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March 21, 2013
by jolon
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Panama City – The causeway’s where it’s at!

I spent a weekend in Panama with my lovely fiancee and got a chance to see my father for the first time in years, we had a blast! This was my third trip, but the first time I’ve gotten to get all touristy, as my previous journeys were for business, and quite quick. I took some notes on the city for anyone else who happens to be traveling there, I hope they help you out.

First, the highlight of the trip:

Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) 

Bicycle for two.

Bicycle for two.

The causeway is amazing! It has the best food, the best views, fresh seabreezes, a tour bus that dives into the ocean and will take you across the Bay of Panama to Panama City.

The causeway has multiple marinas, with dozens of shops and restaurants, and you can watch giant ships enter and exit the Canal from afar.

On the causeway itself, you can rent a wide variety of vehicles, powered and pedaled to explore the causeway. Some of the options include: rollerblades, bicycles, electric scooters, motorcycles, and even 2, and 4 person bicycles like this one!

Nighttime on the causeway

Nighttime on the causeway

We tried a few restaurants on the causeway, and the best we found was El Muelle on Flamenco Island.

This outdoor restaurant  sits overhanging the water in a marina, so you can watch the pleasure boats and water taxis running around.

El Muelle is a great place to grab lunch while on the causeway, and I most recommend the ‘Bandeja de Mariscos’ — a giant seafood platter that fed all 5 of us for $25!

Absolutely delicious, this plate had about a kilo of fried fish, as well as langostinas (like a cross between giant shrimp and baby lobsters) mussels, clams, shrimp, french fries, and more. It’s the 4th item on their menu – I can’t recommend it more.

We cut out after an early dinner (it’s exhausting pedaling these bike/car hybrids for miles in the afternoon sun) but there is a very wide variety of restaurants, bars, discos, etc. if you’re looking to stay after sunset for nightlife on the causeway.

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo from the bay

Casco Viejo from the bay

Our second favorite place was Casco Viejo (which means Old Helmet in Spanish).

After Henry Morgan sacked Old Panama City, the city decided to move to the more easily defensible location where Casco Viejo now stands.

This area has the most interesting historical sites, however on our recent visit, approximately 60% of the area was under construction and so navigating the area was a bit difficult.

Apparently the area is undergoing a massive renovation, which has the upside that the tourist experience will be quite the sparkling gem in a year or two, however apparently one side effect has been to send the area’s poorer residents into the streets or north into the ghettos of El Cuchillo (which is best avoided by tourists, with nothing to see anyway.)

Some highlights of this area are:

Plaza de Independencia

Plaza de Independencia

Plaza de Independencia

This marks the spot where the founding fathers (statues of whom line the square) decided to declare their independence from Colombia in 1903. Here you will find the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, which took over a hundred years to complete, and features towers inlaid with pearls from the nearby Pearl Islands.

Museo de Canal Interoceanico

Located in the Plaza de Independencia, this is where you will find the REAL story of the Panama Canal.

While much less overwhelming than the hypermedia displays found in Miraflores, the Museo de Canal Interoceanico features an honest and unabashed look at the canal’s long and troubled past, including the failed French expeditions and the tens of thousands of slaves or near-slaves who perished from yellow fever and construction accidents.

But the most interesting part of the offering is the very detailed accounts of the uprisings by university students in Panama, who literally risked (and many lost, as the US Army gunned down hundreds of the protestors, and then blocked off the roads leading to the hospitals so they could not be saved) their lives over the course of several decades for the cause of independence and the return of the canal to Panama’s care.

It took 3 US presidents’ terms to resolve the matter, ending on September 7, 1977 when Jimmy Carter signed all authority to the Panama Canal back to Panama  as part of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties.

Other places of interest in Casco Viejo

Golden Altar

Golden Altar

The Church of the Golden Altar, unsurprisingly, has a massive golden altar. It’s claim to fame is that when Henry Morgan and the pirates came to sack Panama, the priest painted it black, saving the golden relic from the swashbuckling horde. The French Plaza on the farthest point of Casco Viejo commemorates the failed efforts of the French to build the Canal the first time around. Some other statues and historic monuments may be found in Plaza Boliviar, Plaza Herrera, The Flat Arch, and The Presidential Palace are all good spots to get your picture taken and learn a bit about Panama City’s history.

Super Gourmet

Before leaving Casco Viejo, we recommend stopping by Super Gourmet, an excellent NY-Style (or as close as you’ll come in Central America) Deli which serves up excellent salads and sandwiches. They also offer imported chips, cookies, locally-made gourmet chocolate goods, and more.

In my next post, I will tell you all about our experience in the Miraflores Locks Museum and where to go (and not go!) on Via Argentina.

Miraflores Locks Panorama

Miraflores Locks Panorama

March 6, 2013
by jolon
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Space Unity – Space Scene Construction Kit

Wow I say, wow! This is beyond cool.

Imphy has released this amazing asset in the Unity3D Asset Store, called ‘Space Unity’ and it’s a complete construction kit for building space games in Unity3D.

Asset Store Link

This kit is very usable right out of the box, and works on mobile too! Some of the features include:

  • Dynamic backgrounds
  • Nebulas
  • Starfields
  • Galaxies
  • Infinite Asteroid Fields
  • Space Particles
  • Camera Scripts
  • Explosions
  • Demo scenes to get you up and running fast
  • and last but not least but Planets which have Volumetric Atmospheres (but not on mobile yet) Rings, Night/Day cycles
  • A sample space ship

Oh, and most importantly, it comes with excellent documentation! If only other asset developers would take a lead from Imphy on this work.

For a limited time it’s only $50, so get it while the price is still low!

March 1, 2013
by jolon
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$500 Sci-Fi / Horror mapping contest

Get out your Alien halloween costume (without the gloves of course, those giant claws will just scrabble off your keyboard, no good for detail work) and throw your hat  in the ring for this $500 prize in the Probuilder level design contest for Unity3d.

The contest runs from March 1 (today!) – March 31st, 2013. The rules are simple, they are asking for you to build a playable level which incorporates 85% + of Probuilder geometry, however they ask that designers include detail meshes as well, whatever will lend the most effective experience.

Additionally, Gametextures.com is providing a free pack of sci-fi game textures to anyone entering the contest, which is not to be passed up either.

Official contest link

Unity3D Forums Post

(update) Here’s the official launch video for ProBuilder 2.0, which is a really amazing in-editor (unity3d) level design tool.

February 22, 2013
by jolon
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Zazzle and WordPress

I’ve taken a long break from posting, as so much has been happening on other fronts, for good and for bad, but am getting back in the mood.

I have decided to start putting some of my photography on cool items from zazzle.com, and have integrated my zazzle store here into my blog.

(BTW, if you are interesting in getting into Print On Demand, do your research, there’s a lot of options out there! And be sure to check out this squidoo lens article comparing Print on Demand services, it is a very handy guide)

It’s still a little light, as I have just gotten into it, but will fill up with cool stuff rapidly, take a look at the Store link above.

So anyway, about integration, Zazzle provides some software called the Zazzle Store Builder, which is some php and css to help anyone embed a dynamic Zazzle store into their website.

Installing into WordPress by hand is not trivial, but if you prefer to go manually, here are some handy guides:

http://www.squidoo.com/how-to-add-zazzle-store-builder-to-wordpress

http://sketchee.com/blog/2008/12/1/embedding-your-zazzle-store-in-wordpress.html

However, at the end, I got lazy and used the Zstore Helper, a free plugin that helps you quickly and easily add a ZStore to your wordpress blog. Even though the original post is from 2009, he seems to keep it updated, and I dropped the plugin from this page, and the latest Zazzle Store Builder into WordPress 3.5 current, and everything worked fine!

One caveat is it seems to only sort be date added and most popular, but I haven’t had a chance to dive into the code and tweak, so perhaps there are more options.

 

September 29, 2012
by jolon
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Let’s Play Treasure Defense – Part 1

I am posting some Let’s Play videos of Treasure Defense for Mac OSX.

It’s a wonderful take on the Tower Defense mechanic, you are defending a varying amount of jewels from marauding villians.

Terrific Graphics, available in the Apple App Store for free2play but you can absolutely advance through just playing.

I recommend this game highly.

This video contains levels 1-4, essentially the tutorial levels and some simple get-up-to-speed levels.

Fair warning! I did not ace these levels, I think I lost 2 of the jewels we’re guarding in 2 of the levels. More to come!