Wherein I Rant About a Lack of Real Wagons

I would happily drive any of these WAGONS. Sadly, we won’t see any of them in Canada (maaaaaybe the Focus Wagon, and Mazda6 Wagon, but no confirmation on either of those from their respective manufacturers). Ok, so we do get a couple of these (the BMW, and Mercedes are technically for sale here, but in very specific (read: boring) trim packages). But really, what I want?

Hyundai i40 wagon, Mazda6 Wagon, Honda Civic WAGON (this is seriously sexy as hell, I’d consider a Civic, if I could have this). Primarily, the Mazda6 Wagon. I really liked them back in ’02 to 06 (in fact, I almost bought one, but the dealership refused to find me one with a manual, even going so far as to lie to me and tell me they weren’t available with a stick). I loved the RSX I bought back then, but had that Mazda6 Wagon been available to me with a manual, I’d never have gotten as far as the RSX.

http://driving.ca/audi/auto-news/news/10-wagons-we-saw-in-paris-that-we-really-want-but-cant-buy

The closest we get to wagons now, are the venerable (and slightly wonderful) VW Golf/Jetta SportWagen. The smart choice is actually the 2.0 Turbo-diesel, with the tiptronic DCT transmission; the Subaru Outback. Still not quite a wagon, as it’s too tall, but the Legacy, uhhh… legacy is there. And really, nothing a set of lowering springs and Bilstein shocks couldn’t fix; And the discontinued Acura TSX Wagon, which is really nice, but… yeah. Discontinued. Everything else that can be readily identified as a “wagon” has a base price of $45,000+.

I continue to lament the loss of the (affordable) wagon. There are some (and it pains me to admit it) excellent CUV’s out there now: the Tucson/Sportage, Santa Fe/Sorento, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Toyota Venza (also a candidate for lowering to “camry wagon” profile), but I still want that car-ride-height, handling and fuel-eoconomy that goes with it: and I want it wider than it is tall: I want a WAGON.

Rumours continue to abound about Hyundai i40/sonata diesel wagons, Mazda6 Wagon (also, potentially diesel), and Focus ST wagon (om, nom, nom: fast wagon). Sadly though, no one is going to proffer one to me. Maybe they’ll get around to it in a couple of years, when I really start looking again. A manual, turbo-diesel Sonata wagon would be… that’d be just great. And it’s not like it’s not out there already.

I may be biased.

I used to drive this:

In that color, even.

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ExtraLife2014

Once again, Team Bombshelter took part in ExtraLife. This is the biggest we’ve ever gone, for several reasons.

The long and short, as I’ve talked about before, is that Extra-Life.org coordinates an event wherein you play games (console, computer, tabletop, whatever you like) for twenty-four hours. The money is organized by Children’s Miracle Network, and distributed to the Children’s Hospital that your team chooses to support. In our case, that’s the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, or CHEO. This is a great cause. Doubly so, because despite the trouble that charities have had with, ummm, “overhead”, 100% of proceeds go to the hospital you choose.

We’ve done this for three years now. This is, in fact, my birthday event. It costs me a bunch of money, but, honestly, it’s a great cause, I have a good time, and it’s a good party, too.

This year was, admittedly, planned to be big. @thirtyyearhouse and I bought a new house in February, and we planned to have space to entertain (in our own, distinct manners). Which means I may have gotten enthusiastic in the way we set-up. On top of that, we not only grew the staples (PC Gaming, Xbox360, Xbox:One) but we also added tabletop.

What we ended up with was:

15 TV’s varying from 32″ to 55″
1 projector (at about a 120″ screen)
8 xbox360s
5 xbox:ones
1 PS4
1 PS3 (epic rockband setup)
15 PCs, gaming laptops, and Alienware
1 combined game of Cards Against Humanity and Crabs Adjust Humidity
1 room devoted to tabletop gaming

So, yeah. You can imagine the parking we took up on the street (at least it’s a relatively quiet street! who knows what my neighbours think?)

The list there is pretty impressive. But you don’t really (I don’t think) get the scope of it until you SEE it all:

SO, yeah. That.

We blew the breakers twice: primarily for the xbox360 room, and family room (PC game overflow). The power meter read 36216 on Saturday morning, and 36316 on Sunday morning. I don’t know how that measures, what the units are, but I’m intrigued to see the power bill.

On top of all the direct gaming hardware, I upgraded the entire house’s network. Fortunately, I have my connection through Distributel and had ZERO issues all weekend with my 28 down / 2 up connection. There’s no cap on it either, so all the updates that people inevitably had to do, won’t cost me.

The network:

1 ASUS AC68u Dark Knight II router
1 ASUS 24-port gigabit switch (basement/PC Gaming)(borrowed)
1 TP-Link 8-port gigabit switch (Xbox:One room)
1 TP-Link 16-port gigabit switch (xbox360 room)
1 TP-Link 8 port gigabit switch (basement overflow room)
10x Cat5e 10′ cables
1 Cat5e 25″ cable
1 Cat5e 50″ cable
1 Cat5e 75″ cable

Why the gigabit cabling? Well, all the consoles, and PC’s have a wired network: not everyone uses it regularly, but it’s there. With the sheer volume of devices, I figured that was going to be a better way to organize: messy, but we weren’t going to kill the wireless throughput (good thing too: pretty much everything in the family room, which we weren’t expecting to use for electronics, went on wifi, as did our lone mobile gamer, @simonsage (who also brought MobileNations into the fray as a sponsor, and with them, Nvidia, and Gameloft. Gameloft donated a thousand freakin’ dollars! So, HUGE thanks to them): Basically, what I’m saying in this tired, near-fugue state is that I wanted to keep the wireless for people who definitely needed wireless.

So, the gaming!

The gaming was excellent: I didn’t get my Forza 4 race this year, but I did venture out into the online world for some racing for a few hours. There was some typical (about three hours) HALO shouting (you put 10 people on consoles in the same room, playing HALO, there’s gonna be some shouting!) and the Xbox:one guys, with the exception of jumping to 360’s for the HALO 3 multiplayer (we had enough copies of HALO3: I’d have preferred CE/10th anniversary, but… what do you do?), played the entire time on Destiny. SO much so, that the servers was so empty at 4:30am they all ended up gathered and chilled out, together, despite technically being on different servers!

There was TombRaider (2013); @thirtyyearhouse and ProonJoos played the entirity (I think) of Portal 2, together; Fallout3:New Vegas, PAYDAY 2 (PC), WOW (PC), Borderlands2, Borderlands2:ThePreSequel (PC & Xbox), and, oh, of course:

Rockband.

I know, if you’ve read the previous years, you know that @blingdomepiece‘s rockband setup is pretty damn epic. But, if you’re new here, here’s a few shots:

He brings all of this in one car-load. It’s pretty impressive. And even more so/more fun with it being on the projector, with the right sound behind it. It’s a hell of a lot of work to tear down, move, and set-up, and he does this every year. He’s one of our total heroes here, because there’s a lot of love for Rockband in our group, and he makes it just a little bit more special than you expect with rockband.

The other thing I have to bring up is the food. We’re a (mostly) middle-aged group now: most of us have been friends for closing on twenty years, and we met in university. But the way people put effort in before the event to ensure there’s enough food for people, is spectacular.

There was (and I’m pretty sure I have a kitchen picture), 9.5 dozen assorted homemade cookies (Loralei), Chicken Tika, made fresh (Bundy), Ribs (Magoo), Chicken BBQ Dip (SketchedOut), Two pans of Lasagna (Phae), McMuffin fixin’s (Pwned88), vegetable and fruit platters (thirtyyearhouse), Dr Pepper & Keiths Lager, and Canadian (Dwight), cupcakes (Kathy & Phae), pizzabites (Jiff), and so much other miscellaneous foodstuff…. Unbelievable. No one was going hungry. So much coffee, as you can imagine.

Not everyone managed the entire twenty-four hours. No one is required to. We value the effort, and as I said, this is for charity.

4am Eternal.

Here’s the thing.

Even after all of the above, I’m blown away by the generosity of my friends: this core group, and the ones surrounding us. As I write this, I need to go to the bank and make a cash deposit: we keep a bucket at the door, and ask people to make donations that way, if they just want to come hang out: it’s not obligatory, but it’s nice if you can throw a couple bucks in (Five dollars, a handful of change, whatever). Again, these people? So far above and beyond, it’s not even funny. There were TWO hundred-dollar, effectively anonymous cash donations. It’s OK. I know who you are, and thank-you. Twenties abound. Tens. A plethora of fives.

A four year-old boy, Moe, who is awesome (and drove some Forza), donated the contents of his piggy bank:

ANd it’s so friggin’ dusty in here, we’re all tearing up on the internet.

All told, there was somewhere around $420 in the bucket when I turned it in to the bank this morning. I then made that single, lump donation with my VISA so it gets to the tally-card quickly.

WHere does that leave us?

Not so fast. There’s some serious shout outs.

Again, I want to thank our PRIMARY, leading fund-raiser. That’s @simonsage. Yes, he brought in a single donation of $1000. He didn’t stop there, and did more than $700 on top of that.
I’ll pat my own back too: prior to making the lump-sum cash from the bucket, I was at $715 raised.
Jason pulled in next, at $590.
Bambi: $390
Greg M: a new-comer, $301!
Sean: $240
Rob: $165
Ryan: $165
Greg: $130
Jaron: $125
Alex: $100

Here’s the thing. The top three teams in the event raised between $190,000 and $250,000 each. HOWEVER. They have thousands of members on their teams. RoosterTeeth (who are awesome) had 3000 members on their team. They raised about $80 per team member. Which is fantastic. But my guys and girls, who I am superbly proud of, averaged $380 per person in terms of fund raising. That takes serious effort. Asking people for money is hard, it really is. And my guys and girls do an awesome job, and have done all the way back to the days of the Labatt 24-hour Relay.

One more thing. Donations are US Dollars. SO, that $5100 or so is in US. We raised in Canadian. That means it’s closer to $5800 in “our” money, for our local (Canadian) hospital. Damn.

SO, the final numbers. I know you want ’em.

Well, you can see any movement that may occur in the next month over on the Team Bombshelter page on Extra-Life.org, but the day-after numbers look like this:

There’s a couple of things there that stand out. First: we raised more than FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. For a Children’s Hospital. It was noted that, even prior to the event, we were the largest-donating group who’s target hospital was CHEO. That’s a big deal to us. The whole point is to make a difference. And that, apparently, is what we’ve done. Second, we’re gamers: leaderboards count. There were nearly 6000 teams participating in ExtraLife this year. We were the 94th biggest fundraiser, as a team. We did better than a lot of notable corporate teams. We, as a community team, with a dozen members, did better than a large number of corporate and community teams, who had more members (in some cases, a lot more members). SO, yes, I am totally, again, patting us on the collective back, because you guys deserve it. For everything I’ve written about above, you deserve it. Those who fund-raised, those who contributed, those who ran coffee runs, wrangled kids, helped trouble-shoot electrical and network problems, everyone who spread the word, shared the links on social media, everyone who was part of the whole thing, thanks.

It’s something this group of people I call my friends do very, very well. I just rarely see it laid out in a format like this. It’s pretty damn awesome, and I’m proud of all of you.

That’s the entire international event. How cool is that?

The Extra Life Gameathon is a truly wonderful time. Let not speak of it again for a while, because… wow. Just so tired. Worth it, but so tired.

Also… can we have a fundraiser to pay my electrical bill? 🙂

Burnout Racing, HydroThunder Idiocy

All of a sudden, I got really nostalgic for Burnout: Takedown, Burnout:Revenge, and Burnout:Paradise

Takedown, especially, took up a TON of our time back in the day. I know we had Takedown for the xbox, which is kind of a shame right now, as I’m not 100% certain where my old Xbox (first gen) is anymore (I think MightDogKing has it, because we were playing Drunken SSXTricky a while back. I should get that back one of these days.

So, yeah, Takedown: hammering down the coastal/Island road, to (a band I hated) My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not OK”, just to miss that one wreck, and shave a tenth of a second off your time? Yeah. Good times.

SImiarly with Revenge: Lost a lot of time to THAT in 05/06, too: crash mode for the win, kids! I generally dominated the racing segements: @MightDogKing and @Notmike generally covered the crash! challenges with aplomb and style.

And then Paradise came along and it should have been awesome, and just wasn’t… quite. I mean, it was really good, and a lot of fun, but it wasn’t quite Revenge, which hadn’t quite been Takedown.

Still, the Extra-Life Gameathon is coming in a week. HOLY SHIT, A WEEK, and there’s gonna be time for these things.

This, and HydroThunder. Thank god they re-released it a few years ago as a downloadable, fixed up nicely fo the newer gneeration of console, as HydroThunder:Hurricane

OHMAGERD.

Players can also use any combination of splitscreen and Xbox Live players to play online with up to eight players.

OH, SHIT.

I think I know what we’ll have to do at some point the weekend of the gameathon. SOunds like RACIN’ TIME.

Biking, Apps, and Gaming.

So, I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been tracking my rides, even my commuting, with an app called Strava. Now, I really like Strava. It’s got some faults (like, shutting itself down while it’s tracking a ride, to perform an update) but as a whole, it’s very, very good.

And one of the things it does that really floats my boat is turns riding into a video game. Specifically, a racing game.

See, what Strava does, that the others don’t, is socialize the ride: ok. More like, “gameify”. Riders in a particular city isolate “segments” (point A to point B) and that becomes a segment. Then, anyone who rides that segment, with the app tracking them gets a time for their ride on that segment.

And the get placed on a leaderboard.

You can see where this is going, right?

Here’s the thing. That week (I wrote this two weeks ago, been sick and lazy since) has been spectacularly good for me.

Sawmill Creek – Huntclub -> Walkley (2.4km)
Previous – 4m43s. Monday 4m27s, Tuesday 4m37, Thursday 4m24 @ 32.9km/h (8th in the city) Friday 4m27s

Sawmill Creek – Walkley to Brookfield (1.1km)
Previous 2m03s. Monday 1m51s, Tuesday 1m52s, Thursday 1m50s (12th in the city) Friday 1m48s @ 35.1km/h (10th in the city)

You’ll notice that Wednesday isn’t in there. That’s because I had one of those mentioned “reset to update” events and it didn’t track my run.

I don’t know what changed. I’d been off for a couple of weeks (flat tires, sick, etc) and actually drove to work for the best part of two weeks. Huge break in riding. As mentioned, sick.

And then I start up again, and this happens. I’m fast as fuck.

And I know I’m fast as fuck. Because the tracker tends to be right. Also, if I see other people on the path, it’s because I’m passing them.

I wouldn’t say I’m obsessive about it. Ok. maybe a little.

But, the upside is, I’ve ridden for approximately 200 minutes this week (so… 3.3hrs) commuting. That covers about 85km. The ride home is slower, for some reason, but even considering that, I’m averaging somewhere around 26km/h for the entire week. The calorie burn (if you can trust the tracker) is around 3300 cal, for the week (10 rides, approx 300cal per ride). Seems fairly legit to me, as I’m working hard to achieve the speeds/averages that I’m getting.

At the end of the day though, those segments? Damn. That’s actually motivating me. The ride on either side of them isn’t commute anymore, it’s “how I get to my charge point”. Seriously. You cannot (or maybe you can) believe just how motivating that leaderboard is for me.

It does help when that ride looks like this though (this is from this, Friday, morning):

I’m almost done for the season: it’s middle of October, I’ll probably get three to six weeks more of bike commuting before I quit for the winter. I used to ride the winter, too, but the reason I don’t anymore is another story entirely.

It’s Horror Season!

Yes, here we go. I’ve done this a few years in a row now: Last year, we stuck to classics and favorites like Ghostbusters, because, honestly, we were in the process of selling one house, and buying another and were swamped for time. Ghostbusters is comfort food. It is, in fact, a big twinkie.

So, this year, we’re in the new house, and it’s time to provide some horrific fare to @thirtyyearhouse. Now, she’s not a horror fan, so to speak. But she does enjoy some of it. Horror-Comedy, for sure, gets her right in the cockles. But she enjoyed Poltergeist when I introduced her to it, and wants to see Nightmare on Elm St (1984).

That’s what I’m working with. And the thing is, I’m picky too: I don’t dig on horrorporn (a la SAW and Hostel) but good, solid, horror. I love 80’s horror, because it’s trying so hard to be serious and then often just ISN’T. I want to see some things I already know and love, and see her reaction to ’em, but also see some things I’ve not seen before. Maybe we love ’em together, maybe we hate ’em together. I don’t know. Cats, dogs, living in sin. You know how it works.

That doesn’t limit me a huge amount, however. And this is what I came up with.

  • Dr Caligari (1989) This will be terrible, I’m sure.
  • Bloodbath at the House of Death
  • National Lampoon’s Class Reunion
  • Night of the Creeps
  • The Cottage British, always a good place to start
  • Evil Dead 2 A Classic, but campier than Evil Dead, but not as balls-out slapstick as Army of Darkness
  • Cannibal! The Musical
  • The Frighteners
  • Hausu
  • FrightNight The 1985 original, NOT the 2012 remake, which wasn’t terrible, but just… not as good.
  • DeadAlive
  • Drag Me To Hell Because Sam Raimi
  • Severance
  • Seed of Chucky
  • Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. No, I am NOT kidding.

    As far as true horror, I think Nightmare on Elm St, Jason X, The Exorcist, CandyMan and Freddy’s Dead should round things out. I don’t know where to put Nightmare on Elm St IV: DREAMWARRIORS, because it’s still Freddy, but it’s also SO TOTALLY CAMP. But it’s awesome, so should make for a good interlude.

    Well? Got any suggestions, folks?