Agile Update – Year 2 Week 7

Last week I has a major success. After a four-month class and an additional month of studying, I passed my first test (220-801) for my A+ certification! My score was excellent, too. So I am excited and pleased about that. Now I need to schedule my next test and start studying for it. I’ve written my schedule for studying for the second test (220-802).

I did have three posts on WordPress too. One was only a link, to an excellent post on Tumblr about the character of Felicity Smoak on Arrow – who is being almost criminally under-used this year. I need to write-up an reaction / my own view on that, but life’s been a bit busy lately. I’m simply a big, big fan of Felicity Smoak, and she’s, often the best thing about Arrow – so I’d like to see her do more. Although, to be fair, there was at one episode where Felicity’s been kick-ass, and her story line has had it’s moments. But the link post was just that – a link only, with no comment by me (yet). I also wrote my weekly Agile post. And I reviewed a movie (Superman II) here on WordPress and on Blogger. Yep, after being a Batman and Justice League fan for many, many years – I’m now catching-up on Superman (by way of Dr. Ray Palmer, the Atom, as played by Brandon Routh – who was also in Superman Returns). I have watched Superman Returns, but I need to re-watch it and review it.

I’m now working full-time, have been since Jan 4th, and I’m enjoying my new job. I’m learning how to code HTML, by removing and sometimes adding HTML tags to Knowledge Base Articles.  I’m also learning the ropes, so to speak, at my job and really enjoying it. So this might work out, we’ll see.

Last week Thursday, I went out to dinner with my folks at one of my favorite local restaurants. It’s a European comfort-food place, and they just have food you can’t find anywhere else in town. Plus the food is incredibly good and you get a lot of it, always enough for two, maybe three meals. I’ve been there twice now and it’s really incredible, so that was a very enjoyable social evening.

So last week was a bit unusual – but a successful week. I need to work on exercising at least two or three times a week. I think it would help with my stress level, too. I also need to get back into the habit of studying for my second A+ test, and to schedule it very, very soon. This weekend if I can get into the websites I need to register. Writing goals are one technical article a week, one movie or TV DVD set article per week, and my regular Agile post. Plus book reviews of books that I read. Once I get through getting my A+, I need to return to keeping up on professional development for technical writing, social media marketing, and learning graphic design (especially for the web).

Superman II (Richard Donner cut)

  • Title: Superman II (Richard Donner cut)
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Date: 1980, 2006 (Reconstruction / Donner edit)
  • Studio: Warner Brother’s
  • Genre: Action, Fantasy
  • Cast: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, Terence Stamp, John Ratzenberger, Shane Rimmer

“Clark, once a girl’s seen Superman in action, Niagara Falls kinda’ leaves you cold. You know what I mean?” – Lois Lane

“It is you! I guess I’ve known this for the longest time.” – Lois
“You realize of course, if you’d been wrong, Clark Kent would have been killed.” – Clark/Superman
“With a blank? Gotcha!” – Lois

“This Super Man is nothing of the kind, I’ve discovered his weakness.” – Zod
“Yes?” – Ursa
“He cares. He actually cares for these Earth people.” – Zod
“Like pets?” – Ursa
“I suppose so.” – Zod

I never saw Superman II when it came out, and I’m unaware of the details of any controversy surrounding the film, or the director. Apparently, Donner was the original director and was replaced. However, what I watched was Donner’s cut of the film, and that is what I will be reviewing here.

Superman II starts with a repeat of Superman the Movie, with Jor-El carrying out the sentence of Krypton’s high Council to exile three Kryptonian villains to the Phantom Zone. Zod still threatens Jor-El and his heirs. The movie also includes a few clips of the previous film, setting the stage for the sequel. It also shows the missile Superman threw into space from the first film, hitting the phantom zone and at first splitting it apart, then cracking the parts open, releasing the villains.

At the Daily Planet, Perry, Lois, and Jimmy are discussing the story of Superman defeating Lex Luthor. Jimmy says that it’s too bad Clark missed the Big Story. And Lois casually responds, “Clark is never around when Superman is around.” Then she has a lightbulb moment. Perry calls Lois and Clark into his office.  He wants them to go undercover as newlywed’s to cover hotel swindles at Niagara Falls. In Perry’s office, Lois confronts Clark with the idea she thinks he’s Superman. She even goes so far as to throw herself out of Perry’s high rise window. Clark saves her subtly, and without “becoming” Superman.

Meanwhile – Luthor and Otis are working in the prison laundry. Luthor’s girlfriend rescues Luthor, but Otis is left behind.

Also, meanwhile, in Houston, two NASA controllers are talking to the Artemis 2 mission to the moon. The three Kyptonian criminals arrive on the moon. They kill the astronauts and cosmonaut.

Lois and Clark are at Niagara Falls, pretending to be a newlywed couple.

Lex Luthor and his girlfriend discover Superman’s fortress of solitude by using Lex’s alpha wave tracker. Lex places crystals (one by one) into Superman’s crystal computer. Luthor and his girlfriend listen to Jor-El explaining about the three super-villains from Krypton. Luthor, of course, wants to find them.  He starts making a speech – but his girlfriend has left to use the ladies.

At Niagara Falls, Clark’s glasses get steamed up and she cleans them for him. She’s also taking pictures with a Polaroid camera. A little boy plays on the wrong side of the rail, despite warnings from his mother.

Meanwhile, the three Kryptonian villains fly through the sky, and land in or near a swamp. Zod walks on water.

At Niagara Falls, there’s a beautiful rainbow in the mist from the falls, which no one really notices. However, the little boy loses his grip on the rail and falls. Superman rescues him.

Then Clark returns to Lois. Lois again wonders about this.

In their hotel room, Clark is in a black tux and Lois in a towel applying her make-up. She again talks to him about how it sure was strange that of all the places where a child might be in danger, Superman was here, today. And how she couldn’t find Clark when Superman arrived. Clark tries to talk to her about it. Lois takes out a gun and shoots him. Clark admits he’s Superman. As Superman he takes Lois flying – to his fortress of solitude.

There’s a few cuts showing the Kryptonian villains and what they are doing.

What’s more interesting is that Clark prepares a nice meal for Lois, gives her champagne, and they then sleep together. The next morning, Clark talks to the computer image of his father about being in love with Lois. He decides to expose himself to the radiation of Krypton’s red sun which will take away his super powers permanently and leave him mortal.

Zod and his fellow villains destroy the town of “East Huston, Idaho”. Zod announces he will be ruler. Later there’s a shot of the Washington Monument being destroyed.

As Clark talks to his father, before deciding to take his radiation bath – Lois watches silently from a distance, but understands everything that is going on.

The three Kryptonian villains wreck havoc at the White House. Some advisor kneels before Zod, but Zod realizes immediately he’s not the president. The president agrees to kneel before Zod if everyone is spared. But he mentions that “one man” will never kneel.

Lois and Clark arrive at a diner. While Clark’s in the men’s room, the local bully starts to harass Lois. Clark arrives and instead of beating the guy up or defending Lois’s honor – he’s beaten-up by the guy. Clark is shocked to see his own blood. Lois attacks the bully then they are eventually left alone.

The waitress turns on the news and the president announces that he is “abdicating” all control to Gen. Zod, though in the midst of his speech he calls out to Superman for help.

Clark tells Lois he has to go back. Lois tells him it’s not his fault.

Meanwhile, Luthor meets the three villains. He offers in bargain the “son of Jor-El”, Superman. Lex wants “Australia”.

Clark struggles back to the fortress, alone. He sees the destroyed crystal computer.  He calls out to his father and admits his failure. Clark looks extremely sad and sympathetic and it’s some of Christopher Reeve’s best acting in the two films. Then he sees the glowing green crystal. He puts it in one of the few remaining glass tubes in the computer.

There’s an odd crystal mask, then the hologram of Jor-el appears. Jor-el gives his son his final message. There is a way for Clark (Kal-El) to regain his powers. But it will completely destroy the computer and Jor-El’s holographic image. Kal-El is flooded with his father’s essence, when the solid-appearing full-size hologram of Jor-El touches Kal-El he seizes, glows and becomes Superman.

Perry is at the Daily Planet talking to Lois and Jimmy about the three villains. Then they arrive and cause havoc. Non grabs Perry, and hits his head against the ceiling, knocking him out. Ursa breaks Lois’s hand. Zod destroys Jimmy’s camera.

Superman returns and confronts Zod and the others. There’s a major fight scene. When flying Non and Ursa have a vampire-like look. There’s a lot of destruction in “Metropolis” which is obviously New York. The fight continues.

Zod and Ursa throw a bus full of people. Superman is buried between the bus and a truck. Everyone is saying Superman is dead, and a mob even starts to confront the three villains – but they are blown away by super cold breath – that moves people, papers, and even cars.

Superman rises from where he was crushed, but he’s weak – he flies away.

The three villains return to the Daily Planet. Lex tells them he has “Superman’s address”. The three villains take Lex and Lois with them to the Fortress of Solitude. There, Zod threatens to let Ursa kills Lois if Superman doesn’t play ball. He also threatens Lex Luthor. Luthor goes to Superman’s side and Superman tells him they must trick the villains in to the molecular chamber. Luthor returns to the villains’ side and says he “wants Cuba”.

Superman agrees to go into the chamber. But when he comes out he kneels before Zod, then takes his hand and crushes it. Zod and Non are thrown into the pit of the Fortress. Lois hits Ursa in the jaw and knocks her in the pit. Superman had reversed the molecular chamber – so he was safe and the villains made vulnerable.

He, Lois, and Luthor leave the fortress and Superman destroys it with his heat vision. He then flies Lois home to her apartment. She’s crying and saying goodbye to him. She promises to keep his secret. Superman leaves.

Superman then does his time travel thing of flying around the planet and sees that his missile never hit and broke open the Phantom Zone. He then flies forward.

Next day – all seems normal at the Daily Planet, though Lois says she’s “super” and elbows Clark. Clark, also as Clark, finds the bully from the diner. The cook and waitress seem to recognize Clark, and the cook says he just “spent a fortune” to clean up the place. Clark beats-up the bully, says he’s been working out, and offers the cook money for the damages.

The film ends with Superman flying above the Earth in the sun.

I’ve seen this film twice now, and there are things I like and things I don’t about it, although overall I’d say it’s a good movie. When I first saw it, I was confused by the use of time travel, again. And confused by just what happened and what didn’t. Obviously, the Kyptonian villains never reached Earth. But did Lois and Clark never go to Niagara Falls? If they didn’t the little boy who fell into the falls is dead – because Superman wouldn’t know to save him. But if they did – then Clark also admitted who he was to Lois, and brought her to his fortress of solitude. Then it’s likely he became “mortal” – and without three villains from Krypton to fight – villains his family have history with – would he ever decide “the world needs a Superman”? Plus, in the first film, Superman time travels to save Lois’s life – in this film, he time travels, why? So she doesn’t know who he is? To protect the world from Zod and his cronies? What? There didn’t seem to be enough of a reason for it.

However, upon re-watching it – it seems that Superman didn’t go quite so far back. Perry is wearing a different shirt that when he sent Lois and Clark to Niagara Falls. When Clark goes to the diner to beat-up the bully – he’s recognized. Lois even teases Clark that she’s “Super”. So it seems his little forward spin meant some things stayed the same. Lois is also working on a story called, “Superman’s Day Off”.

Speaking of Lois – in the first film, the running joke is that she can’t spell. Which is odd for a prize-winner reporter. In this film, Lois is always hungry. I wanted her to be treated better than that – because Margot Kidder does such a good job with the little she’s given.

Christopher Reeve though really shines in Superman II, the scene where he’s telling the hologram of his father (more like a ghost in these films) that he’s fallen in love with a human woman, and he doesn’t know what to do about it; and the scene where he talks about making a mistake, and losing all contact with his father to regain his power as Superman are powerful – and show Reeve’s acting ability. They were very impressive.

Overall, this reconstruction/director’s cut is a good film and I enjoyed it.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Superman Returns

Agile Update – Year 2 Week 6

Last week I mostly studied like mad for my A+ exam. Or to be precise, the CompTIA 220-801 Exam which is one of two exams you need to become A+ certified. A+ is a very basic computer certification – and, in fact, I passed the certification in 2007, but when I initially looked into the job placement program that led to my current position, they required that my A+ be current, so I had to re-certify. Thus four months of twice-weekly classes, and a lot of effort.

And, I’m proud to say that all the studying paid off, because I took the exam on Monday February 15th, and I passed. And not only did I pass – I passed with flying colors. Yea me!

Also last week, I wrote three blog articles. I wrote my regular, weekly Agile post. I wrote a technical post on Excel basics (the first of three posts for sure), and I reviewed the film, Superman the Movie (the original Superman film with Christopher Reeve). Also, last weekend, between bouts of studying I watched the other two Superman films in the triple-pack that I ordered from Amazon. Both were very good and will be reviewed soon.

So all-and-all, last week was really pretty awesome! I’m glad I passed my test. Next hurdle is to take my second test, which every says is much harder. But I know I have a good study plan. And I have an appointment with my instructor from my class which ended in January, to pick-up additional study materials.

Collage of Superman the Movie, Lois and Superman, Superman, Logo

Superman the Movie

  • Title: Superman the Movie (aka Superman)
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Date: 1978
  • Studio: Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Action, Fantasy, SF
  • Cast: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Trevor Howard, Glenn Ford
  • Format: Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, NTSC

“There’s one thing I do know, son, and that is – you are here for a reason.” – Jonathon Kent

“Easy, miss, I’ve got you.” – Superman
“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” – Lois Lane

Richard Donner’s original Superman film opens on Krypton, with Jor-El implementing the decision of the Council to banish three criminals to the Phantom Zone – a sort of limbo that looks like a glass trapezoid. The scenes on Krypton are grand and impressive and include lots of dramatic close-ups. However, if you haven’t seen Superman before the entire sequence would be very confusing – and we never see the villains again (yes, I know, wait for Superman II). However, it isn’t long before Jor-El is up before the council himself. Jor-El has discovered that Krypton’s red sun is expanding and will soon cause Krypton to explode. No one wants to believe this really bad news, and the council threatens Jor-El – if he speaks out about his findings, or if he and his wife attempt to leave Krypton, Jor-El will also be sentenced to the Phantom Zone. Jor-El agrees to stay silent. However, he and his wife place their infant son in a rocket ship, with all the knowledge of not only Krypton but the galaxy at large and send him to Earth.

The infant, Kal-El, crash lands on Earth, and he’s raised by John and Martha Kent. When Clark Kent, as he is now called, turns 18, his father dies from a heart attack, and Clark finds a glowing green crystal rod in the Kent barn – which creates for him his fortress of solitude in the Arctic. There, Clark is instructed by the hologram of his father. He emerges seventeen years later and moves to Metropolis to take a job as a reporter at the Daily Planet. Clark meets Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White.

Before long, Clark is also Superman – rescuing people, catching criminals, and just being Superman. From rescuing Lois Lane from a helicopter that’s crashed on the side of the Daily Planet to rescuing cats from trees and everything in between – he’s Superman.

But he’s also Clark – so when Perry demands more information on this new hero in their midst, he slips Lois a note – from “a friend” – the precise way he’d introduced himself to her when he rescued her from the helicopter. Superman arrives on Lois’s patio, and after a brief interview, he takes her flying, even breaking the cloud layer. The flying sequence is soft, romantic, and alternates between close-ups of the actors’ faces and long and medium shots. It’s a very romantic scene.

But as in any film – there needs to be conflict, and the conflict comes in the form of Lex Luthor – who, with the help of his really stupid henchman, Otis, and his not much brighter Girl Friday, Eve Teschmacher – has a true super-villain plan, worthy of a Bond villain. He’s used his corporation to buy up all the “worthless” desert land just East of California and plans to steal two missiles to drop essentially a large explosion on the San Andreas fault which will set off enough earthquakes to drop California into the Ocean. Lex also figures out – in quite a leap of logic – that because Superman is from Krypton a meteorite of Kryptonite will kill him.

Lex sends Superman a message at an ultra-high frequency and gets him to a rendezvous where he manipulates him into opening a lead box containing a kryptonite rock on a chain. Lex puts the chain around Superman’s neck and drops him in a swimming pool. However, before “disposing” of Superman Lex remarks that he has two missiles, not just one – the larger one is being sent to California, and the smaller one to Hackensack, NJ. Ms. Teschmacher remarks – “But my mother lives in Hackensack!”

Teschmacher jumps into the pool to rescue Superman and gets him to agree to stop the missile heading for New Jersey first. Superman promises this – but it will have dire consequences. He stops the first missile, then hears the second hit California. Superman dives into the Earth’s crust to stop the Earthquakes, then tries to mitigate as much of the damage as possible. Yet he isn’t fast enough to stop Lois from being buried alive when her car falls into a sinkhole. Superman gets very angry and upset and flies around the Earth backward, turning back time so he can rescue Lois.

Overall, Superman is a very feel-good movie. It doesn’t have the angst or paranoid atmosphere of Man of Steel. Reeve’s mild-mannered reporter, Clark Kent, is very “mild-mannered” – causing him and Lois to be attacked by a mugger (Lois rescues them both; though Clark catches a bullet aimed at himself). Clark is so “nice” it’s almost unbelievable. But he’s also someone that young people could really look up to. Lois, well, poor Lois – in this film, she seems solely there to be rescued – continuously. I remember really liking Lois Lane when I saw this movie when it came out but now – oh dear. She’s a reporter, an to be award-winning reporter, yet she can’t spell? The constant Lois asking everyone how to spell various words, or having her spelling corrected by her boss, was just… painful. And I really wanted to buy the girl a dictionary. Having said that though – the scene of Superman taking Lois flying is soft, and romantic, and wonderfully done.

The entire film looked gorgeous – just gorgeous. It was so nice to watch something done on film, rather than digital, and with models and in-camera effects (and some optics) because that was all they had. At no point does any of it look cheap – or like obvious model shots. But that helicopter that crashes – is solid. As is the plane Superman rescues in one scene.

Lex’s scheme, well – it’s a supervillain scheme all right. Dr. Evil would be impressed. And Lex seems to figure out that Superman is vulnerable to Kryptonite pretty easily and with no evidence (seriously – Why would knowing Superman is from Krypton make you think, immediately, with no evidence, that he’s vulnerable to Kryptonite?) Meanwhile, his Girl Friday/girlfriend/whatever is annoying. But the worse bit about the easily-manipulated girlfriend is the scene where she actually rescues Superman – wearing a white dress. The instant she hits the pool water, it becomes transparent. Nice.

The style of Superman has an unusual retro look. The opening bit has a kid watching a serial in a movie theater – setting the story in 1938, but the film looks more like the 1950s – 1960s, though Lois’s clothes are slightly more modern. I honestly couldn’t tell you what era it was supposed to be.

Still, overall, this is a classic super-hero film and one that all other Superman films are often judged by.

Recommendation: See It!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Superman II

Microsoft Office Tips for Word and Excel

Excel Basics – Navigation and Freeze Panes

What is Microsoft Excel?

This is the first of three posts of knowledgeable information for working with Microsoft Excel. Excel is a spreadsheet program which is included with even the most basic versions of Microsoft Office. Excel is used for calculations, storing and working with financial data, and working with any sort of numbers in a home or office setting. Budgets, depreciation schedules, profit-and-loss statements, accounting statements, account balances, are all typical uses for Excel. I also use it for any information that looks best in a row and column format. I keep an up-to-date copy of the Doctor Who episode list in Excel, for example. Originally, I used the list to keep track of the DVD releases, but now that the entire Classic and New Series are available – I don’t need that primary purpose anymore, but it’s still good to have. Excel is also useful, for example, for lists of comics you have or need. Essentially, Excel is good for lists of highly changeable data.

One thing Excel isn’t is a true relational database. Although you can filter and sort information in Excel, that is not the same thing as being able to run queries a number of different ways, on tables that hold information separately. Microsoft Access is still a good, medium-sized relational database that is included in some versions of Microsoft Office, such as Professional 2010.

Excel Navigation

There are many common ways to move around in an Excel spreadsheet. First, you can simply click on any cell in the spreadsheet to select it. This includes blank cells.

You can use the tab key or arrow keys on your keyboard to move between cells.

To edit a cell, click, then move the mouse to the formula bar and edit in the formula bar.

Highlighted formula bar in Excel

Copy and paste is very easy in Excel, simply click the cell or cells you want to copy, press control and the letter C together (CTRL +C), click where you want to paste the information and press Enter. You do not need to use CTRL + V to paste (as in a word processing program or any other place). You can also drag and fill by clicking on the little box in the lower left corner of the cell, dragging it down several rows then releasing the mouse (this can be turned on or off in Options on the File tab).

Autofill is something you want to be careful of – and you may want to turn it on or off depending on an individual spreadsheet you are working on. Autofill will fill the contents of the cell based on what you have typed previously in the spreadsheet. This means, for example, if you have a sales spreadsheet for red, blue, and yellow balloons – and you are recording the sales, once you’ve typed a few rows of data, the second you type an “r” the cell will fill with “red”, and when you type a “b” the cell will fill with “blue” etc. Which seems all well and good, however, what if you are also recording the salespeople who sell the balloons (to calculate a bonus or commission, perhaps?) and your sales people are: Jane, Joan, Jon, Jim, John, Jill, Justin, Bob, and Mary. Every time you type a “J” Excel will try to autofill the result – without knowing the difference between Joan and Jon or Jim and Jill. Since Excel can autofill based on a single letter, your “J”-heavy sales department might see inaccurate results. It might be best to turn off autofill in this case, and manually type everything. Or use copy and paste. Or even use drag and fill. I find that I use “Autofill” only about half the time, and the rest of the time I have it turned off (again, in “Options” on the “File” tab) – it really doesn’t save that much time.

Quick Tip: Navigation

Having worked as both a temporary and full-time accounting assistant, and a temporary secretary or admin asst, I’ve spent a lot of time working with Excel. For the best and speediest results when editing and updating spreadsheets – use a variety of methods to move around a spreadsheet, especially a long or complicated one; click directly on a cell you need to change, edit in the formula bar, move from cell to cell with the tab key, move around the spreadsheet with the arrow keys.

Freeze Panes

Freeze Panes is a handy feature in Excel that allows you to set part of the spreadsheet (typically the top row or left-most column or columns to not move, even when the rest of the spreadsheet does move. By default, Freeze Panes is found on the View tab in Excel 2010 and later.

Freeze Panes on Excel View Tab

Because I find freezing the top row (or occasionally the first column) to be a very useful feature in Excel, I added the shortcut button to my Excel Quick Access Toolbar. The process to Add Any Command to the Quick Access Toolbar is the same for Excel or Word in Office 2010 or later.

How exactly do you Freeze Panes? And Why?

If you have a long spreadsheet, chances are you have a row at the very top that describes what is in each column (the pictures in this post have used a cleaned-up Access Export of my film list, the top row includes the Director Name, Title, Edition, etc.). But if you are editing or adding data, and the spreadsheet is very long, the top row will disappear quickly. How do you know what goes where?

Sure, it might seem obvious in a spreadsheet like the film list I’ve used as an example – but I’ve worked with extremely complicated, precise spreadsheets, where it’s vital to have information in the correct place. Spreadsheets such as Profit-and-Loss statements, Zero-balance accounting spreadsheets, even checklists with pass/fail tests consisting of five or six (or more) separate items one needs to record “yes” or “no” after looking-up information. It’s much easier to have the guide, in terms of the first row, visible. Freeze panes does that.

Simply place your cursor at the top of the spreadsheet in the first cell under the row to freeze, click the “freeze panes” button, then click “freeze top row”. If you have a spreadsheet set up where the first column doesn’t change and new information in recorded in columns and rows to the right of the first column, choose, “freeze first column”. You can tweak the two presets by using “freeze panes” – just make sure you place your cursor in the correct place. This is helpful if you need to freeze the first column and the top row, or if you have two or more “top rows” that you want to freeze.

 

Freeze Panes in Excel

Freeze Panes is an essential tool for working with Microsoft Excel.

This blog post introduced basic navigation in Microsoft Excel and how to freeze panes to make navigation of long spreadsheets easier. Future blog posts with tips and tricks for using Microsoft Excel will include how to format cells, and how to use sorting and filtering tools.

What would you like to learn about using Microsoft Excel? Feel free to leave me questions in the comments.

Agile Year 2 – Week 5

Last week was successful – and I’m getting closer to being on a good schedule. I posted three posts to this WordPress blog: my regular weekly Agile post, a tech post on Macros, and a review post for the fifth and final season of The Batman. It feels so good to write on a more regular basis. I also have plans for some new tech posts thanks to my new job. The job is going well, and I’m settling in. I wish I was doing more – but I’m learning to be patient.

I even worked on a tech blog post for Excel, which I’m going to split into two parts. Part 1 will get posted this week, but I’m not sure exactly when.

I also exercised once last week. I tried out a new DVD, AM and PM Yoga for Beginners from Element. The half-hour PM session was very relaxing, and I enjoyed it. It felt good to exercise and I need to fit that into my schedule more often.

I studied four days last week – not bad. My A+ test, part 1, is next week Monday. And I’m in a good place when I look at my study schedule.

And this past Summer and Fall, I was “working” on watching DVDs off my “to be watched” shelf. Well, I was getting close to getting really caught-up. But now, with working, I just received a nice large box from Amazon so the “to be watched” shelf is getting pretty full again. But besides the enjoyment, I also really do, seriously, enjoy reviewing the DVDs I own and posting those reviews here on my blog. Plus there’s some great stuff going on in the DC television universe, which might inspire some future blog posts!

The Batman Season 5 Review

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  5
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Danielle Judovits, Evan Sabara
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The previous season (4) finale introduced the Justice League to The Batman, so it’s fitting that the final season of The Batman features several team-ups. These team-ups also featured the partner superhero’s greatest villain. I enjoyed the team-up episodes very much. The opening two-part story features a team-up between Batman and Superman – verses Lex Luthor. Batman still doesn’t trust Superman – which complicates things, but in the end they both learn how to work together as a team. “Vertigo” features a team-up between Green Arrow and Batman. Initially,  Oliver Queen (the Green Arrow) thinks Bruce Wayne is responsible for the sudden rash of people getting sick in Gotham. Batman has to convince Ollie that Bruce can’t possibly be involved in Count Vertigo’s actions – which was fun, of course. “A Mirror Darkly” features a team-up between Batman and the Flash verses Mirror Master. “Ring Toss” sees Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan battling Sinestro. And “What Goes Up” features a team-up between The Batman and Hawkman.

As much as I enjoyed the team-up stories, and I did enjoy them – the solo Batman adventures, well, adventures of Batman, Robin, and sometimes Batgirl, were less enjoyable. They just very much seemed to be the same old thing. Even the two Joker episodes, “Joker Express” and “The Metal Face of Comedy”, though they had interesting ideas behind them, seemed to fall a bit flat. The Joker in The Batman just never had the wonderfully villainous, interesting, and perfect quality of Mark Hamill’s Joker from Batman: The Animated Series and the various follow-up movies.

The finale for Season 5, and of the series, “Lost Heroes”, is a team-up of the entire Justice League. One by one the super-powered members (Superman, Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter) are kidnapped. It’s up to the non-super-powered members, Batman and Green Arrow to rescue the rest of the League and find-out what’s going on. And what’s going on is that the Joining are back thanks to Hugo Strange. It’s a good story, and I enjoyed very, very much how Batman and Green Arrow worked together. The Joining were an interesting extra-terrestrial villain in the final of last season and it was worth it to see them return.

However, there is one little problem with the Justice League as shown in this iteration. And that is – its an all-male League. No Wonder Woman. No Black Canary. No Hawkgirl. I seriously have a problem with this. The Justice League has always included female members. Wonder Woman is one of the original seven. Even the precursor to the Justice League of America, the Justice Society – included women. And Black Canary (Oliver Queen’s wife, girlfriend, or ex-wife depending on the timeline) was the second-in-charge of the late 1980s – early 1990s Justice League behind Batman. Since Batman tended to be busy – Black Canary ran the League. As much as I really liked the team-ups in the Batman, I felt there was something seriously wrong with not including any female superheroes – at all – in the Justice League. This series is from 2008 – there’s absolutely no excuse to completely exclude women (except Batgirl) from the series.

Microsoft Office Tips for Word and Excel

How to Create and Use a Microsoft Word Macro

What is a Macro?

A Macro is a method of automating a series of actions. Macros can be used in both Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, but this tutorial will concentrate on Microsoft Word. Macros are like a very small program, however, they are even smaller than the most basic program or application.

Aren’t Macros “Viruses”?

A Macro is not a virus. It’s a program, in a sense (actually it’s smaller than a program). Macros for Microsoft Word and Excel are written in the Visual Basic scripting language (VB). Theoretically, if some unscrupulous person were to e-mail you a macro and you installed it – you could install a virus. However, Javascript, Java, Flash, Shockwave (older Flash), Frame .Net, and several other scripting languages that make the Internet work could also “hide” viruses. Just as you should avoid suspicious websites, always run anti-virus software, and run anti-spyware, and anti-adware programs on your computer – you shouldn’t install a suspicious “free” macro. But if you write the macros yourself in VB, or use the Macro Recorder in Word or Excel to create your own Macros – there shouldn’t be any problem and you shouldn’t encounter a virus. After all, Why would you put a virus in code you wrote yourself?

When to Use a Macro

It is important to give some thought as to what situations may be improved or made faster or more consistent by using Macros. Macros automate steps – to be worth it, it should be a fairly long, repetitive, series of steps. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over, with no variation, a Macro might help you. The other key to using macros is that it must be the exact same series of steps – you cannot (easily) include a variable in a macro. So if you’re writing a phone list in Word but everyone’s name and phone number are different – that is not a good candidate for a Macro. Also, there should be several steps – if it’s just one or two, a Macro probably isn’t worth setting up.

There are other ways to automate formatting of text such as with Styles. And Find and Replace is a marvelous tool that can help and automate changing certain types of text formatting (such as removing double spaces after a period and replacing them with a single space.) You can also use a Macro to automate steps in a Find and Replace sequence.

When developing Macros, stick with repetitive tasks with several identical steps – but once set-up they can save you time.

How to Create a Macro

Creating a Macro is really very easy, although they are written in Visual Basic (VB), you don’t even need to know VB to create Macros. One of the easiest ways to create a Macro is by using Microsoft’s Macro Recorder.

  • In Microsoft Word 2010 and later, click the developer tab. If you don’t see the developer tab, do the following:
  •  Go to the File tab, then
  • Click Options, then
  • Click “Customize Ribbon”
  • Put a check mark in “Developer” and click “OK”
  • The Developer Tab should now be visible

Developer_tab

  • Next, click the Macro Recorder button – be sure you know what steps to perform for your macro because once you hit the record button every action will go into your Macro.

Record_Macro_Button_Dev-tab

For this lesson we will create a Macro to replace hard-coded line breaks with paragraphs marks. Why? Have you ever copied a professional article, or even a fanfic from on-line to Word for off-line reading – only to have it be only three and a half or four inches wide no matter what you do? The article or story has hard-coded line breaks at the end of every single line. To make the text flow, the first step is to get rid of the hard breaks. After the line breaks are removed, extra paragraph marks can be removed separately (and manually).

By hand (without a Macro) you remove a hard break by using Find and Replace.

  • Click Find (the binoculars)
  • Choose Replace… from the pull-down menu
  • Click More>>
  • Click Special and open it with the pull down menu

Find_and_Replace_Special-button

  • Click in “Find What” then click “Manual line break” in the Special Menu

Pop-up_Menu_Special-Characters_Find-Replace

  • Click in “Replace with” then click “paragraph mark”
  • Finally, click “Replace All”.
  • Once it’s run, it will tell you how many replacements it’s made. You can close out of Find and Replace.

To create a Macro using Recorder, press the Record button, do all the steps above, close out of Find and Replace, then click “End Record”. (If you want to know how many replacements were many each time you use the Macro stop recording with clicking “Replace All”. However, you’ll need to close “find and Replace” every time you run the Macro.)

The Macro dialogue will also ask you to name your Macro and if you want to assign it to a button or keyboard combination. I usually go with “button” and have the Macro on my Quick Access toolbar. When I’ve worked in Technical Writing and had ten or so Macros for different functions, our version of Word had a new Ribbon Group with all the Macros we used for work on it. But for a home user or small business, placing buttons on the Quick Access Toolbar is fine. And of course, if you would rather use a Keyboard Combo, that is fine too.

 

Agile Year 2 – Week 4

It seems like just yesterday I was writing one of these Agile Posts. Oh, wait… I’m determined to try to balance my life a little more. And I do have some accomplishments from last week. So, yes, yesterday I posted my Agile updates for two weeks. I also studied for my A+ exam on two or three days. One thing I’ve run into lately with my schedule being so busy is I’m not remembering to write down my accomplishments.

I’m also working on cleaning up my home office – it had gotten to the point where my desk was buried with papers, receipts, things I needed to fill out, and other things. The side table that I use as a coffee table was also covered and I have a couple of bags of receipts papers and files to go through. The good news is last Monday I bought a new yearly organizer. Sunday I made a good start on my desk – and I got together the paper work for two projects that I simply had to do.

My bills are handled thanks to the new job. But I still need to work on fixing my credit as well as getting a new credit card. It’s a bit of a mess – my debit card number was stolen last Spring. My credit union informed me of the suspicious activity and shut off my card temporarily. That card I was able to replace, at no fee, from the credit union immediately – plus they paid back all the missing money. But since I had no idea how the number was stolen – I called the Major Bank that issued my actual credit card to report it stolen. They wanted to charge me to replace the card. I wasn’t happy with that bank anyway – so I cancelled it. This became a problem when I had to travel for business (job interviews) and for fun (Chicago TARDIS). Ever try to get hotel reservations, car rentals, or heaven forbid air plane tickets without a credit card? (Needless I haven’t flown for the past – well, it’s been more than two years anyway.) So now I get to rebuild. Still it could be worse.

Work is going well. I like my job and the people I work with.

Anyway, I’m determined to get back into good habits – exercise, read, write – and of course study for my A+ exam.