House made me do it!!!

Posted on March 31st, 2007 in TV by andrija

How crazy it is when you buy a product – in this case BluRay disk – just because it was mentioned by your favourite character, or should I say actor – while he or she was actually acting?

Uhm, that’s too confusing. Let’s make it simple. Know House, M.D.? The best recent show on TV? He has a rat, which he named Steve McQueen. Well, I saw a BluRay disk”Bullitt” in BestBuy and then FutureShop today. It has “Steve McQueen” written on it and it was $25. So I bought it. Because if House likes it enough to name his rat after the actor, then it must be good.

Vancouver’s Cherry Blossoms, Part 0

Posted on March 31st, 2007 in Vancouver by andrija

I went to Queen Elizabeth park on March 31 to scout the cherry blossom situation. It looks like next weekend – the Easter weekend – will be good time to come here. Right now the cherry blossoms are just starting and while they can be enjoyed, they’re still a few days away from full bloom.

QE Park 7QE Park 6

QE Park 1QE Park 4

PS3 firmware update to 1.6 is good

Posted on March 27th, 2007 in Video Games by andrija

After the lacklustre launch, PS3 is finally shaping up to be a decent, usable machine. Firmware upgrades were incremental, but if you compare what you have today with what you had 4 months ago, you’ll find it a considerably more refined experience.

Latest firmware – 1.6, rolled out for European launch – brings the long-awaited background downloading. Bluetooth mouse and keyboard are finally supported natively. Web browser is finally fast and user friendly. Sony Store is faster and has more content. Various other issues with XMB menus have been fixed or improved. Owners of PSP and 20GB version can now use remote play – something I never expected to see (and the reason I wanted the 60GB version). I was very happy when I was finally able to remove the Bluetooth dongle and register my mouse and keyboard with the PS3. The process was very simple – just as it should be. And the integration seems good – you can use mouse to navigate the menus, or in the browser. You can use keyboard too. I don’t think either worked before, but I might be wrong. The browser itself is much faster and more compliant than before, and menus are now properly labeled so you don’t need to guess which key does what. But you can also use mouse if you wish, and it will even let you navigate menus without clicking.

Controller button menu has been reshuffled so its new layout means less work and time to activate most frequent commands. I hear you can now resume BluRay playback where you stopped, if you leave the player, and you can also set up the console to automatically launch the disc that’s in it upon power on (be it game or movie).

Folding@Home is a very neat addition that looks and works impressively for a 1.0 version (it may not be new outside PS3 world, but it’s still a new architecture). Background downloading worked pretty well, too. Unfortunately it will not continue with downloads if you’re within the Folding@Home – presumably because there’s a network connection active – but it’s much better than before.

And of course, if you have North American or Japanese version, PS 1/2 game compatibility has been improved since launch and is now excellent.

Of course, not all is well. The machine still only plays a very limited set of video formats, making it pretty useless for that purpose. It is also still unable to access content shared folders on the network. It doesn’t upscale DVDs. It doesn’t let you import music in losless format. Linux is still just a gimmick (unless you want to use Cell). There are still no AAA games other than Resistance. There’s still no option set up your own background (come on, even PSP can do it). The list of exclusives is shrinking by the week (they just lost the exclusivity of the Devil May Cry franchise). It’s not quiet. And it uses a lot of power to operate, even if it’s just sitting idle.

The potential is still there; whether PS3 will ever became a real media center – or even a must-have gaming machine – still remains to be seen. But at least I’m starting to feel at least a little bit pleased as I move around the XMB.

A sunny day

Posted on March 25th, 2007 in Vancouver by andrija

Well, the weather continued to be nice today. I left home at half past 11 and came back just after 6. I spent that time walking around town. I started by having lunch at Cactus Club near Best Buy (I mean on Broadway – but hey, my landmarks are stores, not intersections). Then I walked to a specialized travel book store across the street and after a lot of thinking I got me maps of Tokyo and Kyoto, and a travel guide to Tokyo (there were no guides to Kyoto). Then I walked – predictably – to Best Buy. But I ended up buying nothing there – I had a few things in my hands as I walked around, but eventually they ended back on shelves. I would’ve bought Eureka 7 volumes 4-6, but they only had 5 and 6 so I didn’t want to get them despite a pretty good price of 20 for one and 22 for the other. I also didn’t get the Logitech MX Revolution mouse, which cost $10 more than at Netlink. Anyway, I proceeded to my favourite walking path, next to the False Creek and towards Granville Island. I ended up taking a lot of pictures with my camera phone today – this was just a start.

False Creek 1

False Creek 2False Creek 3False Creek 5

False Creek 4

Sakura 1

Looks like a perfect place for hanami – but these aren’t cherries…

Sakura 3

This, however, is a cherry. A very pretty one too! But it’s no place for picnic.

Sakura 5
But just a few meters further, there IS a nice place for picnic. There’s even a fountain. It’s not necessarily the best place for hanami as cherries are small and fairly sparse, but hey, it’s a great location between two bridges, and you can buy all the food stuff on Granville island – there is no better place to get some deli.

After a brief washroom pitstop on Granville Island, I proceeded to walk along the seaside towards Vanier park in Kitsilano. There I decided to visit the Vancouver Museum, for the first time ever. Probably the last time too, because the prices are very Canada-like. I cannot understand how we get any tourists, when they have to pay 10-15 dollars for only one of the activities in that building. Space center is 15, but that’s just space center. Museum is 10 but that doesn’t include special exhibits. Those are 10 too. You can get a combo – which I did – for 15. I don’t know, 10-15 dollars sounds like a lot of money. I am not sure that the size of exhibits justifies paying that much. But as a one-time visit, I decided to let it slip.

Vancouver Museum

The Vancouver Museum and your friendly neighbour… never mind.
Museum View

The view from the museum’s orientation area was almost worth the price of admission. Right now the cherry blossoms are just starting to open and the massive cherry trees in their backyard look simply stunning (this is camera phone, through glass, so don’t complain). It will look even better in a few days, I bet.

I spent only an hour and half at the museum. I didn’t really skip anything – unless there’s something on the lower floor that I missed; I was feeling bad though, so I wanted to leave. Maybe it was the wine I had at Cactus – it tasted fine but my head was soon spinning, which is usually a sign of a lack of quality. By the time I was at the museum that feeling was long gone, but I was now feeling as if I was in starting stages of a flu or a bacterial infection of the throat. I felt better once I left but have not completely recovered, even now. I might wake up tomorrow in a sick state. I hope not, as the forecast is more sun, but unfortunately this is a fairly common occurrence – weather pattern changes, especially if it was stuck in a rut for long time, and people suddenly do something out of ordinary, and their bodies pay for it.

I proceeded upwards, toward Broadway, to go home. I was thinking of visiting the Future Shop on Broadway but I wasn’t feeling good so I stopped at Starbucks on York and got me some herbal tea (I am trying to limit my coffee intake to a morning espresso). I even managed to find a seat. After that I walked one more street up to Cornwall; I saw bus number 22 coming so I crossed the street and went to the bus stop. But the bus didn’t stop – it was full! On a Sunday afternoon! Angry (as usual) I proceeded to walk further up, eventually getting to 4th Ave. Of course, number 4 just passed right in front of me, but another bus was coming. I went to the bus stop – the bus didn’t stop. It was empty though, and probably wasn’t even on duty. I reluctantly went all the way up to 9th Ave, I mean Broadway.

Since I was there already, it made no sense not to go to Future Shop. I was planning on getting them to match the price on that Revolution MX mouse, and I wanted to see if they had Eureka 7 volume 4. As I walked in – by the way, Death by Chocolate is on Fir, not Burrard – I was handed a “friends and family sale” flyer. Oh, right. That was on today.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on who you talk to – I didn’t buy anything there either. They had no mouse in stock (I couldn’t find it anyway, and believe me I tried), and they had no Eureka 7 either. They did have a few PS3 games that Best Buy didn’t (Virtua Tennis 3 and Armored Core 4), but I wasn’t in the mood to spent any more money on games, even with 10% off that was on right then.

As I walked out, number 9 passed right beside me – this was becoming a pattern. So I walked all the way to Granville and waited – and waited – for number 99. When it finally arrived, it was full, and crowd which was waiting was big. I got in, but it became an annoying ride as there were a lot of people at every stop, and driver kept saying to “go further back”. I hate that. At least the bus was going pretty fast and traffic wasn’t bad so we got to Broadway Skytrain about 15-20 minutes later. I bought some food at Safeway and finally went home.

And no, I didn’t take pictures of Best Buy and Future Shop.

The effect of sunshine on one’s mood

Posted on March 25th, 2007 in Vancouver by andrija

If you’re living in Vancouver, you are certainly painfully aware of the horrible weather we’ve been suffering since last fall. The worst of all is lack of sunshine – it feels like it’s been ages since we last saw sun. In fact there was an article on CBC website about Vancouver getting 130 fewer hours of sunny weather since November than normal. In other words, we have missed two to three months of sun! That’s pathetic in itself since we’re supposed to only get 45-50 hours of sun per month during winter. Looks like the mister (or missus?) upstairs has been sleeping on the job, or worse.

But that’s not all. Not only it wasn’t sunny, but it was rainy! Cold, rainy, wet, soggy, you name it – we’ve had it. In fact it was so bad that we’re on track of defeating the previous all-time rainy March record of 1997. The sad thing is, I remember that winter well too, unfortunately. It’s been terrible, and I recall taking a day off immediately upon seeing sun outside; something I did two weeks ago as well, when I took an unexpectedly sunny Tuesday afternoon off.

Due to gray and soggy weather, the people’s mood has been bad lately – at least mine was. I normally like gray days because they enable me to enjoy time at home – no hot apartment and no bright sun reflecting off my monitors and TVs that I’m trying to watch (what else do I do anyway?). But I still want it to be sunny when I’m not at home and when I go out or frequently during the day; just not when it’s inconvenient. Without any sun for months, I was really starting to feel like I was in a prison. I was feeling claustrophobic, like the gray sky was closing on me. I wanted to go out and take a walk, but I couldn’t as it was constantly raining – often hard – and it was cold. And on those few days when it wasn’t raining, the cold wind was blowing, making it still uncomfortable to be outside. I was spending my days doing the same routine, going to same places and it was staring to get to me really badly.

So yesterday as I walked home from the restaurant with some friends I was giddy as a kid when the sun showed up. It was only half an hour before sunset, but I was genuinely happy and jumping up and down the street. I’m surprised I wasn’t called on that; perhaps others were just as happy, but chose not to show it. Anyway, the effect was amazing and almost instantaneously I could feel those months of gray prison drying away.

Cherry Blossom Finally Starting this Year?

Posted on March 16th, 2007 in Vancouver by andrija

A poor little cherry tree, braving the relentless assault of exhaust from countless cars going to and from Station Square at Metrotown. But it’s standing proud – and blooming, earlier than any others that I know of. Probably because it’s rather warm in this enclosed area.

A Cherry Tree

Apparently though, some trees around town have been blooming for a week now.  That makes them around equal – this particular tree has been blooming for at least half a week too.  It’s me who’s slow.