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Camping 2.0

August 12, 2010 2 comments

I just got back a few days ago after a full week camping (at Point Farms Provincial Park, on Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada – great site if you are interested).

camping 2010

It was more fun than this, really!

For me, camping is all about a tent, the odd tarp, and having to scrub the smell of wood smoke off you when you eventually get home. I don’t buy into using trailers, small or otherwise, if you’re not at least somewhat exposed to the elements, why bother? The main appeal is that it’s just you and the family, no TV, internet, or other distractions. A good chair or hammock, and a good book is also recommended – I got through 2000 pages last week, loved it! I read “Order In Chaos” (book 3 of the Templar Trilogy from Jack Whyte), and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (by Stieg Larsson), and highly recommend them both. Cards and board games by lantern, sitting around the camp fire, and days on the beach (well, beach for the women folk in the family, I just burn, so avoid beaches!)

camping 2010 camping 2010

Did I mention the S'Mores? Or the Beautiful Lake Huron sunsets - free with each site!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Les Stroud (Survivorman), or Bear Grylls either, but I do like my camping reasonably authentic. That’s why I read with some consternation recently, that Ontario Provincial Parks are looking to introduce WiFi to the campsites. In fact they are trialling it at The Pinery, near Grand Bend, not far from where I was in fact.

My wife works remotely now, so has her laptop and Blackberry, and she is on both constantly. I’m also on my iPhone ALL THE TIME. This was a week where we could not worry about those devices and really get away, with no temptation to go online, since there was no signal – neither her Blackberry (on Telus) or my iPhone (Rogers) got even a single bar 🙂 I’m a Twitterholic, and a big gamer, but I didn’t miss my Wii, Xbox, or PS3 for the week. The kids are big online addicts too, especially my older daughter, yet I don’t recall seeing her laid in the fetal position, twitching, with withdrawal from Facebook… I don’t think she even mentioned it. If your kids are bored while you are camping, you are doing it wrong!

The Provincial Parks are citing a loss of customers to private camp sites that offer free wireless service, specifically mentioning the KOA ones. Every time I see a KOA site they look like a bed episode of Top gear, with trailers parked in some field somewhere right next to each other – waiting for Richard Hammond to set them on fire! The Provincial Parks on Lake Huron are great, with spacious lots, many of them quite private, and easy access to fantastic beaches. Why do people need wireless?

camping 2010 camping 2010 camping 2010 camping 2010 camping 2010 camping 2010

A few more camping pics

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The Avatar Blues – Sex and the Single Alien

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

This blog brought to you by the letter ‘B’ and the colour ‘Blue’.

It’s been about a week since I picked up my copy of Avatar on Blu-ray, and a few related things have influenced this blog over the last week. I was not a huge fan of Avatar when it came out in the theater. It was a good movie, but way over-hyped in my opinion. It has to be said though, Avatar is stunning on Blu-ray. It looks and sounds amazing, and to top it off, the Blu-ray + DVD combo pack was only $20 at Best Buy! There are no special features though, and many people seem to be waiting for the special editions that will be coming out … and you know that there will be several of them, to cash in as much as possible.

Matriarch Benezia

Matriarch Benezia

One topic I have seen talked about at length is whether there will be any Na’vi sex scene in the special editions, or discussion of Na’vi sexuality. I don’t get the big deal. If you want some good blue alien sex, get Mass Effect! I just finished my 2nd play through of the game recently, and one thing I did finally figure out was getting the Paramour Achievement, which basically means you got to sleep with one of the female characters (or the male character if you play as a female). To make it more interesting, BioWare even created a little love triangle between the human characters and the Asari scientist, Liara, who is of course blue. Even Liara’s mother, Matriarch Benezia, gets the sexy blue treatment. She wears the dress shown above, revealing her true biotic, er, talents.

If you play the game right, you even get once scene where the two women confront you, forcing you to choose between them. Commander Shepard, with a glint in his eye, even asks about the chance of a threesome, but gets shot down by the human… the blue alien seemed up for it! Choose the Asari, disappointing Chief Ashley Williams in the process, and you will end up with a VERY steamy sex scene involving Shepard and Liara (well, steamy for a video game – see it below), complete with bare blue buttocks and a hint of much more!

Are You Embarrassed by Your Video Games?

April 17, 2010 2 comments

I have a long and inglorious gaming history. My Twitter profile states I am an “Avid (but useless) gamer”, which is pretty accurate.

Online games are pretty easy places for an old fart like me to get embarrassed, but I was pretty bad back in the days of my first multiplayer experiences – Hexen on the corporate LAN after hours. I did better playing the original Worms multiplayer, which is still one of the most fun online games ever.

Fast-forward a few years and Battlefield 1942 was the next online lowlight for me. Perhaps using a tag of ‘fragbait_newboy’ was asking for it. I spawned so often in that game I considered changing my tag to frogboy!

I’d like to think my online inabilities are due to age and declining reactions, so perhaps Microsoft need to take pity on folks like myself. Forget “Live”, let’s petition them to create a service just for us old folk, so we don’t have to put up with all those young kids with lightning fast thumbs.

Walrus
Walrus

Interactive gaming has perhaps the greatest potential for embarrassment, though. We have a Wii Fit Balance Board, which appraises your levels and makes your on-screen avatar, or Mii, look how it thinks you are. Wii Fit told me I was fat, and morphed my Wii into something resembling a Walrus.

Nintendo also has a vitality sensor now, designed to monitor you during physical activity. Some games can now use the sensor to detect your ‘fear’ level and back off on the scares. So not only does it insult you physically, the Wii is now capable of questioning your manhood!

We are now approaching a new era in embarrassing possibilities, though, with the advent of Project Natal from Microsoft. A recent demo of Natal was impressive mostly for the fact that the motion sensing system detected the gamer as female!!! How the hell does it do that? More importantly, will it detect my man-boobs and perform gender reassignment!

Batchelor Life – I Survived!

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Okay, so as any of you who follow me on Twitter know, my wife (Twitter: @Fi_ca) and kids have been in England for the past 10 days attending a wedding – so I was doing the batchelor thing.

Batchelor Haute Cuisine

batchelor haute cuisine

There were some tense moments, such as tuna helper, Timbits, and Pinot Grigiot for dinner one night (see, really!) but on the whole I fared okay. Granted, there were lots of frozen items being defrosted, and eating 120% of your recommended salt intake in one meal may not be too smart, especially after my last physical, but I did learn a few valuable lessons.

One: It is entirely possible to use only one plate, one pan, one cup, one water glass, one wine glass, and one set of cutlery for an entire week … and yes, I do mean by washing them each day!

Two: Teenagers produce more garbage per week than you will see in an entire level of Katamari. I just put out the garbage for the week and it is so much less than when they are here.

Three: Cats may seem all aloof and solitary, but I have been mobbed all week by ours. This isn’t helping the paranoia I have developed regarding their intentions (see previous blog). Either they are about to unleash their evil plan, or they miss the wife and kids… if you don’t see another blog after this one, you know what happened.

menage a trois

menage a trois

It wasn’t all good eats and no garbage though. I invited a buddy over last Friday night to watch a movie – my new copy of Goodfellas, the fancy Blu-ray 20th anniversary edition. The wedding was actually last Friday, so it was also an excuse not to drink a bottle of wine alone. If I admit that it ended with Menage A Trois would you be shocked? I was, who the hell names a red wine Menage A Trois? I now understand that movie “Sideways” a lot more, and it still sucked.

skillet sensations

skillet sensations

Anyway, I have survived, and I hope that all you old farts who can’t cook and get left alone for any length of time can take heart from my experience.

You can do it, and you can have fun while you do. Perhaps playing Mass Effect until 1am isn’t your thing – but then you probably wouldn’t be reading my blog if it wasn’t.

I did also complete my week in style, by actually having vegetables with my final meal alone. I can tell you are all proud of me. Okay, so it was out of a packet, one of those Skillet Sensation meals, but it was very nice.

My Version of Retro Gaming

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

While Scott Jones (@ScottCJones)  seems to have his own underground dealer for classic games, I’ve been doing my own version of retro gaming lately – which doesn’t involve ancient cartridges, but playing more recent games I missed the first time around.

At the moment I’m playing Mass Effect, Brutal Legend, Red Faction Guerrilla, Battlefield Bad Company, and Metal Gear Solid 4. With all the sequel games out recently, heading back and playing originals is a great way to get in the mood! I’m sure many have already played these, but for anyone who hasn’t you really should. Trading your newer games for old classics is a great way to expand your game play experience.

Mass Effect 2 is one of the most anticipated games of 2010, and for once what you did in the original makes real differences in how the sequel plays out for you – so don’t trash your original game saves. I am loving Mass Effect, but after 18 hours of gameplay I feel like I have spent about half of that in elevators. For a game that features faster than light travel, it has the slowest elevators in history … but the (hopefully) intentionally cheesy elevator music almost makes up for it. The elevators are also a source of side-missions, through news reports on the radio station playing.

Brutal Legend is not that old, but is a game that I totally ignored first time around. This is a game you have to play, it is riotously funny in places, and I guess that is to be expected with Jack Black as the lead character. How can you go wrong in an open world game with Jack Black, head bangers, tons of collectibles, great music, and numerous homages to heavy metal greats – the game even features Ozzy as the Guardian of Metal, among other cameos. I was a bit worried going into this, as I am not a real fan of heavy metal, but you will get a new appreciation for it from this game, and I am now routinely listening to Ozzy , Black Sabbath and other real metal. I say ‘real’, as the whole game revolves around the true metal proponents fighting the evil ‘hair metal’ bad guys. This game is a must play, especially if you experienced the 80’s 😀

Red Faction Guerrilla and Battlefield Bad Company are more run of the mill console fare, but are both very good. Red Faction has some great missions, lots of replay value, and features a rich online experience. Bad Company is a great addition to the Battlefield franchise, with a more tongue-in-cheek approach, but still offering a great shooter experience. Either will satisfy hard-core shooter fans.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is a PS3 classic, and a big departure from Red Faction and Bad Company. Snake utilizes stealth more than gunplay, and it offers a really different gameplay experience, and a very deep storyline. Don’t skip this one just because it isn’t a classic style shooter, put some time into it and you won’t be disappointed.

Now, I need to figure out what gems I can unearth when I trade Modern Warfare 2 and Assassins Creed 2. Any suggestions?

iPhone App Review – Puzzle Games

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I have had my iPhone for quite a while now, several weeks anyway, and while I am somewhat addicted to Twitter apps, I probably have more puzzle games than anything else. These are my favourites, I’d love to hear what you recommend!

Peggle and Bejeweled are PC royalty, and both have excellent iPhone versions. The two can be purchased for a combined $5 CAD – which on a scale of value relative to price, is as close to infinity as you can get! You simply can’t go wrong purchasing these games, and you will devote hours to them. Bookworm, another PC great, is only $3 at the app store, and may be my next purchase.

Boxed In, and the sequel, are $1 games, but the developer recently had a special deal where the games were offered free, all they asked was for you to take that purchase price and donate it to Haiti. Great gesture, and great puzzle games. Another great, and cheap, puzzle game is Cassiopeia. It’s sort of a reverse Minesweeper, and for $1 is a great logic puzzle. My final $1 value game is Relix, another well executed logic puzzle that will give back far more than the $1 it costs.

You don’t always get what you pay for, and these free games are proof of that. You would have to be under a rock not to know about Sudoku puzzles, and the version from publisher Mighty Mighty Good Games is a good one. The free version of Word Warp is a very good Text Twister clone, and you can’t argue for the price. The full version of Word Warp is only a $1, if you like the free one.

The big omission is likely Tetris, but I’m cheap, and it’s $5 – I can’t justify that when I look at the value you can get for same $5 elsewhere. I also just found Alchemize, which is free right now (normally $3), which is a very neat take on a Tetris style game – definitely worth it for free.

I have only included games I have downloaded and paid for myself, or that were free, so If you have any suggestions for great puzzlers I haven’t tried, please leave me a comment.

The (Video Game) Worlds Worst Vacation Spots

January 25, 2010 4 comments

With crappy weather dominating this January, the mind starts wandering to getting away from it all – but be careful where you decide to vacation. Hopefully this guide will help you to avoid those spots that will ruin your trip, assuming time and space are no impediment. You won’t find many of these locations on SellOffVacations, but what the hey!

We’ll start with the kids. If you’re in the deep south, be sure to avoid Whispering Oaks Amusement Park. Although the ride lines will be short, there are health risks – above and beyond those generally posed by deep fried food and collateral damage from civil war re-enactments. You might find the odd garden gnome, but don’t assume that means this place is Travelocity recommended!

Pandora might look like a beautiful vacation spot, but there are reports of unrest from the indigenous inhabitants. Reports also suggest that James Cameron is considering buying the whole planet as a second home – and I don’t know anyone who could stand a full week of Cameron talking incessantly about his latest project.

If adventure holidays are more your style, you could be considering a Himalayan odyssey… Don’t. A Mr. Sullivan from Uncharted 2-ers was recently arrested for fraud after bilking several groups of tourists out of monies paid in advance for guided mountain tours. His associates are still at large.

If urban decay is okay with you, you may be considering City 17, Jacinto, or Karachi. Even google maps won’t help you if you book your trip to Karachi with Infinity Ward Travel. The locals won’t be much help either, since all the street signs are in Arabic, and they speak English or Urdu. City 17 is no better, and Jacinto – well, unless you’re into bugs & worms, or want to try out the seismograph app on your iPhone, give it a miss.

With renewed interest in Renaissance Italy of late, package tours to Florence & Venice are very popular. Beware though, pickpockets are rife, and an increased crime rate means you will be lucky not too see the odd dead body. The chances are that someone in your party will also be hurt by falling archers!

The best idea is to just stay at home and play more games!

Suggestions for additional locations are welcome, just leave a comment. Also, any places you WOULD like to go on vacation from the video game world?