Dying is easy, politics is hard…

Posted by Office-Bob on 03 Jul 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness

One of the few (IMO) bad things about maintaining dual citizenship is that in order to be a responsible citizen, you need to wade through two different sets of election bullshit when it’s time to vote.

That said, here are some random thoughts which popped into my brain while browsing through the voter’s pamphlet which came with my absentee ballot for the August primary in Washington State:

1) I see that GoodSpaceGuy has grown a beard; the picture isn’t clear enough for me to decide if I like the look on him or not.

2) The Libertarian candidate for Senator is more coherent than one of the Republican candidates.

3) WTF is the “FDFR party,” and why does that candidate’s listed domain (screwbothparties.com) not have any content? Considering that he ends his statement with a line from an Elvis Presley song, I Would Like To Know More.

4) I think the StandupAmerica party candidate should have had a professional copy editor work on his statement as I’m not sure what he’s trying to say with stuff like, “Stop Seattle fascism with idiotic face !”

5) I’m pretty sure there’s a joke in there about someone going by “RC” complaining about wireless radiation, but I’ll leave that alone for now.

6) I’m a registered Democrat, but I don’t think I can vote for a Democratic candidate who has specific military ideas such as, “North Korea - Kick Jung’s Ass with 30,000 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles” and “China - Kick Xi Jinping’s Ass, by Blockading, then Conquering China by firing the necessary number of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles to destroy all Nuclear Targets, all Air Defense Targets, all Military Targets including each and every Chinese ship, submarine and airplane launched from a safe distance with a goal of no loss of American Life and with no US Ground Troops used until after China’s Unconditional Surrender.” Wow, and I thought Trump was bad…

7) The Green Party candidate is also against 5G networks and WiFi (see #5).

8) Another Democratic candidate needs to learn the difference between “reign” and “rein.”

That’s just from the list of 29 people running for one Senate seat; I haven’t even checked out those running for the three open seats in the House…I’ll do them later, after dinner and a stiff drink.

Popularity: 1% [?]

Everything I Need To Know About Driving, I Learned By Watching “Russian” Dashcam Videos

Posted by Office-Bob on 14 Jun 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness, Rants

Before we begin, I’ll just mention the reason “Russian” is in quotation marks is because some of the accidents occur in Asian countries and also happen in the USA…but the majority of them appear to be from Russia. An excellent source is the “Idiots on Wheels” YouTube channel, although there are many other videos out there waiting to be run across (run into?).

That being said, watching a lot of the dashcam compilation videos has not only convinced me that I never want to drive in Russia (or be a passenger in a car, or even cross a busy street), but it’s also made it very clear that a lot of drivers (and a few pedestrians) don’t understand some basic rules of the road so, for the sake of my reading audience, I want to pass along what I’ve learned in random order:

1) PAY ATTENTION TO THE ROAD: So many crashes are caused by the driver simply failing to pay attention to what is going on around them. Note the distance between you and the car ahead of you; if the distance shrinks, it means you’re getting closer and perhaps you should consider easing off on the gas – and perhaps hitting the brakes – instead of continuing at speed and rear-ending the poor bastard.

2) PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT OTHER DRIVERS ARE DOING: If you’re driving along a multi-lane road and the cars in the other lane have stopped, you might want to consider that perhaps the reason they’ve stopped is because something is blocking their progress – maybe a car is turning left across their bow, or maybe a pedestrian is crossing the street? No matter the reason, if you keep driving along without taking into account that you might hit (or be hit by) something, you’re likely to have an accident.

3) BLIND INTERSECTIONS ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND: If you can’t see that you have a clear field of action to make your turn, pulling out with reckless disregard for reality probably isn’t going to end well.
a. If you’re on the side of the road and are trying to merge back into traffic? Yeah, you may want to bear in mind that checking to make sure the coast is clear is a really good idea.

4) A PEDESTRIAN CROSSING MAY, TO YOUR SURPRISE, HAVE PEDESTRIANS IN IT WHEN YOU TRY TO BLAST THROUGH: This is related to rule #2 when a multi-lane road is involved, and rule #1 comes into play as well. There’s a sub-rule as well…
a. Pedestrians, take note – just because you’re in a pedestrian crossing, it’s no guarantee that you’ll make it safely across: Look both ways and never assume that an oncoming car sees you and will stop for you.

5) NEVER TRUST THAT A TOWING VEHICLE, OR A TRUCK CARRYING CARGO, HAS THEIR LOAD PROPERLY SECURED: Leave a good distance between you and said vehicle so if that aluminum dinghy comes flying at you, there’s a possibility – however remote – that you can swerve to avoid it hitting you.

6) DRIVE AT A SAFE SPEED FOR THE CONDITIONS: Rain, snow, ice, whatever…almost all of the drivers are driving too fast for the road conditions and when shit hits the fan they can’t react properly…there are some clips which show someone avoiding an accident in front of them but because they lose control of their vehicle while swerving, they go off the road or end up hitting someone else.

7) CHECK YOUR MIRRORS AND YOUR BLIND SPOTS: Dammit, people, stop changing lanes because you “have to” without making sure the space you’re trying to get into isn’t already occupied by another vehicle.

8) RIGHT OF WAY MEANS NOTHING UNLESS THEY GIVE IT TO YOU: So what if the guy one lane over is trying to cram into your lane when there’s not enough room unless you brake? Is not letting someone in more important than having to deal with the aftermath of an accident? Is your ego really that fragile?

9) ASSUME THE WORST: You’re in the left lane, approaching an intersection, and a car in the right lane decides to make a left turn in front of you without warning? If you’d been suitably paranoid you’d have been ready for the possibility and perhaps you could have avoided getting crunched.

10) TRAFFIC LIGHTS ARE THERE FOR A REASON: Sure, there will always be drivers who blow through yellow and red lights…but do you need to be one of them?
a. Even if you have the green light, keep your eyes open when going through an intersection as you might be able to see and avoid the asshole that is running the red.

11) DON’T DRIVE ALONGSIDE TRUCKS IN ROUNDABOUTS: I’m not sure how common roundabouts are in the US, but I’ve driven on enough of them in Canada to know that being alongside a big truck when they’re going around a curve is a risky proposition. In fact, most of the roundabouts I’ve seen have signs which specifically warn drivers not to drive alongside trucks in roundabouts.

12) IF THE ROAD IS VERY NARROW WITH LOTS OF CURVES, SLOW THE HELL DOWN: While it’s possible that someone coming around a blind curve may still hit you, at least your dashcam video will show that you were trying to drive safely. What’s that – you don’t have a dashcam? Well, perhaps you should think about getting one.

While there are more lessons to be learned after watching these videos I’d say that a baker’s dozen is enough for now, so I’ll leave you with this final thought:

13) IF YOU SEE AN ACCIDENT HAPPEN, PULL OVER EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT INVOLVED AND SEE IF THERE’S ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO HELP: Of course bear in mind that once you’re out of your car you’re even more vulnerable to the idiots on the road, so exercise caution when rendering aid.

Happy Driving!

Popularity: 2% [?]

My Norwescon 41 schedule

Posted by Office-Bob on 18 Mar 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness

This will be the first year as a Norwescon attending pro that I am not doing the movie-making workshop (because they’re not doing one this year) and while I’m on more panels than I was in the past, my overall schedule is actually lighter than previous years…if you are a) crazy enough to read my blog, b) attending Norwescon, and c) would like to meet up, here are the places and times where you can track me down:

Thursday:

NOW Can We Have Flying Cars?
9:00pm - 10:00pm @ Evergreen 1 & 2
Dr. Dana Andrews (M), Brian D. Oberquell, Bill Gruner

Friday:

Fandom In Daily Life
2:00pm - 3:00pm @ Cascade 7 & 8
Brenna Clarke Gray (M), Liz Courts, Berlynn Wohl, Shubzilla, Brian D. Oberquell

SF/F Battle Royale
3:00pm - 4:00pm @ Cascade 9
Erik Scott de Bie (M), Dawn Vogel, Brian D. Oberquell

Con Crud - What is the Reality?
5:00pm - 6:00pm @ Cascade 12
Jake McKinzie (M), Brian D. Oberquell, Dr. Ricky

Saturday:

Liar’s Panel
2:00pm - 3:00pm @ Evergreen 1 & 2
Caren GS (M), Lilith Dawn, Brian D. Oberquell, K. C. Alexander, Lee Moyer

Popularity: 4% [?]

When you’re odd, what are the odds?

Posted by Office-Bob on 15 Mar 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness, FX

Over the years, I’ve been told that I looked like certain people.

When I was younger and thinner, people told me that I looked like Monty Python’s Graham Chapman; when I got older/fatter/grayer, people told me that I looked like George Lucas (I still get that one a lot, usually the first time I show up on set to work on a new show).

One day, when I was working on LUCIFER, the VFX guy stopped me and said that I looked like a colleague of his in Los Angeles, and asked if he could take my picture to send to the man in question. I said I was okay with that, as long as I got a picture of him in return.

I’m not going to post the pictures for comparison because I don’t have the other guy’s permission, but damned if we don’t look pretty similar – and those to whom I’ve shown the picture tend to agree.

It gets even weirder, because he and I both share the same first name.

Who knows? Perhaps some day I’ll be visiting L.A. for whatever reason, and I walk down the street someone will call out my name - then, as I turn around, they realize I’m not the person they thought I was, at which point I will tell them this story and we’ll have a laugh.

Of course, if it turns out they thought I was someone else entirely and that there’s another doppelganger of me out there, I’m gonna wonder if maybe there’s some “Boys from Brazil” shit going on.

Popularity: 5% [?]

NDAs – not just for high tech jobs anymore

Posted by Office-Bob on 14 Mar 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness, FX

On your first day of work on a film or TV production you’re presented with what’s known as a “Start Pack,” which contains all of the paperwork you need to complete to be hired on to the production. Most of it is stuff that anyone who’s worked anywhere will recognize – things like tax deduction claims, personal information, and such – and there will also be things like the official policy on harassment (they’re against it), workplace safety (they’re for it) and proof of residency for tax credit purposes (they want it).

One thing that has become part of the experience (or should I say “ordeal,” considering the amount of paperwork the typical start pack contains) in recent years is a non-disclosure agreement.

I’m used to seeing and filling out NDAs from my years working in software development, and their purpose here is no different; you’re expected to not publicly discuss or take/display pictures of anything you hear or see while working on the production, although those restrictions are usually relaxed once the show has aired or the movie has been released. They’re not kidding around, either – I worked on a show (no, I’m not gonna name it) where tales were told of one semi-regular background actor who was fired because he posted some set pictures onto his Facebook page, and the general consensus was that he’s probably going to have trouble getting work in the future because he violated his NDA.

That’s not to say that pictures don’t get taken – after all, it’s human nature to want to document things that you had a hand in creating – but those who do so are usually pretty discreet in how and when they take pictures, and they keep them to themselves or else only share them with a very close, trusted circle of friends.

As for me, I will happily discuss something I’ve worked on once it’s escaped into the wild but until then, the most you’ll get out of me is admission that I worked on PROJECT NAME and, maybe, a comment to the effect that I think people will like it when it comes out…if you want the REALLY juicy stories, you’ll need to buy me a drink or three after it’s gone public.

Popularity: 5% [?]

Sometimes the easiest way to get something out of your head is to write it down

Posted by Office-Bob on 22 Aug 2017 | Tagged as: General Craziness, Rants

I try to avoid being overtly political when it comes to social media, but lately it’s been getting more and more difficult to do so - gee, I wonder why?

Anyway, I had a few bits of a song parody floating through (what passes for) my mind and decided that I should knuckle down and finish the damned thing or it would never vacate the premises - what follows is the result.

FYI, the Guam reference was more timely when I started writing this down.

A Day In The Life

(with apologies to The Beatles)
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Popularity: 9% [?]

I’ll take “How To Miss Your JEOPARDY Audition” for $500, Alex…

Posted by Office-Bob on 08 Apr 2017 | Tagged as: General Craziness, Rants

Last year (July 2016) I received news that I’d been selected to audition for JEOPARDY; I was given a list of available dates and cities and I decided on July 15 in Las Vegas because:

1) It was one of the few dates which fit my current work schedule;
2) It was close to my wedding anniversary and while I’ve been to Vegas before, my wife has never been so I thought it would be a great way to spend the weekend considering that our actual anniversary day was going to be spent working on the 2016 Celebration of Light fireworks competition. We’d have been going out to dinner that weekend anyway, so why not make it more memorable by doing it in Vegas?

I called my wife and asked her if she was cool with flying to Vegas for the weekend and with her enthusiastic approval in hand, I arranged the flight and hotel. Because we were wrapping production on the TV series I was currently working on the day before the audition, I booked an early morning flight which gave us lots of time to check into our hotel and then for me to get to the afternoon audition…unless things went south in a big way.

You can probably guess where this is going but for now, as the late Stuart MacLean used to say, “Let’s stay in the moment.”

We arrived at YVR in lots of time to get through security (I have NEXUS, my wife doesn’t, so our timetable took that into account) and after clearing the lines we sat down and waited…then we received the first notice that things might not go as smoothly as hoped when Air Canada announced there’d be a 30 minute delay due to a mechanical issue. No problem, we literally have hours between arrival in Vegas and the audition so there’s nothing to worry about.

Then another delay was announced.

Then yet another delay was announced.

Then my travel-planning app sent me a text to warn me that the flight had been cancelled.

Since the status board at the gate hadn’t been updated to reflect any cancellation I walked up and asked the gate agent what was going on; she informed me that while the flight had technically been cancelled because the original plane wasn’t going to be fixed in a reasonable amount of time, they were bringing in another plane and would transfer everyone’s reservations over to the “new flight.”

By this time the announcements were coming over the PA system and everyone was finding out the good news; the gate agents handed out meal vouchers so people could go get breakfast while we waited to find out exactly when we’d be taking to the air.

The delay dragged on and on, and my travel plans went from “We’ll have plenty of time” to “Okay, the wife will stay at the airport and grab our luggage while I take a cab straight to the audition” to “Better get used to the fact that you’re just not going to make the audition.” We ended up arriving in Vegas about 30 minutes after the audition started (and we were warned that it would start on time and not to be late, so when you factor in the time it would take to get to the host hotel from the airport it wasn’t even worth trying to get there) so the next step was to check in to our hotel and make the best of a bad situation.

When I’d booked the hotel I’d paid extra for early check-in – something that wasn’t needed by this point because of the delays – so when we got to the hotel I figured there was no harm in asking to be credited back the early check-in fee. Not only did they refund the fee but when I told them why we had come to Vegas and what had happened, they gave us an extra food and drink credit which we used to celebrate our anniversary in a more elaborate way than we’d originally planned.

The weekend went well enough and we had a good time despite my disappointment at missing my “big chance,” but there was one more thing I need to do upon my return home – request a refund from Air Canada for my outbound seat assignments because I had paid for exit row seats for our trip and when the metal was replaced on the flight to Vegas, the same seat number assignments on a different model of aircraft meant that what we had weren’t exit row seats. Upon our return home I went onto seatguru.com and printed off floor plans for both the original plane and the plane we ended up on, noted the difference in seating and requested a refund for the seat fees as what we received were not what we paid for…Air Canada agreed and refunded the fees for the outbound leg of the trip.

By now, some of you might be wondering why I didn’t ask for some sort of compensation for the flight delay itself? Well, despite the long delay in getting me to Las Vegas, Air Canada did in fact get me there so they held up their end of the bargain…it’s not their fault that I didn’t build an extra day’s buffer into my schedule, so as far as I’m concerned I can’t justify asking for more than a refund on that part of the flight which they failed to deliver, namely specific seat assignments.

As for the audition, while waiting at YVR I did email the JEOPARDY producers at the only email address I had to inform them I’d be missing the audition, and a few weeks later they got in touch to say that they’d let me audition again in the near future. I don’t know what then might happen but you can be sure that if/when it does, I’m going to be flying in at least one day early.

Popularity: 11% [?]

Yeah, I know, it’s been a while…

Posted by Office-Bob on 02 Mar 2016 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro, FX

Sorry for the looooooooong time between entries…it’s not because I don’t love you (okay, some of you I like but don’t love, and others I perhaps love too much) but things have just been cruising at a relatively normal pace so I haven’t had much to say until now.

Here’s a catchup post for those of you in the cheap seats:

  • I worked on a number of projects including FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, ONCE UPON A TIME, STAR TREK BEYOND and DC’s LEGENDS OF TOMORROW;
  • I did my usual summer fireworks shows (Canada Day, Celebration of Light) as well as other events like Motley Crüe and New Year’s Eve (the first NYE fireworks in Vancouver in ten years!);
  • I made my annual February pilgrimage to Lake Havasu City, AZ for Western Winter Blast and ended the trip with a few days in Las Vegas (I heartily recommend the Happy Half Hour at the High Roller; 30 minutes of open bar while getting an aerial view of the Strip).
  • I’m now in the process of prepping to teach a Special Effects Pyrotechnics course on March 17th and then, during the Easter long weekend, I will be attending Norwescon 39 and taking part of the Hellbender Filmmaking Workshop along with the usual suspects and a couple of new partners in crime.If you’re at the con please track me down and say hello and I’ll give you a special badge ribbon (limited quantity)!

    That’s all for now; I will try to write more often but don’t hold your breath (unless you’re into that sort of thing - but remember to auto-asphyxiate responsibly).

    Popularity: 18% [?]

    Warping minds, one explosion at a time

    Posted by Office-Bob on 12 Jun 2015 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro

    You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Those who can’t do, teach?” Well, you’d better hope that isn’t the case because as of this year I am now certified by the Explosives Regulatory Division (ERD) of Natural Resources Canada (NRC) to teach the Display Fireworks and Special Effects Pyrotechnics courses as part of the national licensing program.

    There have been a number of changes to the licensing program over the years, so I should explain what the program used to be and what it is now…

    When I first took the Display Supervisor course the process went as follows: you spent the first half of the day in the classroom learning the theory (including things like safety distances and such) and then you’d go out into the field for a practical demonstration where students would be shown how to load display shells into mortars (the tubes from which fireworks are launched) and would get to light the fuse and send a shell into the sky. Assuming you did everything right and passed the class, you were issued a Level 1* Display Supervisor license and were automatically allowed to purchase certain product and fire Level 1 shows. Once you’d had a certain number of shows under your belt and were able to provide letters of reference showing you’d gained additional experience, you were able to apply to upgrade your license to Level 2.

    The ERD overhauled the licensing system a while ago and decided that instead of allowing a complete newbie to run their own show, which might not be the best idea, they’d change the licensing program to something more graduated - so instead of being able to run a show as soon as you received your license, they changed to a graduated system where you first work as a Display Assistant for a number of shows - then, once you’ve gained experience (and letters of reference from show supervisors you’ve worked for), you can apply for your Display Supervisor license. This license is the same as the old Level 1 but under the new program they’ve broken down the additional operator capabilities into a set of endorsements as follows:
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    Popularity: 19% [?]

    Bright lights and late nights

    Posted by Office-Bob on 07 Jun 2015 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro, FX

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s a safe bet that anyone who talks about “the glamour of the movie industry” has never actually worked in it.

    I recently worked two nights on an upcoming TV show which, because of an NDA that I had to sign, I won’t go into detail about because I’m not sure if my own personal blog falls within their definition of “social media.” Here’s how each day went:

    DAY 1 - call time 3:00 pm, wrap at 4:48 am the next morning.

    DAY 2 - call time 3:30 pm, wrap at 6:00 am the next morning.

    Considering that the money one makes on a union production is pretty damned good, especially when you factor in regular rate, overtime, double OT and meal penalties*, all things considered I’d still rather work on fireworks displays or do live theatre. Why, you ask? Well, because:
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    Popularity: 22% [?]

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