Kinect Games to Collect Now

There once was a time when video games were the anti-workout, the kind of thing guys who didn’t give a hoot about their physiques did in their free time. Sure, you could argue “Super Mario Bros.” gave your fingers a workout (and perhaps rescuing the princess set your heart racing), but for the most part, gaming was right up there with hitting the McDonald’s drive-through when it came to keeping fit. The Nintendo Wii, released in 2006, changed all of that, forcing us to get off the sofa if we wanted to play along. Tech being tech, it stands to reason something hotter would eventually come along -- and sure enough, Kinect for Xbox 360, introduced late last year, has taken gaming to a stratospheric new level.

Using 3-D imaging, voice and face recognition and motion-sensing technology worthy of a James Cameron movie, Kinect watches and relays your every pitch, sway, kick and hop. You lift your virtual ski poles or throw a sucker punch, and Kinect displays your avatar doing the same on screen. Liberated from a controller, you become so lost in the action that you forget you’re breaking a sweat. (As a courtesy, the Kinect occasionally reminds you to take a breather and hydrate.)

Although game releases are still trickling out, what we’ve seen so far has got us pumped (literally). Below are our current faves and future releases that have got us just as excited.

Feats of Daring

Ride roaring rapids, fly through outer space and navigate an alpine obstacle course in “Kinect Adventures!” (Microsoft Game Studios; bundled with Kinect). These whimsical outdoor adventures will likely be your introduction to Kinect-style gaming, and after a few twists and turns, you’ll be hooked. Once you get good, post your score on Facebook, along with the Polaroid-style digital photos the Kinect snaps of you during game play.

Shake It

So you think you can dance? Pick up a copy of “Dance Central” (Harmonix; $49.99) and learn routines that will earn you major props -- and maybe a phone number or two -- the next time you go clubbing. Break-it-down on-screen instructions (which you can watch in slow motion) and an impossibly patient instructor’s encouragement keep hope alive even for those with two left feet. Songs range from old school (The Commodores) to new (Cascada).

No Pain, No Game

If you relate a little too well to the contestants on “The Biggest Loser” (pre-weight loss, that is), “The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout” (THQ; $49.99) is for you. Among our favorite features: the ability to work out simultaneously with fellow Kinect-owning friends (via Xbox LIVE) and a function that will track and record your physical progress as you whip yourself into shape over time. Best part of all? You don’t need to embarrass yourself on national TV to do it.

Become a Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Harry may still wave his wand, but in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” (Electronic Arts; $39.99), you won’t need one. At first, this homage to the last book in the series by J.K. Rowling may leave you feeling as though you need a degree from Hogwarts, but with some practice, you’ll be using spells and potions to battle Death Eaters and Snatchers like a true wizard. (Of all games reviewed here, this is the only one that can be played without Kinect, though doing so is certainly less magical.)

Sure to Be a Thriller
“Michael Jackson: The Experience”
(Ubisoft; $49.99), scheduled for an April release, is a game that will have you singing and dancing like the King of Pop. With both a karaoke feature and an immersive music-video format, it’s the sort of game we predict you won’t stop playing till you get enough. Or till your family tells you to beat it. (Sorry, we can’t seem to stop ourselves.)

Will the Force Be With You?
If the Darth Vader boy from those great Super Bowl ads got you spinning your own sci-fi dreams, “Star Wars Kinect” (LucasArts; $49.99) promises to have you saber-wielding on behalf of the Rebel Alliance in a world so immersive you just might forget you don’t live on planet Tatooine. Sadly, this game feels like it comes from a galaxy far, far away -- its release date is December 31, 2011.

Photo: Getty Images

Take Your Resume to the Next Level: Video

You’ve likely seen video resumes spoofed on YouTube. And certainly, if you’re a fan of “How I Met Your Mother,” you’ll recall the episode where Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) unveils his own MacGruber-worthy version  -- much to the horror of his friends. But for an out-of-the-box job-seeker, and a surprising number of employers, video resumes and interviews are getting some serious attention.

After a boomlet in the video resume industry a few years ago, the practice seemed destined to die before its time. The legal considerations -- that job applicants might wage Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuits against companies if they suspected they were eliminated due to discriminatory reasons -- led companies to shy away from them.

But in the fall of 2010, the EEOC weighed in, essentially saying that as long as the company used the same good practices for screening a candidate via a video resume as they are legally required to use during an in-person interview, there should be no problem with using video.

To be sure, today’s video resume is nothing like the one on “How I Met Your Mother,” which featured Barney pretending to hang glide, surf and fly a fighter jet (among other feats), all while a rock soundtrack wailed in the background to the lyrics, “That guy’s awesome! He’s awesome!” No, if you want to land a job without making a fool of yourself, you’ll need to be a little more professional. And though many people worry about how they might come off on camera, the advantage with video is that you can do it again if you don’t like how it turns out the first time. (On the other hand, mess up an in-person interview and you can usually kiss the job bye-bye.)

TalentRooster, an Ohio-based business launched last June, claims it is second only to YouTube as a home for video resumes. “We did about 5,000 videos in 2010 and are adding as many as 300 new ones each week,” says David DeCapua, the company’s founder. These videos (which can be done at a participating recruiter’s office or via webcam using TalentRooster software) are meant to be concise and compelling and help candidates showcase their talents and enthusiasm. The aforementioned recruiters have reported that candidates using videos have a 30- to 50-percent greater chance of getting hired than those who don’t, according to DeCapua.

Companies are increasingly relying on video as well. “We grew nine-fold in 2009 and experienced a tripling of our growth in 2010,” says Chip Luman, COO of HireVue, a Utah-based company that was founded six years ago to help Fortune 500 and Global 1,000 corporations conduct remote interviews with candidates via video.

Although his company’s clients are businesses and not job-seekers, Luman says that interviewing by webcam has many benefits for applicants. For starters, since it can be recorded, a video interview eliminates having to answer the same question posed by multiple individuals during a long day of meet and greets. Another advantage is that they shorten the amount of time needed for companies to see candidates. For the would-be hire, that means less waiting between the first interview and (fingers crossed!) a job offer.

Whether you’re using video to snag an initial interview or to land a second one, it behooves you to prepare for your close-up. Here are some tips from the experts:

  • Your video resume does not belong on YouTube. Maintain tight control over where your resume is seen and by whom.
  • Dress and act on-camera as you would for your interview. If you’re targeting a hip advertising company, a funkier look and approach may be appropriate. If you’re an accountant, not so much.
  • Webcams don’t have the best optics, so to look your best, make sure you have good lighting when you film.
  • Don’t start recording until you’re sure you won’t be interrupted by barking dogs, a blaring stereo or crying children.
  • Practice makes perfect. Don’t read from an off-camera cue card -- it won’t appear natural. But do plan and rehearse what you will say, just as you would for an in-person interview.
  • Unless you are Barney Stinson, don’t ever sing about how awesome you are.

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Dad

Do you even remember what you gave your dad last Christmas, or the Christmas before that? If you don’t, then he probably doesn’t either -- or doesn’t want to, anyway. This year, gift him one of the father-son experiences described below, or come up with one of your own. Either way, neither one of you will forget it anytime soon.

Rent a Beast
There may be a dad in America who doesn’t get a kick out of a Mercedes-Benz SLS with the gullwing doors or a gleaming new Porsche Panamera. It’s possible. But so is life on Venus. So why not take your dad’s car into the garage for a full wash, wax and detail, and rent some dream wheels for a day? Pick a cozy restaurant 200 miles away, set the GPS and just drive. Remember to bring a camera. He’ll want it framed.

Get Tickets for Game Day
Whether it’s football, baseball or college basketball, there’s a sport that gets your dad’s blood pumping. So get tickets one day for just you and him. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the nosebleeds; you’ll yell and cheer and eat hotdogs. After all, this is why sport was invented: for fathers and sons to bond. Let it happen. 

Catch a Gig
Not all of the bands in your dad’s record collection are getting wheeled around nursing homes. Many are still performing. Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen all played this year -- and that’s just the B’s. Your dad will never forget the day you sent him down memory lane. And you know what? It beats Justin Bieber.

Go Fish
Just because the snow’s thick on the ground doesn’t mean you and dad can’t go fishing. You just need to pack differently: mittens instead of a sunhat, a thermos instead of a cooler. To spend an afternoon on the ice, bobbing through crust for walleye or perch, has all the lazy bliss of summer fishing -- but with a dangerous edge. Quality time slows down on a lake, and conversation often veers into uncharted waters. As Herbert Hoover said, “All men are equal before fish.”

Fix It
Fathers long for the day that their sons might ask to help build or mend something around the house. It doesn’t matter what it is -- fixing a motorbike, laying down some tile, mending a fence or building shelves. What matters is that you build more than just shelves when you work on a project like that together. Find that project, mention it to the old man and watch the happiness spread across his face. 

Shoot and Score
Here’s a Second Amendment remedy you can believe in: Shooting. It’s a blast. And it’s as American as apple pie. Spend a father-and-son afternoon on the firing range unloading with every kind of gun you ever saw on TV. If dad’s the NRA type, a day on the firing range is nothing short of a slice of heaven. But even if he’s not, he’ll still have the time of his life. Because all men are boys and all boys love guns.

Spend a Day at the Races
The sport of kings and degenerate gamblers, horse racing is also a great day out for the family. The sheer spectacle of the crowds, the thoroughbreds, the thundering hooves. The surge of excitement when the gates snap open and the galloping begins. Share a little flutter with the old man and shout yourself hoarse. If either one of you wins, it’ll be a day he’ll talk about for years. ;

Be a Chef
The father-son team is a beautiful thing. At the holidays, even more so. So here’s how to do it, to be the son of all sons. Just as the giant family dinner looms, suggest to your dad that you and he make the dinner for a change. Just the two of you, a team of two. Your mother will love putting her feet up, and your dad, just watch him swell with pride. Top it off with matching aprons and chef’s hats.

Now, here is a good time that everyone should try at least once: Indoor skydiving in a vertical wind-tunnel. As a giant fan blows up at you, you’re above the ground, supported by a cushion of air. An instructor teaches you how to do somersaults, flips and tricks. You and your father can be an acrobatic sky troupe together, tumbling in unison. ; ;

Go Rock ’n’ Roll Bowling
There are some things in life that are universally popular, regardless of age, gender or background -- like ice cream. Or a night of rock ’n’ roll bowling. Your dad may be a bowling fanatic, in which case this is a slam dunk. But even if he’s not -- and this is the beauty of bowling -- he’ll have a great time. It’s said that the families who bowl together, stick together. You could make it just a father-son thing, or get the whole family involved. Either way, Dad’s the team leader, needless to say.

Affordable Post-Christmas Holidays

Sure you’re jolly now, but soon enough, the lights will come down, the trees will go to the curb, and you’ll be facing endless weeks of winter in the UK. Can you say depressing? It would be such a great time to get away, but you’ve just spent a small fortune on Christmas gifts, and your inner accountant is saying no. And yet, this is the season to nab some of the best travel deals of the year. With a little planning, say our travel experts, you can have your holiday without breaking the bank.

Determine a Destination
"Between January 3 and February 19 you are likely to find some excellent pricing on a wide range of destinations from Spain to Turkey," says Rob Kenton, owner and Managing Director of Triangle Travel based in Mortimer, Berkshire. Of course, Southern Europe in the winter can be a little, well, chilly. "I would recommend heading further south to somewhere like the Canary Islands," Kenton adds. But that’s him. If you don’t mind a little nip in the air, there are huge bargains to be had in places like the Costas and the Algarve.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, take a look at Morocco for a destination that’s a little out of the ordinary and good value for money. "Both the bustling city of Marrakesh and the beaches of Agadir offer resorts with money saving all-inclusive packages," says Denise Wiles, a 20-year veteran of the travel business and a senior travel consultant at Gates Travel in Kendal, Cumbria. "And many of the hotels in both areas are newer properties, so your accommodations will probably be a step up from those you might find in other locations in the same price range."

Wiles does caution that most holiday spots are going to be very quiet right after Christmas. If you want to go somewhere that’s still inexpensive and has all the activity you’re used to during the summer season, she suggests checking out Ayia Napa in Cyprus. "Cyprus isn’t like Turkey or Greece that shut down from October to May," she says. "It’s always a great destination for the younger crowd."

Star Savings
Even if you head to warmer climes, there are still ways to grab a bargain. According to Kenton, one of the first places you can cut costs is accommodation. Choosing a 2-star hotel instead of a 3-star will definitely lead to savings, but can also lead to crappy accommodations—which kinds of begs the question, what’s the point? A better idea is to take advantage of packages with added value offered by many quality hotels at this time of year. "Hotels don’t like to undermine their pricing structure," Kenton points out. "But you might find a property that was priced at £100 a night for bed and breakfast that is now offering full board for the same money, or a hotel where you’ll be able to stay for seven nights and pay for five."

Prepare for Hidden Airfare
When it comes to budget travel (really, any kind of travel), preparation is the key, so make certain you do your homework. According to Wiles, you can start saving money before you even get on the plane. "Most low-cost airlines now charge extra for checked baggage and in-flight meals," she explains. "Pack only the things you absolutely need and have something to eat before you leave."

That said, no travel expert recommends skimping on insurance, as even the best-laid schemes can go wrong. So if you don’t want to see all your savings evaporate when you’re faced with unexpected bills, take out adequate travel insurance to cover both trip interruption and medical emergencies. Now, your homework done and tickets purchased, you can relax: pack your trunks and the SPF 30, and let your inner accountant send you off with a smile and a pat on the back.

A New YearÂ’s Eve to Remember

It’s the same thing every year. You and your friends discuss various alternatives for celebrating New Year’s Eve, in lieu of the same old party with the same old crowd. Suddenly it’s the 31st, nothing is fixed, and you end up at… you guessed it… the same old party with the same old crowd. On January 1st you wake up and swear to be more organized next year. And 365 days later it’s Groundhog Day again.

This year, let us help you plan your New Year’s Eve. After all, it’s supposed to be the craziest party night of the year. It’s time it lived up to its billing.

Germany’s Biggest Indoor Party

“Sensation”, Düsseldorf

The title, “Sensation”, says it all. The biggest indoor New Year’s Eve party in Germany -- which is also the tallest New Year’s Eve party in Germany (and possibly anywhere) -- is sure to promise a lot of them. To begin with, all 30.000+ guests will be dressed in white, due to the strict dress code: Only shoes and accessories are allowed to have color. As for it being the tallest party, the heart of the venue is an enormous dance floor with a stage for DJs and dancing shows. “The stage will be constructed like a big pyramid, with the DJs on top,” says chief organizer Brenda Munsterman. Want more sensation? The highlight of the night is an indoor fireworks display from the stage at midnight.

Our advice: Stay close to the stage; after midnight parts of it will be opened to the public.

Price: 77 Euro

Germany’s Biggest Outdoor Party

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin


More than one million people will attend Germany’s biggest outdoor New Year’s Eve party -- just like they do every year. The street between Brandenburg Gate and Victory Column will be closed to traffic and filled with disco tents and open-air stages for popular music acts. R.I.O., Right Said Fred, Mark Oh and many others are expected to entertain this year’s revelers.

Our advice: Due to the huge number of tourists, hotel prices will be through the roof. Don’t count on a last-minute booking. You can find cheap rooms in advance at

Price: Free, though drinks are extra (and no glass bottles can be brought into the venue).

Cruising into 2011

Boat trip on the Elbe River, Hamburg

Germany’s second biggest city is famous for its fireworks. Enjoy the best view of them from the Elbe. A small barge brings you and your friends (maximum 40) to the middle of the river; you stay there past midnight and come back to the harbor at 1:00 a.m, just when the clubs will be hopping.

Our advice: Food and drinks are available on the barge, but if you want to save a few Euros, bring your own; it’s allowed.


Price: 40 Euro


Note: If you have the budget, and are looking for something a little more dignified, 150 Euros will get you a 4,5-hour roundtrip cruise through Hamburg harbor on the boat “MS River Star”. Buffet, drinks and DJ included.


Getting Off to a Good Start

New Year’s Marathon, Zurich


The New Year’s marathon in the Swiss capital will start exactly at midnight. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and, says Munich-based running trainer Harry Grubert, “a special challenge for your body. Do some training runs on cold nights to acclimate your breathing.” You might also want to use special trail or even spiked shoes, given that the ground might be covered in snow. And if running 26 miles on a cold winter’s night sounds a little too ambitious, you can opt for a quarter marathon or half marathon.


Our advice: Most of the race is on marked but unlit country lanes, so wear a headlight.


Price: 45 Euro entry fee


Party Like It’s 1399

Castle party on the Breuberg, Oden Forest

If you want to celebrate medieval-style, join 120-odd fantasy fans for a 2-day party, starting December 30, at Breuberg castle. “It has a very authentic atmosphere”, says organizer Sebastian Oliva: “The Breuberg is a real fortress with walls meters thick and dark vaults. You’ll become part of the history.” Guests sleep in a youth hostel close to the castle. The daily program consists of medieval workshops, tournaments (such as poker) and games. On New Year’s Eve itself, you meet in the castle pub to welcome 2011.

Our advice: Watch out for specters. “The castle is more than 850 years old”, says Oliva. “There must be a few ghosts.”


Price: 99 Euros for two nights, including half board.