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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ending 2008 With Post # 2008

As Boneman knows, I've been planning this for months.

"Wouldn't it be cool," I asked to no one in particular back in October, "to have my final blog post of 2008 be the 2008th post?" I could tell, based on where I was at the time, that it was doable... it would just require me to keep up a 2-to-3 posts per day pace for the remainder of the year. Which I then went ahead and did.

And those of you who have a mind that works like mine will no doubt have already realized that I'll similarly be marking the start of 2009 with... you guessed it, my 2009th post!

I ask you: who has more fun with their blogging activities than yours truly? I'm pretty sure the correct answer is: nobody!

Best Of 2008

I don't plan on making a big list here, but I thought it might be fun to put together a few thoughts on some of the things that most impressed me over the past year. With less than 12 hours left in 2008, now seemed like an appropriate time to do so. And after all, no one had seemed to really oppose the idea, when I put it forth at the start of the month!

Best Comics of 2008

Final Crisis / Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds - Although both of these big DC event titles have suffered major publishing delays (with the latter only seeing one more issue delivered in the 4+ months since # 1 came out!), I always come back to the "Watchmen argument": nobody cares (or remembers) that the original comics came out late when they're reading the trade paperback collection years down the road! We've now gotten five of the seven parts of the main series and two of the five from the Legion offshoot, and I predict that each will be recognized as classics once the dust settles.

Y: The Last Man - This series actually came out over a 5-year span, ending earlier this year... it just happens that I only began reading it in 2008, and am now one thin issue away from finishing it (I just can't bring myself to devour that final chapter because, once I do, there'll be no more Y for me!). I believe this Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra masterpiece will find a hallowed place in comics history alongside peers such as Preacher and Starman, just a notch down from Watchmen, Sandman and The Dark Knight Returns.

Action Comics - Geoff Johns and Gary Frank hit multiple homers this year, starting with their "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" winner and followed up by the Brainiac saga that took "Pa" Kent away from us. I hope they do as well in 2009 with the updating of the Superman origin, but it'll be a hard feat to match.

Captain America - "Mr Consistency 2008" wears red, white and blue and carries a mean star-spangled shield. This title didn't hit a single sour note all year long, came out every month like clockwork, and featured great artwork, issue after issue. Bucky finally got to don his friend and mentor's uniform in January of this year, and he hasn't looked back (or bad) since. All hail Ed Brubaker and the new Cap!

Biggest Disappointments in Comics in 2008 - "One More Day" (technically, it came out late last year but I was still fuming about it in 2008 and haven't bought a Spider-Man comic since then), Secret Invasion (two or three issues' worth of story spread over an 8-issue miniseries and various tie-ins) and the news that Geoff Johns is leaving Justice Society of America in 2009.

Best Movies of 2008

The Dark Knight - Last night we watched TDK on Blu-Ray, making it my third viewing in less than 6 months. And yet, somehow, I was enthralled for the entire 2.5 hours on the third time through and never even came close to being bored! This would almost certainly be one of the best movies of any year, in my estimation. You can read more of my gushing about it here.

Iron Man - Just think, Tony Stark: If your fellow billionaire, Bruce Wayne, hadn't launched his big sequel this year, you'd have ruled 2008! At least we can safely say that Iron Man was Marvel's best movie of the year! More of my thoughts can be found here.

Honourable mentions to Away From Her (which probably actually came out last year) and Breach (ditto).

Best TV of 2008

Lost - Quite possibly the best TV show ever. Ever. And Season Four, truncated though it was by the WGA mess, kicked some serious ass and blew all of our minds wide open.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Sarah just keeps getting better and better. The writing has started to really take off this season, and the acting's been first rate all along. Anyone not watching this show just doesn't want to be entertained, I'm afraid!

Battlestar Galactica - Not the greatest half-season, perhaps, but it certainly ended on an intriguing note, eh? It should be interesting to see what tricks are left up the sleeve for the final dozen or so installments.

30 Rock - All those who didn't already know just how funny Tina Fey was probably found out in the Fall of 2008, at the expense of hapless, would-be-VP Sarah Palin. Thanks for that, anyway, you moose-shooting, evolution-doubting, scorn-spewing liability, you! Now that everyone's discovered the joy that is Tina, we can all agree that 30 Rock is the funniest half hour that doesn't require the inhalation of laughing gas!

Biggest Disappointments on TV in 2008 - Let's not do that whole "WGA on Strike" thing again anytime soon, OK?

Best Music of 2008

Radiohead, In Rainbows - Just as Irene Adler, from A Scandal in Bohemia, is often simply referred to as "the woman" by Sherlock Holmes, In Rainbows is simply the CD for 2008. I've listened to it dozens of times, including on many bike rides to and from work, and its appeal grows with every pass. It's an album that's so accessible and subtle in its deviant messages that even Vicki is starting to like it! (Of course, the fact that I can't think of another CD that actually came out in 2008 doesn't hurt its chances, either!)

I also surprisingly enjoyed Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog more than I'd ever have expected...

Biggest Disappointments in Music in 2008 - Nothing new from Peter Gabriel or Magnolia Electric Company... now that sucks!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Santa Brought, 2008 Edition

I'm a few days tardy on this, but what can you do?

This year's Christmas was all about books and movies for me. I got an impressive pile of DVDs: Matewan, The Return of the Secaucus 7, The Dark Knight (on Blu-Ray, from Tammy), Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Strangers on a Train (also from Tammy) and The Ultimate Bladerunner Collection (which includes a new "Final Cut" version that I've never seen) along with a more eclectic assortment of books than I've ever received at one time: Watching the Watchmen (by Dave Gibbons), Outliers (by Malcolm Gladwell; a great choice by Tammy), A Confederacy of Dunces (by John Kennedy Toole), JPod (by Douglas Coupland), and two John Sayles novels (Union Dues and Los Gusanos). I'm tearing through Outliers right now, but had to give up on A Confederacy of Dunces after about 15 pages when it became apparent that it just wasn't my kind of reading material. Oh well, it was certainly worth a try on Vicki's part!

Notably missing this year were the "classic Christmas categories" of comics (unless one counts the Gibbons book or the three superhero movies), video games (perhaps Vicki feared that nothing could compete with Resistance 2), and anything New York Rangers-related (although I can't really fault Vicki on that last one!). Nevertheless, it was still a very good haul and should provide me with many, many hours of entertainment over the coming months.

Vicki got new boots and a pepper mill from Tammy, as well as some spa-time, a new blouse, many books, and Wall-E and the Bourne Trilogy on DVD from yours truly.

Tammy now owns a piece of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer history as we gave her a page of original artwork from the current series, along with a grill/griddle contraption for her kitchen, a new video game and the first 3 Buffy Season Eight trade paperbacks.

In other words, we all made out like bandits, as usual! :-)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Biking Streak Reaches An Amazing 36 Months!

I'd all but given up on extending my biking streak beyond the 35-month mark, especially once snow arrived in mid-November and stuck around for weeks and weeks. However, with the rain and double digit highs over the past weekend, most of the snow was gone as of this morning. When I saw that, and noticed a beautiful 1 degree temperature amidst the sunshine, I decided to bike downtown to pick up last week's comics. Although I had to do a lot of dynamic route adjustments along the way to get around flooding, ice patches and snow piles, it wasn't a bad trip at all. In fact, it wouldn't even qualify as one of the Top 5 Hardest Rides of the year!

And just like that, I've now completed 3 years of biking at least once each month. I don't know that I'll be able to push it any further than 36 months, but I've now got that feather in my cap, at any rate.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Tale Of Two NFL Finishes

After 11 games in their 2008 NFL season, the New York Jets and un-retired quarterback Brett Favre had an 8-3 record and looked like a solid playoff contender. They'd just finished knocking off the previously 10-0 Tennessee Titans, handing the Titans their first loss of the year. The future couldn't have looked brighter for Brett and the boys.

Just one week later, the San Diego Chargers lost to Atlanta and saw their record fall to 4-8. All of the sudden, the best that they could hope for, in the unlikely event that they could somehow run the table the rest of the way, was an 8-8 record. More probable was that they'd finish at 6-10 or some other sub-0.500 mark and slink out of the 2008 season as perhaps its biggest disappointment.

Today, though, as that season wrapped up, both teams' fortunes had incredibly reversed! The Jets went 1-4 in their remaining games for a mediocre 9-7 record that will see them watching the postseason on their big screen TVs, while the Chargers did climb up to 0.500 for the first time since the season started, and overtook the division-leading Broncos by smoking them 52-21 tonight! San Diego not only makes the playoffs at 8-8 but also gets to host next week's game against the Colts, despite having lost twice as many games this season as Indianapolis did!

Steelers QB "Big Ben" left today's game with an injury but sadly it doesn't sound like it's anything that'll stop him from playing in January. Way to get my hopes up for nothing!

"I'm Not Going To Ask You Again To Shut Up!"

While I might almost be able to sympathize with the villain in this CNN.com piece about a man shooting someone for talking through a film at the theatre (having endured more movie-talkers than I'd care to remember), the thing that really caught my eye was the penultimate sentence in the article:

"Cialella was carrying a Kel-Tec .380-caliber handgun clipped inside his sweatpants, police said."

Should we conclude from that fact that Plexico Burress has now started a new and disturbing trend of men carrying guns in their sweatpants?! I can't fit my wallet into mine without looking like a freak... how are these guys conceivably transporting guns in theirs?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Trivia Answers Are Now Provided

I've updated the original Christmas Trivia post to include the answers, but I've placed them under white-out Spoiler space for those who like to think about the questions before seeing the answers.

I only received two sets of answers in the form of Comments so I guess most people were just too busy over the holidays to stop by and get the treat that I'd left for them (and which I'd foreshadowed a week ahead of time). Oh well... better luck next year!

[Update: Vicki got 42 of a possible 101 answers right and thereby added 21 Blog Points to her total. Shane T picked off 50 out of 101, including an awe-inspiring 17 of 20 in the category of Sports! He boosted his Blog Point total by 25 as a result. The leader board is now updated.]

Friday, December 26, 2008

Reminder: Only 9.5 Hours Left To Post Answers

If you want to scoop some Blog Points on the Big Christmas Trivia Contest, or simply show off what you know, you need to get your answers in (by Commenting on the post itself) before midnight tonight.

Tick tock, tick tock...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas! Have Some Trivia!

To celebrate the 2000th entry at this blog of mine, here is some trivia for you to enjoy. Please use the Comment feature to respond with your guesses/answers sometime on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Comments won't show up until Dec 27th thanks to the magic of Comment Moderation.

Update: Answers are now posted below, but with Spoiler white space around them so that you can reveal them at your leisure by dragging the cursor over that area. Congratulations to those who picked up some Blog Points by submitting their guesses!

Part A: General Information
A1) Which country gave the Statue of Liberty to the U.S. as a gift? (Answer: France)
A2) According to a time-honoured saying, what is "an ounce of prevention" worth? (Answer: A pound of cure)
A3) Who said, "Democracy is the worst form of government - except for all the rest"? (Answer: Winston Churchill)
A4) What unique characteristic is found in a hermaphrodite? (Answer: Includes both male and female sex organs)
A5) Which Bob Dylan song has seen cover versions of it released by Jimi Hendrix, U2 and Neil Young, among others? (Answer: "All Along the Watchtower")
A6) The Periodic Table symbol for platinum is "Pt". What is the corresponding symbol for copper? (Answer: Cu)
A7) If the air temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit, what does that correspond to in Celcius? (Answer: 23 or 24 degrees)
A8) Arrange the following units of distance in ascending order: mile, league, furlong, kilometre. (Answer: Furlong, kilometre, mile, league)
A9) How many electoral college votes are currently required in order to win the U.S. Presidential election? (Answer: 270)
A10) Who went into hiding after death threats were issued as a result of his 1988 book, The Satanic Verses? (Answer: Salmon Rushdie)
A11) Which Canadian city was the scene of history's largest accidental explosion, in 1917? (Answer: Halifax)
A12) What are the only two root words in the English language containing "uu" in them? (Answer: "Vacuum" and "continuum")
A13) Who wrote the 1957 novel, Dandelion Wine? (Answer: Ray Bradbury)
A14) How many times was Richard Milhouse Nixon the Republican candidate for President of the United States? (Answer: 3)
A15) What is the actual name of the title character in Victor Hugo's novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame? (Answer: Quasimodo)
A16) At what hugely-historic event were author George Plimpton and former NFL player Rosey Grier both famously present, in June of 1968, and what did they do? (Answer: The assassination of Bobby Kennedy; they wrestled the gun away from Sirhan Sirhan)
A17) What are the names of the two feuding families in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet? (Answer: Capulet and Montague)
A18) According to the Canada 2006 Census, how many Canadian cities had a population of one million or more in 2006? (Answer: 6)
A19) How many men have walked on the moon? (Answer: 12)
A20) In what year did Hawaii become America's 50th state? (Answer: 1959)


Part B: Sports
Note: The "four major American professional sports leagues" below refer to the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL.
B1) Where was Plexico Burress carrying the gun that resulted in his injury and suspension from the NFL this season? (Answer: In his sweat pants)
B2) Which of the four major American professional sports leagues currently has the most teams? (Answer: The NFL, with 32)
B3) How many yards long is the field of play in a regulation CFL football field? (Answer: 110)
B4) What score constitutes a perfect game in 10-pin bowling? (Answer: 300)
B5) Whose 1961 home run total of 61 was almost always referred to as having "an asterisk beside it in the record books"? (Answer: Roger Maris)
B6) How many consecutive Super Bowls did the Buffalo Bills lose in the 1990s? (Answer: 4)
B7) In which two European cities did the NHL kick off their 2008/09 season? (Answer: Stockholm, Sweden and Prague, Czech Republic)
B8) How many Stanley Cup Finals series went the full 7 games in the 1990s? (Answer: Just 1, the 1994 Rangers/Canucks series)
B9) What's the difference between a no-hitter and a perfect game in baseball? (Answer: No-hitter = no hits allowed; perfect game = no batter reaches base)
B10) Who are the current defending champions in each of the four major American professional sports leagues? (Answer: MLB = Philadelphia Phillies, NBA = Boston Celtics, NFL = NY Giants, NHL = Detroit Reg Wings)
B11) Which MLB team currently holds a 6-0 record all-time in post-season play? (Answer: Florida Marlins)
B12) Which pitcher served up the Joe Carter home run ball that won the 1993 World Series? (Answer: Mitch Williams)
B13) In what year will the Toronto Maple Leafs next win a Stanley Cup? (Answer: Any prediction will suffice)
B14) Across the four major American professional sports leagues, the state of California has an amazing 15 franchises. Three other states have 8 or more franchises across the 4 leagues. Name them. (Note: Where team names directly conflict with location of home games, go with the team names.) (Answer: New York has 9 (Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Bills, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers, Sabres), Florida has 9 (Marlins, Rays, Heat, Magic, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Jaguars, Lightning, Panthers), and Texas has 8 (Astros, Rangers, Mavericks, Rockets, Spurs, Cowboys, Texans, Stars))
B15) Which former NBA all-star claimed in his book, A View From Above, that he'd had sex with 20,000 women? (Answer: Wilt Chamberlain)
B16) What's the difference between a "safety squeeze" and a "suicide squeeze" in baseball? (Answer: Safety = runner on 3rd waits for batter to make contact; suicide = runner on 3rd leaves with the pitch))
B17) In terms of series wins and losses, what is the Chicago Bulls' record in the NBA Finals? (Answer: 6-0)
B18) What is the fewest number of games, from the start of an NHL season, in which 50 goals have been scored by one player? (Answer: 39, by Wayne Gretzky)
B19) Which franchise has lost the most NBA Finals series? (Answer: LA Lakers, 15 times)
B20) Who captured the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship in a thrilling overtime win? (Answer: Kansas University Jayhawks)


Part C: Movies
C1) Who directed Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? (Answer: Christopher Nolan)
C2) In which U.S. state does the 1996 film Fargo take place? (Answer: North Dakota)
C3) Which actor delivered a special gold watch to a young boy in a memorable scene in 1994's Pulp Fiction? (Answer: Christopher Walken)
C4) What character did Samuel L Jackson play in his cameo appearance at the end of Iron Man? (Answer: Nick Fury)
C5) According to a bit of Hans Solo dialogue in the original Star Wars movie, what are parsecs a measure of? (Answer: Time (rather than distance, which is what they really measure))
C6) For which movie did Steven Spielberg win his first Academy Award for Best Direction? (Answer: Schindler's List)
C7) In which 2002 horror film did Naomi Watts play a journalist investigating a videotape that supposedly caused people to die shortly after watching? (Answer: The Ring)
C8) Name the six actors, in descending order of their # of appearances (highest to lowest), who've portrayed 007 in the 22 official James Bond films. (Answer: Roger Moore (7), Sean Connery (6), Pierce Brosnan (4), Daniel Craig (2), Timothy Dalton (2), George Lazenby (1))
C9) Who directed 2008's Miracle at St. Anna? (Answer: Spike Lee)
C10) Which western won the 1992 Best Picture Academy Award? (Answer: Unforgiven)
C11) Name three films written and directed by John Sayles. (Answer: Any three will do, with some of the better-known ones including Lone Star, Eight Men Out, Limbo, The Secret of Roan Inish, Passion Fish and even The Brother From Another Planet)
C12) For which film did Cher win her only Best Actress Academy Award? (Answer: Moonstruck)
C13) Who plays Harry Lime, in 1949's The Third Man? (Answer: Orson Welles)
C14) How did Alfred Hitchcock make his traditional cameo appearance in the 1944 film, Lifeboat? (Answer: In the "Before & After" photos of a Weight Loss ad in a newspaper)
C15) Who was the lead actor in the 1990 comedy, Quick Change? (Answer: Bill Murray)
C16) In what chronological order (oldest to newest) did the following three classic movies debut: Casablanca, Citizen Kane and The Wizard of Oz? (Answer: The Wizard of Oz (1939), Citizen Kane (1941), Casablanca (1942))
C17) What's the latest installment released to date in the Michael Apted 7-Up series of documentaries? (Answer: 49-Up)
C18) In which movie did Jack Nicholson tell a diner waitress that he'd like her to "hold the chicken" for his chicken salad sandwich? (Bonus Question: Where did he eventually tell her to hold it?) (Answer: Five Easy Pieces; Bonus: between her legs!)
C19) Which TV star of the 1950s, 60s and 70s terrified audiences in the title role in 1951's The Thing from Another World? (Answer: James Arness, star of Gunsmoke)
C20) Where was the missing money said to be hidden in the film, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World? (Answer: Under a giant "W" in Santa Rosita)


Part D: TV
D1) What was the name of Norm's never-seen wife on Cheers? (Answer: Vera)
D2) Which program featured such characters as Count Floyd, Sammy Maudlin and Mayor Tommy Shanks? (Answer: SCTV)
D3) How does Spider-Man catch crooks, according to the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon's theme song? (Answer: "Just like flies")
D4) On what date in 2009 is the "digital TV transition" occurring in the United States, after which no analogue broadcasts will be made by the networks? (Answer: Feb 17th to 18th)
D5) Which longtime member of the St. Elsewhere cast went on to big screen aclaim, including in such films as Glory and Philadelphia? (Answer: Denzel Washington)
D6) Which of ABC, CBS and NBC is the oldest television broadcaster? (Answer: NBC)
D7) To which weeknight will Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles be moving in early 2009? (Answer: Fridays)
D8) According to Mr Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll centre of a Tootsie Pop? (Answer: 3)
D9) From which hugely-popular sitcom was The Jeffersons spun off? (Answer: All in the Family)
D10) Name any two of the four lead actresses in TV's The Golden Girls. (Answer: Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty)
D11) With which other CBS prime time program did CSI cross over in October of 2007? (Answer: Without a Trace)
D12) Which of the following shows debuted first: Fantasy Island, Laverne & Shirley or The Love Boat? (Answer: Laverne & Shirley)
D13) With what image does the pilot episode of Lost open? (Answer: Jack Shepherd's eye)
D14) Which lead actor from the original Battlestar Galactica has a recurring role in the current version? (Answer: Richard Hatch)
D15) Who plays the "Mac" role on the "Hello, I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" commercials? (Answer: Justin Long)
D16) Who was the spokesman for Alpo dog food who originally claimed in a TV ad that it was so good that he fed it to his own dogs? (Answer: Lorne Greene, as readers of my 2nd AgileMan book know!)
D17) What was the name of Steve Austin's boss in The Six Million Dollar Man, as played by Richard Anderson? (Answer: Oscar Goldman)
D18) Which ficitional character implored shoppers, "Please don't squeeze the Charmin!", in numerous TV commercials? (Answer: Mr Whipple)
D19) With whom did Tom Davis famously team up, as both writing and performing partners, in the early days of Saturday Night Live? (Answer: Al Franken, possibly the next Senator from Minnesota!)
D20) Name either of the actors who filled the titles roles in the 1976 TV mini-series, Rich Man, Poor Man. (Answer: Richard Strauss and Nick Nolte)


Part E: Comic Books
E1) Which X-Men member claims to be "the best at what I do, and what I do ain't pretty"? (Answer: Wolverine)
E2) Who is Marvel's "Man Without Fear"? (Answer: Daredevil)
E3) Which Marvel character was featured in the first comic I ever bought? (Answer: Captain America)
E4) Which one of the following was not a founding member of the JLA: Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman? (Answer: Green Arrow)
E5) What was DC Comics' big fall event (comic mini-series and crossover) for 2008? (Answer: Final Crisis)
E6) On what day of the week was Solomon Grundy born? (Answer: Monday)
E7) What was Marvel Comics' big summer event (comic mini-series and crossover) for 2008? (Answer: Secret Invasion)
E8) What device does a Green Lantern use to charge up his ring every 24 hours? (Answer: His power battery)
E9) What were the heroes fighting each other over in Marvel's Civil War? (Answer: The new law requiring all superpowered Americans to register with the U.S. government)
E10) Who were the two main villains when Superman met Spider-Man for the first time? (Answer: Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus)
E11) Who were the two young men who originally came up with the concept for Superman? (Answer: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster)
E12) What is Thor's mortal identity? (Answer: Dr Don Blake)
E13) What were the two biggest deaths in Crisis on Infinite Earths, in terms of character name recognition? (Answer: Supergirl and the Flash)
E14) Which former DC Comics superhero has operated under the name of "Oracle" for the past decade or two? (Answer: Batgirl)
E15) Which two muck monsters (one Marvel, one DC) were introduced within a month of each other in 1971? (Answer: Man-Thing and Swamp Thing)
E16) Who was a sidekick to both the Hulk and Captain America back in the 60s? (Answer: Rick Jones)
E17) Who is the female lead character in V for Vendetta? (Answer: Evey)
E18) Name the planet-eating entity responsible for transforming Norrin Radd into the Silver Surfer. (Answer: Galactus)
E19) Who killed Gwen Stacy? (Answer: Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin)
E20) In which Marvel miniseries did Spider-Man's black costume debut? (Answer: Secret Wars)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Coming Up Next: Post # 2000

In just a few minutes, I'll be putting the 2000th entry on this blog out there for everyone to read over, think about, and even respond to... which I think you'll want to, once you see it!

I've prepared 100 trivia questions across 5 categories: General Information, Sports, Movies, TV, and of course, Comic Books! Some of the questions are simple; some are hard; but each is worth a half of a Blog Point, so get your thinking caps on! As usual, though, this isn't a test of how well you can Google the answers... You either know the stuff or you don't, and so research is strictly forbidden! And remember: bragging rights are on the line here! Now's your chance to, in the finest Homer Simpson tradition, finally achieve your life's ambition and make it on to the Leader Board at the top of the blog!

I'm about to turn on Comment Moderation for the next couple of days, so that people can provide their answers in the form of Comments without them showing up right away. I'll take responses right up until the end of Boxing Day (Dec 26th), after which the Comments will start appearing and I'll post the complete set of right answers. Hopefully you'll find some time to participate over the next 48 hours of holiday goodness.

2000 posts, and still going strong... who'd have thunk it, eh?!

Cue The Holiday Slowdown

For the first time that I can remember, I've gone into the Christmas/New Year's season with no particular excitement over "getting a break." Whether it was school that I was glad to get away from for a couple of weeks, or a brief respite from work, for forty years now there has always been that unmistakable feeling of "Whew!" that came this time of year.

This year, of course, I've already enjoyed nearly five months of semi-vacation-like rest before this week even rolled around. I still hear the same relief in others' voices as they talk about their plans for this week and next, but for me it's actually a bit of an inconvenience that we've arrived at holiday season. Why? Well, they're all purely selfish reasons, but they'd include increased traffic on the roads in the middle of the day (normally a great time to be driving, if you have to venture out at all), fewer interesting posts to read on the World Wide Webcicle, and very little TV fare that isn't of the re-run variety, to name but a few.

Therefore, in my best Ebenezer Scrooge voice, I'd just like to say: I can't wait for the rest of you to get back to work in January! Bah, humbug indeed! :-)

On Community Organizers

While I tried to watch the Republican National Convention during the run-up to this year's U.S. election, I gave up not once, but twice. The first time was during Rudy Giuliani's speech, in which he literally sneered as he spoke of Barack Obama being a community organizer... and said that he didn't even know what that was. The second time came during Sarah Palin's much-anticipated moment in the spotlight, where she similarly denigrated the role, stating that even her duties as mayor of an Alaskan town held more importance than anything Obama had done. In each case, those inexcusable displays of condescension and contempt drove me to change the channel, despite an actual desire on my part to hear what John McCain's supporters had to say. And I wouldn't be surprised if many other folks, not already brainwashed by the strident Conservative ramblings, did likewise.

What struck me at the time, and has continued to stick with me since, is the notion that Giuliani and Palin completely missed (or gamely chose to ignore) the point: Obama sees solutions in getting people involved. That's what a community organizer does, after all... he or she inspires, leads, motivates and otherwise cajoles everyday people into coming up with creative solutions, cleaning up messes, helping others less fortunate, providing much-needed volunteer services and generally making their community a better place. When I think of just how much positive effect for change a U.S. president could have with such an approach (reminiscent, of course, of John F. Kennedy's famous "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country" speech), it almost boggles my mind. The possibilities are endless. It's really an example of tapping into the potential within everyone, rather than believing that only those in power have all of the answers and will make all of the changes. (Putting on my AgileMan cape for 15 seconds, Obama represents the type of true empowerment model that an Agile purist couldn't help but get behind!)

Just as I often wonder, wistfully, what the last 8 years would have been like had Al Gore not had the 2000 election stolen from him, I have to shudder at the thought of what the future might currently hold had the Republicans somehow prevailed in 2008. I expect that there are going to be some tough sacrifices asked of all of us in the coming years, and the last thing the world needs in times like these is another leader who will tell them to show their patriotism by going shopping. I think Barack Obama knows better than that how to get people to do the right thing... and I hope history will prove me right!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Giving, Rangers-Style

Yup, that would be when you build up a 4-0 2nd period lead, and then give the other team 2 points by letting them tie it in the 3rd and win it in overtime.

Merry freaking Christmas, Capitals!

Arrrrggggh.

A Bad Week In Greece

Thanks to the Freakonomics site, I found this link to a set of quite impressive photos from the riots that were erupting in several Greek cities between 8th of December and the 15th following a (possibly justifiable) shooting of a teenager by a member of the police force. I haven't heard anything more about the troubles there in the past week, so hopefully things have quieted down after what looks like a terrible mess.

1994: The Year Of The Rangers

This just happens to be the 1,994th post upon this very blog, and so of course I had to do something to once again commemorate that most magical of all years in sports: 1994.

One story about June 14, 1994 that I don't think I've ever mentioned here before involved a co-worker of mine at the bank. He and I weren't buddies, by any stretch of the imagination, but we knew each other, and I knew that he had a cousin on the 1993/94 version of the Rangers. We had talked a few times over the course of that season and playoffs, but that was about it.

After Game 7 had happened, and I was still on Cloud 9 (and would be for days), he stopped by my desk to tell me that he'd actually been lucky enough to attend the game, thanks to his family connection! I was incredibly impressed, of course, but then I said, "So... any chance you brought me anything back from the game? I don't mean something you'd have had to pay for, but even a gum wrapper from the floor... anything that I could put in a shrine and say, 'This was at that game!'"

Sadly, though, he had nothing for me. I'm sure if he'd really appreciated how much it would've meant to me, he'd have grabbed something at the game, or at least made something up after the fact. Hell, lint from his pocket would've been enough to thrill me! I'd never have known for sure if it actually had been there, but I would've believed with all my heart that it had been, just the same!

In case you want to re-read some older posts on this same exciting topic, you've got lots of choices available, including this, this and this. No need to thank me... it's all part of the service, after all!

Sold Through All Complete AgileMan Books

Despite doing an overprint of 100% on The Complete Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Two Years of Lessons Learned in Going Agile), the last extra copy sold today, leaving me with exactly none in stock! Woohoo! (In the interests of full disclosure, that was only an overprint of 5... but still!).

Thanks once again to all those who made my second book writing experience such a positive one! It helps encourage more writing when I know that the previous books have actually sold a few copies. I certainly didn't expect that result when I first got into this crazy new vocation of mine.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Team Deathmatches Are Better

After giving up on kill-everything-that-moves Deathmatches in Resistance 2, I somehow ended up trying the Team Deathmatch type of Competitive play (I play my new clan for that). The downside of TDMs is that I have to resist the urge to shoot my own teammates (not because it does them any harm, but rather because it wastes ammo); the upside is that I have friends around me who may end up drawing some of the enemy fire away from me. And I switched away from my former favourites, the Bullseye and Carbine, opting instead to play almost exclusively with the Marksman, which is a nice halfway compromise between a sniper rifle and a combat rifle. I'm quite taken with this gun now, despite the fact that it's a pale shadow of the supercharged version that my Level 30 Spec Ops owns in Coop.

I'm still not having stellar results, but at least it's less stressful... and I occasionally even run out of ammo before dying, which almost never happened in Deathmatch! So that's something..

A Shout-Out For The Power Of The PS/3!

As a proud PS/3 owner, I couldn't help but enjoy this story about the University of Massachusetts utilizing 16 PS/3s to perform calculations relating to black hole behaviour. (And just think: when the equipment's not being used as a supercomputer, the physicists could be playing Resistance 2 on them!)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How About Those Chargers?

As disgusted as I've been with how things have gone for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season (a good NFL year usually starts with the Steelers missing the playoffs), I can't help but be entertained with what the Chargers from San Diego have been up to.

They came into this season as one of the favourites, boasting Philip Rivers at quarterback, LaDainian Tomlinson as an all-star running back, and an 11-5 record last year that easily won the AFC West Division crown for them. However, to say that they were snake-bitten to start the season would be understating the truth, I think. First they hosted the Panthers, who had gone 7-9 the preceding year (as we'd learn later, this year's Carolina team is much improved), and San Diego led 24-19 in the dying seconds of the game. Somehow, Carolina QB Jake Delomme pulled off a 14-yard TD pass with no time left on the clock, and after the extra point was made (and I still don't know why it was even attempted), the visitors had stunned the home crowd to the tune of 26-24. Not exactly an auspicious start to the 2008 season for the Chargers, but you ain't seen nothing yet.

The following week, the Chargers headed off to Denver to play their divisional rivals, the Broncos. I saw approximately 10 minutes of this game and it turned out to be the most talked about several minutes of the entire day in the NFL. Basically (if memory serves), in the final moments of the 4th quarter and with San Diego up 38-31, Denver was driving down the field to try to tie things up. As QB Jay Cutler pulled back his arm to make a pass, the ball either slipped or was stripped out of his hand, and went to a Charger defensive player. With that fumble by Denver and recovery by San Diego, the game should be over... except that the referee ruled it an incomplete pass and Denver retained possession! Moments later they'd score a touchdown, making it 38-37 San Diego, and then in one of the boldest moves ever, Denver went for the 2-point conversion play (rather than the much safer single point after), opting to try for a win instead of a tie (and overtime). They completed that play and almost literally stole a win from their biggest rivals. (The official later admitted that he'd blown the call, for all the good that did the losing team!) Make the Chargers: 0-2!

Now, in a 16-game season, losing your first two games isn't automatically a death sentence, but it's also not the sign of a contending team. Fortunately, they followed up those two misadventures with back-to-back wins (against the Jets and Raiders), and thus improved to 2-2. Whew! However, next came a loss to Miami, who had managed only 1 victory in the previous season! (As with Carolina, though, the Dolphins are a better team this year and will, like the Panthers, probably make the playoffs when the dust settles next weekend.) The Chargers then beat the Brady-less Patriots, to once again achieve the 0.500 mark, only to follow that up with back-to-back losses to Buffalo and New Orleans (neither of whom will see the postseason this year). At 3-5, I pretty much wrote them off. I mean, sure, they could theoretically rattle off 8 straight wins and finish 11-5, but it hardly seemed likely.

Instead, they posted one win (against hapless Kansas City) before losing three in a row (to Pittsburgh, by 1 point, Indianapolis, by 3 points, and Atlanta, by an unconverted TD). They'd played well against 3 top teams but come up empty each time. So at 4-8, they were dead, dead, dead. Right?!

Well, not so much. They've since won three in a row (against Oakland, KC and Tampa Bay, the first two of whom are admittedly lightweights) to push their seasonal mark to 7-8. But just as significantly, the division leading Broncos have stumbled to an 8-7 record. With one game left in the season, the two teams "atop" the AFC West are only separated by that thin margin (a rather dubious honour made possible because division mates Oakland and KC are 4-11 and 2-13, respectively!). Guess which two teams meet next weekend? That's right... Denver visits San Diego with a playoff spot on the line! Will revenge be a dish best served hot (in sultry SD), or will the Broncos once again dash the Chargers' dreams? Who wouldn't want to tune in at 4:00 p.m. next Sunday to find out?! Not me, that's for sure! In fact, if the Steelers do well in the playoffs, that Chargers/Broncos game could be one of the last NFL contests I actually watch the rest of the way!

Constantine Not Nearly As Bad As I'd Expected

While I don't feel inclined to write a full review of the Keanu Reeves / Rachel Weisz film about John Constantine (based on the Hellblazer comic published by DC Comics), I will say that it greatly exceeded my (admitted, very low) expectations for it! All that was wrong with it were things that were well known to me before I'd even seen the opening credits:
  • Constantine is portrayed as American, instead of English as he's supposed to be
  • The story takes place in Los Angeles, instead of London, as it should
  • Keanu can't come close to delivering the biting negativity and sarcasm that the character, under the guiding hands of no less than Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Jamie Delano and Neil Gaiman (to name but a few), has been imbued with in the comic format over the past couple of decades since Moore created him in the pages of Swamp Thing # 37
I knew all of that going in, and really, once you get past those points... it's a fairly entertaining movie! Vicki thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'd say that it was a good, solid 6 out of 10 for me. I could've done without Shia LaBeouf playing "Chaz" (yet another great character from the comic who's completely divested of any of his appeal here) but fortunately his role is relatively small compared to that of Constantine and Angela Dodson (Weisz). Several bits from some of the more famous arcs in the Hellblazer series were included, although fans couldn't help but be irked (or maybe just amused, as I was) by the cop-out ending that has Constantine popping a stick of gum into his mouth.

As a transplanted, somewhat watered-down version of a groundbreaking comic book, Constantine didn't actually suck. It just could've been a whole lot better, if it had maybe come along a few years later when being faithful to the original material might've been a more viable and trendy option.

Withering Magnolia?

The Magnolia Electric Company webpage hasn't had an update to it in over three and a half months now, and the band's most recent tour ended in Chicago the night before Obama won the Presidency (did the band members stay in town one extra night in order to go to the festivities in Grant Park?). In other words, things have been quiet for awhile now.

So are they just taking a well-deserved break, recording a new album or... something more dire? I certainly would hate to believe that MEC has run its course already, as the last several albums have been among my favourites. On the other hand, times are tough... and MEC CD sales along with concert revenue might not be paying the bills. It would just be such a shame to see a talented group like that disappear in their prime. Here's hoping that I'm worrying about nothing!

Clan Disbanded

I had set up a Resistance 2 clan that had about 8 or 9 of us in it, almost all of whom were co-workers of mine until recently. Unfortunately, other than Boneman (with whom I play online regularly) and one other guy, no one else seemed to be online enjoying R2 after the initial gathering (which saw about 7 of us out). Since I wanted to play R2 with a group of people who'd actually... well, play it!... this weekend I disbanded that clan in order to be free to join another (the game doesn't allow you to be part of more than one clan at a time). So far I've tried one other group out but am not yet convinced it's the right fit (it does have a funny name, though!) so I may still be searching.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lost Season Four... Just As Great The Second Time Through

As Season Four of Lost was proceeding last Winter and Spring, I felt that it was perhaps its best season since the first one. But I never really like to stick my neck out too far about such things until I get a chance to re-examine the evidence, so to speak.

As of tonight, we're five episodes through the Season Four DVD set, and it's every bit as impressive as I remembered! I loved "The Constant" even more this time around (a little pun there), but also truly adored "Eggtown" with its last second reveal that had all of our heads spinning last February. I think it's really in Season Four that you start to see the framework of the show for the first time, and that's a good thing when you consider just how much criticism was launched against Lost early on for "not providing enough answers to mysteries." Anyone who's been watching through four seasons so far and still feels cheated should probably consider sticking to "Reality TV" or sitcoms from now on, as Lost has delivered on so many of its promises by this point that it's hard to believe that they'll be able to keep the pace up for another 35 hours or so.

A Month And A Half Later...

... and the Minnesota Senate seat that Al Franken (of Saturday Night Live fame) and Norm Coleman were fighting over is still not decided! You can see just how tight the recount race is here if you're interested, but I can also sum it up for you: over 3,000,000 votes cast, and the margin of difference between the two men is currently thought to be perhaps as small as 2 votes... (more likely, a few dozen votes)! Wow! That's almost unbelievable!

An Idea Has Landed In My Brain

Yesterday was a bit of a down day. Not only did I realize that I was burned out and maybe even a little bummed out where Competitive play in Resistance 2 was concerned, but I was also feeling depressed about my own job prospects. As I told AgileBoy over Instant Messenger, I was going through a list of potential job types in my head, and seeing reasons for each one as to why I wouldn't actually be able to do that sort of role anymore. "I couldn't hold down a Java programming contract because ________________; if someone wanted a Project Manager, I wouldn't be able to do it on account of _____________; who'd want to hire an Agile consultant who's only ever done Agile at one company where the results were considerably less than spectacular!" and so on. All of a sudden, I was pretty much unemployable, as far as I was concerned.

That may still be the case today, but at least I woke up with an interesting idea for a (fiction) book, and it's been careening around in my head ever since. It fits the criteria that I believe I'd need in a first book:
  • It's subject matter that I'm actually interested in
  • It's a framework upon which I could build a lot of subplots that would feed into the main story
  • As far as I can tell so far, it's not just something that I've read before and always wanted to tell my own version of, although there's an aspect of that to it
  • I know how it starts and I know how it ends, but everything in between is waiting to be discovered through the process of writing (which should keep me entertained for months)
So we'll see if anything actually comes of this notion, since it's officially only about 2 hours old and that's not nearly enough time to know yet whether it has any staying power or not. If it does, then I'm sure readers of this blog will hear more about it in the coming weeks...

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Post For The Number-Lovers Out There

I find a lot of interesting food for thought at the Freakonomics blog, and this is merely the latest such example. Imagine being able to determine the right answer to a multiple choice question without even reading the question! That's pretty powerful stuff!

From the same site comes this slightly less-thought-provoking but still worthwhile post describing how credit card minimum payment amounts influence customers' choices on how much to pay off each month. Hopefully I don't have to remind any regular reader of this blog just how much I hate debt! So pay off your full credit card balance every month, for God's sake!!

For Those Who Worry That I'm Not Getting Enough Exercise These Days

(and I'm one of them...)

Vicki and I have already shoveled many, many kilograms of snow off of our sidewalk and driveway today, having been out there twice before 3:00 p.m.! If I had to do that every day - and believe me, I appreciate the fact that I don't! - then I'd probably never have to worry about exercise again!

Burned Out On Competitive Play

I was up past 3:00 a.m. again last night, playing Resistance 2, and may've finally burned myself out on the crazy (and often frustrating) realities of ranked Competitive play. The following are just a few of the things that have pushed me to the brink:
  • I'm clearly not a good player, compared to many of the other regulars (most of them under the age of 25, as far as I can tell)
  • No matter where I spawn, it seems like there's about a 33% chance that someone else will spawn right behind me a few seconds later, resulting in me being killed before I can even turn around and start firing
  • If I get into a straight-up, head-to-head battle with someone else, the most likely outcome is that he kills me; 2nd most likely is that someone else kills us both; 3rd most likely is that we both kill each other; and then, every once in awhile, I actually get to record a kill without dying
  • Other players seem to know some great gaming techniques that I'm completely ignorant of, as they're able to kill me in about half as many shots as it takes me to kill them (no matter what the weapon, or where I shoot them - including in the head)
  • I can either play to rack up XP, or I can play to improve my kill-to-death ratio, but I can't do both (and the odd one out always suffers)... and sometimes I even fail at pulling off either!
So I think I'll go back to Cooperative play for awhile, as well as finishing off the Single Player Campaign. I was definitely getting more enjoyment out of both those aspects of the game than I've managed from Competitive. If I get the urge to play Competitive again in the near future, I might try the unranked matches, as I think you get a wider range of skill level there (making it less depressing for those of us in the lower end of that spectrum).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

No Sundin For The Rangers

Despite it being called a two-team race toward the end, the Rangers did not land Mats Sundin as a free agent (the Canucks did). Considering the salary cap issue New York would've faced if they had been able to sign Sundin, I'm not entirely sure that his going with Vancouver is such a bad thing for the Rangers. I guess only time, and the results of the rest of the season, will say for sure. At least he didn't sign with another Eastern Conference team!

One Week From Today

I've got something up my sleeve for this blog on Christmas Day, and so I hope that wherever you are, whatever you might be up to, you'll find the time to stop by sometime on the 25th and see what my crazy brain came up with. Of course, you could just spend all your time with family and forget that the Internet even exists on that special day, but where's the fun in that?

It Took A Long, Long Time...


... but I finally got that elusive first win in Resistance 2 Competitive Deathmatches! Sorry the picture quality is so poor, but I wasn't sure if the screen would time out so I hurried the shot! I've since had a 2nd victory (this morning) but they're definitely few and far between.

At least my kill-to-death ratio is now nicely in the black (I think I'm +40 or so at the moment) and I can start experimenting with different guns and berserk types. Speaking of guns, I can't remember if that first win was with the Bullseye or Carbine, as I used both quite a bit last night. History will just have to record that vital piece of data as unknown for all Eternity, I guess...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Just Can't Get Enough Sarah Connor?

Me neither!

And let's face it: after this week's mid-season finale (which we haven't watched yet... so no spoilers, please!), it's going to be a long, long wait until the show returns on Friday nights, starting in February. In the meantime, though, you can always enjoy this short TV Guide interview with Summer Glau, everyone's favourite Terminator.

Thanks to Blog@Newsarama for the above link to TV Guide! Where would I be without them?!

Up At An Ungodly Hour, Almost Like A Workday!

I was actually awake (for good) before 7:00 a.m. this morning, despite not going to bed until after 1:00 a.m. By 7:30 I'd decided to just go ahead and get up, since it didn't seem like I was going to fall back asleep. I guess all those nights of 8 or 9 hours of sleep recently have caught up to me and I was able to be refreshed with less than 6 hours last night!

Today I'm hooking up with a couple of friends downtown for lunch and then heading to a meeting with someone who owns a consulting company (and who has found Vicki a contract position in the past). My dilemma, and what probably got me up so early this morning, is figuring out what type of work I'd even want to do at this point! Would I really want to do some programming (since it would just be contract work anyway)? If so, then Java, or back to legacy mainframe (CICS Cobol), which apparently there are still lots of companies using? I can't help but think that I'm woefully unprepared for either, after having not written code professionally for the past six years.

So would I be better off trying to get something related to Agile or project management in general? At least that's more current as far as recent experience of mine, but also probably more limited in terms of what's available as non-permanent work opportunities.

On the bright side, it's not like I desperately need to find something right now, so at least I can (for the moment) afford to be picky about what I'd pursue. Given the economic situation, that's a very good position to be in... as there may be very little out there to choose from in the first place!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mr Positive (Again)

Well, just as I did with the first Resistance game, I've managed to get my kill-to-death ratio positive (or, more accurately, greater than 1) in its sequel. Last time it took me more than 5400 kills to reach that level; this time, it required a mere 1574 (compared to 1573 deaths)! I started today needing to reduce the differential by almost 50, and just minutes ago I completed that objective. My KTD currently stands at 1.0006, which is a good start (I hope).

I've also passed the 1,000,000 XP milestone for Competitive play, which netted me my 19th (of a possible 39) trophies within Resistance 2.

Ways To Separate You From Your Money

I pass along the following Freakonomics link as both a public service gesture and because I think that it makes for very interesting reading on its own: Forewarned is forearmed!

Comics Three Months In The Future

There's one week each month in which the comic publishers release their Solicitations for whatever comics they'll be publishing three months later. This is done so that retailers can pre-order their stock in time for the publishers to print the appropriate number of copies. By getting the data out to everyone, though (Hello, Internet!), it allows readers/customers (like me) to see what's coming and potentially talk to our local comic store owners about what we want or don't want.

For December (meaning March's comic releases), this week is Marvel and DC's Solicitation window. Just for fun, I thought I'd count up how many March comics I expect to be buying from each of the Big Two publishers, compared to how many in total they're offering that might've once gotten my dollars. My criteria for that latter tally was to include any comic that starred a character that I've ever followed in the past (so, basically: the entirety of the DC and Marvel Universes, when you think about it).

Here then are the figures for March, predicting as well as I can three months ahead of time:

DC: 16 purchases out of a potential of 45
Marvel: 10 purchases out of a potential of 70

Several interesting points should jump out of those numbers:
  1. Marvel's producing a lot more main-line comics in March than DC is (> 50% more, in fact)
  2. While I'm planning to buy more than 1/3 of what DC's offering up, I'm only interested in a paltry 1/7 of Marvel superhero fare!
  3. 26 total purchases, across 4 weeks (let's assume) represents only 6 to 7 comics per week.
As both companies experiment with $3.99 cover prices (as compared to the current norm of $2.99), I've decided to only buy comics at the higher price point if there are extra pages, or if its content is something that I genuinely would be willing to pay more money for (eg. Legion of 3 Worlds, by Johns and Perez). As such, some "event" series that I might otherwise be tempted to at least sample will instead go untouched, thanks to being saddled with a $3.99 price sticker (which, now that the Canadian dollar has dropped compared to its U.S. counterpart, actually translates to $4.75 or more).

Hopefully you found this exercise at least half as interesting as I did (or maybe twice as interesting as you'd expected, whichever is greater)!

Monday, December 15, 2008

How Could I Resist A Package Like This?

Wildstorm, a previously-independent comic book publisher that's been owned by DC Comics since just before the dawn of the 21st century, doesn't have many titles that I follow anymore. Ex Machina is a notable exception (although it's going to be ending sometime in 2009 by the sounds of it) and Top 10, when it occasionally comes out, springs from Wildstorm. At one point, when Alan Moore was there, cranking out several ongoing titles under the umbrella name of "ABC Comics", Wildstorm was a popular stop for me each month. Since then, not so much.

But lately Wildstorm has taken to doing titles based on video games and other genre favourites, such that Gears of War, Mirror's Edge, World of Warcraft and even The X-Files currently populate their pages. That's all well and good, but not even all that interesting to me, until I heard that they were also doing a Resistance mini-series!

Now, it may end up being crap. But on the strength of my love of the two games in the franchise alone, I'll pick up # 1 when it comes out in January. If it's even half-decent, I'm probably go along for the whole 6-part ride. I can't help it: I just love the story of Resistance, and getting to see it explored in comic book form sounds like too good of an opportunity to pass up... unless it's really dreadful (which it could be, considering that I don't recognize any of the talent involved). Who doesn't love an alternate history tale about aliens taking over the Earth in the 1940s and 50s? I'll tell you who: a person in a coma, that's who! To the rest of us, it's a rare treat that should be enjoyed every day, for as many hours as your poor, aging body can handle!

Cross Promoting

For those who haven't checked out The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan blog recently, you should head over there and see what's new! I've changed the template for the site as well as adding a couple of posts in the last week, and people who've read the 2nd AgileMan book will find a familiar motif in use there now which I plan to incorporate into all of my posts on that blog for the foreseeable future. Those changes are among the plans that I've had in mind for dressing it up, and they're now awaiting your perusal and feedback.

How To Hype A Bad Movie

Tonight, while Vicki and I were fast-forwarding through commercials on a program that we'd recorded earlier, I saw something unexpected and had to rewind to check it out at normal speed. Yep, that really was what I had thought I'd seen: at the end of the latest trailer for The Day The Earth Stood Still (the reportedly rather lousy remake of a classic SF movie) came a blurb indicating that you could catch the world premiere of a teaser for X-Men Origins: Wolverine there. I think there's a fair amount of interest in Logan's first solo movie - certainly he's one of the most popular comic book characters now, and for the past 20+ years - so why not pull fanboys into the theatre with a coy little move like that? I guess there's no reason not to, as it turns out...

If Only More Crime Stories Ended This Way

I got a kick out of this story, in which a college student returned to his dorm room to find that his XBox 360 console was missing. He still had one of the wireless controllers for it, and was able to use the controller to locate the missing 360 in another room in the building.

I've often dreamed of being able to tag all of my possessions with cheap, hard-to-spot GPS-emitters. Having suffered through two break-ins at the last house (and the loss of my entire CD collection during one of them), it would be so sweet to be able to track a signal to the thief's house with a couple of cops in tow and say, "I'd like all of my stuff back, and these nice policemen would like to talk to you about possibly going away for awhile..."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another Year Under Her Belt

Today is Tammy's 22nd birthday, and it's getting harder each year to keep thinking of her as a kid (as parents are wont to do)! She's passed all 3 of her accounting tests that stood between her and achieving her Chartered Accountant designation, and now she just needs to get a certain number of hours in each of several categories in order to cinch that deal.

The biggest of the 3 tests (which spanned several days), the results of which came out a little over a week ago, saw Tammy make the Honour Roll with one of the top scores. Very impressive, especially considering how worried she'd been that she failed! As we keep telling her, she's young, debt-free, with a great career in front of her... so just don't screw it up! I'm sure some people would kill to have that scenario in their life right now.

Sometimes You Just Have To Stand There

If there's one thing I've always believed about succeeding in online deathmatches (such as Resistance: Fall of Man, the Halo franchise and now Resistance 2), it's this: don't stand still! You're an easy target if you're not moving, so don't let anyone catch you making like a tourist! And yet...

I've recently been having a very hard time achieving any kind of positive results in the Competitive arenas of R2, and so today I tried something different. First off, I should say that my favourite metric for this sort of thing is kill-to-death ratio. If you're killing more than being killed then, no matter where you may happen to finish in the standings at the end of the match, at least you dished it out better than you took it. When I started play today, my KTD ratio was around 0.92, meaning that I was "underwater" in terms of "giving as good as I got." Specifically, I had died about 70 times more than I'd killed. And it was going in the wrong direction, as each new game would see results like 8 kills and 10 deaths. Not good.

So my different approach this afternoon was to fly in the conventional shark-like wisdom of "keep moving." Instead, I started staying very still each time I'd spawn (at the start of each game, and after dying). The advantage this provides is that, like many First Person Shooter online games, Resistance 2 provides each player with a small map on their HUD (heads up display), and on that map you'll see any nearby enemies as red dots... but only if they're moving or shooting! I knew that about the game, but hadn't really considered just what a target I'd always been presenting with my old strategy of run-and-gun. Sure, you're harder to hit like that, but you're also way easier to spot on the map! Not only does anyone standing still see you heading toward them on the map, but at the same time you have no clue that they're waiting for you... until you start taking hits!

Today's strategy was to flip that approach around, and sure enough: it started paying dividends almost right away! Especially with the Bullseye in hand (a weapon whose secondary fire is a tag that sticks to whatever you fire it at and then draws all subsequent primary fire toward it), this more subdued style landed me lots and lots of easy kills (of the sort that I'd been providing to others, up to that point). After an hour or so of play, I'd finished 2nd and 3rd a few times (still no actual WIN yet) and reduced the differential between kills and deaths (which has been negative, and growing) down to around 45. I might actually be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as posting a KTD ratio of 1.0 or better in the near future!

And it's just that sort of experimentation and reward that keeps me playing this game, nearly a month-and-a-half after it launched!

Looks Good On Him

The Dallas Stars have said that they don't want him back, and what would be really awesome would be if no NHL team wanted to touch Sean Avery from now on. Yeah, he'd still probably make a lot of money because of the contract that the Stars signed him to in the most recent off-season, but at least he wouldn't be fouling up a professional sports league that's - mostly! - managed to keep things sportsman-like at a time when trash talking and criminal behaviour seems the norm.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

For Those Who Love Yearend Top 10 Lists

Go nuts! And don't forget to pause occasionally for food, drink and sleep!

Hugh Jackman Hosting The Oscars? Didn't See That One Coming!

Breaking with recent tradition (having stand-up comics do the honours), 2009's Oscars will have Wolverine himself as the face of the show. I have to admit that my first thought when I heard the news was, "Wow, it really is a big year for comic books!" That's because Jackman will always be Wolverine to me, and the fact that he's currently making a solo film starring the mutant Canadian simply reinforces that view. In fact, some of us are inclined to call that very entertaining movie that pit Christian Bale against Jackman as a pair of competing stage musicians "Batman Vs Wolverine" when we can't think of its real name (The Prestige). And sometimes, even when we can!

Given that, it'd be particularly funny if The Dark Knight were to garner a Best Movie nomination this year; but based on how the Golden Globe finalists have gone, that's a pretty long shot.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Which Side Of Your Brain Do You Favour?

Vicki brought my attention to this interesting image (page down at the link), which shows a silhouetted ballerina twirling in a circle. You may see her going clockwise, or counter-clockwise, or even - if you're like me - find that you can reverse her rotational direction at will (from one to the other). Based on what you see, that's supposed to tell you whether you use the right side of your brain more, or the left. I seem to be able to flip between them fairly easy, which may be related to the whole quick context switching thing that I wrote about in a section of More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year 2: Easier Said Than Done) when discussing "zone time." Or maybe I'm just a freak and that's all there is to it.

Follow the link above and make your own fun...

Looks Like The Bubble Has Burst

Giving up 8 goals to New Jersey tonight - a team that averages less than 3 goals-for per game - should just about put to rest any doubts about just how badly the New York Rangers are playing these days. Their record of 19-11-2 may look impressive still, but consider this: in the past month, they're 7-6. But more importantly, their total goal differential in those 7 victories has been 9, with only one of those victories being by more than 1 goal (a 4-1 win over the Coyotes). In the 6 losses, the total goal differential was 20... for an average of over 3 goals per game! In other words, they're squeaking by when they win and getting thumped when they lose! No wonder they've now allowed more goals than they've scored (86-85, I believe), after starting off with the best Goals Against Average of any team in the NHL!

Like I said earlier, the run-up to the holiday season is now in full swing... at least Boneman's Bruins are doing a lot better (leading 7-3 tonight and about to move to 20-5-4). The contenders are starting to separate from the pretenders, and unfortunately my Rangers have begun to show exactly which camp they're in.

I Couldn't Have Put It Better Myself

Once in a while you read something that perfectly sums up your feelings on a topic that you've never been able to quantify in your own mind. This great article, entitled "Why I'm Worried About (The) Watchmen (Movie)," hits all of the notes that have been rumbling around in my brain, unformed but undeniable, as I've watched each new Watchmen trailer roll out.

One of Alan Moore's greatest accomplishments in Watchmen was his masterful use of irony, but as David Pepose points out in the link above, director Zack Snyder may not have... well, gotten that. In which case, Watchmen the film may end up being the equivalent of watching an IMAX production of Catch-22, as interpreted by a teenager as a pro-war treatise...

A Well-Timed Survey

Today I received an online survey request from BestBuy.ca, and the timing couldn't have been better (from my point-of-view). Not only did I have a trio of complaints to express from various transactions over the past year (see the list below), but I also had the very recent experience of going to pick up my order only to have to stand in the same line as the "Returns/Exchanges" people. That "economy of scale" (from BB's perspective) meant that my 2-minute interaction was delayed for about 15 minutes while various customers ahead of me settled in to recount their life's story to one of the two available salespeople, as apparently said tale pertained somehow to the item that they now wanted to return or exchange. After 10 minutes of standing in line to pick up the item that I'd ordered online - to avoid dealing with issues like this! - I was about to give up when I finally got to the head of the line and didn't end up storming out of there as I'd decided to do.

So I complained about that whole flustercuck in the survey, as well as:
  • having to print off the confirmation e-mail before being allowed to pick up my item in the store, rather than simply providing a confirmation # and credit card for that purpose
  • having to print off the $5 Reward Zone certificate, rather than having them scan my card and apply it electronically
  • not being able to pre-order an item and then pick it up at the store on the release date (as I'd wanted to do with Resistance 2, among others)
Perhaps nothing will come of any of that feedback, but at least I tried!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It'll Be Just Like Starting Over

I'm venturing into a bit of Competitive Resistance 2 now (after more than a month of almost exclusively Co-op play), and boy oh boy... do I ever suck! I actually finished dead last in an 8-person Deathmatch tonight, which is quite the blow to the ego for someone who used to do [pretty well at the equivalent type of contest in the game's predecessor (Resistance: Fall of Man).

Then I thought to switch things up. I opted for the Bullseye (replacing the Carbine) as my primary weapon, and eventually managed to get a 3rd place finish after a few more games. More importantly, my kill-to-death ratio was postive: 17-13, which may've been a first for me in Competitive play in this game. So maybe there's hope for me yet... (or not).

My Legs! Not My Legs!

Two nights ago, I had a very disturbing experience: I noticed that the calves on both legs had become noticeably flabby! That might not have been such a big deal a decade ago, but after 5 or 6 years of regular cycling, I'd gotten used to fairly muscular - i.e. tight! - leg muscles down there. I didn't at all appreciate finding that I now have packets of fat in their place that shake like Jello when touched!

In past years, I'd staved off this development over the winter by either riding a stationary bike or climbing the 8 or 9 flights of stairs to my work cube each morning. Since I haven't been doing either of those activities over the past month and a bit, I guess that it's no wonder my legs have lost most of their tone. Before things get any worse, though, I've started running up and down our stairs here in the house: 20 trips up (and back down) times 10 stairs each way seems close enough to what I used to do at the office that I should be able to reclaim my legs... it says here.

The real test will come when April rolls around and I try biking downtown again. That's been a non-event in recent years, but in 2009... who knows?

How Telling Is This?

Over at CNN.com, I saw the headline "Americans' debt shrinks - 1st time ever" and couldn't help but think, "Wow."

The statistic in question has been tracked since 1952, and this is the first time that household debt has declined, quarter-to-quarter. They talk in the article about how American net worth dropped even more precipitously (4.7% compared to 0.8% for their debt) but that's more understandable, what with both the housing and stock markets crashing over the past several months. But just think: at no point in the past 56 years had the total debt ever gone down (until now)! Some of that may be linked to inflation (meaning, you're getting deeper in debt in pure dollar terms, but adjusted for inflation those figures might be flat or the trend could be even slightly reversed) but I suspect most of it simply reflects an ever-increasing movement by most Americans away from limiting themselves to what they can actually afford.

I've posted here about my distaste for debt, and even made mention of it within an Issue of the 2nd AgileMan book, entitled "Death to Debt!" It continues to boggle my mind that people would embrace debt as gleefully as so many seem to do, but maybe that particular run of insanity is finally going to run its course? If so, then it's happening out of necessity rather than any widespread awakening to the folly of debt, and that's too bad. But I guess any reason is better than nothing!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Will "Bailout" Be The Word Of 2008?

As another year draws to a close, the question on everyone's mind has to be:

What will 2008's big word be?

Last year, Merriam-Webster declared "w00t" (a 'word' I've never personally used, or even typed, until right now) as 2007's WOTY (that's "word of the year" for the acronym-challenged), whereas the American Dialect Society nominated "subprime" for that honour (a much better choice, if you ask me).

I've already started seeing bailout joke references appearing ("Where do I sign up for the comic writer bailout?"), and so I believe that it's a definite possibility for the podium. The word "credit" also got tossed around a lot, making it hard to rule out. If names are allowed in the competition (and I don't think they should be), then "Obama" would be an obvious choice.

So what word would you say deserves to be 2008's WOTY?

It's Almost Time For Angel To Get Lost

We've been slowly working our way through Angel Season 4 on DVD (thanks to Tammy), and I have to say that it was a bit of a snoozer... until we were about 1/3 of the way through. At that point, one of the creepier subplots started up - Cordelia and Connor getting a little too close for anyone's comfort - and I really thought that the show had jumped the shark. But that disturbing development lead into what, it turns out, was the main story of that season, which is the arrival of a big, powerful "beast" who was in fact just the lackey of some evil thing even more threatening. Vicki and I have both really enjoyed the show since that started up, despite the Cordy-Connor ickiness (which may turn out to have a good explanation) and the show's repeated reliance on "Oh no, will our hero have to kill the woman he loves in order to save the world?" baloney. I guess it inherited that crutch from Buffy, seeing as they used it at least a couple of times there that I can think of off the top of my head! But regardless: things are more interesting now!

It's good that we're motoring through the last 2/3 of the season, though, as today I brought home Lost Season 4. Despite the fact that we've already seen all of the episodes (unlike with Angel), I'm already jazzed at the mere thought of diving back into them prior to the show's return on Jan 21st (just six weeks from tonight, I believe). We'll be starting that up sometime next week, I expect, as we only have four or five Angels left to go. As good as Sarah Connor has become, Battlestar Galactica has remained, and Fringe may turn out to be, there's just nothing else on TV that quite compares to Lost. And we've still got two seasons to go!