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Friday, September 30, 2011

And Then There Were Five...

(This is going to sound like I planned it this way, but I swear it's a total coincidence! Or possibly it's just my subconscious at work...)

Today, for no particular reason, I decided to dig back into the precious dill pickles supply that I originally posted about... exactly three years ago today!!! That's right, this just happens to be the third anniversary of that birthday-like day when we discovered the ultra-rare cache of 1.5 L Bicks Dill Pickles with Garlic! Over the three years since, we've had a close call or two, but have yet to find any more of them. Having cracked open a jar minutes ago, there are now just five left...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dumbest Line In A Comic?

OK, probably not the dumbest ever, but definitely in the running:

In Mister Terrific # 1 (one of the 52 relaunch titles from DC Comics), Michael Holt (aka Mr Terrific) tells a couple bystanders he just saved, "Some people call me the third smartest man in the world." But that's not the dumb part.

Then he gives the reader a bit of flashback-history about the love of his life, his wife, Paula. "I was supposed to meet her for dinner that night at our favorite restaurant. The moment I saw her overturned car I knew it was bad."

See? When you're the third smartest man in the world, you can make incredible leaps of logic like that: all it takes is the sight of your wife's car smashed and resting on its hood for you to instantly intuit what the rest of us would spend days trying to assess! (The first and second smartest men in the world, presumably, would've known better than to say anything nearly that ridiculous!)

Clearly Eric Wallace, the writer of this comic, isn't exactly sure how to write a guy who's supposed to be really, really smart.

Perspective, By Carl Sagan

He says it all, and in less than four minutes, to boot.

Best Finish To An MLB Season Ever?

In spite of it shifting to a Wednesday this year, the close of the 2011 Major League Baseball season last night had to be one of (if not) the best finales of all time! Here's why I say that:
  • While all 6 division winners were known going into play yesterday, two pairs of teams were vying for the Wildcard slots - Boston and Tampa Bay in the American League, and Atlanta and St. Louis in the National
  • Both Boston and Atlanta had held huge leads in those races earlier in the month, prior to historic collapses that allowed each of them to be caught by the end of play on the second last day
  • Boston was playing in Baltimore, where the cellar-dwelling Orioles hoped to spoil the Eastern Division rival Red Sox's plans for the postseason; Tampa Bay was hosting the division-winning Yankees, the latter of whom had to be at least a little conflicted since their arch-nemeses (Boston) were actually rooting for them to win!
  • In the National League, it was a very similar situation: Atlanta was hosting their division winners, the Phillies, while St. Louis was in Houston, playing the major-league-worst team from their Central Division - the Astros; so in both cases, one team was hosting a powerhouse while the other was visiting a theoretically weak team.
  • The Cardinals/Astros game was the only one that was over quickly: they jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and went on to win 8-0 before any of the other games were finished (despite being the last one to start, on account of being in Texas!); the Cards now knew they would either get a 1-game playoff today against the Braves, or pass directly into the postseason that starts tomorrow; they had to sit back and watch the other game to see how it would play out (it was either 3-1 Atl or 3-2 around that point)
  • The Yankees got up 7-0 on the Rays, and took that lead to the bottom of the 8th... at which point Tampa scored 6 runs, making for an exciting 9th inning!
  • Meanwhile, Boston was up 3-2 in Baltimore in the 7th, but in a rain delay that lasted quite awhile, and Atlanta blew their lead, allowing the Phillies to tie it 3-3 in the 9th and send it to extra innings
  • By that point, Tampa scored the tying run in the 9th inning, and that game also headed to extra innings!
  • Somewhere along the line, Boston and Baltimore resumed play after the rain delay, and it got to the 9th inning, still 3-2 Bos
  • In fairly quick succession (over the course of only a few minutes), the following happened: the Phillies went ahead 4-3 in the top of the 13th and then shut down the Braves in the bottom of that inning, punching the Cards' ticket into the postseason; Baltimore got down to its last out and last strike, and then tied the game and quickly won the game on back-to-back plays, meaning that the Red Sox could only hope for a Rays loss to force a one-game playoff with them; and Tampa scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th, setting the scene for the 2011 MLB Postseason at long last!
I was absolutely glued to the set, flipping between the various games - major kudos to Sportsnet for dedicating their different channels to the important matches last night!! - and trying not to miss any key plays! It was an incredible evening for this baseball fan, and I can only hope the playoffs won't be a letdown by comparison!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is Nothing Sacred?

I'm not going to get all 'purist' over this, but it's still pretty strange: the Major League Baseball 2011 season ends tonight... on a Wednesday! I can't ever remember the MLB season ending on anything but a Sunday, with the postseason starting two days later, on a Tuesday. This year, however, everything is shifted, such that the playoffs will commence this Friday! I know, eh?! Crazy!

OK, this probably doesn't matter at all to most of you reading this, but it still kind of freaks me out. It's like my whole weekly calendar is going to be off now, especially since I don't have a workweek to help straighten it out.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Walking Goal: Week 16 Report - Penultimate Edition

I added about 30 kms this past week, despite a fair amount of rain (and it's just teeming outside as I type this update) and minimal motivation with my goal reached and the completion of the project looming. The week ended with Julie and I on our first walk in over a month, which we then got to repeat when we got home only to discover that one of us had dropped our keys somewhere along the way (we never did find them). Anyway, my total's now:

612 kms (122.5% of my 500 km goal)

With just one week to go and lots of precipitation in the forecast, I'm shooting for at least 625 kms as that would put me at 125% of the goal. Considering how close I am, that's not exactly stretching... but c'mon, I've done a lot of walking already and my poor knees are starting to feel it!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Radiohead On Tomorrow's Colbert Report

As if seeing them on Saturday Night Live last night wasn't enough of a thrill, my favourite band is apparently appearing on a special hour-long episode of The Colbert Report tomorrow night! As Vicki said, this probably reflects nothing more than Thom Yorke and the boys spending a little time in New York City at the moment and wanting to maximize the publicity potential of their stay. Whatever the reason, I'll take it! When a show that I love features a musical group that I'm crazy for, it's wins all around for this blogger.

Pool Season 2011 Comes To A Close

After a second consecutive frustrating summer (pool liner, pool heater - twice!, pool pump, leak), it almost seems like we haven't had a real pool season since 2009. Oh well, maybe 2012 will finally bring us some water-based joy! And it's not like we didn't have any fun this year:


(I swear there was still Cooper hair in that pool when we closed it this morning...)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Counting Down To Radiohead On Saturday Night Live

In a little less than 90 minutes, the latest season of Saturday Night Live will begin with Alec Baldwin setting a record for most appearances as host. I enjoy Baldwin, here and on 30 Rock, but the real SNL draw for me tonight is the musical guest: Radiohead!!

I've really been getting into their latest CD, The King of Limbs, as well as getting a second wind on the previous one, In Rainbows. Therefore I'm hoping they do a couple numbers from one or both of those releases, but I don't really care: any Radiohead is great Radiohead! And I say: bring it on!!

[Update Sep 26/11: The boys performed "Lotus Flower" and a so-far-unreleased song called "Staircase" that I naturally had never heard before, freaking me out a little as I thought I knew all their music!. You can watch them recording "Staircase" here, if you like!]

Friday, September 23, 2011

DC Comics And "The New 52"

It's a fact that I haven't had much to say so far about DC Comics' bold relaunch of their entire line that began this month. Back in June, once the lineup was revealed, I wrote my predictions for how much interest I expected to have in each of the 52 various series. I'll be re-examining that list once the first month is complete and I've caught up my reading of it.

But right now, I wanted to step back and gaze in wonder at what DC has already pulled off. For those who don't follow the comic industry, this will likely be news: all 39 of the first issues released so far have completely sold out, and are getting second, third and in at least one case, fourth printings! Now, sellouts are not unheard of in comic circles, but they're definitely the exception. So having an entire line of comics sell out is mind-blowing! Making this situation even more unbelievable is the fact that most store owners ordered high on these # 1s, as DC offered a special incentive program where unsold copies could be returned for a substantial refund (comics, ever since sometime in the 80s, have been non-returnable and thus stores almost always have to order somewhat conservatively if they don't want to have lots of recent, unsold comics filling up their back issue bins). So the orders were unnaturally high, and still all of the copies were gone, often within the first day of sale! My local comic store owner, for example, told me that all 13 of the first week DCs sold out on the Wednesday, and possibly (I can't remember precisely) all 13 from the second week did, as well. In response to my question, "When was the last time this sort of thing happened?" he said, "Well... never!"

So, while I have some reservations about the quality of the comics themselves - which I'll get into in that later post on the topic - I can't help but be impressed by what DC has accomplished so far with this move. It's got to be making Disney-nee-Marvel Comics at least a little nervous, despite their attempts to pooh-pooh it and all their claims that they'd never follow suit.

For those few intrepid souls actually interested in this, Brian Hibbs, a San Francisco comic store owner, sums up this remarkable success story rather well in his Tilting at Windmills column, along with a few cautionary thoughts about it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

To All Those Resistance 3 Players Suffering Right Now

Yes, it's another "unscheduled PlayStation Network outage", which we can only hope won't turn into a repeat of the April hacker attack that lasted for weeks. As such, there's no Resistance 3 multiplayer to be enjoyed right now. That means that all those players who delighted in killing me just when I thought I had them nailed are likely every bit as frustrated as me at the moment!

And I was just two promotions away from finally getting my Turrets perk, which I've been looking forward to for about a week now!

[Update the next day: Fortunately the outage only lasted several hours. After it ended, I was able to get my beloved Turrets perk, with which I then won 4 of 5 Deathmatches that I played... after having won only 1 or 2 in about a dozen tries before that! Yeah, I love me my Turrets.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Walking Goal: Week 15 Report

It's finally beginning to feel like autumn lately, which means my summer walking project must just about be done. With two more weeks to go, I'm now up to:

583 kms (116.7% of my 500 km goal)

I had to estimate how much walking we did at Beatlefest on Saturday, as I didn't think to take my pedometer with me as I didn't understand that it was a street festival (live and learn!).

600 kms now seems all-but-inevitable, although 650 may elude me this year. It'll depend on the weather over the next dozen days, and how motivated I can get when I'm already well beyond my original goal.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Family Beatle

I have a great-nephew named Hunter (eldest son of my niece, Penny) who plays in a Beatles tribute band called Help! I'd missed an opportunity to see them at a local venue a few weeks back, but yesterday he and his bandmates were performing at Beatlefest in Orillia. A month ago, did I even know that Orillia hosted a Beatlefest every September? No I did not! And yet off Vicki and I went in the early hours yesterday, arriving in Orillia around 10:00 a.m. so that we could join the family for the fun.

They did a noon show, featuring hits such as "Day Tripper", "Something", "Back in the U.S.S.R.", "Octopus's Garden" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", among several others. Hunter plays guitar (or possibly bass, I can never remember how you tell the difference!) but also did lead vocals on a trio of songs during that set. It was a total thrill to see how good they are, and how much fun someone in my family actually has showcasing his musical talents (of which I have none). Here he is, playing:


There was another performance at 3:00, down the street (literally: Beatlefest is composed of a set of outdoor stages along the main street of Orillia), and we got to hear another, mostly-similar collection of songs that somehow managed to sound even better!

And here he is, proudly nestled up beside his favourite great-uncle:


The funny look he's giving me could be the result of me telling him that that green toque he's wearing is totally bogus...

It was an amazing day, and Vicki and I were both extremely happy that we'd made the drive to take part in it. I can hardly wait for next year!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Brief Resistance 3 And Game Over Updates

For the one or two blog regulars who care about such things: I played a fair bit of Resistance 3 Team Deathmatch today (Vicki was in Toronto), and I'm now a level 27 and my kill-to-death is approximately +200. I finished first a couple times today, which is always a thrill considering how many good players there are in the game right now (just ask Boneman, who's still working on finding his groove in R3's online play).

Anyway, it was a good day, as I got about 6 or 7 promotions, which are getting harder with every level I move up. There are some very nice perks coming available in the next 5 levels or so, which I'm looking forward to trying out. I can tell other players are using them and I can hardly wait to get there myself.

In other news, I got 3 more copies of Game Over into new hands today, including one that I gave to the comic store owner in the hopes that he'll read it, love it, and maybe encourage his customers to give it a try. It's a long shot, but 'out there' initiatives like that are probably what it's going to take to really get some word of mouth started on this. At least I'm trying!

Just 4 Weeks Until The Thing Prequel Becomes You

October 14th sees the release of the prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, the latter of which is one of my all-time favourite movies. The 2011 version is simply entitled, The Thing, which should make the lineage of the franchise somewhat confusing in the future. (I think they could've gone with Things to Come, personally!)

I'm hoping this will be good, but remain very doubtful that it will be. At the very least, I hope it delivers a few cheap thrills to fans of Carpenter's wonderful gore fest. If the early reviews are dreadful, I probably won't go see it at the theatre; otherwise, I'm there!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More Game Over Feedback

Here are a couple bits of reaction I've gotten recently from a pair of folks who had just finished reading Game Over:

"I have to admit, I would finish a chapter yesterday and then put the book down, but found myself being drawn back to it so I could see what happened next!"

and

"I stayed up WAY past my bedtime and I finished the book. Very clever ending! I can imagine it being turned into a movie! Good job and good night!"

If you haven't read Game Over yet, what are you waiting for??

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Walking Goal: Week 14 Report

Another fairly light week, as we had a pretty busy few days culminating with Sunday spent en route to Regina, Saskatchewan for some Agile training work. I did manage to put in almost 30 kms, though, bringing me up to:

551 kms (110.3% of my 500 km goal)

With just 3 more weeks to go, I'm thinking I might make it to 650... but we'll see!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Resistance 3 Update

As of about an hour ago, I reached level 20 in online play for R3. That's as high as I got in the beta, as it was capped at 20 when I was playing it back then. My kill-to-death differential is sitting just a little over +100, which isn't bad for less than a week in. I've finished 1st in three or four Team Deathmatches so far, including one where I went absolutely insane (with a 12-kill streak at one point), finishing with something like 28 kills and 13 deaths. I love all of the loadout options, and can hardly wait to level up enough to try out a bunch more beyond what I've sampled so far.

I've also now played a few chapters of the campaign, some in Single Player mode, and one in Cooperative mode (with Tammy). I'm really impressed with the campaign this time out, after being disappointed by what Resistance 2 offered in that area.

All in all, Resistance 3 is totally living up to my expectations, high though they were!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Re-Stocking Game Over

I'm happy to report that we've almost sold through the extra copies of Game Over from the original print run! (For those who pre-ordered but haven't gotten their copies yet, not to worry: those are set aside for you.) There are, I think, 5 extra copies left now, which is just below my comfort level and so I've ordered 20 more. We were just one sale away from profitability, but now obviously we'll need a few more to cover the latest cost. There have also been three Kindle sales so far, which is a nice start but we really need word of mouth to kick in to drive those numbers up. If you've read Game Over and loved it, please take a minute or two to tell a few friends or family members about it. Lend your copy out, send them to the Kindle store, bug me for another copy, or demand that your local book store carry it!! ;-)

Response to the book continues to be enthusiastically positive, which is just indescribably rewarding! Here's one I received in the last couple of days:

"Done! Great book! Love the ending! I might have to read it again just to continue enjoying it! No disappointments at all!! LOVED IT!!
I'll be waiting for the next book....Hurry!"


Who wouldn't love to receive feedback like that?!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

One Bachelor Day, Coming Up!

Tomorrow Vicki heads to Toronto on business, and then will spend the evening and overnight with Tammy. The two of them will then come home on Saturday, meaning that I've got all of tomorrow to my own devices once I drop Vicki at the train station.

So far my plans for the day include the following activities:

Resistance 3

:-)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Loving Resistance 3 So Far!

OK, so maybe I've only had it for about 7 hours right now, but it's still been pretty awesome! I love the new maps that are in the Multiplayer portion, and haven't even tried the single player campaign yet. My Kill-to-Death is sitting at 100-90 or so, which is very good for a first day (obviously the beta practice helped a lot).

I love the fact that the beta only featured a small fraction of the online loadout choices, as it means there's still a heap of perks and weapons to discover as I level up. I predict this is going to keep me busy right up until Battlefield 3 comes out in late October! And if so, that would be a very good thing.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Walking Goal: Week 13 Report - Slack Week!

Due to a combination of being busy, high humidity and having achieved my goal the previous week, this was a pretty pathetic week for walking. In fact, it was the worst week yet, no matter how you measure it! I did fewer walking days than ever before (only 4), accumulated the lowest kms yet (just over 22) and generally didn't put much effort in. However, cooler temperatures have now arrived, and today alone I logged 7 kms toward next week's total, so it should be all good. Anyway, the update is:

523 kms (104.7% of my 500 km goal)

Just 4 more weeks to go now!

Resistance 3: Out Tomorrow!

It's been a long, long wait for this one, but we're now less than 24 hours away from the release of Insomniac Games' Resistance 3! Thanks to participating in the beta for the better part of a month, I have a pretty good idea what to expect from the multiplayer portion of the game. I'm looking forward to being able to level up further than the beta allowed, though, and to playing without the knowledge that the stats would be reset eventually anyway.

But more than that, I'm eagerly anticipating the single player campaign, as it's set in a grim, dystopian version of the Earth where it's been completely conquered by the alien Chimera. Unlike the first two installments, there's little to be optimistic about in this world, which suits me just fine for a video game! Just point me toward the enemy and load me up!

If my blogging output goes down shortly, you'll know why...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Another Sampling Of Game Over Feedback

Here are some more comments I've received via e-mail or Facebook in the past 48 hours from four different people at various stages of reading Game Over:

"Reading an Amazing Book.... Game Over! ... I am on Chapter 4 and stayed up way too late reading....really hard to put down, very well written, awesome! I can't wait for the kids to nap today so I can continue."

"It's making me crazy! I just want to keep reading cause I really don't have any idea how this will all pan out."

"I just finished the book! I spent the afternoon finishing it. I really enjoyed it. I would not have guessed the ending."

"All good. Enjoying!! Author, author!!"

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Game Over Almost Turning A Profit Already

Just 10 days after the initial order arrived, I've sold enough copies of Game Over to be within spitting distance of turning a profit on it. That's partly a reflection of not having done too large of an overprint (how many copies I printed beyond what had been pre-ordered) and partly thanks to good word of mouth bringing in some extra sales. As more and more people get their hands on the book, I just hope that latter trend continues! I've had several people finish it already (all part of that "page turner" classification that seems to be sticking to it) and they're all saying good things about it. Even the most negative response so far was actually mostly positive, which is fantastic! But we'll see if that's still true in another week or two!

Speaking of which: if you've finished reading it and haven't passed along your thoughts to me via a comment, e-mail or verbally, please consider doing so! Also, if you loved it, I'd appreciate it if you left a rating and/or review of it here or here. That sort of thing could certainly help drive some "cold sales" online!

Anyway, I hope to soon be able to report that Game Over is in the black!!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

What I've Been Doing

This week's flown by, mostly thanks to various activities involving Game Over. However, yesterday was spent doing our 3rd Agile 101 training session at the same locale as the earlier ones in April and early August. This latest one received ratings of 9.0, 9.3 and 9.0 (all out of 10) for the presentation, hands-on activity and facilitation of it, respectively. Collectively, those are the best results I've ever received for a training session, so that was pretty awesome!

Back on the novel, I've been getting lots of updates on progress from some of the folks now in possession of copies of it. The common theme seems to be that once you get a few chapters in, Game Over is very hard to put down! I know that Julie predicted that would be the case, but I'm still (very pleasantly) surprised to hear it. Two of my nieces reported blowing through multiple chapters last night after their kids went to bed, with one of them staying up to 1:00 a.m. and then thinking about the book while lying in bed afterward! In other words: exactly the sort of reaction I'd love people to have! It's gratifying to know that all of that hard work by myself and my supporting players over the past eight or nine months is finally paying off!

If you haven't already got your copy of Game Over, hopefully it's because you pre-ordered it and just haven't had a chance to get it from me yet. Otherwise... what are you doing?! It's turning into the Must Read book of 2011!!

[Update later than same night: I forgot to mention that one of my nieces sent me an e-mail this morning with the Subject: YOUR BOOK IS FREAKIN' AMAZING!! The e-mail ended with her telling me that she couldn't wait for bedtime tonight so that she could get back at it! That pretty much made my day.]