A Journal of the Plague Years (with apologies to Dafoe and Spinrad)

Posted by Office-Bob on 05 Apr 2022 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro, FX

Hi there, long time no see!

How y’all doing? Keeping busy? Staying safe? Managing to refrain from killing your spouse/SO after being cooped up inside with them for what seems like an eternity?

It’s been a bit of a ride here but we’ve weathered the storm and come through it in decent enough shape. Sure, there were some tight spots when I wasn’t working but fortunately my wife was able to work from home, so while income was reduced it wasn’t eliminated.

As you may have surmised, since public events were cancelled due to COVID I didn’t have much occasion to shoot pyro – no concerts, no fireworks displays, and I had to wait until the initial lockdowns were over to get back on set and get back into doing FX and pyro. I did manage to pick up a gig at the PNE last summer which helped take the edge off my cravings for stuff that makes noise and shoots fire into the sky (literally; one of the things I was doing was setting off some freakin’ HUGE propane fireballs on top of towers set on either side of the PNE Amphitheatre stage) but otherwise, BOOOOOOORING.

All current indicators are that 2022 should allow me to shoot some shows, though there won’t be a Canada Day show in Vancouver this year (boo!). Celebration of Light, while being promoted on the event website, hasn’t locked down the specifics yet (though I’ve been told I have a spot on the crew if it does go forward [yay!]), and the odds are good that I’ll be able to put on my Halloween show for a local school…which means I should really get started on designing the damned thing (I have two shows worth of music edited together already, so thank Dog that part of the process is finished). Not sure yet if I’ll be offered gigs at PNE and FVDED, so we shall see how that goes.

I was offered a local license gig for Slipknot, but as the show is on Easter Sunday and I’ve already committed to attending Norwescon in person that weekend, I had to turn it down.

I’ve taken advantage of loosened restrictions when possible; I visited my parents for American Thanksgiving which was nice, even though I had to perform a nasal swab for a molecular test via teleconference so I could get back into Canada without quarantine…

…And then, over Christmas, I came down with COVID.

I wasn’t sure it was COVID at first because all of the symptoms made it seem to be your average winter cold, but I had a spare rapid test lying around (this was before tests were being made available to the public; I’d bought them for my cross-border trips) so I took it, and – uh-oh.

This was on the 25th, so Merry Fucking COVID Christmas. Fortunately, we had no plans outside the house so there were no last minute schedule disruptions.

I let my wife know and booked us spots at the local drive-thru test centre on the 27th for PCR testing, which also came back positive for both of us. As I was still on holiday break from the show I’d been working on, and my wife was WFH, isolation wasn’t a problem.

Neither of us had any complications, probably due to both of us having had both vaccine doses already*. I’d gotten my booster a week before so it hadn’t reached full effectiveness at that point, and she hadn’t yet gotten her booster, but I have friends who got COVID before the vaccines were available so I know how bad it could be even if it wasn’t fatal.

Side note: Last week, one of my online friends passed away from a pulmonary embolism related to long COVID. I’m sorry we never met in meatspace, H, but I know you were a wonderful person and the world is a lesser place without you in it.

While I would never recommend coming down with COVID, there were some benefits:

  • It made cross-border travel easier when I went to my fireworks convention in February; at the time I went on my trip CBSA requirements for a negative PCR test when returning to Canada by air were waived if you could provide lab results of a positive test within the last 180 days, along with a doctor’s note saying you were cleared to travel.
  • After the holiday break was over, I was scheduled for my regular COVID test before going back to work but upon being told I’d had it over Christmas, I was asked to provide a copy of the test results and they’d defer my testing for 90 days, because PCR tests could still show me as positive within 90 days of my original positive test. I’m now past the 90-day deferral so I can look forward to nasal swabs at least weekly (I’m usually far enough away from the talent that I only need to be tested once a week)…hooray?
  • One of the best things to happen during these “unprecedented times” (are you as sick of that phrase as I am? Of course you are, which is why I used it) is that I was given the rare opportunity to present the display fireworks course to someone who’s visually-impaired. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ll explain in an upcoming blog entry. Until then remember to wash your hands, wear a mask as needed, get vaccinated and boosted when you can, and help others in need.

    Continue Reading »

    Popularity: 2% [?]

    NWC 43 RIP

    Posted by Office-Bob on 13 Mar 2020 | Tagged as: General Craziness, FX

    Norwescon 43 has officially been cancelled; memberships are being rolled over to next year so I’m not out anything there, and the hotel will be refunding first night deposits (though I will be checking my CC statement in advance of Hilton’s COVID-19 cancellation policy deadlines just to be safe).

    On the one hand I’m sad that it was cancelled, but I was already hoping it would be as I was trying to balance the risks of attending a large gathering with spending Easter with my parents, both of whom are in their 80s - plus my father has respiratory issues which would put him even more at risk - and now the decision has been made for me, so that’s one less stress factor that I have to deal with, which is a good thing since the production I was working on recently has taken a short (I hope) hiatus from filming because one of the main actors may have been exposed to the virus.

    As a side note, a number of NY-based shows have halted production (maybe some LA-based as well, I dunno), and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t happen up here, so time will tell how much of the entertainment industry is affected. I’m also wondering if this will impact Canada Day and Celebration of Light or if they are far enough in the future that any bans on large gatherings should have since passed - fireworks displays require long-term planning, though, and between the issues with Chinese fireworks production and then adding shipping times into the mix, the PTBs may be running out of time to make the call on those events.

    Oh well, I’m alive, relatively healthy and I have sufficient TP, flushable wipes, Coke Zero and coffee that I’m in good shape should self-quarantine be required…

    Just don’t fuck with my internet or I’mma cut someone.

    Popularity: 15% [?]

    When the “A” in “AGM” stands for “Agonizing”

    Posted by Office-Bob on 27 Feb 2020 | Tagged as: General Craziness, Rants

    Last night was the annual general meeting (AGM) for my townhouse complex. This year promised to be more interesting than previous meetings because of concerns about the massive increase in strata insurance rates. It was my turn to attend the AGM this year (my wife and I alternate years) so I was already expecting it to be somewhat unpleasant. What follows are the highlights.

    Much to my surprise, the first order of business – discussing insurance – was one of the more pleasant parts of the entire evening.

    Among the things we learned:

    1) Large complexes such as ours can’t get full coverage from a single insurance provider; they have to establish a “syndicate” of multiple companies which each take a part of the load.
    2) This is a bubble adjustment which, in the opinion of our broker, should have happened 4 to 5 years ago and is related to the large numbers of natural and unnatural disasters which have happened in the recent past – the Fort MacMurray fire, various flooding across Canada, all that fun stuff.
    3) We can consider ourselves lucky that our strata property insurance rates only increased by 91% as some complexes saw increases of just over 300% (yikes!)

    Once the Q&A session ended, it was on to regular AGM business.

    First came approval of the annual operating budget, where we first encountered she who shall be henceforth known as “Angela, the Queen of RTFM.” Angela would repeatedly ask questions about specific line items but they were things she could have figured out for herself if she actually bothered to look at what she was asking about – it got so bad that at one point, when she raised her hand to ask yet another stupid question, the council president responded with, “Yes, Angela?” in that tired voice that parents and teachers use with small children who Just. Won’t. Shut. Up.

    I’m sure Angela didn’t catch on…I doubt she’s so good an actor as to keep from showing any reaction to the verbal dig.

    The next major order of business was discussing how to pay for a couple of major water main breaks we’d experienced last year; the total amount was just over $95K and the options were:

    1) Take the money out of our Contingency Reserve Fund (CRF)
    2) Establish a special levy where each unit pays a one-time surcharge.

    There resolutions were set up in such a way that if #1 didn’t pass with ¾ vote, then we’d vote on #2…and if #2 didn’t pass with a ¾ majority then we’d still be stuck paying for the repairs out of our own pockets, but it was never really explained how that was going to work.

    For a while it appeared that neither option was going to get the required votes until someone pointed out what was fairly obvious to anyone with a brain:

    1) Our CRF balance is well above the minimum amount required by law;
    2) If a CRF isn’t to be used for emergencies like this, then why are we allocating $50K each year to go into the fund as part of the operating budget?
    3) Since the $50K fund top-up was still in the new budget, in effect we would only be taking one year’s worth out to pay for the repairs, not two years’ worth.

    Once people managed to wrap their heads around these points, the resolution passed…although before the vote was called there was discussion as to whether we could set up the special levy to be paid over a few months as opposed to a single extra payment (yes, but that can’t be done until we see if we actually have to vote on the special levy or not).

    Next up were a number of requests for work to be done on various units – anything from relocating a washer/dryer and thus needing to install a new dryer vent into the exterior wall, to landscaping, to enclosing a balcony to make it an extra bedroom, to people wanting additional gas lines installed for outdoor grills or upgrading to gas stoves, to a couple of people who wanted to install EV chargers in their carports. Some requests were dealt with quickly because they were for things which the strata didn’t need to approve, but some required more detail then what the owners necessarily had available (obligatory old fart moment – I’ve lived here for over 25 years and I can remember when, if you wanted to do something as simple as put down patio stones, you were expected to at least provide drawings as to where things would go and the dimensions of the area being affected).

    Two of the alteration amendments were tossed because the person who had proposed them wasn’t at the meeting (this will be important later), and after some discussion everything else was approved.

    And now, it was time for the drama portion of the evening…RESOLUTION “G.”

    This resolution would result in the banning of smoking or vaping in almost any public or private space – including your own townhouse – and was written in such a way that if you wanted to partake of anything other than medical cannabis, you’d either have to leave the complex or stand in the middle of the road (and let’s see how fast the reaction time is for those partaking of cannabis when they have to dodge vehicles).

    The resolution was proposed by a young couple who were having problems with secondhand smoke entering their unit; they said they’d already spent $15K on new windows and insulation and had even talked to their neighbours about it, but they were still worried about the dangers of second hand smoke to their 8 month old son (but hey, it wasn’t personal) and they didn’t like the idea of allowing people to smoke with their own homes as there were so many instances of house fires starting from indoor smoking (despite the fact that we have not had a fire here that I can recall, smoking-related or otherwise).

    The discussion got a but heated (pardon) at times but fortunately it didn’t erupt into total chaos except at the very end when people were wanting to just call the vote (bear in mind, we are now TWO HOURS into the meeting and we still had the council election on the agenda to deal with) – the vote was finally called and as expected, the resolution failed – even non-smokers felt this was going too far.

    Personally, if this had passed and gone into effect I was going to set up a crowdfunding page to accept donations to buy a metric fuckton of cannabis vaping fluid and use my smoke machine to disperse it within the complex – the way the resolution was written, theatrical smoke machines didn’t fit the definition of a vaping device. Take that, Bembridge Scholars!

    You’d think that after this, establishing a new council for the coming year would be a piece of cake – well, you’d be wrong.

    Two council members weren’t standing for reelection so we needed at get at least 2 more candidates (7 was the minimum though there was no upper limit) and before anyone could suggest possible candidates, a woman stood up to say that she’d managed to get hold of an email from the council president to the property manager but that she didn’t want to discuss it in public (oh, really? Then why mention it in the first place? Gimme a break!).

    Our council president, a woman who gives no fucks, told the woman to go ahead and discuss the email, which turned out to be messages between her (the president) and the property manager regarding a woman who wanted to know if it was too late to add a couple of resolutions to the AGM agenda (remember when I mentioned there were a couple of resolutions which were dropped because the person proposing them wasn’t there to discuss them (This is the woman I was referring to earlier, who hadn’t shown up to advocate for her resolutions), and the response was that if the woman could “get her shit together” and submit them by end of day, they could be on the agenda.

    Blunt? Yes. Rude? Sure. Scandalous? Not really, in my opinion.

    Nonetheless, the woman who brought the whole thing up went on about how this is you’re your president thinks or the owners, yadda yadda yadda. The president basically replied that if the owners didn’t like how she ran the council, they could vote her out.

    I’ll bet y’all can guess how the vote went.

    Incidentally, email leaking woman nominated herself for a spot on the council - which I was okay with because of the potential for entertainment - but apparently her name was not yet on her unit title so she wasn’t able to be on the council. I was surprised, and a bit disappointed, that she didn’t suffer a meltdown when the property manager gave her the news. I do wonder, though, how she was allowed to attend and vote at the AGM if she wasn’t listed as an owner? I might have asked but it was late, I was tired, and I might have started a fresh riot if I’d created another delay.

    Oh, I forgot to mention the asshole who thought he was being cute by interrupting discussions to whine that he had a beer at home that was getting warm because the meeting was running so long; after the third interruption I finally snapped and called out that perhaps he should get his fridge fixed if his beer was getting warm.

    Finally, business was completed and the meeting wrapped somewhere between 9:30 and 10…I sort of lost track at the end. I went home and fixed myself a stiff vodka and cranberry - which was nice and cold because, unlike some whiny little asshole, I have a working fridge.

    Popularity: 16% [?]

    It’s been one of those weekends…

    Posted by Office-Bob on 11 May 2019 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro

    Last weekend I traveled to Quadra Island to teach a display fireworks course and while the course itself went well by every metric - including the most important metric to me, that all 19 attendees passed - the trip itself was not without incident.

    I was already scheduled to teach a course in Maple Ridge, and in an effort to get additional attendees (we’re always looking for new fireworks crew, especially going into the summer when most of the displays happen) I’d posted notifications on my social media accounts. Shortly after posting the news on Facebook, a fellow pyro who lives on Quadra asked if I’d be willing to come up there to do a course. I replied that I’d be happy to and that she should talk to the office manager of the company I teach for - once they got the details worked out, I would make the trip.

    Little did I expect that things would move swiftly enough that I’d be heading up there the week after doing the Maple Ridge course, but that’s life for you…sometimes, things just happen faster than one expects. Shortly after the Facebook exchange the emails started flowing back and forth and suddenly it’s okay, it would seem that I’m making a road trip.

    Before I go into the details, I’ll explain the steps involved in getting from where I live to there I needed to be…

    Working on the assumption that there’s at least one of you out there who doesn’t know what’s involved in getting from the Metro Vancouver area to Quadra Island, I’ll give you a quick lesson in travel logistics: you take a ferry to Vancouver Island (West Vancouver to Nanaimo, in this case) and then drive to Campbell River…from there, you take a ferry to Quadra Island. This sounds simple enough, and it is, but when it takes almost 45 minutes to get from home to the ferry terminal and the first ferry trip takes close to 2 hours and then you have to add another 90 minute drive after that, it can take the better part of the day to get from home to your home away from home. Since the course was scheduled for 10 am on Sunday morning, the plan was to leave Saturday morning and spend Saturday night on Quadra, run the course on Sunday, stay Sunday night and then head back home on Monday.

    Since my travel expenses, including lodging, were covered through the course registration fees, I arranged to spend Sunday night with friends who live on Vancouver Island, thus saving the expense of a second night on Quadra. Since most of Saturday was going to be spent traveling, and since I had to deal with two sets of ferry schedules, I decided to splurge on a confirmed reservation for the first leg of the trip and not claim it on my expenses…I’m a nice guy that way.

    Packing for the trip was easy enough; an overnight bag with the essentials including a company-logoed shirt to wear while teaching the course…and yes, mom, I did take clean underwear. All of the materials needed to run the course - inert shells, mortar tubes, exams sheets and the various cables needed to connect my laptop to the on-site projector - were already gathered together in a storage box so all I needed to do was toss everything in my car, along with my laptop bag, and hit the road. Easy peasy, right?

    It wasn’t until I was over on Vancouver Island and well on my way to Campbell River that a nagging doubt pushed its way to the front of my mind: Did I actually put my overnight bag in the car?

    I decided to not worry about pulling over to check for my bag and wait until I got to Campbell River ferry terminal - after all, I knew that I had all of the items needed to run the course, and it was far too late to return home and retrieve the bag so when I found it if it was there or not would not make a difference in the overall scope of things.

    I was now the not-so-proud owner of Schroedinger’s Suitcase; a piece of luggage that existed in a quantum state of both being in my car and not being in my car until I actually looked for it. Isn’t science fun?

    I got to Campbell River and was heading to the ferry terminal, but it seemed to me that I’d missed a final turn as I stopped seeing signs for the ferry so I used the hands-free feature on my phone to do a search for the ferry terminal…and I knew something was horribly wrong when it told me that it’d take me over an hour to get there. Whisky Tango Foxtrot???

    TRAVEL TIP: When you’re asking for directions to a ferry terminal don’t ask for the destination terminal (Quadra Island), ask for the departure terminal (Campbell River). Once I realized my mistake I asked for the correct terminal and the nav app was all, “Oh, yeah, it’s just a few minutes heading back the way you came, you missed a turnoff.”

    I made it to the ferry terminal, bought my ticket, and once I was in the lineup I checked for my travel bag - as I expected, it wasn’t there. Farewell, Schroedinger’s Suitcase, we might or might not have hardly known ye.

    The ferry to Quadra Island was pleasant and uneventful; I made it to the course venue where I was to meet my friend (she works at a hotel on the island) and since I had no change of clothing I bought a souvenir t-shirt in the gift shop - after all, the least I can do is wear a clean shirt while I’m teaching even if it’s not a pyro company shirt.

    My lodging for the night was at the home of another pyro who happens to be the father of the person who arranged for me to do the course; I was given directions on how to get to his house, along with directions to the local convenience store so I could pick up some toiletries, and I was on my way.

    The three of us had dinner together that night, I was able to check out the conference room where the course would be held, and that was that for Saturday.

    On Sunday morning I was left to my own devices before my pre-course breakfast at the hotel as my host volunteers to mow the greens at the local golf course on Sundays. I decided it would be a good thing to take a shower and since his tub was one of the free-standing types with claw feet and a shower curtain running completely around it, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get water all over the floor so I decided to tilt the shower head down a little bit.

    Imagine my surprise when the entire shower head snapped off because it wasn’t designed to move.

    Well, shit.

    I finished washing up and left the shower head in the tub; the question now was not whether or not I’d confess to the deed (even if I had been the type of person to try and avoid taking responsibility for my actions there was no way in Hell that I could hide this; that shower head had been brazed onto its attachment fitting so there was no quick and easy fix) but how my host would find out? I knew he would be sitting in on the course so the following scenarios popped into my head:

    1) He comes to the course directly from the golf course and I tell him what happened, offering (of course!) to pay to replace the shower head.

    2) He comes home before the course to clean up and finds the shower head in the tub and I tell him about it when he arrives at the course, offering (of course!) to replace the shower head.

    I won’t keep you in suspense, Scenario Number Two was what went down. Fortunately he wasn’t upset and wasn’t worried about being reimbursed for the cost of a new shower head.

    That was the last thing to go wrong during the trip, thank Dog.

    Once the course was finished I got on the ferry back to Vancouver Island, made it to my friends’ house in time for dinner, spent Sunday night with them, and made it back home on Monday afternoon.

    My overnight bag was at home, right where I’d left it, so I unpacked it and put everything away.

    Popularity: 28% [?]

    Adventures in Family Tech Support, Easter Edition:

    Posted by Office-Bob on 23 Apr 2019 | Tagged as: Rants, Tech Follies

    When I make a trip to visit my parents there’s usually some sort of technical glitch which they want me to look into; I knew ahead of time that the WiFi extender was not working properly but I didn’t expect to be spending so much time on other things.

    Here’s the breakdown of How I Spent My Easter Vacation:

    1) Got the WiFi extender working again by literally turning it off and on again. Ah, if only the rest of the weekend were so easy…

    2) Mom had been having “problems” with the downstairs TV (I didn’t bother asking for details because I knew I wasn’t going to be told anything better than, “I don’t know, it just stopped working!”) and in order to get the main Dish programming back up she disconnected the DVD player and VCR; while she had paired each disconnected device with their respective cables, apparently the model of Joey now connected to the TV was a newer version with different aux inputs than the previous model, plus they were using an external sound bar instead of the built in TV speakers, so I only had enough cables to get either the DVD or VCR connected again. Since Mom couldn’t tell me which one she preferred I decided to go with the DVD player.

    3) Dad was unable to print PDFs but I managed to resolve that after everyone else had gone to bed; I spent some uninterrupted time with his computer and got things working though a combination of upgrading Acrobat Reader and removing the extra paper from the printer (he overloaded it in anticipation of being able to print the entire freaking Mueller Report). Fortunately, the excess paper hadn’t gotten stuck inside the printer but instead had just gotten pushed against the feed area so paper couldn’t feed. I printed the first page to verify it was printing properly but waited until the next morning to show him how to print, how to select 2-sided printing (he didn’t know the printer could do that, so I managed to at least save a couple hundred pieces of paper) and explained about the paper overload. I then left him to print the damned Report and told him it was his responsibility to monitor the progress and put more paper in the printer as needed.

    4) Helped my sister install batteries and a memory card in her new camera…this sounds like a simple task, but the battery compartment door must have been designed by Lemarchand after he decided that creating the Lament Configuration just wasn’t evil enough. RTFMing was useless because the user guide just tells you to open the compartment, and shows it open, but doesn’t tell you which combination of lever movement and door sliding will release the Kraken. I did a search on YouTube for a tutorial video and found one, then had to scrub through 6:30 minutes of the 8:30 minute long video to get past the yammering of the woman who, I was hoping, would tell me how to open the thrice-damned battery compartment door, so I could then watch the < 10 seconds of actual instructions. Mission finally fucking accomplished.

    I have no idea what was on the rest of the video; I wasn't about to stick around to find out.

    5) Assisted my sister with setting up the laptop she got a year or two ago; this involved getting up email accounts (Gmail and Comcast) and uninstalling the McAfee crapware which came with the laptop and was whining that it wanted to be fed (Pay to update the AV files or I will harass you until the end of time oh shit she found someone who knows how to ununstall me NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…).

    6) Mom comes in, almost in tears, saying that Dad did something to the downstairs TV and now it doesn’t work any more. This was the point where I lost it and blurted something on the order of Goddammit, this is why you can’t have nice things…went downstairs, Mom turned the TV back on, it was working just fine.

    (Yes, I did apologize to Mom for my outburst)

    7) Typed up my notes on how to use the DVD player for Mom and Dad because anything more complex then single button operation requires detailed instructions - I jot down what I’m doing as I set things up, run through the notes after I’m finished to ensure they’re valid, then edit and clean them up. Rather than print them out myself I email the instructions to my parents so I have a copy on file should they become lost.

    8) When I got up on Monday morning and began to pack for departure I found a set of RCA cables which would have allowed me to get the VCR connected but ain’t nobody got time for that when we are trying to head home; that can wait until the next visit - and I’m sure that by Christmas there’l be more stuff to deal with.


    I love my parents, but sometimes I wish they were complete Luddites and not just tech-impaired.

    Popularity: 18% [?]

    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: 23% [?]

    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: 24% [?]

    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:


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


    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


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

    Popularity: 26% [?]

    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: 28% [?]

    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: 28% [?]

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