Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Soccer: Even Less Exciting Than I Remember

Sometimes I really get into the World Cup, and I can appreciate what people who love soccer see in it. The rest of time I'm afraid it just seems really boring.

I've watched exactly two games in the 2012 Euro Cup so far: today's semi-final between Spain and Portugal, and last Saturday's quarter-final between England and Italy. What do those two games have in common, besides being the last two played? Both ended 0-0 after 120 minutes of play, requiring penalty kicks to settle. I actually enjoy penalty kicks, so I have no complaint about that aspect of the outcome in each case. But over the course of 2 full hours of play, neither team in either game could score a goal?! Really? Do they need to make the already-gigantic nets even larger? Or are there just not enough players diving and faking injuries in order to get free kicks and yellow cards handed out?

I have to say, this is not one of those times when I appreciate soccer...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Changes In How We Die

(Via a Twitter link)

I found this short article interesting as far as how much has changed regarding mortality between 1900 and 2010. I suspect it's just human nature to worry about death (perhaps because of our vast imaginations), but when you think just how much better off we are, in that concern, than our great-grandparents were in their prime, you might expect that we'd chill out a bit on the topic, wouldn't you? If anything, though, I think it's gone in the other direction.

Jonesy's New Friends

Our new family member had his first couple visitors come a-calling last night, which proved to be pretty exciting for all involved.

One of his new friends Jonesy took to immediately:

But the other one required quite a bit more time (and space) to warm up to:

About a minute or two after that first photo was taken, Cooper ventured over to see just what Julie had in her arms, resulting in a frantic attempt by Jonesy to get the Hell out of there!! For a few seconds it was all claws and orange fur tangled up in Julie's hair as the poor little guy tried to avoid being eaten - he figured - by the giant golden monster that was headed his way. Julie survived with only a scratch or two, and hours later she was repaid for the sacrifice of her body when Jonesy decided her lap was the best available spot for his nap, just a foot or two away from where Cooper was sleeping. We figure at least one more Cooper visit will be required before the two of them are besties, but it shouldn't take too long, based on how much more confident the smaller one got around the bigger one over the course of 6 hours or so.

Not surprisingly, there were no Lucy sightings for the entire evening.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Radar Site Not Infallible After All?!

I've used Environment Canada's radar page for more than a decade now, timing my bike rides to or from work by it (way back when) as well as walks with Julie or Vicki, etc.

And I don't think I've ever had it be completely wrong like it was late this afternoon: it showed nothing but clear skies for 100 km in every direction, right up to and through the heavy (but brief) thunderstorm we just experienced. I hope no cyclists got caught in it going home from work today, as there was absolutely no indication on the radar page that anything like that was coming, or even happening!

Very strange. I want a full investigation, Environment Canada!!

The Gwen Stacy I Fell In Love With In 1973

Compliments of Emma Stone in next month's Amazing Spider-Man reboot.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

All Hail King Henry!

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist finally won his first Vezina Trophy tonight! He had to post 8 shutouts over the 62 games he played - better than 1 shutout every 8 games! - and lead his team to the top of the Eastern Conference in the regular season to get it, but he did it!

He also backstopped the Rangers all the way to the Conference Finals this spring (and recorded another 3 shutouts along the way) before the team ran out of gas against the Devils, who would eventually lose the Cup to the Kings in six games. All in all, a very impressive year for King Henry and his teammates, even if they did come up six wins short of the ultimate prize.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Few Jonesy Shots

Please forgive the new pet owners and their inevitable fascination with the latest addition...

Here's Jonesy loving his new scratching post:

A perfect little "angel" on my shoulder:

And after playing hard, there's nothing like a little nap to recharge the ol' batteries:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Soon-To-Be Best Buddies

When you see a scene like this:

can it really be long before the two of them will be sleeping side-by-side?

Fringe Post-Game Wrap-Up

And so the 2012 London Fringe Fest wrapped up tonight. Last year, we went to 11 shows, which was 9 more than we'd attended our inaugural year (in 2010). This year, my total rose again, but just to 13 (Vicki saw one more than I did). I really liked this year's selections but didn't love them quite as much as the previous set. It could be that there just weren't as many truly outstanding shows as last year, although it's more likely that my expectations were simply higher this time around.

Here's what I went to, in decreasing order of how much I enjoyed them (though every show had at least some aspect to it that appealed to me, which is pretty remarkable):

Bookworm - This was my favourite performance at Hamilton Fringe last year, and took the top spot here once again. Corin Raymond's storytelling abilities are amazing, and he had Vicki, Susan, Julie and I mesmerized right from the start last Saturday night. He covers a lot of ground, both personal and literary, and even manages to work in a bit of Spider-Man material along the way! Anyone who has any love of books whatsoever should see this show before they die.

Underneath the Lintel - This was a funny, poignant and educational solo performance by Patrick O'Brien, known to Tammy's generation as Mr Dewey on Saved by the Bell. I loved the transformation of O'Brien's character over the course of the hour, as his uptight librarian slowly but steadily morphed into a nomadic, obsessive pursuer of a Biblical myth. I doubt we'd have seen this one had we not attended the Performers Showcase the night before the festival started, as it was O'Brien's 3-minute vignette of the show that sold us on it.

Forty Wonderful - This 3-person play about a woman turning 41 and reflecting on her somewhat-unsatisfying life surprised me in its second half. While it started off conventionally enough with the woman's friend throwing her a disastrous (and unattended) birthday party, it kicked into a higher gear when the 3rd member of the cast arrived in the form of a stripper-cop. The interactions of the trio completely won me over. This was definitely lighter material than some of the entries lower down on the list, but it just resonated with me for some reason.

Vernus Says SURPRISE - Vernus mimed his way through a day in his life, as he tried to buy his granddaughter a birthday present. Ken Godmere was perfect as the senior citizen to whom even ringing phones and doorbells are confusing, and he definitely had the audience eating out of his hands within a few minutes. It was funny, and sad, and true-to-life, and that's a tall order to deliver without saying a word (well, without saying more than a word, technically).

Debris - The perennial Passionfool offering this year, Debris was every bit as intense as we've come to expect from Justin Quesnelle. His creative partner, Eva Blahut, rounded out the cast and was very good, as well, though Justin's awfully hard to compete with. I wanted the complicated story of the two siblings to pay off more than it did, I think, and that's the only reason it's not higher on my list than this.

Letters in Wartime - I found the long-distance relationship of the two World War 2-era lovers, separated for several years by the war but keeping up a correspondence on paper, to be very touching and real. Each of them finds something in the arms of others while the years roll by and both of them grow and change as people, and yet the bond between them is never quite broken by those all-too-common developments.

The Abyss Burrow - This was the first performance by Vanessa Quesnelle (sister to Justin) that I've seen, and it was definitely a strong one. She had the stage to herself on her way to portraying a complex set of memories that built up to a satisfying conclusion, but I just couldn't quite get past the interpretive dance segments that kept popping up between each memory. Without them, I think I'd have loved The Abyss Burrow... as it was, I liked it quite a bit.

Call Mr Robeson - Black singer, actor, orator and civil rights activist Paul Robeson's life certainly makes an interesting story, and I greatly enjoyed Tayo Aluko's performance as Mr Robeson. I'm not a fan of the type of music Robeson sang, but that only slightly dimished my appreciation of this interpretation of an amazing historical figure. As Susan said afterward, it's hard to believe that none of us had ever heard of him before this, considering how eventful his story really was.

Fear Factor: Canine Edition - I picked this one for our night out with Julie because I know how much she loves dogs, and it mostly lived up to those expectations. Not surprisingly, Julie said afterwards that her least favourite parts were the stories not revolving around Abby, the canine at the centre of the action. I found the show to be equal parts humourous and poignant, and characteristically shed a few tears before it was over. The only reason I put this so low down the list is that the subject matter didn't have quite the same weight as some of the other performances, but it was still a solid hit with me.

Conspiracy - This was the most conventional show we saw, with five characters and a pretty straight-forward plot: there's a house somewhere that The Powers That Be put trouble-makers in once they start to learn the secrets of the grand conspiracies that permeate our world. I think a conspiracy theorist would've loved it more than I did, but even I could appreciate the performances and was pleasantly surprised by the revelation provided by one of the characters at the end.

The Purdy Boys - This Hardy Boys spoof had some good moments but seemed too heavily influenced by the TV versions of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew rather than the literary ones. I loved how the three actors played seven characters through artful scene setups, and the funny bits made it worth seeing. Still seems strange that this won its venue's Impressario award over Vernus Says SURPRISE, though, as there's just no comparison between the two.

Petr Pann - Re-imagine Peter Pan and Wendy as modern day drug addicts, and you've pretty much grokked the premise of Petr Pann. Tinkerbell, of course, must then be a hallucination of Petr's, transforming into a horrible succubus just as soon as Petr has his first bad trip. I found lots to like about this admittedly odd offering, but neither of my traveling companions did. So it's possible I was just feeling generous that night.

Epic Pitch - I so badly wanted to love Mikaela Dyke in this one-woman show. She's the roommate of someone we saw (and loved) at Hamilton Fringe last year, and I was more than ready for "the elevator pitch for her steampunk epic" that the programme advertised. Instead, we got a meandering, genre-defying journey that seemed to rely as much on audience-participation as anything else to move it along. Mikeala herself is wonderful to watch, with natural comedic timing and obvious improvisational skills, but the material just didn't go anywhere. I asked Susan at one point if she knew what steampunk was, and she freely admitted that she didn't; in the end, though, it didn't matter, as that was such a small portion of what Epic Pitch was 'about.' I guess I just need a more coherent story to follow than what we got here. I look forward to seeing Ms. Dyke in something else that utilizes her capabilities in a more polished fashion.

Whew! That was a lot of Fringing, and I'm kind of looking forward to a break right now. At least until we find our next out-of-town one to go to, that is...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Newest Member Of Our Household

No, not great-niece Emma... she doesn't arrive for a couple months yet!

Instead, on this, the 18th anniversary of the greatest day in sports history, I received a very special gift:

Please meet Jones "Jonesy" Holmes, our 3-month-old kitten! He comes to us courtesy of my sister-in-law Meena, who happens to be a veterinarian. He was dropped off ("dumped") outside Meena's clinic a couple weeks ago, and since she knew we were looking for a 2nd cat, one thing just led to another.

Jonesy and Lucy have sort of met in passing...

... but the real fireworks are still to come!

P.S. In case it's not immediately obvious (though it should be!), Jonesy is named after the orange tabby in the first 2 Alien movies.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Today's Agile 101 Session Is History

Vicki and I were back in Agile Training mode today after a couple months off, as we did another Agile 101 session downtown. While it went well enough, it wasn't one of our best outings, as reflected by the feedback results we got at the end of the day (all out of 10):
  • Presentation portion: 8.2
  • Hands-on activity: 8.5
  • Overall effectiveness: 8.3
Lately we've been getting higher marks than those, often with numbers up to and even over 9.0, but not today. I don't think I did anything particularly different this time, so I'm chalking these results up to a challenging group that harboured slightly more resistance to Agile than usual. As I'm always quick to point out, any results of 8.0 or higher are excellent to get on a training course. I just always like them to be a big more excellent, you know?

Anyway, that's the end of my scheduled Agile work for the foreseeable future. Wiuth the basement renovation almost done that means I'll soon be able to get back to my other job... writing that 3rd novel!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prometheus Almost Lives Up To Expectations

In case I haven't made it clear already: I'm a huge fan of Alien (as well as its initial sequel, Aliens).

To appreciate just how much I love that 1979 Ridley Scott movie, I re-watched it for probably the 10th time last night, just an hour or so before we headed out to see its prequel, Prometheus. This, despite the fact that we watched it with Emma last November! I think Alien is simply an incredible film, and every time I see it I spot something that I'd never noticed before and I gain a new appreciation for how great it really is.

Because of that, I had high hopes going into Prometheus, and it very nearly matched them. (And thanks, once again, to brother Richard and sister-in-law Meena for paying our way in to see it, via the birthday gifts they gave us in March.) As Vicki said this morning, it's going to take at least a 2nd viewing for us to wrap our heads around everything in it. I will say right up front, though, that visually, it's a masterpiece. There's so much to see that you end up wishing some of the scenes lingered longer than they did.

The story is fairly complicated, and I'm not convinced yet that it's all internally-consistent, nor consistent with the rest of the Alien franchise. There are also some unanswered questions that I would've expected to be dealt with. But I'm reserving judgment on all of that for the moment. I was definitely enthralled from the opening scene right through to the final one, both of which are quite significant, by the way.

The film clearly sets up a sequel, and I hope director Ridley Scott proceeds with one. Something I'd heard, prior to last night, was that you could think of Prometheus as setting up two separate storylines. The first is the one that Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 and so one take forward; the other is one that any sequels to Prometheus will explore. Having now experienced the new movie, I can see how that's true, and I can say that I'm very interested in seeing where the second thread leads.

I'll admit to a fair bit of confusion by the time we left the theatre, but some overnight contemplation, morning discussion with Vicki, and this great article on it have all helped to clarify many of its complexities in my mind. Vicki and I both want to see it again soon, and that should further help in that regard.

I'm really curious to find out how I'll feel about Prometheus by the time it comes out on DVD (Blu-Ray!) in a few months, as by then I think I'll have a much more fully-formed opinion of it than I do right now, less than 12 hours after my first taste of it. I can say, though, that it's a definite 'must see' for anyone who's a fan of the Alien series, science fiction in general, or even just thought-provoking concepts.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Fringe-y Companions

Here's the trio of lovelies I spent 8 hours with yesterday at Fringe. Hey, it's a tough job, but somebody had to do it! (And yes, like cats, it was nearly impossible to get all 3 of them to do anything at the same time... including smiling!)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Fringe Begins Tomorrow (For Us, Anyway)

Vicki and I have our first two nights of Fringing planned, as we're taking in three shows each on Friday and Saturday, alongside Susan for both and Julie for one evening. Once we've gotten that far into the fray, we'll plan how many more nights we want to do over the remaining week. (We're also talking about the possibility of Hamilton Fringe for a few days with Susan in July... fun!)

At last night's Performer Showcase, we saw several teasers that sold us on shows we weren't even considering before that. A couple of them became 'must-see' performances for us, which really made the whole evening out worthwhile.

Honestly, I can hardly wait the last 18 or so hours before we start!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Death To Intolerance

I love stories like this one about the morons at 'One Million Moms' suffering another defeat, and not just because it features a superhero (who I've followed for 40 years now) thumbing his nose at one of the last examples of intolerance that supposedly reasonable people still think they can get away with.

It's been a great couple of weeks in comics, and in the White House, for gay rights, and long overdue at that.

I Wasn't Thinking About Such Things In 2nd Grade

A kid in Grade 2, possibly at the prompting of someone older (for all we know), asks physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson whether one black hole can swallow another one. After expressing his appreciation for the question and the questioner, Tyson provides his answer. It's only about 3 minutes long, and definitely worth watching!

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Basement Follies

So far this week, in the ongoing basement renovation saga (following the flooding last fall), we've had:
  • room dimensions being mis-measured by the carpet company such that they couldn't get my office carpeted when it was supposed to be (Wednesday of this week), further adding to my frustration over my office being in shambles
  • scratches and scuff marks on our newly painted walls down there, courtesy of the carpet guys
  • our first real test of the new sump pump, which I've just determined isn't draining far enough from the house, resulting in the same water being circulated through the pump, over and over and over
But, you know, other than that, it's going great...