Year End …

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… and what a freaking year it’s been.

Let’s not even get into real-world politics (UUUUUGGGGGLLLLYYYYY) … or weather or …

My ego’s gone through plenty of roller coaster stuff this year. Losing the job at the end of April (and just a few days after my birthday) was tough. Not finding work since has been even more tough. Granted, I haven’t been searching as hard as I could (I need to rectify that).

I got a couple of PHP minor things done recently (just some web forms so people can send me emails with specific info, but a bit more complex than some I have done). I fully intend to sit down and jump back into the CMS project that I had been working on and stopped. I keep telling myself that, but I want to get it done early in the year so I can start a bigger project (I need to complete that one first).

I also fully intend this year to start building the online course on dBASE I have been telling myself I was going to do. I have equipment and software, I just need to put my energy forward and start working.

This last year has been tough. I can console myself by reminders that there are people in worse conditions. I mean, my wife is making more money than I ever did, and is able to cover the important stuff like mortgage, and all that. But my ego is still kinda shot for the real-world job market. Sigh. Dunno if it’s age, or what (besides as noted above, not putting as much energy into job hunting as I should). I am feeling my age a bit with the arthritis in my hands (and banging my hand on the steering wheel yesterday on the joint that has the worse of the arthritis in it did NOT help …), the white hair in my beard being well over half my beard now, and the hair on top of my head vacating the premises … sigh.

Christmas was not spectacular, and my sister-in-law getting drunk before 7 was not helpful. We left by 7:30 …

We did manage to get out yesterday and see Star Wars (finally, so people can talk about it in front of us …), and I may sneak out and see it again soon. It was actually pretty good. We saw it with friends we don’t see often enough (life, the universe, all that). It was a pleasant afternoon.

I dunno, felt like writing something about end of year and start of next year (tomorrow being New Year’s Eve and all, and Friday being the start of 2016). I really just feel like saying “F*** OFF 2015, 2016 HAS to be better, doesn’t it?” but … there are not guarantees.

Nearly Christmas …

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… and I’m not really feeling it. I try. I guess part of it is that since I’m not working, I don’t feel like I should spend a lot of what I have in my account on presents. I am not suffering horribly, but I’m not helping with the bills, and it feels weird to buy presents. Even for my wife this year, I haven’t spent a lot. Okay, there’s the Harry & David stuff that some of our family gets (as do we), which isn’t cheap, and I typically cover the Christmas Cards and mailing for those, and I did this year as well. This is a bit random, train of thought type stuff, mostly.

But it feels weird. Not working, not finding work … I know I haven’t put as much effort into the job search as I could, but I have been trying. It has put a bit of a damper on my feelings. We’ve been watching the usual XMas movies and specials, and I do enjoy them. I’ve been listening to XMas music (of which I have a decent collection), but it’s just not really pulling me in this year.

I am pulling out of some of my despondency about coding, although I haven’t jumped into the PHP stuff more to do some of what needs doing. However, I’m feeling like I can start on it again. I spent a month where I pulled way back, because I was dreaming in and about this stuff, and that was getting under my skin.

Let’s see … CJ’s been having lots of issues at work that has had her work long hours. We missed two parties … although Saturday we did take Don and BJ out to dinner, and hung out with them for a bit. This of course is on top of the SCA exchequer bit. Six+ more months and it’s done. Ack.

We have a party XMas eve that we’re going to with a bunch of friends, so that’s something to look forward to. There’s been all the mania about Star Wars VII actually being pretty good, however we haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been meaning to try to see “Good Dinosaur” because it’s Pixar, but then something comes up. The Pearson Tech Edit contract has had me busy because the author(s) fell behind and suddenly are being forced to hurry up and finish. I have one more thing to do with that. So I start to plan something and suddenly I’m tech editing.

My sleep patterns have been off, so I end up dozing in the afternoon while watching a movie or something. Good grief.

On the plus side for California, we’ve been getting rain. It’s been coming out of Alaska mostly, so the weather’s been a bit chilly, but … definite rain. We won’t wipe out the effects of the drought anytime soon, but we’re making a dent in it. The snow pack in the mountains will be pretty good.

However I haven’t been walking (too cold, or too rainy, or both). That would probably help. Part of me is thinking maybe a gym membership, but … I’d probably end up being one of those people who pays for it and never uses it.

Well, just dumping some things out there from my tired and weird brain. Hope anyone who reads this has a great holiday, however and whatever you celebrate. We’ll do our usual Christmas at Gail’s … Suppose I ought to wrap CJ’s present(s) up soon.

On a Different Note — The Expanse

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So my previous post excoriated the SyFy network for their poor rendition of Childhood’s End.

I have not (yet) read the books that The Expanse is based on, but I have to say — overall I have liked what I’ve seen (the first four episodes).

The science is good, it is “hard science” science fiction, near-future. The understanding of physics, the story is involving, complex, and fascinating. I have hope this will work out as a good show.

I have the first three books in the series (of six, so far) in my shopping cart on Amazon, and will complete the order soon. This is on recommendation by friends, we’ll see.

That was Childhood’s End?? I don’t think so …

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In anticipation of the SyFy channel’s adaptation of the classic Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End, I re-read it a couple weeks ago, so I’m pretty familiar with the story. I always get something different out of some stories each time, and while disturbing, it is still a good read.

The SyFy channel aired this week, their version of it, and frankly, it sucked. I had to change channels in the last 15 minutes of the second part (of three), it was so bad, and I refuse to watch the last part.

I don’t want to get into every single particular issue, but basically it feels like the author (or authors) of this travesty took a few key ideas, and rewrote the story completely. Clarke was not a religious man, but they made this story about religion. That’s my first objection. So, once I started writing I had a hard time stopping — the stuff below is long, probably a bit rambling, but … read at your own peril. Spoilers abound.

The novel is actually pretty neatly split into three parts, and when I read an interview on “Blaster” — the SyFy channel’s iOS app — with the author(s), they said they had to debate over how to split the story into three parts. SERIOUSLY? Did you actually READ it, or did you read a Cliff Notes version? (More under the cut …)

So, Monday night I was frustrated by the fact that they spent a good portion of the time doing back-story, including a backstory for the main character (who is only in the first part of the novel), Stormgren. Stormgren is the ambassador for humankind and the “Overlords” — the aliens who have arrived at Earth. In the novel, we actually start something like 50 years after the aliens arrive. In the TV show, we start with them arriving and deal with all that. The primary alien (Karellen, ably played by Charles Dance, who if nothing else has a great voice for this role) stays hidden.

Most of the first part of the book deals with Stormgren coming to terms with the fact that humans want to know what the Overlords look like, and dealing with a few issues. Basically by this time man has resolved that God doesn’t exist in any form, Earth is peaceful (wars go away), everyone has food, and you only have to work if you want to.

In the TV show, Stormgren spends more time agonizing over his deceased wife, and reconciling with his current lover (who becomes his wife), than he does anything else — including interacting with Karellen. Never mind the fact that the author felt that having the ambassador for humankind should be an “everyman” kind of character, rather than a skilled ambassador (in the novel he was the head of the UN or something like that). In order to make Stormgren comfy, Karellen produces the honeymoon suite that Stormgren and his wife used as the conference room on board the ship. WTF? One wall is all mirrors, and Karellen is on the other side. In the novel, it’s a very plain undecorated room with a screen (video screen) but the screen is black — no view of Karellen.

In the novel, the “Freedom League” or whatever it’s called does not have a dynamic news mogul driving it, but they are concerned with the fact that humanity’s destiny is no longer in their own hands. They get frustrated enough that they kidnap Stormgren, with demands that he present their petitions to the Overlords to just leave mankind alone. During the time of the kidnapping, Stormgren is treated fairly well, plays cards with his captors, etc. (Showing them to be normal people …) It takes a period of a week or so for Karellen to find Stormgren and deal with the league. This was done to destroy the league, by showing that they are impotent. This takes a good part of the novel (a chapter or more). In the show, it all happens in less than one day, they end up shooting Stormgren, but that’s when Karellen freezes them, and gets Stormgren out (the bullets are in classic Matrix-style “bullet time”). We never see what happens to the bullets — if they hit anyone, etc.

In both the novel and the show, Stormgren is convinced that he needs to see what the Overlords actually look like. In the novel he works with a scientist to come up with a way to capture an image of Karellen through the screen. In the show, he uses his cell phone up against the mirror (it’s a freaking mirror! he’s not going to get an image except of the phone!). Anyway, in either case (they at least got this right) he decides not to show the image that he got, although in the novel you are told he sees part of a barbed tail as Karellen was exiting the room. In the show — nothing.

In addition, they introduce a character who becomes more important in the second and third parts of the book — Milo, as child in a wheelchair, with a mother who sells illegal drugs. Where the f*** did that come from? Clarke never mentions anything along these lines. Worse, Milo gets shot by one of the people his mother is dealing with, and the aliens heal him (and heal him to the point that he can walk). WHY? I mean, Milo was never in a wheelchair in the novel, he doesn’t have a backstory really … and frankly they spent way too much time on this in the show. They also show a kindly old homeless man living in a car in a lot near Milo’s home … None of this advances the story in any way.

Karellen is waiting (in the novel) for enough time to pass for most religious zealots to have died out, and religion to die completely before showing himself. There is reason for that.

Time passes in the novel, and we get to the second section. This is so different in the TV show it is hard to watch. In the novel, enough time passes that religion is mostly forgotten, and earth is mostly a utopia — everyone has food, crime is gone, etc.

When Karellen finally reveals himself, looking very much like a classic “devil” or “satan” character (bat wings, barbed tail, cloven hoofed feet, horns …) there are no religious people nearly having heart-attacks as happens in the TV show. Stormgren isn’t mentioned any further in the novel either.

In the TV show, they show the Overlords apparently causing changes in two children — in the book, these same two children were the catalyst for changes that occur in the third part; but it was more of an evolutionary change, rather than the Overlords causing it. The Overlords are there to make sure this change can occur, not make it happen.

In the novel (in the second section), fairly early on, we establish Milo’s character as being a frustrated scientist interested in humans getting out into space (not gonna happen), which we get in the TV show. A few characters get combined here, and a whole subplot is tossed in the TV show.

Early in the second section of the novel, a party occurs by a big-name individual (this is where combining characters occurs) who, as a person of leisure as all of humanity is for the most part, has been collecting every book he can find on paranormal activities — this is an interesting and rather odd hobby. This is intriguing to the Overlords who send one of their kind to read and try to understand everything in this guy’s library (this is NOT Karellen). The party occurs, the parents of the children that we see in the TV show (the ones who spark the changes …) are invited. During the party the host pulls out an Ouji board, and the mother of the children is part of that. While they play with the board, one question gets asked that freaks everyone out because they get a fairly definitive answer: “Where is the homeworld of the Overlords?” Milo’s character memorizes the coordinates given (and checks it out). The Overlords are pretty sure that she’s (the mother) managed to tap into some energy somewhere that helped provide that information, but they aren’t exactly sure what or how. They keep an eye on this family from this point forward.

Everyone writes it off as a bit of silliness, people barely recall much of it (figuring they had too much to drink), but the Overlord who was there reports to Karellen … not a huge bit but …

In the meantime (this is still in the novel), the family (mentioned above) join a group of people who purchased an island and want to live a life that is not under the direct control of the Overlords. Things happen, their son (Tom/Tommie) gets endangered, rescued indirectly by the Overlords (a voice tells him where to go to be safe) and …

ALL of that is tossed in the TV show.

In addition, the Overlords want to have stuffed animals of every type on Earth to put in their museum. (Okay …) — In the show, they are sending live animals. Really? Milo works with a scientist (this character was combined with the one who held the party mentioned above in the show) to be placed in the sperm whale in a special container, and makes it to the Overlord’s home world inside the whale (again, this is in the novel). We get some stuff about relativity, and the fact that he realizes that if he makes it back to earth everyone he knows will be dead (even the Overlords ships can only move so fast …).

In the TV show, instead, we focus on a young, very religious woman, who befriends Stormgren’s wife … Stormgren has somehow been poisoned by something in the Overlords’ ship, and is dying of cancer (or something — when he shows signs of it, the veins in his arm stand out rather suddenly — not exactly normal for cancer).

In the show, the party happens in South Africa, the scientist who is having the party, is given an ouija-type board (and a special building/room attached to his complex) by the Overlords, but no explanation what to do with it. The mother of Tom is asked to meet Karellen at the party in this special room, and she becomes a channel (through her unborn child?) to send some signal to the Overlord’s home planet. ER? Milo is also at the party, and he has been studying the Overlord’s alphabet, and figures out that one symbol is some sort of star chart to their home planet. (Er?) During a confrontation toward the end of the second episode (and this is where I had to change channels) the young religious zealot shoots Karellen in the stomach, and one presumes (I don’t actually know) that he dies … WTF??? This never occurred in the novel.

I’m done with this, and am afraid to watch anything else SyFy does that is based on published works. Original content maybe, but …

I am seriously disappointed in the SyFy channel. They’ve proven to be very uneven over the years. They did a fantastic adaptation of Dune and Children of Dune, which gave me hope that they might do a good job here. However, they also did a crap version of Earthsea, and have focused on stupid shows like “Sharknado” … but they also gave us Battlestar Galactica (the reboot) which was excellent. I am saddened and appalled by how bad this adaptation was. I won’t be watching the third episode, I won’t be purchasing the DVDs, etc. Sorry guys, you blew it!

Well crap.

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I can’t even seem to get a job interview anymore. Very disappointed with the last thing I tried for and put time into. I did the scenarios, I did the screencast. If you brought me in for an interview, you might like me. But no … something didn’t jibe or they chose someone else who did one thing better than I did, or whatever. I feel like giving up. I can’t, but I really feel like it. The job market SUCKS these days.

Blah. Not feeling the Xmas spirit …

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We got our cards out late (busy Thanksgiving weekend), still have not bothered to get my butt in gear and back into coding … weather has been odd, and very cold (for the Bay Area) — lots of influence from Alaska , so have not been exercising (walking).

Just not … all that excited. I need to find that interest again. Have just about finished doing a “marathon” of Doctor Who … started with the reboot first season and worked up to last season. Have the DVD for the first half of the current season. Have been spending a LOT of time in front of the TV … that needs to stop.

Add to it that we found out that an old friend passed away. CJ and I hadn’t been in touch with her much over the last 10 or so years … but I always liked her. Elaine Wilzig (I knew her through the SCA). She was like a mother to another friend (Dani), who is the one who called last night to let us know. Elaine was a nice person, gave the feel of a typical New York Jew — which I realize sounds like horrible stereotyping — but it’s not meant to be — she just was that type of person. Very strong and intense personality. A fierce friend. CJ somehow disappointed her somewhere/somehow and they lost touch with each other. She’s pretty broken up by it, though. Dani was really close to her, and will be heartbroken for awhile, I fear.

On the plus side, sales of my books got a boost when the CEO of dBASE asked to bundle them with Black Friday and Cyber-Monday sales over the Turkey Day weekend. I think I made more over that weekend than I did over most of the rest of the year. I can’t count on that kind of continued sales, but still, it’s a nice boost.

Two of the tech items I helped Kickstart arrived on Monday:

  1. The first is a private cloud server (Pixeom), which is kinda cool. Some interesting software on it (store-front/shopping cart; “clubs” — basically newsgroup type software from what I gather; file sharing …), it hooks up through the router and is available over the web, but only if you know how to get to it, and have the right passwords. They have some other encryption as well, so hopefully it’s fairly secure. They haven’t got all the support set up (user groups, etc.), but it seems to work. Need to figure out what I’ll do with it. This was the first item I helped Kickstart. It took a long time to get to this point (changes in technology, etc.). Hope the company does well.
  2. The second is a “side monitor” for notebook computers. I got two monitors in my Kickstarter package. This one also took a long time due to issues with manufacturing, and so on. Turns out that it relies on specific cables to display info, and neither my notebook or my wife’s have the right ports, so I had to order a couple of converters. Sheesh. Waiting to see how that works. I hope my wife’s computer has enough USB ports (it requires a port for power, and a display port — which can be USB with a converter). This is from a company in England (Packed Pixels), and I thought it was really cool. Once my converters arrive I’ll find out … ;)

I have helped Kickstart some games and gaming tools in the past, and that’s been fun. Of course, not working really (income not being guaranteed from anything I’m doing right now) has meant I’ve been staying away from looking at new projects. Have one game I’m waiting for … they’re shipping in batches. Sigh.

No clue about the job I put all that effort into (the one with the scenarios and screen cast) … haven’t heard anything, which is sadly most likely the end of it. However, I’ve been surprised before. Not holding my breath waiting for anything … and won’t pester them about it. It’s just frustrating. I’ve been through this before, and will just have to move on. I’m tired of getting my hopes up only to have them dashed to the ground and stomped on. Sigh.

Not feeling depressed, so much as just feeling like I’m in a rut, not going anywhere … I am not happy, not sad really, just … not getting anywhere. I fear this is where my father was around this point in his life, and he didn’t live past 64 … I’m 58 now. I want to do better than that. I think my father just gave up as much as anything else. I don’t want to be that, don’t want to do that. I want to be more productive than that. It’s frustrating because I think my age at this point is making finding work that much harder.

Life, Lemons, all that …

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So, last post was about feeling depressed about jobs. Still not thrilled. However, the day after I posted that, I got some interest from a different company. They had a set of scenarios (well, two, but one with multiple parts) they wanted me to fill out, and I needed to do a video/screencast showing how to do something (with a time limit of 1 minute — really?). Glad I have Camtasia — that was useful for the screencast. I got that the day before Thanksgiving. The day after Turkey Day, I worked on it, and my wife helped me with the wording on the scenarios, just to make it as good as possible. Then Saturday I did the screen cast (1 minute, 45 seconds). Sent it all off and there we are. I know it’s being looked at, but that’s all … haven’t heard anything. But, anything is good, I guess. I don’t want to pressure them.

Thanksgiving was okay. Not great. My sister-in-law took in a cat from a friend (cat was a victim of a divorce), and she wants us to take her. I’m not thrilled, as she’s 15 (according to the previous owner). That means getting attached and then losing her in a couple years … we had talked about getting kittens early next year. I would rather go that route … Finished off leftovers last night (threw some of it out, some went bad). I never got into the leftover turkey thing, but CJ loves it. Ugh. Her sister gave us way too much this time … huge amounts of stuffing and turkey, etc.

We went to the opera on Sunday. I have never seen an opera live (have seen bits and pieces on TV or in movies, or … and taped the Ring Cycle from PBS for CJ back years ago before we were seriously involved). That was fun. We saw The Barber of Seville, the only difficulty was during the overture — not singing the Bugs Bunny lyrics to some of the songs (“The Rabbit of Seville”). We got good seats — balcony, but right in front, good view. Funny show, thank goodness for the super-titles though — I don’t know Italian at all. :)

Started feeling a bit ill yesterday (head-cold stuff), so took the day and did practically nothing. Dozed a bit, watched some Dr. Who (although I slept through some of it). Feel better today, so I guess that was the right thing to do. Not 100%, still feel a bit tired, and a bit of sinus today, but better.

Feeling like a slacker lately, though. I really ought to get back to the CMS I was building … sigh. I haven’t really felt like diving back into that, but I need to.

Not much else going on. We got the Christmas cards ready to send out, later than usual, because the weekend was weird. Have to get those to the UPS store (local post awful is a pain to deal with) and out. Should start XMas shopping …

Today’s supposed to have another intense storm coming in (should be hitting the N. Bay in less than an hour) — wind, rain, snow in the mountains. This is going to be a come and go storm though — my understanding is it’ll come through, hit hard, then leave by mid-late afternoon. Fun. Heck, it’s rain. This is not the El Nino storms, those won’t happen until spring. This is coming out of Alaska. It’s been cold lately — down into the low thirties at night and early morning. Gad.

Well, off to do very little this morning, but hope to at least get a few things done later. Or started, anyway.