Friday, September 28, 2007


Something you tend to do a lot when you're managing a company is signing stuff. Sometimes you're signing cheques, sometimes expense reports and occasionally even Christmas cards (one time we did over 1000 - the next year we were lazy and "printed" our signature with the cards).

A couple days ago Ray and I were happily signing away in our hideout in the BioWare office (aptly named Shattered Steel after the first game we worked on) when Ray commented that he thought he had a really nice signature. In fact, it he said he thought it looked better than mine! I was taken aback! I have an awesome swoopy G-Z combo that I think makes my signature both slightly legible, but also very stylish. Ray's has some very circular letters with a nice big curved underline. I think it's pretty hard to tell which one is actually better.

Overall I had a pretty cool day today: I saw a very impressive chunk of one of our upcoming games (I'm not going to tell you which one because it is sort of a "secret") and then played Mass Effect for most of the evening on a gargantuan screen with sizzling sound. Since I think I'm such a hotshot I decided to play Mass on one of the jacked up difficulty levels and I'm proud to say I got my butt kicked royally and decided to write this stuff while I contemplate a new strategy. I will shortly return and take my revenge; wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lookout, Hernia!

I'm not sure why I latched onto this one but it seemed a little odd to me. I was reading the BBC football website (that's proper football, FYI, not American football) about how a famous, injury-prone player once again is out with an injury. He's not out because of a hernia, but they're going to check him for one. (Why not since he's out anyway?) Back in the medical days the famous "turn and cough" examination was one of my less favorite things to perform (there are a few even more unpleasant examinations, but this is in the top 5). Of course the crack medcial team will probably just do a MRI to detect even the most minute defect in the abdominal wall rather than just feel his groin looking for bumps and protrusions.

The real oddity was the fact the BBC felt it was important to put a "what is a hernia" message at the edge of the screen which you could then click on to learn more about hernias. I learned that Prince Charles had a hernia! (The story was from 2003, so he probably had it fixed a while, and probably with some manner of golden royal mesh rather than the usual kevlar mesh that other people use). I had a bit of an anatomy refresher and also learned that eating fibre is good! I learned that "trusses" can be used for keeping them in place and remembered that's a fancy name for corset. Ultimately I thought that this whole hernia discussion could be expaneded into a more forward facing media campaign titled "Lookout, hernia!" (though I was thinking that you could do a ... between the two, calling it "Lookout... hernia!) The whole thing seemed a bit strange, but that might also be because I'm particularly punchy today.

I have a strange download suggestion for you today - I suggest you go to the Littlest Man Band's website, join up and download their live appearance on KUCI (a California radio station). Richard doesn't like them, which makes me very sad. He says he doesn't like Scott Klopfenstein's voice, which I just don't understand. I think he's just misguided and will have to speak with him more as the LMB is swell, very swell. Sure, they're different but that's ok!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fun Times!

Wow - it's been a while since I've updated this - I've now gained great appreciation for how much work it is keeping an actual blog going, not a fake one like this. Today, I'm going to talk about some entertaining things that happened to me at work over the course of the last week. Quick summary: nothing really amazing. I could reveal to you some good traveling stories as we were out of the office at a secret location at the end of last week, but that would be telling! There were some missing adornments invovled, but nothing as interesting as the Ballad of Bags Los Banos so that doesn't make the cut!

First, I was chatting with someone about my blog (not, that I'm self indulgent or anything) and this person said he/she wasn't interested in reading it! My curiosity naturally piqued I quickly inquired if it was due to some fundmental flaw in the structure, or perhaps my japes were weak; why would someone not want to read it? This person said, and I was aghast when I heard it, that blogs are inherently self-indulgent and they just didn't get them! Well, that is probably true; why on earth would you want to write one if you didn't feel you had something novel to share. (In my case I thought it might be interesting for people to learn about some of the odd things that happen to us, or simply to share some of the daily antics. Inquiring minds might want to know!) Anyway, I know that this person I was speaking to will be appalled that I mentioned all of this, so I'll see what they think of it when I ask if they've read my blog yet tomorrow!

Second, Facebook is quite entertaining. It has probably already happened to a lot of people, but I believe we've got issues with serious Facebook addiction here at BioWare. I'm not pointing any fingers, but since John Shepard has joined Facebook there's been a veritable explosion of Facebook messages flying about. I'm thinking of doing an intervention but I'm not sure if I can find a posse to help me out as they're all addicted as well!!! It's funny how you can find a game in almost anything. I also didn't know you could have too many invitations to friends sent out. I discovered this today.

Third, Ray and I are known for quite a bit of shtick, this often occurs while we are doing public speaking and making presentations but also during our various meetings at BioWare. Of course we can sometimes be serious for serious meetings, but in our natural habitat we tend to do a bit of joking around. Today we got accused of being a bona fide comedy team! The amazing thing is at that precise moment we weren't actually joking! This put a damper on my sudden image of me and Ray being the next Abbott and Costello; I was working on this great game development themed version of "who's on first" - here's a link for all you kids out there - I'm not sure if it's cool anymore but it was the bee's knees back 70 years ago when I was growing up! Somehow at one point today we had a discussion of "stories that needed to be told" which naturally evolved into "songs that needed to be sung" and at that point the meeting was over!

That about does it for another thrilling installment in this neverending story. I did get some positive feedback on the blog, which was most appreciated. Bags told me that my words helped him to fondly recall the story of his lost luggage and our good times traveling across Europe doing press demos of Mass Effect. He also noted that his schnitzeling experiments have generally failed, but that veal seems to work remarkably well. I was very proud.

I would share some funny clip with you, but I'm just too lazy (plus my emulation build is ready to go - time to play). Go watch Abbott and Costello again.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nicknames and Rubgy

One of my hobbies is to create lasting and meaningful nicknames for people I know. I have managed to craft a few classics, such as Lunchmoney for a friend from medical school who looked like the type of guy that would take your lunch money at school and Pooch, for another friend that simply really didn't like being called Pooch. I believe I may have again be successful for the aforementioned Bags. Bags had the misfortune of losing his luggage while we were traveling together and the name bags suddenly seemed apt as he feverishly searched for his bags! We experimented with adding Los Banos while we were in Madrid, leading to "Bags Los Banos" which was ok, but I'm still not quite sold on it.

For some reason I started watching some of the rubgy world cup this weekend (mainly because I got the Setanta sports channel to watch English Football, and it being an international break there weren't any club games on). I'm very impressed with the sheer brutality of the sport; these guys really hammer each other. It's also a little surprising that people aren't continually being carried off the field due to severe injury. I was thinking about the Canadian/American football and all the padding/helmets worn and wonder if all that extra stuff leads to more injuries than it prevents. On a side note I saw a few pieces of the Canada v. Wales game and while our lads put in a good effort they eventually lost. One reason for this, from simple observation, was that unlike most of the teams playing that seemed to be staffed with hulking monsters Canada appeared to filled with a bunch of regular looking folks! I suspect that all of the ideal rugby "specimens" end up as Canadian/American football Lineman and Linebackers. It would be an interesting exercise to take a bunch of the most athletic (and hulking) north american football players and build them into a rugby, but for some reason I don't think that's probably going to happen.

The last thing I'll leave you with is a funny clip of a spontaneous song made up by Ben Folds at a concert in Berlin. The best part seems to be the different interpretations of the lyrics by the various people commenting on the clip. Enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Home at last

I got home quite uneventfully. Once again we were late departing Heathrow and we landed about a half hour late, not too bad considering what it could have been. I was pretty sure the customs and immigration guy had pegged me for a charlatan and marked my customs declaration with the special "search" notation after not saying a single word to me when I presented my documents. Imagine my surprise when they decided the pick through the bags of the guy right in front of me. My moustache was getting a little scraggly so I thought I looked a little more shifty than usual, perhaps even rakish! Or, perhaps I looked downright dorky!

At last I can be freed from the incredible load I carry, the load of a Xbox360 dev kit, and a giant Dell laptop. These items, along with my extensive toiletries and professional moustache grooming kit, have caused me no end of anguish as I've carried them through airports throughout Europe. My shoulders will never be the same.

That's all I've got for today, with the exception of this fine clip from the Reel Big Fish. There are other versions of this video that use Japanese overdubbing in the intro sequence which is also quite funny that you can find on Youtube. This seems to be the "official" video as it's posted by Sony BMG. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 6, 2007


It's been a few days since I've had a chance to update this. Skipping from city to city on the press tour has been a little more hectic than I originally thought. In the meantime I've got lots of good, important information for this blog!

First, something cool I saw at the hotel in Milan was an industrial strength Nespresso Machine. I'm a bit of a coffee nut and had been exclusively drinking espresso from Nespresso (my favorite strength being #8, ROMA). Anyway, the thing they had in the hotel was different from the usual Nespresso machines in that the pods were soft, saucer-like vacuum sealed packs rather than harder plastic pods. My interest was certainly piqued and I had a cup - it was pretty good. Lately I've been completely addicted to the delightful mixtures from Transcend Coffee and look forward to getting home and having a cup, delicious!

While on the road we went from Milan to London and I ended up back in the hotel where I stayed on the weekend; it wasn't quite like coming home, but it did feel familiar. Me and my pal, Bags, ended up having dinner at the hotel restaurant and then had a few drinks. He was quite enamoured by the Tiger Beer while I was having some type of Peruvian malty mixture (I didn't quite catch the name; I suppose I could research it but I'm too lazy).

Of course when we were in London there was a Tube strike so that managed to create havok and gridlock - two essential ingredients to any press tour! I also forgot to mention the highlight of the return to London via Heathrow where Bags was trying to find his lost luggage and we saw hundreds of pieces of lost luggage strewn about the terminal. I got a video of the mayhem but stopped when I was accosted by one of the people working there. I'd love to post it, but I'm going through the airport again tomorrow and I fear the baggage handlers will beat me silly with discarded carry-ons if I was to reveal their treasure trove. Suffice to say Bags didn't find his luggage, but he did manage to buy some "pants" (English for gonch); he eventually also bought a Burton bag which was quite nice! The London event was very good (great turnout and excellent set-up) and it took place in a venue called the Hospital; it brought a tear to my eye.

After London we went to Hamburg which I've heard is quite a beautiful city and I must say I agree. There's a lake right in the middle of the city! At least I think it was a lake (that's how the lady at the hotel described it). As usual we didn't get very long to stay there and enjoy the scenery and after some vigorous demoing in a great venue to a number of interested journalists we were off to Madrid. We did have an interesting discussion about schnitzel while leaving Hamburg (or maybe it was while arriving, I can't quite remember). The gist was that schnitzel could potentially be a verb, and therefore objects could get schnitzeled. (This was in-fact a recycled gag from last year's World Cup where my brother and I had a lengthy discussion on the subject). Suffice to say Bags picked up right where my brother and I left off and we postulated that perhaps his luggage had been schnitzeled (i.e. breaded and fried). When it is ultimately returned not only will his schnitzeled luggage contain all of his missing items, but it will also be delicious!

We had an entertaining cab driver in Madrid that, while speeding along and playing loud House music, proceeded to give us a tour of the city in Spanish (which we couldn't really understand). He also ripped us of on the fare; quickly shutting off his meter and jacking up the price to about double what was reasonable (this was improved from his original position of triple). We also suspect he was drunk.

The event in Madrid was excellent; the team there did an amazing job of picking a good venue, decorating it with a ton of Mass Effect stuff and hosting most of the media in Spain! The interviews were fast and furious and we got the opportunity to show our wares to a lot of very interested people. In fact, the events throughout Europe thus far have all been top notch - great facilities, technically solid setups and tons of media that are very enthused about the game.

The return from Madrid to London (yet again) was uneventful and the ususal; the flight was slightly delayed but at least this time I didn't have to sit in customs/immigration for an hour. Any time saved in customs was made up by a significant delay in our luggage actually making it to the belt in the arrivals terminal; I thought back to the pilot's comment leaving Madrid noting that they didn't have enough aluminium containers to contain the luggage and they had to borrow some from another airline. I immediately considered the possibility that they didn't have enough luggage containers so my suitcase was left behind and now Bags would be laughing at me as I'd be buying my clothes at Primark as well! I shouldn't joke as the clothes Bags bought were actually pretty sharp, particularly the slacks (notice I didn't say 'pants' as we normally would in Canada - I have no idea what gonch he bought). Anyway, that's about all the good stuff I've come up based on the trip.

I've leaving you with something that isn't quite as nutty as it is interesting - a cover of Such Great Heights by Ben Folds featuring some percussionists on some very primitive instruments.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Yay Arsenal!

I had a great time at the match today in my first visit to the Emirates Stadium; it nicely melds technology and esthetics into a very slick venue. The design of the whole site is simply incredible. I had the good fortune to be at a number of the World Cup Games in Germany and I have to say none of the venues there seemed nearly as impactful.

I was graciously hosted by a Watford fan with season tickets who seems to like Arsenal at least a little (he was cheering at the right times as Arsenal dominated Portsmouth with a final score of 3 to 1, even after big Phil was sent off with a straight red-card ). The best thing about the game is that we got goals from our midfielders (Cesc and Rosicky), as well as a nice Adebayor penalty after Van Persie got fouled on his way into the box. I was a little surprised Van Persie didn't take it, but maybe after that recent penalty miss his confidence is a little off.

Adding to the surreal feeling of being at the Emirates for the first time was that I had just recently started (and finished) Nick Hornby's book Fever Pitch about his obsession with Arsenal. I used to think I was a fairly serious fan, but after see just how far one could go in the love of their club I now consider myself a neophyte+1. One thing that struck me as the book was concluding was Hornby's realization that his intense attachment to Arsenal may actually have been with Highbury and his sense of familiarity there. I'd be very curious to see an epilogue from Hornby covering the incredible success of the Wenger years and the move to the new Emirates Stadium; is the magic lost or has it continued with the switch of home stadium? Did Hornby's rise to success coincide with Wenger's arrival? (Wenger did seem to come a few years after Fever Pitch was successfully published, but still, the joy of Arsenal's many successes since Oct '96 couldn't have hurt!)

I'm going to leave you today with another nutty music-theme clip. This one is from Ukulele Disco - a live(?) TV broadcast of Ukulele music (generally covers) featuring one of my favorite guys on the site, Hot Time Harv. Here's his rendition of El Diablo (accompanied by J Boy, Slap Pappy and Guy Wighead). Enjoy!

I flew into Milan today - more on that tomorrow.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Beginning

Well, this is my first post. Pretty exciting.

As I write this I'm watching a Coventry v. Preston North End match on the television in a London hotel room and purposely avoiding catching up on my email. Preston is one up at the half - they're singing live Opera for the half-time show - very cultured. I'm off to see the Arsenal v. Portsmouth match tomorrow (happily it looks like I'll actually make it this time after the last debacle when I missed Arsenal's opening game against Fulham a few weeks back). I was out for dinner with a pal from Microsoft last night and went to Navajo Joe's (their website says they're known for loud food and spicy music - the music was relatively loud and the food was decent, but not all that spicy).

My original title for this blog was going to be something like the Randomizer, since you'll soon discover (or you won't if you don't read on) I'm excellent at tangential thoughts. Zero Gravitas struck me as a partcularly clever title of an AI-driven spaceship in the Ian M. Banks novel Excession, so I thought I'd use it as the inspiration for this Blog.

My final thing to share with you is an interesting link to a video of an ancient rotating disc featuring a Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye duet of "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing." These discs were once used to store and replay music in an analog form - crazy! When I showed the video to some folks around the office they asked, "is that it?" I was appalled! What else is there?