Star Trek Into Darkness

I finally got around to watching the recently-released Star Trek movie (also on my Most Anticipated Movie of 2013), directed by J.J. Abrams, just like the first one that came out a few years ago. I actually missed the very first part of the movie because someone at 21 Cineplex decided to start the movie earlier than scheduled and without the usual trailers and advertisements. 5-10 minutes into the movie and hordes of people were still coming into the theater looking for their seats. Just a word of warning though, this review might spoil the movie for you if you haven't seen it.

Plot Intro
The movie started in a primitive planet with naturally red plants where the Enterprise crew is trying to prevent a volcanic eruption that was an extinction level event, while keeping their ship hidden from the locals. Spock gets trapped inside the volcano and Kirk was forced save him, in doing so breaking Federation rules against revealing space-travel capability to primitive species. As Enterprise rose from the bottom of the ocean (where it was hidden), the planets natives kneel as if the Enterprise were god - a feeling transmitted to the audience as we realize how massive the Enterprise is.

What I like about the new Star Trek movie series is that they can be enjoyed by original Star Trek fans as well as viewers who are new to the franchise. Plus because the new series "resets" the timeline, it is interesting to see how events unfold differently but still produces the same outcome in the end. However, neat as it is, the story line makes the movie inevitably predictable for most people.

What it lacks in plot it makes up in character developments. The duo Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Pinto) is back, against a new terrorist, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is later revealed to be, as Old Spock described, "the most dangerous adversary the Enterprise ever faced." Behind the colorful action scenes was the tender human relationship - the bonds of lifelong friendship and dedication among Enterprise crews. And while not funny as its predecessor, this Trek movie still has a number of comical moments, especially when it involves Scotty (Simon Pegg).

Overall, I was satisfied with the movie and I would recommend watching it if you are a Star Trek fan, or not... The movie did leave me wanting a third Trek movie or even a new Trek Series to be made. If you haven't seen it, hurry and catch it before they take it down from the theaters.

Verdict: 8/10

Photo Credits:
various scenes from Star Trek Into Darkness movie on Google Images search engine
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How to Kill a Cockroach

I'm sure everyone has a number of ways to kill a cockroach. Some common methods include household pesticide like Baygon, stomping on it as hard as you can, or slapping it with a rolled-up newspaper - basically various ways of squishing the bug. But all those methods leave undesirable ways of cleaning up the remains - either your flooring is full of pesticides, or you are left with an area of scattered smelly dead cockroach parts. So a Japanese Company called Fumakilla came up with a better solution to your cockroach-killing needs, one that would stop the bug dead in its tracks by freezing it to -75 degrees Celsius. The best part is the clean cleanup procedure. Since the bug is frozen, you could easily grab a paper towel and lift the cockroach from your floor and dump it out. No pesticides, no smell, like it never happened. Simple eh? Sounds like it, although finding out at your local store will probably be a challenge. Here's the link to Fumakilla's site.

Photo Credits:
Wall-e wallpaper - wallpapers-3d.ru
Fumakilla Stop Jet 250ml - fumakilla.co.jp
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Project Glass

I'm sure by now you've heard of the Google Glass. If you haven't, this revolutionary device is a pair of glasses you can put on your face, which will give you a little heads-up display (HUD) in the corner of your eye. It's very much like Iron Man's visor HUD except this one is not a targeting or exoskeleton armor monitoring system and doesn't come with a friendly AI called Jarvis. It does however, come with a variety of Google Apps - apps that'll let you socialize and share everything you see and year into your Google+ account, and possibly other social medias. You can choose to have prescription lenses (if you require them) or tinted lenses installed, or you can wear them like the Asian trend of wearing glasses with no glass. Ironic isn't it, given its name?

Curious how it feels to be wearing one? Chances are you don't know anyone with one yet, so you won't be able to try it personally. But Google's published a few videos that'll get you close to putting it on yourself. The first video is the official promo video, and the second is a more recent video that shows you how to use the device. Looks promising, but also brings out a number of privacy issues. And some recent reports indicate that battery life on it lasts no longer than 5 hours - a problem for most users I bet. Anyway, check out the videos for yourself.

So how do you get your hands on one of these? Well, you can't. Not right now. Applications are already closed. But you can sign up to be notified and kept in the loop by Google here.

Photo Credits:
Google - glass.google.com
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Iron Man 3 - The Man of Iron

So I was lucky enough to have a friend who works in the entertainment industry who gave me tickets to see the new Iron Man 3 movie. It came out last Thursday, 25 April in Indonesia (sorry, you North Americans have to wait until 13 May) and most cinemas filled out just about all of their theaters with this movie. And yet, it was still difficult to get tickets. Anyway, here's my take of the movie...


Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is back for the third installment of the ever so popular Iron Man franchise. This movie marks the first release of phase two of the Marvel superhero movie collaborations - will be followed by Thor: The Dark World (8 November 2013) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) to make the 2nd Avengers movie.

Iron Man 3 assumes the viewers have seen The Avengers (2012), making frequent references to it and is a major reason behind some of Iron Man's problems (which was not clearly explained in the movie). The story takes place shortly after the events of the Avengers where Tony had a close encounter with death while defending Earth against an alien invasion. Early in the movie Stark loses his fancy cars and his house in Malibu, and for a long stretch of the movie, his super suits and AI Jarvis. And this reveals a new side of Tony Stark that we haven't seen before - vulnerable and human. Tony, now with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), also stripped of his suits and tech, must now go back to his core skills to find and stop his new adversary, The Mandarin, from his evil plot.

Downey Jr. delivers a stunning performance, showing both Stark's vulnerable moments while keeping up with his witty and arrogance self. Kingsley (as The Mandarin) stole the scene with his charismatic and powerful, yet coupled with unexpectedly humorous, performance. Pearce is also on fire (literally) as the sophisticated and charismatic antagonist Killian who brought to the table more than just angry mobs of super soldiers. Aside from brilliant actors, climax scenes like the "Barrel of Monkey" scene - where Iron Man saves falling crew of the Airforce One in mid air - and the "call for backup" scene - where dozens of various autonomous Iron Man suits show up to provide support in the action finale - leave you smiling and wanting more. As if that wasn't enough, Iron Man 3 also had plenty of witty humorous moments like the idiosyncratic prototype Mark 42 suit and Tony's failed attempts to remotely call various parts of his suit. Scenes where the increasingly funny Don Cheadel's character Rodey tell you his password also left the audience in a unilateral laughter. And finally, for the first time,we get to see Tony kicking ass with a combination of his partial suit and conventional firearm, a combination that proves to be as fun to watch as it is deadly to the bad guys.

There were lots of anticipations and expectations from this movie. Did it deliver? In one word: yes. For those who has seen previous movies involving Iron Man, this is an absolute must watch, a great sequel. However, with its lack of background story, things could be quite spotty for people new to the franchise. Overall, it was a very enjoyable movie with a great balance between action, drama, and comedy.

Verdict: 8/10 

Photo Credits: various scenes from Iron Man 3 movie on Google Images search engine
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10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2013

I'd like to share some movies that are coming out in 2013 that I'm really excited for. It's really difficult to rank them, especially when it comes down to the top 5 because they all look so good. Some of these movies have already been released but I haven't seen any of them so my short descriptions are what I can gather/assume from news and trailers. (WARNING: May contain spoilers)

10 - Oblivion

Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) brings us a take of his unpublished graphic novel of the same name - the story of a drone repairman Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) in a post-global-war Earth. His mission is changed forever when he discovers pods containing live humans, and as the mystery unravels, a group of survivors living underground. I'm excited to see Kosinski's view of what a post-apocalyptic world would look like.

Release Date: 19 April 2013
Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Zoe Bell, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

9 - Kick-Ass 2

If you haven't seen Kick Ass, you should stop whatever you are doing right now, and go see it. Kick Ass, simply KICKED ASS! It was loud, it was obnoxious, it was crazy, featuring some of the most gruesome and action-packed scenes. And it left me wanting more. Can't wait for the return of Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl in their new adventure.

Release Date: 24 November 2012 (updated)
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloƫ Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, John Leguizamo

8 - Monsters University

Who doesn't want more of Mike Wozawski and his furry partner Sulley? This duo is back this year with a prequel story of how they both met and began their relationship at the University of Fear.

Release Date: 21 June 2013
Cast: Billy Crystal, Frank Oz, Jennifer Tilly, John Goodman, Kelsey Grammer, Steve Buscemi

7 - Despicable Me

I think we've all been waiting a while for this one. Ever since its Banana Teaser Trailer (with the unbearably cute little yellow minions) came out early last year, it has been referenced over and over again and it's finally coming! This time around, Gru (Steve Carrell) is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.

Release Date: 3 July 2013
Cast: Al Pacino, Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand

6 - Elysium

Everybody knows that Jason Bourne is a badass. Jason Bourne (or at least Matt Damon) wearing an exoskeleton shooting huge guns is badass-er. After Microsoft canned the Halo film project, Neill Blomkamp (District 9) decided to start his own Halo-ish sci-fi action movie. Seems like Neill is out to make sure Microsoft regrets their decision. And he's got Bugatti and Versace on board.

Release Date: 9 August 2013
Cast: Jodie Foster, Matt Damon, Michael Shanks, Sharlto Copley, William Fichtner

5 - Star Trek: Into Darkness

Captain Kirk and Spock's story was re-written by the Romulans in the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie, and this is the sequel to that new story. Different timeline, different dimension, same characters but with new dynamics, what's not to like? It's got every aspect of a good movie. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes The Series) stars as the mysterious and intimidating antihero. On a different note, J.J. Abrams is also directing the next Star Wars movie. Interesting how the same guy directs both Star Trek and Star Wars.

Release Date: 17 May 2013
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, John Cho, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana

4 - Fast and Furious 6

Aaah... hot girls, the old crew, and tons of beautiful cars. Diesel's back with Paul Walker and The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson, in what looks to be a collaboration to bring a bigger, badder, car crew down. Plot twist: Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is back from the dead. This movie franchise has gone through some major development starting with its last movie (Fast Five). It's more than just a high stake race movie, but has developed nicely into a more mature and complex story.

Release Date: 24 May 2013
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Gina Carano, Jordana Brewster, Luke Evans, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Vin Diesel

3 - The Wolverine

The Wolverine is probably Marvel's most celebrated and popular character. His healing/regenerative factor keeps him healthy, young, and immortal. Oh and he's got retractable ademantium claws on each arm that'll cut through anything. What more could you ask for? This time around, it's a sequel that dives deep into the Wolverine's life.

Release Date: 26 July 2013
Cast: Brian Tee, Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto

2 - Iron Man 3

The third installment of the oh-so-popular superhero Iron Man, now with his MARK VII suit and his army of suits (drones). Looking good as always. This installment is said to be the beginning of phase two of Marvel's movie series. Waiting to see what Marvel has in store for its fans with the next few intertwined Marvel Universe movies.

Release Date: 3 May 2013 (25 April - Indonesia)
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany, Robert Downey Jr.

1 - Man of Steel

Superman - the ultimate superhero. Everyone's heard of him, everyone knows his story. Countless retelling doesn't stop people from making more. This time it's by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) and it looks dark, depressing, and brutally awesome. Hit up the trailer and you'll see. Some believe this to be the first step into an interconnected DC Universe movie series, just like what Marvel's doing.

Release Date: 14 June 2013
Cast: Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe

The End

So there you have it. My list of most anticipated movies of 2013. Notice a pattern? It's all about superheroes and sci-fis. Technically speaking, superhero movies are glorified sci-fis. So if you think you don't like sci-fi movies, think again!

Photo Credits: 
Various Google image searches
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Toyota's Legacy - Moving Forward?

Toyota has had to deal with a lot of bad press in the last few years regarding problems of unintended acceleration. Officially issue is called Sudden Unintended Acceleration or SUA for short. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration) defines SUA as "the unintended, unexpected, uncontrolled acceleration of a vehicle, often accompanied by an apparent loss of braking effectiveness." SUA is not limited to mechanical or electrical error, but includes other problems like driver error or a combination of these factors. Historically, there has been a number of reports dating back to the 80's with such claim of unintended acceleration including cars from other manufacturers like Honda Accord and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

So, why are there so many reports of Toyota cars with unintended accelerations? Could it be that one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world has continually overlooked this problem in their design and engineering? What I do know is that they've just paid USD 16 Million to Orange County on settlements for the unintended acceleration lawsuits. So what does that say about Toyota?

Here's a little timeline of recalls in relation to unintended acceleration reports (2007-2011):
  • Sep 26, 2007 – US: 55,000 Camry and ES 350 cars in "all-weather" floor mat recall
  • Nov 02, 2009 – US: 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles again recalled due to floor mat problem, this time for all driver's side mats
  • Nov 26, 2009 – US: floor mat recall amended to include brake override and increased to 4.2 million vehicles
  • Jan 21, 2010 – US: 2.3 million Toyota vehicles recalled due to faulty accelerator pedals (of those, 2.1 million already involved in floor mat recall)
  • Jan 27, 2010 – US: 1.1 million Toyotas added to amended floor mat recall
  • Jan 29, 2010 – Europe, China: 1.8 million Toyotas added to faulty accelerator pedal recall
  • Feb 08, 2010 – Worldwide: 436,000 hybrid vehicles in brake recall following 200 reports of Prius brake glitches
  • Feb 08, 2010 – US: 7,300 MY 2010 Camry vehicles recalled over potential brake tube problems
  • February 8, 2011 – US: NASA and NHTSA inquiry reveals that there were no electronic faults in Toyota cars that would have caused acceleration issues. However, accelerator pedal entrapments remains a problem
  • February 22, 2011 – US: Toyota recalls an additional 2.17 million vehicles for gas pedals that become trapped on floor hardware
Gas pedal stuck on floor mat

The SUA problems started back in 2007, and most caused by flooring hardware. There were also problems with brake systems in some hybrid cars, and brake tube problems in 2010 Camrys. Fast forward four years later to 2011, and we are still looking at the same problems. So, I'm kinda siding with the consumers on this one. Toyota is not learning from its mistakes and continues to design faulty products. We're not even talking about the other safety recalls (not included above), which entail power window and pump problems in 2012 that forced the company to recall over 10 million vehicles worldwide. Even back in 2003, when the idea of hybrid cars was still somewhat new, I recall reading an article about how every dash light on a Prius would light up when it started raining. Forgot to install rubber gaskets around electronic components, did we now, Toyota?

A few years ago, Toyota started this new advertisement campaign with the catchphrase "Moving Forward." I'm not sure they've thought that one through, given that their cars do move forward, quite literally and unintentionally. I've never personally been in any car that accelerated on its own but I did drive a 2007 Toyota Camry LE last year - a short 15 mile trip back and forth to the airport to pick someone up - and I must say that it's not a driver's car. Comparing to a similar year Honda Accord (a class-comparable car), accelerator, steering, and braking responses were significantly better on the Accord than the Camry. Travelling at 60 - 70 mph (100 - 112 kph) felt like it was disintegrating, and the super soft suspensions felt like a them park ride (poor stability). Granted that this Camry was a few years old and may have been an isolated case, but I came out of that car swearing never to buy a Camry.

There had never been (at least to my knowledge) a recorded video of an SUA incident until now. A late-model Toyota Highlander crashed into a house, twice, and then spun out of control as the driver attempted to reverse out of the driveway. The alleged SUA incident totaled the highlander and another car sitting inside the garage, along with major damages to the house and another car. A security camera caught the whole thing. Toyota later inspected the car and gave it reported no problems with its accelerator. Hit up the video link and see for yourself.

My own take of the incident is that the driver stepped on the gas pedal unintentionally, instead of the brake pedal. What's fishy about the incident is how the driver is able to shift between drive and reverse without hitting her brakes. What do you think?

So, what is Toyota's legacy? Recalls? Problems? Unintended accelerations? Toyota has lost many people's trust with this issue. Most European cars has a gas override when the brake pedal is pressed. I think that's a good place to start. A safety override like that may give drivers a chance to stop/slow down the car in the event of a SUA. Toyota has contributed a lot to the world for decades and we are all thankful for that, but they need to shape up in this department. And for people who can't determine which pedal is gas and which is brake, their licenses should be revoked pending some sort of  mandatory defensive driving course.

Photo Credits:
various Google images files
floor mat stuck - pickupfiles.com
Toyota logo - toyota.com

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Arena - RPG Game on Excel

An accountant named Cary Walkin created a whole RPG (Role-Playing Game) on Microsoft Excel. It's a simple, yet complex game. You get to move your character with the four-way arrow buttons, attack with the sword or bow button, heal with the heart button (providing you have health potions) and as your character develops you can allocate skill points to four available attributes: attack, defense, accuracy, and luck. Hat tip to Mr. Walkin, although I must wonder whether he is getting any accounting work done.

To check it out, download the game here. It works with MS Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. Unfortunately, Excel for Mac is not supported. Gizmodo has list of what the game features.

Photo Credits:
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