Thursday, May 30, 2013

So Long, Torts!

Another one bites the dust in New York!  Tortorella had a respectable regular season record with the Rangers but a lousy postseason mark.  I guess we'll just have to wait to see how the next guy does, as always.  The Blueshirts have looked better on paper than they have on the ice for most of the last few seasons, so that's either an indicator that the coach couldn't get much out of them or that they just don't play well with each other.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Going To The Fringe Festival This Year? If Not, Why Not?

As noted on this blog previously, Vicki and I have become big fans of the whole Fringe Festival phenomenon.  We tried it for the first time 3 years ago, thanks to our friend Susan, taking in just 2 plays to see what it was like.  The next year, we went to about a dozen or so shows (again with Susan), and enjoyed it so much that we followed that up a month later by traveling to Hamilton to spend several days taking in their Fringe Fest!  Last year we went to another raft of shows here in town, and even got Julie out for one evening (that she said went well).

This year, I'm taking it to yet another new level.  Since Susan is now professionally involved with the festival, I've been volunteering a little and will even be acting as an usher (or some such thing) for several of the performances.  So I'd really implore anyone reading this to give the event a try this year, as a show of support for the many talented performers who will be appearing there.

For those who don't know, the festival runs from Thursday, June 6th through Sunday, June 16th this year.  There are over 40 shows being presented across about 10 venues in the downtown area.  You can view the newly-posted master schedule on the main site, and I encourage you to do so.  Shows generally last about an hour, and cost about $10 per person.  In other words: short and sweet!  As I always say in regards to Fringe, if you try one out and it doesn't rock your world, you'll probably love the next one!  It can be hard to tell, from the brief descriptions in the master schedule, just what you're in for, but that's also part of the fun of Fringe. 

If you have any questions about Fringe Fest, or just want someone to take a show in with, give me a shout.  In case you haven't figure it out yet: I love Fringe Fest!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fan Fic Goes 'Big Time'... Or Does It?

The news today about Kindle Worlds, where writers of fan fiction will be allowed to legitimately create new stories for properties such as The Vampire Diaries, is interesting on a whole bunch of levels.

Here's one take on it, which I definitely found to be worth a read.  I've been thinking a lot lately about the prospects of trying to get published (rather than self-publishing), especially in light of how well received last year's book (No Brother of Mine) continues to be.  What I always come up against, as I worry the idea around in the admittedly-limited confines of my own brain, is a fear that I'll end up having to give up some degree of control and/or ownership, if I were to go that route (assuming anyone was even interested in publishing me, that is).  I love the fact that, as of right now, every character and story element I've created, between Game Over, No Brother of Mine and Old Wounds, as well as the very exciting 4th novel whose 1st chapter I finished this morning (!), are 100% mine mine mine.  I can do whatever I like with them, and nobody has a say in the matter except me.  That's one of the key enticements that writing holds for me, among many other benefits.

Just as the article writer (above) mentions, I wouldn't want to waste my creative juices on work-for-hire terms, either.  But I'm not producing fan fic now, so I suppose my feelings on the subject don't really matter, anyway.

Monday, May 20, 2013

When Insider Jargon Enters The Mainstream

I have to admit that I still get a bit of a thrill when some hitherto obscure comic book fact - say, the origin of Captain America's strength stemming from the World War II 'Super Soldier' project - becomes common knowledge (thanks to a popular movie, in that example).

Here's a similar but different sort of example, coming from economist and Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman:

"I very much agree with Avent and Smith that Cowen, who worries that such a policy would largely lead to inflation in Germany rather than a boom in Portugal, is completely missing the point; that’s a feature, not a bug."

See what he did at the end there?  He used an expression that's been prevalent in our software industry for decades, and which has apparently now become recognizable and accessible to the general public: it's not a bug, it's a feature!

I love that sort of thing.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

No Brother Of Mine Continues To Win Hearts And Minds

In the last few days, I've received a pair of unsolicited (and unexpected) responses to No Brother of Mine.  One came from a person who's had the book for months but only just recently began reading it, while the other was from someone who'd borrowed my brother's copy to read.  Both gushed about how much they'd enjoyed it, with some of the feedback really jumping out at me:

"IT HAS MY ATTENTION AND TRULY LOVING IT" (followed by a heart symbol)

"I love a good book and this one is!"

"WHOA!!! HOLY SHIT!!!! WOW!!!!"

"Highly creative and a damn good mystery!!!!"

"Simply, I thought ‘No Brother Of Mine’ was a great read!!!!!"

As you can see, there was no shortage of upper case letters or exclamations marks... both of which I take as being indicative of a great reading experience.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Making Money Off Old Wounds

As of an ePub sale that happened this morning, my 3rd novel has now turned a profit!  It's always a nice feeling when I get to that point, as it means that that particular writing project will remain in the black from now on.  The only book of mine that hasn't done that is No Kid of Ours is Failing at Math, and that's only because I over-ordered on the initial print run, assuming that it would be more popular than the pre-orders had indicated (it hasn't been, so far).  Both AgileMan books and all three novels have now made money for Vicki and I, and I thank all of my readers and supporters out there for that happy fact!

Speaking of sales, there was another milestone passed this morning as No Brother of Mine became my top selling book, surpassing the first AgileMan volume.  Both of them have 'moved' well over 100 copies now, which I know isn't much compared to non-self-published projects, but I'll still take it.

Now I just need to get started on novel # 4, which I keep procrastinating on.  Bad Matt!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Few Notes On Old Wounds

I've now heard from two people who've finished Old Wounds.  Both seemed to really like it, with one of them telling me that she thought it was perhaps my best novel yet.  That's extremely gratifying to hear!

As anyone who's even read the cover blurb for the book knows, the main character is asked to write the eulogy for his great-uncle after the old man dies in his sleep.  As I working my way through the book, I wasn't 100% sure whether I would actually include the eulogy in the story.  In other words, I knew the narrator would end up creating the eulogy, but I didn't know if I wanted or needed to provide it to the reader.  The further I got in, though, the more convinced I became that it could serve a powerful purpose if I wrote it well enough and presented it at the right point.  (Funny story: the first draft had it in the Epilogue, and Vicki asked why I'd put it there instead of at the end of Chapter 13, which was already entitled 'Famous Last Words' at that point.  In trying to answer her question, I immediately realized that she was completely right and I'd simply been stupid in my original placement of it.  Thank goodness for wise and insightful spouses!)

Anyway, as soon as I decided to include the eulogy itself, I realized that I had no idea how to write one!  I've only been to a handful of funerals in my life so far (fortunately), and I'm usually too overcome with emotion at them to pay much attention to what's being said about the deceased.  I considered researching famous eulogies - JFK's, or Einstein's, or whatever - but instead just sat down and started writing.  It took me about two hours, but by the end of that time I had something very close to the final version of Uncle Howard's send-off by his great-nephew Michael.  I haven't had any specific feedback on that portion of the book yet, but I personally thought it came together quite well.  I'd definitely like to hear what readers out there think, once they've gotten that far.

The New Setup

A beautiful sight!  Everything looks better on plasma, I guess.

At The Intersection Of (My Favourite) Comics And Music

Love this little story about Mark Buckingham, artist on the final issues of Miracleman (among other comic work), who it turns out was intimately involved in the creation of Peter Gabriel's famous "Sledgehammer" video, back in the 80s.  You can't get much closer to hitting all of my fandom buttons at once than that!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Entering The Plasma Age

After 10 or 11 years of reliable service, our big, boxy Toshiba 50-inch finally started giving up the ghost over the past several days.  We'd get an all-white screen when first powering it on, and then it would eventually reset back to normal.  Since we'd been talking about getting a new TV for a couple years now, I finally decided it was time to start looking into what was out there over this past weekend.

This afternoon we bought a 50-inch Panasonic 'smart' plasma TV (model TCP50S60, for the record), along with a "some assembly required" stand, since we were no longer going to have a mammoth crate of a television to store our various components on top of.  We spent a lot of time putting the stand together, although Vicki was her usual, organized self and it actually went fairly smoothly.   Once that was done, it was all on me to disconnect our jungle of existing equipment and reassemble it on the new piece of furniture.  I took my time and actually tied off all of the cables for once so that it wouldn't be quite such a mess back there.  I'd picked up a couple of HDMI cables along with the TV and stand (and surge protector), and I have to say that things are looking pretty sweet right now!  I have the Rogers Next Box and PS3 both going into the TV via HDMI, and that upgrade along with the plasma itself have made an eye-popping difference.  I played a little bit of the Fuse demo and couldn't believe how much better everything looked.  Money well spent, I think.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

This Morning's Surprise

I got up to feed the cats around 8:00 a.m., glanced out the window into the backyard and saw two of the deck chairs, the (very heavy) metal table and the table's umbrella, all resting at the bottom of the pool!  Apparently we got hit by something last night.  Around 11:00, Vicki and I heard the wind pick up suddenly outside, but didn't think anything of it.  That's probably when everything was sent swimming, since we didn't notice anything else after that.

And of course the 'salvage operation' this morning was done while it was 3 degree Celsius out there, with a wind chill making it feel sub-zero.  Ah yes, winter in mid-May...

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Introducing My New Canadian Wife!

How about extending a big, friendly "Welcome!" to Canada's newest citizen, Victoria Anne Holmes!

That's right, Vicki became a Canadian citizen this morning, after living here for nearly 40 years as a landed immigrant.  I couldn't be prouder to finally be able to boast a Canadian wife, after having to explain for the past 22 years that I'd somehow accidentally married an American girl.  In the photo below, she's signing an oath of citizenship to make it official.

Vicki now has dual citizenship, at least for the moment. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Fuse Demo Is Kind Of Crazy!

Later this month, Insomniac Games launches a new property called Fuse.  This is the company responsible for the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance franchises, two absolute favourites within this particular household.  Therefore anything new out of Insomniac gets a serious look from me, just on spec.

They released a demo of Fuse yesterday, on the 360 and PS3.  It's huge, and took a long time to download, but once I had it, I immediately gave it a try.  It starts off fairly conventionally, with you moving your character up a cliff wall and learning the controls as you go.  Then you have to break into a facility guarded by tons of armed AI's, which again was nothing too unusual.  Except that... Well, it's a coop-based game, so you're on a squad of four, where the other three can be AI-controlled, operated by other players (locally or remote), or you can take turns 'being' each of the four by 'jumping' between them.  (I alternated between the first and third scenarios last night.)  Each character has different weapons and skills, which means that the experience changes quite a bit as you switch between them.  I thought that was pretty cool, actually.

Being squad-based, there's a lot of teammate-reviving involved, which reminds me of the Medic role from Resistance 2 and others.  The controls, in general, were very easy to learn and basically followed the now-standard Call of Duty model.

A little later in the demo, you encounter a bunch of 'boss' types: enemies in big armour units who require a lot of work to kill.  There are several of them coming at you and your squad all at once, and I think my experience during that portion of the demo was best summed up by Vicki, as soon as it was over: "I don't think you were breathing during that part!"  Now, technically, I must've been breathing, as it lasted several minutes.  But it was pretty damn crazy, I'll tell you.  I quit after that part, even though the demo goes on even further.  I figure I need to try the demo again, with at least one other live player (hopefully Boneman) in the game with me, just to see what that's like. 

Fuse could very easily end up being my next video game purchase, sometime toward the end of May.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Pool Season 2013 Begins

Vicki and I took the cover off the pool in the middle of last week, hoping to avoid last year's experience of finding bright green Jell-O coloured water beneath it.  Our theory was that waiting later into May, as we did in 2012, was the reason there was so much algae to deal with once we removed the cover.  The style of cover we've had for the last few years allows some sunlight through, and that, combined with the warmer water temperature due to the lateness, seemed to be responsible for that explosive growth of the green stuff.

Sure enough, the water was astonishingly blue this week, and the opening was a much more pleasant ordeal, as a result.  We vacuumed out the worst bits of dirt and worms from the bottom, which only took a few minutes, and then put the scrubbing robot into the very cold water (about 50 F) to let it do its thing.  Within a couple of days we had the pool clean and sparkly, and after a service call yesterday to replace the broken rollover switch on the heater (who knew it even had such a thing, or that it would break less than 2 years after installing the heater?), we've now got the water up into the low 70s, Fahrenheit.  We've put the automated vacuum (Zodiac) in to replace the robot that requires manual cleaning of its filter, and I may even be able to get a swim in tomorrow, if I'm hot enough after my bike ride home from downtown. 

We appear to have found the right timing and approach to opening the pool, with the new style of cover that we're using.  And that's a good thing.