Strange 3D Gaming

Martine and I did something different last night; we tried some 3D gaming. It was really quite the thing, although right off the bat we knew the game’s design was flawed because in order to play we had to physically relocate our bodies to a specific geographical location in Parc Lafontaine. I mean, what the Hell kind of network is that?

Then we had to lift these metal balls and fling them around. It was pretty weird and they were kind of heavy, but at least they were wireless. The game is called pétanque, which apparently is French although it’s not from Ubisoft. It seemed to be a rather old game, which might explain some of its quirks.

For example, it didn’t have any plugins for Facebook or Twitter. Not even a Flickr interface for Pete’s sake, and Flickr’s been around since forever!

Regardless, we played anyway. One good thing was the 3D rendering. In fact it was quite spectacular. There was full 360° perspective, with good depth rendering and nice atmospheric effects. You could walk around other players and objects, although you couldn’t walk through them. Unfortunately there were no accelerators or anything like that, so if you wanted to go from point A to point B you had to ambulate in real time.

You couldn’t change worlds, either, which was a bit of a bummer. And there was only one level, although the environment did morph over time from being bright and vividly saturated to sort of dark and shadowy. Not sure what the intention of that was. But I liked the effect, which is fortunate because I couldn’t find any way to turn it off or undo it.

There were other odd things too, like the fact that there were no energy meters. You had to judge when it was time to refuel based on some kind of gut feeling. The fuel came in glasses of a milky yellowish substance called “Pastis.” Oddly, you didn’t have to solve any puzzles in order to win them. You just asked. Where’s the challenge is in that?

What really freaked me out, however, was the other players. They tended to speak one at a time, sort of linearly, as if there were some kind of compiler limit or something. And none of them said anything about blogs, Second Life, WordPress, or wikis. It’s as if this game came from some whole other world. It was kind of creepy, because you couldn’t even pull up any bio data or background information on them, and when you got close, the avatars gave off a faint sort of meaty aroma.

In the end it was fun, but bizarre. I had trouble with all those things going on in my peripheral vision, and that one-on-one, one at a time communication was like something you’d expect from animals. I’m not sure there’s much of a future for a game like this – a game on some kind of closed-circuit, that doesn’t function on a WAN or even a LAN. Yet there was something strangely compelling about it too, as if it were tapping into some other reality that seems to have escaped us.

Blork is hard to explain

Steve Faguy’s been writing profiles of Montreal bloggers for the past five or six months. They show up in the “Saturday Extra” section of the Saturday edition of the Montreal Gazette.

Steve interviewed me back in January (face-to-face and via email) and his profile of my blog showed up this weekend. Because it’s in the Gazette, which is part of the ghastly CanWest “” Web experience, you might be able to read it, or you might not. It seems kind of random whether or not you need to log in to read the stories. But here it is if you want to give it a shot.

It’s a short piece – about 400 words – so its scope is pretty limited. But I’m pleased and flattered to be the subject of one of Steve’s profiles, although it’s too bad the Gaz puts such strict limits on their length. There are a few comments over on Steve’s own blog to that effect, where the consensus seems to be that “blork is hard to explain.”

I’m not sure if that means my blog is hard to explain, if the word “blork” is hard to explain, or if I personally am hard to explain. But then, if those things were easy to explain I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

(Update: if you can’t get through to the article you can see a screenshot of it after the jump. But I recommend not going there unless the link above gives you problems.)

Read more Blork is hard to explain

Hot and Hotter

Today was the warmest May 24 on record for Montreal. How many times in the past ten years have we had this discussion, that the record for warmest or coldest had just been broken? Dozens of times. We’re re-writing the history of weather on a monthly basis yet there are still some who believe there is no climate change occurring.

A small part of the problem lies with the terminology – “climate change” versus “global warming.” People get hung up on “global warming” and assume that if we get an unusually cold few days now and then it refutes the evidence. But those people aren’t too bright so perhaps we shouldn’t pay them any attention.

People who have both eyes open know that “climate change” is a better term. Even though the gross effect is that of warming (a degree or two, on average, over the whole world) the net effect in specific areas is variable. What we have is a great disturbance – or series of disturbances – in the regulatory system. The world’s thermostats are hosed, with a lot of imbalance as the result.

So next winter, when it dips down to -25° C on some random Thursday, don’t even bother with the “whatever happened to global warming?” joke. Chances are it’s -25° because of global warming (or more precisely, because of the disturbances in the planet’s self-regulation brought about by climate change).

Although there are still the nay-sayers, more and more people are accepting that climate change is a fact. The next big hurdle is convincing people that it is not just some big natural cycle, that it is brought about by human activity.

Hazy City

That “Climate Change 101” lecture is brought to you by Earth’s wacky and increasingly unpredictable climate. Although today was the warmest May 24 on record for Montreal, it snowed in Calgary today.

In the short term, I’m glad it wasn’t rainy or snowy here this week, as I’ve been riding my bicycle to work because of the transit strike. While I could have commuted within the “essential services” bus and Metro rush hour windows, I bristle at being herded.

So I took control of my destiny by mounting my bicycle for the 14 kilometer trek to downtown. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d expected it to be (it helps that I normally ride five kilometers a day to the nearest Metro station). Most of the ride is pretty flat, except for going over the 2.6 kilometer long Jacques Cartier Bridge with its long and seemingly endless ascents. That part can be tough. Especially when it’s only May 24 and you’re dragging your ass home at 6:15 PM in the blue haze of a humid 32° C (90°F) record-breaking day.

Porcini mushroom emergency!

A couple of days ago Martine and I were at the Jean-Talon market poking around for goodies while our car was in a nearby garage getting some work done. In Chez Louis we spotted a gorgeous assortment of fresh mushrooms, including a beautiful box of morels and a box of fresh porcinis (which were labelled as “cèpe,” since this is Montreal not Tuscany). That got my porcini-loving salivary glands going, but at a whopping $65 a pound we figured that was a bit steep on top of a car repair bill.

Fortunately, a little farther along we found a store selling frozen porcinis at $9 for a 225 gram (eight ounce) package. They were in good shape – not frosty or freezer burnt – so we bought them. After we picked up the car, I packed the frozen mushrooms into a thermal container with a couple of ice packs (yes, I go prepared when I go to the market) and then we went to a movie.

By the time we got home, the mushrooms had partially thawed. Ice packs will keep things cold, but not necessarily frozen. I could have put the mushrooms back in the freezer, but they’re pretty delicate so I didn’t want to risk wrecking them. That provoked the porcini emergency – must use porcini mushrooms right away!

So yesterday was pizza day.

Here’s the first one, composed of a simple sauce (San Marzano tomatoes, a touch of salt, and a bit of olive oil), a breath of very finely grated parmesano reggiano cheese, a wee sprinkle of dried oregano, some disks of bocconcini cheese, and a handful of those magical porcini mushrooms.

Porcini pizza

That was mighty tasty.

For the second pizza I decided to take a slightly different approach. I used the same sauce (but a bit less of it), and this time I mixed in some pecorino Toscano with the parmesano reggiano (for a little extra kick). Same bocconcini cheese, same porcini mushrooms, but this time with a tiny bit of Italian prosciutto and a more generous sprinkling of oregano on top.

Another porcini pizza

Kapow! That one really hit the spot.

I’m still working on the perfect crust. As you can see, these ones had pretty good structure, but they weren’t as light as I was hoping for. Oh well, poor us. We will just have to endure further research. Maybe with fresh porcinis next time.