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Strategos "The Guardian of Time" RSS Feed (In Space above Planet Earth)
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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Price: $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Three Quarters of an Amazing Film and a Quarter of a Film as Awful as the Book, November 22, 2015
When I read the books, I was amazed at how much worse the second was than the first, and even more amazed at how much worse the third was than the second. After the first film I was surprised at how all of the flaws in characters and plot (to say nothing of writing) were vastly improved into something that was actually entertaining (if also disturbing, conflicting, and at times a bit fake or low-budget seeming). The sequel was slicker but somehow a bit less heartfelt, yet more epic for the higher quality film-making and cinematography (while also unfortunately losing the old-America-meets-experimental-sci-fi feel of the first film). Mockingjay Part 1 though, that was something else entirely. The most boring and poorly written part of the series about a rebellion that I couldn't quite wrap my head around became a deeply moving epic emotional journey. And while it's very trendy to complain about "greedy film-makers" who split a story into parts to milk more money out of a franchise, some stories just can't be translated very well in a single film. In other words, there needed to be a part one and two. I loved part 1, which was easily the best film of the three. How does this one hold up?

With the miracle of how the second book and part of the third were actually transformed into entertaining films thanks to some excellent film score, cinematography, direction, re-writing, special effects, and good-old-fashioned acting, I was holding my breath that the makers of Part 1 could pull off another miracle and craft an amazing film from the final part of the story. For the most part they did. But unfortunately, the final part of the final act stays TOO faithful to the books, and derails a bit. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The War You Always Wanted

The war in the books was kind of empty and pointless. The war here, while making serious statements about war in general and blasting us emotionally with loss, feels much more...more. While the entire quest Katniss undertakes in the war is ultimately pointless, her quest is not. She is struggling for meaning in a world gone mad, and it is compelling stuff.

Everything in this film is brilliant filmed, scored, acted, and staged as far as the finale of the rebellion goes. Everything you saw in the trailers is every bit as awesome as you expected or hoped. And yes, I would highly recommend seeing this film in the biggest screen you can find with the best sound available. The sad thing is the end of the film.


Okay, if you haven't read the books or already seen this film, you probably won't want to read the rest of my review. You can just take the first part and know that you are in for a roller-coaster ride, and that the ending isn't so great. If you already know how the books end or already saw the film, read on.

Anyone who read the books to the end knows that the story completely de-rails at the end because Katniss' character makes a complete 180 suddenly in the epilogue, and there is no real reason for a happy ending in this kind of story. If the book had ended with the death of Coin and Katniss had been killed by the crowd, imprisoned and sentenced to die, or (best possible ending in my opinion) sentenced to yet ANOTHER Hunger Games it would have been a magnificent ending to the series keeping with the overall tone thus far. Instead it's a "babies ever after" ending that unfortunately was NOT discarded for this film.

Please understand when I say, the finale of the dramatic arc of the series, when Katniss is to execute President Snow, is one of the greatest pieces of cinema I have ever seen in my entire life. If the film had ended right there, it would have been perfect. But insteaaaaaad....

Everyone at this point knows that the actor who played the former Game Master died while this film was being made. So instead of an appearance in CGI form at a critical scene, or even a voice-over, a letter is awkwardly read. Katniss and Peeta didn't have any real chemistry in the books,and their romantic chemistry in the films is arguably even worse. While this worked great for the other films, when Katniss is supposed to be in love with the guy...yeah it just doesn't work.

Katniss rebuilding her life and moving on... yeah it doesn't work either. If the film-makers felt that they HAD to include the ending the author wanted, they needed to montage the ending and wrap it up with some dramatic music like a nice AMV. I get the impression the director didn't know WHAT to do when the action in this film ran out.

As it is, this is 3/4 of an AWESOME film. The final quarter just needs to go. Maybe someone will produce a better edit of this film someday. One can only hope. As bad as the end of this film is at the end, the rest is so good it still gets four stars as a whole.

Panasonic RP-HXS200M-K Sound Rush On-Ear Headphones, Black/Gray
Panasonic RP-HXS200M-K Sound Rush On-Ear Headphones, Black/Gray
Price: Click here to see our price
57 used & new from $14.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the Ultra-Budget Market these are an excellent choice, November 21, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Some of the reviews for these headphones seem to not know a lot about headphones and price ranges. I've reviewed everything from 30 dollar headphones to 300 dollar headphones so perhaps I can provide a bit of clarity as the self-proclaimed "Headphone King" :)

First of all, OBVIOUSLY these are not comparable to a pair of high-priced headphones, so I am comparing to benchmark bargain champ, the Sennheiser HD 201. At first glance (or listen) these headphones seem fantastic. They are good and loud, and pop music has a nice expansive soundstage (you feel like you are in the room where the music is being played). If you listening to a well-mastered recording with a big sound stage you may indeed be blown away. But, as they say, the devil is in the details.

Pop music sounds out amazing. Orchestral music on the other hand...

As usual, I used the Tron Legacy soundtrack and film music recordings by the Prague Philharmonic as my primary forms of benchmark as they feature crystal clear recordings, lots of bass, and plenty of detail that shines on the best equipment money can buy.

I played the Overture from Tron Legacy and noticed that while the sound on these headphones was more expansive than the 201's, the separation of the highs and lows was indeed "muddy" on these compared to the crystal clear transition on the 201's. Next I tested Back to the Future and Mask of the Phantasm to see how details and dynamic range were handled. On the Sennheisers both of these pieces make chills run down my spine every time because the music sounds so "alive". Comparing on these headphones both recordings sounded very lifeless. The loss of detail seriously effected the quality of the sound, to the point where a person not knowing the quality of the recordings (Silva Screen Records incredible mastering is legendary in my rants) might be unimpressed.

Wanting to be fair to the Panasonic headphones I decided to try a poorly mastered orchestra recording of Unyielding Wish from Magic Knight Rayearth which features a lot of detail but poor bit-rate and distortion levels. The Sennheisers nicely mask the poor quality of the recording while highlighting the detail. On the Panasonic set the loss of detail made the recordings sound truly terrible as the quality was not masked in the slightest. So yes, these are confirmed not the best choice for classical music.

The big surprise was listening to Lana Del Ray's "Young and Beautiful". Yes, it sounds excellent on the Sennheisers. However! Due to the quality of the recording and the massive sound stage, the power of the song actually brought tears to my eyes on the Panasonic set. Further testing with video game music and pop music confirms that so long as the range isn't too wide, and the recording is very clean, you will be impressed by the sound on this set.

Conclusion? These are not the equal of the Sennheisers in any way except superior bass response (the 201's are criticized by many reviewers for lacking bass), and MUCH better expansive sound generally (interestingly the 201's had more expansive separation on Mr Mister's "Kyrie" for some reason (the synthesizers seemed to be coming from behind me). Go figure.

If you are looking for headphones for your commute, or just for playing games and watching movies, these are an excellent choice. Classical music lovers will want to pass. In addition, they are VERY comfortable and seem well-constructed, if made of cheaper materials. For less than 15 dollars these would be great for kids or non-audiophiles who can't tell the difference in higher quality headsets. These headphones are good but not great. They can't stand up to the 201s, though to be fair they are almost 10 dollars cheaper.

Apple iPhone 6s 128 GB US Warranty Unlocked Cellphone - Retail Packaging (Gold)
Apple iPhone 6s 128 GB US Warranty Unlocked Cellphone - Retail Packaging (Gold)
Offered by TecheiDeal
Price: $915.00
21 used & new from $843.92

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the last smart phone I'll ever need, November 17, 2015
The first smart phone I ever owned was an iPhone 4. It was a piece of garbage. The second I owned was a 5c. It was a vast improvement, but in my old age it's starting to hurt my eyes to squint at a tiny screen. Recently I decided to bite the bullet and for once in my life buy the current version of a smart phone (perhaps the last time I ever do this?). I don't plan to buy another phone again unless this one breaks, because it does everything I always wanted a smart phone to do.

My requirements for this phone were actually pretty modest compared to many I'm sure. I won't use it for writing (I have a Windows laptop for that). I won't use it primarily at home for web surfing, shopping, or game playing (I have an iPad Mini for that). I plan to simply load it up with my entire music library (around 60 gigs worth), and use it to play music, check my bank balance and Kickstarters, keep up with important messages, call for a ride now and then, and maybe check the weather, the news, or play a few games on the go.

I checked out the 6s and the 6s Plus at an Apple store because I wanted to make sure they felt right before pouring my hard-earned money into a phone. The 6s Plus is way too big to fit into my pocket comfortably, and is so large that you truly should just buy an iPad mini if you need it for use around the home primarily. The 6s on the other hand hits the Goldilocks spot. The first iPhones were too small, the Plus is too big, and this model...just right.

Right now it's 7:45pm and I got up at around 6:30am. The phone is still at 84% battery life. That's darn impressive. With the touch ID it wake instantly (slight inconvenience of learning to use the sleep button to wake it if you just want to check the time). The screen is absolutely gorgeous and really cuts down on eyestrain. I personally set the brightness quite low (again to prevent eyestrain and save battery life). I also like to leave Blutooth off as I hate Blutooth and it's batttery drain as well. I do leave Siri engaged however because with it always on for once it's actually useful.

The device is lightning fast and liquid smooth. Performance is absolutely outstanding. But this alone isn't what makes the device great. It's little things like the sleep button which is much easier to hold to shut down the device than previous iPhones, or thin but solid design that's beautifully smooth (I'd recommend buying a case just because it would suck to shatter the screen on a device that costs triple what my laptop did). There's some games I've loved using on previous devices (Hearthstone, Robot Unicorn Attack 2, Zen Pinball) that take on new life on this device because it has ample space to install them, a big enough screen that they don't feel cramped, and gorgeous color that makes them come to life. In general the speed and signal are quite good, but calls tend to have accidental button dialing due to my face (previous iPhones did this as well). At least the calls don't constantly drop or hang up like they did on the iPhone 4.

If you are an Android fan this phone is a waste of time because you're already invested in another ecosystem. If you are an Apple user this device is wonderful. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone with a recent phone who doesn't need a big screen, but if previous phones were too small for you and you like Apple (and especially if you are using a device pre-iPhone 5) this device is a wonderful upgrade.

I don't intend to buy anymore phones after this one because I finally have a phone that will play all of my music, and I have enough games to play to last a lifetime. This should make a fitting final phone. But wait...didn't I say that with the 5c?

DII Kitchen Millennium Cleaning, Washing, Drying, Ultra Absorbent, Microfiber Dish Towel, Set of 6, Gray
DII Kitchen Millennium Cleaning, Washing, Drying, Ultra Absorbent, Microfiber Dish Towel, Set of 6, Gray
Price: $10.99
4 used & new from $10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars It's a dish rag, November 17, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I suspect the manufacturer is trying to undo some bad publicity from a redesign of this product that got them a bad rep. I'm not seeing amazing performance some early reviews spoke of, nor am I seeing anything horrific as found in the reviews a few years ago.

These are simply...rags. They are microfiber not cotton, so if you don't like that texture on your hands obviously you wouldn't want to purchase these. Microfiber tends to pick up more dirt, but also tends to have more static cling, so either you will like that or not. When you wash them you're probably going to want to wash by themselves (duh, they are dirty rags, you don't wash those with your clothes). You could use these for drying dishes or wiping counters, I plan to use mine for dusting mostly. I wouldn't use these for say, the bathroom because they aren't elegant or fine, they are rough rags.

All that said, I think they are nice, and plan to get rid of some old rags and replace them with these. If you are cutting up your old clothes and towels for rags I'm sure you're too much of a cheap skate to buy rags. But if you want something a little better for ordinary use these will do the trick.

Acer - Aspire 15.6" Laptop - Intel Celeron - 4GB Memory - 500GB Hard Drive - Windows 10 - Diamond Black
Acer - Aspire 15.6" Laptop - Intel Celeron - 4GB Memory - 500GB Hard Drive - Windows 10 - Diamond Black
Offered by Bling Deals
Price: $279.00
13 used & new from $259.80

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Laptop for a the Budget Minded Computer Expert, November 2, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've owned several Acer laptops. All of them have pretty much the same flaws and strengths. They are solidly built, have good performance, decent battery life, are highly usable. They are also dirt cheap and loaded with bloatware.

I did a lot of comparison shopping and found that this exact same model is everywhere on Amazon for all kinds of different prices, so I just bought the cheapest one.

True to form this machine was almost unusable out of the box. It was incredibly slow and sluggish, and constantly on the verge of a crash. Not to worry!

I'm a IT worker of 10+ years. For me it's child's play to strip a machine like this of all the bloatware loaded onto it. And so I did so. Now it flies like greased lightning.

I plan to load it up with 8 gigs of ram and maybe some day when prices come down drop an SSD into it.

It's not exactly your multi-thousand dollar gaming laptop, but I can stream high-end games off of my gaming pc, and it works great for writing.

If you're on a budget, I highly recommend this machine as long as you can get a friend to clean it up and streamline it for you. Or if you are the friend people call to do that sort of thing for them.

Another Acer winner. My last one lasted a good long time and I expect this one to last even longer. Oh yeah and the screen is HUGE along with a full keyboard commplete with number pad. Better for writing than a macbook at less than a third the price.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2015 6:28 PM PST

DII Oceanique Machine Washable 100% Cotton Woven Ribbed Luxury Spa Bath Rug, Soft & Absorbent, Place Near Vanity, Bath Tub or Shower, 21 x 34",  Eggplant
DII Oceanique Machine Washable 100% Cotton Woven Ribbed Luxury Spa Bath Rug, Soft & Absorbent, Place Near Vanity, Bath Tub or Shower, 21 x 34", Eggplant
Price: $20.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a tad slippery, but other than that I love it, November 1, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've had a couple of bath maths on the super-cheap side that I got at the local drug store just to keep puddles from forming on the bathroom floor. I have been meaning to move to something slightly better, however. I got another small one that was foam and it was tacky enough that I wanted to get rid of it.

I got this item hoping to convince my wife to let me get rid of some of the other cheap mats (alas, she wants the floor covered with bath rugs like the ten of a sultan). My thoughts?

The color is my favorite color, and it's beautiful. The material is soft and supremely comfortable. It's absorbant, and definitely contributes to the decor of your bathroom. It is also slightly slippery, and could use a just a tad more grip on the bottom. It's not slippery enough to be hazardous, but enough that it keeps sliding out of position.

If you don't mind it being slightly slippery on your bathroom floor, I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a higher-quality bathmat made with better materials (as opposed to the throw-away ones at your local drug-store).

tic tac Mixers, Cherry Cola, 1 Ounce (Pack of 12)
tic tac Mixers, Cherry Cola, 1 Ounce (Pack of 12)
Price: $13.99
13 used & new from $13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious, November 1, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Okay, first there was Thin Mint and Orange-cicle flaved gum, now this.

Cherry cola happens to be my favorite soda flavor, ever. Unfortunately I've had kidney stones in the past, so the phosphorus in a cola (so say nothing of the caffeine and sugar) cause me a lot of pain. I still occasionally have one, and sometimes I've combine a cola and cherry flavors of slushee at my favorite local movie theater, but deep down I know it's really bad for me. Then along comes this.

I knew as soon as I saw this product that I had to try it. Unlike a lot of other people, I both have a deep love of the cherry cola flavor, and I understand that when you try to make soda into a tic tac it is NOT going to taste exactly the same (probably more like a soda-flavored jelly bean).

For what it's worth, I've never liked tic tacs in my life, but I like this flavor very much. If you like breath mints, and especially if you are trying to cut down on your soda-pop consumption, I recommend giving these a try.

Braven Wireless Speaker for Smartphones - Retail Packaging - Purple/Gray
Braven Wireless Speaker for Smartphones - Retail Packaging - Purple/Gray
Offered by The Green Room
Price: $156.00
4 used & new from $88.76

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Rugged Wireless Speaker, October 27, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I enlisted my mobile-tech-savvy wife to help me test this baby out, and her immediate reaction upon finishing the testing was "Can I take it to use at work?"

Yes indeed, this is definitely a commercial-grade audio solution. It's wireless, water-resistant, charges cell phones, operates as beefy wireless speakerphone (it's good and LOUD), and gives great music performance.

It's no audiophile piece of equipment, but for general use, parties, small work environments, the beach, the outdoors, this puppy is a winner and well worth the price.

Zero World
Zero World
by Jason M. Hough
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.77
78 used & new from $8.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Sci-fi/Thriller Storytelling at its Best, October 9, 2015
This review is from: Zero World (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Lately I've been trying to read more dystopian/post-apocalyptic/cyber-punk sci-fi from new authors, and I keep running into problems with the writing. Either the characters are flat and boring, or the plot is non-existent, or the writing is just plain poor or boring.

This book is less a breath of fresh air than a blast of atmosphere out the airlock. There's moral questions that are subtly hit upon (much as you might find a similar spy-thriller, such a Bourne Identity or even a dark-play-through as an Infiltrator in Mass Effect 2), an interesting plot that unravels nicely, tight action sequences, and sharp, clean writing.

If futuristic sci-fi thrillers are your thing this is definitely worth looking into, as long as you aren't looking for a heroic happy-ending kind of story. This guy is an assassin, not a hero.

The Gathering Storm: Book Twelve of the Wheel of Time
The Gathering Storm: Book Twelve of the Wheel of Time
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $9.99
121 used & new from $4.61

5.0 out of 5 stars The Wheel of Time is Back and it is AWESOME, September 29, 2015
I stopped reading the Wheel of Time after the first book in the series a long time ago. I owned the second book, but I just couldn't get around to reading something so heavy for some reason (maybe partly to do with how dark the first book was). Then I found out that my favorite author was finishing the series in Robert Jordan's absence. Darn you Sanderson! Now I HAD to read the rest of the series.

Some people have complained about how much the series dragged after the first few books, but overall I don't mind that much despite how slow it got in parts. I got through it, and often the longest journeys need a space for you to get lost and find yourself again so they can come full circle.

All that said, the epic conclusion of the The Wheel of Time, so long awaited, was worth the wait in every way. This feels like we are back to the first few books in the series, when high adventure was in the air and things were moving fast.

The writing is brilliant, though as everyone has pointed out, there are a few mis-steps here and there that break the flow as someone says something a bit too modern or out of place. That's forgivable because the writing and story is so dang awesome.

I haven't read a book this fast since...well... the last Sanderson book I read!

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