Posts Tagged reviews

Port Authority

Now that I have been on a few cruises (this was my fifth Carnival cruise, so I leveled up from red to gold ship card :o) I feel I can speak with some reasonable knowledge of some of the cool and not-so-cool things I have done while off-boat in port.

  • Cool: Going on active excursions. I really enjoyed zip lining and rock climbing, and snorkeling as always (although I had the same drowning reflex I always have when I put my face underwater)
  • Cool: Doing literal anything with friends is 1000x better than doing any activity alone. Had a delicious lunch in Grand Cayman with folk and it was a ton of fun
  • Not So Cool: The extremely touristy town next to the piers. I mean, I get this, but after the true-city feel of Juneau and Victoria on our northerly cruise, I am sick of them.

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Sushi

I love fishes ’cause they’re soooo delicious / and that’s what sushi is!

I used to hate eating fish. I couldn’t stand eating any sort of cooked fish, and I assumed that raw fish would be like 300x worse. I did enjoy an occasional fish stick, because we used to have those back when I was a young lad. I had avoided learning what fish are good because I just wouldn’t eat any.

Then, one day, I was coerced into going to a birthday party at a sushi restaurant, and there was basically no reason not to sample some rolls. They were in fact delicious. Since then, I have been expanding my sushi tastes and now I enjoy a wide variety of nigiri (fish on rice) and rolls – especially salmon, tuna (mmm toro), eel and a smattering of others.

Last night, I had a wonderful salmon-filled meal with my friend Alyson at Chiso, a sushi place in Fremont that had been recommended to me. So here are some of my quick-tips about various awesome sushi places I’ve been to in the Seattle area!

  • Chiso (Fremont) – great selection of nigiri but not a ton of roll variety; excellent miso soup and sake; good service but a little pricy.
  • Umi Sake House (Belltown) – insane sake selection; intriguing rolls, though many are spicy (not a fan); late night service, but I would stick mostly to rolls personally.
  • Mashiko (West Seattle) – small space, so reservations important; truly excellent quality fish; huge variety of rolls; sustainable fish is their plan, so some things aren’t available, but still amazing. Really personable staff.
  • Wasabi (Belltown, Pacific Place) – pretty “mass market” feel; expensive; good for a quick bite though, especially if you want sake + sushi and price is not of much concern.

I’ve heard good things about Shiro’s (Belltown) but haven’t been there yet. Next on the list!

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Theming

“All things serve theme.” This is the basis of one of the 50 lenses in Jesse Schell’s amazing book Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (I highly recommend reading it if you have any inclination toward designing for the enjoyment of others). It’s stuck with me, because I think it’s easy to lose sight of the vision when you are down in the weeds, trying to solve problems rather than trying to design the best experience (or game, or whatever).

So, when I set out to do blog-a-day in 2010, I quickly found I was somewhat adrift without a theme. So I ended up doing one theme a month and basing my posts around them. Some worked, some didn’t, but it sure made the work and the decisions about what to write easier. :)

I’d like to do themes again, starting with next month. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them! Three I am definitely planning on doing are My Favorite Things (each is something I love and why), Memories with Friends (each is a random friend and a memory I shared with them), and What If? (each is an alternate reality, similar to ours, that I’d love to explore and why). Please comment here or on FB if you have an idea!

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Singin’ the Songs

Since one of my resolutions is to sing karaoke and never repeat a song (thanks again for the inspiration, Amanda!), I figured a good way to keep myself honest and get some blog posts done would be to talk about the songs after I sing them! So each Friday I’ll talk about the songs I sang the previous night (Thursday being the now-normal karaoke night for our crew):

Fuel – Shimmer

I discovered this song via Pandora, which is actually where I found a huge portion of the songs I know today. (Thanks Pandora!) I think the first time I heard it was a cover, then the real one came up on the same station. I enjoy using this song as a starter for an evening, because it’s straightforward, fast, energetic and (I feel) I do it well. It’s also kind of an emo song with an upbeat ending, which I like. Seemed like a good start to a year-long karaoke experiment!

Smashing Pumpkins – Today

I enjoy singing the Smashing Pumpkins, having been introduced to them properly by my friend Todd, who loves them. Today isn’t my favorite song of theirs (that honor goes to Bullet with Butterfly Wings), but I do love it! It’s got a good mix of highs and lows, along with some cool vocal acrobatics (as most Pumpkin songs do). I originally thought this song was a cover of somebody else’s Today, but I see now in doing some research that it is originally a Pumpkins song – nice!

…it was a short night, since I needed to head home early, but expect more like 3/night in the future!

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#18: Media Blitz

I figured with all these resolutions that require a ton of work, I should consider ones that I might be almost already on the path to completion, that just need a little nudge in order to be useful self-improvements.  One such resolution is consuming media that I have intended to consume but haven’t – either because I have been lazy or I haven’t had time.  I figure I’ll make a list of all the movies and books I really feel I should watch or read, and then, you know, do that as opposed to reading/watching random other stuff.

Conservation of time is important here – right now, I read a ton and I also watch a considerable number of movies.  For this resolution to work, I need to not be shirking my other responsibilities (which I am sometimes wont to do) because I am absorbed by too much to read or watch.  In addition, I really like writing reviews that my friends can use to judge the merit of a work before they have to go out and purchase/borrow it, so I think I’ll include that in the resolution.  I don’t think adding in television shows or games is a good idea because (a) games and TV series take a huge amount of time and attention compared to books and movies, and (b) I don’t have as long or as relevant a list for those media.  (Although I am considering spending a portion of my winter break getting into video games I never played but should have!)

18. I resolve to make a list of books and movies I haven’t consumed but really should, and then I will read/watch them and write some number of reviews on those works.

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Review: Rainy Days

To those who are somehow unaware, for about six months a year Seattle is literally underwater.  By literally, I mean figuratively – that is, the air feels filled with rain and you can’t go anywhere without getting soaked.  This is a property of Seattle, and I am not intending to complain overmuch, but there are various consequences to consider when you are living at the bottom of a rain-ocean half the year.

The first negative consequence of Seattle’s ubiquitous rain is that Seattleites (SOMEHOW) are awful at driving when it’s drizzling or worse.  This is frustrating to anyone who comes from a more Los Angeles style proactive school of driving like myself.  Umbrellas are another trap of rainy days – sure, they’ll keep you dry, but (a) they are hard to share and often lose their value in a large group, and (b) if you’re like me, you are bound to forget about it and leave it somewhere when you are out and about.  Also – and I want to try to remove my own bias here because I am feeling a bit sickly – rainy days are conducive to becoming sick, if you aren’t careful.

The rain is largely responsible for why Seattle is the Emerald City and not the Durdley Brown City, so that’s a major upside.  It’s also pretty cathartic to just go out into rain and let it fall, washing away your cares.  I do especially appreciate sunshowers (my favorite weather), and they are more frequent here than many other places.  On a weekend, when it’s raining outside and you have a book and you’re curled up on the bed or couch with your loyal pup – that’s pretty heavenly.  So there are amazing parts to rainy days, too!

Overall: B- (A- for sunshowers)
Compared to Sunny Days: A Necessary Evil
Utility At Spreading Water Over Large Area: Very High

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Review: Small World

Small World is a board game that uses a territory-conquering system similar to risk, but has fantasy flavor and special powers for each person’s army.  Once all 1,000 pieces are punched and organized, it’s surprisingly simple to set up and to get going – and the game has only the one core mechanic to make sure play is relatively straightforward.  I thought I’d go through a list of pros and cons:

Pros

  • You get a lot of goofy combinations between race and “class” which adds to the hilarity.
  • The core mechanic is straightforward (number of pieces of cardboard in a tile = such a great way to do it!)
  • The core mechanic is fun (send your troops to kill your enemies!)

Cons

  • It’s very much an interactive, beat-each-other-up type game.  So if your audience isn’t prepared for that, things might get dicey.
  • Because the only variance is in generation of race-class combos, and I’m positive they aren’t exactly balanced with each other, it can feel like you got outlucked in that respect.
  • There’s a lot of specific rules for stuff that seems extraneous – like, more +1 for territory stuff and less Sorcerer-type abilities would aid this game in its simplicity.

As is, I would recommend this game to any group that can handle Settlers, Dominion or even Carcassone.  It’s lots of fun and once you get the base rules down you can devote free mental energy to the surprisingly complex strategy and the special rules I talk about above.

Overall: A-
Ease of Teaching: B+
Replayability: Medium-High
Brokenness of Dragon Master Skeletons: High

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Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Aha!  A *double* movie weekend!  I went to go see The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on Saturday for a matinee with Zac and Ken, and no small part of that decision was because my company has some prominent product placement in the movie.  It was pretty tasteful (I would totally put those up on my wall at work) but overall, the movie was only medium quality.

I do not think it was awful, but a good part of that was because I had lowered expectations going into it.  I didn’t hear positive reviews on it from the radio movie reviewer, and then Aaron was not kind to it in his review.  So, with those biases coming in, I actually found it to be enjoyable.  I do enjoy more campiness and silliness than most, though, and tolerate it significantly longer than some of my friends when watching a “popcorn movie.”

That said, I thought the plot was a bit weak, and the characterization of the main two “masters” – Cage and Molina – could have been much much better.  I’d say wait until DVD.

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Review: Inception

I’m pretty sure at this point I would put Inception at 3rd or 4th all-time for my favorite movies.  I’ve spent most of the day in my spare thoughts ruminating over the implications of the movie, and just in general the feel and the content of it.  It was outstanding.

The movie had just the right mix of group crime thriller, science fiction and drama to hook me early and keep me all the way through.  DiCaprio’s performance was amazing, of course, but I thought nearly everyone’s was, which is kind of awesome for a movie with such an ensemble cast.  There was also a lot more depth and feeling of meaning (if that makes sense) to the action, which helped me bond with the characters much faster and stronger than I would have otherwise.

They do some crazy stuff with time – at the risk of minor spoilers, there’s some very excellent pacing and drama injected by the conceit that time flows faster in dreams (and even faster in dreams-within-dreams).  I of course appreciated that, being such a time fiction nut.  I heard on the radio the following phrase in relation to Inception: “if you get past the hokey science,” dot dot dot.  I kind of took it as given – the premise is people can share dreams, there’s no need for me to worry about how per se, except in the context of the plot device.

I will be buying this on DVD as soon as I am able, and probably watching it at least once more in the theater.  Two thumbs way up!

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Thoughts before Inception

I’m about to leave for the evening to go see Inception at the Pacific Science Center IMAX here at Seattle Center.  I’m pretty excited – this is the movie I’ve been most looking forward to all year.  The review I heard this morning gave it very high marks (second best the reviewer had seen this year) and I’ve heard great things from friends.  What this experience is reminding me of is when I was in college, regarding The Matrix.

When I first heard about The Matrix, I was a freshman at track practice with my friend Tom.  He mentioned he had seen this kickass movie and he couldn’t really describe it.  He mentioned stuff about time slowing and action/Mission Impossible type stuff, and I was convinced.  Sure, I hadn’t heard of this movie, but I was kind of disconnected from the movie scene at college.  I rounded up some friends and we went into Hollywood to see it at the big (Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre.

I can still remember the audience’s collective intake of breath in the first scene when Trinity does her leap and rotate thing and kicks tons of butt.  Many times, when there is a unified audience reaction like that, people will cheer and I can get annoyed if I miss dialogue.  But this time, everyone was just speechless and it was wonderful.

Woo hoo!  I’ll review tomorrow.

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