Wednesday, February 28, 2007

it begins again

I'm too busy to blog. Trying to get a bunch of stuff done before I'm effectively out for a week at GDC, the annual game developer nerd-a-thon that takes place every year in the Bay Area.

Things I still need to do:

- Figure out what sessions I'm going to attend
- E-mail a billion people about meeting with them and chatting about game audio while explaining that I can't accept demos due to company policy
- Juggle my project work for 4 different projects
- Handle all of the stuff I'm forgetting about right now

bah. time to run to a meeting.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

eye. yam. tie. yard.

All roads lead to San Francisco. That's the reality that I'm learning. So many people that I know are falling in love with this place and moving here. Which is great because it means that people I know are here now. The bad thing is that everyone needs housing and there isn't any affordable housing here. Or apparently hosing, like I first typoed.

Ry and Lisa have been up here this weekend+ and it's been nice to have them around. One thing we learned while they were here is that not everyone yet knows about Leeroy Jenkins. Have a look, have a laugh. It's good stuff.

I swear, this might be the most disjointed blog post I've posted yet. Way to go, me.

Just to continue the trend, here's a link to all of the O RLY? owls. My job here is done.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

honeymoon - day 9

Today was our last full day of honeymoon-tastic Canadian adventure and, by and large, it was a day of wrapping up some loose ends. We started out with a decent room service breakfast then headed across the street to check out the interior of the Cathédrale-Marie-du-Monde. Just like its exterior, the interior was beautiful.


After the cathedral, we met up with the only person I know in Canada, Canadian composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and all-around nice guy Guillaume Jodoin. Guillaume and I went to grad school together at USC and it was really good to see him after five years.


Guillaume and his girlfriend Marie-Pierre showed us around their apartment and then took us out into Montréal to see some of the non-touristy sites. Guillaume and Marie-Pierre showed us some of the more up-scale neighborhoods including the bizarre enclave of Westmont where a vast majority of the city's rich, English-speaking residents live in a constant state of French-denial. Their architecture is very elegant English manor-inspired. Their street are named - not only in English - but named after things that scream "United Kingdom!" There was Trafalfar Avenue, Belvedere Circle, Park Hill, etc. For a city were every other street is named some variation of either Rue de Sainte-Catherine or Boulevarde de Maisonneuve, Park Hill sticks out like a picture of fish and chips stitched to the front of the French flag.

After seeing some fo the sites, Guillaume and Marie-Pierre took us to a great little Jewish deli called Schwartz's that should be in every Montréal guide book. Get the «viende fumée» sandwich and a dill pickle. Just trust me; it's delicious.


Once we finished at Schwartz's, we headed to HMV, bought some French/French-Canadian pop music and then bid "adieu" to our tour guides. Manda and I returned on foot to our hotel and settled in to planning for our travel tomorrow morning. We headed down to the hotel's Business Center, jumped online for a bit, and then set off to buy souvenirs for our coworkers from within Montréal's Underground City, a massive underground mall that they built to allow shoppers to contribute to capitalism while shielding them from the cold.

Our honeymoon has been magical or, as the Québecois say "Our honeymoon has been magical" - 'cause ... you know ... they all speak English. I've loved Québec and loved spending such a fun-filled and action-packed vacation with my wonderful wife.


It's been a great start to our marriage and the first of many new adventures to come.

honeymoon - day 8

This morning we bid "au revoir" to Québec City and drove back to Montréal so that we could return our rental car. By the time we reached our new hotel, it was afternoon. Our new hotel, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, sits right across the street from an absolutely gorgeous church called the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, a smaller scale (though still enormous) replica of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.


Despite the beauty, despite being in the heart of Québec's biggest metropolis, we were so exhausted from our whirlwind tour of the very white Great White North that we spent our day hanging our in our pajamas, marveling at the cathedral ourside our windows, and watching Little Miss Sunshine. Funny movie, but not the be-all and end-all of cinema as so many people made it out to be for us.

Essentially, we're kinda' beat from so much R and R. We're both looking forward to heading home on Friday and spending the weekend unwinding and slipping comfortably back into everyday, non-Wedding life. Canada has been incredible, but our sofa and 65° weather is really starting to sound pretty incredible, too.


honeymoon - day 7

Before we headed north on our honeymoon, Manda and I jumped online and tried to figure out what there was to do in Québec in the Winter. So many of the sites that we visited said "SKI!! SNOWBOARD!!" Unfortunately, neither of us know how to do either and didn't want to spend 10 days banged up and recouperating from trying to learn. We did, however, find one promising lead: The Valcartier Vacation Village.

Online, the website promised snow tubing, snow rafting, ice skating, and something called "ice karting" which was described as go-karting on a frozen track with spiked tires. I think there was something else about the parking lot being paved with gold and the urinals being able to cure cancer. After today, I can assure you that all of it is true and all of it is fantastically fun. (Well, okay. I made up those last two features, but everything else is true.)

Snow tubing was fantastic.


There were about sixty different tracks available, each one rated from Easy to Double Black Diamond.


And there were no lines. Maybe it was the sub-zero temperatures. Maybe it was the fact that it was a Wednesday. Whatever the case, there was hardly anyone there and we felt like we largely had an entire snow park to ourselves. As for the tube runs, even the Easy ones were hella fun. The most difficult were insanely steep and pretty extreme. I wouldn't quite call diagonally falling down a hill while sitting on a rubber donut "difficult," but the increase in each hill's "difficulty" rating definitely meant an increase in its thrill level.


In the middle of the entire park, as though it had been the first tube run and the rest of the park build around it, was Everest - a massive, insanely steep tube run that stretched up into the sky via a four-story set of steps. I eyed that damn ride all day, anxious to ride the most extreme ride in the park. In my old age, I can't seem to go on rollercoasters anymore without getting motion sick. Snow tubing, however, I can do and I can do it for hours without the faintest hint of motion sickness. And so I kept eyeing Everest as a chance to take on a big thrill ride and not get knocked on my ass by it.

The only problem is that you can't ride Everest on your own. There's a minimum of at least two people required per run. As best as Manda and I can figure, it's so that you and your tube weigh enough so that you don't shoot off of the track and die. It took a while and a lot of "It'll be fine! Totally safe!" requests from me, but Manda finally agreed to join me on a Grand Finale run down Everest before getting some dinner and headng home.

The short version is that I'm never going to be an Olympic Luge participant. I wiped out - hard - smashing into the ice retaining wall at about 30+ miles per hours.


My knee, my foot, my arms - all of them scraped and banged against the icy track in an attempt to slow myself down. What went wrong? My ski goggles had fogged up so I put them up on top of my forehead, fearing that I wouldn't be able to see where I was going. Unfortunately, as soon as we got going down Everest, tiny bits of snow and ice flew up into my face, latched onto my eye lashes, and instantly froze my eyes shut in the -25° temperatures. I couldn't see a thing. When I couldn't see, I leaned the wrong way into a turn and wiped out with YouTube-worthy grandeur.

I'm kinda' banged up, but nothing broke or sprained or tore so that's good. I think I still owe Amanda a few dozen more "You were right"s, but disasterous wipe out not withstanding, we had a great day. The tubing was excellent. The ice-karting was fun - if a bit hard to steer (go figure).


All in all, I'd go again. Except for maybe Everest.


honeymoon - day 6

-40° Fahrenheit. That was the temperature today with the windchill factored into the mix. As for the Celcius conversion, it coincidentally was also -40°. Turns out we found the one spot where Fahrenheit and Celcius line up. Way to go, Canadian Winter.

Rough day for a trip to the beach. However, it was the perfect day to check out the Hôtel de Glace - Québec's 100% ice and snow hotel. While the original plan was for us to check out the Valcartier Vacation Village, the low temperature made us rethink the idea of racing down innertube tracks in sub-zero winds. And good thing we did.

It was fucking freezing. Cold is cold and the Canadian Winter is really cold. But -40°? That's just insane. It'll be a while before I'm complaining about 50° nights in San Mateo again. Anyway, we got a slow start to the day, but eventually hit the road and stopped by Dunkin Donuts on the way.

When we finally made it out into the rural country side, the wind and the temperature were doing a number on us already. The car's heater was roaring as we pulled up into the Ice Hotel's parking lot. The hotel sits in a wide field, molded by power-blasted snow and chainsaw-carved blocks of crystal clear ice. And while it's freezing as fuck, it's absolutely beautiful.


Gothic-inspired arches and quasi-Roman statues, all carved from ice, are everywhere inside. The hotel has some 30 plus rooms, 10 plus suites, a wedding chapel, a bar, and a dance club - all made from snow and ice.


Interestingly, the bar has a refrigerator which sounds odd until you learn that it's set to 5° above freezing so that juice and soda doesn't freeze. Our tour guide informed us that the staff actually tosses their gloves into the fridge from time to time in order to warm them up.


The regular guest rooms are all identical and just look like an ice version of a monk's cloister with a block of ice, a thin matress, and some reindeer pelts for a bed.


The suites, however, are all carved into their own themes, each one different from the rest. There was the Igloo Room, the Medieval Room, the Native American Room, the Yeti's Cave Room, and the Chessboard Room.


Our camera was having trouble taking pictures. It runs on AA batteries and at sub-sub-zero temperatures, the batteries only lasted about a picture or two out in the open air before the camera would stop working. We had little hand-warmer packs in our pockets and we had to keep putting the camera in my pocket, warm the thing up again, and then snap some pictures until the batteries froze again.


We had a great time until we just couldn't take the cold anymore. Once we'd reached our breaking point, we retreated to the warmth of our hotel room, bought ourselves a pay-per-view movie, and holed up for the night as we tried to shake off the intensely to-the-bone cold that we had endured at the Hôtel de Glace.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

honeymoon - day 5

Today we watched the Super Bowl. I know; a strange thing to do in French Canadia. However, the entire experience was a lot of fun and completely different from any Super Bowl party I'd ever been to in the States. For one, the game was being shown on a massive movie screen at a performing arts theater downtown.


The whole thing was co-sponsored by a local French radio station and Budweiser. The tickets said that the doors openned at 1:30. We arrived at 2:00 hoping that we hadn't missed kick-off - clearly completely forgetting which time zone we were now in - only to find that they were showing a Montréal/Pittsburgh hockey game complete with all-French commentary.

(Sorry about the quality of the indoor photos. It was hard to get decent pictures.)

At first we were confused. Then we were worried. We had this bad feeling that we'd just bought tickets to our first all-French Super Bowl. That's the thing about Québec City ... While Montréal is pretty bilingual, Québec City is considerably less so and everyone around us in the theater was yammering away in French.

After a few hours of all-French hockey (hours), the MCs of the day took to the stage, said a lot of things I didn't understand, gave away some raffle prizes and tossed t-shirts into the packed crowd, and then introduced a live cover band.


Yes, our Super Bowl party had a live cover band interlude after the three-hour hocky overture. The band was pretty good and proceeded to play a bunch of American punk and hard rock tunes: Rage Against the Machine, Greenday, and their "specialty," a butt-load of System of a Down. The funny thing was that, since they spoke French but performed in English, their songs had a very thick French accent. Imagine Green Day without any consonants and you get the idea.

"Oo oo 'ave duh tiie/oo 'eesen doo meh when/ah-boot nah-teeng an eh-vree-ting ahl ah wance" Etc. Weird. It went on for an hour, after which a local university's cheerleading team took to the stage.


They lept around performing their pyramid formations and routines while Amanda and I stared at each other in disbelief, desperately trying to figure out the the heck was going on.

Three and a half very weird hours after we first arrived, the actual game finally got off to a helluva start. We were both fully expecting the theater to be full of American tourists, but it wasn't. We were also fully expecting the game to be in French after the hockey game they first showed. But it wasn't either. We sat there for the next 4.5 hours with a theater full of die-hard, French-speaking Football fans watching the Detroit, MI feed of the Super Bowl in English. It was so much fun to see the game in that environment, even if the Bears didn't win.


Another day, another crazy Canadian honeymoon adventure.

honeymoon - day 4

Today was deceptively busy. At the end of the day, I sat down to review the day's digital pictures with a feeling that we'd taken things pretty quietly that day.

Man, was I wrong.

We started out walking down long the sled run outside of our hotel. While there, it turned out that we were just in time for the annual Boat Pushing Race.


Essentially, some crazy Québecois row out into the frozen waters of the St. Lawrence River in a canoe, row as far as they can until they reach the large sheets of ice that cover the bulk of the river, then jump out and push their canoes across the ice the rest of the way. I'd read about this in my 6th grade French book. What I hadn't grasped at the time was the scope of the "sport." It's a massive endeavor. Those guys are nuts.


After watching the weirdos in the river for a while, we took a stroll down the oldest commercial street in North America, browsed some of the shops, and spent way too much money on postage and postcards to send back to our families State-side. We strolled around Vieux-Québec for a few more hours taking lots of pictures along the way. There was the guy with the all-wooden marrionette puppet show busking for money.


There was the annual soapbox derby that we passed by along the way.


There was the skating rink in the middle of town where some passing tourist offered to take our picture. There was the kindly old wood-wooker who taught me how to play the spoons.


Eventually we headed back to the hotel and I passed out. Manda wandered around the hotel for a bit while I was zonked out on the bed. When I woke up, we headed out for some Canadian fast food - more poutine and some damn good hot dogs. One thing I've learned while we've been here is that the Canadians really know hot dogs. That and that it's really freakin' cold in Québec during the winter.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

honeymoon - day 3

Marchez dans une «wonderland» de l'hiver. Or ... you know ... however you say "walking in a winter wonderland" in French. This morning we checked out of the über-chic Hôtel Gault in Vieux-Montréal and rented a car for our (allegedly) 2.5 hour drive to Vieux-Québec in Québec City (By the way, if you're keeping score at home, there are three different types of accented letters in that sentence. Yay, HTML). Rural Québec looks amazingly like rural Pennsylvania, and if you were to add French roadsigns and frozen rivers covered with ice fishing shacks to Lancaster, they'd be indistinguishable.


For the most part, we enjoyed the drive except that I kept falling asleep and that it actually took 4.5 hours instead of 2.5. Plus, there was the half hour detour down a long country road with no place to make a U-Turn and without any driveways in which to turn around.

Despite the downsides of the drive, Québec City quickly made us forget all about them. In short, it's stunning. Our hotel, the fortress-like Château Frontenac, is a breath-taking castle high on the hill that overlooks the city.


The streets of Vieux-Québec are quaint, snow-covered lanes that look like colonial America or 18th Century Europe. They could have come directly out of a made-for-the Hallmark Channel Dickens movie, if the Dickens movie involves destitute orphans shopping in expensive boutiques.


Our hotel room has a riverside view which lets us watch the massive sheets of ice float down the St. Lawrence River. There are snow-covered cannons that face the river juxtaposed beside a circus tent-topped gazeebo and a tobogen slide.


As chance would have it, Amanda and I are honeymooning in Québec City during Carnaval, a massive two-week love letter to winter that Québec throws each year. There is ice sculpting and sled races and river races and more ice sculpting. There's an all-ice hotel, plenty of all-ice outdoor bars, and even an all-ice performing arts stage complete with its all-ice electrical room (don't ask me how that works). Amanda and I walked around taking in the fairy tale-like sites for most of the evening.


On our way back from an over-priced and lousy dinner (although, I did have the Bison Ravioli), we got pretty severely snowed upon. Its the first time in years that I've been caught outside in the snow, and I loved it. After catching snowflakes on our tongues and walking the gorgeous streets of Vieux-Québec at night, we returned home to our castle over the river for a well-deserved long winter's nap.


honeymoon - day 2

After sleeping through breakfast yesterday, Rooni and I were detirmined to head down to the Hotel Gault lobby and take in the scenery this morning with a side of toast. Here's what we learned:

1. French french toast from french baguettes is kinda' odd.
2. My mom horribly over-cooks poached eggs.
3. Unfortunately, that's how I like poached eggs.

We followed up breakfast by bundling up and setting off on foot to the Metro station. We tried to buy the Carte Touristique, an all-day Metro pass, from the station agent only to find out that it's only purchasable at a specific Metro stop. Even though I'm violating my promise by writing this down, the nice old station agent let us get on the train if we promised that we wouldn't tell anyone and that we head straight for the needed station, which we did. After getting our day-passes, Manda and I set off for the massive towering piece of modern architecture known as the Stade Olympique beside Montréal's botanical gardens.


Why? Because that's where the Insectarium is, a two-story temple to all things segmented and disgusting. We saw huge beetles. We saw huge walking sticks after searching into the terrariums for a while (stupid natural camouflage).


Manda and I also both stared down our worst fears - huge moths and huge spiders, respectively.



By the end of our time there, both of us were feeling less enlightened than we were completely skeeved out. Our cure ended up being a long and pointless journey by train and by foot (lots of foot) to the let-down of all bagel shops. The guidebook said something about it being so notoriously fantastic of a bagel shop that New Yorkers are known to head there at all hours just to stock up. What we learned, however, is that these must be tongueless, blind New York infants who have never eaten any other bagels before.

On the walk back to the Metro, we stopped at Chez Claudette's for dinner and our first foray into the slimy world of poutine, or as it's known in the US, french fries slathered in gravy and covered with hunks of cheese curds.


It was no Olive+Gourmando, but the service was really nice and my feet loved the rest.

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig and by now we were old pros at the Metro. The only problem was that once we got back, we realized that Amanda had left her winter hat at Chez Claudette's. So, it was out again, out again, jiggity-jog to track down her lost chapeau, then back through the Metro in a mad dash to try and make it back before our day-passes turned into paper pumpkins at the stroke of midnight.


Tomorrow it's up early and off to the airport where we'll snag a rental car and set off for Honeymoon: Part Deux: Québec City.

honeymoon - day 1

I think we were tired. Maybe it was the one hour of sleep before a handful of cross-country and international flights. Maybe it was the eight months of wedding planning. Whatever the cause, when we finally made it to our hotel in Montréal, Amanda and I slept for 16 hours. We missed our first complimentary breakfast. We missed our first two windows of opportunité to have our room made-up by housekeeping. By the time we finally managed to wake up and get ready to face the cold, we'd managed to miss the morning as well as the 3 or 4 PM closing time for many of the touristy things here in Old Montréal.

Bundled from head to toe in snow clothes, the Mrs. and I headed out into Vieux-Montréal to take in The Basilique de Notre-Dame, the city's catholic basilica and a beautiful piece of architecture.


We wandered around inside for a while, warming up and apparently offending God by keeping our winter hats on. Basilica staff later scolded us for this. There are some odd pictures hanging on the walls inside the basilica. They all depict the savior of the indiginous Native population of Canada being saved/educated/warmly greeted by the good God-fearing missionaries of the first Canadian settlers.


After warming up, snapping some pictures, and blasphemously squeaking our snowy shoes through the reverent halls of the basilica, we set off into the city again - this time to find a bite to eat.

4:30 PM is a weird time to try and eat in Vieux-Montréal in the winter. Most lunch places had closed and most dinner places hadn't openned yet. Luckily for us, we found a great café called Olive+Gourmando. The inside was cozy, the atmosphere was hip French-Canadian, and the food was delicious.


I had a ham panini with chipotle mayo. Manda had cream of cauliflower soup and what she tells me was "the most delicious bread (she's) ever eaten." Afterwards we had a hot chocolate and an "extraordinaire brownie" that was truly extraordinaire.

We spent the rest of the evening takin in Old Montréal on foot. Old Montréal is beautiful. It feels simultaneously very Old World European and Modern Art friendly.



We went down to the Centre Du Science de Montréal, past a frozen section of the St. Lawrence River that people were ice skating on, up into Montréal proper and the Place D'Armes Metro stop where we both struggled with fuzzy french class lessons of whether the French word for "map" was masculine or feminine (we never quite figured it out).


By the time we made it back to the hotel, our feet were sore and our faces were frozen but we'd had a great day, taken some great pictures, and were ready for the warmth of our pajamas.


it's award season ...

And thankfully, I'm happy to announce that I've been nominated for two Game Audio Network Guild (GANG) awards this year. The cool thing about the GANG awards is that the nominations come from other industry audio professionals and the entire voting audience are your peers. It's a really nice honor.

The first I'm nominated in is for the category of "Best Original Vocal - Pop" where the song "Dr. Kunkle's Funnkel Cake" picked up a nomination for the game Thrillville. The second nomination is in the category of "Best Game Article, Broadcast, or Publication" for the October, 2006 Aural Fixation column in Game Developer magazine entitled "Musical Symmetry."

Any GANG members out there who might be reading this should log into the GANG forums and check out all of the nominations.

we're back!

That's right. We're back from the snowy Canadian wilderness. And by wilderness, I mean downtown Montréal.

We took a bajillion photos while we were there and wrote up some pretty detail notes on what we did each day so that we wouldn't forget. Over the next week or so, I'll be putting up our notes and posting pictures for everyone to see.

In short, we had a fantastic time. To everyone who thought we were nuts to head into Canada in the middle of winter, we couldn't possible have hoped for a more perfect honeymoon. So much snow. So much beautiful scenery. The Mrs. and I totally recommend heading to Québec in the winter.

As for today and tomorrow, we're just looking to settle back into normal, non-wedding life. Like I said, specific honeymoon info will be coming as of Monday.