Saturday, May 31, 2008

Apparently ED Watches Stanley Cup Hockey

As we roll into the third period of tonight's Game 4 between Detroit and Pittsburgh (with the Red Wings leading 2-1 in the series, and now leading the game 2-1 early in the 3rd), it's becoming obvious that Viagra is a major sponsor of the program! I'm talking half a dozen commercials per hour, all of them featuring people of advancing age (older, even, than me!) who suddenly decide to have sex. Since it's sometimes the woman initiating matters, I guess that means the little blue pill that the old dude took awhile earlier has finally kicked in and he's got an erection that his 60-something wife can hear throbbing all the way across the room.

I don't know... hockey fans and Viagra? It used to be beer and car commercials almost exclusively... does this mean that the NHL playoffs have jumped the shark?

A Light Month Of Blogging

While November of last year will continue to be my lowest monthly blogging output to date, the current month - now only a few hours away from ending - will almost certainly take over the position of "2nd lowest." I can't exactly put my finger on the why, although being very busy at work (and hence coming home burned out, or having office work to finish at home, or both) probably factors into it.

If my calculations are correct, today marks the end of my first 20 months of blogging (going back to Oct 1/06). Over that stretch I've produced almost 1600 posts here at Kimota94's Place, which ain't too shabby no matter how you slice it. At this point I'm still enjoying it, though less than I once did. I recently had occasion to look for something that I'd blogged last year, and dammed if I didn't start re-reading random posts in the process! I may be the only one who finds my life that interesting, but that's enough for me most days! :-)

Printer Saga Ends Without Bloodshed

Thanks to a kindly co-worker with a family member who works at an electronics store, Vicki and I were able to get the right USB 2.0 cable that was needed to connect our new printer to Vicki's PC for about 10% of what The Source by Circuit City was going to charge us. Today we did our first ever print job on it (the current output from the Meal Planner) and were happy to discover that the new device executes at about five to ten times the speed of the one it replaced... very nice upgrade, indeed!

All of that comes only 7 short days after we bought the new printer! :-P

Friday, May 30, 2008

So How About That Lost Season Four Finale?

First off: was that the best season for a television program ever? I'm not sure yet, as I'll reserve judgment until I watch it a second time (when the DVD comes out), but it just might have been. There were so many payoff moments this year, growing out of that final scene from Season Three with Jack and Kate at the airport, and running straight through to the way that the writers, incredibly, gave us the next couple minutes after that pivotal, jaw-dropping moment at the end of last season, here in Season Four's finale (when we surely thought there was nothing left to show there). Even though it was only 14 episodes long (rather than the planned 16 or the typical 22 - 24), Season Four felt jam-packed with twists, revelations and heart-stopping WTF moments!

At the end of Season Three, the big question in my mind was: where do they go from here? After all, we'd seen beyond the island for the first time ever, and I couldn't figure out if that meant that we'd been given a glimpse of "life after Lost" or something else entirely. This season we've come to realize that it was the latter, thankfully (showing the end of the story, partway through, without killing any remaining suspense is a real trick shot to pull off, as we found out with Babylon 5).

The fourth season was as different in tone, feel and pacing from its predecessor as each of the preceding ones had been, which is one of the reasons this show works so well. There's no return to the status quo to disappoint the viewer, because there's no status quo! Presumably next year we'll learn more about what happened in the outside world during those three Oceanic Six years, as well as (maybe) events on the island over that same period - although it's possible that the island simply moved forward in time, in which case nothing happened! I have to believe that Miles, Charlotte and Faraday have more stories in them than we've seen so far, although admittedly that kind of thinking didn't do much good for poor Danielle or Alex! Charlotte as Benry's childhood sweetie still seems like a possibility, although the fiery redhead said that she'd been born on the island, and I'm not sure that lines up with that theory.

The fact that I have virtually no idea what to expect next, mirroring the state of wide-eyed anticipation and confusion that I was in after they blew the lid off the hatch and peered down into the abyss for the first time, or when the Others proclaimed themselves "the good guys" and put the bags over the heads of Jack, Kate and Sawyer, or in that instant when Kate walked out of the shadows at the airport... and that's another reason why Lost rules the TV landscape!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lucky Book # 30 Was Bought By... I Don't Know Who!

I just checked my book sales online, and another copy sold in the last day or two! That's always very exciting when it happens, even though I can't tell who did the buying.

As it was the first sale in a fortnight, it's somewhat bittersweet (remember when they were selling like hot cakes?) but what can you do? It's not like I'm actually doing much of anything to promote The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile)! On the other hand: thirty sales? Woo hoo!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bit Of Fun Watchmen Movie Stuff

Few readers of this blog are anywhere nearly as interested in the upcoming Watchmen film as I am, but I provide this link regardless, in which screenwriter David Hayter provides a few tidbits about the movie itself. It's just so encouraging to hear that the source material is being treated so reverently:

"... the story is so good and so well-written and I think so cinematic I just sort of felt like a lot of fanboys felt, which is this is basically a storyboarded movie, it’s ready to go and it’s already better-written than 98 percent of the movies that come out..."

I'm one of the fanboys who's been saying that for a couple decades now (including to my buddy Tim, who's maintained all along that Watchmen was impossible to make into a good film... and of course, he could still be proven right!)

Just over 9 months to go now...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

0-For-2 So Far

So we picked up a nice long USB 2.0 cable today at lunch, only to find out tonight that it's a special kind of USB 2.0 cable that's required! Despite there being the standard sized USB 2.0 port at the front of the printer - and hence, we bought a cable that was configured like that at both ends - that's apparently where you would plug in a camera USB cable (for printing photos), not how you connect your PC to the printer! For that latter operation to work, you need one end of the cable to be standard USB 2.0 and the other to be a smaller, square-ish USB format. Nothing about this is indicated in the Instruction Manual, of course. So now we have to return what we bought today and purchase a different model tomorrow or the next day!

All of which would've been avoided if Canon had simply provided all of the parts! It's a damn good thing we don't have any high priority printing lined up that we thought buying a brand new printer would solve in a timely fashion!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

No Assembly Required (But Some Pieces May Be Missing)

Vicki bought her first "21st century printer" this past weekend: it faxes, it scans, it copies, and, oh yes, it even prints! Pretty exciting to be able to get such a powerful machine for just over $100, and so tonight I thought I'd get it all working for her while she was out at a cooking class.

And then I discovered that it requires a USB 2.0 cable to connect her PC to the newfangled device, and which doesn't come with the printer... and which I don't have one of sitting around! I do have a many-pin connector cable that would've come with the last printer we bought, way back in the far flung 20th century, when they realized that you didn't really want to have buy extra parts in order to use your new toys!

So much for having it set up for the wife when she gets home tonight; instead I get to tell her that she needs to spend another $20 or more before she can use it!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pool Daze

Two weeks after opening it, I finally got to take my first swim of the year in our pool today. The water temperature, which I'd been keeping in the mid 60s Fahrenheit (high teens Celsius), was brought up into the mid 70s F (low to mid 20s C) this weekend, as I'd figured that I might be up for a dip. It felt pretty cool going in, but I warmed to it quickly enough, and stayed in for nearly an hour.

This is almost certainly the latest I've ever pushed off the start of Swimming Season, a reflection of how cold the Spring has been this year (as well as, I'm sure, my advancing age).

Zengaku Fun

AgileBoy, bless his sidekick heart, has crafted up a very nice website that generates a new Zengaku puzzle (like Sodoku, but slightly different) for you every day, which you can fill in right there on the screen! It has the added bonus of a verification feature, cell-by-cell, which you can use to ensure that you're on the right path.

I just filled today's out (took me close to an hour, I think, although I wasn't timing myself) and only verified each answer once I believed there was only one possible value for that cell (and each time, I was correct). I really appreciated the ability to fill in my answers without having to print anything off, and that I could verify each answer that I believed to be right (rather than worrying that I might be building upon a bad premise, as has happened to me in the past). It made for a very fun experience, and I encourage you to check it out if you like that sort of thing.

Something Had To Give

Going into last night's Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, some impressive stats were on a collision course.

First, Detroit had won Games One and Two of every series they'd played in so far this year, and Pittsburgh had one-upped them by having won Games One, Two and Three in each of their first three series! Obviously one of those streaks had to end last night, and it was the Penguins who came up short.

Similarly, neither team had trailed yet in a series this playoff year. The most precarious situation either of them had faced was Detroit's 2-2 status after four games against Nashville in the opening round (the Wings then won Games Five and Six). Again, it was a given that one of these two heavyweights was going to trail a series for the first time once the final seconds ticked off the clock on Game One, and that fell to Pittsburgh.

I recorded the game and watched it this morning - not knowing anything about the result - and I'd say that the first half of it was very entertaining. Both goaltenders were incredible over that stretch, and it looked like it could quite easily go into overtime, tied 0-0. Once Detroit took over in the back half of the second period, though - mainly in terms of shots on goal, but also getting that all-important first goal - I lost some of my enthusiasm for the game. (I will admit that, after seeing the Penguins manhandle the Rangers in Round Two, it was somewhat satisfying to see it done to them!) It just seemed that the play became too one-sided from that point on, with Pittsburgh having fewer and fewer good scoring opportunities. The writing was on the wall early in the third, and the Pens did nothing to erase it.

The Red Wings definitely looked the better team on the night, and the 4-0 final score reflected that.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mr Consistency

Although my blogging output is certainly down of late, I've still been pretty good about making sure that I post at least once per day. I figure anyone who visits this site on a daily basis deserves to find something new to read when they stop by, even if it's not necessarily on a favourite topic of theirs (shockingly, not everyone who frequents this blog finds comic books as fascinating as I do!)

Some days that level of consistency is harder to maintain than it is on others, as after a year and a half of this it can often be difficult to think of anything worth writing about (as is probably apparent at times!) I wish I could write more about work happenings, but that's proven unpopular among The Powers That Be there, and so that topic is mostly closed to me these days. My enthusiasm toward current developments in the comic book business, as noted recently, is pretty close to an all-day low. Since those are two of my old standbys when looking for something to blog about, it can be quite the challenge to keep administering the daily dosage of new blog material.

Anyway, since I haven't put any Blog Points up for grabs in a long time, here's your chance: 1 Blog Point to the first person to correctly identify the last date upon which I didn't produce a new blog post here at Kimota94's Place. Hint: It hasn't happened in awhile!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Red Wings Or Penguins: Who Do You Like?

I have to say that this year's Stanley Cup Finals match-up, the first one in five years to not feature a Canadian team, is nevertheless maybe the most interesting over that stretch! Both teams are legitimate contenders (having finished 1st or 2nd in their respective Conferences), and the storylines for each couldn't be much more contrasted!

The Wings, with their three Cups in the past 12 years but more importantly a perennial contender after the end of each NHL season, will go up against the Pens, who haven't really had any claim to fame since their back-to-back Cups in the early 90s when Mario and Jaromir were powering the team. I happen to think that Pittsburgh might still be a year away from being able to win it all, but I guess we'll see if that's true over the course of the next week or two. I don't know what the TV ratings will be like (in Canada, that is; who cares about in the States, where hockey is about as popular as lawn bowling it sometimes seems) but if it turns out to be a close series, this could be one for the ages (like *ahem* 1994!)

I'm picking Detroit, but I'm really just hoping for a long, interesting series.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another In A Series: The Intersection Of Music And Comics

I love this article, in which the 10 Worst Album Covers By Comic Artists are lovingly presented, dissected and skewered.

I have to admit that I'd probably buy the Trixter album (for a few dollars) just to get the Neal Adams drawing on its cover, no matter what the writer of the article thinks! I did enjoy the assessment of Todd McFarlane's artwork (since the only thing worse than his art is his 'writing').

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Biggest Comic News Ever

Today I told the owner of my local comic store - the store of which I've been a faithful customer for over two decades now - that I'm seriously considering kicking the weekly comic buying habit. Those who recall me talking about writing an Agile book, or have followed with rapt attention the intensity to which I've taken up blogging, will realize that I don't "seriously consider" things lightly.

I've only gotten to this point once before in my life that I can remember, and that was during university when money was very tight. This time, it's not something that's being financially-driven at all, but rather just a lack of enthusiasm toward the fare that DC and Marvel are putting out right now. (And yes, I do know that there are other comic publishers out there besides the Big Two, and I even buy some of their stuff... but I'm a mainstream superhero fan if I'm anything, so when that genre's not turning my crank, it's over!)

I haven't established any kind of timeframe for this major change of lifestyle yet, but it feels like something that I should do before year-end. And I'm not silly enough to think I'll stop completely ("cold turkey" as the kids fond of heroin would say). I figure I'll simply forgo the weekly trip to the comic store and opt for irregular purchases when the spirit moves me. Even just imagining it seems weird right now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

29 Copies Of The Book Sold... Who Will Be Lucky # 30?

I realized today that I'm one sale of The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile) short of the Big 3-0 milestone! The total was stalled at 27 long enough before last week's 2 sales that I stopped thinking about it, but here I am now, about to (maybe) break new ground. I thought I might move a copy at the dentist's office today, when I mentioned - in between having small gobs of rotting food extracted from my mouth - that I'd written a book since I'd been there last. There was the usual, "Written a book? Wow, that's impressive" reaction but not much of a nibble after that.

I guess I just don't have Vicki's ability to make surprising sales (like this or this). Or maybe it's just harder to sell yourself than to make a pitch for someone else...

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Sign Of Getting Old: Playing On Easy?

I've put in quite a few hours on BioShock this weekend, but realized partway through it that I couldn't really manage to play it on Normal!

I started off on Easy because I wasn't expecting to like it - after my so-so reaction to the demo, months ago - and then forgot that I'd set the Difficulty level so low. When I remembered it, I went and jacked it up to Normal, only to get my ass handed to me about six times in a row during a particularly tough stretch... causing me to go back to Easy!

I'm hoping this isn't the start of a trend, though, as I almost always play video games on the "middle" setting, as that seems to give me the right combination of challenge and "job satisfaction." If I start finding that I can't play most games that way anymore, however, I'm going to start feeling very depressed about my age!

Gene Ha: Looking For Bathroom Graffiti!

Artist Gene Ha, who produced the amazing sketch of Kimota94 and Wife (on display at the top left of this blog) and who is working on a new Top Ten comic (sadly, without Alan Moore), has put out the call for submissions of bathroom graffiti to be used in an upcoming issue of the title.

For those who don't know (which is probably almost everyone reading this), Top Ten is an Alan Moore creation of a world in which everyone has superpowers or abilities of one sort or another. The main cast of Top Ten are the precinct cops - all of whom, of course, also have special powers - who investigate crimes within this unique setting. At its peak, under Moore's mighty pen, Top Ten was one of the best comics of the late 20th/early 21st century. Moore's abandoned such mainstream work these days, but DC and Wildstorm keep putting out mini-series and specials every once in a while.

With that as background, you can appreciate that it's a women's washroom in the police station that Ha's looking to adorn with scribblings. Go check out his blog, especially if you have a favourite potty humour line or poem that you'd love to see end up in a comic book! I've already put my list there, in the Comments!

Well, At Least I Didn't Have To Go Into Work

Anyone hoping for nice weather for our May long weekend (just now wrapping up) was probably as disappointed as I was. Yesterday and today, in particular, were even too cool for Vicki to feel like gardening, whereas on Victoria Day weekends in the past, the pool's typically been heavily used as a means of cooling off! I'm not sure if this is the latest manifestation of Climate Change, or just a freakishly long winter not quite letting go, but it's certainly been a little hard to take.

I also spent way too much time this 3-day weekend thinking/worrying about work. There's just too much going on there right now, in our post-Reorg world, for me to be able to turn it off, even when I'm away for several days. I was on several long e-mail threads over the weekend, so clearly it wasn't just me! If I were to say more than that, then I'm sure the Haters of Open and Honest Communication would come out of the woodwork and cause all kinds of trouble for my long-suffering boss. And we can't have that.

Wrapping up the depressing developments, our trailer trash neighbours behind us have us once again thinking about moving, thanks to a loud Victoria Day party they decided to hold in their tiny backyard. I noticed today, as I was taking stuff to our curb, that you could actually hear them quite clearly a street away! In other words, today - like so many days, unfortunately - they were producing enough noise to bother people for several hundred feet in all directions! That takes a special kind of indifference to others, but sadly they've got it... in spades!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Haze Has Some Potential

I just finished playing through the relatively-short demo level of Haze on the PS/3. It seems like a reasonably well-done First Person Shooter: I only had a choice of 3 guns (2 battle rifle variations and a pistol) but I imagine more show up in later levels; the controls are easy enough to get used to; ammo is picked up automatically (I hate when you have a press a button to grab ammo!); you're limited in how many different guns you can carry, which lends some realism to the experience; and the graphics seemed quite decent to these old eyeballs. The big attraction of the game, of course, is the introduction of a drug (Nectar) that enhances your abilities when you use it. Even in the demo you can see its effects beginning to show on your teammates, as they get increasingly aggressive and irritated.

Most importantly, though, the demo confirms that there is, indeed, a Coop Campaign mode that you can initiate or join online with up to 3 other players! This sounds like just the sort of thing McChicken, Boneman and I would enjoy, if we all end up buying the game. Now I just have to convince them... ;-)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Games, Games And More Games!

I finished Dark Sector last night on the PS/3, and then launched into BioShock on the XBox 360 this afternoon. When I say that I "finished" the former, though, what I really mean is that I got to the big battle at the end of Dark Sector, spent several minutes defeating the 3-headed monster only to then discover that I had a few seconds in which to kill the mastermind or else I'd inexplicably drop over dead. Frustrating? Oh yeah! I checked the walkthru site I'd been using, because it seemed so incomprehensible that I would just die like that, but yup, apparently that's how it works! I tried my luck a couple more times with the same result and then said, "OK, that's enough of that stupidity!" I know from the walkthru that I was at the end of the game, so I called it quits at that point. Up to that point it had been a pretty enjoyable game, so I'd still recommend it.

I'm getting to try BioShock courtesy of McChicken, who convinced me to give it a chance despite my lukewarm reaction to the demo when I'd played it a couple months ago. After a few hours of game time today, I'm happy to say that he was right: the real thing is much better than the demo! Vicki even stopped by for the last hour or so, and offered up all kinds of advice and encouragement. There's enough going on in the story, and in the environment that the game takes place in, to keep both of us interested! Nice recommendation (and loaner), McChicken!

I've offered him Dark Sector if he wants to try his hand with the glaive, so maybe I'll be able to return the favour soon. I've also just downloaded the demo for Haze, which I noted recently I was thinking of buying when it launches on Tuesday. That'll be one of my "chores" for the rest of the long weekend: check out whether I think it's a game worth spending $70 on or not!

Friday, May 16, 2008

PivotTables And Excel

Thanks to the kindly Man from Mars and some schoolin' he gave me a few months back, I was able to "brave" the frightening world of Excel PivotTables just far enough to solve a reporting challenge that Vicki had for work.

It was a fairly simple problem: sum up the contents of two columns, and total up the number of unique combinations between them. In fact, it's probably the most basic use you'd ever put a PivotTable to, and yet it still took us close to 15 minutes to figure out how to do it! In the end, though, we got exactly what Vicki needed, and that's all that matters!

Somedays I feel less useless than others...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Book News And Book Reviews

It's been a good last couple of days for The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile). After nearly two weeks with no sales, Vicki arranged one yesterday when she went to visit a consulting company that she's gotten work through before, and today I had a peer at work indicate that he wanted to buy a copy (we just need to connect, which given both of our schedules right now, is going to take a miracle!)

Last night I found out that the Silver Age Comic Book Trivia Contest at this year's Chicago Convention is happening, and when I mentioned to the organizer/Quiz Master that I actually had written a book - with some comic book overtones - it was suggested that I bring a few copies along as someone there might want to buy one. Not exactly a guaranteed sale, but even being able to proudly introduce myself at the panel as the author of a book is enough to give me a minor little buzz!

And finally, I visited my chiropractor today, who I'd given a copy to, last time I was there. She's an avid reader, and we've spent many an adjustment talking about books that one or the other of us had been reading. Therefore it had been a thrill to give her my book, even though I had to admit, "It's kind of work-related so you may find it boring..." In today's session, all she could do was gush about how much she was enjoying the book, and how amazed she was that she'd actually find something "computer related" to be interesting! Having someone who's completely unrelated to what I do for a living rave about the book was really rewarding, and made it seem less like a "novelty" item than it has at other times. She even called me "the author," which was nice.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Return Of The Poopy Birds

Yes, it's that time of year again.

We've so far tried putting plastic tarps down along the edge of the pool, where the birds have been dropping their loads. It does some good, as the poop is easier to clean up off plastic than when it's on concrete, but it doesn't really seem to be deterring them at all. I'm thinking that next year I should invest in some barbed wire and see if that works! I really can't figure out why our pool deck is so inviting to the dirty birds whereas the neighbours right beside us and the idiots behind us - both of whom have pools - don't seem to suffer the same fate. Must be my bad karma.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More Video Game Musings

I've been complaining lately about the PS/3 and Playstation Network not having the seamless online-talk capability that XBox Live boasts, but then last night I noticed that there now is a chat function on the PS/3 dashboard. I need a buddy to test it out with, so I can't say yet whether it's any good, but at least it has potential. A chat feature that's outside the games themselves - but still supported while you're in an online game - would make a big difference; I just don't know yet that that's what's being offered. It may simply provide talk capability within the dashboard itself, which wouldn't be all that appealing.

Skimming the upcoming video game releases, I noticed that Haze is scheduled to come out on PS/3 a week from today. There's been a fair bit of anticipatory buzz around Haze because it promises something new: an in-game drug (Nectar) that changes the player's perception of what's going on around him or her (as well as enhancing some capabilities)! While that's interesting, I'm more curious to find out if this particular First Person Shooter has online Co-op support in Campaign mode. This preview suggests that it should but stops short of promising the combination of online, co-op and campaign. This one, geared specifically toward multiplayer mode, doesn't seem to mention it. Considering the fun that I've had with McChicken and others, playing through the Halo 3 story "with a friend or two," I'd probably consider buying the game just for that one feature, if it had it.

It's funny how I get in these moods where I'm suddenly more interested in gaming than normal. I'm not sure what causes it, but I'm there right now!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Importance Of The Video Game Walkthru

Back when I first got into video games - 1999/2000, at the ripe old age of about 36 or 37 - I had to learn all about "cheat codes" on the Internet, or I'd have given up on nearly every game that I started. There always seemed to come a point in the proceedings when I just couldn't get by a boss, or maybe couldn't quite make that complicated jump, spin, catch the ledge move that the scenario demanded in order to continue on. I loved the specific uses of a few cheats, because they got me through a tough section and allowed the good times to keep on comin', but I also felt like some of the challenge was removed if I always knew that I could resort to a cheat code whenever necessary.

Now that I play console games only, cheat codes are less prevalent. What I've noticed is that most of them provide extras like funky skins for your characters or maybe early access to a cool weapon, whereas I was used to codes that would make you invincible in the game, able to walk through walls, or even fly! All of a sudden, I was back to the original situation of not always being able to get through certain difficult parts of the game. But thankfully, where the cheat codes may be lacking, there are usually good "game walkthru" sites to help out.

A walkthru is a guide, written by someone who's already played the game, for how to get through it. Depending on the author, a walkthru may be very detailed, including screenshots, or it could be a bunch of high level notes or strategies. I've found that a good walkthru can make the difference, for me, between persevering with a game and giving up on it. With Dark Sector, for example, I've been stuck three times already (in about ten hours of playing it): twice where I didn't know how to defeat a boss or mini-boss character, and once where I couldn't tell where to go next. In each case, the walkthru site I'd been using provided just exactly the details that I needed to get me back on track. In the case of a powerful boss that's always killing me while I'm trying everything I can to defeat it, it's often the case that I can't find any weakness and will end up using up all of my ammo in a vain attempt to overpower it. Often, though, it turns out that you need to know that he has a spot on his back that you have to hit with a certain type of weapon while he's glowing red (or something equally obscure). How the first guy or girl ever figured that out, I'll never know... but I'm certainly glad to benefit from their learning!

I really like to finish the good video games, but generally I can only get there with a little help from my friends... and other strangers!

Everyone Should Have A Blog

If you're a fan of Roger Ebert's (even if you haven't, like Tammy, actually had the thrill of meeting him!) and you miss him since he's been away from TV because of his various surgeries, then you may just want to check out his blog. It's great to read his reminiscences and observations there, and it made me realize just how long it's been since I was able to hear his voice on a weekly basis.

Someday everyone will have a blog...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dark Sector Mania

It's nice to be hooked on a game on my PS/3 again, after several months of XBox 360 obsessive playing. Dark Sector is a Third Person Shooter in the same style as Gears of War (which I started playing just before Dark Sector but lost interest in) and as such, it isn't my normal cup of tea. But I'm finding it quite absorbing, between the cool things that you can do with the glaive (a large, throwing-star type of weapon), the puzzles in the game, and the challenge of not running out of ammo! I played about five or six hours of it today (in two stints) and had to wrest myself away from the game just now in order to go to bed. Now that's the sign of a good video game!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another Pool Opening Day Is More Or Less Complete

My one major screw-up in the "big operation" this year (so far, anyway) was in not starting the process of topping up the water level early enough. I didn't think of it until after 8:00 last night, and so it got a couple of hours of water before we went to bed, and then was started again around 7:00 this morning when I first woke up (before going back to bed). By the time we were ready to prime the pump and get everything running - around 1:00 this afternoon - the water level wasn't yet high enough to provide a steady enough supply to the pump. And so we did other things for an hour, to let it rise some more. That wouldn't have been too bad, except that we're heading out to a BBQ around 4:00 p.m. and wanted to have it all finished by then. Note to future self: make sure you remember to start adding water early the day before the opening!

As of right now (almost 3:00), we've got the pump and heater both running, but haven't added any chemicals or vacuumed the accumulated worms and leaves out of the pool yet. As such, I suspect that we'll be at it for a while again tomorrow morning...

Friday, May 09, 2008

For Those Who Wondered...

... about the comic book shown in last night's episode of Lost, and came here hoping to find out if it was real or just a prop created for the show...

It's a real comic, Mystery Tales # 40, from (I think) 1956.

No, I don't own a copy (nor any other issues of Mystery Tales), but I think I'd have selected it as "already belonging" to me anyway, had I been in young John Locke's place!!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

How Can Lost Just Keep Getting Better?

Incredibly, week after week, it simply does!

Tonight's episode actually gave me goosebumps, especially when Locke was in the cabin with his two spooky companions. It's unbelievable how great this show has been lately, running at a pace that first and second season viewers wouldn't have thought possible. My head is soon going to explode from all of the goodness, in the form of revelations, connections, developments and character insights!

I can already begin to feel the vacuum that's going to left in our lives once this show wraps up in a couple of years!

The Instant Gratification Game

I often mock the IGGys (aka the Instant Gratification Generation) but sometimes it's fun to pretend like I'm one of them. Normally I enjoy the slow buildup of anticipation for some upcoming event - whether it be that ultra exciting comic series, a TV show's season premiere, or maybe just the start of a long overdue vacation - but occasionally I think: What would I most wish for to hurry up and get here already, if I could?

The answer changes over time, and I don't have anything that I'm just dying for right now (unlike, say, the eventual start of the JLA/Avengers mini-series of a few years back!) but I'll still play along. The ground rule is that it has to be something that you have every reason to believe is going to happen, but just not right away.

My biggest IG wish right now would be:
  • Resistance 2 gets released on the PS/3 right now!
Honourable mentions go to:
  • Watchmen movie debuts tomorrow
  • First issue of Legion of 3 Worlds mini-series, by Geoff Johns and George Perez, comes out next Wednesday
What would yours be?

JMS? Both Brave And Bold!

Now we know one of two DC titles that J Michael Straczynski will soon be writing: Brave and the Bold! You can read all about it here, if you don't want to take my word for it (bastard). B&B is a good choice to start him off with, as the format allows him to include whatever characters he's most interested in working on within the DCU.

Still no word, as far as I know, of what the other JMS DC title will be. I could definitely see him on Flash (it desperately needs help) or maybe even Supergirl (ditto).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Secret Invasion, Act Two

Wow!! What a whole lot of nothing my $4 bought me today, with the much-heralded arrival of Secret Invasion # 2! (I wrote a bit about the first issue here if you're really interested.)

A year ago this month, I wrote about how modern day comic writers tend to pad out their stories so that what used to occupy part of a 22-page story now spans multiple issues. This is a nearly-criminal case-in-point of that often-disappointing trend!

Almost the entire issue, with the exception of 3 pages at the end and the "free preview" pages for another Marvel comic that I have no intention of buying (Eternals), is one long extended scene involving the Mighty/New Avengers facing off against the just-arrived-from-Skrullsville "1970s" style heroes. In other words, that one spread from the first issue is essentially expanded into a series of "let's throw one-liners back and forth" and "let's fight each other" sequences, the only real development in which seems to be that we learn that some of the newly-arrived group were Skrulls (we discover this when the Spider-Man and Hawkeye from that contingent are killed and revert to Skrull form). This is a classic example of something that, if you were asked to describe what happened in the comic, and you did, the other person would say, "OK, that sounds sort of interesting... but what happens after the first couple of pages?" There really isn't anything more to be had there, though.

I suspect that some among the masses of comic fandom will hail this as more proof of Marvel's current greatness, but I really felt like I got about 1/3 of a comic for my $4. It actually made the first issue seem pretty great, by comparison!

Only 10 Months To Go Until The Watchmen Movie?

That must mean it's time for another video diary from director Zack Snyder! This one's all about the wardrobe decisions for the film, and it manages to provide a lot of quick glimpses into what's going to be included, for those of us who know the source material.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Not Making Many Friends At Work

We're now about 3/4 of the way through Year Two of Agile at my company - Year One is chronicled, at least from my point-of-view, in The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile) - and change is happening at a pretty impressive rate all of a sudden. It's an unfortunate constant of my life recently that, the more change is introduced, the more certain people get pissed off (usually at me). I'm sure there's a way to introduce change effectively where everyone enjoys the experience and they all belt out songs of joy while it's happening, but I've never figured out how to make that a reality. Instead, people - being people! - seem to mostly react one of two ways: they either scramble to consolidate their current power base - lest it be lost - or they race to divest themselves of the things that they never wanted to have in the first place. When I'm one of the people saying "no, I really don't think you can do that" to someone in either of those two camps, then I'm seen as the bad guy. And lately I've felt very much like the bad guy, when all I'm really trying to do is help clarify the new roles so that we all know who does what. We've also got a recent history of having the teams take on too much responsibility that actually resides elsewhere, and so I've been trying to correct that... despite the fact that there may or may not be anyone available yet to pick up what should never have been left with the teams in the first place! Not a popular stance, to be sure; but I'm not sure how else to finally make the pain felt where it belongs, instead of by the teams.

On the other hand, I had a couple of terrific conversations with various people today in which we were able to work through a scenario or problem really well together, and all involved seemed to be happy with the outcome. So there's lots of reason to believe that more good days lie ahead.

I'm also in the process of getting the 15 employees who now report to me "handed off" from their previous manager over to me. This involves interviewing the former managers and taking notes, and then setting up 1-on-1s with each employee. I'm about halfway through the former and haven't yet started the latter, so I've got lots of work ahead of me still. Hopefully my new teams will bear with me while this transition continues!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sock It To Shellhead

Those of us with long memories (and long boxes of 20th century comics) will recall that the Letter's Page on many an issue of Iron Man, through the 1970s, was titled "Sock It To Shellhead." That certainly wasn't the worst such destination to have to write on your envelope back in those days, though, as a few of these other examples would attest to:

"Send It To Subby" (Sub-Mariner)
"Letters To Lois" (Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane)
"Mail It To Mar-Vell" (Captain Marvel)
"Who Speaks For The Surfer?" (Silver Surfer)
"Let's Chat With The Challs" (Challengers of the Unknown)
"Let's Level With Daredevil" (Daredevil)

and possibly the most embarrassing of them all:

"Let's Rap With Cap" (Captain America)

What can I say? Seeing that great Iron Man movie over the weekend has made me downright nostalgic...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

And Thus Ends Another Rangers Season

I didn't watch much of Game 5 this afternoon, mainly because each time I turned it on - twice in the second period, in fact - the Penguins scored within a minute or two! I hoped for a Rangers comeback in my absence after the second goal, and got it in the third period, but then overtime sent the Penguins on to face the Flyers in the Conference Finals. That makes the Rangers 0-for-2 in playoff overtime games this year, but this one was much more costly than the one against New Jersey in Round One. Oh well, another year to ponder "what might have been," had the Rangers had just a little more to give. At least this year they didn't blow a 1-goal lead in the final few seconds of Game 5, with the series tied 2-2 (as they did last year against the Sabres). I was hoping all that talk about "every 33 years" (a team comes back from trailing 0-3 in a playoff series to win it in 7 games) might come true for them this time, but I guess it wasn't meant to be (the Sharks may still claim that honour, especially if they win Game 6 in Dallas tonight).

Among the many noteworthy accomplishments for the Rangers this year was one that came very recently: they lasted longer in the playoffs (by part of a day) than the hated Montreal Canadiens! Considering the high hopes that Habs fans had for their team in the 2008 postseason, I think I'm feeling a whole lot better right now than most of them are! And the Rangers did manage to be among the final six teams to be alive in the quest for the Cup, which is right around where they finished last year (in both cases, well above what their regular season record would've indicated). That's not too shabby at all! It's times like this, though, that I'm really happy that I've got my (1994) Cup to look back on, as otherwise I honestly think I might have gone my entire life without ever seeing them win it!

What's Happening Over At The Studio, You Ask?

Well, not as much as I'd like, but if you do happen to go there, you can read my just-posted review of Iron Man (the movie).

And if you're one of The Studio contributors who hasn't written anything over there for awhile, maybe you could think of something cool to share with the rest of us, hmmm?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Explaining Agile, Part 3

Continuing my short series of blog posts intended to provide some context for what I'm talking about when I refer to "Agile project delivery"... In the first two parts, I covered the traditional Waterfall style - in contrast to Agile - and then drilled down into one aspect of Agile: the use of automated tests. Now's probably a good time to step back and talk about the Agile framework, since I've neglected to provide that background up to now (proving that I'm making this up as I go along here, folks!)

The Agile Manifesto came into being in early 2001, and it provides four value statements that form the basis of all Agile principles and practices:

"We value:
  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  • working software over comprehensive documentation;
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation;
  • responding to change over following a plan."
In each case, the Manifesto explains, the items on the right side of the statement have value, but the items on the left are simply considered more valuable.

When you consider that list in light of how most traditional Waterfall software projects go, you can see some startling results. The most striking, perhaps, is the notion of favouring a responsiveness to change over following a plan. If you allow a plan to change as it's being executed, the argument often goes, how can you ever know how you're doing, when you'll finish or even whether you actually succeeded at the end of it all? After all, the customer will just keep asking for more and more and more!

That train of thought brings in the point about the importance of customer collaboration versus treating the process like an inflexible set of contract terms. In many things in Life, having a contract makes sense, in order to ensure that all parties are treated fairly; when you're trying to innovate and in the process give the customer something that he or she may not even fully understand at the start, though? Not so much! Having the customer involved throughout, and adapting to their feedback and discoveries as you go along, allows for a much greater possibility of them being happy with the results. Implicit in that approach is the use of iterative development, since only in that way can the customer provide meaningful feedback in time for you to react to it.

The emphasis on people and their interactions, rather than relying on pre-defined processes or tools, speaks to several Agile topics, including empowerment, responsibility and adaptability. In software development, at least of the sort that my current company does, a fair amount of creativity is required. Placing your faith in people, though, instead of building up complex structures of rules and mandates within which - the story goes - "nothing can ever go wrong," is a huge paradigm shift. Making that leap is a crucial part of "going Agile," and one that I imagine most organizations struggle mightily with at first (mine certainly has).

Finally, the Manifesto attempts to deal with the historic problem of companies expending great amounts of time and energy to produce verbose, detailed documentation to be delivered alongside buggy software. Is that really what most customers want? Wouldn't they prefer that the features work well and are so intuitive that only the most basic Help screens or manuals are needed? That's certainly the goal of Agile.

From those crucial four statements of value, most of what Agile is, follows.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Book Sales Slowing

I was excited early in the week when a third copy of The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile) sold online, joining 24 printed copies that have been bought since Book Launch Day four weeks ago. Since then, though, has been... nothing. I still have 8 copies on hand (between the house and office), with no recent sales to reduce that number. I moved cubes today, and decided that in the new location I'd put my book a little more prominently on display. Whether that new approach will have any effect remains to be seen, though. I definitely get a lot of visitors in a typical week, so who knows?

At any rate, the current sales total has rested for the moment at 27. I'm certainly not disappointed in that figure in the least, but I'd apparently gotten used to the buzz of selling a copy now and then. Such are the silly things of Life.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Not Swept Away

I picked up tonight's Rangers/Penguins game late in the 1st period, with the game still scoreless. I'd decided that I needed to watch at least a good chunk of it, since it had the potential of being New York's last game of the year. I watched a very slow, plodding Rangers team go up 1-0 on a dazzling Jaromir Jagr goal - which ended with him being absolutely leveled by a Penguin - and then figuratively chewed my nails down to nubs while they tried to protect that lead for quite a long stretch. Eventually they secured a little breathing room for themselves on a Brandon Dubinsky goal on which he recovered from being tripped in front of the net (no call!), before finally collecting an empty-netter and a 3-0 victory, for Henrik Lundqvist's first shutout of this playoff year.

It was a huge relief that the Rangers didn't go out on the bitter end of a sweep, and it means that they won't finish the playoffs with a losing record, unless they advance beyond the second round, in each case. I'm much happier about their postseason performance now, regardless of what happens next.

This Is Kind Of Funny

Not so much because next year's February Sweeps (for TV ratings) will happen in March, but rather the reason why!