Monday, July 30, 2012

No Brother Of Mine Is Popular With The Ladies

(Yeah, that title works really well on a number of levels!)

I've noticed lately that my second novel seems to be especially popular with female readers. The most recent example of this came when our financial planner bought a copy of No Brother of Mine but didn't get a chance to read it because, minutes after he got home with it, his wife picked the book up and began devouring it! The next thing I knew, I was getting updates from him such as:

"Well... So far [she] hasn't put your book down. Impressive!!"

and then, the next day, quoting his wife:

"I am loving this book! I love the protagonist...wanna finish it quick!"

A few hours after that, it was:

"She loved the book! She is going to tell the world about it I can tell. Congrats sir!"

followed by news that his wife had passed 'his' copy of the book on to her mother, who she was sure would love it. I quickly pointed out that it could hardly count as 'his' copy considering that he was now at least 3rd in line for it!

At any rate, I definitely seem to have struck a chord with many readers who happen to be among the fairer sex.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"I Could've Sworn That Was My Mat!"

I hate to have to break it to you, Cooper, but this is Jonesy's World now... we're just living in it!

[Update the next day: As commenter Jimmy points out, there was a mat/Matt pun just waiting to be played here, but I fumbled the ball. Needless to say, Cooper also feels as though his Matt has been at least somewhat stolen away by Jonesy, although I've been trying hard to split my time between them to reduce those feelings.]

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No Brother Of Mine Reaches A Milestone

According to my records, my second novel has now outsold my first one! That's somewhat impressive, considering that Game Over was released last September, nearly a year ago, while No Brother of Mine has only been out for less than three months so far. This feat was helped along by the book club that my niece Vanessa got NBoM into, Vicki's tireless efforts in talking it up to everyone she meets, as well as a much-appreciated high level of repeat business from the first book to the second.

It's very gratifying to have the numbers trending in that direction, and I can only hope they'll continue to do so as I release more novels in the future. At the moment, I can safely say that my books sell "dozens and dozens of copies", but obviously I long for the days when I'll be able to boldly proclaim that it's "hundreds and hundreds", instead. More than that might be dreaming, but even that level of readership would make me very happy indeed.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jonesy Makes Another New 'Friend'

After 3 sessions getting to know Cooper over the past several weeks, it was time for Jonesy to finally meet Finley. We're going to have both of Julie's pets for a week shortly, so we figured we should get Jonesy used to them before that happens. Julie was of the opinion that Finley would be fine with the new kitten, even going so far as to predict that he'd 'mirror' whatever Jonesy did (curiousity for curiousity, indifference for indifference, etc.) I had my doubts, as I've had enough experience bringing a kitten into the presence of an older cat to know that the usual result is that the kitten's OK with it while the mature cat tends to flip out, at first.

And sure enough, Finley decided to hiss and growl constantly at Jonesy whenever he saw him initially, which eventually got Jonesy's back up (literally):

However, Jonesy kept going back for more, and eventually, after a few hours together, there was a limited sort of acceptance on Finley's part:

In other words, progress was made, but there's still some ways to go before they'll be playing together. Fortunately, Jonesy and Cooper didn't backtrack at all in how comfortable they are with each other, so we're hopeful the two cats will similarly pick up where they left off the next time they meet.

One thing's for sure: Jonesy's very bored today, after all the excitement of having two four-legged visitors to entertain him last night! Lucy just doesn't cut it after that, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My First Book Club Experience

Well, that was a lot of fun!

Thanks to niece Vanessa, I spent this evening as Guest Author for the Quai du Vin Book Club (possibly just a name I made up for them). All of the club members had read No Brother of Mine as this month's book (again, courtesy of Vanessa) and I was invited to come and hear what they had to say about it and answer any questions they had. Happily, they all seemed to enjoy it very much, and I can only hope that's not just because I was there and they didn't want to hurt my feelings.

As Vicki said on the drive home, it was very interesting to hear how each person responded to different aspects of the book. Some keyed on the fast-moving plot as what interested them the most, while others were drawn to the characters or the relationships between them. Several women mentioned that certain personality attributes of Mitch, Sarah, etc, reminded them of people they know or even of their own feelings towards others.

This is the first time I've had the opportunity to have such a large-scale, interactive feedback session on the book, and I absolutely loved it! I hope I get the chance to do the same sort of thing at other book clubs, as it really helps to hear what parts of No Brother of Mine resonated the most with readers. Thanks to Vanessa, Candice, Debra, Justine, Karin, Katherine, Kim, and hostess Lisa for a very enjoyable and gratifying evening!!

Our Latest Obsession

Vicki and I just finished watching the first 4 seasons of Breaking Bad (Seasons 1 to 3 on Netflix; Season 4 on AMC who generously reran the entire season leading up to Sunday's Season 5 premiere) as well as the first episode of the 5th season. I'd heard people rave about the show over the past few years, but would not have believed how good it was unless I'd experienced it myself. Definitely one of the best series on TV right now.

The writing on BB is amazing in the way it introduces small plot points that end up paying off much later, right around the time you're starting to forget about it. It's also an incredible character study of a man descending into some very dark places, as the Walter White of Season 5 would be virtually unrecognizable to the version of him that inhabited the first season. And yet it's all happened gradually, and very believably.

What a great show!

Bring On The Dark Knight

I just purchased a pair of VIP tickets (reserved seating) for Vicki and I to take in The Dark Knight Rises this weekend. This will complete the Bat-trilogy by Christopher Nolan (with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) as well as finish off my own personal trio of summer movies that I was greatly anticipating. We've already seen The Avengers and Prometheus twice each, and I wouldn't be surprised if the same soon holds true for Christian Bale's swan song as the Caped Crusader.



Flex Your Brain Power

I stole this off Google+ because it really impressed me. Vicki and I were both able to read it quite effortlessly after a few seconds:

Monday, July 16, 2012

We're Number 1!

Well, compared to the U.S. in terms of our average net worth, at least, as this Bloomberg article outlines. Nice to see us get some respect from south of the border once in a while.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rather Huge News For Fans Of The Firefly TV Show

Yeah, I'd call this a pretty big deal, indeed! I hope it happens.

Update Jul 15/12: Looks like it was probably just a joke. Too bad!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Kind Of News

This is the biggest San Diego Comic Con news so far this year: Neil Gaiman's doing a Sandman prequel mini-series for DC! Making it even sweeter, the artist assigned to the project is JH Williams III, who I've loved on Batwoman for the past couple years.

Interesting to contrast this development, which seems to have no downside or controversy associated with it, with the whole Before Watchmen debacle that's made the powers that be at DC Comics look like such a-holes recently. Maybe they learned that screwing over the big name talent isn't the way to go? Nah, I don't think so either...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Four Years Ago Today

It was four years ago today, on Thursday, July 10, 2008, that I endured my last bit of bullshit as a full-time employee. I left the office feeling miserable about what had happened to me at work that day, climbed on my bike to ride to my chiropractor appointment just before 5:00, and discovered, by the time I got there, that I'd actually decided to quit. Ironically, it was my future-friend Julie ("just" my chiropractor at the time) who learned about this dramatic turn of events before I'd even gotten home and could tell Vicki.

Of course it wasn't really just that one odious event that did it, but it did take a final straw being added on to break this particular camel's back. With the hindsight of four years, including knowing what transpired at that office in the years after I left, I'm happy to say that I've zero regrets about making that change. As Julie and I were talking about over the weekend, so many good things came out of that decision which likely wouldn't have happened if I'd kept working. My first two novels would certainly top that list, as I simply can't imagine having the peace of mind to write either of them had I still been caught up in the rat race over the past four years. Also up there would be the reconnecting with family members I've been doing, which has obviously been much easier to accomplish with the free time I'm now lucky enough to have.

So here's to four good years so far, and hopefully many more to come!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Now's A Great Time To Be A Wealthy American

Paul Krugman has a great article on the history of U.S. tax rates over the past 50 years. While most Americans have experienced relatively small changes in their tax bracket percentage over the half-century, the results for Americans in the top 0.01% of incomes look like this:

1960: 71.4%
1970: 74.6%
1980: 59.3%
1990: 35.4%
2000: 40.8%
2004: 34.7%

Now, even an income tax-lover like me thinks any rate greater than 50% is excessive. However, when I hear Conservatives in the U.S. complaining that taxes on the wealthy right now are "obscene," "at an all-time high" or any of the other rubbish they spew, I just laugh. Imagine if our top tax rate in Canada at the moment was 34.7%!

I Really Wish This Game Were Out Right Now!

Having re-watched the first 3 Alien movies within the past month, as well as taking in not one but two viewings of Prometheus in the theatres, I am so primed for a good Aliens game... and this article definitely makes Aliens: Colonial Marines sound like one! A scary single player campaign, set just after the events of the 2nd film, along with a fun multi-player environment? Yes, please!

It's really too bad we have to wait until Feb 12th next year for it... and that's assuming they don't push out the release date again!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Our First 'Look' At Jonesy

This is the photo Meena took of Jonesy at her clinic while he was still unclaimed:

Who wouldn't fall in love with a cutie like that?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Art Of Assessing And Mitigating Risk

When I was still in the software business, it always amazed me how inadequate most of us are at dealing with risk (and I include myself in that group, to some degree). I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, because as a species we usually suck at it. Think about what percentage of adults are afraid of flying, versus the proportion of us who are afraid of driving. The former phobia's much more common, and yet the risks associated with the former are virtually nil compared to the risks associated with the latter. Or consider how many parents worry that they're children will be abducted, despite this being almost unheard of statistically-speaking, while doing little or nothing to prepare those same offspring for the complexities of managing their finances, navigating sexual relationships or fulfilling personal responsibility, all of which they're virtually guaranteed to encounter in life.

Over the life of a typical, non-trivial software project, there will be dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands of risks undertaken. In very broad strokes, those can include estimates of work effort being ridiculously low, dependencies not being met, new technologies being unreliable, and specifications changing haphazardly, just to name a few. Since most IT projects fail - where failure means late, over-budget or under-scope, or any combination thereof - I guess we shouldn't wonder that risks usually aren't well-defined nor guarded against.

All of which leads us to the point made in this excellent article, which is that the level of certainty associated with any risk should obviously vary according to the circumstances. As the author notes, 99+% certainty makes sense when talking about Higgs boson calculations, but is a ridiculously (and dangerously) high bar for something like climate change. Put another way: if you told a mother that her child had a 10% chance of coming down with cancer if he used a certain brand of fingerpaints, there's no way that product would ever be brought into the home. And yet climate change deniers use the fact that scientists are only, maybe, 90% certain that we're heading for a catastrophe as reason enough to discount the science and go on about their business. It's an insane inversion of logic, but no more startling than the "fear of driving vs fear of flying" result that we've all witnessed.

It's a curious failure of our species that seems to be poised to do us a whole lot of harm in the not-too-distant future.

A Few More Jonesy Shots For Tammy Since She Asked

I love the look on his face in this one, after he got just a little too close to Cooper for his comfort level at that point (they're better friends now):

Unlike Lucy, Jonesy loooves plastic bags... the crinklier they are, the better:

And finally, the thing to remember about Jonesy is that he can fall asleep anywhere, anytime:

As Short-Sighted Species Go, We're First Rate

As this Economist article highlights, the situation in the Arctic is just one more example of how we, as humans, are so incredibly good at the practice of "short term gain for long term pain."

Say Goodbye To The SR&ED Tax Credit, Canadian Innovators

As someone who actually contributed (in a small way) to the filing of my employers' annual Scientific Research & Experimental Design tax credit application back when I was a full-time manager, this government move to do away with that credit and replace it with a grant system is sad news, indeed. As the article writer points out, that change will drastically alter how the money gets doled out, and significantly weaken the good it can do.

I can't help but wonder how much they talked to the actual innovators before implementing this change.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

What Global Warming Feels Like

You're soaking in it! (as they used to say in the Palmolive dishwashing liquid commercials)

History In The Making?

If you want to feel stupid (but in a good way), check out this live blog of the Higgs update seminars from CERN. That's the press conference on the possible detection of the so-called God particle within the Large Hadron Collider, the existence of which may ultimately help us understand the true nature of our universe (with no actual God or gods involved).

The physics being discussed there is so far over my head that it's hard to believe I have a Bachelor of Science degree to my name! Fortunately, there are lots of dumbed down articles about this massive (or massless) discovery, as well, such as this one.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Nice Little Write-Up On Corin Raymond

Corin's better known around here as "the Bookworm guy", from last year's Hamilton Fringe and this year's London Fringe.