V-DAY

I actually participated in Valentine’s Day this year. A few weeks back I was at Wal-Mart when I saw these Spider-Man Valentine’s Day cards on sale. They were about $5 for 32 of them. The exact same ones as pictured here. I thought, “I’m gonna give these to the ladies at work with a few Hershey’s Kisses.”

When this week came around, I ran into a problem. For a dev team, we have a lot of females on staff, a lot higher percentage than previous teams. While I know most of them, a few joined the team in the last few weeks. I haven’t even met some of them. Do I give every single lady a card and chocolates and running the risk of getting yet again receiving another stack of restraining orders? Or, do I just selectively give out my treats, and risk making the new ladies feel left out?

To help me find an answer, I turned to Angela, one of the dev directors on the team and someone who I sometimes second-hand smoke cigarettes with. She told me not to worry about the new ladies and that I should just give out the treats to the ones I know. She also told me one of the new dev managers is pretty cool, so Amy would be ok with it if I included her on the list. I’ve talked to Amy twice but there hasn’t been any formal introductions. Anyways, I trust Angela’s judgement on things.

So on Wednesday night before leaving the studio, I signed my cheesy Spider-Man Valentines and went around to various desks, leaving a card and some cherry Hershey’s Kisses. At the last minute, I also left a card on Charles’ desk just because I thought he’d enjoy it. By the way, the cherry kind of Kisses contain much less fat than other types, check it out yourself.

When I arrived to work on Thursday morning, I had already received several e-mail thank yous which was quite nice of the ladies and warmed the cockles of my heart. A few saved their thanks for in person. Their smiling faces was better than any Sausage McGriddle to start off the day.

By the end of the day, the only person I hadn’t heard from was Amy, one of the new ladies on the team. So while I hope she wasn’t creeped out by my elementary school style card, a part of me wonders if I should have listened to Angela. Angie! You owe a second-hand menthol-light!

VALENTINE'S DAY 2008

Ah yes, another year and another Valentine’s Day. My Valentine’s Day post has become a much anticipated tradition around et.com. If you poke around the archives you’ll probably know what to expect here so there shouldn’t be any surprises.

This year, I’m planning on spending the evening in quiet reflection. I think I’m gonna head home from work around 6pm. As always, I have a special, tasty meal planned for myself. I’m thinking lots of butter and lots of cream… and that’s only for the pre-dinner drink. This year, it’s going to be coq au vin. I haven’t made that before so it’s going to be fun. Plus, I’ll be able to drink the wine while I prepare it.

After preparing and eating my delicious meal, I’m going to snuggle up on the couch in front of the TV with what’s left of the bag of wine. From there, I shall sip at my tasty beverage while watching a week’s worth of Oprah that I PVRed. Not to be left out, I’ll probably toss in Burnout Paradise in the old 360. As wine and vehicular carnage often leads to, my mood will shift towards the ancient art of self-love. The revered act will take me to the heights of pleasure but as always, it will send me crashing into the depths of exhaustion. Unable to cope, I will surrender to sleep, tangled in a mess of Hot Pocket wrappers and bank statements.

Before the evening is out, I will rustle from my slumber. Pulling myself together, I head off to the nearest 7-11 where I will purchase a two litre Big Gulp full of Mountain Dew and a tacquito to go. Upon returning home, I end another fabulous Valentine’s Day by gaming until the wee hours of the morning, causing me to call in sick the next day for work.

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

Good or bad, it appears that luck seems to run in batches, case in point, the 18 hour period between Monday evening and Tuesday morning. On Monday, around 6pm I decided to leave work and go home and have dinner. I stood the bus stop, like I’ve done a million times and waited for my bus. The bus appeared at the intersection, then promptly turned left and headed off, much to the surprise of several people waiting with me.

I had several other options available to me, I could take the TrainBus, the Skytrain, or just wait for the next bus which would arrive 30 minutes later (but who knows where it would be along the route). Instead, I said screw it, I’m gonna have dinner downtown. It probably wasn’t the smartest choice but I decided to try the two taco combo deal at Taco Time even though it’s by far the worst Mexican fast food place out there. I specifically asked for crisp shell tacos because soft shell tacos don’t do it for me. Since I was so close to work, I headed back there where a few of my co-workers were still left.

Sitting down at my desk, I unwrapped my tacos to find soft shell ones. WTF?!? How hard is it to get that right? It’s 50-50! Either you make crisp shell or soft ones. I rolled the taco dice and came up snake eyes. I decided to try them anyways since I didn’t want to go back. The soft shell flour tortillas were awful and too chewy for my liking. I ate half of one and then gave the other one to a homeless person. My mexifries were quite tasty but that ain’t real dinner. The only silver lining to the evening was that I fixed a major crash bug before leaving work. Not wanting to chance the random bus route, I took the TrainBus home instead, where I’m pretty sure I snored while I slept.

Thinking my not-so-perfect evening was behind me, I went to bed extra early because I had a team-wide programmer meeting at 10am sharp the next day. I woke up real early this morning and was off with enough time to get to the studio well before 10am. As I got on the Skytrain at Lougheed, it began to pull away when the public address system squawked to life. Apparently, a police incident had closed Broadway station on the Expo line. I was on the Millenium line so I could still get to Commercial but there was no transferring to the Expo line there as the trains were just going straight through. I was metaphorically rammed up the ass since I had no option available to me that would get me to work on time. Two of my best choices were to either get off the train, back track to Columbia, and then ride the Expo line but that would make me late and move me in the opposite direction for at least 15 minutes. My second option was to keep going, hoping that the station would be open while I was enroute. If it wasn’t then I would just take the 99B and then catch a bus downtown at Granville.

When I arrived at Commercial, the police were still keeping the Broadway station roped off, so I waited two minutes for a 99B bus. I got on and sat down. Just as the bus pulled away, I saw the Skytrain attendants ripup the yellow crime scene tape and roll up the gates to let people back into the station. If I had just waited 15 seconds to board the bus, I would have been back on schedule. As it were, I remained on the 99B.

I wound up being over 25 minutes late and missing the meeting completely. Yay!

HE'S DOING IT FOR CHARITY

Popular funnyman Will Ferrell is in full promotional mode, hyping up his new movie Semi-Pro which opens at the end of this month. You might have seen his Superbowl Bud Light commercial. He’s also done a series of spots for Old Spice deodorant. These commercials are different in that he has donated his appearance fees to a charity, Cancer for College. During a scholarship presentation, Will surprised a scholarship winner and cancer survivor, strangely enough, named Will Ferrell. Hit up this video for that. If you enjoyed the commercial above, there are plenty more at the Old Spice web site. Be sure to check out “Herniated Colon”.

ROCK BAND MULTI

On Saturday night, I brought Rock Band over to St. John’s College, marking the first time I played the game with all the instruments at once. My gracious hosts were Shawn and Kafui. We were setup in the dining hall where we had use of an LCD projector and a portable screen. The projector was apparently very new and surprisingly did 1080p! The limiting factor was the screen itself, it was squared shaped and only about 4 feet across. If we had a white wall available, the image would have been massive. Still, it was bigger than any LCD screen we could have found. The audio was hooked up to a decent portable stereo. Though we tried hard, we could not find a second compatible guitar for the evening, meaning no bass guitar this time around.

Special guest Frank was luckily in town and he made an appearance to my delight. Initially, there weren’t that many people playing. It was myself, Frank, Shawn, and Kafui doing the first couple of songs, just getting used to the instruments and game mechanics like going into Overdrive.

After the first couple of songs, people would randomly wander into the dining hall, either drawn there by the sound of music or seeing the game on the screen from afar. Though a few people had actually played Rock Band before, most had not, and were not gamers in general. Despite this though, it was interesting to see the intrigue on people’s faces when they saw the setup. The combination of the 3D animations of the musicians and the crowd, the multiple tracks with coloured squares flying down the screen, and the beats booming from the stereo made a lot of people wonder “what the hell is all this?” It’s here that I was able to see the great strengths of Rock Band. It truly does a great job of being accessible for any type of person, from the seasoner gamer to the first-time gamer.

We had a lot of people try the game for the first time. After just a minute or less of explanation, they were beating on the drums, riffing chords, and hitting the high notes during the chorus. There were a few people who had no idea we were playing that night but after seeing us set up, they didn’t leave the dining hall until the final song was played. People also started falling into their preferred roles after trying out the instruments. One dude was our star vocalist, willing to sing pretty much anything. He really got into it, virtually channeling the Beastie Boys during “Sabotage“. They say any good band requires a good drummer and we had ours fortunately. This crazy talented journalism student could do the drums on “hard” which was a feat I had yet to see and we have Rock Band set up at EA Black Box. His coordination and sense of timing was incredible.

One other thing I discovered is that certain songs draw people in more than others. Crowd-friendly and high energy tracks like “Dani California” from the Red Hot Chili Peppers were just awesome to play for everyone. When people were playing that track, it kinda did feel like they were rocking out on stage. When people see that much fun being had, they want to give it a try.

We didn’t pack things up until around 2am, having played for about 4 hours. I thought people really enjoyed themselves but Shawn later told me that some residents were still talking about Rock Band during dinner on Sunday. Kafui actually forwarded me an e-mail where one person already had a list of tracks that they want downloaded for “next weekend”.

It’s been written a thousand times before but it’s true, Rock Band is really a good time with a bunch of people.

FORGIVE ME

They say that pride is a sin but I’m not a Christian so perhaps this post will still be ok. In that case, could I mention that there are estimates that skate. outsold Tony Hawk nearly 2 to 1?

While Activision made boatloads of money this holiday season, Variety also had this to report:

The only significant underperformer was the latest Tony Hawk skateboarding game. Activision is in the midst of major revamp of the franchise as sales slowed amid competition from EA’s new title skate.

A “major revamp”? Interesting.

DONE

As some of you know, I’ve been getting e-mails on a rarely used account that are intended for someone else. Tonight, I e-mailed the intended recipient and told him the situation. I’ve also given him instructions on how to fix the problem, should the cause be the reason I’m theorizing it is.

He is really missing out on some great forwarded e-mail jokes.

OH SO THAT'S HOW IT'S DONE

UPDATE: With hits coming from Sunnyvale, Concord, and Los Angeles, I’m pretty sure either Dr. Fedkiw himself or at least people who know him have read this.

With a world of over six billion people there are some amazing individuals who exist on this planet. I would like to point out one of those individuals. Dr. Ron Fedkiw is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University in California. He has a PhD in applied mathematics from UCLA. So just let’s examine that right there. Dr. Fedkiw has a doctorate from a good school in an area that’s pretty rigourous and challenging. So we already know he’s a pretty smart guy. He also teaches and does his research at Stanford, a school that’s well-respected. Not only that, he’s an Associate Professor, not an Assistant, meaning he’s done enough quality research and published enough papers to merit the increased status. I’m almost certain he’s tenured as well.

So is that all there is to Dr. Fedkiw? Nope. He’s considered an expert in the field of computer graphics specifically relating to the modeling of natural phenomena such water, smoke, and other complex physical interactions. He is a consultant to Industrial Light and Magic, the legendary special effects house that George Lucas started. His movie credits include the last Terminator movie and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Feel free to look at all the video clips on his departmental web site to get an understanding of his work. This fireball is a favourite of mine. Keep in mind that animation is not done by hand, it’s all calculated using mathematics. His list of published papers is lengthy and any academic would love to be that productive.

So smart guy, expert in his field, ILM collaborator, is that it? Nope. Days from now Dr. Fedkiw will be awarded a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for his work in feature films. Yes, that’s right, the man is going to get an Oscar.

So we’re done right? No man can be that smart, publish that many papers, win an Oscar and still got stuff to be proud of right? Right? Wrong again! Dr. Fedkiw was a competitive weightlifter in his earlier days. By his own admission, he states he bench pressed a personal best of 555 lbs. Holy! Just look at what he used to look like in his younger days. Does that look like a professor of computer science?

Surely one man could have nothing else to be thankful for right? Smart, respected, Oscar winner, there cannot be anything else we could be impressed by, correct? Wrong again! Dr. Fedkiw married an NFL cheerleader. He is a computer scientist who married an NFL cheerleader. Read that sentence again. How many times has that been fact in the history of the world? Together with his wife, Dr. Fedkiw have two adorable daughters. So after a day of teaching students and making pretty pictures for geeks, he goes home to a loving family.

So that’s it for real. I know nothing more about that man. He probably has some more impressive credentials but he just hasn’t made them public yet.

I know you can define success in life in many different ways but gosh darn it, Dr. Fedkiw has done a lot of things right.

Geez, I hope he doesn’t find this post through Google or something.

WHY?

I’ve been told I’m pretty good with using the Internet as a search tool and that’s a skill I take pride in. Tonight, I’m kinda stumped, though perhaps I should try harder than a five-minute Google search.

In any case, can ya help me? Why do baked goods like muffins and glazed doughnuts get “wet” when they’re stored in a container or a bag? You know what I’m talking about. If not, try this at home (preferably without parental supervision). Go to your local doughnut or muffin purveyor and purchase a glazed doughnut and/or a muffin, possibly of the blueberry variety. Get a fresh baked specimen if possible. Take said baked specimen and store it in a closed paper or plastic bag. It doesn’t have to be airtight, so feel free to keep a mouse in there too.

After about a day or possibly less, check up on your baked good. Depending on the exchange rate in your country, the muffin top and/or the entire doughnut surface should look like it’s wet with a sheen of something. I’ve noticed this for years and I’m inclined to think the baked good is drawing water from the air. I’ve actually seen this since I worked in a science lab in high school. We had a chemical solid that had to be kept airtight in a container because it would get wet when contacting the air. It would draw moisture from the air. There’s a formal name for that property but I forgot it.

Anyways, I hesitate to attribute that same property to a doughnut since that would be kinda scary. My best and latest guess is that the sugar in the baked good is somehow reacting with the air and breaking something down in the dough to make the surface appear wet.

Random guesses aside, does anyone know the real story behind my wet muffin?

HOPE IN PARADISE

If you’re not familiar with the Xbox Live service, it’s Microsoft’s online component for their Xbox 360 console. It’s what allows people to play games online on the 360.

I first signed up for the service in early 2007. One of the neat things about Xbox Live is how voice communication is universally integrated into the service. Nearly every single game allows you to chat with the people you’re playing online with. While this is great, it is also the source of my greatest frustration with Xbox Live.

I soon found out that listening to other players meant listening to young teenagers and pre-teens who think calling someone a homosexual is an insult. Not far behind those comments were the racial ones. They weren’t directly at me necessarily but just hearing idiots like that made me angry. You can mute people but it’s a chore to do, when all you want to do is just play the game. At times, I just didn’t even plug the headset in but you lose that crucial communication element that’s sometimes required for some online games.

After a while, I just stopped playing online all together, preferring to play only the single player portion of games. I would play online if I knew it’d be with just friends I knew but that’s rare.

It was with great intrepidation that this weekend I started playing Burnout Paradise online, with the headset plugged in. To my great surprise, it was a pleasant experience. People were cordial, helpful, and on good behaviour. There was hardly all hostility at all, in fact, I can’t remember any actually. Perhaps it was the nature of online in Paradise. For the most part, online gameplay is cooperative-based in Paradise and it benefits everyone to be helpful. In any case, the six hours I spent online this weekend was a lot of fun.

While I have hope, the cynical side of me thinks this was an isolated case. Perhaps, I would think differently had I been playing Halo 3.