Tag Archives: review

Shoot-Out – Battlefield: Bad Company 2 vs Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

A while ago, I picked up both Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Modern Warfare 2 (to be abbreviated as BC2 and MW2 respectively). Sadly, most of the big commercial blogs were riding the crotch of MW2 but the one fundamental fact they didn’t understand is that both games are quite different from each other. I want to take a more critically personal evaluation of the games as I want to be fair to both games. I’ll say this right now… I rather like both games, but for different reasons.
Continue reading Shoot-Out – Battlefield: Bad Company 2 vs Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Oni-Con 2009 Report!

Before I begin, I apologize for not posting this the day of because of the Marriott hotel did not have wifi for free… $13 per day was rather a steep rip off in my opinion. To spare your eyes, I have enclosed the photo gallery at the end and I am debating on uploading the first song Echostream performed at the concert on Friday. If you would like for me to, please comment and request it!

Pre-Registration – 10/29/09
Pre-registration seemed to be a little disorganized… 2 laptops and 2 piles of lanyards. The badges weren’t really pre-prepared as the name slot has no name filled in (i.e. My nickname on the form was “ZeroXR” and it was not on my badge). Jamie had asked the pre-registration worker if there was a schedule, unfortunately we were told “There’s no schedule until tomorrow morning.” Which in my opinion, that’s a disorganized for a convention a been around for quite some time! I am glad to have gotten my badge early before the swarms of the crowds that will be at Ground Zero at 8am tomorrow… I also managed to run into Tomo from Echostream with Jamie and that was a fun little session, especially as he was very humble. For now, I drink and toast to the fact that Jamie and I survived the watery storms from our drive to Houston… Especially from some of the typical Texas panic-at-rain type folks having “OH SHIT!!!” moments putting us and other motorists at risks!

Day 1 – 10/30/09
I sadly had slept in a little more than I wanted to and didn’t get up and hit the convention until almost 1pm. The dealer’s rooms were divided into 2 zones and pretty cramped quarters for walking. Another sad travesty was the matter that the dealers in both rooms really sold the same stuff as the booths next to them. Some of the more unique items were the hat vendors who sold some really funny and/or cute hats with a focus on game/anime creatures such as the Cactuar hat. On our run through both dealers rooms, Jamie nabbed 2 wall scrolls for her best friend. Worse off was the matter that the game arcade and artist alley rooms were not set-up… The art gallery had some unique commissioned works, but some of the not so great ones were a little over eager for money (i.e. poorly proportioned sketch in pencil demanding a $45 minimum bid and a $100 buy out).

Trying to find anything close to an itinerary was a fruitless exercise in failure as no one has much of a clue of what events are going on. The vague idea that there would be musical performances around 7pm is the most I knew of, but that was from Tomo of Echostream talking to me and Jamie last night. (CJ and Tomo would also confirm the same detail this morning as well.) Around 5pm, most of the convention was set-up and itineraries were finally posted on what was happening and when. Also 5pm was when opening ceremonies were in action. The only thing that was still not quite 100% was the game arcade, yet they had a Japanese snack vendor in that same arcade room too. As far as the spoils go, we have gotten 2 wall-scrolls for Jamie’s best friend and that’s really about it. As far as cos-play goes, there’s a whole lot of Final Fantasy (Cloud and Sephiroth mostly) and Bleach characters here. So not too many cos-players really going for unique sadly… hence lacking pictures today. Tomorrow is the cos-play contest, so maybe we’ll see all the creative talent at work and I may be able to furnish pictures. However, around 6pm, a whole lot of lolita cos-play folks came in to check in…

The concert performance was pretty fun, though Satsuki and Echostream probably provided the best show of all that performed tonight. During Satsuki’s performance, he did a solo song with an acoustic guitar and in goofy fashion… He asked the crowd in broken English “Where’s my pick?” and Tomo from Echostream hands him one. After Satsuki’s guitar and piano solo was the Satsuki & Tomo set. The best quotable was before the set when Satsuki had to ask Tomo (of Echostream) for an English phrase to get the crowd wild. When you could quietly hear “Ah… I understand” in Japanese from Satsuki, he then relayed to the crowd in shy and broken English “Go… fucking… crazy!” Other than that, I think that concludes Day 1’s adventures. I do admit that I went wandering a little after midnight out of insomnia and boredom. As far as midnight lobby lounging, it’s been quite fun! I made some friends and also later wandered to the “completed” Arcade room which was not as big as they had planned. There were some games that weren’t even set-up still… A few of the “Panel Rooms” had been converted in the late evening to “Video Rooms” showing fan-subbed animes and one showing hentai. I sadly didn’t have much strength or interest for these video rooms. With fatigue quickly setting in, I had to call it a night and sleep. Saturday was gonna be a long day…

“Phat Lewtz” of the Day
2 Bleach Wall Scrolls

Day 2 – 10/31/09
The start of this day was one that was both interesting in a good way and bad. We’ll begin with the bad part… I woke up with a great deal of muscle spasms and I quickly lost muscle control at an alarming pace. This was scary, because from all the partying and lounging I did last night… I didn’t realize I dehydrated myself. Jamie and I ran down so I could get a bottle of Gatorade to re-up my electrolytes in hopes of keeping me from passing out. The good part of things was after that scare, Jamie and I would sort of cos-play for a bit to fit-in with the convention goers. I’d be dressed like a slacker Shinra Turk field operative (from the Final Fantasy VII realm) and she would be dressed up as Misa of Death Note.

After that, we set out to wander the vendor rooms as well as the Artist Alley. The cos-players came out to play, especially around 12pm was the cos-play contest. The line for people coming to watch the contest also was in the same vicinity of the line for “Dealer’s Room 1”. Result, you had one “CF” of a line just to get inside the first dealer’s room… Lucky for us, we got in before that stretched outside of the hotel. Vendors were now at the midway point of battling out the selling of their wares. I managed to pick up a Cactuar hat from Grapevine Fires and Jamie got a Macross trading figure. We’d wander around the Artist Alley and run into R. K. Millholland from Something*Positive who was a great going guy! Jamie would get a free sketch from him and also picked up a neutered cat-girl public service announcement comic poster from him too. After that, we would wander into “Dealer’s Room 2” to peruse and gawk around… Jamie would then find a cute set of cat ears and picked up those for a good price. After exiting the dealer’s room, Cure magazine, Satsuki, and Echostream had apparently gotten their booth in Artist Alley set-up. We’d pick up an Echostream poster and got it signed by the entire band in the same stroke for my sister. Funny enough, Echostream was also selling “Tomo guitar picks” with sketches by Tomo on the pick in light of last nights concert. Jamie would get quite the deal at Satsuki’s booth… She initially picked up the “Crystal” CD by Satsuki, but she came back a little later when Satsuki’s booth wasn’t swarmed. Satsuki’s agent and/or interpreter (I assume) had told Jamie that she just had 1 remaining signed idol photo of Satsuki left. So she picked that up as well as a Satsuki phone strap which netted her a free poster!

After that… We both finally had a shopping vibe and decided to give “Dealer’s Room 1” another run through. Jamie’s idea was to pick up what seemed like a good deal as well scour around things to consider sniping again on Sunday. We had to wait in the line to get in, because it seemed the dealer’s room had become swarmed with people. Once we were in, we scoured around for deals, items we just wanted, or potential things to snipe for on Sunday. I picked up a Japanese Disney Princess bento box set for my sister cause she loves hard to find Disney items. We’d wander around for a good while and finally vendors were pulling their big guns in inventory… Things like fresher inventory of new items, rare goods, and even some price discounts. The deals were typically stuff like “20% off of currently in-print domestic versions of anime DVD’s & American market printed manga (import and out of print items not valid for deal)”, “buy item 1 at $XX.xx and get item 2 at half-price (or free)”, and etc… We finally made our move on this round as we got quite a bit… An X/1999 plastic poster, a blind-packed Bleach lanyard, Cactus Pup blind-pack figure, a large-pack “Grab Bag” from Anime Pop, a Lucky Star festival series trading figure, a second Macross trading figure. The Grab Bag was actually quite good! The contents were 4 capsule toys, (2 Ultraman, 1 Trigun mini-bust, 1 End of Evangelion mini-figure), a Zeruel-XX figure from Neon Genesis Evangelion, a Linebarrels of Iron trading figure from the “One Coin Figure Series” collection, some random figures with no boxes, Final Fantasy XII trading pin, an Ishida Bleach trading figure.

After dividing up the spoils of the Grab Bag, we would head on down to the Autograph Room for the session with Satsuki. Thankfully, Satsuki’s staff was offering free posters and I nabbed one for Satsuki to sign on for my sister. Jamie got her “Crystal” CD signed as well. On meeting Satsuki, he was very humble and kind in addition to being very thankful for any fans grateful for his time. After that was the wait for the dance party which was a little crazy, but I did try to stay for a bit… I didn’t last too long and eventually had to step out for a bit… I would end up having an interesting conversation with a guy by the name of Miles about the hentai video room last night on Day 1… The best part of that discussion is quoted below:

Miles:Goko hentai is like… 2 girls, 1 cup just animated…

So you can imagine how funny that must have been for someone who was expecting “normal” straight hentai to run into some of the “goko” stuff… Hilarious irony at its finest! After that discussion, I remembered turning in for the night in preparation for Sunday’s final battle with the vendors… Sadly, I didn’t see anything I wanted to snipe for, but I was planning on doing a final scan anyhow.

“Spoils of War”
Disney Princess bento box set
Cactuar hat
Sketch and “Catgirl PSA” from R. K. Millholland
Cat ears
Autographed Echostream poster
Satsuki’s “Crystal” album (also signed)
Satsuki signed idol photo
Satsuki phone strap lanyard
X/1999 TV Series plastic poster featuring Dragons of Heaven characters
2 Macross trading figures
Bleach blind-pack lanyard/phone charm
Cactus Pup blind-pack figure
Lucky Star festival series trading figure: Hiiragi, Kagami (aka “Kagamin”)
Linebarrels of Iron trading figure: Hayase, Kouichi
Trigun capsule toy mini-bust: Nicholas D Wolfwood, transparent
End of Evangelion capsule toy figure: EVA-05/MASS
Neon Genesis Evangelion, Chromosome-XX figure by Wave: Zeruel-XX
2x Random unidentifiable figures from grab bag
Final Fantasy XII trading pin
2x Ultraman capsule toys
Bleach trading figure: Ishida, Uryu
Signed Satsuki poster

Day 3 – 11/01/09
I had slept rather well and didn’t party too hard at the “rave” hosted by the Oni-Con staff… Being well rested, I had to keep open eyes for any last shots in the dealer’s rooms. Probably by far the shortest day… Jamie had prior engagements and would send me on a solo mission as far as shopping went. I would avoid “Dealer’s Room 2” because after running there 5-6 times total this weekend, there wasn’t really anything too good there. I would be waiting in the vast line unfortunately to get into “Dealer’s Room 1”. At one point, the line was quickly speeding through! Reason: Some people thought they could be clever enough to get in without a convention pass… When they got to the door and the Oni-Con security staff didn’t see a badge or bracelet, they would tell the person to purchase a con pass and take them out of the line. Once I was in, there were some Oni-Con volunteers and security staff shouting to make sure people who were loafing on the floor of “Dealer’s Room 1” would not be tolerated due to potential fire code violations and asked those just not interested in buying to leave as well. I would scour to the best of my abilities… Most of the interesting vendors I had intentions on sniping stuff for cheap had sadly left last night. I just settled with a small grab bag and a second Lucky Star figure. After that, I’d rendezvous with Jamie and try to kill some time before the Echostream “How we make music” panel would start. Once the time burned off, I’d sit in for the 1 hour panel session and just watch Tony talk about their method of creating some aspects of their music with just Tomo on guitar and Ryoko on vocals. Jen and CJ couldn’t be fitted into this panel due to size constraints of the panel room and technical details (drum sets and recording gear wouldn’t fit). After the panel, the dealer’s rooms were slowly beginning to empty out as well as the Artist Alley and Arcade rooms. With that… The hotel was also beginning to quickly empty out with kids having to check out of their hotels by 12pm noon and even some to wait for their rides home. Overall… I had a great time and lots of fun. Definitely a very short event, but well worth the time spent.

“Treasure Items”
Bleach trading figure: Kuchiki, Rukia
Sentimental Graffiti trading figure (“Part – I” collection)
Random unidentified figure from grab bag
Mamotte Syugogetten post card
Lucky Star festival series trading figure: Hiiragi, Tsukasa
Dragon Ball Z – Real Works figure: Super Sayajin Son Goku

Final Loot Distribution for Myself
Disney Princess bento box set – Sister has dibs on it
Autographed Echostream poster – Sister requested
Signed Satsuki poster – Surprise item for my sister
Cactuar hat
X/1999 TV Series plastic poster featuring Dragons of Heaven characters
Lucky Star festival series trading figure: Hiiragi, Kagami (aka “Kagamin”)
Lucky Star festival series trading figure: Hiiragi, Tsukasa
Linebarrels of Iron trading figure: Hayase, Kouichi
Trigun capsule toy mini-bust: Nicholas D Wolfwood, transparent
End of Evangelion capsule toy figure: EVA-05/MASS
Neon Genesis Evangelion, Chromosome-XX figure by Wave: Zeruel-XX
Dragon Ball Z – Real Works figure: Super Sayajin Son Goku

Final Thoughts
I would like to extend a very humble thanks to Jamie for inviting me to journey with her to the convention as it was fun! Without her, I’d have never been able to go at all!

I personally regret I didn’t find any great cos-play folks to take pictures of… Due to the lack of interesting cos-play I didn’t have much desire to snap pictures on Saturday.

However, I was surprised to see some Team Fortress 2 cos-play going on! I saw a total of 3 RED scouts, 2 BLU scouts, 2 RED medics, 1 RED demo man, 2 RED spies, 1 RED female sniper (with a Jarate jar), 1 BLU soldier, and a guy/girlfriend couple dressed up as RED engineers. (For casual readers who are not gamers, the “RED” and “BLU” are acronyms for the factions in Team Fortress 2)

My only pet peeve of the convention is people mispronouncing Satsuki’s name as “sat-sue-key” when the technically correct pronunciation is “sats-key”. A minor detail but from studying a little conversational Japanese as well as having a fluently speaking sister, it’s one I have learned to be more critical to that small detail. Sometimes the “u” syllable is to be omitted in pronunciation of some names and words.

I would like to personally extend a “Thank You” to Echostream for being very sincere and modest! In particular, I would like to thank Tomo and CJ as I got to personally speak to them on a person-to-person basis. I want to really give them recognition for being kind enough to sign my sister’s poster early rather than have me wait in line to get the poster signed during the chaotic autograph session on Saturday night.

I also want to thank Satsuki for being very kind for signing my sister’s poster. He’s a paragon of what a good and popular music star should be about: talented, yet modest and polite.

I would also like to thank Iris, Elaine, Alyssa, and Amanda for trading names and conversation. Some of those discussions helped to pass the time very well!

Lastly, this weekend also has reminded me my roots in anime and games… Particularly, my fandom to anime. I personally love Neon Genesis Evangelion, X/1999, and Lucky Star with lucking out to have gotten items from those respective series! However, I also now own reminders of mainstream animes I did watch in my past, such as Dragon Ball Z and Trigun. The Cactuar hat is a tribute of how much I have loved the Final Fantasy series from its roots as well as the Cactuar creature himself.

[Featured Review] InvisibleShield for the iPhone 3GS – Sponsored by InvisibleSkinz.com

Thank You Note
Before I begin, I’d like to personally thank Jake from InvisibleSkinz.com for providing me one of these lovely iPhone covers. I would also like to thank him for being the first vendor to approach me for a product review and giving me a shot at promoting his business!

Click the jump to read more!

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One Month with The Killer Phone – iPhone 3GS review

Last week, I was one of the lucky individuals who got their iPhone 3GS at launch day. My initial plan was to get the 16GB but I opted for the 32GB. I for one am glad I made the better choice… For the most part, I had slight difficulty with AT&T slightly messing up my activation. That is mostly AT&T’s issue… So no fault on Apple’s part on that.

I will say that 1 week with the iPhone has been a unique experience… I know for the last 2 years, I was one of those on the harsh camp of iPhone “haters” because Apple didn’t quite fix security issues that most smart phones had resolved. At the time of the iPhone’s inception, it was a mediocre phone, a widescreen iPod, and small duty internet tablet. However… When you have problems with things like SSL encryption, Safari being crippled… It makes for a very unsafe smartphone from being an effective Fort Knox of information.

Then there was the iPhone 3G that came out last year… It was mainly a few fun toys like actually bolting a GPS chipset into the phone and some bigger storage options. The bigger issue was that the iPhone’s pricing was significantly reduced… Mainly because AT&T and Apple forged an alliance for reduced prices: The 8GB model of the iPhone 3G was to be priced at $199.99 and the 16GB $299.99. Of course, this would cause an influx of users to jumping to AT&T. Of course, with more users means more in the pool to experience problems… And boy did they problems hit hard…

When it rains… boy does it pour… Users started venting frustration… especially one odd group that Apple had been gunning to sway over: business enterprise users. If there was one thing they couldn’t live with out…. it was Microsoft Exchange server connectivity. Slowly Apple began to add supports for various online mail servers like G-Mail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, Exchange… Calendar support expanded to support CalDAV. Eventually things that your “common place” users wanted finally saw support with the iPhone… Yet security issues still remained.

I will say that I was still enough to sway me against the 3G… Even more so when things like the A2DP/AVRCP bluetooth profile, Nike+iPod compatibility, lack of encrypted SSL e-mail transactions, and a few other things just didn’t seem like a huge overall big deal… I could see how it was a big deal for first generation iPhone users.

Even still, I decided to wait…. Even on the envy of friends of getting brand new iPhones for Christmas… My gut feeling said Apple had a trick ace up their sleeve. A few blogs speculated that Apple was coming out with a brand new model iPhone… Some said it was a “nano” version to make it cheaper for the masses. That was all floating in the blogosphere until late May… Apple broke news saying something close to “The 3G will be reduced in price… AT&T is to sell remaining units at promotional pricing!” That was the big cue to look for a new iPhone on the horizon… Soon after Apple made the big press release, the iPhone 3GS was coming. Features being a slightly better battery, a faster processor, more RAM, a warmer toned LED screen, a oil resistant coating on the face of the iPhone, a compass chipset with the GPS, a brand new graphic chipset… To sweeten up the deal, they even decided to add a new 3.0 software update for both the iPhone 3G and GS models. This would be the crux of things as a slew of security issues were fixed and more functionality was added. I had been meaning to convert to AT&T for the sake of school… and this was my cue.

For background purposes… I was the “hardcore” business user. I used many of the “smartphone grade” operating systems: Palm OS Garnet, Symbian UIQ, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS… I understood the high learning curves from these devices, but on getting my iPhone 3GS… I ran into a unique experience…

A bare and minimalistic information pamphlet basically labeling out how to use the gestures and essentially throwing the user into the water. It was something else compared to the 50-60 page manuals I was used to with all the other phones. To be honest, I was skeptical.I had thought to myself… “Can it really be THAT easy?!” I jumped in and got to check it out…

Apple really refined everything… They didn’t use super high end parts or anything wild… I dare say, the pooled a group of users from 18 – 35 and said “What makes you fear a smart phone? What would you, the consumer, want in a fun phone?” The phrase “fire and forget” basically sums up how easy it is to use.

If you need to make a call, tap the “Phone” app icon and you get your standard phone options of the keypad, recent/missed calls, phonebook, favorite contacts, and the visual voicemail. Want to listen to music? Tap the iPod icon and you have categories of music… Want a more visual approach to your music? Turn your phone sideways and you get album covers of your music almost like a remix of an old jukebox. As a friend put it best… “It’s stupidly simple and Apple hit the mark for a mass market.”

The response of the phone with the new hardware is impressive… There’s almost no lag when in side-by-side comparison to an iPhone 3G. As many blogs such as Gizmodo iPhone 3GS review matrix show, the consensus is that the [S] does equate to speed or “snappiness”. I can definitely see how this will affect future games and applications slated to hit the iTunes App Store. So far most games are generally suited for the iPhone 3G and have minimal issues with the faster chips for the 3GS, but give it time and some developers may make games to utilize the faster chips.

As a media player, it works well… I will gripe and say the stock headphones blow. They work ok if there’s a necessity… I will say if you want to go wireless… The Motorola S305’s (MRSP $50) work rather nice example for a Bluetooth stereo option. There’s also the wired options like V-Moda or Shure but be prepared to pay a premium for their options ($80+). I do wish that movies could be displayed via the “Cover Flow” style that the music gets… I think it’d be cool to have that option and have the DVD/Theatrical poster be laid out for you rather than the bland list option. The Bluetooth profiles are still under work and Apple realizes they need to get into the game quickly. The A2DP (Advance Audio Distribution Profile) works alright as far as streaming 2-channel stereo music to Bluetooth headphones or car stereo systems, however the AVRCP (Audio-Video Remote Control Protocol) abilities of play/pause and volume+/- work but not the track skip commands. The rumor is the “hot fix” 3.1 update should resolve this, but I will report when the 3.1 public release comes out.

As a phone… I have come to love the simplicity. Making calls is idiot proof, I have yet to test it with my family borrowing my phone… but if I do, expect an update, as they are as tech fearing as most people are. The Visual Voicemail is absolutely charming as I have always hated voicemail messages where the person is trying to leave a message as quick as possible and I can’t catch the details… With normal voicemail, I’d have to wait for the end and press the replay command to listen again. Now with Visual Voicemail, I can just drag the slider back and catch the part I need with little to any fuss.

Texting and e-mail are much more refined now as landscape keyboards have been added to the 3.0 release. The e-mail encryption issue has been fixed properly and they do support SSL encryption to boot. All in all, I will say that the IM style for the text conversations is nice. Setting up your own e-mail however is a little tricky if you are not using a MobileMe, Microsoft Exchange, G-Mail, Yahoo Mail, or AOL Mail account… I found that out when I was trying to get my mailbox set-up but once I found the tips from the DreamHost Wiki, the rest was easy.

As a mobile internet tablet… I find it to be sufficient at the task. The only thing that Apple needs to get with the times is Flash support, but at this moment… They are basically trying to force content providers to push content to the phone for things like embedded video and a few sites support this. More and more mainstream sites however are relying on Flash to deliver site content and add the fact that the Android platform is pushing Flash when the next and final build of Android is due to be released… Apple will be the ones lagging in this vector. About 2 years ago, they claimed they couldn’t support Adobe’s endeavor because Adobe’s code probed too far into the internals of the iPhone, but that leaves many wondering “How much longer, Apple?” The irony to this is a Google/HTC phone is coming to AT&T around August depending on how AT&T will be tolerant of the Android open principles. I would dare to call that an assault on “home” territory and would hope that this spurs some competition with Apple to cooperate with Adobe.

I will say that the apps really do make the phone plenty useful and fun. Things like WordPress, Pandora, LastFM, Facebook, Amazon, AT&T myWireless, Google Apps are great! I can agree with many of the bloggers out there that the apps really make the iPhone quite a treat. As far as load speed, the new 3GS hardware has barely any latency with application loading which is great as I have “gotten used” to slow loading apps on my previous phones.

I will say probably my big compliment to the iPhone 3GS is it is one phone I have not had to reboot like clockwork. This was a problem on my Windows Mobile phones, Sony Ericsson P990i, Nokia smartphones, and even my Blackberry as the RAM/pagefile just gets blocked up in garbage which lags the phones out to a snails pace. I haven’t turned my phone off since I got it back on June 19th and it runs just as snappy as it was then.

As far as my final consensus goes for the phone… I will highlight the big points to consider before you sign with the Death Star or sign for an early upgrade should you be on the fence with getting an iPhone.

  • Have you been considering an all-in-one solution and have a dying previous generation iPod? – Yes
  • Fan of a minimalistic design? – Yes
  • Are you a contact synergy fanatic that wants rapid access to your phone book but don’t mind some work? – Yes
  • Are you upgrading from an iPhone 2G? – Yes
  • Do you want more software freedom and open source? – No, consider an Android phone like that HTC Lancaster coming soon to AT&T and the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G due August 3rd.
  • Do you want expandable and hot-swappable memory cards? – No, consider other smartphones that give this privilege.
  • Do you want a high end camera on your phone? – No, Consider the Samsung Memoir or Sony Ericcson CS905 or Xperia X1 for 8.1 megapixel camera phones
  • Do you want an easier way to combine all of your contacts from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc with little to any work? – No, consider a Palm Pre.
  • Does your work require that your phone must play nice on their VPN? – No, go with what is best for your company’s requirements.
  • Are you upgrading early because you bought your iPhone last year or in the last few months? – No, unless you’re foolish enough to pay the ridiculous upgrade $499 (16GB)/$599 (32GB) price.

In closing, the experience for a brand new user is pretty good and probably much easier . A 3G user not due to upgrade would be an idiot just to upgrade for a few perks. For any iPhone fanatic, I would advise sticking to the 2 year revision cycle. By the second year of ownership, the “newer” model will have huge upgrades for you. For a business class user, the iPhone 3GS is tricky and you’d have to check with your IT department if they can provide secure VPN support for you so “caveat emptor” is my warning to you. Overall my opinion is rather good for AT&T’s killer phone, but I will say I await what the Google Android team has to offer when they hit nearly every provider in America with Android phones. My reason is I love seeing competition and I want to see how Apple responds to what will soon be coming to Android.

Chemistry for Men: MenScience Review

Preface: First of all, I know this review has been overdue… I have had so much come up on the holidays and school as well. I want to once again thank Alfred of Barney’s New York for hooking me up with the products for the MenScience review. Without his help, I don’t think I’d have found out about another great brand! For my readers, I thank you for your patience with me… You all mean the most to me!

Some guys are more of the “manly man” camp and sadly could care less if their cologne smells like clean 5W40 motor oil for their Porsche Cayman or woody spices with subtle undertones. However, in the realm of male care goods… The selection either is laced with fragrances or the pronounced odor of the chemicals in the product are the only variety of smells you get. The fragrances can be an allergen to some body chemistries and the chemical odors would probably make you less inclined to use them from how bothersome they smell. Fortunately for those men who want the same high caliber performace out of their care but want to think of it like car care… A company does exist with your principles in mind: Function before form.

MenScience is one of the few companies that takes a very unique look at male grooming and they call it “androceuticals”. From their definition, it’s a merger of the prefix “andro” meaning male/men and pharmaceuticals. The philosophy of androceuticals is more from the idea that MenScience takes chemicals dermatology fields and uses the highest strength possible that just comes very short of being a prescription item. In their pursuit to get the highest standards, they wanted to keep their product hypo-allergenic. Due to their approach, they avoid using fragrances to facilitate their means. To keep their products in competitive pricing, they don’t pack their products in fancy packaging or give you marketing bull. This also makes their packaging environmentally friendly!

The Advance Facial Lotion was a rather nice treat. Like most the Billy Jealousy and Anthony Action facial moisturizers, it is very light and a little bit goes a VERY long way.  Most of the composition are things that help lubricate and keep moisture in the skin, however… MenScience puts a small amount of salicylic acid in it to help fight off oily skin, ingrown hairs, acne growth, and even helps facilitate moisture! The result is a very cool, soothing, and relaxing lotion that does its job very well. It’s a bit steep at the MSRP of $36, but I would assume that with the account of not using so much, it will last a few months if you’re using it 2-4 times daily.

I’ll be honest here… The Daily Shampoo was really awesome. It’s another product that uses the principle of “A little goes a long way” but it feels lighter than your drugstore shampoos. The unique tip from the MenScience site even mentions the fact that due to the suppliments found in the shampoo, there’s no need to use anti-dandruff shampoos or even conditioner. The dandruff is controlled by the wheat protiens and the salicylic acid, while the other vitamins found in it basically act like conditioner. The end result after washing off my hair and drying it was very apparent: very shiny strands of hair with lots of volume. This was quite a change as normally, after using regular conditioner, my hair feels a little weighted for a few hours before that fades off. For a 12oz bottle at $26, I think the price is more than fair for what you’re getting!

The Daily Facial Clenser wasn’t my favorite and I personally didn’t enjoy it much. True, the foaming effect and level of clean was really unparalleled to the Billy Jealousy or Anthony Action stuff… Just I think this product in particular fell into the camp of “smells like a drug store item” unfortunately. The fact it was in close proximity to my face didn’t help much. I won’t lie when I say I was amazed at how effective it was. I didn’t feel that I liked it to something like Billy Jealousy’s Sucker Punch or Anthony Action’s Foaming Face Wash, mainly from the pungent smell of the chemicals wafting to my nostrils. To be fair, I did use this both in the shower and at the sink. In the shower, I didn’t notice as much as I did when I was washing up at the sink. That may probably be the better solution if smell is a concern. Even though it’s really pricey at $45, but if you want an unmatched level of clean for your face… This is the best one I have tested.

The Eye Rescue Formula is something that most of us insomniacs, party goers, and midnight gamers trying to clean up our image would appreciate. This one just needs a dab and it works rapidly.  The eyes just feel that much more refreshed and the hazy dark circles become a thing of the past. I can say that if you’re a guy who wants to improve your looks so your boss, friends, or girlfriend would never suspect you of staying up for almost 16 hours doing that one “leet” raid out in Naxxramas in World of Warcraft, this is just the weapon for you.  For $37, I think the price is a steal for how good it is.

The Anti-Aging Formula was pretty interesting stuff. I personally haven’t looked into anti-aging care but to be able to test the results is quite staggering. The potency of the suppliments in the cream are pretty strong, so I will say this is one thing you do want to just use enough to touch up spots. The rapid onset and results were amazing, the minor facial wrinkles pretty much just disappeared. The price of $58 for a 1oz bottle, in my opinion, is rather steep… If you want something that works rapidly with the science behind it, I can say that it may be worth your money.

To close, I want to say that I enjoyed the experience from MenScience. For the guys out there who want high end grooming goods, it’s definitely on par to their standards. Even more so for guys who don’t want smells or imparted fragrances in their stuff. For me, I think I need the cosmoceutical philosophy found in other product lines versus the androceuticals. I can say that I will be recommending  MenScience to anyone who wants something closer to an androceutical.

2 Male Grooming Reviews in the Works!

On returning home to Dallas this weekend, I was greeted by a parcel in my office. It was a plain looking parcel, except it had the postal seal from Barney’s New York from my grooming contact, Alfred. I would open it up and find two of the hallowed lines of male grooming inside. Some items from Men Science and Action by Anthony were enclosed as well as a kind note from Alfred! Expect these reviews to be up very soon, this way, guys who are looking for something refined this holiday season can put some of these on their Christmas lists!

Keep a watch of the updates! I assure you that I will not disappoint!

Every Hero has their Excalibur – [Tech Review]

If some of you have have come to know me, you know that computer games do play a role in my life. They are my outlet away from my daily grind at my office. I know some friends refer to the old saying of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” which that’s how I feel when I have been put to the grindstone and whittled away from a sanity point of view. The one joy I do get from gaming like any other human is that victory is like a savored drink of sacred wine from a chalice. It’s gratifying and almost a wild blessing to know you have bested that opponent in a friendly game of Unreal Tournament, helped a few friends down an elite boss in World of WarCraft, or even beating a Hard Mode mission with bonus in Guild Wars.

I had been playing computer games for a good portion of my life on standard fare gear. Your regular keyboards, your regular mice, and etc. It was an ignorant bliss… I didn’t know better cause most of my life was spent recreationally gaming with personal friends. I, Zero, was rather xenophobic of gaming with people from the “intarwebs” and tried not to stray into that vector from a souring experience in Diablo II. A cheater had used a “Town Kill” trainer to kill me in a town and then happened to loot my corpse for all the elite gear that I slaved my hard hours for…

I digress…

Recently, gamer equipment has been more and more common place in electronic shops… Names like Fata1ity by Creative and Logitech are probably the more “commercial” of the bunch. However… These commercial solutions were just that: “commercial”. They felt rather generic to me and hell… They were a bit overpriced for what they were. On my search back in August for a gaming mouse to replace my gimped wireless one that had bit the dust… CompUSA had made a campaign in-store to advertise that they were “The Computer Store for Hardcore Gamers”. Naturally, I wanted to check their claims out for myself with needing a new mouse. Their mouse section had more than just your blown over commercial gaming mice, they had some great gems from Razer. I had heard only whispers about the reputation of Razer products, so I was more than intrigued to touch and feel mice that would otherwise be offered typically online. The ergonomics of their mice were superb, but with a limited budget… I had to limit my options. I would choose the Razer Death Adder mouse and pair it with an eXact Mat & eXact Rest pair which to my luck were all on sale for cheaper than online!

I would begin a 2 month trial to see if the “hype” that gaming mice are significantly better than your ordinary computer mice. Before I begin about my trial… Let me iterate some the differences of Razer mice versus some of your ordinary tools…

Razer’s mice address the following flaws with gaming peripherals… Response time, ghosting, and versatility. Razer had noticed with most commercial mice on the market… some go into a “sleep mode” when there’s idle activity. This sleep mode can mean the difference of a headshot or even an escape from a nefarious enemy. With wireless mouse, this sleep is somewhat required to save batteries. Razer produces only wired mice that are “always-on” so there’s never a chance of you running to the predicament of missing that epic kill… Ghosting is one issue most common gamers probably don’t think too much about, but it can be a definite buzz kill. Razer makes their mice with “HyperResponse” buttons at a polling rate of 1,000Hz. That’s really amazing as the clicks almost keep up with some of the most frightening saber dances or bullet ballets in some of the games I have played. Versatility is another hallmark of Razer as these gaming mice allow gamers to do change DPI settings or even flip between different gaming profiles. The profile changing is all thanks to Razers “Synapse Memory” chip giving players up to 5 different profiles to play with.

The eXact Mat is an aluminum mat with 2 sides on it… One is called the XControl side and has a rougher fractal texture while the other is called the XSpeed side. The XControl side is more fine tuned to allow precise movements for activities like playing sniper in a game of CounterStrike: Source for example or a weapon of precision. The XSpeed side is more for being able to make quick movements that would save you fate that would have you dead in a Battleground event for WoW. Combined with the eXact Rest, the wrist is in optimal mousing position and fatigue is minimized.

I had to do “scientific” testing to see if there was consistency with the end results… I would load up a game of Combat Arms for “Headshot” testing and I would use World of Warcraft for any Battlegrounds survival related testing. Here are the “control” benchmarks… The games average about 20 minutes a session.

Mouse: Microsoft Wirelss Notebook Laser Mouse 6000 (1000 DPI)
Mousing Surface: Pressboard wood design desk
Average Headshots per Kill: 4 out of 15
Average Survival in Battlegrounds: 9 deaths

I would do another battery of trials instead with the Death Adder but without the use of my eXactmat and eXactrest…

Mouse: Razer Death Adder (1800 DPI)
Mousing Surface: Pressboard wood design desk
Average Headshots per Kill: 6 out of 15
Average Survival in Battlegrounds: 8 deaths

The final set of tests would add in the eXactmat using the speed or control sides to their appropriate games… that would prove a minor improvement on top of the mouse, no surprise there. With the eXact rest, it would put my wrist at ideal height for mouse movements as well as lessen my gaming fatigue with maintaining correct hand posture.

Mouse: Razer Death Adder (1800 DPI)
Mousing Surface: Razer eXactmat Control and Speed with eXact rest
Average Headshots per Kill: 8 out of 15
Average Survival in Battlegrounds: 7 deaths

To go from 4 headshots and 9 deaths to 8 & 7 is a pretty good reduction! Granted that the battlegrounds instances have some partial factors that are due to keyboard response… The headshots should be shining proof that a good gamer can be handicapped by how good their gear is. With how signifigant my improvements were with the Death Adder, it does have me wonder what will happen should I get Razer’s haloed Lachesis mouse with 4,000 DPI…

Thanks to Razer for producing a great mouse as well as having the passion to show gamers that you can be held back by how good your weapons are.

[Male Grooming/Fashion] Ahhh… Jealousy! Billy Jealousy, that is!

Today actually turned to be a rather eventful day! I was at my weekend grind and my friend Brian calls me with the following dialogue:

Zero! I know you’ve been wanting to do a male fashion segment! I had a facial earlier with Dani of Billy Jealousy and I had another time slot for 7pm… but I thought you could use it for your blog! Do you want my spot? It’s for 7pm at Barney’s New York out in Northpark.

Naturally… I couldn’t say no… I am a personal fan to guys taking good care of their looks, rather than the common-man logic of “Argh! I am tough! I don’t need to smell like bergamot or patchouli!” I had also been trying to find a breath of fresh air with male facial care, cause most things out in the retail shops contain alcohol which is terribly drying to the face. I figured this was a great opportunity to brighten my horizons out! I proceeded to call my contact that Brian had referred me to, Alfred. I booked my appointment and would await my escape from the office.

When I was driving up… I had thought about my life with with facial care. I didn’t know much other than Neutrogena and Johnson & Johnson’s “Clean and Clear” brand of facial care products. Sadly with those products, I found it hard to use them every day and even now because they are terribly aggressive on attacking the face. The aggression ends up drying my face out badly…

Haggard from 9 hours
“Behold my haggard mug shot here!”

I would walk in to Barney’s and burn some time off in there at the men’s fragrance and grooming goods. I would soon be met by Alfred and make my acquaintance with him. He would ask if I needed anything to relax, so I would get a glass of champagne to unwind while I would talk about my aims with today’s trip. I would then exchange business cards and be led to the lounge.

Crisp Champagne
“Refreshing and floral…”

When 7:20pm hit, I would be introduced to Dani Rouso of Billy Jealousy who would be talking to me about everything while giving me a taste of truly refined men’s facial care. She would ask me a few demographic questions to get a good idea of what would be custom tailored for my needs and even educate me far beyond my narrow scope of the facial care products for men. The first thing she went over was over topical versus cosmoceutical.

Here’s Dani’s definitions on the two:

Topical: A topical is product that plays on emotions with fragrance to get you to believe that the product is doing great things when it actually is not so great for the skin.

Cosmoceutical: A cosmoceutical is a product that blends high end concentrations of drug and, in some cases, creates a positive emotional response while doing wonderful things for the skin and penetrating deep to achieve their results.

This was rather new to me, but it made sense… I know the products I have used are probably more guilty of being topical products. Dani was going to demonstrate some of be wonderful products from the Billy Jealousy line. The refreshing principles of the line were more along the cosmoceuticals. I was excited to feel a world of change on my face.

The first step was to get rid of the oils on my face. I would be layered up with hot towels to open up the pores and then I would recieve the application of the [Bar None] facial wash. The aromatic scent was like a splash of citrus almost like the official website’s description that says it may make the user think of an ice cold margarita. The facial wash was working deep on the pores and sweeping my skin of the excess oils. It worked on an unreal level that didn’t feel as harsh on the surface, but it worked in a deeper level. To me, it was almost an amazing level of clean!

The next thing to do was to exfoliate the dead skin and clean the skin of the grime. I would then meet [Liquid Sand]. This one was something I was felt quite fond of… Exfoliating is something I do enjoy, especially when I want to feel my best. With the over-the-counter stuff you can buy in any retail shop, sadly, some of those “microscrubber” beads are pretty big, coarse, and rough that it’s not much fun to do every day. Liquid Sand has microbeads, but these were far more refined… It glided across my face, but I could feel the very subtle beads sweeping my face and just bringing up the contaminants to be swept away from my face.

Dani had made a great note that on men, the skin nose has some of the biggest pores and trap a large number of contaminants. She would demonstrate one of her favorite weapons to counteract these gross contaminants: [Sucker Punch]. She would apply it right on the common problem spot, right on my nose. I would feel the Tahitian black sand and walnut shells scrub a little more aggressively on my nose, but soon after there was that refreshing tingle that was familiar to me. She would make note that there was also eucalyptis and menthol in the Sucker Punch face scrub. Even though it was on my nose, it felt like that one attack after the feint to sweep up the rest of the heavier set contaminants.

The next discussion Dani had with me was about maintaining the skin on my face with a simple defense. Lines and wrinkles are small things but also something that does come with time. She would give my face a light shot of [About Face]. It was a clear serum and a little bit of it worked quickly across my skin. The aloe vera was soothing as well as refreshing. I could feel some tightening, but that would soon be taken to the next level with another defender…

The eyes are a beutiful part of most people and well fatigue will sometimes give us the look of dark rings. Nights of hard studying and/or partying are probably the cause of those for most young guys in their twenties, unfortunately… Though some more fortunate individuals may not have to worry until their late twenties. I got to sample [Wipeout] with Dani applying just a small amount on my orbital bone and feeling it rise quickly to areas around my eyes. The puffiness I probably had from my stressing school life just seemed to deflate once the lactic acid worked its way in.

To finish things up, I would get nice treatment to soften up my fatigued hands… I would have my hands massaged out with [Golden Gloves]. I would instantly feel the effects of the Monoi de Tahiti just saturating my hands with moisture. I could feel the intensity of the moisture set in very rapidly. I can definitely say it doesn’t feel as gross as some of the over the counter lotions out there and the scent of it is much more pleasant.

This would end my facial care session, but Dani had saw the wicked scar on my chin and talk to me about the shaving line from Billy Jealousy too. She had found from me in the demographic portion of today’s session that I was a straight razor fanatic. She would then introduce me to Esquire’s 2007 Grooming Awards winner for best shaving cream: [Hydroplane]. Her demonstration of how slick and protective Hydroplane was proved to be phenominal! I got just a small application on my index and thumb fingers. Initially, it was clear and felt tacky, but Dani splash just a little bit of water and Hydroplane revealed its true colors… It just be came slicker and slicker like oil. The lubrication property of Hydroplane was just amazing to see, most of the foams and gels out there don’t even come nearly as close!

Shedding my old face for a new one
“Ah! I feel refreshed!”

From all this, I got a lovely lesson in advanced facial care. I do want to give credit to Brian of Global Fashion News, Alfred of Barney’s New York, and Dani of Billy Jealousy for providing me such a wonderful experience! I want to give Dani an extra big thanks on teaching me a little bit more about skin care as well as the mini-lecture over the importance of sun protection and even suggesting [Combat Lines] daily moisturizer with SPF protection should I decide to get on board with that. (At this time… Combat Lines is not yet posted on the site.)

I can’t even give enough credit to how awesome it feels to shatter the old face of mine in favor of a new one..! Check out the entire Billy Jealousy line on their website (www.billyjealousy.com) or at your nearest retailer!

Wall-E

Love, action, drama, fighting, dancing, singing, and more! All found in a little movie about a robot named Wall-E. Pixar certainly outdid themselves again. Wall-E is on par and maybe even surpasses the story of the heart-warming Finding Nemo (2003) and Monsters Inc. (2001). Though Cars was made only a couple years ago, it has to have been the least amiable of the three for obvious reasons such as lack of an original story. Since I’m going to see Wall-E again today I thought I’d write a little article on this cute little movie in attempt to urge others to see it.

It seems the key to Pixar’s success is to fufill what everyone needs to see in order for anyone to judge it a good story-character development. In this new futuristic movie, though there is barely any talking going on and none by the characters themselves at all, I would say the art of connecting the character to the audience is mastered within the first 15 minutes. During this short amount of time the cinematics have already grasped your interest with intent to hang on until the end of the movie. The story-boarders have implemented little quirks to each character to have the women “awwing” and the men chuckling.

Furthermore, I noticed that on opening night that the audience was mostly made up of adults and teens ranging from 16+ rather than the expected kids from 10 and below. To my surprise as I exited the theater, I found most guys were much more thrilled about having seen the movie than the girls. Strange, eh? It is a definite must-see for all ages and both genders!

Queen – “We are the Champions! We are the Champions! No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions of the world!”

Today was the day that would decide my fate… It was either giving it my all or going home broke. I went to the examination room. It was a somber place. A halo of deathly silence came over us all. My pharmacist and instructor basically made a short speech going along the lines of:

I am proud you have gone this far and exceled on your practical final. Today will be the real test of knowlege and retention. Make me proud and take your time! I know you all can do your best!

From there, we were dropped the exam. It was a narrow line of failure and glory. Twenty questions and a minimal grade of 70% to pass. The math part tripped me up as some of my closest readers know that I had something derail me from concentrating at my optimum level. The scary part… It was like deja vu of 2005 and me walking out of the testing room. I completed my test and got it graded only 20 minutes after being issued the exam…

I would walk alone… but I found out I passed with flying colors!

I had to celebrate with something special, classy, and unique… So I hit up Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits for something to fit the bill. I found something that was worth the full price.

Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt box

The box clearly just mentions what it is without flowery art and bullshit!

Yamazaki Bottle

The bottle glows with a liquor so fine that it begs to be drank from!

Beauty in a Glass

The smell is wonderful although a little overpowering from the alcoholic notes… The first sip was like a love story that met my ideals… A woman dedicated to me but had been separated from me, she had left me a love note saying “Wait for me…” almost 7 years ago and to be finally reunited with her. That was the first sip… every returning sip was like more of the love story being written on my taste buds. It was like something that a fantasy romance novel… Totally worth the price of admission!

I AM COMPLETELY AND NATIONALLY CERTIFIED AS A TECH WHO IS SKILLED IN ASEPTIC PROCEDURE AND TECHNIQUE.