Thursday, September 3, 2015

Review: The Fjallraven Reporter Lite Jacket

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area is glorious. You really never get much "weather", as such. Go east of the Berkeley/Oakland hills in Summer and it's goddamn blistering hot. In winter, it's chilly (if not outright cold). Go south to San Jose and it's warm (even in winter). It's rarely cold enough to snow. It's microclimate heaven.

That said, it can get cool at times. When that fog rolls in and you're bar-hopping in the City, it pays to have a light coat.

I found myself at one point with a bit of REI money, a coupon, and a need for a light jacket for my job in San Francisco.

So I got the Fjallraven Reporter Lite Jacket.

It's a well-named coat. Just light enough that it's comfortable in the increasingly warm summer mornings, but breathable enough to not be hellish in a sweaty, packed, poorly-ventilated BART car.

Plus: pockets! SO MANY POCKETS!

It's a polyester/cotton blend that feels comfortable without that plastic-y polyester feel. It wears well and is pretty durable. It's probably my favorite light jacket at the moment for those odd days in Summer when I need a light jacket in the morning or evening.

Sharp Things: the DPx Aculus 3d

Yes, I bought another knife.

The DPx Aculus 3d crossed my path due to the wonders of the Internet. I honestly can't remember where I was in my browsing when I came across it. I was taking a break from studying for a certification exam and my higher cognitive functions were doubtless-compromised.

Regardless, it was on sale at the time and I coughed up for a new knife for my collection of sharp, pointy things.

My daily carry knives alternate between my Sebenza 21 and my TAD Gear Dauntless Mk3. Both are excellent folder knives, but both have quirks that make me switch between the two.

The Sebenza 21 is a small thing. It's just small enough that it's a little awkward to open one-handed (which is potentially a problem with a sharp blade). It also has a tendency to ride out of my pocket when I clip it to the edge of my pocket instead of letting it sit in the bowels of my pockets with my keys, coin purse, and all that crap. I've almost lost it twice on BART and that makes me nervous.

The Dauntless is a beefier knife, but is fussy in opening and the screw that keeps the blade in the handle has a tendency to loosen of its own accord, making me wary of losing it at an inopportune moment and having the blade get loose in my pocket.

The things I have to worry about...

So the DPx Aculus is an excellent third blade and fast becoming a favorite, despite being a PITA to type.

The handle is, according to the DPXGear site, crafted of a solid block of titanium. It's curved to fit nicely in the palm of the hand and has a cool pattern to it that's both aesthetically-pleasing and provides a good grip. The blade is sharp and deploys fairly-smoothly one-handed despite the lack of a thumb stud. Further, it comes with a 1/4" hex base tungsten carbide insert glass breaker at the end of the handle, for those times when you need to break glass but don't want to use your elbow/foot/neighbor's head/whatever. The locking mechanism is a bit fussy, requiring two hands to unlock and fold the knife at times, but otherwise it's been a great purchase.

I forgive my lower-cognitive self for making the purchase and approve of the timing, as I apparently just caught the sale window. The knife has since jumped up to an eyebrow-raising $400 as of today.

Given that a Zombie-Tools Apokatana runs just under $430 and the Zakasushi runs a smidge less than $340, I'm not sure I would have gone for the non-sale price.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Da bus

Due to a tragedy in San Francisco today, BART was effectively shut down for my commute hours. So I gave the AC Transit bus line a go.

It was a surprisingly-smooth, easy, stress-free trek home. I now understand why so many of my co-workers prefer the bus to BART.

I'll probably stick with BART for the most part. It's simply faster - when its running - but I think I'll keep the AC transit bus in-mind. It took the sting out of what was an otherwise horrible commute.

Review: "Willful Child" by Steven Erikson

I want to preface this by saying I was - initially - a great fan of Erikson's "Malazan" fantasy series. It was great stuff until it collapsed under the weight of its insane mythology and became a muddled mess of WTF.

I actually was so disgusted with the series, I never did read the conclusion. I'm not convinced it will offer me closure or satisfaction.

So when my friends recommended Erikson's "Willful Child", I was skeptical. I was told it's a parody of Star Trek and quite funny. Erikson does do funny very well (his novellas of a pair of wandering necromancers in his Malazan world were quite entertaining), so I ultimately gave it a chance.

I devoured it in about two days (pacing myself on BART). I couldn't put it down, frankly.

"Willful Child" is indeed a parody of "Star Trek" in every possible way and it does so gloriously. Indeed, the intro reminds me of the only episodes of the terrible "Enterprise" prequel series that I enjoyed: the ones that dictate how the mirror universe starts.

At first, "Willful Child" seems to be about a macho idiot. Give it a chance. The story does seem to be going somewhere (and yes, the protagonist is an oversexed, macho sort, but he's not really an idiot so much as he's sort of insane).

If you like humor, "Star Trek", and insane, I suggest giving it a read.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation"

I took the day off to decompress after a family wedding. In-between various activities (some healthy, some decidedly less-so), I decided to catch a matinee of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Can't say I regretted it.

In terms of plot, the film is painfully-shy of any depth. It follows the formula of the previous films: Contrived situation takes place alienating Ethan Hunt and his loyal team (in this case, the entire IMF) and they have to cooperate to bring down BAD GUYS in ridiculous, overly-complex actions.

It would be an entirely-forgettable film save for the performances of Simon Pegg (playing techno-nerd Benji Dunn) and the outstanding Sarah Ferguson who plays the one female character of note: Ilsa Faust.

Cue the captures, escapes, insane fight scenes, chase scenes, gun fights, and tear-off masks (gotta have those). They brought back alumni from previous films in the form of Pegg (playing Dunn), Jeremy Renner (playing the whiny William Brandt who is a pointless character in the film), and Ving Rhames (playing Luther Stickell, the weirdly-loyal backup man to Cruse's Hunt).

Following what appears to be a tradition for this franchise, they didn't bring back any of the past female IMF team members. Not sure why. Paula Patton and Maggie Q would have had more impact than Renner's Brandt or Rhames's Luther.

Still, it really was Ferguson's Ilsa Faust who stole every scene she was in, hand's down. Whether it was kicking ass - barefoot - in a room full of thugs (to rescue Hunt), swimming in an underground vault (again, to rescue Hunt), owning a motorcycle chase, or playing a deep-cover spy, her character is really the main bit of fresh air in the film.

The only bit that felt forced (I hate to say "contrived" in a film that is nothing but...) was Faust's clear fondness for Ethan Hunt (who, I believe, is still married - albeit secretly - as of the last film).

I'd pay to see a film with Sarah Ferguson in the lead as an action heroine anytime.

Overall, I'd give Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation my stamp of approval. It was what I was expecting: mindless action fun and offered more than advertised with Sarah Ferguson's performance.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: "The Annihilation Score"

Finished the latest of the Laundry novels by Charles Stross. "The Annihilation Score" continues the tales of the Laundry, told this time from the perspective of Monique "Mo" O'Brien, the wife of Bob, the narrator of the previous books.

An entertaining read, this time with a theme of superheroics mixed with office politics. I'm honestly not sure how to properly review this book. I liked it but it was a bit clunky in parts. It's not a book one can really read without having read the previous Laundry books. And the melodramatic parts certainly seem to drag on and on.

I'm wondering what Stross's endgame will be for this series.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Thoughts on Ant-Man

Just saw "Ant-Man" on a whim.

I hadn't really planned on it. I was going elsewhere and noticed there wasn't a line, so I changed gears and popped in to catch the film.

I really have to hand it to Marvel Studios. What kind of sorcery does one have to perform to make a hero like Ant-Man become somewhat engaging and cool?

It was a nice build on the Marvel mythos. Paul Rudd was surprisingly-good as down-and-out ex-thief Scott Lang. I'm no Michael Douglas fan, but he was pretty solid as Hank Pym, the creator of the technology that allows for Ant-Man to be a thing. The rest of the cast were okay. No fantastic stand-outs, but no lemons.

I loved the Avengers tie-in and Anthony Mackie's walk-on scene. That was fun stuff.

The action was solid and the effects entertaining. There was a good mix of humor to keep everything going as well.

The two "epilog scenes" were good stuff too. I guess the next film is "Captain America: Civil War" and are leading up to that film. Should be interesting.