Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Evil Children of Naor by Justyna Plichta-Jendzio (Book 2013)

So the author of this book was kind enough to provide me with a copy of her latest work in the late summer of this year. I was quite busy these last few months but as promised, I was able to complete it this year, albeit the last day of this year.

So the three stories that are contained within this book exist in the same fantasy realm of the first book. You don't need to have read the first in order to read this one since all of the short stories seem to be independent of each other. Either that or I have a very bad memory, which these days can indeed be construed as fact.

Like the first book, the settings of the three stories varied in that one was in a cold, Nord-like area, the other was within an Egyptian-like setting, and the last was your average medieval locale. Each story had something to do with curses, past deeds, redemption, vengeance, etc. and they were all solid as short stories.

Herein lies the problem though. The author is a pretty good writer, especially for an independent. She's able to weave a tale much like many D&D authors have done in the past, but the bad thing is that the format of the book is not one solid story with characters that you can follow through an adventure. It's 3 wholly separate cast of characters and plots. For fantasy novels, most readers like myself enjoy it when a whole book is dedicated to one group or one protagonist. The Dragonlance Series was one of the best in the whole D&D world in my opinion, and all the books that sprung up from the 6 primary books all somehow related back to the main group of characters or their locations. Additionally, Drizzit was the main character in all of the books that sprung around his character in the Forgotten Realms Series.

I believe if the author concentrated on doing something like this, it would make for a more solid book. For what it was though, the book was good, but unfortunately it was also forgettable because the characters were only around for a short period of time. Hopefully in the future the format of her books will change into more lengthy novels.
Rating - Mid

Monday, December 30, 2013

This Is the End (Comedy 2013)

It's been a while since I've seen a crude comedy, but this one definitely takes the cake. It's totally one of those 'weed' films mixed with some raw-ass jokes. I was laughing throughout most of it so that means it was hella funny.

Yeah the actors in this movie played themselves so that was a bit odd but I think it just made things even funnier. It had a huge cast of cameo actors who were in it for only a few scenes, but still pretty cool that they got all the peeps together. The movie had lots of super crude dialog and humor...I'm surprised that it got approved for the theaters. Silly and stupid fun but damn was it funny. Towards the end the story got shitty like most movies of this type do, but at least they let up on some of the more low-brow jokes.
Rating - C

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Planes (Animated Family 2013)

Yeah this movie is exactly what you'd expect from an animated Disney one. It was made before Frozen so thus it used the old equation of having no songs. Funny how much difference it makes. The movie felt like Cars, only crappier since real talent usually resides with Pixar's crew instead of Disney's crew.

Either way it was a very average movie that could be playing in the background of any kids' playroom. Your undivided attention is not necessary or recommended.
Rating - C

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gravity (Sci-Fi Drama 2013)

Well this movie sucked me in. 'Intense' would be the correct word and the reason for this was 90% the music. Props to Steven Price, a composer who has probably convinced me to buy one of the tracks from the OST.

The movie only really had 2 people in it and if they would've picked a better main actor, a slot that was eaten up by Sandra Bullock, I may have maxed out the rating on it. Whatever anyone tells you, Sandra Bullock is not a very good actress. She could've been the same FBI agent from The Heat, and I wouldn't have even noticed.

The visuals, cinematography, and CGI effects were great. Not sure how they made it seem like they were really in space, but props to the director and his team. The movie was a great thrill-ride and I'm sure it would've been nuts to watch it in IMAX. Some actions by the main character were stupid, but overall the good outweighed the bad.

You really have to have a decent sound system or a nice pair of headphones to fully appreciate this film; it's one of the rare ones where music carried the story.
Rating - A

The Walking Dead (Adventure PC Game 2012)

So I bought this game on a Steam sale last year sometime but never got around to playing it until now. It got a lot of accolades from other reviews and I got to say that I totally agree with everyone else.

You have to be in the right mood to play this game though. If you're involved in some fast-paced FPS, you really shouldn't jump back and forth from this game to others if you really want to experience it all. The whole story needs to soak in like a marinade.

So yeah the gameplay is different in that it's a story-driven adventure or at least that is how I would define it as. I can't think of a single game that's similar since I don't think any of them have this type of structure. Essentially you're watching a movie but are able to make certain dialog decisions at specific times. The result of your decisions do play a part in how other characters treat you as the story progresses.

The highlights of this game are the voice acting, music, story, and "animation". I swear the facial expressions of the animated characters are better than what some real actors can produce. The great voice acting only buffered this. I don't know how the makers did it, but all the characters seemed so real even though they were totally animated. As the story proceeds along through all of the episodes, you start feeling like you're a part of the adventure, emotions and all. I don't think I've ever felt an emotional connection to characters in a game before...movies yes...games no. So yeah it was definitely a new thing. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the time.
Rating - High

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Tower (Foreign Korean Thriller 2012)

This movie was reminiscent of films like Volcano or Speed where there's one main object that is the source of misery and panic. In this case it's a high-rise building that catches on fire and traps a group of peeps inside. A team of firefighters go in to try to save the day and the rest of the movie turns into a predictable set of events.

Because it's a Korean movie, you inevitably have your overly melodramatic scenes coupled with fair to good music integration. Lots of shots of people screaming and a bunch of weeping to push home the emotion as well.

I thought it was average all around. Characters were superficial, action was OK, and it was all in all a forgettable watch. I just remember stumbling by a trailer for this film once, and noticing how the music in it was pretty good. Too bad the movie didn't follow through.
Rating - C

Monday, December 23, 2013

LG Google Nexus 5

It's pretty surprising that I haven't upgraded my phone in such a long time, but the whole "Pure Google" landscape was exactly what I was looking for in a phone and OS. After Google announced that my old Galaxy Nexus would not be receiving Android 4.4 KitKat, I decided to take a look at the latest iteration of the line being that of the Nexus 5.

Native 4.4 KitKat is pretty good, but the changes were minor in my opinion. I'm just glad that I'll be guaranteed a bunch more updates for years to come.

Honestly this phone feels like my old one, only with a larger screen and it being much faster. Everything is super snappy to an extent that I never noticed how slow my old phone was. Everything from opening apps to typing to even powering it on takes much less time and it's quite noticeable too...kinda like how adding more memory to an old PC back in the day would make worlds of difference.

Besides the speed factor, the main hardware differences are that the phone can be wirelessly charged, the battery is non-removable, the screen is larger, the camera takes better quality pics, and yeah it's an LG.

The only negative I have with the Nexus 5 is that the power button makes a clacky noise because it physically has too much play. I read an article where it said that newer production runs of the phone would correct this issue by having more fitted power buttons, but current owners are just SOL. Sucks for us early adopters.

I'm definitely glad with the upgrade. It would've been more of a downer if the phone would've just been a new phone with a new OS, but luckily there was a very noticeable speed increase and I'm all about that.

Sold. Final Comments.

2 Guns (2013)

So this action flick was pretty good. I'll totally forget all about it in a few days, but from what I remember it was a decent watch. There's really not much to talk about since the trailer gave most of the movie away. One guy is military while the other is a DEA agent, both undercover both getting jacked by their respective organizations. Hijinks ensue when they start dishing out payback, just like a marketing line. Everything was on par from what you'd expect.
Rating - B

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4 Game 2013)

So it didn't take long at all to beat this game. It had to have been only 8 hours or so. For my first dive back in to console gaming I have to say that it was a bit disappointing. Some of the reason can be blamed for my lack of skill with these damn controllers but the gameplay wasn't all that with this shooter. The story was super blah and was absolutely nothing compared to any of the three games in the Mass Effect series. Bioware still has a lot on many other developers; sad how they sold out to EA.

So I've only played one other Killzone game for the PS3 way back in the day and I remember getting nauseous before stopping. Years later I think the reason for that reaction could be attributed to the TV I was using and its slower refresh rate. This game on a modern LCD was better, but yeah it felt more like a crapper version of Crysis than anything else.

For a gamer who's only interested in the main storyline, this one was not worth it, but alas how many other games are there for the PS4 right now? Not many...so I think I'll play everything as long as I can sell off/trade off what I currently got. If there was more of a variety out there though, I'd totally skip this one.
Rating - Low

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

State of Decay (3rd Person Shooter RPG PC Game 2013)

So when I heard about this game, being that of a Zombie Survival one where you have to maintain a base and all, I was oh so all over it. But like most things, it got old really fast. This one is a 3rd person shooter of sorts, reminiscent of GTA in terms of controls and gameplay. It was fun in the beginning but then you start noticing that it's essentially the same old thing.

The game itself only has 3 main parts: The first is having your simple base and maintaining it. I thought there would be more to this but really it was over-simplistic and kinda annoying as resources get depleted daily, and the 'radio girl' keeps on telling you to run random stupid errands. The use and misuse of resources barely has an effect on the game which pretty much makes maintaining it a moot point. Random people die, join, get pissy, etc...and none of it really makes any difference.

Second part is the actual "fun" that one might imagine. You wander around from building to building looting it for goods and returning said goods to your base. The crap thing is that you're highly hindered by one's backpack and the second you find a 'primary resource' being that of food, ammo, fuel, construction tools, etc...you can't carry anymore stuff and are forced to huff it all the way back to base. So the game becomes a repetitive set of tasks where you go from house to house, shuttling goods back to base, so they can be used up by imaginary survivors. In addition to this, the storage locker that everything is stored will change inventory a lot, so it kinda refills itself if you use up too much ammo and such. I know that the developers wanted to add some more realism to it, as in other survivors using up or refilling the resource pile, but it just felt stupid and unrealistic.

The last part of the game is a combination of all of the lame side tasks that you're randomly asked to take care of and the main storyline which is pretty bland. The rewards that you're given at the completion of said side tasks aren't worth the time, so again it turns into a greater set of pointlessness.

So yeah the game is an interesting thrust into the post-apoc zombie genre, but the fun didn't last very long at all. Thankfully it was only $13 during this Winter's Steam sale. I don't really know what would make the game more interesting...maybe multiplayer? Maybe more exploration? Maybe being able to give commands to other survivors to take care of piddly crap tasks? Who knows...but yeah one thing I did kinda learn is that in a real zombie apoc, being forced to scrounge for supplies day in and day out would get super boring really fast.
Rating - Low

PS4 Search

The long search has finally come to an end. I really haven't been a console gamer since the original NES stopped producing, but for some reason I felt like I had to get this. Turns out that Best Buy was stashing a bunch of them for a Sunday release so I wandered over one morning, waited in line in the ass-freezing cold, and got my console. I've been having fun with it but as expected I've been sucking quite a bunch at FPSes because of the damn controller. After decades of KB + Mouse on the PC, it's hard to go to something else. Hopefully I start improving soon since the PS4 really doesn't have too many games out right now.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Frozen (Animated Adventure 2013)

It seems like it has been decades since Disney released an old-school film that reminded me of the days of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, but this one took the cake.

The movie was good. It had a ton of songs...some were memorable while others were blah, but that's mainly because it's totally made for kids and my attention span only goes so far. The plot and characters were good as well as the animation that went along with it. No crappy Hercules or Pocahontas drawings here. The comic relief that came from the Snowman character as well as the reindeer cracked me up. Silly and all, but still funny. These seemed like genuine characters too, not like Eddie Murphy as the dragon in Mulan.

Highly recommended for the kids out there, it'll certainly be a fan favorite. Much better than Brave if anyone is wondering.
Rating - A

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Valkeryn 2: The Dark Lands by Greig Beck (Book 2013)

What a great adventure! This book was the well awaited continuation of the story from Return of the Ancients. The end of the first book was quite the cliffhanger, as many loose plot lines were left unanswered. This story took care of all of that while adding a few more questions as to the origins of certain things in the future world.

If you liked the first book and was eager to see what happened to our main protagonist, Arn, this second book certainly didn't disappoint at all. It had all the trappings of a great sequel: new characters in new locales, old characters continuing on with the main plot line, main character development and growth, and in the end, many subplots all coalescing into one dramatic finish.

The ending of this book left it open for a third, although the story would need to be tweaked with as the whole paradox surrounding a future timeline would inevitably change. Overall it was a great young adult book that mixed in fantasy with hard, biological, and evolutionary science. Beck has yet again created fast-paced, literary escape that I just couldn't put down.
Rating - High

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Food

Hey, so guess what Wendy's has added to their menu...yup a Cheese and Bacon Baked Potato. I sampled it today and it wasn't bad at all. Yes the cheese tastes a bit generic and sauce-like but the bacon was real. I went home and put some sour cream on it, sprinkled on a bit of pepper, and bam! It was a meal equal to that of a burger. Not too bad for a bit under three bucks.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Craigslist Losers

You know, one place that never fails to disappoint is Craigslist. For every item you post on there, you will undoubtedly receive around 2 to 4 spam-like responses wanting you to directly email some other external address, there will be 1 to 2 real people asking for a 90% discount, and you will at least have one person who gets oh so close to closing out the transaction but at the last second will flake out and not arrive or text you about lacking in 10-30% of the needed funds.

The most infuriating is the last one since you may already be waiting at the meeting place or driving there when you get that last text informing you of a problem. So yeah last weekend the exact thing happened. 30 min from Go Time, the asshole texts me and says that he is short $40 from the set $200+ price. There were warning signs of course, such as the first text immediately asking for a meeting time and place, and the second text asking a bunch of questions that were already stated in the product description. But this is the stuff you have to deal with: flaketastic CL buyers.

Ebay + Paypal will rape you close to 20% after all is said and done so that's always the trade-off. The only good thing about Ebay is that if a guy wants to start shit and return an item, they have to have enough gumption to re-pack and get the package to a UPS Store. Thankfully most peeps are lazy so transactions usually go through without a problem.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Elysium (Sci-Fi Action 2013)

Yeah how about no. This movie was pretty lame. Everyone seemed to have super odd accents, the story was pretty boring, and nobody seemed to put any thought in what was going on. It was a jumbled mess of crap.

Sure some of the special effects were OK but these days it's on par for what Hollywood can produce. Not even Matt Damon with his above average acting skills could do anything to help with this one. No bueno kids, not worth it. I'm glad I was too lazy to drag myself to the theater towards the end of summer to watch this. Boy would I have been disappointed.
Rating - D

Thursday, October 24, 2013


So I recently had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Now Foods building out in Sparks. Seems like it's a new manufacturing and distribution facility that opened in the last year or so. I'm surprised that the company picked Northern Nevada as a location for anything really since this place is a hole. Either way it was a fairly clean facility and they seemed well-funded relatively speaking. I actually saw a few employees there of whom I worked with at a different company. They looked like they were more occupied and busy verses the last time I saw them; kudos for employment. But yeah this pic is from a vitamin-filling machine. Pretty badass how it has lasers to count the number of pills going in and auto twisters for the caps and labels. Go automation.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Charging Station

Ha! It finally seems like UNR has gotten with the times and got its first charging station installed. Go Parking & Transportation Department. I'm sure this only occurred because of political means since nothing else seems to help with forward progression at this institution. Either way, now I wouldn't mind having a Nissan Leaf even more-so.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


Golly I can never find any time for anything these days it seems. Well as you may have guessed I am super busy and will be occupied until late December. Hopefully after that time the wonderful reviews will begin again and I can do things that have more meaning..."like reading books instead of burning them" haha.

But let's change gears to cars. The Infiniti is gone...I have lost count of how many cars that I've gone through since my first Civic but it's insane...and stupid at the same time. Don't really want to go through calculations to see how much money was lost through depreciation or forced/rushed sales and such but yeah it probably adds up to how much regular people spend on alcohol or how much some females spend on products. But yeah it's odd how I can't seem to find a car that I can just stick with. Maybe that's because nobody is making the right model. Since the sale of the Infiniti I've been looking at older cars that I had always wanted but those now seem like bad ideas. For example the 1999 Acura CL 2.3. That was my college car that I always wanted but could never afford. Turns out that it takes premium gas and the automatic transmission on the model had a bunch of problems that Honda/Acura never correctly resolved. Yeah...forget a whole bunch of that. Next is a 2007 Saab 9-3 2.0T. This one seems viable but yeah if something ever happens to the fancy-dancy key then I could be up shit creek because there are no real dealers anymore to reprogram the electronics. Additionally they still have some quirks that would need fixing and I would have to search for parts and some place to assist with the fixing. Not sure if I'm game for that type of drama since any 9-3 would probably have around 90k if I wanted to pay very little for the car.

So yeah it sucks I keep on jumping from one car requirement to some other preference to some deterrent and nothing ever seems to add up. The 9-2x was a stick so thus I hated it. But to give manual transmissions some credit I don't think I like how Subarus behave engine and transmission-wise thus it could've just been the car and not the stick. I've driven other stick cars since then and none of them have annoyed me as much.

The Civic EX was nice and got good gas mileage. It was my first coupe so there was a love/hate thing going on. You love looking at it because all coupes look better than their sedan counterparts, but you end up hating the blind spots and how inefficient it is when you need to move anything.

The Impreza was a good car as well but I absolutely hated the 4-speed auto that it came with. Now the Subies have a CVT so it may be better but yeah it still annoys me even to think about it. Working on the Subie was a bit 'eh' as well. I didn't like where the spark plugs were because you had to take the damn thing apart to get to 'em, but all the fluids were in easy-to-reach places and there was a lot of room in the engine bay. Interior materials held up pretty well as the years went on so that was a good plus. That car never left me stranded in the snow either so some props can be given in that regard.

The 9-5 was fast but it just wasn't what I wanted in terms of length (I really wanted a 9-3 instead of it) and MPG. Now compared to the Infiniti, the Saab's 22-27MPG really wasn't that bad but who would've known back then. This car was a panic sale which I shouldn't have done but yeah...live and learn. It probably would've still been with me assuming nothing major broke.

The Fit was a fun car but the interior cloth was way too cheap. There were 2 spots where holes would've appeared with a few more months of use. But the cargo space in that thing was awesome and gas mileage was a stable 34MPG. If my 09 model year had had steering wheel controls for the audio I think I probably would've kept it.

And then we get to the Infiniti G. When I sold it I felt nothing and that really sucks because I should've felt something, right? I very much enjoyed the handling and seats and all but man it just irked me to death that it got 20MPG consistently and would barely budge past 24MPG during long-distance highway driving. That's what you call an inefficient engine. Yeah gassing up that car cost around $60 every 2 weeks and that blew ass. In the end I guess it was a good thing that I got a new jobby and stopped driving it much, but yeah I still don't know what was more annoying the MPG or the Premium gas thing. I do know that working on the car wasn't fun either. The engine bay was way too cramped and important parts were located in funny, hard-to-reach places. Other Nissan interiors look similar so yeah food for thought there.

Now I'm in boringville with the Prius. We'll see how it handles through the winter. I really just want a smaller car that is cheap as fuck that I can work on if it breaks. Then it would give me a nice project to be on and I would've feel as though I was losing money through depreciation. A while ago there was a 2001 Saab 9-3 on CL but I didn't want to risk the fact that it could've had an oil sludge problem and the owner didn't have shit for records. I also know that if I ever get another boring normal car or something I would so not be happy with it either. So thus the search goes on although it'll be a while before I'm actually in the market to buy anything again. CL is a funny place for car shopping though, and sometimes awesome deals do fly by. It just sucks that I have to scroll through so many damn trucks and jeeps and other craptacular automobiles like Mercury's and Pontiacs. Ne-vah-duh!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hawaiian Taste?

So Costco just got a new flavor of K-Cup Coffee. It says that it's a Hawaiian blend but yeah it doesn't taste like anything that can remind a person of Hawaii. It still tastes pretty good, but it's on on par with the other good flavors that exist out there. I wouldn't pay any more for this blend.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Ever Been to North Carolina?

So on a recent trip I got to spend time in North Carolina for a weekend. What impression was I left with? A trifecta of insect, trees, and discrete racism.

So yeah there are weird insects everywhere. I got bit no less than 6 times and the odd welts that the bites left really gets you wondering. They didn't look like mosquito bites so I guess they could've been from a spider or some other freak insect but yeah who knows.

The second thing I noticed was how green it was. Of course I live in no mans land so who am I to compare or complain, but yeah there are trees, grass, and humidity everywhere. My skin loved it and it actually wasn't too bad...not ultra stifling like a Florida or some other tropical destination.

The last thing I noticed was the discrete racism. It's discrete because it's done using only the eyes, face, and a bit of body language. Nobody said anything rude directly to you but oh did they gave you that "look". Everyone I talked to who wasn't Caucasian pretty much experienced the same thing after arriving. Odd how it was so prevalent in this state, but I guess that's why they call it the South. There were some nice folks who were overly chatty with their accents and all, but they were few and far between.

It was nice to see another part of country although now I've definitely crossed off this state as being habitable.

Valkyrie Burning (Warrior's Wings) by Evan Currie (Book 2012)

Well here's to another great continuation to this series. The book followed the same successful equation as the two before it making for an exciting and engaging story. Everything made sense and played together into a well-built plot in both land and space. Very much looking forward to clearing out the last book in the series although I doubt they'll be able to answer every question that needs answering.
Rating - High

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Heat (Comedy 2013)

So this movie was pretty funny at times but then it was lame at times as well. Sandra Bullock is really getting old. This is the first gig I remember seeing her in since Miss Congeniality. She's actually a pretty crappy actress when compared to others I've seen in movies throughout the summer.

Yeah so this film did make me laugh 2-3 times but a lot of the humor was your average low-brow shit that came out of Melissa McCarthy. Not that I'm all about high-brow humor but it was a little too much at times and those incidences only got a slight smile or chuckle.

For what it was, it did make me laugh and was entertaining but it was nothing but average.
Rating - C

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Colony (Sci-Fi Action 2013)

Man this movie sucked ass. The first few intro scenes made you feel like there may be some fun here but then the whole thing fizzled super quick. The whole thing was so short it made me think that the copy I was watching had a whole chunk missing someplace.

The plot consisted of a group of peeps from one colony going to investigate a distress call from a second colony, then coming back, then getting attacked, then the movie ends. It was a lame ending and yeah nothing at all happened. No explanation or conclusion, just a horribly made film.
Rating - D

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

42 (Sports Drama 2013)

I don't like baseball much at all so it's always hard for me to sit through any baseball film. This movie did have some historical significance so that gave it an interesting boost. Was it good? Eh, it was OK. I mean it kinda felt like a Disney flick but then some of the more racist scenes came along and those were nutty enough to inject a bunch of emotion that a regular Disney movie wouldn't have allowed.

The main character, Chadwick Boseman, was fair for an up and coming actor but he didn't really draw me in as much as someone more experienced would've. Story-wise it was only OK and the rest of the characters barely did anything. So yeah that's all there is to say about this one.
Rating - C

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Emperor (Drama 2012)

Yeah this movie was one that totally felt like a made for TV film. It had that very unpolished and amateurish feel to it. The plot had a lot of potential to be like a Valkyrie, but yeah this movie had no level of depth to it at all so that made it impossible. Whoever wrote the screenplay really didn't know how to make a movie.

Since I don't even know if this film even made it into theaters or not, I won't comment more, but let's just label it as a definite no-go.
Rating - C

Monday, August 19, 2013

Per 20 Min Parking

So recently a trip was taken in a car to San Francisco. I've been there may times in the past but never driving. What I discovered was how insanely difficult it was to have and drive a car there. There's virtually no parking and you have to scour the world to find a damn parking garage. When you do, you're presented with insane prices ranging anywhere from $3 to $8 per 20 Min. Yup that's right, they plain just done away with the concept of 1 hour parking because they're too fucking greedy.

There're 2 negatives right off the bat...first is that you're forced to do math with numbers that aren't divisible by 5; we all know how inconvenient that it. Next is that you have to figure out how many 20s are in 1 hour. Easy if you're sitting all calm and jolly in your home, but not easy if you've just taken an awkward turn towards a parking garage and positioned your car in a very odd 70 degree angle in the middle of a lane. During this time packs of pedestrians are mindlessly rubbing up against your front bumper and a whole train of cars behind you are honking up a storm because you can't get out of the way fast enough.

To make matters worse, there are hidden one-way streets all over the place and many peeps in mini-delivery trucks or buses are blocking off various lanes on either side of the street depending on if its one-way or not. If you don't know which street to turn on you can either become stuck behind a bus for a few minutes or you'll miss your turn completely because there's no friggin' way to get back into a lane after you exit. You need like one whole block to strategically plan for any lane change or risk getting rear-ended or sideswiped. Even the GPS can't help you on the micro-block level. Yeah driving in a big city sucks ass.

Pacific Rim (Sci-Fi Action 2013)

So this movie wasn't really all that bad for what one could expect. For one reason or another the fight scenes in this movie were actually better than the thousands of scenes that Man of Steel had. I think it's because of the realistic physics and attention to detail vs just quantity.

As one may guess, don't expect too much of a story or great acting or nothin' like that because you won't find any of that here. You have a simple premise with a few actors doing their thing to move the story long so that you can get to the monster-robot fighting. I personally would've liked more guns and blade weapons vs just brawling but I'll take what I can get.

Overall if you know what you should be expecting then all is good. If not then I have no idea what you think this movie can be about because the trailer says it all.
Rating - B

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Knife of Dunwall: Dishonored DLC (FPS PC Game 2013)

So this was the first major playable DLC for Dishonored. There was another DLC released before this but it was more of a competitive addition and didn't have a real story like this one.

The plot of this DLC followed around one of the main baddies from the main game so it was interesting to play for the other side. I'd even wager to say that the magical powers of these Assassins were more powerful and useful than that of the primary Dishonored character. Either way, gameplay was the same, there were a few new enemies, and yeah it was a very short addition. It was worth a few bucks, but anything more would've been robbery.
Rating - Mid

Dishonored (FPS PC Game 2012)

So this game was a mix of Thief and Half-Life 2. Thief was an old school FPS where stealth was a large part of its gameplay and HL2 was what this game felt like it was built on engine-wise. Not sure if it really used the same engine but combat totally felt similar as the mobs were blocky and moved in weirdly-animated ways.

The game was kinda blah to be honest. I liked some parts of the stealth kills and magic, but the straight-on combat felt funny. The story was interestingish, but it seemed a bit too short and all of the "missions" were pretty much the same thing over and over again except in different locations. I didn't feel like there was a purpose in me being in one setting vs. another.

I got it during the Steam Summer sale so for around $10 not bad, just not great either. I cleared the game in a few days of casual playing so not a lot for longevity. Either way it was OK just not that impressive.
Rating - Mid

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse) by James S.A. Corey (Book 2011)

So this book was touted as being a space opera, but in my world I wouldn't define it as such. It was more of a philosophical analysis between the dichotomous nature of rational decisions. As such, the story was split between two main characters whose stories eventually merged. One guy was an officer on a trade ship and the other was a detective working for a security firm. The details that pushed the underlying plot along, revolved around the differing personalities of these two characters. One guy was a rule-based idealist while the other was a narrow-focused realist. Their conflict showed how the power of information can lead to wide-ranging results depending on the audience and the amount of facts.

From the writing perspective, the book was great in both style and structure. It's quite amazing when you compare this book to, let's say, a random zombie book where the author is some scrub who can barely put together a sentence.

Even though the writing was good and the story was OK, I was really looking forward to a space opera that had a lot more military space ships, battles, drama, and purpose. This book was bit more more micro in its content and I guess I'll admit that I didn't like the characters much. I will not be continuing on with this series, but it's more because this book wasn't my cup of tea and not because of the quality of the work.
Rating - Mid

Monday, August 05, 2013

Despicable Me 2 (Animated Family Comedy 2013)

Pretty plain and simple movie here. That's one positive thing about kid flicks; you don't have to use your brain and think one bit. Surprisingly I had a few good laughs...those yellow minion peeps were pretty funny in this film. So yeah overall it's exactly what you'd expect from a movie in this genre, but not supper cheesy childish thankfully.
Rating - B

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Wolverine (Action 2013)

So this movie was much better than the Origins one, so that’s something we can get out of the way promptly. This one was pretty much all based in Japan which was cool. It’s always nice to see different scenery in a film. Action was good, but no blood or arms flying off and such which is what would realistically happen since it’s Wolverine we’re talking about, but oh well.

There were 2 primary chicks in the movie: Rila Fukushima, who has been in other movies I’ve seen, and whom I could barely understand, but the second chick, Tao Okamoto had excellent English-speaking skills and was quite good for a relatively unknown actress. She did a great job supporting Hugh Jackman while he did his regular Wolverine routine. The story was OK but it wasn't as good as X-Men: First Class. The ending was a letdown as it wasn't as cool as I thought it could’ve been but again...at least it wasn't another Origins.
Rating - B

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cibola (Dane Maddock Adventures) by David Wood (Book 2009)

This was another good adventure story with Dane Maddock as the main character. The history part was cool in the beginning but the ending was much too far-fetched to even be remotely believable; that kinda ruined it for me.

I still like the series and the characters even though they seem to be unstoppable machines. For these types of books, it's all about the historical background premise and plot, but you have to keep all that in check or else it gets out of control like it did in this book.
Rating - Mid

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Island 731 By Jeremy Robinson (Book 2013)

This was a pretty good adventure book. It followed around a group of scientists after they became marooned on an island that had some pretty interesting secrets. Essentially they discovered that the island was occupied by different types of animals that were combinations of various spliced species. As the plot went on, this led to more discoveries of human biological experimentation and also weird gene/embryo stuff. So you can imagine what you get when you mix all that together in a thriller/horror type of story.

The plot, pacing, and characters were all well developed. None of the characters were too annoying and there were enough twists to keep you guessing. This was a blind buy through Amazon and I'm glad it turned out to be a good read.
Rating - High

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Valkyrie Rising (Warrior's Wings) By Evan Currie (Book 2011)

Pretty good continuation of the story from the first book. The main character does her thing back on Earth and then gets reinserted back onto the main planet from the first book with a new squad. Equal amounts of space and ground action with the same writing style. The ending left a natural progression onto the next book. I'll be continuing on with this Sci Fi adventure so it must be good.
Rating - High

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Europa Report (Sci-Fi Drama 2013)

This movie reminded me of Moon in that it was low budget but it had a very specific feel and theme to it. The theme for this one is related to how much one would sacrifice in the name of science and exploration.

What we have is a group of astronauts that are sent to a moon of Jupiter to try to land and take samples. They run into problems and some peeps die. Most of them die because they tried to push the envelope just a bit more. Some occurrences were justified but others were kinda dumb...but it goes to show the level of risk people will put themselves in. I think realistically most people would play it safe in space since taking one misstep will probably be your last because space is a vacuum and you only have so much Oxygen available.

I liked the ending because it had to do with an endgame decision related to the greater good.
Rating - B

Saturday, July 13, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Action 2013)

This was another predictable movie to the series. Action was OK, shooting scenes were OK, and everything else in between was as average as it gets. This all means that I'll forget ever seeing it, just like I forgot watching the original. I guess it all depends on your movie-watching mood for the day.
Rating - C

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fast & Furious 6 (Action 2013)

So this latest addition to the series was 100% just like all the rest of 'em. I think I found these types of racing movies more entertaining back in 2001 when the first one came out, but since then they've gotten much more silly and blah.

Storywise and all it was decent for an action flick. I've seen much worse in my day, but yeah the overall theme of these types of movies aren't at all original and quite repetitive. I think this is yet another long-running series that I'll stop watching all together.
Rating - C

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen (Action 2013)

So this movie was a fun-filled action flick. It's totally worth it to just watch the White House incursion section if nothing more. Nutty assault. Yeah the story was lite as well as plot, but it made enough sense to keep everything moving forward. Some of the dialog was quite stupid...on more than one occasion no less so that was annoying, but again it was a mindless action film. I liked it for what it was.
Rating - B

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Lone Ranger (Action Adventure 2013)

Yeah this movie was just like Pirates in terms of having a fast plot and lots of special effects and action. This pretty much says that it wasn't very good at all. Depp was OK as per usual but the Lone Ranger's character was an annoying little bitch.

I didn't like it, straight up. The initial story to get the plot going was blah and then the whole latter half was just tons of explosions, gunfights, and action. As a Disney film, this is totally made for little kids around the age of 13. I can't say that I enjoy these movies anymore...just too silly.
Rating - C

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (Book 2012)

So I usually don't read any sort of non-fiction just because they usually aren't entertaining enough, but this book has definitely changed my mind about that. This was a memoir of sorts where the author shares details of her childhood living in a po-dunk town in Texas and having a rather interesting set of life adventures. I thought it was hilarious as the book had me cracking up quite a bit and some parts almost had me pissing myself, no joke.

I mostly liked the dialog between the author and her husband. If their conversations really went the way they do in the book, these people would be great friends to have, even for the opportunity to bare witness to the shenanigans that comes from the bantering. Since the author is only a few years older than I am, I understood all of her references to the 80s as well. Funny how anything from books to movies can win super points with me if they pull off a successful pointer.

As someone's life story goes, it was quite good. It went into the author's personal business, how everyone has their own personality and faults, and how they get through all that jazz. Sorta like the game of Life without the cardboard. Overall it was a very enjoyable read and will have you rollin' assuming you have a prime sense of humor compatible with cursing, sarcasm, and debates about the undead.
Rating - High

Sunday, June 30, 2013

2010 Toyota Prius IV

So how does it feel to own and drive a hybrid? It's an interesting change but quirky at the same time. For this purchase again we had to go to Utah since Cali car dealers are not too friendly towards out of state buyers when those buyers aren't going to pay CA sales tax for said car. Utah has always been cool with allowing me to drive away without paying sales tax. Additionally I got a sick-ass price on a Prius IV when I was hunting around for only a Prius III. Goes to show that if you shop around enough and are willing to fly out to pick up a car, good deals can be had.

So back to the car. Well first thing's first: we're averaging 49.8 MPG with mostly city but sometimes mixed driving. That's insane. In the old Fitmobile we were only able to get it up to 40 MPG once on pure highway driving that was flat and straight. So yeah the MPG stuff for this hybrid is quite legit.

The car has 3 different driving settings: Eco, Normal, and Power. Eco mode causes the car to have a much reduced throttle response in that you have to press your foot down further to get the car to move. Normal is normal I guess, and Power-mode will engage the gas engine very frequently to get the most power from both the gas and electric engines. There's an EV mode, but it can only be engaged under specific conditions. I've discovered that if you drive like a turtle in Eco mode, this is essentially the same thing as being in EV mode without the button.

I've also noticed that I'll get a 2-3 MPG increase if I drive in Eco mode vs Normal mode so I usually just leave it in Eco. I really haven't noticed a downside from driving in Eco mode other than needing to get used to the throttle response. All the power from both engines are still available, you just have to press the accelerator down further or faster.

Handling is pretty crappy as you feel like you're driving a boat. Same goes with the seats. Even though the Prius IV we got has leather seats, they are not bolstered or shaped correctly so you tend to slide all over the place because you feel like you're sitting "on" the seat rather than sitting "in" the seat if that makes any sense at all. The quality of the interior leather, plastic, and trim = regular Toyota quality which I would put on the same level as Subaru but better than Honda.

For the steering wheel controls they are sorta futuristic since you can gently press down on a button and the HUD display will change to show that you are pressing a specific key. It's sorta like a digital camera in that there are 2 finger-pressure settings for focus and to actually take a picture.

I thought that I would like this feature, but after using it for half-a-year, I think that I enjoy having a more positive, tactile feel that only comes from a real plastic button or switch. This newfangled rubber stuff doesn't cut it. Additionally, while driving I really don't have time to look at the color changes on the HUD to verify that I'm pressing the correct button if needed.

The right-side steering wheel buttons control the HVAC system in a really crappy way. The center button changes the system from internal to external circulation. How often does a normal person even make this change? How about 5 times a year maybe. The other two other buttons control the temperature. I'll add in as an aside that automatic climate control sucks ass. I really want to know who really uses this feature because on all 3 cars I've owned that have had this, no manufacturer has implemented it correctly.

Ideally in a manual-control mode, the two buttons for temperature should be for fan speed up and down, and the circulation button should be replaced with the AC on/off switch. That would be the optimal setup for the right-side steering wheel controls.

The heated seats in this car aren't that good and their placement is awkward. They heat up but then turn off themselves off and then will later heat up again. I don't know if this is an energy-saving feature or something, but it feels odd and inconsistent.

The headlights on the Prius are quite dim at night time and I don't think it's because I've been spoiled with the Xenons from the Infiniti. It totally feels like they give out the same lumens as an amber streetlight in a bad part of town.

The hands-free Bluetooth in this car is very quirky and stupid. You have to push a button and say a ladder-list of commands to make a simple phone call. It should be as easy as: push button, say "call x" , and it dials. But in this car there are at least two additional steps in the middle in order to make a call. The logic is stupid. Additionally the Bluetooth version is not high enough where you can stream music from your phone. Supposedly the Bluetooth version that comes with the Nav package is able to do this. My bad...should've done a bit more research.

The rearview in the car isn't that bad, although it does have a weird 2-tier thing going on since the hatch is so slanted. The rear windshield wiper is pretty worthless when it actually rains since it can only clear off maybe 20% of the rain from the rear because of the curvature of the window.

The rear hatch goes up way too high and hits my garage door which is annoying as well. This should be adjustable. The rest of the rear trunk space is normal and useful. One successful Ikea trip with a small bed completed.

The doors have a very flimsy feel when they are shut; probably worse than the Fit. Not sure if this is because of the material or design. But one cool thing is how the keyless entry works. All you have to do is have the keys in your pocket and then you just need to put your hand in between the handle and the door and it'll auto-unlock. No button to push or nothin'; that's pretty slick.

In terms of maintenance, I've changed the CVT fluid on this car as well as the oil and both air and cabin filters. After all this, I have three complaints. The first is that there's this wretched plastic engine splash shield that uses these plastic nubbies instead of bolts. This makes the prep work time prior to doing a task go up quite a bit because taking the nubbies off suck. They also break quite often so I had to order a bunch of extra ones off of Ebay. The item numbers are: 90467-07201 and 90467-09227 if anyone is interested. It would be OK if the shield was of good quality but it's not. There's also an engine oil flap in the middle of the shield that is partially broken on my car because of crappy quality and design, so yeah I'm annoyed.

The second thing is that the oil filter is one of those actual filters instead of a disposable one that is all encased. This means that you have to take off a plastic housing and then remove the old filter and replace it with a new O-Ring and filter. It would've been much easier and cleaner to just use a normal, fully-encased oil filter.

Third thing is that the Prius does NOT utilize a regular 65mm filter wrench. It uses a freak 64mm one with 14 pleats. And this of course is an OEM Toyota/Lexus custom part, so I would recommend buying it off of Amazon prior to doing an oil change. I found this out the hard way and wasted time going to Napa, Autozone, and Oreillys before giving up and going to the dealership to pay full price. Fuckers...

Yeah I also ran across a video on how to replace the spark plugs in this car and it's a bitch. You have to take apart the windshield wiper assembly and a bunch of long plastic pieces to get to where the spark plugs are...annoying as fuck. Good thing is that I won't have to mess with this until 100K or so but still...I'll definitely be paying someone to do that job. Why can't they design a car that can be easily worked on?

One super annoying thing was that whenever you put the car in reverse it would make this beeping sound that was constant and very loud. It was oh so annoying and many people online complained about it. I was able to get rid of it by buying this OBD2 Bluetooth Module off of Amazon and connecting it to my phone and DLing an app to send it codes. I followed the instructions found on this site. Lots of trouble for having something so unnecessary built into the function of a car.

The regenerative braking is cool from the technical perspective as it takes kinetic energy and turns it into back into stored electricity. The brakes themselves have a disconnected feel to them as it isn't using the actual hydraulic brakes until the brake pedal is pressed down harder or after the car has slowed down considerably. Honestly I don't know when the real brakes kick in but you can kinda feel it when they do. The fact that the gas engine shuts off when the car is stopped gets me every time as well. Love that shit.

So in a nutshell in terms of driving, what I noticed is that if you drive the car like a regular car, you'll get high 40s MPG, but if you drive it like it's an "energy-savings/efficiency" game, you can make it past 55 MPG easy. This is maybe why some of those Prius drivers out there suck so bad because the're are doing this. I only play the game of "putt putt home at 30-35 MPH" when nobody is behind me. There's something very satisfying about cruising along with only the electric motor humming.

So yeah the car is excellent for what it is, a commuter-mobile. The only amenity in this car that is worthwhile is the Homelink garage door opener since everything else "cool" is really only a letdown like the quality of leather, heated seats, and Bluetooth.

If you drive it and remember that it's only a method of getting from point A to B and you're OK with the price, then all is good. But most people will certainly not "care" about this car as if it were something special because it doesn't feel special. It only feels efficient and slightly futuristic. Yeah I always find it interesting to go back and forth between the Prius and the Infiniti. It's such a night/day difference between an econo-box and a performance sedan. Guess which one I'll vote to drive every time my wallet (cost of gas) isn't involved...

Update: 7/7/2013

  • On the bottom of the car, you know how I mentioned that there was a splash guard shield for the engine? Well when I went to perform the oil change I noticed that the oil change flap was ripping since it's all very thin plastic for the pivot line. Well the day after the oil change was completed, the pivot side of the flap ripped off and was scraping against road. I had to jack it back up and remove the plastic pins that were keeping the opposite side still up, thus removing the whole flap. Stupid design. I guess in hindsight I should've just removed the whole shield instead of using the flap but WTF is the flap for if you can't use it? Yeah I looked it up on the forums and it's a common occurrence where it's hit or miss for Toyota will replace it or not. Since they already gave me a hard time when I tried to get them to pay for some other bottom plastics replacements, I doubt they'll be accommodating. So yeah, bad design and crappier service.
  • This weekend I drove the Prius long distance for many-a-hours with 5 adults in the car and a trunk full of luggage and groceries. My MPG went down to 43.3 from my normal 49 MPG for the trip. Acceleration was significantly slower and used a bunch more from the gas engine. I also had to re-calibrate my own stopping distance for deceleration. Still not bad MPG for a loaded car, but food for thought.

Update: 4/17/2015 - AC Foul Smell Removal

Update: 6/25/2017

  • So since moving down to 114 degree weather, I have discovered one more thing about Prius and probably with hybrid cars in general. The system really doesn't like the heat. When it's super hot and the Prius has been sitting there, the engine doesn't turn off and the hybrid system doesn't kick in. This is a very noticeable thing since the hybrid engine is usually the primary and the ICE engine is only a helper when needed, but yeah something about the heat disconnects the system for a long while. When you get is a very underpowered ride. The ICE engine strains to accelerate and keep up with traffic and the engine noise is super groaning. It's weird that the hybrid engine is totally nowhere to be found as opposed to just working less... I'm going to guess this happens to other hybrid cars as well. MPG plummets to around 36-38 MPG when driving in this mode. This is down from the average 43 MPG which is the de-facto average now that the car is 7-sum years old.