Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.

Live long, and prosper."

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Guns: HSP/G-Code INCOG holster review

Appendix carry is all the rage these days, and there are good reasons for that. If you want to access a gun during a fight, appendix carry allows you to draw in a wider range of real-world positions, such as when you're pushed up against a wall or lying on your back. The appendix draw can also be incredibly fast if your hands are starting out in front of you:

One good way to appendix carry that I've found is the INCOG holster, created by Haley Strategic Partners and G-Code. It's a minimalist holster (basically a Kydex shell with a couple of IWB clips) that slides easily into the 1 or 2 o'clock positions on your belt. You can also carry in the conventional 3-4 o'clock IWB position, too.

It's a bit hard to see in the pictures, but the Kydex has a nice "fuzzy" exterior that helps keep the holster from sliding around too much. The INCOG has good retention (that familiar thermoplastic "snap") and is completely rigid, making for fuss-free reholstering. I also found it fairly comfy to wear (though with less of a padded feel than a leather-Kydex hybrid holster).  Your body may differ,

The belt clips have a negative cant that forces the gun inward to the body, supposedly for better concealment. I honestly didn't notice much of a difference, but it didn't hurt any. In this view, you can see how the clips are set off from the vertical axis of the holster:

My GLOCK 26 fits into the INCOG with room to spare. This holster can actually accommodate a G19/G23-sized gun, but I kind of like the additional muzzle protection - it prevents the gun from being pushed out of the holster from the bottom:

Overall, the INCOG is very solidly made, and a great option if they make one for your gun.

Movies: Whiplash

They say it takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make a great musician, and all three are featured literally in Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash":

"Whiplash" is sort of a jazz drummer's version of "The Paper Chase," albeit with a different ending and a different message. The movie follows a young music student named Andrew (Miles Teller) at the elite Shaffer Conservatory. The most intimidating teacher at the school is Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), conductor of the school's studio band. After a chance encounter lands Andrew in the band, a battle of wills erupts between the two, with Andrew's determination and dreams pitted against Fletcher's increasingly harsh tutelage.

This is a very good movie that you don't have to be a jazz aficionado to enjoy (it helps, though - if you like this, you'll like "Whiplash"). Veteran character actor J.K. Simmons is in full J. Jonah Jameson mode, barking and chewing up every scene he's in with foul-mouthed aplomb. His foil, Miles Teller, is blessed with an expressive face and enough musical talent to mime-drum well enough not to be distracting.

The main fault of "Whiplash" is that it's as single-minded as its characters. Setting aside its weird Ayn Rand-ian philosophy of musical talent (which a lot of people have taken issue with), this is a movie where eating popcorn with your dad and playing footsie with your girlfriend are, at best, distractions. I know that's intentional, but it still leads to precious little air for any other characters or stories to play out - a hefty sacrifice to make for a focused film.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Tech: This War of Mine

In 11 bit studios' "This War of Mine," a civil war rages in a fictional Eastern European city. But this is not a "Call of Duty" or "Battlefield" game, and the battle is not exciting or heroic. Instead, you control a group of ordinary civilians caught in the conflict, desperately trying to survive until the war ends:

Mechanically, "This War of Mine" is similar to numerous other survival-crafting games. Each day, you lay low in your shelter, cobbling together beds, meals, chairs, radios, and other equipment out of the sundries you have on hand. Each survivor needs food, rest, and entertainment by default, and if someone gets sick or injured, you'll need to find medicine or bandages or they might get worse. It's very much a depressing wartime version of "The Sims."

The danger ratchets up during the nighttime, when you lead a single survivor through bombed-out buildings to scavenge for supplies. You are seldom alone, however, and you'll run into all manner of people who may be helpful or hostile - homeless refugees, bandits, soldiers.  While you can craft weapons and armor to protect yourself during these excursions, you're always outnumbered, and your survivors are not soldiers. Rather, the interface emphasizes stealth and surprise over out-and-out confrontation; your line of sight is rendered in real time, and the noise that you and others make is displayed onscreen.

What really sets apart "This War of Mine" is the grim relentlessness of the setting, inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo. As in a real war, there's no karma system in place to reward you for being "good" or punish you for being "evil." Depending on your choices, there may be moments of kindness (helping to dig out your neighbors from the rubble of a shelled building) and/or moments of atavistic brutality (stealing food from a helpless elderly couple when all of your survivors are starving). The game's greatest achievement is showing how fine the line is between those moments.

Rating: 90/100