I also like to live dangerously….

The most exciting/terrifying/underwhelming thing happened today! There was a tornado! Woohoo! I have experienced my fair share of earthquake and typhoons when I grew up in Japan but tornadoes are something of regional thing here in the american midwest. It was only a matter of time before it happened. That being said, it did not feel like such a big deal.

Everyone’s phone started ringing when the warning was sent, walked down to one of the many tornado room of the building and just stood there. Some people seemed genuinely concerned but most people looked only mildly annoyed they had to stop what they were doing. and when 4 o clock came to past, everyone went back to what they were doing. I admit that I was a bit nervous on the drive back home, not wanting to find myself stuck in traffic with a tornado coming my way but ultimately no other tornado touched down in Omaha.

That being said, I hope I never find myself in another situation where google literally tells me “you are in a life threatening situation”…

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Ready Player One, a book report… Updated

This book came with big recommendation from my sister, and since the movie rights have been sold already and Steven Spielberg will direct the movie, I thought it would give the book a try. After all, it was all about video games, easter eggs and all things eighties, several topics I am quite fond of. What isn’t there for me to like?

That being said, I felt like I did not necessarily like the book as much I expected to. I am not saying that I did not like it, parts of it were great. This book, especially in the first third, is filled to the brim with nerdy references.

One of the first big thing is an old but notorious Dungeon and Dragon campaign called “The Tomb of Horrors”. Any self respecting role playing game adventurer knows that The tomb of Horrors is the quickest way to make all your friends hate you due to its legendary difficulty. When that was mentioned in the book, I was thrilled. It made me feel like being part of the in-group who knew exactly what the author was talking about right on spot. Another such reference was about an old atari contest called SwordQuest (if you want to know more about SwordQuest, the Angry Video Game Nerd did a great video about it a few year ago).

Same thing, the moment I read the words I knew exactly where things were going. The author also reference older games consoles Like the ColecoVision and the Mattel electronic Intellivision, two competitor to the Atari 2600 and other cool arcade factoid like the Pacman perfect game score. Knowing all these somewhat esoteric things before having read the book sure rubbed my nerd pride the right way.

On the flip side however, the overall setting and plot of of the story felt somewhat bland. It’s another dystopian future where climate change and economic crisis ruined everything and evil corporations are doing the typical evil corporation stuff. The idea of this giant virtual world where everyone plugs in to escape reality is somewhat reminiscent of the matrix and the .hack JRPG series of Playstation games. With stuff like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift pushing for mainstream adoption of VR, an immersive MMORPG world didn’t seem all that original, especially when things like EVE Online and Second Life already exists, plus there wasn’t much in the way of plot twists either.

There a couple moments where where the main character wonders what his online friends are in real life which I felt broke the pacing of the story and of course there is “a big reveal” where one of the characters “was not what their online avatar suggested they were! Shocking revelation!” and by that I mean I nearly felt insulted by the author. To me, it is not a stretch of the imagination that people might choose to have their avatar be a different type of person then they are in real life but the author seem to try to make a big deal about. Heck there is a rather lengthy segment toward the end of the book that could very well have been ripped off from a Tumblr blog. I have nothing against inclusiveness and diversity, it just irks me when people try to hammer it in just to show how virtuous they are. Fortunately, those passages have no real pertinence to the actual plot, so feel free to skip them like I did.

Overall, it is good book and I would recommend it even if I see some flaws in it. I think it is a good stepping stone for some one who might not be familiar with what some might call “nerd culture” and it has enough in jokes and reference for some one in the in-crowd to enjoy. I see the potential it has for a good movie adaptation but I feel like it might get gutted out of a bunch of cool stuff because of licenses and trademarks, but who knows. One thing is for sure though: it won’t be as good as the book.

BB-8 and rewatching Star Wars 7

There are few apps on my phone that still have the permission to post notification, so when the Sphero BB-8 app had one, I was somewhat curious. There is apparently a new feature that allowed you to “experience Episode 7 with BB-8”. Basically you put BB-8 in the charging pod, put the app on that mode and start the film, your phone’s microphone will listen to to the movie and will make your BB-8 “react” to what is happening in the movie. It is not all that exciting if I am honest.

I was not sure the thing was working properly at first because all BB-8 did at first was occasionally nod a couple times, but he eventually started making more elaborate move and sound. For example, when Fin meets Rey and BB-8 for the first time, when BB-8 accuses Fin of stealing the jacket and shocks him, the Sphero toy lit up and beeping noise  ensued. Another cool thing the app does is that when a new character appears there will be a pop up on the app show what character just appeared.

Ultimately though I found it a little bit distracting from the movie. I’m sure that it might help entertain some of the younger audience but that is probably a feature I won’t be using again any time soon. I wonder if they do that too for episode and 8 and 9, or even the rest of the star wars films…

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BB-8, The ultimate distraction…

On the subject of Star Wars Episode 7, I think I liked it better than the first time I saw it. The pacing felt better, that story made more sense, and I feel like I picked up upon a few more detail than when I saw it in the theater. One thing that I somewhat distracted me during the movie that i didn’t notice the first time was the film grain. As you may know, they film the movie with old fashioned celluloid film, and one of the side effect is film grain. it is very noticeable in some of the darker indoor scenes, like the first scene where Fin takes off his helmet. Even scenes that I though would be all CGI have film grain, which leads me to believe that it was an intensional artistic choice on J.J. Abrams part.

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I tried my best to that a picture of the film grain…

Oh and on a final side note, Ever wondered why C3-P0 had a red arm? Me neither, but Now you can know with this Marvel Star Wars comic that explain just that:

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The Fitbit Flex, a year later…

So today is April 14th, which was the day last year when I first received my Fitbit flex fitness tracker and went on a rage fueled rant on of horrible an experience it was to try to synchronize it, among other things. I did a more level headed review the next day where I went a little more in details about functionality and feel of the device. Now It is exactly one year later, and after wearing the thing pretty much everyday, I feel like it’s time for a final round up of my thoughts on the device. So how has the Flex performed over a year?

First of all, the bracelet did not survive the whole year, breaking sometime last September, only after about 5 month of use, which in my opinion is shockingly bad. It would not be an issue if the bracelet were relatively cheap to replace, but the official replacement bands are $15 a piece, which is a complete rip off. There are some third party bands that are little under half the price tough and, so if you ever need a need band go for one of those. The ones I bought seem to be of better quality than the original too! It’s been almost 7 months since I got them and the one I am using is showing none of the signs of fatigue that the Official band had after 3 month…

I don’t want to sound too tin-foil-hat-y but it’s almost as if Fitbit wants their band to break quickly, so they can get more of your hard earned money… You know, planed obsolescence and all that.

One of my biggest gripe with the Flex at the time was its inability to synchronize constantly with my phone. Sometime the only way I could get the damn thing to work was to turn off and on bluetooth on my device and hope that it would work. There were couple update that made it marginally better but the ultimate fix proved to be to switch back to android. I did write about it but I did get a new android phone last December, the lack of app support on Windows Phone was starting to rub me the wrong way. The Fitbit Flex had no issue connecting with my new phone and has been far more consistent. I am not sure wether my phone’s bluetooth was the issue or if the Windows Phone was just sub par, either way, It doesn’t appear to be Fitbit’s fault.

Talking about the app, it is still the main appeal of the Fitbit package. They added a couple new features, you can track which hour of the day you walk more than 250 steps (meant to encourage you to take brief walks if you have a desk job for example) and you can now set a goal of how many day a week you want to workout. Some of the clunky UI has been improved as well. The accuracy of the tracker is still dubious at best though…

One thing that I notice that did not improve however is battery life. While it used to be able to keep its charge easily for almost 7 days, it now only last for 4 to 5 days. It is not necessarily a big issue but also means that it might become useless before I go thru the three other spare bands that I bought.

Conclusion time: After a year, do I feel like it was $99 well spent? Ehhh… Almost. The fact that the bracelet failed after only 5 month and stupid pricing for replacement is definitely a big negative mark for me, and while the sync issue seemed to be caused by my phone, I have yet to figure out why it never work on either of my computers. While it does everything it says it does, I still think it is a bit over priced and mostly for show. I would not buy it again but I would keep it and use it if someone else gave it to me. I am starting to look around for a possible replacement/upgrade but it seems that the fitness tracking industry took a dive, while the “smart” watch business see to have took its place as the new cool tech wearables. The problem now is that smartwatches are even more overhyped and overpriced than the fitness tracker ever were so I might have to stick with the flex for now…

I don’t understand Nintendo’s Miitomo…

A couple years ago, Nintendo announced that it would start developing a sort of “wellness” app, an announcement that, if I recall correctly, was received with great indifference and mild confusion. I am not sure what ever happen to that original plan but Nintendo recently released their first IOS and Android application: Miitomo. As you might have figure out by the title of this post, I was less than impressed by it.

To start off, I am not even sure what I would qualify Miitomo as. I guess it’s a sort of social network? You create an avatar (or as nintendo calls them, a Mii), answer some question like “what did you do this weekend?”, you can the way your Mii is dressed and your friends Mii will show up on occasion.  Thing is, you need either a Facebook account or a Twitter account to make friend requests without having someone in the same location as you. That beats the purpose of a social network in my opinion if you need another social network to use it (and if the person is the same room as you, Interact with them in the real world!!!).

There is not much in the gameplay department either. The way you earn in-game currency is by answering questions or listening to your friends answers. There is also a plinko type of game where you can earn special items. In other words, not a lot… As far as I can tell, you can’t post links or photos, and unless you answer something unrelated to the questions, you can’t really share anything unless prompted. At least you know there won’t be any politics.

Maybe I am not the intended demographic, but I am hard pressed to find who it would be for. I might leave the app on my phone for a while to give it a second chance, but I don’t expect it to remain more than a week.

April whatever post…

Ahhh… The first of April… The only day of the year where it is socially acceptable to lie. I always find it fascinating the amount of cool stuff people come with that I would totally buy. ThinkGeek usually come up with some cool stuff, and if the moon align just the right way, they sometime make the product for real. Sure, a ‘gaming’ toaster from Razer makes no sense, but I would buy that. Things seemed to have been pretty mild this year, but then again, something could have gone viral and I didn’t hear about it.

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Talking of things going viral, Tesla unveiled their new model last night! OH MY! It looks so cooooooool!!! To be honest, if I did not have three and a half year worth of car car payment ahead of me, chances are I would have put down the $1000 for a reservation. Don’t get me wrong, I really like my Ford, but that Tesla is just the perfect electric car. It has style, it has function, it has range, what more could ask for?

The only thing that bugged me is the styling for the nose of the car. I really liked the way they did it on the Model X but it looks a little bit strange on the prototypes they showed at the event. That being said, it is very likely they will change some of the styling before it hits production, like they did with the S and the X. Another thing I noticed was that not all the car they showed were identical. The dark grey one had a different style of door handle than the two others, again probably due to the fact that those cars were only prototypes.

Maybe I’ll buy one in a couple years… Or when I win the lottery…

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In other news, it was officially announced in the office today that the company has sold one of the two building that we currently have. The second building will become part of the UNO campus. This means two things:

  1. The building I work in will be renovated! Yeah!
  2. Everyone that worked in the other building has to move into our building, which means smaller cubes and probably more crowed cafeteria…

Hopefully they will redo the parking lot as well because that place looks like the surface of the moon at the moment. The thing I am curious about is the corridor that links the two building. They probably just bulldoze the thing. The details and the extents of the renovations are yet to be announced, but as long as they get us better chairs, I’ll be happy. The ones we currently have are horrendous, and half of them are kinda broken…

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Edit: I somehow forgot to name this post before publishing it… derp.