Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Log on Mods: Skyrim and New Vegas

Skryim is already over two years old. With mods, however, it easily competes with the best games released this year.

Well hello again reader. After a long hiatus (let's call it being busy as hell for several months in a row), I am back to provide you with what will hopefully be an article of at least average quality.

I recently acquired a new laptop for college, that, luckily for me, is also capable of playing games fairly well. Thanks to the magical service that is Steam, I was able to download a number of games at a criminally low price. The ones I play the most by far are Skyrim and Fallout New Vegas, both of which I had previously owned on the Xbox 360.

Now, you might ask, why buy the same game twice? Well, for one, it was cheaper to buy the games plus all of their DLC as a complete package on Steam than it was to download the pieces of DLC I still needed on the 360 versions (what a complete joke that is). Second, I knew from previous experiences with PC gaming that these versions would be FAR superior.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

iPhone 5S criticism is unwarranted

The iPhone 5S in black, gold, and white.

The iPhone 5S has had a mixed reception, to say the least. Unsurprisingly, most Android users hate it, citing its screen and apparent lack of value. Even iPhone users have made some complaints, with one commentator on a post saying that "the 4S will be my last iPhone, because I can no longer [use them for reading]."

At first glance, these would appear to reveal a general sentiment among consumers that iPhones are declining and quickly being surpassed by its competitors.

Upon closer inspection however, the same criticisms people have for the iPhone 5S can be leveled against the entire smartphone industry. As I argued in a past article on this site, smartphones have hit a tremendous wall of diminishing returns, so much so that from one year to the next it is hard to tell if these devices are actually getting noticeably better.

Is criticism for the 5S even warranted with this taken into consideration? Is it even hypocritical to some extent? For instance, Android users claim that their phones are filled to the brim with features that remain inaccessible to even those who will buy a 5S. They are right in some ways, as Apple has yet to add features such as NFC or a true HD screen. That being said, what exactly has Samsung or HTC done to significantly change the face of the smartphone industry? Sure, both are adept at producing monstrous phones with beautiful screens and a handful of software gimmicks, but is what they have done truly any more innovative than what Apple has done with the 5 or 5S?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Aliens in the Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper Belt encases our solar system. In my mind, it would provide a hyper intelligent alien race the perfect real estate by which to establish observational posts.

I have explored in this blog previously the Fermi Paradox. In short, this is the idea that despite the fact that our galaxy is so old that it should have fostered thousands of intelligent species by now, it appears to us to be entirely devoid of anything resembling life as we know it.

This article will serve as a rebuke to that paradox. To frame this discussion, I will start with this question: what if there were aliens in the Kuiper Belt?

For those who do not know, the Kuiper Belt is the disk of asteroids, comets, and other planetary materials that circle the sun at a distance far beyond Pluto. In simple terms, it is an asteroid belt that circles the solar system.

If I were a hyper intelligent alien race wanting to contain possible upstart civilizations such as humanity, this would be the region where I would establish my first line of defense.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Claimed by the wastes

(Restart Story)

You decide to take the boat across the lake, thereby saving you a trip through the ghoul infested forests that encircle it.

As you reach to put your hand on the side of the boat to give yourself some balance as you enter it, you find that your hand goes completely through as if the boat were not even there.

It's an illusion!

That is your final thought as you fall face first into the freezing waters of Mirror Lake. Whoever created the illusion must have cast a spell on you as soon as you hit the water, as you are unable to move any limbs. As you sink to the bottom of the lake, you see several ghastly figures moving towards you, looking to feed on your soon to be corpse.

As everything goes black, you wonder to yourself if things could have gone differently had you made smarter decisions...

The End

Cooler heads prevail

(Restart Story)

You know that something bad is about to happen. In preparation, your pour all of your magical energy into your wards, and cast several incantations designed to expel dark magic around yourself.

As if on cue, the shack begins to crumble around you. The rotted wood turns to ash, the only thing left after a few seconds is the tome, which remains in the air, levitating in the spot where it had been sitting on the desk moments before.

A pale hand appears out of thin air and grasps the tome. As seconds pass, the hand's owner is revealed.

It is human in form, though totally pale. His skin appears to be decomposed in several areas, revealing alabaster bone underneath. Despite this, the rest of him looks to be relatively healthy.

"And here I was hoping you would be an easy kill. Ah well, I suppose that would have been too much to ask for something with a soul as powerful as yours." He grins at you, devilishly.

"You've chosen the wrong target, lich. Prepare to die."

"Who are you?"


(Restart Story)

You panic, attempting to run out of the shack mindlessly towards the forests surrounding Mirror Lake.

You barely make it two steps out of the decrepit building when you are completely frozen in place.

A ghastly figure appears before you. He looks like a human to you, but it is clear that he left that part of himself behind a long time ago.

"Hmm, what a disappointment you turned out to be. Still, your soul should prove quite valuable to my work."

He raises his right hand, palm facing towards you. At first, it appears as if your mysterious assailant is doing nothing. But as you move your eyes downwards, you see that he is using his powers to extract something from you.

Initially you think he is only harvesting your magical energy, but it is clear that what he is doing goes far beyond that. The pain becomes excruciating; it feels as if your bones are being ripped from your body one at a time, your blood boiling within you simultaneously.

This goes on for what seems like an eternity. Finally, the pain stops. You look up to the Lich who stole your soul, and feel nothing besides the desire to serve your undead master for all eternity.

He smiles at you, revealing unusually white teeth.

"And now, your true journey begins..."

The End

A worthy opponent

(Restart Story)

You take a step forward, and stand before the tome. You place your hand on it, and call forth the reserves of magical energy within you. Pure energy rushes down your arm, out your palm, and into the tome. You do not wish to destroy it; this is merely a spell meant to discover the magical properties of a particular item.

When your spell is completed, you stagger backwards in amazement. The amount of spells packed into the tome are too numerous too count. Indeed, they are beyond your understanding, and though you are a powerful mage in your kingdom, it would take years for you to gain the ability to use any of these spells.

A deep and sinister voice interrupts your thought processes.

"It has been a long time since a...human...has made their way this far out into the wastes."

The voice seems to be coming from all directions, despite your best efforts you cannot discover its origins.

The voice laughs softly. "How pitiful if this is the best humanity can offer. And here I was hoping you would prove to be a worthy challenge compared to the ghouls and skeletal soldiers who normally stumble into my lair."

You attempt to respond, but you find you cannot open your mouth. In fact, you find that every passing second it is becoming harder to move any of yourself at all. You only have a few moments before you are completely immobilized by this being's magic.


Cast defensive magical wards around yourself

The strangely supple boat

(Restart Story)

There's probably nothing of interest in that old shack.

You instead choose to inspect the boat, walking up towards it cautiously. When you reach it, it appears to be in great condition. The wood is pristine, its light brown hue nearly glowing in the winter sunlight. It is smooth to the touch, with no splinters, and appears to be equipped with provisions and an oar.

While you inspect the boat, you get the strange feeling that someone, or something, is watching you. You turn around, searching near and far with both your eyes and your magic. You find nothing, though you do feel a faint magical signature coming from the small shack in front of you.

When you focus on the dark opening to the shack, you think you see a pale, grinning human face. But when you blink, it is gone.

Investigate the shack

Take the boat out onto Mirror Lake

The tome in the shack

(Restart Story)

You saunter up to the small building, and slip inside. In terms of size, it is little more than a glorified closet, though you still have room to stretch your arms out in all directions. Still, whoever used to man this dock managed to make the best of the space, as you notice in one of the small corners there is a piece of blackened soggy wood jutting out about a foot, a small tome placed atop it. Tucked away beneath the desk is a stool, though you would not try your luck by attempting to sit on it.

Besides the small working space in the corner, there is little else of note in the room. As you are about to leave, small black marks etched into one of the walls captures your attention. It appears to be some form of runic language, though one you are not familiar with.

As you attempt to decipher the writing, you feel a strange magical disturbance emanating from something close by. You inspect your immediate surroundings, and conclude that the only thing it could possibly be coming from is the old tome placed upon the miniature desk.

You reach out to the object with your arcane powers. It calls to you, stretching icy magical tendrils into your mind. You recoil instinctively and place barriers around your consciousness to block any attempts at mind control.

There is no telling what kind of magics exist this far into the wastes. You should proceed cautiously.

Interact with the tome

Leave the room and inspect the boat

The boat by the lake

(Restart Story)

You run towards the path on the right, and keep running for what seems like an eternity. Your magical powers allow you to move at a near sprint indefinitely, though you still maintain a keen awareness of your surroundings so as not to attract the attention of the undead.

After many hours of travel, you make it to the edge of Mirror Lake, a medium sized body of water surrounded by dead trees and a grayish blue landscape. Ahead, you see an old long abandoned dock. The wood it is made out of has long since rotted, though the boat tied to a slowly disintegrating wooden post attached to the dock looks to be in relatively good shape. Across from the post is a small, degraded shack.

Search the small building on the dock

Inspect the boat more closely

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

World of Warcraft will never be killed

Every year mmorpg gamers await the next "WoW Killer," the fabled game that will finally destroy World of Warcraft and cause it to lose the entirety of its player base.

If you are smart, you would know that this will never happen. That is right, never. You will never see an mmo that will kill WoW, and you will never see an mmo that will match WoW's success in our lifetimes.

A lack of foresight

(Restart Story)

You assume a cross-legged position in the snow, entering a state of meditation. Due to the amount of energy expelled, it will require a prolonged amount of time to recover, especially since you suffered severe injuries due to the blast wave.

Unfortunately, while meditating, your senses are dulled, and you do not sense the hordes of skeletal soldiers bearing down on your position, sent by the Undead King to investigate the massive explosion caused by your magical assault on his sentry.

By the time you realize what is going on, the skeletal soldiers are already upon you, with several of beginning to hack away at you while you are still in a half meditating state. When they are finished, your body is unrecognizable.

The undead knight leading the skeletal soldiers recovers your sword, and delivers it personally to his King. The sword allows him to enhance his power greatly, and as a result he and his armies easily conquer your kingdom.

The End

Stealth wins

(Restart Story)

You stealthily creep up upon the lumbering figure, still distracted with the task of finding whoever started the fire. Using a little bit of your magical reserves you silence your movements as you close in on the undead knight. Just as you draw your blade, the figure twists around and faces you. Unfortunately for him though, it is too late. You rapidly stab the knight through his helmet with your sword, twisting it to the side for good measure. Then, you raise your right leg and kick him to the ground, bringing your blade's point down upon and into his chest for good measure.

With the undead knight defeated, you watch as his energies are absorbed by your blade, strengthening not only the weapon but you as well.

Closely inspect the body

You didn't see that coming?

(Restart Story)

The figure looks humanoid enough, and though he is likely undead you figure you should at least try to find a way to communicate with him before you go on the offensive.

"Can you understand me?" You must shout to be heard over the constant wind.

The figure stares at you, calculating you coldly.

"What are you? Why are you attacking me?"

Your continued line of questioning gets no response. In fact, it only seems to anger the construct, who begins to charge at you, howling in a blood curdling inhuman manner. You only have moments to respond. With no time to draw your sword, you have no choice but to call upon your magical reserves.


A sentry in the snow

(Restart Story)

You approach the undead knight's remains, hoping to learn something more by inspecting it closely. It's strength was impressive for a singular minion of the Undead King, indeed, you have never fought anything like it before. Its armor is etched with small runes that you had not noticed before, and reading them you can see that they are enchantments designed to ward off magical attacks.

From the strength of the enchantments, you are glad you decided to attack with your sword.

Furthermore, there is a medallion hanging around his neck. You easily break the small chain tying it to the construct, and inspect it. It is also inscribed with runic words of power. These, however, do not provide protection, but instead boost the wearer's offensive capabilities. 

For what you could tell, though the knight proved no match for you in close combat, it would be more than capable of defeating a great number of ordinary soldiers, which explains all of the missing scouts in recent months.

From what you can surmise, these constructs are likely sentries, produced at great expense by the Undead King to monitor the edges of the frozen wastes that border your kingdom. As such, they are exceptionally powerful.

As you go deeper into the wastes, you expect to find fewer of these sentries.

Continue on to the abandoned fort

Your first kill

(Restart Story)

You decide to attack him head on. You draw your blade and charge. The figure senses your approach and assumes a defensive position. You are far quicker than this lumbering construct however, and are able to stab him several times before he is able to react. As he attempts to lop your head of with his gigantic sword, you leap in the air, dodging the attack and landing on his shoulders. You raise your sword, and bring it down, end first, into your assailant's helm.

There is a burst of light, followed by a small explosion, which throws you off the figure. Your magical wards protect you from all of the damage of the blast. When you regain your footing, you see the corpse of the knight lying before you.

What remains of this creature's energy is absorbed by your sword. As the stream of bluish light leaves the figures armored remains and enters your blade, you feel greatly empowered.

Closely inspect the body

A successful plan

(Restart Story)

You draw up a small fraction of your magical reserves, and hold you hand out in the direction of the campfire. Moments later, it blazes to life. The bones surrounding the fire glow a sickly orange color.

You had hoped that your ploy would attract any nearby assailants, and luckily for you, it has. A figure emerges out of thin air near the flames. He is encased in a blackened steel armor adorned with numerous sharpened barbs. He carries a tremendous sword strapped to his back. The figure kneels down and seems to gaze at the fire, confused, and looks around to to see if there are any potential victims about.

You are hidden quite well, and so he fails to see you. Nonetheless, the figure draws his sword and begins to lumber around the immediate area, scouting about for whatever started the fire.

Sneak up on the figure and eliminate him with your sword

Attack him head on

Using your brain can be useful

(Restart Story)

Using your talents gained serving as a ranger in your earlier years, you stealthily approach the smoke up ahead. Taking a longer route along the edges of the trail that straddles the forest line, you creep up a small rocky incline that gives you a birds eye view of the area below.

You see a recently put out campfire, along with the bones of what look to be one of several scouting squads sent out by Fort Iceward, the outermost bastion of military power your kingdom has.

In this region, the state of their decomposition means little. They could have died yesterday and had their organic bodies melted down instantly by a dark magic formulated by the Undead King used by many of his skeletal minions. Or, their bones could have been picked clean by the many large birds of prey in the area. Either way, it meant that whatever killed these men could still be nearby.

Use your magic to rekindle the fire from afar

Sapped of strength

(Restart Story)

You continue on to the fort. Without any energy, magical or otherwise, the journey is excruciating. The brutal weather slows you tremendously, and the threat of more undead like the one you just defeated forces you to remain cautious and take longer, stealthier routes.

Before you are even halfway to the fort, you begin to falter, your energy reserves depleted. You make camp next to a blackened tree, and fall asleep.

In the night, the temperature falls to levels unheard of in your kingdom. Without magical wards protecting you, you are as vulnerable to them as any other man, and die in your sleep.

Years later, after the King of the Undead's forces have swept through your kingdom, refugees find the spot where you succumbed to the cold. They greedily steal your weapons and armor, though are quickly found and executed by undead forces. They take your sword to the Undead King, and he uses it to attain immense levels of power.

The world enters a period of darkness that has no end in sight.

The End

Unlimited power!

(Restart Story)

You decide that your previous magical attack was lacking in duration and strength.

You wind back your right hand, assuming a practiced stance for emitting a massive magical strike. Charging the enormous amount of arcane and elemental energy in the palm of your hand is difficult, and it leaves you feeling drained. If the attack fails, it is likely that you will succumb to your foe.

You release your attack with mere seconds to spare. The gigantic orb of bluish energy impacts the undead knight with such force that you are blown back hundreds of feet, the blast wave removing century old layers of snow from the ground, cracking ancient ice, and leaving a crater many meters deep.

You are incapacitated by the blast, and it takes you several moments to regain enough strength to pick yourself up and stagger towards the site of impact. Within the crater, you see the undead knight, or more accurately, what is left of him. Only a pile of smoldering ashes, bits of steel, and pieces of his weapon's hilt remain.

Though you defeated your enemy, you are completely drained, and lack the resources to heal yourself. Your magical wards were also taken down by the blast wave. In essence, you are now completely defenseless.

Continue to the fort

Rest and regain your strength

A wreathe of flames

(Restart Story)

As the black figure charges at you, you begin to expel from the palm of your hand an immense wreathe of flames that hits your enemy with tremendous force.

As the cleansing fires encase him, you hear him emit a ghastly scream that betrays a hint of his former humanity.

To your surprise however, the now blazing undead knight is still rushing towards you. In your momentary disbelief, he closes the remaining distance between you, winds up a tremendous attack with his greatsword, swings, and sends you flying backwards several feet.

Magical wards on your armor saved you from suffering any severe damage, but you are still winded and have trouble regaining your footing. You are fairly certain that you broke a few bones as well.

The undead knight has recovered from the momentum of his attack, and is bearing down upon you once more.

Throw all the magic at him that you've got

Draw your sword and finish him

A magical response

(Restart Story)

You call upon your vast magical reserves, shooting flames from your fingertips. The fire does not hurt you, but quickly melts the ice that had been encasing your body. The armored figure before you responds by charging forward with his enormous blade, with the intent to run you through.

Use your magic against him

Show him that when it comes to swords, size does not matter

Your first foe

(Restart Story)

You draw your rune inscribed blade and rush towards the smoke. You quickly reach a small clearing that is roughly in the shape of a circle. In the middle is a smoldering camp fire, the cause of the smoke you saw earlier. Other than that, there is no sign of anything, living or dead, in the area.

As you look for clues in your immediate surroundings, you notice that the air around you is becoming far colder. In fact, it is becoming progressively harder for you to even move. A few seconds later you become completely immobile, frozen where you stand.

Before you, appearing out of thin air, is a hulking armored figure. He is about your height, but with a far bulkier frame. He is encased in a form of blackened steel you are not  familiar with, equipped with numerous barbs protruding from various angles on its surface. He holds a greatsword nearly as large as his body.

Use your magic to free yourself

Negotiate with the armored figure

The path towards fortifications

(Restart Story)

You decide to go left, as you assume that the fort can provide you with shelter from the brutal weather and unrelenting undead.

It is not long after you begin your trek however that you notice smoke further ahead up the path.

Charge ahead with your sword drawn

Investigate stealthily

Story #2: Can you survive?

[Author's Note: This story is a work-in-progress, and thus you will eventually come across some choices that currently aren't functional.]

You are an elite member of your kingdom's military. In fact, you are so skilled with a blade that the King rarely moves about outside of his palace walls without you.

Today however, is an exception. You have been sent on a solitary expedition to scout the borderlands that connect your kingdom to a massive expanse of frozen wasteland. Within this realm exist many threats, the greatest of which is the King of the Undead and his horde of mindless minions.

Your kingdom's great armies have kept them at bay for some time, but news has arisen of an undead horde roaming the wastes that is far larger than any you have ever fought against before.

Your commander has chosen to send you alone, without any help, because he does not want to attract the King of the Undead's attention.

This shouldn't worry you however, as your skill with a blade is unmatched. Furthermore, your sword is enchanted with several runes that allow you to absorb the energies of everything you slay, allowing you to grow stronger with every victory. Finally, you have a command over the magical arts that is surpassed only by the King's personal mages. Overall, there is little in the known world that poses much of a threat to you.

Still, in the frozen wastes, it is best to stay cautious. Despite your immense powers, you cannot defeat an entire army of undead by yourself, and foolish decisions can still get you killed. 

You left the outermost portions of your kingdom yesterday, and have already reached the small sliver of contested territory straddling the realms of the undead and the living. Before you are two paths. The left one takes you to an abandoned fort, once meant to serve as the first line of defense against a potential undead invasion. The right takes you to Mirror Lake, a ghastly area plagued by wraiths and ghouls, which also contains a garrison of the Undead King's skeletal soldiers.

Go Left

Go Right

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Guild Wars 2's comatose game world

Hey all, today I want to put some thoughts down into writing in regard to Guild Wars 2. Released last year, it was heralded as the MMO of 2012, and as such it was dubbed a "WoW Killer," much like Star Wars The Old Republic and countless others before it.

A year later, and it is evident that though Guild Wars 2 is a great game, it is not a WoW killer. Not even close.

Why is that? Well, from my experience with it, its main fault is the rather comatose game world.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is there a need for Xbox TV?

Xbox One is touted by Microsoft as being able to serve all of your entertainment needs. What is the point of an "Xbox TV" then?

According to writer Danny Sullivan of, there is. He believes that while the Xbox 360 is a capable streaming device, it is overlooked by consumers due to its premium cost in comparison to Roku and Apple TV.

Sullivan concludes by saying that Xbox should "[l]ose the gaming functionality [and] focus on the video (and perhaps music)," and that by doing so Microsoft will be able to gain a foothold into households seeking pure streaming devices. He basically wants Microsoft to create an Xbox version of Apple TV, Roku, or Chromecast; in other words a small hockey puck sized device that generates little to no heat and is dedicated solely to streaming content.

The problem with this is that, in my mind, it severely diminishes the Xbox brand. As seen with the 360 and now the One, Microsoft wants Xbox to be a brand that encompasses every possible form of entertainment you might need in your living room. By creating a stripped down Xbox made only for streaming, you are throwing out everything that Microsoft wants their entertainment console to be: the end all be all option for every home's living room.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fat Head Review

I just watched the dietary documentary Fat Head yesterday and I have to say, it was pretty phenomenal.

Basically, it's sort of a direct response to Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me, and seeks to demonstrate to viewers that the crusade against eating meat and animal fats is entirely fallacious and in actuality is causing the obesity crisis in America.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is the new Nexus 7 worth it?

For owners of the 2012 Nexus 7, this thing will look mighty familiar to you.

Just under a year ago I bought my first tablet, the 16gb Nexus 7. Now, as has become the custom in the world of technology, Google has recently announced my relatively youthful tablet's successor in the Nexus 7-2 (note the space between the numbers, I know it's confusing but this is apparently what most writers have named it).

The question I will look at is this: is it worth it for current Nexus 7 owners to buy the Nexus 7-2?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's not a shooter, it's a camera!

Is that a camera or a shooter? Tech writers, listen up.

I go through a lot of tech news (often through apps like Appy Geek), and as such I read a lot of smartphone reviews. One thing that I have been seeing a lot lately is writers who feel the need to come up with random synonyms when describing a smartphone.

One of the worst examples of these I've seen lately is writers who use the word shooter instead of camera when referring to a smartphone's camera. For example, they'll say something like "the iPhone as an 8 megapixel camera on the back and a forward facing 1.3 megapixel shooter on the front."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Good luck with Dwight, Houston

The city of Houston is likely rejoicing at the fact that they've claimed the rights to Dwight Howard, the so-called best center in the NBA. Is there really anything for them to be excited about though? In my mind, not really.

Watching Dwight all of last year it was evident that he, at his best, is little more than an athletic defender who can finish at the rim with above average effectiveness.

His hands are rock hard, little more than oversized mitts. You could almost see the webs linking his rather useless elongated fingers. He fumbled away more passes from players like Steve freaking Nash and Kobe goddamn Bryant than I can count.

Not only that, but he refuses to play in any sort of offense that doesn't cater to his exact needs. In his arrogance, he spurned a great playmaker like Steve Nash, choosing instead to set weak screens and cry before and after games about not having isolation plays set up for him in the post.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why Man of Steel failed

Last night I watched the movie Man of Steel for the first time. I'll start by saying that I really wanted to love this movie, I really did. It had talented people behind its creation (Zack Snyder - 300, Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight) and had a story based around Superman and alien invasions. What was there not to like?

Unfortunately, quite a bit. The main issue I had with the movie was the disconnect between the characters and their interactions not only with each other but with the story itself. I just didn't care about them at all, even Henry Cavill's superman, who despite looking the part never really had any dialogue of significance and seemed to be detatched and depressed for the majority of the film. 

I blame Christopher Nolan for that last bit. Dark, gritty, realistic, and brooding might work for Batman, but it sure as hell doesn't fit into a story about Superman. This is a guy who should basically be a god on earth, somebody who isn't directly affected by earthly problems but still cares due to his upbringing. The somber Cavill Superman never really seems "heroic," in fact I think what I'm getting at is that Nolan tried to make somebody who is inherently not human too human. As a result, the story suffered and became, at least to me, vapid and not engrossing at all. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Phablets will die off

A Galaxy Note II shown dwarfing what is considered to be a large smartphone, the Galaxy S3.

I can't tell you how many times I've read an article or forum post about smartphones that seems to laud the so-called "phablet." For those who do not know, a phablet is a device that attempts to merge the benefits of a smartphone and a tablet. They are usually somewhere between 5.3 and 6.5 inches, and aim to provide the user with the screen real estate to watch movies and do more productive tasks on their phone.

The downside? They are very large. This may not be a problem for the guy or girl who has cargo pants or a large purse, but for the majority of the jean/short wearing population of the world it's hard to fit a wallet and a phablet into a pair of normal pockets without feeling constricted.

Additionally, the reason most people love phablets is due to their aforementioned ability to meld a tablet and phone into one device. At the same time however, this is also why the phablet fails. Because it is an amalgamation of two different devices, the phablet has compromised its ability to be great at any one task.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Top 5 TV Show Intros

I watch a lot of TV. Probably too much, to be honest.

Here are my favorite show intros...

5. Community 

Link to intro:

I love this show. The humor is top notch and some of its storylines are surprisingly dark and complex despite the lighthearted manner in which the show presents itself. I think the intro captures all of that, especially through its more melancholy undertones (revealed when you listen to the lyrics.)

 4. Downton Abbey 

Link to intro:

This show is very peculiar in that it manages to be extremely entertaining despite being nearly entirely devoid of sex or violence. This is due to the fantastic characters and the stories that cause them to clash in a number of entertaining ways.

The intro itself serves as a time machine of sorts, taking you back to an age and a way of life that no longer exists in today's world. The music is slightly depressing and uplifting at the same time, which is proper considering the way the show tells its stories. All in all it's a great way to start off a good hour of television.

Dwight Howard's Departure

Less than a year after it began, the Dwight Howard era of the Los Angeles Lakers has come to a close.

Yesterday marked the end of an era for the Los Angeles Lakers. Less than a year after he was signed, Dwight Howard has decided to leave the Lakers for the Houston Rockets.

Most Lakers fans I know, including myself, really aren't too surprised. Indeed, as seen on the popular fan site, the majority of Lakers fans couldn't care less about Dwight leaving for the Rockets. What this reveals is the love-hate relationship we Lakers fans have had with this pseudo superman ever since he signed with us last August.

It is true that most Lakers fans hated the cocky, aloof Andrew Bynum and were pleased when Dwight waltzed in to take his place. But it was also clear that Dwight never had a great amount of chemistry with anybody on our team. Kobe had a much better relationship with Pau, and even Steve Nash, the former Suns MVP who was the Lakers' other big free agent signing last year, than he ever did with Dwight. And really, it's this disconnection between Dwight and the rest of the team that defined his time with us.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Runner

Ray Baker lived on the top floor of an immense structure, hundreds of stories high. Outwardly, the building had the appearance of a typical skyscraper, with the exception of the ring-like structure that crowned its rooftop. Baker lived in this halo like penthouse. He was not made of money, but through luck had won the lottery several years earlier. Though it was a large amount, Baker had squandered the majority of it through poor investments, frivolities, and the home in which he now lived.

The halo was equipped with a balcony that jutted out several meters, and had no obvious support besides being attached to the greater structure. Baker stood there now, pacing, holding a slim rectangular device to his ear. The balcony appeared to be open to the elements, but in reality there were invisible mechanisms shielding the space from the ruthless winds present at that height.

Monday, July 1, 2013

When is Star Wars the Old Republic at its best? When it tries to be KOTOR 3.

Anybody who has played an MMORPG before has probably heard of the game Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was released at the end of 2011 and was supposed to take the MMO gaming world over by storm. Unfortunately for Bioware and EA, it never came close to doing that and today is a free to play game that manages to maintain a few hundred thousand monthly subscribers. This is a far cry from what EA imagined when they pumped millions into its development.

But I am not here to criticize the failures of SWTOR. In fact, I actually have fun with the game, mainly due to its dialogue and choice system that isn't present in any other MMO that I have played. Indeed, I actually like the game itself more than WoW and Guild Wars 2.

Book Recommendation: Saga of Seven Suns by Kevin J. Anderson

The Saga of Seven Suns is a science fiction series written by Kevin J. Anderson. Essentially, it is an easy read about humanity's discovery of powerful alien forces throughout the universe that are far more dangerous, ancient and technologically capable than they are.

It is not the best series of books ever written, and often times Anderson takes far too long to explain simple plot points. Indeed, this series of seven books probably could have been chopped down to about three or four. In my mind that would have greatly improved the pacing of the story.

If all you want is an action filled story of alien invasion however, this is the series for you. I read all seven books and enjoyed them, despite the reservations I had about them stated above. In my opinion the first five books are the best, indeed, the conclusion of the fifth book could have probably been sufficient in ending the series. Books six and seven fall flat in providing a sufficiently gratifying ending to such a long series, though they were still entertaining to read.

Overall, if you want something to read over summer and you are into the science fiction or alien invasion genres, this is one series you should probably check out. It isn't the best written or most intelligent series of books ever created, but it should be sufficient in providing you with a decent amount of entertainment.

If I had to rate The Saga of Seven Suns as a whole, I'd probably give it 7/10.

Alan Wake First Impressions

I just recently fired up this game again. Finished episode one a few minutes ago. So far I really like it. As a fan of the show Supernatural, I think it captures that same sense of creepiness and foreboding mixed with healthy amounts of action and humor.

It isn't a horror game on the level of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but it will provide a few scares for the faint of heart. Overall I think of it more as a third person shooter with a dark/mysterious storyline than a game whose sole purpose is to try and freak out the player and keep them from sleeping at night.

I'll make a new post when I've gotten further into the game. Thus far however I'd say it was well worth the dirt cheap price I bought it for ($3).

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's with all the iOS7 and Apple criticism?

Apple is bringing a lot of new features to the table with iOS7. Why then has its announcement garnered so much criticism?

Today I was reading a few articles by Adam Doud and Taylor Martin on the website, and noticed that they were decidedly and almost comically anti-Apple.

Doud's article, titled "Is iOS 7 Apple’s admission that it has nothing new to bring to the table?," vehemently attacks Cupertino while lauding Samsung and Android devices for their innovation. Unfortunately, his criticism of Apple makes little to no sense based on the evidence he provides. For instance, he criticizes the upcoming iPhone (before it has even been released mind you) for its "blah" design. I think that is a fairly laughable accusation to make, especially considering there isn't really much noteworthy about the Galaxy S4 in terms of design. It would make more sense had Doud been propping up the HTC One, which does sport a beautiful design, but as it stands his criticism of the iPhone's look while simultaneously propping up a plasticky faux chrome over-sized rectangle leaves a lot to be desired.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

PS4 versus Xbox One

Microsoft and Sony's next generation gaming consoles.

I'm not really planning to write a dissertation on this topic, but I did want to make a few comments because this subject interests me. As of now both Sony and Microsoft have announced their next generation consoles, and fanboys on both sides of the aisle have begun to rabidly defend their respective companies (looking at you System Wars...). What console, in reality, is truly worth your dollar?

To be honest, I cannot answer that question, because unlike the people of the aforementioned System Wars I don't like making broad conclusions before a console is even released. That being said, there are a few things that we do know that hint at one console being a bit better than the other...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Have smartphones stopped noticeably improving?

Smartphones have improved greatly since the release of the original iPhone in 2007, but have they plateaued in recent years?

Today I was thinking about the smartphone industry and this topic sort of just popped into my head. Every few months it seems that a company like Samsung or Apple releases the next big thing, with the most recent example being the Galaxy S4. In the fall, Apple is likely to release the iPhone 5S to overtake Samsung once more as the company with the most powerful phone.

And here I sit with my iPhone 4S, pondering the significance of it all. Can the average smartphone owning consumer really tell the difference between a Galaxy S3 with its quad core processor and a Galaxy S4 with its slightly more advanced quad core processor? Or for iPhone owners, can we really tell the difference between the 0.8ghz A5 processor in the 4S and the 1.3ghz A6 processor in the 5?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

iPhones vs Androids: Screen Size

In 2007 the iPhone was considered to be a large phone. In 2013, that it no longer the case.
Back in 2007 the 3.5" screen on the iPhone, coupled with it's peculiar 3:2 aspect ratio, made it a giant in the smartphone world. In 2013, many laugh at the size of the iPhone and are opting for larger "phablet" phones such as the 5.5" Galaxy Note II, pictured above to the left.

This is somewhat surprising, as it was only a decade ago that everyone and their dog wanted phones to get smaller and smaller, and more and more portable. Today's smartphone user however uses their phone for more things than someone from 2003 could imagine, including video playback, web browsing, gaming, and more. For these people, a larger screen is often seen as being more beneficial on a phone.

Friday, February 22, 2013

iPhones vs Androids: Personalization vs Optimization

What's new in 4.1? It started Android on a path towards optimization that may rival iOS very soon.

One of the major benefits of Android smartphones is that they are completely customizable. Don't like the keyboard on your phone? Download a new one. Don't like your home screen? Add new widgets, folders, live wallpapers, custom skins, and more. For the tech savvy among us, Android phones also allow you to edit the core functions of the device (details of which you can find at among other sites).

Being an owner of the Nexus 7, I do enjoy how Android lets you edit the layout of your device however you see fit. Apple products such as the iPhone, are much less flexible, and the extent of your personalization is basically the image you choose as your wallpaper and whatever case you decide to get. That is not necessarily a bad thing for some people, as the simplicity of this system allows iOS to be as smooth and efficient as it is.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

iPhones vs Androids: The Update Dilemma

Android 4.1/4.2 Jelly Bean is a great operating system. It's too bad most current Android users won't be able to experience it.

iPhone versus Android...a debate that is bound to drag on for countless smartphone generations to come. I am not going to try and tell you which platform is better, but I am going to inform you about my experiences with each. For the record, I own a Nexus 7, a Galaxy S Continuum, and an iPhone 4S.

Conversely, even owners of the ancient iPhone 3GS were able to get their hands on parts of iOS 6.

To begin, when I made the jump from the Galaxy S to the 4S as my daily driver, the difference was enormous. Obviously, the original Galaxy S is no where near comparable to any modern smartphone, especially my variant, the Samsung Continuum. However, the fact that the 4S blows it out of the water proves two things of which iPhone's are superior to Android: support and stability.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Radical Video Game Concept

Games like Skyrim offer vast worlds and thousands of things to do. Is there, however, another equally impressive way developers could be creating video games?
It is a common trend in video game design to make each successive generation of games more complicated and expansive than the last. Case in point, a game like World of Warcraft is growing larger and more complex with each expansion. Likewise, each iteration of The Elder Scrolls series adds more layers to the world and gives the player more and more to do.

But is this the right way to go about video game design? While there is of course a market for expansive games such as Skyrim or Oblivion or even Halo 4, there is a severe lack of attention from video game designers given to creating games on a smaller scale.

About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to and the Davis Humanities Institute.