Feels good, man.

Awesome person, Pearl Chen, just pointed out that one of my photos for Ladies Learning Code made it into an episode of Penny Arcade TV’s Extra Credits entitled “So You Want To Be a Programmer (Part 1).”

It’s not exactly a stunning achievement, but it feels good to know that something you’ve captured gets used for something as awesome as Extra Credits.

Bonus: it’s a great video for anyone who is curious about or wants to become better at programming.

Great Burgers in Scarborough / Markham: Big Moe’s

Good burgers in the northern parts of Scarborough, where I live, can be hard to find. In fact, up until November 2011, my only real option within 10-15 minutes of driving was Moxie’s, who make a mighty mean “Xtreme Burger.”

Well, burger-lovers rejoice: Big Moe’s has opened up at Kennedy and Steeles.

Big Moe’s
3517 Kennedy Rd
Scarborough, ON M1V 4S4

I ordered the Juicy Lucy burger, which is a patty stuffed with cheese on the inside, and then I went “Big”, which means I added an extra burger patty. The burger was mouth watering-ly good, the patties were perfectly cooked (though I’d ask for a little rarer next time), and I think I pretty much inhaled that thing.

Grabbed some fresh-cut fries to share as well, and they were basically cut and fried in front of us. Well seasoned, cooked just right, and disappeared in a manner of minutes.

Ended the night with a 6″ funnel cake with ice cream and strawberry sauce. I used to get these at Wonderland, and I miss them very much. The dough was cooked just right, but I would have preferred less ice cream and more strawberry sauce.

The food at Big Moe’s was great, one of the best meals I’ve had in this area. More importantly, Big Moe’s is a local restaurant that produces great food for very good prices.

Give them a try and let me know what you think, I’m definitely going back!

Safe Travels, Andrea

I’m not good at expressing how I feel about people. I love many people, and I hate when any are gone for a long period of time. That’s about as far as I go with expressing myself.

Imagine my dismay upon learning that one of my favourite people in the world, Andrea Liew, was going to be spending a year in Guyana. Seriously, a whole year.

I am not a patient man. A year is forever.

My own selfish feelings (and silly post intros) aside, Andrea is going away for a year to help indigenous women in Guyana improve their agriculture and craft-making businesses with accounting, finance, marketing and product development. In other words, she’s making the world a better place.

Andrea is going as a volunteer of Cuso International, and we should all show her our support: Donate to Andrea & Cuso International!

She’ll be gone for a while, and my blog will be counting the days that she has spent making the world a better place.

Safe travels, Andrea. I love you, I’ll miss you, and I am tremendously proud of what you are doing.

So long (for now), and thanks for all the fish.

Translation of the Letter Rogers Sent Me

Received a letter from Rogers today, announcing yet another price increase for internet and cable TV. They started off with marketing garbage about how awesome they’ve made my service (but actually mean nothing) and threw this in there:

However, over the past year, there has been an increase in the cost of providing you with our services as we continue to expand and upgrade our network and launch enhancements to serve you better. We have taken steps to minimize the impact that these increased costs will have on you. Remember, if you choose to subscribe to more than one service, you may be eligible for a discount.

I’ve gone ahead and translated it into Real Talk™:

In the past year, the greed of our executives and shareholders has increased while our services have stagnated. We like to pretend that we’re doing you a favour by only increasing it by a little bit, but in reality, we don’t give a damn. However, if you decide to throw more money at us, we’d be happy to shave off another dollar! We’ll get it back at the next price increase anyway.

Thanks Rogers, for being the corporate parasite of Canada.

Don’t wait.

Amanda Pomeroy:

Apart from being a fine game, Tetris is also a perfect mirror of the human condition. For a while the game is entertaining, and we seem to have mastered it and are having fun. Then, something goes wrong. A rash mistake, or an unfulfilled wish, and we’re fighting to repair the damage, but we’ve been thrown off-balance, and the cancer is spreading. Blocks that were once orderly and harmonious are jumbled and filled with holes, and our cup is on the verge of running over. There’s always a point at which we stop planning for the future, and realise that we don’t have one – all we can do is cling to the present and concentrate, focus our minds on what it’s like to be alive, to play the game, before it’s all over.

You were waiting for a four-by-one block that never came.

Eventually we stare death in the face, and death will not spare us because we would warn the others to stay away and not play the game. Sometimes we resist to the bitter end, moving blocks left and right without thought or care, just to hang on, and sometimes we accept the inevitable and pull the blocks down to us, smiling inwardly at the great joke. The rest is silence. We admire the fox as it escapes from the hounds, but when the hunt is over we turn away, and go off and drink and be merry, and somewhere else someone or something is watching us as we watch the fox. But the fox knows it is being chased.

“Let’s just break in!” – An Interactive Story

Last night, I piloted the first iteration of an interactive story game I created for my friends. The idea that sparked it all was that I wanted to play a group game where we would have a common goal to work toward together, and have fun while we’re at it.

The first scenario was simple: three masked gunmen have invaded a home and taken a woman and her two children hostage. They are heavily armed and will be making their demands soon. You (as a group) are the police special forces unit, and it is up to you as a group to save the woman and two children.

I even made a floor plan of the house!

As a group, they were given the following rules:

  • The game progresses in turns. You can make as many movements in an area that you like, but the minute you go to another area, you are moving onto the next turn. Certain milestones happen on certain turns.
  • Actions with an ambiguous certainty in completion are determined with a dice roll (using two dice). For example, picking the lock on a door would have a dice roll for success or failure, the range of which is determined by the game master.
  • Combat requires two rolls: a roll to determine the winner of the first exchange, and the loser must roll to determine what part of the body takes damage. 1-2 is in the legs, 3-7 is the torso, 8-9 is the arms, 10-12 is the head.
  • The only limitation to actions is if it is completely infeasible or unrealistic. For example, you cannot curve a bullet around anything, or suddenly gain magic powers and blast the bad guys.

We got rolling and I think it turned out alright. Well, for me anyway.

As a group, they immediately decided to storm the house. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and they waited for the gunmen to make demands before doing anything, and THEN they decided to split up into two teams and break in through the back and lock pick the front.

Unfortunately, it all went awry when they were discovered inside the house (each action inside the house required a roll for discovery, as in, whether or not they made enough noise to be discovered) and a firefight broke out. During the firefight, two of the team were shot in the vest and taken out for the turn (wind knocked out of them) and a third managed to take down a gunman while getting shot in the limbs repeatedly. The other teams managed to storm into the living room, where the hostages were being held, and taking down the last remaining gunman. However, they were not quick enough and he managed to take out the mother and one of the children before he could be taken down.

I received plenty of feedback on how to improve the game and its mechanics, and the suggestions are definitely going into the next story that I craft for this. A really fun experience, and a wonderful excuse to flex my creative thinking while spending time with friends!

Belle + Kevin

On October 15, 2011, I helped film Belle and Kevin’s wedding. It was a big deal, not only because it was my first ever wedding shoot, but I also wanted to give them a damn good video to remember the most special of days.

Shot entirely on a Canon T2i, swapping between a Canon 28mm f/1.8 and a Canon 55-250mm f/4-5.6 and using a Rodes VideoMic and a Zoom H4N to record the audio.

Song selection was easy: Belle’s father played this during the reception, and it was a no-brainer to use it here.

Congratulations Belle and Kevin! Thanks for making me a part of your special day. :)

Don’t Mess with Gabe

Gabe from Penny Arcade about Ocean Marketing:

‎I have a real problem with bullies. I spent my childhood moving from school to school and I got made fun of everyplace I landed. I feel like Paul is a bully and maybe that’s why I have no sympathy here. [...] I will personally burn everything I’ve made to the fucking ground if I think I can catch them in the flames.

Gabe just became one of my favourite people. More so. Seriously, don’t mess with Gabe, or any other Gabe for that matter.

The Comedians That Canada Deserves

This is “A Very Office Christmas”, made by Katie Uhlmann and Claire Stollery, also known as Real Professional. Take a look, let me know what you think.

Personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the video. It’s a great little story, and it’s clever, but I guess I expected to laugh a lot more than I actually did. That is fine, not everything tickles everyone the same way, and I hope Katie (who sent me this video!) wasn’t offended by the fact that I wasn’t the biggest fan of it.

However, I would like to point out one thing: they are a breath of fresh air for comedy in Canada.

Since the (good) days of Royal Canadian Air Farce or This Hour Has 22 Minutes, I have seen plenty of Canadian comedy shows show up on The Comedy Network, and they have all been disappointing. They would take the awesome sketch comedy formula that made the aforementioned shows so successful and tried to replicate it, except they wouldn’t be as smart, they wouldn’t be as intelligent, and they absolutely blew when it came to comedic timing.

It was like watching a really bad, half-hour commercial for a shoddy product. Without Billy Mays.

What I really like about Real Professional is that they’ve made a really great comedy short: it’s beautifully produced, it’s got just the right amount of cheesiness in it, and the actors and actresses don’t make me want to immediately claw my eyes and ears out. That said, the acting does fall short in a few places and the overall idea for this short just doesn’t do it for me, but there is definitely plenty of potential and I appreciate that.

I’m really looking forward to more videos from Katie and Claire over at Real Professional. I am hoping that this is a direction that many more comedians take when creating their content, it is an absolute breath of fresh air.

Cheers, ladies!