Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Links: Blogroll Additions and Deletions

Keeping your blog updated is pretty challenging, especially if you're gainfully employed and you have a house to maintain. I understand it when bloggers decide to hang up their hats, and update my blogroll accordingly. It's certainly not a comment on the quality of a blog's writing (if I didn't like the blog, it wouldn't be on the blogroll in the first place, after all). I just like to have a blogroll populated with sites that get updated at least once or twice a month.

I do like to give any deleted blogs one last time in the spotlight, though. Here are the additions and deletions to Shangrila Towers' blogroll, as penned on a rainy September night...


Deletions:

Found: One Troll - Eseell made a big splash last year during the "If I Only Had A Gun" debacle, and Eseell featured the Starcraft II beta before almost everyone else. Sadly, it appears real life (and/or virtual life) has caught up to the blog. Shame - it isn't often you see the same heady mix of shooting and network savvy.

Xavier Thoughts - A classic blog, easily one of the best shooting/nursing/photography blogs around. Xavier showed off incredible gun pr0n by Clark Custom and shared stories from the ER trenches. He's semi-retired from the blogging scene now, it appears, but "Xavier Thoughts" will hopefully remain online - it's a great resource.

Additions:

I've been meaning to add all three of these blogs for awhile now. The common denominator is shooting, as it usually is (What can I say? It's my hobby).

Sharp as a Marble - Robb Allen writes this popular blog (no, literally - he coded the blog engine) and is a fellow Floridian. I'm putting him in a special category - "Fellow gunbloggers that I might actually be able to meet and shoot a round of five stand with."

Snowflakes in Hell - A gun blog hosted by Sebastian and Bitter that focuses on guns and gun politics from a Pennsylvanian perspective. Pennsylvania is a traditional political battleground and swing state; if you're thinking of ideas to get the fence-sitters to the gun rights camp, this is a good place to start.

The Unforgiving Minute - What? Another blog with a CIS/shooting flavor? Guess birds of a feather really do flock together. If you're wondering about the title, here's one of the most epic renditions of the source.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Books: All About Survival (Mulliga's Urban Survival Kit, Interlude)

While my blog is mainly about escaping the mundane through art and adventure, the "Mulliga's Urban Survival Kit" series of posts addresses "escape" in a more literal sense. You can check out some of my ideas on a lightweight, inexpensive collection of items for surviving an urban or suburban disaster at M.U.S.K. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

There are more parts coming, but I thought I'd take a moment to cover a couple of books that will help you get into that all-important survival mindset:


Be Prepared First Aid



A good first aid book is an essential read for any prepared individual. Nothing replaces live training, of course, but it's pretty easy to forget things you learned in a first aid class a few years back, especially when your stress level is high and time is critical.

There should be plenty of good options at your local library (including the ubiquitous AMA handbook on first aid), but I like this first aid guide. It's written by the Boy Scouts of America and it includes nice full-color explanations of what to do with burns, cuts, fractures, and the like.

Survive! Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere - Alive



Les Stroud was the pioneer of the current survival craze hitting the Discovery Channel ("Dual Survival" and "Man, Woman, Wild" being the most recent examples), and arguably, his show is still the standard on which all others are judged. In each episode of "Survivorman," Stroud stranded himself in the middle of a vast wilderness and filmed himself living off the land for a week at a time. No camera crew, no outside assistance, no breaks from the solitary, non-stop mental and physical strain of surviving.

In this book, Stroud summarizes the lessons he's learned from years of wilderness guide experience. While most of these tips are applicable to wilderness settings and not the urban jungle, Stroud's advice is easy-to-follow and extremely practical. There's even a fairly comprehensive guide to building your own personal survival kit. Here's a detailed look at the contents of the book from Renegade410:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tech: Starcraft II review



INTRODUCTION

Making a sequel to the original "Starcraft" is sort of like trying to paint a sequel to the Mona Lisa. The first game is such a classic that millions of people are still playing it, more than 12 years after it was released (to put this in perspective, most games don't even last 12 months before players move on to greener pastures).

The temptation must have been great to simply remodel all the units and maps in 3D, keep all the stats the way they were, and charge people $50 for it. Blizzard didn't become one of the most successful game developers on the planet by resting on their laurels, however. "Starcraft II" diverges from its predecessor in a number of important ways...

ZEN AND THE ART OF MACROMANAGEMENT

First, there is no selection limit - you can have as many units hotkeyed to a selection group as you want. This is a subtle difference, but it has huge implications. In SC2, large armies are much easier to control, leading to much bigger battles, leading to a greater emphasis on economy and unit production

Second, each race now has a "macro mechanic" that helps to separate the men from the boys, so to speak. The Zerg's support caster, the Queen, can spawn extra larvae. The Protoss can speed up unit production and tech tree research. The Terran can call down special mining units.

The upshot of these three abilities is that you'll be frantically switching from your base to battle in an effort to keep your production up - and if you don't (or can't) keep up with these mechanics at several bases at once WHILE managing your army, you'll likely lose.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Mercifully, "Stacraft II" has a host of interface improvements, some of which are cribbed from other games. There's an idle worker alert that helpfully tells you when a worker unit needs orders, it's easier than ever to queue up multiple orders, and your hotkey groups are displayed in a helpful little toolbar above the main interface.

The process of actually getting into games with your friends is streamlined, too. There's an in-game friends list, integrated voice chat, and the ability to form parties to start games. Admittedly, this is all de rigeur for any PC or video game released in 2010, but it's implemented in a clean, bug-free manner.

A WORTHY SUCCESSOR?

So is "Starcraft II" a better game than "Starcraft"? The jury is still out on that one, and Blizzard is continually changing the gameplay balance (the first patch is already out, and it nerfs some core Protoss and Terran units). Like millions of people worldwide, I'm just happy it's done.

Rating: 91/100

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guns: Frickin' Laser Beams

I've been looking for a new .380 pocket pistol and it looks like Smith and Wesson is trying to capture the upper end of the market with the fancy Bodyguard .380:



It's got sights you can see, a real working slide stop that locks when the magazine's empty, and it looks and feels more substantial than the two frontrunners in the polymer .380 marketplace, the Kel-Tec P3AT and Ruger LCP.

So what's not to like? The Bodyguard .380 is only available with an integrated laser.

Now, I'm not against laser sights per se, but I see them as a specialized attachment, especially on a pocket gun. Lasers are invaluable if you anticipate that you're going to do a lot of shooting without looking at traditional sights (the shield guy on a SWAT team, for instance). They're also a boon in low light situations:



For general use, though, they make me antsy. Lasers need batteries, and batteries tend to fail. Lasers need circuitry, and circuitry tends to fail (speaking from *cough* personal experience). It doesn't seem smart to rely on a sighting system that may not work when you really need it.

Still, there is some value in being able to reference this scene:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 24/7

It's been nine years since the September 11th terrorist attacks, but it might as well have happened yesterday given the controversies that are eating up the airwaves:





Around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, you often see the slogan "We Will Never Forget." The wall-to-wall media coverage suggests that won't be happening any time soon. I just hope we're remembering the right things.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Food: Ebisu

Fusion cuisine has long been synonymous with high prices, in part because the dining public tends to stick to the tried and true - it's hard to keep prices low when you only attract people with eclectic tastes. One awesome exception is Ebisu, a Japanese restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens.



Ebisu offers "happy hour" dinner till 7 PM. It's a reduced price a la carte menu that allows you to order up a completely satisfying Japanese fusion meal for about $10 a head. Old favorites like agedashi tofu and spicy tuna rolls are joined by some pretty unique stuff - tempura shrimp tacos, sashimi tuna quesadillas, and Italian-style(!) shiitake mushroom noodles.

My personal choice is the sashimi platter: it looks really expensive (combining big pieces of sashimi with novel, Western-style sauces), tastes really good, and only costs $5.50. For those seeking more conventional sushi and sashimi, they have that, too:



The restaurant keeps prices low by hanging out near the end of a strip mall shopping center and keeping the interior simple (it looks like every other Japanese place you've ever been, in other words). The service is good, too, as long as you don't mind a couple of heavy Japanese accents.

3/4 stars

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Miscellany: Annoying but Awesome Advocacy Ads

The hip buzzword in advertising nowadays is "earned media" - positive third-party coverage from news sources about a particularly noteworthy product promotion, video release, or social media campaign. One good example is Gillette's spot featuring tennis demigod Roger Federer knocking a bottle off of someone's head. The trick shot got tons of coverage in mainstream sports outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated, all while garnering good publicity for Gillette in the process:



As a result of the success of earned media, ad companies are getting more and more outlandish. Take this anti-smoking ad series from the folks at "Truth" and MTV:



I'm not a fan of the preachy "Truth" ads (smoking is bad for you - yeah, thanks, learned it in second grade), but this riff on MTV's "Real World" show is funny and spot-on; who doesn't want to see whiny reality twentysomethings get ripped limb from limb? It's also likely to get some ink in Variety or Entertainment or wherever the heck people talk about MTV shows.

Here's another one, clearly designed for the Web, from the NRA's new "Trigger the Vote" campaign. The NRA has long been the biggest compromiser in the gun rights front (their policy of remaining "nonpartisan" leads to some questionable endorsements), and this ad hews to that mushy, condescending middleground between Zumbo "terrorist rifles" and the gun rights blogosphere. Still, the ad's got Chuck Norris and the term "blue-gar":

Thursday, September 02, 2010

TV: The Walking Dead

I've been a longtime fan of "The Walking Dead," a comic book series written by Robert Kirkman. As the title suggests, the comic takes readers through a fullblown zombie apocalypse, complete with the breakdown of society, roving bands of looters, hysterical holdouts, etc. You follow the "hero," Rick Grimes, as things go from bad to worse to even worse still.

It's not a very original premise (these are straight-up Romero zombies), and it's not the world's best writing (in fact, as the years progress, Kirkman has inflicted enough emotional and physical torment on Grimes to kill three men), but it's the comic equivalent of a B-movie popcorn-muncher.

Now it's being adapted into a TV series by the folks at AMC. And it looks like it actually has a budget:

Site Meter