New Thing #52: Play Portal 2 Co-Op

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Portal

The original Portal will always be one of the top ten games I’ve ever played. No other game can make you feel like you’re a complete idiot one moment and a genius the next. And now that Portal 2 has co-op it brings that to completely new level.

The game itself is just oozing with character. The humour and voice acting is almost beyond compare. And Stephen Merchant’s in it, yes, that Stephen Merchant. 

Apart from accidentally crushing my partner in one level we got through the first section fairly unscathed. I’m sure the puzzles are going to become increasingly head banging and become a true test of friendship in later levels though. After you’ve been at it for over an hour without a solution, I’m things are going to get a little tense. I can’t wait though, because it’s that wall you hit that makes the solution that much sweeter.

PS. This is the antithesis of Metal Gear Solid 4

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New Thing #51: Play a Metal Gear Game

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There are some hallowed video game franchises that I just never got around to playing. Either because they were on platforms I didn’t have or just due to a lack of interest on my part. The Metal Gear Solid series is probably the biggest of the bunch that I never laid my gaming hands on until today.

And call me an XBox fanboy if you will but Metal Gear Solid 4, the crowning achievement of the series according to most, is a complete piece of s#%t.

I know that I’m not generally a stealth game lover, but my recent experience with Splinter Cel: Conviction had me rethinking that stance. I mean that was a game that blended stealth, action, storytelling and FUN together perfectly. And with amazingly tight controls.

This game is just all over the place. You can barely aim. You have to hit hree buttons to even look down the barrel of your gun and you run about as fast as an anteater with its tail tied to a brick. Cover never works right and the AI is just plain stupid. And the cut scenes. God, the cutscenes.

I’d like to say it’s just my lack of Metal Gear history that made them so ridiculous but from what I hear nonsensical story telling is sort of the “charm” of the series. They go on forever and pop up every five minutes. There was even an ENTIRE LEVEL THAT WAS A SINGLE CUTSCENE! 

Never, ever, play Metal Gear Solid 4. Now I need a drink.

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New Thing #50: Handle a Snake

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I has planned on the Green Living Show to be my new thing today, but when I got there I quickly saw a better opportunity. How could I pass up holding a snake for the first time?

The reptile in question was a very pretty, very friendly corn snake. I’ve never seen a corn snake before since they aren’t native to this region and she took to me almost immediately.

The video’s cuts in and out you don’t see that she made her way up my arm, inside my shirt around my neck and back down again. The strangest part of it all is how cool the snake felt around my neck. Now I can sorta, kinda, maybe see why people keep them as pets.

Thanks to this little introduction I’m adding “Hold a Boa Constrictor” to my list if I get a chance.

New Thing #49: Nintendo 3DS

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For the life of me, I just don’t get this whole 3D thing. 

For the few seconds that I played the Nintendo 3DS it was neat. It really felt like I was looking “into” the screen. Very TARDIS-like that way. Then I moved it a millimetre to the left and my entire brain just about broke in two. 

I loved my DS back before I had an iPhone. It did what it needed to do: got out of the way and let me play some games on the go. But when I was playing Pilotwings Resort on the 3DS, it was more fun when I turned the 3D off than it was with it on. The only real 3D fun I had with the thing was playing Face Raiders, a weird augmented reality mashup where you shoot spheres of your face.

This is one gaming platform thatI’m definitely skipping.

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New Thing #48: Make Mayonnaise By Hand

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Talk about your typical more effort than it’s worth. It took me nearly 1/2 an hour of constant whisking to come out with a yellowish batch of extremely olive oil tasting mayonnaise. Maybe if I’d gone the aioli route and added some nice garlic to the mix it would have had a nicer flavour to it. As it is, well, I don’t think I’ll be doing that one again. And if I do, it’ll be with a food processor like any sane person would use.

I’d type more, but I think I’ve permanently weakened my wrist.

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New Thing #47: Microsoft Surface

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We’ve all probably seen the Microsoft Surface video mashup that says that Microsoft’s idea of the future is a “big ass table“.

Well, I finally got my hands on one and, yeah, that about sums it up. But it’s still a pretty cool table!

Back before we had iPads I think it would have been a lot more impressive but since multi-touch devices are so prevalent in our lives now it just feels natural to have a giant touch screen in front of you. And I think that’s both awesome and sad at the same time.

We’re living in the future people, and it’s already feeling mundane. Luckily there’s a new version of Microsoft Surface coming this summer that’s bigger, faster, thinner and has a much higher resolution. I think that if developers embrace the idea of objects interacting with the device (something that iOS doesn’t do) we’re in for something special. For now though, it’s pretty much an expensive piece of furniture.

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New Thing #46: Boilermaker

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DISCLAIMER: the above video is actually my second attempt at drinking a Boilermaker. I was errant in my camera app responsibilities the first round. 

When I was a kid I distinctly remember my parents taking me out to a bar in Stoney Creek for wings called “Boilermaker’s”. Ok, I’m not so sure about the apostrophe, but you get the point. 

I think it was in that dark, underground pub that my dad told me what a Boilermaker was; a beer that you drop whiskey into and then drink. Somehow, all these years it’s existed as a mythical purple Flintstone’s drink that shoots sparks out the top. Obviously that’s kept this particular libation at arm’s length for me for a very long time. 

But tonight was our first inaugural monthly assembly of Wing Club, and I wanted to do something new that I could involve the entire club in, so Boilermakers it was. 

Two Boilermakers in, I have to say that they’re pretty damned tasty even if I didn’t chug the whole thing. In fact it’s probably better that way; the whisky really makes a nice addition to a pale ale. I think this is one I’ll order of my own accord in the future, whether Andrew, Joe or Ken like it or not. 

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New Thing #45: Wensleydale Cheese

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This one might seem mundane to you, but it’s actually quite special to me. Tonight I tasted Wensleydale cheese, something I’ve wanted to try since I was twelve years old, listening to my first Monty Python album.

Said cheese was the namesake of a cheese shop proprietor in my favourite and aptly titled sketch “Cheese Shop“. You can watch the program performance above which is only slightly less funny than the album version I listened to repeatedly as a kid. I think it’s the bouzouki performance that really puts the album version over the top.

But how was this cheesy convestible? Fantastic. It had a nice crumbly texture and a taste reminiscent of an aged white cheddar. I found myself digging into the block long after I should have stopped my sampling.

In fact I’m going to wrap this up now so I can go eat some more. 

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New Thing #44: Tamarillo

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When I was in the grocery store yesterday I spied these funny, red, plum tomato type things in the fruit section. I was pretty sure I hadn’t tried one, so I threw a couple of them in my basket. Unfortunately though, I wasn’t very careful at jotting down what they were called in my head. 

I thought they were Tomatillas from Mexico but when I checked them out on Wikipedia I realized I was quite mistaken. It turns out they’re actually Tamarillos from New Zealand. Funny how they ended up side by each in the Loblaws.

With my new found knowledge and spoon in hand, I dug in. And what an array of unexpected tastes awaited me. The fruit was tarty, earthy and sort of sweet at the same time with this sort of wheat grass kick.

The flesh was akin to a cantaloupe and the seeds were papaya like in texture. The blood red seeds made nice juicy marks against the orange flesh as I went to work with my spoon, which I also liked. I finished off one and a half in no time.

But that’s not to say that they’re for everyone. Shauna promptly spit her half out into the sink after just one bite. I wish I had caught that one on video.

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New Thing #43: Indoor Driving Range

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I used to golf a lot in college, but once I moved to Toronto getting out to the driving range wasn’t the same carefree excursion it was back home. Subways and streetcars weren’t designed for a bag full of clubs after all.

But one of the things that have always intrigued me are the huge, inflated bubbles that you could hit a bucket of balls in. I always wondered how it would compare to the outdoor establishments and the kid in me just wanted to know if it was as science-ficitony inside as they looked from the outside.

Turns out it’s pretty much the same, but with air conditioning and artificial lighting. The best part about the Metro Golf Dome in Scarborough is that it has two levels of mats. There’s something really fun about about hitting a ball from twenty feet up in the air.

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