HP Gets the Last Laugh


Inspiron or VAIO?

or this

Or you could buy a Pavilion

A CNET reviewer does a head to head comparison of budget laptops from Dell and Sony and concludes that he’d rather get the HP Pavillion dv6000 ;p.  I couldn’t agree more from a design appeal perspective.

Here’s the link to follow this reviewer’s journey of HP discovery.




Beowulf 3D Imax Adventure

All poor Grendel wanted was some peace and quiet and when he goes into town to stop the racket, his poor bulbous eyedrums are assaulted with more noise as peasants and soldiers, alike, scream in horror at Grendel’s grotesque appearance.  I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at the irony of the situation.  This movie had a lot more laughs than I expected, which was pleasantly surprising.  But, before I finish this review, let me spin the tale of how we arrived at this happy endpoint.

My quest to go to the “Beowulf:  3D Imax Experience” began on Thursday.  I excitedly called my unenthusiastic husband Thursday morning to explain that the 3D Imax version was playing at the theater one exit south of his work place and that I wanted to go Friday after work.  My husband bluntly told me “no”, explaining that he was starting to feel bad because he has caught a cold from that b****** Tim the X*r*x-guy.  (I hear so many wonderful tales about Tim the B****** X*r*x-guy.   Needless to say, my my outlook for Friday was shattered, compounded by the fun of working from home on Friday to nurse my sick husband.  And so Saturday rolls around and Steve’s back on his feet.  He’s energetic, but snotty, so once, again, I bring up “Beowulf: the 3D IMax Experience” and he relunctantly agreed that we could go.

We arrived 30-mins before the show after eating lunch at the Marie Callender and making the obligatory stop at the Best Buy.  Our tickets were, of course, not available at the electronic kiosk used to pick-up tickets that were ordered on-line, so we went to customer service to get our tickets and pick up our cheesy yellow 3D glasses.  After that we went to find a seat in the theater.   The theater was packed so we made do with seats just off center to the right in the 3rd row.  We sit, and sit some more.  Two guys sit next to us.  They have some “coffee” from the snack bar and they start some inane conversation I don’t remember.  And then over the PA, the anouncer tells us the showing is sold out and that we all need to move to the center (themepark show style) to make room for the late-comers on the ends of the rows.  And then comes the announcement that people sitting on the ends of the rows in the gray colored chairs will not be able to experience the 3D effects, which illicits a very audible moan from the people in the gray seats.  And we sit some more.  Steve finally takes a look at the clock on his cell phone and sees that it’s now 10-mins past when the movie was supposed to start.  A couple of theater workers then enter an announce that they are having technical difficulties with the 3D and it should be fixed any minute now.  Oh, by the way, a warning to the people sitting in the first three rows:  The sound will be very loud and if it’s too loud don’t come out and ask us to turn it down because we can’t.  Uhhh … what?  And so we sit some more.  The dour looking theater guy in the manager get-up starts signing people up for the theater’s rewards card.  They left us sitting in the auditorium for a total of 40-mins after the movie was supposed to start, with the soundtrack from the movie playing over and over again, before they came out to announce that the projector was broken.  They offered us 3 choices:

1.  Stay and watch the movie in Imax 2D and recieve a free pass after the movie

2.   Go across the hall to the other auditorium where the movie is playing in digital 3D but not Imax and recieve a free pass after the movie

3.   or Leave, get a refund and a return pass to see the movie in 3D Imax at some other time

We chose the 3rd option and got tickets for Sunday afternoon.  Exasperated we went home.  I fell asleep at 7PM only to awaken at 2AM with a twinge in my neck.  Oh no, my neck is going to lock up …

And lock up my neck did, in a way I hadn’t experienced for ~15-years.  My neck was so sore I couldn’t hold it upright, so it crooked far to the left to avoid the pain.  I couldn’t turn my head to the right either.  I was a mess.  My husband was overjoyed at the prospect of not returning to the movie theater, but I said, “Oh, no, we are seeing that movie today in spectacular 3D IMAX.”  And back to lunch — salsa is fun when your head is permanently cocked to the left … This time we arrived at the theatre and hour early.  The line was long, but at least we knew we wouldn’t be in the dreaded 3rd row again.  The women in front of us told us that there was 50/50 chance the 3D would be working today and we told her about the sound problem.  She had a child with her and opted to see another movie instead of potentially hurting her child’s hearing.  Meanwhile Steve went to ask customer service about the 3D and the rep told him it was working.  Meanwhile there was a family confused as to which theater they belonged in since they had different 3D glasses than everyone else.  And once again we waited, and sat some more waiting for the movie to start.  5 minutes over time.  10-mins over time.  My gosh won’t these nerdy wannabe screen writers next to me shut-up about the hero’s journey!!!  (My  gosh, what if these are real striking screen writers!!!?) And then the announcement to squeeze to the middle and the bad gray seats came up and then miracle of miracles, the lights dimmed and …………we were subjected to previews.   After the previews the 3D started on the Paramount logo and then what looked like someone peeling plastic off the screen happened and the 3D droppped down to 2D.  And then a few seconds later the same thing happened again, only from the opposite side of the screen and the 3D came back.  This happened a couple of times more in the first few minutes of the movie.  After that, the 3D stuck, but we did notice a few moments when synchonization was lost, resulting in a blurry picture. (Oh and apparently they fixed the sounds, too).

Now back to the review …

This movie, although animated, is not for children.  There is a lot of violence and some equal opportunity simulated nudity that not limited to Angelina Jolie (thank goodness).  The story is fast-paced at the beginning but begins to drag a little at the end.  Nonetheless, this was a very enjoyable movie and over-the-top in many ways.  As for the 3D, it really didn’t impact me as much as I thought it would.  Rather the crispness of the digital print was what left a strong impression on me.  We could see all the little details they but into the character rendering — peach fuzzy facial hair on the women, little nicks and scars on Beowulf and the warriors, and liver spots on the old men.  The animation looked really good, but the eyes still are too perfect to be believeable.

If you like action and adventure and don’t mind a little of gore, then I highly recommend this movie.  As for the 3D, it’s interesting as a novelty, but not necessary.  What is necessary is to see this either in a very good digital theater or in one of those theaters that offers it with the 35-mm print.  In the case of IMAX (and the theater in Carlsbad CA) with no 3D, it should be a 70-mm print for even better resolution.

Thanksgiving for "Mass Effect" Weekend

Thank-you Bioware for giving us a wonderful video game to play over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  Yes, “Mass Effect” is indeed wonderful and I managed to play for ~30-hours over the 4-day holiday.  My husband only played ~20-hours.  It seems that he likes to watch me play the game (???).

Anyhow, “Mass Effect” is set ~150-years in the future when humanity has joined a galatic federation.  There’s some political machinations going on as the humans make the push to be a part of the ruling council.  I chose to play a female “Sentinel” — a character with both combat “magic” and healing capabilities and no weapons specialization possibilities outside of pistols.  I choose the street orphan personal background and the “ruthless” temperment.  So far these details have not played a major role in the story, other than a “renegade” tendency early in the game — although that could be more linked to my choices as I played.

This game is a combination RPG (role playing game) and First Person Shooter.  I’m not very good at first person shooters, which drove my decision to be a sentinel so can play to my strengths.  My other characters have beefed up weapons skills.  Since they are computer controlled, they have “absolute” aim and the amount of damage they do comes from the probability algorithm within the game engine.  I combined this with beefed up armour and natural defense to create a strategy that has worked very well so far while in combat.

Like past Bioware games that I have enjoyed, like the Icewindale and Baldur’s series, this game is heavily story driven.  The cut scenes are like little movies and the talking to the NPC (Non-player Characters) is fun, rather than a chore.  The most impactful part of this game was constructing the face of my character and watching her “come to life.”  The game has a face building systems that is much like “The Sims 2” and then a facial expression algorithm is applied to animate character (with the exception of the eyes — gotta work on the eyes).  When the character was first shown it was quite an amazing reveal.

I will share some screen shots later, including a couple that reveal why the game was really banned in SPG :).


So You Want to Buy Some Manga

So you want to buy manga for either yourself or as a present for the winter holidays.  First of all let me say, if you know nothing about manga and arbitrarily order something over the Internet or purchase a book in the bookstore without flipping through the pages first, you could be in for a nasty surprise. There is a lot of violent, sexual, weird, and close to illegal content out there lurking under innocuous covers.  So here are some hints to steer clear “mature manga” or to identify it, if that is what you are looking for:

  1. “Hentai”  =  xxx-rated content
  2. Manga has a rating system similar to movies and video games.  This rating is usually displayed on the back of the book near the ISBN and UPC code block.  Respect this rating system because it, in my opinion, is fairly accurate.
  3. If the manga is wrapped in plastic, then it probably contains nudity and/or gory violence
  4. Some of the manga rated 13+ can be racy and/or include matters that may be morally or religiously challenging (homosexuality, incest, age inappropriate relationships, pre-marital sex, anti-Christian themes, and supernatural themes) so review the manga and make sure you are comfortable with it before gifting it to anyone under 18.

Yes, manga in the wrong hands can be downright terrifying, but there are plenty of wonderful series and one off books out there for every taste.  Here are some of my favorites:

Shoujo — manga for girls.  These manga are usually romantic in mature and focus on the relationships between people.  They can either be comedies or dramas or somewhere in between.

  • “Fruits Basket” is the #1 manga title in the US.  It starts off well and ends well, but drags in the middle.  This is a good one for the over 13 set.
  • “His and Her Circumstances” or “Kare Kano” — this is a high school romance that centers around the lives of the top two students in a high school.  This manga is a very beautiful and involved drama with some funny moments.  I recommend this for older teens and adults as it does have some sexual and violent themes.
  • Anything by Arina Tanemura (“Fullmoon wo Sagashite” (Search for a Fullmoon), “Kamikaze Kaito Jeann”, and “Gentleman’s Alliance”) — again this is one for older teens due to some sexual themes.  Besides having very engaging stories and characters, the artistry of these manga series are top notch.
  • Anything by Hino Matsuri —  “Vampire Knight” is hot both in the US and Japan.  “Meri Puri:  Marchen Prince” is nice too.  Both I recommend for folks over 16, especially Meri Puri.  Like Arina Tanemure, the artistry of these manga series is amazing.
  • “Crescent Moon” — this a good one for the younger set.  It the story of the Moonlight Bandits, jewel thieves who steal to save their world.

Shonen — manga for boys.  These manga generally focus on adventure or they are stories of a single boy in the middle of a girl harem.  Most of the girl harem manga contain “fan service” which depending upon your perspective may be quite offensive (and there are debates as to whether “fan service” runs afoul of child protection laws — so be careful).  I will steer clear of these types of manga in my recommendations.

  • “Deathnote” — a freaky manga series that was too exciting for me.  I couldn’t sleep after reading the 4th volume because I was too pumped with adrenlin.  This is a good one for older teens and adults.
  • “Full Metal Alchemist” — 13+
  • “Kekkaishi” — high school barrier masters with ghost dog side kicks 13+, my husband likes this series too.
  • “Samurai Kyo”  16+ — very violent

Good manga for everyone:

  • “Xxxholic” — despite its name, there is nothing XXX about this series.  The series contains stories akin to stories from the “Twilight Zone.”  The stories are centered around the relationship between Youko (the Time Witch) and Watanuki Kamishiro, a boy with psychic perception. 13+
  • “Tsubasa” (by Clamp) — this manga series intersects occasionally with Xxxholic and takes the characters from “Card Captor Sakura” (another wonderful manga series) and re-imagines them in a different universe.  Other Clamp characters appear in this series. 13+
  • “Crest of Stars” — this is a sci-fi epic.  It is also being novelized.  13+
  • “DNAngel” — this is like “Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne”.  I recommend this for 13+

That’s all for now.  I’ve read a lot of anything, so if you are looking for a more specific recommendation or want to ask about a series, please ask!  I’m more than eager to discuss manga.  Oh, and anime too :).

It’s “Kindle!” Amazon’s New eReader

It’s Kindle! Amazon.com’s new $399 eReader.  Here’s is some Amazon home page advertising.

Here is the product overview from Amazon:

Wireless Access

Product Overview

  • Revolutionary electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper.
  • Simple to use: no computer, no cables, no syncing.
  • Wireless connectivity enables you to shop the Kindle Store directly from your Kindle—whether you’re in the back of a taxi, at the airport, or in bed.
  • Buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute.
  • More than 88,000 books available, including 100 of 112 current New York Times® Best Sellers.
  • New York Times® Best Sellers and all New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise.
  • Free book samples. Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy.
  • Top U.S. newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post; top magazines including TIME, Atlantic Monthly, and Forbes—all auto-delivered wirelessly.
  • Top international newspapers from France, Germany, and Ireland; Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine, and The Irish Times.
  • More than 250 top blogs from the worlds of business, technology, sports, entertainment, and politics, including BoingBoing, Slashdot, TechCrunch, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, The Onion, Michelle Malkin, and The Huffington Post.
  • Lighter and thinner than a typical paperback; weighs only 10.3 ounces.
  • Holds over 200 titles.
  • Long battery life. Leave wireless on and recharge approximately every other day. Turn wireless off and read for a week or more before recharging. Fully recharges in 2 hours.
  • Unlike WiFi, Kindle utilizes the same high-speed data network (EVDO) as advanced cell phones—so you never have to locate a hotspot.
  • No monthly wireless bills, service plans, or commitments—we take care of the wireless delivery so you can simply click, buy, and read.
  • Includes free wireless access to the planet’s most exhaustive and up-to-date encyclopedia—Wikipedia.org.
  • Email your Word documents and pictures (.JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .PNG) to Kindle for easy on-the-go viewing.

I’d love to get my hands on one of these to try it out and to see others try it out :).  The price is a little steep, though, despite the free wireless service.  It looks like there are a bunch of books out there to choose from in the Kindle library.  I didn’t see any manga or graphic novel, though.  :(.   I guess we’ll see how this goes.   Hopefully there will be a price reduction soon.  For me this starts becoming something I’d actually get at ~$130 or less.