Saturday, December 01, 2018

2018 BMW 330e

This review is a long time coming, but I think I've gathered up all the data needed to make an accurate evaluation. This BMW is a 330e which means it's a plug-in hybrid 3-series. It has the same body as a regular 3-series, smaller gas tank, smallish battery, can be charged at home, and can be driven in several modes: hybrid charging, hybrid not-charging, and pure-electric. If the middle one seems weird, I know, I shall explain later. I got this car because I still seem to be confused at what I really want out of a car. First world problems, right? Too bad I can't be like Homer in that Simpsons episode and design something front scratch because only then could I make a badass car that everyone like me would enjoy :-)

I didn't really want another BMW in the fleet, but since we were looking for leases and experimenting on the whole concept, this brand stuck out because what else would you really lease? I very much missed having a hybrid powertrain after being in the Lexus, so was the next logical step considering the current range of pure-electric cars. The pure-electrics are still not there with their total battery sizes, but I'm sure that will change in the next 2-3 years, right when my lease will end.

So the car does get a combined 75MPG. No joke. This number only goes up IF you are able to charge it wherever you are and get free electricity. Unfortunately the US doesn't have a robust infrastructure so I've discovered how inconvenient it is to find a charger while out and about. Good thing is that I have a L2 at home so I can at least leave the house with enough juice every day. Eventually, when every Target, mall, or movie theater has a charger, things will be much different.

My home electricity bill has gone up around $20-30 per month, so although it's saving money by using electricity vs needing to go to the pump, we're not talking about thousands of dollars per year.

I have discovered that charging in public is totally hit/miss. Sometimes you get ICEd which means some regular car is parked in the designated electric parking place, sometimes another electric car is using the plug, or some hybrid driver thinks he's special and screws you over. Again, it's very frustrating when all you want is to take advantage of the free electricity and you get hosed. I know that some chargers out there are not free and fuck a bunch of that. For plug-in hybrid drivers, it's not worth the time to charge for a price since you go through the electricity in the battery super fast, but for pure-electric drivers I think they wouldn't have much of a choice depending how far they are from home.

The max speed that you can go in pure-electric mode is 80MPH. And if you're in one of the other hybrid modes and want to switch to pure-electric, you have to be under 75MPH or else the car won't let you switch. Driving fast on the freeway totally drains the battery faster than if you were just tooling around residential streets. I always wondered how the freeway-calculation would go, but all I know is that it's a lot. Your battery will plummet.

So the experience of driving this car is interesting. If you're in pure electric mode, off the line you're pretty quick, but you lose torque fairly quickly as well. Essentially the faster you go, the slower your rate of acceleration. This means that if you floor it at 60, you're fucked, and will notice the lack of acceleration. I would NOT recommend driving in pure electric if you are anticipating needing to accelerate, i.e. merging onto the freeway or passing. I did this the first day out and almost got whacked by the guys coming up from behind...super embarrassing. I don't know how pure-electric cars behave regarding their rate of acceleration, but I hope it's better than how this car is designed.

If you're in auto-mode, the car behaves like a swift hybrid car. It switches to electric when it can and then uses gas when it needs to. One thing to realize is that the car will never charge back up, minus regenerative breaking, which is nothing when you compare it to what the battery can hold.

The third driving mode is called "Save" which is a weird one. This means that it uses gas, but it does allow for the main battery to be charged all the way up to 91%. The car also shuts off at a stoplight.

So what does this all mean? It's weird depending on what type of driver you are. If you don't care about efficiency and MPG you can just drive in Auto mode and charge up or gas up whenever you want. If you're like me and enjoy playing the game, you will toggle from pure-electric whenever you're driving under 75MPH and then switch to Save mode whenever you're on the freeway to charge the battery back up. Essentially any time the car wants to use the gas you need to manually change it to Save mode. BMW designers should've made it so that anytime the gas turned on, the battery would charge. It makes no sense why they didn't do that. At first I thought that there may have been a secondary generator that is activated during Save vs Auto mode which would thus affect the performance of the car, but I haven't noticed any different whatsoever, which means that there is no downside from driving in Save vs Auto.

One big negative is the range of the car. On a full tank and full charge you're only going to get around 300 miles. I'm not sure how much more you can eek out if driving like I do on the freeway, but I haven't driven long distances yet.

Another negative is this whole leasing thing. Leasing, I thought, would just be renting the car for a certain period of time and for x number of miles per year. Although this is basically the case, I didn't know that if you get any sort of scratch or dent over x inches, you'll get heavily charged for the section repair. WTF, to me that's wear & tear. Not sure if this is a BMW thing or for all leases but that's just bullshit. On top of this, the tires have to have x amount of tread left. So for these expensive-ass RFT, that's no bueno. Anyway though, those things are merely annoyances that I'll have to deal with but they are manageable. I think the worst part is that you're straight-up trapped with the lease until it's done or if you want to jump through a bunch of hoops to swap-a-lease. For me I'm not comfortable with it long-term. Next time around I'll just stick with financing or buying outright.

Pros

  • In Auto mode the car is both quiet and fast. Very smooth, performing ride.
  • Having the option of charging when available is nice to have, especially when you're at home.
  • Being able to make short trips on pure-electric in a great novelty; it's like driving for free even though it isn't. Being able to charge at work is free :-) (Assuming the chargers work and none of your other 7 co-workers with plug-in cars aren't claiming the damn last 2 chargers that do work)
Cons

  • The limited range with the smaller gas tank sucks.
  • Unpredictable activity of other drivers at charging stations (Can't necessarily blame on the car though.
  • Cost. The car retail was super expensive...I think we got a reasonable monthly leasing rate but the car is totally overpriced.
  • Rate of charge. This is dependent on the charger that is built-into the car itself. Mine is the slower one 3.7kW which can charge a smaller battery up in 2 hours or so, but if I had a better charger, like what the BMW i3 has (7kW), it would only take half the time.

In the end would I recommend this car or any plug-in hybrid for that matter? No, and for similar reasons. When you own the car all you wish for is to have a bigger battery so that it can run for longer in battery mode. And when you're trying to switch between modes to get the most out of your battery and two engines, all you want is a hybrid so that you don't need to think about it and just drive. I don't know if the Prius Prime (another plug-in hybrid) behaves the same way, but yeah on this BMW it's annoying for a tinkerer like myself. I could only imagine what it would be like for a real BMW driver...they wouldn't put up with that shit. This further supports the reason why these cars don't sell too well. I've only seen 1 other 3-series and 1 other 5-series plug-in hybrids in the wild and I drive past many BMWs on a daily basis. My advice to anyone interested would be to calculate where the furthest point you may travel in a day is, then multiple it by 2, then add a buffer of 20 miles. If you can find an electric car for under this calculated number then go for it. If you can't just get a hybrid. But I don't see plug-in hybrids sticking around for the long haul; they just seem to be more of a hassle and you really start asking yourself if the $$ is worth it vs the simple ownership of a simple hybrid car.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Alpha (Drama 2018)

So this movie reminded me of those specials that they used to have on the Discovery channel. If you cut out Morgan Freeman's narration, you pretty much get Alpha.

The story in this one existed, but it was weak and undeveloped. With the right director and screenplay it could've been a lot deeper, but they only kept on top of the very superficial relationship stuff with the Wolf/Dog. And I use this slash term this because if you look on the Internet for real sizes of wolves...holy shit their heads are gigantic. This movie didn't even try for some CG...it was a damn husky and everyone knew it. They should've had a scene where the main guy tries to train the husky to shake or roll over. Man I've been through that and I was still not successful after a few hundred attempts.

Anyway, the movie was blah, but it wasn't terrible either.
Rating - C

Deadpool 2 (Action 2018)

Man, I don't understand how this movie can get rated so high? I blame it on this newfangled generation that thinks life is all about creating crafty lines and swift comebacks.

The first Deadpool was better since that actually had a story. This movie felt like a bunch of random "scenes" sewed together to hopefully get some laughs. Like seriously there wasn't a story and all the "new characters" didn't make it; and I'm talking super fast...faster than Snoke if you catch the hint.

I did laugh a few times, but overall I knew I was sitting through some real genuine crap; evidently from the ratings I am not part of the majority.
Rating - D

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Outlaw King (Drama 2018)

Talk about marketing man... If you were anywhere near www.usatoday.com this week you would've run into a billion sum advertisements for this Netflix movie. It worked though; when I saw the picture for the movie I ended up clicking and seeing what the advertisements were all about.

The movie wasn't half bad but it was too fast and started scene jumping towards the end. I guess you can't really compare it to Braveheart and how long the story was in that, but there are times when a film just needs to marinate some more vs having a plot race through.

So yeah it was a good watch and all, but the end happened too suddenly and it didn't feel quite right.
Rating - C

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Beirut (Crime Drama 2018)

It's funny whenever I see Rosamund Pike in a movie, I can only remember her from the movie Gone Girl where she played that nutter of a wife lol. Good movie that one.

So this one was a crime spy drama based in the 70s. They sure have the fashion dress and sideburns down to a tee. Fairly fast moving film and decent plot. It's highly forgettable though, so I will not be remembering anything about the movie, but still OK.
Rating - B

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ocean's Eight (Crime Comedy 2018)

This one was a pretty good movie for what it was. Very similar to Ocean's Eleven with regards to pace and twists. It's a fun movie that should be watched on a plane or on some relaxing Saturday evening. Besides the all-female cast it was no different from the status quo, but still enjoyable.
Rating - B

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Action 2018)

Yeah it probably doesn't take a lot of thinking to know that this movie wasn't going to be too good. Trailers made it seem like a short money-grab and unfortunately that's what it was.

I remember the third Jurassic Park being the worst and even thought that may still be the case, this one is definitely a close second. It was a rush job that felt like a straight to DVD type of film. The story and events were silly and laughable, the characters besides the primaries were cardboard cutouts, and yeah it didn't feel like a real summer blockbuster at all. Boo on a waste of money.
Rating - D

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Meg (Action 2018)

So yeah one shouldn't expect too much from this film, but I guess it was entertaining in a B sorta way. The story wasn't all that bad. It kinda made sense but I'm not an oceanographer or scientist by any stretch.

The shark scenes were good in the beginning and then it became more of a mess towards the end. All of the Chinese scenes were so weird and artificial. I'm talking the dialog, the extras, and all the weird stuff...it really felt out of place and you know why? Because a bunch of it was funded by a foreign production company and it seemed like they totally injected scenes and people into the script as an afterthought. So it's cool that these peeps were able to make a shark movie, but forcing the audience to try to read subtitles for people they don't give a shit about it just awkward.

Statham seemed like he was having fun earning another paycheck, but yeah this movie was not something to be taken too seriously. Just think of a really bad Jurassic Park film except with random Chinese people here and there with bad accents. One thing I did like was the abrupt scene changes where people will be trying to escape from the shark one second and the very next they are happily jumping in the water to become bait or sit in a see-through shark cage. Friggin' funny.
Rating - C

Monday, September 03, 2018

Hostiles (Drama 2017)

Ever since I was a kid, I've always had a thing for slow western movies. Not sure why since I don't like horses; they equal rashes. I don't like being outdoors either, since insects reside there. And I don't like camping since it gets cold at night. But I have no problem watching these westerns films. This movie is one of them.

Like with most, this one had very good character development. It gave you hints at what occurred in the past, but it was the slow-telling of Batman's character that gave the film its charm. I wasn't perfect, but I know what the writer and director were aiming for when they made this movie, and it was still good stuff.
Rating - B

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians (Romantic Comedy 2018)

So it seems like this has quickly become the third Team Yellow movie that has come along during my lifetime. First was The Last Emperor, second was The Joy Luck Club, and now this. I'm oddly a big fan of rom-coms, so it wasn't a problem at all getting me to watch this. The US equation for romantic comedies hasn't changed much over the years, so I'm used to most twists and turns that are created, artificial or not.

This movie was different because it injected a bunch of random cultural stuff regarding 'filiality' that you would honestly have to be an ABC to fully understand.

I'll be quick and say that the movie was pretty good. It was over the top with some of the "rich" scenes, but they were quick and fleeting so it didn't overstay its welcome. The main plot flowed quickly and it got to the point with regards to the cultural nuances that appear within Chinese families. I do have to say that real Chinese immigrant families and their odd cultural stuff has 20x more BS and wacky shit that happens in real life, but I think showing more than 1 topic would alienate any semblance of a Western audience, so they kept it very light.

I liked how they had a bunch of major Asian actors and some newcomers as well; it's a good mix. I the film makes a ton of money to show that there is indeed a separate demographic that can be profitable. The media is is currently eating this movie up, but its worth the hype if you like rom-coms.
Rating - A

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

Us and Them (Drama 2018)

So this was a Chinese film that was released on Netflix a few months back. I got to say though...it was a very well-made film. Usually I can't say this about Chinese movies since they are generally not well put together, but I do think the acting was strong in this movie along with the story. I was personally surprised, but thumbs up for a good romantic yet dramatic film.
Rating - A

Tomb Raider (Action 2018)

For an action flick this one wasn't very good at all. The beginning of the film was all over the place and then the middle was just fluff until you got to the island. It didn't even feel like a crappy video game movie; it was much worse. They could've done so much more with the characters and pedigree, but instead you got shit. I still don't know if Vikander can really act or not. The last movie I saw her in, she was a robot.
Rating - D

Red Sparrow (Drama 2018)

So this movie was just average. It had some interesting scenes to build up the plot, but overall it was slow and not super impressive. The ending was nice but I still don't totally get it. All this espionage makes me think too much. The main thing that gets me is that if these intelligence peeps know who is a spy and not, why don't they have a ton more surveillance on them? This goes for both sides. I read somewhere that anyone working at an embassy in another country is pretty much a spy. Sure, some are actually government workers who do administrative stuff, but everyone else is there to gather intelligence.

Anyhoo, Lawrence did a good, convincing acting job. Kudos to acting, but not to the writing.
Rating - C


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Southwest Flight Cancellation and Points

I'm not one who makes it a habit of changing flights all too often, but since my decisions are rarely my own anymore, I sometimes get shoved towards opposing directions.

Fast forward to my Eureka for the week. I went to change a flight which I had purchased with points, but I had to pay cash money for the difference in the ticket price. It was only around $20 so no biggie since I had bought the original ticket a few weeks back, but that sorta annoyed me because I couldn't use points for the change. For the second flight, which I had also purchased with points, I performed a cancellation to see what would happen. So the result was pretty cool.

You'll immediately get credited back all of the points from the flight and the $11 and some change which was the tax will get applied to your rapid rewards number as a credit. I then rebooked the flight I wanted (which only had a minor time change) and everything zeroed out. The same number of points were taken away and the tax was paid for by the credit. Pretty neat hu? So yeah next time you buy a ticket from Southwest on points and you have to change it...just verify that the ticket/time is still available and then quickly do a cancellation and repurchase. Not sure if you need to be using the Southwest credit card to pull it off or if it's solely based on the points, but I did have a Rapid Rewards card and it totally works.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Annihilation (Sci-Fi Drama 2018)

Yeah I didn't like this movie. The trailer kinda summed it up, but the ending reminded me of some deep ethereal film that occasionally pops up every decade or so. Remember The Fountain? Yeah that's what we're talking about here.

The movie was slow and boring. Nothing really deep other than showing that some of the major characters had issues. The ending was anticlimactic and it further supported the fact that it was a pointless film. It's weird because the writer is the same guy who did Ex Machina and The Beach, both films which were good in their own way...this was trash compared to those. Maybe he is another Shyamalan?

Even if you're a Sci-Fi fan, just skip it. Save your energy for something else.
Rating - D

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ultrawide vs Regular Monitor


It's funny that when you have your mind set on a purchase, you go for it even though you probably have a bunch of reservations about making the correct decision or not. A year a so ago, after the break-in, I got myself a replacement 34" ultrawide screen monitor. It had all the bells and whistles with regards to 144hz, IPS, quick ms response time, large real estate, etc. but after I got it and played around a bit, I knew I was kinda screwed because the box was so damn big and I really didn't like using it.

Ultrawides are kinda a gimmick, at least from my point of view. They are indeed big but you really need to use more energy to look at the 2 extreme sides. I guess for some true multitaskers, it may be great having many apps up, but for me I didn't like it. On top of this, all of the bonus perks had issues. The faster screen made the colors and brightness all sorts of dark and sub-optimal. Whenever you gamed you had to reset many-a-settings so that the monitor would be usable. After all this I really wanted to go back to a smaller-sized monitor.

Luckily this weekend I was able to trade my 34" LG ultrawide for a Dell 144hz monitor with a TN panel. Honestly the panel isn't as bad as the LG one, and I totally dig the size of the 27". Good thing is that now that I've gotten it out of my system, I don't think I'll ever need to go higher than 27". Yes, it would've been great to have gotten a Dell IPS Ultrasharp, but at least I have an option of gaming with this one. Super happy with the change.

So what are some major takeaways? First, remember how large something is vs shipping. This monitor would've cost close to $100 just for the double-boxed shipping since the box itself was so large. Next, try your best to test out a monitor sitting down in a desk environment. This is hard since stores usually have them on display and you can't really get absorbed into it, but if you can and you notice something fishy, run since that same thing will bother you to death. Finally, do your research of the negatives and see if there is a pattern because chances are that you'll have the same problem. I personally am not a lucky guy when it comes to these things.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Downsizing (Comedic Drama 2017)

This was a weird movie. It looked like a regular throwaway film that you'd probably watch on an airplane since it had a plot, but it quickly turned into something that tried to be deeper and have some meaning.

The premise is simple enough...things cost X, but if you make things smaller then items will be cheaper. So building a house is expensive but building a 2X dollhouse to live in would be much cheaper. The bad thing with this idea is that there still needs to be peeps who are large in order to build things smaller so it really doesn't help everyone, just those who are small. Additionally the movie goes into the deeper topics like income discrepancies of the poor vs wealthy and how any society will have those differences.

The whole time I was watching this film I kept on thinking...a housefly would be the size of a small dog. Screw that. How about a spider or something? That would then be a giant spider or snake from D&D....things from the Underdark indeed...no bueno man.

There was some comic relief that came from this Vietnamese lady and her random comments, but all that darkish humor took away from any seriousness that the director may have wanted to have this film convey. I can't recommend it since it was way too inconsistent in its message with too many flaws.
Rating - C

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Sci-Fi Action 2018)

Yeah...although I had a feeling this movie might be bleh from the trailers, it was still Star Wars so I went and saw it just like a good consumer I am. There isn't many ways to sugarcoat it though, this film wasn't all that great. I mean it was based in the SW universe but man was it kinda plain and boring.

The whole movie tried to build itself around the multiple action sequences in different locales and the middle was filled with fluff dialog. Ironically the only cool character was the L3 droid. If they would've built the story around her I think it would've made the whole thing more memorable, sorta like Short Circuit.

So I didn't like the look of the main actor. He seems odd and I know it's hard to carry on after Harrison Ford, but still...don't like his hair and mannerisms. Lando was well acted and Emilia Clarke is a plain Jane actress but yeah...nothing to see here.

Overall it didn't have any real depth to it. Music was blah, plot felt like it was all over the place, and it just wasn't that good. People gotta know that you have to have some connection with the damn audience if you want a movie to be considered decent. This was just an episode of something on TV.
Rating - C

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Intel Skull Canyon NUC

So a few years ago, Intel announced the release of a Skull Canyon. It was a NUC that had a i7 and Iris embedded video graphics. The stats looked better than a regular NUC so I was interested to see how it would perform. When it was first released it cost around $800ish and was super overpriced considering that you still had to buy your RAM and Storage. It has 2 M.2 slots and 2 SODIMM slots FYI.

Fast forward a few years when I managed to get one of these for around $300 so I went to town and got the parts. To sum it up, I dig these smaller systems. It was very small, had a huge power supply, but it had the power of the workable work workstation. For example this NUC was so much faster than my primary box at my last 2 jobs. Crazy cakes considering that those are full-sized desktops that probably cost around the same. Goes to show that it's all about the hardware specs. The only crap thing is that my gaming tests with the Iris graphics weren't all that different from regular Intel integrated chips. It was dramatically faster but you still can't play shit. RPGs were even jerky so it's really not worth it.

Even many years later I am still up in the air between what I should pick as a primary box. My Mini-ITX build with a 1060 was all sorts of good, but I still wasn't satisfied. Then I sold that and got a T470s and even through that laptop is good, I almost never use it in Laptop mode since I really need a bigger screen. I also tried to buy a huge 34" 144hz ultrawidescreen for gaming with the ITX box and I discovered that the screen totally lost brightness when I went to 144hz so that was bullshit. I still don't know if it was because I bought the cheapest ultrawide from LG or if the tech isn't up to par. Either way. Apples to apples of an i7 NUC vs a Laptop CPU i5 it's worlds of difference. I just need to buy a desktop that has a real GPU and CPU and then get a 27" good Dell Ultrasharp monitor and I think I'd be set...for now.

So yeah when they announced the release of the Hades Canyon to superseded this Skull Canyon I sold it off to try to break even which I did...ish. But the Hades has an AMD pseudo-GPU which is better than the Iris but still not as good as a 1060...bah!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Google Wifi


So ever since I moved in my new place, I started having odd issues with the wifi connectivity signal. I did my regular IT tests and yup the damn place was too big and lots of my gadgets weren't getting a good enough connection. I did ponder just getting a bigger, heftier router but the placement of my main cable modem connection wouldn't allow me to really do anything in terms of relocating the primary gear. I started researching options and I first bought and tried an extender using Powerline tech. What this does is use your house's electric plug system to act like a large network cable. Functionally it did work, more-so for the wired aspect of the system, but the whole wifi part, it only assisted a bit in extending the wifi power. Fast forward to my research into mesh networks.

So a Mesh Network is a newer tech that works as you would think. You have these puck devices that you place all around your house and it should bathe your home in wifi goodness by talking to each other and piggybacking the connection throughout. Ideally it would have an Ethernet backbone and you would essentially have what most peeps have at work: A real ethernet backbone with APs (Access points) and a wireless controller. But this is the consumer, non-networking guy's way of getting the same result.

After testing out this system for a few months now, I am happy to report that it does work as intended. 1 SSID, a dummy gigabit switch, lots of wifi, and it plain old works without having to reboot stuff all the time. There's an app to look at some basic stats and make any configs, but it's pretty dummy proof. One's wifi network is something that should be simple and functional. If I want to get more coverage I would just buy more pucks, but for now my 3-puck system works just fine. There are a few more competitors in this market but for now the $250ish price range is the cheapest.

Monday, May 07, 2018

The Foreigner (Crime Action Drama 2017)

Not too bad of a movie from Mr. Jackie. He hasn't been in too many films as of late. Probably getting old which sucks all around. This movie was surprisingly pretty good. It was filmed out in UK so that's always more entertaining than it being in some boring US city.

The story was good and the acting by some of the secondaries really showed how some peeps can truly act. It was an all around good crime drama; perhaps it's a genre I'm slowly gravitating towards.
Rating - B