Strangers on a Plane

Posted by Office-Bob on 25 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: General Craziness

I had just finished a week-long trip and was on my way home; the first leg of my flight was Las Vegas to Seattle, and from there I had a connecting flight to Bellingham where I’d catch a shuttle to drive me to Vancouver. It’s a long trip but still cheaper than travelling directly from Vancouver to Vegas, so there you are.

As I was settling into my aisle seat, the passenger in the middle seat showed up and I got up to let him sit down. He obviously wasn’t pleased with having the middle seat as he asked me, and then the passenger in the window seat, if we’d be willing to switch places with him. Even with the offer of cash in hand, neither of us were interested in switching places so, with no further comment, Middle Passenger took his seat.

He was young – I’m terrible at guessing ages but I figured he was in his early to mid-twenties. He was dressed in t-shirt and shorts, with a hoodie that he removed before taking his seat. He fiddled with his phone for a bit, probably texting someone to let them know he made his flight.

After takeoff, he asked me if they served alcohol on the flight. I said they did and then, guessing that he wasn’t aware of how things now worked in the air, told him that they only accepted credit or debit cards for payment. My hunch was correct as he then asked if I would be willing to buy him a drink. I agreed, because he was a very polite young man and since he couldn’t buy drinks on his own, there was very little chance of his becoming drunk and disorderly in-flight.

When the attendant came by to take drink orders he requested a Cuervo and Coke and (without being asked) handed over his ID – a Washington State driver’s license which was different in that it was printed to be read vertically, rather than horizontally as other types of ID are printed. The attendant seemed a little puzzled and asked a few questions about the DL but as it showed he was of legal age, she gave him his drink. I ordered a rum and diet Coke and paid for both, and when he started to pull out money to pay me for the drink, something made me tell him to forget it, that the drink was on me.

I can’t tell you why I paid for his drink – He had enough cash on him to try to bribe his way into a “better” (for him) seat, and I wasn’t looking for good deeds to do…but something just told me that he could use a break.

He offered his hand while thanking me; I took it, we shook, and then after we’d mixed our drinks we toasted each other. He mentioned that he’d been in Vegas for a month to visit his uncle but was now returning home to Seattle, and this was only his second time on a plane. He wasn’t terrified nor terribly at ease, but he admitted that this second time wasn’t as nerve-wracking as the first. He then made a comment indicating that he was still smarting a little from having his ID questioned, so I told him how the Washington State driver’s licenses handled under-21 drivers when I was living there, decades ago – if you were under 21 when your license photo was taken they did it as a side profile; that way ID checkers would be able to tell right away if someone was definitely 21 or if they needed to look further at things – say, the ID holder turned 21 after the license photo was taken.

We discussed various sorts of ID; I showed him my NEXUS card with its incredibly bad photo taken with a webcam (I’m not joking), and he said his last piece of ID before the Washington DL was a Department of Corrections ID card.

As I’ve mentioned before I’m not great at guessing ages but considering we’d now established that he’s recently turned 21. Since, in my opinion, it’s very unlikely that he was a corrections officer at that young an age – well, you can figure it out where my mind went.

Didn’t bother me one damned bit.

We talked about a lot of things. He asked me how long I’d been married (since 1981) and asked me how I knew she was The One; I replied that to me it was a matter of seeing how the relationship progressed until everything just felt right. He asked me other questions such as were there things I’d done in my life that I regretted, and if I found it difficult to trust people. I told him that of course I’d done things in life that I’d regretted – I don’t think there’s anyone alive who hasn’t – but that you have to just learn from your mistakes and try not to make the same mistakes twice. As far as trusting people, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt unless they’re obviously untrustworthy, and if someone breaks my trust I’m willing to give them another chance unless they show they’re completely irredeemable.

As you might imagine I was dying to hear his life story and try to understand what he’d done – or had had done to him – to make him ask these sorts of questions of a complete stranger…but if my assumption that he was recently released from some sort of correctional facility was correct then coming out and bugging him for details could be considered as hypocritical of me, since I’d been talking about trust and learning from mistakes and so on. If he wanted to unburden himself to me that was certainly his choice but to me, it was on a Need to Know basis, and I didn’t think I had the need to know.

Eventually the conversation petered out. We finished our drinks, I did a little work on my iPad while listening to some music, and he closed his eyes and slept a bit.

As we were landing he thanked me again for the drink and wished me good luck with the rest of my travel plans; since he had reached his destination I wished him good luck with his life and told him to “pay forward” the drink when he could. We shook hands again, I gathered my stuff and dashed off to make my connecting flight.

It’s very unlikely I’ll ever see David again, but whatever he does and wherever he goes, I hope he does well – and, if he does, I hope our conversation helped at least a little.

Popularity: 13% [?]

Year in Review: 2012

Posted by Office-Bob on 12 Jan 2013 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro, FX

Now that enough time has elapsed that I feel like an utter jerk for neglecting my blog for so long, it’s time to look back at the past year. With the exception of the startup I’d been with since 2007 apparently going under in December (I say “apparently” because while they’ve gotten rid of everyone who was working there, the site itself is still online for now), it was a pretty good year.

  • I got to see the Mythbusters Live! tour when they came through Vancouver…although I missed out on the chance to get an Adam Savage bobblehead because I figured they’d have lots available and I’d buy one after the show, only to find they’d run out.
  • While I attended Western Winter Blast per usual in February (where I got to see my first oxygen lance), this time I flew out of Bellingham because even when adding the cost of the shuttle to/from the airport it was still over $100 cheaper than flying out of Vancouver (Hey, Canadian airline industry, are you paying attention? I’m not the only person doing this) and due to a combination of lack of sleep and coffee, and the unfamiliarity of a new/much smaller airport, I managed to screw up when trying to go through security. Despite the horror stories you hear about the TSA, the staff at BLI were very nice and helpful and even had a sense of humour, which made what could have been a major hassle into nothing more than a minor hiccup in my travels.
  • I made my reality TV debut on an episode of PYROS and I came out surprisingly (for me) well.
  • I did a consult for Metro Theatre for a production they were mounting which I’d done FX for previously – unfortunately due to scheduling issues I wasn’t able to see the show itself.
  • I had lots of pyro gigs this year, including the World Model United Nations conference in Vancouver and my first New Year’s Eve show since 2007 (which may turn into a recurring gig, huzzah!), but two shows which stand out for me were Rammstein (flamethrowers, giant cooking pots, and a foam machine painted to look like a penis – what’s not to like?) and Skrillex (bad point: backstage politicking, good point: being able to take home all of their unused pyro as it was the last stop on the tour, and they didn’t want the hassle of trying to take the product back across the border into the US). After reviewing my calendar I figured out that the total number of shows I worked on in 2012 was 12 – which I’d say is a respectable number for someone who isn’t doing pyro as a full-time gig.
  • For those of you who are into such things, here’s what a show looks like before it’s fired and here’s what it looks like as it’s being fired (Yes, Mom, I was wearing all of my safety gear and I had something to duck behind if there was a problem).
  • I also learned how useful pyro pokes are, and that I should have purchased a set long ago because not only do they make it very easy to insert e-match into tight quickmatch, or when you’re e-matching directly into a lift charge, but they’re a great way to make friends when you see someone from Team Brazil trying to use a piece of wood as a poke, and you loan him one of yours. I suppose I should add “International Relations” to my resume…
  • I created my first scripted show this year using the Cobra system; even though the show suffered from heavy rains which knocked out a bunch of product (I thought I had everything properly protected, but I obviously didn’t - but now I know for next time!), it was nice to not have to pay attention to a stopwatch and cue list while trying to push the right buttons at the right time.
  • Shows I attended but didn’t work on included John Fogerty, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, the Chieftains, Don McLean and the Vinyl Café Christmas Concert…and while it wasn’t live I saw the latest “arena tour” of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, which has cemented my man crush on Tim Minchin.

    All in all, 2012 was a good year. 2013 looks to be okay as well – I already have 3 shows scheduled and I expect at least 3 more - but I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

    Popularity: 22% [?]

    This week’s episode of Adventures in Home Ownership…REPLACING THE SOAP DISPENSER!

    Posted by Office-Bob on 24 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: General Craziness

    That’s right, folks, not everything in my life is as exciting as blowing stuff up - sometimes I actually have to deal with the mundane stuff.

    The dispenser in question is in the kitchen and mounted in the sink, to be used for dish-washing soap (yes, I’m one of those Luddites without an automatic dishwasher, deal with it). The pump mechanism died, so I set about trying to locate a suitable replacement.

    I found a dispenser unit at IKEA, and my first hope - that I’d be able to just swap out the pump head and not have to replace the storage bottle mounted under the sink - was dashed because, of course, they’re not the same diameter.

    Unscrewing the bottle from underneath the sink should be easy enough, right? Well, no, because this thing was so old that I was only able to get the nut loosened enough to become incredibly frustrated at my inability to grow an extra set of arms, or to lengthen the ones I have a la Reed Richards.

    I learned a long time ago that when I start getting frustrated over things like this it’s better to step back and cool off. Since there were other errands that I needed to do I went ahead and did them, allowing me time to ponder the dilemma and think of an appropriate solution.

    Eventually the solution I was seeking came to me in the form of the saying, “There are very few personal problems that cannot be solved through a suitable application of high explosives a hacksaw.”

    A quick trip to my workshop and I was soon happily sawing away at the neck of the bottle housing, now available to me through the small amount of gap I’d been granted by that tiny amount of play in the mounting nut which was holding the pump neck to the bottle housing…it was small, but it was large enough for the hacksaw blade and that’s all that mattered. Of course after finally removing the old dispenser I found that the hole was just a teensy bit smaller than what was needed for the new dispenser, but that’s easy enough to fix with my Dremel and since I still had other things to do, I decided to stop there and wait until tonight to finish the job.

    Tune in again next time for another exciting episode of Adventures in Home Ownership entitled…ASSEMBLING THE CARPET CLEANER!

    Popularity: 11% [?]

    Foam, foam and deranged…

    Posted by Office-Bob on 23 May 2012 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro

    Here we are, already most of the way through May, and I’ve once again been remiss in keeping you all up-to-date on my amazing exploits - because y’all live for this stuff, amirite*? Okay, here’s the recap:

    - Attended Western Winter Blast again. This year I got to see an oxygen lance in action, up close and personal. Boy, those suckers can burn through rock like nobody’s business. I also managed to get some good wide-angle footage of this year’s public display.

    - Did a small show for the World Model UN conference in Vancouver; that one was interesting because we had 5 large 2-driver wheels, and one of them had been put together wrong…the drivers were both pointing in the same direction, which means the wheel wouldn’t have spun. Fortunately I spotted it before the show and we were able to move it into the correct orientation.

    - My reality TV debut occurred in May with a show I did last September being included as part of an episode of PYROS. Fortunately there was enough going on elsewhere that my segment was limited to the first 10 minutes and, as a result, I didn’t come off looking too bad at all.

    - Rammstein played Rogers Arena recently, and I was the “local license”…I wondered about having an industrial metal band doing a show on Mother’s Day, but the place was packed so I guess they know best. I managed to survive being up front, just outside of the barricades, and while I’m not a fan of that sort of music I have to say the pyro was FANTASTIC - so much so that I didn’t even mind getting sprayed with foam (If you know the group you’ll know which song I’m talking about, and if you don’t you may not want to know). This was also the first time I’d used my new set of custom-fit ear plugs and they did a great job of saving my hearing.

    - I have a show in Victoria the first weekend in June, don’t know anything else about that right now.

    - I’ve volunteered to crew a show down in Marysville, WA on the June 23rd weekend; since I now have my PGI certification I want to get additional experience working on US shows.

    - I’m booked for Canada Day (was booked last July, actually) but still don’t know what show I’m working on - I hope it’s a barge show, but I’ll find out eventually.

    - As expected, I’ll be working Celebration of Light again. This will be my 13th year…good thing I’m not superstitious!

    After CoL I don’t have anything planned until Halloween, and this year’s show should be fun as I’m upgrading my firing system to include a scriptable remote…I’ll be able to program my show and have it fire without needing to stare at a stopwatch and press buttons.

    *Gotta watch out for autocorrects - I almost asked, “emirate?”

    Popularity: 20% [?]

    A Modest Proposal for Translink

    Posted by Office-Bob on 16 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: General Craziness

    Considering the current state of the world economy, people aren’t very appreciative of hearing that prices are going up, and they’re even less pleased when it’s something as crucial to their needs as travel.

    Translink wants to increase fares by 12.5 percent and, of course, the public doesn’t like the idea. Fortunately, any increases will need to be justified before they’re implemented, and consultants are being brought in to look at other ways Translink can reduce operating costs.

    “We’re not looking for savings in strings and paper clips,” (Translink Commissioner Martin) Crilly said. “We’re looking for something substantial.”

    While I’m not going to get into the wisdom (or lack thereof) in spending money on outside consultants, it seems to me that by focusing only on Translink’s bus fleet, they’re missing an opportunity to increase revenues in another area – fare evasion, which we already know costs Translink a significant amount.

    I know Translink is in the process of adding fare gates and turnstiles to SkyTrain stations, and they already have transit police looking for fare evaders, but I want to offer a proposal which I think merits consideration. It involves bringing in those who’ve been marginalized by society and, by giving them a job, helping them to help themselves while providing a tangible benefit to the community.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I propose the Urban Rehabilitation System In New Environments program, in which Translink will hire bears to patrol the transit system and look for fare evaders, which the bears would then eat.

    Consider the benefits of this plan:

  • Currently, fare evaders are issued tickets which they may or may not pay; by eliminating tickets we’ll be saving time, money, and paper.
  • If bears are allowed to eat fare evaders they won’t need to scrounge through garbage bins any more; not only will this cut down on the mess left by bears but it will send a clear message to the fare cheats that breaking the rules won’t be tolerated.
  • We can reduce expenses by reducing the number of transit police needed to patrol the system; we’ll still need them for instances of violent behavior and crowd control for big events, for example, but they’ll be able to spend their time more efficiently and in fewer numbers.
  • We won’t need to spend money on employee benefits such as transit passes for the bears to get to their new jobs, because they’ve already proven themselves adept at getting from one location to another.
  • I urge Translink to consider my proposal and have their consultants evaluate it for feasibility and cost-effectiveness.

    Popularity: 17% [?]

    Fun flies when you’re doing time.

    Posted by Office-Bob on 05 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro, FX

    Happy 2012, everyone! Don’t let that whole Mayan calendar thing get you down, ’cause it’s all a bunch of hooey - however, if you’re really looking for a sign of impending doom, consider the fact that Rob Schneider is getting his own TV show.

    Sheesh, and I thought reality TV was bad.

    Speaking of reality TV, it looks as if I’m going to have to lift my embargo against The Donald and watch Celebrity Apprentice because George Takei is going to be a contestant on the upcoming season. DAMN YOU, TAKEI!

    New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet; I haven’t had a NYE fireworks display since the economy tanked, although I almost had an indoor gig this year…they decided against pyro, however, so instead we went out for an early dinner and then I went to watch a show put on by a fellow pyro that I’m sort of mentoring. I loaned him my firing system, though, so I guess that sort of counts as having a show, amirite?

    In other pyro-related news:

  • I’ll once again be attending Western Winter Blast in beautiful downtown Lake Havasu City, AZ in mid-February. I’m really looking forward to getting away from the cold and wet of Greater Vancouver, even if it is only for a week. This year I’m flying from Bellingham, WA because even adding in the cost of a shuttle from Vancouver to Bellingham I’m saving around $100 over flying out of Vancouver - every bit helps.
  • I may have mentioned it before but I’m already booked for Canada Day - hell, I was booked before last August (it’s good to be popular).
  • Celebration of Light is supposed to announce the 2012 dates sometime in January; while there are never any guarantees I’m reasonably certain that I’ll be asked to crew again, though it’s going to be interesting how the logistics of not having Benson and Hedges (the two fireworks barges, which have been sold off) will work.
  • I’m both anticipating and dreading seeing myself on TV when PYROS finally airs on Discovery Canada.
  • That’s all for now…I wish each and every one of you a fantastic 2012…

    …at least until the Mayans and Rob Schneider are done screwing it up.

    Popularity: 34% [?]

    Long Time Gone…

    Posted by Office-Bob on 11 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro, FX

    I just did a quick check to see when I last posted something, and holycrapIhaven’tpostedsinceApril?

    Wow…I guess I have some catching up to do.

    Okay, let me think for a minute…what’s been going on?

    In May, I:

  • Built a silk flame effect for a play and assisted the production in brainstorming some “bullet coming through the window” effects;
  • Did a “local license” gig, which was aborted because the giant robot suits, which we were to rig with pyro, didn’t make it to Vancouver in time (I still got paid so it wasn’t a total loss).
  • In June, I:

  • Did some prep work for Celebration of Light involving moving a semi trailer full of mortars from the trailer onto the fireworks barges;
  • Made a weekend trip to Edmonton to visit relatives and get eaten alive by mosquitoes;
  • Saw The Odds in concert.
  • In July, I:

  • Travelled to Vancouver Island to crew a Canada Day show;
  • Stayed on the Island an extra day to crew a show on July 2nd;
  • Began crewing on Celebration of Light;
  • Was asked to crew for someone next Canada Day (yes, I’m so popular that people want to book me a year in advance).
  • In August, I:

  • Finished Celebration of Light;
  • Attended the wedding of two friends from my fencing class;
  • Entertained a fellow pyro who was visiting from the U.S.
  • In September, I:

  • Worked a convention which involved installing over 30 confetti bombs in the Vancouver Convention Centre and then setting up (and firing) a barge show which was part of the same convention. Part of the process involved being filmed by a camera crew, which I’ll cover in more detail later (probably next year when the show is scheduled to air in Canada).
  • This brings me to October, where so far it’s been pretty quiet and I:

  • Started fencing again (I took the summer semester off because with all the shows I did, I’d have missed too many classes);
  • Started getting things ready for my regular Halloween fireworks display at a Burnaby school.
  • That should keep your curiosity sated until after Halloween, when I hope to have more updates.

    Popularity: 35% [?]

    “Hold onto my sign, I don’t wanna lose it!”

    Posted by Office-Bob on 28 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: General Craziness

    This evening I had to make a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things, and while I was waiting in the express line (which, at Safeway, is marked “15 items or fewer” - thank Dog someone gets it right) I noticed there was a leak in the roof that happened to be landing right at the starting end of the conveyor belt at the register. In front of me was a store employee who, I suppose, was going home after her shift as she was buying a few items.

    As the cashier on duty tried to mop up the water with paper towels, the woman in front of me called over to one of the other staff and asked if there was another bucket available.

    Okay, let’s pause for a moment to consider her choice of words. She didn’t ask for A bucket, she asked for ANOTHER bucket, which would seem to imply that there was more than one leak going on at this particular point in time. It’s been raining pretty steadily all day today, so multiple leaks is certainly within the realm of possibility.

    The guy she asked turned to her and said, “Is the roof leaking?” to which she replied, “Nope, it just started raining indoors.”

    I damned near fell over laughing because one of my favourite comedians, Bill Engvall, has a bit that he does on a regular basis called “Here’s Your Sign” where he talks about how, if stupid people wore an “I’m Stupid” sign we’d know in advance that we might have trouble with them. The routine consists of repeating the stupid question, the smartass reply it receives, and finishes with him saying, “Here’s your sign.”

    Well, after witnessing that exchange I felt it was my solemn duty to let the woman know about Bill Engvall’s routine, and after she finished laughing I got the impression that she might just start using that phrase herself.

    She finished her checkout, thanked me, and left. I bought my stuff, drove home, and decided to share my moment of happiness with you.

    Popularity: 25% [?]

    “I’m ready for the abuse of my childhood, Mr. DeMille…but first, crank up the volume!”

    Posted by Office-Bob on 25 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: General Craziness

    Usually, when a cartoon or comic book gets a movie version, there will be much wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth over how “(insert name of writer/director/producer) has ruined my childhood!” I have to admit that I never understood this mentality, possibly because I’ve never felt so invested in one of these source materials that an adaptation would make me angry. Hell, those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while may remember my entry about how I got Trekkies mad at me because I thought the way they unveiled the new Enterprise in STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was…well, I’m not sure of the precise wording, and I can’t be bothered to look it up, but I think “masturbatory fantasy” is close, if not exact.

    However, I think I’m finally starting to understand why fans get so caught up in the movie adaptations and why they care if they’re not, in their opinion, “perfect.”

    How have I reached this conclusion, I hear you ask? Well, dear friends, it’s because there’s now a live action version of SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO.

    I was out of high school when STAR BLAZERS, the Americanized/edited version of YAMATO, was being shown on TV but damn, I loved that show. I’m not a complete fanboy – Okay, I have the movies on DVD along with some of the soundtrack albums and a couple of ship figures, but I never bought the books or manga, and I hadn’t been keeping up with news on the movie front, so it was a big shock when I saw the first trailer. Sure, it was in Japanese without subtitles, but it wasn’t like I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

    For the first time in my life, when it came to adapting something into a movie, I found myself muttering:

    Please, don’t let them screw it up.

    The movie was released in Japan in December of last year, and it hasn’t made it to North America yet, but from what little I’ve seen I don’t think I’ve much to worry about.

    However, while I can’t talk about the movie I can talk about the music. Though the movie isn’t available here yet, the movie soundtrack is, and I ordered it as soon as I knew about it.

    Uchu Senkan Yamato

    I was hoping that they’d use the original Yamato theme, which they did, and I think that composer Naoki Satou did a great job integrating it into the rest of the score.

    Here’s part of the original theme, complete with lyrics (in Japanese, of course…I said I had the albums!)

    Here’s part of the opening theme from the movie (you can hear the Yamato theme)

    And here’s how the theme is used for the full ship reveal. Perhaps it’s the high school orchestra geek in me peeking through, but I love how the tympani drives the tempo change towards the end.

    For those of you who are interested and haven’t seen the clip yet (or those who want to see it again), here’s a promo clip which includes the Yamato taking off. It doesn’t have subtitles but if you know anything about the plot, you won’t miss them.

    (Trekkies, take note: THAT is how you do a reveal.)

    Satou did a great job with the music and even though I caught occasional similarities to the styles of Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith and Trevor Jones, the music never felt ripped off or re-used. It’s difficult to tell how well it integrates with the movie when I’ve only seen a few clips but I did enjoy the music on its own – it reminds me of how I was enjoying Prokofiev’s score for ALEXANDER NEVSKY before I’d seen that movie.

    If you like movie soundtracks, this one’s worth buying.

    Popularity: 26% [?]

    This post is brought to you by the Acme Company, makers of fine anvils.

    Posted by Office-Bob on 13 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro, FX

    I guess it has been a while since I’ve written anything. It’s easy to let things slide, and for that I offer my abject apologies.

    In the hope of making it up to you, today we’re gonna watch some movies. Put away your textbooks, it’s time to let the A/V dorks run the projector.

    First, here’s video from a car gag I did a few weeks ago. It was nothing much - just some medium “robotics,” aka spark-producing devices, and a smoke machine - but I hope you like it.

    Car Robotics from Office Bob on Vimeo.

    (I told you it wasn’t much)

    Next up are a couple of videos I took at Western Winter Blast, the annual convention of the Western Pyrotechnic Association. I missed going last year because of the Olympics, so I really enjoyed being able to spend a week in Nevada and Arizona where the weather was warmer and (mostly) drier than in Vancouver - there was some rain on the weekend but it stopped well before the big public display on Saturday.

    Both videos are of anvil shooting and while the first anvil was hand-fired with a fuse, it should be pretty obvious why the second anvil was fired electrically:

    Anvil Launch from Office Bob on Vimeo.

    High altitude Anvil Launch from Office Bob on Vimeo.

    (Sorry about the noise; it was windy that day and my phone doesn’t have a wind sock)

    That concludes the entertainment portion of the evening. Next time, I plan on giving you a review of one of my latest soundtrack purchases: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO.

    Popularity: 43% [?]

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