Multi-player Shooters are a Different Beast

I’ve moved on from Call of Duty to Killzone Mercenary. Since CoD was my first FPS I pretty much thought it was great. While I still think it’s a great addition and it seems that sales are finally picking up since they drastically reduced the price, it definitely under delivers on the VITA’s promise. Killzone Mercenary definitely delivers as a solid FPS. I enjoyed the single player campaign a lot and was able to complete it at various levels from novice to veteran in a reasonable amount of time.


After running through the campaign several times I finally ventured into multi-player and all I can say is that playing against human players is a different beast. I’m pretty much dead meat and it seems that the most difficult of settings in the single campaign is poor preparation for the multi-player experience.


Suddenly, I was lost and slow while opponents take me out like a clay pigeon from every angle. My reaction is woefully slow and it feels like I’m moving in a freeze frame mode while the enemies are psychic. Now I know that in theory I need to work on my reflexes (to max out what’s left of any minor genetic potential), to know the maps (especially the nooks where people can camp or sneak up on you), and improve accuracy (even when I get the jump on someone, missing a headshot gets you killed).


I avoided playing multi-player after several disasterous forays in CoD. In retrospect, that was stupid because no matter how much you suck, you can only improve. Right now I play on team matches knowing full well that I give a significant competitive advantage to the opponent. I’m also playing some rhythim games (DJMAX on the vita) to improve accuracy and timing (which seems to help quite bit) and also playing more multi-player.


Despite the difficulties, it’s given new life to the game. Seeing how it’s missing the hostile mode (my favorite feature in CoD where enemies are spawned in infinite waves until you die—even though you can go on forever by camping), it’s turning out to be a blessing because I need to venture into multi-player to get that thrill. Killzone Mercenary just has better graphics and feels more like a proper shooter.


I just wish the PS VITA had more shooter games and proper franchise titles to choose from. One great thing about the PS4’s successful launch is that the PS VITA is getting attention as an accessory to the PS4 since it allows you to remotely play PS4 titles right on your VITA. It helps you avoid fighting for the TV and is just convenient because you can play games anywhere in the house. It’s made the VITA like the tablets (which are popular for web browsing around the house) of the gaming world.


In other news, any Playstation owner should definitely subscribe to PS Plus since you get free games every month for less than $5 per month. I’ve gotten Gravity Rush with this and have a bunch of games should I ever buy a PS3. While I enjoyed Gravity Rush, I would have never bought it for full price or a discount even though I enjoyed the unusual game play. I look forward to playing more games that I would otherwise not buy. Also, the ability to back up 1GB of game save data to the cloud lets you manage precious space on the VITA without connecting to a PC.


In addition to shooters I’m playing action games, racing games and some RPGs. I’m not sure gaming is doing anything significant to improve my abilities but I do notice some things.



  1. Mundane tasks like shopping are more fun when you think of it as a game.

  2. I’m more adept at navigating through crowds.

  3. I notice more subtle movements and am more aware of my environment without being more jumpy.

  4. I can remeber a random set of numbers longer (not sure where that came from).

  5. Faster at routine tasks and more likely to react quicker at critical moments.


Only time will tell if there are any spillovers into life and most of this might just be placebo but at the end of the day, I enjoy playing these games and that’s good enough. Despite all the negative press and bad reputation games have with parents, games are really beneficial for a wide demographic (in moderation and balance). For older adults games help to keep your reaction times sharp and fulfill competitive urges that are either overlooked or crushed in every day life (you just can’t take out your boss with a headshot and dance over his corpse).


In recent years lots of journalists and bloggers made a big deal about smartphones displacing console games. The amazing success of GTA V (reaching a billion dollars faster than the movie Avatar) and the successful launch of the PS4 (not to mention anticipation for Xbox One) is indication that gaming is far from dead. Although PS VITA sales may seem dissappointing despite great graphics and PS3-level power, you just can’t beat a dedicated game machine with physical controls when it comes to the gaming experience. I do think that handheld consoles must compete at some level with smartphones and tablets (who wants to carry yet another device). However, the casual games with touch controls on the handheld are completely different beasts (despite some titles making unbelievable amounts of money, like Candy Crush and Clash of the Clans).


Personally, I think smartphone games will eventually spark more interest in consoles (that’s certainly how I found myself meandering back to gaming after a very long hiatus). Console games are far from a dying art. Blockbuster game titles are becoming a cultural force in their own right (great storytelling combined with a player’s ability to interact with the environment is a very powerful experience that no movie can ever replicate, not to mention that game graphics are rapidly approaching Hollywood level fidelity). Also, the median age of games is now in the 30s. That means more disposable income and kids. The current generation of young parents most likely grew up on games and do not have the same hangups about games in letting their children play. It’s just that game developers and console manufacturers need to be aware of the bigger picture (social sharing, downloadable content, etc.) in creating a more compelling experience.

Lessons You Can Learn from Call of Duty and First Person Shooters

There’s a lot of life lessons in first person shooters like Call of Duty. I’ve been playing a lot in between tasks. It’s great for procrastination! I’m not even above average mind you, but coming late to the party there’s a lot of things I can appreciate. Even if the benefits of playing FPS games turns out to be bunk, it’s a great way to take a break. Maybe even too much.


There’s so much you can learn from this game that applies to life.


 


Try Not to Die


If you die, that’s it. You can’t go further. Your kill streak ends and the mission is not accomplished. You can take some hits but before you go further you need to recover by either hiding or neutralizing the immediate threat. When you get splattered your mobility is limited. Plus getting shot messes up your aim. You need to know which risks are worth taking and assess the trade off of making yourself vulnerable and making a good shot.


 


Dying Isn’t a Big Deal


So you die. Now what? Play it again! Just because you get shot up doesn’t mean you can never play again. Now in life dying is a big deal but how many things really matter that much in life? There are millions of people killing others or killing themselves for things that in the grand scheme of things aren’t that big of a deal. Lost a job? Broke up with someone that you thought was “the one”? Company went belly up? The list goes on. These are challenges and not life or death situations. There is a way to recover or at least continue to fight the fight. This time take a little something from your last fight and try not to die the same way.


 


Prioritize


When you’re playing a shooter, you’re faced with lots of choices. You need to choose wisely while getting shot at and/or trying to achieve a mission. You’ll frequently be in a situation where you ask yourself, “do I shoot this guy first or try to pick up the ammo?”, “three hostiles, one behind me, which do I shoot first?”, or “do I throw the last grenade to get out of this bind or try to plough through?”. You can die from making retarded choices like trying to pick up some ammo or not paying attention to someone creeping up behind you. These are all choices. Each choice will affect the next choices available.


You might find yourself shooting at a cluster of enemies while keeping an eye on the map to see hostiles coming at you while the clock is running. You need to figure it out quick!


 


Don’t Give Up


So you got cornered in a bad place and there’s a whole family of enemies coming at you like zombies and yes you’re running low on ammo. At some point you need to pick up one of their guns and do something if you manage to handle the first five. Now, it’s not a big deal to die in game. You just play it again. However, the whole point of the game is to give it your best. You need to take the game seriously for it to mean anything. “It’s just a game” is a great way to move on but don’t ever let that be an excuse to failure. Many times you’ll find yourself in a bind but manage to find a way out or maybe learn a lesson that will help you avoid getting in that situation to start with. When the situation gets overwhelming try to get out of it somehow. Embrace the adversity. If you fail, do it again but do your best to get out.


 


Stay Alert


Sometimes you’ll get through a really difficult patch relatively unscathed only to get shot up by some weak loner who was right in front of you. These lapses can come in hairy times or long stretches of waiting. You need to keep yourself alert and at least prepared to respond. Zoning out is rarely a good thing. The game will teach you how to maintain a flow.


 


Shoot First, Ask Later


If you see an enemy, shoot. If you see a funny shadow, shoot. If you hear something, shoot. There’s rarely a moment where it’s better idea to contemplate the situation. If you don’t know what to do at least run. You always need to be doing something. There’s no way to just sit still and not die.


 


Set the Tone, Stay in Charge


It sucks to be chased around and running all the time. It’s a lot better to manipulate the enemy and get them in the right position to blast away. As long as you’re the one reacting, eventually they’ll get to you. This is especially true in hostile/survival mode.


 


Know the Territory


The more you know about the map or sticking points in the mission, the better. Same goes for the guns and their quirks and advantages. Ditto for enemies and their movements. Find an angle that will give you an advantage, sometimes it’ll be a nook where you can take the heat off or a maze-like area you can run and lose your enemies. This knowledge will give you an edge.


 


Always Have Fun


At the end of the day, it’s about having fun. Shoot em’ up and laugh a little. Don’t get beat up if things don’t go your way. If you get a little bored switch it up. Put yourself in a bit of danger and try to maneuver your way out. Set tougher constraints on yourself and set goals. If all you get is stress then it’s time to quit and find something else. Sometimes I’ll get a chuckle from the dumbest bugs like an enemy running in mid air or their bodies half hidden by a dry wall.


 


I’m sure there are some others I missed but the fast pace of the game and the high pressure environment provide a great way to release stress while maybe learning a lesson or two about life.

Apple, Condemned to Death by a Thousand Papercuts

Ever since Steve Jobs’ death, Apple pundits and fanboys all around the world began counting down the “inevitable death of Apple”. There can only be one Steve Jobs and he is dead. He defined an era when only an era can be defined. The emergence of the iPhone can only be described as a goldfish swallowing the whale. They say history repeats itself and once again we’re seeing the sequel of “PC overtaking Apple” as “Android overtaking iOS”. Funny how we never learn. Maybe someday Steve Jobs will be resurrected by bio technology and we’ll see this whole drama play out again in the bio field. But I digress.


Apple products are distinguished by the polish and intuitiveness of the interface backed by solid technology in both hardware and software. It’s quite a formidable package and one that is yet to be rivaled. Samsung, Google, and BlackBerry are still chasing Apple’s tail. The brilliance of Apple under Jobs’ second coming is that they made just the right trade offs with open and closed systems. They leveraged open technology to build an OS (OSX), even though I think they bet on the wrong horse (mach kernel) in the long run, and leveraged that for mobile. They created a new market for touch screen devices that created a whole new paradigm and even extended it to tablets.


Like any brilliant invention that revolutionizes the world, once people got hold of an iPhone they soon settle into a state where they can’t image a world without it. It feels natural, almost meant to be. Every time I try to use an Android, I feel like it’s a different beast. My mind locks up when I run into many of its unintuitive rabbit holes that come from logically inconsistent and/or unintuitive interaction designs. I’d frequently find myself forgetting how to access a certain setting or getting lost in an application’s menu. A lot of things just don’t feel right. The battery life was atrocious.


However, at the end of the day, the iPhone is simply a mini computer (that connects to the internet), camera, and media player with phone capabilities. That’s it. What sets it apart is the application eco system and all the innovations it introduced to the market. However, the company is now feels decidedly conservative. There’s no excitement on the horizon. What’s coming after the iPad Mini? The iPhone grande? Or maybe the iWatch? AppleTV as a gaming console anyone?


The app eco system will eventually be the downfall of Apple. They’ve created a culture of fear by acting as arbiters of taste rather than protectors (ensuring that malware isn’t circulated). Take away all the applications from any smartphone and you’re left with the internet, music, and movies for your entertainment; email, sms, and voice for communication. When you get banned from Apple’s App Store you have no recourse (other than public appeal). With Android, their Play store is much more permissive and moreover, users can choose to install non-market apps.


Without a visionary like Jobs, Apple needs all the help it can get with innovation and there’s no greater inspiration than an eco system of third-party developers. Interface improvements like the ubiquitous pull-to-refresh came from outside (apps like Facebook have a nice flick to go back from a picture view which I think should be standard). Also, Apple’s preference for sandboxing all data and more importantly locking down the music and video library is also another weakness that will irritate users more and more. The big issue at hand is Apple tries to control how we interact with our own data in the name of protection. We can’t download and play music or movie files from the internet without going through iTunes or syncing it via PC. Movie files can only be played if it’s in Apple’s mp4 format unless we use third party apps.


The smartphone revolution is far from over, it’s only beginning. As more and more of our lives go mobile, we need newer ways of interacting with the device. There are still lots of improvements to be made, such as text input, before they can completely replace computers. Social interactions are also another area ripe for innovation (I’m thinking device to device communication like Bump and more location-based networks that involve more than just checking in). Payment/point-of-sale is yet another are that will eventually become a major pat of smartphone usage (something with more substance than the Passbook, something that makes use of technology like RFCs).


As technology matures it’s only natural that there are no low hanging fruit to pick and that pushing the envelope involves great risk. However, with companies Samsung chasing them on the hardware front and Google chasing them on the software front, they really can’t afford to rest on their laurels.

Apple, Condemned to Death by a Thousand Papercuts

Ever since Steve Jobs’ death, Apple pundits and fanboys all around the world began counting down the “inevitable death of Apple”. There can only be one Steve Jobs and he is dead. He defined an era when only an era can be defined. The emergence of the iPhone can only be described as a goldfish swallowing the whale. They say history repeats itself and once again we’re seeing the sequel of “PC overtaking Apple” as “Android overtaking iOS”. Funny how we never learn. Maybe someday Steve Jobs will be resurrected by bio technology and we’ll see this whole drama play out again in the bio field. But I digress.


Apple products are distinguished by the polish and intuitiveness of the interface backed by solid technology in both hardware and software. It’s quite a formidable package and one that is yet to be rivaled. Samsung, Google, and BlackBerry are still chasing Apple’s tail. The brilliance of Apple under Jobs’ second coming is that they made just the right trade offs with open and closed systems. They leveraged open technology to build an OS (OSX), even though I think they bet on the wrong horse (mach kernel) in the long run, and leveraged that for mobile. They created a new market for touch screen devices that created a whole new paradigm and even extended it to tablets.


Like any brilliant invention that revolutionizes the world, once people got hold of an iPhone they soon settle into a state where they can’t image a world without it. It feels natural, almost meant to be. Every time I try to use an Android, I feel like it’s a different beast. My mind locks up when I run into many of its unintuitive rabbit holes that come from logically inconsistent and/or unintuitive interaction designs. I’d frequently find myself forgetting how to access a certain setting or getting lost in an application’s menu. A lot of things just don’t feel right. The battery life was atrocious.


However, at the end of the day, the iPhone is simply a mini computer (that connects to the internet), camera, and media player with phone capabilities. That’s it. What sets it apart is the application eco system and all the innovations it introduced to the market. However, the company is now feels decidedly conservative. There’s no excitement on the horizon. What’s coming after the iPad Mini? The iPhone grande? Or maybe the iWatch? AppleTV as a gaming console anyone?


The app eco system will eventually be the downfall of Apple. They’ve created a culture of fear by acting as arbiters of taste rather than protectors (ensuring that malware isn’t circulated). Take away all the applications from any smartphone and you’re left with the internet, music, and movies for your entertainment; email, sms, and voice for communication. When you get banned from Apple’s App Store you have no recourse (other than public appeal). With Android, their Play store is much more permissive and moreover, users can choose to install non-market apps.


Without a visionary like Jobs, Apple needs all the help it can get with innovation and there’s no greater inspiration than an eco system of third-party developers. Interface improvements like the ubiquitous pull-to-refresh came from outside (apps like Facebook have a nice flick to go back from a picture view which I think should be standard). Also, Apple’s preference for sandboxing all data and more importantly locking down the music and video library is also another weakness that will irritate users more and more. The big issue at hand is Apple tries to control how we interact with our own data in the name of protection. We can’t download and play music or movie files from the internet without going through iTunes or syncing it via PC. Movie files can only be played if it’s in Apple’s mp4 format unless we use third party apps.


The smartphone revolution is far from over, it’s only beginning. As more and more of our lives go mobile, we need newer ways of interacting with the device. There are still lots of improvements to be made, such as text input, before they can completely replace computers. Social interactions are also another area ripe for innovation (I’m thinking device to device communication like Bump and more location-based networks that involve more than just checking in). Payment/point-of-sale is yet another are that will eventually become a major pat of smartphone usage (something with more substance than the Passbook, something that makes use of technology like RFCs).


As technology matures it’s only natural that there are no low hanging fruit to pick and that pushing the envelope involves great risk. However, with companies Samsung chasing them on the hardware front and Google chasing them on the software front, they really can’t afford to rest on their laurels.

Using Gmail/IMAP Backups for Super Fast Email

Anyone who uses email often enough at some point in life will eventually struggle with handling an ever growing collection of email. Email bankruptcy is a very real prospect. My email address is literally a blackhole where lots of messages go to die. Thanks to the “all you can eat buffet” approach to email storage pioneered by Gmail, I never worried once about managing the crazy collection of text. The best features of Gmail are massive storage, filters, search, and labels/folders all in the cloud.

However, ask yourself what happens to your email when things go bad? With Google Reader shutting down, it can’t hurt to have a backup plan. What’s more since your Gmail is tightly integrated with everything else Google owns, any service violation may put all your data at risk. Although unlikely, there are people who got their accounts shutdown due to mixups of one kind or another. Google’s customer support is notoriously slow not to mention the challenge of finding a channel to communicate with them.

The advantages of having a copy of your email on your hard drive not only gives you peace of mind but can also make you more productive when combined with old school email clients like Mutt or Alpine. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, plows through her email with Pine.

Having your email offline allows you to take your email with you on your laptop without worrying about a connection. Read and respond on the train or in a cafe and when you get a connection it’ll all sync up. Another advantage is the search. You can combine it with local search engines to find the emails you need fast or create “smart lists” for email that meets a certain criteria to stay on top of things.

Handling your email in a no frills environment can really help you with staying focused. As we all know, using the web interface of anything can lead us to lots of distractions.

Getting Your IMAP Offline

The great thing about IMAP is that all your folders and messages reside on the server/cloud. This means that no matter what client you set up, everything will be sorted nice and neatly. However, with the typical setup, you need to have a persistent connection since messages are more or less a temporary cache.

So, to get around this, there are several solutions out there to get your email into a Maildir. With a Maildir, basically all the folders on the IMAP server become a folder on your disk and each message resides in its own text file with a unique filename and various flags indicating the state (unread, starred, etc.). The most popular of these is OfflineIMAP.  OfflineIMAP is written in Python and will pretty much run on any platform. There are other delivery agents as well. I’ve mostly used OfflineIMAP until now but it does have some issues. My biggest problem with OfflineIMAP is that near the tail end of syncing my email, it just becomes this monster of a process that eats an endless supply of RAM (I’m talking GBs and some CPU spikes). It would be dangerous to leave it running as I’d have to restart my mac due to having no RAM. It was just getting crazy.

Recently, I migrated to mbsync and I couldn’t be happier. It’s fast and efficient but consumes so little memory since it’s written in C and pretty sound in terms of design. Mbsync also offers a lot of granular controls so you can give certain folders higher priority and also perform particular operations like “pull new” messages. You can simply do “brew install isync” if you use homebrew on the mac or download the source here.

Once you get the program installed you need to configure it. I mostly followed the instructions here, the section on getting the security certificates and ignoring Gmail’s “All Mail” folder (which creates a lot of duplicates) was particularly helpful. This guide is really good for setting up channels so you can specify how you want to sync specific folders.

Channel gmail-inbox
Master :gmail-imap:INBOX
Slave :gmail-local:INBOX
Create Slave
Expunge Slave
Sync Pull
Channel gmail-sent
# we need the double quotes
Master ":gmail-imap:[Gmail]/Sent Mail"
Slave :gmail-local:sent-mail
Create Slave
Expunge Slave
Sync Pull

This can be done for any directory. Mbsync seems to go through all the folders in order so if there are particular folders you want to always have priority, setting up these channels will ensure that quick update is simply a command away.

mbsync important

You can setup a separate cron job since mbsync can have multiple processes accessing the same account. Incidentally with OfflineIMAP, the lock on an email account is global. This combined with excessive resource consumption and the fact that syncs never complete, meant I had to kill the process and start from the top (combined with the auto refresh, it was a bit of a nightmare).

Once you have the syncing setup (syncing will still take time depending on the size of your mailbox), all you need is a good software program to handle your email. You’ll be able to fly through the messages.

Personally, I use Emacs with mu/mu4e which is an awesome combination. Mu uses Xapian for fast and capable search capabilities which can be used like smart folders. There are several combinations out there for using Maildir and IMAP. Old school email clients might seem scary at first but once you get used to them, it’s fast and efficient.

Playing a Bit Too Much Call of Duty

So I’ve been playing CoD for the last couple of days, I think a week or so at least. Every time I get stuck on a level I just consult this guy’s videos. I’m getting mildly better at it, but still it’s just dismal. The levels or “operations” I have trouble on I basically get lucky more than anything.


The emotional reaction and adrenal rush to shooting and being shot has calmed down considerably. In addition I feel less pressure even during time constraints. I still get a kick out of it but it feels more subtle.


Other than that, I do feel more sensitive to moving objects when I’m out and about (pedestrians and cars). I’m not sure how this translates to anything else. One thing I like about games is the clear objectives and time constraints involved in the missions. There’s nothing like games to give you emotional incentives without financial or physical consequences when goals aren’t met. It’s all based on intrinsic motivation stemming from how much you care about getting better.

Playing some First Person Shooters

I’ve started playing first person shooters, Call of Duty on the PS Vita to be more exact. While the debate of how good or bad video games are for you is a perennial debate, we still don’t know that much despite it being a multi-billion dollar industry and the fact that countless hours are poured into it. I’ve always enjoyed games but I gave them up long ago to focus on other things like reading. Then the internet came along and my attention span suffered all the more.


I bought a PS Vita at the beginning of last year. While my iPhone is great for most casual games, I thought a portable game with physical controls would be a great reintroduction to gaming (my work was related to games at the time as well). I missed the boat entirely on FPS games. My staples were mainly platform games like Mario Bros., fighting and racing games of all sorts.


After playing some Marvel VS Capcom, I pretty much let my PS Vita gather dust. However, I recently came across some  articles citing that FPS games benefited eye sight (amblyopia) and after some more digging found some encouraging research about other benefits.


Since I already had a console gathering dust with a handful of titles, I figured that I would give Call of Duty a shot since it was basically the first “real” FPS to be playable on a handheld gaming console.


Coming back to gaming after a long hiatus and as an “adult” who was never that hardcore is humbling to say the least. I had no idea what I was doing with the controls, constantly get killed and have trouble aiming and shooting. Honestly, I have no idea how good gaming is for me but I do know that I haven’t felt an adrenaline rush like this in a while. It was worth it even if it ends up being a complete waste of time.


I’ve played lots of fighter games and even have the Marvel VS Capcom one for the Vita, which I played a lot. Although I’m not particularly good at it, cranking out the combos and what not feels a bit random. I’m not really invested into it. It feels more like a test of how fast I can twiddle the controller. Personally, I think the Vita’s controls are abhorrent to say the least and this just makes it worse.


With Call of Duty, what seemed so fresh to me was the amount of tension, adrenaline and even rage I felt as I played this game. I don’t know if it’s the 3D element of navigating your way through these maps while trying to figure out which target you shoot or the fact that you get bloodied up by the enemy if you don’t hit your targets but something about FPS games gets me emotionally invested. I was really felt mellowed out and matured from getting older but this just jerked me back into a primal state. The typical gamer stereotype doesn’t exactly fit the profile of an alpha male but that rush certainly was something I enjoyed even when I was throwing up my hands in disgust as I failed one of the easiest missions, again.


I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym and lifting weights certainly gives you a physical rush and requires mental intensity (if done right) but the time constraints and survival elements (kill or be killed) of the FPS game is really something you can’t get from modern life.


At night when I closed my eyes before sleep I could feel the world spinning like it was rotating in 3D and when I go outside I’m a lot more sensitive to moving things. I really think that console games deserve another big revival. They’re certainly better than the crappy freemium games that are all the rage on smartphones and honestly there are limits to game play on a touch screen only. I think Ouya is just the first of many startups to come that will crack open the typically closed gaming console. Even without it the recently announced Play Station 4 is more of a PC than any of its predecessors. However, I think it’ll still be a long while before our main PCs can serve as gaming machines that rival dedicated consoles (unless you’re the kind that builds your own custom gaming PC).


So it remains to be seen whether I’ll become a better driver, more coordinated, see better, make decisions faster, or handle pressure but I’m already having fun and the rush is just amazing. 

Hangover Part II

The funny thing about sequels is that they are rarely better than the original but generate more money. Hangover Part II is no exception but definitely worth watching. It’s hard to beat the original. Four guys wake up in Las Vegas after a bachelor’s party sans bachelor with the nastiest of hangovers and no recollection of the night before. All they have are hints of a truly wild night like a tiger in the bathroom and missing a tooth.

This time it’s Stu, the dentist, getting married in Thailand (where his beautiful fiance is from). Despite all the precautions they take, all of them wake up in a dirty hotel in Bangkok, miles away from the wedding, Stu has a Mike Tyson tattoo on his face, Alan’s head is shaved, and the only trace of the bride’s brother is his severed finger, complete with Stanford ring.

Despite all the rotten reviews from critics and the strong preconception that this film just shouldn’t work, it manages to hit all the right notes. Surprisingly, even though the plot follows the familiar template of the original, it’s got enough twists of originality to establish the film on its own. The most important aspect is that chemistry of Stu, Alan, and Phil can carry this franchise indefinitely.

I think the only test that matters for comedy sequels is will you get more laughs than re-watching the original? To that this film lives up to the promise.

One Month With the Kindle

Since I’ve spent over a month with the Kindle I thought I’d write up some impressions.

More Reading

The reading experience is indeed flawless. Of course, the page turning could be sped up and made less disconcerting where you see a flood of e-ink come and go as it re-draws the text. However, that said, if you’re between an iPad and a Kindle and you nominally want it for “reading” then it’s no contest. Sure, the iPad has a great fallback plan when it turns out that your ADD-addled mind is beyond hope to actually sit down and read something for five-minutes without being overcome with a panicky urge to check Facebook. If you stop reading, the Kindle becomes a useless gray digital slab.

My primary use of Kindle was to read The Economist and my ungodly amount of backlog. As you will see when you check the “official” Kindle offering for The Economist, you get an angry mob of people clamoring for blood because the “official” version seems too steeply priced. It’s sad that these people are leaving 1-star reviews for a paper that could never be less than 4 (depending on your political leaning) simply because they’re unaware of alternatives. Just pay the digital subscription and be done with it.

I’ve used my Kindle sitting, standing, in a crowded train standing, holding it in my left hand, right hand, both hands, in sunlight, low light, and even in the dark. You definitely can’t read it in the dark but otherwise it’s just like paper. Only you always get the same font and size. Let me repeat that. Same font and size. Having a unified interface (the font) with digital page turning allows you to read more.

Especially with magazines that use really small fonts strewn across 4 or 5 columns interspersed with ads from luxury goods to executive openings it’s sometimes hard to focus on content. With the Kindle you’ll get an ad-free reading experience with text adjusted to your liking. I was able to get through the magazine in one sitting provided I had a block of time. Battery life is excellent if you turn off wifi, around two weeks with heavy reading (several hours a day).

Less Awareness of Volume

As a result of this, I sadly had to cancel my print subscription. After switching to the Kindle, the paper copy would arrive after I read the entire issue. While the color pictures are nice, you could get those off the web if you needed them. Throwing away a pristine magazine copy even though you “read” everything in it is a painful thing to do.

On the other hand, no matter how much you read on the Kindle it’s hard to get a sense of volume. It’s like an all you can eat buffet with no scales or mirrors. You could read the Complete Works of Shakespeare and no one would be none the wiser. Of course, you’d never get past your front door lugging that tome around or be able to turn a page on a crowded train, but you wouldn’t be able to set it back on the shelf with the spine slightly creased and say “yeah, I read that book”. The satisfaction of throwing away a well-read magazine after reading it from cover to cover just isn’t there.

The benefit is that you keep going and going until you hit the last page. However, it’s easy to get overloaded with information and burned out by too much intense reading if you don’t pace yourself. The lack of physical volume can be a double-edged sword, but you can get away with reading your guilty pleasures in public without drawing attention as long as it’s in your Kindle.

Closed Platform

Some aspects that may concern some people is the accessibility of the platform. Amazon practically owns the book space and Kindle and digital books are out-performing traditional books already. When you consider that digital inventory for one unique book is essentially the same for a million multiplied by minuscule (compared to cover price) bandwidth price, you have a bright future ahead of you. So it’s only natural that Amazon wrongly has no support for the open epub format and instead rely on their own proprietary one. Fortunately, programs like Calibre can convert a variety of formats to prevent you from getting too locked in. Still, when you buy something from Amazon they can delete it from your Kindle on a whim and you can’t do anything about it.

My primary use for the Kindle is to replace newspapers and magazines. I’ve yet to read a book with it as I’ve been occupied quite fully by The Economist and The New York Times occasionally. However, technology like this that restores a certain balance to the reading experience for those of us that actually remember what life was before the internet and computers is quite welcome.

Right now I can’t really say if my Kindle phase will last but it’s definitely earned its money’s worth in the short time I’ve had it.