Remington_Steele_Titles

Remington Steele Season 4

  • Series Title: Remington Steele
  • Season: 4 (Packaged with Season 5)
  • Episodes: 21
  • Discs: 4 (Double-Sided)
  • Cast: Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts
  • Original Network: NBC
  • Original Production Company: MTM 

Before I start with my review of this season set – I really need to mention some technical issues. First, these are double-sided discs. I really hate double-sided discs – they are even more likely to be damaged than normal DVDs, even with careful handling. Second, my set is missing the final two episodes of Season 4. Disc four lists four episodes: “Steele in the Running”; “Beg, Borrow or Steele”; and “Steele Alive and Kicking”; and “Bonds of Steele”. “Steele Alive and Kicking” and “Bonds of Steele” are no where to be found. You put in the disc and a menu comes up for the first two episodes and that is it. When I pay for a full season, I expect a full season and this sort of shoddy workmanship is annoying and unfair. The next disc of the set starts the tele-movies that makes up Season 5.

That said, though, I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Season 4 of Remington Steele. Not that I wasn’t sure I’d like this series – I loved it when I originally saw it in the 1980s, and when I re-watched it in the 1990s on some cheap cable station, I was surprised by how well it stood up. However, I remembered not really liking Season 4 – and really disliking Season 5. Yet, when re-watching Season 4 I liked it. I genuinely enjoyed each episode as I watched it. The first episode of Season 4 is a two-parter, set in London, England, which features Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Stephanie’s real father, and a relatively frequent guest star throughout the series), Catherine Harris (Pierce Brosnan’s real wife, who passed away shortly thereafter from cancer), and Julian Glover (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Magnum PI (guest),  Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) as a guest star. Steele attempts to find clues to his past and his real father, Laura is pushed to decide how much she trusts Steele, Mildred finally discovers the truth – that Laura runs the agency not Steele, and Laura and Steele’s relationship is taken to a new level. Plus the story is an excellent mystery with red herrings, side steps, and a very sweet ending. It’s a good start. The rest of the season features OK to good to excellent mysteries, but the characterization is excellent. Now that she knows the truth, Mildred is less the bumbling grandmotherly secretary and more of a real character. The episode where she quits because she feels both Steele and Laura are taking her for granted is really good. Mildred also gets promised the chance to earn her investigator’s license. Also, each episode of the Season 4 ends with Steele and Laura in a clench or even kissing. The romance the show had teased the audience with for four years is finally on the screen in a warm and wonderful way.

Remington Steele was an influential series for me as a young woman. Not only did I become a huge fan of Pierce Brosnan for life, but the show was one of the few that featured a woman as lead and as an equal partner with a man. Other programs at the time either had entirely male casts (Magnum PI, Riptide, The A-Team, etc.) or even if they had a woman in the cast she was often secondary or the show was entirely about the romance (Moonlighting, Scarecrow and Mrs. King). Remington Steele had romance as well, but the mysteries were at the core of the stories.

The second thing about Remington Steele that was very important to me is that it’s the reason I became a fan of classic film. The character of Remington Steele was a fan of the cinema – and had an encyclopedic knowledge of film. While working on a case, he’d mention a classic movie – “North by Northwest, Cary Grant, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, MGM 1959,” which the case somehow reminded him of. But not only did Steele mention these films – he was enthusiastic about them. He gushed about them. In short, Steele talked like a fan about whatever it was he or she was a fan of – a television show, a movie, a book, a comic. Steele showed us, in a time when being a fan, being enthusiastic about media was decidedly not cool, that it was OK to be a fan. And his very enthusiasm about the films made me want to actually see them. Remington Steele made me the Classic Film fan and movie fan that I am. Season 4 has considerably less of the references to films and movies, which is too bad – but the characters of Steele, Laura, and Mildred have grown so that makes up for it in a way.

So, overall, recommended, though I’d really like to see MTM or NBC re-release the entire series in a box set that wasn’t on cheap double-sided discs. Season 5 to be reviewed later.

SonofBatman1

Son of Batman

  • Title: Son of Batman
  • Director: Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2014
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Fantasy, Drama
  • Cast: Jason O’Mara, Stuart Allan, Thomas Gibson, Morena Baccarin, Sean Maher, David McCallum
  • Format: Widescreen, color, animation
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray

“I’ll drive.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman
“I know how.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman

“Do you know what you were tonight?” You weren’t a warrior. You weren’t a soldier. You were a child.” – Batman
“If it hadn’t been for him [Nightwing, Dick Grayson], I…” – Damian
[breaking in] “If it hadn’t been for Dick, you’d have gone too far.” – Batman
“It’s easier my way!” – Damian
“It has nothing to do with easy. It’s about doing what’s right, because it’s right and that’s the only reason you need.” – Batman

“You’ve never felt vengeful?” – Damian
“Everyday. You have to keep your center, Damain. You can’t fight crime by becoming a criminal.” – Batman

Son of Batman is the first of a trilogy of films about Damian Wayne – the son of Talia al Ghul (daughter of Ra’s al Ghul) and Bruce Wayne. Damian will become the fourth Robin (after Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake). The film opens with Ra’s al Ghul and Damian standing on a balcony in the secret temple of the League of Assassins. They watch the assassins exercising and training below, and Ra’s tells Damian it will be his birthright. But the temple is attacked. Talia protects Damian, but ultimately Ra’s is killed. Talia takes Damian to his father in Gotham City.

Once Talia makes introductions she leaves, and Batman returns to his mansion with his young son. Meanwhile a scientist, whom we learn later is Kirk Langstrom, is being forced to work on a formula or his wife and daughter will be harmed. Previously working for the League of Assassins, Langstrom is now working for Deathstroke – the leader of the attack on Ra’s temple. At Wayne Manor, Damian finds an antique sword and attacks the bushes. Bruce is impressed by the young man’s skill, while Alfred bemoans the destruction of the shrubbery.

Later that day or the next, Damian shows up at Wayne Enterprises – and proves himself an adept hacker. Bruce brings him home and grounds him. This will not go well.

Deathstroke’s henchman, Ubu, enters a hotel room with two hookers – but immediately gets suspicious. Damian arrives and fights Ubu – the fight spills out onto the street. Damain’s about to take Ubu’s head off with a sword, when Nightwing arrives. A few minutes later, Nightwing, looking the worse for wear, calls Bruce and tells him he has his son.

Back at the Batcave, Damian says just the wrong thing to Batman, and Dick who knows his mentor well, mutters, “uh-oh”, then Batman reads Damian the riot act. However, Damian is allowed to put on his own spin on the Robin suit and he and Batman travel on Gotham’s rooftops together. Batman introduces the new Robin to Commissioner Gordon with a nod and a “I’ll explain later”. Gordon gives Batman a clue, a scrap of paper from the investigation of Ubu. Batman and Damian follow it up, finding Langstrom. They find out Deathstroke has his family. There’s a massive fight against guards that ends-up in an old stadium that’s filled with giant man-bats.

Damian has Langstrom at knifepoint. He’s taken to the Batcave. There, finding out about his family, and that Ra’s wanted him to create a formula to create human/animal crossbreeds to create super-soldiers. Batman and Damian head off on a rescue mission, while Nightwing watches Langstrom as he makes a antidote to his man-bat formula. Damian had recognized the scientist’s daughter’s description of two mountain peaks like cat’s ears as Interlochen.

The rescue mission goes smoothly, and Batman finds the mother and daughter. But the daughter slips Damian a phone with a video message from Deathstroke and a location of Damian’s still-missing mother, Talia. Bruce calls Dick from a hotel room – then realizes Damian is missing. Batman, having heard from Mrs. Langstrom that Talia was also a prisoner but she was taken to another location. Dick quickly deduces the location, a nearby oil rig off the coast of Scotland.

The oil rig is at sunset and the animation is gorgeous. Damian takes an elevator to a sea base. Batman arrives and takes out the guards. Damian discovers a Lazarus Pit. Deathstroke threatens Talia. Damian threatens Deathstroke. But when pushed, Damian drops his gun. Talia gets shot trying to save Damian from Deathstroke. Batman arrives. Man-bats also attack. Batman uses sound signals on his batarangs to draw away the man-bats. Batman has the injured Talia.

Man-bats burst through the reinforced glass ceilings of the base, causing water to rush in and the system to overload. The man-bats burst above the base from the ocean and Nightwing and Langstrom fire antidotes at the man-bats from Nightwing’s plane.

Batman takes Talia into the Lazarus Pit. Damian and Deathstroke face off in a sword fight. Talia is cured by the Lazarus Pit.

The Sea-base starts to collapse as the sea rushes in. Water from the Lazarus Pit, which is being mined, also gets released. Deathstroke goads Damian into killing him – but Robin refuses – taking the name as his own for the first time. However, Deathstroke is caught by the explosion of the Lazarus pipelines. Batman, the new Robin, and Talia make it to an escape capsule and Nightwing rescues it from the ocean and the collapsing oil rig.

Talia and Bruce discuss who will have custody of Damian, but in the end he will stay with Bruce for now. Talia goes to rebuild the League of Assassins.

The animation in Son of Batman is excellent. This film looks gorgeous and the action sequences (of which there are many) are crisp and easy to follow. The sunset colors of the oil rig sequence are stunning. The film’s last shot of Batman and Robin, their capes blowing in the wind, the sunset behind them is beautiful. But this is also an extremely violent film with a high body count. The characterization is OK, but could have been better. Bruce Wayne seems a bit bland – and I found it hard to believe he didn’t even questions Talia. You’d think he would have demanded a paternity test – if only because of his position. Yet, Bruce also stops short of openly declaring that Damian is his son to the world.

I avoided this film and the two sequels for awhile because I’m not a fan of Grant Morrison at all, nor am I a fan of New 52, and I don’t really like Damian either. But, having said all that, I enjoyed this film. It looks gorgeous. The characterizations were pretty good. I loved seeing Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and the hint of the brothers-in-bat-hood relationship he will eventually have with Damian.

Recommendation: See It
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Well, it should be the next in sequence, Batman vs. Robin, but it will probably be Batman: The Killing Joke which I just bought.

Melissa McCarthy_Spy

Spy

  • Title: Spy
  • Director: Paul Feig
  • Date: 2015
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Genre: Action, Comedy
  • Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney, Rose Byrne, Morena Baccarin, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Jessica Chaffin
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“I must have watched this fifteen times now, because What the fuck? I almost put it up on youTube.” – Elaine Crocker
“I must say I was uncomfortable with the event, but I’d also like to say – it was over ten years ago, the instructor was not harmed.” – Susan
“Fine was your mentor, right?” – Elaine
“Yes.” – Susan
“Why did you not become a field agent?” – Elaine
“We’re such a great fit and a great team… Fine made some great points, maybe I’d match better staying in his ear.” – Susan
“Yeah, he sniped you. All the top agents used to do that before I got here.” – Elaine

“I do not condone these sexy but reckless actions of yours, Susan!” – Nancy

Melissa McCarthy’s Spy is an empowering movie – but it is also laugh-out-loud funny, fast-paced, and quite the ride. The movie stars five very different women and a few men. At the core of the film is the friendship between Susan Cooper and Nancy, two analysts at the CIA. Their job is perfectly explained by the opening scene of the film where Bradley Fine, top CIA field agent, tracks down a man who’s made it known he’s willing to sell a small, portable nuclear weapon. Fine’s holding the man at gunpoint when he points out that he erased the men who helped him hide the nuke, then he erased the “erasers” so Bradley better not kill him. At that moment, Fine sneezes, the gun goes off, and the guy dies. Susan asks, “Why did you do that?” then calmly, and expertly guides Fine to his escape, even calling in a drone strike so Fine can get away. Susan and Nancy’s friendship is illustrated by a scene where they are in a bar talking. Nancy spots Carol Walker, the agency’s top female agent and quietly pokes fun at her for being so perfect. The scene is very real and illustrates how real women talk.

After Fine’s disastrous mission, Elaine Crocker, the head of the department at the CIA tells the agents that someone else must know about the nuke because it’s come up for sale on the black market. Susan had figured out it was Rayna, the seller’s daughter. Fine is sent to get Rayna – but he’s killed and Rayna reveals she knows the names of all the top agents. Thus Crocker needs to find an unknown for the mission. Susan Cooper volunteers. Susan, as a woman, is given a horrible cover story, and even worse and more embarrassing special equipment. When she arrives in Paris, her hotel is the type of dive that makes one want to take a shower just looking at it in the film. In Paris, she runs into Ford, another top agent who quit when Elaine choose Susan for the mission instead of him. Ford will continually show up – proving himself to be an incredible egotist, who constantly brags up his own abilities and insults Susan.

Susan herself through luck and talent manages to do quiet well. She’s supposed to be on a track and report mission, but the building she’s supposed to watch, where Deluka, their lead is staying has burned down the night before. Susan runs into Ford, who leaves her, but she notices that a woman has switched backpacks with Ford. She chases after him, right into the middle of a German dance pop outdoor concert. Ford barely realizes what’s going on but manages to throw the bomb into the river. After the encounter, Susan asks to go to Rome to follow their next lead. Her new cover is even worse than her first one.

In Rome, Susan saves Rayna – the woman she’s after, from a poisoned drink. Rayna has the man who slipped it to her killed, then invites Susan  on her private jet to Budapest. On the jet, Susan is knocked out. When one of the men on the plane threatens Rayna (largely because she treats him badly – not even knowing his name), shoots up the plane, and kills the pilot and navigator. Susan lands the plane. Rayna concludes that Susan is CIA – Susan convinces her she’s Amber Valentine a bodyguard hired by Rayna’s father. Rayna accepts this but is wary. When they land, Susan runs into Nancy, and tells Rayna she’s another of her operatives. A car shoots at them, killing Anton, one of Rayna’s retainers – Susan gives chase on a scooter. She catches up to the car, and fires at it and it crashes – it’s the agent, Carol Walker. Susan’s apologizing, when Carol pulls a gun at her – then is killed by a sniper.

Rayna is to meet her buyer at a disco. The Ally from Rome, Aldo, shows up – as does Ford and Nancy. Ford causes trouble, Susan has Nancy cause a distraction, and Susan goes after the woman to prevent her from meeting Rayna. Susan gives chase and fights the woman in a kitchen, using things like cast iron pans and tupperware. She does pretty well, but ends-up cornered. Fine shows up and kills the girl, but he and Rayna who are working together take Susan hostage. She ends-up tied up with Aldo. Susan’s pretty demoralized by this but Aldo cheers her up and then helps untie her. They escape.

Susan goes to find Rayna, Fine, the broker, and the buyer. Rayna claims Susan is doing all this because she loves Fine. Fine had revealed himself to be a triple agent. Rayna takes the group to the nuke, and again all hell breaks loose as the broker kills everyone he can so he can take the nuke and the diamonds that were Rayna’s payment. Ford arrives and pratfalls into the room – becoming a liability. Susan and Fine handle things in the room, though the broker escapes with the diamonds and nuke. Susan runs to the helicopter to get him and jumps on the strut. Ford jumps on her. Susan lets Ford fall in the lake, knocks the nuke and diamonds in to the lake but gets caught at the wrong end of the broker’s gun. Nancy shows up in another helicopter and fires at the broker. The broker, not quite dead fights back and grabs Susan’s necklace – she loosens the adjustable toggle and the guy falls into the lake.

Now successful, Susan passes up a chance at a dinner date with Fine for a girls night with Nancy. Elaine promises to keep her on as an active agent.

Whereas the opening credits are a typical Bond-type montage of smoke and girls – the end credits show Susan’s missions, complete with secret identities and special weaponry and they are hilarious. The movie also has a terrific soundtrack of fun music. Spy is an empowering movie and I enjoy it every time I watch it. It pushes through the Bechel test like water. The main characters – Susan, Nancy, Elaine, and Rayna are all women. Even secondary characters – the traitor Carol, and the third analyst in the basement – are women. Moreover, the men aren’t particularly competent. Bradley Fine walks into the opening scene like he’s James Bond, but he sets-up the entire movie by killing Rayna’s father, accidentally, before finding out where the suitcase bomb is. Ford is an egotistical braggart who’s claims are so ridiculous he’s obviously making them up (and Susan calls him on it), and the reality of his “abilities” is considerably “less”.

Susan begins the film as an extremely competent CIA analyst – without her in his ear, Fine wouldn’t last 30 seconds. When Elaine, Susan’s boss, digs into Susan’s records at The Farm – the CIA’s training facility, she’s impressed and even asks why Susan didn’t apply for a field agent position – only to discover that Fine suggested that she should not. Susan and the other analysts have to endure horrible conditions in the CIA basement in Langley – with bats and mice in the room – yet all three analysts deal with it like it’s nothing. No women standing on chairs screaming at a mouse here. The scenes between Nancy and Susan, especially their first scene in the bar, are written the way women actually talk. And Nancy is also a strong woman who adds to the chemistry of the film.

Rayna, as the villain of the piece, is the type of woman it’s easy to dislike – she’s a spoiled, pampered brat. She always gets exactly what she wants, yet she cares little for other people. Even her underlings can’t stand her – and many try to kill her in the film. Rayna’s method of intimidation includes poking fun at Susan’s looks and her clothes. She also is a psychopath – she doesn’t even care about Fine, whom she’s sleeping with, even though he killed her father.

I highly, highly recommend this film. It’s empowering to watch. But it’s also very funny – and it’s a great action/adventure film.

Recommendation: A Must See
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Son of Batman

Nightwing

DC Rebirth – A Review

I started reading DC Comics in the late 1980s-early 1990s. I had just seen Tim Burton’s Batman and loved it, and when I was away at college I would walk every week to 25th Century Five and Dime in downtown Bloomington Indiana to buy my weekly stash. But after college, I moved to a town without a good comics store. The Internet meant e-mail and posting boards (not to mention dial-up) and there was no Amazon or other on-line shopping. For a while I bought comics from catalogs, but it got expensive, and I fell away from the habit.

Warner Brothers Animation’s excellent DC Comics series (Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman the Animated Series, Batman Beyond which is the order I saw them in, and various movies), the fantastic Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, and Amazon brought me back to reading comics – or at least graphic novels. When New 52 started I was so excited. I tried several graphic novels from Amazon, but I just couldn’t get it New 52. The characters seemed all the same. There was a negativity to the stories. I just did not like New 52. And I was disappointed. My graphic novel “itch” was satisfied by the occasional classic (or reprint – Nightwing and Birds of Prey, both by Chuck Dixon were and are favorites of mine).

This Summer has been the Summer of Rebirth and I love it. I also love that I have a small, independent comics store I go to – with a knowledgeable, chatty, and largely female staff. And I love Rebirth. This is my DC. Rebirth sweeps away the dark, stark, yet everyone is the same quality that New 52 had. Rebirth gives us diversity in how the characters behave, and hopefully will bring back more diverse characters (the mid-to-late 1980s were a very diverse time at DC with many African American characters and a lot of women) – Rebirth has already given us a Muslim Green Lantern and his partner a female Green Lantern. One can hope that the few diverse characters introduced during New 52 (Cyborg (already a keeper in the New Justice League), Kate Kane the Batwoman, Bat-Wing, the new Dr. Fate etc.) will stick around. But the story and writing in the new books is simply a joy to read – these are the characters, and even situations, I love.

Two weeks ago I read Nightwing Rebirth – grown-up Dick Grayson has always been one of my favorite characters in Batman’s world (I also love Alfred and Oracle). I’m a fan of the Chuck Dixon Nightwing series (if someone can still be a fan of a comics series from the 1990s). I picked up my comics that week, then went to meet some people at the movie theater to see Ghostbusters (which was AWESOME but that’s another post), I was too late to go home, but too early to want to stand around in the multiplex lobby. I headed over to the local Starbucks that ended-up having a huge line. Deciding to skip the green iced tea I normally get there, I headed to a table, carefully opened Nightwing Rebirth and started to read. And two tables away from me another woman was also carefully opening her new comics, and starting to read. By the end of the book I was grinning like an idiot. This was my Nightwing, my DC. Back in his black and blue costume, Dick looked fantastic – and, well, like Dick Grayson – not in the red and black costume that made him look like Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond. I love Batman Beyond, which is why giving Terry’s costume to Dick both made no sense and was disrespectful of both characters. And as to Dick’s years as a secret agent – really? He’s an acrobat with no family (bar Bruce, Alfred & company of course), not James Bond. But after reading Nightwing Rebirth I was just grinning – I loved it. Detective Comics is continuing the “Batman Family” idea – with several female heroes. Justice League and Green Lantern are starting arcs that will probably be long and weave through the other titles – which is as it should be, but means it will be a while before the storyline can be judged fairly. I’m reading Wonder Woman – which is running two plots that publish every other week (Week A is “The Lies” and Week B is “Wonder Woman Year One”). First issue of Birds of Prey I also loved, but it would take some effort to mess-up that series – I’ve liked every version of it I’ve found including the television series and New 52 (though I prefer the Chuck Dixon version the best).

If you’ve been thinking of trying out DC Comics Rebirth but have been hesitant, I can honestly say that I highly recommend it.

Agile Update Illo_Final

Agile Update – June 2016

Wow, has it really been a month since I’ve posted anything? I actually feel quite nervous about writing again, even though I’ve accomplished a lot in the last month. Again, as I pointed out in another post, I’ve been moved to a different shift – I now work second shift, which I really, really like. No more getting up at 6:00 am, which any time but high Summer, means getting up in pitch darkness. No more driving during rush hour traffic that doubles my commute time. And most importantly, no more being exhausted all the time by a schedule that just doesn’t fit my body clock so to speak. But it’s still an adjustment to schedule things almost reverse of a “normal” schedule.

However, that’s not why I’ve been so short of posts recently. I’ve actually been very focused on professional development. For my job I need to be A+ Certified. It’s a very basic certification from CompTIA, and one I’ve held before, though I let it lapse (re-certification is expensive, so unless it’s necessary for your job or directly related to the type of jobs you’re applying for – Why bother?) Anyway, I studied a lot in May, and June – and the week of June 12th to June 17, I was really cramming for my second test in the two-test sequence (I passed the first in January, but was unable to even schedule the second test until the Spring.) I haven’t crammed that much since I was an undergrad in college. I’d get up, study for a couple of hours, and go to work. I’d bring my book and notebook to work and study and review during every spare moment I had. But it paid off, because on the 17th I took and passed the second test becoming A+ certified.

However, because I spent so much time working on that, other things fell by the way side. I spent last week getting caught up. I also, in the midst of all that, had some medical things to deal with that were annoying and not fun, and very much not for public consumption. But anyway.

So besides the career development step of becoming A+ Certified again, I’ve taken other steps too, and plan on more for the rest of the Summer, but without formal classes.  I bought the Serif Suite of Graphic Design Programs, which are desktop, not Cloud, programs similar to the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. Remember that I took a couple of Adobe classes last Summer? Well, I’m going to be teaching myself Serif PagePlus, Serif WebPlus, Serif PhotoPlus, Serif Photo Stack, and Serif Draw Plus this Summer. In addition, I’ll probably spent time using Inkscape, Coral Paint Shop Pro, and maybe even Gimp, Microsoft Publisher, Scribus, and Pixlr. In other words, reviewing and learning new skills in the graphic design software I downloaded last Summer after finding out that not only was Creative Cloud out of my budget, but with it’s “Cloud” nature I wouldn’t be able to use it anyway because of the type of Internet I have. Yesterday I watched the training video for Serif Page Plus and used it to design a cover for a .pdf and EPUB I’d put together of notes and transcripts that I studied for my A+. Purely for practice. Though I should see if I can put the document on Linked In as an example of my work. I’d have to seek permission of the publisher of the actual training material, though – I just compiled everything into a single e-book. Additional watching of training videos, learning how to use the software, and practice with the software is something I’m definitely planning on.

A third area of professional development I’ve been working on since I started my new position as an IT Help Desk Technician is to read the Intercomm magazine published by the STC, the Society for Technical Communication. I’m getting caught-up on my professional reading. My membership expired at the end of last year, and I need to renew it. I might even look at their professional development opportunities, and investigate certification.

The other area of professional development I need to look at besides graphic design and technical writing is Agile and project management. I need to see what type of professional societies and maybe even certification I can look at in Agile. I love the system when it’s done right, and it fits with my other interests – professionally.

But what else have I been doing in June? Well, I spent so much time studying I didn’t read a lot of regular fiction books. But I did read a lot of graphic novels, and I’m currently reading a twelve-book series of Doctor Who novellas. All my book reviews are on GoodReads. And I added all my graphic novels to GoodReads so I have an easy-to-access list, one that’s public and shareable, and one that’s easy to reference.

And in May I joined the fitness club at work. I received a basic fitbit as a membership “gift” and I’ve been averaging 3000 – 5000 steps a day. My goal is to get closer to 6000 steps a day. I also want to start exercising in the morning. Not crack-of-dawn morning, but I don’t start work until 12:30 pm (noon-thirty) now, so I have time to do some exercise and shower before work if I try. It’s just hard to be motivated. I do walk on at least one break at work, and if the weather is bad I walk on the treadmill at work. I also have a goal to lose 20 pounds in the next six months – this is my doctor’s advice.

With all my accomplishments, though, I’ve been bad about remembering to record them. So, another goal is to get back in the habit of setting goals, recording accomplishments, and writing a weekly Agile post.

So on to specifics:

6/1/2016

  • Added all of section 1.4 to Messer Notes .pdf
  • Studied Wireless in A+ book at work

6/2/2016

  • Finished adding all of Section 1 Professor Messer Video Notes to .pdf document
  • Watched video on Windows Command Line Networking Tools
  • Reviewed Doctor Who Hyperion on GoodReads

6/3/2016

  • Finished downloading and adding Section 3 & 4 of Professor Messer Notes to .pdf

6/4/2016

  • Reviewed Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880 on GoodReads
  • Added section 4 .pdfs to full .pdf notes (Professor Meser A+ Notes)
  • Reviewed All-Star Batman and Robin on GoodReads
  • Finished adding all Professor Messer Video Notes to full .pdf
  • Finished Word document on creating the .pdf, saved as .pdf, added to full .pdf, then imported the full .pdf to Calibre and converted to EPUB

6/9/2016

  • Installed Serif PagePlus program on computer

6/11/2016

  • Installed rest of Serif Software (Web Plus, Photo Plus with Stack Plus, Draw Plus)
  • Studied for A+ Exam – read Prof. Messer notes – up to and including Network Commands
  • Wrote review of Doctor Who The Nameless City on GoodReads
  • Wrote review of Batman/Superman Vol. 1 – Cross Worlds on GoodReads

6/18/2016

  • Reviewed Doctor Who – Spear of Destiny on GoodReads
  • Reviewed World of Flashpoint featuring Batman on GoodReads
  • Started adding “Doctor” tags to all Doctor Who items on GoodReads (tags are DW1, DW2, DW3, etc and First Doctor, Second Doctor, etc all the way to Twelfth Doctor)
  • Professional Development – read Intercomm (STC magazine) June 2015

6/24/2016

  • Reviewed World of Flashpoint featuring The Flash on GoodReads
  • Updated some Doctor Who books, audios, graphic novels with tags on GoodReads
  • Reviewed Doctor Who – The Root of Evil on GoodReads
  • Reviewed Doctor Who – Tip of the Tongue on GoodReads

6/25/2016

  • Watched PagePlus training video
  • Created cover for Professor Messer Video Transcripts and Notes Using PagePlus
  • Tried out homemade stuffed sweet peppers recipe (goat cheese and ground beef
  • Reviewed The World of Flashpoint featuring Green Lantern on GoodReads

I’ve been busy with the professional development and with reading and reviewing short fiction (graphic novels and Doctor Who novellas), as well as my steps on my fitbit for fitness. But I need to do more and get back in the saddle towards my goals.

 

Bloodlines2_best

The Flash Season 2 Finale Review

The season finale of The Flash ended in a shock in that Barry Allen, as we know him, no longer exists. Follow. Our Barry went into the Future then returned to slightly before he left. It was our Barry who ran in the opposite direction, stopping the magnetic ring of doom that would destroy the multi-verse, thus it was our Barry who was disintegrated in the Speed Force.

The Barry who destroyed Zoom and also ditched Iris was the second Barry, a copy, “created” by our Barry returning to the past before he left. It was this second Barry who traveled back to the Past to save Nora, Barry’s mother.  Second Barry rescued Young Barry and his father, as well as killing Reverse Flash outright and saving Nora.

But when Second Barry did that – you’ll notice that First Season Barry, who was watching disappeared. That is because First Season Barry – the one we’ve followed through two seasons of The Flash – no longer exists. As Zoom predicted Second Barry has now destroyed himself twice, as well as Zoom and Reverse Flash. This Second Barry is the only Speedster left, assuming he also didn’t wipe himself out of existence in a paradox.

Think about it – with Second Barry destroying Reverse Flash and saving Nora, that means young Barry was raised by Nora and Henry Allen. Nora never died. Henry was never accused of and found guilty of her murder. Young Barry was never sent to live with Joe West. Young Barry may have never even met Iris West, much less fallen in love with her. And, to make things worse – Young Barry would have never been driven to become a police officer – or with Joe West’s influence to not be a cop – to become a forensic analyst, a CSI. That Young Barry probably went to college, given his parents, but who knows what he studied – or if he even returned to Central City after college. There’s no reason to assume he’d become a CSI anyway. And he never became The Flash.

But it’s worse than that – because without Barry, What would have happened. Thrawn mentions Dr. Wells Particle Accelerator happening “15 years” later and he needs for it to happen earlier. Thrawn also rigged the explosion that created both the MetaHumans and The Flash. Did this never happen? Did it happen differently? Second Barry may have created Earth 2 where Barry has no powers, Caitlin and Cisco are “evil” – Killer Frost and Reverb, specifically, as well as giving rise to Zoom in the first place.

Also, don’t forget – in the finale of Season 1, Barry goes back in time to save his mother and stop Reverse Flash. Yet, in the house – he’s warned off, by himself. In Season 1, Barry heads the warning of, well, himself, and Nora dies.  Now, we have an alternate timeline, and a second Barry goes back in time, saves Nora, and Barry (our Barry) disappears.  What is going on?

I’ve seen the animated Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which I’ve also reviewed, but I haven’t read the 6-book Flashpoint (and World of Flashpoint) series from DC Comics. However, with DC’s new Rebirth maxi-series picking up from Flashpoint, and the fairly consistent dropping of Flashpoint hints and references in CW’s The Flash, one thing’s for sure, next season is going to be very interesting.

The Advantages of Second Shift or, I am not now nor have I ever been a morning person

Long time readers of this blog know that I completed a year-long project on Agile posting updates every week. This year my updates have been sporadic at best, and in April I was ready to give up the project entirely – I was working, things were pretty good, I felt like I didn’t need to post weekly updates. A month worth of Internet problems, and a switch of providers with the chaos that creates and I thought I would just give it up, though I was still keeping track somewhat of various accomplishments (though not as well as I should). And my writing was going well, even without the regular posts.

April, however, was also chaotic in that I was informed at the beginning of the month, that April 15th would be my last day in my department. I would then by sent to two weeks of training, and then moved to another department. I was not happy about this to say the least, especially as the HR person and even my manager were very high-handed about the whole thing. It was presented as a fait accompli – “you will go to training, you will go to the other department, you have no choice in the matter”. No one said the word, “quit”, but it was pretty much understood by all involved that that would be my only other choice, and I couldn’t afford to do that.

So off I went to two weeks of training (nice thing about training it was a 7-hour day or less schedule, but I got paid the full 40 hours per week). This was followed by a week of “observing”/testing/and live testing. Much to my shock I passed the live-call testing. Not only that, but when I checked later, I had the highest scores in my class. After finding out about passing the training class, I was given my new schedule. I’d requested second shift – specifically a “retail second shift” which ends earlier at night than what many people think of as second shift (factories work a 3:00 or 3:30 pm – 11:00 pm second shift). Over my life I’ve worked in retail on-and-off for about eighteen years or more, this includes Summer jobs, second part-time jobs, “Holiday” jobs, etc. I often thought that the hours were the best part about working retail, and that it’s a real pity that you can’t actually make a living working in retail. But the pay is low, there’s no benefits, and it’s never full-time. My first choice for a new shift was 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. I got my second pick – 12:30 pm (aka noon-thirty) to 9:00 pm. The surprise was it was a Sunday to Thursday shift with Friday and Saturday off. The job is working in a IT call center. The call center is 24/7/365. My first working week I continued on the original training schedule hours (8:30 am to 5:00 pm, ugg).

However, for the past two weeks or so I’ve been on my new shift – 12:30 pm to 9:00 pm, and I honestly do love it. The first half of my shift is very busy and goes by quick, it’s often time for my first break or “lunch” (the half-hour unpaid meal break) before I know it. The second half of the shift tends to be slower, especially on Sundays and Thursdays. But it’s also quieter in the call center (except for the cleaning guy who keeps vacuuming right by my cubicle while I’m on a call!). There’s less chatter between agents and quieter talk (less volume and fewer people talking) as call center techs talk over the phone. I like the quietness of the evening hours. And that isn’t to say there’s nothing to do – I still have customers to serve and help; I’m currently studying for my second A+ test (the 802), and I have a stack of professional development magazines to read such as from the STC, etc. I’m actually enjoying my job – I help people all day, I’m solving problems all day, I get to think instead of doing mindless drudge work, and most of my customers on the phone are really nice, and even understanding when I have system problems or I’m having trouble finding the info to help them.

But what is also cool is the shift itself and my schedule. I work 12:30-9:00 pm; so I have all morning, while I’m fresh and awake, to do stuff. I generally get up about 8:00 am, I have my coffee and watch my recorded TV show from the previous night or something off my “to be watched” DVD shelf, and since I’m reviewing my DVDs as I watch them, that leads to future blog posts. After that I generally sit down at my computer and work. And just like on a Saturday (when I worked 8:00 am to 4:30 pm M-F) I’m working – taking care of the everyday things – paying bills, filing, writing blog posts, doing research, etc. Now, instead of only doing that on the weekends – I can get that “little stuff” done every day – which means not having a mountain of receipts to file, or bills to pay on-line, or even on-line shopping to do on Saturday. Having time in the morning, without having to get up even earlier in the morning, means I can write, or research, or organize, or whatever I need to do. About 10 or 10:30 am, I leave my home office, and make myself breakfast, or lunch, or brunch, or whatever you want to call a meal that you have in the morning but that has to last until at least 2:15 pm or 2:30 pm when I have my first break. Then I change from my relax clothes to work clothes. Then I read, play games on my tablet, or this week probably, study, until it’s time to leave for work at 11:40 am. Again, I work from noon-thirty to nine, and generally walk on the treadmill (or outside if it’s nice) during at least one break during work. Though, to be fair, when working days I tried to walk on one break as well. After work, I generally head home, have an after work meal, read (or play computer games on my tablet) for awhile then go to bed.

But, here’s the thing. I’m getting a lot more done, and faster, because the stack of stuff to deal with on my desk gets looked at daily, rather than once a week. I’ve gotten through most of the backlog of receipts, credit card offers, junk mail, and even catalogs. Rule of three: everything goes into one of three piles – file; deal with; or recycle/destroy/trash. The file and destroy piles get dealt with first. That is, they are filed or destroyed (ripped up, shredded, put in recycling, or trashed, depending on what the item is). Then it becomes a lot easier to actually focus on and deal with the “deal with” pile of actual bills, or things I actually really do want to order from, or items that need follow-up. And bonus, because I’m home on working days (plus all day Friday) I can actually call businesses or doctor’s offices that are only open during business hours – something that’s hard to do when you work business hours.

But I’m also getting through projects. I recently added all my graphic novels, three boxes worth, going back to 1986 (in copyright dates) to GoodReads. Most, other than the very recent ones, aren’t reviewed, but at least I have them listed in one easily accessible place, and everything is tagged, and it’s public, so I can point my friends to it as a quick list, rather than pulling out my new Excel spreadsheet (which was also updated). That sort of thing would have taken a week or two, maybe more, when I worked days. Working mornings, I completed it in one week. I just love that.

I’ve also been able to write more blog posts. And I’ve even written posts before work. That is awesome. Working days, I’d often be too tired to do much after work. Or if I did, it was like one thing and that was it. Now, I get at least two hours worth of stuff done before work, put in a full day at work, and have time for the fun things like reading, playing games on my tablet, or watching my shows without commercials.

And best of all, I feel better. I am not now, nor have I ever been a morning person. I hate mornings. Well, early mornings. Getting up at six am, to leave the house by 7:15 am really isn’t fun and I barely have time for coffee, much less anything else. And getting up any earlier is out of the question. Plus, even with being exhausted all the time, especially right after work, I’d often find the one time I wasn’t tired was when it was time to go to sleep – so I’d stay up to 11:00 or 11:30 pm or even Midnight, even though the next day I had to get up at six. And I’d end-up drinking coffee all day, rather than just a cup or two in the morning – and thus not sleep, and the vicious cycle goes on. Plus, on the weekends I’d try to catch-up on sleep – either sleeping in to 10 am, or taking long naps in the afternoon. Now, I’m not fighting my body clock. I get up at 8:00 am, a respectable time – but the time I used to have to be at work. I can stay up to 11:00 or even later and still get eight or more hours of sleep. I can get a good two hours of work done in the morning before “work”. I have time for appointments, even fun ones. Today I had an appointment at 10:30 am, another at 2:00 pm, in between I got to the comics book store where I spent far too much money, and picked up lunch for the family on the way home. Oh, and went out to dinner with my folks too. And I still have a day off tomorrow.

I’m now on a schedule that fits my body clock and my own circadian rhythm, rather than being forced into someone else’s idea of when I should be working. My drive in to work is busy, but not the bumper-to-bumper nightmare of working a quote, “normal”, unquote shift. I actually, much to my surprise and shock like my new position at my job. Both the people working on second shift, and the people I talk to on the phone are nicer, kinder, and quieter. The IT Helpdesk Call Center is a national call center, so I talk to people all over the country, which is awesome and fun. I like solving problems and helping people. And I’m much, much happier with this schedule – and I’m not so tired and exhausted all the time. That is just an awesome feeling!

And Agile – I definitely need to pick-up on tracking my accomplishments again. I’ve joined the “fitness club” at work, thus the tracking of my steps on my Fitbit. I’m getting back on track with my professional development goals. And my blog post writing is getting back on schedule.