VARIOUS

I’d like to mention a couple thing in this post. First, I’m happy to report I still have a job, at least in the short term. As some of you know, the company I work for, Electronic Arts, laid off 6% of its workforce today, amounting to 600 people worldwide. I was, thankfully, not included in that group of 600.

I should have known something was up when I arrived at the studio this morning to see an animator standing outside with a whole bunch of stuff with him, talking with someone. I was told the impact on Blackbox was minimal since we’re still considered a profitable venture. Companies have axed entire game teams at once but nothing like that happened today at our studio. Though one of our designers was let go which was tough for me since he and I have worked together closely for about two years.

Such moves in the games industry are not unheard of. If you’ve worked at any of the big publishers like EA and Activision, such adjustments happen every once in a while. Just a few months ago, Activision canned two teams worth of people at Radical. I still feel bad for those let go though. I have heard, however, that the severance packages awarded today were quite generous. I don’t know exact amounts of course but I’m hoping people will be taken care of well past the holidays.

For me, there’s nothing else I can except keep on working to get skate 2 out the door.

Last but certainly not least, I would like to mention that this Saturday would have been the day I took possession of the top-floor, one-year old with view of the Fraser River apartment that I agreed to buy in late August. Had it been not for the shady seller who probably will reincarnate as a dog turd in his next life I probably would be positioning my rear surround speakers on the weekend in my new living room. As it stands now, I’ll probably be working both days of the weekend instead.

NERVOUS ANTICIPATION

I admit I am looking forward to next Tuesday, when US voters choose their next President. I also admit I feel a bit of shame in that I’m much more invested and interested in a foreign election as opposed to one that just occurred in my home country.

Just a few more days to go.

THE HEAT IS ON

I relented last night and turned on the heat for the first time since last winter. It’s been getting quite chilly at night and the evening before last, I tried sleeping without the heat. I woke up with the room seemingly colder than it was when I slipped into bed. I also had a headache. That was enough to convince me to at least turn the heat on in my bedroom.

Didn’t I just put away my winter coat last week?

TAX-FREE

A few evenings ago, I enrolled in one of them new fancy tax-free savings accounts. They technically don’t exist until January 1, 2009 but ING has decided to get a head start on things. Colour me financially naive but I didn’t know we in Canada got taxed on interest that we receive on savings accounts. So these new accounts won’t tax us on that. Given that the interest rates on savings accounts are generally quite low, the gubberment doesn’t take that much away from us. Every little bit saved helps these days, so I’m glad I got in on this early.

I suggest every Canadian who is eligible to open such an account to consider doing so. Saving money, if possible, is always a good idea and doing in a tax-free manner makes it even better.

THE MARKET

On the weekend, I met with my real estate agent for the first time in several weeks. I wanted to hear her perspective on the current real estate market in Vancouver. I also value her advice since she’s been an agent for over 20 years.

Having been through a couple of the ups and downs of the market, she told me I’m in great shape for the next several months. According to her, I have a job that pays me decent, I have no pressing nor dire need to buy immediately, and not all my financial resources are tied up in the stock market (I love you shoe box in the closet). Based on her experience, she believes it could be possible for me to buy a place in the area I really want to live in, as opposed to an area I’d tolerate living in. My realtor also foresees foreclosures starting to appear in the next several months as the stalling global economy causes people to be unable to pay for their homes. Her general and short-term advice is to just be patient and wait. How long I wait really depends on what happens to the economy and if there’s something out there suitable for me.

While I don’t envision myself picking up a new two-bedroom loft in Yaletown for a buck twenty, I am somewhat optimistic economic forces will finally bring reality back to some of those greedy mofos who turned Vancouver into an overpriced market.

THE WORKERS

In the last several weeks, I’ve left work around 11:30pm. During those times, I’ve noticed something interesting. Right around that time, there is always a large group of people walking along West Cordova towards the Waterfront Skytrain station. At first, I thought it might be a night class that just ended. Then I realized that probably wasn’t right since the group was rather large and 11:30pm is pretty late for a night class to end.

I also noticed these people weren’t casually dressed but they also weren’t in formal business wear. That told me they were probably working but not in an environment that had them directly interacting with the public. What kind of office job ends at exactly 11:30pm every day?

The answer I came up with was those people were call centre employees. It seems logical. They’re located downtown, work into the evening (to possibly cover global calls), and they all end their shifts at the same time.

I could be wrong but I don’t think most people grow up wanting to work in a call centre. I do, however, think it would be interesting to work in a call centre for about a month. Maybe I’m crazy but I believe it would be interesting (at first) to field calls from the public. What I couldn’t handle though, is the immense amount of scrutiny some call centre employees are under. It’s possible to track how many minutes a worker is on the phone, off the phone, or unavailable to take calls. I’ve even heard of a company that limits the amount of time a worker can be in the washroom. I may work long hours but no one keeps track of how long I’m in the loo.

I wonder what company those people represent.

SAD

The above video is an excerpt from an interview with a married couple in the US. The husband is leaning towards voting for Barack Obama because he believes Obama will do more for the union worker. The wife, to put it mildly, is firmly behind John McCain. The sole reason for her choice is a matter of faith. She believes McCain is more aligned with her conservative and Christian values than Obama. She does not care about his McCain’s policies, neither economic nor foreign, it’s all about which candidate is closer to her brand of Christianity.

To listen to her speak about Senator Obama fills me with sadness. Though she never outright makes a racist statement, some of what she says would make most people uncomfortable. Though I would like to think she doesn’t represent all Republican voters, one cannot discount that there are plenty more people like her out there in the US.

Listening to her statements, it’s reinforces my belief as to why the US is where it is today and that is going in the wrong direction for the last eight years. A single-minded, laser focus on just religion and just the fundamental Christian religion blinds so many people to the vast array of other issues a US President must face. Asked if her voting for McCain would jeopardize the interests of her blue collar, working-class husband, she responds with:

“The Lord will take care of us.”

She has every right to believe whatever she wants but I’m finding it very hard to come to terms with her beliefs. She’s banking on God to take care of her family, instead of Obama because one thing is much more tangible to her than the other. I’m very confused.

On November 4, when the US goes to the polls, this woman and many others like her are the ones Democrats will have face, remember that.

MILA KUNIS LOVES WORLD OF WARCRAFT

Despite hearing about how more females are getting into gaming, it’s still rare to witness a real, genuine female gamer in the world. Colour me surprised when actress Mila Kunis appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show and expressed her love of the game World of Warcraft, more commonly known as WoW.

The co-star of the new movie Max Payne and the voice of Meg on the TV show Family Guy, admitted she was so caught up with WoW that she had to quit. It was slightly surreal listening to Kunis talk about her “kick ass mage” and “joining a guild” to do “raids” while using “Ventrilo”. Now, I’ve heard those terms before but usually it’s coming from dudes who certainly don’t look like Mila Kunis. She also let people know she’s part of a large guild that has no idea who she really is. I find it amusing there are a group of people out there who raided with Kunis and didn’t realize the person who just cast that spell was Meg from Family Guy.

If you’re interested, she starts talking about her WoW addiction starting at 3:50 into the interview above. Maybe we should send her a free copy of Warhammer Online?

A FALL WEDDING IN OTTAWA

I spent last long weekend in Ottawa for the wedding of Adam and Kristina, two friends whom I met while I was living in SJC. After doing and still doing so much overtime at work, it was slightly surreal to be suddenly whisked away to another sitting for about four days.

My trip to Ottawa certainly started out pleasant as I met one of the wedding guests at the airport in Vancouver. Marcia was in town for business and was flying back to Ottawa on a flight just 15 minutes ahead of me. We agreed to meet up on the other end and cab together into town.

After a nice flight to the nation’s capital, Marcia and I grabbed our bags and took a cab into downtown Ottawa. I got dropped off at the Sheraton, while Marcia continued onto her home in Sandy Hill. I’d see her and the rest of her family at the church the next day.

After checking in and unpacking, I grabbed a quick dinner before retiring early for the evening. I was extremely tired considering I’d be doing so much OT and I got about four hours of sleep before flying. Even though I was sleeping in a strange bed, I had a most awesome night of sleep. I got up at noon and only because I had a wedding to go. Had there been no where to go, I’m pretty sure I would have slept until 2pm.

Given that I had to be at the church well before the 3pm start, I had little time to explore the city. While getting some lunch, I managed to explore a two-block radius around my hotel, where I noticed I was just a quick jaunt to Parliament. There wasn’t much time to look around so I headed back to my hotel. After suiting up, it time for the quick cab ride to the church.

Arriving at the church, I was seated with some of Adam’s friends from Toronto. I also managed to sit next to Jamil, another former SJC resident who also played ball hockey in the much revered SJC ball hockey sessions. It was great to catch up with him while we were waiting for the ceremony to start. Minutes before the start, Adam the groom arrived up front flanked by another ex-SJCer, Tyson who was the best man. I hadn’t seen Tyson since we were in Vegas last December and certainly not since his long journey on motorcycle across Africa.

As the ceremony started, I finally saw Kristina, as she marched down the aisle in her simple but elegant wedding gown. She was probably the third or fourth person I met when I was at SJC and six years later here I was at her wedding. At this point, the lady next to me, whom I believe was Adam’s cousin started sniffling a bit.

As Catholic wedding ceremonies go, it was pretty standard stuff, though I found it weird that at one point I had to wrestle Adam in front of so many people. I also noted that Adam and Kristina did not slip each other some tongue when they kissed at the end. It was an appropriate and classy kiss.

When it was over, everyone streamed out of the church to congratulate the new bride and groom. I got to talk to all the ex-SJCers at the wedding including Adam, Tyson, Jamil, Marcia, and Nic. Pleasant conversation all around.

Soon it was time to head off as Adam and Kristina gave us just the right amount time in between the end of the ceremony and the start of the wedding reception. I headed back to the hotel to freshen up and then met up with Jamil for the cab ride over to the reception, which was held at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club. For starters, it was hors-d’oeuvres and open bar! A few gin and tonics for me helped me get into a festive mood before sitting down for dinner.

It was at my table that I realized there were only three non-white people in the entire wedding and all of us were at my table. Other myself, Jamil, and a nice lady, it was all white folk. It didn’t really matter but I knew the dance portion of the wedding wasn’t going to be pretty.

Anyways, props go out to Adam and Kristina for keeping a brisk pace for the evening. Not once did I think I was waiting for food or feeling hungry. As soon as we sat down, dinner service began in earnest. I took pictures of all the courses and will post those soon. I was especially pleased with the prime rib served as I do enjoy them prime ribs.

The speeches during the evening were pleasantly short, touching, funny, and entertaining. At no time did anyone embarass themselves at all. Also, I did not feel like pulling out the “true love is hard to find” speech. I admit though, early at the church, I did want to say to Kristina’s father “it takes a man to give away an angel.”

During evening, I found out I was the lucky winner of the centerpiece at my table. The 1/2 scale sculpture of a goose made from pure whipped butter was mine to keep. Actually, it was a glass vase of roses but Marcia convinced me it would be hard to bring that back on the plane. I agreed so I gave it to her.

After the eating, it was time for more drinking and for the dancing to start. I didn’t see much of Adam and Kristina’s first dance but I’ve seen them eat at McDonald’s together, so I assume it was pretty much the same thing. I also managed to “grade seven slow dance” with Kristina which was awesome.

Before long, the bar was closed and the staff started cleaning and packing up. Everyone said their goodbyes and for some reason Jamil and I were the last guests to take a cab out of there. After dropping him off at his hotel, I returned to the Sheraton where I ordered some porn on the pay-per-view. Actually, I checked my work e-mail but it’s funnier if I said I ordered porn. “I was told the name of the movie would not appear on my bill.”

Anyways, I managed to do some more stuff while in Ottawa but that will have to wait for another post. A & K, thanks for inviting me to your wedding!