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Camp Bongopix – 80s Retro Camping

This is kind of interesting: Up by Algonquin Park (Ontario, Canada’s oldest provincial park, quite historical), there’s a new business, Camp Bongopix, that rents out cabins, and their theme is to recreate the 1980s cottage experience. They have rooms with N64 consoles and VHS equipment, and things look decorated in a pretty convincing 80s style.

It’s a pretty novel idea (that I know of), and I could imagine it taking off and doing quite well (maybe it already has). It seems like something that would really hit the spot with a lot of Toronto people I can think of. There’s also a hostel lodge thing that’s part of it, looks like a lot of fun for the right crowd.

Their FAQ says they only book through Airbnb, which is different. I’d like to keep my eye on this thing for a couple of years and see how it does, I’m curious.

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Cinnamon Scrambled Eggs

I invented a new dish yesterday, although someone may have already done it. I’m not googling to check.

The dish is cinnamon scrambled eggs. I was going to write out the recipe, but what it really boils down to is that you make scrambled eggs, but you put cinnamon in there. You have to stick in a decent amount it seems like. Mine smelled great while it’s cooking, but the actual taste was more subtle.

I’m a foodieblogger now.

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The ‘Let 40 Horses Loose At Burning Man’ Campaign

Three days ago, on a whim, I started a joke Gofundme campaign called “Let 40 Horses Loose At Burning Man” and then linked it from Twitter for a few laughs. I was surprised how smooth and easy it is to set up a Gofundme campaign, they really have their act together.

After setting it up, I made two donations myself, one for $10 and then one for $6. My assumption was that I could just refund them, or withdraw most of the money when the campaign was over. This morning, I decided to reverse them, before I forgot about them. The Gofundme support team was insanely fast at reversing them, and they also shut down new donations to the campaign, so a big “Donations have been turned off” pop-up came on when you visited the page.

Wouldn’t you know it, maybe 30 minutes after that was set up, people started to retweet the campaign on Twitter. A couple of people with a lot of followers retweeted it (@bro_pair and then @drewtoothpaste), and it got a bunch of action. I hated wasting a good joke, so I wrote back to Gofundme and asked them to turn donations back on, so that the warning thing didn’t pop up across the web page and ruin the joke.

They re-enabled it, and when I went to check it out, I realized a pretty cool thing about Gofundme: You can enter an ‘offline donation’ yourself just by typing it into their admin area, and it’ll show up alongside the other donations to your campaign, although it’s clearly designated as an offline donation.

Since I had stuck in a $50,000 goal for the campaign, I decided to make an offline donation of $15,000, and then I decided to do another, of $23,456. This made it instantly look like the campaign had raised over $38k, which I found kind of amusing.

A Vice website called Thump wrote a short article about it, and I just noticed that it’s marked as “trending” on Gofundme. A couple of people wrote messages on Gofundme saying that animals aren’t allowed at Burning Man.

A few people throughout the day expressed concern for the horses on Twitter, and at first I did jokey replies to them like “Anything is allowed at Burning Man!” but then I instantly felt kind of mean, like I was mocking them, so I just wrote back and said something like “In all seriousness this is just a joke”. I didn’t really want to screw around with some random people who just love horses – those are really good people.

So right now I guess I’m just going to leave this thing up for another day or two and then close it off. A couple of people have donated $5-$10, and I really want to refund them sooner than later.

So I have a few thoughts about what I’ve learned about Burning Man, crowdsourcing and the power of social networking – just kidding, I don’t care at all, this was a pretty dumb joke and the important part was I got a short blog post out of it (which you are reading, it’s this post).

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Ice Life Hack

Here’s a little trick I try to do during the summer, maybe it’ll be useful to you:

A while ago, I went to the dollar store and bought 4 cheap ice cube trays. I fill them regularly and put them in the freezer.

I try to remember every day or so to go get them and then empty them into a plastic bag, and then refill them. It doesn’t take very long to accumulate quite a lot of ice this way.

Stash as much as you can in any empty spaces in your freezer (especially if you have an extra chest freezer). Then one day, when you need a bunch of ice, maybe for a last-minute beach trip or camping, you don’t have to stop at a store and pay 2 or 3 dollars for ice.

Over one summer, maybe you’ll only save a few bucks this way, but over a lifetime, you can save dozens of bucks.

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VR Photography (Ricoh Theta S)

Earlier this year, I got this VR camera, the Ricoh Theta S (amazon). It lets you take 360° photos or video. This isn’t a review but let me start with a few thoughts on the camera itself

It’s pretty cool for a bunch of reasons:

  • It’s quite small, so it’s very portable.
  • It has a very high quality feel to it.
  • Connecting it to a smartphone is way easier than other digital cameras I’ve tried.
  • Of course, it takes 360° videos and pictures.

Downsides I’ve run into:

  • At first glance, the Theta S has decent resolution: 14MP for still photos and 1080p for video. But what you might notice if you’re picky is that those pixels are spread over an entire 360° view, so when you’re looking at your pictures/video later, every subsection that you look at is lower resolution than those specs might suggest
  • Because the camera is so small, it uses a very small sensor (actually 2 sensors, to allow it to do 360°). This means it’s not great in lower light situations. They do have some low light shots that look good on the official website, so I guess it’s possible with tweaking and going into manual settings, but if you just pull it out somewhere darkish, it’ll be pretty gritty.

Anyway so I didn’t actually start writing this as a review, I was just going to talk about one specific point about VR Photography:

I love this camera, and it’s fun to use, but one thing I keep noticing when I watch 360° videos (filmed by me, or other people), is that so many situations and scenes just don’t suit themselves to 360° VR video.

In a lot of situations, traditional photography is all you need to capture what is actually happening. I’ve watched quite a lot of VR video where you have to spend the first 2 or 3 seconds orienting your view to whatever the main action is, and that covers the rest of the video.

Capturing a 360° field is cool in theory, but that includes a lot of fairly extraneous stuff. The sky is a big example actually – for most of these videos, you could orient your view to just be looking at the sky for the length of the video, but nobody is ever going to do that, nor should they. But probably more than 10% of all the pixels/scene in lots of VR videos is just a blue sky with some clouds.

Anyhow, I have no big point, I just thought I’d write this down somewhere. I just had a tech video open where someone was raving about how great the Theta S is, and I agree, but I don’t know, I am not so sure it’s going to catch on with actual normal people – doesn’t seem likely to me. A couple of years ago, I got a Sony 3D camera that is one of the greatest things, but those never caught on, and I’d argue that they provided way more utility and cooler/more fun images.

If you do get a Ricoh Theta S or other VR camera, maybe get it from somewhere you can return it if you’re not into it, that’s probably the smart move.

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You should never make fun of any kid’s name you find dumb online, even if you think the name is terrible. Even if that person doesn’t see it (maybe they won’t), someone else could read what you said, and that person might have a kid with the same name, and it could make them feel bad in a pretty deep way. They might worry about if they really messed up and hurt their kid’s future by giving them a bad name. Pretty mean.

Now this is not really related, but I really like the concept of some guy naming his kids Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but not explaining it to his wife. Or maybe he names the first two Emerson and Lake, and then his wife realizes what’s going on and gets super mad. Or what if someone just thought Emerson, Lake and Palmer were great kids names (they’re pretty normal), and didn’t even realize there was the band. That would be crazy! But I’m sure it hasn’t happened. But dang, just imagine it.

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Yell At Brands

I had an idea a while ago for a site called Yell At Brands. The basic idea was that you’d go to it, pick a brand, and write your complaints, and it’d stick them all into categories or sections or whatever.

Here’s why I think this would be a good site: People love yelling at brands. People complain to them on Twitter all the time, it’s just a natural reflex when some company makes you mad. Sticking all the yelling in one place would be.. I don’t know, but I’m sure some people would use the site, and it’s very hard to make anyone use any website these days.

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Almost every monger is bad: Warmonger, Gossipmonger, Hatemonger.

But nobody has a problem with the Fishmonger. They’re good really. Something to think over.

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Jeff’s Maps

I found a very interesting business yesterday, Jeff’s Maps. It seems to be a one person business, run by a guy named Jeff of course, that sells really good maps to a few hotspots in Ontario, including two of the big provincial parks (Algonquin and Killarney).

He designs the maps himself, and adds a bonus information that’s useful to hikers, canoeists and hikers. After I googled a bit, I found that the maps are very popular with this crowd, who rave about the quality.

What I find interesting is how modern his operation seems. The whole world of hiking/canoeing/camping information is generally not very modern. Books about hiking provincial parks, for instance, always sort of seem like they were designed and printed 20 years ago. This is totally fine – there’s no real reason for it not to be like this. Jeff’s Maps, however, does things in a very up to date way, like being very specific about how fast you’ll received printed copies and when your order will ship (there are little images for different regions that tell you this, and I assume update automatically).

Example shipping image from Jeffsmap site (I viewed this on a Thursday)
Example shipping image from Jeffsmap site (I viewed this on a Thursday)

What’s the most modern part to me though, is that the main part of the websites (one for each region) is an online map viewer that lets you view the maps for free, and has quite a nice, usable interface. The maps are actually Creative Commons licensed, and you can download them in a number of formats and print them if you like. The actual commercial part of the page is just the sale of traditional printed copies (which are waterproof as well).

Anyway, pretty cool stuff. I’ve yet to check out the paper ones, but going through the map in the web viewer makes it clear it’s very nice. Just thought I’d write it up since it’s an uncommon style of business for something in the hiking/camping sort of space, and it’s pretty neat.