Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I Love About Writing

Actually, I love lots of things about writing, but here's one in particular that I always comment to Vicki about when it happens (and now the poor woman has to read about it here, too):

I get a huge thrill when, as I'm thinking about some aspect of the current novel, I suddenly realize there's a perfect bridge between two disparate parts of the story.  It always hits me as such a revelation that I wonder if maybe, somehow, I'd always subconsciously planned for it to come together like that.  And then I recognize that that's bullshit and I just got lucky!

Had one of those tonight for novel # 3, and it's a beauty.  But if you ask me later, I'll always claim I planned it this way!

Halloween 2012 Comes And Ghosts

Vicki and I got in the Halloween mood tonight by watching the season premiere of The Walking Dead (recorded a couple weeks ago, but we're behind in our show-watching thanks to the baseball playoffs).  I think it was an excellent choice, as Vicki was visibly disgusted by one scene near the end.

As far as trick-or-treaters go, I had predicted 11 and Vicki had gone with 16.  She won, by a hair, because we got 14.  That's down a bit, but close to the usual fare:

2012: 14
2011: 15
2010: 18
2009: 19
2008: 19
2007: 18
2006: 12

Looking at those results, you might wonder why I went so low with my estimate this year (lower than we've gotten over the past 6 years).  Well, I figured the rain we were getting would keep the kids away.  And in fact, we only got 4 groups this year (2, 2, 8, 2), which I imagine is the smallest turnout in that sense.  But that one gaggle of 8 kids put us over, and so I came in low.

You Know I'm Sick When...

Today I had to reschedule my semi-annual Agile lecture at the university.  It was supposed to go tomorrow, but my sore throat of the past two weeks has morphed into a chest cold + coughing if I talk much.  So now I'm slotted in for next Thursday at my alma mater, and hopefully all will be well by then... especially since we leave for Vegas not long after that!

Right now, though, I continue to feel like crap.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New York City Under Water: A Glimpse Of Our Future

Scenes like this are going to become more and more common, as we continue to heat up the planet with all of our self-indulgent excesses.  So get used to it, people.

Chapter 3 Complete

So far, so good.  I worked away on the new book for the past 4 days (counting today), and Chapter 3 is now done.  It came together fairly quickly, no doubt because I'd been thinking about the story for those 2 months when I wasn't writing.

I'm hoping for similar success on the next chapter, which I intend to start and finish over the next week and a half.  And once I get that far, the book will be about 1/4 of the way complete.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tigers Go Out With A Whimper

They managed to make a game of it tonight, but after having been outscored 12-3 over the first 3 games (and shut out in 2 of them), the writing was on the wall.  Game 4 went to an extra inning, as the Tigers finally produced a bit of offense, but the Giants were just too much for them, by a score of 4-3.  Prince Fielder disappeared at the plate in this series, continuing to challenge Alex Rodriquez for the title of "most overpaid player in the postseason."

Last time Detroit appeared in the World Series, they at least managed one win against St. Louis.  This year it was a clean sweep by San Francisco.  Oh well, at least the boys from Motown got that far, which is better than 28 other teams.

Joss Whedon For Romney

By far the most shocking of 2012's political endorsements:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

10 Days Until History Is Made

The 2012 elections in the States happen in a week and a half, and there's obviously a lot riding on them, as usual. To appreciate how important these things can be, just imagine if Al Gore had been the president, starting in January of 2001. Assuming September 11th had transpired the same way, it's doubtful that President Gore would've used that event to justify an attack on Iraq, as they had nothing to do with that terrorist attack. Nor is it likely that the guy who believed in creating a figurative 'lockbox' for his country's Social Security and Medicare programs would've presided over the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  He certainly wouldn't have cut taxes for the wealthy in his first term, as Bush did, creating the perfect environment for a recession to develop in.

As for this year's election, the country stands to lose its first, admittedly timid foray into universal health care if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win.  They both believe emergency room care is just fine for those who can't afford anything better, and it's that brand of 'compassionate conservatism' that voters will bring about if they elect those two.

Among the other races to be decided on Nov 6th, the one that I'm most interested in - by far - involves Elizabeth Warren's run for Senate in Massachusetts.  Yes, that Elizabeth Warren.  Fortunately, Nate Silver, over at FiveThirtyEight, puts Ms. Warren's chances of winning at 92%!  I firmly believe Senator Warren could have a huge, positive impact on the Senate, if she gets there.

On The Surface Of An Alternate World

Great article on the Microsoft Surface, written by someone who's obviously (and self-admittedly) an Apple devotee.

My favourite line in the article, describing his interaction with one of the store salesmen:

"It was like arguing with a Tea Partier."

He does a great job conveying the alternate universe aspect of the Microsoft attitude, and so comparing it to the delusional Tea Party fits perfectly.

I'm closer to buying a tablet PC at the moment than I've ever been, and reading this article certainly didn't give me any reason to consider the Surface as an option.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Back On That Horse Again

After an unplanned 2-month hiatus from it, I finally got back to working on the 3rd novel yesterday.  I have no good excuse for why so much time passed with no progress, but I've committed to getting 2 new chapters done before Vicki and I head out on vacation in a couple of weeks.  That'll bring the total to 4 chapters, which would be a nice chunk of the book.

One positive sign was that it took me no time at all to get back into the swing of things once I decided to do it, no doubt helped by the fact that I've continued to plot out aspects of the story while I was busy not writing it.  I know the broad strokes of what happens in these latest 2 chapters, and just have to do the actual work to get them down on the page.  I definitely seem to need deadlines, though.  On the previous novels, I always had Julie nagging me for new chapters, and I guess I miss that this time around.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fewer Horses And Bayonets

I was mostly watching Game 7 of the Cards-Giants game last night - which ended up being a blowout, and hence one of the least exciting Game 7s ever - but between innings I was checking out the third and final Obama-Romney debate.

I'd have to say that Obama was both the 'card' and the 'giant' in that one, based on some of the commentary I've read this morning.  One exchange I did get to see was Obama's response to Romney's tired routine about how the current administration is planning 'devastating' cuts to the military, citing the decrease in the number of ships, for example, that exist today compared to 100 years ago.  The President had the perfect comeback to that:

"We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them.  We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines..."

That, Mr Romney, is what's known as 'being schooled.'  Following which, Mr. Obama says, "You're welcome.  And don't forget to do your homework next time!" 

None of which is likely to stop Romney from trotting that same meaningless statistic out some more over the next two weeks... but it really ought to.

Marvel Really Knows How To Make Movies

I especially love the reference to New York at the beginning!

I can only dream of what the DC Universe-on-film, beyond Nolan's Batman, would look like if it were handled this well..

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tigers Going To World Series, Among Other Things

I wouldn't have believed it possible about two months ago, but the Detroit Tigers just swept the Yankees in the ALCS, sending them on to the championship series next week.  Who they'll face there is still up in the air: St. Louis leads San Francisco 2 games to 1, and are up 2-1 in the 4th inning of Game 4.

In other baseball news: there was a casual mention during one of the playoff games this month that "... of course, Houston will be moving to the American League next season."  That would be the Houston Astros, for those who don't follow baseball.  Now, just as Milwaukee moving from the American League to the National League in 1995 felt "wrong" to me for years afterward, I'd expect  this transfer to make me go, "Huh?" whenever I'd see the Jays playing them so much next season. 

Or maybe it won't.  Because the deeper implication here is that this will both balance the two leagues relative to each other - each will have 15 teams, where there'd previously been 16 in the NL and 14 in the AL - and 'unbalance' them internally by going to an odd number of teams.  The significance of this latter change stems from the fact that baseball teams play most days, with usually 1 or 2 off days per week.  For that to happen with an odd number of teams in each league, there are going to have to be a lot more interleague games, starting next year.  In fact, most days will feature at least one interleague match, since 15 teams obviously can't all be active if they can only play each other.  This means interleague play will become much more common, making the interleague matchup of the World Series less special, in a sense.  So that should be a bit odd.

Having said that, I'm kind of looking forward to the new 15-team league setup.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I'd Estimate That Went Pretty Well

Today's workshop on Relative Estimation, a topic I haven't covered in about 5 years, was actually a lot of fun. How do I know that? Well, I didn't get much sleep last night, thanks to a very scratchy throat over the past few days, and yet I still enjoyed the session immensely.

I could tell that the attendees started off a little unimpressed about having to spend a day in training, and visibly unconvinced about the snake oil I was apparently there to sell them on. They weren't rude about it, but the vibe in the room was pretty easy to read.

By the end of the day, though, most if not all of them were enthusiastic practioners of relative estimation, and excited to tell me how much they were looking forward to using their new skill. The results from my feedback form would seem to bear that out, as well:

Effectiveness of the presentation portion: 8.8 out of 10
Effectiveness of the hands-on activities: 9.6 out of 10
Overall effectiveness as an intro to the topic: 9.2 out of 10

Wow. Those may be the best results I've ever gotten. I'm quite sure the 9.6 (9.6!!) is the single best score I've received on the hands-on portion of any workshop I've led. I hope I get more opportunities to do this particular material, as it's clearly a big winner.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Little Nemo In Google-Land

You really should visit Google today if you want a treat from the early days of comic books.

Off To Talk About Estimation Tomorrow

In what I consider to be a criminally perverse case of insane scheduling, I'm actually working tomorrow, just two business days after my last workday!  I know, right??

Actually, it's a good thing, as I'm finally going to get to talk about Relative Estimation.  When I do my Agile 101 workshop, it doesn't seem to matter who the audience is, they always want to drill way down into this topic when it comes up.  I have a grand total of 2 slides on it in the Agile 101 material but could easily spend a couple hours talking about it if I didn't put my foot down and insist that we move on.  I get so many questions, and receive so much skepticism about how it could ever possibly work, that I always end up saying, "You really ought to bring me back to do the full-day Estimation workshop if you're that interested, as that's the only way to do it justice."

And now I'll be doing exactly that.  Here's hoping I've still got the magic touch when it comes to Story Points and the rest of it...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Baseball Delivers In Division Series

For the first time since the League Division Series was introduced in 1995, all four best-of-five match-ups went the distance this year.  Despite the Reds winning the first two in San Francisco, they couldn't get a single win at home and lost in five.  And the Tigers needed three games in Oakland to pick up the single win they needed after starting 2-0 at home in their series.  The other two series started off with splits and then went all the way before St. Louis and the Yankees advanced to their respective League Championship Series.

I managed to see most of every one of those 20 games, and while a few were blowouts, even those sometimes held surprises (Washington blew a 6-0 lead in Game 5 to lose 9-7 to the Cards, for example).  Most were exciting from start to finish, and for that I say: thank you, MLB!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Busy Again

I'm into another busy spell right now, as I've got an Agile 101 session to do this Friday, and am also preparing to do my first-in-years Relative Estimation workshop next week.  The last time I did one of those was in California, back in 2007 (I think), when I was still a full-time employee.  I've wanted to revive this particular material for a while now, and finally I'm getting the chance.  If it goes well, I may even try to promote it around among my other clients.  I know that back in the day, this was a very popular workshop, prompting one of the managers in the California office to say that it was the best training his people had ever had.  That's the kind of feedback you don't get very often.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Another Anniversary Missed

Just like I did last year, I completely forgot to 'celebrate' the anniverary of this blog when it came around on October 1st.  Bad Matt!

Kimota94's Place is now 6 years old, and possibly starting to show its age.  My posting is at an all-time low, indicating a certain lack of engagement with the blog, I suppose.  Having Facebook and Twitter competing for my time hasn't helped, and I just find that there isn't as much going on in my life that I want to post about these days.  It's possible that I'll get back into it more once the current book gets back on track, though.  But I do apologize to those out there who wish there was more to read hereabouts.

Still.... 6 years of blogging must be some sort of achievement, right?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

My Year Without Christmas Gifts

As I mentioned earlier today on Facebook, I've made the heretical decision to forego the giving and receiving of Christmas gifts this year (after clearing it with Vicki, of course).  I always find the pressure of figuring out what to buy, as well as providing clues as to what I'd like, at best exhausting, and at worst, stressful.  Since this Christmas season will fall squarely between trips to Vegas in November and Australia/Hawaii in the January-February timeframe, I've been trying to figure out ways to reduce my stress level over that stretch.  This seems like a good solution, and plays into my anti-consumerism tendencies of late, as well.  It's one thing when you have children in the house and are buying them presents, but Christmas gifts between grownups just feels ridiculous sometimes.

So we'll see how this particular experiement goes, and what it tells us for future years.