NEW DESK CHAIR?

Well, now that I know I’ll be working from home until the new year, I’m seriously considering getting a new desk chair. I spend so much time at my desk now that I think it’s worth upgrading. My current desk chair is one that I brought with me when I moved into my apartment about ten years ago. I have no idea how I got it. I don’t remember buying it but I could have bought it and just forgot. It’s also quite possible that I just took it from my parents’ place and moved it into mine.

It’s a simple padded desk chair but the padding on the seat has been smushed into a flat pancake because of my fat ass. You can adjust the height and it allows you to tilt back but that’s about it. It’s not painful to sit in but my ass does get a bit tired sometimes after a few hours because of the lack of padding. The armrests also aren’t adjustable.

If I’m gonna be sitting so much for the foreseeable future, perhaps I should at least sit in better comfort.

WORK FROM HOME UPDATE

This morning, I received, as did everyone in the company, an e-mail from the CEO. It was to give us an update for our work from home status. After some analysis of the situation, we were told that the majority of us will continue to work from home until January 2021.

They were already hinting at this timeline before, so this doesn’t come as a major surprise, but now we have a confirmation as such. We were also told that going forward, some additional work from home resources will be made available to us but details are still being worked out. I think that probably means some additional funding for things like desks, chairs, and other equipment. They’re also trying to arrange some way for us to remove some of our personal belongings from our studios. It’s important to realize that for most employees, the work from home order arrived with great urgency and very little warning. People went home as if it was a normal day and then in the evening, were not told to come back the next day, and here we are. Personal items like pictures, toys, clothing, and the like were all left at desks. Some people had plants at their desks and it’s safe to say most of those are now very dry and very much gone.

At my desk, I have very little in the way of personal items that I need right now. I have an umbrella, two hoodies, some green tea, and interestingly, a Tupperware container of now very stale cookies. I don’t need any of these things, so I probably won’t request to come get my things. I am thankful that I have nothing stuck in the mail room as there is currently no plan in the place to get those items to their rightful owners.

As for the actual work we do, now that I know I’ll be at home until the new year, that means I’ll help complete and ship FIFA 21 from the comfort of my own home. I’ve never made a game while spending most of that development time at home, so this will be a first. I know I won’t be alone as many other game developers in my company and in other studios worldwide are in the same situation. Come fall and beyond, many of the new games will have had their last bits of development done while everyone is at home.

SERVICES FOR A NEW WORLD

As many of you know, I was in the process of trying to get a new baseboard heater installed in my apartment before the global pandemic occurred. This was going to be phase one of several in my home improvement plan. The next phases would have been dry wall repairs, new paint on at least two walls, and then the big project, new laminate flooring. If all of this was going to be like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the baseboard heater was going to be Iron Man.

To no one’s surprise, the electrician that I wanted to proceed with to do the work, stopped servicing residential homes in mid-March. Now, some three months or so later, I was curious to see if they were starting to provide residential service again. I sent out an e-mail today and they said they were still not going into homes for work. I completely understand why that is. Having their employees going inside, into strangers’ homes, where they don’t know the situation or can’t be sure of the status of everyone who lives in that home is a huge liability. Just for completeness, I e-mailed another electrical contractor and they also said they were not servicing homes just yet.

I guess I shouldn’t be impressed that these businesses are putting the health and safety of their employees first but in this day and age, nothing is a given, so I can’t help but be a bit happy these companies are taking things so seriously.

In the end, I told both contractors that I’m more than happy to wait for the right time to get all this work done.

ANECDOTE

So here’s an interesting factoid about the quick and immediate transition to working from home, at least for my employer. A significant number of employees, including myself, would frequently get packages delivered to work, instead of our homes, because it would be easier to get the packages that way.

It became quite formal process, where the mail room would accept the packages upon delivery, then lock the packages in a secure room, and then begin processing all the packages that came in. Even if you got a delivery notification, you wouldn’t be able to come down to the mail room to get your package until the mail room employees logged your package as being received and then figured out who it was for and then sent out an e-mail to the recipient. Because of this process and the number of packages arriving on a daily basis, some employees would have to wait up to two or three days before the mail room would send the e-mail out that they could come down and get their package, even as the package was sitting in the secured mail room. This got so frustrating to me that I began routing my packages back home or to a local post office instead since it wound up being faster.

Anyways, after we started working from home, there were packages already in the mail room and packages that continued to arrive at the mail room even after the quarantine started. The company decided that these packages would be held indefinitely until employees could return to work. That probably won’t happen until late 2020 or early 2021 in our case. So, there are many employees who have packages that they have paid for which are just sitting in a secured room at the studio, that they cannot pick up for the foreseeable future.

I HAD TO GO

This weekend I did something that I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and that was to go visit my old alma mater, UBC. In particular, I wanted to see the AMS Student Nest, which is the new student union building. I thought that since it was the semester was over, it wouldn’t be crowded and that the wide open spaces of the beautiful campus would allow me to enjoy a bit of nature and see some of the new buildings.

I guess I should have expected this but basically everything was closed on campus. While some parts of our city and businesses are open under the new normal, much of the UBC campus still closed to the public. Nearly every building I saw had signs posted on all entrances, indicated the building would be closed until further notice because of the pandemic.

While this was a bummer, I couldn’t really argue against that. Each building would need a social distancing plan in place and some of these buildings are close to 100 year old, and keeping people two meters apart isn’t practical in some areas. Nevertheless, I was happy to walk around, get some fresh air, and reminisce about the good old days when I was a much younger man, attending UBC for both my undergrad and graduate degrees.

At one point, however, later in the afternoon I started to feel the need to go pee. At first, it was just a mild indication that my bladder was full, so I began looking for a building that was open, but everything I had seen beforehand told me I probably wasn’t going to find anything. Building after building was closed and locked up tight. I even wandered up to the University Village area where I found the McDonald’s there was open for take-out but the washrooms were closed.

As I continued to wander the campus, the urgency rose to alarming levels. Somewhere near the Totem Park residences, I decided I needed to relieve myself and it did not matter if I found a washroom or not. I began scouting the area. There were many which were exposed to the windows of the residences and I didn’t want to pee where someone might see me. I saw a small wooded area but I then realized the tree cover wasn’t as dense as I thought and I could easily be seen. I finally stumbled upon two large dumpsters in a small walled off area by a dorm. One was a normal but huge industrial sized dumpster and the other was a garbage compactor that was especially tall and wide. The walls were on three sides and dumpster and compactor blocked off the front. This was as good as it was going to get I thought.

I did a quick look around and saw no one, so I darted behind the compactor, undid my pants, and started urinating in public. I absolutely detest having to urinate in public. It was then that I realized one of the great ironies of doing so. Whenever you pee in public, you’re always so scared of being caught, so you just want to finish quick, zip up your pants and get the hell of there. Unfortunately, a pee that is done in public is never quick. The fact that you’re peeing in public usually means it was a last resort for you and that you exhausted all other attempts in finding a washroom. Now, your bladder has become so full, it needed to be emptied no matter what, even if done in public.

So, that was the situation I found myself in, I peed and peed and when I thought there could be no more pee left, I continued to pee, with a strong and unwavering stream. It felt like I was peeing for five minutes straight, long enough for someone to call the on-campus RCMP, for them to get in a patrol car, drive to me, and then find me behind the garbage compactor, all the while, I’d be peeing.

Mercifully, my peeing ended some thirty minutes later. Feeling very relieved, I zipped up and discreetly left the walled off area. I felt so much better. It was at this point that I decided I should probably head home before I needed to pee again while I was on-campus.

I know the issue I faced today wasn’t just something I alone have had to deal with. Homeless people in particular and anyone that needs to be out and about have had trouble finding washrooms to do their business because everything is now closed or won’t allow people to use their facilities. In my local municipality, they have tried to solve this by installing porta-potties in high traffic areas, so people have places to go, rather than on the street or in an alleyway. This hasn’t been done at UBC though, and that’s why I peed next to a garbage compactor today.

Be forewarned though, if your local health authority is lifting some restrictions but not all, and you’re venturing out more and longer now, you might be caught without anywhere to go.

PROPERTY TAXES

I received my property tax notice in the mail today. The amount I have to pay is about $60 more compared to last year. That’s a relief because it went up over $200 the year before that. Like other years, I will be able to pay my property taxes in full this year. I don’t take that lightly. I know many people, whether they be locally or in other countries, won’t be able to pay this year. It’s a been a tough few months for a lot of folks, especially business owners.

So, I’m happy to pay my property taxes this year and hope everyone will be able to next year.

ZOOM CALLING

Like many of you, I’ve had Zoom installed on my home computers since the beginning of my quarantine to assist in communicating with my co-workers for meetings and one-on-one discussions. I was poking around Zoom and I noticed that our version of it has voice calls enabled. After some experimenting, I realized my work phone number is tied to the Zoom voice calls. So, I can make calls from Zoom and for other people, it looks like I’m calling from my work phone.

I initially just left it at that but then one day, I had to make a call to some business. I was at my computer, doing work, and I still had my headset with mic on as I had finished with a Zoom meeting. Rather than get my personal phone, I decided to just make the call in Zoom. There was a short wait required before I could speak to someone but that was ok because I could continue to still work as I waited. It was really convenient that the call was going through my headset as I didn’t need to put my phone down and then have to pick it up again when someone got to my call. Also, there was no need to put it on the awkwardness that is speakerphone.

I also was quite impressed with the call quality on Zoom. I’m not sure if it’s my carrier’s network (Rogers) or if it’s my phone but it’s so much easier to listen to people speak on a headset than that small speaker on your phone. People’s voice come in crystal clear on Zoom. Lastly, if you’re calling banks or credit card companies, using Zoom allows you to use your keyboard’s num pad to quickly enter in your info.

I guess the conclusion I have come to is that using a headset is the best way to make phone calls. Now if you’re wondering why I didn’t just plug my headset and mic into my phone directly, the one I have isn’t compatible with phones as it plugs into a USB port.

Well, now I know why call centre employees all use headsets, it’s so much easier that way.

SPRING CLEANING

It’s time for me to get rid of all the garbage and recycling that has been piling up in my apartment since mid-March. I wrote about this before but I have avoided going down to the garbage and recycling room in my building because it’s a highly trafficked area. Well, I now have three bags of garbage and three large bags of recycling that I need to take care of.

I’ll go downstairs after midnight, when most people are in bed or getting ready for bed. I might be super proactive and make multiple trips in one night to get rid of everything in one go, otherwise I can handle the garbage one night and do the recycling the next night.

The one thing I have to make special mention of is that amount of food composting that I’m creating has increased massively compared to before. Since every meal I have has basically been prepared at home, I have a lot more food scraps to deal with. A few months ago, I bought these compostable food scraps bags to handle all that. My last bag that I put into the communal composter must have weighed at least ten pounds. The bag had more room for more scraps and the only reason that I had to get rid of it was because the bottom was getting soaked through with delicious food scrap liquids. That was probably a month’s worth of food scraps.

It’s time to get this apartment cleaned up again.

CAUTIOUS

It was a long weekend for this province and on Sunday, I had dinner with my parents for the first time since the beginning of March. Nearly three months had passed since we all ate together. This time around we had takeout and instead of eating at a restaurant, we had dinner at their place.

This week, more businesses in this province are opening up, albeit in a modified manner. As soon as this week, some restaurants will be open for dine-in service, but with additional guidelines to keep employees and patrons safe. This weekend, downtown Vancouver’s largest mall, Pacific Centre, re-opened to the public. Things are moving to whatever a “new normal” looks like in these times.

We should not forget, however, to continue to be vigilant. Our guard should not be let down. Just because people can go sit in a restaurant and have a meal or go shopping in a mall, that does not mean there is no danger anymore. No vaccine exists yet, nor does any effective and proven treatment. While we may expand our activities and reach into society again, it doesn’t mean we have to. The choice is there now, but it’s up to us how much of that we partake in.

I personally don’t feel like I need to eat in a restaurant right away. I also don’t need to go to a mall to get anything. These are not critical activities in my life right now. There are alternatives to each of these things, all of which were perfectly fine in the last two months, so I will continue to utilize them. I hope my fellow citizens of this province and country continue to be smart and logical about their behaviour. This summer should offer us hope for a better future but let us not be lulled into a false sense of safety.

WORK FROM HOME UPDATE

My employer had its first all-remote global town hall last week. Normally, all the execs have a global town hall four times a year to give us a chance to discuss the company’s business and for us to ask questions to key leaders. The execs usually are on stage together in an auditorium.

This latest global town hall obviously could not be in that fashion. So, it was done over Zoom. Other than that, it was pretty much the same format. A lot of the discussion centered around the work from home situation. With the exception of the Shanghai studio, all employees in the rest of our locations world-wide are working from home. We were informed that even as local jurisdictions in many places in the world were loosening regulations, the company is holding steady in a conservative approach to allowing employees to return to work. We were told that for most employees, we should not expect to come back to work until closer to the end of the year. That means that everyone will pretty much need to work from home for the whole summer and well into the fall.

I’m ok with that and I’m extremely pleased that company leadership is valuing safety above all else. In many of our studios, space is at a premium and many employees work less than 2m away from at least one other co-worker. If we returned to work this month, it would be impossible to be socially distanced from your fellow employees. The company will need to invest in time and money to alter work locations to assist in keeping everyone safe.

It’s looking like I’ll probably be working from home at least six months out of this year. That will mean I’ll continue to save money. No need for a transit pass. I’ll save money on food instead of spending it at the cafeteria. Again, with many things in life, I’ll take it day by day, month by month but I’ll be ok with work. Many others don’t have that luxury.