Sunday, July 31, 2005

Visit to EA (Electronic Arts) and Alex is here

Today was cool. Alex Finlayson, my friend from Canada, arrived yesterday evening. We went to hang out with my Pixar crew, eat Pizza and pretend to enjoy the weird anime that was on TV. We eventually played some Halo and I concentrated on eating Pizza instead cause it was really good.

Today we had a fun filled/adventurous day. We schlepped (schlepped is definitely the operative word here) to Berkeley by cab to get some Cheese Spread for one of my former Alias managers/buddies. He is coming to Siggraph and I promised some awesome cheese spread/bagettes so I cannot disappoint. :)

Anyway after Berkeley we took a long BART ride to Millbrae and then to San Carlos near Redwood City, south of San Francisco and north of San Jose.

Mike, one of Omer's friends (and thus one of Salim's friends from Penn) was our awesome tour guide around EA's Redwood Shores headquarters. The place was huge. Like 5 buildings, 2000 people that worked at this office and it was nuts. Mike toured us around and it is pretty nice there. They had a sand volleyball court, 2 cafeterias, a games room where you can play EA games, a book and DVD and video game library where you can borrow that stuff, and more and more. It was huge. We saw some cool Xbox test machines and chatted with some of the other people that work there. Mike works in the tools area for one of the games that is currently in development so we couldn't see too much about that game but it looked like a pretty cool place to work. Lots of similarities to Alias and Pixar. Nice art on the walls and posters celebrating their successes. Very neat place. Mike rocks and it was really nice of him to take so much time to tour us around on the weekend. Sweet.

Then back to San Francisco where Alex and I continued to walk around for a long time, try on some shirts, buy some smoothies and BART back home to Emeryville, just in time to relax and not go anywhere this evening because we were super tired. Hehe so why am I still up at 1:42am blogging the events of the day? Hehe I'll let you answer that one. (3 votes for "I'm nuts and don't sleep enough) :)

Alex leaving Alias in Toronto

Alex flying over somewhere cool

Alex in Calgary

Me letting Alex into my apartment

BART train

And another classic photo...

We started off our morning by me running to a Cab and rushing off to Berkeley to get some cheese spread. Long story there. It's really good and garlicy, so I had to get some of it.

And off to get cheese spread in Berkeley

Then back to Emeryville where we were early, until it took 20 minutes for our bus to leave. W - times

At this point we were already running late to meet Mike at EA, but we did get onto the right BART train after a mishap and Alex getting some fierce attitude from a BART employee, always a fun time.

BART to Millbrae (aka far) and me taking a picture of Alex as he takes a picture of me. Sweet shirt, eh?

We missed our CalTrain connection so we walked into some random restaurant...

Alex got a glass of Coke

And I got some sweeeeet Coffee

Then we took the (see above picture)

to (see above picture)

Me and a train :)

And we ended up in the midst of Silicon Valley. Yes that appears to be a private helicopter.

On the walk to EA, we passed Macromedia...

And then freaked out, cause that rocks...

Arrived safely at EA!

And even more exicted now.

EA has like 5 buildings and 2000 employees at EA Redwood Shores. Insane. It was really cool.

A labyrinth at EA

Alex and Mike (Salim's friend from Penn and our tour guide for the afternoon) walking in the "EA Campus"

Cool Bamboo in a garden at EA

Me and my California-style unsweetened Iced Tea after I ate too much lunch

And back to San Francisco. I got an iPod case at the Apple Store.

iPods for giants.

Sweet, a 30 inch LCD screen!

Cool stairs at the Apple Store

Random games on the computers (the middle one has Finding Nemo on it) :)

Apparently Alex has a Lemonade Stand. Awesome.


And BART back to the East Bay...

Back in Emeryville

Palm trees and traffic lights

Friday, July 29, 2005

Nemo, Siggraph, Pixar Booth... and life

I haven't blogged just for the sake of it for a while so I thought it was about time.
Tonight my roommates and I watched Finding Nemo and were once again blown away by just how absolutely gorgeous it is. I haven't seen it in a while and I forgot really how amazing it is. The little specks floating in the water, the rays of light, and the bright colours and glowing fish are just amazing. The story is SO solid too, the painful opening to the movie and the almost instant development of the story's amazing characters... it's a wild ride. I love it.

I have been going on a book-buying spree for quite a while. Today one of my new books arrived called "Digital Domain - The Leading Edge of Special Effects" - I saw it in Toronto for like $65 but I got it here on (Ebay owns and shipping is really cheap to the States) and it was $10 including shipping. Amazing. Digital Domain does Live-Action special effects shots, and did some stuff in X-Men, Fifth Element, Apollo 13, Fight Club and some more. It's a pretty sweet book showing a bunch of details about how Digital Domain does compositing and camera work etc. I don't know much about the camera work required for these kinds of films, and the pictures and renders are really sweet so it'll be interesting to learn something new.

My buddy Alex Finlayson from high school (he works at Alias now in Canada) is coming down to San Francisco tomorrow night to hang out for the weekend and then we head to Siggraph. I am pretty excited about Siggraph because this will be the first one I have been to, and it is probably one of the most important (and awesome) Computer Graphics Conferences of the year. It is in LA, so Alex and I are going to check out Berkeley, hopefully hang out with some of Salim's friends from EA in Redwood City and just enjoy San Francisco and the area for a few days. Then we are flying to LA and staying at a really fancy hotel ($120 US per night, crazy!!) That'll be super fun. We are just there for 2 nights and hopefully we'll get to enjoy LA as well as Siggraph.

I can't believe the people that are going to be at Siggraph, there is a Star Wars Retrospective talk, and Dennis Muren from ILM is talking, man for me that is even better than seeing a movie star, so cool... I've seen a bazillion interviews of him talking about sweet effects in Star Wars and the progression of effects since the "early days" - I love how the "early days" in effects is like 30 years ago. Hehe awesome.

Apparantely Jim Blinn usually shows up, and that is pretty nuts. Jim Blinn, as Wikipedia explains is a "graphics pioneer" and I saw a quote about him: "There are about a dozen great computer graphics people, and Jim Blinn is six of them." Taylor (one of the other guys at Pixar) said he got to meet him briefly last year at Siggraph. That is NUTS dude. Wow. For the past few years, every August I think how cool it would be to go to Siggraph and I never go because it is a far trip from Canada. But now that I am here I am definitely looking forward to it.

Ok let's see what else is new...

Talking about Siggraph (for a change, hehe), anyone who is there please come visit me. :) I will be at the Pixar booth from 9:30am-Noon on Tuesday, August 2nd. If you come and say Hi, I'll see if I can get you one of the Pixar Renderman teapots. Cool.

Anyway long post today but just wanted to talk about what has been going on lately. Busy times at work but very enjoyable. I have finally stopped making excuses about working out and I am now going every single day (most weekends too) and doing the Elliptical machine for cardio and weight loss and weight lifting every 2nd day. This is coupled with a way-reduced food intake (usually I am an eating machine and I have cut back a lot, hehe) so finally I think I am getting rid of some of the, uh, well-upholstered-ness. Probably a very healthy choice. Lots of green tea at work, and lots of granola cereal and healthy food. The States is awesome in regards to Iced Tea I think, all of their Iced Tea has no sugar by default here, that sure is, uh, "sweet." (or perhaps not?) Yeah I am psyched about that because rather than drinking Pop (aka "Soda") at work, I can opt for Iced Tea that is truly just cold tea. It's great. So healthy times in the exercise and eating departments, which is always good.

I am both nervous and excited for school in the Fall, I am sure it'll be fun as usual but work is always way more fun and less stressful. I have some interesting classes the Fall, including a class on Jewish Mysticism and a Fine Arts 3D Modeling and Animation class which will be absolutely awesome. I am considering being a TA for the Math Faculty too but I am not sure if I will or not. I get a letter every year (but lots of people get them) and I am not sure if I have the time, but I might do it anyway. If I can TA something that I am good at like Stats, that would be good because I will be able to answer questions naturally. I think probably I should opt out of TA-ing if they want me to do TA-ing for Combinatorics (aka hardest course ever made) hehe.

I am sure I will take lots of photos at Siggraph and in LA next week. Taylor is going to have his car there and we might go to Santa Monica beach and hang out there for a bit. We were talking about going surfing, so if we have a chance we might do that too, or just go to the beach. SideFX software (makers of Houdini) are having a party at Siggraph one of the evenings and I hear it rocks, so hopefully we can go to that. Unfortunately I am missing the Alias party and the AGUA (Alias Global User's Association) event, but I am sure I will be seeing lots of the Alias crew there anyway.

It sure is hard to be away from home for this long. It's super amazing here but I am also definitely looking forward to seeing everyone when I get home too. I think at some point I need to just go home to London and relax for a while. I always rush 4 months back and forth to work and school and never really have a moment's rest, ah thus is the life of a Waterloo Computer Science student. I get home at the end of August and 2 days later I am moving to my new apartment in Waterloo, and seeing my parents and another day or two after that, I start Frosh Leading again. I am going to be a group leader for first-year students at Waterloo again in September and it's always a lot of fun to help the new set of Waterloo people get a great first impression of their new home. I loved Frosh week when I was in 1st year so it's always fun to re-live the good times.

Well I think that's enough writing for a while, I've been typing for like 40 minutes. :) Anyway I better get some sleep cause tomorrow will be a busy day, I am working extra hard this week because I am taking some time off next week for Siggraph.

I hope everyone is well and happy.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Pixar Motorama 5

Pixar's annual Motorama was yesterday and it was really cool. Lots of employees brought in their cars and there were some loaned cars there too. There was a huge BBQ for all the employees and their families. It was a really fun day and the weather was beautiful, the sun was nice and bright and hot, and the BBQ was super awesome. I even got to sit in a Ferrari and a really fancy Porsche... hehe man that was sweet.

Pixar Motorama 5 poster

Sweet Porsche that looks like a Ferrari

Lots of beautiful chrome bumpers

An old Edsel in awesome condition

Incredibles Toyota Prius

Hybrid car

Me and Jake standing outside of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile

The art car, this was pretty intense!!

Closeup of the art car

Art car's crazy interior

The back of the art car, it looks like an alien!!

Wicked Shelby

Front of the Shelby

Nice old Chevy

Edsel logo

Salim having lunch

Porsche from the front

Porsche engine

Me and Jake in the $400,000 Porsche!!

Lots of fun times

Cars lined up outside of Pixar

Root Beer Floats, RBF's what up!!!

Mini cars

Super-shiny Bugatti grill

Ferrari Logo

Another shot of the Porsche

Guido and his little baby

Guido and his baby with Ferrari gear on

Guido and John Lasseter

Another great pic of Guido, his little baby and John Lasseter

Sweeeeeet Ferrari

Me in the sweet Ferrari

Bling bling Chevy

Mini exhibit

Lots of amazing cars