Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Grand Theft Auto 4 on Xbox 360

So, here's the latest Tardis in my life, GTA 4 which will consume any of my time left over from watching playoff hockey and the smooth running of my family and getting to work and stuff. The title is simply amazing. It's fun just to get out of your dingy Liberty City (New York) apartment and jog around the dirty neighborhood inhaling the sights, sounds, and smells (oh why oh why didn't the Creative labs smell blaster take off!) of the hyper realistic neighborhood. Heck, it's fun enough just to frig with the guy's cellphone!
You play Nico, fresh off the boat from Eastern Europe and trying to make his name in the seedy Liberty City underground. When your cousin picks you up you're treated to a blast of Vladivostok Radio (radio stations and music are such a big immersion factor in these games). I actually switch the radio station to that one now when I carjack in the game! It rocks! As usual if you carjack an elderly couple their radio will be tuned to Lawrence Welk, or a cabbie will be listening to Punjabi 105. It's such an easy way to add realism.
Not for the kiddies though. I scraped by a car downtown early on and the guy rolled down his window and screamed that he was going to "go to the bathroom" in my mouth. Gee. Remind me to be careful of that next time I'm in NYC (I mean Liberty City).
They have thought of pretty much everything in this game. If you manage to snag a police car, you get access to their state county municipal offender data system and you can look people up to find out their last know address etc. I can actually watch TV in my apartment (the Bas Rutten show is hilarious!). There are comedy clubs to take your date too and I have yet to see the same cheesy act twice! The RAGE engine they used is amazing and uses some new fangled technology to blur stuff at distance your brain doesn't care about so when you climb up really high and look around, the scenery seems to go on forever!

There's all kinds of realistic touches. One thing I noticed is how cars on the road swerve at the last minute to avoid killing you when you run out into traffic and throw your car door open to get in your car. There looks to be a fantastic "drunk" simulator that i've yet to play, but I've seen footage of it on the net. The voice acting is superb! My favorite character so far is the Jamacain guy, "Little Jon". It's weird. Yyou can hardly understand what he's saying half the time but about 10 seconds after he stops talking, it all makes sense. They added firing from cover in this one, so you can blind fire from doorways and such. You can aim from your car too, which is always fun. They came up with a free-aim mode where you hold the trigger down half-way and point whereever you want, combined with a full aim that selects the body and if you push the left stick up or down, will select the kneecaps/groin, or head or whatever specific body part you want (depending on what you're trying to do).

They have hit the ball out of the park on this one. I hear it's gonna do $400,000 in sales this week, which is like, more than folks spent on ticked for Spiderman 3 all summer when it was the biggest movie release in history. Check out this trailer. If it looks like the latest Hollywood blockbuster, it's because it kinda is. Times 100. In which you can decide how the plot goes. This is so far, the best video game ever written to date.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gatineau Park cave-man fridge.

How to build a cave-man fridge

1. You need to find some snow outside in summer. Good luck!

2. Carry it over in sufficient abundance to the place where you've decided to laze around(may require more than one trip)

3. Place warm beverages in a small pile

4. cover with supply of snow

5. Wait (climb fire tower)

6. Come-back. Remove chilled beverage from pile. Drink and be merry!

Luskville Falls April 2008

Last Monday August 21st we went up to Luskville falls in Gatineau Parc. I joined Kenmore, Trip and Grizz for the 3rd or 4th semi-annual trek and we climbed to the fire tower and did a few caches along the way (and GrizzlyG celebrated his 500th!)

There was still plenty of snow and the water was moving fast but we reached the top eventually without issue. As usual I packed way too much and was sucking oxegen the last few 100 m of elevation or so.

We climbed the Fire Tower as is our tradition, and I can add that, after my recent french training, I now know that the french sign on that thing says "Stupid english people, do not climb!". Unfortunately we only noticed after we had made our climb because the hole in the fence someone had cut was way on the other side.

On the way up we heard this strange sound of banging metal and Tripper said "What is that, a retarded woodpcker?"
And as it turns out.. it was! I snapped it's picture. It was pecking the metal struts looking for a snack. I don't think it was going well because he flew off try try some other big structure also not made out of wood.

We took a break at the Tower, broke out the refreshments and the guys made what I can only describe as a caveman fridge for their warm beverages(see following post.)

All in all a splendid day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why I love audio books.

I recently figured out why I love audio books so much. About 11 years ago, I was talking to one of my neighbors who was going on about some new John Grisham audiobook she was listening to and I thought.. "What? Audio book? I'm not blind, why the hell would I listen to a book?". I read books. I used to read a lot. I like it!
Fast forward to 2002. I'm getting laser eye surgery. Apparently I'm gonna be legally blind for 2 or 3 days, and even then I'm not going to be able to really see anything for a week. I went to the local library and checked out a wack of books on CD. One of them was a Stephen King novel I hadn't had the chance to read yet. So, I'm there at home with my little blue pills an my Stevie Wonder glasses, lying in bed and I played these things all day, for about 3 days. They were GREAT! They get these great voice actors who actually ACT the book out for you. It rocked! It was pretty cool, a bit slower than reading the thing but equally entertaining. The next big solo car trip I went on, break out the audio books! I started listening to them on the drive to and from work and a funny thing happened. If I'd see a traffic jam, I'd get all excited! I'd maybe get through two chapters stuck in traffic instead of one!


But I only realized this weekend after coming across a "scary" audio book why I feel such a sense of nostalgia when I listen to something like this. No it's not those old Disney 45 RPM records ("you'll know it's time to turn the page when Tinkerbell rings her little bell like this! - Dring!"). It was the country radio station CKBY, FM 105 or something, 11:00 PM on Monday nights. They would play old radio show horrors from the 60's until 11:30, usually two 15 minute ones. Sometimes a good 30 minute one. I would tune into these things every week on my new fangled clock radio because they'd creep me out! That's back when I used to share a room with my brother. He was always asleep before me, so it was never a problem.

If it was a particularly good one It'd keep me awake scared shitless until the wee hours of the morning and I'd go into school the next day like a zombie.

Ahh, those were the good old days.

Three cheers for audio books! Lately, I'd recommend any novels by Lee Child!

Friday, April 11, 2008

My director's retirement

My boss is retiring. I've been working for him or his division on and off since I've been here (1991). A heck of a long time. He was a great director, one of the best I've had. He'll be missed! At his good-bye luncheon the other day one of our AD's came over and asked if I wanted to say a few words, along with the other chiefs and unit heads. I said "Hell yeah!". After 10 minutes of thought it was my turn and I improvised on the true story of how I first met him when I was a co-op student. At that time I had no idea of the government hierarchy and was happily jawing away at him in the common computer area about the Beatles (he has a British accent) as people around us giggled to themselves. Later, I mentioned to my old boss at the time, "Who's that British fellow with the wild hair and glasses? He's cool!". My boss got worried.
"The british guy".
"Uhh, you didn't talk to him did you?" My boss started shaking his head.
"Yeah, I asked him about Bla Bla Bla and Bla Bla Bla...."
Silence from my boss.... He got out an org chart....

"That was the director. He is up here.. Here's you.." Pointing to an empty space on the bottom."
"But there's nothing there."

Har har Har! Ok, I got it. I had almost made my first career limiting move. Be careful who you talk to, speak unless spoken to. On the org chart, I am an amoeba. Gotcha!

However, I've since learned that being in the field of IT, we're expected to be "a little off.." and can get away with bloody murder! So at the luncheon I ended up doing an impression of him near the end. Tripper came over after and said sarcastically.
"It's not fair". You fuckin' IT guys.. You can get away with stuff like that and it doesn't stick to you..."

It's true.

I only wish I would have had another 10 minutes to think of funny stuff to say. As soon as I sat down I had thought of 3 or 4 other things that would have made everyone pee themselves(literally). Most of this has to do with the fact that I do not work on a day to day basis with my director. We only come together when stuff goes bad. And when it goes bad, it's usually funny.

I wish I would have told them about the time I was in the elevator at work, going up to my floor, and these two guys behind me are talking about my director. I hear one say:

"Did you hear what happened to (my director)?"
"Yeah. The court thing? Did he win?"

What was this? My director went to court? WTF? The elevator opened on my floor and I was going to play dumb to ride up to 15 with these guys and hear more but someone was getting on in the lobby and said hi to me and waited for me to get out. So I got out.

So what was this court thing? I can't go ask him, depending on what it is, he might not want to talk about it. So I went to the spot where every guy goes when he needs to find out about gossip - The CAN. There I ran into a colleague who had heard, and he filled me in.

"His dog was outside his house and supposedly bit another dog who was being walked. The other guy is taking him to court."
Oh.. That's not too bad.
"But the thing is, the dog that got bit is a seeing eye dog. The owner who is taking him to court is visually impaired."
This is like a Seinfeld episode.

"But.." I asked "How does he blind fellow know what happened?"
"I dunno." my colleague said.

So my director went to court to defend his dog's honor and won. The big thing I'll remember about him is his gift of speech. No one wants to go after him at a speaking engagement, for good reason. He's got a silver tongue. I may go into court against a blind fellow who is a witness to my dog assaulting his dog AND LOSE! , but it won't happen to my director(grin).

Cheers to him and his new found free time!