And How Was YOUR Saturday Night?

trannie and fozziePhoto courtesy of Certified Bullshit Technician.

Mine was pretty nice, and nothing like the pic above: just dinner at Madras Masala followed by drinks at The Rhino with my friends Maria and James.

Despite the cold, there were lineups aplenty outside many establishments on Queen west of Dufferin, which Accordion City long-timers should find a little surprising. Only a few years ago, that stretch of Queen Street was a ghost town after dark.


“Said the Gramophone’s” Best Songs of 2010

"Best Songs of 2010 according to Said the Gramophone": photo of a turntable arm on a record player

If you’re looking to fatten up your music collection and you don’t exist solely on a diet of top 40, check out the Best Songs of 2010 list at the indie/alternative MP3 blog Said the Gramophone. It lists what they consider to be the 100 best songs of 2010 and for a little while longer, you’ll even be able to download them (they won’t stay up forever, so download them – and yes, buy them eventually – before they expire).

You can download the complete set of 100 songs in two parts:

I listened to this collection while laid up in the hospital earlier this month.

Yes, it’s likely that you’re not familiar with many of the artists in the list (although they did include a couple of pop baubles such as Cee-Lo’s Fuck You, a song so incredibly catchy that it melts even the most hardcore of indie sensibilities) and you’re not going to find much in the way of jump-on-the-table-and-make-the-devil-sign anthems, but you will hear good music. And you’ll most likely discover a few great artists you’d have otherwise overlooked.

Do check Said the Gramophone from time to time. They update regularly with new songs, and it’s one of the places I go to discover new music.


The Local Gaggle

geese 1

For the past few days, my street has become the new home to a gaggle (or perhaps a few gaggles – I can’t tell one from the other) of Canada geese. At certain times of the day – typically in the morning and mid-afternoon, you can see them, just hanging around.

Fun fact: Gaggle is the term used for a flock of at least five geese not in flight. A flock of geese in flight is called a skein.

It’s not unusual to see geese in nearby High Park, where there’s plenty of greenery, the lake is nearby and car traffic is low. It’s considerably more so to see them wandering about on a residential street and in driveways:

geese 2

Here are a couple of shots of them walking down the street, Reservoir Dogs style:

geese 3

geese 4

Their visits might have been brought about by people feeding them. For the past couple of days, I’ve noticed that someone’s been dumping piles of bread crumbs near High Park subway station, and the geese have taken to dining and even lying down there:

geese 5


Board Game Jam: This Weekend in Toronto

board game jam

If you’re in the Toronto area and have been thinking about getting into game development, whether for “stationary” devices like desktops, laptops and consoles or “mobile” devices such as tablets, slates and phones, you might want to go attend this weekend’s Board Game Jam, which takes place in Toronto this weekend.

Once the sole province of enthusiasts, game are very popular these days. Console sales are doing very well, the Kinect is selling extremely well, gamer culture has found its way into popular culture as evidenced by chiptunes and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and events like GamerCamp (which took place in Toronto in November) are attracting more than just the hardcore nerd crowd.

When people talk about games, the first thing that comes to mind is videogames. After all, they’re big business, and people are playing them everywhere – at home, at work (who hasn’t snuck in a quick round at the office?) and now, with mobile devices, whenever they’ve got some downtime. Videogames are great, but there’s more to gaming.


Board games are currently enjoying a renaissance. According to The Economist, board games sales in 2008 exceeded USD$800 million and have been growing 20% each year. Settlers of Catan, which was once for the Dungeons and Dragons crowd only, is now a hipster hobby, there’s a very healthy selection of board games at Toys ‘R’ Us and there are crowds at Toronto’s board game café, Snakes and Lattes. Just as videogames have their own special charms, so do board games – they may be made of plastic and cardboard instead of pixels and data, but in both, it’s the gameplay that makes or breaks them.

Gameplay is what Board Game Jam is all about, and since it’s about making board games rather than videogames, this gathering will make game design accessible to just about everyone. As the organizers say, “On a mechanical level, it’s simple arts and crafts.” The bigger point of Board Game Jam is to explore the gameplay aspects of game development. What makes a game fun? How do you balance challenge, playability, simplicity, complexity and sociability? Can you build a game by taking a classic and applying a little twist to it, or would you rather build something completely different?

If you’re thinking of building games for the PC, phone or Xbox, you could learn a lot at Board Game Jam. As the organizers put it:

Most of the time, we’re talking about videogames. Because videogames are awesome. But it’s easy to forget that the principles that underlie good game-making don’t necessarily involve realistic physics engines, or even good control schemes. Much of game design has to do with abstract rules and mechanics that don’t have anything to do with technology.

Here’s what’s happening at Board Game Jam:

  • Saturday
    • Morning: A crash course in board game design
    • Afternoon and evening: Make a board game
  • Sunday
    • Morning and afternoon: Finish those board games
    • Evening: Board game party – the public plays the games built at Board Game Jam!

(The full schedule for Board Game Jam is here.)

Board Game Jam takes place this Saturday and Sunday, January 29th and 30th at the George Brown School of Design, 230 Richmond Street East, Toronto. The early bird price is no longer available, but the “late bird” price is still a mere CAD$20. If you’d like to attend (I’ll be there, at least for the crash course in board game design, where I plan to take copious notes and blog them), you should register for the event at their EventBrite page.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


“But First, Chocolate Mousse!”

but first chocolate mousse

“Violence escalates in Egypt, the Egyptian government cuts off the internet, and up next, a man shot in a Cairo  protest. But first, chocolate mousse!”


Hanging Out with Kevin Steele

joey at cloud 1Photo by Kevin Steele. Click to see it on its Flickr page.

When Coffee and Code at Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar wound down late Wednesday afternoon, I took a perch at the bar by the big window facing Queen Street West. Kevin Steele, my friend and former coworker at Mackerel Interactive Multimedia, my first job after graduating from Crazy Go Nuts University, was walking by and snapped the photo above. He then walked in and joined me for a coffee.

joey at cloud 2Photo by Kevin Steele. Click to see it on its Flickr page.

We struck up a conversation, during which time he took a number of photos of me, including the one above. Looking at me, it’s kind of hard to believe that two weeks prior, I was in the intensive care unit.


We hung out at the café until just before closing and then moseyed westward to Addis Ababa restaurant for some injera. We talked about a great number of things, from Jacques Tati films to Isaac Asimov to my adopted role model for my “Bachelor 2.0 lifestyle” (Tony Stark!) to the people I know who are planning on being frozen when they die.

One of the staff overhead our conversation about cryogenics. “Hey guys,” he said, “I don’t mean to butt in, but I couldn’t help hearing you talk about cryogenics. I want to be frozen and revived in the future!”

“Many are called, but few are frozen,” I quipped. I wish I could claim that line as my own, but that’s actually a slogan used by a number of cryogenics enthusiasts.

We talked with him for a couple of minutes about whether he’d actually like the future – after all, would a 14th century peasant dropped in the middle of downtown Toronto be able to cope? There was also the issue of how long a business would keep a freezer running, as well as whether future people would think we were worth defrosting (or worse still, if they’d keep us as pets).

At about ten o’clock, we decided that as interesting and wacky and all-over-the-map our conversation was, it was time to head home.

I’m looking forward to more evenings like that one.


Caption, Please

Lettering on truck beside US flag: "My truck is built with wrenches not chopsticks"

Feel free to add a caption in the comments.