In My Life

[For the Love of ‘Fee] (PART 2) If a Percolator Dies in a Kitchen, Does Sarca Make a Sound?

…Not only does she make a sound, Sarca’s whole family makes a sound!

If you’ve been reading this blog and remember the last time my percolator died (Sept. 2014), you’ll understand the struggles I faced finding a replacement.

Its successor was a Hamilton Beach electronic percolator. My household used it lovingly until last Sunday when it stopped drawing power after it brewed a pot, and it never came back. I have to say it was on borrowed time, as it would periodically lose power mid brew, and then repeatedly try to percolate about 3 times before it was satisfied the coffee was hot enough. It’s been doing that behavior for a better part of a year.

Why not just replace it with any old coffee maker? Because, I’m stubborn, and enjoy a perked cup. And honestly, as I have previously opined on the subject, there aren’t much in the way of choices here in Ontario for electronic percolators. My research shows, not much has changed since 2014: people still love their Kuerigs, Starbucks and Timmy Ho-Hos. Few seem to brew at home any more, and percolating is obviously a dead technology, relegated to manual campfire percolators and catering coffee urns. I got the memo, people, loud and clear! No more perc!

But, I still buck that hive-mind mentality. I am forever on the lookout for a decent percolator, even when my perc is working. On Amazon and coffee fan sites, I read reviews like they are the Bible on Sunday. I’ve even taken to Value Village to see if I can find another gently used percolator; my first electronic perc being a Proctor-Silex from VV that introduced me to this way of electronic brewing in the first place.

Last winter, I found a DeLonghi percolator that didn’t look like it had ever been used. This model came with an adjustable setting, giving you the ability to perc a light or dark brew! SCORE! I kept it in storage for situations like this week when my Hamilton Beach would bite the big one. I took it out of the cupboard, and got it running. And welllll…..

I can see why the DeLonghi was barely used, and given away to Value Village…franky, it brews a TERRIBLE cup of coffee. I took this week to try to work out the bugs that come with having a new perc – finding the right grind, using the right amount of grounds, etc. But, unfortunately, after trying for five days to get a decent cuppa out of it, it didn’t work out. There was no aroma…there was no taste…the coffee was practically hot water, even after adjusting the settings to perc a dark brew! The hubs didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. And now my visiting in-laws didn’t like it! Time to fix this – FAST!

The solution is, of course, to buy another percolator. But which? Because of a lack of percolator popularity, there are STILL only TWO main electronic percs on the market that are readily available around here at stores accessible to me: Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach. You look online, and the top two 5-starred percs happen to be from Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach (and no surprise why…those are the only ones being made right now! Of course they are highly revered!)

From past experience, I concluded the Cuisinart percolator isn’t great; a little less than a year and it was giving us problems. At least we had more longevity with Hamilton Beach! The hubs encouraged me (out of practicality or caffeine withdrawal) to stop the search, and just buy the next option…the low-hanging fruit…the Hamilton Beach.

What? Buy another one?

Yup, I went to my local Walmart Friday night and bought another Hamilton Beach percolator. There isn’t much choice out there, and for what it’s worth, for all the whining I have done on how cheaply they manufacture these things, the Hamilton Beach percolator does make a good home perked coffee. Who knows, maybe I’ll get another 2.5 years out of this one too. Fingers crossed. I think in terms of coffee makers, this is number 7 in 20 years. Obsolescence is alive and well!

Enjoy your ‘fee today! I know finally I am!

[TV Movie] Dirty Dancing (2017)

Why would a television network ever try to tackle a remake of one of the most beloved movies from the 80s, Dirty Dancing? It’s a question I asked myself last week, and practically discarded, until curiosity got the better of me.

In case you’re not familiar with the movie, the premise of Dirty Dancing is a coming of age story seen through the eyes of Frances “Baby” Houseman, who in the summer of 1963, spends a three-week vacation with her family at Kellerman’s Mountain Lodge, a five-star resort in the Catskills in New York State. Baby is a smart, wholesome girl with plans to go into the Peace Corps out of college. She always does right by her parents and always follows the rules. A secret crush on one of the male dancers at the resort prompted Baby to curiously sneak past the “restricted to staff only” signs one evening. There, she runs into a friendly staff member who needs help carrying watermelons into the staff quarters. She then enters into one of the secret and frequent after-hours parties the working-class employees at Kellerman’s throw to blow off steam. The music is loud, the room is smokey, and the dancing is dirty! It is here that Baby meets the object of her crush, Johnny, and along with his dance partner Penny, a different world opened up to Baby from her sheltered upbringing. Johnny taught her how to dance and soon the two became inseparable…much to Baby’s father’s chagrin, who disapproves of Johnny’s sketchy pedigree… but don’t worry, folks, cue the Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, and there you have your happy ending…Baby had the time of her life…she arrives a girl, but leaves a woman.

The original Dirty Dancing is one of the core movies from my childhood. I saw the film in the movie theatre in August 1987, and later was able to re-watch a taped version off of VHS (and since have bought the DVD and Blu-ray). It was one of those films that was on a constant loop at our house, and I never got tired of it. There was something magical about it. The pairing of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, their dancing, and the love affair that the two emoted on screen was nuclear. Here was a girl who had a crush on someone and was able to actually attract the object of her affections, fall in love with them and live happily ever after; a dream come true for any teenage girl. Not to mention, the dancing and music were a perfect pairing. For a girl on the verge of teenhood, Dirty Dancing was a film that will forever resonate.

While watching the 2017 version of Dirty Dancing, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to the original. I found myself swearing, cringing, guffawing and shaking my head in disbelief. As a matter of fact, the first raw critical thought I wrote down after watching it was:

“This did everything wrong.”

As I was trying to formulate this review, everything came up negative with me – EVERYTHING. I realized after my third attempt to write this blogpost that objectivity would be difficult here; I was too much in love with the original! So I did something I don’t normally do: I re-watched Dirty Dancing 2017 and tried to find some good in this film.

The 2017 version of Dirty Dancing stars Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as Baby, Colt Prattes (dancer in Broadway productions) as Johnny, Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) as Baby’s older sister Lisa, and Nicole Scherzinger (Pussycat Dolls) as Penny. We also see Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood in a surprise pairing as Baby’s parents. Other recognizable actors were here too – Tony Roberts, Billy Dee Williams and Katey Sagal also make an appearance. This reboot follows the same plot from the original 1987 version, pretty much scene for scene, including soundtrack. Certain key characters’ plots, though, have been expanded upon here where they were glazed over in the original, particularly Baby’s parents and their marital troubles, as well as Lisa’s attraction to an entertainer.

The one major difference with Dirty Dancing 2017 is that practically every scene has the actors singing and dancing, using this as a plot device to move the film along, unlike the 1987 original. Every character here was made to sing: Johnny, Penny, Baby, her parents…everyone. With so much of its production focused on singing and dance routines I concluded that Dirty Dancing 2017 is actually more of the musical rendition of the original, as opposed to a remake of the original. With this thought in mind, re-watching this film was a lot more palatable for me.

What was a hit for me pretty much came down to casting for this film.

Abigail Breslin as Baby. At first viewing, I thought Breslin was mis-cast as Baby. She is almost too wholesome and fresh-faced to pull off dirty anything, let alone dirty dancing. But, honestly, I think she is a match – a bit clumsy, but purely honest. You can see her feelings in her facial expressions. I also liked the fact she doesn’t look totally polished here like a lot of the actresses we see nowadays.

Lisa, Baby’s sister. I really liked the relationship development between Baby and her sister. The 1987 version saw Lisa as aloof, selfish, and frankly a bit mean to Baby. It wasn’t necessary to expand her story-line, but I am glad there was a bit of breadth to Lisa’s character. The remake had them different from each other, but close sisters, and this is where Hyland and Breslin shone. Cue the scene where Baby reveals she is in love with Johnny – these two light up the screen. It was cute to watch.

Katey Sagal as Vivian Pressman. Vivian is a Bungalow Bunny at Kellerman’s and is a secondary character in the Dirty Dancing franchise. She basically lives at the Lodge during the week while her husband is away working. She takes dance lessons, drinks cocktails and sleeps with the staff. In the 2017 version, she is divorced, and happy about it, but still sleeping with staff. Seeing Sagal play a Bungalow Bunny was a real treat. She basically reprises her Gemma Teller Morrow role from Sons of Anarchy here. We even get to hear her sing “Fever”, and it was pretty decent.

Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood playing Baby’s parents. Marital problems have come to a head at Kellerman’s. At first, I didn’t think exploring this avenue was necessary at all, and to a certain extent, I still don’t think so, but, I did enjoy seeing Debra Messing and Bruce Greenwood together, even if they were fighting.

Unfortunately, my optimistic lens was slightly askew and there were just some aspects of Dirty Dancing 2017 I couldn’t get past.

Jazz hands! Yes, I did say this is more of a musical. But, it seemed they shoe-horned singing routines where they should let the music play. In one scene, Baby and Penny practice some dancing, and Penny just starts breaking into song. And there was plenty more where that came from…

Hello iTunes marketing! Um, where is the classic music the original film was famous for? Most songs, with few exceptions, were remakes; even the Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley hit. What’s worse, most of it was autotuned! Can you imagine the Patrick Swayze hit, “She’s Like the Wind” remade…and autotuned? It happened! Prepare for a push of sales of the Dirty Dancing 2017 soundtrack on iTunes…this would have been partly forgivable had Dirty Dancing 2017 just been touted as a musical version…

Changing a famous line. If you are rebooting a franchise, you are allowed to take some creative liberties, and obviously, Dirty Dancing 2017 took many. But, look – never change key lines from the film. There is a famous part from the 1987 film where Baby is approached by Johnny for the first time, asking how she got into the Staff Quarters without permission, to which she says:

In the 2017 version, she says:

This isn’t the end of the world, except it was an unnecessary edit that I don’t understand the reasoning for. It was made even worse by Johnny who, instead of walking away silent like in the original, retorts:

OUCH! Sorry, but that is super lame. Why change it??

Lastly, NO CHEMISTRY between Baby and Johnny. Yes, indeed. The crux of the movie hinged on the love affair between Baby and Johnny, and I am sorry, it was missing in this film, and I blame Prattes for that. Breslin was able to convey a puppy dog crush, and all Prattes rewarded us with was an aloof jerkiness; dancing with Baby because he had to, pretending to love her because the script said so… I just didn’t feel it between Breslin and Prattes. Breslin worked her ass off here, and we got nothing but a leap off the stage and some jetés from Prattes. There was only ONE part of one scene where I actually felt there was “something” between them, but really it was Breslin and soft lighting that won it:

Armchair critics were very harsh with this 2017 remake of Dirty Dancing, and honestly, there are some inexcusable things here that are detrimental, but it isn’t all terrible. The dance numbers for what it’s worth are pretty okay, and I did enjoy the expanded sub-plots. Honestly, if I were 13 and watching this version today, I think I might have liked it a lot…maybe more than the 1987 version? I don’t know. I saw a bit of myself in this version of Baby, likewise seeing myself in 1987 Baby. There were indeed some likeable things with Dirty Dancing 2017. You may not have the time of your life, but there is no need to leave Baby in the corner.

2.75 / 5

Dirty Dancing (2017)
Aired on ABC, May 24, 2017

I’m not too late, am I?

I feel like the negligent blogging sister!

It’s been four months since I have posted anything on here, and before you express concern, nothing at all is wrong. Life is good! It’s only that my time is not my own these days. Unfortunately, the blogging has taken a back seat (I surrender, I just can’t do it all!) and there has been very little gaming happening. My daily habit of reading your blogs was also put on ice to a large degree, but I pop my head in every once in awhile. What can I say, life is taking a lot of my headspace these days. Work, a rodent infestation in our garage, and a kitchen reno since my last post have been the time avengers.

As I write, my new kitchen is wrapped up in drop-cloths waiting for paint, but the worst is over, thankfully. Those of you who I’ve friended on Facebook have seen the pics – it’s looking good! All I got to say is my father-in-law and husband are great people. I chose the cabinets, countertop and flooring, and they put it together. Love them! I mean, I helped with what I could, but they did the grunt work. My kitchen is now functional, and I love it! After the kitchen is done, we’ll be back at it with a new laundry room. I’m telling you, it never ends!

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I haven’t played much game as of late… but I have been playing the DLC for Borderlands 2 with the hubs over the holidays, and it’s been fun. I just can’t keep out of the Borderlands!

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This Christmas, the hubs and I pulled out our Christmas decorations, and even trimmed a tree! I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I think it is. It had been three years since we put up a tree. A lack of interest and our travel plans home over the holidays really didn’t make pulling out the decorations from under the stairs attractive. This year though really put us in the spirit. I bought a 3-ft tree at my local grocery store and went to town. Busting open the boxes of ornaments was a fun experience. I had forgotten all of the ornaments we own, including some old-timey ones from my mom, and Star Wars ones we’ve received as gifts. We even got into the Christmas spirit outside, as my husband strung some lights around our front door.

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As we close out on another year, I would be remiss if I didn’t address all my “favourites” passing away, particularly George Michael. Gosh, that one hits me. In case you didn’t read my previous post on the subject, my mom always had it in for George Michael when I was growing up, and forbade me from owning and listening to his album, Faith; something about “I Want Your Sex” and my churchy upbringing, I suppose. To this day, my sis and I laugh at how she hated him. Last night, I was watching some YouTube vids of Michael’s…what a voice he had. Arguably one of the most natural voices in the music business. He sure had some great tunes too. RIP George Michael.

Anyway, this year, contrary to my past year-end posts, I won’t make any resolutions…I think I will just be and say, here’s to another year! I hope mine is full of happiness, gaming, music, love and friendship. And I hope the same for you.

Happy New Year, friends!

That Night in Markham: My Tragically Hip Story (1993)

Group post! 

Today our community of bloggers has come together to write about the Tragically Hip. In the wake of Gord Downie’s news last week, we wanted to come together and share our experience with this household name in Canadian music. Each story is unique, but with a common theme. Hope you enjoy it!

This is the story of how I got to see the Tragically Hip live in concert.

Summer 1993 was a time of new beginnings. I had just graduated from High School, and had accepted an offer to attend the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario for Visual Arts. Going to Western was something I had worked hard to achieve, and made it. I was looking forward to the change of scene by moving away from my Northeastern Ontario town of Sudbury, and was also looking forward to moving in with my sister, who at the time was also attending Western. Some big changes were afoot – new geography, new faces…a new life! And I embraced it all.

I remember the day my sis called and asked if I would be interested in attending an all-day concert of mostly Canadian bands. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as it was two days after my 19th birthday, and I was planning a visit with my sister before I made the big move down south. My musical tastes during this time were pretty eclectic – marry Led Zeppelin and Clapton with the Smiths and Canadian radio, and you pretty much have it. Canadian rock was in my repertoire. So it should come as no surprise that I was salivating at this concert’s line-up. Called Another Roadside Attraction, it was chock full of bands I was very much familiar with: Andrew Cash, Midnight Oil, Crash Vegas, Hot House Flowers, 13 Engines, Thomas Trio and the Red Albino, Richard Seguin, Daniel Lanois and the Pursuit of Happiness. Even more exciting that it was headlined by the Tragically Hip. At this point, my exposure to the Hip was radio and MuchMusic. Having had a few albums under their belt, Fully Completely had been released in the Fall of 1992, and Locked in the Trunk of a Car, as well as Fifty Mission Cap were common songs heard on the radio. I recollect, their song, Courage (for Hugh McLennon), was scorching up the Canadian charts, and I loved it. I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard fan at this point, but I very much enjoyed their music. This was gonna be one fine concert!

The concert was to be held in a remote part of Markham, Ontario, located 20 minutes north of Toronto. The venue was the Markham Fairgrounds; basically a dirt field amid farmland.  The date was two days after my 19th birthday – July 24, and my Step-Dad offered to drive us to the event, and even pay for a hotel. A shuttle bus would drive us back to civilization to the Markville Mall’s parking lot where my Step-Dad would pick us up afterwards.

The day of the concert, my Step-Dad dropped us off early enough to catch the first act, Andrew Cash, on stage. The day was hot and humid, and not a cloud in sight. Hats and sunscreen were in order. At this point, it was easy to get into the venue; It wasn’t yet packed full of people, and my sis and I were able to get right up to the stage to see many of the bands play. The fairgrounds were dusty with a hard dirt floor. To be honest, everything was pretty non-descript and bare-bones. I don’t remember much about it other than there being food stands with a 200% mark-up (because we had to buy water), and a bank of smelly johnny-on-the-spots (because…well…y’know…). I have no take-away from the day – no pamphlet, or poster…I don’t remember there being CDs for sale there, but maybe there was…? And back then, they didn’t like people taking pictures during concerts – so, no pics!

The acts before the Hip were amazing, and because the venue was small, it felt intimate. It was a long day being in that heat. At one point, bouncers got out the water hoses to cool down the crowd. There wasn’t much shade, either but we persevered. The Hip were the last act of the night and we weren’t about to miss it for anything. As the time came to them coming out on-stage, the place really started to fill up, as though the Hip were all they paid money to see, and just showed up in time to see them; the Oils be damned.

And when the Hip took to the stage, it was complete pandemonium.

My sis and I stood somewhere in the back of the mostly male crowd when the Hip started, and moved a bit closer to the middle to get a better view. A mosh pit had developed almost immediately close to the stage. Meanwhile, the crowd at the back were moving their way closer to the front. Without even trying, thanks to force from the crowd my sis and I were being led forward. We weren’t noticing initially, as we paid more attention to the Hip. It wasn’t until they started in on their fourth song of the night, the Hundredth Meridian, that the crowd lost their minds, and became one large mosh pit, pushing and shoving each other. Next thing I know, I am there in the middle of this giant mosh pit! In an instant, a big guy shoved me, I lost my balance, and I hit the dirt. The scary part was when others involved in the mosh pit used me as a rug and stepped on me. I tried to pull myself up by grabbing people around me, but then I’d get stepped on and I would fall back down. Out of nowhere, this hand reached down and grabbed me by the t-shirt and pulled me to safety. It was my sis who said, ” That’s it, we are out of here!”

The incident was mere seconds, but felt a lifetime! I got away with little damage – only some cuts and bruises. I wanted to stay longer, but there was little crowd control. As it was, the crowd were almost preventing my sis and I from leaving the concert, as the whole area was now a mosh pit. I agreed – it was time to go.

Today, I live 15 minutes away from Markham Fairgrounds, and pass it by weekly. Amazing how this seemingly nondescript swath of land had a venue that hosted the Hip and a number of other bands I liked at the time. Another Roadside Attraction was one concert I won’t soon forget.

Now go read from others in the community who have shared their stories on the Tragically Hip:

Boppin from Boppin’s Blog
Aaron from Keeps Me Alive
Scott G (Guest post) from Mike Ladano
Geoff from 1001 Albums in 10 Years
Deke from Stick It In Your Ear
James from Keeps Me Alive

Thanks for reading!!

[Movie] Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Let me take you back in time…back to when I was the tender age of 12, in the seventh grade. It was an awkward time…I had a mouthful of braces, was gawky and had the remnants of a bad perm…music and movies were a means by which I could escape from the awkwardness of Teenland into a cool world of fantasy full of awesomeness. At this time, the older sis and I would frequently go to the cinema. With boredom, our proximity to downtown Sudbury, and an attempt by my Mom to get us out of her hair, we saw many movies in the theatre between 1985 and 1988. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday night.

One of my absolute favourite movies that I saw in the theatre during that time was John Hughes’ Some Kind of Wonderful, starring Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson and Lea Thompson. The movie was released in theatres in the Fall of 1987, and tells the tale of working-class high-school senior, Keith, his friendship with Tomboy, Watts, and his attraction to fellow student, Amanda, who is also from his working-class neighbourhood…but who has somehow crashed the popularity glass ceiling in high school and is part of the it crowd.

The crux of the story is Keith’s crush on Amanda, and how he plans to ask Amanda out on a date. He recruits Watts’s aid, and manages to wrangle help from the big gun skids from detention. Good thing because Keith is up against some serious shit. Amanda has just broken up with her rich, popular, and possessive asshole boyfriend, Hardy Jenns; a vindictive mec who threatens to ruin Amanda’s “rep” if she doesn’t get back with his lying cheating ass. Another strike against Amanda is having the most vile and venomous girl”friends” who abandon her when she decides to go out with grease-monkey Keith instead of reconciling with Hardy. Meanwhile, Keith is dealing with an overbearing father who is riding his ass about going to college. Then he has to put up with best friend, Watts’ opinions about his taste in girls – which is a ruse because, well, while Tomboy Watts herself dresses masculine, denounces men publicly and is accused of being a lesbian, she is secretly in love with Keith.

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“Guys are so sickening. Really, it must be a drag to be a slave to the male sex drive.” – Watts

In terms of characters, I thought Watts was the coolest chick on the block. First, I liked her sense of style that didn’t mirror anyone else. I mean, the girl was allowed to play drums at home (poorly, as my mature eye sees it now) but I only wished I could have ditched the piano for my own kit at 13*! She was also a strong and bold gal who stood up for herself when people called her names. Lastly, Watts was a faithful and altruistic friend, always there, willing to help Keith hook up with Amanda, all the while sacrificing her own tender feelings for him and dying a little on the inside. I liked Watts. There is a little of Watts in me, for sure. Especially the last part about sacrificing your feelings to help your male friend / crush hook up with other girls (ouch, that hurts…).

Amanda and Hardy – a match made in hell?

It’s not hard to know why sexually frustrated Keith chased after Amanda; she is easy on the eyes and in the bedroom. What I don’t get is why Hardy Jenns (that’s right, with two “nns”), her asshole boyfriend, would need her. The movie has him successfully chasing tail all over high school while dating Amanda, using his popularity to get his way. …And uh, why is he popular? He’s a conniving donkey! Amanda isn’t much better, really. In fact, her behavior is pretty vile, purposefully agreeing to go out with Keith to make Hardy jealous, knowing how Keith feels about her. (Can you tell I’m not a fan of Amanda’s?)

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And while we say Keith gets the stubby end, he doesn’t fare much better with me. He’s cute with gorgeous blue eyes, but makes some questionable choices. He is an amazing painter with tons of potential, and instead of studying Fine Arts after high school like he wanted to, he decides instead to blow his entire first year College tuition on a pair of diamond earrings he planned to give to Amanda on their first date. Although considered a romantic gesture in my 12-year-old mind, I remember thinking that this was a pretty stupid move. I was not surprised his Dad blew a massive gasket.

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The best character in Some Kind of Wonderful was Duncan, played by Elias Koteas. He is the leader of the detention pack who helped Keith get his date with Amanda, and uses his muscle to eliminate some of Hardy Jenns’ obstacles. Duncan has an attitude that goes against the societal grain – he has a rough skinhead exterior, counters authority, but overall he sees the good in people and is kind. I like him because he is the only one who is completely transparent – what you see is what you get.

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I know it may seem like I’m picking apart Some Kind of Wonderful’s characters and plot, but for all its faults, I have loved this movie from the first time I watched it. It has all the elements that would attract a young teen girl to its story – conflict among peer groups, the desire to fit in, and the need to break free of the rules laid out by parents…. The strongest one here is the complexities of love and relationships. Hughes took imperfect and complex characters and crafted an interesting yarn that is still watchable today.

And now, some fun facts about Some Kind of Wonderful in my life:

  • Saw it in the movie theatre, November 1987.
  • Never rented the movie on VHS – it was never available for rent!
  • Finally taped the film onto VHS off of First Choice Superchannel… it was an awful print (thanks to SLP…), and the audio was baaaad. I have since acquired a DVD copy, and was amazed the first time I took it for a spin that I could finally clearly hear what everyone was saying!

Some Kind of Wonderful
Writ/Dir: John Hughes
1987

*Made up for it at 28 when I had my own house and my own rec room…and my own drum kit.

Enjoying a Game Swap as an Unfocused Gamer

Last weekend, I went to the Barrie Game Exchange, in Barrie, Ontario, a venue where vendors (who are gamers themselves) sell off pieces of their retro gaming collections to other gamers. Haggling for the best price is on the table, and there are possibilities of swapping out games for other games of equal or lesser value.

I am very new to this whole swap meet experience. It being my third, it might sound unusual of me to say this, but I have not caught the game collector fever like some other people I know, and don’t really have a desire to seek out hard copy retro games from a bygone era (SNES, Sega, Atari, etc). My focus is predominantly casual adventure PC games for the most part, and not necessarily in physical form. At any rate, most boxed PC games are no longer for sale in physical format; but are available online via sites like Steam, GOG and Big Fish Games. I think nothing of thinning out my stack of games if I have played a game and don’t like it or I get tired of it. That said, I do have a stock of games that I haven’t played, including boxed PC and Nintendo DS games, but I wouldn’t say I am out to collect every game in that format.

My intention of going to a game swap was initially to keep my husband company, as cramming into a room full of strangers for an afternoon (some of which can be smelly and sweaty…) is not really my idea of a good time. But, having weathered three of these now, I can say I have found ways to survive enjoy my time while attending. The last couple of swaps have been fun, especially meeting up with other members of the Cartridge Club (of which I am a member) who have turned into friends over the past couple of years. Now, I am actually looking forward to the next swap meet.

My very first swap meet was the Barrie Game Exchange last July 2015. I was only planning to keep my husband company, but before we headed up to Barrie, he said that I should compile a list of games to look for while at the show. This would engage me in the whole swap experience. This was difficult; I was honestly blanking out on what games to look for. Along with the challenge of not collecting games, odd boxed PC games was the first thing that came to mind, and my husband said that likely no one would be selling those (Yeah, yeah, boxed PC games are dodo birds, ok, yes got the memo…). So what do I do then? I got some random games together on my list, but didn’t really find anything that time.

Kirby
It was the second gaming swap meet: the Waterloo Game Swap last September 2015, when I got my act together. Beforehand, my husband had me play some SNES and NES games in emulation to pique my interest in searching for some games in that platform. Specifically, I started getting an interest in Kirby and decided to focus on that character’s games. I went into the Waterloo Game Swap, armed with a small list of games. I didn’t leave with much, but at least that gave me games to look out for.

My list for last Sunday. I write notes on paper, then take pics of them with my phone. I do this a lot. 😉

Last Saturday, in preparation for the Barrie Game Exchange, I armed myself again with a list of the Kirby games I had (because it is A LOT shorter than what I don’t have!) and what I didn’t. Along with it, I compiled a list of desired crime and adventure Nintendo DS games. Since my experience playing Unsolved Crimes on the system, I have been chomping at the bit to find some more rare titles like it. Again, not to collect per se, but to play.

We had VIP tickets to the game exchange, which allowed the first 65 people access to the tables a half an hour ahead of the rest of the crowd. This was great, to be able to scope out the tables before the deluge. It also allows you to test out your haggling skills before the pressure of crowds  upsets your smooth haggling flow. My skills were rusty going in, to be honest. And, unfortunately for me, some vendors were not open to haggling at all. “Nope, that’s a fair price.” No, I can’t go any lower.” They wouldn’t even knock $2 off. A couple of tables didn’t have their prices at the ready and were actually checking prices online. I hate that. Come on, folks, this is not eBay, and I am standing right in front of you. That being the case, I moved on to other tables that would more reasonably accept my patronage.

A challenge I faced was knowing what was a good deal. I don’t have much of a gauge where that is concerned. Prices for games have fluctuated wildly over the years, and no two games are created equal. To that end, one game’s price at the Exchange could be $20 at one table, and $8 at another. It was wild! I would ask my husband about prices, but we weren’t always together. That said, most things I bought were going by my gut. Am I willing to pay $10 for this, $15 for that?

I had some good fortune on the Nintendo DS front. My first purchase of the day was Kirby’s Mass Attack for the DS, sold to me by a couple of dudes from my hometown of Sudbury who are also running a gaming swap in Sudbury in October, and invited us to come up. Among other DS purchases, I got the Legendary Starfy (never heard of it before), Kirby’s Canvas Curse which looks cool, Pokemon Ranger and a crime game called COP: the Recruit. The priciest game of the day was a rare DS game called Electroplankton, a game I had never seen before ($30, fetching $60 on Amazon).

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The last half an hour of the show is often a good time to get a deal on some games. I had my eye on a Mario Picross game for the GameBoy for most of the show, and decided last minute to purchase it. The very last thing I bought was Alone in the Dark for the GameBoy Color for $3 (any good?).

There was also a vendor at the Exchange selling super cool gaming mugs. I picked up one depicting a Pac-Man eating coffee beans for $10. Awesome!

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Overall, I am quite satisfied with my finds. I think for the next time I will pay attention to the going rate of some of these games, so I can go in better armed.

It also appears that this year will be quite active in terms of these game swaps – coming up:

Waterloo Game Swap in May 29, 2016, (Waterloo, Ontario)

Durham Video Game Convention June 5, 2016 (Oshawa, Ontario)

Barrie Game Exchange in August (Barrie, ON)

Northern Game Expo in October (Sudbury, Ontario)

[For the Love of ‘Fee] A Word on Instant Coffee (and a Hack)

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

Let me put this out there – in my opinion, instant coffee isn’t that great. I have not been its biggest fan since… forever! To me it tastes bitter. It can do a small tapdance on my tummy. And, frankly, it is no substitute for real brewed coffee. Yet, I still drink it.

I work on a college campus, and believe me, there is no lack of places to buy coffee; there is a Tim Hortons, a Starbucks, a Williams Coffee Pub, the student-run café that sells Lavazza coffee, Roasters coffee, the Second Cup…dude, the campus ain’t that big, but holy Toledo, there are places to buy coffee. It might seem simple to just buy a fresh cup of brew and be done. Sure, I’ll buy coffee on occasion, but it can add up!

Budgets being what they are, I bought myself a 4-cup coffee maker a few years ago and would brew my own coffee for a time in my office. But going on almost a year ago now, the department I work for relocated into a new building. Where the office is situated, there is no kitchenette with a sink close by where I would be able to clean out the carafe and throw away the grinds properly. So instead, I boil some water in my little kettle to make some instant coffee. Although a sink with running water is out of the question, I am not in a complete food desert – I have a drawer in my office where I keep dry condiments: salt, pepper, sugar, as well as tea bags, Coffee Mate, and of course, instant coffee. I do have access to fresh water, by way of a filling station around the corner from my office. And even though I have Coffee Mate (because there is no milk close by) and sugar that I use in my instant coffee, these condiments don’t seem to help to lose the bitter taste.

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My usual practice: Boil water using a kettle. Place a teaspoon of instant coffee crystals in a cup. Add boiling water to crystals and stir. Then add sugar and Coffee Mate. Seems pretty common, right?

Earlier this week, I decided I had endured instant coffee as I have known it for the last time. I took to the internet to see if I could hack those crystals into a more palatable beverage. Some solutions were idiotic: “why don’t you quit instant and brew a pot of coffee?” Another site suggested I buy a higher quality instant coffee; now that solution would make sense in theory. My problem is that no matter what kind of instant coffee I have tried, they all seem to have a similar taste. Besides the fact there is nothing fancier for sale around here than Nescafe, Folgers and generic brand (Equate, Compliments, No Name…). In any case, I have resigned myself to hacking whatever crystals I have available.

So, thanks to some Googling around, the solution I came up with is as follows:

  • Boil fresh water.
  • Add a teaspoon full of crystals to your cup.
  • Add sugar and coffee mate* to the crystals.
  • THEN, add fresh water* (a little less than a quarter cup) to the dry mix in your cup and stir.
  • Add boiling water to the cup and stir.

Voila. Coffee!

Two things I noticed with this method: no strong smell and no bitter taste.

Why mix the dry ingredients first, then add liquid? Common sense: powder mixes better when you add liquid to it, not the other way around. Science!

Why add fresh water to the dry mix first? No reason, other than it works! I have read that boiling water is excellent for tea (for the steeping), but that the water in the coffee maker doesn’t quite reach the boiling point when you brew a pot of coffee. Apparently, if you have the water too hot it can marr the taste of the crystals. Adding some cold water obviously tempers the hot water, and added bonus: you can actually drink the coffee right away once it’s prepared. Makes sense to me! I have been using this method the last three mornings, and have been enjoying instant coffee for the first time in recent memory.

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Do you like instant coffee or hate it? Do you have any coffee hacks? Share in the comments!

*Cold milk would probably be a decent substitute for the Coffee Mate and fresh water. I just don’t have access to it on a regular basis.