Sunday, February 21, 2010

Assassin's Creed 2

Assassin's Creed 2 was one of two new Xbox360 games that caught my eye during the commercial breaks of NFL games before Christmas (the other one was Dragon Age: Origins). So when I saw it on sale last week at Amazon it was no-brainer to get.
I really like the setting of the game - fifteenth century Italy - and the nonlinear gameplay. Nothing forces you to play the main story right away as there are ample side quests that you can tackle first or in between. Graphics and sound are also top, as are the animations (especially when fighting/assassinating someone or freeclimbing up buildings). What I didn't like is the fact that I finished the game in less than a week - and that's not with playing around the clock but with a couple of hours in the evening most days. They already have such elaborately built city models for Florence, Venice and others - why not utilize them in more quests? There are two downloadable extensions until now, we'll see how long it takes to play them.
Overall I would say the game is worth the on sale price but if I would have paid the full price I would be disappointed by the short time for playing it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Valley Forge

Today was a beautiful fall day with nice temperatures and sunshine on the US east coast so we decided to drive to the Valley Forge National Historic Park in Pennsylvania. This park is at the same location where George Washington and his Continental Army spent the winter of 1777/1778 during the American war for independence. Like a lot of historic places in the United States it is very well maintained and preserved and is now a national park. If you interested in history or are just looking for a nice hiking area I can definitely recommend the park, both Ramona and I enjoyed the day (again thanks to the good weather). As always pictures are online at

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dan Brown - The Lost Symbol

Even though I had preordered Dan Brown's newest book 'The Lost Symbol' two weeks before its release date it took Amazon until last Monday to ship/deliver it. I was big fan of his previous four books so I knew once I could get a hold of this one I would find time to read it right away. Long story short, I finished it in less than 4 days because once I started reading it was hard to put it down.

I don't want to give away the story for those readers who have not read or finished the book yet but I really liked the fact that the author used Washington DC and the Freemasons as background. Dan Brown is ingenious in mixing real locations, symbols and traditions with fiction to create a very enjoyable story. Highly recommended!

New York Sports Weekend

Since a friend came over from Europe I organized tickets for the Yankees baseball game on Saturday and the Jets football game on Sunday for a New York sports weekend. Besides the teams we cheered for winning (Yankees beat the Red Socks and the Jets defeated the Titans) it was quite a very different experience. The Yankees are playing in a brand new stadium that was opened right before this season while the Jets are still playing in the 30+ years old Giant stadium (the new one will be opened after this season). What the Jets lacked in comfort from the newer stadium the crowd made up for atmosphere, all I'll write is J E T S - Jets Jets Jets.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

After much complaining in the last post about all the weight I wanted to spend today carrying my gear as little as possible while still being able to play around and take pictures. After searching online yesterday evening I found the perfect place, the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a large area of tidal wetlands along the New Jersey coast a couple of miles north of Atlantic City. In typical American fashion is has a eight mile long trail where you can drive through the refuge on a dam watching the birds left and right in the wetlands. Pictures from the trip are on my Smugmug site -

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Quality has its Weight

After last weekends trip to the Philly zoo I realized that some of the pictures were not as sharp as I would have hoped and also I had to crop a lot more than I wanted because I was missing focal length on the upper end. So the quality I refer to in the title is that of the taken photographs. The solution to the problem is a better lens, one with a longer focal lens that is also faster. Before making any decision to buy I have rented one over the long weekend (Monday is Labor Day) and got it on Wednesday. I immediately noticed the difference in weight compared to the other lenses I had until now...

To really play around with the lens I spent a few hours in the Bronx Zoo, since that's where a longer focal length would really come in handy. The pictures are great, really a step up from what I was able to get just a week ago but I didn't enjoy having all that weight either around my neck or in my hands all the time. So I'm still not sure if I should consider getting a longer lens or not, hopefully after using it more the next two days I have a better idea. Stay tuned for more pictures...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Snow Leopard

When Apple unexpectedly announced last Monday that the Mac OS X Snow Leopard update will be available Friday I thought I'll probably wait a few weeks before getting it. We bought both Ramona's and my MacBook Pro after Mac OS X Leopard was already available so I wasn't sure what to expect. Coming from the Windows world I would not have installed Vista on top of XP trusting it will make things better or faster (let alone free up hard disk space). Well, on Tuesday I caved and ordered a copy of Snow Leopard, which arrived yesterday ;-)

Installed in less than an hour all my applications still work and as promised more free space on my disk. Overall I like the improvements they made (at least the ones I already found) and the OS just feels "snappier". Now let's wait for the developers out there to really take advantage of the new capabilities of this release and make things go even smoother in the future!