That Time I Went to New Jersey

I’ve been blogging for over twenty years now, and over those two decades, my website’s focus has definitely changed. Or, narrowed, at least. I used to write up long, fun articles about whatever I found inspiration in. Now, I mostly just list video games that I’ve played and occasionally fart out some ramblings about movies or donuts.

One of my favourite things I’ve ever written was the 6-part summary of the trip that my family took to Walt Disney World in the spring of 2004. It was an incredible adventure, and being able to read it over and over again brings me so much joy. Especially since it’s so long ago now that the memories are starting to fade. So it strikes me as odd that I haven’t written a single word about the trip that I took to New Jersey and New York last year. Super weird, right?

Welp, it’s time to correct that. Now, you will get the chance to read all the grimy details of the first real vacation I’ve taken since… Minneapolis 2012, I guess? Now I’m wondering if I wrote anything about that one.

Our adventure actually begins in December of 2021, when I was writing my 24 Days of Gluttony feature. One of the entries was about BAND-MAID, one of my all-time favourite bands, and how I felt as though I’d never get an opportunity to see them live. As luck would have it, only a couple of months later, they announced a US tour! That alone wasn’t especially helpful to me, being a Canadian citizen. But then I said to myself “Ryan, nobody is going to make your dreams come true but you!” and as soon as tickets went on sale, I secured a couple to the BAND-MAID show in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Now the trick was figuring out who would want to go with me. I have a handful of people that I know will tag along to local concerts, but asking someone to spend a long weekend and a cubic buttload of money to go see a band they’ve never heard of is a huge ask. It took a couple months before a flash of inspiration hit: I’d convince my brothers to all come along with me as a cool adventure that we could all go on together. To make a long story short: only two of three were able to come, which isn’t the worst turnout. It would still be a great little vacation!

Now, I’ve never planned a real trip before (only short road trips), so I had a lot of anxiety when it came time to booking flights and a hotel and creating an itinerary. It was a pretty daunting task, but apparently I did a pretty great job, because everything went exactly according to plan. Well, aside from the fact that I’d initially rented a car, but was quickly convinced to cancel it and just Uber everywhere. That turned out to be very sage advice, because I think that I likely would have had an emotional breakdown trying to drive on the New Jersey turnpike. I’m a perfectly competent driver, but only in small-scale traffic. The roads down there were like nothing I’d ever seen!

Actually, I made another mistake at the very outset of the trip that could have very well tanked the whole thing. Apparently, you need a very specific proof of COVID vaccination app to get on an airplane these days, and I had the wrong one. Also, I didn’t have the documents needed to register on said app on me at the time, so it was only through an extremely fortunate series of coincidences that I was able to get that all squared away in time to board the plane.

Other than that little snafu, though? It was all smooth like buttah. The screening line to get into the airport proper was insanely long and slow, but we had showed up plenty early so it wasn’t a problem. Getting on a plane for the first time in roughly 18 years was incredibly exciting, and I have to say that my appreciation for air travel is just as strong as it was all those many years ago. Flying was great fun, even though much of it came down to the distractions that I’d brought with me (several books and a Nintendo Switch). Takeoffs, landings, being above the clouds, looking down on the world below; I just can’t get enough of the romance of it all. Admittedly, I don’t think I’d enjoy a flight that lasts longer than a couple of hours quite as much, and since I fly so rarely the experience is that much more special, but still, it was great!

Our first layover in Montreal airport wasn’t terribly exciting. We had a ton of time to kill, but failed to realize that all the most interesting shops and restaurants were before we went through the customs line. So we had to settle for a comparatively small selection of food vendors for snacks. I did end up getting a really good (but insanely overpriced) sandwich, so it could have been worse.

The second flight was even more impressive than the first, as we flew over the Catskill Mountains, which was an incredible sight to behold. I quite honestly wanted to jump out the airplane, parachute down into the middle of all the golden trees, and start exploring. That’s not very realistic, of course, but that’s what putting like 300 hours into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will do to a person.

Many hours later, we landed in Newark Liberty International Airport. We were now squarely in good ‘ol ‘Murica, which meant that unfamiliar restaurants were everywhere in said airport, and good gravy did I ever want to start eating everything in sight. But we dutifully soldiered on to collect our bags and hailed a cab to take us to our hotel. Fun fact: this was the first time I’d ever taken a taxi anywhere. Many firsts for me on this trip!

While I said before that all my planning turned out very well, I did learn a lesson about booking hotels. Namely, make sure that your hotel is not situated in the middle of absolutely nowhere. In the name of efficiency, I opted to book a hotel very close to both the American Dream mall and MetLife Stadium, both places that we were going to visit over the course of the weekend. Unfortunately, I had failed to realize from the Google map that this hotel wasn’t within (reasonable) walking distance of anything, and even if we did want to hike anywhere, there were no sidewalks at all. Just roads and ditches. So a car would have actually been kinda nice to have. In the end, we spent less on Uber rides than the rental would have cost, so it did work itself out.

That nonsense aside, we arrived at the hotel and took a load off for a while. The Marriott where we stayed was… well, it was fine for the price we paid. The room was nice enough and was overall pretty clean. There were a few things that caused me to cock an eyebrow in suspicion; namely the bathroom that seemed to have been in desperate need of a renovation for many years. Also, the television knew my name, which caught me off guard. I didn’t know that kind of personalization was possible. I hadn’t been in a hotel for about a decade! We would also learn before long that whoever had been in our room previously had presumably used the mini-fridge to store open pepperoni; we put some water bottles in there and upon retrieving them, they were thoroughly coated with a strong scent of pepperoni. Not exactly what you want to be smelling when drinking water.

The evening was then spent checking out the Amercian Dream mall. We Ubered our way over there (my first Uber ride!) and discovered it to be surprisingly empty for a Friday night. It was also surprisingly empty as far as shops go. The place is massive, the second-largest shopping mall in the US, but probably half of the retail spaces were blocked off and empty. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a good selection of things to see! It’s just that the actual “shopping” part was a little underwhelming. Here are a number of other attractions you can find at American Dream:

  • Nickelodeon Universe theme park
  • DreamWorks water park
  • An indoor skiing/snowboarding hill
  • At least two mini-golf courses
  • Escape rooms
  • A giant Ferris wheel
  • A three-story candy store (IT’S SUGAR)
  • A skating rink
  • A mirror maze
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Centre
  • An indoor wave pool for surfing
  • Probably a bunch of other things that I missed!

We wandered around for some time, doing a little shopping, getting the lay of the land, and seeing the sights, but for the most part just looking at all the restaurants and trying to figure out how we were going to eat that much food over the course of two and a half days. The only things that I bought that evening were a huge bag of candy and a giant slab of a cookie pizza, but it was one of the most satisfying cookies I’ve ever eaten (half of it was saved for a post-breakfast snack the next morning). We ate dinner at the “legendary” Mr. Beast Burger, and it wasn’t bad. It was just… nothing really special. If I’m remembering correctly, I had a bacon burger with fries on it. Good, but like, there would be no hype around it if not for the major YouTuber branding.

Heading back to the hotel once we were all walked out for the day, we began tossing around ideas of how to go about the next day’s adventure, which was heading into Manhattan to do the tourist thing. With a vague sense of which landmarks we’d be visiting, we drifted to sleep to the humorous antics of The Office and American Dad, which would become a trend for the whole weekend.

The next morning… Well, that’ll have to wait for Part 2. I’m already about 1700 words deep here, and that’s probably more than everything else I’ve written to date this year. So, to milk this one for a little more “content” I’m going to cut it off here and make it a two-parter. Those are always more exciting anyway! So be sure to check back in like, I don’t know, four months?, when I finally get around to writing that up!

24 Days of Quarantine Fun – Day 7: Make a Snowman

Okay, so, this one may or may not be viable depending on where you live or the current weather situation. For me, there’s barely been any snow, so a snowman isn’t really an option. Also I don’t have a yard or anything so I’d have to go out into a park or something to make a snowman. Which I maintain that I would do under the correct circumstances, but again – there hasn’t really been a good amount of snow yet.

My grand plan was to make a small snowman on my balcony, posed in a way where he’s leaned up against the window, trying to get inside. I don’t know that I’m a skilled enough snowman-crafter to have pulled it off, but the dream was nice. Maybe I’ll still try it once we finally get some snow.

I did make this little snowman out of marshmallows, though. That counts… right? Lookit his li’l chocolate chip eyes.! So cute! UwU

Ryan’s Big Weekend Adventure!

You know what I didn’t do over last weekend? Study enough.

“Well duh” you all say.

What I did do, however, was all sorts of other things. I want to write about them briefly.

Saturday I got a haircut. There’s a story there, but it’s probably fairly embarrassing for a party who is not me, which makes me feel like I ought not to tell it. So I won’t. Sorry for the tease.

After breakfast I did some coursework for a while. Good old responsible me. I took a break after a couple hours to go visit with my grandparents. They gave me several tins of baking and couple jars of soup. Nice! There’s another mildly embarrassing story here that I don’t think I’m entitled to tell to the internet at large. Aren’t you upset that I’ve gotten so considerate in my old age?

I went back home to do some more book learning, which lasted about an hour. All in all, I made it through about a quarter of the homework questions assigned in a cumulative three hours. That’s not great. I hate school and cannot wait for it to be done forever.

Over the course of the weekend, I “snuck in” just enough video games time to finish playing the Squaresoft PS1 classic, Threads of Fate. You’ve probably never heard of this game, because Squaresoft put out like a billion RPGs on the PS1, so a few of them had to fall through the cracks.

Threads of Fate is an alright game. It’s a dual-protagonist game, and the plot isn’t the most creative, but it’s fun. One character has you working towards world domination, while the other is searching for a way to revive his friend. The characters are mostly archetypes, but they have big personalities and a really good script, so I ended up liking most of them quite a lot. Also the soundtrack is darn good, and the graphics are top-tier for a 3D game on the original Playstation.

However! The gameplay is… questionable. The controls, physics, and hit detection are all just a little bit off. This makes any precision-platforming sections much harder (and frustrating) than they ought to be. Combat is mostly a non-issue, but several bosses are stupidly hard until you figure out the right rhythm to beating them. Overall, it’s not a game that needs a remaster so much as a tune-up.

I also frittered away a whole three hours on Pokémon GO on Sunday, as it was January’s Community Day. Got a whole stable full of shiny Piplups, and that’s really about all. While I was out, I also got to try all of the fancy new “dream donuts” that Tim Horton’s is currently selling. I’ll type up a full thing about them (probably), but the TLDR is that they were not so good that I was able to justify having eaten three donuts in a single sitting. Oink oink.

After all that, I ended Sunday evening the same way I always do: playing an hour of Rocksmith, then watching TV while I do my laundry. This week was devoted catching up on some AGDQ runs, while at the same time trying to fill out a little bit of my Pokédex in Pokémon Shield. I’m at 387 of 400. Almost there!

And that was my weekend. If you think I sound like an incredibly boring individual… you’re right! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Remembering the Cottage: Part 2

Happy Canada Day! To celebrate, let’s go way back and take a look at something that was an integral part of Canada Day for me for many years. Yes, that’s right, it’s finally time for the long-awaited Remembering the Cottage: Part Two

I have been slowly writing this article since 2007, which is not the longest that I’ve ever procrastinated on writing something, but it is a concept so close to my heart, so important to the foundation of who I am, that I feel terrible for not having finished writing it at some point in the last eleven years. During that time, many details have certainly been forgotten and memories jumbled up, so this is definitely not going to be as historically accurate as it should be.

To help illustrate, in the time since I posted Part One: two generations of Nintendo consoles passed; Obama’s tenure as US President began and ended; smartphones replaced flip-phones and human-to-human contact; I purchased two homes; I met a girl who I dated, married and divorced; and I bumbled my way into a job that eventually led to what darn well better be my career at this point.

I don’t know how long this article is going to go on for, but if the previous part is anything to go by, it’ll be a whopper. You all know the story anyway, and if you don’t, maybe go check out Part One and then come back. So let’s just skip the formalities and head right in, yes?

Continue reading Remembering the Cottage: Part 2

Happy Bornt Day to me!

I’m gonna get drunk as f**k and eat chicken fingers!

But that’s for much later this evening. The big event for my birthday this year is… football? My dad procured a couple of tickets to this year’s “Banjo Bowl,” which I gather from stray bits of conversation in past years, is some sort of big deal. I don’t really know why, but I’m excited!

Full disclosure: I was interested enough after that paragraph to actually do the research. What I’ve learned is that there’s a rivalry between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, and they have apparently created a tradition of two back-to-back “event” games. The first being the Labour Day Classic, always played in Regina, followed the next weekend by the Banjo Bowl, which is always played in Winnipeg.

I still don’t really understand why these two games mean anything more than any other football game. The closest I’ve come to an answer is simply, Sports: Who F**king Knows?

Bounce and throw

So, I bought a basketball two weeks ago.

Yeah. I know. It’s weird.

I went out to throw the ball around a bit by myself that weekend, and had a pretty good time having finally found something to do while being outside (that isn’t walking around aimlessly). Then last Saturday morning, my dad, my brother and I all went out to “shoot hoops” for a couple hours. I learned to play Horse and had so much fun. I literally did not want to leave the court when it was time to go.

It’s really weird. Don’t worry, we’re on the same page there.

I know I like to project a “sports are the worst” kind of image, but that’s really not me. I like sports. I just can’t be arsed to follow professional sports. I don’t give a flying flip about players or stats or championships or maniacal fans who devote their entire lives to their team. But I like going out and doing the things. At least, to some degree.

I’m still a lazy, overweight, out-of-shape slob. So typically I can’t sustain that kind of physical exertion for long. But basketball -or at least just shooting around for fun- doesn’t require me to push myself too hard, so it’s basically the perfect way to get into being more active. I’m outside and off my butt and actually being engaged in something, which is exactly what I need.

I’m lobbying to make Saturday morning basketball a regular thing, though my suggestions have been met with grumbled maybes. I’ll still go out by my lonesome if it comes down to it, but it’s nicer to have a couple people to share the burden of chasing after a stray rebound.

How long will this new hobby last? To be honest, probably just for the summer. I am not exactly renowned for my sticktoitiveness. I have a definite tendency to get all worked up about something for a while, then drop it completely when some other shiny, new thing comes along. Especially since there’s that big ol’ “winter” thing that will completely kill any momentum for a good six months. But we’ll see!

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – May 2017

This may be the longest list to date… I don’t know quite how it happened, seeing as I feel like I’ve been playing far fewer video games than usual. Ack! Maybe it’s time to start logging playtime?

~ Game Over ~

Bye-Bye, BoxBoy! (3DS) – Is it the Best Box Boy? Yeah. Yeah it is. They’ve definitely pushed the series as far as it can go, and I’m glad it’s (ostensibly) being retired before it loses its lustre.

KAMIKO (Switch) – I thought “This looks neat, I’ll buy it off the Japan eShop because there’s no way it’ll ever come out in North America” but was stymied because the Japan eShop doesn’t accept my MasterCard. And then it came out in North America the very next week. Welp!

ABZÛ (PS4) – Something about a diver saving an underwater ecosystem from the ravages of machines. I don’t really get it, but it was super pretty. Also, so many cool fishies!

Blazing Star (Switch) – A NEO-GEO shoot-’em-up that is visually amazing (duh). It also taught me what separates a good shmup from an annoying shmup: enemies that soak up bullets. Also most of the playable ships are kind of terrible. Windina is always the way to go.

Stardew Valley (PC) – We accomplished everything that isn’t a horrible slog. Once we acquired the Junimo Hut, it just seemed like there was nothing else worth doing. And so it’s finally over.

Dark Witch Music Episode: Rudymical (Switch) – The title gives away that this is not your average Legend of Dark Witch game. In fact, it is instead a weird rhythm game that demands nothing less than perfection. Despite that, I still kinda liked it.

Destroy All Humans! (PS4) – Bought the PlayStation Humble Bundle just to replay this. Honestly, a little underwhelming on the gameplay front, but I loooove the B-movie aesthetic/plot.

Snipperclips (Switch) – Chopped my way to the end of the single-player levels. It’s a very clever game, but is so much more fun when you’re working with other players. And I say that from experience, having previously solved all the multiplayer stages with a full four-person team.

ARMS Global Testpunch (Switch) – Okay, so I didn’t really “beat” it because it’s just a demo… But I really wanted to list it because it absolutely sold me on ARMS. Of course.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – May 2017

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: May 2014

May came in like a lion and… well, it was pretty heavy on games I wanted to play throughout. A stark contrast to an April that saw almost no new games and gave me ample time to work on my enormous backlog. Luckily, most of May’s releases were cheap Virtual Console Mega Man games, so I didn’t have to choose between video games or paying the bills.

But yeah, May 1st saw one of the best eShop updates in a long time, and then the new Kirby and Mario Golf came out on the second. Also there was that massive Humble Store spring sale. Needless to say, I’ve been keeping very busy, which is great because the wait for Smash Bros would be killing me if my 3DS (and PC, I guess) weren’t so jam packed with games I want to play.

~ Now Playing ~

Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS) – I never got into Mario Golf on N64, but I played the stuffing out of the GameCube entry. I waited very impatiently through several delays for this one, and it was so worth it. The Castle Club “story” mode is a bit confusing and overcomplicated, but a free play mode exists, so ignoring that business is pretty easy.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: May 2014

Filler time: Articles for grown-ups

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me: I’m a child living an adult’s life. I appreciate a lot of things that people my age aren’t supposed to, if advertising and demographics have anything to say about it. Marketing is all a big load of crap, anyway.

I guess the point is that I don’t have any ideas in my head at the moment, and I don’t have the gumption to type up the weekly Dark Souls entry. Wait, no, that’s what I wasn’t supposed to say. I’m supposed to make it seem like I’m doing something inspired.

Anyway, I type about a lot of goofy things that are emblematic of childhood. Cartoons, Nintendo games, candy. If you scroll up from the bottom of the article list, you’ll see that it takes a long time to get to anything very grown-uppy. Or at least, that’s my interpretation of it. So that’s why today, I’m going to link you to a small selection of old articles that stand out as somewhat more mature among the sea of childish crap that I’ve written.

28 Days Later (2003) – The first movie I ever reviewed, and it’s a scaaary one. Probably because it’s one of the first (if not the actual first) movies with fast zombies. So it turns a kind of slow, tense staple into something much more fierce and immediately frightening. Please note that I have not watched this movie since then.

Catherine (2011) – Undoubtedly a truly mature game, as it deals with many very grown-up themes. Also there are boobies and monsters, but the heart of the game is literally about growing up, accepting responsibility, and figuring out what you want to do with your life.

Chicken Wings (2005) – Chicken wings are undoubtedly a fun finger food, which is pretty child-like, However, wings are most prominent where? Bars, that’s where. Kids don’t go to bars. They’re also one of the staple foods of sports-watching, or so I’ve been told, and sports-watching is a pretty grown-up kind of thing. Hates You (2006) – To date, still the most popular thing I’ve ever published, if fan e-mails are anything to go by., if you’re not already aware, is an online dating website. Those are most definitely not for children. It’s not really for anybody, as far as this article is concerned.

Remembering the Cottage (2007) – Yeah, it’s an article entirely about childhood memories, but that in and of itself makes it kinda grown-up, right? I mean, kids don’t reminisce. You have to be old and at least a little world-weary before you really understand nostalgia. Some might say that I’m not old enough to say something like that, but I respectfully have no comment.

True Crime: Streets of LA (2003) – The first video game that I wrote about that earned an M rating from the ESRB. I guess that’s all I really have to say about that. I haven’t written about a lot of games that feature non-laser guns.

That sinking feeling

I went out and bought a Wii Fit Meter the other day. I know, you’re thinking that’s pretty nuts. Just hear me out: There’s a Wii Fit U demo on the eShop, which is the full game, but it’s only good for 30 days. After that, I’d have to pony up $50 for the full version of the game. BUT! Buying the silly little trinket on its own for $20 and syncing it up with said demo actually unlocks the game for unlimited use. And we all know that I was going to buy Wii Fit U at some point anyway, so I actually saved $30 by buying the Fit Meter. Score!

Also I bought it with a gift card so I didn’t actually spend any money.

Not that I know anyone who owns a Wii U (heathens), but this deal is only good until January 31st, so if you’re at all interested, now would be the time to take the plunge. Of course it’s not a great deal if you don’t also already own a Balance Board, but them’s the breaks.


Anyway, the Fit Meter is basically a repurposed and repainted Pokéwalker. Actually, I think it’s exactly a repurposed and repainted Pokéwalker. The two gadgets are identical, as both are just glorified pedometers. The Fit Meter has some extra features tucked into though, those being an altimeter and a thermometer. It’s also apparently smart enough to know when you’re driving, so as not to count false steps.

You cannot, however, use it to catch Pokémon. Which is a missed opportunity, but I’ll let it slide..

The pedometer and thermometer seem to be pretty on the level, as those have maintained pretty accurate numbers as far as I can tell. The clock is a few minutes ahead and I can’t change it, which bothers me but I guess I’ll just have to live with it. It’s the altimeter that I question.

The altimeter is there to measure your change in elevation as you move around, which will affect how many burned calories it’s calculating. Thing is, the altimeter is set right now at -135m, even though the city’s general elevation is roughly 235m, but that one can be written off as a poor initial calibration.

What really troubles me is that the altitude graph showed a steady decrease on my ride to work this morning, and continued to decrease even while I was at work, despite the fact that I climbed three stories to get to my desk. Looking back even farther, the altitude graph is showing that the Fit Meter thought it was descending overnight, while it was sitting still on my nightstand.

So either the thing is buggy or my entire city is rather quickly sinking into the Earth. I don’t hear any panic in the streets outside, so I’m inclined to believe it’s not the latter.

On the other hand, having even a piece of Wii Fit tagging along in my pocket all day seems like it’s going to be a pretty good incentive to keep using the actual software. At least I’m hoping that’s the case, as I do want to drop a belt size or two, but can’t be bothered to keep myself motivated enough to actually keep exercising. Also that whole “eating right” business, but that’s a totally different beast that I’m going to tackle once I’ve got this regular exercise thing down.