H1N1

Despite all the massive news coverage from just a few short months ago, you don’t hear or read about the H1N1 flu virus anymore. While the virus was certainly deadly and was spread worldwide, it appears that the common flu still had a much more devastating effect on people. New pandemic or not, the common flu regularly kills thousands of people a year, all over the world.

During the holidays, I found out that I was exposed to the H1N1 virus. A friend of mine had been carrying the virus for weeks and was sick. I had dinner with him a few times. He even came over to my apartment to trade quiche recipes. He only found out later that he had the virus.

Despite being exposed to the now-famous virus, I never did get sick. I wonder if I actually carried the virus but didn’t get any symptoms. Hmmm… all this virus talk makes me want to ensure my zombie preparedness kit is in good order.

MOVIES AT HOME

When I bought my apartment last year I knew the developers wanted to build a huge retail space underneath the three towers that comprise the residential portion of the project. At the time though, there were no confirmed tenants. I was afraid of two things. First, with the economy the way it was and still is, I became concerned they might not actually finish the retail part of the project. Second, even if they did go ahead, I was afraid they’d get crappy tenants like a crafts store or something.

Even as the third and final residential tower was completed, I’d heard very little about what was happening with the retail part. This week, the developers finally released more info about what is to be built in the next few months. So far, the big name tenants will consist of Safeway, Shoppers Drug Mart, Royal Bank, CIBC, and Landmark Cinemas. The movie theatre development is what I’m excited about the most. Apparently it’ll be a ten screen complex. The surrounding area has no movie theatres so it’s almost guaranteed to be profitable.

The only other apartment complex that I can think of that has a movie theatre below it is the one downtown, above the Scotiabank Theatres. Now keep in mind that I’m not under any illusion that my apartment, located in New West will be anything similar to those apartments located along Burrard. Downtown Vancouver will always be more upscale and desirable but I’m really looking forward to having this retail space finished. It’ll bring convenience to the area. Also, though I’m not counting on it, I’m hoping this will increase the property value of my apartment too.

The one drawback I see is that the whole retail spaced won’t be finished until 2011.

WORDCRASHER

If I could be so bold, I’d like my readers to consider a new app for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch. The app is a game called WordCrasher. WordCrasher was developed by independent game developer Kevin Ng Games. It might not be a surprise that the man behind Kevin Ng Games is Kevin Ng. I had the pleasure of working with Kevin over the last few years at EA on the skate franchise. Kev is a talented and knowledgeable software engineer who was a real asset to our team.

A few months ago, Kevin decided to strike out on his own and go the independent games route and WordCrasher is his debut title. I maybe biased but everything about the game and the way he’s marketed WordCrasher has been quite impressive. While a lot of iPhone apps are crap and are presented in a crap fashion, you can tell Kevin has the experience of being a real game developer that sets him apart from many others. If you don’t believe me, just read this review, which is just one of several positive ones.

If you’re looking for a new game for your iPhone, please consider WordCrasher. At less than $2, it’s well worth your money!

THE TESTER

I’ve said to a few of my co-workers in the past that a reality TV show featuring the development of a video game would be an interesting series. It appears someone has somewhat thought the same thing.

Sony is set to debut a new, online only series simply called The Tester. The show features eleven contestants who will face each other, Survivor-style, in a series of game-related challenges. The winner of the whole thing gets the grand prize of being employed as an actual game tester for Sony.

While the show might be entertaining, I’m still disappointed by the direction they took. First, I really want a show that documents the development process. I want the public to know what kind of things go on when a game gets made. A Survivor-style show featuring made up challenges isn’t realistic. In real life, no one gets immunity or any of that crap. “Sorry Jimmy, you’ll have to get someone else to make that monster for you, I have the Chalice of Silicon for this round.”

Also, I don’t know another reality TV show where the grand prize is something an average person can get with way less hassle. These people will have to jump through hoops and do crazy stuff for just the chance to get a job that anyone with a high school degree and a desire to make $10 an hour can get. Think about that. The grand prize for this series is a $10 an hour job that garners very little respect, will probably entail long hours, and is at the bottom of video game development ladder.

I suspect that whoever wins the job probably won’t last beyond a single project as a tester.

MEH

As some of you know, my hometown, the city of Vancouver is hosting the next Winter Olympic games. In fact, those Olympic Games will start in less than a month, on February 12th.

We’re less than two weeks away from Vancouver becoming the focus of attention for the entire world. At this time, I find myself very indifferent towards the whole spectacle. I can say that I’m not feeling very excited about the Games right now. There are probably a few reasons for that. First, I’m working a lot of hours right now and I probably don’t have a lot of time to get excited about anything, including the Olympics. Second, I don’t have any tickets for any of the events, so Vancouver or the Arctic Circle, it doesn’t matter where the events are held, I’m going to wind up watching on TV anyways. Third, right now I’m seeing all the inconvenience to me because of the Olympics and none of the potential good stuff.

I suppose once the Games actually begin, it might actually grab some of my attention, at least from a pure sports fan perspective. I can see myself watching a lot of ice hockey, both men’s and women’s. On the other hand, part of me worries about the aftermath of the Olympics. Once the world packs up and leaves Vancouver, what will us Vancouverites have to deal with? Years of public debt?

Well, maybe all my fears will be forgotten if I can get a Bob Costas autograph.

HOME INSURANCE RENEWAL

It’s been almost a year since I first took possession of my apartment. Accordingly, my insurance company sent me a renewal package for my home insurance. They decided to increase my personal property amount by $5K to $50K and my additional living expenses by $2.5K to $25K. I think the amount of personal property in my apartment barely exceeds $10K but I don’t care.

The total amount I’m being charged this year is $236 which is up from the $225 I paid last year. That’s a 5% increase which is this “inflation guard” benefit that the company was trumpeting as a good thing. Seeing as how I’ve never had to renew home insurance before, is a 5% increase a good deal or is the average increase around 5% anyways?

I’d like to hear everyone’s experience with home insurance renewal.

DAMN WIND

The city of Vancouver and its surrounding areas were subjected to a fierce windstorm last night. Before going to bed, I thought the high winds wouldn’t have any effect on my night. It wouldn’t be until the wee hours of the morning that I would be proven wrong.

Sometime around 6:45am, the fire alarm in my building went off. We had a false alarm recently, so like that time, I just laid in bed, ignoring it. Now for some people, a 6:45am wake up call isn’t that bad since that’s close to their normal wake up time anyways. Not so for me as I’m probably in my deepest REM sleep at that point.

Now awake in my bed, I listened to the alarm chime and then waited for the inevitable sound of sirens as the fire trucks raced towards my building. Sure enough the sirens came and I then could hear the trucks roar down my street. Then as I expected, the sirens stopped, a few minutes passed, the alarm stopped, and then I heard the trucks leave. It was well after 7am at this point, so I just tried to fall back asleep. Just as I was getting drowsy enough to be unconscious, the alarm went off again! For sure, this had to be another false alarm. The alarm went off for less than three minutes before it was turned off again. This time, no fire trucks came.

Though short as the second alarm was, I was now awake again. By the time my own alarm clock went off, I was extremely groggy. It’s never a good sign when you get out of bed and the first feeling you have is overwhelming exhaustion.

I later e-mailed the building manager to find out the cause of the false alarms. It turns out the high winds had damaged a pipe somewhere and that triggered the alarms. He didn’t give me any more info than that.

THE DRIVER

For the benefit of their employees, EA provides a shuttle bus service that ferries people to and from the Burnaby campus and Skytrain stations. It’s nice of them to provide this service even though there are strong rumours they’ll be cutting it in the spring, in yet another cost-cutting measure.

When I’m not working OT, I despise taking the later shuttles when going home. There’s this one driver that really gets on my nerves. When he actually arrives early to pick up passengers (which isn’t very often), he won’t let anyone on. Instead, he’ll lock up the bus and run inside to use the washroom or make some phone calls. Employees either have to stand outside in the cold or run back into the lobby to wait for him to finish whatever he’s doing. How difficult is it to let people on, take the keys and then run inside?

When the bus finally departs, he invariably has the radio tuned into this hardcore Christian talk station. He doesn’t strike me as a particularly religious dude but there he is, listening to that station. He also leaves it on loud enough that the entire bus can hear it. When I say the station is hardcore, every minute or so someone is saying something about “salvation” or “our Lord, Jesus Christ”. Keep in mind that I don’t have anything against the guy for being a Christian or any religion but don’t have some sorta preachy radio station blasting away while I’m trying to get home. You don’t see me knocking on his front door, trying to tell him about the ways of the Jedi.

The dude is also a very inconsiderate driver. On his route to Gilmore Station, there are two considerable bumps in the road that every other shuttle driver graciously slows down for. This guy doesn’t seem to even notice that those bumps are there. Invariably, he just guns it through the bumps. People who happen to be sitting at the rear, without exaggeration, get tossed out of their seats toward the ceiling. The first couple of times I didn’t realize this and I got owned by this moron. If I’m on his bus, I always sit up front, even if that means the Jesus talk is louder.

The last piece of crap that we have to deal with is his stupid “end game” at the end of the route. The other drivers just drop us off at the designated drop off point at Gilmore which means just going straight from our main route. This guy won’t have any of that. Because the drop off area points him in the wrong direction when the employees all de-bus, he takes this weird detour right near the Skytrain station. He makes an extra right, then makes a left into this cul-de-sac, circles the cul-de-sac, then comes out of that to make a right, and then finally drives down half a block back to the station. He’s not even supposed to be stopped where he drops us off. Because it takes several extra minutes to do this detour, invariably someone misses a train they could have taken if he had just taken the direct route.

Writing this post just reminded me how stupid it is for us to put up this guy. I think I’m going to make a complaint tomorrow.