November 2007

Monthly Archive

“Black Friday ” means different things to different people

Posted by Office-Bob on 25 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: FX

Unless you live in the US, you may not be aware of the post-Thanksgiving tradition known as “Black Friday,” where people shrug off their food comas and stand in lines for hours on end just to have a chance to score some holiday bargains.

In the civilized world, this activity usually happens on Boxing Day.

I’ve never been one to wait outside in the dark in order to try and score deals, but I have my own version of “Black Friday” which is when I start looking for post-Halloween sales on props or FX equipment; I’d like to show you what I scored this year.

First up is a Halloween wreath made up of a bunch of skulls and coloured ball ornaments (click to enlarge):

However, it just doesn’t hang there and look pretty - no, it lights up!
(Here’s a movie of what it looks like in the dark)

I also scored a skull that uses an ultrasonic transducer to emit mist from the eye and nose holes (Again, click on the image to see a larger version):

Like the wreath, it too lights up!

Of course I probably won’t have a chance to use them until next Halloween, but I have almost a full year to think up some evil things to do with them…

Popularity: 37% [?]


Posted by Office-Bob on 24 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: General Craziness

As you may remember from our last exciting episode, I was in the process of applying for a NEXUS card to expedite clearing the US/Canadian border on business trips.

In mid-September I received a letter from beautiful downtown Williston, Vermont, informing me that my application had been approved and the next step in the process was for me to schedule my interview, at which time final approval would be given or denied — I would, if one of the Chosen Ones, have my irises photographed (for Canadian airport clearance) and my fingerprints taken (for US clearance) and a shiny new NEXUS card would be handed to me while angels sang Hosannas and doves fluttered around in the background.

(Okay, I’m exaggerating…the letter said nothing about doves.)

There are 2 interview centres in the Vancouver area, one of them downtown close to where I worked and one at the Vancouver International Airport, from now on referred to as YVR. I called the downtown office (which uses a long-distance number based in the US, go figure) and was told I could come in…sometime in the middle of December.

Well, crap.

I went ahead and booked the interview (really, what else was there to do?) and then decided to call the YVR office to see if by some miracle I could get in any faster…

…and THAT’S when the angels started singing – they could get me in on November 17th!

After doing some additional research I realized that YVR was the best place to interview because I would have to go there for the iris photos anyway, so it made sense to do everything at once.

The interview was relatively simple and straightforward; I had to bring all of my supporting documents (passports, citizenship card, driver’s license, credit card, DNA sample*) for scanning and sign a form that listed some (but not all) of the things I could do what may cause my NEXUS card to be revoked – including, but not limited to, not letting both the US and Canadian sides know when I renewed my driver’s license or passports (photo changes, document number changes) or changed jobs. I was then asked a few probing questions, such as had I ever been denied entry into the US or Canada, had I ever used another name, and things like that. I do have to wonder, though, how they’d have known if I was lying or not?

After all of the paperwork was finished I was moved down the counter to another woman who explained the use of the TDC (Traveler’s Declaration Card) book which was to be filled out each time I returned to Canada by car (airport not included, sold separately). I won’t go into the details of how it’s to be filled out right now because I’m too damned lazy to scan the entire instruction pamphlet, but here’s a scan of one of the cards (click to embiggen it):

Of course, with my luck, they were out of the English card books…more on this, as well as the instructions on how to fill out the cards, in a future entry.

My irises were then photographed and I was shown how to use the scanning device. It’s a neat gizmo and was even designed with myopic people like me in mind, because it tells you to move closer/farther away/to the left/to the right…and when you’re not wearing your contacts because of the photo-taking and you can’t wear glasses when using the machine, auditory prompts are a godsend (cue those damned angels again).

From there it was a hop, skip and a jump across the street (well, across the width of the International Terminal) to the US NEXUS office where I realized the difference between how interview sign-ins are handled for Canada and the US:

Canada – walk up to the helpful person at the counter and tell them you’re there for your 3:45 appointment, be told that you’ll be called when they’re ready, sit down, wait a couple of minutes, be called in for the interview.

US – Walk into a room with 3 agents (and don’t forget, US Customs is now part of Homeland Security so don’t make any sudden moves!), try to figure out what’s going on, have one of the agents tell you to sign in on a clipboard then go outside and sit down until called in.

30 minutes later…

Went in for the interview, dug out the “no-no” form which they also signed (once completed it had my signature as well as those of the people I was interviewed by, I suppose to ensure I can’t claim ignorance of The Law), handed over my documents for a second round of scanning, answered the same questions as on the Canadian side, and had my fingerprints taken with a neat little electronic device that scans your fingers; it has “positional LEDs” that show green if your fingers are placed correctly or red if you need to try again…fingers of left hand, then fingers of right hand, then thumbs together. I also had my picture taken using a webcam which, surprisingly, is one of the best ID photos I’ve ever had taken.

My card was printed and checked to ensure everything was coded on it and I was told not to use it for 48 hours because it would take that long for my fingerprints to be updated in the database.

That was it…at that point I officially became a “NEXUS Trusted Traveller.” I’m driving to Seattle next weekend so that will be my first opportunity to see what all the fuss is about, so stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion to our sage, to be called THE NEXUS: RESOLUTIONS.

(We won’t talk about the guy who was caught last week crossing the border via the NEXUS lane with a few thousand Ecstasy pills hidden in his gas tank…I guess it’s possible to trust too much.)
*I was kidding about the DNA sample.

Popularity: 35% [?]

Technical Support in a non-”hi-tech” environment

Posted by Office-Bob on 16 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: General Craziness

This is Home Depot technical support, how can I help you?

I’m trying to build a treehouse for my son, but I’m having some problems.

What sort of problems are you experiencing, sir?

Well, I can’t seem to get two boards to stay together.

I can help you with that…are you using screws or nails?

I’m not a carpenter! How do I know which is which?

Okay, then, let’s start from the beginning. Do you have the fasteners in front of you right now?

No, I had to come inside to call you; I don’t have a cordless phone.

Sir, I need you to get one of the fasteners and describe it to me.

(sigh) Okay, hang on a minute.


Okay, I’m back.

Great! Now, is there a flat end and a pointed end?

Yes…does that mean it’s a nail?

Hold on, I have a few more questions. Run your finger along the length of the fastener; does it feel rough or smooth?


Great. Now, look at the flat end…does it have any grooves or other markings?

No, it’s just flat.

Okay then, it sounds like you’re using nails. Can you tell me what tool you’re using with them?

Oh, should I have brought that in? Hang on, Ill go get it -

No, wait, we may not need to go that far. Can you describe it to me?

Well…it’s metal with a rubber handle, a bit heavy, and it sorta looks like a letter “T” with a flat piece on one side and a curved piece on the other side.

That’s called a “hammer,” and it’s what you should be using. Could you please walk me through the steps you’re taking to work with the nails?

Well, that curved part has a notch in it where I place the nail, and then I swing it at the boards I’m trying to connect - but the nail just flies off; I almost got hit in the eye one time! You guys should include instruction manuals with these things, they’re dangerous!

Okay sir, I think I see your problem…

Popularity: 24% [?]

Random Observations from a Downtown Pedestrian

Posted by Office-Bob on 02 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Rants

Thoughts that have popped into my head in my travels to/from work in Downtown Vancouver…

To the Paris Hilton wannabe in Dior shades (I know what brand they are because they have the Dior logo in big fucking letters on the side): It’s bad enough to make your pocket dog wear a pink parka, complete with hood (although we should be thankful it didn’t have wolf fur around the edge) in public, but at least give him some time to check his pee-mail without yanking his lead…there are plenty of lowfat decaf fauxpucchinos at Starbucks to go around.

To the numerous umbrella wielders who consider their rain-guards to be weapons: You know, when you hold your umbrella as if it were a sword you come off more like Basil Fawlty than Basil Rathbone…and when you swing your arms back and forth as you walk, you’re only pissing off the people behind you who would rather not be jabbed in the (insert sensitive body part here) because you’re TOO FUCKING INCONSIDERATE TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE YOU’RE SWINGING THAT THING!

To the people who can’t travel in a straight line when moving from Point A to Point B: Unless you’re a) under the influence of mind-altering substances or b) swerving around one of the many panhandlers on the sidewalk, how about making it easier for those of us who walk faster to get past you?

To the cyclists: Do you see that well-marked section of the road? That’s a “bike path.” Do you see this stretch of cement we’re walking on? This is a “sideWALK.” Get it? It’s not a “sideRIDE,” or a “sideSWERVE AROUND PEDESTRIANS,” so kindly get your head out of your ass, remove the earbuds from your ears, and LET US PEDESTRIANS MOVE AROUND WITHOUT HAVING TO DEAL WITH YOUR INABILITY TO PLAY NICE WITH OTHERS.


Dear Tourists: welcome to Vancouver! It’s great to have visitors from Dog River, Saskatchewan visit our fair city and while we’re aware that we have a lot of interesting buildings – most more than 4 stories high – we would respectfully ask that when you want to stop and gawk you refrain from doing so in the middle of the sidewalk (or in the case of one person I witnessed, run into the middle of the street to take a picture) so those of us not on vacation can get to work on time.

To the people talking on their cellphones via Bluetooth headsets: Are you aware that with the exception of the way you’re dressed (though not always) and the lack of profanity (see previous comment), you’re mostly indistinguishable from the homeless people talking to themselves as they stumble around? I’m just sayin’.

To the Crackberry and iPod addicts, obliviously wandering the streets while diddling with their technoporn: The concept of multitasking involves doing many things at once, and since you don’t seem to be able to handle walking and operating one piece of gear without bumping into people or stumbling over your own feet, you don’t qualify. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you deserve to know you’re not as nimble as you may think you are.

Popularity: 39% [?]