Monday, May 31, 2010

Sex and the City 2 (Comedy 2010)

So wifey wanted to go see this movie yesterday, joy. The film was pretty much on par with the 1st one. It had the same humor, drama, and overall frivolousness of these women.

For a guy it's hard to watch it and stay engaged because everything from the clothes to the shoes to the dialog is just so uninteresting. One positive thing was that there were many funny parts so it did make me laugh on numerous occasions. It would be a renter if you feel so inclined, but seeing it in the theater is not worth the money.
Rating - B

Vacation in China

So for the last 2 weeks I've been back in China visiting in-laws and having a wedding banquet for wifey's side of the family. Of course I got to experience the wonderful world of the Great Firewall of China again. Bastards blocked everything from Youtube, Blogger, Facebook, Dropbox, and a few work-related sites. So because of this I was unable to update anything as well as being unable to assist in work-related stuff during my downtime here. I did get to read a bunch of books through Mr. Kindle so that was nice.

A few things I noticed this time around:

1) Humidity sucks ass....royally. I can't understand how people can deal with 80 degree weather combined with 90-100% humidity. It is so uncomfortable that it is very close to unlivable. All my years in Arizona were nothing compared to one day wandering around in humid weather. Fuck a bunch of that.

2) My In-Laws got a Honda Fit so I got to take a peeksee in comparison with mine. It had a sunroof which isn't an option in the 09 US version and the rear brakes are disc which are also not an option. The HUD is orange instead of blue and the AC/Internal Circulation/Rear Defroster buttons are of a different shape. Other than that it's the same car and felt the same.

3) Of all of the traffic laws that are not obeyed, at least in my wife's hometown, they have it setup throughout the city where if you cross this magical white line i.e. stop too late, your picture will be taken and you will be sent a 200 RMB bill. Odd hu? Only a handful of cities I know of in the US do this and they only take your pic if you run a red light or a stop sign, not if you accidentally stop too late. Yeah I got to drive around and it was chaos. Little scooters and 3-wheel carts not obeying traffic laws and wandering all over the place. That and all of the pedestrians don't give hoot either and will walk right in front of your car with no worry in the world. Nuts.

4) The damn fireworks that go off at any hour of the night or day. No laws on this of course and these aren't single bottle rockets...it's the ones that have 50 M100s stacked together in a huge doughnut-shaped disc.

Other than that China has not changed...prices seemed to be the same for goods and services, it was still polluted, it still smelled, the water was still undrinkable from the tap, and yeah, there were still millions of people all over the place.

It's damn good to be back home.

The Starcraft Archive: An Anthology (Book 2007)

Liberty's Crusade (By Jeff Grubb)
This first book was pretty good. It pretty much went through the whole storyline of the original Starcraft without the expansion. It had good detail, interesting characters, and kept up the momentum. It's funny because I remember tidbits of the game when I played it back in HS and some dialog invoked some happy memories of getting my ass handed to me by the A.I. I still don't know how people can effectively play Protoss though. Anyway...good first book in the anthology.
Rating - High

Shadow of the Xel'Naga (By Gabriel Mesta)
This next book in the series was interesting. All of the reviews online pretty much said that this was God-awful and not worth reading but I didn't think that at all. It was very average and written in a simplistic manner. It was a little easy in terms of the difficulty of the writing style, so perhaps that is why other peeps did not enjoy it. I viewed it as a short story of sorts and didn't try to gleam anything more from it. So yeah when you go into it and not expect literary wonder, then it's decent.
Rating - Mid

Speed of Darkness (By Tracy Hickman)
This 3rd book was really good. There is indeed a stark difference between this book and the others that are a part of this anthology. Hickman is also one of the authors behind the Dragonlance series which I know and love so I knew he would not disappoint. Every part of this book was great from the action to the character development, to the main story. It is definitely the best out of the four.
Rating - High

Uprising (By Micky Neilson)
This last book was also pretty good. It went into more detail as to some background information that was left out of the first book. It was still not as good as Hickman's story but it was still informative enough.
Rating - High

Overall the whole Anthology was a good read. It got me back up to speed concerning the whole Starcraft story just in time for the July 27th release date of Starcraft II. I would've still liked it to be cheaper than it was but yeah...when you want to read it in digital format you don't have too many choices to go on.
Overall Rating - High

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times Are Tough by dition) by Martha I. Finney & Duncan Mathison (Book 2009)

First let me state that I got this book digitally for free when someone posted on a forum that it was going for $0.00. I would've never paid for such a book even if I were unemployed indefinitely. These "how to find a job" type of books are usually all written by a bunch of shysters who are just preying on the fact that so many people can be unemployed at any one time and will dump millions of resumes into the black hole of careers@company.com, hr@company.com, and on-line application forms.

Like all books, this one tells you to do some mass networking. They also tell you that they know that the natural feel of networking is that it is hella phony, artificial, and bullshit; but right afterwards they ignore this fact and gloss over it with the premise that "you are only having a conversation with a professional peer". Bullshit!

First off who is actually going to schedule you into their day so that for an hour you can "talk". Unless you are at some bullshit management level and does no work whatsoever then maybe. Real workers are usually busy...really busy, and those people aren't paid to have a conversation with you. Secondly the conversation will not be about the industry, it will be the dude with no job trying to leech any names, emails, or numbers of people who are actually responsible for the hiring or for them to be another "contact" that they can attempt to fakely make.

The whole point is that finding a job sucks and although real networking does work (friends, or when stretching it, friends of friends), it is almost impossible to go beyond that because you need that person to essentially vouch for you and your abilities. A friend of a friend might do that if they trust your mutual friend, but when push comes to shove, that person isn't going to pass your information along if they think it might make them look bad. And if HR comes back with "Do personally you know this applicant or contest to their abilities"?, the answer will be 'no', and then your resume goes back in the trash.

Another definition that the authors totally have incorrect is what a colleague is. In my world it is someone who has actually worked with you before and knows of your abilities. That person may be someone who would vouch for you; but in any other scenario, a guy you bumped into at a random location who so happens to be in your same industry is not a real colleague. He is the competition.

One other piece of advice that the authors dish out in their strategy is to make lists: Lists of people that you've met as contacts, lists of companies you would like to work for, etc. All this is unnecessary rubbish that keeps you busy. The fact of the matter is that the world is not ideal...that is why normal people don't win the lotto every week. You can list the 10 companies that you would like to work for but chances are that 1) They are not in the same geographical location as you 2) They don't need your skills and abilities 3) They don't exist. Normally people don't give a fuck about what company they work for or what they do, most don't have that luxury. They are there to work, get paid, and hopefully have to deal with the least amount of BS from their boss and co-workers. It is very rare for a company to be proactive in its road to success...hella small companies with hella good management might have this but the second you get over 30 people or so...it turns into more and more lame ducks just sitting there to get a paycheck while not doing any work.

The authors want you to be like a used car salesman and not to take no for an answer when someone says they don't have time to meet with you. What the authors do not get is that people who have jobs have almost nothing to "gain" by meeting with you, especially when the whole event is just a ruse to get cushy and to see if they have any leads for a job.

Anyone who has had a bout with unemployment knows that it sucks....bad. As months roll by you start giving up and putting less energy on searching because you never hear back from companies. This is a natural thing that must not get the best of you. Keep researching to see what companies are hiring and apply for any position that you think you can do a good job at. Just remember that you need only one....one company to give you the time of day and a chance.
Rating - Low

Supervirus by Andrew W. Mitchell (Book 2010)

This book was pretty decent also. It was about an A.I. program that became self-aware...very Skynetish. The bad thing was that when it tried to describe a bunch of stuff pertaining to the IT and programming side of things, it just didn't make sense to me how the original program became self-aware or how it manipulated its own code to become a super-powerful system.

The story kinda just put down that the program was linked to an email address, then it got spam, then it got sent to some SPAM site via a link, and then it got a virus. From there is gets all spacey of how the program reverse-engineered the virus and then used its code to send out messages on its own to learn from the responses.

Anyway if you look past that and just concentrate on the fact that the A.I. devours knowledge as if it was an assimilating Borg, then yes the rest of the story would fly. Even though there were holes in the plot, it was still an interesting read.
Rating - Mid

Containment by Christian Cantrell (Book 2010)

Damn this book was intriguing, stimulating, and was literally one that I could not put down until I had cleared it. I never really delved into the science fiction realm but this was indeed a good start. The book had great characters and plot development. It totally reminded me of the movie Moon, at least the feel of it. While reading this I actually felt interested in science and engineering as ironic as that is. All in all I highly recommend this book. It was a great read and I'll probably be indulging in more from this author's works in the future.
Rating - High

Starstrikers by Ken McConnell (Book 2008)

This book was pretty good for a 'unknown' sci-fi story. If the author adds more books and makes this into a series, I'll surely be on board to read 'em.
The plot is very Halo-like or Space Above and Beyond-like in that there is another space-fairing race that has soldiers and spaceships and are bent on conquest. The human faction is also on par technology-wise and are on the other side of the war. The plot follows around a group of special ops soldiers as they make on missions to assist in the war. Yes, all a very good premise for a video game.

It has a fairly striaghtforward landscape and the author does a great job in melding a story from the environment. Characters are well-rounded and developed, action is intense and described in detail, and everything else is more than decent.

All in all it was a damn good buy for $.99. I do hope that the author tries to write another book to continue on with this series.
Rating - High

Kick-Ass (Comedic Action 2010)

This movie was a fun one. The highlight was this newcomer chick named Chloe Moretz. Her characer of Hit Girl was freakin' awsome. Yeah in one scene they used the badass music from Sunshine. Kudos to that. They could've integrated the overall music a tad more but it was still nice of them to include it. The film was a fun action/blood-packed flick...very mindless but they didn't hold back anywhere else.
Rating - B

The Wolfman (Horror 2010)

This movie was only 'eh'. At first it had a From Hell feel to it but then the story just lacked too much for the characters to be interesting to care for. Yeah it seemed very short and unfinished. I think if it were a tad longer or if it had more character building, the movie woulda been much better. I'll give it some points for ambiance and costumes though.
Rating - C

How to Train Your Dragon (Animated Fantasy 2010)


This movie was fantastic! I read that there were many good reviews but I didn't expect a Dreamworks creation to be all that great if it didn't involve Shrek. Anyhoo, Hiccup and Toothless the Dragon definitely changed my mind. The characters were great, one musical theme on the soundtrack was good, and the story was very engaging and exciting. This one was definitely a fun time without being too childish. I would recommend it to anyone.
Rating - A

Alice in Wonderland (Fantasy Adventure 2010)

I still don't see why there was a big fuss about this movie because it really wasn't that good. I barely remember watching the original Disney flick and most of what I remember was that it seemed random, non-linear, and kinda blah. It was nothing compared to Aladdin.

But yeah this movie just had some CG animation and that's about it. The story was not interesting at all, the characters were not at all memorable, not even Johnny Depp; and yeah it seemed like another pointless movie. I'm glad I was on a plane when watching this because without that type of a situational viewing enviornment, I would've auto-deleted it.
Rating - D

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Cove (Documentary 2009)

This was an interesting film. It followed around this group of peeps from some oceanic protection organization as they used all of these high-def cameras and audio equipment to film how dolphins are slaughtered every year in Japan.

The whole mission had great planning, setup, resources, and execution. I'm sure all involved parties are banned from setting foot in that town though.

Yeah the movie was all about how the Japanese government condones the inhumane slaughter of dolphins. It described how dolphins have a high mercury content in their meat thus making it toxic. I guess some other town in Japan had some sort of epidemic where lots of kids were born messed up in the head and/or retarded because of mercury getting into the fetus of babies.

All of this equates into dolphin meat being pretty bad for you yet they are still getting killed. The film was educational but of course I'm sure that there are some portions of the statistics that are tweaked with to better support the POV of the maker...all documentaries are one-sided like that. But yeah if the meat is toxic then what is the point of killing them other than they eat fish which humans eat a lot of which thus would mean lower profits for fishermen because dolphins keep on eating the fish. This was another probable justification that the makers came up with.

Either way the film fails in the arena of what can actually be done. Nothing. A sovereign country can do whatever they want and unless it has a direct impact on a neighboring country. I guess a country can put up sanctions and such but I doubt anyone will do this because the environment and nature are pretty low on the priority list of governments.
Rating - B

Belarus PK-AS Black/Red Dot Sight


So ever since I started shooting I never really liked iron sights. They work OK but after the fatigue sets in with closing one eye all the time and refocusing on different far off targets, it seemed to give me a headache more and more. I also tried out a peep sight from a .308 HK Clone and that wasn't too comfortable either. In comes side mount optics designed for the AK variant.

While doing research we have everything from this PK-AS, a PK-A Red Dot, and a PK-23 Blinking Dot. Of all of these the PK-A was the only other one that had a built-in mount. I never got a chance to test one out but it looked pretty old school in the ways of technology so thus it was harder to justify blowing close to 2 bills on it. The PK-23 looked interesting and a few peeps on forums have said good things, but it didn't have an integrated mount. The closest thing to one was a model that Kalinka Optics made for an Aimpoint red dot. It was supposed to be able to co-witness with the iron sites. Some pictures from the web have shown this thing. It looks like it works but yeah if you priced out the PK-23 and the mount it would've come up to close to $300 which was not in the range I wanted to spend.

The PK-AS comes in 3 different mount types. A side mount, which is the one I have, a top mount which supposedly sits very high above the barrel, and a weaver mount which would require you to get a side mount like a BP-02. I picked the side one because I didn't want to bother with having a separate BP-02 to deal with and I didn't want the high-mount because it seemed like fewer people had this type.

I picked the PK-AS because of its optic design. It has this huge black circle and then a small 1/1.5 MOA black dot. The circle makes for easier target acquisition and the black dot is just to clue on your target. The black dot can be turned into a red dot with a flick of a switch. I have found that the red dot can't be seen all too well in the bright sun, but the black dot can be seen fine. The black dot does not require the battery in order to function so it seemed like a perfect replacement to the iron sights.

I've taken this optic out shooting twice. It does keep zero after you take off the optic which is good. Zeroing it was a bitch because you have to take a few shots, know where the reticle has to move, take off the optic, loosen the tightening nut, make adjustments, tighten the nut again, mount it again, and make test shots. I didn't have the most optimal setup in the desert so it took quite a few rounds to get it where I wanted it to be.

The while side-mount is odd. Sometimes it is easier to look through your left eye as in when you have a good cheek weld but when you are prone, looking at it with your right eye seems more normal. I can tell how some people would hate the fact that it is not center-mounted but I don't seem to mind all that much.

The side-mounted PK-AS is not being sold anywhere right now. Tantal doesn't have it, Eastwave doesn't have it, and Kalinka only has the top mounted one for an insane price. Luckily I posted a few WTBs on many-a forums and I got a response. I think this is the only way to get one of these.

Overall I would say that it's a great buy. Considering that one's options for an AK are to get a KV-04 or BP-02 and then put loctite on a weaver-mounted optic, I think having one, single unit it much better and cheaper. The black dot just drove it home. Too bad more optic companies aren't doing this, it's a great idea.

Pros
Black dot is great under bright conditions
Black circle is convenient, just like the red circle on an EoTech
Both do not require batteries to function
Built like a tank

Cons
Out of stock almost everywhere
The side-mount location != quick acquisition
A bit on the heavy side (1lbs 5oz)
Zeroing adjustments suck