Corporate Communications, White Rock, Tsawwassen, and Point Roberts

The fallout from the round of layoffs a week and a half ago came to a rather disappointing end — one of our lead programmers decided he didn’t want to work for corporate America, and quit. Just as the game he was working on entered the final development stages. I still can’t believe that the Powers That Be could not see that coming. I suspect that Rory and Ian (the two driving forces of the company) predicted something like this would happen, but the final decision came from the States. Convenient that they don’t really have anything to do with this office.

Then Marketting (also located in San Francisco) decided to get into the act. Earlier in the week, a couple of press releases got around about the deal Radical has with ESPN (we’re making video games for them). One of our investors, who writes a column for BC Technology, decided he’d start spewing out to the entire planet about the neat things we were doing.

Problem: No-one was supposed to know until today.

So Marketting decided they’d send around a message that pointed us at a rather heavily made-up internal website that warned employees about talking to the press. (They didn’t mention a thing about boneheaded investors.) That was mildy degrading. Two days later, we received the hard copies. Four-colour print on expensive-feeling paper. One copy for each person. Nice waste of money, especially so close to layoffs, eh?

It turns out that the flyers were approved and printed before the financial crunch, but I still think that the idea to hand them around was extremely poor. Many people in San Francisco wonder if all of Vancouver hates them. I can safely say we don’t hate all of them … just selected people.

Onto different things…

I got out this weekend. I had originally decided to go out and get a haircut. I haven’t had a haircut in about three months, so it’s looking a little scraggly. (I don’t buy into the ol’ “haircut every four weeks” baloney — that’s a ploy by the hairdressers of the world to make more money. Same applies for showering daily, which is really only needed unless you’re dirty or you smell bad.)

Didn’t make it that far. Allison immediately suggested that we could go to White Rock. Having read a little about it, and not having been there yet, I thought it a good idea. So we hopped in my car, and took off in the general direction of the former resort town.

Finding it was another issue. Although I knew approximately where White Rock was, I had no idea exactly how to get there. Neither did Allison, although she had a much better idea of where it was. We drove across the Knight St. bridge, and drove through Richmond. We eventually found ourselves in Delta, trying to find out way into Surrey. (White Rock is at the south end of Surrey.) Once we entered Surrey, I decided that it would be a good idea to get a roadmap. (Hey, I’m not the kind of guy who drives aimlessly for hours without asking where I’m going.)

About 45 minutes or so after leaving home, we found the main drag in White Rock. We drove along for a short distance, and pulled into a parking lot at the side of the road. You could tell we were in a tourist trap — the parking cost a dollar an hour.

We crossed the railway tracks (Burlington Northern runs a line between White Rock’s building and beach, a left-over from the heady days of being a resort town, I suspect) and walked towards the wharf, about a kilometre away. (We could have parked closer to the wharf, but we didn’t know exactly where we were.)

Along the way, we ran into the White Rock, from which the town received its name. It’s a large boulder of white granite, an erratic left over from the days of the glaciers. Since White Rock was founded, the boulder has received a few coats of white paint, usually from the local graduates.

The wharf (pier, boardwalk, whatever you want to call it) extends into Shemiamoo Bay about a half kilometre or so. At the end are a lot of people fishing, but mostly crabbing (throwing in crab cages and attempting to catch dinner).

We wandered back through the town for a while, before I darted back to retrieve the car. (The parking meter was running low, and Allison’s new shoes weren’t exactly co-operating with her feet.) When I returned, I was met with a freight train that rolled along the tracks, (presumably) heading towards Vancouver.

We stopped for a quick snack at an ice cream shop, and took a moment to relax somewhat (we had walked quite a while that morning). Having had our fill of White Rock (it doesn’t take much — White Rock’s is quite small), we opted to travel further west along the shore.

Our ultimate destination was Point Roberts. If you follow the western shoreline of Delta south, you pass by Tsawwassen, a major ferry terminal, just before you reach the 49th Parallel, and the end of Canada. But right at that point isn’t the end of the land — it actually goes just a bit further south, and into the United States.

In 1854, after many years of arguments between the United States and Britain (who held domain on the western side of the Dominion of Canada), the border was extended across the 49th Parallel until it reached the Georgia Strait, where it dipped slightly to accomodate Fort Victoria, at the south end of Vancouver Island. Originally, the Americans had wanted the border to allow them access right up the coast to Alaska (then-President Polk was elected on the slogan “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight”), but eventually the Americans and the British agreed on the treaty of 1827, setting the border at the 49th Parallel. Because Point Roberts wasn’t on the oceans, it became cut off from Canada.

But you’d never know. Pretty much the entire 4.9 square mile peninsula caters to Canadian interests. There are many beach homes (which sell for as little as US$50,000), and the area is almost completely undeveloped. But most amenities are available, and some of the municipal services (water, hospital) come from neighbouring Canada. The grocery stores take Canadian money with no question. And due to the relative tight security (you have to go through a border crossing when entering and exiting Point Roberts), the crime rate is also very low.

We didn’t stay too long. Just enough to buy some cheap cheese, and fill up on cheap American gas. We thought we might even stay for dinner, but Point Roberts isn’t exactly known for its good food. We headed home, but ended up in Richmond to eat at Antonio’s, a tasty pasta bar.

On Sunday, Allison and I made a quick spin of Metrotown, so we could obtain some free shorts, and peruse the haircutting establishments (none of which I was at all thrilled with). I then pretty much resigned myself to cleaning up my apartment. Having acquired some furniture from IKEA earlier in the week, I was determined to try and clean up my apartment a little.

Layoffs at Radical Entertainment, Victoria Day on Vancouver Island

Well, this is my first crack at a proper Branch entry. Hopefully these will go as well as I hope they do…

My weekend got off to a bit of a rocky start — my company laid off 12 people in our Vancouver office. The CEO and CFO of our company (both from our San Francisco office) came up to inform us of the situation. The two driving forces of the company, Ian and Rory (the guys, who IMHO are the men behind the curtain) broke the bad news, and the CEO and CFO put the spin on it.

Now I know why I didn’t like working for Corporate America — the spin. I hate spin. I like hard, cold, unsugared facts. I have to give Rory and Ian their credit — they know their staff well. The CEO on the other hand, well, he needs to be here a little more often to understand us, I guess. All I know is that I wasn’t the only one who thought his presentation was a little too slick.

On Friday, Allison and I decided we’d head to Nanaimo for the long weekend. Allison had not been home since our last excursion at Easter, and wanted to go home for a short while. I, too, wanted to go, because it would allow me to get out of the city for a brief period of time. (I don’t care what anyone says — a change of scenery is a must from time to time.

Allison picked me up at the office just after 12:00 on Friday afternoon. Our first destination was Granville Island, so we could visit the market. Our plan was to bring over all the goodies needed to have a good west coast barbecue.

Following a brief lunch, we looked around at the various shops. We purchased vegetables (asparagus, onions, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes), fruit (strawberries), bread (sourdough), salmon steaks wild sockeye), and a bottle of a not-too-dry white wine. The whole shebang came out to around $40. (The salmon and wine accounted for most of the cost.)

By the time we left, we found we would be hard-pressed to get to the ferry at Tsawassen in time. So we opted for the Horseshoe Bay ferry. One minor problem: We weren’t the only ones with that idea.

By the time we got to Burrard, the street was backed up. It took over 10 minutes to crawl a few measly blocks. Georgia was even worse — traffic was solid for several blocks. But when we finally cleared the entrance to Stanley Park, the flow began to speed up. However, it was already 14:10, and we had to be at the ferry no later than 14:40 … if we were lucky enough to find parking.

We had not been able to beat the rush to the long weekend, which was clearly evident by the very long lineup for the ferry. It looked like a three or four sailing wait for some people. Since Allison and I were aiming to be walk-ons, we were able to scoot down into Horseshoe Bay to look for a parking lot. Luck shone on us that day — we got one of the last spots.

Despite some communication problems, we managed to contact Allison’s parents. They picked us up at the ferry, and we went to the Collins’ for dinner. Luckily, they hadn’t started to make dinner yet. It was barbecue night.

The next day, Allison and I thought we’d do some driving. Mrs. Collins suggested Cathedral Grove, which is a rather famous patch of old-growth forest near the very middle of the Island. Mr. Collins thought Coombs would be a nice stop along the way. Mrs. Collins then started to tell Allison about the new interchanges in the area … then promptly decided that the four of us should go on the trip. I had no objections.

We stopped along the way at Rathtrevor beach, so I could see what a good tidal beach looked like. I don’t know how far out that beach went, but it looked like a half-kilometre. At high tide, the beach would completely vanish. All I could think was that the beach would be immense fun in the summer.

We proceeded north to Parksville, where we turned onto the Port Alberni Highway, and headed west. Not too far from Parksville, we entered Coombs, a little town in the Island interior. Coombs probably used to be nothing more than a mining or logging town. Today it has a thriving little tourist business, formed around the Coombs market. What’s so special about the market? It’s not every day you see a sod roof with real goats parading about.

Soon we entered Cathedral Grove. It’s a provincial park that was created from land donated by H.R. MacMillian, a forester who founded HR MacMillian (part of MacMillian-Blodel industries, if I’m not mistaken). Yes, Her-mac (as one call it) is a logging company. Sounds a little weird for a founder of a company that has come under a lot of fire for logging old growth-trees to donate a small forest of old-growth trees for parkland, doesn’t it? Well, Mr. MacMillan was apparently a nice guy, and wanted the future to know what the past looked like. Public outcry also forwarded the cause.

Cathedral Grove is aptly named — I have never in my life seen trees so large. But even trees so large are not immune to the environment. On Jan. 1, 1997, there was a tremendous windstorm that tore through the grove. It knocked over several trees and thousands of branches. Several parts of the forest floor were complete littered with timber. But none of it was cleaned out — the park is to remain almost completely untouched.

On the way back, we stopped briefly in Coombs, to shop at the market, and look around. It’s a nice little market … with a few hundred people packed in. But it’s worth the drive … at least, I thought it was worth the drive.

We had a late lunch in the restaurant, and wandered through the multitude of wares in the market. (Oddly enough, most of the wares were Mexican … a little strange, IMHO, considering the Native influences in BC.) I purchased two very large Mexican hand-woven blankets (which are really warm). Allison bought a handful of paper mache vegetables for decoration.

Returning home, we sat down to the task of making dinner. But even then, we didn’t eat until 20:00 or so. I offered to try and fix Mrs. Collins’ email problems on her computer. She’d been having problems with the addressbook, and having multiple copies of Netscape floating around.

The next day we rose early to go see the Victoria Day Parade. The Victoria Day Parade is a big thing out here. Few places in Ontario (only Ottawa comes to mind, and apparently Orillia also carries on the tradition) have a formal parade. In Ontario, the Victoria Day Weekend is more commonly known as the “May Two-Four” (the weekend was traditionally around May 24th, and a case of 24 beers is known as a “two-four”). It’s essentially the start of the cottage season in Ontario.

We arrived downtown at about 10:40, expecting the parade to start at 11:00 (which was what we were led to believe). However, we noticed that there were still a lot of cars on the parade route, not all the reviewing stands had been completed, and we were the only people standing around. Mr. Collins soon found out that we had come too early — the parade didn’t start until 13:00.

So we went wandering down on the waterfront. It was a nice day, albeit a little chilly from the wind. The weekend had brought a small amusement park to the waterfront (where just attractions appear during festive weekends). We had a batch of less-than-satisfactory french fries (they left a horrible taste in my mouth, and neither Allison or I were feeling too good as a result).

At about 12:45, we headed back to the road to see the parade. When we arrived, the crowds that I had been expecting had appeared. Just after 13:00, the first sign of the parade went by — a fire truck. I had forgotten what community parades were like. It had been so long since my last one.

I found out after the weekend that one of my co-workers, Greg Mayer, had been on the Hungarian Cultural float (it won for best Cultural Presentation, and Best Presentation Overall). We had somehow managed not to see each other.

We had to hurry back to the Collins’ to go to a family barbecue with Mrs. Collins’ parents. We were sidetracked temporarily at home. Allison wasn’t feeling well, and had to lie down for a while before continuing out again.

The barbecue was great — Mrs. Collins had made a potato salad that was exactly like the one my mother makes. It was like being at home. We ate until there was no food left to eat, and then ate some more. Dessert was a berry mix on a sponge cake, with whipped cream. Very tasty. Mostly considering that until this weekend, I didn’t eat berries. Things just keep changing…

After dinner, we went inside where Allison and I watched the last episode of Murphy Brown. It was sad to see such a good show go, but it was a good last episode. Between Murphy Brown and the X-Files (which came on later), we went into the kitchen to make “stamps”. These were pieces of paper that you stamped with ink, and then sprinkled a special glitter overtop. Using a heater, you melted the glitter to make the stamp. It was fun. I won a prize.

Then the final episode of the X-Files came on. Well, the final one that was filmed in Vancouver, anyway. (For we Canucks, it might as well be the final one.) I felt bad because I pretty much had the entire family in the living room watching a show that really didn’t seem to appeal to anyone. It was only a plot-builder for the movie being released this summer.

Following the movie, the Collins and I made a hasty retreat back to the waterfront to watch the fireworks. Unfortunately, we were late in arriving, and the fireworks had already started. As a result, we didn’t get out of the car. On the bright side though, we managed to be the first car out of there, and missed all the traffic. I felt bad again for making everyone miss the start of the fireworks.

I tried to amend for my selfishness by buying coffee (and hot chocolate) and donuts (and muffins) for the Collins on our way back home.

The next day, the weather couldn’t make up its mind. It was either rainy or somewhat sunny — there was no comfortable medium. We left late in the afternoon, catching the 16:30 ferry from Departure Bay. For those of you who know the ferry schedule, yes, that is not a standard ferry time. Extra ferries were running to cope with the traffic.

Biking to Work, Dad brings my Car to Vancouver

Once again, I’ve left writing too long, and probably forgotten details of the events of my life. So if I forget anything, I apologise in advance…

A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was high time that I started taking matters in my own hand … namely, I needed some exercise. I wasn’t getting out enough, and I was really afraid that I’d lose my figure. So it was time to start biking.

My goal was to bike to and from work every day, rain or shine. I certainly wouldn’t be the only person — a good portion of Vancouverites engage in such activity, and it’s so popular at Radical, that we even have a dedicated bike storage room. (And having showers available certainly entices one all the more.)

Some of you may remember that I made such a boast last year, when I said I would bike from Oakville to Toronto every day. Poor pathetic me didn’t realise just how far away Toronto was. I biked once, then left my bike there for about two months before bringing it home.

But I said things would be different this time. So one evening, I ventured down to the locker room, pulled out my bike, and straightened out the handlebars (they were turned sideways when it was shipped out).

The following morning, I make my first attempt to bike to work. I went across Grange to where it connected with Kingsway, briefly over to Boundary, and then proceeded north on Boundary to Adanac, which was the bikeway. It took me at least 15 minutes to get to Adanac.

Despite the fact that a large portion of the trip to Adanac was downhill, I was wiped by the time I got there. I couldn’t believe how out of shape I was. And I still had to cross the city of Vancouver. I proceeded along Adanac, and felt ill to my stomach…

The only bright point was that I had a shower waiting for me. And I really needed it too! When I went home that night, I went by MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) to buy a new backpack. The one I have is for hiking, and is completely ill-suited for the purposes of biking. Similarly, my nylon briefcase is painful to wear for that length of time.

When I resumed my riding the next morning, I found a new expression of pain in the saddlesores I had acquired. One does not get a full appreciation of how hilly it is here until one has to bike it.

However, I persevered, to the point where I dragged Allison out on the Saturday for a bike ride around Stanley Park. Oh wow… I knew that Stanley Park was nice, but I didn’t think it was *that* nice. For all the reasons that I hated leaving Ontario, the ability to bike around Stanley Park outweighs a large chunk of them.

That night, we went out with one of Allison’s friends (Rhona-Mae), who was leaving for home (High River, AB) the following day. We went to the Blarney Stone, where we wanted to throttle the doorman for not letting us in for almost an hour. Stupid nightclub politics…

The following week was Hell Week for me — my group was putting out a new version of our 3D rendering system, and I had a lot of stuff to document. It was not a nice week at all. This culminated in a couple of nights where I got very little sleep. In one night, I slept about an hour. The next night I ended up sleeping at the office because I was behind in my deadlines.

Allison and I are looking forward to the weekend. Unlike the infamous May Two-Four weekend in Ontario, we just have various festivals. We’re going to Nanaimo for the weekend, and a slew of barbecues. Ought to be fun…

Yesterday, my work got flipped on its ear for a little while. I was happily working away, when I received a phone call. At first, I thought it was going to be Allison (we were planning to go see a movie). It was a familiar voice. My father’s.

Immediately my brain began to have the following conversation:

Left: It’s dad.
Right: So?
Left: Why would he be calling me?
Right: Hmm… something important, no doubt. He doesn’t call otherwise.
Left: He doesn’t sound upset.
Right: True. Must be something else.
Left: You don’t suppose…
Right: Suppose what?
Left: That he’s…
Right: …in Vancouver?
Left: Oh…
Right: …S**t!

Sure enough, dear ol’ dad had appeared in Vancouver. Why? Because he decided to drive out. Confused? Good, ‘cuz I still am…

You see, when I moved out here, I didn’t bring my car. I figured I would have it brought out when the time was right. I hadn’t needed it, so as far as I was concerned, it was a moot point. But my father had wanted to bring it out, dragging my poor mother along for the ride.

So I started talking with my friend Joe, who was living in Toronto, and looking for a new job. I figured he’d be the perfect person to take my car for a ride. So I started into negotiations, prodding him, bribing him, all sorts of devious under-handed things to get him to drive my car here.

And then my dad shows up with it. At least he didn’t bring my mother. She was safe at home.

So needless to say, my evening went down the drain rapidly. On the bright side, my father, Allison, and I went out to dinner at the Yaletown Brewery. I figured he could use a couple of beers after the trip out. After that, I drove Allison home, and dad crashed in my bed.

I stayed up to try and find him passage back home. Most of the major airlines wanted at least $1200 for a last-minute one-way ticket. This sort of thing really bothers me. If I call two weeks in advance, it’s $400. Why should the price rise so much? Lousy capitalism…

This morning I woke up bright and early at 06:55 … an hour before I planned to get up. It seemed that dad thought I had to get up at that time. I guess my repeated suggestions that Vancouver time differs quite a bit from Toronto time had gone unnoticed. (I don’t normally get up until around 08:00.)

My mother called a scant five moments later to tell me that Canada 3000 had deals on their airfare. I had to remind my mom that I wasn’t in Saskatchewan, and that BC is *three* hours behind, not *two*. (It wasn’t the first time that she had done that to me.) I made a quick arrangement and booked the flight.

The three of us went out to dinner again, but this time to the Pink Pearl, a Chinese restaurant downtown. It wasn’t anything to wow about, but at least the food was good. I was a little annoyed at the price, though. I didn’t think the place would cost so much (it came out to just over $20 a person).

Tomorrow, we dump dear ol’ dad at the airport so he can wing his way back to Toronto. Allison and I are off to Nanaimo on Friday afternoon (I think). I hope everyone has a good weekend, and I’ll let you know what happened with mine!