Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Mutant Chronicles (Action 2008)

This movie started out kinda crappy but it did kinda grow on me. It had an Army of Darkness feel to it even though Bruce Campbell wasn't in it.

The film had an interesting mix of actors like Ron Perlman, Devon Aoki, and John Malkovich, so that made for a nice dynamic mix. Who knows how they got those actors to star in this film considering that the production costs seemed to be lacking in the funding departament.

The story was Anime-like at first, but then it got kinda religious which of course sucked. The action and gore had an odd style that shouted out indi. It was like it was filmed in a dude's basement or something. At least it wasn't as bad as Xena or Hercules though. There were enough gun and sword fights to keep me interested through to the end, but it did suck overall.

This movie was different, but it was also close to unwatchable at times because of its lack of polish and amateur-filmmaking leanings.
Rating - C

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bottle Shock (Drama 2008)

This movie reminded me of Sideways because of the story's basis surrounding wine. But besides that, the two films have nothing else in common. I'll never quite understand what people see in the stuff, wine or beer or tea - it all tastes like crap to me.

The movie was about a Frenchie wine connoisseur, visiting CA back in the 70s to see if American wines had anything going for it in comparison to regular French wines. The film circulated around a guy who gave up a job as a lawyer to go and try out making wine. The characters were forgettable, but the story and the drama that created it was pretty good. Bill Pullman did a good job but the other main character, Chris Pine, kinda sucked.
Rating - B

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaming Rant

So Steam is having this big sale on almost all of their games right? I had nothing better to do so I went and bought a seemingly interesting indi game called Space Trader. Since what I enjoy most in Eve is buying low and selling high, I thought that this game might be a fun little time waster. But guess what, it sucks, and is probably why it only cost me $5. What makes the game blow is the fact that it ends after a certain number of turns. Rumor has it that some games in the Civ series also does this. Having a game that ends after x number of turns it just as pointless as Solitaire, CS, or Chess. Who the fuck enjoys playing the exact same game over and over again without any sort of benefit from past efforts? I know the answer to that question is "A lot of people", but man...screw a whole bunch of that.

A game exists for 2 reasons: The first is to temporarily entertain, just like a movie does. If a game's story is good, then after you've beat it, you'll feel like you've accomplished a little bit of something since you've successfully traversed through a plot. You don't get this when you play checkers or anything similar. Sure, the result of how things turn out can be different but the game itself is the same and doesn't change. The second reason for a game to exist is for your efforts in that game to amount to something, may that be getting more XP, making more money, or achieving more bragging rights. The second is a bit harder to attain but damn, it pisses me off to no end when you're given an ass timer and you have to "have fun" in that small amount of time before the clock runs out. What the hell is the point? Even TF2, though highly repetitive, has stats to show personal growth and playing time. It isn't much, but at least it tries to show that you've invested energy into something that can be visualized.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Driving in China (December 25, 2008)

Ok so I'm back in China visiting the future in-laws. I'll explain the whole scoop later, but I need to talk about my driving experience here. So tonight was Christmas day and the fam here decided to take me out to go eat over at Ying Tan, the nearest larger city to my location in Jiang Xi Province. It seems as though I was the only one in the immediate family who knew how to drive so they found me an SUV and gave me the keys like it was nothing.

To start off, I never liked driving SUVs cuz the feel of them is so different from that of a regular, lower to the ground car. The next big issue was that it was a stick. To give you some background history, I lost money in an automobile transaction many years ago because of my disdain and lack of confidence concerning driving a manual transmission. And the last issue was the fact that Chinese drivers are crazy and so are all the pedestrians.

So what did I notice on our little town-to-town adventure?
  1. All drivers use their brights during the evening time so you are constantly blinded by oncoming traffic.
  2. Pedestrians don't give a fuck and will walk right in front of you without a care in the world.
  3. Motorcycles love zooming 3 inches from your side mirrors to pass you knowing full well that I barely see them and could easily make a swift jerk, bumping them straight onto the pavement.
  4. Streets are not paved well so most roads are bumpy as fuck with huge gaps that can't even be categorized as potholes unless a pothole is more like a-large-rectangle-spanning-the-entire-street type of hole.
  5. And as I already knew, nobody obeyed any of the traffic signals or lane appropriations.
I did get us to our destination without stalling, but I was scared shitless throughout most of it. My 99% probability of not getting into an accident while driving in the US suddenly changed into a 70% chance of hitting "something". We had to find a driver to get us back because my halo-ridden evening eyes (Thanks lasiks) were not going to take the risk. It was a crazy experience...something that I have no urge of partaking in again.

In order to get to where I am now, we had to take a train. First time for me, that's for sure. The train we used was opposite from what is in the picture above. I guess the current trains are the 3rd generation ones that are digital and more modern while the 2nd generation (see pic) was something from the 70s or 80s. The train averaged around 75-120mph, and it kept a constant speed throughout most of the trip. There were only a few stops where the train would wait only 1 minute before closing the doors and continuing on again. It was funny, during these 1 minute breaks a boatload of guys would rush the doors to light up a ciggy. You would think that people would just break the law like usual and start smoking it up in the train, but to my surprise the train had its own staff with accompanying police, just like an airplane.

It's cold as all getup where I am. I guess it's normal to have the same temperature inside as it is outside. No central heating at all, so I have cocooned myself into a single room with a heater unit. It's very odd having to wear a jacket to eat a meal or to watch TV on the couch. I guess insulation was not factored into the building specs.

Other than that, I've found out that smaller towns have no DVD-men. I guess I'll have to wait until I get to Shanghai in order to get some pirated flicks.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Adventure 2008)

This movie was actually an unexpected surprise. The trailer looked pretty simplistic, but the fact that it could be watched in 3D in some theaters had me thinking that it would be pretty juvenile. But let me tell you, after having to sit through 2 crappy girl movies, any action was better than none.

For being a simple adventure movie, this movie flowed very well. They didn't try to make it into some moving drama or some epic film of any kind. It merely had a plot, a few characters, and their goal to get from point A to point B. The film was very well balanced and that's what made it a decent one. Josh Hutcherson was still the same little shit that he was in Bridge to Terabithia, but at least the movie itself didn't suck as bad.
Rating - B

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Action Adventure 2008)

As with the first 2 films, this one followed suit with the same type of action and dialogue.

If you watched the other Mummy movies then you've pretty much watched this one too. The action, gun fights, and special powers of the villain were all the same ol' stuff except that this one is based in China instead of Egypt. It was enjoyable to watch, but probably only the first time around.
Rating - C

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (Comedic Drama 2008)

LOL yeah obviously the beginning of my flight was less than a thrilling adventure. This film was also subpar as one could expect. I remember Netflixing the first movie but was unable to get past the first 10 minutes because of its highly focused demographic style. It's kinda like me trying to watch a cartoon at my current age although I somehow become entranced while watching SpongeBob SquarePants with little Sammy. "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea..."

The only real comment I have to say about the film is that America Ferrera's actions and hand gestures were spot on with a chick I used to work with here in China. I found it eerily odd. The rest of the movie was as expected, totally one-sided, painting girls as confused but still "right" for all intents and purposes. The guys in the film were way too good looking and kind. Guys don't come in that model, they just don't, so perhaps some of the more naive chicks watching this film will have unrealistic expectations of an average male.
Rating - C

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mamma Mia! (Musical 2008)

Well this was the first movie I was forced to watch on the plane. Man oh man, some films just shouldn't have been created, and this one definitely falls into that category.

Pretty much everything about this film blew ass. The story was dumb, the main chick was oh so fucking annoying, and who thought it was a good idea to cast Meryl Streep as the main chick's mother? She's ugly as she is old. Don't people know that her face = evil, lawyer characters and not dancing mothers? I was surprised she could even pull off some of the choreographed dances considering that she's ancient.

Yeah Amanda Seyfried's character of the bride to be was essentially a spoiled, rich chick who tries to make idealistic choices to cater to her selfish needs without the consent of her mother. "What a little bitch" was the only sentence going through my head in almost every scene with her in it.

The movie sucked. Even as just a musical alone it sucked. I'm not sure even tweenie girls would like it since it far surpasses the line between unrealistic and idealistic.
Rating - D

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yay

Finals are done, yay! Let's not make that same mistake again. School blows ass the 3rd time around, so I would totally not recommend it to anyone who's pondering.

For the last two weeks I had to watch my niece for 4 hours per day and what an adventure that was. I never realized how exhausting it is to watch a baby, change diapers, feed 'em, and pretty much make sure they don't get into mischief. FT mothers have it rough and FT single-parent mothers have it worse. "Don't get preggers" should be the motto of the young and foolish.

At the end of the week I'll be heading back to China for a visit. It's supposedly as cold as it is there as it is here so terrific. Yeah Chinese peeps love to wear jackets while in the comfort of their own homes. That's one intrinsic difference between the quality of life expectations of the two cultures. Maybe I'll be able to get my hands on some more pirated DVDs. Waiting for Redbox to spit the next round out is a lagging chore. So yeah, Merry Christmas everybody and if you're one of the many who are still employed, be very happy for that because being on the other side of that fence sucks.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Step Brothers (Comedy 2008)

Will Ferrell movies are usually a hit or miss, but occasionally you get something that lies somewhere in between.

As expected the movie was all sorts of crude with a lot of cussing added in for effect. Usually I wouldn't notice if actors let out the occasional "fuck" or "shit", but it seemed excessive in this film. The humorous parts were pretty damn funny while everything in between was unbelievable and juvenile. Two 40 year-old sons still living at home and acting like 15 year-olds is not a believable premise, unless they had down syndrome or were autistic or something. The two main actors are just too old to play the part.

It was a funny movie, but there have been funnier ones. If you're a Will Ferrell fan, then you'll have a great time with this one. If not, you'll still chuckle at least 3 times.
Rating - B

Monday, December 08, 2008

Resident Evil: Degeneration (Animated Action 2008)

A few months back, teasers for this movie were released to the Internet. It actually looked pretty good considering that it was all CG, but one thing was very fishily familiar with the style...

I'm not sure where the plot of this movie fit in with the whole Resident Evil storyline. There've been 3 movies and countless video games, but some of the characters in this were definitely from the video games.

The mystery surrounding the familiarity of the film lies in how the animation melded with the storyline. It's not as much a mystery as a lightbulb going off. All this movie is, is if someone made cinematics for a video game, but combined all the CG into a standalone, without the video game part. It would be something that I have always wished that Square Enix would do with the Final Fantasy series. Screw the video game and put together a CG movie. Resident Evil is, of course, many notches behind the story of any Final Fantasy game, and it clearly shows in this film. Although the animation and action was pretty good, the plot, characters, and overall drama was unconvincing and lifeless. I'm sure it has something to do with the lack of realistic facial expressions. It's probably a hard thing to do on a computer.

If you're a fan of the movies or video games, then it's worth a one-time watch. If you're not, I doubt you'll be impressed.
Rating - C

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wanted (Action 2008)

Well this was definitely one movie where Angelina Jolie's patented lips would be unable to help out the film.

The movie started out pretty good, with a few funny scenes and then a headfirst dive into the action. It sorta reminded me of Jumper and how that movie began in terms of explaining the main character's special powers and such. But soon afterwards, everything went to shit. The plot history was not expounded upon, the plot twist came too early, and the ending was really really lame. It was as if the director suddenly ran out of money 70% into it and had to wrap everything up in a week.

I'm not sure if it's just acting or what, but James McAvoy annoyed the fuck out of me. I remember liking him in Atonement even though he sorta seemed like an ass, but in this film it was as if he wasn't acting. You know what I'm talking about...think Colin Farrell. It doeesn't matter what movie he's in, you know that in real life he's a complete prick. James McAvoy gave me that exact same vibe in this movie. What's up with that anyway? Do all actors turn into punks once they make it big in Hollywood? I know all singers turn into sluts or druggies...oh well.

Yeah this movie isn't really worth watching. It could've been O.K. if they removed the whole 2nd half of it, but as it currently stands, it's a complete waste of money.
Rating - D

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Latest Rant

So a week or so ago I went to this job interview. One of the peeps whom I spoke to was this chick who was younger than me and was, from what I could see, one of the more attractive females inhabiting this town. Right from the get-go I could tell that she was fairly uncomfortable being in the same room with me, much less having to shake my hand or trying to maintain eye contact throughout the interview. Any male from the AZ crew knows what I'm talking about when I explain "the look".

It's when an attractive female sees you, knows that you're within her same age group, but categorizes you into an unfuckable category, like a rock or a hubcap. In addition to this categorization, your apparent social class, physical physique, or racial appearance is so foreign to said female, that she becomes nervous, intimidated, and highly defensive.

This happened on numerous occasions back in the undergrad days when a bunch of us would mob over to some party where the majority of peeps there were non-sorority-bitch, White chicks and a few random dudes. This was contrasted by our group, which consisted of a nice mix of Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, Whites, and hybrids. When we all came through the door, all the smiles on the girls would disappear, conversations would quiet down, and purses would become clutched ever so tighter. It would be the same reaction that you would have if someone made a sudden move towards you, breaking your personal bubble.

These situations would usually lighten up after the host of the party greeted us, showing that he at least knew who we were and that we were probably not there to rob, rape, or pillage.

The point of the story is that this chick had that same look on her face throughout the whole damn interview because there was no host who could vouch for me and settle her nerves. Judging by her hair, jewelry, pants, and shoes, I had no problem classing her up in a second:
  • Not a sorority bitch during college, but wanted to be
  • Middle to upper-middle class family
  • All white females friends
  • Lifetime interaction with minorities limited to - Purchases (food/drink or retail)
  • All ex-boyfriends:
  • -White
  • -Drove a truck (Silverado, F-150, or Ram) or Jeep (Wrangler or Grand Cherokee)
  • -Wore a dirty hat (Fitted, baseball team logo)
  • -1st concert ever attended "Metallica"
  • -Native Nevadan 3+ generations
  • -Owned numerous hooded sweatshirts
  • -50/50 chance of having sported a large belt buckle
  • -Wore outdoorsy boots
While there, all I wanted to do was to throw an opened pack of mustard at her brightly-colored shirt so that when people walked by, they could look at the hideous stain and inquire:
  • Stranger - "So, why do you have mustard all over your shirt"?
  • Girl - "Oh, because I'm a skanky bitch".
One interesting thing that I've come to the conclusion of is that sorority-bitches, even though they're all hookers at heart, are classy enough to put on a good presentation and hold their own in a situation where they have to interact with people whom they would normally not. This is maybe because inside, they think that they're better than the people around them and can draw from that source of confidence. This is opposite with females like the one in my story. These girls are, as a friend likes to call them, "suburban-trash". They're usually highly sheltered in their own middle-class world with the same friends they've had since elementary school. When they see an outsider, like a minority for instance, they're scared shitless because they've never actually had to interact with one. They soon discover that watching TV-sitcoms and movies have definitely not prepared them for the task of actually having an educated conversation with someone different from themselves. Internally, they choose flight instead of fight, but they can't run anywhere because it's their job to stay exactly where they are, displaying their pussified cowardice with their jerky facial movements, loss of eye contact, and continuous readjustment of crossed legs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tropic Thunder (Comedy 2008)

lol well this movie was certainly a hoot. It might even make it into the same cult stardom realm of Zoolander just because its humor was right along the same lines.

Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. both had a nice stream of funny lines while Jack Black only had one memorable one. The comedy was pretty crude and not PC at all, but that's what it takes to be funny these days.
Rating - B

Fred Claus (Comedy 2007)

Yeah considering that it took this long for the movie to come out on DVD, one would think that it would be a better chunk of the year's harvest, but no.

The movie was not very funny. It reminded me of another "not funny" Christmas movie called Elf. Yeah Vince Vaughn played Santa's older brother as he worked in the North Pole to get some money. It wasn't entertaining or humorous, but maybe that's because there have been so many North Pole films that it feels like you've already been there a bunch of times.
Vince Vaughn seems to only be funny in crude comedies with a lot of cussing, but certainly not a children's movie. I guess people have to try to expand their acting resume, but sometimes it's just a bad move.
Rating - C

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Plant 0 / Me 1

So what looks funny about this plant? I'll tell you; it's dying. So a few months back I was at my parents' house looking at this exact same bamboo plant. It was very green, thriving, and looking pretty happy considering that it spent its whole life indoors. I made a comment about how it would look like a nice centerpiece in my dining room, so ma and pa gave it to me, right around the end of summer.

One afternoon I was looking at the plant and figured that some fresh air would do it some good, so I took it outside and placed in on the balcony. Mind-you there is no dirt in that vase, just water. Later that evening I took it back inside. The plant looked fine, but the vase was really hot and the water in it was pretty hot too. I shrugged it off and continued with my week. Everytime I walked by the plant it seemed to be dying. Leaves were falling off, and it started to brown. I think I made a mistake by boiling it outside. I changed the water and waited to see if things would improve. After a few months, it did get back to its green self.

A few weeks ago I decided to be pro-active again and give it some Miracle-Gro. My parents had some lying around so I put around a teaspoon-sized amount into the water. Two weeks later the first plant had partially turned brown while the second plant was fully brown. My logic as to why I added the Miracle-Gro was that 1) There was no soil, thus no nutrients. 2) Photosynthesis would not work well if there was only water and sunlight to work with.

So yeah evidently my ignorance in the field of botony has had a detrimental effect on my little plant. I've rinsed it out and have put plain, room temperature tap water back into the vase. Hopefully the little guy recovers.

So what is there to be learned about this experience?
  1. Soil is some sort of insulator/heat absorber. Without it, water gets hella hot.
  2. Something is definitely fishy with Miracle-Gro. Perhaps it's a highly concentrated substance that is harmful if not mixed with soil or otherwise diluted.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Action 2008)

As expected this movie was kinda crappy. I think it's Guillermo del Toro though. His movies just suck, but not in a normal "I know it will suck" way. His films give off this odd feeling as if he's actually trying to make a good movie, and that's damn scary.

The action was old news, the multiple pseudo-romance stories interwoven into the plot were unconvincing, and the special effects didn't produce a rise. Overall it was lacking everywhere. If it wasn't for the fancy spear & sword moves from the Elf Prince character, I might've fallen asleep. Oh well, low expectations with low results.
Rating - D

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Transsiberian (Thriller 2008)

Do you remember the first time you saw Brokedown Palace and what your reactions were to the hella stupid decisions that the two chicks in that movie made? Well this film was very similar.

Emily Mortimer played a dumb, overly-emoting bitch, while Woody Harrelson played a guy that reminds me of my brother-in-law. Way too yappy and overly trusting. I could totally see him in the same situation as the two main characters in this film because of his lack of restraint when interacting with strangers.

I find it hard to watch something where people are just too impressionable and foolish. It was probably an average film for your everyday reviewer, but I have a special dislike for it.
Rating - D

Fallout 3 (FPS/RPG PC Game 2008)

The game started out pretty good. The story was told through a few 1st person cutscenes of you as a baby. The subsequent tutorial was handled in the same manner. It was a nice change considering that most FPS-like games are all about putting you through basic training/boot camp.

Much like Oblivion, this game was all about having a bunch of random areas to explore, items to get, and mobs to kill. A few of the areas were unique in that they all had their own unique story. I liked that a lot, but at the same time there were also a ton of places which were merely copies of other areas, only with different mobs inside.

Story
Main storyline was very very short. You could probably finish the whole game in half an evening if you avoided all side quests and only stuck with the main one. As other reviewers have pointed out, there comes a time in the main scenario where you will be unable to "go back", and the game will promptly end after you complete the last task. So for those who are exploring junkies, I would recommend playing through the main quest until you get your power armor, and then start exploring. The power armor is the badass-looking helmet on the cover of the game. The overall plot was kinda weak, only because it was so damn short, but I think the developers hoped that the gameplay would make up for it.

Gameplay
One of the main gameplay features that was supposed to be the shit was the V.A.T.S. system. This system would essentially freeze time so that you could zoom in on one target and try to specifically hit a portion of their body, may that be the chest, head, legs, or arms. Good thing was that it was fairly realistic in that if you shot a guy in the arm, he would sometimes drop his gun and then run to try to retrieve it. The same went for legs and the movement speed of the mob after a leg got badly shot up or injured. The crappy side of the V.A.T.S. system was that sometimes it was just too unrealistic. The problem stems from the fact that the game was a RPG/FPS hybrid of sorts. If you wanted it to be turn-based, you would use the V.A.T.S. system all the time, but if you wanted to play it more like a FPS, that was possible too. In a FPS, accuracy with the crosshair is how you score better hits, while in an RPG, there is always a mathematical calculation factoring in skills and ability, and producing a percentage of likeliness to hit a mob. With these constraints in place, it really bothered me when I had a sniper rifle, aimed at the head of a mob, fired, and watched the bullet fly way off course. WTF. There is an expectation of hitting a mob if the player aims correctly, but this often just didn't happen. Also, there was a lot of unbalancing that went on with guns and accuracy. In this game, with all gun skills maxed out, a SMG was more accurate than an AK-47 at medium to long range. Wrong. In real life this is hella false. Yeah there was nothing that pissed me off more than standing 2 feet away from a mob, firing, and then 100% missing them. No way is that realistic. They should've had the aiming be wobbly or a calculation be made to reduce damage if one's skills were not high enough rather than having everything be factored into your gunshot hitting or missing.

Ambiance
Art design was that from the 50s era, and it was very well done. Everything from posters on the wall to the in-game "radio" all did a great job in placing you in the correct timeframe. The atmosphere, music, and NPC personalities were all well done. The slowmotion gore was an added bonus, but having the legs, arms, and head all separate from the body from one, well-placed arm shot is a bit too unrealistic.

Bugs
There were a good number of bugs in the PC release. Every time you exited the game, the main .exe would crash, many saved games would not load, mobs would be trapped inside of rocks, or other odd visual anomalies would appear. The first patch fixed the .exe problem but some others still went unfixed.

Overall
This was an O.K. game. I still think Oblivion was better, but that's just me. If you're a gamer who loves to explore, then this game should occupy you for a good chunk of time. But if you're an impatient gamer who only wants to get their fill and move on, the game is still worth getting to see what all the hype is about. Just be prepared to sell it in under 2 weeks though.
Rating - High

Monday, November 03, 2008

$39!

Since when did a simple oil change start costing $39? Fuck, I'm sure I got ripped cuz I was too lazy to ask the guy the price before he started doing the change. Note too everyone that Xpress Lube sucks. Who knows if Jiffy Lube or any of those other chain places charge as much too. The labor charge was $12 for 6 minutes of work...bastards. I'm sure that a car dealer's service department can even beat that price. I distinctly remember an oil change costing $15 back in 1996. Has inflation really boosted the price up that high?

Also, if you're ever itching to play a newly released video game, don't be cheap by ordering it online. You'll end up thinking about how you could've been playing it all weekend instead of reading some textbook. The savings of $2-3 is definitely not worth the wait.

Other than that, nothing new to report. I'm pondering another drastic career change, but I'm too fucking old to be putting up with this shit again. I hate Reno.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bella (Drama 2006)

This movie was supposed to be a romance, but it wasn't. It was instead a very poorly done drama.

The plot was stupid. Some waitress gets preggers and gets morning sickness and is late for work. Her boss fires her so the boss's brother, who is also the cook, ditches work to go hang out with the waitress for a day. You find out that the cook used to be a badass soccer player until he accidentally ran over a little girl and had to go to jail. He became all emotionally messed up because of this event.

During their day trip, the cook takes the waitress back to his parent's place where you find out that he was adopted. The cook then convinces the waitress not to abort the kid and to give it to him instead. At the end of the movie, the kid now 5 or so and having been raised by the cook, meets her mother for the first time. Everyone is happy. What a boring boring movie. I so would've walked out if I were in a theater.
Rating - D

Monday, October 27, 2008

Warhammer Online (MMORPG PC Game 2008)

The last MMO that people have been waiting for finally arrived a month or so ago. After testing it out for 30 days, I'd have to say that Blizzard does have its work cut out for them. Most of this review will be in direct comparison to WoW since that's what most people want to know. Although the two are very similar, this game is inevitably better.

Story
The main story is pretty old school since the major factions were written about back in the 80s. This game is all about the story, as opposed to WoW, where the quests seemed to be more disconnected with the gameplay. Many hours can be spent reading about the history and lore of this world via the built-in encyclopedia called the Tome of Knowledge. For people who don't care about the story, then this fact is a null factor.

Cinematics
The intro was pretty good, but I still think Blizzard can whip out better ones.

Gameplay
The gameplay is very very similar to that of WoW. That familiarity is good while all of the following tweaks make this game the better of the two:
  1. Soloing is very possible everywhere. Most of the time if there is a group of 3 mobs, you can pull each, one at a time. In WoW you were usually screwed unless you were a mage or a tank. This was one of the major annoyances in WoW, so it's good that they made it easier to level.
  2. Mobs res much quicker than in WoW so again, it lets players get things done in the swift manner.
  3. If a quest wants you to click on an object, where your toon kneels down and interacts with an object, this usually does not auto-trigger the mobs around that object. This wins points with gettin' quests completed with a minimal amount of hassle. I think in Tier 3, I did come across one quest that did activate a mob, but it was only one.
  4. Public Quests (PQs). These are very fun because everyone contributes and you don't need to be grouped to make it happen. PQs are major quests that require a bunch of people in order to complete every stage. They are all in open areas and are not instanced. While it does pose a problem if you play when few people are online or if your server sucks, it is a quick way of getting better loot when people are active, like Friday or Saturday nights.
  5. PQ "rolling" for loot. This is a fantastic way of splitting up the loot without having people ninja-ing them. The more you contribute to the PQ, may that be through damage or healing, the higher the chances are for you to get a good loot bag. Every PQ has a certain number of bags, and out of those, some may be better than others. This means that if a PQ gives out 1 blue bag and 5 green bags, 5 people will be guaranteed some sort of loot while one lucky person gets the best loot from the PQ. The game even keeps track of how many times you have attempted a PQ without receiving a bag. So if you try and try but still don't get a bag, each time around a bonus will be added to your score because of your persistence.
  6. Tome of Knowledge. This is more of a random fun feature, but it's very LOTRO-esque in terms of keeping a record of kills and giving your toon special titles and such. The title thing is blah, but you are also able to get abilities and special items from killing more PvE mobs. At least now you will actually get something for killing 1000 boars.
  7. Traveling from zone to zone is MUCH faster than WoW. There is just one short cutscene of you leaving your area and then the next zone immediately starts to load. No longer do you have to waste a bunch of time watching your toon sitting on the back of a griffin.
  8. PvP anytime via scenarios. Scenarios are the Battlegrounds of this game. You have a button that allows you to join every queue of a tier of scenarios. You don't have to be in a capital city for this to happen. It means that you can be happily questing, get thrown into a PvP scenario, and then when its finished, continue questing where you left off. I personally don't like scenarios because it's the same thing over and over again, but if you're a Counterstrike fan, it will probably be up your alley.
  9. A whole lot more greens and blues are random drops, so getting loot is not always a one-process deal.
  10. When not in a fight you regain your HP, MP, and Action points much quicker than that of WoW.
  11. Finding a group is much easier. Their interface shows you what groups are in the current zone and what they are doing, may that be RvRing, PQing, or PvEing. It also displays how much time it would take to get to the group, so if you see a close group doing a PQ, all you have to do is click a button to join their group and then get to where they are on a map. Nothing like this ever worked well in WoW even though they had a similar feature.
Graphics
The graphics are pretty toony and very similar to that of WoW. I like it much better than Conan.

Sound & Music
I've muted the music and have turned down the sound to a very low level. It's more efficient in terms of time to be listening to NPR or Soundtracks while gaming.

Community
In order to get your full in terms of RvR or PvP, you have to be with a large guild that actually does stuff. After jumping around a bit, I did manage find one, so it has been fun to play, but it's all about finding one that doesn't have a bunch of highschoolers in them.

Bugs
There are still a few visual bugs, such as a spell effect staying active on your screen when it no longer applies to your character or an odd Crash to Desktop bug that occurs with no error message at all, but I'm sure these will be ironed out in the coming months.

Overall
This game took a lot of the annoyances of WoW and improved upon the gameplay to make having fun be a "faster" option. I haven't experienced all that the game has to offer since I'm only Rank 32 out of 40, but it has been a lot more fun than WoW. The developers have tried their best to cut down on the grind so that players can get to the real PvP action. This is the first game where I've experienced RvR and it has been a blast. Taking keeps, defending them, or having open-field brawls are all insane. As long as you have some guy healing you, it's a fantastic time to kill a bunch of peeps. After you get to Tier 4, supposedly you can take capital cities and such. If guilds become organized, that feature could eventually turn into something very grand.
Rating - Mid

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunheat Infrared Portable Heater (Random Product)

As smart as he is, my father sure is gullible when it comes to "practical" gadgets. Mind you this doesn't mean a touchscreen celly, Bluetooth in a car, or LED backlighting on a monitor. Instead, he's only interested in objects more grounded in necessary usefulness. Because Reno is located on the midline of the US, it does get cold here, sometimes hella cold. Around this time of the year, people start using their central heating systems and cranking up the thermostat. I'm not sure how much more it costs to heat a house during the winter, but supposedly it's a lot more money.

I guess one evening my father was wandering around the local Ace Hardware when, from the story I hear, he saw a guy hawking this device called a Sunheat. It's a portable heater that supposedly can "save you 50% on your heating bill", as stated from their website. Now you have to understand that this salesperson was pretty much standing on a soapbox, trying to get people to listen to his spheel. I'm sure he had a microphone set up and everything. If you've seen that Simpsons episode of the monorail or the one when Homer and Grandpa Simpson were trying to sell some Tonic, you can probably picture this in your head. Sketchy...I know.

Anyway, the main sales pitch of this item was that it was:
  1. Safe because it uses a fan to blow heated air out of the box, as opposed to most other portable heaters that require you to have nothing in front of it for a few feet in order to avoid a fire.
  2. Clean, because it only requires electricity as opposed to having a wood stove or wood fireplace.
  3. Some other bullshit about how it can heat a house evenly.
  4. Efficient because it has a temperature timer that shuts down the heater after a certain temperature is reached.
  5. Has a lifetime, washable filter.
My father was convinced that this heater would be a great investment, so he purchased 3 of them without even trying one out. I inherited one and have been using it for a few weeks now, so I can report on my findings.
  1. I tried to attach a piece of tissue paper to the front metal vent to see if it would catch on fire. After 30 minutes of the tissue being right up against it, it did not, so yes I guess it does pass the "safe" test.
  2. This is an unfair comparison. Portable heaters are for exactly that, portable heating. If you need extra heat in one room, you can take the heater into that room and it should do its duty. Portable heaters are not replacements for wood stoves or pellet stoves because these are supposed to take the place of a central heating system in older houses or if you live out in the boonies.
  3. I guess this device is supposed to heat a house evenly so that there is only a 2 degree difference from the ceiling to the floor. It can pull this off in one, 230 sq. foot bedroom, but if I try to have it heat 2 bedrooms and one hallway, which in total is approximately 522 sq. feet, it fails at this task since the hallway and secondary bedroom are dramatically colder than the room that the heater is located in. On their website it states that it can heat 500 sq. feet or less, so at least they are not over-embellishing even though I sincerely doubt it can evenly heat 500 sq. feet.
  4. Yes, the heater has 3 different modes: standby which drains 0 watts, heat & fan-on which drains 1446 watts, and fan-only which drains 18 watts. The fan-only mode is so that after the set temperature has been reached, the heating element will turn off, but the fan will continuing blowing out warm air until the heating elements cool off.
  5. The filter is hooked onto the rear intake vent via magnets. The filter is made of some material that looks like plastic so it's far from being a HEPA filter. Who knows if it even works.
Prior to receiving this, I was going to buy a portable heater that they had at Costco for $60. The main difference was that it did not have a fan and did not have a turn-off mechanism. If you compare this Sunheat with what I was going to buy, it seems like a pretty fair comparison, right? So what's the catch you ask? The price for this Sunheat heater was somewhere in the ballpark of $550-650. Yeah....WTF....exactly my thoughts too. It doesn't matter what this little heater claims to do or does not claim to do. That much money for a space heater is highway robbery, and of course my father who never researches anything prior to buying, just became another statistic. People like him are the reasons why companies like AOL still have subscribers.

I'm sure my $60 Costco infrared heater would've gotten the job done for 9% of the cost. I searched the web to see if anyone had reviewed this device but nothing came up. Why? Maybe because it is not a mass-marketed product made by a large company. I'm all for small businesses trying to make a something and earn a living and all, but charging that much money and tricking the ignorant shoppers of this world is a little immoral, don't you think? But of course when it comes down to it, it's the customer's fault they are uninformed.

So what's my "cut to the chase" take? This device is a space heater since it cannot heat a whole house. Space heaters can make things catch on fire, so if you use one, don't be a dumbass. If you're not going to use your central heating system to heat your house because it's either too expensive, you're too cheap, or you don't have one, don't make the mistake of comparing this Sunheat heater to a central heater because it's not the same thing. With that being said, the ballpark price for a space heater ranges from $20 to $165. Keep this in mind next time someone tries to charge you half a grand for a device that can only heat one room at a time. If my father would've just given me the money, I would be sitting in my room, warm and toasty, with a $60 Costco heater and a new Playstation 3.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Incredible Hulk (Action 2008)

Well well, not too shabby at all. After the abysmal 2003 film, I never thought that people would actually try to retell the story of this super hero. It's like trying to remake Daredevil or something, but I'm surprised at the stark difference that writing, directing, and acting can make.

This movie was good. It wasn't as polished as Ironman, but it was a shitload better than Spiderman 3. I thought the special effects were insane, especially at the sonic emitter scene. These days good special effects are the norm, so it becomes harder to actually get a rise out of the audience. Kudos to the CG peeps.

The story was much better and much more believable than the 2003 version. Funny how I use the word realistic when describing the story of a giant, green superhuman person, but it's true. The story didn't seemed rushed, nor did it scene-jump. It was instead, a pretty pitiful story of a guy continuously getting chased and screwed with. Liv Tyler had a few too many teary-eyed scenes. This was reminiscent of Jennifer Connelly's performance of the same character. Perhaps it was written into the comic book character that Dr. Betty Ross should always look sad and helpless.

So even with a few slight hiccups, the film was still very entertaining.
Rating - B

Friday, October 10, 2008

Weather Change

So overnight the weather has changed from crappy & windy to gloomy & hella freezing. It's 33°F outside and inside my unheated home, it's 64°F even though it feels much much colder. Did you know it was 88°F in Tucson today? Yeah... It's funny how easy it is to forget what you don't like until you're put into the same situation again. For example, I didn't remember how much I hated humidity before going to Hainan last spring, just like how I didn't remember how crappy it was being unemployed before coming back home, and now how I'm forced to remember how much I hate being cold even though I do get to wear better-looking clothes. It ain't worth it; being cold sucks. Hope you're all at a warmer place than I.

Run Fatboy Run (Comedy 2007)

I guess it's comforting to know that when Americans make a crappy movie, they do it right along the same lines as the Brits.

This movie was pretty dumb. It was about a guy who tries to win back his old GF by entering into a marathon against the old GF's current BF. Of course he's a loser while the other guy is a rich turd; go originality. I'm not sure if British people would actually find the "jokes" in this film humorous because I just didn't. I think I chuckled at a few scenes, but overall most of the lame, slapstick comedy received a mute response.

The main guy, Simon Pegg, was the primary in Hot Fuzz, so I know he can be funny if the script is written well, but sadly this move wasn't one of them. Oh, and guess what I just found out; David Schwimmer directed it...no more words of explanation needed.
Rating - D

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Made of Honor (Romantic Comedy 2008)

This movie was very Plain Jane. I'm sure that the plot had been done before because nothing struck me as being new. Even though that might not exactly be the case, it doesn't change the fact that it was a very formulaic copy of all of the other romantic comedies out there.

Patrick Dempsey played this womanizer who had a best friend played by Michelle Monaghan. The best friend ended up meeting a guy, becoming engaged, and appointing Dempsey's character as her maid of honor. Dempsey started to notice that he had feelings for her, so he set out on trying to win her over.

There were a few funny parts; I remember two. But unfortunately the rest of the movie kinda felt like plain, white paper. It wasn't well polished and not much thought was put into it. Again very average and not impressive.
Rating - C

Friday, October 03, 2008

Crysis Warhead (FPS PC Game 2008)

The original Crysis was a pretty fun game, but damn were the system requirements harsh. Playing that on a laptop's GPU was not a fun adventure. This game was its first standalone expansion, meaning that it didn't require the original game to play. Market price was a little cheaper, only around $30 instead of the regular $50. Was it worth it even at the reduced cost? For me, no.

Story
The plot followed one of the other soldiers from the original, but its timeframe ran parallel to the first. So what you got to play was more of the same action, but on a different part of the island.

Cinematics
There weren't any CG cinematics, only cutscenes using the regular game engine. The videos helped the plot along but that was about it.

Gameplay
The game functioned exactly like the original. It was fun messing with all of the gun attachments as well as the cryosuit, but even with these perks, you still had to deal with overly-skilled mobs who were able to shoot a pistol from a 500 yards out and tag you, or those with super-spidey hearing who would start shooting you even before they were on radar or within visual range.

Graphics
It has been a year since the release of the original so that's a plus for all of us. Video card GPU technology has moved along fine and a lot of systems are now able to boost up the visual settings. Surprisingly enough, I had to reduce my graphics down by 2 notches (out of 4) in order for the frames-per-second (FPS) to be completely consistent. I don't have a clue as to how beefed up a person's rig would have to be in order to handle it maxed at the 4th notch. But since this game used the same engine as the original, all the visuals were great.

Sound & Music
Sound was good, but the music only kicked in at certain "exciting" portions of the plot. This was a nice bonus in terms of placement, but that meant that the rest of the gameplay time was spent with no background theme and thus less immersion.

Bugs
The only real bug I ran into were mobs being able to shoot through walls. This wasn't COD4, where it was built into the engine. Also, a lot of times when you killed a guy, their body would disappear immediately, taking their dropped weapon and ammo away with them.

Overall
Even though this was a cheaper, shorter version of the original, it still wasn't worth the $25 cost (I had a $5 discount from Circuit City). I've never finished a game in one evening, but I did with this one. I didn't install the multiplayer addition, called Crysis Wars, from disc 2, so maybe that's where it was supposed to shine. But from the standpoint of just a single-player game, I'd say that it was definitely mediocre.
Rating - Mid

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cursed

I'm sure I mentioned it before, but I think Reno is cursed. Both times when I returned to this dreadful place, things have not gone to plan. The Accounting idea seems to be heading towards a brick wall, so that'll be a no-go for next semester. After coming to that realization, I've started the FT job search and that has garnered zero responses after a few weeks of applying. Of course it doesn't help that our financial system and economy is heading towards the gutter. How often I find myself as part of the negative statistic...but only in Reno...why is that? I believe I see a pattern here. -Sigh-

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Logitech ClearChat PC Wireless Headset (Random Product)

This little item was this year's Birthday present. I wanted it because my last headset pair broke when I was dancing one evening, forgot how far away I was from the computer, and pulled the cord hella hard which thus jacked up the speakers. Since I use Skype a lot these days, I assumed that this would be a good purchase.

Description
On the functional end it works great. It uses a radio frequency instead of infrared, which means that there doesn't have to be a direct line of sight in order for the device to work. Back in college I had a pair of infrared ones and it sucked that I always had to be in visual range of the receiver. I always thought that it would be pretty neat to be listing to mp3s while wandering into the bathroom to take a piss.

Controls
The controls are very handy and are built right into the design of the headset. On the right-hand side, there are 3 controls for volume up, volume down, and microphone mute. When the microphone itself is put up, it auto-mutes the mic and vice versa if it's put down, so that's a very convenient feature.

Distance
The headset works very well while wandering around the house. I have a 3-level place and it still works even when I'm on the bottom floor with the garage and my computer is on the highest floor. It does start losing connection when you get too close to a working microwave since it uses the same 2.4GHz frequency band.

Battery
I did some strict testing on this, and it turns out that after a full charge, the headset will last for approximately 5 hours before dying. And when I say "die", I do mean die. It's not like a cell phone which starts beeping when you start running low on juice. This headset will straight up, binary die. The charger also tries to trick you. When you plug the device in to charge, a little orange LED starts shining, but that light goes away in a little under an hour. Unfortunately this does not mean that the headset is fully charged, it only means that the light is a brat and does not want to shine anymore. I usually have to leave it charging overnight to get the full 5 hours.

Overall
It's a great, compact unit that works as described, but I don't think most people realize how much time they usually spend in front of a computer. The 5-hour battery charge goes really fast and it's just annoying to have it just die on you. I also thought that this item would assist in me not breaking anything while dancing; I was wrong. Instead of pulling a cord, I have to watch out for the headset flying off of my head and busting onto a wall. Seeing a C-note note go out the window is not my idea of a good time. The price also leaves much to be desired. If you can live without being able to wander around the house, it's probably still more affordable to buy a wired headset and a cheap, yet functional Logitech speaker set.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Street Kings (Crime Drama 2008)

It’s good to see that Keanu still has some fight left in him. You don’t see him in many movies anymore ever since The Matrix series ended. I’m sure Neo will always be his de facto character, just like Christopher Reeve with Superman. This film was your run-of-the-mill action cop flick. It had an O.K. story and some action, but that was about it.

Keanu played this cop who was all about getting things done without all the BS. This meant that he was all over killing peeps rather than arresting them. This made for a few entertaining gun-fight scenes. After an ex-partner got killed, he went on this vendetta spree, beating the shit out of baddies and trying to find the peeps ultimately responsible.

Forest Whitaker acted well, but it seemed like he was overacting at the end. Too much emotion, but I guess the director might’ve wanted him to seem a tad crazy. Chris Evans from Fantastic Four did a fair job in his supporting role, but it was hard to take him seriously as a cop for some reason. Hugh Laurie, the main actor from House, was also in this film. Funny how his odd mannerisms stay the same even though he was playing a different character. Who knows, maybe he's like that in real life.

This type of film has been done on more than one occasion. Cop flicks are usually either average or really good, like The Departed or Heat. This movie goes into the former category. Although it was fair, there was nothing that made it stand out. I’m sure that was expected of course, but it was still a nice filler movie.
Rating - B

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Boo on School

I totally promised myself that I would post something since the wonderful world of movies seems to be far beyond my grasp under my current educational circumstances. Yeah school has definitely not improved over the last few weeks and now the first round of midterms will be coming up soon so more suckage is on its way. I would much rather be working FT...

This summer I purchased an Electricity Load Meter because it seemed like a very informative tool. I don't have a lot of stuff in my house, but I used it on everything that had a plug. Here are the results:

From the pic, it seems like running a vacuum cleaner is the most draining while a Sonicare toothbrush recharger takes the least amount. Some items totally drain electricity even if its off but plugged in, while others are hella variable and jump all over the place. I don't have accurate measurements of a laptop since I got rid of mine off, but I think it drained around 75 watts maxed, which is pretty much half of a desktop machine w/o factoring in the LCD monitor. I do wonder how much big appliances like a washing machine or a dryer drain? Probably a ton more.

But while I'm on the topic of laptops, has everyone noticed this upcoming fad with "netbooks"? I think I'm destined to get one since my celly failed to reach expectations in terms of features and usability. A netbook is a barebones laptop computer that is smaller than an ultraportable. It's only meant to be used for email, web surfing, and chatting, nothing more. It comes with an Intel Atom processor which is hella weak, even more-so than a Celeron, but it does have enough juice to do the bare minimum. It's usually pretty cheap like under $500 and is very lightweight because it has a small, 8-10 Inch LCD. Dell just released theirs and I'm still waiting for Lenovo to mass produce their version as well. You have to remember to get at least a 6-cell battery to have 4+ hours of runtime. Yeah as most have come to discover, the portability of a normal laptop really gets diminished when you have to lug around a huge power brick. Having a lightweight little toy that can get you connected when you're not on your primary system is a great little nitch market. The iPhone can handle all of this from almost anywhere, but damn is that extra monthly fee pricy. I'll also very partial to having a regular QWERTY keyboard.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition (1st Person RPG PC Game 2006)

I've been a fan of The Elder Scrolls series ever since Arena was released back in 1994. Of course nobody really played computer games back then, so I was probably one of the few who actually got to enjoy that jewel. Bethesda Softworks is the only game company that has ever built a true 1st person RPG game. They've made three fairly successful titles, but with the release of Oblivion for the Xbox 360, it catapulted the company and the series into the mainstream.

Story
The story in any of the Elder Scrolls games is not really important because the real fun factor is the open-endedness and being able to explore a really big world in a very non-linear way. The main story did push a plot along, but it was a pretty short plot. If you really want to complete the main storyline, it can be done in probably one sitting.

Cinematics
There weren't any real cinematics in this one. Most of the story was based from the 1st person perspective and that worked just as well in terms of immersion.

Gameplay
The game got fun after I boosted up the visuals and after I read up on how the leveling system worked. Oblivion kinda blew in the arena of stats and leveling. I won't get into the nitty gritty, but trust me that it really sucked. I had to use cheat codes to rectify the unevenness, which I hate doing, but it was necessary. But yeah after I got past that small hurdle, I was thrust into a very fun fantasy RPG that lasted me many days and hours.

Graphics
A 2006 game with a 2008 video card was great. I got to max all of my settings with 8xAA and Bloom, so damn was it beautiful, just like it was meant to be played. It does tell you something about the industry and how game makers are always on the bleeding edge of technology and how they always make something that forces you to upgrade in order to actually have fun.

Sound & Music
The music was O.K., but it got old, just like other games. After a while I only used the music to see if my character was getting chased by enemies since fighting mode had different music from traveling mode. The sounds were well done and accurate in terms of what a shield blocking a sword swing is supposed to sound like or how one would think a fireball spell would sound. Again, more traits to add to the immersive quality of the game.

Community
There is a large community of people in place who build mods. Supposedly it adds a lot to gameplay and such, but I've never been too fond of changing things.

Bugs
This was one of those games that I purchased and sold multiple times but never really had any fun with. Thankfully round three was a charm. Back, during round one, I remembered getting really pissed with broken quests because they were all bugged. Having random things crash because of crappy programing caused me to become too frustrated and deleting the game off my system. Who knew that after you patched most of the defects, that a very fun game was just waiting to be explored, just like the old Arena days.

Overall
The game was fantastic this time around. I got a very satisfying fill just before crappy school started up. There were 2 expansions included in this "Game of the Year Edition". The Knights of Nine was a nice add-on, but the Shivering Isles reminded me too much of Morrowind (mushrooms and alien-looking mobs), so much so that I didn't have the desire to play through it. So yeah, if your rig can keep up or if you have a console, this was indeed a very fun and time-consuming RPG.
Rating - High

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Smart People (Drama 2008)

This movie was pretty boring even though it had a good cast to start out with. The cause of this was that the story lacked any sort of appeal. I don't know who can really relate to any of these characters.

The film circled around a family of dysfunctional peeps. You had a sour college professor, a loser uncle, a friendless HS student, and an un-doctor-like physician played by Sarah Jessica Parker. Now I may be off base here, but who in their right mind can actually picture Sarah Jessica Parker gettin’ it on with anyone? I think it was a Family Guy joke, but someone was right in stating that “her face looks like a shoe”. Friggin' ugly man. So yeah the plot revolved around these peeps as they learned how to “mature”. I guess it was trying to show how intelligent people can still very stupid in other aspects of their life.

I didn’t really find it entertaining because the characters were all too boring. I had more fun critiquing the odd outfits that Ellen Page's character chose to wear in each new scene, rather than listening to the overly dry dialogue.
Rating - C

Thursday, August 28, 2008

There's No Free Lunch

Yeah so I don't know how long it'll be until I can watch another movie, so I'll apologize in advance for the lack of updates. As some already know, I've decided to go back to school to get a graduate degree in Accounting. On paper it looks like a sound plan, but in reality it's mentally draining, and I'm not even talking about all of the reading, memorizing, tests, homework, papers, or researching yet.

Instead, what I'm referring to is age, windows of opportunity, and placement. When everyone was a freshman as an undergrad, everything seemed perfect. You got to live in a dorm, meet new people, take gen ed classes, take major classes, and work a student-worker position on campus. As senior year passed on by, you and your friends graduated and "attempted" to enter the work force. This was, of course, a very trying time because the competition was quite fierce and most of the time you found yourself holding the short end of the stick as yet another day of unemployment passed on by. At this point people usually decide on continuing with the job search or begin planning on getting into graduate school or some other professional program. In terms of age, everything is still kosher, but if you divert off the regular road like my dumb-ass has done, it turns into a very shitty, bumpy trip. Your window of opportunity to make wise decisions closes quickly because if you miss the boat, you'll be stuck in a room with people born in 1990.

I'll just lay it out there: school sucks. It has always been understood that it's only a means to an end, but in my advanced age, it just feels way too crappy being in class again. It's like being a misplaced fancy spoon, sitting on a table with a bunch of forks because everyone is preparing to eat their salad and nobody has any use for expensive China.

When you get older, you're bullshit meter becomes more sensitive and you tend to lack the energy to deal with any of it. School is all about doing bullshit. Why are there so many crappy "side" projects that need to be done? Why can't professors just concentrate on the book and the material within it and just give out tests? Looking at a syllabus and seeing layers and layers of bullshit is just so frustrating.

To add to this, I already got screwed by this school, and that fact has been pissing in my coffee all week. When I first read everything about all of my classes, all of the documentation boiled down to two things: First, I was to have at least 3 units (1 class) of graduate credits to still be considered a graduate student. Second, I needed 9 units (3 classes) of any combination of classes in order to be illegible for student health insurance. So yeah, I went ahead and registered for 1 class as a graduate course and 3 classes as an undergraduate courses. A few months into the waiting period, I found out that I had been rewarded a grant, but one of those small ones that they randomly give out. The stipulation to receiving this grant was that you needed those 9 credits to all be graduate units. So I go and change the classes to 600-level instead of 400.

I wandered into my first class on Monday and was given a different syllabus because I was listed as a grad student taking a 600-level. To my surprise I saw that it had an additional research paper with a required presentation. After I went to my other classes, I was forced to multiply this "extra" requirement by 3. So in essence, I traded a slightly cheaper tuition for more bullshit school work. WTF.

So how pissed am I? Very. Fuck having to do more work. I don't care that I'm "supposed" to be a graduate student. If all of the other silly undergrads in my classes don't have to write a damn research report, then I shouldn't either. Where is the fairness in that? All of these courses are undergrad prerequisite classes so it's not like I'm learning any more or less than everyone else. F-U-C-K spells Fuck.

So yeah the good ol' days of watching movies all the time are over as I head into another semester of being crapped on as a student. From a guy who hates school as much as any average 3rd grader, I sure have cursed myself in being trapped in educational facilities for the better part of my life.

Also today, I interviewed for a student IT position and the dude sitting across the desk asked if "$8.50/hour would be a problem"? Is he fucking kidding me? I'm more qualified to do his job than he is and he's lowballing me with $8.50 like I was some green-ass freshman with no experience but buckets of enthusiasm? Sad thing is that it seems as though my skill set is worth less now than what it was back in 1999. Suffice to say, I'd rather be an underutilized phone-answering ninny than being yelled at by some upstart professor for $8.50 because their dumbasses are having problems syncing their PDA, getting email, duplex printing, getting onto the web, connecting to a file server, remembering their password, or getting into their locked account because they continued inputting in the wrong password.

Like any emo poser who dresses like they were born in the 80s would say, "I hate my life..."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stop-Loss (Drama 2008)

This movie was O.K., but it could’ve been so much better. I guess there is this thing called a stop-loss where the military can extend your time spent in the armed forces without your consent. Of course they are the military, meaning that you've already signed your life away, so they can do whatever they want with you.

The plot followed around a squad of soldiers as they battled insurgents in Iraq and then battled the Army and their own minds back at home. It showed how PTSD had an effect on the mental stability of the peeps, as well as showing how soldiers can get screwed over in more than one way. Ryan Phillippe was a convincing soldier, but I think Jake Gyllenhaal was much better in Jarhead.

The end of the movie is what gets me. I won’t ruin it for ya, but after you watch it, you’ll think to yourself that the whole movie's plot was useless because of the ending. I suppose it was trying to show the deeper ties that bind in terms of camaraderie, but I thought it was plain stupid.
Rating - C

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nokia E51

After a few unsatisfying Samsung cell phones, I decided on trying out the Symbian OS with a Nokia. I picked this E51 mainly because it had WiFi capabilities, it was a bar phone, and it wasn't as expensive as Nokia's Nseries phones. I also wanted to try out all the smartphone features like having a real calendar that would sync with Outlook as well as the ability to open Word docs or Excel spreadsheets.

Design
The phone is well built and sturdy, just like a Nokia should be. All the buttons are not too small and not too big, but just right. The overall size of the whole phone is quite compact too. It's fairly thin and can fit in your pocket with no bulging problems.

Keypad
Everything from the navigation keys to the dedicated calendar and address book keys are great. It's nice to have enough keys for exactly what is important, but not too many keys to make it overwhelming.

Connections/Buttons
The top has a power button that is hella hard to press. Even with my small fingers, you really have to put a lot of pressure on it in order for it to detect. On the right side you have your volume keys along with a dedicated speaker input key, just in case you need to voice dial a person. I never use this feature so that button is unnecessary for me. On the left side you have a dedicated voice recording/memo key. I do use this on occasion and it's a good, convenient button to have. On the bottom you have a MiniUSB jack, the power cord jack, and the 2.5mm headset jack. The phone does NOT charge via USB so that blows. When you connect the USB cord the phone will ask you if you want to connect using Nokia's Connection Suite Software or to have it connect as a mass storage device. The back has a 2 megapixel camera which I never use, and the back plating is this odd texture of lines carved into metal. I like the feel, but all of the metal parts of this phone attracts fingerprints like nobody's business. On the inside you have a MicroSD slot that can expand your existing on-board memory.

Battery
The battery is good and lasts for a good number of days before you start losing some bars.

Software
The software is primarily where I wanted to test the phone out. Again, main reason for getting this was for the WiFi, so this meant web surfing or Gmail checking. There are a bunch of pictures below so you can look at 'em to see what I'm describing. First off, Google has created software specifically for the S60 OS, so you can download a cell phone version of Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps, and Youtube. The Gmail app works great and Google Maps works exactly how it does on a regular computer. The Youtube app locks up the phone and is currently pretty buggy, at least for me. Even though it's nice to check your email via a cell phone, replying or writing one is a bitch without a qwerty keyboard. Writing an email via T9 texting is annoying and very time consuming.

The web surfing was the main area I was interested in. Of course I already knew that the iPhone would be better, but I didn't realize how much better. Some websites like Google.com or Amazon.com have a mobile homepage, tweaked and shrank down to a resolution that would make it cell phone friendly. These pages work, but it seems like a very lite version and just doesn't feel right. Every other website that does not have a dedicated cell phone page looks like shit. You get to see a small corner of the webpage and then you have to use the directional keys to scroll around the whole area with a little arrow. It's definitely not fun and pretty much blows.

Being able to look at documents and spreadsheets is O.K., but it's really not all that. I use it to do price comparisons when I go shopping, but that's about it. Other people who have reviewed this celly have made comments about how they are only able to look at stuff (read only) and cannot edit, but really...who wants to edit a document using a cell phone keypad and a small-ass screen?

Having Google Calendar sync with Outlook and then having Outlook sync with the phone is a little annoying, but it gets the job done.

The radio feature is a nice addition also. It only works when you have the headset connected, but being able to listen to the radio when you have no MP3s available is nice to fend off boredom. Using the phone as an MP3 player sucks, of course, because you have to go through a bunch of menus to start it up and then you still need to use it with a proprietary 2.5mm headset.

I did opt out of the data plan from AT&T, which would've given me 3G capabilities, so I have no idea how that experience is like. If it's even remotely similar to that of WiFi, then I would've been be very disappointed in having to pay for the extra feature. It's like being given a University campus Ethernet connection, but using it with a Pentium 75mhz desktop computer with a 640x480 monitor. If the hardware is not equal to the connection speed in terms of quality and technology, then it's a pointless endeavor.

Overall
As a regular cell phone the E51 is great. As a calendar organizer it's only O.K.. As an email reader, it's decent. As an email writer, a web browser, and as a media player it sucks. This phone was touted as being a business cell phone, but other than the calendar, the other business functions are not worth the added price. I'm not sure if Nokia's other cell phones can sync with Outlook as easily as this one can, but if it does, I'm all over it. This type of technology is all about trying to combine many features into one device. The iPhone has succeeded in putting a web browser with an MP3 player with a cell phone together, but damn is the upkeep pricey. The E51 as a cell phone and data combo has failed. I guess the next combo to try out one day will be a Nokia that has dedicated MP3 buttons and a 3.5mm headphone jack. If they can pull that off half-decently then it might be worth an upgrade. So in summary, if you're mainly looking at the WiFi capabilities of this phone, the answer is "No". It would be better to buy a cheaper cell phone and just pick up a new netbook with the difference in cost.

Pros
  • Size
  • Design
  • WiFi
Cons
  • Web browser software
  • Typing anything on it
  • Price/Useful feature ratio