Thursday, April 20, 2006

Read 'em and weep, kids

Gas prices across the street from work. Even the super-cheap no-name gas place on La Brea along my commute is at $2.99 9/10 as of last night.

It's going to get worse, we're not even in "summer driving season" yet.

Oh, and look at the diesel price, and remember that almost everything you buy is transported to the store by tractor-trailer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Help Catch a Vicious Assault Perp

Do you know, or have you seen this man? His name is William Hamlet Hunt, and goes by Will.

This guy is wanted by the police for an assault on a young woman, who is a friend of friends of mine, in New Orleans, Lousiana.

Info from her myspace blog (you can see what the guy did to her, not pretty):
"I filed a police report and there is currently a warrant out for his arrest. He led the cops on a 3 hour wild goose chase Saturday morning and is rumored to have fled the LA border back to Alabama (he's from Mountain Brook, near Birmingham) - which if that's the case, it then becomes a federal offense and the FBI get involved. If you have ANY information on his whereabouts, call the NOLA PD immediately at (504) 658-6080... thanks in advance!"
Let's find this bastard, huh? Please spread the word!!!

Can you imagine that, assaulting someone at a large public gathering where lots of people know you, and you have pics of yourself and information up on MySpace? What a complete dumbass. If you know anyone in that area, and I'm pretty sure some of you do, please tell them about this ASAP.

Thanks everyone! We regular folks can actually help catch jerks like this, if we cooperate.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Reason #437 to Love Teh Intar-Wubs:

E-filed my taxes last night, did them using TurboTax. Yes there are some fees, but tell me the worth of "peace of mind because my taxes are done, sent in, and paid automatically." eh?

Since previous to this year I've been paying a professional accountant (who was also handling some of my home business stuff) to do my taxes - to the tune of around $400 per year - throwing down $80 for TurboTax (I need the "premier" version because of the home business, you can probably use the regular version which is $50) and another $50 in e-filing fees is well, well worth it.

I would have sent it all in a couple months ago when I first ran them thru TurboTax, but it turns out I owed a bit to both the Fed and California, so of course I left the money in the bank until the last minute. Why pay them early when I'm earning interest?? Did you know that getting a tax refund - something pretty much everyone seems to celebrate - isn't really a smart thing financially? When you do that, you're giving the government a loan at no interest. It's better to adjust your withholding so that you pay in a bit less or have to pay in a small amount every year. That way, you actually keep your own money, and you can put it in the bank to earn interest instead of letting the Feds play with it all year.

Anyway so taxes are done and I don't have to worry. TurboTax is teh awesumz0r! I've probably blathered that I use Quicken to handle my finances, so that makes it even easier, since TT just grabs the info from Quicken. No figuring, no calculator, no pencil. TT just walks you through and asks you questions. Took me about an hour to do it all, I guess. Sometimes computers really do make life a lot easier.

Meanwhile, been a busy week. The Girlfriend is settling into her new apartment, slowly but surely. It's been pretty unsettling for her to make this move, but the more her place looks like a home the happier she is. Just a few more boxes to unpack and all will be as it should be.

This weekend we are driving up north to her parents's place again. I got tomorrow (Friday) off from work and we're starting the trip very early tomorrow morning. We want to get out of the LA area before rush hour starts, and unfortunately it's supposed to rain the whole way up, so leaving extra time is a good idea.

My boss says I will indeed be getting credit for my work on the Pirates game - I should hope so, I did more than 50 pieces for it! Many of them will be showing up in the unlockable bonus material, though I don't know if any of us will be credited on each individual piece. Whatever, I'm just really happy about that, it's freaky to think that hey, you can play this game and see some of my art! Nice to put on the resume, oh yes.

Guess that's about it. I have some storyboards to do today, and then I start painting another character for The Other Game. Off we go...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Alllllll Righty Then...

As usual, I've been too quiet, so let's start off with all the good news.

First, I got my annual review at work, and it went very well. My boss and his boss (aka THE boss) are very happy with my performance, and they have shown their appreciation by giving me a very nice raise. You may recall that I took a not-insubstantial pay cut when I switched jobs; this raise erases that entirely and adds an equal amount on top.

I really couldn't be happier... it feels great to be rewarded for hard work, especially doing something that I really love to do. I am extremely grateful for all of this. It was definitely worth the hard times of the recent past. I'm just going to keep working hard here and trying to get better at what I do and keep contributing as much as I can to our games. :)

And of course the financial boost is most welcome. The past year has been a bit tight and I had to put a few things on the plastic that I wouldn't have the year before (like San Diego Con and my trip to NJ), and I had to cut back on a few expenses. Re-achieving (and exceeding) my previous income will allow me to pay all that off, put a lot more in the savings account, and have a bit more fun here and there. There's a couple of toys I've put off buying - you'll see in this week's comic - that I can afford to pay cash for now. I try very hard not to put anything like that on credit.

In other good news, I can talk about the "major event" I've been alluding to for a few previous posts. What happened is that The Girlfriend has moved into my building, to an apartment largely identical to mine, though downstairs one floor. In addition to putting us much closer together, it puts her closer to work, cutting her commute distance roughly in half - she gets as unhappy about traffic as I do, if not more, so that's a good thing. :)

So over the last couple of weeks she packed everything up in boxes, and I shuttled back and forth from her place with the Golden Chariot, bringing loads of these boxes and other stuff to my apartment, in order to make the actual Move Out Day (last Saturday) a lot easier and smoother. It worked very well! She had many friends with trucks and SUVs come over to help out, and we were able to get everything that was left - mostly furniture and her refrigerator - moved over in two trips. Much easier than trying to move everything in one day, definitely. We followed it up by rewarding the many friends with beer and pizza and a showing of Treasure Planet at my place (that movie is really good, it was so ridiculously under-rated and non-promoted. It's well worth buying if you dig animation, like Iron Giant).

This is new to me, really, I've never had a girlfriend living in the same building, right down the hall. We both agree that we're not quite ready to move in together, but the logistical problems of even the relatively short 10 miles between us were really very inconvenient and also costly with all the driving. Now we are based at the same place, but we have our own separate spaces. I think it will work really well. Last night she came upstairs and cooked us yummy dinner (she even washed all the dishes!! *boggle*), and then we watched this season's first episode of The Sopranos on HBO On Demand (that SO rocks!) - a nice normal night at home for a couple, right? Note that I'm really not used to such things. And this morning, since it's raining here, I rode with her to work rather than taking the bike. We work only a couple miles apart and both work 10-hour days, so that's perfect (though I have to get up earlier, oh well).

I'm happy about this too, I really like the arrangement, there are just so many advantages for both of us and not really any downside for me - although it's been something of a dislocation for her. I hope she will also find no downside to it. I think it's going to be really excellent. :)

So, back to a more normal sort of schedule now, after all the moving activity. The comic will be up on time this week, I've already penciled it and will start inking tonight. I also have to do some bills and financial stuff and we'd like to watch the next Sopranos maybe so might not finish inking tonight, but I'll definitely get it done tomorrow night.

At work, The Game is really winding down for me, I'm down to a few pieces for the unlockable bonus art and some sets of storyboards for a few cutscenes that still need to be done. There is a playable version of the entire game, though of course it still needs a lot of work "mechanics-wise," but the all the art for characters and levels are pretty much nailed down and they really look great. We had a major pitch that we did last week, and happily one of the pitches we did last month is coming back for more work, with lots of interest from several publishers, which is awesome. It is the goal of every game company to create an original game and get it published - it's what really makes a company into the "Real Thing" in the business, if the game kicks ass. And of course it will, because we already work incredibly hard and apply all the talent we can muster to make our games the best they can be. Given that much more inspiration, we will totally kill. I'm certainly going to redouble my own efforts, given that the company has treated me so well and the job is so fun.

Other than that...? Hm. Well, that's all the news that's personally important to me, I guess. Of course I'm watching the indictment parade in Washington DC with a great deal of interest, with the Tom DeLay being the latest victim, and about time too. There's plenty more where that came from! Also I'm watching the housing bubble starting to implode, while also monitoring what looks like the peak of oil production happening right before our eyes. Regular gasoline here in LA is just below 3.00/gallon now - you can see that most stations are trying to keep 87 octane under that magic number, although all of them are up around $3.25 for premium.

This is not a momentary increase, though of course the price fluctuates for many reasons; if you think it's just a blip, remember that in 2002, I was getting regular gas here in LA for $1.65 a gallon or so. The price has doubled at least in 4 years, and hasn't gone below $2.00 for at least two years now. Trust me when I say it will continue, and everyone should start figuring out how to deal with it. Can you get by with $4.00/gallon gas? $5.00? More? I'm dealing with it by riding the motorcycle, mostly, and at some point if all goes well The Girlfriend and I will try to move to a place on the west side, much closer to both our jobs. It would be great to walk or bicycle to work, or even take the bus if the ride is short enough! Sadly, there will come a point where gas is too expensive for me to keep the Camaro, and then I will have to try to sell it. Hopefully there will still be folks out there who want a collector muscle car by then...

But I'm not going to rant about this much here, even though it's a big deal to me. There are plenty of other places where you can read people ranting about it, and do your own research. So please do! :) Cuz the times, they are a-chaaaangin'...