Oct 232013
 

If you have not yet watched the first 4 episodes of Homeland’s 3rd season, then don’t read this unless you want to be spoiled.

I loved the first season of Homeland.  It was great, riveting, you didn’t really know what was going on, and it had that feel of potentially being realistic.  Honestly, the show probably should have ended there, and then it might go down as the best show ever.  The 2nd season?  It was definitely not as good as the first one, but I don’t think there was a chance of that since the 1st was so good.  But, it was not bad.  It just lost some of it’d edge, and some of its realism.  Some of the stuff that happened there, you just had to think, what?  That can’t happen can it?

And then we come to season 3.  I would be lying if I said I really enjoyed it so far.  The show basically moved away from being a CIA, spy, terrorism series to one where Carrie is stuck in a mental hospital.  The worst part about it is that it wasn’t even just one episode in which she is fighting her sanity.  It was the freaking first 4, or one-third of the entire season.  You think that at some point it is going to turn back into some type of terrorism show, but it just keeps going.  And then at the end of the 4th episode of the season, it finally does turn back to it, and you are yelling out loud, “WHAT??!!”  Have twists in shows is great, but this one was just so unrealistic that it goes beyond that.  Carrie, all along, had planned with Saul to discredit her, and thus get recruited by the Iranians.  Ummmm, ok.  On the one hand, I’m happy that at least the show is finally getting back to being about fighting terrorism.

But, how they got there?  It’s one thing for Carrie to go deep undercover and get institutionalized and discredited.  But, there were too many things that happened that made it seem like she really was upset about being set up.  The biggest one that jumps to my mind was when she was watching, from her home, Saul testify in front of a committee that Carrie was sleeping with Brody, thus discrediting her in front of the world.  If this really was planned all along, then why the heck was she so upset watching this on TV?  And don’t tell me that she was acting it out in case her house was bugged with a camera, because I wouldn’t buy that.

And don’t even get me started on Brody’s family.  Is there a point in even having them on the show anymore?  I like Morena Baccarin and all, but I don’t really see why they need her anymore on the show.  The son?  The actor who plays him is lucky for getting paid to pretty much do nothing.  The daughter?  I hate her character, and never really did like her, but I can somewhat see how her story might be interesting to some people.  How a daughter would react to being hated by the world because her dad is a traitor and a terrorist.  But, like I said, I don’t like her character, and it spills over to her storyline too.  If it were me, I could do away with the rest of Brody’s family.

Brody?  I was okay with the one episode he was in, but am curious as to what is going to become of him.  I’m guessing he will die somehow, but that probably won’t happen until near the end of the season for dramatic effect.

Anyway, I am not a big fan of the first 4 episodes, but because I loved the first season so much, I want to see how it will now turn out since it is back to being about the CIA trying to capture terrorists.  I know it won’t be as riveting as season 1, but let’s hope that it does at least become entertaining again.

Oct 212013
 

We were walking around the mall looking for a new shirt for myself last week since this past weekend we were going to be taking some photos.  We were at South Coast Plaza, where as many of you know, there are some, shall we say, higher priced clothing stores.  We walked in the usual mainstream places like Gap, Banana Republic (where the girlfriend got a dress), American Eagle Outfitters, H&M.  I ended up getting a shirt, but that’s really besides the point.  We walked into some places, and there were shirts there that cost as much as my suit.  One particular store we went into was Hugo Boss.  I will admit that I found some shirts in there that I liked.  I tried them on, and they looked good, felt comfortable, and they fit pretty good.  But, then I saw it was $135 bucks, and I was no thanks.  That’s like 5 times the price of a shirt I normally would get.  Actually, probably 6 times.

I will grant you that the shirt looked good.  It really did.  But, if you see me at work, most of the stuff that I wear is probably at least 5 years old.  The only reason I bought a few new shirts in the last couple years was because I had to throw away about half a dozen of them because the developed holes at the elbows of the shirt.  It wasn’t just a tiny hole or I would have kept them.  They were so huge that when I raise my arms or bent them, you could see my entire elbow sticking out.  So, even I had to toss them.

So, yes, the shirts looked and felt great.  But, driving a Ferrari also probably looks and feels great.  It doesn’t mean I’m going to go and buy one.  Yes, I know it’s not quite on the same scale, but it really is the same thing.  If I ever wore a $100+ dollar shirt, I’d be wearing a bib every time I ate to make sure that I didn’t stain it.  And if for some reason I did spill something on it, I’d probably be running to the bathroom to clean it off.  I suppose I’m being a bit harsh and a little extreme.  Everyone has their thing, and I am no different.  Do I really need a big TV, speakers, and receiver in my living room?  A small TV does the exact same thing, just doesn’t “look” or “sound” as nice.  So, I guess clothes are just not my thing.  I think that maybe if I was looking for a shirt for a special occasion like a wedding or something, then I could indulge in something so nice.  Maybe.  I’m wondering if the people who frequent stores such as these, though, do so on a regular basis.

But for me, yes clothes really do make a difference, but no thanks.  My $35 dollar jeans and $20 dollar shirts will suffice.  Are they as nice as $300 dollar jeans or $135 dollar shirts?  No.  But, I don’t think they are 5-10 times better either.  And they definitely don’t last 5-10 times as long.  The sad thing is that both probably cost the same amount of money to make.  It’s just that the “expensive” one got slapped with a label and thus can sell for more money.  I wouldn’t even be surprised if both were made in the same sweatshop overseas.

Oct 172013
 

I have known about gift card exchange sites for a while, but it is not until recently that I’ve actually started using one.  I’ve bought numerous gift cards on the site cardpool.com, and each of the ones that I’ve received had the exact amount it said it would and they each worked at the respective store.  Seeing as how I am usually patient, sometimes waiting months for the price of an object to drop, in buying objects, these sites are great.  It contains gift cards for many of the stores that I buy from.  So, I buy these gift cards at a discount of anywhere from 5% to 20%.  Then go to my store and still buy things that are only on sale, making the price even that much cheaper.

I’ve yet to be burned with a bad card and hope that never comes about.  Every time that I have gotten a card, it is because I plan on going to that particular store in the near future.  Thus, make the purchase of the card, wait for it to arrive, and then go to that store.  The puppy’s food was running low, so I got myself a PetSmart gift card for a 7% discount.  After I got the card, I proceeded to the store, bought the dog food, used a coupon, and then used the gift card.  Always nice to get an extra discount.

I do not plan on ever selling any gift cards to these sites.  Most of the time, if I ever get a gift card to a place that I will never go to, I usually will just give it away as well.  Yes, I know re-gifting is bad, but I don’t care.  If I’m not going to use a gift, I’m not going to just keep it in my closet the rest of my life, nor am I going to waste it by throwing it away.  The cheap part of me just can’t sell the card to the sites for more than 20% off the face value.  I just don’t think I can physically do it.

But, I do plan on continuing to buy gift cards from places like cardpool.com.  I even have an alert set up to email me whenever there is an Amazon gift card, but there just never is one and I don’t plan on ever getting that alert.  I don’t plan on using it for stores like Target, since I get a bigger discount using Target’s RedCard than I would buying a gift card on the site.  Nor will I use it for gift cards for gasoline stations for the same reason in that my credit card gives me a bigger discount.  Yes, I know that we are probably talking really small differences here, but saving a few dollars here and there really adds up.  And, it’s just fun saving money knowing you can buy more stuff with those savings.  If you are looking for further ways to save money, then try some of these sites out.

Oct 162013
 

The new fall TV season started not too long ago, and so when you scan the entertainment news nowadays, and skip all the filthy tabloid garbage, you see a lot of headlines on ratings.  I’ll write another post about what shows I’m watching so far this year, but just had some thoughts about how ratings are done in the country.

I know I am not the only one, but how in the world can millions and millions of ad dollars be based on Nielsen ratings?  You mean that Nielsen rating system in which the put a box in very few household samples and then project that to the wider audience?  Seriously?  That is what the jobs of thousands in the TV industry are based on?  We can figure out how many webpages are visited, what people click on, but we need to rely on sampling to determine how many people watch a TV show?  There are people out there much smarter than me.  I’m sure they can develop a model or new technology than what Nielsen provides.  The only reason I can guess for this not happening is the Nielsen company strong arming their dominance and preventing competing/better rating systems from coming forth.

And it never ceases to amaze me how well shows do that follow a hit show.  And then when that show moves to another time slot, it bombs.  I suppose there are a ton more people out there who watch TV a lot differently than I do.  I might understand this if there were no DVR’s and no remote controls.  But, seriously, who just leaves the channel the same after a hit show and watches the next show?  Are you that lazy to change the channel to something else that you will just watch the next show afterwards?  I understand if it were still the 1950’s, but in this day and age that makes absolutely no sense to me.  None.

More than half the time, I don’t even know what time and channel my TV shows are on.  Seriously.  I just set my DVR up and then when I check it out, I watch the recorded shows that I have.  The only live TV I watch are sports games here and there.  Channels are pretty much irrelevant to me now.  Day/time pretty much is too.  Might as well add commercials to that list too since I skip them all anyway.

Speaking of that, no matter how much the TV executives try to lecture us on how commercials need to be watched since they pay for everything, it just falls on deaf ears here.  I am always complaining about not having enough time to do what I want, and you want me to literally waste 20 minutes of every hour of my life watching commercials for your show?  Sorry, no way.  TV executives better get used to that too.  If you never wanted to have anyone watch anything without commercials, you should have never licensed your stuff to places like Netflix.  Once you watch TV without commercials, you never want to go back.

Oct 152013
 

I downloaded the game Clash of Clans for my Android OS phone, and the girlfriend has made fun of me every day since.  Why?  Because I’m always playing it when I have free time and there is something for me to do in the game.

The game has elements of simcity as well as real time strategy games.  You need to mine resources to build your little city.  Depending on the buildings that you create, you can raise troops for your army, put up defensive structures, mine more resources, upgrade your units, and more.  With your army, you can decide to either attack goblins in the normal campaign mode, or you can attack another player’s city.  Because you can get attacked by other players, you need to also make sure you put up enough defensive structures.  I am not really sure what the consequences for losing a battle are when attacked as your buildings are still there after your city is destroyed.  I suspect that you lose money and resources, but I haven’t paid close enough attention to what my resource levels were before and after an attack to make sure.

Obviously since this is a “free” game, there are elements in it which you can pay money to do.  The main thing is when building your structures.  The more resources it takes, the longer time wise it takes to build them.  I recently upgraded my townhall and it took 24 hours.  I could have paid minerals to speed that up.   There are ways to get minerals (when you perform certain achievements), but that is also a slow process.  The real way to get these minerals is to pay real money.  But, that will never happen with me.  I’ve only paid $.99 in my entire life for any phone app, ever.  So, I think I have the discipline and am way too cheap to ever pay to make my buildings finish faster.

But, whenever my phone sends me an alert that a building is done or troops are finished or that I got attacked, I always open the app and then do another action.  At the moment I can only do 2 building events at a time, since I don’t want to pay for more minerals for the ability to build more, but I still do it. Let’s see how it will be once each action I do takes more than 24 hours to perform.   Will I get bored and just stop?

The attacking in this game is interesting.  You basically select which troop you have in your army, then tap where you want to place it.  Once you place the troop though, you have absolutely no control of that troop.  It gets frustrating sometimes because even if all your troops are getting attacked by a canon, it will still be attacking an enemy building instead of changing its tactic and attacking what is killing them.  Oh well.  There are different troops that focus on different types of enemy structures, so I guess that is where some strategy comes in.  I also like the fact that when you are attacked, you are able to replay the battle on your phone to see how they did so.  You can find out how they beat you and thus shore up that part of your city.

Overall, it’s a fun game and combines different elements from other games that I have enjoyed.  It’s currently my flavor of the month.  Let’s see if it lasts more than a month this time.

Oct 142013
 

I went to this past Saturday morning and returned yesterday.  It was one of many trips to Vegas that I’ve gone on.  Just a few thoughts and comments about this most recent one.

I forgot how much I hate stupid smokers spewing their cancer smoke out for everyone to breathe.  My eyes got really red (don’t know if they are just more sensitive post-PRK) and my breathing wasn’t the greatest while I was sleeping (so I was told).  And my clothes smelled like it does after I eat Korean BBQ, but way more of a disgusting odor.  Freaking smokers.

We stayed at The Quad, which is still in the process of being remodeled.  It used to be the Imperial Palace.  It was an okay hotel.  Nothing special, but not the worst room I’ve ever stayed in.  I thought the AC was really loud, but oh well.  It was definitely cheap though at just under $100 for the night.  I should be thankful my brother gambles a lot and got us the room.  I’m curious as to what the place will look like in a while after the complete remodel is finished.

I ended up losing 170 bucks gambling for the entire trip, with all of those losses coming from poker.  I have found that I no longer have the patience or discipline to play poker.  I just play haphazardly now, and it is more gambling than anything else nowadays.  I won at every other game I played at, like pai-gow and blackjack.  Is it that I really am just too impatient now, or do I just not enjoy playing poker anymore?  Maybe if I played a higher stakes games, I’d go back to how I used to be.  Although, I do think poker is more fun with people I know than with those I don’t.

I’ve also come to the realization that I don’t like losing money.  Well, I’ve always known that.  And I’m sure everyone feels the same way.  But, I think that I hate losing money more than I like winning.  Does that make sense?  I was there with my brothers and their friends, and many of them brought well over $1,000 bucks.  I only brought $400, and stopped when I was down $170.  If I lost $1,000 I would go crazy.

I’m always amazed when walking around Vegas late at night and the streets are still teeming with people.  It’s not even that there are a lot of people on the streets, but that the people are still filled with energy, and ready to have fun well into the night and the start of the next day.  Not sure there is another city in the world that is like that.

Every time I go Vegas, it seems like the Strip gets longer and longer.  They keep adding new hotels on the south side of the Strip.  We drove there this weekend and there were hotels there that I’d never seen before years ago.  They are also constantly remodeling and reinventing casinos as well.  The aforementioned Quad used to be the Imperial Palace, and Planet Hollywood used to be Aladdin.  Isn’t there a limit to how many hotel casinos you can keep adding?  At some point you are not going to have enough tourists, right?

Anyway, Vegas was fun.  Ate some, gambled some, walked around some.  Next time, let’s add to that with won some.

Oct 092013
 

I’ve probably written about this in the past, but seeing as how I was stuck in traffic today, I feel like ranting about it again.  What the heck is up with stupid Southern California drivers and a little rain?  Do you know how many accidents I saw on the roads today, and how much extra time I had to spend in my car as a result?  How hard is it to realize that when the roads are wet, you should probably slow down a little bit.  I mean, just a little?

I am not even talking about freeways only.  I was stuck on a road for what seemed like forever.  Two cop cars with their sirens on made cars get out of their way, and when I finally got to where they drove to, I saw two cars that had hit each other.  Some car rear ended an SUV.  Wonderful.  I suppose I am glad that it looked like no one got hurt, but I’m just being nice.  I’m sure all of the drivers near me were not really thinking the same thing.

While thoroughly enjoying my extra time in the car, I also listened to some AM radio stations.  And my witnessing these accidents was not a unique thing.  There were tons of accidents all over the freeways!!  I’ll grant that a mudslide in LA that caused a huge delay on the freeway truly was a storm related incident not caused by drivers.  But, that was definitely not the only incident I hard on the airwaves.

I have never lived in a locale that has snow.  But, I imagine that when there is a snowstorm, there are not as many accidents on the roads.  I think that has more to do with the fact that less people drive when there is snow, and they do in fact drive much slower.  I’ve driven in snow before, and you really can feel your car sliding here and there on the roads when you go too fast.  I suppose when people experience that firsthand, they do drive more carefully.  But, in the rain?  For the most part, if you zip down the freeway, it somewhat feels normal, as when driving when dry.  And that is probably what the problem is.  People always have this attitude of, “it’s not going to happen to me.”  Well, obviously from listening to the radio and living in So Cal all my life experiencing the huge increase in accidents when even the slightest rain appears, many people share this attitude.

I remember when I was much younger, I hit a water spot in the road that caused the back of my car to slide sideways, and I had no control whatsoever.  I was stopping for a red light.  I was lucky that my car finally did stop, before the crosswalk, and there were no cars next to me so that my swaying backside didn’t hit anyone.  I wasn’t even going fast, with the speed limit at 35.  Imagine how out of control I’d be if this was on the freeway and the same thing happened.  But, I shouldn’t worry.  That “won’t happen to me.”  At least not again.

Oct 072013
 

Gravity

After seeing the trailer for Gravity prior to a movie a while ago, I thought that this movie seemed really cool and interesting, and I wanted to see it.  I had never heard of the movie prior to that, and it’s not very often that a movie trailer works so well with me.  But, the movie finally came out this past weekend, and I dragged the girlfriend with me to watch it.  The trailer for this movie is pretty much how this movie starts out.  Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are out in space in their suits.  Some debris comes flying into them, causing mass chaos, Bullock to separate from Clooney and the rest of her crew, and Bullock to fly out into space.

As I said earlier, that trailer was very freaky and made you imagine how scared you really would be if you were in Bullock’s situation.  After watching the movie, I will tell you this.  It does not disappoint.  The whole movie puts you on edge, and it does such a good job that you are always imaging what it is like to Sandra Bullock, so good that you yourself are in the movie and as scared as Bullock appears to be.  You just feel scared and on edge along with her.

I don’t know a whole lot about space, but the movie (if not true) at least appears to be plausibly true.  We all know that space is a beautiful, but scary environment, and this movie does an excellent job of portraying both of those.  At the beginning of the movie when there is no danger to the crew, it is gorgeous, with Earth in the background.  But, when all hell breaks loose, there is no one who would want to trade places.

I won’t really get into how the movie later proceeds and definitely not how it ends.  The movie is about 90 minutes long and you will enjoy every minute of it.  Go watch it and see for yourself.  I’ve heard that this movie is spectacular on IMAX 3D.  I only watched it on regular 2D, like I do all my films, and I enjoyed it nonetheless.  If you believe the hype, then this movie might possibly be one of the few in which it is worth it to pay the extra money for that, as many of the scenes are beautifully shot, and having it in 3D might potentially make it even better.  Either way, go watch it!

Oct 032013
 

I just got back from Chicago last night, having been there for 3 days and 2 nights for a training class.  It was my 2nd time to the Windy City.  What did I think?  I think I actually like it in Chicago.  Granted it was just the beginning of fall, and so the weather was nice.  It was not hot and not cold.  People were wearing short sleeve shirts.  I’m pretty sure my opinion would shift downward drastically if it were winter and freezing.

I got there on Sunday, took the train to my hotel, and then just walked around the rest of that day.  It was nice looking at all of the tall buildings, and it was not crowded at all.  However, that all changed when I woke up the next day at 7 am.  I looked out the window, and the sidewalks were filled with people walking to work.  It’s crazy because being in So Cal, I am just not used to seeing so many people walking, outside of maybe some walk for charity or something.  It’s kind of cool, and something I could see myself doing to get to work.  The trains there are awesome too, letting you get around all over the city.  Public transportation in So Cal just isn’t feasible or convenient, and I’d only take it if I had no other choice.  When I took the train back to the airport after my class ended on the last day, I was like a sardine in the train.  It reminded me of when I went to Tokyo.  By the time I got to the airport though, there was only 3 other people on the car.

I also tried different foods while I was there.  Once again, I had a stuff pizza, which I just like.  Very tasty stuff.  Got a small pizza that was good for both dinner and lunch the next day.  I suppose if you are not a pizza fan or are not a fan of extra cheese on your pizza, you would not enjoy it.  But, it was very tasty.  I also tried a place known for their Italian Beef, I think it was Al’s Beef or something like that.  It was pretty good, although I think I like Portillo’s better.  I also had their chili cheese fries, but I’d have to say that the chili cheese fries at the Hat are better.  I had a Chicago style hot dog at a place called Westminster Dogs.  It was pretty tasty, but the actual hot dog was nothing really special.  Pretty much just a regular dog.  I guess the Chicago style means that it has mustard, onions, peppers, and tomato.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think the actual dog is any tastier than a Costco hot dog.  I went to some other place that I forget the name of and had a pizza sandwich.  It was pretty much a sandwich with meatballs, pepperoni, cheese and marinara sauce.  It wasn’t bad, but I think that I’d prefer and actual slice of pizza better.  Oh, and Dunkin Donuts appear to be huge.  They were everywhere, almost as popular as Starbucks.  I passed by one in the morning while walking to my class and it was freaking crowded inside.  I tried going to one when it was less crowded, and while it was tasty, I didn’t think it was any more special than other donut places.  Also, the worker there was super rude, so I suppose LA doesn’t own the title for rudest workers.

Overall it was a nice little experience.  While I did have fun, and I actually could see myself living in a place like that, I know I would not do so because I’m chicken and not adventurous and I know the weather is not like that year round.  Downtown Chicago is so much nicer than Downtown LA, but I’m not living in LA.  Also, while I think there are a lot of Chinese restaurants there, I highly doubt there would be quite the selection and variety there is here.  I’m not saying Chinese is the be all, end all, but it is my comfort food.  Whenever I just feel like eating something and I can’t think of where, I always fall back on that.

Sep 262013
 

The end of the first season of Showtime’s Ray Donovan passed last weekend.  If you have not seen the show, Ray Donovan, played by Liev Schreiber, is a “fixer” for the rich and famous celebrities and athletes of Los Angeles.  He is surrounded by his wife and two kids, as well as his brothers, who he has pretty much taken care of.  Things seem to be going well for him until his father comes to town, fresh out of jail after 20 years.

I thought that the series started out pretty interesting, kind of dragged, and then got really interesting again at the end.  Although, I will say that it was kind of predictable what would happen at the end.  I mean, I knew that at some point in the year Jon Voight, who plays Ray’s dad, would have a scene with Ray explaining why he was the deadbeat father that he was, and how he really did love Ray, blah blah blah.  And then when his dad teams up with Sully at the end, it was pretty obvious how things would end up.  I thought the penultimate episode was actually more entertaining that the finale, but both were okay.

I will say, though, that I was happy the season actually ended, and there was no cliffhanger like all shows nowadays seem to do.  Sure, there were some questions that made you wonder how things might turn out, but for the most part, it ended.  It looks like Ray’s dad, even though he said he would be leaving town after having his heart to heart with Ray, is going to be sticking around next year.  Ray’s family seems to finally be accepting of what it is he does.  I thought it was kind of funny at the end when his daughter walks on the beach and sees her dad lying on the chair with his shirt all bloody, and she thinks nothing of it.  Doesn’t even check to make sure he is alive before lying down on her chair.

I am wondering where they are going to go with this show next year now.  Is he just going to keep going through each episode “fixing” things?  I’m not really sure that they can do that for a whole year or the audience will just get bored with it, won’t they?  I mean, each episode would have to keep topping the next one and soon it would just be so over the top that no one would believe it.  It looks like the secrets that involved his dad, Sully, and the actor that died are all done and over with.  So, are they going to dig up new secrets next year?  I guess I will just have to wait and see.  This Showtime show is now over, and I can move on to Homeland on Sunday to take its place,  That too is an interesting show, which I think will be really different next year as they focus more on Carrie and Saul and less on Brody.