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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

75 Different Flavours Of Awesome

No, I am most definitely not kidding! Check. It. Out!!!

(And the best part is, I'm married to a woman who can watch that trailer and then say, "Yeah, that could be pretty good!" I'm so lucky!)

[And if you're into The Avengers even half as much as I am, you'll also want to take a look at this detailed analysis of the trailer, scene by scene!]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TED Talk From The Future

This faux-TED talk by Peter Weyland, coming to us from the year 2023, is pretty awesome! It's all part of the build-up to Ridley Scott's maybe-Alien-prequel, Prometheus, due on in June. I can't imagine the movie is actually going to live up to my sky-high expectations, but on the other hand: it is Ridley Scott directing it! Alien, Blade Runner and Black Hawk Down are all first class films that I've watched over and over, so maybe Prometheus will be, too.

Just 65 Days To Go Now

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"It's a really good book."

That was the entirety of Julie's e-mail message to me, late last night, apparently after she finished reading the early draft of my 2nd novel.

[Update the next day: I've now had a long walk with her, and I'm happy to report that she's extremely enthusiastic about the book. She told me this morning that those words - "It's a really good book." - were what she said to herself, out loud, immediately after finishing the book Friday evening. That's why she e-mailed them to me right afterwards. Which was pretty sweet of her, I thought.]

Friday, February 24, 2012

Great... Yet Another Way For Drivers To Be Distracted!

That's honestly the thought that kept going through my head as I read this article speculating that Google will be releasing "Heads Up Display glasses" by the end of 2012. Gamers know all about HUDs, as most first person shooters have the concept built into them. The difference, of course, is that most of us aren't driving (or generally out in public settings) when we're gaming. Even just the idea that we'll soon have idiots driving around, reading the latest news about Lady Gaga or doing stock transactions while behind the wheel, makes me shudder. I know we can't stop the future from arriving in due course, but this stuff is getting kind of crazy now!

Best Agile 101 Session Yet?

Yesterday, Vicki and I took part in our 7th Agile 101 workshop in the last 10 months. It certainly seemed to be going well while we were in it, but I always reserve judgment until I've seen the survey results from the attendees. I hand out a 1-page feedback form at the end of each session, asking those present to rate the 2 components of the workshop - presentation and hands-on activity - and then provide a rating for the course's overall effectiveness. The results this time around, all on a scale of 1 to 10, were:

Presentation - 8.4
Hands-on activity - 8.9
Overall effectiveness - 9.2

The 9.2 overall score matches the best we've ever received, which is certainly quite gratifying after a long day of being on my feet (as well as on my toes, when it comes to answering questions). I was saying to Vicki this morning how I remember taking courses through work, over the years, and how rare it was that people would come out of them with much in the way of enthusiasm. We'd often say things like "Well, that was a waste of a day, but at least I wasn't sitting at my desk" or "Parts of it were good but the presenter's style was sooo boring!" At the risk of sounding full of myself, I really can't ever recall a single work-related course where I believe the attendees would've given it anywhere close to a 9.2 out of 10. So I guess we must be doing something right!

Also, for those interested in this topic, I recommend this excellent article on "the Tao of Agile" which I think beautifully describes what's really required in order to succeed as an Agile organization.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dream Of Every Comic Book Collector

Stories like this one pop up every few years, and always make me wonder, "Why don't I know anyone like that?" My guess is that the $2,000,000 estimate on the value of the small stack of treasures will end up being low.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How To Write A Novel

I'm happy to report that, according to this explanation by writer/director Nic Alderton at least, I did everything right in creating both of my novels so far! (Fun fact: both books have weighed in somewhere between 80,000 and 95,000 words.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Our House As Studio Setting

I recently asked Carl, a former co-worker of mine who has a well-known interest in photography, if he'd help me out with the cover for my 2nd novel. I was initially just hoping for some advice on how best to frame and capture the sort of image I had in mind for it, but he ended up volunteering to come over to the house, expensive camera equipment in hand, and do the work himself. Wow! That was so much more than I could've hoped for. And today was the day when he came and did just that!

There are lots of reasons to love the digital age of photography that we're in, but never more than a situation like this, where neither of us was completely sure what we were looking for. The zero cost investment of taking photos now allowed Carl to snap literally dozens of shots, from different angles, with different lighting, all safe in the knowledge that he could later both examine and manipulate the various images until he had exactly what we needed.

The shoot was today, but the post-production work will continue for a couple weeks, I imagine. I can't wait to see what he comes up with!

I've had great luck with people helping me with my book covers up to now, and that good fortune looks to be continuing. Very exciting!

Friday, February 17, 2012

DNA Robot Kills Cancer Cells

This recent breakthrough is absolutely amazing! It's hard to even imagine how far this sort of technology may go in the next 10 to 20 years.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Another Very Julie Birthday

Although we didn't go quite as all out for her birthday this time as we did last year, we still had a nice little party for Julie on Sunday night. There were no trivia questions or balloons to be found, but fortunately she had lots of presents to open, as well as one each for Cooper and Finley (so they wouldn't feel left out of the fun).

Here's the birthday girl and Vicki showing off two of the gifts from me, a pair of books that fit perfectly within my theme of "Animals" for her this year:


And now Vicki's behind the camera for this shot in which two of her presents for Cooper's mom, some tea and popcorn, are held up in our best The Price is Right pose:


We ended up watching Memento for our evening's entertainment, as we'd gotten into a discussion about short term memory loss, though I can't for the life of me remember how...

After that, Julie and I sat up talking until after 4:00 a.m., as we usually do, and then her birthday was over for another year.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Writing Rules

Here's a lovely little collection of writing rules by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, George Orwell and others.

As anyone who's read any of my books would likely agree, I tend to break many of these rules on a regular basis. Oh well, I guess that just means I've still got lots to learn and am not quite ready for the grave yet.

William Safire's list is funny for the way he breaks each rule as he states it, but my favourite rule is probably Neil Gaiman's # 5:

"Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."

That's a good one that I've often found to be true. (Editor Julie gets Honourable Exclusion from that comment, though, as her suggested fixes are almost always right on the money.)

How To Date (Or Be Married To) A Writer

For Vicki, this Valentine's Day. She does most of the items on that list, already, explaining once again why I'm so lucky.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vicki's Verdict Is In

Vicki finished reading the new novel just after dinnertime last night, and then we spent an hour or so talking about it. This morning, she gave me her more formal notes on it (that she'd put on small Post-Its as she went) and I made some changes as a result. Then I spent the last hour going through the book, looking specifically at one of character's dialogue, trying to make it as consistent as possible while also differentiating it from the other main characters' voices.

Anyway, Vicki seemed to thoroughly enjoy the book, and had lots of good things to say about it. Who knows, maybe she'll even read this post and decide to leave a comment or two on it, telling us all what she thought...

Friday, February 10, 2012

2nd Draft Complete

I spent the last week and a half doing a couple additional passes on the new novel, as well as sharing the 2nd half of it with (brother) Richard, who seemed to quite like it. The purpose of Draft # 2 was to tighten things up a bit more, add some descriptions in places that needed them, and try to differentiate the characters' voices as much as I could. On that last point, I fear there's still too much of what Tammy commented on within Game Over: "most of the characters sound too much like you" or words to that effect. She was right about that in my first novel, and I haven't quite gotten away from that yet with this one. But I'm trying.

Vicki's reading her way through the book now, although she started over again at Chapter 1 to refresh her memory on the parts she'd read earlier. So I'm still waiting to see what she thinks of anything past about Chapter 6.

Julie, who's read through Chapter 7, now has the complete 2nd draft, and hopefully will give me some feedback soon. She's due over here Sunday night for her birthday party, so we'll see how far she's gotten by then (no presents for her if she's not very far along, I say!!)

I'm not sure what I'm going to do this time around for editors, as I'm not having much luck finding anyone with the necessary skills and time available now. Who knows... maybe this will be my first book that I'll publish unedited, and then I'll have good reason never to try that stupid move again!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

This One Doesn't Look Too Bad, Either

I've been super hyped for months now over the arrivals of The Avengers (May 4th), Prometheus (Jun 8th), and The Dark Knight Rises (Jul 20th), but there's also a little flick called The Amazing Spider-Man debuting somewhere around Jul 6th. Here's our first really good look at it:



Is this going to be the greatest year ever for blockbuster movies? It just might!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

In Less Than 3 Months...

... we get to see this (and no, I don't mean the commercial):



"We have a Hulk." Love that line!!!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Real Meaning Of Randomness: Clumping

On Thursday of this week, I had four completely unrelated e-mail inquiries come to me about Agile topics (three pertained to potential work engagements in the future, while the other was looking for suggestions for Agile books).

To put things in perspective, I would not typically get that many e-mails on different Agile topics over the course of an entire month! And yet, here they all were, arriving on the same day.

As I said to Vicki, that's what's so interesting about random events: they often clump, making them seem anything but random. But true randomness does do that, of course, as anyone who's ever seen "the birthday poll" done across a large number of people knows. (Get a large group of people to each write down their birthday, month-and-day, and then tabulate the results. At least a few dates will get three, four or even more hits, whereas other dates won't get any hits at all. It's never an even distribution, as one might expect.)

Anyway, I don't know what was in the drinking water on Thursday, but it was definitely something Agile-related!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

2nd Novel Update

After burning some late hours getting that first draft done at the start of the week, I took the last two days mostly off. I needed a little time away from it so that my subconscious could work away at figuring out what I'd forgotten or gotten wrong, and that's still going on. Plus, I just needed a break from it after such an intense period of writing.

Tomorrow, I'll be working with my brother Richard to review some of the later chapters, which will be his first look at them. As I mentioned in the previous post, no one but me has read beyond the midpoint. I'll finally get some feedback on it and then I'll have a better idea how it all holds together. Next week, I'll probably pass it on to Julie and Vicki, after incorporating whatever changes Richard and I come up with. It's a little nervewracking not knowing if it works as is or not, but that's just an occupational hazard with the way I've written it (in big bursts, rather than a steady, regular pace like I had at the start).

While I didn't bother making up a plot chart for this book like I did for Game Over, I did resort to a few notes on the last 3 chapters before I started writing them last weekend. I had most of the plot developments in my head before I did that, but needed to map out which chapter each belonged in and make sure it all flowed with the right pace and rhythm. It was about 1/10th the amount of work of Game Over's big, sprawling plot chart... but it served its purpose!

And that's my update, such as it is.