru titles come out in the same week, but the mysterious machinations of the Scheduling Gods at Marvel Comics are not for mere mortals to question. So DD's wife has been charged with murder, and we know that it's a frame-up by the villain, Mr Fear (and so does ol' Horn-head) but how to prove it, how to prove it? And why, in the back of my mind, can't I seem to stop thinking that it's really Kilgrave the Purple Man who's behind it all? Oh wait.. because I'm a comic geek, that's why!

Thor # 6 - The last open-ended J Michael Straczynski Marvel title keeps plugging along. The news over the weekend that JMS would be doing work for DC soon sparked equal measures of delight and trepidation, with one pundit in the latter camp worrying that we'd soon find out Lois Lane had had a child with Lex Luthor years ago (in reference to the Spider-Man tale JMS wrote that claimed Gwen Stacy had had twins after sleeping with Norman Osborne... yeah, it was really that dumb!) I'm enjoying Thor well enough but it's not deserving of all the praise it's been getting, in my opinion. Then again, I've never been much of a fan of the Thunder God outside of The Avengers, so maybe that's all it is.

Ultimate Spider-Man # 119 - I started reading this title - for the first time! - on the San Francisco trip last year. I might've considered dropping it by now, except that it's the only Spider-Man title that features a version of the character that's at all familiar (thanks to my exposure to him in The Ultimates and elsewhere), and so I've switched my loyalty over to it for now. Like most of the Ultimate titles, you get the barest of plots each issue, but at least they're entertaining.

Nexus # 100 - The big one! Originally scheduled to come out last fall (or was it last summer?), it's finally on the books, coming out tomorrow! Nexus' return in # 99, all those months ago, was pure delight for this long-time fan of the character. It felt like no time had passed since the days when Nexus was one of my favourite unconventional (i.e. non-superhero) comics, and so it's too bad that any momentum was lost by the incredibly long delay for this second issue. I know that illustrator Steve Rude did a bunch of extra material for the 100th issue, and I just hope that's all that contributed to the lateness. Regardless, I'm jazzed about picking up this gem tomorrow!

[Edit: I missed one!] Criminal Volume 2 # 1 - This makes 3 - count 'em, 3! - Ed Bru titles coming out of the Marvel Machine in one week! I'm not sure how I missed it as I read over the shipping list for the week, but overlook it I did! Fortunately I saw a reference to it elsewhere, and went scurrying to check to see if it was true! So this is the re-launch of Criminal, with... changes... that I'm not entirely clear on. But it doesn't matter; I was so into the first volume that I can't not love this one, can I, now?

It's All About The Book These Days

Sorry about that, but it just sorta is...

There are so many little details left to do that I don't have much time for anything else at the moment, once I get home from work. Tonight I put the copyright notice in at the front of the Word document and cleaned up the Acknowledgments page that I'd written last night. I'm still acting under the assumption that I may hear a bit more from a couple people who have advance copies of The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile), but that particular window of opportunity is rapidly closing... so smoke 'em if you got 'em!

Tomorrow night Vicki and I are off to a play so I imagine that I won't get much done then, and Thursday night is Lost Season 4, Episode 5, limiting my time somewhat. But hopefully by Friday evening I'll be ready to dip my big toe into the Lulu pond and see how that goes. Who knows... if the weekend is productive, it could be all over - except the waiting! - by this time next week! And wouldn't that be swell?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Not A Good Sign

Over the past several months, but especially in the last week or two, I've been faced with situation after situation at work where I find myself in a conversation with someone and I end up thinking that I've written about this exact topic in my book... but it's not like I can quote myself as an authority! And it's really not even that I want to quote myself so much as it is that I just feel like I've already thought about the subject waaaaaay more than the person I'm talking to has, almost to the point of being... well, bored in the conversation because we're coming at it from such different places.

Definitely not anything that I expected when I set out to write an Agile book, and probably not a good development in general, either!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Can This Book Finally Be Done?

Well, I spent hours and hours and hours on the Agile book this weekend, incorporating feedback from all three of my reviewers, as well as doing yet another complete pass of the contents. Unfortunately, two of the three reviewers weren't able to get me comments on the entire book, but what they did provide was very helpful and productive. Deadlines are the enemy of everyone, I guess.. but in fairness, I was the one who set the date, not them!

So now what? I still have to write Acknowledgments, design the cover, and start the process of getting the content into the self-publication site of choice (so far, Lulu) in order to find out if this whole printing thing is really going to happen, after all. For all I know, I may still have months of work ahead of me, just to get through that! (And I'm sure that I'll continue to make changes as I go along, because I. Just. Can't. Stop!)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

2 Months Less A Day...

... after I ordered it, my Component Video Switch has apparently arrived at Vicki's mom's in Michigan. I bought it on eBay on Christmas Eve, and because the seller would only ship within the U.S., I provided the Michigan address for the item. It was nearly 3 weeks before the seller got around to shipping it, and then another month passed with no sign of it.

Finally, a little over a week ago, I bought another one (again, over eBay) but this time from someone who'd ship to Canada. I told Vicki that there was no surer way to get the first one to arrive than to buy a second one, and it looks like I was right. But, better to have two of them than none at all, so whatever. (And I still don't have either of them in my hot little hands yet!)

Hopefully this means that soon I'll be able to switch back and forth between using my XBox 360 and PS/3 with the simple flip of a button, instead of having to deal with cables at the back of the TV each time. And once that happens, my poor, neglected PS/3 should start getting some action, again!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bridge Night # 3 Is Now Geography... I Mean, History!

For the third straight time, the Agilistic Duo won both games against our spouses, virtually ensuring that sex will soon be something that we can only read about in books and Adults-Only comic books (not that I own any of those, of course!) The first game was particularly surreal, as it seemed to me that we were losing hands throughout and apologizing to each other for our mistakes in bidding and leading (OK, maybe it was all me doing the talking, but let's not split hairs), only to discover at the end that we'd somehow been awarded extra points for making the women work harder at beating us than they should have - I swear that's what it sounded like to me! - and thus emerged victorious at the buzzer. (I can't help but recall Steve Smith scoring on his own net in the playoffs in 1986 to send the Calgary Flames past his Oilers, although as noted above, there may not actually be much scoring of any variety happening in either of our households anytime soon!)

At any rate, I've yet to experience the feeling of losing at Bridge, though it's only a matter of time. I suspect, in the final analysis, that it'll feel a lot like winning to me... once they tell me that we lost, that is!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lost, You're Really Messin' With Our Minds!

So how'd you like that as a last line tonight? Who knew that two little innocuous words like, "Hi, Aaron" could put such a completely different spin on so many of our assumptions earlier in the episode? And of course that last second reveal also makes the final scene from Season 3, where Kate says, "He'll be wondering where I am," take on a potentially new meaning!

So far, four episodes in, this season is feeling a whole lot like one long love letter from the creators of Lost to the fans! And let's face it: what show's followers every deserved it more than us?!

Nearly Three Weeks Of Mostly Silence

The three weeks allotted for the trio of trusted friends to review The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile) are nearly over, as this upcoming weekend marks the end of it. Over that period of time, I've gotten a few verbal comments from one of them, four graciously marked-up 'chapters' from another, and pretty much nothing from the third (except an unsubstantiated fear that she's not even started reading it yet).

Beginning on Saturday, I'll be putting the finishing touches on the next draft, before sending a copy off to my boss early next week in order to give him a brief window of opportunity during which to cry foul, if he sees fit. While that's going on, I need to write an Acknowledgments page, put together a copyright notice (I guess) to go at the front of the book, and figure out what the cover should look like.

If all of that goes according to plan, then I might actually be able to start the "prepare for printing" process the following weekend, although admittedly I'm pretty much guessing now in terms of how long any of this stuff will take. It was definitely easier to estimate when it was just a matter of writing the damn thing! (Recall that, in September, I predicted completion of the first draft by year's end, and it actually finished on Jan 14th, a mere fortnight beyond my estimate.) Part of that comes from knowing how long I wanted it to be and having some notion of my own productivity, versus dealing with tasks that I've never done before.

Having said all that, my notional target for getting to the actual publishing/printing stage is somewhere around my birthday (in the 2nd week of March) since that timing would provide me with a pretty awesome gift. It's a nice dream, anyway!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

To Boldly Go...

Tonight, while Vicki looked on, I finally got to the point in Half-Life 2 where I'd given up and quit, the first time playing it (on the PC). I instantly recognized the scene, and was quite amazed with how easily I got by it this time, after which: everything was unfamiliar and exciting to me! It's now like playing a brand new video game, for whatever may be left!

I'm 150% Sure That You'll Love This Post!

While reading over the Watchmen blurb by Zack Snyder (see my previous post), I of course couldn't help but notice that he stated that the film crew "has given 110% each and every day." I say that I could hardly fail to spot that remark because, among the seemingly endless list of things that annoy me, the misuse of percentages shows up somewhere around # 63 (give or take).

Now, it's possible, I suppose, that what Snyder meant by that comment was that the team in question was contracted to work 10 hours each day, and in fact ended up working 11 instead (110% of what they were contractually obligated to do). That's definitely possible, though unlikely, I think. What people seem to be trying to say, rather, when they use figures like 110% as an expression of effort, is that there's some sort of mythical limit (100%), and that the individuals in question somehow magically managed to exceed that limit by an astounding 10% (in defiance of all natural laws)! In other words, they fit 1.1 litres of water into a 1 litre jug! What's ridiculous about that approach beyond the physical impossibility of it - and why it's earned a home on my overcrowded Pet Peeve List - is simply this: if 110% is possible, then why didn't they give 115%? Why not 120%? What kind of slackers are they really that they couldn't have delivered 125%? Hell, this is Watchmen, for God's sake! Anything less than 200% is clearly a dereliction of duty!!

Personally, I'm thrilled as can be any time anyone gives 100%! If I think that you - or even I! - have performed at 100%, that's cause for celebration right there! By definition, that means that the best possible job was performed... there is no higher bar! (To be honest, I'm usually pretty happy with anything above 80%.) By acting as if there is a higher bar, all you really do is say that the bar's utterly meaningless in the first place (kind of like giving everyone who participates in a contest a "1st Place" ribbon!) Let's face it: if you could in fact go faster than the speed of light, would 110% of 186,282.397 miles per second really be enough?

So is this abuse of percentages one of the big issues facing us as a species today? Almost certainly not... but somewhere out there is a person who's 175% convinced that it is! And that's too bad.

That's A Hell Of A Lot Of Post-Production!

We now have word, via the Watchmen movie blog, that principle photography has finished on Zack Snyder's comic adaptation that's been "in the works for almost 20 years" (as Snyder notes, including the many aborted attempts by previous directors). What's remarkable about this, besides the fact that it seemed like this movie would never get made, is that the release date for the finished product is still over a year away! That's right, Watchmen is scheduled to make its theatrical debut on March 6th... 2009! I'm not film insider-savvy enough to know if 371 days of post-production is any kind of record, but it certainly seems like it should be! Here's hoping that every one of those 371 days is spent making the version that we see twelve and a half months from now just that much better than it was the day before! If that happens, I'll be a very happy middle-aged comic fanboy just before my 46th birthday!

If you follow the first link above, by the way, you'll get to see a new still from the movie, showing crazy-but-lovable Rorschach doing what he does best!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Exciting Comic Covers Coming Out Tomorrow (February 19th Edition)

I was thinking of posting an "Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow" update, but then I couldn't find anything among the 15 issues that I'll be laying good money down for on Wednesday that could really count as "exciting." So instead I went looking at the covers themselves, to see if any of them would quicken my pulse at all, and I came up with this: Batman Superman # 46 (yes, the series is actually called Batman Superman.. or maybe it's Superman Batman!)

What I like about this cover image is that it's a nice shot of both leads, and includes the Man of Steel using his heat vision (which he doesn't do nearly enough in the comics, for my tastes!). One of my all-time favourite Superman moments came in the Alan Moore-scripted, Dave Gibbons-drawn Superman Annual in which Supes finally goes toe to toe with alien conqueror Mongul. As he lets loose with a wicked burst of heat vision onto the nearly-invulnerable villain's torso, Kal-El says only one word: "Burn." Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Still Good, The Second Time Around

I've spent way too many hours over the past several days playing a game that I'd actually gotten caught up in - for the first time - three or four years ago! Like millions of other gamers at the time, I bought Half-Life 2 when it debuted on the PC platform back in 2004. The graphics were amazing for the time, and the variety of game play was practically unheard of. Several of us from work were all sucked right into HL 2 for weeks back then, coming into the office every day for the sole purpose of updating each other on how far we'd gotten the night before (or at least, it felt that way, sometimes!) If you said that you'd reached "the bridge," for example, that meant one thing... if you gushed over your newly-acquired Gravity Gun, that held a different meaning. Hell, there was a lot to be gleaned from just listening to the way that you described the ant lions (friend or foe?). Playing through that game was an event for all of us, for awhile anyway.

And so here I am, re-living those moments again, but this time on my XBox 360. It's the same game - ported to the new platform - but it's just so much fun that I'm actually enjoying it almost as much, despite remembering so many of the levels. I've noticed a couple parts that seemed much harder when I encountered them in 2004, but also a few that are every bit as frustrating the second time around. I didn't quite manage to finish Half-Life 2 on the PC - and I still recall exactly where I gave up, after dying for the ten billionth time - but I'm determined to make it all the way to the end in 2008! After all, how can I start up Half-Life 2 Episode 1 (and Episode 2, both of which are included in the Orange Box) if I don't first complete the original?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Family Day Is Nigh

Tomorrow is the inaugural celebration of Family Day in Ontario, introduced last Fall as the result of an election promise (some might say, "bribe"). Regardless of the rationale behind it, a public holiday in February is overdue and very welcome, indeed. That long, seemingly-interminable haul from New Year's Day through Good Friday, coinciding as it does with the worst stretch of weather in this part of the world, was always a recipe for depression if you ask me. We get enough time off in the summer months - that's what vacation days are for, after all - but boy oh boy, our winters can be hard to take. Anything to break up that misery is fine by me!

I'll be enjoying my day off tomorrow, and I hope everyone else will, as well.

"They Also Serve Who Only Stand And Wait"

I first encountered the John Milton quotation above (from "On His Blindness") in an old issue of Avengers, as spoken by Edwin Jarvis, the team's butler. This standalone issue of JLA Classified reminded me of it once again.

Set in the period before Superman and Lois Lane began dating (and long before they ever got married), the premise of this simple tale is that an alien armada is approaching Earth, with conquest on its mind and broadcast to the four corners of the planet. The JLA has headed off to Mars in order to cut the attackers off before they can reach the third rock from the sun, and now the world waits and worries about the outcome of that battle. We're shown brief glimpses of the fighting on the red planet, but most of the issue focuses on Lois, Alfred, Wonder Woman's mother Hippolyte, and other random bystanders back on Earth.

The highlight of the story is an extended visit by reporter Lane to Wayne Manor, where she expects to interview billionaire celebrity Bruce Wayne but instead enjoys the hospitality of the family butler. While DC plays fast and loose with their own history these days, this at least appears to be the latest version of "When Lois Met Alfred." Miss Lane hears about the 'Wayne family dynamic' for the first time, and opens up a bit about her own dysfunctional unit. Both individuals take to each other almost immediately, in a way that comes across as both natural and surprising!

Of course the heroes prevail in the end, and those standing and waiting back on Earth are jubilant, at least for the moment (tomorrow, they'll turn on their heroes for some paper-thin reason, we're sure). The comic ends with Superman returning to Lois in order to provide some details on the battle, only to find a very flustered woman who, despite barely knowing him, just wants to give him a hug that's equal measures gratitude and relief.

JLA Classified # 49 shows that you really can still tell a great story in a single issue, without crossovers, variant covers or shocking deaths. If this had been the very first comic I'd ever read, you can bet I would've wanted to come back for more!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Top 50 Science Fiction Movies?

The American Film Institute has published its list of what it considers to be the best 50 films in the "genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation." In alphabetical order, their list is:
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence
  • Alien
  • Altered States
  • The Andromeda Strain
  • Back to the Future
  • The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
  • Blade Runner
  • Children of Men
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Cocoon
  • Contact
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Destination Moon
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • Escape From New York
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Fantastic Voyage
  • The Fly (1986)
  • Forbidden Planet
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man
  • Independence Day
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  • The Invisible Man (1933)
  • It Came From Outer Space
  • Jurassic Park
  • Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
  • The Matrix
  • Men in Black
  • Minority Report
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Repo Man
  • RoboCop
  • Rollerball (1975)
  • Silent Running
  • Soylent Green
  • Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
  • Star Wars: Episode IV--A New Hope
  • Starman
  • The Stepford Wives (1975)
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Them!
  • The Thing From Another World
  • The Time Machine (1960)
  • Total Recall
  • Tron
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The War of the Worlds (1953)
  • Westworld
While we can certainly debate the contents of their list - and should! - I was immediately struck by something as I read it over the first time: unlike virtually any other "genre best of" list that I could imagine the AFI coming up with, I've seen nearly every one of these offerings! In fact, there are only 4 movies up there that I'm not entirely sure if I've watched.

I find it odd that Episode IV made the list, but not Episode V (clearly a better movie). I can't disagree with their Star Trek II or Terminator 2 choices, but Total Recall? I love that Alien is recognized as being the best of its franchise, although personally I would've put Aliens on the list ahead of many of the choices they came up with (Independence Day? Why not Mars Attacks! while you're at it?!)

But, of course, that's what makes these sorts of lists so much fun...

(And Contact's inclusion makes me want to tell our family's story that revolves around that movie, but Tammy would probably kill me.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Seeing Irony Everywhere

I suspect that this won't work for anyone but me, and yet one has to try...

I had an experience earlier this week that struck me as ironic. With it being Performance Review Season, co-workers - and your Humble Blogger, as well - have been getting their year-end appraisals and reacting accordingly. As such, I've had two people tell me that they're now looking for work elsewhere (which could just be talk, for all I know), and another pair who indicated that they're considering it as a result of the review process (again, I've no way to know how serious they are). All of which is, I have to say, about par for the course on how these things normally run. What's intended to be a positive, motivating experience sometimes has the exact opposite effect, and a few become very disenchanted. However, that's not even the ironic situation at the core of this blog post.

As one person was expressing to me his strong displeasure with his review, he recounted to me several ways in which he believed that he'd performed at a level well above what he was being recognized for. Some of what he said I'd agree with, and other parts I'm more skeptical about, but that's all just my opinion. At the end of the conversation, though, he incidentally mentioned that a DVD series that I'd recommended had sounded interesting to him, and so he'd downloaded a copy of it. Anyone who knows me very well will already anticipate that talk of such things makes me very uncomfortable, because I'm not a fan of illegal (or even quasi-legal) downloading. On the contrary, I'm a big believer that creative people - musicians, writers, actors, artists, etc - deserve the right to be paid for whatever they create, and to set the pricing scheme themselves (and we, as consumers, can choose to pay or not.. but "not" here also implies "not getting the fruits of their labours"!) I've blogged about this before, and so there's no point rehashing it here.

What struck me as ironic, though, was that here was a person who routinely downloads whatever he wants to watch - rarely, if ever, putting any money into the pockets of those who produce it - and yet he was indignant that his own professional efforts weren't receiving the extra credit that he felt they deserved! In other words, the "residuals" of his employment, those benefits beyond the guaranteed things like base salary and annual bonuses, weren't being accorded to him, in much the same way that he was treating the professionals whose work he felt he should enjoy without paying for them! I didn't make this observation to him, because I figured it would go over like a lead balloon and accomplish nothing, but it certainly gave me pause.

If nothing else, this experience reinforced my belief that you really do get out of Life what you're willing to put into it. Or, put another way: what goes around, comes around!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Glass Half Empty, Or Half Full?

It's come out over the last couple of days that Lost Season Four, for which eight episodes were already in the can prior to the WGA Strike, will end up being thirteen strong (down from the original plan of sixteen episodes). Since it wasn't all that long ago that we were staring down the barrel of the very real possibility of only getting those original eight new Losts this year, the new total of thirteen seems downright... lucky to me! Even more interesting are Carlton Cuse's statements about the plan to cram all of the story that was sketched out for the sixteen-part Season Four into those thirteen episodes (while also promising to eventually pay back the missing three later in the run). Since television's best fourth season ever may very well have belonged to Babylon 5 ("No Surrender, No Retreat"), and it came about because J Michael Straczynski believed that the final two seasons needed to be compressed into one, this could be a very good sign for Lost fans over the next several months.

The one unfortunate bit of news in all this is the expectation of a four week lull between the airing of the last original new episode (from before the strike) and the start of the new new chapters. March may end up being a Lost dead zone, in that way.

Peter Gabriel And Wall-E?

Ain't It Cool News is speculating that Mr Gabriel is working on music for the animated feature, Wall-E. He'd just been in the news for breaking his leg while skiing, so I'm happy to see his name showing up unexpectedly in a much better situation!

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

It's once again Bonus Time at the workplace, as today most of the full-timers found out what size bonus we're getting this year. Interestingly, I'm getting a slightly smaller percentage this year and yet it seems like a much bigger deal than last year. The reason for this ironic situation is simple: for whatever reason, my boss had done a very good job convincing me, over the past several months, that the bonuses were going to be significantly smaller this time around. I'd actually lowered my expectations to the point where I was resigned to receiving only about 25% - 50% of the target, and then in the end it came in at something like 96% of what we'd gotten last year! Finding that out made for a very sweet Valentine's Day indeed, today!

All that loveliness and a new episode of Lost tonight! Mmm mmm good!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two Games I'm Already Looking Forward To

Although neither is coming out anytime soon, I'm nevertheless eagerly anticipating both offerings mentioned in this article at GameSpot: Red Faction: Guerrilla and Aliens: Colonial Marines.

The original Aliens Vs Predator was one of my first ever video game obsessions and featured my earliest foray into online play (on the PC, in those days), and Red Faction was the first platform First Person Shooter I ever played (courtesy of a loan from McChicken back in my early PS/2 days).

Irony Of The Sad Variety

A few days ago, comic book writer Steve Gerber died. He'd been suffering from a respiratory problem for quite awhile and had been hoping to get a life-saving lung transplant but the Universe had other plans.

What makes the timing of his death so noteworthy is that it comes during the revival of one of his two most famous creations, Omega the Unknown. In fact, I'd hesitate to use the word "famous" in relation to Omega - the other of his creations, Howard the Duck, actually had a movie made about him, after all! - but for the fact that author Jonathan Lethem has brought a certain amount of attention to the character with his 10-issue re-imagining that's about halfway complete now.

Perhaps just as important as that new series to the elevation of Omega within the public consciousness was the role that the original Omega the Unknown comic series played within Lethem's best seller from a few years back, The Fortress of Solitude. In the pages of that very entertaining work, two of the main characters, as teenagers, obsess over the weirdness that Gerber had imbued the pages of the 1970s comic with, serving as surrogates for young Lethem himself, circa 1975. As such, the author undeniably raised awareness of the character well beyond anything that the mysterious, mostly-mute Omega might ever have reached on his own (and on his own merits, to a certain degree).

Personally, I just wish Steve Gerber had been in a position to have appreciated the inspiration that he lent to Lethem, but creators' rights battles won and lost (but mostly lost) had apparently robbed him of any such possibility. It can be a dirty, cut-throat racket, the funny books business can...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Halo've A Good Time

Tonight, for the first time in several weeks, I played some more Halo 3 in Co-op Mode. McChicken was online and spoiling for a fight (against bad guys) and Vicki was out all evening at a play. So what could be finer than several hours of alien-killing? (Answer: not much that's legal!)

Tonight's lessons included:

- McChicken loves to "accidentally" hit the special weapon deploy button (the X) right in the midst of a firefight, especially when the device in question that he's carrying is a blinding Flare that he can drop at our feet to ensure that we can't see anything for several seconds

- We also discovered that it's possible to be safely behind cover, hit that selfsame special weapon deploy button while you're carrying a GravLift instead, and look up to see your protection as it goes flying through the air to leave you standing completely exposed to enemy fire!

- It turns out the On/Off button on the front of the XBox 360 doesn't double as the Disc Tray Open control, after all, as I learned when I meant to switch CDs but instead turned off my 360 in mid-sentence as we were starting up tonight

- Taking 2 Warthogs out on a mission (one apiece, so that we'll have a spare) sounds like a good plan when you first say it, but after about the fifth or sixth collision with accompanying damage, it probably wasn't all that surprising that both vehicles were totaled within seconds of encountering our first set of enemies

- Sometimes the best way to take out a really large group of powerful bad guys is to have McChicken stand safely back while I kamikaze my way through them, one or two at a time (as McChicken pointed out over the headset, between fits of laughter: it eventually got rather hard to navigate through the battlefield because it was so cluttered with my dead bodies!)

- The Carbine? A damn fine weapon for sniping, when it's in zoom mode!

All in all, a great night of fun was had!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Great Comic Art Story

From the same blog that gave us the most recent "music meets comics" tale involving Graham Nash just a little while ago comes this one, about a coin flip - over the phone! - deciding the outcome of an original artwork pricing scheme!

The question that I'd ask anyone reading this is: if you were in a situation like Klaus Jansen in the aforementioned story, where you were asked to perform a coin flip and report the outcome to the other party who had no way of knowing if you were telling the truth, with a $1000 difference hanging in the balance... would you be as honourable as Klaus was? I like to think that I would be, but that's certainly a lot of money on the line!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Dozen Comics Later

Today I decided to finally make a dent in the growing pile of unread comics that was in danger of tipping over on me. Over the past several weeks, while I hadn't stopped reading them completely, I also didn't seem to be keeping up with the volume of new arrivals each week (typically, about 10 per Wednesday). With nothing more demanding of my attention today, I brought a big selection out to the living room, and just started going.

So far, I've burned through:

New Avengers (a regular issue and an Annual)
Batman & the Outsiders (it was billed as the Outsiders vs the JLA, and yet two of the JLA members displayed on the cover don't even appear on the inside, and the ones who do show up don't seem to be there for any purpose other than to act out of character and start a fight)
Batman/Superman (two issues, which were surprisingly entertaining for a series that I've been on the verge of dropping for over a year now)
Captain Marvel (not quite sure what to make of this mini-series but I guess I'll stick around for all 5 issues)
Flash (two issues, wrapping up Mark Waid's disappointing return to the character that he made great about a decade ago)
Supergirl (not quite back to previous skanky levels but also not terribly interesting)
Thunderbolts (love the Warren Ellis writing but really can't get invested in the characters, at all!)
Wonder Woman (two issues, making up the middle frames of "The Circle" saga which I'm quite enjoying)

There wasn't really a bad comic in the bunch, but by the same token, none of it really made me sit up and take notice. I definitely need to do some more pruning of my reading material, as I think I'm falling back into the habit of picking up titles that are just OK, for no reason other than routine. And that's just a waste of money, after all.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

An Exciting Day Of Reading About The WGA Strike

OK, slight exaggeration in the title of this blog post... but it has been very interesting to peruse the various websites that have been providing information (slanted or otherwise) on the strike for lo, these past several months. It's resembled - quite understandably, all things considered - a veritable feeding frenzy over the last few days, with a tentative deal first announced to be "in the works," and then finally (as of the wee hours this morning) revealed for all to see. Everyone and their mother-in-law has been weighing in with their opinions of the deal details, with a reasonably even split between those who espouse that what's proposed is the best that the WGA could reasonably expect to get from the greedy and evil AMPTP, and those who are firmly convinced that accepting these terms will essentially mean that the three+ months of walking the picket lines will have accomplished nothing if this is all they get out of it. In other words, the reactions are pretty much in line with the way most work stoppages seem to end!

The single most surprising element of the tentative deal, for me, was the proposed length: it would be in effect only through May 2011! You mean to tell me that, even if the proposal is ratified and the writers go back to work next week, we may get to do this all over again in just three short years?! Wow, that's depressing. On the other hand, the brevity of the deal's duration may help sell some striking workers on it, if they perceive that three years of gathering additional data on how video streaming does - or doesn't! - produce revenue might put them in a better position to bargain for superior compensation before this proposed contract expires. Or not, of course.

Anyway, I'm hoping that they settle, because I think they'll have improved their position somewhat and also have built a foundation for the future. Or maybe I'm just selfishly hoping for more new episodes of Lost, sooner!

Agile Book Update

Well, all three of the pre-release reviewers have their (electronic) copies now, and all I can do is wait. I've gotten a few verbal words from one (who was about halfway through it), a comment of "it's impressive" from another, and naught but silence so far from the third (although he received his copy most recently).

I've spent a few hours over the last several days working on some enhancements to the material while the waiting game has continued. I also did some investigation into the self-publishing options, and at the moment am leaning toward using Lulu, based on what I've read so far. That's not to say that I won't still change my mind, or that I couldn't be swayed by a persuasive argument for something else. When I originally priced out the cost before I'd ever started the Agile book, I had it in my head that each copy would cost me between $15 and $20, depending on where the page count ended up. More recently, though, it seems like it comes out closer to the $10 to $15 range, but I haven't made a final decision yet on format, so it could still go back up.

I also have yet to design the cover for The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile). I have some ideas, but it feels like I need to get closer to a finished product between the covers before deciding on what kind of face to put on it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Another Night Of Bridge

Foray # 2 into the overly-complicated world of Bridge is on the slate for this evening. I'm not yet convinced that I actually like the game yet, as there seems to be an endless list of rules and conventions around the bidding, my (somewhat self-inflicted) ignorance of which leaves my game severely lacking. While I find it relatively easy and generally fun to memorize thousands upon thousands of bits of comic book trivia, I'm not having the same reaction to the Bridge rules. But we'll see how tonight goes.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

All Bets Are Off!

After the first two episodes of Lost this season, it's apparent that many of the rules have changed. To wit:
  • Season Four didn't start, like the first three, with a close-up shot of an eye
  • Similarly, the new season didn't launch with a Jack spotlight as had been the tradition (we got Hurley instead) although Jack did appear in the flash forward segment of the season premiere
  • Tonight's episode also featured multiple backstories for the first time that I can recall, as we were introduced to four new characters (from the freighter) along with getting some more info about dead Naomi
  • The pace, at least through these initial two offerings, has been way faster than we've grown accustomed to (perhaps responding to fans' complaints about the pace)
I'm loving the new season so far!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A New Distraction

A friend of Vicki's lent us a DVD series called Long Way Round, which is an episodic documentary of actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman embarking on a 20,000 mile motorcycle trip "round the world." We're only 4 episodes in at the moment, but it's been excellent so far! McGregor and Boorman complement each other beautifully, and the result is a very entertaining mix of humour and awe as they ride around and see parts of the world that most of us never will (or even want to!) For example: despite starring in 3 Star Wars movies, Ewan seems almost incapable of filling his bike up with gas without spraying the damn stuff in his eyes! And the two mates' commentary as they get invited to stay in strangers' house after strangers' house is worth the time invested alone!

I just noticed that the series has an IMDB rating of 9.3/10 (over about 2000 votes) and I'd certainly concur! If you ever get a chance to watch Long Way Round, I'd recommend that you take it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Another Notch In The Biking Belt

The biking streak is now up to 26 months, thanks to a brief warm-and-wet spot over the last couple days that got rid of most of the snow. I hit some tricky (icy) spots this morning on the ride in, but with the temperature slightly above zero it was unseasonably comfortable for cycling and so I didn't mind at all.

Getting a ride in during February usually means that another 9 months will be added to the streak fairly easily, but with the wacky weather we've been getting lately, who really knows?

At The Corner Of Comics And Music

I love stuff like this, in which a former DC/Wildstorm executive (Scott Dunbier) tells his story about selling some original artwork to "Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills and Nash!" If you follow the link, make sure to check out the comments for further name-dropping of the music and comic book variety!

Monday, February 04, 2008

More Fun With Agile

Tomorrow I'm meeting a friend of my boss's who teaches a Computer Science course (of some variety, as yet unknown) at our local university. The purpose of this get-together is to talk about whether it would make sense for me to visit her class and talk about "Agile in the workplace" or something to that effect.

Recalling the less-than-pleasant experience on "Take Your (Grade 9) Kid To Work Day" a few months back, I'm a little leery about signing up for something that might end up with me standing in front of several dozen visibly-disinterested university students who are only there because Mommy and Daddy insist they take some courses if they want the weekend parties to continue to be paid for... But perhaps I'm being too hard on the current generation.

Among the questions I hope to get answered are:
  • What, specifically, is the course about?
  • How interested in "real world examples" do the students tend to be?
  • What does the course lecturer hope that the students would get out of this?
  • How much material (in terms of length of time) would be appropriate?
  • How big is the class (number of students)?
If I can find all that out, I think I'll have a better idea of whether or not to pursue this any further.

If my Agile book was already published and selling like hotcakes, I suppose this is the sort of thing I could actually charge money for! Ah, it's fun to dream... (and do even hotcakes sell like hotcakes anymore?)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

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

(The following is the fourth part of a short story. If you haven't done so already, please consider reading Chapter One, Chapter Two and Chapter Three before continuing.)

Chapter Four: For The Man Who Has Everything

"Norman stood, hands locked together behind his back, and stared out through the window. Spread out before him was the fruit of all those labours, spanning nearly three decades now. His fingerprints were on the architectural plans that had spawned the National Art Gallery there, and all over the funding that had made that bank a reality, not to mention adorning the ownership papers of not one but two skimmer dealerships, there and there!

But none of that explained how the days had become months, and the months then been lost to years. He could remember with crystal clarity the scent of the perfume that Kathy had worn that first day on campus, and the strong grip returned in the handshake that confirmed his admission into McManus, Sullivan and Wright. So why was so much of what came later now a blur to him, accessible only in the cold analytical part of his brain that he might use to call up the details of a photograph?

The Man with the Midas Touch might be how the news services referred to him, but to Norman's way of thinking, his only real ability had been to speed up the passing of time. That, and to strain relationships to the breaking point... and beyond."

- "For The Man Who Has Everything", Coming Of Age Tale, Peter Osbourne (Born 1990), Published 2006

Elizabeth Lee walked briskly down the path leading from her school to the park where she typically ate her lunch. Despite her best attempts at self-control, her thoughts kept sliding back to the words that Miss Allen had said to her, less than an hour earlier. Defying the mental blockades that she'd set for them, the stinging sentiments washed over her again and again. "You and I both know that's not true, Liz. Everyone needs friends! But you're not going to make many if you keep acting like you're somehow above it all. There's more to Life than just knowing all of the answers."

"Oh yeah, like what?" Liz said outloud, in an effort to exorcise the conversation from her head.

"Like what what?" asked Peter Osborne, from where he sat, cross-legged, on the grass to her left.

Liz stopped, even though her natural inclination was to keep on walking. But you're not going to make many... whispered the voice that still rang in her ears. "Oh. Hi, Peter. I didn't see you there."

"At the speed you were going, I'm sure I'm wasn't much more than a blur, anyway. And what would that make you? A redshift, I guess? Or a blueshift? I can never keep those straight."

Liz smiled and said immediately, "Redshift away, blueshift towards", but hoped that both her expression and the voice to go with it had conveyed anything but the condescension that had initially filled her. Bad Liz, she thought to herself. So not going to make many that way!

"Uh, yeah. Hey, I see you brought your lunch," Peter said. "I've already finished mine, but would you like to share a patch of grass while you eat?"

"Um, sure. I was hoping for some company today, anyway." Liar, liar, liar!

As Liz settled in and began unpacking her food, Peter said, "I don't know about you, but it seems like these days, whenever I get a little free time, my mind always starts worrying about my COAT. Do you suppose that's typical of our age group? That it becomes kind of an obsession for us, after a while?"

Between bites, Liz replied, "I'm not sure. I set aside several hours each week for mine, and that's usually the only time I really think about it. Does that mean that I'm going about it all wrong?"

"Hah! Elizabeth Lee, doing something the wrong way? Now there's a funny thought! No, I'm sure you're fine. It's probably me that's out to lunch... so to speak!"

Liz wiped a bit of apple pulp from the corner of her mouth and asked, "What's your COAT about? If you don't mind telling me, that is! You never really say much about it during group time."

"Well." Peter took his tablet nub from his pocket, placed it on the ground between them, and with one finger traced out a rectangle stretching away from the device across the grass, approximately two feet wide by one foot long. Immediately that area filled with a flat, glowing display, representing the contents of his cell of the Hive. He casually touched the light screen several times, bringing up the document that occupied most of his free time at the moment. "As you can see," he said with a wry grin on his face, "what my COAT is about so far is... well, about five thousand words! Hardly even a sweater yet, let alone a COAT. Like that joke never gets old!"

Liz shifted around closer to Peter's position to improve her perspective on the screen's contents, aware that she was slightly uncomfortable about losing some of her own personal space in the process. She reached out one slender hand toward the glowing display and lightly tapped out her progress as she quickly skimmed through what her fellow student was sharing with her. Lost momentarily in the thrill of discovery, she moved forward and back through the material quickly.

Peter couldn't help but stare in admiration at the beauty of his companion's features, which he knew that he was only able to get away with thanks to her absorption in digesting what he'd shown her. She was far and away the most attractive of the girls in his class and yet he'd never had the opportunity to really appreciate that fact until that moment.

When Liz finally looked up again, she noticed Peter staring at her with an strange, unfamiliar expression on his face. She quickly turned away, rubbing at her teeth with a forefinger, convinced that something must be stuck there. And that's why you don't eat with other people, stupid! she thought. But by the time she looked back, the boy had turned his attention once again to the contents of his screen.

"It's not coming together for me, that's for sure," he said. "I know that we're supposed to write about something that we feel passionate about, and I've got that base covered, but..."

"What's your theme?" asked Liz. "And do you have a title yet?"

"It's supposed to be about the conflict between material success and the pursuit of true happiness. And no."

"No?"

"No title. No idea where I really want it to go. No real theme beyond what I just told you. Which is to say, I don't have much. Practically nothing, when you get right down to it. In fact, I'm probably not doing much better than Linus in that regard, with the difference being that at least he's honest about it!"

Liz sensed that she was supposed to say something supportive at this point, but couldn't decide how to do that without sounding patronizing. Instead, she asked, "Is your central character, Norman, based on anyone?" Then she added, "He certainly seems very well-defined, from what I saw in your notes. Impressively so!" See, Miss Allen? I can be supportive when I want to be!

"Well," Peter replied, looking down to avoid Liz's gaze, "let's just say that Sanjay isn't the only one of us with daddy issues!"

"Sanjay has daddy issues?" Liz repeated, genuinely surprised.

"Boy, you really don't pay any attention to what's going on around you, do you?" He saw the girl's face fall at his words, and quickly said, "Sorry, that was really rude of me! I didn't mean it that way."

Liz felt her cheeks getting warm, but fought the impulse to lash back. "Of course you meant it, Peter, and you're right. I stink at making friends! In fact, I was just having my face rubbed in that particular doggie doo not two hours ago. So don't feel bad... you're not even the first person to point it out today!"

"I'm really sorry, Liz." Peter could feel the embarrassment rolling off the girl and desperately wanted to stop it. Much more so than he would've expected, actually. "Look, you came and ate your lunch with me, and I would've bet next week's allowance that you'd never do that. So that's a good step, right?"

Liz smiled weakly and asked, "Am I really that bad? Is it truly a noteworthy achievement that I ate lunch with a classmate today?"

Peter had no idea how to respond to that question without making things worse, and so he wisely kept his mouth shut.

Liz snorted. "God! It really is! I'm pathetic."

"Hey, if there's one word I'd never use to describe you, Liz, it's pathetic. You're the most impressive student in the school, no question. You're just a little... light... in the social skills, that's all."

"That's actually a nice way of putting it!" She was surprised by how much it meant to her that Peter was trying to make her feel better. Clearing her throat, she said, "So getting back to your COAT, if it's about your father, and also about happiness versus wealth, what are you hoping to say through it?"

"Say?"

"Well, you know. OK, sure, it's your COAT," and here Liz waved her free hand in a sarcastic big deal motion as she continued to gather up her lunch mess, "and you have to write it to achieve adult status and all that, but what statement are you really trying to make? It could be intended for anyone who happens to read it, as a cautionary tale, or I suppose it could be just for your father himself."

Peter looked confused. He said, "For the man who has everything? I don't expect that he'll take the time to ever read it, and even if he does, what could he possibly get out of it?"

Liz smiled, and this time it was full of joy. "I think you just answered your own question, Peter! It really is 'for the man who has everything,' and maybe you should dedicate it to him, just to make that perfectly clear! There's your statement, my friend... and your title, too, maybe! All in one nice package, with a bow on it!"

Peter stared at her, saying nothing. In fact, he didn't even want to breathe, lest he break the spell of the moment. What's more amazing, he wondered. The fact that brainy Liz Lee turns out to be a real, flesh and blood girl with a beautiful smile, or that she just got my COAT back on track over lunch? Finally, he let the breath out and said, "Elizabeth Lee, I think I may just be in love!"

Liz froze, a look of pure horror on her face. But then she saw the twinkle in Peter's eye, and relaxed. "In your dreams, Romeo," she said, but with a smile that didn't completely rule out further discussion on the topic. Not going to make many, my sweet ass, she thought to herself, as the two walked back to class.

Later that week, Liz and Peter were seated next to each other once again as they were joined by James Hancock, Sanjay Majmudar, Linus Morgan and their teacher, Laurel Allen, for the day's COAT discussion group session. If the others in the circle had noticed anything different in the dynamic between the young Chinese girl and her newfound friend recently, they at least had had the decency not to comment on it. And that's just fine by me, thought Liz as she sat listening to what Sanjay was saying.

"But I don't see what you're getting at, Linus," the Indian youth said. "There was no Richard Jeffries. He was just someone Miss Allen made up for her COAT."

Linus replied, "I know that he didn't exist. That's not what I'm saying. I'm simply asking, what if the whole concept of COATs had never come about? It doesn't matter why; maybe William Allen never thought of it; or he did, but the idea just didn't catch on, for some reason. My question is, how different would the world be today?"

Peter leaned forward slightly, a frown disturbing his even features. "What does it matter, Linus?" he said. "It did catch on! We've had COATs for a century now. Every nation in the world believes in the importance of a literate populace today, and has for generations."

"Exactly!" responded Linus, his eyes dancing from face to face. "But what if that revelation had never happened?"

"Is this just another tack for you to take for why you shouldn't have to write your own COAT?" asked Peter.

Liz quickly reached out a hand and placed it softly on Peter's shoulder, unaware of the quizzical look that move had drawn from her teacher, sitting to the other side of her. Quietly, Liz said, "Actually, I don't think that's what he's saying, Peter. Is it, Linus?"

Linus tried to meet his female classmate's eyes but couldn't, and instead ended up looking down at his shoes as he spoke. "No, that's not what I'm saying, at all. In fact, if anyone really cares, I started my COAT about a week ago. And I'm about twelve thousand words in, as a matter of fact."

Still Celebrating Milestones

The next post will be # 1400, and will feature the fourth (and probably penultimate) chapter of Imaginary Stories. I've gotten no feedback on this serialized tale since Chapter One was published, but I'll continue to assume that people are at least reading (if not necessarily enjoying) it. Personally, I'm extremely happy with how it's come along so far, and am already looking forward to including it in Book # 2, which should be a collection of short stories. By the end of Chapter Four, you should have at least an inkling of what Imaginary Stories has been building up to, if you didn't already.

First Review Copy Of Agile Book Has Left The House

I've sent the first copy of The Real-Life Adventures Of AgileMan (Lessons Learned Going Agile) Draft # 3 out for review, and am waiting to hear back from two others who I hope will be willing to provide feedback on it.

If I thought that having Vicki reading it over last week was a bit nerve-wracking (and it was!) then I should've been prepared for how hard it was going to be to send it out to people who are almost strangers, compared to my wife! What if they hate it? Or worse, what if they just think it's a piece of boring crud and can't believe that I wasted six months of my life writing it? After all, Vicki has been one of the biggest fans of my writing all along, so what does her (strongly positive) reaction mean in the grand scheme of things?

And yes, those are the fun kinds of thoughts bouncing around in my brain this weekend. Some people have real problems to deal with in their lives, and here I am worrying about stupid, trivial stuff like that. Go figure.

Norway On My Mind

We watched Michael Moore's Sicko tonight - if I get a chance tomorrow, I may post a review of it over at The Studio - and one of the special features on the DVD was called "This Country's Better Than France." It was all about Norway, and included a brief mention of their fiscal handling of the oil resources that have been rolling a lot of money into the country over the past decade and a half. That reminded Vicki of a newspaper article that she'd just read on the topic, which she then went looking for online.

Here's a link to that write-up although I don't know if the Globe and Mail keeps their articles around indefinitely. Among the more interesting sections of the piece are:

"While it isn't hard for nations and provinces to get rich from oil, it is exceptionally hard – almost impossible, by conventional economic reasoning – for them to make money off anything else while the oil boom is taking place.

Everywhere else in the world – including Canada – a boom in oil has led to a decline, if not a complete devastation, of conventional businesses. It's a phenomenon known to economists as “Dutch disease,” after the tragic experience of the Netherlands, which discovered oil in the 1970s. As oil exports boomed, the flood of money into the domestic economy inflated the currency, provoked price increases and destroyed exports, leading to a decade of joblessness and rising inequality.
"

and

"The Management Rule is the heart of Norway's economic miracle. It is a profound act of self-discipline: All but 4 per cent of Norway's oil earnings must be placed in the fund for savings; nothing can be withdrawn from the fund until the oil is gone, decades from now; and – most crucially – absolutely none of the money can be invested inside Norway. Mr. Slyngstad and his traders spend their days funnelling the oil wealth into foreign stocks and bonds, so none of it will touch the Norwegian economy."

There's a lot more to the Norwegian situation covered at the Globe and Mail site, and I encourage everyone to check out the link and see for themselves.

As I said to Vicki after reading the article, that's the sort of frugal approach to finances that I can relate to! Rather than gorging on the money during the brief period in which it's coming in, they're basically leveraging that burst of wealth to provide for themselves and the next several generations to come. And they're not artificially inflating their own economy in the short term, which seems to be the normal pattern with countries that have discovered oil in the past seventy five years. I like to think that, on a much smaller and less complex scale, that's sort of the way Vicki and I have handled our money, too.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Apparently Today's My Day For Hilarious Videos

This one came to my attention thanks to Blog @ Newsarama (possibly my favourite blog site that I'm not a contributor to!)

The gist of the video, in case you're actually considering not bothering to check it out, is: What if Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and the rest of the Superfriends were the embodiment of the socially-retarded characters from the sitcom, Friends? More Laugh Out Loud humour awaits you!

An Incredibly Funny Video



This comes to us via Halo 3 partner extraordinaire McChicken, and I nearly split my gut open laughing! It probably helps if you're an NFL fan but I don't think it's a requirement.

Anything that belittles Adolf Hitler and the Dallas Cowboys is A-OK in my book! (And he probably would be a Cowboys fan, too!)

Here's the original link in case you can't read the sub-titles because of the YouTube logo (that problem's not present at the YouTube site).

Friday, February 01, 2008

Agile Book Draft # 3 Almost Done

Vicki and I spent about 3 hours tonight, side by side, going over her edits from the past week. She's done an amazing job of providing feedback on all 50,000 words of it, and I'd say that the vast majority of her suggestions have been incorporated into this newest version. I was worried that she might only offer up typo's and grammatical boo boo's, but I was delighted to find out that she also focused on aspects like flow, consistency, clarity and style, even going to the point of offering up some additional examples and pop culture references! It's definitely proving to be a better book for her efforts, and I couldn't be happier.

We're about an hour of co-editing away from finishing Draft # 3, so I expect that I may be able to send review copies (Word doc format) out to a few people as early as sometime this weekend. And what an exciting thought that is... for me, anyway!