Short Film: Borrowed Time


Review: Luke Cage


I finally finished my Luke Cage binge last night, so let the reviewing begin!

I’ve been bouncing back and forth on whether this is the best of the Marvel shows on Netflix, but by the end of the season, I’d have to go with “yes.” Here’s why:

Harlem. They take a real place and they make it the focus of the show. Daredevil tried this in the first season, as well. Hell’s Kitchen, however, is a weird mix of 1980s crack-period Hell’s Kitchen, and the gentrified version of today. This is necessary for the show to keep the Miller/Mazzuccheli flavor they were going for. Luke Cage‘s Harlem is much closer to the real thing, and the importance of the place to black history, culture, and identity is front and center throughout the show.

Blackness. Connected to that, and a defining subtext of the show is blackness. Cottonmouth Stokes, the crime boss who could have been something else; Mariah Dillard, the all-too-realistic politician; Misty Knight, the honest cop who knows everyone in the neighborhood; and Luke Cage, the stoic, hard-working everyman…who just happens to be damned near indestructible all are aspects of the black community, and their conflict mirrors the conflicts of the black professional, the gangster culture, and the middle-class. The music, the location, and the casting all make this a sharply different view of America than Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

The women. There are a lot of important female characters in the show — Mariah Dillard (Alfrie Woodard), Misty Knight (played superbly by Simone Missick), Inspector Pricilla Ridley (Karen Pittman stuck in a stereotypical annoying commanding officer role), and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson, stealing scenes again..) — the women in the show are integral parts of the drama and plot. They’re not weak. They’re not victims. And none of the important players are young. They’re mature women. It’s refreshing.

Mike Colter. Sweet Christmas this guy’s got charisma. He was the best part of Jessica Jones (my opinion) and he does good work here. There are a lot of great performances in the show, Mahershala Ali’s Stokes is especially good, but COlter manages to hold the spotlight whenever he’s onscreen.

The surprises. (Yeah, spoilers. Shut up.) The decision to take Cottonmouth off the board halfway through the show was an excellent move, and made the show seem less contrived. That said, exchanging Ali for Erik LaRay Harvey’s Diamondback took away an excellent, and somewhat sympathetic villain for a less interesting creature. Diamondback, despite their best efforts, never feels like anything more than the crazed murdering baddie. That’s not Harvey’s fault; the writing on his is a bit lazy, and that’s probably the worst aspect of the show.

Mariah Dillard’s rise to crime boss is the exact opposite. She’s a compelling and realistic character, not entirely competent or comfortable in her new role, but Woodard’s steady move from pawn to queen is well executed by both writers and actress. Did I mention the women in this show knock it out of the park? They do.

A side mention for one of the better supporting cast has to go to Frank Whaley. Who? you ask. You’ve seen him in just about every damned TV show in the last ten years, and a few movies. He plays Scarfe. (Oh, that guy!) His performance is subtle and nuanced. He feels like a 20 year vet of the NYPD who does his job, and just that; he knows his job barely matters and it makes his corruption seem natural.

Lastly…Method Man. I’m not a hip-hop or rap fan. I barely know who the guy is. He steals all the scenes he’s in. There’s a great moment between he and Cage where the superhero geeks out at meeting the musician. It’s one of the best moments in the entire show and feels right.

The bad — ’cause there always is some bad.

Diamondback. The character is a leering psycho whose character development shows him to be a whinging teen with daddy issues. It’s unoriginal and uninteresting. The Bible-quotes and half-assed philosophizing never rises to the levels that Cottonmouth and Mariah have.

While the final fight between he and Cage is beautifully done, it’s really only good to show Cage to be no martial arts master, no skilled bad-ass, but a dude that simply is very strong and impervious to most damage…why would he need to be a fighter? (Throughout the show, the guy doesn’t fight, so much as sort of push and slap his way through the mooks.)

The first episode. It’s a slow episode, mostly for the work it’s doing setting up Harlem as a character, as much as introducing the leads. Wade through it.

So is it worth it? Hell, yes. Go quit your job and stream this thing, right now.

Quick Review: iOS 10


The new operating system for the iStuff is here. It won’t work on my old iPad3, but it does work on my daughter’s iPad Mini, and it also works on my iPhone 6, so I have been able to get an idea of how it works across a few of the platforms.

So, how’s it fare? The new notifications style isn’t too bad, just different. The new lockscreen, where you swipe right to get the basic notification center — mine has weather, reminders, and the calendar, for instance; swipe up to get the controls and down to get the notifications you have missed; and swipe left to get to the camera without unlocking. This latter bit is really useful; you can get the camera into action faster, lest you miss that shot.

That said, the new two step home button is a pain in the ass: you have to hold your thumb down to get unlocked, then you have to press the home button to open the phone. It’s crap, Apple. Lose it on the next update. For those devices with the fingerprint reader, this is an easy fix — go into General, then Accesability, and there is a Home Button option. Go flip the toggle and now it will unlock and open like it used to. However!…if you are on an old device, you don’t get this option. You have to press the home button to get in. Period. End of line.

Once open, there’s some cosmetic changes in some of the apps. Health has been buggered with, so if you used to use your favorites to track weight, blood pressure, etc…? You’re SOL, my friend. Sure, you can go to the “today” tab and see today…but you have to go into everything — weight, blood pressure, distnce walked, etc. individually, if you want to look at the week or month. So no — you can’t compare how your walking amount, exercise, or whatever is doing to your weight, BP, or other measurements. It’s a terrible move and makes the app (for me) pretty bloody useless. It’s also still not syncing with MapMyRun, which chaps me a bit.

There are a few improvements and additions to Notes, Messages (including a cute drawing ability), and Reminders that are nice but not necessary. There’s a new tab in the Clock to help you sleep. Meh. The addition of the Universal Clipboard to Pages, etc. is really nice and which allows you to cut and paste between iOS 10 and macOS is really nice, and supposedly Apple Music is improved, if you use it (I don’t.) It does seem to run faster on the iPhone and the old iPad Mini than iOS 9 did, but that could just be me. I like the new open and close sound effects.

So, should you upgrade? Eventually, when you get around to it. If you want to do the cut and paste between platforms, then YES. It’s a really nifty feature. Otherwise, it’s a bit underwhelming.

Quick Review: macOS Sierra


So, I went ahead and loaded the new macOS onto my MacBook Air. Installation was effortless and took about 45 minutes, start to finish. I was able to use the laptop for half of that while the file downloaded. Nothing was changed — my wallpaper, sounds, etc, were left as is; this felt more like an update than a “new” system (which it’s really not…)

The big new feature is Siri. I’ve been using it on and off, and it’s okay. For some things, it works well, like quickly finding a file that’s nested somewhere in a series of folders, or getting the weather…other things, it’s still a little, well, useless. Siri, however, was not the most useful change.

That’s tabs. Tabs in Pages, Keynote, Maps, etc. I usually have several Pages files open at the same time, and having them tabbed is useful. Next up, Universal Clipboard is potentially really useful. I sometimes find an article, or phrase, or picture on my phone and want to use it in a file. You can cut and paste between Apple products. You do need to be on the same network and have Bluetooth up and running. i played with it, and it’s pretty cool. If my iPad were new enough to run iOS10, it would be moreso.

Connected to that, the new iCloud services to store crap you don’t use that much off the laptop is a great idea if you have an Air with a small SSD…however, you only get 5GB from Apple for free. Come on, Cupertino — Google, Dropbox, they all are far more generous with their cloud services, and if you really want this to be a big thing, you might want to give people 20-50GB so that they can play with Continuity and iCloud. If they like it, they’ll use it and might want to start storing stuff online. (I think it’s a foolish thing, from a security standpoint, but there you go.)

Gatekeeper is more of a pain in the ass than it was before. Yes, I understand you don’t want idiots downloading malware onto their overly-expensive hardware…but I don’t want to jump through a load of hoops to get some app I’ve been using for years into action on my computer. (Fortunately, it hasn’t affected anything already loaded.)

The new Os is using IPv6 for networking, and it has been a smooth transition. Additionally, I noted the computer was finding my network drives automatically. I don’t have to go out and do it manually. This is one of the better features of the upgrade.

I don’t have an Apple Watch, so none of the auto-unlocking for me. Don’t really care. APFS — their new file system that’s in the offing and is tailored toward the particular needs of flash drives — is aboard this version, but not in use. Supposedly you can enable a partition using it, if you want to be so bold. Me? Don’t care, right now.

So is it worth it? For me, the automatic locating of my network drives, and the tabs make this a yes. If you use Siri, then, definitely. After all, it’s free…

It’s Not “Common Sense” If You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About…


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Quick Review: 2016 Triumph Thruxton


Okay, I’ve loved my Thruxton since the first time I rode it on the Sandia Crest road here in New Mexico. (That’s a road about 10 miles long with a 120 turns, ranging from long sweepers, to good chicanes, to hard switchback, with an altitude climb of about a mile. It’s like PIke’s Peak, but less deadly.) I’ve ridden the hell out of Trixie — named for Speed Racer’s girlfriend — putting almost 30,000 miles on her in 4 years.

So, of course I’m interested in the new Thruxton, the green one which is now officially approved by my five-year old daughter:

13686660_10154376451392082_6440553930231374092_nSo at a birthday party for the 13th year of the local Triumph shop, I got to be the first to ride the white one behind her for about half an hour.

It’s powerful. It’s not Panigale or Aprilia sportbike powerful, but it’s easily pulling no punches. I popped the front tire up coming out of the parking lot into a right hand turn because I treated it like my old Thruxton.

Don’t do that.

The 1200cc water-cooled mill churns out 112 ft-lbs of torque at 4500rpm…which is right where it seems most comfortable. The 97hp hits about 6500. This thing moves. I was doing 60mph in second gear before i realized it. Getting it out onto old Route 66, I played with throttle response and it is sharp, brisk, and the bike wants to run. Normal secondary highway speeds are easily acquired in third or fourth gear. I only got into sixth on the interstate, where I got up to 115mph in a stretch with no traffic. At that point, the Thruxton got pretty light up front. I suspect the top end is somewhere close to the indicated 140. It does, however, get a bit finicky at 4500rpm, and feels like it can’t decide it it wants to go faster, or slower. It disappears if you back off a tad, or hit it just a bit harder. Fuel map, I suspect, and the fly-by-wire clutch.

Handling is very smooth, immediate, and the bike turns very well. The seating position is slightly forward, and my arms (I’m 5’9″, so averagey) drop straight to the bars, the pegs leave more legroom than my 2010, and I never got close to scraping anything. It’s about the same weight as my bike, but feels lighter; the weight must be lower.

The brakes are good. Not Ducati stop right now! great, but very quick and responsive, without the Ducati desire to have you do an Olympic-level sitting long jump.

So is it any good? No — it’s tremendous. It looks great, the clutch is very light, the bike does what you want when you want it, but no more — just like every Triumph, it’s polite. Is it worth $12k? Yes.


Quote of the Day: H L Mencken


When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental…
So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack, or count himself lost. His one aim is to disarm suspicion, to arouse confidence in his orthodoxy, to avoid challenge. …All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men.
As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.
We move toward a lofty ideal.
On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

– H.L. Mencken, July 26, 1920

Review: Kel-Tec P-32


I’ve been carrying everyday for the last 16 years, and frequently for ten before that. Open carry, concealed carry, in the car, walking around. I’ve lived primarily in the Southwest — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California — during that time, so being able to carry something that can easily drop in a pocket of shorts or pants without printing or dragging the waistband down is a must, especially when having to hang around the park with my kid and other people’s wee squibs.

In the ’90s, there really wasn’t much you could do in the way of really deep concealment. I carried a Star PD .45 for a long time. It was small enough, light enough, and had six rounds of .45…the be-all, end-all of self-defense calibers for some people. Anything less isn’t “enough gun.” For a while, I carried a little .22 magnum Derringer. It was what I call an “Oh, shit!” gun.

Then I moved to the Kel-Tec P-32 sometime about 2005. I also carried the FN FiveSeven starting about this time and it was my main sidearm for ten years. But on the motorcycle, or when wearing shorts, having a full-size (but very light!) handgun was just a touch much. That’s where the Kel-Tec came in. That thing sat in my motorcycle jacket pocket for a decade, and saw semi-regular practice.


For a short time, I succumbed to the “not enough gun” mantra and went up to a Ruger LCP .380. Lovely looking thing; an absolutely beast to shoot because of the light weight. First chance, I did a straight trade back to the Kel-Tec P-32. “Wee Jock” (named for the Westie Terrier in Hamish MacBeth) now goes with me most places.

That’s not enough gun! cries the manly-man shooter. Wrong. Just about every damned pistol cartridge needs an average of 2.25 round to incapacitate. There are plenty of police and military anecdotes about how their 1911 .45, their Webley .455, their M1 Garand, their M4 didn’t stop someone who was ready, angry, juiced, up. The fact is, for most folks, at that first bang, no one wants to play anymore. The .32ACP caliber was adequate enough for European police for decades. It was the first chambering for the Walther PPK, and the Kel-Tec P-32 holds seven rounds of it, just like the old PPK.

Which brings us to the review portion. It’s a small gun. If you have big hands, it might not suit you. I don’t have huge meathooks, but even I hang a pinky on this pistol. It doesn’t especially bother me, but you can get a mag floorplate with a pinkie extension. you can get a belt clip that hooks right onto the pin near the back oft he gun, if you don’t want to buy a holster. I find carrying it in a little holster/wallet thing by Uncle Mike’s hides it well, and keeps my wee daughter from accidentally firing it when she’s pawing at me. (There’s no safety, keep in mind.)

It’s very light: a touch under 10 ounces fully loaded. If fits in the palm of my hand, and it drops in a pocket unobtrusively. I’ve had two; my ex-wife had one. Of the three, we’d never experienced a failure to feed, fire, nor have they every exploded or done anything other than what i wanted. Accuracy on them, with minimal sights (and that’s generous) is surprisingly good. Out to 10 yards, the 2.5″ barrel gives you groups that are more than adequate to defend yourself. I can, if I really concentrate, do a two inch group, but I tend to practice like I’d use it — quick draw and rapid fire. Doing that, I still can put all seven in the 9 ring.

I’ve found it’s a good pistol for people with small hands, but the arthritic might find the long trigger pull and the recoil from the straight blowback operation hard to manage.

Recoil is much more manageable than its bigger brother, the P3AT and the higher quality clone, the Ruger LCP. (If you’re going to do the .380 — go Ruger. The finish and quality is higher for about the same price.) Seven rounds of .32ACP is, admittedly, not going to last you long in a protracted firefight, but that’s not what the Kel-Tec is for; the P-32 is for those times when carrying openly, or carrying a larger gun just isn’t practical for whatever reason. The Kel-Tec is much more likely to get thrown in your pocket for a quick milk run than shoving your Glock 42 in your waistband…and the gun you don’t have with you is pretty bloody worthless.

New, the P-32 runs about $250, and used you can get them for $150ish, which makes them highly economical for self-defense. And you can replace it much easier than your $500 Glock or $800 Springfield 1911 if you have to lose it to an evidence room.

There’s Another Choice, America…


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