Top Albums of 2016

1. Say So - Bent Knee
2. Affinity - Haken
3. Transcendence - Devin Townsend
4. Legacy - Myrath
5. Winter - Oceans Of Slumber
6. Southern Empire - Southern Empire
7. Helion Prime - Helion Prime
8. Years In The Garden Of Years - Edensong
9. Delirium - Lacuna Coil
10. Stranger Heads Prevail - Thank You Scientist

Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

Yeah, I'm really late to the game here. Didn't get a chance to see it in the theater and only was able to rent it about a month or so ago. While I enjoyed it, something about it didn't sit well with me and it took a bit of thought to figure out what it was.

[Course -- Spoilers]
What ends up bothering me is the maguffin of the bad guy's plan. In the end, it doesn't make much sense. From memory from a month ago, Zemo wants revenge against the Avengers for his family dying in the aftermath of Ultron. So, his plan to do this is to first get his hands on the Winter Soldier's programming book and framing him for a terrorist attack to flush him out. Once captured by the UN, impersonate an interrogator to activate his programming to get information about the assassination of Stark's parents, which he eventually uses to turn Stark against Cap.

So, I can kinda buy that Zemo might know about the Winter Soldier program, but I don't buy that he would know his connection to Cap. So, I don't know how it follows that outing him to Stark will get him what he wants, which is the Avengers to self destruct. I could see it as something he does as a reaction to what happens after the attack, but it seems to be his plan all along. I also don't get what information he's getting from the Winter Soldier, since he seems to know the date, and what he really needs is the video, not any sort of account from him.

Course, trying to work out any explanation in all of this is kinda fruitless, since it seems obvious that this is the way the filmmakers wanted the events to go. Certainly it is effective to manipulate the situation so that our heroes are at each other's throats, and eventually get Steve to resign as Cap. Problem is, rather than work it out so that the events make any sense, they just assign it all to Zemo and just hand-wave it all away.

This is probably something that keeps the film from being top tier in my eyes.

Thoughts about the election and beyond

I know I don't post here that often anymore, but I kinda need a place to collect my thoughts. Given that my wife is still preparing for the apocalypse and our Mad Max future, I don't have too many sane people to talk about my thoughts. You can choose to ignore if you wish.

I'll be honest, I didn't think things were going this way so solidly. Yeah, yeah, I know Hilary won the popular vote, but that's like saying you got the most hits in Baseball, or the most yards in Football. It doesn't win you the game. The Dems lost big across the board, and there needs to be some serious soul searching about how to get back on track. It still irks me that the country has rewarded the GOP for acting like petulant children. Well, now they will need to add something to their record other than we stopped the other guy from doing something. I also don't think tearing down the government is going to earn them the kudos they think they are going to get.

So, in the end white privilege gets one last gasp before hopefully we can put it away for good. I guess in a year with Black Lives Matter and mass shootings, and the longer term death of blue collar jobs and the middle class in general that there would be an opposing force pushing back. Also, years of fear mongering from conservative radio, Fox News and the GOP has kinda primed the rise of someone like Donald Trump. I had just thought that at some point, like in previous years, people would be scared away by someone who was clearly not qualified for the job. But, I guess those who voted thought that was a feature, instead of the bug that it is. Personally, I think Trump is the modern embodiment of Harold Hill: a salesman who arrived in River City selling a dream, preying on the fears of the town elders, but doesn't really have 76 trombones in his carpetbag. (Course, I envision that instead of romancing Marion, he'd molest her in the stacks.)

There is a lot of questions about what do we do about these voters. There seems to be two storylines out there. The first is to try to understand and maybe empathize with these voters and see how the gap can be bridged without alienating minority voters. The other is screw them, they elected a race-baiting con man. We should just wait until they all die off. While I can empathize with that a bit, getting into a pissing contest about who has it worse is no solution. While there are always going to be people you can't reach, fact is, we did have enough of them to elect a dangerous man President. That's what happens when people feel disenfranchised.

Course, what do I know? I'm just a well off white guy. But, while me and my family will likely be fine, many others won't. Best we can do right now is to fight like hell for what we believe in, and try to limit the damage. We live in interesting times. A bit too interesting for my tastes.

Saying goodbye to an old friend.

So, today, after 13 years, the diesel has moved on to greener pastures. I found a buyer and he picked it up today. The goal was to find someone who would care for it and continue its run, and I did that. Personally, it was tough to move on, since that car has been a trooper. That being said, it is nicer to see an old car drive away, rather than sitting sadly in some salvage yard. But, I will miss it.


The new car

gorgeousgary reminded me today that I hadn't posted the results of my car search here. As I said before, I sometimes forget about LiveJournal nowadays since people have abandoned it to a certain extent, and that I can't access it at work. In any case, here it is:

A 2016 Golf Sportswagen Limited Edition. To be honest, there were few options out there that I liked, and this was too good of a deal to pass up. It helps that my Jetta Wagon has given me 13 years of good service. Unfortunately, not a diesel for obvious reasons.

I will miss some aspects of my old car:

  • The range I had with the Jetta

  • The always on 12v outlets

  • The storage compartments under the rear

  • The lack of a sunglasses holder

  • Not having a car payment

But, I'm sure that the new car will bring a lot to the table. I'm still getting comfortable with it.
  • Current Music
    Iced Earth - Come What May
  • Tags

Update on car search

I think my current mood on the car search now is to hold until the next model year. The reason why is that the VW Golf Alltrack (the AWD version of the Sportswagen) is coming out next model year. While I might not choose it as my next car, I definitely want to be able to consider it. Given that I still have a working car, I can take the time to see what the pricing would be and whether or not it would be worth it.

It isn't an easy decision, with the current set of Sportswagens being sold at good deals. That being said, the strong desire to change vehicles isn't there for me yet. It also doesn't help that I still as of yet haven't paid off the last repairs.

Going on to Subaru, what I find is that I would have rather have had an Outback from back before they got supersized into what they are now. That is I think part of the attraction to the Alltrack for me.

In any case, I know what is out there and I know what I like. If something does change with my car, I can probably move quick enough to get what I need with full knowledge.

Car shopping thoughts

While I probably could look at more cars, I'm really not sure I'll gain much more insight to anything I'd want to drive, since I've seen my top picks. After a week of stewing on it, I'm ready to start putting my thoughts down.

As I said before, I do have a preference for wagons, which unfortunately are becoming a dying breed. One of my top picks is one of the few choices there, the VW Golf Sportswagen. Course, I'm kinda biased given that I've been driving VW for 13 years, but to be honest I wasn't expecting to like the Sportswagen without the diesel engine. Typically, VW's gas engines haven't been the most fuel efficient, but that seems to have changed with the TSI, a sporty turbo that gets pretty solid gas mileage. Also, a similar 10k oil change regimen that my diesel has. It isn't a TDI, but given my limited options it is definitely acceptable. I was also a bit worried about VW's recent history of cheaping out of there cars, but the Sportswagen is pretty nice. The only real issue I had with it was that the seat felt weird. Personally, I need to have a second go to see if it is an issue.

The other vehicle I liked was the Subaru Forester. While I'd probably prefer the form factor of the Outback, it has the disadvantage of being bigger and costing more. The engine is their standard 2.5l that they have had in their cars for years. So, reliable but also not something to get excited about. The interior is roomy and it definitely feels bigger than the Golf. It is also probably the only SUV that felt like I was driving a car, with little body roll in the turns. It is also an AWD vehicle, tho to be honest, my need for it in my lifetime could probably be counted on one hand.

So, really it is a question of what I want: does the Sportswagen have all the space I need, or do I need more? Personally I don't know. I know both vehicles are larger than what I have, which was one goal. Pricewise it might be a push, tho I probably can get a better deal on the Golf with the whole Dieselgate thing. I'm also familiar with VW, so I mostly know what to expect. That being said, I'll need to test drive both again. The good thing is, I'm not in a hurry right now.

New car shopping, Part 2

To be honest, I'm probably done with my first pass. While I could go to Nissan or Hyundai as well, I'm not sure I'll be any more satisfied with what I saw there after going through my primary choices.

One thing I didn't get into with the last post are my own personal preferences for what I'm looking for. Mainly my priority has been on three aspects which are on equal footing: fuel efficiency, the ability to haul stuff, and fun to drive. All of these have to do directly with the fact that this is the primary family vehicle, and it is also my daily driver. I'm also not particularly thrilled of the trend that if you feel the need to have more storage space, you need to get an SUV of some sort. To be honest, most people have no need for the ground clearance.

So, let's get on with it:

Mazda CX-5: This was one of the vehicles toward the top of my list, with Mazda's recent focus on fuel efficiency. While I think there is a lot going for it, I hated the acceleration pedal. It felt like there was very little play, which made it hard to judge acceleration. I also didn't like that the radio controls were on the center console rather than on the dash (or, even on the steering wheel.)

Subaru Forester: While I would have liked it better if the Outback was the smaller vehicle, we drove the Forester. Personally, I thought it was damn good. It probably one of the few crossover vehicles that actually felt like driving a car. Not sure how I'd feel about the CVT in the long term, but it seemed to work well with the engine. My son also liked that the rear seats could recline. Visibility is also as good as the reviews say it is. A solid contender.

Toyota Prius V: To be honest, many have pushed me to consider this, and given it is one of the few examples of a fuel efficient wagon, I did have to consider it. Again, my son enjoyed the reclining back seat, perhaps a little too much. The first thing that kinda put me off was the backup beep when you throw it in reverse. If I had the vehicle, I'd have to find some way to disable that. It was very annoying. I also didn't like the way cupholders were put in. It was the only car I tried out that didn't have cupholders in the rear center armrest (instead, it comes out of the rear of the center console.) There is only one in the center console, with a second one having to be pulled out from a compartment. Also, as I kinda expected, while the Prius might be a solid performer for in town driving, I found it was barely adequate on the highway. Given the price tag, I would want more from it.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: I liked this better than I expected. I liked the layout of the dash, and unlike the Prius, it had enough muscle for the highway. But, I did agree with my wife that it felt small. Also, it also told me that I wouldn't like motorized liftgates. I tried opening it by hand, only to find the resistance of the motor. To be honest, I'd rather open it myself.

New car shopping has begun

It has been a while since I've posted here (1.5 years from my last post), partially because LJ is blocked at work and partially from feeling like no one is here anyways to read.

In any case, some know that my car (VW Jetta Wagon TDI) is starting to show its age. Given that it is over 200k in mileage, it is understandable. That being said, my search was being frustrated by not finding many of the type of car that I really want. But, I'll make the best of what is currently out there. Today the search began with visiting the Ford, VW and Honda dealerships.

VW Golf Sportswagon: Given I've spent the past 13 years driving a VW, it is only fair that I check out the latest edition, even if I couldn't buy a diesel this time around. The Sportswagon still makes a strong argument for itself. The gasser mileage isn't bad (25 city/ 35 hwy) and drives like a VW should. Cargo space is smaller than my current wagon (more depth, but less height), but there seems to be a lot of ways to adjust that space, and fold flat is easier to achieve than my current vehicle. I like that the stereo connects to smartphones and run apps, also that the screen was nice and big and very visible to the driver. Also, plenty of steering wheel controls. The only thing I didn't like was that the seams of the seat seemed to hit me oddly and it wasn't as comfortable as I'd like.

Honda CR-V/Ford Escape: I'm conflating both of these, because I'd be hard-pressed to find a difference between these vehicles. Both had plenty of room and drove well, but neither was particularly impressive. I hated that both had these tiny video screens that feel like they are a mile away from the driver. I did like the backup camera for the Escape adjusted the markers based on where you had your steering wheel turned. The rear seats of the CR-V seemed more focused on being able to lie flat than on actual function as seating.

Ford C-Max: I actually didn't really get a chance to test drive this one, since we kinda rejected it quickly, and the salesman seemed to only want us to test drive one car. After looking at the rear, I got what Patches was saying about the "hump". It looks like the rear space is actually raised above the lip a bit. Also, not a big fan of the snub nose. Wife seems to think that if it can't hold enough to compete with a Prius, it isn't worth looking at. Not sure I agree. Anyways, I knew it likely was going to be too small, but I wanted to look at it anyways.

Stops for next week: Mazda (CX-5), Toyota (Prius V, RAV-4 Hybrid), Subaru (Forester, Crosstrak, Outback).

Movie Review: Dredd

I have some attachment to Judge Dredd. Back when I lived in Germany when I was a kid, I used to skim the Dredd graphic novels in the book store and got very familiar with Dredd, Psy-Judge Anderson and Judge Death (who scared the crap out of me). Course, later we got a Sly Stallone Judge Dredd movie, but it almost felt like a parody of Judge Dredd rather than something that played it straight. Fortunately, Dredd got a second chance to shine.

Dredd (Karl Urban) is asked to take on a new recruit named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) who is on the cusp of becoming a Judge, but because of her special abilities, the Chief Judge wants to know if she can cut it. They respond to a murder in one of the megastructures, which leads them to a drug den. One of the people taken into custody is one of the lieutenants of Ma-Ma's (Lena Headly) drug operation. With security threatened, Ma-Ma wants to make sure the Judges don't leave alive.

The main thing that makes this film work is that they keep it simple. We get the monologue about the world in the beginning, setting up Dredd with his new partner, then we are off into the plot. There is nothing terribly complicated about Dredd: he's the living embodiment of the law of MegaCity 1, and who he is as a person is unimportant. That's why you don't see Dredd without his helmet, in my view. He is the uniform. This is also why the character of Anderson is important as well, she puts a human face on what Dredd does as she navigates the murky world faced by Judges and tries to make the right decisions. The relationship between the two is probably one of the best aspects of the film.

The film isn't perfect. Towards the end the ideas start to run dry as to what kind of roadblocks they can put in front of the judges, but the film doesn't overstay its welcome. While I think the attitude of Dredd hasn't aged well in the day and age when we have an over-armed police force, it is still a pretty good adaptation.