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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Domestic Terrorism In The U.S.?

This morning an American doctor who performed "late term abortions" was shot and killed while entering his place of worship. The suspect in the murder is in custody now, and some ultra-conservative voices in the U.S. are subtly applauding the act, while those on the left are denouncing it as "domestic terrorism."

The question this raised in my mind is this: what's the difference between a fundamentalist Christian who does such a thing to someone he believes is a "murderer", and a fundamentalist Muslim who flies a 747 into an office tower filled with what he believes to be "infidels"? Both have strong religious beliefs that they're willing to kill and/or die for... so if we call one a "terrorist" then shouldn't we call them both that?

I can see both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate, and believe that it's a very tough issue that has no easy answers. But also I think that there are Christians out there who would do well to understand that the passion that they feel about the sanctity of the unborn is matched ounce for ounce by those of other religions who see their own belief systems being challenged or even trampled under. If violent reaction to that sort of perceived threat is "terrorism" for the one, then shouldn't it be "terrorism" for the other, as well? Or is it only terrorism when it's done for a cause or set of values with which you don't agree?

Like I say: no easy answers here.

May 2009: Not One Of My Bloggier Months

I've only managed about a 1.3 posts/day pace this month, which is the lowest since July of last year (not coincidentally, the last time I'd been working full-time). Hopefully things will pick up again after June 19th, when I should be footloose and fancy-free once more.

Speaking of which: I think I need to find a new video game between now and finishing up my contract. I've completed all of my "2s" (Resistance 2, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Killzone 2) and each was fabulous in its own unique way. But now I am somewhat adrift. I'm considering resuming Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that I'd started way back in mid-2008 before losing interest and moving on to something better. What I really need is something more appealing, like the new Red Faction game that had that rather hilarious demo or maybe even inFamous for a bigger change of pace. Any other suggestions from the Peanut Gallery?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Now That's Parity!

I just heard on today's Dodgers/Cubs game that the two teams have previously faced each other 2026 times, heading into their meeting today. Over that period of time, stretching back to the late 19th century, their record against each other? 1013 wins each! Wow!!

Oh, and speaking of baseball: the Jays halted their 9-game losing streak with a 6-3 win last night against Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox (both of whom started the streak by beating Toronto almost 2 weeks ago). They posted a 5-3 victory this afternoon for a 2-game winning streak... or "2 wins in their last 11 games", depending upon how short your memory is!

(And if you've got really good total recall, then you're better off than me: I just realized that I'd already essentially covered the lead story - above - last year! Sometimes I just can't help repeating myself... it's an old man thing, OK?)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Halfway Through The Current Contract

I'm 3 weeks in, with another 3 to go yet. It's definitely been an eye-opener to see first-hand how things are done in a very different environment than I'm used to.

I've completed my review of the current process that they use and made 20+ written recommendations on things they could do that might help. I'll be implementing a handful of them over the remaining time, I suspect, where it's possible to do so without disrupting the development project that's presently underway (and at a critical juncture). Most of what I think I'll be contributing will be the creation of document templates that can be used to gather and record project-related information that's not always being collected now, as well as a skeleton layout of a project life cycle that can aid in ensuring that steps aren't overlooked in the future.

The staff there are all very friendly and of course it's great to be working in the same place with Vicki once again. I've also been lucky enough to resume a friendship with another old-timer from the bank (someone who actually started there almost a decade before I did!)

Anyway, it's good to reach the halfway mark. I had no idea that I'd feel the "weight" of working again as quickly or as strongly as I did, but oh boy! I'm already looking forward to another break!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More On The Auto Industry

My previous post about the auto industry received quite a few comments, including a couple which I thought I'd draw attention to.

Anonymous said:

"Opening up a can of worms here. I've seen that documentary but it doesn't tell the whole story. Look at the American market. Unlike Canada and Europe they do not like small cars (majority). The big 3 had to build what would sell. Yes the EV1 would sell good in California, but try to push it in texas, or some rural areas. Big issue with full electric then and now is still the batteries. They are not efficient. Not to mention the disposal factor. In your calculations you said you would need to have the car for 16 years to break even. Let me ask you this, have you ever seen a batter system last that long? How long has your advanced lithium ion battery (what will be used in new electric cars) that is in your laptop last more than a couple years of charging cycles before it started to fail. You would undoubtedly need to replace the battery system before that 16 years is up......and at what cost (financially and environmentally) ? The next issue is range....if you live in town and do small commutes then it works, what if you live on a ranch in Montana and have to drive a few hours just to get to where your going ? Right now battery technology just isn't quite there. Hybrids work but really you can do just as well getting a very efficient and small 4 cylinder gas engine. Something like the Smart or Yaris or Honda Fit. They get very similar mileage and have very advanced engine technology and are much cleaner than most people realize. Or what about the new blu diesel engines.....they too are far better than most people realize and have incredible mileage. Electric is not the only way to go nor is it the "one" answer to the issues we see today."

Anonymous makes some good points on the topic. I didn't mean to imply that I thought that the automakers should just go out and replace all of their internal-combustion cars with electric models, whether there's a market or not... just that I think that there ought to be options for the consumer. Arguing that simply because not everyone wants electric cars justifies yanking them off the market makes no more sense than would advocating the elimination of all the SUVs just because some of us would never buy one. In actual fact, I think the best model is the plug-in hybrid because it allows you to break the oil-dependency for your daily commute but still be able to fall back on gas for the less frequent, longer trips. So let's get lots of options out there so that people can find the type of car that works for them (and there was clearly a growing and passionate market in California for electric cars when GM pulled the plug).

Obviously I failed to make that point clearly, though, as Autostry more concisely commented:

"Electric cars are not the only solution to the sorry state of the auto industry."

True enough. We should have more choices, which include electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and conventional. Let's level the playing field and see who wins in the long run.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Conference Finals: A Letdown This Year?

With the Pens having already swept the Hurricanes out in the East, and Detroit poised to push Chicago onto the golf course in the West if they win Game 5 tonight at home, is there really much interest in this round right now (aside from Pit/Car/Det/Chi fans)? Certainly the Ovechkin/Crosby battle in Round # 2 captured a lot of attention, and rightfully so... but since then? Meh.

And of course the Jays lost their 9th in a row today, blowing a 7th inning 8-3 lead (that Roy Halladay handed to them) and a 10-8 11th inning lead. When you can do that, you know that you're on a special kind of deathmarch!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sometimes It's The Little Things

Today I noticed that someone posted an appreciative Comment over at the Real-Life AgileMan blog, thankful that I haven't completely abandoned that site while I've been busy on my 6-week contract. After a particularly bad start to the week so far, that was just the sort of thing that I needed to read to lift my spirits. That's right: sometimes that's all it takes!

(The Jays, on the other hand, are continuing to piss me off as they edge ever closer to their 8th straight loss... trailing 7-2 in the 9th inning. They're certainly not helping me out one little bit!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

7 Losses In A Row For The Blow Jays

How does a team go from world-beater to doormat in one short week? Well, apparently it wasn't all that hard, in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays. In the one game over the past 7 days where ace Roy Halladay was pitching a gem (7 innings of shut out ball) the rest of the club managed to score no runs themselves... and lost the game 1-0 when Atlanta picked up a run off the relief staff in the 8th. The rest of the games were generally lousy performances that were the exact opposite of how they performed to post a 27-14 record to start the season.

Are we now seeing the real team, or is this just a blip? I'll reserve judgment for another week or two. But Cito better be tearing some strips off some players right about now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Sad State Of The Auto Industry

Last night Vicki and I watched Who Killed the Electric Car? on DVD. I've wanted to see this ever since Tammy first mentioned it a couple of years ago, and it was every bit as interesting as she'd said it was. Seeing the small, dedicated faction of California EV1 (Electric Vehicle 1) drivers who became fanatical about their former cars once General Motors ended the leases on them and pulled the vehicles back in was just amazing. If you aren't familiar with the story, then picture this: a GM compound in California has several dozen of the cars parked in it, awaiting their final fate. Former lease holders on the cars patrol outside the chain link fence, working shifts in order to keep an eye on the small fleet of EV1s lest GM ship them off to be destroyed (as had happened to a previous set of them). This went on for months, and only ended because the car company did, indeed, load them all up on trucks and transport them to a car-crushing site where they were compressed and shredded (while the protesters were arrested for their attempts to block this from happening).

Anyway, as we were going through the Special Features on the DVD, I started doing a little research on what's available right now. I knew that the Toyota Prius was often mentioned as the best option, as well as being an example of "doing it right" (it was a redesigned hybrid, in which the engineers considered all possible sources of energy rather than just slapping a battery and electric motor into an internal combustion-driven vehicle as others have done). I also knew that Honda had something to offer, and we've been a Honda family for about a decade now. What I found was somewhat shocking (to me, at least), and more than a little depressing.

Honda offers 2 hybrid choices, neither of which are a "plug-in hybrid" (meaning that you can't charge the car's electric motor/battery system by hooking up to an electrical outlet; they're only charged by kinetic energy from braking or by storing energy released by the regular engine) (shock # 1). The 2 models are the Civic Hybrid, and the Insight. The base price on the Civic Hybrid is approximately $10,000 more than the base price for the regular Civic (shock # 2). It looked like the model might have been slightly smaller, in terms of interior space (presumably because the internal combustion engine is still there along with an additional electric motor and more batteries). With either of these cars, you'll get better gas mileage but it's an incremental improvement (optimistically: 40%) rather than the revolutionary one that you'd experience with a pure electric (no gas at all) or plug-in hybrid (only use gas when you exhaust your electric charge). In other words: you have to spend $10K more to get about the same or less interior space, and you'd still be putting a significant amount of gas into it (60% or more of what you'd put into a conventional vehicle).

To see if there was any chance that buying a hybrid would eventually represent anything close to a break-even scenario for us, I asked Vicki what we spend on gas each year. Since she's been self-employed for almost a decade now, we have information like that readily available (for income tax purposes). She quickly discovered that we typically go through around $1100/year in gas purchases. If gas went back up a bit in price anytime soon, we might realistically save $500/year by switching to a hybrid. That meant that we'd have to own the car for 20 years just to break even (shock # 3)! And we typically trade in our vehicles about every 5 to 6 years, making that an unlikely outcome.

So then I went looking to see what governmental incentives exist here in Ontario and/or Canada to encourage us to buy hybrids. I thought that there might be an income tax deduction for it (although I hadn't seen one as I did my taxes each year) but instead there's a provincial sales tax rebate available in Ontario, capped at $2000. (And a sales tax rebate makes more sense than an income tax deduction, now that I think about it!) That was a pleasant surprise, as that would knock the price differential down from $10K to $8K (but still required a 16-year ownership to get to break-even). It certainly doesn't come close to some of the incentives that the Bush administration introduced to get small business to buy gas-guzzling SUVs in the early 90s, but I guess it must be harder to get these things into law when it's only the consumer who stands to benefit from it!

As it stands right now, Vicki and I are discussing whether to make our next car a hybrid. We can certainly afford to, and with self-employment there's even the advantage of being able to "write off" some of the (larger) expense in order to save income tax money. I think we're closer to a decision in that direction than ever before, and that's a good thing for everybody on the planet, I guess. My dream situation for us is: solar panels on the roof of our house and a car that charges up in the garage (from the energy coming off the sun). It sounds like we can't quite get there just yet. But is it 2 years away now, or 10?

I also couldn't help but be struck by the irony of watching that DVD at this point in history, as General Motors faces bankruptcy while Chrysler and Ford struggle to survive as a result of their poor choices over the past ten or twenty years. If GM and their competitors in the U.S. had taken the billions of dollars that they spent on lobbyists to fight against seat belt/airbag/fuel efficiency/anti-pollution devices over the last few decades and actually invested that money into making their cars more future-proof, they'd be thriving industries right now.

If I've misstated anything above, feel free to correct my errors in the Comments section. And if you want to read more, there's lot of information available online. I found the California Cars Initiative site for plug-in vehicles particularly interesting and helpful on the topic of where the PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) situation currently stands.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Triathlete

I always like the days when I:
  1. Get a significant bike ride in
  2. Go for a long walk somewhere
  3. Complete my laps in the pool
That's my version of a triathlon (sad, I know) and today was my first one of the year. Despite the pool temperature being a brisk 23 C, I still enjoyed my half hour or so in the water. Vicki did a great job hosing away all of the accumulated bird droppings that we always have to deal with this time of the year, and the pool actually looked picturesque for the first time since late last summer.

And now we're off to visit friends for dinner and possibly watch a movie.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I Miss My Bike!

My current routine, while I'm on this contract at a location that's impractical to bike to, has become: get no biking in all week, then make a trip to the comic store on the weekend as my sole two-wheel experience. It's certainly better than nothing, but I really miss the feeling that I'd get after five straight days of nearly an hour of exercise per day. I can also see that my weight's starting to go up (again) as a result of having so few opportunities to either walk or bike off some calories.

Oh well, at the moment it's only for four more weeks. If my contract ends up getting extended beyond that, I guess then I'll have to figure out some way to get more exercise. It's possible that my Math Tutoring will be down to one night a week (instead of two) once school's done, and that would give me at least a little more of an opening after work to do something... physically active!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hey Jays: Next Time, Show Up For The Flight To Boston!

Toronto's well on its way to being swept out of their 3-game series in Boston (trailing 5-0 tonight, after losing 2-1 and 8-3 in the first two games). How they can dominate the rest of the AL (of the teams they've faced) but go 1-5 against the Yankees and Red Sox just baffles me... especially when considering that the Yankees aren't doing well at all so far this season!

As I said to Red Sox fan Boneman last night: bah!

Making Money, Hand Over Fist

OK, maybe not. But today does feature 3 different revenue streams, as I not only put in 7.5 hours of contract work and will soon be doing 1.5 hours of Math tutoring, but also received my second Creator Revenue cheque from Lulu, for just over $40 USD. That pushes my online sales total over $100 USD, which isn't too bad for doing nothing!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Downfall Of Agile Hitler


Thanks to one of my former co-workers and the magic of Instant Messenger, I got directed to yet another hilarious mocking of the insanity that was Adolf Hitler. What Hitler did in the 30s and 40s? Not in the least funny. But every chance we get to make him look like a fool should be grabbed and run with... like this one.

Team Ico's Next Game


As someone who loved, loved, loved the original Ico but was underwhelmed by the development team's second offering, Shadow of the Colossus, I can't help but hope that Trico is more like the former and less like the latter. The choice of title, at least, suggests that my yearning may not be too far out there.

[Update Jun 3/09: Now that E3 2009 has come and gone, we know that the official title for this game is actually The Last Guardian.]

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Math Tutoring Update

Test # 2 (during my tutelage) happened last week, and I heard the results tonight.

On his Triangle Geometry test from last Thursday, my student received a terrific 91%, while the average across the grade for that test was somewhere in the high 70s (meaning that he beat the average by more than a full grade, once again).

He's now averaged almost 90% across the two tests that he's taken since we started working together, compared to a pair of mid-60s Math marks in the first two terms. He's well on his way to completely turning that bad start around, which is wonderful to see. It sounds like he's even interested in continuing the studies through the summer. Both the student and his dad have said that they'd like to see the material from the start of Grade 7 covered (since he didn't do that well on it originally) and then perhaps we'll begin looking at what gets taught in Grade 8 nowadays to give him a leg up on next year's curriculum...

Monday, May 18, 2009

So Long, Sarah... We Hardly Knew Ya!

Apparently it was made official today: the turdballs at Fox will not be renewing Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for a third season. I could list any number of crappy shows that Fox has renewed for next year, but what's the point?

I can take some solace from the announcements that both Fringe and Dollhouse will be back, but I'll really miss Sarah, John, Cameron, Derek and Catherine Weaver. Sigh.

You Tell 'Em, Jack Donaghy

Actually, it's Jack's liberal alter ego, Alec Baldwin, who sums up the Detroit automaker situation so well that I just had to share it with you all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

How Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Last week, the first of three chapters in the third League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series came out, and I couldn't be happier. It's by the usual suspects - writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill - and is a beautiful square bound edition that's more than 70 pages long. In fact, it's so good that I've been reading it in small sips, rather than chugging it all down at once.

The 3-part series is called Century. Part 1 is set in 1910, the second volume will be 1969-based, and then it wraps up in 2009 (hence, covering an entire century). No word yet when the second and third installments will be published, but I suspect that if you asked Alan Moore, he'd say, "They'll be out when they're bloody-well ready!" And that works for me!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Damned Dirty Birds

I hate them. And yet, they come back at this time, year after year, and we get to clean up their messes, while they sit up in their treetop lofts, laughing their asses off.

Friday, May 15, 2009

One Work Week Down... How Do People Do It?!?!

This working for a living thing is crazy! I'd really, really gotten out of the habit, and it shows.

It was an interesting week, and I know a lot more about the culture of the company now than I did four-and-a-half short days ago. I've been reviewing their software development life cycle and looking for places where improvements could be made. As a former Agile Manager, it's tempting to just say, "Go to short iterations! Introduce Automated Testing! Bring the product people in more!" But those aren't the kinds of solutions that would be palatable (or even necessarily appropriate) in this situation at this point. Instead, it's going to be quite the challenge to find the right sort of changes to suggest over the next five weeks.

But it sure is nice to be making money once again!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oh. My. Gods.

Spoilers for last night's Lost ahead.

I didn't think that Lost could ever possibly match the jaw-dropping response of "But... but... but that changes everything!" that Season Three's finale prompted when Kate stepped out of the shadows to confront Jack at the airport, but last night's episode certainly came very close. We now know that it's a completely different game than we thought it to be, and then a bomb goes off in the final seconds and we realize that we actually know next-to-nothing about what comes next! Will it all start over? Is any dead character from the first five seasons now just as likely to be back among the living? Will what happened to Jacob be undone by that final scene? Will the castaways still remember what happened in the original timeline (assuming they find themselves in a new one)? And is free will going to prevail against destiny, or the other way around?

This show continues to reward its geek viewers in bigger and better ways every season, and if Season Six somehow manages to top this year's slate of episodes, then we may all just die from too much gratification by the time it's all over! And just think... only eight short months to wait until we start finding out!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some NHL Playoff Thoughts

I'm watching the Pens spank the Caps in tonight's sole Game 7 (tomorrow sees two more Game 7s, as Boston hosts Carolina and Detroit tries to avoid being upset by the Ducks) and doing some number crunching. There's been a lot of excitement about this year's playoffs, perhaps first and foremost because of the Ovechkin/Crosby matchup in the second round. But that got me thinking about how one might statistically measure the quality of each year's postseason. I decided to focus on the first 2 rounds, going back to the first year after the lockout (2006), to give me a small but current sample space. What follows is what I came up with.

Love Game 7s? Then the 4 years break down as:

2006 Round 1 = 1, Round 2 = 0, total = 1
2007 Round 1 = 1, Round 2 = 0, total = 1
2008 Round 1 = 3, Round 2 = 0, total = 3
2009 Round 1 = 2, Round 3 = 3, total = 5

Wow! This year's a bonanza for fans of Game 7s!!

On the other hand, if we look at average goal differential per game, we see:

2006 Round 1 = 2.07, Round 2 = 2.15, average = 2.09
2007 Round 1 = 1.81, Round 2 = 1.45, average = 1.69
2008 Round 1 = 1.96, Round 2 = 1.85, average = 1.93
2009 Round 1 = 2.11, Round 2 = 1.88*, average = 2.03* (pending 3 Game 7 results)

Looked at through that prism, 2007 was by far the most exciting over the first 2 rounds, as it featured the lowest goal differential and therefore the closest set of games.

Another view would be to consider the average length of each series (shorter series being less exciting, longer ones being moreso):

2006 Round 1 = 5.50, Round 2 = 5.00, average = 5.33
2007 Round 1 = 5.38, Round 2 = 5.50, average = 5.42
2008 Round 1 = 6.00, Round 2 = 5.00, average = 5.67
2009 Round 1 = 5.50, Round 2 = 6.75, average = 5.92

Here, this year's (2009) first 2 rounds win the prize, although 2008 featured the best 1st round (with 3 series going 7 games, 3 going 6, 1 going 5 and only 1 sweep).

If we look at the number of games that went into Overtime:

2006 Round 1 = 11, Round 2 = 6, total = 17
2007 Round 1 = 6, Round 2 = 7, total = 13
2008 Round 1 = 9, Round 2 = 6, total = 15
2009 Round 1 = 6, Round 2 = 6*, total = 12* (pending outcome of 3 Game 7s)

2006 gets the nod here, although 2008 isn't far behind.

In other words, I don't think there's any clear winner. Each of the past 4 years (counting this one) has had something going for it during those incredible first 2 rounds (when lots of teams, and their fans, still have room to dream). Of course, every hockey fan views the proceedings differently, based on how their own team does. I definitely preferred 2007 and 2008, for example, because both times the Rangers made the 2nd round.

(Speaking of which.. why oh why couldn't Caps goalie Varlomov have played like this in Game 7 back in Round 1?? Of course, the Rangers only fired 15 shots at him, but still... even a couple of soft goals might have been enough to propel the Blueshirts on to face the Bruins in Round 2. Sigh.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tomorrow Night

I may just have a post about the NHL playoffs this season to put up tomorrow evening. I have it in my head, but don't have the energy to type it up right now after eight and a half hours at work and another ninety minutes of Math tutoring.

Very, very tired right now.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My First Day (Back) At Work

It was a strange day, to be sure. It started with a very vivid dream in which Vicki and I went to the house that we moved out of nearly 11 years ago and got inside somehow (I'm not saying that we broke in, but I also can't say that we didn't!) only to be confronted with our trespasses when friends and family of the current owners arrived suddenly as we were eating dinner in our old front room. Some sort of indication that I feel like an impostor as I go back to work?

As for the workday itself, it was certainly odd to be driving into the office with Vicki, but even moreso to be located in the same office as her (something we haven't had since sometime in the 90s). On the other hand, it was great to have her around as I adjusted to all of the newness of the place (where are the washrooms? what can I get to drink? where do I get a pen?). She and I headed out to Tim Horton's for a quick lunch so that I could be back by 12:30 to meet (for the second of four times) with my new boss.

I now have a slightly better idea of what I'll be doing over the next 6 weeks, but only slightly. Tomorrow I'll be in my first meeting with people other than my boss and that should be interesting on a number of fronts. I'm looking forward to seeing how some of the interpersonal dynamics work as well as learning more about what they're in the process of developing.

It's still hard to believe that I'll be doing this sort of thing five days a week for the next while!! Five days a week!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Blogging Output Should Start To Decrease In 3... 2... 1...

With my return to the working world only a little more than 12 hours away now, I expect that it may prove difficult to keep up my recent blogging frequency over the next little while. That sad state of affairs applies both here and over at The Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan blog (as for The Studio Has A Few Notes community blog, well... it's hard to imagine things getting any slower there!) so try not to be too disappointed. And lots of comments would certainly help keep things lively here, in the absence of my continuous presence!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Watching Hockey; Waiting To Start Movie

Tammy's in town for the weekend, but is upstairs with some work that has to be completed before we can all watch a movie together tonight. We haven't picked one out yet, but we've certainly got a lot to choose from (3 stacks, each about 8 - 10 high).

Maybe we'll queue up the original theatrical release of Blade Runner, considering how much Vicki and I recently enjoyed The Final Cut version of it that also came with my Ultimate Collector's Edition "briefcase" model.

Or perhaps it'll be The Lives of Others, Rescue Dawn or Who Killed the Electric Car?, among many other choices. It's good to have options!

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Call For Truth In Advertising

Yesterday I received my DVD of Radiohead: Logical Emotions in the mail. I'd ordered it in mid-April and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of this "film documentary" of one of my favourite bands.

I knew things had gone south with my purchase, though, when the film opened with white letters on a black background stating:

"This documentary contains no original music by Radiohead. It is not authorized by the band, their record company or their management."

And they weren't kidding. You won't hear a single second of Radiohead music anywhere in its entirety, which was certainly a huge disappointment considering that their name was plastered all over it. Also, the vast majority of clips involve peripheral players (a self-important "Radiohead biographer" (probably also unauthorized); members of a no-name band from the same area of England; a rock promoter) with very few - and very short - sound bites from the band members themselves (all presumably taken from interviews done by other sources).

Now, being a big fan, I did enjoy parts of Logical Emotions because it provided some background on the band that I didn't already know. There was quite a bit of coverage of their early days operating under the name of On Any Friday which I found entertaining. But there were also extended stretches featuring annoying analyses of the music - of which we got exactly zero examples, remember! - by people without one-tenth the talent of anyone in Radiohead.

And while I'll readily admit that I could have researched the thing better before buying it online (and I'm not looking to get my money back), the bloody DVD cover shows a concert shot with Thom Yorke standing in front of thousands of people... which I think a reasonable person would interpret as meaning that the band actually will show up in it, and you'll get to hear some of their music! Pretty much wrong on both counts, though. I just finished writing a very negative review of it on Chapters.ca, to possibly save future generations from repeating my mistake.

I've got Astoria Live playing at the moment, just to wipe the bad taste of that experience out of my mouth. Now that's a fucking Radiohead DVD, dickwads!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fun!

Here's a blog that allows you to experience Bram Stoker's Dracula in a way that you probably never have before: in real time (relative to the events in the story)! The blog owner is posting the contents of the public domain work on the calendar days corresponding to the diary entry/letter dates used within the novel itself. Very clever idea!

One For The Lost Fans

Regular Lost columnist Jeff "Doc" Jensen is doing a survey this week, and I plan to participate. Specifically, he wants all Lost fans to e-mail him with their "Top 3 Lost Mysteries That Must Be Resolved" by the time the series ends. As he says, we all have lists of that sort that are much more than three-deep, but let's get our top 3 in to him so that he can sift through it all and see what the biggest ones are.

Send your list to JeffJensenEW@aol.com (I'm about to send mine any second now!).

[Update: My e-mail just bounced, on account of Jeff's inbox currently being full. Sigh.]

[Update 2: Several subsequent attempts have also failed, so I've given up. Here's what I attempted to send his way, though:

"Here's my Top 3 List, as you asked for in this week's column. In order to come up with these 3 in particular, I eliminated any that I think are very likely to be revealed based on where the storyline has gone so far. As an example, I think it's highly likely that we'll find out why Richard has been around so long, since he's been so prominently featured this season. My Top 3 are therefore ones that I really want to know the answer to but fear the show may never give us closure on.

1) How does the island "replace" people (the French expedition, Eko's brother, Christian, etc) and what exactly ARE the replacements (how much of the memories of the original do they have, do they share any empathy with the original, and so on)?

2) Why are there so many connections between the various castaways and their friends and family (as shown in so many of the flashbacks)? Is there a reason for it, or are we to just believe they're all coincidences?

3) What are the limits to the island's power? We've seen it prevent death (Michael not able to shoot himself) and extend its reach well beyond its own shores. What can't it do?
"

At least I got to share them with you all!]

Ouch!

LA Dodger Manny Ramirez gets 50-game suspension for steroid violation! I wonder how the 1st place (overall) Dodgers will respond to that loss?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Weird (But Exciting) Night Of Hockey

Both Game 3s tonight (Boston @ Carolina and Washington @ Pittsburgh) strangely followed the exact same scoring pattern:

Visitor scores first, goes up 1-0
Home team ties it at 1
Home team goes up 2-1
Visitor ties it at 2
Game goes to OT
Home team scores in 1st OT period, wins 3-2

Now, in one case that made a series out of it (had the Penguins lost, they'd have been trailing 3-0 and all but dead) whereas the other one already was a series... but now the top-rated Bruins are trailing for the first time in this postseason.

The Sea Of White Problem

I'm watching tonight's Capitals at Penguins Game 3 in the NHL's 2nd round of playoffs, and the Pittsburgh faithful are mostly dressed in white, presenting an impressive "sea of white" effect all around the rink. The only problem: with the current jersey formula in place in the league (home teams in dark), the Caps are actually the team in white! Therefore, the stands appear, for all the world, to be filled with Washington Capital supporters!

Personally, I'd really rather the NHL went back to the time-honoured tradition of having home teams in the white/light jerseys. Not just for silly things like the preceding, but also because it still screws me up big-time when I tune to a game and see the visitors in white!

Now This...

... simply looks amazing! It's a preview of Lost Planet 2, due out next year on the XBox 360. The original game was one that I didn't warm to immediately (no pun intended, considering that it's set on a frozen planet!) but which I kept coming back to, in the form of the 360 free demo. Eventually I bought the game and ended up playing all the way through it (despite my original 360 dying in the middle of it!)

Most exciting, though, is the news that the sequel will feature 4-person co-op! As much fun as the original was, I can only imagine how much more enjoyable it would have been if I could have shared the experience with others. Hopefully McChicken will be back into gaming by the time it launches, and who knows: maybe Boneman will even have picked up a cheap 360 unit in time for that particular bit of tomfoolery!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rat # 1963031094, Reporting Back In To The Race

Starting next week, I'll be following Vicki's lead in more ways than one.

I've been offered a 6-week contract at the same place where she's been working since late-February. Where she's been impressing them with her Business Analyst skills, however, I'll be trying to earn my pay by reviewing their current development practices and processes, and making recommendations on how to improve them, where appropriate. It's clearly not the same role that I bumbled my way through as the Agile Manager last time I was earning a wage, but on the other hand, there are definitely some points of overlap between the two. So we'll see how that goes.

It's possible that the 6 weeks will turn into something longer, but at this point I'm just glad to be getting a chance to dip my toe back into the work pool for a while. After more than 9 months off, I'm ready for a new challenge.

Math Tutoring And The Class Average

I've been meaning to post this for almost a week now, but keep forgetting. Such are the joys of getting old!

Last week my Grade 7 student had his first unit test since we started working together. The unit in question was Integers, which we'd finished up earlier before moving on to Algebra and eventually Triangle Geometry. When he got his mark back, he was quite happy to see that he'd gotten 35 out of 40, or 87.5%. I had actually expected that he might do just a little better than that, based on the quizzing of him that I'd done for that unit.

But then he mentioned that the class average on the test was 30 out of 40, or 75%. That clued me in to the fact that the test was almost certainly a relatively difficult one, as the class average in each of the first 2 terms for that Math class had been in the low- to mid-80s. Taken in that context, beating the class average by 12.5% was quite an accomplishment, indeed! And I told him as much, before tasking him with finding the remaining 2 angles in an isosceles triangle.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Books I'm Currently Reading (May 2009 Edition)

Once again, I seem to have a lot of them on the go at the moment! I should mention that I finished all of the ones in my last list (from March) and have moved on to:

The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman - I actually finished it a few days ago, but wanted to make sure that I mentioned Conscience here. I really loved this book, as economist Krugman presents such a straight-forward and yet compelling set of arguments for why the "movement conservative" portion of the Republican party has had so much success until very recently while doing so much to widen the income inequalities within the U.S. population. Vicki's now started reading it, based on my high recommendation.

Union Dues by John Sayles - One of two Sayles books that Vicki gave me for Christmas, Union Dues is about a teenage boy who runs away from his West Virginia coal-mining community and heads to Boston in search of his older brother. The boys' father soon follows, in search of the younger son, and the novel alternates between the two as they run up against various big city realities. I'm about 3/4 of the way through it, and it's reminiscent of many of Sayles' films, though perhaps not quite as engaging as the big screen versions.

America (The Book) by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show writers - Because I'm loving The Daily Show so much these days, I decided to spend a little coin and support them in the form of this humourous look at politics and the media. Vicki can always tell when I've picked it up, because it garners about four or five laughs per page from me. Very funny stuff!

M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman - Another collection of Gaiman short stories, although this one is ostensibly aimed at younger readers. The reality of our times, though, is that many a parent today probably wouldn't want their kids reading even this light fare, since it's not all Disney-fied and free of any images that might startle those children who've been raised to fear their own shadow. I suppose any kid that can handle Harry Potter, though, would make out OK with "Troll Bridge" and the rest of what Gaiman packs into this lovely little gem.

Was Superman a Spy? (and Other Comic Book Legends Revealed!) by Brian Cronin - One of my favourite weekly columns is Comic Book Legends Revealed, and so when its author announced that he was publishing a book containing a half-and-half mix of previous legends and new ones, I just had to buy a copy! I just received it in the mail today, and have only read the Introduction so far, but I'm looking forward to many an hour spent on the back deck, drinking in comic book lore at its finest!

Practical Mathematics by Russell V. Person and Vernon J. Person - Sometimes I get gifts that I suspect are at least partially making light of some aspect of my eccentricity, but does it really matter if I get some enjoyment out of them? This example is a great introduction to mathematics that was passed my way over the weekend, and I've already read several chapters of it! It assumes that you know absolutely nothing about math and builds up from there, making it both a good refresher of rules and an excellent reference. There aren't too many people who'd enjoy reading something like this... but for good or ill, I'm one of them!

Suffering From LOTR Withdrawal?

Not going to make it until the Peter Jackson-produced, Guillermo Del Toro-directed Hobbit films come out in 2011 and 2012? Maybe this will help tide you over...

(Oh, and by the way: if you have the option to watch it on a bigger screen than, say, your laptop monitor... take it! I used my PS/3's browser and so was able to put it up on the 50-inch TV display, zoomed in on the streaming video, and quite loved it!)

Let's Ask Mr Owl

Now this is interesting! Wasn't it the Stanley Kubrick/Steve Spielberg hybrid, A.I., that showed us a know-it-all machine ("Doctor Know"?) that you could ask any old question of and expect to get the right answer? Maybe we're almost there now. Or, put another way: perhaps we're on the cusp of finally learning just how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll centre of a Tootsie Pop!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Jays' Rollercoaster Ride

Right after I posted that they'd won their first six series of the season, the Blue Jays proceeded to lose series # 7 (1 win, 3 losses against Kansas City). That was disappointing, but it was also inevitable since we all knew they would lose one eventually.

They bounced back nicely, though, as today they completed their first sweep of a series, taking all 3 against the Baltimore Orioles at home. That result leaves them with a record of 18-9, 1/6th of the way through the 2009 season. They've been at or near the top of the MLB standings all the way so far, but of course another favourite team of mine did the same thing to start the 2008/09 NHL season... and that didn't hold up very long nor end particularly well!

I'm also a little skeptical of Toronto's great record when that most recent series against the Orioles represented their first action against an AL East opponent! But... it was still a great first month, wherever it goes from here!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Free Comic Book Day 2009? A Big Hit!

At least, judging by what I saw at my local comic book store, it was!

When I got there around 11:00 this morning, I was flabbergasted to see that there was a line-up out the door. I laughed, and then promptly got in line. It moved pretty well, but it was still probably 10 minutes before I actually got into the store itself.

They'd set up the free fare at the back of the store, which was a clever move because I saw a lot of people checking out the (non-free) stuff on the shelves as they waited to get to the area with the complimentary swag. When I asked the owner if he was actually making any sales, he assured me that he was. He's told me in the past that he loves Free Comic Book Day because it usually brings him a few new customers each year that end up sticking around (becoming regulars). It sounds like he spends several hundred dollars on the "free" stock each year (I think a typical FCBD issue costs the store about $0.30 - $0.40) and his perspective on that is that it's essentially his annual advertising budget. As he said to me recently, "Anytime I can spend a few hundred bucks and bring hundreds of people into the store who wouldn't have heard about us otherwise, I'll take it!"

I got the 4 freebies that I wanted as well as last week's regular haul. And for once I didn't really mind standing in line, because I love seeing that kind of activity in my favourite store! Did anyone else make it out to a comic store, and if so: any good stories?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Tomorrow Is Free Comic Book Day

Once a year - typically on the first Saturday in May - there's an event called Free Comic Book Day that's intended to get fresh faces into the local comic store. Most of the big publishers either create new material for the occasion or re-package something older, and they then provide it to the comic stores (not exactly free, but fairly cheaply) who in turn make them available (exactly free) to anyone who comes a-calling on that day. I went to the first one, back in 2002, but haven't been to any since that I can recall. I've always figured that I'm not exactly the target audience, after all, and besides: Saturday was always one of the few days of the week when I could have any chance at all to hone my shut-in skills!

But this year's different, and not just because currently every day's a golden opportunity for Shut-In Boy to shine: DC Comics is kicking off the 2009 summer event with a free comic entitled Blackest Night # 0. Since I'm actually looking forward to BN (which starts up formally in July, I think), I'd like to get my hands on that freebie. Marvel also has a standalone new issue of Avengers that looks interesting (I dropped the regular Avengers titles once Marvel jacked them up to $3.99 USD recently). So that's two reasons for me to get to my comic store tomorrow, and that's good enough for me!

Stranger Than Fiction

I keep hearing (thanks to my notoriety for being a comic book geek) about "real-life superheroes" but it wasn't until just now that I got a good sense of just how widespread a phenomenon it really is, thanks to the Man from Mars (who's himself not really a superhero, despite the evocative nickname). He sent me this link to the World Superhero Registry. It definitely makes for some amusing reading!