Monday, December 31, 2007

Books read Sept/Oct - Dec 2007

One of the girls at work posted the books she had read so I started keeping track of mine.
From about the end of September/October or so, while working on other projects I read:
Peter Jackson – A film-makers journey by Brian Sibley
The Rants by Dennis Miller
Ranting Again by Dennis Miller
The Rant Zone by Dennis Miller
I Rant therefore I am by Dennis Miller
Napalm and Silly Putty by George Carlin
Comic Book Nation – The Transformation of Youth Culture in America by Bradford W Wright
The Art of Animation Drawing by Don Bluth
Behind the Mask of Spider-Man: The Secrets of the Movie by Mark Cotta Vaz

In November, I had read:
Monster Kid Memories by Bob Burns and Tom Weaver
Bring Me That Horizon: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean by Michael Singer
How to Tell a Secret by P.J. Huff and J.G. Lewin

Finally in December, I read:
The Art of Demotivation by E.L. Kersten, Ph.D
The Starbucks Experience by Joseph A. Michelli
Making Great Boxes by Wood Magazine
Basic Model Railroading! Getting started in the Hobby – edited by Kent J. Johnson
Project Railroads You Can Build – selected by Kent J. Johnson
Ship Models from Kits by Colin Riches
No Plot? No Problem! By Chris Baty
Freight Car Projects and Ideas – selected by Kent Johnson
Give our Regards to the Atomsmashers!: Writers on Comics – edited by Sean Howe
Scale Model Buildings by Michael Andress
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing for Young Adults by Deborah Perlberg
The Usborne Introduction to the First World War – by Ruth Brocklehurst & Henry Brook
Writing Handbooks: Writing Sitcoms by John Byrne & Marcus Powell
The DC Comics Guide to Pencilling Comics by Klaus Janson

My bedside book was JRR Tolkien by Katharyn W Crabbe. I don't get to read as much in bed as I used to back in the day so this was one that I worked away at for several months.

Currently, I'm halfway through Warships in Miniature by Michael Ainsworth and should finish it over the next day or so.

Prior to this list, I had read a bunch of World War One books for the Canvas Eagles at Wincon. Some I will reread in the new year when I get back to finishing the model planes. My tastes seem to be heavy into whatever bright light has caught my eye at the moment. This doesn't include the graphic novels or kids books that we read to the kids.
Magazine wise, I normally read White Dwarf, Star Wars Insider, and Robot magazine each month, and Reader's Digest, People, Macleans, and Comic and Games Retailer magazine in batches when the wife finishes with them.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

post X-mas wrap - up (unwrap-up?)

I saw a lot of family on my mom’s side over the holidays – all the aunts and uncles were over for chicken noodle soup on boxing day. As well, on Christmas eve we had my whole family except for my younger sister and her brood (BC’s a bit of a journey to make it over for dinner). It was good to see my nieces again – they don’t visit enough now that they are in that fun age.

I now have 4 Star Wars Miniatures AT-ATs, 3 AT-STs (and a 4th one with different armament), and 8 snowspeeders. Except for the 6 towers (1 en route already) and people, I now have enough to play Assault on Hoth super upsized. I could still use 1 extra AT-AT though – there is an event card that gives a bonus AT-AT to the Empire side. That’s going to be hard to swing by the wife though, she already feels that four is pushing it. I already have the extra three snowpeeders for the Rebel Reinforcements event card.

We also got a load of movies – including White Christmas, Red Dawn, Sean of the Dead. We did finally get Serenity in fullscreen – so I can still justify getting the newer version on widescreen. With the boxing day sales, I finally picked up a set of the Matrix trilogy, Beetlejuice, and League of Extrordinary Gentlemen. So I’m good for late night work again with extra features galore.

I finally got a quality digital camera, so I should be able to update more often with pictures instead of just words. As long as I can upload directly, I won’t have to wait for the films to get developed onto a CD for the images.

Now to see if I can still get a Alive Chimpanzee at Walmart.

Monday, December 24, 2007

the night before Christmas

We went out to Pinawa for the weekend for a quiet Christmas with Shan’s folks. Shan’s mom had a stroke about 6 weeks ago and is still recovering from it. She seems fine – a bit more frail than normal – but gets tired quickly and often takes naps. The prognosis is good, and she is expected to make a full recovery, but it will take some time.
The drive out Friday night was slow as the snow was blowing but the traffic was light and we made it there without any mishaps. The kids were quite wound up and ended up opening their gifts on the Saturday. Shan had made the ham on Saturday and the turkey on Sunday and both were wonderful.

They are all home together today while I am at work so we’ll see how high the excitement levels will get. The kids aren’t ones for getting up early on Christmas Day though. Often, Shan and I will have to wake them by 9am to get the day started.
D3’s having a crisis of faith this year. About half of the kids in his class don’t believe in Santa Claus. He has asked for coal for his stocking – not that he feels that he has been bad but more to help prove Santa’s existence.

Shan doesn’t put out my gifts until the last moment. I’m usually very good about being about to guess my gifts by weight and package size. I remember our early years together. She had said that I could shake my gifts but then was appalled as I slowly tipped the box back and forth. This I had learned from science class where you have to determine what was in a sealed box by observing whether objects rolled or slid when the box was tipped in various ways. Since then, I’m not allowed to shake my gifts or even look too closely at them.

A very merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine. Happy holidays to the more secular of you. A happy Christmaka to those who understand it and a happy Festivus for the rest of us.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Birchwood - bad dealership?

We had gone in to Birchwood to talk about the rust on quarter panels that had come back one month after they were to have fixed it. It turns out that in order to fix it properly, they would have to replace the entire door assembly and they feel that that cost’s too much for them. Even though this was something that they had approved as a condition of us buying the van, and that had delayed us for a week in picking up the car as they sent it off to get fixed, they don’t want to do it. Not that they are saying that they can’t do it, just that they don’t want to.

We explained to them that, one of their managers approved this and if they had an issue with that manager’s decision, they should take it up with them. Also, if they had sent this off to get fixed and the place merely painted over the rust instead of fixing it, that is something that they could take up with the body shop.

They were thinking of just giving us some minor financial compensation. We proposed that, since they had said that they would fix this, but now don’t want to, we could take the amount it would take to get fixed. They explained that this cost was almost what we had paid for the vehicle and that they didn’t think that was fair to them.

Shan also proposed that they could give us another similar vehicle in a straight trade for this one that they sold us under false pretenses. They had two other Windstars on the lot – both newer. They were all excited to show us them and were ready to make the trade because they weren’t listening and thought that we would pay then another $6000 for the difference. When Shan repeated that we would do a straight trade but not pay more, they were less enthused about the idea. You have to wonder at their mentality – “I know that we lied about fixing this vehicle that we sold you, but how about giving us that one back, plus more money again, and we’ll give you a newer vehicle that will be fine this time, we promise”. Isn’t that the whole definition of bait-and-switch?

Andrew wasn’t able to make that kind of decision so he had to get his manager to call Shannon back. When he did the next, he basically offered her the same deal that she had already turned down. So we’ll have to go back and see them after the holidays. At least we have out vehicle back. Since they weren’t fixing it after all, they didn’t see the need to keep paying for a rental.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas cookie scam

Every year some people organize a cookie exchange. The idea is, you bake extra batches of cookies (usually in dozens) and trade them with other people for the extras they’ve made. I can’t ever think why this would be a good idea.

I suppose there is a modicum of time saved in buying various ingredients and mixing different batches for the various cookies when instead you just crank out an assembly line of one type of cookies. My issue is, why would I make extra batches of cookies I do like and trade them away for cookies that I may not like? I suppose there are some Martha Stewarts out there who are lovingly crafting several hundreds of cookies so that they can show off their prowess but if not, and standards are slipping with the larger batches, why would I want those cookies? Our time seems better spent making a few small batches of the cookies that we actually know we like and having those for ourselves. If someone else finds making different batches of cookies boring and a hassle, do I really want to trade my cookies for theirs?

be the guy

When we were last at the local Games Workshop, the clerk mentioned that someone had bought one of the ForgeWorld titans and brings it by from time to time for Apocalypse events. It turns out that we know the guy.

He had been selling games by mail order and had a booth at the weekend flea market for a while. Since I had experience in this, we had been pushing him to go to GAMA.
I had sold games by mail order for several years and had looked into opening a store front for a while but never got enough together to take that step. We had been doing booths at comic shows and conventions but they didn’t have the same permanent flea market set-ups at that time. We had kids and it became more difficult to set up and watch these temporary booths so we let it slide and looked into what we needed to open a storefront.
Those things never materialized so we ended up closing out that venture for now.

The GAMA trade show was a great resource though and we highly recommend it to anyone who is in the retail game business. We were pushing him to take his wife with him so she could see how much of an actual business this can be. With his impending wedding though he wasn’t able to get to it. I just found out he is out for now as well.

I had also been pushing him to go to GAMA and Gencon so he could be ‘the guy’. At both of these venues, you get to meet the game designers, see the new products, and learn about what’s new and coming up soon. You get to be ‘the guy’ that knows these things and has met these people and can talk to others about this. People who visit the store and run into you can seek your opinion and knowledge in these matters because you’re ‘the guy’.
I used to be the guy but, since I haven’t been to Gencon in several years, haven’t done an open Wincon in years, and haven’t been around Keycon as much these last few years, a lot of the new crowd doesn’t know me as the guy anymore.

When I found out that it was him who had bought the titan, I was able to congratulate him on being ‘the guy’ after all. Anyone else who wants to congratulate him or see his titan can pop by the Games Workshop on Dec 29 or Jan 6 (5th?).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I am Legend

Okay, I haven’t read the book. I haven’t seen the entire The Omega Man with Charlton Heston in 1971 and have only seen clips of The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price from 1964. I did see Night of the Comet in the theatre and saw the Australian film The Quiet Earth on Superchannel – both of which I liked.

That said, we did see the Will Smith movie I Am Legend last night at Silver City and I believe that we did like it. It’s being promoted as an action film and it really isn’t. They gloss over the technology of the virus so it doesn’t get caught up on its own pseudo-science like some of the science-based movies do (like The Core). They have some nice topical phrases like “jumped species” that hint of the impending avian flu.

It dealt a bit more with the introspective part of being the only person around and keeping up a routine. I’ve been told it’s part of the book, but the military scientist rings a bit odd. Shan had more issues with the degenerates. We were okay with their look and the CG didn’t cause us any trouble. The only this was the lack of damage they seemed to inflict upon themselves and their robustness after the undetermined time. We can understand that they might be able to do some incredible things in their condition with ignoring pain and damage to themselves but that they seemed a bit invulnerable. The one scene where the leader repeatedly smashes his face into the glass should have smashed his nose and cut up his forehead at the least.

Plus at the end, the girl might want to think about carrying the vial in a container or box in case she slips and drops it.

All in all, it was a good film. It is definitely not an action film, but it does have enough action in it to drive along the otherwise dry story.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

what was your name again?

There are always people who, after knowing them for several years, suddenly decide to re-invent themselves. These are the people who decide to go by their middle name or even their initials instead of using their actual first name. Usually, it happens when they introduce themselves to a new group of people outside the circle in which they are already known. This only causes confusion when later these groups meet.

You’re always going to have the people who have used a shortened form of their name or even a nickname suddenly decide that they want to be more mature and now use their full name. So Chuck becomes Charles, Chris becomes Christine, Don becomes Donald, and JP tries to become Jean-Paul.
Sometimes they’ll go the other way and, after using their full name for years, decide they now want the shorter version. In these cases Katherine becomes Kate or even Cat, Michael is now Mike, Elizabeth is now Liz, and Alexandra becomes Alex or Lex or even Andi.
There will even be time when someone will change their name due to a conversion in their religious beliefs. With these, Lou becomes Kareem, Cassius becomes Muhammad, and Christine becomes Kedma.

The level of success with these changes varies depending on how resistant the people in your former circles are and how often the circles intersect. Plus, how pretentious or cloying the name change is has a big factor on it’s eventual success or failure.

The people in fandom seem to have embraced this concept wholeheartedly. Granted, when you only run into people at conventions and they only know you by the name that you have put on your badge, going by an altered name is easier that you might think. Plus they let you put almost anything on your badge.
It’s just that some of them then take this acceptance and try to go by these names out in the real world. Thus you have Althea, Terrakian, and Bodi. I’m all for letting people change their identities but, if you’re going to be serious enough about it to get people to call you by your new name, spend a few bucks and get it legally changed. If I can’t write a cheque to you under your new name that you can cash, I’m not going to be quick to adopt that name.

Just saying is all.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Big Breakfast / sausage McMuffin

When did McDonalds change the eggs in the Big Breakfast? As a youth, the breakfast choices were Egg McMuffin, pancakes, or the Big Breakfast. I didn’t like the formed egg or the ham in the Egg McMuffin so I would often get the Big Breakfast and then make a sandwich out of the scrambled eggs, sausage patty, and English muffins. It lacked the cheese but in my mind was far superior to the Egg McMuffin. Later, the Sausage McMuffin was added but it lacked the egg part until the Sausage McMuffin with Egg became available.
Granted, I haven’t often ordered breakfast from McDonalds in the last few years but did have the occasion to pick up a few over this last summer before work. One on of my last times, I had a taste for a Big Breakfast-made Sausage ‘n Egg McMuffin. To my surprise, when opening the package, instead of the mass of scrambled eggs, I found two folded scrambled egg squares. I guess they are the ones from the other breakfast sandwiches but it was a bit of a shock to me. I haven’t had a chance to try again to see if it was an aberration or a new paradigm.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've got the power

When it comes to electricity and computers, I’m certainly not at the top of the class. While I do understand how the components work together (from 2 years of Comp Sci at university), I couldn’t currently trace the pathways and check the chip sets to see where the problem lies.
That said, I am able to crack open the case and swap out some basic components. If they don’t work though, I am back to relying on percussive maintenance. Besides the basics like keyboards and changing out the nasty mouse for a trackball, I have added a video card, dvd drive, and changed out the power supply.

That’s what I had to do last night. The home computer had been freezing up occasionally and finally wouldn’t start at all this week. Since the wife confirms that this isn’t really something that can wait, I went out to get a new one.
We got the last one at Computer Avenue but, from the website, I figured I’d give Computer Boulevard a try this time. Like most computer parts, power supplies seem to range from about $40 up to about $200. Since this computer will likely be replaced in the new year, I didn’t need anything too fancy. I found a nice one that looked basically similar to the old one and that also happened to be on sale for about $30.

At home, I cracked open the case and blew out much of the dust that had collected inside the bowels of our tower. We should probably do that more often. I took out the old power supply and put in the new one. I carefully removed each set of the old wires and quickly replaced them with the new ones before I could forget where they went.
I had to power it up three times before it finally caught and loaded into the system. This caused be a bit of concern at first but everything seems fine now.

Of course, I have to keep the old supply. It goes on the pile with its predecessor waiting to one day be opened and gutted for parts for scenery.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas wish list?

It’s less than two weeks before Christmas, and there still isn’t anything on my must-have list for this year. I’m not sure if that’s a sign that I’m getting more mature and Zen about possessions or, more likely, I’m jaded and have already gotten everything I really wanted by now.

Last year, I was looking forward to the Star Wars Starship Miniature Battles game. I had been able to download the rules from the Wizkids site and was drawing ship counters in the proper size over the holidays – just in case my wife didn’t come through. [More than a bit obsessive? – Sure] I now have a complete set of the actual ships and only need a few more duplicates of some of them for playing. [Can one really have too many Star Destroyers?] It plays well enough and we will definitely upsize it, when I have space to keep the upsized figures.

This year, there isn’t a new game that is on my must-have list. There are a few older games that I have on their way from ebay as I write. The Mechwarrior Solaris VII looks nice, and I’ll probably get some packs with and eye to upsizing, but I don’t HAVE to have it.
Even the Warhammer 40K Apocalypse rules, which REALLY appeals to me, won’t really be something I can make good use of until I can find more space to really work on my 40K figures and store the vehicles (and Titans!) that I now need to build.

Movie-wise, there are still a few DVD sets I’m chasing down from previous Christmas wish lists but, again, nothing I must go out on Boxing Day and buy if I do not get. I’m still needing the Back To The Future set as well as the Legacy collections for Dracula, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The bins have been pretty good this year for getting DVDs at low prices.

I’ve gotten most of the shop tools I can get without having a garage or a workshop to put/use them in. So the table saw, chop saw, drill press, metal brake (for folding metal), and lathe I need will have to wait for the addition to the house.

We’ll probably get a new computer next year, so I’ll have all the computer goodies on next year’s birthday or Christmas list. The wife’s resigned to the fact that we will probably need to get a mac to do the video work and graphics I want to do. At that time, we’ll probably also get a small PC as well.
There’s no big game out there for us. We’re not into first-person-shooters (FPS) or real-time-strategy (RTS) games and the Diablo / Diablo 2 and Heroes of Might and Magic are still holding up well when we find the time. I’m desperately looking forward to a new Monkey Island, but that doesn’t seem to be on the radar either. I am looking forward to playing some City of Heroes with the upgrade though.

There are a few books and graphic novels that would be great to have, notably some of the Marvel Essentials and the rest of the Hellboy GNs and Cerebus phonebooks, but those can wait until the dollar stabilizes – or until we take a trip down to Barnes and Noble. Since the game room will absorb most of the books as well, we should then have more room in the 6 other bookcases that we presently have jammed with books for even more books.

The wife is usually very good at surprising me with a few things. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with this year.

D & D?

For those who liked the Lord of the Rings as RPG comic, another comic has come forth - Darths and Droids. It's basically the same idea but with the Star Wars RPG. It's still being created, so it hasn't completed the story yet. It starts with The Phantom Menace and I'm sure you'll find that it's certainly worth a look.

Monday, December 10, 2007

the Winter haircut

I grew up in the 70s. Big hair was in style back then. I used to get my hair cut three or four times a year with the same cut – to the hairline in the back, around the ears, and thin the top out (I had, and still have, very thick hair). My hair is mostly straight but when it hits a certain length it starts to get wavy.

In the late 80s and 90s, I even grew my hair out a few times and wore it back in a ponytail. The longest I have had it was when my bangs reached back over my head to between my shoulder blades, or about three fists length of ponytail from my hairline.

In the last few years, I’ve eschewed even the Singletons or MagicCuts haircuts and have been cutting my hair at home. We bought some clippers and about three times a year, I buzz my hair down to the longest clipper setting we have – the number 4 one. The timing on this is always critical as, after the first week when it is fine, it usually takes a month for it to grow out to an acceptable length. It used to be easier, as one could pace it for birthday / driver’s license photos and Christmas photos. Now, however, they have split off the driver’s photos to two months after your birthday, which makes it harder to keep track when to cut it. It’s not that hard really, I just have to cut it shortly after my birthday – which is just in time for summer.

For the holidays, while having longer hair is warmer, our winters usually necessitate the use of a touque. Long hair, dry weather, and a touque are usually not a great combination. The winter haircut takes this into account. Having the shorter hair is much easier to take care of plus, with the savings, we could buy a new set of clippers every year and still be ahead (and these ones have lasted over 5 years already).

Friday, December 7, 2007

conventions - counting memberships

Many conventions like to post their membership numbers to show how big they are. This is also important when dealing with manufacturers and advertisers for prize support and ad rates. Most conventions also use very sketchy numbers about counting you.

If you attend a three-day convention on all three days, they often count you as three people towards their numbers. If you buy a weekend pass and only show up on two days, they would still count you as three people. Many conventions boasting 500+ memberships could really have less than 200 attendees using this method.

With Wincon, we always listed our attendance numbers as individual members. If you showed up all three days or only on Saturday, you were only counted as one. If you came on Saturday as a day pass and then came back on Sunday as a day pass, you still only counted as one person. This did make Wincon seem a bit smaller that some of the other conventions in the area but we didn’t feel that doing it any other way was giving an honest number. It also helped that we had highly competent people in charge of our registration process who were able to track people for day memberships.

So when you see conventions boast of their membership size, keep this in mind.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Finally - the costumes

Here are the photos from the Comiccon of the kids' costumes.

The helmet came out very nice for painted cardboard. The armor is cardboard on foam sheets. My mom sewed the vest and the Batgirl costume - I did the Bat-symbol.

Even without the gauntlets and kneepads, he still fit in as 'young Boba Fett'. We were going to get a shot of him next to the standee as well but didn't in time. He looked pretty good next to this great looking Boba. His gun was the Rebel Blaster nerf gun that we had picked up in the states.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Manitoba Comiccon update

Okay, I’ll give my thoughts on the Comiccon compared to the other conventions I’ve been to – Gencon, Keycon, and Valleycon. There was a good crowd – it seemed like several hundred people in the main room. I have tremendous trouble believing the 11,000 attendees that they have reported but could easily believe 1100 over the weekend. That would make it bigger than Keycon and Valleycon but tiny compared to Gencon. I’ll rant later about the way conventions count attendees.

The dealer's room was easily as big as Valleycon but nowhere near the Gencons that I recall. There was a good mix of comics, games, collectibles, and a few clothing dealers. There was a good mix of prices from crazy expensive to super reasonable.

They had an Anime room that was always dark and seemed busy; a programming room that was decently attended; a gaming room that was quite busy with a good mix of card gamers, miniature tables, and open tables.

As mentioned earlier, I didn’t get to much of the programs. I did attend the costume contest. This could have been handled much better. There was a delay in starting as they hadn’t thought to get proper information when signing up the costumers. The prizes were also the minimal, near-insulting prizes that we who do costumes have come to expect from most conventions. There were quite a few costumers about in the dealer hall both on the Saturday and the Sunday and many of the costumes were of respectable quality with a few stunning costumes - like the guy who made Halo armor.

The guests were very visible and easy to get to. They charged for autographs, which is pretty standard, but were pretty good about posing for pictures. There were a lot of comic book artists in attendance as well who were also good about chatting with the fans.

Originally, there was some talk of them losing the contract for the hotel for next year, but it sounds like they are fine after all. It was a good time and, with the low cost, we were able to bring the entire family and stay in the convention hotel. There were none of the party rooms that Keycon or Valleycon have, but since the cost was only a fraction of Keycon’s admission, they weren’t missed all that much.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Walk with Dinos

We took the kids to see Walking With Dinosaurs when it came here. We were unsure about going but feel that it was well worth the cost. We were in the balcony on the end opposite where the dinos come out and had a good view of the arena, the side screens and a fair view of the back screen. The show was a nice mix of information and entertainment. The kids were quite impressed.
They have sales booths up and Shan got a program book ($20), I got the making of DVD ($25), and the kids each got a set of dino cards on a lanyard ($5 each). With the tickets, parking, and loot, we spent about $200 for the four of us. I think we did okay in value for money. I watched the dvd while getting the playmobile advent calendars ready. It was over an hour and a half, and covered the show from concept to first show.