Agile Update – Week 25

Last week was better in terms of getting stuff done. I wrote four blog posts last week – my regular Agile update, a TV series on DVD review (Upstairs Downstairs Series 5), and two posts on the Doctor Who Books, including an infographic I designed myself using an on-line tool.

I also finished my Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop class (A), applied to two jobs (for social media management) and chatted with a friend who may have me managing her social media for a non-profit club/org she’s trying to organize. That would be great experience, because for all my research, I haven’t actually run a Twitter (or other social media campaign) campaign yet.

I did not get back to exercising regularly last week, though. I really need to do that.

Still – it was a pretty good week, especially for writing.

Doctor Who Missing Doctor Adventures Booklist

Yesterday, I posted about the different Doctor Who original novel ranges. Today I’m listing the books in the Doctor Who Missing Adventures, published by Virgin Publishing (paperbacks). I’m going to list the books in two sorts. The first is in chronological order by Doctor and Companion, that is, First Doctor, then Second Doctor, etc. all the way to the Sixth Doctor, within each Doctor they are listed in companion order (earlier companions first, later companions second). The spreadsheet includes the Title of each book, the Author of each book, and the Cast (Doctors and Companions).

The second list is merely chronological of when the books were published.

You do not need to read the books in either sort order listed, they can be read in any order, as they are independent, stand-alone stories. However, many are sequels to aired stories.

Doctor Who Missing Adventures (Virgin Publishing) Chronological Order
Title Author Cast
Venusian Lullaby Paul Leonard 1st Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Christopher Bulis 1st Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan
The Plotters Gareth Roberts 1st Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Vicki
The Empire of Glass Andy Lane 1st Doctor, Vicki, Steven
The Man in the Velvet Mask Daniel O’Mahony 1st Doctor, Dodo
Invasion of the Cat-People Gary Russell 2nd Doctor, Ben, Polly
Twilight of the Gods Christopher Bulis 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Victoria
The Dark Path David A. McIntee 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Victoria
The Menagerie Martin Day 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Zoë
The Eye of the Giant Christopher Bulis 3rd Doctor, Liz, UNIT
The Scales of Injustice Gary Russell 3rd Doctor, Liz, UNIT
Dancing the Code Paul Leonard 3rd Doctor, Jo, UNIT
Speed of Flight Paul Leonard 3rd Doctor, Jo, Mike Yates
The Ghosts of N-Space Barry Letts 3rd Doctor, Sarah, Brigadier
Downtime Marc Platt Brigadier, Sarah, Victoria
System Shock Justin Richards 4th Doctor, Harry, Sarah
A Device of Death Christopher Bulis 4th Doctor, Harry, Sarah
Evolution John Peel 4th Doctor, Sarah
Managra Stephen Marley 4th Doctor, Sarah
The Shadow of Weng Chiang David A. McIntee 4th Doctor, Romana I, K-9
The Romance of Crime Gareth Roberts 4th Doctor, Romana II, K-9
The English Way of Death Gareth Roberts 4th Doctor, Romana II, K-9
The Well-Mannered War Gareth Roberts 4th Doctor, Romana II, K-9
Goth Opera Paul Cornell 5th Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
The Sands of Time Justin Richards 5th Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
The Crystal Bucephalus Craig Hinton 5th Doctor, Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion
Lords of the Storm David A McIntee 5th Doctor, Turlough
State of Change Christopher Bulis 6th Doctor, Peri
Burning Heart Dave Stone 6th Doctor, Peri
Millennial Rites Craig Hinton 6th Doctor, Melanie
Time of Your Life Steve Lyons 6th Doctor
Killing Ground Steve Lyons 6th Doctor, Grant
Cold Fusion Lance Parkin 5th Doctor, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, 7th Dr & Roz, Chris, Bernice

Here’s the list in original publication order.

Virgin Books, Missing Drs series
Bk # Title Author(s)  Main Cast
1 Goth Opera Paul Cornell 5th Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
2 Evolution John Peel 4th Doctor, Sarah
3 Venusian Lullaby Paul Leonard 1st Doctor, Ian, Barbara
4 The Crystal Bucephalus Craig Hinton 5th Doctor, Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion
5 State of Change Christopher Bulis 6th Doctor, Peri
6 The Romance of Crime Gareth Roberts 4th Doctor, Romana II, K-9
7 The Ghosts of N-Space Barry Letts 3rd Doctor, Sarah, Brigadier
8 Time of Your Life Steve Lyons 6th Doctor
9 Dancing the Code Paul Leonard 3rd Doctor, Jo, UNIT
10 The Menagerie Martin Day 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Zoë
11 System Shock Justin Richards 4th Doctor, Sarah, Harry
12 The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Christopher Bulis 1st Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan
13 Invasion of the Cat-People Gary Russell 2nd Doctor, Ben, Polly
14 Managra Stephen Marley 4th Doctor, Sarah
15 Millennial Rites Craig Hinton 6th Doctor, Melanie
16 The Empire of Glass Andy Lane 1st Doctor, Steven, Vicki
17 Lords of the Storm David A McIntee 5th Doctor, Turlough
18 Downtime Marc Platt Brigadier, Sarah, Victoria
19 The Man in the Velvet Mask Daniel O’Mahony 1st Doctor, Dodo
20 The English Way of Death Gareth Roberts 4th Doctor, Romana II, K-9
21 The Eye of the Giant Christopher Bulis 3rd Doctor, Liz, UNIT
22 The Sands of Time Justin Richards 5th Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
23 Killing Ground Steve Lyons 6th Doctor, Grant
24 The Scales of Injustice Gary Russell 3rd Doctor, Liz, UNIT
25 The Shadow of Weng Chiang David A. McIntee 4th Doctor, Romana I, K-9
26 Twilight of the Gods Christopher Bulis 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Victoria
27 Speed of Flight Paul Leonard 3rd Doctor, Jo, Mike Yates
28 The Plotters Gareth Roberts 1st Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Vicki
29 Cold Fusion Lance Parkin 5th Dr, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, 7th Dr & Roz, Chris, Bernice
30 Burning Heart Dave Stone 6th Doctor, Peri
31 A Device of Death Christopher Bulis 4th Doctor, Harry, Sarah
32 The Dark Path David A. McIntee 2nd Doctor, Jamie, Victoria
33 The Well-Mannered War Gareth Roberts 4th Doctor, Romana II, K-9

Doctor Who Books

I made the header image for this post using Piktochart, an on-line image editor. It’s not perfect but Piktochart is a way to get started, and I hope the information is clear.

There have been six series of Doctor Who novels.  They are:

  • The Target Novelizations – In the 1980s and 1990s – Target, the paperback publishing arm of W.H. Allen published a series of novelizations of the Doctor Who stories. I have many of these, as do most older Doctor Who fans. They were available in both the US and UK, and I remember buying them in mall bookstores like Waldens. The books were written for children, and the simplistic style was a drawback. However, if you didn’t have access to Doctor Who – they were a great way to experience the stories. Most of the Classic Series stories were adapted into these books.
  • The Virgin Publishing Missing Adventure Books – These appeared after the series was cancelled in 1989. They were published alongside the New Adventures, but featured Doctors 1-6. Also, many were sequels to Classic Stories. They were original stories and some of the authors (of this and the next three book ranges below) have written for the New Series, or gone on to become original writers of SF novels, Fantasy novels, Comics, and television.
  • The Virgin Publishing New Adventure Books – These were also published after the cancellation of the series, and consisted of original stories. The series featured the Seventh Doctor, initially with Ace but later introduced new companions such as Dr. Bernice Summerfield (an archaeologist). The series was connected and best read in order, with the first seven books actually telling two single stories (books 1-4 Tymeworm; books 5-7 Cat’s Cradle).
  • BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures – These were published immediately after the 1996 Eighth Doctor TV Movie. They featured Doctors 1-7, and the vast majority were completely independent and could be read in any order. Though the quality varied, most were very good – and this is my personal favorite range of Doctor Who Books. The exception to the “read in any order” was a mini-series of stories about the Seventh Doctor and Ace written by Robert Perry and Mike Tucker (some volumes written solely by one or the other, but most by both). The Past Doctor Adventures (or PDAs) also branched out by bringing in companions from the Big Finish audio plays, such as Dr. Evelyn Smith (nearly retired history professor) and Frobisher (the shape-changing penguin who apparently also appeared in the comics). And the PDAs at times just had fun, such as The Indestructible Man which was a cross-over featuring the Second Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime, crossed with all the Gerry Anderson stuff, especially U.F.O. and Captain Scarlet (the man of the title). Meanwhile, World Game, is set in Series 6B – giving credence to the fan theory that before the Time Lords forced the Doctor’s regeneration, he worked for him as an independent time agent, doing their bidding.
  • BBC Books Eighth Doctor Adventures – Published after the 1996 movie this series of original novels, featured the Eighth Doctor and a number of new, original companions. The companions in this series were different from the Eighth Doctor Audio play companions (Big Finish), and also did not include Dr. Grace Holloway or Chang Lee from the TV Movie. However, that isn’t to criticize the Doctor’s companions in this range – I quite liked several of them. There are also several novels in the range where the Doctor has no companions at all. The Eighth Doctor Books must be read in order, and have tight continuity. I’ve read some of them, and enjoyed them and found them to be of high quality, however, I felt the tight continuity was a drawback – there are definitely places in the series that are bad places to start (I initially started with one of them and had to backtrack.)
  • New Series Adventures (BBC Books) – These books take place alongside New Who, and feature the Doctors, Companions, and characters from the new series. I’ve only read the first six (published as hardcovers) and I was disappointed at the more “Young Adult” style of the writing and plots. I’ve heard they’ve gotten better, and will read some of them soon. This series is ongoing.

There are also various one-offs, short story collections, and licensed original novelettes. In short, there is a lot. Still, I encourage reading at least some of the original Doctor Who novels, especially in the PDA Range. I’ve reviewed many of the Doctor Who novels on my GoodReads page, see widget with links on the lower right of this website.

Upstairs Downstairs Series 5 (final season)

  • Series Title: Upstairs Downstairs
  • Season: Series 5 (Season 5)
  • Episodes: 16
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Gordon Jackson, Jean Marsh, Angela Baddeley, David Langton, Simon Williams, Hannah Gordon, Christopher Beeny, Jenny Tomasin, Lesley-Anne Down, Jacqueline Tong
  • Network: ITV (UK) – Granada

Series 5 of Upstairs Downstairs is longer (16 episodes) and much more episodic. The season tackles individual “topics” rather than focusing on a continuing story either upstairs or downstairs, and covers the entire time period from the end of World War I to 1930.

In one episode, James buys an airplane (a left-over from the war) and takes his new step-mother, Virginia, for a spin – then the plane goes missing. As happens in the days before cell phones, they had gotten lost in the fog, and started to run out of fuel, but James lands the plane safely – then he couldn’t find a phone to tell anyone he and Virginia were OK, and by the way – Could someone come with a trailer and pick up the plane? The story is told entirely in Eaton Place.

Another story takes place during the general strike of 1925. Suddenly, we find out that Ruby (the somewhat dim, but not as dumb as she appears, kitchen maid) has an uncle who’s a coal miner. (A coal strike had started the general strike.) Hudson airs his extremely conservative, and uninformed views (calling the strikers “reds” out to ‘destroy the country” by “making war on the government”). When we meet Ruby’s uncle, who’s starving, he states that “every five hours boy or man dies in the mines, and we’re still finding the skeletons.” He also talks about the mine owners cutting already low wages, and that he can’t afford to feed his family on the new wages. Hudson throws the man out, and burns his newsletter that Edward, the Chauffeur had started to read.

Another episode about Ruby, has her getting into a tiff with Mrs. Bridges, and quitting, then getting a new job immediately as a maid-of-all-work (the phrase isn’t used, but when she describes her job, that’s precisely what it is) – since she had applied for the job of cook (only), being told to make the beds, scrub the front door, stoke and care for the fires, scrub the kitchen, in addition to cooking and cleaning was a case of the job she applied for not being the job she got. Her employer is also a right biddy – and a bully to boot. When Ruby sends a letter to Daisy, she tells Mrs. Bridges – who goes to see Ruby, discovers the situation is worse than the letters, takes her out of there and brings her back to Eaton Place.

Meanwhile, Mr., now, Lord Bellamy, has Virginia entertain a friend of his, Sir Guy Paynter, hoping to get some political advantage. Sir Guy is played deliciously and slimeily by Robert Hardy (All Creatures Great and Small, Harry Potter). Virginia becomes increasingly frustrated by his advances, and Lord Bellamy isn’t worried as he believes Sir Guy is gay. Eventually, Virginia turns Sir Guy down flat – as his mother is pressuring him to marry. Lord Bellamy has the last laugh, as he gets his political appointment when the PM (or was it the Admiralty?) anyway, when the politician receives a letter from Sir Guy recommended the appointment of anyone but Lord Bellamy – so he appoints Bellamy because “he didn’t want someone in Sir Guy’s pocket.” Welcome to British politics!

Another episode takes place at a Scottish fishing lodge – with the weirdest game keeper and housekeeper ever! It’s somewhat scary and spooky – though Hudson comes to the rescue and figures things out.

Georgina has her own problems, falling in with a wild group of “Bright Young Things” who lead her into a number of misadventures (and costing the Bellamys a footman). But when one wild night ends in Georgina striking and killing a farm worker with her car on a lonely rural road, she realises the party is over. She also finds a new man – Robert, the Marquis of Stockbridge.

James admits his love for Georgina (his much younger first cousin, and his father’s ward). She turns him down flat. James, heartbroken, goes to America (throughout the entire series, characters that leave the series “go to America”, which I found amusing and a bit non-specific). In the second to last episode, James returns to England having made his fortune in the stock market. Unfortunately, it’s 1929 and he doesn’t take his money out of the stock market. James loses everything, including Rose’s nest egg (which James invests) from her Australian boyfriend in the war.

After losing everything, James fights with his father, tells Georgina he’s sorry he can’t pay for her wedding and disappears in the night. The police arrive at Eaton Place to tell Virginia and Lord Bellamy, James committed suicide in a London hotel room.

However, Robert, the Marquis, returns and re-proposes to Georgina, telling her his parents now approve (after taking him on a grand tour – and away from Georgina). Georgina, however, is in a funk over James’ death (remember she had, had another man propose to her and then kill himself when she turned him down). Virginia solves the issue, creatively, but slightly illegally (she manages to accidentally invent money laundering – but it’s in a good cause.)

In the final episode, Georgina marries Robert in a grade style – and all goes well. Mr. Hudson finally marries Mrs. Bridges, and the two retire to a seaside cottage. Eaton Place is sold and all its contents are auctioned to pay James’ debts. Rose goes to live (and work for) the Bellamy’s at their smaller country estate. Daisy and Edward are hired by Georgina and Robert, with a cottage on their estate of their own, and Edward even gets a promotion to butler.  Ruby is taken in by Mrs. Bridges and Hudson, and she quietly remarks to Rose, “They’re old – and when they’re gone, I’ll have the place all to my self!”

The series ends with Rose in the empty Eaton Place, hearing the voices of other servants through the years, and she closes windows and takes a last look around. It was actually quite creepy to me – like the house was filled with ghosts. It reminded me of Sapphire and Steel as well as the Doctor Who audio play Chimes of Midnight from Big Finish. It was just, creepy.

Overall, Upstairs Downstairs was much slower paced, more episodic ( had less connected storylines), and had a smaller cast than Downton Abbey. But it was made in the 1970s and was largely studio-bound. But what Upstairs Downstairs did, and often did well, was contrast the lives of the Upper Crust upstairs and their servants downstairs. Sometimes this was very direct – Georgina spends £1,700.00 – £2,000.00 pounds on her wedding. Hudson and Mrs. Bridges spend practically nothing – getting married at the local registry office (which is like getting married at the courthouse or by a justice of the peace in the US). And both the Bellamy family and their servants have their problems. Upstairs Downstairs did portray being “In Service” as a noble profession, and often the only choice (or a better choice), for particularly women in service. However, the series didn’t shy away from showing people other than the Bellamys treating their servants horribly. And even the Bellamys fired pregnant maids and gay footmen.

Servants in Victorian and Edwardian England were not, as some seem to think, “the same as slaves”. For one thing – they were paid. True, not much, but what do you think a worker at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart makes as a wage? And live-in servants also received room, board, and fabric to make their uniforms. And, although Upstairs Downstairs, makes a big deal about servants needing “a reference” to get a new job, in the memoir, Below Stairs, the cook describes there were about a million ways to get around that, from having a friend write a phony reference to telling a potential new employer their previous one had died. (No, seriously, that apparently worked.) Servants also had mobility – both within a household and by moving to a better position in another household. Footmen became valets or under-butlers, then butler and an ambitious butler could aim to be majordomo of a larger household. Women started as scullery maids and moved up to either kitchen maid then cook or housemaid, parlour maid, housekeeper. Lady’s maid was one of the highest levels of for a female servant, her main duties were to help her lady dress, and take care of her clothes, jewelry, gloves, shoes, and boudoir. The Nanny and the Governess were separate and often ‘neither above nor below’ spending all their time with the children, even meals. Once World War I began (for the UK in 1914) women began to work at other jobs outside the home for both the middle classes and servants. Though some noble (and upper class) women merely volunteered their time, others worked in paid labor. And, after the war, because the UK had lost an entire male generation, more women (regardless of class) were able to work in the 1920s, unlike in the US where women still were not allowed to work. Overall, it’s an excellent series, and I recommend it.

Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 1.

Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 2.

Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 3.

Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 4.

Agile Update – Week 24

Last week marked six months of using Agile in my life to organize and motivate me in personal and professional development. I also use Agile as a system of time management. I tend to have a bit of a one track mind – when I’m working on something, I really work on that one thing – but I sometimes tend to let other things suffer. The past few weeks I’ve been really busy with my 7-week combined Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop class. I liked Illustrator once I got the hang of it – like InDesign, but I still don’t really like Photoshop. Still, I’ve learned the basics. And I have The Gimp on my computer so I can practice photoshop skills with that. I even bought a book that’s specific to The Gimp (a free open-source, photo-manipulation software program).

Last week, I wrote two blog posts – my Agile update, and a movie review that was posted to Blogger and here on WordPress. My movie review project is back on track, as I’m reviewing at least one movie a week – which is better than none, but not up to the original three reviews a week I planned, when I started that project. In future, I’m going to plan on at least two movie reviews a week, so that I will have blog posts – and, hopefully, I’ll have the project complete by the end of Summer. I’m also watching TV-on-DVD sets and reviewing them. I’m currently watching the last season of Upstairs Downstairs, which is going a bit slow – it’s a very episodic season, like the first, with little flow between the episodes, and I know the series has a sad ending, which I think I’m just putting off watching. Still, only two more episodes to watch, so that review will happen this week.

I attended my second-to-last class last Tuesday, and went into the lab two days. I’ve finished my assignments – and when I checked my points on Friday I had 260.6 (out of the 240 needed for an A), so at least I’ll get a good grade out of the experience. I actually wanted to just get better at the Adobe suite, because I think it would help in my career.

I also worked on my Agile logo again, and improved it. I’m now using a logo I designed myself for these posts on Agile, rather than just using an image I found on-line. I’ve updated all my Agile posts to use my self-designed logo which I made in Adobe Illustrator.  I also updated my tech advice and how to posts with my own Bitch With Wi-Fi Logo, which, although I’m not completely satisfied with it – now that my class it over I might try updating it with Inkscape or Serif Draw (two Illustrator-like programs that I downloaded a few weeks ago). I have a lot more fonts on my home computer than the computers at school – so I should be able to put something together that is an improvement. And, in the meantime, my technical posts on this blog should all be identifiable by having the same header illustration.

So, I’ve been using Agile as a structure for six months. It really does seem to help to focus on several things at once, to help me feel accomplished, to give me motivation to do more, and to beat myself up less about what doesn’t get done. For a highly functioning perfectionist – that nagging feeling that nothing is ever good enough is a hard thing to beat. But my goals, bit by bit, are happening – writing more, and more consistently. Working on professional development. Getting in shape. Any one of those is a tough goal. Doing all of them at once is really difficult. But I’m game – after all I’ve accomplished a lot in six months

To Catch a Thief

  • Title:  To Catch a Thief
  • Director:  Alfred Hitchcock
  • Date:  1955
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  Action, Romance, Suspense
  • Cast:  Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams, Brigitte Auber
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I stole once, a long time ago, I went to jail.” – John Robie (Cary Grant)
“I know. The Germans bombed the prison and you all escaped, joined the Underground, and became heroes.” – Danielle
“I joined because I wanted to make-up for some of the things I’d done. I’ve never stolen since.” – Robie

“You’re here in Europe to buy a husband, huh?” – Robie
“The man I want doesn’t have a price.” – Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly)
“Well, that eliminates me.” – Robie

“John, Why bother?” – Frances
“It’s sort of a hobby of mine, the truth.” – Robie

A series of daring jewel robberies rocks France, specifically the resort communities of the French Rivieria. The police immediately suspect John Robie, a retired jewel thief once known as The Cat. Robie decides the only way he will be able to prove his innocence is to catch the thief himself.

Robie meets HH Hughson, an insurance broker from Lloyd’s of London. His company has insured many of the stolen jewels, so he has a vested interest in finding the jewels so his company doesn’t have to pay the claims. Robie convinces him to give him a list of potential targets. Hughson is a bit dubious, but agrees.

Robie then meets up with Jessie Stevens and her daughter Frances (Francie). Mrs. Stevens is widowed and extremely rich after oil was discovered on her husband’s small Texas ranch. She’s also loud, uncultured, rude, and obnoxious. Her daughter, Frances, has benefited from her mother’s money, having attended a European “finishing school”, and traveled the world. Frances is a bit spoiled, and very bored with her life of travel and suitors after her money. Robie and Frances immediately have an attraction.

Meanwhile, Robie had first gone to the restaurant of his friends from the French Underground movement, but they are convinced he’s guilty and has gone back to his jewel-stealing ways. The only person from his previous life who thinks he’s either innocent, or it doesn’t matter if he’s guilty, is Danielle – the wine steward’s daughter, who flirts shamelessly with Robie – despite being young enough to be his daughter.

The story is told somewhat episodically, against the backdrop of seaside France. The tale alternates between the romantic encounters between John and Frances (swimming at the beach, a wild car ride ending in a romantic picnic, even the tour of a villa) and Danielle’s flirting with John, and John’s attempts to find the thief.

Robie also receives threatening notes at his hotel – which tell him to lay off his search. He misses one robbery entirely, because he is concentrating on the Stevens. He then goes to investigate a villa he’s been staking out for several nights, despite getting a second note that tells him to stay away. He finds the wine steward, dead. The police report to the newspapers, this is The Cat. But Robie goes to the police and points out the steward had a wooden leg, it would have been impossible for him to climb on rooftops. The steward is also Danielle’s father – and when he shows up at the funeral, Danielle accuses him of murder.

Robie then decides to set a trap of his own. He knows that an upcoming costume ball will be a perfect opportunity for The Cat to strike. He goes to the ball with Mrs. Stevens and Frances, and the police attend as well. He and Hughson switch places, and while Hughson dances the night away with Frances, Robie waits for The Cat. His gambit pays off and he catches the real thief – Danielle.

To Catch a Thief  is a lavish production, very colorful and big (the film as a 1:85:1 ratio, despite being shot on 35mm film). Cary Grant is in fine form, and Grace Kelly is brilliant as Frances. But the film has always felt very slow to me. Still, if you’ve never seen it – it is a must-see, a classic film of romantic suspense.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Tomorrow Never Dies

Agile Update – Week 23

Last week, again, was average. I really need to step it up and start getting more done. A Summer cold hasn’t been helping matters, at all, but still, I need to do more.

Last week I did get two posts completed on WordPress, one on Agile, and a movie review which I also posted to Blogger. I also wrote a post for Nix Studios, an updated post on How to Nest Categories in WordPress – check it out. I reviewed two books on GoodReads, links to the full reviews can be found in the GoodReads Widget on the lower right side of this blog.

I attended class, my first week learning Photoshop. I also started my homework in the lab, and finished about half of the assignments for the week. I also read at least three professional development articles on-line.

I did exercise once last week – 20 minutes of Yoga. I really need to get back into the swing of exercising 3 – 5 times a week. That might even improve my energy level.

I attempted to design an infographic, myself, using a free on-line tool called Pixlr. That didn’t go so well. I was very happy with what I did, but I showed it to a friend of mine who’s a professional in data visualization and he hated it. On the one hand, I don’t think the words “I’m new at this,” and “First EVER” really penetrated his head, when he told me every little thing I did wrong. But, on the other, I know precisely what it feels like to be an expert in new technology and have other people with absolutely no experience whatsoever pooh pooh your advice and insist that they know better. And while, I really don’t think I was insisting that “I know better”, at the same time I know I can give a bad impression – especially when I’m still smarting from criticism. And yes, I’m mature enough to know constructive criticism is helpful and the only way one will improve.


  • Title:  Labyrinth
  • Director:  Jim Henson
  • Date:  1986
  • Studio:  TriStar (Jim Henson Productions, Lucasfilm)
  • Genre: Fantasy, Children’s Film
  • Cast:  David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“It keeps changing, What am I supposed to do?” – Sarah

Sarah is a young teen-aged woman who enjoys Cosplay (she dresses in a watery green gown that she probably made herself, and wears over her jeans, while reciting lines from her favorite story), her books, her stuffed animals, and her other trinkets of childhood. When her parents ask her to babysit her baby brother, she acts very put upon and even bratty. Finally, she wishes her baby brother away. When the Goblin King takes her brother, she immediately regrets her actions and becomes determined to get her brother back.

Sarah must solve the labyrinth, get to the castle beyond it, and rescue her brother. At first, she constantly asks for help from anyone she meets, but over time she gradually begins to trust her own instincts and solves a series of tests, riddles, and puzzles herself. She makes new friends, and works her way to the goblin castle.

Once at the castle, she decides she must confront the Goblin King herself, uttering the magic words, “You have no power over me,” which free her and her baby brother. When she returns home, she begins to pack away her childish things. But her friends from the Labyrinth appear in mirrors to tell her, they’ll be there, “should you ever need us.”

Labyrinth is a story about growing up. Not only must Sarah learn to care for her baby brother without complaining, but she must learn to trust herself, not others, and rely on her own ability to solve problems. Which isn’t to say she must be totally alone – the importance of real friends is another theme of this classic children’s/teen movie.

What makes the film stand out, however, is David Bowie’s performance as the Goblin King. Bowie sings three songs in the film, all of which are just awesome! The song and dance routines are well integrated into the film – and they make the movie.

The Blu-ray looks really good, though I was disappointed that the songs weren’t subtitled. The Firey sequence shows some really bad travelling matte lines and green screen artifacts, though. The rest of the film, which features Jim Henson’s signature muppet creatures, and an actor in a suit (Ludo) looks good. That is to say, it’s not dated looking. The film references (and has a credit for) Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and the paintings/drawings of MC Escher, both of which are acknowledged in the end credits. I especially enjoyed Sarah and the Goblin King’s confrontation in Castrovalva.

I loved this film as a teen – and I might have even owned a copy on VHS at some point. It’s been on my “buy when you see it cheap” list for a long time – and I just bought the Blu-Ray on sale for a very good price last month. The film does stand up, which is always a concern with movies you loved as a child or teenager but haven’t seen since becoming an adult. I did feel, especially early in the film, that Sarah was a bit of a brat. But, I also felt sad to see her boxing up her toys and stuffed animals at the end of the film.

Recommendation:  See it! Especially good for pre-teens and teenagers
Rating:  PG 
Next Film:  To Catch a Thief

Agile Update – Week 22

I had guests in town yesterday, so I didn’t take the time to sit down and write this update. And I should of, because, even though I was thinking, “Man, I did nothing last week, again,” actually that isn’t really true.

It is true that last week I only finished a single blog post here on WordPress. But I also published a professional post over on the NixStudio website. It was an updated version of one of my first posts on WordPress (when I started this blog) an explanation of the difference between tags and categories and how to use them. Here you can find the article an tagging and categories in WordPress.

This wasn’t the only professional development that was completed. I finished the April issue of the STC magazine, which focused on Social Media as it relates to Technical Writing, as well as soft skills for technical writers. It was a great issue. I’ve also gone back to keeping up with thanking new followers on Twitter. I know it’s a polite thing to do, and it often helps bring even more followers and better engagement, but for a couple of weeks it just wasn’t something I wanted to spend time on. And it showed in my stats, plus I missed the interactivity, so that goes back on my mental list of daily activities.

My Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop class is at it’s halfway point. I’ve finished the Illustrator half, and Photoshop starts tonight. Not only did I finish-up my Illustrator assignments and attend class last week – I also designed two illustrations myself for this blog. One, “Bitch with Wi-Fi – Tools and Tips” about Technology (with the Big Red Barn) has started to appear on this blog, but I still need to go through and update some posts with the new post header image. The image visually reflects my personal slogan, “I’m a born-and-bred Midwesterner who’s lived in five states. I’m passionate about Film, Television, Media, Computers and Technology,” which I’ve used since I started my Blogger blog in 2010. The Big Red Barn represents the Midwest – because nothing says “Midwest” like a barn, even though few of the big, red, wooden barns are left, and I’ve never been a farmer or farmer’s daughter in my life (I grew up in the city). Then other symbols represent the other things I’ve very passionate about:  a television, a computer/smartphone/laptop/tablet for technology, a RSS feed symbol to represent social media, a filmstrip symbol to represent film.

The other symbol I designed at the lab was an updated Agile post header as seen on today’s post. I personalized it to fit the theme of my Agile posts – Vision – Outcomes – Reflection. The image is close to what I want, but I want it to be a bit more precise, so I’m hoping I will have time to work on it tonight in class and to talk to my instructor about it, before updating all my Agile posts on this blog, with the new, designed-by-me, image.

I did exercise once, 30 minutes of Yoga, but only once this week. That is a slow improvement over last week when I got in no exercise at all because I didn’t feel well. I think I’m just going to have to build up again to 3-5 exercise days a week.

So, again I feel like I should have done more. But, I’m going to celebrate what did get done, and resolve to work on areas I need to seriously work on:  exercise, professional development and writing, blogging. I should be able to write some reviews this week, looking at my schedule. In my post for the Nix Studios Website, I promised to write a follow-up on categories, so that needs to be done today. I have class tonight, so hopefully I can update and tweak the two logos. But I also need to stop beating myself up – I designed two logos, by myself, I’m happy with them – I just want to do a bit more tweaking to get them perfect – especially the Agile one.

Speaking of Agile – I still think that this program is really working for me. It helps me to hold myself accountable to myself in accomplishing my goals. It helps me to avoid the negative self-talk – because I can do this!

Agile Update – Week 21

All of last week I had a nasty sinus cold, and I just did not feel well. Still, I managed to get some basics done, especially towards the end of the week when I started to feel better.

Accomplishments Despite Everything

Four, count ’em four posts on WordPress! Yeah! I did my regular, weekly Agile post on Monday, a TV Season set Review, and also two technical posts – one on Infographics and one on typesetting and graphic design. Yea! I’m proud of myself for that, especially considering I really was sick. I also wrote two book reviews on GoodReads.

I did attend class on Tuesday, but I stayed home Wednesday. Well, stayed home but for a doctor’s appointment. Still, I went to the lab on Thursday and finished all my homework. Friday, I took the day off, and gave myself a long, relaxing weekend.

No exercising this past week – it’s hard when you’re sick. I must work on getting back up to speed this week. I celebrated my birthday this week with family. It was very nice and I enjoyed dinner out at a nice restaurant.