New Thing #32: Kakuro

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Now, I ain’t no slouch at logic puzzles. Like everyone else, I went through quite a Sudoku stage for a while a couple of years back. I say all this because I absolutely suck at Kakuro. At least out of the gate.

According to Wikipedia:

The object of the puzzle is to insert a digit from 1 to 9 inclusive into each white cell such that the sum of the numbers in each entry matches the clue associated with it and that no digit is duplicated in any entry.

Sounds simple enough, especially when it just looks like a jazzed up Sudoku board. But when it comes to Sudoku I feel like I can keep it all straight in my head without resorting to jotting down every possible answer. With this, it’s just too much for my brain to correlate on its own. 

I suspect if I keep at it, all the natural combinations of numbers will become second nature. Thankfully Primo Kakuro HD Lite was free and definitely has enough puzzles for me to decide whether or not Kakuro is right for me.

And thanks to my wife for suggesting this be my new thing today when I said I wanted to try something easy and relaxing. Wait a minute…

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New Thing #31: ZaZa Espresso Bar

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Zaza

ZaZa is a little espresso joint in the heart of Yorkville (emphasis on little). I didn’t even know it was there until my partner at work mentioned it.

I dropped in after work tonight for a well needed pick me up and ordered a double espresso, short. Soon I was sitting atop a stool enjoying a rich, strong crema topped shot. As an added bonus I didn’t even have to ask for a glass of water with my coffee.

And so begins my journey of trying all the independent espresso shops in Toronto before this whole crazy experiment is done.

In retrospect though, I should have waited until it was a little warmer to try this one. The window seat offers a great people watching view.

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New Thing #30: Raw Food Restaurant

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I’ve been raw-food-curious for a while. There’s something about vegetables mimicking other food stuffs that’s creative and fun to me. But it also seems a little silly to spend the money on what amounts to a well thought out salad.

With that in mind, I ventured into Rawlicious Yorkville tonight for dinner.

I’m happy to say that my raw Pad Thai tonight was both well portioned and flavourful, two things I didn’t think it would be going in. Plus, it had the added bonus of being good for me. The noodles were made of thinly sliced zucchini and kelp and topped with a variety of vegetables, nuts and sauce.

I ordered a tasty orange, apple and pineapple juice to accompany it and followed it up with a dehydrated macaroon.

All in all, pretty damned tasty.

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New Thing #29: See a Feature Length IMAX Film

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I’ve seen a few IMAX films in my time, but they were always short films designed to show off the technology. I’ve never sat through a real big-budget Hollywood movie before, though.

Today I saw Sucker Punch in IMAX. I figured it was the perfect movie to finally pay the extra cash to see as big as possible. Explosions, zeppelins, exploding zeppelins…who wouldn’t want to see that two stories high?

And overall it was worth it, although the graininess of the film was rather disappointing considering the IMAX lead-in promised a crystal clear picture. And I was surprised how much of a superior sound experience it was compared to a normal cinema.

So was it worth the $17.75? Probably not, but that’s because the film I saw today didn’t blow me out of the water. But I’ll certainly consider it the next time Batman hits the big screen.

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New Thing #28: Get a Professional Shave

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Angelo

It’s hard not to romanticize this one.

Angelo has run his one room barber shop for the last 49 years. The first thing I thought walking into Four Seasons Barber Shop was that I’d made the right decision coming here.

Because when you sit down and pay someone to pull a straight razor on you, you want it be a professional. And that professional is Angelo.

What I could make out from his broken English is that he trained in Italy and opened up his shop when the Danforth was a very different place. And it hasn’t changed much in that time. I’m pretty sure the same wallpaper still adorns the walls that was there the day he opened and the perfectly maintained and extremely comfortable barber’s chair that I sat in is his original. 

But enough about the place, I’m here to talk about the shave.

Shaving has always been utility to me. I never realized that a real shave is so much more than removing the bristle from your face. It’s the hot towels opening up your pores, the different aromas from the oils and creams mixing with one another to form something new. It’s the way your skin feels as it’s pushed and pulled to reveal follicles that may have been missed. It’s the absolute care in which the barber goes to work with each determined flick of his blade. 

It made me nostalgic for the days before the Hair Salons moved into town and I used to see Joe the Barber once a month. It also made me sad to have gone so long without a professional shave.

I’m a convert.

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New Thing #27: Kimchi

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Sitting way in the back of my fridge for a while has been a lonely jar of kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage product. 

I’ve heard about kimchi for ages, and some morbid curiosity of mine made me pick it up when I saw it in the store. My dad’s German and I love sauerkraut, right? I was wondering if there would be some sort of cross over.

There isn’t.

Above everything else it’s the smell that is the off-putting characteristic of kimchi. It actually has a nice crunch to it that I wasn’t expecting and the taste isn’t as overwhelming as you’d think. It’s sort of spicy, but also sort of fishy. And I don’t particularly like my vegetables to taste of the sea.

It’s hard one to rate, but when I think about whether I’d choose to pry open a jar of it or pickled herring, I’d have to go with the fish. At least it’s supposed to taste that way.

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New Thing #26: Canned Coconut Water

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Believe it or not, I’ve never tried coconut water. At least not the canned version.

I do remember my dad drilling holes in a coconut when I was kid and us drinking that but I always thought coconut water in a can was different. I’m sticking by this as “new thing” because I’ve never had it processed before.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

As for the water itself, it’s great! It really is thirst quenching like the can says. And a lot more natural tasting than anything else I’ve had out of a can in a while. I’m looking at you Tamarind Juice!

Although how anyone can get through a can this big of the stuff, I don’t know. It’s tasty but way too sweet to drink more than a glass of at a time. I’ll save the rest for my daughter, she had it at daycare and we’ve been hearing about it for weeks.

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New Thing #25: Sparrow Mail

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I’ve been wanting to try the new sparrow mail client for the Mac ever since it was released. Up until now though, it’s been a Gmail only client, and I’m probably the only geek out there who hates Gmail. With a passion. Now it’s been updated to work with MobileMe and so far I’m rather impressed.

It definitely takes its interface cues from an iPad UI perspective, which is nice, because they’re not conforming to all the conventions that every other mail application on the planet seems to.

There’s definitely some kinks I’m finding, but nothing that I don’t think will be addressed in a future update. 

I’ll give it a try for a week as my default email client and if I don’t find myself missing the standard Apple Mail app I’ll probably stick with it.

New Thing #24: Orange Peel Ale

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I like me a good flavoured beer. There, I said it.

This one intrigued me both because of it’s seasonal choice to add orange peels to it and the fact that it’s local. 

Turns out there’s a reason I haven’t heard of Great Lakes Brewery before. It’s just not that great of a beer. 

When I think of a seasonal, flavoured beers I think of stronger flavours than I get here. The McAuslan’s Raspberry Wheat, for instance, isn’t overwhelming in its berry taste but it’s definitely strong enough to notice on each sip. This just sort of sits on your tongue while you try to sort things out.

Plus the bottle’s gigantic. 650ml to be exact. At that size I’ll probably like it a lot more when I’m done than when I began.

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New Thing #23: Axe Cop

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I think I first heard about the comic series Axe Cop a few weeks ago on ComicVine.com.

It sounded like a great idea: have a 6 year old’s wild imagination provide the story for the comic and his 30 year old brother the artwork.

It makes for one wild ride involving Axe Cop, dinosaurs, “normal cops”, feint bullets, time travel and flying cars. And that’s just the first two pages.

It reminds me of my own four year old’s retelling of her dreams in the morning. SPOILER: They usually involve a loveable unicorn that shoots rainbows from its horn.

The artwork in Axe Cop is great and you honestly never know where the story is going from one panel to another. As the artist and co-creator of the book says:

The creation … was hands on, in person, and tons of fun. Piles of toys and plastic weapons were involved. We painted dinosaur figuringes. We wore aviator sunglasses and ran around the house with plastic axes.

And you feel every bit of that fun and love in each panel of the book.

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