Monday, May 31, 2004

Productivity Experiment: Day 3

Being that I essentially have no Internet on Sunday (most public libraries are closed and I'm too cheap to go to a web cafe), that gave me more opportunities to do work instead of goofing off. However, one thing I'm finding is that there are other ways to get distracted.

But, first, here's what I managed to accompish:

-Completed article for
-Did about five pages of audio transcriptions for my article for Fangoria magazine.
-Completed another level on Need for Speed: Underground.

Okay, two outta three ain't bad.

I'm probably one of the least disciplined people around when it comes to time management, and I'm really starting to suspect that I may qualify for medical intervention for attention deficit disorder (refer to previous blog for more details).

But, as I'm no longer checking my e-mail every thirty minutes, surfing my favourite sites every fifteen minutes, and getting up to grab snacks every ten minutes, I'm actually feeling a little more productive. Even the fact that the hotel I'm staying at has extended cable (including music videos, sports, and cartoons), I'm not watching more television than I did at home. Besides, all the season finales for the shows I regularly follow have aired.

I have written up an extensive to-do-list for this week. Among the items:

-Complete transcriptions for magazine article. I'm about 33% finished, although ideally, I should be completed the first phase of interviews before Tuesday, because that's when I go in for eye surgery and I'll be effectively blind and very unproductive for most of the day.

-Transmit article to This one will take all of thirty seconds. Provided that I can find a way to do so! Either I fax it in, forcing my editor to manually type it in, or I find someone who's willing to let me use his or her computer and e-mail it.

-Follow up on job leads. I have two parties I need to contact, and after that, it's just look for more work. That might be difficult, as I only have sixty minutes on this computer terminal to look up the job sites.

-Contact my former employers about my record of employment. I still have to give the Human Resources Department of Canada that piece of paper so I can collect EI. If I can't find any sort of work between now and September and I don't collect EI, I'll have to dip into my savings, which are supposed to go towards school.

Now, if you'll excuse me...I have a to-do-list to tackle.

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Saturday, May 29, 2004

Productivity Experiment: Day 1

Having just moved house with my mom, there is one slight problem. The place that my mom is moving into isn't complete (carpet isn't laid down, sinks aren't installed, etc.). That means that in the meantime, we are holed up in the Sandman Hotels. Without a constant Internet feed, I am typing this up on a public computer in a nearby library.

So, with deadlines looming for my new article for Fangoria magazine (due early in July), that gives me the excellent opportunity to try out an experiment in increased productivity.

Working at home, there are lots of distractions. A computer with ADSL allows me to look up information on upcoming movies and chat on MSN with my friends, which keeps me from completing my article. Six full boxes of comic books dating back to 1992 provides near limitless reading material, again, keeping me from completing my article. A home entertainment system with a sizeable library of DVDs and CDs provides hours upon hours of diversion, again, keeping me from completing my article.

So, with all of those things packed away in storage somewhere (and I have no idea where they are...I assume that it's in some sort of storage facility), I am essentially forced to focus on nothing but my article.

But there are severe pitfalls to these kind of working conditions. The lack of an Internet connection means that I can only submit my material by fax, or hopefully have a friend lend out his or her internet connection. As most of my friends are NOT closeby, this necessitates a 15 minute car ride. Also, I am supposed to have a PHONE interview with someone, which will be difficult as I would ideally like to have a speaker phone to make for easier recording of conversations.

Sure, I do have a working computer in the place I am staying, and I should be able to get a lot done. I have about 3 weeks, so I should be able to get this article completed with two or three weeks left in deadline, even before the new place is completed.

As I write this, it's Saturday afternoon and I have about an hour of transcriptions on tape, which has to manually typed out (I don't have any vocal recognition software). This is a severe pain in the ass as most people do not talk the way they write. Hence, speech will be constantly peppered with "uh", "um", "like", "so basically", and "y'know". While these words will not appear in the article, I am still required to transcribe every single word, including the "uh", "um", "like", "so basically" and "y'know."

Making it even more fun is the fact that it was a 3-way conference call between myself and a twin-brother screenwriting team. During the initial phone conversation, I could tell that one of the voices had much more static from the phone, but it's likely going to be much different on playback. There's a significant chance that I'm going to be attributing a few quotes to the wrong brother.

Next week, I am finally going to be getting on set to interview the cast and crew. This could be a potentially interesting visit, as I am scheduled for eye surgery the day before.

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Friday, May 28, 2004

It's finally moving day. Not much else to say about that, except this might be the last blog for the next few weeks, being that I won't have access to ADSL (and the place we're staying in doesn't have internet...or, at least CHEAP internet). I've probably thrown away a lot of stuff and kept way too much stuff, but hey, it's a new chapter.

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Monday, May 24, 2004

Victoria Day weekend was fairly uneventful, except for having just come back from a camping trip with a bunch of my friends. However, one could hardly call it a camping trip. A facility that came complete with fully functional showers, toilets, and running water, some camping stalls even had their own electricity. The only thing the facility was missing was room service.

One thing was clear was that we were really over-prepared for what was there. As general planning goes, it went fairly well. Very few last minute purchases had to be made (we made an electronic checklist and someone said they were going to bring a deck of cards...guess what happened). In addition, we all came to the agreement that each individual would be responsible for one meal. I was placed in charge of Saturday evening's meal, which consisted of homemade pasta salad, hamburgers, and corn on the cob.

Needless to say, there is still over half of a bucket full of pasta salad, four kaiser rolls, and three corn cobs left over. As it is, I ate more over the past two and a half days than normal.

Camping is a bit of a big deal among my friends, given the amount of planning required to pull it off. Plus, it also holds a little more emotional significance with my friends (one of my friends met his future wife at the camping trip held after my high school graduation, which I wasn't there for). As my first time, I'd have to say I did enjoy myself, although I would probably enjoy myself just as much in a normal setting, just as long as my friends are there.

But next time, we gotta do something a little more active. Most of the time, I was witness to my friends playing Gameboy and napping. But then, my idea of camping is a little bit different from others.

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Monday, May 17, 2004

Still on the topic of clean-up, I've been helping my mom move house. Part of that has been going through the old stuff, seeing what needs to be packed, and what needs to be garage-saled out, donated, recycled, or disposed of. One thing I must say is that until you have done so, you won't believe the weird crap you'll find.

I'm a bit of a pack-rat myself, holding onto well after I'm supposed to get rid of it. Just by sitting here in my room as I type this, I see old clothes that I have no intention of wearing ever again, old bank statements that should be shredded, and a stack of binders that I used in high school. Most of it's a no-brainer as to which I should get rid of or recycle.

It seems that I inherited this from my late father (not the old crap, the pack-rat tendencies). Going through the garage, I found a weird assortment of stuff, much of which my father thought might be useful later down the road. I found old handles for cabinets and closets from a house I lived in when I was 14 (this was a really long time ago), as well as stuff that I could not recognize for the life of me.

Some stuff, I have no idea why it was kept. I found a lid to a casserole dish, the matching casserole itself being smashed years ago. I found old adaptors for electronic gadgets which have long since been discarded. Yesterday, my mom found a bunch of calendars dating back to 1973, the year that they came to Canada. Dunno why my dad kept them.

And then my mom found my dad's porn stash. I suggested that she could tape over them or something, but she wouldn't be able to cover up all the stickers that said "Red Hot Video" and "Swedish Erotica". Therefore, it found its way into the trash. After she took a pair of scissors to the actual magnetic tape portion, rendering it useless.

Somehow, I'm reminded of a Dan Savage column where he was asked about the ideal way to dispose of one's porn collection. He suggested leaving it out in a box on collection day with a few magazines visible on the top pile, and in less than 24 hours, the collection would be "recycled". And if he was uncomfortable about doing that, hs could always leave it in front of his neighbour's, or he could toss it in an alley near a high school.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to find an old tape splicer...after I take out the trash.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

As spring is in the air, that is also a time for many people to do their spring cleaning. That's usually a good thing, as it allows people to part with their accumulated crap that is just cluttering up their lives. Me, I'm a bit of a pack rat, so I can usually let things like old credit card reciepts languish for the better part of a year before I get around to throwing them away. I once found one for a CD that I bought when I was in high school.

While I wouldn't go all the way to consider myself an environmentalist (Club the baby seals! Use your air conditioning! Burn the fossil fuels! Yeah!), I do my best to do my part, whether it be rollerblading to work when I don't feel like driving (and when gas is quickly approaching $1/litre, it's not hard) or recycling. Which is why it's times like this that I hate living in Surrey.

For all of those who have yet to step foot in Surrey, BC, it has a bit of a reputation as being a hole. I know pretty much all the Surrey jokes. Here's a quick one.

Q: Why do the birds fly upside down when they pass through Surrey?
A: There's nothing worth shitting on.

A quick glance at the neighbourhoods will tell you why I feel this way. On a typical garbage day, there are usually a couple cans that are set out the night/morning before weekly pickup. Now that we are going through our annual Spring Clean-Up week(s), we have significantly more than the two-can limit put out, and it's been sitting there for weeks (it won't be picked up until today, or at least according to the City of Surrey website). Adding to the problem is the clear violation of rules that are set aside, such as no old refrigerators and freezers, building materials, concrete, and the like.

This may be attributed to the fact that someone at city hall had the genius idea for the Clean-Up Week and Re-Use Weekend. The objective of this is to put out your trash earlier, as you might have some items of use that your neighbours might want. Of course, no one bothers to take into account the fact that Surrey is only 30 minutes away from Vancouver, and gets the same amount of rain, which would leave anything that was once formerly useful significantly water damaged and useless. While there is a small segment of the population that might find use in a well-used broken television, this small segment will more than likely throw it away again once all the useful parts have been scavenged.

As a rollerblader, this isn't really fun for me, as going on the sidewalk is a bit of a hazard. There are mountains upon mountains of items that people can't be bothered to dispose of properly, which spill out onto the sidewalk, increasing my likelyhood of injury. It doesn't even have to be that way either, especially when you consider some of the stuff that gets disposed of.

A quick glance shows old appliances, obsolete computers, cardboard boxes, old matresses, and yard waste. Being that no one is willing to expend anything remotely resembling effort, these are set out to the curb to be tripped on and clutter up the landscape. All of these things can be properly composted, recycled or refurbished, so they don't end up going into landfills.

Admittedly, the people who perform these services are not making it easy for the rest of us. My family has an old Hitatchi television from 1986. While it has been in for repair twice, for the most part, the performance has been consistent for all of its 18 years in the family living room. It has since been replaced by a newer model (we're still awaiting delivery), but by the end of the month, it's going to have to be properly disposed of.

There is one electronics disposal facility in Surrey that I'm aware of. I have gone there before to drop off a full box of dead batteries for recycling. That wasn't a big deal for me, because it was smaller than a shoebox that fit in my backpack. I even used my rollerblades to get there.

Now the fun part. The television weighs at least 70-something pounds. It is rougly 3 feet tall, 3 feet deep, and 4 feet wide. It's a frickin' beast. And the fun part is that I called up the facility and they'd actually charge me for taking it off my hands (but then, they'd be able to send a truck out to pick it up).

While I do understand it takes a significant amount of labour in order to strip it down, they aren't really encouraging people to recycle if they're actually going to charge you for it. I mean, when you're done with your pop bottles and beer cans, they give you money back for it.

Until they start making it easier or cheaper, we're going to continue to see the annual tradition of Surrey turning into an even larger eye-sore than it is already.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

So, after having a chat with my managers and threatening to make a big fuss with the local Labour Relations Board, it looks like a somewhat agreeable compromise can be met (although I'm still not likely going to be working any additional hours). As it is, I'm not about to set any bridges on fire.

Either way, i am submitting applications for more work elsewhere. In order to become a more prolific Person That Writes Things, I have submitted applications to several other magazines, but given the sporadic nature of the work, I still may need a dayjob to tie me over between gigs. Sorta like when I used to be in the film industry, only I didn't actually have a dayjob at the time.

So, here are my options:

-Game tester. Now, this sounds like a really cool job. Having ruined my grades in high school from playing Doom 2 non-stop and alienated all of my friends by playing Half-Life and StarCraft when I should've been outside playing basketball, this would be a great way to put my skills to use. Pay: $10/hour. Hours: Really frickin' long. Likelyhood of long-term employment: N/A, contract position, most likely be laid off after 8 month period is up.

-Data Entry. Having been around computers for the better part of the last 20 years, I have developed an insanely fast typing speed. Pay: $8/hour. Hours: 8:30-5:30, 3 days a week. Likelyhood of long-term employment: If I'm really lucky, they might let me into the advertising department of their organization. Too bad that they don't have an advertising budget to speak of. In other words, not very likely.

-Movie Extra (aka: "Background Performer"). I used to do this a lot. You stand around, you get herded back to extras holding, you get fat from snacking off the craft service table. My best gig was when I was doing a commercial for All-State Farms. For about 6 hours, I was standing around, chatting it up with the crew, chatting it up with the actors, snacking off the craft service table. They served us lunch. We did a company move. We finally got around to doing my shot. I hopped into an SUV that was being followed through a car wash. We did the rehearsal, we did take one, we did take two. And they sent me home. They paid me $200 flat rate. Pay: Varies from gig to gig. Hours: Varied, can be anything from 4 hours to 15 hours (even longer if someone calls in a bomb threat). Likelyhood of long-term employment: Is only on-call, so work relies upon demand.

-ESL Tutoring. This one might not be so bad. I have a friend who I've been helping with her English grammar and spelling (she's from Taiwan) and I've been teaching her some really big words (unencumbered (un-en-CUM-bered) adj to be free of restraint and trappings. "After the door was unlocked, he passed through unencumbered"). All I need is some level of certification that goes past my university degree. Pay: Volunteer (ULP!). Hours: 2 hours per week. Likelyhood of long-term employment: Only if I'm willing to hop on a plane that'll take me overseas. Mind you, I do hear that Japan is nice this time of year...

Hmm...none of these are long term at all. Screw it, I'm going back to school.

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Saturday, May 01, 2004

April was essentially the month from hell. Having getting my hours slashed at my dayjob (partly because it's more cost effective than firing me or laying me off -- no need to pay severance fees that way), getting into a car accident (that still isn't completely fixed), having my father pass away, and then attempting to get another job, but blowing the interview would probably render the month of April a complete write off.

May started off with another zinger. They slashed my hours AGAIN. Now, management can't even have the decency to fire me, instead they insult me by attempting to sugar coat it (what am I, 5 years old?). From what management tells me, I'm left with two options. Either quit, or hang on. Wow. Tough choice.

All I know is that staff morale has been going in a downward spiral for the past two months as the company "changes directions." There was a time when there was enough togetherness that if anyone was to leave the company, there would be a get together for a proper send-off. Even though the turn-over rate has been getting significantly higher over the past few months, we've seen a complete drop off in get-togethers.

I wanted to start off the month of May strong, but instead, I can start if off clean. Better than nothing, I suppose.

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