Monday, December 31, 2012

I Love The Girl...

We just finished watching the original (Swedish) version of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which is the 3rd in the trilogy that started with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and continued with The Girl Who Played With Fire.  I loved all three of them, although the first is still my favourite, thanks to the mystery angle that's such a big part of it.  I also greatly enjoyed seeing Prometheus's Noomi Rapace in all three films, as I think she's a wonderful, unconventional actress.  I'll watch the American versions, I'm sure, but I suspect it's going to be hard to match the gritty realism of the originals and the fine, low-key quality of the acting.  Highly recommended to anyone willing to read sub-titles in pursuit of being thoroughly entertained.

Another Year Ends, 2012 Edition

In just a few hours (in this part of the world, anyway), 2012 will become history instead of an exciting glimpse into our possible future, as it was when I was a kid.  Canadians will remember it as a year that had no NHL hockey to watch after early June, or possibly as the year the Blue Jays got serious about making the postseason again.

For me, personally, 2012 was a good year.  I finished and published my 2nd novel, and got about halfway through my 3rd.  Just for good measure, when Julie was over last night, she and I spent an hour or so somewhere between midnight and 3:00 a.m. discussing a new story idea I've had recently, and in the process plotted out a fairly significant portion of a 4th novel.  She liked it so much that she said, "I know you're going to hate what I'm about to say, but I almost wish you'd start writing this one instead of finishing that one!"  I didn't actually hate that comment, but I also have no plans of abandoning the current work.  Instead, I'm excited at the thought of having another story already in-hand, something that wasn't true after either Game Over or No Brother of Mine.  It's a very nice position to be in, indeed.

Vicki and I had a great year together, traveling to Orlando with one set of family members and to Las Vegas with another.  And of course in just a few weeks, we'll be "on the road" again, off to see Tammy and her boyfriend Ryan in Australia.  That's a lot of travel for me in a 9- or 10-month stretch, but I'll probably survive it somehow.  And the time with family has been greatly appreciated.

We added Jonesy to our family in 2012, and I can't adequately express how much joy he's brought to my life.  As Vicki would say, he's so my cat!  He spends as much time as he can manage on my lap, and is rarely very far from me the rest of the time.  I find it hard to believe that we've only had him 6 and a half months, as it now feels like he's always been here.

2012 was also all about welcoming great-niece Emma into our home, as she started her university career with us.  We haven't seen her in a couple of weeks now, but she'll be back in 6 short days, and we can hardly wait.  Jonesy's especially counting the hours until he can resume his campaign of terror against her, which we all know is really a budding romance between the two of them.

Anyway, it's almost time for Vicki and I to settle in to watch a movie or two and ring out the old year in our typical fashion.  I hope everyone reading this has a lovely evening and a thoroughly satisfying 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Counting Down To 100: 6 To Go

Thanks to a Kindle purchase of No Brother of Mine almost 2 weeks ago and today's sale of a paper copy to a neighbour, we're run the NBoM tally up to 94 copies!  I'm still cautiously optimistic that we'll hit 100 before we leave on our Australian trip late next month, but it's definitely going to be a challenge.  I delivered 35 flyers within another part of our neighbourhood yesterday morning, although today's sale came from a batch Vicki and I had distributed more than a week earlier.  In other words, I'm trying!  Just half a dozen more sales to go for this big milestone achievement.

Speaking of No Brother of Mine, a few days I received the following comments from an Ottawa-based relative of mine:

"Loved your book - though I spent the first few chapters trying, in vain, to find tight parallels with real family history. Once I started treating it as just a good story, it got better and better!"

The Amazing, Secret Legacy Of TV's Quincy & Oscar Madison

Actor Jack Klugman, best known (depending on your age) as either Oscar Madison on the TV version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple or Dr. Quincy on the Quincy, M.E. (Medical Examiner) show, died recently at the ripe old age of 90.  He had a fine acting career over several decades of his life, but as The Washington Post reported recently, his contribution to the advancement of medical science was much more significant.  When I saw the WaPo headline, I assumed that Quincy, M.E. had sparked an earlier version of the CSI-phenomenon, increasing the general public's interest in the field of forensics.  But no, this was even bigger than that.  Go read and you'll see what I mean!

I'd never heard this particular story before, although I probably watched the Quincy, M.E. episodes in question and was just too young to be aware of the larger context surrounding them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On Robots And Robber Barons

Here's a a great op-ed piece on what's happening to the wages of the various work forces these days, by Paul Krugman. For those friends of mine in the high tech industry, you may find it particularly interesting, since it sounds like our wages are being suppressed just as effectively as those of so-called blue-collar workers who didn't spend all that time in university earning fancy degrees.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Christmas Without Gifts? Just Lovely!

Vicki and I had a great Christmas today, giftless as it was (by my choice).  We watched a Bond movie (Tomorrow Never Dies) because Showcase was running a Pierce Brosnan-as-007 marathon, went for a walk after dark to see the neighbourhood lights, and are about to try out the new Ratchet & Clank game that we've been saving for today.  I don't think we missed the gift exchange at all, and I know I didn't miss the stress related to buying all that stuff leading up to today.  Julie did break the embargo slightly, however, as she dropped by this afternoon to deliver some sweet treats and a personalized tree ornament that sums up the highlights of 2012 such as "Fun in Vegas", "Roadtrip to Florida", "Walks with Cooper", "Emma", "Missing Tammy" and "No Brother of Mine" very nicely.  She's pretty clever at thinking up novel and personalized presents, even if she's not all that good at playing by the rules!

Anyway, I think next year we'll go back to normal, especially if Tammy's back and comes for a Christmas visit.  Skipping a year will just make us appreciate that event all the more, I suspect.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Good Year For Football Playoffs

How do I know, when the playoffs are still 2 weeks away from even starting?

That's easy... today the Bengals beat the Steelers on a last second field goal and eliminated Pittsburgh from any chance at making the postseason! 

The 6 AFC teams are now set: New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, Indy and Denver.  The NFC is a lot less settled, with only 3 of the 6 entrants decided (Green Bay, Atlanta and San Fran).  I can't believe the Saints didn't do better this season and will be sitting out the playoffs, but I guess that's the thing with there being only 16 games to play: anything can happen.

I'm already pumped for the 11 matches that will decide this year's champions.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Breaking News: World Doesn't End!

It's already December 22nd in parts of the world - including where Tammy is - and civilization continues to exist, unfazed by the so-called 'Mayan catastrophe.'  People will go on killing each other, both quickly with guns and slowly with greenhouse gases, and we'll eventually probably go extinct.  But not this week, at least.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Car Horn For Bicycles

I've railed before about the way some car owners abuse their vehicle's horn by pressing their door lock button repeatedly until the horn honks... because, you know, that's easier than just pressing it once and not bothering everyone around you!

Well, maybe I'll soon be able to get a car horn for my bike that will allow me to use that device for the sole purpose it was intended - to prevent accidents and near-misses from happening!  And if I do put one on my bicycle, I promise not to use it to say "Bye" to people standing on their front porch waving at me as I'm leaving or to assure myself that I've locked up my bike as I walk away from it.  Because I actually try to avoid bothering other people.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

End Of An Era

After spending something like 10 hours today trying to get my Java database applications (Comic Catalogue and Meal Planner) working on my recently-wiped laptop, I think I'm giving up.  I remember it being a huge hassle setting up when I got this laptop last year but this tops even that experience.  It's always challenging, as Windows 7 functions differently than Vista, which was different than XP, and so on back through Time.  Today, however, I ran into brand new problems that I suspect are related to changes to MySQL since I last downloaded it.  First, it required that .NET 4.0 be installed on my machine, which I almost couldn't believe when I saw the error message.  After biting the bullet on that, Windows Live Connection started failing on my laptop, affecting both my Windows Live Mail app and my access to Live Messenger.  While I was dealing with that, I noticed that my Comic D/B app was exhibiting problems such as none of the comic titles having any issues in them!  When I looked into it, I saw that there seems to be a difference in how this version of MySQL handles numeric data from past releases.  At that point I realized I'd have to go into the code and change a whole lot of queries to get them to work... and the life just went out of this project for me.

I've had my comic collection catalogued - first on paper, then on a D/B - since I was about 10 or 11 years old.  As of today, it looks like I'm ending that practice.  Every time I get a new laptop or have one break and need to be re-imaged, the thing I dread most is having to get the Java D/B apps to run again.  I've made notes on it each time, but they're always woefully out of date by the time I use them again thanks to so many environmental changes in the software that I rely on.  So I'm just not going to play that game anymore.  I figure this is probably a major step in me abandoning Windows entirely, and moving to either a Mac or iPad.  Microsoft simply makes their world too complicated to live in, and so I don't think I will, for much longer.

Of course, this means I'll no longer be able to tell you exactly how many comics I own, but I think I can live with that more easily than the alternative.  And Vicki had stopped using the Meal Planner several months ago, so that's not a huge loss.  Still... it makes me a little sad, and feel a little old.

Counting Down To 100: 8 To Go

With another neighbour purchasing a copy of No Brother of Mine this morning after receiving my flyer, the total number of sales on that book has now hit 92.  We're so close to 100 at this point that I figure it's time for a countdown.  I'd love to reach the century mark before the end of the year, but that's probably a stretch.  Instead, I'm setting myself the goal of getting there before we leave for our Australia trip in late January.  Even that's asking a lot, but hey, if you don't aim high, you'll never know what you could've accomplished!

Of course, if you're still looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or family member, you could solve that problem of yours with a mere $20 and an e-mail to me!  I keep getting great feedback from everyone who's read No Brother of Mine, to the point where people are starting to ask what other books I've written because they want more of me to read... which definitely speaks volumes, if you ask me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Few Small Updates

1) My heel is, uh, healing quite nicely!  It's all scabbed over and generally doesn't hurt unless I try to do too much in a shoe without a bandage over the affected area.  I expect it'll be 100% in another week-ish.  I may try a walk with Julie before then, her schedule permitting, but it won't be of the superlong variety like the one on which the injury happened.

2) My cough hasn't entirely gone away, but it's much, much, much better than it was during our trip to Vegas.  I did both yoga classes this week as well as cycling class, and none of those had been possible over the preceding month.  I'd sure like to see a full return to health soon, but for now: I'll take this!

3) The broken laptop was only gone for part of 5 days (Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon and back on Tue), which seems more than reasonable to me.  They had to replace the hard drive and various other parts related to heat-control, and so I've had to restore all personal files from backups (which, thankfully, were being done daily) and reinstall all of the software for Office, our camera, Java, etc.  That's still continuing, although I've been up and operating quite well since sometime this afternoon.

4) I'm now working on Chapter 6 of the new novel, and it's going swimmingly so far.  I'm about 5 or 6 pages in and enjoying it immensely.  Chapters 5 and 6 are really fun, and I imagine some of you will quite like them when you get a chance to read them next spring.

5) Tomorrow is Tammy's 26th birthday, although technically it's already past her birthday as far as she's concerned, since Melbourne is something like 16 hours ahead of us.  It's hard to take in that she's that old, but I guess the calendar doesn't lie. 

6) Emma leaves on Sunday for 3 weeks at her other home, and we don't plan to miss her at all.  So there.

7) There is no 7th item.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy 12-12-12!

Today (as of a few minutes ago) marks the last time most of us will ever see a date where the 2-digit day, month and year are all the same.  We've had a dozen of them over the past 12 years, starting with 01-01-01 in 2001 and ending now.  So live it up, and if you were born on Dec 12, 2000 that means that you're turning 12 today, on 12-12-12... so you get to celebrate extra hard this year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hunkered Down In Basement

No, the supposed Mayan apocalypse hasn't come a week and a half early (by the way: there's no such thing)... I've just had a laptop give up the ghost on me (again) and have to rely on my basement PC for my access.  This meltdown is covered under an extended warranty, though, which means I just have to wait for it to be fixed, shipped back to me, and then reload all of the software that I'm sure will be missing after they wipe my hard drive.  I've got a much better automated backup system in place now, between my laptop and Vicki's, than I had for the last laptoptastrophe, and so I don't think I'll have lost much, if any, data this time around.

Anyway, expect even lower than usual blogging output for the next week or so.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

My Latest Affliction

Yesterday, I let Julie lead me on the longest walk I've done since I've been sick. I asked her to walk a little more slowly than we usually do, and she did; I asked for a few rests along the way, and she graciously complied. The whole time, I was worried that I'd overdo it and start coughing or just plain pass out, but neither happened.

Instead, as we were on the final leg of our journey, I noticed that my right heel was sore. It kept getting worse, and for the last half km or so, it was all I could do to limp back to Julie's house. When we got inside, I took off my sock and saw that something in my right boot had caused a blister on the heel, covering an area larger than a toonie! The skin came completely off as soon as I touched it, leaving the skin raw and exposed. (There's a small piece of material missing from the inside heel of the boot, apparently, which is what caused the irritation. Time for a new pair of boots, I guess!)

Here's what we're talking about:

When I got home, Drs Vicki & Emma put ointment and a bandage over the affected area and after a few hours it stopped hurting.  It was tough to find a position to sleep in that didn't sting, but I must've eventually.

This morning I thought I'd go to yoga class, only to discover that putting a shoe on, even over the bandage and a sock, caused so much pain that I couldn't take more than a few steps before it was too much for me. Looks like I've traded in one ailment for another, which impresses me not at all. I've now missed more than 3 weeks of yoga and cycling classes, and am getting fed up... and very out-of-shape!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Public Shaming Works

About an hour ago, I finished Chapter 5 of the new novel.  I'd started it before Vegas, worked on it quite a lot yesterday, and so it only required another couple of hours today to wrap it up.

It was an interesting chapter for me, because I thought I knew where it was going before I began writing it, and then it went somewhere else entirely.  I'm still trying to decide if I'm 100% happy with the new direction, but for now it's good.

One other thing distinguishes this part of the book from the rest, and that's the fact that I decided to build a subtle little trick into it that I'm fairly confident no one will ever spot and appreciate.  I'll eventually have to tell someone, I suppose, just to get a reaction for it.

Anyway, 5 chapters are in the bag now, and I expect there are about twice that many still to go.