Monday, March 31, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The Bank Job is set in 1971 London, with all the post-mod chic and squalor that accompany that setting, and stars Jason Statham, of Snatch and LSa2SB fame. Statham plays Terry, a down on his luck used car salesman who owes a lot of money to some unsavory personalities.
Opposite Statham is the tall, beautiful, and bisexual Saffron Burrows, currently featured in ABC's Boston Legal. Burrows plays Martine, a friend of Terry's, who happens to be sleeping with the owner of the security company who's going to be overhauling the alarm system at Llyods Bank.
Outside of the two leads, there aren't any big name actors, but it doesn't hold the film back. The acting as a whole is solid, but no one truly stands out. It's a solid film, definitely worth watching in theater. And this isn't a case of my tastes simply being different that everyone else's, as evidenced by it's garnering a 79% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
For those of you who want a more in depth explanation, or don't intend to see the movie, but still want to know what happens, I'll give you an idea here. But I warn you, here there be spoilers.
As mentioned earlier, Terry has a large outstanding debt, and Martine knows a bank that will be without it's alarms for a while. They put two and two together, and come up with a team of six, later seven, people to rob the safe deposit box vault.
They rent a nearby store, and proceed to drill their way 40 feet, and up through the floor of the bank vault. While in The Inside Man, the robbers had everything go off without a hitch, and generally thought circles around everyone in the movie and their cousin, the criminals in The Bank Job are far more human. They hit snags along the way, everything from old catacombs under the city, to an amateur ham radio operator accidentally intercepting their communications. Despite their blunders, through sheer luck and moxie, they pull of the heist, and make off with the contents of over 300 safe deposit boxes.
Here's where the movie gets real interesting. Inside those boxes was over $4 million in cash and jewels, and other assorted goods ranging from a case of vintage champagne, to an unwashed pair of panties. Among those objects that the owners wanted to keep away from prying eyes and fingers were several more insidious objects. The owner of a local bordello kept a series of pictures of powerful politicians making use of her house's services. A local pimp and smut peddler kept a ledger detailing his bribes given out to corrupt cops. And the crown jewels of the Pyrrhic haul was in lockbox 118, owned by a black rights activist named Michael X. Mr. X kept a set of pictures capturing Princess Margaret in the midst of a 3 way tryst during her recent vacation in the Caribbean.
Needless to say, everyone wants these items, except for the criminals who now find them in their possession. Now, rather than simply the police, Terry, Martine, and co. find themselves trying to dodge, stave off, and appease the local thugs, the clean cops, the corrupt cops, and Britain's own spooks from MI5 (or MI6, they never keep them straight). Terry finds himself flying by the seat of his pants, and pulling off decisions by the skin of his teeth. Deals are cut, people are kidnapped, and people are killed. It all gets quite exciting towards the end. Which is why you should go see it.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Celtic Crossing is a combination of Irish Whiskey, Cognac, and honey. It's every bit as smooth as the ingredients suggest. Despite being 30% alcohol by volume, the alcohol is barely noticeable. This makes it an excellent secondary spirit mixer for high alcohol content drinks. It also makes the drink enjoyable on its own, served neat, or on the rocks.
Speaking of on the rocks, distilleries that decide to add a cocktail booklet to the bottles of their spirits need to hire some bartenders to come up with a decently interesting drink. Not every company does this, my bottle of LeBlon Cachaca came with a dizzying array of drinks that you could make with it, but a lot seem to just mail it in on these things. The worst I've seen lately was on a bottle of Jose Cuervo Black Medallion Tequila. The booklet came with two recipes, Cuervo Black and Cola, and Cuervo Black on the rocks. On the rocks is not an independent cocktail! It's a method of serving the drink. Adding ice does not make you a bartender.
Castle Brands does this right. There's a decent booklet attached to the bottle, but the real tool is their recipes list on their website. There you can peruse their extensive list of cocktails, and search based on spirit used, glass served in, color, or even by holiday it celebrates. Good job.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
They took third place, which is awesome, seeing as it's the world championship. They also thankfully took some sweet videos of their performances.
Rumbanana in the first round.
Rumbanana in the 2nd round.
Rumbanana in the finals.
Congrats to everyone who competed. Coming off their second place showing at the World Salsa championships at Miami six months ago, Rumbanana is really cementing itself as a premier dance group.
There is a group, calling themselves "Resolve to Win", composed of retired servicemen who returned from duty in Iraq, who have decided to march from South Carolina to Washington DC. They have the expressed goal of increasing American resolve for victory in Iraq. They are now in day 12 of their 16 day march, intending to finish in 4 days, in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
I haven't heard anything about them in the mainstream media. But they have a well written and well planned blog that can be found at http://www.vfwwebcom.org/ResolveToWin/.
In my opinion, the possibility of victory in Iraq has never been a question. The American military is orders of magnitude stronger than any other on the planet. The question has always been weather or not the American people have the fortitude to let the military do its job.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Well, I apparently impressed someone at drill this past weekend, because after I gave a class on military reports, my squad leader and PL pulled me to the side and informed me that the CO was signing a time in service waiver to promote me to Specialist ahead of schedule. Hot damn.
On the upside, that equates to about $30 more per drill, $100 more per AT, and around $3K more in the event of a deployment. On the downside, the CO pulled me aside and congratulated me on showing "knowledge above my pay grade", and that he "expected it of me from now on." No more slacking. Damn.
Outside of the promotion, drill was the same old, same old. Periods of fun training, stuck in a mesh of overwhelming boredom. We did NBC training, working with the new JLIST suit, which is much more comfortable than the old MOPP suit. We followed that up with heavy weapons training on the Mk. 19 and M-2. One of the M-2s I disassembled had a serial number of 6664. Given that the M-2 has been produced from 1919 onward, that low of a serial number was probably built back in the forties. It still worked like a charm too. to close out the drill, we got some time in the Humvees to continue convoy training. It was good stuff.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
As some of you know, I enjoy drinking, and as such, I have a wealth of knowledge on the subject of alcohol. So today, I present to you, the Caipirinha, the national drink of Brasil.
To make a Caipirinha, you'll need the following: Half a lime, sugar, crushed ice, and Cachaca.
Start by cutting the half of a lime into quarters, or eighths of a whole lime. Drop the half lime into the bottom of the glass, then add the sugar. The IBA standard is two teaspoons, but depending on the drinker's sweet tooth, you might go as high as 3-4 tablespoons. Muddle the lime and sugar together. Then add 2-3 ounces of Cachaca, and mix. Usually you stir it, but if you have the resources, it works very well as a shaken drink. Pour the mix, lime rinds and all into an old fashoined glass, and fill with crushed ice. Stir the drink a bit more to ensure the wedges sink to the bottom of the glass. Garnish is optional. Enjoy the drink, and picture yourself on Ipenema.
There are several variations on the drink. If you vary the fruit, you go to the group of drinks known as Batidas. For citrus fruits, you can keep the wedges, because the oil from the skin adds to the flavor. For fibrous fruits like apples and pears, it's easier just to throw an ounce of juice into the mix, rather than attempt to find some way to muddle it without creating a mess. I've found that a mix of Passionfruit juice and Coconut Milk is wonderful.
Some people prefer to add an ounce of half and half or condensed milk. That thickens the drink, and neutralizes some of the acidity. This variation is one that you either love, or hate. There is no middle ground.
You can also vary the alcohol. A common variant is to replace the Cachaca with vodka. People refer to this as a "Caipiroska". My personal favorite, if I'm not in a Cachaca mood, I'll replace it with a spiced rum, like Captain Morgan's.
For those of you who aren't experienced in making your own drinks, here's a helpful video.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
What impresses me about the game is the teamwork aspect. You find you and your partner pinned down in an urban environment, while in most games you would either try to snipe the opponent or grenade him into submission, Army of Two is no ordinary game. While those remain viable strategies, AO2 encourages more team oriented solutions. In this case, I ripped the door off a nearby car and carried it like a riot shield, while my partner fired over my back. Other situations find you outnumbered and outgunned with no cover in sight, so you go back to back with your partner in an adrenaline filled shootout with the enemy.
Also interesting is the incorporation of aggro into a shooter. Aggro's normally a staple of MMORPG, but the way it has been implemented makes sense. For those who aren't in the know, Aggro is essentially the enemy's attention. If you start shooting, then the enemies focus their fire on you, if your partner is shooting, they focus on him. If you both shoot, they focus on whomever has the biggest gun.
Stylistically, the game looks real good. It's got a real edge to the characters appearance, the masks kind of make them look like Jason goes to War. The Characters have real character, however, the enemies are kind of bland. If they were in Star Trek, they'd be wearing a red shirt and be dead by now. In AO2, they were turbans, and are dead already.
The controls could use some tightening up, but that's really my only major complaint. It's soo much fun in Co-Op mode though.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
the ADS is a vehicle mounted, less than lethal, directed energy weapon. It has the intended purpose of being used for riot control. It attains said control through the use of a stream of electromagnetic radiation at 95 gigahertz to impart energy to the water molecules in the human skin. If that sounds familiar, it's because your microwave does the exact same thing, only at 2.45 GHz, not 95 GHz, and to a TV dinner, not a human being. It's the same principle, though. The high energy level of the water molecules imparts the sensation of extreme burning, without the permanent damage or bad smell. And with a range of nearly 700 meters, it keeps the operator out of the range of thrown rocks and clubs, the staple weapons of rioters.
In over 10,000 tests of the ADs on humans, there have only been two incidences of serious injury. Both were second degree burns, hardly fatal, or life changing.
This weapons system provides the possibility for less than lethal force to be applied at distances which render the situation controllable. Most less than lethal weapons employed by the military or police force has a range on 25 meters or less. The Self Propelled sponge grenade has the longest range, at 50 meters. The ADS's range is 14 times that.
The ADS has proven itself to be more effective than CS gas in crowd dispersal, because CS has a tendency to incapacitate people and leave them on site, whereas the ADS causes people to flee reflexively. This weapons system would make its money in situations where there previously was no middle ground between lethal force and no force. A prime example would be the Sep 12th, 2004 riots in Baghdad were civilians attempted to loot a damaged Bradley Fighting Vehicle. An Army helicopter ordered the civilians to disperse with his bullhorn, and when they continued to swarm the vehicle, the helicopters dispersed the crowd with the next step up in their arsenal, a 30 mm chain gun. 13 people were killed, including a Palestinian reporter. The ADS could have dispersed the crowd without the need for bloodshed.
The Pain Beam is up for approval to be deployed in country to units. It has already been rejected once before, due to the political controversy over the Abu Gharib abuse scandal. Politicians fear that the ADS will be used maliciously, to burn and torture prisoners. Anyone who's watched Reservoir Dogs knows that torture doesn't require a high tech weapons system, just a razor, gasoline, and a matchbook. And while politicians fear the political backlash of deploying the weapons system in Iraq, I think that this system is far more humane than CS Gas, and certainly more humane than a bullet.