Sunday, February 21, 2010

Remember that poll?

When I was at the somewhat awkward age of 15, I began to realize that it was really time that I needed to get my life together and make something out of it (I was a bit of a serious thinker early on, ergo the awkwardness). My dreams of being a professional NHL player for the greatest team ever (the New York Rangers) were dying. The hockey team I played on had one too many unfinished games due to fighting, sorting out penalties, forfeiting due to fighting, etc. And although I had planned to fall back on baseball, the New York Yankees figured out that my league record for most walks didn't prove anything in a league where noone can pitch:

Gee Whiz George W. (G.W.G.W.), can`t you throw me one down the middle?

So, dreams shattered... what to do? Clearly, the answer is:


Seems realistic, no? I figured I needed to learn how to play something so I called up Dave at my church who played drums and asked him to give me some lessons. Here he is shown below in all his glory and fame with his band Sand (Dave not actually shown below):

My elusive drum teacher Dave (hiding behind Lux). Note the print-o for the BAnD name.

Aside from Dave, I had a few other inspirations that led me to play drums (click the link too please):

I guess that is it really. Well, maybe Buddy Rich too. To be honest, I hardly listened to music before I started playing, except for Beethoven`s 9th that I had on cassette. I eventually bought my own drum set, a rare (in those days) black and gold sparkle Pearl Export kit:

Oh how I miss your out of round shells, long lugs and tight tension rods!

That kit was a nightmare to tune, but it made noise, so who cared? It served me well for a number of years, when I played with such stellar multi-platinum acts such as Score (opened for Treble Charger), Ice Horse, Kurmudgeon, Dyl-Funk and the Fubar Band and two other bands that even I must admit I can`t remember the names of! It helped that I was one of a very few number of drummers in high school.

I eventually fought my way closer to my dream and got to play in a band in which actually wasn`t any of the following: Creed rip-off, school music class project, trendy ska band, Korn cover band (I still maintain that I never liked Korn), or church band (not that there is anything wrong with that, but as a drummer and depending on the church, it can be essentially like playing covers of adult contemporary or easy-listening... `nuff said). Also, I got a new kit:

Yamaha Birch Custom, fusion sizes. Safe-T-Salt and old mattress not included. Sounds awesome.

So, with my new band, my parents and many friends couldn`t understand the words, i still like it though (note I have learned from my drum teacher, hide behind the singer so you can deny you were ever in the band). Yes, that`s right, one of "those" bands:

A poster we made. Can you believe people actually bought it? Also, apostrophes are for sissies.

Ah, the memories. Well it was a good time, we played around 70 shows within two years. Some good, some bad. Did a one-week tour in Quebec and another around Ontario. Got to open for some now-bigger bands like illScarlett and Attack in Black. We also recorded a not-great sounding album with 14 songs. I stand by the songs, I think some were really well written, but our "record label" and "producer" really botched the recording job. Oh well, it didn`t really cost us anything though anyways.

I hope to one day soon be playing some more music, hopefully metal, cause everything else is boring. There, I said it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

LAN Parties!

After years of wrestling with trying to figure out who I am, I have become ok with the nagging feeling (and of which may be obvious to most of the world around me): that I am a nerd.

So really, why fight it? I like LAN parties. There, I said it. Yes, that is pretty much the next level up from my obsession with nerdy board games such as Risk (I still think it is a good game regardless). The games I once ridiculed and talked against, I actually now enjoy.

Any good nerd will tell you the keys to a LAN party are laptops (check), wi-fi (check), and a multiplayer game usually with an elaborate fantasy-like backstory that references a greatest story ever told (LOTR) or something way way way into the future. Also, being a nerd (check).

Lately here is one I have been rockin':

You wish you were this cool. At least I don't do LIGHTNING BOLT! in real life (or the remix)

Some might say it is a slippery slope, maybe I will be LARP'ing in a years time. Probably not. But really, what is the difference with any board game? We're just doing it via PC.

Whatever, I enjoy it. Perhaps I can call it a guilty pleasure, but I'm not really feeling guilty about it anymore. Some days, all you want to do is just kick back as such:

My idea of a good time.

So, who wants to play?

The more the merrier.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My new hobby

Well, maybe it's more of a habit. An enjoyable, intentional one. I couldn't really get another real hobby, i have way too many of those that i've been sort of putting on hold until all the wedding plans are done.

Anyways: my new favourite hobby is whistling badly to songs being played in public places. The looks you get are gold. I recently decided to do this after hearing terrible "whistle-alongs" by others in the grocery store. I was annoyed, so I thought I'd like to try and understand that person's perspective.

I like to whistle along somewhat in tune but go off in a few places. That's about it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Out of a job yet? Keep grinding my gears.

Though I for one am not a huge fan of bitter rants, unless it involves ranting and raving over some bitter, I must take pause and share my rage:

Ok. Now there is a lot to this sticker that must be unpacked. The history of it: this sticker came from American Auto Worker Unions, who were trying to fight the increasing amounts of import vehicles being sold in the US, creating a risk to their very own jobs. Can I blame them? The answer is... somewhat. Well, maybe they have a point, but I'll talk more on that later. But you know who I can blame for adopting this sticker? Canadians. Yes, that's right. Somehow, many of my fellow Canadians have also adopted this sticker on their "domestic" vehicles (read: American brands, GM, Chrysler, Ford), as I'm sure many of you have seen.

The irony seems to have escaped these folks. Let me for one second, suggest to my country bumpkin Ontario hillbillies, that perhaps the US, is... (gasp) a foreign country!??! OMG-ROFL-BBQ-DVDROM-WTF!!!!!! Earth-shattering, I know. A short geography lesson:

That's right ladies and gentlemen. When you live in Canada and buy a car, whether you like it or not, you are buying foreign!! Now, I know I will hear the argument, "Well, some of these cars are made in Canada, you know".

Let me also propose a few more points of contention:

1. For every $1 someone has given to GM in the form of a purchase, GM has managed to lose $1.10. Supporting a flawed business model is bound to create more jobs, right!!?!

2. I will not argue that any car made in Canada provides jobs for Canada. But there are also manufacturing plants for Toyota and Honda here. What's the difference then there?

3. Since there is no Canadian-owned car company, the car companies have no vested interest in Canada, aside from workers, when they need them. The profits always go to the corporate headquarters after wages are paid, and even if the government provides assistantce, they decide where the money goes (read: US coffers).

Alas, cars I have observed recently with said sticker (all of these cars had Ontario plates):

1. Pontiac Vibe

Assembled in California, USA

I own this car, it's a good vehicle. But I do not own the sticker. However, I saw one with it. The funny thing about this vehicle, is that the design was a joint venture between GM and Toyota through this group called NUMMI. If you pop the hood, you will see Toyota parts in the Pontiac Vibe. Anywho, even more ironic, the Matrix (Toyota version of the Vibe) is made in Cambridge, ON. I wonder what that person would think to know that buying a Matrix would have actually been less foreign.

2. Chevrolet Cavalier

Assembled in Ohio or Michigan, USA or Mexico.

A very popular car with the student-types. Not much to say here, but if the car I saw with this aforementioned sticker was built in Mexico...well... then it shouldn't be any different to your Canadian self than one that was built in the US of A.

3. Buick LeSabre

Assembled in Michigan, USA

It certainly looks American. 3.8L of raw V6 power. But maybe you knew that anyways? The reasoning behind your sticker is still fundamentally flawed.

4. Ford Ranger

Assembled in Kentucky, USA

Who knew? You know, you could have bought a Toyota truck from the Woodstock plant. Then you could be supporting a local Canadian economy rather than a racist one. Yes, I went there.

The funny part about this exercise is that before I wrote this post, I wanted to write about all four of the vehicles I have recently seen, and if one was Canadian-made, I would mention it, but still make my point that it really isn't Canadian anyways. It's funny how I didn't need to do so.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

And the winner is...

My past couple weeks have been filled with birthday shenanigans, the never-ending punishment of school work and the drudgery of "life in the real world" career malarky, and perhaps even a pinch of laziness. As such, I have finally updated my #1 game of EVER, which many of you have surmised to be the great and glorious RISK.

Why do I love RISK?

Because the chemical reactions occuring within the organic matter that is my body tells me so. But in all seriousness, it abounds with strategy, but also elegant simplicity. No game ends the same! (correction: if you finish it, it does).

I have some good memories sitting around this game and trying to conquer the world back in the day with some friends in high school. Somehow though, it always seemed that no matter how we placed our armies, my good friend Andrew Douglas and I would try to annihalate each other within the first few turns and bemoan our pitiful armies as any number of another one of our friends would swoop in and destroy us all.

Popular RISK strategies:
  1. The "Australian Empire" Strategy - I could go into laborious detail about how such a real world strategy would not work, but I digress. There always seems to be heavy fighting to capture the so-called "crown jewels" of the board: Australia. By holding this continent, you gain bonus armies, albeit smaller than the others, but there is only one border to protect. Typically there involves some early conflict in the game to see who can hold this one.
  2. The "I can't get Australia so I'll go for the next continent with less borders" Strategy - Typically adopted by myself, a player will go for South America then either Africa or North America and attempt to fortify the continent to collect bonus armies.
  3. The "I've never played before and have gone for Asia" Strategy - A rookie mistake. Sure, you get seven extra armies, but who can hold Asia?
  4. The "My armies are decimated so I'm moving my two dudes so far away you'll never catch me" Strategy - The last game I played this worked for me. I was able to make people feel sorry enough for me and not worry that by the time I turned in I managed to win the game.
  5. The "I don't care if we both die, this is a principle thing, cause I don't like the way you play this game" Strategy - Typically involved in going after Australia, or when some friend of yours places their armies right beside yours at the beginning of the game.
Any more I missed?

RISK in popular culture:

Eddie Izzard - perhaps WWII would have been different...

LOST - excellent commentary on one of the foundational strategies

Seinfeld - why you shouldn't bother with trying to take Europe

Variants of RISK:

RISK 2210
- Attack from the moon!

Lord Of The Rings RISK
- The greatest story ever told combined with the greatest game ever made = a slightly ok game. Where did Mordor go!?!?!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What I Should Not Talk About In My Blog: Vol. 1: Board Games

The results are in! As a consequence of my recent poll What Should I Not Talk About In My Blog?, I have decided to talk about each of the options, aside from the winner (loser?) here on in. My readers would much rather hear of LAN parties and Electrical Engineering theories than stock exchanges: well, my wish is your command! You only have yourself to blame!

Apparently my readers may have been burned by financial markets

First off in my series: Board Games

Not all board games are created equal (shouts out to Andrew Dougherty)

Compiled here are quick reviews of ten selected board games, least favourite to favourite:

10. Checkers
I am of the opinion that any game that can be solved beforehand is not worth playing (i.e. tic-tac-toe, not even worth a review).

That being said, how is it that I always lose in checkers?!? Call me a sore loser, call me what you will. I blame it on fate. Not enough strategy, not enough excitement. The one thing that would make this game better is if they kept the original name: English Draughts (and if it were accompanied by such BEvERageS).

Rating: F

9. Jenga
You take a block from the middle and you put it on the top, you take a block from the bottom and you put it on the top. Ok, I'm not totally a hater. The catch phrase lives up to its name.

Pros: The practical application of scientific principles
Cons: The impending doom

It's ok, but it doesn't get me excited - there's better games out there. And are these really the building principles we want to be teaching our future engineers and architects? I never want to be in a building made by someone who likes this game.

Rating: D+

8. Cranium

A pretty great team-focussed game with some fun variety, and use of creative skills. Always better with more players. Hard to play with less people.

If you wind up with the Canadian version, good luck answering any of the Data Head questions. Seems our history and famous people just aren't historic or famous enough. My favourites include excusing myself for misinterpretations of what my clay sculpture was supposed to be and drawing with my eyes closed.

Rating: B-

7. Sorry
I'm not sorry to say (har har) that this is actually a great game. Although you might argue that it is predetermined by the cards (as in #10) you are dead wrong. Some cards you can choose what to do with, and boy, can this game turn around fast! There is also something strangely satisfying about hitting the board really fast with your pawn on all the squares as you count.

Pros: Not a lot of strategy
Cons: Never knowing who is going to win until the very end

Rating: B-

6. Apples to Apples
Good game: minimal setup, can accomodate lots of players and a sure-fire way to induce laughter. You can use a card in your hand (usually a noun) to match a card drawn by the dealer (usually an adjective), who then chooses the winner. The result is a mix of sketchy and hilarious comparisons. The part I really enjoy about this is being able to play towards the dealers preferences, and also learning more about their sense of humour (or lack thereof).

Hours of entertainment, and difficult to run out of combinations.

Rating: B

5. Scrabble
Sometimes the classics never go out of style. I for one am I big fan of word games.

Pros: Oozing with strategic options
Cons: Playing with people who can't make decisions. Those smarmy people who know all the two letter words. Also, trying to spell words with K J Q Z X V P, come on!

Rating: B

4. Axis and Allies

Also known as Risk on Crack, this game simulates World War II, in which you play asa a superpower with your allies to achieve domination.

I have many great memories of playing this game, however, much of that time was occupied with setting up the board. This game takes forever to set up! The end result is worth it though. My housemates and I once attempted to solve this problem by setting up a war room in the house ("ze bunker!"). However, like the game, we started but never finished.

Rating: B+

3. Chess

Speaking of classics, Chess is king (yesss!). I was once part of the chess club, and believe it or not, that made me cool. Take that, school sports teams.

I'm a bit of a strategy buff, but this is the ultimate. Having all sorts of opening moves, strategies for different parts of the game, different pieces, and different outcomes is what makes this game classic. The neat thing about this game is the ability to develop one's own 'style'. My only complaint is how long it can take to play.

Rating: A-

2. Settlers of Catan

Incredible. And frustrating at the same time. Trade resources and build cities, settlements, armies, and roads. Many different ways to win, many different things to do, expansion packs for different types of play and an all around good time. One thing that some single player games lack is some sort of interaction factor between players aside from responding to another player's moves. The whole aspect of trading resources in this game really helps that out.

However, player interaction is a two-edged sword. I have never witnessed more fighting in my life from a board game! This game tears friends and family apart, otherwise I would give it full marks!

I will never forget one weekend a few years back when I went to a campus group retreat, which a bunch of us instead dubbed "Settlers Weekend". Completely out of control, haha.

Rating: A

1. I will save the winner for next blog post, since this one won't do it justice!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nope, still not summer yet. Put your pants back on.

So with the start of March, comes the start of the inevitable and yearly tradition of spotting people wearing summer clothes way too early:

Unless you are leaving for Hawaii, it's too soon.

Did your mother not tell you how to dress? Or is there some sort of sensory malfunction existing between your frozen skin and the grey matter between your ears? Oh wait, I get it, if the snow is melting, then it must be summer, right?

You know the type I'm talking about... maybe not exactly like this fellow above: typically preppy white males... with popped collars... who like to work out to Nickelback and drink Molson Canadian between their basket weaving and philosophy classes... at the University that their mom and dad has paid for. But you can't rule out many others. People get antsy this time of year.

Granted, I understand the anticipation of warmer weather, but I don't appreciate the burden on our healthcare system from this sort of self-destructive behaviour. If you get sick, you are asking for it. If you are cold, stop complaining and put your pants back on.