Thursday, October 31, 2013

5 Guys Burger / Montreal

Burgers are one of my favourite food in London, and I've been trying to hunt down a burger in Montreal that can rival Byrons or Honest Burger in London. So far, no luck. But 5 Guy Burger comes close.

First let's talk fries. I tend to consume a big bunch of fries before digging into the burger, and 5 Guys does not disappoint. These are great fries, but still a ways to go before taking on the Rosemary Fries at Honest Burger. Those Rosemary fries are, to me, the standard of Burger Fries.

I'd say 5 Guys would be my number 2 for fries, with Byron's skin-on fries at number 3.

Burger wise, it is probably the best burger I've had in Montreal. I've tried a few burger places on The Plateau, but really, they still have a ways to go. Meat is fresh and juicy, and the bacon crispy with perfection. The buns are actually pretty damned good, and fresh veggies top it off.

Now food, like cameras, are a very personal thing. You like chilli? Not me....

That said. I still think, the overall burger winner still has to be Honest Burger, in terms of price, service, and drinks.

In terms of patties. There is one burger place that is still at the top of my list. Dirty Burger. Dirty burger has the most amazing patty I've ever had in a burger. It almost melts on your tongue. Sadly, I'm not a big fan of their fries or milkshakes (fries are decent, but pales in comparison to Honest. Milkshakes? The one I had was too watered down.). Their location is also rather out of the way, and seating is usually very tight.

Now in terms of milkshakes :P Byron takes the lead by a big big margin. If you want a great milkshake. Go to Byrons. Byrons do great burgers as well, and some of my friends prefer Byrons to Honest, but it's really a personal choice. Byrons wins out for me in terms of space for large groups of people, excellent service, and oh my goodness, the dessert menu. The aformentioned milkshakes, brownies, banana split and more. Byrons does run on the pricey side though, compared to say Honest where one can get a burger fries and drink for (IIRC) £12.

So, there is no number one burger for me, just the best burger for the occasion ;-)


Last week I got a pair of windproof gloves for winter.... that's one purchase that didn't turn out too well. I guess I need to sell it on ebay or what. Basically, the windproof gloves are great at stopping the breeze... but the gloves themselves get cold too.... so I don't feel the breeze, but my paws still get damned cold since the glove is cold!!!

I have since ditched them for the shooting mittens I got for winter photography, and they perform much better. I will probably get a pair of heavy mittens down the line when winter hits, and this time I'll know what to get!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Arcteryx Khuno

Winter in the UK is a pretty rough time for me, but properly attired, it is not too much of an issue. Now Montreal presents a different situation. Temperatures that can fall way below negative in the deep of the night, and even this morning, the weather report indicated a nice frosty -1C as I left my apartment.

Fearing the worst, I decided to go with a known brand. Arcteryx. Originally, Arcteryx was not even on my list - North Face was my number once choice actually. But I happened to check out the Arcteryx store along St Catherine, and found out that Arcteryx carried a line of winter gear more suited for the more mundane needs of commuters, not base camp ascendees.

Enter: The Khuno. Its price is ouch inducing, but the known brand gives me a big peace of mind. So far, I've been fairly impressed with it.

Last saturday, it was drizzling for most of the day, and the weather report indicated a balmy +2C.

As a winter clothing n00b, I think this piece of weather gear really impressed me. The Khuno totally shed the rain coming down, and what was left simply flew off from just brushing it. Wow.

It was also very warm. With the hood in use, my head and neck were surprisingly warm. And this was with a T shirt and jeans! In fact when I was doing errands during lunch break today, with the winter sun beating down, I had to have the hood down and the front zip partially down.

 The only gripe I have with it is the pockets on the front, they've got some odd flaps I'm guess designed to keep the wind out, but I found it a bit fiddly to get my hands in at times.

I'm hoping all I need when things get really cold would be some fleece and perhaps thermals under that. I'm more worried about my face though.

I can still feel the bite of the wind on my face, and I've been looking at some ways to solve this. First off, of course is a full on balaclava, but I never liked the condensation around the mouth. I've also seen some face masks that cover the cheeks down to the neck, that's probably my first choice. Then with my trappers hat to cover my head (Khuno has some adjustability to allow for hats) I hope it will be enough to survive here!

Will post more throughout the winter!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weather Striping

The temperature has suddenly dropped this week, and I discovered that _something_ was up with my apartment. There were leaks!!!! The corner of the room was massively cold, it seems one of the corners had a massive leak. With temps going below 0 and night, it was not a fun feeling to wake up to!

In addition, I have a sliding door in the living room, good lord that area is unbelievably cold in the morning. I'd already applied some weather striping to the edges last weekend, and helped alot, but something else needed to be done.

For the room, I got some Caulking Cord. If it wasn't for the greyish colour, it felt good enough to chew on. But yeah, using that to fill in the gaps where I could feel the cold coming in is helping immensely. I've usually got the thermostat at 22 degrees, and with that on, it would indicate the coils are still running.

As I sit and write, I've dropped it to 20 degrees, and it actually feels I could go a leeetle bit cooler. Plus, the thermostat indicates it's shut off the heating coils too. Win! Warm + energy efficiency!

As mentioned, I'd already applied some weather striping to seal in the gaps in the sliding doors last weekend, which helped, but there were still leaks... _somewhere_

I got a "Draft Detector", basically some sort of slow burning cord that generates a fine plume of smoke. The detector showed me a rather curious pattern. Air from inside the apartment was being sucked outside through a gap at the top of the door, and cold air was coming in from the base of the door.

Interesting! I got pieces of insulation foam to seal those gaps, hopefully it will be enough, if not I'm going to get some more caulking cord and seal up every single gap there.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Choo choo, I'm on a train.

So I picked up Zelda: Spirit Tracks earlier this week, though it would be good fun over the long weekend. And indeed it does possess a fair bit of fun however the feeling I'm getting now is that its really more or less an endless fetch quest.

The premise of the game is that the rail ways that cover the world, aka spirit tracks have been removed due to the evil-doers. Link, as usual, gets roped in to save the world. You know, standard JRPG fare, young kid no more than oh, 12? Saves the world.

Now Spirit Tracks has a formula that's really grating on me: go into spirit tower, obtain map, go visit a sage, go to the temple, kill the boss, repeat.

So far, I've done this four times, and next I'm supposed to go to some region of fire after I've once again obtained another map in the spirit tower. BLARGH. Fetch quest.

That said, some of the level design in the dungeons are really challenging, which makes them freakin enjoyable. Controls are tight, probably similar to phantom hourglass (which I've not touched in years).

Another rant is the bosses, some are just too damned simple (like the spiked boss, which is the 4th boss). And some are friggin' annoying to fight (3rd boss, master of ice fire). I'm assuming that 10 year olds have much better reflexes for these kinda stuff.

I'm not sure how enjoyable this game would be if it were not of the Zelda franchise; The Legend of Zelda has been building the world for decades, and it is very nice to see familiar faces, enemies and music pop up. If it was a totally new world though, perhaps I'd just stop.

What I really need to do is play the older final fantasy games again. How did though damned games hook me for so many hours as a kid? I can actually put down spirit tracks to do stuff and not get sucked in. Was it because of the story and expansive world to explore? Hmmm.... well thinking back to say FF6 (FF3US), that was definitely a perfect combo of both. Strong characters, massive world with a great story.

Ok getting old, signing off before I show off more of my age.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Infinity Blade Novels, Mont Royal.

Was up at Mont Royal today, video above from the lookout point!

Just finished the two Infinity Blade novels, and wish that they would be proper full length novels of the whole game series, so that I don't need to play the games to figure out the stories. I think the story in game is relatively short anyways, and that unlike say, Zelda, it's not something you can just play n win.

That said, since I do have Infinity Blade II, both novels fill in alot of details in the game. Love it, but argh I do not want to play the game!

Ah well.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

SSD: Pure Gold!!!!

I recently got a ssd to replace the 5.4k hard drive in my laptop and OH MY WOLF it is fast! I knew it would be fast-er, but not this fast! Gonna save lots of time booting up the big applications!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Tablet Designs: some things could be better.

It seems like TD Bank in Canada was having a special deal, giving away Galaxy Tab 3 7.0s for new accounts open. These tablets often show up on craigslist below retail and I grabbed one to see what the hooha is about Samsung products :3

After using it for a little bit, here's my thoughts on the designs of tablets.

First, speakers. Tablets usually have their speakers located at the "end" where the home button/usb connector is located (Ipad/galaxy tab). This kinda suck when playing games or watching videos in landscape mode, because the sound is now coming off from the left or right.

One tablet that does it differently is the Kindle Fire, it has its two speakers located at either end of the longer axis. This works much better when working on landscape mode. Of course, if you are now using the Fire in portrait mode, you get sound... coming off the top and bottom. Trade offs eh?

Next, physical buttons. Not always a good thing. The Galaxy Tab has 3 physical buttons, the home, settings and back button. The home button is a physical press button, but the other two appear to be some sort of touch-sensitive buttons. These buttons are rather easy to trigger when holding the device in landscape mode. Annoying.

The Kindle Fire has its own on-screen button tab which is rather annoying as it's always there. The Android 4.2 devices with on-screen buttons have a dedicated area for the buttons, which is a trade off. I still think the best home button design is on the ipad - it's recessed, very obvious when you press it, and it does not use up screen real estate.

UI wise, one thing I really like about the Galaxy Tab is the upper drag down menu. It immediately gives access to the controls for Wifi, GPS, power saving modes, screen brightness etc. It's something I use frequently, and I like how fast it is to access. Similarly, iOS7's bottom drag up menu has the wifi blutooth etc controls there.

There is something that can be improved for the Galaxy Tab's pull down menu though, is is the graphics! For some reason, when I first used it, it reminds me of the look and feel of the dos based Acrobat Reader back in the 90s - very utilitarian, black on white icons. IMO it clashes with the rest of the UI design.

Now for specifics on the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 (ergh, this sounds like I've become a tech writer. I actually dislike clamouring for the latest tech. It is just so not my thing. Tech gets outdated. I much prefer to spend time developing skills as skills don't get outdated. Mostly.)

The first thing I want to point out is the crappy Auto Brightness. Sometimes it works very well, sometimes it dims the screen way to much. Apart from that....

Music uploaded to the device plays fine, so are videos. You got access to the Samung store and google play. I think for the price it is an excellent device, and there is a microSD expansion slot - not tested - hopefully you can put your music library there.

The DAC seems to be quite powerful, on my Shure SE215, I need to reduce the volume to the minimum to be comfortable; I'm guessing they'll drive higher impedance phones just fine. Quality wise, it's hard to say as I didn't do a compare against my MP3 player.

What else can I say.... uh, it's.... light? Not very cuddly? In anycase, it seems like a perfectly great tablet.

Plants VS Zombies 2. Breaking the flow.

One of the games I purchased on my Kindle Fire was Plants vs Zombies. A thoroughly enjoyable game, I'd replayed it twice, well worth its asking price. It pushes all the right buttons, with the gameplay just right, always making me go "one more stage before bed...."

Bringing on version 2 of the game (I am playing it on iOS), it sports super polished graphics and the fun gameplay from the first game. However, if you decide not to pay for tokens and other items in-game, it gets quite boring.....

In the first game, the stages came one after the another, introducing new enemies, layouts etc to spice things up. In the new game, it's exactly the same, until I got to the end of the Egyptian time period, and to move on, required 15 Stars to open the gate to the next time period. A screen pops up, informing you of how you can purchase those stars.

Thankfully, the game does not hamstring you into stopping here, it allows you to collect stars by re-playing stages, each with some challenges for you to overcome. Win these, and you get a star!

After collecting the 15 stars (which was quite boring, and breaking the flow of the game....), I finally got to the pirate stage. Which I must say, is good fun, with lots of new mechanics. I think I got through the main stages over two evenings, and once again, the gate to the new time period. This time...... 30 stars. BORING!

I am thinking this pay-to-play model works very well for PopCap, since they are using it. Unfortunately, I do not fall into the category of people who care for micro-transactions. I wish there was an option to purchase the full game outright, and not have to deal with this.

I'm still very curious to see what happens after the pirate stages, so I'll just chew through this maybe one or two stars a night.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

New Gmail Layout

Removing the top bar makes it uber clean, yet, it now takes me two clicks to get to drive, G+ etc.

That's a con, in my book.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Otakuthon 2013

_someone_ hasn't yet setup his osx photographic workflow yet, so I'm working off an uncalibrated screen, and have none of my tools available (they're still on my linux drive.... which is in limbo).

But here are the pictures from my short visit to Otakuthon 2013.