The next time someone asks me if they should travel through South America for four months or more, I will respond with another question: “Are you prepared to lose everything?” Despite bringing along my Macbook Pro, iPod Touch and Canon DSLR Camera, I really felt mentally prepared to lose everything for the sake of world experience. After all, they are just things. I even left my iPhone at home in Canada with the idea that even if they took everything else from me, at least I’d have that. However, despite my preparation, losing stuff sucks!

Below find a tale, not about loss, but about an outstanding couple, a thief, and the power of social media. By the end, it might just restore your faith in humanity, I know it did mine.

First things first: why the hell would I bring all that technology to South America of all places? Well, without this technology I wouldn’t have been able to keep this column on Forget the Box, make a wacky video about Carnaval, take a leading role in the development of the Bolivian Express magazine, write a freelance article about the End of Capitalism in Bolivia, or keep a personal blog as much as I did.

Why the hell would I travel by myself? At least with people you might have more security. Another good question, but I feel that if I wasn’t alone, I wouldn’t have the freedom to meet such incredible people like Damian Martone, the friendly Argentinian graphic designer who allowed me to stay in his apartment for over a week in Buenos Aires through the networking site CouchSurfing or Bruno Beserra, the flight attendant from Brazil who made the video of Carnaval with me and lent me his camera for the rest of my trip.

But all this journalism, travelling and partying can be taxing on the body, so since Carnaval I pledged to limit my drinking and start to run everyday. I kept to my word on the morning of Sunday, March 3rd and hauled myself out of bed at 8 am after a sober Saturday night for my morning run. In my morning drowsiness I accidentally bumped the foot of an Argentinian man sleeping above me in the 10-person dormitory in Salvador, Brazil and woke him up.

“I’m going to Praia do Forte!” he told me confidentially in Spanish as he started to pack his bag. “Cool!” I responded, having been to the nearby beach a few days prior. “There is an amazing, tranquil beach with no people and white sand if you continue walking from the main beach for 10 minutes. You have to go there!” Appearing delighted by the recommendation he agreed to go. I then locked my locker with all my valuables inside of it, took the key and set off on my run.

When I returned 45 minutes later, I saw the Argentinian on the way out, exchanged a friendly “Chow!” and went to unlock my locker. There, I discovered that my MacBook Pro and the Nikon point + shoot digital camera that Bruno had lent me were missing! Fortunately, however, everything else including my passport was there.

Before the embarrassment, disappointment and general bummed out feeling hit, I just felt confused as to how those items were stolen. I always make sure to lock my locker even if it is for a second to go to the bathroom.

Who could have done this!?

Immediately my mind shifted to the friendly Argentinian. He did rush out and he was probably the only person who saw me open my computer on that morning and could have been fast/sneaky enough to nab it, but there was no evidence to prove this. Where’s Dexter when you need justice!?

Justice had a rough start. At the police station nearby, the casually dressed policeman did not speak a word of English. Less than three words into my explanation in Portuguese (slow and choppy, but I know it made sense) the officer wrote “Pelourinho” (the name for the historic centre) on a piece of paper. Apparently in Pelourinho there is a tourist police station where they speak English.

Of course when I got there, both employees did not speak a word of English. One of them spoke broken French. It’ll do.

In the meantime, a beautiful Uruguayan couple living just north of Salvador named Veronica and Nicolas decided to make a surprise visit to the city to visit Nicolas’ sister.

Unprepared for their arrival, Nicolas’ sister was in the process of interviewing an Argentinian named Rodrigo about renting out her apartment. Rodrigo and the couple got to talking… The couple works with computers, Rodrigo has a new MacBook Pro (wonder where he got it…). Que buena suerte (such good luck) he must have thought! They can wipe the computer’s hard drive and it’ll be just like he never stole it! Having never touched a MacBook before, he asked Veronica and Nicolas to show him where the CD eject button was so that he could take out his Bob Marley CD.

Rodrigo went to the beach and left the computer with the couple with hopes that it would be all ready when he came back.

Suspicious of the odd request to wipe my computer’s content, Veronica and Nicolas took a peek online where she found my Facebook signed in with my photos. If that wasn’t proof enough that this computer was freshly stolen, they saw my full name displayed in the top right hand corner of the screen.

So here’s me sitting at the tourist police station awaiting a police report that a snail could have preformed faster, while Veronica is on my Facebook posting a status to contact me because I had been robbed.

When Rodrigo got back, Nicolas would not let the thief back in to get the stolen computer. He asked Rodrigo for the camera too, but the Argentinian wouldn’t give that back, nor the SD card. After about 15 minutes of arguing he finally left, without my computer!

Main Status

It was only by chance that I found out about the status, despite some of my friends’ best efforts to contact me through email or Facebook. I had no access to Internet because it was a Sunday and nothing was open.

I was eager to set off for Lencois, a nearby tourist town, to get rid of the bad energy I was feeling in Salvador, but had to wait for my police report – which would take another two hours because the lady writing it was hungry and wanted lunch! Ahem, wasn’t there a crime to solve!? This no-pressure attitude while handling necessary services is something that Salvador and Brazil’s Bahia province is infamous for.

While I waited upset and with thoughts of my retreat home to Canada out of disappointment, I went to a nearby hostel to visit a Canadian friend. She wasn’t there, but her boyfriend Pedro who works at the hostel was. Reluctantly, I told him the embarrassing news – that I had apparently left my locker and lost my computer and camera.

“Dude!,” the Brazilian told me in his perfect colloquial English accent. “You didn’t see your Facebook status? Someone found it and they want to meet up!”

Huh!? This must be a joke! My first instinct was to laugh.

I went to look and alas, there on Facebook, was my own status updated with all the information I needed to contact Veronica and Nicolas!

Veronica truly went above and beyond to get a hold of me. She messaged Damian, the Argentinian from CouchSurfing and called the hostel to get a hold of me.

Veronica tried diligently to find me

They also took photos and posted them on my own wall to prove that they had the computer.

Proof!

The comments on Facebook were filled with heart warming messages from family and friends from all walks of life. “Good things happen to good people,” said a friend I knew from high school, but hadn’t seen in over five years. “Well today officially became the shitiest day of the year…! At least Joel Balsam’s story still gives me faith in the world!” read a status of a former teammate from the French Jeux de la Communications.

I called Veronica. No answer.

I went to message a close friend of mine on Pedro’s computer to express my shock and suddenly I was typing my own name in chat, but I really wasn’t… Veronica was also logged in to Facebook and was communicating with me through the same message!

See how the conversation immediately changes as a third party enters the conversation
See how the conversation immediately changes as a third party enters the conversation

Didn’t Facebook used to sign you out if you were signed in at two different locations?

Anyway, Veronica messaged me the address and I punched it into Google Maps. Ready to head out the door, Pedro, the guy who worked at the hostel stopped me. “Dude, that’s in the worst and most dangerous part of the city.” Crap! Salvador is already pretty dangerous, so I could only imagine what the locals would do to a white gringo like me. Hopefully, a white gringo with his Macbook.

A closer search on Google Maps found the same street in a completely different part of the city. Relief.

Two hours later by bus and taxi I arrived to Veronica and Nicolas’ huge condominium and rang the doorbell. Finally, I would meet face to face with the saints that found my computer! But… you guessed it… they weren’t there! Crap, I thought as I looked out the window. I was in some strange place and still unsure if this was all real. Seconds later, a happy couple looked up at me from the street and said “hoy!” I knew it was them!

I sat at their kitchen table, still numb from the whole experience as they related the wild story back to me of how they encountered Rodrigo and hustled the computer back for me. Soon, we got to laughing and talking about each others’ lives.

Got it back!!!

If it wasn’t enough that they saved me the grief and expense of buying a new computer, Nicolas offered me an old shirt as a keepsake to take with me on my journeys.

Kickin butt!
Kickin’ butt!

I took Veronica and Nicolas out for pizza dinner and drinks and they offered me a place to stay when I come back from Chapada Diamantina, a nearby national park. And, Veronica wants to teach me to surf! How could I say no?

So, there you have it. There are good, even great people out there! Something I will tell the grandkids.

What would you have done?

All in a day’s travels!

I’m a huge fan of indie productions. Books, movies, music, video games–indie just screams innovative and against the grain. Indie doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality, but it does mean that it doesn’t employ the proven “formula” used by industry giants. Personally, I’m very anti-formula, both in what I create, and what I enjoy.

Want to start enjoying some indie games? Fortunately, Steam is swarming with them. Inexpensive, cross-platform (some will even run on Linux!) and with great replay value to boot.

Defense Grid: The Awakening

I’ve logged almost 200 hours on this simple to learn, yet difficult to master tower defense game. Defeating waves of aliens with high-tech towers has never been so fun. The AI helper is decidedly British and amusing, while the game play is intuitive and captivating. Did I mention that they recently raised a metric crapton on Kickstarter to make a sequel?

defense grid

 

Sanctum

Imagine a first person shooter and a tower defense game got married and had little game babies. Sanctum is that baby. The player character is female, which is a huge plus. While the graphics are a little primitive, there’s good fun to be had, and a great deal of replay value. If you make it to the Yogscave map, prepare yourself for being mercilessly mocked by the game. Nothing says “I’m a screw up” like a pre-recorded message taunting you after a particularly disastrous wave.

sanctum.1

 

Orcs Must Die!

There are so many kinds of love I have for this game. The amazingly stupid main character. His constant idiotic vocalizations. The voice in his head. Lots and lots of orcs to kill. It’s a cross between tower defense and an over the shoulder shooter, with plenty of traps, weapons and abilities to keep you playing. “It’s like catnip, but for orcs!”

Orcs Must Die

Nation Red

There are a few maps, lots of guns, power-ups, and even more zombies. A simple, straightforward way to blow off some steam. While it’s a top-down shooter and the gameplay options are limited, coop is a great way to spend time with technologically limited friends and family while still getting some quality zombie killing time.

It’s the zombie killing that matters.Nation Red

 

The cyberpunk phenomena has lead to a plethora of fascinating works of fiction. Enhanced humans, transhuman problems and fusion-powered bad guys are only part of the appeal. The other side of the story, as I’ve discovered, is part of the timeless narrative of character development and fantastic storytelling.

One such example is Shadow of a Dead Star, by Michael Shean. The story takes place in 2078 Seattle, a city marked by its consumerism and abject depravity. At the core of this soulless world is detective Tom Walken, a man driven to seek justice. In a nation where corporations run the police, he is tasked with stopping shipments of banned contraband. One night, he’s ordered to confiscate three living sex dolls – called Princess Dolls – abominations that come out of illicit offshore labs. Predictably, the raid goes horribly wrong, and Walken must submerge himself in Seattle’s vile underbelly in order to crack the case. However, he’s in over his head and between him and his hacker partner Bobbi January, he needs to untangle a web of deception that threatens to engulf all of humanity.

I was sucked right in by this book from the moment I picked it up. The descriptive value is almost cinematic. Painstaking detail is used to describe every facet of this rich and gloomy universe. The clothes, hairstyles, plastic surgery, and even the cars are fleshed out until they’re more realistic than the room you’re sitting in. Suffice it to say, Shean has a talent for descriptiveness. Whether he’s describing futuristic fashions or a shower of gore, you’re trapped in that moment with him.

cyberpunk girlThe characters are also exceptional. Bobbi stole the show. She’s a lady hacker–smart-talking, resourceful and stunningly human. Her dimension gives this story a grounding point, a place the audience can cling to when the story gets crazy. In short, she’s a great, strong female character that the genre sorely needs. As for Walken, he’s a great, driven character who can lose himself in his own single minded need for justice. It’s all he believes in, and that faith is what sustains him until the very end.

In short, the mystery will keep you guessing until the very end. And, you will get it wrong, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s a subtext to this story as well, lurking just below the surface. Social commentary, an intoxicating mystery and amazing world building are what’s made Shadow of a Dead star my favourite cyberpunk book of all time.

Do you have a favorite scifi or cyberpunk book? let us know in the comments!

Do you have a couple friends that you’d also like to do the horizontal mambo with? We all do, but how do you get it across without the awkwardness if your friend isn’t down to fuck. Well leave it to the pioneers of the internet to solve your problems. A new facebook app called Bangwithfriends allows you to anonymously select all the friends you would hook up with, without them knowing unless they are DTF too.

The app is so simple it’ll leave you wondering why you didn’t think of it first. To get started you install the app, then it lists all your Facebook friends of the opposite sex. You click if you’d like to “bang” them, and no one ever knows… that is, unless one of those friends installed the app and elected to bang you, too. If the app detects a match the two of you will receive an email notification. What happens after that is up to you. Bang With Friends is definitely an interesting take on matchmaking but is it worth a try… even if just “for science”?

The app was created by 3 college friends to practice their pimping skills to revolutionize dating (or at least hooking up). They say that the app was simply conceived to avoid some of the awkwardness regarding dating and hooking up when you don’t know if the other person is interested. They admit that the site is not perfect and are working on some tweeks.

how to bang

At the moment there is no way to filter your list of potential fuck candidates so you may see images of relatives, exes and friends already married or in relationships (if you know what’s good for you don’t click these). Seeing your mom as a candidate to bang isn’t exactly up there on most people’s lists of turn ons. Also there doesn’t seem to be a way to un-select people if you accidentally click on the crazy girl from LA that you met during a 3 day rave years ago…

So is this site a good thing? bad thing? or just another part of the internet? Well we’ll just have to wait and see how this social experiment plays out. Do you have an opinion? Do you have a problem with this app objectifying your friends? women? men? Will this app bring an end to the “friend zone”? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Blog on Blog is regular feature here on Forget The Box where we look at the best in blogs.

Last year the world was suppose to end. Whether by hellfire, rogue planet (nibiru), asteroid or by a solar flare the earth was suppose to be destroyed, but, unfortunately to the dismay of every weirdo on the internet it never happened.

One of the reason why this never happened is because the Mayans never really predicted the end of the world, after all our calendar starts over after December 31st, why shouldn’t the Mayan calendar just start over?

Since the beginnings of professional prophets, people have been predicting the end of the world but so far to a highly inaccurate degree.

We should just face the facts: The Mayans just happened to perceive time in longer fragments but that didn’t stop most websites from seeing opportunity.

Leading up to the Mayan countdown we saw an increase on the internet of blogs relating to the subject. It seemed every site was in on the “world is nigh” action. Here are some of the best blogs about the end of the world.

NASA

Even scienctists got into the debate as to why the world wasn’t going to end. NASA got so many emails directed at wanting information about December 21st, that NASA finally broke down and made this video for all the “crazies” explaining why the world won’t end.

Best Bunker Blog

Maybe I’m old fashion but there is nothing like a good bunker to get my blood rushing. What design will withstand the awesome carnage outside? Well this blog uncovers the best construction for survival. There’s even a few lavish condo bunkers where you can reside the rest of your life in comfort and ease away from all the flesh eating hordes and temples of destruction. Some are even built around entire underground communities. (Instructables: How to build a bunker)

Car and Driver: 10 Vehicles for the Apocalypse

If the end times are coming, you’re going to need the right vehicle to get around, right? What kind of vehicle would best aid your survival during the final trial and tribulation? Well, according to Car and Driver, larger cars like SUVs or big tank-like vehicles like the Daimler Ferret are the best for survival. A vehicle that says “don’t tread on me… I got an extra tire.” And you though SUVs were bad, well wait till that zombie apocalypse happens, it turn out the most durable cars are the most douchiest.

And how else do you plan to crush a zombie horde without a giant douche-mobile like a Hummer? (Car and Driver: 10 Vehicles for the Apocalypse)

The Best and Worst Dogs for a Zombie Apocalypse

One of my favorite post-apocalyptic movies is A Boy and His Dog about a Mutt that has the ability to communicate telepathically with his owner. The dog was not only the smarter of the two, he also came in handy when trying to avoid radioactive monsters with his handy ability to detect them by scent.

It turns out that the Welsh Corgi is one of the best dogs to help you survive, based “On the strength of it’s size, herding instinct and it’s ability to appear less intelligent due to its cuteness.” The worse dog you can own: a poodle. (401ak47.com)

Best Country for the Apocalypse

The best country to survive the apocalypse? Canada is looking pretty good. According to travel site Runawayguide.com Canadian zombies would probably be the nicest… just saying. And all our open terrain and hunting rifles would probably come in useful. Overall they suggest Norway as the best country to survive an apocalypse. Why? “It is isolated, it has an abundance of fish and deep cold water crabs and it’s population is low.” I also hear it’s nice this time of year. (Best Country to Survive the Apocalypse)

Best Visions of Post Apocalyptic Future

The Creators project has some awesome visions of what the future might look like once it has all ended. They’ve put together some amazing images and short films of what the future may or may not look like including overgrown cities, robot overlords and some awesome cyber punk. Check out this short film: True Skin.

If you’ve got any favorite apocalypse blogs let us know in the comments!

Star wars Disney

As you probably know by now, Disney purchased Lucas Films and the rights to the Star Wars Universe for $4 Billion dollars. The film franchise has been enormously lucrative for George Lucas and has spanned over 3o years. Just how lucrative has the franchise been? Well considering that Lucas made a deal ensuring him rights to the future of the franchise when negotiating the contract for the first film, (which may have been the deal of the century) and has banked most of the money since…

Star-Wars-Franchise-Economics-Infographic-1

Smart phone health.jpg

The rising number of apps designed to help people be healthier is a testament to the many uses of the smart phone. People are using their phones to find healthcare solutions, diagnose illnesses and to lead healthier lives. Mobile computers including iphones, Android phones and tablets are all quickly becoming one of a doctor’s most invaluable tools. Take a look at how technology is helping us be healthier today.

Healthcare infographic