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Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Would It Take For The Blue Jays To Make The Postseason in 2008?

First off, it's not going to happen. The Jays, while certainly better since Cito Gaston took over the team's management from John Gibbons, have been frustratingly inconsistent of late. Losing 2 of 3 against the Tampa Bay Rays recently, where their bats went silent and so they came up short by 1-0 and 3-2 scores behind very solid Toronto pitching, and then similarly managing only one run in a 2-1 loss to the Yankees on Friday night, has unfortunately offset some other, impressive results (including yesterday's come-from-behind 7-6 victory and today's 6-2 Roy Halladay special, both against those same Yankees). Sitting 9 games back in the wildcard race after today's play, they're just not going to be playing baseball after September 28th.

But what would it take, at least in theory? The Jays have 26 games left, and 3 teams to overtake (Boston, Minnesota/Chicago White Sox - whichever of them doesn't win the AL Central - and the Yankees). To do that, the following would have to happen:
  • the Jays would need to go at least 20-6 over that stretch (in other words, comparable to what Colorado did last year in their final month of the season) and thus finish with 90 wins or more
  • in their 3 remaining games with the Twins, 4 against the White Sox, 3 with the Yankees and 7 (!) head-to-head with the Red Sox, they'd need to be merciless and win the vast majority, since that has the bonus value of guaranteed advancement against rivals in the race
  • none of the 3 teams ahead of them, with the possible exception of the Yankees who only lead the Jays by 2 games right now, could possibly go better than 0.500 in their remaining games, since there just isn't enough time left in the schedule to make up a bunch of ground if the teams you're trying to catch are posting good results
So, it's not impossible, but that's a tall order, some of which is even outside of the Jays' control. I'd be thrilled if they posted a solid 17-9 record, which would give them a seasonal record of 87-75... not shabby at all!

Just 64 Days And Counting...

... and yes, I'm counting!

64 sounds like a big number, but really, when you think about it, it's just

2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2...

which doesn't sound big at all!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The AgileMan Week In Review

I got most of the 8th Issue done by the time I wrapped up the week yesterday, which was about where I wanted to be at the end of Week 2. Issue 8 is entitled "Reducing Debt" and digs right into one of my favourite work topics of the past year: getting the open bug counts down! It's also the first "Double-Sized Issue" of the book, perhaps reflecting the fact that I feel so passionately about this subject.

Two more copies of The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile) found new homes this week, as someone from my old workplace bought one and Vicki sold one to a visiting friend of hers. With those two sales, along with one online purchase at Lulu that I haven't gotten the revenue from yet, I'm right at the break-even point. I still have 9 copies in-stock (which are already paid for, obviously) meaning that I'm so close to "profitability" that I can almost taste it! And it's "only" taken me about 5 months to get here... ;-)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hey, This Looks Like A Fun Game!

Really, it does! And I can think of at least one person other than me, among my little circle of gaming buddies, who'll be watching that trailer more than once...

Historic Week In U.S. Politics

Less than 24 hours after Barack Obama's very moving acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, John McCain has named a running mate and seemingly done the impossible: shocked the world! In announcing Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his VP candidate, McCain has made it a lock that the 2008 election will push the country into uncharted territory: starting in January, America will have either its first black President or its first female Vice-President! And while I'm certainly hoping that the Democrats prevail for all kinds of reasons, either way some ground will be broken and another wall will be knocked down. And that's a good thing!

By the way: is it just me, or does anyone else think that Palin looks a whole lot like Tina Fey? If Fey was still on Saturday Night Live, wouldn't she be absolutely perfect to portray the surprise VP candidate?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Feast For The Grant Morrison Fan


The writer of two of DC Comics' biggest comic book events underway right now, Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P., takes part in a fascinating interview that was an absolute treat to read. It provides a lot of insight into what Morrison's trying to accomplish with both storylines, and actually increased my interest in each, at least by a little. The interview also answered a couple of nagging questions that I've had, around whether Final Crisis was really expected to have any lasting effect on the DC Universe (answer: yes!) and how the events of Batman R.I.P. fit in with Batman's appearances in Final Crisis. That one got a more complicated answer, mainly because Morrison doesn't want to ruin the endings of either series, which makes perfect sense to me. Even just reading that he's thought it all through and knows what the timelines are between the two reassures me somewhat.

What To Read After Watchmen?

If you're in the ever-growing camp of people who picked up the Watchmen collection recently thanks to the trailer that played before The Dark Knight and are now wondering what other comics are out there that you might enjoy, then this article may be just the thing for you! I completely agree with Mr Harbin's point-of-view on this subject, and can only hope that other comic book store owners think it through as well as he did!

Oh, and by the way: 1700th post!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Next Post Here Will Be # 1700

In celebration of that, I plan to blog something. It could be about anything, really, except that it'll be the one thousand, seven hundredth post made to this here blog. And I figured that you'd all want to know that, before it happened. In case you had your own celebrations to plan...

A Good Description Of The Watchmen Movie Mess

I found this NY Times article to be somewhat helpful in understanding just how Warner Brothers, who own DC Comics, who in turn own the rights to Watchmen, the comic series and graphic novel, could be in such trouble regarding the movie rights for Watchmen. You may, too. Apparently, it's all about something called "turnaround," which isn't - as some comic fans might understandably believe - that thing that Lynda Carter used to do whenever she needed to change from Diana Prince into Wonder Woman!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Um, I Guess This Is A Good Thing...?

I mean, really, it probably doesn't make any difference at all, but at least Wicca is all about female empowerment (and that's a good thing!)

Preacher Dies; No One Shows Up For Funeral

This is sad news, indeed, if you ask me.

Which you didn't.

But you should have!

6 Down, A Few Dozen More To Go?

I finished the 6th Issue (aka chapter) of More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year Two: Easier Said Than Done) this morning, sitting by the side of the pool where I've written most of the book so far. I have a good idea what the next several Issues will be about, and I'm having a lot of fun building up the narrative of the story. It's an interesting combination of two things that appeal to me: writing about work, and attempting to tell a tale in a manner that will hold a reader's attention. By my best calculations, I'm about 15% of the way through the first draft, after two concerted weeks of 'work' (of 2 - 3 hr days, 5 days a week). That should mean a finished product sometime around the end of the year, if all goes according to plan.

In other news... this week I find myself with four - count 'em, four! - lunch dates! The first was today, and the rest of the week is currently booked, as well! At least I'll get some bike riding in this week, which is good news, indeed!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Texas Fold 'Em

Among the many XBox and XBox 360 games that very generously came with the 360 when I bought it off Boneman's father-in-law late last year was something called XBox Live Arcade Unplugged. I'd pretty much ignored it until recently, at which point I decided to see what was on it. There were a handful of arcade-y games, the type which Vicki sometimes enjoys. She and I tried out a few, with nothing really all that captivating.

Then I decided to see what Texas Hold 'Em was like, which is also on that disk. I've watched enough No Limit Texas Hold 'Em poker matches on TV - though only a small fraction of what my wife records and follows faithfully on our Tivo box upstairs - to know how to play, so I gave it a try. I've stuck to single player only, tournament-based, and just the Invitational mode (no buy-in required). You start off with a certain amount of play money and the point is to grow it so that you can enter into the more expensive competitions (requiring buy-ins of large amounts of pretend money). I've played in about ten Invitational matches so far, winning twice, finishing 2nd a couple of times, 3rd once and then out of the money (4th through 8th) the rest of the time. It's quite fun, and (sadly) addictive!

I suspect that playing against AI opponents in this game is much like it is in other video arenas: you can kid yourself into thinking that you're actually pretty good, like how I can currently push the other "players" to fold most of the time when I want them to, allowing me to get better and better results at it. And then you go off and face other humans and you quickly realize that you actually still totally suck! So I haven't got any delusions about being able to play poker for real... but it's still fun as a video game!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Even Struggling Authors Get Weekends Off

I've decided to refrain from working on More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year Two: Easier Said Than Done) on the weekends, in order to give me a chance every week to recharge the ol' writing batteries. It worked out well this week, in that I'd just wrapped up the first logical part of the book and will be starting on the next one come Monday.

Today was mostly a reading day, with comics and a Kim Stanley Robinson novel occupying the majority of my time. I did, however, download the demo for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on the PS/3 and gave it a try. Right up until the climactic battle with the AT-AT walker, I was mildly interested. But then I discovered that the only way to defeat the AT-AT apparently involves doing some button combination... rather than allowing you to do it through straight-forward use of your Force powers or light-saber. Bah to that, I say!

Etch-A-Sketchist

This site may just blow your mind!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Great Legion Stories Of The Past


With the outstanding Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds mini-series kicking off this week, I loved seeing this feature, in which various professionals associated with the Legion of Super-Heroes pick their favourite stories from the 50-year history. I agree with many of their picks, and would definitely put The Great Darkness Saga at or near the top of my own list. In fact, I think I'll pull those issues out soon and re-read them, as I certainly recall being thrilled by them in the past.

While it's a good list presented, I think the ones that were missing were:
  • Saturn Girl arranging to sacrifice herself in order to bring Lightning Lad back to life, only to have Proty, her shape-changing, telepathic pet take her place at that last minute (Adventure Comics # 312, I think)
  • The "Super-Stalag of Space" (Adventure Comics # 344) in which the Legionnaires were all imprisoned and had to figure out how to escape a high-security confinement
  • The tragic tale in which Brainiac-5 invents Computo, intended as a helpmate, only to have the Artificially Intelligent machine revolt and go on a murderous rampage... including killing one of the three bodies of Triplicate Girl! And that's how she got "downgraded" to Duo Damsel, kids! (Adventure Comics # 340)
Those are some of my favourite stories from the Legion's history... which just goes to show how old I am (since they're all from the 1960s!)

Ratcheting Up The Fun In This Household

I've been playing more than my fair share of video games recently, thanks to having some extra time on my hands. Last night I finished Haze, which was generally pretty crappy all the way through. The script writers on that game need to have their heads examined, if for no other reason than the unbelievably annoying dialogue that you have to listen to, over and over and over. Just ask Vicki about it, if you think I'm exaggerating! Only in my final session did I think to go looking for a control screen where I could shut the AI voices off. It turns out you can control the volume of them to the point where they're not so overpowering, and that would've saved a hole lot of frustration earlier...

I've played the Lost Planet demo on the XBox 360 quite a few times since I downloaded it back in December of last year. Today, as I played it for a 4th or 5th time, I got into it more than I ever had before. I fell into a rhythm which made the one aspect of the gameplay that I'd disliked previously - how your health continually drops, due to the extreme cold, except when you can find material/gadgets to warm you up - actually work for me. Now I'm considering going out and purchasing the game to give it a try. But first I've got Frontlines: Fuel of War to enjoy, and I still haven't even loaded it yet.

But the big gaming news in our home came when I surprised Vicki with a new installment of her favourite franchise: Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty! Sony and Insomniac announced the download-only game recently, and when I heard the news earlier this week, I just knew that I'd have to finally break down and order something on my PS/3 for the first time! I bought the game last night - within an hour or two of when it was released - downloaded it overnight, and installed it this morning... all without letting Vicki know a thing about what I was up to. She was delighted to see what I had for her tonight, after we got back from an extra-long walk. And now she's happily playing away, while I watch the show, blog to my heart's content, and smile.

Oh, Thank Rao!

As someone who was really put off by Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, especially the whole "Lois has a kid" angle of it, this is welcome news, indeed!

Of course, they're still likely to screw it up. But at least they won't be building on that train wreck of a movie from two years ago!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

At Last: Legion Of 3 Worlds!

This is the part of Final Crisis that I've been looking forward to the most, and the first issue (which arrived yesterday) certainly didn't disappoint!

In this day and age, a regular comic book usually represents about five minutes of reading pleasure, if you're lucky. That figure has gone down in each of the last several decades, with the current predilection for decompression driving it to the current, ridiculous extremes. Happily, Geoff Johns isn't one of the writers given to work that way, and thus pairing him with detail-oriented, can-draw-as-many-panels-as-you-can-describe George Perez was inspired for this series! I read the debut issue of Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds in bed last night, and had to keep telling Vicki "I'm almost done..." as the minutes ticked by and she was ready for lights out. There's a lot to be found in this setup issue, and almost all of it works.

The story starts with the Time Trapper, a longtime Legion of Super-Heroes baddie who operates outside of time. He (if indeed TT is a "he") sends Superboy-Prime, DC's favourite gonzo villain these days, a thousand years into the boy's future, to wreak havoc on the LSH (who live in the 31st century). After the Bad Boy of Steel murders several tens of thousands of futurama inhabitants, the Legion uses their time-o-phone to call their old friend, Superman (who of course spends most of his time in the 21st century, like you and I), and whisk him through the misty barriers of time to help them. Once Kal-El identifies this strange, murderous lad as a parallel universe doppleganger of his, and they all collectively realize that Superboy-Prim is busy putting together his own Legion of Super-Villains, Brainiac-5 intuits that the best plan of attack involves them finding a couple other versions of the Legion in the Multiverse, in order to bulk up the good guys' side. Like I said: pretty much all setup, but very interesting and entertaining, nonetheless.

It's not without its flaws, of course. An important character from the Legion's origin just happens to show up when a bunch of government officials are voting on whether to shut the Legion down, and then that character's longtime rival also just happens to be there, all ready to assassinate the other (even though he couldn't possibly have known to expect him there). And as cool as it's going to be to have three different versions of the Legion in subsequent issues - representing the 50-year history of the team, which has been rife with reboots and retcons - it seems a bit convenient that the main group's knowing about the other teams, and bringing them into their universe, are going to prove to be about as complicated as ordering a pizza. And finally, I've yet to figure out exactly why this is a Final Crisis series. There doesn't seem to be any tie to the events of the main series, even tangentially (like having Superman be plucked from some Final Crisis moment). Right now it smells like more of a marketing move than a story-driven one.

Having said that... this series is a fanboy's wet dream! From the writer, who loves these characters, to the artist, who can draw dozens of costumed characters without ever making any of them look like each other or even just appear rushed, the creative team is perfect. I just hope DC can use this mini-series to finally establish the various versions of the LSH, since the idea of each parallel Earth having its own unique Legion is quite exciting. For example, I think it'd be pretty cool if one of them were from the future of Earth-2, where Superman debuted in the 1930s and truly was the first superhero.

This was a great start to what I hope is going to be the series of 2008!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

AgileMan Fever... Catch It!

A friend at the company-formerly-known-as-my-employer pointed this out to me today, which I'd actually seen (thanks to Vicki) just prior to Agile 2008 kicking off. It was very considerate of the blog owner to include a shot of my book on a site relating to Agile advice, I thought!

The Fruits Of My Labours

Got my first ever actual paycheque for 5 copies of The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Lessons Learned in Going Agile) that sold online, at Lulu.

It's a pretty good feeling, getting a cheque in the mail for something that you completed months ago. Of course, since it's only $66.60 USD, I probably shouldn't do anything rash, like quitting my day job.



Oh wait...

Tonight's Entertainment

If all goes according to plan, McChicken and I will be enjoying some XBox Live fun in Co-op mode this evening. Right now it looks like Gears of War - a game that neither of us could really get into in Single Player mode - may be given a second chance to see if it makes the grade when there are two of us crouching and shooting our way through it.

I also got Frontlines: Fuel of War (for the 360) in the mail yesterday, so it was all I could do today to resist the urge to pop that bad boy into the machine and try it out. Instead, I worked on the book, and finished that pesky 4th Issue off. Who says I've become completely undisciplined ever since quitting my job? (I'll bet it was that AgileBoy... he never has anything good to say!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Funny Thing About Star Wars

Disturbances in the Force, like this past weekend's release of the Clone Wars cartoon, seem to always bring out the worst in Star Wars fans of a certain age. They start whining about how great the Star Wars saga used to be, back in the old days, and how awful everything that George Lucas has done with it since has been.

The funny thing is - and I know I've mentioned this here before - Star Wars was never all that great! I'll grant that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the six movies, but every one of them - even Episodes I through III! - has been great fun to watch... that's simply all they've ever been. The difference is that those "fans of a certain age" are seeing all of the recent stuff as adults for the first time, whereas they initially watched (and re-watched and re-re-watched) the original movies as kids. Poor to mediocre material can look amazing when you're seeing it with a child's eye! I know, as I have a long list of TV shows, movies and comics that I adored once upon a time but now am more likely to cringe at. As someone who saw Star Wars in the theatre at age 14 and thought it was "OK, but a bit silly" there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between any of them, to me.

But it's still lots of fun to watch people act as if there is...

Will We Ever Get To Watch The Watchmen (Movie)?

Seems kind of strange to me that Warner Brothers would've gotten this far in the post-production of Watchmen with this teeny tiny problem still hanging over their heads, but what do I know?

I'm just hoping that this all points to it not really being as serious as it seems.

Two Good Writing Days Later

I'm now most of the way through my 4th Issue (or chapter, for the uninitiated) of More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year Two: Easier Said Than Done). Although it's often difficult to tell going in, I think this one's going to be longer than the original, both in terms of word/page count and number of Issues. I have a much better sense of what the arc of the book's going to look like than I did at this point in the proceedings the first time around, which is probably a good sign (unless I'm completely deluding myself, in which case... no, don't even go there!)

I also got some great feedback on the first AgileMan book in an e-mail today from a former co-worker, and that sort of thing is always good for the ol' motivation. Hearing that, not only did someone bother to read the work, but they also took the time to provide constructive comments about it, makes the lonely act of writing Book # 2 seem not quite so pointless.

Now I just need to keep at it...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Something Canada Does Beat The U.S. At

According to this article, broadband speed is one area where Canada kicks our southern neighbour's ass! In fact, our average rate of 7.6 Mb/sec actually outperforms the U.S. average by more than 3-to-1, as well as beating the best of the 50 States - Rhode Island - by over 10%! (In other words, the average Canadian downloading experience is superior to what you'd find anywhere in America!)

Kind of makes me appreciate my newly-rejuvenated home Internet connectivity all that much more!

The Console Wars: One Opinion

No, not mine! Although I own both an XBox 360 and a PS/3, I get enough value out of each that I don't really have a clear favourite between them anymore. In fact, when a new game comes out that I want to own and I have to choose which console to buy it for, that's actually a fairly tough question to answer!

But, for someone with a much stronger - and probably better informed - opinion, go no further than right here. It makes for some fine reading, if you ask me!

All-Time Movie Grosses Adjusted For Inflation

There's a very interesting and illuminating chart at Box Office Mojo, which I saw for the first time today. Before you go there, though, ask yourself this: what's the highest grossing movie of all time, when you adjust for inflation (i.e. put everything in "today's dollars")? The answer probably isn't what you think it is.

So now that The Dark Knight has taken over the # 2 Top Grossing spot (un-adjusted) behind Titanic (also, un-adjusted), pushing Star Wars to # 3 (yes, un-adjusted), it's great to see where each is on the inflation-adjusted chart. TDK is sitting at # 39, but I'm guessing it'll easily bust into the Top 30, and maybe even the Top 20, before it gets yanked from theatres in anticipation of the undoubtedly-huge DVD release.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Are The Rays For Real This Season?

Tampa Bay "don't-call-them-Devil" Rays have lead the American League East for most, if not all, of the 2008 MLB season so far. I have to admit that I was one of those who assumed all along that they'd never hold on against their powerhouse division rivals from New York and Boston, but here we are with only about six weeks to go and the Rays are continuing to mow down their opponents from their perch at the top of the AL East. If my memory serves, Tampa's never made it to the postseason in their relatively short franchise history... however, their state-mates in the National League, the Florida Marlins, hold a pretty distinctive playoff record: every time they've made it into the "second season" (twice, so far), they've won the World Series! That's right, Florida is 6-0 in postseason series! So who knows what this October might hold for the other team from the Sunshine State? (And there's still a chance that the Marlins themselves could clinch a spot in the 2008 playoffs, as well.)

When we were in Chicago in June, of course, the World Series match-up that the locals there were already talking up involved the White Sox and Cubs, both of whom are still looking good for playing in October. And since it's been exactly 100 years since the northside Cubbies won it all, you just know there's going to be some extra emotion in any run they make! (They just have to keep Steve Bartman away from any playoff games...)

Ah, I can already begin to feel the excitement that always comes this time of the year!

Time To Get Back To Work

Or at least, what passes for work around here these days...

After a couple weeks of pretty much goofing off where "writing the second AgileMan book" is concerned, it's time to get serious about it this week. I've done a lot of thinking about it, but very little actual writing. I plan to change that, starting tomorrow.

And I post my intentions here in the hope that publicly committing to something will make it more likely that I'll actually follow through on it. Procrastinators need all the help we can get, after all...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

So Many Ways To Kill Ourselves

I watched an interesting episode of Nova last week on PBS, in which scientists speculated that one of the forces mitigating the effects of Global Warming for decades - until recently, that is - was air pollution, which actually causes something called Global Dimming. The theory is that particles in the air produced by typical industrial pollution cause bigger drops of water to form in clouds before falling to the ground (as rain), and those larger bodies of water deflect more of the sun's rays back out into space. When that happens, the overall effect is to cool the planet (hence, dimming, as less light - and heat! - reach the ground). That process was going on, big-time, in the 20th century as industrialization took off in North America and Europe. Then, in the 1980s and 90s, laws were changed to curtail the pollution - since, after all, it was killing people! - and the cooling effect of Global Dimming was unwittingly reduced. Not coincidentally, the effects of Global Warming - rising temperatures, but also more violent storms of all kinds, flooding, drought, etc. - have climbed in the past couple of decades.

So now we have India and China industrializing, and air pollution's a huge problem in both countries (the statistic of "one million Indians dying a year of respiratory illnesses" was quoted). The expectation is that China and India will react more quickly than their industrial predecessors did, and their currently out-of-control problem will be addressed. However, doing so will probably further accelerate Global Warming, just as the seemingly "pro-environmental" actions in North America and Europe did previously. Talk about a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario!

As an example of how much effect air pollution can have, Nova showed one scientist who used the period immediately after September 11, 2001, as an opportunity to see how ground temperatures in the U.S. might differ if you simply removed the contrails of airplanes (since no planes were allowed into the air following the terrorist attacks). His findings were that those few days showed a greater range of temperatures - hot during the day, cool at night - than he'd ever measured before. And that came about just by taking airplane exhaust pollution out of the mix!

It should be a very entertaining next twenty or thirty years... assuming that you find disaster films entertaining, that is!

Been A While Since We've Had Some Video



And this one just screams out to be watched...

Somewhat Encouraging, And Yet Oh So Late In Coming

This article in Variety could almost give a DC Comics fan like me hope for the future of movies starring our favourite heroes and heroines... except that it sounds like they still don't know what to do... they've just finally acknowledged that they need to something!

Geez, DC, do you think maybe you could just follow Marvel's example as a starting point? It doesn't seem to have worked out too badly for them, after all... and you've got an even better stable of flashy characters (no pun intended). And yes, I know it's more of a Time Warner decision than being up to DC bosses, but at least leverage what's going on with The Dark Knight right now to improve the situation! I mean, your little comic book movie is on its way to becoming the 2nd highest grossing film of all time! Of all time!!!

Not So Happy After All

Think of the poor childrens' psyches, after witnessing this at the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth!"

I mean, really... will they ever recover?!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tammy Likes It When I Mention Her Here

The daughter's in town for a visit this weekend, and we had the whole evening to spend together on whatever we wanted to do (Vicki was off at a play). We started with a Harvey's dinner (courtesy of Tam), then some tennis, a swim, and an hour of Co-op play in Resistance: Fall of Man! Now that's a fun way to spend a few hours!

And now we're both sprawled on living room couches, typing away on our respective laptops.

Secret Invasion # 5: Well, At Least Something Happens!

It's a bit of a surreal summer for me this year. I mean, I've quit my job, I've self-published my first ever book and am starting to write a second, and the two main comic events of the year (Final Crisis and Secret Invasion) are just... weird.

Here we have Secret Invasion # 5 (of 8), meaning that we've passed the midway mark of what is supposed to be a fairly significant Marvel Comics happening, regardless of whether you measure that in terms of hype, impact to the comic universe itself, or simply length of mini-series (8 issues ain't short!) And yet, through the first half of the series up to this point, remarkably little happening has... well, happened! In the 5th issue, at least, you can kind of see a turning point forming, as Reed Richards takes center stage and makes with the deus ex machina (although, in this case, it's more like "god with the machine!") When you're surrounded by shape-shifting aliens and anyone you know could actually be one, it's kind of handy to have the Skrull Illuminator 9000 (not an actual brand name... as far as I know). And since it didn't exist yet, Reed of course invents it, using only a piece of disgarded chewing gum, an old copy of TV Guide, and a Wii-mote! But hey, that's what makes him Mr Fantastic (not to be confused with Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Henry Pym, or Amadeus Cho... all members of the Marvel Universe who could do the same!)

And that's an exciting moment, I'll grant, when Reed turns the SI9000 (not its real name!) on a pack of "heroes" and about half of them suddenly appear unmistakably Skrully (despite retaining their superhero costumes). At that point, the rest turn on the exposed ones, and... um, gun them down? Seems a little extreme to me, but you know. At that point, I have to admit, I thought of a path for the series to take that would really impress me: what if Reed wasn't actually Reed, but instead a Skrull, and what if his SI9000 (I made that name up!) was actually showing randomly-selected humans as Skrulls!? How cool of a double-twist would that be, if good guys turned on other good guys and shot their lights out (permanent-like)? Unfortunately, that seems a little unlikely, since some marquis characters were terminated (most notably Susan Richards of the Fantastic Four and the Mighty Thor), but that would've been something!

In general, though, this was another bleh issue of a way-too-padded series. Each new issue makes for about 5 minutes of entertainment, most of it forgettable. There've been remarkably few surprises to date, and that's never a good sign in an "event" like this.

So Much For That Experiment!

I'd left the basement PC powered up overnight, specifically to see whether or not I'd still have connectivity in the morning (keeping in mind that the record for such things, prior to the new router, was probably on the order of an hour or so!) With various chores and a nice, healthy walk around the neighbourhood with Vicki to start the day, it's only now (early afternoon) that I've had a chance to check on the results.

So I come downstairs, power on the monitor and see that the PC has clearly been rebooted since I left it! Wha--? Thinking that that can't be a good sign, I start closing windows (that automatically come up at startup) and notice that some sort of update was downloaded while I was away, resulting in a reboot! Bottom line: I don't yet know if I'd have lost the Internet over that stretch of time had nothing else happened. On the other hand, the restart almost certainly occurred overnight, and everything was fine when I checked it just now. So that probably indicates a good result on the longevity front. But I'll try again tonight...

And yes, I know this probably isn't terribly interesting to anyone but me, but it is my online weblog, after all! :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Computer Daze

As expected, today was all about the routers and the computers...

I picked up a new Linksys router ($50) today, hoping to improve life for anyone using Vicki's PC and my own basement monster. Things went swimmingly initially, as I got the router up and humming with my new laptop before tackling Vicki's PC. I knew it would be the challenge, because it's running the oldest O/S (Win2000), but I underestimated just how hard it would be to do something as seemingly-straightforward as changing a WEP key. Ironically, as I was in the midst of struggling with that, a friend and former co-worker came by for a visit who just happens to be an ex-Microsoft employee! When even he couldn't figure out how to change the WEP key, I knew that I was in trouble. Finally, I gave up my plan of improving the security level with this new router, and left it at the lowest setting as it had been with the last router. So much for progress!

After that, the rest of the machines (XBox 360, PS/3 and my basement PC) all went quite easily. Meanwhile, Vicki was testing out her PC, and gave a glowing report of seamless connectivity, after weeks of intermittent problems. I similarly had a great test of my PC downstairs, where I was able to stay connected for 2 hours and counting. Much, much better than what we'd been experiencing in recent months...

Tonight, I had a worrisome encounter with Microsoft Vista (perhaps the first of many). I've always used Eudora for home e-mail (on machines running every version of Windows from Win95 through WinXP), and had installed it on my laptop last night. Things had been looking good until I tried to attach a file to an e-mail tonight (for the first time under Vista) only to have Eudora throw an exception and crash! I tried it a second time, with exactly the same result. A quick search of the Web showed others having some similar issues, but no good resolutions. I saw that Eudora had a "Report Problems" option in it, so I went to all the trouble of typing up a bug report, including getting the versions of all relevant software on my laptop and sending it off, only to get an auto-reply to my e-mail saying that they no longer care because they don't have a commercial product anymore! I guess I won't be using Eudora much longer since it's apparent that it's going to have issues with Vista and beyond, but I've got about 10 years of e-mails in that format that I'm not sure I'll be able to retain much longer. Sigh!

So, all in all... not a bad day, but a somewhat disappointing one. I'm starting to think that continuity with computer technology may just not be possible anymore. The rate of change is good for most things - performance, graphics, new tools - but it kind of sucks when you're required to constantly abandon the old for the new.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Goal Orientation

Today's goal, once the laptop arrived, was to get it up to the point where I could do the common daily activities that I'd grown accustomed to doing on my work laptop... minus the reading of work e-mail (which was the thing I did the most of, unfortunately!) I still have lots of software to install on it, like Microsoft Office, but that'll happen incrementally, over the next little while.

Tomorrow's goal is to replace our several-year-old router with something that will hopefully address the utter flakiness that my basement PC is experiencing in staying connected to the Internet, improve Vicki's current crappy Internet experience on her PC, while maintaining good performance for my new laptop, XBox 360 and PS/3. Seems like a tall order, but I've already confirmed that the Linksys model I've ordered is on the Compatible list for XBox Live, so that's something...

Watchmen And Its Unplumbable Depths

If you don't believe that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' comic book masterpiece has nearly unlimited levels by which it can be analyzed and considered, then just check out this article that talks about minor character Captain Metropolis, how key he actually was to the story, and how conspicuous his absence from any Watchmen movie clips and credits has been to date. I've read Watchmen eight or nine times already, and still there were points made in that write-up that I'd never pondered!

That's what keeps me bringing me back to that amazing series, time and time again...

E-Mail Withdrawal

While I was working, I'd receive an average of somewhere between 400 and 600 e-mails each workday, and probably anywhere from 50 to 200 over the weekend. That was including all work-related messages and any personal stuff. Since my last day, I've averaged about 5 e-mails a day, with the current volume - after the initial burst of activity right around my last day - being more like 1 to 3 per day.

If you do the math, that means I'm down about 99%!! While cause for great joy in most ways - like how much time I've recovered in my day, just from not having to read so many e-mails - there's also an undeniable feeling of loss over not feeling so connected anymore. I mean: don't I matter anymore?

I'm sure I'll get over it, though, somehow... ;-)

Final Crisis # 3: The Rollercoaster Ride Continues

So I haven't done the second read on Final Crisis # 3 just yet - it's been a busy week, despite not having a day job! - but I definitely had a mixed reaction to it on the first pass when I tackled it seven days ago. Not unlike my feelings toward the first two issues en masse - where the first left me a little cold, and the second really wowed me - I was of two minds here. The art continues to impress, and some of the events in this issue (the last publication of the main series for two months, in order to allow us to better appreciate the devastating changes to the DC Universe herewith presented, we're told) were really fascinating... but there just seems to be something missing, in general. I could quibble over having Supergirl on one of the two covers, when the character only appears in - what? - two or three panels of the comic. Or that we've still had nothing in the way of actual explanation for what's going on...

It's like Final Crisis so far has only presented part of the story that it's told to date. That might be OK, if the various mini-series were filling in all of the gaps well, but that hasn't seemed to be the case as of yet. Whenever I read a review of FC, I get the impression that we're supposed to be getting more out of it than I'm actually picking up on. Maybe that's just my inability to fully appreciate writer Grant Morrison - an experience I've had many times before - or perhaps the art of comic storytelling has fundamentally changed and I just haven't kept up. Whatever the reason may be, something's clearly out of whack, here. With Marvel's Secret Invasion - the latest issue of which came out today - it's sort of like the other side of the coin. There, it's a case of Comics Decompression Gone Mad, as something that should've taken two issues to tell well has instead been stretched out over five (so far) plus several Avengers titles. Has good, straight-forward plotting become a thing of the past now?

I guess I really do need to find the time to take a second read-through on Final Crisis # 3, though. Maybe then it'll all make sense...

[Update Aug 22: I just finished reading it again, and I enjoyed it - and got more out of it - the second time through. It still feels like pieces are missing, but what's there is pretty damned interesting. And even if the only thing that really comes out of this series is the return of Barry Allen, who shows up once again in # 3, right near the end, then that'd make it worthwhile all on its own!]

Back On The Air Again

It took over 2 hours to get the new laptop up and operating, including a "start up" display issue that had me just about out the door to return it to Best Buy, but now things are looking better and I may be over the hump!

You'll know things are going well if the frequency of blog posts here starts to go back up to 2006 levels anytime soon...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Of Shooting Stars And Shipping Laptops

Vicki and I spent half an hour tonight, huddled together under a blanket on our back patio. She'd heard about a good display of shooting stars that was expected in the northeastern sky tonight around 11:00 p.m., but all we saw were one, or maybe two, such things, despite all our skyward scanning... if shooting stars they even were!

Of a more fruitful nature, I got the e-mail this evening indicating that my new laptop had shipped, so I'm hopeful that I'll get it sometime soon (maybe even in the next couple of days).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rainy, rainy weekend

We managed to have friends over for the very slim window of swimming weather this weekend (11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. on Saturday), which was quite the accomplishment by Vicki, as the rest of the time it's been wet and gloomy.

This is perfect weather for me to really get cracking on the new book, but so far: it just hasn't happened! I have played many hours of F.E.A.R. - The Perseus Mandate on the XBox 360, though... so it hasn't been a complete write-off! :-)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmmm"

This article, from the pages of the Newsarama blog, certainly qualifies! It never ceases to amaze me just how ugly a business the comic book industry was (and probably still is, but in different ways now).

Friday, August 08, 2008

This Madness Must End!

I couldn't take it anymore... this afternoon, I finally cracked and ordered a cheap, new laptop!

In the time it took me to write a typical e-mail response to someone, I'd lose my Internet connectivity at least once. And having IM conversations with people was insane, since I'd be typing and typing, and wondering why no responses were coming, only to find out that my connection had dropped a couple minutes earlier, and all my messages would then finally bounce back to me.

Sheer madness... but soon I should be able to blog and surf and even check the radar, all from the comfort of my living room couch!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How About That Biking Streak, You Ask?

Well, since my last day of work came on Friday, August 1st, and I biked that day, my streak is currently sitting at 32 months (Jan 2006 through Aug 2008). I should be able to extend it through Sep and Oct this year, since the comic store is even further away from home than work was, and I tend to bike there. For Nov and Dec, though, it'll probably be pretty tough to motivate myself in the rain and the cold, when driving there is so much easier... but we'll see.

Even if the biking streak ends at 32 months, though, that'd still be a pretty good achievement, in my books!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Powerless

Yesterday we had the power go out on us once again, starting shortly after 6:00 p.m. and lasting for several hours. That was the third or fourth significant power outage in our neighbourhood this summer. I'm now in the habit of calling the hydro company's 24-hour hot-line as soon as it happens, in the hope of speeding things up as much as possible. I have to admit that:
  • I'm getting sick of having to switch our dinner plans at the last minute because of a lack of working stove and oven
  • I'm tired of resetting our half dozen or more electric clocks in the house
  • I'm worried about what this could mean for TV watching next month, when the new shows start up
  • I can't help but wonder if this is a sign of things to come, where electricity and other taken-for-granted resources become scarce
On top of that - but unrelated - I've discovered that my basement PC, which I've rarely used over the past couple of years except to write my book on, has a tendency to lose its wireless connection every 15 minutes or so. I'm having to repeatedly disable and re-enable the connection in order to get back on the Internet. I've tried to download a new driver for the wireless card, but couldn't get it to install... very annoying! Such is Life at the moment!

Monday, August 04, 2008

An August Book Update

With the flurry of activity around me quitting my job, I was too busy lately to provide regular updates on how book sales were going. I believe I'm now sitting at around 48 copies sold, not counting the 13 that Master Coach Christian has bought or the other 13 that he took with him to Agile 2008 on spec. If all of those sell, then I could be up in the mid-70s in sales by the end of this week... and that would be pretty amazing, compared to my original expectations!

This morning, in addition to sitting and rocking on our back deck for awhile, I spent some time cleaning up a few typos in the first AgileMan book. The reason for doing so is simple: I want to release a double-volume Adventures of AgileMan edition, along with the second book (as a standalone). This would allow those who haven't read the first one to save a little money by getting both books in one collection. Because of that, I wanted to take care of the mistakes that I'd spotted after printing the first book, as well as ones that had been pointed out to me by others (like AgileBoy).

I'll probably start writing More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year 2: Easier Said Than Done) tomorrow, if things go according to plan.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Why So Serious?

Vicki and I (and friends) headed out to see The Dark Knight again last night. Fortunately I'd gotten a head's up from my ex-boss that the movie was still selling out early for weekend showings - he'd been turned away at 6:30 the previous night - and so we bought tickets online (for an extra $1 per... grrrrr!) and got to the theatre about an hour before showtime.

I have to say it wasn't quite as amazing an experience the second time around, but very close. The only thing missing was the suspense, which I guess can't be helped. I definitely appreciated Heath Ledger's performance every bit as much last night, and could see more of the foreshadowing that happens in the first half. There's enough story in the 150 minutes to keep you entertained during a second viewing, which probably means that some appreciable portion of the nearly $400 million in ticket sales during the first 16 days has come from return visitors... like us!

Great, great film... and it may just up the ante on superhero movies from here on out.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Crazy Last Day Of Work All Done

But now I'm too wiped to think of much of anything to say, especially since I have no laptop on which to compose my thoughts... :-(

Now is maybe a good time for all readers hereabouts to re-experience this appropriate post! It says a lot about where I am right now, I think.