Things to Do When You are Between Jobs

It’s been a lit­tle over a week before my last day at IBM. I was frankly blown away by the good-bye that I got from cowork­ers that Fri­day. We all went out to a Thai feast in Burn­a­by (and by Thai feast, I mean it just kept com­ing and com­ing until we start­ed gig­gling as each dish was brought to the table; Pad Thai? Sure, Crispy Fish with sauce? Why not!? More Stir-Fried Veg­eta­bles? Of course!)

I packed up my desk (I had spent over a week mov­ing books and toys from it to home in half a dozen trips). It was a strange time, with my time allot­ed to the project over, and work still need­ing to be done the project I’ve been work­ing on. I hope that I haven’t left too much hang­ing; Some of it was depen­dent on details of fea­tures that had not been defined yet, but where I had to leave wire­frames (which are essen­tial­ly dia­grams of how screens should look and what should be on them and where) par­tial­ly fin­ished, I tried to make it clear how they could be com­plet­ed. I said many good-byes to friends and col­leagues, and drove home from Burn­a­by, a lit­tle dazed (hey, it was prob­a­bly all that food at lunch).

On Sat­ur­day, we decid­ed to play tourist all over again. We went to the open house of CityTV and took a sta­tion tour, meet­ing most of the crew of Break­fast Tele­vi­sion (which I must con­fess, we’re not reg­u­lar view­ers of, but it was fun, nev­er­the­less). I won a CityTV Umbrel­la, and we got some Cold Stone Cream­ery Ice Cream at the end of the tour. I like the sta­tion; It’s small and has a lot of per­son­al­i­ty, and they run Jeop­ardy each evening (and also car­ry Reaper, which is a lot of fun and anoth­er series filmed here).

Sat­ur­day Night, I went to the tick­et office at the Orpheum just before the Sym­pho­ny Con­cert, and got a last-minute seat for the con­cert (only $15!). I heard the VSO play one of my favourite pieces, Prokofiev’s Third Sym­pho­ny. I love it because it’s most­ly loud and fast, and almost nev­er lets up. In par­tic­u­lar, the third move­ment is some of the wildest and most vivid music that Prokofiev ever wrote, and much of the dra­ma of the piece is due to the fact that it’s tak­en from his opera ‘The Flam­ing Angel’, which chron­i­cles a young nun’s psy­chot­ic break­down and pur­suit of a man she believes is an angel, com­plete with an on-stage exor­cism and chase through the streets. Not your usu­al opera fare, and cer­tain­ly not your usu­al Sym­pho­ny. The orches­tra did a fine job, but I sus­pect that it was too racy for the crowd, who did­n’t give it as much of a stand­ing ova­tion as they did for the Tchaikovsky Piano Con­cer­to in the first half. Ah, when will they stop doing this?! Once again, peo­ple, when every per­for­mance gets a stand­ing ova­tion, it ceas­es to mean anything!

The rest of the week­end was a bit qui­eter, but things picked up again today, with a job inter­view. I’m not going to write more about that until things set­tle down either way. Pam also has a lead on a con­tract, so it’s prob­a­ble that the free time between engage­ments for both of us is prob­a­bly going to come to an end soon.

Tomor­row evening is a spe­cial SIGCHI event: the film design­er Syd Mead (who was respon­si­ble for the rev­o­lu­tion­ary sets and scenery of Blade Run­ner) will be in town speak­ing, fol­lowed by a screen­ing of the final cut of the movie.

What Americans Know About Canada

Last night, I could­n’t help miss­ing all of the swipes that the Repub­li­can’s took at Canada’s Health Care sys­tem dur­ing their tele­vised debate. I remem­ber either John McCain or Rudolph Giu­liani mak­ing a stu­pid joke that if the US decid­ed to adopt Social­ized Med­i­cine, Cana­di­ans would­n’t have any­where to go for health care. Yeah, right; Believe what you want to believe, Mr. McCain and Giu­liani. It was amaz­ing how many times that all of the Repub­li­can can­di­dates all repeat­ed the phrase: ‘The US Health Care Sys­tem is the best in the world.”, as if say­ing so would make it true.

How Should I Take Testo­Gen? How Long Till It Works? See this page if you are being con­sis­tent with your Testo­gen, diet, and exer­cise sched­ule, you should wit­ness the first changes in your libido and over­all mood in about one to two weeks. Changes in your body and mus­cle mass will be vis­i­ble after four to six weeks.

When I men­tioned to my par­ents, back in Bal­ti­more, the dis­tinct pos­si­bil­i­ty of a Pres­i­dent Huck­abee, my moth­er said “If that hap­pens, then we’ll be join­ing you.” Real­ly? If I were them, I’d be more seri­ous about that, con­sid­er­ing this clas­sic clip from the CBC’s This Hour has 22 Min­utes in 2001, where Rick Mer­cer shows just how gullible they (includ­ing Gov­er­nor Huck­abee) can be in Arkansas:

I’ve writ­ten before about the stag­ger­ing lack of knowl­edge about the rest of the world on the part of Amer­i­cans, but I would hope that any poten­tial future Pres­i­dent would know more about Cana­da than this. Per­haps I should be wor­ried if there will there be enough room for the Amer­i­cans flee­ing north to join us if Mike Huck­abee, a man who might be just as unin­formed as George W. WPIUSH, becomes President.

A fol­low-up on this, thanks to West End Bound: An Arti­cle in today’s Van­cou­ver Sun:
Cana­di­an health care bet­ter and cheap­er than U.S., says research If you think that this source might be not entire­ly neu­tral, bear in mind that they are report­ing on a British study, not a Cana­di­an one.

Filmed In Front of a Live Audience

Before my work­ing week­end, Pam and I were lucky enough to be able attend an event that was, at least as the come­di­an Simon Rakoff and ‘Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies’ described, the first time some­thing like this had hap­pened in 10 years in the Van­cou­ver area: the film­ing of a Sit­com pilot in front of a live stu­dio audience.

Because of an email from the CBC that I answered (I don’t know how I end­ed up get­ting it; prob­a­bly from hav­ing signed up at the CBC web site at some point), at about 5:15 on Fri­day, Pam and I found our­selves shiv­er­ing in line at twi­light in front of what looked like a non­de­script busi­ness office, at the cor­ner of First Avenue and Gilmore Avenue in Burn­a­by. We had both just come from work near­by, so we were for­tu­nate that it was easy to get to. The con­ces­sion truck was feed­ing chili to the actors and crew (and it smelled good), but soon we were ush­ered in to a messy col­lec­tion of sets, cam­eras, and bleach­ers inside. After a few min­utes, Mr. Rakoff hand­ed out tick­ets for a bunch of draw­ings for door prizes that would go on as the evening’s film­ing pro­gressed, and explained our duties for the evening. “Peo­ple watch­ing TV aren’t too smart, he said, “so we want you to help out, and laugh so you can show them where the jokes are. Your laugh­ter is an impor­tant part of the process of bring­ing this show to life.” OK. Bring on the jokes. But first, the setup.

The name of the show was ‘All the Com­forts’. That much we knew already. Here’s the gist of the sit­com that we were to see, cre­at­ed for us the first time that evening:

The Bunion fam­i­ly is head­ed by Mac and Bren­da, who, in their retire­ment years, are hop­ing to take off with their new motor home to cel­e­brate their gold­en years alone togeth­er. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, their plans are thwart­ed by their daugh­ter Susie, a ditzy 20-some­thing who has nev­er left the nest, and the recent return of their always opti­mistic and timid but ne’er do well son, his pret­ty but abra­sive wife and their 2 kids (2 typ­i­cal pre­co­cious and cute sit­com chil­dren). Mac is a grouchy rub­ber-faced Jack­ie Glea­son type who just wants to be left alone to enjoy his massager/recliner, his sand­wich, TV and bot­tle of Snap­ple in peace. Soli­tude and space is to not be found. Through a series of phys­i­cal gags, jokes involv­ing aging and child-rear­ing, the cranky old guy even­tu­al­ly apol­o­gizes for yelling at his grand-kids and may even admit that there are advan­tages to hav­ing them around (one of them dis­cov­ers and turns on the ‘auto adjust’ but­ton on his hi-tech chair, end­ing his 4‑year quest to find ‘the per­fect set­ting’). While they aren’t a per­fect hap­py fam­i­ly, they may just make it, although Mac will still be thrilled the day that all of his kids final­ly do leave, and he and his wife can hit the road together.

Before I get into any crit­i­cal appre­ci­a­tion, it was just kind of fun to see how you shoot a sit­com. This was a four cam­era show, with direc­tor call­ing cuts and cam­era angles, 3 dif­fer­ent sets (includ­ing the motor home), and a large crew, includ­ing a stage direc­tor, cam­era­men, sound man, grips, key grip, clap­per, a bunch of writ­ers doing rewrites of jokes down to the last moment, and bunch of oth­er peo­ple (who I could­n’t tell what they did). This was as close as we’ve got­ten to the film­ing of a real TV show, and it was a great edu­ca­tion about how this is done these days.

As for ‘All the Com­forts’, it sounds like pret­ty typ­i­cal sit­com fare, does­n’t it? On this evening, what the writ­ing of the pilot lacked, the actors made up for in pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ener­gy. They made the mate­r­i­al far fun­nier than it deserved to be, but will it be enough for this pilot to catch on? That’s hard to say. The theme of the return of kids liv­ing with their par­ents far into their 30’s is some­thing that many of us are uncom­fort­able with, to be sure. It used to be a stig­ma, but is becom­ing so wide­spread that it is clear­ly going to have to be re-eval­u­at­ed. Dis­com­fort often leads to humour, so this might have a chance. On the oth­er hand, if it just becomes anoth­er col­lec­tion of sit­com gags…

  • Mac attempts to return a stolen xxx before dis­cov­ery of the theft … Hilar­i­ty ensues.
  • Susie is giv­en the posi­tion of respon­si­bil­i­ty she can’t han­dle … Hilar­i­ty ensues.
  • Bren­da, tries to change her phys­i­cal appear­ance through an xxx … Hilar­i­ty ensues.

I hope that they reach for plots and char­ac­ter devel­op­ment that’s bet­ter than these stock sit­u­a­tions. Pam and I have both become real fans of Cor­ner Gas, a CBC Sit­com that con­sis­tent­ly pro­vides a big laugh at least once in an episode. I sus­pect that it’s the writ­ing staff, although that sit­com also has very good act­ing. So far, ‘All the Com­forts’ is no Cor­ner Gas, but per­haps it could be. I’m hop­ing it does, because to have been in the audi­ence at the pilot could be a bit of his­to­ry, if it is a hit.

The Puppet Speaks for Me

I know I’ve blogged in the past about this, but here’s more Cana­di­an iPhone Angst.

It’s so frus­trat­ing that Europe is going to buy this before we do. Heck, at this rate, Botswana, East Tim­or and (yes, iiiss nii­ice!) Kaza­khstan will get the iPhone before we do. Or so it feels that way when taunt­ed this way.

By the way, Apple is not the only one taunt­ing us. I keep get­ting mes­sages on the TiVo about how we can down­load free pilots for all of the new shows on the US Net­works with the Ama­zon ‘Unboxed’ fea­ture on our TiVo. Except when I get to the screen to do the down­load, I get an error mes­sage com­plain­ing that I don’t have a US billing address, so for­get it. Sim­i­lar­ly, if I go to nbc.com (who I won’t even dig­ni­fy with a link), where I’m sup­posed to be able to see pre­vi­ous episodes of shows like “30 Rock” or “Heroes”, they actu­al­ly check my IP address and block me from see­ing the video, even though we do, in fact get the NBC net­work here:

NBC Taunt

Hey, these are old episodes, not even the new stuff. Why don’t they just come out and tell me to go and bit­torent the stuff myself. Oh right, I for­got; that would be illegal.

In the words of the pup­pet frog: “FIX IT!”

Road Trip to Springfield (sort of)

Milhouse and Bart on the roof of the Kwik-E-Mart
“OK, we’ve got a new car. I know it’s main­ly to make the com­mutes to our jobs a lit­tle ear­li­er and gas is expen­sive, but whad­dayasay we take a lit­tle drive?”

“Great idea! Where shall we go?”

“Well, we’re in Beau­ti­ful British Colum­bia, sur­round­ed by moun­tains, beach­es and parks. We could dri­ve to the Fer­ry and take a trip to the islands. Or we could take a trip to the south of the city to the berry fields and pick some logan­ber­ries or blueberries.”

“Um, it’s rain­ing. Pret­ty hard, too.”

“Drat.”

“I know, let’s take a trip to the only Kwik-E-Mart in Canada!”

And with that, we packed our bags with cam­eras and were on our way.

The Kwik-E-Mart, for those who aren’t famil­iar with this bit of pop cul­ture, is the fic­tion­al Con­ve­nience Store chain in the Simp­sons TV Series (now in it’s 18th sea­son). The store in the show is run by Apu Nahas­apeemapetilon (No one can ever pro­nounce his last name, so he just goes by Apu). In ‘the real world’, the 7/11 chain has picked stores sprin­kled through­out North Amer­i­ca and redec­o­rat­ed them, in many cas­es renam­ing their own prod­ucts, so that they close­ly resem­ble the fic­tion­al stores. It’s part of a tie-in with The Simp­sons Movie, which is due to open in the­atres in 6 days. The result is…a 7/11 with some fun, often hilar­i­ous decor and sig­nage, and a steady stream of smil­ing peo­ple, either cus­tomers or like us, tourists. It’s tru­ly, mar­ket­ing genius. On the Dai­ly Show with Jon Stew­art, Matt Groen­ing, the cre­ator of The Simp­sons men­tioned that the Kwik-E-Mart trans­formed 7/11s were the first time he’d ever seen ‘hap­py peo­ple’ in those stores. Our Kwik-E-Mart is in Port Coquit­lam, a sub­urb to the east of Van­cou­ver. It was a bit of a dri­ve, but we did some shop­ping on the way back, and gen­er­al­ly enjoyed our new free­dom. The traf­fic, on the oth­er hand, I could have done with­out. Doh!