OH NO, NO SNOW

The weather forecast called for another significant snowfall to occur sometime between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. My team at work had our holiday party this evening. It was a fun event with great food and merriment but I know for a fact people were relying on the snow as an excuse not to come into work the next day. The problem, however, is that at the end of the evening, skies were clear and not a single new flake had fallen.

I’ve been home from the party for a few hours now and while it’s definitely freezing outside, the promised snowstorm has not arrived. The latest weather report from Environment Canada at 6pm foretold of snow falling after midnight. It’s well after midnight now.

I’m going to bed now and there better be some new snow on the ground when I wake up.

HEAT CHALLENGE FAILED

Every year I try to go the entire winter without turning on the heat in my apartment. It’s a stupid I challenge I try to do because it saves a bit of money and it can also illustrate how mild the winters are in Vancouver. In most years, I’ve done it successfully without too much discomfort. On the odd evening I might have to wear a hoody and some socks. The years where heated hallway air got blown in under my apartment door made it really easy. I’ve since sealed the gap under the door so I can’t rely on that.

Fast-forward to this evening. It is currently -6 degrees Celsius outside. For Vancouver, that’s a deep freeze. All evening I’ve worn socks and a somewhat puffy North Face jacket. Despite this, I was still uncomfortably cold in my apartment. Rather start to shiver in my own home, I decided to turn on the heat in my bedroom and only in my bedroom. When I went to turn up the thermostat I could hear the heat click on at 15 degrees Celsius. That meant it was less than that in my apartment. I decided to leave it at 15. That might seem way too cold still but I can tell it feels much better now. I probably leave it on overnight as I sleep.

Hopefully next year I’ll be more successful if winter isn’t as cold.

A BETTER DAY

After yesterday’s exhaustive commute home, I decided to play it safe and work from home, at least for the morning. As temperatures dropped below freezing overnight, there were weather warnings about black ice on the roads and sidewalks. I wasn’t sure how that would affect the roads so I just decided to stay home. As such, I set my alarm for just before 10am and got a good night of rest.

Once my alarm roused me from my sleep, I got up, did my morning rituals, and got in front of the computer. I logged into my workstation at the studio and began reading e-mails. As far as commutes go, going from your bed to the desk in your bedroom is pretty great. After half an hour of work, I got hungry so I went downstairs to get a breakfast of scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, toast, and a terrible tasting coffee. I got it to go so I could eat and work back upstairs at the same time. Except for the coffee, breakfast was so tasty.

I worked until around 12:30pm and after monitoring Twitter and some real-time transit maps, I decided it was safe to go into work. After the nightmare commute last night, it was clear sailing today. There was hardly anyone on the train and instead of a 30 minute wait with hundreds of people for one bus, it was a five minute wait with three people. The only iffy part was the walk from the bus stop to the studio. Parts of the sidewalk had frozen over, so I had to be careful.

Once I got into the studio, I got right back to work. I had a solid afternoon. I felt much more mentally sharp compared to other days. I attribute that to the increased amount of rest I got and the gentle start to the morning. I really wish our corporate culture encouraged working from home a lot more. I understand that meetings are tough to conduct remotely but almost everything else can be done from home now. Let’s take this morning as an example. I made some changes to some code that needed to be tested on one of the consoles on my desk. Modern game development tools now allow me to remotely start up a game, see the video output of the console, and even control the game as if I had a controller. I did all of this while I sat in my PJs at home.

Well, it’s going to snow again on Thursday, so perhaps another work from home day is fast approaching.

SNOW DAY

For those who don’t know, Vancouver had a terrible snow day today. People who had to be out and about today had wildly differing experiences. If you only needed to walk or be on the Skytrain, you probably had a pretty normal day despite the snow. If your day involved a road of any sort, then your day was probably very trying.

My day began very normal. I got to the train platform and waited less than two minutes for a train that was lightly occupied. I could have sat anywhere I wanted to. There were no delays and four quick stops later, I arrived at the station where I usually catch a ten minute bus ride to work. That’s where the problems started. As I got down to the bus loop I saw one of my buses just leaving the station. Normally that’s no big deal as that route has a maximum of eight minutes between buses during rush hour, so service is frequent. As I walked to my stop, I saw a long line of people waiting, people who couldn’t get on the bus that just left. This was somewhat concerning but I wasn’t too far back in the line so I probably would get on the next bus. So I stood there waiting in the freezing cold. One minute turned into eight but there was no bus in sight. Eight turned in twenty minutes. Meanwhile, the line up for this one bus got longer and longer, as long as I’ve ever seen it. After thirty minutes, I saw two buses on this route line up to take passengers. I didn’t get on the first bus but no matter as the second bus was right behind the first one. I got on the second one and got a seat. This bus filled to capacity, leaving a still massive lineup behind. I heard the bus driver say a third bus was right behind his. I hope he wasn’t lying. Surprisingly, the usual ten minute ride to work was still ten minutes on this day. The roads were mostly clear and since the bus was full, the driver didn’t stop for pickups. After I got to my stop I realized the sidewalks were also relatively clear so my short walk to the studio was easy.

Now I would have had a completely normal day beyond this except for thing, it did not stop snowing for basically the entire time I was at work. The snow kept coming down, going from light snowfall to heavy, massive, wet flakes. After lunch, people started abandoning ship, fearful of what terror the snow could cause on the roads. I waited until 3pm to leave which turned out to be a mistake. By that time, roads were a parking lot and conditions were miserable. People couldn’t even get out of the studio parking lot because the road next to the studio was just jammed full of cars. I had a choice of taking two buses, one bus that would go up a very slight hill or the bus earlier this morning that goes up a much steeper hill. The transit web site shows the positions of every single bus in the network and those buses going up the steep hill were all stuck at the bottom. So I chose to take the bus going in the other direction, to another train station.

Because of a crazy amount of traffic, it took 45 minutes to go what would take you or I ten minutes to walk, even in slushy conditions. I decided to set out on foot instead, along with many other people. As soon as I stepped off the bus I was met with a downpour of wet snow. Luckily I was prepared with a water resistant jacket, a warm liner, a toque, and water resistant hiking shoes. I made quick and steady progress, passing cars that were at a standstill. When I arrived at the train station about 15 minutes later, not one bus had passed me along the way. I felt such relief once I was at the station. It had taken about two hours just to get there but had I just walked to it right away, it would have been just thirty minutes. My commute home the rest of the way was uneventful. I even rode in a mostly empty train for most of the way back due to a quirk in how the trains are scheduled in this part of the system.

When I got inside my apartment I leaned over to take off my shoes and a deluge of water spilled out of my jacket to my surprise. I realized it was from all the melted snow that had accumulated in my hood which was down for most of my commute. For dinner I ate two big cheeseburgers and then took a nap in the evening. I thought I deserved both.

STILL CHASING THAT DEGREE

Sometime in the last few days I’ve had this re-occurring and vague sense that I forgot to go to a math class all semester. This is of course a ridiculous thing to worry about as I’m not currently a student at all. It all stems from a dream I keep having. I written about this before but I think it’s interesting to note that of all the dreams one might have, this is the one that always comes back.

In my dream, I’m a student and I’ve signed up for several classes for a semester. We come to the end of the term and I realize that I’ve either purposely never attended a single math class or forgot to drop that class. Since I’ve not done any work nor have I written any of the tests, I’m in a position to basically fail that class. The weird thing is, the dream never seems to get any further than that. I never get to see if my transcript actually shows a fail or if I can convince the school to just not record a mark at all.

I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning behind why this dreams always repeats itself and why I never see the consequence or outcome of missing that class. Oh well.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

I enjoy reading movie scripts for projects that haven’t been made or were alternate scripts for movies that eventually went in another direction creatively. This often, however, leads to disappointment because the unused script winds up being better than what was in the real movie. I’m currently reading John Logan’s version of I Am Legend. The script is based on the events of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name. Logan’s script was not used for what eventually became Will Smith’s I Am Legend, which I thought was incredibly disappointing. Not counting the bad direct-to-video ripoff, Matheson’s novel has now been translated to screen three times. I don’t think any of the three have truly captured the magic of the novel.

Logan’s script is nonetheless fantastic. I haven’t finished it yet but I’m about three-quarters through. In this version, Ridley Scott would have directed the movie and it would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. It easy to tell it was written for Arnie as the main character is described as muscular, with an affinity for smoking cigars, and enjoys driving a Hummer. Some aspects of Logan’s script did make it to the Will Smith version, like the hunting of wild deer in city streets. I hope they make another I Am Legend and they finally get it right.

GROSS

Earlier this month about 120 people fell ill with gastro-intestinal maladies on Vancouver Island. Health authorities have now discovered those all people ate raw oysters that came from a single supplier. Additionally, the cause of the illness was norovirus, a personal nemesis of mine.

I recently had a case of my own gastro-intestinal troubles so this story brought up fresh memories. Having over a hundred people being sick must have made for a lot of miserable folks. Fortunately, health authorities have said that everyone has since recovered. That’s great news because this type of illness can hit older people quite hard.

Now despite the cause of this being some dodgy raw oysters, it won’t discourage me from eating raw oysters in the future. Keep in mind though, I won’t consume raw oysters from just any place. It’s easier for coastal regions to get fresher raw oysters, so maybe I’d think twice about getting them in say Cleveland, Ohio. Even then, sometimes it’s just luck of the draw. Damn them for being too tasty!

SUPER PROUD

This morning the latest game I worked on, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, released their latest update. One of the new features they added was the ability for two people playing on one console to both join an online multiplayer game. For the initial release of the game, we had the ability for two players to play in split-screen but only for local, non-online modes, eg. playing against AI bots. If you and your buddy wanted to play against real humans beings in an online multiplayer match, you were out of luck.

Over the course of about a year, one dude on the team, Ryan, did all the heavy lifting to get this new feature done. Now two people sitting on the couch on the same console can both go online and play against humans at the same time. I cannot overstate how much work this was and how difficult it was at times to solve the problems Ryan encountered. He’s a super smart guy and I’m blown away by his technical aptitude.

Our game is the first Frostbite powered title to have this feature. Frostbite is also the engine that powers Battlefield 1, FIFA 17, and upcoming games like Mass Effect: Andromeda. We all share common technology but we’re the first ones to bring this feature to the public. Going forward, more Frostbite games should also be able to have online multiplayer split-screen as well.

JEBIDIAH ATKINSON

I love it when characters are reoccurring on Saturday Night Live. Yes, there is a chance that the writers will overdo it and run a character into the ground but when it works, it’s so good. One of my favourites over the last few years has been Jebidiah Atkinson. Sadly, now that Taran Killam has left SNL, the character won’t be seen again anytime soon.

WHOOPS

About a month ago I started getting this error message when I booted up my desktop computer at home. The message said, “CPU Fan Error! Press F1 to Resume”. That may seem like an alarming message and it can be. The CPU fan is the one that cools your CPU and if that component overheats, it can degrade the performance of your computer or might even damage it. Depending on the model, CPUs can easily cost hundreds of dollars.

Now I know I installed a new CPU fan less than three years ago, so I know it was an ancient part. Rather than immediately take apart my computer, I indeed did hit F1 where upon entering Windows, I started a program that measured the CPU fan speed and also showed me the current CPU temperature. According to the program, the CPU fan was spinning and at a reasonable speed as well. The CPU wasn’t at all hot and was at normal temperatures. I probably should have investigated more and dug deeper into the source of the error message but I didn’t. I ignored it.

In the subsequent weeks, I had to hit F1 every single time I started my computer to get past that error message. My computer didn’t seem worse for wear nor did I encounter any weird crashes. Well, this weekend I decided I no longer could stand pressing F1 every single time I started my computer. I needed to fix this somehow. I started by removing the panel off the side of my computer so I could look inside. Once this was off, I started my computer. It started booting up and I noticed immediately the CPU fan was not moving at all. That was not good.

I realized that for an undetermined amount of time I’d been relying on the other fans in my computer case to cool the heat sink that was attached to my CPU. I think I got lucky because there’s one fan, from the power supply, directly above the heat sink which was blowing air on it. There’s also another fan, the case fan, about four inches away from the heat sink which draws air out of the case.

Technically, in this particular situation my computer works fine without a CPU fan. One solution would be go into the BIOS and turn off the warning and I’d be done. That leaves a bit of risk and replacing a CPU isn’t expensive or complicated. I decided to err on the side of caution and just get a new fan.

The most difficult part of getting the new fan this weekend was dodging the Black Friday sales crowds. Due to parts availability and convenience, going to Best Buy was the easiest solution for me. Once I got the new fan home though, the replacement went very smoothly. Now once I start up my computer the error message no longer pops up and everything is nice and cool.

If there is a moral to this stupid post, it’s that you should never ignore any warning signs, for anything in life.

I was told the name of the movie would not appear on the hotel bill