Workbench

Dead Street by Mickey Spillane

Cover of Dead Street by Mickey Spillane and Max Alan Collins

This Mickey Spillane novel was finished after his death by his friend and fellow crime novelist Max Alan Collins. It was part of the early rollout of Hard Case Crime, a fun imprint of pulp mysteries and hard-boiled crime fiction with charmingly lurid cover art. The story's a brisk read with the cynicism and Chandleresque patter one expects from a writer like Spillane, but the plot feels like something that wasn't fully baked yet. Retired New York police detective Jack Stang moves to Florida, right next door to the love of his life 20 years after she was believed dead following her kidnapping by mobsters. This is no coincidence, but instead the first in a set of events set into motion that lead to a widening conspiracy involving national security, old mobsters, and old cops. You'll never read a novel where a man who thought his true love was murdered, and a woman who has developed blindness and amnesia to forget him entirely, pick things up more easily. Perhaps I'm conditioned by soap operas to expect a reunion like this to play big, but Spillane and Collins make it seem as mundane as a pair of high school sweethearts running into each other again at their 20-year reunion.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

I've Disappointed a Comment Spammer

Though I haven't been blogging actively in recent years I've been cleaning out the comment spam regularly because I'll eventually be writing here again.

This morning I found this gem on a comment touting a cheesy online Flash games site:

The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn't disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought you'd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you weren't too busy looking for attention.

The post was a movie review. A Google search reveals the spammer has been posting this insult for years.

Quag Keep by Andre Norton

Cover of Quag Keep by Andre Norton

This 1978 novel, the first ever written for a role-playing game, may still be one of the worst four decades later. The esteemed SF/F author Andre Norton was introduced to the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons by co-creator Gary Gygax. After a play session, she wrote a novel from her limited understanding of the rules about characters who don't know their lives and world are a game. That sounds intriguing but the novel isn't. It devotes less than 20 pages at the beginning and end to exploring the premise. Instead, it's a plodding tale of an adventuring party dragged across the World of Greyhawk by a geas with bracelets holding RPG dice fixed to their wrists. The characters in the group were hard to tell apart, aside from a berserker were-boar and stoic lizard man named Gulth. The punishment he silently endured when forced to travel through a harsh, dry clime, far from swamps, was evocative and memorable. I read this in the '80s and didn't recall any of it. I'll likely forget it again.

I'm a ServiceNow Certified Application Developer

ServiceNow Certified System Administrator certificate for Rogers Cadenhead

I passed the ServiceNow certified application developer test today at the University of Florida after taking the official training course for three days last week. It's a closed-book 90-minute, 60-question test that requires 70% to pass and doesn't reveal your score or the answers you missed.

I've been writing custom applications and integrations using JavaScript in the ServiceNow cloud for three years, so I was ready to take the test. But even so, a few questions had me sweating like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News.

As you take the test, you can mark some answers for review before submission in case you're not entirely sure you got them right. I designated 27 of them for a second look. On around five of those, I kept talking myself into one answer before switching back to another.

In the last 12 days I've spent six days in training class and two more taking certification tests. My brain is full. If anybody tells me anything new about ServiceNow today I'll tip over.

I'm a ServiceNow Certified System Administrator

ServiceNow Certified System Administrator certificate for Rogers Cadenhead

I just passed the test to become a ServiceNow Certified System Administrator. I'm in classes this week to take the test for developer certification next.

Certifications are a big deal in the ServiceNow world. I'm in my third year programming on the cloud platform but certification hasn't been a priority. I've been at a startup developing products, which is less about marketing yourself and more about marketing those applications.

But I've always wanted to seek certification, so I paid for the training myself this month. You have to take a three-day class on servicenow.sabacloud.com for $1,200 to get a voucher that allows you to take the test on Webassessor. It's a 60-question, 90-minute exam that can be taken at a proctored testing center or online. I chose to go to FSCJ Deerwood in Jacksonville.

Passing requires 70%. You aren't told your exact score or which questions you missed. A few questions were devious -- ServiceNow's test prep material warned that some multiple-choice answers would be "distractors" intended to flummox "a candidate with incomplete skill or knowledge." I found out at the testing center that I passed and would be receiving a PDF to mark the achievement. I wanted to tell people that like Ron Burgundy, I'm kind of a big deal.

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

Cover of His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

A charming read from first page to last, His Majesty's Dragon is a fantasy novel in which England is at war with Napoleon's France and both sides have a formidable arsenal of dragons and an aviator corps to pilot them. A Navy captain captures a French vessel and finds out why they fought so hard after all seemed lost -- there was an unhatched dragon egg on board. But this rare prize is about to hatch at sea, where no aviator is around to bind it to service. In her Hugo-nominated debut novel, Naomi Novik puts an irresistible spin on dragons. They're literate, varied in skill and intellect and opinionated -- with Temeraire the most intriguing of them all. Though the book fits comfortably in fantasy, the protagonist Will Laurence is so particular about his belongings, manner and social mores he'd be right at home in a regency romance novel. This lends the book some of its best comedy. I'm running out of superlatives. There are eight more books in the series and I'm eager to read them all.

The Walking Dead Ends Unexpectedly

Cover of The Walking Dead 193 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

The Walking Dead issue 193 is worthy of a Hugo Awards nomination next year. It is a conclusion to the comic sprung entirely by surprise on the readership. To keep it under wraps, they solicited fake issues 194, 195 and 196 and made issue 193 a giant-sized finale at the regular price. Orders for those fake issues have been refunded.

Without spoiling the content, it's a time jump that is intriguingly ambiguous about the proper lesson to take from the zombie apocalypse. I often find Robert Kirkman's writing to be heavy on obvious dialogue that could go unsaid, but the story he's told in 193 is effective. There's one particular moment between two sons that will stick with me for a while. The art is exceptional, including some multi-page spreads that are as good as anything Charlie Adlard has ever done.

Kirkman ends the comic with a multi-page essay explaining the decision to end the story and the reason he did it so abruptly without the marketing hype and massive orders that would've come from announcing it many issues in advance. (The short answer is that he hates knowing when the end of a book, movie or TV series is coming because it lessens the impact.)

In the essay he concludes by thanking a lot of people. Surprisingly, one of them is original series artist Tony Moore, who was engaged in a seven-year legal battle with Kirkman involving the rights to the comic before they reached a confidential settlement in 2012.