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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another Halloween, Another Someteen Trick-or-Treaters

While we might still see another straggler or two (it's 8:15 as I type this), our 2009 total for kids sits at 16 [9:00 update: Total = 19]. That's not too different from last year (19) or the year before (18), which speaks to consistency, if nothing else. I've only seen one student of mine come a-calling, which is a little surprising considering that they're almost all neighbourhood kids of an age that would still go out. Maybe the rest are all afraid that I'll quiz them on fraction arithmetic in order to earn their treats?!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tonight: Fright Night Delight

The plan for this evening is to watch one or two scary movies. The reasons for this plan are many:

a) tonight's proximity to Halloween, obviously

b) the fact that it's a Friday night, which, back when I was growing up, was the weeknight that some nearby U.S. channel would always show horror or sci fi flicks, starting at 11:30 (I was usually babysitting and would have put the kid(s) to bed by then)

c) the absence of any World Series game tonight (the Yankees and Phillies are headed to Philadelphia for 3, with the series tied 1-1)

d) my general love of scary movies and Vicki's occasional tolerance of them!

No final decision has been made on what to watch yet, but I'm rooting for Aliens (we viewed Alien not too long ago) and maybe the original War of the Worlds (which I never tire of re-watching).

Well, Now That's Confusing!

I saw a headline today that I (mis)read as:

"[Ratchet & Clank Future:] A Crack in Time to be Insomniac's last FPS game!"

Had I been thinking straight, I'd have realized my mistake right away, because the R&C franchise consists of Third Person Shooters (TPS), not First Person Shooters (FPS). But in my shock, I thought, "Oh no! If Insomniac is swearing off FPSs now, how will we ever get Resistance 3 out of them?!"

Of course, the headline actually had "... last 60 FPS game" at the end, which refers to a game in which the video occurs at 60 frames per second. But I'm so used to FPS meaning First Person Shooter that my heart skipped a beat!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Working For A Living

For one brief moment today, I was back in the rat race.

This morning, I did my Retrospective facilitation gig that I mentioned over on the AgileMan blog. My day started when the alarm (I know!) went off at 6:00 a.m. I wanted a nice, comfortable amount of time for showering, breakfast and psyching myself up before heading out "to work."

I was in to meet with the session's sponsor and a couple of very nice facilitators-in-training by 7:30. The session itself ran from 8:30 to 11:00, and I'll provide some details on how it went over at the other blog shortly. Then there was a debrief, and a lunch discussion, before I headed home around 1:30, having worked a draining, exhausting 6 hours! How anyone does 7.5-hour days anymore, I'll never know!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

But... But... But How Will Shit Ever Hit The Fan Now?

If this fascinating invention ever comes down in price and catches on, then within a generation or two that old expression involving excrement striking a fan just won't make any sense at all!

Comic Mashups

Some of these mashups of comic strips and comic books are genius! I especially loved the X-Men/Peanuts one and the hilarious Spy Vs Spy Vs Alien Vs Predator... but they're all pretty awesome!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

AgileMan Update

For those who never visit the AgileMan blog anymore (and who could blame you, considering how rarely I post there these days), you might want to check it out just to see what Agile shenanigans I'm up to this week. I haven't had much going on on the Agile front of late, but this week is an exception.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The More Onion, The Better

Boneman just pointed me to this Onion report, entitled "Hot New Video Game Consists Solely of Shooting People Point-Blank in the Face". Not only is the video itself quite good, but there's a link there that you can use to play the game! Not since the days of Pong on my black and white portable TV have I beheld graphics and game play as sophisticated as Close Range! It has to be seen to be believed! (Fair warning, though: the Onion video has crashed Firefox on me twice already!)

"Man Dies After Secret 4-Year Battle With Gorilla"

From our hilarious friends at The Onion.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Up Next: A Clash Of Titans

With the Yankees disposing of the self-destructive Angels in Game 6 of the ALCS tonight, that sets up a powerhouse World Series for 2009: the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies against the payroll-on-steroids Bronx Bombers. The boys from the City of Brotherly Love will be full of self-confidence going in, thanks to their success in the October Classic last year, and the Yankees will be... well, more than $200 million of first-rate talent! The fact that the always-contending New Yorkers haven't won a championship since "way back" in 2000 should provide some extra motivation for them. Like Habs fans in the NHL, Yankee-rooters don't take kindly to going very long without a trophy.

No series this year has really been anything to write home about, although the ALCS had its moments. If the Angels had played relatively error-free for this match-up, it might have gone the limit; as it was, they were lucky to push it to 6. But maybe this year's World Series will make up for the lacklustre paths that got us here... one can always hope!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are Girl-on-Girl Kisses The Current "In" Thing?

First it was Heroes 'leaking' the fact that Claire would have an on-screen kiss with her female roommate at college in Season 4 (I assume it happened... we stopped watching the show after Season 3). Then this past week's FlashForward confirmed suspicions that one of its female lead characters was gay by having her engage in several semi-sultry smooches with a new girlfriend. Next it was 30 Rock ending this week's episode on the set of a porno shoot (spearheaded by Tracey Jordan, of course) with the raunchy Liz Lemon stand-in locking lips with an even hotter fake Jenna. And now I see Charlize Theron making out with a female bidder in order to raise $140,000 for charity.

Has the secret fear of all men finally come true? Have women become wise to the fact that they don't need us anymore now that we don't actually hunt or gather for them?!

Friday, October 23, 2009

You Can Take The Sports Night Out Of The Boy, But...

We first noticed actor Josh Charles on the under-appreciated TV show, Sports Night. There he played sports anchor Dan Rydell alongside Peter Krause's Casey McCall and the pair were the kind of sports obsessed bundles of testosterone that most guys could totally relate to. I loved that show, but it only lasted a couple of seasons.

This fall we're watching The Good Wife, on which Charles plays Will Gardner, a partner in the law firm where the title character (played by Julianna Margolis) works. There have only been 4 or 5 episodes thus far, but what I've noticed in each of them is that Charles' character always has some sort of sports reference in his scenes. Sometimes it's a baseball that he's tossing around absent-mindedly (he was apparently a pro player earlier in his life, according to what's been revealed so far), and other times it's been a ball cap or something similar. I know enough about the actor to realize this is a true-to-life portrayal, but I still think it's pretty cool and a nice little Easter egg every week for us old-time Sports Night fans. Nicely done, writers!

Feeling Like That Dog

Reading over this short article in which an Insomniac developer talks about the bad feelings he's had over disappointment with Resistance 2 that some fans have expressed, I can't help but feel a little guilty myself.

I was somewhat disappointed with R2, after all, because its Single Player campaign didn't recreate the sense of awe, suspense and fear that I had while playing its predecessor. On the other hand, though, I spent hundreds of hours in the Cooperative and Competitive arenas of the sequel, just as I had with the original. So in that sense, it wasn't a letdown at all. And the uniqueness of the Coop play made it a "must-have" game all on its own, even without the other components.

So I hope Insomniac can take some of the negative feedback they've received for R2 and transform that energy creatively to make Resistance 3 even better... but they shouldn't believe that the second game was bad, as it really wasn't. In fact, it was one of the best video game experiences I've had in the past several years, and that's saying something!

[Update: Another fan reacts to that same Insomniac article. Definitely worth a read.]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Signs Of The Apocalypse

For anyone who remembers the Terry Gilliam film, 12 Monkeys: isn't it kind of scary that we had that whole "Balloon Boy" hoax that captivated so much of the media last week just as the pandemic Swine/H1N1 flu starts to really ramp up and make it into the news? That combination of a "boy down a well" hoax coinciding with the spread of a deadly virus just seems way too similar to what happened in the Bruce Willis flick that's near and dear to my heart!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Very Good Day For Baseball

After last night's snoozer of a game between the Phillies and Dodgers (final score: Phi 11, LAD 0), I didn't have high hopes for today's LCS doubleheader. But the Yankees and Angels provided all kinds of excitement in a 5-4 11th inning Angel victory (series now 2-1 in favour of NYY) and that was followed by the National League combatants matching that in a game that sees a 4-3 Dodgers advantage going into the 9th inning in Philadelphia (with the series sitting at 2-1, Phi, coming in). After all of the sweeps in the Divisional Series and the way today's games started (Yankees jumping out to a 3-0 lead and looking like they'd grab the throat of the series by that same margin, and Phillies scoring 2 in the 1st inning to go with their 11 from yesterday), I would never have guessed how great the baseball would get later on in the day. But it sure did!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Warthog Maintenance 101

As McChicken and I proved, once again, last night: there's almost no tight spot into which you can get your Halo 3 jeep (aka the Warthog) that a couple of well-placed grenades won't help you get out of.

In our case, playing Halo 3: ODST last evening, that meant wedging our vehicle into an opening between a ramp and a low ceiling, and having to use our explosives to... encourage the Warthog to extricate itself from that predicament!

I'm happy to say that the old reliable equation:

Halo 3 + McChicken = hours of insane fun

still holds true in late 2009!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This One's For Tim

He nagged me, he berated me, and he sometimes made me want to kick him in the --- But in the final analysis, he was probably right, the bastard.

Today, Vicki and I went to our first ever Yoga class as a couple (she'd gone to a few before, but always without me). Although I couldn't do some of the moves at all, and others just barely, I liked it and think it'll do me a lot of good in the long run.

Tomorrow we go to a Cycling class together, as another first!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Unreal Fun

I've been playing quite a bit of Unreal Tournament 3 on the 360 lately, and remembering just why I loved the original UT so much back in my PC gaming days. For fast-paced, mindless online action, it's hard to beat the Unreal franchise. I've been experimenting with the different weapons, as I always like to do with new games. I was never a big fan of the Flak Cannon in previous incarnations of UT, but now I'm really getting into it. The potential for killing opponents around a corner makes it handy in a lot of situations, I'm finding.

When she was here over Thanksgiving, Tammy joined me for a few matches and I have to say: that kid is a natural when it comes to First Person Shooters! She had never played any Unreal game that I can recall, and yet she was almost instantly proficient at it. She was starting to be able to give as good as she got by the time she had to head back home again.

I'm not sure how long I'll be sticking with this one, though, as I came home from Best Buy last night with Gears of War 2 and Halo 3: ODST. Now all I need is McChicken online, and hilarity should ensue.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Red Sox Blow Big Lead, Get Swept

It really came down to one at-bat in the 9th inning: Jonathon Papelbon vs Chone Figguns, the former of whom is a feared closer and the latter of whom was something like 0-for-9 in the series. Papelbon starts him off with 3 straight balls, not even close to the strike zone. He battles back to make it 3-2, but then walks Figguns with a high pitch that any batter would've taken. Figguns ends up coming around to score the tying run, when he probably would've made the final out had the reliever simply thrown strikes to him. The Sox had led 5-1 earlier in the game, and had gone to the top of the 9th up 6-4... only to lose the game 7-6, and the series 3-0. If only Boston had played that crappy against the Jays during the regular season!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Tale Of Two Turning Points

There have so far been two very dramatic turning points in the baseball postseason. Thursday night, the St. Louis Cardinals were up 2-1 with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 2 (trailing in the series, 1-0) when the Dodgers batter cranked a fly ball to left-centre field. Cardinal outfielder Matt Holladay got to the ball in plenty of time but flubbed the catch (the ball bounced off his chest and onto the field) and a few batters later, the Dodgers would win the game, 3-2, and take a 2-0 stranglehold in the best-of-5 series.

Last night, with the game tied 3-3 in the 11th inning, the Twins batter hit what should have been a ground rule double, but the left field umpire inexplicably called the ball foul. Even as it happened live, I said to Vicki, "Fair ball!" before being astonished to see the ump indicate that it was foul. Every replay showed that the outfielder touched the ball on the way down while being well within the field of play; and even after that, the deflected ball still landed several feet inside of the painted foul line on the ground (making it doubly-fair, as I noted to my bemused wife, at the time). It was one of the strangest - and most blatantly wrong - calls I've ever seen. That batter eventually made an out, after which the next several Twins players got on base. Clearly that double would have resulted in at least one run being scored, but instead Minnesota went to the bottom of the inning still tied... and the Yankees proceeded to win the game, 4-3.

So, in one case it was an unbelievably poorly-timed error on the part of an outfielder, and in the other a jaw-droppingly bad call by an umpire. But both times the tide of the game turned on it, and we ended up with two teams down 2-0 in a short series when they probably should have been tied, 1-1.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Debunking U.S. Myths About Canadian Health Care

This excellent article, (pointed to by none other than Paul Krugman), tackles much of the confusion that's being promoted in the U.S. about our Canadian health care situation. Not surprisingly, it's written by a Canadian who's living in the States. Now, if only it could be made required reading for everyone down South!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

In A Baseball Blur

As I type this, I'm in the middle of my 6th baseball game in the last 48 hours. The best of them is still the horribly mishandled Tigers/Twins game from Tuesday evening, although today's Phillies/Rockies game was pretty good, too (Col 5, Phil 4). Yesterday's 3 playoff-opening matches were all somewhat lopsided affairs (5-1 Phil over Col, 7-2 NYY over Minn and then a slightly more competitive LAD win over StL, 5-3). Every game so far has managed to have something notable in it, though, as they usually do at this time of the year.

Anyway, that's why the blogging has been scarce of late.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sportsnet Ought To Be Ashamed Of Themselves

I had to record the second half of the Tigers/Twins tie-breaker game tonight in order to be able to tutor from 7:00 to 8:00. I was smart enough to add a couple hours to the end of the recording, in case things went long, but not clever enough to anticipate just what an amateur bunch of tools might be making decisions for the Sportsnet network tonight.

Because, you see, some bozo opted to cut away from an extra-inning game that would decide the final entrant to the 2009 MLB playoffs in order to show an early season NHL game between Montreal and Calgary. That's right: they bailed on showing the conclusion to a postseason-deciding game in favour of a game that will, in all likelihood, mean absolutely nothing by the time April rolls around. Granted, they continued to show the baseball game on another channel, but that hardly makes up for the fact that anyone recording that game didn't get to see the end of it.

So, anyway, I guess Minnesota won it in 12 innings (by the time we got to the point in the recording where the channel I was recording on ditched the baseball game, it was just moments past the live juncture two innings later where all of the excitement apparently happened).

This was definitely one of the shoddiest decisions made by a sports network... ever.

Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow (Oct 6th Edition)

There hasn't been an exciting week of comics in quite some time now, but this week certainly qualifies:

Grandville - This 108-page hardcover original graphic novel by Bryan Talbot features anthropomorphic animals involved in a classic murder mystery in an alternate-history England! Need I say more?

Justice League: Cry for Justice # 4 (of 7) - Unfortunately, this James Robinson-written miniseries has become newsworthy less because of any expected greatness in terms of artwork or grandeur and more because it seems that every issue has presented at least one ridiculous WTF moment. Previous issues have showcased Green Lantern bragging about a three-way with Lady Blackhawk and the Huntress, going on a tirade about how the Justice League doesn't actually care about justice, and employing torture to elicit information from a supervillain... Needless to say, each of the preceding has had the Internet beside itself and now we all eagerly await seeing what form this month's stupidity will take!

Planetary # 27 - This comic, all on its own, would make any week exciting. A decade after the series debuted, we get the final issue of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's tour de force tale of three archaeologists of the impossible. Each of the 26 previous installments has added a new dimension to this complex world, as well as paying homage to various genres and touchstones. Kudos to Ellis and Cassaday for sticking with this and seeing it to completion... Planetary will ultimately be remembered as one of the great comic series of all time.

Sherlock Holmes # 5 (of 5) - I'm going to be very sad to see this one end, as every issue so far has featured top-notch original Holmes material. Just imagine if every treatment of public domain characters was done this well!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

162's Not Enough!

A full 162-game season wasn't enough to decide the better team between American League Central Division rivals Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins, meaning that they'll put their identical 86-76 records up against each other in a one-game playoff on Tuesday night in Minneapolis. The winner of that game will advance to the postseason to face the New York Yankees in one of the two American League Division Series, with the Red Sox squaring off against the Angels in the other.

Meanwhile, in the National League, it's all set for the two best-of-five National League Division Series: Los Angeles Dodgers will host the Cardinals while the defending champs from Philadelphia meet up with the Rockies.

If the Tigers win on Tuesday night, then 7 of the 8 combatants in this year's MLB postseason will be recent World Series contenders: Phillies (won in 2008), Rockies (lost in 2007), Red Sox (won in 2007), Tigers (lost in 2006), Cardinals (won in 2006), Yankees (lost in 2003) and Angels (won in 2002). Even the 8th team, the Dodgers, made it into the final four teams last year, before losing to the Phillies in the 2008 NLCS. In other words, we're probably going to have a 2009 postseason stacked with recent powerhouses, which isn't all that usual anymore. What is usual, though, is that I'm all a-quiver at the prospect!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Reds Cut Magic Number Down To 17!

The baseball fan in me couldn't stop laughing at this Onion article! I particularly enjoyed the line "... we could always pick up the wild card spot, just as long as the Rockies and Braves lose to each other seven times tomorrow".

Thursday, October 01, 2009