Monday, October 31, 2011

This Looks Like A Job For...

SuperCooper didn't get to greet as many trick-or-treaters as he would've liked, but that didn't bring him down too much, as you can see in the photo above. We had 15 callers tonight, down from our usual 18 or 19 that we've had each of the last 4 years. A bit of rain may've accounted for that, I suppose, as my brother reported a 'mere' 71, where usually they get over 100 and have gotten as many as 200 in the past. My great-niece Emma, manning her home while the parents and siblings were out collecting candy, apparently received zero trick-or-treaters! That's just crazy! The Dog of Steel at least got to greet about 5 or 6 groups, including a trio of teenage girls who couldn't leave him alone (the lucky pooch!).

If You're Feeling A Little Hemmed In Right Now...

... it's because we just passed the 7 billion mark for the human population on this planet. This is, of course, an estimate, as no one really knows exactly how many people there on Earth. The population has more than doubled in my lifetime so far, as there were a few hundred million less than 3.5 billion occupants when I was added to the mix. My 85-year-old aunt, who's still among us, was born into a world that hadn't yet reached 2 billion at the time, so just imagine how much more crowded it must seem to her now!

Good Times

This memory-inducing article goes out to all the work friends I had back in 2002/2003 when every Wednesday night was simply known as "Battlefield Night." I don't miss gaming on a PC, where each new game that came out might potentially mean that I'd have to upgrade my machine if I wanted to play it... but I definitely miss those Battlefield nights!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This Probably Won't Help Repair The U.S. Financial Industry's Image Much

From BoingBoing (via Wil Wheaton on Google+): foreclosure mill employees dressed up as homeless people last year for Halloween. And people wonder where the Occupy Wall Street anger comes from. As Wheaton commented on the firm's lack of compassion, "WOW. What a bunch of shitbags."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why I Don't (Very Often) Watch Rangers Games On TV

For some strange reason (presumably something to do with Canadian content), the vast majority of the New York Rangers' first 9 games of the season have been televised across the relatively basic TV channels that we subscribe to. By my count, at least their games against Los Angeles and Anaheim (both from Stockholm), Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa have been on TSN, Sportsnet or CBC so far, along with (possibly) the one versus Winnipeg. That's 7 or 8 of 9 games... for an American team that's not even one of the premiere Cup contenders these days!

Today was pretty typical of what happens when I try to watch a Rangers game. I checked in during the 3rd period, to see the Blueshirts up 4-1 on the Senators. Just as I was digesting that fact, however, Ottawa scored to make it 4-2. Then several minutes later, 4-3. And of course they tied it up before the period ended, sending it to overtime and eventually to a shootout... where the Rangers would lose.

So for those who wonder why I don't watch more Rangers game? There's your answer.

This Year's Best Halloween Costume, Paws Down!

Julie's visiting family in the States this weekend and won't be back until Tuesday. Therefore Vicki and I have Cooper and Finley for several days, prompting the following photo and e-mail comments from their mistress:

"Cooper insisted on his Halloween costume this year. Sometimes I think you have too much influence on my dog! He is looking forward to trick-or-treating with you!!"

A Classic World Series

Before this past week, had there ever been a World Series in which a team twice came within a strike of winning it all, only to end up the eventual loser of that Fall Classic? I can't imagine there had been. But thanks to the Texas Rangers of 2011, we've now seen that happen. Somewhere, if there's any justice at all, George W Bush is still crying bitterly over that outcome.

I thoroughly enjoyed this year's World Series. Game 7 itself could have had a little more drama, but considering all that had come before it - especially the aforementioned rise and fall and rise and fall of the Rangers in Game 6 - that might simply be asking too much. This was truly a series for the ages.

And, for those of us who love our playoff baseball, the fact that there were 38 of a possible 41 games across the three rounds meant that we weren't shortchanged at all in this year's postseason. Yay for us!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dan "The Man" Mangan Shines In Concert

It was a family outing last night, as Vicki and I took great-niece Emma and great-nephew Hunter "out on the town" for an evening of dining and entertainment. We hit the Keg for dinner and then headed for a meet-up with a couple friends of ours who'd convinced us that Canadian singer/songwriter Dan Mangan was an act that we should see.

The husband of the couple, Tim, sometimes works with a local concert venue to bring performers there, and he was thrilled that Mangan was making yet another return appearance to that location. His wife, Cathie, met us before the doors of the venue opened and got us in a back way where, after showing our tickets and waiting through a sound check, we were able to grab six front row seats! Here are my three family members:

and then Vicki turned the camera around on us:

Mangan and his band were incredible, and it seemed like musician Hunter really appreciated some of what they were capable of. I found that I liked the music more and more as the set progressed, with the last several numbers being the most impressive. Dan's shown below, centre-left, with his right arm in the air:

When he came back out for the encore, Dan discovered that someone had left him a tin of homemade cookies on the stage. Picking one up, he looked out in the audience for a volunteer, and so I put my hands out, cupped, and he tossed it directly to me. I tried to give the cookie to Emma, but her painfully shy nature took over and she demured. So I assured Mr Mangan I was willing to be his food tester, and took a big bite out of a delicious chocolate chip cookie! I gave him the thumbs up signal, and the show then continued. I'd get a high five from Dan later in the encore, when he'd come down into the audience and walk by us front rowers, singing the whole time. What a great experience for all of us!

We got the kids home "a little late" (after midnight), but hopefully it was worth a bit of lost sleep for the experience. Vicki and I definitely had a great time, and thanks are owed to our friends Tim and Cathie for getting us out there and into such great seats!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One Of These Things Is A Lot Like The Other

We ventured out to a theatre to see The Thing last night. For those who don't know, this is a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, which came out in 1982 and is in my Top 20 Favourite Movies of All Time list. This latest version does its best to tell the story of what happened at the Norwegian camp in Antarctica that's essentially the springboard for what happens in Carpenter's early-80s classic.

I'm a bit torn on this movie. On the one hand, it's a geek's dream come true, as it pays off many of the mysterious little bits from its 1982 sequel: the burned, two-faced corpse in the snow, the bloody-handled axe in the wall and the slit wrist on the radio man, among others. It also provides a few genuine surprises, especially in the final act, which I didn't see coming at all. For the most part, though, it follows the rhythm of Carpenter's version so faithfully that it's fairly maddening! I was predicting some of the beats quite successfully, despite this being my first viewing of it. And it also seemed to have a slightly different take on the creature's modus operandi, which I kept having trouble rationalizing with the original.

The other issue I have with 2011's The Thing is that it doesn't really present any sort of mystery, just lots of scares and gore. Julie didn't like Carpenter's The Thing, when we showed it to her in March of this year, because she didn't feel it played fair with the whole "Who do you trust?" angle of the story. While I didn't 100% agree with her, I had to concede her point that that aspect could've been done better. Here, however, there's virtually no attempt to provide clues as to who's the creature and who's not, and you're left feeling that it was all fairly arbitrary. This is the one area where they could've actually improved upon the other film, and instead they flubbed it completely.

Overall, though, it's an effective scary movie that both Vicki and I enjoyed. She spent a little of it hiding her eyes behind the hoodie that I'd given her for warmth (it was a very cold theatre!) and that's always a good sign.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Brief Agile Update

As I've mentioned before, I've been doing a series of Agile 101 workshops for one of the local employers throughout the year. I've done four of them so far, including one in Regina, SK midway through last month.

It now looks as if I'll likely be doing one for the local chapter of the Project Management Institute. This is a horse of a different colour, compared to the earlier ones, for two reasons: the attendees are likely to be mostly project managers as opposed to coming from a wide variety of roles, and they'll be from lots of different companies and industries. I'm not sure what impact the second point will have, but I'm planning to adapt the material slightly in recognition of the first one. Specifically, I'll need to address the always-thorny question of, "What does a PM do in an Agile shop?" more fully than I've done in the past.

If this happens, it looks like it'll be late next month. If you're interested in attending or know someone who is, let me know and I can put you in touch with the appropriate contact for it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fact-Based Beliefs Just Don't Work For Some, It Seems

This latest development in the Climate Change 'debate' would be absolutely hilarious if it weren't so sad and frightening. An Earth Surface Temperature study that was partially funded by the ultra-conservative, Climate Change-denying Koch Foundation, and which was led by self-proclaimed Climate Change skeptic Richard Muller, has found that "the existing science was right all along - that the earth's surface is warming, at an accelerated rate."

So what do the rest of the deniers do with this knowledge, including the infamous Anthony Watts, who previously said, "I'm prepared to accept whatever results they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong"? They find ways to back pedal on any such acceptance, up to and including casting out their former ally Muller who has now adjusted his own beliefs based on the results! As for Watts, he's now falling back on claiming that since the study's results haven't yet been peer reviewed, he can't accept them. Which is kind of funny for a guy who previously discounted peer-reviewed studies from all across the scientific spectrum, prefering to rely on his gut. Huh... imagine that!

I have to think that the Koch brothers probably feel this was some of the worst money they've ever spent.

Friday, October 21, 2011

If Elizabeth Warren Doesn't Get Elected, What Hope Is There For America?

Check out two minutes of typical Warren and then imagine how many special interest groups in the U.S. must be scrambling to keep her out of the Senate. It's hard to believe just how much crazier that country has gotten in the three years since Obama was elected, but maybe with the Occupy Wall Street movement underway and voices like Elizabeth Warren's and Paul Krugman's starting to be listened to, there's still a modicum of hope left?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It Came From... Science Fiction?!

Check out this list of 10 well-known words or phrases in Science that actually debuted in the Science Fiction genre.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Few Random Thoughts On The Baseball Playoffs

1) The League Championship Series both ended rather poorly, in the sense that each concluded with a blowout (12-6 St. Louis over Milwaukee, and 15-5 Texas over Detroit).

2) On the other hand, both LCS went six games... meaning that all four teams were in it, no matter how lopsided the final games were.

3) Pitching seems to have gone south in the postseason. There were a ridiculous number of runs scored in the two LCS, to the point where a 4-2 result seemed like a pitching duel!

4) The East was well-represented in the four LDS series (New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Philadelphia Phillies) but not at all after that. The Central, on the other hand, sent three teams to the LDS and LCS, with St. Louis, Milwaukee and Detroit all advancing out of the first round.

5) Through the first two rounds, only three possible games didn't happen: there was no Game 5 between TB and Texas, and no Game 7s for either of the two LCS. In other words, 31 of 34 potential matches happened. That's a lot of baseball!

6) My brother Richard is a Tigers fan, and as such followed that team's fortunes very closely through the first two rounds. Now that Detroit's out, however, he's not sure if he'll watch any more of the games. Me, I'm a baseball fan first, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens between the storied Cardinals and the upstart Rangers.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Downside Of Early Christmas Shopping

This post will probably seem largely incomprehensible to those who routinely leave their Christmas shopping until the final few days (hours?), but there are actually some of us who try to get it done early. I've had November 25th as my goal for completing my list over the past several years, and I think I've almost always hit it. Hopefully I will again this year.

I started last week, and added a few more items this week. I've got a lot left to do, but I'm already running into the one thing I don't like about early shopping: you find the perfect gift and can't wait to see the recipient's reaction to it... except you've got over two months to wait! So that kind of sucks.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

ePub Version Of Game Over Now On Lulu

Apparently Lulu has created an ePub version of my novel for me. It looks like it's just a PDF file... possibly the same PDF that was produced when I put my Word document through Lulu's conversion tool. I have to admit that I don't understand how that works for eReaders... are the various devices set up to take PDF's in and re-format them appropriately for viewing?

Anyway, if you've been waiting for an ePub Game Over and didn't want to get it from me for whatever reason, now you can buy it on Lulu for $2.99.

The Avengers Trailer

I am ridiculously excited about this. I have approximately seven months in which to work myself up to an even higher fever pitch of about-to-be-disappointedness. Or maybe not... maybe this will be the comic fans' dream to end all comic fans' dreams. We'll know one way or another on or around May 4th of next year.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Long Weekend Has Come And Gone

Thanksgiving 2011's just wrapping up, as I type this. It's funny how, when you're not working, long weekend's are often more of a pain than anything else. I usually do some grocery shopping on Mondays, for example, but not when Monday's a holiday!

Despite that, this was actually a good Thanksgiving. Vicki and I were invited to my brother Rich's place for a traditional holiday dinner yesterday, the likes of which we rarely see anymore. I'm in the process of reconnecting with him after a lot of years of separation, and among other things it's fun to watch him and Vicki getting to know each other while my sister-in-law Meena and I go through the same process. Rich, by the way, holds the record for the fastest read of Game Over, I think. He started it on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, while we were at Beatlefest, and - breaking only for meals - finished it later that same day!

Today Vicki and I tackled the chore of oiling our heavy-traffic hardwood floor areas (kitchen and entranceway), which you really have to do at a time when there's not much going on afterward, as the oil needs many hours to dry without being walked on. It's the sort of activity that I'd hate to have to do by myself, but since we always do it together, I never seem to mind it all that much.

Anyway, I hope everyone reading this had a great Thanksgiving weekend, and that you remember that there's no time like the present to start your Christmas shopping...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Three Great Game 5s Over Two Nights

Between last night's Detroit win over the Yankees (3-2), tonight's Brewers win over the Diamondbacks (also by a 3-2 score) and the just-completed shocker, a 1-0 win by St. Louis over the heavily-favoured Phillies (Chris Carpenter just barely outpitching former Toronto teammate Roy Halladay), it's been a nail-biter's worst nightmare!

It's pretty amazing when four 5-game series go a total of 19 games, as this year's League Divisional Series did. Only Texas and Tampa Bay didn't go the distance, with the (other) Rangers taking their series in 4 games.

So now it's Brewers vs Cards in the NL, and Tigers up against Texas in the AL. I've got to think the absence of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Phillies probably means ratings will be down for this year's LCS and World Series, but who cares? As long as the baseball's good, I'm in!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Avengers Movie

I'll admit it: I have a little geekgasm each and every time I see this picture of Thor and Captain America, from next spring's The Avengers film.

Oh, and my guess as to what the two heroes are looking up at? Skrull armada invading the Earth, of course!

An Idiot Debating A Genius

Depending on your ideological leanings, you'll naturally draw your own conclusions as to who is the idiot and who is in the genius in this short exchange between Bill O'Reilly and Richard Dawkins. I'm pretty sure all readers of this blog are well aware of which side I come down on.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Better Late Than Never - Five Years!

I guess I was distracted on Saturday on account of Julie coming over for our first Movie Night in more than six months, but that's still a pretty lame excuse for failing to post something to commemorate

this blog's fifth anniversary!!!

Sorry about that.

October 1st, 2006, was when it all started, and here we are five years later, still at it. It's been a fun ride, but also sometimes quite mentally exhausting, and so we'll just have to wait and see if I manage to make it through another five.

For The Gamers!

On Chilling Out

Over the past month or so, I've been noticing a slight change in my attitude that may or may not prove to be permanent. Since this blog is the closest thing I have to a diary, here seems like the logical place to reflect upon this development.

When Vicki and I joined a bunch of family members in Orillia last month for Beatlefest, it was - by our standards, anyway - a fairly loosely-organized event. I don't mean that in a bad way. It just wasn't what we're usually involved with, where the day is all planned out: be here at this time, then go do that for an hour, then be back here by such-and-such a time. Instead, it was almost entirely open-ended, with the only real commitments being the two sessions when great-nephew Hunter's band was playing. What I noticed, as the day progressed, was that Vicki was the one trying to introduce just a little order into the day. She wasn't doing it in a frantic or concerned manner - like I typically would - but just casually pointing out that we didn't really know where we were going or what we were going to do next. To which I replied, "That's OK. Today I'm just going with the flow." And it felt pretty good.

Since then, I've been trying to do more of that (stop laughing, Susan!!). To say that it doesn't come easily or naturally to me would be a huge understatement. But I'm still giving it a go. It definitely helps that many of the family members I've recently reunited with are wired that way. I think the real trick, though, lies in not caring as much (as I usually do) about things working out perfectly. I've always believed that if you plan carefully enough, you can pull almost anything off. And I still think that's true; but maybe I was applying it to too many aspects of my life. Catching a plane? Yep, that's still important enough to warrant careful consideration and organization. Going for a walk, or making a trip to the comic store, or getting together with someone for a coffee? Probably not worth sweating too much over, beyond the obvious point of not being rude by getting there super-late or standing them up. Even typing that, though, I have to admit, makes me wince a bit. So this is still very much a work in progress at the moment.

So, yeah. That's where I'm at.

Can't wait to hear from the peanut gallery on this particular post.....

Monday, October 03, 2011

Walking Goal: Week 17 Report - Final Edition!

(If you've hated these updates all summer, then today is your lucky day! Or, rather - technically, I guess - every day after today is your lucky day!)

17 weeks ago today, I was on a walk through the woods with Julie and announced to her that I was going to try to walk at least 500 kms over the next four months (Jun through Sep). I estimated how far we walked that day, ordered a pedometer when I got home from that walk, and have been going ever since. Yesterday marked the end of that 17 week sojourn, although ironically Vicki and I were too busy and it was too rainy for me to add to my total at all! Anyway, here's where I finished up:

635 kms (127% of my 500 km goal)

Thanks to everyone who encouraged this latest of my life goals. It was a very positive experience and no doubt helped my health considerably.

Missed Radiohead In NYC Last Week?

Yeah, I did, too. Good thing there's high quality video of it available on one of the main Radiohead fan sites. Awesome!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Resistance 3 'Mastery' Achieved

Thanks to a Double XP Weekend handed out by Insomniac Games over the last two days, I was able to get the last several promotions I needed to max out at level 60 in Resistance 3 multiplayer today. That means it took me less than 4 weeks to do so, which exceeds even my own expectations by quite a bit. I think I've played a little shy of 30 hours over the 26 days since the game was released - a fairly crazy total, I must admit!

I'm now winning nearly half the Deathmatches I play, after a considerably slower start (prior to getting my beloved Turrets!). I think it's time to move back to the campaign, though, as I'm feeling somewhat burned out on TDMs and DMs.

That is all.