Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Out with the Lexus

Well it's about that time again, except it seems like it's every year that I'm changing cars. It's not that I really want to...it's just that I'm never satisfied with what I got and I'm trying to find that one even keel car.

So my NX was fine as a small CUV, but really I hated how the car handled. I'm so used to wagons or sedans and this CUV turned like a boat. Sure it was a sportier boat when compared to a real SUV or truck but still. Besides that the car really was good. I liked the seats and the sound system was excellent. 26 MPG is nothing to write home about but it was a tolerable MPG.

Here's the kicker though. I really hated how the car shifted. It had massive turbo lag and the whole 6-speed thing wasn't cutting it. The car really needed to be an 8-speed and then we could've re-evaluated the whole turbo thing. I'm still a fan of turbochargers, but they're certainly not engineered the same.

So when my registration for the year was up, I didn't want to pay for another year on this car so I upgraded again. This time it's a 3-year lease so I'm locked in; I'll see how I feel about doing a long-term rent. Hopefully it'll work out and I'll like the experience but we'll see. Mathematically it works out but I'm sure there will be other side things that I haven't taken under consideration yet. Right now I'm digging the brand new concept, paying less per month vs financing, and also having all maintenance and stuff covered for 3 years.

I decided to go with a BMW 330e Plug-in Hybrid so I could plug it in at home. Initial feels are positive. I like how the car drives and I like plugging in my car for free or reduced price juice at home.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Incredibles 2 (Animated 2018)

Weird, I thought I had already written my review of this one, but it seems as though I spaced on it. Yeah this was the long awaited sequel to the Incredibles which was badass back in the day and luckily, this second one didn't disappoint this time around. CGI got a bit better and the story and writing were still up to par with Pixar's high standards. Not much else to say other than it was exactly what it was meant to be; fun and entertaining.
Rating - A

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (Action 2018)

So you want to set the gold standard for what an action movie is all about? Here you have it. This film is now the new gold standard. Better than Bond, better than Ironman, and espcailly better than anything that Michael Bay produces these days. This movie was friggin' fantastic. This is what the first Mission Impossible should've been back in the 90s. I'm sure some special effects couldn't have been pulled off, but the camera work shouldn't have been that hard.

This movie was a super fast pace action extravaganza filled with damn good fights, car chases, and interesting spy on spy deception. This one takes that cake for this summer's blockbuster. I doubt anything else will top it with regards to pure action.
Rating - A

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Drama 2011)

This movie was an older flick. Not sure if it made it into theaters but I do remember seeing the trailer a long time ago. For a period piece mixed in with modern times it was OK, but as a drama it wasn't that good. The plot took way too long to build and the middle wasn't artsy and didn't have any compelling transitions. It was the same adolescent film-making equation of scene, next scene, next scene, bam hopefully a movie appears. I guess there was a reason that barely anyone saw it. I think if there was a different director and a bit more added to the writing, it could've been something different.
Rating - C

Monday, July 23, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp (Action 2018)

You know it's interesting. The first Ant-Man I had no real urge to see and thus it took a few years for me to get around to watching it. That film was OK, but this one was so much better. I'd wager to say that I enjoyed it more than Black Panther.

So yeah the movie kinda takes off from where the first Ant-Man ended so you don't have to go through the whole character intro stuff and instead you get dumped straight into the plot. The story was OK, but the characters and their interesting dialog made it all happen. It didn't seem too rushed or forced and everything was fairly lightweight. For comic book movies it should be like this vs. anything deeper or too flashy like Black Panther had.

Anyway I had fun for a summer flick. Totally recommend it!
Rating - B

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hong Kong v2

So I recently took another trip to HK, but this time it was solo with no family, just a pseudo-business trip on my dime since my cheap-ass employer would never consider funding any part of this excursion. Although it was expensive to pull off, I very much enjoyed the whole thing since it's always fun to live another life, if only for a few days.

HK is a badass place. Bustling sounds the second you get outside and tons of people wandering around at breakneck speeds. You can't help but want to flow with the traffic and thus you also start walking fast as well; sorta like driving with a pack on the freeway.

One thing I noticed this time around was that there was a stark difference between being on the street vs being up in an apartment. "Home" in HK seems like a very temporary location because it's so damn small. You're only there to sleep, wash up, go to the restroom, and to change clothes. Besides that, it exists only as a temporary pit stop before heading back down to street level to get actual stuff done, may that be to run errands, go to the office, or eat dinner. It's certainly a different lifestyle from the US where the opposite is in play. Back at home we go to work to get scrilla and then wade through traffic so that we can get our asses back onto our favorite couch or chair. Most people want to stay at home because it's just so comfy when compared to being outside. My observation is that HK has a completely opposite feeling.

Funny as it may seem, one thing I really wanted to try out was to be a poser for a few days and act like I actually had a legitimate reason to be in HK dressed in a suit and tie. With that goal in mind, I got myself gussied up, rode the MTR to Admiralty, and then proceeded to make my way to a conference. The morning commute was honestly not too bad, but heading home blew ass because I was so damn tired after just flying in the day before. That and everybody else's sweaty funk mixed in with the HK summer made the air smell very tart, especially in tight corners.

I got to see people go through their morning routine, pick up a free paper, and get some breakfast snacks while heading in for the day. It was so damn convenient compared to the US where we would need to park at some dirty-ass corner gas mart for the same thing. It seems like you're just more connected to the environment vs that of getting in/out of one's car.

During late afternoon you got to see peeps rushing out of offices, looking stressed and frazzled, and probably heading off to blow off steam someplace with the assistance of alcoholic beverages and friends/colleagues. In this environment it 100% makes sense how you would text some peeps to meet up at some random establishment before heading home. Happy hour actually would mean something because everybody would have the same mindset of being off of work and needing to unwind. I remember when a few friends tried this in AZ after work, but I always found it odd and annoying to drive during rush hour to some bar with an animal in the name or some Applebees for some small-ass baby back ribs. But here in the city you could totally do it: text, congregate, drink, be merry, then take the MTR back home...so damn convenient!

One thing I did notice was that even during very late hours, people would still be streaming out of major MTR stations like Central in their business suits looking wrecked as fuck. Not drunk though, they still had that 1,000 yard stare that only comes from looking at hundreds of emails, spreadsheets, and diagrams.

The weather was of course humid as hell, but not too hot, especially at night time. And damn...night time was so perfect. You come back from 'work', shower, change, and then go out to find something to eat. Afterwards you can wander around, go shopping, or do whatever. The humidity was pleasant on the skin, very relaxing, and it was a good decompression cycle to walk around before heading back home. I actually crashed like at 10PM every night but I'm sure that's because I was still unknowingly jetlagged.

Although I'm not much of a foodie in unfamiliar environments, I did notice that eating establishments were everywhere. Small places, large places, fancy places, quick places, and all sorts of different foods to choose from too. Indian, Mediterranean, Japanese, and of course a bunch of Chinese places. It was nutty to pass by so many eateries. I did take a chance and winged it at a few establishments. It was easy peasy to just point at a picture and/or mumble my Chinese/English as well. It's a different feeling from mainland China that's for sure. Paying was super simple with Mr. Octopus card and refilling it was as simple as giving a 7-Eleven cashier cash and then RFIDing the card on the scanner. Commerce is very convenient; it lets you spend money very quickly.

So I did have one museum that I wanted to go see. It's called the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence. I can stare at armor all day long...not so much interested in other trinkets, just the armor and helmets. Weird I know. The museum was very limited and small, but at least they had something historical.

So yeah after 3 full days and numerous traveling days in between, my little mini adventure came to an end. Flying back was hard, of course, but I did manage to get home tired as hell after pushing through it all. Here are a few life epiphanies that I had during my evaluation of the trip:
  • First was that this was literally a pie in the sky idea. A few months prior I was home in my office, sitting in my skivvies, surfing around the net and randomly found a conference that was located in a place I wanted experience in business garb. After toying with some vacation hours and budget numbers, things still made sense so I just went for it and then a few months later, bam! I was doing exactly what I sought out to do. It wasn't something that was forced upon me or something off a dreaded Honey-Do list...it was a flat-out expensive rando idea that was all active decision-making. And let me say that although it was a short trip, it was definitely worth the memories. This goes to show that if there is anything that you want to do and is financially possible to do, just F-ing do it while you still got time, health, and cash. Having a little more money when you're 80 years old isn't going to mean shit...it truly isn't. Just know that you'll be eating some canned tuna and mayo out of a squeeze bottle instead of a burger for a few meals, but it will be worth it for the memory of doing something cool that is either out of character or out of the ordinary.
  • Next, I did find myself thinking that the trip woulda been a bit more fun with other people. I'm sure in a different scenario, I would've networked more and hung out with some new folks I just met, but realistically, the conference wasn't built for that sort of networking. Other conferences have dinners, parties, and other side events, but this was more limited in that regard. I think it's related to the concept of seeing something cool, saying to yourself 'that's cool', but then wanting someone else to be there so that they can validate that it actually happened. If not then it's only in your head and that's when you become more willing to share the experience with others. Of course traveling with others has its own sets of stressors and annoyances, but I think that's general life, unless you're soloing it which I wouldn't recommend long-term either.
  • Lastly, now that I'm back in the US and back to the normal grind of my crappy job, boy do I really miss HK. I mean really...the place has changed quite a bit since I visited it back in 2001 or even in 2015. This trip made me realize that it really is possible to pull off living and working there. You would need to give up on living arrangements with regards to space and affordable rent, and that's unfortunately the kicker: It's hella expensive to live there. I was looking on CL for prices and the midpoint is close to $3,500 USD per month. Like...holy shit George. That's double my mortgage in the US and my office room in my house is well over 60% of the complete living area of the place I was staying at. I can personally deal with having less space, but that housing price is very hefty. Unless you landed a super bank job, the better part of your salary would be going right towards rent and then would it still be worth it? Sigh...only if, right?
I dunno it still may be a good option to keep in one's back pocket if the time ever comes. I doubt NYC would be as fun as HK. And listen to me...I'm saying fun as if I was out partying and reliving what my 20s were supposed to be. Too late for all that jazz. In reality it's just the fact that living in the US is so sterile, structured, boring, and most people you'd care to socialize with live far away. In a bustling city like HK, it's energizing to be one ant among many. That and all small potato concerns in life become truly that...small potatoes. You end up mentally not giving a shit about a lot of the minor grievances that occur everyday because there is so much around you to keep you stimulated: lights, food, cars, smells, and being surrounded by so many other fellow ants who are truckin' along with the best of 'em.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

12 Strong (War Action 2018)

So this one was about a group of green berets sent into Afghanistan after 9/11 to start up some shit against the Taliban. Was it a good movie when compared to its peers? No. Did it tell a story? Yes. I think this would fall into the category of just average since everything about it was sorta blah, but they did explain what happened during that time. It's a very forgettable film though so just be prepared for that level of quality.
Rating - C