Well, trip number two has come to a close, this time a jaunt out to Regina for some mom-time with Linda! As usual, food was abundant, as was amusement (and slightly hurt feelings :) with the copy of Ticket To Ride that we purchased and hauled along. Among other things that were accomplished, I:
- Proved to myself that my knitting needles (as previously mentioned) would easily get through airport security (they didn’t even register on the X-Ray, so far as I know).
- As a result of 1, half-finished Lenore’s new hat. Unfortunately, I ran out of yarn, as I neglected to bring a second ball.
- Finished reading “Red_Mars”, a rather largish tome by Kim Stanley Robinson which details the terraforming of Mars.
- Learned how to make Cabbage Rolls! Linda is an excellent tutor. :)
- Started reading “Robots and Empire”, by the legendary Isaac Asimov.
And on the topic of Red Mars, a mini review. In short, it’s a massive vision, incredibly detailed and realistic. Characterization is good, though the dialog a little unbelievable at times. The plot can be a bit ponderous, and Robinson seems to relish showing off his knowledge of Mars topography, going on for pages describing the Martian landscape. The discussion of the sociological impacts of Martian colonization are quite fascinating, particularly in conjunction with new technologies that are invented in the course of the story.
In short, highly recommended for anyone into hard science fiction and who can stand a healthy dose of Tolkein-esque verbosity.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a really nasty addiction to junk food. I love the stuff. You’d think I’d grow out of this, but I really don’t. It’s not good. Particularly for my ailing teeth. I especially enjoy trying out new types of candy, and have had the pleasure of discovering some tasty new treats (Sour Skittles, Sour Patch Keys, Sour Twizzlers… hmm, I see a pattern forming…). My latest experiment is a new Hershey product called Jolly Rancher Rocks:
Now, I’ve always been a fan of the Jolly Rancher flavours. I remember back in the day when I first tried them out… so very tasty. But I’ve always been the type to chew my rock candies, and the odd not-quite-brittle texture of the Jolly Rancher made it more likely that I would fracture a tooth rather than the candy itself. Moreover, I often found that the standard rock candy was slightly larger than I prefer.
Hershey’s new Jolly Rancher Rocks product seems to solve these problems. The candy comes in a plastic container with a locking lid (a fairly high-quality container, I might add), and the candies themselves are small, fairly brittle rock candy spherules, around 5mm in diameter, in the standard Jolly Rancher flavours. This repackaging of the standard Jolly Rancher rock candy works quite well, allowing one to mix and match flavours and enjoy as much or as little as one would like. And the locking lid makes it easy to eat the candies a little at a time.
So, in the end, I give the new product a thumbs up. In fact, given my choice, I think I’d favour the rocks over the standard rock candy format we’re so familiar with.
So my sis, wife and I went to Thank You For Smoking last night. Definitely a movie worth seeing. The movie follows the trials and tribulations of a tobacco lobbiest, and is entertaining, scathing, and more than a bit surprising.
Now, when I originally heard about this movie, I made the (natural, I think) assumption that it was going to be a scathing commentary on the tobacco industry. And it was definitely that. But it exceeded my expectations in that it also poked fun at the government, embodied by a rabid anti-tobacco senator from Wisconsin played by the always excellent William H. Macy, and the media, represented by an ambitious reporter portrayed by none other than Katie Holmes.
And the ultimate message of the movie surprised me even more. Rather than focusing on the evils of smoking, or the tobacco industry, it took the higher ground, focusing on the issue of personal choice. Through the actions of the ridiculous senator, and the words of Nick Naylor, our “morally flexible” anti-hero portrayed by a surprising Aaron Eckhart (yes, of The Core fame), the movie really speaks out against an apathetic public who is unwilling, or perhaps no longer capable of thinking for themselves. It implores people to inform themselves and to make their own decisions, and to guide their own children to do the same, rather than relying on the government or the media to do it for them. A message I think is long overdue.
But what surprised me the most is, in the end, I found myself rooting for Nick Naylor. For some reason, I just can’t help cheering for the underdog, even if he is representing the tobacco industry…
And on a totally unrelated note, I finally updated my list of Knitting Projects. I think it’s relatively complete, now…
So, I’ve been an owner of a Nintendo DS since shortly after the device launched. I picked it up originally because I planned to hack code for it… the idea of a cheap device with a touch screen and wireless really sparked my imagination. But, thanks in part to the original launch game, Super Mario 64 DS, which was just so much damned fun, I’ve found myself actually playing games on the thing.
So, why would I advise you not to buy a DS? Simple! Because, if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to resist the desire buy new games. Since I picked up my DS, I’ve bought:
- Super Mario 64 DS
- Warioware: Touched
- Advanced Wars DS
- Mariokart DS
And now, Tetris DS. And I don’t play my DS that much! Incidentally, of that list, Touched is probably the main one I regret, followed by Meteos. Touched just doesn’t have much depth (I finished it pretty fast, and there’s little replay value) and Meteos, while fun, hasn’t captured my imagination. It’s also a bit confusing. :)
Anyway on to Tetris DS. I gotta say, if you’re a casual gamer, and in particular, a casual gamer who grew up during the 8-bit console era, this game is, IMHO, a must-have. As a Tetris rendition, it’s pretty damned good, and reasonably faithful to the gameplay we all remember. About the only thing that bothers me is the inheritance of the infinite spin “feature” from Tetris Worlds, where you can continually spin a piece and move it around, even though it’s landed on the tableau.
In addition to the standard modes, the game also provides a variety of puzzle modes, versus modes, and a rather odd Catch mode. Of the new modes, I gotta say Push mode is the coolest. It’s basically a Tetris tug-of-war, and brings about some interesting new game mechanics. This mode can be played against the CPU, where the difficulty can be tuned from fairly easy to frustratingly difficult, or against people head-to-head or over the Internet.
Speaking of which, the head-to-head modes are very well executed. In a local Wi-Fi enabled game, you can have up to 10 players playing using a single cart, with various options available to adjust gameplay. Of course, you can also play online against people on Nintendo’s network. Unfortunately, the gameplay options are more limited, here: 2-player in Standard or Push mode, or 4 players in Standard mode. Still, online play is very well polished, as with Mario Kart DS.
But the best part for a retrogamer like myself has gotta be the soundtrack and visual themes for the game. For example, in Standard mode, you’ll recognize the music as remixes from Super Mario 1, 3, Link, and Metroid. Moreover, on the top screen, a demo of the game in question is played, and as you approach the next Tetris level, the character progresses through the game level (eg, world 1-1 of Super Mario Bros.). Quite clever! The other modes are themed differently. For example, Catch mode is based on Metroid and Push mode has a Donkey Kong theme.
Of course, if one isn’t a retrogamer, or (god forbid) you’re too old to remember the good ol’ 8-bit days, you might find this all quite annoying. But I love it!
So, in summary, I’d give this new Tetris rendition an 8. I just hope Nintendo could stop releasing such good games at reasonable prices, because, apparently, I’m unable to control myself…
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