Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You're Hired! Not.

I lol'd at this:

The advert:

World of Tanks team is looking for English proofreaders.

The essential requirements:

1. Being native English speaker is absolutely a must.
2. Proofreading skills/experience, knowledge of GUI, web content.
3. Accuracy, attention to detail.
4. Good knowledge of World of Tanks terminology.

The first response:

Is this a job as in get payed or a job like a moderator?
In keeping with the requirements I guess I should say: I laughed out loud at the response because of the irony involved.

Other funnies....

My favorite.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Swear My Dog Ate It!

Last year at around this time my dog ate the Christmas cake (full of yummy brandy) and since then we have been very careful about leaving food where he can get it. The plastic bin in which we keep the dogs' food has been relocated to the basement, secure behind not one, but two door. Multiple near-break-ins has meant we've had to replace the lid twice before getting smart and moving it completely. The basement move was promted by the fact the spare room in which the food was previously kept seemed to be less-than-impervious to their combined wit and/or might.

That same room was the recent storage area for a few gifts sent from She Who Will Be Named Later's folks from jolly 'ole Wales. I basically get the same thing every year, which is fine by me, and what this means of course, is that I won't be getting the food-based items as this afternoon the dogs broke in. After a panicky call to the vet to ensure chocolate toxicity wasn't imminent I now have to update the list of things that my dog has eaten to include a half bar of 46% chocolate (from Lidl) and 48 Jaffa Cakes.

The real victim here is She Who Will Be Named Later who has been dying for a Jaffa Cake for over a year now.

Reconstructing the crime scene (like an episode of CSI: Canine) it appears the puppy helped in the eating of the Jaffa Cakes (and a sock which was still, half-eaten, in her bed) but I'm adding it all to his list as I know he was the ring-leader in all this.

1. A plastic bag.
2. A dead pigeon (swallowed whole, with feathers) off the road.
3. The same dead pigeon, off the same road, seconds after he regurgitated it.
4. An entire raw pheasant meant for Christmas dinner.
5. One pound of butter, foil included.
6. Ibid, separate occasion.
7. Own faeces following consumption of butter, above.
8. Butter and most of a plastic container, separate occasion.
9. Human faeces encountered in woods on walk (thank you Travellers).
10. Ibid, different woods.
11. 7kg bag dog food (partial).
12. Mouldy loaves of bread thrown on beach for gulls.
13. Perfectly good loaves of bread taken from counter.
14. Human vomit, sidewalk outside pub.
15. Bird food, fallen from feeder in yard.
16. Cat food, unguarded, while visiting family.
17. Mouldy bones in yard buried by previous dog the summer before.
18. 15kg bag, dog food (partial).
19. Plastic lid (partial) off garbage can.
20. Chicken carcass (entire) from garbage can, above.
21. Christmas Cake (documented here).
22. 48 Jaffa Cakes.
23. Half Bar, JD Grossman 46% Chocolate.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Robert The Ravaged

A belated picture of my long (six days) lost loach, back from the dead, and looking terrible. He's on the mend now, but still infected.

Clown Loach Infested with Ich. He hid for 6 days and is a bit emaciated as well. Hang in there Robert!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fortuitous Fridays: Robert the Ravaged

Another abysmal attack of alliteration? Yes, yes indeed.

So it's Friday, once again, and to be honest it couldn't come fast enough this week. Due to a slight problem with my last paycheck (I spent it all) money has been tight this week. Also complicating matters is that She Who Will Be Named Later decided to re-arrange the front of our Nissan by slamming it against the rear-end of someone elses car. This means (among other things) she was unable to leave town to teach horsie lessons to overprivlidged, outer-city youth and so, funds have suffered further.

No one was hurt, thankfully, and the vehicle can be repaired, so the whole incident has been downgraded from 'disaster' to 'inconvenience' in life's scale of unexpected happenings. The tightening of the proverbial belts has made the week seem longer because of the fact that I haven't been able to buy any alcohol. None. Not a drop has passed my lips (except for a swig from the vodka I keep in the back of the toilet cistern) in days. Like a recently neutered dog, I have been wandering around, listless and bored, wondering: "Where's my testicles?". Testicles, in this case, of course, being booze.

I realize that saying that may make me look like an alcoholic but I assure you it's only because I am. A high-functioning, job-holding, responsible one, but one none-the-less. I assume everyone is a social alcoholic (except for real alcoholics who are just alcoholics) so I have no problem with it. I have, in the course of my life, given up many addictions (smoking, not, like heroin, or sex with chickens, or sex with chickens while on heroin) and vices (compulsive, not really), so it will be a cold, cold day in hell before you can pry the (empty) bottle of booze from my lifeless fingers. As Winston Churchill said:

I have before me an ordeal of the most grievous kind. I have had many, many long days of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is my policy? I will say: It is to drink, by sea, land, and air, with all my might and with all the booze that God can give me... You ask, what is my aim? I can answer in one word: Intoxication.
I will then, be cracking open the piggy banks and buying the finest (cheapest) wine that I can and enjoying a glass or two this evening whilst living the true American Dream: shooting Russian's (on the WoT test server 7.1 which is now out). There is only so much one man can take and if I have to seek comfort from the wisdoms of the monks from Buckfast be it.

It's as classy as this picture makes it out to be

I posted last week about the Ich infestation in my loach tank (which only infected the loaches, ironically enough) and how I was down to a single loach (George) who had been stuck in the handle of an ornament for days. That very day, after coming home from The Flour Mill, I encountered a bad-news-good-news type situation. It had been a few days since the last fish died and none of the others showed any signs of the dreaded Ich. I was ready to proclaim my victory over this terrible parasite! I pumped my four-coated fist in the air, triumphant and smug.

And then he appeared. I actually stared in disbelief and at first thought that it was a reflection off the glass from George, but no. It was Robert the Ragged, a second clown loach, swimming about. I have no idea where he had hidden, but he disappeared 6 days previously. I was convinced he was dead and spent a considerable amount of time pulling my tank apart and trolling the sand for his body for fear it would pollute the water. Nothing. He had vanished.

He wasn't looking good, let me tell you. In fact, he was pretty fucked up. Emaciated, ragged, and covered in Ich but yet active and, importantly eating. I was happy that he was alive, but it meant, of course, that the Ich wasn't gone... and still isn't. Robert, George, and the other fish are all well but he is still carrying the bloody parasite which means water-changes and medications every two days in an attempt to prevent another massive outbreak. My patience is truly being tested. It's almost more than a (sober) man can stand, but we shall soon remedy that my friends! Oh yes, soon......

Stolen from here.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What do I Really Mean?

A little brain exercise for me this morning. I often 'blog hop' by choosing blogs from the rolls of my regulars. It takes me to some unexpected places and it is a way in which I find new bloggers to add to my own roll. I came across MMO Gamer Chick this way and found something I wanted to turn into a pedantic exercise in the use of language.

I love language. What we say is both interesting, and revealing. The following quote is from Steve Lichtsinn , a blogger who interviewed MMO Gamer Chick for an article on I haven't read the original article, nor have I checked out that site so if it's filled with ridiculous pornography or cruelty to animals (or both at the same time) I take no responsibility for directing you there. I did read her post and found this question, posed by him, to be quite interesting (in an academic sense):

I don’t mean to ask this in a negative way, but, do you feel that women are harder to please, thus making games for women a more difficult task?
What's interesting, for me, is not the question itself (nor the answer to be honest) but how it is put forth. What the hell am I on about? "I don't mean" is a classic preface to a question/statement in which the the person speaking has every intention of doing whatever they say they don't mean to do. Whew! Confusing? Okay, let's slow it down.

Here's a common phrase: "I don't mean to interrupt you, but...". In this case the person making this statement has every intention of interrupting. If they really didn't mean to interrupt they'd simply shut the hell up and not interrupt. What they are really saying is "I mean to interrupt you.." and here it comes.

Or how about this: "I don't mean to be rude, but have you gained a bit of weight?" Again the person talking knows full well this question is rude, but they feel the need (out of social obligation) to preface it so they appear to care. What they are saying is "I mean to be rude.." and you look fatter.

Returning to the question above I put forth the theory that the author had every intention of asking that question in a negative way. Remove the negative preface 'don't' and you are left with: I mean to ask this in a negative way..". It' also a bit telling, in my opinion, about how he feels about women in this particular case.

I don't think women are harder to please so I would have asked the question thusly:

Do you feel women are harder to please, thus making games for women a more difficult task?
It wouldn't occur to me to preface this in a negative way because I don't believe it's a negative question. It's a non-issue for me, see? The original author, by prefacing it, reveals he believes in what he is about to say or ask just like the person who is 'sorry to interrupt' knows he's about to interrupt. Hence, he believes women are harder to please.

Bored yet? Okay, Narrative Analysis lesson over. Let's go back to gaming!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's The Point? A Reply To Rogue

My evil, arch-nemesis, Adam (not really my nemesis and probably not evil either) at the Noisy Rogue asks a very good question:

As a self-professed people-hater, and an MMO player I often ask that very same thing. I have, in effect, given up on MMO's which don't involve PVP so I guess the answer, for me, is that I play MMO's because I hate people. Getting in someones face, ganking, beating, killing, outwitting, etc are all part of the PVP experience, aren't they?

That's actually a pretty simplistic answer to his question and not the whole truth. I of course don't hate all people and meet some good folk in my online travels. They are, however, few and far between which is just like real life in my own experience. Rogue's point that:

[Developers] make games that appeal to the lowest common denominator because that’s the only type of game we’d be prepared to share with them. Is this true? I don’t know, but it sure is food for thought.
The 'them' in this case are other people. It seems to be a common acceptance in the blogging world that, in general, the community in MMO's pretty much sucks- in one form or another. I agree- I'm not bashing anyone here (except the people who suck of course)- and wonder why that is? Do most people in MMO's suck, and are they the lowest common denominator? Probably. What I wonder is why is it that we, as bloggers (and readers there of) seem to know this?

I would suggest that those who take the time to enter into a discourse on the state of a game, or gaming in general (or any topic really) are of a shall I say this? Class? Intelligence? Maturity?

However you look it at those who blog and read about games and comment about the 'other lowest common denominator' are a like-minded group. I wouldn't go so far as to say we are superior (we are superior) but by using our brains to examine not only the game play, but the social interactions and social implications that come with it, we go beyond 'the lowest common denominator'. We're just better. There, I said it.

To return to the point, did I give up on MMO's like Rift, Warhammer, and Eve because I hate people? Not entirely. The online games I play now are pretty solo-friendly (Wurm, World Of Tanks) but still require a good bit of interaction. My neighbors in Wurm are very nice but we see little of each other (time zone differences) and the nature of a small, niche game like that means it isn't invaded with too many people. World of Tanks, for me, could be better if I was clanned up, but for now I am playing solo and still having fun.

I play online games even though I hate people because of the changing nature of the world that those people provide. Human beings, for better or worse, inject an unknown variable into game play that creates a challenge for me. There are nights I wish WoT was a single-player game in which I could rack up 5 kills per game while taking over a tactical map (like a WWII tank-centric version of Total War) but in the end I know that I would win and that does get old, fast. I have over 500 hours of game-time in WoT and there are few single-player games out there that would provide enought challenge to keep me interested that long.

There then, is my long winded answer. The short version? Because it adds challenge to the game.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Question of the Day

Is asking a younger, overweight, white guy (with glasses) what computer games he plays as racist as asking a black guy if he plays basketball?

Monday, November 21, 2011

World Of Tanks 7.0 Review...A Pictorial

They say first impressions are the most important and the longest lasting. If that's the case I see good things ahead for World Of Tanks. If I had to sum it up, in one word, it would be:

The game looks better than ever and I thought it looked good before. The graphics are improved, the new maps are good fun, and the added features on the UI map (now adjustable) indicating who is asking for help, and who is attacking who, is welcome indeed. The vanity camo, bought for gold or credits, is great and makes each tank look cool. I think this patch is taking the game to a whole new level, especially with the new fire and smoke effects (from your cannon) which haven't impacted game performance a single bit.

Bring on the flames!
More fire!
I've been playing around with some of the tanks with 'improved hitboxes' and I'm a bit stumped. I wish they'd explain all this a bit better. I re-bought my old nemisis the Tiger I and took it out for a few battles to see, but to be honest I have no idea it's any better. The smaller population means matchmaker has an even harder time of it, and so far my results have been mixed (in other words I've been pounded to shit by a bunch of tier 9 and 10's). I'm not sure if I'm any tougher, but I do enjoy the Tiger a bit better than I did previously.

New starting screen allows you to see who's who before battle without using Alt.
I won't go tank by tank in this very brief review (it's barely a review, I agree), but I will say the game is going in the right direction. Except for the horns, and the hideous wailing siren every-time someone caps (because, evidently, we're too stupid to see that massive red bar on the screen when someone caps our base) it's all looking good so far.

The Object good as I was hoping it would be.
M26 Pershing (T8 American Medium).

Camo fun on my Panther II

More Camo....

.....And yet again.....

Smoke from an enemy who's just fired his cannon.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fortuitous Friday: Patience is a Dish Best Served Cold

.... or is it "Revenge is a Virtue?" I may be getting my wizened sayings mixed up here.

Patience is not something I have a lot of. Or ever have it seems. I was clearing out some old boxes and found a report card from when I was in Grade 11 (17 years old) which noted that I "would do better if I was more patient with my work". Twenty-five years later that still holds true.

My problems with patience are not born of laziness. I'm not looking for a short cut, in most cases, to make life easier. I simply want to succeed...quickly, and efficiently, which leads me to cut the odd corner here and there, and that, of course, can come back to haunt me.

I've recently returned to fish keeping after having to re-home the fishy population of our tank when we moved from Ireland to Scotland lo those many years (4) ago. She Who Will Be Named Later was the principal fishy care-taker during those days, but when we decided to set up here in Canada my obsessiveness kicked in and I now find myself as the fish-keeper du-jour. It is yet another engrossing (obsessive) hobby I can throw myself into with wonderfully relaxing rewards.

But Gank, where's the fish? Read on....

I take my morning tea and toast in front of the aquarium and watch the fishes play. Wait, that sounds a bit like I have a maid or something and until I convince She Who Will Be Named Later that we need a pretty, twenty-something Russian/Polish maid who speaks little English and is terribly gullible,  I continue to fix my own breakfast in the mornings. The rapt attention the dogs pay to the falling of the crumbs will, in the meantime, rival that of any servant.

In any case I had a nice little community tank set up with six Clown Loaches as the centerpiece, a Bolivian Ram as my secret favorite, a Plec named Elvis (because he's so fat), three Angel Fish, and six Red-Eyed Tetras. All was well in the fishy land I added some plants without treating them for disease. The Bolivian Ram, Tyson (after Mike Tyson because he used to beat the crap out of the other Ram I had) was the first to die and I couldn't figure out why.... until the Loaches came down with tiny white flecks all over their bodies.

Stolen from

An Ich (known as White Spot in the UK) infestation swept through my tank and by the time it was all over I had lost 5 out of 6 Clown's. A major setback, indeed, losing all your favorite fish. Clown's have a real feisty personality and can live upwards of 30-years so they are a serious commitment (especially since they reach an average of 12" long and need a large tank to comfortably and humanely live in). Mine had only been with me for a couple months but it irks me that I made such a stupid mistake over a rush to get plants into my aquarium. Stupid plants.

The surviving Loach was the runt of the litter and I discovered him stuck in the handle of a amphora ornament I had in the tank. I thought he had died so his discovery was nice, but it means he had likely been stuck there for days. I'm thinking it's kind of like a  28-days later scenario, and that the handle of that ornament was his hospital room. He has awakened to find everyone he knew and loved gone... victims to a virus (parasite)...and now he is alone. I have named him George, after George Romero (the father of the modern zombie film imo).

Poor George. Clowns, unlike me, need the support of their social structure to have happy lives. Being left alone can stress them to the point they become susceptible to disease (whereas I get stressed out ot the point of disease in social settings). A bit ironic, really, when you think about it. Strong enough to fight off the disease only to be killed by the isolation that follows. If he lives I will be truly impressed considering what he's been through. You see, I had removed said ornament from the tank, ran it under the tap, pulled on his tail, and finally banged it against my hand in an effort to dislodge his body... only to find him flopping about, alive! It's alllliiiiiiiveeeee. Maybe I should call him Franken-Clown.

In any case I will, of course, be getting George a new pack to hang with but they will have to be quarantined for a couple weeks, and I still have to wait a few weeks to make sure I have beaten the I mean Ich parasites that killed my fish.  Patience may be a virtue, or it may be a dish best served cold. Either way it is something I need a bit more of..... in addition to new fish.

And for the Friday Video a pack of loaches doing what loaches do.....The Loach Dance! Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

So Much Fun I Had To Quit

Has this ever happened to you? I had such a good battle the other night in World Of Tanks I decided to stop playing. Immediately. I knew nothing could beat it so I thought, the hell with this, I'm out!

I had only played two battles on the evening (in other tanks) when I jumped into my new Russian Heavy, the Tier VIII IS-3. I used a load of free XP to get the top guns, tracks, and engine and have been enjoying the tank so much that I use it sparingly for fear the good-times can't last. The new match maker ensures your first 10 battles are a bit 'easier' for you, but I am passed that mark, and still absolutely loving this tank. It's a hell of a lot of fun, but it's like a new date. You know, when you reach that point where you keep thinking:

"Christ, something must be wrong with her...when is this going to go to shit?"

In any case I continue to play it hesitantly fearful of losing that 'new tank glow'. The match in question was going downhill, and fast. It was a typical PUG affair with all my team running off toward one flank, and then promptely dying. I was about to just push on alone on the empty flank when I thought, ahh, the hell with it, I'll go back and defend (the hidden ISU-152 helping make up my mind). By the time I reached base most of my team was dead (6 of us left) and I had no kills. By the time it was over? Booya! 5 kills and victory for us with me as the last one standing. Very dramatic.

Let the destruction begin.

I exited immediately so the glow would last, untainted by another, lesser win, or (more likely) a loss. The very next night the same thing happened again (but I ended up with 4 kills instead of 5) and thought, that's a heck of a coincidence...then promptly quit again, just in case. At this rate it's going to take me ages to get a good number of battles.

If you're looking at the IS3 as a potential tank to play, I highly recommend it, but would say the BL-9 (max gun) is absolutely mandatory, and the forums agree. After playing the ISU-152 with the BL-10 I find this gun fairly accurate (especially since I can get in close and blast away) and the damage it does is tear-inducing in the opposition (I'm sure).

So far, so good.
 After all my setbacks with the Tiger, and the Tiger II I was ready to give up on all heavies, but not anymore. The IS3 plays a lot like a big, slow medium tank and that's fine with me. Maybe I was born to play this way, or as Caspa and Rusko say, Born To Do It.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Affair With Arty

While I wait (ever more impatiently) for the public test server for World of Tanks patch 7.0, I have renewed my love affair with all things arty. I had unlocked the SU-14 (tier 6 Russian) some time ago but gave up as I began to focus on other tanks. I was also discouraged by the flocks of tier 5 light tanks (T-50-2's in particular) that were swarming about laughing (undoubtedly) as they killed me on the 6.7 test server. The SU-14 is also a bus....almost literally (that is its nickname). It is slow as hell and not very attractive to look at, and while that shouldn't matter, it does. If I have to play a couple hundred battles in something I want to be able to at least bear looking at it.

I started up the German arty line to finally compare it to the Russian arty I'm familiar with, and dusted off my SU-8 (Russian Tier V arty) at the same time. I liked the SU-8 and enjoyed a good win percentage and kill ratio with it. It also made loads of credits (20-30k per victorious battle) which was important before I bought my premium credit-maker (T-59 which averages around 20-50k consistently). It took some time to adjust to the German line because although it is more accurate and does more damage it has a slower reload and a significantly different firing arc. This not only meant the enemy was harder to hit whilst hiding behind buildings and rocks (pesky enemy) but that many of my favorite hiding spots (behind buildings and rocks as it turns out) were unusable as my German guns couldn't clear them.

Arty is just plain fun for a number of reasons. First of all, other players hate it, and you for playing it, which makes it almost worthwhile in itself (I'm just a griefer at heart I guess). Among my favorite jibes are: OP (of course), NO SKILL, and PUSSY ARTY PLAY A REAL TANK.

It's actually quite relaxing as you don't have to rush about and if your team sucks (and loses) there's not much you can do about it (so long as you're hitting targets) as you can't stop a rush, guard a flank, or converge on the enemy very easily. I manage a few kills per game (most times) and I can say that dropping a massive shell on top of a tank and watching him blow up never gets old. Ever. The curses that follow are just icing on the cake.....and the delicious sprinkles are the screenshots I send to customer care when I report them for verbally abusing me...enjoy your ban ;)

I decided then I would embrace the SU-14 bus' and jump into tier 6 arty with a splash. The result:

Needless to say, a custom skin (not by me).

Death by bus. Get in! So far it's been funny to look at, but play-wise a really tough transition. It  can't move very fast, takes a long time to reload, and is really inaccurate. I've often been killed before I can get the heck out of the spawn, and god help me if a T-50-2 makes a quick dash over. The bonus is the 1.8k in damage you get from a direct hit, and when you miss the splash often hits multiple tanks at the same time for multiple laughs on my part. I'm going to keep at it because it is a lot of fun on arty-friendly (large, non-city) maps and the new skin makes me giggle.

The main problems I foresee is that the gun I am currently using carries over to the next arty in line (Tier VII) which means I would have to 'grind' well over 300k in XP before getting an upgrade to my cannon. That's a lot of battles with the same hardware but I do note the top tier Russian arty has a higher rate of fire than its counterparts so it may be worth it but we'll see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Feck You Geese!

A late post from the archives that I fogot to post before the snow fell...better late than never (yes, I'm lazy today).

It's official. Winter's iminent, icy embrace is always heralded by the flocking of the Canadian Geese to better climes. I can't help but envy the ones who flock south to the U.S. and marvel in the stupidity of the ones who head east to the U.K. Sure, it's a warmer but if you had the option of Florida or Foggy 'ole England....


Well, feck them all, wherever they flee to. In what I think has been a long time in coming I'm going to petition the government, or Duck's Unlimited, or whoever is in charge of such matters (pornographers, or maybe ornithographers......) to strip the "Canadian" out of the Canada Goose. Real Canadians suck it up, throw on a parka, and stick around for the winter. Flee south! How very dare they.

Alternatively one could argue the humble Goose has a lot more brains than the average Canadian. Every winter (and you will see this in print come January or so) I ask myself :
"Why the fuck do you live here you moron?"
I can't help but marvel at the early pioneers. When you stand in the middle of the prarie with nothing visible for as far as the horizon stretches and think of the conditions they must have suffered through to make this land habitable... It boggles the mind. It must have been a strange combination of bravery and stupidity that held them fast those first few winters. I also wonder how many just decided "the hell with this" and went back to where the came from. Likely not many as those who did come wouldn't have had the means to go back home. Poor bastards.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rememberance Day

Tomorrow is Remberance Day here in Canada. It's also known as Veteran's Day in the US, or if you're Irish then it's known as 'You're a bloody traitor for wearing a poppy day.' This from a nation who openly supported Hitler, despite their 'neutrality' and sent condolences upon his death to the German embassy. Get a grip ya feckin' idiots. It was one of the things that truly shocked me while I was living in Ireland- not simply the lack of poppies, but the lack of any kind of remembrance for any of the dead from any of the World Wars. Shame on you.

FIFA have made news by forbidding the English team from displaying their poppies on their uniforms as it violates the rule regarding 'Political Symbols'. Really? Last I checked a poppy was worn to remember the sacrifices of individuals who fought and died in the wars. Is that political? They have bowed to pressure, however, and the lads will be sporting the poppy on their uniform after all.

In a move that I certainly didn't expect, and one that surprised me a great deal, Wargaming.Net , the makers of World Of Tanks, have announced they will be donating a portion of gold-package purchases to the Payalyzed Veterans of America charity. I think it is a brilliant gesture and I was blown away by just how much they are donating. $15 from every $50 or ($5 from every $15) gold package bought will be donated. I have to admit I was selfishly expecting (hoping) for an extra experience weekend special, but this? It's quite humbling to be honest. It's nice to see a company actually caring about the community they serve. I urge everyone who is interested in buying some gold to do it on November 11. I know I certainly will be.

They also have a touching tribute up to Paul Moade up on You Tube who was a US war Veteran and WoT community moderator.

Kudos to you for reaching out to your community.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good-bye Smokin' Joe

Frazier served Ali his first Heavyweight defeat.

Frazier had a brilliant career but is best known in the boxing world for his trilogy of fights against Ali. I remember watching these fights as a young boy with my Great-Grandfather (who fought a dozen professional matches under the name 'Tiger Smith') who loved all things boxing. My passion for the sport (such as it is now-adays) began in that small, farm-house sitting room and was flamed by stars such as Joe Frazier and his exciting matches against Ali. Frazier passed away yesterday.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cities XL 2012 Review in Brief

I was gonna do the weather guy sketch from Family Guy and just say:

It's Good!
and move on but I suppose a bit more of an actual review is necessary!

Your starting of scores available

I started my city/empire building games at the very beginning: Sim City. That first Sim City was an addicting masterpiece. I remember the 'computer room' was a closet in a two-bedroom flat I shared with my friend. It was so small we had to sit in it one at a time. I'd load up my city, make sure everything was running smoothly, and then we'd take off to the pub for a few drinks while the money in my city's coffers grew.....mwuahhhhaahhaaa.

Over the years I have re-visited this genre in the form of Sim City 3000 (the underground water works ruined it for me), Ceasar III, Tropico III (I love the III's), and now Cities XL 2012. If you've played any city building games in the past you will be on familiar ground with Cities XL- and that's a good thing. It is the classic formula of design and balance. You build houses for the people, buildings for them to work in, leisure for them to play, police/fire to protect, schools to educate, offices/factories to work in......... well, you  get the idea.

There is a lot of customization available in the game with 'packs' that includes mountain buildings, beach buildings, American buildings, and European -style buildings. I am assuming the designers are planning on adding more in the form of downloadable content, but I have no idea. It would be cool, though, and if implemented I'll take a 3% cut on profits for the suggestion, thank you very much. You can see in the picture below that I have created a very inefficient and congestion-building medieval village in the midst of my modern city on the edge of my farmland (agricultural industry).

Loving the Medieval Buildings
 The game is easy to pick up and extremely hard to put down. I have always found these games to be quite addicting (well, the good ones anyway) and Cities XL does not disappoint. It is graphically pleasing with the ability to zoom down to street level to see what your minions, er citizens are doing in the city you have built for them. There are also several views and zoom levels available for general top-down play. Placing zones (residential, industrial, commercial) is easy and cusomizable (square, single, free-mode, or linear zones). Many road options exist including roundabouts, free-ways, one-ways, overpasses, etc and you can (and should) build bus/metro/trams and plot the actual routes (easier than it sounds).

Postcard View

There is a progression element to the game as you need a certain population in the city to unlock new buildings, roads, services and neighborhood types. Flashy 'achievements' pop up when you reach these milestones and handy map filters allow you to check on everything from vacant jobs to traffic congestion.

One feature I've not encountered before, and quite like, is the fact that you city is on an earth-like planet with all the others cites that you choose to build. Gone is the old 'build this city then move on' concept that I'm used to. Each city can trade with others so if you have an oil-rich city you can trade that black gold away for food, vacations, or waste-removal. As I am only on my second, very small city (less than 50k populations in both) I haven't fully explored this. Until you build your own trading partners you can trade with the AI Omni-Corp for cash and resources. My current city is raking it in from oil revenues.

I'm not very far into the game but I am really liking what I see so far, and I find it extremely hard to stop playing once I load it up. The only drawback, thus far, is it seems to be a bit of a CPU resource hog. I am finding the delays between clicks (to change from certain views or to select construction tools) unacceptably long in some cases and it appears to get worse as the city grows (and more CPU resources are used I assume). I know I read a review somewhere (sorry I can't remember where) that pointed out this problem and stated the game was not optimized for newer quad core machines. If at 50k it's a few seconds of lag I'm wondering how things will run when I get cities of 1 million.

I'll be posting on this again as I progress but so far I say it's definitely worth a play.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Snow. Rant the First

Despite 30+ years in this frozen, often god-forsaken, province I am still hating the snow. Maybe it's because of the 30+ years now that I think of it. Regardless, the snow has finally come. My grievances against winter are long and many and don't worry, if you missed last years rants again the endless snow and cold, rest assured there will be more. Many more.

The snow has come and as a special "Fuck you" it's come dramatically and with little warning. Okay, maybe not little warning as it is November. That's actually warning enough as Halloween is traditionally the day when we can expect a snow fall that will last often until May. It was expected (in fact I knew it just by the temperature and color of the sky.....that and the news predicted it) but I have to air my first grievance. A small snow to remind us what was to come? That would have been nice. What did we get? A massive dump accompanied by high winds and cold temperatures.

Need proof? I thought you'd never ask!

Saturday fun in the yard. La, la, la, la...what could go wrong?

He'll stare at this for hours....about as exciting as a real game of football imo.
Sunday...not as much fun in the yard, though The Sultan of Smart was undeterred.

The morning's snow fall on my front step....the glove is for scale...and warmth while I shoveled.
It doesn't take long for the thrill of snow to wear off. Fuck soccer, let's go inside.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fortuitious Friday: Reflections on Brotherhood

It was a little over two years ago that a friend of mine suggested I watch the FX series Rescue Me. I will admit that I wasn't very keen. I'm not a huge fan of 'American Sit-com/drama shows' and, to be honest, I thought the premise was a bit dumb (a firefighter who sees gosts...what?). He insisted, however, and I finally began to work through it, bit by bit, until I finally watched the last episode of the final season (7) earlier this week.

If real-life blog posts aren't your thing......leave now!

I'm not sure exactly when I decided I liked this show but I know it was before I had finished the first season. At times it was silly, and at times just plain boring (I actually fast-forwarded through episodes that were particularly annoying). I would watch a single episode, or sometimes a half an episode, when She Who Will Be Named Later was working evenings as 'company' for when I ate my dinner (before getting into some gaming, of course).

In the end I bought into the show, and its premise, because I found, within those characters, people from my own past who I hadn't seen in quite some time. Tommy Gavin, and the other Firefighters referred to their co-workers as brothers, and each and every character in that show is a reminder of someone I once knew.

You see, once upon a time, in what seems like another life, I worked a similar job. A job where the people around you were more than someone you passed in the hall, or nodded to in the morning. It was a job where, at any given time of the day or night, your life could depend on the person next to you. Days, nights, Christmas', birthdays, good days, bad days: we shared them all.

We didn't always get along- which is a massive understatement. Stressful jobs create stressful situations and conflicts are inevitable. Similar to the characters in the television series, we had our difficulties both with each other, and with our own personal demons. Some of those guys I wouldn't have given the time of day to, if not for the fact that we relied on one another. I think, if anyone had bothered to count it all up, that we spent more time together than with our real-world families. There were fights, fall-outs, and drama that you'd expect to find only on T.V.

When you work a job like that a peculiar bond develops. Born out of both proximity and necessity, forged in fire (pardon the pun), and tested, in life-altering, and often dangerous situations it was indeed a brotherhood. And at times I miss it dearly.

When I returned to Canada after so many years away and met with the only friend I have left from those days (the one who suggested the series) it was a bit of an eye-opener. Most of those I had known were gone. Moved on to other jobs, quit, retired, or, all too sadly, dead. It felt awfully strange to only be 40-years old (yes, that is young, thank you very much) and have so many people you once worked with dead.

Having left the job, the country, and those friends, I find myself sometimes, in small ways, relating to Tommy Gavin and his issues with survivor's guilt (pass the Scotch please). I do admire Tommy's taste in top-end Irish Whisky: Midleton Very Rare. How jealous would he be knowing I used to live near that distillery?

When I was living in Ireland the "Franco" of my own real-life, work-forged brotherhood died. He was so much like that character in Rescue Me: tall, dark, handsome, and someone you were glad to have with you when the shit hit the fan. 6000 kilometers away, newly married, and embroiled in a legal battle with Irish Immigration, I was unable to make it back for his funeral and that's something that I very much regret.

I don't know what it's like to be a Firefighter. I have no idea if the show was a realistic portrayal of their lives, friendships, and work. I only know that each and every character portrayed are people I can put a real-life name and face to. Each and every one of them was also, in a way, someone I have been at one stage of my life or another (except maybe the gay guy....and note I said maybe...). There were times during some episodes of Rescue Me that I was transported back to those days and was, for a short time, amongst brothers and for that, I am grateful to the writers. Much like Tommy Gavin did in the series, it allowed me to revisit the ghosts of my own occupational past, have a laugh, say hello, and toast to their memories.

Remembering Kevin Robert Venne: September 16, 1976- May 24, 2006.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No Halloween For You!

Imagine that post title in the voice of the 'Soup Nazi' from the Jerry Seinfeld television series- it'll sound cooler.

This year for Halloween I hid. That's right, I hid. I'm not amused by the neighborhood children running amok, begging for candy in costumes bought or made by their parents. A bit grinchy (albeit a Haloween version) I admit, but come on. Who invented this stupid 'holiday'? Same jerks who came up with the gift-giving version of Christmas we now sale-a-brate I'm guessing.

As for adult costuming, I get it. It's fun, or so it's meant to be. When else can you stroll down the street looking like you're about to commit a sexual assault, or a bank robbery and not get accosted by the police (who are likely not real police anyway)? Sure, throw a mask on, hit the bars, and drink because you feel you need an excuse to do so. Me? I just drink. No excuse needed.

So She Who Will Be Named Later, who led this years anti-Halloween Lobby claimed: 'It's a stupid holiday and it's not in my culture. I'm not doing it,' and Halloween was abolished in our house. Just like that. Nice one!

We grabbed the dogs, our dinners, and settled in front of BBC I-Player and The Fades while the rest of the house was left dark and, hopefully, unwelcoming. I would check the streets every hour or so to make sure the coast was clear, and dash out with the dogs to let them use the bathroom. I'd hurry them back in and we'd retreat to the "Bunker" the back of the house where I had set up their beds and some cozy blankets on the floor (which, I admit, I bullied The Duchess of Dumb out of to lie on so maybe not a great night for her).

Overall rresult? Success! Huzzah! Not a single visitor. Now I need a plan to ignore Christmas and I'm all set.