Monday, December 31, 2012

Total Recall (Sci-Fi Action 2012)

For a remake this definitely is one of the better renditions. Yeah no shit right? I'm usually not one to give props to any movie with Colin Farrell in it, but this was seriously a solid Sci-Fi action flick.

I don't care for Biel at all but Kate was totally workin' her stuff all over the place. The story diverted from the original movie but in a good way. Action and special effects were nice as well as the robot cops. They were a hybrid of the androids from I, Robot and any futuristic Anime mech suit. Great designs. So yeah totally worth a rental if you just want to enjoy an evening of action & fun.
Rating - B

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looper (Sci-Fi Action 2012)

This movie was different and good. Thankfully it wasn't super confusing like other time travel-related movies can be. Drama was OK, action was fair, and the story was interesting. I barely remember Bruce Willis being in it as he didn't really play a big role. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the primary and he made the whole movie go. Weird thing was that it felt like he was the exact same character he played in Inception. I'll probably forget everything about this movie in a few weeks just because it was one of those non-memorable ones, but that shouldn't take away from its quality.
Rating - B

2005 Infiniti G35x

So after being bored to death with the good old Honda Fit, I decided to get a faster car with AWD since winter was approaching again. I hunted around for quite a while but eventually landed on the Infiniti G series as a viable replacement. Most reviews were positive minus the fuel mileage so I decided to take the plunge.

After hunting around for close to two months, I found a CL posting of a guy selling a 2005 with only 32k on the odo. I guess he worked from home so that's why the miles were so low. I test drove it, carfaxed it, and everything seemed to check out fine so yay, I got myself a new to me car. And as an added bonus in Nevada you don't pay any sales tax on a private party sale.

So I've been driving the car around for 5 months now so I think that's enough time to get my bearings around  all the details of this automobile.

Engine
The car is a 6 cylinder 3.5L 280HP monster. It's the most powerful car I've ever owned and yeah it doesn't disappoint in the performance department. Power is balanced throughout the whole spectrum so when you're at 0, 25, 45, or freeway speeds, light application of the accelerator will cause the car to become a rocket.


Handling
The handling and suspension is sick. No body roll at all. I can do whatever I want in this car and it feels very controllable and stable. It does seem a bit heavy though, both when accelerating and when cruising but the engine can handle it with no added effort.

Ergonomics
The ergos in this car suck, straight up. There are so many small things that are so annoying that I can't believe they passed QA testing during development.

The door controls for the power windows and door locks are blocked by this huge-ass bar. I totally have to twist my wrist in an odd angle to reach the controls. How this wasn't flagged is really beyond me.



The e-brake is a foot one like they usually have in trucks. WTF.


The HVAC control buttons are the exact same shape and they don't have any tactile differentiations. You can't feel your way through the buttons at all which means that you have to take your eyes off the road to make any changes to the climate control.

The snow mode button is totally hidden by your right knee. I so didn't even know it existed until I accidentally dropped something and went to go pick it up.

The heated seat buttons have 3 settings for off, low, and high but the light is the exact same if it's on low or high. No bueno. They should've had 2 LEDs or make the 1 LED dimmer or brighter depending on the setting.
The steering wheel controls are way too square and too far away from the edge of the wheel. You have to have some monster fingers to be able to drive normally while working the controls for the audio and cruise control.
I think a lot of these ergo problems were addressed in the next generation of the G series...too bad I couldn't readily afford one. But not all was negative. They did have one feature that was pretty neat. It's a pass-through hole built into the center console armrest for a phone charger to snake out.


Gas Mileage
As expected the gas mileage on the G35x is horrid. I consider myself a fairly light-footed driver and I still get 20 mixed and 24 highway. Premium gas too so yeah it's a night and day difference between the Fit and this car...oh well I try not to think about it.

Insurance
My insurance went up only $1. Goes to show the difference between a 2005 Lux Sports Sedan and a 2009 Econobox Wagon.

Quality
The quality parts of this car reside in the leather seats, suspension, and chassis. All interior plastics are pretty much Toyota/Nissan/Honda-standard. I think most people get this car for the performance and less on the Lux. Note in the pic how the cheap plastic does not clean all too well.


Sport Shifting
Yeah this feature is worthless. If you try to shift like an economical driver, there is a very long delay and then the tranny shifts. I think it's only meant for racing and avoiding the redline. One additional odd thing is that the sport shift mode is usually activated by moving the stick to the left on most other cars, but on this one you activate it by moving the stick to the right. Weird.

Heated Seats
The heated seats aren't that good in this car. The low setting BARELY works, like we're talking 1 degree if that. The high setting is OK but heated seats in a Mini Cooper or a Saab are so much more impressive.

Power Seats
The power seats have a horribly dumb UI. There is a cancel or auto setting and it supposedly has the ability to memorize settings for 1 or 2. I won't go into too many details but it doesn't remember any settings worth a damn. I think I know why but if I'm correct it means that the design of the power seat's memory is not on the same wavelength as my brain and it just pisses me off to think about it.

One extra thing of note is that the driver's seat makes a very odd grinding noise when it moves. I read on a few forums that a part is broken and needs to be replaced. I'll be $85 in the hole after I buy that part...

Windshield Wipers
The wiper fluid design on this car is actually pretty nifty. It's built into the wiper itself and will spray directly onto the windshield from 2cm out, instead of from spigots like on the hood of a normal car. Don't know if it works any better but it's a nifty change.


HVAC
I think automatic climate control in all cars is stupid. In this car if you turn it on, in any weather, it will auto-turn on the AC. I'm sure there is a reason for this but I think it's just plain dumb. I enjoy having full control over fan speed, temperature, AC, etc...this car only allows you to manually change fan speeds and go through a bunch of pushing to toggle through modes. It's annoying and inefficient. If it had an API I would reprogram the whole damn thing.


Audio
Low and behold the CD/MP3 player doesn't shuffle music, just like on the Saab. Nuff said. Bose sound system is pretty good but yeah if they make it so difficult to get music through the speakers then what's the point? Luckily I don't drive very far to get to work anymore so yeah it doesn't bother me as much, but it's still lame.

Push-Button Entry
One of the main reasons why I wanted this car and others like it was the Intelligent Key feature of being able to just walk up to the car and get in without having to get the FOB out. In this car I still have to push a small button on the door handle, but yeah the tech does seriously work. I would love it if I could just pull the door handle, but this was the 1st gen of this technology. I had also wanted the car to auto-lock if I walked away from it, but to no avail. I still have to press the button on the door handle to lock up the car after getting out. One day they'll improve upon this I'm sure.


Twisty Start
So first gen auto-start was this twisty-start knob instead of a push button start. Good thing is that I don't have to get out a key but yeah a push button would've been better.

So yeah overall the car has been a nice change from the Fit. When I first got it, I performed all of the fluid changes myself to make sure all was kosher. I learned a bunch about this car, so that was educational. I just hope that nothing major breaks because I have a feeling that it'll be quite pricey to fix. The main downer is the gas mileage but yeah all the Infinitis are like that except for one new M-series hybrid that they produced, but damn is that car expensive. Now that I have a sedan, I'm noticing how convenient a wagon/hatch was even though I didn't always utilize it. For example if I were to buy new tires I think there would be a problem fitting all 4 in the trunk and back seat without scuffing up the leather. Either way we'll see how many years I'll stick with this config, but currently it's handling things nicely.


The Rising Horde Volume 2 by Stephen Knight (Book 2012

This last book in the series didn't disappoint at all. It was full-bore action the whole way through. At times the gun-fighting got a bit confusing, much like the first book, but it was fine overall. The ending was a bit shocking and kinda a downer but it went along with the whole theme of the story. Overall this was a very enjoyable series for any zombie & military fan.
Rating - High

The Rising Horde Volume 1 by Stephen Knight (Book 2012)

This second book was pretty good. Perhaps its the familiarity of the characters from the first and interim book, but they really start growing on you. This one was all about plot as the group of military peeps travel to TX where a cure is being developed. At the same time a huge mass of zombies are converging on the same location led by the smarties. Characters were the same, action was good, and it was a pretty engaging read.
Rating - High

Friday, December 28, 2012

Borderlands 2 (FPS PC Game 2012)

So it seems as though I'm temporarily back into PC Gaming for a while. Why? Well that's simple. Work is stressful, life is equally stressful, it's freezing outside, and I don't like drinking or sports so what is a guy to do? Play video games. For a long while there was an extended lull with nothing to play, but slowly more games are appearing that are getting better reviews and aren't too immature. Unfortunately this game isn't one of those.

So yeah, I kinda got tricked into this one. All the reviews were very positive and the Youtube videos looked decent enough so I thought I would give it a go. I had this game in mind as sorta a backup while I was actually waiting around  for someone to post the sale of a Farcry 3 code, but Gamefly had a sale on this game for $29.99 so I jumped on it.

Let me be short and sum up this game. It's an FPS of Torchlight that is set in a static/respawning world with guns. Ok so it's not exactly the same but you'll get the same feel for it just like I did after playing Torchlight for a few days. All you do is kill things and do missions to move the main storyline along. Most weapons suck until you get something better, and then you keep on killing baddies and upgrading weapons to no end. This circle of gameplay got boring really fast. The cartoony feel of the graphics is different but I just didn't like playing in the world. The human mobs were totally forced to look and behave like dumb post-apoc raiders and for some reason that just annoyed me. The only positive parts were some of the dialog and jokes. If I were 16 again I would probably would've had a blast with it, but I'm not.

When launching the game through Steam on a PC, the co-op mode drops connections 90% of the time. I read on some forums that others have experienced this as well...terrific. Additionally I think many peeps are playing the DLCs meaning that if you don't have the DLCs installed, you are left out of the queue pool with most other players. This is just a guess as the active games to choose from were not as populated as I thought they would be. If the multiplayer portion worked it might've been a difference experience for me but I doubt it since I really didn't have fun playing it.

Yeah overall I thought it was disappointing and not worth the $30. It is a $10 game; $15 if the multiplayer worked correctly.
Rating - Mid

Friday, December 21, 2012

Left with the Dead by Stephen Knight (Book 2011)

Hey not too shabby of a story. It picked up right where The Gathering Dead ended, following around First Sergeant Gartrell as he tries to escape the zombie-infested city. He does meet up with an odd, annoying family but there was a definitely purpose to this in terms of his character development for the future.

The plot had lots of action and a few repetitive moments like in the original book, but overall it was nice and short. Now I'm more inclined to read the actual sequel to the series to see if it gets any better. What a difference one book makes.
Rating - Mid

Monday, December 17, 2012

Black Mountain by Greig Beck (Book 2012)

So Black Mountain is the next story following This Green Hell, which continues the adventures of Alex Hunter. This time we're back in the US and the main mystery involves some odd disappearances surrounding a cave entrance that had been sealed off for thousands of years.

The historical and evolutionary background in this story was fair, but not as detailed as others. I think this was because the background information was not given enough attention. With this story, Greig seemed to put more time into developing multiple subplots and having their storylines converge into one finale near the end. Although it worked, I think there were too many things going on which prevented the real plot from working its magic.

After clearing the first chapter, I kept on reading non-stop because I wanted to learn more about the creatures, their history, their habitat, their culture, and how they survived for so many generations. But all I seemed to get were more side stories about the various different military units out to get the Arcadian. Although this has a lot to do with the Alex Hunter series in general, sometimes the more intriguing part of a story doesn't concern the main character at all.

The anthropological information integrated into the plot was quite fascinating and added a bunch of scientific details. The author's research abilities in this area are quite phenomenal. But as a big fan of all Greig Beck books, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with this one. I think it could've been so much better if Greig concentrated more on the story of the creatures and the caves and less on the drama among the various factions.
Rating - Mid

The Gathering Dead by Stephen Knight (Book 2011)

So this zombie book was OK I suppose. The beginning was pretty exciting but then it slowed down quite a bit towards the middle. Many of the scenes described the characters either fleeing and fighting. You kinda lose track of what is going on because they kept on repeating this same formula. After more than 5+ scenes of the same scenario it totally got old. Another thing that really bothered me was that some of the zombies retained their skills from their former life so zombie soldiers could shoot rifles and drive cars. That was lame. I know it adds to it being a different story and all but damn...it's hard to envision that for a zombie book.

I did enjoy reading through it, albeit with some reservations, but I just may continue with the series. We'll see...
Rating - Mid

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution (Action 2012)

Holy shit was this movie bad. I tried to actually sit and watch it and it was just too awful. Next I tried to multitask it in a smaller window and that didn't take either. I think I would describe it as a crappy video game with some of the worst writing one could ever imagine. This one did it for me, no more Res Evil movies.
Rating - F

Survivors (The Morningstar Strain) by Z.A. Recht

It has definitely been quite some time since I first read the initial 2 books of the Morningstar series, but it's funny how quickly one can recall snippets of the old plot and jump right back in.

So the story was told from two points of view. One was from the General and his crew camped out in a government biolab trying to find a cure and the second was from the main baddie who was making his way to the lab. They eventually meet up and a substantial battle takes place and then poof the book ends. Although the whole series was brought to a finale, it was way too abrupt and it totally seemed rushed. People were getting axed left and right and I lost track of 40% of the characters. Although I did like the series as a whole, this one unfortunately stuck out as being the worst of the lot.
Rating - Mid

Friday, December 07, 2012

Czech CZ-USA VZ-58 Rifle


So I finally managed to find a VZ-58 on a forum after searching around for quite some time. I had wanted to buy one from Czechpoint and get the free shipping with inclusive transfer fees, but they raised the price on the deal and I just couldn't get over the fact that I had lost the opportunity with the sale price. The rifle I did manage to get was a bit older, as it was labeled CZ-USA on the box, but the quality was still great.

The first thing I noticed was how lightweight the gun actually was. Even with a milled receiver it was quite a bit lighter and had a more compact feel than that of an AK. I like the design of the short-stroke gas piston because it's easier to clean one section of a rifle instead of needing to clean the whole receiver and all the innards like on an AK. On the VZ, you really don't even need to take apart the rear portion like the bolt carrier/spring because it doesn't get dirty at all.


The mags I had locked in perfectly with zero wobble. I believe that can be attributed to the fact that it's a Czech gun and there weren't any variants that wandered away from the original design. The aluminium mags were also quite light and shaped a bit differently to allow for the BHO to work. I thought that I would like the BHO feature, but while shooting I never noticed the bolt holding back and I still tried to pull the trigger one last time. I'm sure this was a user problem.


I wasn't too fond of the location of the mag release because you had to jam your thumb between the trigger guard and the release lever. It felt awkward and would be more cumbersome with thick, winter gloves.


Surprisingly I really didn't like the safety. Although it's touted to be much more ergonomic than the AK's large lever safety, I always found myself forgetting if the safety was on or off and I had to position my hand differently to work it. For me the AK safety has a more positive and robust feel.


The trigger itself sucked. There was some creep but what bothered me was that I was unable to doubletap in a smooth fashion. I've been able to doubletap all semi-auto rifles and pistols that I've ever come across but for some reason the VZ gave me problems. It felt like the trigger group needed time to reset properly before being able to function for a second round.

The way the front hand guard locks into place was a good design, much better than the AK. It was also stable enough to probably keep zero on an optic. I didn't have the aftermarket parts necessary to test it out for myself but the whole section seemed to not move at all after the pin was pushed back into place.


The barrel and top handguard got hot with constant shooting but it was comparable to that of an AK. Other than that the rifle shot fine. Sights weren't canted and the paint on mine was nice and glossy.


So overall the VZ-58 was a nice rifle with a lot of different design features not seen on an AK. Although some were good, many others bothered me personally. Everyone's opinion differs but for me I'm still an AK guy.




Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Easier to clean
  • Toolless field strip
  • Tighter tolerances
Cons
  • Didn't like the safety design
  • Didn't like the trigger feel
  • Didn't like the mag release lever
  • Expensive; not worth the extra $$ in my opinion

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Ted (Comedy 2012)

As expected this movie was pretty damn funny. It's humor was out of control in some scenes but yeah, very enjoyable. If you're looking for a crude comedy then this one takes the cake. The plot towards the end was kinda dumb but I guess they had to do something to move the story along. Either way, good stuff.
Rating - B