New Orleans

This past week I had an opportunity to goto New Orleans. Megan was having her annual art educator's conference there and I tagged along like I usually do. I never really had a desire to go to New Orleans before. I always sort of imagined it as a  sort of drunken college town (and it is that)  but I was pleasantly surprised after my weekend there. I was able to genuinely find some great music, great food and some great history. 

Day 1 - Thursday

We flew in to the city Thursday afternoon. We checked into our hotel which was located in the rehabilitated Warehouse district and then went out and got our bearings of the city. Our hotel was the Renaissance Arts Hotel which Megan thought was cool because it had a Chihuly sculpture in the lobby. Food was foremost on our minds though and we got some fantastic Happy Hour drinks and food at the Swizzle Stick Bar and had some gumbo and turtle soup. We then made our way to the downtown area and had some beignets a Cafe du Monde and checked out our first glimpse at the French Quarter. 

The night wrapped up with us taking a stroll through Bourbon Street late that night to see what it was. It was pretty much exactly what I thought it was. Expensive bars with crappy cover bands. We saw strip clubs and twenty or so drunken people standing in the street laughing at people who walked through horse manure. We decided pretty quickly that we had our fill. 

Day 2 - Friday

Day 2 had me heading out to a bayou kayaking tour. It is amazing how much of the area around New Orleans is really just swamp and bayou. There are almost no suburbs in the way that we think of them and everything is basically just under water. The kayak tour was a lot of fun. 

I was able to get some good tips for checking out some places in the area from our guides. I ended up going to Mother's Restaurant for lunch and had a huge po' boy sandwich and mustard greens. I had a chance to head back down to the square to to get some photos and found a bunch of street performers out and about.  I then attempted to see some of the old cemeteries, but the main one in the city just outside of the French Quarter unfortunately required you to go with a tour and it closed at 3:00 PM, so I was out of luck on that. Megan and I met back up and we had dinner at a place called Cochon. It was good, but honestly it reminded me a lot of a Chicago restaurant like Carriage House or something. 

We then decided to spend an hour over at the Harrah's casino which seemed to dominate the downtown area. I put in $2 in the slot machine and ended up with $8, which Megan then quickly made disappear. 

Day 3 - Saturday

Saturday was a really fun day. I started out at the World War II Museum, which was quite impressive. If anyone has a chance to go see it do so. There is a really great interactive movie there that features Tom Hanks that is very immersive. The museum is really well made and features a really heartbreaking but also partially romantic look back at the war. I thought they did a particularly good job at covering the Pacific front of the war which all too often seems to be overlooked. 

I then left the museum and headed out on the trolly to finally get to see the cemeteries. This time I went to the Greenwood Cemetery to the north. It was an interesting place and it was neat to see the gravestones dating back to the 1800's. From there I met back up with Megan and we grabbed a bite to eat and killed some time in the afternoon before making our way over to Frenchman's street for the evening. Now if you want to see some local music that isn't cover bands it seems that Frenchman's Street is the place to be. We got luck and found a seat at the bar of a place called 3 Muses. They had an amazing jazz ensemble with a clarinetist, accordion player, guitarist and upright bass player. We spent our evening there and had a wonderful time. It really was the perfect way to close out New Orleans. 

Warframe - I can't stop playing this game

I have had a small obsession recently with a game called Warfare on the Xbox. It is a free to play PC/Xbox/PS4 game that came out about six months ago. I picked it up initially and played it for a few weeks and then put it down. It came out on the consoles right around the same time as Destiny and it a lot of ways it is the same sort of game as Destiny, except that it is third person to Destiny's first person. It is a loot based, quasi-MMO. You play as a Tenno, a being of some sort that can inhabit bodies call war frames. The story is pretty thin, but the gameplay is quite fun and I honestly think it does right what Destiny was trying to do.

It is a loot grind, which means you will be playing the same missions over and over, but it does succeed in providing you all those juicy item drops that and loot based game does. Recent updates have made the game much more playable on the consoles with a controller and I have found it is one of the few games on the new Xbox that consistently has people chatting in it. 

There is something done right about this nice, mindless online component to Warfare. It is almost all cooperative so if you are the type of person who doesn't enjoy or isn't good at online competitive play, then you can still get into the community here and enjoy your time online. The pacing is just right with the loot you get where you can still keep progressing forward and building more gear for your Tenno. 

What surprised me the mot though is how well the developer has done the FTP aspect. You can earn almost everything in the game without paying a single dollar. The purchase platinum in the game basically gives you really cool cosmetic upgrades and also allows you access to what they call "Prime" versions of war frames and gear. So, I'll admit that I gave the developer $20 and picked out some Platinum to get some cool additional gear. 

March 2014 Reading List

Despite everything that has been going on lately, I have still been reading some books. The most notable of the books I have recently read have both been graphic novels. I read The Sandman: Dream Hunterswhich is a wonderful novel in the Sandman universe. It is apparently volume #11 in this series, so I will have to go back and read the other novels. The book had a wonderful fairy tale sort of feel to it. 

I also read a book call Kabuki, Vol 1: Circle of Blood. This is a pretty adult graphic novel that follows a group of assassins  who are modeled after these TV personalities. It is a bit hard to describe from that angle, but really just picture a dystopian future where a shadow organization is trying to control the world around it. 

Jumping back over to novels I read an excellent indie novel called Bypass Gemini  which was written by Joe Lallo. I picked this book up as part of the Storybundle way back when. The book was a very pleasant surprise and was an excellent fun, light sci-fi read. 

March Donation: The Water Project

This month's donation goes to The Water Project. It is an organization online that helps to bring clean water to people living in rural Africa. 

Nearly one billion people have no access to clean, safe water. The dirty water they do have makes them sick. It robs children of hope. But it doesn't have to be that way.

We know that access to clean, safe water changes lives. We know that when a well is installed for a village, girls return to school.

Women begin small businesses. Men are no longer too sick to work. Fields are watered and food supply becomes more reliable. Health returns and children grow up to be productive members of their community. The cycle of poverty is broken. Lives change. Access to clean, safe water isn't an end, it's a means.

The money  you donate can go to a couple of different projects depending upon what you chose, but it mostly goes directly to building wells in Africa to allow people access to clean water. After the donation the website will provide you a link with information and the location of the well you are heloing to build. The well that my funds were donated to was Rwanda Well #3043.

If you would like to donate, get involved in other ways or just find out more information head on over to their main site at or over to their "Get Involved Page"

March 2012 Video Gaming

Just finished up playing Mass Effect 3 last night. I have to say it was a pretty good game. A very fitting ending to sequel for the most part. You can read my Giantbomb review. It does have spoilers so if that is a concern for you don't read it. Not a lot to say to the game that my review doesn't cover. On the whole the game was pretty good. Minor technical issues became frustrating and the ending does have some serious problems with it. Overall it is a well put together game though. 

The other games I played this month were a smattering of things over on Onlive. Some of them were a smattering of indie titles that they had as part of a indie game awards promotion. The two that stood out the most for me were Zombie Atom Smasher and Capsized. There was also a Dreamcast pack that they released feature Space Channel 5, Sonic, Crazy Taxi and a few others. Amazingly they were all terrible. I couldn’t even get Space Channel 5 to work properly. 

I also gave Major League 2K10 a go for about 15 minutes. Since when did baseball games become such hardcore simulators. After striking out on nine pitches while up to bat and giving up a home run on my first pitch I decided this game was not for me. 

I did check out a game called A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda though which appears to be a nice little Metroid-like. It is by no means a perfect game, but it has some good foundations going for it.

Ridelog: 03-11-12 - First Ride of 2012

View Ride Log: 03-11-12 in a larger map

The weather in Chicago this weekend as fantastic. Mid-fifties on Saturday and mid-sixties this Sunday. I had to bring my motorcycle into M&M Motorsports yesterday to get some new tires installed. I purchased some Metzeler Roadtec Z6 tires and ran over to the mechanic at around noon yesterday. At first I wasn't expecting to get the bike back yesterday since he seemed booked. To my surprise though they called me a couple of hours later saying they got the tires on. I have to give some big props to them and Mark over there. He commented to me that since the weather was supposed to be nice today they wanted to get me back on the road. That was really great of them to do that. 

As for the ride itself today, it was great. Just a good farm road ride. It is unfortunate how boring most of the roads are in central Illinois since everything is on a grid.