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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reefsteamers train to magaliesburg

Today we took the Reefsteamers steam train from Maraisburg station to Magaliesburg. The train departs a little after 9am, winding out of Joburg at a nice lazy pace. We had initially tried to book a 3 seater coupe, but they were sold out for this trip so we settled for regular single seats. This turned out not to be a great idea, the regular seating area is way too noisy for those of us without kids and the screaming tolerance they build ;) We were lucky enough to find a coupe who's occupants hadn't pitched and 'upgraded'. I'd definitely suggest anyone planning on taking the trip to hold out for one of these compartments, they make for a great experience. Make no mistake, these are vintage commuter trains in their original state, no Rovos level niceties, but they are a nice way to relive those old trips to holiday spots by rail.

After about two and a half hours of relaxed travel through the countryside (including some shunting stops on the single gauge track), the train dropped those travelers who had booked for lunch at the Magaliesburg Country Hotel, and then carried on to drop the rest off at the self catering picnic grounds. Sadly the lunch at the hotel wasn't much to write home about, but the dessert at Wimpy around the corner was great. Whether going with kids or without, I'd suggest skipping on the hotel dinner and rather going for a Wimpy burger or the picnic option.

The trip back was somewhat shorter at about ninety minutes, due to fewer shunting stops, but was no less relaxing-especially with bellies full of food.

Overall, this was a fun experience at a reasonable price. It would also definitely be a great way to entertain kids and introduce them to an older, slower paced way of doing things.

Posted via email from Matt's thoughts

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Harvest

The Harvest is a Luma Arcade developed and Microsoft Game Studios published title under development for the upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform. The game is developed in C# using Microsoft's XNA set of API's on top of the .Net Compact Framework. The high production quality bar for a game on a (not yet final) mobile platform meant serious work on squeezing every ounce of performance out of the engine. In addition to the usual engineering challenges of developing a truly AAA 3D title, and working closely with the MGS publishing team in a senior role, this project gave me the incredible opportunity to visit Microsoft in Seattle to work with them directly on performance challenges, gameplay and usability fine tuning, audio balancing and more. 

On a future Earth, the invading alien Harvesters use humans and animals to create cyborgs: crude amalgamations of flesh and machinery. Mankind, in the form of the Global Defence Force, now fights a war against The Harvesters using human controlled mechanized infantry units. As a member of the GDF army, you have been sent to investigate reported Harvester activity in the ruins of an ancient city once used as a military base. As you explore, fight off wave after wave of The Harvester horde, find hidden upgrades, and defeat imposing enemy boss units in order to return Earth to its rightful inhabitants.
Designed from the ground up to be the best looking 3-D mobile phone game to date, The Harvest™ features innovative touch screen gameplay, along with visceral combat, and opportunities for exploration, character customization, and more. This action RPG experience is an Xbox LIVE-enabled game for Windows Phone 7, and will immerse you into a deep and intriguing story where it is vital that the GDF is victorious.

For videos of The Harvest in action, see the recently posted playthroughs on

Posted via email from Matt's thoughts

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Champ Chase

Champ Chase was a project by I-Imagine for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund's "Champion for Children" campaign. Released as an online flash title as well as a J2ME mobile game, the challenges here were to quickly build a Flash equivalent to I-Imagine's flexible J2ME engine, as well as expand on the company's in-house high score system and communicate with it from flash.

The game is a 2D platformer aimed at educating young players about various dangers they may encounter such as criminals, drug abuse and online predation. This was achieved through a combination of stylized characters associating each concept with a familiar object or animal with typically negative connotations, as well as more direct information provided at key points. The game is simple and fun, placing the player in the role of a protector saving children from these dangers.

Posted via email from Matt's thoughts

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Death of optimism

I have always been supportive of South Africa and positive about it's people and future, the guy who would argue down naysayers at work, at the dinnertable, wherever negative sentiments might arise. For every pessimistic complaint about our politicians, our crime levels and our problems I would provide a counterpoint.

My family has been on the victim's end of it's fair share of property and contact crime. We've been tied up, stabbed and held at gunpoint in armed robberies. We've had cars and small items and even the entire stock of our shop stolen. Most families in this country have had similar experiences, regardless of race or background. Despite this I have always sung South Africa's praises to all who would listen, firmly believing these problems would be solved.

For every corrupt politician shamelessly leeching funds needed by the poor and downtrodden to fund an opulent lifestyle, I have firmly believed there is another dedicated, hardworking individual with a love for their homeland  and the fire of justice in their belly. For every potholed road I've been able to point to a glowing new advancement in public transport. For every dirty downtown street I've been able to counter with encouraging stats about waste management and recycling. Dropping educational standards? Growth in industry and sheer number of people getting an education will sort that out in the long term.

But none of that matters anymore. As of this Thursday past my optimism is gone, taken by the thugs with knopkierries beating on a door, the other side of which had been barricaded by my wife and one of her patients to keep these monsters out. Who were these vicious villains? Were they drugged up kids on a narcotic warpath? Career criminals looking for their belongings? Perhaps escapees from the mental ward come to exact their revenge on the institution? No, they were my wife's highly trained and respected colleagues in medical work. Nurses and other staff that work in the public hospitals. Professionals entrusted with the care of our sick and downtrodden, wanting to drag co-workers out of the hospital and physically assault them for not partaking in their illegal strike. Health care workers forgoing their oath of service to haul non-striking theater staff out of active operating theaters, regardless of the already anesthetized patients who's lives lay in the balance.

At the same time schoolbusses were announcing they would discontinue their services during the strike action for fear of being targeted. By schoolteachers. Let me spell that out: school buses full of children the potential target of violence by school teachers. I  am completely in favor of industrial action, of underpaid and undervalued workers having the right to express their unhappiness and disillusion, especially when these are the workers carrying out two of the most important jobs imaginable: caring for our sick and teaching our young. However strike violence is not a valid part of this action, and nothing on earth justifies these same caregivers turning on each other and on their charges, nothing.

Because of the hair-trigger nature of racial debate in our country I have to emphasize that this is not about race. There were members of various races on both sides of that door. This is simply about the people of our country failing at a basic human level-to have empathy for our sick and young. Even in times of war, hospitals and schools are considered places of safety and refuge. Violating them in any way whatsoever is looked on with great scorn and leads to trials in The Hague. Yet here are our own medical staff and teachers violating that universal principle-for a pay rise. What kind of a people must we be, when those in our community we are expected to trust more than any other must be feared like common thugs? How can we be expected to carry on "Leading SA" and hoping for a bright future for our beautiful rainbow nation? Well I for one can't. My hope and faith and optimism -fundamental parts of my being- have been wrenched from me by the dogs that threatened the life of my wife while she was in the act of helping someone.

Cry the Beloved Country. Indeed.

Posted via email from Matt's thoughts


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