Wednesday, June 30, 2010

24 Hour Fitness = Shady

It feels so good when you are right. Yeah I'm talking about gyms and how unless you have a very set schedule, you will go a few times per week for a month or so and then you'll quit. People are inherently lazy and everyone has to make an effort to get off their ass to go work out. The only time I've been able to do this is if I had a set schedule. When I lived down in AZ, that's what I did. Every day after work I would drop off my things at home, change, go work out, then went to find dinner. If you don't have a set schedule, it'll never get done.

Included in this blurb is the fact that people won't work out in their homes either because home = a relaxing nest. We already have to spend all day at work so it's just natural to not want to work out at home because it is not an optimal location to partake in such tasks. So yeah, it's more reason why people buy workout equipment for their home and then after a few weeks the stuff will just sit there and act as a coat repository.

So yeah what does this have to do with 24 Hour Fitness? It's the fact that wifey wanted to get a membership even though I knew that it would not last long and that the company would try to screw you in some way when you decided to quit. And I was right. When we went in to cancel the membership they had some sort of 30 days notification policy where if you did not give them notice, they would charge you for the next month anyway. So that makes it so that you can't just make a decision and quit...they need to get the last word in by directly taking from your wallet. So yeah, I knew something like this would happen, but here it is in real life. Fuck Them!

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (Book 2006)

This was definitely a fantastic book. It was one of those that totally sucked you in and kept you reading more. The best part was that it was free for the Kindle edition so you got to read the first in the series to see if it is worth paying for the rest (It's currently a 6-book series). I would have to say yes.

The writing style of the author, Naomi Novik, is very interesting because she totally writes in the period of the setting, which is around the early 1800s - the Napoleonic Wars. It's different, but not too confusing as in some stuff from the much earlier Shakespeare era.

The story takes place in an alternate universe of sorts. It's the 1800s and there is a war brewing, but Dragons are commonplace and are the main bulk of air warfare. The kicker is that the dragons themselves are self-aware and can communicate, so it is like having a talking dog. Now that would be badass...a talking dog (Like Dug from Up) . So yeah you take the main character who is a British Naval Officer, a talking dragon, and a war, what do you get? A wonderfully written story that is both exciting and engaging where you actually care about all main characters.

The rest of the books in the series will cost around $6.29 but I definitely think that it'll be worth it. Yeah hopefully other publishers will see the benefit in giving away some books for free. If it can convince the reader to buy more books I think they will still make money; I would've never run across this book if it wasn't free. Just think how many other books are out there that I'm missing out on.
Rating - High

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The A-Team (Action 2010)

This was yet another 80s TV show made into a movie. Was it better than the TV series? I have no idea since all I remember was cheering on Mr. T and the go get'em music like an easily-entertained adolescent.

The movie was quite action-packed though. It had everything you were to expect from the characters. The cigar of the Colonel, Face and his numerous female lady friends, Murdock and his craziness, and Mr. T although a different dude played him. I did think that the whole side-plot of Mr. T and his morality was dumb though.

It was an enjoyable summer flick with the type of simplistic plot one would expect. Worth a theater watch? Probably not, but I didn't feel like it was a total waste of money either.
Rating - B

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Declination (Right Ascension) by David Derrico (Book 2009)

This book was the 2nd parter of the story that all started with Right Ascension. It followed the same primary characters around as they all went their separate ways within their respective military careers.

A lot of internal strife and terrorism caused the plot to move forward with this one and only at the end did it feel more like the first book. This one also seemed to have a few more ethical and moral issues brought up where the characters had to make harder choices based on other, more humanistic factors.

But this book lacked in the same place that the first one did in that many plot climaxes would be axed away with one or two sentences. Something as big as "Oh, he lost both his arms in an accident", would be filled in with "Oh, but luckily we can clone-regenerate them so he's all good". It would be as dramatic as that too, so after the first few times, I didn't even have any reaction at all since big, horrible events would somehow be downplayed a few pages later.

Overall it was an OK read, but the first book was indeed better.
Rating - Mid

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Unthinkable (Thriller 2010)

This was a predictable one. I think psychological thrillers are now destined to all have twists and turns to make the story more interesting. This movie had some but not a much as others I've seen.

It's about some torture expert, played by Samuel L, trying to get some dude to spill the beans on where some nukes were being kept. It keeps continuing with Samuel as he does everything under the sun practically to hurt the dude.

I think it was a movie about morality and if there is a line that can't be crossed even though you yourself might lose your life if you don't cross it. The film showed how all barriers are broken down the closer it gets to you yourself dying...kinda like a survival mechanism. It was an interesting concept but I wasn't too interested in the plot it was told from.
Rating - C

Thursday, June 17, 2010

iPad Once-over

So just this morning I was able to play with one of these iPads in a non-apple store environment. I'd have to say that it is exactly what I expected it to be; a very big iPhone. It does not have a real OS where you can move files around and such, all software is installed via the app store, and yeah it's $500.

The fact that you still need to connect this device to another computer in order to get pictures and music onto it means that it can't be used as a total replacement. A netbook, although seemingly ghetto in comparison, has more real functionality than this device does.

A few positives were that the processor seemed a lot faster than my work iPhone 3G and the larger screen was cool. The keyboard was actually very usable and some of the iPad-configured apps were nicer since there was more real estate to play with.

The main negative other than what has already been mentioned was that it was a tad on the heavy side to hold in one hand for an extended amount of time, so my Kindle still kills it in the book-reading respect.

I think if Apple dropped the price to around $250 or so, it might be worth it, but for what they're charging it is definitely not.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Right Ascension by David Derrico (Book 2009)

This was a great $.99 book. It was actually the first one I purchased on the Kindle even though it was not the first one I read. Too bad more books weren't this cheap.

This is a military sci-fi story that has all of the correct ingredients for a good, solid book. All of the characters seemed real, the plot kept on moving along, and in the end you felt like you had lived through an adventure.

The only negative I discovered was that various antagonists were killed off way too fast. The whole plot would be building towards some showdown with a bad guy and then one or two sentences later, they're all but finished. I found that very anticlimactic, especially since it happened three times in the story. But besides that small oversight, the book as a whole was great and well worth the time and money. Luckily for me, there is a 2nd book in the series which I'll be diving into shortly.
Rating - High

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Green Zone (Action Drama 2010)

This movie was a pretty good action flick. It followed around Matt Damon as he tried to figure out the reason why WMDs were not being found in Iraq. I'm sure this is a question that many Americans had in mind when we went to war over there in 2003. Although there was never any real evidence addressing this issue, we all know that the media swept it under the rug and stopped mentioning it in nightly reports. Yeah everyone knows Bush and his cronies went in there for reasons other than WMD...

So yeah this movie was trying to answer a fictional version of what might've happened. The action was very Bourne-like in its execution and Damon, as expected, did a good job in this role. It had a logical story and the theme had purpose.
Rating - B

Friday, June 11, 2010

Leningrad (Foreign Russian War Drama 2009)

This movie was OK. I can't think of another that this reminds me of...probably some other sad war-era film of some sort which mainly showed the suffering of the civilian populace. I know I've seen a few like that but I don't really remember the names. Well this movie was right up that alley.

There was not a lot in terms of acting since all of the characters sat there and looked like they were starving and miserable, but the story itself was fair. I don't know how much of the story/characters were true since they tried to have it based on concrete dates and names, but if it was, it would make it all the better.
Rating - B

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Russian Izhmash 5.45x39 Converted Saiga AK-74 Rifle


Well this is my converted Saiga 5.45x39 AK-74 variant rifle. I went with this round because of its price...still sitting around $.14 per. It's a damn accurate rifle with which I have no gripes about at all.

Since I know how hard it is to drill/tap the receiver for a bullet guide and also having to thread a barrel without the right tools, I purchased it with these 2 things already done to it. I got it from a place called Cadiz Gun Works. They did a great job handling these tasks, but I have to confess that they did not have the best communication (email & calling) and they did not bother to provide me with a tracking number. So even though their skills in gunsmithing are pretty good, the business-side of their organization is still lacking.

To complete the rest of the conversion, I got the following parts:
  • Tapco Buttstock
  • Tapco G2 Trigger Group
  • Hogue AK Pistol Grip
  • Tapco Nut
  • Tapco Retaining Plate
  • Tapco AK-74-Style Muzzle Brake
  • Grip Nut
  • Hole Plugs
I got everything from Carolina Shooters Supply. They shipped everything very promptly and everything was in great shape...I'd recommend them to anyone.

The only thing unexpected that needed to be done was that the safety lever had to be dremeled a bit because the trigger group blocked the safety from being fully inserted, but otherwise the conversion went without a hitch.

A few things that I learned during the conversion was that:
  • The Tapco retaining plate did not feel as secure as the regular retaining plate that goes for a few bucks more. Everything lined up but it still felt a bit more flimsy.
  • The Tapco AK-74-Style muzzle brake is not of the same design as a real AK-74 and the hole was made for a 7.62x39...thus I doubt the brake even works because the Saiga fires the much smaller 5.45x39 round. If I could do it again I would've just purchased a phantom-style brake or a real AK-74 brake, assuming I could find one at a decent price.
  • The Hogue AK pistol grip is 10x better than the Tapco SAW style. The rubbery-texture provides a superb feel and a much better grip than anything else out there. Update: After using the Hogue grip some more I noticed some flex between the grip itself and the receiver. I think this is caused by the material coupled by the design of the screw/nut. I am referring to the fact that the standard AK pistol grip has a long screw that screws into the bottom of the PG. The Hogue as well as a Tapco SAW is hollow with a lot of room to store items so there is a much shorter screw needed in the installation.
  • I did run into an issue with the muzzle brake in that it would be loosened up by the recoil of firing the rifle. After looking through forums I was recommended Blue Loctite and I'd have to say that it has held up under 400+ rounds through the rifle. Good thing is that if I ever wanted to replace the brake with some other type, it can easily be taken off with the use of some torque pressure. So what I learned from this was everything about FSBs and how they usually have an indent pin that holds the muzzle brake in place, albeit a bit loose. The regular Saiga has a custom FSB so thus you gotta use the Loctite or you'll need to change out the whole FSB. But in order to do that you need a press which I don't own...
Overall it was a great experience converting and shooting this rifle; there have been zero incidents of FTF or FTE. I rather enjoy the 5.45 round as it does not kick as much as the 7.62x39 and it flies in a straighter-line. Unless something changes in the future, I'm thinking that this will be my final rifle that I stick with.

Pros
Cheap Ammo
Closest to a real Russian AK as you can get
Side-mount
Cheap ($10) surplus magazines

Cons
Will be more expensive to convert the handguard + bolt-on lower retainer
Only two options for aftermarket Saiga-specific handguards
Still being forced to clean the rifle after every use because of the corrosive ammo

Solomon Kane (Action 2009)

This movie was OK from an action standpoint, but as a story it kinda sucked.

It was about this dude from the 17th century who was a bad warrior type who then, after a run-in with the devil or a devil-like person, converted to being a person who renounced violence. Again the swordfights and the ambiance of the film was pretty good but it seemed very trite in its plot.

It may be a renter if you're in the mood but don't expect anything out of it.
Rating - C

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Book of Eli (Drama 2010)

Well this movie wasn't very good at all. I knew that their special book was the Bible but I didn't know that it was going to be that preachy and boring. Yeah the action scenes in the previews are all that you're going to get. The Road was a much better movie in terms of showing a post-apoc world. This movie just showed Denzel wandering around with some Disney chick. And her acting is as good as that ho Lohan. The twist at the end of the film was, I'll admit, a good one but damn...what a slow movie. Very disappointing.
Rating - D