MEN EATING TURKEY

The Vancouver Canucks were in Columbus for US Thanksgiving and despite only having four Americans on the team, all the boys sat down for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. There was of course turkey but also all the side and fixings such as potatoes, green beans, stuffing, gravy, and three different types of pie. It seems like a grand time was had and you know you’re in good hands when the gravy is served in a huge jug like that.

RANDOMS

Good old UFG gave me a free digital download code for Halo: The Master Chief Collection today. Awesome gesture on their part as most developers I know appreciate getting a free copy of the game they worked on. I currently don’t own an Xbox One and I’m not sure if I ever will but at least I know I can play the game if I ever do. As for the game itself, it’s still suffering from a few problems but the latest patch appears to have made things much better. The extreme vitriol from angry gamers seems to be subsiding somewhat on the message boards.

I took advantage of a pre-Black Friday online sale yesterday and bought a new video card. Originally priced at $200, it went down to $120. Did I really need a new video card? Perhaps no but there’s already a few games out there that I wouldn’t be able to play without the upgrade. I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to play GTA 5 when it comes out early in 2015. If you’re actually interested in how much of difference this new video card made to my gaming performance, this link shows about a 2x increase.

For lunch, I was weak and went to KFC at a food court. While I was getting a straw to put in my drink that the KFC employee had put down for me, I accidentally put the straw into another dude’s drink. Ok, in my defense, my blood sugar was low. Also, this dude’s drink was right next to me and he was like standing five feet away. Who doesn’t take their own drink and doesn’t put the straw in right away? Luckily, he was pretty chill about it and the KFC woman gave him a totally new drink. Hopefully, I don’t dip my straw into another dude’s drink again anytime soon.

WHAT DO MY OLD PROFS MAKE?

My alma mater is the University of British Columbia. Over the course of two degrees, I’ve had many interactions with UBC faculty and staff. This evening, I found a link to a thorough report regarding UBC’s finances for the fiscal year ending in March of 2014. This isn’t a leaked document or anything, it’s supposed to be publicly available as per regulations. I just never bothered to look at something like this before.

Sure this PDF document contains some very dry numbers that I don’t care about but the interesting part to me is the list of every single university employee that makes more than $75,000 a year. Since the document is easily searchable, I quickly looked up the salaries of most of my old professors and instructors. There were no real big surprises, every single one of the profs I looked up had PhDs in science or engineering so of course they had six-figure salaries. UBC pays as well as it can to attract talent so profs are making good coin.

I was quite pleased to see some people making the money that they do. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with some quality educators and they deserve every penny the university gives them. It was also interesting to see the spread in some of the salaries within a department. I noticed two of my old mechanical engineering profs have the same title but the spread in salary was about $80K.

Last but not least, I am guilty of looking up the salaries of certain people I know who work at UBC. These aren’t my old profs, these are my friends so I did this somewhat sheepishly. Should I have not looked? Maybe?! Anyways, I’m very happy for the people who made the >$75K list because they truly do deserve their salaries. You can buy me lunch next time!

WORK LESS, EAT LESS

Since I’ve stopped working I’ve noticed I eat a lot less during the day. This was something that also happened during the “summer of me” in 2013. I was hoping this trend would continue this fall as well.

I’m still trying to figure out why this is. I believe it might be a combination of things. First, I wake up pretty late and it’s usually lunch time by the time I’m up. That means I already miss breakfast. I don’t feel like eating a big lunch right when I get up though, so I usually just have a toasted English muffin or something. By dinner time, I’m ready to have my first big meal of the day but that’s technically my “lunch” though for me. I do admit, my body sometimes does crave more food around 9pm. It’s weird, it’s not a feeling of hunger but it’s like my body knows that maybe it could or should be eating something more that point. To satisfy that I might have one or two snacks during the evening before I go to bed.

So in general, I’m consume less compared to the summer when I was working. In contrast, I’d wake up before work and have a small breakfast. Then after getting to work, I might have another breakfast, like a slice of toast or a bowl of cereal. I’d invariably then go for a big lunch. Then there would be the afternoon snack which might be some more toast or a doughnut. Dinner would then be somewhat substantial, either through my own means or a company supplied OT meal. When I would get home, I would also have one small snack before going to bed. I imagine I was probably burning a lot more calories when I working too but I’m happy to be eating less too now.

It’ll be interesting to see if I lose any weight during this time. I don’t think I gained that much weight over the summer, so there shouldn’t be too much to lose, if any.

CELEBRITIES READ MORE MEAN TWEETS

It’s always a treat when Jimmy Kimmel puts these on. The celebs are certainly good sports for agreeing to this. Lisa Kudrow was especially good-natured about it.

What’s also interesting is the reaction of the original tweeters when they see they’ve made it on TV. This short article shows a few of their responses.

EXPENSIVE GARBAGE

Crap goes in here...

As I mentioned in my previous post, a plumber showed up at my place today to look at my busted garbage disposal unit. He looked at it to see if he could visually detect what might be jamming the whole thing up. He couldn’t see anything at first glance so he went and uninstalled the thing to take a closer look. I gotta admit, he didn’t seem too difficult to take thing out but then again he’s got years of experience and I don’t.

Unfortunately, the garbage disposal unit was also not draining, as well as not grinding. This meant it was holding water inside of it and not letting it through to the pipes. The plumber said this was odd since just because the motor doesn’t work doesn’t mean it should also block the drainage. So he dumped all the gross water in it into a tub that he brought along.

With it uninstalled, he could look at it more closely. He used a screw driver to sorta try to move the impeller plate around but it was stuck. I had tried this previously but he probably had way more leverage with it uninstalled. He then checked the grind ring for any blockages but he said it looked clear to him. He quickly put everything back into place and we tried turning it on. Nothing.

He removed it from the sink again and tried a few more things before putting it back in. We flipped the switch and were treated to nothing again. It was at this point he said my garbage disposal unit was done and I needed a new one.

I probably could have decided on a few different courses of action here. The first would have been to get the unit looked at by the manufacturer, like actually open it up and take a look at the motor inside. The problem here is that the manufacturer of the garbage disposal is one of these weird companies that’s difficult to locate. I checked the Internet and they definitely weren’t located in Canada. I wouldn’t even know where or how to send this thing back to them (out of warranty of course). This option seemed very impractical to me.

The second option would be to buy a new garbage disposal unit myself and get it installed by myself or possibly this plumber or another one. The purpose of installing a new unit myself is obviously to save on the labour cost, which for plumbers is the largest expense for these type of house calls. The question then would be, how easy would be it be for me to install this thing myself. I have no doubt I could probably do it if my life depended on it but how what type of frustrations would I face in the process? Would I screw it up somehow?

The third option was offered by the plumber himself. He said he could get me a new and better garbage disposal unit and install for me for $300. He told me that he’d be able to buy it at wholesale prices at a supplier instead of stores like Home Depot or Rona. While he was on the phone to check for inventory, I looked up the unit he wanted to get and at retail it was selling for about $160 plus tax. Now I don’t know how much of a discount he was getting on this thing but I’m guessing the $300 was gonna break down to half towards the unit and the rest towards labour. Was I comfortable with paying him $150 to uninstall my old one, try to fix it, drive to the warehouse to get the new one, and then install for me? That was real decision to be made here.

I am absolutely positive I could have saved myself some money if I decided to buy my own new unit and installed it myself. Yes, money would definitely be saved but would frustration? I tend not to be the most handy of men around the house. This thing had also been broken since late July. In the end, I just wanted it fixed, so I told him to go buy the damn thing and install it for me.

At the end of the day, I have now have a more powerful garbage disposal that’s quieter and that also has a longer and better warranty (in home). Such a privilege wasn’t cheap but now at least I can grind food down my drain again.

PLUMBER INCOMING

Well, I put it off for a few more weeks than I wanted to but a plumber is finally coming to look at my non-operational garbage disposal. This dude is gonna charge me $65 an hour to look at it and I believe there’s at least a one hour minimum charge. What if he fixes it in the first ten minutes?

My Mom, who early on wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer, eventually said that I probably should have been a plumber with how much they charge. On some late nights where I’m working OT, trying to fix a stupid bug, I do wonder if should have taken my Mom’s advice and unplugged toilets for a living. At least with plumbers, they’re paid for every single minute they’re working!

VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE

Last year I was playing Dead Space 3 on my Xbox 360. I had played the previous two games and each game builds on the story from the last one as the main character Isaac is featured in all three. With such an investment into the story, I was curious to see how the game plays out in the third installment.

For those who don’t know, the Dead Space series of games can be classified as survival horror games. In such games, the player is put into suspenseful situations and scary environments where fear is something designers want you to feel. In Dead Space, monsters frequently appear out of nowhere, behind you and above you with the element of surprise and try to kill your character. I don’t like scary movies and it’s no big surprise that I generally don’t like scary games. I only started playing the first Dead Space because it was well-reviewed, had an interesting sci-fi setting, and it was cheap (I got an employee discount at the time). At times I could not play it more than five minutes before having to take a break to let the stress drain from my body. As such, it took me much longer to finish the first two games than usual.

So last year, I again decided to step back into that universe with the third game. As before, stupid mutated space monsters would jump out at me without warning and try to kill my character. Every step had me on edge. After several hours in, when some creatures ambushed me in a blinding snow storm, I decided that was enough. I didn’t want to feel super stressed each step my avatar took and be sweaty after playing the game. I realized I cared more about seeing the story progress than the actual gameplay. There was no fun in killing the monsters, I just wanted to see the next set of cutscenes (non-interactive sequences that move the story along).

It was then that I discovered there are whole YouTube channels devoted to making videos that show a game as if they were a movie. Lots of games have a plot, just like a movie and the parts where you are in control are there so that you can get to the next plot point. The cutscenes, the parts where you’re not in control and just watching, contain the actual exposition and important story elements. Theoretically, you could assemble a “movie” from a video game by just editing all the cutscenes together. Practically, it’s a little more difficult to do than just that. Often the cutscenes mention something that just happened while the player was in control of the main character during gameplay. Without knowing what was going on during actual gameplay, the cutscene would have no context. For example, if you watch Batman interrogate the Joker, you might be wondering how the hell did Batman capture him in the first place. Well, that’s because the game had the player defeat the Joker just prior to that. That’s why the best video game “movie” videos are edited together with just enough gameplay footage to glue the cutscenes together with context. How much of this gameplay “glue” to use is a fine art. If you use too much footage, then people don’t care and can get bored with just watching someone play a game. If one uses too little gameplay, then people won’t know what’s going on in the cutscenes.

The combination of some great cinematic games with slick editing have produced some genuinely entertaining videos. You don’t even need to be a fan of video games to enjoy them. The video I have shown above is a masterfully edited one featuring Batman: Arkham Asylum. This game was critically acclaimed as one of the best superhero games to have ever been made and contains compelling story with great voice acting. This particular video contains just enough gameplay footage to string together the cutscenes in a tight format. Even though I played the game through in the traditional manner, I still found the video to be fun to watch.

So in the end, I don’t think I’ll ever finish Dead Space 3 as a game but I was able to get the whole story via these video game “movies”.

FIRE ALARM MORNING

By my count, the fire alarm in my building went off at least five times in a 30 minute span starting at 9am this morning. This was probably not an issue for most people in my building as they were either at work on or on their way. For me, however, I was relying on sleeping until noon to get my eight hours. So I was not pleased to be awoken by the first alarm.

The first alarm went off for about three minutes which told me it was most likely a false alarm. I probably could have handled just one and fallen back to sleep but the alarm would turn off and then go back on for several seconds every five minutes. It was like being constantly bothered while trying to get back to sleep.

The alarms stopped, for whatever reason, shortly before 10am but the damage was done. I was wide awake now even though I’d probably only had about four hours of sleep at this point. I didn’t feel like I needed a nap in the afternoon but now in the evening, I am feeling quite fatigued.

Lastly, I understand the default response to a fire alarm should not be to remain in bed and actually trying to fall asleep but I knew it was a false alarm (and the subsequent ones were too). All you kids out there, get out of the building for all alarms no matter what.

CHRISTMAS TREES IN NOVEMBER

Last weekend, which saw the end of the first week of November, I was going to get some lunch near my home. On the way back, I walked past a large apartment complex with large floor to ceiling windows. One window caught my attention. There was a man who seemed to be decorating a Christmas tree. It was somewhat hard to tell what he was doing because of the distance but it appeared he was putting items on a tall, tree-shaped thing by his living room window. It sure looked like he already had his tree up. Keep in mind, this would have been before Remembrance Day. I’m not sure if I’d ever seen anyone jump the gun on Christmas tree like that.

Just this Friday evening, I looked out my living room window towards another apartment building about half a block away. There was no mistaking the lit up tree shape in one of the apartments. The lights had been dutifully strung up on large Christmas tree by the window. I know retailers are trying to push Christmas onto consumers as early as possible to capitalize on the shopping season but getting into the Christmas spirit before mid-November seems weird. As it stands, this one home will probably have the tree up for a month and a half. I suppose if you really want some mileage out of your tree, this is the way to go.

I understand this is a free country and hell, if you wanted your tree up year-round, that’s your right but how early is too early? Should the tree come out with the Halloween decorations?