Monday, May 29, 2023

Miscellany: LT. William Steven Davis (1983-2011)


On a quiet plot in Atlanta's Westview Cemetery lies LT. William Steven Davis of Lithonia, Georgia. He served as a USN surface warfare officer before passing away from leukemia in 2011; at the time of his death, he was posted at a Navy recruiting office here in the States while receiving treatment.

While the fight was with cancer rather than on some foreign battlefield, LT. Davis still gave the best years of his life to the Navy. This Memorial Day, take the time to remember men and women like him, quiet professionals who died while serving our country. 

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Tech: Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen 3 AMD review

I deployed my old Dell XPS 13 as a trial laptop throughout the pandemic, but it wasn't ideal. While the XPS was nice and compact, it didn't have an HDMI port, which sometimes made connecting to court display systems a chore. The XPS was also just getting too slow and limited for general use (a seven-year-old 6th-gen Core i5 and a 128 GB SSD just don't cut the mustard in 2023).

As a replacement, I went with the "default" choice for a business laptop, the Lenovo ThinkPad. Confusingly, Lenovo applies the ThinkPad nomenclature to several similar-looking laptops - everything from the sleek top-of-the-line X1 series to the "mainstream value-priced" L series. I opted for the T series, a midrange line that's big enough to write a brief on but still small enough to fit in a briefcase:

My particular ThinkPad is a T14s with a 14" WUXGA IPS touchscreen and an AMD Ryzen 7 6850U CPU. I went AMD this time because of my good experience with my AMD gaming desktop, and also because it seemed like AMD was better this generation on battery life and performance (there's an integrated AMD Radeon 680M that can handle some last-gen games at modest settings). The big downside to going AMD in the ThinkPad T line is that they foist soldered RAM on you, limiting your upgrade options.

Right off the bat, I could tell the ThinkPad T14s is not a multimedia-focused laptop.  The anti-glare 300 nits screen isn't terribly bright or vivid, and the sound from the speakers is tinny and devoid of bass. The onboard webcam is 1080P, an upgrade from last gen, but it's still mediocre.

No, where the ThinkPad excels is durability and functionality. Aside from some flex in the touchpad (which appears to be a common complaint), the laptop feels pretty tough, especially at the likely points of failure (hinges, bezels, and chassis mounts).

There's also a full complement of ports - 2 x USB-C, 2 x USB-A, HDMI, 3.5mm audio, an optional smart card reader, etc. Compared to the newest XPS, which only comes with 2 x USB-C, the ThinkPad is much more likely to be compatible with whatever random screen-sharing or projection system a court might throw at you (I still pack an ancient USB-to-VGA adapter in my bag, just in case).

I've already used the T14s for one trial, and it worked well, doing its job without being intrusive. Not surprisingly, opposing counsel also used a ThinkPad - it's truly the default, boring choice. If that fits what you want out of a laptop, give the Lenovo a look.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Music: Paris Cafe Vibes


Without fail, my friends spend (at least) 30 minutes every day to work on writing their novels. They use the same routine every time to minimize distraction - crack out the laptops, sit at a table facing one another, and turn on "Paris Cafe Vibes," a Lofi Girl-esque playlist of downtempo beats. I've heard the same songs dozens of times while waiting for them to finish, and I have to admit, it's good music for chilling...

Artists and Songs:

0:00 Perro Funky - Close your eyes

2:34 Cafune - Dreamin

4:35 Jazzinuf - Bitter Sweet

6:12 Halberd - Coffee On the Beach

9:12 Domo - cafe

11:30 Iwamizu - zokesu

14:04 Iwamizu - tonjaku

16:41 VINDELIC - wish upon the stars

21:35 Mama Aiuto - The great outdoors 

23:26 Too ugly - Cafe nervosa

25:56 The Deli 5:32 pm

28:14 with u - distance [note - this is usually the last track for a half hour writing session]

30:35 Lemause - Truth

34:27 Jazzinuf - Dreaming about you

37:42 Too ugly - Imported Beverages

Links: Blogroll Update-o-rama

It's that time...let's update the Shangrila Towers blogroll with some fresh meat:

jimbentonshots - The first of today's featured cartoonists is Jim Benton, whose irreverent-but-cheerful panels immediately call to mind Gary Larson's The Far Side.

reparrishcomics - The second cartoonist today is R.E. Parrish, who brings his own brand of off-kilter humor to the Internet. If you like giant burgers mixed with jokes about David Foster Wallace and Jean-Paul Sartre, you'll like this.

Balkinization - Headed by Jack Balkin, this blog features posts from dozens of law professors across the country on a variety of topics, including the politics of the day.

The Popehat Report - L.A. attorney Ken White writes this famous blog, focused on First Amendment rights and criminal justice.

On Her Own - A self-defense/shooting website from competition shooter Annette Evans.

Movies: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

I've never read any Judy Blume books, but my understanding is that they were formative for girls growing up in the '70s and '80s. That's why one of Blume's most beloved titles, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, has been granted a rare boon for a mid-budget non-genre flick in 2023 - a theatrical release:

Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, the film is a classic coming-of-age story about a tween dealing with a host of taxing but ultimately mundane issues: moving from New York City to the New Jersey suburbs, wrestling with religion amidst family strife, and trying to get her first period. The titular character is played by Abby Ryder Fortson (Ant-Man), who does a great job garnering audience sympathy, and she's joined by Rachel MacAdams and Kathy Bates, who play Margaret's mother and grandmother, respectively.

I thought the movie was good, but that the stakes were a little low. The best coming-of-age movies have some sort of extraordinary challenge facing the main character (your Stand By Mes or Sandlots), but in Are You There, God?, Margaret's never in any danger of "losing" even so much as her pride. It's a perfectly fine, well-made movie with some genuine laughs and heart, but this may have been better suited to streaming - sorry, Mr. Scorsese.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Food: Taste of Chengdu (West Colonial Drive, Orlando)


Taste of Chengdu is one of my friend's favorite Sichuan restaurants, mostly because of its convenient West Colonial Drive location - perfect for a quick dinner before hitting the Turnpike. It's not the best Sichuan food I've ever tasted, but it'll satisfy your craving for mouth-numbing hot peppers (just don't confuse it with Chengdu Taste, a California-based chain). Standouts on the menu include mung bean jelly in spicy sauce, chili fish, and the decadent pork belly with cucumber.

Miscellany: Brooks Glycerin GTS 19 review

Running shoe reviews are weird, in that it's hard to evaluate shoes until you've basically worn them out (I had a pair of On Cloudswifts that, while fast and comfortable, did not hold up to long-term use). One pair of shoes that I had good luck with last year was the Brooks Glycerin GTS 19 (the current model is the GTS 20, which is very similar).

It's a heavily padded, supportive shoe, so minimalist/barefoot runners and speed demons should look elsewhere. For a duffer like me, pounding the pavement to train for half-marathons and trail runs, it's perfect. It kept me injury free over hundreds of miles, netting me a decent 1:50 half marathon time, which is all I can ask for in a running shoe.

Music: Taylor Swift "The Eras Tour" concert review

I've been to several Taylor Swift concerts in the past, and she always puts on a great show. But even I was unprepared for the spectacle generated by "The Eras Tour" on a sold-out night in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, the only Florida stop. "Swifties" from far and wide flooded the city, shutting down streets, "Taylor-gating," and showing off a dizzying variety of costumes and outfits based on Swift's songs.

My sister somehow got us floor-level tickets just 50 feet from the stage, an incredible feat given demand so heavy it crashed Ticketmaster and prompted Congressional antitrust hearings. The tickets could have been sold for many thousands of dollars on the street, but incredibly, I think they were worth it. This is probably the best show on Earth right now.

Perhaps sensing that they were going to have to give fans their money's worth, the "Eras" show is both exhaustive and exhausting, with elaborate set pieces, pyro, fireworks, props, and dancers - part Broadway and part Las Vegas.  This is by far the longest setlist Swift has ever toured with, too: 42 set songs and 2 surprise songs from across her career, which are all presented uncut or nearly uncut. Not counting the opening acts, it takes over three and a half hours to get through.

I'm a Taylor Swift fan, but it was almost too much of a good thing. While it was awesome grooving to dozens of hits, I did find myself checking my watch around the 120-minute mark. Dozens of tracks from the same artist eventually start to run together, no matter how talented the performer. So, when the confetti started pouring, I put this unforgettable experience in the memory banks and shuffled to the exit, along with thousands of other tired, satisfied fans.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Miscellany: Korchmar Monroe briefcase review

We're starting to have more in-person trials now, and it's giving me the opportunity to deploy my trusty Korchmar Monroe briefcase (officially an "attaché case") in tan leather:

Briefcases in general, and this Korchmar in particular, are relics from a bygone era. Most lawyers nowadays use nylon or leather shoulder bags to carry their hearing binders and laptops, not a heavy 5" thick wooden box that needs a big flat surface to open.

On the other hand, I do like the way a classic briefcase organizes and displays its contents, and it certainly looks a lot cooler than a boring old laptop case. There's also a small bit of added security from the dual combination locks - they won't deter a real thief, but should dissuade a passerby from looking through your papers:

According to Korchmar's website, these briefcases are no longer made in America (instead being produced in Korchmar's factory in the Dominican Republic), but they still use full grain American leather, brass hardware, and white pine. From my experience, they are built to last - the leather is in good shape even after schlepping from courthouse to courthouse for the past few years:

The downside to Korchmar's old-school construction is the price - usually around $600-$700. That's pretty expensive, but perhaps worth it if you use a briefcase for work and need something tough as nails - I think it is.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Guns: Remington RM380 review

In the years before its bankruptcy filings, Remington was throwing everything against the wall to see what sticked.  During that turbulent period, it put out an AR-10, a 1911, a single-stack 9mm, and the subject of today's review, the RM380:

Yup, it's a pocket .380 pistol, essentially a redesigned Rohrbaugh 380. Unlike most of the popular .380s out there - your LCPs, P3ATs, Bodyguards, etc. - the RM380 had an aluminum frame which looked pretty cool but must have been expensive to make.

Aside from that, there wasn't much to differentiate the RM380 from those other guns.  It ditched the Rohrbaugh's heel mag release and had really terrible sights and one of the worst double-action triggers I've ever used. To no one's surprise, it bombed in the marketplace.

At the range, I found the gun to be reasonably reliable, but astonishingly hard to shoot. Even at 7 yards, I was not able to get anything resembling a decent group.  The gun might be mechanically accurate, but fell well short of other micro .380s in terms of practical accuracy.

Like so many guns, the RM380 nowadays is a curiosity, a historical footnote of a troubled company. I'm sure the folks at Big Green did their best under difficult circumstances, but I can't recommend anyone actually carrying this thing for self-defense.